Showing posts with label Documentaries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Documentaries. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

More Good Movies You Might Not Know About, Part 2

[I review the new documentary "Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg," as well as an indie character study, "Mickey Hardaway," and the rom-com, "Somebody I Used To Know."] 

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg (2023)

A documentary about a famous person you have probably never heard of....rock and roll muse, Anita Pallenberg, who was most famous for her relationships with the Rolling Stones (yes, more than one) in the 1960's and 70's, but who was much more than that. 

I was a child of the 60's and loved the Rolling Stones.  I knew who Anita Pallenberg was, but I didn't really know anything much about her.

What I knew:

She was a model and an actress who was the girlfriend of Brian Jones, then Keith Richards with a bit of dabbling with Mick Jagger.  Well, I didn't really know the Mick Jagger part. She was a style icon of the 60's and 70's, starred in some movies, and she and Keith were both addicted to heroin.

What I didn't know:

Born in either Rome or Hamburg (her early life is unclear), she moved to New York City at 19 and became part of Andy Warhol's Factory.  She became a model and traveled the world, meeting the Rolling Stones back stage in Munich in 1965. She was a free spirit who drew people to her infectious personality. Immediately attracted to Brian Jones (he was the handsome Rolling Stone), the two became an item and she gave up modeling and moved to London to be with him.  The two got involved in taking drugs, but Brian's drug use overtook him.  He was abusive to Anita, at which point Keith, who had always had a crush on her, moved in to rescue her, though she hardly needed rescuing.  When she and Brian would fight, she threw as many punches as he did. 

It didn't help the relationship with Brian when Anita discovered acting and starred in "Barbarella" and later the cult classic "Performance," the latter film also starring Mick Jagger. Those two hooked up briefly, though Anita always said she was never that attracted to Mick. By then, Anita had moved on from Brian to Keith and her affair with Mick upset Keith so much he wrote "Gimme Shelter." And when she went back to Keith, Mick wrote "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Drugs had always been a part of Anita's life but with Keith, the heroin addiction began in earnest and when Brian Jones died and she had her first child, she started going off the rails.  There was the death of a child, a breakdown and and break-up but like a phoenix from the ashes, Anita endured.  She died in 2017.

After watching this riveting documentary directed by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill, now I know all about her and what a presence she was. Her impact on the Rolling Stones and others who knew her was enormous. She was the ultimate 60's rock chick.

Both of Keith's and her living children - Marlon and Angela (aka Dandelion) - weigh in on their mother's life and her impact on them.  At her death, an unpublished autobiography was found and in the film, Scarlett Johansson tells Anita's story "in her own words." Keith and Marianne Faithfull also weigh in along with others who knew Anita. The film is full of never-before-seen footage, film clips, photographs and home movies. 

Keith calls Anita "a piece of work (in a good way)," and others talk about her charisma, her intellect and talent and what a force of nature she was. Keith ends the film by saying "She made a man of me."  Mick does not weigh in.

Rosy the Reviewer absolutely fascinating true story that is a must-see for Rolling Stones fans, and you Baby Boomers out there will enjoy reliving your youth. I know I did. (in theatres or for rent on Amazon Prime)
Note: A great double feature would be this film along with "The Stones and Brian Jones," another documentary I reviewed back in April. 

Mickey Hardaway (2024)

A young man tries to rise above the trauma and abuse he suffered as a child to follow his dreams.

Mickey (Rashad Hunter) is a talented artist who dreams of being a cartoonist and sketch artist, but he can't seem to rise above the abuse he suffered at school and at home. His father (David Chattam)not only beat him physically but beat down his dreams. He thinks art is a waste of time. But Mickey finds encouragement from his art teacher (Dennis L.A. White) and later his counselor (Charlz Williams) at the Art Institute where he was awarded a scholarship.  But sometimes, when abuse runs deep, even well-meaning people are not enough. After being taken advantage of by an employer who Mickey thought was going to help him with his animation career, he starts drinking and his life unravels.  But Grace (Ashley Parchment), his caring girlfriend, encourages him to seek help. He meets with Dr. Cameron Harden (Stephen Cofield Jr.), and in a series of flashbacks during his sessions, we see just what Mickey has gone through.

Filmed in black and white, with a brief bit of color, this is a grim character study, very neo-noir and talky with some actors better than others, but, you will keep watching, because you want to see what will happen to Mickey.  Will he make it?  And you care because of Hunter, whose portrayal of Mickey is poignant and effective. And when Mickey says things like, "When you feel the world doesn't give a damn about you, you feel you have nothing to lose," you worry about Mickey, and, as the film progresses, and he says,  "It's hard to be good when all you know is evil," you worry even more as you get insight into why some young men turn to violence.

Written and directed by Marcellus Cox and based on his short film of the same name, this is his feature film debut, a bit of raw naturalism reminiscent of early Spike Lee, and a look at what can happen when someone feels he has nowhere to turn after years of abuse and disappointment.  

Cox says the film showcases "the generational trauma and mental exhaustion that people, in particular black men, have to endure and how we're taught to keep moving on with life without discussing our emotions and seeking help until it's too late and even then sometimes it's not enough once you find's a conversational character study that doesn't seek to give you answers but more to show how folks, in a time more than ever with depression being a mainstay, reach their breaking points...with mental health being at an all-time high in the Black community, I really wanted to bring this subject to a much needed forefront."

And Cox has done that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some grim realism but the film shines a light on the effects of generational trauma and mental illness, and for a first feature film, Cox shows promise for a long career as a serious writer/director. Make some room, Spike! (Tubi)

Somebody I Used To Know (2023)

Workaholic Ally returns to her hometown and reconnects with her old boyfriend - trouble ensues.

Ally (Alison Brie) is a showrunner for a reality show called "Dessert Island," that is part "Survivor," part "Love Island" and part "The Great British Baking Show (sounds like my kind of reality show)!" In case you didn't know, a showrunner literally "runs the show," so Ally is a bit of a workaholic and doesn't have much going on except work.  And she has never taken the time to evaluate her life and ask herself if she is happy, so when her show is canceled she decides to go back to her hometown - Leavenworth, Washington and visit her mother (Julie Hagerty).

While there, she runs into her old boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis), at a bar and they spend the evening together reminiscing. Ally had always wanted to leave town to follow her dreams to become a documentary filmmaker, but so far that dream as eluded her, but Sean likes it in Leavenworth, thank you very much.  He is close to his family and even has a house on their property. With no job and few prospects, getting back together with Sean seems very appealing to Ally. Maybe she made a mistake to leave. The evening ends with a kiss with Ally wanting to go further but Sean begs off.  She finds out why the next day - Sean is getting married the next weekend. Awk-ward!  And even more awkward is the fact that Sean's mother, Jojo, insists that Ally come to the wedding and film it! Ally jumps at the chance because now she thinks she should be with Sean, not his fiance, Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons). 

But wait, there is more awkward stuff.  With a nod to "My Best Friend's Wedding," Ally starts meddling in an effort to split them up.  But then things get complicated when Ally and Cassidy get to know each other and their initial suspicions about each other fade away. Things continue to be awkward and go from bad to worse... until they get better.

The Christmas-oriented Leavenworth, Washington makes for a scenic backdrop for a rom-com. Having lived in Washington for several years, I have personal experience about the cuteness of Leavenworth, and it has an interesting history.  It is a small town in the Cascade Mountains styled after a Bavarian village. In the 1960's when the lumber mills closed and the town was in decline, the city looked to tourism to revitalize the area.  They modeled the town after the Danish-themed town of Solvang, California, and today Leavenworth is a hotspot of tourism, especially at Christmas.  There are countless restaurants serving German food, pretzels and beer, a nutcracker museum and even a Snow Train from Seattle that takes visitors there (I've done that too)! 

Brie is a talented comic actress and she and Ellis are an engaging couple. Brie is especially good at awkward, and I mean that in a good way.  The rest of the ensemble are also first-rate and the town of Leavenworth also stars. 

Written by Dave Franco and Brie (who are married in real life) and directed by Franco, this is not your usual silly rom-com. It's a smart one with real, believable characters and a message about loving yourself before you can love anyone else. Instead of "boy meets girl, boy and girl break up and then get back together," this is more "boy meets girl and girl finds herself."  And there is even a satire on reality TV thrown in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet and enjoyable rom-com with a serious message. (Amazon Prime)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

"Civil War" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Civil War" as well as "The Miracle Club," and the documentary "The Stones and Brian Jones." I also review a stellar local production of "Sweeney Todd"]

Civil War (2024)

It's the future, the United States is in a civil war and a team of journalists travel to Washington D.C. to try to get an interview with the President.

In this dystopian tale, the President of the United States (Nick Offerman) is an authoritarian, has given himself a third term, speaks in hyperbole, thinks journalists are the enemies of the state, has disbanded the FBI and is kind of stupid.  Sound familiar?

In a very unlikely scenario, California and Texas have banded together to secede from the United States and a civil war has erupted against the authoritarian U.S. government.  War photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her colleague, Joel (Wagner Moura), have decided they need to travel from New York City to Washington D.C. to interview the President before the city is taken over by insurgents.  But before they leave, Lee saves a young girl - Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) - from a suicide bombing attack. Jessie just happens to be an aspiring photojournalist and manages to beg a ride from Joel.  Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an older journalist and Lee's mentor, also tags along, wanting to get as far as Charlottesville where the Western Forces (Texas and California) are assembling.  Lee is not happy that young Jessie is tagging along.  Lee is kind of a sourpuss.

The four go on a kind of dystopian road trip as they make their way to D.C. from New York.  They have to take a meandering route by way of Pittsburgh and West Virginia because the freeways are closed. The movie reminded me a bit of "The Last of Us" as the foursome encounter harrowing incidents as they make their way to D.C. but it wasn't nearly as good as that dystopian series. Will they make it to D.C.?

You know what?  After about a half hour, I didn't care if they made it or not. Though I liked the fact that the movie focuses on what photojournalists go through to try to bring us the news and dramatic pictures, that's all I liked.  What I didn't like was everything else. 

Kirsten was a one-note sourpuss throughout.  I know, I know, she is supposed to be war weary after having seen it all but as I always say...I judge a film on whether or not it's an enjoyable filmic experience and watching her act was not.  And Cailee Spaney, who starred as Priscilla Presley in "Priscilla," is practically unrecognizable and not given much to do. She deserves better than this. 

This movie was so slow going that I was actually glad for the gotcha moments because they woke me up.  The dialogue was over-dramatic, the acting was wooden and the story itself didn't seem to have a point other than paying homage to photojournalists, though we don't really get to know them as people. But as for the civil war motif, here was a chance to make some much-needed political statements, but...nope. Clearly, writer/director Alex Garland made that choice, but choosing to say nothing made the story really confusing.  Who was fighting whom or what? And why?

The movie was also fanciful. I still can't get over pairing California and Texas together. That would never happen!  But it really got me when the insurgents finally made it to the White House. Decoy cars left the White House and the President WAS STILL IN THERE. Number One, if the White House was under attack, I don't think anyone would be leaving via limo. And the President certainly would not stay behind on his own, Secret Service not withstanding.  Did British writer/director Garland not know there is a tunnel from the White House for just such moments as these so that the President and all of his allies can escape?  Why in hell wouldn't the President have left the building?  Well, remember what I said earlier. The President is kind of stupid. And the movie is, too, at times. I guess our journalists needed a quote from the President.  

Garland is better known for sci-fi and horror ("28 Days Later," "Ex Machina," "Annihilation") and, yes, a dystopic America in a civil war is a horror story.  I just wish he had made that point better. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like dystopian dramas, save your money and watch "The Last of Us" instead. (in theatres)

The Miracle Club (2023)

In 1967, four women travel to Lourdes from Ireland in hopes of a miracle.

Chrissie (Laura Linney), a woman in her fifties, returns home to Ireland from Boston for her estranged mother’s funeral.  Chrissie was banished from her home for something that happened when she was a young woman that is eventually revealed.  But she wasn't just estranged from her mother. She was also estranged from her cousin, Eileen (Kathy Bates), and her mother's friend, Lily (Maggie Smith).

Before her death, Chrissie's mother had arranged a talent contest and the prize was two tickets to Lourdes. You know, it's that place in France where the Virgin Mary was spotted and has since became a religious pilgrimage site where miracles are supposed to happen.  Lily, Eileen and, especially the much younger Dolly (Agnes O'Casey), are desperate to go to Lourdes.  Eileen has a lump in her breast, Lily has problems with her legs and has never gotten over the death of her son, Declan, and Dolly has a son who either can't or refuses to speak and she hopes that he will be cured.  Despite the animosity towards her, Chrissie also tags along because it was her mother's dying wish that she go. So the women go off to Lourdes, leaving their useless husbands (Stephen Rea, Mark McKenna and Niall Buggy) home to fend for themselves, something they are not used to doing.  But just as the women find resolutions in Lourdes, so, too, do the husbands learn some things about themselves.

Written by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer and directed by Thaddeus O' Sullivan, this is one of those films where you know what is going to happen.  The miracle isn't so much Lourdes itself, but what the women learn about themselves and the repairing of friendships but it doesn't matter if you know the outcome because it's the journey.  These Oscar-winning veteran actresses are always a joy to watch and it's a journey I enjoyed. 

Rosy the Reviewer old-fashioned, feel-good movie where the miracle is those wonderful actresses. (Netflix)

The Stones and Brian Jones (2023)

A documentary about Brian Jones, one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones and an early member of the 27 Club.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  One could say that about the 1960's and Brian Jones. If you weren't there, you can't really understand the youthful excitement that was in the air, especially the excitement bands generated in those days. But there was also a dark side.

This documentary highlights Brian Jones, one of the original members of The Rolling Stones, who has been virtually forgotten since his early death in 1969, and yet, he gave the band its name, was the leader of and spokesperson for the group when it began and was quite possibly the most talented of the founding members.  He could play any instrument and devised many of the memorable riffs we associate with The Rolling Stones today. He was also the handsome one, with that long blonde hair. But sadly, his personal demons, his rivalry with Mick Jagger and his insecurities about Mick's and Keith Richards' songwriting partnership got the better of him and drugs and alcohol took over to the point that he was fired from the band. It had been Brian's band and there is a sense here, that Keith and Mick stole it from him.

Jones started out as a dutiful son, but when he started playing guitar, he rebelled and his strait-laced father kicked him out of the house. So Brian started a blues band in 1962 with Mick and Keith. His family never came to his concerts and considered him a failure, even after becoming rich and famous. It didn't help that Jones also fathered a child at 16, and at the time of his death, had fathered at least five children. 

Written by Nick Broomfield and Marc Hoeferlin and directed by Broomfield, this documentary is filled with never-before-seen footage, interviews with ex-girlfriends and others who knew Jones, and the music.  It pays homage to Jones, who deserves to be remembered, though his is a sad story of success getting the better of a young, talented man. Not surprisingly, Mick and Keith do not weigh in here, but original Stones bassist, Bill Wyman, does, and he was clearly a fan of Jones, and offers some interesting insight. The film ends poignantly with a letter from Brian's father that Brian had kept and that was found after Brian's death. His father expressed regrets about the way he had treated him.

Rosy the Reviewer's a sad story about the dark side of fame. It turned out to be the worst of times for Brian Jones in a time that some of us Baby Boomers remember as the best of times, especially because of the music. (Hulu and for rent on Prime and Apple+).

***Live Theatre***

"Sweeney Todd" at the Paper Wing Theater and Supper Club, Monterey, CA

A first-rate production of the renowned Stephen Sondheim musical.
I live in a small town but last night sitting in the audience of my small town at the Paper Wing Theatre watching their version of “Sweeney Todd,” I felt like I was sitting in a theatre on Broadway or in London’s West End. It is a wonderful production that does Stephen Sondheim proud!
I can’t believe I have never seen “Sweeney Todd,” especially since it opened on Broadway so long ago (1979). And I am a musical comedy gal. I mean, I starred in the musical version of “Irma La Douce (yes, I was Irma).”
Based on the 1970 play by Christopher Bond, book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the subtitle of the play is “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and it tells the story of Benjamin Barker who was unfairly sent to prison in Australia by Judge Turpin, an evil judge who lusted after Barker’s wife. Now Barker is back in London calling himself Sweeney Todd and seeking revenge, not just on Turpin but everyone else who did him wrong. He reopens his barber shop and teams up with pie maker, Mrs. Lovett, who is having difficulty finding meat for her pies. You can see where this is going.
I am a believer in supporting local theatre but if you think this is a run-of-the-mill community theatre production, you would be wrong. This is an exciting professional production with a wonderful acting and singing ensemble. L.J. Brewer is first-rate as Sweeney Todd as is Olorin Braun as Anthony Hope, the young sailor in love with the ingenue, Johanna, played by Sarah Gaudoin. Braun has a gorgeous voice and reminded me of a young Orlando Bloom. And then there is Kate Faber as Mrs. Lovett. She lights up the stage every time she comes on!
This musical is not an easy one to pull off. Almost all of the show is set to music, and it is pure Sondheim with intricate lyrics and singers meshing with one another. And it’s also a dark tale…but funny dark.
Rosy the Reviewer says…thank you to producer Koly McBride, director Justin Gaudoin, Musical Director Taylor Safina, the actors and singers and everyone else who helped bring this show to our community. It’s very special and not to be missed! (playing in Monterey Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday through April 28 but if you are not local, support local theatre near you)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Friday, August 26, 2022

If You Like Documentaries...

[I review some new documentaries: "The Princess," "Trainwreck: Woodstock '99," "The Most Hated Man on the Internet," and "The Tinder Swindler."]


The Princess (2022)

Marking the 25th anniversary of her death, a look back on the life of Princess Diana.

There have been many books, movies, TV shows and documentaries about Princess Diana in life, and, also, since her untimely death at the age of 36, but what sets this latest documentary apart is the fact that it contains no talking heads, no dramatizations and no narration, just the chronological telling of her story since her engagement to Prince Charles, using nothing but reportage, news coverage and various comments from the public and media.  After Princess Diana's and Charles' wedding, one commentator said that this is what fairy tales are made of and fairy tales end with "And they lived happily ever after."  Well, not this time.  In fact, right after the wedding as Prince Charles helps Diana out of the carriage, he already does not look happy. No need for narration.  The footage speaks for itself.

Of course, now we all know this was a marriage of convenience for him.  He was in love with another woman.  I

Despite a bad marriage, Diana was able to mature into an accomplished woman, a spokesperson for AIDS and leprosy patients, children, the disabled, the homeless and she also helped in the call for an international eradication of land mines, something her son Prince Harry has also taken on now.

This is Diana's story through the media coverage that hounded her, and some say, contributed to her death.  She began as a shy young girl whom everyone loved. During the 80's, when England was in a recession with cultural unrest, support for the monarchy was at 50-50.  When Diana entered the picture, it became 80-20. But then as Diana matured, she upstaged Charles and created upheaval in what was a constrained and strait-laced monarchy. She became a problem for the monarchy, and thus began her love-hate relationship with the press. As much as the press loved her and needed her, they also villified her.  One commentator actually said she was a monster. 

Did this documentary reveal anything about Diana that we didn't already know?

Not really, not for me anyway, but I am one of those devotees who stayed up all night watching the hearse take her casket to Althorp, crying all the while.  But the documentary did include news coverage I had never seen.  I knew that people in the UK and the U.S. took Diana's death hard but didn't realize people were crying all over the world. And the lack of talking heads and narration creates an eerie foreshadowing. Without anyone saying anything, it is easy to see the cracks in the marriage just from the news reporting.  An example?  Just one hour after bringing baby Harry home from the hospital, Charles hops in his car and heads out to play polo.  And who was in the audience?  Camilla.

Written and directed by Ed Perkins, this documentary shows that now, 25 years after her death, Diana still casts a huge shadow.  So amazing that one woman could have such an impact on so many, that so many who had never met her would feel an emotional connection to her. I certainly felt that connection.  I wrote a tribute to her early in my blogging career ("Remembering Princess Diana").  For some strange reason, I found it comforting to know she was in this world that I, too, inhabited, even though we didn't know each other and existed thousands of miles apart.  I still think of her and feel sad we no longer share this world together. From this documentary, I see I was not alone in that.

Rosy the Reviewer was sad to relive Diana's story knowing how it would all end.  I cried once again, but I was also happy to be reminded of how, despite the odds against her, Diana went from a naive 19-year-old to a force for good in the world.  She deserves to be remembered. (HBO)

Trainwreck: Woodstock 99 (2022)

The sequel to Woodstock 69.  Don't I always say that sequels suck?

Well, I might not say it exactly like that, but I don't like sequels.  This time it's not a movie sequel but a sequel to a success, an almost once-in-a-lifetime event, and what happens when you get dollar signs in your eyes and try to recreate it.

Remember Woodstock?  Even if you don't remember it, you have probably heard of it.  Michael Lang was the man behind that 1969 music festival, where almost 500,000 people showed up and they all got along, they embodied peace and love.  Well, Lang tried to recreate Woodstock in 1994, which was supposed to be a 25th anniversary of the first one, and it was a failure because it rained every day.  So, that didn't work?  Let's try it again, but this time let's call it the 30th anniversary.  Well, that one didn't work, either. It was a riot - literally.

For Woodstock '99, a three day weekend music festival, Friday started out okay with 250,000 kids attending the festival which was set up at a decommissioned military base (no bucolic farm setting this time), and it was hot, hot, hot with no shade provided.  The concession stands were all privatized, and no one was allowed to bring in food or water and the concessionaires were charging huge amounts of money for food and water ($4.00 for a bottle of water which would be the equivalent of $7.00 in today's dollars). Korn was the headliner on Friday night. Needless to say, they riled up the crowd. 

By Saturday, it all starting falling apart. 

The toilets were overflowing (again, sanitation had been privatized and they just weren't up to it) and trash was everywhere.  One of the volunteers, a woman who had attended the original Woodstock, took it upon herself to go around handing out garbage bags and asking the kids to clean up.  The reply?  "I paid $150 to come here, you clean it up."  The infrastructure in place just could not support the people.  The attitude of the concertgoers was that if the venue didn't care, why should they care?

While Lang and his cohorts were being interviewed and cluelessly basking in what they deemed a successful festival, outside, 1000 people were being treated for heat stroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion, there was no shade, there was price gauging going on by the concessionaires, no one was dealing with sanitation and there was little security.  

By Saturday night, everyone was really pissed off and the concert goers started throwing things at the tower where the MTV coverage was taking place, and when people realized they could do whatever they wanted with no consequences, all hell broke loose. 

When Limp Bizkit came on Saturday evening, lead singer Fred Durst didn't help matters.  He really enjoyed ramping up the crowd and instigating them to go wild, so by the time Fatboy Slim came on chaos had taken over and he had to be lead off the stage.  By Sunday, women had been molested, the showers didn't work, the toilets were overflowing, mud was everywhere (and I won't elaborate on what was actually swirling around in that mud), and there was a riot going on. Now water was $12 a bottle. 

But the festival went on. Sunday night the Red Hot Chili Peppers came on to end the festival - Flea was naked, of course - and there was a rumor that someone really big would come on last as a surprise- the Stones? Michael Jackson?  So when it turned out the final act was handing out 100,000 candles for an anti-gun vigil and that was it, the festival was over...what?  No Rolling Stones? No Michael Jackson?  No surprise artist to end the festival? That's it?  After everything we have had to put up?  So with no way to protest, what to do?  Well, let's tear the place up. And look, we have lighted candles. Okay, let's start some fires.  And that's what the kids did. It didn't help that the last song the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed was the Jimi Hendrix song "Fire."

An animal mentality took over. That's what happens when people are treated like animals. It was "Lord of the Flies," except with 100,000 pissed off kids who had no way to protest their bad treatment. The vendors were vandalized, the sound towers were brought down, the trailers were set on fire and anyone associated with MTV was a target (they had to hide or get the hell out of there). Then the trailers exploded and the State Troopers arrived.

Mic drop. 

But not in a good way.

So what went wrong?  

Was it using a decommissioned military base with no shade, instead of a bucolic farm setting?  Was it not letting attendees bring in food or water and then selling the concessions to a private company that overcharged for food and water?  Or was it selling the event to Pay Per View where the cameras filming the event encouraged bad behavior?  Or was it Lang's lack of awareness about new bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, angry bands that can really ramp up a crowd and not in a good way?  Was it good old-fashioned greed? It was probably all of those things together that sent this concert spiraling down with rape, rioting, fires and explosions. 

This is an engrossing tale of what can happen when people are treated like they don't matter.  It's also a tale of greed and incompetence. There are some dynamic musical performances, but it's the antithesis of the first Woodstock.

The first Woodstock was all about The Peace and Love Generation - 500,000 people who gathered together to smoke pot, make love not war and listen to music.  Nothing bad happened.  Woodstock '99 was the MTV and Pay Per View Generation, all about ecstacy and greed.  Never the twain shall meet.

Rosy the Reviewer know what they say about trainwrecks, right?  You can't look away and you won't be able to look away from this three-part Netflix series that reminds us that when you have an initial wonderful success, forget the sequel.  Sequels suck.  (Netflix)

The Most Hated Man on the Internet (2022)

The story of Hunter Moore, the self-proclaimed "Life ruiner."

This three-part docuseries is the story of Hunter Moore, the man who created the website, a site that encouraged people to post "revenge porn."  It's logo?  "Thank you for being evil."  And this guy really was. He not only hosted the pictures but linked them to the social media pages, the emails and sometimes the addresses of the subjects. He would also get people to do outrageous things on his site, a sort of porn meets "Jackass."  I won't even get into what he had a girl dubbed "Butt... Girl" do.

In January 2012, Moore published a topless photo of Charlotte Laws' daughter, 24-year-old Kayla.  Kayla had never sent the picture of herself to anyone, so it came to light that Moore was hacking peoples' accounts.  Law decided she had to go after this guy. Don't mess with a mother! And don't mess with a woman who wrote a book ("Meet the Stars" under the name Missy Laws) about how to crash the parties of the rich and famous. She had moxy.

Laws was able to get Moore to take the image of her daughter down, but she wasn't done with him.  Now she had a mission.  She wanted to help the other women whose images had been hacked or put up on the site by a jilted lover.  By February, she had spoken with 40 of Moore's victims. She tried to get reporters to tell this story but she was told there was no story (what)?  

Meanwhile, Moore was getting attention by appearing on talk shows, and when he appeared on the Anderson Cooper show confronted by a couple of his victims, he came off as an a**hole, but that didn't seem to matter. What is the expression about publicity? There is no such thing as bad publicity.  Moore became even more famous, especially with his followers, who called themselves "The Family."  Fitting, because Moore likened himself to Charles Manson, which should tell you something about this guy.

Many efforts from various people and groups were made to stop Moore but he just kept going.  He capitalized on the media attention and went on tour, hired for parties across the country.  What went on at these parties is not for the faint of heart. 

All of this publicity and activity finally caught the attention of the FBI and Charlotte was able to share all of her sleuthing with them.  But even when the FBI is involved, the wheels of justice move slowly.  Yes, it was discovered that Moore was indeed hacking accounts, but did he get what he deserved? You decide. 

But there is a sort of redemptive epilogue. The producers said that Moore initially said he would take part in the series and then declined, but they "decided to use his image anyway."  Touche!

However, one can't help but wonder how many other Hunter Moores are out there on the Internet.

This is a fascinating documentary about the underbelly of the Internet and a really bad guy who didn't seem to have any concern or empathy for others.  When asked if he felt bad for these women whose images were plastered all over his website, he said, no, he felt nothing. They were like emojis to him.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to know how your accounts can get hacked, this is a tutorial.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I don't even know this guy but after seeing this docuseries, I hate him too! (Netflix)

The Tinder Swindler (2022)

"One little swipe can change your life forever."  That's for sure.  Especially if you meet the wrong person on Tinder. 

Meet Simon Laviev, supposed billionaire's son.  Meet three Scandinavian women who made the mistake of swiping right on Simon, who ended up swindling them.  Simon was no catfish.  He existed and actually wined and dined these ladies in Paris, took them for rides on his private jet and literally charmed the pants off of them.  And then something happened to his credit cards and he, uh, needed a little help from them.

So how was Simon able to pull off the rich man scam?  

Why, the old Ponzi scheme, of course.  While wining and dining a new woman, he would be leeching off of earlier women. He would wow the new mark on the first few dates, and wouldn't ask for money until about a month of wooing. Then he would have some hard luck story about a temporary money squeeze, could she please lend him some money? Then, when he would get the money, he could continue his lavish lifestyle. 

But then Simon meets the wrong woman, a woman who discovers the scam and is really pissed. She partners with another of Simon's victims and they decide to take him down! The first half of the film is testimonials from the women he swindled.  The second half focuses on how Simon was tracked down. Turns out Simon had been writing bad checks and swindling people since he was 18 and he was wanted by the police in several countries.

It's shocking how gullible these women were. But as P.T. Barnum once said, "No one has ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."  These women in the film weren't Americans but you can extrapolate that quote to entire populations who believe in the glitz and glam and overlook the lack of substance in a person. You can read into that what you want.

So does Simon get his just desserts?  Not exactly.  You will have to watch and find out.

Rosy the Reviewer says...written and directed by Felicity Morris, this is a fascinating true crime story that reminds us to beware of men who seem to be too good to be true, especially if they ask for money! (Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Elvis" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new "Elvis" biopic as well as the movie "Stillwater" and the documentary series "Bad Vegan." The Book of the Week is "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune"]

Elvis (2022)

Director Baz Luhrmann's two hour and 39 minute take on the life of Elvis Presley.

This movie could also have been called "Colonel Parker" or "Colonel Parker and Elvis," because it is as much, if not more, about Colonel Parker as Elvis.  He was Elvis's manager, almost a Svengali, and is the narrator of the film as he tries to prove that he wasn't a crook and didn't abuse Elvis.  

Or the film could have been called "The Baz Luhrmann Show" because Luhrmann throws everything he's got at this long, long film - split screens, animation, film footage, flashbacks, flash forwards, ominous music, and an epilogue of footage of the real Elvis from his early days to the end, in case you weren't paying attention during the first two and a half hours. It's frantic, over-the-top and A LOT! But there is a lot that's good.   

The film follows Elvis from his early days as a boy living in a mostly black neighborhood, attending black tent revivals and being filled with the holy spirit, which Luhrmann attributes to Elvis's wild, hip swinging movements when he performed. And it was Elvis's love of rhythm and blues that popularized him with white folks.  But it was that very same thing that got him in trouble in the segregated South.  The white girls loved Elvis but their white Daddy's did not. They didn't like Elvis the Pelvis singing that devil music. Supposedly Colonel Parker made him join the Army to clean up his image. Was that really true?  Who knows?  

After the army, Elvis's story is fairly well known.  He married Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), they had little Lisa Marie, he became a movie star and then when his star began to fade he had a famous comeback.  You know the one - the black leather Elvis period.  And then there was the residency in Las Vegas, that also according to Luhrmann, is what killed him because Colonel Parker just would not let him stop.  Elvis was Colonel Parker's meal ticket to cancel his debts and allow him to gamble at will.

And it's Parker's story that is probably unfamiliar to the general public.  He was always there with Elvis and guided his career (taking 50% of everything), but he was a shadowy figure.  Here we learn he was an ex-carny who was known as The Snowman because he could "snow" anyone and that's what he sold to Elvis. He was also not a colonel, nor was his name Tom Parker.  He was born Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk, was from Holland and his American citizenship was dubious.  Hence the plot line where Elvis wanted to tour abroad but Parker did everything he could be prevent it, probably because he had no passport. Yes, he made Elvis a star, but according to this film he also contributed to Elvis's death. Luhrmann made sure we knew he was a bad guy because whenever Parker was around or made a trenchant statement, ominous music played. 

Tom Hanks chews the proverbial scenery as Parker.  He's all padded and pancaked up and if the make-up team that did what they did to make him look like Parker doesn't get an Oscar nod, I will be surprised. I enjoyed Hanks' performance and I will also be surprised if he doesn't get an Oscar nod as well.

But the real kudos go to Austin Butler who plays Elvis.  

He embodies Elvis at all stages of his career, from the hip-swiveling 50's to his stint in the army to his film roles to his TV specials to his Las Vegas residency to his last bloated appearance.  He is believable at every turn.  He supposedly studied Elvis for two years, read every book about him and watched every movie and special and it paid off.  I thought I was watching Elvis. This guy is going to go far and I see an Oscar in his future as well. 

But speaking of bloated. The unhealthy, aging, drug-addicted Elvis is given less than 30 minutes of this bloated film, and before I go on, let me rant a bit. No movie should be two hours and 39 minutes unless it's "Gone With the Wind," and I am even having second thoughts about that one.  Movies seem to be getting longer and longer and directors more and more long-winded.  They can't seem to edit themselves. Luhrmann could have pulled this film in at two hours and he would have still been able to say what he wanted to say.  And he had a lot to say about the influence of blues and gospel music on Elvis, about racism, segregation, capitalism, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and more. Maybe he tried to say too much.  

Despite my wondering if everything in this film was true about Elvis (I think Luhrmann used some dramatic license here and there), the film, written by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell and Craig Pearce has the blessing of Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley and I see why.  Priscilla is shown in the best possible light and as the real love of Elvis's life. No marital fights and no mention that she was only 14 when they met. Elvis is shown in the best possible light too. There was no mention of Elvis's obsession with Nixon or his really bad eating habits which led to his weight gain and bad health, and his womanizing, shooting up TV screens and drugs are given short shrift. It's Parker who is not portrayed in a good light.  In fact, he is portrayed as the villain. 

Despite some of my reservations, if you loved Elvis and you don't mind really long films, Butler does him proud and the music and performances are wonderful.  The film is also beautiful to look at though at times frantic.

Rosy the Reviewer says...wait, let me catch my breath...I was kind of out of breath after seeing this film because it was A LOT.  It was stylish and beautiful to look at, the kind of epic experience that only Baz Luhrmann can deliver. If you like A LOT and you love Elvis, you will enjoy this. Just don't have too much to drink before you go! It's a loooong movie! (In theatres)

Stillwater (2021)

An Oklahoma father moves to France to try to help his imprisoned daughter.

Matt Damon is Everyman because he can play every man.  Here he plays Bill Baker, a sometime oil worker, a sometime construction worker, a sometime handyman from Stillwater, Oklahoma.  He has had a tough past with drinking and drugs and has been estranged from his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), but now he's clean and he wants to help her.  She is in prison in France for murdering her girlfriend but claims she didn't do it.  She also says she has new evidence that will clear her if only her lawyer would reopen her case. Supposedly there is prison gossip that a guy named Akim did it, so Bill travels to Marseilles to talk to her lawyer. When her lawyer says she can't help, Bill takes the case into his own hands.

Bill is a religious good old boy who not only doesn't speak French, he doesn't have much concept of European culture. The first thing he does when he gets to Marseilles is get a Subway sandwich to eat in his Best Western hotel room. But he's a good guy who fortunately meets Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her precocious young daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), who help him navigate Marseille and the French legal system.  And let's just say, Marseille isn't a charming French village.  It has its rough edges and there are people who don't like nosy Americans asking about a guy named Akim.

And then there is the whole murky issue of Allison's guilt or innocence that hangs over the film.  Did she do it?

Written by Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Noe Debre and Thomas Bidegain and directed by McCarthy (who also directed the Oscar winning "Spotlight"), one can't help but draw a comparison here to Amanda Knox, the American girl studying in Italy, who was convicted of killing her roommate, despite her protestations of innocence. 

But there is more to this film than the guilt or innocence of Bill's daughter.  This is also a story of family relationships, a clash of cultures including those within France itself, a fish out of water, and second chances with some vigilantism thrown in. Bill may be from Stillwater, Oklahoma, but "still waters run deep."  Get it?  With that said, perhaps this film tried to do too much, and as the film wrapped up, there were several unbelievable plot twists that left me saying "Huh?"

But Matt Damon's performance saves the day.  He is one of those actors who is believable no matter what he plays.  He can play an astronaut marooned on Mars ("The Martian"), a zookeeper ("We Bought a Zoo") or an ex-CIA assassin on the run (the Bourne series) and you believe him.  French Actress Cottin is also believable.  You may recognize her from "Killing Eve" and "House of Gucci." And Abigail Breslin is all grown up.  I didn't recognize her at first but she has matured into a fine actress, though she doesn't have very much to do here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though there are a few "Huh?" moments, all-in-all this is a satisfying, though perhaps overlong, film experience thanks to the wonderful performance by Damon.
(On DVD, Showtime, and for rent on most platforms)

Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives (2022)

A successful NYC vegan restauranteur meets a guy who says he can make her dog immortal and then everything goes to hell.

Sarma Melngailis seemingly had it all.  She was beautiful, smart and had a popular New York City vegan restaurant called "Pure Food and Wine."  Celebrities like Alec Baldwin were regulars and he actually met his wife, Hilaria, there (after actually flirting a bit with Sarma). Both Forbes and New York Magazine named it one of the top restaurants in New York City.  Everything was going along smoothly until Anthony Strangis AKA Shane Fox slid into Sarma's DM's.  

Anthony or Shane was a con man and gambler who used elaborate mind games on Sarma and convinced her that he could make them both immortal, including her beloved dog, Leon. She just had to believe him. So she married the guy, they stole money from her own restaurant and went on the run. You can't make this stuff up, people.  

As crazy as all of this sounds, director Chris Smith (who also brought us "Tiger King") does a good job of telling this story, how someone as smart as Sarma could be lured into the nutty world Anthony created. This four-part docuseries follows Sarma through her meeting Anthony or Shane or whomever he was, marrying him, embezzling money from her own restaurant, ($1.6 million) and going on the run, leaving the restaurant and her employees high and dry.  The story is told through a series of interviews with past employees, investors and celebrities. 

Sarma herself cooperated with this docuseries and tells her story without the help of Anthony, who wasn't happy about it. She claims it was all him, he brainwashed her and just wore her out so much she couldn't think. Turns out, in the end, Sarma wasn't happy with the docuseries either.  Check out how it ends. You will have to decide just how culpable she was.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this series shows that reality really is so much stranger than fiction and why it's so much fun. And here's the most fun part. The two were eventually caught after using a credit card to buy a pizza from Dominoes! I wonder if it was vegan!

***The Book of the Week***

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune by Bill Dedman

Who was Huguette Clark and why did she have so many empty mansions?

F. Scott Fitzgerald said "...the very rich...are different from you and me."  You got that right, F. Scott.  They have more money.  Though actually, I don't think they are that different. They just have enough money to allow themselves to give into their personal craziness.

And here is just such a story.

This is the fascinating story of Huguette Clark, a woman who inherited millions of dollars when her father W.A. Clark died.  It's strange that W.A. Clark is unknown today because in his day he was probably richer than Rockefeller.  During the late 1800s, he was one of the "Copper Kings."  He was also a politician, was involved in banking and railroads and was one of the founders of Las Vegas.  He built a "palace" in New York City, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Seventy-Seventh, right in the middle of Millionaire's Row, "up the avenue from Vanderbilt and Astor, down from Carnegie. By the time it was finished in 1911, was 'without doubt the most costly and, perhaps, the most beautiful private residence in America" and was estimated to have cost the equivalent of $250 million in today's dollars. It was nine stories high and consisted of 121 rooms - 26 bedrooms, 31 bathrooms, five art galleries, a Turkish bath, swimming pool, a storage room for furs and more, with 17 servants in attendance and that is where Huguette lived from the age of five to eighteen. Yes, the very rich are different from you and me.

Huguette was one of two daughters that Clark had later in life when he married his second wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle.  He was 62 and she was 23. The first daughter, Andree, died at 17 of meningitis, leaving Huguette as the only child of that marriage. 


Huguette spent her early years in France but eventually moved to New York and after a marriage and divorce and inheriting millions when her father died, became a recluse, collecting dolls, watching "The Smurfs," and spending the most of her later years in a hospital, even though she wasn't sick. Why?

Despite owning estates in New Canaan, Connecticut ("Le Beau Chateau") and Santa Barbara ("Bellosguardo" which will soon be open to the public) and several floors in an apartment building on Fifth Avenue in New York, in later life, Huguette never lived in any of them, though she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain those residences as if she would return at any moment. But she never did. They remained empty. Why?

Huguette lived to be 105 and left $300 million and two wills, one that shared her fortune among relatives, the second left most of it to charity, but $30 million to her nurse and $12 million to her goddaughter.  Mmmm.  Needless to say, the second will was contested. Was she coerced by those closest to her at the end to change her will?

With the help of one of Huguette's cousins, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few people to be in contact with Huguette through the years, Dedman attempts to answer those questions and shed light on this very rich and eccentric but practically unknown heiress. But this is not just the story of Huguette. It's also the stories of her father, W.A. Clark, her mother, those who surrounded her...and those empty mansions.  It's a piece of little known history.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are interested in The Gilded Age, enjoy historical biographies about eccentric people with architecture as a theme or you just like a fascinating story, this is for you.  And it's not surprising that the film version of this book has been optioned by Ryan Murphy!
(Check it out from your local library)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)