Showing posts with label Furious Hours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Furious Hours. Show all posts

Friday, July 5, 2019

"Yesterday" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Beatles-inspired film "Yesterday" as well as DVDs "Cold Pursuit" and "The Mustang."  The Book of the Week is "Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee" by Casey Cep.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Fritz Lang's "Secret Beyond the Door."]


Struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) gets hit by a truck and when he wakes up, he discovers he is in an alternate universe -- where the Beatles never existed!

Young Jack has been toiling as a singer/songwriter for years, ever since he won a talent contest as a young boy.  He busks, he sings in dive bars, he writes his own songs, but nothing has happened.  His manager and friend, Ellie (Lily James), appears to be his only fan.  

So one night when things have gone badly once again, Jack announces to Ellie that he is giving it all up.  He gets out of her car (he doesn't even have a car), jumps on his bike and heads home with every intention of giving up singing and songwriting and going back to teaching.  But wouldn't you know.  On his way home, there is a massive world-wide power outage, Jack gets hit by a bus and when he wakes up things are different.  At first he doesn't notice.  Yes, he is in the hospital and has lost two front teeth, but everything seems like it is going on as before except one day at lunch with friends, Ellie gives him a new guitar since his was smashed in the accident.  "Play something," the friends shout.  So Jack starts to play the Beatles' song "Yesterday." Instead of singing along, his friends look quizzical and in awe.

"When did you write that?" Ellie asks.

Jack replies, " I didn't.  Paul McCartney wrote it, the Beatles wrote it."


He rushes home and looks up "Beatles" on his computer.  Only "beetles" shows up. Long story short, Jack discovers that not only has no one heard of the Beatles, the Beatles never existed.  Well, cigarettes, Coca Cola and Oasis have also been erased from everyone's memories, too, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

So after much confusion and soul-searching, Jack gets the bright idea that he can learn all of the Beatles songs and pass them off as his.  He feels guilty about it but fame is a strange bedfellow. It has a difficult allure.

Ed Sheeran shows up as a fan and there is also a side story about Ellie loving Jack all along, an unrequited love thing.  He has just been too tied up in his push for recognition and fame to notice that he really loved her, too, but we all saw that coming a mile away.

But there is also a twist at the end that I did not see coming, and you will either say "Of course," or you might think "cheesy." And you might also wonder if the Beatles songs would really have the same resonance today if we were hearing them now for the first time. It doesn't matter.  Director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis (who also wrote "Love, Actually"and "Four Weddings and a Funeral") are clearly Beatles fans and want us to be too.  It's an unabashed fantasy homage where we wonder what the world would have been like without The Beatles.  I can't imagine.

This is yet another movie where a knock on the head puts our hero or heroine into an alternate reality and we must suspend our disbelief ("I feel Pretty," "Isn't it Romantic," "What Men Want," "Overboard" - and these are just the ones produced within the last couple of years!) Starting to be a sort of cliche?  Yes, but boy did I love this movie!  I didn't mind suspending my disbelief for this one, one bit!

Besides the Beatles, another obsession of mine is the long-running British soap "Eastenders" and that's where I first saw Patel, who starred on that show for several years playing a sort of sad sack kid. This is his feature film debut and he is great, the same sad sack character he played on "Eastenders," but he does sad sack very well.  And he can sing!  And who doesn't love Lily James?  From "Downton Abbey" to "Cinderella" to "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again," she is a sweet, engaging screen presence.  My one criticism is Kate McKinnon, who plays an American money hungry music agent.   I usually like her because I think her schtick is funny, and I get what Boyle and Curtis were trying to say about the music industry, but she over plays here and it is grating against the more subdued performances of the rest of the cast.

My own love of the Beatles goes way back to the beginning, the first album, their early tour of the U.S (yes, I was at one of the concerts)!  I wrote about them in an early blog post called "Why the Beatles Matter" and I talk about seeing Sir Paul in Seattle a couple of years ago. And to those critics who wonder if the songs would matter today read that blog post.  In it you will see a picture of the attendees. Look at their faces as they listen to Sir Paul.  I rest my case.  And, of course, the Beatles clearly mattered to Boyle and Curtis, too, because this is an homage to them, a Magical Mystery Tour. Enjoy the ride!

Rosy the Reviewer says...even if you are not a big Beatles fan, you will become one. This charming film will captivate you.  I promise.

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


Cold Pursuit (2019)

Yet another revenge movie starring Liam Neeson, except this time his deadly weapon is a snow plow!

I love Liam.  That voice.  Some of the stuff he has said are what legends are made of.

"I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." 

But this film begins with an Oscar Wilde quote: "Some cause happiness wherever they go, some whenever they go."  And that sets the tone because Liam or no Liam, people, this is a comedy! And no matter how over-the-top or crazy the movie, Liam never lets me down.  Liam makes it work. And this film is definitely over-the-top and, yes, crazy.

The film begins with snow plow driver, Nels Coxman (Neeson) giving a speech.  He has been made Citizen of the Year by a Colorado ski resort in the community where he lives.

"I'm just a guy that keeps a strip of civiliation open through the wilderness for people."

But it isn't long before Nels goes from Citizen of the Year to serial killer!

A murder comes along to ruin his life.  His son, Kyle (Neeson's real-life son with the late Natasha Richardson, Micheal Richardson), is killed via a forced heroin overdose by some bad guys led by Trevor "Viking" Calcote (Tom Bateman - and as you will see, all of the bad guys have memorable nicknames).  Speedo (see what I mean?), Kyle's friend, played by Michael Eklund, got himself involved in a dodgy cocaine deal and Kyle just happened to be an innocent bystander.  When Nels finds out about Kyle's death he is ravaged by grief.  So is his wife (Laura Dern, who had little to do so got out of all of this early on) has a breakdown and leaves him.  So that does it.  Now Liam has no reason not to just go crazy on those bad guys.  And in true Liam Neeson form, he does. Nels is out for revenge and by the time this film ends the death count is sky high. First Nels chokes Speedo to death, then moves on down the line to Limbo, Santa, Mustang. Bing-badda-bing.

And strangely that's the comedy part of this movie.  As each bad guy is dispatched with, he gets a little grave marker intertitle at the end of each scene listing his sobriquet, date of birth and religion, a macabre little send-off, courtesy of our Nels.  

Eventually word gets out that a serial killer is on the loose and the Native American drug gang, led by White Bull (Tom Jackson), gets blamed. Now it's really WAR - the Native American drug dealers vs. Viking and his guys with Nels on everyone's tails.

It's all gory stuff but kind of campy with a snowplow chase scene that is funny and spectacular at the same time.

Written by Frank Baldwin and based on the original screenplay of the Norwegian film "Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance") by Kim Fupz Aakeson and directed by Hans Petter Moland who also directed the original film, the film is very much a black comedy thriller.  Think "Fargo."  

Rosy the Reviewer says..when you are looking for a thriller with an original, dark comedy edge. If you liked "Fargo," you will like this.  I did!

The Mustang (2019)

Hardened criminal Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is given the chance to redeem himself by working with wild mustangs through a prison rehabilitation program.

First of all I have to say that never in a million years did I recognize Matthias Schoenaerts, an actor I have admired ever since I saw him in the little seen film "The Drop," James Gandolfini's last film before his untimely death.  I went into this film a bit blind and didn't really check the credits as I usually do.  I just assumed the star was an unknown actor in a small indie film.  Well, when I saw the end credits I  couldn't believe it.  And that, my friends, is called acting!  Schoenaerts is Belgian but you would never know it from this film.  He embodies the persona of Roman Coleman, a hardened criminal who looks like he just walked out of a gang.

In the opening credits, we learn that 10,000 wild mustangs roam the American West and naturally the U.S. Government rounds them up.  Some are euthanized, most are in long term holding facilities and some are sent to Federal prisons for training.

So begins this film based on a real life practice meant to rehabilitate prisoners.  There is a long opening montage showing the round-up.  The horses are free, then imprisoned.  Then we see the prisoners who were all once free.  And that's how the movie goes.  In your face metaphors.

Roman Coleman has been in prison for 12 years for almost beating his domestic partner to death.  He is a hardened guy with a short temper.  He has just come out of isolation in one prison to be reclassified into another prison.  He says "I'm not good with people."  That's an understatement.

His first assignment is "outdoor maintenance" which is basically shoveling horse poop but he is also able to witness the training of the mustangs.  Naturally there is one problematic horse who is kept in isolation so the metaphor here couldn't be any more obvious nor could the outcome.  Man who doesn't get along with others, horse that doesn't get along with others...

The horse trainer, played by the usual hardened, gruff persona Bruce Dern does so well, sees some potential in Roman so recruits him into the program.

So man and horse learn from each other.  

However, it's a rough road for Roman, who thinks he can just get mad at the horse and say "C'mon!" Nope. Yelling at the horse?  Nope.  Calling the horse stupid?  Nope.  Saying please?  Nope. Sorry, kiddo, it don't work that way.  But feeling dejected and sad?  Oh, I forgot, this is a movie, so that did sort of work. Horse and man make a connection. But Roman has to learn patience and to control his temper, and, of course, he does because we have two misfits who need to bond.  It's all pretty obvious and predictable and slow-moving because it's a one-note premise. Man meets horse; horse kicks his ass; he tames horse, and in so doing tames his own psyche.  End of story.

So why watch?

If you like horses, if you like angry inmates, if you are intrigued by prison life, and if you like a well-meant film that takes itself very seriously, perhaps you will like this film.  Robert Redford was the executive producer and you can't get much more serious and earnest than he is.

But for me, the film's very earnestness and well-meaning intentions were its downfall.  Written by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Brock Norman Brock (no, that's not a typo), and Mona Fastvold, and directed by de Clermont-Tonnerre, this is clearly a labor of love. Sadly it's so slow-moving that twenty minutes in I was getting fidgety, and the ending is over-dramatic and unbelievable, though I will say that the image that ends the film is poignant. But as moving as that was, it wasn't enough to save the film for me. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...can't recommend this but the film did make me respect Schoenaerts even more.

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

88 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Secret Beyond the Door  (1947)

A newly married woman starts to think that her husband wants to kill her.

Celia (Joan Bennett) is a hot commodity.  It seems all of the eligible men around her want to marry her and architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) is no exception.  The two when Celia is on a trip to Mexico to get over the death of her beloved brother, and they fall in love and marry.  But it isn't long before Mark starts exhibiting strange behavior.  They move to his creepy mansion and Celia uncovers some of Mark's dark secrets.

Turns out there was another Mrs. Lamphere who died under suspicious circumstances.  They also had a son.  It doesn't help that there is also a loyal and creepy secretary with a disfigured face and the haunting feeling that Celia has -- that her husband wants to kill her!  Not a good start to a marriage!


  • Newly married woman
  • Sinister mansion
  • Sinister husband with a seemingly sinister past
  • An ex-wife who died under sinister circumstances
  • Sinister secretary living in the mansion
  • Sinister locked rooms

If this plot sounds familiar, it is.  This is very much like Hitchcock's "Rebecca," and in fact director Fritz Lang admits to being inspired by that film. 

Joan Bennett was a staple in films during the 30's and 40's, and Michael Redgrave started that whole Redgrave Dynasty of Vanessa, Corin and Lynn followed by the grandchildren Natasha and Joely Richardson and Jemma Redgrave.  Both Bennett and Redgrave exhibited the acting styles we have come to expect from 1940's film noir - over dramatic. 

The film was also rife with "faces," character actors you recognize but never knew their names.  Anne Revere, who played Elizabeth Taylor's mother in "National Velvet," plays Mark's no-nonsense sister, Caroline, and Natalie Schafer, who ended her long career as Mrs. Howell on "Gilligan's Island," plays Celia's ditzy friend, Edith. It's fun to watch these kinds of movies and try to identify all of the character actors who populated those films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Sadly, though, we are also reminded of the sexism rampant back then...

"Thinking is the prerogative of men," says Mark during a conversation with Celia about feelings vs. thinking.

At least Celia pushed Mark off the hammock when he said that.  Because women often had "gumption" back in those films.

But despite the sometimes over-the-top acting and PC problems, I enjoy these old films.  They remind me of all of those hours spent watching old movies on TV with my Dad.  He grew up an only child and spent many hours at the movies so it was fun watching with him.  Halfway through a film he would say, "Oh, I saw this one!"  He was also an old softie and often cried at the sad, or even during really happy endings, chuckling and wiping his forehead (but really his eyes) with his handkerchief, thinking I wouldn't notice.

But I had to ask myself, of all of the great 40's films, why is this one of the ones I had to see before I died, especially since "Rebecca" is also in the 1001 book?

Why it's a Must See: " is the beguiling mixture of many genres -- women's melodrama, Freudian case study, serial killer mystery, and allegory of the artistic creative process -- that makes [this film] such a special and haunting oddity in [Lang's] career."

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

OK, I will go with that and after several weeks of bloody awful movies "must see" movies, finally one I liked! Give me "women's melodrama" any day!

Rosy the Reviewer says...
Now you're talkin'! You can't beat the old classic films of the 40's!

***The Book of the Week***

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

This is a true crime story and a mystery, but the mystery here is not just about the crime but also about what happened to the book Harper Lee planned to write about it. 

In the 1970's, the Reverend Willie Maxwell was a well-dressed and well-spoken African American who may or may not have killed five of his family members to collect on their life insurance (but he probably did)!  However, he was always able to avoid prosecution thanks to his friendship with the savvy attorney, Tom Radney.  But he eventually couldn't escape Robert Burns, who had his own form of justice.  

During the funeral for Shirley Ann Ellington, Maxwell's stepdaughter who had been mysteriously murdered (and for whose murder Maxwell might well have been prosecuted), Burns, a relative of Ellington's, entered the church and shot Maxwell dead in front of all of the funeral attendees.  But unbelievably, despite all of the witnesses at the funeral, Burns was acquitted.  How did that happen?  Well, his lawyer just happened to be that savvy lawyer, Tom Radney, who had helped Maxwell avoid prosecution all of those years before when he was under suspicion for those suspicious deaths.  So who was Tom Radney?

And as for that second mystery?  We all know that Harper Lee only wrote that one iconic book "To Kill a Mockingbird (I know, "Go Set a Watchman" was published in 2015 and hyped as the sequel to "Mockingbird" but it was later affirmed to be "Mockingbird's" first draft, so it doesn't count). She was also  acknowledged as helping her friend Truman Capote write his book "In Cold Blood," but that doesn't count either because she never wrote anything about it. "To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her contribution to American literature despite the fact that she only wrote that one book. Why did she never write another book?

Well, according to Cep she planned to write a book called "The Reverend" about the Reverend Willie Maxwell, the attorney, Tom Radney, who could be likened to Atticus Finch, and the subsequent murder trial of Robert Burns. She attended Burns' trial, interviewed Radney and his family, knocked on doors around town and gathered reams of information about Maxwell, his murder and the subsequent trial of Burns. She was supposedly working on that manuscript for years.  

Cep speculates in this well-researched book, and we learn some things we might not have known about Lee: her alcoholism, her love of gambling, her contributions to "In Cold Blood" and what she really thought of her long-time friend, Truman Capote, in later years, her writer's block, the rumors that she had finished the book, but if she did, what happened to that manuscript?

"...Nelle Harper Lee's estate is sealed.  The entirety of her literary assets, including whatever else exists of The Reverend remains unpublished and unknown."

We may never know.  But like I always's the journey. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...part true crime, part mini-biography of Lee, this is a fascinating look inside the Deep South and a new take on the author of one of our most iconic books.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Toy Story 4"


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

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