Friday, October 30, 2015

"Crimson Peak" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Crimson Peak" and the DVDs "Lila & Eve" and "In the Name of My Daughter."  The Book of the Week is  "That's What Fashion Is" by fashionista Joe Zee. I also bring you up to date on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Michelangelo Antonioni's classic "La Notte."]

Crimson Peak

A gothic thriller from the mind of Director Guillermo del Toro.

When you go to see a gothic thriller, it must deliver some or all of the following elements:

  • Creepy, creaky, crumbling mansion
  • Handsome, brooding and sinister leading man
  • Plucky heroine
  • Ghosts that deliver ominous warnings
  • A brother and sister with an unsavory relationship
  • A malevolent female out to get our heroine
  • Beautiful costumes and long hair flowing all over the place
  • A very over-the-top plot

Does "Crimson Peak" deliver?  Check, check, check, check, check, check, check...and CHECK!

Del Toro has taken his creative mind that gave us "Pan's Labyrinth" and turned it toward the gothic thriller.  And as you would expect, the set design and production values are first rate.

The film begins in Buffalo, New York, when our plucky heroine, Edith Cushing is eight.  Her mother has just died and soon after, her ghost scares the living daylights out of Edith by appearing with long scary fingers and an unrecognizable face uttering the words "Beware of Crimson Peak."  Edith has no idea what that means.

Fast forward and Mia Wasikowska as our plucky heroine is now in her twenties and hoping to be a writer. Ironically, she wrote a "ghost story." Her father (Jim Beaver), a wealthy builder, clearly adores her.  When titled but penniless Englishman baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hittleston) approaches her father to invest in his invention for harvesting the red clay that populates his property, there is an instant attraction between Thomas and Edith.  But Thomas does not come without baggage.  That baggage is his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).  The two of them seem unnaturally close, if you know what I mean.  Edith's father is not happy about a romance between Thomas and Edith and hires a private detective to find out about him.  He later confronts Thomas with what he discovered and voila!  Edith's father is found dead in the bathroom of his men's club, before he can share the information with Edith. 

But like I said, Edith is plucky and she marries Thomas and off they go to England where Thomas has a mansion called Allerdale Hall that is clearly in decline.  Lucille hovers over Edith like a Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's "Rebecca." Winter is approaching and Thomas just offhandedly tells Edith that in winter the estate is known by the locals as "Crimson Peak," because of the red clay on the white snow.


Mia Wasikowska, is, well, Mia Wasikowska: a lovely actress I always get mixed up with Kirsten Dunst.  I can only tell them apart because Mia's teeth are better.   But it's Hittleston and Chastain that mesmerize.  Hittleston is the new Ralph Fiennes, whom I have adored ever since his alleged impromptu tryst with a flight attendant in the plane's bathroom on a transatlantic flight.  Ralph, you are just a regular guy!  I love it!  But Ralph is getting a bit old for the sensitive, brooding Heathcliff type, so Tom can step into that role.   I loved Tom in "Only Lovers Left Alive, which I reviewed favorably, and he does sensitive and brooding so well.  But Jessica.  Ah, Jessica.  Chew some more scenery. She really gets into it as Thomas' euphemistic "sister." It's too much fun.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a lush and creepy ghost story that is gorgeous and delicious good fun!

Lila & Eve (2015)

You might ask how I can give this film a good review and have reservations about the serious and box office hit "The Martian."  Well, this is how I can.

I hold filmmakers to different standards depending on what they are trying to accomplish, the budgets they are working with, the actors, etc..  Was this film supposed to be an Oscar-worthy effort ("Argo")?  Was this a summer blockbuster ("Jurassic World")?  Or was it a small film meant to make you feel or learn something ("Still Alice")?  And did it accomplish what it set out to do?  Though I apply the principles I shared in my post "Reading a Film," to films, in the end, these things and our enjoyment of a film are highly subjective.  The bottom line is the film experience and whether or not it was worth spending 90-120+ minutes watching it.

For me, I like films about strong women.  I like films with an interesting plot, and a twist at the end is an extra bonus (even if I can figure it out ahead of time).  And for this one, I'm a big fan of Jennifer Lopez, I can't lie. I have loved her and followed her ever since "Selena." So already this film has a lot going for it in my book.  Now did it deliver a worthwhile film experience?

Lila (Viola Daviswas a single mother raising her son, Stephon (Aml Ameen), in Atlanta.  One night on his way home, Stephon is killed in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. Lila's world crumbles.  She meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez) at a murdered child support group.  Lila shares that she is frustrated with the efforts the police have made to find her son's killer.  Eve, who has lost her daughter, encourages Lila to find the killer herself.  Lila is hopeful; Eve has given up.  They become a sort of yin and yang of each other and set out on a "Thelma & Louise" odyssey to find Stephon's killer, working their way through the underworld to uncover what happened to Stephon.  Eve is not above blowing someone away who tries to stop them and the bodies start piling up.  Now they are getting the attention of the police and the bad guys are after them too.

Viola Davis is always good.  She has a face that just reeks of pathos which serves her well here as a grieving mother.  No one can imagine the grief one would feel if one's child was murdered.  And as I said earlier, I love Jennifer Lopez, anyway, but here her sort of street smart, smart ass "Jenny from the block" way of delivering lines gives a nice counterpoint to Viola's character.  However, I am starting to worry about Jennifer a little bit.  This was her last feature film, which did not get wide release and the one before that was "The Boy Next Door," which I likened to a glorified Lifetime Movie.  Jennifer hardly falls into the aging actress category yet, despite Hollywood shunning women over 40.  She is still very hot and young looking, so one wonders why she isn't offered more romantic comedies, which made her career for so many years, especially now that more and more of them are aimed at an older crowd.

This is a vengeance film that did not get widespread release, which is too bad because how often do we get to see women in that role?  And when you compare this one to the egregious "Taken 3," which did get the big movie treatment, that's a shame.

Rosy the Reviewer says...think "Thelma and Louise" and "The Sixth Sense," with a touch of "Death Wish." If that appeals, you will like this movie.

In the Name of My Daughter (2014)

Agnes, a young woman, returns home to her mother after her failed marriage, falls in love with her mother's lawyer...and then disappears.

The still luminous Catherine Denueuve plays a Nice casino manager, Renee Le Roux, in this film based on a true story.  Her daughter, Agnes (Adele Haenel) has returned home after a failed marriage.  The two have an uneasy relationship partly because Agnes wants her inheritance.  Renee balks but sets her daughter up with a shop instead. When Renee discovers that five million euros have been lost to a professional gambling ring and a rival casino owner with connections to the mob, Jean-Dominque Fratoni (Jean Corso), is seeking control of the casino, Renee risks losing her management position. 

Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet) is Madame Le Roux's lawyer and right hand man.  He is ambitious and Renee finds him pushy.   When Renee passes Maurice up for the casino manager position, he is not happy. He woos Agnes and they embark on an affair, despite the fact that Maurice is married.  Renee does not approve and Maurice works to alienate mother and daughter. When Renee's management of the casino is brought into question by the board, Agnes votes against her mother and Agnelet helps Fratoni acquire the casino.  Agnes benefits financially from the takeover and naively gives Maurice access to it, and as soon as she does, he stops seeing her.  Agnes becomes desperate and attempts suicide.  There is a brief reconciliation and then...

Agnes goes missing.  Renee does everything she can to find her daughter, but, you know what? If my daughter had treated me the way Agnes treated Renee, I wouldn't have bothered. 

Moral of the story:  No matter how badly your daughter treats you she is still your beloved daughter who you would do anything for.

Renee is certain that Agnelet killed her daughter, but thirty years and three trials later, where is Agnes and who done it?

Canet is appropriately slimy as Maurice, and I couldn't tell if Haenel wanted her Agnes to be so annoying on purpose, but she was.  Deneuve, of course, is always elegant and beautiful.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a bit of a soap opera but compelling. Voila! Even the French can do Lifetime Movies.
(In French with English subtitles)


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


274 to go!
Have YOU seen this one?
La Notte  (1961)

Twenty four hours in a troubled marriage.

It's a minimal plot where a husband and wife, Giovanni and Lidia (He is a successful novelist and she is his frustrated wife), visit a dying friend in the hospital and over the course of 24 hours he has sex with a nymphomaniac in the hospital, they attend a decadent party and she wanders around Milan amidst a bunch of symbolism which we all loved back in the 60's, but which today makes us go "Huh?"

When their friend dies, his death brings up all kinds of recriminations and regret.  "The Notte" represents an actual night that Giovanni wrote about where Giovanni's and Lidia's love burned bright but he worried about the marriage boredom that could set in once habit took over. 

Michelangelo Antonioni was the cinematic darling of the 60's. I know I felt all arty and intellectual when I went to his films, never admitting I wasn't quite sure what they were about.  One thing I know for sure.  He did not make happy films.  This one is part of a trilogy beginning with "L'avventura" and ending with "L'eclisse," and here he continues his themes of the ennui, the jaded lives of the rich and emotional isolation. The black and white cinematography is modern and abstract as he frames the actors against the stark angles of the modern architecture. 
The wonderful and mesmerizing Jeanne Moreau plays Lidia, the wife.  I have always thought that she doesn't have a resting bitch face per se, but she has always had a resting sad face with her ever downturned mouth.  Marcello Mastroianni is at his handsomest here, but his character is a cad.  Marcello can really do cad.

Back when Antonioni and Bergman were very much in vogue and their characters agonized over their despair, lived lives of disconnection, cheated (and agonized over that too) and wandered around thinking deep thoughts, we thought the deep thoughts too, but now this film especially seems self-indulgent and over-long even for me, and I have a high tolerance of self-indulgent, slow-moving films.  When one of the characters says, "You two have really worn me out tonight," it would have been laughable if this film wasn't so dark.

"...this feature comes from what is widely and justifiably considered to be Antonioni's richest period, and evidence of his stunning mastery is readily apparent throughout."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yes, but must we make a boring film to show bored people?  See this to see where Antonioni was before he blew up with "Blow Up." 

***Book of the Week***

That's What Fashion Is : Lessons and Stories from My Nonstop, Mostly Glamorous Life in Style by Joe Zee 

 Fashionista Joe Zee shares his life and fashion sense.
I had never heard of Joe Zee until I started watching Tyra's new daytime show "FabLife (of course, I'm watching it.  I love Tyra)!  Joe is the fashion expert on FabLife and, in real life, Fashion Editor-in-Chief for Yahoo Style and former Creative Director for Elle Magazine. 
Starting out as a stylist for photographer Annie Leibovitz's shoots for "Vanity Fair," styling celebs for Elle Magazine and reporting from the Red Carpet, Joe shares insider information on what working in the fashion industry and styling celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Scarlett Johansson is really like. He also shares fashion tips so us regular folks can all look like them too (I wish)! 
So this is part autobiography and part fashion advice. 

In addition to his life story (he loved Boy George) and how he got into the fashion business, he tells us how to dress like a model, how to take a selfie, how to maximize shopping on EBay and where he hangs out in Paris. It's a frenetic mish/mash.  Kind of like Joe.  And it's a lotta fun.  We get to be a fashionista vicariously.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Joe is a likable guy whose book makes the world of fashion accessible and fun.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Bossy People"


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  1. oh my goodness! These all look good to me. I don't think I would have been drawn to Crimson Peak if I didn't read your review...definitely will see it now plus all the rest. You are keeping me busy with movies!!!


    1. There are worse ways to spend your time, sazzy! Glad you liked the reviews. :)