Showing posts with label Ballet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballet. Show all posts

Friday, August 10, 2018

"Mission Impossible - Fallout" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Mission Impossible - Fallout" as well as DVDs "Chappaquiddick" and "The Square."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Mirror."  The Book of the Week is "A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back" by David Hallberg.]

Mission Impossible - Fallout

Yet another spy thriller where bad guys are trying to get their hands on some plutonium so they can make nuclear bombs and blow up the world - but with lots and lots of twists!

As a Baby Boomer, watching "Mission Impossible" on TV was a weekly event.  We all knew the lines from the tape recorder right before the iconic TV theme music would play.

"Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it, ... As always, should you or any of your Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape/disc will self-destruct in five/ten seconds."

Now "Mission Impossible" has become a movie event, and this is the 6th in the movie in the series and the franchise shows no signs of slowing down.  Top at the box office for its first two weekends, this is the movie everyone wants to see.

I have been a big fan of Tom Cruise ever since he marched onto the scene as a bad guy in "Taps," but over the years he has become a polarizing figure.  I am not sure why.  Is it the Scientology thing?  Is it because he jumped around on Oprah's couch?  Is it because we are disappointed that he is short?  Is it because he is basically a private person?  What?  I don't really get it but whatever it is, it doesn't stop people from wanting to see him in the "Mission Impossible" movies because this is one of the biggest films of the summer.

The film is a sequel to 2015's "Rogue Nation" and takes place in Belfast, Berlin, Paris, London and Kashmir, where Ethan meets up once again with his old foe Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).  This time Lane has partnered with another lunatic, John Lark, and a group called The Apostles, to get their hands on some plutonium to launch a nuclear attack on the world and create a new world order.  So with the help of his usual pals, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg), Ethan's assignment (should he choose to accept it - and you know he will!) is to stop them.

Yes, this is a plot we have seen lately in practically every spy movie, but this time there are so many twists and turns it's not easy to keep up.  Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?  Henry Cavill's CIA Operative August Walker?  The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby)?  Former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson)? CIA Director Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett)? Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), the Secretary of the Impossible Mission Force and Ex-CIA Director? Good or bad? Who can Ethan trust? The film keeps you guessing.

Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, the dialogue is corny, the acting is over the top and the plot is one that's been done time and time again - the bad guys are trying to get plutonium to make nuclear bombs - but we don't go to the "Mission Impossible" movies to see Daniel Day Lewis doing Hamlet.  We go for the thrills and to see just what crazy stunt Tom will do next and this movie delivers. Tom may be 56 but he is still doing his own stunts and sure doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  From hanging from a helicopter to jumping from one building to another to hanging from a sheer cliff by his fingernails to sky-diving through a lightning storm, Tom's stunts are heart-pounding nail biters.  And of course Tom runs.  No one runs like Tom! 

But Tom is not infallible. I have seen him on talk shows talking about breaking his foot during filming.  See if you can tell.  Already knowing, I still couldn't help but cringe when it happened.  But there are so many cringe-worthy stunts (in a good way), Tom risks breaking something in any one of them. But that's why we continue to go see this franchise - to see what risks Tom will take next! Oh, and the story, too, I guess.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the Summer Blockbuster not to miss!

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


Chappaquiddick (2017)

What really happened the night Ted Kennedy drove his car over the bridge on Chappaquiddick Island killing young campaign worker, Mary Jo Kopechne?

We may never know the full story, but we do know that Kennedy left the scene and the accident wasn't reported until several hours later.  In 1969 this was a huge scandal for the Kennedy family and left many questions unanswered.  What was this married man doing partying with a bunch of young, attractive women in a remote cabin on Chappaquiddick Island?  What was he doing driving around late at night with Mary Jo?  How was he able to get out of the sunken car but not save Mary Jo?  Why did he leave the scene?  

What we do know for sure, though, is that Ted Kennedy showed very poor judgment that night and it tainted his political career for ever after.

But why?

This film begins with the curse of the Kennedys - the death of oldest son Joseph, who had originally been the leading light of the family and old Joe's choice for President, and the assassinations of Jack and Bobby, leaving Teddy to carry the political mantle. The film goes on to imply that Teddy was a bit of a disappointment to his father and didn't really want a political life.  He also had an inferiority complex when it came to Joseph, Jack and Bobby. Joseph was the favored son; Jack was the charming one; and Bobby was the brilliant one.  How did Teddy fit in? Teddy comes across here as the clueless one, an immature dolt, who when he got into trouble, his Dad would hire people to get him out.

His father had said to him:

"You can live a serious life or a non-serious life.  I would still love you but if you live a non-serious life I just won't have much time for you." get the picture.  

On the night of the accident, Teddy (Jason Clarke) and his campaign guys were partying in a cabin on Chappaquiddick Island with "The Boiler Room Girls," young women who had worked on Bobby's campaign.  He and Mary Jo (Kate Mara) get in the car and go off into the night, seemingly to head to the ferry but somehow ended up far from there, eventually driving off a bridge into the water.

After the accident, why did he run?  

He was probably drunk and even if he wasn't cheating, it sure didn't look good for a politically connected married man to be out in the middle of the night with an attractive young woman.  And instead of reporting the accident, Teddy goes back to the party and gets his cousin Joe Gargan (Ed Helms), his fixer, and another political friend, Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), who go to the site of the accident and try to save Mary Jo but to no avail.  Teddy then goes back to his hotel room in Martha's Vineyard and gets cleaned up.  He calls his Dad to tell him what has happened and old Joe (an almost unrecognizable Bruce Dern), who had already had a stroke by this time and couldn't really speak, uttered one work: "Alibi." That tells you right there how old Joe operated.  Teddy never did report the accident and went about his business until a fisherman and his son saw the car in the water.

Thus began the cover-up.

And once the wheels started turning to save Ted from scandal, Ted became a pawn in a political game.  But much like today, where there are constant distractions and deflections to take our minds off more serious political issues, Teddy also lucked out.  The moon landing was happening at the same time as the accident and people were focused on that.

Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan and directed by John Curran, the movie is pure speculation but, ah, the foibles of powerful men who can't keep it in their pants, something that obfuscates the good they can do. The movie doesn't necessarily imply there was something going on with Teddy and Mary Jo, but we know that in his later personal life he was no Mike Pence.  And speaking of the conservative side of politics, this was a huge scandal for the Kennedy family and for Teddy, who was the last chance for their political future.  The very Right Wing, as in the John Birch Society side and conspiracy theorists had a field on that for years - sort of on the same level as Hillary running a child porn ring out of a pizza parlor.

The film shows how preserving one's legacy can take precedent over accountability, how money and power can manipulate the truth and how political cover-ups are nothing new.

Jason Clarke is believable and quite wonderful as Teddy.  I first noticed him when I reviewed "Mudbound," another acting achievement for him. The rest of the cast are also admirable, especially Ed Helms.  I wish he would do more dramatic roles. He always plays such unsympathetic characters in comedies. Sadly, though, there was not a lot for Kate Mara as Mary Jo to do which in turn didn't really shed any light on the real Mary Jo, who to this day remains a rather mysterious figure. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a poignant portrait of a man who wasn't ready for the expectation heaped upon him but who was able to overcome scandal and insecurity to become one of our great Senators.

The Square (2017)

The curator of a prestigious contemporary art museum in Stockholm faces personal and professional obstacles as he attempts to set up a controversial art installation called "The Square."

Claes Bang plays Christian, the harried curator of a modern art museum in Stockholm, Sweden.  The film begins with Anne (Elisabeth Moss) interviewing Christian, an interesting way to get all of the exposition out of the way.   As the interview progresses, Christian talks about a new art installation - "The Square" - a lighted square space in the courtyard entrance to the museum that is meant to create a sense of altruism. If you stand in "The Square," you can can ask for whatever help you need and hopefully someone will respond.

Anne questions something on the museum's website and calls Christian out on his "museum speak," starting a discussion of "What is art?"  Is something art just because it's in a museum?  That really made me laugh because, on a personal level, I couldn't help but be transported back to the Tate Modern in London where I engaged in a similar discussion.  And Alex, you know who you are.

Christian is charismatic but also pretentious and egotistical. On his way to work, Christian gets involved in a domestic dispute.  He and another man help a woman who is calling for help and congratulate themselves on stepping in when no one else did.  Unfortunately, when Christian arrives at work he discovers he has been pick pocketed and the scene was just a big ruse.  It was all a set-up for thievery and not only is his wallet missing but also his phone and cuff links!  No good deed...

So Christian becomes obsessed with getting his phone back, and he and his tech friend use GPS to locate his phone and discover that it is in a building in a less affluent part of town so friend suggests that Christian write a threatening letter and deliver it to every apartment in the high rise which Christian does surreptitiously in a rather amusing scene.

Meanwhile, two young guys have been hired to do PR for "The Square" and they come up with a controversial concept.  Christian has a lot on his mind as he tries to find his phone and distractedly signs off on the concept, not realizing what a storm it will set off. It doesn't end well.

Speaking of the phone, now Christian has received a threatening letter from someone in the building where he delivered his letters and it turns out to be a young immigrant boy who is angry because his parents read the letter and thought he had stolen the phone.  He demands that Christian apologize and tell his parents that it wasn't he and he won't let up on Christian. He turns up everywhere, including his home, demanding that Christian apologize and tell his parents that he didn't steal the phone.  This doesn't end well either.

The film culminates in a gala dinner to promote the opening of "The Square," where in a performance art piece a man (Terry Notary) pretends to be an ape and, as he becomes more and more aggressive, the performance gets out of hand, and he actually attacks a woman.  The diners become progressively uneasy and shocked but do they do anything?  No. An ironic counterpoint to the purpose of the "The Square."  Again, doesn't end well.

Christian is not a bad guy.  He is really trying to do the right thing but life is getting in the way and he is just too pretentious and privileged to get how the little people live.  There is a telling scene as Christian sits at a bus stop with several bags of purchases from expensive stores, and a beggar, who is obviously an immigrant, asks for money. Christian tells him sorry, he doesn't have any cash.

Written and directed by Ruben Ostland, this was one of the foreign language films nominated for an Oscar last year, and it skewers artists, art and this whole idea of talking about altruism while at the same time there are homeless people and others out there who we really try to ignore as much as possible. Can art change that?  When does art and life coalesce?  Does art really make us better? Do we excuse what is considered art even if it is dangerous?  Do we kill what is considered socially unacceptable? And what has to happen before we decide to help others?

The irony of the film is the intent of "The Square" - to foster altruism - when the film itself shows how altruistic we are NOT.  We make these far reaching statements and mean well but real life gets in the way of our good intentions. There is also a larger canvas: the schism between the homeless and immigrants and the homogeneous European countries who are not used to people who are not like them.  

As for the "what is art" question which forms the more humorous side of the film, there is another exhibit that is just heaps of gravel in cone shapes and every time the cleaners go in there, they knock some of it over and staff members have to try to recreate the piles, which really made me laugh because of a similar personal experience, one that reflects the poke this film is giving modern art. 

My family and I were visiting an art museum on the University of Washington campus and there was this one installation with boxes overturned and styrofoam packing peanuts on the floor.  I am not even sure I knew that it was one of the art pieces, but I saw a packing peanut that was really far away from the rest and right where I was walking, so I just gave it a kick to put it back with the others and so someone else wouldn't step on it.  Just as I did that, an art gallery staff member yelled at me to stop messing with the art installation.  I had no idea that that one packing peanut had been specially placed just there and my giving it a kick ruined everything.  So though I am an art lover, I have my issues, too, with some of the very far out stuff like those piles of gravel in the film and those styrofoam packing peanuts.

Elizabeth Moss seems to show up everywhere these days and certainly doesn't have any problem taking off her clothes which she also seems to do a lot of these days.  Really like her as an actress and am totally addicted to "The Handmaid's Tale," but here she plays a really annoying character.  I guess that means she is a really good actress!

But this is Bangs' film.  He is a handsome, charismatic actor who reminded me of a younger Pierce Brosnan. He totally captures the essence of the male ego under siege and the lack of awareness of the privileged.

Certainly there are acts of kindness in this world and certainly art works promoting it are not bad things, but did I get from this film that art is an effective way to get people to take time out of their busy lives to help others or that they even notice people who need help?  No.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling film that asks some important questions.

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

131 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Mirror (1974)

A man remembers his past.  Anyway, I think that's what this is about.

Andrei Tarkovsky was a Russian filmmaker but he was also a writer and a theatre and opera director.  His works are considered some of the greatest films of all time. Bergman considered him "the greatest."  Tarkovsky's films are characterized by long takes, metaphysical themes and beautiful images and this film is no exception.

However, when a review of a film says that the film is so complex that it might require multiple viewings, that says to me that the film is incomprehensible and that is pretty much the case here.  And that was disappointing, because I really liked Tarkovsky's "Stalker," another complex film but at least I knew what was going on in that one.

This film appears to be a series of autobiographical vignettes as a man thinks back on his life.  The film alternates between color and black and white as well as past and present but doesn't seem to have any rhyme or reason when it jumps back and forth.  Is it the past when the film is in black and white?  Not necessarily.

Margarita Terekhova plays both the mother in the past as well as a present day wife.  There are few men in the film though a male voice provides a narration from time to time.  

Other than that, I had mostly questions:

  • What was the opening scene with the stuttering boy about?
  • Who is the narrator supposed to be?
  • Is there some reason why the film is sometimes in color and sometimes in black and white?
  • Who the hell are these people and why am I supposed to care about them?
  • And what was that bullfighter all about?
  • And why did the film end with the camera panning over decaying trees and detritus?
  • Was it called "The Mirror" because the lead actress was looking in the mirror all of the time?

Who knows?

When I was young, I used to like incomprehensible movies because talking about them made me feel deep.  Now I am older and wiser and don't want to have to work so hard to understand a film. I feel like this is one of those movies where only the filmmaker knew the point or the meaning of certain scenes and pictures.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is a beguiling and remarkable film -- full of the pregnant mysteriousness of places, people and gestures...[It] is constructed as a collage, in which recreated vignettes that blur past an present are freely mingled with archival footage and disconnected quotations from classical music.  The ambience is dreamlike, secretive, elliptical...Tarkovsky, like Robert Bresson, is a master of the precisely chosen image and sound."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

When a movie is described as mysterious, secretive, where past and present are blurred, and it is likened to Robert Bresson (who we already know I have problems with), then forget it. I probably won't like it. And watching this film, I discovered something about myself.  I LIKE MOVIES WITH PLOTS!

Rosy the Reviewer says...the film is beautiful to look at but I don't like films where I have so many questions.  If you see it and figure out what it all means, let me know.

***The Book of the Week***

A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back by David Hallberg (2017)

A memoir by the first American to be a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet.

Hallberg is currently a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre and he was the first American to star as a principal with the Bolshoi Ballet and this is a rich tale of the hard work and determination it takes to be a successful dancer.

I have always been fascinated by ballet dancers and their stories.  Ballet dancing requires a dancer to do things that the body is not really meant to do and, the discipline and rigor needed is immense, with dancers constantly fearing career-ending injuries.  The sacrifices that must be made to stay in shape are also immense and often lead to chemical dependency, eating disorders and psychological issues, an example of which was famously told by Gelsey Kirkland in her 1986 best-selling memoir "Dancing on My Grave."

But this memoir is not one of those.  

Beginning with his childhood, Hallberg acknowledges he was effeminate so it didn't help that he was also a dancer.  He was a target for bullies but that didn't stop him.  He knew he wanted to dance and he put in the work to consistently move himself forward.  No drug dependency or eating disorders for him, though he did suffer from ambition and perfectionism.  Hallberg also acknowledges that he was gay but spends little time on that in his book.

This book is less about Hallberg's personal life and more about the dancing and the work and the pain of coming back from a possible career ending injury.  Ballet fans will enjoy the details of the ballet life with the daily classes, the rehearsals, the personal interactions with other dancers, the successful performances and the passion that it takes to be a professional ballet dancer.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a big ballet fan, you will enjoy this book.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"The Spy Who Dumped Me"


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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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.