Friday, March 22, 2019

"Velvet Buzzsaw" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Netflix original "Velvet Buzzsaw" as well as DVDs "Boundaries" and "Shoplifters." The Book of the Week is a novel: "Daisy Jones & The Six."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Louisiana Story."]

Velvet Buzzsaw

A dead artist's paintings come to life to exact revenge from those who try to profit from them.

More and more, Netflix is becoming a player in the production and/or distribution of original movies. Good ones.  Does "Roma" ring a bell?  And more and more I am not finding anything out there in the theatres that makes we want to get dressed and go out (hey, I'm retired. I sometimes don't get dressed)!  So it looks like you will see me reviewing new Netflix movies on a regular basis.  And this is one of them, just out this month.

Jake Gyllenhaal is no stranger to strange parts.  Think "Nightcrawler."  Even his character in "Brokeback Mountain" was a bit strange.  The parts he chooses are odd considering he could easily play the handsome lead in a rom-com.  But the pattern seems to be that no matter how handsome or beautiful an actor or actress might be, they want to be taken SERIOUSLY - "I am a serious actor" - so they are drawn to projects where their beauty is not an issue.

So this is yet another strange part for Jake who sports over-sized glasses and a wacky haircut to play Morf Vandawalt, a effete, libertine art critic who goes both ways when it comes to his sexual liaisons and doesn't seem to have many scruples in the art world. His caustic reviews can make or break an artist. 

He embarks on a relationship with Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who just happens to discover her neighbor dead in the hallway of her L.A. apartment building. Whensthe peeks into the open door of his apartment, she also just happens to see a plethora of amazing and haunting art works.  Turns out the old man was an artist and has left a wealth of work behind, a wealth of work that he has instructed must be destroyed upon his death.  Well, Josephina thinks that would just be a waste, so she helps herself to some of them, well, most of them.  When her boss, gallery owner Rhodora (Renee Russo), finds out about the paintings, she wants in and blackmails Josephina, so they concoct a plot that Josephina found the paintings in a dumpster.  Likewise, Morf and his art curator friend, Gretchen (Toni Collette), also get in on it.  The paintings are exhibited and naturally it's a huge success because art aficionados always want to get in on the new big thing.

But not so fast. Turns out the artist was an abused orphan.  When he left the orphanage he disappeared but had been laying out his angst in his paintings, paintings that depicted horror and madness. And no one was supposed to see them or, god forbid, profit from them.  So all of the characters who interact with the paintings suddenly start dying very terrible and over the top deaths. When Rhodora says to Morf, "All art is dangerous, Morf," she doesn't know how true that statement will actually be.

The film is a satire about the art world, how full of crap it is, world where commercial art is in conflict with creativity and personal expression. There is a lot of posturing and pretension. There is one scene when a guy enters the gallery room and sees a pile of garbage in the middle of the room and says something like "That's wonderful" to which artist Piers (John Malcovich) replies, "That's not art," a funny comment on conceptual art. And, yes, this is a horror film (in more ways than one), but it's also funny.  Darkly funny.

I have a similar story, though it's the opposite of my mistaking a pile of garbage for art.

I was in an art museum in Seattle with my husband, daughter and her husband. We walked into one exhibit room, and I saw a cardboard box with styrofoam packing peanuts spilling out of it.  One had made it's way over to the walkway, so I kicked it back over toward the overturned box.  All of a sudden, one of the art docents said, "Don't touch the art installation!"  I was dumbfounded.  Not only was the overturned box with the styrofoam packing peanuts spilling out one of the art installations, but that one little peanut lying in the walkway was also part of the installation and WAS PLACED THERE ON PURPOSE!

Needless to say, I am not a big fan of that kind of art nor performance art such as Yoko Ono playing one note on a piano for an hour.  My son is in my camp as well.  I have fond memories of walking around the Tate Modern in London with him looking at Dali's Lobster Telephone and the tower of radios and him behind me whispering "Is that art?  Is that art?" He was annoying but I got it.

So it's kind of funny when the art in this film actually turns on all of those pretentious greedy art lovers.  And it's certainly a strange film. You know a movie will be strange if John Malkovich is in it!  And come to think of it, someone needs to explain to me WHY he is in it.  If you see the film, you will know what I mean. Malcovich doesn't have much of a role.  He just purses his lips a lot.  He does that so you will know he is acting.

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (who also wrote and directed "Nightcrawler"), the film doesn't always work, but the star-studded cast, which I am happy includes 65-year-old Russo who worked with Jake and Gilroy on "Nightcrawler and looks fabulous, appeared to be having fun with this and I did, too, as the obnoxious, greedy elites got their comeuppance. 

Rosy the Reviewer says.... A strange and original little slasher flick that is darkly funny and actually trying to say something.  A fun one for a Netflix and Chill night (and I DO know what "Netflix and chill" means)! 

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


Boundaries (2018)

Laura (Vera Farmiga) and her son, Henry (Lewis MacDougall) unwillingly go on a road trip with her Dad, Jack (Christopher Plummer) after he is kicked out of his nursing home for selling pot.

Don't be fooled by the movie poster.  This is NOT a happy road trip!

Everyone is crossing boundaries in this film.

Jack is a curmudgeon, inappropriate in his assisted living facility (growing pot is a no-no); Laura, Jack's daughter, is an overwhelmed single mother with no boundaries when it comes to her son, Henry (oversharing with a young kid and asking his advice is a no-no); and Henry, well, Henry is one of those precocious kids who is also a delinquent. He hit a teacher.  Oh, and he also has this penchant for imagining people in the nude and then drawing them saying that he is drawing their souls. That's also a no-no.

Laura is clearly an unhappy woman.  She is obsessed with rescuing animals when she probably needs to rescue herself (Jack calls her "The Pied Piper of Mange"). And she needs to rescue Henry, who is being kicked out of school for hitting a teacher.  She wants to get him into a special school but can't afford it, so, even though Laura is estranged from her Dad, she decides to get in touch with him.  Unfortunately, when she arrives, she discovers that Jack has been kicked out of his assisted living facility for dealing pot.  Laura clearly doesn't approve of her Dad and won't let him live with her, but he makes her a deal. If she will drive him to L.A. (from Seattle) so he can go live with Laura's sister, Jojo (Kristen Schaal), he will give her the money for Henry's new school.  But what Laura doesn't know is that Jack plans to do some "business" on that trip.

So let the dysfunctional family road trip commence with several interesting pit stops along the way as Jack sells his wares to a series of quirky characters: the nutty and naked Stanley (played by the usually nutty Christopher Lloyd), rich guy, Joey (Peter Fonda) and an especially funny scene when Jack arrives at a Buddhist retreat to supply some Buddhist monks.

Written and directed by Shana Feste, this is yet another road trip where our characters don't seem to know that there are freeways out there that will get them to their destination quickly.  Highway 5 is a clear shot from Seattle to L.A. but noooo - these folks have to take the scenic route. Also not sure why they keep calling this a cross-country trip.  Seattle to L.A. is hardly cross-country. But that's OK because it's a quirky and enjoyable trip for the audience.

Vera Farmiga can usually be counted on to put in a powerful performance but this is a departure for her.  Her Laura is flustered and funny as she deals with her impossible father, Jack.  And, well, what can I say about 89-year-old Christopher Plummer?  He is a National Treasure.  We can't exactly claim him but Canada can.  He is always good.

Not sure why I didn't know anything about this film.  I watched it based on the preview which is usually a no-no but for once it worked.   

What did I learn from this film?  People's lives are messy but this film treats those messes in a kind and benevolent way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a charming film that you shouldn't miss.

Shoplifters (2018)

A family of small-time crooks kidnap an abused little girl.

This film won the Palm D'Or at Cannes and was one of the films nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and it is more than deserving.

When we first meet Osamu (Lily Franky) and Shota (Jiyo Kairi), they are casing out a small grocery store.  After a signal from Osamu, Shota sticks some food into his jacket and they exit the store. They clearly have this down. On their way back home, Samu and Shota see a little girl who has been locked out of her house.  It's cold so they take her with them.

Like Fagin and his boys, Osamu and Shota are part of a band of misfits living in Tokyo, getting by as best they can. Shoplifting is not the only game. They do what they have to do. There is also Nobuyo (Sakura Ando), who works in a laundry sweat shop; Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), who works in a sex club; and Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), the grandmother who is supporting everyone as best she can with her widow's pension. The relationships of these characters is not clear at first but becomes clear as the film evolves and there is a twist when we find out each character's history.

Later, when Osamu and Shota try to take the little girl (Miyu Sasaki), who tells them her name is Yuri, back home, they hear Yuri's parents fighting over her, saying they never wanted her in the first place.  So they return home with Yuri. The crux of the film is what to do about Yuri, especially when it is reported that Yuri is missing.  It's been two months and the parents never reported her missing and are now under suspicion for killing her.  And her name is actually Juri.  But she doesn't want to go home.

So...what do you do when you find an abused child, rescue her but then find out that her parents are being accused of killing her?  

Save the parents by returning the child but putting her in harm's way and also possibly be accused of kidnapping?  Or keep her safe and let the chips fall where they may? They choose the latter, so they attempt to disguise little Juri by cutting her hair and changing her name to Lin.

This film is all about finding family, love and acceptance where you can. These people may be shoplifters and grifters but they are good people.  Being poor often makes people do certain things to survive but that doesn't mean they don't have feelings and emotional morals.  Shota takes on the role of big brother to little Juri/Lin and in one important scene he sees little Lin copying him and shoplifting.  The shopkeeper notices (has probably known all along) and gives Shota a head's up, a look that says "Don't let that little girl go down that path." Shota gets it.

The cinematography is brilliant, especially using closeups effectively.  Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, it's a character driven film and you begin to really care about these characters and what will happen to them.  Despite a hard life, they find joy - the warmth of the grandmother, a game of tag with Dad, a day at the beach, and though it could have gone there, there is nothing sentimental or cloying here. Though not a lot happens in the first part of the film, the film is surprisingly affecting from the first scenes. The film moves slowly but it is mesmerizing until the final scenes where secrets are revealed.

This film lets you be a fly on the wall into another culture, another life and that's why films matter and also why foreign language films are so important.  We see people's lives around the world.  We hear them speaking differently, doing things differently but dealing with the same things that all humans deal with - making their way in the world as best they can - dealing with loss and sadness and wanting to find and show love. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the kind of film that celebrates what it means to be human and brings us all together. I loved this film and I feel a better person for having seen it.
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

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

102 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Louisiana Story (1948)

An oil well disrupts the tranquil life of a young Cajun boy and his pet raccoon.

The film begins with a leisurely exploration of the Louisiana swamp where the boy (Joseph Boudreaux) lives. The first half of the film is like a nature film showing the bayou as a magical place with little alligators and all kinds of other critters frolicking around, all accompanied by Virgil Thomson's music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.  And when I use the word leisurely, that usually means slow. And it is.

The boy paddles around, plays with his pet raccoon (which is a bit of an anomaly if you know how vicious raccoons can be)! And then after what seems like an eternity, the oil men arrive and the oil drilling begins. 

At first the boy and his family are not happy but eventually these happy-go-lucky oil men win our Cajun folks over and everything is hunky dory.

This was documentarian Robert J. Flaherty's last film and he directed the film under the sponsorship of the Standard Oil Company to show how oil derricks and people can coexist.  The funding supposedly came without strings, but c'mon.  This film makes the oil company look like the Second Coming or, at the very least, a benevolent benefactor doing no spoiling of the unspoiled wilderness. There is minimal dialogue which is probably a good thing since Flaherty worked with local people, not actors, so it plays a bit like a silent film which seems like an anachronism considering how many sophisticated films had been made by 1948.  But then when there was dialogue, the Cajun dialect was so strong the film actually needed subtitles. 

Why it's a Must See: "...Flaherty relies mainly on his charged, lyrical images and Virgil Thomson's score to carry the narrative.  Thomson's music, drawing ingeniously on original Cajun themes, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize -- the first film score to win this in all his finest work, Flaherty celebrates the beauty, danger, and fascination of the wild places of the earth."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

If you were to happen upon this film without any background on it, you would wonder what the heck you had wandered into.  And even knowing how and why this film got made, I certainly do NOT understand how this film made it into the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, the beautiful score notwithstanding.  I am going to have to have a word with Mr. Philip Kemp, who wrote the review on this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into raccoons and oil wells, you might like this, but trust me.  You really won't.

***The Book of the Week***

Daisy Jones & the Fix: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2019)

Why did Daisy Jones & The Six split up at the height of their success?  Nobody knew.  Now we do.

As described in this novel, which is also an oral history of a 1970's rock band, Daisy Jones was about as beautiful as a young girl could get.  She was not only beautiful but confident, quirky and talented. She could really sing.  She also did drugs and didn't care what people thought. Her parents were rich and didn't really care what she did, so Daisy hung out in the clubs on the Sunset Strip.  By the time she turned 20, she was getting noticed.

Billy Dunne was the lead singer for The Six and he and his band were also getting noticed, and when Daisy and Billy crossed paths, it was magic musically, though they loathed each other at first.  Well, you know where that is heading, but it actually doesn't go exactly as you would think.

Using an oral history approach, this novel chronicles the making of a legendary band in the crazy seventies with all of the drugs, drinking, band hook-ups and break-ups and personality clashes. Think Fleetwood Mac during the "Rumours" album or The Eagles documentary when Glenn Frey said to Don Felder, "Only three more songs until I kick your ass, Pal!"  Author Reid is able to capture the time and place and Baby Boomers can bask in it and the younger generation can get a taste of what they missed.

I found the oral history concept  fascinating as that is my favorite way to read biographies, but does it work for a novel?  It's works very well for character development.  You really get to know all of the band members, wives and managers and they are so well drawn through their recollections, you will have no problem picturing them.  However, this literary concept might not work for those of you who only like very plot heavy novels.  There is a plot but it's slow to develop.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Baby Boomers who loved rock and roll will love this book!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Captain Marvel"


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

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, March 15, 2019

Tyler Perry's "A Madea Family Funeral" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Tyler Perry's "A Madea Family Funeral" as well as DVDs "Nobody's Fool" and "Mary Queen of Scots."  The Book of the Week is "The World According to Mister Rogers."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Song at Midnight."]

A Madea Family Funeral

A family reunion turns into a nightmare...and a funeral!

Sitting in the theatre about five minutes into this film, I wondered why I was there.  Then I remembered.  I had never been a Madea fan so I had never, ever seen any of the Madea films but, when I saw Tyler Perry on talk shows saying this was the 11th and last Madea film he would do, I thought I should see it.  (Plus there wasn't really anything else playing at the theatre I wanted to see)!

But that said, once in the theatre I really didn't know why I was there. 

As you probably know, Perry not only produces and directs these films, he also stars as Mabel "Madea" Simmons, a tell-it-like-it-is matriarch as well as other characters: Madea's brother, Joe, a crotchety, horny old man who likes to smoke pot and talks about it all of the time, and Brian, Joe's son, who is a criminal defense attorney and Madea's nephew.  As Brian, Perry plays a version of himself, who plays straight man to the other old folks characters, so basically he is playing straight man to himself.  

This time Perry also introduces us to and plays Heathrow, another brother, who has had throat cancer and uses a voice box to talk (Heathrow also doesn't have any legs and rolls around in a wheelchair). Sound funny to you yet?  Except for Brian, the characters are all over the top including Madea's sidekicks Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), two characters Perry doesn't play.  

The basic premise of the film is that everyone is gathering for Vianne's (Jen Harper) and Anthony's (Derek Morgan) 40th wedding anniversary. Vianne is Madea's granddaughter, but if you ask me, that makes Madea REALLY old.  Anyway, Vianne's and Anthony's sons Jessie (Rome Flynn) and A.J. (Courtney Burrell), A.J.'s wife Carol (Kj Smith) and Jessie's fiance, Gia (Aeriel Miranda), as well as their daughter, Sylvia (Ciera Payton) and the old folks are all gathering for the anniversary party.  

The problem is that A.J. and Gia are having an affair and have hooked up in a hotel before heading over for the party.  Coincidentally, Anthony and family friend Renee (Quinn Walters) are also hooking up S & M style in the same hotel but that little tryst turns out to be too much for Anthony, who has a heart attack fully erect (if you know what I mean - a joke that is made much of throughout the film ), and the whole sordid mess is not only discovered by A.J. who just happened to be in the hotel room next door getting it on with his brother's fiance, but Madea and her cohorts as well who just happened to be passing by that hotel room on the way to theirs.  So the anniversary celebration turns into a funeral and a lot of family secrets are about to come out.  

Sound funny?

Vianne wants to have the funeral in just two days, so she has put Madea in charge of the funeral.  However, having a funeral so soon is a big no-no in the black culture, where planning for a funeral usually takes a long time so everyone can get there, but Madea complies while also trying to keep her mouth shut about the circumstances of Anthony's demise. Not an easy task for blabber-mouth, Madea.  She also tries to keep the other old folks quiet, too, something that results in a lot of face slapping. 

Sound funny?

Well, Perry is having fun satirizing black stereotypes, tropes and old black folks, and it's non-stop set up and punchline as they all interact. It's one of those situations where so much is being thrown at us in the audience that something is eventually going to make us laugh. But in addition to that, Perry has the most fun satirizing the Black Baptist funeral (if you don't know about Black Baptist funerals, look up Aretha's or here, read this). Though I started out stoned-face, after awhile these characters grew on me, and I did laugh, a little, though I couldn't help but think the Heathrow character could be offensive to similarly disabled people. But then a lot of the jokes in this film could be offensive to people.  I have discovered that's Perry's humor (see review below).

But it's not all slapstick.  Perry intersperses the antics of Madea and friends with the personal relationships of the straight characters, Jessie, A.J., Carol, Gia and Vianne.

Whether or not you approve of Perry's humor (this is mostly too slapstick for me), you have to give Perry credit for the empire he has built and the popularity of his Madea character. He is a writer, a director, a producer and an actor and owns his own studio in Atlanta. In addition to the Madea films, he also produced the highly acclaimed "Precious," wrote and directed "For Colored Girls" and "Acrimony" and had roles in "Gone Girl" and most recently "Vice."

Rosy the Reviewer says...and now I've seen a Madea movie. The end.

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


Nobody's Fool (2018)

A little bit of "Catfish" and a LOT of Tiffany Haddish and Tyler Perry.

I am starting to wonder if Tiffany Haddish has had her day.  She burst onto the Hollywood scene in "Girls Trip" but since then, with "Night School" and now this one, I am starting to wonder if she can carry a film. She is starting to try too hard.

Another one written and directed by Tyler Perry (see "Madea" review above), I just didn't find it funny.  Not my kind of humor. 

Danica (Tika Sumpter) is a hard-working advertising executive who is rising fast in her company.  Life is good and she is ever optimistic. She is also in love with Charlie, a guy she talks to online and on the phone but whom she has never met.  He supposedly works on an oil rig and has bad wifi which is why they can't Facetime.  Right.  But Danica is happy. She is so happy in fact that when she gets out of the bed in the morning, she dances around her apartment, just like Jill Clayburgh in "An Unmarried Woman." Who does that?  Well, Jill did and we know what happened to Jill (and if you don't, watch that movie. It's a classic)!

Even though Danica has never seen Charlie in person, he meets all of Danica's requirements on her list for the perfect man.  She wants a man like her Dad so she is using her mother, Lola's (Whoopi Goldberg) list that she used when looking for a husband. Danica also just so happens to be working on an ad campaign for a perfume called "The List"  about making a list of the traits of the perfect man. Life is good.

However, Danica's world is turned upside down when her sister Tanya (Haddish), fresh out of prison, comes to live with her.  Now we have the fish out of water jokes but, sadly, really lame ones. For example, Tanya is not only impressed with Danica's apartment and clothes, but even can't believe she has hot water. Don't they have hot water in prison? She also can't remember how to wear high heels.  Yawn.  Perry even pulls out that old job application saw we've heard a million times. When Tanya is filling out a job application she asks what she should put where it says "Sex," and decides the best answer is "Plenty." Likewise, where the application asks her "What position do you want to be in?" she thinks it's appropriate to put "Doggy Style." Yawn.

So Danica is in love with Charlie, but when Tanya finds out Danica has never met the guy, she believes that Danica is being catfished so Tanya gets in touch with Nev (Schulman) and Max (Joseph) from the TV show "Catfish (and if you are not watching that show, you should)!  In the meantime, Frank (Omari Hardwick), the barista guy who gives Danica free coffee drinks every day, is clearly in love with her but she doesn't see it. But this is a romantic comedy, the word "comedy" used very loosely, so all of the rom-com tropes are here (and if you need a refresher see "Isn't it Romantic?" that makes fun of all of the rom-com tropes) - mean girl at work, your perfect man is right under your nose, female empowerment, yadda, yadda, yadda and yawn.

Perry's humor seems to rely heavily on jokes laced with sex and raunch. And even if you are a fan of that kind of thing, this is a comedy.  The jokes need to be funny, right? They weren't. I like sexual humor with the best of them but the jokes have to be funny.  

But the bad jokes aside, what is really funny as in strange about this film is that Haddish didn't really need to be in it and her gifts are wasted. The first half is mostly about her as she gets out of prison and tries to acclimate to civilian life, but in fact, the film is really about Danica, and as the movie progresses, Tanya becomes more of an afterthought and doesn't have much to do. It's sad for a comedy like this that the best part was when Nev and Max from "Catfish" showed up. And Whoopi was funny.  But Haddish's talents were wasted.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I was a big fan of Haddish early on, but now I am losing faith. Even Nev, Max and Whoopi couldn't save this.

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Another retelling of the story of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland.

Despite the fact that I have seen many movies about Mary, Queen of Scots, I have never really understood why she thought she should be Queen of England as well.  And this movie doesn't really help so I went back and did a little research. You should, too, because this film is no history lesson.

But if you know absolutely nothing about this, here it is in a nutshell.

Basically Mary and Queen Elizabeth I were cousins. Mary was related to Elizabeth through their mutual grandmother, Margaret, who was Henry the VIII's older sister (Henry was Elizabeth's father).  Margaret married the King of Scotland, James IV and had only one child who survived infancy, James V, who later was Mary's father.  Mary was only six days old when her father died and she took the throne, so Scotland was ruled by Regents and Mary lived most of her early life in France, eventually marrying Francis, the Dauphin of France.  After his death in 1560, she returned to Scotland.  Long story short, Elizabeth I was ruling England but many English Catholics considered Mary to be the legitimate Queen.  Elizabeth eventually considered her a threat, imprisoned her for many years and eventually had her beheaded.

That's the story in a nutshell, a very small nutshell. There is much more to this story and Mary's and Elizabeth's lives. It's all very complicated. British history is like that.

So now let's get to the movie.

Directed by Josie Rourke with a screenplay by Beau Willimon (based on the book "Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart" by John Guy), the film starts at Mary's (Saoirse Ronan) beheading and, by the way, that is not a spoiler.  If you didn't know Mary was beheaded by Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie), get back to those history books! Then the film flashes back to Mary arriving in Scotland from France after the death of her husband.  It's not a welcome homecoming since Scotland had been ruled by her half-brother, James Stuart (James McArdle), and the Catholic Mary faces bitter opposition by the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, John Knox (David Tennant).

Elizabeth is also not so happy that Mary is back and plots to marry her off to loyal Robert Dudley (Joe Alwyn), thus having some control over Mary, but Mary falls for Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden) instead, who is a libertine and has sex with everyone around, man or woman. The film goes back and forth between the two courts, following Mary and Elizabeth through all of the intrigue, and ends with the two women having a dramatic meeting, something that never happened in real life.

The film is gorgeous to look at with beautiful cinematography and costumes (though the hairdos of the Scottish women made them look like members of the Warren Jeffs Mormon cult), and the performances are outstanding, something we would expect of Robbie, Ronan and all of the recognizable and distinguised British actors associated with this film. And Margot Robbie is, thankfully, one of those beautiful actresses who isn't afraid to look less than beautiful.  Her Elizabeth goes from a relatively attractive younger Elizabeth with a very high forehead to an older woman trying to cover her age and bad complexion with heavy white powder and a bad wig.  Not a good look but right for the film.  Saoirse Ronan can always be counted on to give a good performance though here her Mary was so earnest and self-righteous, she got on my nerves after awhile.  

But in general, not sure how much of a lesson in history this film really is.  It  concentrates on the relationship between the two women, modernizing the story and giving it a feminist touch about gender and power, making it seem that if the men would just butt out, these two "sisters" would have been able to work things out.  Not sure it was as simple as that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like historically based costume dramas, see this, but don't expect to really get any better understanding of the whole Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots story because you won't.

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

103 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Song at Midnight (1937)
(original title " Ye ban ge sheng."
Alt. Title: "Midnight Song")

Based on "The Phantom of the Opera," a disfigured musical genius roams a burned out theatre.

The new season of a theatre company has begun and a famous acting troupe makes its way to a dilapidated theatre which has been empty ever since the apparent death there of the great opera star, Song Danping. After a rehearsal, one of the young singer/actors, Sun Xiao-au, stays behind and hears a beautiful voice coming from above and which coaches him through the song.  It is Song Danping, who we discover has not died, but has been haunting the theatre ever since.  

Song befriends the young man and tells his story in flashback.

Ten years before, Song was a rising opera star in love with Li Xiaoxia.  But one of Li's jealous admirers, Tan Jun, convinced Li's father that Song was a bad man, so the feudal lord kidnapped Song and had him whipped.  However, Li continued to see Song with her father's antipathy only increasing her love for Song.  Tang also hangs in there but Li rebuffs him so this time Tang takes it upon himself to hurt Song by throwing acid in his face.

Song's friends help him and care for him, bandaging his face, and when next we see Song, the bandages are being removed and friends and family are horrified by what they see.  Song is also horrified when he sees himself and tells everyone to say he is dead because he could never let Li see him like that. 

Next we flash back to the present and Song reveals himself to Sun and Song tells him that he has been "haunting" the theatre in search of someone to not only take his place as a singer but to also take his place as Li's lover.

This is was China's first "horror film," though present day viewers would probably not consider it very horrific.  But it's a very atmospheric, moody film, shot in light and shadow.  The music is probably not to Western tastes, but many of the songs became popular Chinese standards.  It's also interesting that in this version of Phantom, the protégé is a man and the "phantom" is not an evil character exacting revenge but rather a sympathetic, benevolent character.  Sadly, the film quality on Amazon Prime, where I found the film, wasn't very good which was distracting, and in general, these older films don't really hold up well due to the kind of overacting that was so prevalent then.  

Why it's a Must See: "Gaston Leroux's 1919 novel The Phantom of the Opera gave rise to a score of films.  Ma-Xu Weibang' arguably one of the most inspired."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...for me this was more of a curiosity than a masterpiece, but if you like "Phantom of the Opera" stories, you might enjoy this.
(In Chinese with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers (2003)

The subtitle tells it all.

All of you who grew up with Mister Rogers probably have fond memories of him.  I have to admit that I didn't grow up with him, but after seeing the documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor," I wish I had (and those filmmakers were totally robbed.  That wonderful film wasn't even nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.  Shame)!  They just don't come any kinder than Fred.  I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes during the entire film.

For those of you who don't know who Fred Rogers was, his children's program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" ran on public television for over 30 years.  But Mr. Rogers was also a musician, a writer, a producer and a Presbyterian minister.  And if ever there was a religious man who walked the talk, it was Fred Rogers.

In a forward by his wife, Joanne, she describes meeting Fred, their courtship and their family life together and ends with this:

"When I think of the entire persona of Fred Rogers, my inclination is to put him on a very high pedestal, despite the frailties that are part of being human.  Oh, did I mention what a kind person he was?  I suppose that is part of everyone's experience of Fred -- even those who knew him for only a couple of minutes.  I don't mean to sound boastful, but he was my icon before he was anyone else's.  Being Mrs. Fred Rogers has been the most remarkable life I could ever have imagined."

The book is a compilation of stories, anecdotes and insights and is divided into chapters: "The Courage to be Yourself," "Understanding Love," "The Challenges of Inner Discipline," and "We Are All Neighbors."

Here is a taste:

"Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime's work, but it's worth the effort."

"Children who have learned to be comfortably dependent can become not only comfortably independent, but can also become comfortable with having people depend on them.  They can lean, or stand and be leaned upon, because they know what a good feeling it can be to feel needed."

"More and more I've come to understand that listening is one of the most important things we can do for one another.  Whether the other be an adult or a child, our engagement in listening to who that person is can often be our greatest gift.  Whether that person is speaking or playing or dancing, building or singing or painting, if we care, we can listen."

"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be  to the people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."

Rosy the Reviewer now those of us who didn't have the benefit of growing up with Mister Rogers or who wish they could spend more time with him can through this lovely, inspirational, little book.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


the Netflix original

"Velvet Buzzsaw"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

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.