Showing posts with label "Love and Trouble". Show all posts
Showing posts with label "Love and Trouble". Show all posts

Friday, October 6, 2017

"American Made" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new Tom Cruise movie "American Made" as well as the new Jane Fonda-Robert Redford film currently streaming on Netflix "Our Souls at Night" plus the DVD "Shall We Kiss?"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Playtime."  The Book of the Week is "Love and Trouble" by Claire Dederer]

American Made

The true story of Barry Seal, who went from a TWA pilot to working for the CIA to smuggling Colombian cocaine to gun-running for the Contras.  How did that happen?

Well, good old American guts and ingenuity, I guess.  Or maybe he was just greedy and stupid.

To give you an idea of what kind of guy Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was, while flying a commercial jet during an all-night flight with his co-pilot asleep next to him, he thought it would be fun to take the plane off of auto-pilot and do a nose dive, just to shake people up a bit. Oh, and he liked to smuggle Cuban cigars into the country too. That's the kind of guy Barry Seal was so when he was approached by Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), a CIA guy, to do covert photography over Central America filming communist-based guerrilla groups, it's not a stretch that Barry would say yes especially when Schafer also offered him a fast little tricked-out spy plane to do the job in.

Likewise, when Barry was later approached by a member of the Medellin drug cartel to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia, that was also believable.  But as he himself says in the film, it started to get unbelievable when the CIA asked him to not only start supplying guns to the Contras (remember that whole Iran-Contra thing in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration?), but to actually bring the Contras themselves to the U.S. for training in his back yard!  And that's not all.  He then started giving the guns to the drug lords and the cocaine to the Contras and America became complicit in the drug trade while Nancy Reagan was telling young people "Just say no!"  Whew!  Only in America!

Barry is married to Lucy (Sarah Wright), and they have a couple of kids and the money is rolling in so fast and heavily that Barry has his own vault at the bank.  Bags of money are buried in the backyard, falling out of closets and peeking out from under the beds.  Barry and Lucy are living the high life in their small town of Mena, Arkansas until Lucy's redneck brother, JB (Caleb Landry Jones who was so good in "Get Out") shows up.  Everyone has an Achilles Heel and JB is Barry's.  It all starts to fall apart until it all ends tragically.

Now don't get me wrong.  This is not a dark drama at all nor is it really an action film.  It's a true story with some action - especially in the air - but it also has a comic, devil may care feel to it much like "War Dogs" and "Catch Me If You Can."  Barry narrates, there is some animation to help us understand the political climate, and Barry's cheeky, though you could also say clueless, attitude is fun to watch.  The film is fast-moving and full of twists and turns and double-crosses. 

However, my problem with the film is that it doesn't really seem to be saying very much other than revealing a part of American political history that we shouldn't be proud of.  And it doesn't help that Barry was a bit of an arrogant jerk.

But the actors do a good job of pulling this film off.

I know being a Tom Cruise fan is no longer very popular.  I think it all went downhill for him when he jumped on Oprah's couch.  And what with his mysterious divorces from Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes and his connection to Scientology, his star has started to fade a bit, despite that mega watt smile.  Now when I proclaim my fandom for Tommy, people shake their heads.  But I don't care.  He will always be my Tommy.  He had me at "Taps," and I remain loyal, and this movie suits him.  Despite the fact that he is 55 and a bit frayed around the edges, his smile still fills the screen and even in extreme close-ups he is still swoon-worthy.  And this is Tom's kind of film where he can not only flex his acting muscles but spread that special charisma of his all over the screen.

The rest of the actors do a good job of filling in the cracks when Tom isn't doing his thing. Sarah Wright is a beautiful actress to watch and I love the twitchy Jones. Likewise Gleeson is a good actor who can seemingly do anything.

Written by Gary Spinelli and directed by Doug Limon, who also directed "Edge of Tomorrow," this is a film that both men and women will enjoy.  I just wish it had a bit more depth to it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Tom Cruise fan you will be in Tom Cruise heaven (he's still got it), but even if you are not, this is still an enjoyable adventure film that won't tax your brain too much.


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

Streaming and on DVD

Our Souls at Night (2017)

A widow and widower, who have been neighbors for years but never really knew each other, enter into a relationship.

This film is new and can only be seen on Netflix.  It is billed as a Netflix Original, and since I wondered what that actually meant - I mean, did Netflix produce this movie starring two of our most famous actors? - I thought you might wonder too. 

Netflix does produce some of its own content such as "House of Cards."  But other shows such as "Arrested Development" are continuations of cable shows that Netflix bought.  As for this film, it falls into the category of a film that Netflix paid a lot of money for so you couldn't watch it anywhere else.  This movie comes to us via Netflix straight from the Venice Film Festival, and I loved every minute of it.

Louis Moore (Robert Redford) and Addie Waters (Jane Fonda) are neighbors.  They have both lost their spouses and live alone.  Though they both live in a small Colorado town, they never really had much of a relationship.  They knew OF each other, but didn't really know each other.  One day, out of the blue, Addie knocks on Louis's door and proposes to Louis that they start sleeping with each other.

"We are both alone.  We've been on our own for years.  I'm lonely and I'm thinking you might be too."

Now, don't get the wrong idea.  This is NOT about sex.  It's about getting through the night.

"Nights are the worst, don't you think?" she says to Louis. 

And she goes on to ask him if such a proposition would be of interest to him.  They would get into bed together and talk, and then, hopefully, fall blissfully asleep.

Louis is taken aback, naturally, but he says he will think about it.

After thinking about it, Louis lets Addie know that he would like to try sleeping together so they make a date.  Louis tells Addie "I'm not much of a talker," which is funny since Redford has made a name for himself playing laconic characters. It's charmingly awkward as the two get ready for bed, Addie in her nightgown buttoned up to her chin, and Louis in his pajamas, and before Louis can say anything to Addie, she is sound asleep, snoring quietly.

The two continue meeting with Louis carrying his paper bag of belongings and knocking on Addie's back door so that the neighbors won't talk until Addie demands that Louis enter through the front door - to hell with the neighbors! - and of course it's not long before word gets out about the two of them and the neighbors do talk.  Each night as they prepare for bed, they share their stories with each other and that's how those of us watching learn about them too. Slowly their relationship flowers. 

In the meantime, Addie's son, Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts), arrives.  He is having business and marital problems and asks Addie to care for his seven-year-old son, Jamie (Iain Armitage) for awhile until he can sort things out.  Jamie doesn't know his grandmother very well and is shy, which reinforces what I have said about long-distance grand-parenting.  It doesn't work very well.  Jamie is also a child who appears to not have had many experiences.  He has never been to a baseball game, doesn't know how to throw a baseball and is addicted to his computer games on his phone, but it isn't long before Addie and Louis both win him over and wean him off his phone.  Louis produces his prized train set.  What little seven-year-old boy can resist a train set?  And then they get him a dog!

It's no surprise that Addie and Louis fall in love and eventually get it on. Thank goodness we are spared the gory details of the act itself, not because I don't want to see old people having sex but because in general I find sex scenes boring.  That happens after a certain age.  And the fact that there was mutual attraction that led to sex reinforced my controversial belief that men and women can't just be friends. I should write a blog post on that some time.

Anyway, we knew Louis and Addie were going to fall in love, right? But that doesn't matter because, remember, it's the journey, not the destination, that matters.  And the journey is a delight.  I believed every minute of it and loved every minute of it.  

Fonda and Redford first acted together 50 years ago, when they starred together in another love story, "Barefoot in the Park," and Louis and Addie could be Paul and Corie from that film, 50 years later because Addie is impulsive, just as Corie was, and Louis is quieter and solid, like Paul.   I am of an age where I like seeing people my own age (actually they are older than I am) portrayed in the light of reality, and by that I mean, no old people movie clichés such as breaking out with the F-bomb or having trouble with the computer or suddenly doing a break dance, all things that some filmmakers seem to think are funny when old people do them. 

Whatever you might think of this film, it's always good to see actors at the top of their game and these two actors are about as on top of their game as actors can get, and because of that, you are drawn to them and their story. And they both look great. Redford's face looks lived in which I appreciate, and for an old dude, he still has a nice head of hair.  Jane may have had some work done but her plastic surgeon knew what he was doing.  And when Jane was in bed without her nightgown on, I couldn't get over the fact she had no back fat! 

The film written by Ken Haruf, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and directed by Ritesh Batra (who directed "The Lunchbox," which I loved - see the "Featured Post" on the sidebar for the full review of that) captures what it must be like to be old, alone and lonely, a place I am probably not too far from, and the barriers that keep people from connecting.  And this film isn't just for us old folks.  I think the younger generation should see this so they can see that our bodies may have aged but inside we old folks still care and talk about the same things we did when we were younger, feel the same things and seek love just like the younger generation.

Now I have to eat a bit of crow. 

I know that I yammer on endlessly about how much I dislike child actors.  I had a bit of an epiphany watching this film.  I realized that it's really not the child actors who actually annoy me but the screen writers who write the precocious crap they want the children to spew.  I particularly thought this while watching young Iain Armitage who played little Jamie.  You might also remember him from his amazing performance in "Big Little Lies."  This kid is adorable and a wonderful young actor.  I believed him every step of the way, too, and, believe me, I was watching him with an eagle eye, waiting for him to turn into one of those child characters I dislike so much.  But he didn't miss a beat.  And kudos to the writers who wrote a believable child.

I also have to point out the film's score which is spot on.  It has a western vibe which highlights the Colorado setting but it also is tantalizing as we wait to see what is going to happen between Louis and Addie.

If you blink you will miss Bruce Dern who plays one of Louis's cronies that he hangs out with in the coffee shop.  If he gets nominated for an Oscar, he will beat Judy Dench who won one for less than eight minutes on screen. You never know.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you Baby Boomers are yearning for a movie you can relate to, this is it. It's quite wonderful.  And you younger folks can see what your parents are really up to!

Shall We Kiss? (2007)

A romantic comedy about a kiss offered, a kiss declined and the reason why.

Two strangers, Emilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michael Cohen), meet in Nantes, France, and share an evening together. She is there on business and knowing that they will probably never meet again, Gabriel asks to kiss Emilie, a kiss with "no consequences."  She wants to kiss him but explains that a kiss can have very big consequences.

"Before a kiss has been given, no one knows if it will be big or small."

Emilie then proceeds to tell Gabriel a story to explain why they should not kiss, and through a series of flashbacks, the story of Judith and Nicholas (Emmanuel Mouret, who also directs) unfolds, and we learn that one kiss can have wide-ranging consequences.

Judith (Virginie Ledoyen) is a lab technician happily married to Claudio (Stefano Accorsi), a pharmacist. Nicholas was Judith's high school friend and is still her very best friend.  They meet often and talk about everything.  Nicholas had a girlfriend but they broke up and one day, Nicholas confides in Judith that he lacks physical affection (a euphemism for the fact that Nicholas is horny), and he is so starved for it that he is obsessed.

Judith recommends that Nicholas see a prostitute, and he tells her that he already has in a story within a story where he relates his bad experience with that. Turns out the prostitute does not allow kissing and without kissing Nicholas doesn't have a, er, good experience, so that didn't work for him.  He couldn't go through with it because he needs to kiss.  

So Nicholas shyly proposes that he and Judith get together, and Judith, being the good friend that she is, decides to help Nicholas out - just this once.

There is a long scene of awkward foreplay with the music from "The Nutcracker" playing in the background and then --- THE KISS! --- once again confirming my theory about the fact that men and women can't just be friends (see review above).

However, the two part, Nicholas acquires a girlfriend, Caline (Frederique Bel), and Judith and Nicholas don't see each for awhile, but when Nicholas and Judith do meet again a month later, they both confess that since the kiss things have not been the same for Judith with Claudio and Nicholas isn't really feeling it with Caline.  So now they decide they have to have sex again to make sure that the first time wasn't a fluke and to try to do it mechanically so as to break whatever spell might have been cast on them.  They decide to do it on the floor so it will be uncomfortable but, yes, you figured it out.  IT WAS EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST TIME!  

Horrified that they want each other so much, they realize they are in love and embark on a full-blown affair.  But an affair is one thing.  "Should one overturn one's life for kisses and caresses?"  The reality of leaving a marriage is another, so Judith and Nicholas concoct a plan for Claudio to meet Nicholas's girlfriend, Caline, hoping that Claudio will fall in love with her and leave Judith.

Well, my peeps, we all know about those best laid plans right?

The film continues back and forth between Emilie relating the story to Gabriel and Judith and Nicholas as their worlds fall apart and a twist is revealed by Emilie as to why she won't kiss Gabriel.

After seeing this film, I feel bad that I have been bashing French films so much lately.  This is the kind of romantic comedy I love.  The story is funny and appealing, the comedy is subtle and the characters are engaging. Gayet looks like a young Catherine Deneuve and Mouret has not only directed a film reminiscent of a Woody Allen romantic comedy, he looks and acts like a young Woody.  It's a sweet love story where even the music - Tchaikovsky and Schubert - play important roles.

And now we all know why prostitutes don't kiss.

Rosy the Reviewer says...utterly charmant (I didn't know how to say utterly in French).
(In French with English subtitles)

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

167 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

(Note:  In case you are the kind of person who notices such things, I know there is a discrepancy between the number of movies I still need to see from what I reported last week.  That is because I did a recent inventory and realized that I had miscalculated somewhere along the line and I had in fact seen 20 more films than reported so now onwards and upwards!)

Playtime (1967)

Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) gets caught up with a band of American tourists as they wander around a high-tech Paris.

Jacques Tati is practically a national treasure of France and "Monsieur Hulot" is his trademark character, a silent gentleman much like the U.K's Mr. Bean or Chaplin's "Little Tramp" stomping around Paris with his sideways walk, his trademark hat, pipe and overcoat befuddled by technology and the changes around him.

Here Monsieur Hulot finds himself entangled with a group of American tourists who are shown around "modern Paris," which seems to consist mostly of a modern office building and an area of modern buildings, never the sights we have come to associate with Paris.  Paris is presented as bureaucratic and modern and Monsieur Hulot is struggling with all of that, embodying the human isolation that technology and the changing times can bring.  

The film is beautifully produced and very stylized and Tati shows off his silent comic skills without speaking a word.  Lots of physical humor of which I am not a big fan, but I could appreciate the set design, the music and the look of the film, all of which Tati reproduced at great expense, which at the time was the most expensive movie in French film history and which eventually bankrupted him.  He built the entire set outside of Paris - an airline terminal, office buildings, even a traffic circle - which became known as Tativille, and it is something to behold. 

Despite the amazing look of the film, there is no real plot and no characters to grab onto, just hundreds of people moving on and off the screen, no real dialogue and a series of strange scenes. It was all shot in 70mm using only medium and long-shots and there is a lot going on at all times in every corner of every frame on the screen.

However, I see this film as one man's personal expression, an historical film curiosity rather than a satisfying film experience.  Personally, I found this film boring.

Despite what Tati was trying to do, the film was just too impersonal and chaotic for me.

Why it's a Must See: Playtime is less a film than one man's successful attempt to encourage us to see with new eyes.  Indeed, director Jacques Tati's timeless masterpiece is concerned, from start to finish, with imbuing the viewer with a totally new set of sensory experiences.  Like no other movie, Playtime has the power to make us question our very faculties of eyes and ears...The gags in [Tati's] films aren't really gags at all, but odd little moments that add up to an overall tone of a world being slightly askew."

Rosy the Reviewer I'm not liking French comedies again.
(In French and English with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer (2017)

A Gen-X'ers midlife memoir.

I remember reading the book and writing about "The Mad Woman in the Volvo," which takes on the topic of menopause and how menopause is supposed to be a time of returning to the carefree feelings of our youth.  Our children are grown and we don't have to worry about having any more.  We only need to take care of our own needs.  We become middle-aged teenagers.  But when we wait to have children, we throw the natural cycle of things off so when we should be enjoying our new freedom we find ourselves caring for little children and possibly aging parents as well.

I thought of that book while reading Claire Dederer's memoir and thought that she might be having some of those "mad" episodes as she enters middle age and reflects back on her younger years.  She is 45 (oh, to be 45 again), a seemingly happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, but she finds that her mind is returning to her younger years when she discovered sex, was wildly boy crazy and eventually wildly promiscuous. She is unsettled by these feelings appearing again and shares a series of essays as she tries to understand what is happening to her. 

This memoir shifts back and forth between her present experience as a middle-aged mom in the grip of mysterious new feelings and herself as a teenager and young adult punctuated by passages from her diaries that she kept in her younger years.

I was originally drawn to this book because Dederer "lives on an island near Seattle," and I always enjoy books that draw on locations where I have lived or been.  And she doesn't disappoint.  People who live in the Seattle area or who have been here will enjoy her references to growing up in Laurelhurst, remembering cool places on The Ave (University Way) in the 1980's and her chapter "How to be in Seattle in the '90s."

"Move to Phinney Ridge because it's cheap and you can have a yard."

Ah, if only.  Phinney Ridge is no longer cheap in Seattle, the fastest growing city in the U.S.

On the occasion of her daughter's 13th birthday, Dederer writes a letter to Roman Polanski about his rape of a 13 year old girl; there is a chapter called "A Kiss May Ruin a Human Life (see movie review above and be reminded that you shouldn't be kissing people willy nilly because it can lead to problems);" a list of things she didn't want to think about that kept her up at night - "My children talking about me the way I have talked about my parents," taxes, rats and flossing" - and her experiences at Oberlin College, which weren't very good.

We believe in the midlife crisis that men experience and mostly give them a pass, but we give little thought to the same thing happening to women.  Believe me, it does, and Dededer is here to testify to that fact in a witty and engrossing memoir.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a candid and intriguing look at the female experience from a Seattle Gen X-er's point of view.


Thanks for reading!

See you TUESDAY 

for a Rosy the Reviewer
special edition  

"What's in a Name? -

Making a New Case for Naming Your Children After Friends and Family Members


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