Showing posts with label Do Not Become Alarmed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Do Not Become Alarmed. Show all posts

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Girls Trip" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Girls Trip" as well as DVDs "Wilson" and "Table 19."  The Book of the Week is the novel "Do Not Become Alarmed!"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Man Bites Dog."]

Girls Trip

Four ladies who have been friends since college gather in New Orleans to rekindle their friendships and have some fun.  And, boy, do they!

Well, my peeps, I am on a roll. Not one, but two funny comedies two weeks in a row. Hallelujah!  Last week I reviewed "The Big Sick" which was sweet and funny and now we have this one. It's also funny, but where "The Big Sick" was sweet funny, this one is raunchy funny so leave your tsks-tsk's at home.

The four friends:

Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has made a name for herself as a motivational speaker and author and is hyped as the next Oprah.  Her book "YOU Can Have it All" is a best-seller and an inspiration to her fans.  She is married to Stewart (Mike Colter), a handsome ex-NFL player, and the two are about to sign a big "Live with Kelly and Michael" kind of deal. (I know, I know, it's "Live with Kelly and Ryan" now, but that just somehow didn't fit with where I was going with this analogy).

Sasha (Queen Latifah) was a journalism star in college but instead of making a name for herself as a serious journalist circumstances led her to "Sasha's Secrets," a celebrity gossip blog, but it's barely paying the bills and she is about to be evicted from her apartment. 

Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a divorcee with two small children who in her college days was a wild one, but since her divorce, lives a nice, quiet buttoned-up life being an over-protective mom.  I mean, she's worried about leaving her kids with her own Mom!

And then there's Dina (Tiffany Haddish), who was just fired for assaulting a co-worker for "stealing" her lunch - she clearly has anger issues - and who is up for anything.  She is also a little crazy.

When Ryan is asked to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, she decides that this trip is just what she and her "Flossy Posse" need to rekindle their friendships and relive the good times.  What she doesn't know is that Sasha has seen a picture of Stewart kissing another woman and is torn about what to do. Should she tell Ryan? Should she post it to her gossip blog?  If she did, it would solve all of her financial problems. But then what would that do to her friendship with Ryan?

Tiffany Haddish is getting all of the love for her performance, and she is definitely a stand-out.  She is like a female Tracy Morgan in her delivery and like Morgan, she is very, very funny. The now infamous scene with the grapefruit is one you will never forget.

But the other actresses also pull their weight.

Jada Pinkett Smith was another stand-out for me.  I have never seen her in a part like this. She is natural and effortless as she goes from buttoned-up Lisa to Lisa the Freak!  And Queen Latifah?  She has a screen presence that is like, well, a queen.  She just exudes REAL and warmth just oozes off the screen.  I loved her. And she is funny too! Regina Hall gets to play straight woman to the other three's antics, but definitely holds her end up as Ryan deals with a cheating husband and rekindles a romance with Julian (Larenz Tate), an old college friend. 

I also have to give props to Kate Walsh as Ryan's agent.  Her attempts to impress Ryan by acting and talking like a hip black woman are awkwardly funny. 

As you know, I am always looking for a comedy that is actually funny.  Last week I struck gold with "The Big Sick," and now, here is another funny comedy, but, be warned, it's very "R-rated."  But amidst all of the crazy antics, it had it's sweet elements too and a message.  There is nothing sweeter than a loyal posse of girlfriends.  Your husbands and boyfriends may come and go, your children will grow up and leave, but your girlfriends are always there for you.

But that doesn't mean this film is sentimental and mushy. 

Quite the contrary.  It's out there.  

Speaking of out there, there was one scene early on in the film where on the plane headed for New Orleans, Dina takes over First Class and the flight attendant's tray and starts serving the passengers shots.  In this flying climate, that would never happen, and, in fact, the plane would have turned around and Dina would have been escorted off the plane.  Kind of hard to suspend disbelief when the disbelief is so strong.  Sometimes comedies go a bit too far to try to be funny, but other than that little blip, the movie was right on! It's right up there with the best of the "women behaving badly" genre ("Bad Moms," "Bridesmaids") that we have come to love, but this one goes much deeper in celebrating the power and joy of female friendships.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and with a screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, there are some scenes you have never seen before.  Let's just say that you will never look at grapefruit the same way again.  Likewise, when the ladies get high on absinthe and Sasha mistakes a lamp for a man...well, you have never seen Queen Latifah like that, and it's all very, very funny.

Oh, and since this is the Essence Festival, keep your eyes open for all of the celebrity cameos from Iyanla Van Sant to Ne-Yo to Sean "Diddy" Combs to Carla Hall to Mariah -  over 20 celebrities make an appearance as themselves.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a very funny film that celebrates the joys of female friendships. See it with your posse!  But you guys will like it too!


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


Wilson (2017)

A lonely middle-aged guy with no filter (which could explain why he has no friends) finds his estranged wife and discovers he has a daughter.

I have to say that I've never been much of a Woody Harrelson fan. 

I didn't like him as the clueless bartender in "Cheers," didn't particularly like the parts he has played in films since (always wise-cracking and annoying) and even in his personal life he comes across as a wise-cracking smartass who finds himself in strange taxi car chases in London. So you can imagine that I wasn't planning to like him or this film.

But I was wrong.  That happens from time to time.

Woody stars as Wilson, a middle-aged curmudgeon who is a negative kind of guy who doesn't seem to enjoy life very much.  He is socially awkward, quick-tempered, intolerant, overshares, lacks self awareness and bitches about all kinds of things, but at the same time he is desperately trying to make connections with people.  He is the kind of guy that would come and sit right next to you on an otherwise empty bus, or if you are a guy, he would choose the urinal right next to you in the mens' room, unselfconsciously start up a conversation and when finished, comment on your having a nice penis.  He's that kind of guy.

But when Wilson's Dad dies and he is confronted with his Dad's storage unit filled with pictures and his Dad's meager belongings, Wilson has a sort of epiphany.

"I don't have a single person that shares my same memories."

So he decides to go find his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern) who left him 17 years ago and moved to L.A.  She was also pregnant and got an abortion. Wilson leaves his beloved dog, Pepper, with a dog sitter, Shelley (Judy Greer), and heads to L.A. in his Dad's old car, driving down the center of the road as clueless, self-absorbed people are prone to do.

Guess what?

He finds her.

And guess what else?

She didn't get an abortion.  Wilson has a daughter out there that Pippi gave up for adoption, and Wilson thinks this is his one chance to have a family so he decides to find her too.

Wilson and Pippi find their daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), who turns out to be a teenager with a weight problem and an attitude and who is bullied by the kids in school.  Like Wilson and Pippi, she is a bit of an outcast.

Let the generational schism commence as Wilson tries to forge a relationship with Claire.  And when Pippi gets the idea that they should all go on a road trip to her judgmental sister's house to show her that she has a family and that she hasn't screwed up her life after all, we not only have the road trip cliché but the fish out of water trope as the outcasts visit the perfect family in the perfect suburban setting.

And if that's not enough, it all gets worse for Wilson when he ends up in prison.  You will have to see the film to find out how that happens, but surprisingly it's all very funny, in a very dark way.

Speaking of road trips. 

Have I ranted about road trip movies yet?  I will spare you, but road trip movies are such a cliché that they are getting on my nerves.  Can't someone take the train or go by boat once in a while?

This is a tour de force for Woody (he is in every scene), and he manages to keep his usual mannerisms to a minimum.  One can't help but wonder, though, does Woody choose these strange roles or do they find him because he himself is so strange?

But Woody actually pulled me into this story. 

Laura Dern plays against type here as the ex-crack whole Pippi (those are Wilson's words, not mine), because it seems she has been playing smaller forgettable roles lately such as the long suffering faithful wife ("The Founder") or TV roles like Renata in "Big Little Lies."  Here she makes Pippi edgy but likable without falling into sentimentality.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Daniel Clowes (from his graphic novel), I can't believe I liked this film as much as I did even with Woody and a road trip.  What could have been a drippy sentimental coming of middle-age tale actually manages to avoid that route and tell an original, engaging story.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark comedy about coming of age - middle-age that is.  It's never too late to figure things out.

Table 19 (2017)

When Eloise is demoted from Maid of Honor in her best friend's wedding, because the Best Man, who also happens to be the bride's brother, dumped her via text, she decides to attend the wedding anyway and finds herself at the table reserved for "The Randoms."

Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, and let me rant for a minute. Am I the only one who doesn't get Anna Kendrick?  I particularly don't get her in the "Pitch Perfect" movies which is all about singing, basically because I don't like her voice.  I find it very nasally.  And as an actress, she's OK, but I am getting sick of the characters she seems to play of late - the put-upon-yet-perky heroine who always perseveres.  What happened to all of that promise she showed when she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Up in the Air?"  That was nine years ago! She needs to find some roles with some meat where she can show some acting chops. Rant over.

But yet again we have that same character. This time she plays Eloise, who has been dumped and is suffering.  She was supposed to be the Maid of Honor at her best friend's wedding, but when Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the bride's brother, dumps her for another girl, the bride must have felt that would be a tad awkward so she relieves Eloise of her Maid of Honor duties, probably hoping she won't show up at the wedding.

But Eloise decides to go to the wedding anyway (see? perky!), but gets yet another blow.  She finds herself at Table 19, the one reserved for "The Randoms," those people that didn't fit in at any of the other tables, a table that is in no man's land, so far from the bride and groom you would need to send a messenger pigeon to communicate with them. Think the worst table in a restaurant, near the kitchen and next to the restrooms.  My idea of hell.  

This turn of events is particularly hard for Eloise, who when fulfilling he Maid of Honor duties had helped the bride decide who was going to sit where e.g. one table called "Eligible Singles," another, "Iffy Singles," etc.  Table 19 is clearly the worst table and it gets worse when Eloise sees who she is seated with.

  • Walter (Stephen Merchant) is an ex-con who lies about everything.
  • Jo (June Squibb) was the bride's first nanny.
  • Renzo (Tony Revolori, who made a splash as Zero in "The Grand Budapest Hotel") just wants to get laid but is a loser with the ladies and a mama's boy, and I never figured out his relationship to the bride and groom or how he even got invited to the wedding.
  • Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry (Craig Robinson), a married couple who own a local diner.  They don't get along and haven't had sex in years.

This is one of those films that uses the Table 19 concept as a device to put six very different and odd characters together who eventually all end up helping each other.  That's a device that has been used many times before and here nothing new is brought to the, er, table.

Each character has his or her own storyline, and we follow them as they go off and do stuff and then come back to the table and interact with each other in a non-funny way. All of these characters have secrets that are revealed by the end of the film e.g. nanny Jo is a pothead (see rant below about how old people are portrayed in films), but by the time that happened, I just didn't care anymore.  And that's the main problem with this movie.  Despite the fact that all of these actors are good actors, there just wasn't any depth to these characters.

Anna Kendrick plays yet another young woman in a fix. As I said earlier, I'm not a huge fan.   She needs to get some more challenging roles.  Wyatt Russell, son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, was actually quite good in that his character was really a believable sleaze, but he reminded me so much of T.J. Miller that it was actually a distraction for me.

June Squibb came to out attention in 2014 when she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in "Nebraska." As with most actors, she had been toiling in character roles since the 1980's but now she is everywhere.  If a film needs a wise-cracking old lady, she gets the part.

And now I am going to rant about that. 
(Not about June Squibb, but about wise-cracking old folks and other old people stereotypes in movies).

Being a woman of a certain age, I am getting sick of old people being the butt of jokes in films.  Old person?  Let's make sure that person knows nothing about those newfangled computers and have a funny scene with the old lady poking the keyboard with one finger and ending up on a porno site.  Old people?  Why, wouldn't it be funny if they smoked pot and got all silly or, hey! What about a sweet little old lady who turns out to have a filthy mouth or what about an old guy with a cane who suddenly starts break dancing?  STOP THAT!!!  Quit making us old folks the butt of jokes like that.  It's been done already and it wasn't funny then and it's not funny now.

OK, rant over.
(This movie brought out the rant in me)!

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz with a story by Mark and Jay DuPlass, this was an interesting concept that just didn't go anywhere.  I wasn't sure if they were going for a comedy or a drama.  If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. 

There is a running joke that because Bina is wearing a jacket that looks exactly like the jackets worn by the servers, she keeps getting mistaken for a server.  If you think that's funny, you might like this film but I didn't and I didn't.

If this film was supposed to be dramatic, it wasn't. There was a scene between Eloise and Teddy that was actually overdramatic followed by a slapstick bit where the wedding cake gets knocked over - and, can I just ask, is there ever a movie about a wedding where the cake DOESN'T get knocked over?

And, oh, yes, the music in this film was so loud it was difficult to hear the dialogue.

However, despite all of my complaints, I will give the film credit for it's spoof of cheesy wedding toasts and the funniest line in the film:

"You are Romeo and Juliet and we all wish you the same happy ending."

But that's as good as this movie ever got.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when Lisa Kudrow's character, Bina, says, "What are we doing here?" I asked myself the same thing.  You can skip this one.

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

192 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Man Bites Dog (1992)

A film crew follows a serial killer as he goes about his deadly deeds in this pseudo-documentary where the film crew becomes part of the story.

Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde) is a serial killer and rapist who agrees to let a film crew follow him around and film him.  Ben is a seemingly ordinary guy with a sense of humor who wants to find love.  However, Ben just so happens to also be a cold-hearted serial killer.  As the film crew follows Ben around, the objectivity between the filmmakers and their subject becomes less and less as the crew actually become involved in the killings, helping him dispose of bodies. Ben even helps them out financially.

This pseudo-documentary is a satire on reality TV well before reality TV became the reality it is today.  

Very much in the vein of Christopher Guest's pseudo-documentary "This is Spinal Tap," except this one has murder and rape, the film is funny up to a point until the film crew starts getting involved in the killings that culminate in a very graphic scene that is decidedly not funny.  Then the film seems to be asking the question: 

How complicit are those who film people doing things they shouldn't in the name of showing reality, and how complicit are we, those who watch this stuff? How far will filmmakers go to get the public's attention and when do we draw the line at what we do and don't want to watch?

In showing a serial killer's human side, are the filmmakers condoning what he does for a living and saying, see? He's just a regular guy who happens to kill people?  I mean, Ted Bundy was a handsome charming guy, but does that make him any less evil?

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is probably the most controversial film in the history of Belgian cinema [and]...According to the creators...the idea for the film stemmed from a Belgian tabloid journalist TV series, one which blew small stories out of proportion and intruded on people's private lives.  This underlying concept helped guarantee the film's success, and secured its status as an all-time cult favorite."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is not for everyone, and it's very much a one joke very sick joke...but resonates loudly 25 years later.
(In b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel by Maile Meloy (2017)

Three families become friendly on a beautiful cruise to Central America, but the cruise turns ugly when the children go missing on a shore excursion.
When long-time friends and cousins, Liv and Nora, decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is happy. The adults are happy for a chance to get away and relax and the kids are happy to be free of the adults as they explore the ship and eat the food from the endless buffet. But when they all go ashore - the husbands to play golf and the women and children for a zip line adventure - things take a turn.  The tour guide's car breaks down leaving Liv, Nora and their new friend Camilla and their children stranded near a beach.  So the group decides to spend the day at the beach while they wait to be rescued, but a series of events lead to the adults and the children getting separated and the children being kidnapped.

As the parents try to find their children, they blame themselves and turn on each other.
In the meantime, the children - one of whom is a Type 1 diabetic without his insulin - must become resourceful to find their way back to their parents.  Will they make it?

There is also a side story about another child, a poor Ecuadorian who is on her way to the U.S. with her uncle to be reunited with her parents and her story eventually becomes entwined with that of the American children's.

This is a page-turner that could be written off as a nice summer beach read, but there is a deeper message: being a parent is a blessing and a curse.  We love and enjoy our children, but once we have children, we have the continuous burden of worry and fear that something will happen to them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fast read that you won't be able to put down.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  


 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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