Friday, February 9, 2018

"Phantom Thread" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Phantom Thread" as well as DVDs "Geostorm" and "Last Flag Flying.  The Book of the Week is "After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Sansho the Bailiff."]



Phantom Thread


A brilliant dress designer and confirmed bachelor meets his muse...and his match.

This film is hyped as Daniel Day-Lewis's last performance as he has announced that he is retiring from acting.  But he has retired before.  Remember when he "retired" and moved to Italy to become a cobbler?  I'm not lying.  You can't make this stuff up.  But then he started acting again so I'm not holding my breath this time.  Actors are actors for a reason -- they need the spotlight.  But you never know.  Day-Lewis is a strange guy.

Speaking of strange guys, here Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant English dress designer and confirmed bachelor living in 1950's London. He lives with his current muse and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), but it is obvious early on that his current muse is getting on his nerves.  You see, Reynolds is a fastidious, prickly sort, one of those guys who expects everyone to kowtow to him, the kind of man who expects to get his own way all of the time and has no problem showing his irritation when he doesn't.  Geniuses are like that, I guess, and can get away with being jerks.  Reynolds has his routine and he likes to stick to it.  No one should speak to him in the morning (if breakfast doesn't go right, it ruins his whole day) or disturb him while he is working and absolutely no surprises. I'm not a fan of those kinds of guys, brilliant or not. 

However, all of that changes when Reynolds meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young immigrant waitress in a seaside town where he has a cottage.  Alma is a beautiful, but quiet and shy, much younger woman and is taken in by Reynolds' charm and sophistication, though, I found his wooing of her very, very creepy.  However, she becomes his muse and lover, and moves in with him, but she, too, soon falls prey to Reynolds' lifestyle which includes his irritation at her interruption of his quiet breakfast.  Scraping her toast with butter and pouring coffee is enough to make him bristle. He also takes to ignoring her for long periods of time.  It quickly becomes clear to her that he isn't going to marry her any time soon, either, except, what Reynolds doesn't realize is that he has met his match in Alma. Sometimes it's those quiet, shy types who end up getting what they want.

Reynolds' doting but no-nonsense sister, Cyril, whose territorial presence hovers over everything, watches the relationship unfold (think Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca"). She has seen it all before.  But what she and Reynolds don't realize is that Alma may see to be a shy, retiring and moldable young woman, but there is a steely interior at work in Alma and she figure out a unique way to get Reynolds to propose. 

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson, who has a cult following for his film "There Will Be Blood (which also starred Day-Lewis)," and who also directed "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "The Master," among other critical successes, can be counted on to make interesting, original films and does it once again here, though this is definitely a departure from the content of his other films.  He has produced a film more in the vein of the glamorous romantic films of the 50's - think Douglas Sirk and Ross Hunter or the elegant and lush British films of Merchant and Ivory with beautiful cinematography and gorgeous dresses by Mark Bridges, who has an Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. But don't be fooled. The film may be lush and beautiful and romantic but it has a twist that reminds us once again of Anderson's originality and quirky take on life and the last 30 minutes were very strange and kind of lost me, but then what great film doesn't leave some questions to be asked and thought about? The film is also one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year.

As I said, Day-Lewis is a strange guy - he is one of those actors who lives his role at home as well as on the screen (his poor wife) - but he is also one of our greatest actors.  Whenever he is in a film, an Oscar nomination for Best Actor is a no-brainer and this year is no exception.  Lesley Manville is also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and though you might not know her name, if you watch a lot of British mysteries or films you will recognize her face. 

Krieps is a newcomer and could be a clone of a young Meryl Streep.  In fact, watching the film I could have sworn she was one of Streep's daughters.  Her performance was impeccable and she held her own with Day-Lewis, but unfortunately she was not recognized for her performance by the Academy, but keep your eyes out for her.  She is one to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that deserves its Best Picture Oscar nomination and harks back to the romantic films of the past highlighted by an interesting, twisty story and brilliant performances. 




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

On DVD






Geostorm (2017)


It seems that a couple of years from now - actually next year, 2019 - all hell is going to break loose with the weather but never fear.  The world will come together to find a way to counteract the storms - or will it?

So when this film begins, there were some weather issues but we have made it through 2019 and everything has been going along swimmingly.  No major weather catastrophes because of a weather satellite net called Dutch Boy (remember the Dutch kid who put his finger in the dike?) that was invented to keep bad weather in check.

But what do you do when the satellites start blowing fuses?

Well, you call in Gerard Butler, that's what.

This film turned out to be a surprise hit last year so never doubt the box office power of Gerard Butler.  The same thing happened with his most recent film "Den of Thieves."  No one heard of it and it made a splash at the box office.

So what's a Geostorm?

No, it's not the Republicans taking over Congress, that's the GOP.  No, a Geostorm is basically the end of the world.

The film begins with thunder and ominous music and a child's voice-over:

"Everyone was warned but no one listened."

So it's a good thing we have Gerard Butler who plays Jake Lawson, the scientist who invents Dutch Boy, a sort of satellite net that protects earth from bad weather.  Dutch Boy has been doing a good job of keeping the world safe from the weather and it's all been handled by the United States.  But in three years, the United States will be handing Dutch Boy over to an International Committee and Lawson is called up in front of a U.S. Committee to reassure them that Dutch Boy is working properly and everything is going to be fine.

However, Lawson is not the reassuring type and manages to insult everyone there. You see, Lawson is a bit of an arrogant rogue.  He is abrasive and angry and his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who also works for the government and who is usually able to smooth things over for Jake, can't do it this time.  Jake rankles the Committee so much that he is fired and Max is assigned to take over Dutch Boy. That certainly doesn't help the brothers' relationship, which was on a slippery slope to begin with.

Fast forward three years and you can guess what is going to happen, right?

UN troops discover a village where everything is frozen including the inhabitants.  Now that wouldn't necessarily be a strange thing except the village was in the middle of an Afghan desert.

Now Dutch Boy is in trouble and seems to actually be attacking earth. Horrible weather has returned and only one person can save the world.  Guess who.

Right, Gerard Butler, I mean, Jake Lawson.

But Jake, after being fired, has gone off the grid to pout and is living in a trailer with his young daughter.  He is divorced and why he has custody of his daughter when it seems he has a perfectly good relationship with his ex-wife is never explained but we had to have the little girl so we could have that ominous voice over at the beginning.  And of course the little girl is super smart and precocious and says things like "shit happens."  Shoot me now.

So Max has to coax Jake back and he does that by telling Jake it's a mistake he has made and now he has to fix it.  And there isn't much time because all hell is breaking loose with the weather again.

None of this film really makes any sense, and it's actually more of a Star Wars kind of spy movie than a disaster film, even though the trailer definitely hyped this film as a classic disaster film.  In between the few disaster scenes there is a lot of boring, geeky science talk and the whole thing is overdramatic as hell with Girard angrily yelling most of his lines. It's also a mystery, a story of sabotage, a romance and did I mention it's all very overdramatic?

To save the world, Jake has to make his way up to the space station where he meets an International crew and they all try to figure out why Dutch Boy is malfunctioning while at the same time the weather is wreaking havoc on women in bikinis and little dogs.  It seems that someone is covering up a defect and if what is going on isn't figured out soon - we actually have a timer - a Geostorm is an inevitability.

Now I am going to give you a hint.  It's not exactly a spoiler but here is something I have discovered from watching many, many British mysteries.

In murder mysteries, if you are trying to identify the killer and there is an actor in the film who is quite famous but who has a very small part, nine times out of ten, that's your killer. Or as in this film, if we are trying to figure out who is sabotaging Dutch Boy, look for a character with a very small part who seems to be out of place or you wonder why he or she is in the film.  That's all I'm going to say about that but I had it figured out by the time the big reveal happened.  And you can thank me later for that important information.

Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot and directed by Devlin, the film seems to be very pro-globalization, which is a very controversial topic these days and the President is a controversial character, which also seems familiar, but the whole thing plays like a cartoon and it's difficult to care about any of it.  Lots of big names in this film and you have to wonder what they were thinking.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the disaster scenes were the best part of this film but unfortunately there weren't enough of them to save this film from the disaster it is.




Last Flag Flying (2017)


Considered a "spiritual sequel" to "The Last Detail," and a 30 year update.

I have to say right up front that "The Last Detail" was one of my all-time favorite films with Jack Nicholson doing his thing and a brilliant, touching story by Daryl Ponicsan who also wrote this screenplay.  Also I am a huge fan of director Richard Linklater (who collaborated on the screenplay), so that's why I wanted to see this film, despite the fact that I am not much of a Bryan Cranston or Steve Corell fan, I don't really like guy buddy movies and the trailer looked dumb.

But I was looking forward to seeing this only to discover that the names of the characters had been changed and the film didn't really have much to do with "The Last Detail" at all.

But I wanted to give it a chance.

It's 2003 and Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) is on a mission.  His wife has died and his only son has just been killed in the Iraq War and his body is coming home to be buried at Arlington with full military honors.  Doc looks up his old Vietnam War buddies, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranson), who is an alcoholic and ironically running a bar in Norfolk, and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who has become a pastor, to ask them to accompany him to pick up his son's body.  These men haven't fared very well since they served together in Vietnam.  They were something once, now they are something else, so says Sal philosophically. 

The film takes quite a while to set up the story before much happens, but in the second half we finally find out just how Doc's son was killed and Sal and Richard have to decide whether to tell Doc.  Doc also decides he doesn't want to bury his son at Arlington after all, but rather to take him home, and the film becomes a sort of sad buddy road trip film with a very anti-war tone.

Isn't it strange how you take a dislike to some actors even though you don't know them personally and never will?  And you don't really have a good reason for not liking them?  That's how I feel about Cranston and Corell.

Not sure why I don't like Carell.  He has certainly grown up a bit since "The Office " and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."  Maybe it's the characters he has played - clueless idiots - and playing Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes" didn't help.  However, he is very toned down here.  In fact he is so toned down he barely registers.

Likewise, I don't relate to Cranston, though I certainly give him props for his versatility.  He can play comedy ("Why Him?") or drama ("Trumbo") but something about his delivery seems to be bombastic and grumpy, no matter what he is playing.  I like Fishburne but he can be kind of one note as well.

But I am a huge fan of director Linklater - I thought "Boyhood" was brilliant - so you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't really like this film. For me, something just got lost along the way.  The film was too talky, too didactic, too slow, and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. 

Though the film seemed to be a labor of love for Linklater - his affection for the characters was apparent as was his message of friendship and his views on the Iraq War and of America are ones I agree with, but despite good intentions, the film was not a particularly good theatrical experience and seemed too overt, something that surprised me coming from Linklater.  I think of him as a more subtle filmmaker who lets things happen visually. Perhaps if you are a man and a veteran the film might speak to you more. The film felt like a coming-of-age film for middle-aged men and maybe it was.  You have to grow up sometime, I guess. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...love Linklater but he missed the mark on this one for me.



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




156 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Sansho the Bailiff (1954)


In medieval Japan, a governor is sent into exile for choosing compassion over his duty, and when his wife and children try to join him, they are enslaved and put through a life of oppression and suffering.  I know it sounds bleak and it is but trust me...it's also inspiring.

Based on a classic folk tale and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, this is the story of human reslilience in the face of evil.

An idealistic governor in 11th century Japan disobeys the feudal lord and is cast into exile, leaving his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) and children, Anju (Kyoko Kagawa) and Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), to fend for themselves. Their compassionate father had taught the children that "Without mercy, a man is like a beast," and Zushio never wanted to forget that.

Six years later, the wife and children set off to find him.  When they can't find lodging, an old seemingly kind lady offers to put them up but instead sells them into slavery.  The mother and children are separated, the mother is taken by boat to be sold into prostitution and the children are sold to Sansho the Bailiff for a life of hard labor. 

Ten years pass.  The kids are now 18 and 23.  Zushio has given up and accepted his lot, and forgotten what his father had taught him about mercy. In fact,  he has become a trusted henchman for Sansho, carrying out brutal acts on anyone who tries to escape.  He had not been able to live up to his father's teachings about being merciful, but he eventually has an epiphany about how bad he has become.  He decides he must find his father, and Anju and he plot his escape.  He pledges to come back for her but Anju, realizing the futility of that and in order to help Zushio's escape, kills herself as a decoy.

Zushio does escape and is able to regain his family's noble standing and returns to Sansho's compound, this time as an official where he outlaws slavery.  That done, he goes to find his mother in what is one of the most emotionally charged scenes ever.  I defy you not to cry.

This film is a reminder that no matter what century you live in, life can be very hard for many and evil exists, but the love of family and the strength of the human spirit can prevail.

Why it's a Must See: "...one of the great emotional and philosophical journeys ever made for the cinema.  Possibly the high point in an unbroken string of masterpieces made by Kenjo Mizoguchi shortly before his death, [this film] features the perfection of a signature visual style -- made up predominantly by long, complexly staged shots, paced by gliding camera movements..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Mizoguchi was not as famous as Kurosawa but directed 86 films between 1923 and 1956.  He is not well-known now but in the 1950's he was considered the best.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that shows that despite a world of violence, betrayal and evil, love will transcend it.


 
***Book of the Week***




After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry (2017)



A young girl comes of age after the murder of her young mother.

Natural events take on more significance when accompanied by unnatural tragic events in one's life and that is why Perry remembers an eclipse when she was 12 - because soon after her young mother was murdered.  That eclipse was forever imprinted on Perry and stands as a symbol of the darker side of life. 

Sarah lived with her single mother, Crystal, in rural Maine.  Sarah was 12 and asleep in her bed when she heard her mother cry out and when she found her mother, her mother was dead.  The assailant escaped into the night and Sarah was left motherless.  Shipped back and forth between well-meaning friends and her mother's sisters, Sarah's life was difficult and lonely and she grew up in the shadow of her mother's unsolved murder.

Twelve years later, there was a trial but still many unanswered questions, so the adult Sarah, who wanted to understand her mother's life, began a personal investigation that took her back to Maine and back to all of those childhood memories. 

This book is part memoir and part true crime who-done-it as Perry tries to not only make sense of her mother's life but to discover who killed her.  It was 12 years before a suspect surfaced but even today Perry is not really sure if he was the one or what really happened that night even though she was there.

This is a very heart-felt and emotional read that will pull you in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like well-written true crime with a personal slant, you will like this book.

 
 
Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of 



"The Shape of Water"

  
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." 


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Go to IMDB.com, 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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