Showing posts with label Hedy Lamarr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hedy Lamarr. Show all posts

Friday, June 1, 2018

"Breaking In" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the thriller "Breaking In" as well as DVDs "Young Adult" and "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story."  The Book of the Week is "My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie" by Todd Fisher.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with yet another Godard (sigh): "Weekend."]

Breaking In

A mother fights to save her children from some bad guys who have broken into their home.

OK, so you remember "Home Alone," right?  It was the 1990 blockbuster comedy about eight-year-old Kevin McAllister (played by a very young Macaulay Culkin) who was accidentally left home alone when his family went on Christmas vacation, and while he was home alone, a couple of burglars, thinking the house was empty, tried to get into the house to steal stuff but wished they hadn't because they met their match when wily little Kevin was able to fend them off in all kinds of devastating but hilarious ways.  

Well, that kind of describes this movie except there are four burglars, Kevin is replaced by Gabrielle Union as Shaun Russell, a mother of two who turns out to be the mother of all mothers, and this time the robbers are already inside the house and Shaun is trying to get in to save her children.  And oh, yeah, it's not supposed to be hilarious.  OK, maybe it's not that much like "Home Alone," but I couldn't help but think of that film while watching this one, because after what Shaun puts them through, those bad guys also wish they had never broken into that house.

Shaun's father, Isaac (Damien Leake), who appears to be of dubious reputation, is dispatched early in a rather gruesome hit and run accident giving Shaun and her two children, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and Glover (Seth Carr), a reason to drive deep into the woods to her Wisconsin family home to get it ready to sell.  Right away we discover that Shaun has been estranged from her Dad and has not been home in years.  And likewise, right away, we see shadows and hear things go bump in the night.  They are not alone!  Good thing Glover discovered the heavy duty security system in place and the remote control that controls everything because this house is like Fort Knox when it comes to security. 

So first the kids are grabbed by the bad guys, Eddie (Billie Burke) Sam (Levi Meaden), Peter (Mark Furze) and Duncan (Richard Cabral), one of whom killed Isaac. Because of that, they thought the house would be empty and easy pickings for the millions of dollars they believe Isaac had stashed away in his home safe. Eddie is the de facto leader.  Sam is the young nervous millenial who first got the idea that Shaun's Dad had millions of dollars stuffed in his safe, and Duncan, well, Duncan is just your mean street dude who wants to kill someone.  Peter seems to be there because it seems he is the only one who can open the safe.  Unfortunately, he is the first casualty when he goes after Shawn and he will wish he hadn't. After a scuffle or two, Shaun wins out and ties him up in the woods, which is cool because since Peter is the only one who can open the safe,  Shaun now has a bargaining chip. 

But returning to the house, Shaun realizes that the bad guys have her kids and she is locked out, and so begins a cat and mouse game where the bad guys hold the kids hostage until Shawn tells them where her Dad's safe is. 

The crux of this film is that these guys are not very smart and they have no idea who they are dealing with. Eddie has this misguided idea that as long as they have the kids, Shaun will not leave because mothers would never leave their children.  Of course the house is so remote there is no cell service, but does it make sense to you that a woman would hang around to take on three bad guys when all she had to do was jump in her car and head to the nearest phone to call the cops? But then that would not have given Gabrielle Union a chance to show off what a badass she is. Thus begins a series of plot holes that would make up a lovely hunk of swiss cheese but getting caught up in those "huh?" moments will just ruin your enjoyment of this film, so why bother? 

Written by Ryan Engle, who is having a great year - he also wrote "Rampage" and "The Commuter" - and directed by James McTeigue, this is really a glorified Lifetime Movie, but I will say, despite some problems I had with this film (those plot holes I mentioned), there is a certain catharsis that takes place when one woman takes on four bad guys and wins.  And that's not a spoiler.  You know she will.  Remember, it's the journey.

Union is a good actress who looks like a real woman, which is refreshing.  She is also an activist and feminist who puts her money where her mouth is by choosing to play strong women in her films.  And this film is no exception.

Rosy the Reviewer long as you don't question some of the plot elements, an enjoyable thriller about a woman in danger where the woman gets to do the ass whooping!

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


Young Adult (2011)

A writer who hasn't quite gotten her life together travels back to her hometown to try to rekindle a romance with her old boyfriend despite the fact that he is married with a newborn baby.

I don't know how I missed this film the first time around.  I think I thought from the title that it was a teen film so I wasn't interested since I'm not a teen. But since seeing and loving the latest Diablo Cody-Jason Reitman collaboration "Tully," I decided I needed to go back and see this one too and discovered that, not only did this one also star Charlize Theron, but what it's really about is an adult stuck in the vagaries between youth and adulthood. 

Mavis Gary (Theron) lives in Minneapolis, is the ghostwriter for a series of young adult novels and her lifestyle looks like she herself hasn't moved very far from young adulthood despite the fact that she is looking 40 in the face.  She is narcissistic, lives in a soulless high rise, is divorced and alone, sleeps with men indiscriminately, drinks too much, eats cartons of Haagen Dazs and is full of regrets. You know, the single life.  

When Mavis receives a birth announcement from her old hometown boyfriend, Buddy (Patrick Wilson), she has a meltdown and then decides to go find him. When she arrives back in her small town of Mercury, Minnesota, she calls her ex and makes up a reason why she is in town and he offers to meet her for a drink.  But before that happens, Mavis heads to the bar on her own and meets Matt (wonderfully played by Patton Oswalt), another fellow she went to high school with, though she doesn't remember him even though he reminds her that her locker was next to his. He also reminds her that he was "The Hate Crime Guy," a kid who was beaten up in school because the bullies thought he was gay (he wasn't) - "It was just a fat guy crime," Matt tells her - and when Mavis sees his crutches, oh, now she remembers him but, of course, Matt isn't the kind of boy the beautiful high school Mavis would have noticed.

You see, Mavis was one of those pretty and haughty high school Prom Queen girls. She still thinks of herself that way, the beautiful successful high school princess who got out of Mercury and is now the beautiful successful thirty-something who made it in the big city of Minneapolis. She was one of those mean girls in high school and now she is a kind of mean adult.  She has returned to Mercury thinking everyone will remember her and that she will easily get her old boyfriend back.

After several shots, Mavis tells Matt her plan, but Matt already has Mavis's number - that she is up to no good - and he has no problem telling her that,  but nevertheless the two form an uneasy alliance.

Now it's time to meet up with Buddy and Mavis gets all dolled up so she can win him back.  She meets his wife (Elizabeth Reaser) who has to be one of the most understanding women on the planet since it's obvious Mavis is after Buddy, but when all is said and done, Mavis eventually realizes that despite her disappointment in her life as it is now, she did get herself out of Mercury and made something of herself, whereas Buddy is still Buddy, kind of a dolt, not having done much with his life and still living in their hometown.  And know you can't go home again.

This dark comedy explores the question: When and how do we go from being a young adult to a full-blown adult and what does that mean exactly?  

I have to hand it to Charlize for making interesting acting choices.  She won an Oscar for "Monster," where she played a serial killer with bad hair and teeth; she was beaten up and bloody in "Atomic Blonde;" and gained 50 pounds for the aforementioned "Tully." For a glamour girl, she doesn't necessarily feel she needs to look glam and this film is no exception.  Many a night Mavis gets drunk, falls asleep on her bed with all of her clothes on and wakes up with her mascara running down her face. 

And Patton Oswalt is wonderful here too.  His character, Matt, is a wonderful foil for Mavis's narcissism and acts as a truth teller. He may not have made it out of Mercury, either, but he sees through Mavis's delusions about herself and that the two have much in common.

Writer Diablo Cody has a way with character and dialogue.  You feel you have known these people and said those words yourself and director Jason Reitman knows just how to showcase Cody's screenplay.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman are an extraordinary team.  I look forward to many more wonderful film experiences from them.  And Charlize ain't half bad either.  Highly recommended.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)

Who knew Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr, was also a genius investor?

Few people probably remember Hedy Lamarr, but back in the day she was every bit as beautiful and talented as Elizabeth Taylor and Vivian Leigh.  But she had one asset they didn't. She was very, very smart. 

At the beginning of WW II, with composer George Antheil, she invented a radio guidance system for allied torpedoes which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping to avoid jamming by the Axis powers.  It was called hopping technology which eventually played a role in future bluetooth and wifi technology.  This work led to her and Antheil's induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. 

But Lamarr was also very, very beautiful.  She was the model for Disney's animated Snow White and inspired Cat Woman.  But as this film points out, beauty can also stand in the way of being taken seriously.

Written and directed by Alexandra Dean, this documentary not only explores Lamarr's life growing up in Austria and her film career, but her personal life that led to six marriages and divorces with her ending up a recluse at 64.  It's a tale of beauty as a hindrance and contains little known information about Lamarr. Fleming Meeks, a reporter for Forbes Magazine, interviewed and recorded Hedy in 1990 when she was 76 so we also get to hear her tell her own story.

Hedy, born Hedwig Keisler, always longed to be known and appreciated for what she was rather than her beauty.  At an early age Hedy liked to take her music box apart and put it back together.  She was intellectually curious and wanted to know how things worked.  She adored her father - he had wanted a boy - so she wanted to please him.  She grew up in Vienna in a wealthy and artistic Jewish family.  In a different era, she might have been a scientist but that was not an option for very many women then so at 16 she went off to make movies.  She was sexually free and made "Ecstasy" in 1933, a shocking film for it's subject matter and nudity (the title alone tells it all).  Though the film was denounced, the film would make her world famous.

At 19, Hedy married a man 19 years older than she.  He was also an arms dealer and Hitler supporter so she made a harrowing escape from that life and was able to find an agent who renamed her Hedy Lamarr and took her to Hollywood.  She spoke no English but came to the attention of actor Charles Boyer who was smitten and wanted her in his film "Algiers."  Remember "Take me to the Casbah?"  She was a star and a sex symbol, but always a reluctant one.

There are many little-known facts about Lamarr revealed in this film:

  • Howard Hughes was the worst lover she ever had but she liked his mind and advised him on his plane designs.
  • Her invention of radio controlled torpedoes that couldn't be jammed came from her desire to help the British deal with the Nazi U-boats but the Navy rejected the invention.
  • When good parts became scarce she produced her own films.
  • She revived her career with "Samson and Delilah" in a time when sexy biblical movies were a thing.  At the time of its release, it was the third highest grossing film ever behind "Gone with the Wind" and "The Best Years of Our Lives."
  • She was one of Dr. Feelgood's victims and became addicted to speed
  • She never made a dime off of her patent which was the basis for wifi, GPS, cell phones and bluetooth because it expired and she didn't know how to renew it - a patent later worth $30 billion - and she died broke.
  • She hated being a sex symbol

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating celebrity documentary that is less about celebrity and more about the curse of beauty.

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

141 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Weekend (1967)

What starts as a weekend trip to kill their parents for the inheritance turns into a weekend from hell...for not just them but anyone watching this film!

Oh, geez.  Another Godard.  When does this end?  For some reason the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" gods decided that I needed to see eight of his films or my life wouldn't have been worth living, but actually I consider that about 20 hours of my life I could have been doing something else.  Though I semi-enjoyed a couple, mostly I found his films to be unwatchable and this one was the worst of all.

A couple (Mireille Darc and Jean Yanne) go away on a weekend trip where they are up to no good but they also get more than they bargained for.

In the first scene, Godard uses the annoying technique of filming people in shadow, and even more annoying, it's a scene with a half-naked girl recounting a sexual experience in graphic detail to a man sitting nearby, also in shadow.  OK, so I'm thinking, this is a sex film but turns out it had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie which was a shambles about two people off on a weekend trip.  Since that entire first scene was filmed practically in darkness, I wasn't even sure if those two in that scene were the two in the rest of the movie.

Anyway, as the two travel to their weekend, they get in a big traffic jam where people are beeping their horns, having picnics in the road, throwing balls to one another from car to car.  It's a crazy scene that goes on forever. I mean the camera pans silently over the line of cars for TEN MINUTES! 

There are also all kinds of accidents as our characters make their way on their trip and then they pick up some political activists and then get waylaid by anarchists. From the looks of this film, you can't go away for the weekend in France without witnessing at least five car crashes or getting abducted by political activists or hanging out with anarchists.  

With Godard, you wait a very long time for things to happen and then when they do you go "Huh?" For example, there is a girl dressed as Bo Peep.  I have no idea why.  Then we watch an earthworm in close-up for a minute or so.  Then there is a guy playing Mozart on a grand piano in a barnyard and that takes forever as the camera scans the trucks, tractors and the farmers standing around.  I think this was supposed to be a comedy and the car wrecks were probably a metaphor for something but after so much crazy stuff who cares? The whole film is punctuated by overly dramatic and strange music that doesn't seem to fit but after trying to remain engaged in this chaotic mess, the music was the least of the problems.

Since I have seen seven others of his films, I am sure he was saying something about the decadence of contemporary culture and life itself, but geez.  When I am watching a film, I don't like to have to work that hard to try to figure out what the director is trying to say.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] might be the wildest and wooliest of all of Jean-Luc Godard's films -- which is saying something."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...That's for sure.  Now I am going to say something.  It's unwatchable.  Thank the Lord this is the last one of his I have to watch!

***Book of the Week***

My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher (2018)

A memoir of growing up with his mother, Debbie Reynolds, and his sister, Carrie Fisher.

You might expect that a celebrity biography by the child of a famous person would be a hatchet job - remember "Mommie Dearest" and "My Mother's Keeper?"  Or a Hollywood memoir would be written by a famous member of the Hollywood community.

This memoir is unique because it is neither of those.  Written by Todd Fisher, the son of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher and the sister of Carrie Fisher, this is a love letter to his mother and sister and it's written by someone who never chose the spotlight.  Todd chose to work behind the scenes as a filmmaker which gave him and us, the readers, a unique perspective on two Hollywood superstars.

It's all here: Eddie Fisher leaving Debbie and running off with Elizabeth Taylor.  Eddie was the most famous singer of the early 1950's and Elizabeth Taylor was arguably the most beautiful woman in the world.  But when Eddie left Debbie, who was considered America's Sweetheart, he was dubbed a cad and his career took a nosedive.  Elizabeth was considered a hussy.  

But Debbie recovered only to have subsequent marriages where her husbands took all of her money and she had to do endless Broadway and Las Vegas shows to pay back their debts. However, Debbie was also responsible for rescuing many of the famous MGM costumes when the age of the big studios ended and MGM was being dismantled.

Todd also talks about Carrie's struggles with bi-polar disorder and drug abuse and her early death at 60 with Debbie following her in death 24 hours later. Todd believes that Debbie willed herself to go so that Carrie wouldn't be alone. Keep hankies handy.

You can't make this stuff up, folks.  These lives are every bit as tragic and interesting and engrossing as a Hollywood movie and Todd was there during all of it.  

But this book isn't just about Debbie and Carrie.  It's also Todd's story.  He lived a charmed Hollywood life.  I mean, his mother bought him his own tank, for god's sake, so he could film war movies in his back yard.  He also had a full-sized western town set up there.  But he had some things to go through too. He had his share of sex and drugs as well as heartbreak - his second wife died of cancer - and losing his mother and sister within 24 hours of each other certainly was a tragedy.  But his Christian faith has sustained him throughout his life.

This is a candid but loving memoir with 32 pages of never-before-seen photos so if you were a fan of Debbie and/or Carrie or just like well-written memoirs, you will be in celebrity bio heaven.

"[A] popular question is 'What's it like growing up in your mom's shadow?'  A time came when my sister Carrie would bristle at that question.  Not me.  I happen to think that growing up in the shadow of Debbie Reynolds was a safe, beautiful, privileged place to be, and I thrived in it...My family, my life, and my experiences are gifts as far as I'm concerned, gifts that could be taken away if I stop being grateful for them and start taking them for granted...[This is] a long love letter and thank-you note to the two most pivotal, extraordinary women I've ever known.  It was hard-wired in me from the day I was born that they were 'my girls,' and they always will be...I owe my girls a thorough, honest, unapologetic account of the life I've lived with them and without them, because neither of them would have tolerated anything less from me.  And so in their honor, here, through my eyes, is the true, no-holds-barred story of Debbie, Carrie, and me."

Pass me the tissues.

Rosy the Reviewer says...wonderful and refreshing!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Book Club"

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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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.