Friday, August 18, 2017

"The Glass Castle" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Glass Castle" as well as DVDs "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" and "The Boy."  The Book of the Week is "American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Godard's "Masculin Feminin"]

The Glass Castle

Film adaptation of Jeannette Wall's memoir about growing up poor with two dysfunctional, neglectful and narcissistic parents.

"Happy families resemble each other; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." 

That is a Tolstoy quote from "Anna Karenina," and I think of it every time I see a movie about dysfunctional families or unhappy childhoods.  However, this film is more about dysfunctional parenting and a childhood that was partly happy and partly really unhappy.

Jeannette Walls' best-selling memoir told the story of growing up with a Mom (Rose Mary, played by Naomi Watts) who would rather work on one of her paintings than feed her four children.  In fact, one day she was so distracted she let her very young Jeanette (Chandler Head) boil hot dogs on her own, resulting in her catching her dress on fire and becoming severely burned and scarred for life. And in addition to being a neglectful Mom, Rose Mary was also one of those long-suffering wives who just couldn't quit her man, no matter what he did or didn't do.  Maddening.

Rose Mary's husband and Jeanette's Dad, Rex (Woody Harrelson), moved the family constantly from one ramshackle shack to another, one step ahead of the bill collectors.  He was an alcoholic and narcissist who didn't believe in sending his children to school and had no qualms about spending the family's food money on booze and cigarettes.  He could be thoughtless and mean, but also charming and fun. One year, there was no money for Christmas presents so he told the children they could pick out a star as their very own.  Somehow that worked.  He was also a big dreamer who was always working on the plans for their "glass castle," a house he was designing that they would all live in happily ever after one day.

One can't help but compare this film to "Captain Fantastic," which featured another narcissistic father who had strong opinions about how his kids should be raised, pontificated about every subject under the sun, but was basically full of crap.  That's not a problem in and of itself.  There are a lot of narcissistic men around who have an opinion on everything (and you know who you are), but when those opinions and ideas affect their children's lives negatively, that's another story. Rex was a charming con-man, but he was also neglectful and made his children's lives a living hell for much of their childhood.  It wasn't until the kids were older that they realized his refrain of "This time will be different" was a lie, that they would never live in "the glass castle" like he promised, and if they wanted to get anything out of life, they needed to get the hell away from him.

The story unfolds in flashback. 

It's the 80's and the adult Jeannette (Brie Larson) has made her way to New York City to become a successful gossip column writer for New York Magazine.  She is engaged to a financial advisor (Max Greenfield) and is trying to live a "normal" life.  But when she discovers that her parents have followed her to New York and are homeless, squatting in an abandoned building and dumpster diving, she is horrified and the memories come rushing back. 

If I thought "Captain Fantastic" was a bad Dad (and I did), Rex Walls wins the bad Dad contest hands down, but, ironically, Woody Harrelson does him proud.

I have trash-talked Woody a bit in the past and said I wasn't a fan because I was sick of the characters he played which I likened to him just playing himself.  You are now expecting a rant, aren't you?  Well, my peeps, no such luck.  I actually liked Woody in this.  He was very good.  He made me forget he was Woody. 

Naomi Watts was also excellent, though her character was maddening in her blindly following her ego-maniac of a drunken husband.  I guess if she made me mad, that's called good acting.

Likewise, Brie Larson as the adult Jeannette brings a sensitivity to the role.  It's not the bravura performance which won her a Best Actress Academy Award for "Room," but she is a gifted actress and has a quiet presence in this.

And then there are the children. 

I usually rant about child actors who play overly precocious kids, something I can't bear, but you know what?  I am not going to rant because these kids were all wonderfully believable and not a wise-cracker in the bunch. Especially notable were Chandler Head and Ella Anderson who played the youngest and young Jeannettes respectively, but all of the child actors (and for all four children there was a youngest, a young and an adult version) were believable.  You felt their pain as they scrambled to find something to eat or clung together while their parents were fighting or Rex was drunk.

You know I also tend to rant a bit about movie clichés and devices. 

Well, here's another one, one you find these days at the end of practically every movie that is based on a true story.  And that's the epilogue.  You know, that thing at the end where the real people are shown - "Lion" used it; "Detroit" used it.  You see it all the time.  But am I going to rant?  Nope.  Movie cliche or not, I actually like that, and it is especially effective in this film where real family pictures are shown at the end and then the actors are shown over the credits, each up next to the real person they played- Woody next to the real Rex; Naomi next to the real Rose Mary; Brie next to the real Jeannette. Very effective.

My goodness! I think you have just witnessed the first Rosy the Reviewer's Rant-Free Review!

Though I liked the film as a whole, there were some scenes I take issue with (and no, this is not a rant).  Whether or not they happened in real life as per Walls' book, there were some scenes that didn't feel authentic and were over-dramatized - the arm wrestling scene when Jeannette suddenly really got into it and started screaming was way over the top and seemingly out of character; the kids attacking Rex's mother when they thought she was abusing their brother didn't seem like something little kids would do; and Jeannette sharing her true life story with total strangers at a business dinner after lying for years and then abruptly leaving a dinner and running down the street to profess her love for her father was way over-dramatic.

However, like I said, I did enjoy this film.

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton and adapted by him and Andrew Lanham from Walls' best-selling memoir, the film highlights a very strange thing about parent-child relations.  In so many cases, no matter how bad their childhoods, no matter how neglected they might have been, children still love their parents.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you ever worried you were not a good parent, watch this and take some comfort that you weren't THIS BAD!!!

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

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

A mockumentary on the rise and fall of a pop star in the vein of "This is Spinal Tap."  But is it as good?

Satires are always fun if they are well done.  This one isn't.

Connor (Andy Samberg), Owen (Jorma Taccone) and Lawrence (Akiva Schaffer) are friends from a young age and form a boy band - The Style Boyz - but, as happens with most bands, arguments and recriminations break them up. Lawrence leaves and Conner goes off as a solo act calling himself Connor4Real with Owen as his DJ.  His solo career starts out well, but then fails.  So he tries to think of what he can do to revive his career: release another song? Get a weird hair cut?  Take an ugly teenager to her prom? Connor starts to implode.

Connor's retinue includes a guy who routinely punches him in his nether region to remind him where he came from; Zippy (Bill Hader), his guitar tech, who enjoys flat-lining; Tyrus Quash (Justin Timberlake in an uncredited role), the tour chef; a tortoise named Maximus who Connor considers his best friend; and his manager, Harry (Tim Meadows), who suggests that Connor go on tour and have Aquaspin, a manufacturer that makes home appliances, sponsor the tour. However, the company's appliances begin playing Conner's songs whenever someone uses them, causing a nationwide power outage that generates a wave of backlash against Connor.

Connor's opening act for his tour is a rap star, Hunter the Hungry (Chris Redd), and when Hunter starts overshadowing Connor, Conner's publicist, Paula (Sarah Silverman), suggests he pull a publicity stunt to deflect attention from his humiliation. Conner decides to propose to his girlfriend, Ashley (Imogen Poots,) on live TV, a stunt that includes a pack of trained wolves and a performance by Seal.  However, the music upsets the wolves and they break loose, mauling Seal and members of the audience. The backlash against Conner grows, and Ashley breaks up with him and starts dating Seal, who sues Conner for his injuries.

Connor starts to implode again.

Naturally there are lots of songs, one of which likens the Mona Lisa to the Garbage Pail Kids and in one, uh, rather gross scene, someone "goes to the bathroom (I'm trying to be delicate here)" in the Anne Frank house. 

So if any or all of that sounds funny to you, you might like this film, but if you were hoping for another "This is Spinal Tap," hope again.  "Spinal Tap" captured every cliché associated with heavy metal bands, and I think Sandburg was hoping to capture that same zeitgeist of being a famous pop/rap star but it just didn't work.
Schaffer, Taccone and Samberg, who together produced those SNL Video Shorts under the name Lonely Island, wrote the screenplay and Schaffer and Taccone, writers on SNL, also directed. 

All of this should have come together for a very funny movie, but, sadly it really didn't.

I realize that Andy Samberg is an acquired taste.  He can be really out there, but I actually like him. He made a name for himself as a regular on "Saturday Night Live" and with those video shorts and song parodies.  He can be very, very funny.  Who can forget his SNL video short with Justin Timberlake, "D*** in a Box"?  I think he was trying to bring that same sensibility to this feature film, but his video shorts on SNL are one thing.  If this film is any indication, they don't translate very well into feature films. 

Along with those SNL alums, there are cameos starring Ringo, Usher, Mariah, 50 Cent, Simon Cowell and other stars who all weigh in to give this mockumentary a real documentary feel.  Even Emma Stone shows up.

If you watch this film, hang in there until the end because the scene starring Michael Bolton is really funny.  He makes fun of himself and I didn't think he had that in him.

So with all of this star power helping Andy out, what happened?

I don't know.  I'm not a pop star.  I am old.  This movie was probably aimed more at teens and twenty-somethings, but let's just say I do really like parodies and satires, but I didn't laugh and that's my criteria for liking a comedy. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you aren't a pop star and you are over 30, you probably won't laugh either.

The Boy (2016)

A young American girl takes a job as a nanny for an English couple only to discover that their little boy is a doll.

Oh, but what a doll.  In the tradition of "Annabelle: Creation (a horror film currently in theatres)," and other demonic doll movies, the little boy is a doll who seems to come to life to terrorize our young nanny.

Relative unknowns star in this thriller/horror film that is heavy on atmosphere.  The Brits are very good at atmosphere.  It takes place in a creepy, creaky mansion and creepy, creaky mansions are always good for atmosphere.

When Greta Evans (Laura Cohan), a young girl from Montana, arrives in London at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire (Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle), they are not at home and she is told by the maid to wait.  While waiting, she hears a noise coming from upstairs and in true horror movie fashion, she has to investigate, right? 

Who does that?  You arrive at your new job in someone's home, you are told to wait but instead you wander around their house?  Greta, where are your manners?

As she is snooping around, she is startled by a handsome young guy, Malcolm (Rupert Evans), who is delivering groceries.  Gee, I wonder where that's going to lead?

When Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire return home, they introduce Greta to Brahms, their little boy.  When Greta realizes that "the boy" is a doll, she starts to laugh (those manners again, Greta!) until she realizes this is no joke.  She is going to be a nanny for a doll.

Mrs. Heelshire gives Greta the routine to follow for Brahms:

  • Wake him at seven and dress him
  • Three hours of lessons - "Read in a loud, clear voice."
  • Music
  • Put him to bed
Then the Heelshire's tell Greta that they are going on a vacation and leaving her alone with Brahms.


Before they leave, Mr. Heelshire says to Greta: "Be good to him and he will be good to you" followed by some ominous music.


Now Greta not only doesn't have very good manners, she is not much of a nanny either. When alone with Brahms, she puts him in a chair but becomes so creeped out by him that she throws a blanket over him, starts drinking wine and falls asleep.


Methinks Miss Greta has missed little Brahms' bed time.

When Greta wakes up, she notices that the blanket she threw over Brahms is now on the floor and again, creeped out, she picks Brahms up and throws him in a room. Let's say she basically does not follow the rules in caring for Brahms.

At that point, I went "Oooh, Greta, not smart."

And I was right. 

And there's more.

When Greta calls her sister, Sandy, we discover that Greta has an abusive ex-husband who is looking for her. I have a feeling we are going to see the ex-husband at some point too.

So poor Greta.  An abusive doll AND an abusive husband.

Remember Malcolm, that guy delivering the groceries?  Well, he tells her the story. The real Brahms died in a fire 20 years ago when he was eight, and after that, the doll showed up. But let's forget about Brahms. Malcolm asks Greta to go on a date with him and she accepts and they plan to get together later in the day.

In the meantime, Greta notices the stairs to the attic are down and, now I ask you?  Would you go up into a dark attic when you are staying all alone in a spooky house with a creepy doll?  But yes, she goes up into the attic - "Hello?  Is anybody here?" - and, of course, she gets locked in the attic where she discovers memorabilia and pictures of Brahms.  Then the stairs mysteriously come down again, and when she gets back to her room, it's all torn up and she finds Brahms sitting on the bed with the rules next to him.

When Malcolm returns, she finds out more about little Brahms and that the real Brahms wasn't such a good little boy.

After a series of strange events, Greta starts to believe that the spirit of Brahms really does live in the doll, and she is somehow mesmerized by him and starts taking care of him and also basically starts to lose it.  Is she going crazy?

And if all of that wasn't bad enough...

Yes, Greta was running from an abusive ex-husband who inconveniently shows up and then all hell breaks loose. And guess what - the Heelshires weren't really on vacation!

Cohan and Evans are an engaging couple and Jim Norton and Diana Hardcastle are excellent character actors and it all adds up to good horror fun, if a little on the wimpy side.

Directed by William Brent Bell and written by Stacey Menear, this is one of those horror films that relies on people and things popping out and making you jump. There is also a big twist at the end that is actually really over the top, and I mean really so over the top that it's laughable and could catapult this film into cult classic status.

Rosy the Reviewer far as horror films go, this plays more like a Lifetime movie, so if you like horror but are kind of wimpy about horror, this one's for you.

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

189 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Masculin Feminin (1966)

Through a series of vignettes, we see a romance between two young Parisians unfold - 1960's style.

Director Jean-Luc Godard is a French writer and director associated with the French New Wave film movement of the 1960's and one of its most radical and influential.  In 2002, the British film magazine "Sight and Sound" listed him number three in their ten most influential film directors of all time.  His films have inspired Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Altman and other film directors.

And now I have to confess...I don't get it. 

Or maybe I should say I don't get him.  I find his films a bit difficult.  He is one of those directors who likes to linger his camera on a face and let the dialogue and action happen around it, never leaving his subject's face.  In fact, some of his devices seem forced, as if he is presenting something just to present something different. 

The film begins with Paul (Jean-Pierre Leaud) striking up a conversation with Madeleine (Chantal Goya) in a café, and through a series of 15 vignettes, or chapters, all with strange, unfathomable titles, their relationship grows.  He is just out of the military and in a job he hates and she wants to be a singer. At the end of the first vignette, a man and a woman in the café start fighting. The man runs out and the woman shoots him.  See what I mean?  What?  Never explained. Later, out of the blue, a guy gets stabbed in front of our characters.  Again, never explained.  Godard also ends each scene with the action continuing, but in complete silence or with some narration by Paul or Madeleine or maybe a political slogan.

But the title explains it all.  Masculine?  Feminine?  We don't have a clue about each other.  We are basically at odds.  Men and women are different.  Duh.  I knew that already.  The characters all like to read to each other or talk at each in political slogans, a device that appears to show the lack of communication between men and women, not to mention the vacuousness of the very young.

Madeline is your typical swinging 60's young girl with the bangs and the mini-skirt.  She is also a bit of an airhead.  Paul is morose and existential with a sort of crazed look when he settles his gaze.  All very 60's.  All very shallow. They and their friends dabble in politics and philosophy but don't seem to be going anywhere.  But I guess that's the point Godard is trying to make, and I would also guess that this movie had more resonance in the 60's than it would have today.

One fun element:  If you watch carefully, you will catch a quick glimpse of Bridget Bardot sitting in a café.  I have a good eye for these things.  I checked IMDB later and yes, it was she, in an uncredited cameo.

Why it's a Must See: "Godard conceived this an unempathetic, sociological investigation.  Its view of gender roles verges on the misanthropic: Girls are empty glamor-bunnies, would-be pop stars, pawns of a consumerist society; boys are posturing, graceless, wannabe revolutionaries. All their stated ideals seem as empty and transient as their intimate relationships...And yet there remains something affecting, the fleeting residue of Godardian poetry..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...all very French, all very 60's, all very incomprehensible and boring.
(b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (2017)

When the first fire started on the night of November 12, 2012, no one thought anything of it.  After all, it was an abandoned house.  But by the time there were 67 fires, the residents of Accomack County were scared.

Accomack County, Virginia, is part of what's known as the Eastern Shore, a small peninsula separated from the rest of the state by the Chesapeake Bay.  It stretches only 14 miles at its widest spot but covers hundreds of square miles altogether.  The northern border is Maryland and a gas station there called Dixieland marks the entrance to Accomack with a big sign that says "The South Starts Here."

The Eastern shore was once a prosperous agricultural area.  Still very rural, everybody knows everybody.  There are the "Born Heres," which is self explanatory and then there are the "Come Heres," those people who moved to Accomack and have no real history there.  Like many rural areas in the United States, Accomack County was fading. Not many jobs, not much to do.

Charlie Smith was a Born Here and he was also a bit of a loser, a petty criminal and drug user.  He also wasn't too smart and he knew it, but people liked him because he meant well.  Things just didn't seem to work for poor Charlie.  Tonya Bundick was also a Born Here, but had had a troubled youth and left Accomack for a time but when she returned she had changed.  She was confident and beautiful and liked to dress up and dance at Shuckers, the local bar.  Somehow, Charlie and Tonya found each other, a perfect example of two opposites attracting, and the two fell in love and together they were a fiery combination - literally!  How did these two get away with setting all of those fires for so long?

Though we know early on who the arsonists are, Hesse skillfully moves the narrative along in a way that keeps you wanting to know:  Why?

But this story is more than the story of an ill-fated love story, arson and crime.  It also serves as a metaphor for America's changing landscape.

"All of these fires could have happened only in Accomack, a place with empty, abandoned buildings, prominently signally a fall from prosperity... Except maybe it could have happened in Iowa, heart of the heartland, where rural citizenry has been decreasing for the past century.  Maybe in southern Ohio, where emptying factories led to emptying towns.  Maybe in eastern Oregon, where rural counties had aged themselves almost out of existence.  Maybe it could have happened anywhere."


"By the numbers Accomack could look like a desolate place to live...But...To residents, statistics could not account for the deep feeling of belonging that came from being able to find your surname in three hundred year old county records.  They couldn't account for how clean the air felt and how orange the sun was setting over Chesapeake Bay...So much of life is intangible, and places don't feel like they're disappearing to the people who are living there..."

"[There are] endless metaphors for a dying county in a changing landscape.  There were endless metaphors that went the opposite way, too; rural life as a fairy tale, better than the rest of the country.  The reality is probably somewhere in between.  The people who lived in Accomack were happy to live in Accomack.  It wasn't small, it was close-knit.  It wasn't backward, it was simple.  There weren't a hundred things to do every night, but if you went to the one available thing, you were pretty much guaranteed to run into someone you knew.  As economies change, as landscapes change, nostalgia is the only good America will never stop producing."

This is a well-researched true crime story, but it's also well-written and compelling.  Unlike many true crime nonfiction books, Hesse doesn't overly dwell on the trial itself, which sometimes can bog down the story.  What is of interest in these kinds of books are the people and what compelled them to do what they did.  Hesse does an excellent job of developing the characters and pulling us along with their stories.

Rosy the Reviewer of the best true crime books this year.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 
for my review of  
"Wind River"


 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."


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Friday, August 11, 2017

"Detroit" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Detroit" as well as DVDs "The Lovers" and "Boss Baby."  The Book of the Week is "Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with Satyajit Ray's"The Music Room"]


In 1967, a police raid led to riots in the black communities of Detroit, and police brutality was never more apparent than what happened at the Algiers motel.  This is that story.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, the first and, so far the only woman director, to win a Best Director Academy Award, has never shied away from uncomfortable topics as we have seen with "The Hurt Locker (for which she won her Oscar)" and "Zero Dark Thirty."  And this film is no exception.

The centerpiece of the film is an incident that occurred at the Algiers motel in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967.

In the early morning hours of July 23, 1967, the Detroit police, a police force that was 93% white, raided The Blind Pig, an unlicensed, after-hours club with mostly black patrons.  The confrontation of the club patrons, locals and police became known as the 12th Street riots, which lasted  five days and resulted in one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in U.S. history.  Looting and violence was rampant. To help end the disturbance, then Governor George W. Romney (yes, father of Mitt), sent in the Michigan National Guard, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. When it was over there were 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed.

On the night of July 25th, approximately one mile from where the riots were happening, a gunshot (later identified as a starter pistol) was heard and the National Guard and police zeroed in on the Algiers motel where mostly black youths were hanging out, partying and seeking refuge from the rioting.

With a screenplay by Mark Boal, the film centers on several characters staying at the Algiers: Larry Reed (Algee Smith), a member of the singing group The Dramatics and his friend, Fred (Jacob Latimore), both of whom had just gotten back from an aborted singing engagement at the Fox Theatre; Robert Greene (Anthony Mackie), a black Vietnam Veteran; Juli Hysell and Karen Malloy (Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever), two young white women from Ohio staying at the Algiers and several other black friends, 12 in all.  Then there were those from outside:  Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard, who was guarding a store across the street from the Algiers and Detroit police officers, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter) and his cohorts, Demens (Jack Reynor) and Flynn (Ben O'Toole) (not the names of the real cops) who took over the investigation at the motel looking for the supposed shooter.

Having rounded up 12 people staying in the annex of the Algiers motel and ordering them to face the wall, Krauss, who had already been reprimanded for unlawfully killing a fleeing black looting suspect, led the other two cops in "The Death Game," where each would take one of the suspects into a separate room and shoot his gun, pretending to kill the suspect in order to get the others to confess...until one cop didn't realize it was a game. When all was said and done, three black men lost their lives and the rest of the so-called suspects were beaten and traumatized.  The cops went on trial, but you can guess how that turned out.

I am a huge Kathryn Bigelow fan.  In fact, when I first saw "The Hurt Locker," I predicted that it would win the Academy Award for Best Picture well before the nominations were even announced.  So I was eager to see her latest effort. In a time where police brutality against African Americans has risen it's ugly head again, it's a timely film that shows how black people have been living with this kind of police brutality for years, and the police have been getting away with it well before the Rodney King incident and trial so this is a story that needed to be told, but, I am sorry to say that I found the film disappointing. 

For a film that was so tension-filled, at 2 and a half hours it was too long, especially the actual incident at the motel. 

During the torture scenes, the tension was so great for so long that I found myself squirming in my seat and talking back to the screen (good thing there were only a few other people in the theatre). Once the cops arrived at the Algiers, in the first half hour, I got mad and could easily see that innocent black people were being unfairly accused and abused based solely on the color of their skin by racist cops, but then, it just went on and on until it became gratuitous. Instead of feeling angry about what these people were going through, I felt like I was in an unrelenting horror movie. And lest you feel I don't get that being black in Detroit in the 1960's was probably an unrelenting life of horror, I get that too, but this movie went on so long that instead of being mad, I was just ready for it to be over. The film lost its power.

Also the characters were too one-dimensional. 

I understand when you have lots of characters, it's difficult to flesh them out completely, but I just didn't feel I knew very much about any of them, even the central characters. What drove those cops, not only their racism, but their sadism? I know it is easy to fall prey to wanting to show how evil these people are but I wanted to know why they were that way, even if the reasons were BS.

And it wasn't just the white cops. Many of the black characters were also one-dimensional, especially Dismukes, played by John Boyega.  A central character, he started strong as a good guy with no particular agenda, just getting by, it showed him trying to save a black kid from getting into trouble with the police.  I was interested in his story, but at the motel (and I am still not clear what he was doing there), he ended up just sort of lurking around in the shadows when all of the torture came down.  What was going on with him?  As an actor, Boyega seemed blank and like he didn't know what he was doing there either. He just basically stood around.  What was his character thinking and trying to do?  I didn't have a clue. 

However, I can't get over how Boyega seems to be channeling a young Denzel Washington.  He not only looks like him but his voice and delivery are eerily similar -- in a good way!

And for the rest of the characters, I couldn't tell you any of their stories or why they were at the Algiers motel, except one of the white girls said her Dad was a judge and she and her friend were from Ohio. 

Casting was also a problem for me.

Will Poulter, as the racist cop Philip Krauss, was not believable. He looked like he should have been in a remake of "Stand By Me."  He is just too young and callow looking and had to work too hard to be menacing.  And it made no sense, that earlier in the film, Krauss shot a looter in the back, was chastised for excessive use of force by his superior officer and threatened with a murder charge, and yet he was let back on the street. 

The use of the hand-held camera mixed in with actual footage didn't help either

I know it was supposed to feel like a documentary, you-are-there, sort of thing, but it actually was a distraction. 

And finally, I am sick and tired of the vomit cliche i.e, characters vomiting so that we know they are really upset. 

This is a movie cliché that has to stop. There has to be another way for actors to show how bad something is besides upchucking (Here's a contest question.  When was this sickening cliché first used?  I first remember it back in 1978 in "An Unmarried Woman when Erica (Jill Clayburgh) threw up outside after discovering her husband was cheating.  I didn't like it then and I don't like it now - anyone remember this phenomenon any earlier other than that - and "The Exorcist" doesn't count)!
All in all, I found this film to be an unpleasant, no... excruciating, film experience.  Even with films about unpleasant experiences, I think we should leave the theatre feeling uplifted or satisfied or sad or angry even.  Yes, this is an important story that we should know about, and yes, nothing seems to have changed much when it comes to police and African-American relations.  But instead of feeling a call to arms, when I left the theatre, I felt relieved that it was over.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a timely story that needed to be told.  I just wish it had been told better.

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


The Lovers (2017)

What do you do when you have been married for a very long time and are bored with your marriage?  Why, I guess you have an affair!

Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) are a long-married couple who have forgotten what it was that brought them together.  The romance is gone and their conversations now revolve around needing more toothpaste. But just because they are no longer having sex, that doesn't mean they aren't having sex.  They are.  With other people!  They each have lovers. 

Michael is enthralled with Lucy (Melora Walters), a dancer teacher, and Mary with Robert (Aiden Gillen, who "Game of Thrones" enthusiasts will recognize as Littlefinger). However, Lucy and Robert are starting to get anxious and are nagging Michael and Mary respectively to tell their spouse about them and to end the marriage.  All of a sudden, Mary's and Michael's affairs are starting to feel very much like being married!  Having an affair can be hard work!  One morning, Mary and Michael wake up nose to nose and their sex life is rekindled. Now they have to lie to their lovers about their own reawakened relationship.  Who are "The Lovers" in this?

This is a movie about real people. 

Tracy Letts, better known for his work on "Homeland" is not your conventional leading man, and Debra Winger is a normal looking middle-aged woman.  She has let herself age naturally which is refreshing in a world where beautiful women do not want to accept their age.  But going against the grain is nothing new to her as she shunned Hollywood and its trappings in her early 40's.  Now she is back in this film and both she and Letts are very believable as two people who are disappointed in their marriage.  I also really like Gillen, and here he gets to show his romantic leading man abilities.  He is a handsome guy whom I like as an actor, even when he plays bad guys.

It's refreshing for us Baby Boomers to see people on the screen who look like us, other middle-aged people with white hair (if there is hair at all), cellulite, wrinkles, sagging stomachs - and they are having sex!  However, one barrier we still haven't gotten over.  Winger may show her wrinkles but she is slim as can be whereas Letts definitely has a "Dad bod," to put it mildly, so it seems it's OK for men to get fat and schlubby as they age and still maintain an aura of attractiveness, but not us women.  That's a barrier we may never get over. (It wouldn't be one of my reviews without a rant, now would it)?

Written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, this film explores the themes of seeking fulfillment in another person when you are disappointed in your own life and how when you are about to lose something you value it more, two common human foibles.

Rosy the Reviewer engaging little romantic comedy that reminds us what can happen if we don't look after our relationships.   Now, excuse me while I go check Hubby's phone. 


Boss Baby (2017)

Turns out there are two kinds of babies: those regular little cuddly ones that most of us get and then there are those who are singled out to be BOSS BABIES!

Timothy Templeton (voice of Miles Bakshi) is seven and a half, and he has it made.  He has his parents (voices of Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel) all to himself, and every night he gets three stories, five hugs and a special song.  Timothy also has a very rich imagination as he turns the everyday activities of his life into adventures.  One day riding his bike he might be a race car driver winning the Indy 500.  Another day in the bath he is a pirate fighting off skalliwags.  Life is good for Timothy until....

A new baby arrives!

And the new baby is not just any baby.  He is BOSS BABY (voice of Alex Baldwin)!

Turns out that right before each of us is born, we are tickled with a feather.  If we giggle charmingly, we are sent to our families on the regular baby track.  But if we don't laugh, we are seen as management material and sent to work at Baby Corp.

Our Boss Baby is on the fast track until it comes to the attention of Baby Corp. that Puppy Co. has invented a super puppy that is so cute it will usurp babies and steal all of the love that should go to babies.  This super puppy will also live forever.  Something must be done and Boss Baby is sent to Tim's family as their new baby. You see, both of Tim's parents work at Puppy Co. so the plan is that Boss Baby will infiltrate Puppy Co. and steal the plans for the super puppy, thus usurping the evil plans of Puppy Co's CEO, Francis Francis (Steve Buscemi). And if Boss Baby is successful, he will rise to the very top of Baby Corp.

After an initial period where Boss Baby and Tim are at odds (only Tim can see and hear Boss Baby as he really is and Boss Baby puts on the cute baby show for his parents in some very funny scenes.) Boss Baby gets Tim in trouble and Tim is grounded and made to stay in his room, but Boss Baby tells Tim that if he helps him get the plans for the super puppy, he will leave and Tim can have his parents' full attention once again, but if he is unsuccessful he will turn into a normal baby and never leave.  That's good enough for Tim because he certainly wants to get rid of Boss Baby so things can go back to the way they were before he arrived, so he agrees to help Boss Baby.

But how do they get to Puppy Co?  Well, coincidentally and conveniently, Puppy Co. is having a "Take Your Kids to Work Day," so Tim and Boss Baby make a big show of getting along and loving each other, and Tim is forgiven by his parents, no longer confined to his room, and invited to the "Take Your Kids to Work Day" by his parents.

The film is a funny and sometimes charming one-joke about a briefcase-carrying baby wearing a suit entering a family and making the older child's life a misery, a very broad and funny metaphor for what the oldest child must go through when the new baby arrives in the house, what that baby might look like to him or her and the ensuing sibling rivalry.

Alec Baldwin is the voice of Boss Baby, and of course, there has to be some references to past roles, an especially funny one is the homage to his role in "Glengarry Glen Ross, where he played Blake, a man sent by the sales firm to motivate the salemen and gives the famous verbally abusive speech about closing deals.  So if you know that film, you will get a laugh when Boss Baby says to Tim, "Cookies are for closers!" - very funny.  There are also scenes that spoof Indiana Jones and Elvis, and one where Boss Baby, while going on a wild ride on the back of Tim's bike, spouts silly management and positive thinking cliches - "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right!" 

Directed by Tom McGrath, written by Michael McCullers (based on a story by Marla Frazee), Tobey Maguire narrates as the adult Timmy and, as in most animated films, there is something for everyone here: the kids will enjoy the antics of the characters and adults will enjoy the inside jokes.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is great fun for both children and adults and a good message about how there is lots of love to go around, but it's no "Zootopia."  However, I couldn't help but notice, that this Boss Baby looks suspiciously like one of my grandsons!

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

190 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Music Room (1958)

An Indian zamindar (feudal landlord) struggles to uphold his decadent lifestyle despite his fading riches.

Biswambhar Roy (Chhabi Biswas, who looks surprisingly like Bela Lugosi) lives alone in his crumbling ancestral palace in 1920's India.  He sits smoking a hookah and staring out at his once sprawling landscape, now ravaged by floods.  As his ancestral wealth also ebbs away,  Mahim Ganguli (Gangapada Basu), a nouveau riche money lender, who Roy disdains, is becoming richer and richer.  As Roy hears a shehnai playing (an oboe-like instrument), he asks his loyal servant Ananta why it is playing and Ananta tells him that Ganguli is celebrating his son's upanayana, a coming of age celebration rite.  The haunting music takes Roy back to a few years earlier, when he was living with his wife and son and to his own son's party when Roy was still wealthy and at the height of his power.  During that flashback we see what Roy's life was once like and the tragedy that beset him and why he is now alone.

Roy has a much prized music room graced by a huge chandelier.  Roy holds concerts in his music room and the concerts represent his status. But now with his fortunes gone, Roy has closed up his music room.  But when he learns that his neighbor, Ganguli, is going to hold a concert, Roy decides that he will hold one the same night, thus ruining Ganguli's plans, Roy's one final grand gesture even though he must use all of his remaining resources to do so. The chandelier is featured in the opening credits and figures prominently in the film until its lights go out at the end, the chandelier symbolizing Roy's opulent life which has now become obsolete and one he can no longer support.

Director Satyajit Ray, who adapted this screenplay from a short story by the Bengali writer Tarasankai Banergi, often explores the themes of change and the good and bad associated with change in his films and this film is no exception.  Music also plays an important role in Ray's films.

Ray, best known for his "Apu Trilogy," is one of the greatest of our film directors, which introduced the world to Indian art cinema at a time when people thought Indian movies were just Bollywood musicals.  His films were influenced by Italian Neorealism and explored moral and social injustices, showing the world poor people living their everyday lives in small Indian villages. But here he takes another step into a world of Indian aristocracy at a time when that world was fading and creates a fascinating, moody atmosphere that pulls you in.  His attention to detail is amazing.  One scene shows Roy looking out at his land and his prized elephant, whom he proudly rides, only to see the elephant obscured by dust as his neighbor's truck rolls by, a fitting symbol of the new rich overtaking the old ways.  There is also a scene toward the end when Roy is lamenting is losses and we see him and his fading music room reflected in a large mirror.

Why it's a Must See: "Satyajit Ray is exploring new ideas and techniques in this film, and it is fascinating to watch his style expand. [This film] is a sensual delight and an essential masterpiece of world cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says..a mesmerizing and haunting film about the clash between tradition and change.
(b & w, in Hindi with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide by Shannon Ables (2014)

Gee, who wouldn't choose a luxurious life, especially if it's simple?

Turns out it's not that simple.

Ables, whose lifestyle blog is "The Simply Luxurious Life" and the inspiration for this book, grew up in rural Oregon and was always someone who enjoyed her own company and learned early the joys of animals, her own thoughts and her time alone.  When she started her blog, she was in her 30's and had already rejected the belief that her life had to follow a proscribed formula -  to be married with kids, dress a certain way because she was a teacher and to accept the inequalities she saw around her. Her intention was to share what she loved about how she lived, which she felt was contrary to how others lived.

"I created The Simply Luxurious Life blog based on my own experience as someone who wants to create a life that is fulfilling and regardless of what society defines as 'what should make a person happy,' a life that is immune to the judgment of others.  I had come to understand my basic truth -- that if we live to please the world around us, we will never find joy, the ease that is our 'happy place."

So what does a "luxurious life" look like?

"The foundation of living a simply luxurious life is made up of substance, passion, quality, sensibility, sincerity, appreciation, and continual growth. What a simply luxurious life is not is blindly following whatever society or the media's version of it glorifies, spending more than you make, living in a home that is not soothing or welcoming, having many 'friendships' or 'friends' but few relationships of real quality, creating a wardrobe driven by trends, not being mindful of your body's unique beauty, falling prey to the fears and pressures that marketers and the media push on us, or ignoring the importance of learning something new and substantial each and every day."

Whew! That's a mouthful!

So the luxurious life is really not that simple.  She lost me at "spending more than you make."

But then she goes on to share what her simply luxurious life looks like.  Here are a few of the things...

...making time to have intimate conversations with loved ones

---nibbling on a chocolate truffle late in the evening paired with a hot cup of lavender tea

---living in a home that is free of clutter

---walking her dogs in the early morning hours

I had to stop her right there.  Yes, I believe in having intimate conversations with loved ones but what do you do when Hubby falls asleep right in the middle; I think the chocolate truffle needs a glass of wine; clutter free home?  Good luck with that!  And walking the dogs in the early morning hours?  My dogs know I am not available for walks until at least after 9:30am, if at all.

Ables goes on to make it clear that if we want a luxurious life, we need to become financially savvy and independent, find our signature style and work with a capsule wardrobe, create a sanctuary in our home, look good, have good relationships, travel the world, entertain and, I knew this was coming, do things the "French way!"  Why do the French get all of the credit for doing things right?  I kind of get sick of hearing how French women don't get fat and how wearing the perfect scarf will change my life!  I ranted about that in one of my most popular blog posts "Parisian Chic," so if you want to go there with me, check it out.

So this luxurious life that Ables is pushing is not that simple, but, hey, I get it.  We are all supposed to find our own bliss by living authentically, taking care of ourselves and having good relationships and that will work best if we get enough sleep, stay positive, have some money and try to be good citizens.

But the most important thing she espouses is savoring and living in the moment.  I am with her there.  Living in the present allows you to really enjoy nibbling on that chocolate truffle (with wine!), to wallow in the love of your little dog sitting next to you who is demanding a guzzle of your wine, and to, in the moment, realize your Hubby has been asleep during the most important part of your intimate conversation.

So, see?  I get it.  I must be living the simply luxurious life after all!

Rosy the Reviewer says...want to live the simply luxurious life? It's the little things. 

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  
"The Glass Castle"


 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."


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