Friday, February 15, 2019

"What Men Want" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "What Men Want" as well as DVDs "Tea With the Dames" and "The Bookshop."  The Book of the Week is "The Duchess," a biography of Camilla Parker-Bowles.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Eagle."]




What Men Want


When sports agent, Ali Davis, is denied a promotion because she doesn't click with men, she hits her head and when she wakes up she has the power to read mens' thoughts -- and that changes everything.

OK, how many movies have there been where someone gets hit on the head and wakes up with some new ability? Let's count.  Well, there is "Phenomenon (1996)" where an average guy gets hit with a ball of light and wakes up really smart; In 2004, Tracy Ullman became a sex addict after getting hit over the head in "A Dirty Shame;" then Amy Schumer stars as an insecure girl who nobody notices until she bumps her head and wakes up thinking she is a supermodel in "I Feel Pretty (2018)," and today, Rebel Wilson opens in "Isn't It Romantic," a film about yet another woman being hit on the head, but this time she wakes up and her life has turned into a romantic comedy.  

And now we add this film to the list, which, of course, is a remake of "What Women Want (2000)," which starred Mel Gibson back before we hated him for being a racist.  His character didn't exactly get a bump on the head, but he was "shocked" into having the ability to read women's thoughts.

Now you know how I feel about remakes.  I rant about them enough, but in case you missed the earlier rants, let's just say I don't like them.  My feeling is if the film was good to begin with, why not watch that one?  Why do it again? But I am going to now shock you. I liked this one, and it's because of Taraji P. Henson who makes this film work, and in this political climate, the film is especially fun and relevant because we get to hear what men are actually thinking.

And what do we women learn when we can hear what men are thinking?  They are worse than we thought!

Ali Davis (Henson) is a sports agent, clearly a woman in a man's world.  She has not yet been able to break into the boy's club and become a partner in her firm, but she is confident it is going to happen at the next big meeting.  She thinks that to make it she needs to act like a man - be ballsy, don't take any crap, be one of the boys, that kind of thing. But when she is passed over once again for partner and that title goes to a guy, she is ironically told it's probably because she just doesn't connect with men. She is discouraged but decides that if she signs young Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), who is slated to be the NBA's number one draft pick, she will get in with the boys and get her promotion.  But to get to Jamal she needs to get to his Dad, Joe "Dollah" Barry (Tracy Morgan).

In the meantime, Ali drowns her sorrows with her girlfriends, Olivia (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Ciarra (Phoebe Robinson) and Mari (Tamala Jones) at Mari's bachelorette party where part of the fun is Sister (Erykah Badu), a quasi psychic who also sells pot out of the back room of a beauty parlor.  Sister reads Ali's tarot cards, has her drink some strange tea and later Ali passes out and hits her head.  When Ali wakes up in the hospital, she can hear the doctor's thoughts. She actually thinks she hears him speaking so isn't especially concerned, but later in the car when she realizes she can hear her assistant, Brandon's (Josh Brener) thoughts and, he realizes it too, the two scream in unison over the revelation and I got my first laugh.  That screaming trope is something that makes me laugh every time.

This remake pretty much follows the same story as the Mel Gibson version.  Gibson was a man thought not capable of selling products to women but when he gets the ability to read women's thoughts, his life changes for the better --- for awhile.  The same thing happens here.  When Ali realizes what has happened to her, Ali thinks, yeah, now is my chance. I can use this to my advantage. She makes the best of it...for awhile. But eventually it all goes wrong.

Ali has a series of silly adventures using her new knowledge but what she really learns in the end is that she doesn't need to act or think like a man to influence and interact positively with men.  She just needs to be herself.

So here is the measuring rod for comedies.  Is it funny?  Yes, mostly, but more important, the film is enjoyable.

I am a huge Taraji fan, even more so after seeing this.  I thought she was robbed by not getting a Best Actress nomination for her role in "Hidden Figures," that one being a more dramatic role and the most pivotal of the film.  We all know her as Cookie in "Empire," so we know she can play that kind of role, too, but this is strictly light comedy, slapstick even, and she can do that too.  She has that je ne sais qua of wonderful film actresses. J-Lo has it too.  Her realness oozes off the screen.  We really care about her and we forgive her everything.  So when the movie goes a bit off track, that's OK, because we love Taraji.

Tracy Morgan does his usual thing, though he is actually toned down a bit which is good, but the funniest person in the whole film is Erykah Badu.  She is a singer/songwriter in real life, so who knew she was also a comic actress?  With her huge wig, fake teeth and glasses she is absolutely hilarious.  Don't miss her in the credits at the end when the ladies improvise a visit to Sister for a reading.

With a screenplay by a ton of people and directed by Adam Shankman, who I think of more as a choreographer and ex-judge on "So You Think You Can Dance," this film is a fun female empowerment movie similar to another one I liked this year, "Second Act." As far as I am concerned, we can never have enough women empowerment movies.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are looking for a great Girls Night film, this is it.





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


On DVD




Tea With The Dames (2018)


A documentary where Dames Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins get together for tea to talk about their lives and careers. 

And what lives and careers these ladies have had!

This is not exactly a documentary. It's more like four friends getting together for a chin wag!

If you haven't been living under a rock, you no doubt know who Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are but Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins might be names you don't know.  But they are both also venerable British actresses, and Plowright was also famously married to Lawrence Olivier. When you see the archival footage of stage and film performances, old interviews and photos included in this film, you will no doubt recognize those two as well or, if not, be introduced to them.

The four are taking tea at Joan's lovely country house, but sadly Joan is blind having suffered from macular degeneration and her hearing is bad as well.  But she hasn't lost her sense of humor.  Nor have the other ladies who are clearly enjoying their time together, especially Judi whose whole body shakes when she laughs.

With questions from director Roger Michell, the dames talk about playing Shakespeare; their acting styles; Joan talks about Larry (Olivier) and how being married to him was "a privilege" and "a nightmare." Joan and Eileen share what it was like to not be conventionally pretty actresses; the four talk about getting old; death; and how women of a certain age get treated.  They also wonder who was a Dame first (Judi).  

All are old friends who have not only played the same roles but acted together e.g. hey were all in "Tea with Mussollini."  They also all played the role of Shakespeare's Cleopatra, though most of them didn't feel beautiful enough to play her. Judi remembers that when asked to play the role she replied, "Do you really want a menopausal dwarf to play the part?"

It's also juicy as each weighs in other actors and do a bit of name-dropping so it helps if you know your British actors (Timothy West, the formidable Edith Evans) or the classic plays ("The Importance of being Earnest," "The Three Sisters"). Of course, Maggie talks about being on "Downton Abby," and when she gets mad at a photographer, shows that she might actually be as much a rather negative curmudgeon in real life as her character, Violet Crawley.

When Michell asks, "What would your advice be to your young selves?"

Joan -  "It's never too late."
Eileen- "Not to be so very bad tempered and confrontational.  Listen more."
Maggie-"When in doubt, doubt." (see what I mean about negative?)
Judi -    "Try not to be so susceptible to falling in love" which made everyone                  laugh including Judi!

It's wonderful to see four successful actresses, all looking wonderfully their age without benefit of plastic surgery having such fun together, some of it silly, such as when they wondered: "How many times can you say "Dame Judi Dench" really fast (without messing up)?"

The film ends with Judi reciting the lines from Shakespeare's "The Tempest,"

"We are such stuff as dreams are made of..."

"Our revels now are ended.  These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.  We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with sleep."

Sigh.

I was an actress once and watching this film, I was in heaven. 
The only thing I didn't like about this film was that they lamented that we Americans call them Dame Smith, Dame Dench instead of Dame Maggie, Dame Judi.  No we don't.

If you love acting and these actresses, you are invited to their tea and it's a lovely way to feel like you are spending time with them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a tea you don't want to miss.
(So how many times could YOU say "Dame Judi Dench" really fast?)



The Bookshop (2017)


In a small 1950's fishing village in East Anglia, Florence Green decides to open a bookshop not realizing the kind of ruthless opposition she would face.

Florence Green (Emily Mortimer), a widow, moves to a small town after the death of her husband and decides to open a bookshop there to help get her life back together again. She chooses The Old House, a building that has been standing vacant for years. The village is populated with an odd assortment of characters some of whom do not wish Florence well in her endeavor.  There is the rich hermit, Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), who loves to read and with whom Florence corresponds; there is Mr. Keble (Hunter Tremayne), the skeptical banker; Milo North (James Lance) the ex-actor; young Christine (Honor Kneafsey), a young girl who Florence hires to work in the shop and who ironically doesn't like to read; and Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), a wealthy local resident who had wanted The Old House for a local arts center and who goes on a mission to get the bookshop shut down.  

The film has a voice-over narration throughout and at the end in a bit of a twist we discover who that person is.

Emily Mortimer is one of those actresses who you recognize but don't know her name but she has had a successful acting career since the 90's.  She also has one of those poignant English faces and is one of our most underrated actresses.  Every time I see her, I think, "I really like her.  This is going to be good."

Bill Nighy also guarantees a good time and Patricia Clarkson seems a strange choice for a British matron but she pulls it off.  She does evil very well.

Written and directed by Isobel Coixet (from the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald), this is my kind of film.  Lovely, quaint English town, British actors I recognize, a bit of a romance and a quiet little story with a sweet, fateful ending, not to mention that, I too, wanted to run a book store before book stores went the way of the dinosaur.  Thanks, Amazon!

My mother used to say that you would never feel alone if you read.  Here that same sentiment is expressed:

"No one ever feels alone in a bookshop."

Very much in the English tradition, this little film doesn't have a lot of drama except for whether or not Mrs. Gamart is going to screw things up for our heroine, Florence, but if you love books and long for the old days when things seemed less complicated, this is for you.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked movies like "84 Charing Cross Road" or "The Hundred-Foot Journey," you will enjoy this.




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



107 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




The Eagle (1925)



A Cossack becomes a wanted man when he seeks revenge on the man who stole his family's land.

Vladimir Dubrovsky (Rudolph Valentino), one of the Czarina's (Louise Dresser) soldiers, comes to her attention when he saves a runaway carriage carrying Mascha (Vilma Banky), a beautiful young woman.  The Czarina invites Dubrovsky to come to her chambers at six.  Dubrovsky worries why the Czarina wants to see him but his colleague says, "Don't worry my boy.  If she wants you at six it means supper not Siberia." But let's just say, it wasn't supper she wanted. So when our handsome hero spurns the Czarina and leaves her in a huff, she is not happy - a woman scorned and all of that.  He is branded a deserter and she orders that he is to be captured "dead or alive." Then she moves on to the next handsome soldier.  Our Czarina is kind of a sexual predator.

Dubrovsky becomes a wanted man.  

In the meantime he also discovers that Kyrilla Troekouroff (James A. Marcus) has stolen his family's land so he sets out to seek revenge on him. He takes on the persona of the Black Eagle, a sort of Robin Hood character, in order to terrorize Kyrilla.  He also impersonates a French tutor that Kyrilla has hired to teach French to his daughter.  And speaking of the daughter, well, there is a hitch in Dubrovsky's plan. She turns out to be Mascha, the young woman in the runaway carriage he saved. He falls in love with her, so now he is torn between his love for her and his desire to seek revenge.

I remember seeing Rudolph Valentino for the first time in "The Sheik," a movie that would certainly not go over today in this age of "Me too."  He literally kidnaps a woman, takes her to his tent in the desert, and has his way with her.  To a young girl who didn't know any better, that seemed quite romantic, and I wasn't alone, which probably explains some of the problems we have today.  But Valentino was a dashing figure known for his smoldering looks.  Here he's not quite as dashing as he was in "The Sheik," but this one is much more PC and Valentino is able to show some of his comic skills.  Directed by Clarence Brown, this film holds up surprisingly well for a silent film. Even the acting isn't as broad as some.

In case you are not familiar with Valentino, he was born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella in 1895 in Italy and became a sex symbol pop icon of the 1920's.  He was the first "Latin Lover" and his film "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" was the first film to make a million dollars and stands today as the sixth highest grossing silent film ever.  He was a handsome, charismatic fellow known for his "smoldering looks" and when he died prematurely at 31 it caused riots around the world.

Whenever I watch silent films, I am reminded of how little dialogue is needed for us to know what is going on. A picture is worth a thousand words. All of the romance, humor and drama could be conveyed with looks and gestures and minimal intertitles (that's what those dialogue cards are called). When I watch silent films I am drawn back to before I was born, when my parents were young.  They were born in 1908 so those were the kinds of films that filled their childhoods.  That was what going to the movies was for them.


I found this film on Amazon Prime and the quality isn't that good but I was amazed that these films even exist today which is a good thing.


Why it's a Must See: "...a light-hearted frolic whose balance of comedy and drama foreshadows later action films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Mark of Zorro (1940)."

--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...what they said.



***The Book of the Week***




The Duchess: Camilla Parker Bowles and the Love Affair that Rocked the Crown by Penny Junor (2018)


A biography of Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall.

Warning:  If you are in the Diana camp and blame Camilla Parker Bowles for everything bad that happened to the Princess (and I do), then you might not want to read this flattering biography where Junor thinks Bowles is the best thing to happen to Prince Charles since sliced bread. 

Though I admit, I have always been and always will be in the Princess Diana corner and feel she was an unwitting lamb led to the slaughter that was life as Prince Charles' wife, this is a well-written and fascinating biography of Bowles and her rise fame.


Camilla met Charles early on and he was smitten.  But he dragged his feet and Camilla really had her heart set on the handsome and sought after Andrew Parker Bowles.  Despite the fact he was a womanizer, she hung in there until he finally proposed but even marriage didn't stop the womanizing.


Then Charles, over 30, was pressured to find a virgin, get married and provide an heir.  Enter 19-year-old Diana, who was more a suitable bride for Charles than a love match.  Marriage followed, then "an heir and a spare," and Charles had done his duty.  Through all of that, Camilla and Charles remained friends and she was often his confidant especially since they ran in the same circles and she enjoyed the same things that he did - polo, gardening, the joys of country life, yawn, and other stuff.


Junor swears there was no hanky-panky between Charles and Camilla after he married Diana until Diana's and Charles' marriage was "irretrievably broken" but Junor can't be trusted because she clearly disapproved of Diana over the years.  This book is all about improving Camilla's image and, I hate to say, it does to a certain extent.  But I have and always will be in the Diana camp.


I have been a royal watcher for most of my life.  


Prince Charles was born the same year that I was which must have given my mother the idea that perhaps her little daughter might one day marry a Prince, because growing up I remember that she had a LOT of Prince Charles memorabilia and books about the Royal Family.  But when Diana came along, I, too, was totally hooked.  I loved her and loved living in the world with her in it.  When she died so tragically, I was devastated.  It's so strange how one can have feelings about someone one has never met, but like I said, I liked sharing the world with her.  Here is a taste of how I felt - "Remembering Diana."

So if you admired her like I did and you read this book, you might want to throw it against the wall at times because Junor is clearly in the Camilla-Charles camp and has some not so nice things to say about Diana, but despite that, she has also been Royal watching a long time, is well-connected and knows how it all operates.  The section early on in the book where she breaks down all of the various Royal titles and who outranks who and why is fascinating.


Similarly, Camilla's history is interesting.


There is nobility in her lineage (she and Charles are actually ninth cousins once removed and might even be closer to second cousins if the rumors about her grandmother being the child of Edward VII's are true), as well as some not so noble behavior. You see, her great-grandmother, Alice Keppel, though married herself, was the favored mistress of King Edward VII and when Camilla and Prince Charles met Camilla she supposedly remarked about that by saying something cheeky like "How about it?" 

But if you are still not convinced, here are some Camilla "Fun Facts" that might even the playing field a bit where Diana is concerned (my own research)!:

  • Camilla wears Spanx
  • She uses bee-venom facials
  • And best of all (Diana would love this) Camilla and Charles can claim a connection to Dracula
Diana called Camilla "The Rottweiller."  I think she might have also enjoyed calling her Dracula.

Rosy the Reviewer says...you Royal watchers out there will enjoy this if you can get over the Charles-Diana-Camilla triangle!  



Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday

for 


"Isn't It Romantic?"


and


The Week in Reviews


(What To See and What To Avoid)


as well as


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 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.

Friday, February 8, 2019

"Miss Bala" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Miss Bala" as well as DVDs "What They Had" and "Suspiria (the new one)." The Book of the Week is "Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Fellini's "The Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria)"]



Miss Bala


Cautionary tale: What can happen when you are at the wrong place at the wrong time!

Poor Gloria (Gina Rodriguez).  She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.  But not just once.  It happened over and over and over...First she was in a night club that got shot up during an assassination attempt; then she was kidnapped by a corrupt cop; then kidnapped again by the assassins who are also drug dealers and gun runners; then she was kidnapped by the DEA and forced to work for them; then she was in the middle of a gun fight between the bad guys and the DEA; and if that wasn't enough -- she had to win a beauty pageant!

You had to have been there.

Gloria Fuentes is an L.A. makeup artist who hasn't lived in Mexico for quite some time, but when her friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo), who lives in Tijuana, asks her to come and do her make-up for the Miss Baja California Pageant, Gloria heads to Tijuana.  It's not long before the two find themselves in the midst of an assassination attempt in a nightclub.  Gloria just happens to be in the ladies room when the gunmen gain access to the club through a window there.  The head bad guy, Lino (Ismael Cruz Cordova) grabs her but then tells her to take off.  She does but can't find Suzu.  She dodges bullets and ends up in a cafe calling and calling Suzu until she finally falls asleep.

When Gloria wakes up alone in the cafe, the dust has settled around the nightclub. She sees a police car so head over there and tells the cop that she can identify the gunmen.  He hustles her into his police car to drive her to the station except he doesn't.  He drives her to a hotel where the bad guys are holed up.  You see, everyone in Tijuana, or in this movie at least, are bent, which is hip talk for on the take, crooked, etc. You can't trust anyone. So now Gloria is a hostage of the bad guys and is taken to the home of that head bad guy, Lino, who had originally let her go. And can I say?  He is one hot bad guy.  And the rich head of a big drug/gun running/you name it cartel.

Anyway, she tells him she just wants to find her friend and he says he will help her if she does one little thing for him. You know how that goes.  Drive a car and park it around a corner.  She does that only to discover that the car was full of explosives and she had parked the car in from of a DEA safe house which Lino and his pals then blow up.

But Gloria manages to escape from hot Lino only to be picked up by the DEA who have had their eyes on her and who are not happy about her role in the explosion which killed a bunch of their guys.  Once again, she says she is a victim and just wants to find her friend.  The head DEA guy, Brian Reich (Matt Lauria), says OK, but now you have to help us.  Go back and plant this tracking device in Lino's phone. So now she has to be a mole for the DEA and...wait for it.... she has to also win the Miss Baja California beauty contest.

Exhausted yet?  Well, you can imagine how Gloria must feel.  Geez.

Will Gloria ever escape all of this bad stuff?  What happened to her friend? Will Gloria ever find her?  Will she win the beauty pageant?

Well, you know she will, but not without going through a bunch of other stuff and then turning all Scarface on everyone.  When she picked up the AR-15, I half expected to hear "Say hello to my little friend." I also expected to hear what Miss Bala meant.  At first I thought it was the name of the beauty pageant but then I looked it up. It means "Miss Bullet" in Spanish, so there you go... That sort of sums it all up. The message in this film is don't mess with Gina Rodriguez.  The other message is here comes a sequel!

Gina Rodriguez is not your classically beautiful Hollywood actress which is probably why she has been doing so well lately. She looks like a regular person.  Us regular persons can identify with her so when she goes through all of this impossible stuff we root for her.  And even if we don't believe in beauty pageants, we root for her to win that as well.

Directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who also directed the first "Twilight" movie as well as the poignant "Miss You Already," with a screenplay by Gareth Cunnet-Alcocer, this is a remake of Gerardo Neranjo's 2011 film of the same name, and word on the street is that it's been given the Hollywood treatment and lost much of the message of the original.  I didn't see the first one, but this one screams of Lifetime Movie.  I mean how many sticky situations does this poor girl need to get herself out of?  

This is also the second or third film I've seen in as many months where Mexicans are portrayed as gun-toting members of drug cartels not to mention that practically everyone Gloria meets in Mexico is crooked or corrupt. I am not of Mexican descent nor do I live in Mexico, but even I am getting a bit tired and uncomfortable when I see these constant stereotypes on screen - drug-dealing Mexicans and Mexico painted as a hell hole.

So this film isn't going to do much for Mexico-United States relations, but it's a fast-paced, if sometimes unbelievable, ride, and Rodriquez certainly puts her all into it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...but I don't think it's worth rushing out to the theatre to see.  If this one sounds good to you, wait for the DVD.



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


On DVD



What They Had (2018)


How a parent's dementia affects the whole family.

This is a really wonderful film, but I need to warn you at the outset that this is probably going to be less a film review than the story of my own experience with my mother's dementia.  However, I hope you will read it anyway as this is something so many of us have dealt with or will deal with.  And I do talk about the film.

Bridget (Hilary Swank), who lives in L.A., has arrived in Chicago with her teenage daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga).  She has been called there by her brother, Nick (Michael Shannon), because their mother, Ruth (Blythe Danner), is missing.  She has done a runner in the middle of the night. You see, their mother Ruth is suffering from Alzheimer's and their father, Burt (Robert Forster), is in denial.  When Ruth is found, the family has to come to grips and deal with what will happen next.

When Ruth ran off, she had made it as far as the train and was headed back to her old house in Aurora to talk to her mother despite the fact that Ruth's mother has been dead for years.

Personal story, verging on rant, #1: I can't tell you how close this hit to home for me. I have a personal experience very much like this.

My mother had a stroke at the age of 89, a stroke that caused dementia.  I lived thousands of miles away and my older sister also did not live in our hometown where our mother lived alone.  But I think out mother was losing it even before the stroke.  I am sure that people who experience early dementia know something isn't quite right and they become adept at hiding their confusion. They also come in and out of clarity. Since our father had died almost ten years earlier and our mother had lived alone ever since, only phone calls kept us in touch so things were probably deteriorating for our mother even before the stroke. The first time I realized my mother wasn't doing well was when she asked me if I had children.  What a shock that was since she loved my kids.  

Anyway, the decision was made by my older sister to put my mother in a facility.  I am not going to go into detail about how or why that happened but it happened. So I can totally relate to the tension and disruption in the family in this film as they all try to decide what to do about Ruth.  In my mother's case, when she was in the nursing home, she knew enough that she wasn't at home with her family and she, too, was a runner.  So much so that they put a tracking device on her.  But where there is a will there is a way.  The human spirit hangs in there no matter how the mind gets messed up.  Somehow my mother managed to get some money and to talk the doctor into taking off her tracking device and she, like Ruth, headed out.  She boarded a bus and was heading back home to be with her mother until someone ratted her out.

This film is also an uncomfortable reminder for someone my age.  

It brings back bad memories of what happened to my mother and it's not lost on me that Ruth could be me one day. Watching one's mother or father disappear right in front of you makes you challenge your own life.  That's what happens in this film. Bridget must make some decisions about her unhappy marriage; Nick is upset that his girlfriend dumped him because he is avoiding marriage; Emma suffers from depression and wants to drop out of college; and Bert refuses to let go of Ruth until it is all taken out of his hands in a sad twist of fate.

Based on the lives of her own grandparents, writer/director Elizabeth Chomko paints a sympathetic but unsentimental picture of the experience of watching a parent sink into dementia, and it rings true. Dementia is a strange phenomenon where one moment the person we have known is there and then just as quickly, gone.  Ruth seems perfectly OK and then, like my mother asking me if I had children, Ruth asks Burt and her daughter, Bridget, how they know each other. And like my mother riding the bus to find her own mother, so does Ruth. This is a sensitive portrayal of a family coming to grips with their mother's dementia, having to let go of what they had, while at the same time living their present lives and dealing with all of that.  Life has to go on.  Families either come together at times like these or are pulled apart.

Nick believes Ruth needs to be institutionalized. Bridget isn't sure and Burt is emphatic that she stay with him.  And it doesn't help that the doctors and caregivers are all much, much younger and spouting platitudes about how good old folks will feel hanging out with their peers and how much safer they will feel, especially since they can't leave!  The disconnect between the young and the old is apparent.

Who is going to care for Ruth?

Personal story, total rant #2: Here is how I feel about institutionalizing our old folks.  

I totally understand an adult child's fear that something bad will happen to the parent if he or she is living alone and doesn't appear to be able to cope.  I mean, they might burn the house down or fall and lie there for days. So putting our old parents in an institution takes that worry away, right? Well, folks, after seeing what happened to my mother, who did not go into the institution willingly, I think I would rather die in that fire or lie on the floor of my own home than experience some of what my mother did in the last three years of her life: the loss of privacy, the indignity, the loneliness knowing she was no longer with her loved ones.  But that's just me...now.  Perhaps there will come a time when I  will no longer want to deal with life anymore and will go willingly.

But this isn't just a story about Ruth and her dementia.  It's also about Bridget and Nick coming to grips with what is happening in their own lives.  There is nothing like seeing your parents waste away while at the same time maintaining a long-standing love affair to make you examine what is going on in your own life.

The acting ensemble is wonderful. Both Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon are the kinds of actors that disappear into their roles, which could account for why they are not bigger stars.  Swank has won an Academy Award and is a bigger name than Shannon, despite the fact that he has been nominated.  I think the problem for him is that he has played a wide range of quirky characters and disappears so completely you don't recognize him the next time you see him.  I mean, he has played every kind of role from a crazed real estate broker in "99 Homes (for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe)" to Elvis in "Elvis and Nixon" to a nutty, sinister FBI guy in "The Shape of Water (with Academy Award nominations in 2009 and 2017)."  I think nutty and sinister are the key words here.  He does nutty and sinister very well. But I think Shannon can probably do just about anything. 

Robert Forster and Blythe Danner round out the ensemble.  Both have had long, successful acting careers but Danner is probably one of our most underrated actresses.  I mean her own daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, has won an Oscar, and in Danner's over 50 year career, she hasn't.  Where is the justice?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful little film that will give some comfort to those of us having to deal with our aging parents.





Suspiria (2018)


Turns out a bunch of witches are running a dance studio. I kind of thought that when I was taking dance lessons, but these are REAL witches!

The film begins in 1977 with a mysterious girl (Patricia, played by Chloe Grace Moretz) visiting her shrink, Joseph Klemperer.  She is strange, indeed, but even more strangely tells him that her dance school is run by witches.  Next the film switches to what looks like a farm of Amish people and the mother is dying.  Finally, we are back in Berlin watching Dakota Johnson in a god awful red wig seemingly new in town looking for an address.

Dakota is Susie Bannion, an American girl, who has come to Berlin to audition for a prestigious dance academy.  Even though she has little experience, Susie quickly becomes the protege of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). What she doesn't know is that she has become part of a dance company run by witches who are always looking for "new blood," and I mean this literally.  They need the blood of young girls to keep their leader, Mother Marcos, alive. 

As for that girl who was seen early in the film visiting her shrink?  We discover that she has mysteriously disappeared from the school. She had left her journals in Klemperer's office and as he reads them he becomes increasingly alarmed and decides to visit the school to investigate.

It takes forever, and I mean F-O-R-E-V-E-R, for Susie to figure out what is going on and it all ends in an over-the-top orgy of blood and sacrifice and Susie's true identity is revealed, all of which will make you say out loud, "What the hell?"  Well, I did anyway.  Good thing I was home alone and not in a crowded theatre, though I have a feeling I wouldn't have been alone in saying that.

Other than over-the-top stories, which this one is, I also have a problem with actors using accents.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Here it doesn't because everyone is so inconsistent.  Sometimes the actors speak German (with subtitles); other times they speak with a German accent; and then some others don't.  I get it, already.  We are in Berlin.  Everyone is speaking German. Yes, they might speak in accented English to Susie, who is American, but I don't need to hear accented English when the Germans are speaking to each other.  If actors are going to speak in accented English, I just ask that it be consistent.

But here is something else I didn't like. The dancing is also awful.  I am not a particular fan of the Martha Graham form of modern dance with the strange gyrations, but here it is even worse than usual.  Lots and lots of writhing.  Speaking of which, is there ever going to come a time when Dakota Johnson is not doing some form of sexual writhing?  However, the dancing is used to good effect in a very disturbing scene. When Olga (Elena Fokina), one of the students, accuses the matrons of being witches, she attempts to leave.  She becomes disoriented and finds herself alone in one of the practice rooms and can't get out.  At the same time, Susie is performing a dance for Madame Blanc and all of her movements physically and violently inflict damage on Olga in the other room, as if she is Susie's voodoo doll.  As Susie dances, Olga's body is thrown around the room and contorted with bones breaking and protruding.  Very disturbing. If that was Fokina doing that, bravo!  Or kudos to the stuntwoman - Wow.

Dakota Johnson plays Dakota Johnson which is fine for this role but it is Tilda Swinton who once again amazes.  Let's just say that all of the speaking roles are played by women.  I was flabbergasted to realize that Dr. Klemperer was Swinton!  She also played Madame Markos and that is a sight to see.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino with a screenplay by David Kajganich, this is a remake of the 1977 film written and directed by Dario Argento. I reviewed it last year as part of "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project," it being one of those films we are supposed to see so we can die happy.  

So, how does this remake compare to the original?

First of all, I have to ask "Why?"  Why remake this thing? Wasn't once enough?  I certainly don't think this one will make the "1001 Movies" book.  And for some reason, Suzy has become Susie.  Again, why?  As per my original review, it takes forever for anything to happen, and for a horror film, that's not good, but in this remake it takes even longer. Also, in my original review, I was aware of the upcoming remake and pondered whether it would be as campy and cheesy as that one, and unfortunately, this new one is not, because campy and cheesy would have been a lot more fun than this movie was. And worse?  This one was two and a half hours long. 

But what do the two have in common?  I didn't like either one of them.  


Guadagnino also directed "Call Me By Your Name," one of last year's Oscar nominees for Best Picture.  I didn't like that one either.

Rosy the Reviewer says...even if you like horror, you can skip this one.  No, let's change that - especially if you like horror, you should skip this one.





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


108 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




The Nights of Cabiria (1957)


An eternally optimistic streetwalker tries to find true love only to discover what most of us women already know: men are scum.

Alright, that's a bit harsh.  But if this film is any indication of the true nature of men, I am right on target.

Maria "Cabiria" Ceccarelli (Giuliette Masina) is a sweet little streetwalker, working the streets of Rome.  She is not particularly thrilled to be a prostitute.  In fact she is rather ashamed of it, but she is a proud, optimistic woman who doesn't have a pimp and has managed to save enough money to buy her own place, though, like most of us, she yearns for love and happiness. However, she isn't a very good judge of character when it comes to men.  When we first see her, she is happily cavorting in a field with her new boyfriend, Georgio, who throws her in the river and steals her purse.  She almost drowns but is saved by some young boys who were hanging out by the river.

But Cabiria is your classic plucky hooker with a heart of gold and is an eternal optimist, who just wants to find happiness and a man she can trust, so when she meets Oscar (Francois Perier), an accountant who seems sincere and who wants to marry her, she jumps at the chance, sells her house and plans to run off with him, only to discover all he wanted was the money she got for her house. 

Directed by Federico Fellini, this is one of his more accessible films.  It has a great story, poignancy, and even humor, though we are left hanging as to what will happen to Cabiria.

He has said that of all his characters, Cabiria is the one he was still worried about, an especially poignant statement considering that Cabiria was played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, a lovely little gamine of a woman who seemed to be channeling Charlie Chaplin at times.

Fellini also said in 1961:

"I think it would be immoral to present a ready-made solution at the end of a movie."

So now we are left to worry about Cabiria too.

I find Italian Neorealism much more accessible in general than it's French counterpart, the French New Wave. I will take Fellini, Rosellini, De Sica and Visconti over Godard and Bresson any day.  But it is Giuiletta Masina who really makes this film work.  You can tell she was Fellini's wife because he focuses entirely on her.  She is indeed a lovely and charming character. So much so that Neil Simon took this story and wrote the book for the musical "Sweet Charity," which was also a popular film starring Shirley MacLaine.

Why it's a Must See: "Giulietta Masina...justifiably won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her portrayal of ...[Cabiria]...[This film] is--like another of Fellini's masterpieces, La Dolce Vita (1960) -- told from the perspective of the underclass, a glimpse at the proverbial other half gilded with optimistic joy but ultimately steeped in sadness."
---"1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die"

This film also won the Oscar in 1958 for Best Foreign Film Oscar.


Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a charming story with a charming, unforgettable heroine. When it comes to Italian Realism vs. French New Wave, for me the Italians win every time.


***The Book of the Week***




Hollywood's Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik (2019)



A biography of writer Eve Babitz and the Hollywood she inhabited.

Eve Babitz is probably not a name you recognize but in the 1960's and 1970's she cut a huge swath in the pop culture world of L.A. 

However, I only know about her because I read her books, "Eve's Hollywood" and "Sex and Rage," fictionalized memoirs of her life in Hollywood. She was my contemporary, outrageous and hilariously funny and her books spoke to me, so I always remembered her but didn't really know that much more about her.  Turns out she was much more than a writer.  She was a Hollywood icon who first came to fame when she was 20 when she posed for a Julian Wasser photo playing chess - naked - with artist Marcel Duchamp, who had then dedicated himself to chess.


She was that kind of gal.  

Unafraid, in your face, funny, sexually active and loving to talk about it. She was also a troublemaker with an aura of danger, a 1960's femme fatale who made no apologies for her behavior and she was exhausting.  All very L.A. in the 60's.  She went on to have affairs with Steve Martin, Jim Morrison, writer Dan Wakefield, and Harrison Ford, to only name a few of her conquests, and she gained entry into the L.A. music and art world when she designed some iconic album covers, most notably the collage album "Buffalo Springfield Again."




The goddaughter of Igor Stravinsky and a graduate of the infamous Hollywood High, she grew up in a home filled with music and literary folks (her father was a cellist). She was a groupie before we knew what those were, a free spirit and a kind of West Coast Dorothy Parker, her opinions and witticisms legendary. She lived life on her own terms. When she started writing, she was discovered by Joan Didion and, after that, Babitz would go on to write seven books  However, she was also one of those exhausting types who never stopped having opinions and loudly proclaiming them as truths, and eventually she burned herself out, literally.  She overdid it with drugs and accidentally set herself on fire in 1997 while driving and lighting a cigar, causing third degree burns over half of her body.  After that she became reclusive and slipped out of sight.

But Anolik discovered her, became a fan and was able to track her down in 2012 to interview her for a "Vanity Fair" article ("All About Eve...and Then Some"), and Babitz was not exactly rediscovered, but discovered, because as Anolik write, Babitz had never been discovered in the first place.  

After Anolik's article, Babitz had a sort of Renaissance. People wanted to know more about her. She filled the "Sex and the City" void. Her books were reissued and articles were written about her and in 2018 at 74 she became the next big thing. Anolik takes pride in her role in that and now Anolik has turned that article and her subsequent friendship with Babitz into this biography, which beautifully captures Babitz's charm and the charm and excitement of L.A. in the 60's and 70's.  

But this is also as much Anolik's memoir of her admiration for and friendship with Babitz as it is a biography.

"Hollywood's Eve" isn't a biography -- at least not in the traditional sense.  It won't attempt to impose narrative structure and logic on life, which is (mostly) incoherent and irrational, lived moment-by-moment and instinctively rather than by grand design and purposefully; or to provide explanation...or reach conclusions...Here's what "Hollywood's Eve" is: a biography in the non-traditional sense; a case history as well as a cultural; a critical appreciation; a sociological study; a psychological commentary; a noir-style mystery; a memoir in disguise; and a philosophical investigation as contrary, speculative, and unresolved as its subject...it is above all else: a love story. The lover, me. The love object, Eve Babitz, the louche, the wayward, headlong, hidden genius of Los Angeles."

It's all that and also just a good old-fashioned enjoyable read.

Rosy the Reviewer says...you need to acquaint yourself with Babitz, especially if you are a Baby Boomer.  Read this, then read her books or vice versa.  You will thank me.




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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). 


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.