Saturday, December 18, 2021

Rosy the Reviewer reviews some movies you might not know about: "Spencer," "King Richard" and "CODA"

[I review the Princess Diana biopic "Spencer" as well as "King Richard" and "CODA,"  all new movies that have some Golden Globe nominations for either Best Picture or for acting kudos]

Spencer (2021)

A biopic about Princess Diana.

As a huge Princess Diana fan, I paid the $19.98 to Amazon Prime (also available On Demand) to have early access to this film.  It's in theatres, too, so I figured that's what it would cost for Hubby and me to see it if we went out.  I also thought the film would be worth the price of a ticket just to see Kristen Stewart smile.  Think about it.  When have you ever seen her smile?  Well, she didn't here, either.  Or maybe once.

But Stewart did a good job of portraying Diana over the course of a Christmas weekend at Sandringham.  I wish I could say the same about the film itself portraying Diana. 

This is not a flattering portrait of Diana.

It begins in 1991 with Diana driving her car to Sandringham, the royal estate in eastern England where the family likes to spend Christmas.  Fittingly, Diana actually grew up on the estate as a young girl before her father became Earl and moved to Althorp.  This is all hinted at in the film, but if you didn't know that about her, you would either miss those references or scratch your head and wonder what the heck was that all about - her going in the night to see her old house. In these early scenes, Diana comes off as a bit of a flibbertigibbet and, yes, this film depicts a time toward the end of her marriage to Prince Charles when things were coming off the rails, but I didn't appreciate this film making her look completely nuts, which she wasn't. 

The truth of the matter was that Diana was a 19-year-old virgin, chosen to marry the 30-something-year-old Prince Charles who needed to mend his bachelor ways and settle down.  She loved him, he didn't love her.  When they were first engaged and asked by reporters if they were in love, Diana replied "Of course."  Charles nodded and said something like "Whatever in love means."  Right there, I knew she was in trouble. Despite some years where they appeared to be happy as they raised their two sons, Charles was actually in love with someone else the whole time and Diana knew it.  So that would drive me crazy too, which being in her shoes myself, it kind of did (yes, that happened to me, but I wasn't married to a prince).

To make matters worse, over the course of this one weekend, I repeat one, that was depicted in the film, Diana runs the gamut of everything we heard she went through over the entire course of her 15-year marriage: bulimia, hanging out downstairs in the kitchen and stuffing herself with food, wandering around the estate at night, trying to throw herself down the stairs, her paranoia.  On and on. But then the filmmakers really lost me when she is depicted breaking her pearl necklace at dinner and trying to eat it, I said, "What the hell?" I also couldn't help but ask myself, "What was the point of making this film?" To make Diana look bad? And what was the point of the title?

I know, the film was going back and forth between fantasy and reality to show Diana unraveling in the stultifying atmosphere of the royal family. I get that, but it just went from one crazy act to another.  Fifteen years of marriage bundled into two hours.  It was just too much.

After the weekend ends and we have endured a tedious two hours of Diana-bashing, she drives off with her sons and there is some sort of rapproachment where it appears she is finally going to find herself and become independent, which I guess is where the title came in. When asked at a KFC drive through (though, god help me, why KFC?  One more insult to Diana), who the order was for, she answers "Spencer."  But too little too late. 

This is also one of those films that does everything in real time.  Diana is going to walk down the hall?  Well, she walks...down...the...hall. To make matters worse, the soundtrack was annoying, like fingernails on a chalkboard, and veteran actors Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall were wasted here.  

When I first heard that Kristin Stewart was going to play Diana, I didn't see it at all, but if you are going to make a film about a very unhappy time in Princess Diana's life, then Stewart was a good choice because no one does scowling like she does.  And that iconic Diana hairstyle helped a lot. Stewart actually looked like her.  Her acting was fine (she is nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance)  and her accent was even okay, but let's just say, I am sure Diana smiled much more than Stewart did here, even when her life was in shambles.

So Kristen Stewart wasn't the problem I had with this movie.

Written by Steven Knight and directed by Pablo Larrain, if I didn't know better, I would think this film was backed by the royal family themselves to show what they had to put up with and to justify their actions.  Though beautifully produced and well-acted, there was just no context to what led up to how nutty Diana was acting in this film. Yes, there were some snippets of a lonely little child (Diana's mother ran off with another man) and Diana's need for love but all of that was so fleeting, if you didn't already know her story, it certainly wouldn't justify this characterization of her. The filmmakers probably thought they could get off the hook with all of the liberties they took with Diana's story by stating at the outset that this film is a "fable."  But I'm not letting them.  This was a horror story.

And what makes me the most mad is this: 

Remember, Diana died almost 25 years ago.  There is a whole generation of people who probably don't really know the details of Diana's life, what she went through, how she overcame it and the good that she did.   Princess Diana was a young woman who was fed to the royal lions at age 19, eventually found herself and became an advocate for those who couldn't speak for themselves. But this movie shows nothing of that and paints a very negative portrait of her and I can't stand to think of her remembered this way. So I didn't appreciate this very dark portrayal of a dead woman who can't now speak for herself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...can you tell that this movie made me really mad? It was a huge disappointment.  Save your money. 

King Richard (2021)

How Venus and Serena Williams rose to the highest echelons of the tennis world – because their dad Richard Williams, had a plan for them even before they were born.
This is a biopic done right, and it’s also Will Smith as you have never seen him. If you didn’t know it was Will Smith, I would bet you would not recognize him here playing Venus and Serena's Dad, Richard Williams, a man who had a plan for his daughters and who carried it out. He transforms himself and is just wonderful.
And speaking of Richard Williams, think about it, this guy was an African American with five daughters living in Compton, California in the 1990’s. His wife worked as a nurse by day, he worked security by night and spent all of his free time working with his daughters, keeping them focused, prepping them to win at tennis, up until then, predominantly a sport for white people who could afford the country club. He was a controversial figure who faced racism and barriers but, he had an unwavering plan. His motto: “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail” and he instilled that in his daughters.
With a screenplay by Zach Baylin and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, this is also a great sports movie with lots of tennis footage, but you don’t need to like tennis to love this movie, but if you are a tennis fan, you will love it even more. And the epilogue will make you cry.

Smith is joined by an outstanding ensemble cast highlighted by performances by Aunjanue Ellis in a small but pivotal role as Richard's wife and Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena respectively. It all adds up to a wonderful film experience not to be missed.
Rosy the Reviewer says…Just an extraordinary performance by Will who doesn't often get props for his acting. This time he has been rewarded with a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination. I expect that the Academy will also recognize him. This should be on your list of Must Sees!
(In theatres and on HBO Max)

CODA (2021)

A young hearing teen, whose family is deaf, is torn between caring for her family and striking out on her own.

Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) is a CODA, a Child of Deaf Adults. Her parents Frank (Troy Kotsur) and Jackie (Marlee Matlin) are both deaf as is her brother, Leo (Daniel Durant), and as the only hearing member of her family, interpreting their sign language for others is one of her main duties. The family lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts and Frank and Leo are both fisherman. It's a hardscrabble life as prices for their fish go lower and lower. But they are a close-knit, loving family. As for Ruby, she is a high school student and we learn that she was bullied as a child because "she talked like a deaf person," which makes sense if she didn't have speech role models who were hearing people. She has some insecurities and is still being bullied by the "mean girls," but Ruby is slowly starting to literally find. her voice. She joins the high school glee club where she is befriended by the music teacher (Eugenio Derbez), who though he employs tough love to his students and is not easily impressed, he thinks Ruby has talent and encourages her to apply to the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

So that's the plan until the family fishing business takes a hit.

When the family realizes that the fishermen are being taken advantage of by big business, they strike out on their own and form a fishing co-op, but then Ruby's father and brother are busted by the Coast Guard, because they are not supposed to be out on the boat without a hearing person - and they face losing the business unless Ruby stays home and continues to act as the ears of the family and ride with her father and brother on the boat. Ruby has a beautiful singing voice and wants to go to college and develop her talent. But her parents need her to be their voice. They don't want her to go. What to do, what to do, when you are a caring, loving, responsible girl?

Let's just say there is lots and lots of family guilt aimed at Ruby. But then her brother gives her a pep talk. Remember that scene in "Good Will Hunting," where Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon if he doesn't get out of the town and make something of himself, he's a pussy? Well, this is like that and, thus, there is another kind of coda at work here, the musical one and the figurative one that marks a conclusion...a happy Ruby's very moving college audition that will make you cry.

Based on the 2014 French comedy "La Famille Belier" and adapted and directed by Sian Heder, this is a fairly predictable coming-of-age tale. A kid has a dream but has to choose between the dream and (you fill in the blanks).


Despite the predictability of the plot, the film is saved by the charm of lead actress Jones and her co-stars who are all deaf actors in real life and the insight this film provides into a story you don't see or hear much about - a deaf family, a young hearing girl with lives in two different worlds - the deaf world and the hearing world - and the profound love and respect among the family members, despite their differences. It's all very real. The family may be deaf but they share the same concerns and issues as everyone else.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a satisfying film marked by a wonderful, real story and wonderful real performances. Recently nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture-Drama, this charming and heart-warming film already has 53 other nominations and 21 wins. It's a must!
(Now streaming on Apple+)


Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

"Respect" and Some Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect" as well as "tick, tick...BOOM!," "Old," "The Guilty," "Val (a documentary about Val Kilmer)," and "Yellow Rose," a little indie film about a Filipina girl who wants to be a country singer]

Shoulder surgery recovery is coming along and 2021 will soon be behind me, so thank you for listening to me whine, but now I don't feel the need to go on about it any more.  Let's get back to what I do best - reviewing some good films (and warning you about some films you should avoid)!

Rosy the Reviewer is back!

Respect (2021)

Aretha Franklin gets some respect with this biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who as a singer and actress is worthy of bringing Aretha back to life.

But that's kind of the problem here.  A little too much respect and not enough life.

Divas come and go but some live forever and Aretha is one of those - she lives forever in this respectful biopic that reveals aspects of her life most people might not have known about, that she stopped speaking after her mother died and later in life she had a drinking problem that almost sidelined her career. Sadly, this film skirts another issue you might not know about - that she had two children before the age of 15, her first pregnancy at the age of 12 after sexual abuse by a family friend. How does someone get over something like that and become one of the greatest singers of all time?  Yes, the film implies the first early pregnancy but then leaves it out there. It doesn't dig deep into that aspect of her life and how it affected her. In fact, at one point in the film, she says "I'm going to say goodbye to my children," and I said, "What?  She has more than one?"   

As I said, as the title implies, this film written by Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Tommy Liesl, is very respectful of Franklin, so it's not surprising that the film did not dwell on those early pregnances since she did not like to discuss what happened to her as a young girl.

One can't help but compare this film to the eight-part TV mini-series "Genius:Aretha" starring Cynthia Erivo as Aretha that played on the National Geographic Channel earlier in the year and, in my opinion, did a better job of revealing all of the personal details of Franklin's life. Certainly, eight 50-minute episodes have plenty of room to give all of those details, but at two-and-a-half hours, this feature film could have done better, especially since it only covers her life up to 1972.  However, I have to say, in both cases, they were too long and failed to capture the heart and soul that was Aretha Franklin.

Here the first hour kind of drags and it's only when Aretha gets rid of her Dad (Forest Whitaker) and sets off on her own that the film takes off, though "takes off" is high praise.  In fact, the film doesn't really leave the runway. This is a traditional biopic that mechanically checks off the main points of Franklin's life up to the release of her gospel album, "Amazing Grace."  Raised in Detroit by her minister father who had divorced her mother, Franklin was a gospel star in her church from a young age.  Her father would wake her up at night to sing for party guests so it's no surprise that a gospel album would turn out to be her biggest-selling album ever.

Franklin hand-picked Hudson to play her and she does a good job dramatically and vocally and almost saves the film. I say almost. She is joined by some acting stalwarts but sadly the film lacked heart.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a big Aretha or Jennifer Hudson fan, you might enjoy this but as for me, it was a missed opportunity to really shed light on an American icon and instead found it to be a kind of a soap opera snooze fest. (On DVD and for rent on most sites)

 tick, tick...BOOM! (2021)

A young man tries for years to make it on Broadway.

What a cruel irony that composer/ playwright Jonathan Larson, who tried for years to get his plays produced on Broadway and who faced rejection after rejection, should die suddenly at age 36 the morning that his play “Rent” was to preview on Broadway, a play that would go on to great success and change the face of Broadway musicals. But it’s a happy irony that this play by and about Larson was directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, another composer/playwright whose play “Hamilton” also changed the face of Broadway musicals almost 20 years later. And it’s a film you do not want to miss.
“Tick Tick Boom” was a solo work that Larson performed off-off Broadway during the early 1990’s before “Rent” and was made into a three-actor musical play after his death. It’s an autobiographical piece about “Jon” and his trials and tribulations as he tries to make it on Broadway. As his 30th birthday approaches, he laments that time is ticking away and that he will never make it.
Andrew Garfield, as you have never seen him, stars in this film version of Larson’s play making his singing debut. Vanessa Hudgens and Alexandra Shipp also star along with others you will recognize. Garfield is quite wonderful. He can not only sing, he can dance! Lin even makes a cameo appearance as do many Broadway greats in a song about Sunday brunch (see if you can spot them).
The film (screenplay by Steven Levenson) is a musical about making a musical and it does a good job of integrating parts of Larson’s original play into this film version of his life as he not only tries to make it on Broadway with his scifi musical "Superbia," but is also dealing with his best friend and roommate moving out, losing his girlfriend and a friend in the hospital dying of AIDS. As he turns 30, Jon's life really does seem like a ticking time bomb.

The music is wonderfully original and the songs all have the hallmarks of those in “Rent.” In fact, this film reminds us of just how groundbreaking Larson’s work was, creating a modern day “La Boheme,” but adding themes that were happening in real life, embracing difficult subjects like HIV/Aids, homophobia, poverty and drug addiction.
“Rent” didn’t open until 1996 and Larson never would know what a success it would become and how it would change musical theatre forever, but nevertheless, his play “Tick Tick Boom” and this film version end on a note of hope.

Rosy the Reviewer says…sadly, when Larson wrote and starred in “Tick Tick Boom,” he didn’t know that his life was also ticking away and that he didn’t have long to live but his talent and creativity lives on in “Rent” and this wonderfully charming musical film that made me cry. I cried partly because of Larson but also because this was such a wonderful film. If you love musicals, this is a must, and even if you think you don’t love musicals, this is still a must!
(Now streaming on Netflix)

Old (2021)

You are on the vacation of a lifetime - a deal you found on the Internet - only to discover that you could die of old age on the beautiful beach you are sunning yourself on. What?
Nothing like some good, old-fashioned horror from the likes of director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense,” “Signs,” “Split) to get over the horror of hanging out with family members over the holidays.
The film starts out in classic horror mode – unsuspecting family of four - Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal), Prisca (Vicky Krieps) and their two children Maddox (Alexa Swinton) and Trent (Nolan River) - heads to a tropical resort for the vacation of a lifetime and everything seems fine. Yes, they have some personal issues – medical and marital – but the couple decide to put those issues aside, compartmentalize and give the kids a great vacation. And as Prisca, the wife, says, “Can you believe I found this place online?”
BUT…yes, well, everything seems fine, but there is this little thing…a special beach that they and others are invited to by the resort manager. They are taken there on a bus (note the driver is Shyamalan himself) along with a doctor named Charles (Rufus Sewell), his wife Chrystal (Abbey Lee) and the doctor's mother, Agnes (Kathleen Chalfant), and their daughter Kara (Mikaya Fisher). There is also married couple Jarin (Ken Leung) and Patricia (Nikki Amuka-Bird). When they all arrive they meet a rapper named Mid-Sized Sedan (Aaron Pierre). His nose is bleeding and... is that a dead body on the beach? Special beach, indeed.

Turns out, this special beach is a place where cells age at an accelerated rate and one could die of old age in a matter of hours. The cells in the kids are particularly susceptible. Let’s just say that a little girl manages to go through puberty and adolescence and not only get pregnant but give birth within hours of arriving on the beach and then for the older folks, there is dementia, hearing loss, blindness and death, all developed by some of our unlucky heroes, all in the course of one day. Oh, and did I say that no one is able to get off the beach?
We all fear getting old and not being able to escape the passage of time is a great topic for a horror film and the ensemble cast does a good job with what they have to work with, but at times, the dialogue is over-dramatic and quite laughable. Adapted for the screen by Pierre-Oscar Levy (from his graphic novel "Sandcastle" with Frederik Peeters), this is one of those films destined to become a cult classic, because it’s so bad it’s good. At certain points, I thought I was watching a comedy. But that’s not a bad thing. I thought the whole thing was great fun, in a horror sort of way. I love all of Shyamalan's films because even when they shouldn't work, they do!
Rosy the Reviewer says…If you fear getting old, this might not be for you, but if you are already old, it’s a hoot. If you liked the series, “Nine Perfect Strangers,” you might like this one, because it’s kind of like that. And the moral of the story? Beware of online deals!
(Available on DVD and to rent through the usual sites)

The Guilty (2021)

A police officer who has been assigned 911 dispatcher duty is in a race against time to save a kidnapped woman.

I had a negative attitude about this film since it is a remake (you know I hate remakes) of a 2018 Danish film that I loved.  My feelings about most remakes is why try to improve on something that is already wonderful.  In the case of the Danish film, it and its star, Gustav Moller, had won 40+ awards.  But I know...Americans don't like reading subtitles so "foreign" films are ripe for poaching, and though I'm not a fan of remakes, surprisingly this remake directed by Antoine Fuqua with a screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto is faithful to the original and actually good. And if making an English version of this film will get viewers, then I am all for it because this film needs to be seen.  It's that good.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays LAPD officer Joe Baylor who has had some issues and been demoted to the night shift at a 911 call center while he awaits a court hearing for an incident that occurred on duty eight months prior. He's not a happy man and has no problem telling people off who should not be calling 911. But when he answers a call from a woman named Emily Lighton (voice of Riley Keough, Lisa Marie Presley's daughter) who reveals she has been abducted, Joe realizes he is in a race against time. Joe learns that she and her abductor are traveling in a white van, but Emily is forced to hang up before she can provide more details. Joe relays the information to the CHP but they are unable to locate the van without a license plate number.

Joe calls Emily's home phone and speaks with her six-year-old daughter Abby, who tells Joe that her mom left the house with her dad and she is alone with her baby brother, Oliver. Joe then calls his former partner Rick (Eli Goree), who is off-duty, and asks him to visit Henry's house. When the officers arrive at Emily's house, they find baby Oliver gravely injured in his crib. And then Joe and we realize that nothing is as it appears.

Jake Gyllenhaal has always been a good actor but here he excels in pretty much a one-man-show as we watch Joe play out this emergency in real time on the phone. It's a white knuckle experience for us and for Joe.

Rosy the Reviewer's an idea.  See this one and then see the original Danish film and compare.  Then get back to me!

Val (2021)

A documentary about actor Val Kilmer - you know, the "I'm your huckleberry" guy.

Val Kilmer has said that he may look like a leading man but he's really a character actor. You would never know he was once a leading man in this documentary that follows him now as he attends fan conventions and lives his life after suffering from disfiguring throat cancer and the loss of his voice (though he can speak through a voice box).

The film spans 40 years with never-before-seen footage - Kilmer's own videos taken over the years - of Kilmer as a young man to the height of his career and now. Kilmer is probably most famous for his stints in "Top Gun" and "Tombstone" and playing Jim Morrison in "The Doors" and Batman in "Batman Forever."  He was married to actress Joanne Whalley and had a reputation as being "difficult" to work with. He was a dichotomy - a successful Hollywood actor who also resented his own success when faced with doing films he didn't approve of. However, before his cancer diagnosis, Kilmer was traveling the country with his pet project, a one-man-show portraying Mark Twain. In 2015, Kilmer was diagnosed with throat cancer and several operations later, his face is now disfigured and his voice has been reduced to a rasp (his son, Jack, plays his Dad in a voice-over narration).  Sadly, Val is no longer a leading man but makes his way attending fan conventions and helping young artists.

Now you might think that this would be a depressing film and that Kilmer would be angry about how his life has turned out, but it's not and he is not.  He attends the conventions and signs autographs because he wants to thank his fans and he realizes he has much to live for and be thankful for.

Leo Scott and Ting Poo are credited as directors but this is a family affair and all Val as he shares his home movies and videos that he compulsively shot over the years. Was he difficult? You decide. At any rate, this is a fascinating look at a fascinating life from the man who lived it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a poignant portrait of Val Kilmer as you have never seen him. (Available on Amazon Prime)

Yellow Rose (2019)

A Filipina teen living in Texas wants to be a country singer. 

Seventeen-year-old Filipina Rose Garcia (Eva Noblezada) lives in a motel in Austin, Texas with her mother, Priscilla (Princess Punzalan), who supports them by running the front desk and cleaning the rooms.  Rose dreams of becoming a country singer, a hill difficult to climb as Rose is not perceived as your classic country singer, though she certainly has the chops. But it doesn't help that Rose and her mother are undocumented and when ICE comes calling and Priscilla is taken away, this story becomes much more than a young girl trying to make it as a country singer. Rose is taken in by her estranged aunt (Lea Salonga) who took a different path, one of assimilation, and is living a middle class life with her wealthy American husband and regretting giving up her Filipino family. Rose is also befriended by country singer Dale Watson (playing himself) who takes her under his wing.

Written by Diane Paragas, Annie J. Howell and Celena Cipriaso and directed by Paragas, this is not just a coming-of-age story, but a story of racial discrimination and our broken immigration system played out as Rose faces roadblock after roadblock trying to find work and find her mother. But there is also some great music too!

Noblezada is a Broadway baby who made her Broadway debut as Kim in a 2017 revival of "Miss Saigon," for which she received a Tony nomination.  She was only 21, becoming one of the youngest nominees.  She received a second Tony nomination in 2019 for originating the role of Eurydice in "Hadestown" on Broadway. She carries this film

Rosy the Reviewer says...a charming coming-of-age story that brings a personal side to the immigration issue.
(Available on STARZ, on DVD or from Direct TV)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!