Monday, February 28, 2022

More Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review the films "Last Night in Soho," "Swallow," "On the Rocks" and "No Time to Die" - I know you know about this last one, but I will share something you might not know... read on]


Last Night in Soho (2021)


A psychological thriller about a young present day fashion designer who finds herself back in the 1960's where she has some strange and frightening adventures.

Young Eloise, "Ellie" (Thomasin McKenzie), a sheltered girl from Cornwall gets the opportunity to go the London College of Fashion, but her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) is not sure she should go.  "London can be a lot."  And grandma is right.  She has reason to be fearful because her own daughter, Ellie's mother, went to London to be a designer and ended up committing suicide.  But Ellie is determined.

When Ellie gets to London, she discovers that the girls in her dorm are much more sophisticated than she is and not friendly, so she moves out of the dorm and finds a room in Soho in the home of Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg in her last role before her death). Ellie is obsessed with the 1960's and somehow she is able to go back in time to the 1960's. It would have been nice to have some sort of explanation of how that happens, for example did she get bopped on the head like the kid in "Yesterday?" Is she dreaming?  Did she find a worm hole?  But that's okay - I liked this film anyway.

I liked this film because the 1960's was my young world, and boy, did I want to live in London.  I had a bad case of Anglophilia.  No, that's not a disease.  It's a love of all things British.

So I enjoyed following Ellie as she wandered around 1960's London living vicariously through Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, who helped us all get through the early days of the pandemic with her wonderful performance in "The Queen's Gambit"), an aspiring singer.  Ellie even takes on Sandie's look in real life - the blonde hair, the minidress - and uses Sandie as inspiration for her designs in fashion school. At first it's all fun and exciting, but as the film progresses there is a sense of foreboding and things start to go all wrong for Ellie and for Sandie. Ellie is haunted by her mother's ghost and Sandi meets Jack (Matt Smith), who uses Sandie's drive for success to lure her into a dark world.  Maybe the 60's weren't so magical after all.

Directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed "Baby Driver" and one of my favorite films, "Shaun of the Dead," this is part pschological thriller, part time-traveling murder mystery, part ghost story and part horror film.  The story by Wright (screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns) starts out strong but, I have to say that it could have been about 30 minutes shorter and the big twist ending was totally OTT (that's brit-speak for over the top).  But the film is very atmospheric and Anya Taylor-Joy is always, well, a joy with McKenzie keeping right up with her and providing a good contrast.

Actors Rita Tushingham, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, who has a pivotal role, all fixtures of 1960's shows and films, add an authentic feel, though it's difficult to see how old they all look now, especially considering I was around in the 1960's too!  But it was great to see them.  Another bonus is the wonderful 60's soundtrack - Dusty singing "Wishin' and Hopin," Petula Clark singing "Downtown," Peter and Gordon singing "A World Without Love." Brought back a lot of memories.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if like me, you have always wanted to experience the "Swinging London" of the 1960's, this atmospheric film is for you, even if it's a bit OTT. (on DVD and available to rent on Amazon, Vudu and Apple+)

  


Swallow (2019)


Hunter (Haley Bennett), an overwhelmed housewife, feels compelled to swallow dangerous objects.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  Ew.  Yes, there is an "ew factor" to this, but this is also a very compelling film.

Hunter is a soft-spoken young woman who wants to be the best wife to her rich and on-his-way-up husband, Richie (Austin Stowell).  He loves her in his way but doesn't validate her, and Hunter just can't seem to speak up for herself.  Just telling her husband she made a decision about the color for their new drapes seems to be a huge deal for her.  Add to the mix her husband's father (David Rasche) and mother (Elizabeth Marvel), both of whom look down on Hunter.  There is the sense that Hunter isn't good enough for their son. After all, she worked in a department store selling toiletries.  Hunter cleans the pool, cooks, has sex with her husband whenever he wants it but there is the sense that she isn't good enough. 

Then Hunter becomes pregnant and everyone is over the moon but Hunter is just overwhelmed. She has no power in her home and now she has no power over her body.  She is very insecure about speaking up or having an opinion and feels like she is not living up to her husband's expectations. She is clearly her husband's possession, not his equal. Think Stepford Wives. She is a kind soul who is over her head amongst more sophisticated people, all of whom have agendas.

She says to her husband, "I just want to make sure I'm not doing anything wrong." 

At dinner one night with Austin's parents, Hunter starts crunching on ice cubes. And then later, just like that, she swallows a push pin.  Yes, that was horrifying, but to Hunter it was a victory.  Now she has some power.  A secret life. And it's all downhill from there, especially when her husband finds out, not only what she has been doing, but a secret that Hunter has been carrying her whole life.

Now many women deal with issues like that by turning to drink or drugs or they stop eating but Hunter falls victim to a little known disorder - Pica - which involves swallowing all sorts of dangerous objects from push pins to batteries to needles.  Like I said, the "ew factor" is huge but think of all of those horror films you have watched. This is a kind of horror story, but this time there are no ghosts or monsters at work, just personal demons. But despite the subject matter, you will want to know what is going to happen to her.  Will Hunter escape the cold, sterile environment in which she finds herself? Will she find her voice?

So what's the point of this?  What's to be learned?

Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, this film gives insight into how some people, who feel helpless and powerless and not seen, can feel some power. What happens to women who feel they need to be quiet and compliant, to women who have no voice?  Somehow that voice will come out as a silent scream of compulsion and addiction. And having a secret life can give a person a sense of power. Bennett brings Hunter to life in a beautiful, believable performance.

I was riveted to this film despite its subject matter.  My only criticism is the ending is a bit much, and I would think very controversial in some circles, but overall, this was an original and interesting story well executed. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...highly recommended but...watch out the next time you hear someone crunching ice cubes. (On DVD, AMC+ and Direct TV)


On the Rocks (2020)


A young mother reconnects with her playboy dad over her husband's possible infidelity.

I have never quite bought into Bill Murray as a dramatic actor.  I could never get his silly SNL characters out of my mind. It always looked like he was smirking his way through his roles. But then Sofia Coppola got a hold of him for "Lost in Translation" and found just the right character for him. He was subdued and poignant. I bought it. Since then he did well in "St. Vincent" and "Monuments Men" so I have given up my misgivings. But he hasn't really done much dramatic stuff of late, but then here comes Sofia again with just the right role for him. And once again, he puts in a subdued and poignant performance. They get each other, I guess.

Laura (Rashida Jones) is a writer with writer's block.  She also has children to take care of and a hard-working husband (Marlon Wayans) who is never home.  The thrill is gone and, what makes matters worse, is that Laura thinks her husband is having an affair. Her playboy dad, Felix (Murray), one of those charmers who is a stranger to no one, stops his jet setting ways to come and help her deal with her fears. He is such a charmer that he not only talks a cop out of giving him a ticket, but the cop offers to help jump start his car! However, rather than making Laura feel better, Felix feeds the flames of that fear by saying that men are basically not monogamous.  But he wants to help so the two go on an odyssey around New York City trying to catch her husband and adventures ensue.  Sound familiar? As "Lost in Translation" was a love letter to Tokyo, this does the same for New York City.

There is a little motif that plays out during the film. Laura can no longer whistle since she had a baby.  Gee, I wonder what's going to happen at the end of the film. Let's just say Laura holds her own and finds her voice and that's not a spoiler.  Even though you can probably figure out how it's going to go, in the meantime you can enjoy the ride because this is a satisfying and enjoyable film. And I am happy to report that Rashida Jones holds her own as an actress against that big on-screen personality that is Bill Murray.

I mean, when we are in trouble, don't we all want our dads to swoop down and help us?  But at the same time, though that is really nice, we women have to learn to take care of ourselves and that also often comes from our Dads.  My Dad was always there to help me but he also gave me the confidence to make my way on my own. That's what is happening here.

Coppola wrote and directed this father-daughter love story, and the dialogue is real and believable.  You are brought into this father-daughter world and feel like a fly on the wall, observing a real father and daughter. Felix is a very BIG personality, one of those types that sucks up all the air around him and everyone else. Laura is a quieter type, living in the shadow of her charming, out there, Dad. You can't help but wonder if this is a love letter to Coppola's own very famous and probably charming father.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's not deep but it's a lovely story about father-daughter bonding with many little moments that will bring a smile to your face. (On DVD and streaming on Apple+)



No Time to Die (2021)


James Bond is back...but not in a good way!

Okay, I know you know about this one, but if you haven't seen it, what you might not know is that it's not very good.  And it actually falls under part of the title of this blog - the "know about" part, because I just did not know what this movie was about. I mean, at any given time, I did not know what the heck was going on, and I don't think it's just me.  

So after the longest cold opening in James Bond history, or at least it felt that way, listening to a very non-iconic Billy Eilish song, and a first hour where I didn't have the slightest idea what was going on (something about microscopic robots with DNA to target a particular person?), I just lost interest. A sad commentary for Daniel Craig's last stint as 007. 

I have always been a huge James Bond fan, but maybe I'm just getting too old for these.  I mean, I still miss Sean Connery!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into the heart-stopping chases, you might enjoy this but there aren't enough of those to sustain almost three hours. My advice? Don't bother. (But if you don't trust me, see for yourself. Available on DVD and for rent on Amazon and Vudu)

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)


Friday, February 11, 2022

And Just Like That...This is What I Watched (TV Series)!

[I review these TV series: "And Just Like That...," "After Life," and "The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window"]


And Just Like That...(2022)


Our "Sex and the City" girls 17 years later.  

So let's take care of the elephant in the room first.  I wasn't the only one disappointed in this "Sex and the City" reboot.  But let me make this clear.  I was not one of the haters who blamed the women for getting older.  I mean, c'mon, it's been almost 20 years.  We all get older and I have to say these women look damn good.  So instead of concentrating on their looks, something women actors have to constantly deal with, let's talk about why this series didn't work.  

It didn't work because in trying to be relevant it was just silly.

We meet Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) 17 years after the series ended (11 years after the last "Sex and the City" movie but we don't want to remember that one).  Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has supposedly moved to London, so she is still there in spirit but we all know in reality that Kim Cattrall doesn't want anything more to do with this series because of her famous feud with Sarah Jessica Parker.  But, okay, I can suspend disbelief and think that Samantha still likes the girls and has just moved to London.

Possible Spoiler Alert! Read no further if you plan to watch and have not seen the first episode and don't want to know what happens.  

So, Carrie and Big (Chris Noth) are married but "they" kill Big off in the first episode after a sweaty workout on his Peloton bike (and this is NOT really a spoiler.  If you didn't know that, you must have been living under a rock, because after that happened Peloton stock fell with a thud. It was all over the news) and the rest of the series is all about Carrie grieving, trying to get her life back on track and basically playing straight woman to Miranda and Charlotte, who have pretty much gone off the rails. You will hardly recognize the more subdued, sad Carrie, though she still sports the usual originally outrageous outfits, and I use the word outrageous in a good way. I always enjoyed the clothes.

Miranda has gone to graduate school, is not happy in her marriage to Steve (Dave Eigenberg), drinks too much, tries to impress her black professor (Karen Pittman) with her wokeness and enters into an affair with Che (Sarah Ramirez), who is a fellow podcaster of Carrie's and a non-binary stand-up comic. Miranda handles all of that in a series of very cringeworthy moments. When did Miranda turn into such a nitwit?  For an actress with political ambitions who once ran for Governor of New York State, not a good look.

And speaking of nitwits, how old is Charlotte again?  She acts like an insecure schoolgirl as she tries to be Super Mom to her two daughters, Lily (Cathy Ang and Rose (Alexa Swinton, distant cousin of Tilda). But they aren't cooperating. Rose wants to be called Rock and rejects Charlotte's obtuse attempts to girly her up. Lily is particularly sullen and unpleasant and boy, did she get on my nerves. Charlotte dances around both girls to try to make them happy, but basically, they are both spoiled brats. There was a particularly disturbing episode where Lily starts her period and when Charlotte tries to help her, Lily screams a lot and carries on to the point that Charlotte should have just slapped her! I actually would have slapped both of them! Double cringe (note: no one was slapped during the writing of this review). Charlotte also tries to impress one of the other mothers at her daughters' school and basically comes out looking like a dip.  Again...cringe.

Samantha needs to come back from London and save this thing. 

The best thing about the whole series was Mario Cantone who, in my opinion, is one of the funniest men on the planet. The writers should have given him more to do!

Though I stuck with the show and it grew on me a little bit, because, hey, I was all in with "Sex and the City" and loved those girls, and I do like that it highlights the importance of women's friendships, but ultimately, this didn't work. It wasn't funny and lacked the charm of the original, and in trying to be relevant to today, there were some scenes that were just...did I mention the word cringe?... and these 50+ year-old-women were made to look like they didn't have a clue about the current world they live in. 

Like I always say about sequels.  Don't.  Let us have happy memories of our favorite movies and TV shows.  Don't try to replicate them and fail and leave us with a bad taste in our mouths.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a huge disappointment.  Where is Samantha when you need her? And it looks like there will be a second season.  Hope that one will be better. Sigh.  But I will probably watch it. (Ten episodes, HBO Max)


After Life (2019-2022)


A man is just really, really pissed off that his wife has died.

Ricky Gervais wrote, produced, directed and stars in this comedy series about Tony Johnson, a newspaper writer in the fictional English town of Tambury, who has lost his wife and is really pissed off about it.  He is so pissed off and grief stricken that he decides to kill himself...except he has this dog, Brandy (Anti, one of the cutest and sweetest dogs ever). Who will feed her if he also dies?  So he decides to carry on, but he also decides he is going to spend his life on his terms, which basically means doing and saying whatever he wants, regardless of how that might make others feel. Needless to say, Tony is not easy to be around, but as you might suspect, a series of events help to change things for Tony, but it's a wild ride over three seasons getting there, with an unusual but beautifully satisfying ending.

Like "The Office," which Gervais also wrote, directed and starred in, the newspaper office has a disparate group of misfits: there is Matt (Tom Basden), Tony's hapless brother-in-law who runs the newspaper and who Tony loves to torment; Lenny (Tony Way), the newspaper's photographer who accompanies Tony on interviews of locals where they relate eccentric stories, and Kath (Diane Morgan), the lonely advertising manager who acts like she doesn't give a hoot about being alone, but she does. There is also Emma (Ashley Jensen), a nurse at the nursing home where Tony's Dad is a resident.  She is a possible love interest for Tony, but that doesn't go at all how you would think. Other characters come and go over the three seasons - an incompetent psychiatrist, a clueless postman, a drug addicted newspaper carrier and a sex worker whom Tony befriends, all providing many comic moments.  Typical Gervais. 

But there is also poignancy. When Tony goes to the cemetery to take flowers to his wife's grave, he meets Anne ("Downton Abbey" fans will recognize Penelope Wilton), an older woman sitting on a bench.  She, too, has lost her spouse, but as the two both sit on the bench together, she imparts some comfort and wisdom to our grieving Tony. Turns out the scenes with Wilton and Gervais sitting on that bench were so powerful to viewers that Gervais partnered with Netflix and the suicide charity, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), to place 25 benches around England to help people cope.  Each bench is inscribed with a quote from the show: "Hope is everything."

Despite the subject matter, this really is a comedy, though typical Gervais kind of humor as in dark and out there. I am a huge Gervais fan. His deadpan reactions are enough to make me laugh, but even if you are not a fan, this is a series you don't want to miss and I challenge you to get through the last episode of Season Three without sobbing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a series not to be missed. (Three Seasons, Netflix)



The Woman Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (2022)


A grieving woman who likes BIG glasses of wine sees a murder across the street - or did she?

Kristen Bell stars as Anna, a woman whose grief over losing her daughter and husband has led her to give up her work as an artist and isolate herself in her house with big glasses of wine (and I mean BIG) and lets not forget the pills. It doesn't help that she also has a phobia about rain so she spends her time sitting and watching out of her window, and thus becomes fixated on Neil (Tom Riley), the handsome widower, who has moved in across the street with his daughter, Emma (Samsara Leela Yett).

And then…while staring into Neil’s windows, she sees what she thinks is a murder. Was it or was she imagining things? When she reports the "murder" to the police and they see the pills and empty wine bottles, they are skeptical, and when they go across the street to Neil's house to investigate and he doesn't know what they are talking about nor is there any sign of a murder, they don't believe her. But Anna isn't going to give up. Time to get your detective hat on, Anna!

Fans of those psychological thrillers “The Girl on the Train” or “The Woman in the Window (I think I will throw “Gone Girl” in there too),” will get a kick out of this eight-part Netflix series created by Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf and Rachel Ramras that is a send-up of those movies and books with all of the tropes you would expect - a heroine with a troubled past, the unreliable witness to a murder, no sign of a body, red herrings, gaslighting, and the usual twist ending. Everyone and everything is suspicious. What's with Buell (Cameron Britton), the handyman who can't seem to get Anna's mailbox repaired or Anna's nosy neighbor, Carol (Brenda Koo) or that mysterious knocking up in the attic? And what's with the casseroles?

You won’t know whether to laugh or take this all seriously (don’t). It's funny if you get all of the tropes being spoofed but the humor is subtle. Doesn't matter. It's still a good story on its own: entertaining and very bingeable (each episode is only 30 minutes). And this girl knows how to pour a good glass of wine.

Rosy the Reviewer says…despite all of Anna's problems, Kristin Bell makes her engaging and fun to watch. A girl after my own heart, especially the wine part!


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)