Showing posts with label Horror films. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Horror films. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2023

When There is Nothing Playing at the Movie Theatres That Makes You Want to Leave Home: Some Good Movies You Can Watch in Your PJ's, Part 3

[I review the movie "Leave the World Behind," which just dropped on Netflix today, as well as "May December," and "Quiz Lady"]

It's that time of year - busy, busy, busy.  And there is no time to get to the movie theatre, even if there were some good films out there (there kind of aren't). But here are some theatre worthy films you can watch at home.  Grab your favorite adult beverage and take a breather!  Enjoy!

Leave the World Behind (2023)

A vacation from hell.  Oh, and the end of the world as we know it.

Amanda Sanford (Julia Roberts) hates people, which is kind of funny since she manages customer relations for an advertising firm. She decides to take the family away from the city to a rental on Long Island for a little vacation to "leave the world behind." Her husband, Clay (Ethan Hawke), is a professor and has a bit more faith in people than Amanda. They have two children, Rose (Farrah Mackenzie) and Archie (Charlie Evans). 

The house is massive and gorgeous, but it's odd that there is no cell connectivity and the TV and wi-fi aren't working either, which is a real problem for Rose, who is obsessed with TV, especially the show "Friends." She just needs to see the last episode to see how it ends. 

Uh, oh - the vacation has not started out well. Being cut off from the outside world and that ominous music says some bad stuff is going to happen. And it does.

The next day the family goes to the beach and a huge tanker washes up onto the beach in a spectacular scene, and then, later that night, G.H. Scott (Mahershala Ali) and his daughter, Ruth (Myha'la), show up at the house. Scott tells Amanda and Clay that he is the owner of the house and that a blackout in the city has forced them to return. They ask to spend the night. Amanda is skeptical but Clay is okay with it. 

With no Internet or TV, they are all isolated, so the next day, Clay goes into town to try to find out what is going on and G.H. goes next door, only to find the house destroyed. Then airplanes start falling from the sky, Clay has some strange experiences going into town and the deer on the property are acting menacingly (and let me tell you, I have had personal experience with aggressive deer. It's scary). When Amanda and Clay try to go back to the City and encounter a pile-up of self-driving cars blocking the road (another spectacular scene and not a very good advert for Tesla), they realize they can't get to the City and return to the house. What the heck is going on? Finally, G.H. shares that he thinks there is some kind of government conspiracy at foot...but, uh, it's way worse than that!

Welcome to the world of apocalyptic horror.

When a movie starts out with ominous music, you know you are in for some serious stuff and this is two-and-a-half hours of serious stuff.

Adapted from the book by Rumaan Alam by Sam Esmail and directed by Esmail, this is a taut thriller about people in jeopardy, stuck together in a house, and the crazy stuff that can happen while the world is going to hell around them.  It reminded me a bit of the recent film "Knock on the Cabin," though this film is more psychological in nature, examining family dynamics, prejudices, inhumanity and our dependence on technology. My only criticism is that the film didn't need to be so long, but you will want to see how it plays out. And since you are at home, you can always take a break (Thank you, Netflix, but can't avoid the irony).

It's a star-studded cast. 

I have been a fan of Julia Roberts since the get-go.  She is an accomplished actress who doesn't seem to have aged at all since "Pretty Woman."  Here she eschews the rom-com genre for the thriller genre, but there actually is some romance.  Well, sort of.  She and the handsome and talented Ali have a bit of a thing. Ethan Hawke has some juicy scenes and Kevin Bacon has a small, but pivotal role, as a survivalist. Also fun fact, Michelle and Barack Obama are two of the executive producers.

With all of the terrible things going on in the world right now, why would you want to watch a scary film about the end of the world?

Well, it's a riveting film, with first rate production values, and I for one, find it comforting to know that things in the world could be a lot worse!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a taut doomsday thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat. What would YOU do if the end of the world was near? (Netflix)

May December (2023)

A speculation into what Mary Kay Letourneau's life and marriage might have looked like after the scandal?

Remember the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal?  If not, perhaps you were too young when it happened or living in Antarctica, so to bring you up to speed, it involved a married middle school teacher in her 30's who had an affair with her 12-year-old student, if you can call that an affair.  Actually, it was deemed child rape and she went to prison but got out early after agreeing to never see the kid again.  Wait.  There's more.  She was caught with him again, went back to prison where she gave birth! Wait, wait.  There's still more.  THEY EVENTUALLY GOT MARRIED!  If ever there was an instance of truth being stranger than fiction, this is it.

So this film is based on that story...but with some twists.

In this version, it's the same sort of scandal that Letourneau was involved in, but this time it's Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton), who are now married, living in Savannah and it's 20 years since le scandale. The two met when Gracie was working in a pet store and Joe worked there after school. She was 37 and he was 13.  They supposedly got it on in the stock room and were caught.  A film version is planned about their story and they are approached by Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman), an actress who is best known for playing a TV veterinarian.  Now she is going to play Gracie in a movie about Joe and Gracie.

Elizabeth wants to observe Gracie's life for research for her role and Gracie lets her, because she wants Elizabeth to "get it right." She also might want Elizabeth to see that they are just regular folks. After all, despite the age difference and the scandal, here she is, a wife, a mother and a baker and Joe raises Monarch butterflies. What's not to like? But there are cracks in the idyllic scenario.  Joe talks on FB to a mysterious person he seems to like and Gracie shows herself to perhaps not be completely stable.

It's a strange little tale that wonders what the everyday life of someone like Mary Kay Letourneau might have been like after a huge viral scandal and what regrets might a much younger husband seduced by an much older woman have? 

And then there is Elizabeth.  She has toiled in television, but now wants to prove herself as a serious actress in an indie film that is going to be made about Gracie and Joe. Elizabeth also turns out to have some issues. Elizabeth visits said stock room in the pet store and in a very cringey scene re-enacts what might have gone on in there. What an actor won't do for her craft!  Elizabeth also interviews other people involved, especially Gracie's ex-husband who still can't understand what a 37-year-old woman saw in a 7th grader. I'm with him.  And why did the 13 year-old get involved with Gracie?  "She saw me."

Though the film is about a tabloid scandal, the film, written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik, is also a commentary on such tabloid scandals, our fascination with sex, crime and celebrity. "Dateline," and "20/20" are perfect examples.  No one probably remembers that both started out as legit news shows like "60 Minutes," but changed course when it became apparent that true crime and scandal attracted more viewers. We are voracious consumers of that kind of content. The film also kind of makes fun of the lengths actors will go to inhabit their roles.

And that's what makes this an odd, but fascinating, little film. 

Despite the subject matter, it's actually kind of funny in a dark way and it makes no judgment. Yes, Gracie was convicted of child rape and went to prison, but she doesn't appear to regret any of it or feel bad about herself, and her life has gone on. She married Joe, they live in a nice house, they have children who are getting ready for college and it all just seems so...normal.  But it's not. It's a "Dateline" life.

Moore and Portman are serious actresses who have proven themselves. Both have Best Leading Actress Oscars under their belts, Portman for "Black Swan" and Moore for "Still Alice."  And to add to this movie's credentials, director Todd Haynes has an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for "Far From Heaven (also starring Moore)" and countless other nominations and awards over the years for directing and writing. I am a fan of his films. They embody time and place, mood and beauty.  And this is his fifth collaboration with Moore, which started in 1995 with "Safe." Melton, best known for the TV show "Riverdale," doesn't have a whole lot to do but I think that's the point.  As Gracie's husband, who married her before he was out of his teenage years, he has missed a lot in life and doesn't seem to have a whole lot to do either, raising Monarch butterflies, not withstanding. He is now a husband whose wife tells him what to do.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a strange but fascinating little film starring actresses at the top of their game. (Netflix)

Quiz Lady (2023)

Two estranged sisters - Anne (Awkwafina) and Jennie (Sandra Oh) - come together to help pay off their mother's gambling debt.

Yes, it's a comedy and a funny one with Sandra Oh as you have never seen her, hamming it up as a ne're do well and, Awkwafina, taking the lead as a smart but awkward reclusive woman hooked on a game show. Though comedian Awkwafina had been around for several years doing her stand-up and acting in some films, it was her comic star-turn in "Crazy Rich Asians" that gave her film career a boost and now she is a hot commodity.

Anne and Jennie grew up in a troubled household.  Jennie, ten years older than Anne, coped by being a bad girl; Anne coped by being a quiet good girl and by watching a nightly game show called "Can't Stop the Quiz" hosted by Terry McTeer (think "Jeopardy" and Alex Trebek except with Will Ferrell and a nutty charades component).

Now as adults, the sisters have each gone their own way.  Anne works as an accountant in a cubicle jungle and Jennie, well, not sure what Jennie has been up to, but it's not good. They come together when their mother goes missing from her nursing home and Jennie gloms onto Anne. Jennie appears to be living in her car and has been up to no good and needs a place to stay.  And when Anne's dog, Linguini, is kidnapped by some bad guys, the sisters also learn their mother owes the bad guys money and they are keeping the dog until Anne pays up.

Meanwhile, Jennie films Anne getting all of the answers right while watching "Can't Stop the Quiz" and posts it on social media.  It goes viral and Anne starts getting recognized as "The Quiz Lady."  And Jennie gets the idea that Anne needs to get on that show so they can make the money they need to pay their mother's debt.  But this is not an easy task as Anne has social anxiety. So Jennie kidnaps Anne by putting her in the trunk of her car and, well, it's all very funny as they make their way from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and try to get Anne on the show.

Jason Schwartzman plays a smarmy, self-important long-time winner on the show who is about to become the all-time champion and Anne would love to unseat him if she could just get over her fears.  Wait!  Jennie has the answer. Drugs! Just imagine "Jeopardy" contestants on the show doing psychedelics. Well, now you don't have to imagine.  You can see for yourself. 

I was never a huge Sandra Oh fan but now I am.  She is very funny here, and Will Ferrell brings a warmth to his character as game show host, McTeer, as he advises Anne to not worry about winning so much as savoring the experience and creating memories.

Written by Jen D'Angelo and directed by Jessica Yu, this is a sort of buddy movie but has the sweetness of the sister bond as flashbacks reveal what they went through together growing up and just what Jenny did to look out for her little sister.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a very funny but also sweet film about sisterly love. (Hulu)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Some Fun Films: "A Haunting in Venice," "Theater Camp" and "Killer Book Club"

[I review the movies "A Haunting in Venice," "Theater Camp" and "Killer Book Club."]

A Haunting in Venice (2023)

Hercule Poirot is back, this time in Venice.

I have been mad at Kenneth Branagh ever since he left wife Emma Thompson and ran off with Helena Bonham Carter.  But time heals all wounds and even though he and Helena are no longer together, I guess it was meant to be. All have moved on.  And I guess Agatha Christie was meant to be in his life, too, as he has basically turned his acting and directing career into her franchise. I wonder if anyone remembers his bravura performances in "Henry V" and "Hamlet." He is now Hercule Poirot and he has made a career out of Agatha Christie mystery films with all-star casts. 

In this third installment, it is 1947 and master detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is in self-imposed exile in Venice.  He is tired of everyone clamoring for his expertise but when old friend and mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) arrives, she convinces him to attend a Halloween night seance at the home of opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly).  Poirot does not believe in the dead coming back but Oliver says that medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) seems to be the real deal and she wants Poirot to see what he thinks.  She uses her charm, hanging over his head the fact that he is famous because of her, because she made him a character in her books.  They make a wager and Poirot reluctantly agrees to go.  

Rowena lives in a supposedly haunted palazzo.  It was an orphanage where the children were mistreated by the doctors and nurses and now the place is thought to be haunted by the children who want revenge. Rowena's daughter, Alicia, had supposedly committed suicide the year before when her fiance, Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen) broke off their engagement. Rowena wants to commune with her daughter. When Poirot and Ariadne arrive, they meet Rowena's housekeeper, Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin), the family doctor, Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan) and his creepy little son, Leopold (Jude Hill), and Joyce Reynold's assistant, Desdemona Holland (Emma Laird), all with, shall I say?  Issues.

During the seance, Poirot spots the set-up right away and reveals Desdemona's half-brother, Nicholas (Ali Khan), hiding in the chimney and helping with the special effects. But when Joyce speaks in Alicia's voice and reveals that she had not committed suicide, but rather had been murdered, Poirot is pulled back into what he does best - solving murders.

But the arrogant Poirot is also forced to wonder if he is losing his mojo as he starts seeing and hearing things that make him wonder if the house really is haunted. Is he ever wrong? Could he possibly be wrong about ghosts and hauntings?

After several perplexing incidents and a murder, in true Agatha Christie fashion, during a storm, Poirot gathers all of the suspects together in one room to solve the case. 

They are all there: Maxime, who broke off the engagement because Alicia was too obsessed with keeping her mother happy; the creepy little kid, Leopold, who says he talks with the dead children in the palazzo; unhappy housekeeper, Seminoff;  and Nicholas and Desdemona, who dream of making their way to St. Louis, Missouri to live a life like in the film "Meet Me in St. Louis (long story)." Rowena, Oliver and Poirot's bodyguard, Vitale (Riccardo Scamarcio), are also there.

Loosely based on Christie's story "Hallowe'en Party," with a screenplay by Michael Green and directed by Branagh, this is a haunting (hee hee) visually beautiful and moody tale told in true Christie style.  It has an "old movie" feel but with modern special effects. The film reminded me of the wunderkind Orson Welles and "Citizen Kane," not surprisingly because Branagh, in his early days, was compared to Welles.  It was Welles who started using unusual camera angles, shooting from below, up, down and all around and that is very much in evidence here.  Almost too much.  The camera angles should get their own screen credits.

But the film is fun.  It's fun to try to put the clues together along with Poirot and guess who done it (I got there almost in time).  The film is also very atmospheric and beautiful to watch and the acting is first rate, though Branagh seems to be having just a bit too much fun with Poirot's French accent.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Agatha Christie who-done-its or Branagh's Poirot films, this is the best one yet. (In theatres)

Theater Camp (2023)

When the beloved founder of a theater camp in Upstate New York becomes ill and the bank wants to foreclose, her son and the camp staff work to save the camp. 

Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) is the co-founder and director of AdirondACTS, a summer theater camp.  As the summer begins, Joan attends a performance of "Bye Bye Birdie," starring one of her campers, experiences a seizure and falls into a coma caused by a strobe light that is used during the show (see, those signs you see in the theaters mean something)!  So with Joan in the hospital, her son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) takes over, but Troy is as about as far from being a theater kid as you can get.  When someone mentions a straight play, he asks what a gay play is called.

Troy is a "crypto bro" who looks like a skater dude, and he has difficulty getting along with the theater people.  There is Clive (Nathan Lee Graham), who teaches dance; Amos (Ben Platt), who teaches acting; Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) teaches music, costuming and past lives; and Glenn (Noah Galvin), the techie with a secret, who teaches "The Art of the Spotlight."  A camera crew is following Amos and Rebecca-Diane around as they work on an original play about Joan's life called "Joan, Still." 

But for all of his shortcomings, Troy really wants to help, especially when he discovers that the camp has financial difficulties and the bank is about to foreclose. Troy is approached by Caroline (Patti Harrison), who represents Barnswell Capital, the owners of Camp Lakeside, the more upscale camp next door.  They want to buy AdirondACTS but it comes to light that they plan to dismantle the camp. 

Highjinks ensue as everyone bands together to help Troy save the camp. Think of those Judy Garland movies where theatre kids decide to put on a show in a barn "and my mother will make the costumes!"  Here a character says, "We're theater people.  We know how to turn cardboard into gold!" The movie culminates in the hilariously bad production of "Joan, Still."

Written by Gordon, Platt, Galvin and Nick Lieberman and directed by Gordon and Lieberman and based on their short 2020 film of the same name, this feature length mockumentary features an ensemble cast and affectionately makes fun of actory actors and theater affectations.  Much of it is improvised but it's funny and you theater nerds out there who went to theater camp or longed to become a performer will get the jokes.  

Some funny moments include Amos' comment upon hearing a child's audition piece will be "I Had a Dream" from "Les Miserables."  He says "That's a good song choice.  I totally believe her as a French prostitute," upon which Rebecca-Diane says "Amos!" and he replies, "Sorry.  Sex worker."  There is also a past life regression class where Rebecca-Diane tells one student - "You were once President Warren G. Harding!"  

Platt, Galvin, Gordon and Lieberman are all theatre people and old friends.  The pictures of children at the beginning of the film are of them. Platt is probably best known for his success on Broadway in "Dear Evan Hanson" and Gordon, also in that, is now engaged to Platt and starring in the TV series "The Bear."  It's a great ensemble cast that also includes many talented young kids. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...not sure that anyone else besides theater nerds will get this and find it funny but since I was one from a young age, I enjoyed it. And there is a good message: No matter what the talent level, the theater gives kids a way to express themselves and a sense of belonging. (Hulu)

Killer Book Club (2023)

(Original title: El Club de los Lectores Criminales)

A killer clown is after eight horror loving friends.

Who said horror films can't be fun?  Blumhouse has proven they can be with such "fun" films as "Happy Death Day" and "M3gan." And this film, though gory, is no exception.

Angela (Veki Velilla), Sara (Ane Rot), Nando (Ivan Pellicer), Sebas (Alvaro Mel), Rai (Carlos Alcaide), Koldo (Hamza Zaidi), Eva (Maria Cerezuela) and Virginia (Priscilla Delgado) are all students and friends who form a book club. This is not your old lady book club where the old ladies get their kicks reading "Fifty Shades of Grey."  This is a book club where the kids get their kicks reading horror stories.  Their latest fascination is killer clowns.

Our heroine is Angela, a writer who has experienced writer's block ever since her book was published years before.  But then she gets inspiration and has some chapters she wants her professor to look over. But when she goes to his office, he tries to rape her.  She tells her friends and they devise a plan to seek revenge on the professor.  They all dress in killer clown costumes with the idea of scaring him but the prank turns ugly and the professor is killed.  The kids are now in deep you-know-what, especially when they figure out that one of them is a real killer clown planning to pick them off one by one.

The killer clown publishes a story online called "The Mad Clown," dedicating each chapter to one of the students as he (or she) kills each one, so time is running out. The kids need to solve the mystery before the killer clown gets them all.  Who is the killer clown?  Is it one of them and why is he or she wanting them dead? And what is the secret that Angela has been keeping all of these years? We discover what it is along with what the heck was going on with that cold opening. 

Written by Carlos Garcia Miranda and directed by Carlos Alonso Ojea, this is
derivative of such slasher films as "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer" with classic horror tropes in evidence - lots of running around, bloody impalements (I counted at least three), and plot twists, but what sets this one apart from your standard slasher film is the literary angle and the idea that horror stories are not given the gravitas they deserve because they are considered inauthentic.  I would say that horror films suffer from that same discrimination. But then the students become part of a real life horror story as they are tormented by a killer clown, so as far as they are concerned, horror stories are authentic! And don't we all have our own "horror stories?" 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have coulrophobia, this is not for you (look it up)! But if you like your horror with a little literature and tongue-in-cheek gore, you will enjoy this. (Netflix - in Spanish with English subtitles)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Monday, August 28, 2023

"Strays" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Strays" as well as "Master Gardener," and "Bird Box: Barcelona"]

Strays (2023)

A little dog whose owner has abandoned him teams up with some strays to get revenge.

I know. An R-rated movie starring anthropomorphic dogs.  But, hey, sometimes you just need to go for it and dogs are hilarious, especially dogs that talk, use the F word and consider a billboard featuring a postal worked "the devil in the sky." I'm glad I went for it!

Since this movie is R-rated, I am going to have a difficult time relating the plot or quoting from the movie without offending someone, but basically it's all about little Reggie (voice by Will Ferrell), a border terrier who lives with Doug (Will Forte).  Reggie was Doug's live-in girlfriend's pet but when she left, Doug kept Reggie out of spite even though he hated little Reggie and called him bad names (names I can't repeat here).  You see, Doug is not a very nice person. In fact, he's a bad man.  But Reggie doesn't know that Doug is a bad man.  He thinks Doug loves him and that when he takes him out into the country, throws a ball for Reggie and then drives off that Doug isn't abandoning him, he is playing a game with him called "Fetch and F***."  Doug throws the ball, tells Reggie to fetch and when Reggie finds his way back home Doug says "F***!"

But one day, when Reggie makes his way back home once again, Doug has had enough and takes Reggie three hours away to the big city, and this time Reggie has trouble finding his way back home.  But he meets up with Bug (voice of Jamie Foxx), a street-wise Boston Terrier, Hunter (voice of Randall Park), a Great Dane wearing a "cone of shame," who failed police dog school and is now a therapy dog at an old peoples' home, and Maggie (voice of Isla Fisher), a sweet Australian Shepherd with an uncanny sense of smell, and the three take Reggie under their wings, er, paws and become Reggie's friends.  They convince Reggie that Doug does not really care about him and that he is now a stray.  Reggie can't come to grips with that at first, but when he does, he gets mad and decides that he wants to take revenge by, well, what they want to do to Doug is a bit graphic, but let me say it involves biting a part of Doug's anatomy off and that part rhymes with "stick."  So off the four go to seek revenge on Doug.

And now we have an R-rated version of "The Incredible Journey (except without the cat)."

The screenplay by Dan Perrault is very scatological but hilarious with references to other films like "A Dog's Purpose" and "A Dog's Journey" (there is a funny bit featuring Josh Gad as a Narrator Dog) and Dennis Quaid even makes an appearance being, well, Dennis Quaid. And misfit dogs on an adventure finding friendship is a sort of dog version of "Stand By Me."  

But the dogs themselves are the highlight. This is not an animated film. This film stars real dogs and the dogs "talk." You know how sometimes when the mouths of animals move in films and it looks wonky?  Not here.  It's all spot on and the body language of the dogs reflect the dialogue and emotions perfectly. These are well-trained dogs! But like I said, it's R-rated so lots of leg-humping, butt sniffing, pooping and other activities we have come to know and love from our canine friends. And they are brought to life by wonderful actors.  Jamie Foxx is always funny and I don't think I will ever look at a Boston Terrier the same way again and Will Ferrell is perfect as Reggie.  

But the film, directed by Josh Greenbaum, isn't just about dogs dropping the F-bomb and revenge, it's also about getting out of toxic relationships and the power of friendship.  And believe it or not, I think you will tear up from time to time. But you will also laugh - a lot- especially when Doug gets what's coming to him to the tune of Miley Cyrus's anthem "Wrecking Ball!"

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, the movie is very scatological and obsessed with poop, but if, like me, you love dogs, you will laugh and you will cry and you will run right home and give your furry friend a hug.  And it's only an hour and 33 minutes long! (In theatres)

Master Gardener (2022)

A buttoned up horticulturist with secrets is the caretaker for a garden on a beautiful estate.

Narvel Roth (Joel Edgerton) tends the gardens at Gracewoods, a beautiful estate owned by the wealthy Mrs. Norma Haverhill (Sigourney Weaver). He also tends to Mrs. Haverhill, if you get my meaning. Unbeknownst to those he works with, Roth has a dark past and a dark secret that belies his passive nature, reminding us in these dark political times that we have no idea what is going on inside our fellow humans. And that's the case with Narvel. Slowly it unfolds just who Narvel was. But he has found solace in his role as gardener, quietly tending to plants.

But then enter, Maya (Quintessa Swindell), Mrs. Haverhill's grand-niece, a young biracial girl. Her mother has died and Mrs. Haverhill wants Roth to take Maya on as an apprentice so that she can eventually take over the Gardens, an odd assignment since Mrs. Haverhill has little to do with Maya while she is there.  And it doesn't help when Maya and Roth become close (we saw that coming a mile away). When Norma spots Roth leaving Maya's room, she fires them both. 

Like Roth, Maya has a troubled past, and though she is trying to clean herself up, her drug dealer, R.G. (Jared Bankens) and his friend, Sissy (Matt Mercurio), show up and cause her trouble and eventually vandalize the gardens leading to a violent showdown.

Writer/director Paul Schrader is known for his gritty films like "Hardcore," "Raging Bull" and "American Gigolo," and one can't help but draw parallels here with one of his most famous films - "Taxi Driver."  An odd older loner befriends a troubled young girl that culminates in violence? Mmmm, sounds very familiar.    

But though it's slow to get going, when it does it exudes the dark, sinister quality we have come to associate with Schrader, but unlike with "Taxi Driver," Schrader has softened a bit because there is an optimism here as he draws parallels to the life of a garden to life itself. And Schrader shows here that he is also the master of his film garden with interesting camera angles, an intense focus and artistic juxtaposition of the quiet solitude and healing of a garden and the violence of the real world.

Joel Edgerton has perfected the hang dog, troubled-guy-with-demons persona and newcomer Swindell holds her own with him.  And 73-year-old Sigourney Weaver, who doesn't look a day over 50, lends her own finely honed persona, that of the well-bred icy wealthy woman.

As an aside, this film is all about flowers and plants and stars Weaver.  Interestingly, there is a series on Amazon Prime right now starring Weaver called "The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart" which is also all about flowers and plants. I guess flowers and plants as symbols of life is a thing. But I digress...

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you seek a "smart" movie like "Oppenheimer," except shorter and better, this not only gives you something to think about but combines an interesting story with lots of drama. Worth seeking out.  (Amazon Prime)

Bird Box: Barcelona (2023)

There is an evil entity out there and if you look at it, you will kill yourself.  

"Bird Box" starring Sandra Bullock was one of the most popular movies of all time on Netflix and this film is clearly taking advantage of that.  I am usually not a fan of remakes or sequels, but in my mind, this one isn't really either of those things. It's a more like another chapter. It makes sense that the evil entity we first encountered in "Bird Box" would have taken over the world and is now in Spain wreaking havoc there, so I am not mad at that, and this is in fact a sort of reverse version of the original as it has a major twist.

If you remember from the first one, there is something out there that no one can see but if their eyes are open when it swirls around and they "see" it, it somehow manipulates their emotions and they will instantly kill themselves. So everyone wears a blindfold when outside. 

At the beginning of the film, we meet Sebastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter, Anna (Alejandra Howard), but in a series of flashbacks we learn that Sebastian lost his wife and driven by grief and despair is on a mission. We also learn that our hero is perhaps not really a hero.

It seems that some people can look at the entities and not turn to self harm and a cult has formed around these people led by Padre Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who believes that the entities are angels and that humanity would be liberated from suffering by embracing death. So there are people out there trying to avoid looking at the entities and other people out there trying get people to look so they will be saved. In flashbacks, we learn that Sebastian encountered the Padre and his life changed. 

Later, Sebastián encounters another group that believes that they will be saved if they reach Montjuic Castle, considered a safe haven. Sebastian joins them but has an existential crisis as he begins to doubt his beliefs.

Written and directed by David and Alex Pastor, unlike the original "Bird Box," the film has many religious overtones that questions organized religion and blindly following one's beliefs.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...though the flashbacks that eventually reveal Sebastian's mission are confusing at times, the film is engrossing and scary and one can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of a franchise.  Is "Bird Box Paris" next? (Netflix - In Spanish, English and German with English subtitles)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

More Good Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review M. Night Shyamalan's latest film "Knock at the Cabin" as well as two British films: "The Phantom of the Open" and "Love Sarah."]

Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Eric (Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Ben Aldridge) are on vacation with their daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui), at a remote cabin when there is an ominous knock on the door.  Uh-oh.

This is one of those "What if...?" movies as in what if you were having a nice vacation in a cabin in the woods - just you and your husband and your daughter - and four people knock on the door and then force their way into your life and tell you that if you don't decide to kill one of your family members, the world will end.

That's a big "what if...?" right?

Well, that's what is happening here. 

Eric and Andrew are on vacation in a remote cabin with their adopted daughter, Wen.  While Wen is outside capturing grasshoppers "to study," she is approached by a man who introduces himself as Leonard (Dave Bautista).  But after awhile he gives Wen the creeps and she sees three other strangers carrying weapons.  She runs inside to tell her dads about the man.  But before anyone can do anything, Leonard and the three others are knocking on the door and eventually break it down.  

Along with Leonard, we meet Redmond (Rupert Grint), Adriane (Abby Quinn) and Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird).  They have come to tell Eric and Andrew that the world will come to an end if they don't decide to sacrifice one of their family members. Naturally, Eric and Andrew say, "" But then Eric and Andrew are tied up as Leonard tells his doomsday story.

Leonard tells Eric and Andrew that they are not there to kill them, but if they don't make this sacrifice, they will live but will roam the earth alone after the rest of humanity has perished.  Leonard turns on the TV to show Eric and Andrew what is happening in the world - first a tsunami hits the West Coast, then a virus, then airplanes start falling from the sky. Is any of this true? Is it a conspiracy?  What will Eric and Andrew decide?

Leonard's menacing physique belies the fact that he is actually a gentle giant, a second grade teacher who has joined forces with Sabrina, who was a nurse and Adriane and Redmond (not sure what they did before becoming weapon-wielding prophets of doom), all of whom have had the same apocalyptic visions.

Through a series of flashbacks we get to know more about Eric and Andrew and the others, and the film briefly deals with same-sex marriage and hints at the discrimination that gays have experienced but it doesn't really go there. I wish it had explored that more.

Based on the book "The Cabin at the End of the World" by Paul Tremblay and directed by M. Knight Shyamalan (who also wrote the screenplay with Michael Sherman and Steve Desmond), Shyamalan is good at these kinds of horror films with preposterous plots.  Shyamalan has a knack for creating tension and making you question reality, so despite the outrageousness of the premise, I was hooked and it was tense.  I mean, really?  Is this for real? What is going to happen? 

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, it's a crazy premise and sometimes the film is almost laughable, but, at the same time, it is gripping and makes us wonder, just what would we do to save others and that is the kind of movie that becomes a cult classic. (On DVD and for rent on Amazon Prime)

The Phantom of the Open (2021)

Maurice Flitcroft, a complete novice golfer, manages to get himself into the qualifying round of the 1976 British Open. True story.

No, I did not do a typo.  This was not meant to be "Phantom of the Opera."  It really is "Phantom of the Open," and it's all about a guy who couldn't play golf to save his life, but somehow he managed to get himself into the British Open ...and not once, but six times... using pseudonyms and disguises.

Maurice (the Brits pronounce this "Morris") Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) is a retired crane operator who needs to find purpose.  He had never attempted to play golf before but after seeing a clip of Tom Watson winning the British Open in 1975, just like that, he decides to take up golf and enter the 1976 British Open.  And through a fluke, he gets himself in as a professional and scores 121, the worst score every recorded at the Open by a so-called "professional golfer." 

Based on the book "The Phantom of the Open: Maurice Flitcroft, The World's Worst Golfer," written by Scott Murray and Simon Farnaby (screenplay by Farnaby), this is based on a true story - yes, Maurice Flitcroft was a real guy. 

After the initial debacle that Flitcroft caused at the 1976 Open, the Open did what they could to keep Flitcroft out, but he continued to try to enter and often succeeded by using fake names like Gene Paycheki, Gerrard Hoppy, James Beau Jolley, Arnold Palmtree and Count Manfred von Hoffmanstel and by wearing disguises.  But despite his ineptitude as a golfer, he gained fame, or rather notoriety as "The World's Worst Golfer" and had the distinction of a golf tournament named after him in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Oh, those crazy Michiganders!

Directed by Craig Roberts, this is an enjoyable movie that pokes fun at the stuffy aspects of golf and shows where there's a will, there's a way, as Maurice doggedly follows his dream. Mark Rylance, one of those actors who can do anything and be anyone, embodies the ever optimistic Flitcroft, and likewise, Sally Hawkins as Maurice's loyal and supportive wife, Jean, is perfect.  If Maurice was the world's worst golfer, his wife Jean was the world's best wife.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a feel good movie that golfers will especially like. (Amazon Prime)

Love Sarah (2020)

When her mother is tragically killed right before realizing her dream of opening a bakery in London, 19-year-old Clarissa decides that with the help of her mother's best friend, Isabella, and her grandmother, Mimi, she will open the bakery herself.

Baker Sarah (Candice Brown) and her friend, Isabella (Shelley Conn), were going to open a bakery in London, but Sarah is killed cycling to her new bakery and Isabella is left holding the financial bag.  Not a confident baker herself, she decides to give up and sell the store until Sarah's daughter, Clarissa (Shannon Tarbet), talks her into going ahead with the bakery. Clarissa is a wannabe ballerina with some bad habits who has just broken up with her boyfriend.  She enlists the help of her grandmother, Mimi (Celia Imrie), a retired trapeze artist (I know, where did that come from?), not an easy feat since she has been estranged from her.

At first the women struggle to find their footing, but Mimi hones in on the idea of creating pastries and desserts that honor the diverse Notting Hill population, to give them a taste of home.  You want a Kringle from your home country of Denmark?  Sure, you got it!  Want a Japanese cake?  They will figure out how to make it!

Enter Sarah's ex-boyfriend, the handsome Mathew (Rupert Penry-Jones), who just happens to know how to bake and might just be Clarissa's father.  And there is even some romance for Mimi when inventor Felix (the veteran actor, Bill Paterson) enters the picture.

All of these characters come together to form a community. Wounds are healed as these three women of three different generations grapple with their grief and differences to honor Sarah. They name the bakery after her - Love Sarah.

All of the cast members are excellent, especially Celia Imrie, who is one of those ubiquitous British actresses who you recognize but you don't know her name (right now she is starring in the Netflix series "The Diplomat" and the movie "Love Again.")

Written by Jake Brunger (story by Mahalia Rimmer, Eliza Schroeder and Brungerand directed by Schroeder, this is one of those small heart-felt movies that the Brits are so good at.

Rosy the Reviewer of the Great British Baking Show (aka "The Great British Bake Off") will particularly enjoy this (the Sarah of the title - Candice Brown - who is briefly seen at the beginning of the film, is one of the real life winners).  It's a film as sweet as the pastries made in the bakery and just like eating a delicious macaron, you will feel good after seeing this film. (Amazon Prime)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)