Showing posts with label Almost Everything. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Almost Everything. Show all posts

Friday, May 24, 2019

"Wine Country" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Netflix original "Wine Country" as well as DVDs "Venom" and "Capernaum."  The Book of the Week is "Almost Everything: Notes on Hope" by Anne Lamott.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Le Jour Se Leve."]

Wine Country

Six friends head to California Wine Country to celebrate a 50th birthday.

Six friends - Abby (Amy Poehler), Rebecca (Rachel Dratch), Catherine (Ana Gasteyer), Naomi (Maya Rudolph), Val (Paula Pell), and Jenny (Emily Spivey) - head to Napa for some wine-tasting and to celebrate Rebecca's 50th birthday. The six had met when they were much younger while waitressing at a Chicago pizza parlor and had remained friends.  They arrive at an Airbnb owned by Tammy (Tina Fey), a no-nonsense local who has seen it all.

The women sit around and talk, drink, complain about each other and wear muumuus. And each woman has brought along her own issues, and it isn't long until until they start getting on each other's nerves. 

Rebecca is a psychologist who is into giving "feedback" whether it's wanted or not. She is also not happy about turning 50. Abby is a control freak who has planned out every single minute of the trip and is not happy when things start going sideways (and yes, there is a nod to that classic wine tasting film). Catherine always feels she is being left out when in fact she is always on her phone consumed with her work; Val is gay, has new knees and loves life, hitting on Jade, a much younger waitress/artist (Maya Erskine) she meets at dinner; conversely, Jenny is a bit of a downer; and, finally, Naomi is happy to be away from her kids but is worried about the results of a medical test. 

The film is a series of funny little vignettes that illustrate the power of friendship and how real friends enjoy the good in each other and forgive the bad.

Poeller, Fey, Rudolph, Gasteyer and Dratch are comic actors you will recognize as "Saturday Night Live" alums and Pell and Spivey were writers on the show.  So these women know comedy and the film is funny.  But more importantly, it has heart.

One funny moment is when Catherine brings out some "molly" which leads to discussing who has and hasn't done it before which in turn leads Val to quip - "I did Molly in college but then she went back to her boyfriend!" I could just hear that followed by "ba dum chhh." When they attend Jade's art show where all her paintings are of Fran Drescher (remember "The Nanny?"), and all of the young millennials start discussing the deeper meanings in the paintings - I mean, c'mon, Fran Drescher? - I was reminded of Woody's humor, which I miss. Rudolph, who is one of the funniest comic actresses around, does a funny bit at a restaurant where she sings a drunken song atop a piano, falls off the piano but resumes as if nothing happened.  Priceless. 

The film also pokes fun at wine tasting snobbism, art pretentions, millennials, new knees, tarot card readers and all kinds of other stuff. We are also reminded that nothing good comes from a sentence that starts with "Can I just say something?"

This is Poeller's directorial debut, and unlike "Poms (which I reviewed last week)," this film really does celebrate female friendships in a realistic way, showing that friendships can be complicated but they are important.  Also unlike "Poms," it is funny, and in Poeller's capable hands, there are no over-the-top antics to get a laugh  It just felt real. And some of it probably is since all of these women are friends in real life and do vacation together.  So writers Spivey and Liz Cackowski had much to draw from when creating these characters. 

Sometimes you just want to stay home, Netflix and chill.  Well, that, too, but I really am talking about watching the movie, and this one is worth staying home for!

Rosy the Reviewer says...finally, a movie about real women and a comedy that is actually funny. It's been a long time since a movie brought tears to my eyes (happy or sad, that's what happens when I really like a film).  Well, there were some happy tears.

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


Venom (2018)

Yet another Marvel Superhero.

I don't want to go see the "Avengers: Endgame" movie even though it is one of the biggest box office hits ever, because I am sure I wouldn't know what was going on. It's a culmination of all of the Marvel superhero films, and I don't feel like I really know my Marvel superheroes very well, but then I think back, and I actually have seen quite a few of the films: I've seen "Iron Man," "Captain Marvel," "Black Panther," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Spider-man," "Deadpooland now this one.  But when it comes right down to it, I am not a real superhero movie kind of gal.  I was drawn to this film only because of Tom Hardy, who in my estimation is a superhero of an actor.  This guy doesn't just act, he embodies every character he takes on so I wanted to see what he would do with this. 

This film begins with a spaceship bringing back four alien specimens from space for The Life Foundation. One of the organisms escapes causing the ship to crash in Malaysia (reminded me of the film "Life")Three of the organisms are retrieved but they never find the fourth one.  The specimens are transported to a lab in San Francisco where it is discovered that the organisms cannot survive without an oxygen-breathing host.  Unfortunately, the symbiote (parasite to you and me) eventually kills the host so it's a losing proposition for anyone "hosting."  But The Life Foundation embarks on a series of human trials anyway. 

Eddie Brock (Hardy) is a reporter and his girlfriend, Anne (Michelle Williams), is an attorney defending a lawsuit against the Life Foundation.  Eddie sees one of Anne's documents that talks about the human trials and when he later interviews Life Foundation CEO Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), he confronts him about using humans for these trials which results in both Eddie and Anne losing their jobs.  And then Eddie loses Anne. 

Six months later, Eddie is contacted by Dr. Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake's scientists. She doesn't agree with Drake's methods and wants Eddie's help.  When Eddie discovers that Maria (Melora Walters), a homeless woman he has befriended, is being used for a trial, he gets into the lab to try to save her but in so doing the organism transfers to him.

Now Eddie is the only known surviving specimen and the symbiote inhabiting him starts talking to him, tells him he is named Venom and then turns Eddie into a scary reptile whenever he feels like it.

Meanwhile, Drake has sent out his goons to find Eddie and retrieve the symbiote, but fortunately, or unfortunately, it depends on how you look at it, the symbiote manifests into a monster and protects Eddie.  And turns out, Venom is actually a good little symbiote. 

And what happened to that fourth symbiote that got away?  Well, he has a name.  Riot.  And he is NOT a good guy, and when he bonds with Drake, we have a battle in store. 

There is a spectacular motorcycle/car chase and the special effects in the fight finale are quite impressive. Not to mention Venom himself. Not a pleasant looking superhero. And there is also some humor, especially when Eddie first starts turning into Venom and he doesn't know what is happening. Likewise the bickering that goes on between the two once Eddie has accepted his fate is funny. However, I just couldn't understand what Michelle Williams was doing in this, especially while watching her in the current "Fosse/Verdon" miniseries on F/X TV where she is sure to win an Emmy for her brilliant performance as Gwen Verdon. Here her part was small and didn't really add much to the film. But there were lots of other things in this film that I didn't understand, so go figure.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer and written by a bunch of people (seven writers!), there were some impressive moments, but the biggest problem I had with this film was the fact that I wasn't really sure what it was about.  Now, I do confess, I feel like this in most superhero movies where the plots are so convoluted and overpopulated with characters that it's difficult to keep everything straight (I also feel like that while watching some spy movies), but I think in this case there was a reason I didn't know what it was about...because it wasn't really about anything.  And it wasn't saved by the presence of Tom Hardy.  I would say this is one of the lesser Superhero films.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this movie did not turn me into a superhero fan but I will follow Tom Hardy anywhere.

Capernaum (2018)

While serving a five-year prison sentence, a 12-year-old boy sues his parents for "being born."

Young Zain (Zain Al Rafeea) ran away from his negligent parents and ended up in jail.  Now he is suing his parents for bringing him into a world of suffering and pain, and yes, his parents are really terrible. Zain doesn't even know how old he is because his parents never bothered to register his birth and get him a birth certificate. But they also live in a hellish world of poverty and chaos (hence "Capernaum" which translates as chaos).

The film begins in the court room and then flashes back several months to tell Zain's story and how he ended up in jail.

Zain is a street-wise kid in Beirut, hustling for his parents and mostly fending for himself.  He was born into poverty with seven kids to a bed, forced to sell juice on the street and to fill forged prescriptions that he and his sister, Sahar (Haita 'Cedra' Izzam), would then crush into a powder that their mother would put into clothes to sell to drug addicts in prison. He also runs errands for Assad, a store owner down the street who is after Sahar, who is only 11.  Zain tries to protect Sahar from Assad and plans to run away with her, but before he can do that his parents "sell" Sahar to Assad.

Zain runs away and meets Rahil (Yordanos Shiferaw), an Ethiopian immigrant with a baby who isn't much better off than Zain but she takes him in.  In return, Zain babysits Rahil's little boy, Yonas, while Rahil is at work.  But when Rahil can't afford to pay for a new ID from the local forger, she is arrested for being undocumented and Zain is forced to take care of Yonas.  Later when Zain discovers that Sahar has died in childbirth, Zain stabs Assad and ends up in prison, but, while in prison, Zain sees a TV show about abused children and decides to turn his parents in.

This is not just the story of Zain, it's also the story of Rahil and the plight of the poor and disenfranchised in Lebanon, but, of course, we can extrapolate their stories to include all of the poor and disenfrancised around the world, especially the children, where those seeking a better life are exploited.  And it's a chaotic and nightmarish world that many live in. Capernaum.

These are not professional actors but young Zain with his haunting face is brilliantly poignant as he lives a life no young boy should have to live. He doesn't really live, he endures.

Directed by Nadine Labaki with a screenplay by Labaki and others, this was one of last year's Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film and it's a haunting, grim tale that goes from bad to worse.  It's heartbreaking but it is an important film. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if ever there was a movie to make you grateful for what you have, this is it.

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

94 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Le Jour Se Leve (1939)

A foundry worker shoots and kills a man, then locks himself in his apartment to await his fate and think back on how he got himself in such a predicament.

In flashback, we learn that Francois (Jean Gabin) had fallen in love with Francoise (Jacqueline Laurent), but she was in a relationship with the older Valentin (Jules Berry), a dog trainer.  Out of spite, Francois embarks on a romance with Clara (Arletty), Valentin's former assistant and lover, despite still being in love with Francoise.  Valentin is an unctuous, arrogant liar who taunts Francois about his relationship with Francoise and what a better life he could give her than Francois, which is eventually what gets him killed. And good riddance because he was a bad man.  

But now Francois sits through the night in a hotel room contemplating his fate and remembering the past. Written by Jacques Viot and Jacques Prevert and d
irected by Marcel CarneCarne employed dissolves to indicate flashbacks which was very innovative for 1939 filmmaking.  The black and white cinematography is very dramatic and it's all very noir and all very grim. And as usual, it's all about a woman.  The film was remade in an American version in 1947 called "The Long Night."

Jean Gabin was a French working man's hero. He starred in some of the most important films in French cinema such as "La Grande Illusion." He was given the Legion of Honor in recognition of his importance to French cinema.  He was the 1930's French equivalent of a George Clooney and had a heady personal life, most notably his long and famous romance with Marlene Dietrich.

Why it's a Must See: "The film's doom-laden sense of existential alienation and austere claustrophobic atmosphere clearly anticipated the mood and form of American film noir...[This film] stands as probably the masterpiece of French poetic realism."

Rosy the Reviewer says...grim but riveting.

(B & W; In French with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott (2018)

God knows, we need hope.  And Lamott tries to give it to us.

Lamott is a teacher, a political activist and a public speaker.  She is also a best-selling author known for her self-deprecating humor and openness about her life.  And this book is no exception.  

The book begins with...

"I am stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse, even as I await the blosoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen.  The news of late has captured the fever dream of modern life: everything exploding, burning, being shot, or crashing to the ground all around us..."

She's right.  Things are bad. So what do we do?

She goes on...

"And yet, outside my window, yellow roses bloom, and little kids horse around, making a joyous racket."

So it's all a giant paradox.  We might wake up wondering if our President has sent a nuclear bomb somewhere while at the same time looking forward to lunch with a friend. 

Lamott wants us to not only recognize the paradoxes of life but also recognize the wisdom and hope that we all carry inside us. She ruminates about life, love, God, aging, death, friendship, our intrinsic value as humans, continuing on despite adversity and finding joy in the smallest things. All of those things exist alongside hope.  And she talks about the one constant.  Change. Our lives may be miserable at the moment but one thing we can always hope for is that it will change.  Change is inevitable and there is hope in that, so Lamott urges us to press on because it will get better.

"Love and goodness and the world's beauty and humanity are the reasons we have hope."

Rosy the Reviewer matter what, there is always something out there in the world that will give us hope.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Hail Satan?"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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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 down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.