Showing posts with label Help Me. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Help Me. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2019

"Us" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Us" as well as DVDs "On Chesil Beach" and "Vox Lux."  The Book of the Week is "Help Me!: One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Can Really Change Your Life,"  I also bring you-up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Peking Opera Blues."]


A family's peaceful vacation is disrupted when their doppelgangers arrive and terrorize them.

Little Adelaide is on vacation at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in 1986.  When her parents get into a fight, she wanders off.  She goes down to the beach and sees an eerie fun house. When she goes in, she finds herself in a hall of mirrors.  Then the lights go off and as she tries to find her way out, she comes face to face with....herself!

And so begins Jordan Peele's latest horror film that is also an expose of American racial, cultural and political issues. Jordan Peele uses the horror genre as his voice to open discussion about serious current issues, and he is very good at it.  He showcases the issues but not at the expense of the horror.  He did that in "Get Out!" and he does it again here and though "Get Out!" was scary it was also funny.  This one is just plain scary.

Flash forward and now little Adelaide is the all grown up Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) married to husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), with a daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and son, Jason (Evan Alex).  They are a well-to-do couple and their children are happy and smart. They are all happily on their way to their summer house near Santa Cruz, bopping along to the music in the car, though Adelaide is a bit nervous remembering her scary experience years ago on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.  Later, wouldn't you know, when they get to the beach with their friends, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker), that eerie fun house is still there and some strange things start happening.

But nothing as strange as what happens when they get home.

They are settling in for the night when Jason sees some people out in the driveway.  When Gabe goes out to investigate and asks the strangers to identify themselves, they do not reply, but Jason says, "It's us."

And it is...well, sort of.

It's a family that looks exactly like Adelaide, Gabe, Zora and Jason except their names are Red, Abraham, Unbrae and Pluto and they are sporting red jumpsuits and carrying large scissors.  When Gabe asks, "Who are you people?" and Red finally answers, she says, "We are Americans."

And that sets the tone.  

In "Get Out," Peele exposed race relations.  Here he uses the home invasion genre to expose our current American experience and the everyday things we should really be scared of.

It's a home invasion by perverted versions of Adelaide and her family, and Adelaide, Gabe, Zora and Jason must fight these doppelgangers to the death to save themselves, a scary horror film to say the least.  I mean, a fight to the death with yourself?  

But what is really scary is Peele's message:  there are voiceless, marginalized people out there who get blamed for everything.  Those with voices say, "It's not us, it's them."  But us?  We need to realize that we are not blameless, unwitting players in the ills of the world. Pushed to their limits the voiceless and the marginalized might let loose on the privileged people.  And all of us, each and everyone of us has a monster within that when provoked could be unleashed.

Written and directed by Peele, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for "Get Out!" this is a thought-provoking film without skimping on the horror.  This is a scary movie.  But I have to say that while this was an enjoyable film experience, in a scary way, for me it didn't quite have the impact of  "Get Out."  Too many "Huh?" moments, but perhaps this is one of those films that needs to be seen more than once to get all of the points Peele has thrown in.  Watch it the first time for the horror, then see it again to put together the message and make the pieces all fit.  It's also fun to try to see which other horror films Peele pays homage to, "The Shining" being one.

All of the actors play a dual role - Us and Them - which also gives the actors a chance to explore two sides of their acting ranges - good and evil.  Nyong'o is especially wonderful employing a scary raspy voice which she says was modeled after a rare disorder called spasmodic dysphonia and for which she has gotten some flack.  But in this day and age, it seems everyone gets flack about something.  I was also impressed by the kid actors.  For once I wasn't annoyed.  They were wonderful as well.

Rosy the Reviewer says...As good as "Get Out?"  Maybe not, but it's still just what a good film is supposed to be - an enjoyable and, in this case, scary film, but one that also makes you think.

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


On Chesil Beach (2017)

Why being a virgin on your wedding night can be a very bad thing!

Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) are on their honeymoon in a seaside hotel on the coast of England. It's 1962 and both are awkward and uneasy with each other.  In flashbacks we see the evolution of their love story.

Edward is a poor young man who loves rock and roll and whose father is a teacher and his mother has mental issues. She had been hit in the head by the open door of a moving train and was never the same.  Who would be?  Florence is upper class and has a very critical mother. She also plays violin in a quartet and loves classical music.  

After graduating university, it's love at first sight for both of them but it's 1962 and both are repressed sexually. They are also burdened by the class disparity between them. And it doesn't help that Edward is not a very sensitive guy, quick to anger and belligerence.  Florence is inexperienced and dominated by her father who may or may not have molested her. And to make it all worse, both are virgins, so these two are not particularly good candidates for a successful wedding night.  So when the wedding night does happen, let's just say it doesn't happen.  Both disappoint each other and what happened that night appears to influence the rest of their lives. We see them 13 years later and then 45 years later, both wondering what might have been.

If ever there was an indictment of being a virgin on your wedding night this is it! 

Written by Ian McEwan from his novel and directed by Dominic Cooke, this is a slow moving character study of life in England during the early 1960's, before the sexual revolution when no one talked about sex and expectations were high when it came to romance.  And I have to say that the movie was as frustrating as Edward's and Florence's wedding night.  I know it's before the sexual revolution when people not only had sex all of the time but they talked about it as well, but these two are so stilted and closed-up it's almost laughable and I don't think that was the point here. The laughing part, I mean.  I know these two are supposed to be repressed but it didn't feel like they felt anything for each other at all.  It was difficult to care about this love affair.  It could be that Ronan and Howle didn't really have much chemistry but that could have been a directorial and acting call because Edward and Florence are supposed to be so awkward.  But it wasn't fun to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer...if you like Ronan and slow moving, moody British films set in picturesque British landscapes, you might like this but don't blame me if you don't.

Vox Lux (2018)

A young girl who survives a school shooting becomes an unexpected pop star.

The film begins in 1999 when teen sisters Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) and Eleanor (Stacy Martin) survive a school shooting.  The girls write a song about it, Celeste sings it at the memorial service, the song takes off and Celeste becomes a pop celebrity.  She is discovered by a street-smart manager (Jude Law) and her career takes off.

Fast forward to 2017 and Celeste (Natalie Portman) is now 31, the mother of a teen, still a pop star, though now a more hardened one and dealing with a media scandal. Yet another act of violence has occurred, this time on a beach and the shooters are wearing masks from one of Celeste's videos.

Written and directed by Brady Corbet, the film is slow to get going - and be warned. Natalie Portman does not even show up until half way through the film and when she does, the film fizzles. Natalie Portman does not a believable rock star make.  She overacts the part like mad.  But the film shows how the media exploits tragedy, turns victims into celebrities and the price people pay for fame.  What it doesn't do is tell us anything new about that phenomenon.

The film started out strong and then fizzled but Raffey Cassidy is a young actress to watch.  She plays the young Celeste as well as Celeste's daughter and she is the heart and soul of this film.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting premise that didn't really go anywhere.

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

100 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Peking Opera Blues (1986)

An epic film about three young women - a revolutionary, an aspiring actress, and a jewel thief - set in an opera house in the early twentieth century during Sun Yat-Sen's bid to establish a democratic republic in China.

It's 1913 Beijing, during Yuan Shikai's presidency of the country that brings together an unlikely team of heroines: Tsao Wan (Brigitte Lin), a patriotic rebel who dresses as a man; Sheung Hung (Cherie Chung), a woman in search of a missing box of jewels; and Bai Niu (Sally Yeh), the daughter of a Peking Opera impresario.

Directed by Hark Tsui, this film is like a cartoon and I haven't really liked cartoons since I was six.

Why it's a Must See: "The political themes and gender issues at work within the narrative...provide a fascinating subtext for this classic of contemporary Hong Kong film.  One can only reflect back on such a burst of pure cinematic pleasure with bittersweet nostalgia [because the] Hong Kong film industry is in a catastrophic slump."

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

I am thinking the Hong Kong film industry must have also been in a slump back then when this film was made. It's terrible.  I am starting to think those folks who came up with those movies in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book were smoking crack.  I am also starting to think that now that I have less than 100 films to go, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel! Haven't seen a film I liked in awhile!

Quentin Tarantino
 refers to this film as "one of the greatest films ever made" and "a blast––it's a lot of fun."  I am going to have to rethink what I think about old Quentin. He must have been smoking something too.

Rosy the Reviewer says...for me, unwatchable...and I paid good money to rent it from VOD!

(In Chinese with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

Help Me!: One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Can Really Change Your Life by Marianne Powers (2019)

Now here's an idea!  See if all of those damn self-help books actually help!

During yet another day nursing a hangover watching "The Kardashians" and the Housewives, Marianne Powers decides she needs to do something about her life.  Ever a self-help book maven, she decides to really put them to the test.  She decides to read one self-help book a month and follow it's advice to the letter for an entire year.

Will she find happiness?

The books she tested will be familiar to those of us who have also dabbled:

1. "Fear the Fear and Do It Anyway" by Susan Jeffers
"Take a risk a day - one small or bold stroke that will make you feel great once you've done it."

2. "Money, a Love Story" by Kate Northrup
"Our relationship to money is a direct reflection of how much we value ourselves."

3. "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne
"Whatever you dream can be yours."

4. "Rejection Therapy with Jason Comely" (this is actually a game, not a book)
"You must be rejected by another person at least once, every single day."

5. "F**k It: The Ultimate Spiritual Way" by John C. Parkin
"If you're feeling stressed about something, say "F**k It" and you will feel instantly better."

6. "Unleash the Power Within, With Tony Robbins"
"There is a powerful driving force inside every human being that, once unleashed, can make any vision, dream, or desire a reality."

7. "Angels, with Doreen Virtue"
"We all have angels guiding us...They look after us.  They heal us, touch us, comfort us with invisible warm hands..."

8. "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey
"Begin with the end in mind."

9. "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle
"Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy.  It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness as well as disease."

10. "Get the Guy" by Matthew Hussey
"You become so obsessed with meeting THE guy, you don't meet any guys."

11. "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead" by Brene Brown
"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen."

12. "You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay
"Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn't worked.  Try approving of yourself and see what happens."

Powers gives a good run-down on each of these self-help books and adds humorous stories of how she applied them and what happened.

For example, in January she chatted up strangers on the Tube, swam in frigid water and jumped out of an airplane, all things she was afraid of.  The next month, she realized just how bad her finances really were. But then "The Secret" told her that all she had to do was visualize a 100,000 pound check coming in the mail and it would come.  And on and on.

Powers is a writer who lives in London so there is a very British bent to this book, but I rather like British humor so it's funny and self-deprecating as the British tend to be.  She also takes a few swipes at us Americans who are thought to be rather naive and overly happy.  Powers' mother worried that after doing this project her daughter will have gone all American on her.  Heaven forbid!

So, what did she learn?

That self-help books are all basically telling us the same thing: 

We are all afraid we are not enough because if we are not enough we won't be loved.  So we have to keep trying to find perfection and happiness.

So did Powers heal her life following the advice from these books?

Yes and no.

   "In so many ways my year was a disaster.

   "My debt grew, my productivity plummeted and I am now a stone heavier (a stone is equivalent to 14 pounds) than when I began.  I became irresponsible, selfish and deluded, watching inspirational videos on YouTube instead of doing actual work and spending money I didn't have on the basis that the Universe would provide. Worst of all, I fell out with one of my best friends...I became a self-help junkie, disregarding my friends and family, always thinking the answer was in the next book, the next book..."

But there was a positive side.  Putting into practice all of the advice from the books made Powers put herself out there in the world, when before she had been depressed and closed-up. 

"Self-help did help -- a lot.  It, ironically helped me get past myself [to see] that [as Brene Brown said] 'connection is why we are here.' [So] As I think back on my year and a bit of self-improvement, the best bits were those moments of connection.  It's only with other people that magic happens - a magic that could be defined as love.  Or God. Or beauty. Or spirit.
   "And so for now at least, I am going out in the world with a heart open to love."

Now you might think that because I have told you how it all ends, you don't need to read this book.  You would be wrong. As they say in self-help talk, "It's not the destination, it's the journey.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Powers' journey is funny, self-deprecating and enlightening and shouldn't be missedNow let me get back to my book - "How to Get Rich and Thin at the Same Time!"

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Gloria Bell"


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.