Friday, November 9, 2018

"Bohemian Rhapsody" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" as well as DVDs "Sorry to Bother You" and "Eighth Grade." The Book of the Week is "Small Fry," a memoir by Steve Jobs' daughter. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Ascent." ]




Bohemian Rhapsody


Biopic on the ascent to fame and personal struggles of singer Freddie Mercury.

Biopics are not easy to make.  Well, good ones, that is.  An actor must walk a fine line between characterization and caricature and for the first half of this film I was thinking Rami Malek's Freddie was a bit much.  I think it was the teeth, which is funny because Malek looks so much like Freddie anyway with or without the fake teeth.  The teeth were a distraction because Malek was forever running his tongue over them.  But as the film progressed, he grew on me.  And with the final performance at Live Aid, he had me.  Teeth or no teeth, Malek had Freddie's performances down.

Freddie Mercury (Malek) was an unlikely rock star.  Born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Parsis parents who practiced the Zoroastrian religion, he spent most of his young life in India.  At age 17, he and his parents fled to Britain during the Zanzibar Revolution.  Freddie had already been a part of rock bands when he was in school but the film doesn't cover any of that.  

The film begins with a teenage Freddie hanging out at rock clubs in London in 1970 where he met guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) who were part of a band called Smile.  When Freddie learned that their lead singer had just quit Freddie asked to join. With his buck teeth and unruly hair, May and Taylor were skeptical but then Freddie, never shy, belted out a song. He was in. Bassist John Deacon (Joe Mazzello) was brought in, Queen was born and the rest is history.

Though Freddie met Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), lived with her for several years and called her "the love of my life," Mercury was gay, and eventually succumbed to aids.

Written by Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan and directed by Bryan Singer (who was actually fired for bad behavior and the film was finished by Dexter Fletcher), I had a difficult time thinking a film could be PG-13 and truthfully tell the story of Freddie Mercury.  His life was hardly PG -13. And how do you boil a life like Freddie Mercury's down into a two hour film? But even though the film was largely superficial and I had my misgivings, it grew on me, just like those teeth. 

Despite the teeth, Rami Malek really does manage to transcend caricature and creates real poignancy, especially at the end of the film when Mercury's career was waning and he triumphed at Live Aid. If you are not a fan of the TV series "Mr. Robot (for which Malek won many awards)," you might not be familiar with Malek, who has had roles in feature films but is not a household name.  This film will probably solve that problem.

Lucy Boynton is the epitome of the English Rose (she and Malek are an item in real life), but her role is small considering what a huge role Mary Austin played in Mercury's life. Likewise, I have to say that, though appearance wise Lee, Hardy and Mazzello channel their real life counterparts of May, Taylor and Deacon, they don't really have much to do except perform as members of the band, despite the fact that Brian May is the driving force behind this film.  On a talk show recently, Lee reported that when May saw him in costume, wig and full rock star regalia, he was silent for a full three minutes before saying that he was seeing himself from 40 years ago. 

Mike Myers also makes a cameo appearance as a record executive who doesn't get "Bohemian Rhapsody," and says who would want to head bang to that?  A funny homage to his "Wayne's World" head banging scene to that song. 

Strangely, I actually have a personal connection to Freddie Mercury. 

Well, not personal personal - I never met the guy nor saw the band perform - but he plays an important part in my memories.  Hubby, two kids, two dogs and I were headed back from Texas from what could only be called the trip from hell (and I am not even going to get into our smuggling the dogs into a hotel room, their barking and scratching alerting the hotel manager who found us in the dining room, asked us to remove the dogs, and our putting them in the car where one of them chewed through one of the seat belts in our brand new car.  Like I said, I am not even going to get into that). 

We had traveled to Hubby's parents house over Easter break to pick up a classic car from his Dad.  Caravanning back, the classic car had not one flat tire, but two, one of which was in a Texas thunderstorm so scary and massive that while Hubby was outside in the storm changing the tire, from the back seat our young son cried "We're all going to die here!"  But we didn't and on we trekked until the car blew up somewhere in Arizona and we had to leave it there for repair.  Now we only had one day to get home from Arizona to Central California (Hubby and I had to work and the kids had school), and on that last day as we pressed on and on, we heard that Freddie Mercury had died.  Now you have to imagine life without the Internet.  There was no Twitter or Facebook in 1991 and cell phones were not common so we had no idea that Freddie Mercury was dying.  So that was a shock.  It was also a shock to the world so the radio played nothing but Queen songs that entire day. 

So as we headed home on that grueling drive, we had Freddie with us.  Sad to lose him but there was almost comfort and joy in that. It was comforting to know what a great legacy he left behind and those Queen songs were so damn joyful. You couldn't help but feel good when you listened to that music. As for that car, we never did drive it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is probably not the definitive biopic of Queen or Mercury, but Malek's performance (in spite of the teeth) and that great Queen music makes this a must see.





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


On DVD





Sorry to Bother You (2018)


African American telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) figures out the key to success - talk like a white man on the phone.

Set in present day Oakland, but a sort of stranger version of Oakland, Cassius Green certainly needs a job. He is so down and out he lives with this girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson), in his uncle's garage, for heaven's sake. He talks his way into a telemarketing job at RegalView and is really happy to get it. I guess if you live in a garage, a telemarketing job looks good.  At RegalView, he starts out selling encyclopedias and is told to "stick to the script" and if he does he can become a Power Caller.  Those are the people who get to hang out on the upper floors and who make the big money. Cassius doesn't do that well until Langston (Danny Glover), an older telemarketer, gives him a tip.  Make yourself sound white.  

What's a white voice?  According to Langston, a white voice sounds like you don't have a care in the world.  It's breezy, worry free.  Cassius eventually makes it to Power Caller, discovers his job "up there" is to to sell the "Worry Free" lifestyle of food and shelter in exchange for being sold into slavery to foreign countries and discovers that he has literally sold himself into slavery.  This is a modern day Faustian tale but it's funny and original.

Funny, yes, but dark. This is a dark comedy that reminded me of "Downsizing," about people who are willing to go to great lengths to make their lives better, but this one is much darker and much funnier. And there is a lot going on in this film. Stanfield does a good job of portraying a guy who so desperately wants to make it that he sells his soul to the devil, and the film, written and directed by Boots Riley, is an original satire and I was all in and enjoying it until the Equisapiens showed up.  These are part-human-part-horse-people and I can't say too much about them or I will ruin the twist but let's just say when they turned up the film lost me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an original and subversive idea that got lost in a too over-the-top ending. I don't like saying "Huh?" after investing almost two hours in a film.




Eighth Grade (2018)


The trials and tribulations of eighth grade.

Here is another one of those movies where I have to ask myself, "What the hell am I doing here?" What's a woman of a certain age doing watching a film about being in eighth grade?  Well, believe it or not, I was there once and I can say from this vantage point, after seeing this film, nothing much has changed.

Ah, eighth grade.  Ah, middle school.  Two words that for many of us is synonymous with hell.  Eighth grade is that last grade before high school and they don't call it middle school for nothing.  Middle school is that time when we are literally in the middle with one foot into full blown teenagedom but another foot still in childhood.  When you are 13 you are halfway between Disney Princess and Spin the Bottle. I remember getting my first Barbie Doll when I was 12 but also wanting my crush of the moment to kiss me "like in the movies!"  It's also a time when rebellion starts. That's when my son started saying "So?" and "Fine!" on a daily basis and pretty much was his main interaction with me.

Actually, speaking of myself, which I know I do often, I didn't get to experience being the top dog at my middle school.  You see, when I went to school in the dark ages, middle school was called junior high and it was 7th, 8th and 9th grades. I remember looking at the 9th graders and thinking they were so mature.  They were the top dogs.  But I never got to be a top dog 9th grader because, wouldn't you know, the year I went into 9th grade was the year some idiot decided the high school was now going to be 9-12 instead of 10-12 and so instead of being a top dog 9th grader in my junior high I went from a nobody 8th grader in junior high to an even bigger nobody as a freshman in high school.

OK, so enough about me.  I guess I should start talking about the movie!

Kayla (Elsie Fisher) is an introverted girl who lives with her single Dad (Josh Hamilton) who is kind and trying to understand her but basically clueless which is just how our parents seem when we are in middle school.  It's funny that her father doesn't remember eighth grade because he would then realize trying to understand what is going on with an eighth grader is futile because even she doesn't know. When it comes to her interactions with the cool kids at school, Kayla is awkward and unsure of herself.  But when she is alone, she films a vlog and gives advice to whomever might be watching and young Kayla is surprisingly wise.  She talks about the importance of "putting yourself out there" and having confidence ("Act 'as if.' You can't be brave without being scared.")  Kayla's vlog is her confident self, the person she wants to be and belies her everyday self in middle school.  The film follows Kayla in her last days at school in eighth grade before she heads off to high school.

So I might briefly ask myself again "What the hell am I doing watching a film about a 13-year-old girl?" but realize I am watching a film that we can all relate to because we were all 13 once.  And from my story that I bored you with earlier, I could actually relate to this film more than some of my other contemporaries because I went from eighth grade directly over to the high school just as young Kayla is going to do.  However, I know that the road to adulthood has become more treacherous for kids than it was in my day.  

This film taps into all of those primal feelings and need for acceptance that most kids go through and that we experience throughout life - the need to be seen and validated. The film, written and directed by Bo Burnham, brilliantly brings back all of the anxieties and awkwardness of those years before we learned to deal with that stuff.  I can't say any boy asked me if I knew how to give a blowjob as the boy in the film asks Kayla, but like I said, times have changed. The scene where Kayla looks up on the Internet how to do it and then starts to practice on a banana when her dad walks into the kitchen is classic.


Elsie Fisher is a triumph in this film. She brings Kayla to life and makes her so real that no matter what your age (and I think teenage girls should see this film), you will see yourself in this film. But Burnham also deserves props for a real life script that captures the day-to-day reality of today's middle schoolers and reminds us that some things never change - middle school is hell but hang in there, it gets better. And don't ask me how a guy can tap into the mind and life of a young girl because it doesn't matter.  He just does. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I may not want to relive eighth grade in real life but I would relive this film over and over.  It's that good.  No matter what your age, don't miss it.






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


120 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




The Ascent (1977)


During WW II two Soviet partisans leave their compatriots to find food.  When they are captured by the Nazis their loyalties are tested.

Russian partisans Sotnikov (Boris Plotnikov) and Rybak (Vladimir Gostyukhin) leave their troops to find food but are spotted by a German patrol.  After a gunfight in the snow, the two men get away but Sotnikov is shot in the leg.  Rybak takes Sotnikov to a nearby house where Demchikha (Lyudmila Polyakova) and her three children live.  But the Germans find them there and take them prisoner along with Demchikha.

They are all taken to German headquarters where Sotnikov is interrogated by Portnov (Anatoli Solonitsyn), a local collaborator and former Soviet children's choirmaster who is now the head of the local police loyal to the Germans. When Sotnikov refuses to answer Portnov's questions, he is brutally tortured but gives up no information. However, Rybak declares he wants to live and tells as much as he thinks the police already know, hoping to live so he can escape later but to no avail. The next morning, all are led out to be hanged but at the last minute Rybak persuades Portnov and the Germans to let him join the police. He does, and Sotnikov and the others are executed.  But it's a lonely and sad victory for Rybak.  He saved himself but what kind of a life does a coward live?  He will forever be a prisoner in his own mind.
Where Sotnikov stood strong to the end, Rybak is now left to face the ridicule and contempt of the villagers as well as his own cowardice.
Directed by Lariso Shepitko, one of few Russian women directors (sadly, she was killed in a car accident at the age of 40 leaving only four films behind), this film is one of those grueling films where nothing good happens and everything goes from bad to worse. It's all about winter and starving and snow and torture and brutality.  Sheesh.  But it's also a stark morality play about bravery, cowardice, betrayal and guilt, and in case you didn't get it from the title, martyrdom and Christianity.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is one of the most powerful of all films that have war as their background."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Powerful but grim.


Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (2018)



If you thought it would have been cool to have been Steve Jobs' kid, you would be wrong.

Lisa's parents - Steve Jobs and Chrisann Brennan - were childhood sweethearts.  They never married and Jobs even disavowed his daughter early in her life and of and on as she grew. When her parents broke up, Lisa's mother lived a hardscrabble life (Jobs didn't help her until much later) and Lisa rarely saw her father.  But as she grew older, Jobs took more of an interest in her and started helping her and her mother and Lisa's life became a strange combination of mansions, vacations and private schools coupled with her mother's less than rich lifestyle and her father's cold unpredictable behavior.


"There was a thin line between civility and cruelty in him, between what did and did not set him off."


Lisa yearned for her father's approval.


"He did not want to be our protector, but he dabbled in it.  The more he approached and pulled away, the more I wanted him to spread a vast, fine net below us."


This is not a biography of Steve Jobs.  


It's Lisa's story, but it's also a story that anyone can relate to who has felt rejected by one's parent. It's also a story of being outside looking in, wanting to be loved by her father and to be a part of his family but never feeling like she was, being poor when her father was one of the richest men in the world. 

Brennan-Jobs tells a poignant story of dealing with her feelings of illegitimacy and sadness as she tried to be what her father wanted her to be.  However, despite the ups and downs of having a father who was socially awkward and who didn't parent in a giving way, a mother who was not happy with her life and Lisa's own less than stellar school years, Lisa went to Harvard and appears to have made a happy life for herself and has found some clarity and peace about her Dad.

There is a poignancy and irony to the title of the book.  Jobs was a mercurial man who turned his attention and affection for Lisa off and on. "Small fry" comes from his nickname for her when his attention and affection was on.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Brennan-Jobs is a good writer with an interesting story to tell.




Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday 

for

"Can You Ever Forgive Me?"


and


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)
and

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 






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




Friday, November 2, 2018

Sisters

[I first published this blog post in March of 2015 in honor of my sister's birthday.  At that time I had no idea that just a few years later she would be gone. I am sad to say that my sister died on October 25th (2018) so I wanted to republish this post to honor her once again.  She was a remarkable woman who will be sorely missed]


Think about it. For good or ill, your parents and your older siblings have known you longer than anyone else in the world. 

Whether you had a good experience or a bad experience growing up, your family members were major players in your life. I was fortunate to have a wonderful family. 

Growing up, I didn't appreciate them at the time, of course.  I complained about them when I didn't get my way or "they didn't understand me." But deep down I was proud of them too.  And woe to anyone who said anything bad about anyone in my family.  I could complain about them, but you as hell better not. 

Few of us, though, appreciate what we have when we have it. But looking back and in relation to what I know now, I had a great family.


For those of you who have been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you know that I use birthdays as a springboard to remember. 

And I like to share pictures because they help me to remember.  It's fun going through the albums looking for appropriate photographs.  I always think of my Dad and how much he enjoyed taking our pictures.  He always had the latest camera and when I look at these pictures, I see what a good photographer he was, posing us just so.  Don't think I didn't hate it at the time, but I am so glad I have these photos now.

But I also share these pictures here, because I hope that they will spark something in you, too, to remember happy times with your family and to remind you that in the end we are all the same, we all want to be a part of something, we are all part of something, we are all one.  And that as the cycle of life unwinds, when we come to the end of the tether, we have our memories.

So now I celebrate my sister's birthday which is at the end of this week. 

She was my only sister and my older sister - nine years older.  So can you imagine, there she was the only girl and actually the only child for five years until my brother came along.  But then nine years later, there I was -- another girl, her sister.



Being the oldest has its benefits but also its negatives. 



Like I said, she had our parents all to herself for five years and even when my brother was born, she was the only girl.  Being the oldest allows you a certain amount of authority and I think the first child remains the favorite. 



But in our house, there were some indignities to endure such as having  to share her room with a baby (me).  For as long as my sister lived at home, she had to share her bedroom with me. Think of a 16 year old having to share a bedroom with a seven year old.



I can remember nights when she came home from a date and I was sleeping peacefully and she would switch on the light to get ready for bed and I would howl with indignity.  So on the one hand, she could have been a bit more considerate of the little sleeping angel (me), but I also didn't need to make such a fuss (the devil in me).  A bit of passive aggression in there, wouldn't you say?

She also had to babysit, put up with me hanging around when she brought boyfriends home and listen to me whine about stuff, as little ones often do.


I was a bit of a scamp!

But the best thing about being the oldest, I think, is the prestige and the awe that is felt by the younger ones, especially when the oldest is nine years older. I see my little four year old grandson being followed around by his two year old brother, the two year old wanting to do everything that the four year old is doing.  I was in awe of my sister and very proud of her.

She was popular in school.  Was invited into the exclusive sorority-like club at the high school,



played in the orchestra (she played the violin and the viola)



and since you can't play the string instruments in the band, she was the flag bearer in the marching band. 



She was also an athlete and excelled in tennis.



My Dad started playing with her, but soon she was better than he was and went on to play in tournaments.  There is a story in the family that she went to the local public tennis courts, she was told she couldn't practice because there was a tournament going on.  She went right home that day and told our Dad that she would go back and win that tournament.  And she did.  She went on to a college that specialized in tennis.  She went to the Nationals and today is a tennis professional and is in the college's hall of fame.

My sister went off to college when I was only 8 and basically I rarely saw her again. Well, you know, she never lived at home again. When she did come home, I remember her regaling me about college and telling me that if you just did what you were supposed to do, you got a C. If you wanted a B or an A, you had to do way more than expected.  Scared me to death.

Because my sister was into sports, I realized I wasn't (and psychologically I probably didn't want to have to compete with her in that area), so I veered off into acting.  But I ended up going to the same college and let's just say that when I took tennis it was embarrassing as hell to be reminded by the coach, who remembered my sister, that I couldn't hit the ball to save my life.

My sister got married right out of college and I was in the wedding party.  I was 12 and demanded a tiara, which I got (I was the baby after all, which also has its perks!).


I remember crying after the wedding when her husband and she left, moving far away. 

I finally left home too.

Long story short, I ended up on one coast, she on another. 

As the years went by, she had children and grandchildren, 





as did I.







and as the vagaries of life took hold, she lived on her own. 

But she visited me,



took care of our mother,



taught tennis as a Master Professional and became a Miata enthusiast.



We traveled together (we shared one of my favorite vacations of all time on a narrow boat in England),



and she battled and survived cancer. 

Life has a way of coming between relationships.  They take a backseat to life's demands.

But despite the years, despite the age difference, despite the miles, one thing I know for sure.  My sister is just a phone call away and she will be there for me, because she is my older sister.

I have known her longer than anyone alive.


"A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost." - Unknown


Take a Little Time to Remember.

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday
when I will be reviewing

          the new movie "Chappie"
as well as some

DVD's to see or avoid

and the latest on

 

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 

I Die Project."



If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer








Friday, October 26, 2018

"The Old Man & the Gun" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Robert Redford's film (rumored to be his last) "The Old Man & the Gun" as well as DVDs "Sicario: Day of the Soldado" and "Unfriended: Dark Web."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Andrei Rublev."  The Book of the Week is a cookbook - "Milk Street: Tuesday Nights" by Christopher Kimball, quick and easy recipes for those weeknights when you need to get something on the table fast!]




The Old Man & the Gun


Based on the true story of bank robber and prison escape artist Forrest Tucker (not to be confused with the actor of the same name), this is rumored to be Robert Redford's acting swan song.  Hope not.

The Brits like to call their older, accomplished actors and other creative types "National Treasures."  Tracey Ullman does a very funny send up of that notion on her comedy show where she plays "National Treasure" Judy Dench who manages to get away with murder because she is, well, a "National Treasure."  We Americans don't tend to offer that honor to our actors but if we did, Robert Redford would be at the top of the list.  

From handsome leading man ("Barefoot in the Park") to iconic roles in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "All the President's Men," "The Great Gatsby," "The Natural," a Best Director Oscar for "Ordinary People" and another 39 awards and 48 other nominations - I could go on and on - Robert Redford has had an acting career that has spanned over 60 years.  Never a flashy actor, but his natural style has served him well in over 40 films and countless TV shows and this film is no exception.  At 82 he is still going strong. 

So I hope the rumor that this is his last film is not true.  But if it is, it is a fitting ending.

Written and directed by David Lowery, the film is based on the life of Forrest Silva Tucker, a lifelong robber who was caught and locked up many times but also managed to escape many times - 18 times, in fact, most famously from San Quentin at the age of 70.  A montage shows the escapes and makes use of some old Redford film footage, reminding us of just how handsome that young Robert Redford was!

But this isn't just a heist story.  This is a story about purpose and meaning in life, even if that purpose and meaning is robbing banks. Tucker had a gift for robbing banks.  He was a gentleman robber, if there is such a thing, and enjoyed his work.  Everyone he robbed always remembered him smiling even when he was caught.  

This is also the story of John Hunt (Casey Affleck), a police detective who, unlike Tucker, wasn't enjoying his job very much... until he found his purpose - finding and arresting Forrest Tucker.

But this is Redford's movie.  

Everything we remember about him as an actor is in evidence.  He is still handsome, he is still cocky, he exudes an easy naturalness and an almost bemused persona in his characterization. Perfect. Shocking that Redford has never won a Best Actor Oscar but maybe it's because he makes it seem too easy, but maybe he will for this.  He is an actor at the top of his game.

Casey Affleck is also perfect for the part of Hunt because Hunt is a bit of a sad sack and I kind of think of Affleck as a sad sack. I mean, have you ever seen that kid smile?  Sissy Spacek plays Tucker's love interest - she's another actor whose gifts are apparent here - and seeing those two together - Spacek and Redford - I couldn't help but think that both of these actors are at the top of their game.  And I also couldn't help but say in my mind, Thank you...you both let yourselves age naturally.  No plastic surgery.  And they both still look great. So people.  Look and learn.  It's called PLASTIC surgery for a reason because you might look young but when you have your face rearranged, you look PLASTIC!  Anyway, Elisabeth Moss makes a cameo appearance in a small but effective role and Danny Glover and Tom Waits are Tucker's old man accomplices in his "Over the Hill Gang," as they came to be known. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...so this is the story of a career bank robber who really enjoyed his job, but it's also a reminder that no matter how old we get we need meaning in life - even if it's robbing banks.  And it's also a reminder that Robert Redford is a National Treasure.  Maybe he will finally get a Best Actor Oscar.



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


On DVD





Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)


It's not enough that the drug cartels smuggle drugs.  Now they are in the business of smuggling people!

A sort of sequel to the first film ("Sicario"), but not really.  

No Emily Blunt, no Denis Villaneuve as director, no Roger Deakins for the cinematography or Johann Johannsson for the score (Deakins and Johannsson were nominated for Oscars in the first one), but the screenplay is again by Taylor Sheridan, who was also responsible for "Wind River" and "Hell or High Water," and Benicio Del Toro reprises his role as the enigmatic and badass Alejandro and Josh Brolin brings back his pumped-up body and permanent grimace to the role of Matt Graver, a federal agent

According to this film, the U.S.- Mexico border is controlled by the Mexican drug cartels and they are not just smuggling drugs.  Every year thousands of people are smuggled over the border for profit, because there is more money to be made smuggling people than drugs.


Graver has been called upon to stop the cartels. U.S. government officials believe that terrorists are also being smuggled across the border and Graver teams up with Alejandro to try and stop them.  Graver is enlisted to use the same techniques he used in the Middle East, basically torture and dirty tactics.  America wants to play dirty.  


Alejandro is enlisted to try to start a war between the competing cartels and to do that they kidnap young and spoiled Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of one of the kingpins in hopes that he will think it is a rival cartel.  They bring her to the U.S. but when they try to take her back to Mexico, everything backfires so now they have to smuggle HER back into the U.S. to save her.

Unfortunately, I had no idea what was going on most of the time which was disappointing because I loved "Wind River" and "Hell or High Water," both written by Sheridan. Along with my confusion, there were also some strange plot holes and coincidences that bothered me. For example, when Alejandro was trying to get the girl back into the States, I couldn't figure out why they were on foot.  What happened to their truck?  And how come he just happened to have $1000 on him to pay to get smuggled back into the U.S?  Wait, there's more. When they encountered a deaf guy hoping he would help them, Alejandro just happened to know sign language.  How conveeeenient. 

I also really missed Johannsson's soundtrack from the first film.  I did not enjoy the soundtrack for this one. It was dreadful. I understand ominous but it wasn't just ominous.  It was fingers-on-the-chalk-board annoying.  

On the other hand, the film, directed by Stefano Sollima, does a good job of showing how we, too - the United States - can get it wrong and bungle things.  It doesn't paint a very rosy picture of the U.S.

Del Toro and Brolin deliver what you would expect from them, but I couldn't help but wonder what Brolin would be like as a romantic leading man.  It seems like he always plays grim cops or bad guys with no sense of humor.  The film is gritty so if you like Del Toro as a badass and Brolin as a tough guy and you like gritty, you might like this better than I did.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the first half of the film was all over the place and kind of boring.  It picked up in the last half when Del Toro let it rip, but by then, for me, it was too late.




Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)


A young man steals a laptop and soon learns why that wasn't such a good idea.

When we first meet Matias (Colin Woodell), he is trying to figure out the password to get into his "new" computer.  He has recently lifted it from the lost and found at his local coffee shop so it's not exactly stealing...is it?  Anyway, he gets into the computer, Skypes with his deaf girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) and then does a group Skype with his friends, one of whom is in London.  He shows off his "new" computer and brags about how much faster it is than his old one.  Everything seems hunky dory until...

It soon becomes apparent that the old owner is still very much in control of his computer and will do anything to get it back. Matias also uncovers some disturbing stuff on the computer.  You see, the original owner was involved in the Dark Web, a hidden part of the Internet where nefarious dealings take place such as paying someone to drill a hole in someone's head and put icky stuff in there.  Ew.  Mathis is lured into a website called "The River" and uncovers what our bad guy is up to and when our evil doer demands his computer back and Matias doesn't oblige fast enough his friends start dying.

This film plays out completely on the computer screen just as the film "Searching" did.  I favorably reviewed "Searching" last month praising what I thought was an original concept.  However, it wasn't as original as this franchise. I hadn't seen the first "Unfriended," which came out in 2014 and that one was the first to use that technique - everything playing out completely on the computer screen using video, Facetime and other social medias. And so this one continues that concept, a technique that works very well for the horror genre. This film is spooky as hell.

Written and directed by Stephen Susco, the film is low-budget and stars unknown young actors but it's a particularly good thriller. This is one of those films where you don't actually need to see the gore.  Your imagination will do just fine.

You may ask why a woman of a certain age wanted to watch this film, a film that is definitely not my demographic.  Well, ask away.  The answer to that is that this woman of a certain age has very eclectic taste, is a pop culture fan and likes the occasional horror film.  I may be old but I don't limit myself to movies like "Book Club" or "The Old Man & the Gun (see above)," which are aimed at, um, adults.  I liked those films but I liked this one too.  My only criticism would actually probably be related to the fact I am a woman of a certain age who can't see as well as I used to.  If you watch this film at home, and if your TV is rather far from where you are sitting, you might find it difficult to read the DM's posted on the screen.  Yes, I may be a woman of a certain age but I know what a DM is!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a good and timely little horror film reminding us that there are bad people doing bad things on the Internet and they live among us. So be careful. Don't steal someone's laptop!




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


121 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Andrei Rublev (1966)



An epic biopic of Andrei Rublev, a 15th century Russian iconographer (that's a painter of Orthodox icons and frescoes to you and me).

Remember what I said last week about any film that is called "epic?"  That means LONG!!! Here's another one. Be warned.  It's three and a half hours long! Three and a half hours about a Russian iconographer?

Little is known about Rublev (played by Anatoliy Solonitsyn) so this film is loosely based on his life but what we do know is that he was considered to be one of the greatest medieval Russian painters of icons and frescoes and director Andrei Tarkovsky sets out to give him his due. 

Four of Tarkovsky's films made it onto the list of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die." The reviewers who decided what we should see must like slow, deep and difficult Russian films, I guess.  Of his films included, I actually really liked "Stalker." Didn't understand "The Mirror" at all and now this one.  Knowing it was three and a half hours long, I admist I was already prejudiced against it and did I watch every minute of it?  No.

Because Tarkovsky's themes involved religion, artistic freedom and creating art under a repressive regime, the film was banned in what was mostly an atheist and repressive Russia.  A censored version was finally released in Russia in 1971 and another shorter version was released worldwide in 1973 so several versions exist.  Wouldn't you know, I would have to get the one that is three and a half hours long!


This black and white film is beautiful to look at and is awash in color at the end when Rublev's paintings are shown in all of their glory, but I am not a big fan of movies about 15th century Russia especially three and half hours worth.  

Despite the censorship and limited release, the film is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films of all time.  But not by this critic.

And speaking of critics, I have come to the conclusion that some reviewers like movies that no one can understand so they can be pompous blowhards.

Why it's a Must See:  "...as rich as [this film] might be on the thematic level, Tarkovsky's fresco is not made out of ideas.  It is made out of light and darkness, of noise and silence, of human faces and rough material.  It is a telluric move and a magical stay, suspended above the void."

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

?

Rosy the Reviewer says...I rest my case.




***The Book of the Week***




Milk Street: Tuesday Nights: More than 200 Simple Weeknight Suppers That Deliver Bold Flavors, Fast by Christopher Kimball (2018)


Nobody likes Tuesdays.  Tuesday has no personality.  It's not as hated as Monday but on Tuesday you are still looking at three more days of work.  So it's no wonder when you get home on a Tuesday night you don't want to cook!

But Christopher Kimball to the rescue with this cookbook that divides the recipes into "Fast," "Faster," and "Fastest."  The recipes in the "Fast" section are ones that you can get on the table in under 45 minutes.  "Faster" recipes are ready in 30-35 minutes and the "Fastest" recipes are ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.

"Look at cooking elsewhere in the world and you'll find that flavor is built with ingredients, not time."

Christopher Kimball was one of the co-founders of America's Test Kitchen, which produces television and radio shows and publishes magazines, most notably "Cook's Illustrated," which Kimball launched in 1993.  In 2016, he started Christopher Kimball's Milk Street, a cooking school located on Milk Street in Boston.

So Kimball shares recipes from around the world, such as Spanish Eggs and Potatoes, Shrimp with Feta Cheese, Sesame Stir fried Pork with Shiitakes, Vietnamese Meatball Lettuce Wraps and Peruvian Quinoa and Corn Chowder. All very yummy, easy and fast! Imagine eating those great dishes on a Tuesday night at home! 

And it doesn't get much easier than this one!

Spaghetti with Pancetta
(Pasta alla Gricia)

20 minutes from start to finish!

3 ounces pancetta finely chopped
2 t. cornstarch
6 oz. pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (3 cups) plus more to serve
12 oz. linguini or spaghetti
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • Bring 4 quarts of water to boil.  Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet over medium, cook the pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve 2 T. of the rendered fat.

  • In a large saucepan, whisk 1.5 cups cold water and the cornstarch until smooth.  Add the pecorino and stir until evenly moistened.  Cook over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the cheese melts and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer and thickens, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, at the reserved pancetta fat and set aside.

  • Add 2 T. salt to boiling water, add pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 c. of the cooking water, drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Let it cool for 1 minute.  Then pour the pecorino mixture over the pasta, toss until combined and add 2 t. pepper and the pancetta.  Let stand 3 minutes tossing several times until the liquid is absorbed.  Toss in reserved pasta water if needed.  The pasta should be creamy, but not loose.  Transfer to a warmed serving bowl and serve with more pecorino and pepper.

That's the long version. Here's my version. 

Cook the pasta and the pancetta, make the sauce and stir it all together.  Dinner done!

Kimball says not to use grated cheese but rather to grate it yourself but, I say, hey, it's Tuesday.  Do what is easiest for you!

The cookbook also includes sides, supper salads, pizzas, one pot dishes, roasted and simmered dishes and sweets.

Rosy the Reviewer says...my new favorite cookbook!




Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday 


for


"Bad Times at the El Royale"

and


The Week in Reviews
(What To See 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 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.