Showing posts with label Almodavar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Almodavar. Show all posts

Thursday, May 12, 2022

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

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

Encanto (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parallel Mothers (2021)

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

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

So here is his latest.

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

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

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

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

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

Marry Me (2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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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 10, 2014

The Best Food Shows on TV and the Week in Reviews

[I review the movies "Saving Mr. Banks,"  "Last Love," "Tell No One," "Elysium," "Sightseers," and "I'm So Excited" and recommend a great cookbook].

But first

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you have probably already surmised that I like food and my TV, so it's no wonder that I consider myself a bit of an expert on food programs, not to be confused with "cooking shows."  I don't particularly like watching people cook, but I love watching people running around cooking in competition or traveling the world and eating food in exotic locales.

So here are
Rosy the Reviewer's picks for
The Best Food Shows on TV.

Top Chef

Top Chef is the granddaddy of the cooking show competitions. 

Well established chefs from well- known restaurants all over the U.S. compete for money, but mostly culinary props as "Top Chef." This is a slick show with no heavy handedness, though there is unabashed promotion of the City in which the competition takes place (though when they were in Seattle they shafted us by heading to Alaska after only a couple of episodes)The show is currently in New Orleans. 

The host is Padma Lakshmi, ex-wife of novelist Salmon Rushdie, and I am not really sure what her foodie credentials are.  She is a skinny bitch (pardon my French), who doesn't look like she really likes food, and her main roles on the show are to tell the chef's when they have only five minutes left, taste the food, and basically look good in her tight frocks.  But it's fun to hear her tell the loser "Please pack your knives and go" at the end of each show. 

 "Top Chef Masters" continues the "journey" as past, popular contestants compete alongside other well-known chefs for that highest honor. 

I have to brag that I have eaten at Art Smith's (Southern Art), Richard Blais's (The Spence), Hugh Acheson's (Empire State South) and Kevin Gillespie's (Woodfire Grill) restaurants in Atlanta (thanks to my daughter who lived there for a few years) - all major players in the "Top Chef" franchise. 

And here I am with Richard Blais at his restaurant. 
Yes, I also groupie for famous chefs!
Next stop:  Aragona, here in Seattle.  Chef Carrie Mashaney was just booted off "Top Chef" last week after a stellar showing.

The Taste

Think "The Voice" for food. 

Contestants for The Taste prepare one perfect bite of their dish for each judge to try in a blind taste test.  As in "The Voice," the judges choose the best tastes from a blind taste test, the winners become part of their team and the judges mentor them for the rest of the show.   

Marcus Samuelsson joins the judging team this year (it's on now).  He was born in Ethiopia and was adopted by a Swedish couple and he grew up in Sweden. He won "Top Chef Masters" in 2010, and I have had the privilege of eating at one of his restaurants in Stockholm (American Table Brasserie and Bar).  I have fond memories of the cute bartender.  But I digress. Samuelsson now runs a famous restaurant in NYC.  You can read about his life in "Yes Chef: A Memoir."

Anything with Gordon Ramsay

Gordon is really a pussy cat.

I know he yells, but from Hell's Kitchen to Kitchen Nightmares to Masterchef, I am a huge fan of Gordon Ramsay's.  Yes, Hell's Kitchen has some ridiculous contestants and, yes, Gordon yells a lot, but I love watching Gordon do his stuff. However, if you are not a fan of people who tell it like it is, you probably won't like Gordon or Tony (see below).  But being direct is also my credo, so I get them and appreciate their talents despite their sometimes jarring sensibilities. 

Read Marco Pierre White's book "The Devil in the Kitchen" if you want to find out why Gordon yells so much.  It's the kitchen culture he grew up with But if you want to see him get all warm and fuzzy, watch "Kitchen Nightmares" where he not only helps people get their restaurants solvent again, he imparts personal advice too.  He's a sort of foodie psychologist.


If you like "Top Chef," you will like Master Chef.

Yet another show we stole from the Brits. As one of the judges, Gordon Ramsay is actually a teddy bear in this one.  Similar to "Top Chef," but with amateur cooks, the contestants are thrown difficult food challenges using strange ingredients and with little time to prepare them.

Anything with Tony Bourdain

If you like food and travel, you will love Tony.

Tony's book "Kitchen Confidential," where he skewered the restaurant industry, brought him to the public's attention, but his TV shows "A Cook's Tour," "No Reservations," "The Layover" and "Parts Unknown" have made him a big star (he is also a judge on "The Taste.")  His shows are not just food shows, but travelogues.  He travels the world and eats, yes, but he also shows the viewer an interesting, unusual and personal side to the countries he visits.  "The Layover" is particularly fun as he shows us what to do in a particular city when we have a 24-48 hour layover.

2015 Update:  Tony came to town and we were able to see him and do a Meet and Greet.  He's a really nice guy!

Food Network Star

Want your own show on the Food Network? 

Contestants are put through their paces to see who has the personality and cooking and TV skills to host their own show.  Winners do actually get their own show and become a Food Network Star, in varying degrees. Guy Fieri and Melissa d'Arabian have been past winners.  Not sure if there will be a 2014 series, but you can find past shows on YouTube. 
(2015 update.  Yes, there was a 2015 series).

Check Please NW/Come Dine With Me

"Check Please" is a TV show that airs in various U.S. cities. 

Three people choose their favorite restaurants and all three eat there and then get together on camera to discuss what they thought.  Yours truly appeared on the show in July of 2012 and if you care to see my star turn, take a look.  "How To Cook a Wolf" was my restaurant.

Currently, you can find this show in Phoenix, Miami, San Francisco and Kansas City, in addition to Seattle.

"Come Dine with Me" is similar, except in this case 4 or 5 people gather at each other's homes to eat a meal prepared by the host.  At the end of the evening, they rate the meal and at the end of the week, the host with the most points wins money.  What makes this show fun is the narrator who tosses out snarky comments throughout.  I started watching this program on UK TV (and you can find it on YouTube), but this year, Lifetime picked up the Canadian version for a few episodes.  Fingers crossed that a U.S. version gets made because it's a great show if you are a foodie.

What are your favorite Foodie shows? 

***In Theatres Now***

The supposed true story of how Walt Disney secured the rights to make a movie of "Mary Poppins," despite the reluctance and downright irascibility of the author, P.L. Travers.
This film embodied what you expect from a Disney film.  It's thoroughly entertaining.  Tom Hanks embodies Walt Disney (it's been a good year for Tom) and Emma Thompson will surely be nominated for an Academy Award for her portrait of Travers, though one could say her performance was a bit on the one note side. 
Though I  enjoyed the film very much, my one complaint would be the script.  Throughout the film, I wanted to know why P.L. Travers turned out to be so bitter. In my mind, I couldn't make the leap from her childhood to the bitter middle-aged woman she became.  Yes, she had a traumatic childhood and there were some allusions to other aspects of her life, but the events of her life from childhood to middle age were left unexplainedBut other than that, Mary Poppins is a beloved figure and movie and people sitting near me were singing along with the tunes and smiling, remembering Mary Poppins and her movie and, no doubt, their childhoods, and I think Hubby was blubbering a bit.
Rosy the Reviewer of Mary Poppins and Disney films will love this.  The acting is first rate. Recommended.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I watch the bad ones so you don't have to)

Last Love (2013)

A grieving, widowed American philosophy professor living in Paris makes a connection with a wounded young French woman.
Michael Caine can do no wrong in my book, though why they made him an American, I don't know.  His accent is fine, but I like him better as a Brit.
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you liked "Amour (won Best Foreign Language film in 2012 and Emmanuelle Riva was nominated for Best Actress)," you will like this one. 
In fact, I loved this one. This one is less dark, utterly charming and captures the beauty of Paris and the French countryside.  Not to be missed. 

Tell No One (2006)

A French doctor is suspected of his wife's murder which happened eight years earlier.  He gets involved in trying to solve the case when he starts getting emails from his dead wife!
Hubby wanted to see this because he was reading a book about French parks and it said Parc Monseau, one of the parks in the book, figured prominently in this filmI was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my favorite French actors - Francois Cluzet - was in it.  I call him the French Dustin Hoffman, because they look so much alike. 
Am I not right?
You may have seen him in a more recent film, The Intouchables, where he played a paralyzed man, whose nurse tries to help him get the most out of life.
Rosy the Reviewer says...A fast paced mystery (you won't even notice the subtitles), photographed beautifully and well-acted.  If you are a Hitchcock fan, you will like how this unfolds. Highly recommended.

Elysium (2013)

It's 2154, the earth is a wreck and the wealthy have moved to a space station and left the poor to rot on earth. 

Matt tries to save the earth.

This is similar to "Upside Down" (2012), which I reviewed in an earlier blog and which I actually liked better.  Directed by Neill Blomkamp, who directed the excellent District 9, (which I highly recommend), this is bloody, fast-paced and has a great villain.  Speaking of bloody, Jodie Foster is bloody awful as the villainess Delacourt.  I couldn't figure out if she meant to play it campy or not.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like dystopian thrillers, you will enjoy this, but it's not in the same league as "District 9."

Sightseers (2012)

A dream caravan holiday turns into a killing spree.

Caravan is Brit speak for a trailer. Both of the stars are British stand-up comedians who perfected these characters in their routines and they are perfect for this. These characters are not nice people. This is a very dark, but humorous treatise on what it means to be a good English person from the viewpoint of a serial killer. Let's just say this guy has high standards and if you don't meet them, well...

The ending was reminiscent of "The War of the Roses." If you like dark, dark comedy and, if you like British humor, or should I say, humour, you will like this.  If not, proceed at your own peril.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Think gorgeous English countryside, quirckiness and lots of blood. If Ricky Gervais and Simon Pegg collaborated, this would be it.

I'm So Excited (2013)
A flight from Madrid to Mexico City encounters some problems and everyone on board must face the danger in their own way, and let's just say, much kinkiness ensues.
Nobody's movies look like his.  The colors are so vibrant and the characters so flamboyant. I have been a fan since his first big hit "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988).  Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz make cameo appearances here because Almodavar made them stars in Spain before they hit it big in the U.S.  When I saw Banderas in "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1990)," I went...drool... and predicted he would become a big star, despite the controversy surrounding the film (see it and see what you think). I consider myself a feminist, but couldn't understand what all the sturm und drung was around that film. So there was some bondage and some forced sex.  Stuff happens.  Penelope was his muse in "All About My Mother" and the rest is history. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...after seeing this movie flying in a plane will never be the same.  Or movies, for that matterNo one makes movies like Almodavar.  But they are kinky, so if you are easily offended, perhaps his movies aren't for you.

***Book of the Week***

The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes by Amy Thielen (2013)
This ain't the food I ate growing up in the Midwest.

I don't remember "Sweet and sour potluck meatballs."  I remember Swedish meatballs.

I don't remember "Braunschweiger Mousse," I remember just plain old braunschweiger.

I don't remember "Fancy meatloaf with bacon, mushrooms and pistachios," I just remember plain old meatloaf, though my mother did use ground beef, pork and veal. Pistachios in meat loaf?

I don't remember "Wild Boar Sloppy Joes," I just remember plain old sloppy joes.  Are there wild boars in the Midwest?

And the Seven Layer Salad wasn't a Russian Seven Layer Salad.

But, hey, we all have to grow up sometime.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I love reading cookbooks and this one is fun. Create some new memories.

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned. 
Also Netflix is currently streaming "Sightseers."

That's it for this week. 

See you for Tuesday for
"The Year of the Baby Boomer."
Thanks for reading!
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