Showing posts with label Autobiogaphies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Autobiogaphies. Show all posts

Friday, June 23, 2017

"Wonder Woman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Wonder Woman" as well as DVDs  "I Am Not Your Negro" and "The Founder." The Book of the Week is "Nevertheless: A Memoir" by Alec Baldwin.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Le Trou."]

Wonder Woman

There is a new Wonder Woman in town!  And she's a wonder!

Growing up, I was never into superhero comics.  I was more of an Archie and Veronica kind of girl.  However, I did enjoy Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman on TV, and Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) was a wonderful role model for little girls. Since that show went off the air, we haven't really had a woman superhero to look up to (Supergirl doesn't count).  But that's over now because we have a new Wonder Woman and she is wonderful.

Gal Gadot stars as Diana, Princess of the Amazons, and if an Amazon woman is a tall, strong gorgeous woman then Gal Gadot is all of that.  She is 5' 10, an ex- Miss Israel and absolutely stunning.  And she can act!

As most superhero comic fans know, Wonder Woman started out as Diana, Princess of the Amazons.  And in case you don't know Diana's story, in an exposition at the beginning of the film, we learn that the god Zeus had created mankind in his own image and everything was hunky dory and lovey dovey amongst the humans until Ares, Zeus's brother came along. 

Consumed with jealousy over Zeus and those namby pamby humans, Ares caused mistrust and strife among the humans which resulted in wars, hence Ares becoming the God of War.  Ares also killed all of his fellow gods and was a threat to mankind, so Zeus created the Amazon women to protect humankind and create peace.  And you know what?  I'm not surprised he created women to protect the world.  If we women ran the world...oh, well, I'm not going to get into that now.  Zeus also gave the Amazons the "god killer," a weapon capable of killing Ares.  But he also gave them Diana who will soon learn that she herself is a powerful weapon against evil.

When we first meet Diana, she is a little girl living on the mysterious, hidden island of Themyscira with her mother, Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons (Connie Nielson) and an island full of Amazons.  No men.  She is the only child on the island, and when I heard that, I couldn't help but wonder, who is her Daddy? Diana yearned to learn to fight but her mother forbade it.  However, she trained secretly with her aunt, General Antiope (played by Robin Wright who just seems to get younger and younger and skinnier and skinnier) to become one of the fiercest fighters.

One day, a biplane mysteriously makes its way through the fog of time that surrounds the island and crashes into the sea.  Diana sees this and also sees the pilot, handsome Chris Pine AKA Captain Steve Trevor going down with his plane.  She dives into the ocean to rescue him Little Mermaid-style, and none too soon because a boat full of Germans, who are chasing Steve, also gets through that fog and invades the beach.  How do we know they are Germans?  There is a swastika.  Hey, wait a minute. Biplane?  I thought this was WW I.  There were no swastikas in WW I!   But it is WW I, so just be warned. There is a bit of World War swapping going on in this film.  Anyway, the Germans get onto the island and the Amazon women do battle and ultimately win and that is when Diana learns about World War I raging on in the outside world (but like I said, it's kind of World War I AND World War II). 

The Amazons use their Lasso of Truth on Steve, and he is forced to tell them that he is a spy and had stolen a notebook, a notebook from the infamous Dr. Maru, also known as Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya), because of her penchant for gleefully concocting poisonous gases to kill mankind. Her bad attitude could be due to the fact that she has been horribly scarred and wears a Phantom of the Opera mask to hide her disfigurement.  She is joined in her evil pursuits by Ludendorff (Danny Huston), a Nazi - like officer (but not really a Nazi, because remember, this is World War I, not World War II) for whom she has concocted a substance that when inhaled makes him superhumanly strong.  Cocaine on steroids, if you will.  

Dr. Maru's notebook that Steve has stolen contains formulas for poisonous gases that the Germans plan to use to win the war, and Trevor further explains to the Amazons that when he was shot down he was trying to get that notebook back to British Headquarters. 

When Diana learns that a terrible war is raging and that innocent people are being killed, she believes that Ares is back.  Her Amazonian empathy comes into play and she sees that she must help Steve, go find the war and kill Ares, thus saving the world. 

Despite her mother's fears that Ares will find Diana and kill her, off Steve and she go to save the world and with the help of a motley trio of Steve's friends - Charlie, a morose Scott (Ewen Bremner), Sameer, an Algerian con man (Said Taghmaoui) and The Chief, a cool Native American (Eugene Brave Rock), she does just that.  There is no spoiler there.  We know Wonder Woman will prevail, because that's what she does.  She is Wonder Woman!

She also finds Ares and when she does, there is a bit of a twist, and I was also thinking we were going to get a Darth Vader "I am your father" moment.  Close, but not so.  I think I figured out who Diana's father was but I'm still not absolutely sure.

Sadly, though, Diana learns that the evil of the world is not all Ares' fault.  She learns that humans themselves are imperfect creatures and prone to bad judgment and war.  They have helped to create the evil in the world and it doesn't look like they learn from their mistakes, thus giving Diana a mission in life that will keep her busy for a very long time! Let the sequels commence!

Directed by Patty Jenkins (more Girl Power!) with a script by Allan Heinberg, there is excitement, there is drama, there is violence (but nothing really scary), there is romance and there is humor.  Jenkins does a good job with the powerful slow-mo fight scenes, but also with the softer humorous moments.

When seeing Steve for the first time - a man - Diana is in awe, especially when he steps out of the bath naked. I was in awe too!  I mean, it's Chris Pine! Very refreshing to see the dude naked for once instead of the woman.  Gadot never sheds her clothes. Sorry, guys.  And when Diana encounters early 20th century English life, there are some fish-out-of-water scenes that are very funny.  For example, when shopping for more appropriate clothes - I mean, she can hardly hang out in 1918 London in her barely there little armor dress - she sees a corset and asks if that is a new form of armor.  Well, kind of!

Gadot is wonderful - she's tall, she's gorgeous, she's warm and approachable - and Chris Pine is, well, Chris Pine.  Sigh.  The two are a wonderful combination of talent and beauty and have great chemistry.  And Gadot is a badass Wonder Woman.  I found myself crying out "Yes!" when she was fending off bullets with those special wrist bands of hers, fearlessly going into battle and basically kicking butt.

I was also happy to see David Thewlis again.  I won't go into detail. but he is decidedly out of character, in a good way. Anaya and Huston make great cartoon villains, and it all comes together to provide a great movie experience.  We women will enjoy Wonder Woman's kicking butt and men will enjoy watching her do it, because as I said, Gadot is quite the specimen of womanhood.

But more importantly, Wonder Woman is a wonderful role model for women and girls.  She is strong, fearless and powerful, traits we women rarely get credit for, but she is also compassionate and kind and fights for peace in the world, something men can learn from.

You know I usually hate sequels but I can't wait to see more Wonder Woman movies if they are going to be this good!

Rosy the Reviewer says...I cried tears of joy!  All young girls (and their mothers) will want to see this inspiring film!  Girl Power!

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



I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

Samuel L. Jackson narrates this documentary based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript "Remember This House," an exploration of racism through Baldwin's reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The story of the Negro in America is the story of America, and it is not a pretty story."

James Baldwin was an African-American novelist, essayist, playwright and social commentator, considered one of America's greatest writers ("Go Tell It On The Mountain"), and whose works explored the social and psychological issues of black and gay Americans.  

At the age of 24, disillusioned by American prejudice, Baldwin moved to France where he lived for most of his life, but he returned to the U.S. in the 1950's at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to be an "observer" and to report on it as he traveled throughout the South. When he died in 1984 he left behind an unfinished manuscript, "Remember This House," that was to be his personal recollections of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. and their assassinations. He wanted their lives to "bang against and reveal each other." 

The words from Baldwin's unfinished manuscript form the basis of this film and provide a personal history of the Civil Right Movement in America.

Director Raoul Peck uses film footage, television clips, written words, still photographs and music to show the depiction of black Americans in the United States and their struggles from the past to the present.

The film begins in 1954 with and interview by Dick Cavett where Cavett asks  Baldwin if things are better for negroes and Baldwin replies that he fears for the country.  And well he should as the film goes on to show white people giving testimonials about how God was against integration, 15-year-old Dorothy Counts being spat upon as she tried to go to school in North Carolina and white people holding up signs saying "Keep Alabama White."

The profiles of Malcolm X, King and Evers show their political and social differences but also how they were alike. Malcolm X once called Martin Luther King an Uncle Tom, but by the time each died, their positions were similar.

The film is brilliantly edited as it bombards us with unforgettable images, and it was fittingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards.

Jackson's voice-over is Baldwin's voice and Baldwin's dramatic prose resonates:

"You never had to look at me.  I had to look at you.  I know more about you than you know about me."

"History is not the past.  It is the present...We are our history."

"What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a n***** in the first place, because I'm not a n*****, I'm a man, but if you think I'm a n*****, it means you need it."

Watching this film, one can't help but be aware of one's white privilege and be ashamed and that's a good thing. Being reminded of the indignities and hatred black people have had to endure, it's a miracle that the black population has not succumbed to more rage and violence than has already been expressed.  Who can forget the LA riots of 1992 after the Rodney King verdict (brilliantly documented in the film "LA 92") and more recently the reactions to the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the response in Ferguson, Missouri to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown? And it is still going on. When will it end?  

Baldwin's fear for our country back in 1954 was prescient, and if he were alive today traveling around the U.S., sadly he would observe some of the same outrageous racism that he observed back in his lifetime.  We still have a long way to go.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I cried tears of sorrow.  All Americans should see this film.

The Founder (2016)

A biopic about Ray Kroc, who we all thought founded McDonalds, but he actually didn't!

Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc, a hard-working door-to-door salesman, or should I say "drive-in to drive-in" salesman, as he moves around the country trying to sell his multi-shake machines to drive-ins in the 1950's.  While sitting at one of those roller-skating waitress drive-ins so prevalent in the 50's, he is irritated by the slow service.  Later when he gets an order for eight of his multi-shake machines from a drive-in in San Bernardino, California, he is so surprised he decides to deliver them personally.  When he arrives he sees people lined up for the 15 cent burgers and is amazed at how fast the service is.

The drive-in is run by the McDonald brothers, it's called McDonalds and, they had devised an assembly-line operation for making their burgers fast and to a standard. Though they didn't yet know it, fast food was born.

Ray takes the brothers, Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman), to dinner to find out how they devised their operation and they tell him their story: They moved west from New Hampshire, bought a movie theatre, but the depression hit so they bought a hot dog stand, turned it into a drive-in, decided to concentrate on one item, burgers, got rid of the car hops, dishes, etc., and made orders ready in 30 seconds.  They even practiced on a tennis court to perfect the first ever system to deliver food fast.  The only hurtle they had to get over was getting people to get our of their cars to go up to the take-out window.

Now Ray is a salesman and a bit of a visionary so he is fascinated by this "fast food" concept so he comes up with the idea of the franchise. The McDonald brothers had tried franchising, but could not maintain their standards.  They even had one restaurant in Phoenix with golden arches.  A light bulb goes off in Ray's mind. He wants in. As a salesman driving around small American towns he had noticed that all of those small towns had some of the same things: American flags and churches with crosses and arches so Ray had the idea of McDonald's franchises marked by those golden arches, adding American flags and crosses and marketing McDonald's as an American way of life, the "New American Church." And does he want to change the name?  No.  McDonald's reeks of America. Calling the restaurant Kroc's does not.

Kroc goes into business with the McDonald brothers, and through his own ruthlessness, manages to take over McDonalds and make a fortune buying up land and then leasing the land to the franchises which allowed him to maintain standards.  If the franchise didn't maintain the standards, then he cut the lease. 

So the revelation of this movie is that someone else, not Ray Kroc, had the idea for the fast and cheap burger, fries and shakes. The title of the film is ironic, but Ray Kroc did have the work ethic to make the franchises work, the moxie and how do I say this - sleaziness - to wrest McDonalds away from the McDonald brothers and make it his own. 

"Business is war.  Dog eat dog. Rat eat rat.  If my competitor was drowning, I would put a hose in his mouth."

Nice guy.

Directed by John Lee Hancock with a script by Robert Siegel, one wonders if that revelation is enough to keep you riveted for two hours.  Michael Keaton is a good actor but is he good enough to make you care about Ray Kroc?  I don't think so. The problem with the character is that yes, he is the consummate salesman.  He is also a bad husband and downright sleazy...but why?  The film never explores that.

Laura Dern plays Kroc's long-suffering first wife but has little to do except look concerned, and naturally, once Kroc started to make money he met a younger woman, divorced the first wife, and married the younger woman who actually outlived Ray and got to spend his fortune. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't cry and that's not a good thing, but if the history of McDonalds interests you and you are a fan of Michael Keaton - he was in every scene in this film - you might like this. 

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

197 to go!

Have YOU Seen this classic film?

Le Trou  (1960)

"Le Trou ("The Hole")" is the true life story of four inmates plotting their escape from prison.

Gaspard (Marc Michel) is a new inmate awaiting trial for the attempted murder of his wife.  He is transferred from his prison block to a new cell with some hardened inmates who are facing long sentences. With nothing to lose, the three men are plotting an escape.  Gaspard's arrival forces them to decide whether to abandon their plans or take him into their confidence.  At first the men are suspicious of young, handsome Gaspard, but when they realize he is up for a 20-year-sentence, they realize he is one of them, and Gaspard is swept up in their prison break plot.

Directed by Jacques Becker (his final film) and based on a novel by Jose Giovanni that depicted a true-life prison break that Giovanni had been a part of, Becker cast the film with nonprofessional actors, one of whom was actually one of the men in the real escape.

Do I like movies with all men?


Do I like movies about prison breaks?


Do I like movies in black and white?

Not particularly.

Did I like this movie?


Why do I like a film even though it's about a subject I don't like?  And why do I sometimes dislike a film, even though it's about a subject I do like?  Here, director Jacques Becker has done a great job of creating the suspense needed to keep me interested as these men work doggedly to overcome the challenges of their escape and literally dig themselves out of prison.

Refreshingly, this is not one of those prison films (you see it in war films too) where each man embodies some archetypal character so that you as an audience member have someone to relate to.  No, neither we nor they care about each other's backstory.  They are just working class guys who want to get the hell out of prison.  However, Gaspard is different and the catalyst for the drama to come.

Some directors just can't let go of the long lingering shots and the real time walks down corridors which, though possibly artistic, I find boring as hell.  Some directors can't stand to cut anything even if it doesn't particularly serve the picture as a whole.  So even if the film is full of women, which I like and is about a subject I enjoy, woe is me if it takes forever to get to the point.   But here is a film all about men in prison planning a prison break and it had some scenes that were filmed in painstaking real time and yet the film galloped along and held my interest.  A true auteur tells a good story in a compact way that moves the story along with great images, taut editing and good acting and this film has all of that.

As an aside, have you ever heard that one of the reasons many actors are so photogenic is that they have big heads?  Well, Michel has the biggest head I have ever seen! But I digress.

Why it's a Must See: "The Hole' has been compared with Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped (1956) and Jean Renoir's 'Grand Illusion (1937), but Becker is less concerned than Bresson with transcendence or Renoir's critique of social differences.  The prisoner's virtues -- meticulousness, inventiveness, and the ability to form a collective -- become the highest values of 'The Hole.' Perhaps Becker is, of all directors...the one who has embodied and articulated these values most firmly...As it stands, The Hole is...a masterpiece."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you want a primer on how to do a prison break that is tense and exciting, this is for you. And it was a true story!

***Book of the Week***

Nevertheless: A Memoir by Alec Baldwin (2017)

A heartfelt survey of actor Alec Baldwin's life by Baldwin himself.

Alec Baldwin is a serious actor ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "The Departed") and just to be sure you know that, he is prone to throwing around a lot of names of plays, writers, other serious actors and the work he has done in the theatre. However, Baldwin has also had his share of, shall I say, less than stellar moments in his personal life such as reacting to paparazzis. Though self-deprecating to a certain extent and even quite humble at times, he seems to still feel self-justified in those encounters.

It's funny that he talks about himself as not being a big A-list actor. but I have always known who he was and thought of him as one, but ironically most of his fame has come from his TV role as Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock"—for which he won two Emmys, three Golden Globes, and seven Screen Actors Guild Awards—and playing Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live."

In this memoir, Baldwin doesn't hold anything back.  He talks about his life growing up on Long Island, his parents' unhappy marriage, his uncertainty about what to do with his life, his struggles with drugs and alcohol and his bitter divorce and child custody fight with ex-wife Kim Basinger.  He makes it very clear who he likes and who he doesn't.  In fact at the end of the book there is an entire list of those he admires and had admired called "The Actors Index."  As for who he doesn't like?  Lots and lots of producers and directors and some actors. Of Harrison Ford he says "Ford, in person, is a little man, short, scrawny, and wiry, whose soft voice sounds as if it's coming from behind a door."  Ouch.  A bit of sour grapes, methinks?

Naturally he doesn't have much good to say about ex-wife Kim Basinger, either, since their child custody dispute over their only child, Ireland, was epic.  He owns up to the many reporters he has punched and that phone call to his daughter where he called her a pig? Well, he says it wasn't aimed at her but at you-know-who.

He talks about his love of classical music, his poliltical life, his meeting his current wife and love of his life, Hilaria, and at the end of the book, he explains the title of his memoir: "Nevertheless," which is very funny. It's from a joke he was told by actor Michael Gambon.  Too risqué to repeat here.  You will have to read the book.

As celebrity autobiographies go, this was very honest and open and as he says at the end:

 "I wrote this book in my own words and, such as it is, I offer it to you to entertain, to motivate, to inspire, and to learn.  Not so much for you to learn about me, but for me to learn about me.  I have learned so much while piecing this together.  My thanks to you for reading it."

Rosy the Reviewer says..."You are very welcome, Alec.  I enjoyed it."

Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
"What a Woman of a Certain Age Learned on her Summer Vacation:

Ireland 101
and Other Travel Musings"

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Friday, May 5, 2017

"The Circle" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Circle" as well as DVDs "Fireworks Wednesday" and "Masterminds."  The book of the week is actor Alan Arkin's memoir "An Improvised Life."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fellini's Satyricon."]

The Circle

Emma Watson doffs her "Beauty and the Beast" petticoats and eschews singing to take on the role of a young woman who lands a dream job in a huge tech company called The Circle only to find herself at the center of a nefarious plot to take over the world. 

How much of our privacy are we willing to give up for the so-called greater good and to feel safe? Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." 

This film explores privacy.  How much are we willing to give up to feel safe?

Mae Holland (Watson) is not from a family of means.  She drives an old car, works unpleasant temp jobs and is trying to help her Mom (Glenne Headly) and Dad (Bill Paxton in his last screen role before his untimely death).  Her parents are struggling because her Dad has MS and they have no insurance. When Mae's friend, Annie (Karen Gillen), who has a good job at The Circle calls to tell her she has secured her an interview there, Mae is ecstatic.

The Circle could be likened to Google, Amazon or Facebook, one of those Internet companies where a mysterious word association is a major part of the job interview and where the company does everything it can to make its young employees happy.  The company shuttles them from home to work, serves them gourmet meals, provides all kinds of activities on site, promotes a fun atmosphere and has rousing "Dream Fridays" where Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), the CEO, talks in platitudes and tells homespun anecdotes about the good they are all doing. 

All of this is designed to create a workplace esprit de corps and a place that these wide-eyed young millennials never want to leave.  The price?  They give up their privacy and they are all working so that the rest of us will give up our privacy too.

 "Knowing is good but knowing everything is better." So says Eamon Bailey at one of his Dream Fridays.

That's a bit scary when it's coming out of the mouth of a huge corporation's CEO, right?

But in this world where we all share everything about ourselves anyway on social media, do we really care?  I think this movie is trying to tell us we should care, but sadly, it's slow to get to the point.

Mae is by nature solitary.  Her idea of fun is kayaking by herself, so she is not prepared for the onslaught of social responsibilities she is confronted with at her new job.  Her job is customer experience where she gets a rating on just how good that customer experience is. Everyone is cheerful and friendly, and it is not long before it becomes clear that not only is she expected to interact with her co-workers, she is expected to do everything with them too. This place is starting to look like a cult.

At a "Dream Friday," Bailey introduces a new product: the See Change, a tiny camera that can go everywhere, see everything and be practically undetectable because it's so small and can be easily camouflaged.  When Mae stupidly goes kayaking out into San Francisco Bay AT NIGHT BY HERSELF - never explained why she would do such a thing - she is almost run over by a boat but is rescued thanks to The Circle's surveillance which is everywhere.  That rescue convinces Mae that The Circle's knowing and seeing everything is a good thing and that everyone should be totally transparent. She is all-in to The Circle and even volunteers for an experiment to be totally transparent, as in wearing the See Change camera everywhere and exposing every detail of her life 24/7 (except when she has to use the toilet - she gets three minutes of off camera time for that)!

Mae becomes an Internet darling and rises quickly up through the company, but she soon realizes that everyone knowing and seeing everything and The Circle having access to everyone's information is not necessarily a good thing for humanity after all. 

This movie did not do well at the box office. It was billed as a sci fi thriller but there were few thrills, so perhaps that's why. 

Tom Hanks may be considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, but I guess being a nice guy is not enough, because this hasn't been a very good few years for Tom Hanks' movies.  Except for "Sully," the other movies he has made since 2016 ("Hologram for the King," "Inferno" and now this one) have been disappointing at the box office.

And Emma Watson?  She has certainly come a long way since "Harry Potter," and she was wonderful as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."  She can certainly carry a romantic fantasy like that, but I didn't find her particularly believable here and wonder if she is really ready to carry a big dramatic film like this one.  This film might have done better at the box office with a bigger name.

Ellar Coltrane, who so thrilled us in "Boyhood," is surprisingly wooden as Mae's friend Mercer, who unwittingly gets caught up in The Circle's web which in turn helps to open Mae's eyes to what really might be going on behind the scenes at The Circle.  But I will give him a pass because the lines he was given were really pretty bad.

However, John Boyega as Ty Lafitte, a wunderkind programmer/engineer who exposes the dark side of The Circle to Mae, was a stand-out in a small role.  I couldn't get over how much he resembled a young Denzel Washington, overbite and all.  He played Finn in the last "Star Wars" movie and is scheduled to reprise that role in at least one more, but I would like to see him in more dramas like this one or as a romantic lead.

Written and directed by James Ponsoldt and based on the 2013 book by David Eggers (Eggers co-wrote the screenplay), this plot is very similar to last year's film "Now You See Me 2," where a shady computer CEO wanted to use technology to access every computer in the world, thus hijacking everyone's personal information.  It's a compelling topic in this age where everyone shares everything on social media and no one seems to care that some great big computer in the sky is probably keeping track of everything they do and say.  Do we care about privacy anymore?  Are we willing to give up our privacy to feel safe?  It's a topic that should be explored and a concept that should scare the crap out of us, but this movie just wasn't compelling enough to get anyone to care. 

The story centers mostly on Mae and her family issues and her becoming an Internet sensation as people watch her every move on their computers and smart phones and then comment as people do.  That part of the movie was kind of fun and interesting and who wouldn't want to become a famous Internet personality?  It happens all of the time and many people have profited from it.  So if this film was supposed to scare the crap out of us regarding our loss of privacy and what the government or some nefarious corporation could do with all of that information they have on us (and I think we should be worried about that), this movie didn't make that point fast enough or strong enough.  It only hinted at how bad that could be and Mae's revelation that something bad might be going on behind the scenes and her conversion from all-in acolyte to all-in leader ready to bring down the company was so late in the film and so fast that it didn't make sense.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting concept that we should care about but that sadly falls flat.

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


Fireworks Wednesday (2006)

On the Wednesday before the Persian New Year, it's customary to celebrate with fireworks, but when new housekeeper, Rouhi, starts her new job she encounters fireworks of a completely different kind.

Mozhde (Hediyeh Tahrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) are an Iranian married couple in turmoil.  They are preparing for a trip to Dubai and have hired young Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti) to clean and help prepare for their trip. Rouhi is soon-to-be married and looking forward to her new life. When she arrives at her new employer's home, she is immediately thrown into the drama that is Mozhde's's and Morteza's marriage, which is in extreme contrast to the married life that Rouhi is looking forward to. 

Morteza and Mozhde are arguing and it becomes clear that Mozhde suspects Morteza of having an affair with Simin (Pantea Bahram), a divorced woman who lives in a neighboring apartment and who has set up a hair salon there much to the consternation of her neighbors. Morteza is indignant and tells Mozhde that she is crazy. Roohi gets caught up in this domestic drama when Mozhdeh asks her to make an appointment with Simin to spy on her and try to get some information. Meanwhile, Mozhde takes Rouhi's chador and follows Morteza, who when he sees her, publicly beats her up.

When Rouhi discovers that Simin knows more about Mozhde's and Morteza's marriage than she should, Rouhi is suspicious, and later, when Morteza offers Rouhi a ride home in exchange for accompanying him and his son to see the fireworks, he leaves the two for a while and meets with Simin in private so, see?  Despite his trying to gaslight Mozhde and drive her crazy, he IS having an affair. When he comes back, Rouhi can smell Simin's perfume on Morteza.  How?  Well, when she was in the salon she was snooping around and had sprayed some of Simin's perfume on her hand.  Rouhi is a bit of a scamp.

So will Rouhi tell Mozhde about her suspicions?

This was director Asghar Farhadi's third film and, since then, he has had two directorial Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film ("A Separation") in 2012 and again in 2017 ("The Salesman").  You can see Farhadi's burgeoning brilliance here that he would display in those future award-winning films.  His films are small films centering on the every day lives of Iranians and they are mesmerizing.

I am fascinated by films that show the everyday lives of people in the Middle East, because we are so focused on that region and so fearful of its people and, yet, seeing a film like this we are reminded that despite our differences in religion, dress and social mores, we as humans are more alike than we are different.  Most of us hope for happy marriages, many of us fear betrayal, we have all experienced heartache and this is a story of a young girl dreaming of a happy marriage confronted by a marriage of betrayal and heartache.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the seeds of Farhadi's brilliance were already being sown in this earlier work.  Do yourself a favor and see his films.
(In Farsi with English subtitles)

Masterminds (2016)

A humorous take on the real life October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery, the biggest bank heist in American history.

Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a Loomis security guard who, how can I say this?  He's not very smart.  Kelly (Kristen Wiig) is his partner, and David has a bit of a crush on her, despite the fact that he is engaged to Jandice (Kate McKinnon), who is a bit of a control freak and a Bridezilla of major proportions.

Kelly gets fired from Loomis, and we soon realize that she is hanging out with some bad guys, one of whom is Steve (Owen Wilson), who decides that it would be a good idea to rob the Loomis bank vault.  Kelly remembers that David had a crush on her and thinks she can get him to join them. 

David is not smart.  In fact, he is dumb.  How dumb is he?  David is so dumb he can't even ride a bike.  David is so dumb that when Kelly gets a cut on her bosom, David wonders why milk isn't coming out.  OK, you get the idea that David is dumb and, from that, you also get the idea that this movie is kind of dumb too, right?

So, ok, they get David involved and there is a heist and they all get away with it despite the fact that David is so dumb that he forgets to take out one of the security cameras and thus is easily fingered as the robber.  He also manages to lock himself inside the back of the van and has to drive it through a small opening from behind the seat using a makeshift pole out of the money. Are you thinking that this movie is funny yet?

But this film is not so much about the heist itself as about the aftermath of the heist.

Since David was the only one seen in the robbery, Kelly gives David $20,000 and tells him to go to Mexico, hardly a good deal for David considering the take was 17 million. But like I said, David is dumb.  Kelly has been David's main contact and he has never seen Steve.  When Steve has interacted with David, he has worn a mask. David puts the money in his shorts and somehow gets through security and into Mexico with the money.  The gang starts spending the money which calls a great deal of attention to them.  They aren't very smart either, and when Steve discovers that David knows who he is and can link him to the robbery, he hires a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David.  When the hit man finds David in Mexico and sees from his fake ID that they both have the same birthday, they bond.  Like I said, everyone in this film is a moron.

As you have probably figured out by now, the title is ironic.  Directed by Jared Hess, this is a heist movie except with morons. And there is so much far-fetched stuff in this film that you not only have to suspend disbelief, you have to suspend ALL belief in the existence of reality and life itself.  But I will give it some credit for some moments that made me shake my head and chuckle.

I stopped being a Galifianakis fan a while ago. I liked him in the first "Hangover" movie, but now his schtick as the hapless schmoe has gotten old, especially now that he has lost weight and seems to take himself more seriously. I have never forgiven him for the interview with Hillary Clinton on his talk show "Between Two Ferns." But I have to give him some props here. Though David is really dumb and naïve, Galifianakis plays it straight and gives David a sweetness and charm that I almost enjoyed. 

The rest of the cast is like an SNL reunion, with Wiig, McKinnon and Sudeikis joined by Leslie Jones as one of the cops after the gang, and that figures since this film was produced by Lorne Michaels.  Sudeikis is always good.  He is one of those actors who fully commits and goes all in with his character, which is why he is always funny (though see him in "Colossal," which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago and you will see a decidedly different side of him). Wiig is her usual quirky,charming self and McKinnon and Jones are their usual goofy selves.  And Owen Wilson?  I couldn't figure out what he was doing here.

Rosy the Reviewer I always say, good comedies are hard to come by these days. There are some laughs to be had but not enough to save this film.

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

204 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fellini's Satyricon (1969)

Federico Fellini's liberal take on Petronius's work, "Satyricon," which was written during Nero's reign in Imperial Rome.

Written and directed by Fellini, the film consists of a series of tales that follow the scholar Encolpio (Martin Potter) and his friend Ascilto (Hiram Keller) as they try to win the heart of the young slave boy Gitóne (Max Born), whom they both love.  Set in the time of Nero, Fellini has created a surreal dreamscape and he loved this film so much that he put his name on it.

The film opens with Encolpio lamenting the loss of his lover Gitóne to Ascilto. Vowing to win him back, he embarks on a series of adventures where he is faced with disaster and death but always manages to escape. Encolpio's friendship with Ascilto and their joint attraction to Gitone is the main theme running through the film, but otherwise, it's a surreal and disjointed film where people pursue only their own pleasure and satisfaction. Surreal and disjointed is my shorthand for saying that basically this film made no sense and is filled with all kinds of images that are meant to be shocking.

But it was 1969, another time, a time when movies were exploring sexuality and pushing the limits.  So hang onto your knickers, this is one of those "Yikes" movies.

There are orgies, farting, naked fat women, animal sacrifice, nymphomania, sex of all kinds, torture, death, slavery, decadence and cannibalism.  If that sounds like fun to you, then you will love this movie.  However, I'm not big on farting, torture, animal sacrifice and cannibalism, so this was a struggle for me, but I hung on for the orgies.

I have always had a bit of a problem with Fellini.  I loved "La Dolce Vita," though even with that one I wasn't sure I got it.  But then "Juliet of the Spirits" came along and I thought, "Huh?" And this one was no better. Though the film was beautiful to look at, there was almost too much strange stuff, even for me. Sometimes too much debauchery can actually be boring. I fast-forwarded through some of it.

Seriously, though, despite the fact that Fellini was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for this film, I don't think this film has held up very well.  I can see that it was arty and shocking in 1969 and was trying to use the decadence of Nero's time to show that the world had become a very me-me-me kind of place. But so much has come and gone since then, it just seemed like a cartoon.  We have our own Neros to deal with these days.  However, one of my very good friends was an older gay man and he LOVED this film.  Now I know why.

Why it's a Must See: "A comment, perhaps, on the hedonism and unrepentant materialism of modern society, the film is more memorable as a feast of surprising, even shocking images, with visual themes and repeated motifs imposing a kind of unity on the continuing flow."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

In 1970, Roger Ebert said..."Fellini Satyricon" is a masterpiece...and films that dare everything cannot please everybody....This time, Fellini invites us into his own mind. He makes no attempt to tell a story, although he succeeds in telling several. He makes no attempt to be lucid, or philosophical, or to make is the nightmare shared by all of the haunted characters from his previous films..."

It is interesting to note that by 2001, Ebert wasn't so sure this film was a masterpiece, which validates what I said about films from the 60's.  The 60's era was a time of excess in all things, and this film was very representative of that.  But like I said, it doesn't hold up well today.

But in 1970, Ebert was partly right. This film did not tell a story nor did it make sense and it was a nightmare.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I don't think that I am particularly hard to please but a film that makes no attempt to tell a story, makes no attempt to be lucid or to make sense, makes no sense.
(In Italian with English subtitles) 


***Book of the Week***

An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin (2011)

Actor Alan Arkin shares his life, his craft and himself in this heartfelt memoir.
Alan Arkin knew he was going to be an actor from the age of five:
"Every film I saw, every play, every piece of music fed an unquenchable need to turn myself into something other than what I was."
I think many people become actors for that very reason.  I know I wanted to be an actress when I was five after I saw "Gone With the Wind."  Arkin actually did become an actor, one of our best character actors, and this book shows how and why.
If you are looking for lots of celebrity gossip, you won't find it here.  Arkin is a very serious guy and deep.  Though he shares some highs and lows of his life and career, this book is not a behind-the-scenes anecdotal kind of memoir, but more of a cathartic exercise.  He wants you to know what he has learned about life and about acting and he shares it here.
Arkin struggled to become an actor, and it wasn't until Second City in Chicago discovered him that he was able to get his footing as an actor and learned the art of improvisation. Though he had success on the stage, he felt he really found himself when he became a film actor.  I first remember him in "Wait Until Dark," where he terrorized a blind Audrey Hepburn, but it was "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" where I became a big Alan Arkin fan.  At the end of that film, I literally screamed out.  He has been a working film actor in major films for over 50 years and is still going strong with his most recent film, "Going in Style" with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
But like I said, he doesn't regale the reader with one of those "And then I starred in..." kind of book.  This one is personal, and I have to say, one of the most candid and open memoirs I have ever read.  He admits to being judgmental, moody and a difficult guy to get along with until he discovered therapy and the joys of some of the tenets of Eastern religion and he was able to lighten up a bit.
Actors and wannabe actors will gain insight into the craft as Arkin shares what he has learned, especially using the art of improvisation, but the rest of us can also benefit from the authenticity Arkin seems to bring to his roles and to his own life.
"In the final analysis, it's all improvisation.  We're all tap dancing on a rubber raft.  We like to think otherwise so we plan our lives, we plot, we figure, we find careers that will guarantee us an early retirement, we look for relationships that are permanent, we fill out forms, we do scientific experiments, we write rules -- all in an attempt to solidify, concretize, and control this universe of ours that refuses to be pigeon-holed, to be understood, pinned down, categorized, or even named...This is what kills us, robs us of our spontaneity, our ability to improvise, which, as Webster's says, is to create something on the spur of the moment with whatever material is at hand. That's what we are all doing, all the time, whether we know it or not.  Whether we like it or not. Creating something on the spur of the moment with the materials at hand.  We might just as well let the rest of it go, join the party, and dance our hearts out."
I told you he was deep.
Rosy the Reviewer of the most honest and real celebrity memoirs I have ever read.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years"


The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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