Friday, June 28, 2019

"Late Night" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Late Night" as well as DVDs "A Dog's Way Home" and the Netflix original "Always Be My Maybe," now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love" by Dani Shapiro.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Archangel."]



Late Night


Threatened with losing her long-running late night talk show, Katherine Newbury orders her production manager to hire a woman writer.

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) has won all kinds of awards for her comedy and late night talk show, "Tonight with Katherine Newbury." She has a bit of an ego about it.  Well, okay, a big ego about it. However, when her ratings go down and the head of the network threatens to fire her and replace her with a smart-ass, young, up-and-coming comic (Ike Barinholtz), she realizes she needs to bite the bullet and assess her situation.

And what she discovers is that despite the fact that she says she is a feminist, she doesn't appear to like women. When she is called out about it, she realizes that all of her writers are men. And she doesn't like them very much either. OK, let's just say she doesn't really like anyone. She is a tough cookie, a female curmudgeon who everyone in the office hides from but, to her credit, she is the only woman on late night television and who knows what she had to go through to be a late night woman talk show host in a man's world? But now, her show has become irrelevant because she doesn't appear to give a damn about what the public wants. She has her snobbism, er, standards. It hits home with her when she smugly interviews a young YouTube sensation and talks down to her, only to have the young woman get what she is doing and tell her off on live TV.  

So Katherine decides she needs a woman writer to seem to even be slightly legit.  Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), fresh off the quality assurance boat at the chemical plant where she works.  Long story how she got an interview as a writer on Katherine's show.  More on that later.

Molly is clearly enamored of Katherine and feels like she is living the dream when she gets hired despite the fact she is a fish out of water and hardly welcomed by the all-male writing staff.  Katherine on the other hand doesn't appreciate Molly's fawning and gives her a hard time, but as these kinds of comedies go, they are both going to learn from each other, right?  Yes, but Kaling, who wrote the screenplay, does a fresh take on that plot, handling the comedic scenes in sometimes surprising and satirical ways.

Emma Thompson is a National Treasure.  Unfortunately, she's not OUR National Treasure.  She is a Brit but the Brits have recognized her contributions to the arts and made her a Dame, so it's Dame Emma to you and me! And what a Dame!  She is just a marvelous actress and classes up whatever film she is in. When we first noticed her, she was acting up a storm in prestige English dramas like "The Remains of the Day," "Carrington" and "Sense and Sensibility."  What we didn't know, though, was that Dame Emma had made a name for herself in the U.K. as a comedian in sketch comedy on UK telly, much like our "Saturday Night Live."  Now she is considered one of the world's great actresses. But lately she has gone back to her comedic roots and we are the better for it.

Then there is Mindy Kaling, who is a refreshing and engaging screen presence.  She is refreshing because she is not your typical leading lady, and yet, she is believable as a leading lady because she is real and clearly likes herself, in a good way.  She is also smart and funny - as I said, she wrote this screenplay which is mostly also smart and funny. 

However, I do have a problem with comedies where I have to stretch my disbelief.

In this case, it's a bit much to believe that a quality control officer at a chemical plant would end up as a writer on one of the most popular late night talk shows even if she got there via an essay contest where the prize was meeting the CEO of a company and, instead of choosing the CEO of her chemical plant, she chose the CEO of the umbrella company that owned the chemical plant that just so happened to also own the TV network on which Katherine Newbury's show aired which then resulted in her getting an interview for a writer on the show because Katherine Newbury just happened to need a female writer.  (Phew!).  See what I mean?  There are a few other "What the...?" moments, but in general, the film directed by Nisha Ganatra is smart, and funny, very much in the "feel good" genre, and breezes right along, showcasing both actresses nicely and making for a fun film experience.  It also reminded me that we don't have any women on late night!  Shame!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a lot of fun watching an actress at the top of her game and an engaging newcomer to feature films. One of the better comedies of the year!



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




On DVD



A Dog's Way Home (2019)


A dog travels 400 miles to reunite with her owner.

OK, so I was on a long flight and had seen all of the other films on offer.  And who doesn't love a movie about a cute little dog?  Well, I actually didn't because this movie is the most egregiously sentimental movie I have ever seen.  But did I cry at the end? Of course I did. I mean it's about a dog who goes through hell to get home to her "person." I would have to have a heart of stone to not cry when she gets home.

But it's everything in between that made me squirm and not in a good way.  

Adapted from his book, the screenplay was written by W. Bruce Cameron along with Cathryn Michon and the film was directed by the actor Charles Martin Smith (remember "Toad" in "American Graffiti")? Let's just say this movie is aimed at people who like to spend hours on their computers looking at pictures of kittens and puppies. 

Little Bella is born under a wreck of a house and lives there with her mother and a bunch of cats.  However, mean Mr. Landlord sends the Mean Puppy Police to the house and all of the animals, including Bella's mother, are rounded up.  Well, somehow they miss Bella and a mother cat so the mother cat becomes Bella's mother.

In the meantime, Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), a well-meaning young man, and his girlfriend, Olivia (Alexandra Shipp), are animal activists and keeping an eye on the cats living under the house and calling Mean Mr. Landlord out about it.  They discover Bella and adopt her and her life looks good until Mean Mr. Puppy Policeman arrives and says pit bulls are not allowed in Denver.

Begin rant.  OK, that is actually true.  Pit bulls are banned in Denver but if Bella is a pit bull I am Julia Roberts.  Yes, Bella's mother was a pit bull IN THE MOVIE, but she must have had relations with a poodle for her little baby to end looking like Bella. In the book by W. Bruce Cameran, Bella was a pit bull mix and that was what the filmmakers went after at the shelter where they found Bella but someone must have pulled their legs when they told them she was a pit bull mix, because Bella is nowhere near a pit bull nor, sorry pit bull lovers, would she be as cute as Bella if she was.  But since there is no way for them to prove that she is a pit bull mix nor for me to prove she's not, it's moot, but just let me say since Bella being a dangerous pit bull in the city of Denver is the whole crux of the film and the reason Bella had to travel 400 miles, it bugged the hell out of me for the whole film. Rant over...for now.

So anyway, suspend disbelief about the pit bull stuff.  Lucas decides the only way to save Bella is to send her 400 miles away to New Mexico while he and his mother (he lives with his mother who is a veteran suffering with PTSD) try to get a place in Golden where I guess no one is scared of pit bulls.  Ok, sorry.  Another rant.  Do these people not have friends who can take the dog who live closer than New Mexico?  What the hell?

So anyway, Bella goes to New Mexico to be taken care of by some nice people.  However, she is a dog and we all know that dogs bore easily so just as Lucas and his mother are coming to get her, Bella spots an opportunity to escape and "go home," something Lucas had taught her to do when Mean Mr. Puppy Policeman was around.  So off she goes, just missing Lucas and his mom and so begins Bella's odyssey to get home, something that took her a couple of years.

On the way, she encounters some nice people who take her in, some mean people and even "adopts" a baby cougar.

OK, sigh, ranting time. Bella and a mountain lion cub who Bella dubs "Big Kitten" become friends and travel together. Really?  Well, OK, but the CGI for the cougar was really bad.  And one more thing - c'mon, animal control people are really as terrible as depicted in this film? The pit bull ordinance is bad enough.

Bryce Dallas Howard is the voice of Bella and it doesn't get much more sugary than the voice she uses for Bella. Despite the presence of Ashley Judd, the acting was bad as in OVER acting. And what Ashley Judd is doing in this is anybody's guess.  Cute dog and touching reunion aside, it was pretty bad.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you feel the urge to see this, just go back to those kitten and puppy videos on YouTube instead.



Streaming on Netflix




Always Be My Maybe (2019)


Two childhood friends fall in love when they reunite as adults.

During the 90's, Sasha and Marcus grew up living next door to each other in San Francisco.  Sasha's parents ran a store and were never home so Marcus's mother would invite her over for dinner. Marcus's mother, Mrs. Kim, is a sweet woman and a wonderful cook. However, she dies young leaving Marcus motherless. But Marcus and Sasha remain friends and even have a romantic moment one night in the back seat of a car, a funny scene reminding many of us just how hard it is to get it on in a car!  After they have sex, the two feel awkward, then start to regret it and eventually have a fight that separates them for years.

Fast forward to 2019.  Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) have moved on.  Sasha is a successful chef (Mrs. Kim's influence) and restaurant owner in L.A. engaged to a guy who disappoints her by asking her to postpone their wedding so he can follow an opportunity in India.  Worse, he also proposes they see other people to determine whether they really are right for each other or not.  That's usually the nail in the coffin in a relationship.  But Sasha tries to think optimistically. She also has a lot on her mind - opening another restaurant, this time in San Francisco.

Marcus lacked the courage to go to college, is still in San Francisco working with his Dad in his heating and cooling service and plays in a band, though again he hasn't really committed to making something of that, and in true rom-com fashion, he just happens to have a job at the house where Sasha and her friend, Veronica (Michelle Buteau), are staying and voila!  Sasha and Marcus are reunited!

The two have a tenuous reunion at first and get into some fights, but ultimately bond on their shared history, helping each other find themselves professionally. Rom-coms have a formula.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, after much sturm un drang boy gets girl back.  We know all of that, but it's the journey that matters, and this journey is a wonderful one!  

Okay, I know I did a rant about Netflix a few weeks ago when I reviewed "The Perfection," but I decided to give Netflix one more chance, and I am so glad I did!  This film was just, well, perfection! 

It's a rom-com that actually has rom AND com! And what makes this film special is that it features Asian actors but it's not ABOUT Asians, if that makes sense.  The Asian aspect is not the centerpiece, and in fact, is barely mentioned, which is how films should always be these days. And there are no ethnic stereotypes employed to get a laugh. It's a story about Americans. It's a love story that just happens to be between two Asian American characters but smartly does not take on the Asian experience in America.  It's just two crazy American kids in love!  

And to bring that point home, David Bowie's "Young Americans" sets the stage early for celebrating the diversity that is us Americans.  We come in all shapes and sizes, color and ethnicities; we all have parents, romances, tragedies and triumphs. This story could be about African Americans, Hispanics, Swedish Americans, anyone.  That's the point.

Ali Wong and Randall Park have mostly toiled in television until now, though Wong is also a stand-up comic, but they are engaging actors who I hope I will see more of.  And Ali makes wearing glasses cool.  Keanu Reeves actually makes a very funny appearance as a snobby actor in a very funny dinner scene, so now I feel bad for ripping him a new one in my review of "Replicas."  He actually does have some acting mojo and a sense of humor about himself, which I enjoyed.

Directed by Nahnatchka Khan (I should have known it was a woman because it was so good!) with a screenplay by Park, Wong and Michael Golamco, this is a very charming and funny film that also made me tear up.  And watch the credits for more fun stuff.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a must see.  Time to Netflix and chill!




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


89  to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Archangel (1990)


A soldier with amnesia arrives in Archangel and help fight the Bolsheviks not realizing that the war is already over...and that everyone else in town seems to have amnesia too!

And I wish I had amnesia.  I want to forget this film.  When this "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" is over I am going to have to write some scathing letters to some of these critics for the movies they made me endure.  This one was absolutely terrible.

Boles (Kyle McCulloch) is a one-legged Canadian soldier who ends up in the Archangel area of Russia following the end of WW I. His love, Iris, has died and he finds himself staying with a strange family consisting of a mother (who immediately has a hankering for Boles), a father, a grandmother, a son and a nameless baby.  Then Veronkha (Kathy Marykuca) shows up and Boles believes she is his dead love, Iris, already forgetting that Iris has died. Coincidentally, Veronkha's husband, Philbin (Ari Cohen), also has amnesia and can't remember anything since his wedding day and lives a kind of "Groundhog Day" existance, every day thinking it's his wedding day. Veronkha gets amnesia too. Geez, nobody in this film can remember squat. All kinds of crazy stuff happens.  Mistaken identity. There's a fake leg that keeps making an appearnce hanging from the ceiling in the center of the screen. Someone gets strangled with his own intestines.  A bunch of rabbits. It goes on and on.

The story is stupid, the actors amateurish, the production values like something out of a 1930's horror film despite the fact this was filmed in 1990, and the writing is terrible.  There is one line: "Do you remember me?  I'm the one who hit you on the head with a rifle butt!"  And it wasn't supposed to be funny!

Directed by Guy Maddin, a celebrated Canadian underground director, author, cinematographer and film editor with a penchant for silent and early films and who also dabbles in installation art, I couldn't tell if this was supposed to be funny or not. If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. I think Maddin might be one of those kinds of directors who says, "Let's make this as incomprehensible as possible so the critics will think it's deep." Whatever.  I just didn't get it.  But I usually don't get installation art, either.

Why it's a Must See:  "What comes across is a fascinating fetishist delirium, where memories of remote war movies get recycled into something that is alternately creepy and beautiful."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...creepy I get.



***The Book of the Week***




Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro (2019)


What would you do if you sent your DNA to Ancestry.com and the results showed that your Dad wasn't your Dad?

Well, that's what happened to Dani Shapiro.  At the age of 54, her whole history was turned upside down after she sent off her DNA sample to Ancestry.com on a whim and it came back with surprising results.

There had been signs, though. For one thing, she didn't look like her parents or the rest of her family who were all Orthodox Jews. She was blonde and blue-eyed, and growing up, there were remarks about her not "looking Jewish."  In fact, one neighbor had even made a remark that Dani could have helped get food for those in the Nazi concentration camps because of her Nordic looks.  But she brushed those comments off.  What does "looking Jewish" mean, anyway? But when those DNA results came back, Shapiro was forced to examine her parents' lives and her entire existance.

This memoir chronicles Shapiro's fascinating journey to discover her origins and how she came to grips with the truth.

Shapiro was eventually able to find her biological father, who had been a medical student at Penn and who had donated sperm during his time there. But why wasn't her own father's sperm used when her mother and father were trying to conceive?  Did her parents know that someone else's sperm was used to conceive her? She will never know exactly what her parents knew and didn't know. Shapiro consulted with experts in the field and discovered that mixing sperm was a common practice back in the day, and most recipients did not know about it. 

Doctors playing God is nothing new. I was telling this story to my husband and he told me a joke - "What's the difference between doctors and God?" "What?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor!" But in this case and in the case of those triplets showcased in the film "Three Identical Strangers," which I reviewed last year, and the cases of countless other children, it's not a joke.  Much heartache has been caused in the name of "science."

But Shapiro's story at least has a conclusion.  According to experts, "test tube babies" have practically zero chance of discovering their real parentage, but in Shapiro's case, an offhand remark by her mother about her difficulties getting pregnant and an institute at Penn that helped her get pregnant led Shapiro to her biological father.

Now I can't possibly begin to understand what I would have felt if when I received my Ancestry.com results I had found out I was half Italian or something, since my mother was full Swedish and my Dad's ancestry can be traced back to the early colonization of America via the Mayflower. 

Shapiro's story made me sad for her. I couldn't imagine finding out that my Dad wasn't my Dad.  Despite the fact that as a teen, I felt very misunderstood by my family - what teen doesn't? - and felt that I couldn't possibly be a part of THEM, I always knew who I was even though when I got mad at them I used to say I was probably really the milkman's daughter.  But I didn't really believe that. 

There was no mistaking whose kid I was.  I looked just like my Dad.  But Shapiro's poignant story inspired me to go back and see that again for myself, to be grateful I could see myself in my Dad and him in my son (it's all about the eyes).








And this set of pictures represents three generations spanning 75 years.

It makes me sad that Shapiro can't look at pictures of the dad who raised her and see herself in him, but she has come to grips with that because she has pictures of her Dad in her own mind and she sees only love.  So for her the whole issue of nature vs. nurture is solved.

"I may have been cut from the same cloth as [my biological father], but I was and forever would be Paul Shapiro's daughter...If not for him, I would never have been born.  I was connected to him on the level of neshama [hebrew word for soul or spirit], which had nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with love."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating, modern and poignant story that leans the nature vs. nurture scale toward nurture.




Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday




for 



"Yesterday"



and

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 IMDB.com, 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, June 21, 2019

"Ma" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Ma" as well as DVDs "Never Look Away" and "Destroyer."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Man of Iron."]



Ma


 "Is there life after high school?" 

According to this film, the teen bullies and baddies grow up to be adult bullies and baddies, and worse, some turn into psychos.


Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her mom, Erica (Juliette Lewis), have moved back to Erica's hometown. Things haven't worked out that well for Erica since she left town, so she is back picking up the pieces and working in the local casino. Maggie is struggling with the usual teen stuff when new in town, but she is a pretty young teenager so quickly finds a social circle with the popular Andy (Corey Fogelmanis) and Haley (McKaley Miller) and their friends.  Maggie is a good kid - we know this because she is the only one who helps a young girl in a wheelchair at school and actually gets along with her mother - but Erica isn't around much so Maggie and her new friends do what teens do, get in a van, try to go score some alcohol, and then go drink it out at a remote spot called "the rocks."


After not having much luck standing around the local liquor store trying to find an adult who will buy them some booze, the teens finally encounter Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), a forty-something, out walking her dog.  They approach her, and at first she says no, but eventually she relents and buys them the alcohol.  Seems like she has taken a shine to Andy.  As time goes by, the kids rely on Sue Ann for this more and more, and eventually Sue Ann invites them to party at her house in her basement under the pretense that they are safer drinking at her place than out "at the rocks" or driving around.  The only caveat is that they are to stay down in the basement and never go upstairs.  


On the very first night, Sue Ann inexplicably pulls a gun on one of the crew, Chaz (Gianni Paolo), and tells him to strip, which he does, and then Sue Ann laughs it off like she was just kidding!  Hahaha...yeah, right. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them while watching a film, but I have to say, that if that had ever happened to me as a teen, I would have given old Sue Ann a wide berth.  But not these kids.  In fact, they not only keep coming back, they give her an affectionate nickname - "Ma."  They are not very smart.

Ok, so what's Sue Ann's deal?  


Well, she has a lot of issues.  She is mistreated by her boss at the vet's clinic where she works; she appears to live alone so is lonely; but more importantly we discover that she has some deep-seated resentments about her high school classmates. And that's another thing about "life after high school."  Apparently, none of Sue Ann's classmates, except Erica, moved away.  They are all still in the small town, and guess what?  Some of these kids who are now hanging out in Ma's basement are the kids of those very same classmates who Ma resents. Da-da-da-dum...Revenge.

We come to find out just what happened to young Sue Ann, why she is so taken with Andy, why the kids aren't supposed to go upstairs and just how deep Sue Ann's resentments run.


This film has the usual "gotcha" moments we have come to expect in thrillers and some gruesome moments, like when Sue Ann sews Haley's eyes shut (ew), but all-in-all, this film is pretty tame and just screams "Lifetime Movie." 


I get why Silvers is in this film.  She is a young actress noticable in "Booksmart (though I didn't mention her in my review because she was involved in very much a side story)," so she's on her way up. And I get why Lewis is in this film. She hasn't been around much since she made a splash in the 90's so I would say her career is on the way down so she needs some gigs. But Octavia Spencer is one of our most gifted and acclaimed actresses so I couldn't help but wonder how she ended up in this thing.  Perhaps since she is mostly a character actress, she probably saw this as her only chance to star in a film.  The one thing that defies explanation, though, is the presence of Allison Janey.  Not only is this not the kind of vehicle we expect to see her in, but she is on screen for about three minutes total, just long enough for Sue Ann to kill her.

Written by Scotty Landes and directed by Tate Taylor, this film lacks originality and suspense, and verges on camp.  But it's not even camp enough to be campy. 


So...Is there life after high school? Apparently not!

Rosy the Reviewer says...by the time you read this review, "Ma" will probably already be out of the theatres so it's a moot point if I say you can skip this one, though it might be fun to see at a drive-in (and yes, there are still some drive-ins out there).



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


On DVD



Never Look Away (2018)


A German artist who escaped East Germany is still haunted by his childhood spent under Nazi rule.

The film starts with Elisabeth May (Saskia Rosendahl) and her nephew, Kurt, attending a modern art exhibit, designated as "degenerate art" by the Nazis.  She loves her young nephew and wants to expose him to life.  She also likes to stand in front of buses and have them blow their horns at her and to play the piano naked. Okay, she is a bit strange.  But she also tries to teach Kurt to "never look away," because "everything that is true holds beauty in it." Elisabeth is a bit of a free spirit which in Nazi terms means "crazy," and it's not long before she is taken away and eventually euthanized.  The Nazis didn't like people with mental problems. And Kurt never really gets over losing his favorite aunt.

Fast forward to 1945.  The doctor who made the call that Elisabeth needed to die in order to continue the Nazi desires for "positive breeding" is Dr. Karl Seeband (Sebastian Koch). The communists have taken over East Berlin and Seeband has been called up for crimes against humanity.  However, while in prison, he saves the life of the Russian commandant's wife who is having a difficult delivery so, in thanks, the commandant releases Seeband and expunges his war crimes record.

Now it's 1951.  Kurt (Tom Schilling) has grown up and is a young art student and, wouldn't you know, Kurt meets Ellie (Paula Beer), who is studying fashion design.  She reminds him of his Aunt Elisabeth.  MAJOR IRONY!  Ellie just happens to be Seeband's daughter. Naturally they fall in love. One hour in, you can see where this is headed.  And I say one hour in because this is an epic film, "epic" being a euphemism for LONG.  It's over three hours long, in fact.

Anyway, Kurt doesn't know who Seeband is - yet - and he is having a crisis of conscious about his art.  The Russians want him to create "social realism," and he complies...for a time.  But he really wants to find his own voice and that's not what the communists have in mind.

Seeband doesn't approve of Kurt, thinking he is inferior and not the right "genetic material" for his daughter. When Ellie becomes pregnant, Seeband tells her something is wrong with her internal organs and that a pregnancy could kill her.  An operation needs to be done. Seeband not only gets rid of the baby but tells Ellie she will be incapable of having children.  He is a very, very bad guy, but despite his ruthless attempts to break Kurt and Ellie up. Ellie is a sweet girl and you can't help but wonder how someone as evil as Seeband ended up with such a wonderful daughter.

The story covers a 40-year period and goes on to follow Kurt into the West so he can express his art the way he wants to, his relationship with Ellie and we find out what happens to Seeband.

This was a wonderful film.  It was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar last year, but despite that, I still have a problem with films that are over three hours long. To me, it's a matter of a director being able to edit him or herself.  I think I need to do a tutorial on editing to help these directors who can't seem to edit themselves.

So here it is:

1.  Cut the sex scenes.  We know from experience sex never lasts longer than about two minutes anyway so why do they last so long in films?  And what ever happened to that old trope of waves crashing on rocks?

2.  Don't have the camera follow characters as they walk from place to place in real time. Let the character go out the door and then miraculously appear at his or her destination.  It's the power of film. It's called editing!

3. Having the camera linger on characters' faces as they look off into space is a huge waste of time.  We can't read their minds so why do that?  It's the actors' jobs to show us whatever emotion is needed which shouldn't take those long shots.  It's called acting!

4.  A little voice-over narration or written exposition is helpful in snipping some time off a film.  If the screen says "Ten years later," we don't have to sit through those ten years. When Kurt defects to the West and works to get his art established, we could have saved a whole hour right there by saying "Kurt defects to the West, finds his voice and gets his art established!"

5.  Sometimes I ask myself why a certain character is in a film. There are many times when characters and scenes can be cut. I am still wondering what the hell Allison Janney was doing in "Ma (see review above)."

There.  If a director just takes a few of those ideas, we won't have to endure these long "epics."

But I bet you think with my rant on the need for editing that I didn't like this film.  Well, you would be wrong.  I really, really liked this film.  Yes, there were some long, and in my opinion, extraneous sections.  The art scenes could have been shorter.  I mean, I get it. Kurt wanted to express himself and couldn't in a Communist environment where the only art considered art was in thrall to the government.  But the main hook in the story and what keeps you watching - when will Kurt find out who and what Seeband is and whether or not that will affect his relationship with Ellie - was done very effectively.  The film is also beautifully filmed and the young actors are engaging. Schilling looks like a young Leonardo di Caprio and Ellie looks like a young Olivia Coleman.  Must have been the overbite.  And Koch, who you will recognize from TVs "Homeland" and countless films is mesmorizingly good.

Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who won a Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2006 for "The Lives of Others (which also starred Koch) and inspired by the life of artist Gerhard Richter, "Never Look Away" is an homage to artistic expression and a call to action to find truth no matter how difficult but it's also a reminder to never forget this terrible part of human history.

Rosy the Reviewer says...settle in for a long night. It's worth it.




Destroyer (2018)


Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) isn't looking so good.  She isn't feeling so good either.  She is an undercover agent with issues.

Yet another film film noir where an undercover cop was involved in a situation that derailed her.

The film begins with Erin arriving on a murder scene involving a John Doe. She looks like hell and they are not happy to see her.  She tells the responding officers she knows who the killer is.

Erin looks like the walking dead.  She is not a happy woman.  She has been tramatized by her past and has never gotten over it.  She struggles with her relationship with her daughter and drowns her guilt in alcohol.  So what happened?  Why is Erin such a mess?

Years before, Erin and her former partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), were undercover as gang members. They were also romantically involved. They took part in a bank robbery that went very wrong and made some personal decisions that were also very wrong. The leader of the gang was Silas (Toby Kebbell) and Erin tells her fellow cops that Silas is back and active again.  To prove that, Erin must go back and find the remaining gang members in order to find Silas and in so doing, Erin seeks redemption for the past.

T
he screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi uses a series of flashbacks to tell the real story and just what Erin's role was in that botched robbery and what she and Chris had planned.  It all comes full circle and doesn't end well for Erin.

Directed by Karyn Kusama, this is yet another film where a beautiful actress makes herself look less than beautiful so we will take her seriously. And I guess we did because she received an Best Actress Oscar nomination for this role.  But Nicole, Nicole, Nicole.  We already did take you seriously.  I think you are one of the finest actresses around.  You don't need to go to these lengths for me to say that. But all of that aside, you were once again wonderful and this is a really good film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Nicole Kidman is an amazing actress, with or without makeup.



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


90 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Man of Iron (1981)


Director Andrzej Wajda's account of the events at the Gdansk shipyard in the summer of 1980.

Winkiel (Marian Opania) is a burned out, alcoholic journalist assigned to look into the activities of Maciek Tomzyk (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), the leader of the striking shipyard workers and who is also the son of Mateusz Birkut, the former Polish worker-hero.  Hoping to find dirty laundry on Tomzyk and his detained wife, Agnieszka (Krystyna Janda), Winkiel uses his own past as a youthful radical to gain entry into Tomzyk's inner circle, but when he hears what Tomzyk has been through and what happened to Tomzyk's father, Winkiel's former idealism kicks in and his allegiences change.

Watching this film was confusing until I discovered that this film continues the story started in "Man of Marble," which is also one of the "1001 Movies" we are all supposed to see but which I have not yet seen.  But the film clearly paints Tomczyk as a sort of Lech Walesa character with Walesa actually appearing in the film as himself. 
The film is markedly critical of the Communist regime and because of that was banned in Poland in 1981. It also shows how the government tries to manipulate news sources especially when they are in the hands of the state (sound familiar?). The film won the Palme d'Or and the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1981 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 
Why it's a Must See: "...a moving tribute to the Polish citizens whose struggle enabled the freedom so cherished in this part of Europe."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Wajda has created a fictional film with a documentary feel, and what was most remarkable about this film for me was the actual documentary footage of Lech Walesa's solidarity movement strikes which were happening at the time woven into the film, but other than that, can't say I really enjoyed it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an important historical document but not my kind of film. But if you want to see it, watch "Man of Marble" first.

(In Polish with English subtitles)




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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 IMDB.com, 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.