Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Perfect 24 Hours in Portland (and Some Travel Tips You Can Use Anywhere)!

I grew up in Michigan but moved to California at 22 and lived there for over 30 years. But when we decided to move North, we couldn't decide between Portland and Seattle.  Portland had yet to be "glorified" on the TV show "Portlandia," but we were already aware of its virtues:  Powell's Books, it's a foodie's paradise, a bastion of liberalism, wine country, gorgeous parks, beer...

But Seattle won out because of its closeness to Canada, Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. being two of our favorite cities.  And, best of both worlds, we were still only three hours from Portland.

And Portland has always been a destination.

Recently our daughter visited us in Seattle prior to a library conference in Portland (yes, my daughter is also a librarian - I wrote about our parallel careers in my post "Passing the Baton."). After her visit with us, we thought it would be fun to drive her down there and spend the night, which we did. 

And it was a wonderful 24 hours.

Perfect, in fact.

How do you spend a perfect 24 hours in Portland?

I will now channel Anthony Bourdain and his wonderful series "The Layover," where he shows the viewer all of  the cool things you can do in 24-48 hours in exotic locales:  where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.

So in the spirit of Tony (I am such a fan he lets me call him Tony) - here is how to have a perfect 24 hours in Portland with some of my astute travel tips that you can use anywhere.

First, where to stay?

We like the old world charm of The Benson, right downtown in the heart of the action.

It's a venerable mainstay that has been around since 1913 and with its hand-carved Circassian walnut paneling from Russia and the Italian white-marble staircase, it reeks of First Class.  Every sitting president beginning with Harry Truman has stayed there.  If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me!  It's classy Palm Court Lounge is also a destination (I'll get to that later).

Travel Tip #1:  If you like quiet rooms, booking a room in an older hotel is for you. The thick walls and high ceilings block out the sounds of the other rooms.  Who wants to hear people flushing their toilets, taking showers and doing god knows what at 3am?  In an old hotel, you won't hear a peep.

Travel Tip #2:  Also if quiet is your thing (it's definitely mine), book the top floor.  Even if you are in one of those hotels where you can hear everything going on next door, why add people stomping around overhead to the mix?  Also, the higher up, the better the view.

Travel Tip #3:  It never hurts to ask nicely when checking in that your room be away from the elevator, maid's closet and ice and vending machines.  We once had a room with the elevator going up and down next door.  Ugh.  Likewise, the drunken laughter of other guests getting on and off the elevator can get annoying.  And who wants to hear the maids getting ready to clean rooms at 6am (as you know, I am NOT an early riser)?  And I can't even bear the thought of an ice-machine running next door. So be sure to check on those things.

Next, where to eat?

After checking in at The Benson, we were hungry.  Nonstop in a car for three hours, one works up an appetite.

So off we went to Higgins for lunch.

Owner Greg Higgins was an early champion of local and sustainable foods and this restaurant has been winning awards since 1994.  It is most known for its charcuterie platter (he was one of the first to offer such a thing) and it's burger is considered by many to be the best in town.  So naturally Daughter and I ordered the charcuterie platter and it did not disappoint.

I am still salivating over the duck rillettes.  And Hubby's burger lived up to it's reputation. But with accolades come high prices.

Travel Tip #4: Dine at high-end, high-priced restaurants for lunch rather than dinner.  You get the same good food often for less.

Travel Tip #5:  Order the specialty of the house.  There is a reason why it is the specialty.

While Hubby and I like the grand gesture that old hotels make, Daughter opted for an Airbnb

In case you are not familiar with this concept, Airbnb is a website where regular folks rent out lodging. It all began in 2008 when the founders could not afford the rent on their loft in San Francisco.  So they made their living room into a Bed and Breakfast, with air mattresses and breakfast to accommodate three.  Since then it has grown to over 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries and you can expect much more than an air mattress these days.  The listings range from rooms to entire houses, modest to opulent.

So off we went to the Mississippi neighborhood, an up and coming trendy area in Portland just perfect for Daughter, so she could check into her Airbnb.

She fit right in.

(When our daughter travels, Airbnb has been her accommodation of choice and it has worked very well for her). 

Mississippi Avenue is the main drag running through the Mississippi neighborhood, thus its name.  Hubby noticed another street, Failing Street, and remarked that it's a good thing they didn't name the neighborhood after that street.  Hubby is astute like that.

While our daughter was checking into her Airbnb, we checked out the neighborhood.  She was just one block off the main street which was filled with coffee houses, restaurants and boutiques and it was only three Max stops from the conference center.  After we checked out the little house she would be staying in, we looked for a place to have a glass of wine.  It was Happy Hour, after all.  We settled into Equinox, a lovely little restaurant and bar.

Travel Tip #6:  A Happy Hour in a fine restaurant is another way to save some money while still enjoying the restaurants fine food and drink.

Next, what to do?

NW 23rd Ave, also known as "Trendy-Third" is a fine walking destination because of its hip shops, bars and restaurants, many of which are in old Victorian houses, thus lending the street to a quaint hippyness reminiscent of what Union Street in San Francisco used to be like about 30 years ago.

We got our 10,000 steps in (see my blog post about Fitbit for more info) and headed to Paley's Place for dinner.  Paley's Place is situated in a lovely old house with a cozy bar and dining room.  It's a James Beard Award-winning restaurant with a French influenced seasonal menu. 

Now I am a firm believer in making reservations, even when dining at an unfashionable day or time, but since it was a Tuesday night and we were feeling lucky, we waltzed right in, only to discover WE SHOULD HAVE MADE A RESERVATION!  But the maitre'd did not shame us, which I appreciated, and he said if we wanted to wait in the bar, he would see what he could do.  Well, what he didn't realize is that we actually LIKE sitting at the bar. We like the casual atmosphere chatting with the bartender.  So when the maitre'd came back to say he had a table, we were perfectly content right where we were.

Travel Tip #7: You can often find seating in the bar at popular restaurants (though I have noticed in recent months a tendency at some restaurants to require reservations for the bar as well), and often you can walk right in and take a seat.  The full restaurant menu is almost always available at the bar, you get good personalized service, and can chat up the bartender if you don't have anything to say to your partner.

After a lovely dinner (I had the asparagus bisque and the halibut),

we made our way back to The Benson to enjoy some cocktails in the beautiful Palm Court Lounge.  Even if we were not staying there, it's always a destination for a drink and to soak in the beautiful, cozy wood paneled bar.

Unfortunately, this time sitting at the bar we were accosted by a local who wanted to regale us with his knowledge of the hotel.  He was obviously a barfly.  But he was rather amusing.  It was the OTHER guy, a fellow barfly, but this guy was making the rounds to every hotel bar in town and you could tell.  He was conversing with the bartender and Hubby said something conversationally and he turned to Hubby and said, "I didn't see that you were part of this conversation," or something equally rude.  So, OK, you don't want to talk, but when he started making wise cracks at the conversation our daughter was having with someone else, we decided to move.

Travel Tip #8:  Don't be afraid to move away from a drunken idiot at the bar.  We actually enjoyed sitting at a table better anyway.

After our drinks, we bid farewell to Daughter, sending her back to her Airbnb in a cab (another nice thing about a downtown hotel:  there is someone to hail a cab for you).

Travel Tip #8:  Don't be afraid to stick your head into the cab and tell the cabdriver to take good care of your daughter.

The next morning, Hubby went off to a local and famous doughnut establishment, Voodoo Doughnuts ("The Magic is in the hole!") while I slept in (we all know I'm NOT a morning person).

Travel Tip #9:  Find spots where you can hang out with the locals.

Then it was off to do a Portland stair walk.

Yes, people, Portland also has stair walks and if you have been reading my blog, you know that Hubby and I are avid stair walkers here in Seattle. I wrote about it in my blog post "The Joys of Stair Walks: Urban Walking Adventures in Seattle and Beyond," where we walked all 25 stair walks from the book "Seattle Stair Walks" by Jake and Cathy Jaramillo over the course of a year and a half.  

So we were so happy to discover "The Portland Stairs Book" by Laura O. Foster.

We chose the Nob Hill and Westover Streetcar Stairway Jaunt with 169 stairs up and 364 stairs down.  We were in stair walking heaven.

And Spring had already sprung in Portland!

The fun thing about these stair walks is that you experience parts of town you might never see otherwise.  Here we were led to what is considered one of the prettiest streets in Portland.

And to a tree that seems to defy gravity.

After our stair walk, we wanted to grab some lunch before beginning our three hour drive home. We were over in the "Trendy-Third" area again, so started looking for a place to eat lunch. 

Not really having anything in mind and my getting crabby because my knee hurt and declaring if we didn't find a place to eat immediately I would start screaming, we happily found Lela's Bistro, a Vietnamese spot in a little house.  We had bahn mi and soup and it was delicious.

Travel Tip # 10:  Don't be afraid to try something new, especially ethnic restaurants.  And I will say right now, you never can go wrong with Vietnamese fare:  bahn mi, bun (pronounced boon), pho (pronounced "fa"), spring rolls - yum - and usually at very reasonable prices.

So we headed home with the bonus that it wasn't pouring down rain.  In fact it was a lovely day.

But since it's a long drive, I was happy to have content on my IPad especially when (yawn) Hubby was listening to sports broadcasting on the radio.

"Keep Portland Weird" is a popular slogan you see around Portland.  And Portland can be weird.

But I like weird.  That's perfectly Portland.

Now I know there are many Portland sights I didn't mention here.  I am not new to Portland.  This was just a perfect moment in time.  And I will be back.

But what made this visit perfectly perfect?

Spending it with our perfectly beautiful daughter.

In the Palm Court Lounge at The Benson Hotel

Now I hope I have inspired you to create your own perfect 24 hours -
in Portland or anywhere. 

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday
when I will be reviewing

the new movie
"Kingsman: The Secret Service"
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, March 27, 2015

"Chappie" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Chappie" and DVDs "Dumb and Dumber to" and "A Coffee in Berlin." The Book of the Week is "Girl in a Band" by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project: "Paranormal Activity" and recommend a lovely evening of theatre: "Jacques Brel is Alive and well and Living in Paris"]

It's a futuristic Johannesburg, South Africa, lots of crime kept under control by a robotic police force.  One "rejected" robot becomes the guinea pig in an experiment to see if a robot can be made to think and feel as a human.

Several warring factions come together in this film that explores the issues of playing God and what makes us human.

Dev Patel (who is not hamming it up quite as much as he does in the "Exotic Marigold Hotel" movies) is Deon Wilson, the creator of the robot police force (Scouts) that can understand human speech and take orders from humans.  He works for Tetravaal, a company run by CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, who doesn't have a whole lot to do except look angry or concerned, but I am always happy when actresses of a certain age are working). But what Deon really wants to be able to do is create a robot that can think and act on his own.  After a long night of Red Bull, though, he thinks he has mastered the program.  Now he just needs a robot to test it on.

Then we have Vincent Moore (Hugh - What Can't This Guy Do? - Jackman) whose religion is against artificial intelligence. He has created "Moose," a huge robot that takes orders from the mind of its operator.  However, Vincent's creation has taken a back seat to the droids Dion has created and Vincent is not happy about it.

Add to that mix a trio of hapless criminals, Ninja, Yolandi (Yolan-di Visser) and America (Jose Pablo Cantillo) who owe their drug supplier 20 million and who need one big heist to pay him back. They get the "brilliant" idea to kidnap Deon and steal his remotes that control the police robots so they can turn them off. They kidnap Deon only to find that there are no remotes, no on/off switches for the robots.  But what they do find in Deon's van is a rejected robot that Dion was planning to use for his experiment.

Enter Chappie (Sharlto Copley).

The bad guys order Deon to put the robot together because Ninja wants a badass, gangster robot to help them with their heist.  Deon explains that the robot will need to learn language and how to do things because at first he will be like a baby. 

So we have a Pygmalian-like tug of war as the Mad Max-like-thugs try to make Chappie into their likenesses while Deon tells Chappie he must not rob or hurt others.  Chappie takes Deon very seriously as Deon is his "creator," but he also thinks of Yolandi and Ninja as Mommy and Daddy and he also wants to do what they tell him.

This film is written and directed by South African director Neill Blomkamp who brought us the wonderful and original "District 9," which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009.  Here what's interesting is the blurred lines between who are the bad guys and who are the good guys, not to mention the charming Chappie, whose antennae act like doggy's ears as he reacts to the world around him.  You can't help but love him.

Hugh Jackman is almost unrecognizable in his mullet, but once again, even as a villain, this guy is hugely talented.  Dev Patel has that over-the-top personality so in evidence in the "Exotic Marigold" movies, but here he is toned down and believable.  But other than Chappie, Ninja and Yolandi were stand outs.  And then there is Chappie. Copley brings Chappie to life.  You really feel for him.  Yes, I teared up.

However, there are some plot problems, like why the bad guys would let Deon go and why Deon would leave Chappie behind with them, but if you can ignore those and think of this as a sort of fairy tale - "Transformers" meet "My Fair Chappie," there is humor, lots of action and pathos.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Chappie is a fine chap who you will enjoy spending a couple of hours with.

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


It's been 20 years since Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) have seen each other and now it's time to find Harry's daughter.

They need to find Harry's daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), not just because Harry didn't know he had a daughter, but because he also needs a kidney.

They do find Harry's daughter Penny, and guess what?  She is also dumb.  Geez, how funny. If you think that's funny, then this is for you. Or perhaps a long segment of Harry pulling a catheter out of Lloyd or throwing a banana peel into a coffin at a funeral is funny to you. Toe licking?  Farting into the back seat of a hearse and then shutting the partition so the person in there is stuck with the fart?  A cat who farts feathers after eating a bird (Farting is big in this film)? If that sort of thing is funny to you then fine, you might like this.  All I could say was "Ew," and that was when I wasn't shaking my head asking myself "Why are you here?"

The funniest bit is the opener with Harry visiting Lloyd in a mental hospital where he has been for 20 years.  Harry has been visiting him every week for all of that time and when Harry opens up to Lloyd and tells him he has a health issue, Lloyd jumps up and says, "Gotcha!"  He's been faking it for 20 years.  Harry then asks him, wouldn't ten years have worked just as well?  They debate that and that's kind of funny.

That's kind of funny but it was downhill from there.  I only kept watching because I am not a quitter and actually I was in shock.  It wears you down after awhile - one stupid joke after another until your immune system to bad comedy has been compromised.
Kathleen Turner plays the mother of Harry's daughter and one wonders why she would subject herself to this film.  She suffers from almost debilitating arthritis and she doesn't look good.

The Farrelly brothers have produced some funny films:  "There's Something about Mary," and "The Heartbreak Kid" but this isn't one of them.  Even the first "Dumb and Dumber" was kind of funny, though not my cup of tea, but here, there is not a laugh to be had despite Jim Carrey, for whom I am a huge fan.  Maybe the Farrellys need Ben Stiller who starred in the aforementioned films.
All Rosy the Reviewer can say is...during this film I felt my own IQ dropping about 50 points.  This film is the single-handed reason NOT to do a sequel, especially 20 years later.  This story and characters have not aged well.


A Coffee in Berlin (2012)

A day in the life of a young German law school drop-out living in Berlin who just wants a regular cup of coffee.

Nico Fischer (Tom Schilling) encounters a series of people during his day.

His douche bag (pardon my German) psychologist who will determine whether or not our hero will get his license back (he got a DUI).  However, the psychologist asks all kinds of leading and trick questions until it becomes apparent our hero won't be driving for awhile.

His nosy new neighbor whose wife sends him up some rock hard meatballs, which seems funny at first until the neighbor starts unloading about his horrible life after only a few minutes.

The once fat girl from high school who is now hot but crazy.

As he meets more and more people, more and more silly and crazy stuff happens and all this guy really wants is a nice, regular cup of coffee.  It begs the question:  Will our hero get his cup of coffee and in so doing, find happiness?

This is writer/director Jan Ole Gerster's first film and it's shot in beautiful, colorful black and white with a jazzy score reminiscent of Woody Allen and Jim Jarmusch films.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Jim Jarmusch or Woody Allen movies and you are not put off by black and white or subtitles, you might like this.  If you are under 35, you will definitely like this.
(In German with English subtitles)

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

270 to go!
Have YOU seen this one?

Paranormal Activity (2007)
A young couple move into a new home and start experiencing demonic episodes. Moral: You don't want to mess with demons!

These are the kinds of movies I usually don't watch because I am scared to and then when I do finally watch them, I realize they are not scary and it was mostly hype.

I will give this film props for the improvisational acting that gave the film a sense of reality and the use of the night vision camera was interesting, but all I could think of every time the young couple got up to investigate strange sounds was if you think there is a demon in your bedroom "TURN ON THE FRIGGIN' LIGHTS!"  Yes, it was creepy but not that scary.

Why it's a Must See:  "(to date, it is the most profitable movie of all time)...Oren Peli, a first-time filmmaker who shot the film in his own home for around $15,000...Anybody who likes being scared silly will love [this film]."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Scared silly? Nope. Sorry.

So we have a low budget film that made a huge amount of money (think "The Blair Witch Project" but not as scary) and now a whole franchise has been born.  We are now up to "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones," number five in the series.

But does low budget and spawning a franchise a classic film make?  One that I need to see before I die?

I think not.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Really?  I needed to see this one before I died?  Nope.  Sorry.


***Book of the Week***

Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon (2015) 

One of the founding members of the band Sonic Youth and an icon of her generation tells her story.

Kim Gordon grew up in Southern California during the 60's and 70's in a middle class family with a professor father, stay-at-home Mom with a penchant for sewing flamboyant clothes and a schizophrenic brother.  Her brother terrorized her, yet she idolized him but her experiences  with him drew her inward.  She was an artistic type who traveled to New York City to be a part of the art scene of the 80's.  It was there she met Thurston Moore, who was to become her husband and fellow band member.  Together they founded Sonic Youth, one of the iconic bands of the 80's.

Gordon admits that she is someone who is withdrawn in her personal life and then lets it all hang out with her music.

Lucky for us she lets it all hang out in her memoir - not in a juicy, dishy tell-all way but thoughtfully revealing in an almost detached shy way.  However, she isn't shy about weighing in on Courtney Love and other musicians.  She also laments what New York City is like today compared to the love poem she remembers and shares what it's like to be a woman in a rock band.

She and Moore were married for 27 years, something that is amazing for the world they lived in.  My daughter was a fan of Sonic Youth and was among those who felt that if Kim and Thurston could stay together, then there was hope for us all.  When it was announced that they were splitting, the social media response was viral. Gordon acknowledges that, but is resigned to the fact that even they were not immune to the cliché - Thurston's other life with another woman and Kim discovering that through text messages on his phone.

Here's a tip when reading memoirs written by musicians.  Listen to their music while reading, especially if you are not familiar with it.  I have been brought to a whole new musical level by creating my Sonic Youth Pandora station.  I now not only have some knowledge of Sonic Youth, but I can also now recognize The Pixies and Radiohead.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you are familiar with Sonic Youth or not, this is an honest and poignant memoir of a girl, a marriage and a band. Highly recommended.

***At the Theatre***
Never heard of Jacques Brel?  He was to the French-speaking world what Frank Sinatra and the Beatles were to us in the U.S.

First staged off Broadway in 1968, this musical review of Brel's songs resonated with the public because of his anti-war lyrics and aching love songs.  Four singers, two men and two women, sing 26 of Brel's songs, translated into English, including the familiar "Ne Me Quitte Pas ('If You Go Away,' the only one sung in French) and "Amsterdam," which have been covered many times by other singers.

I can't believe it's taken me 47 years to finally see this show.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the show is an exquisite jewel of music and emotion.  If it comes to a theatre near you, don't do what I did and wait 47 years to see it.  In fact, don't wait at all. Don't miss it!
(Now playing at the ACT Theatre in Seattle through May 15).

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday for

"A Perfect 24 Hours in Portland
(And Some Travel Tips You Can Use Anywhere)"



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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."



Friday, March 20, 2015

"Cinderella" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Cinderella" and DVDs "Miss Meadows," and "The Two Faces of January." The Book  of the Week is "Tinseltown," where the author tries to solve the 1920's unsolved murder of director William Desmond Taylor.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project: "Lola Montes."]

A new take on the classic fairy tale.

All of the usual stuff from the fairy tale is here:  wicked Stepmother (Cate Blanchett), mean stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera who "Downton Abbey" fans will recognize as scullery maid Daisy), a Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), glass slippers and adorable animals.  But under the steady hand of director Kenneth Branagh and screenplay by Chris Weitz, a new, updated and sensitive story emerges.

Cinderella, whose real name is Ella (Lily James, also from "Downton Abbey") is "just a girl," but a girl with a big heart who loved her parents and loves the home she was brought up in.  She is also feisty and brave.  The Prince (Richard Madden) is also a good guy who loves his Dad and doesn't assume Cinderella necessarily wants to marry him.

How can you go wrong with Kenneth Branagh as director, veteran actors Derek Jacobi and Cate Blanchett as the King and Wicked Stepmother respectively and the appealing charm of our Cinderella and Prince Charming, Richard Madden, who "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize as Robb Stark.  Add to that a bunch of adorable mice, the gorgeous English countryside and you have this absolutely delightful updated version of the classic tale.

All of the characters have a back story.  We learn how Cinderella ended up alone with the wicked Stepmother and stepsisters and why she didn't leave when they mistreated her. We learn how she went from Ella to Cinderella. We learn more about Prince Charming (he's not just a pretty face), and we learn why the Stepmother is so wicked, well, sort of.

And the actors play their parts well.  Blanchett is villainous in her over-the-top clothes, the sisters are snarky and stupid, the Prince is indeed charming and Cinderella is warm, virtuous and luminous.

Three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell does a great job on the costumes, especially Blanchett's and may well be on her way to another Oscar.

And feminists.  No need to worry.  Our Cinderella is not waiting around for her Prince to come. If he hadn't, this plucky opinionated Cinderella would have figured something out.

And, too, how can you go wrong when the message of the film is "Have courage and be kind?"  I'm teary just writing this.

You and the kiddies will also be treated to a cartoon prior to the film.  Reminded me of my youth.  We always had cartoons, right?  This one is capitalizing on the "Frozen" fever and is in fact called "Frozen Fever," where our heroine catches a cold.

Rosy the Reviewer says...children and adults alike will love this film that is sure to become another Disney classic.

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

Miss Meadows (2014)

Miss Meadows is a prim and proper school teacher.  Who would believe she is also a vigilante?
Katie Holmes stars as Miss Meadows, whose angelic face, prim clothes and tap shoes belies the fact she is deadly.
We first see Miss Meadows tap dancing down the street.  Yes, you heard me.  She wears tap shoes everywhere and has no problem breaking into a "shuffle off to Buffalo" step or a shim sham at a moment's notice.  As she walks down, or should I say, taps down the sidewalk in a pristine neighborhood, she is accosted by a thug who pulls a gun on her and orders her to get into his truck.  Nope.  Our Miss Meadows pulls a gun out of her itty bitty purse and wastes him and continues tip-tapping down the street. 
And so begins our story of "sweet" Miss Meadows with the baby voice and the white gloves deftly written and directed by Karen Leigh Hopkins.
The score promises a comedy albeit from the start of the film, a dark one.
When Miss Meadows returns home she talks to her mother (Jean Smart), calling her "Mother dear" and you get a hint of what drives Miss Meadows when her mother calls humanity a "rotting cesspool of mediocrity and decay."
Miss Meadows is a substitute teacher in an elementary school.  She asks the children to write get well cards for their teacher and when she goes to the hospital to deliver them, discovers the teacher has died. Later when she tells the class, one of the little girls tells Miss Meadows she thinks the world is a bad place to which Miss Meadows replies that it's their responsibility to make the world a better place and how she does this is ridding the world of bad guys, from a pedophile priest to a mass murderer in a hot dog fast food establishment.
Miss Meadows may not like criminals, but she is an animal lover and when she stops her car on a bridge to save a little toad, a police officer (James Badge Dale) pulls up.  They "meet cute," she corrects his English, says her trademark "toodle loo" and drives off in her 1950's Nash.  He is smitten despite the fact that on a date, Miss Meadows starts doing a tap dance routine on the grass.  If I had been he, I would have taken that as a clue to take a hike.
Our conflict arises when the cop realizes a vigilante is in the neighborhood and he begins to suspect Miss Meadows.
We eventually learn why Miss Meadows is on this mission, which is anti-climactic.  The main reason to see this film is Miss Meadows herself, who is charming, quirky and deadly if she encounters you doing something bad.
But don't get me wrong.  This is not a drama.  This is a comedy!
This is a curious choice of role for Holmes, but she is probably still trying to shake her good girl image and expand her acting range, which she does here.  I think she is underrated as an actress but appears to be making up for those lost years with Mr. Cruise.  She is also a dancer in real life, so the tap dancing angle lets her show off some of her skills.
Mary Kay Place has a small role as Miss Meadows' neighbor.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a strange little 88 minutes, but I like strange.

Two con-men, one an amateur, one a professional, meet in Greece and it ain't pretty.

Chester (Viggo Mortensen) and Colette (Kirsten Dunst) are living the high life on vacation in Athens in 1962.  They meet Rydal (Oscar Isaac, whose career has taken off since his performance in the critically acclaimed "Inside Llewyn Davis"), an American tour guide who lives his own version of the high life by scamming tourist. He befriends Chester and Colette.  Chester is a sort of father figure to Rydal and Rydal is attracted to Colette. Everything is hunky dory until a stranger turns up at Chester's door. All of a sudden we have a body. Rydal encounters Chester trying to dispose of the body and Chester begs for his help, thus beginning a Hitchcockian series of events where nothing goes right.

This film just reeked of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," from its story to its cinematography, and sure enough, this is an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel, who wrote Ripley and this one.  Adapted and directed by Hossein Amini, who here makes his directorial debut, it's a fast-moving, tense thriller, a tale of two con-men facing off, making one frustratingly wrong decision after frustratingly wrong decision.

This is a psychological thriller featuring jealousy, deception and double-crossing with many twists and turns.  Unfortunately, the plot fails a bit two thirds of the way through.

Mortensen, Dunst and Oscar are a wonderful ensemble as they pull us into their nightmarish triangle and as Chester and Rydal test the pseudo father-son relationship.  The score is lush and dramatic and the Greek and Turkish locations are beautiful to look at.
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you liked "The Talented Mr. Ripley" or are a fan of Highsmith or Hitchcock, you will like this film.


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


271 to go!
Have YOU seen this one?

Lola Montes (1955)

The life of the famous femme fatale, Lola Montes.
Martine Carol, French sex symbol of the 1950's, plays Lola (a little bit of underacting might have been in order here), who made a name for herself as a showgirl and courtesan in the 19th century. Carol reminded me a bit of Vivian Leigh. The film is part circus act, which is what she was reduced to at the end of her life, and part series of flashbacks as it tells her story. Sumptuous color reminds me of what big film productions of the 1950's used to be like.  A young Peter Ustinov plays the ringmaster and a young Oskar Werner plays a student who helps her escape Bavaria, right before he rose to international fame in "Jules et Jim."

Why it's a Must See[Max] "Ophuls's film, his last (and only one in color) is no conventional biopic.  Instead, he mounts a lavish baroque extravaganza, part circus, part pageant, packed with flashbacks, and sends his famously mobile camera scaling around the elaborate décor...[this film], a classic film maudit, was butchered by its distributors and long available only in a truncated version, but a recent restoration allows us to appreciate Ophuls's swan song in its full poignant splendor."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

This appears to be a cautionary tale on what can happen to you if you have too many lovers.  The ending is quite sobering.  Made me think of the film "Freaks (1932)."  Ah, the high standards we were held to in the 1950's!

Rosy the Reviewer says...an enjoyable film for those who like sumptuous 50's biopics like "Moulin Rouge (the 1952 version)" and "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing." 
(In French with English subtitles)



***Book of the Week***


An Edgar Award finalist for Best Fact Crime, author Mann weighs in on who really killed director William Desmond Taylor, a famous unsolved 1920's murder.

William Desmond Taylor was a successful director with secrets and was found murdered in his apartment in the early morning hours. Despite witnesses to a man leaving his apartment, the murder has never been solved.  However, Mann, using never-before-seen FBI files and other sources, Mann names the killer.

Many scandals rocked Hollywood in the 1920's and the film industry strove to cover them up.  Adolph Zukor, the head of Paramount, was especially concerned.  Add actress Mary Miles Minter's unrequited love for Taylor and her domineering mother's disapproval, actress Mabel Normand, Taylor's valet (with a past) who found the body and actress Margaret Gibson, who would do anything to make it, even hang around with gangsters, and we have a cast of suspects.

Mann weaves a fascinating tale of Hollywood in the 1920's and "By jove, I think he's [solved] it."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are interested in the history of the movies and true crime, you will enjoy this book. 

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for



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