Showing posts with label Debbie Harry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Debbie Harry. Show all posts

Friday, December 6, 2019

"Knives Out" and The Week in Review

[I review "Knives Out" as well as DVDs "Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark" and the 2018 "Halloween."  The Book of the Week is Debbie Harry's memoir "Face It."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Downfall."]

Knives Out

Best-selling mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is found dead in his study, with his throat slit.  Was it suicide....or MURDER?

A star-studded cast graces this Agatha Christie-like murder mystery with Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, a modern day Poirot except with a southern drawl instead of a French accent.  Harlan Thrombey is found dead on his 85th birthday by his housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson), lying on a couch in his study with a knife in his hand. Everyone thinks it was suicide but a couple of cops arrive to make sure there are no loose ends and they are accompanied by super detective Benoit (pronounced Ben-Wa, which I find hilarious) Blanc.  Blanc has been hired by an anonymous person to find out exactly how Harlan died.

And if it was murder, all of Harlan's dysfunctional and pretty awful family members certainly had motives to kill Harlan: His son Walter (Michael Shannon), who runs Harlan's publishing company, has just been fired by Harlan; Harlan has found out that Richard (Don Johnson) is cheating on his wife, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Harlan's daughter, and Harlan plans to tell Linda if Richard doesn't; Harlan has discovered that Joni (Toni Collette), his daughter-in-law, has been embezzling money from him so Harlan has cut her off completely; and Harlan has told Ransom (Chris Evans), his grandson, that he has been cut out of his will.  All of that took place at Harlan's 85th birthday party after which he was found dead.

There is also Harlan's young Latina immigrant nurse, Marta (Anna de Armas); Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford), Joni's daughter; and Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Walter and Donna's Nazi-leaning son, all of whom were also at the party.

Enter Benoit Blanc and a couple of police detectives (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) and a whole lot of twists and turns ensue.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this film is a modern take on Agatha Christie without losing any of her dramatic tropes that always kept us guessing.  And the film even makes some statements about class and politics.  But mostly, this film is a lot of fun.

We can always count of Christopher Plummer to bring it and he does and the rest of the cast create a nice ensemble.  And can I say, damn?!  Chris Evans is one handsome guy and there is not one trace of his Captain America persona in his portrayal of the evil Ransom.  But the film really belongs to Daniel Craig as Benoit and Ana de Armas as Marta.  Craig is having a lot of fun playing against type.  There is not a stitch of Mr. Bond in evidence.  Instead, his southern accent is so drawling that he would make Jeff Sessions proud. Benoit teams up with Marta, Harlan's young nurse, because she cannot tell a lie.  If she does, she throws up.  So Blanc enlists her to help him find the truth about Harlan's death. And speaking of which, this is one time I did not figure out the ending or the who dunnit part.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one entertaining film.  Highly recommended!

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


Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark (2019)

It's Halloween, 1968, and teenager Stella and her friends find a notebook of scary stories that seem to come true.

Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is an unpopular and aspiring writer obsessed with horror who hangs with a couple of other unpopular kids - Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) - and they are all bullied by the jocks led by Tommy (Austin Abrams), who just happens to be dating Auggie's pretty sister, Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn).  On Halloween night, they turn the tables and egg Tommy's car who in turn goes after them.  Stella and her friends run for it and escape into a drive-in.  They jump into the nearest car where they meet Ramon (Martin Garza), a young stranger who is at the drive-in alone.  They manage to get rid of the bad guys, befriend Ramon, and decide to head over to the local haunted house, as one does on Halloween night.

It's the decrepit and deserted home of the Bellows family, a 19th century family who ran the paper mill.  Legend has it that the Bellows had a daughter, Sarah, who they never let out of the house. Not only that, they removed her face from all of the family pictures.  Also according to legend, local children would sneak over to the house to try to get a glimpse of Sarah.  Though they never saw her, they heard her.  She would tell them stories through the walls.  And then kids starting disappearing.  It was said that if you go to the house and ask Sarah to tell you a story it will be the last story you will ever hear.

So Stella, Auggie, Chuck and Ramon break into the Bellows mansion and discover a secret room in the basement where they find a mysterious book.  In the meantime, Tommy and his friends have found them and lock them in along with Auggie's sister, Ruth.  That's when Stella gets the bright idea to ask Sarah to tell them a story.  As she does so, the book comes alive and literally self-writes.

Story #1 - Harold.

When Stella and her buddies finally escape the house, they discover that the bullies have trashed Ramon's car so Stella invites Ramon to stay at her place.  She takes the book home.  Meanwhile, Tommy meets his end at the hands of Harold.  You see, Harold is a scarecrow in a scary corn field and Harold comes alive and turns Tommy into a scarecrow too.


Later, Stella and Ramon find a scarecrow wearing Tommy's letter jacket so they realize that the book does have the power to write stories and if a story is written about someone that person dies.  So Stella is freaked out and decides she had better return the book.  She goes back to the house and returns the book only to find it in her room later.


Oh oh.  Another story writes itself.

Story #2 - "The Big Toe."

Poor Auggie gets attacked by a corpse looking for her toe.

And on and on it goes.

"You don't read the book.  The book reads you."

Now the kids realize they need to do something about this book or they are all going to die so Stella decides they need to find out the truth about Sarah Bellows.

Directed by Andre Ovredal and based on the books by Alvin Schwartz (adapted for the screen by Dan and Kevin Hageman and Guillermo del Toro), the young actors are engaging, the film is atmospheric and the stories are actually scary in a hands-over-eyes way but there is more to this film than just your usual horror film.  It's 1968, remember?  There is a true life horror film playing out in the background - Nixon and the Vietnam War and Stella's teenage angst, dealing with the fact that her mother killed herself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I see a sequel or two in the future but maybe I won't mind.  I really liked this film.

Halloween (2018)

Forty years ago, Laurie Strode escaped the serial killer, Michael Myers.  Now he's back.

And Jamie Lee Curtis is back once again too, recreating her role of Laurie Strode but 40 years later.

I have never really liked Jamie Lee Curtis.  I don't know why.  She seems like a perfectly nice person, though on talk shows appears rather smug and kind of a know-it-all.  But that shouldn't affect my feelings about her as an actress, but I guess it kind of does.

Can you believe it's been 40 years since that first "Halloween," starring Curtis? There have been sequels capitalizing on scary Michael Myers in the wierd mask terrorizing Laurie, but none matched the first one.  So now, 40 years later, the filmmakers are capitalizing on the first film and aren't even bothering to call it "Halloween II" because there has already been one of those or to give it a subtitle because we've had those too.  In fact, we have been following Laurie/Curtis in several sequels to the Laurie Strode/Michael Myers story for the last 40 years, something that this film never acknowledges.  It's as if this film is the direct sequel to the first "Halloween," and we are supposed to forget the plot points in those nine other sequels. And speaking of the first film, this one pays considerable homage to it. But now is there really anything more to say? 

Some researchers have arrived at the psychiatric hospital where serial killer, Michael Myers, has been confined for the last 40 years after terrorizing the community and young Laurie Strode.  But after all of this time, Laurie isn't doing well, but I guess I wouldn't be either if I had been terrorized by a guy in a scary mask weilding a knife.  So just in case he comes back, she has tricked out her house and turned it into a fortress with all kinds of booby traps should Michael reappear.  And of course he does. He escapes the hospital during a transfer, kills his guards and those interviewers and heads back to Laurie's town to terrorize her once again. But this time, Laurie is ready for him.  All doing the intro when Michael is in the hospital and then being transferred, we don't see his face but when he kills the researchers he finds his mask in their car.  How convenient! And also it's conveniently Halloween night so a guy in a mask?  Who notices?

But along with the inevitable encounter with Myers that is to come, there is also a side story here.  Laurie has a daughter (Judy Greer) and a granddaughter (Andi Matichak), but she is estranged from them because of her obsession with Michael Myers. But we also now have two more women for Michael Myers to terrorize.  And it's multigenerational!  Except what Michael doesn't know is that Laurie is ready for him and the hunted now becomes the hunter. It's all rather predictable but I have to say that from time to time I do enjoy a good ass-whooping administered by a woman, or in this case, women.  It's revenge time for Laurie but not before Michael does some major damage to everyone he encounters.

Based on John Carpenter's original "Halloween," and directed by David Gordon Green who also wrote the screenplay with Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley, this is fairly predictable stuff, with some "Huh?" moments (like how did Michael know Laurie's daughter and granddaughter were in the basement and that the kitchen island was the way to get down there?) and most of the film is a lead up to the last 20 minutes when Laurie kicks Michael Myers' ass, but it goes a bit deeper as it plays on our fear of others and what might be lurking in the dark. Greer gets to do some ass-kicking too. The women take control of their own futures.  And for a horror film, it delivers the requisite violence and gore. There is also homage to the first film, especially that classic scene where Laurie has her face up against the door with Michael's hand reaching in. But the bottom line is that the film just wasn't that scary.

Rosy the Reviewer says...maybe not as scary as you would like but it certainly is satisfying in a female self-empowerment kind of way.

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

51 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Downfall (2004)
("Der Untergang")

The final days of Adolph Hitler (Bruno Ganz), as seen through the eyes of his secretary, Traudl Junge.

The film begins and ends with the real Traudl Junge talking about her time as secretary to Hitler and regretting her association.  Then the film tells her story, taking place almost entirely in the bunker where Hitler and his cohorts spent their final days. We see the unraveling of Hitler through the eyes of Traudl Junge, who Hitler hired to be his secretary in 1942, and it is her memoir upon which this film is based. He was not just evil but quite mad, especially as things fell apart and he was giving orders to move troops that no longer existed and issued orders to commanders who were already dead. He and Eva Braun famously committed suicide as did the Goebbels.  In one scene Frau Goebbels exclaims "I don't want to live in a world without National Socialism," and then goes on to kill her six children with poison and cyanide in a particularly gruesome scene before she and her husband, Joseph, kill themselves.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the film was based on Junge's memoir "Until the Final Hour" and the book "Inside Hitler's Bunker" by Joaquim Fest.  It was Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but it caused controversy because of the fear that showing Hitler's final days would somehow prove to be sympathetic toward Hitler, or that it would evoke admiration for people who were able to gain so much support and then be willing to die for their beliefs, but critic Roger Ebert summarized it this way:

"Admiration I did not feel. Sympathy I felt in the sense that I would feel it for a rabid dog, while accepting that it must be destroyed...All we can learn from a film like this is that millions of people can be led, and millions more killed, by madness leashed to racism and the barbaric instincts of tribalism."

And speaking of racism and tribalism: though it would be going out on a bit of a limb to compare our current political situation to Hitler, the racism and tribalism we are experiencing today was not lost on me.

Ganz was remarkable as Hitler, his shoulders and back slowly crumbling lower and lower as Hitler realized his power was lost.

The film ends with an epilogue about what happened to all of Hitler's inner circle who had been with him in the bunker, and then, just as the film began with Junge, she gets the final word, saying she was young and hadn't known about the concentration camps and other horrors that Hitler had ordered but then ends with the statement that she could have probably found out and that youth was no excuse.

Why it's a Must See:  "...the first German movie to portray Adolf Hitler in a conventional narrative...[a] disorienting matter-of-factness is the key to [this film's] brilliance...[along with Bruno] Ganz's grandly withered performance."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautifully produced and engrossing film, but overlong and highly disturbing.

***The Book of the Week***

Face It: A Memoir by Debbie Harry (2019)

Singer Debbie Harry tells all.

I was struck by the fact that Debbie Harry and I had a very similar life up until the age of 18. Though she grew up in New Jersey and I in Michigan, we both had fairly uneventful childhoods with middle class parents.  We roamed our neighborhoods with our friends unsupervised, went to the movie matinee for 25 cents, loved TV, performed in shows and dreamed of being famous. But when we left home, she went off to New York City, became a Playboy Bunny, a drug addict and the famous lead singer for a popular punk/rock band...Blondie... and I didn't.  I went to college, wanted to be an actress and ended up a librarian. C'est la vie! 

Harry presents a very straight-forward, candid memoir.  She matter-of-factly talks about her time hanging with Andy Warhol and friends and then throws in the fact that, oh yeah, then I was raped.  This is one tough lady who has been around and broke new ground as a female musical artist, which was not easy.

The book is illustrated throughout with Harry's artwork, fan art and never-before-seen photographs, and she shares all kinds of insider tidbits on the people (John Waters, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and musicians (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Duran Duran) she has encountered over the years as the lead singer for Blondie and captures that strange and magical time that was the 1970's and 80's. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, continues to perform as a singer and an actress and is an activist for environmental issues and the LGBTQ community.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like candid celebrity autobiographies, this is one!  She doesn't hold back!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Irishman"


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.