Showing posts with label Maria Callas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maria Callas. Show all posts

Friday, November 8, 2019

"Dolemite is My Name" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Eddie Murphy's new movie "Dolemite is My Name" as well as DVDs "The Hustle" and "Maria by Callas."  The Book of the Week is "Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple" by Tieghan Gerard.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Baker's Wife."]

Dolemite is My Name

The Story of Rudy Ray Moore.

Never heard of him?  Well, Eddie Murphy wants you to know who he was and this is a tribute to Moore.  And speaking of Eddie Murphy, he is a big way!  Back in the 80's, Eddie was on fire with his stint on SNL, his stand-up comedy act and starring in such hits as "Trading Places," "Beverly Hills Cop," "48 Hours" and "Coming to America," but then he hit a snag with clunkers like "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" and "Norbit" and then was virtually off the screen for the last ten years.  But despite some missteps, I have always been a big Eddie fan and glad to see he is back playing the comedy legend Rudy Ray Moore.

Back in the 70's, Moore couldn't get arrested.  He was a wannabe singer, a wannabe comic, and a wannabe actor, working in a record store by day and acting as an MC in a club by night. Rudy had come to California hoping to become the next Sammy Davis Jr. but as the film begins he laments his life saying "I ain't got nothin.'" Despite promoting himself to the club owner, Rudy could never get a gig until he ran across a homeless guy named Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones) who often wandered into the record store telling "hobo jokes" in a sort of rapping rhyme.  

One of Ricco's "jokes" was about a character named Dolemite, "the baddest mother-f***er who ever lived."  A light bulb goes off in Rudy and he seeks out Ricco and his homeless cohorts and tapes them, eventually building an act around Dolemite.  In fact, he becomes Dolemite, a colorfully dressed, swaggering pimp who brags about his sexual prowess and tells stories using rhyming poetry and lots of expletives.  Dolemite is a hit and Moore's career takes off, leading to cross-country tours with his very "blue" comedy act. Then comedy albums followed (remember those)? 

But Rudy wanted more. When he and his friends attend the film "The Front Page," which was a hot film in the 80's starring Jack Lemmon, Rudy had another awakening.  Sitting there with his friends, he realized this very popular film was not about them.  It was about a bunch of white middle class guys working at a newspaper.  Where was the "bone-crushing, skull-splitting, brain-blasting action" he and his pals enjoyed? 

“This movie had no titties, no funny and no kung-fu,” Moore says, “the stuff people like us wanna see.” 

So Rudy realized that if he really wanted to be a star, he had to make movies.  How hard could it be? So Rudy decided to make his own films starring Dolemite and his film "Dolemite" became legend in the world of Blaxploitation cinema, where Moore was actually parodying the genre. Five more Dolemite films followed. So this film is not just about Moore, but also a film within a film as we get to watch Moore undertaking his first film. It was harder than he thought!

Though the film is about Rudy Ray Moore, who has been dubbed "the godfather of rap," one could extrapolate that it's also a celebration of black comedy and culture.

The film, written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (who also wrote "Ed Wood" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt) and directed by Craig Brewer ("Hustle and Flow"), is a smart and stylish film that brings together a potpourri of black comics and actors: Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, Tituss Burgess, T.I...even Snoop Dogg, Chris Rock and Wesley Snipes make appearances.  Poor Wesley.  He was so hot in action films and then got himself into some tax trouble that landed him in jail for three years, but here he shows what he can do by playing an outrageous and funny character in some of the best moments in the film.

But the film is really all about Eddie, who not only stars but produced the film. We've missed you Eddie.  So glad you are back!

Rosy the Reviewer says...Eddie's still got it!
(This film was released simultaneously into theatres and on Netflix so there is no excuse for you not to see it)! 

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


The Hustle (2019)

The female version of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" was funny and memorable. This one wasn't. I loved "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."  Didn't like this one.

Now I am all for movies about female empowerment, even if the empowerment is conning men, but the film just wasn't funny. 

And then there is Rebel Wilson.

Here's a quiz:

  • Is Rebel Wilson really funny?
  • Do we want to see Rebel Wilson falling down and sliding across the floor yet again?
  • Are we sick of her schtick yet?

Penny (Wilson) is an American con-woman who preys on guys on dating sites using another, hotter woman's picture.  When she shows up to meet the guy in a bar and sees the disappintment on the guy's face, she says she is the friend of the girl on the Internet and then hits the guy up for money for the girl to get a boob job. Well, what guy wouldn't want to spend money to get a boob job for a girl he has never met?  Are you laughing yet?

After running that scheme too many times in bars, Penny decides she needs to get out of Dodge - Well, actually New York City - so she decides to head to the French Riviera.  What she doesn't realize is that the French Riviera is Janet's territory.  Janet (Anne Hathaway) is also a hustler, but unlike Penny, her hustle is a high class, sophisticated hustle.  When the two meet, Janet is not happy to share her territory with Penny, and so Janet decides she needs to get rid of her. She strikes a deal with Penny: whomever can con Thomas (Alex Sharp), a rich tech guy who is staying at the hotel, out of $500,000 first, gets to stay.  The other must leave. So they set up an elaborate scheme...and if you don't see how this is going to end, you don't go to the movies much.

Rebel does her usual slapstick stuff because I guess we are supposed to think that fat girls falling down is funny.  She seems to do that in every one of her films.  And that is sad because Rebel can actually act and has a poignant side, but we don't see that much.

And then there is Alex Sharp.  Either I am just getting older and older or actors are getting younger and younger but this guy looks like he is about 12.  Not sure if that was the point since he plays a rather naive young guy, but sheesh, he looks young, too young to play a tech tycoon.

Directed by Chris Addison, this is almost a complete replica of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," except with women, so much so that writers Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning share writing credits with the original writers of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," but sadly this version is neither funny nor memorable. One could make the case that the film tries to make a statement about women who are getting back at men for being treated so poorly by them, but it doesn't really work nor did I care enough to give this film that much thought.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are in the mood for a funny movie about con artists, watch the original "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

Maria by Callas (2017)

A documentary about opera star, Maria Callas, in her own words.

Callas was one of the most famous and renowned opera singers of the twentieth century.  Where acting in opera had been overdramatic or nonexistant, she brought opera into the 20th century through her realistic portrayals of classic characters.  She also had a rather operatic personal relationship with Aristotle Onassis, her one true love, who broke her heart when he married Jacqueline Kennedy.

All of that and more is here in this absorbing documentary told through interviews and performances as well as private letters and unpublished memoirs, brought to life through the voice of singer Joyce DiDonata.  This is Callas's real story told in her own words.

Callas was thrust into the spotlight because of her talent but also because of her overbearing mother, but despite her fame it seems that all she really wanted was a normal life.  Many people thought Callas was Greek.  She was of Greek descent but was born and raised in New York City until her parents did eventually move to Greece.  Maria was a dedicated student but was seemingly forced into her career by her mother and then later kept in the yoke by her manager/husband.  

Though her performances and the "home movies" of her personal life were fascinating, the Super-8 footage was shown with its sprocket holes visible which I found very distracting.  In this day and age where film can do just about anything, not sure why director Tom Volf didn't splice that footage into the film a bit more elegantly.

Callas was often described as a difficult diva, but this film captures her vulnerability and the loneliness she suffered before her untimely death at only 53.

I am a huge opera fan and get goose bumps listening to Callas sing this:


Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are an opera lover, you will love this film.

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

55 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

(La Femme du Boulanger)

When the new baker's wife runs off with another man, the baker stops baking and the village is in turmoil!

The French love their bread!  So when Aimable Castanier (Raimu), the new baker, arrives in the small Provencal village, it's the talk of the town.  Will his bread be good?  Yes, the bread is good, so all is well.  Aimable is married to Aurelie (Ginette Leclerc), a beautiful and much younger woman. She is also the talk of the town, which is something, because most of the people in the town aren't really talking to each other.  There is the Catholic priest (Robert Vattier) and the non-believing teacher (Robert Bassac), who argue about whether or not Joan of Arc heard voices or THOUGHT she heard voices; there is disapproval about the Marquis (Fernand Charpin) and his "nieces" who live with him; and there are two farmers fighting over what to do about a tree  hanging over one of their properties. But when Aurelie runs off with another man, Aimable is so distraught, he stops baking bread and the villagers must forget their differences and band together to go find the baker's wife and bring her back! They need their bread!

Orson Welles called Raimu one of the greatest actors of all time and director Marcel Pagnol was a celebrated playwright turned movie director and the two created a masterpiece of classic French cinema that captures French village life.
When Aurelie returns, Aimable forgives her and acts like nothing has happened, instead, taking his rage out on his female cat who had run off.  A classic bit of acting that is both masterful and poignant.

Why it's a Must See: "Pagnol [has] fashioned a comic gem and a humanist masterpiece."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer this is a classic film!

***The Book of the Week***

Half Baked Harvest Super Simple:  More than 125 Recipes for Instant, Overnight, Meal-Prepped and Easy Comfort Foods: A Cookbook by Tieghan Gerard (2019)

Gerard takes on easy comfort food recipes in her second cookbook.

At this point, it's probably no surprise that I love cookbooks.  I do.  I also love cooking, but reading a cookbook is just as much fun. This is the second cookbook by Gerard that I have reviewed (I reviewed her first cookbook last month), and she is my current favorite cook because of her original take on classic recipes, using unusual ingredients such as baby spinach and marinated artichokes in mac and cheese or adding balsamic vinegar to marinara sauce.  Her "Egg-in-a-Hole" recipe is a combination egg sandwich and grilled cheese sandwich, and why not use cauliflower florets instead of chicken for some buffalo bites? Her innovated mix of ingredients not only work, they are delicious.

Gerard is a blogger (Half Baked Harvest) and grew up, one of nine children, in the Colorado mountains.  At thirteen, she started cooking, helping her Dad prepare meals and within only a few months took over making dinner.  She loved dreaming up her own recipes, putting her own spin on classics and that led to her blog and her full-time job as a food writer and cookbook author.

Most recipes have several ways to prepare them - pressure cooker, stovetop, oven, so you can use your Instant Pot for most or do it the old-fashioned way. And best of all, many recipes use just one pot e.g. that mac and cheese dish is whipped up in one pot and transferred to a baking dish, macaroni and all! All of the recipes are quick and easy, "all designed to make your life just a bit easier."

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Everything Bagel Salad
  • Crispy Chicken Khao Soi Noodle Soup
  • Chicken Tinga Tacos
  • Coconut Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Sundried Tomato Turkey Meatball Bake
  • Extra Saucy Coconut Fish Curry

And yes, there is a whole chapter for you vegetarians out there, too, with those yummy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites, Spaghetti Squash Alfredo and Garlic Butter Ramen, to name only a few vegetarian recipes included.

Rosy the Reviewer new favorite cookbook!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Last Christmas"


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.