Friday, September 29, 2017

"mother!" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Mother!" as well as DVDs "How To Be A Latin Lover" and "My Cousin Rachel."  The Book of the Week is "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Delicatessen."]


A poet and his much younger wife live a seemingly idyllic life until uninvited guests arrive -- and then they won't leave!

This is one of those movies that you need to mull over until it hits you, but while you are watching, it is excruciating.  There is a lot going on here, and even though I found the experience difficult, it must have affected me, because when I stepped out of the movie theatre into the mall teeming with people, I didn't have good feelings about my fellow human beings, and from the looks of this movie, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, he doesn't either.

Basically, the story is about a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband (Javier Bardem) living in an old house.  They are childless and the woman is working to restore the house that had been partially destroyed by a fire. One night, a man (Ed Harris) shows up at their door explaining that he is there because he was told that the house is a bed and breakfast. However, it turns out he is there because he is a fan of the poet's writings. The husband invites the man into the house much to the unease of his wife.  Then the man's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, then their sons arrive.  Soon the man and his wife become involved in a drama with their sons where one of the sons is killed. Now the the young wife married to the poet is not just uneasy, she is horrified. 

(You might notice that I am not mentioning any given names here and the reason is that there aren't any.  Neither the husband nor the wife are named. The wife is listed as "Mother," the husband as "Him," the uninvited guests as "Man" and "Woman.")

Anyway, people keep arriving and things get out of hand, items in the house are broken, "Mother" starts going nuts and has a final meltdown that reminded me of the ending of "Carrie."

The film is obviously an allegory (it's usually some kind of symbolic allegory when the characters are named "Mother," "Him," "Man" and "Woman"), but what it all adds up to in the end is anyone's guess.

The biblical and symbolic references aside - I mean, there is God, there is Cain and Abel, there is the Eucharist, there is Mother Earth...anyway, I think that's what was going on...on a purely superficial level this is my idea of a horror film - uninvited guests who won't leave. Right?  I would find that to be a horrific experience.  

But on a larger scale, I think Aronofsky thinks that if we keep repeating history, the end of the world is nigh.

Don't mess with Mother Nature!

But there is also all kinds of other stuff going on in this film. 

Aronofsky also seems to be saying that we humans worship love, but we don't practice it; we search to find in others what we ourselves lack; and that there is a price to fame and celebrity.  He also comments on the relationship between men and women, how difficult it can be to create both artistically and physically and the sad political state of the world. This film is A LOT.  It's also about a really bad husband. He was not supportive.  If I had been "Mother," I would have kicked all of those people out of the house and him as well!

There is also homage to horror films.  I already mentioned "Carrie," but this film also had a bit of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "Woolf" being, in my opinion, a horror story about marriage.

Written and directed by Aronofsky who gave us the nightmarish but much more accessible "Black Swan," this is a very personal work that includes casting Jennifer Lawrence. You can tell Aronofsky and Lawrence have a relationship because the camera is up close and personal on her at all times.  And her relationship with Aronofsky is the only reason I can figure out why Lawrence wanted to play that character. I don't think this role did her any good. Though she is the center of the film, her character mostly reacts to what is going on around her. She runs around the crumbling house looking wide-eyed and worried, then upset and frantic and that's about it.  It's Pfeiffer and Harris who steal the show.

What Aronofsky was trying to do here isn't entirely clear, and I still haven't gotten over the rather pretentious title.  I mean a lower case title with an exclamation point? But I have to give him credit for trying to make a film that tries to say something.  Unfortunately, my problem was that I wasn't sure what that something was.

Rosy the Reviewer says...probably one of the most controversial films of the year.  Whether you like the film or not, it will certainly spark conversation. 

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


How To Be A Latin Lover (2017)

An aging gigolo finds himself out on the street when his much older wife of 25 years swaps him out for yet a younger gigolo.

Though young Maximo was raised on the maxim, "You get what you work for, not what you wish for," he doesn't buy it, especially when his father is killed while working hard on the job.  That just proved to Maximo that working hard doesn't get you anywhere, so he decides finding a rich wife is the way to go.  He is a young attractive man and has no trouble finding an older woman willing to lavish him with a life of luxury. 

Be careful what you wish for.

Twenty-five years later, Maximo (Eugenio Durbez) is married to Peggy (Renee Taylor), his much older wife.  He drives expensive cars and doesn't have to do much except make Peggy happy.  He gets around the house on a hover board  and basically his day consists of hanging out by the pool and driving his hot car. 

But when Maximo's wife is attracted to a younger man, Maximo, who was never trained to do anything except be taken care of by a rich wife, is forced to give up his luxurious life.  He is out on the street with nowhere to go and no way to make any money.  He asks his friend, Rick (Rob Lowe), another kept man, to take him in, but Rick tells him that since he and Millicent (Linda Lavin) have sex in every room, the only accommodation he has is Millicent's granddaughter's playhouse out back. Everything is doll-sized and pink.  

When that doesn't work, Maximo is forced to make contact with his estranged sister, Sara (Salma Hayek) and ask her to take him in. Sara is an aspiring architect, and a single Mom with a little boy, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro).  Maximo is an out-of-work gigolo who is inappropriate and out of touch.  So a clash of lifestyles ensues - hard-working Sara with a young son vs. jaded gigolo who has no concept of the real world and has never held a job.  

When Maximo arrives at Sara's apartment and she frets about where he will sleep, Maximo asks "Can't I sleep upstairs?" to which Sara replies, "Upstairs?  Those are other peoples' apartments!" Like I said, Maximo doesn't have a clue about real life.

What is Maximo to do?  

He is no longer the young hunk who can attract any woman, and he doesn't know how to survive on his own. What was once easy for Maximo when he was young and handsome is now not so easy.  Rick tells him that the two of them are survivors and they need to do whatever they have to do to survive.

Then a light bulb goes off for Maximo.

Hugo goes to an expensive private school on scholarship and when Maximo takes Hugo to school he smells money and sets his sights on Celeste (Raquel Welch), who it just so happens is the grandmother of Hugo's love interest, Arden (McKenna Grace, another child actor that I didn't hate in this, though I didn't really like her in "Gifted"). Maximo decides to use Hugo's interest in Arden to get to Celeste in some funny scenes where Maximo teaches young Hugo the art of seduction.

So Maximo hatches a plan to attract Celeste.  He knows to attract money he has to look like he has some so he gets a make-over, buys expensive clothes and basically maxes himself out to get his latin lover mojo back. 

But will what worked 25 years ago work now?

Rob Lowe and Linda Lavin are very funny as the role-playing couple, Rick and Millicent.  Millicent is insatiable and Rick really has to earn his gigolo dollars.  One scene where he plays a pizza delivery guy delivering pizza to Millicent is hilarious.  Rob, who himself started out as a young hunky actor, has now made a career as a comic actor and basically making fun of himself. Nice to see a handsome guy who doesn't take himself seriously.

This is a funny premise and there are lots of laughs to be had mostly because of Durbez who is so charmingly bad - but in a good way.  This is his film and he makes the most of it. However, I also loved seeing the older actresses - Welch, Lavin and Taylor - getting parts again, though I have never seen so much Spanx in my life.

I have a lot of respect for Salma Hayek.  Though she can pick and choose pretty much whatever vehicles she wants (she is married to a billionaire), she chooses to honor her heritage and promotes Spanish language films and films with Latin American themes and characters.  She is also a strong woman who produces and stars in her own films, promotes women's roles and doesn't mind lending her name and presence to the film, even if her part is not the lead.  She brought Frida Kahlo (unibrow and all) to life and who makes serious movies about artists anymore? And here she has also honored our legendary older actresses and given roles to women of a certain age - Raquel Welch, Renee Taylor and Linda Lavin.

Written by Chris Spain and Jon Zack and directed by Ken Marino, there are laughs to be had here even though the film devolved into ridiculousness at the end, but I forgive it because it was cute and funny for most of the film.  And what's not to like.  Weird Al even had a cameo.

Rosy the Reviewer of the better comedies of the year.

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Believing that his beloved cousin's new wife might have had something to do with his cousin's death, a young Englishman plots revenge against her but instead falls under her spell. 

I am generally down on remakes when the first film was perfectly fine.  I mostly apply that to foreign films, but it could be said for remaking old classics as well.  The original of this film was made in 1952 and starred Olivia De Havilland and Richard Burton.  You couldn't get much better than that, right?  Well, I have to eat my words to a certain extent.  This one was really good, and since I am also partial to good stories and good storytelling, this remake is worth seeing.  Plus it's in color and new technology allows this film to do things that the original couldn't.

In case you missed the first one or didn't read the book by Daphne Du Maurier, Philip (Sam Claflin, who played Finnick Odair in "The Hunger Games" series and more recently, the love interest in "Me Before You") was an orphan raised by his older cousin, Ambrose.  While Philip was attending college, Ambrose had taken ill and gone off to Florence to recover.  He wrote to Philip and told him that while there he had met another cousin, their cousin, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), whom he married.  Philip found this very unsettling that Ambrose would marry so late in life as he had not shown any interest in women before. 

As more letters arrived, Ambrose's letters took on an ominous tone.  He complained of Rachel controlling him and that Rachel had become "his torment."  He begged Philip to come and rescue him, but when Philip arrived in Florence, he found only an empty villa and Enrico Rainaldi (Pierfrancesco Favino), Rachel's lawyer who told him that Ambrose was dead, Rachel had left and he didn't know where she had gone. Rainaldi tells Philip that Ambrose had a brain tumor that affected his behavior.

Philip returns to the estate where he shared his happy childhood with Ambrose, and since Ambrose left everything to him, Philip is now the master of the estate and will inherit everything when he turns 25.  It isn't long before Rachel asks to come and visit Philip, and though he says yes, he has a major chip on his shoulder about Rachel even before he meets her.

Poor Philip. It would have been much easier to hate her if she had been unattractive, but of course, Rachel is beautiful.  And as it turns out, Rachel is not only beautiful, she is considerate and charming.  Even the dogs like her.  And our guy is a handsome, red-blooded young man so it's not long before Philip is in Rachel's thrall. He asks his godfather to increase Rachel's allowance even though his godfather tells him her reputation is not good - has something to do with her having some sort of insatiable appetite.  Mmmm.  Now they couldn't have said THAT in the 1952 version!

However, it isn't long before cracks start appearing and Philip's godfather tells him he thinks Rachel is sending money overseas.  She is also continually making Philip cups of her "special tea."  Now that wouldn't be such a big deal except Philip also starts experiencing strange symptoms and feeling ill.

As more strange events occur, Philip becomes more and more suspicious but Rachel is always able to explain everything away, and he is just so besotted he believes her.  He is also so besotted that he decides that when he becomes of age at 25 and his inheritance kicks in, he is going to give her everything. And that is very soon.

Ominous music plays throughout and there is this one scene when Rachel and Philip hug and her hand goes around his neck in a sort of claw so now, despite the fact that Rachel seems to be a loving and charming woman, we have to wonder about Rachel as well. 

Should Philip believe his cousin Ambrose's letters as he struggled with his illness?  Did Rachel have something to do with his death? Or was it a brain tumor that affected his mind and Rachel is innocent?

A series of events occur and Philip makes some assumptions that lead to a tragic end.

Directed and adapted by Roger Michell from the classic book, this is a great gothic story and a showcase for Weisz and Clafill, both attractive and talented actors. Believe it or not, I first noticed Rachel Weisz in the 1999 version of "The Mummy," and she has had a solid career and a Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe ("The Constant Gardener"), but for some reason, she is undeservedly still not a household name.  Perhaps she shuns superstardom to play supporting roles in smaller indie movies she believes in, like "The Lobster," which I loved.

I also have to give props to Holliday Grainger, an actress to watch out for.  She is lovely here and was one of the best things about the recent film "Tulip Fever." Plus, I love her name!

Rosy the Reviewer says...sometimes there are stories worth retelling.  This is one of them.

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

184 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Delicatessen (1991)

A post-apocalyptic black comedy about a clown who moves into an apartment over a delicatessen and falls for the butcher's daughter unaware that the butcher is serving up some "unsavory" meats. 

Actually, the ex-clown is lured to the apartment by Clapet, the butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) through an ad in the paper for a maintenance man. You see, it's post- apocalyptic France and food is in short supply.  It's in such short supply that the people have to use grain for money, and the butcher, whose deli is on the ground floor of an apartment building that he also owns, is luring people to his deli with the promise of job opportunities only to murder them, cut them up and sell their flesh as meat to his tenants.

Unemployed circus clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) is the next targeted victim, hired by Clapet to do routine maintenance at the apartment building.  While there he befriends Clapet's daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), and they fall in love. He is a good worker, so Clapet decides to keep him around for awhile and as Louison interacts with the various odd tenants of the apartment building, they like him too.  However, Julie becomes aware of what her father is doing and decides to ask for help from the Troglodistes, a mysterious and feared vegetarian group who live in the sewers.

The Troglodistes attack but are repelled and despite the fact that the tenants like Louison, the desire for meat is too strong so Clapet and his tenants decide Louison's time has come and Julie and Louison must fight for their lives.

Now if any of that sounds funny to you or you enjoy films about cannibalism, you might like this film. I have actually been known to enjoy such films. I quite enjoyed "Eating Raoul" and "The Cook, The Thief, The Wife & Her Lover," but this film lacked the sophistication of those two and the story was just too out there.  Plus the humor was very slapstick, which is not surprising when you consider that the French worshiped Jerry Lewis, the king of slapstick and physical humor. I don't like slapstick humor.

The real star of this film is the cinematography and camerawork.  There are lots of super close-ups and shots from below and a moody, foggy look to the film similar to some of the Coen Brothers' films.  But that is where the similarity ends.

I watched the film on Netflix and Netflix gave it only one and a half stars.  So the critics in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book think this is one of the greatest 1001 movies ever made but looks like most of us regular folks who have watched it think otherwise. I thought it barely deserved those one and a half stars.

Why it's a Must See: "Creatively combining genres -- post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, black comedy, and sweet romance -- and offering audiences an impressively oddball collection of sounds, colors, actors, and images, [directors] Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's inspired film...was the recipient of several European awards and anticipated the pair's subsequent collaboration, The City of Lost Children (1995). Jeunet would go on to direct Alien Resurrection in 1997, which was followed by the international blockbuster Amelie in 2001."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...oddball is right. It was so oddball I found it unwatchable.
(In French with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook by Deb Perelman (2012)

Award-winning blogger Perelman ( shares her favorite recipes in her first cookbook.

Perelman was never a chef, never a restaurant owner.  She never even worked in a restaurant.  She was just a home cook cooking in a tiny New York City apartment kitchen who wanted to cook really delicious food and she wanted it to be fun.

Early on she was overwhelmed by the number of recipes out there in the world.  When confronted with all of the choices on the Internet alone, she wondered how do you pick the best recipe?

I can attest to this dilemma.  I love cooking but even more than that I love READING recipes and reading about cooking.  I subscribe to several magazines that are full of recipes and I have tons of cookbooks.  I have folders and folders of recipes I have ripped out of said magazines.  Am I really going to be able to actually try all of those recipes?

Perelman founded her blog Smitten Kitchen as a way to not only wade through all of the recipes out there so that you and I can avoid making a bad recipe but she also wants cooking to be fun and the result to be delicious.

"I never set out to build a website that would draw more than five million visitors a month...The reality of what drives me into the something far less bragworthy: I am picky as hell...and also, a little obsessive."

She goes on to tell you about an experience in a restaurant where she found the chicken less than wonderful so she went home and worked on it again and again until it WAS wonderful.  And instead of you having to go through all kinds of recipes to find the one that works and is delicious, she has done it for you and shares them here in this delightful cookbook.

I mean, who wouldn't want the best version of French toast or meat loaf or lemon bars?

Perelman includes opinionated homespun, fun-to-read commentary and pulls no punches.

Here's a, er, taste:

"Maple Bacon Biscuits"

"A whole big lot of the time, recipes come from disappointment, from something I'd ordered out somewhere, imagining it would taste one way, when really it tasted another way. (and not a good way)...It's hardly the most honorable of inspirations -- being convinced that everyone else is doing it wrong, that I alone can do things well...But it did produce a fine biscuit...The results of my complaints are sweet but salty, buttery and bacony and as light as can be.  You should probably serve them alongside eggs, but they have a tendency not to last long enough for you to scramble some."

"Iceberg Stack with Blue Cheese and Radishes"

"You can't eat as many iceberg wedges as I have without forming an opinion or two about them, and what some places get right, most get very wrong.  The first is bottled dressing.  Do you know how easy it is to make blue cheese dressing?  Seriously, just skip ahead to the recipe for a second, did you see that?"


  • 1/2 c. well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 t. table salt
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
(In a medium bowl, whisk together...until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste)

And I do see...looks very easy and I am going to try it.

Her directions are detailed, easy to follow, and yes, opinionated.

There are breakfast recipes, recipes for salads, sandwiches, tarts, pizzas, seafood, poultry, meat, sweets and party snacks as well as an entire chapter devoted to vegetarian cooking and the whole book is beautifully illustrated and fun to read.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you like to cook or just read, this cookbook is a delight!

Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"American Made"  


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). 

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Home Again" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Home Again" as well as DVDs "Megan Leavey" and "In the Courtyard."  The Book of the Week is Lonely Planet's "How to Pack for Any Trip."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Sans Soleil"]

Home Again

Life is complicated for a single mom who has just turned 40.

It's Alice Kinney's (Reese Witherspoon) birthday.  She has just turned 40 and she is not happy about it.  She is separated from her husband, Austin (Michael Sheen), has two young, and dare I say, cough, precocious daughters, Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfiend) - I will get to that in a minute - and she has just moved back into her old family home in L.A. and is trying to get a design business off the ground.  She is crying alone in the bathroom because it's her birthday and in the past her birthdays were always a big deal.

You see, her father was a famous movie director and her mother his actress muse and growing up Alice's birthdays were major events.  Now her father is dead and here she is 40 and alone, back living in the house she grew up in.

Meanwhile, Harry (Pico Alexander), Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky), an aspiring director, actor and screenwriter respectively, are trying to get their short film made into a feature and struggling to make a living in L.A.  They have just been kicked out of their motel room and are basically homeless when they meet Alice and two of her girlfriends in a bar.  Did I mention that Harry is a very handsome young guy?  The emphasis is on young. In fact, all three of the guys are twenty-somethings. But Alice and Harry hit it off and the party of six end up at Alice's house and Alice and Harry end up...well, you know.  Actually, they try to have sex but Harry has had too much to drink and gets sick which is just as well because Alice realizes that he is just too young for her.

The next morning Alice's mother, Lillian (Candace Bergen) shows up and when the guys recognize her as the famous actress Lillian Stewart, they make a big fuss over her.  Later, when Alice gets back from an appointment at the end of the day, the guys are still there gushing over Lillian.  When it comes to light that the boys don't have a place to stay, Lillian gets the bright idea that they can stay in Alice's guest house.

And that's what they do.  The guys move into a guesthouse at the back of Alice's garden and make themselves at home. Harry and Alice have a bit of a love affair, George makes friends with Alice's daughters and is also secretly in love with Alice and Teddy just loves having a family.  They all get along swimmingly and it's all just too cute...until Austin arrives and wants Alice back.

I was originally interested in seeing this film because I thought it was directed by Nancy Meyers who has written and directed some romantic comedies I have enjoyed ("Something's Gotta Give," "The Intern").  She has the patent on the lifestyles and love problems of upper-middle-class beautiful people, but it turns out that Meyers produced, not directed.  This time it's her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, who wrote and directed, but I have to say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Like mother, like daughter. It's still the lifestyles and love problems of upper- middle-class beautiful people, though there is a bit of a younger spin here and I have to say that it's also a bit far-fetched.  Would a woman really let three guys she just met at a bar move into her compound with her and her two young daughters and have no problem when they make themselves at home in her house?  But this is chick flick stuff of the highest order and I still enjoyed it. When I walked out of the theatre and the usher asked me what I thought, the first thing that came to mind was "Cute."  And that's what this film is.  It's cute.  And there is nothing wrong with cute.

For some reason, I have not been a huge Reese Witherspoon fan but over the years she has grown on me. Ever since making a big splash in "Legally Blonde," she has perfected the perky, plucky heroine.  I think I like her better now that she is more mature. She has less perk and less pluck but there is a stability and warmth that comes through now.  I liked her in "Big Little Lies," which just won a bunch of Emmys last Sunday, and I liked her in this.  She has such a likable quality that you really believe that three guys she has just met would fall in love with her.  She's just so...nice...and cute.

Loved seeing Candace Bergen.  I always enjoy seeing the "old" actresses working but I had to laugh.  At the beginning of the film when it was established that Alice was the child of a famous director and famous actress mother there were several stills of Bergen in her prime, which is fine, but I laughed because they did the same thing for Goldie Hawn in "Snatched."  I am sure both of those actresses wanted to remind us that yes, they are older now, but when they were young they were hot!  Candace and Goldie, you two are still hot!

The guys were also engaging.  I was surprised that Wolff had such a supporting role as Teddy since he starred in "Paper Towns" and "The Intern."  Alexander, the major love interest, reminded me of David Muir, the news guy on "20/20." Alexander has mostly done TV.  Likewise, Rudnitsky, who I particularly liked in this, is an SNL alum and has done mostly TV and stand-up.  These guys were all engaging actors and I hope to see more of them.

Now to the child actors.  Nothing against these two young girls.  They are just selling the lines they were given, but sheesh.  One recites all of the symptoms for various ailments as per drug commercials on TV and the other littlest one is - I can barely get out the word - precocious.  You know the kind of kid I mean - tiny, cute little girl, and out of the mouth of babes comes some slam dunk bon mots.  My kind of hell.  And can I ask a question?  Why do so many child actors have three names?

Rosy the Reviewer says...though there is nothing particularly new here, enjoyable romantic comedies are hard to find these days and this one was "cute."

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


Megan Leavey (2017)

The true story of a Marine dog handler and her bomb sniffing dog Rex during the Iraq War.

I am a sucker for movies about dogs.  I loved "A Dog's Purpose," even though it was blatantly sentimental; I loved "Best in Show;" and don't even say the name "Old Yeller" around me.  I will burst into tears.  In fact, I just did.  And since I just had to put one of my beloved dogs down after 15 years of companionship, this film was particularly affecting.  And this movie, too, could fall into the sappy sentimental and overly patriotic kind of trap that these kinds of movies often fall into, but it is elevated by the presence of Kate Mara, whose quiet but penetrating acting keeps the film on an even keel.

Megan Leavey is at a crossroads in her life.  Her life is seeming to go nowhere.  Her family is not very supportive and she doesn't seem to fit in anywhere, so she joins the Marines. But Megan's story takes a back seat to the story of Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog.

When Megan gets in trouble on the base, as punishment, her commanding officer, Gunny (ably played by the rapper Common) is assigned to the K-9 Corps to clean the kennels.  She becomes interested in working with the dogs and inquires how she might do that. She is told that she needs to have high scores in a variety of skills so this gives her purpose and sets to work to get those scores so she can work with the dogs.  She makes the grade but before she can work with an actual dog, she has to learn how to work with the "can," a humiliating rite of passage where she literally has to drag a can around the course on a leash.  But soon she encounters Rex, a seemingly bad and vicious dog who is difficult to work with and has bitten his trainer.  Megan feels a bond with Rex and they are soon working together.

I know, it's kind of blatant.  The dog that doesn't fit in gets the trainer who doesn't fit in, but hang in there with me.  It gets better. 

So Megan works with Rex, they bond, and, though Rex is sort of a high strung scaredy cat, so is Megan so together they gain confidence. The night before they ship out to Iraq, Megan takes Rex to her room and gives him a pep talk and lets her sleep on his bed.

When Megan gets to Iraq, she meets another handler, Matt Morales (Ramon Rodriguez), and they share a mutual attraction.  We learn why Megan's life was so nowhere - she and her best friend took drugs together.  He died, she didn't, and she couldn't forgive herself. 

Megan is told that she will only be assigned to checkpoints, not missions, but six months in she is needed for a mission and she and Rex are sent on reconnaissance. Though I certainly have never been to war, this film seemed to be a fair representation of what it must be like to be in a strange environment and encounter seemingly benign people who might have possible bad intent toward you.  Everyone, even children, are suspect.  Megan is told that there is a particular bounty on the heads of military dogs and their trainers, especially if the trainer is a woman. When a guy in a car is stopped, Rex is able to alert the squadron to an ambush but the bomb goes off he and Megan are injured.  She is evacuated and Rex is left in Iraq with Morales.

When Megan gets back to Iraq, she is reunited with Rex and with Morales and embarks on a bit of a love affair with Morales.  But Rex is shell-shocked so when Megan decides not to re-enlist, she wants to adopt Rex.  Shell-shocked dogs don't fare well in the military.  They are usually retired and put to sleep so the second half of the film is all about Megan's efforts to adopt Rex, a dog who has been deemed by the base veterinarian as not adoptable.  Megan is not having it.  She not only wants to adopt Rex but to get him recognized as a war hero.

Written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo and Tim Lovestedt and directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the second half of the film bogs down a bit as Megan's life goes downhill again as she fights PTSD and to get Rex recognized as a war hero but there is a moving ending and, of course, an epilogue so we can see what happened to the real Megan and the real Rex. 

Mara is always good.  Her realistic acting style elevates what could have been a glaringly patriotic war film that just happened to include a dog.  And speaking of the dog, Rex ably performed in his first starring role.

Rosy the Reviewer can't go wrong with movies about dogs.

In the Courtyard (2014)

Antoine, an aging rocker decides to give up that life and takes on the job of caretaker for a crumbling apartment building, where he bumbles around and meets Mathilde.

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a 40-year-old musician with a bit of a cocaine problem and a failing rock and roll career.  In fact he is also having a bit of a nervous breakdown and walks off stage in the middle of a gig.  He decides to give up that lilfe and takes a job as a janitor for a Parisian apartment complex. He knows nothing about fixing things or taking care of an apartment building.  He is your classic fish out of water.  However, it isn't long before he reluctantly becomes entangled in the lives of the various occupants, a motley crew of strange folks. He becomes the go-to person for everyone's problems and is forced to act as a go-between when residents have complaints about each other.  For example, one resident is fixated on the bikes stored in the courtyard by another resident.

Antoine meets Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve) who is also going through a difficult time.  She is retired, involved with questionable causes and can't sleep, staying up all night plastering cracks in the wall, and scaring her husband, Serge, an in your face metaphor about Mathilde's life cracking up.

When Mathilde makes a fool of herself at a residents' meeting, she is embarrassed and holes up in her apartment afraid to go out.  Antoine talks her into going out and takes her back to the house where she grew up and that is when we learn her story.

The pair form an unlikely friendship, two wounded souls finding each other. But it's not a classic love story. It's a story of friendship. They seek solace in each other.  Mathilde finds Antoine restful to be around.  Restful?  He is practically catatonic but that's fine with her.

Directed by Pierre Salvadori with a screenplay by Salvadori, David Leotard and Benoit Graffin, this is a strange little film that doesn't appear to make any judgment about drug use or mental health issues or say anything that is new about aging, and despite good performances and some humor as Antoine interacts with the apartment building residents, comes to an unsatisfying end.

But what is satisfying is Deneuve.

American filmmakers can learn from the French who recognize that women of a certain age still have allure.  Deneuve is the perfect example of this.

Catherine Deneuve is famous for saying "At 30 a woman must choose between her face and her ass."  What she meant by that was you can stay skinny but have a gaunt face when you age or you can say to hell with dieting and get a little plump which in turn smooths out those wrinkles on the face.  She has chosen to save her face, though she is far from fat.  But she also doesn't appear to have worried so much about her face that she has gone the plastic surgery route and at 70+ she is still beautiful, lines and all.

I also really enjoyed Kervern who reminded me of a younger deadpan Girard Depardieu.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the film is worth seeing for Deneuve's and Kervern's performances but is ultimately unsatisfying.
(In French with English subtitles)

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

115 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Sans Soleil (1983)

A camera man's travelogue as he travels the globe.

Here is another Chris Marker film (see last week's "La Jetee") and once again, I am not really getting it.

This is another highly narrated film that serves as a sort of travelogue as a camera man globe trots and soul searches. 

"I've been around the world several times and now only banality interests me."


There is no plot, just deep thoughts all narrated by a woman, whose voice did not bother me as much as the guy who narrated "La Jetee."

Watching some of these films from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book is making me feel kind of shallow because I not only don't get the point of some of them, from a cinematic standpoint, I often don't understand why they are included in the book and why I need to see them before I die.

I will give Marker credit for the visuals but the odd commentary was almost a distraction from the visuals.  And speaking of the visuals, it's almost as if Marker looked for the strangest things to highlight.

Why it's a Must See: "Chris Marker's masterpiece is one of the key nonfiction films of our time...A film about subjectivity, death, photography, social custom, and consciousness itself, [this film] registers like a poem one might find in a time capsule."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

As I've said in the past, I have a pretty high tolerance for slow moving films but let's just say that after I watched this I poured myself a big glass of wine and clicked over to the TV and watched a Lifetime Movie called "You May Now Kill the Bride."  I found that and the wine very satisfying.  That should tell you a lot about me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I'm not very deep.

***Book of the Week***

How to Pack for Any Trip by the editors of Lonely Planet (2016)

This book promises to teach you how to up your packing game.

I hate to pack. 

The thought of having to decide right now what I plan to wear next week in Venice is just too much.  Plus, after having a bad experience dragging my huge bag onto a vaporetto in Venice and the driver yelling at me in Italian to hurry up I have given up big suitcases and only use carry-ons.  On the one hand, it's easier to get around and I don't have to worry about Italian boat drivers yelling at me but on the other hand it's not that easy to get all of the outfits I want to take into that one little carry one.  So naturally I was drawn to this book hoping it would solve my packing frustrations.

I was hopeful after reading the introductory paragraph:

"An art, a science, a necessary evil: packing is a task all travelers must tackle before their journey even begins...Whatever your style, we hope this neatly arranged book will help you keep your luggage equality on message and well organized."

These editors of the Lonely Planet travel guides are also big on the packing light school of travel and quote Saint-Exupery: "He who would travel happily, must travel light." 

After an introduction about choosing the proper luggage - avoid the two-wheeled bag that you have to drag, "The traveler with a drag-along in a busy airport is about as popular as cholera."  Look for a spinner.  The authors also talk about various gadgets and apps to make your traveling easier and more fun.

They also recommend putting a tag on your bag so it's recognizable on the luggage carousel. Here is where you can get creative.  This is my bag tag.

Making a list of what to pack is important and the authors share lists of what to be sure to bring.  

Here is the list for us ladies:

  • Blazer
  • Flat shoes
  • Shirt
  • Dark denim jeans
  • Heels
  • Plain White T-shirt
  • Flip-flops

This seems a bit basic. 

But at the end of the book, they also share "Packing bundles," a list of categories and what to be sure to bring in each one, for example, if the kids are traveling with you, don't forget the bib and bed rail, though I can't quite get my head around how you would pack a bed rail.

Speaking of kids, there is also a chapter on teaching your kids to pack and a chapter on packing methods with pictorial demonstrations and the pros and cons of rolling, folding, bundling, layering with tissues, creating compartments, filling gaps, keeping similar items or colors together, a tetris style aimed at gamers, and stuffing, which happens when you are in a hurry and you just don't care about rolling, folding, bundling, layering, creating compartments, etc.  Basically, they don't recommend the stuffing method, though they try not to be judgmental. There is also a section for you backpackers out there on how to pack your backpack efficiently.

The book is especially fun when it gets into packing for specific cities.  

For example, if you are going to Stockholm be sure you have comfortable shoes but not ugly ones because "your kicks should be stylish enough to both dangle from a bar stool in a hipster café and sit happily on your feel while pounding miles of pavement."  Now you're talking!  I like the feet dangling from the bar stool! Or Delhi where you need to pack an open mind: "There's nowhere quite like Delhi to bring on a white-hot case of culture shock." There are some case studies as well on what to pack if you are heading for the wilderness, the jungle, the mountains, the desert or the beach.

The book ends with their "Top Tips," for various scenarios such using a cross-body bag to keep your money and documents safe, the importance of weighing your bag before you leave home, especially for travel outside the U.S. and if you plan to wear a wet suit, putting plastic bags on your hands and feet will make it easier to get your wet suit on.

I have also written about trips I have taken and put forth some travel tips that might be of particular interest to my fellow Baby Boomers in my post "Baby Boomer Travel Tips."

Rosy the Reviewer says...this book might be too basic for the seasoned traveler, but it's a fun read, and if you are like me, and you hate to pack, there are some good tips here.

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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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).