Friday, November 27, 2015

"Suffragette" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Suffragette" and DVDs "The Gift" and "End of the Tour."  The Book of the Week is "The Happiness Project."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Jackie Chan's "Project A 2" - Yes, Jackie Chan is a classic! ]

 



Women fight for the vote in turn-of-the century England.

Carey Mulligan stars as Maud Watts, a wife and mother who works in a laundry in 1912 London.  Her mother was a laundress and now Maud is following in her footsteps, Maud having started working their when she was only 7.  The boss is a bully and there are clear implications that Maud endured sexual abuse while working for him, but she has accepted her lot in life as most women in that era and station had. 

Enter the Suffragette Movement. 
 
Women are standing on street corners demanding the vote and participating in acts of civil disobedience that Maud cannot ignore.  She meets a fellow worker at the laundry, Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) and a pharmacist's wife, Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) who treats her son, both members of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's movement and Maud is slowly drawn into the Suffragette Movement.
 
As Maud becomes more and more embroiled in the movement, she befriends Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press), a true life suffragette who martyrs herself for the cause and provides an event for women to rally around.  That should have been a big crescendo in the film, but it's too little too late and does not elicit the emotion it should have. 
 
I really wanted to love this film as I consider myself a feminist.  It's totally in my wheelhouse and I recently wrote about and lamented the fact that these days feminism doesn't seem to be important to the younger generation of women ("Why is Feminist Such a Dirty Word?").  But despite the film's important message and the wonderful acting we have come to expect from Mulligan, Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep in a very small role as Mrs, Pankhurst, the film lacked heart. It didn't move me the way I thought it should. It played like a very serious and important history lesson, not an engrossing theatrical piece.
 
I don't mean to in any way diminish the sacrifices women had to make to secure the vote for themselves and the indignities they had to endure as men fought to secure their places as their masters.  Today women are still fighting.  I just wish this film had more soul and wasn't such a slog. The film is very Dickensian, dark and grim.  I am not a fan of a film being a grim experience to tell a grim story.  It should still be a good film experience even if the story is grim.
 
Brendan Gleeson plays Chief Inspector Arthur Steed who is painted as being so steadfastly against the women, especially Maud, that it's almost a stereotype.  But he voices an important line when the women are arrested  for protesting. 

 
"Don't bother arresting them. Let their husbands deal with them."
 
And when Maud is sent home to her husband (Ben Winshaw, who now is a regular in the James Bond films as "Q") after a night in jail, he deals with her alright.  He throws her out in the street and forbids her to see her son. Things continue to get worse for Maud as she becomes more and more radicalized.
 
Directed by Sarah Gavron with a screenplay by Abi Morgan, this is a film telling an important story that has rarely been told: women fighting for the vote.  The younger generation of women not only might not appreciate what happened in the 70's but they are even farther removed from what their female ancestors had to go through to get to vote, and as this film points out at the end of the film, several countries were even slower to give women the right to vote and Saudi Arabia has yet to do it. However, for such a passionate subject, the film was surprisingly passionless.

Rosy the Reviewer says...for something I feel so strongly about, I expected to leap from my seat in solidarity...but I didn't.  Disappointing.
 
 
 


Some Movies You Might Have Missed
 
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
 
***Now Out on DVD***



 
 
 
 
 
 

  The Gift (2015)
 




 
 
 
A troubled married couple meet an old friend from the husband's past - but is he really a friend?

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move to a new house.  Simon has been transferred by his computer security company back to LA from Chicago (he grew up in LA). She is an interior designer and they are trying to start a family.  But there is an unease between them.  Things didn't go that well in Chicago, so they are looking forward to a new beginning.

While shopping in their new neighborhood, Simon is approached by Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old high school classmate who Simon doesn't seem to remember. Gordo is kind of timid and creepy. Later, Robyn finds a bottle of wine on their doorstep.  It's from Gordo.  Then he starts appearing at their house unannounced.  Robyn invites him in and after a chat, she invites him to return for dinner.  It's an amiable but awkward dinner.

Then another gift appears on the doorstep, this time as a thank you for dinner.  It's fish food. Gordo has put koi in their pond.  They can't get rid of this guy.

Again he shows up unannounced and this time sees that Simon has written Gordo the Weirdo next to his phone number on the fridge.

But Gordo invites Simon and Robyn to dinner and they are impressed with his home.  When Gordo leaves them alone, Simon continues to make fun of Gordo, but Robyn doesn't approve of Simon making fun of Gordo.  In fact, she kind of feels sorry for him. When Gordo returns, the conversation turns to Gordo.  He admits that his wife has just left him and taken his children.  Simon and Robyn are getting increasingly creeped out by Gordo and Simon finally tells him to stop coming around.

And then Robyn and Simon's lives start to take a nasty turn.  The fish in the pond die and their dog goes missing.  When Simon returns to Gordo's house where they had dinner, the woman who answers the door doesn't know any Gordo.  They receive a letter from Gordo saying goodbye but the letter implies there are some amends that need to be made.

Robyn, unnerved by what has happened, starts doing some sleuthing and uncovers a disturbing incident involving Simon and Gordo. She also discovers what her husband is capable of. The past has caught up with Simon.

Let the revenge begin, and what starts out to be a standard stalker film turns into something quite different as Simon's true nature is revealed.

Jason Bateman has created a niche for himself as kind of a charming jerk.  He did it comedically in "Bad Words" and he does it dramatically here in this unusual thriller.

Joel Edgerton who stars as Gordo, also directs in his feature debut and, though this film initially screamed of Lifetime Movie (and if you are not sure what I mean by that, check out my blog post "Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation"), it morphs into something quite different that will surprise you.

Rebecca Hall is a British actress that I highlighted back in March 2014 - "15 Really, Really Good Actors You Have Never Heard of..."  I have been expecting her to break out into super stardom, but despite roles (many of them as Americans) in "The Town" and "Iron Man 3," she has yet to carry a film on her own.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a little bit of Lifetime Movie but a compelling story with a lot of good acting and twists and turns that will satisfy you on a rainy Saturday night at home.



 
 
 
 

 
 

  The End of the Tour (2015)
 
 
 

 

  


 
A dramatization of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace's groundbreaking 1996 epic novel, "Infinite Jest."

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segal star in this true-to-life depiction of a five-day promotional tour where Rolling Stone Reporter David Lipsky (Eisenberg) traveled with Wallace (Segal) and they formed a bond.

The film begins with Wallace's suicide and Lipsky remembering those five days 12 years earlier (this is not a spoiler. Wallace was a real person who killed himself.  See my link above).

In 1996 Lipsky is a Rolling Stone reporter but he also a writer.  At a book reading for one of his books, though, no one shows up.  That is in complete contrast to Wallace's book reading where he is practically a rock star.

This is not lost on Lipsky, but he is also a big Wallace fan and proposes that Rolling Stone send him to interview Wallace as he promotes his acclaimed third book "Infinite Jest."  Lipsky sets off to the small college where Wallace teaches and the two of them travel from Bloomington, Illinois to St. Paul, Minnesota together - the last leg of Wallace's book tour.

Wallace is at first reclusive and difficult - a modern day Salinger who is uncomfortable with his fame.  He's also a hippie with long hair and an ever present bandanna, awkward, unsocialized but with a droll self-deprecating sense of humor.  He is not comfortable with the celebrity he has achieved. He tells Lipsky that his book is about loneliness and "if someone is interested in reading a 1000 page book [they]must have loneliness issues." 

They share candy, Diet Rite soda and they talk about movies ("Die Hard" being a favorite).  Wallace makes long discourses on writing, marriage, women and Alanis Morissette

But over time, Wallace opens up.  He worries about being a fame whore and says things like "writing books is like having children.  You are proud of them but don't want them to reflect on you." 

He also shares that he doesn't drink because he is a recovering alcoholic who was depressed in his 20's and worried that he would kill himself so he went into treatment.  Likewise, he doesn't have a TV, because he would "watch it too much." In other words, he has an addictive personality.

Their conversations are fraught with word play and one-upmanship as they seek to know each other but not give away too much. Over the course of these discourses, their relationship changes from reporter and subject to friend and mentor, though there are undercurrents of jealousy as Lipsky admires Wallace and wants to be him. 

But over time, Lipsky becomes disillusioned somewhat by his hero as Wallace reveals more and more about his demons.  We want our heroes to be better than us and when Wallace says he just wants to be a regular guy, that disappoints Lipsky. We look up to our heroes, never realizing they are real people with their own insecurities and fears.

Based on Lipsky's book published in 2010 (ironically "Rolling Stone" never published the proposed article), titled "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself," and adapted by Donald Margulies, director James Ponsoldt has put together an engaging two man tour de force punctuated by cool 90's music.

Whenever I see these movies that are mostly two-handers, I think of "My Dinner With Andre," which to me was one of the firsts of this kind of film - just two people talking but what they are talking about is so interesting, they are so interesting, that it is not the least bit boring.  That's what this movie is like.

Jesse does a good job of being Jason's straight man and letting him carry the film, though he certainly holds his own.  He keeps his usual twitchy mannerisms to a minimum.  Segal, who we have come to know mostly through comedies, is a revelation here and shows his acting depth.

The end of an author's book tour can be a let-down as the writer returns to the solitary life of a writer.  I was sorry to see it end too.

Rosy the Reviewer says.. This is an acting tour de force and a treatise on the loneliness of a writing life and you don't need to know anything about Wallace to appreciate it.

 
 

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

 

 
 
271 to go!
 
Have YOU seen this classic film?

 
 



Project A 2 (1987)


Sergeant Dragon Ma Yue Lung (Jackie Chan) is part of the Royal Hong Kong Navy at the turn of the last century and is transferred to the Sai Wan district to keep an eye on Superintendant Chun (David Lam) who is suspected of corruption in this sequel to Chan's "Project A."

Dragon also has to contend with pirates, gangsters and anti-Manchu revolutionaries.

The film begins with some pirates remembering what Dragon did to them in Part 1 so they vow revenge.  Meanwhile, Dragon is sent to fix the corruption waged by Superintendant Chun.

Chun is a bad dude.  He stages arrests and has no qualms about shooting people to make it look like he is keeping the peace.

The dubbing is terrible (I can't understand why so many of the Chinese police officers have cockney accents either) and the actors are overacting all over the place, but that's part of the fun.  You don't go to a Jackie Chan film for the acting.  You go to see some fantastically choreographed martial arts fights.  And he includes feisty women in it too.

Despite a somewhat cartoonish feel, there is something about this film that is charming, compelling and fun, harking back to old fashioned film-making with an easy to follow, though far-fetched plot, some very good guys and some very bad buys and some incredible kick-ass fight scenes.

Jackie is an unlikely hero but so likable you can't help but get caught up in this tale.

Why it's a Must See: "The plot is only a framework, an excuse for Chan to present us with one mind-blowing set piece after another...Watching him evade, jump, spin, and improvise his way out of a savage beating is to experience the joy and exhilaration of meticulous comic timing and old-fashioned slapstick.  He makes it look easy, but the outtakes that run under the end credits (a tradition in Jackie Chan movies) reveal the set pieces to be painstaking dangerous work.  But why [is] the sequel [the best]?...it is here that one finds Chan at the peak of his powers...when he was still young, fast, and agile, before age and broken bones inevitabley slowed him down."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Great fun!
 
 
 

***Book of the Week***

 

 

The Happiness Project: or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin (2011)


Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon.  She realized that "The days are long, but the years are short. Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to happiness.

Oprah has given Rubin her highest endorsement.  She has had her on her Super Soul Sunday program and that's where I first heard about this book.  If Oprah says she is worthy, that's good enough for me.

And who doesn't want to be happier?

So I checked out the book from the library, and you know what, she has some great ideas to make your life a lot happier.

Rubin didn't have the resources to move to Paris (which is what I wish I could do) or do the "Eat, Pray, Love" thing, nor did she want to.  She wanted to improve the life she already had.  She chronicles her year of living her life differently, in a way that made her happier, each month setting a new resolution, such as: remembering to be loving, to make time for friends and to pay attention.  She immersed herself in reading all sorts of inspirational books from Thoreau to the Dalai Lama to find out what worked for her.

And you know what she discovered?

That the smallest of changes can make the biggest differences: from singing in the shower in the morning to always kissing her husband good morning and good night, to the "one minute rule:" she didn't postpone any task that could be done in one minute.  She put away her umbrella; she recycled.  And she added the "evening tidying up rule" which took 10 minutes but made the morning routine much easier.

Those are just some of the things she discovered. See what works for you.

Rosy the Reviewer says...don't we all want to be happier?  Here is some inspiration.  

 
 
 
 
 
Thanks for Reading! 

That's it for this week.

 
See you Tuesday for

"15 Ways to Help Abolish
the Holiday Blues" 
 



 

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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). 



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 24, 2015

When the Lights Went Out: The Dark Side of Retirement


It was a typical Tuesday.  November 17th, to be exact.  Well not exactly typical.  I actually had to get up before my usual time of 9:30 because I had a meeting.  Yes, retired people still have meetings and, yes, I still hate getting up early.

We had been warned that it was going to be a blustery day, but off I went to my meeting, muttering to myself, "I'm retired.  Why am I going out in this awful weather?"  But the day was uneventful and I was back home and all cozy by mid-afternoon.

I actually like rainy days.  It's the wind I don't like.  We are surrounded by really tall trees, cedars and hemlocks, trees that aren't supposed to have very long lives to begin with and these trees were going on 100 years old.  Their root systems also don't run very deep, which is why they are called "Widowmakers."


We have had a couple of really bad wind storms where the wind howled so loudly it sounded like a freight train.  When the wind gets like that I am prone to sleeping downstairs.  I feel safer with an extra story above me in case a tree falls.

But on this particular day the wind didn't really seem to be that bad and by the time it was starting to get dark, it seemed to have died down.  I gave a sigh of relief.

And then it happened.

At 5:45 pm, first a flicker, then out went the lights just for an instant, then back on.  And then off again...for good. Nooooo!



I have a theory that if the lights go off and don't come right back on they are going to be off for awhile and that was the case.  In fact, they didn't come back on for another 34 hours.

I was not happy.

If you have been reading my blog posts about my retirement journey over the last two years, you know that I enjoy retirement mostly because I no longer have to do things I don't want to do.

My kids are married and successful, meaning they have their own homes and incomes, they don't live nearby, so it's OK for me to be selfish.

This may seem off-topic, but bear with me.  I read the book "The Madwoman in the Volvo" by Sandra Loh and blogged about it last November in my blog post "My Menopause."  In it, Loh talks about the detachment women experience in menopause and likens it to the detachment we experience when we are very young. When we are young, it's all about ourselves. But as our hormones kick in, we then become attached as we seek mates and have our children. But then when we are no longer able to procreate and our children have left the nest, our bodies and minds go back to being detached, not needing to nurture anyone but ourselves once again.

I think retirement is a little like that too.  Now that I am retired I don't need to nurture anyone but myself (Hubby doesn't count).  I can do what I want.


So anyway, that's just the long version of saying that when the power goes off, I DON'T GET TO DO WHAT I WANT!

The first few hours were OK even though it was dark.  Ever since my daughter sent me an article that said the Seattle area was the worst possible place to live if you were afraid of earthquakes (worse than California), because a BIG ONE was coming (worse than California), I had been hoarding emergency supplies.  So even though it was dark, we had flashlights and candles at the ready.  Huddling around the gas fireplace with a large glass of wine didn't seem so bad.



And it wasn't like I had to go to work the next day which would have been awful.

When you are working and the power goes off, you have to worry about getting up on time if your alarm clock doesn't work, fix your hair without a hair dryer or hot rollers, put on make-up in the light of a flashlight or in the car and run back and forth to the car to keep your cell phone charged.

But when you are retired that's not an issue.  You are old.  You can just go to sleep or read, right?

Wrong!

I thought I was doing just fine with my retirement.  I could do what I wanted. I had this blog, volunteer work, my dogs, Hubby, wine. I thought I was doing everything right and that I was A-OK.

But then the lights went out for 34 hours, and I was really depressed.

And the fact that I got depressed after 34 hours of no power depressed me even more.

It wasn't like I was starving in a third world country or a victim of those Paris attacks.  So why was I such a baby?  If I can't handle 34 hours away from my rituals and comforts, what does that say about me if something really bad happened?

We were not cut off from the outside world. We could hop in the car and go out to dinner every night, and we had plenty of food and supplies.  In fact, we have so many supplies that a friend once asked if we were Mormons.  And yes, we had our cell phones.

I could read by the light of the flashlight, drink wine, go out to eat, go to a movie, go to sleep.

Why wasn't I grateful for what I had and that it wasn't worse?


But, remember what I said about retirement?  It's all about doing what I want to do and that was not what I wanted to do. 

I didn't want to have to leave the house to go to a restaurant or a movie every night.

I didn't want to read by flashlight.

I didn't even particularly want to sit and drink wine if I couldn't watch TV.

I couldn't get over the fact that I was missing "Survivor" and the results show on "The Voice."

And that's the rub.

I realized over the course of those 34 hours that in retirement, I have become so accustomed to my little rituals and pleasing myself, that when I was forced to change direction and be flexible, I couldn't handle it, even if it was going out to eat at a restaurant on a Tuesday night.  I was so fixated on being inconvenienced, that I couldn't be grateful for what I DID have.

I wanted to be able to get up, fix my cup of tea, waddle upstairs to my computer, work on my blog, watch "The View," watch a movie in the comfort of my own home and not be so damn cold.  And I wanted to go to a restaurant when I wanted to go, not because I had to.

I had to come to grips with the fact that despite what I have done so far in retirement, I still have a long way to go. In my quest to please myself, I have become very set in my ways, narrowly focused and solitary.

And ungrateful.

And I don't like that about myself. That just screams old lady.  And I am not ready to go there yet.

That 34 hours of disruption to my routine was a wake-up call that I am in a retirement rut.

So what am I going to do about it?

I'm not sure, but I'm on it.  Being aware is the first step in making a change, right?

Two things I do know for sure, though.  

There is more to life than just pleasing myself and, when things go wrong, I need to be grateful for what's good, something that is particularly apropos for this time of year. 

(Happy Thanksgiving, by the way).

So it's back to the drawing board. 

I need to prepare for the next time the lights go out before they go out for good.



 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of the new movie 
 
"Suffragette" 
 
and
 
The Week in Reviews
 
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
 
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 20, 2015

Spectre" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new James Bond movie "Spectre" and DVDs "Saint Laurent" and "The Wolfpack."  The Book of the Week is "Staging Your Comeback: A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Russian Ark."]



Spectre


Bond (Daniel Craig) must go rogue to discover an international plot to take over the world's intelligence operations and "M" is under siege to shut down the 00 Program.

The film opens with a stunning fight aboard a helicopter hovering perilously over a mob of people celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico City.  In the fight, Bond throws a hit man named Sciarra from the helicopter because he had been planning to blow up a stadium.  However, when Bond returns to London, he is grounded by the new "M" (now wonderfully played by Ralph Fiennes), because his actions in Mexico City have caused a diplomatic crisis because Bond was acting on his own.  Turns out he was acting as per a video he received from the old "M" (Judi Dench), whose voice from the grave told him that if she died he needed to find a man called Sciarra and kill him. 

"And don't miss the funeral."

He wouldn't miss it for the world or he would have missed Sciarra's wife (Monica Bellucci), a new kind of Bond Girl, or should I say Bond Woman? She is a hot 51! 

After a bit of a sexy tete a tete with her, Bond is able to find out about and infiltrate a secret meeting, led by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), where a successor to Sciarra is named (a typical hulking bad guy we have come to expect in Bond films minus Jaws' metal teeth) and assigned to assassinate a former Bond adversary and member of their secret society, Mr. White, (Jesper Christensen), codenamed 'the Pale King," who has become a liability to them.  As Bond follows lead after lead, he discovers SPECTRE and just how many tentacles it has.

Meanwhile, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of British Intelligence - codename "C" - is working to modernize and digitize global espionage with a new global surveillance corporation called Nine Eyes that will make agents like Bond obsolete.  At the start of the film, MI6 has been merged with MI5 and the 00 Program is to be suspended, thus making James redundant. James is now forced to go rogue in order to find out who killed "M" and put all of the pieces of this convoluted plot together (This reminded me of the most recent "Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation" where the IMF was going to be abolished and Ethan Hunt had to go rogue). 

The formula we have come to expect for James Bond movies is all here:  cold opening with a hint of the iconic theme, spectacular fight scene/chase scene as the film begins, sexy Bond women, requisite car chases, Bond being captured by the bad guy, who instead of just shooting his ass, always ties him up in some way in order to torture him, gloat, and tell him all of the details of his diabolical plan so that when Bond escapes, and of course he always does, he can thwart him.

Speaking of the iconic theme, I am going to treat you with it right here so you can listen to it while you read the rest of my review.  I thought it would be very atmospheric.  And you are very welcome.




(One of my favorite things about the Bond films is the theme music used to punctuate the plot from the little teaser undercurrents of the theme as the film plays out to the full blown theme as Bond rolls away in his Aston Martin after beating the crap out of somebody.  The later films didn't use the theme enough.  So glad it's back).
 
Speaking of what's back...SPECTRE is back, first mentioned in "Dr. No," and here James discovers just how much messing with his life SPECTRE has been doing and who was behind it all along.

This is the fourth Bond film starring Daniel Craig, and one drawback is that you not only need to remember what Craig did in his other films, it helps to know what went on all those 20+ Bond films before, which is a problem, because I have a hard enough time keeping track of what is happening in THIS film.

Craig is the 6th Bond (I'm not counting David Niven in the comedy version of "Casino Royale").  First we had Sean Connery, the iconic Bond, though he didn't really fit author Ian Fleming's literary version. Connery was followed by George Lazenby - who? Then came the wise-cracking Roger Moore Bond followed by a darker, no-nonsense-get-the-job-done Timothy Dalton Bond.  He was replaced by the cool, debonair Pierce Brosnan Bond and now we have the dark, sensitive, brooding but rough-edged Bond in Daniel Craig, but in this fourth Craig film, we see more of the Bond formula that we have come to know and love.  Welcome back, James.

Sam Mendes, who is directing again after success with "Skyfall," which was the highest grossing film in the UK, highest grossing film in the James Bond series, highest grossing film for Sony and MGM worldwide, the second highest-grossing film of 2012 and it won a bunch of awards, has done another great job here, especially of unifying the "old" Bond with the new. And you know what? This might be very controversial because everyone LOVED "Skyfall," but I liked this one better, because Craig was a bit more like the Bond of old and it incorporated more of the iconic Bond touches.

"Spectre" is the longest and most expensive Bond film and there is an opening epitaph which has never happened before ("The dead are alive") which is rather disconcerting.  We Bond fans don't like new things.  But other than that, this fourth outing for Craig harks back to the older films with Bond delivering his cheeky, smart ass lines, much more of the iconic theme music in evidence and with the return of the old gun-barrel opening. Like I said, we Bond fans like tradition.



The ending is ambiguous, as rumor has it that this is Craig's last outing as Bond.
Also the franchise is in question.  They have long ago run out of Ian Fleming's original stories and the Broccoli's will end their association with Sony so one wonders where the series will go from here.

Despite some implausible plot elements, some continuity issues, some red herrings ("The Pale King" title got lost somewhere) and a plot with so many characters and twists that I didn't know what was going on half the time (but that's nothing new for me), I still love the Bond films.

You don't go to a James Bond film for reality.  You go to be transported to exotic locations, see a bunch of stuff get blown up and hear our James say really cheeky things to the bad guys when he is about to be killed.  And of course, we want to hear him say, when asked who he is, "Bond, James Bond."

Bond movies are growing up.  We have a 51 year old Bond girl, er, woman.  Likewise, we have a new kind of love interest for James in Lea Seydoux (I mean, he actually seems to want a RELATIONSHIP) and a new "M" with stuff of his own to do. Ralph Fiennes as the new "M" really works.  I love Ralph anyway, but he brings a new dimension to the character of "M." He is joined once again by Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as "Q." 

Chillingly, this film is very timely in light of the horrible terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend and around the world. In the film "C," along with SPECTRE, is able to pitch the need for global surveillance because of several terrorist attacks taking place around the world.  Yes, we want protection but do we want a worldwide Big Brother?

Rosy the Reviewer says...Bond fans go to Bond films for a reason and this one has all of the reasons.


 

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



***Now Out on DVD***







Saint Laurent (2014)

 
 
Biopic of the life of designer Yves Saint Laurent  (Gaspard Ulliel) at the height of his career.
 
The film begins in 1974 at the height of Saint Laurent's fame but he is already experiencing the byproducts of a rather dissolute life of drugs and alcohol and wondering what's next.
 
If you didn't know the key players or the particulars of Saint Laurent's life, you might not know what is going on some of the time as the film starts with Saint Laurent at 33, already a fashion celebrity running his own fashion house and rubbing elbows with the likes of Andy Warhol and "The Beautiful People," but strictly as a theatrical piece, a movie about a young successful designer looking for a muse and looking for love, this works.  One of Saint Laurent's muses was Loulou de la Falaise, played by Lea Seydoux , who appears this year as James Bond's love interest in "Spectre (see my review above)."
 
Just as Saint Laurent lived a stylish life and set the style for a whole generation, director Bertrand Bonello has delivered a stylish film that captures the excesses of the late 60's and 70's.  It's beautifully photographed and beautifully styled, with fantastic clothes designed by Anais Romand.  He also explores what it was like for a gay man during those times. It reminded me of Oliver Stone's "The Doors," and that is fitting, as Saint Laurent was a rock star of fashion. 

Bonello also uses the split screen very effectively to show the fashionistas whooping it up on one side with pictures of the Vietnam War next to it.  The lifestyle of "The Beautiful People" of the 70's belied what was going on in the world.  The jet setters jet setted seemingly oblivious to what was going on in the world.  They were popping pills and having lots of sex. 

In the last four years there have been three films about Saint Laurent, two of them theatrical biopics released within five months of each other, this one and "Yves Saint Laurent," directed by Jalil Lespert.   The other was a documentary - L'amour Fou," - released in 2011 by Saint Laurent's longtime companion, Pierre Berge.

Does the life of Yves Saint Laurent warrant that many films?  

Yes, because they are all different. Saint Laurent was a rock star of fashion with a complicated life and a complicated psyche. This film is less linear than the Lespert version and focuses more on that complicated psyche and less on Saint Laurent's relationship with Pierre Berge.  The documentary was the only one authorized by Berge, fittingly, and captures more of Saint Laurent's later years.

But does this film need to be two and a half hours long especially since it only covers Saint Laurent's life from 1967 to 1975?  No. There were all kinds of strange little scenes that could have been left out but the film does capture the glamour of the fashion world in the 60's and 70's, the gay lifestyle and the torment of genius.

 I cried at the end as Laurent, now old and alone, relives his greatest fashion triumphs with Callas singing the aria from "Tosca" in the background.
 
Think a very long tres chic French Lifetime Movie

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like biopics, fashion and the pop culture of the 60's and 70's, you will like this film.
(In French with English subtitles)
 




 


 
    The Wolfpack (2015)


A documentary about six brothers who were locked away from the world and relieved their deprivation by reenacting the movies they saw.

By now you have probably figured out what a big fan I am of documentaries, especially cinema verite.  This film is cinema verite at its best.

20/20 did a piece on these young men a couple of months ago, but if you are unfamiliar with their story, here it is.  

Susanne met Oscar Angulo in Peru.  He is Peruvian and was also a Hare Krishna devotee.  It was not clear if he was a Hare Krishna when he and his wife met or not, but by the time they both married and found themselves in New York City, that was the deal.  A faithful Hare Krishna man is supposed to have 10 children (that poor women), but Susanne only managed seven: six boys and one girl: Bhagavan, Govinda, Narayana, Mukunda, Krisna and Jagadesh — and their sister, Visnu. Susanne and Oscar raised their children in a four bedroom apartment in a housing project in the heart of Manhattan with virtually no exposure to the outside world, except for what they could see from the windows of their apartment.  

However Oscar was obsessed with movies, so the boys made their lives bearable by watching movies.  They borrowed movies from the library or bought discounted DVDs and VHS tapes, and were allowed to watch movies nonstop.  They would watch the movies over and over and then re-enact them. They would write out the film's dialogue by hand, make costumes and props from what could be found around the apartment, and they filmed their reenactments. Favorites were "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs, the "Godfather" films and "JFK." But one day one of the sons decided to go outside by himself and then everything changed.

Director Crystal Moselle was given unprecedented access to this family that rarely went out into the world.  She met the boys by accident when they were out "in a pack" all dressed in black wearing Ray-Ban glasses as per "Reservoir Dogs."  She chased after them and befriended them. She filmed them over the course of four years and lets the boys and their mother tell their own stories (the father is rarely seen). We also get to watch the boys act in and film their movies. 

One son says a movie "makes me feel like I'm living...because it's magical...a bit...If I didn't have movies life would be pretty lonely and there would be no reason to go on..."

They were all home-schooled but in the summer they might go out once in awhile with their Dad; in winter they rarely went out; and one year they never went out at all.

For some reason Oscar believed something bad would happen to his family if they left the apartment.  However, Oscar also refused to work because he didn't want to be "a slave to society."

All of the boys had hair down to their waists as per their father's beliefs and Sanskrit names.  The whole family slept together in a large bed. The boys likened their father to a landowner or a warden - they were the workers or the prisoners. (The little girl didn't seem to be a part of the boys' films and is rarely seen in the film).

Though the boys seem to really love their mother and she seems kindly to them, one can't help but wonder how a woman could be so cowed as to allow this to go on.  She doesn't come off as very bright or very worldly but there were also some implications in the film that she was abused and Oscar was a bit nuts and a drunk.

What is stunning about this film is how "normal" these boys seem despite their very abnormal upbringing.  They seem happy and relatively adjusted.

Moral of the story:  Movies matter.  They can keep you sane.

One boy sums up his experience: "It was all fear - fear was put in..I still have fear but who doesn't?"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a remarkable film that shows the resilience of the human spirit.

 


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


271 to go!
 
Have YOU seen this classic film?




Russian Ark (2002)

 
A 19th century French aristocrat (Sergey Dreyden) leads the viewer on a history of three centuries of Russian history amidst the rooms and galleries of St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.
 
A film by Alexander Sokurov that uses one unbroken shot for the entire film that had to be completed in one day.
 
The film begins through the eyes of an unseen narrator (who is Sokurov himself) who finds himself in 19th century Russia.  He doesn't know why he is there. He wanders around following another person who appears confused. That person is a French aristocrat. They pass through Russian history from Catherine the Great through Czar Nicholas, and, through a series of shifts back and forth through time, we see the art of the Hermitage and the history of Russia. As the camera moves from room to room, history slowly unfolds interrupted by odd interactions between the diplomat and those he finds there, almost as if in tableau.
 
 Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is a work of vaunting ambition...[and] what really makes this dreamy mix of allegory and politics so memorable is the director's visual approach.  Pushing the envelope of digital technology, the entire drama unravels in a single unbroken take...requiring 2,000 extras...and unfolding across thirty galleries, hallways, and rooms...The results are breathtaking...The result is one of the great technical achievements of modern cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
 
Roger Ebert said in his review in 2003,
"The cinematographer Tillman Buttner, using a Steadicam and high-def digital technology, joined with some 2,000 actors in a tight-wire act in which every mark and cue had to be hit without fail; there were two broken takes before the third time was the charm."


I can appreciate what it took to film this in one take and the recreation of life before, during and after the Czar, but for me, this was a painful film experience, and I have a high tolerance for painful film experiences. It doesn't matter the feat of execution if the film is not engaging. Despite the nice tour of the Hermitage and the beautiful costumes, I pretty much didn't have a clue what was going on most of the time, because it had no plot and was basically a series of beautiful scenes that seemed to have no continuity.

I would rather see the Hermitage for myself without all of the dramatics.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have interest in the Hermitage and Russian history, you might enjoy this but I found it a snooze fest.
(In Russian with English subtitles)
 
 
 

***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45 by Christopher Hopkins (2008) 
 
 
Hopkins is known as "The Makeover Guy" and, god knows, we women over 45 need him!

This guy likes older women and wants them to look their best.

"I believe that as women mature, the more beautiful they become but the less attractive they often feel." 

So Hopkins offers us older ladies some fashion and beauty advice as well as a pep talk consisting of affirmations we should say every day.

"I must, I must, I must increase my bust!"  Just kidding.  That was an affirmation I used to say when I was a kid.

He wants us to Aspire (to be the best we can be), Approve (of ourselves and believe that we deserve it), Assume (we will get what we want) and Affirm (know that we are IT)!

He also gives tips on fashion, make-up, hair, standing up straight (sounds like my mother) and even how best to clean out your closet.
 
 
Did you know that...
 
"As women age, they might notice a shortening waist...Consider petites.  Sometimes you might be of average height, but petite dresses, jackets, and tops will fit better in the waist."
(I can just see the salesperson at Macy's saying to me, "Did you mean to buy this PETITE dress)?
 
"The tighter your sleeves, the bigger your breasts." 
(I don't know if this is good news or bad news). 
 
If you have a big tummy, wear your jacket open "for maximum profile flattery."
(What, so in profile you can see it sticking out more)?
 
"A butt without shape wear is like Jell-O without a mold."
(Did I need to know that)?
 
"The most slenderizing handbag will never be taller than ten inches, thicker than three inches, or wider than a foot."
(So I guess this one is out)

 
 
 

Big earrings are usually wrong for a woman of a certain age as are skinny jeans.
(He didn't say that as much but I know he would think it)!
 
"If your cleavage is your ticket to attention, take this test.  Next time you're wearing a low-cut top, look straight in the mirror and cross your arms.  If you don't see 'crepe paper crinkling,' give yourself the cleavage permit."
(So I guess, otherwise, forget it)?

Speaking of a test, there is one section of the book where you get to take a little quiz (we love quizzes, right?) to determine your "image profile."  There are six profiles: Classic, Casual, Romantic, Dramatic, Innovative and Alluring.
 
I got "Dramatic."  Geez, quelle surprise.
 
"Blend in? Absolutely not. You like the attention of the spotlight and it shows in your style.  You have a knack for being distinctive and striking. To appear like everyone else is not an option.  Instead, you prefer to have your own look, dressing with flair and drama."
 
"Your image buzz words: stunning, dazzling, glamorous, gorgeous, exquisite..."
 
OK, great, good, I like that. 
 
But then...
 
"To you, being unique is worth the effort.  All this drama, however, can be intimidating to others.  They can see you as aloof, insincere, self-absorbed, or pretentious...It is important to remember as you age to not become a caricature of yourself.  Too much drama after a certain age can, well, think "Sunset Boulevard."
 
 
 
Whaaat????
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...now I'm depressed.

Oh, the hell with it!


"Alright, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up!"
 
 
 
 
 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 
That's it for this week.

 
See you Tuesday for

"When the Lights Went Out:
The Dark Side of Retirement"
 
 



 

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