Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movies. Show all posts

Monday, March 8, 2021

What I Enjoyed Watching While Waiting for Vaccine #2

I have to say it was a big relief to get my first shot of the vaccine. We had to drive 75 miles to get it but we got it. But one shot does not make me want to go out and mingle, so I am still on a kind of self-imposed lockdown until shot #2, though I do venture out upon occasion to sit, drink a glass of wine (or two) outside and listen to music.

But despite those few forays out into the world which provides a modicum of normalcy, it's still the old TV that keeps me company these days and thank goodness there are some great movies available out there to get me through.

A little known side of singer Billie Holiday's life.

Diana Ross introduced audiences to singer Billie Holiday back in 1972 in "Lady Sings the Blues" and showed theatre goers she could act. She was awarded a Golden Globe as "Best Newcomer" and a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Now almost 50 years later yet another generation is being introduced to Holiday, this time starring singer Andra Day.

One can't help but make comparisons between this new biopic and "Lady Sings the Blues." Both films explored Holiday's tumultous life that included a horrific childhood and later an adulthood rife with drug abuse; both showed Holiday was hounded by the FBI for her drug abuse; both films starred singers in their first acting roles; and both actresses won awards for their performances (Andra Day won this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress).

But what sets this film apart from the first one is the premise that the real reason the FBI hounded Holiday was not as much about her drug use as her song "Strange Fruit," which metaphorically dramatized the horrors of the lynching of black people.

When the film begins, Holiday's career is in full swing and so is her drug use. FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and Head Narc, Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) are bent on bringing Billie down, seeing the song as un-American, a call for civil rights that would stir people up and a threat to the status quo, the status quo being white supremacy. Ainslinger also had a vendetta against jazz! So they recruit Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), a black agent, who wants to make something of himself, to go undercover and befriend Holiday, "befriend" being a euphemism for some very steamy sex scenes. This film is almost as much about Fletcher as Holiday as he was one of few black agents in a segregated agency. Anslinger and the FBI harassed her to the end of her life at 44, even when she lay in a hospital dying her feet were handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Day is a compelling Holiday and I couldn't help but remember that Billie Holiday was also called "Lady Day," so Day starring as Holiday is an interesting coincidence, though she gave herself that stage name in honor of Holiday. And her performance is not just interesting, but raw, compelling, riveting and wonderful, and her Golden Globe win for Best Actress is well deserved, which brings me to one of my pet peeves that I rant about from time to time. Okay, I rant about it a LOT.

I have not liked it when first timers like Day and Ross won the big awards over veteran actors who have paid their dues. For example, Day beat Frances McDormand for this one, and I was not happy when the award was announced, because I thought that McDormand was flawless in "Nomadland (see review below)." However, that little hissy fit was before I saw this film, and after seeing it, I have decided that I will no longer have this bias about first-timers getting awards over old-timers. Day was phenomenal as an actress and a singer, bringing Billie Holiday to life for modern audiences. Her rendition of "Strange Fruit" is beyond moving.

So from now on, I will take it case-by-case, or should I say performance by performance (In future, I will have to come up with something new to rant about. And you know I will)!

Anyway, based on the book "Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs" by Johann Hari (adapted for the screen by Suzan-Lori Parks) and directed by Lee Daniels, this film is a grim and harrowing account of Holiday's later years and what she went through trying to speak her truth.  It resonates today because people of color are still being harassed for not only speaking their truth, but just living their lives.

Oh, and by the way, the film begins with a written opening sequence that reads:

"In 1937 a bill was introduced to ban lynching."
"It didn't pass."

And the film ends with this epilogue:

"The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was brought back in 2020 and has yet to pass."

Do you believe that? We can't even get a bill passed TODAY that says it's not okay to lynch someone!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tough movie to watch but a profound and satisfying film experience that brings Billie Holiday and her music to life for a new generation. Day does Lady Day proud.

A docudrama about Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and the undercover FBI informant who brought him down.

The name Fred Hampton is probably not a name that most of you remember today, but in the late 60’s he was the Illinois Chairman of the Black Panther Party and Deputy Chairman of the National Black Panther Party, and it was a name that J. Edgar Hoover knew well. You see, Hoover wasn't too thrilled with the Black Panthers and he was particularly concerned when Fred founded the Rainbow Coalition, a political organization, that not only included the Black Panthers, but also the Young Lords and other street gangs, an alliance that was meant to stop the infighting among the various groups so they would all work together for social change. J. Edgar Hoover felt threatened by that and didn’t want that to happen so he planted an informant, Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) in Fred’s midst which eventually led to Fred’s assassination (and planting informants seems to have been one of Hoover's things. See review of "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" above).
I remember the name Fred Hampton well because I was living in Michigan at the time, I was a young woman also interested in social change (you may not know this, but the SDS started in Michigan) and because how Fred died was so shocking. He was only 21.
How it all got to that point is explored in this powerful docudrama starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield who both bring in incredible performances. Kaluuya won this year's Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, which was well-deserved, but I was surprised that Stanfield was overlooked because this film is really about him and what happens when you make a deal with the devil. With a screenplay by Shaka King and Will Berson and directed by King, the film is also a reminder of how hard the struggle for justice and equality has been for people of color. And a reminder that the struggle continues still.
Rosy the Reviewer says…lots of buzz around this movie of the Oscar variety. Don’t miss out. And when you watch, don’t miss the epilogue. It will choke you up and make you go “Whaaat???” as you wipe away the tears. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

The repercussions of a tragic home birth.

You fans of “The Crown” will recognize Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret from the first two seasons. She was wonderful in that, but the character she plays here is about as far from Princess Margaret as she could get. But she is still wonderful.
Here she plays Martha, a woman grieving the loss of her baby after a tragic home birth. And the birth itself takes up the first 20+ minutes of the film and it’s pretty real and raw made worse by the fact that the baby doesn't make it.
The crux of the film written by Kata Weber and directed by Kornel Mundruczo asks the question: How does one pick up the pieces and go on after giving birth and then having no baby as life goes on around you? There is grief, guilt, isolation and shame. And then anger and blame. Whose fault was this? It must be someone’s fault. Martha wonders did she do something wrong while pregnant? Was it the midwife’s fault? Anyone who has lost a baby would be able to relate to this. But anyone who has gone through any kind of loss can also relate because the film is about mourning, how the sadness from loss affects entire families and how one learns to go on.
Kirby puts in a profound performance that pulls no punches. Her performance won her a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination, and I would guess an Oscar nomination is also in the offing. Ellen Burstyn has a small role as Martha’s mother and shows that at 88 she can still bring it (she has several award nominations for this performance) and Martha’s husband is played by Shia LeBeouf, who always puts in great performances in films but can’t seem to put in very good performances in real life. But I digress.
This is all about Kirby’s performance. However, sadly, as a completely satisfying film experience, it kind of fell apart.
Rosy the Reviewer says…I can’t whole heartedly recommend this film. It isn’t for everyone, but if you are into great acting, it’s worth seeing for Kirby’s performance. (Now streaming on Netflix)


After losing her job and her husband, a woman starts her life over as a modern day nomad.

It seems that every film that Frances McDormand stars in results in not only an award for her but for the film as well. And her latest film is no exception. Her performance won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture along with a nomination for Best Screenplay and a win for director Chloe Zao, one of three women directors nominated this year and the first Asian woman winner ever for Best Director (she wrote the screenplay too).
And these wins and nominations are well-deserved because this is an extraordinary film with an extraordinary performance by McDormand. You can expect that there will be Oscar nominations as well.

Based on the nonfiction book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, this is the fictionalized story of Fern, a victim of the Great Recession of the late 2000’s. In 2011, the US Gypsum plant where she worked closed down after 88 years, turning the town of Empire, Nevada into a ghost town. You know things are bad when a town’s zip code is discontinued. And then her husband died leaving her alone.
So Fern hits the road in her van she dubs “Vanguard” and becomes part of the Nomad culture, people who move from place to place, following job opportunities. We see Fern working in an Amazon warehouse, a rock quarry and a beet farm and along the way forming relationships with other nomads.
But this is not a story of despair. As Fern explains, she is not homeless, she is just “houseless” and it seems she prefers it that way. Yes, some living the nomad culture are there by circumstance but others have chosen this life. Many are older Americans who love the freedom of living on the open road, explaining that it’s a last chance to really live, to do the things they want to do before it’s too late. “Don’t die with your sailboat in the driveway.”
Though Fern makes connections with others on the road, we see that she is ultimately alone, living a life of solitude, but you don’t feel sorry for her because there is a quiet resignation, dignity and humanity about her. But one also can’t help but draw some comparisons to the uncertainty of today and think, “There but for fortune…”
This is a quiet film where not much happens as we follow Fern on her journey, but the beauty of the landscapes and the short scenes keep the pace brisk and I guarantee that you will be mesmerized.
And much of that is because of McDormand. She does a lot of listening and reacting in this film, listening and reacting to her fellow nomads, many of whom are not actors but actual nomads living the lifestyle. Hers is the quiet performance of an accomplished actress at the top of her game. She has an amazing ability to express herself without speaking. She can act with her eyes.
You know how I judge a movie? If it makes my eyes well up at the end. And I’m not talking about a sad movie. The film can be a drama, a comedy, a thriller, whatever, but if my eyes well up when it’s over (I also might chuckle, too), it’s because I just had a very, very special and wonderful movie experience.
Rosy the Reviewer says…my eyes welled up. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

After the death of their only son, a retired sheriff and his wife set out to find their only grandson.

Kevin Costner plays George Blackledge, a retired Montana sheriff. When we meet him, he is living on his ranch with his wife Margaret (Diane Lane), his son, James (Ryan Bruce), James’ wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their newborn baby son, Jimmy. All is happy families until James dies in an accident, and a couple of years later, Lorna remarries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), and Margaret observes Donnie abusing Jimmy and Lorna.
And then one day Donnie, Lorna and Jimmy are gone.

So Margaret decides that she and George need to go find them and bring Jimmy back to live with them. And that’s not an easy task, because they don’t know where they went nor much about Donnie and it’s the 60’s as in no Internet, no cell phones, nothing but good old-fashioned sleuthing. They do find them but get much more than they bargained for because the Weboys turn out to be one nasty family, thanks to Blanche (an almost unrecognizable Lesley Manville), the matriarch.
Halfway into the film it looks like George and Margaret will be reunited with their grandson, but when there is still an hour to go, you know there is time for everything to go terribly wrong and it does.
Leslie Manville as Blanche is one mean mother. Manville is a British actress you have probably seen a million times and recognize but have never known her name. However, here, playing a tough and ornery North Dakota farm woman, she was unrecognizable to me at first which says something about what a great actress she is.
Now, let me wax poetic for a moment about Kevin Costner.

Okay, it’s not exactly poetic. I am just going to slobber a bit over him. I just think he is one handsome, sexy guy and at 66 he is still one handsome, sexy guy. I have never gotten over the sex scene in the back of the car in “No Way Out” and seeing him here once in person playing at the Pebble Beach A T & T Pro-Am dripping in Armani, well, let’s just say going into this film I was already a fan. Oh, and did I mention he is a really good actor too?
But this is really Diane Lane’s movie. She is one of those actresses who puts in subtle performances that exude light. No actressy mannerisms for her. Her Margaret is a grandmother with quiet determination who can’t be stopped when it comes to saving her family. And you believe her.

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha and based on the novel by Larry Watson, this is a compelling story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rosy the Reviewer says…really liked this one. And the moral of the story? Don’t mess with us grandmas!

(Available on DVD from Netflix and to rent on Amazon Prime. By the way, I would say Kevin has a thing about Montana. We are currently working on Season 1 of “Yellowstone,” now available on Amazon Prime).

A Deputy Sheriff from Bakersfield becomes embroiled in a search for a serial killer in L.A.

Denzel Washington plays Joe “Deke” Deacon, a Bakersfield Deputy Sheriff, who is sent to Los Angeles to retrieve some evidence and finds himself involved in a search for a serial killer. He teams up with local detective, Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek, and the two hone in on Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who pulls them into a cat and mouse game.
This will pull you in, too, with a harrowing “woman in danger” opening scene and, from there, it’s a fast-moving crime drama – almost too fast for me because sometimes I didn’t know what was going on. But that’s okay. It’s all very noir and compelling and the last 20 minute sequence is a nail biter.
Denzel may be getting older but he’s still got it as a disgraced and tormented cop (that’s how he ended up in Bakersfield – Deke, not Denzel); Rami Malek is fine but a strange choice for this – I guess I can’t forget him as Freddie Mercury; but it’s Jared Leto who almost steals the show. I say almost because nobody steals the show from Denzel. But Leto is chilling and creepy. Do you notice that most of the characters he plays these days are odd or extremely strange? When did he change from that handsome teen idol from “My So-Called Life” to Rayon in “The Dallas Buyers Club” or The Joker in “Suicide Squad?” Anyway, I guess it works for him. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination for this latest strange, but riveting, performance.

Rosy the Reviewer says…an old-fashioned who-done-it crime drama with some modern twists and some great performances.
(Now available On Demand)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

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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 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.

Monday, December 21, 2020

What I Have Loved Watching So Far During Lockdown

In these terrible times, thank god for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple+ and HBO Max (did I miss anything)?  They have been my best friends off and on for the last nine months but especially during this latest lockdown.  

If you have been following my Facebook page, you will recognize some of these recommendations but, if not, here are some movies and TV series I have enjoyed while sheltering at home.  And even if you do follow me on Facebook, these are expanded reviews that might get you to watch if you haven't already.

1.  The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)

So...ever wonder what flight attendants get up to as they travel around the world? Well, my oh my, according to this, A LOT! Drinking, sex...AND MURDER? (Dateline fans, do Keith Morrison's voice when you read the word "muuurder").

Kaley Cuoco plays Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant who often finds herself waking up from a night on the town and not remembering what happened or who that guy is in bed with her. She's a bit of a party girl, well, actually not a bit of a party girl, a BIG party girl, and she has no problem entering the Mile High Club with customers. But when she wakes up the next morning in Bangkok after hooking up with Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman), a handsome passenger and finds him lying next to her, covered in blood, yes, dead, she decides to do a runner. Maybe no one saw her with him? Not likely. Bad choices and chaos ensues...and believe it or not, at times it's funny because Cassie is a cross between Goldie Hawn and Lucy Ricardo!

There are some side plots revolving around Cassie's brother (T.R. Knight) and her fellow flight attendant, Megan (Rosie Perez), who has gotten into some shady stuff herself but this is really all about Cassie and her crazy life.

Created by Steve Yockey (adapted from the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian), this is very entertaining and addictive, and Kaley Cuoco carries us along as Cassie tries to find out who killed Alex. There is a strange little hook with dead Alex turning up every so often to try to help Cassie figure his death out, which I rather liked, because did I say that Alex was handsome? But you know how I am with these elaborate spy movies. After many twists and turns and double-crosses, I often have trouble figuring out exactly what is going on - who is doing what to whom? So the last episode? Kind of didn't get it, but all-in-all, this was an enjoyable romp and maybe I was left a bit hanging because it looks like there will be a sequel.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a series that is both stylish, delicious and binge-worthy! And a lot of fun!

2.  A Teacher (Hulu)

A teacher and her student have an inappropriate relationship.

Meet Claire Wilson (Kate Mara), the new high school AP English teacher who has a handsome husband and a seemingly happy marriage. I mean, c’mon, they are trying to have a baby. But then enter Eric Walker (Nick Robinson, who starred in teen hits “Love, Simon” and “Everything, Everything), a handsome Big Man On Campus, who is hot for teacher. Both have issues. We learn early on that Claire is not your average teacher when she shoplifts some lipstick. We see some rebellion and entitlement there. And our young Eric? Who isn’t entitled when they are 17? He is the soccer team captain and wants to be a doctor, but he needs some help with his SATs. Claire conveniently steps up. And yes, they embark on a sexual relationship, and yes, they think it's love.

I know, there is a certain "ick factor" here, especially for you teachers out there. But the series offers some perspectives on this teacher-student phenomenon which we all watched play out most spectacularly and sadly with the Mary Kay Letourneau story, and believe it or not, teachers crossing the lines with their students is not as unusual as you might think. Google it. The title tells it all. It’s not “The Teacher,” it’s “A Teacher.” Teenaged boys want to be adults and young women teachers maybe don’t want to be and there you go. In this story, one bad decision leads to another and we know nothing good will come of it.

Mara is vulnerable and poignant as Claire, even as we shake our heads at her decisions. She is very believable and Robinson is the next big thing. I see a long career ahead for him.

Created and directed by Hannah Fidell (who also directed a feature film on which this TV series is based), this is a serious look at a gender stereotype that is often overlooked - the male sexual victim.
Rosy the Reviewer says…watching this, teachers and parents may cringe and be thankful school is not in session but this is a compelling series. You can’t take your eyes off of it. You know, like a train wreck? But it's a beautiful train wreck.
(The final two episodes air December 22 and December 29)

3.  The Prom (Netflix)

A group of Broadway stars on their way down head to a small Indiana town to give their lives some relevance by taking up the cause of a young girl who has been told she is not allowed to bring her girlfriend to the prom as her date.

The Great White Way may be dark right now but thanks to Netflix we can still enjoy Broadway with this film version of the groundbreaking musical “The Prom.” It’s kind of like “Footloose,” but instead of an uptight town banning dancing, this is about an uptight town canceling Prom because two young lesbians want to go as a couple.
Four narcissistic Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and James Corden) need a cause to make themselves relevant. Their show closed due to bad reviews, so they grab onto this story of these two Indiana teen girls who want to go to Prom together and think they can help. But despite a sympathetic principal (Keegan-Michael Key), the PTA headed by the uptight Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) says no, so our fish-out-of-water, clueless Broadway stars show up in Indiana to try to save the day.
If you are familiar with Broadway musicals, you know that people will break out into song and dance in malls and other odd places and there will be sentimentality and seemingly bad people will see the error of their ways and become good, but suspend your disbelief. It’s a musical. It’s meant to make you feel good and this one does just that.
But don’t think this is one of those fluffy musicals. This one has substance because it takes on the struggles of LGBTQ teens and is actually based on a true story. Yes, in this day and age, a school tried to keep two girls from going to Prom together. And "the prom" itself is also a metaphor for everyone's teenage angst and subsequent neurosis, right?
Once again Meryl kills. Who knew she could sing like that? And she shows her comic chops too. And James? Who knew he was so light on his feet? And Nicole? Well, actually, not sure why a star of her stature was in this because her part as a Bob Fosse chorus girl is small, though she has one of the great lines.

“When your hands are shaking, turn them into jazz hands!”

But still, I am glad she hooked her star to this because it’s a great show. And thanks to Ryan Murphy's direction and a wonderful screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, they are all hilarious and the young lovers are engaging.
The show opened on Broadway in 2018, was nominated for seven Tonys and ran for almost a year with a planned tour, but, well, you know how that went. But in the meantime, you can catch the show on Netflix and, I guarantee if you love musicals, you will love this (but remember, it’s a musical).
Rosy the Reviewer says…a feel good show where the Midwest meets Broadway. It shines a light on the struggles of the LGBTQ community, but it’s also an homage to the theatre, a reminder of what we are missing.

4. The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO Max)

The extraordinary story of the Bee Gees, one of the best selling artists of all time, with sales of over 120 million records.  But what was most extraordinary was how they were able to keep reinventing themselves to stay relevant with the times over a 45 year career.

The brothers Gibb, Barry, the oldest, and twins Robin and Maurice, formed the Bee Gees in 1958 and performed for 45 years and had a major impact on pop culture from the 60’s through the 90’s. Through a series of interviews with Barry, the sole surviving brother (teen idol Andy is also gone) and archival interviews with Maurice and Robin, the story unfolds.  Yes, this is an homage to the band and doesn’t go into too much detail about some of the issues they faced, though In the “Never-Before-Seen” category we see Robin attempting a solo career and at a performance in New Zealand the crowd is so incensed that it’s only him and not all three of the Bee Gees that they throw things at him, attack him and run him off the stage.

Written by Mark Monroe, and directed by Frank Marshall, this is a fascinating story of some brilliant singer/songwriters and it’s a brilliant film, so evocative of the times, a time captured so completely that it can be emotional for us Baby Boomers.  I actually cried…because I was that young 60's girl who loved the Bee Gees. 

Rosy the Reviewer says…not to be missed!

5.  Murder on Middle Beach (HBO Max)

A young filmmaker tries to solve the mystery of his mother's murder.

If you are a true crime aficionado, as I am, you will be intrigued by this four-part HBO documentary, “Murder on Middle Beach,” where a son tries to find his mother’s killer.
Madison Hamburg directs his first film in an effort to solve the death of his mother, Barbara Hamburg, who was brutally murdered March 3, 2010 at her home in Madison, Connecticut. After the case went cold, Madison interviewed his family members and others to try to gather evidence to solve her murder. As he did so, he uncovered many family secrets and long-term resentments and the thought that perhaps one of his own family members had killed his mother.

Did Barbara's ex-drug addict sister, Conway, kill her? Or Madison's entitled sister, Ali? What about his Dad who had some shady business dealings that Barbara had uncovered and who was due in court regarding their contentious divorce? Or was Barbara's involvement with Gifting Tables a reason for murder?
This is one of those crime stories made all the more ominous because of the setting – a beautiful serene little New England town where nothing bad could ever happen, right? – and a seemingly close-knit, normal big family that murder could never touch, right? And yet...

Rosy the Reviewer says…a spell-binding story full of twists and turns made all the more poignant because it’s also the personal story of a son trying to not only find his mother’s murderer but a son trying to understand who his mother really was.

6.  Big Sky (ABC)

A private detective and an ex-cop try to solve a kidnapping. 

Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) are private detectives searching for two sisters who were kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana.  But when Cody goes missing, Cassie joins forces with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick), Cody's estranged wife, an uneasy alliance since Jenny discovered Cody had been having an affair with Cassie. But that's the least of their problems when they discover that those are not the only girls who have discovered missing.

From the pen of David E. Kelley (best known for "L.A. Law" and "Chicago Hope" and "Big Little Lies" - he's also married to Michelle Pfeiffer), this is a little bit thriller, a little bit mystery and very character driven by, shall I say, odd characters? There is a twisted cop (John Carroll Lynch), a nerdie truck driver (Brian Geraghty), who not only lives with his mother but sometimes sleeps with her, prostitutes working truck stops and more. The series reminded me a bit of "Twin Peaks," and well, yes, "Big Little Lies," without the Monterey landscapes, because all of these characters are not just odd but have, shall I say, "issues?" And the first episode had a shocking ending! Enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way. Looking forward to its return.

Rosy the Reviewer says...check it out and let me know what you think. It's a bit over-the-top but stylish and intriguing and surprisingly out there for mainstream TV (or maybe I just don't watch enough mainstream TV).
(Currently on hiatus on ABC until January 26 but you can get caught up on Hulu and On Demand - and yes, it will leave you hanging)

7.  Dash & Lily (Netflix)

A boy with a broken heart and a naive but optimistic young girl embark on a series of dares via a notebook they hide around New York City.

Now that we’ve all seen “The Queen’s Gambit (see below),” we needed another bingeworthy Netflix show, and thank you, Netflix for “Dash and Lily,” which will be the next big thing, and it’s here just in time for the holidays to take our minds off of lockdown.

“The Queen’s Gambit” was about chess, “Dash and Lily” is about books…well, a notebook... and romance. Based on the young adult series "Dash & Lily's Book of Dares" by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, the series plays out in eight 25+ minute episodes (totally bingeworthy), we meet Dash (Austin Abrams), a handsome New Yorker, who is nursing a broken heart and is humbug about Christmas. Lily (Midori Francis) is his opposite. She loves the holidays and is looking for love but she is also socially shy and awkward. She has planted a notebook in the famous NYC Strand Book Store with a series of dares for anyone up to the challenge. Dash finds the notebook and embarks on the dares and then dares Lily. They leave the notebook in places around NYC with new dares for each other. Will they meet? The anticipation is half the fun and you care because these are two engaging young actors. And, yes, it’s a rom-com and it’s about young people but all ages will enjoy if you remember what falling in love is like.

Filmed prer-Covid, this is a love letter to New York City, too, showcasing its delights as Dash and Lily dash about the City, and it will put you in the holiday spirit.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s quirky and funny and utterly charming and isn’t charm something we sorely need right now?

8Emily in Paris (Netflix)

A young American girl from the Midwest gets a chance to live and work in Paris.

Emily (Lily Collins, yes, Phil's daughter) is a driven 20-something from Chicago who gets an unexpected job opportunity and moves to Paris. She is supposed to bring an American point of view to a French marketing firm. However, the Parisiens she works with not only don't think much of her Midwestern upbringing, they don't think much of America either. Emily is a fish-out-of-water, but there's a twist. She doesn't know it.  She thinks she is cool and swans around Paris like she owns the place. Her colleagues make fun of her behind her back and put roadblocks in her way, but this girl has pluck (don't you just love the word "pluck?") and some handsome suitors.

Created by Darren Star, this is a sort of Parisien version of "Sex and the City," and it's just as much fun. It's frothy, Lily Collins is a delight and so is Paris. So sit back and do some armchair traveling as Emily takes Paris by storm in some great clothes! Ooh la-la, the clothes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...rom-com fans rejoice and, ah, Paris, armchair travelers will also enjoy. Une délicieuse petite aventure.

9.  The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)

The true story of the Chicago 7 arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

And the wheels go round and round.

Don’t think writer/director Aaron Sorkin, the creator of “The West Wing,” doesn’t draw some connections between the trial of the Chicago 7 and the protests of the late 60’s to present day events. He does.

What became known as "The Chicago Seven" was a disparate group of organizers and protesters: Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), who along with Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the current President of the Black Panther Party, were arrested and tried for crossing state lines to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention when in fact they were there protesting the Vietnam War. They all had their own issues and causes and what they deemed appropriate protest. I mean, Abbie Hoffman was a Yippie who liked to plan over-the-top theatrical protests, Dellinger was a pacifist who promoted non-violent change and Hayden was one of the founders of the SDS - Students for a Democratic Society - and not particularly against violence but what they all had in common was a shared hatred of the Vietnam War. However, despite their differences, but they were rounded up and treated as one entity - The Chicago Seven.

Mark Rylance plays their attorney, William Kunstler, and Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman as rather senile, which would explain why the trial was such a circus.

Ah, 1968, the year that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, racism and political corruption abounded and the draft lottery sent 35,000 young men to Vietnam, some of whom were my friends. Hell, my ex-husband was sent there six months after we got married. Some of that from 1968 may sound familiar, except we Baby Boomers had Vietnam and now this generation has Covid. Both wars and still lots to protest.
And the wheels go round and round.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s a star-studded cast and a compelling story that resonates today. And next time you Gen-X-ers and Z-s sigh and say “Okayyyy, Boomers,” to your parents or grandparents, and blame us for where we are today, think twice. We had our own stuff. We tried to change things. Now it's your turn.

10.  The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)

Young orphan Beth Harmon becomes a chess prodigy and learns that success has a price.

This has been the hit of quarantine.

First there was "The Tiger King (remember that one? - we weren't quite as evolved then as we are now!)," and then there was "The Queen's Gambit." They actually have nothing in common except "The Tiger King" was a Netflix phenomenon and so is this one. In fact, "The Queen's Gambit" has become the most watched scripted series of all time for Netflix.

Beth Harmon has not had a good life. Orphaned in the 50's at a young age, sent to an orphanage and lonely, she befriended the janitor who taught her how to play chess. She quickly proves to be a prodigy at the game and starts entering competitions.

And then the older Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes the chess world by storm, something that was the world of men, and now there is Beth and she is crushing everyone. But here's the thing. Beth has some major emotional problems and a drug and alcohol addiction.

Speaking of taking the world by storm. That is what Anya Taylor-Joy has done. Not just with this, but her early foray into feature films was "The Witch," a film I didn't really like but I liked her. And in just five short years, she has a long resume that includes her most recent film, "Emma," which by the way was the very last film I saw in a theatre. She is a beautiful, talented actress who really shows what she's got in this incredibly mesmerizing series.

However, I also have to give a shout-out to Marielle Heller, who played Beth's foster mother. She went from an unsympathetic character who drank a bit, okay, a lot, and didn't understand her adopted daughter to become a lynchpin and huge supporter of Beth's career. Heller is also the writer/director of "Diary of a Teenage Girl" and the director of "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" - three movies I loved. So she is a successful writer and director and now we know she can also act. Keep your eye out for her!

Anyway, yes, this film is about chess, but don't let that turn you off.

It's about chess, but so much more. I mean, c'mon, "The Tiger King" was about big cat zoos, and you watched that one. This miniseries, which is not a documentary, by the way, but a dramatic series, might just make chess the next big thing! But this is so, so much better than "The Tiger King" and so much more than just about chess. Let's just say, chess is a metaphor here. And Beth Harmon is our new kick-ass woman!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you don't want to be the only one who hasn't seen this show, better get out the remote! Trust me, you won't be sorry!

NOTE: You might notice one obvious series that is missing - "The Crown." Duh. Yes, I binged on that one too but hasn't everyone?

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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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.