Friday, March 9, 2018

"Fifty Shades Freed" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Fifty Shades Freed" as well as DVDs "The Florida Project" and "The Names of Love."  The Book of the Week is actor Nick Nolte's memoir "Rebel."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Suspiria."

Fifty Shades Freed: The Final Chapter

Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) and their little sex games are back, hopefully for the last time.

OK, first of all, don't judge. 

I know it's difficult for you to understand why a serious movie critic like myself would go see this film, so let me tell you a little something about the person that is moi.  Once I commit myself to something, I have to see it through.  I mean, that explains why I am still watching "The Bachelor," even though I feel dirty afterwards.  And that's what's happening here.  I saw the first film "Fifty Shades of Grey" out of curiosity because I hadn't read the books, then saw the second one because I saw the first one.  Now since I saw the first two, I felt committed to seeing the third and last one.  Once I make a commitment, I am all in. That's my story and I am sticking to it!

In this third installment subtitled "The Final Chapter (and god help us, hopefully it really is) Anastasia and Christian are back, still playing their little sex games, but now they are married and Anastasia has developed a bit of a backbone.  Yes, she wasn't mad when Christian bought a house without consulting her (I would have been), she didn't tell him to go take a hike when he ordered her to cover up on a nude beach, and she still has to show up when Christian wants to "play," but she got a promotion at work, told the attractive architect that was pawing Christian to call her MRS. Gray and to keep her hands to herself and she even sometimes tells Christian she might have to work late, though she winks at him to soften the blow and possibly avoid a particularly harsh spanking in the red room. So some progress has been made.  Christian is still his hunky and controlling self but the two seem blissfully happy.

That is, until....

You may remember from the last one that Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) was obsessive about Anastasia.  Well, he's baaaaack.  And that is basically the crux of this story.  He stalks them, tries to kill them, he doesn't, end of story.  Now let's get back to those whips and chains.

Speaking of which, this movie, directed by James Foley with a screenplay by Niall Leonard (based on the E.L. James book), might have been helped by more sex!

Rosy the Reviewer says...yawn.

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


The Florida Project (2017)

A side of life you don't see when you are visiting "The Happiest Place on Earth."

The subtitle for this film should have been "Children running wild."

Willem Defoe received a Best Supporting Oscar nomination for his role as Bobby, the kindly but beleagured manager of a worn-at-the heels motel near Disney World, ironically called The Magic Castle.  It's the kind of motel you would not want to vacation in. This is the kind of place where people are living day-to-day and doing what's necessary to make the rent. While people eat cotton candy and scream happily on the rides at The Magic Kingdom, there are families living hardscrabble not-so-magic lives in its shadow.

Meet six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends, the children of those who have either given up on life or are waiting for a break to make their lives work.  Moonee's mother, Hallee (Bria Vinaite), loves her daughter but isn't exactly mother of the year. She turns the occasional trick, does drugs and tries to sell off-market perfume to tourists.  Moonee runs wild with her little pack of friends and gets into mischief.  These are the kinds of kids you see running around with runny noses, dirty clothes, yelling and screaming, talking back to adults and getting in harms way and you wonder, "Where are their parents?" Well, this film shows you.

As you know, I am not a huge fan of child actors and movies about kids. This film could have been my worst nightmare but, though these kids are precocious, they are not precious. They are kids who have not been handed much in life but are able to make the most of what they've got because that's all they know.  This film is also about the foibles of adults and a reminder that while we adults do what we do there are young eyes watching our every move.

Director Sean Baker (he and Chris Bergoch wrote the screenplay) makes the most of the cheesy roadside attractions around Disney World that provide a playground for Moonee and her friends.  The film seems almost like cinema verite as Moonee and her friends explore abandoned buildings, set fires and live on the edge of childhood disaster.  At the same time Bobby is doing his best to run interference for them by kicking a potential child molester off the property and keeping a watchful eye while at the same time trying to collect the rent from people who don't have it and doing maintenance on the building.

We are never shown how these people ended up there.  They are just there.

This film very much reminded me of the film "American Honey," which I reviewed last year and which was about Star, a young teen with nothing for her at home so she hits the road with not much to look forward to down there either. The ending of this film shows Moonee trying to keep running back into her childhood and away from the adult drama, but, though we never know her fate, she could be Star in ten years.

I didn't really know what to think of this film.  It was hard to watch.  Parents who have enough money to live well and care for their kids will cringe as these little kids run wild and pay the price of their parents' bad choices.  

Newcomer Prince does annoying really well and Vinaite, also a newcomer, is cringeworthy as a mother and woman living on the edge, which means they did a good job with their roles. Though Dafoe was fine - he always is - I didn't find his performance particularly Oscar worthy or anything special. I also never figured out what the title of this film meant.  But nevertheless this is a meaningful film that casts a magic spell.

Rosy the Reviewer unsentimental look at life that reminds us that we all don't get to live in the castle.

The Names of Love (2010)

A young French left-wing activist has found an interesting way to convert right wingers - she has sex with them!

Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) doesn't feel special.  Over 2000 French men also have that same name. So naturally he is intrigued when he meets Bahia Benhmamoud (Sara Forestier).  Nobody else has her name.  Bahia not only has a one of a kind name, she is a one of a kind girl.  Let's just say she does her own thing.

We first meet Bahia working at a radio station answering the phone for people who are calling in to a talk radio show.  She is not very good at her job, is rude to callers and even hangs up on them. Arthur is being interviewed on the program about the bird flu.  The two "meet cute" when Bahia walks into the radio studio and confronts Arthur telling him to shut up about the flu already.  This gives Arthur the opportunity to tell Bahia the story of his mother during the war.  His mother was a Holocaust survivor who changed her name to escape being picked up by the Nazis.  

You see this film is all about the significance of names and we how we tend to label each other.

Arthur's mother was a brilliant mathematician.  She meets her future husband - Arthur's Dad - in class.  They marry in 1959 and Arthur is born in 1961.  Arthur's mother doesn't want to be reminded of the Holocaust so the family never speaks of it and she disregards her Jewish heritage.

Next we hear Bahia's story.  She was born during the Algerian War and, though her father's father and relatives were shot by the French, her father never criticized the French and came immigrated to France in 1970 where he met Bahia's mother, a political activist. They also have a subject they never speak of.  When they thought Bahia was taking piano lessons from her piano teacher, she was actually getting molested by him, something they discovered when they realized Bahia couldn't play the piano.

I know it might be difficult to believe, but this is a comedy, though one with a lot going on. Bahia's and Arthur's younger selves make appearances to counsel them which is a cute and humorous device. Likewise, the adult Bahia and Arthur make appearances in flashbacks as their parents' stories are recounted.  It's difficult to explain.  You had to be there, but trust me, it's cute and fun and it works.

The film is very narration heavy during the first half hour as these stories unfold, and it takes a long time to get to the obvious.  These two came from very different backgrounds.  He's a French Jew and she's a half Algerian Arab, but they are going to get together.

Bahia is a kind of dingbat and is so scattered that she forgets to get dressed and walks out of the house naked.  I actually worry about doing things like that myself but I'm old.  She's only in her twenties!  Bahia also is a prostitute and uses sex to convert right wing men - and it works!  But what she doesn't realize is that it's not the sex, it's her personality, her passion and her actions that win people over.

French films are strangely affecting no matter how strange the plot.  No matter what the subject matter I get drawn in (unless it's a Godard film.  I just don't get his movies at all).  This is a comedy but since it's a French comedy, c'est droll and I like droll humor.  The characters are charmant (see how it affected me?  I am already speaking French), and you can always count on an original if quirky story.

Written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc and directed by Leclerc, in some ways this is a typical romantic comedy.  Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, somehow boy and girl need to find their way back to each other. There is also a kind of Annie Hall feel to this film, too, as the characters comment directly to the camera and insert themselves into flashbacks, but there is also a lot going on in the film that transcends it being just another romantic comedy. 

The film comments on the French political scene and though released in 2010 it is amazingly timely today considering immigration issues around the world. That is an issue that deserves compassion and understanding of why people emigrate. The film also embraces the issue of suspicions and assumptions about people from other cultures, i.e. not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arab. Ironically both Jews and Arabs share the same identity and perception problems. And as the title and plot suggest, we also tend to judge people by their names.  We think a person with a certain name is a certain kind of person when in fact there could be a whole backstory about the name that has nothing to do with the person.

Sarah Forestier is a gorgeous young actress and Jacques Gamblin is the kind of quirky Frenchman we have come to expect in these kinds of contemporary French comedies and the film is punctuated by a very French but very touching and lovely soundtrack.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though the film comments on many contemporary topics, at its core, this film is a love story that humorously makes the point that love comes in many forms and why and how people get together can't really be categorized or named.
(In French with English Subtitles)

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

153 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Suspiria (1977)

A new student at a German ballet academy discovers some sinister goings on.

Suzy (Jessica Harper) arrives at a German ballet school and strange things start happening but be forewarned.  It actually takes forever for those strange things to happen, but when they do the film is all very over the top, like a blind guy's dog attacking him and eating his throat.  The production values reminded me a bit of 1970's porn movies, not that I would have any experience with those, cough, "Behind the Green Door," cough "The Devil in Miss Jones." cough.

Suzy isn't too smart.  If I showed up at a school and saw blood coming out of the tap in the sink I would be packing my bags and heading home. Suzy doesn't and eventually discovers she is in a coven, and then it's all very "Rosemary's Baby" after that with Suzy trying to figure out what is real and what's not.

The acting is atrocious and it doesn't help that some of the actors appear to be dubbed.  Likewise, the dialogue is really bad too.  I actually laughed through most of it when I suspect I was supposed to be scared. I also said "What the hell?" out loud at least ten times and the discordant, ominous soundtrack just about sent me to the loony bin which is where these characters belonged.

This film is very witchy, very 1970's and very Italian and has just been remade with Dakota Johnson starring.  I can't help but wonder if it's going to be as campy and cheesy as this one.

Why it's a Must See (and this better be good!): "[Dario] Argento's film stands out for the sheer intensity of watching --and hearing -- it, the latter due to an almost overpowering score by the director and the Italian rock group Goblin. From beginning to end, this is a nightmarish fairy tale...Finally, [the film] reveals the horror film to be a kind of initiation for protagonist and spectator alike --the horror genre itself as a kind of secular mystery religion."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...intense, yes. Nightmare, yes.  One I don't want to repeat.
(In Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines by Nick Nolte (2018)

A revealing memoir by an actor whose career has spanned five decades. 

Named People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1992, 

it was difficult to see Nick Nolte like this in 2002:

But, hey, we all get old and we all make some poor choices (he blames this mug shot on GHB addiction, though he had his share of other addictions as well) and Nick owns up to all of it in this candid memoir.  If you have followed his career at all, you know he lived life on his own terms, called things like they were and wasn't all that easy to get along with, and the tone of this book is just the way you would expect it to be.

Nick was one of those guys who almost had to be an actor because he wasn't that good at much else besides football.  What do you do when you can't play football anymore?

"I had become an actor because real life was hard for me.  Sometimes it was really rough.  Acting was different from real life, yet it gave me the chance to search for complex stories that helped me understand and cope with what I encountered away from stage lights."

Nick grew up in the Midwest but made his way to California by way of Arizona where he got the acting bug, but it wasn't until he was in his 30's that he hit it big with the early TV mini-series "Rich Man, Poor Man."  He was a handsome guy with a gravelly voice but he was also not easy to get along with.  He didn't play by the rules and was one of those actors who lived his roles and you know how that is. Diff-i-cult.  His career has been a mostly successful one that has spanned five decades and he candidly shares his experiences in some iconic movies ("48 Hours," "North Dallas Forty," "The Prince of Tides") and dishes a bit about his fellow actors (he didn't like Edward Norton), but he also shares the lows of his life - addiction to alcohol and drugs, bad marriages and depression.

He sums up his life this way:

"By turns, I had been brilliant and had fallen flat on my face; I had become father to two tremendous children and they were both proud and embarrassed by their dad.  I had taken big risks along the way, and loved a number of women powerfully and sometimes actor like me can portray a thousand men over a lifetime, but away from the lights and cameras, I've had nothing but my own personal experience to turn to, and real life, as I've written, has never been easy for me."

Rosy the Reviewer says...and he lays it all out in this candid and engrossing memoir.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Black Panther"


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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