Friday, January 12, 2018

"All the Money in the World" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "All the Money in the World" as well as DVDs "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Atomic Blonde."  The Book of the Week is "Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Nightmare of Elm Street."]

All the Money in the World

Dramatization of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, the grandson of J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world.

People might be more familiar with the scandal surrounding the making of this movie than the name J. Paul Getty.  Kevin Spacey was slated to play Getty, who was not only the richest man in the world in the 1970's, he was the richest man EVER.  The kidnapping of his grandson, J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) for a $17 million dollar ransom was a news sensation in 1973 and the centerpiece of this film.  But the allegations of sexual assault against Kevin Spacey led to his being fired from this movie after being featured in the trailers and only a month before its release and 88-year old Christopher Plummer (no relation to Charlie) stepped in at the last minute.  Spacey was edited out and Plummer edited in as if Spacey had never been there. And seeing this film, ironically, it's difficult to imagine anyone else besides Plummer playing Getty, especially comparing Spacey in the original trailer and his over-the-top make-up to Plummer, himself who in reality is much closer in age to what Getty would have been.

J. Paul Getty made his money from oil.  Everyone seemed to know there was oil in Saudi Arabia but nobody could figure out how to get it.  But Getty did.  He made a deal with the Bedouins and discovered oil there four years later. But then how to get the oil out of Saudi Arabia so that he could sell it?  Getty invented the supertanker.  And that, folks, is how you become the richest man in the world.  But Getty was also a miser.  He famously had a pay phone in his house so visitors would not run up his phone bill. 

But when Italian thugs kidnapped Getty's 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III, known as Paul, they didn't know that.  They kidnapped Paul, demanded $17 million and were confounded by the fact that Getty said he wouldn't pay.  In fact at first, everyone thought Paul had engineered his own kidnapping to get some money from his grandfather, but when Paul's ear (yes, his actual ear - I will let you use your imagination) appeared at a Roman newspaper, everyone realized the kidnapping was indeed real.  But even then, the elder Getty wouldn't pay, priding himself on his deal making and not wanting to part with the cash.

Paul's mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) was divorced from Getty's son who was a failure and had given his life over to drugs, drink and general hedonism.  When they divorced she had given up any claim to Getty's money in return for custody of her children so when the kidnappers contacted her, she had no means to pay them so the film concentrates on Gail's frantic attempt to get the miserly Getty to pay and to save her son.

Directed by Ridley Scott (with a screenplay by David Scarpa adapted from the book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty" by John Pearson), this is a smaller film than we are used to from Scott, who famously directed "Blade Runner (the first one)," "Gladiator" and more recently "The Martian," but Scott shows his skills in his ability to reshoot and edit Plummer into the film at the very last minute as well as his evocation of 70's Europe. But the film is not just a biopic but a thriller and a film with a message - a reminder that all the money in the world can't buy happiness.  Money also can cause people to do bad things.

The film focuses on Williams as the mother desperately trying to save her son, and she is reliably good and gets the most screen time, but Plummer has been at this game longer and just steals the show as the misanthropic and miserly Getty who, disappointed by people, only finds comfort in beautiful objects and dies miserable and alone. It's also nice to see Mark Wahlberg playing a straight dramatic role as Fletcher Chase, the ex-CIA agent the elder Getty hires to find Paul, instead of his usual action heroes fighting transformers or oil rigs.

Speaking of Wahlberg, did you hear about the big flap concerning how much money Wahlberg received to do the reshoots versus what Michelle Williams received? - something like 1000 times more - and Williams was the star!  So I guess Ridley Scott not only suffers from gender discrimination but didn't seem to learn from his own movie - you know, that part about money making people do bad things.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling story with a performance by Plummer that deserves a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

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


War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Number three in the Planet of the Apes prequels.

This is the third in the prequel trilogy which began with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," where the genius ape, Caesar, was created and a Simian flu killed most of humanity.  That was followed by "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," where Caesar and his ape friends try to get along with the few remaining humans. However, Koba, a rogue ape, attacked some humans, which in turn caused a war, so now with film #3 the war continues 

However, you don't need to have seen the first two to enjoy this one, because this film does a good job with an introduction that brings you up-to-date but if you haven't seen the original film - and I'm talking about the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston - you absolutely must see that one.  That one is the inspiration for the three films that followed so that you would understand what happened before Charlton came along.

As film #3 begins, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, is trying to save himself and his fellow apes who are being hunted by the mean old colonel (Woody Harrelson) who had found Caesar's command center and killed Caesar's wife and child.  But the Colonel is not just mean, he's crazy.  The Colonel believes that the Simian flu has mutated and is turning people into apes, so he is bent on wiping out the apes.  But the Colonel is also a rogue and an army is on its way to arrest him, so he is building a wall and getting ready to fight them off so he can continue his genocide on the apes. He says that if they lose against the apes, the world will become a planet of apes.  Get it?

Since the Colonel and his men have found Caesar's secret command center, Caesar leaves the camp so that his followers can escape and find refuge somewhere else while at the same time seeking revenge on the Colonel because he killed his wife and son.  So with two trusted soldiers, Maurice (Karin Konoval), the wise Orangutan and Caesar's right-hand-man and the gorilla, Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Caesar goes after the Colonel.  Along the way they encounter and join forces with "Bad Ape (Steve Zahn)," a scared, formerly abused zoo chimpanzee who believes that's his name (I don't even want to think about what he went through to get that name) and a young girl who can't speak who they name Nova (Amiaha Miller).  Unfortunately, Caesar gets captured and is put in a work camp overseen by the Colonel and forced to work on building that wall.  His motley crew now must save Caesar.

The best thing about these movies is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar and who despite all of that ape make-up is still able to evoke drama and pathos.  Some people have said he deserves a Oscar nomination for his performance and he is very good.  The tender moments in the film actually got to me. Naturally, the apes are more human in a good way than the humans so this is also one of those "what makes us human" films.  It's also a tense thriller with lots of action and a dramatic story with depth and tenderness. The CGI and make-up also certainly play big roles.  I had to laugh that the ape make-up is so good that the only way to tell the girl apes from the boy apes is that the girl apes wear earrings.

Directed by Matt Reeves with a screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bombackthis is a great action film that pays homage to war films, most notably "Apocalypse Now" with Woody Harrelson seeming to channel Brando's Colonel Kurtz.

Rosy the Reviewer says...You will be rooting for the apes.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and to recover a list of double agents so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands.

And that undercover MI6 agent is a badass blonde named Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who wears sexy clothes, beats guys up with her stilettos and says things like "I'm my own bitch now!"

All I could think at first while watching this film was "Why? Charlize, you are an Academy Award winning actress.  Why are you playing this part?"

But then as I got into it, I thought, "Who wouldn't want to play a beautiful stiletto-wearing badass woman who gets all of the best quips and gets to beat the crap out of the bad guys?"

It's Berlin, 1989, right before the fall of the wall.  A British secret agent has been killed and MI6 spies have been compromised.  A watch that includes a list of all of the MI6 spies has disappeared and Lorraine needs to go to Berlin and find it before it falls into the wrong hands, read: KGB, especially since the list contains the identity of Satchel, a double agent.  Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy) who is undercover in Berlin as a skinhead.  He is a bit dodgy and has actually taken on the skinhead lifestyle, but Lorraine teams up with him anyway to find Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a guy who has committed the list to memory, and get him safely out of Berlin.  There are lots of fight scenes - there is one fight scene starring Lorraine that literally goes on for 15 minutes.  Well, maybe not literally but it felt like it.  There are also car chases and the usual other spy movie stuff but there is also a very big twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Directed by David Leitch, with a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, the film plays like a graphic novel (and in fact it's based on the graphic novel "The Coldest City" written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart) filled with glamorous cartoon characters, but that's OK because the 80's music is terrific, the pop culture references are fun, we get to see Charlize in a series of body suits, thigh high boots and garters, and it's just a very stylish, thrilling ride.  

As over-the-top spy movies go, I actually liked this.  When I saw the trailers for this film, I originally thought it looked shallow and silly, but Charlize pulled it off.  I guess that Best Actress Academy Award Theron won was actually a testament to her acting abilities.  She had the skill to take this shallow character and make me care about her. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...unexpectedly good. 

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

160 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A serial killer has this penchant for killing people in their dreams.

I know, I know...I can just hear you saying, "What?  You never saw "Nightmare on Elm Street?!" No, I haven't because unlike some people I am not particularly fond of blood and guts and slasher films.  Anyway, that's the reason, but despite my fears about that kind of thing in a movie, it seems that when I do actually see it, I am often shocked at how tame the film was and wonder what all of the fuss was about.  And this one was no exception.  In fact, watching it I had a very hard time figuring out why this film is considered one of the best in the horror genre.  I know it's Wes Craven and all of that but it was really dumb.

Though Craven had already directed "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Swamp Thing," he was far from a mainstream director when he brought us Freddy Kreuger.  But the success of this film started him on the road to fame as one of our foremost horror film directors and which led to "Scream."

The basic plot features Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her teenage friends who all live in a quiet, seemingly safe little town. When her friends start dying and Freddy starts appearing in her dreams, Nancy is convinced Freddy is the culprit.  Who is Freddy?  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is a nightmare character who infiltrates these kids' dreams. He was originally a former child killer who was burned to death by a mob of furious Elm Street parents. I would be mad, too, if some weird guy killed my kid. Years later, he has returned from the grave obsessed with revenge on the teen offspring of those parents by getting into their subconscious and attacking them as they sleep.  If they fall asleep, they all have the same dream and get killed while they are asleep.  Once the kids figure this out, they must fight a seemingly hopeless battle to stay awake.

The film has the classic teen horror film tropes:

  • Good looking young people in skimpy attire
  • A seemingly safe middle class neighborhood where nothing bad could possibly happen
  • Cheap shots of people jumping out of the shadows that make you jump in your seat
  • Lots of fake blood
  • Killer bent on revenge
  • Teens getting killed after having sex because we know that's BAD
  • One final good girl left to fight off the forces of evil

The best thing about this film is seeing a very young Johnny Depp in his film debut before he developed all of those Johnny Depp mannerisms he has now.  The worst is Ronee Blakley as Nancy's mother.  Her performance is so flat and unemotional that she makes this film look like a zombie movie.  It is just unbelievable that nine years earlier she had been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in "Nashville."

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] creatively combined horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary.  And it let loose a new monster in America's pop culture: the wise-cracking, fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Kreuger."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I think the deeper meaning here (if there is one) is that growing up can be scary.  Or maybe it's just "Don't fall asleep!"  This film may have been something special back in 1984 but it just doesn't hold up today unless you really like campy bad acting.

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, so now I've seen it.

***Book of the Week***

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Jaffe (2017)

A biography of singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell.

For all of the impact Joni's music had on my young years, especially the albums "Blue" and "For the Roses," reading this biography, I was surprised how much I didn't know about her.  I didn't know she had polio as a young girl; that she was married again after Chuck Mitchell (to a much younger man); that Prince was a huge fan of hers; or that she had such a healthy ego. I'm putting that nicely.  Suffice it to say that David Crosby said "She was about as modest as Mussollini," and that's saying a lot coming from him because he is no slouch in that department either.

She also had strong opinions. According to Yaffe, she couldn't stand Joan Baez; was disappointed in Dylan; she called Madonna "Nero;" she thought John Lennon was a mean drunk; and Jackson Browne was just mean, especially to women.  She also wouldn't give Judy Collins any props for making a hit of her song "Both Sides Now" which helped Joni become a star in her own right and she even made some snarky remarks about CSN's harmonies.

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada, Joni knew early that she was going to be someone and her belief in herself, her innate poetic talent and single-mindedness led her out of Canada to become one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our generation.

Yaffe does an excellent job of outlining Mitchell's life and career with interesting details about the making of each of her albums and how her career changed from the successes of the 1970's to some strange choices in the 80's to an inability to write in the 90's. 

She was a chain-smoker (four packs a day and a smoker since she was 9) and  in recent years suffered an aneurysm and is currently still recovering from that.

Yaffe paints a picture of Mitchell as a rather angry person with an opinion on everything and in most cases found her peers wanting.  Unlike the biography of Stevie Nicks that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago where the author gushed, Yaffe is a bit irreverent about Mitchell, which I think is healthy for a biographer, and in so doing, has created a very complete picture of Mitchell's life and career while still acknowledging her importance.  I just can't help but wonder what Mitchell's take on this would be.  I am sure she would have an opinion!

Rosy the Reviewer of the best biographies I have read this year about one of the most influential singer/songwriters of my generation.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"The Greatest Showman"

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). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

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