Friday, July 27, 2018

"Mama Mia! Here We Go Again" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again" as well as DVDs "Annihilation" and "The Leisure Seeker."  The Book of the Week is (gasp! - another novel.  What is happening here?) "How to Be Famous" by Caitlin Moran.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Loulou."

Mama Mia! Here We Go Again

A sequel AND a prequel to the original "Mama Mia!"

If you were expecting to see a lot of Meryl Streep returning as Donna in this sequel, you will be disappointed.  It's almost a bait and switch.  She figures prominently in the trailers and on the movie poster, but she only appears in a cameo at the end of the film.  But that's not to say this isn't a fun movie.  It is. And she is there in spirit in the form of Lily James as the young Donna and most everyone else from the earlier film also make appearances.

Five years after the events of "Mama Mia! (but ten years in real life), Donna (Streep) is dead, and her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is now pregnant herself, and with the help of a handsome Mexican gentleman (Andy Garcia) is reopening Donna's old inn on the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi (the same inn that figured prominently in the earlier film). Now dubbed Hotel Bella Donna, Sophie is planning its grand opening and has invited her three Dads, Bill (Stellan Skarsgaard), Harry (Colin Firth) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Donna's best friends and surviving members of her band, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters) as well as the local villagers so that we can have huge musical numbers. 

But, sadly, it looks like only one Dad, Sam, will be there; Sophie's husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), is in New York and might not make it; and she is missing her mother.  And to make matters worse, a huge storm blows in and looks like it will ruin the party. 

But musicals have a way of making the best of things.  

What do you guess that all of the Dads show up?  And Sky? And we might not have Meryl Streep, but we have Cher as Donna's mother!  And as a grandmother, no less, which is a stretch because in real life, Cher is only three years older than Streep!  But Cher clearly has a sense of humor.

In the midst of all of the preparations for the reopening of the hotel, the film flashes back to a young Donna (James) who, after giving a speech at her graduation from Oxford, in true musical comedy fashion turning it into a huge almost cringe-worthy song and dance number, and then heads out into the world to "make some memories," thus helping us discover how Donna ended up on Kalokairi and how she met the three men, all of whom could be Sophie's Dad (if none of that makes sense, you should probably see the first film before seeing this one). We also meet the younger version of her best friends, Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn and yes, her grandfather was actor, Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies). Both young actresses beautifully channel Baranski's and Walters' original characters.

In Paris, the young Donna meets the young Harry (Hugh Skinner) and they spend the night together.  On her way to the Greek Island she meets the young Bill (Josh Dylan) and they spend the night together, and when she arrives on the island she meets the young Sam (Jeremy Irvine)...and, yup, you guessed it.  They also spend the night together.  They are all very handsome young guys and she has sex with all of them, thus causing the conundrum in the first film when Donna didn't know which of the guys was Sophie's Dad.  Our Donna was a bit of a slut, er, I mean, free spirit. 

As I said, if you enjoyed the first film, this one doesn't disappoint.

It is a lot of fun with beautiful young people and all of those ABBA songs, though many of the songs featured in this film are lesser known.  I have to laugh when I think of how much I enjoy ABBA now, because back in the day if you were a fan of rock and roll, you would be a laughing stock if you said you liked ABBA.  But I do.  And speaking of the ABBA songs, I couldn't help but think while watching this film that the film was written around the songs rather than the songs fitting into the plot.  For example, what would you guess that handsome Mexican gentleman's first name would be?  You are CORRECT, Sir.  "Fernando."  I mean, they had to work that song in there somewhere and give Cher a song to sing, right?

Anyway, the film written and directed by Ol Parker was pretty much what you would expect.  

The singing and dancing was fun and the actors were wonderful. Loved seeing Pierce, Colin and Stellan again who I must say are aging well as is Andy Garcia.  In fact, Garcia seems to be having a bit of a renaissance as the handsome older man now (see "Book Club").  Also enjoyed Christine Baranski and Julie Walters reprising their roles as Donna's best friends and singing partners, but the lovely Lily James stole the show.  We "Downton Abbey" fans first noticed her as Lady Rose MacClare and then she went on to dazzle in "Cinderella" in 2015.  She does Meryl proud as the young Donna.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the feel good film of the summer, and if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one.

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


Annihilation (2018)

A biologist and her team trek into a dangerous area called The Shimmer, where aliens have possibly taken over and the rules of nature no longer apply.

Last week was kind of a slog, and I didn't like much of what I saw so in the interest of being more positive, I thought I would start out with what I liked about this movie.

It stars women.

OK, that's it. Now what I didn't like - the rest of it, because basically the film didn't make much sense and seemed like a complete rip off of one of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" that I reviewed back in January - "Stalker," a film I actually liked better than this one, even though it's about men and is in Russian.  

This film starts with Lena (Natalie Portman) being interviewed by men in hazmat suits, and through flashback, we learn that she is possibly the sole survivor of a reconnaissance mission into "The Shimmer," an area supposedly taken over by aliens and where few have survived their missions.

Also in flashbacks, we see Lena as a biologist and professor of medicine specializing in cells at Johns Hopkins University.  She also appears to be a grieving widow.  We know she is a grieving widow because we are treated to a short, wistful memory montage showing her frolicking happily in bed with her husband (Oscar Isaac) to CSN's "Helplessly Hoping" who is now nowhere to be found.  

But then he shows up.  He's not dead even though he has been "disappeared" for over 12 months and Lena assumed he had been on a covert mission and had died.  He is alive but seems shell-shocked and acts mysteriously.  She asks him where he has been.  He doesn't know.  She asks if his mission was covert.  He replies "Maybe."  He doesn't seem to remember where he's been or what he has been doing.  Then suddenly he says, "I don't feel very well" and starts spitting up blood and has a seizure.  Lena calls 911 but as he is being taken away in an ambulance, some military types hijack him from the ambulance.

The plot thickens, as they say.

Next we find Lena at the Southern Reach, a research facility where she meets Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose career seems to be taking off again) and shown "The Shimmer," a strange colorful and shimmering force field outside the Southern Reach, that has overtaken an area of Florida marshlands.  It seems that some kind of alien comet hit a lighthouse there three years ago and the area around the lighthouse - now known as Area X - turned into a shimmering no man's land with strange events taking place there.  No one who goes in comes back - until now.  Lena's husband, Kane, has made it back but he's dying.

And The Shimmer appears to be growing larger and moving closer inland.  

Instead of sending more military into The Shimmer, the researchers now think that they should send scientists and so Lena volunteers. She is introduced to her all-women team led by Dr. Ventress: Josie (Tessa Thompson), a physicist; Anya, a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez); and Cass (Tuva Novotny), an anthropologist.  It's very unclear how or why these particular women were chosen or even why the team consists of all women, but as the film progresses, we learn that they all have "issues."  Anya is just recently sober.  Josie tried to kill herself. Ventress has no friends and is dying of cancer, and Cass lost a daughter. But again, if the film tried to make something of that, it wasn't very successful because I didn't notice.

The film uses flashbacks within flashbacks, moving back and forth between the  present - Lena's interrogation after supposedly returning from The Shimmer - and what transpired while she was there, which included an attack by a huge, murderous alligator and a very gory bear attack with Lena finally determining that The Shimmer is full of all kinds of mutations.  Gross creatures are also able to get inside people a la "Alien (remember when that thing spurted out of John Hurt's chest and scuttled across the floor?  Major ew).  We've got those kinds of things going on here too.

Like Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None," this is one of those movies where the cast members get picked off one by one.  But it's also one of those movies where you are not sure if what is happening is real or inside the characters' minds.

Written and directed by Alex Garland (who also wrote and directed the stunning "Ex Machina" back in 2014) and based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, the actors are credible, The Shimmer set design is actually quite beautiful and often looks like paintings by Rousseau, and the film is very creepy, but when Lena started to talk about refracting DNA and her robot double appeared and mirrored her in some kind of irritating copycat dance, they lost me. Too bad because I loved "Ex Machina" and had high hopes for this film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...relatively interesting and disturbing film until the last 30 minutes when the filmmakers lost me completely.

The Leisure Seeker (2017)

Ella and John Spencer embark on what will be their last big vacation.

When I first saw the trailers for this, I couldn't understand why the film wasn't called "The Leisure Seekers," with an "S" because it was clearly about two retirees on vacation in an RV.  But then it became clear that it was the RV that was named The Leisure Seeker, and Ella (Helen Mirren) and John Spencer (Donald Sutherland), two senior citizens, take off from their home in Wellesley, Massachusetts in it to have one last memorable trip to the Florida Keys to see Hemingway's house, something John, an ex-professor of literature, had always wanted to do.

I couldn't help but think, "Oh, god, is this me in a couple of years?  A member of the RV crowd? Driving a Winnebago and stopping at Stuckeys?"

Anyway, don't mind me. 

Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland give bravura performances: Helen as the no-nonsense, talkative Ella and Donald as a man struggling with the onset of dementia.  Ella has determined that the two need to go off in their beloved RV - The Leisure Seeker - to have a final trip before John loses it entirely.  Ella also is dealing with something. She has cancer. They didn't tell their adult children so when they discover that Ella and John are gone, they are frantic.  But Ella has a plan.  They will revisit some favorite places and then...

Enroute, Ella and John have a series of adventures, some of which are supposed to be funny, such as when after stopping at a gas station, John drives off without Ella and she gets a ride on a motorcycle to catch up with him. But sadly many fall flat.   

Loosely based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian with a screenplay by Stephen Amidon, Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo and Paolo Virzi and directed by Virzi, I saw the ending of this film from miles away, and despite the great performances, the film was too long for the content and became a bit tedious.  But the film had a wonderful 70's soundtrack, and it's always great seeing Mirren and Sutherland do their thing.  I have to say, though, that seeing those two on talk shows promoting the film, Donald seemed to be mirroring his role in real life. He seemed a bit out of it.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film will probably mean more to people of a certain age as in old folks, but if you enjoy watching veteran actors at the top of their game, then you might enjoy this.

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

133 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Loulou (1980)

Nelly abandons her middle class life and husband to take up with Loulou (Gerard Depardieu), a sexy layabout bad boy.

Have you ever started watching a movie and half way through you slap your head and say, "I've seen this one!"  Well, you might not slap your head - I didn't - but I realized I had seen this, and unfortunately, it was after I paid Amazon the $3.99 to rent it. I should have realized that I would have seen this already because 1980 was "My French Film Phase," and I had a huge crush on Gerard Depardieu.  This was back before he looked like he had been hit by a truck.  But since I never reviewed it, now I will, keeping in mind I am no longer 32 and I am no longer in "My French Film Phase."

Nelly (Isabelle Huppert) has a bourgeois husband, Andre (Guy Marchand), who owns a small advertising company, and she lives a bourgeois life.  Andre is also her boss and is quite abusive to Nelly, so it's not surprising that when she meets Loulou, all bets are off, especially since Loulou is good in bed.  In fact, that's all Loulou seems to be good at.  He doesn't have a job and just hangs out or gets involved in some dodgy deals. He seems to be kind of a cad. But Andre is no prize either and is one of those husbands who just won't let go.  But then Nelly can't seem to either so the two go back and forth in a masochistic dance. When Nelly realizes she is pregnant, Loulou steps up and we realize that he isn't quite the cad he seemed to be.

Huppert is a fascinating actress who is not afraid to take risks. I remember seeing her in her first big American film - the disastrous "Heaven's Gate," sometimes referred to as one of the worst movies ever made - but despite that movie's lack of success, she has had a successful career spanning over 40 years.  But even more fascinating is to see Depardieu as a young, handsome stud since today he is, how do I put this?  Not such a handsome stud anymore.  These days he is more known for eccentric character roles, but back in the day he was the go-to handsome stud in French films.

Why it's a Must See: "This ground-breaking drama by Arlette Langmann and French realist Maurice Pialat [who directed] is a scathing criticism of French society, in the guise of a sexually frank (and possibly titillating) look at relationship dynamics."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I got the titillating part (there is lots of sex and nudity), but the "scathing criticism of French society?" If that's what the film was trying to say, not sure if it got the message across. I found the film to be a kind of free-wheeling, improvisational and sometimes confusing slice-of-life love story that didn't have much plot but was saved by the exciting performances of Huppert, Marchand and Depardieu.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the best things about this film were Huppert and Depardieu in some early roles.  They are compelling and this film shows why they became such big stars.  Maybe if I was still in "My French Film Phase," I would have gotten the deeper meaning.
(In French with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

How to Be Famous: A Novel by Caitlin Moran (2018)

Yet another novel. I'm on a roll! This time, it's all about what it was like to be young and living in 1990's London.

Johanna Morrigan is 19, has her own flat in London and writes under the name of Dolly Wilde for "The Face," one of the hippest music magazines in Britain.  She got the job at the magazine based on some sample articles she wrote, one of which was "Ten Things I Have Noticed in Two Years Interacting with Famous People."  

Here is a taste:

"Famous people don't have coats...Here's how the Hot Young Star from Eastenders explained it to me: 'You get into a car to go to a premier, so you don't need a coat.  Then you do the Red Carpet, where a coat would obscure your outfit.  And then you go into he venue, where you don't need a coat.  At the end of the evening, another car drives you home.  We don't wear coats. We wear cars.' 

"Famous people know all of the other famous people. They might not have met them -- but they all know each other.  On entering a party, or gathering, and spotting another Famous they have no previous encounters with, they do 'The Nod,' which means, 'I, A Famous, acknowledge you, another A Famous...' Don't, as a non-Famous, try to 'The Nod' A Famous.  They will un-Nod you...'Take your The Nod back.' Only a Nod-er can become a Nod-ee."

"Famouses don't use names.  They dispensed with them years ago. 'Babe,' 'Man,' 'Darling'...they address everyone they know by some universal descriptor. This is because they meet so many people, remembering names became impossible some years ago..."

Dolly starts a magazine column focused on the follies and peccadillos of "The Famouses.". The column takes off and she herself becomes famous but perhaps not for the reasons she would like.  She has a brief fling with a famous comedian who tapes their sexual encounter and then shares it all over town, leaving Dolly ashamed until she is able to take back her own sexuality and her life.

Dolly also hangs out with Suzanne, the lead singer of The Branks, an all woman band, who could be described as a feminist.  She lives her life as she wants and doesn't take any crap from anyone, especially men, something Dolly admires and benefits from.  Dolly also has a huge unrequited crush on John Kite, a friend who has suddenly become a very, very famous Britpop star. 

This is the sequel to Moran's debut with the novel "How to Build a Girl" where she began Johanna's story.  In that one, Johanna at 15 is so unhappy with her life that she reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, fast-talking, Lady Sex Adventurer and decides to be a writer. This book continues the story and I hope we can see where Johanna ends up at 25, 30 and beyond.

Moran, who also wrote "How to Be a Woman," is really quite hilarious and even made someone like me, a woman of a certain age, laugh.  Hey, I remember being 19, and being the Anglophile that I am, this book transported me to what my life might have been had I lived in London at that age.  And also being the Anglophile that I am, I think I got most of the very British references. I know that chips are fries, crisps are chips, biscuits are cookies, jumpers are sweaters, tips are dumpsters and bins are garbage cans and being called a wanker is not a good thing. I know my Britspeak!  

But you don't have to be up on your Britishisms to enjoy this book.  It's chick lit, but on a scale of 1-10, it's an 11 because there are some deeper messages at work here than you usually find in chick Lit.

Though the book is humorous, it's also a sexy love story and the story of a young woman finding her own voice and coming to terms with her body image.  It's also a reminder that the #metoo movement started unofficially well before 2006.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sexy love story set in London, lots of girl power and some 90's music scene name-dropping that all adds up to a lot of fun but with some depth, too. Even if you are no longer 19, you can remember when you were, right?

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"Three Identical Strangers"


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.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Skyscraper" and The Week in Reviews

[I review The Rock's new movie "Skyscraper" as well as DVDs "The Disappointments Room" and "Mom and Dad."  The Book of the Week is "The Death of Mrs. Westaway."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Romper Stomper."]


The Rock plus a burning skyscraper equals nail-biting, edge of your seat excitement...or not...

I know...

but it's been a rough week and sometimes you just need some simple, silly, mindless entertainment when there is lots of complicated, serious stuff on your mind and you can always count on Dwayne - The Rock - Johnson for some exciting stunts, humor and great abs and guns, stuff that doesn't require a lot of thought from the viewer. 

And speaking of The Rock.  For a woman of a certain age, I find him curiously attractive.  Not sure if it's that bald head, his nice big man stature or that twinkle in his eye, but I like him! I'm still thinking of those guns!

Anyway, Dwayne plays Will Sawyer, a decorated war veteran turned FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader.  He is now retired because his last assignment - ten years ago - resulted in the death of the hostages, the loss of his leg and lots of guilt, so now he works to assess security for skyscrapers and has been hired by billionaire financier Zhao Long Ji (Han Chin) to assess his new building, The Pearl, the tallest skyscraper in the world - 3500 feet and 225 stories - before it opens.  Will has brought his wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell) and children, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell), along and they are the only ones staying in the residential part of the building before its opening, except for Ji who lives in a penthouse on top of the building.

The building is supposed to be impenetrable with an infallible fire extinction system all run by computer but somehow some gangsters led by Kores Botha (Roland Moller) have figured out how to break in, penetrate the computer system, shut off the fire system and set a fire on the 96th floor in hopes of flushing out Ji and a disk drive with incriminating evidence about their money laundering.  What they weren't counting on was the fact that Will's wife and children are in the building too and there is nothing a Dad won't do to save his kids.  Unfortunately, Will's family is inside and he is outside so now he needs to find a way to get back into the building.

Of course there is no doubt that The Rock will rescue his family.  

The fun is how he does it, and when I say fun, I mean fun.  I actually laughed more during this film than I have in most of the comedies I have seen in the last year.  I don't think I was supposed to laugh but there were some stunts that were so outrageous that I just couldn't help it.  The guy sitting in front of me in the theatre couldn't help himself either.  He was laughing more than I was.  

Maybe it was The Rock scaling the building using nothing but duct tape on his feet and hands or maybe it was that impossible leap he took from a crane to a window or his wrestling with his ex-best friend and using his artificial leg to pummel him.  Speaking of which, the leg came off and then in the next scene he was running away with his leg on.  Didn't see him put it back on but this is one of those movies you don't want to think too much about.  

The point isn't that things make sense but rather seeing The Rock do his death defying thing.  One can't help but compare this film to "The Towering Inferno" and "Die Hard" movies except those movies didn't have The Rock, did they?  He is now the one-man mega box office when it comes to action films.

It's nice to see Neve Campbell again.  Not sure where she's been but she gets to do some ass kicking too.  It's always a pleasure to see a woman take care of business though it's way, way over the top.  

But the whole movie, written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, is way, way over the top and that's why we see movies like this, right?  

Rosy the Reviewer I said, it's been a difficult week and this film gave me an hour and 42 minutes of relief that included a few unintentional laughs.

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


Imagine buying your dream house and discovering ghosts in the attic.

Architect Dana Barrow (Kate Beckinsale), her husband, David (Mel Raido),  and their five-year-old son, Lucas (Duncan Joiner), move to an old mansion - The Blacker Estate - in rural North Carolina.  You can tell right away that some horror is afoot because the mansion is remote, they move in at night and it's raining, all signs that moving into this place might not be good.  And it's not.

In fact, weird stuff starts happening right away.  

Dana starts having bad dreams - but are they dreams? After one particularly bad one, she wanders outside to have a smoke and sees a light go on up in the attic, in a room she didn't know about so she goes off to investigate, even though it's in the middle of the night with bats flying around. Another sign that this is a horror film. Who IS this person?  But then if she didn't go investigate, she wouldn't find the eponymous room and there wouldn't be any point to this film, right?

Anyway, Dana finds a room that was not on the blueprint of the house.  The door is hidden behind an armoire but she manages to get in but once in naturally she gets locked in because - ooooh - there are "forces" at work. But to complicate matters, Dana has psychological issues so we will question her sanity.  Dana and David lost their infant daughter and are still struggling with their grief so we are supposed to think that perhaps she is just losing her mind over that and none of the ghostly stuff is real. Kind of like "Unsane," which I reviewed last week.  The possibly hysterical woman horror movie trope.

David is one of those clueless husbands - another horror trope - but luckily, Ben (Lucas Til), the local handyman shows up and clues Dana into the story of what happened in the house in the past.  Seems that in the old days, when a family gave birth to a deformed child or a child with issues, the child was put in a "disappointments room" where the child was kept a secret from the world and spent his or her life there. Couldn't help but wonder about a modern day equivalent.  Our kids disappoint us, into the Disappointments Room they go.  But I digress. Seems that Mr. Blacker (Gerald McRaney), the patriarch of the family and the estate, was a mean Dad who tormented his little girl, Laura, and his and her ghosts are still lurking in the house.

Kate Beckinsale is a good actress and does what she can with the material, and Gerald McRaney is a believable bad guy but I like him better as the gruff but kindly doctor on "This is Us."  But the actors can't really elevate this film from what would have been a fair Lifetime Movie.  But as a feature film?  Not so much.

I often love movies about malevolent houses and little kids who seem driven by malevolent sources.  Much prefer those kids to the overly precocious child actors with snappy dialogue that are so prevalent in films these days, but despite that fact this one is kind of a snooze fest.

Rosy the Reviewer says..."The Disappointments Room" was...well, disappointing.

Mom and Dad (2017)

A sudden outbreak of filicide breaks out and in case you don't know what that is, it's an inexplicable urge for parents to kill their children.

Parents have all probably had this urge at one time or another so this black comedy plays on that unmentionable thought not to mention Kendall and Brent lamenting when they just used to be Kendall and Brent and not Mom and Dad.
Kendall (Selma Blair), Brent (Nicolas Cage), Josh (Zachary Arthur) and Carly (Anne Winters) start out as a typical family with the usual generation gap and teenage angst with Carly wanting independence and acting like a haughty little bitch and Kendall wanting closeness but then the parents fall prey to the mysterious disease and are overtaken by a lust for blood and turn into murderous zombies. Talk about your kids disappointing you and what can happen if they do!

Carly and her little brother must survive after their parents suddenly turn violent and want to kill them.  For a harrowing 24 hours, Carly and Josh must keep their parents at bay.

Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair make a good pair of murderous parents, but I have to ask. When did Nicolas Cage get so creepy and turn into such a caricature of himself?  That's a rhetorical question.  It's actually OK because he's quite fun to watch.

Written and directed by Brian Taylor, this film explores the themes of kids disappointing their parents and the loss of identity, youth, hopes and dreams that people sometimes feel when they become parents. However, this film takes all of that to another level!

Rosy the Reviewer says...give a whole new meaning to a kid saying "My Dad's going to kill me!"

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

134 to go! 

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Australian skinheads wreak havoc on immigrants and anyone else who gets in their way.

If you ever wondered how Russell Crowe got his start, you might be interested in this film.  He is a very young, handsome and thin Russell Crowe and plays an unlikely leading man in this film about Australian skinheads in a 1990's Melbourne, Australia. 

When I see the early work of actors who became famous, I always look for the early star quality and Crowe definitely had it even though he was playing a bad dude. I have talked about this before in this blog, but my Dad and I used to watch old movies together. He was an only child and went to a lot of movies, probably to assuage loneliness.  Often right in the middle of a late movie we were watching, he would say, "I've seen this one!"  One of his favorite things was to watch the credits and point out to me a famous actor who was still so new that the credits used his real name - Bernard Schwartz who became Tony Curtis; Archibald Leach who became Cary Grant; Marion Morrison who became John Wayne.  Russell never changed his name but I would bet you didn't know his middle name was Ira!

The film begins with some skinheads beating up some Asian kids and yelling "This is not your country."  Sounds eerily familiar to what is happening today in our own country even though this film takes place in Australia 25 years ago.  Russell Crowe plays Hando, the leader of a skinhead group.  There is a side story concerning Gabrielle (Jacqueline McKenzie), a drugged out girl who appears to be sexually abused by, Martin (Alex Scott), an older man who we learn more about in a twist. And naturally her path coincides with Hando's and his friend Davey's, a more sensitive skin-head, if there is such a thing (played by Daniel Pollock, who unfortunately  in real life threw himself under a train shortly after this film was released) and a love triangle ensues.  Then Gabrielle sets things in motion for the gang to rob Martin.

One of the guys says to Martin "We've come to wreck everything and ruin your life."

But the tables get turned and it ends badly for everyone.

Written and directed by Geoffrey Wright, there is not a lot of character development and the film feels almost like a documentary but gritty and stylishly done with the fights set to punk music. Romper stomper is a reference to the children's TV show "Romper Room," an implication that when the skinheads do the stomping it's all good fun - good fun gone wrong.  

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] ignited a passionate debate in Australia about whether it was a racist or antiracist tract...[It] does not pretend to offer a sophisticated commentary on the complexities of multicultural Australia.  These 'skins' are what gangsters or juvenile delinquents so often are in cinema -- a flamboyant metaphor for a life lived at the edge of society.  Both Wright and Crowe strive to give these events a Shakespearean grandeur, a la Richard III, and they largely succeed."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says..."Richard III?"  That's pushing it a bit but it's still a fascinating film.

***The Book of the Week***

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (2018)

Harriet Westaway is a young woman who is broke and desperate. When she receives a letter from a solicitor (the book takes place in England) telling her that her grandmother has just died and she is heir to a fortune she thinks that her prayers have been answered.  Except there's one problem: her grandmother died over 20 years ago.

Harriet Westaway AKA Hal is young and broke.  Her mother died in a car accident and she never knew her father so she is all alone in Brighton, England, telling fortunes with her tarot cards on the Brighton Pier.  She borrowed money from a loan shark and, he has sent his goons to threaten her for repayment so when Hal receives the letter from a solicitor telling her she is an heir to her grandmother's fortune she sees a way out of her dilemma.  Except for one little thing.  It's not her grandmother.

Hal is certain this is a mistake and checks her birth certificate and yep, even the name of her grandmother is not the same but the letter was sent to her - Harriet Westaway - at her address.  

Dear Miss Westaway,

Your grandmother, Hester Mary Westaway of Trepassen House, St Piran, passed away on 22nd November, at her home. I appreciate that this news may well come as a shock to you; please accept my sincere condolences on your loss.

In accordance with the wishes of your late grandmother, I am instructed to inform beneficiaries of the details of her funeral. As local accommodation is very limited, family members are invited to stay at Trepassen House where a wake will also be held.

Yours truly,

Robert Treswick
Treswick, Nantes and Dean, Penzance
So maybe this fortune really is meant for her.  

So Hal travels to Trepassen House where she meets her uncles, Harding, Abel and Ezra, and the dour Mrs. Warren who would give Mrs. Danvers a run for creepy housekeeper of the year.  As a tarot card reader, Hal feels she can read people and that she can pull this impersonation off, but what she doesn't count on are the lies and secrets this family has been harboring and that her life is in danger.

Reading this novel, I had an epiphany.  As you know, I have been working to add more fiction to my reading life but what I have discovered about myself is that I am drawn to page-turning thrillers like Gillian Flynn's"Gone Girl" and  Paula Hawkins' "The Girl on the Train."  And books by Ware.  In fact, this is the third one of hers that I have read ("The Woman in Cabin 10" and "The Lying Game" were the others).  I guess I am not that literary person I thought I was.  But hey it's summer and summer is all about easy to digest books that can be read in a few hours and this one fits the bill.

But don't think my saying that means that Ware is not a good writer.  She is.  She constructs interesting, twisty plots (though I figured this one out), has a way with realistic dialogue and her prose is not only descriptive but quite lovely.  The book reads like a movie and since I love movies, I saw the whole thing in my mind. So what's not to like?  

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, you will love Ware's books.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"Mama Mia!  Here We Go Again"


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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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.