Friday, December 26, 2014

"Wild" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Wild" plus DVDs "Magic in the Moonlight" and "The Skeleton Twins" and Mick Fleetwood's memoir.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"]


Movie version of Cheryl Strayed's bestselling memoir about her 1100 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail on her own.
After the end of her marriage and the death of her beloved mother, Cheryl begins a downward spiral of grief, filled with promiscuity and heroin.  At her bottom, she decides the only way to heal herself is to make this trek.

The movie with screenplay by the novelist Nick Hornby tells Cheryl's story in a series of flashbacks as she hikes the trail.  Slowly we learn she ruined her marriage by cheating on her husband and doing heroin; her mother Bobbi's death destroyed her; she is estranged from her brother; and she is one tough cookie.
A powerful book does not necessarily a powerful film make, but that doesn't mean this is not a good film.  It is.  I make a point of not comparing books and the film versions.  Books and films are different art forms.  But when a book affects people as strongly as this book has, and it did me, one expects the same feeling when it's over and it just wasn't there. 
Reese Witherspoon does Cheryl proud and sheds her goody goody "America's Sweetheart" image with her nude and sex scenes and the liberal use of  the "F" word and the "MF" word.  She proves herself to deserve her Oscar as June Carter in "Walk the Line," and she will most definitely be rewarded with another nomination here.

Laura Dern plays Cheryl's free-spirited mother who endured a brutal marriage and bettered herself, only to die at 45.  Though Dern and Witherspoon are close in age, too close for Dern to be Witherspoon's mother, their chemistry together is believable.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a powerful performance by Witherspoon that is not to be missed.  And read the book!

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

Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth), whose alter ego is magician Wei Ling Soo, is called to country estate in the south of France to debunk, Sophie (Emma Stone) a suspicious medium.

Stanley's magician friend, Howard, enlists Stanley to accompany him to a country estate in the south of France to investigate a young American spiritualist who is staying with a wealthy woman and her son.  The son is in love with the girl and he thinks she could be a fraud and a gold digger. Stanley agrees and since he is not recognizable as Wei Ling, poses as Stanley Taplinger, a businessman who unknown to Sophie is out to unmask her as a fraud.  He is scornful of her gifts, but during a séance, she reveals details about people only they would know.  Slowly but surely she weaves a web of magic around Stanley that he can't resist.  And the gorgeous French countryside as a backdrop doesn't hurt either.

Woody Allen wrote and directed this romantic comedy set in the 1920's which now forms a trilogy of his "European films," the others being "Midnight in Paris (2011)" and "To Rome with Love (2012)." 

He once again explores God, death and the meaning of life as he has done in so many of his films but in a most charming way.

"Why would God have gone to all of this trouble if it was all for nothing?"

Allen has had female muses ever since he directed Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall."  She was followed by Mia Farrow, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson and now Emma Stone seems to have stolen his heart.

Colin Firth is Woody's alter ego, though here as an English gent, trying to unmask the medium as a fraud and he exhibits many of Woody's neuroses as he wrestles with the rational vs. the emotional.  Firth's character is arrogant and absolutely positive there is no life after death.

"Happiness is not a natural human condition."

He says, "I'm a rational man in a rational world.  Any other way is madness."

But in the end, he realizes as Woody seems to be saying in this charming comedy, "The world may be without purpose, but it's not without some kind of magic."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like "Downton Abbey" or want to see Colin Firth do his "Mr. Darcy thing," you will enjoy this.

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

Estranged twins reunite after the attempted suicide of the brother.

Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, SNL alums, play twin brother and sister, Milo and Maggie Dean, who have become estranged.  Maggie is called to her brother's bedside after his attempted suicide.  Coincidently, when the phone call came in, Maggie was going to do the same. 

When Milo attempts suicide, he is living in LA and nursing a broken heart. Maggie arrives from their hometown in upstate New York and takes Milo back to her house where she lives with her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson) in what appears on the surface to be a happy marriage.  The brother and sister have not spoken to each other for ten years.  

But all is not as it seems.  There is disappointment, broken hearts and all kinds of secrets.

Milo gets in touch with his first love, an older teacher (Ty Burrell) who seduced him when he was 15.  Maggie's husband, Lance, wants children but Maggie is secretly taking birth control pills and sleeping with other men.

And believe it or not, folks, this is a comedy!

I have already given Kirstin Wiig props for her performance in "Hateship Loveship," but Bill Hader is the revelation here.  There are few signs of his over the top characters on SNL, such as Stefon.  His performance is surprisingly subtle and poignant. Together, the two of them make a great team.

There are some cute, silly scenes such as when they both get high on laughing gas in the dentist's office (Maggie is a dental hygienist) and when during a fight, Milo puts on the Jefferson Starship song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now."  He starts to lip synch and coaxes her to join.  She resists but comes in just as Grace Slick does. You had to be there, but trust me.

I didn't get why the hospital would call Maggie when Milo was admitted.  After all the mother was still in the picture but that's a small thing.

This film is all about trying to mend broken hearts by the mending of broken relationships.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet brother and sister love story - and I mean that in the best possible way.

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

 292 to go!

On Bora Bora, a maiden is deemed "The Chosen Maid," which means no one can even look upon her let alone have her as a girlfriend.  Her boyfriend doesn't buy it and off they go. Since death is the sentence for disobeying the edict, things don't look good for our young lovers.

Directed by F.W Murnau, considered one of the greatest of all silent film directors, the film was shot entirely in the South Seas in 1929 using a nonprofessional cast.  This was Murnau's last film.  He was killed in a car accident one week before "Tabu" was to open.  The world would never get to see how he might have done with "talkies."
Why it's a Must See: "However dated some of Tabu's ethnographic idealism may seem today, the film's breathtaking beauty and artistry make it indispensable viewing, and the exquisite tragic ending -- conceived musically and rhythmically as a gradually decelerating diminuendo -- is one of the pinnacles of silent cinema."

Rosy the Reviewer says...silent films are difficult to process in this crazy world we live in, but this one is a beautiful example and worth seeing.

***Book of the Week***

Play On: Now, Then, and Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood (2014)

The "Fleetwood" in the rock band Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood shares his story.

Fleetwood talks about his happy family life growing up and his difficulties in school.  Discovering drumming gave him something to work toward and once he decided that's what he could do, he didn't consider anything else.  He was "discovered" while living with his sister in London and practicing his drums in her garage.  From that time he was off and running.

Fleetwood Mac went through several permutations before it became the band of "Rumours."  Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer were early driving forces but both went off the rails into cults and mental illness.  When Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Chris McVie (then Chris Perfect) joined Fleetwood and John McVie, the band had its greatest success.

All of the band member hook-ups are described - Stevie and Lindsay, then Stevie and Mick, John and Chris and lots and lots of cocaine.

Mick is self-deprecating to a certain extent.  He doesn't give himself too much credit for his drumming and seems to take responsibility for what went wrong with his three marriages, but he still comes off as kind of an ass.  I mean, c'mon.  If you admit your first marriage ended because you didn't communicate with your wife and put your work first, why are you now ending marriage number three for the same reason?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a candid rock and roll memoir that is hard to put down.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"My New Year's UN-Resolutions"

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

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."

Or you can go directly to IMDB.  

Find the page for the movie you are interested in, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews" and click. Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What the Holiday Season Means To Me

As I wrap up (pardon the pun) the last details of the holiday season, I am reflecting on just what it all means. 

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, for example, why do we put up a tree and decorations? Why do we fight the crowds at the mall to buy presents?  Why do we bake those cookies we certainly don't need and why do we cook a huge Christmas day feast?  Why do we spend a day writing out Christmas cards to send to our family and friends?


For one, it's traditional. We humans need our traditions. 

One definition of tradition is "the transmission of customs or beliefs from one generation to another."  We do many of the things we do over the holidays, because we have always done them and our mothers and fathers have probably done the same things.  It's comforting to do these same things, and it connects us to our loved ones who are no longer with us. My Dad and Mom fought over the Christmas tree lights, and I could hear my Dad cursing all of the way upstairs when he was putting up the tree (my Dad didn't actually curse, but there was a great deal of under-the-breath-mumbling) and so, too, Hubby and I fight over the lights.  Hubby really DOES curse. 

When I trim the tree, many of my ornaments came from my mother who loved them and loved giving them.  As I pull out each one, I think of her and spend some time remembering.

So carrying on these traditions is comforting and brings back our memories of loved ones and happy times.


The holidays are about family whether you like it or not. 

Holiday gatherings have gotten a bad rap, I think.  Saturday Night Live has done a funny sketch where the family is seated at the table and snarls over everything that is said, especially upsetting Kristen Wiig's character, who gets up from the table every few minutes and threatens to stomp off.

Here is a recreation of that sketch.  Does this look at all like your family during the holidays?

Despite the humor in that, yes, the holidays can be stressful if we are gathering with people we only see during the holidays, but I have far more happy memories of growing up with my parents and with my own children than bad memories, though I do remember my brother at the table baiting me to the point of tears and my running upstairs and locking myself in the bathroom.  My family wrote that off as my being "high strung."  How about writing that off as my brother was a bully?

But I also remember that even though I was served last at the Christmas dinner (because I was the youngest), my Dad always saved me the drumstick.  My favorite.


Thoughtful gifts are always appreciated. My father was one of the most thoughtful people. 

If you saw something in a shop window while walking with him, he would remember that and get it for you as a present.  One year, I really wanted a canopy bed for my dolls and sure enough, Santa brought it.  What I was doing still playing with dolls at 11, I don't know.  When I see eleven-year-olds these days, they sure aren't playing with dolls. We didn't mature as fast back then, I guess. 

But that is a particularly happy memory of thoughtfulness.


And along with thoughtfulness comes generosity. 

Christmas certainly isn't a time to be cheap, if you have the means.  And I'm not just talking about presents and money. Being cheap with money can also mean you are being cheap with your love, your time, your self.  Being generous of spirit means sharing yourself - spending time with your grandkids, reaching out to others, being interested in others, going out of your way for someone, being a shoulder to cry on, volunteering your time, helping a friend in need, being there. 

The holidays should be a reminder that we need to be generous with ourselves every day of the year so people have wonderful memories of US.


There is a great deal of fun to be had during the holidays - parties, caroling, enjoying the lights and decorations, watching cheesy Lifetime holiday movies, silly hats...

Going for the cheap laugh is also fun!


Amidst all of the holiday hubbub, it's easy to forget to be thankful. 

I am thankful for my family, my career, the many good things in my life and all of the happy memories that I have.


Did you notice a theme?

It all boils down to memories.  We create and have memories all of the time, but especially, during the holidays, new memories are created and those memories from the past come flooding back.  We can spend time with our loved ones remembering our loving memories.

My first professional library job started in 1974 and was in a rural area that didn't even have any fast food places.  The "department store" was a Sears catalog store.  But one thing the town DID have was shops selling cowboy gear.  I sent this shirt to my Dad for Christmas that year and he wore it proudly, because my Dad always wanted to be a cowboy. He sent me this picture so I would know how much he liked the shirt.  He was thoughtful that way.

My Mother had a seamstress make an entire wardrobe for one of my dolls.

I have those chairs and think of my parents every time I sit in them.

My mother sent this musical Santa to my son.  It moved all around the floor and played Christmas carols over and over. My son loved it.  It drove us crazy.  It mysteriously disappeared.

Every year one of the kids got to wear the Santa hat and distribute the presents on Christmas Eve.  The cat is not one of the kids.  She was the cat from hell...god rest her little soul.

This was the Christmas Eve my son and I spent on our own. 
It was a happy moment in the midst of change.

Let's all create more wonderful memories this holiday season.

I know I will be.

That's what the holidays mean to me.

Thanks for Reading!
Have a Wonderful Holiday!
I will see you Friday for my review
of the new movie
and The Week in Reviews,
as well as 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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chris Rock's New Movie "Top Five" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Chris Rock's new movie "Top Five," the DVDs "Make Your Move" and "22 Jump Street" and the book "Marianne Faithfull - A Life on Record."  I also bring you up to date on my "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" and my "A-HA Moment of the Week."]

Stand-up comic, Andre Allen (Chris Rock), wants to be taken seriously, so he has given up stand-up, given up "funny movies," given up alcohol and bankrolled a serious film about a Haitian uprising.  But now he's worried.

Andre made a name for himself as Hammy the Bear in a series of superhero cop films where he wears a bear suit and shoots his AK-47 while shouting "It's Hammy Time!" but now he's had it with funny and wants to be serious (reminds me of "Birdman").  He is also trying to maintain his hard-earned sobriety and fears that now he is sober, he is no longer funny. His new film "Uprize," about a little known Haitian uprising where the slaves killed 50,000 whites, is due to open and his televised wedding to a reality star, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), is the next big thing.  Enter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), an attractive, smart reporter from the New York Times who wants to interview Andre and we have our conflict, friends.  Well, one of them, anyway. 

Chelsea and Andre walk around New York City talking about life, relationships, and failures in what look to be Rock's homage to Richard Linklater's "Before Series (that makes sense because he starred with Julie Delpy in "Two Days in New York," Delpy starring and writing the "Before" movies).

Rock, who wrote, directed and stars, lampoons and questions reality TV, fame, sobriety, black comics, art and even the meaning of life.

Many of Rock's comic friends have cameos:  Cedric the Entertainer, Sherri Shepherd, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Tracy Morgan (before his accident), JB Smoove as his goes on and on.

Andre giving up his "funny" films for more serious pursuits is reminiscent of Woody Allen when he moved away from films like "Sleeper," "Annie Hall" and "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex" to his Bergman phase with "Interiors."  Allen acknowledged that in "Stardust Memories," where several characters talk about his filmmaking, "especially the early funny ones."  Rock seems to be channeling Allen in his neurotic rants.

There are a lot of "M" words and "N" words and "F" words, and very raunchy sex scenes, but despite that, there is a sweetness about this film as Rock works out how to bring personal meaning to his life.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Chris Rock, it's a funny enjoyable film, but not as funny as his stand-up can be. 

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
Make Your Move (2013)

Donny (Derek Hough of "Dancing with the Stars" fame) and Aya (South Korean pop singer BoA) find themselves in the center of a feud between their brothers and the brothers' competing nightclubs.

Romeo and Juliet anyone?

Donny is an ex-con trying to make it dancing on the street for tips. Without getting permission from his parole officer, Donny heads to New York City to visit his brother who owns a nightclub, thinking he can earn money dancing there.  However, he unwittingly walks into a feud between his brother and his brother's former partner, Kaz, who has opened up a rival nightclub.

Naturally Kaz has a younger sister (Aya) and naturally Donny immediately falls for her.

Derek's acting is better than expected.  I can't say the same for BoA.  Nor can I say the same for the dialogue. It's a simplistic plot that allows for lots of dancing and the dancing is good.  So see this for the dancing.

But, though Derek made his fame as the Fred Astaire of "Dancing with the Stars," don't expect to see Derek doing any ballroom.  In this film he exercises his tapping and hip hop chops, something we don't get to see him do much of on "Dancing With The Stars."

People familiar with "So You Think You Can Dance" will recognize choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon ("Nappytabs" to us in the Biz) who are known on that show for their original hip hop routines and those abound here to great effect.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the plot is slim, but if you are a Derek Hough fan, there is lots of Derek here, but don't expect any ballroom dancing.  This is strictly tap tap and hip hop.

22 Jump Street (2014)

It's "21 Jump Street" all over again (not to be confused with the Johnny Depp TV show), except this time Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) have finally graduated from high school and are headed for college.

Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) sends Schmidt and Jenko off to college to try to find out who is dealing a synthetic drug. Jenko is immediately popular and is seduced by a football playing fraternity brother. Together they decide they will make the "anals of football history (that's the kind of humor).  Jenko buys the whole thing: college, football, the fraternity. 

Jenko is the dummy and Schmidt is the smart-ass, but they are both pretty clueless, hence the humor.  I guess you would call that humor.

When they first arrive, Jenko stands looking at the college campus and emotionally says, "It's just I'm the first person in my family to pretend to go to college."  

The best line in the movie.

Schmidt's and Jenko's partnership is like a marriage so when Jenko finds a new bestie, Schmidt gets jealous. This alliance leads to Schmidt and Jenko breaking up in one of the few funny scenes.

"Maybe we should just investigate other people."

"You want an open investigation?"

And then they get back together for a "one time hookup" to catch the bad guys.

I laughed at those bits, but then it was all downhill after that. 

The film is aimed at the 13-22 age group so there is lots of action.  It starts out with an action scene on a racing semi that reminded me of some of the stunts on "Fear Factor."  The last half hour is nothing but fights, shoot 'en ups and car chases with a final preposterous helicopter stunt.

The whole thing is pretty preposterous, actually, which wouldn't be so bad if the movie was funny.  It has it's moments, but it's mostly silly stuff aimed at the prepubescent male and women who can't get enough of Channing Tatum (ahem).

If you don't take my advice and do see this movie, watch the credits.  It's the funniest part.

Rosy the Reviewer says...However, it's not a good sign when the funniest part of the film is the credits where they list upcoming undercover assignments for future "Jump Street" movies - medical school, culinary school, flight school, ballet school, retirement goes on and on all the way to "40 Jump Street."  All I can say is god help us.

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

293 to go! 
Aparajito (1957)

The second installment of the "Apu Trilogy" finds Apu leaving home to attend college.

Satyajit Ray was an Indian filmmaker considered one of the greatest auteur directors of all timeHis films are de rigeur in film school and in classes on film.
The Apu Trilogy comprises three films: Pather Pachali (1955), which I reviewed early in this project, this film, Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (1959). Ray decided to use Pather Panchali (1928), the classic Bildungsroman of Bengali literature, as the basis for his first film. The semi-autobiographical novel describes the coming of age of Apu, a small boy in a Bengal village and we follow him through the next two films that comprise the trilogy.

Why it's a Must See: "As befits its midway status, [this film] forms the bridge in Ray's trilogy.  It opens up the timeless, self-contained life of Pather Panchali's Bengali village to the disruptive influence of the city, showing Ray's young hero torn between two world's, gradually and inevitably growing away from his parents.  As always, Ray doesn't load the dice in favor of one character or another.  We understand why Apu feels compelled to seek the wider world; we share his delight in learning his sense of personal achievement.  At the same time, however, we see [his mother's] pain; she's lost her daughter to an early death, now she's losing her son."
---1001 Films You Must See Before You Die."

Ray's power lies in his ability to tap that core of humanity to which we can all relate and make the viewer feel what his characters are feeling.  He himself said:

"If you're able to portray universal feelings, universal relations, emotions, and characters, you can cross certain barriers and reach out to others."

The original music for the films was composed by Ravi Shankar.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you fancy yourself a film aficionado, Ray's films are a must.

Alice (1988)

A reworking of the "Alice in Wonderland" tale from Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer.
Svankmajer is a director, an animator and a puppeteer and he employs all of those skills to tell the "Alice" tale once again in a surreal and quite frightening way.
Why it's a Must See:  "In Svankmajer's conception, the disposable products of domestic life (such as rulers, socks, jars and buttons) become the raw material for gothic splendor.  And Lewis's familiar characters...are here more creepy than charming; as one critic writes, 'they're partly enchanted, partly haunted, and there's a...trace of formaldehyde.'"
Just think if Salvador Dali retold "Alice in Wonderland."  That's what this is like.
Rosy the Reviewer says...strangely beautiful, but not for everyone.  But for those of you who are subtitle phobic, it's dubbed!

***Book of the Week***

Marianne Faithfull - A Life on Record by Marianne Faithfull (2014)

A coffee table book about Faithfull that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the debut of her single "As Tears Go By."


Faithfull is probably most famous as Mick Jagger's girlfriend through the swinging 60's. This is not a memoir, but a series of photographs of Faithfull taken by famous photographers and with her handwritten captions.

Faithfull was an icon of pop culture for the 60's and despite some early success as a singer and actress, her real success came later with her breakthrough album "Broken English," her once sweet voice ironically ravaged by drug use. 


Rosy the Reviewer $65 for this, for Marianne Faithfull superfans only.  All others would learn more about her by reading her autobiography, "Faithfull (2000)."

***My A-HA Moment of the Week***
It's actually more of a Wow! moment.  Hello Kitty is not a cat!  According to Sanrio, she is a little girl.  Who knew?  Now you know.


Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"What The Holidays Mean To Me"


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

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 



Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."

Or you can go directly to IMDB.  


Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."