Showing posts with label Healthy Pasta (Book Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Healthy Pasta (Book Review). Show all posts

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Spy" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Melissa McCarthy's new movie "Spy," the DVD "Black or White" and the Glen Campbell documentary "I'll Be Me." The Book of the Week is "Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project": David Cronenberg's strange but hypnotic "Videodrome."]



An inexperienced CIA agent goes undercover to try to prevent the sale of a nuclear bomb.
Yay!  Melissa McCarthy is finally starring in a comedy that is actually funny after the egregiously awful "Tammy" and "Identity Thief," where her being fat was mostly the joke.  Here she creates a real live character who just happens to be fat.
Think what it would be like if Moneypenny was actually talking into James Bond's earpiece, helping him fight the bad guys.  Or James Bond was a wise-cracking, insecure but smart chubby woman.  Well, that is what this is like.  And it's funny as hell.
Bradley Fine (Jude Law, who is looking VERY fine) is a suave, debonair spy and Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst back at headquarters, down in a basement rife with vermin, feeding information to Fine via an earpiece.  She is very good at her job. As he eludes the bad guys, Susan is using technology and talking into his earpiece to tell him which way to run, who is coming after him and how to escape.  She is also in love with Fine.
But Susan yearns to be the glamorous lady spy out in the field instead of behind the scenes, and when Fine is killed in Bulgaria by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who is trying to sell a nuclear bomb to enemies of the U.S. and who also knows what all of the other CIA spies look like, Susan begs her boss (Allison Janney) to let her go find Rayna. No one knows what Susan looks like and Susan proved to be a badass fighter in training so her boss says OK but Susan is only to track Rayna and report back.  But things don't always work the way they are supposed to and Susan races from Bulgaria to Paris, Rome and Budapest, making up her own rules as she goes along. 

McCarthy is at the top of her game in this one. She plays her Susan Cooper character with intelligence and ease. Her throwaway lines and physical comedy are hilarious and Susan is lovable AND a badass.  She is a testament to feminism as she figures out how to solve problems and takes care of business.
Jason Statham plays Rick Ford, a rogue CIA agent who can't believe Susan is being used when he himself claims to have done everything there is to do as a spy.  His exaggerated rants about his exploits are hilarious, but I just wish he hadn't overplayed the part. Statham is out of his usual serious action character roles, so probably was thrilled to get to do a comedy.  But he overplayed his part just a teensy bit, which was grating because everyone else in the film played it straight, which is what made it so funny. The script, written by Paul Feig (who also directed) was funny enough without the need for overplaying and has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged and chuckling. 
Rose Byrne is great, playing against type as a spoiled, mean rich girl, Bobby Cannavale plays Rayna's handsome playboy contact for the bomb, Sergio De Luca, and Peter Serafinowicz is a standout as Aldo, Susan's Italian contact who can't keep his hands off of her.
Miranda Hart, who made her mark in the "Call the Midwife" series, plays Nancy, Susan's friend and co-worker in the basement.  Her deadpan delivery is hilarious.
The allusions and homage to James Bond films are plenty, from the usual Bond cold opening as the suave and calm spy kills the bad guys and makes his escape, to the sexy song and swirling images over the opening credits, the European locations and the soundtrack, which evokes the classic Bond theme.
There is a running joke throughout that whenever Susan gets a new identity it's a lonely woman on disability with 10 cats or a sad divorced housewife with bad hair instead of the glamorous identity she seeks.  She also gets some James Bond-type weaponry, but instead of the cool stuff, hers are disguised as hemorrhoid cream, constipation pills and anti-fungal cream.  She is not pleased.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I see a sequel coming but if it is as entertaining as this film, bring it on!  This one is a winner!

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

Black or White  (2014)
A widower gets into a custody battle over his little biracial granddaughter.
When Elliott Anderson's (Kevin Costner) wife, Carol (Jennifer Ehle) dies, he's not sure how to take care of his little granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell) who has lived with them ever since their daughter (Eloise's mother) died in childbirth.  When Eloise asks Elliott to brush her hair and put a bow in it, it's apparent that Carol did all of the childcare.  Elliott is also grieving the loss of his wife and hitting the bottle pretty hard.
Eloise is a biracial child and when Carol was alive, Eloise's other family was happy with the arrangement.  But now Rowena (Octavia Spencer), Eloise's grandmother, does not approve of Elliott's drinking and decides Eloise should live with them, so she takes Elliott to court.  Rowena's brother is an attorney and turns the fight into a racial issue.
Elliott doesn't approve of Octavia's son, Reggie (Andre Holland), who was married to his daughter who died.  Reggie is a three time drug felon, so Elliott is not having it and fights for custody.
If you have read my reviews before, you know I am not usually a fan of precocious kids in movies, especially smartass precocious kids.  Jillian Estell was one of those who irritated me.  It might not be all of her fault though.  The script could have treated the kid thing better.
Octavia Spencer shines and Paula Newsome as the judge is great and a high point as she and Rowena get into it in court.
Written and directed by Mike Binder and inspired by true events, this film examines the issue of a wealthy, educated lawyer vs a self-made black woman realtor who is taking care of a large family and asks the question - Do we uproot the child from what she knows (the white neighborhood and the private school) to send her to live with her large extended black side of the family? 
There are some script issues.  I didn't understand how the little girl could have been so bonded with Elliott when it was obvious he didn't do much to take care of her. He didn't know how to get to her school or that Carol had to force her to brush her teeth.
Also there are many didactic statements like this: "This isn't about black and white.  This is about right and wrong." And there is a long speech that Elliott gives in the courtroom about race that defies reality.  What judge would let someone go on and on like that?  But these kinds of movies need these dramatic wrap ups, I guess.

The film is not perfect and could be criticized for not going deep enough into these issues, but despite the clichés and sentimentality that are always inherent in films like this, the film is strangely affecting and I think it's down to Kevin Costner.  This is Kevin's show. The strength in this film lies with Costner's ability to evoke warmth and charisma no matter what role he is playing.  He is handsome yet real, sexy yet tough and always believable, so he appeals to men and women. Kevin is good whether he's playing one of the Hatfields or a drunken lawyer.
And the other performances are good.  There is humor and it is a satisfying film experience.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a sentimental yet effective story made believable by the always great performance of Kevin Costner.

A film that documents Glenn Campbell's farewell tour as he battles Alzheimer's Disease.

Glenn Campbell had 21 Top 40 hits in his singing career.  But before that he was also a respected studio session player and appeared on hundreds of albums.  He could really play that guitar.  But now at 76 he is in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease.  But before he succumbed, he made one final U.S. tour.

The film begins with Campbell and his wife, Kim, watching old home movies.  He doesn't recognize himself, his wives or his children. When being given a memory test by a doctor - what day it is, who the President is, etc. - he makes stuff up to cover his loss of memory and says, "I have no use for [knowing that]."  Sad testaments to the fact that no amount of fame, money or talent can protect you from this devastating disease.

In 2011, right after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, Campbell embarked on a farewell tour.

It's easy to think that his current wife was exploiting him by sending him out on tour to promote his last album, "Ghost on the Canvas." But as the movie progresses, you can see that despite the fact that he can't remember his life or current events, he can remember the music.  He can still play the guitar and sing the words.  At 76 and in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease, Campbell could still sing, remember lyrics (though he had a teleprompter) and play the guitar. The gift of music sustained him.  He was able to exercise that part of his brain that still worked and by activating his musical talent, his overall intellect was improved.

Three of his children are in his band and their talent is evident.  But so is their love and support of their father.  They are upbeat and ready for anything on stage because Glenn is unpredictable and there are some meanderings.  A particularly poignant part of the film is his playing "Dueling Banjos" with his daughter.

Campbell performed 151 concerts but as he declined, meltdowns started to occur onstage so his wife decided to end it all on a high note.  His last show was Nov. 30, 2012.  Concert #151

Campbell now resides in a nursing home.  His music was the last thing to go.

James Keach produced and directed this extraordinary glimpse inside the life of an icon who is slowly losing all memory of himself.  Interviews with other musicians and songwriters - Jimmy Webb, who wrote many of Glenn's biggest songs ("Wichita Lineman," "Galveston"), Kathy Mattea, The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Steve Martin, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley - show the high esteem that Glenn Campbell was held in the music world.

This film will acquaint those too young to remember Campbell in his heyday with this extraordinary talent.  It's an important film.

At the end of the film, Campbell sings the poignant song "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," which he co-wrote with producer Julian Raymond for this film and which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.  It marked the last time Campbell was in a recording studio. The idea for the song came from a conversation Campbell had with Raymond while on this tour where Campbell was tired of everyone asking him how he felt about his diagnosis. He said to Raymond, "I don't know what everyone's worried about.  It's not like I'm going to miss anyone anyway."

Rosy the Reviewer says...We are certainly going to miss HIM! Stunning but sad and "there but for fortune..."  A must see!


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

255 to go! 

Videodrome (1983)

Max Renn (James Woods) is a sleazy cable TV producer, always looking for the most shocking shows and ultimate TV thrills including real life torture and murder.  When he comes upon "Videodrome," he thinks he has found the next big thing but doesn't realize what he has gotten himself into.

Max sees a pirated version of "Videodrome," a show that is nothing but torture and murder, though he thinks the people in the films are actors.  He seeks it out and meets Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), who likes pain and to get cut, especially during sex.  He also meets Bianca (Sonja Smits) the daughter of Prof. Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) who believes that TV will solve all of the problems of the world.  But after watching "Videodrome," strange things start happening to Max. Turns out that if you watch "Videodrome," you get a brain tumor from the signal. The message being, if you like violence and murder and watch this show, then you deserve what you get thus solving the problems of the world by weeding out the scum of the earth.  Metaphorically speaking, a statement on how TV can ruin your mind.

Talk about the evils of TV!

David Cronenberg wrote and directed this film starring Woods and Deborah Harry, in her first feature film role.  Rick Baker's makeup also stars with an ending that is about as gross as it gets thanks to his amazing make-up effects.

You can count on Cronenberg to be kinky, with lots of nudity, eroticism and violence and in this one, the violence and gore is ratcheted up.  The thing about Cronenberg is that he can make brilliant films like "A History of Violence" and "Dead Ringers," but then he also makes "Naked Lunch" and "Cosmopolis," which to me were unwatchable.  But one thing you can always count on - he will be evocative and provocative.

Why it's a Must See: "A groundbreaking film of the commercial/independent movement of 1980s Hollywood, David Cronenberg's story about the horrible transformations wrought by exposure to televised violence wittily thematizes the very problems that the diretor's exploration of violent sexual imagery in his previous productions had caused with censors, Hollywood distributors, and feminist groups...Even in its edited forms, Videodrome remains one of Hollywood's most unusual films, too shocking and idiosyncratic to be anything but a commercial failure."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Rosy the Reviewer says...Cronenberg at his strangest and grossest best! I guarantee you have never seen anything like this!

***Book of the Week***

Healthy Pasta:  The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food by Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (2015)

100 pasta recipes that promise to be healthy and under 500 calories!
The book also promises that I will be sexy, skinny and smart if I make these pasta dishes.  I'm there!

The Bastianich's are part of the first family of Italian cookery. Their mother is famed celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. Joe is a restauranateur, author and former judge on "Masterchef."  Tanya is also a restauranteur, author and produces her mother's cooking show.

The book wants to de-demonize pasta which has come under fire in recent years because of the low-carb/no-carb diet craze.  Here they promise that eating the pasta in this book will be delicious but also beneficial to our health and every recipe is under 500 calories.

Since I love pasta, I'm a believer.

I read cookbooks like I read biographies and other nonfiction.  I love to read the ingredients, the instructions, look at the pictures and eat the food!.  So this one is easy to read with lovely photos.

I book is divided into sections:  Verdure/Vegetables, Olio/Olive Oil/ Pomodoro/Tomato, Carne/Meats, Pesto, Pesce/Fish and Pasta in Modi Diversi/Pasta Done Different Ways.

My mouth is watering as I anticipate Pappardelle with Mushrooms, Penne with Artichokes, Peas and Ham, Linguine with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Olives, Bucatini with Sausage and Peppers and Farfalle with Tuna, Marinated Artichokes, Olives and Peppers.

Despite the fact they use the occasional splash of heavy cream, the secret to the "healthy" part is using ingredients and cooking methods that maximize taste but minimize fat content.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Now I have to go.  The pasta is ready!

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"How Would I Do on Naked and Afraid?"


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