Friday, June 9, 2017

"Everything Everything" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "Everything, Everything" as well as DVDs "Frank and Lola" and "Our Little Sister."  The Book of the Week is Dr. Phil's "Self Matters."  Yes, you heard me.  Dr. Phil.  Try to have an open mind. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie."]

Everything, Everything

Yet another installment in the dying teen genre.

You may be shaking your head and wondering what I am doing at this YA-dying-girl-love-story movie.  Well, sometimes when your only choices are between "The Boss Baby," Alien: Covenant" and "Lowriders," you gotta go for what you can tolerate, and I am always down for a good love story.

Anyway, Madeline (Amandla Stenberg), or Maddy, has just turned 18 and she has never been out of the house.  She has SCID (Severe Combined Immune Deficiency), which basically means she is allergic to everything.  Remember that made-for-TV movie starring John Travolta - "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?"  Well, it's like that except she is not kept in a bubble.  She is kept in a very expensive modern house with her doctor mother and a nurse, Carla (Ana de la Reguera).  Sometimes Carla's daughter gets to visit, but that's about it.  Maddy doesn't get to interact with anyone else.  So she is very lonely, but she seems to accept her fate.

I couldn't help but wonder, though, if the nurse and her daughter can be decontaminated and pass muster, why can't other people also be decontaminated so our young girl can have some friends?  But then I realized that if I start to ask questions like that, then these kinds of movies would make even less sense. Maddy's mother, Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), is a doctor and she loves her daughter, but she is adamant that Maddy can never go outside.  She lost her husband and son in some kind of accident and she is going to be damned if she loses Madeline too.

So Maddy keeps herself busy taking architecture courses online and designing buildings and such with a little astronaut figure living in the model.  I will get to that little astronaut figure in a minute.

Soon Ollie (Nick Robinson) and his family move in next door, and from the first moment that Ollie arrives, he sees Maddy looking out her window and he is instantly smitten.  Turns out Ollie has a troubled family life which somehow is supposed to explain why he doesn't have a girlfriend, but girlfriends (I'm talking to the ladies here because I highly doubt any men will go see this movie), he is one fine lad and it is very difficult to believe he doesn't have a girlfriend, because he's so hot.  I actually remember Nick from the agregious "The 5th Wave."  It's amazing that I remembered anything from that movie so he's that hot.

Anyway, I digress.

For some lucky reason, Ollie's bedroom window is practically on top of Maddy's, so they are able to wave to each other, hold notes up to the window and read each other's lips. That progresses to texting and phone calls. Now that could get really boring, just watching two actors texting or watching them talk on the phone, so Maddy's architectural models and that little astronaut figure I mentioned?  Well, it is used as a device for Maddy's imagination so that Ollie and she can get together and talk.  The astronaut walks around and does stuff while they are talking and I have absolutely no idea how the astronaut fits into this thing and, actually, I found it really irritating.  But finally Maddy is able to talk her nurse Carla into decomtaminating Ollie and letting him visit in person so we don't have to live in Maddy's imagination anymore with that strange astronaut walking around. 

So naturally when the two meet in person that leads to natural teen urges like kissing and wanting to get the hell out of the sanitized prison Maddy is living in. Well, when Mom finds out that Ollie was actually in the house, there is hell to pay and Carla gets fired and Maddy promises she, not only won't see Ollie again, she won't even answer his texts.

If you saw "Me Before You," this film is very much like that.  You can bet that Madeline is going to get out of the house and she and Ollie are going to go somewhere together so that Maddy can experience life before she dies.  Maddy is obsessed with the ocean so she manages to get two tickets to Hawaii and off they go.

Now this is where the film lost me.

First of all, Maddy instantly gets a credit card online with no job and no credit history, with a credit limit that allows her to get two roundtrip tickets to Hawaii!  She even exclaims to Ollie how easy it is to get a credit card.  Maddy, really?I don't think so. It ain't THAT easy!

Second, if you had a really bad immune deficiency disorder, would you really want to get on an airplane?  That is a flying coffin if ever there was one for someone like Madeline where everyone is breathing each other's air, coughing into it and doing god knows what else.  They were in Masschusetts.  If she wants to see the ocean, couldn't they just do a road trip to Cape Cod?

I've already talked about the girlfriend thing.  Ollie is so handsome and yes, sensitive, but why fall in love at first sight with a neighbor and then hang around when he discovers she can never go outside? Then when she stops answering texts, he still hangs in there? Madeline is cute but hardly love at first sight material.

Cliches also abound like when they kiss, fireworks literally go off out the window. I kid you not. I actually laughed out loud when that happened. I am not very good about that kind of over-the-top obvious hit-me-over-the-head kind of thing. 

So with all of that, my mind started to wander a bit because this was all so predictable - except maybe her getting on an airplane - and I started fantasizing about a possible plot twist that would make this film more interesting. I started thinking "What if....?"


So add that to the film losing me.  I even figured out the plot twist.

Like I said earlier, this film was not aimed at women of a certain age, so maybe I am the wrong person to ask about this film.  It was aimed at teenaged girls, but I really wonder what they would think of it.  Stenberg and Robinson are engaging young people, but the screenplay by J. Mills Goodloe (based on the YA novel by Nicola Yoon) was overdramatic and the dialogue was stilted. Directed by Stella Meghie, this felt more like a Lifetime movie than a feature film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you already saw "Me Before You," you have pretty much seen this film - except for that plot twist, which you can probably figure out.

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


Frank and Lola (2016)

This is one of those psychosexual dark love stories where two people who should never get together get together. 

Frank (Michael Shannon) is a chef in Las Vegas but has lost his job so he takes a job catering.  Lola (Imogen Poots) is just out of design college and has gotten her first job.  The two meet and everything is all lovey-dovey for the first 30+ minutes and then the proverbial you-know-what hits the fan.

She is supposed to go to LA with Frank and his friends and she is late.  Turns out the reason she was late was because she was having sex with another man.  You can bet that doesn't go over well with Frank because he already has some dark issues so he breaks it off with Lola.  This break-up puts Frank in a really bad mood so that when he sees a girl being mistreated by her boyfriend, he beats him up thus resulting in an arrest.  Lola bails him out and the relationship resumes.

However, it becomes very clear very fast that these two have issues.

Frank is still upset about Lola's cheating so she tries to explain herself by telling Frank that she was raped by her mother's lover, a rich Swedish writer, when she was a young girl and that's why she has issues with other men.  She uses that as an excuse.  This all eats away at Frank. He wants to go to Paris where the Swedish writer lives and seek revenge on him but he's unemployed so not really a good idea.  However, he is not happy because Lola is less than trustworthy. Then he encounters Lola at a dinner he is catering.  She is with another man, Keith (Justin Long), which shouldn't go over well with Frank, but Keith befriends Frank and gets him an audition at a restaurant in Paris.

Aha!  Paris.  Now he can seek revenge on the man who raped Lola.  But before he does that, he needs to cook the dinner of his life to impress the Paris restaurant owner and the next few scenes will appeal to foodies as it's the equivalent of foodie porn.  However, Frank uses some truffles with a dish which is a seeming faux pas (see?  I know my French).  Is that going to scuttle Frank's chances at the chef job?

While waiting for the results of his audition, Frank thinks, hey, why don't I just go take care of that creepy Swedish rapist?  He finds Alan (Michael Nyquist) and ingratiates himself with him, and Alan, not knowing why Frank is there, offers to show Frank around Paris.  When Frank finally confronts Alan about Lola and is ready to kill him,  Alan tells him his side of things, that Lola is not the sweet little victim she purports to be and was actually involved in pornography and god knows what else.  Now Frank feels that Lola has set him up.  It seems that there is more to our Lola than we thought. Or is there?

Despite the incident with the truffles, Frank gets the chef job in Paris. When Frank returns home and confronts Lola with what he found out from Alan, Lola says Alan is lying.  Yes, the rape happened but she fell in love with Alan.  Then she got pregnant and Alan's wife paid her to get lost and that's when she met Frank.  But then Alan came back.  Sheesh!

Who should he believe?  Who is telling the truth and who is playing Frank? Do we care?

This film is like one of those short stories that has a plot with a specific twist pay off, kind of like an O. Henry short story.  Everything that happens leads up to the big twist. It's also one of those love stories where love must be proven.  Frank tells Lola if you are here when I come back then it's love.  Will she be there?

Michael Shannon as a leading man?  Interesting concept. But not to get too carried away with the concept, he is still morose and damaged as we have come to expect of him, but a mesmerizing actor.

And I have always liked Imogen Poots especially her brave last name. However, she's a bit of a hard sell as a 22-year-old who has just graduated from college (she's 28).  It's also good to see Rosanna Arquette again, this time as Lola's mother, another interesting concept.  However, when the subjects of rock ballads from the 70's start playing peoples' mothers, you know you are getting old.  And Justin Long is one of those odd looking millennial actors who along with Adam Driver are unlikely leading men.  I'm not buying it.

Written and directed by Matthew Ross, this is one of those love stories between two damaged souls, and for the film to work, we need to care about them and I kind of didn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I call these kinds of love stories psycho love stories where two people fall in love but have so many secrets and issues that they drive each other crazy and watching drives us crazy too!

Our Little Sister (2015)

Three sisters living together with their grandmother discover that they have another sister they didn't know about.

Three sisters, Sachi (Haruka Ayase), Yoshino (Masami Nagasawa) and Chika (Kaho), live together.  Their father, who was on his third wife (not their mother) and whom the sisters had not seen in 15 years, has just died, and the sisters discover that they have a "little sister" they didn't know about.

Two of the sisters go to their father's village for the funeral and to meet their sister, Suzu (Suzu Asano), meet their father's latest wife, Yoko (Yuko Nakamura), and learn about their Dad.  They learn that their Dad was kind of useless.  He had bad financial investments and affairs with women.  As the girls leave to go home, Suzu brings them a letter from their Dad and they learn that it was Suzu who had taken care of their Dad when he was dying. They bond with her and invite her to come to live with them and she does.

Keep in mind that the sisters know absolutely nothing about Suzu. Sachi, the oldest sister, is warned by their great auntie what a chore it is to raise a child and reminds Sachi that Suzu is the child of the woman who ruined their family.  Auntie is also a bit concerned that Sachi doesn't have a husband yet and raising their little sister isn't going to help that.

When Suzu arrives she joins her school's soccer team and quickly makes friends. Slowly we learn about the sisters. Sachi is a nurse and interested in one of the doctors at the hospital. Yoshino works at a bank and has man problems.  She keeps getting dumped.  Chika is the offbeat one who likes to drink.  Speaking of drinking, one night Suzu gets drunk and we find out that she hates her step-mother, Yoko and that her Dad was an idiot.

So the first hour of the film shows the sisters all bonding and everything seems hunky dory, and it's all a celebration of sisterhood.  But then their mother shows up.  They haven't seen her in 14 years.  What gives?  The mother is then confronted with Suzu, the daughter of the woman who stole her husband.  Suzu feels guilty that her mother fell in love with a married man and Sachi has to face her own hypocrisy because that doctor who is interested in her is married.  Suzu's appearance in the sister's lives becomes a mirror for each of the women to examine their own lives. The girls realize that their Dad was kind of useless, but ultimately declare him a kind man "because he left us our little sister."

Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda and based on a manga by Akimi Yoshida, this is a sweet film but very lightweight.  Because Suzu's past was mysterious, I kept waiting for something to happen, for this movie to turn into a Lifetime Movie version of "The Bad Seed" where "little sister" turns out to be a revenge seeking murderess but that didn't happen. But that's OK. This is one of those films where not much happens, but you just relax and bask in the beautiful cinematography by Takimoto Mikiya and the lives of people in another culture and the sense of humanity that reminds us that despite a difference in culture, we are all not so different. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet reminder that despite our different cultures, we all have some of the same family dramas.
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

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

199 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

When L.A. strip club owner Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) runs up a gambling debt with the mob that he can't pay, they give him one choice: kill a guy who is horning in on their business.

Ben Gazzara stars as Cosmo Vitelli, the owner of a seedy strip club, the Crazy Horse West, that appears to be struggling.  Cosmo is also struggling with a bit of a gambling habit.  He loses $23,000 one night at a club run by the mob and can't pay so they make a deal with him.  Kill a Chinese bookie they think is cutting in on some of their profits and they will forgive the debt.  What Cosmo doesn't know is that they think, because Cosmo is an amateur, he will get killed trying to kill the bookie and then they can take control of his strip club.  That's their plan anyway.

But you know how plans go...

The film is very atmospheric and captures the seedy side of life in L.A. during the 1970's. There are some great scenes in the strip club with the decadent M.C. Mr. Sophistication (Meade Roberts) who would give Joel Grey in "Cabaret" a run for his money.  I also loved the clothes, all very 70's, the men with hair and suits like John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever."

Written and directed by John Cassavetes, this is a slow-moving character study, very cinema verite, very improvisational with innovative camerwork as was Cassabetes' signature style.  There is a "you are there" sense to this film.  But Cassavetes was also one of those directors who had a hard time editing his own work so I found his movies to be long and slow-moving.  Here he also takes a long time to get to the point, as if he is admiring his own work as he goes along.  Maybe I just don't have the attention span I used to. I don't like films in real time, where we see someone walking all of the way down the hall, step by step by step.  I am more of a fan of a tightly edited film where we see the person head down the hall and then he's there.

However, Gazzara is a wonderful, mesmerizing actor and totally believable as Cosmo. He just reeks of a character who is at the end of his road.  

Why it's a Must See:  "A personal, deeply felt character study rather than a routine action picture...(Ben Gassara at his best..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...I enjoy the stories that Cassavetes tells and this movie is no exception.  I just wish it didn't take so long for him to tell those stories.

***Book of the Week***

Self Matters: Creating Your Life from Inside Out by Dr. Phil McGraw (2003)

Phil McGraw, AKA Dr. Phil, wants you to find your real self.

Not sure why I decided I needed to read this .  I remembered that there was a segment on his show that spoke to me and he mentioned this book, but when I picked this book up at the library, I couldn't remember why I wanted it.  I thought I had already found my real self.  And, OK, yes, people, I "sometimes" watch Dr. Phil, and as I said in a recent post, I watch because I am interested in psychology and the misery of others.  Nothing like someone else's misery to perk up your day.

But, yes, I often find him arrogant and didactic and, when you look at him straight on, he sort of looks like a gorilla, but I have to give the guy some credit.  He doesn't pull any punches and he gets to the heart of the matter.  And best yet, Oprah loves him.  She in fact discovered him, put him on her talk show from time to time, and eventually gave him his own show.  If Oprah likes him, then he's OK with me.

Anyway, so I started to read the book and discovered why it interested me. 

On one of his shows he talked about "The 10 defining moments that define your life" and I wanted to find out what they were.  I didn't realize that I was the one who had to figure out what those defining moments were.  In fact, I discovered from this book that if I wanted to find my true self I had to take all kinds of really hard tests and quizzes and write stuff down, and it was just too much work to get to my true self.

But I did find that his message is a good one.

So to summarize, it is important to focus on YOU, to find your true, authentic self.  He defines what "self" is and then goes on to discuss all of those fixed and limiting beliefs that keep us from our true selves and from living the happy, meaningful lives we deserve.

Dr. Phil relates stories from his own life throughout the book to illustrate his points, such as the first time he realized life wasn't fair or that his life was not making him happy.

And those Ten Defining Moments? 

Those are the events in your life that helped shape you.  They won't make headlines on the nightly news but they were important to you at the time and help explain why you think and do the things you do. One of mine was being called a Freckle-Faced Monster when I was around seven (and you know who you are)!

However, Dr. Phil doesn't stop at the "Ten Defining Moments."  There are "Your Seven Critical Choices,""Your Five Pivotal People," and his "Five Step Action Plan" followed by "Putting the Plan to Work." He likes numbers.

He ends the book by saying:

"What matters is that you commit to finding and reconnection with your authentic self...What matters is that you challenge and rewrite your personal truth and live a life that lets you be who you really are."

Basically, he is telling you not to put up with any bull****, from yourself -that personal baggage from your past that is pulling you down - or from others.  Pardon my French, but that's how Dr. Phil would call it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a worthwhile little workbook to help you find what makes you tick, what could be holding you back or creating unhappiness in your life. And when you think about it, reading this book and taking the little tests is a lot cheaper than it would be to hire Dr. Phil!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

the new Netflix docuseries 

"The Keepers"


 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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