Showing posts with label Brooke Shields. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brooke Shields. Show all posts

Friday, October 17, 2014

Judging "The Judge" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Judge," the DVDs "Obvious Child" and "Summer in February," the Broadway touring company production of "Kinky Boots," and Brooke Shield's new memoir.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" and share my "A-HA Moment of the Week"]

Judging "The Judge"

The Judge

Hotshot big city lawyer, Hank Palmer, is called back to his small Indiana town upon the death of his mother.  He is not happy about having to go back.

Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again."  He should have said "You shouldn't go home again."

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) will do anything to win a case.  He's selfish, he's a liar and an arrogant smart-ass.  Did I mention that his marriage is also in trouble?

When his mother dies unexpectedly, Hank must return to his small Midwestern home town.  He wasn't happy when he left and he is not happy to return. 

This is a family drama, a courtroom drama, a mystery and a tearjerker.

The family drama begins when it becomes clear early on that Hank's marriage is in trouble and he also doesn't get along with his father and brothers.

Hank's father, Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall) has sat on the bench as one of the local judges for 42 years.  He's a hard-hitting curmudgeon with those who stand before him and with his sons too. Hank and "The Judge," as Hank calls his father, trade barbs and clearly don't like each other.

The courtroom drama begins when "The Judge" is charged with murder and Hank must step in to save him. 

The mystery begins when you wonder whether or not "The Judge" did it.

The tearjerker part begins when you find out that "The Judge" is dying of cancer.

Robert Downey Jr. has perfected the smart-ass persona in his "Iron Man" films and elsewhere and here it's no different.  But he also shows his tender side as he navigates the difficult waters of his relationship with his father.

It's good to see Duvall again (he only made one film last year), and he gives a magnificent performance.  It's also refreshing to see Downey warming up his dramatic chops.  He's a fine actor.  They are both supported by Vincent D’Onofrio, who brings in a poignant performance as Hank's older brother; Jeremy Strong as his younger autistic brother obsessed with filming everything; Vera Farmiga (high school girlfriend), who is always good but here really doesn't have enough to do, and Billy Bob Thornton, who cuts an imposing figure as the prosecutor, Hank's nemesis at trial.

The parent child dynamic is reminisicent of "On Golden Pond" and seems to say be sure you say what you need to say to your loved ones before it's too late.

I judge comedies by whether or not I laugh. 

I judge tearjerkers by whether or not I cry.

I cried.

Yes, like "Gone Girl,"  it's too long (what's with these two and a half hour movies these days?) and yes, some things don't add up, but it's good old-fashioned movie making, a riveting story with fantastic performances.

Rosy the Reviewer says..."Judge," I sentence you to several Academy Award nominations, especially for Duvall's performance.

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

Obvious Child (2014)

Ex-SNL alum Jenny Slate stars in this indie tale of a young woman trying to make it as a stand-up comedienne, while at the same time trying to sort out her life.

The film opens with our heroine, Donna, doing stand-up in a seedy little club in Brooklyn.  Donna's brand of humor is off-the-cuff and very off color, scattered and personal.  Her boyfriend takes issue with her using him as laugh fodder and breaks up with her.  She doesn't take it well and her stand-up routine takes a hit when she goes on stage drunk.

Donna is almost 30 and still lives with her parents and works a dead-end job and manages to lose that too.  This break-up breaks her and one night she has a one night stand and ends up pregnant.  What to do?  She hardly knows this guy.

So the discussion leads to the "A" word:  abortion.

Slate's Donna is quirky, raw and annoying.  You may or may not like her, but this film tackles real issues young women face today and it's a brave little film.  Much of the film feels unrehearsed, adding to its authenticity.

Donna is a mess as many twenty-somethings are, but she has loyal friends and a life she needs to sort out.  It's called growing up.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a strange little rom-com that is almost anti-rom-com and far from obvious.

Summer in February (2013)

True tale of a love triangle among members of a bohemian group of British artists called the Lamorna group.

It's 1913 and, young Florence  has arrived in Cornwall to join the Lamorna Group.  Alfred Munnings is the leader who is prone to reciting American poetry such as Poe's "The Raven" and Wadsworth's "Hiawatha."  He is instantly attracted to Florence, but so is newcomer Gilbert, a military officer and friend of Alfred’s. Gilbert falls in love with Florence but Alfred gets there first and asks her to marry him.  She says yes which is strange because despite how handsome Dominic Cooper is, there was absolutely no build-up in this relationship.  I remember watching the film and when she said "Yes," I literally said "What?" out loud.

Gilbert is crushed but remains friends with the couple.  When Florence realizes what she has done, she embarks on an affair with Gilbert.

The film stars Dominic Cooper (who I loved in the mini-series "Fleming") as British artist Alfred Munnings, Emily Browning as wanna be artist Florence Carter-Wood, and Dan Stevens (this is where you Downton Abbey fans can see Matthew again) as Gilbert Evans.  It focuses on the early 20th century love triangle of these three.

Gorgeous Cornwall vistas beautifully photographed and gorgeous Dan Stevens, who we all loved in Downton Abbey, are the highlights of this rather dull tale of love gone wrong.  Stevens shows much more passion here than he did with Lady Mary in Downton, but alas, that does not save this plodding tale that doesn't seem to have much of a point since all of the characters are kind of nutty.

For example, every time things don't go well for Florence, she tries to poison herself.

An entire hour goes by before anything happens.  At exactly one hour and 17 minutes things get going, but it's too late.  I have already gone to sleep.

The Brits usually do ill-fated love stories very well (think "Wuthering Heights" and "Waterloo Bridge"), but not this time.

Rosy the Reviewer says...even you hard-core lovers of British costume dramas won't be able to slog through this.

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"
308 to go!

The Black Cat (1934)

American honeymooners visiting Hungary are taken to a creepy castle after an accident.

Joan and Peter Allison meet Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) aboard the Orient Express.  They all get off at the same stop and Werdegast offers them a ride.  After a car accident en route, Joan is injured so Wedegast takes them with him to the castle of Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff, but billed as just "Karloff") and then the fun begins.  Poelzig lives in a creepy, though very modern, castle that sits on the graves of men killed during the war.

This movie doesn't stand up very well to today's standards.  Campy is the word that comes to mind.  Many of the old over-dramatic movie-making devices are at work here: musical crescendos every time Karloff enters the room, the long suspicious looks, train wheels chugging to show the passage of time, buggy eyes, but if you can get over all of that, it's quite an enjoyable film.  It would make a great late night double feature with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," since naïve Joan and Peter Allison are dead-ringers for Brad and Janet.

Why it's a Must See: "...the first screen teaming of the great monster stars of the 1930's, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi...the most perverse and the artiest of the original run of Universal horror pictures..."
("1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.")

Rosy the Reviewer's stylish and campy, but I prefer Bela as Dracula and Boris as The Mummy, though I did find Boris' lisp and his ducktail haircut quite adorable, but kind of distracting for a horror film.

In a Lonely Place (1950)

A screenwriter with a violent temper is cleared of a murder by his lovely neighbor.  But did he do it?

Dixon "Dix" Steele (Humphrey Bogart) is a down-on-his-luck screenwriter. At a nightclub, Dix notices that the hat check girl is reading a book he wants to adapt, so he invites the girl, Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart) to his apartment to give him the synopsis so he doesn't have to read it himself.  Nothing untoward happens and he gives her money to catch a cab home.

The next morning, a police detective (Frank Lovejoy), who just happens to be an old friend arrives and tells him that Mildred was murdered during the night and Dix is a suspect.  However, Dix's beautiful neighbor, Laurel (Gloria Grahame), is brought to the police station and confirms seeing the girl leave Dix's apartment alone.  Laurel and Dix begin to fall in love but Laurel begins to wonder if Dix might have killed the girl when she witnesses some violent behavior. When Dix asks her to marry him she says yes, but only because she is too afraid to say no.  She makes plans to leave town but when Dix finds out, he almost strangles her. Red flags for the relationship, wouldn't you say?

Grahame does sultry and steamy very well, something that is de rigeur in film noir, and Bogart is hard-boiled and moody, another staple.
Why it's a Must See: "...[this] qualifies as a masterpiece on many grounds: as the single best film of cult director Nicholas Ray (he also did "Rebel without a Cause"); as a uniquely romantic and doom-haunted noir drama; as a showcase for personal best performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame; and as one of the most insightful films about Hollywood."
("1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.")

Rosy the Reviewer says...Film noir at its best and it's even more fun when you realize that Gloria Grahame not only married Nicholas Ray, she also married his son (from another marriage, of course)! You can't get any more "noir" than that!

***At the Theatre***



A struggling shoe manufacturing company in the north of England must come up with a way to save the company. The young owner joins forces with a drag queen to manufacture thigh-high stiletto heeled boots - Kinky Boots.
Kinky Boots is a new musical with music and lyrics by Cyndy Lauper (and the songs sound just like her pop hits) and book by Harvey Fierstein based on a British film based on true life.  It won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical and is currently on tour in the U.S.
It's a story that's been done before - working class folks who join forces to overcome adversity but there is the added story that explores "what is a man?"
In this touring company, Kyle Taylor Parker is a stand-out as Lola (nee Simon), but sadly many of the other characters are stereotypes. But that doesn't mean it's not fun.  It is.  It's a real crowd-pleaser.
When I watch new musicals, I can't help but compare them to the musicals that have stood the test of time:  "West Side Story," "South Pacific," "Les Miserables," you know the ones.  Are the songs memorable?  Is the story original?  Was I moved by it?

Rosy the Reviewer says...the verdict is out on whether or not "Kinky Boots" will stand the test of time, but in the meantime, it's lots of fun.


***Book of the Week***
There Was a Little Girl  (publication date: Nov. 18)
This is a portrait of Terri Shields, Brooke Shield's mother who was portrayed in her obituary as a classic stage mother who inappropriately put her daughter out there in show business for her own gain.  Brooke wants to set the record straight.
Brooke Shields is probably best known today for her TV show "Suddenly Susan" and possibly her marriage to tennis star Andre Agassi.  However, as a child actress she starred as a young prostitute in "Pretty Baby," a highly controversial role and film for which her mother, Terri, took a lot of heat.
Though Brooke wrote an earlier memoir, "Down Came the Rain" (2006) that detailed her post-partum depression after the birth of her first child, here she turns her attention to her mother, Terri.  Terri, tough and gregarious, divorced Brooke's father after a whirlwind courtship and short marriage when Brooke was just a baby.  Brooke grew up feeling responsible for her mother and cites a story where Terri, driving with Brooke in the front seat, yelled at Brooke to jump into the back seat to avoid being injured in an inevitable crash. Brooke's reply was "If you die, I die."
Brooke was a beautiful child so modeling opportunities came her way and Terri took advantage of them.  Eventually, acting opportunities also started coming in, but it was Brooke's role as a child prostitute in "Pretty Baby" that earned Terri a reputation as a single mother who sold her daughter out for her own ambition.  It didn't help with subsequent roles in "Endless Love" and "The Blue Lagoon," both involving sex and/or nudity. 
Brooke talks about her career, but mostly this book is meant to set the record straight about her mother, but she pulls no punches about her mother's alcoholism and the role that played in both of their lives.  Terri died young of dementia and this book is Brooke's response in part to her own guilt that she never told her mother what she meant to her, because despite the fact that her mother's alcoholism was an embarrassment and a worry, she was her mother and she loved her very much.

Rosy the Reviewer says...An honest look at a relationship between an only child and her single alcoholic mother that will resonate with all mothers and daughters.

***A-HA Moment of the Week***

I have discovered BAKED grilled cheese sandwiches.

Works like a charm.  Put a baking sheet in the oven while it is heating to 400 degrees.  Butter one side of two pieces of bread.  When oven is heated, place the buttered side of the bread onto the baking sheet, top with cheese (2 Kraft singles work great), top with the other piece of bread, buttered side up.  Bake for 7 minutes, then flip the sandwich over and bake for another 6 minutes.  If you want to be really fancy, sprinkle with parmesan when flipping.  You can add ham, tomatoes, etc.  Enjoy!  I'm sold on this method.
Thanks for Reading!


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