Friday, September 30, 2016

"Bad Moms" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Bad Moms" as well as DVDs "How To Be Single" and "Dirty Grandpa."  The Book of the Week is "Wear and Tear," a memoir by the daughter of theatre critic Kenneth Tynan.  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Man with a Movie Camera."]

It's Comedy Week!

We've got single girls, moms, and an old guy and his grandson, all trying to cope with life...and it's all very funny...and all very "R" rated... so you will have to excuse me if this posting is a bit "R-rated" as well. 

Bad Moms

Three moms, who are overworked and underappreciated, decide they can't possibly live up to the standards of "The Perfect Mom" so decide to give up and be "Bad Moms!"

Mila Kunis stars as Amy, a hard-working mom who got pregnant and married young at 20 (in that order) and had two kids right away.  Now in her thirties, she is still married but her husband has checked out, she has a job at a coffee company run by bad stereo-type millennials, she comes home and cooks gourmet meals for her husband and children, does her children's school projects for them, attends all of their events, and participates in all of the PTA's bake sales. She is running full tilt trying to be a good mom. I am exhausted just writing that. But when she discovers that no matter what she does, her husband and children don't appreciate her and she can never please Gwendolyn, the snooty President of the PTA (Christina Applegate) and her minions (Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumulo), she decides "That's it!"  She is going to be a "Bad Mom."

She heads to a local bar where she runs into Carla (Kathryn Hahn), who is already there and well into her cups.  Carla is already a "Bad Mom," flirting outrageously with everyone's husband, wearing slutty clothes and giving the finger to protocol.  She is not sure she wants to be friends with Amy but eventually they commiserate and are joined by Kiki (Kristen Bell), who is a timid stay-at-home Mom with four kids who is slowly being driven crazy by them and her tyrant of a husband.

The three get drunk, go crazy in a supermarket in a very unbelievable scene and just generally thumb their noses at Gwendolyn and her expectations.  But when Gwendolyn seeks revenge by ordering the soccer coach to bench Amy's daughter (Amy's daughter is in middle school and already worrying about her college resume), Amy decides she needs to take action and run for PTA President herself.  You see, you don't get away from "mean girls" even when you are an adult. 

I had a bit of a problem with the fact that Gwendolyn, as PTA President, can order the soccer coach around because she has the power to fire him.  It's a rather unbelievable plot device, because since when does the PTA President have that kind of power?  In fact, some of the scenes were so outrageously improbable, I thought Amy was going to wake up and we would discover this was all a dream of being a "Bad Mom" and she would go back to her regular life.

However, those little criticisms were not enough to mar my enjoyment of this film. 

Yes, it's silly, but it's also fun to see solid female friendships and strong women take charge of their lives and buck the conventions of being the perfect mother.  And, of course, the ultimate message is that there is no such thing as the perfect mother. We unfairly compare ourselves to other moms who seem to fix the best lunches for their kids, volunteer for all of the events and dress their kids to the nines, and yet we find out they have the same insecurities that we do.  It's OK to be a bit "imperfect."

Don't leave when the credits role because at the end of the film the real life mothers of the six actresses playing the central roles sit with their daughters and they share what it was like to be their mothers.  Very touching.

Mila Kunis is a lovely film presence who can also be very funny.  Kristin Bell is a nice counterpoint as the mousy Kiki who eventually finds her voice, and Christina Applegate gets to over-act as the resident "mean girl" who has her own issues and eventually shows a softer side.

But it's Kathryn Hahn who steals the show.  She is absolutely a hoot.  One of the funniest scenes in the film is where Carla explains to Amy and Kiki what to do in bed when they encounter an uncircumcised penis (sorry, guys, according to this film that is controversial and, yes, ladies, it's that kind of movie).  Carla uses Kiki's hoodie with Kiki in it to illustrate, while giving explicit and hilarious commentary.  Really funny.  Though Hahn has had supporting roles in many films, she has not carried a film on her own since the indie "Afternoon Delight."  She is one of our most underrated actresses, and I think she deserves a Best Supporting Actress nom for this but, sadly, that probably won't happen as comedies usually don't get much recognition come Oscar time.

And I need to add that Amy's daughter is played by the talented and adorable Oona Laurence and that's high praise coming from me, considering how I feel about child actors.  You might recognize her as Jake Gyllenhaal's daughter in "Southpaw." 

This is a love letter to all of us "Bad Moms" out there who can't possibly live up to our own expectations of what a mother should be let alone the expectations of others.  So we might as well have some fun!

Written and directed by Jon Lucas (who is known for the "The Hangover" films) and Scott Moore, I didn't expect to like this film but it was a good comedy. I laughed.

Rosy the Reviewer says...all Moms and Moms-to-be can relate to this film.  You will laugh...and even get a little choked up at the end.  I did.


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


How To Be Single (2016)

The state of being single in New York City.  And it's not pretty.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) and Josh (Nicholas Braun) meet their freshman year at college, but four years later, Alice decides they need to "take a break."  Josh is devastated but Alice feels she needs to spend some time alone to find herself.  She has never been without a man and wants to know what that's like. She heads to New York City where she gets a job as a paralegal at a law firm and meets Robin (Rebel Wilson) who cares more about showing her the safe places to shag at work (where the cameras can't see) than orienting Alice to her new job.  She continues to fill Alice in on the single life and how to find a man.

In addition to Alice and Robin, we also meet Meg (Leslie Mann), Alice's obstetrician sister who is convinced she does NOT want children (that's supposed to be ironic) until she meets the cutest little baby you will ever see (except for my granddaughter, that is) and decides she DOES.  Finally there is Lucy (Allison Brie), a computer dating expert who spends her time in a bar working on dating algorhythms where she strikes up a friendship with Tom (Anders Holm a very cute ginger), a commitment phobic bartender, who is the link between the four women since they all end up in this bar eventually and with Tom!  However, Lucy never interacts with the other women.  I kept waiting for that and it never happened so that character was a bit of an afterthought, I thought.

Of course, Alice eventually decides the single life is not for her and wants to get back with Josh.  Guess what?  Yes, you are right.  He has moved on with another woman, sending us a clear message that if you want to take a break from your relationship you had better be ready for it to be permanent.

I was not a big fan of Dakota Johnson in "50 Shades of Grey," but then I wasn't a big fan of that movie, either.  But here she is adorable and funny.  Who knew?  She exudes a vulnerability that comes across on the screen and is very appealing. Rebel Wilson is always funny but one can't help but wonder how long she can keep up the raunchy confident fat girl routine.  I would like to see her in a drama and see if she actually has some acting chops.

But it's not a bad thing to see a female character who embraces being on her own. Unlike "The Lobster (see my review from last week)" where we are supposed to be sad and embarrassed about being single, Robin embraces it and spends much of the movie trying to educate Alice in the joys of being single.

So what did I learn from Robin about the current state of being single?
  • Never talk marriage as soon as you meet a guy (OK, duh.)
  • You must shave your pubic hair (OK, this is where you lose me and this is something I feel very strongly about - and so does Cameron Diaz, too, just so you know.  Read her book. What is the deal with women wanting to revert to toddlerhood "down there" FOR A MAN!!!!?  We have pubic hair for a reason!) 
  • Don't fall into a guy's "dicksand." (This is a single woman's code word for getting too hung up on a guy you are having sex with)
  • The time we have to be single is the time we learn to be alone (well, I didn't learn that from Robin.  I actually learned that from Alice).
Alice says at the end of the film:

"The thing about being single is, you should cherish it. Because, in a week, or a lifetime, of being alone, you may only get one moment. One moment, when you're not tied up in a relationship with anyone. A parent, a pet, a sibling, a friend. One moment, when you stand on your own. Really, truly single. And then... It's gone."

The strength of this film was not the comedy and Rebel Wilson's silliness, but rather, Alice's story of a woman getting used to being on her own and finding happiness without a man.

Directed by Christian Ditter with a screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox, this was a fun movie for me because I was never really single my whole life.  But if this is any indication of what dating would be like, I don't think I missed much.

Rosy the Reviewer over-the-top version of "Sex and the City" without Carrie Bradshaw's wardrobe...or Carrie Bradshaw, for that matter.  But it provides some laughs.

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

An uptight lawyer who is about to marry Bridezilla is tricked into taking his grandpa to Florida for spring break.

Grandma has died, leaving Grandpa (Robert De Niro) a widower. His grandson, Jason (Zac Efron), is about to get married to Bridezilla Meredith (Julianne Hough), but Grandpa, also known as Dick (perfect name for him), tells Jason he needs to go to Florida to the family home because that's what he and grandma always used to do this time of year.  He needs Jason to drive him from Atlanta to Boca Raton under the guise of playing some golf.  Dick guilt trips Jason until Jason relents.  When Jason tells Meredith he is taking the road trip, Meredith says she needs the SUV for wedding errands, for "the wine," so he has to take her car, a shocking pink Mini Cooper.  When Jason arrives to pick Grandpa up for the trip, he finds him unashamedly masturbating to porn and, let's just say, that sets the tone for the rest of the film.  You see Grandpa isn't heading to Florida to the family home.  He wants to go for Spring Break!

"Let's get in that giant labia you drove up in and let's get out of here," says Dick as they head off to Florida.

Those kinds of one-liners also set the tone of the film.

So off the two go on their road trip to Florida in the shocking pink Mini.  En route they meet Shadia (Zoey Deutch), a girl Jason went to photography school with before he became an attorney. I feel a romance coming on.  She and her friends are also traveling to Florida.  One of her friends, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a sex-obsessed college student (who is one of the best things about this movie, by the way, except for Zac's abs), is on a mission to do the college trifecta - have sex with a freshman, an alumni and a professor.  She gets the idea that Dick is a professor (and he doesn't disabuse her of that idea), so he becomes her prey and Grandpa is certainly not averse to that. 

In fact, Dick is enjoying his freedom now that Grandma has died and he wants TO GET IT ON!  He thinks that Jason is a disapproving downer and says, "What are you?  Vagina repellant?"  You see, Grandpa's bawdy one-liners are the backbone of this film.  He just keeps throwing them at you until you have to laugh.

As they travel around they get into all kinds of rowdy situations, some secrets are revealed and Jason finds himself.  It's a road trip/millennial/Baby Boomer/ buddy film with the Baby Boomer grandpa showing the uptight millennial how to live life.  We Baby Boomers did know how to up!

But despite the bawdy humor, and there is a lot of it, there is a serious side to this film.  I didn't say original, I said serious. Jason is now an attorney working in a law firm where his father (Dermot Mulroney, in a very small role) and his fiance's father are both partners. Jason deals with SEC issues and bores everyone to tears when telling them what he does. But Jason once wanted to be a photographer and travel the world and Grandpa reminds him of that.  Grandpa clearly is on a mission to loosen the kid up and remind him of what he had once wanted to be.  And that wasn't an attorney.  Grandpa clearly has disdain for Jason's choice of career and calls Jason "Alan Douchewitz."

Despite the popularity of The Fokkers movies, where De Niro broke out as a comedic actor, I have never really been comfortable with him playing comedy.  I mean, after all, he was Johnny Boy in "Mean Streets," he was Travis Bickle, he was "The Deerhunter," he was the young Vito Corleone.  But I have to say he is very, very funny in this and seems to have settled into comedy quite well.

But Aubrey Plaza is just as hilarious as the sex-crazed college girl. Once she zeroes in on Dick, he doesn't have a chance.

After watching this movie, I have also decided that I need to see more movies starring Zac Efron and his abs. Zac Efron is one handsome guy and does a great job playing straight man to De Niro.  We also get to see Zac naked and that's the price of a ticket right there.  Grandpa gets Jason drunk and then Jason accidentally smokes some crack and ends up naked, well, almost naked.  He wears a stuffed animal as a cod piece and dances the Macarena.  Yay!

Directed by Dan Mazer and written by John Phillips, there is something here to offend everyone. "Dirty Grandpa" is pretty dirty, but it's also pretty funny.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are easily offended, this is not for you, because it's raunchy, raunchy, raunchy.  But it's also funny, funny, funny.



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

233 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

A man travels around the city with his camera and documents a day in the life of a Russian city in the late 1920's.

I have always believed that less was more in films and that the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words" epitomizes filmmaking.  I am not a fan of films with long expositions and narration, rather letting the pictures tell the story.

Well, this film takes it to a "whole 'nother level!"  Not only is it a silent film, there are no intertitles, those subtitles that every once in awhile tell us what the characters are saying.  Here director Dziga Vertov, a member of a group of filmmakers called Cine-Eye who believed in the "honesty" of documentary as compared with fiction film uses every cinematic device of filming and editing - slow motion, animation, multiple images, split-screen, zooms and reverse zooms, blurring focus and freeze frames - to make this silent film that was ahead of its time and is a primer on filmmaking.  Verdov wanted to create a film using the "truly international language of cinema," and he has, because despite no words spoken or intertitles added, you are compelled to watch to see what will unfold as the filmmaker catches people unawares in the day in the life of a Russian city, a day that took three years to shoot.

This montage of modern Russian life begins with an unknown Russian city (mostly filmed in Moscow but also Kiev, Yalta and Odessa) coming awake.  We see people sleeping in beds, on benches in the park and on the ground. They awaken and then begin to go about their day.  We see our "man with a movie camera" pack up his equipment and set out to film (the cameraman was played by Vertov's brother). We see buses leaving their garages, trains on the tracks and then people at their jobs - in hospitals, barbershops, offices.  We see a baby being born, a person rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and then finally people at play at the beach, playing chess, exercising, playing sports. Throughout the film, we also see the film being edited (it was edited by Vertov's wife). The film ends with the subjects of the movie watching themselves in the movie in a movie theatre.  It's a film within a film.

Though there is certainly a political flavor to this film because of the Russian political images and slogans (it was made only 12 years after the Russian Revolution), the images also show people living their everyday lives and going about their business, no different from what was probably going on in the U.S. in the late 1920's.  In that way the film is universal.  They could be us.

Why it's a Must See: "In this film, Vertov combines radical politics with revolutionary aesthetics to exhilarating, even giddy effect...a non-linear form for cinema, a glorious tribute to everything that movemaking can be."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

The music is also a creative endeavor, created by Michael Nyman and performed by The Michael Nyman Band in 2002 at London's Royal Festival Hall.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love photography and film, this is a visual feast and an education in filmmaking.
(Silent, in b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life by Tracy Tynan (2016)

Tracy Peacock Tynan was the daughter of theatre critic Kenneth Tynan who also co-wrote the shocking "Oh! Calcutta!"  She shares her parents' lives and what it was like growing up with them in their glamorous world of 1960's London.

For a child of avant-garde parents, it actually wasn't so glamorous.  It was actually part privilege and part neglect. Tracy learned how to be very adult as she hobnobbed with the likes of Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles and dealt with her mother's drunken outbursts.

Her father, Kenneth Tynan is probably not well-known today, but in the 1950's and "60's" he was the popular and flamboyant theatre critic for "The Observer," where he championed the new British "angry young man" theatre like John Osbourne's "Look Back in Anger."  He also served as the literary manager for The National Theatre. Later he wrote for "The Evening Standard" and the "New Yorker" and co-wrote and produced the, for its day, shocking, "Oh! Calcutta!"  He and his wife, author Elaine Dundy, lived the high-life in London surrounded by famous people, but Tracy, as their only child, also remembers drunken fights and inappropriate behavior.

Her parents were also arbiters of style, and Tracy herself became particular about what she wore at a very young age, being an early proponent of flea market shopping and vintage clothing.

Later in life, Tracy found herself working as a costume designer for films, so it is fitting that her memoir centers around clothing.  She uses articles of clothing to remind herself of her life. Each chapter highlights an article of clothing that was meaningful. 

As a little girl, when her parents would have their naked, drunken fights, she would cuddle up under her mother's mink coat.  Lemon-yellow underpants reminded her of a time she was in trouble with her Dad. A pale blue chemise from Paris reminded her that imitation might NOT be interpreted by your best friend as the best form of flattery. As a teen, she made a gold-fringed flapper dress to impress a boy, but he was not impressed when she got drunk and threw up all over it. 

Tynan also shares stories about the films she worked on, again using clothes as a jumping off point to tell behind the scene stories- the maroon plaid dress for Genevieve Bujold in Alan Rudolph's "Choose Me" and the crepe de chine wedding dress for Ellen Barkin in "The Big Easy," which has one of the hottest sex scenes in film, by the way. 

As someone who is interested in fashion and also defines herself to a certain extent by her clothes, I loved the device of using articles of clothing to represent periods of her life.  However, Tynan didn't really need to use a literary device for her book, because it's obvious she has inherited her father's writing gift. She creates a world you want to inhabit with her. This memoir is engrossing from the first page, not just the name-dropping and behind the scenes stories which celebrity and literary mavens will enjoy, but her own life was interesting and she is very introspective, reflective and candid about it.

This book had that special something, that "X Factor," that je ne sais qua that makes for a fascinating read.  I couldn't put it down.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you love fashion or just a good read, this is one of the best memoirs I have read in a long time.  Highly recommended.


That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday 


"O Brother Where Art Thou?"

Yes, that's right. 

See you TUESDAY!
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