Friday, October 13, 2017

"The Mountain Between Us" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Mountain Between Us" as well as DVDs "Going in Style" and "Rough Night." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Puppetmaster."  The Book of the Week is a novel: "One Perfect Lie" by Lisa Scottoline]

The Mountain Between Us

After a plane crash, two strangers find themselves stranded on top of a snow-covered mountain.

Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) is a photographer who needs to get home because she is getting married tomorrow.  Ben Bass (Idris Elba) is a neurological surgeon who has an important surgery he needs to get to, so both are not happy that all planes have been cancelled from Idaho to Denver.  Alex gets the idea to rent a private plane, and after overhearing that Ben is in the same predicament as she is, asks him if he wants to join her.

The two find Walter (Beau Bridges) and his dog (Raleigh) and after agreeing on a price, Walter takes them up in his small plane.  As they are flying high over some treacherous mountain peaks, Walter has a stroke and the plane crashes.  Fortunately for Alex, Ben and the dog, they all survive, though Alex has a bad leg injury which Ben is able to treat. Good thing he just happens to be a doctor. Walter is not so lucky.

So now there they all are, alone on the top of a mountain with nothing but other mountains and snow between them and safety and a couple of candy bars and some almonds to keep them company. What to do?

When one finds oneself lost or stranded, the main issue is to stay or go.  Do you sit tight and wait to be rescued?  Or do you leave and hope for the best?

Ben uses his brain (he's a neurological surgeon, get it?).  He wants to stay.  Alex uses her heart. Not sure why that's her thing?  She's a woman? She wants to leave.  The head versus heart is a theme here as is the mountain.  When two beautiful people find themselves stranded together for a long period of time, stuff is going to happen, but there is also a figurative mountain between them - the mountain is the fact that Alex is set to be married and Ben has his own issues about love and relationships.

So this is a story of survival but it's also a love story.

You can always tell when it's awards season, when animated films and superhero movies give way to more serious fare where actors can show off their skills. This film is what the Brits would call a two-hander, meaning that most of the film is just two actors - Winslet and Elba - talking and interacting as they try to get off that physical and emotional mountain.  And it takes acting skill to carry a film when it's just the two of them.  Don't get me wrong, Winslet and Elba are both wonderful actors,


I had some issues with this film.

  • First of all, when all flights are cancelled out of an airport, what regular person decides to not only rent a private plane but also asks a total stranger to come along?

  • Who doesn't call someone to tell them that flights are canceled out of the airport, so they are going to rent a small, rickety private plane in horribly bad weather and not ask for them to pray for them?

  • What pilot doesn't bother to file a flight plan?

  • And why did Ben have a lighter?  Very strange for someone who doesn't smoke to carry a lighter around, but highly convenient in case he gets stranded on a snowy mountaintop some time, right?

  • If you had just been in a plane crash and were stranded on a desolate, snowy mountaintop, why wouldn't you have the flare gun locked and loaded just in case? It's the one thing that still works after the crash. There are a couple of instances where the flare gun would have come in handy, oh, like when another plane flew over, but no, they had to run and get the gun, load it and by the time they did that, the plane had flown.

  • I knew things were going south when I was rooting more for the dog than Alex and Ben.  Not a good thing.

  • And what has happened to Dermott Mulroney's career?  He has about ten lines in this film. Since "My Best Friend's Wedding," in the last ten years he has gone from leading man roles in movies to TV to doing mostly supporting work.  That's too bad because he is a handsome guy and a good actor and should be able to still get those romantic lead gigs. 

  • Worst of all?  How can it be that beautiful Kate Winslet and handsome Idris Elba seemed to have zero chemistry? She usually takes her clothes off in her movies.  She didn't in this one.  Maybe that was the problem!

Those might seem like little things - well, Winslet and Elba not having any chemistry isn't a little thing - but those other issues I had seemed to only serve the plot and not reality.  I'm telling you, that lighter bothered me through the whole film.

Written by J. Mills Goodloe and Chris Weitz from the novel by Charles Martin and directed by Hany Abu-Assad, this is the kind of film I usually really like.  It's a love story with a thriller component. I should have cried at the end, but I didn't.  The film should have been tense and exciting, but it wasn't. The most exciting part of the film happened early on and that was the plane crash but then the film just kind of kept crashing after that.  Somehow the whole thing just felt as cold as that icy mountain they were trying to get off of. And the beauty of Winslet and the handsomeness that is Elba and their combined powerhouse of acting talent just couldn't save it.

Oh and by the way, if you are afraid to fly, this movie is probably not for you. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this wasn't a bad film; it was just disappointing.

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


Going in Style (2017)

Three senior citizens embark on an elaborate heist to get their money back from the bank that has stolen their pensions. 

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) are senior citizens and lifelong friends living in Brooklyn. All three are having financial problems. Joe had recently been at the bank to discover that his house was being foreclosed on. He had fallen for a "teaser rate promo" and now he can't afford his house, a house where his daughter and granddaughter also live.  They will be out on the street.  Willie is suffering from kidney disease and needs a transplant and Albert is barely getting by giving saxophone lessons. To add insult to injury, the company they worked for was bought out and their pensions have been canceled. The company is going to use that money to move their operations overseas and the local bank is handling the money transfer.

While getting the bad news at the bank, Joe witnesses a robbery, which, after all of this bad news, inspires him to throw out the idea to his friends of robbing the bank, the very bank that was helping the new company steal their pensions. They do a dry run by shoplifting some items at the grocery store in a silly scene that ends with Willie making his escape in a shopping cart but they get caught and are humiliated but decide to go ahead with their bank robbery plan anyway.  What do they have to lose?  So they decide they need some professional help. Joe says he doesn't know any criminals but he knows a low life - his former son-in-law, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz) - so they hook up with him and his friend, Jesus (John Ortiz), to teach them the ropes

Joe, Willie, and Albert disguise themselves with "Rat Pack" masks (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.) and use guns with blanks so that no one gets hurt. Of course it all goes wrong but they still get away with 2.3 million dollars  However, the heist was not without its problems.  Willie, not able to breathe through his mask, collapses and a little girl pulls off his mask.  Willie engages her in some friendly conversation so that the little girl is not scared of him but despite that they get away.  Remember when I mentioned that dry run at the grocery store where the guys tried a little shop lifting?  Well, it was all captured on video tape and the manager of the grocery store recognizes Al's walk from the video surveillance, so they are arrested by FBI Agent Hamer.  But they stick to their alibis, and later when the little girl is shown a police line-up, she refuses to point the finger at Al even though she recognizes him. See?  Being nice during a bank robbery has its advantages!

In the course of the investigation, we get to see the whole plot played out and the alibis,which are elaborate and ingenious.  It was a well-thought-out heist and there are some twists and turns that you didn't see coming.

Old people need something to live for.  So what if that something is robbing a bank?  Planning the heist and undertaking it gives Joe, Willie and Albert a new lease on life.  I'm not saying that planning and carrying out a bank robbery is a good thing to do, but old folks need something to look forward to!

Ann-Margret makes an appearance as a grocery clerk interested in Albert and the sexy grandma of one of Albert's untalented students and a barely recognizable Matt Dillon plays the detective investigating the bank robbery.  Whatever happened to HIS career? Kenan Thompson of SNL fame has a brief moment as the grocery store manager but it's a highlight.

Directed by actor Zach Braff with a screenplay by Theodore Melfi, it's all pretty silly stuff and the movie uses many of the clichés about old people that I hate - old people swearing, old people having sex, old people getting stoned - all movie clichés that are supposed to be funny but aren't to those of us who are old, but it doesn't really matter the vehicle, because when three veteran actors like Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, get together you've got to be there. These three actors constitute 174 years of TV and movie acting, and they are actors at the top of their game and can make any story work, even if that story has been done before (this is a loose remake of the 1979 Art Carney-George Burns-Lee Strasborg film), but this kind of story - getting even with the evil souless bank that is ruining your life - is also a film trope. I mean, it could be a geriatric heist version of this year's "Hell or High Water". But hey, like I said, watching Caine, Morgan and Arkin interact is worth the rerun.  And can you believe it?  Speaking of movie tropes. No power walk! 

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, there are old people stereotypes, yes, it's sentimental, yes, it's full of clichés but it's also kind of fun. There are worse movies out there and I would watch these three guys read the phone book.

Rough Night (2017)

A group of girlfriends head to Miami for a bachelorette party,but when they hire a male stripper things go terribly wrong.

Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is getting married and her besties and ex-sorority sisters want to give her a bachelorette party she will remember. The girls bonded in college at a frat party where they beat the boys at beer pong and pledged to be friends forever.  Now it's ten years later and Jess has moved on from beer pong.  In fact she is running for State Senate.  Alice (Jillian Bell) is a teacher; Frankie (Ilana Glazer) is a protester/activist; and Blair (Zoe Kravitz) is a Mom going through a divorce.

When they arrive in Miami, they head to the condo they have rented and go to the neighbors for the keys.  The neighbors are a swinger couple - the sexually active Lea (Demi Moore) and Pietro (Ty Burrell), who turn up now and again for their sexual comic relief and this film needs it.  Pippa (Kate McKinnon), Jess's roommate from her Australian foreign study, also shows up much to Alice's dismay.  You see, Alice has jealousy and neediness issues.

None of the girls really want to party.  Jess doesn't want to do anything that would jeopardize her chances of winning a Senate seat and basically wants to flake out, but you know that's not going to happen.  First, cocaine shows up, then they get drunk, more cocaine, then some marijuana, then some pizza, then a stripper, then they kill the stripper. Yes, you heard me.  Alice jumps on his lap, the chair falls over and he hits his head and dies.  Naturally they can't call the police and tell them it was an accident like any normal person would do.  Oh, no.  Then we wouldn't have a movie.  They all have reasons why they can't call the police.  So they decide to call a lawyer instead who tells them if there's no body, there's no crime.  Mmmm.

This is one of those movies where one bad decision leads to another leads to another and things get worse and worse.

Directed and co-written by Lucia Anielo with Paul W. Downs, who also plays Jess's fiance, this is all part of the "Bachelor/Bachelorette-Party-Gone-Wrong-Genre ("The Hangover," "Bridesmaids") that makes the case that women can be just as raunchy and bad as men when it comes to partying.  It also feels a bit like "Weekend at Bernie's" as the girls try to figure out how to dispose of the body.

Meanwhile, Jess's fiancé calls and asks how they are doing.  He says he is having a wild time - but in fact he and his friends are in suits wine tasting - but he gets suspicious about what is happening in Miami so decides to do a "sad astronaut" trip - remember that case where an astronaut woman was in love with an astronaut man and was jealous of his new relationship so she decided she was going to kill her rival, and so she drove non-stop a thousand miles or something wearing an adult diaper so she wouldn't have to stop?  So Peter dons a diaper, uses some meth and makes the trip, and of course, he gets stopped by the police.  This part of the film was actually funny.

One can't help but compare this film to "Girls Trip," a very similar film, that unfortunately for this film, came out at the same time. The two films even start out the same - ex-sorority sisters who haven't seen each other in awhile and whose lives have evolved get together to celebrate. Both films have the supposedly responsible one and then there is the absolutely crazy one and in both films the women get themselves in some very bad situations.  Except when you compare the two, "Rough Night" doesn't fare as well because "Girls Trip" was actually funny.

This is a departure role for Scarlett Johannson. We don't often see her in comedies which is probably why she wanted to do this film.  That's the only reason I could think of why she would.

Kate McKinnon is one of those actors I love.  She is always all in and this role is no exception. She almost saves this film with her broad Aussie accent and nutty physical humor...but, alas, she didn't. 

The main problem with this film is that it just isn't very funny.

Rosy the Reviewer says...see "Girl's Trip" instead.  That film was funny.

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

166 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Puppetmaster (1993)

Based on fact, this film recounts the life story of Li Tien-lu, a famous Taiwanese puppeteer, during the Japanese occupation of China.

During the Japanese occupation of China which lasted from 1895 to 1945, young Li Tien-lu joins a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. We witness the events of his life - he gets married, has a mistress, deals with the complications of his life - with the political climate as a backdrop.  Tienlu and his puppet skills were also used by the Japanese during World War II for their war propaganda. The story is all pretty grim.

The real Tien-lu is shown from time to time throughout the film and narrates and there are several segments highlighting the puppet shows themselves.

Li Tien-lu had a very hard life, and this is the kind of biopic that makes you grateful for the life you have had.

Why it's a Must See: "Director Hou Hsiao-hsien has an unhurried style with long shots that calmly observe the interaction of the characters...a deeply felt portrait of Taiwanese life."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says..."unhurried style" is code for boring.  It was just a bit too unhurried for me.

***The Book of the Week***

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline (2017)

Who is Chris Brennan and why has he come to Central Valley?

Chris Brennan has applied for a teaching job at Central Valley High School. His resume and references are impeccable.  He is also ready to step in as the assistant baseball coach but it's all a lie.  His name isn't even Chris Brennan.

He is there to find a young man who can help him with his plan.

The young men he has targeted are Raz, the high school baseball team's pitcher, whose father has just died leaving him vulnerable; Jordan, a shy kid who has just made the team and who lives with his single Mom, Heather; and Evan, a rich kid with a surgeon father and a mother who copes by filling her days with social events and drinking too many gin and tonics.

Chris is looking for a vulnerable kid who he can manipulate.

So goes the first part of this novel, and you get the idea that Chris is some kind of domestic terrorist plotting a bombing on the anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing, but then Scottoline flips on the reader in Part II and the story changes from the BIG LIE to what is really going on with Chris and to each of the boys' lives because there are enough secrets and lies to go around in this little thriller.

This is the kind of novel that is often called a "fast read," because there is lots of dialogue and a fast-moving plot.  It's the kind of novel that would make a good film so I couldn't help but cast the parts as I read it.  I think Jake Gyllenhaal would make a good "Chris," Heather, who becomes Chris's love interest, could be played by Rachel McAdams.

Evan could be played by Miles Teller, Jordan by Ansel Elgort and Raz by Nick Robinson, all hot young actors.

I know, I couldn't help myself.  Movies are always on my mind! You will have to read the book to see if you agree with me!

I liked this book, but it was a bit lightweight, even for me, and I'm not that keen on baseball or books that are mostly about guys.  But hey, that's just me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a fast-read that would appeal to teens as well as men and women and won't take much mental energy.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


for my review of  


"Victoria and Abdul"  


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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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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