Showing posts with label Bruce Conner. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bruce Conner. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2020

"The Turning" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Turning" as well as DVDs "Pain and Glory" and "Jexi."  The Book of the Week is "The Less People Know About Us" by Axton Betz-Hamilton.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Report."]

The Turning

A young woman takes on the job as governess for a couple of strange, rich kids.

Nothing like a little gothic horror to warm me up on a cold winter morning.  

Anyway, that's what I thought when I sat down in my seat in the theatre, not realizing that this was yet another film based on Henry James' novella, "The Turn of the Screw." I had chosen this film because of the preview, because I like the occasional gothic horror film, and because there really wasn't anything else playing that I really wanted to see.  But I should have known better.  I rant all of the time about deciding to see a film based on the preview alone, and how often a movie doesn't rise above it's trailer because all of the best bits are there, and sadly that's what happened with this film. The trailer was scary.  The film was not.  I actually am a fan of "The Turn of the Screw."  Loved "The Innocents." But when I say this film was "based on" that novella, I mean very loosely based.  And it also had one of those torturous "Huh?" endings.

If you read the novella, you know the story: a young woman is hired as a governess for young Flora (Brooklynn Prince), whose parents have died. So our governess, Kate (Mackenzie Davis), arrives at the big, gloomy mansion on the large, rambling estate where she meets Flora and Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten), the joyless housekeeper, who looks after the place.  Soon after arriving, Flora's brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), arrives.  He has been kicked out of boarding school for beating the crap out of another boy.  Also, soon after Miles arrives back home, Kate starts hearing voices and seeing apparitions.  She later learns that the former governess, Miss Jessel (Denna Thomsen), left hurriedly without saying goodbye. And we know this, because the film begins with a woman trying to get away from the house and a man ominously appearing in the backseat of her car.  Miss Jessel and Quint (Niall Greig Fulton), the ex-riding instructor, had supposedly been having an affair but as time goes by we learn that both of them may be dead under mysterious circumstances.

Meanwhile, Miles is tormenting Kate and so are those supposed ghosts and Kate becomes more and more agitated.  Oh, did I tell you that Kate's mother (Joely Richardson) is in a mental hospital?  When Kate receives some pictures from her mother that definitely look like something someone in a mental hospital might paint, Mrs. Grose comments that she hopes Kate's mother's condition "isn't genetic."  We realize that Kate hopes so too.  Are all of these supernatural goings on really happening or is Kate going crazy?

Well, I know one thing for sure.  When the film ended, I thought that I was going crazy. 

Written by Carey and Chad Hayes, best known for the "Conjuring" series and directed by Floria Sigismondi, the film has the usual gotcha moments (I think I counted ten in the first half hour), but it all just fell apart in the last half and that ending?  Sheesh.  The whole audience said a collective "Huh?" I suppose the ending could spark a debate on what was really going on in this film but frankly I didn't really care. But I don't blame the actors.  They were all fine. MacKenzie Davis managed to rise above the material and young Finn is riding the success of "Stranger Things."  And I especially liked young Brooklynn.

But sadly, the actors couldn't save this thing. There is a reason this story has been retold on film so many times.  It's a classic story so it's amazing to me that the writers and director were not able to give us something better than this.

Rosy the Reviewer says...felt more like a Lifetime Movie than a real gothic horror film, so if this still interests you, wait for the DVD and watch it at home. Or just watch the Lifetime Movie Channel. Oh, and if you do watch it and figure out what the hell the ending was all about, let me know!

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


Pain and Glory (2019)

An aging film director looks back on his life.

Ah, Almodovar.  Always a pleasure.  If I had seen this movie before I put together my favorites list for 2019, this one would have been on it.  Whether or not you always know where Almodovar is going with his films, you know you can count on an intense story, intense color and intense acting.  And here, Antonio Banderas gets to show us what he can really do besides look handsome.

Ah, Antonio Banderas.  I actually first saw him in one of Almodovar's early films over 30 years ago - "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" - a film that in this day and age probably wouldn't fly. But even though I know this is not politically correct to say, after seeing him in that film I was thinking, "He can tie me up any time." Any...way.... I am happy that Antonio went on to learn English and become a big international star who has worked with Almodovar over several decades, but up until now, I never really gave him props for his acting.  Oh, sure, he was always good but never up there in the echelon of great actors in my mind.  Well, he is now.

Antonio plays Salvador Mallo, an aging director on his way down, mostly because he is getting old and has so many physical ailments.  Through a series of flashbacks narrated by Mallo, we see his childhood play out in the small Spanish village of Paterna with a mostly absent father but a doting mother (Penelope Cruz, another Almodovar favorite).  We learn that he was a good student who as a very young boy taught the local plasterer to read and write.  We see his first love, the break-up, and his discovery of cinema.

But now Mallo is an old man with many physical and mental issues who doesn't think he can make movies anymore.  However, one of his old films, "Flavor," a film he didn't really like when he first made it, has been remastered and is going to be re-released as part of a retrospective of Mallo's films, so Mallo makes contact with Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), the star of that film, in hopes that he might do a Q & A with him at the showing.  However, Mallo hasn't spoken to Crespo in 30 years because they had quarreled over his heroin use while filming. Thirty years later, Crespo is still "chasing the dragon," and ironically introduces Mallo to the "pleasures" of smoking heroin. What the hell?  Mallo thinks heroin will help him with his back pain but it quickly becomes an addiction.

Almodovar seems to be asking the question: Can an artist rise above physical and mental pain and the prospect of his own mortality to continue to create art? 

In this very personal film we are watching Almodovar deal with his own life, physical condition, career and mortality, something Bob Fosse did in his film "All That Jazz," where he did the same thing, including a graphic rendition of his own heart surgery. This film reminded me of that film, but Almodovar is like no other.  His celebration of women, his use of vibrant color, his lack of sentimentality and his originality, all make for a wonderful film experience.

Rosy the Reviewer of our greatest and most original filmmakers. Almodovar never disappoints.
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

Jexi (2019)

Imagine what might happen if Siri could talk back to you and even stalk you!

Phil (Adam Devine) has no life.  He works for a tech company in San Francisco, has an abusive boss (Michael Pena), has no friends and his idea of a hot night is binge-watching reality shows and ordering takeout. But when he gets a new phone, instead of Siri, his "intelligent assistant" is Jexi (voice of Rose Byrne), and Jexi has a mind of her own.

Like everyone else, Phil is obsessed with his phone, and like everyone else, prefers to socialize via his phone rather than with real people face-to-face.  So when he breaks his phone, he is anxious to get a new one, so anxious that when he gets a new one he doesn't bother to listen to the user agreement for use of the phone, thus unleashing Jexi to take control of his phone...and his life. 

Phil is a shy, lonely guy and socially awkward.  He meets, Cate (Alexandra Shipp), a girl he likes, but he has problems making a good impression on her.

Jexi says, "I did not know you were so bad with girls.  I am ashamed to be your phone."

So you get the idea.

But initially, Jexi makes Phil's life better. She prompts him to make a date with  Cate and helps him get a better job, but when Phil no longer needs Jexi, she doesn't like it and is determined to keep him for herself.

This is one of those "what if," scenarios - what if your phone actually talked back to you and took control of your life?

Similar to "Her," where Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore develops a relationship with his computer operating system ("Samantha"), but this film is funny.  Yes, you heard me.  This is a comedy that is actually funny and I actually laughed.  I haven't watched a comedy that was actually funny in a long, long time. Hallelujah!  However, if you are offended by the "F" word or scatalogical humor, you might not like this, but if you can get over that, the film is a lot of fun and a metaphor for our obsession with our phones.  We can't get away from them.  And here Phil literally can't.

Adam Devine makes the perfect Phil.  He is just ordinary-looking enough to be believable as a dork but attractive enough to get away with the love scenes.  Shipp, so far best known as Storm in "X-Men: Dark Phoenix," is a young engaging actress on the rise with four films set for release in 2020. Wanda Sykes has a funny cameo as Denise, the saleswoman who sells Phil his new phone.  She can tell he is twitchy for his new phone and gives him a little lecture, comparing Phil's obsession with his phone to a crack-head, except he's worse.

Denise: You're worse than a crackhead.  Cause at least a crackhead gets up off the couch every now and then to go get some more crack.  Crackhead says hello to all his little crackhead friends.  A crackhead gets his steps in.  But not you.  You just sit there twenty four seven staring at that little black box, sucking on that pipe.  You still want a new phone though, don't you?

Phil: Yes please.

Denise: Crackhead.

Many of us can relate!

Rosy the Reviewer says...thank you, writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore!  I am over the moon - a comedy that is actually funny.  Hallelujah!

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

45 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Report (1967)

A thirteen-minute avant-garde classic about the Kennedy Assassination.

On the day JFK was shot, Bruce Conner recorded images of the assassination from his TV onto Super 8 film and obsessively worked on the footage for four years and this film was the result. He used television and radio commentaries from that day and added a very strange montage of cartoons, ads and other images of the day at the end: I mean bullfighters?  A refrigerator? A woman using a computer?  Conner withholds the actual assassination.  Instead he shows a white screen and then violent, flickering frames to represent the President's death.  But despite some filmic choices I didn't really understand, this short thirteen minute film is still a very intense experience.

Why it's a Must See: [This film] correctly predicted two polarized responses to the Kennedy assassination: either to be frustrated by the lack of anything to truthfully see in the audiovisiual archive; or to see twoo much, imagining one conspiracy after another, Oliver Stone-style."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a reminder of a very terrible day but also a reminder of a time, unlike today, when, whether we liked our President or not, the office of the President was respected and respectful.

***The Book of the Week***

The Less People Know About Us: A Mystery of Betrayal, Family Secrets and Stolen Identity by Axton Betz-Hamilton (2019)

A story of identity theft in an age before the Internet.

Axton Betz-Hamilton grew up in a small town in Indiana in the early 90's.  When she was 11 her parents had their identities stolen. Their credit was ruined, mail and money went missing and the household was rife with arguments about money.  This was a pre-Internet time and the police and banks were clueless as to what to do. Her parents tried to redirect their mail to other towns and changed their personal information, but no matter what they did, the identity thief followed them.  Thinking it was someone they knew who was terrorizing them, Axton and her parents isolated themselves from friends and family and Axton grew up not trusting anyone.  When Axton was in college, she discovered that she, too, had been targeted by the identity thief and she was thousands of dollars in debt and her credit ruined.

This book reads like a true crime story, but this time it's not a murder we are trying to solve.  We are trying to figure out who is doing this to this nice family and that's why you will keep reading.  For 20 years, Betz-Hamilton and her family deal with the identity theft, and it becomes a theft of her life as well.  It affects her relationships and her view of the world, especially when she discovers who has been doing this to her family.

Rosy the Reviewer Edgar Award 2020 Nominee, Betz-Hamilton has written a poignant tale of a small town family overcome by tragedy.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"What Love Looks Like"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.