Friday, January 27, 2017

"Split" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Split" as well as DVDs "The Babadook" and "Queen Mimi." The Book of the Week is "Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Old Boy (the original Korean version not the Spike Lee version)"]



Split


Kevin (James McAvoy) has 23 different personalities. He kidnaps three teenage girls and we soon learn the diabolical reason why.

Actually, Kevin isn't the one who kidnaps the girls.  It's actually Dennis, one of Kevin's "take charge" personalities who, along with Miss Patricia, a turtle-neck-wearing, prissy English woman personality, believe in the coming of "The Beast," and they hint at needing some "sacred food."  Right about this time, I am starting to think "Ew."

But let's back up a bit. Three young girls, Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), are on their way home from a party at the mall when they are car-jacked and sprayed with something that knocks them out.  When they wake up, they find themselves locked up in a bunker-like room. They soon learn that their jailer is Dennis, a buttoned-up young man with a heavy dose of OCD.  One by one, the girls  meet some of the other personalities, the aforementioned Miss Patricia, and Hedwig, a nine-year-old boy who likes to dance to Kanye West and says etc. etc. a lot.  As the girls try to escape, Dennis separates them. Casey is the calm plucky one. She is an outcast at school and was only reluctantly included in the party with Claire and Marcia.  They think she is strange, and through a series of flashbacks, we see the split in her life and why she is always getting into trouble at school.

Meanwhile, another personality, Barry, meets with his psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, played by Betty Buckley.  Barry is a flamboyant fashion designer and the personality that most often "takes the light" to meet with Dr. Fletcher, though Dr. Fletcher begins to worry that the personality meeting with her is really Dennis pretending to be Barry.  She feels she understands Kevin and his many personalities and is sympathetic. She also believes that people with multiple personalities can completely change their body chemistries as they move from personality to personality and much of the film hinges on that concept which we soon see as the film builds to its climax.

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, the film is very tense most of the way through as you try to figure out why the girls were kidnapped and what is going to happen to them.  The setting is ominous and the music is dramatic as the film builds to its big reveal.  Shyamalan had huge success with his early film, "The Sixth Sense," but then some disappointing films followed.  Has Shyamalan gotten his groove back?  He has up to a point, but, unfortunately, the big reveal lets the film down a bit.

Shyamalan is known for his twist endings, and I have to admit that at the end of "The Sixth Sense," I was  sitting in the movie theatre shaking my head, wondering what just happened.  I looked quizzically over at my daughter and she mouthed "He's dead."  Ahh, then I got it.  And sorry if I just spoiled that film for you, but if you haven't seen "The Sixth Sense" yet, you can expect to be spoiled.  Well, anyway, I have to admit I didn't get the ending of this film either, though after a bit of research, I discovered why, which made me feel better because I was starting to think I wasn't very smart.  The ending is really not a twist and not really related to this movie, either (I don't think), but rather a bit of an homage to another film and possibly a tease for a sequel to this one.  And I thought it was a bit cheesy.

But all of that aside, this movie is all about James McAvoy's performance. I can't tell you how many previews I saw for this film before I realized it was he.  In close-ups, you can see his face and eyes slowly change as he turns into another personality.  It's a tour de force of acting genius, and I hope that it's not too early in the year for an Oscar nomination.  Often films that open in the early part of the year are forgotten by Oscar time but he certainly deserves a nomination for this performance.

Buckley is a warm presence in the film.  It's good to see her again.  I always loved her in "Eight is Enough, never realizing she was a gifted singer who had already been a big Broadway star who would go on to star in "Cats" and "Sunset Boulevard" on Broadway.  Here her character of Dr. Fletcher is a sympathetic one, though a bit naïve.  She played a similar character in "Carrie," and I couldn't help but wonder if Shyamalan was playing with us a little bit by casting her here, especially in how the film played out.

Taylor-Joy, who made a big splash in "The Witch" and later in the little-seen film "Morgan," also brings her acting abilities to bear, and is a good foil for McAvoy, though in a much less flashy way.  Her character, Casey, is also tortured and Casey has chosen to deal with it by acting out, thus explaining her lack of popularity in her school.  But once tested, she brings a steely drive to her situation, both in captivity and in her personal life.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I'm split on this.  Sorry.  Couldn't resist.  McAvoy is amazing, the story is tense and exciting up to a point but the ending kind of smells like cheese.





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

On DVD






The Babadook (2014)


A single mother, whose husband has been dead for seven years, is struggling with raising her very precocious and difficult little boy who is certain monsters are out to get them. He's actually right.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mother struggling to bring up her six-year-old son, Sam (Noah Wiseman).  Her husband was killed in a car accident when he was taking Amelia to the hospital to have Sam.  She has never gotten over her husband's death and he haunts her in her dreams.

She works in an old people's home and struggles to care for Sam.  Part of the problem is that Sam is a difficult little kid, waking her up at night scared of monsters.  I question her reading him scary books like "The Three Little Pigs."  The Big Bad Wolf would scare anyone.

One night, Sam chooses the book to read.  It's a pop-up book called "Mister Babadook," and though Amelia doesn't recognize the book, she starts to read it only to realize it is a really scary book.  Not scary in "The Three Little Pigs" way but REALLY scary in the "You are going to die" way, in the "You can't get rid of the Babadook" way.  The book warns that once Mister Babadook comes knocking (he knocks three times - "dook, dook, dook"), and you let the Babadook in, you can never get rid of him. She quickly closes the book and puts it high up on a shelf.

Amelia is not only coping with Sam, who is a rambunctious little kid, but she is also haunted by sounds and hallucinations and can't get any sleep. Her house is dark and ominous. The book somehow finds its way back into Sam's room and even after she tears it up and puts it in the trash, it appears again all pasted back together. Slowly but surely it looks like she is going mad.  And then we see The Babadook himself, a tall dark creature with a cloak, a top hat and talons, and the prophecy of the Babadook starts to come true.  But is The Babadook real or a psychological terror?

OK, I am torn about this.  On the one hand, I really don't like child actors in movies, especially when they are, let's say, extremely precocious and also "difficult," like this little kid.  This is a horror film, but if you ask me, it's that little kid who is the horror. Think that little kid in "The Omen." However, on the other hand, things get a bit out of hand, shall we say, and then he becomes a child in danger, which is always a heart-string-puller for me. When the mother starts to go nuts, I am certainly on the kid's side.  So what is a reviewer to do?

Essie Davis is miraculous as the overworked, sleepless and grieving Amelia.  Is she going crazy?  Is she a child abuser?  Is she really being tormented by a monster or is it all in her mind?  Davis draws us in and makes us feel all of the changing emotions that she feels.  Little Noah is perfect as the perfectly horrible little kid who you start to worry about.  It's a scary mother-son two-hander.

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent in her feature film debut, this Australian film was financed through Kickstarter.  I am glad it was, because it's a wonderful film.  It is a searing look at madness caused by grief and a scary metaphor for victims of child abuse and their abusers.  Or is it?  Maybe there really are monsters under our beds.

Rosy the Reviewer says...one of the best horror films of late. Moral of the story? Don't read scary stories to your little kids.





Queen Mimi (2015)


A documentary about a homeless woman who has taken up residence in a Santa Monica Laundromat.

When you see homeless people, do you ever wonder what their stories are?  Most of us will never know, but here director Yaniv Rokah profiles a 90 year old homeless woman who basically set up shop in a laundromat and made a life for herself there. 

Mimi had lived on the streets of Santa Monica for years, but when she found the warmth of a laundromat on Montana Street, she decided that was a good place to hang out.  One night when it was really cold, the owner didn't have the heart to kick her out, so he let her spend the night in the Laundromat, and she just never left.  All of a sudden it was 18 years later!

During the day Mimi helps people fold their laundry and makes sure other homeless people don't camp out there - an interesting irony - and at night she sleeps in a chair.  She has been doing this for almost 20 years and has become a Santa Monica fixture and local personality.  She was befriended by actors Zach Galifianakis and Renee Zellwegger, both of whom who have taken her as their dates to red carpet events, and Zach finally set her up in her own apartment.

The heart of this film is the question that you will asking yourself.  How did Mimi become homeless?  And the film finally addresses that in a story that makes one think it could happen to anyone.

Mimi's real name is Marie Elizabeth Heist, and she was born in Los Angeles in 1925.  She had a sister and a brother who died of the measles when he was 5.  She had a job and married a man who made her quit her job, and she says, treated her like a slave.  When she discovered he also had a mistress, she left him after 20+ years of marriage. But she was in her 50's with no job experience and no social security to look forward to so she ended up living in her car.  But as the film progresses, and we learn more about Mimi, her road to homelessness becomes murky and then there is a big surprise that is not really explained.  Perhaps that's the point.  When it comes to peoples' lives in general and homelessness in particular, some things just can't be explained.

Mimi was never into drugs, though she likes to drink, and she looks down on those kinds of homeless people.  That's why she preferred living on the streets to living in a shelter until she found the Laundromat.  She considered herself a step above most homeless people.

Mimi has lots of opinions:

"Men are God's most beautiful creatures.  I love young men, not these old crawdads."  She has a crush on Chris Hemsworth (who doesn't)?

She doesn't want to get married again because "I like being happy. I like being free.  I don't like some guy over me telling me what to do and what not to do."

"As you get older, people don't want you."

Mimi exhibits resilience and zest for life despite her circumstances.  And as of this writing, she is still with us at 92.

I can only hope that when I am old and eccentric (OK, really old and really eccentric) and who knows, living in a Laundromat, I will be as beloved as Mimi (however, I don't plan to be toothless).

Rosy the Reviewer says...A fascinating look inside the world of homelessness.  You will come away from this film still asking questions because all of our lives are not easily explained nor is homelessness.  But you will also come away from this film appreciating what's important in life.


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



217 to go!

Have YOU see this classic film?




OldBoy (2003)


Seoul businessman, Dae-Su (Min-sik Choy), is inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years, and when he is inexplicably released, he discovers he must find his captor in five days.

No this is not the Spike Lee movie from a few years ago that starred Josh Brolin.  This is the original one and Spike's was a remake (and you know how I feel about those).

Dae-su is an ordinary, paunchy Seoul businessman with a wife and a little daughter.  After a drunken night on the town, he is abducted and locked up in a strange, private "prison," and no one will tell him why he is there. His prison is a room that looks like a seedy motel room.  Each day he is fed restaurant take-out food through a small opening in his door and sometimes he is put to sleep with valium gas so his jailers can clean his room and groom him. He watches TV, where he learns that his wife has been killed and, since he has disappeared, he is the prime suspect. His daughter has been adopted by someone in Sweden. As the days become years, he works out incessantly and verges on madness.

Fifteen years go by until one day he wakes up in the outside world in a new suit, with some cash and a cell phone.  The cell phone contains a warning that he has five days to discover who imprisoned him. When he goes to a sushi bar, he eats a live squid (in an incredibly vivid and humorous scene) and then faints.  He is befriended by the sushi chef, a pretty young girl (Hye-jeong Kang), and they work together to try to solve the mystery of his imprisonment.  He goes to restaurant after restaurant to try to find the food he was fed while imprisoned.  When he does, he follows a delivery boy and discovers where he had been kept and eventually who imprisoned him.  But why? 

Well, let's just say, maybe there really isn't life after high school.

Even though I had seen the Spike Lee remake and knew the basic story, this one is mesmerizing.  It is much more tense than Spike's and this one even had some dark humor (Spike doesn't really do humor).  I am not Korean, but when comparing the two films, it seems in redoing the film for American audiences, it lost its uniquely Korean ethos, angst and humor.  That scene where he eats the live squid is very funny, and there are some fight scenes where Dae-su takes on ten men that resemble Asian animation, which is not an accident because the film itself was based on a Japanese manga cartoon. Also Dae-Su can finally put to use all of that working out he did while imprisoned. He is no longer a paunchy businessman but a fighting machine bent on revenge.

Directed by Chan Wook-Park, who directed last year's highly acclaimed "The Handmaiden," has clearly been influenced by Alfred Hitchcock - the music, a scenario involving a man trying to make sense of a confusing environment, tense situations based on finding the answer in a finite amount of time.

Why it's a Must See: "...this breakthrough film - part action, part drama, part psychological thriller - has introduced Korean cinema to more viewers than any other film...[It's a] violent, elegiac masterpiece..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" 

Rosy the Reviewer says...The film is riveting.  You won't be able to take your eyes off of it.  It's fast-paced and quite brilliant.  Proof again that the original is always the best one.
(in Korean with English subtitles)




***Book of the Week***





Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index by Kathy Griffin (2016)


Comic Kathy Griffin dishes on celebrities she has met.

Of course I was going to read this.  Did you have any doubts?  I love Kathy.  I have seen her in concert a couple of times.  She is shocking and has no shame whatsoever, which is what I love about her.  However, I realize that many people not only do not like that kind of humor, they don't like her. She herself says she is an acquired taste.  She also says that many people get her mixed up with Kathy Lee Gifford.

So when I sat down with this (or rather hauled my ass up on the elyptical which is my primary place where I read), I was expecting some total smack downs of famous people.  And guess what?  Compared to her live act, this was a love fest.  This was more of an A-Z of all of the people Kathy approves of from Woody Allen to Warren Zevon.  Hardly an insult in the whole thing, except she does throw a little smack at Selena Gomez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harry Styles, Taylor Swift, Uma Thurman, and yes, Donald Trump.  But nothing even close to what she throws down in her live act.  You would think she was the new Roddy McDowell of Hollywood (look him up)!

But that's not to say this book is not funny.  It is - she is always funny - but I sure wish she had more juicy stuff to say about Zac Efron, Bruno Mars or even Beethoven, the Dog (yes, he's in there too, under "Dog, Beethoven The).

If you like to stalk celebrities as she does, she also offers advice on how best to do it:

  • Consider your surroundings - best to catch them while walking, not mid-bite while eating
  • Don't stare - use her "Look-and-Blink-Away-System"
  • Picture versus mental pictures?  - they are ready for a selfie with you especially if it's a Kardashian
  • Do I say anything? - Saying "Congratulations" to them will instantly put them in a good mood
  • Exit strategy - Smile and walk away 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those books you can read a little at a time, when you have a few minutes and need a laugh, like in line at the supermarket or on the toilet!



Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of


"A Dog's Purpose"


 
and
 
 
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." 


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer


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."


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why I Love Canada: Confessions of an American South of the Border (Canadian Border, That Is)





I have written about "Why I Love England and my favorite summer vacation, which was on a narrow boat in England, but I haven't written about another country that I dearly love:  Canada. 

I was reminded of that fact when I recently watched the documentary
Being Canadian (2015).

There has been a great deal of interest in Canada of late (which I will get to later), but, despite all of this interest, who really knows anything about Canada?


That was a question that writer/director Robert Cohen was interested in finding the answer to, so he decided to drive from one end of the country to the other and interview people, asking them what they thought other people's views of Canada were. Starting from Nova Scotia in June of 2013, he planned to drive to Vancouver B.C. and get there by July 1.

He interviewed locals as well as famous Canadians who interject from time to time during the film.


"How do you feel about the world's seeming indifference to Canada?"

Dan Ackroyd - "Americans don't even know where it is."

Will Arnett - "If we were next to Uganda we would stick out a little more."

Cobie Smulders - "People ask me if I live in an igloo."

Alan Thicke - "We needed to have Walt Disney.  Instead we got Alex Trebeck."



"Why do non-Canadians freak out when they find out you are Canadian?"

Michael J. Fox - "People felt betrayed [that I wasn't an American]."

Martin Short - "They thought we were Russian spies dressed up like Americans."



"Why are Canadians so nice?"

According to a national etiquette expert, some of that politeness hails from British rule, but several people responded that they are afraid to put someone down because of how it reflects on them.  And maybe they aren't so nice after all.  Maybe it's passive aggression.

But they are nice. They are so nice, they don't even have a national food (unless you count maple syrup, bacon and beer), because they don't want to offend any food.

Catherine O'Hara - "We are so polite that I say, "Oops, sorry, when I bump into the furniture."


Why do so many funny people come from Canada?

They have a better sense of humor about themselves than we Americans do or how else could you explain curling?

And here are some other funny Canadian not already mentioned:

Samantha Bee
John Candy
Jim Carrey
Tommy Chong
Tom Green
Phil Hartman
Rich Little
Rick Moranis
Mike Myers
Seth Rogan
Mort Sahl
David Steinberg
Dave Thomas


Part travelogue, part comic documentary, Cohen also asks why is Canadian television so bad, do Canadians really have an inferiority complex and can anyone explain Canada's love-hate relationship with the United States?

Oh, and by the way, we Americans need to stop saying to Canadians, "I have a friend in Canada.  Maybe you know him?"


But on a more personal level, Canada has actually played a big part in my life over the years.

Growing up in Michigan, it was not a stretch for my parents to vacation in Canada, though we didn't vacation much.  But I have vivid memories of the Horseshoe Falls (the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) and deciding, even at a very young age, that the Canadian side of the falls was superior to the American.  My mother also collected cups and saucers so I remember hours and hours in Canadian gift shots. Canada was an English bone china collector's dream:



I also had a very good friend in high school, who it turns out was Canadian, which I didn't know at the time.  However, I should have, because she was very cool.

I got married young, and it was during the Vietnam War.  My then husband was drafted and sent to Vietnam, but before that, we seriously considered moving to Canada to avoid the draft.  Several of my friends from college actually did that.  But we didn't.



Later, when I moved to California, and then to the Pacific Northwest, vacationing in Canada became a regular thing, especially in Victoria, which is an Anglophile's dream.  It is often spoken of as "more English than England."

But now I know I need to address the elephant in the room. 

It's not by coincidence that Canada was on so many people's minds over the last couple of years as the U.S. Presidential campaign came to an end, and it became apparent that Donald Trump would become the 45th President of the United States.  Celebrities and commoners alike were saying that if he won, they were moving to Canada.  Canada has always been that welcoming country to the North that has so much going for it, so why not move there?



For example, one can't help but compare the two leaders:




Prime Minister Justin Trudeau                   President Donald Trump



 

 

 


 

 
 
Young                                                          Old
Handsome                                                    Not so much
Progressive                                                   Wants to go back in time       
Wants good U.S./Canadian relations                Could build a wall
Feminist                                                        Misogynist
Against bullying                                             Likes to bully
Believes in climate change                              Not 
Popular                                                         Not
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          





I could go on but I won't.  Let's move on to something more pleasant.



Here's what I love about Canada:




Unparalleled Beauty.



 

 






Really friendly, polite people.





Exciting and fun modes of transportation.







Victoria. 
Victoria is one of my favorite cities in all of the world.  And it's true. Victoria does seem more English than England or at least as English.  Having High Tea at The Empress Hotel is de rigeur for tourists, though I prefer the smaller tea houses.


A drink in the Bengal Lounge, which was decorated as if to celebrate the rule of India, was also a must, and I have many happy memories of spending time there, but alas, it has closed after 61 years.  I guess celebrating the Raj isn't very PC.


But I will miss it!




And then there is Parliament, lit up at night.

 

The delights of Victoria are endless.



Tea.


I never leave Canada without my tea from Murchies, the best tea in the world. I stock up and when I run out, I know it's time to get back up to Canada to replenish my tea supply, and when I can't go there in person, I order it online.



Friendly Border Patrol.
Crossing the Border, the Canadian border guards ask you about booze and guns - they don't want drunk, gun-toting Americans coming into their friendly, peaceful country.  Crossing back into the U.S. the border guards don't seem to care about drunk, gun-toting Americans coming back into the States as much as they seem to care about our possibly smuggling too much Murchie's tea into the country. Actually, they are just mostly gruff, suspicious and like to mess with you.




Lifetime Movies.
You know how I feel about Lifetime movies, and if you don't, here is a reminder.  You might not know this, but Lifetime Movies are almost always shot either in Vancouver or Toronto, though they purport to be set in San Francisco or Seattle (it's cheaper, you see).  My favorite reminder of that was a Lifetime movie supposedly set in Seattle, except there was this little ol' highway sign that said Whistler 120 km.  Mmmm - don't remember that sign in Seattle. Anyway, I have watched so many of these movies that I recognize the Canadian actors, who are almost a repertory company of actors moving in and out of such classic Lifetime Movies as "Love Sick: Secrets of a Sex Addict" and "Killer Hair."



Yes, hair can kill.


Kurt Browning and Figure Skating.
And you know how I feel about figure skating because I have actually written about what I have learned from it ("What This Newly Retired Baby Boomer Has Learned from Figure Skating").  So I am happy to live near the Canadian border where we get the CBC coverage of figure skating, which I have to say, is much more beloved in Canada than here, so it gets full coverage and, Kurt Browning, four-time World figure skating champion, does wonderfully droll commenting on the sport.



Poutine.



Poutine - c'mon.  If we love French fries, then French fries with gravy and cheese curds has to be that much better, right?



National Health.
I have never understood why single payer insurance is such an emotional issue here in the U.S.  If I am going to pay taxes, I want some benefit, and having my health taken care of from birth to the grave should be a human right. Canada and every other country in the world has national health except us.



I Feel Safe There.
It's difficult to get a gun.


Not too long ago, I briefly looked into what it would take to move to Canada, get the equivalent of a green card there or even citizenship and discovered to my horror that despite our ticking most all the desirable characteristics of a possible citizen, Hubby and I are too old to be of interest to the Canadian government, unless we have several hundred thousand dollars to invest, which we don't. I guess they want to keep out old folks who might drain their national health system. Canadians are also smart.

So we won't be moving to Canada anytime soon and I probably never would have.  I am proud to be an American and believe that America is a great country, and despite setbacks, I plan to stay involved so that it remains a great country. 

I will just have to settle for regular forays across the border to visit one of my favorite countries.                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


So anyway,  those were just a few reasons why I love Canada.

And Canada must feel the same way about me, too, because they named a Vancouver hotel after me (yes, Rosy the Reviewer's real name is Rosellen)!



Oh, and it's so true about Canadians being super polite.  Canada is so polite, even their buses are polite.

On a recent visit to Vancouver, we saw a bus and its destination sign read "Not in Service - Sorry."

 
 
So as it said at the end of the film: "Today's Canada doesn't need explaining.  It's cool and everyone knows it!
 
Right on!




 


Thanks for reading.
 

See you Friday 
 
for my review of the new movie
 

"Split"
 


as well as

 "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."

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer