Friday, August 5, 2016

"Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie" as well as DVDs "Green Room" and "The Adderall Diaries." The Book of the Week is "The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories From Those Who Knew Him Best." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the classic Lon Chaney silent film "The Unknown"]

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) are back, this time in a feature film where Edina accidentally knocks Kate Moss into the Thames, and thinking she has killed her, they flee to the South of France.

What can I say, Sweetie Darling?

Well, I can say that this movie is absolutely fabulous!

I have been watching AbFab (that's what us real fans call it), the BBC TV show, ever since it first aired on PBS back in the 1990's and later aired on BBCAmerica with some anniversary specials. I couldn't get enough of the antics of Edina and Patsy, two over-the-top British friends who overindulged themselves in booze, drugs and fashion trends. My then young daughter and I were faithful watchers, though now looking back, I am questioning my parenting skills as in letting a little girl watch the debauched antics of those two.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Edina Monsoon is a heavy-drinking, drug-taking PR agent who embraces every fashion trend and pop culture fad in an effort to stay young and hip to hilarious results.  Her best friend is Patsy Stone, whose boozing, drug taking and promiscuity makes Edina look like a nun.  Both women are over-the-top and absolutely fabulous, well, in their own minds, anyway.

Edina has a daughter, Saffron (Julia Sawalha) who by contrast IS practically a nun.  She is buttoned-up and disapproving of her mother, and she hates Patsy.  The feelings are mutual, though Edina is dependent on "Saffy" for money and support when her projects and ideas go awry.  Edina's mother (June Whitfield), who appears to go in and out of dementia, also lives with them as does Bubble (Jane Horrocks), Edina's wacky and ditsy personal assistant. British celebrities weave in and out as Edina attempts to maintain her credibility as a PR agent while at the same time screwing up at every turn.

This first AbFab feature length film finds Patsy and Edina now in their 60's, but they don't plan on going quietly.  Edina is still self-absorbed and still running her PR business, but finding herself losing money and worse, becoming less and less relevant.  She is also not enjoying getting older.  When Patsy discovers that model Kate Moss is looking to change her PR representation, she tells Edina, and the push is on to get Moss as a client.  While attending a fashion event, Edina and Patsy, or I should say, Eddie and Pats, see Kate Moss sitting out on the edge of the balcony out on the terrace.  Edina rushes up to Kate to speak to her and accidentally knocks her off the balcony and into the Thames where she is thought to have drowned. Pats and Eddie take Bubble out in a boat to try to find Kate.  They outfit Bubble with a headlamp and order her to swim around looking for Kate, and suddenly Bubble too is gone and presumed drowned.

Now they are really screwed so to avoid all of the media attention (something which under other circumstances they would bask in), the two flee to the South of France to lie low and try to get out of their predicament.  How Patsy pretending to be a man will help them is anybody's guess, but that's what is so fun about these two.  They don't make any sense and everything they do, every idea they have is full on. They are unpredictable and very, very funny.  All sorts of the usual Patsy and Eddie hijinks ensue.

The TV series was written by Jennifer Saunders and was based on a sketch created by her and her comedy partner Dawn French ("French and Saunders"), who makes an appearance in the film.  And so do many other celebrities.  In addition to Moss (who does not appear to be aging well - meow), there is Graham Norton, Lulu (who is looking very good these days), Stella McCartney, Jerry Hall, and many more.  Saunders brilliantly skewers our obsession with celebrity, image, youth, the media, materialism and everything else that her skeptical eyes come across.

Some favorite funny moments:  an upset Edina says she needs to practice her mindlessness and Bubble reading Nietzsche and chuckling.

Written by Saunders and directed by Mandie Fletcher, the film is a send-up of women who can't accept getting old, women who are fashion victims and the whole adoration of pop culture.  But it's also about an enduring female friendship.

Saunders and Lumley as Edina and Patsy do not disappoint.  Saunders is always funny as the insecure, bumbling Edina.  With Lumley being so over-the-top, it's easy to overlook Saunders' comic abilities, but her quirky Edina mannerisms are subtle and very funny.  But it's Lumley who is center stage here as Patsy, with her ever-present cigarette dangling from her lips and her physical humor.  She is just shameless, and they both are absolutely fabulous.

From Patsy waking up in the morning after being passed out on the toilet and injecting herself with botox to Edina's outlandish outfits, it's an AbFab reunion you will love, especially if you are already familiar with the TV show or love British humor.  For those of you who have not had the pleasure, doing a little catch up on the TV show would probably add to your enjoyment of the movie, but however you get there, join the party!

And as I said in my "Ghostbusters" review, who said women aren't funny?  Now I can say, "Who said women of a certain age aren't funny?"

Rosy the Reviewer says...the most fun I have had in a movie theatre all year (and it didn't hurt that they served champs)!

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

Green Room (2015)

A punk rock band witnesses a murder in a skinhead bar...oops!

Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawcat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) are members of a punk rock band called "The Ain't Rights.  Like most wannabe bands, they are traveling around on a shoestring doing gigs.  While in the Pacific Northwest, they meet, Tad (David W. Thompson), a local radio personality, who gets them a gig outside of Portland.  Turns out the gig is at a skinhead bar in a remote part of Oregon.  Ruh, roh.

The audience is an unruly bunch who spit, throw bottles and glasses at the stage, but the band eventually wins them over. After the show Pat goes back to the green room and discovers a girl with a knife in her head.  Not good.  He calls the police, but the bouncers, Gabe and Big Justin, are not happy about that, and Gabe pays a skinhead to stab another one as a sort of cover story.   He also calls Darcy, the bar owner (Patrick Stewart), who decides the best way out of this is to kill the band so there are no witnesses.  This is not good news to the band so they barricade themselves in the green room.  Amber (Imogen Poots), a girl who witnessed the murder, is also in there with them.  They try to get out a few times and one of those times they discover a heroin lab in the building.  Double ruh, roh.

Let the disembowelment, shootings, stabbings and death by pit bull begin!  And let's just say, everyone doesn't get out of that damn green room alive, but the bad guys don't fare very well either.

This is a sort of slasher film but instead of knives the slashers are pit bulls.  Ick. It's one of those classic the hunted become the hunters, but let's just say the trailers for this were way scarier than the reality of the film.

Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, it's an interesting premise. What if you were a hardworking unknown band and you witness a murder and the Green Room becomes a horror chamber?  Unfortunately, it didn't end up being that horrific.

It's sad to see Yelchin here fighting off bad guys only to end up dead too young in real life and it's fitting that Imogen Poots is here because she went on to star in "Roadies," which is playing on Showtime now.

Patrick Stewart plays the intimidating owner.  Wonder what he did wrong that he ended up here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is some blood and gore and some thrills to be had but I actually thought the trailer was scarier.

The Adderall Diaries (2015)

A writer with a serious case of writer's block and substance abuse, becomes obsessed with a murder trial.

James Franco plays Stephen Elliott, a bestselling writer living in New York City.  He had written a memoir of growing up with an abusive and neglectful father who is now dead, but is suffering writer's block (what movie these days about writers doesn't involve writer's block?).  At a reading from his book, his father (Ed Harris) shows up saying he is alive and well, and none of what Elliott wrote about him is true. 

With his credibility in question, Elliott turns to a high profile murder in hopes of becoming the next Truman Capote, who famously wrote about the Clutter family murder in "In Cold Blood."  A woman has gone missing and her husband (Christian Slater) is arrested and goes on trial.  But as Elliott becomes fascinated with the murder trial, it brings back memories of his own life and calls those memories into question.  Amber Heard plays, Lana, a reporter covering the case.  Elliott and she get close and some hot bathtub sex ensues.  He also has some fetishes about pain - clothespins, clamps and the like.  Ew.  As the trial progresses, Elliott gets deeper and deeper into drugs and sexual kinky stuff with Amber until he goes off the rails completely.

A dark-haired Amber Heard, who you probably had never heard of until she married Johnny Depp, may be a strange duck as portrayed in the tabs but she is a very good actress.

Written and directed by Pamela Romanowsky (and based on the memoir by the real Stephen Elliott), the film explores our memories and the parent/child dynamic. When the accused Dad said he was the best Dad he could be, Elliott remembers his own Dad saying that.  We all have different perspectives from a parent vs. child perspective, and we sometimes remember our pasts in a way that saves us guilt and remorse.  We are quick to question memory in other people but not ourselves, but our memories can't be trusted because our memories are now colored by who we are now.

Those are some of the messages inherent in this film, which redeem it somewhat.  However, I can't recommend it.  I am starting to be afraid of James Franco movies.  When he stars, you know it's going to be a difficult and/or strange film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though the messages in this film are profound, I can't recommend it because I don't want you to watch it and think, "Why the hell did she recommend this?"  It's not an easy film to watch.

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

241 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Unknown (1927)

Two circus performers are both in love with the same girl and you won't believe what one of them will do to win her.

Lon Chaney was known as "The Man of a 1000 Faces" for a reason.  There was nothing he wouldn't do to create a character.  Here he plays a man with no arms who is part of a circus, and he is quite a curiosity since he is an armless man who is also knife-thrower (he throws with his feet).  He is in love with his assistant, the lovely Nanon (Joan Crawford).  Unfortunately, he has a rival in the strong man, handsome Malabar (Norman Kerry).  However, Nanon is tired of being pawed by men and hates men to touch her.  She hates mens' hands. 

"Hands. Men's hands!  How I hate them!"

So the fact that Alonzo has no hands is a plus.  A love triangle emerges as Malabar eventually convinces Nanon that he doesn't plan to paw her.

But here's the thing.  Alonzo really DOES have hand...and arms.  He and his cohort, Cojo (John George) are not only running a scam on the circus owner, Zanzi (Nick de Ruiz), who just happens to be Nanon's father, but they are robbing the towns where the circus performs.  Who would suspect an armless man of committing robberies, right?   

And let's just say that Alonzo is not only a fake and a robber, but he's also not a very nice guy.  He's one of those guys who says "If I can't have her, no one can!"  He gets in a fight with Zanzi and kills him.  Nanon sees the fight but not her father's killer, though she sees the hands.  Unfortunately for Alonzo, he has a hand with two thumbs.  He knows that Nanon saw his hands when he killed her Dad because she said he was killed by a man with two thumbs, so he decides he needs to cut off his arms for real.  And then he goes about trying to get rid of Malabar.  Will he get the girl?

Tod Browning, who later directed the well-known and shocking film "Freaks," also about a circus, wrote and directed this silent film as well.  Browning obviously had a thing for the strange and what Alonzo was willing to do for love would have also been shocking in its day.  Crawford had played many small parts in silents up until her starring turn here as Nanon.  She had to play a lot of floozies before she ended up the DRAMATIC ACTRESS she became.  I capitalize those two words because that was how Crawford saw herself and she was always over the top BIG. As Gloria Swanson said in "Sunset Boulevard," "I am big, it's the pictures that got small."

But it's Cheney's movie.  From his realistic depiction of an armless man to his smoking and throwing knives with his feet, it is clear that Cheney would do anything to create a character.

With all of the CGI and production values we have today, not to mention sound, when I first started watching this film I was thinking to myself "Who wants to watch silent films today?  How can we possibly relate?"  But it was a compelling 46 minutes .

Rosy the Reviewer says...expand your horizons with this classic film from the silent era.

***Book of the Week***

The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best
edited by Mr. Peter L. Winkler

A collection of reminiscences about the legendary screen icon from his teachers to the actors he worked with.

James Dean was a young actor whose untimely death at the age of 24 in a car crash epitomized the saying "Die young and leave a pretty corpse."  In the 1950's, Dean made three films where he played troubled, angry young men -  "Rebel Without a Cause," "East of Eden" and "Giant," all on the American Film Institute's list of the top 400 best movies of all time - but what many people may not realize is that all three films were released after his death and Dean never saw stardom in his lifetime. That could account for his almost mythic status today.

At the time of his shocking death, scores of interviews were given by those who knew him, and according to author Peter L. Winkler, those recollections would be lost if he had not gathered them into this compilation. There are personal accounts from everyone from his grandmother to his father to his teachers to his ex-lovers to actors and directors he knew or worked with (Hume Cronyn, Shelley Winters, Elia Kazan, Raymond Massey and others.  Vampira even weighs in (they were friends). He liked exotic women.

This compilation paints a picture of a talented but complex and tortured man. Dying at 24, it is difficult to say what Dean might have achieved.  But in death he became something he might never have become in real life - a legend .

Rosy the Reviewer says...A fascinating compendium but one wonders: does anyone really care about James Dean anymore?  You tell me!

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

 "The Best of Rosy the Reviewer"

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