Friday, May 26, 2017

"Snatched" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Amy Schumer-Goldie Hawn comedy "Snatched" as well as DVDs "Why Him?" and "Shut In."  The Book of the Week is "My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and the Meaning of Life" by Peter Gethers. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The House is Black."]


Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) is happily planning her upcoming vacation to Ecuador with her boyfriend...until her boyfriend dumps her.  She has an non-refundable ticket.  Who can she get to go with her?  Surely, not her overprotective Mom...

Emily lives in New York City and is your typical millennial - and no offense to millennials, but she is a little, well a lot, self centered and clueless with an Instagram addiction.  When her musician boyfriend breaks up with her she doesn't quite get it.

"I'm breaking up with you," he says over lunch.

To which she cluelessly replies, "When?"

Like I said, clueless.

Well, even though she didn't get it, the break-up is immediate and now Emily is stuck with a non-refundable ticket to Ecuador and can't find anyone to go with her. Worse, she has also lost her job.  She goes home to visit her Mom, Linda (Goldie Hawn), and to lick her wounds.  Linda lives alone and is an empty-nester with a lot of fears.  She occasionally checks online for love, but she is still clearly in Mom mode. She spends her time checking the many locks on her doors and taking care of her agoraphobic grown son, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). She also fusses over Emily while Emily takes her mother for granted and basically doesn't approve of her. 

However, while looking through one of her mother's closets, Emily finds an old scrapbook and sees pictures of her Mom from her younger days, traveling and having a great time (this is also a chance for us to also see Goldie back in her heyday which I would bet Goldie wanted us to see since she hasn't made a movie in 15 years).  Emily gets the idea that maybe her mother could be fun and go with her to Ecuador.  After a funny scene where Emily tries to convince Linda to leave her safe environment and have some fun, off they go to Ecuador where Linda plans to sit by the pool and read her book. No mingling with the locals for her!

Meanwhile, Emily meets James (Tom Bateman), a handsome guy who comes on to her in the bar.  He is so handsome and she is so stunned that he wants HER that she throws caution to the wind, much to Linda's chagrin, and goes off with him on a whirlwind tour of the area that includes a party with the locals, where Emily gets very drunk.  But James is a gentleman and returns Emily safely to her room with an invitation for a sightseeing trip the next day. Linda is also invited and reluctantly tags along and that's when it happens....some bad guys ram the car and the next thing Emily and Linda know, they are locked up in a dirty cell.

The two manage to escape the cell, hop a truck and suddenly find themselves in Colombia.  The rest of the film is all about Emily and Linda trying to elude the very bad guy, Morgado (Oscar Jaenada), who didn't take kindly to Emily killing his son.  Emily develops an uncanny and very funny ability to kill bad guys, but more importantly, Emily finally learns that she had her mother pegged all wrong.  Her mother is AWESOME!

Directed by Jonathan Levine and written by Katie Dippold (though I am sure Amy had a hand in it), this is the best comedy to come along in a long while.  Why?  Because it is actually funny.

I know that Amy Schumer is an acquired taste for many.  I actually think she is funny, but sometimes she does go too far with the sex jokes.  Her last stand-up - The Leather Special - was not my cup of tea.  But, hey, I'm old.  I'm not a millennial and probably don't get what millennials like. But that's not to say she isn't funny because she is.

Speaking of millennials, Goldie Hawn might not be a name that young people recognize today.  She hasn't made a movie for 15 years, but for us Baby Boomers she was a household name and made some of the funniest and most enjoyable rom-coms of all time -  "Foul Play," "Private Benjamin," and "Overboard."  Starting out on TV's "Rowen and Martin's Laugh-in," Goldie took ditzy blonde to a new level. 

But no matter what you think of Amy Schumer or whether or not you know who Goldie Hawn is, here is the most important thing - THIS MOVIE IS FUNNY.  Can you believe it?  A comedy that is actually funny.  I haven't seen one of those is a very long time, though I could have done without the scene with the tapeworm.

And in addition to being funny, the film also has a message.  It actually has many messages: it's about the empty nest, mothers and daughters, girl power and even pokes fun at the U.S. State Department, as in don't expect much help from the U.S. if you get kidnapped overseas.

  • The Empty Nest

It's not easy being a Mom and then all-of-a-sudden you aren't one anymore when your kids grow up.  Linda is having a hard time finding herself and restructuring her relationship with her children now that they are adults, and there is a touching scene toward the end of the film when Linda shares with Emily how difficult it is for parents when their children move on without them.

  • Mothers and Daughters
My daughter and I live thousands of miles apart so because of that we try to do a mother/daughter trip together every year so this film really resonated with me, not just the mother/daughter trip but also because of the generation gap, how difficult it is for mothers and daughters to understand each other.  Mothers have a hard time thinking of their daughters as anything other than that little girl who used to sit on their laps and daughters have a hard time thinking of their mothers as anyone other than someone who is getting in their business and trying to tell them what to do.  I know that now that my daughter is an adult, those trips have helped us understand each other better.

  • Girl Power
Once Emily and Linda decide they need to do something about their predicament and take on the bad guys, they do the requisite "Power Walk."  The Power Walk has now become a cliché.  When the filmmakers want us to be sure to know that the heroes or heroines are now going to kick some butt, there is always the Power Walk, where the actors walk in slow motion toward us, shoulder to shoulder, with determined looks on their faces and an iconic soundtrack behind it.  In the most recent "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (which I will review next week)," there wasn't just one Power Walk but TWO!  Anyway, Emily also demonstrates more girl power when she discovers that she has a knack for killing bad guys in a couple of very funny scenes.

  • The U.S. Government
When Jeffrey gets the ransom call from the kidnappers, he immediately calls the State Department where he speaks with Morgan Russell (Bashir Salahuddin), a beleaguered bureaucrat who doesn't take kindly to Jeffrey asking that they send in the A-Team.  The only help he can give is to tell him the women need to get to the consulate in Bogata.  Not very helpful considering the women are miles from Bogata with no money.  Jeffrey and Morgan have a contentious and very funny relationship as Jeffrey continues to try to get him to do something to find his mother and sister. 

Amy is very funny and even a bit toned down, but for me, Goldie was the revelation.  No ditzy blonde, here. She is funny, yes, but she also shows her acting chops and why she was and still is, such a big star. She was totally believable as Emily's Mom, and I loved her.

Ike and Bashir were also stand-outs who provided some of the funniest moments in the film.

And then there is Roger (Christopher Meloni).  When the women are on the run, they meet Roger, who is dressed very much like Indiana Jones. They are thrilled to get his help, because Roger appears to be someone who knows his way around South America.  He has a boat (reminiscent of the boat in Herzog's "Aguirre, Wrath of God") and offers to take them down the Amazon to Bogata. Unfortunately, Roger is not what he appears to be and one of the funniest moments in the film is when he reveals his true identity and why he is in South America.

Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack also provide some comedy but seem like after- thoughts as characters.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a very sweet film that mothers and daughters should see together (I wish I could have seen it with mine), but more importantly, FINALLY, a comedy that is actually funny.

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


Why Him? (2016)

What does a Dad do when he doesn't approve of his daughter's choice of husband?

Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) is attending Stanford and, while Skyping from her dorm room with her Dad, Ned (Bryan Cranston), on his 55th birthday, what should he see?  Her boyfriend, Laird's (James Franco), bare bum coming into view as he enters her room with no pants on.  That's our and Ned's first glimpse of Laird.  Not a good start and that sets the stage for what a nut he is and why perhaps Ned would not approve of him.

Ned and his wife, Barb (Megan Mullally, whose voice to me is the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard) are straight-arrow Midwesterners from Grand Rapids, Michigan (my old neck of the woods, so I know all about those kinds of parents), and when next we see them, the family has flown out to Palo Alto to visit Stephanie, and Stephanie wants them to meet Laird, who it turns out is a billionaire owner of a tech company.

They meet Laird at his impressive compound.  In a classic East meets West culture clash, as in buttoned-up, up-tight East meeting overly-friendly, hugging West, Laird appears and happily shows the family his new tattoo: Stephanie's family's Christmas card picture tattooed on his back, including "Merry Christmas."  Laird is watched over by his major domo, Gustav (Keegan-Michael Key, who is always funny), and one of Gustav's jobs is to attack Laird without warning as a way to keep Laird fit and on his toes, so that is a bit of a shock to our Midwesterners . Laird is also very liberal with the F-bomb and other profanities, which doesn't go over really well either.  Not a great start.

But Laird is trying very, very hard to win Ned and Barb over.  He has put in a bowling alley at his home, because he knows Ned likes to bowl and even has Richard Blais on tap to fix them their meals.  Unfortunately, Blais has prepared edible soil and plantain foam (You "Top Chef" fans will remember that Blais always liked his foam).

So overall Ned is not impressed.

Here is your classic comedy where a seemingly normal young woman has her boyfriend meet her parents and the  boyfriend is decidedly NOT normal and strangely everyone can see that except the girl.  Think "Meet the Parents."

But Ned loves his daughter and wants her to be happy, so despite his misgivings, he says he will give Laird a chance.  Unfortunately, Laird has no filter, overshares, and is very inappropriate, and when he tells them that Stephanie and he are living together and he plans to pop the question, Ned goes ballistic. However, Laird wants Ned's blessing and says he won't marry Stephanie without it.  Just give him until Christmas Day to prove he is worthy.

So now the incentive for Ned is to not give his blessing and to dig up dirt about Laird to prove to Stephanie that she shouldn't marry him.  But naturally it all backfires on Ned.

Laird throws a big Christmas party and does everything he can to impress Ned and Barb.  Kiss, Barb's favorite band, even shows up. It seems that everyone is won over by Laird except Ned. 

James Franco loves to play odd characters that bely his good looks - that nice head of hair and that dazzling smile.  So many in fact that at this point, it would actually be difficult for me to take him seriously in a romantic drama.

Bryan Cranston must have wanted to shed his "Breaking Bad" character and remind us that he can do comedy (he did do comedy earlier in his career with "Malcolm in the Middle."). How else can you explain his being in this film after recent successes in dramas such as "Trumbo" and "All the Way? " And unfortunately, I don't think comedy is his forte.  He seems forced here and is actually just not very funny, even when subjected to some cringe worthy scatological scenarios, one of which has Ned trying to cope with a paperless Japanese toilet.

Despite my not being able to cope with her voice, Mullally is an excellent comedienne and provides much of the humor in this film.  She is expert at under-her-breath, throwaway lines, so listen for those, and she has some of the best lines.

Directed by John Hamburg and written by him with Ian Helfer (Jonah Hill is credited for having something to do with the story too), this is the story of an uptight Midwest conservative learning from a spaced-out West Coast millennial, which could have been rich fodder for some fun, but doesn't hit the mark. It's even got a bit of a metaphor, though it falls into overly sentimental territory: Ned runs a printing company in a world that is becoming increasingly paperless.  I get it. The lack of understanding between the older generation (paper) and millennials (paperless), right?  

For the first hour, this film was mildly amusing as we got to know Laird and could see the steam coming out of Ned's ears, but then I got bored waiting for this thing to resolve itself.   This plot - daughter brings unsuitable suitor to meet the parents - has been done to death and didn't bring anything new to it.

You know you are in trouble when Kiss and a Japanese toilet play a major role in a film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...not why him?  Why ME?

Shut In (2016)

A widowed mother and her disabled stepson live an isolated existence  with a storm coming in this thriller where some strange and scary things start to happen.

Naomi Watts stars as Mary, a child psychologist with a very difficult stepson, Steven (Charlie Heaton) and difficult issues of her own.  Steven has just unwillingly gone off with his Dad to boarding school while she stays behind. En route there is a car accident.

Flash forward six months later...

Lifetime movie cliche anyone?  (for more information on Lifetime Movie cliches, see my blog post "Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation"), and that flash forward is not the only Lifetime movie device you will encounter in this film.

Anyway, Mary's husband has been killed in the car accident, and now the stepson is living alone with Mary.  Unfortunately he was badly injured in the car accident, and he is a paraplegic with brain damage.

Mary is informed that one of her patients, a little boy named Tom (Jacob Tremblay), who is hearing impaired, is going to be transferred to another school in Boston. Mary is not happy about that, but there is nothing she can do. Later, Mary hears glass shattering and her car alarm going off. Naturally she goes outside in THE DARK all by herself or this wouldn't be a classic thriller about a woman living one her own with a disabled son who would be no help to her should something bad happen.  

Entering the garage, Mary finds one of her car windows smashed in and Tom, that little hearing-impaired boy I mentioned earlier, fast asleep on the backseat. She brings him inside, but after discussing him on the phone inside her office, when she returns, she finds her front door standing open and Tom is nowhere to be found. Mary informs the police and they search for Tom while Mary continues to hear sounds in the night and to experience strange, dream-like horrors.

What the hell is happening?

This genre - a woman all alone plagued by things that go bump in the night -  always has certain criteria.  Glad you asked.  Let me share those with you:

The Top 20

#1 - An idyllic but very remote location.  What could possibly happen in a beautiful place like this?

#2 - The woman is alone or with someone who can't really help her, in this case the only other person with her is her stepson who is a paraplegic.

#3 - Next, expect the unexpected - it's always the least likely person or our heroine does something least likely.  Just think least likely. 

#4 - Our heroine has to be troubled - in this case, she is having problems dealing with her stepson and actually dreams of drowning him.  She is also an insomniac which calls everything she sees into question.

#5 - The woman goes out into the dark alone to investigate a noise and opens up the gate thus possibly allowing bad guys to get in.  And right here, I have to say, I shouted at the screen (I am prone to that kind of thing when I get frustrated), WHY???  What woman in her right mind would hear a noise out there in the dark and go out by herself to investigate - without a gun?

#6 -  A black cat jumps out making us all jump and then we and our heroine breathe a sign of relief thinking that it was only the cat that made the noise.  If only.

#7 - A knock on the door.  DO NOT ANSWER THE DOOR! (I am shouting at the screen again)

#8 - Another strange sound and she goes outside AGAIN, this time leaving the front door open, forcing you to scream "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS WOMAN?!"

#9 - A nightmare scene occurs, so now we are questioning truth vs. reality.  Is Mary imagining all of this?

#10 - I am now reminded that next time I am home alone at night I am going to be terrified.

#11 - Oh, geez, now she is going down into a dark basement by herself!

#12 - A dark figure runs across the screen behind her.  SHE IS NOT ALONE!

#13 -  Many gotcha moments that make you jump, most of which turn out to be nothing, thus letting your guard down so when the big payoff comes you really jump out of your seat.

#14 - A reminder that all bad things happen at 2am (my mother warned me about that).

#15 - There is a warning that a big storm is coming.  Of course there is.  And the power could go off. And of course it does because in movies like this the lights always go off so that our heroine can go down in dark basements by herself like an idiot.

#16 - Phone goes dead. Of course.

#17 - Cat and mouse game begins.

#18 - Friend who comes to check on our heroine gets killed.

#19 -  Big twist.  Things are not as they appear - and it all goes crazy.

#20 - Our heroine stops being a victim and goes ballistic.

There you have it.  Any questions? 

Directed by Farren Blackburn with a screenplay by Christina Hodson, this film asks the question: who is really the shut in here?  It also asks, just how many movies exactly like this have you already seen?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a psychological thriller that checks all of the above boxes and, despite the usual good performance by Watts, prompts me to ask:  Why?  You've probably seen this film already a million times on Lifetime.

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

201 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The House is Black (1964)

A short documentary about a leper colony in northern Iran.

Written and directed by Forugh Farrokhzad, this 22 minute black and white short combats the "ugliness" of lepers in a leper colony by using poetry, religion and gratitude, challenges you to see beauty in creation.  The film was meant to shed light on leprosy so that something could be done about it.

The film starts with a black screen and a narrator warning about the images to follow. It makes the case that leprosy is a disease of the poor and with proper care and medical treatment it can be cured.  However, the way that people with leprosy were treated was to segregate them and neglect them in leper colonies.

People in the leper colony are seen eating, having medical treatments, in class and going about their daily lives.  There are children playing but also people with rotting flesh and parts of their faces and bodies eaten away. The images are sometimes difficult to look at.

All of the images are accompanied by narration by Farrokhzad of her own poetry and religious readings and begs the question:  Is there still beauty in creation when the creation isn't beautiful? Can beauty be found in ugliness?  Despite deformities, can one still be grateful for what one does have? 

It was the only film directed by Farrokhzad before her death in 1967.  During shooting she became attached to a child of two lepers, whom she later adopted.  The film received little attention outside of Iran but has since been recognized as a landmark in Iranian film and helped to pave the way for the Iranian New Wave of filmmakers.

I think this film would have been more meaningful having done a little research beforehand.  Seeing the film cold, it was difficult to see the point but understanding why the film was made and something about the filmmaker makes the film more potent.

Why it's a Must See: "At once lyrical and extremely matter-of-fact, devoid of sentimentality or voyeurism yet profoundly humanist [this film] offers a view of life in the colony...that is spiritual, unflinching, and beautiful in ways that have no apparent Western counterparts; it registers like a prayer."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a grotesquely beautiful film, but certainly not for everyone.
(b & w, in Persian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and the Meaning of Life by Peter Gethers (2017)

Nothing like a son writing admiringly about his mother.

Peter Gethers is an author, screenwriter, playwright, book editor and film and television producer.  His mother, Judy Gethers, was the daughter of the founder of Ratner's restaurant, a legendary Jewish kosher dairy restaurant on New York City's lower East Side. She herself became a legendary figure in the L.A. cooking scene, when, at the age of 53, she took her first job, working with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison, running and teaching at its cooking school with Julia Child, Maida Heatter and Paula Wolfert.  She was known as the "Ma of Ma Maison."  Later she followed Puck when he opened Spago and wrote several cookbooks.

Judy faced several health challenges over her lifetime, but when she suffered a stroke in her 80's, she was robbed of her ability to cook, but through regular visits with her son, Peter, she and he talked about food and her life which culminated in this book.  Through their visits, Peter learned about his mother's favorite dishes, and though he did not consider himself much of a cook, Peter decided to honor his mother by preparing her breakfast, lunch and dinner, each consisting of her favorite dishes - and in so doing mother and son drew closer.

The menus?


  • Ratner's Matzo Brei
  • The Beverly Hilton Coffee Shop's and the Cock'n Bull's Eggs Benedict.


  • Barbara Apisson's Celeriac Remoulade
  • Louise Trotty's Chocolate Puddy
  • Joel Robuchon's Mashed Potatoes
  • Yotam Ottolenghi's Quail


  • Before-Dinner Drink: Peter Kortner's and The Martini Brothers' Perfect Martini
  • Wolfgang Puck's Salmon Caulibiac
  • The Tornabenes' Buccatini with Cauliflower, Pine Nuts, Currants, Anchovies and Saffron
  • Solferino's Steak with Truffle Cream Sauce
  • My Almost-Made-Up Fava Bean Puree
  • Nancy Silverton's and Abby Levine's French Boule and Challah
  • Romanee-Conti's Greatest Red Wine: La Tache
  • Smoothest White Wine There Is: Batard-Montrachet
  • Burgundian Store-Bought Cheese: Epaisses
  • Martha Stewart's Tarte Tatin

Quite a daunting set of menus for someone who can't cook! 

But therein lies the humor...and the love that exudes from this book. And yes, there are recipes as well as stories about the people, food and drink mentioned in the menus, as well as tales about his family and his growing up years all interwoven throughout the book as he goes on a quest to prepare these special meals for his mother. 

For each meal, Gethers shares the menu and then gives often very funny accounts of trying to find the right ingredients, the proper tools and then trying to prepare the meal exactly as it is supposed to be prepared as per his mother.  It is funny and very touching to envision this grown son wanting to do something like this for his mother.  We mothers can only hope our own sons would care as much.

Gethers also shares what he learned about himself:

"Here's what I learned from cooking with my mother and talking to her and absorbing her wisdom.  Here is what I learned in my search to find meaning in my mother's kitchen: Food is not a be-all and end-all.  It does not provide meaning, though it does provide pleasure.  Nothing that provides pleasure can do so in a vacuum.  It is sharing our pleasure that provides real pleasure.      Love can fade.  Families can break apart.  Nothing you do in the kitchen can really alter that.  But love can also last...And food can be used to celebrate and cement love and family, strength and comfort.  It did for my mother.  It does for me now."

Gethers' recollections of his mother who he clearly admired and loved, and his attempts to get the food just right for her was all very touching.  I cried.

Food is love.  Preparing a meal for someone is an act that shows that love. I have a similar story in my own life, though the cuisine is hardly as fancy. My Dad was an only child and his parents - my grandparents - lived across the street from us.  As they aged (my grandmother was blind), my Dad would stop by their house on his way home from work and prepare their dinner. I wish now that I had spoken more to him about that, what he prepared and how he felt about it.

This book is very much a literary version of one of my favorite documentaries, "Nothing Left Unsaid," where Anderson Cooper talks with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, about her life, to really try to know and understand her so that when she is no longer around, there is nothing he will regret, nothing left unsaid.

Rosy the Reviewer inspiring book about food and love and a reminder to make the most of our time with our parents.  NOW GO CALL YOUR MOTHER!  Or better yet, prepare her a favorite meal.

Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 

for my review of

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"


The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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Friday, May 19, 2017

"LA 92" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new documentary on the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict "LA 92" as well as DVDs "Miss Sloane" and "Gold."  The Book of the Week is Paula Hawkins' latest "Into the Water: A Novel."  Yes, people, it's a novel.  I continue to expand my horizons. This is the follow-up to Hawkins' best-seller, "The Girl on the Train."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Head-On."]

LA 92

A documentary about the aftermath of the verdict in the trial of the four police officers charged with beating Rodney King.

Rodney King? 

That name may not resonate with today's young people, but for those of us who were around in 1992 when that infamous video of Rodney King being beaten by four police officers was shown all over the world, the name Rodney King was on everyone's lips.  And when those police officers went on trial for the beating and were acquitted despite video evidence of what they had done, we were glued to our TV sets as South Central L.A. went up in flames and the ensuing riots resulted in the most widespread racial violence in U.S. history.

Early in the film, Oscar-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin ("Undefeated") lay the groundwork for what happened in 1992 by starting the film with the 1965 Watts riots and the ascension of hardliner, Daryl Gates to Los Angeles police chief. The Los Angeles police already had a reputation for police brutality in black neighborhoods, and Police Chief Darryl Gates was an unrepentant hardliner.  

On March 3, 1991, Rodney King was stopped by Los Angeles police officers after a car chase. Four police officers surrounded King and beat him unconscious and continued to kick and beat him over 50 times after he was down with other officers standing by. Little did they know that a witness, George Holliday, was videotaping them.  He sent the footage to a local news station, and it caused a furor around the world. Four officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force.

Today, using our smart phones to record anything and everything that happens is commonplace but back in 1991, seeing that video was revelatory.

So there those police officers were on tape.  It was clear that Rodney King was unarmed and down on the ground with the police officers continuing to beat and kick him.  It's a no-brainer, right?  Those police officers are going to jail.

Think again.

Ironically it was felt that the trial was so volatile that the police officers couldn't get a fair trial in Los Angeles, so, gee, let's move the trial to Simi Valley, a predominantly white city where many police officers lived.  Do we think they can get a fair trial there?  So, duh, it's no wonder that all four were acquitted, despite the video which was basically proof of what happened. All of the country and even the world were transfixed by this trial, and as the verdicts were read, the whole world was watching. The film shows the reactions of black people vs. white people and the progression of emotion and events leading up to the riots.

What started as peaceful protests organized by the AME Church quickly escalated. Within hours of the acquittals, the six-day 1992 Los Angeles riots started, in which 55 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured, ending only when the California national guard was called in.  It was the most destructive civil disturbance in U.S. history.

One of the most horrific bits of footage was the beating of Reginald Denny who just happened to be driving his truck through the riot zone.  He was dragged out of his truck and beaten over the head with concrete blocks, kicked when he was down with his attackers rejoicing.

Stores were set afire. There were many Korean-owned stores in the area and many of those owners were seen as a sort of merchant class who were against the blacks.  There had been an incident 13 days after the videotaped Rodney King beating, but before the Rodney King verdict, where a 15-year-old black girl - Latasha Harlins - was shot in the head by a Korean store owner for supposed shop lifting despite store surveillance video  showing the girl had money in her hand.  Though the shopkeeper was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, she served no jail time.  So there was already deep resentment and this incident was considered a precursor to the subsequent riots.

Using archival footage, interviews and appropriately dramatic music, Directors Lindsey and Martin skillfully weave all of these events together to tell this important story that still resonates today.  There are no talking heads, no narration, no omniscient voice-over, just the horrific footage of the escalating tensions, the police retreating and the ensuing out-of-control rioting.  It is shocking to learn that the police left the area and did nothing - ON PURPOSE - a certain kind of reverse racism, a let's- leave-"those people"-to-tear-up-their-own-neighborhood attitude. A we-don't-care attitude. But it was also cowardice.  Sure, we are happy to beat up an unarmed man but when it's time to keep the peace and save innocent bystanders?  Nope.  That footage is very hard to look at.

But at the same time, the film footage is amazing.  You can't help but wonder who was able to get all of that footage of the looting and the arson and not get beaten up or killed.  Whoever those photographers were had more courage than the cops.  And the filmmakers must have dug deep to find all of that footage and edit it so skillfully into this fine, important film.

The film is summed up at the end in a flashback to a newsman reporting on the 1965 Watts riots:

“What shall it avail our nation if we can place a man on the moon but cannot cure the sickness in our cities?”

I want to add:

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The Rodney King riots were in 1992 and it seems we have not learned that lesson. Can something like the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict happen again?  Hell, yes! It already has. Does Ferguson ring a bell?

As you know, if you have been following me over the last four years, I am a documentary junkie.  I wrote about some of my favorites in my blog post "15 Must See Documentaries" and I should add this one to my list. I have always believed that real life is far more interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking and disturbing than any fictional story.  And this documentary makes that case.  It is highly interesting, highly thought provoking and highly disturbing.  And yes, it's inspiring too.

Not every great film is to be found in the theatre.  More and more, companies like Netflix and Amazon are underwriting the distribution of films or making them themselves.  This wonderful documentary is one such film. This film debuted on the National Geographic Channel and is now available on their website (click on the link) as well as on Xfinity On Demand, Amazon, Hulu and Vudu and is worth looking for.

Rosy the Reviewer important and timely film that is Oscar-worthy and needs to be seen.


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


Miss Sloane (2016)

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is considered one of the most formidable lobbyists in Washington D.C. but when she is lured away to another lobbyist firm to take on the gun lobby, has she met her match?

The film begins with a close-up of Miss Sloane saying:

"Lobbying is about foresight. About anticipating your opponent's moves and devising counter measures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. And plays her trump card just after they play theirs. It's about making sure you surprise them. And they don't surprise you."

She is under investigation by the Senate, but let's flashback to three months before that.

Miss Sloane has been working at her lobbyist company for ten years and is well-known to be hard as nails and good at what she does.  Right now she is lobbying for palm oil for the Indonesian government.

It is established early that Miss Sloane is a hard-working pill popping workaholic. She is also an insomniac who is not above blackmail.  She lives and breathes her job so doesn't have time for relationships, unless you consider hiring a male prostitute a relationship. As the film unfolds, we get glimpses into why Miss Sloane is so good at what she does as in lying and coercing and twisting the truth.

However, despite being a tough cookie, Miss Sloane does actually have opinions and works for causes she believes in.  Now her firm wants her to work with the gun lobby to get women to buy guns.  She is against guns but is threatened with the loss of her job if she doesn't "Start getting women into guns."

So it's a no-brainer when she is lured away from her job to work with the Brady campaign to get a gun bill passed that requires universal background checks when buying a gun. It's too much of a challenge for her to pass up. She leaves and takes her team with her.

Now her old company wants to see her fail hence her being up in front of a Senate investigation committee. Seems that the lobbying she did for palm oil for the Indonesian government involved some misdeeds on her part. 

Will she fail or will she blow the whistle on the congress people who are in the pockets of the lobbyists?  What do you think?

Watching this film, "Spotlight" and "The Big Short" come to mind, one a film about newspaper people investigating abusive priest in Boston and the other about the financial collapse of 2008.  You would think neither of those films would be particularly riveting because so much of those kinds of films involves talking heads and topics that are not, shall we say, classically, compelling, but they were. "Spotlight" used the personal dramas of the abused and "The Big Short" used humorous cameos by celebrities to explain financial jargon.

So now we have another iffy subject: Washington lobbying. 

Sounds like a big snooze, right?  But it's not. This film is a primer on how lobbying works in Washington, how lobbying is all about money and nothing about morality and it's scary as hell. And Jessica Chastain's powerful performance turns what could be a dry subject into a compelling story. This film lives or dies on Chastain's ability to get us to care about what goes on in Washington to get bills passed and she does.

Directed by John Madden with a slick script by Jonathan Perera, this film did not do particularly well at the box office, which could be a statement on how many people want to see movies about gun control.  It was billed as a thriller, and I think that might be part of the problem because it's not really a thriller.  When you see how lobbying is done in Washington, it's more of a horror film.  

So this film is less about the Second Amendment and more about the evils of lobbying.  Not doing well at the box office is not necessarily a sign of whether or not a film is good.  And this film is good primarily because of the performance by Chastain and the excellent ensemble cast, and the subject which basically exposes the real way our laws are passed.  It's a sad truth that many of our laws are actually passed well before they are voted on in Congress.  They are figuratively passed by these lobbyists, who put the pressure on our legislators.  The case is made that we the people don't really run our country, the lobbyists do, which in turn means the corporations do.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Not a thriller, more of a horror film about how things get done in Washington.  But it's worth seeing, especially for Chastain's amazing performance.

Gold (2016)

Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is the owner of a mining prospecting company, and he needs a lucky break, so he teams up with a geologist and the two go to Indonesia to find gold.  They find more than that.

It's Reno, 1981. Kenny is a wheeler dealer, living with his girlfriend, Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard), and after inheriting his Dad's thriving mining company has managed to run it into the toilet.  He can't get investors.  Then the 1989 recession hits and it hits commodities hard.  Now he is losing his house and to make matters worse, he's old and fat and drinking too much.

Then Kenny has a dream about finding gold in Indonesia, and he becomes obsessed with the idea.  He pawns his gold watch as well as the one he gave Kay and goes there.  He meets Mike Acosta (Edgar Ramirez), a geologist with a reputation for finding gold.  Acosta also believes there is gold to be found in Indonesia, so Kenny decides to back Acosta and starts to raise money to find the mines. He wheels and deals and gets investors but they run out of the money and Kenny's dream begins to fall apart.

But then, amazingly, they do strike gold and Kenny is back in business. Washoe Mining goes on the stock exchange and everything is hunky dory for our hero. It's celebration time. Let the spending begin!

And then about 40 minutes into the film we realize that Kenny is being interviewed by cops.  Oops.  What's going on?

I found that to be a bit jarring because that should have been established early on and despite the flashback being a cliché move I think this film would have benefited from it.

Anyway, back to our story.

At the height of his success, Kenny is offered $300 million for his mines, but he won't do it because he doesn't want to give up naming rights.

Then the worst happens.  Indonesia seizes his mines. It's always risky doing business in another country.  Turns out the money men had ties to Suharto.  Kenny doesn't sell?  Well, they will just steal the mines from him.

"Pride goeth before a fall," right?  Kenny, why didn't you take the money?

"It was a pride thing.  It was my dream.  I dreamed it.  If you sell your dream, what do you have left?"

Now Kenny is depressed again and drinking. But it's not over for Kenny yet. This guy is like a cat.  He has nine lives.  Mike saves Kenny from his depression and drinking and the two concoct a plan to get their mines back by hooking up with Suharto's profligate son.  They strike it big but then...BIG TWIST. 

We find out why Kenny is being interviewed by the FBI.

McConaughey and his make-up people have certainly done everything they can to make McConaughey look unattractive or rather he has done it to himself.  He gained 50 pounds for this role and wore a bald wig and false teeth.  I think that's a trend when actors want to win Academy Awards.  Think Halle Berry's nude scene in "Monster's Ball" and Charlize Theron's make-up job in "Monster." What good-looking actors have to do to get noticed! McConaughey also gets to give an Academy Award style speech at the end:

"What is a prospector?  He's someone who believes it's out there."

Sadly, no Academy Awards for him or this film.

Directed by Stephan Gaghan, this film is based on the Canadian Bre-X gold mining scandal (note:  if you click on the link, major spoiler) and adapted for the screen by Patrick Massett and John Zinman.  This film reminded me of "American Hustle," where Christian Bale also got fat and there was a con going on, but it doesn't have the zing that "American Hustle" had.  The film definitely has some high moments, but it also has some lows and dragged in the middle.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like McConaughey, you might find this entertaining, but I am still recovering from seeing Kenny/McConaughey in his tighty whities.

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

202 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Head-On (2004)

A young Turkish woman living in Germany marries a much older man to free herself from the restrictions of her family.

Cahit (Birol Unel) is a German immigrant living and working in Hamburg.  He is an addict and a loser, and he knows it, so one night he drives his car into a brick wall. But he recovers and meets Sibel (Sibel Kekilli) at the psychiatric clinic where they are both recovering.  Sibel has issues too.  She tried to slash her wrists because she just couldn't conform to her traditional Turkish family's needs for her to conform.  Sibel just wants to party and have as much sex as possible with as many men as possible. Though Cahit is 23 years olden than Sibel, when she finds out he is Turkish, she asks him to marry her and he asks her for a beer.

These are two wacky kids, but she is actually more nutty than he is.  She actually cuts her wrists in front of him, because she doesn't want to live with her family.  I don't blame her. Her brother has already broken her nose for her supposed bad behavior, and he is not above a little honor killing should she step out of line again.  I would want out of that family too!

So Cahit is finally convinced that to save Sibel he should marry her, and they enter into a marriage of convenience.

And he is hardly a catch.  He's a drunk, a layabout, likes cocaine and has a dead wife he won't talk about. He also likes to have rough sex with Maren (Catrin Striebeck), a woman friend of his. Cahit and Sibel get married, but on their wedding night, Cahit gets drunk and kicks Sibel out of their apartment, so she goes to a bar and picks up a bartender. 

The two have a sort of a marriage except they are both having sex with other people and not each other.  They had no intention of falling in love - this was a marriage of convenience for Sibel - but of course they do and when Cahit overhears that same bartender that Sibel had sex with on their wedding night saying bad things about Sibel he kills him.  Sibel's family finds out about this "jealousy killing" and now her brother is after her to kill her for the family honor.  Cahit goes to jail and Sibel goes to Istanbul to stay with a friend and hide out from her family.

So will these two crazy kids ever get together?

Written and directed by Fatih Akin, the film employs a sort of Greek, or should I say, Turkish chorus that sings Turkish songs to show the passing of time and to break the film into scenes. This film is not just a love story between two lost souls, it also explores the clash of Turkish traditional cultures and Western culture, and the stars, Unel and Kakilli are mesmerizing, he with his craggy handsomeness and she with her vivacity. 

Why it's a Must See:  "A nervy, unsettling, sometimes bleak drama of two outsiders (vividly) played, with unwavering intensity and conviction, by the two leads, the film in fact continues a vital strand of provocative, post-punk creativity in contemporary European cinema..."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Cahit crashes his car into a brick wall early in the film, and Sibel's and Cahit's relationship is like that same head-on car crash, and like a car crash, you can't look away.

Rosy the Reviewer astonishingly dark but poignant story.


***Book of the Week***

Into the Water: A Novel by Paula Hawkins (2017)

Several women have mysteriously died over the years in the river that runs through a small English village, but when two die there over a short span of time, there is a mystery to be solved.

Jules Abbot has come back to Beckford.  She left never wanting to return but her sister Nel has drowned in the river and Jules has come to take care of Nel's teen-aged daughter, Lena.  Jules and Nel had been estranged for years and Jules accepts that Nel was a suicide until Lena tells her she was pushed, and Jules becomes embroiled in the mystery of her sister's death as well as the mystery of why Lena's young friend, Katie, also jumped to her death in the river.

Did Nel kill herself by jumping into the river or was she pushed?  What about Katie?  Why would a young, beautiful, smart girl choose to kill herself?  As the secrets of the villagers are revealed, so are the reasons for Nel's and Katie's fates.

This is author Paula Hawkins' second book, following her "The Girl on the Train."  It's a gripping story that, like "The Girl on the Train," is all very British.  Similar to "The Girl on the Train," Hawkins also uses different points of view to tell the story.  Hawkins does a good job of slowly revealing the characters and their stories, letting each talk for a chapter or two and then another character jumps in to pull the story forward.

However, this time Hawkins uses an irritating device, changing each character's points of view, sometimes the character speaks in the first person, sometimes from the omniscient third, and I could not figure out what that device was supposed to tell me.  At first I thought she changed points of view depending on whether the character was in the past or the present, but that didn't bear out.  So it was distracting. This book also feels more like a British detective series than "The Girl on the Train."  Each character tells his or her story and each is under suspicion until the secrets and twists are revealed.

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable mystery but if you are expecting another "The Girl on the Train," I think you will be disappointed.


Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  



The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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