Friday, January 30, 2015

"Cake" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Cake" and the DVDs "No Good Deed," "Love is Strange" and "Jimi: All is By My Side" and the book "Part Swan, Part Goose," actress Swoosie Kurtz's memoir.   I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the classics: "Bigger Than Life" and "Au Hasard Balthasar" ]


Following a car accident, Claire is in chronic and psychic pain.

We first encounter Claire (Jennifer Anniston) at a chronic pain support group.  Everyone is sharing how they feel about the recent suicide of one of their members, Nina (Anna Kendrick).  The group leader, Annette (Felicity Huffman), wants them all to speak directly to a picture of Nina about how they feel.  When it is Claire's turn, she doesn't want to do the exercise at first, but when prompted by Annette lashes out by describing Nina's suicide (she jumped off a highway overpass) in a graphically black humor sort of way, upsetting the rest of the group. She is later told by Annette that she isn't right for the group and please don't come back.  We get it.  Claire is not a happy camper.

Claire is looked after by her housekeeper, Sylvana, beautifully played by Adriana Barraza, and Claire isn't very nice to her either.  We discover that Claire lives alone, except for Sylvana, is estranged from her husband, is addicted to her pain pills and has the occasional shag with the pool boy, which, I have to say, was a kind of unbelievable blip in this otherwise realistic little indie film. If I was in the kind of pain Claire appears to be in, sex would be the last thing on my mind.

It becomes clear that being in constant pain can do all kinds of things to one's mind, but then there is also the psychic pain of guilt and loss which Claire is also feeling because her little son died in the accident. She is addicted to her pain pills and a typical evening appears to be popping pills, followed by a bottle of wine. She doesn't seem to want to live and it doesn't help that she keeps getting visited by the ghost of Nina who keeps urging her to also end her life.  Claire becomes a bit obsessed with Nina, even going so far as to visit her husband.  She gets the address by blackmailing Annette, telling her if she doesn't give her Nina's address, she will sue for being kicked out of the group.  When she arrives at Nina's house, she pretends she used to live there and Nina's husband, Roy (Sam Worthington) plays along even though Annette has already called him to let him know Claire was coming.  They form a wary alliance, each eventually helping the other with their psychic pain.

Never having been a big Jennifer Anniston fan, I wanted to see what the buzz was about with this performance (she was nominated for a Golden Globe and many think she was robbed by not getting an Oscar nod).  Was it just another beautiful actress playing a part without makeup and getting props for that?  Which begs the question, if you are a beautiful actress, do you have to take off your makeup to get recognition for your acting (think Charlize Theron)?  

No, makeup or no makeup, Anniston was quite wonderful in this difficult role.  None of her Rachel Green mannerisms were apparent here (which often leak into her performances) and she was completely believable in portraying a woman in constant pain.  Adriana Barraza was a  revelation, though, as the sympathetic housekeeper.  I hope to see her in more English language films and Felicity Huffman, though playing a small role, was also a standout.  Huffman's husband, William H. Macy, also makes a brief appearance as the cause of Anniston's accident.  Sam Worthington was deliciously scruffy and charismatic.

There is a lot of dark humor in the script by Patrick Tobin, and director Daniel Barnz has captured the grey world of a woman who has to find the will to live, but not much happens beyond Claire working her way through all of that pain.  Claire is covered in physical scars which looked very realistic, so props to the makeup people, and props to Anniston for showing Claire's psychic scars so effectively.

Rosy the Reviewer says... the film was kind of a pain, but an Oscar worthy performance by Anniston makes it worth it.

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

No Good Deed (2014)
Taraji P. Henson is terrorized by Idris Elba in a paint by numbers thriller.
Colin Evans (Idris) is up for parole after spending five years for a manslaughter charge.  He is denied parole (because he's a bad, bad man), but escapes from the van on the way back to prison from his hearing.  He is wounded in the course of his escape and heads out of Knoxville toward Atlanta.
Switch to Terri in her nice suburban house in Atlanta, her lawyer husband and her two little kids. Terri used to be a district attorney but now stays home with the kids.  Guess what is going to happen?  If you watch enough Lifetime Movies, you know. Terry opens the door to help Colin, who says he has been in a car accident and needs to use the phone and things don't look so good for Terri because, as I said, Colin is a bad, bad man.

The thriller/Lifetime Movie clichés abound here:  Naturally, it's a dark and stormy night; Terri's girlfriend who figures out the plot, but too late, gets whacked before she can warn our heroine; you think the bad guy is dead but then he jumps up for a cheap thrill; the cop arrives and should put an end to this travesty but is too clueless to get the drift in time; and finally the cat and mouse game between Terri and Colin as he cuts the electricity, hides all the knives and stomps about after Terri not realizing Terri is not going to give up easily.

Colin did not randomly target Terri.  There is a plot twist at the end that you can see coming from miles away.

Elba and Henson are terrifically good actors, but even they are not able to get us to suspend disbelief. One wonders what drew them to this film. Elba must have wanted to shake off his noble image as Nelson Mandela in "Mandela:  The Long Walk to Freedom."  Not sure why Henson wanted to be part of this mess.
Rosy the Reviewer says...I've said this all of my life - "No good deed goes unpunished" - and I felt like I was being punished watching this film. 
Long term couple, Ben and George, finally get married, but then Ben loses his job and they lose their apartment, forcing them to live separately until they find a new place which proves difficult for everyone involved.
Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are a middle-aged gay couple who are finally able to get married after 39 years together. They live in a lovely NYC apartment with loving family and friends.  George is a music teacher at a Catholic school and when the school finds out he is married, they fire him for going against the school's principals, despite the fact he had worked there for nine years and everyone knew he was gay.  Turns out getting married is like screaming that fact from the rooftops and the school just couldn't have that.  (Interestingly, this very thing happened here in Seattle).
So with limited funds between them, Ben and George need to find a place to live. While they are trying to figure that out, they each end up in separate accommodation:  George with a young gay couple and Ben with his nephew and his family.
It doesn't take long to realize this arrangement is taking its toll on all parties.  Ben becomes an irritant to his nephew's wife, played by Marisa Tomei, who is a writer and is used to working alone without interruptions.  George sleeps on the couch of his single neighbors apartment so when they party, he can't go to bed.  Each feels increasingly in the way.
No one seems to understand how difficult it is for these two to be apart, focusing only on the disruption to their own lives.  Ain't that the way.
Then Ben takes a tumble down the stairs just as George finds the ideal rent-controlled apartment.
It's no fun getting old and we see that as George and Ben try to cope with being apart and treated as if they are in the way.  But with age comes some percs - mastering your craft --  and mastering their craft is what Molina and Lithgow have done. That they are at the top of their acting game is evident throughout this lovely film where they truly make you believe they are a loving couple of 39 years, with all of those nods and looks and inside jokes that come from being together for so long.  They are delightful to watch, despite the bittersweet ending.

Ira Sachs directed and co-wrote with Mauricio Zacharias this seemingly simple script that beautifully captures the nuances of long term love, the heartbreak of being apart and getting old amidst the busy lives of everyone else.
The cinematography here is also one of the stars. It is as lush and as beautiful as a Vermeer painting.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a lovely, sweet film that comes to life because of the amazing acting chops of Lithgow and Molina.

Jimi Hendrix's London year right before he made it big in the U.S. at Monterey Pop.

Andre Benjamin plays Jimi during his early years in the late 60's as he tries to make it as Jimi James and the Blue Flames.  But one night at The Cheetah Club, Jimi meets Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith (Imogen Poots, who is everywhere these days) and everything changes for him. She is fascinated by him and mentors him, introducing him to important people in the music industry.  When she introduces him to Chas Chandler of the Animals, Chandler quits his job with the band and becomes Jimi's manager and gets him to come to London in 1966 and it is there that Jimi takes off.

Filmed documentary style with a lot of interesting camera work, the movie has an improvisational cinema verite feel.  The clothes, the music all create the "Swinging London" of the 1960's, and Benjamin channels Jimi with his quiet way of expressing himself.  Many "look-alikes" of those who helped Hendrix in his career pop in and out:  Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Noel Redding.

This is a slice of life the year before Jimi hit it big at Monterey Pop and his career would never be the same again. If you are hoping to hear familiar Jimi Hendrix music, you will be disappointed (Jimi's estate would not give them the rights), but the music is atmospheric and captures the mood.

Writer/Director John Ridley, who wrote the script (and won an Oscar)  for "12 Years a Slave" has produced a rather disjointed film, almost as if we are in a drug trip with Jimi.  There are hints at issues such as Jimi's flower child persona in contrast to his temper which could lead him to beat up his girlfriend, and the racial issues in London at the time. There was a brief allusion to racial tensions in the segment with Michael X when he tries to radicalize Jimi by saying "You will never be anything but a curiosity."  But that was more of a distraction than anything else and none of these issues were pursued.

Ridley just gives us this one year in the life.

Rosy the Reviewer says...It's difficult to say how much of this is true, but it captures what "Swinging London" might have been like and is a fun blast from the past especially for Baby Boomers and their kids who might want to know what Mom and Dad were up to in the 60's.


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

282 to go!

Have you seen these?

Bigger than Life (1956)

A small town teacher is prescribed steroids, he becomes addicted and the drugs turn him into a neurotic megalomaniac who tries to kill his young son.

Directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Mason (Mason also produced), this film tells the story of Ed Avery, a small town teacher who becomes very ill and given only a short time to live.  However, doctors prescribe cortisone and his recovery is miraculous.  But his recovery is not without a downside.  He becomes addicted to the cortisone and the side effects turn him into a neurotic manic depressive, one minute grandiose, another irritable and scary, terrorizing his wife (Barbara Rush) and young son (Christopher Olsen).

Before his illness, Ed was trying to make ends meet by moonlighting as a taxi dispatcher, once again proving the point that teachers don't make enough money.

So the message here is also about  the "disease" of a dead-end middle class life, forever trying to keep up with the Jones. Ray uses interesting camera angles and shadows to show the claustrophobia of his life and the impending psychosis overtaking Ed.

Mason does brooding, tormented types like no other ("A Star is Born") and this film is no exception.  Barbara Rush looks like a 50's version of Nicole Kidman and a young Walter Matthau makes an appearance as Ed's fellow teacher and friend.

Why it's a Must See: "Though best known for Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Nicholas Ray's finest film is a brilliant expressionist melodrama that used the then-topical controversy over the discovery and deployment of the 'wonder drug' cortisone (a type of steroid) to mount a devastating critique on materialistic, middle-class conformism in the postwar era...a profoundly radical movie, then, distinguished not only by its distaste for suburban notions of 'normality' but by the beautifully nightmarish clarity of its intensely colored CinemaScope imagery."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...a classic!

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

French director Robert Bresson's film about shy Marie and her beloved donkey, Balthazar, and the fates that befall each of them.
Bresson was a huge influence on the French New Wave and is considered one of the greatest film directors of all time. 
This film opens with a father buying a baby donkey for his son and daughter, who are spending the summer on a farm with young Marie and her family.  The children name the donkey Balthazar. When the children leave for the summer, promising to return, they leave Balthazar on the farm where he becomes the beloved pet of Marie.  But time passes and young Marie falls in with some local thugs, she forgets about Balthazar, and he is sold to become a beast of burden.  Over the years, he has several owners, some who treat him well and some who abuse him. Likewise, Marie's life is filled with abuse.
Balthazar is the silent witness to the foibles of humans and represents the innocence that is lost as humans grow from children into adults. But no matter what happens Balthazar endures.  Life is about putting up with crap and not complaining and that is what Balthazar does until his last breath.  (I sure wish, though, there had been something at the end that said, "No donkeys were hurt during the making of this film.")
This film is also a reminder of how "colorful" beautifully filmed black and white films used to be.
Why it's a Must See: "Bresson's film as been labeled by at least one critic as 'the zenith of purity in the cinema.' But the highest praise of all comes from Andrew Sarris in his Village Voice review: '[Balthazar] stands alone atop one of the loftiest pinnacles of artistically-realized emotional experiences.'"
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you can't stand to see animal abuse, this is NOT for you, but it's a poignant story illustrating the "saintliness" of animals amidst the often cruel and sadistic world of humans.
(b & w, in French with English subtitles).
***Book of the Week***

Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir of Womanhood, Work and Family by Swoosie Kurtz (2014)

The Tony and Emmy award winning actress shares her life and career.

Though Kurtz has won two Tony Awards ("Fifth of July" and "House of Blue Leaves"), an Emmy ("Carole and Company"), and starred on numerous television shows, most notably "Sisters" and "Pushing Daisies," and currently  in "Mike and Molly," hers is not a household name, though it certainly is an unusual one. Kurtz is one of those faces. You recognize her, but can't recall her name.  (Her name comes from "The Swoose," the B-17 bomber her highly decorated pilot father flew in WW II).

Her father was an Olympic diver and war hero and her mother was a military wife who chronicled their marriage in her book "My Rival, the Sky." The two were a celebrity couple who had a marriage that Kurtz greatly admired.  She shares portions of her mother's book as she also shares her own life, growing up an only child in the shadow of her remarkable parents, her devotion to her career that belied marriage and children of her own, and the present, where she now cares for her 90-something mother suffering from dementia. She shares the difficulties of caring for an aging parent while trying to maintain a career in Hollywood and on Broadway.

This is not a tell-all book in the classic sense. There is not much in the way of juicy details, but she tells her story in a humorous yet gentle way and shares lots of inside anecdotes about acting and what goes on backstage on Broadway. But this memoir is as much about her parents as it is about her.  She clearly loves and respects them, and it's refreshing to read about a loving family in light of so many memoirs that share the horrors of childhood.  Her father has passed away, but her mother is nearing 100 and she is caring for her.  She has always had a very close relationship with her mother and that remains, even as her mother nears the end of her life.

She writes at the end of the book,

"Gathering [my mother] in my arms, I am overtaken by unexpected weeping, overwhelmed with a liquid light show of emotion.  I have known this feeling before: those moments onstage when I find myself felicitously cast in a rare, perfect-for-me role.  I feel the best of my aptitudes shining beyond what I'd imagined I was capable of.  Something is brought out of me I would not have believed was there.  Startled and profoundly grateful I soar.  This is not a state of grace in which one is allowed to live.  It is a zephyr at best, and I have finally learned to cherish it instead of questioning my worthiness or pre-grieving the inevitable.  If we're lucky, and I have been, it presents itself many times in a life and career, but always in a different guise, so we must be wise enough to wait for it, brave enough to take on the difficult day in which it comes, and strong enough to let it go.  The name of this particular zephyr is love." 

Rosy the Reviewer says...Broadway babies and those caring for a parent with dementia will find this rewarding.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"What I've Learned from Beauty Pageants"
(You don't want to miss this one!)


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email it to your friends and
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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."



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rituals: The Good, the Not So Good and the Ugly

I am getting ready for a little trip to Victoria, B.C.  It's one of my favorite places. 

In thinking about our trip, I am looking forward to my little rituals that I associate with Victoria.  I go to Murchies to buy enough tea to get me by until I go to Victoria again (I know I can buy it online but it's more fun to choose my tea in person and have a little nosh while I'm at it), then next door to Munro's Books to pick up a memoir by a British actor or some other book that was only published in the UK. 

Visiting Munro's is also special because it's one of those independent bookstores you don't see anymore and also a lovely place to poke around.  It is even listed as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Then on day 2, we walk to the Cook Street Starbucks.  It's the best Starbucks in the world.  I'm not sure it the walk there through the Victoria neighborhood away from the tourists? The cozy interior filled with locals? I don't know but we always take that walk and it's always lovely, peaceful and comforting.  Then at night we walk around the Inner Harbor to see Parliament lit up at night.

It never varies. That is our ritual.

Today I am at home and my ritual many days a week is this:  I have my tea while watching "The View."  Then I head to the gym (yuck, but a necessary evil ).  After that horror, I stop at Starbucks for a Skinny Latte, then go to the library to pick up books I have requested and then I take the scenic way home. 


When my kids were growing up, the morning ritual included their coming into my bedroom to kiss me goodbye as they headed to school

Yes, you heard me.  My kids had to be at school at zero dark thirty and like I always say, I am not a morning person. Let me just say that my kids learned how to fix their own breakfasts at an early age.  Anyway, both my son and daughter would always kiss me goodbye and they did that until they left home for college.

And then there is the anniversary ritual. 

I think I read an article that said if you wanted your husband to remember your anniversary, take turns being responsible for the celebration.  So that's what we decided to do.  Hubby is responsible for the even years and I am responsible for the uneven years.  Anniversary celebrations have run the gamut from trips to Europe to a road trip to British Columbia wine country to an overnight at a very posh hotel. 


But big or small, the occasion is celebrated and Hubby has never forgotten an anniversary, just as that article promised.

A ritual is defined in part as "being part of an established routine."  But I would give it more significance than that.

Rituals are comforting. 
There is comfort in order and things happening as they are supposed to.  I go to the gym with the comfort that I will be rewarded with a Skinny Vanilla Latte at Starbucks followed by my trip to the library (always a favorite destination) to pick up a book or DVD I have been anxiously looking forward to. 

Then I take the scenic way home. All very orderly, fun and comforting.  You get a sense that all is right with the world.

But there are also those rituals that aren't exactly comforting, but rather rituals that need to be performed if our lives are going to function well.

For example: 

  • Charging your cell phone (as soon as you get home so you aren't one of those people who says, "Oops, my phone is dying..." and you know who you are) and being sure to take your charger with you when you travel so you don't have to borrow the one from the person who DID remember (and you know who you are!)
  • Going through the TV Guide and recording must see programs on the TIVO for the upcoming week so you will have wonderful and interesting content to choose from when the time comes to plop down in front of the TV (for TV Addicts only - and you know who you are too!
  • Getting up in the morning, putting in the contacts, making the bed, setting my hair (only if I'm going out), brushing my teeth, taking a shower (if I'm going out, otherwise, who cares?).  I make this all more palatable by having the TV on something like "Inside Edition" or something I can't really justify sitting and watching, but which works fine while going through the morning ritual
  • Making dinner, eating at a specified time, cleaning up
  • Plopping down in front of the TV 

I also have a ritual before going on a trip or if I plan to be away from the house for several hours.  I have to check and recheck that the iron is not plugged in, even though I know I have an iron that shuts itself off and usually isn't even set up.  I do this and try to be present when I do it so I am sure I have done it so that when we are 50 miles down the road and I don't sit up straight and yell, "I LEFT THE IRON ON!"  Back we go to start the trip over again.  We don't want that.  Hubby would not be happy.

So those are the "not so good" rituals.

They aren't exactly fun or pleasing and in fact, they are often a pain in the butt, but there still is some comfort in knowing you will have a charged cell phone (if certain people should try to call you which they usually don't - and you know who you are!) or that your body odor won't be offensive (if you are going out.  Otherwise, who cares?)

But then there are those rituals that we have gotten ourselves into that are not so comforting or rewarding, and we are not even sure how they got started.

These are the ugly ones. 

These are the rituals that are not comforting or pleasing.

One particularly egregious one for me is one that for the life of me I can't remember how it started but it has gotten truly out of hand. 

Our pack of dogs require a treat when I come down the stairs in the morning, when I arrive home from anywhere, and sometimes just when I enter the room they are in. 

Now this might seem to you something that should easily be rectified, but let me tell you. When I make an appearance, if I don't hand over the treats, there is hell to pay!  The cacophony of barking is not to be believed and it does not end until the treat has been handed over.

(And this was a quiet day, probably because they knew they were being filmed)

If I try to avoid it, the little one - he's the worst - will chirp and bop and hop and whine until he gets the treat.  It's like a child constantly yanking on your sleeve whining, "Pleeez, can I?  Huh? Huh? Pleez? 

You can't exactly smack him. Well, I could but I don't.

So I am locked in this ritual of horror that confines me to my bed longer than I need to, because I can't bear the noise when I start to come down the stairs.


And when I finally do, there they stand waiting expectantly, barking all of the while, until I do their bidding.

It's almost like they are devil dogs.  I have nightmares about what might happen if I tried to get away with not giving them treats.

For some reason, Hubby is immune to this.  Lucky him. 

Hubby, however, has the morning ritual of putting up the baby gate at the foot of the stairs so the dogs can't get to me.  If he didn't, they would be sitting outside the bedroom door scratching and whispering, "Where's our treat?"

So rituals can be comforting and they can sometimes be a burden, but rituals are important because whether they are good, not so good, or ugly, it's one small part of life where, in a chaotic world, we know what's going to happen.

And that's good.

So revel in your rituals!

What are your good,
not so good or ugly rituals?

Thanks for Reading! 

See you Friday 

for my review of the new movie
The Week in Reviews,

 as well as my progress on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."


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Friday, January 23, 2015

"American Sniper" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "American Sniper" and DVDs "A Five Star Life," "The Guest," and "Are You Here," plus the book "Foxcatcher (yes, it's the one the movie is based on)."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project: "The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant" and "The War Game"]

American Sniper

Based on the true life memoir of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a Navy Seal who has been credited with the most "kills" of any American military sniper.

The movie opens with Chris, his brother and his Dad out hunting. When they return home, the Dad tells the boys there are three types of people:  sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.  Sheep follow, wolves prey on people and sheepdogs protect people.  Guess which one the Dad wanted his sons to be?

The film follows Kyle through his brief stint as a rodeo cowboy, his training as a Navy Seal and his eventual deployment to Iraq where he served four tours.

What Director Clint Eastwood does best here is show how horrendous war is. 

My husband leaned over to me halfway through the film and whispered, "This movie is just making me mad all over again about the bastards who got us into that war," and let's just say I'm using the word "bastards" because the word my husband actually used was way worse - it starts with an "m" and ends with an "rs."

So war is hell and Eastwood shows that. But at the same time Eastwood is glorifying someone who reveled in what he was doing - gunning people down - or why would Kyle go back for three more tours?  I would like to have seen less war footage and more of the personal story, especially the character of Taya (Sienna Miller), Chris's wife, fleshed out. Here she just dates him, has his kids, gets upset when he wants to go off on another tour of duty and is occasionally annoying as in this really unbelievable scene.

Chris is on the battlefield talking on the phone to Taya (which right there seemed incongruous) when bullets start flying. Chris tosses down the phone to take cover and Taya keeps yelling "Chris!  Chris!" into the phone.  What did she think he was going to do?  Get shot so he could answer the phone?  Where did she think he was?  At the mall? 

And then there is the issue of the fake baby?  If they are going to use a doll as a stand-in for a baby, they need to do a better job of hiding the fact that it's a doll.  I guess the real baby was sick that day.  Didn't the baby have a stand-in?

I also agree with the controversy of how the issue of PTSD was treated in this film. If there was PTSD at work here, it was glossed over.  Yes, we saw him try to kill the dog, yes, he stared at the TV, yes, he had high blood pressure and yes, he didn't go right home after his last tour, but that was it.  Especially considering how Kyle died, there should have been more lead-up to that ironic end - that he was killed trying to help someone with PTSD. I knew how the movie ended so I was surprised that it wasn't shown.  I think the whole PTSD issue would have been resolved and for me, I wanted to know what actually happened at that shooting range that day.

Another thing that bothered me was the liberal use of the word "savages" to describe the Iraqis, who are not all Al-Qaeda, but many just people trying to defend their own country from foreign invaders.  Their culture is far older than ours. Eastwood hinted at the fact that the "other" sniper, the Iraqi Kyle was bent on eliminating, also had a wife and a life, but it was just one small unsatisfying scene.

Which leads me to the lingering feeling after the film that there was no real point of view.  What is this film really about? Are we glorifying this guy?  Is it about what military families go through?  Is it about PTSD? I could understand this as a rah-rah patriotic stance, but then there were moments that were definitely anti-war such as the poem read at his friend's funeral and his little brother's response to the war.  And by the way, what happened to the little brother?  I would have liked to see that character fleshed out more too.

Bradley Cooper, all bulked up and looking like he had a wad of chewing tobacco wedged into his lip the whole time, did a great acting job and is deserving of the Best Actor nomination at the Academy Awards.  But was the guy he played a hero?  

Was Chris Kyle a hero?  He didn't seem to have remorse about the 160+ Iraqis he killed. He showed remorse for "his fallen brother," those he couldn't save.  He was a sheepdog.  But shouldn't a sheepdog want to save everyone?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a riveting, well-done film (especially if you see it in IMAX).  Best of the year?  I don't think so.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
Irene (Margherita Buy) has a dream job:  she is a mystery guest/inspector at the great five-star hotels of the world, from Gstaad to Marrakesh.  She lives a life of luxury most people can only dream of.  So what's the problem?  It's a lonely life.

Irene lives the life.  She is opinionated and demanding.  Who wouldn't be living such a luxurious life?  When Irene inspects a hotel, she has a checklist:

Did the concierge look you in the eye?
Did the concierge call you by name?
Was the wait at the desk less than two minutes?
Were the bellman's clothes and shoes clean?
Was there a distinctive scent in the room?
Was the temperature suitable?
Is the room welcoming and comforting?
Did the bellman explain how everything in the room works?
Full length mirror?
DVD player?

and when her stay is over, she meets with the manager as to whether or not a five star review is warranted.  Needless to say, she is a powerful person and hotel manager's quake in their boots when she arrives to meet with them.  Unfortunately, Irene also judges her life by the standards she expects from the hotels and her perfectionism isolates her from others.

But for all of the glamour of her life, Irene lives it alone.  Irene is in her 40's and is writing a novel with her hotel experiences as the plot, but she is lonely and isolated and life seems to be passing her by.  Her ex is having a baby with a girl he had a one-night stand with. Her sister has a husband and a family and doesn't approve of Irene's independent life. 

Then Irene meets Kate (Leslie Manville), a feminist writer who is traveling to promote her book and who tells Irene that "luxury is a form of deceit...all this display of opulence is just a stage. Real luxury is the pleasure of a real life lived to the fullest."  Meeting Kate followed by a shock is an epiphany for Irene that her life is going nowhere and she needs to mend some fences and gain some intimacy in her life. But in the end, she eventually realizes she was living the life she was meant to live.

This is a female character driven story where not much happens, but it's beautifully photographed and well-acted.  Bey is beautiful and charismatic and her character's life and lifestyle will hold your interest for the 85 minutes. The fun part of this film is living vivariously through Irene.  It's a primer on what one should expect when staying at a five-star hotel, should you ever get the chance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a woman and would like to travel and vicariously live the life of The Rich and Famous, this is for you (in Italian with English subtitles).

The Guest (2014)

Downton Abbey fans!  Are you wondering what happened to our beloved Matthew Crawley after he died on Downton?  Well, he turned into a baddie.

Dan Stevens, our lovable and handsome Matthew Crawley is almost unrecognizable as "David," with his southern accent, face stubble and greasy hair.  "David" shows up on the doorstep of the Petersen family, Spencer (Leland Orser) and Laura (Sheila Kelly) and their teenaged children Anna (Maika Monroe) and Luke (Brendan Meyer, who looks a bit like Harry Styles from One Direction) saying he is a soldier friend of their son who died in action.  He is welcomed into the family, but then some sinister things begin to happen, stuff like people dying.

The family takes him under their wing and he endears himself to the bullied young son by teaching him how to defend himself and he tries to cozy up to Anna, the teen-aged daughter.  She thinks he's cool at first, but she becomes suspicious and calls the Army to discover that "David Collins" is dead. Didn't realize the army gave out that kind of information over the phone.  But she is our plucky heroine. The over the top melodrama and music when we see for real that our guy is not what he seems got a chuckle out of me. I don't think that was the intention. Turns out "David" is a psychopath and at the heart of a top secret medical experiment and our nice Midwestern family is taken hostage by a very bad guy.  Duh.  Saw that coming a mile away. As so often happens in these kinds of movies, the adults are clueless, so it's up to the teens to get the bad guy.  And by the way, if this is such a nice Midwestern family, why does the Mom let Anna go out all of the time in thigh high stockings and garters?  I'm just asking.

There is a bit of an homage to the hall of mirrors in "The Lady from Shanghai" in the last scene, which was kind of fun.

This film reeks of Lifetime Movie, which if you read my blog enough I am not necessarily saying is a bad thing. I like my occasional Lifetime Movie, provided it has something going for it.  Here I sensed a bit of tongue-in-cheek with the bloodbath that occurs and the accompanying music which elevated this film.  It's campy and fun.  As film critic Roger Ebert used to say, "It's relative. " You don't judge a film like this against "Citizen Kane."  For what it was, it was fun.  And in true Lifetime Movie fashion, at the end "David" is dead.  OR IS HE?  Da-da-da-da!

Playing a southern talking psychopath was probably attractive to Stevens so he could shed his Matthew Crawley persona once and for all and make it in American feature films.  Not sure this was the best vehicle, because I don't think anyone saw this but yours truly, but he did a good job. Didn't realize he could be so creepy. There was no sign of our Matthew here.  Maika Monroe was a stand-out.  We will be seeing more of her.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a good old-fashioned B-movie type thriller reminiscent of "Cape Fear."  If you like those kinds of films you will like this one. If you like Lifetime Movies, though, you will love this.


Are You Here?  (2013)

Steve Dallas (Owen Wilson), an Annapolis weather man, and his friend Ben Baker (Zach Galifianakis) embark on a road trip together when Ben discovers he has inherited money from his estranged father.

Steve is a smooth-talking, smart-ass womanizer who often goes to work drunk or stoned and sleeps with his co-anchor.  He can't pay his bills and no one takes him very seriously, including himself.  Ben is a man-child, somewhere on the spectrum, your usual Zach Galifianakis role.  They are childhood friends who basically get high together.  When Ben tells Steve his Dad has died and he has inherited some money, they go on a road trip together to collect Ben's inheritance.

But Ben's sister, Terry, played by Amy Poehler says, "Wait a minute!" Terry is mean and conniving and is not happy that he is inheriting all of that money.  Naturally our philandering Steve is attracted to the widow, Angela (Laura Ransey), a much younger woman than her dead husband, a nurturing sort who ends up "saving" Steve.  Which brings me to the issue of the women characters, your usual shallow characterizations often assigned to women.  It's either mean and conniving or nurturing earth mother.

Ben wants to use his money to change the world so Terry challenges the will on the basis that Ben is incompetent.  Of course, turns out the crazy guy is the only one who isn't crazy. Ever heard that before?  Duh. But that happens so fast, it's one of those "What the...?" moments.

This is Matthew Weiner's film directorial debut and he also wrote the screenplay (he's the creator of the TV show "Mad Men").  Maybe he should have stuck to drama, because I think this was supposed to be a comedy.  Otherwise, why put Wilson, Galifinakis and Poeller together?  Unfortunately, it's neither funny nor uplifting despite what appears to be a message in there somewhere, and the characters are all characters we have seen these actors play before: stern Amy, wacky Zach and "I don't give a damn" Owen.

Rosy the Reviewer won't "give a damn" about these characters and you won't "give a damn" about this movie either.  You can skip this one.


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

284 to go!
Petra (Margit Carstensen) is a prominent German fashion designer living in Bremen with Marlene (Irm Hermann), another designer who Petra treats like a slave. When she meets Karin (Hanna Schygulla), a 23-year-old, Petra falls in love with Karin and invites her to move in and the rest of the film deals with this love affair and the aftermath.
A supposed homage to George Cukor's "The Women" and a tribute to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, whom auteur director Werner Rainer Fassbinder admired, this marks a turn in Fassbinder's work where he began to make more emotional films. 
Filmed entirely in Petra's apartment in just a few long single shots and many close-ups, Fassbinder created the psychological claustrophobia inhabiting Petra and her sadomasochistic relationships. Petra interacts with the mute Marlene, her sister, Sidonie, the young Karin and finally her daughter. The film is more like a play (and is actually based on a play Fassbinder wrote earlier in his career), except for its beautiful photography and the way that Fassbinder frames every shot.  There is irony in the pop music that punctuates the film, especially since the film itself is like grand opera.
Why it's a Must See:  Not sure, but this is what "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" says.:
"Psychological domination and expert game playing are Petra's forte...and, in her lair, transactions are a dance in and around her bed...The possibilities that arise for camp humor are many...but Fassbinder keeps it cool.  His film builds to a simple but valuable life lesson for those embroiled in emotionally sadomasochistic relations, which for Fassbinder means everyone: "The weaker" in any situation has one ultimate, devastating weapon -- the power to walk away."
Rosy the Reviewer says...I am a Fassbinder fan, but didn't really get this one. For a more accessible example of Fassbinder's work, I recommend "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul" instead (in German with English subtitles).
The War Game (1965)

A semi-documentary asking the question, what if there was a nuclear attack against the United Kingdom?

This film was made for the BBC in 1965, but was considered so harrowing and scary that the BBC banned it for over 20 years.  Despite that, it won an Oscar for Best Documentary as well as a BAFTA and countless other awards. 

Using a combination of documentary footage, actors and a phlegmatic narrator, director Peter Watkins imbues his film with a "you are there" quality that is highly unnerving, as he shows the possible effects of a nuclear attack on the general population: massive evacuations, burned skin and retinas, fire storms, chaos and "would the survivors envy the dead?"  You feel like you are watching a newscast after the fact.

I was a child growing up in the shadow of the nuclear bomb.  I had neighbors with bomb shelters and we went through the silly drills of getting under our desks should there be a nuclear attack.  I was scared to death of that and used to look at maps to see how far away I was from the possible strategic places a bomb might land. I used to have nightmares about it.  If I had seen this film back in 1965, I would have had nightmares for the rest of my life.

The BBC probably thought the most inflammatory statement was: "This could be the way the last two minutes of peace in Britain would look like."  The film had the sense that this had actually happened or would actually happen. 

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] was banned by BBC television, which produced it, ostensibly because (among other reasons stated or hinted at) 'it was too horrific for the medium of broadcasting.' The War Game fast became a cause celebre and won an Oscar, and remains the most widely known of Peter Watkins's films...The War Game is a tour de force that has lost none of its power to horrify since its initial release."
--1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...Since even more countries now have "the bomb" than in 1965, a nuclear attack is still a real threat making this film relevant today and scary as hell.  It's a must see...if you dare.

***Book of the Week***
Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother's Murder, John Du Pont's Madness and the Quest for Olympic Gold by Mark Schultz (2014)

The film has Oscar nominations.  Now read about it straight from one of the key players.
John E. DuPont was one of the DuPont heirs as in THE DuPonts.  A child of privilege, he wanted to be an Olympian.  He tried various sports within his ability but failed on every one despite his money.  So he settled on setting up an Olympic training facility for wrestlers and pentathletes on his estate, Foxcatcher.  He came upon Mark and Dave Schultz, both Olympian wrestlers, and championed their careers. It turned out to be a deal with the devil. DuPont was mentally ill but money has a way of covering such things up. The story that led up to DuPont murdering Dave Schultz is here told by Dave's brother, Mark. DuPont was convicted of the crime, making him the richest man ever convicted of murder and sent to prison.  And that's where he died. 

The first half of the book is about Mark and Dave growing up and their wrestling careers, but it's mostly Mark's story.  The second half of the book is about their involvement with DuPont.  Ultimately, the book is unsatisfying because no motive for DuPont killing Schultz is ever revealed.  It seems that no one really knows.

It's a strange and riveting story written in a heartfelt and candid style that is ultimately disappointing as a true crime story.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like wrestling, you will probably enjoy this.  True crime lovers might be disappointed. 

Thanks for Reading!
See you Tuesday for 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"

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