Friday, June 23, 2017

"Wonder Woman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Wonder Woman" as well as DVDs  "I Am Not Your Negro" and "The Founder." The Book of the Week is "Nevertheless: A Memoir" by Alec Baldwin.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Le Trou."]

Wonder Woman

There is a new Wonder Woman in town!  And she's a wonder!

Growing up, I was never into superhero comics.  I was more of an Archie and Veronica kind of girl.  However, I did enjoy Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on TV, and Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) was a wonderful role model for little girls. Since that show went off the air, we haven't really had a woman superhero to look up to (Supergirl doesn't count).  But that's over now because we have a new Wonder Woman and she is wonderful.

Gal Gadot stars as Diana, Princess of the Amazons, and if an Amazon woman is a tall, strong gorgeous woman then Gal Gadot is all of that.  She is 5' 10, an ex- Miss Israel and absolutely stunning.  And she can act!

As most superhero comic fans know, Wonder Woman started out as Diana, Princess of the Amazons.  And in case you don't know Diana's story, in an exposition at the beginning of the film, we learn that the god Zeus had created mankind in his own image and everything was hunky dory and lovey dovey amongst the humans until Ares, Zeus's brother came along. 

Consumed with jealousy over Zeus and those namby pamby humans, Ares caused mistrust and strife among the humans which resulted in wars, hence Ares becoming the God of War.  Ares also killed all of his fellow gods and was a threat to mankind, so Zeus created the Amazon women to protect humankind and create peace.  And you know what?  I'm not surprised he created women to protect the world.  If we women ran the world...oh, well, I'm not going to get into that now.  Zeus also gave the Amazons the "god killer," a weapon capable of killing Ares.  But he also gave them Diana who will soon learn that she herself is a powerful weapon against evil.

When we first meet Diana, she is a little girl living on the mysterious, hidden island of Themyscira with her mother, Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons (Connie Nielson) and an island full of Amazons.  No men.  She is the only child on the island, and when I heard that, I couldn't help but wonder, who is her Daddy? Diana yearned to learn to fight but her mother forbade it.  However, she trained secretly with her aunt, General Antiope (played by Robin Wright who just seems to get younger and younger and skinnier and skinnier) to become one of the fiercest fighters.

One day, a biplane mysteriously makes its way through the fog of time that surrounds the island and crashes into the sea.  Diana sees this and also sees the pilot, handsome Chris Pine AKA Captain Steve Trevor going down with his plane.  She dives into the ocean to rescue him Little Mermaid-style, and none too soon because a boat full of Germans, who are chasing Steve, also gets through that fog and invades the beach.  How do we know they are Germans?  There is a swastika.  Hey, wait a minute. Biplane?  I thought this was WW I.  There were no swastikas in WW I!   But it is WW I, so just be warned. There is a bit of World War swapping going on in this film.  Anyway, the Germans get onto the island and the Amazon women do battle and ultimately win and that is when Diana learns about World War I raging on in the outside world (but like I said, it's kind of World War I AND World War II). 

The Amazons use their Lasso of Truth on Steve, and he is forced to tell them that he is a spy and had stolen a notebook, a notebook from the infamous Dr. Maru, also known as Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya), because of her penchant for gleefully concocting poisonous gases to kill mankind. Her bad attitude could be due to the fact that she has been horribly scarred and wears a Phantom of the Opera mask to hide her disfigurement.  She is joined in her evil pursuits by Ludendorff (Danny Huston), a Nazi - like officer (but not really a Nazi, because remember, this is World War I, not World War II) for whom she has concocted a substance that when inhaled makes him superhumanly strong.  Cocaine on steroids, if you will.  

Dr. Maru's notebook that Steve has stolen contains formulas for poisonous gases that the Germans plan to use to win the war, and Trevor further explains to the Amazons that when he was shot down he was trying to get that notebook back to British Headquarters. 

When Diana learns that a terrible war is raging and that innocent people are being killed, she believes that Ares is back.  Her Amazonian empathy comes into play and she sees that she must help Steve, go find the war and kill Ares, thus saving the world. 

Despite her mother's fears that Ares will find Diana and kill her, off Steve and she go to save the world and with the help of a motley trio of Steve's friends - Charlie, a morose Scott (Ewen Bremner), Sameer, an Algerian con man (Said Taghmaoui) and The Chief, a cool Native American (Eugene Brave Rock), she does just that.  There is no spoiler there.  We know Wonder Woman will prevail, because that's what she does.  She is Wonder Woman!

She also finds Ares and when she does, there is a bit of a twist, and I was also thinking we were going to get a Darth Vader "I am your father" moment.  Close, but not so.  I think I figured out who Diana's father was but I'm still not absolutely sure.

Sadly, though, Diana learns that the evil of the world is not all Ares' fault.  She learns that humans themselves are imperfect creatures and prone to bad judgment and war.  They have helped to create the evil in the world and it doesn't look like they learn from their mistakes, thus giving Diana a mission in life that will keep her busy for a very long time! Let the sequels commence!

Directed by Patty Jenkins (more Girl Power!) with a script by Allan Heinberg, there is excitement, there is drama, there is violence (but nothing really scary), there is romance and there is humor.  Jenkins does a good job with the powerful slow-mo fight scenes, but also with the softer humorous moments.

When seeing Steve for the first time - a man - Diana is in awe, especially when he steps out of the bath naked. I was in awe too!  I mean, it's Chris Pine! Very refreshing to see the dude naked for once instead of the woman.  Gadot never sheds her clothes. Sorry, guys.  And when Diana encounters early 20th century English life, there are some fish-out-of-water scenes that are very funny.  For example, when shopping for more appropriate clothes - I mean, she can hardly hang out in 1918 London in her barely there little armor dress - she sees a corset and asks if that is a new form of armor.  Well, kind of!

Gadot is wonderful - she's tall, she's gorgeous, she's warm and approachable - and Chris Pine is, well, Chris Pine.  Sigh.  The two are a wonderful combination of talent and beauty and have great chemistry.  And Gadot is a badass Wonder Woman.  I found myself crying out "Yes!" when she was fending off bullets with those special wrist bands of hers, fearlessly going into battle and basically kicking butt.

I was also happy to see David Thewlis again.  I won't go into detail. but he is decidedly out of character, in a good way. Anaya and Huston make great cartoon villains, and it all comes together to provide a great movie experience.  We women will enjoy Wonder Woman's kicking butt and men will enjoy watching her do it, because as I said, Gadot is quite the specimen of womanhood.

But more importantly, Wonder Woman is a wonderful role model for women and girls.  She is strong, fearless and powerful, traits we women rarely get credit for, but she is also compassionate and kind and fights for peace in the world, something men can learn from.

You know I usually hate sequels but I can't wait to see more Wonder Woman movies if they are going to be this good!

Rosy the Reviewer says...I cried tears of joy!  All young girls (and their mothers) will want to see this inspiring film!  Girl Power!

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



I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Samuel L. Jackson narrates this documentary based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript "Remember This House," an exploration of racism through Baldwin's reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The story of the Negro in America is the story of America, and it is not a pretty story."

James Baldwin was an African-American novelist, essayist, playwright and social commentator, considered one of America's greatest writers ("Go Tell It On The Mountain"), and whose works explored the social and psychological issues of black and gay Americans.  

At the age of 24, disillusioned by American prejudice, Baldwin moved to France where he lived for most of his life, but he returned to the U.S. in the 1950's at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to be an "observer" and to report on it as he traveled throughout the South. When he died in 1984 he left behind an unfinished manuscript, "Remember This House," that was to be his personal recollections of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. and their assassinations. He wanted their lives to "bang against and reveal each other." 

The words from Baldwin's unfinished manuscript form the basis of this film and provide a personal history of the Civil Right Movement in America.

Director Raoul Peck uses film footage, television clips, written words, still photographs and music to show the depiction of black Americans in the United States and their struggles from the past to the present.

The film begins in 1954 with and interview by Dick Cavett where Cavett asks  Baldwin if things are better for negroes and Baldwin replies that he fears for the country.  And well he should as the film goes on to show white people giving testimonials about how God was against integration, 15-year-old Dorothy Counts being spat upon as she tried to go to school in North Carolina and white people holding up signs saying "Keep Alabama White."

The profiles of Malcolm X, King and Evers show their political and social differences but also how they were alike. Malcolm X once called Martin Luther King an Uncle Tom, but by the time each died, their positions were similar.

The film is brilliantly edited as it bombards us with unforgettable images, and it was fittingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards.

Jackson's voice-over is Baldwin's voice and Baldwin's dramatic prose resonates:

"You never had to look at me.  I had to look at you.  I know more about you than you know about me."

"History is not the past.  It is the present...We are our history."

"What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a n***** in the first place, because I'm not a n*****, I'm a man, but if you think I'm a n*****, it means you need it."

Watching this film, one can't help but be aware of one's white privilege and be ashamed and that's a good thing. Being reminded of the indignities and hatred black people have had to endure, it's a miracle that the black population has not succumbed to more rage and violence than has already been expressed.  Who can forget the LA riots of 1992 after the Rodney King verdict (brilliantly documented in the film "LA 92") and more recently the reactions to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the response in Ferguson, Missouri to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown? And it is still going on. When will it end?  

Baldwin's fear for our country back in 1954 was prescient, and if he were alive today traveling around the U.S., sadly he would observe some of the same outrageous racism that he observed back in his lifetime.  We still have a long way to go.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I cried tears of sorrow.  All Americans should see this film.

The Founder (2016)

A biopic about Ray Kroc, who we all thought founded McDonalds, but he actually didn't!

Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc, a hard-working door-to-door salesman, or should I say "drive-in to drive-in" salesman, as he moves around the country trying to sell his multi-shake machines to drive-ins in the 1950's.  While sitting at one of those roller-skating waitress drive-ins so prevalent in the 50's, he is irritated by the slow service.  Later when he gets an order for eight of his multi-shake machines from a drive-in in San Bernardino, California, he is so surprised he decides to deliver them personally.  When he arrives he sees people lined up for the 15 cent burgers and is amazed at how fast the service is.

The drive-in is run by the McDonald brothers, it's called McDonalds and, they had devised an assembly-line operation for making their burgers fast and to a standard. Though they didn't yet know it, fast food was born.

Ray takes the brothers, Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), to dinner to find out how they devised their operation and they tell him their story: They moved west from New Hampshire, bought a movie theatre, but the depression hit so they bought a hot dog stand, turned it into a drive-in, decided to concentrate on one item, burgers, got rid of the car hops, dishes, etc., and made orders ready in 30 seconds.  They even practiced on a tennis court to perfect the first ever system to deliver food fast.  The only hurtle they had to get over was getting people to get our of their cars to go up to the take-out window.

Now Ray is a salesman and a bit of a visionary so he is fascinated by this "fast food" concept so he comes up with the idea of the franchise. The McDonald brothers had tried franchising, but could not maintain their standards.  They even had one restaurant in Phoenix with golden arches.  A light bulb goes off in Ray's mind. He wants in. As a salesman driving around small American towns he had noticed that all of those small towns had some of the same things: American flags and churches with crosses and arches so Ray had the idea of McDonald's franchises marked by those golden arches, adding American flags and crosses and marketing McDonald's as an American way of life, the "New American Church." And does he want to change the name?  No.  McDonald's reeks of America. Calling the restaurant Kroc's does not.

Kroc goes into business with the McDonald brothers, and through his own ruthlessness, manages to take over McDonalds and make a fortune buying up land and then leasing the land to the franchises which allowed him to maintain standards.  If the franchise didn't maintain the standards, then he cut the lease. 

So the revelation of this movie is that someone else, not Ray Kroc, had the idea for the fast and cheap burger, fries and shakes. The title of the film is ironic, but Ray Kroc did have the work ethic to make the franchises work, the moxie and how do I say this - sleaziness - to wrest McDonalds away from the McDonald brothers and make it his own. 

"Business is war.  Dog eat dog. Rat eat rat.  If my competitor was drowning, I would put a hose in his mouth."

Nice guy.

Directed by John Lee Hancock with a script by Robert Siegel, one wonders if that revelation is enough to keep you riveted for two hours.  Michael Keaton is a good actor but is he good enough to make you care about Ray Kroc?  I don't think so. The problem with the character is that yes, he is the consummate salesman.  He is also a bad husband and downright sleazy...but why?  The film never explores that.

Laura Dern plays Kroc's long-suffering first wife but has little to do except look concerned, and naturally, once Kroc started to make money he met a younger woman, divorced the first wife, and married the younger woman who actually outlived Ray and got to spend his fortune. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't cry and that's not a good thing, but if the history of McDonalds interests you and you are a fan of Michael Keaton - he was in every scene in this film - you might like this. 

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

197 to go!

Have YOU Seen this classic film?

Le Trou  (1960)

"Le Trou ("The Hole")" is the true life story of four inmates plotting their escape from prison.

Gaspard (Marc Michel) is a new inmate awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his wife.  He is transferred from his prison block to a new cell with some hardened inmates who are facing long sentences. With nothing to lose, the three men are plotting an escape.  Gaspard's arrival forces them to decide whether to abandon their plans or take him into their confidence.  At first the men are suspicious of young, handsome Gaspard, but when they realize he is up for a 20-year-sentence, they realize he is one of them, and Gaspard is swept up in their prison break plot.

Directed by Jacques Becker (his final film) and based on a novel by Jose Giovanni that depicted a true-life prison break that Giovanni had been a part of, Becker cast the film with nonprofessional actors, one of whom was actually one of the men in the real escape.

Do I like movies with all men?


Do I like movies about prison breaks?


Do I like movies in black and white?

Not particularly.

Did I like this movie?


Why do I like a film even though it's about a subject I don't like?  And why do I sometimes dislike a film, even though it's about a subject I do like?  Here, director Jacques Becker has done a great job of creating the suspense needed to keep me interested as these men work doggedly to overcome the challenges of their escape and literally dig themselves out of prison.

Refreshingly, this is not one of those prison films (you see it in war films too) where each man embodies some archetypal character so that you as an audience member have someone to relate to.  No, neither we nor they care about each other's backstory.  They are just working class guys who want to get the hell out of prison.  However, Gaspard is different and the catalyst for the drama to come.

Some directors just can't let go of the long lingering shots and the real time walks down corridors which, though possibly artistic, I find boring as hell.  Some directors can't stand to cut anything even if it doesn't particularly serve the picture as a whole.  So even if the film is full of women, which I like and is about a subject I enjoy, woe is me if it takes forever to get to the point.   But here is a film all about men in prison planning a prison break and it had some scenes that were filmed in painstaking real time and yet the film galloped along and held my interest.  A true auteur tells a good story in a compact way that moves the story along with great images, taut editing and good acting and this film has all of that.

As an aside, have you ever heard that one of the reasons many actors are so photogenic is that they have big heads?  Well, Michel has the biggest head I have ever seen! But I digress.

Why it's a Must See: "The Hole' has been compared with Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped (1956) and Jean Renoir's 'Grand Illusion (1937), but Becker is less concerned than Bresson with transcendence or Renoir's critique of social differences.  The prisoner's virtues -- meticulousness, inventiveness, and the ability to form a collective -- become the highest values of 'The Hole.' Perhaps Becker is, of all directors...the one who has embodied and articulated these values most firmly...As it stands, The Hole is...a masterpiece."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you want a primer on how to do a prison break that is tense and exciting, this is for you. And it was a true story!

***Book of the Week***

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin (2017)

A heartfelt survey of actor Alec Baldwin's life by Baldwin himself.

Alec Baldwin is a serious actor ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "The Departed") and just to be sure you know that, he is prone to throwing around a lot of names of plays, writers, other serious actors and the work he has done in the theatre. However, Baldwin has also had his share of, shall I say, less than stellar moments in his personal life such as reacting to paparazzis. Though self-deprecating to a certain extent and even quite humble at times, he seems to still feel self-justified in those encounters.

It's funny that he talks about himself as not being a big A-list actor. but I have always known who he was and thought of him as one, but ironically most of his fame has come from his TV role as Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock"—for which he won two Emmys, three Golden Globes, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards—and playing Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live."

In this memoir, Baldwin doesn't hold anything back.  He talks about his life growing up on Long Island, his parents' unhappy marriage, his uncertainty about what to do with his life, his struggles with drugs and alcohol and his bitter divorce and child custody fight with ex-wife Kim Basinger.  He makes it very clear who he likes and who he doesn't.  In fact at the end of the book there is an entire list of those he admires and had admired called "The Actors Index."  As for who he doesn't like?  Lots and lots of producers and directors and some actors. Of Harrison Ford he says "Ford, in person, is a little man, short, scrawny, and wiry, whose soft voice sounds as if it's coming from behind a door."  Ouch.  A bit of sour grapes, methinks?

Naturally he doesn't have much good to say about ex-wife Kim Basinger, either, since their child custody dispute over their only child, Ireland, was epic.  He owns up to the many reporters he has punched and that phone call to his daughter where he called her a pig? Well, he says it wasn't aimed at her but at you-know-who.

He talks about his love of classical music, his poliltical life, his meeting his current wife and love of his life, Hilaria, and at the end of the book, he explains the title of his memoir: "Nevertheless," which is very funny. It's from a joke he was told by actor Michael Gambon.  Too risqué to repeat here.  You will have to read the book.

As celebrity autobiographies go, this was very honest and open and as he says at the end:

 "I wrote this book in my own words and, such as it is, I offer it to you to entertain, to motivate, to inspire, and to learn.  Not so much for you to learn about me, but for me to learn about me.  I have learned so much while piecing this together.  My thanks to you for reading it."

Rosy the Reviewer says..."You are very welcome, Alec.  I enjoyed it."

Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
"What a Woman of a Certain Age Learned on her Summer Vacation:
Ireland 101
and Other Travel Musings"

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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." 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."

Friday, June 16, 2017

"The Keepers" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix docuseries "The Keepers" as well as DVDs "Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk" and the film "Christine," streaming on Amazon.  The Book of the Week is another cookbook that strives to tell you the best way to make some classic recipes: "100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the three and a half hour "Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles"]

The Keepers

Who killed Sister Cathy?

This seven-part Netflix docuseries explores the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun at Archbishop Keough High School (now Seton Keough High School), a Catholic girls' school in Baltimore and the horrific secrets and pain that linger nearly five decades after her death.   

The series begins with the introduction of Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, two 60-something ex-students of the school who could not let the 45-year-old unsolved murder of Sister Cathy go, and who believed that her murder was related to alleged sexual abuse of students by one or more of the priests at the school.

Through a series of interviews, we meet some of the ex-students who alleged sexual abuse by Father A. Joseph Maskell, a priest at the school who was also the school counselor and chaplain. Over the course of the series, we learn about Father Maskell and the seeming cover-up of his misdeeds by the Baltimore Archdiocese.

We also meet Sister Cathy, described as a person full of vitality and compassion.  Among the priests and nuns at the school, many who could be authoritative and stern, Sister Cathy was approachable, upbeat and happy.

Baltimore in the 1960's is portrayed as a more simplistic place and time, where blue collar Catholics lived for their little daughter's First Communion and dreamed of their sons becoming altar boys.  Archbishop Keough High School was a jewel in the Baltimore Archdiocese, a new school run by the New Sisters of Notre Dame.  It was a prestigious and competitive school that one had to apply to get into.

The centerpiece of the series is Jane Doe (real name: Jeanne Hargadon), who much later in life, after having some recovered memories about the regular sexual abuse she endured at the hands of Father Maskell, came forward with her allegations and, when she did, she discovered that she was not the only girl being abused by Father Maskell. 

In confession, Hargadon had confessed to being sexually abused by her uncle and instead of absolving her of responsibility, Maskell told her it was her fault and she needed to come to his office for "therapy."  That's when the sexual abuse began. Hargadon tells horrific stories of what continued to go on in Father Maskell's office in the guise of "therapy."  Sometimes other men were there as if Maskell was pimping these young girls out. 

It's difficult to believe that a sixteen-year-old girl could be so naïve as to not only allow something like that to happen but to let it happen over time and never tell anyone. Her very detailed descriptions of the abuse can be difficult to listen to at times, but they are necessary for us to realize what she went through and why she was so traumatized and afraid of Maskell that she remained quiet for all of those years.  She says that she blocked it all out as if it had never happened, because that was the only way she was able to deal with what was happening to her and it wasn't until 1994 that those repressed memories came back to her and she decided to do something about Father Maskell.  Riveting. 

Maskell was described as a charismatic man with a soothing, hypnotic voice.  He had a degree in psychology and might have used hypnosis and drugs.  He also targeted girls who had abuse in their lives.  When they would tell him this in confession, he would use it against them. Also these were young sheltered girls who believed all of the Catholic doctrine and who believed that priests were akin to God. Hargadon also relates how she would repress what happened, because that was the only way she could deal with the abuse. Taking all of that into account, these stories become easier to believe.

She later explains that Sister Cathy seemed to have an inkling of inappropriate behavior and asked Hargadon if anything was going on.  When Hargadon was reluctant to answer, Sister Cathy just told her to nod yes or no, which she did.  She nodded yes.  It is this interaction that led Hargadon to believe that Father Maskell had killed Sister Cathy because Sister Cathy was going to blow the whistle on him and possibly others.  

Then she shockingly reveals that Maskell took her to see Sister Cathy's body to show her what would happen to someone who told stories.

"He used her death to keep me quiet."

Did that really happen?

So Hargadon finally comes forward wanting to help solve the mystery of Sister Cathy's murder as well as doing something about Father Maskell.  However, wanting to do something about Maskell and actually being able to do something about him were two different things.

You see, Father Maskell was also the chaplain for the local police, for the State Police and the National Guard.  And his brother was a police office who often took Father Maskell on ride alongs with him.  So he was well connected and almost untouchable. Maskell also personally wielded a lot of power and fear.  He had a "How dare you question me" attitude that intimidated people.

So what finally happened? 

Did Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub solve the mystery of Sister Cathy's murder?  Did Jane Doe - Jeanne Hargadon - get her day in court?  Did Father Maskell pay for what he did?  What happened to all of those girls who said Father Maskell abused them?

Director Ryan White does a good job of pacing the series.  It feels a bit like a British detective series with each episode beginning and ending with a provocative statement or scene and slowly unfolding, red herrings and all.  He also uses very close close-ups when the talking heads are talking which provides a you-are-there feeling, that the person is talking directly to you. There are also dramatizations which can sometimes be cheesy but here they are short and add just enough atmosphere.

This docuseries is similar to the highly popular and well-received "The Making of a Murderer", but comparisons can't help but be made to the film "Spotlight," which won the 2016 Best Picture Oscar, and which highlighted the cover-up of child abuse by priests in Boston.  Both this film and "Spotlight" showed how priests had been able to get away with abusing children for so long in those two predominately Catholic cities.  But unlike "Spotlight," which was more the story of the journalists who exposed the abuse, this story takes place much earlier, in the 1960's, and is much more the story of regular people up against a web of conspiracy and power.       
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you loved "Making of a Murderer," or fancy yourself a would-be detective, this is a binge-worthy series that you won't be able to stop watching.

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

Young Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is brought home for a victory tour with his squad after a harrowing and heroic battle in Iraq.  But was that battle really heroic?

In 2004 after a tour of Iraq, William Lynn was awarded a silver star.  He is now on tour with his infantry buddies, doing patriotic half-time stints during football games, and promoter, Albert (Chris Tucker) is capitalizing on their heroism.  The film goes back and forth between this particular half-time walk and Billy's flashbacks of the past. Slowly, through the course of the film, we learn what really happened during that battle in Iraq.

"Kind of weird to be honored for the worst day of your life."

When Billy visits his home, we learn that his Dad is a paraplegic and his sister, Kathryn (Kristen Stewart in a very small role and frankly unnecessary role), has a disfigured face from a car accident.  We learn that one of the reasons that Billy joined the army was because he had beaten up Kathryn's boyfriend for dumping her after she became disfigured.

There is also a flirtation with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, Faison (Makenzie Leigh), which doesn't really go anywhere.

And that's the problem with this movie. 

It doesn't really go anywhere.  It's a depiction of callow young men sent to fight a war they didn't really have a clue about and who are now being used as patriotic pawns to parade out at half time at a football game like a circus act.  Movies about callow young men being used as pawns of war and feeling guilty about what they have done has been done before.  Despite the heartfelt speeches in close-ups, the film didn't feel very sincere and perhaps that was the fault of young Joe Alwyn, who was very phlegmatic and played Billy with little energy. This was Joe Alwyn's first feature film and an interesting casting choice since Alwyn is British and Billy is from Texas. Steve Martin and Vin Diesel also make appearances.

Based on a novel by Ben Fountain, directed by Ang Lee and with a screenplay by Jean-Christoph Castelli, I found this to be a disappointing film, probably because of what I have come to expect from Ang Lee. 

Ang, Ang, Ang. Why?  After directing such films as "Sense and Sensibility" and "Brokeback Mountain," what drew you to this film project?  It just didn't really have much impact and when I watch your films, I expect to feel something.

Rosy the Reviewer idea that didn't really go anywhere and took too long to not get there.

Christine (2016)

The story of real life newswoman, Christine Chubbuck, who in the 1970's was struggling with depression and personal struggles as she tried to advance her TV career and who made her own headlines when she shot herself in the head on camera.

Not to be confused with the Stephen King book and horror film of the same name about a malevolent car, this film is even more of a horror film because this Christine is Christine Chubbuck, the newswoman who shot herself on air.  Yes, you heard me.

Christine (Rebecca Hall) was toiling at a TV station in Sarasota, Florida in the 1970's, very much like the place where Mary Richards worked on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." But that's where the similarity ends.  Christine was no Mary Richards. 

In the film, Christine lives with her Mom and is having difficulties getting ahead.  The TV station is on the wane and the boss is pushing for higher ratings and juicier stories. But that isn't really her problem.  Christine's real problem is that she doesn't have much in the way of people skills.  She is awkward, depressed and suffering from stomach pains.  She is also feisty and outspoken and that doesn't help her uneasy relationship with her boss. But she also has integrity and wants to do meaningful stories.  There are some allusions to "Boston," where Christine had worked before and where she must have had some kind of meltdown. She is a virgin, always wanted a husband and a family and all of that seems to be eluding her, so early on you get the feeling that Christine is on a downward spiral. 

The owner of the station has arrived to choose someone to work in their new Baltimore station which would be a big step up for Christine, so she does what she can to get noticed and get that job. Though her main job at the station is to do human interest stories, and she is disgusted by the sensationalizing of news stories just to get ratings, she gets a police radio and chases ambulances hoping to get a really big story so she can make a name for herself.

"If it bleeds, it leads."

However, when she finds out that several other team members, people she considers beneath her, are headed to Baltimore without her, that seems to be the nail in her coffin, literally.

No one can ever know what has gone on in the mind of someone who commits suicide, and this film doesn't really give us answers as to why Christine did what she did.  But this film does a good job of showing a fragile personality feeling desperately unsuccessful in life and what that desperate person might see as a final successful act.

 On July 15, 1974, Christine Chubbuck began her live broadcast:

"In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts', and in living color, you are going to see another first —attempted suicide."

And then she shot herself in the head.

The word "attempted" made me wonder if she just wanted to do something really shocking and not actually kill herself, but we will never know.

Rebecca Hall is a wonderful actress and I keep waiting for her to break out and make it big. She is a wonderful British actress who has played so many Americans that when I see her doing herself on talk shows or in British films and hear her British accent I am always surprised.  She can play anything and anyone and perhaps that is the problem.  She inhabits her characters so well that you forget the real woman. 

Here she is on screen for the entire two hours and her performance is why you keep watching despite the fact that it's on record how it ends. Hall must have done her homework about the real Christine because I found her unrecognizable and her voice to be very irritating, which must have been how the real Christine sounded.  She is a wonderful actress who I am still hoping will break out as a superstar. I wrote about her back in 2014 in my post "15 Really, Really Good Actors You Have Never Heard Of," so you can see I've been a fan for a long time and have been waiting for her to make it big.  However, unfortunately, it's not going to be this movie that will tip the scales.  Not because it's not a good film.  It is, but because I had a terrible time even finding it.  It played in the theatres for about a day, and I had to watch it on Amazon.

Directed by Antonio Campos with a screenplay by Craig Shilowich and with a great 70's soundtrack, the film does a good job of showing what it's like behind the scenes at a TV station, the day-to-day drudgery, the dog-eat-dog competition and the insecurities and stresses that could lead a fragile personality to a very desperate act.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark character study brought to life by the wonderful performance by Hall.
***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

198 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?

A lonely widow goes about her day, taking care of her son and her home and turning the occasional trick.

Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) is a buttoned-up housewife who would seem to be the last person you would suspect of entertaining gentlemen for money in the afternoon.  But I guess it's those quiet types you need to look out for.

This is one of those slice of life films, except this slice of life is a long one - three and a half hours - and a slice of life where practically everything is in real time e.g. we see Jeanne cooking and, in the time that the camera is on her, she cooks an entire meal.  We watch her striking the match, lighting the gas. The doorbell rings, she wipes her hands, takes off her apron, walks down the hall, answers the door, greets the gentleman, takes his coat and hat, on and on like that for three and a half hours - in real time.

Now if that sounds interesting to you, then you might like this film.  I found it very tedious. I mean when she takes a bath, do we really need to see her not only cleaning her ears but then after watching the entire bath, cleaning the tub?

There is a bit of a pay off and that is that our bored housewife is also a prostitute.  There is also some nudity because this is a European film after all.  But even with that, it's all very slow and tedious. So a guy comes to the door, Jeanne takes care of the gentleman and then it's back to the stove. Zzzzzzz.

It goes on like that for three hours and 15 minutes and then in the last 15 minutes we see Jeanne's constrained life unraveling - big time - in yet another dark character study.  But I just can't justify that first three hours and 15 minutes for that pay off.  And even that last "shocking" scene was really not that shocking - just a shocking scene done in a boring way.

Though I can appreciate this film from a sort of cinema verite perspective, this is one of those films you could fast-forward through and get just as much out of it, almost like watching a fast moving silent film.  So that's what I did. This film reminded me of one of those Andy Warhol films where he filmed people sleeping.

How did this film make it into the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die?"

Well, let's see:

Why it's a Must See: "One of the key works of feminist filmmaking...Belgian director Chantal Akerman's minimalist admittedly demanding viewing...Although the film is taxing, its rewards are great...For one, Akerman's feminist thesis is conveyed with a cogent urgency as a result of her decision to depict Jeanne's life in such unsparing detail.  It isn't enough for Akerman to suggest the tedium of her protagonist's selfless existence, but rather, by explicitly presenting the drab banality of her routine in real time, Akerman expertly conveys the stifling emptiness that ultimately drives Jeanne to her tragic final act...It may be the kind of picture that's better to contemplate in theory rather than as a vehicle for viewing pleasure, but for the spectator attuned to Akerman's austere approach, her film remains, in many respects, an unforgettable achievement."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

OK, I guess I am not attuned to her "austere approach" and would rather have contemplated this in theory.  Did I mention that I am not really a fan of movies that use real time?

Rosy the Reviewer says...I guess I am not the sophisticated movie goer I thought I was.  This was a snooze fest!
(In French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Way to Make the True Essentials by the Editors of America's Test Kitchen (2017)

Not just the "best way" to make some classic recipes, the ABSOLUTE best way.

America's Test Kitchen?  Did they steal that name from "Rosy's Test Kitchen?"  No not really.  I think they were there first.  Actually, I know they were there first, but we both have the same idea.  Test things and then report what we have learned, giving tips, secrets and insights and that is what this cookbook does.

"This book has been tested, written, and edited by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, a very real 2,500-square-foot kitchen located just outside of Boston.  It is the home of Cook's Illustrated magazine and Cook's Country magazine and is the Monday-through-Friday destination for more than four dozen test cooks, editors, food scientists, tasters, and cookware speicalists.  Our mission is to test recipes over and over again until we understand how and why they work and until we arrive at the "best" version."

In the preface by Christopher Kimball, the founder and Editor of "Cook's Illustrated" and "Cook's Country," he says

"Here's how I would use this book: Pick the 10 recipes that you are most likely to make time and time again.  Make them until you don't need to look at the recipe instructions (nobody remembers ingredients lists!).  Now you have become a real cook -- you can cook without a recipe and you understand the core principles.  Then take another 10 recipes...If you can cook 20 of the recipes in this book without referring to the instructions then you have become a serious cook and more accomplished than 99 percent of your friends and neighbors.  It's really that simple."

Simple?  I wouldn't go that far but I get it.  Whenever I watch TV cooking shows like "Masterchef" and "Top Chef," I am always amazed how the contestants can come up with recipes out of thin air, not knowing what the mystery ingredients are going to be.  I am sure they have a repertoire and anticipate some of it, but it's certainly a skill I would like to acquire.  I am still tied to most of my recipes except the ground beef stroganoff that I have been making since I was first married at 19 (to someone else, not to Hubby). I can do that one by heart.

The cookbook is broken into three main chapters:

"The Absolute Essentials: Classic Recipes that Really Matter"

This sort of thing:

Scrambled eggs
Fried eggs
Rice Pilaf
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Grilled Cheese

"The Surprising Essentials: Innovative Recipes You Didn't Know You Needed:"


Spaghetti with Pecorino and Pepper
Tomato Soup
Apple Pie

and then

"The Global Essentials: Exciting Recipes that Bring the World to Your Kitchen:"

Here you will find classic recipes from around the world from simple rice and beans to potstickers to Tinga.  I need to look up what Tinga is.

So I have decided to take up Mr. Kimball's challenge and choose ten recipes to learn by heart so I can call myself a serious cook.

And here are the ten recipes I am going to start with:

  • Vinaigrette
  • Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil
  • Pancakes and bacon
  • Pan Seared Chicken Breasts
  • Stir-Fried Beef and broccoli 
  • Roast Chicken
  • Chicken Soup
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Brownies

I chose those because I think I should be able to make pancakes and biscuits without looking at a recipe and since I haven't met a chicken breast I haven't over-cooked, I think it's time I got some tips.

I will report back on an up-coming "Rosy's Test Kitchen," so stay-tuned to find out how well I do.

One complaint I used to have about the "Test Kitchen" cookbooks was the lack of color pictures.  Looks like they have remedied that problem somewhat as there are many more color photographs than I remember from other cookbooks.

What I really Liked: Each recipe includes a tutorial called "Why this recipe works" where the recipe is broken down into its componants with tips e.g. for the spaghetti and meatballs, there is a discussion about the best meat for the meatballs (they came to the conclusion that a 2:1 ratio with beef and pork gave them a richer, meatier taste).  Likewise adding a little prosciutto enhanced the flavor and using panko rather than fresh bread crumbs was more convenient and actually did a better job of holding the balls together.  I did not know that!

Those are the kinds of tips I enjoy.  As I have said in the past, I actually like reading cookbooks.  Yes, I like to cook and I love to eat, but I enjoy reading about food too and this cookbook gives you the best of both worlds.  Great recipes and you get to read all about them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A perfect addition to "Rosy's Test Kitchen!"  Stay-tuned!

Thanks for reading!

 See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"Wonder Woman"


 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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