Showing posts with label Meshes of the afternoon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meshes of the afternoon. Show all posts

Friday, August 16, 2019

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Art of Racing in the Rain" as well as DVDs "The Intruder" and "Pet Sematary."  The Book of the Week is "My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress" by Rachel DeLoache Williams.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Meshes of the Afternoon."]

The Art of Racing in the Rain

The story of race car driver Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) as seen through the eyes of his dog, Enzo.

W.C. Fields famously said, "Never work with children or animals" so Milo Ventimiglia has his hands full in this film because it features both.

But this is no "Old Yeller." Yes, the dog dies but that's not a spoiler. We learn that early on when he is dying of old age.  No, the film is more about Denny Swift, a race car driver who can't seem to get into gear.  Gear, get it?  I know my car stuff.  And actually it's somebody else who dies unexpectedly.  But before all of that, Denny is trying to make it to a winning Formula One team but can't catch a break.  Meanwhile, he decides to get a dog and chooses a little golden retriever he names Enzo, after Enzo Ferrari.  The two bond and it's a real bromance...until SHE comes along. Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried) and they fall in love and get married much to Enzo's consternation.

How do I know all of this?  Because the film is narrated by Enzo (actually it's Kevin Costner) and Denny's courtship of and marriage to Eve is all seen through Enzo's eyes as well as the birth of their little girl, Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and the heartbreak he endures when Eve's parents try to get custody of Zoe.

Enzo believes in the Mongolian legend that if a dog "is prepared" he will be reincarnated as a man in his next life so he watches and learns, mostly from television (yes, your dog is watching), but also from racing, relating the art of racing to life.  For example, rain is an unpredictable element when it comes to racing but if you plan for it you can turn it to your advantage.  

"There is no dishonor in losing the race. There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose." 

And "That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny."

Enzo is a very deep dog.  

Based on the best-selling book by Garth Stein and adapted by Mark Bomback, the story is a predictable and sentimental one, elements I usually dislike in a film, but there's something about the dog. Maybe it's Kevin Costner's voice.  I love me my Kevin.  But Milo, who is on a roll these days making a huge splash in the hit TV show "This is Us," is also charismatic and Seyfried is a lovely actress. And in a little bit of serendipity, Martin Donovan plays Eve's Dad, and I just reviewed one of his first feature films ("Trust") last week, one he made 29 years ago. Nice to see something like that come full circle. He has had a long and successful career since then.  

But this film is really all about racing and the dog.  

Directed by Simon Curtis, this film isn't going to win an Academy Award nor will it probably be remembered next year.  All I know is that when I was watching it, I enjoyed it.  Sometimes a film is just an enjoyable moment in time...and sometimes that's enough. 

And my Dad would have loved this film. I grew up in a car mad family and drove souped up cars to McDonalds when I was a teenager in the 1960's.  Let's just say my Dad and brother raced our family cars at stock car races. My brother made sure I knew what to say about the car when boys asked what was under the hood - "375 hp, dual four barrels, it's bored and stroked and can do 0-60 in seven seconds."

This is for you, Dad!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the kind of film I should hate but I actually really liked it. 

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


The Intruder (2019)

What do you do when you buy your dream house and the previous owner won't leave?

That's what happens to Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) who leave the rat race of San Francisco to move to the Napa Valley.  At first, Charlie (Dennis Quaid), the owner, seems amiable enough except for the fact that when they first meet him he is wielding a rifle and has just killed a deer right in front of them!  

Foreshadowing of what's to come perhaps?  A signal that maybe they shouldn't buy this property after all?  Anyway, Charlie tells them he is selling so he can move to Florida to be with his daughter.  He sells the house to them and drives off, but one day, Scott comes home to find Charlie mowing the lawn. And Charlie just keeps showing up with more and more excuses.  Charlie also seems to have an unhealthy interest in Annie. Naturally she is clueless and even invites him over for Thanksgiving dinner! And even though he keeps showing up and acting nutty, SHE KEEPS INVITING HIM IN! Things naturally go from bad to worse as Charlie's true intentions become clear.

So who is the "intruder?" Is it Charlie who won't leave?  Or is it Scott who stands between Charlie getting Annie and having the life his twisted mind desires?

Written by David Loughery and directed by Deon Taylor, this is one of those "we can't get rid of the landlord/roommate/stalker (you fill in the blank)" kind of movie.  Innocent couple buys a dream house only to have it become a nightmare.  We've seen this movie a thousand times, but I must admit that I never tire of them. I know they are bad, but I like these kinds of movies.  I find them relaxing. They are like Lifetime Movies on steroids and take few brain cells to digest. My guilty pleasure.

Ealy and Good are, er, good but this is all about Quaid getting the chance to play against type as the bad guy and, though he is often less than convincing, because we are not used to him as the villain, but it looks like he is having a lot of fun. He overacts like mad. But though it's a stretch for him to play a bad guy, he does do creepy very well.  When he tells Annie and Scott that the house is called "Foxglove" and Annie says "Foxglove is poisonous, right?" Quaid gets to smirk knowingly and say, "Highly." Quaid also does crazy smirking very well.

Rosy the Reviewer's one of those it's so bad, it's good!

Pet Sematary (2019)

Yet another innocent couple who buy a dream house that turns into a nightmare.

This time Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), and their two kids, Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage, leave Boston for a big house in the country in Maine only to discover that their property also is home to a pet "sematary," so named because I guess the local kids who put up the sign can't spell.  You would think the previous owners would have had to disclose that little detail, don't you think?  But no need to look too deeply into this.  But wait, there's more. Louis soon also learns from his neighbor, Jud (John Lithgow), that the burial ground has the ability to bring animals back to life. But don't get too excited.  The animals come back to life but when they come back....they are changed. (ominous music plays in the background). 

So speaking of animals, Ellie has a cat named Church.  She tells Jud he is named after Winston Churchill and asks Jud if he knows who Winston Churchill is.  Jud replies with a knowing smile, "I know who Winston Churchill is," a bit of an inside joke there since Lithgow played Winston Churchill in "The Crown" and was nominated for an Emmy for his performance. Anyway, when Church dies, Jud, who has taken a liking to Ellie, brings Ellie's cat back but, uh, he forgot to tell everyone that when the animal comes back, it's well, not the same..and not in a good way.. I can't imagine anything worse than a cat on the warpath.  But that's not the end of it.  Then someone in the family dies and guess what?  A lot of gruesome stuff ensues.  Also a lot of predictable stuff ensues.  I saw the ending coming a mile away.

Adapted for the screen by Matt Greenberg and Jeff Buhler from the Stephen King novel, the film checks many of the boxes for Stephen King tropes: 

  • Set in Maine - check
  • Seemingly ordinary people caught up in extraordinary and supernatural circumstances - check
  • Loss of children or children in danger - check - (I don't think King likes kids much)
  • Disfigurement - check
  • No character is safe as in anyone can die (and they do) - check
  • Determined father - check
  • Attack of the killer _________(You fill in the blank).  In this case, it's a cat and's something else...worse...check
  • Things go from bad to worse - check

And speaking of tropes, in horror films,when people hear something scary, why do they keep going down into dark basements?  I am just asking.

I don't think this is one of King's better stories nor was this a particularly good screen adapation.  "It" was great.  This was not.  Directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis WidmyerI knew how it was going to end as soon as the cat came back.  This film reminded me of "Replicas," which isn't a good thing.  This one wasn't as bad as that but almost.

I really like Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, but can't they do better than this? 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a reincarnation of a 1989 film and all I can say is this not only didn't come back in a good way, it should never have come back at all.

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

66 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Is it a dream or is it reality? And does anybody care?

  • A woman comes home
  • A woman goes to sleep in a chair
  • A woman dreams...or I think she's dreaming
  • There is a figure with a mirror for a face
  • There is a knife on the bed
  • The woman falls out a window
  • The woman pulls a key out of her mouth
  • The woman chases the figure with a mirror for a face
  • The figure with a mirror for a face puts a flower on the bed
  • The woman runs after herself
  • The woman pulls yet another key out of her mouth and then the key turns into a knife
  • Now there are three of her
  • A guy appears and the woman wakes up
  • The guy goes upstairs
  • The woman follows
  • The woman lies down on the bed and the man fondles her
  • Broken glass on the beach
  • The guy comes home for real and the woman is dead in the chair.
  • All of this takes place accompanied by the most irritating music ever.

If that sounds interesting to you, then you have some issues.  Just kidding (sort of).

Now I know I could be accused of letting out a spoiler here, but you aren't going to see this thing, anyway, so what difference does it make?  And if this "plot" intrigues you and you want to see it (against my warnings), you get what you deserve.

The film starring Maya Deren and directed by her does have a film noir/ Bunuel, Bergman, Cocteau, Dali feel and probably was quite avant garde and influential for 1943, but c'mon, it was 1943!  A LOT has happend in the film world since then. I really needed to see this before I died? Deren was a Ukrainian born experimental avant-garde filmmaker, choreographer, dancer, film theorist, poet, writer, and photographer in the 1940s and 1950s. I am impressed with her accomplishments which would have been difficult for a woman in Hollywood in the 1940's. However, just didn't get this. It's a different world now.

Now, lest you think me a film rube, I have the capacity to appreciate a film that in 1943 was ground-breaking, and I can especially appreciate that it was directed by a woman, but for today's standards, this is a relic and should possibly be part of a film class, BUT NOT in a book listing films that us laypeople movie lovers need to see.  

My number one criteria for a film is that it is a satisfying film experience, not a nod to movie snobbism.  

And I am a movie snob, don't get me wrong.  Most of us who love movies and spend time writing about them are movie snobs of a sort. I can understand and appreciate the "hard to understand film" with the best of them, but the bottom line is the movie must be a satisfying experience, and for me this was not. I loved many groundbreaking movies from "Citizen Kane," probably one of my favorites, to "8 1/2" to "Roshomon" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" to "Memento," to "Donnie Darko" to "Inception," some of those not easy movies to watch or get, but all satisfying film experiences. 

So I can understand and enjoy difficult films.  

But I can also like something like "The Art of Racing in the Rain (see review above)," which is about as far as you can get from "Citizen Kane."  But not every film needs to be Academy Award worthy nor an artistic achievement of the highest order to be a satisfying movie experience. I rate a film on what it's trying to achieve, big or small.  If a film aspires to be funny and I laugh, then it's a good film.  If a film aspires to be a feel-good film and it makes me feel good, it's a good film. And sometimes that is enough. I may give a good review to a film that might not be a work of art but succeeded in what it was trying to do, while at the same time I might give a bad review to a movie like "If Beale Street Could Talk" that was striving to be a serious film with a message but lost its message in a boring film that was not a good film experience. So I don't compare a film like "The Art of Racing in the Rain" to a film like "If Beale Street Could Talk," but rather each experience stands on its own, and I judge it for what it was trying to do and whether it succeeded or not.  In the moment, I enjoyed "The Art of Racing in the Rain," so it got my thumbs up. 

And this film? Arty as hell but also boring as hell not to mention unfathomable - not a satisfying film experience for me.

Why it's a Must See: (god only, sorry...)
"This was one of the first films to make the indelible link between a woman's gothic experience of coming unglued and the sunny spaces of is the domestic everyday that lays the meshes that ensnare and traumatize women."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Ooo-kay...missed that. Do I care?  No.

Rosy the Reviewer says...why do I keep doing this to myself? Thank god it was only 14 minutes long and I only have 66 more of these "1001" movies to go!
(in b & w and silent except for some irritating cello music. 
Available on YouTube)

***The Book of the Week***

My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (2019)

Yet another tale of being scammed.

What would you do if you discovered that someone who you thought was your best friend was a fraud?  Well, that is what happened to Williams and in this day of social media, she is not alone.  It seems like this sort of thing is happening to people on a daily basis.

Williams had her dream job working for Vanity Fair when she met Anna Delvey, a so-called German heiress, and Williams was happy to enjoy Anna's high life.  Anna picked up the tab at expensive restaurants, saunas, and workout sessions and her quirky personality was both joyful and amusing...

Until a fateful trip to Marrakech at a five-star hotel where Williams ended up picking up the tab.  How did this happen?

This is Williams' story and a cautionary tale for all of us.

I am intrigued by these stories of people getting defrauded and catfished ("Catfish" is one of my fave reality shows) - how the con artist manages to get away with it and how we fall for it.  It could never happen to us, right?  Well, it can. I can't tell you how many times, as a reference librarian, I was asked whether or not a certain person had been awarded the Medal of Honor (they hadn't).  Guess that's the kind of thing guys like to brag about in bars. And watch out for so-called friends who go out to dinner with you and never seem to have their credit cards.  That's the first sign.

This is an engrossing story marred slightly by Williams' digressing and talking about herself.  Her story is much less interesting than that of Anna's, though of course Williams wanted to share her story of a female friendship gone wrong. Perhaps this was more worthy of a Vanity Fair article than a whole book.  But it was still a fascinating story.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like "Dateline" and "Catfish" or other TV shows featuring stories about con men and women, you will enjoy this.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Blinded by the Light" 


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.