Friday, November 28, 2014

"The Theory of Everything" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Theory of Everything," the DVDs "The Knights of Badassdom" and "A Most Wanted Man," and the novel (yes, a novel) "Leaving Time" by Jodi Picoult plus I get you caught up on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."]




The Theory of Everything

 
The story of Stephen Hawking's first marriage.
 
When Stephen Hawking was a young man working toward his Ph.d. in Physics at Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and given two years to live.  Since then he as become famous worldwide for his theories and his book "A Brief History of Time,"a huge worldwide best seller.  He is now 72. 
 
The movie begins in the early 1960's as Stephen is beginning his Ph.d. program.  He is a bit of a smart ass, but he is also a wunderkind in his field. He wins his doctorate applying space-time singularity in black holes to the whole universe, and when asked by the panel what he plans to do next, he replies that he hopes to find an elegant equation that will prove the theory of everything.
 
Soon, however, symptoms of what will turn out to be Lou Gehrig's disease begin to appear and he is given two years to liveHe has also met Jane and they are in love, so despite a death sentence, they decide to get married and Jane decides she will do whatever she has to do to keep him alive.  They have three children together (when a friend wonders about their sex life, Hawking jokes about how that function falls under a different system from the one destroying his other functions), but the strain of caring for Hawking starts to take a toll on Jane and she is drawn to a handsome local vicar.
 
This is not just Stephen Hawking's story, it's his first wife, Jane's story and the story of a marriage, based on Jane's recent book, "Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind The Theory of Everything (2014)."

I predict Eddie Redmayne will win an Oscar for Best Actor for his incredible performance as Hawking.  He did an amazing job showing the slow progression of Hawking's disease and capturing the man in the full force of his disease, yet maintaining his sense of humor.  I have been a huge fan of Eddie's ever since "Birdsong," and he deserves recognition.

Felicity Jones is luminous and lovely as Jane.  I am waiting for her to break out and carry a film on her own.

It's funny that "Interstellar" and this movie were released so close together since they are both about quantum physics.  But as a film, this one is closer to "My Left Foot," and "A Beautiful Mind."

Rosy the Reviewer says...as the Brits say, bloody brilliant.  As I say, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.


***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

 
 
 

LARPS (Live Action Role Players) conjure up some demons from hell -- real ones!

Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn play Hung and Eric, medieval role players. They have gotten their friend Joe, whose love life is in shambles, drunk and kidnapped him to their role playing festival in hopes of cheering him up. Eric, playing a wizard, uses a spell book to initiate Joe. What Eric doesn't realize is that the spell book is real and his spell conjures up a succubus and a monstrous demon.

This is part comedy, part horror film. The comic blood and gore is reminiscent of Simon Pegg's "Shaun of the Dead" and "World's End."  I loved the Simon Pegg films and I liked this one.

I will probably take some heat for giving this little film a good review when I didn't give a very good one to "Interstellar," especially since this film almost didn't get released. But, as "Interstellar" showed us, it's a matter of relativity.  And relatively speaking, this is a better comedy than "Interstellar" was a scifi drama.  I thought this film was silly and fun.  How can you not get the irony of Peter Dinklage pretending to be a medieval guy?  And a bunch of nerdy Dungeons and Dragons types running around in the woods fighting a succubus and a monster?  Skewing LARPS?  What's not to like?
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Simon Pegg's films or horror/comedy, you will like this one.





A Most Wanted Man (2014)


An illegal Chechen immigrant to Hamburg seeking political asylum becomes the focus of an anti-terrorist group that is still being blamed for failing to stop the 9/11 terrorists who were working out of Hamburg.

A half-Russian, half-Chechen man, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) mysteriously turns up in Hamburg seeking asylum.  He has also come to take possession of his inheritance, millions of euros. He is aided by Annabelle Richter (Rachel McAdams), a human rights lawyer who tries to help him. However, anti-terrorist groups still smarting from 9/11 are also interested in him and his inheritance.  Is he who he says he is?  Or is he a terrorist who wants to use his money to fund terrorist activities?

Based on a John LeCarre novel, this film has all of the LeCarre touches.  His spies are not James Bond types. His stories don't contain a lot of action.  They are character driven and his spies are world weary seen-it-all types.  Even the cinematography and set design is dark and gritty.  This is not pretty Germany.  This is tough, dangerous and dark Germany. 

What makes this film significant is that it was Philip Seymour Hoffman's last starring role before his untimely death.  He plays Gunter Bachmann, a weary, rumpled spy more in the Colombo mode than James Bond.  For a man in his early 40's, Hoffman looked like he was almost 60, which suited the role but didn't bode well for what happened to him in real life.  But Hoffman is one of those actors who never seems to be acting.  And here he inhabits the role of the leader of a spy team who must prove themselves.

My one criticism of Hoffman is his German accent, which isn't very good.  I can never understand why actors use accented English to show us they are in another country.  We know it's Germany, we know people speak German there so get rid of the silly accent.

Robin Wright is good as a rather dodgy CIA agent, Margaret Sullivan, who is also interested in the immigrant. My one problem with Wright is the short black wig she chose to wear.  Why?  Not a good look for her.  But her scenes with Hoffman shine.

Rachel McAdams is a gorgeous actress, a modern day Natalie WoodWillem Dafoe does his usual good work playing the banker Issa and Annabelle are working with. He's not a bad guy for once despite, the fur collar on his coat which I always think indicates a bad guy.

I have always had trouble with spy films.  They are always so convoluted and detailed that if your mind wanders for a minute trying to get that last piece of popcorn, you miss something important.  This one isn't as bad as most but still, the plot can be hard to follow and it drags.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is all about the performances.  Anyone looking for a Tom Cruise "Mission Impossible" style spy film will be disappointed.  This is more like "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold."

 

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

 
297 To Go!


I want to preface these reviews this week by saying, it takes discipline to watch movies I probably would never watch had I not decided to embark on this project.  It is sometimes exhausting!


Man of the West (1958)
 
 
A reformed bank robber finds himself drawn back into his old gang (think a Western version of "Godfather III."
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." ) 
 
Why it's a Must See: "After making a series of exemplary Westerns starring James Stewart during the 1950's, Anthony Mann cast an aging Gary Cooper as a man forced to confront a past he thought he had left behind him.  As is usual in Mann's Westerns, personal history exerts a grip on the characters that only death can loosen...Mann's camerawork is as assured as ever.  Make sure you see this film in the full CinemaScope ratio!"
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
 
I think I can actually do a better job of explaining why this film is a must see, and I don't even like Westerns.
 
The cinematography is gorgeous (filmed in Cinemascope and color by Deluxe) and so is Gary Cooper.  Even though  he was in the latter part of his life, he was still a handsome hunk of a tall drink of water.  He reminded me of today's Liam Neeson.

Julie London, a pop singer of the time (remember "Cry Me A River?") does an admirable job and adds a bit of sex appeal. She had a fairly successful TV career as an actress, but her movie career never took off.  This was one of her last big roles in the movies. 

It's ironic that Gary Cooper became such a huge Western hero known for his laconic characterizations.  In real life, he was an erudite, dapper ladies man with a taste for bespoke suits.

This is one of those films where the soundtrack plays constantly and highlights everything that happens - happy music for the comedy aspects, dramatic crescendos for conflict and anger - so that the viewers will know how they are supposed to feel.  That aspect dates this film a bit.

However, unlike earlier films, this was an adult Western that tried to bring the Western into the modern world.  I don't even like Westerns and would never have chosen it "off the shelf," but I liked this film.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...an adult Western that even people who don't like Westerns will like.



The Bank Dick (1940)

Egbert Sousè (W.C. Fields), a habitue of the corner bar to escape his nagging wife and unpleasant family, through a series of events,  finds unlikely jobs as a film director and then a bank guard. 

Egbert becomes a bank guard when he unwittingly foils a bank robbery and through a series of other gags becomes rich and reformed.

Why it's a Must See: "Fields was a rare comedian who could be funny while strangling a small child, and this seventy-five minute gem is among his masterpieces."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This film shows how comedy has evolved. The running joke is his name, of course, since everyone pronounces it "sowse," as in a drunk, but they are corrected by Egbert - "Soosay, accent grave over the e."  He is a bumbling drunk, of course, because Fields made a career out of that characterization.  Not politically correct these days.  Likewise, his daughter hitting him over the head, him threatening her, pratfalls, black stereotypes and other violent acts that were considered funny back in the early days of film are now not so funny. 

I was never much of a Fields fan.  This kind of cartoon comedy was never my cup of tea even when I was a kid.  Don't like slapstick, don't like schtick.  But if you were a Fields or Three Stooges fan, you would probably think this was funny.  Shemp Howard is even in it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is 75 minutes I could have lived doing something else before I died.



***Book of the Week***

 
 

Alice Metcalf was a scientist investigating elephants and whether or not they experience grief.  She mysteriously disappeared and for over ten years, her daughter Jenna has been trying to discover why and what happened. She commissions a jaded private detective, Virgil Stanhope and a discredited psychic, Serenity Jones, to help her find the answers.

This is a Rashomon style story that flips back and forth from the perspectives of Jenna, Virgil, Serenity and Alice's journals.


This is prolific novelist, Jodi Picoult's latest effort and it's a well-written mystery with the poignant human element of the mother and daughter and poignant animal element with Alice's elephant research. 

Yikes.  I am actually reviewing a novel.  So fiction lovers, do not give up on me thinking I will only be reviewing nonfiction.  I am expanding my horizons so if you keep coming back, you can expect a novel every month or so, deal?

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is a page turner, and if you like Anita Shreve or Sue Miller, and if you like a moving stories of mothers and daughters you will like this book.
 
 

Thanks for Reading!

 

That's it for this week.

 

See you Tuesday for

"What if I Was a Real Housewife?" 

 

 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

 

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


 

 

Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."
 


Or you can go directly to IMDB.  

 

Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What I'm Grateful For



Thanksgiving is the time of year when we contemplate what we are grateful for, right?

Here is what I am grateful for:

  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, 
  • Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
  • Brown paper packages tied up with strings, 
  • Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels, 
  • Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles, 
  • Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, 
  • Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, 
  • Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, 
  • Silver white winters that melt into springs


Just kidding.  I stole that from "The Sound of Music."

So I guess the first thing I am grateful for is my strange sense of humor. 

At least, after all of these years, I still have one.

But seriously, it's important to take the time to be grateful for what we have.

I used to threaten, I mean, tell my children we were going to spend Thanksgiving volunteering at a homeless shelter, serving food to people less fortunate, so my kids would appreciate what they had.  I never followed up on that but scores of others have and do.  In fact homeless shelters report huge numbers of volunteers doing just that on Thanksgiving and for many families, this is an annual volunteer activity for them.  But what we don't often hear from the homeless shelters is that they wish people would volunteer other times during the year. That's when they are needed most.

The same goes for gratitude. 

It's not enough to think about what we are grateful for just once a year.  Gratitude is something we need to embrace every day of the year.  Gratitude is something that must be practiced or we take for granted much of what we have.

Recently the power went off and I couldn't believe how helpless I felt.  Sure we had candles and flashlights so I could have read a book or, heaven forbid, talk to Hubby, but the thought that not only could I not watch TV, my TIVO wasn't  taping my shows!  I was going to miss the latest installment of "True Tori!" Worse, I couldn't check Facebook or my email.  I was cut off from my social network!  I couldn't tweet, I couldn't Face Time or Skype.  It was sobering.  Well, not exactly.  Wine doesn't need electricity.  But, now I wake up every morning and say thank you to the electricity gods.

One good thing about getting older is you eventually have the time to be grateful.  When we are in our twenties, we are too busy searching for a mate, in our thirties and forties too busy with our careers and children, in our fifties too busy getting rid of our mate and worrying about getting old and fat to be grateful for what we have. 

When we retire, we have the time to reflect and be grateful. 

So I have added that to my daily routine - to be grateful for at least three things every day, year round. 

But it's important to not wait until you are old to be grateful, because sometimes it's too late.

Thanksgiving naturally brings up all kinds of memories about family, for some of you happy memories, for some of you, maybe not so much.  I have happy memories of Thanksgiving with my family growing up, except I didn't like getting served last, as was the custom in my family - the oldest got served first (I was the youngest) - or having to do the dishes.  But what I should have been grateful for at the time was my Dad always saved the drumstick for me (which was my favorite) and he helped me with the dishes.

Thanksgiving 1966

So thinking about my parents this time of year, I am grateful that I was able to show appreciation to them for all they had done for me before they died.  I wish I had done more, though, and shown them more love. But that is the natural cycle of things.  

 
What I have learned since becoming a parent myself is beautifully expressed in the book "Life Gets Better:  The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Old" by Wendy Lustbader. 



"We realize how helpless our parents had been during our youthful experimentation -- how they tried to warn us against foolish choices, how our petulance silenced them, how they thought of little else when we were off taking those risks without thinking about them at all. Parenting has never been fair.  We love our children far more than they love us, and in doing so we realize how dearly we were loved by our parents."

I had never really thought of it that way but it explains a lot.

So I am thinking of my parents today as I write this, grateful that I at least in some way thanked them for their love and support and then passed that on by loving my own children as they did me.





In addition to that, I am grateful for the usual things:  Waking up in the morning alive and well, Hubby, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, my career, a roof over my head, I still have my own teeth...

But another reason to be grateful every day and a perk of old age is the ability to be grateful for the little things.
 
So today I am grateful for

The wine-guzzling poodle who shows love to me every day (I just need to help him with his drinking problem)

 


A day off once a week
---Hubby says every day is a day off for me, because I am retired, but that's not true.  I am really busy most of the time:  keeping up with my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project," writing this blog, meditating, volunteering, going to the gym, arranging my shoe collection, watching "The View."  I am grateful for one day a week where I can just let life take me where it leads.  Most often it leads me to the TV, but that's not the point.

My blog and those of you who enjoy it.
---I have realized I am a communicator and for good or ill, I'm going to communicate, dammit!

My feet. I have nice feet.  Feet don't get fat.


A nice glass of wine (or two) by a crackling fire after a hard day of retirement

A really great film that does not star Matthew McConnaughey

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...

Like I said, it's the little things.

 
What are you grateful for?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Thanks for reading!
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of the new movie
 
"The Theory of Everything,"
 
My Week in Reviews,
 
and the latest on my
 
"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."
 
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer
 










Friday, November 21, 2014

"Interstellar" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Interstellar," the DVDs "The History of the Eagles, "Million Dollar Arm" and "Le Chef" as well as Oprah's book, "What I Know for Sure."  I also bring you up to date on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."]

Interstellar



Another one of those "gotta save the earth" flicks.

Earth has fallen victim to overpopulation and famine and become a futuristic dust bowl.  Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a former NASA engineer and test pilot who now runs a farm and cares for his son, Tom, daughter, Murphy (the excellent Mackenzie Foy) and father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow).  Inexplicably (well, there is a reason - it's a ghost and that is explained much later in the film), he is drawn to a mysterious location surrounded by a chain link fence only to discover it is the home of his old employer, NASA.  It's being run by Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) who is trying to come up with a way to save the world - or at least its inhabitants.

Cooper discovers that Brand has come up with two ways to save the world.  Plan A - finding another planet and moving as many humans as possible to it and Plan B - using frozen embryos to colonize another planet. The only problem with Plan A is overcoming gravity to launch a ship large enough to get people there.  But Brand is working on an equation that should solve that problem.  The BIG problem, though, is the fact he has been working on that equation for 40 years.

Anyway, I think those are the plans. Most of the time, I wasn't sure what they were talking about.

Already another mission - Lazarus - was embarked upon to look for a habitable planet and three were identified, but those folks haven't returned. Now another craft must make the journey to those planets to see what's up. Cooper agrees to pilot the craft knowing full well he must leave his children behind and may not see them again for years, which turns out to be true. 

Cooper and his crew, Brand's daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway, an odd role for her, by the way); scientists Doyle (Wes Bentley) and Romilly (David Gyasi); and TARS, the robot, which brings to mind Hal in "2001: A Space Odyssey" find themselves on one planet where they age seven years for every hour they spend there.  They run into some trouble and spend too long expending some 20+ years.

Cooper's daughter, Murphy was 10 when he left and resentful that he was leaving her and now that those years have passed, she is an adult Murphy (Jessica Chastainand she is even more resentful - resentful as hell, in fact.

There is no denying that Christopher Nolan has produced a visual masterpiece.  It was no small feat to make this film. So I give him props for that.  And Hans Zimmer's music showcases the film beautifully, though at times it's a bit over the top. 

To fully appreciate those aspects, it's a must to see this film in IMAX. 

However, that's the good news.  What lets this film down is the convoluted story and the preachy script. When characters have to do as much explaining as they do in this film, you know there is a problem.  Sometimes it sounded like someone was reading from a physics textbook. That is, when they weren't expounding on the nature of love and how love conquers all, even time and space, and quoting Dylan Thomas.

I am stunned that almost every critic is worshiping this film.  Are they too afraid to say they didn't understand it?  Well, I'm not.  There are more holes in this story than black holes in space.  I like thought provoking films, and I like to be challenged.  But when I think "Huh?" half a dozen times during the course of a film, Houston, we have a problem. And if a critic has to say (and one did), despite the almost three hour length, this film needs to be seen again and again to fully understand it, then that should tell you something right there.  The critics may love it, but the people sitting in the audience with me were laughing AT it.  As we exited the theatre, I heard one person say, "That should win comedy of the year." 

Ironically, despite my confusion, there is nothing overall wrong with the science here.  In fact, a physicist consulted on the film.  And even Neil deGrasse Tyson approves, for the most part.  That's not the problem.  The problem is HOW it was all portrayed.

Matthew McConaughey may have won last year's Oscar for "The Dallas Buyer's Club," because it was right in his "Alright, alright, alright" wheelhouse, but when it comes to delivering heartfelt, preachy speeches, he was not up to the task. He wasn't believable and he was over-acting, as were many of the actors. However, I don't blame them completely.  It wouldn't be easy for the greatest of actors to deliver some of those lines.

I was a huge fan of Nolan's "Inception" and "Memento," and those were not "easy" films.  I think he is a brilliant filmmaker, but he lost me on this one.  It's just way over the top, way too melodramatic, and way too long.  It took 90 minutes before anything happened and during the second 90 minutes, only a couple of things happened.

However, that's not to say there weren't some exciting moments.  The planet with the huge waves provided some excitement as did Cooper and Mann (Matt Damon) fighting on the planet that was really Iceland (I knew because I've been there).

It's not a stretch to compare this film with "2001: a Space Odyssey," but it also reminded me of "Star Trek" and "Gravity," all of which I liked better.

Rosy the Reviewer says...It's beautiful to look at, beautiful to hear and with a stellar cast, but even all of that cannot change the fact that this film is overwrought, overlong, over the top and - dare I say it? - boring.



***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
 

 History of the Eagles,
Parts 1 and 2 (2013)

 
 

Two part documentary on the legendary rock band.

The Eagles defined the 1970's with their soft bluegrass harmonies. Glenn Frey is behind this documentary of the band and so, of course, the viewpoint is his, but it still feels like an honest depiction of the rise and fall of an iconic band.  Don Henley was his co-partner in the band and also weighs in heavily.

What makes this rock band documentary stand out is the footage.  Director Allison Ellwood has done a wonderful job of working in still photography, home videos and studio recordings to give us an authentic depiction of the rise and fall of an iconic band and the friendships that were lost due to the stress and egos it took to keep it all going. One spectacular scene has Glenn Frey and Don Felder arguing on stage DURING A CONCERT with Frey saying he was going to kick Felder's ass when they got off stage.  Felder is seen running to his limo and quitting the band.

But their success was not immune to what hundreds of other bands have gone through: internal tensions, drugs and road weariness.

Glenn Frey and Don Henley started out backing Linda Ronstadt in her early incarnation.  With her blessing they went off to start their own band bringing in Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner and eventually Don Felder. When Leadon and Meisner exited they were followed by Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, who constitute the band now.  Meisner no longer had the confidence to hit the high note at the end of "Take It To The Limit," to the point that he quit the band, so Schmit from Poco stepped in.  An interview with Felder during the latter part of the documentary is especially poignant as he is visibly upset at how it all turned out.  Likewise, Joe Walsh is candid about his drug addiction and eventual recovery, but he still comes off as a rather sad character.

Each band member, past and present, is highlighted along with talking head interviews from Jackson Browne, Bob Seger, Linda Ronstadt, David Geffen and other industry insiders, all who figured prominently in the rise of The Eagles.

Part 1 is two hours and Part 2 is another hour but if you love The Eagles or just a great documentary the time will fly by.  Heck, even if you didn't love them, you will love this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is definitely Frey's and Henley's story to tell but, hey, it was their band.  It's still a fascinating look inside the ups and downs of an iconic American rock band.


 
Million Dollar Arm (2014)



A down on his luck sports promoter (Jon Hamm) decides to try to tap cricket players from India for some Major League Baseball recruits.

J.B. Bernstein (Hamm) is a rather slimy but struggling sports agent who gets the bright idea one night while flipping back and forth between watching Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" and a cricket match (I'm still wondering how he got those British shows on his American TV) to hold a talent competition in Mombai, but for baseball pitchers. Those Indian cricket bowlers (that's what they call the guys who throw the ball in cricket) should be able to be trained to play American baseball, right? And there is a whole market untapped market in India. From Susan Boyle to a finding Major League pitchers through a pitching competition in Mombai seems like a stretch, but this is based on a true story so who am I to judge?  The competition is to be called "The Million Dollar Arm" and the prize is $1,000,000 if any of the winners are signed to a Major League contract.

Lake Bell (whom I love and who has yet to make the acting breakthrough she deserves) plays a medical student renting a cottage from Bernstein and gee, do you think a romance is in the offing?  Duh.

Alan Arkin plays a surly baseball scout who doesn't think much of this idea and sleeps through most of it and Aasif Mandvi plays Bernstein's business partner, Ash, who provides a few laughs.  But Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal are charming as the recruits who Bernstein thinks he can turn into Major League stars.  Sharma you may recognize from "Life of Pi."

Once back in the United States, we get the stock "fish out of water" scenes as the boys discover pizza and are amazed at Bernstein's wealthy, LA lifestyle and a very predictable outcome.  There are the usual stereotypes but nothing really offensive.  This is Disney after all.

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is Disney so don't expect anything deep, but it's an enjoyable family film.


 

Le Chef (2012)
 

An older chef with a Three-star Michelin restaurant joins forces with a young novice chef to save his restaurant.

Jackie Bonnot (Michael Youn) wants to be a chef, a chef like his idol, Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno), who runs a three-star Michelin restaurant, Cargo Legarde.  Jackie is such a fan that he knows all of Lagarde's menus from the past, has an encyclopedia knowledge of gastronomy, a discriminating palate.  So why does he have such a hard time keeping a job? Jackie is also a perfectionist whose standards don't work out so well in local diners for people who mostly want French fries, so he keeps getting fired much to the consternation of his girlfriend, Beatrice, who is also pregnant.  So he settles for a job painting an old folks home. 

Likewise, trouble is brewing for Monsieur Lagarde.  His menu is considered old-fashioned and he refuses to change and embrace molecular gastronomy so prized by the young son of the restaurant's corporate owner (our villain). He has concocted a villainous plan to get rid of Lagarde so he can bring in another chef who will embrace the molecular gastronomy he so loves.  He tells Lagarde if he loses one of his stars, he will lose his restaurant.

Through a series of silly events, this odd couple - Jackie and Chef Lagarde - join forces - Jackie to save his relationship and Lagarde to save his restaurant.  Jackie knows Lagarde's menus better than Lagarde so they work together to ward off the villain.

The film nicely skewers cooking shows and trends and the snobbishness that so often accompanies fine dining.

Reno is a veteran actor you may recognize from such films as "Ronin,"  "Alex Cross," and "The DaVinci Code."  Here he is taking a break from his usual dramatic roles to take a comedic turn and he does admirably. And Youn is a comic talent who made me laugh without saying a word.

This is farce all of the way, a delightful little bit of culinary fluff, a trifle but a good one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you liked "Chef" or "The 100 Foot Journey," or just movies about food, you should enjoy this film.  (subtitles)




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

 
299 to go!


La Belle Noiseuse (1991)



A famous painter who gave up painting finds a new muse and tries to finish a project.

Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), the great artist, has given up painting.  He gave it up right in the middle of "La Belle Noiseuse," with his wife, Liz (Jane Birkin - yes, she of the Birkin bag), as his muse.  But when three visitors come to call, an art dealer, a young artist and his lover, Marianne. Frenhofer is inspired by Marianne (Emmanuelle Beart who made her mark in "Manon of the Spring" and spends most of the film in the nude) to paint again, thus beginning a painful master-slave relationship that takes a decided turn and examines the very nature of the relationship between an artist and his subject.

Directed by Jacques Rivette, whom Truffaut credits with starting the New Wave, this film won the Palm D'Or at Cannes in 1991.  However, Rivette is not as well know as Truffaut and other New Wavers, possibly because of making long, long movies.

If you want to see a "real" woman as in pre-Brazilian wax jobs, Beart is a beautiful example, but the nudity aside, the film explores the selfishness and loneliness that accompanies the creative process.

Why it's a Must See:  "Extrapolating from a story by Balzac, [the director] and his writers...juggle many themes skillfully.  On one level, the film offers a glimpse into the privileged world of art...[on another] the dance between an artist...and his mostly naked model...Their sessions wheel through many moods: Frustration, aggression, exuberance.  The master-slave relationship shifts.  Slowly, through many trials, an artistic work takes form."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

This one should count as two - it was four hours long!  It's a rare occasion when I think a movie should be over two hours long.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I liked it but this is probably one of those films I should have seen AFTER I died because then I would have had more time to enjoy those four hours.



***Book of the Week***

 
What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey (2014)
 
 

What Oprah knows for sure, all in one place.

And there is nothing more comforting than having "The Wisdom of Oprah" close at hand, especially since she is so sure of so many things. 

If you have been following me at all or are a friend or one of my children (who blame Oprah for all of the new child-rearing and other ideas that came from her show that I tried out on them), then you know I am a huge fan.  I wrote a blog post devoted to her last March called "Why Oprah Still Matters."  I wasn't writing that because I was worried that she didn't matter anymore.  I wrote it, because she no longer had her regular show and was now largely behind the scenes and I didn't want people to forget her.  Certainly, Oprah still matters and, actually,  I am waiting for her to run for President.  Of course, why should she, when she wields more power where she is?

Anyway, here she weighs in on "Joy," "Resilience," "Connection," "Gratitude," "Possibility," "Awe," "Clarity" and "Power," and we sure know she has that last one down, and she also knows what she is talking about.  Oprah has spent her career looking to find meaning and passing it on.  I can honestly say I started meditating because of Oprah and that practice has been immensely helpful to me.

Oprah starts the book describing an encounter with Gene Siskel where he asked her, "Tell me...what do you know for sure?...about you, your life, anything, everything..."

That question threw Oprah for a loop and gave her the central question to explore for the rest of her life.

"As you read about all of the lessons I have struggled with, cried over, run from, circled back to, made peace with, laughed about, and at long last come to know for sure, my hope is that you'll begin to ask yourself the very same question Gene Siskel asked me all those years ago.  I know that what you'll find along the way will be fantastic, because what you'll find will be yourself."

Whatever you may think of her, Oprah has used her power and money for good and here she is trying to take us to where she resides.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Go there with her.

 

 

Thanks for Reading!

 

That's it for this week.

 

See you Tuesday for

 

"What I'm Grateful For" 

 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

 

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


 

 

Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."
 


Or you can go directly to IMDB.  

 

Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."