Friday, July 28, 2017

"Girls Trip" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Girls Trip" as well as DVDs "Wilson" and "Table 19."  The Book of the Week is the novel "Do Not Become Alarmed!"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Man Bites Dog."]

Girls Trip

Four ladies who have been friends since college gather in New Orleans to rekindle their friendships and have some fun.  And, boy, do they!

Well, my peeps, I am on a roll. Not one, but two funny comedies two weeks in a row. Hallelujah!  Last week I reviewed "The Big Sick" which was sweet and funny and now we have this one. It's also funny, but where "The Big Sick" was sweet funny, this one is raunchy funny so leave your tsks-tsk's at home.

The four friends:

Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has made a name for herself as a motivational speaker and author and is hyped as the next Oprah.  Her book "YOU Can Have it All" is a best-seller and an inspiration to her fans.  She is married to Stewart (Mike Colter), a handsome ex-NFL player, and the two are about to sign a big "Live with Kelly and Michael" kind of deal. (I know, I know, it's "Live with Kelly and Ryan" now, but that just somehow didn't fit with where I was going with this analogy).

Sasha (Queen Latifah) was a journalism star in college but instead of making a name for herself as a serious journalist circumstances led her to "Sasha's Secrets," a celebrity gossip blog, but it's barely paying the bills and she is about to be evicted from her apartment. 

Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a divorcee with two small children who in her college days was a wild one, but since her divorce, lives a nice, quiet buttoned-up life being an over-protective mom.  I mean, she's worried about leaving her kids with her own Mom!

And then there's Dina (Tiffany Haddish), who was just fired for assaulting a co-worker for "stealing" her lunch - she clearly has anger issues - and who is up for anything.  She is also a little crazy.

When Ryan is asked to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, she decides that this trip is just what she and her "Flossy Posse" need to rekindle their friendships and relive the good times.  What she doesn't know is that Sasha has seen a picture of Stewart kissing another woman and is torn about what to do. Should she tell Ryan? Should she post it to her gossip blog?  If she did, it would solve all of her financial problems. But then what would that do to her friendship with Ryan?

Tiffany Haddish is getting all of the love for her performance, and she is definitely a stand-out.  She is like a female Tracy Morgan in her delivery and like Morgan, she is very, very funny. The now infamous scene with the grapefruit is one you will never forget.

But the other actresses also pull their weight.

Jada Pinkett Smith was another stand-out for me.  I have never seen her in a part like this. She is natural and effortless as she goes from buttoned-up Lisa to Lisa the Freak!  And Queen Latifah?  She has a screen presence that is like, well, a queen.  She just exudes REAL and warmth just oozes off the screen.  I loved her. And she is funny too! Regina Hall gets to play straight woman to the other three's antics, but definitely holds her end up as Ryan deals with a cheating husband and rekindles a romance with Julian (Larenz Tate), an old college friend. 

I also have to give props to Kate Walsh as Ryan's agent.  Her attempts to impress Ryan by acting and talking like a hip black woman are awkwardly funny. 

As you know, I am always looking for a comedy that is actually funny.  Last week I struck gold with "The Big Sick," and now, here is another funny comedy, but, be warned, it's very "R-rated."  But amidst all of the crazy antics, it had it's sweet elements too and a message.  There is nothing sweeter than a loyal posse of girlfriends.  Your husbands and boyfriends may come and go, your children will grow up and leave, but your girlfriends are always there for you.

But that doesn't mean this film is sentimental and mushy. 

Quite the contrary.  It's out there.  

Speaking of out there, there was one scene early on in the film where on the plane headed for New Orleans, Dina takes over First Class and the flight attendant's tray and starts serving the passengers shots.  In this flying climate, that would never happen, and, in fact, the plane would have turned around and Dina would have been escorted off the plane.  Kind of hard to suspend disbelief when the disbelief is so strong.  Sometimes comedies go a bit too far to try to be funny, but other than that little blip, the movie was right on! It's right up there with the best of the "women behaving badly" genre ("Bad Moms," "Bridesmaids") that we have come to love, but this one goes much deeper in celebrating the power and joy of female friendships.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and with a screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, there are some scenes you have never seen before.  Let's just say that you will never look at grapefruit the same way again.  Likewise, when the ladies get high on absinthe and Sasha mistakes a lamp for a man...well, you have never seen Queen Latifah like that, and it's all very, very funny.

Oh, and since this is the Essence Festival, keep your eyes open for all of the celebrity cameos from Iyanla Van Sant to Ne-Yo to Sean "Diddy" Combs to Carla Hall to Mariah -  over 20 celebrities make an appearance as themselves.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a very funny film that celebrates the joys of female friendships. See it with your posse!  But you guys will like it too!


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


Wilson (2017)

A lonely middle-aged guy with no filter (which could explain why he has no friends) finds his estranged wife and discovers he has a daughter.

I have to say that I've never been much of a Woody Harrelson fan. 

I didn't like him as the clueless bartender in "Cheers," didn't particularly like the parts he has played in films since (always wise-cracking and annoying) and even in his personal life he comes across as a wise-cracking smartass who finds himself in strange taxi car chases in London. So you can imagine that I wasn't planning to like him or this film.

But I was wrong.  That happens from time to time.

Woody stars as Wilson, a middle-aged curmudgeon who is a negative kind of guy who doesn't seem to enjoy life very much.  He is socially awkward, quick-tempered, intolerant, overshares, lacks self awareness and bitches about all kinds of things, but at the same time he is desperately trying to make connections with people.  He is the kind of guy that would come and sit right next to you on an otherwise empty bus, or if you are a guy, he would choose the urinal right next to you in the mens' room, unselfconsciously start up a conversation and when finished, comment on your having a nice penis.  He's that kind of guy.

But when Wilson's Dad dies and he is confronted with his Dad's storage unit filled with pictures and his Dad's meager belongings, Wilson has a sort of epiphany.

"I don't have a single person that shares my same memories."

So he decides to go find his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern) who left him 17 years ago and moved to L.A.  She was also pregnant and got an abortion. Wilson leaves his beloved dog, Pepper, with a dog sitter, Shelley (Judy Greer), and heads to L.A. in his Dad's old car, driving down the center of the road as clueless, self-absorbed people are prone to do.

Guess what?

He finds her.

And guess what else?

She didn't get an abortion.  Wilson has a daughter out there that Pippi gave up for adoption, and Wilson thinks this is his one chance to have a family so he decides to find her too.

Wilson and Pippi find their daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), who turns out to be a teenager with a weight problem and an attitude and who is bullied by the kids in school.  Like Wilson and Pippi, she is a bit of an outcast.

Let the generational schism commence as Wilson tries to forge a relationship with Claire.  And when Pippi gets the idea that they should all go on a road trip to her judgmental sister's house to show her that she has a family and that she hasn't screwed up her life after all, we not only have the road trip cliché but the fish out of water trope as the outcasts visit the perfect family in the perfect suburban setting.

And if that's not enough, it all gets worse for Wilson when he ends up in prison.  You will have to see the film to find out how that happens, but surprisingly it's all very funny, in a very dark way.

Speaking of road trips. 

Have I ranted about road trip movies yet?  I will spare you, but road trip movies are such a cliché that they are getting on my nerves.  Can't someone take the train or go by boat once in a while?

This is a tour de force for Woody (he is in every scene), and he manages to keep his usual mannerisms to a minimum.  One can't help but wonder, though, does Woody choose these strange roles or do they find him because he himself is so strange?

But Woody actually pulled me into this story. 

Laura Dern plays against type here as the ex-crack whole Pippi (those are Wilson's words, not mine), because it seems she has been playing smaller forgettable roles lately such as the long suffering faithful wife ("The Founder") or TV roles like Renata in "Big Little Lies."  Here she makes Pippi edgy but likable without falling into sentimentality.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Daniel Clowes (from his graphic novel), I can't believe I liked this film as much as I did even with Woody and a road trip.  What could have been a drippy sentimental coming of middle-age tale actually manages to avoid that route and tell an original, engaging story.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark comedy about coming of age - middle-age that is.  It's never too late to figure things out.

Table 19 (2017)

When Eloise is demoted from Maid of Honor in her best friend's wedding, because the Best Man, who also happens to be the bride's brother, dumped her via text, she decides to attend the wedding anyway and finds herself at the table reserved for "The Randoms."

Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, and let me rant for a minute. Am I the only one who doesn't get Anna Kendrick?  I particularly don't get her in the "Pitch Perfect" movies which is all about singing, basically because I don't like her voice.  I find it very nasally.  And as an actress, she's OK, but I am getting sick of the characters she seems to play of late - the put-upon-yet-perky heroine who always perseveres.  What happened to all of that promise she showed when she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Up in the Air?"  That was nine years ago! She needs to find some roles with some meat where she can show some acting chops. Rant over.

But yet again we have that same character. This time she plays Eloise, who has been dumped and is suffering.  She was supposed to be the Maid of Honor at her best friend's wedding, but when Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the bride's brother, dumps her for another girl, the bride must have felt that would be a tad awkward so she relieves Eloise of her Maid of Honor duties, probably hoping she won't show up at the wedding.

But Eloise decides to go to the wedding anyway (see? perky!), but gets yet another blow.  She finds herself at Table 19, the one reserved for "The Randoms," those people that didn't fit in at any of the other tables, a table that is in no man's land, so far from the bride and groom you would need to send a messenger pigeon to communicate with them. Think the worst table in a restaurant, near the kitchen and next to the restrooms.  My idea of hell.  

This turn of events is particularly hard for Eloise, who when fulfilling he Maid of Honor duties had helped the bride decide who was going to sit where e.g. one table called "Eligible Singles," another, "Iffy Singles," etc.  Table 19 is clearly the worst table and it gets worse when Eloise sees who she is seated with.

  • Walter (Stephen Merchant) is an ex-con who lies about everything.
  • Jo (June Squibb) was the bride's first nanny.
  • Renzo (Tony Revolori, who made a splash as Zero in "The Grand Budapest Hotel") just wants to get laid but is a loser with the ladies and a mama's boy, and I never figured out his relationship to the bride and groom or how he even got invited to the wedding.
  • Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry (Craig Robinson), a married couple who own a local diner.  They don't get along and haven't had sex in years.

This is one of those films that uses the Table 19 concept as a device to put six very different and odd characters together who eventually all end up helping each other.  That's a device that has been used many times before and here nothing new is brought to the, er, table.

Each character has his or her own storyline, and we follow them as they go off and do stuff and then come back to the table and interact with each other in a non-funny way. All of these characters have secrets that are revealed by the end of the film e.g. nanny Jo is a pothead (see rant below about how old people are portrayed in films), but by the time that happened, I just didn't care anymore.  And that's the main problem with this movie.  Despite the fact that all of these actors are good actors, there just wasn't any depth to these characters.

Anna Kendrick plays yet another young woman in a fix. As I said earlier, I'm not a huge fan.   She needs to get some more challenging roles.  Wyatt Russell, son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, was actually quite good in that his character was really a believable sleaze, but he reminded me so much of T.J. Miller that it was actually a distraction for me.

June Squibb came to out attention in 2014 when she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in "Nebraska." As with most actors, she had been toiling in character roles since the 1980's but now she is everywhere.  If a film needs a wise-cracking old lady, she gets the part.

And now I am going to rant about that. 
(Not about June Squibb, but about wise-cracking old folks and other old people stereotypes in movies).

Being a woman of a certain age, I am getting sick of old people being the butt of jokes in films.  Old person?  Let's make sure that person knows nothing about those newfangled computers and have a funny scene with the old lady poking the keyboard with one finger and ending up on a porno site.  Old people?  Why, wouldn't it be funny if they smoked pot and got all silly or, hey! What about a sweet little old lady who turns out to have a filthy mouth or what about an old guy with a cane who suddenly starts break dancing?  STOP THAT!!!  Quit making us old folks the butt of jokes like that.  It's been done already and it wasn't funny then and it's not funny now.

OK, rant over.
(This movie brought out the rant in me)!

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz with a story by Mark and Jay DuPlass, this was an interesting concept that just didn't go anywhere.  I wasn't sure if they were going for a comedy or a drama.  If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. 

There is a running joke that because Bina is wearing a jacket that looks exactly like the jackets worn by the servers, she keeps getting mistaken for a server.  If you think that's funny, you might like this film but I didn't and I didn't.

If this film was supposed to be dramatic, it wasn't. There was a scene between Eloise and Teddy that was actually overdramatic followed by a slapstick bit where the wedding cake gets knocked over - and, can I just ask, is there ever a movie about a wedding where the cake DOESN'T get knocked over?

And, oh, yes, the music in this film was so loud it was difficult to hear the dialogue.

However, despite all of my complaints, I will give the film credit for it's spoof of cheesy wedding toasts and the funniest line in the film:

"You are Romeo and Juliet and we all wish you the same happy ending."

But that's as good as this movie ever got.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when Lisa Kudrow's character, Bina, says, "What are we doing here?" I asked myself the same thing.  You can skip this one.

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

192 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Man Bites Dog (1992)

A film crew follows a serial killer as he goes about his deadly deeds in this pseudo-documentary where the film crew becomes part of the story.

Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde) is a serial killer and rapist who agrees to let a film crew follow him around and film him.  Ben is a seemingly ordinary guy with a sense of humor who wants to find love.  However, Ben just so happens to also be a cold-hearted serial killer.  As the film crew follows Ben around, the objectivity between the filmmakers and their subject becomes less and less as the crew actually become involved in the killings, helping him dispose of bodies. Ben even helps them out financially.

This pseudo-documentary is a satire on reality TV well before reality TV became the reality it is today.  

Very much in the vein of Christopher Guest's pseudo-documentary "This is Spinal Tap," except this one has murder and rape, the film is funny up to a point until the film crew starts getting involved in the killings that culminate in a very graphic scene that is decidedly not funny.  Then the film seems to be asking the question: 

How complicit are those who film people doing things they shouldn't in the name of showing reality, and how complicit are we, those who watch this stuff? How far will filmmakers go to get the public's attention and when do we draw the line at what we do and don't want to watch?

In showing a serial killer's human side, are the filmmakers condoning what he does for a living and saying, see? He's just a regular guy who happens to kill people?  I mean, Ted Bundy was a handsome charming guy, but does that make him any less evil?

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is probably the most controversial film in the history of Belgian cinema [and]...According to the creators...the idea for the film stemmed from a Belgian tabloid journalist TV series, one which blew small stories out of proportion and intruded on people's private lives.  This underlying concept helped guarantee the film's success, and secured its status as an all-time cult favorite."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is not for everyone, and it's very much a one joke very sick joke...but resonates loudly 25 years later.
(In b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel by Maile Meloy (2017)

Three families become friendly on a beautiful cruise to Central America, but the cruise turns ugly when the children go missing on a shore excursion.
When long-time friends and cousins, Liv and Nora, decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is happy. The adults are happy for a chance to get away and relax and the kids are happy to be free of the adults as they explore the ship and eat the food from the endless buffet. But when they all go ashore - the husbands to play golf and the women and children for a zip line adventure - things take a turn.  The tour guide's car breaks down leaving Liv, Nora and their new friend Camilla and their children stranded near a beach.  So the group decides to spend the day at the beach while they wait to be rescued, but a series of events lead to the adults and the children getting separated and the children being kidnapped.

As the parents try to find their children, they blame themselves and turn on each other.
In the meantime, the children - one of whom is a Type 1 diabetic without his insulin - must become resourceful to find their way back to their parents.  Will they make it?

There is also a side story about another child, a poor Ecuadorian who is on her way to the U.S. with her uncle to be reunited with her parents and her story eventually becomes entwined with that of the American children's.

This is a page-turner that could be written off as a nice summer beach read, but there is a deeper message: being a parent is a blessing and a curse.  We love and enjoy our children, but once we have children, we have the continuous burden of worry and fear that something will happen to them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fast read that you won't be able to put down.

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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."


Friday, July 21, 2017

"The Big Sick" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new rom-com "The Big Sick" as well as DVDs "Sleepless" and "A Cure for Wellness."  The Book of the Week is "Ten Restaurants that Changed America."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "The Last Laugh."]

The Big Sick


A Pakistani-American stand-up comic meets a non-Pakistani girl and they start a relationship, but as we all know, true love never runs smooth.

I am starting to think that I am an angry person because I rant so much.  Over the last couple of weeks, I ranted about how much I hate movie sequels and remakes, and in my review below of "Sleepless," I rant a bit about movies that use digital photography. 

Now I am going to rant about rom-coms that aren't funny.

What is the deal with comedies these days?  They are just not funny anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of comedies that have made me laugh.  Actually, not even that many.  Where are the Woody Allen's (his early films), John Candys and Peter Sellers of today, comic actors who could make you laugh just by looking at them?  Oh, I know we have Melissa McCarthy and Christopher Guest and some others, but in general, when I have watched a comedy in the last couple of years, I have been disappointed.  And romantic comedies?  Those have practically gone the way of the dinosaur.  Where are the "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "When Harry Met Sally" rom-coms of today?

Well, rant over.  I finally found one.

This film is delightful, romantic and funny, all of the traits that a successful rom-com should have.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a comic slogging away in small clubs in Chicago at night and working as an Uber driver during the day when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a girl who "Woo hoos" during his set.  In a very cute meet-cute, Kumail explains that any kind of audience participation, even if it's positive, can be considered heckling and would throw a comic off his game. Emily asks him: "So if I said you were great in bed, that would be heckling?" 

 And so she had him at "Woo hoo."
Though this could be considered a basic boy meets girl, boys loses girl, boy gets her back rom-com, it has some very special elements that separates it from the pack.
First of all, Kumail is Pakistani and is part of a traditional Pakistani family who believes that marriages should be arranged.  As Kumail explains to Emily, "In Pakistan arranged marriage is just called 'marriage."  So we have the dramedy element of Kumail not telling his parents about Emily while at the same time entertaining their picks for his arranged marriage, women who "just happen to drop by" when he is dining with his parents. 

In the meantime, Kumail and Emily are happily in love until Emily finds Kumail's stash of "bio-data." These are like resumes which potential brides bring to a meeting with her potential husband and his family, a common practice in the course of arranging a marriage.  When Emily finds these, she breaks off their relationship. 

So that's one element that sets this film apart from other rom-coms. But then there is the coma.  I don't remember a coma as a central element in a rom-com

This film reminded me of  the comic documentary "Meet the Patels."  Even though that was about Indian arranged marriages, the process seems to be very similar with Pakistani families, and the protagonist of that one was also a stand-up comic with an American girlfriend he doesn't tell his parents about.  

Directed by Michael Showalter (he also directed "Hello My Name is Doris" which I liked), produced by Judd Apetow, and written by Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon, based on their real life courtship with some literary license thrown in, this film is delightful and avoids any juvenile humor, which can sometimes be found in Apetow's films.

Kumail is adorable.  His deadpan delivery and facial expressions are funny just on their own, but the writing is quick and witty and best of all...funny.  Zoe is adorable, quirky and smark and I love adorable, quirky and smart.  I am not a big fan of Holly Hunter who played Emily's mother.  I find her mannerisms and voice annoying but here she was fine.  But it was Ray Romano who was a revelation.  Not usually a big fan of him, either, and he also has an annoying and very recognizable voice, but, here, he brings huge heart to his role as Emily's Dad. You wouldn't even recognize him as that Raymond from "Everybody Loves Raymond," except for that voice.  He was adorable too. The whole thing was so damn adorable...and, what do I do when I have a really good film experience?  Yes, you are right, I cried...for joy!

Rosy the Reviewer takes a coma to make a guy realize he loves a good way.  Don't miss this one.  It's the best comedy to come along in a long time.



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


Sleepless (2017)

This is one of those cop thrillers where you have to ask - Good cop or bent cop? 

OK, here I go again.  Over the last couple of weeks I have ranted about how much I hate sequels and movie remakes, and I just finished ranting about rom-coms that aren't funny.  Well, I feel another rant coming on.

Movies shot in digital!

I can always tell when a movie is shot in digital rather than film because it looks like one of those old soap operas that used to be on TV.  Remember "The Guiding Light?"  Shooting in digital lacks depth of field and resolution which makes all of the frames look flat.  There is no texture and that makes me feel like I am watching TV and I didn't pay $12 to watch TV.  Well, I know, I was watching this on DVD so I didn't actually pay $12 but that's not the point.  The point is that watching a movie on digital is annoying, and I shouldn't have to be annoyed when I am watching a movie! Now there might be times when digital works better, especially when the filmmaker wants to have a home movie look, but for a film like this, no!

Anyway, rant over.  Let's get on with it! 

Jamie Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, a vice cop in Las Vegas (except this was actually shot in Atlanta, another complaint of mine - setting a movie one place and filming it another.  When you live in Seattle you have to accept that all movies set in Seattle will be filmed in Vancouver, B.C. I might rant about that next week). Anyway, Downs and his partner, Sean Cass (T.I.), rob casino owner Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) of a shipment of cocaine who Rubino had intended to sell to Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), the son of a crime boss.  Ironically, Downs and Cass are also the investigators in the robbery, but clash with Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour), who are Internal Affairs investigators and who are suspicious of them.

Meanwhile, Downs has a messed up personal life.  He is estranged from his wife, Dena (Gabrielle Union), who is getting married to someone else.  He also has a 16-year-old son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), who gets kidnapped by Rubino's guys and held hostage so that Vincent will give Rubino his cocaine back. Rubino is sweating it, because he owes the cocaine to Novak who is not a nice guy.  Let's just say I know this about Novak because there is a disturbing scene where a kid is hung upside down and pelted with baseballs from a pitching machine, and if that's not enough, he cuts off his thumb.  So these are not guys who Rubino does not want to mess with. 

So Vincent gets the cocaine he and Cass stole, hides it in a ventilation shaft in the mens' bathroom in Rubino's casino hoping to have some leverage as he makes a deal with Rubino. However, what he doesn't know is that Bryant, thinking Vincent is a bent cop, has followed him, finds the cocaine and hides it in the womens' bathroom and a little game of revolving bathroom doors ensues.

When Vincent discovers that the cocaine is missing, he has to figure out a way to get his son back without that cocaine so he comes up with the bright idea to substitute sugar for the cocaine. It kind of all goes to hell after that, but here's the main thing for you to wonder about in this movie:  Is Vincent a good cop or a bad cop?  And what about Bryant and Dennison?  Good cops or bad cops?

Directed by Baran bo Odar with a screenplay by Andrea Berloff (adapted from the film "Nuit Blanche" - yet another remake - sigh), this film doesn't really say anything new about the good cop/bad cop trope with the usual car chases and gun action found in this kind of film.

I haven't quite decided yet on Jamie Foxx as a dramatic actor.  Oh, I know he won an Oscar for "Ray," but here is overacts just a teensy-weensy bit.  No actually, he overacts a lot!  He played this same kind of part in "Baby Driver" too.  It's like he wants to make sure we know he's a dramatic actor so he looks hard and says every line with deep, deep conviction. But I also feel like Foxx can't decide what he wants to be - dramatic actor?  Action guy? Comic?  Singer?  And I have to admit, I still can't watch Jamie without thinking of him as Ugly Wanda on "In Living Color."  Sorry, Jamie, but I can't.

It's fun seeing Dermott Mulroney as a bad guy and all of the other bad guys are believable.  Speaking of bad guys, why is it that they all seem to look alike?  They are all skinny with five o'clock shadows, bald heads or very short shaved hair and they all seem to wear t-shirts under suit jackets.  Is there some code amongst movie bad guys about appropriate attire when torturing people?

Now, Michelle Monaghan.  I really like her, and she is an actress who should be a lot more famous than she is.  She is beautiful and talented and could play any part. Here she kicks some you know what and I like tough women characters. However, she doesn't seem to carry very many films and I don't know why, but if you want to see her in a starring role, see "Fort Bliss."  The film is forgettable but she is not.

Rosy the Reviewer says...and this film? Speaking of forgettable...

(***Sorry about the rants but I just can't seem to help myself. I already feel another one coming for next week where I plan to rant about the excessive use of Power Walks in movies***)


A Cure for Wellness (2016)

A young executive is sent to bring back his company's CEO who has gone to a spa in the Swiss Alps but this spa turns out to be

People who work in a high pressure environment are prone to dying from heart attacks and stress so it's a good thing to go to a spa and de-stress, right?  Well, we shall see.

A large company is on the verge of a merger so when Pembroke (Harry Groener), the head of a large company, sends a letter to his Board of Directors that he is at a spa in the Alps and will not be returning. With the merger threatened, the Board sends young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, a hot young actor currently starring in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" opening in theatres today)) to find his boss and bring him back.  When he arrives in the town at the base of the spa, Lockhart learns that there is bad blood between the townspeople and "the people on the hill," and when he finally makes his way to the spa, he realizes that there is something strange going on there.  And trust me, there is.

However, on his way back to his hotel, a deer hits the car (cover your eyes for this part - deer death by car is horrible), and Lockhart finds himself back at the spa with a broken leg. When Lockhart finally makes contact with Pembroke, Pembroke tells him he is not well and does not want to leave the spa.

In the meantime, with time to kill as he convalesces, Lockhart meets Hannah (Mia Goth, who looks eerily like a young Shelley Duvall), a strange girl who doesn't seem to be a patient and, of course, there has to be a sinister doctor running everything so he also meets slithery Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs).  Volmer orders the spa treatment for Lockhart, which involves being submerged in water, a lot of slithery eels and drinking water, lots and lots of water.  About 3/4 of the way through the film, when much of the bad stuff was kicking into gear, I shouted at the screen, "Stop drinking the damn water!"  Eventually, Lockhart discovers the dark history of the spa but not before enduring some terrible trials, one of which was a bit of dental torture that would give that scene in "Marathon Man" a run for its money.

Let's just say that this film gives the expression "taking the waters" a whole new meaning.

It's all very Stephen King and Michael Crichton with the kinds of odd characters and strange locations you find in Wes Anderson films with some gaslighting thrown in for good measure as Lockhart starts to question his own sanity.  Who and what is real?

There is a thing I have noticed about movie previews (what would one of my reviews be without a rant?). 

A preview, or trailer, is designed to make you want to see the film, but sometimes when you finally see it, you realize that the the best bits were all in the trailer.  The film never gets any better than the preview.  That is especially true of many comedies.  So before I saw this film, I had seen the trailer countless times at the theatre and thought it was one of those strange films with all kinds of kooky characters and a weird plot that wouldn't really make sense so I didn't particularly want to see it. I only watched this film because it had just come out on DVD and I can't help myself. I want to see everything, but in this case, the trailer was odd and the movie was a bit odd, yes, but mostly really good. Yes, there are kooky characters and a strange plot but it's fun. Moral of the story?  Don't judge a film by its trailer. However, I do have to say the film was also too long and took a strange turn at the end that lost me.

Directed by Gore Verbinski with a screenplay by Justin Haythe, the cinematography is gorgeous and surreal and the film reminded me a bit of "The Lobster," a wonderful film that not enough people saw.

DeHaan reminded me of a young Leo DiCaprio and, I think he is going to be a big star.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Stephen King, Michael Crichton with a little bit of Wes Anderson thrown in, you will enjoy this film.

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

193 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Last Laugh (1924)

An aging hotel doorman must face the humiliation of losing his prestigious job.

Emil Jennings stars as an aging doorman, who when fired from his job as a doorman at a luxurious hotel, faces the laughter and scorn of his family and neighbors. His job is a prestigious one for the lower class neighborhood in which he lives.  Every day he puts on his fancy uniform and walks through his neighborhood to the admiration of his friends and neighbors.  So when he is demoted to a men's room attendant he can't bring himself to tell anyone.  He steals back his fancy uniform and puts it on each day and then takes it off before he gets to work and stores it in a locker. 

Eventually he is found out, is rejected and dejected and falls into a deep depression.

But wait!

As we learn from a title card (also called intertitles):

"Here our story should really end, for in actual life the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death.  The author took pity on him, however, and provided quite an improbably epilogue."

Guess who got the last laugh?

This is a silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, and except for that last title card, or subtitle, this was a silent film with absolutely no subtitles and yet I knew what was going on at all times.  Such is the power of this visual medium called the moving picture.  As I have said in past reviews, I tend not to be a big fan of early cinema.  I am a child of television and I guess I need more stimulation but this film reminded me again of that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  So I may not extoll the virtues of every silent film because of the overacting that was required and the scant plots, but I do admire films that use visuals instead of words.  The camera work in this film was so beautiful that I was transported to another time and place and it was all without words.

Why it's a Must See:  "Despite a ludicrously unconvincing happy ending grafted on at the insistence of the UFA, [this film] remains a very impressive attempt to tell a story without the use of intertitles...[It is] one of Murnau's typically eloquent explorations of cinematic space: the camera prowls around with astonishing is the camera's mobility that is evocative, as when it passes through the revolving doors that serve as a symbol of destiny. The dazzling technique on display may, in fact, be rather too grand for the simple story of one old man, yet there is no denying the virtuosity either of Murnau's mise-en-scene or of Karl Freund's camera work."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful example of the innovations of movie making in it's infancy.
(Silent, in b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Ten Restaurants That Changed America by Paul Freedman (2016)

A history of dining out in America through the profiles of ten restaurants that helped shape American eating habits. 

Freedman chronicles ten different restaurants over three different centuries, from the 1830's to the present.  He makes clear that these are not necessarily the ten BEST restaurants over that time period, though these restaurants served wonderful food, but perhaps food that would not necessarily be popular today.  These restaurants did more than serve wonderful food; they changed how we Americans ate, they influenced our tastes and got Americans to dine out.  According to Freedman, what we eat today is the result of the innovations of these ten restaurants.

This famous restaurant began as a simple pastry shop in New York City in 1827, but by 1830 it was serving fine French food, had an immense menu, efficient service and a gracious atmosphere and set the standard for fine dining.  It also inspired many imitators who used the name Delmonico's without authorization.

Established in 1840 in New Orleans' French Quarter, Antoine's, serving French-Creole cuisine, is the oldest grand restaurant in continuous existence.

"The Ladies Who Lunch." The first restaurant to market to women at a time when women were discouraged from dining without a man and the first to cater to the middle class.  "From its very beginning, Schrafft's epitomized the restaurant's role as a decorous but economical refuge, a midday oasis of sorts, where women who were shopping could dine and recuperate, or where women who worked in offices or stores could have a tranquil if more hurried lunch."

Howard Johnson's
"As American as fried clams."  Starting with its first restaurant in suburban Boston, fried clams was one of their specialties along with their 28 flavors of ice cream.  Can you name them?  What was your favorite? I think Bergundy Cherry was mine. Who of us Baby Boomers didn't go on road trips with our family hoping to stop at Howard Johnson's?  But then McDonald's came along and it was a whole different ball game.

Mama Leone's
Mamma Leone's was an Italian restaurant that flourished in New York City from 1906 to 1994 and was a forerunner in the popularity of "ethnic" restaurants.

The Mandarin
"The Best Chinese Food East of the Pacific."  Freedman writes that with so many to choose from, it was daunting to choose one Chinese restaurant to highlight, but the Mandarin was "both historically significant and intriguing." It opened in San Francisco in 1961 and closed in 2006 and was one of the first Chinese restaurants to serve "Mandarin" food or non-Cantonese.  It was at the Mandarin where Americans had their first pot-stickers, hot-and-sour soup and other Sechuan dishes. With over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States - "more than there are branches of McDonald's, Burger King and KFC combined...Chinese food is as American as apple pie," the popularity of Chinese restaurants in America came from the restaurants catering to American taste.  Chop Suey is NOT Chinese. 

Sylvia Woods opened her restaurant in New York's Harlem in 1962 and was famous for its soul food, rural, Southern "down-home" cooking.  This restaurant, according to Freedman, "reveals the cultural implications of the movement of black people from the South to the North in the first part of the twentieth century." 

Le Pavillon
This was the leading high-end restaurant in America in the mid-twentieth century run by Henri Soule and began as a temporary restaurant, part of the French exhibit created for the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940.

The Four Seasons
The epitome of modern at the time, The Four Seasons is credited with introducing the idea of seasonally-changing menus to America. It was the first destination restaurant to print its menus in English.

Chez Panisse
Celebrity chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971 and her "farm to table" approach to food still influences how we eat now.

Freedman includes biographies of the various chefs who moved in and out of those restaurants, copies of menus, lots of historical photographs and he goes on to talk about the end of the fine French dining craze, concluding with a discussion of five major current and recent dining trends:

  • Farm to table
  • Molecular/Modernist Gastronomy
  • Celebrity Chefs
  • The Influence of Asia
  • The New Informality of the Dining Experience

And there are recipes too!  Classic recipes from the ten restaurants.  Who doesn't want to make those fried clams from Howard Johnson's?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a foodie, you will love this well-researched history of dining out in America.


Thanks for reading!

 See you next Friday 

for my review of  
"Girls Trip"


 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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