Showing posts with label Jean Renoir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jean Renoir. Show all posts

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Rampage" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Rampage" as well as DVDs "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" and "Downsizing." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "A Day in the Country."]


There is something called "Genetic Editing" and there is a reason it has been outlawed. It has this strange effect: it makes animals very, very big and very, very mean.

Yes, this is a monster movie based on a video game, and I can hear you saying, "What is a sixty-something woman doing at a movie like that?"  Well, I have a confession to make.  I have this huge crush on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.  If you remember my review of "Jumanji" recently I said that I was not a big fan of ex-wrestlers becoming actors but then Dwayne just won me over.  He has that unusual combination of rugged handsomeness combined with a self-deprecating sense of humor that I find very charming.  And I have to say his baldness is alarmingly sexy and I won't even go into those guns, er, arms of his.

But truth be told, I like to go to the movies early in the morning when I have the theatre all to myself and this was one of the few films that I hadn't already seen that fit that criteria.

Here Dwayne plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist and wildlife activist fighting against poaching and working for a San Diego wildlife sanctuary.  He is also ex-special ops which will come in handy later.  He looks after the gorillas at the zoo and communicates with them using sign language.  He has a special affinity for George (Jason Liles, who can give Andy Serkis a run for his money), an albino gorilla with a sense of humor who he saved from poachers. As I said, George has a sense of humor and finds it hilarious to give Davis the finger. However, Davis's and George's world is going to get turned upside down soon, because there are some bad guys out there messing with genetics.

And those bad guys are Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother, Brett (Jake Lacy), who own the Chicago company Energyne.  They have been playing around with "genetic editing," a process whereby certain characteristics of certain animals can be put together to create a super big, super strong and super aggressive version.  This is such a scary process that it's been banned, but that isn't stopping our villains who have sent a lab up into space to test the process in secret.  However, things go wrong up there and canisters of the concoction fall to earth and not only does a wolf in Montana and an alligator in Florida get into them but one falls into George's cage too.  Let's just say all three of those animals start to grow very, very fast and get very, very mean.

Claire and Brett now want those animals so they can do something with them. Not sure what.  Claire devises a high frequency antenna that will lure the animals to Chicago.  Also not sure why she wants to do that since these giant animals aren't going to do Chicago any good.  But anyway, the animals can supposedly hear the sound from far away and it is so annoying to them that they will do anything to get there and turn it off.  Now don't think too hard about how a gigantic alligator from Florida is going to swim from there to the Chicago River or why Claire thinks it's a good idea for three humongous monsters to come to Chicago since they are certain to destroy it, because to enjoy this film you have to suspend not just disbelief but ALL disbelief because, well, it's that kind of movie.

Davis teams up with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) who once worked for Energyne and feels bad about creating this bad DNA, and the two must save Chicago.  Well, with George's help, too, because George may be big and mean but he's our George.

Written by Ryan Engle, Ryan J. Condle, Carlton Cuse and Adam Sztykiel and directed by Brad Peyton, this is a fun monster movie with some scary moments, some blood and gore, if you are into that kind of thing, and some really good CGI monsters and it allows Dwayne to do what he does best
fight monsters, jump out of buildings and scale walls all while throwing out the casual bon mots.  

Dwayne is a big box office draw.  Most every movie he is in does well at the box office.  Though this one is not one of his all-time biggest films, it's a good monster film that serves him well.  And our ape, George, is a big old sweetheart when he isn't throwing cars around like they are toys and chewing up the bad guys.  Think a scary but deep down, a very sweet King Kong.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like "The Rock" he does not disappoint in this silly monster movie that is also a lot fun.

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


Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

The story of actress Gloria Grahame's final years.

Does anyone out there even know who Gloria Grahame was?  Probably not.  Does that affect your enjoyment of this film if you don't know who she was?  Not really, because it's the eternal story of a has-been film star on the skids and a May-December romance.  It's a story that many film stars have lived through and will again, but it's brought to life here with stunning performances by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell.  You probably remember Jamie Bell when he splashed onto the screen in "Billy Elliott at the age of 14.  Well, our Jamie has grown into quite a handsome and dashing leading man.

For those of you who are too young to remember, Gloria Grahame was an actress who toiled mostly in "B" movies of the 1940's and 1950's playing gun molls, femme fatales and bad girls, but she also was a good enough actress to win a Best Supporting Oscar actress for "The Bad and the Beautiful."  She is probably not remembered much today and sadly died young of cancer at the age of 58, but Peter Turner, on whose memoir this film is based, remembers her very well because the two shared a May-December love affair when he was in his twenties and Grahame was dying of cancer and her career was on the wane.

The film begins with Grahame's career in decline in 1981 and she is also dying.  She (Bening) is in England starring in "The Glass Menagerie," but her health hinders her so she calls Peter (Bell), an old but much younger lover and she gets him to take her to his home in Liverpool.  She is convinced that under the care of his family she will get better.  

With that, the film flashes back to their first meeting in the late 70's.  Peter is a young actor in his 20's and Gloria is in her 50's. She may be in her 50's, but Gloria still thinks she is the same blonde bombshell she played in so many of her films, as many aging bombshells often do. They live across the hall from each other and she invites him in to dance the hustle with her in a wonderful scene where the two throw caution to the wind as they dance around her apartment, a metaphor for the caution that is going to be thrown to the wind when these two get together romantically.  

You see, Gloria may now be in her 50's, her career may be on the wane and she may be the mother of four children with four ex husbands behind her, but no one told her that women in the their 50's aren't sexy or can't have any lover they want.  She is a tat delusional because she thinks she can still play Juliet but hey, if you think you've got it you do, so she pursues Peter and the two embark on a love affair.

In addition to Bell, other members of the ensemble includ Julie Walters who plays Peter's mother and Vanessa Redgrave who plays Gloria's mother.  And I have to say that those three - Bening, Walters and Redgrave - constitute a trifecta of actresses I really respect, not just for their acting abilities but because all three look like they have decided to let themselves age naturally.  A few wrinkles look far better on a woman than duck lips and a face that can't move.

Directed by Paul McGuigan and adapted for the film from Turner's memoir by Matt Greenhalgh, the film is a great evocation of 1970's and early 80's London and Liverpool with a wonderful soundtrack but this film is all about Bening and her portrayal of Grahame.  She does a wonderful job of channeling Grahame and her struggles, never once devolving into schlock or turning her into a cartoon. She has changed her walk and even her voice to evoke Grahame.  McGuigan, Greenhalgh and Benning are all respectful of Grahame's final days, but this story is not just Grahame's story.  It's Peter's story too, a story of young love that you never get over.

When I first saw the previews, I really, really wanted to see this film.  

This kind of film is right in my wheelhouse.  It felt like those old Lana Turner and Douglas Sirk films of the 50's and 60's, which I loved, but I can't help but wonder why the filmmakers thought anyone would remember Grahame or care that much. But as I said, you don't really have to know who she was to appreciate this classic May-December romance between a young man and a much older woman or Bening's brilliant performance.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can't understand how the Academy missed Benning when it came time to hand out Academy Award nominations for Best Actress.  She was phenomenal in this.

Downsizing (2017)

This film gives a whole new meaning to the term "downsizing."

We all long for a better life and will no doubt have to downsize at some point, and especially those of us of a certain age consider downsizing, which in most cases means getting rid of stuff and buying a smaller house.  Not here. This film takes downsizing to an extreme. This is not about having a huge yard sale and getting rid of stuff or selling your four bedroom house and moving into a trailer, this is literally downsizing oneself as in going from six feet to six inches.

It's the future and using a process of cellular reduction, Norwegian scientists have discovered the way to make humans smaller as a way to handle over-population. Communities aimed at smaller humans are cropping up and being touted as Disneylands for adults.

Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), who have been struggling financially, meet an old friend who has "downsized" and this piques their interest.  Paul is a physical therapist and Audrey works in retail and though they are happily married they are both longing for a better life.  They live in the house Paul grew up in, and Paul had wanted to be a doctor but had to quit school to care for his mom.  When he goes to his high school reunion he reunites with his old friend, Dave (Jason Sudeikis), who has gone through the downsizing process and is now living in a mansion and has lots of money, all because he got smaller.  I guess when you get smaller, everything is cheaper.

Paul, feeling he is in a rut and needs a reset button, is intrigued so Paul and Audrey visit Leisureland, one of the communities for downsized people, which is more like Disneyland than a housing development.  They see the kind of life they can have if they get smaller especially when they discover that $100,000 translates into $12,000,000 in Leisureland.  So they decide to do it but when Paul wakes up small he discovers that Audrey didn't go through with it.  Something about having her head shaved spooked her.  So now Paul is on his own and the film is ripe for satire, which it handles well for the first half of the film at least.

The first half of the film was fun and interesting but when the film devolved into Vietnamese activists and everyone moving underground, the whole thing kind of fell apart for me.

You would think this film would be a comedy.  Though it has some comic elements, it's not.  It's actually more like science fiction with some bits of dark comedy thrown in. This is one of those "what if" movies - what if we could literally downsize ourselves as in become much smaller and thus live a better life.  But there is also a dark side to downsizing, such as using downsizing as a way to deal with refugees, poor people and dissidents, which Paul soon discovers, and that's when the film started to lose me. That whole concept is fascinating but the filmmakers tried to do too much and lost an opportunity for either high comedy or at least a stronger political statement. Because they didn't go all in on either of those, the film hangs a bit in limbo with the viewer not really knowing what to think or how to react and wondering what the point of it all was.

And, the film, directed by Alexander Payne with a screenplay by Payne and Jim Taylor, was way too long for the content.  Ninety minutes in I was looking at my watch and there was still 45 minutes to go.  The filmmakers should have learned a lesson from their own film, because the film itself needed some downsizing.

Along with Damon and Wiig, Christoph Waltz plays Paul's shady neighbor (you see, even if you downsize you can't escape those looking to make a buck).  Never been a big Waltz fan but I liked him here and Hong Chau as a Vietnamese dissident is also notable.

I love Matt Damon but he hasn't made very good decisions about his roles lately.  Though I think he is good at comedy and I love his slow burns and deadpan reactions to the chaos around him, they weren't enough to save this film.  It didn't do well, nor did "Suburbicon," another quirky film Damon did last year.  Both films had interesting ideas but fell short.  It's not Matt's fault, I know, but he deserves better.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting idea that didn't go anywhere.

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

145 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

A Day in the Country (1936)
("Une Partie de Compagne")

The family of a Parisien shop owner travel to the country for the day and the daughter and the mother have romantic encounters.

This is a short film (41 minutes) based on a story by Guy de Maupassant and directed by Jean Renoir, the son of the famous impressionist painter, Pierre- Auguste. Though Renoir meant to make a short film, he was called away to direct "The Lower Depths" before this film was completed and it was only years later that his team finished and released the film.

M. Dufour (Andre Gabriello) borrows a milk cart and takes his wife (Jane Marken) and daughter, Henriette (Sylvia Bataille) and his future son-in-law, Anatole (Paul Temps), out into the country for the day.  They stop for lunch at a road side restaurant where they meet two local laborers, Henri (Georges D'Arnoux) and Rodolphe (Jacques B. Brunius listed as Jacques Borel), who scheme together on how they can get the ladies alone and seduce them. At first it's a country folk vs. city folk situation where the country folk have contempt for the Parisiens but that soon changes.

While M. Dufour and Anatole doze in the sun, Henri and Rodolphe invite the ladies to go for a boat ride on the lake.  Henri tries to kiss Henriette and she initially rebuffs him but eventually gives in and there is a juicy close-up (as my Dad used to say) of a very sensual kiss. At the end of the day, Henri wants to see Henriette again but she tells him she could never venture out into the country alone and they part.  

Years later, when Henriette is married to Anatole they venture out once again into the country and Henriette remembers where she kissed Henri.  And wouldn't you know, there he is.  While Anatole once again dozes in the sun, Henriette and Henri reminisce but with tears in her eyes, Henriette returns to Anatole and her less than happy life.

Why it's a Must See: "It a self-sufficient gem."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a bittersweet but beautifully filmed moment in time about a brief romance remembered wistfully forever.

(b & w, French with English subtitles)

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


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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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.