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

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Black Panther" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the superhero film "Black Panther" as well as the film "The Cloverfield Paradox," now streaming on Netflix and the Showtime documentary "Eric Clapton - A Life in 12 Bars." The Book of the Week is "Wallis in Love" by Royals watcher Andrew Morton.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "A Brighter Summer Day."]

Black Panther


T-Challa (Chadwick Boseman) rises to the throne of Wakanda, a technologically developed but purposely isolated African nation, but he is faced with many challenges before he can take his rightful role as King and as the Black Panther.

It's a sad testament to Hollywood that a film starring mostly African-American actors is still such a novelty in 2018 and that it took a Marvel Comics superhero story to make that happen.  It's also a testament to the movie-going public that this film was the ninth highest grossing film in the United States and the 41st of all time.  The public obviously wants to see more movies like this.  


The story centers around a centuries old tribal war over a meteorite that fell to earth.  The meteorite contained vibranium, a precious metal with super powers and when one of the warriors ingested a heart-shaped herb containing the precious metal he gained superhuman powers and became the first Black Panther.  He was then able to unite all of the warring tribes except the Jabari and formed the country of Wakanda.  Vibranium was the source of wealth and technological advancements for Wakanda making it the most technologically advanced country in the world, but in order to keep other tribes from invading and trying to steal the vibranium, Wakanda isolated itself from the rest of the world and posed as a third world farming nation.


Fast forward to the present day.  The people of Wakanda live in peace and harmony, enjoying the technological advancements that vibranium has given them while still posing as a primitive farming nation thus having avoided colonization. 

T-Chaka, the King of Wakanda, has died and his son T-Challa is called upon to become king and lead Wakanda but he is faced with challenges to his throne and the dilemma of whether or not to continue to remain isolated from the rest of the world or help other African nations by sharing Wakanda's riches.  Share with the world but run the risk of the problems that would bring? How does a very rich country share its wealth while at the same time not bring itself down?

Meanwhile, evil arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) along with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) are trying to steal the vibranium.  These two are very bad guys.  Klaue murdered the parents of T'Challa's best friend, W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) and Killmonger is bent on revenge against T'Challa.  T'Challa must hunt down Klaue and in so doing discovers the truth about the true identity of Killmonger.



This may be a superhero film based on a comic book but don't think it doesn't make political statements, especially in light of President Trump's recent comment about Third World nations.  This is a film about tradition vs. progress and revenge vs. doing the right thing.

I have never been much of a fan of superhero films and have little knowledge of the Marvel superheroes and how they all fit together, but that is not necessary to enjoy this film because it's beautiful to look at and has a story that stands on its own.  But don't take my word for it. The film has already received high praise from critics for its cinematography, screenplay, direction, performances, costume design, soundtrack, and action sequences. 


It's also exciting and refreshing to see so many African-American characters and actors in one film, especially the strong women characters, another element that sets this movie apart: From T'Challa's regal mother, Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett to Nakia, a spy and T'Challa's ex-girlfriend (Lupita Nyong'o) to Okoye, the head of Wakanda's all-female Royal Guard (Danai Gurira) to T'Challa's sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is the tech wizard responsible for Black Panther's high-tech suit - a sort of female version of James Bond's "Q" - these women kick butt. It's also fun to see Andy Serkis without his ape make-up.

Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole and directed by Coogler (Coogler also directed "Creed" and the astonishing "Fruitvale Station," both starring Michael B. Jordan), I hope the fact that this film made so much money is a wake-up call to Hollywood that black actors are in demand and that there are many more opportunities for actors of color to star in films.  Clearly the public is thirsting for this.  As Frances McDormand said at the Oscars - "Inclusion Rider!"


Rosy the Reviewer says... This is a pop culture phenomenon so if you want to be in the know you need to see this film, but it's also a really good movie with wonderful production values and some serious themes. Might we see this film in Oscar contention at the 2019 Academy Awards?


Oh, and by the way, this movie is so good that some people think Wakanda is a real place! 










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


Now Streaming on Netflix




The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)


It's 2028 and Earth is facing a global energy crisis. The world is experiencing blackouts and gas shortages.  Energy supplies are running low. The good news is that there is a possible solution: the Shepard particle accelerator.  The bad news is that if it is successful it could unleash horrors from a parallel universe.  Gee, I wonder what's going to happen.

The Cloverfield Station is orbiting earth and onboard is the Shepard particle accelerator which, if successfu,l would provide Earth with all of the energy that it needs. All of the nations of the world are working together to make this work, and the Cloverfield Station contains a crew representing several nations. There is Ava Hamilton, an English engineer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Commander Kiel, an American (David Oyelowo), German physicist Ernst Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Brazilian medical doctor Monk Acosta (John Ortiz), Irish engineer Mundy (Chris O'Dowd), Russian engineer Volkov (Aksel Hennie), and Chinese engineer Tam (Ziyi Zhang). They have all been up in space for over two years and so far tests of the particle accelerator have been unsuccessful.  Testing the accelerator is not an easy task and every time they test the accelerator it disrupts space and time.  The crew members are also anxious and worried about being away from their families, especially Ava Hamilton whose relationship with her husband Michael has floundered since the loss of their children to a house fire.

And then there is that little thing that conspiracy theorists fear - that if the particle accelerator is successful, yes, the needed energy for earth would be provided but it could also open parallel universes and possibly unleash demons or worse, hence the "Cloverfield Paradox."

So after several attempts, the particle accelerator is successful. And yup - this is one time the conspiracy theorists are right. Let the horrors begin!

Oh, and there's more.  Someone is sabotaging the space station.

I have been a big fan of the Cloverfield franchise that began with "Cloverfield" and was followed by "10 Cloverfield Lane."  Watching the first two films, they seemed to not be particularly related, but this film tries to bring them all together. Does it succeed?  Sort of. But all three are very creepy and scary. What makes these films so scary is not what you see on screen but rather what you don't see.  Our imaginations are far worse than anything movies can conjure up.  When right along with the characters you have no idea what is going on, that is creepy and scary.

That's not to say that there aren't some unsettling things that are actually seen on the screen such as an "Alien" inspired scene where one of the crew members is invaded by worms and another where a crew member's arm is cut off and the arm runs around wreaking havoc on the ship.

As I said, I didn't have a clue about what was going on half the time.  I have never been very good at understanding time travel or other dimensions.  I wish I did because I find it incredibly tantalizing.  I consider myself a smart woman, but for some reason I am not very smart about intricately plotted spy movies and movies that travel time and take place in different dimensions. For example, Ava discovers that her children, who she thought were killed in the house fire, are actually alive in another dimension.  Huh?

This film directed by Julius Onah with a screenplay by Oren Uziel was released directly to Netflix during the Super Bowl, an interesting way to market a film. It is really good, really creepy and really scary even though much of the time I was confused thus creating another paradox.  It's possible to enjoy a film even though you have no idea what is going on.

However, I did get this part... Don't mess with Mother Nature!

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't know what the hell was going on most of the time...but I LIKED IT!





Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (2017)


A documentary about the guitar "god," Eric Clapton in his own words.

Clapton narrates this film and gave director Lili Fini Zanuck free rein to tell his story, warts and all.


It begins with Clapton describing an idyllic childhood until he was around nine.  He was an introvert who liked to draw comics.  But from the start he felt he was different and had an inferiority complex.  Turns out the woman who he thought was his sister was really his mother and the woman he thought was his mother was his grandmother.  Back on the day, this was more common than you might think.  I actually had a friend in a similar situation, but what was done to save the reputation of an unwed mother back in the 50's turned out to be a traumatic situation for the child when the truth was discovered and that was the case with Eric. The woman he thought was his sister had moved to Canada but when she came back to visit when he was nine, he found out she was his mother.  When he asked her, "Are you going to be my Mum?" she replied no, that it was best to leave it where it was. He was devastated to learn that his life had basically been a lie and he wasn't a very happy guy for his whole life after that.


But then he discovered the blues and the guitar and both became his obsessions and his life.


Eric says, "One man with his guitar versus the world...to ease his pain and it echoed what I felt."


He met Mick and Keith and Brian at the Marquee Club on Oxford Street and they all bonded over the blues.  Eric's first band was The Roosters when he was 17 and from the start he decided he wanted to be a professional musician. Next stop, The Yardbirds who were hardcore blues men and who all thought the Beatles were "wankers," though later George Harrison became one of Eric's best friends.  But even The Yardbirds weren't into the blues enough to satisfy Eric.  When they had a hit with "For Your Love," Eric left disgusted that the band had sold out to pop music.  So then he joined John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers and
discovered Marshall amps.  That's when the "Clapton is God" graffiti started to appear.

And finally came Cream and Blind Faith.  

Clapton changed how people thought about lead guitarists.


The film provides all kinds of great never seen footage of Dylan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix as well as rare audio during recording sessions and it's all seamlessly infused. This film is a sort of oral autobiography.  It's all here.  Finding out that his sister was his mother, his obsession with the blues, his love for his best friend's wife (George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd who inspired the "Layla" album), his career choices, the drugs (about heroin - "I felt like pink cotton wool surrounding me"), his conquering heroin but then his subsequent alcoholism, his little son's death falling from a high rise - it's a raw documentary with Eric weighing in as well as Pattie, Steve Winwood, Ahmet Ertegen, Eric's grandmother and others who played a role in his life.  


The whole love story between Eric and Pattie is an amazing one and if you want more information on that she wrote a fascinating book about it.  Eric basically became obsessed with Pattie and because she was loyal to George, she didn't succumb, even after he played the "Layla" album for her. So Eric became a recluse heroin addict for over four years but he continued to woo and badger Pattie until she eventually left George but then not long after she did it all fell apart.  Ironically, George and Eric were able to remain friends and Patti was out.


Clapton's story is a fascinating one and the chronology is effective as Baby Boomers can't help but reflect on where they were themselves as Eric's life unfolds.  And his story is also an inspirational one because despite all of the tragedy, Eric's life turned around. After the death of his little son, Eric vowed to live the rest of his life honoring his son and he has done that.  He is happily married with three young children and he founded Crossroads in Antigua, a drug treatment facility. 


But it was the music that healed him.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like Eric Clapton and are a fan of the blues, you will be fascinated and inspired by his story and how beautifully it captures the demons that drove Eric but also how he was able to pull himself out of the depths of despair.





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


152 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




A Brighter Summer Day (1991)


This is a tale of restless Taiwanese youth, a Romeo and Juliet love story and a coming of age tale gone wrong.

First of all, I have to say that I am fundamentally opposed to any movie that is longer than two hours unless it's "Gone With the Wind."  There has to be a mighty good reason to go beyond the two hours.  And this film is FOUR hours long!  And though the story is compelling, it just does not warrant four hours.


Based on a true crime event, this film tells the story of S'ir (Chen Chang), a Chinese teenager living in Taiwan in the late 1950's.  It was a time when many Chinese moved to Taiwan but it was an uneasy life for them there and many of the kids formed gangs.   S'ir is the fourth child of a large Chinese family living in Taipei.  His father works for the government but it is clear that S'ir's parents are not happy living in Taiwan. The film covers a four year period and when it begins S'ir is in middle school and his father is pleading with a school official to let his son attend day school rather than night school, because night school has so many delinquents but that's where S'ir ends up. And yes, there are two gangs of kids - the Little Park Gang which consists of kids of civil servants and the 217 Gang, kids of military parents - and these kids don't get along.


S'ir meets Ming (Lisa Yang) who was the girlfriend of Honey (Hung-Ming Lin), a member of a rival gang.  Honey isn't around because he has disappeared, supposedly having killed a kid who tried to get close to Ming.  S'ir falls in love with Ming but then Honey comes back and we basically have a Taiwanese "West Side Story" with the same kind of tragic ending.


As I said, I am fundamentally opposed to really long films but I have to say that this film has a tendency to envelop you and it did me.  It's a fascinating look inside a history and culture we know little about.  It's also an epic story that shows what the adults were going through having to leave their homes in China and start a new life in another country and then the kids trying to shape an identity through joining gangs.  It's mesmerizing.


Why? What makes a film mesmerizing?


Directed by Edward Yang, who is probably best known for his film "Yi Yi," which I reviewed last year, this film is based on a true crime event from director Edward Yang's own childhood and evokes the world he grew up in.  He has created a combination of time and place and coupled that with an exotic atmosphere and pending doom that draws the viewer in and you feel as if you are living it all with the characters. That is what makes a mesmerizing film.


Why it's a Must See: "[This film] manages to seamlessly weave together the story of Taipei street gangs, puppy love, rock and roll, lost cultural signifiers, and the search for a national identity. While often compared to Nicholas Ray's moody classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955), [this film] is so much more.  A masterpiece of the Taiwanese New Wave and a cinematic highpoint of the tail end of the twentieth century, this is a film whose grasp of period and place is masterful almost beyond the realm of mere storytelling."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" 

Rosy the Reviewer says...but with that said, did it really need to be four hours long?






***Book of the Week***




Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton (2018)


The subtitle for this book could also be "Be careful what you wish for!"

Wallis Warfield Simpson took the rap for Edward VIII's abdication - who gave up the the throne for "the woman I love" - but according to author Morton, Edward didn't really want to be king, though Wallis, a social climber of the highest order, certainly wanted to be Queen. But as we all know (and there are various versions of exactly how it all came down) Edward VIII stepped down, his younger brother became King George VI and George's daughter, Elizabeth, ascended to the throne when he died.  If Edward had not abdicated, Elizabeth II, now the longest ruling monarch in history, might never have been Queen.  Funny how life works.

Royal watcher Andrew Morton, who is best known for his then shocking book about Princess Diana (
which turned out to be practically written by her), doesn't paint a particularly flattering portrait of Mrs. Simpson.

Raised in Baltimore, her supposed first words were "me, me, me." She was a spoiled child who grew up to be a charming but ambitious woman who ruthlessly sought status and social acceptance.  She had already been married twice when she met the Prince of Wales and his falling in love with a divorcee and wanting to marry her and make her his Queen caused a major threat to the Monarchy eventually leading to Edward abdicating.  The irony of Mrs. Simpson's life was that in seeking social status - marrying a king is about as high up the social ladder as you can get - she was cast out of society when the King abdicated. It also didn't help that they were both Nazi sympathizers as well. 

Though Wallis did get a title when Edward was made the Duke of Windsor (she the Duchess), she was denied the title of HRH, something that nagged at her for her whole life.  Also neither were welcome in England and the two basically lived sad lives, the Duke utterly devoted to her until the end, she in love with another man and treating the Duke like a bothersome pest.

Morton includes many new details of Mrs. Simpson's life and clears up some rumors and gossip about her, such as she was able to mesmerize the Prince with sexual wiles learned at a Shanghai bordello.  Not likely, says Morton.  A fascinating glimpse into another era of class consciousness and privilege.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a soap opera of the highest order -- and it's all true!




Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 




for my review of 


"Red Sparrow"

 and

  
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." 


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

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 IMDB.com, 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.





Friday, December 29, 2017

Rosy the Reviewer's One Liners: One Line Reviews for Busy Folks Who Just Want to Netflix and Chill!

It's that time of year: the middle of the Holiday Season where there is too much to do and too little time to do it in. 

And Rosy the Reviewer is also busy, busy, busy, so I am making it easy on all of us by giving you some movie reviews that are short and sweet.  Short?  One line.  Sweet?  Not all of them.  

The shows are all streaming on Netflix so you can just Netflix and chill and enjoy the rest of the holiday season!

And I mean actually sit and watch Netflix and chill...not that other thing.


Enjoy...and you can thank me later.



Streaming on Netflix






Jerry Before Seinfeld (2017)



Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Jerry fan or really loved the TV show "Seinfeld," then you will enjoy this very funny yet poignant documentary where Jerry returns to the Comic Strip Club where he got his start; he does some stand up interspersed with reminiscences about his childhood and who he was before he was "Seinfeld."







Blue Jay (2016)





Rosy the Reviewer says...two high school sweethearts meet up 20 years later in this black and white (why?) very talkie two-hander romantic story (think a less successful "Before Sunrise" but still worth seeing) starring Sarah Paulson, who is an amazingly real actress and proves she can play someone other than a tough Marcia Clark ("American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson") or a weird character in "American Horror Story" and writer/actor Mark Duplass, who I really liked in "The One I Love," but not so much in this.








The Watcher (2016)



Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those horror films about an unsuspecting couple who buy their dream home only to discover that some bad stuff happened in that house, and some bad stuff is going to happen to them too, but it's only Lifetime Movie kind of bad, and really over-the-top and campy bad, and actually so over-the-top and campy bad that it's on my list of possible camp classics which translates to lots of fun.







The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)



Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating documentary using never-before-seen footage and interviews that investigates the mysterious death of Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender activist and veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, which was one of the most important events leading to the Gay Liberation Movement.




Big Family Cooking Showdown (2017)



Rosy the Reviewer says...if you loved "The Great British Baking Show" on PBS or, as it's known in the U.K, "The Great British Bake Off," you will love this new series that features sixteen British family teams who fight for the title Best Family of Cooks in this series presented by Zoe Ball and Nadiya Hussain (Hussain won "The Great British Bake-Off" in 2015).




And don't forget, "The Crown" which is now back for it's second season!



Thanks for Reading!

I hope you had a lovely holiday and continue to enjoy the holiday season. 

I wish you all a Happy New Year,

and I hope I will see you next year!

NOTE:

There will be a special
New Year's edition of
Rosy the Reviewer this coming Tuesday

"My Mother's Diary
(and a Meaningful New Year's Resolution for you to consider)"

 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

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

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Wonder" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Wonder" as well as the DVD "The Dinner" and the documentary "Elaine Stritch - Shoot Me" now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is my new favorite cookbook - "Dinner: Changing the Game."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Russ Meyer's cult classic "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!]




Wonder


Based on the best-selling book, this film tells the story of young Auggie Pullman who was born with facial differences and who, after being home-schooled for the last five years, begins fifth grade at a mainstream school for the first time.

Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy living in Manhattan with his parents, Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson), his sister, Via (Isabela Vidovic) and his dog.  He has been homeschooled by his mother for the last five years because he was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a facial disfigurement that has caused him to have many surgeries over the years which created their own facial differences. When going out, Auggie wears an astronaut's helmet so he doesn't have to endure stares from both kids and adults.  Fearing that he would be bullied at a public school, his parents had decided to home school Auggie, and Isabel had given up her career to teach Auggie, but now, as the film begins, they have decided it's time for Auggie to attend a regular school.

When Auggie arrives at school, the principal, Mr. Tushman, played by a warm and believable Mandy Patinkin, arranges for Auggie to have a tour of the school by Julian (Bryce Gheisar), Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and Charlotte (Elle McKinnon), and despite Julian's rather rude questions to Auggie, the tour goes well, but as these things go, later Julian becomes Auggie's biggest antagonist. Actually, that's a nice way of putting it.  Julian is actually a bully and he and his bully friends make Auggie's introduction to a real school a real nightmare.

Auggie has facial differences but other than that he is a regular kid who loves "Star Wars," video games and science, so despite the bullying that he endures, he makes friends with Jack Will and a little girl named Summer (Millie Davis) and, with courage, a sense of humor and a sweet personality, he eventually overcomes what is thrown at him and comes to terms with school.

Meanwhile, Auggie's sister, Via, has issues of her own.  She loves Auggie, but it's not easy having a brother who gets all of the attention.  She's a good kid but we are reminded that everyone has their own issues, some of which may not be apparent from the outside.  When Via returns to school after summer break, her best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), ignores her, preferring to hang with a cooler crowd, and since Auggie and his issues seem to take up all of the oxygen, Via doesn't share her problems with her parents.

The film takes a tangent from time to time to show the viewpoint of some of the other characters. We see that everyone, even those without a disability or physical differences, is fighting some kind of battle.  Sound familiar?

Yes, that is the main message here.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Whenever the subject matter of a movie involves a disabled child, or in this case, a child with a facial disfigurement, it's very easy to fall into sentimental clichés meant to manipulate the heartstrings so I have good news and bad news. 

Which do you want first?


I actually liked this movie so let's get the bad news out of the way first.


  • I could have done without the whole side plot about Miranda and the reason why she stopped being friends with Via.  Totally far-fetched.

  • Owen Wilson's nose.  It's not really his fault but there was an SNL sketch once about how Owen Wilson's nose looks like a penis, and at a certain angle, it totally does, so now whenever I look at him I can't stop thinking about that.  So even though he does a credible job as Auggie's father, I couldn't take my eyes off of his nose.  But he also didn't really have that much to do in the film, either, except throw out the occasional bon mot or some incredibly wise advice for Auggie.


  • The story was told from a couple of different viewpoints - Via's, Miranda's, Jack Will's - but the film was not consistent in using that device and because of that, the device was jarring and distracting. If the writers were going to use that as a way to show that everyone is fighting some kind of battle, then I would have liked to have seen it carried out throughout the film with other characters such as Isabel and Nate. 

  • It all wrapped up just a bit too neatly. I'm not a huge fan of stories where everything turns out perfectly and the bullies change into good people, not because that's not a good message, but just because I don't believe it really happens in real life.  Bullies tend to stay bullies.


OK, that bit's over.  Let's get to the good news.

  • This is a good film that actually did manage to avoid the sappy sentimentality and emotional manipulation that usually accompanies movies about children with differences.

  • Julia Roberts.  That's all I need to say.

  • Though Tremblay and Roberts were fantastic and the rest of the cast were also excellent, that was kind of expected when you examine the pedigrees of most of these actors.  But the wonder here was young Isabela Vidovic, not just because she was a poignant and luminous presence, but because the story actually ventured to the issue of how siblings might view a brother or sister who gets all of the attention because of a disability. Yes, they feel love and compassion for their brother or sister, but there is also the accompanying hurt and neglect they feel when the sibling seemingly gets all of the love and attention which then leads to guilt for feeling that way.  The film did a very good job of showing that side and Vidovic was one of the reasons it worked so well.

  • The message:  Choose kindness.  You can't argue with that.


Directed by Steven Chbosky with an adapted screenplay by Chbosky, Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne based on the book by R.J. Palacio, this is a good movie - not a great one - but a heartwarming family film with a good message, though it's a sad commentary that we humans need to be reminded to be kind.

Rosy the Reviewer says...should be part of school curriculum.  Oh, it already is.  Good.





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

On DVD and Streaming






The Dinner (2017)



Two sets of parents get together to discuss a crime their sons have committed.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and Stan (Richard Gere) Lohman are brothers and their sons have gotten into trouble. Not just a tiny bit of trouble, either.  Some big bit of trouble that was all caught on video camera so Paul and Stan and their wives, Claire (Laura Linney) and Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), meet to try to figure out what to do about it before what the boys did is discovered.

They meet in a fancy exclusive restaurant that is difficult to get into.  Stan, a Congressman is running for Governor and is the more successful brother.  Because of that, he was able to get them into this exclusive restaurant and makes sure everyone knows it. That establishes the brothers' relationship early on. Stan is the more successful brother and Paul is very resentful of that.  But ironically Paul is happier in his marriage to Claire.  Stan is more interested in his career than his wife.  Paul is a teacher in a public school and he has always felt less than around Stan, but he also thinks that Stan is elitist and self-serving. Paul is a troubled man on the verge of mental illness. None of that is a good menu for a nice meal.  In fact, it all devolves into a dinner from hell.

Speaking of which, like a nice, or should I say, extravagant, meal, the film is divided into courses: Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Cheese Course, Dessert and Digestif (like I said, this is a fancy restaurant), and through a series of flashbacks, we see how the relationships among the four have unfolded over the years; we see the crime that their sons have committed; and the simmering resentments that have piled up which keeps them all from taking responsibility for their sons or their own lives.

How far out of the range of morality will people go to protect their loved ones?

Richard Gere has always been a good actor.  I remember his first big role in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar."  OK, he wasn't just a good actor, he was also a hottie but now he has matured into one of our venerable actors.  That's what you get called when you can't play romantic leads anymore though he is aging nicely and certainly still could.  Men seem to get away with the romantic lead roles long after we women have aged out of them. But I don't think Gere wants to go that route anymore, and he is playing it right.  He is choosing age appropriate roles he can sink his teeth into and this film is a good example.

But Coogan, who in the past has been more identified with comedies, is the real star here as the jealous, sarcastic and dark brother who through the course of the film has a breakdown.

However, despite an interesting premise (which very much reminded me of the play "God of Carnage" and its subsequent movie version "Carnage"), excellent performances by seasoned actors and a good first half, the film, written and directed by Oren Moverman (based on the novel by Herman Koch), this is yet another American remake of a film that has already had Dutch and Italian versions, and sadly, it falls apart by the time the cheese course arrives. The film just goes on too long, and I wanted that dinner to end.

Rosy the Reviewer says...many revelations unfold throughout the course of the meal but unfortunately, by the time they got to the cheese course, I didn't care anymore.


Streaming on Netflix



Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013)



A documentary on the life and times of Elaine Stritch, a true Broadway Baby.

Elaine Stritch is one of those actresses that you recognize but probably don't know her name.  But she was a Broadway icon, a New York City institution, who died in 2014 at the age of 89.

This film captures the last year of her life and is pure cinema verite with the camera following her around as she prepares for her upcoming one woman show and continues to work on the TV show "30 Rock."  The film is also interspersed with her TV, Broadway and movie performances over the years.

Stritch was one of those tough cookies who not only didn't mind being called a broad but actually called herself that.  She never made the transition from Broadway to the movies in a big way, though she did star in some films playing the wise-cracking friend, and she had a successful TV career culminating in her role on "30 Rock."

She of the smoky voice was a belter. She was also known as a scene stealer and her signature performance was Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies who Lunch" in "Company" for which she was nominated for a Tony.




She also often forgot lyrics, especially when singing Sondheim, because as we all know, his songs were wonderful but wordy, but, in true "The show must go on fashion, she would carry on. 

Sondheim famously sent her a telegram that said: 

"I won't be there so feel free to make up your own lyrics!"

Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Hal Prince and others comment on Stritch's show- biz influence and it was substantial.

Stritch was a recovering alcoholic, sober for 25 years but once she hit her 80's felt it was OK to have one drink a day.  She was married once but her husband died of brain cancer and she never found love again.

The last year of her life, she wanted out of New York City after having lived there almost 70 years to which her nephew humorously observed, "You can't say you didn't give it a chance."

Born in Detroit, she maintained a home in the Detroit suburbs and that's where she died on July 17, 2014.  A year before she died she felt her time had come and she said, "It's gettin' there.  I hope I can at least be amusing about it."

I have always been a huge admirer of Stritch.  In fact, I love her!  And this documentary captures her perfectly.  She was at that age where you don't give a damn anymore and say what you think.  I'm almost at that point myself.

Sondheim's song "I'm Still Here" was also a signature song of Stritch's and pretty much sums up this remarkable woman's life.





Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love New York, if you love Broadway, this is not to be missed. An amazing journey with an amazing broad. 






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



163 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1963)

Three busty go-go dancers kill a guy, take his Gidget-like girlfriend hostage and plan to rob an old man and his mentally challenged son who live on an isolated ranch in the desert.  However, turns out these three don't know what they are getting themselves into.

And that's about it.

Except the getting there defies description.

Director Russ Meyer was known for his campy sexploitation films that featured big-breasted women and dialogue with lots of sexual double entendres.  He was also a fixture on late night TV in the 60's and 70's with his thin mustache and conversation rife with sexual innuendo.

Varla (Tura Satana), Rosie (Haji) and Billie (Lori Williams) are go-go girls who have to endure the leers and jeers of their male audience yelling at them to go faster and faster as they gyrate.  That would make any girl mean and these girls are mean.  Varla is the leader and is adept at karate. She is so adept at karate that she can break bones with her bare hands and they does. The girls also like to race their cars in the desert. 

As they are racing around the desert in their souped-up sports cars, and for some reason, laughing maniacally as they do that, an unsuspecting couple come upon the ladies and the guy makes Varla mad.  Must have been those black socks he was wearing with his white sneakers and Bermuda shorts.  Not a good look and not a good idea to make Varla mad.  She breaks his back with her bare hands and the three take his girlfriend, Linda (Susan Bernard), hostage. 

When they all stop for gas, the attendant makes small talk about seeing America while ogling Varla's breasts, and she replies, "You won't find it down there, Columbus!"  He tells them about a nearby ranch where an old disabled man and his musclebound and dimwitted son live, and when the women discover that the old man has some money, they decide to rob him.  Unfortunately the old man is as evil as these girls and it all goes badly for everyone involved.

None of the stars are anyone you have ever heard of.  Tura Satana and Haji were both exotic dancers before starring in this film - geez, that's a stretch.  Tura's idea of acting was to yell every line and I guess Haji's was to have an Italian accent, and not a very good one.

Meyer's films are cult classics mainly because he was one of the first to give soft porn films actual plots.  His films were also notable for snappy dialogue (see Varla's comment to the gas station attendant above), having a sense of humor, creative editing and big boobs.  Lots and lots of big boobs. 

Why it's a Must See: "The film enjoys it's place at the top of many cult lists in part because of its several inherent delights - creative and flashy editing, smart black-and-white cinematography, a jazzy score, and plenty of innuendo - and in part because it is a fascinating barometer of the shifts occurring during the 1960's, especially with respect to cinema itself."
--"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

John Waters has called this film the best movie ever made.  But then John Waters is John Waters.  Let's just say that this was the kind of movie that was fun to see at the drive-in back in the 1960's.  The women also have a feminist bent if you equate tough women beating up men with feminism, but it's really not anything you can take seriously. These characters are like something out of a pop art comic book.

Rosy the Reviewer says...all I can say is that this movie left me speechless, but barring a drive-in to go to, it might be fun to get some friends together and be speechless together.




***Book of the Week***




Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark (2017)


We go from the dinner from hell (see review above) to some heavenly dinner ideas. My new favorite cookbook!

"[This book is] designed to help you figure out what to make for dinner without falling back on what you've eaten before.  It's about giving you options, lots of options.  Are you a vegetarian or just a vegetable lover? I've got you covered.  A die-hard meat lover?  A fish enthusiast?  A pasta aficionado?  A culinary explorer ready to take on a challenge?  Or the kind of cook who wants to revel in the comforting and familiar, but with a twist...In these pages, it's all here for you."

And boy is it.  And I am a bit of all of those people that Clark describes.

Clark is a staff writer for the New York Times where she writes a column called "A Good Appetite."  She has put together some exciting and delicious recipes that will bring you back to this cookbook again and again.  Just randomly opening the book to a page led me to a recipe I wanted to try.  I'm going to try that again right now.

Mmm, "Japanese Omelet" highlighted by brown sugar, soy sauce and mirin served with rice and edamame. See? I'm going to make this for dinner tonight!

Beautifully illustrated, there are whole chapters devoted to chicken, meat (including a whole chapter on ground meat), tofu, fish and seafood, eggs, pasta and noodles, beans and legumes, rice and grains, pizzas and pies, salads and, dips and spreads, everything from Thai Lettuce Wraps to Seitan Enchiladas to Chilled Cucumber and Corn Soup.  No need to always have the same boring protein, a starch and a vegetable for dinner anymore.

Clark really has changed the game when it comes to dinner.

Rosy the Reviewer says... I haven't found a cookbook like this in ages, one where I want to try every recipe from cover to cover.




Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday 



for my review of  


"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri"  


 and


 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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