Friday, April 21, 2017

"Colossal" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Anne Hathaway movie "Colossal" as well as DVDs "Toni Erdmann" and "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children."  The Book of the Week is true crime nonfiction: "Who Killed These Girls?"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the documentary about the Formula 1 racing phenom "Senna."]




Colossal


A party girl who likes to stay out all night drinking - OK, she's a drunk and kind of a loser - discovers that her actions control a Godzilla-like monster that has attacked Seoul, Korea.

Sounds like a comedy, right?  Well, it sort of is...the first half of the film, anyway.  But then it gets dark, very dark and becomes a sort of Godzilla meets "The Days of Wine and Roses" meets "Fatal Attraction."

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a young woman living in NYC.  She likes to drink and party all night long while her boyfriend, Tim (played by the dishy Dan Stevens who is wasted here in a small role) works and keeps things running, until one day after one black-out too many, he packs her bags and kicks her out of their apartment.  So broke, jobless and now homeless, Gloria travels back to her small town to live in her parent's old house that is conveniently empty.  How she has access to that house isn't really explained nor is her backstory as to why she isn't working and appears to be a complete loser, but, oh well, this is a comedy, right? 

Back in her hometown, Gloria meets up with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old grade-school friend, who gives her a job at his bar.  Great job for someone who wants to stop drinking, doncha think? She is still drinking too much, but Oscar seems to be a steadying influence, and their interactions and banter are humorous.  He brings her a TV for her empty house... and then it happens.  She discovers that a Godzilla-like monster is plaguing Seoul, and it's not long before she notices that the monster seems to have some of the very same mannerisms that she has.  Mmmm.  So it's a comedy, right?

Not so fast, Sherlock.  The mystery, of course, and why you continue to watch, is to discover how this could possibly happen.  How would a confused alcoholic young woman who has major blackouts end up controlling a monster a world away?  But before we get to that answer, which isn't really an answer, things start to get dark and you think, "Hey, I thought this was a comedy!" And then a monster robot appears and Oscar starts acting weird...and, oh, geez, it all starts to go south and you mumble to yourself, "Darn, I thought this was supposed to be a comedy." 

And despite the fact that this isn't really a comedy, there are a few bumps too. First, of all, why would anyone ever be able to put two and two together to figure out that a monster plaguing a city on the other side of the world was telepathically linked to you?  And how would she figure out when and where to go to control the monster?  But, OK, I will go with it.  But then, when she figures out how and why that is happening, they lost me.  If she understands the how and why, then she is smarter than I am because even after the so-called explanation is revealed, I didn't really get it. The truth is, there isn't a very good explanation, and the finale of the film defies belief, even by fantasy standards. 

But that doesn't mean I wasn't riveted throughout this film, because I was. 

And there is a message.

Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo (Hathaway is one of the producers), this is a cautionary tale that shows we all have monsters inside.  It could be the abuse of alcohol, it could be jealousy, it could be obsession, it could be rage, it could be fear, but to overcome those monsters, we have to face them and Gloria literally does.

I have never understood why Anne Hathaway was one of the most hated actresses in Hollywood. She was in 2013, anyway. I always liked her, but I guess for some she was a little too goodie-two-shoes, a little too earnest, lacked humility, whatever, but here she certainly does not have a glamorous role. You should see her hair!  She is playing a role that is far from her usual parts, and come to think of it, you've never seen Jason Sudeikis in a role like this either.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a very strange film that is nevertheless engaging and riveting.



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

On DVD




Toni Erdmann (2016)


A man tries to reconnect with his ambitious, hard-working daughter by pretending to be a life coach.

This was the favorite to win the 2017 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar until President Trump issued his Muslim ban and Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of another nominated foreign film - "The Salesman" - protested by saying he would not attend the Academy Awards.  Guess what?  The Academy rose up in support and "The Salesman" won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.  Now, I am not saying that "The Salesman" did not deserve the award.  I have not seen it, and I did really love his earlier film "A Separation," which also won back in 2012. 

But I have to say, after seeing this film, it was not just one of the best films of 2016, I am declaring right now that it is one of the best movies EVER!!!

To say that this is the story of a father-daughter reunion would be true, but an understatement, because this film is so, so much more than that.

Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a big practical joker.  We see this right away when a delivery driver tries to deliver a package to Winfried.  He answers the door, pretends not to be the intended recipient, goes back in the house calling for Winfried (himself) and then returns to the door wearing sunglasses and false teeth talking about expecting the delivery of a bomb.  We can see right away that Winfried amuses himself by putting people on. However, the delivery driver was not particularly amused.

I don't much care for practical jokers, finding them to be people who are "on" all of the time which can be exhausting, so when this movie began, I didn't think I would like Winfried. And with a movie that is almost three hours long, which means almost three hours of Winfried, I was not hopeful, but I was wrong. 

Winfried is a piano teacher who doesn't appear to have any students.  He is divorced and lives alone with his old dog.  He has a mother who is dying and a daughter, Ines (Sandra Huller), who is a corporate strategist in Bucharest.  When he attends a party at his ex-wife's house, his daughter, Ines, is there visiting, but it is a quick visit and it's clear to Winfried that she is not happy.  When his dog dies, Winfried decides to give Ines a surprise visit in Bucharest, which we soon see is not necessarily a welcome one.

When he arrives, Ines resigns herself to looking after her father.  They are not estranged per se, but it is clear that the two have not been in contact much and they just don't get each other. Ines is a buttoned-up corporate type and Winfried, is well, a throwback from the 60's and doesn't much care about protocol. Winfried arrives when Ines is in the midst of an important business project so she assigns her assistant to show her Dad around.  When the two finally do get together, Ines takes Winfried to a business reception for the visiting CEO of her company, and she is clearly uncomfortable having him around.

Ines is a tough business woman, but she is clearly a stressed out woman in a man's world.  She is dealing with chauvinism as the men cut her off mid-sentence, minimize her ideas and shunt her off to take the visiting CEO's wife shopping instead of being at work where she hoped to connect with the CEO.  She is clearly not happy but sucks it up.  Winfried also appears to embarrass her with the visiting businessman until it becomes clear that the CEO actually finds Winfried charming and amusing and invites them both for drinks.  Winfried begs off but Ines says she can come to which the CEO disapprovingly replies, "Don't you want to be with your Dad?"  Awkward.  Ines just can't seem to catch a break and having Winfried around doesn't help.

As Winfried spends time with Ines, it becomes clear that the two do not have a close relationship and don't have much to say to each other either.  This film will come close to home for those of us whose adult children have gone off for a life far away, and we no longer have the relationship with them that we once had and feeling like a disruption in their lives when we do see them. And our children are not able to share their problems with us either. Even though we are the people our children have known the longest, we tend to become outsiders in their lives. There is a real lack of understanding between the generations. When our children become adults, we have to forge a new kind of relationship and Winfried realizes that.  However, he thinks that the solution is to try to lighten Ines up. 

And Winfried's idea of lightening people up is to play practical jokes, which like I said, can be wearying and a cover-up for real feelings and emotions.  At one point, Ines says to Winfried, "Do you have any plans in life other than slipping fart cushions under people?" Both father and daughter are closed up and can't communicate.

Winfried eventually realizes that he is not welcome, so he cuts his visit short, says his good-byes to Ines and leaves, much to her relief.  But then...he doesn't really leave.  He returns as Toni Erdmann, wearing a black wig and his ever-present false teeth and keeps showing up at various events passing himself off as that CEO's life coach and consultant, and Ines is forced to go along or embarrass them both.  He couldn't leave his daughter when he knew she needed him.  And he doesn't know it yet, but he needs her too.

There are so many wonderful, telling moments in this film.  There is one  little moment that shows what it's like for a woman to live alone. When Ines is trying to zip up the back of her own dress, she uses a fork to reach back and zip it up, which could stand as a metaphor for her being so focused on her career that she has not had time for marriage or a relationship and has figured out how to manage on her own.  Another pivotal moment involves "naked team building (and you will have to see this film if you want to know more)" that shows just how on the edge Ines is, but when "Toni" shows up in a huge, furry monster costume, Ines realizes how much her Dad loves her.

This is one of my favorite films of all time. 

Written and directed by Maren Ade, this film comments on the cold and sterile world of corporate striving, but it's more a brilliant piece about adult children and their relationships with their parents. Life is about getting things done and we all want our children to be successful, but life is also about creating memories with those we love. However, often, in the frenzy to be successful, life passes us by and suddenly there are no more memories together.  Winfried showed up in Ines's life and disrupted it - that's what we parents do - but he disrupted her life for the better, because his joie de vivre and irreverence for protocol made her finally realize that she wasn't enjoying her life.  Winfried's arrival back into her life reminds Ines what it means to be alive.

However, no matter how good a movie's screenplay or direction, for a two and a half hour film to be successful and to keep your interest, you must care about the characters.  No worries. Huller and Simonischek are wonderful actors, bringing this father and daughter to life and you really, really want them to connect. I can get bored watching a 90 minute movie but for this almost three hour movie, I wasn't bored for a second because the characters were so real and compelling and the story was so engaging and personal.

Side note: The film is mostly in German with English subtitles, but I was reminded of one of the reasons why I love Europe so much. As I said, the film is mostly in German, but it is a combination of German and English and other languages as Ines interacts with business people from all over the world, and in Europe it is not uncommon for many people to know more than one language, often English, so there is almost always common ground for everyone to be able to communicate.  Oh, you don't speak German?  Let's speak English then. Or, you don't speak English?  What about French?  There is the likelihood that there is a language that both people can speak.  One time I was in a bar in Sweden, and the Swedish bartender was talking to two men at the bar and they were all speaking French together, even though the bartender and his customers were not French.  Despite their country of origin, they were able to find a language that they all knew.  We Americans are lucky if we speak English good...I mean, well.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a gorgeous piece of filmmaking but it's also a very personal film that all parents and adult children should see.
(In German, Romanian and English with English subtitles)




Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)


When Jacob's grandfather dies, he discovers a mystery that defies time.

For years, Abe Portman (Terence Stamp) had told stories to his grandson Jake (Asa Butterfield) about his childhood battling monsters and spending WW II living at Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children in Cairnholm, Wales. The home's children and their headmistress, Miss Alma Peregrine (Eva Green), possessed paranormal abilities and were known as "Peculiars. When Jake goes to Abe’s house responding to a phone call, he finds him dying with his eyes removed. Abe tells Jake to go to "the loop of September 3, 1943. The bird will explain everything."

So Jake and his rather clueless Dad (Chris O'Dowd) travel to Cairnholm only to discover that the home had been bombed during a Luftwaffe raid and only a derelict remains.  However, when Jake explores the house, he goes through a portal of time and is back in 1943 before the house was destroyed.  He meets Miss Peregrine and the 11 children under her care.

Miss Peregrine explains that she belongs to a class of female Peculiars named "Ymbrynes," who can transform into birds (in Miss Peregrine's case, a peregrine falcon - duh).  She can also manipulate time.  Miss Peregrine and the children are living in a time loop that she created, set to September 3, 1943, that allows them to live the same day over and over, that is, live the day right before the bombing of the school and then rewind before the bombing happens.  They also avoid aging if they stay in the loop.  And so with that, the school comes to life and Jake is transported back to 1943, and this fanciful story of good versus evil begins.  It's a kind of "Groundhog Day" meets "Lost Horizon."

And thus begins this latest from the mind of Tim Burton. When it's a Tim Burton film, you know you are in for a crazy ride, but I will say at the outset, this is a bit of a horror film, and though it is aimed at kids, there are certainly some kids who would be scared by this film.

Jake is introduced to the children, all of whom have various "peculiar" talents: there are two little twins who look like they are wearing identical Mike Myers masks; an invisible boy we can only see when he wears clothes; a girl who can conjure fire with her bare hands; a boy full of bees; a kid who makes deadly baby dolls; a boy who can project his dreams; a little girl who has a carnivorous mouth on the back of her head; and Emma (Ella Purnell), a young teen girl who seems to have a problem with gravity and must wear weighted shoes so she won't fly off into the stratosphere. and who provides a love interest for Jake.  It turns out that Jake is also a peculiar and his particular talent is being able to see the "Hollows," invisible monsters that are disfigured Peculiars led by shape shifter Mr. Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who hunt Peculiars to consume their eyeballs, which allows them to regain visibly human form.  I know, it's complicated.

Miss Avocet (Judi Dench) arrives to warn Miss Peregrine and the children that Mr. Barron is capable of breaking into the time loops and he and the Hollows are coming after them, so the film becomes a battle between the Peculiars and the Peculiar hunters.

Tim Burton is a master at creating an experience, surreal atmospheres and even makes modern day Florida look surreal. Here he has put his touch on the Ransom Riggs' fantasy series adapted by Jane Goldman. The music is perfect, the costumes are perfect, and the characters are very, very strange.  The first hour of the film is mesmerizing as the film sets up the story, but the last half gets very, very...well, peculiar...and dark...and ends with a big showdown with Barron and his Hollows where all of the children get to use their talents against them.

Watching this film, I couldn't help but see this film as a metaphor (I am always conscious of metaphors!) for the English children who were sent out into the country during WWII to avoid the bombing and how scary that must have been for those children, full of metaphorical monsters (Nazis) and how they might have turned their experiences into fanciful adventures.  And another metaphor: "Peculiar" is good.  This is a love poem to all of us "peculiars."

Butterfield and Purnell are both attractive and engaging young actors, and Eva Green, who I remember as Vesper Lynd in some Bond films, fits the beautiful yet enigmatic Miss Peregrine.  Allison Janney is even in this as a shrink who comes back later in the film as something else. What movie is Allison Janney NOT in these days.  She is everywhere.  Likewise, doesn't it seem like Samuel L. Jackson is in every action movie too?  But veteran actors Terence Stamp and Judy Dench are always a welcome addition to any film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a magical experience for adults and teens, but might be a very, very scary one for little kids.





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


205 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Senna (2010)


A documentary about Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian Formula 1 driver, who burst onto the Formula 1 racing scene in 1984 and won the World Championship three times before his untimely death at 34.

Through a mix of racing footage and home videos, this film follows Senna's life and career as he wins race after race.  It also focuses on his rivalry with another champion, Alain Prost, who was the current king of Formula 1 when Senna joined his team and the enmity that eventually developed between the two.

Senna knew he wanted to be a race car driver from an early age, starting with success racing go-karts.  Coming from a privileged Brazilian family, they indulged his desires, but as in anything, money and desire aren't enough.  You have to be good.  And Senna was very, very good.  He had the courage to push his car to its limits and the smarts to know how to plan his attack. But he was also arrogant and took risks, which didn't win him popularity amongst the other drivers. He didn't just want to win.  He wanted to win big, so it would humiliate the other drivers and show how much better he was than they were.  He was a perfectionaist whose perfectionism was perhaps his Achiles Heel. Likewise, like everything, there was a political game to be played in racing, and Senna didn't play that game, but he did occasionally play dirty.  As the rivalry between Prost and Senna grew, the two both engaged in some risky, dirty tricks, some of which are seen in this film.

Director Asif Kapadia has combined exciting racing footage with home videos and interviews to create a compelling tale of a man who was at the top of his game in Formula 1 racing.  I have to say that I am not a big sports fan, but I usually can manage knowledge of the main players in most sports, but I had not heard of this guy. But he was very, very big in the racing world in the late 1980's and early 1990's, a handsome, charismatic figure whose wins at a time when Brazil's economy was suffering, acted as a rallying symbol for the pride of the whole country until his tragic death at 34 in a freak racing accident that was seen on television by the entire world.

It is no secret that I am a fan of documentaries (I wrote about some favorites back in 2014 - "15 Must See Documentaries" - I should update that list because there have been some other great ones since then), but I would not necessarily be drawn to a documentary about race car drivers, though I will say that car racing was a theme in my life growing up.  My Dad and brother were big fans, even participating in drag racing, both at the track and on the street.  The film has amazing racing footage, some from Senna's own vantage point as he drove, and the narrative of the film is driven by the footage and Senna's and others' own words. 

As I said, I am not drawn to documentaries about racing, but ironically, Kapadia was the director of the kind of film I AM drawn to and one of my absolute favorites, "Amy," a documentary about Amy Winehouse, which won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2016 and which would definitely be on my updated list of must-see documentaries.  So would this film.

Why it's a Must See: "Shakespearean in structure, the film tells the story of a man born to be crowned king of the world's fastest and most dangerous sport, only to die young and at the height of his success. A documentary constructed as a narrative drama, Senna eschews talking heads or omniscient narration in favor of an assemblage of archive footage that is sutured together to give a sense of immediacy...However, by focusing as much on Senna's flaws as it does on his achievements, Senna ultimately becomes a riveting profile of a unique and all-too-human character."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

"A documentary with the pace of a thriller...that is beyond compelling because of the intensely human story it tells."
---Kenneth Turan, LA Times 2011

I went into this movie not particularly interested in the subject matter and not knowing anything about Ayrton Senna and came out of it fascinated by the sport and the man.

Rosy the Reviewer says...exciting...and sad.




***Book of the Week***




A retelling of a horrible unsolved 1991 multiple murder in Austin Texas.

On December 6, 1991, four young girls were found naked, murdered and burned--each one shot in the head--in an I Can't Believe It's Yogurt! shop in Austin, Texas. After eight years only two men (then teenagers) were tried; moreover, their subsequent convictions were eventually overturned because of coerced false confessions and a misdirected focus on the part of the Austin police.  It happens over and over.  The police get an idea of how a murder went down and who did it and no matter what transpires, they stick to that theory to the detriment of the innocent and their families.

Austin PD detectives are still working on what is now a very cold case, and the TV show "48 Hours" has covered the case more than once, and its most recent airing drew me to this new book. I don't know what it is, but I am inexplicably drawn to the dark side. I should probably explore that side of myself some time, but in the meantime, I am enjoying the murder cases on "Dateline" and "48 Hours," as well as true crime books.  And this is a good one.

Lowry has put together a taut, engrossing true crime story that tells the story of each girl, the boys who were accused and the ill-fated focus of the police investigations on those boys, despite other possible suspects.  She weighs the evidence against the accused and speculates on what might have happened that fateful night that still haunts Austin and that has stymied Texas law enforcement agencies for so many years. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...true crime fans will find this a ghastly but fascinating account of a multiple murder that has haunted Austin for 26 years.


Thanks for reading!

 
See you Tuesday 

 
For installment #3 

of

"Rosy's Test Kitchen:
Cooking Successes and Cooking Conundrums" -

"Soup, Salad and a Sandwich"

(where I will not only share a killer soup and salad but will be presiding over
"The Battle of the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches!")



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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


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

Go to IMDB.com, 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."


See you Tuesday for another installment of

Rosy's Test Kitchen: Cooking Successes and Cooking Conundrums - "Soup, Salad and a Sandwich," where Rosy will preside over a battle for the title of "Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich."  And, oh, yes, there will be soup and a salad too.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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