Showing posts with label Biographies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biographies. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2017

" I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix original movie "I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" as well as DVDs "The Light Between Oceans" and "Allied."  The Book of the Week is a biography of Paul Simon called "Homeward Bound."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Jean Renoir's "The Golden Coach."]

I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore


A depressed woman is burglarized, which makes her even more depressed, but when the cops won't help her get her stuff back, she decides to find the bad guys herself. She is joined by her quirky neighbor and they both get more than they bargained for.

Ruth (Melanie Lynsky) is a depressed nursing assistant who isn't having a very good day.  First, a patient she is looking after dies, but not after uttering a profane racist diatribe.  On her way home in her car, Ruth sits behind one of those huge trucks spewing exhaust fumes all over everyone. Then when she returns home, her neighbor's dog has defecated on her lawn once again and worst of all, she has been burgled.  The thieves stole her laptop, her grandmother's sterling silver flatware and her anti-depressants. When you are depressed and your anti-depressants get stolen, you know you are having a bad day. You know that children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?"   Well, that's how Ruth's day is shaping up.

To make matters worse, when the police arrive, and it is discovered that perhaps Ruth just might have left her back door unlocked, instead of taking the matter seriously, Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams) condescendingly lectures Ruth on the importance of keeping her doors locked.  Realizing that she isn't going to get much help from the police, Ruth goes door-to-door to find out if her neighbors saw anything.  When she gets to Tony's (Elijah Wood) house, she realizes he is the one whose dog poops on her lawn and she confronts him.  He apologizes and when he finds out she has been robbed he becomes enraged that one of his neighbors could be violated in that way.  You see, Tony is a rather odd duck who is a wannabe martial arts guy with a penchant for nun-chucks and throwing stars.

Later, when Ruth's "Find Ruth's Laptop" app tells her where her laptop is, she once again asks the police for help, telling the 911 operator that she has the actual address where her stolen laptop is, and can they please send someone there to get her laptop, but the 911 operator tells her there is nothing they can do.  And let me digress for a moment.  This is so frustratingly true to life.  Here in Seattle one of the journalists for the local paper wrote a piece about his daughter's phone being stolen out of their car, and they actually tracked the phone to a van in a parking lot and sat looking at it while they called the police.  The police wouldn't do a thing.  So if your stuff gets stolen, don't bother to call the police, I guess.  Now I'm depressed.

Anyway, getting no help from the police, Ruth rails at the violation of her home and her life, and rants about how badly people treat each other. She wonders about the point of living when no matter what good you do in life you will end up as carbon anyway.  

"Everyone is an asshole."

Ruth is a bit of a Debbie Downer.

With everything that has happened to her, Ruth is so mad that she decides she is going to find these people herself and enlists Tony to help her get her stuff back. They embark on a black comedy vigilante odyssey of originality and depressing realism filled with strange characters that ends with one of the craziest blood baths I have ever encountered in a film, and it's actually kind of funny in a funny blood bath kind of way. 

The film focuses on Ruth trying to right a wrong and get justice in a world where nothing seems fair to her, but the film is bigger than that.  You can substitute her world for the bigger world that we all live in now where we often deal with a lack of connection to others, shocking violence, intolerance and general indifference.  We have all had very, very bad days where the last straw just could be that bit of dog poop on our lawns. 

From time to time, I like to review new films that are not in wide release or are available only on Netflix or Amazon or some other streaming vehicle. It takes a village to make, release and distribute films these days, especially small independent films, so there are a plethora of really good films out there that you will never see in the theatres.  They either get very limited release or can't find a distributor. So I am grateful to companies like Netflix and Amazon who have taken up the gauntlet and made some of these small films available to us.  This film, now streaming exclusively on Netflix, won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, so I am glad that Netflix has released it.

The film, written and directed by Macon Blair, stars Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynsky, who have both been working in smaller independent films since their acting careers first broke out, Wood as Frodo in the "Lord of the Rings" series and Lynsky, whose first film was "Heavenly Creatures" with Kate Winslet in 1994 (it was Winslet's first film as well) - and one of my favorite films.  Woods and Lynsky have proven themselves to be distinctive actors who can take on a wealth of different kinds of roles. Linsky's "everywoman" looks makes her easy to identify with. However, for that very reason, you may not recognize her, despite the fact that she has been working regularly since her debut in 1994.  She is one of those actors who disappears into her roles.  She also projects a particular vulnerability which belies Ruth's ability to get herself out of sticky situations. She has created an unlikely feminist figure.  Wood, in particular, has been choosing quirky roles, probably to distance himself from Frodo, and here he is a good foil for Linsky. In addition to Lynsky and Woods, Williams as Det. Bendix, is a standout as the gruff cop who breaks down in front of Ruth, telling her he is being divorced.

These days, like Ruth, many of us probably don't feel at home in the world anymore either. The world can sometimes be a difficult place to feel at home in. I think we have all had days where we wanted to just take the law into our own hands and DO something about all of the crap that is happening. Fortunately, we don't have to.  We can let Ruth do it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...some vicarious adventures for the overworked, underestimated and overlooked.  To see really good movies, sometimes you just need to stay at home.  Don't miss this one.

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


The Light Between Oceans (2016)

A lighthouse keeper and his wife, rescue a baby from a boat that washes up on the shore, and raise the child as their own.

My father and I used to watch many movies together, and one of the things he enjoyed was watching movies in which the actors had met and fallen in love in real life. He liked to see if he could tell they were falling in love. This is one such movie, since Michael Fassbinder and Alicia Vikander are now an item.  And it's no wonder, as this is an intense and romantic film.

Tom Sherbourne (Fassbinder) is an ex-soldier recovering from the ravages of World War I.  He wants nothing more than to go off onto an island off the western coast of Australia, 100 miles from everything, be the lighthouse keeper and be left alone to heal his wounds. However, the reason this job is available is because the last lighthouse keeper had gone mad from cabin fever and isolation, and Tom is warned about that, but he is numb and welcomes the isolation. But he is also lonely, and when he meets Isabel Graysmark (Vikander), they fall in love.  Since he is the only eligible man for 100 miles, I would say that was part of the attraction for Isabel, considering she would have to move to a deserted island with no one to keep her company except Tom and a lighthouse. 

The two move to Janus Island to watch over the lighthouse and all is well when Isabel gets pregnant, and they anticipate having a family.  But she miscarriages, and when she gets pregnant again and the baby dies at birth. Isabel falls into a deep depression... until one day, a miracle happens.  A dingy washes up on shore and inside is a dead man and a baby who is very much alive.  Tom wants to immediately inform the authorities but Isabel wants to keep the baby.  Who will know?  They will say she gave birth to the baby.  Since they live an isolated life and only travel to the mainland every few months, no one will know.  So the two make a pact and keep the baby. 

However, at the baby's christening, Tom encounters a woman in the graveyard (Rachel Weisz), and she is clearly the mother of the baby.  So now Tom has a crisis of conscience. Time passes, but there is a mother out there, the baby's real mother, who is suffering and has not given up on finding her child, which leaves a cloud over Tom's and Isabel's lives, and when it is discovered that the baby might still be alive, Tom and Isabel must make a decision.  Betrayal, guilt and tragedy follow.

Based on the bestseller by M.L. Stedman and directed by Derek Cianfrance (he also adapted the screenplay), the light from the lighthouse guides ships between oceans from the northern hemisphere, but that light can also be the love that can bring people together who otherwise would be oceans apart. Tom is numb and falls in love with Isabel's energy. Isabel is lonely and wants a change in her life.  Marriage is a strange institution.  We often marry people we shouldn't because we think what that person has will rub off on us.  Tom marries Isabel for her zest for life hoping she will heal him.  She marries him because she is bored and wants a change in her life.  Both learn that they cannot save each other as their decisions take their toll and the light of love fades.

The score by Alexandre Desplat is hauntingly beautiful as is the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw.  And the acting is first rate. Fassbinder is one of the great brooders, so he is perfect for this role, and Vikander's Isabel artfully goes from hopeful to hopeless as the decision the two made comes to haunt them. Rachel Weitz is also wonderful as the grieving mother who must decide on whether she can forgive.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a good old-fashioned tearjerker with great acting and production values, the kind of film that we don't see much anymore.  Highly recommended.

Allied (2016)

A Canadian intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter meet in North Africa during WW II and fall in love.  But not everything is as it seems.

Did they or didn't they?

This is the week for real life love stories between the stars of the movies (see the review of "The Light Between Oceans" above). 

Stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard were rumored to have had an affair during the making of this film, but Pitt and Cotillard denied any hanky panky despite a pretty hot movie sex scene in a car during a Moroccan sandstorm.  However, it's just a teeny tiny coincidence that the break-up of the Pitt-Jolie marriage coincided with this film, and rumors abounded about a relationship between Pitt and Cotillard as the catalyst.  It's too bad, because all of that press about a real life affair overshadowed what was actually a compelling film.  And here is the irony about all of that.  I didn't really detect a lot of chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard, that sex scene in the car notwithstanding.  Nothing like the heat you could feel coming off the screen when Pitt and Jolie did "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" together, so I am thinking not much was going on between the two and that was just an excuse for Jolie to end the marriage.

So let's forget about all of that and get on with the film.

Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence agent Max Vetan (Pitt) and French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) are thrown together in 1942 to act as husband and wife in a plot to kill a German official in Casablanca. Marianne has already ensconced herself in Casablanca and knows everyone.  When she and Max first meet, she attributes her successful cover to the fact that she does really like the people she is fooling.

"It works because the feelings are real."

Before the mission, the two hook-up (yes, that kind of hook-up), but you can tell that something is going to go wrong.  And it does. 

However, they make it back to London and Max proposes to Marianne.  They marry, they live a conventional life in the London suburbs and she gets pregnant.  All seems hunky dory until Max is told that Marianne is under suspicion as a spy for the wrong side, and if it is discovered that she is indeed a spy, he must kill her. Max must set a trap for her.  But he also wants to prove her innocence so he goes behind enemy lines to find out the truth.  Will he be able to live with the outcome?

Directed by veteran director Robert Zemeckis with a script by Steven Knight, this is good old-fashioned storytelling with war, love, betrayal and sacrifice, all the stuff that makes up a story that is easy to lose yourself in. With so few dramas out there aimed at adults who like adult stories, this film is a welcome relief. The title of the film has a double meaning: Max and Marianne are supposedly working for the allies during the war but as husband and wife, they are also allies in life and those two personas come into conflict. 

Pitt and Cotillard are certainly actors who are lovely to look at and both are also wonderful actors.  I feel sorry for Brad a bit because I think his handsomeness has held him back from some of the kinds of roles that win Academy Awards, the kinds of roles that go to the more chameleon actors like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch.  But you can always count on Brad to put in a good performance.  As for Cotillard, she has that face, one that not only exudes beauty, but a deep poignancy. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked the WW II spy film/love stories of the 40's, this is an updated version that you will enjoy.

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

211 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Golden Coach (1952)

A troupe of commedia dell'arte actors, led by the vivacious Camilla, arrive in 18th century Peru from Italy on the same day that the Viceroy's golden coach arrives.

A Viceroy (Duncan Lamont) in the New World buys a golden coach, but when he encounters the vivacious and tempestuous Camilla (Anna Magnani), star of a traveling group of actors, he becomes enamored of her.  When he shows her his coach she tells him she was on the same boat as the coach and slept in it during the voyage.  That makes the Viceroy laugh, and he is so enchanted with her that he impetuously gives her the coach, much to the annoyance of the other aristocrats, whose money was used to pay for the coach.  They demand that the Viceroy make Camilla return the coach.

The Viceroy is not the only man in love with Camilla.  Her colleague, Felipe (Paul Campbell) and the famous local toreador, Ramon (Riccardo Rioli), whose snood absolutely fascinated me (I had never seen a snood on a man before!) are also in love with Camilla.  What's a girl to do, especially a girl who now owns a magnificent golden coach?  And she ain't giving it back!  Farcical situations arise and the film becomes almost a play within a play as the three men vie for Camilla's affections and the coach causes a scandal that threatens everyone's lives.

With Vivaldi music playing throughout, Director Jean Renoir (yes, the son of THAT Renoir, the painter) has mounted the film as a play.  When the film begins, we are in a theatre looking down on a stage with a proscenium arch and then the camera pans in and the arch and the stage disappear, and we are in the film.  Beautiful costumes and sumptuous color cinematography and, just in case during the film we forget this is really a play, at the end the camera pans back out, we see the stage and the proscenium arch once again, and it ends with yet another play, an homage to actors and the theatre..

This is a showcase for Magnani, whose face is one of those ugly/beautiful - beautiful/ugly faces but she fills the screen with her personality.  Camilla is a social climber who eventually realizes that success isn't everything.  Magnani can do farce but she also exudes a warmth, all of it playing out on her magnificent face.

With sumptuous color cinematography provided by Claude Renoir, Jean's brother, the film is a farce but it is not without its socially redeeming qualities.  It's a tale that shows the brutality and dishonesty of the so-called civilized society in contrast to the simpler, more pure lives of the Peruvian indians. It also shows the hypocrisy of political power and how the tides shift depending on what is right for whoever is in power.

I also was taken by the statement:

"Nobility has never paid taxes in any country of the world."


Renoir made more than 40 films from the silent ere through the 1960's and his "La Grande Illusion" and "The Rules of the Game," are often cited as two of the greatest films every made.  Though he was a French director, this version that I saw was in English, and that was Renoir's favorite version of the film.

Film critic Andrew Sarris wrote for "The Criterion Collection:"

"In its own time, however, The Golden Coach was an international failure in all three language versions with both the critics and the public. (Produced at Cinecittà in Rome, it was premiered in its French version in Paris in February 1953. Renoir repeatedly preferred the English version presented in this release to the Italian version.) The fifties were not a time for subtextual analysis of movies. Yet even Bosley Crowther, the powerful no-nonsense critic of the New York Times, was compelled to acknowledge the sensuous texture of the color photography as he dismissed the film’s apparently naïve plot and its supposedly 'beauteous' and 'ravishing' star. 'But what we see in Miss Magnani,” the captious Crowther cackled, 'is a bar refinement of a female guttersnipe, a lusty and lumpish termagant with more raucous vitality than charm.”

Why it's a Must See:  "The movie's surface frivolity and farcical plotting camouflage a mature, even melancholy film about the fraught relations between love, art, and life.  Francois Truffaut called it 'the noblest and most refined film ever made..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer...a frothy romp with a message in gorgeous color with beautiful Vivaldi music and the incomparable Magnani.

***Book of the Week***

Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon by Peter Ames Carlin (2016)

The life of singer/songwriter Paul Simon.
Written in a very readable style, rock biographer Peter Ames Carlin tells the story of Paul Simon, a boy from Queens who had his first hit as a teenager as part of the group Tom and Jerry ("Hey, Schoolgirl").  Paul was Jerry and yes, Art Garfunkel was the other half, even then.  However, after that first hit, nothing much happened for the two until "The Sounds of Silence," and they reformed as Simon and Garfunkel. The two were friends since childhood, but over the years, it was a rocky friendship, and Simon eventually went off on his own, where he had a string of hits in the 1970's and ground-breaking albums like "Graceland."  In the 80's he reunited with Garfunkel for a special concert in Central Park that drew half a million people.

And at 75, he is still going strong.  I saw him perform in a small venue last spring and he killed it!


The grandchild of Jewish emigrants from Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter has not only sold more than 100 million records, won 15 Grammy awards and been installed into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice, he wrote many of the songs that were anthems for Baby Boomers:  "I Am a Rock," "The Boxer," "Mrs. Robinson," "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Carlin does a good job of avoiding a puff piece - in fact Simon comes off as a bit of an arrogant smarty pants - but it's a well-rounded view of not only Simon, the singer/somgwriter, but Simon the man.  Carlin covers Simon's marriages to Carrie Fisher and Edie Brickell, drugs, depression, the whole gamut of the man and doesn't pull any punches. There are some facts about him that you might not know:  he was a popular frat guy in college, he and Carrie got divorced but then lived together for awhile after that, and he wrote and produced a Broadway play. There's more, and Carlin tells Simon's story with a vibrant writing style that will keep your interest. 

All geniuses have their issues and Simon is no exception.  But what is not at issue here is his brilliant music, which formed a backdrop for the lives of many of us Baby Boomers. 
Rosy the Reviewer says...a must-read for those of us who grew up with Simon's music.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"A United Kingdom"


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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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.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Friday, December 23, 2016

"Manchester by the Sea" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Manchester by the Sea" as well as DVDs "Central Intelligence" and "Captain Fantastic."  The Book of the Week is a gorgeous celebration of Audrey Hepburn's career during the 1950's.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Gus Van Sant's "Elephant."]

Manchester by the Sea

When his older brother dies, a man is charged with the guardianship of his teenage nephew, and he is not happy about it because he has major problems of his own.

First of all, I want to say, this is not a happy movie.  In fact it's very, very sad.  And I am not giving anything away by saying that.  Star Casey Affleck hosted "Saturday Night Live" last Saturday and he himself said the same thing.  I am just warning you.  But that doesn't mean I didn't like this film.  In fact, I liked it very much.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has left Manchester to escape a tragedy in his own life. He lives in Boston as a janitor/handyman for several apartment buildings, making minimum wage and living in a gloomy basement apartment.  He is not a happy guy, and it is established early that he doesn't talk much and isn't very friendly. His idea of a good time is getting drunk at the local dive bar and then punching people in the face if they look at him funny.  Lee is not a happy camper.

When his older brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), dies and Lee finds out that he has been given guardianship of his brother's teen-aged son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee is also not happy.  He likes the kid but there is no way he wants to go back to Manchester and live.  We learn why in a series of flashbacks where we learn about a tragedy in Lee's life and what happened to Lee's marriage to Randi (Michelle Williams).

But Lee does go back to Manchester to try to persuade Patrick to move to Boston with him.  But Patrick has no desire to leave.  He has not one, but two girlfriends, he is on the hockey team and he is in a band.  Patrick has a life in Manchester and has no intention of leaving.  The two have an uneasy relationship as they try to figure out what to do next.

Neither Lee nor Patrick are easy characters to like.  Lee is nonverbal, closed up and angry, and Patrick is selfish, closed up and angry, and yet, because of the great performances by Affleck and Hedges, we care about what happens to these characters.

Little brother Casey Affleck's acting chops can certainly stand up to big brother, Ben's, in this portrayal of a man who has shut down emotionally.  Ben's character in "The Accountant" was similar, but I think Casey has the edge here and will not only be nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but could run away with it. Casey definitely has the Affleck acting gene.

Michelle Williams has a small but memorable role as Lee's wife.  She is an acting chameleon.  She can play Marilyn Monroe or here, a Boston working class young woman, accents and portrayals always right on, and in another interesting acting turn, she is currently in production to play Janis Joplin.

And then there is Lucas Hedges.  He is amazing as a sixteen-year-old having to deal with the death of his Dad and the prospect of moving away from everything he knows.  And he's not a very likable kid, but then, who is at 16?

Written and directed by playwright Kenneth Lonergan, this is a study in grief and guilt, and the script is brilliant in showing the lack of communication that stands in the way of helping others with their guilt and grief. The dialogue overlaps as the actors talk over and into each other and never quite connecting. Guilt and grief is a toxic affliction far worse than being addicted to alcohol or drugs. Patrick's mother (Gretchen Mol) is seen in before and after scenes, the before as an addict and then later a recovering addict with the help of religion and her religious husband (Matthew Broderick, in a very small role).  People can recover from drugs and alcohol with treatment, and even through religion, but for guilt and grief over tragedy, there is often no cure. 

Film is a visual medium and for me, the signs of a great movie are visuals replacing exposition or dialogue - one of the most famous examples is the marriage montage in "Citizen Kane" where the beginning and end of a marriage is shown in less than three minutes.  Here Lonergan uses every chance he can to tell the story visually.  A close up of a Massachusetts license plate is all we need to see to know we are in Massachusetts. Lush music playing over a series of montages moves the story forward without words.  Beautiful. 

Also the gorgeous and languid cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes that captures the tranquility of the quaint and quiet New England towns and countryside belies the turmoil inside almost all of the characters. It's a sad movie but a human and, even, hopeful one.

Rosy the Reviewer Academy Award Best Picture and Best Actor nomination for sure.


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


Central Intelligence (2016)

In high school, Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) was popular and voted "Most Likely to Succeed" but grows up to be a rather ordinary accountant until he reconnects with Robbie Wierdicht, an awkward and bullied school mate now going by the name of Bob Stone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). This film asks the question "Is there life after high school?"

We all remember the most popular kids in high school, those voted "Most Popular," or "Most Likely to Succeed," right?  What became of them?  Did they succeed?  In the entertaining book "Is There Life after High School," President Gerald Ford supposedly remarked in a speech that he still had regrets that he had never been able to achieve Student Council offices in high school and yet he became President. The fact that as President he still remembered the slights of high school tells us how much the high school experience affects us.

Here Calvin Joyner is a star athlete and the most popular guy in high school. Robbie Wierdicht, on the other hand, is an overweight geeky kid, bullied by the popular kids.  He is attacked while taking a shower in the locker room and thrown naked right into the middle of a high school pep rally.  Calvin takes pity on the kid and covers him with his varsity jacket, and Robbie runs out of the gym, humiliated, never to be heard from again.

Or so we think...

Fast forward 20 years, Calvin is now a soft-spoken, mild-mannered accountant, who is getting flack from his co-workers and boss, and his wife, Maggie (Danielle Nicolet), his childhood sweetheart from high school, is unhappy in their marriage and wants to go to counseling, a far cry from his glory days in high school.  He gets a Facebook request from a Bob Stone who eventually lets Calvin know he was Robbie Wierdicht.  He wants to meet Calvin, and though Bob still acts a bit nerdy, we discover that our awkward, overweight, homely high schooler has turned into the buff and handsome Bob Stone (but we know he's really "The Rock), and despite his still nerdy ways, he is also a rogue CIA agent.  Remembering that Calvin was the only person who was nice to him in high school, Bob pulls him into his current intrigue.

At the same time, the CIA finds out about Bob contacting Calvin and Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) approaches him to help them bring Stone in. She tells him that Stone is a rogue agent who is trying to steal satellite codes to sell to the highest bidder.  But when Stone kidnaps Calvin, he tells him that he is after The Black Badger who is the real bad guy trying to sell the codes.  Stone needs Calvin to help him get the coordinates to find the Black Badger.  Now Calvin doesn't know who to believe.  He doesn't know if Bob is a good guy or a bad guy, but decides to help him anyway.

The first half of the film is the big set-up for the relationship and what is to follow and is quite funny, but the second half deteriorates a bit into the usual action stuff and convoluted plot so prevalent in action films today. But still, this is a sweet buddy film with a certain charm and, of course, a message:  Be careful who you bully.  He might grow up to be "The Rock" and beat the crap out of you, which Bob gets to do when he once again faces the main bully from high school, Trevor Olson, as an adult (Jason Bateman).

Kevin Hart is one of those comedians who makes me laugh just to look at him.  His reactions and double takes are hilarious and his main persona is the fast-talking guy whose fast-talking turns into gibberish when frightened.  "The Rock," though not really an actor, has made a name for himself as an action hero and does a good job here of making fun of himself.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber with a script by Thurber, David Stassen and Ike Barinholtz (who you might remember from "Mad TV"), this is a comedy action film that is actually quite funny. The film made a ton of money at the box office so I am sure we can expect a sequel...(and you know how I feel about sequels).  But Hart and Johnson are an engaging duo so, who knows, maybe I won't mind so much. I mean, pigs fly, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun action film with a great message.

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Shunning the amenities of civilization such as running water and electricity, Ben Cash is raising his six children in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with questionable parenting techniques.  But when his wife dies unexpectedly, he is forced back into civilization and to question his hard line philosophy.

Viggo Mortenson plays Ben Cash, a back to the earth type and Marxist, who, with his wife, Leslie (Trin Miller, who is only seen in dream sequences) has been raising their six children - Bodevan (George McKay), Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai - off the grid in the backwoods of Washington (filmed in my home county)!  Ben believes that most of Western society is fascist and has passed his beliefs onto his children.  He also believes in survivalism and puts his kids through rigorous (some might call dangerous) activities and does not allow any whining should anyone get hurt.  Animal lovers will not like the opening scene where a deer is killed as part of a ritual of manhood when Bo must eat the deer's raw heart. Ugh. All of the children know survivalist techniques, first aid, how to forage for food and basically take care of themselves which Ben believes is essential in a cruel world that won't take care of you. Ben home schools the kids, they meditate, practice martial arts and sit around the fire at night reading the classics and playing music on handmade instruments. Of course Ben plays bagpipes and drives an old school bus but I will try not to judge.

It's all very idyllic if you like that kind of thing (I prefer hot baths and TV), but we soon learn that Leslie has been in the hospital near her sister and parents because Leslie has been struggling with a bi-polar disorder, and when she somehow manages to kill herself, Ben is forced to go back to civilization and face Leslie's parents, who blame Ben for her illness and death. They tell him not to come to the funeral, but, of course, they all do.

Ben and the kids pack up the old school bus and we get to experience the old fish out of water scenario.  The kids have read a lot, but despite Leslie and Ben's insistence on their learning critical thinking, these kids have never experienced anything except their lives in the woods, and let's just say that Bo is of an age when he gets that old tingly feeling when he sees pretty girls. 

Ben makes no bones about explaining sex and answering all of his kids' questions in the most clinical of ways.  In fact, this guy exudes no warmth whatsoever and when his five-year-old asks what sexual intercourse is, he buys her a copy of "The Joy of Sex." Let's just say these kids might have read Tolstoy and Marx, but they were not prepared for malls, traffic and sex.  Of course our teenager Bo gets derailed by a pretty girl because no matter how politically committed you are or how much you hate the establishment, you can't deny biology.

And this is where I rant a bit.

I know I said I would try not to judge, but I am not a fan of people forcing their beliefs and lifestyles on their children to the point that they shelter them from everything that might impinge on those beliefs.  If you, as an adult, want to go out and live in the woods and have nothing to do with other people, that's fine.  You have lived your life, experienced what life had to offer and rejected it. But children who are raised that way from birth are not given the choice to reject anything.  They have never had the option because they have only lived the life you have shown them. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, I knew so many people like this and they irritated me then and they irritate me now so I don't like Ben much.  And Ben may think of himself as a free-thinking liberal, but he treats his kids in a way that belies his core beliefs and acts more like a dictator. He doesn't even let his kids eat hamburgers.

End of rant.

Despite all of their reading and Dad's explanations, when they all arrive at Grandma and Grandpa's in Sacramento, it's a culture shock. Since the children have had rare contact with the outside world, they are not prepared for it. They say that in every family there is one person who is sensitive to the family dynamic and one child sees the cracks and wants to stay in civilization living with his grandparents. I guess Sacramento can look really good to a kid who has only experienced campfires and hunting. Bo also finally cracks and tells his Dad that he knows he is a freak, that he doesn't know anything unless it comes out of a book. 

"I don't know anything about anything!"

Finally when Vesper is injured, Ben finally has an epiphany that perhaps he has been too much of a hardass and maybe he doesn't know everything after all.  But despite the desires the children have to experience more of life, when Leslie's parents (Leslie's father is played by Frank Langella) threaten to take custody of the children, we learn that no matter what the hardships and dysfunction, family is family. Family is what you know and what you will always choose.

Viggo is great in this film because he did irritate me so much. It's a testament to his acting ability that I was drawn into his world and believed who he was.  But is it me or could Viggo Mortensen and Aaron Eckhart be twins?  I always get them mixed up especially since they are both excellent actors.  I always have to remind myself that Viggo is the one with dimples on his cheeks and chin who looks eerily like a young Kirk Douglas, and Aaron is the one with just a chin dimple who was in that egregious movie about women "In the Company of Men."

I also really enjoyed the kids.  I know, you can't believe I just said that, can you?  You know how I feel about child actors, but these kids were not annoying and were really believable as children raised like wolves.

Written and directed by Matt Ross, I really loved the first three quarters of this film but the "rescue Mom" part was far-fetched and had a certain ick factor, but then it won me back with a moving and satisfying ending.

My one question is about the title - not sure where the title came from - but this film is an interesting counterpoint to "Manchester by the Sea (see review above)" in how each film deals with death and grief. Somehow this film didn't get wide release and came and went in the theatres. Too bad, because it's a good one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a mostly fantastic film that deserves to be seen.

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

222 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Elephant (2003)

You know the saying, "The elephant in the room?"  Well, here it is applied to a Columbine- like event.

It's an ordinary day at a high school.  The camera follows several high schoolers - John (John Robinson), whose father (Timothy Bottoms) is a drunk; Elias, an aspiring photographer; Nathan and Carrie (Carrie Finklea), a popular couple; Michelle, a homely, shy type who refuses to wear gym shorts in gym; and Brittany, Jordan and Nicole who eat lunch and then go throw it all up in the bathroom together - as their typical day unfolds.  We see them wandering the halls, in class, gossiping, eating lunch, doing the mundane things that teens do at school - until Alex (Alex Frost in his first feature film role) and Eric arrive.  And then it's no longer an ordinary day.

Directed and written by Gus Van Sant, this is a short but powerful film that takes you into the seemingly mundane world of a high school on the verge of a massacre. Van Sant is probably best known for "Good Will Hunting," but he is also known for edgy films like "Drugstore Cowboy" and "My Own Private Idaho." This film won the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, it's highest honor, and Van Sant also won the Best Director award that year, joining only one other director to ever win both in one year (Joel Coen) .

The film has an improvisational feel that makes it seem like a you-are-there documentary and the "elephant" is the question:  "Why?  How did this happen and no one saw it coming?" 

 "Have fun, man," one of the killers says to the other before they head off to shoot up the school.

Van Sant doesn't really offer any answers  which makes the film even more chilling, though he adds a homosexual component that I feel the film could have done without. It felt like an afterthought and was a jarring, out-of-context moment.  The film was powerful enough without that but that is one of Van Sant's common themes.

The camera work in the film is hypnotic as it follows students from behind as they go about their day.  The camera is almost like one of the students following others around or even the killers following their prey and planning their act.

The stars are all young actors who were newcomers, a few who have gone on to more movie roles or local kids who haven't done much since.  The only veteran actor was Timothy Bottoms, as John's Dad in a very small part.  Bottoms has certainly aged well, but I couldn't help but wonder what happened to his career?  He was a hot commodity in the 70's when he starred in "The Last Picture Show" and "The Paper Chase," but though he has been a working actor all along, he never achieved the superstardom it seemed he was headed for. I wonder why.

Why it's a Must See:  "...Elephant [is] one of the key American films of the last decade -- a coruscating appraisal of the numbing effect of modern life upon a younger generation."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...hypnotic and brilliant.

***Book of the Week***

Audrey: the 50's by David Wills (2016)

A beautiful coffee table book celebrating the life and career of Audrey Hepburn.
Though she has been dead for over 20 years, Audrey Hepburn remains the epitome of beauty and style, and this book celebrates the decade that solidified her place as one of the world’s greatest stars in film and fashion.  Though it gives the basic facts of Hepburn's life: her birth to a Dutch-born baroness, the hardships she endured during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in WW II and her eventual discovery in England while modeling and studying ballet which led to an acting career that lasted for over 40 years, this book is not so much about the facts of Hepburn's life as it is a celebration through photographs of her career and her iconic screen roles during the 1950's. 
Here is a taste:
We see her posing in front of her "name in lights" on Broadway for her first big role as "Gigi" in 1951.
 We see her with Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday (1953),"

 and with Humphrey Bogart in"Sabrina (1954),"
in "Funny Face (1957)" with Fred Astaire,
as well as her other films, culminating with her last film in the 1950's, "A Nun's Story" in 1959. 
Hepburn went on to make many more successful movies in the 1960's as well, which photographic preservationist David Wills also celebrates in his book, "Audrey - The 60's (2012)." 

All of the photos include quotes from Audrey and those she knew - photographers, directors, and costars, including William Holden, who also starred with her in "Sabrina," Peck, Astaire, directors Billy Wilder, King Vidor, William Wyler, costumer designer Edith Head, and more - and "candid" shots of her personal life are interspersed.
Wills has carefully selected this collection of two hundred museum-quality photos, some never seen before, that show why Audrey was such an iconic star. The photos are breathtaking and remind us of the gamine who turned into a legend and still today represents the epitome of grace and casual elegance.

I know it's late but you might still be able to get this for a Christmas or Hannukah gfit for the Audrey fan in your life.  It would be a great gift.
Rosy the Reviewer says.. this is a Hepburn fan's delight but if you long for the Golden Days of Hollywood you will also enjoy it. 

Thanks for reading!


See you Tuesday 


"My New Year's Un-Resolutions" 


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