Showing posts with label Archangel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archangel. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2019

"Late Night" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Late Night" as well as DVDs "A Dog's Way Home" and the Netflix original "Always Be My Maybe," now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love" by Dani Shapiro.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Archangel."]

Late Night

Threatened with losing her long-running late night talk show, Katherine Newbury orders her production manager to hire a woman writer.

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) has won all kinds of awards for her comedy and late night talk show, "Tonight with Katherine Newbury." She has a bit of an ego about it.  Well, okay, a big ego about it. However, when her ratings go down and the head of the network threatens to fire her and replace her with a smart-ass, young, up-and-coming comic (Ike Barinholtz), she realizes she needs to bite the bullet and assess her situation.

And what she discovers is that despite the fact that she says she is a feminist, she doesn't appear to like women. When she is called out about it, she realizes that all of her writers are men. And she doesn't like them very much either. OK, let's just say she doesn't really like anyone. She is a tough cookie, a female curmudgeon who everyone in the office hides from but, to her credit, she is the only woman on late night television and who knows what she had to go through to be a late night woman talk show host in a man's world? But now, her show has become irrelevant because she doesn't appear to give a damn about what the public wants. She has her snobbism, er, standards. It hits home with her when she smugly interviews a young YouTube sensation and talks down to her, only to have the young woman get what she is doing and tell her off on live TV.  

So Katherine decides she needs a woman writer to seem to even be slightly legit.  Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), fresh off the quality assurance boat at the chemical plant where she works.  Long story how she got an interview as a writer on Katherine's show.  More on that later.

Molly is clearly enamored of Katherine and feels like she is living the dream when she gets hired despite the fact she is a fish out of water and hardly welcomed by the all-male writing staff.  Katherine on the other hand doesn't appreciate Molly's fawning and gives her a hard time, but as these kinds of comedies go, they are both going to learn from each other, right?  Yes, but Kaling, who wrote the screenplay, does a fresh take on that plot, handling the comedic scenes in sometimes surprising and satirical ways.

Emma Thompson is a National Treasure.  Unfortunately, she's not OUR National Treasure.  She is a Brit but the Brits have recognized her contributions to the arts and made her a Dame, so it's Dame Emma to you and me! And what a Dame!  She is just a marvelous actress and classes up whatever film she is in. When we first noticed her, she was acting up a storm in prestige English dramas like "The Remains of the Day," "Carrington" and "Sense and Sensibility."  What we didn't know, though, was that Dame Emma had made a name for herself in the U.K. as a comedian in sketch comedy on UK telly, much like our "Saturday Night Live."  Now she is considered one of the world's great actresses. But lately she has gone back to her comedic roots and we are the better for it.

Then there is Mindy Kaling, who is a refreshing and engaging screen presence.  She is refreshing because she is not your typical leading lady, and yet, she is believable as a leading lady because she is real and clearly likes herself, in a good way.  She is also smart and funny - as I said, she wrote this screenplay which is mostly also smart and funny. 

However, I do have a problem with comedies where I have to stretch my disbelief.

In this case, it's a bit much to believe that a quality control officer at a chemical plant would end up as a writer on one of the most popular late night talk shows even if she got there via an essay contest where the prize was meeting the CEO of a company and, instead of choosing the CEO of her chemical plant, she chose the CEO of the umbrella company that owned the chemical plant that just so happened to also own the TV network on which Katherine Newbury's show aired which then resulted in her getting an interview for a writer on the show because Katherine Newbury just happened to need a female writer.  (Phew!).  See what I mean?  There are a few other "What the...?" moments, but in general, the film directed by Nisha Ganatra is smart, and funny, very much in the "feel good" genre, and breezes right along, showcasing both actresses nicely and making for a fun film experience.  It also reminded me that we don't have any women on late night!  Shame!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a lot of fun watching an actress at the top of her game and an engaging newcomer to feature films. One of the better comedies of the year!

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


A Dog's Way Home (2019)

A dog travels 400 miles to reunite with her owner.

OK, so I was on a long flight and had seen all of the other films on offer.  And who doesn't love a movie about a cute little dog?  Well, I actually didn't because this movie is the most egregiously sentimental movie I have ever seen.  But did I cry at the end? Of course I did. I mean it's about a dog who goes through hell to get home to her "person." I would have to have a heart of stone to not cry when she gets home.

But it's everything in between that made me squirm and not in a good way.  

Adapted from his book, the screenplay was written by W. Bruce Cameron along with Cathryn Michon and the film was directed by the actor Charles Martin Smith (remember "Toad" in "American Graffiti")? Let's just say this movie is aimed at people who like to spend hours on their computers looking at pictures of kittens and puppies. 

Little Bella is born under a wreck of a house and lives there with her mother and a bunch of cats.  However, mean Mr. Landlord sends the Mean Puppy Police to the house and all of the animals, including Bella's mother, are rounded up.  Well, somehow they miss Bella and a mother cat so the mother cat becomes Bella's mother.

In the meantime, Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King), a well-meaning young man, and his girlfriend, Olivia (Alexandra Shipp), are animal activists and keeping an eye on the cats living under the house and calling Mean Mr. Landlord out about it.  They discover Bella and adopt her and her life looks good until Mean Mr. Puppy Policeman arrives and says pit bulls are not allowed in Denver.

Begin rant.  OK, that is actually true.  Pit bulls are banned in Denver but if Bella is a pit bull I am Julia Roberts.  Yes, Bella's mother was a pit bull IN THE MOVIE, but she must have had relations with a poodle for her little baby to end looking like Bella. In the book by W. Bruce Cameran, Bella was a pit bull mix and that was what the filmmakers went after at the shelter where they found Bella but someone must have pulled their legs when they told them she was a pit bull mix, because Bella is nowhere near a pit bull nor, sorry pit bull lovers, would she be as cute as Bella if she was.  But since there is no way for them to prove that she is a pit bull mix nor for me to prove she's not, it's moot, but just let me say since Bella being a dangerous pit bull in the city of Denver is the whole crux of the film and the reason Bella had to travel 400 miles, it bugged the hell out of me for the whole film. Rant over...for now.

So anyway, suspend disbelief about the pit bull stuff.  Lucas decides the only way to save Bella is to send her 400 miles away to New Mexico while he and his mother (he lives with his mother who is a veteran suffering with PTSD) try to get a place in Golden where I guess no one is scared of pit bulls.  Ok, sorry.  Another rant.  Do these people not have friends who can take the dog who live closer than New Mexico?  What the hell?

So anyway, Bella goes to New Mexico to be taken care of by some nice people.  However, she is a dog and we all know that dogs bore easily so just as Lucas and his mother are coming to get her, Bella spots an opportunity to escape and "go home," something Lucas had taught her to do when Mean Mr. Puppy Policeman was around.  So off she goes, just missing Lucas and his mom and so begins Bella's odyssey to get home, something that took her a couple of years.

On the way, she encounters some nice people who take her in, some mean people and even "adopts" a baby cougar.

OK, sigh, ranting time. Bella and a mountain lion cub who Bella dubs "Big Kitten" become friends and travel together. Really?  Well, OK, but the CGI for the cougar was really bad.  And one more thing - c'mon, animal control people are really as terrible as depicted in this film? The pit bull ordinance is bad enough.

Bryce Dallas Howard is the voice of Bella and it doesn't get much more sugary than the voice she uses for Bella. Despite the presence of Ashley Judd, the acting was bad as in OVER acting. And what Ashley Judd is doing in this is anybody's guess.  Cute dog and touching reunion aside, it was pretty bad.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you feel the urge to see this, just go back to those kitten and puppy videos on YouTube instead.

Streaming on Netflix

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Two childhood friends fall in love when they reunite as adults.

During the 90's, Sasha and Marcus grew up living next door to each other in San Francisco.  Sasha's parents ran a store and were never home so Marcus's mother would invite her over for dinner. Marcus's mother, Mrs. Kim, is a sweet woman and a wonderful cook. However, she dies young leaving Marcus motherless. But Marcus and Sasha remain friends and even have a romantic moment one night in the back seat of a car, a funny scene reminding many of us just how hard it is to get it on in a car!  After they have sex, the two feel awkward, then start to regret it and eventually have a fight that separates them for years.

Fast forward to 2019.  Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) have moved on.  Sasha is a successful chef (Mrs. Kim's influence) and restaurant owner in L.A. engaged to a guy who disappoints her by asking her to postpone their wedding so he can follow an opportunity in India.  Worse, he also proposes they see other people to determine whether they really are right for each other or not.  That's usually the nail in the coffin in a relationship.  But Sasha tries to think optimistically. She also has a lot on her mind - opening another restaurant, this time in San Francisco.

Marcus lacked the courage to go to college, is still in San Francisco working with his Dad in his heating and cooling service and plays in a band, though again he hasn't really committed to making something of that, and in true rom-com fashion, he just happens to have a job at the house where Sasha and her friend, Veronica (Michelle Buteau), are staying and voila!  Sasha and Marcus are reunited!

The two have a tenuous reunion at first and get into some fights, but ultimately bond on their shared history, helping each other find themselves professionally. Rom-coms have a formula.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, after much sturm un drang boy gets girl back.  We know all of that, but it's the journey that matters, and this journey is a wonderful one!  

Okay, I know I did a rant about Netflix a few weeks ago when I reviewed "The Perfection," but I decided to give Netflix one more chance, and I am so glad I did!  This film was just, well, perfection! 

It's a rom-com that actually has rom AND com! And what makes this film special is that it features Asian actors but it's not ABOUT Asians, if that makes sense.  The Asian aspect is not the centerpiece, and in fact, is barely mentioned, which is how films should always be these days. And there are no ethnic stereotypes employed to get a laugh. It's a story about Americans. It's a love story that just happens to be between two Asian American characters but smartly does not take on the Asian experience in America.  It's just two crazy American kids in love!  

And to bring that point home, David Bowie's "Young Americans" sets the stage early for celebrating the diversity that is us Americans.  We come in all shapes and sizes, color and ethnicities; we all have parents, romances, tragedies and triumphs. This story could be about African Americans, Hispanics, Swedish Americans, anyone.  That's the point.

Ali Wong and Randall Park have mostly toiled in television until now, though Wong is also a stand-up comic, but they are engaging actors who I hope I will see more of.  And Ali makes wearing glasses cool.  Keanu Reeves actually makes a very funny appearance as a snobby actor in a very funny dinner scene, so now I feel bad for ripping him a new one in my review of "Replicas."  He actually does have some acting mojo and a sense of humor about himself, which I enjoyed.

Directed by Nahnatchka Khan (I should have known it was a woman because it was so good!) with a screenplay by Park, Wong and Michael Golamco, this is a very charming and funny film that also made me tear up.  And watch the credits for more fun stuff.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a must see.  Time to Netflix and chill!

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

89  to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Archangel (1990)

A soldier with amnesia arrives in Archangel and help fight the Bolsheviks not realizing that the war is already over...and that everyone else in town seems to have amnesia too!

And I wish I had amnesia.  I want to forget this film.  When this "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" is over I am going to have to write some scathing letters to some of these critics for the movies they made me endure.  This one was absolutely terrible.

Boles (Kyle McCulloch) is a one-legged Canadian soldier who ends up in the Archangel area of Russia following the end of WW I. His love, Iris, has died and he finds himself staying with a strange family consisting of a mother (who immediately has a hankering for Boles), a father, a grandmother, a son and a nameless baby.  Then Veronkha (Kathy Marykuca) shows up and Boles believes she is his dead love, Iris, already forgetting that Iris has died. Coincidentally, Veronkha's husband, Philbin (Ari Cohen), also has amnesia and can't remember anything since his wedding day and lives a kind of "Groundhog Day" existance, every day thinking it's his wedding day. Veronkha gets amnesia too. Geez, nobody in this film can remember squat. All kinds of crazy stuff happens.  Mistaken identity. There's a fake leg that keeps making an appearnce hanging from the ceiling in the center of the screen. Someone gets strangled with his own intestines.  A bunch of rabbits. It goes on and on.

The story is stupid, the actors amateurish, the production values like something out of a 1930's horror film despite the fact this was filmed in 1990, and the writing is terrible.  There is one line: "Do you remember me?  I'm the one who hit you on the head with a rifle butt!"  And it wasn't supposed to be funny!

Directed by Guy Maddin, a celebrated Canadian underground director, author, cinematographer and film editor with a penchant for silent and early films and who also dabbles in installation art, I couldn't tell if this was supposed to be funny or not. If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. I think Maddin might be one of those kinds of directors who says, "Let's make this as incomprehensible as possible so the critics will think it's deep." Whatever.  I just didn't get it.  But I usually don't get installation art, either.

Why it's a Must See:  "What comes across is a fascinating fetishist delirium, where memories of remote war movies get recycled into something that is alternately creepy and beautiful."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...creepy I get.

***The Book of the Week***

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love by Dani Shapiro (2019)

What would you do if you sent your DNA to and the results showed that your Dad wasn't your Dad?

Well, that's what happened to Dani Shapiro.  At the age of 54, her whole history was turned upside down after she sent off her DNA sample to on a whim and it came back with surprising results.

There had been signs, though. For one thing, she didn't look like her parents or the rest of her family who were all Orthodox Jews. She was blonde and blue-eyed, and growing up, there were remarks about her not "looking Jewish."  In fact, one neighbor had even made a remark that Dani could have helped get food for those in the Nazi concentration camps because of her Nordic looks.  But she brushed those comments off.  What does "looking Jewish" mean, anyway? But when those DNA results came back, Shapiro was forced to examine her parents' lives and her entire existance.

This memoir chronicles Shapiro's fascinating journey to discover her origins and how she came to grips with the truth.

Shapiro was eventually able to find her biological father, who had been a medical student at Penn and who had donated sperm during his time there. But why wasn't her own father's sperm used when her mother and father were trying to conceive?  Did her parents know that someone else's sperm was used to conceive her? She will never know exactly what her parents knew and didn't know. Shapiro consulted with experts in the field and discovered that mixing sperm was a common practice back in the day, and most recipients did not know about it. 

Doctors playing God is nothing new. I was telling this story to my husband and he told me a joke - "What's the difference between doctors and God?" "What?" "God doesn't think he's a doctor!" But in this case and in the case of those triplets showcased in the film "Three Identical Strangers," which I reviewed last year, and the cases of countless other children, it's not a joke.  Much heartache has been caused in the name of "science."

But Shapiro's story at least has a conclusion.  According to experts, "test tube babies" have practically zero chance of discovering their real parentage, but in Shapiro's case, an offhand remark by her mother about her difficulties getting pregnant and an institute at Penn that helped her get pregnant led Shapiro to her biological father.

Now I can't possibly begin to understand what I would have felt if when I received my results I had found out I was half Italian or something, since my mother was full Swedish and my Dad's ancestry can be traced back to the early colonization of America via the Mayflower. 

Shapiro's story made me sad for her. I couldn't imagine finding out that my Dad wasn't my Dad.  Despite the fact that as a teen, I felt very misunderstood by my family - what teen doesn't? - and felt that I couldn't possibly be a part of THEM, I always knew who I was even though when I got mad at them I used to say I was probably really the milkman's daughter.  But I didn't really believe that. 

There was no mistaking whose kid I was.  I looked just like my Dad.  But Shapiro's poignant story inspired me to go back and see that again for myself, to be grateful I could see myself in my Dad and him in my son (it's all about the eyes).

And this set of pictures represents three generations spanning 75 years.

It makes me sad that Shapiro can't look at pictures of the dad who raised her and see herself in him, but she has come to grips with that because she has pictures of her Dad in her own mind and she sees only love.  So for her the whole issue of nature vs. nurture is solved.

"I may have been cut from the same cloth as [my biological father], but I was and forever would be Paul Shapiro's daughter...If not for him, I would never have been born.  I was connected to him on the level of neshama [hebrew word for soul or spirit], which had nothing to do with biology, and everything to do with love."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating, modern and poignant story that leans the nature vs. nurture scale toward nurture.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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.