Friday, January 25, 2019

"The Favourite" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Favourite" as well as DVDs "Night School" and "The Equalizer 2."  The Book of the Week is Joanna Gaines' latest: "Homebody."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Seven Samurai."]

The Favourite

Two "ladies" vie to become Queen Anne's "favourite" in 18th century England.

This is a comedy of manners - a very dark comedy with very bad manners - that features Queen Anne of Britain (Olivia Colman), though her life was hardly a comedy.  She was pregnant at least 17 times but had miscarried or had still births 12 times.  Of the five live births, four died before reaching the age of two and the only child to survive infancy, Prince William, the Duke of Gloucester, only lived to the age of 11.  

Though the film alludes to all of that, it actually begins later in Queen Anne's life when her husband has died and she is alone, bewildered, in poor health and actually quite mad with only her 17 rabbits to keep her company (each rabbit representing a lost child).  Because of Queen Anne's state, much of the ruling of the country has fallen into the hands of her friend and current favorite, Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz).  Lady Sarah is also the Duchess of Marlborough and the Mistress of the Robes, the highest office a woman in court could achieve. Things are going well for Lady Sarah.

But all of that changes when Lady Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah's distant cousin, arrives looking for work.  Though she is an aristocrat, her family has fallen on hard times and she hopes to gain employment in the royal household.  Sarah is a tough cookie and not much for handouts but she puts Abigail to work, though in the kitchen. Abigail starts out sweet and accommodating, but it isn't long before she figures out what is going on with Sarah and decides to curry favor with the Queen herself, which she does much to Sarah's dismay.  Abigail worms her way into Queen Anne's affections and a tug of war ensues between Sarah and Abigail to see who will be the Queen's favorite, er favourite.

I am a huge fan of British TV so I was familiar with Olivia Colman.  She is a big star in the U.K. but probably not as well known in the U.S. - yet. This film is a high profile for her, and though Queen Anne is a spoiled, reckless and crazy Queen, Colman manages to also add a layer of sensitivity that makes us care about her.  Her portrayal has already won her a Best Actress Golden Globe, but one wonders how many people have seen this film.  But an Oscar nomination could be in the works which will add to her visibility, and if that doesn't do the trick, she will certainly be a household name when the next season of "The Crown" kicks off.  She will be taking the reins from Claire Foy to play the mature Queen Elizabeth. And Colman deserves to finally get international stardom.  She is a wonderful actress who has been toiling in British television for almost 20 years.

And Colman more than holds her own with more well-known actresses Emma Stone and Rachel Weitz who also have Oscar buzz around their performances.  They both give star performances as they go head to head in their scheming to become Queen Anne's favorite.  There is nothing these two won't do to win over the Queen, including becoming her lover. They are a delight to watch and have a wonderful script to work with thanks to Deborah Davis's and Tony McNamara's delightfully funny screenplay.

Though the men play supporting roles, a stand-out is Nicholas Hoult, as Speaker of the House of Commons, Robert Harley.  He is wonderfully slimy and calculating wearing towering wigs that could carry a film all on their own.  Joe Alwyn (Taylor Swift's current squeeze) as Lord Masham lends his handsomeness to the proceedings, giving Abigail a love interest and a way for her to move up the class ladder.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who also directed the wonderful "The Lobster," and the oblique "Killing of a Sacred Deer," this is an edgy but funny period romp about the quest for power which illustrates that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." The film is more accessible than his earlier films, and he wonderfully captures the decadence of 18th century court life with duck races and liberal sexual liaisons and the film is just gorgeous to look at from the curious and liberal use of fisheye cinematography to the set design to the costumes.  All first rate.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish comedy of manners where good manners do not come into play.  Expect Oscar nominations for the acting, costumes and directing - at least.
(Note: I don't mean to brag - well, yes I do - but I wrote this review before the Academy Award nominations were announced and well...didn't I tell you? Best Actress nods for Colman, Stone and Weitz and Best Director nod for Lanthimos. It also received Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Production Design and Best Cinematography nods)

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


Night School (2018)

Forty-year-old Teddy (Kevin Hart) realizes he doesn't have much of a future without a high school diploma so he goes to night school to get his GED.

From the wonderfully absurd "The Favourite (see review above)" to the just absurd.

The film starts with Teddy Walker (Hart) at 18 in high school finding it difficult to concentrate during a crucial test. It wasn't a particularly good start for the film because Hart at 39 was playing the 18-year-old Teddy and looked like a 39-year-old trying to play an 18-year-old. But, I thought, OK, I'm a Kevin Hart fan.  I will give this a chance. 

But now fast forward 17 years, Teddy is living large in Atlanta selling barbecues at BBQ City.  He lives above the store and his boss has told him that he is going to leave the business to him.  But Teddy ends up blowing up the place, literally, and is left with no job, nowhere to live and no future.  He doesn't even have a high school education.  So when his friend tells him he will hire him if he gets his GED, Teddy heads off to night school which is actually in his old high school where he has some bad memories, and to make matters worse, the high school principal is Stewart (Taran Killam), a nerdie kid Teddy used to bully. Stewart is now all grown up, a very strict principal brandishing a baseball bat a la Morgan Freeman in "Lean on Me, and not averse to a little revenge on Teddy.  But Stewart is nothing compared to what Teddy encounters when he meets his teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), who shall I say uses rather unconventional teaching methods to make sure her students get their GED.

Along with Teddy, the class is full of an assortment of misfits - a sort of adult version of "The Breakfast Club."

There is Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), a moving man who has a bad back and needs a desk job instead of moving furniture; Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who got pregnant in high school and had to drop out; Mila (Anne Winters) who was kicked out of high school for drugs; Luis (Al Madrigal), an ex-waiter who longs to be the next Justin Bieber; Jaylen (Romany Malco), a conspiracy theorist; and Bobby (Fat Joe), a guy in prison who is taking the class via Skype.  When they all decide to steal the answers to the midterm and get caught, Carrie has had it with them.

And speaking of Carrie.  She is one dedicated teacher who also has some unorthodox teaching methods.  She is going to make sure Teddy gets his GED even if she has to put him in a boxing ring and kick the crap out of him...which she does.

I am a fan of Kevin Hart's and even if the script isn't funny, he usually is.  However, this time around the film was only funny when Haddish was on screen and even that was a stretch.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee who also directed "Girls Trip," an actually funny comedy, one has to ask "What happened?"

Which brings me to my usual rant about comedies today.

Why aren't they funny?  When screenwriters write these things, don't they tell the jokes to someone or each other to see if they laugh? This film gives credits to six screenwriters, including Hart, so you would think at least one of them would have come up with something funny. I had high hopes for this film because I love Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish is on fire these days but...nope.  Not funny.  Didn't laugh.  Though the film has an important message - perseverance in the face of adversity - people, this was supposed to be a comedy.  It was supposed to be funny and it wasn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...with Hart and Haddish, this should have been fun.  It wasn't.

The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is back meting out his own brand of justice.

Denzel, Denzel, Denzel. You can do anything but you are particularly good at playing badasses. I think your own son called you a badass on a recent talk show.  Denzel just has this way of delivering lines that makes you sit up and listen which is why he is so believable as a badass.  But I would watch Denzel read the phone book.  He is that riveting to watch.

This is a revenge is sweet movie that begins in Turkey where we meet our anti-hero as he gets righteous on a guy who has kidnapped his daughter and taken her to Turkey. McCall is there on behalf of the guy's ex-wife who wants her daughter back.  He encounters the guy on a train and when he confronts him, McCall says...

"There are two kinds of pain in this world.  The pain that hurts, the pain that alters.  Today you get to choose."  

Sounded a bit like Clint in "Dirty Harry," doncha think, punk?

So begins our journey with Denzel exacting righteous revenge on the baddies.

Though McCall has kept his hand in with his old employer the Defense Intelligence Agency, these days he is sticking closer to home, mostly as a Lyft driver by day, Equalizer by night.  When he overhears something bad while driving Lyft, he is able to make things right.  For example, one night some guys put a prostitute in the back of the car.  She has been beaten up so Denzel goes back and beats the crap out of the beaters and then says "I expect a five star rating!"

But when his ex-DIA friend, Susan (Melissa Leo), is killed in Brussels, McCall is called upon once again to get involved with international bad-doers and to do some European ass-kicking.

Once again directed by Antoine Fuqua with a screenplay by Richard Wenk, the movie started out really strong, and like I said, Denzel is great, but the film bogged in the middle though I give it credit for a spectacular ending.  

Certainly, this is a formula movie that doesn't take much mental energy to watch, but sometimes you just need something like this - watching the bad guys get what's coming to them - and this movie was just what I needed at a time when I was feeling sorry for myself.  Thank you, Denzel.  When you are feeling down, it's nice to get uplifted by other people getting what they deserve and ending up way worse off than you.  God, I love the movies.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when you just need to see some good old fashioned butt kicking.  But also, next time you use Lyft be careful what you say and doYou never know who your driver might be!

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

110 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Seven Samurai (1954)

A poor village besieged by bandits hires some out of work Samurais to save them.

One of the most influential movies of all time, it has been remade countless times.  "The Magnificent Seven," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "The Wild Bunch," "Once Upon a Time in the West," all owe their stories to "Seven Samurai" and director Akira Kurasawa.

This was a groundbreaking film in Japanese cinema because up until this film was made, Japanese films were rather bland, traditional experiences, but then this action-packed film came along where Kurasawa used multiple cameras to facilitate unusual, fast-paced editing.  Fast-paced is a bit of an oxymoron, though since this film is three and a half hours long! 

In early 16th century Japan, a poor village is constantly being attacked by bandits.  Now they are fed up and want to fight back - but how?  Why, hire some Samurais

Watching this film just reinforced what I already knew:
  • Not a fan of movies that take place in the 1500s
  • Don't like movies longer than two and a half hours unless it's "Gone with the Wind" or "The English Patient."
  • Don't like movies starring mostly men, which is why I don't like most westerns and this film IS a "western"
Rosy the Reviewer says...I know as a sophisticated movie critic that I am supposed to like this, but I mostly didn't but now at least I can say I have seen it before I died.

***The Book of the Week***

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines (2018)

Joanna shares her design strategies.

I can call her Joanna because if you didn't know Joanna Gaines by her first name, you must have been living in a cave somewhere with no HGTV. I might even call her Jo-Jo, which Chip sometimes does, because like millions of others, I have fallen under the "Fixer Upper" spell and consider Chip and Joanna people I know.  

Who knew a little show on the HGTV channel like "Fixer Upper" would turn into such a huge success?  Well, it's thanks to the down-to-earth Joanna and sometimes zany Chip, the likable couple from Waco, Texas, who helped people renovate their properties. Their show and their Magnolia company have taken on lives of their own with Magnolia products in Target and fans traveling to Waco from far and wide to pay homage to the couple and their homespun lifestyle.

I was late to the "Fixer Upper" party.  

My daughter-in-law turned me onto the show, but wouldn't you know, it was in its last year when I started watching. Joanna became unexpectedly pregnant and the couple bowed out to supposedly spend more time with their family, though I suspected they had gotten so big they were heading for more fertile fields, and sure enough, they are getting their own channel!  But even though I wasn't there from the very beginning, I fell fast and hard and thanks to the wonder of On Demand I was able to go back and immerse myself in all things Chip and Joanna. I have even purchased some of her stuff from Target so I feel that I, too, am one of her acolytes though I have no desire to go to Waco. I still remember David Koresh and the Branch Davidians! And speaking of Waco, I couldn't help but wonder: "How does a town of 136,000 people manage to have so many houses for sale that need renovating at any given time?" But that's just me.  That's how my mind works! 

Joanna published a cookbook last year (which I reviewed), and now we have her design advice to apply to our own little abodes.

It's mostly a coffee table book with hundreds of pictures of her work, some you will recognize from the show.  The book is divided into nine sections where she talks about each room of the house from entryways to places to retreat to, but first, in her introduction she tells the reader to...

"...Light a candle, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a fresh iced drink and get comfortable.  Consider this book your tool, or somewhat of a companion, here to guide you toward a better understanding of how to create rooms that look and feel like you.  This is how you begin to create spaces you love to be in."

She then goes on to talk about "six core design styles" that are the "foundational genres that make up your personal style," and then shares a mix of homes that she has designed that incorporate two or more of those styles to show "how personal styles are iterated in different people's spaces."

Each chapter includes a "What To Consider" page where she spells out details to look for and elements to include in each room, e.g. in the chapter on bedrooms, she points out the importance of layered, interesting textiles on a unique bed as a focal point and then adding a bench or chaise lounge, personal artwork, an armoire or writing desk, side tables, a valet tray, soft area rugs and window treatments as additional elements.  And then she ends each chapter with "Troubleshooting" tips, i.e. how to deal with difficult issues such as insufficient storage, a small space, bare windows, etc.

She ends the book with some space to take notes and a design template where you can design your own room using her advice.

This is just the kind of cozy, homespun advice we have come to expect from Joanna who, with Chip, comprises probably the most clean cut couple on the planet, so her fans will not be disappointed.  And she has some great ideas, too, though some might be obvious to people already into design. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Joanna fan, you will enjoy spending this time with her. I just think in her opening, where she tells the reader to pour a cup of coffee or a fresh iced drink, she should add a glass of wine! But that's just me...

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Upside"


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, January 18, 2019

"If Beale Street Could Talk" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "If Beale Street Could Talk" as well as DVDs "The Meg" and "Paddington 2."  The Book of the Week is a biography of Robin Williams "Robin."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Yeelen"]

Young lovers, Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), are separated when he is unfairly charged with a crime and sent to prison.

Tish and Fonny grew up together and eventually became childhood sweethearts. When Tish becomes pregnant, her family embraces her.  His does not but the two are in love and dedicated to being together.  However, when Fonny is unfairly accused of rape by a white woman, he is sent to jail and Tish and her family must try to prove his innocence, not an easy task since the accuser has returned to Puerto Rico and the family has little money. Through a series of vignettes, we follow the young lovers past and present, as they plan for the baby, to move in together and then Tish having to visit her beloved Fonny as he sits behind prison glass.  Meanwhile, Tish's understanding and loving mother, Sharon (Regina King), travels to Puerto Rico to try to find the accuser and help get Fonny out of jail.  

James Baldwin was an American writer and social activist who grew up in Harlem. His novels "Go Tell it on the Mountain (1953)" and "Another Country (1962)" were on many 20th century reading lists. He wrote about the black experience in the U.S. and the racism and injustices endured by African-Americans.

Beale Street is a real street in Memphis but Baldwin uses it as a metaphor for the Black Experience.

The film begins with his words:

"Every black person born in America was born on Beale Street, born in the black neighborhood of some American City, whether in Jackson, Mississippi, or in Harlem, New York.  Beale Street is our legacy."

What is most telling about this story, one that Baldwin wrote in 1974, is how current it is and how, sadly, little has changed for African Americans since then. Baldwin was a vocal critic of the U.S. and the state of affairs for African Americans here.  In fact he felt so strongly about this that he eventually expatriated to France where he spent most of the rest of his life.

So this is an important story...which makes it even harder for me to say what I am going to say.

Adapted from James Baldwin's novel and directed by Barry Jenkins who won a Best Picture Oscar for "Moonlight," a film I loved, I was so expecting to also love this film.  But I didn't.  In fact, I disliked it so much that I thought of leaving the theatre halfway through, something I never do.  The film is just so damn earnest, Tish and Fonny are just so damn sweet.  Their love affair is so treacly, it was unreal.  And the film itself was just too slow.  Like I said, it's an important reminder of the injustices that African Americans face and have faced and nothing much has changed in the last 50 years which makes the film even more relevant.  But as a film, it just seemed to lumber along.

But that doesn't take away from the actors.  They were wonderful.  The two young actors - Layne and James - are attractive and talented, both will no doubt have successful acting careers, and Regina King is the stand out.  She is slated for a well-deserved Oscar nod.  But, sadly, even appreciating the acting and the message just wasn't enough to save this film for me. I know this film is getting a lot of love from the critics but this critic just didn't like it as a satisfying film experience. Sorry.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...though I am a James Baldwin fan and I can appreciate the timely message in this film, I did not enjoy this film and I feel terrible about that. Maybe I was just having a bad movie day and should give it another chance.  But until then, I just can't recommend it.

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


The Meg (2018)

According to deep sea scientist Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), he and his crew were attacked by what he claimed was a 70+-foot shark.  No one believed him...but just you wait.

This is not a film about a girl named Margaret.  "Meg" stands for Megalodon, a ginormous prehistoric shark thought to no longer exist.  But you know how that goes because...

There is a formula for monster movies:

  • Set the stage that there is "something" out there - usually a cold opening where we briefly get a glimpse of "it" right before it devours some innocent people minding their own business
  • Fast forward to a very benign setting and some well-meaning scientific do-gooder types who spout all kinds of technical talk that we aren't supposed to notice doesn't really make much sense
  • Enter the protagonist, a sad sack who had tried to warn our do-gooders, was not believed and has sunk low into a bad lifestyle
  • Enjoy some humor as the innocent do-gooders enjoy their last bits of innocence
  • Enter overly precocious children in danger (oh, god)
  • Enter a rich greedy guy who doesn't believe in safety
  • Add some gotcha moments
  • Enter said protagonist once again who is called upon to dig deep, crawl out of his drunken life and save the world
  • Enter the monster - finally! - which has been kept under wraps until the Big Reveal (which is often too long a wait and is usually a big disappointment)

Like I said, there are tropes for monster movies and this film written by Dean Georgaris and Jon and Erich Hoeber (adapted from the book by Steve Alten - there was a BOOK?) employs every one of them.

It begins with a strange incident at a research center 200 miles off the coast of Shanghai. Jonas Taylor (Statham), and his cohorts are down in a deep sea capsule and encounter something that attacks the capsule. Taylor manages to escape but his colleagues are killed.  When Taylor tries to explain what he thought it was that attacked them - a 70 foot shark - he is discredited because no one believes such a thing could possibly exist.  Oh, yeah?

Five years later, another deep sea diving capsule is six miles down and encounters "something" and the capsule is damaged and the crew is now stuck down there.  No one has ever been that far down....except our hero, Jonas Taylor.  But Jonas was so traumatized by his encounter with the monster and the fact that he was blamed for the death of his colleagues, he is now a drunk living a bitter life.  But who can now save the day?  Who is the only person to have been down that deep and survived?  Why, our Jonas.  So he is called upon to help save those who are left down there in the capsule.  Now you might wonder why Jonas would give a damn since they were all so mean to him before but turns out one of the crew members is his ex-wife who he still kind of likes so he agrees to help.

The film, directed by Jon Turteltaub, goes back and forth between the trials and tribulations of the disabled capsule and the attempts on land to save it with that darn Meg trying to wreck everything for everyone, though the film takes its bloody time showing us the monster.

There are glimmers of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" which set the standard for shark movies way back in 1975 and there is even a bit of a "Star Wars" homage in this film, not to mention "Jonah and the Whale" with our hero conveniently named Jonas. With all of the innovations in special effects since the original "Jaws," you would think this film would be super exciting and give that early film a run for its money, especially if you like this kind of thing, but sadly, except for the gory opening, this was kind of a snooze fest, though I will give it a break and say that perhaps it was better in 3-D.

All of the actors are very earnest, which is a word I often use for over-acting.  Whenever there is a lot of over-acting going on, I can never be sure if it's the actors or the fault of the script. Sometimes even the best actors can't overcome unrealistic dialogue so they overcompensate by talking loud or emoting more, thinking we won't notice that what they are saying isn't very believable.  Sorry, guys, we do.  It also doesn't help that Jason Statham is kind of a one-note actor.  He started out as a hard man in Guy Ritchie films and the "Transporter" franchise and can't seem to get past that kind of character. He plays practically every role as a kind of a tough guy grump. Worse yet, there are some overly precocious children and you know how I feel about them.  

But you don't go to movies like this to appreciate the acting!  If you like giant shark movies, there is some fun to be had here but don't expect "Jaws."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Steven Spielberg has nothing to fear from "The Meg." "Jaws" is still the Gold Standard of shark movies.

Paddington 2 (2018)

Paddington (voice of Ben Whishaw) is now happily living with the Brown family in London and wants to buy his Aunt Lucy a wonderful present that he has chosen for her 100th birthday - a pop-up book about London - but before he can save up the money, the book is stolen!

After the first Paddington film, Paddington has settled in nicely with the Brown family and has become a popular member of the community.  He credits his Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton) for getting him to London so he wants to surprise her with a special gift for her 100th birthday - a pop-up book of London.  You see, Aunt Lucy was going to travel to London but sacrificed her trip to raise little Paddington so Paddington wants her to see London through the book.

But Paddington doesn't have the money to buy the book so he works a series of jobs to save up the money not realizing that there is someone else out there coveting the book - but not for the same, or right, reasons. 

As Paddington takes on various jobs, we get to see him deal with humorous mishaps, the kind that happen to a naive little bear who means well but ultimately makes poor decisions and screws up.  He works in a barbershop, as a window washer and a dog washer, and all kinds of slapstick hijinx ensue.  But before Paddington can save up the money for the book, the book is stolen and, because Paddington is seen at the scene of the crime, he is accused of stealing the book and sent to jail.  So now we get to see adorable Paddington wear prison black and white stripes and wreak well-meaning havoc there as well. The film becomes a mystery to solve - who stole the book and why?

Well, it's not much of a mystery for the audience.  We know all along it's bad Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who has stolen the book because it contains a series of clues leading to a treasure but it's fun to see how he will get caught and get his comeuppance.

Hard to believe that a kids movie saved my movie watching week for me but I loved every delightful moment of this film.  Even Hubby laughed his way through it.  I was shocked.  But it's not easy to stave off the charms of that little bear. What's not to love about an adorable little bear who no matter what happens always remembers his manners?  Also the animation for the pop-up book is magical. This was just the antidote for my post-holiday blues.  

This is a film that children and adults alike can enjoy.  I just wish I had seen the first Paddington film. Though I remember bringing my daughter a little Paddington bear from London one year, I don't really remember reading those books to my children.  I wish I had.  The story promotes kindness, making friends in every situation and the power of love.

Directed by Paul King and adapted by King and Simon Farnaby from the Michael Bond books, in addition to the actors already mentioned, this film employs practically every venerable British actor you can name including Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi (an ex-Dr. Who), Dame Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, Brendon Gleeson, Tom Conti and more.  And what can I say about Hugh Grant?  Loved him as a stuttering romantic lead but love him just as much now as a character actor, and he is hilarious and over-the-top here, wearing disguises and using fake accents as Buchanan travels around London looking for the treasure.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If only everyone could be as lovely as Paddington.  Now I'm off to see Paddington 1!

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

111 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Yeelen (1987)
(alt. title "Brightrness")

A young man sets off on a journey to find his uncle who can help him remove a curse placed on him by his father (Niamanto Sanogo).

Niankoro (Issiaka Kane) is a young man in Mali sent by his mother to find his uncle who may be able to help him escape a curse his father put on him.

The film starts with an image of a chicken being burned alive and then left to bleed to death as a sacrifice.  Awful.  Right there I'm thinking, nope.

Niankoro is captured by a neighboring tribe who think he has come to steal from them.  But our guy is stroppy and he tells them he could have killed them all if he had wanted to, that he has special powers and wouldn't you know.  When the tribe is attacked they say, "If you are so powerful save us from the invaders."  Through smarts and pluck, Niankoro employs a hornets nest and fights off the invaders, thus currying favor with the king.  The king gives him one of his wives. Not a bad deal!

In Niankoro's journey he encounters many obstacles including fending off an attack by his own father who wants to kill him.  And then turns out the father and uncle are twins - one good twin, one evil twin.

Directed by Souleymane Cisse, this is one of those films long on beautiful photography, poetic even, but short on plot or anything else much to hold your interest.  Everyone speaks in metaphors - "If Niankoro is the blade, I am the handle" - that sort of thing.  It's also all very deep and solemn and religious and, sorry, that translates to me as boring.  

Why it's a Must See: "Quite possibly the greatest African film ever made..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says....for me, quite possibly the most boring film ever made.  I am starting to wonder, who are these people who came up with these 1001 movies I must see before I die.  I could die perfectly happy never having seen this film.

***The Book of the Week***

Robin by David Itzkoff

A biography of Robin Williams.

I've been a fan of Robin Williams ever since he hit the scene with "Mork and Mindy."  His manic humor was new and original, and he also came across as a really nice guy.  But reading this book I realized I didn't really know much about the guy.  Itzkoff solves that problem in a well-written, fascinating and what will stand as the definitive biography.

Robin Williams grew up in Michigan in a well-to-do family.  His mother was devoted to him but his father was often away and often distant.  Robin had much time alone to amuse himself.  Later the family moved to Tiburon in Marin County, another affluent California community.  Robin found his way to Juilliard when they began a drama program, but he was already starting to display his own style of manic and independent humor so he dropped out and made his way to San Francisco where he worked with various humor groups, such as The Committee Workshop.  He met his first wife, Valerie, there and the two decided that Robin needed a bigger venue for his kind of comedy and they moved to Los Angeles where Robin found fame quite early on.  No one had seen anything like him.  

Soon "Mork and Mindy" was born, his movie career took off and the rest is history.  But why would such a successful comic actor decide to eventually kill himself?

Well, it is well-known that Robin adored Jonathan Winters, another manic comic who could riff on anything. And part of that might have been that they shared a common kind of comedy and a common dark side. Despite his crazy humor, Winters suffered from depression and had mental breakdowns.  He always carried a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote in his wallet:  "Humor is the mistress of sorrow."  Both he and Robin had demons.

Itzkoff traces Robin's early years, his marriages, his career, his drug use, his demons, all in great detail - the book is over 500 pages - and it's well-researched, but it's also what I would call a good read.  It's not only well-researched, but well-written and wonderfully engrossing.  You come to understand where that manic, whip sharp humor came from as well as that other side of Robin - the quiet, withdrawn darker Robin.

Why did such a successful actor/comedian decide that at the age of 63 it was time to take fate into his own hands and hang himself?  I finally found out but if you want to know you will have to read this book for yourself.  And it's a fascinating journey. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...not just the definitive biography of Robin Williams but also a really good read.

Thanks for reading!

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