Friday, September 22, 2017

"Home Again" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Home Again" as well as DVDs "Megan Leavey" and "In the Courtyard."  The Book of the Week is Lonely Planet's "How to Pack for Any Trip."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Sans Soleil"]

Home Again

Life is complicated for a single mom who has just turned 40.

It's Alice Kinney's (Reese Witherspoon) birthday.  She has just turned 40 and she is not happy about it.  She is separated from her husband, Austin (Michael Sheen), has two young, and dare I say, cough, precocious daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfiend) - I will get to that in a minute - and she has just moved back into her old family home in L.A. and is trying to get a design business off the ground.  She is crying alone in the bathroom because it's her birthday and in the past her birthdays were always a big deal.

You see, her father was a famous movie director and her mother his actress muse and growing up Alice's birthdays were major events.  Now her father is dead and here she is 40 and alone, back living in the house she grew up in.

Meanwhile, Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), an aspiring director, actor and screenwriter respectively, are trying to get their short film made into a feature and struggling to make a living in L.A.  They have just been kicked out of their motel room and are basically homeless when they meet Alice and two of her girlfriends in a bar.  Did I mention that Harry is a very handsome young guy?  The emphasis is on young. In fact, all three of the guys are twenty-somethings. But Alice and Harry hit it off and the party of six end up at Alice's house and Alice and Harry end up...well, you know.  Actually, they try to have sex but Harry has had too much to drink and gets sick which is just as well because Alice realizes that he is just too young for her.

The next morning Alice's mother, Lillian (Candace Bergen) shows up and when the guys recognize her as the famous actress Lillian Stewart, they make a big fuss over her.  Later, when Alice gets back from an appointment at the end of the day, the guys are still there gushing over Lillian.  When it comes to light that the boys don't have a place to stay, Lillian gets the bright idea that they can stay in Alice's guest house.

And that's what they do.  The guys move into a guesthouse at the back of Alice's garden and make themselves at home. Harry and Alice have a bit of a love affair, George makes friends with Alice's daughters and is also secretly in love with Alice and Teddy just loves having a family.  They all get along swimmingly and it's all just too cute...until Austin arrives and wants Alice back.

I was originally interested in seeing this film because I thought it was directed by Nancy Meyers who has written and directed some romantic comedies I have enjoyed ("Something's Gotta Give," "The Intern").  She has the patent on the lifestyles and love problems of upper-middle-class beautiful people, but it turns out that Meyers produced, not directed.  This time it's her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who wrote and directed, but I have to say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Like mother, like daughter. It's still the lifestyles and love problems of upper- middle-class beautiful people, though there is a bit of a younger spin here and I have to say that it's also a bit far-fetched.  Would a woman really let three guys she just met at a bar move into her compound with her and her two young daughters and have no problem when they make themselves at home in her house?  But this is chick flick stuff of the highest order and I still enjoyed it. When I walked out of the theatre and the usher asked me what I thought, the first thing that came to mind was "Cute."  And that's what this film is.  It's cute.  And there is nothing wrong with cute.

For some reason, I have not been a huge Reese Witherspoon fan but over the years she has grown on me. Ever since making a big splash in "Legally Blonde," she has perfected the perky, plucky heroine.  I think I like her better now that she is more mature. She has less perk and less pluck but there is a stability and warmth that comes through now.  I liked her in "Big Little Lies," which just won a bunch of Emmys last Sunday, and I liked her in this.  She has such a likable quality that you really believe that three guys she has just met would fall in love with her.  She's just so...nice...and cute.

Loved seeing Candace Bergen.  I always enjoy seeing the "old" actresses working but I had to laugh.  At the beginning of the film when it was established that Alice was the child of a famous director and famous actress mother there were several stills of Bergen in her prime, which is fine, but I laughed because they did the same thing for Goldie Hawn in "Snatched."  I am sure both of those actresses wanted to remind us that yes, they are older now, but when they were young they were hot!  Candace and Goldie, you two are still hot!

The guys were also engaging.  I was surprised that Wolff had such a supporting role as Teddy since he starred in "Paper Towns" and "The Intern."  Alexander, the major love interest, reminded me of David Muir, the news guy on "20/20." Alexander has mostly done TV.  Likewise, Rudnitsky, who I particularly liked in this, is an SNL alum and has done mostly TV and stand-up.  These guys were all engaging actors and I hope to see more of them.

Now to the child actors.  Nothing against these two young girls.  They are just selling the lines they were given, but sheesh.  One recites all of the symptoms for various ailments as per drug commercials on TV and the other littlest one is - I can barely get out the word - precocious.  You know the kind of kid I mean - tiny, cute little girl, and out of the mouth of babes comes some slam dunk bon mots.  My kind of hell.  And can I ask a question?  Why do so many child actors have three names?

Rosy the Reviewer says...though there is nothing particularly new here, enjoyable romantic comedies are hard to find these days and this one was "cute."

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


Megan Leavey (2017)

The true story of a Marine dog handler and her bomb sniffing dog Rex during the Iraq War.

I am a sucker for movies about dogs.  I loved "A Dog's Purpose," even though it was blatantly sentimental; I loved "Best in Show;" and don't even say the name "Old Yeller" around me.  I will burst into tears.  In fact, I just did.  And since I just had to put one of my beloved dogs down after 15 years of companionship, this film was particularly affecting.  And this movie, too, could fall into the sappy sentimental and overly patriotic kind of trap that these kinds of movies often fall into, but it is elevated by the presence of Kate Mara, whose quiet but penetrating acting keeps the film on an even keel.

Megan Leavey is at a crossroads in her life.  Her life is seeming to go nowhere.  Her family is not very supportive and she doesn't seem to fit in anywhere, so she joins the Marines. But Megan's story takes a back seat to the story of Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog.

When Megan gets in trouble on the base, as punishment, her commanding officer, Gunny (ably played by the rapper Common) is assigned to the K-9 Corps to clean the kennels.  She becomes interested in working with the dogs and inquires how she might do that. She is told that she needs to have high scores in a variety of skills so this gives her purpose and sets to work to get those scores so she can work with the dogs.  She makes the grade but before she can work with an actual dog, she has to learn how to work with the "can," a humiliating rite of passage where she literally has to drag a can around the course on a leash.  But soon she encounters Rex, a seemingly bad and vicious dog who is difficult to work with and has bitten his trainer.  Megan feels a bond with Rex and they are soon working together.

I know, it's kind of blatant.  The dog that doesn't fit in gets the trainer who doesn't fit in, but hang in there with me.  It gets better. 

So Megan works with Rex, they bond, and, though Rex is sort of a high strung scaredy cat, so is Megan so together they gain confidence. The night before they ship out to Iraq, Megan takes Rex to her room and gives him a pep talk and lets her sleep on his bed.

When Megan gets to Iraq, she meets another handler, Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez), and they share a mutual attraction.  We learn why Megan's life was so nowhere - she and her best friend took drugs together.  He died, she didn't, and she couldn't forgive herself. 

Megan is told that she will only be assigned to checkpoints, not missions, but six months in she is needed for a mission and she and Rex are sent on reconnaissance. Though I certainly have never been to war, this film seemed to be a fair representation of what it must be like to be in a strange environment and encounter seemingly benign people who might have possible bad intent toward you.  Everyone, even children, are suspect.  Megan is told that there is a particular bounty on the heads of military dogs and their trainers, especially if the trainer is a woman. When a guy in a car is stopped, Rex is able to alert the squadron to an ambush but the bomb goes off he and Megan are injured.  She is evacuated and Rex is left in Iraq with Morales.

When Megan gets back to Iraq, she is reunited with Rex and with Morales and embarks on a bit of a love affair with Morales.  But Rex is shell-shocked so when Megan decides not to re-enlist, she wants to adopt Rex.  Shell-shocked dogs don't fare well in the military.  They are usually retired and put to sleep so the second half of the film is all about Megan's efforts to adopt Rex, a dog who has been deemed by the base veterinarian as not adoptable.  Megan is not having it.  She not only wants to adopt Rex but to get him recognized as a war hero.

Written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the second half of the film bogs down a bit as Megan's life goes downhill again as she fights PTSD and to get Rex recognized as a war hero but there is a moving ending and, of course, an epilogue so we can see what happened to the real Megan and the real Rex. 

Mara is always good.  Her realistic acting style elevates what could have been a glaringly patriotic war film that just happened to include a dog.  And speaking of the dog, Rex ably performed in his first starring role.

Rosy the Reviewer can't go wrong with movies about dogs.

In the Courtyard (2014)

Antoine, an aging rocker decides to give up that life and takes on the job of caretaker for a crumbling apartment building, where he bumbles around and meets Mathilde.

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a 40-year-old musician with a bit of a cocaine problem and a failing rock and roll career.  In fact he is also having a bit of a nervous breakdown and walks off stage in the middle of a gig.  He decides to give up that lilfe and takes a job as a janitor for a Parisian apartment complex. He knows nothing about fixing things or taking care of an apartment building.  He is your classic fish out of water.  However, it isn't long before he reluctantly becomes entangled in the lives of the various occupants, a motley crew of strange folks. He becomes the go-to person for everyone's problems and is forced to act as a go-between when residents have complaints about each other.  For example, one resident is fixated on the bikes stored in the courtyard by another resident.

Antoine meets Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve) who is also going through a difficult time.  She is retired, involved with questionable causes and can't sleep, staying up all night plastering cracks in the wall, and scaring her husband, Serge, an in your face metaphor about Mathilde's life cracking up.

When Mathilde makes a fool of herself at a residents' meeting, she is embarrassed and holes up in her apartment afraid to go out.  Antoine talks her into going out and takes her back to the house where she grew up and that is when we learn her story.

The pair form an unlikely friendship, two wounded souls finding each other. But it's not a classic love story. It's a story of friendship. They seek solace in each other.  Mathilde finds Antoine restful to be around.  Restful?  He is practically catatonic but that's fine with her.

Directed by Pierre Salvadori with a screenplay by Salvadori, David Leotard and Benoit Graffin, this is a strange little film that doesn't appear to make any judgment about drug use or mental health issues or say anything that is new about aging, and despite good performances and some humor as Antoine interacts with the apartment building residents, comes to an unsatisfying end.

But what is satisfying is Deneuve.

American filmmakers can learn from the French who recognize that women of a certain age still have allure.  Deneuve is the perfect example of this.

Catherine Deneuve is famous for saying "At 30 a woman must choose between her face and her ass."  What she meant by that was you can stay skinny but have a gaunt face when you age or you can say to hell with dieting and get a little plump which in turn smooths out those wrinkles on the face.  She has chosen to save her face, though she is far from fat.  But she also doesn't appear to have worried so much about her face that she has gone the plastic surgery route and at 70+ she is still beautiful, lines and all.

I also really enjoyed Kervern who reminded me of a younger deadpan Girard Depardieu.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the film is worth seeing for Deneuve's and Kervern's performances but is ultimately unsatisfying.
(In French with English subtitles)

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

115 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Sans Soleil (1983)

A camera man's travelogue as he travels the globe.

Here is another Chris Marker film (see last week's "La Jetee") and once again, I am not really getting it.

This is another highly narrated film that serves as a sort of travelogue as a camera man globe trots and soul searches. 

"I've been around the world several times and now only banality interests me."


There is no plot, just deep thoughts all narrated by a woman, whose voice did not bother me as much as the guy who narrated "La Jetee."

Watching some of these films from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book is making me feel kind of shallow because I not only don't get the point of some of them, from a cinematic standpoint, I often don't understand why they are included in the book and why I need to see them before I die.

I will give Marker credit for the visuals but the odd commentary was almost a distraction from the visuals.  And speaking of the visuals, it's almost as if Marker looked for the strangest things to highlight.

Why it's a Must See: "Chris Marker's masterpiece is one of the key nonfiction films of our time...A film about subjectivity, death, photography, social custom, and consciousness itself, [this film] registers like a poem one might find in a time capsule."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

As I've said in the past, I have a pretty high tolerance for slow moving films but let's just say that after I watched this I poured myself a big glass of wine and clicked over to the TV and watched a Lifetime Movie called "You May Now Kill the Bride."  I found that and the wine very satisfying.  That should tell you a lot about me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I'm not very deep.

***Book of the Week***

How to Pack for Any Trip by the editors of Lonely Planet (2016)

This book promises to teach you how to up your packing game.

I hate to pack. 

The thought of having to decide right now what I plan to wear next week in Venice is just too much.  Plus, after having a bad experience dragging my huge bag onto a vaporetto in Venice and the driver yelling at me in Italian to hurry up I have given up big suitcases and only use carry-ons.  On the one hand, it's easier to get around and I don't have to worry about Italian boat drivers yelling at me but on the other hand it's not that easy to get all of the outfits I want to take into that one little carry one.  So naturally I was drawn to this book hoping it would solve my packing frustrations.

I was hopeful after reading the introductory paragraph:

"An art, a science, a necessary evil: packing is a task all travelers must tackle before their journey even begins...Whatever your style, we hope this neatly arranged book will help you keep your luggage equality on message and well organized."

These editors of the Lonely Planet travel guides are also big on the packing light school of travel and quote Saint-Exupery: "He who would travel happily, must travel light." 

After an introduction about choosing the proper luggage - avoid the two-wheeled bag that you have to drag, "The traveler with a drag-along in a busy airport is about as popular as cholera."  Look for a spinner.  The authors also talk about various gadgets and apps to make your traveling easier and more fun.

They also recommend putting a tag on your bag so it's recognizable on the luggage carousel. Here is where you can get creative.  This is my bag tag.

Making a list of what to pack is important and the authors share lists of what to be sure to bring.  

Here is the list for us ladies:

  • Blazer
  • Flat shoes
  • Shirt
  • Dark denim jeans
  • Heels
  • Plain White T-shirt
  • Flip-flops

This seems a bit basic. 

But at the end of the book, they also share "Packing bundles," a list of categories and what to be sure to bring in each one, for example, if the kids are traveling with you, don't forget the bib and bed rail, though I can't quite get my head around how you would pack a bed rail.

Speaking of kids, there is also a chapter on teaching your kids to pack and a chapter on packing methods with pictorial demonstrations and the pros and cons of rolling, folding, bundling, layering with tissues, creating compartments, filling gaps, keeping similar items or colors together, a tetris style aimed at gamers, and stuffing, which happens when you are in a hurry and you just don't care about rolling, folding, bundling, layering, creating compartments, etc.  Basically, they don't recommend the stuffing method, though they try not to be judgmental. There is also a section for you backpackers out there on how to pack your backpack efficiently.

The book is especially fun when it gets into packing for specific cities.  

For example, if you are going to Stockholm be sure you have comfortable shoes but not ugly ones because "your kicks should be stylish enough to both dangle from a bar stool in a hipster café and sit happily on your feel while pounding miles of pavement."  Now you're talking!  I like the feet dangling from the bar stool! Or Delhi where you need to pack an open mind: "There's nowhere quite like Delhi to bring on a white-hot case of culture shock." There are some case studies as well on what to pack if you are heading for the wilderness, the jungle, the mountains, the desert or the beach.

The book ends with their "Top Tips," for various scenarios such using a cross-body bag to keep your money and documents safe, the importance of weighing your bag before you leave home, especially for travel outside the U.S. and if you plan to wear a wet suit, putting plastic bags on your hands and feet will make it easier to get your wet suit on.

I have also written about trips I have taken and put forth some travel tips that might be of particular interest to my fellow Baby Boomers in my post "Baby Boomer Travel Tips."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this book might be too basic for the seasoned traveler, but it's a fun read, and if you are like me, and you hate to pack, there are some good tips here.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  



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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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). 

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