Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Mixed Bag of Movies - an Animated Feature, a Drama, and a Rom-Com - all with Latin Flair!

[I review the movies "Encanto," "Parallel Mothers" and "Marry Me."]


Encanto (2021)

Everyone in her family has magical powers except Mirabel (voice of Stephanie Beatriz)!

During an armed conflict, Alma and Pedro Madrigal had to flee their village in Colombia with their triplets, Julieta, Pepa and Bruno. Pedro is killed but Alma, left to raise three children alone, manifests a magic candle that protects her and her children and it creates a magical house - the Casita - a house that responds to the family's moods and needs and it is located in a magical, protected place called Encanto.

The candle is still providing protection 50 years later and the house is a miracle house, now in a village where the candle grants magical gifts to every Madrigal child when he or she turns five, gifts like shape shifting, controlling the weather, lifting heavy objects and healing with food. These magical gifts are meant to serve the villagers.  But young 15-year-old Mirabel, Julieta's daughter, had received no gift and appears to be a disappointment to her grandmother, Alma (voice of Maria Cecilia Botero). But Mirabel is a good girl who still wants to make her family proud.

One evening, when 5-year-old Antonio is given the ability to communicate with animals, Mirabel sees the Casita cracking and the candle flickering and an unknown darkness threatening the village, but no one believes her. Then the magical gifts of the other family members start to weaken but stern matriarch Alma will have none of it.  She blames the messenger - Mirabel - for causing the family's problems, saying she is jealous that everyone has a magical power but her and likens her to her Uncle Bruno who was banished from the family for seeing into the future (I guess he also told the family things they didn't want to know)! 

But Mirabel is undaunted.  She knows something is wrong and resolves to save the miracle. She goes to her Uncle Bruno's room, a forbidden tower in the Casita, where Mirabel discovers that Bruno (voice of John Leguizamo) had never left.  She begs him to help, and reluctantly, he does as Mirabel tries to fix various family issues and restore the family's powers.

Animation today sure isn't what it was when I was young.

 But, okay, I'm old.  I actually saw "Peter Pan," "Lady and the Tramp" and "Sleeping Beauty" in their first runs in the theatre, and I can't watch Dumbo visiting his mother in prison without crying my eyes out. That tells you how old I am (Note: I didn't see "Dumbo" in its first run.  I'm not THAT old)! And when I say that animation isn't what it used to be, I am not complaining about today's animation per se.  It's just that it's so different. It's more three-dimensional which is a good thing, but what's with those eyes?  Why do all of the modern day animated kids have those gigantic eyes? Actually, the adult characters have them too! Kind of gives me the creeps.

Written and directed by Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush and Byron Howard, kids will probably enjoy this, but as an adult watching this, I don't know.  I was kind of bored. It felt very basic and slapstick, and it didn't really go anywhere. It's the usual Disney formula - a girl who doesn't quite fit in but who is good and brave, a mission, a silly animal sidekick, sibling rivalry, a surprise villain who is not really a villain, and family rifts healed - but nothing much really happened. Maybe this film needed a real villain so there would have been more conflict. However, the film is beautiful to look at paying tribute to Colombian culture and its diversity, and the Lin-Manual Miranda musical numbers were fun and lively, though, apart from "We Don't Talk About Bruno," not particularly memorable. 

And speaking of the musical numbers, isn't it funny that musical comedies have gone the way of the dinosaurs? They just can't seem to draw an audience anymore.  Movies like "Singin' in the Rain" or "Grease" are few and far between.  Maybe that abysmal version of "Cats" put the nails in the coffin for musicals.  But yet movies with animated characters singing and dancing still seem to draw an audience.  And they often generate big hit songs.  All of our kids can probably sing all of the words of "Let it go" from "Frozen" and from this film "We Don't Talk About Bruno" has taken the world by storm. And in fact, this film is going on tour as a sing-along event (Note: the DVD also has a sing-along feature so you can sing along with the movie at home too)!  So go figure.  I guess we like musical comedies if the characters are animated.

Despite my complaints, the intent of this film is good. It has a good message for kids, and it's a feel good film. Who doesn't love an intrepid young girl saving the day? Who doesn't want to hear that they don't need to change, that they are enough just as they are? Who doesn't want to believe in the importance of family?  

Rosy the Reviewer says...not my favorite Disney film but then, like I said, I'm old. I'm still crying over "Dumbo."  See it for yourself and you decide. (Available on DVD, Disney+ and for rent on most streaming platforms)



Parallel Mothers (2021)


Writer/director Almodovar combines motherhood and political history in this story of two women who give birth on the same day and end up with an unlikely bond.

Pedro Almodovar is one of the all-time great writer/directors. I remember the first time I discovered him.  It was “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and I was enamored by his vibrancy – the originality, the colors and his amazing ability to highlight women.  And that was followed by the controversial “Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down,” starring a young Antonio BanderasI was hooked.  I have not missed a new Almodovar film ever since. 

So here is his latest.

Penelope Cruz, Almodovar’s muse (it’s their eighth film together), stars as Janis, a successful fashion photographer in Madrid, who connects with Arturo (Israel Elejalde), a forensic anthropologist, who she meets so that he can exhume the graves of her grandfather and other townspeople who were killed and buried by Franco’s goons after the Spanish Civil War.  The two also connect in another way…um…and she gets pregnant. But he is a married man and doesn’t want the baby.  She is single and time is running out for her, so they separate and she has the baby.

In the hospital, Janis meets Ana (Milena Smit), a young woman who is also giving birth.  Her story is different.  She is also unmarried, but very young, living with her mother, and she doesn’t know who the father is.  The two women give birth on the same day and forge a bond that becomes very entangled in the present and, ultimately, with the past.

It is clear that Almodovar loves women, and they are often the centerpieces of his films.  And motherhood and friendship are the themes, this time with political overtones as it becomes clear how mothers have, over the years, suffered through so much political upheaval, and how they have had to be strong, raising children alone and helping each other.  Considering what is going on in the world now, how more relevant can he get?

Penelope Cruz received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance, and it was well-deserved.  Though this is not a big, flashy, histrionic performance, she has the ability to be real, to exude poignancy, vulnerability and warmth. Almodovar clearly loves women and Cruz is his perfect muse.  His use of juicy close-ups (that’s what my Dad used to call those up close and personal close-ups of actresses so common in the films of the 30’s and 40’s) says it all and it’s all done with respect and love.

Rosy the Reviewer says…whether it’s comedy or drama, with Almodovar, expect a good story, vibrant colors, beautiful cinematography and twists and turns. Tie me up, tie me down, you will not keep me from Almodovar’s films. I look forward to each and every one. They are all gems. (In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD and for rent on Amazon, Apple+ and Vudu) 



Marry Me (2022)


When singer Kat Valdez (Jennifer Lopez) discovers her singer boyfriend has cheated on her right before they are to be married on stage in front of an audience, Kat impulsively points to a stranger in the audience and marries him!

I have to admit up front that I am a huge Jennifer Lopez fan. I know she is not the best actress in the world nor the best singer, and though she is certainly beautiful, she is not the most beautiful. But there is a certain warmth about her. I want to be her bestie. So because of that, I tend to give her a pass on most things, especially rom-coms, no matter how absurd.
And speaking of rom-coms. I love romantic comedies. Where have they gone? They used to be a constant in our lives and now it’s all superheroes and horror. Romantic comedies seem to get a bad rap by movie snobs, er, in some circles. They are dismissed as silly and unimportant, but since when is love and humor silly and unimportant? And sometimes we just don’t want to have to think too much. We want to chuckle as we watch people fall in love and then cry tears of joy during the credits.
So needless to say, I looked forward to this latest romantic comedy from Jennifer Lopez.

Here she plays Kat Valdez, a singer who has had a huge hit with her singing partner, Bastian (Maluma). The hit song is called “Marry Me” and the two just happen to be in love. They decide to promote the song and themselves by actually getting married on stage during their concert and the wedding is minutes away when Kat discovers that Bastian has been cheating on her. So when she gets on stage, she starts talking to the audience to explain what happened and notices a man in the audience holding a sign that says “Marry me.” So far, so good.

But here is the absurd part. In a moment of grief and then impulse, she points to a stranger in the audience whho is holding a "Marry Me" sign and says “Yes!”
The man is Charlie (Owen Wilson), a math teacher, who just happens to be at the concert with his colleague and his daughter and he just happens to be holding the sign. His daughter made him do it. And, then more of the absurd part, when Kat points at him and says "Yes," he just happens to go up on stage and marries Kat (he doesn’t want to make things worse for her). However, here is a more realistic angle. The two make a deal that she will contribute to his school if he goes along with the marriage for a few months.

And then lots of rom and lots of com and more absurdity ensues. Remember I said I love Jennifer no matter what, right?

Now I know that seems like an unbelievable plot, but c’mon, this is rom-com. You have to suspend disbelief for most of them anyway, but now that we have that TV phenomenon called “Married at First Sight,” maybe this premise isn’t too unbelievable after all. I mean, there are actually some people from that show who are not only still married, but they have kids!
Comedian Sarah Silverman plays the school guidance counselor, which is absurd and funny all by itself, but in its defense, the film written by John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill and directed by Kat Coiro, pays homage to teachers; there is a nod to feminism; and the film comments on celebrity, single parenting, marriage and friendship. And there are lots and lots of performances from J-Lo singing some good songs, one of which – “On My Way” - is likely to get an Oscar nomination for Best Song at the next Academy Awards.
Rosy the Reviewer says…is it so cute you want to pinch someone’s cheek? Yes. Is it silly at times? Yep. Must you suspend disbelief? Duh. But in this time of so much bad news, sometimes you just need something silly and cute and you want to believe. I know I did.
(On DVD, streaming on Peacock Premium and for rent on most platforms)

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 https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

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 IMDB.com, 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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Monday, May 9, 2022

If You Love All Things British - TV, that is

[I review the British TV series "Before We Die," "Ridley Road," "Anatomy of a Scandal" and "A Very British Scandal"]


Before We Die (2021)


A police detective is put in a bad situation when she discovers her son is working as a police informant.

Based on a Swedish series, the story moves from Stockholm to Bristol, England and follows police detective Hannah Laing (Lesley Sharp) who is being leaned on to retire.  She is estranged from her son, Christian (Patrick Gibson), because a couple of years earlier she had him arrested for drug dealing and he ended up in prison.  Duh.  And she wonders why her son is mad at her.  This is an example of more than one bad decision Hannah makes in this series.

Anyway, when the series begins, Hannah is having an affair with Sean (Bill Ward), a married colleague, who had been on Christian's side while he was in prison. When Christian gets out of prison, he starts working as a dishwasher at a Croatian restaurant owned by the Mimica family, a job he was able to get because he shared a cell with Stefan Vargic (Petar Cvirn), whose girlfriend Bianca Mimica (Issy Knopfler) is a member of the Mimica family. But Christian's connection to Stefan becomes precarious when he is attracted to Bianca and she him. 

And then things get really precarious when Christian notices what appears to be criminal activity taking place at the restaurant. He alerts Sean, who, in turn, recruits Christian to continue working there but undercover as an informant for him. It doesn't hurt that Christian understands Croatian (Hannah's ex and Christian's father was Croatian). Then, Sean disappears after telling Hannah he was going to meet an informant and the next time we see him, he is being tortured by some guys with eastern European accents. Not good. And the torture stuff is also not good.

Hannah teams up with Billy Murdoch (Vincent Regan), a former soldier and expert on Eastern European drug gangs (how convenient) to investigate Sean's disappearance.  Billy suspects the Mimica family of running a drugs racket, so Hannah tries to get closer to her son to find out what the heck is going on, and in so doing, gets herself deeply involved in this whole mess and, like I said, makes bad decision after bad decision.

Meanwhile, Christian gains the respect of the family and gets deeper and deeper into the drug smuggling ring. He also gets deeper and deeper into a relationship with Bianca, because dare I say, Christian is a very handsome young man, which doesn't make Stefan very happy and things go from bad to worse, as these sorts of mystery series have a habit of doing. 

I'm not sure if it's the writing or the acting, but there are some major "huh?" and overdramatic moments, and Sharp's Hannah can be very frustrating, and did I say she makes some bad and cringy decisions?  I think I threw my shoe at the screen at least once.  And for the life of me, I could not figure out what the title of this series means, which still bugs me.

But did I mention that young Christian is hot and totally my type?  Oops, scratch that.

Rosy the Reviewer says... but, hey, this is a British mystery series. Even when the Brits don't quite hit the mark, their shows are still better than most of their American counterparts and, though frustrating at times, this one is compelling.
(PBS Masterpiece Channel, Amazon Prime and Apple+)



Ridley Road (2021)


A young Jewish girl from Manchester moves to London and finds herself involved with an anti-Semitic fascist group.

During the 60’s, many of us Baby Boomers longed to go to “Swingin’ London,” visit Carnaby Street and hang out with the Beatles.  I know I did. But what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t all groovy.  In fact, there was some evil taking place – the rise of neo-Nazi fascism.

This four-part series now playing on Masterpiece Theatre (PBS) tells the story of Vivien Epstein (Agnes O'Casey), a young Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, who follows Jack, her unsuitable ex-boyfriend to London, despite the fact her parents have arranged a marriage for her with someone who is suitable.  When she arrives in London, she discovers that Jack has gone underground with the anti-fascist 62 Group, run by her uncle, Soly (Eddie Marsan), and infiltrated the anti-Semitic National Socialist Movement. When Jack mysteriously disappears, Vivien changes her name to Jane, dyes her hair platinum blonde and also goes undercover, catching the eye of the leader, Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear). It’s all about Vivian’s double life and a cat and mouse game as she tries to find Jack.

Created by Sarah Solemani and based on Jo Bloom’s novel and real events (Colin Jordan was a real life bad guy and there really was a battle between the 62 Group and his National Socialist Movement), we see how the neo-Nazis were able to plant the seed in working class communities that Jewish people were responsible for what was wrong in their world. Sadly, there is still that sort of attitude circulating today in the 21st century, making this a timely reminder of how easily Fascism can creep into the world. 

If you enjoy British dramas and can get over the idea that a young hairdresser from Manchester can convincingly infiltrate a neo-Nazi group, you will enjoy this.  I was hooked from the first episode. 

Agnes O’Casey, who plays Vivian/Jane is a compelling young actress with the most expressive eyes. This is her first starring role and I expect not her last. She is on her way!

Rosy the Reviewer says…a high-class melodrama, the kind of series we have come to expect from the Brits, though it stretches credibility at times. However, it's a satisfying series about good vs evil.  And did I say it was timely? (Masterpiece Theatre - PBS)


Anatomy of a Scandal (2022)


A British politician is on his way up when he is accused of rape.

James Whitehouse is a British Tory MP who is accused of rape by one of his younger associates, one he had been carrying on an affair with. Sound familiar? It’s a sensitive subject (quite a few descriptions of sexual violence), so prepare yourselves.

Rupert Friend and Sienna Miller play James and Sophie Whitehouse, who both met at Oxford, married, and now are living happily with their two beautiful children. His political career is thriving and it doesn’t hurt that he is a close friend of the Prime Minister. You see, James and the Prime Minister were also at Oxford together and members of the Libertine Society. With a name like that, you can guess what those boys were up to.

James and Sophie both reek of privilege and life is good until James is accused of rape by a young woman from his office, a young woman he had been having an affair with for five months. Now he must not only deal with the rape charge, but he has to deal with his marriage to Sophie, who had no idea her perfect marriage was no longer perfect.
James is arrested and put on trial and it’s all very much “he said, she said,” as these cases often are, but the prosecutor, Kate Woodcroft (wonderfully played by Michelle Dockery – you know, Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey?”) is determined to nail this guy. Needless to say, she disapproves of James, and no one scowls disapprovingly quite like Michelle. She did that a lot in “Downton Abbey,” and she does it a lot in this series as well.
Once James is arrested, there are the expected courtroom scenes, but then there is a huge twist in episode four that I didn’t see coming. How unlike me. But I loved it. And turns out the scandal isn’t just the rape case against James. There is so much more. The story goes back and forth in time from the college years to the present as the past comes back to haunt all of the main characters.
Rosy the Reviewer says...other than some questionable camera choices, the story is riveting, the acting is wonderful, the ending is satisfying and it’s all over in six episodes. What more could you ask for in a series? (This is Season One in what will be a Netflix anthology series involving various scandals).






Divorces can't get much nastier than this one.
Claire Foy stars as Margaret Whigham Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, and it’s all about her very famous marriage and divorce from Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. Fans of “The Crown” will recognize Claire as the young Queen Elizabeth I in the early seasons of that series. However, clutch your pearls, because, in this, Claire has been transformed into a much less sympathetic character.
It’s the 1960’s and Margaret Whigham is a rich and glamorous debutante with a bad reputation. She meets Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll (Paul Bettany), who is one of those aristocrats with a title and a big pile of a castle that needs fixing up but no money to do it. Oh, and he’s already married with two sons. But Margaret is used to getting what she wants and she wants Ian’s title and that castle, and he wants her money, so wife #1 is out the door. Not exactly the best start for a successful marriage.
Margaret goes about using her money to fund the castle’s restoration and pretty much pays for everything. Oh, and did I mention that Ian isn't very nice? In fact, he is a mean drunk and a drug addict.
However, I am not excusing Margaret. She isn't very nice either. She is a schemer and does some abhorrent things, but she didn't deserve what she got. Let me just say, that when she ran out of money restoring that money pit of a castle, things fell apart. Ian filed for divorce for adultery (he accused her of having sex with just about everybody), she counter sued and an ugly court case full of slut shaming ensued.
Created by Sarah Phelps, this is a fascinating true story with wonderful performances about a time when women, even rich ones, had few rights.
Moral of the story? Ladies, don’t marry a bastard, even if he is a Duke.
This is Season Two of yet another anthology series that dramatizes true British scandals, each series standing alone. After you watch this one, you might want to go back and see Season One which was called “A Very English Scandal” and starred Hugh Grant. That's what I'm going to do.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like true Brit, this is for you and it's a mere three episodes- you can binge it in a weekend whilst enjoying your tea and crumpets (or whatever). That’s what I did. Well, not crumpets. And not tea! (Amazon Prime)

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 https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

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 IMDB.com, 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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What I Watched While Recovering from Covid - Hits and Misses

[I review "House of Gucci," "Lucy and Desi," "Flee," "The French Dispatch," "Life & Beth," and "The Thing About Pam."]

Yep.  I got it.  After getting vaxed and boosted and being careful, I managed to avoid the dreaded Covid for over two years, and then once I thought the world was doing better, and I let my guard down by traveling to Washington State for a party, I GOT IT!

Yuck.  And it's embarrassing.  Admitting to getting Covid is almost like admitting to doing something wrong.  I feel there is a stigma in there somewhere, so in addition to feeling like crap physically, I have to feel like crap that I got it.  

So 5-10 days of quarantine feeling like crap (cough, cough) is one thing, but the worst part?  The boredom and isolation.  So good thing I had lots of content on my beloved telly.  I was entertained. (And I read some books too!)


So here is what I watched:


Movies



House of Gucci (2021)


Family intrigue in the House of Gucci.

I know I am rather late to this party, but there was that little thing called The Pandemic, and I lost interest in going to the theatre, so wasn't able to see this film until it just now showed up for rent on Apple+.  And even though I am late to the party, I wanted to see if this film, along with Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, deserved to be robbed of Oscar nods.  

After all of the buzz around the film and Gaga's and Leto's performances, the film garnered only one Oscar nomination - hair and makeup!  How can that be?  We know Leto will do anything to make his role work.  Who can forget his losing 40 pounds for his Oscar winning role in "The Dallas Buyer's Club?"  And Lady Gaga reportedly kept her Italian accent day and night for nine months while filming this. She was nominated for an Oscar for her first starring role in "A Star is Born." Was that a flash in the pan?

I had to get to the bottom of this!

The film is the true story of the family machinations that brought down the House of Gucci, a powerful fashion brand that dominated the fashion world for much of the mid-20th century. Lady Gaga plays Patrizia Reggiani, a Liz Taylor look-alike, who meets Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) at a party in 1970.  She is beautiful and charming, he rather shy and awkward, but when she heard his name, ka-ching! Patrizia made a point to get herself a date with Maurizio and through sheer force of will, her will, he fell in lover with her.  He didn't have a chance.  Patrizia was a force of nature.  They married but all was not well in the Gucci family.  Maurizio's father, Rodolpho (Jeremy Irons - and no one does bored aristocrat like he does!), did not approve of his only son marrying Patrizia, thinking her a gold digger. Duh. But Patrizia had ambition, more ambition than her husband, and when Rodolpho died, she constantly worked on Maurizio to take out his uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and cousin Paolo (Leto). Patrizia didn't have much to worry about with Paolo.  He was a sad character.  As his own father, Aldo, says about him, "He's an idiot, but he's my idiot."

Maurizio moves up in the company but his marriage to Patrizia fades and he unceremoniously discards her, even though they have a daughter together.  However, Patrizia is not going down without making Maurizio pay. And with the help of her psychic, Pina (Salma Hayek), she plots her revenge. 

So...after watching all two hours and 38 minutes of this film, I have come up with my conclusion.

Somebody associated with this film pi**ed somebody off, because not only should this film have been nominated (I mean it was directed by Ridley Scott, for god's sake!), but both Gaga and Leto were robbed.  They both should have been nominated because their performances were brilliant.  

The film, with a screenplay by Becky Johnston and Roberto Bentivegna (based on the book "The House of Gucci" by Sara Gay Forden), was beautiful to look at and was engaging, all two hours and 38 minutes of it. It captured the opulence of the very rich.  Leto did what he usually does.  He embraced the role fully from his latex face makeup to his fat suit, all making him unrecognizable.  But makeup and prostheses aside, he brought the role of the sad, incompetent Paolo Gucci to life.  And Lady Gaga.  She was amazing in this.  Never once did I think I was watching the superstar singer.  I was watching the beautiful and charming Patrizia Gucci make waves all over Milan and Lake Como.

If we are going to have 10 movie nominations (something I don't agree with, by the way), this one totally deserved to be in that group.  It certainly could have replaced "Drive My Car," which in my opinion did not deserve to be in the Best Picture category.  Likewise, when I compare Best Supporting Actor nominee Jesse Plemons performance in "The Power of the Dog" to Leto's, though a good performance, no comparison.  Likewise, much as I enjoyed J.K. Simmons as William Frawley in "Being the Ricardos," his part was so small, again, no comparison, and much as I like Ciaran Hinds as an actor, I hardly remember him in "Belfast."  In my mind, Leto could have taken one of those places.  

As for Lady Gaga, she should have been nominated for Best Actress instead of Kristin Stewart.  If you read my review of "Spencer," you know I hated that film.  It made a mockery of Princess Diana, and though Stewart's performance was okay, she mimicked Diana's mannerisms but there was no there there.  And then she had the gall to wear shorts to the Oscars!

As for the other actors, Al Pacino was quite wonderful as Aldo Gucci, Maurizio's uncle.  He was uncharacteristically toned down, well, as toned down as Al can get.  Jeremy Irons?  What can't he do? And Adam Driver as Maurizio.  His role was less flashy than the others, but crucial to the film and he was great.  Though he has consistently been nominated for awards, I still feel he is an underrated actor.  You don't hear his name come up in "greatest actors" conversations, but he is right up there.

And as for the film itself, though I am not a fan of movies that run two hours and 38 minutes, this one didn't feel that long.  My gauge on such things is whether or not Hubby stays awake, and he was awake for the entire film!  And the film did move along. It's a fabulous, real life soap opera.  My only other criticism is that I wish there had been more time spent on the ending of Patrizia's and Maurizio's marriage and why she chose to do what she did.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an enjoyable and satisfying film experience that deserved more than one Oscar nomination!


Lucy and Desi (2022)


The rise of Lucy and Desi and how "I Love Lucy" changed Hollywood.

"Being the Ricardos" was a fine dramatization of a time in Lucille Ball's and Desi Arnaz's marriage but this is the real thing.  Directed by Amy Poehler and with the help of Lucy and Desi's daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, who also narrates, this film gives insight into not just Lucy and Desi's marriage but Lucy and Desi themselves.  Lucie shares her mother's tapes and videos, never-before-heard or seen, and from them we see the personal side of Lucy and Desi.

Written by Mark Monroe, the film covers each of their careers - Lucy as a young girl growing up in Jamestown, New York but leaving home early, heading for New York where she modeled and was a chorus girl on Broadway. She was discovered by Hollywood and went under contract with RKO.  She was happy for the work, did what she was told but never really made it past the "B" movies to stardom.

Desi started out in Cuba in a rich family but when the Cuban Revolution of 1933 occurred, Desi's father lost everything and the family fled to Miami.  Desi had musical talent, formed a band, and was discovered by Xavier Cugat which in turn led to him starting his own band, The Desi Arnaz Orchestra, where he played the conga drum and sang.  He was credited with introducing the concept of conga line dancing.

Desi had appeared on Broadway in "Too Many Girls" and when he was called to Hollywood for the movie version, he met Lucy.  They fell in love and married. However, his touring schedule and her work kept them apart for much of their early marriage which led them to think of what they could do together.  And "I Love Lucy" was born.  They did the TV show so they could be together.

In "Being the Ricardos," Nicole Kidman did a good job of portraying some of Lucy's famous comic moments on the show, but there is nothing like seeing the real thing.  This documentary has many of Lucy's funniest moments, reminding us what a gift she had for physical comedy. The irony was that Lucy was not a funny person.  In fact, she was a very serious person who took the work of being funny very seriously. But she was an actress.  She knew how to get a laugh. And more importantly, she was not afraid to look silly or unattractive in order to get that laugh. She put in hours and hours of rehearsal so it would all work.

Though Desi was often overshadowed by Lucy, he was the glue that held it all together, and he turned out to be a good producer. Because the quality of the film that played on the East Coast wasn't very good, he came up with the idea of filming the show live with an audience using three cameras, an innovative concept at the time. He also invented "re-runs." Desi and Lucy formed Desilu Productions and eventually bought RKO Pictures, the very studio where Lucy had been under contract and where they had met. Desilu was responsible for such TV shows as "Star Trek," "The Untouchables," "Mission Impossible," and so many more. 

But over time, it all became too much for Desi. He just didn't enjoy it, and the marriage suffered. Lucy and Desi divorced, married others, but always maintained a close relationship until Desi's death.

Like "Being the Ricardos," the documentary also deals with Lucy being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee for registering as a Communist but doesn't dwell there as much as the dramatization did.

Seeing this old footage from the "I Love Lucy" show brought back so many memories.



I was five years old when we got our first TV, so I guess I must have started watching Season 2 (the show started in 1951).  Funny how I remembered every bit of the footage shown and it's still so funny. And it was groundbreaking as well.  Never had a pregnancy been a focal point of a TV show before.

Bette Midler, Carol Burnett, and Norman Lear all weigh in about the influence Lucy had on television and on them. Lucy was dedicated to helping other women come up and Carol and Bette share their experiences and friendship with Lucy.

Those of you who grew up with Lucy and Desi will love this and so will those of you who didn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fitting tribute to television icons (Amazon Prime).


Flee (2021)


An animated documentary about a man forced to flee Afghanistan as a boy and the secret he had to live with.

Despite the fact that this film had three Oscar nominations this year – Best International Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature Film – you might not know about it, but now you will. And that’s a good thing because this is one of the best films of 2021 and you don’t want to miss it.

This Danish film, written and directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, is the true and harrowing story of Amin Nawabi (not his real name), an Afghan refugee who shares his story about fleeing Afghanistan as a young refugee. Amin had fled Afghanistan after the Mujahideen took control in the 1990’s and arrived in Copenhagen alone. Rasmussen and Nawabi met as teens and became friends with Rasmussen eventually becoming a film director and Amin becoming an academic. As adults, they reconnect for this documentary so that Amin can tell his story.

The story begins with the adult Amin lying on a couch looking straight ahead telling his story for the first time, beginning with his childhood in Afghanistan, a happy one until his father was taken away by the communists in the 1980’s. When the Mujahideen gained power, the family – Amin’s mother, two sisters and brother - escaped to Russia where, overstaying their visas, they lived a fearful life, until Amin’s other older brother in Sweden was able to help. Several harrowing attempts to escape with traffickers ended badly – imagine being in a container on a container ship with inadequate food, water or air. Finally, Amin is chosen to make his way alone, and when he surrenders himself to Danish officials, asking for refugee status, he must tell a lie that haunts him into his adulthood and is the reason he needs anonymity for this film.

And then there is the side story. Amin knew he was gay from a very young age but there wasn’t even a word for homosexual in Afghanistan. He felt it was something that would bring shame on his family so he kept it to himself and now as an adult he is having trouble committing to marriage to his partner, Kasper.

Though this is a documentary, it is mostly animated, an unusual device for a documentary, but it works, and it provides anonymity for the characters. And considering what is going on in the Ukraine right now, and the on-going refugee crisis around the world, it’s very timely. The film shows the horrors of what so many of our fellow humans have gone through and are going through to escape persecution and find a place of freedom and safety in this world, things many of us take for granted. This film is a compelling and poignant plea for compassion for refugees that ends on a note of hope. Keep some tissues handy.

I always think I don’t like animated movies anymore. Been there, done that (thank you, Mr. Disney). I’m all grown up now. I don’t do animated films, but then I take the plunge, surprise myself, and in so doing, discover some wonderful films like this one.

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Rosy the Reviewer says…a chilling yet poignant reminder of the plight of refugees. Refugees are not immigrants. Most immigrants have time. Refugees must flee! A must see film!
(Hulu and on DVD)





Wes Anderson's homage to journalists.

For some, writer/director Wes Anderson is an acquired taste…and it’s a taste I have acquired! I have loved his movies. From “Rushmoreto “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” to The Isle of Dogs,you can count on Anderson to bring original, funny, and yes, sometimes weird, movies to the screen. And obviously actors galore have acquired the taste as well. Everyone seems to want to work with him and this film is no exception.

This time Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Henry Winkler, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet and Owen Wilson star along with too many others to list. Okay, I will list some more: Elizabeth Moss, Willem Defoe, Liv Schreiber. Did I miss anyone? I actually did. There are more.
This is Anderson’s homage to journalists, specifically those who worked for “The New Yorker,” a distinguished cast of journalists, but here the magazine is called “The French Dispatch,” published out of a little French town called Ennui-sur-Blasé, which is quite funny all by itself. The film plays out as a series of articles from the magazine where the viewer literally steps into the articles – an obituary, a travel guide and three feature articles
.
In the first of the feature articles, Benicio del Toro plays Moses Rosenthaler, an imprisoned murderer who also paints. His female prison guard (Lea Seydoux - gee, I forgot to mention her) acts as his nude model when she’s not putting him back into his strait jacket and “guarding” him. His abstract painting of her becomes famous with the help of the Cadazio Uncles and Nephews Gallery led by Adrien Brody.

In the second segment, Anderson pays homage to the French student movement of the 60’s as writer Frances McDormand gets romantically involved with Zeffirelli (Chalamet), one of the leaders of the youth movement, thus losing her objectivity for her story.

And finally, Jeffrey Wright (sheesh, someone else I forgot to mention!) plays food writer, Roebuck Wright, a James Baldwin-esque writer, who while interviewing the special police chief, whose job is to provide special food for the police, gets involved in a kidnapping.

Written by Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Hugo Guinness, the film is a sort of anthology with each segment able to stand on its own. There are all kinds of literary allusions and insider jokes relating to the New Yorker and its writers and the art and culture of New York and Paris during the mid 20th century, and it can be fun to try to catch those, not to mention recognizing all of the actors who come and go. It's all very French and satiric, and Anderson uses absurdist humor in parts 1 and 2 respectively to comment on "What is art?" and youth protests. Not sure what the third one was doing, but props to Anderson for paying homage to journalists of that era, journalists who wrote beautifully and took risks. It is a good reminder of a time when print media was king. Sadly, that has mostly been replaced by the “anything goes” Internet.

It's all unmistakably a Wes Anderson film, a dizzying array of madcap antics and beautiful images, something you can count on from Anderson, but it's not one of my favorite Anderson films. Points for ambition, but I think he just tried to do too much. There is a lot going on at all times and some of it is incomprehensible. It has the feel of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” but, for me, not as much fun. I was scratching my head too much.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you are an Anderson fan, this might be a disappointment. It was for me.
(HBO)

TV


Life & Beth (2022)


Beth is 40, unmarried, and childless and wondering how she got there and where she is headed.

I know that Amy Schumer can be polarizing, because she is not afraid to "go there."  Some of the things that come out of that innocent face of hers...but women comics have had a difficult road. Women often aren't considered funny.  John Belushi famously said his female counterparts on SNL were not funny, Jerry Lewis said female comedians weren't funny and author/journalist Christopher Hitchens said women in general were just inherently not funny.  But what did they know?  Belushi didn't live a very smart life, Lewis didn't respect women and was supposedly an abuser and Hitchens was just a grouch.

I admit up front I am an Amy fan.  And she proved her worth at the Oscars when she came out after the slap heard round the world and said, "Did I miss anything?" Brilliant. Even before that she and Wanda and Regina were killing it as hosts. And they were funny! 

But whether you are an Amy fan or not, this series shows a very different side of her.  Yes, it's funny and she still goes there, but she is toned down. She almost plays straight woman to a cast of odd characters. You see, Beth (Schumer) is not a particularly happy women.  She is a wine cellar rep who feels the clock is ticking on her life.  She is almost 40, unmarried, childless and then her mother dies and her mother's death shakes up her life. 

So Beth moves out of Manhattan, back to her childhood town and home on Long Island, where she has to confront many painful childhood memories and try to rekindle her relationship with her sister, Ann (Susannah Flood). In flashbacks, between Beth's middle school years and her adulthood, we see where Beth's angst came from: middle school bullying, her parents' divorce, her mother's affair with her best friend's father, the constant stream of new men coming and going in her mother's life, a boating accident that ruined her high school volleyball career and her dealing with all of that by pulling her hair out.

But she also meets John (Michael Cera), a local farmer who doesn't seem to have a filter.  He's a nice guy but very flat and socially awkward and just too darn honest.  Perhaps Beth needs that. But underneath that flat exterior he also has a sense of humor, though an odd one.  He thinks it's fun to read out loud the items for sale for less than $100 in his local paper.  And, actually, you know what?  It was quite funny.  I need to do that.

Perfect casting for the young Beth (Violet Young) and was that David Byrne playing Beth's doctor? Michael Rappaport plays Beth's ne'er do well father, Leonard, the kind of Dad who thinks it's funny when his daughters are entering the kitchen to pretend he is going to put their poodle in the microwave. Now he is practically homeless and losing his memory. In flashbacks, we meet Beth's mother, Jane (Laura Benanti) as Beth relives their sometimes unhappy relationship. Excellent casting all around.

What I love about Amy is that she is unafraid to say just about anything.  She pushes the envelope.  Her bits don't always work, but I appreciate what she does. Her comedy is all about shattered expectations and awkward situations - life! - and she is always all in. She has no problem making fun of herself and she's not a skinny bitch.  She's a real girl. She makes me smile. 

Created by Amy and written by Amy and a team of co-writers (she also directed four episodes), this is taken from her own life and she tackles the age old issue of confronting our parents' weaknesses and faults, realizing how those have influenced us, forgiving them and then moving on. This is a raw, more poignant Amy Schumer, and, yes, she still goes there, but there is a sweetness to where she goes.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's all very droll but its a side of Amy you have never seen and a satisfying little series about grief, forgiveness, empowerment and hope. (Hulu)



The Thing About Pam (2022)


Who really killed Betsy Faria?

It’s difficult to know whether to take this seriously or not, though it’s a very serious subject. As Keith Morrison would say, it’s all about mu-u-u-r-der. And speaking of Keith Morrison, he actually narrates this dramatization of the Betsy Faria murder case that has been all over the news lately making us think that we are watching a “Dateline” re-enactment. And we kind of are, because "Dateline" was the first to blow the whistle on Pam Hupp, the "star" of this story, and they don't want you to forget that. But it’s actually a drama series starring Renee Zellwegger in a fat suit as Pam Hupp, the woman at the center of this murder case.

You see, Betsy’s husband, Russ (Glenn Fleshler), was actually convicted of killing his wife, Betsy, and went to jail. He was basically railroaded by an overzealous D.A. (Judy Greer), an incompetent judge and the testimony of Betsy's "friend," Pam Hupp, who testified that Russ was an abusive husband. Nevermind that Betsy had made Pam the beneficiary of her life insurance. Never mind that Russ had an alibi. If it wasn’t for Joel Schwartz (Josh Duhamel), Russ's very zealous lawyer who believed in his innocence, Pam’s husband would still be rotting in prison. And it was Schwartz who believed it was really Pam who murdered Betsy. And Pam went on to commit more crimes to cover her deed.

But why? Why would Pam, who seemed like such a nice Middle American woman, kill her best friend and frame her husband?

The first couple of episodes seem rather silly and odd considering the subject matter and may put you off, but stick with it. It gets better and I think the whole point of the style of this series is to show that seemingly nice, ordinary people, like your next door neighbor, can turn out to be killers. Because, you see, the thing about Pam? She was just so...nice. And, oh, yeah, she turned out to be a killer. Life is a tragicomedy sometimes, right?

Renee is behind this series along with Jason Blum of the Blumhouse horror movie factory, behind such films as the Purge series and "Paranormal Activity." But Blumhouse also does lighter, almost comic horror, like "Happy Death Day" and "The Hunt," and this would fall into that category.

Along with the mystery of who killed Betsy Faria, there is also the mystery of why Renee would want to play Pam Hupp considering the fat suit and all of the makeup she would have had to endure and Pam certainly is not a sympathetic character. But obviously this story was a fascination for her, and if you have seen live footage of Pam, you can see that Renee does an excellent job of capturing her. I actually forgot at times that I was watching Renee Zellwegger.

True crime purists might quibble over the quirky style of this series but, hey, we true crime lovers also have a sense of humor, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says…the thing about this series? It's love it or hate it. I grew to love it. I mean, Keith Morrison narrating? Renee in a fat suit? I enjoyed the ride because I love true crime, I love Keith and I am fascinated by fat suits! And Renee was clearly having a blast!
(Hulu, Peacock, Apple+)


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