Showing posts with label Musicals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Musicals. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2018

"The Greatest Showman" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Greatest Showman" as well as DVDs "Battle of the Sexes" and "Friend Request."  The Book of the Week is "The Futilitarians" by Anne Gisleson.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Vittorio De Sica's "Umberto D."]

The Greatest Showman

A musical version of the life of P.T. Barnum with songs by the guys who brought us "La La Land."

But that is where the comparison ends.  This is no "La La Land."

Over the holidays I decided that I wanted to watch "White Christmas" starring Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.  I had seen it many times over the years, but had not seen it lately and was just delighted to be reminded how much I loved those old musicals from the Golden Age of Hollywood.  It just left me feeling happy and all warm and fuzzy.  It made me wish that more musicals were being produced today so you can imagine that I was really looking forward to this film especially when I discovered the songs were written by the same guys who brought us the songs from "La La Land.  I absolutely adored "La La Land."

But sadly I found this film very disappointing.

According to this film, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) wasn't just the guy whose name became synonymous with the circus. He also supposedly invented the term "show business," and he was a really nice guy with a rags to riches story who just wanted to entertain and make people happy.  Pretty sure he was more of a con man who exploited people to make a buck, but OK.  I can suspend disbelief.  This is a musical, after all.  I usually don't have too much trouble suspending my disbelief especially when it comes to musicals which always requires that.  I mean, how often do we break into song when telling our loved ones what we plan to do with our lives?

According to this film, Barnum started out poor but had a childhood sweetheart who believed in him, and you know about the power of love especially when it's set to music, right?  He lost his boring job as an accountant and was on his last dime when he got the idea to open a "freak show," though this film is too politically correct to call it that because this film wants to sugar coat the shadier sides of Barnum and to be about celebrating differences, which is kind of ironic when you consider Barnum had a bearded lady, the fattest man on earth, conjoined twins, etc. and exploited them and treated them like freaks by putting them on show to make money.  Despite the fact that the film tries to not go there, you can't deny that is what he did and that gave me an uncomfortable feeling while watching this film.

But getting the facts of P.T Barnum's life right wasn't particularly the problem for me here.  The problem was the movie just tried too damn hard.  It had too much of that "let's put on a show and save the farm" feel.  That worked in "White Christmas," but it didn't work here.  And when I say trying too hard that 
is actually my way of saying that Hugh was trying too hard. I know Hugh Jackman is a Broadway musical kind of guy (except for when he is Wolverine) but geez.  What works on Broadway doesn't necessarily work on film.  If you have seen him on talk shows recently promoting this film, he seems like a very nice, genuine guy, but he is just always ON and this film is no exception.  He wore me out.

I could forgive this film because of the handsomeness that is Zac Ephron.  I never get tired of looking at him but then it hits me...he's not a very good actor.  He is fine in comedies like "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" and the "Neighbors" franchise, but when it comes to dramatic acting, which he is required to do here, his lack of skills comes out. 

Michelle Williams, who was wonderful in "All the Money in the World (see last week's review)" has absolutely nothing to do here except sing a little and act supportive and comforting to P.T./Hugh when he's feeling down.  She's the kind of wife that even when he ditches her and runs off with Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), she forgives him.

And speaking of Jenny Lind.  I am assuming that the writers and director didn't think we would know who Jenny Lind was considering they had her singing what could only be called a 21st century pop song when in fact she was a 19th century OPERA star!  I know this is a 21st century musical but can we at least have an opera singer sing an operatic song?

And the songs by the "La La Land" guys, John Debney and Benj Pasek -  Sorry, guys, not memorable this time, though I enjoyed the opening sequence with the young Barnum (Ellis Rubin) and the young Charity (Skylar Dunn) singing "A Million Dreams."

Directed by Michael Gracey with a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon, this film is doing well at the box office which tells me people are thirsting for wholesome entertaining musicals that the whole family can enjoy.  This is certainly wholesome family entertainment (if you don't think too hard about the real life of P.T. Barnum), but somehow it left out the entertaining part. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I really wanted to love this but I didn't.  I didn't even like it.

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


Battle of the Sexes (2017)

A dramatized version of the 1973 tennis match between the then top-rated female tennis player, Billie Jean King, and ex-champ and much older hustler, Bobby Riggs.

If I'm already not a fan of Steve Carell, will his playing a famous chauvinist pig help?  No.

Though I was around when this so-called "Battle of the Sexes" match came down, and it was a big deal because it was at the height of the Women's Liberation Movement and Bobby Riggs was the epitome of male chauvinism, I wonder who remembers this today.  However, I do. From a personal standpoint, my older sister was a tennis professional and a big fan of Billie Jean King's, so I remember this vividly, but I can't help but wonder if anyone cares about this anymore except possibly tennis fans and those of us who lived it.

To give you a little background, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) was the top-rated female tennis player in the 70's, but there was a huge inequity in the amount of prize money women tennis players could earn from their tournaments compared to the men.  The men made eight times as much.  Billie Jean appealed to Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) at the then U.S. Lawn Tennis Association (now the U.S. Tennis Association) and when she was told that the men needed to earn more because they were the breadwinners for their families (yawn) and that men's tournaments were better attended and just more exciting than the women's, Billie Jean decided to leave the U.S.L.T.A. and form her own Women's Tennis Association.  She did and it was backed by Virginia Slims cigarettes (Remember "You've come a long way, baby?").

Then there was Bobby Riggs.  He was a top-rated men's tennis player back in the day, but was now in his 50's and working a boring desk job for his father-in-law.  He also had a wee bit of a gambling problem.  Let's just say he was a hustler and it wasn't helping his marriage any (his wife is played by Elizabeth Shue - I wondered what happened to her). He was a washed up tennis player who made a few bucks playing his friends for money with one hand behind his back or holding two dogs on a leash.  

But Billie Jean's winning the Grand Slam, her fame and her feminism gave Riggs the idea to have a tournament between him and Billie Jean to prove once and for all that men could outplay women, and of course, so he could also make a few bucks. However, Billie Jean refused so, when up-and-coming Australian player, Margaret Court, beat her, Riggs approached Court.  She consented to a tournament, only to be humiliated by Riggs. He said that women players couldn't handle the pressures of the game and that's why they shouldn't earn as much as men.  He even went so far as to put out a challenge - $100,000 to any woman who could beat him. That did it. Billie Jean couldn't stand the idea that Riggs could gloat about the inferiority of women tennis players.  

So Billy Jean decided she had to play him to prove that a woman can beat a man and the tournament became a cause celebre. It was played at the Houston Astrodome and was watched by over 90 million people.

People today might have a hard time getting their heads around how important this match was in the real life battle of the sexes considering all that has happened since.  

I even thought the film was going to be corny and all rah-rah, especially since I knew the outcome but the film actually went deeper.  It certainly resonates today, considering the continuing pay inequity and sexual harassment that continues to haunt women, but the film also sensitively explores Billie Jean's burgeoning feelings about her sexuality thanks to a stellar performance by Emma Stone who just oozes vulnerability.  Though Billie Jean was married, seemingly happily so, she was starting to have feelings for women. 

In the film, Billie Jean meets Marilyn, a hair dresser, and Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough, in a very sensitive performance) gives Billie Jean a haircut in what could only be called the most sensuous scene of hair cutting I have ever seen.  The two embark on a relationship and Billie Jean has to come to terms with that side of herself.  Despite the build-up to the epic tennis match, the film is really about Billie Jean King herself, what she was going through in her personal life and her fear that it would be found out.

The film doesn't really do much to enlighten us on what made Riggs tick other than him just being a jerk with a gambling problem.  I mean, what hubris for a 55-year-old man to think he could beat a 29-year-old woman at the top of her tennis game!  But Carell does a good job with that and there is a bit of an inkling about Riggs battling ageism and feeling irrelevant.

Sarah Silverman is making a dramatic name for herself playing wise-cracking side-kicks - she's good - and I couldn't help but notice Fred Armison in a non-speaking role as Bobby's trainer - if you blink you will miss him.

Directed by Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris with a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, the film has a delightful 70's soundtrack and the tennis footage from the match is well-integrated into the film to give us an exciting finale.  Speaking of integrating footage, tennis player Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales) called the match along with Howard Cosell.  The footage of Cosell and Casalls was so good I couldn't tell if that was actual footage of Casalls and Cosell or the actress CGI's in, but I have to say, in light of the #Metoo and Times Up movements, I couldn't help but notice how discomforting it looked to see Cosell reporting while towering over Rosie with his arm tightly wrapped around her, literally talking down to her and treating her like a child.  Yuck.  Thank goodness, he wouldn't have been able to get away with that today.

The epilogue shows the real Billie Jean who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 for her work on behalf of Title IX and LGBQ rights.

My one complaint about the film is that it was shot in digital and you know how I feel about that.  I don't like it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite my fears that this film wouldn't resonate in today's world, it's a powerful reminder that we actually haven't come a long way, baby.

Friend Request (2016)

A cautionary tale about accepting friend requests.

I think there was a time when Facebook was new when we all accepted every friend request we received. I think that's how so many became vulnerable to catfishing.  I still get friend requests from handsome guys in military uniforms who, when I click on their profiles, have no friends.  That tells me immediately that he's a catfish, probably some guy in a Nigerian call center. I think I must be on some list of lonely old ladies.  I never fall for it, even though I have always been a sucker for a guy in a uniform, but hey, it only takes one to say OK and those guys are off and running.

However, this film isn't about lonely old ladies.  It's actually about Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a very popular young college girl with over 800 friends on Facebook (though Facebook is not actually named in the film), who was just trying to be nice when she friended Marina (Liesl Ahlers), an outcast girl in one of her classes.  We know that Marina  is an outcast because she wears a hoodie with the hood up, doesn't say much and draws witchy art on her page. Unfortunately Marina is also a bit of a nutter and got carried away (Laura is her only friend) and started bombarding Laura with PM's and liking and commenting on every post that Laura put out.  Laura is not a mean girl but she eventually gets a bit weirded out by Marina, and when Laura excludes Marina from a party, Marina goes off on her.  Soooo Laura unfriends her. Uh-oh. 

Now we have a girl-stalking-girl movie, that is, until Marina hangs herself live online, it gets posted on Laura's page and Laura can't get rid of it.  The video also somehow goes viral and turns up on her friends pages as if it's coming from Laura.  Now everyone thinks Laura is twisted so they start unfriending HER.  Laura can't delete the video, can't unfriend Marina, can't get rid of that damn video and can't delete her account.  

And if that's not bad enough, Laura's friends start dying.

Did Marina really kill herself?  And why can't anybody delete those posts that keep appearing?  Who was Marina?  And what are Black Mirror Cults?

This is a perfectly good thriller/horror film starring young unknowns that I call "Horror Light."  I like the occasional horror film, but I lean toward the Lifetime  Movie type horror film or films like "It" or "Split," not gory ones like "Jigsaw" or "Hostel," hence my "light" appellation.  "Horror Light" still employs the usual horror tropes but is not so gory and brutal as to leave you speechless.  "Horror Light" includes the kind of horror films where things go bump in the night, images flash on the screen to make you jump, ominous music plays when our heroine opens a refrigerator door and when she closes it someone is standing there, or she goes down a dark hall even though the light switch doesn't work, or someone says, "Did you check the basement?" These are all opportunities for you to shout at the screen, "Don't go down there!"  If the movie is too graphic and gory and you are left speechless, you can participate or you might have your hands over your eyes and what fun is that?

And actually, this film, directed by Simon Verhoeven (screenplay by Verhoevan, Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch) is more silly than scary, though it makes a statement about technology, or at least I think that's what it was doing. It seems that bad things happen when people look at their computer screens too long, so I kept yelling at the TV: STOP LOOKING AT YOUR COMPUTER!  But you know in this day and age, telling young people to stop looking at their computer is like telling them to stop breathing.

Rosy the Reviewer says...moral of the story:  Be careful who you friend - and if you stare at your computer long enough you might be communicating with demons...but, geez, we already knew that! 

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

159 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Umberto D. (1952)

An old man who lives alone with his little dog struggles to live on his small pension in Rome.

Umberto D. (Carlo Battisti) is a lonely old man living in an apartment he can't afford.  He worked for the government for 30 years but his pension doesn't cover his living expenses. His landlady is disrespectful, threatens to throw him out and even rents out his apartment by the hour to illicit lovers when he is not home.  His only companion and source of comfort is his little dog, Flike, and Maria (Maria Pia Casillio), a young girl who is the cleaner for the building, is the only human who is kind to him.  He can't pay his rent and is so desperate he fakes an illness so he can go to the hospital to get some sleep and food.  When he returns, the house is being renovated, his room is all torn up and little Flike has run away.  They are eventually reunited but Umberto is desperate and decides to kill himself.

This film shows that no matter what country you are in or time period - even 66 years later (this film was released in 1952) - some things never change.  We still don't respect or care for the elderly.  Old people become invisible.  It's a cruel world for seniors with little money.

Director Vittorio De Sica, an early proponent of the Italian Neorealism Movement, who also directed the highly acclaimed film "The Bicycle Thief," has captured the world of the old and forgotten in this story of an old man's desperation, and 66 years later it still resonates today.  De Sica avoids any sentimentality in a story that could easily fall into that trap, especially when one of the stars is a darling little dog.

And it still resonates with me. I can't stop thinking about it.  I loved it.

Neorealism was an Italian movement that started during WW II and continued through the 50's.  One of the tenets was that films should embody everyday life and the characters should be played by non-professionals. "Umberto D" is one of the most successful demonstrations of that theory, and it is amazing that Umberto is played by a 70-year-old university lecturer who had not acted before.

Battisti has a face that just demands empathy, and Maria Pia Casillio was delightful and looked like a young Debbie Reynolds.  And Flike?  What can I say.  He was so adorable I am calling my little dog Flike.

Why it's a Must See: "With it's unapologetic tragic story of an old man's despair and love for his pet, and its pointed observations of social injustice, [this film] provides the perfect opportunity for the viewer to consider this question...De Sica leaves us wondering whether Umberto's love for his dog, who depends on him alone, is redemptory or futile."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I choose to think that little Flike was redemptory and gave Umberto something to live for.  Dogs are like that.

Rosy the Reviewer part of my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project," I have to watch a lot of films that I sometimes don't really enjoy but all of that is worth it to discover a gem of a film like this. This film will stay with you.
(b & w, in Italian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

The Futilitarians:  Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Reading, and Grieving by Anne Gisleson (2017)

A search for meaning in the face of tragedy and grief.

Anne Gisleson knows tragedy.  Her twin sisters killed themselves a year apart, she had to flee from Hurricane Katrina, and her beloved father died of cancer. Anne's husband, Brad, was a widower and had also had his share of heartbreak.

Anne and Brad wanted to make sense of all of that and, realizing that their friends had their own issues, came up with the idea of the Existential Crisis Reading Group, which they jokingly dubbed "The Futilitarians." From Epicurus to Tolstoy, from Cheever to the Bible, each month they read and talked about the meaning of existence in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Anne's father had forbade her to ever write about the deaths of her twin sisters, but now that her father was gone, Anne felt she could take on that task so this book is part-memoir and part existential musings but mostly it's about how talking about great literature and philosophy can help you understand life and its many challenges.

Epicurus wrote (and no, it's not about food) in "The Importance of Studying Philosophy:

"So, both for young and old, it is imperative to take up the study of philosophy.  For the old, so that they may stay youthful even as they are growing older by contemplating the good things of life and the richness of bygone events. And, for the young, so that they may be like those who are advanced in age in being fearless in the face of what is yet to come."

Rosy the Reviewer interesting story with a message: literature can heal.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"I, Tonya"

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. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

"La La Land" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "La La Land" as well as DVDs "Nine Lives" and "9/11."  The Book of the Week is "Superficial," more of Andy Cohen's diaries.  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Yi Yi: A One and a Two"]

La La Land

A jazz pianist and an aspiring actress fall in love in Los Angeles - but that's just the start of a wonderful fantasy that you will never forget.

When you are stuck in commuter traffic, wouldn't it be nice if you could just get out of your car and sing and dance with your fellow commuters?  Well, anything is possible in the movies, right? - and that is how this movie starts out, setting the tone and letting you know you are in for a magical movie journey.

This film is a love letter to Los Angeles, old Hollywood musicals, jazz, romance and people with dreams.  All of the things we love about the movies is on display: gorgeous cinematography, wonderful choreography, lovely music, an engaging couple and a magical story.

Before the film even starts, the word "Cinemascope" appears and the screen widens, and so do my eyes, remembering movies of the 50's that were filmed in Cinemascope.  That one word always meant the film would be wide-screen and beautiful to look at and this film is no exception.

Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist who wants to open his own jazz club.  He is obsessed with and disgusted by the club across the street from his apartment that used to be a famous jazz club but is now a samba/tapas joint. How could that happen? He laments that jazz is dying, no one appreciates it anymore and he yearns to open a club devoted to jazz.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress working as a barista at a coffee house on a movie set.  She has been auditioning in Hollywood unsuccessfully for six years and is feeling the pain and humiliation of trying to follow her dream.

The two meet cute, first passing each other as fellow commuters, with Mia giving Sebastian the finger when he honks at her to get a move on, and then again when she hears the haunting refrain of one of his piano pieces emanating from a club as she walks home late at night from a party.  She goes into the club and wants to tell him how much she loves his music, but he has just been fired and brushes past her.

But they do finally meet and fall in love. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl...well, you know how it goes...or maybe you don't. 

Gosling learned to play the piano for this film and does a good job looking like a pro. That haunting piano refrain that draws Mia into the club is used throughout the movie and reminded me of the theme from Charlie Chaplin's "Limelight."  And I wouldn't be surprised if that was an allusion to Chaplin, as this film is filled with references to old movies and movie musicals.  From the huge movie posters of Ingrid Bergman and other stars from Hollywood's Golden Age plastered all over Mia's apartment and Los Angeles to the dance sequence at the observatory in Griffith Park (remember "Rebel Without a Cause?") to the cinematography awash in color (exquisitely executed by Linus Sandgren and reminiscent of the lovely, colorful musical "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,") to the simple but lovely music by Justin Hurwitz (with lyrics by Pasek and Paul), this film evokes old Hollywood musicals but in a fresh, new way that is unforgettable. 

OK, I can just hear you saying, "I don't like musicals."  And I will  reply, "This isn't just any kind of musical you have seen before.  I promise you, you will love this one."

Though this film pays homage to movies of the past, it is its own special modern movie.

Ryan and Emma have a lovely chemistry and are an appealing couple.  I hate to admit I have never been much of a Ryan Gosling fan.  Not sure why.  Maybe it's all the dark movies he has been in.  He seemed like kind of a grouch.  But here, I have become a fan. When he does his dance numbers in his black and white wingtips,  I couldn't help but think of Gene Kelly.  And Emma Stone, though not your classic beauty, has the "It Factor."  She has that je ne sais qua that makes you love her.  I do love her (and she gets to wear the black and white wingtips too)!

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who also wrote and directed the acclaimed "Whiplash," this film is not really all about the script or even about boy meets girl, though the script is wonderful.  Nor does it have much in common with "Whiplash," except the jazz theme and the always gruff J.K. Simmons.  No, this film is even better than "Whiplash," and in fact, is something very, very special indeed.  You know what we say about old movies?  "They don't make 'em like that anymore?"  Well, I guess we still do, because Chazelle has made one of the great films of all time.

Everything from the acting to the directing to the set design (which is sure to win an Oscar) to the cinematography to the editing is all first rate and add up to an unforgettable film experience.

I just have one teensy weensy little complaint and that was early in the film when Sebastian's sister visits him at his apartment.  I know we needed a bit of exposition here so we would know that Sebastian is a bit of a hermit, doesn't want to meet any girls and just wants to concentrate on playing jazz, which makes his meeting Mia even more romantic, but the sister refers to his being ripped off, that he is somehow down and out and licking his wounds because he had a bad business deal or something.  That is never explained and I kept waiting to find out what that was all about.  When Keith (John Legend) appears and Sebastian appears to have a grudge against him, that is never explained either, so I couldn't help but wonder if there was more to the film and it was edited out.

But that is a very minor detail, the kind of thing I notice, but it doesn't mar what comes together as an extraordinary film experience.

There are so many outstanding moments in this film that it doesn't seem enough to point out only a couple, but tears fell when Mia sang a song about dreamers when she was auditioning for her big break, and the dream sequence at the end of the film, which evoked the dream ballet in "An American in Paris," is right up there with the most beautiful of all dream ballets.  (All of the dance numbers were choreographed by Mandy Moore, who has done some of the most memorable choreography on "So You Think You Can Dance.)"

Speaking of the dream ballet, despite the homage to the movies of the past that we loved, we are reminded that, though anything is possible in the movies, life isn't like the movies.

As for tears, you know what it means when I cry at the end of the movie, right?  Right.

This is a ground-breaking musical right up there with its predecessors that were also ground-breaking: "Oklahoma!" with its dark storyline and complete integration of plot, song, lyrics, and dance by Agnes DeMille, which for the first time were integral to the story rather than diversions; and then "West Side Story," with Leonard Bernstein's incredible music, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (his first musical) and choreography by Jerome Robbins.  No previous musical had included so much dance or used it so dramatically and inventively to tell the story and reveal the characters.

And now we have "La La Land" - a movie musical that pays homage to what has come before but sets a bar for the future by making its own mark and bringing movie musicals into the modern world. 
"Please, Sir, I want some more."

Chazelle is amazingly only 31, so I can't wait to see what else he will do!
Rosy the Reviewer says...see you at the Oscars!

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


Nine Lives (2016)

A ruthless businessman is turned into a cat to teach him a lesson about life.

This movie was on more "Worst Movies of 2016" lists than I care to count, so I expected to hate this movie.  But I didn't.  I mean, who can't get a chuckle out of a real life cat trying to write with a fountain pen or make himself a drink?

Kevin Spacey plays Tom Brand, a balls-to-the-wall New York City businessman who also just happens to be arrogant, selfish and mean.  Did I say mean?  He is bent on building the tallest tower in North America to glorify himself (remind you of anyone so far)? His wife, Lara (played by Jennifer Garner), introduces him to a crowd as "a real pussycat" and later when his daughter asks for a cat for her birthday, he says "I hate cats."  Uh oh.

So with that little bit of foreshadowing...when Tom goes to a pet shop, well, actually a pet shop that only sells cats, run by Felix Perkins (AKA as Felix "Purr"kins and played by the usually strange and creepy Christopher Walken), to buy a cat for his daughter's birthday, Perkins, who we learn has special powers, decides it's time that Tom Brand gets a lesson in life.  What better way than to turn him into a cat?  I couldn't have thought of a better plan myself.

Through some strange alchemy never explained, on the way home with the cat, Tom goes up on the roof of a tall building, is struck by lightning, falls off the building and somehow Tom and the cat change places, though Tom's human body never shows up anywhere acting like a cat.  He is just in a coma.  Too bad.  That might have been funny...Kevin Spacey as Tom running around meowing, scratching himself and licking his...  Well, you know.  But Spacey gets a pass in this movie and doesn't have to do anything except lie comatose in bed and lend his voice to the cat who does all of the work.

While Tom is lying in a coma, his arch nemesis, Ian Cox (Mark Consuelos) is plotting to take over Tom's company.  He was also there when Tom was struck by lightning and fell off the roof.  He could have saved him but didn't, so he's not a very nice guy either.

So now Tom's body is in a coma and his mind is inside the cat and if that wasn't bad enough, his cat name is Mister Fuzzy Pants! Oh, the humiliation! Lara takes him home and their daughter, Rebecca (Melina Weissman) loves Mister Fuzzy Pants, which is great, but while Tom is doing his best to be a good Mister Fuzzy Pants for Rebecca, he is also doing everything he can to try to get through to his wife that he is in there. There is a drunk cat sequence, a scene where Tom can't stand the thought of eating cat food and when he faces the prospect of being "fixed." There are lots and lots of jokes about cat scans, using a mouse, even that iconic 70's poster of the kitten hanging from a tightrope that said "Hang in there, baby" makes an appearance.

Perkins makes it clear to Tom that if he doesn't want to remain a cat for the rest of his life, he had better clean up his act, so the film becomes a sort of "redemption by cat" tail, I mean tale. And speaking of the cat, this is one talented cat, considering how uncooperative cats seem to be.  With the help of CGI, Mister Fuzzy Pants does some spectacular stunts that at times are actually quite funny. 

Kevin Spacey plays the put-upon-man-turned-into-a-cat role well. Anyway, his voice does.  However, I don't quite buy Jennifer Garner in broad comedy like this.  She was trying too hard to be funny.  It didn't work.

However, the problem here is this.  Who is this film aimed at?  Kids might find the talking cat funny, but they won't really understand the backstory or Tom's need to become a better human.  Adults will understand the backstory and the moral, but might find the jokes...a joke. Let's just say the cat-inspired quips and the broad, slapstick humor gets tiring.

So, yes, this film has its issues, but I have to say it's hardly the worst film of the year. It was way better than "Zoolander 2" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,"  so if you liked those movies and are prone to watching cat videos when you are bored at work, you will LOVE this one.

And this film has a good message. 

Tom gets a wake-up call.  Get it?  He's in a coma and needs a WAKE UP CALL?  Ok, anyway. 

Here is the message: Don't act like a dick or you will get turned into a cat, an especially horrible fate if you hate cats!

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, I found this film funny at times despite the fact that I hated those two aforementioned films and never watch cat videos, but then I have always had an interest in animals playing humans and vice versa...

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sometimes amusing little film if you like to see cats with hangovers or see bad people get their comeuppance.

9/11 (2002)

A you-are-there look at the events that took place on that terrible day.

What are the odds? 

French filmmakers - Gedeon and Jules Naudet - were working with firefighter and filmmaker James Hanlon to make a film about what it was like for a rookie New York City fireman as he went through the nine-month probationary period to become a full-fledged fireman and ended up filming the only eyewitness account of what happened inside Tower 1 of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.  Unwittingly their film became a documentary about a documentary and captured some of the most chilling images ever seen.

The film starts in June 2001 and follows Tony Benatotas as he is introduced to his duties at Engine 7, Battalion 1 Company by Chief Joseph Pfeiffer. It was supposed to be "a day in the life" of a rookie fireman (called a "probie" because he is on probation) as he waits for his first fire.  The filmmakers just happened to be downtown with Chief Pfeifer and some other firefighters investigating a gas leak...and then it happened.

As the Battalion 1 firefighters examined the supposed gas leak, American Airlines Flight 11 flew overhead. Turning the camera to follow the plane, filmmaker Jules Naudet taped one of only three known recordings of the first plane hitting Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. Chief Pfeifer and other firefighters were the first responders and Jules was allowed to follow the rescue operation. They were all inside the lobby of Tower 1 when Tower 2 was hit by the second aircraft and when Tower 2 eventually collapsed.  Gideon was back at the firehouse, filming the reactions of Tony and the rest of the firefighters.

As his fellow firemen race to the scene having no idea what they are dealing with, Tony is left behind to tend to the firehouse.  When the firemen arrive at Tower 1, there are no elevators because flaming jet fuel had run right down the elevator shaft so they had to walk up.  As they are determining what to do, the second plane hits and is captured on film.  It was clear that no one knew what to do. 

The filmmakers were filming the entire time, sometimes through a lense covered in dirt and debris. What they captured was the first plane hitting the North Tower, footage from inside the lobby of the Twin Towers as they burned, and the faces of the doomed firefighters as they raced to save people’s lives inside a pair of iconic buildings that would soon collapse into what could only be described as hell...and brace yourselves.  Plane parts are strewn over the street, and you can also hear the bodies of the people who jumped hitting the ground.

First airing on TV, this was supposed to be a documentary about a boy becoming a man over his nine month probationary period but turned out to be a story about a boy forced to  become a man in six hours.

"Did it make me a man?  What's a man...?"  Tony says, shaken, at the end of the film. 

He also says that the "New guys will never know what it was like to be a fireman before September 11."  And the same goes for our nation.  Since that day, we can hardly remember what it was like before and we have never been the same.

The film ends with all of the pictures of the many firemen who died that day and I had no idea there had been so many. Sadly, Chief Pfeifer's own brother, another firefighter, died during the rescue attempt.

My son told me about this film and since we have never been the same country since that awful day, I am still interested in what took place in a probably futile desire and need to understand it. I had to see this. I have never gotten over the film "United 93," which dramatized what might have happened on that plane that went down in Pennsylvania, and I won't get over this one, either.  

This film, fourteen years later, is still a powerful reminder that though we may never understand what happened, we must never forget it. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a chilling documentation of a terrible day but one we must never forget and a fitting memorial to those who died doing their duty.


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

221 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000)

This film follows three generations of a middle-class Taipei family from a wedding to a funeral.

"Yi Yi" is the story of the Jian family seen through the eyes of three different characters who represent three different generations: that of the father NJ (Wu Nien-jen), the young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), and the teenage daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee). This three-hour film starts with a wedding, concludes with a funeral and bored the hell out of me in between.

I don't know what it is, but unless the movie is "Gone With the Wind" or "Dr. Zhivago," I just can't tolerate movies that run to three hours, especially if there isn't much going on.

Anyway, NJ's computer company is failing and he is hoping to align himself with a Japanese computer game company. He is also unhappy with his career in general, because he finds that his partners are all only concerned with making money and his honesty is unappreciated.  His wife is having a midlife crisis and has left to go to a Buddhist retreat, so when NJ's old girlfriend, Sherry (Su-Yun Ko), comes back into his life, he is tempted.

Meanwhile NJ's youngest son, Yang Yang, is having difficulty at school and his daughter, Ting Ting, is having the usual boyfriend troubles.  At the same time, NJ's mother-in-law has had a stroke and is in a coma.  There are a host of other family members who also complicate matters.

Director Edward Yang wrote and directed this epic film (are three hour movies always called epics?) about the everyday lives of an ordinary family and how we all silently deal with our human struggles. Everyone makes decisions and deals with their problems in their own way but despite their efforts, no one seems to get anywhere.  In life there are no easy or definitive answers.  We just go along and do the best we can. 

Another theme is time as the film progresses through the stages of life - birth, marriage, midlife crisis and death - and the characters react and feel the urgency of time speeding by.

Why it's a Must See:  " of the richest family portraits in modern cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Yang won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for this film in 2000 and the film garnered scores of other awards.  Most of the leading critics of the day also jumped on the bandwagon to proclaim it the best film of the year.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yawn. Sorry, I couldn't jump on this bandwagon.
(In Mandarin with English subtitles)


***Book of the Week***

Superficial: More Adventures from the Andy Cohen Diaries by Andy Cohen (2016)

Andy Cohen shares his diary entries from September 2014 through June of 2016.

I love Andy Cohen. 

For those of you who don't have premium cable and can't get Bravo, Andy was head of development for Bravo for 10 years and was responsible for all of those "Real Housewives" shows some of us love so much (and many others hate and blame for all that is bad in the world).

Andy is also the host of the talk show "Watch What Happens Live (AKA as WWHL).  He resigned from Bravo in 2013, but continues to be the Executive Producer for the "Real Housewives" and to host his talk show.  He is the first openly gay host of an American late-night talk show, and that is relevant here, because he talks about life as a gay man in this latest edition of his diaries.

Inspired to keep a diary by the "Andy Warhol Diaries," Andy reports on his book tour and renovating his apartment as well as everything from his nightly talk show to his run-ins with the rich and famous to his daily workouts and ablutions, which leads me to tell you what I loved about this book and what I didn't.

What I loved about this book:

  • Andy is unabashedly and unapologetically in love with celebrities and the gossip they generate and so am I!
  • He is very honest about his dating life and relationships and at times poignant about his quest to find true love
  • His observations about the rich and famous are hilarious and no-holds-barred but never mean even when he is snubbed by Taylor Swift
  • You don't need to have read his first book of diary entries, "Most Talkative," to enjoy this one
  • He loves his Mom and he quotes from her extensively
  • The enjoyment of life that he exudes on his show comes out in his book

What I didn't love so much:

  • I know Andy loves his dog Wacha, but after awhile hearing about all of Wacha's issues wore thin (though I should talk. I am awash in dogs and talk about them all of the time).
  • He overshares about peeing and pooping, and I'm not talking about his dog's
  • Sometimes I didn't know who he was talking about. Most of the people he talks about are obvious.  I mean, I know Mariah and Cher and Bette, but he has a posse of friends who play significant roles, and he only uses their first names, so sometimes I didn't know who he was talking about. 
  • The details of his day were sometimes, well, too detailed. Did I really need to know about all of his workouts with "the Ninja" or his many naps or the hot window washers? This book works best in small doses. A nice book to have in the bathroom, and fitting, considering.

If you watch Bravo and like the "Real Housewives," there is all kinds of juicy stuff in here about them.  But since Andy also hosts a talk show and celebrities pass through every night, he also comments on all of the shows he did and people he interviewed over the two years (Sting and his wife Trudy Styler - she told Andy that Sting has a gay alter ego named Rene. Kelly Clarkson - "really nice, open, funny, boozy, and game.").

Andy also likes to go out and he is running into celebrities all of the time, so you get to follow him on his adventures and hang out with John Mayer (they are good friends - no, Mayer is not gay) and SJP (that's Sarah Jessica Parker to you and me - she is also a good friend of Andy's).

As I said, I love Andy and I am a faithful follower of WWHL  I even went to see Anderson Cooper (another good friend) and him when the two were on tour together and came to Seattle.  I was able to get up and ask Andy a question so, of course, I had to ask him if he was actually personal friends with any of the Housewives (Yes, Bethenny and Carole from the RHONY - you have to get used to these initialisms - and that made me sad because those two are not my faves).

Rosy the Reviewer says...Andy is living the good life and loving it and you can too, well, vicariously, reading this book.


Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday 

for my list of

"The Best and Worst Movies of 2016"

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