Thursday, January 26, 2023

"Everything Everywhere All At Once" and Some Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review the movies "Everything Everywhere All At Once," "Ummi" and "Smile." The Book of the Week is "Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director" by Joel Thurm ]

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

A middle-aged Chinese woman must save human existance by doing some universe hopping. 

Trying to summarize this film in one sentence is practically impossible. Trying to explain it is just as difficult. Having no idea it was going to become the darling of Awards Season, I wasn't going to review this film, but then it started to win awards (it won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Picture), and then it was not only nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, but it received the most Oscar nominations of all of the other films (11), so I thought I needed to weigh in. 

I was not going to review it because I did not like it. 

In fact, I very much did not like it. I would say I hated it, but my mother taught me not to say hate.

Anyway, the story revolves around middle-aged Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), who runs a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). They have been married for 20 years and have a daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu).  They are being audited by the IRS, Waymond is about to serve Evelyn with divorce papers, daughter, Joy, is gay and depressed that she has disappointed her mother, and Evelyn's difficult and judgmental Dad, Gong Gong (James Hong) has been staying with them. Life is not happy in the Wang household and Evelyn's life is not going the way Evelyn thought it would.

Okay, I get that.  Our lives don't always turn out as we expected. Life is hard. I can totally identify.  But then the film lost me.

Enter the "Alphaverse," a set of parallel universes that exist because of the various life choices one has made. The "Alphaverse" includes "verse-jumping," which enables people to access skills, memories, and even bodies from their parallel-universe selves.  Turns out this "multiverse" is threatened by Evelyn's own daughter, Joy, AKA Jobu Tupaki, and in her misery, she has created a black-hole into oblivion called Everything Bagel that threatens the multiverse. Evelyn is called in to save the universe.

Turns out Evelyn had the possibility of many other lives -  as a professional singer, a novelist, a chef, a teacher, and a rock? She also could have been a kung fu master/movie star and all of those particular skills come in handy when she verse-jumps and lives those other lives in order to fight Jobu and the forces of evil and save reality.  And if you understood any of that, you are much smarter than I am. 

Written and directed by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (AKA The Daniels), that's the story in a nutshell and it does have some fun, even poignant, moments - I liked the theme of the mother/daughter relationship - and if you are a fan of martial arts films, there is lots of that too. Jamie Lee Curtis is quite funny as the IRS agent and everyone loves Ke Huy Quan who plays Waymond because he hasn't worked much since he was a child star and starred in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Goonies" and is now very much enjoying his fame and subsequent awards. Everyone loves a comeback story, I guess. I also can begrudgingly give this film props for originality.  

BUT - and notice I put that BUT all in caps - all the jumping around from one universe to another became annoying and the film was just too much chaos for me. I consider myself a fairly sophisticated movie-goer.  I mean, "Citizen Kane" is my favorite movie, for god's sake, but this? I just didn't get it. I tried.  I really tried.

But then, I'm old. I guess I am feeling my age.  I did not get this movie and did not like it, but it appears to be the darling of the younger generation which is ironic because it stars a 60-year-old woman and it's about an older woman dealing with life.  I don't begrudge Michelle Yoeh her Best Actress nomination because she is a wonderful actress, and I don't even begrudge Jamie Lee Curtis her Best Supporting Actress nomination (her first ever nomination), despite the fact that I don't generally like her.  

The acting was not my problem with this film. It was the film!  It definitely was "everywhere all at once," and I found it annoying.  In fact, when I first watched it, I couldn't finish it.  It drove me nuts.  But then when it started to receive awards, I thought I would give it another try.  Still didn't like it, even with the mother/daughter angle and the poignant ending which almost saved the film for me, but after two hours of not getting it, it wasn't enough.  So there you go. It just wasn't an enjoyable film experience for me.

I have to add that I also ha..., I mean totally disliked "Tar," too, which was also nominated for Best Picture, but, thank god, "Babylon" didn't make the cut.  "Everything" and those two were the last three films I saw, and I very much disliked all three. So I guess it's three strikes I'm out.  Maybe I have lost my movie mojo and Rosy the Reviewer should pack up her broomstick and ride off into the sunset, because I just don't seem to like much of anything I am seeing lately.  But I won't because movies matter, and I can't help myself.  I have opinions. I won't be happy if "Everything" wins Best Picture, but if "Tar" wins, I might just have to get that broomstick out after all.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are over 55 and not a big fan of martial arts movies, I am thinking you won't like this film.  But I am not going to dissuade you, because it seems my opinion is in the minority. With Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Kwan favorites for winning Oscars, you should probably see it for yourself. (in theatres and on Showtime)

Umma (2022)

It's all about mothers.

Amanda (Sandra Oh) is a Korean immigrant living on a farm with her homeschooled daughter, Chrissy (Fivel Stewart).  They raise bees and live without technology because Amanda is "allergic" to electronics and electricity. The two are living completely off the grid.  They have a good, loving relationship and Amanda is happy with her life until Chrissy tells her she wants to leave the farm and go to college.  

Things get worse when Amanda's uncle arrives to tell her that her mother, her Umma (Korean for mother,) has recently died and he gives her Umma's ashes in a suitcase. Strange things start happening as memories of Amanda's abusive childhood come back and she is haunted by the ghost of her mother, literally. She must fight of that evil spirit that threatens to turn her into her mother. And we eventually discover why Amanda is "allergic" to all things electrical.

This is Sandra Oh as you have never seen her. The film, written and directed by Iris K. Shim, is a bit over the top and kind of slow moving and doesn't totally work, but it's atmospheric, moody and the best part?  It's only one hour and 23 minutes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a supernatural film that deals with our own worst fears - turning into our mothers! (Netflix)

Smile (2022)

After witnessing a traumatic event, a doctor starts having hallucinations and feels she is being threatened by a deadly entity.

As a young child, Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon, the daughter of Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) witnessed her mother's death by suicide.  Now she is a therapist in a psychiatric ward.  Laura (Caitlin Stasey), a Ph.D. student, is brought in after witnessing the suicide of her art history professor.  She claims that ever since the suicide an entity with a crazy smile has been stalking her and telling her she is going to die.  Then she falls to the floor, screaming, overturning a table and breaking a vase.  Rose calls for help and when she returns to the room the girl is standing with a crazy smile on her face and proceeds to slit her own throat with a broken shard from the vase.

And that, my friends, is how this horror pic begins. 

After witnessing this suicide, Rose is given some much-needed time off, but then she starts having hallucinations, seeing people looking at her with crazy smiles and telling her she is going to die. She starts to exhibit odd behavior. What is happening?  Is this all in her mind? When she learns that Laura's professor was grinning at her when he killed himself, Rose interviews the professor's wife and discovers that someone killed himself in front of him.  She goes on a mission to try to understand what is happening and to find a way to elude her own possible death, and after doing more research Rose, discovers that there is a pattern of people who killed themselves after witnessing suicides.  It's as if an evil entity is being passed from one person to another.  Is that what is happening?

This is your classic "B" horror movie starring unknowns (except for Kal Penn, who plays Rose's boss), featuring menacing music and lots of "gotcha" moments - you know those close-ups of a face, quiet moments where nothing seems to be happening, and then GOTCHA!  You jump out of your seat.  Lots of those here. 

There is nothing like a scary movie to get the blood pumping and take you on a wild ride, and this one, written and directed by Parker Finn, will do that. Though I am not a big fan of blood and gore, I sometimes like scary films, because what people in horror films have to go through somehow makes our own worries seem small.  I mean, if I was being followed by an evil entity, I don't think I would worry so much about whether the house was clean or if Oprah would discover my blog.  So I indulge from time to time, though I have to watch alone because Hubby gets too scared. And speaking of blood and gore, a warning: there is lots of it here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like scary, this is scary as hell. It will make you nervous the next time someone smiles at you! (On DVD, Fubo, Paramount+ and for rent on various platforms)

***The Book of the Week***

Sex, Drugs and Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director by Joel Thurm (2022).

Behind the scenes at some of your favorite TV shows and movies!

Joel Thurm may not be a name you recognize, but he was a starmaker, one of the most powerful casting directors in Hollywood, responsible for casting such films as "Grease," "Airplane!" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," as well as the TV shows "Cheers," "Taxi," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "Starsky & Hutch," "Charlie's Angels," "The Golden Girls," "Knight Rider," "The Cosby Show," and more. His first big moment was recognizing John Travolta's potential and casting him in the TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," which took him from being a teen idol to a major movie star. Thurm also played a role in the careers of River and Joaquin Phoenix

So Thurm has insider tales to tell and he doesn’t hold back, though he is adamant there was no proverbial casting couch shenanigans on his watch.  However, he has no problem weighing in on other production bigwigs who indulged. He also details just what it is that a casting director does and reveals how casting decisions were made and those who almost made the cut. Can you imagine James Mason as Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island" instead of Ricardo Montalban?  Or Elaine Stritch as Dorothy on “The Golden Girls" instead of Bea Arthur? Those were early thoughts until Thurm worked his magic.

Thurm asserts that 90% of the success of a TV show or film is good casting, and he laments that casting directors don't get the respect they deservie, hence this book about show business from a casting director’s viewpoint, one that as far as he knows has never been written. The book ends with a list of every pilot that made it to series at NBC when he was there with his trenchant opinions about each.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like show biz behind-the-scenes tell-alls, this is for you!

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)!

(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, January 13, 2023

"Babylon"...and More!

[I review the new movie "Babylon" as well as "The Invitation" and a book! - Geena Davis's memoir "Dying of Politeness"]

Babylon (2022)

The not so golden side of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

After "La La Land," which I loved, I said in my gushing review that I couldn't wait to see what writer/director Damien Chazelle would do next.  Well, here it is and, for me, it is a shocking addendum to "La La Land."  Where "La La Land" was a love letter to Hollywood and the movies, this film is like a Dear John letter, as in the romance is over. It is for me, anyway.

Like I said, I loved "La La Land," but I am sad to say, I did not like this movie.

This is all about the Golden Age of Hollywood, but the part that wasn't so golden - the unglamorous, dark side of Hollywood, with the price of fame and its ephemeral nature and the drudgery that sometimes accompanies the making of films so that we in the audience can be entertained.  It's also about the effect talking pictures had on Hollywood.  According to Chazelle it was a big party during the silent movie era, but as soon as sound came to town, everyone had to shut-up and take movies seriously.  Careers fell when audiences didn't like the sound of their favorite actors' voices or tried and true storylines that worked well with no sound suddenly seemed silly with dialogue.

The story is told in part through three characters: Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), a young woman who has come to Hollywood in the 20's to become a star; Manny Torres (Diego Calva), another Hollywood wannabe who will do anything to get ahead in Hollywood; and actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), the handsome but aging leading man.   

When Nellie meets Manny early in the film, she tells him "It's written in the stars.  I am a star."  And she manages to make a name for herself in silent films by being able to not only cry on demand but manage her tears one by one, but sadly, when sound arrives, her voice is considered annoying and she finds her career in trouble. 

Manny makes himself useful to powerful people like Jack Conrad and works his way up the ladder. Manny's story is all about the American dream, and Manny's American Dream is to make it in La-La Land. All of these characters intersect at various times during the 1920's and 30's as their careers go up and down.

So that's the basic story, but to tell that story, Chazelle seemed to feel he needed to go very dark and shocking.  

If you remember the movie "Singing in the Rain," which also told this same story - the advent of talkies and the actors who struggled with it - this is almost a remake of that, and Chazelle gives it a big nod at the end of the film, and there are many other nods to Hollywood movies and actors of the past. You can figure that Brad Pitt is playing a John Gilbert character, a silent movie idol who struggled when the talkies came along.  It's fun to try to match the characters with real life actors from back in the day, to catch the allusions to other films and recognize the faces of many actors doing cameos. 

But that's where the fun ended for me. I understand Chazelle wanting to show us that Hollywood can eat people alive and making movies can sometimes be hard, tedious and even boring work but for some reason he felt the need to add the shock factor. The film starts with a cringeworthy scene featuring elephant poop and continues with projectile vomiting and a man eating live rats.  And there is more, but I choose not to remember the rest, because as the movie progressed, it seemed to be just one unpleasant situation after another.  

This film was just trying too hard to be shocking and what shocked me the most was that this was where Chazelle went after the beautiful, delightful and uplifting "La La Land."

I know the movie industry has been in a slump since the Pandemic, and watching this, I couldn't help but wonder if Chazelle, and/or the movie industry in general, has decided they need the shock factor to get us all off our couches and back into the theatres. If that's the case, I am going to stay home.  

And speaking of trying too hard, I have always been a big fan of Margot Robbie, but I just didn't believe her as the "wild child," Nellie LaRoy.  I could feel her trying too hard to be this out-of-control woman who has come to Hollywood to become a star. But no doubt she will get nominated for her performance because there was a lot of ranting and raving and crying going on. 

Sadly, this was just was not an enjoyable movie experience for me nor was it a satisfying one.  That is how I judge a film.  Was it an enjoyable or at least satisfying movie experience?  And it makes me sad to say it because I loved "La La Land" so much but for this film the answer would be a no.

And here's the thing.  Maybe if this movie hadn't been so long I would have enjoyed it more.

This movie was THREE HOURS and eight minutes!  That is just uncalled for.  Chazelle could have easily cut an hour off of this film without it making any difference and probably would have made it better.  PLEASE...filmmakers, if you want us back in the theatres do not make us sit through three hour films!

Okay, rant over.

However, there is a positive.

I have to give a shout out to Brad Pitt.  He almost saved this movie for me.  I have been wanting him to flaunt his handsomeness and here he does that, but he also shows his acting chops.  As the handsome matinee idol whose career takes a turn for the worst, he is funny but also poignant.  A wonderful tour de force and he certainly should have won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, though I question whether his part was a supporting role. In my book, he was the star. Let's hope the Oscars do better because he deserves one for this. 

As I was watching the film, I was thinking that Chazelle was mad at the movies because he paints such a cynical picture. But then he gives Jean Smart, who plays columnist Elinor St. John, one of the best moments in the film, when she sets Jack Conrad straight about his career.  In a brilliant speech, she tells him that the spotlight is fleeting, but he can take comfort in the fact that his movies will live on after he has gone. He will come alive for future audiences who see his films. And though Chazelle goes dark to make us appreciate what it takes to make a movie, I think he ends on a positive note by saying that movies matter because of what movies can do. They bring a disparate group of people together who are all enjoying the same experience.  For a few hours, it's a community.  

And I agree, but if he wants me to continue to be a part of that community, he shouldn't make a three hour movie and he needs to leave out the elephant poop!

Rosy the Reviewer says...all in all, though there were moments I enjoyed and this film will no doubt get many award nominations, because it's the big, boisterous, epic kind of movie that gets nominations, for me this was a huge disappointment (in theatres).

The Invitation (2022)

A young woman is invited to a wedding in England but it turns out to be much more than she a bad way.

The film begins with a suicide and then fast forwards to Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel who you might recognize from "Game of Thrones"), a New York City hospitality worker, who attends a self-help event with one of those "find-your-relatives" DNA tests in her swag bag.  She decides to try it and wouldn't you know?  She discovers a cousin she didn't know about and he's a charming Brit named Oliver L. Alexander (Hugh Skinner).  Since both of Evie's parents are dead, she is keen to find family.  Oliver invites her to join him at the wedding of a rich friend in England, an offer she can't refuse since all expenses will be paid.

The wedding is at the estate of the DeVille family and there she meets Walter - "Walt" - the handsome Lord of the Manor (Thomas Doherty).  And can I say that Evie is a bit over incredulous at the luxury of the place and actually acts like an Ugly American and is a big klutz? Not a good look. She is an accident waiting to happen and her behavior makes a bad impression on the scary butler (Sean Pertwee). But she appears to make a good impression on the handsome Walt.

But like I said, she isn't a very good guest. On her first night, Evie goes for a jog. Who does that?  Who goes for a jog at night in an unfamiliar place? And she goes into a room that she was particularly told to stay out of. But okay, let's see what will happen. She starts to see things and also starts to have nightmares that relate to that suicide I mentioned. What's going on?

Written by Blair Butler and directed by Jessica M. Thompson, this is a gothic thriller with the requisite gotcha moments (I counted five), but despite the gotcha moments, it takes over an hour before "the secret" is revealed and what is really going on at the DeVille mansion and this so-called wedding. It's a bit slow but I enjoyed the female empowerment theme.

Nathalie Emmanual does a fine job as Evie, but I was distracted by how much she looks like Meghan Markle, except with a nose ring.

Rosy the Reviewer step above a Lifetime movie but, hey, I have been known to do the occasional Lifetime movie.  A fun gothic diversion (Netflix, Prime).

And if you aren't up for a three hour movie in the movie theatre and you are not in the gothic mood, why not read a book?

"Dying of Politeness" by Geena Davis

Actress Geena Davis shares her life and accomplishments in this candid and self-deprecating memoir.

Who knew that Geena Davis and I had so much in common?

  • We both wanted to be actresses from a young age, studied acting in college and our Dads encouraged us.
  • She was an exchange student in Sweden and I have visited my Swedish relatives there.
  • We grew up with no shower and everyone used the same bath water on Saturday nights (I know, ew)!
  • And it was important to be polite at all costs

We are so alike except the main difference: she became famous and I didn't. Ha!  

Davis tells her story that starts with her knowing she was going to be an actress from a very young age.  She shares her romantic interests including her marriage to actor Jeff Goldblum, who it seems from reading this she never got over.  She also talks about finding a sort of second career as an Olympic archer as well as her lifelong fight for women's rights.

There are also behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the many movies that she has made such as "The Fly," "A League of their Own" and, of course, the iconic "Thelma and Louise."  She met Susan Sarandon on set and they became besties in real life. Total opposites in their approach to the world, Geena says that Susan helped her speak up and give up on some of that politeness. It's all told in a breezy and, shall I say? A very polite way.

Rosy the Reviewer says... it's a funny, candid and touching memoir, and if you are a fan or even just a celebrity maven, you will enjoy this. (check it out from your local library)!

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)!

(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)