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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