Showing posts with label Actors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Actors. Show all posts

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Love and Mercy" and the Week in Reviews

[This week it's all about biopics and Elizabeth Banks and there's only one clunker. I review the new movie about Brian Wilson "Love and Mercy," the DVD "Walk of Shame" and the TV movie "Grace of Monaco," which stars Nicole Kidman and available to stream on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "Why Acting Matters."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the classic and funny teen slasher movie "Scream"]

Biopic about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and his struggle with mental illness.

This film is really two films in one.  Paul Dano plays the young Brian during the 1960's when he was creating his masterpiece "Pet Sounds" and ultimately the Beach Boys' biggest selling hit, "Good Vibrations," while at the same time dealing with his burgeoning mental illness exacerbated by drug abuse.  John Cusack plays the older Brian during the 1990's when he was under the "care" of  Dr. Eugene Landy, a Svengali-like therapist who took complete control of Brian's life. 

The film rocks back and forth between the two eras with the older Brian meeting Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and falling in love and her becoming increasingly concerned about the control Dr. Landy exerts over Brian. 

The Beach Boys were as popular as the Beatles in their time with such surfing and beach hits as "Surfin' Safari," "Surfer Girl" and "Little Deuce Coupe."  The band consisted of brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis plus their friend Al Jardine and cousin Mike Love. They all grew up in Hawthorne, California and their music was pegged "The California Sound."  Brian was the songwriter and provided the high notes with the others providing close harmony.  Brian also produced the records and his innovation and creativity is widely acknowledged in the musical world.

Their father, Murray Wilson, was their manager and like Joe Jackson of The Jackson 5, he was a hard-driving taskmaster and was not above hitting his sons. The film hints at Brian's upbringing and his desire to please his father as a cause for his mental illness, but it is well-known that he also abused alcohol and drugs and had trouble dealing with the price of fame, so it is difficult to say what the contributing factors were to his breakdowns and the film doesn't really try to answer that question.

Paul Dano puts in an Oscar-worthy performance as the younger Brian and seems to channel him. He plays Brian as a sweet, gentle Teddy Bear who hears the music in his head and just wants to make the best music he can. The scenes showing how Brian wrote his songs and created the albums are wonderful.  Not surprisingly, this film was made with the full cooperation of Brian Wilson and his wife, Melinda.

Though John Cusack is a marvelous actor and also puts in a good performance, his casting was a mistake.  He looks so little like Brian Wilson that it is a distraction and no matter how good his performance or his ability to mimic some of Wilson's mannerisms, he is not able to shake the fact that he is miscast.  One wonders if his name was needed to carry this film since the film took over 10 years to bring to fruition.  But who carries the film?  Dano.

Elizabeth Banks is able to unleash her dramatic acting chops as Brian's patient and caring love interest after stints as a kooky character in "The Hunger Games" and stranded news anchor in the comedy "Walk of Shame (see review below)." This might be her break out role, because she is a beautiful gifted actress who deserves to carry a film herself.

Paul Giamatti plays Landy in his usual over-the-top, eye bulging way.  I have never been a fan of his and have finally figured out why.  No matter what role he plays, he overacts.  And the silly wig he wears in this doesn't help.

Written by Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner and directed by Bill Pohlad, this film is not your usual biopic. Instead of the cradle to grave treatment we usually see, this one concentrates on two particular times in Wilson's life and gets inside Wilson's head to capture his unorthodox creative process and his struggles to create despite his increasing mental illness. 

I could have done without the montage at the end that tries to sum up Wilson's demons, but all in all, this is a fine film and does Wilson and his wife Melinda proud. This film is as much about Melinda and her role in "saving" Brian as it is about him.  They have been making the talk show rounds and you can tell she is a driving force, just as she was portrayed in the film. 

And by the way, Brian never learned to surf.

Rosy the Reviewer of the best films I've seen this year.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)

Walk of Shame (2014)

News anchor Meghan (Elizabeth Banks) is up for a promotion and after an uncharacteristic one-night-stand finds herself stranded in L.A. with no money, car, phone or ID and only a few hours to get to that all important interview.

In her preliminary interview for a promotion, TV anchor Meghan is asked if there are any skeletons in her closet.  It's down to her and another hopeful, Wendy Chang. Meghan assures the interviewers she is a "good girl."  

At the same time that Meghan's boyfriend breaks up with her and takes everything, she finds out Chang has gotten the job, so Meghan decides to go out drinking at a club with her girlfriends to drown her sorrows.  She drinks too much and gets locked out of the club while looking for the restroom.  She gets her heel caught on a fire escape and is rescued by a handsome stranger (James Marsden) who it turns out was actually the bartender in the club. He offers to take her home but when he asks her where she lives, she replies, "Where do YOU live?"  MEET CUTE ALERT!

They have a sexy, drunken fun night together, and then...

Meghan wakes up, hung over, not knowing where she is (who hasn't had that happen?).  She checks her voice mail only to discover Wendy Chang DID have some skeletons in her closet and the promotion is now Meghan's if she can get to the studio in time for another interview.

When she makes her way back to her car, she discovers it has been towed.  From there, wacky adventures ensue as Meghan tries to get to her interview in time, making her way through the mean streets of L.A. with no money, no car, no phone and no ID.

A "walk of shame" is defined as having to go home from a one-night-stand wearing the hoochy dress you went out clubbing in the night before.  So our girl, wearing a bright yellow, tight, Band-Aid dress is, of course, mistaken for a hooker.  She is also befriended by some crack dealers and finds herself in the midst of a drug deal gone wrong. 

The "girl in the bright yellow dress" becomes a big news story as she wrecks havoc all over L.A.  Our "good girl" gone wrong.

We know Elizabeth Banks from "The Hunger Games," where she plays a wacky funny character and as one of the girls in "Pitch Perfect (1 and 2)," but here the focus is on her, and she really gets to show her comedy chops.  The rest of the cast are also very funny, especially her two girlfriends and the crack dealers.

It's a bit raunchy, a bit politically incorrect and the story is far-fetched story, especially the ending, but I laughed in spite of myself and that's how I judge a comedy.  Did I laugh?  Yes, I did. This was actually quite a humorous film written and directed by Steven Brill, reminiscent of "Adventures in Babysitting," a film I really enjoyed, and Elizabeth Banks is quite endearing here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this isn't Woody Allen or "Bridesmaids," but it's a funny and fun little trifle.  Recommended for a date night at home when the kids are in bed.

Grace of Monaco  (2014)

A biopic on Princess Grace that concentrates on the time she almost went back to Hollywood to star in Hitchcock's "Marnie."

It's no secret that Alfred Hitchcock liked blondes and he had a particular affinity for Grace Kelly. It broke his heart when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco and retired from acting to become a real life Princess. However, when he decided to do "Marnie," Grace was his first choice and he traveled to Monaco to pitch the film to the Princess and try to lure her back to Hollywood.

The film depicts Grace (Nicole Kidman) as still having a difficult time fulfilling her princess role and fitting in as a Monagasque, even five years after her fairy tale marriage.  She is shown as stifled and not being able to "speak her mind." So when "Hitch" asks her to star in "Marnie," she is torn.  Can she go back to Hollywood without it tarnishing her Princess-hood? 

When Grace broached the idea of her doing the film, Prince Rainier was supportive at first, but there was political intrigue going on between France and Monaco and the palace PR machine warned that if she went back to Hollywood it would look she was abandoning her husband. Her one chance.  Lost. We know the role went to Tippi Hedren, another pretty blonde.
Kidman had high hopes for this movie, but when it went to the Cannes Film Festival it bombed so badly that they couldn't get distribution and it ended up being picked up by Lifetime

Nicole Kidman on Lifetime?  How the mighty have fallen.  And let me tell you, she was not happy about it!

As a Lifetime Movie aficionado (I'm so bad that I just got through watching "Double Daddy" and have never gotten over Tori Spelling in the classically bad "Mother May I Sleep With Danger?"), even I was shocked to see Nicole Kidman in a Lifetime Movie. 

And Tim Roth (as Prince Rainier), Derek Jacobi and Frank Langella are also in this thing. Parker Posey is almost unrecognizable as Madge, whose role is unclear (she is some sort of disapproving assistant to Princess Grace).

This was directed by Olivier Dahan, the same guy who brought us the wonderful "La Vie En Rose."  So what the hell happened here?

The script is stodgy and melodramatic and dare I say it?  Very Lifetime Movie-like.  And the drama is replaced by extreme close-ups of Kidman. There are a lot of them. Kidman's botoxed forehead seems to also be one of the stars.  Not sure about those close-ups as directorial choices.

Kidman does her best to channel Princess Grace and at times, looks very much like her.  She does what she can with the script but even she can't overcome it. Unlike "Love and Mercy (reviewed above)," this biopic falls into the melodramatic biopic formula we have come to know and hate.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Princess Grace deserved better than this.  So did Nicole and the rest of the cast.

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

260 to go!

Scream  (1996)
Our heroine Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) must survive the attacks of a slasher film fanatic hell bent on killing her.  But why is he doing it?
Drew Barrymore's 10 minutes at the beginning of the film are truly scary and who knew the ringing of the phone could be such a horror film moment? Well, Alfred Hitchcock did, who started it all.  Remember, "Dial M for Murder?"  And John Carpenter used it again to scary effect in "Halloween."

This whole film is an homage to and a send-up of the horror film genre, including director Wes Craven's own "Nightmare on Elm Street" which he makes fun of when Barrymore says the sequels weren't very good, but that doesn't mean it's not scary.  It is.  I was glad I was watching it on a sunny afternoon.  I couldn't believe I missed it the first time around.

Kevin Williamson wrote a brilliant script that is smart, funny and skewers all of the horror movie conventions we have come to expect.

A character outlines the "rules" for horror films:

"There are certain RULES that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie.

For instance, number one: you can never have sex. equals death, okay?

Number two: you can never drink or do drugs. The sin factor! It's a sin. It's an extension of number one.

And number three: never, ever, ever under any circumstances say, "I'll be right back." Because you won't be back.

"I'm gettin' another beer, you want one? I'll be right back.

"See, you push the laws and you end up dead. Okay, I'll see you in the kitchen with a knife."

Another character says something like life is a movie and you don't get to pick the genre.

Great stuff.

This film also highlighted a bevy of young stars who went on to greater things: in addition to Barrymore and Neve Campbell: Skeet Ulrich, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Liev Schreiber (in a barely there role - if you blink you will miss him), Courtney Cox and Jamie Kennedy. And Henry Winkler (uncredited) as the school principal? How fun is that? Also uncredited and in homage to the horror film genre, Linda Blair appears as an "Obnoxious Reporter and Wes Craven himself is "Fred the Janitor."  The movie grossed over $103 million and started a whole new craze of teen slasher films, not to mention sequels and parodies of itself.

Though "Halloween" was original for its day, it hasn't really passed the test of time when it comes to the "scare" factor, though it figures prominently in this film. "Scream" is still scary even by today's standards.

Why it's a Must See: "Among the reasons for Scream's outstanding success is an often hilarious script (written by Kevin Williamson, who would go on to create the hit teen TV show Dawson's Creek), the numerous jokey references to earlier horror movies, and Craven's expert direction, which manages to frighten audiences even while they are laughing."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...a really stylish and scary horror film that set a standard in the horror film genre by being funny.  If you are a fan of horror films or even a movie trivia buff, a must!

(MTV will be airing a TV series based on "Scream" beginning June 30th).



***Book of the Week***

Why Acting Matters  by David Thomson (2015)

Thomson reflects on the importance of the performing arts, the history of acting, the cult of celebrity and compares actors past and present and stage acting vs. film acting in this long, thoughtful essay.

I am glad Thomson took this on because as someone whose pursuit was acting for many years, I always knew it was an important part of what makes us human.

As humans, our need for "acting out" started with the cave men and women as they told stories, sometimes embellished, to each other. So it's no great leap that we put it all on film or started to tell our stories on stage.

"It is a fancy to imagine tribesmen or cave dwellers returning from the veldt or the swamp and telling stories about it, reenacting what transpired...What is just as interesting is to wonder at the evolutionary process whereby the returning tribesman thought to himself as he limped home -- well, what am I going to say, or what am I going to do to act out the adventure?  How can I explain why I didn't catch anything?"

"When did he see that as a storyteller he controlled the process?"

In the end, we are all actors.  Whether it's during a job interview or our roles as parents or employees, we are often different selves for different people depending on our roles.  We want to be our best version of ourselves.  And our lives are long-running plays.

"With our favorite actors we have seen them grow older, and we read the implication that something just as drastic must have happened to us.  Acting is an entertainment, but it is a model for our existence and collapse. We try to act human.  That seems the least we can do, and as long as that condition prevails -- do not trust it forever -- then acting is our engine, and we are driving on a desert road."
Rosy the Reviewer says...Now you know why you should care.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy, Pt. 3: Positano and The Amalfi Coast
(with travel tips and my usual pithy observations)


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Friday, September 12, 2014

Actors and Actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood: A Quiz (1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Pt. 1) and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Let's Be Cops" and the DVDs "Only Lovers Left Alive," "Fading Gigolo" and "Cuban Fury" and highlight the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.]

But First

Three different events inspired me to write this blog post.

First a Facebook argument, er...discussion about the relevance of actors and actresses from the 30's and 40's and 50's, what I like to call "The Golden Age of Hollywood."  Mike, a friend of mine and Hubby's, put up an homage to a movie from the 50's, and I stupidly remarked, "Who cares,?" a rather inflammatory thing to say to a classic movie enthusiast, to say the least. His classic movie enthusiast friends came at me like the bats in Dracula's cave.  But what I really meant to say was a lament.  I am also a classic movie enthusiast, and I care about all of those actors and actresses, but I don't think anyone else under the age of 50 does. Few remember who the greats of the past were, and the older we get, the more of us who DO remember, fall away.  How do we keep their memories alive in the younger generation?

(My friend Mike weighs in on that question and our earlier Facebook discussion in a great article "As Time Goes By, Why Don't the Fundamental Things Apply? on the Something Else! Reviews website.  Check it out).

The second event that inspired me to write this post was coming across the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."  (see my review at the end of this blog post).

Guess how many of them date back to the mid-century and before?

And finally, I have to admit, I am a hopeless addict to the many quizzes that show up on Facebook such as "If you were a donut, what donut would you be?" (something with sprinkles) and "What Star Wars Character are You?" (I don't want to say).  

A recent one was "How Many Popular Actresses Can You Name?

You had to recognize the actress through a series of pictures with multiple choice answers. The movie enthusiast that I am, I know my Emma Stone from my Sharon Stone and my Julia Roberts from my Emma Roberts.

I got 10 out of 10. 

But then I thought, OK I love movies, and I am in touch with what's going on now, and I know all of the current popular actresses.  But what about the movies of the past, many of which are honored in the 1001 book? These are the movies that have stood the test of time.  And what about the actors and actresses who starred in those movies? Are they forgotten? Do you know your Audrey Hepburn from your Katharine Hepburn and your Robert Alda from your Alan Alda

Would you recognize their pictures?

Well, let's see, my fellow quiz takers. 

How well will you do on this one?

Actors and Actresses
of the Golden Age of Hollywood -

How Many Can You Name?
a.  Vivian Leigh
b.  Leslie Caron
c.  Hedy Lamarr

a. Barbara Stanwyck
b.  Claudette Colbert
c.  Carole Lombard

a.  Greer Garson
b.  Myrna Loy
c.  Maureen O'Sullivan

a.  Ava Gardner
b.  Linda Darnell
c.  Leslie Caron

a.  Joan Crawford
b.  Bette Davis
c.  Tallulah Bankhead

a.  Bette Davis
b.  Carole Lombard
c.  Joan Crawford

a.  Olivia De Havilland
b.  Deborah Kerr
c.  Debbie Reynolds
a.  Joan Bennett
b.  Rita Hayworth
c.  Lupe Velez

a.   Pat O'Brien
b.  Jimmy Cagney
c.  Edward G. Robinson

a.  Burt Lancaster
b.  Kirk Douglas
c.  Robert Taylor

a.  William Holden
b.  Robert Taylor
c.  Ray Milland

a.  Tyrone Power
b.  William Holden
c.   Robert Taylor
a.  Kirk Douglas
b.  Burt Lancaster
c.  Tyrone Power

a.  Jimmy Stewart
b.  Ray Milland
c.  Joel Macrea

a.  Laurence Olivier
b.  John Gielgud
c.  Clark Gable
Didn't know very many of these people,
did you? 
You can recognize Emma Stone, but you can't recognize Rita Hayworth? 

No offense to Emma Stone or any of the other young actresses and actors, but will they stand the test of time that these actors and actresses from the Golden Age have? 
Now here are the answers.



13-15  You know your classic movie stars.  Thanks for keeping their
            memories alive.

10-13  Looks like you keep up with your classic movies on TCM but keep
            watching.  You can do better.

7-10    No, you can't retake it

4-7      Shame

0-3      My little poodle, Tarquin, did better than that and he was drunk
           at the time (I know, I've used that before, but I think it's funny. I
           think that will always be my low scoring scolding response for my 

And here are the reasons why you should know who these people are. 

Remember those 1001 movies you need to see before you die? 

They were in them.

(some of which I have highlighted below with some classic moments and fun remembrances).

And if you consider yourself a movie buff, you should know their names.

How many of these movies have you seen?

Leslie Caron                         "Gigi"  (1958)

Classic:  The song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls."  I don't think that one would fly today.


Barbara Stanwyck           "The Lady Eve" (1941)

Classic:  Fred McMurray's pratfalls.  A classic in the screwball comedy genre.

Myrna Loy                               "The Thin Man" (1934)

Classic:  Asta the dog.

Ava Gardner                "The Barefoot Contessa" (1954)

Classic:  Ava's beauty.


Bette Davis                           "All About Eve" (1950)

Classic: Bette saying as only Bette can, "Fasten you seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"


Joan Crawford                  "Mildred Pierce" (1945)
                                                        (the movie, not the dog)

Classic: Long suffering mother with an evil daughter and those shoulder pads!

Deborah Kerr               "From Here to Eternity" (1953)

Classic:  Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster lying on the sand kissing as the surf rolls over them.  Made my young heart go pitter patter.  Still does.

Rita Hayworth                       "Gilda" (1946)

Classic: Rita singing "Put the Blame on Mame" while doing a sexy dance (tame by our current standards, hot for 1946).

Burt Lancaster                       "Elmer Gantry" (1960)

Classic:  Shirley Jones as a prostitute (remember "The Partridge Family?"  Shocking!  Mrs. Partridge! How could you?  Well, she did and won an Academy Award.  And she still got to play Marian the Librarian!)

Ray Milland                            "The Lost Weekend" (1945)

Classic: The shadow of the bottle hidden in the light fixture.

William Holden                       "Sunset Blvd." (1950)

Classic:  William Holden starred but Gloria Swanson stole the movie uttering, "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille," as she sinks into madness.


Kirk Douglas                           "Spartacus" (1960)

Marcus Licinius Crassus (Olivier) attempting to seduce Antoninus (Tony Curtis). (This scene was considered too racy and cut in the original but restored to the 1991 re-release).


Joel Macrea                             "Sullivan's Travels" (1941)

Classic:  Veronica Lake's iconic hairdo - her bangs falling over one eye was considered very sexy and became a fad.

Laurence Olivier                      "Rebecca" (1940)

Classic:  Mrs. DanversCreepy, creepy, creepy.

Hitchcock's only Academy Award - for Best Picture - not Best Director.

These were just some of the actors and actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood who starred in some of the greatest movies ever made.  These actors and actresses defined what was great movie-going for almost 40 years.

Quizzes aside, how do we keep their memories alive?

They deserve to be remembered.

Now on to The Week in Reviews

***In Theatres Now***
Two losers (Jake Johnson and Damon Wayons Jr.) dress up as cops for a costume party and soon find themselves pretending to be real cops.

Ryan (Johnson) is an ex-college football star who hasn't been able to make much of his life since then. Justin (Wayans, Jr.) is a video game designer who can't get his ideas heard and is too timid to ask out a waitress he is interested in (Nina Dobrev).  Ryan and Justin are invited to a costume party and go dressed as policemen.  Our "heroes" find wearing a police uniform has its perks, and suddenly they get the respect they have been craving.  They discover that when you are a cop, people do what you say.  Women are attracted to you.  So they decide to "be cops," responding to actual calls, only to find out that also has its drawbacks.  Policemen get themselves into dangerous situations and our guys are no exceptions.  They soon find themselves tangling with some very bad guys.

I know.  Don't ask.  Well, OK, we had free passes for a preview of the upcoming film "The Maze Runner," but got there too late to get in.  We were there anyway, so decided to see something else.  The timing was right for this one.

And you know what, it was funny. 

Johnson and Wayans star together on the TV show "New Girl" and their chemistry saves the film, which has a rather obvious plot and conclusion.  They play it all straight, which adds to the comedy. Despite the fact that these characters are idiots, they are endearing idiots and you root for them.  Think "Beverly Hills Cop" meets "Dumb and Dumber."

Wayans is Damon Wayons son and it is amazing how much he looks like his Dad and has his Dad's comic timing.  Johnson is hilarious and cringe-worthy as the guy who always makes the wrong decisions.  Keegan-Michael Key is hilarious who you may recognize from "Mad TV" is hilarious as the informant, Pupa. I almost didn't recognize him at first.

Rosy the Reviewer passed my test for a comedy, which is.. "Did I laugh?"  Yes.  However, it will be just as funny at home on DVD.

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

British vampires in Detroit.  Bloody delicious.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play long time lovers Eve and Adam.  What constitutes a long time?  Try eternity.  They are vampires.  He is a successful musician surrounded by his guitar collection, a bit of a luddite and seriously depressed living in Detroit (a dead city, get it?).  Eve is in Tangier hanging out with Christopher Marlowe (yes, that Christopher Marlowe).  Marlowe provides Eve with the best blood you can get.  But Adam's depression is worrying so Eve travels to Detroit (night flights, of course) to be with her lover. All is going along swimmingly for them until Eve's mischievous sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) descends upon them and screws everything up.

We get to see how modern vampires might survive today, dealing with the 21st Century, of which Adam and Eve do not approve. Both have their blood supply situation figured out, blood that when taken puts them in a heroin-like trance.  They take night flights so they arrive at their destination before dawn and they enjoy blood popsicles

This is another witty and ingenious film by writer/director Jim Jarmusch.  I saw his first film "Stranger than Paradise" in 1984 and was hooked. I still have vivid memories of Eszter Balint (another Eve) walking around New York City deadpan with a huge boom box blasting out "I Put a Spell on You."  That film was followed by "Down by Law," (1986) "Mystery Train, (1989) "Night on Earth" (1991) and others and all had the same quirky, intelligent and humorous tone.  In this latest effort, lots of black humor.

After draining the blood of one of Adam's musician pals, Ava says she feels sick to which Eve replies, "What do you expect?  He's from the music industry."

Eve says to Adam, "How can you live for so long and still not get it?"

There is also a very funny scene as they try to dispose of a dead body.

There is much name-dropping as Jarmusch has some fun with inside jokes, such as Adam and Eve's visit to Jack White's home, mentioning having known Mary Wollstonecraft and Eve's passport using the name "Daisy Buchanan."

This almost felt like a satire on the Twilight series. It could be the Twilight characters all grown up. Vampires trying to exist side by side with the Zombies (their term for humans) without having to get their hands bloody, as it were.  All very civilized until driven by these modern times to act out.

The cinematography is moody and decadent, the music strange and atmospheric, all adding up to a fascinating glimpse into the lives of a couple of erudite, arty immortals.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a vampire movie like you've never seen and one of the best films I've seen all year.

Fading Gigolo (2013)

John Turturro writes, stars and directs in this Woody Allen style film about an aging Lothario who becomes a gigolo to make some cash.

Bookstore owner Murray Schwartz (Woody Allen) is selling his book store, and it just so happens that his doctor (Sharon Stone) had mentioned to him that she wanted to do a menage a trois with her friend (Sofia Vergara).  This somehow prompts Murray to think that pimping out his friend, broke florist Fioravante (Turturro), would be a great way for both of them to make a little money.  

It crosses your mind to ask what Stone and Vergara would see in Turturro, but somehow he is seen as a specimen of female understanding. It's a stretch.  However, his relationship with Avigal (Vanessa Paridis, longtime partner of Johnny Depp and now his ex), a Hasidic widow, is sweet.  Liev Schreiber as Dovi, a member of the Hasidic community's safety patrol and who loves Avigal from afar, rounds out the cast.

Woody Allen's influence on Turturro is evident from the jazz soundtrack to some very quirky "Allen-esque" elements, such as Murray unexplainably living with a much younger African American woman and her children, and of course, Woody himself with his usual quirkiness and funny way of throwing away his lines.

But despite all of that, the film doesn't come together, though it was an interesting idea and the acting was fine. There was promise here.  This was Turturro's fifth film as writer/director and was more mainstream and accessible  than his earlier works.  Maybe the next one will be a winner.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film has a sweetness about it, but the best things are Woody and the music.

Cuban Fury  (2014)

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) is overweight, bored and unhappy, but once he was the reigning young salsa dancer in the UK.  That dream was cut short by some bullies. His love for his new boss (Rashida Jones) revives his love of dance as he sets out to win her.

Bruce and his sister took the UK salsa world by storm as kids, but an unfortunate encounter with some bullies who took issue with his sequined shirt while on his way to the National competition (they made him eat his sequins) led Bruce to give up dancing.  Now he is overweight and working at a lathe factory.  But when he meets, Julia, his new boss and discovers she loves salsa dancing, he decides to give it another go.  He meets up with his bitter old teacher, Ron, (Ian McShane ) to ask for help, all the while being tormented by his co-worker, Drew (Chris O'Dowd) another bully, who also is interested in Julia.  How does our hero overcome the bully?  Why, in a dance-off, of course!

Based on an idea by Frost, this is your typical story of am endearing schlub triumphing over the cool mean kid, but it's charming and funny, mostly because of Frost.
If you are a fan of British comedy, you will recognize Nick Frost as part of that whole hilarious Simon Pegg trilogy:  "Shaun of the Dead,"  "Hot Fuzz"  and "World's End."  Pegg even plays an uncredited role here as a driver in a car park (see if you can spot him).

More comedy is supplied by Bejan (Kayvan Novak), a fellow salsa dancer, who is supposedly Persian, maybe gay, maybe straight, we're not sure. Bejan schools Bruce in what to wear, shaved chest, fake tan and all.

O'Dowd is funny as the bullying co-worker and Rashida Jones is delightful as as the source of Bruce's and Drew's affections. Olivia Coleman, who I loved so much in the mini-series "Broadchurch," rounds out the cast as Bruce's sister and ex-dance partner.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet, predictable film in the mode of "Rocky" and "The Karate Kid," but for dance that even guys will like.  It's not going to win any awards, but I smiled through the whole thing.

***Book of the Week***
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die  by Steven Jay Schneider (2013)

A beautifully produced book featuring 1001 "classic" films.

This book is sure to spur debate among movie lovers. But as said in the preface, this "was never intended as a 'best of' collection," though many of the films were culled from "Sight and Sound's" Critics Top 250 and Directors Top 100 greatest films polls. Some films were excluded if they didn't pass "the test of time," or if one film was thought to be the best example of an artist's work.

I for one think that the early comedies of Peter Sellers are conspicuously missing - "The Party" and "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" are particular favorites of mine and even "The Pink Panther," a more popular film, is also absent.  I think comedies often don't get their due respect. But that said, this is still a movie lover's dream. 

Which films do you think are missing? How many have you seen?

Rosy the Reviewer says... check in with me next Friday for Pt. 2 of "1001 Movies You Need to See Before You Die" for highlights and to find out how many I have and haven't seen.
That's it for this Week.

See you Tuesday


"What I Did on My Summer
My Summer in Concerts"

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Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."

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Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."