Showing posts with label Biopics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biopics. Show all posts

Friday, January 26, 2018

"I, Tonya" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "I, Tonya" as well as DVDs "Marshall" and "Kingsman: The Golden Circle."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Stalker."  The Book of the Week is a novel: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware. and there is a bonus feature this week: "TV - What I'm Watching!"]

I, Tonya

A pseudo-documentary on the notorious attack on figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, at the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships.

When she first heard this story of the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships, Margot Robbie, who plays figure skater, Tonya Harding in this film, thought it was a fairy tale.  She couldn't believe something like this could happen in real life, but it did.

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile must know, I am a huge fan of figure skating.  I even wrote a blog post a few years ago that highlighted the parallels between figure skating and my life so of course I knew it happened.  I knew all about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan "incident."

But in case you aren't a fan of figure skating or are too young to remember it, here's a recap.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were figure skating rivals and polar opposites.  Nancy Kerrigan represented the perfect little ice skating princess with her New England up-bringing and her Vera Wang skating costumes.  Tonya Harding came from a poor Oregon background, had to make her own costumes, swore like a truck driver, had a husband, and smoked.  Her coach said to her mother that Tonya looked like she chopped wood every morning to which her mother replied, "She does!"  But Tonya could also really skate.

Tonya Harding was the first woman to complete a triple axel in the short program; the first woman to successfully execute two triple axels in a single competition; and the first ever to complete a triple axel combination with the double toe loop.  She was also the 1991 National Champion, won a silver medal in the 1991 World Figure Skating Championship, won Skate America twice and was a two-time Olympian.

But the story doesn't end there. 

At the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships, a step closer on the road to becoming a member of the 1994 Olympic Figure Skating Team, someone (later identified as Shane Stant) attacked Nancy Kerrigan as she stepped off the ice after a practice session, hitting her in the knee with a baton.  It came to light that Tonya's husband, Jeff Gillooly and his side-kick, Shawn Eckhart, masterminded the hit in hopes of injuring Kerrigan badly enough that she would not be able to skate in the Nationals and thus get her out of competition for the Olympics leaving the road open to Tonya.  After the attack, Tonya went on to win Nationals, but Kerrigan was not seriously injured and, ironically, they both went to the Olympics where Kerrigan won a Silver Medal and Tonya finished eighth. 

When the conspiracy was discovered, Gillooly was offered a plea deal to implicate Tonya, which he accepted.  However, Tonya has always maintained her innocence but pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, meaning once she knew what her husband and his cohorts did, she said nothing.  Now here's the rub.  The guys got 18 months and Tonya got probation BUT she was banned for life from the United States Figure Skating Association meaning that even though Tonya was not one of the attackers, she  actually got something worse than the prison sentence that the actual attackers received.  She could never compete as a skater again.

So the story at face value paints a picture of Tonya Harding as a villain picking on poor little Nancy Kerrigan, and today there are still people who feel that way about Tonya and refuse to see this movie.  But this film brings to light the true story of Tonya's life, something that was not widely known.

The film concentrates on Tonya's personal life, and according to this film, she grew up with her mother, LaVonna (Allison Janney), an abusive mother who beat her and never had a kind word to say to her.  Tonya fell in love at 15 with Jeff Gillooly (played by an oily Sebastian Stan), the first guy to tell her she was pretty so what do you do when you are insecure, wearing braces and a guy tells you that you are pretty?  Well, I guess you marry him...and she did.  And then she went from an abusive relationship with her mother to an abusive marriage. 

Because of her upbringing, Tonya grew up to be a tough cookie. She drank and smoked and drove a truck and because she didn't fit the mold of the pretty skating princess, her component scores (those are the artistic scores for a skater) supposedly suffered and she became more and more angry at her treatment.  But Tonya was already an award-winning skater, so we will never know why Gillooly thought he needed to cut down Tonya's competition or whether or not Tonya knew about it, and this film doesn't really attempt to answer that question.  You will have to decide for yourself. 

And lest you think this is a dark tragic story, you would be wrong. 

It's dark alright, and possibly a tragedy, but it plays as a dark comedy. 

Filmed like a pseudo-documentary or an episode of "Dateline," the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera, each telling their side of the story, and much of the film is "in their own words."  I recently watched an ABC special - "Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story" - and recognized that much of what was said in the film came directly from interviews with Tonya and LaVonna. 

Margot Robbie is an unlikely Tonya, but believable, though I couldn't quite buy her as a 15-year-old, despite the braces.  Though Robbie is the star and in practically every scene, Allison Janney as Tonya's mother steals the show.  She makes Mommy Dearest look like Mother of the Year.  But both actors have deservedly been nominated for an Oscar for their wonderful performances.

Gilooly's friend, Eckhard, who fancied himself Tonya's bodyguard and was delusional about his role in international espionage and who stupidly screwed up the whole plot is wonderfully and hilariously played by Paul Walter Hauser and the rest of the ensemble are also all first rate.

This was a sordid little piece of figure skating history brilliantly adapted by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie.  But it's also the story of class consciousness and a young girl with a brutal history who wanted to beat the odds and be somebody, but because she didn't fit the mold or have the tools to move forward, was beaten down.  If Tonya was involved in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, then she deserved to go to jail. But if she wasn't, then this story is indeed a tragedy because she was given what could only be defined as a life sentence for a skater - she could never skate in competition again.

The way the film incorporated Robbie into actual footage of Tonya was also brilliant, though Robbie said she took skating lessons and did much of the skating herself, though I doubt she was pulling triple axels. 

However, there was one little thing that I noticed that grated:  In one of Tonya's competitions she skated to a ZZ Top song - with lyrics!  Now I know the filmmakers probably did that to show that Tonya was a rebel and a sort of wild child, to skate to a rock song instead of a classical piece as most of the skaters were doing.  But the filmmakers should have done their homework.  Skaters were not allowed to use music with lyrics until 2014!

But that was a small thing in an otherwise funny, sad and quite wonderful film!

Rosy the Reviewer enlightening and original take on this little bit of history with stellar performances by Robbie and Janney, who are both deservedly nominated for Oscars. 

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


Marshall (2017)

A biopic about Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

This film concentrates on Marshall's (Chadwick Boseman) early career starting in 1941 when he was only 32 and the head of the Legal Defense Fund for the NAACP and part of one particular trial.  He is approached by Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish civil lawyer from Connecticut, to help him with a case where Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), a rich white woman has accused Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), her black chauffeur, of rape and attempted murder.  The pairing of these two lawyers, seemingly opposites, is an interesting one as they work together to defend their client, but it becomes clear that both men have faced their share of racism.

This is a classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" type courtroom drama except this is real. 

It also happened during Jim Crow when a black man accused of rape could be depicted in the newspaper as a gorilla.  So it was in that atmosphere that Marshall was involved in this case, but even though he had already argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, because he had not passed the bar in Connecticut, the white and probably racist judge (James Cromwell) would not give him a special dispensation to practice in Connecticut and told Marshall he could not speak, argue or examine witnesses during the trial.  That made it a bit difficult for Friedman, who was a civil lawyer with his life and practice on the line for taking this controversial case.  He had to conduct the trial with Marshall in the background, providing support and information behind the scenes and from the sidelines.

But the film is not just a courtroom drama.  It's also a mystery.  Did Joseph rape and try to kill Eleanor?  And if not, why did she accuse him?

Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as Marshall and is a versatile actor when you consider that his next movie is the superhero film "Black Panther!" And Gad, who often plays portly comic characters, pulls his dramatic weight against Boseman and creates a sympathetic character in Friedman who has his own battles to wage.

I am a big fan of the TV show "This is Us," which stars Sterling K. Brown, who plays Joseph Spell in this film, and I have to admit I have not been a big fan of his because of his character, Randall, on that show.  Despite all of the awards Brown has received for playing that character, I find Randall to be annoying in his intensity.  I was never sure if Brown was playing Randall or Randall was playing Brown. So here I kept waiting to see little signs of Randall in Brown's performance, and I have to say I didn't detect any, so kudos to Brown.  He really is a good actor.  I like him now.

Written by father-son writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film has been sited as an accurate depiction of Marshall and this trial and is an inspiring reminder of what Black Americans have had to endure to not just succeed but to exist.  When Marshall comes out of the courtroom after hearing he and Friedman had won their case (and you knew they would so I'm not spoiling anything here - this film is not about the outcome but about the journey), he is confronted with a "Whites Only" drinking fountain.  He drinks anyway.  Hello Supreme Court Justice Marshall.

Marshall went on to win many civil rights cases in front of the Supreme Court, most famously Brown v. the Board of Education.  Keep watching the credits to hear the real Marshall speak.

"You know, there are so many people, indeed my own sons at times, look at me with an expression on their face that they don’t believe what happened in the past.”

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a movie that needs to be seen to remind us of what has happened in the past so we won't repeat it.  We have come a long way, but not far enough.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Another one of those spy films where an evil organization holds the world hostage.

Spy movies and I don't usually get along. 

Even as far back as the James Bond films, whenever I watched a spy movie, I never seemed to know what was going on.  Now, I am an educated woman who has managed to get through life without screwing up too much, but for some reason, I don't seem to be smart enough when watching these spy films to figure out who the bad guys are, who the good guys are and what the hell is going on.  For some reason, the screenwriters of these things feel the need to  write convoluted plots that take every twist and turn possible - agents, double agents, double-crossing, triple-crossing, all of whom are looking for something - until it all makes no sense, I have no idea what they are looking for (though often it's a list) or why.  And then there's that whole question of why the bad guy doesn't kill the good guy when he has a chance - this happened all of the time in the Bond movies.  Bond is trussed up like a turkey and the bad guy only has to shoot him to get rid of him once and for all, but no...he wants to torture Bond, so he leaves him in the room with a ticking time bomb and, of course, Bond figures out a way to save himself.

But hey, I am here to report that I actually could follow what was going on here and the film is campy and fun!

This is round 2 of the Kingsman franchise based on the comic book "The Secret Service," and knowing how these things work, I would imagine there will be more.  Colin Firth starred in the first one and played a bigger role than he does in this sequel, especially since we thought he was dead (he got shot in the first film), but though Firth is in this one too, Taron Egerton, who we met in the first film, is the star as Eggsy, a street kid by day and dapper Kingsman by...well, day and night when needed.  When he dons his Kingsman duds, he could be a young Colin Firth, and I suppose that's the whole point.

The Kingsman Headquarters is under attack by evil drug kingpin, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), who dresses like a 1950's housewife and oversees a 50's style amusement park called Poppyland in Cambodia.  Why Cambodia?  We will never know. Despite her sweet façade, she is prone to putting her enemies in meat mincers head first.  Not pretty.  Poppy also oversees the Golden Circle, a drug cartel, and she wants to force the world to legalize drugs.  If they don't, she is going to poison all drugs with a virus that will cause the victims to first go through a manic stage, then become frozen and then they die.  However, if the world succumbs to her demands, she will pass out the antidote and save the world.  But Poppy also wants fame.  It's not enough to take over the world.  She wants the world to know that SHE, Poppy, is the one taking over the world.

Poppy's slogan is "Save lives/Legalize!"

Because this is a worldwide issue and the Kingsman Headquarters has been blown to smithereens, Eggsy and his sidekick, Merlin (Mark Strong), are forced to team up with some Americans in Kentucky - the Statesman, a group of agents that includes Jeff Bridges as Champagne (AKA Champ), Channing Tatum as Tequila and Pedro Pascal as Whiskey. As you can probably tell from their names, just as the front for the Kingsman organization is the bespoke tailoring, the front for the Stateman is Kentucky Bourbon and they certainly don't want drugs to be legal since they sell alcohol!

See?  I figured this thing out. 

The film has the usual spy movie fights, car chases and spectacular disaster sequences, most notably a tram careening wildly down a mountain toward an old people's home that ends with one of the funniest lines in the film - I actually laughed.

As I said, Mr. Darcy, er, I mean, Colin was more in evidence in the first film.  He doesn't show up until the last hour in this one, and when he does he is wearing sweats.  Colin Firth wearing sweats is not quite the same as Colin Firth in full gentleman drag but I was glad to see him.  Edgerton is a sweet-faced young man who could pass as a young Colin Firth, and he is joined by Halle Berry as Ginger Ale (in case you haven't noticed, everyone has catchy James Bond kinds of names), but she doesn't do much except look dowdy. Julianne Moore overacts like mad - well, actually everyone overacts like mad - making this film one big campy romp.  I mean, Elton John is even in this.  He has been captured by Poppy and must dress like the old Elton, wear the flashy costumes and sing his old songs on demand but he gets a big moment at the end.

Directed by Mathew Vaughn with a screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, this is a comic spy film that is also a sort of satire on the pharmaceutical industry and the war on drugs with a bad American President who gets impeached.  Mmmm.  There is some fun to be had but at two hours and 21 minutes, it's too long.

Rosy the Reviewer says...silly and dumb but kind of fun.  It grew on me.

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

158 to go.

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Stalker (1979)

It's post-apocalypse and aliens supposedly reside in an area known as The Zone, but if you can make your way into The Zone, there is supposedly a room where wishes can be granted.

I know, it sounds weird and it is, but this film is a kind of weird gem.  And it's also Russian which explains a lot.  The Russians make some weird films.

It's the future and life is bleak.  The Zone is an area where it is rumored that some aliens have landed and taken control.  The laws of physics and geography have been suspended and power and transcendence are rumored to exist inside The Zone, a place where wishes can come true, so a cynical writer (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and a renegade scientist (Nikolay Grinko) hire Stalker (Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, who looks like a Russian Woody Harrelson) to take them there.  The Zone is patrolled by police to keep the unwary out and only stalkers can navigate the treacherous but magical space known as The Zone.

The scientist wants to go to The Zone to see reason triumph over faith and the writer seeks inspiration that the grim world of the future no longer provides.  The stalker also has his reasons.  Something bad has happened to his daughter and he wants to make that right.  Those three things - science, faith and feeling come together to produce an ending considered one of the most enigmatic in film history.

"The Zone is a series of traps and they are all deadly."

And so is life. The Zone is also a metaphor for life and a treatise on the human spirit and the will to live.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky ("Solaris"), and adapted from a science fiction novel - "The Roadside Picnic" by Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky - this is one of those movies that is all about the visuals, all sepia and shadows, a chiaroscuro.  The world is in black and white and The Zone is in color, kind of like Oz, and we certainly aren't in Kansas anymore or any other place you would recognize.  The film is a kind of horror film but without the usual components of horror. It's more of a moody horror film with lots of philosophizing about the meaning of life.

Why it's a Must See: "The Zone is one of cinema's great magical places: damp green and sylvan above-ground giving way to watery, muddy, uninhabited recent ruins as the party nears the perhaps-mythical Room."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Be forewarned.  It's REALLY long.  It's so long it comes in two DVDs, and I usually don't like that, but this film is mesmerizing.  Strange, yes, but mesmerizing.  If you can make it through the set-up, the first hour, you will be rewarded.

Rosy the Reviewer says...very eerie and compelling.  It creates a mood that envelops you - you get into The Zone.

***Book of the Week***


The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (2017)

Four young girls at an English boarding school create "The Lying Game," where they tell elaborate lies to their teachers and fellow students as a lark, not realizing that one day they will need to perpetuate a really big lie.
Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima all meet in their teens at boarding school in the picturesque village of Saltern.  They form a clique and have fun with a game they call "The Lying Game," where they tell lies large and small.  Kate kept the score with a tally sheet she kept above her bed: points for a new "victim;" points for getting someone to completely believe; plus extra points for elaborate details or for being able to reel someone back in after almost calling their bluff. 
"The Lying Game," like "The Fight Club," had its rules:
  1. Tell a lie
  2. Stick to your story
  3. Don't get caught
  4. Never lie to each other
  5. Know when to stop lying
However, now the girls are grown women with lives of their own.  Isa is married with a baby, Fatima is now a practicing Muslim and a doctor and Kate is an artist and has stayed behind in Saltern at the family home where she had lived with her artist father, Ambrose.  Thea was always the wild beautiful one and is still wild and beautiful.  The four haven't seen each other in years.

But when Kate sends them all a mysterious text:  "I need you," they all make their way back to Saltern to face the really big lie that they have all kept for over 15 years.
Ware is the author of "The Woman in Cabin 10," a novel I reviewed back in 2016, and like that first book, she has a way with dialogue.  And because of that, as you read you can imagine a movie.  But this is one of those novels with a mystery where the mystery is leaked slowly in bits and pieces and that became irritating after awhile. I kept thinking, "Get to the story!"  She did a similar thing in "The Woman in Cabin 10," but it worked better there. Though I was initially pulled in and liked the characters, I found myself scanning the pages to get to the end rather than really immersing myself in the story.

Rosy the Reviewer says...didn't like this one as much as "The Woman in Cabin 10," but if you like novels that read like movies, this one has its moments.

***TV - What I'm Watching!***

Yes, because I am a reality TV junkie, I am watching my usual favorites "The Amazing Race, "Project Runway All-Stars," "The Bachelor," "America's Next Top Model," "Catfish, "Married at First Sight" and "Ru-Paul's All Star Drag Race," but I also want you to know that I have other interests so I thought I would share with you some TV shows I am currently watching that you might like and might not know about.

Victoria on Masterpiece - Season 2

Miss "The Crown?"  I know I do but until the next season, this one fills the niche, though on a more melodramatic level.


(You don't need to see Season 1 to enjoy this but I recommend that you do - catch it On Demand or your favorite catch-up source or check out the DVD from your local library).

Grace and Frankie - Series 4

I mean, c'mon, women of a certain age starting a vibrator business?  That's FUNNY!

And you ladies will also find inspiration watching now 80-year-old Jane Fonda and still very funny Lily Tomlin do their thing.

This one and earlier seasons available on Netflix.


American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

From Ryan Murphy and the folks who brought us the amazing "American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson" comes this new crime story, the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace.  It was filmed in Versace's actual home, which is enough reason to watch but this is another brilliant mini-series. Just like the O.J. story, this 10-part story will pull you in and expect it to capture many awards.  It's riveting.

On FX.

The Great British Baking Show

Who knew watching regular people like you and me bake could be so relaxing and yet so riveting at the same time. It's like a baking meditation but you get involved with the bakers and root for them too.  It's all very British and lovely and not a cross word is spoken.

I just finished bingeing Season 2 on Netflix.  There are four seasons there and this is also showing on some PBS stations.

Sadly, stars Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have parted ways and Paul has a new show which is ostensibly the same as this but on a different UK station. Not sure if Mary will get her own show or not.

On Netflix and PBS.


I know, I wouldn't be me if I didn't include at least one low-brow reality show and this one fits the bill perfectly.  I couldn't help it.

People give up everything they own and I mean everything.  Even their clothes.  And all of their belongings are kept in a locker a half mile away.  Each day they can go to the locker and choose one item.

It's fun to see what their priorities are and yes, people, they learn from the experience!

What would your priorities be if you were stripped of everything?

On Bravo

And on that note...

Thanks for reading!


with a special edition of

"Rosy's Test Kitchen"

where I will be testing various methods for cooking eggs and sharing some yummy recipes!

See you then!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

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. 


Friday, May 9, 2014

Must-See MUSICAL Biopics (With Performances by the Real Deals) - Did the Actors Do Their Subjects Justice? and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Noah," DVDs "Afternoon Delight," "Barefoot" and "Gimme Shelter," recommend a great true crime book about a crime that stunned the nation, am poetic about a musical theatre classic "Little Shop of Horrors" and review a new Seattle restaurant - Red Cow].

But first

Last week I gave you a list of must-see biopics.

To keep that first list under control, I deliberately left out those biopics that featured the stories of musicians, so to make my biopic list complete...

Here are some MUSICAL biopics
that are must-sees. 

Musical biopics are all about the performances, which is why so many of the stars in these biopics won Academy Awards.

But I have included some performances by the actual subjects of these biopics. 

How did our actors do?

Amadeus (1984)

The life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - from an "insane" point of view.

This film won eight Academy Awards but the guy who actually played Amadeus, Tom Hulce, didn't win.  Tom Hulce, who?

Why it's a must-see:  Won 1984 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham), Best Adapted Screenplaly, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Costumes and Best Make-up. 

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Explores Liberace's career and his relationship with his much younger lover, Scott Thorson (based on Thorson's book of the same name).

Why it's a must-see:  Remarkable performances by Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson.

Here is the real deal.  How did Michael Douglas do?  You be the judge:

Buddy Holly Story (1978)

The life and career of this early rocker and his early, tragic death.

If you can get over what a nutter Gary Busey is these days, his performance DID win an Academy Award.  Who knew a head injury from a motorcycle accident could change someone into a person who speaks in acronyms and slogans!

Why it's a must-see: Busey channels Holly.

Did he?

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Loretta Lynn's life story.

Why it's a must-see:  Sissy Spacek did all of her own singing in this and won an Academy Award for Best Actress.  This is one of the "granddaddy's" of musical biopics.

Here's the real deal.  How did Sissy do?

The Doors (1991)

The story of the legendary band.

This is on as many worst lists as it is best lists, but for all of its histrionics and over the top stuff, it's engrossing.  Director Oliver Stone, for all of his excesses, never puts out anything boring.

Why it's a must-see: Oliver Stone films are always a must-see, even when they miss the mark.

How did Val Kilmer do?  Here's the real deal:

The Five Pennies (1959)

The story of 1920's Dixieland jazz cornetist Red Nichols.

I have included this one for my Dad.  I have such fond memories of going to the movies with him, and I specifically remember seeing this one.  I would have been 11.

I could have included "The Benny Goodman Story," The Glenn Miller Story," "The Gene Krupa Story," or any film highlighting the lives of the Big Band and jazz greats from the 30's and 40's,  but I chose this one because my Dad also played the cornet and loved Dixieland jazz music and this movie is filled with the music I grew up with.

Why it's a must-see: It's a great example of 1950's Hollywood, Dixieland, and it's a great tear-jerker.

This is for you, Dad, the real deal:

Hard Days Night (1964)

Why it's a must-see:  Duh.  It's the Beatles. (click on the link to see why)

No one can do the Beatles.

La Vie En Rose (2007)

The life story of French singer Edith Piaf.

And what a life it was.  Supposedly born on the streets of Paris in 1915, she was a street performer at an early age. She was discovered and became an acclaimed nightclub singer, singing about her hard life. "La Vie En Rose," was her signature song.  But it was her personal life that was not successful.  She was involved with gangsters, boxers, Yves Montand; there were car crashes, airplane crashes and she died at 47.

Why it's a must-see:  Edith Piaf's life makes for a riveting film and Marion Cotillard's Academy Award winning performance captures Piaf's "Little Sparrow" persona.

For you youngsters out there (and I'm one of them!), the real Edith Piaf:

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Billie Holiday was another tragic singer.

Her jazz singing was a masterpiece of phrasing and Sinatra has cited her as an influence.  However, her personal life was rife with drug addiction, alcoholism and legal issues and she died at the age of 44.

Why it's a must-see:  Diana Ross's performance which shocked the naysayers who didn't think she could do it. 

Did she do it?

Here is the real Billie Holiday:


Ray (2004)

The amazing life of Ray Charles.

Despite being blind from the age of 7, he was a pioneer of "soul" - rhythm and blues, gospel and blues, all fused together.  Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business." 

Why it's a must-see:  It's an inspiring life played wonderfully by Jamie Foxx.

The real Ray Charles:

Selena (1997)

Nobody listening to mainstream music had heard of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez until her murder in 1995 by an assistant who had been fired for embezzlement.

Selena was born in Texas and was "The Queen of Tejano Music."  At the time of her death, she was on the cusp of crossing into the mainstream, which, ironically did happen after her death.

Why it's a must-see:  Jennifer Lopez played Selena and this was the turning point in her career and also the moment I became a huge fan of J-lo.  She also had the first famous big butt, way before Kim Kardashian. Check it out!

Jennifer did not do her own singing, which I found strange, but then she wasn't the star then she is now, thanks to this film.

Sweet Dreams (1975)

The country singers seem to have the most difficult lives and tragic deaths.  Patsy Cline was no exception.

Part of the early Nashville Sound, Patsy Cline was also able to cross over into pop music.  She was arguably one of the most successful female vocalists of the 20th centuryPatsy Cline came before Loretta Lynn, but they were professional rivals. This film was produced by the same guy who produced "Coal Miner's Daughter," so there is a soap opera element to both.  Sissy Spacek sang her own songs; Jessica Langue lip-synched.  Watch them in tandem and see what you think.

Why it's a must-see: Lange's Oscar-nominated performance.

For you youngsters out there, here's the real Patsy who Jessica was lip-synching to:

Walk the Line (2005)

Johnny Cash's early life and rise to fame.

Why it's a must-see: Joaquin Phoenix does not readily come to mind when you think Johnny Cash nor does Reese Witherspoon when you think of June Carte,r but both won Oscars for their performances.

What's Love Got To Do With It? (1993)

Based on her book "I, Tina:  What's Love Got to do With It?" Tina Turner tells her story of stardom coupled with abuse at the hands of her husband, Ike, and how she was finally able to break free.

Why it's a must-see: Angela Bassett had been pretty much toiling in television and supporting roles until this role came along to make her a household name and give her an Oscar nomination.

Did she channel Tina?  Here's the real thing:

***In Theatres Now***
Man has been naughty so God plans to destroy mankind.  Or most of them, anyway. Noah is called upon by God to save the innocent (meaning the animals) from the coming deluge so Noah builds an ark.
I know.  Don't ask.
But I actually have a soft spot for biblical movies
Here is another genre my Dad liked, so he and I attended many of the biblical films which seemed to abound in the 50's and early 60's:  "The Ten Commandments (who can forget Yul Brynner's famous line, "Moses, Moses, Moses")," "Samson and Delilah" and "David and Bathsheba," to name a few.  Some of those biblical tales were a bit racy for my young self, I must say. (I wonder what my Mom was doing when I was going to all of these movies with my Dad).
This telling of the classic Bible story is a sort of Mad Max version.  It's a dystopian world and nobody gets to wear cute clothes.
I think I need to dust off my bible a bit, though, because this film had some things in it I didn't remember from Sunday school.
I didn't remember that:
1. Noah spoke with an Australian accent.
2. The bad guy spoke with a Cockney accent.
3. And Noah's wife (Jennifer Connelly) had to affect a slight British accent to keep up, I guess.
4. Fallen angels were stone monsters who could help build the ark
5. A bad guy stowed away on the ark
6. A lot of family drama took place, which I guess should be expected when you are trying to survive the end of the world and start a whole new civilization.  That would cause a certain amount of stress, I guess.
And here are some things I have never quite understood.
If the world started with Adam and Eve and they had three sons, Cain, Abel and Seth (didn't really know about Seth), and Cain kills Abel, and Cain and Seth start two different sides of the family, how was that possible? Where did the women come from?
Also, how did the animals know where to find the ark?
And along those lines, if Noah saved just two of each animal, to "go forth and multiply," wouldn't that involve an awful lot of inbreeding?  I am not even going to think about how the humans handled that issue.
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), Russell Crowe (Noah) is joined by Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Ray Winstone as the guy from the bad side of the family (Cain's) and Emma Watson as some girl they found along the way to round out the family and allow there to be some going forth and multiplying.  Nick Nolte was the voice of one of the stone monsters.  Unfortunately the women aren't given much to do.
All in all, this film was better than expected, except for one thing. 
Please, Russell, do NOT sing.  I have barely healed from your singing in Les Miserables.
When I came out of the movie theatre, it was starting to rain so I got a funny feeling and raced home to beat the possible deluge.  It was that good.
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like your bible stories with a touch of Mad Max and Lord of the Rings, you will probably like this.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a bored stay-at-home Mom with a lackluster sex life.  Then she meets McKenna (Juno Temple), a young stripper and invites her to stay with her and her husband.  You can kind of guess what's going to happen.

Kathryn Hahn has toiled in TV ("Parks and Recreation") and was a stand-out in "We're the Millers," which didn't do much for Jennifer Aniston's career.  With five films coming out in the next year or so and filming two more as I write, Hahn is ready for the big break out.  And if you read my blog, you know that I love Juno Temple and can't believe she hasn't hit the big time yet.  She is a Brit who has starred in more films playing an American than I can count.  But she is a delight and can do anything.

My main complaint about this film is the ending.  It was too pat.  The way this film was headed, the ending should have been devastating, not an "afternoon delight."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Another one of those little indies I like so much.  Get to know Hahn and Temple.  You will be seeing more of them.

Barefoot (2014)

The ne're do well son of a wealthy family (Scott Speedman) takes a young psychiatric patient (Evan Rachel Wood), who's been raised in isolation her entire life, to his brother's wedding as his nurse girlfriend.  Bad idea.

This is your typical "fish out of water" story, young girl who has never driven tries to drive a car, doesn't know what love is, yada yada yada.  It's a sort of "Being There," but without the "profundities" or really good filmmaking.

The barefoot part is because our heroine is always barefoot.  Duh.

Treat Williams is the father of our so-called hero and one can only be reminded of the career he once had (remember "Prince of the City?") and his leading man good looks.  He is still good looking, but leading man roles eluded him.  However, he appears to be working regularly but in decidedly supporting roles.  What happened Treat?

Rosy the Reviewer says...Tried to be a quirky rom-com, but in the end you just don't care about these people.

Gimme Shelter (2013)

 Agnes, AKA "Apple," a pregnant teen (Vanessa Hudgens) from an abusive home wants to keep her child and finds help from a caring stranger.

Don't confuse this film with the Rolling Stones concert film of the same name.

About 30 minutes into this film, I realized I was watching a blatant pro-life movie. It's funny, too, because I have seen countless films about girls and women not wanting to give up their babies, but this movie just screamed MESSAGE.

Sometimes I watch movies that I don't know that much about.  Sometimes that's a good thing; sometimes not. This being a pro-life movie is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it so obviously has a religious message that the drama, acting and everything else takes a back seat to THE MESSAGE.  I'm not a fan of those kinds of movies.

Based on the true story of Kathy DiFiore, who started shelters for pregnant teens who wanted to keep their babies, this film is earnest and definitely putting out the conservative message.  But that doesn't mean that Hudgens doesn't do a good job of shedding her "High School Musical" image, which she does, though her character is hard to like. But someone who has been dragged through the foster system probably would be pretty bitter.

Rosario Dawson also does a good job as the crazy, drug-addicted mother.  I didn't even recognize her. Must have been the yellow teeth.  How she and Brendan Fraser got together to produce "Apple" is explained late in the film and is one of the more touching moments.

Ann Dowd plays DiFiore, and she is a wonderful actress who can do anything.  She is one of those "faces," but you should know her name.

Ironically, the best parts of this film are when Apple is in the shelter, but that's almost an hour in, and even the presence of James Earl Jones cannot compel me to recommend this film. 

I hate to say it, but this is more Lifetime Movie than feature film.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Pro-lifers will rejoice.  People who like their films with less heavy handedness will not.

***Book of the Week***

Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders and the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (2014)

The murder of Kitty Genovese in a quiet part of Queens, New York, in 1964 shook the nation, because she was killed supposedly while 38 of her neighbors watched and no one called the police.

Or was that really what happened?

Cook attempts to clear the misconceptions surrounding this horrendous murder and whether or not her neighbors really did just watch her die and do nothing.

He sets the stage with Kitty's life and the murderers life until they collide in that horrendous night.  Something I didn't know. Kitty was a lesbian and was living that lifestyle...well, as much as any woman could in those days.  It was actually against the law in New York to even cross dress.

The murder of Kitty Genovese took place in 1964 and scared the crap out of me. It shook the sense of safety one has when one is young.
My mother and I went to visit my sister who was living in New York City at the time and to see the World's Fair so this was all fresh and scary.
It also scared the crap out of the whole nation.

But Cook contends that the New York Times article that called out the "38" neighbors who "didn't want to get involved," that scared a nation and was the catalyst for neighborhood watch groups and an emergency phone service was an exaggeration and that those neighbors either didn't really see what was happening or did try to help

In my mind, it doesn't matter whether it was 38 people or 3, no one came out to help her and that is the scary, scary part.

Grisly details and something to think about, but comforting to know, after all of these years, that Kitty Genovese didn't die alone.

But the question is this:  Does Cook make his point?  You decide.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you are a true crime fan, this is one of the most sensational and devastating crimes of the 20th century and, arguably, where the phrase "I didn't want to get involved" came from.

***Musical Comedy of the Week***
Seymour works in a flower shop on Skid Row and loves his co-worker Audrey.  He doesn't have many prospects until he discovers a strange plant.  The plant brings curious visitors and business to the shop and everything is looking up until we discover the plant needs blood to survive -- and it demands it!
This musical version of Roger Corman's cult film class of the same name has music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, who wowed us with his brilliant lyrics in "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" and sadly died of AIDS at the age of 40.

Hilarious script and great catchy songs ("Suddenly Seymour," "Somewhere That's Green" and "The Dentist Song").

It is currently playing in Seattle at the ACT Theatre.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a perennial favorite of theatre companies nationwide so if it comes to a theatre near you, don't miss it!

***Restaurant of the Week***

Red Cow

Red Cow joins other restaurants in the Ethan Stowell empire in a renovated space in the Seattle Madrona neighborhood where the French restaurant Cremant used to be.

As the name implies, it's all about meat and you can get your steaks in a variety of cuts and a variety of cost points.  The French fries are very French, just the way I like them.

It's a small industrial space and can be quite noisy but it's also a charming space with a cozy bar.  The wait staff is friendly and attentive without being overly so.

The restaurant hasn't been open long but it's already popular.  Many people were being turned away while we dined so make reservations.
Rosy the Reviewer says...the steak frites rule the day here.
That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday for

"A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator"

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