Friday, December 6, 2019

"Knives Out" and The Week in Review

[I review "Knives Out" as well as DVDs "Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark" and the 2018 "Halloween."  The Book of the Week is Debbie Harry's memoir "Face It."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Downfall."]

Knives Out

Best-selling mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is found dead in his study, with his throat slit.  Was it suicide....or MURDER?

A star-studded cast graces this Agatha Christie-like murder mystery with Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, a modern day Poirot except with a southern drawl instead of a French accent.  Harlan Thrombey is found dead on his 85th birthday by his housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson), lying on a couch in his study with a knife in his hand. Everyone thinks it was suicide but a couple of cops arrive to make sure there are no loose ends and they are accompanied by super detective Benoit (pronounced Ben-Wa, which I find hilarious) Blanc.  Blanc has been hired by an anonymous person to find out exactly how Harlan died.

And if it was murder, all of Harlan's dysfunctional and pretty awful family members certainly had motives to kill Harlan: His son Walter (Michael Shannon), who runs Harlan's publishing company, has just been fired by Harlan; Harlan has found out that Richard (Don Johnson) is cheating on his wife, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Harlan's daughter, and Harlan plans to tell Linda if Richard doesn't; Harlan has discovered that Joni (Toni Collette), his daughter-in-law, has been embezzling money from him so Harlan has cut her off completely; and Harlan has told Ransom (Chris Evans), his grandson, that he has been cut out of his will.  All of that took place at Harlan's 85th birthday party after which he was found dead.

There is also Harlan's young Latina immigrant nurse, Marta (Anna de Armas); Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford), Joni's daughter; and Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Walter and Donna's Nazi-leaning son, all of whom were also at the party.

Enter Benoit Blanc and a couple of police detectives (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) and a whole lot of twists and turns ensue.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this film is a modern take on Agatha Christie without losing any of her dramatic tropes that always kept us guessing.  And the film even makes some statements about class and politics.  But mostly, this film is a lot of fun.

We can always count of Christopher Plummer to bring it and he does and the rest of the cast create a nice ensemble.  And can I say, damn?!  Chris Evans is one handsome guy and there is not one trace of his Captain America persona in his portrayal of the evil Ransom.  But the film really belongs to Daniel Craig as Benoit and Ana de Armas as Marta.  Craig is having a lot of fun playing against type.  There is not a stitch of Mr. Bond in evidence.  Instead, his southern accent is so drawling that he would make Jeff Sessions proud. Benoit teams up with Marta, Harlan's young nurse, because she cannot tell a lie.  If she does, she throws up.  So Blanc enlists her to help him find the truth about Harlan's death. And speaking of which, this is one time I did not figure out the ending or the who dunnit part.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one entertaining film.  Highly recommended!

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


Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (2019)

It's Halloween, 1968, and teenager Stella and her friends find a notebook of scary stories that seem to come true.

Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is an unpopular and aspiring writer obsessed with horror who hangs with a couple of other unpopular kids - Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) - and they are all bullied by the jocks led by Tommy (Austin Abrams), who just happens to be dating Auggie's pretty sister, Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn).  On Halloween night, they turn the tables and egg Tommy's car who in turn goes after them.  Stella and her friends run for it and escape into a drive-in.  They jump into the nearest car where they meet Ramon (Martin Garza), a young stranger who is at the drive-in alone.  They manage to get rid of the bad guys, befriend Ramon, and decide to head over to the local haunted house, as one does on Halloween night.

It's the decrepit and deserted home of the Bellows family, a 19th century family who ran the paper mill.  Legend has it that the Bellows had a daughter, Sarah, who they never let out of the house. Not only that, they removed her face from all of the family pictures.  Also according to legend, local children would sneak over to the house to try to get a glimpse of Sarah.  Though they never saw her, they heard her.  She would tell them stories through the walls.  And then kids starting disappearing.  It was said that if you go to the house and ask Sarah to tell you a story it will be the last story you will ever hear.

So Stella, Auggie, Chuck and Ramon break into the Bellows mansion and discover a secret room in the basement where they find a mysterious book.  In the meantime, Tommy and his friends have found them and lock them in along with Auggie's sister, Ruth.  That's when Stella gets the bright idea to ask Sarah to tell them a story.  As she does so, the book comes alive and literally self-writes.

Story #1 - Harold.

When Stella and her buddies finally escape the house, they discover that the bullies have trashed Ramon's car so Stella invites Ramon to stay at her place.  She takes the book home.  Meanwhile, Tommy meets his end at the hands of Harold.  You see, Harold is a scarecrow in a scary corn field and Harold comes alive and turns Tommy into a scarecrow too.


Later, Stella and Ramon find a scarecrow wearing Tommy's letter jacket so they realize that the book does have the power to write stories and if a story is written about someone that person dies.  So Stella is freaked out and decides she had better return the book.  She goes back to the house and returns the book only to find it in her room later.


Oh oh.  Another story writes itself.

Story #2 - "The Big Toe."

Poor Auggie gets attacked by a corpse looking for her toe.

And on and on it goes.

"You don't read the book.  The book reads you."

Now the kids realize they need to do something about this book or they are all going to die so Stella decides they need to find out the truth about Sarah Bellows.

Directed by Andre Ovredal and based on the books by Alvin Schwartz (adapted for the screen by Dan and Kevin Hageman and Guillermo del Toro), the young actors are engaging, the film is atmospheric and the stories are actually scary in a hands-over-eyes way but there is more to this film than just your usual horror film.  It's 1968, remember?  There is a true life horror film playing out in the background - Nixon and the Vietnam War and Stella's teenage angst, dealing with the fact that her mother killed herself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I see a sequel or two in the future but maybe I won't mind.  I really liked this film.

Halloween (2018)

Forty years ago, Laurie Strode escaped the serial killer, Michael Myers.  Now he's back.

And Jamie Lee Curtis is back once again too, recreating her role of Laurie Strode but 40 years later.

I have never really liked Jamie Lee Curtis.  I don't know why.  She seems like a perfectly nice person, though on talk shows appears rather smug and kind of a know-it-all.  But that shouldn't affect my feelings about her as an actress, but I guess it kind of does.

Can you believe it's been 40 years since that first "Halloween," starring Curtis? There have been sequels capitalizing on scary Michael Myers in the wierd mask terrorizing Laurie, but none matched the first one.  So now, 40 years later, the filmmakers are capitalizing on the first film and aren't even bothering to call it "Halloween II" because there has already been one of those or to give it a subtitle because we've had those too.  In fact, we have been following Laurie/Curtis in several sequels to the Laurie Strode/Michael Myers story for the last 40 years, something that this film never acknowledges.  It's as if this film is the direct sequel to the first "Halloween," and we are supposed to forget the plot points in those nine other sequels. And speaking of the first film, this one pays considerable homage to it. But now is there really anything more to say? 

Some researchers have arrived at the psychiatric hospital where serial killer, Michael Myers, has been confined for the last 40 years after terrorizing the community and young Laurie Strode.  But after all of this time, Laurie isn't doing well, but I guess I wouldn't be either if I had been terrorized by a guy in a scary mask weilding a knife.  So just in case he comes back, she has tricked out her house and turned it into a fortress with all kinds of booby traps should Michael reappear.  And of course he does. He escapes the hospital during a transfer, kills his guards and those interviewers and heads back to Laurie's town to terrorize her once again. But this time, Laurie is ready for him.  All doing the intro when Michael is in the hospital and then being transferred, we don't see his face but when he kills the researchers he finds his mask in their car.  How convenient! And also it's conveniently Halloween night so a guy in a mask?  Who notices?

But along with the inevitable encounter with Myers that is to come, there is also a side story here.  Laurie has a daughter (Judy Greer) and a granddaughter (Andi Matichak), but she is estranged from them because of her obsession with Michael Myers. But we also now have two more women for Michael Myers to terrorize.  And it's multigenerational!  Except what Michael doesn't know is that Laurie is ready for him and the hunted now becomes the hunter. It's all rather predictable but I have to say that from time to time I do enjoy a good ass-whooping administered by a woman, or in this case, women.  It's revenge time for Laurie but not before Michael does some major damage to everyone he encounters.

Based on John Carpenter's original "Halloween," and directed by David Gordon Green who also wrote the screenplay with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, this is fairly predictable stuff, with some "Huh?" moments (like how did Michael know Laurie's daughter and granddaughter were in the basement and that the kitchen island was the way to get down there?) and most of the film is a lead up to the last 20 minutes when Laurie kicks Michael Myers' ass, but it goes a bit deeper as it plays on our fear of others and what might be lurking in the dark. Greer gets to do some ass-kicking too. The women take control of their own futures.  And for a horror film, it delivers the requisite violence and gore. There is also homage to the first film, especially that classic scene where Laurie has her face up against the door with Michael's hand reaching in. But the bottom line is that the film just wasn't that scary.

Rosy the Reviewer says...maybe not as scary as you would like but it certainly is satisfying in a female self-empowerment kind of way.

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

51 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Downfall (2004)
("Der Untergang")

The final days of Adolph Hitler (Bruno Ganz), as seen through the eyes of his secretary, Traudl Junge.

The film begins and ends with the real Traudl Junge talking about her time as secretary to Hitler and regretting her association.  Then the film tells her story, taking place almost entirely in the bunker where Hitler and his cohorts spent their final days. We see the unraveling of Hitler through the eyes of Traudl Junge, who Hitler hired to be his secretary in 1942, and it is her memoir upon which this film is based. He was not just evil but quite mad, especially as things fell apart and he was giving orders to move troops that no longer existed and issued orders to commanders who were already dead. He and Eva Braun famously committed suicide as did the Goebbels.  In one scene Frau Goebbels exclaims "I don't want to live in a world without National Socialism," and then goes on to kill her six children with poison and cyanide in a particularly gruesome scene before she and her husband, Joseph, kill themselves.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the film was based on Junge's memoir "Until the Final Hour" and the book "Inside Hitler's Bunker" by Joaquim Fest.  It was Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but it caused controversy because of the fear that showing Hitler's final days would somehow prove to be sympathetic toward Hitler, or that it would evoke admiration for people who were able to gain so much support and then be willing to die for their beliefs, but critic Roger Ebert summarized it this way:

"Admiration I did not feel. Sympathy I felt in the sense that I would feel it for a rabid dog, while accepting that it must be destroyed...All we can learn from a film like this is that millions of people can be led, and millions more killed, by madness leashed to racism and the barbaric instincts of tribalism."

And speaking of racism and tribalism: though it would be going out on a bit of a limb to compare our current political situation to Hitler, the racism and tribalism we are experiencing today was not lost on me.

Ganz was remarkable as Hitler, his shoulders and back slowly crumbling lower and lower as Hitler realized his power was lost.

The film ends with an epilogue about what happened to all of Hitler's inner circle who had been with him in the bunker, and then, just as the film began with Junge, she gets the final word, saying she was young and hadn't known about the concentration camps and other horrors that Hitler had ordered but then ends with the statement that she could have probably found out and that youth was no excuse.

Why it's a Must See:  "...the first German movie to portray Adolf Hitler in a conventional narrative...[a] disorienting matter-of-factness is the key to [this film's] brilliance...[along with Bruno] Ganz's grandly withered performance."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautifully produced and engrossing film, but overlong and highly disturbing.

***The Book of the Week***

Face It: A Memoir by Debbie Harry (2019)

Singer Debbie Harry tells all.

I was struck by the fact that Debbie Harry and I had a very similar life up until the age of 18. Though she grew up in New Jersey and I in Michigan, we both had fairly uneventful childhoods with middle class parents.  We roamed our neighborhoods with our friends unsupervised, went to the movie matinee for 25 cents, loved TV, performed in shows and dreamed of being famous. But when we left home, she went off to New York City, became a Playboy Bunny, a drug addict and the famous lead singer for a popular punk/rock band...Blondie... and I didn't.  I went to college, wanted to be an actress and ended up a librarian. C'est la vie! 

Harry presents a very straight-forward, candid memoir.  She matter-of-factly talks about her time hanging with Andy Warhol and friends and then throws in the fact that, oh yeah, then I was raped.  This is one tough lady who has been around and broke new ground as a female musical artist, which was not easy.

The book is illustrated throughout with Harry's artwork, fan art and never-before-seen photographs, and she shares all kinds of insider tidbits on the people (John Waters, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and musicians (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Duran Duran) she has encountered over the years as the lead singer for Blondie and captures that strange and magical time that was the 1970's and 80's. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, continues to perform as a singer and an actress and is an activist for environmental issues and the LGBTQ community.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like candid celebrity autobiographies, this is one!  She doesn't hold back!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Irishman"


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, 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, November 29, 2019

"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Mr. Rogers movie "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" as well as the DVDs "After the Wedding" and "The Peanut Butter Falcon."  The Book of the Week is "Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me" by Adrienne Brodeur.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fires Were Started."]

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A fictionalized version of the true-life friendship that developed between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod.

Mr. Rogers isn't just for kids as this film shows. Yes, he was the beloved star of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," a force for good in the lives of so many children, but in this film we also learn what a force for good he was to everyone he met, young or old.  

If you were expecting a biopic on the life of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), you might be disappointed because the story focuses more on Lloyd Vogel (a fictional version of writer Tom Junod played by Matthew Rhys), a cynical journalist at Esquire Magazine, who is assigned to do a piece on American heroes, Mr. Rogers being one of them.  However, Lloyd is not happy with his assignment because he is an investigative journalist who likes to uncover dirt on people, not write puff pieces. But he is informed by his boss (Christine Lahti) that he doesn't have a very good reputation in the journalism world, and, in fact, Rogers was the only one of the prospective "heroes" who would sit for an interview with him because of his reputation for doing such a hatchet job on people. So, basically she gives Lloyd an ultimatum.  He accepts the assignment, but he is not happy about it.  You see, Lloyd is not a happy man in general. He reluctantly embarks on the interview, but then becomes intrigued by Rogers.  Could this guy be for real?  Is he really as nice as he seems?  Let's see what we can dig up on him!

As I said, Lloyd is not a happy man.  In fact, he is a broken man who is estranged from his father, Jerry (Chris Cooper) and sister and is a workaholic, leaving his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), to care for their new baby on her own. He also has conflicted feelings about his role as a father because of his relationship with his own father.  His relationship is so bad that when he meets Rogers for the first time, he has cuts on his face from an altercation with his father at his sister's wedding and Rogers, in his inimitable and emphathetic way, immediately sizes Lloyd up.

Written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, one can't help but compare this film to the 2018 documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor?," a film I listed as one of the best of 2018, and one that captured the power of Fred Rogers.  I mean, he single-handedly saved PBS! Though this film touches on many of the aspects of Rogers' life that were part of the documentary, it ultimately goes in a different direction, highlighting the effect that Fred had on others by living a good life and always striving to be a better person.  Yes, people, he was for real.  And we should all try to be the kind of person Fred Rogers was.

The story is based on the experiences of journalist Tom Junoh who was assigned to write a short 400 word piece on Rogers on whether or not he was for real or not as in can anyone really be this nice? Thinking he would be exposing a fraud, Junoh was so affected by Rogers that he wrote a 10,000 word piece instead and was forever affected by his friendship with Fred Rogers.  

It is that piece upon which this film is based.

But this film, directed by Marielle Heller, is also a tutorial for us all in how to live our lives, and a reminder that there really was a wonderful man named Fred Rogers who walked his talk.  If you can keep yourself from crying or at least tearing up during this film you are a better person than I or you just have a cold, cold heart.

There are all kinds of special moments in this film: when Fred asks Lloyd to close his eyes and think for one full minute of all of the people who loved him and helped him get to where he is today (everyone in a diner participates and if you are alert you will see Fred's real life wife); or when he helps Lloyd share his feelings, telling him if it's "mentionable it's managable," or when he tells Lloyd that Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love." 

Yes, Fred Rogers was for real.  He really loved people and prayed for them. He listened.  He practiced forgiveness.  But most of all, he wanted to help children with their feelings, to let them know it was okay to be sad or mad or scared.  And then he helped them direct their anger away from hurting others. And ultimately, he helped raise those children into better adults. Fred Rogers was an amazing role model but he was also human. He could get angry just like everyone else. Though we never see him get angry in the film, there is a beautiful moment at the end  that shows Fred's humanity when Fred is playing the piano. No words necessary.

Who could play the nicest man on television but the nicest man in Hollywood?  

Every time Hanks was on screen I teared up.  He embodied Fred Rogers. However, though I loved this film, I wish Hanks had been in more of the scenes.  He plays more of a supporting role, because, as I said, the film is about Lloyd. But as Fred might have said, "That's okay," because Rhys is also quite wonderful as Lloyd, showing his transformation after meeting Fred and being changed forever.  I also have to give a shout out to Susan Kalechi Watson.  She is a beautiful actress whom I have admired on the TV show "This is Us." She exudes a warmth and comes across as a real person. So glad to see her on the big screen.

In this time of so much divisiveness and hatred, where is Fred Rogers when you need him? 

  • How much better would it be for us all to take that one minute every day and think about and mentally thank those who loved us and helped us get to where we are today?  
  • How much of a better world would it be if we were able to share our real feelings with those we love? 
  • How much of a better world would it be if we could forgive?
  • How much of a better world would it be if we stopped talking and started to listen?  
Speaking of listening, I saw Tom Hanks on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" recently where he talked about what he learned from playing Mr. Rogers, and he said,

"He taught me that listening is a million times more important than talking.  There is an acronym that I've now started using in my own life -- W-A-I-T, wait -- which stands for 'why am I talking?' You should just sit and start listening to everybody that comes across your way and you'll be amazed at what you learn."

I know several people who could learn from that!

But we can't change other people.  We can only change ourselves. I feel I am a good listener, but after seeing this film, I have decided that I am going to be even more conscious of listening more and talking less, and when I am in a difficult or uncomfortable situation, I am going to ask myself  "What would Fred Rogers do?" Not a bad idea for all of us to do, don't you think?

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is a must see!  You will leave the theatre wanting to be a better person. And you should. We all should. Oh, by the way, ring, ring!  Mr. Hanks?  Oscar calling!

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


After the Wedding (2019)

A woman who runs an orphanage in India travels to New York to meet a possible donor.

This is one of those talkie domestic dramas, also known as "women's movies," but I am not complaining because I am a woman and I love "women's movies."  And who can resist a film starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams? So I had high hopes for this.

Isabel Anderson (Williams) is an American do-gooder who has devoted her life to the children of India, running an orphanage there. But she needs money.  There is an interested donor but the donor wants to meet Isabel in person so reluctantly Isabel leaves the orphanage and travels to New York City where she meets Theresa Young (Moore), a rich media mogul who is busy preparing for her daughter Grace's (Abby Quinn) upcoming wedding.  After meeting with Isabel, Theresa tells her that she needs to think more about how she can help Isabel so she invites her to the wedding and tells her that they can talk more after the wedding.  Isabel is not happy about staying in New York but reluctantly attends the wedding only to see someone from her past - Theresa's husband, Oscar (Billy Crudup), her ex-boyfriend from high school!  Ah, the serendipity of life! Ah, the secrets that will be revealed! Ah, the contrivances that ensue.

Theresa and Isabel could not be more different.  Theresa is a New York business woman who overshares and can make small talk and joke convincingly. She is caught up in the planning of her daughter's wedding, but it soon becomes apparent that Theresa is not Grace's biological mother.  Theresa met Oscar when Grace was only one, but Grace considers Theresa her mother and loves her very much.  Isabel, on the other hand, is childless and devoted to her orphanage in India.  She is a serious, no-nonsense woman who has devoted her life to the lofty goal of helping others.  She just wants to get her money and get the hell out of Dodge, er, New York and back to doing good. She doesn't want to hang with these rich people who don't seem to have a care in the world. You can see some judgment on Isabel's part as she listens to Theresa making plans for the wedding - lobster or shrimp? Sigh.

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (who just happens to be Moore's real life husband), this is a remake of the 2006 Danish/Swedish film of the same name. Since I don't remember seeing the original film, I can't blast this one for being a remake (which I usually do). So I won't.  As the film goes on, we learn more and more about each of these women's lives, and it becomes more and more complicated as secrets and resentments are revealed.  We also discover how they ended up where they are and the connections they share. 

Up to and before the many twists were revealed, the film was quite wonderful, but then too many little very convenient, contrived plot points cropped up and the film kind of went off the rails and turned into a bit of a soap opera. But that's not to say that I didn't like this film. I actually did, contrivances, convenient plot devices and all.

For me, Julianne Moore is one of those actresses like Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep, an actress who can be counted on to give a good performance and garner awards.  Can you believe there was a time when I didn't appreciate Streep and Fonda? I felt they had actressy mannerisms that got on my nerves at times.  But then they grew on me and I realized what great actresses they really were.  I have the same kind of feeling about Moore. She has entered that echelon of icons of acting, but I sometimes feel like I can tell she is acting.  She also has some actressy mannerisms, but here she pulls back and is convincing and a nice counterpoint to Williams.  And just as Theresa and Isabel are polar opposites, so, too, are Moore and Williams as actresses. Williams is a more subdued actress, and because she is not as flashy as Moore, she sometimes doesn't get the props she deserves.  I tend to like her style of acting best but the two together created a memorable film experience. It's also good seeing Billy Crudup.  He is everywhere these days and after his promising start as a leading man back in the 80's appears to have found his niche has "the husband."

Rosy the Reviewer says....contrived and melodramatic but other than that, I rather liked it.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down Syndrome, runs away from his care home to become a professional wrestler.

Zak has Down Syndrome but has been placed in an old people's home because no one knows quite what to do with him.  He is obsessed with the Salt Water Redneck, a professional wrestler who advertises his wrestling school on TV.  Zak is tired of hanging with the old folks, so regularly tries to escape the home and finally does, taking off his clothes, slathering himself with soap, and wiggling out through a barred window that his old nursing home friend, Carl (Bruce Dern, whose career has embraced playing curmudgeonly old guys), has helped him pry open the bars.  He heads out to Salt Water Redneck's wrestling school.  He hides in a swamp boat owned by Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who himself is running away from some guys who want to hurt him because Tyler has the bad habit of stealing from other fishermen. The two form an unlikely duo and a sort of buddy/road trip film ensues. Meanwhile, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), one of Zak's caregivers, is sent out to search for him and when she finally finds Zak and Tyler, the three misfits band together to help Zak live out his dream as a professional wrestler.

If that all sounds too good to be true, it is, but this is one of those films meant to tug at your heart strings. Tyler starts out as a grumpy guy but Zak's winning ways win him over and he bonds with Zak, teaching him how to fish and swim and drink!

Shia LaBeouf has had some personal problems over the years and gotten himself into some trouble (most recently while making this film), which has overshadowed his acting but there is no denying that he is a good actor. I didn't even really recognize him at first. Dakota Johnson doesn't have much to do in this except provide a female presence so don't expect any "Fifty Shades" stuff, but it's Gottsagen who is at the heart of this film.  And the film does have heart, though for me that wasn't enough.

Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, this is one of those feel good films - you are supposed to feel good after you see it - but I didn't.  I found it far-fetched and actually kind of boring.  I know.  I'm a cynical grouch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like sentimental and cliched, you might like this.  I didn't.

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

52 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fires Were Started (1943)

The story of firefighters in London during the Blitz.

Humphrey Jennings may not be a director remembered today, but Jennings was an English documentary filmmaker during the 30's and 40's with over 25 films under his belt before his death at the age of 43.  This one was also considered a documentary but is really a dramatization of the lives of firemen in London during WW II and was produced as propaganda to bolster the spirits of the Brits during the War.  Humprey used actual firefighters and nonprofessional actors to play fictional characters depicting a day in the life of a fireman during the London Blitz and, which sometimes is not a good thing, because you can tell these guys are not actors. 

The film begins by showing a "day in the life" of a London fireman at the firehouse, dancing to music, singing and hanging out. You know, the kinds of things people did before TV, computers and cell phones. It's all very happy-go-lucky until halfway through the film when the bombing begins.  But still they sing.  I'm sure it was all meant to calm the spirits of the civilians living through the bombing, to reassure them that they were in good hands.  I mean, these guys are singing and dancing knowing that they will soon be out there fighting fires with bombs falling all around them every single night. Even the lady firefighters who do the office work get their due.  When a bomb hits the firehouse and blows out a wall, they are knocked off their chairs but one plucky lady, despite a wound on her head, pops up and continues her phone report as if nothing had happened. If that doesn't exemplify, "Keep calm and carry on," I don't know what does. 

The film is capped off with the firemen fighting a huge blaze with bombs falling, saving a munitions ship in jeopardy and having to rescue their fellow firefighters. The film ends with an homage to the bravery and sacrifices that the firefighters had to make.

I get this as a document of a terrible time in British history and an homage to the bravery of those who must carry on against all odds, but as a satisfying film experience, for me, not really.

Why it's a Must See: " archetypal story of a day on shift and a fire at which a blaze is controlled before it sets light to a munitions ship, delivers action and suspense."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those films that made me wonder why I needed to see it before I died.  Zzzzz

***The Book of the Week***

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur (2019)

Why mothers shouldn't make their teenaged daughters their best friends!

When Brodeur was just 15, her mother, Malabar, woke her up one night and said "Ben just kissed me."  Ben was her husband's best friend and that marked the beginning of a long affair and Brodeur was pulled into it to help her mother keep her mother's secret.

Malabar was a flamboyant, beautiful woman who was a brilliant cook and who loved to entertain.  She was married to her second husband, Charles, who sadly had a stroke and could no longer do many of the things he once could. He liked to pass his days reading and, as a descendant of the pilgrims, working with the local pilgrim museum. Ben was Charles' best friend, a dynamic and charming fellow who loved to hunt and fish and he was married to Lily, a woman who didn't really care about her appearance and was not in good health.  The foursome had been friends for years, but I guess it was inevitable that the two more dynamic partners would be drawn to one another.

At first Adrienne was thrilled that her mother confided in her.  She felt very special and grown-up to have her mother's attention even if she did feel guilty about Charles.  The two came up with a plan to allow Malabar and Ben to get together without anyone getting suspicious.  They decided to write a cookbook on preparing wild game.  Ben would hunt and fish and Malabar would prepare recipes and they would all taste the food.  Get it?  Wild game?  That's the name of the cookbook but also the name of the crazy affair that ended up not only hurting the main players but affected Brodeur for the rest of her life as well.

If ever there was a story that shows why you shouldn't want to be besties with your children, this is it.  You will find yourself pulling your hair out reading all of the oversharing Brodeur's mother did with her.  It's cringeworthy but the book is engrossing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a cautionary tale for mothers and daughters!

Thanks for reading!

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