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

Friday, November 4, 2016

"The Accountant" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Accountant" as well as the Netflix Original documentary "Amanda Knox" and the DVD "The Meddler."  The Book of the Week is fashion designer Donna Karan's memoir "My Journey," and I also review the Broadway musical "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" now on tour.  And as usual, I bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the classic silent film "Foolish Wives."]

The Accountant

An autistic math savant with social issues grows up to be an accountant, a likely career path, but also a cold-blooded killer?  Who knew?

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) grew up with a military Dad (Robert C. Treveiler) and a devoted older brother. Their mother left early when she couldn't deal with Christian's behavior. You see, Christian was, how shall I say this?  A bit difficult?  He didn't talk much and needed things to be in their place and just so, and he also became very frustrated if he couldn't finish something he started and would freak out.  But on the bright side, Christian was a brilliant math whiz. He would make a great accountant.

So Christian's Dad was left on his own to raise the boys and decided that the best way to deal with Christian's special needs was to employ - what can I say? - some strange parenting techniques. Basically he expected that Christian would have to deal with the real world so he had better learn how to deal with bullies. As Dad moved around with the military, he hired martial artists to teach both boys to fight, and no matter how badly they got beaten up, he would not let them give up. He also taught them to shoot guns and rifles so both boys also grew up to be sharpshooters and just general bad asses. 

Despite his social issues, Christian grew up to be an accountant, a brilliant one, in fact. He was so brilliant that he came to the attention of bad guys around the world who needed their books cooked and their money laundered.  So Christian obliged.

However, Christian has now come to the attention of Ray King (J.K. Simmons), a Treasury Department agent in charge of financial crimes.  He is on the verge of retirement, but he wants to find out who this guy is who keeps appearing in surveillance videos with all of the bad guys of the world, and he enlists, well, actually, blackmails agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into putting all of her efforts into finding this guy.

In the meantime, Christian has set up a life for himself that is seemingly ordinary...except it's not.  He runs his accounting business out of an ordinary storefront in an ordinary strip mall.  He has an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood and drives an ordinary car.  However, he is also aware that what he is doing is not particularly ordinary, or legal, so he has a safe house (a trailer) where he keeps his weapons and everything he needs to make a fast getaway, should he need to. The trailer also contains a Renoir and a Pollock or two.  Also very not ordinary.  

But when Christian gets wind of the Treasury Department's interest in him, he takes a legitimate job at a prosthetics company to throw them off.  The company is run by Lamar Black (John Lithgow) and his sister (Jean Smart) and Christian is hired to try to find out what happened to 61 million dollars.  But when he and another accountant, Dana Cummings, played by Anna Kendrick, discover what is really happening at that company, all hell breaks loose.  Now Christian isn't just being hunted by the Treasury Department, but also by a mysterious thug (Jon Bernthal), who very politely beats the crap out of people who are not paying their debts and kills the rest in sadistic, though imaginative ways when he feels like it.

There are some questions you might have during the film and some holes in the plot, such as whatever happened to Christian's brother?  Well, let's just say there are several twists and turns and most of your questions will be answered, despite some "Huh?" moments that make you wonder how this or that happened, but mostly it's "I didn't see that coming" moments.  All in all this is an engrossing, well-acted wild ride of a film directed by Gavin O'Connor and showcasing Ben Affleck's talents.

Speaking of which, I am a big Ben Affleck fan. Ben first came to my attention in 1997 in "Chasing Amy," where he sported a very hipster goatee.  But the deal was sealed for me in "Good Will Hunting."  You would think that Matt Damon would have been the one I noticed most, and don't get me wrong, he was very good.  But I was most struck by Ben who played Matt's friend, Chuckie.  Chuckie was a working class guy in a working class town and he knew he would always be that.  But he knows that Will is different and destined for a better life if he would just go for it. There is a scene when Chuckie gives Will a speech about how he needs to get out of their working class town and make something of himself:

"Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out. We have a few drinks, and a few laughs, and it's great. But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, 'cause I think, maybe I'll get up there and I'll knock on the door and you won't be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don't know much, but I know that."

I was so touched.  He really got me. I thought, "Wow," who is this guy?  I have been a big Ben fan ever since.

Here Ben also uses his acting chops to create a complex character. Christian doesn't give a lot of himself to others but Ben is able to create some pathos around Christian, despite his seeming cold-bloodedness.

Anna Kendrick shows her dramatic side playing the young accountant who gets involved with Christian (and doesn't sing, thank goodness), but scriptwriter Bill Dubuque avoids the cliché of a romance and Christian being redeemed by love, though there is definitely some affection between the two characters.  J.K. Simmons is his usual hard-boiled self (but see him in "The Meddler" reviewed below.  He shows an uncharacteristic softer side).

Rosy the Reviewer of the better thrillers of the year.

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

On Netflix and DVD

Amanda Knox (2016)

Whatever happened to Amanda Knox?

You might reply, "Who?"

This is not big news so much anymore and not sure how caught up in it the rest of the country was.  But here in Seattle this was a huge news story and it continues to fascinate since Amanda Knox is a hometown girl.

So here's a recap:

On November 10, 2007 no one knew who Amanda Knox was, not even many Seattleites. She was just a college student from the University of Washington spending an academic year in Perugia, Italy. But on November 11, 2007 that all changed for her when her English roommate, Meredith Kercher, was found murdered in the house they shared.  Though Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raphaele Sollecito were supposedly nowhere near the house when the murder occurred and maintained their innocence, they were charged, tried and convicted of Meredith's murder. 

How did this happen?

This Netflix original documentary tries to sort it all out.

Amanda Knox provides some early narration for the film that starts with actual grainy footage of the Perugian police at the crime scene.  She also provides a cautionary tagline:

"Either I am a psychopath in sheep's clothing or I am you."

Because Amanda didn't respond the way she was supposed to when she found her roommate's body and when later interviewed by police, she and her boyfriend became suspects for the crime.

The film flips back and forth from the past to the present.  We see Amanda as a carefree teen in Seattle before she went to study in Italy.  She was a fairly sheltered kid growing up in Seattle, and she thought that going to Italy would help her turn into an adult and that she would find herself there.  Little did she know what awaited.

When she arrived in Italy, she almost immediately hooked up with a local student, Raphaele Sollecito, who also appears in the film. The other main characters in this true murder mystery also provide narration - the lead prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and Nick Pisa, a reporter for the British tabloid, "The Daily Mail."  

Magnini was and is a controversial figure with some specious actions in his past.  He also fancied himself a modern day Sherlock Holmes.  He latched onto Amanda's and Raphaele's supposed guilt right away and never let go of it, despite evidence to the contrary.  The Perugian police had never had such a high profile case and needed to show they could handle something this big, especially since that small town was crawling with reporters and the murder became a cause celebre. 

Nick Pisa, a freelance journalist was covering the case for "The Daily Mail," and you know what happens when the tabloids get involved.  The British tabs are notorious anyway, especially "The Daily Mail," but with Meredith being British and Amanda being American, they had a field day.  And knife wounds and nicks on Meredith's chin implied to the tabloids that this was some sort of sex game gone wrong, and it just ballooned from there.  Pisa is the guy who came up with calling Amanda "Foxy Knoxy" and showing controversial pictures of her that made her look guilty.  In the film, he makes no effort to deny his part in sensationalizing the case and even admits to printing untrue stories about Amanda.

"I think now, looking back, some of the information that came out was just crazy, really, and completely made up," he reflects at the end. "But hey, what are we supposed to do, you know?"

Also it didn't help that Amanda had a bit of an off-putting demeanor.  She comes across as phlegmatic and even a bit self-centered, and her actions following the murder just added fuel to the fire for the lead prosecutor. The authorities perceived her as hostile and rebellious. But, hey, she was only 20, which for most young people is a very self-centered time of life.  Also the police used very aggressive interrogation techniques (we hear some of that in the film), and Amanda fell victim to making some false statements, something that is not surprising considering her age and getting slapped on the head during hours of interrogation.

If you followed this case, you know the basic facts, but this is the first time we see actual crime scene footage and hear directly from Raphaele and the prosecutor.  Naturally those of us in Seattle were riveted because Amanda was a hometown girl and it all seemed like such an obvious miscarriage of justice by an overzealous prosecutor with issues of his own, not to mention the salacious newspaper reporting.

Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, this movie is maddening, not for anything the directors did, because they stated the case well and made their points about why it all went wrong.  No, it was this whole affair that was maddening.  Watching it as an outsider, you just can't believe that Amanda and Raphaele would be convicted of this murder, especially when Rudy Guede, a native of the Ivory Coast and a local drifter/drug dealer, was actually tried and convicted of killing Meredith.  But the two were still convicted and both spent four years in prison mainly because of a maniacal prosecutor, who was hell bent on convicting Amanda and Raphaele in court, and a press that came up with one salacious story after another thus convicting them in the court of public opinion. 

Yes, Magnini had it out for Amanda.  How can you deal with a prosecutor who said he knew Amanda was guilty because he could see it in her eyes?  And the British tabloids fueled the flames of Amanda's guilt with outrageous stories. She was declared guilty in the press before she even went to trial, and Rudy killing Meredith was just not as interesting as the idea of a drug-fueled sex game starring an American college girl so despite Rudy's conviction, the tabloids kept the stories coming.  Add those two things together - the megalomaniacal prosecutor and the bloodthirsty press - and you have the perfect storm of justice gone wrong. 

I can't think of anything worse than being falsely accused of murder and not being able to prove your own innocence, which in this case, she had to do.  Imagine being a young college girl, innocently going off to study in Europe and then suddenly being thrown into a murder case through no fault of your own, convicted and given 26 years in an Italilan jail.  What a nightmare.  Amazingly, Amanda had the fortitude to endure four years in prison before she was granted an appeals trial and ultimately freed.

The last 30 minutes of the film shows the independent Italian DNA people debunking the prosecutions assertions, thus leading to Amanda's and Raphaele's release, though they both had to go through another setback with a reversal of that judgment before a final appeal led to their exoneration.  Despite that, prosecutor Magnini remains unrepentant and convinced of their guilt and, sadly, Meredith's parents and much of the Italian public still believe they are guilty.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating nightmare. If you like true crime films like "Making a Murderer," you will like this film.

The Meddler (2015)

After her husband dies, Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) moves from New York to Los Angeles to start a new life near her daughter.  The title tells it all.

Marnie is a middle-aged widow who decides to move from New York to Los Angeles to be near her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), a television writer.  It becomes evident right away that Marnie is a "meddler."  She is one of those people who imposes her will on others because she assumes what she likes and believes is what everyone else should like and believe.  We know those people, right?  Marnie is not above walking into her daughter's apartment and looking at Lori's computer history.  Marnie even sees the same shrink as her daughter, not to get help for herself but rather to find out what her daughter is telling the therapist!

But Marnie is not completely wrong to be concerned about her daughter. Lori is a bit of a mess.  She has just had a bad break-up and is having difficulty getting over it and moving on.  She tries to set some boundaries with her mother but the two are co-dependent.  Lori doesn't want her mother in her business but she also needs her mother's help and feels guilty when she tells her mother to bug off.

When Lori has to go back to New York for work, Marnie doesn't know what to do with herself, so she volunteers at a local hospital and babysits for Lori's friends. She also befriends a young guy at the Apple Store and offers to pay for a wedding for one of Lori's friends (Cecily Strong).  You see, Marnie's husband has left her quite a bit of money and she spends it on everyone else because that makes her happy. But she overdoes it big time, and when the therapist confronts her about using her money to buy friends and affection, Marnie has to take a good hard look at her life.

This is a nice vehicle for Sarandon so she can do her "crazy mother" thing, but she actually comes off as sweet and charming, though her New Jersey accent comes and goes and often sounds more like she is from Boston.  Sarandon shows off her considerable acting skills because Marnie could be annoying as hell, but she isn't.  She is actually sweet and kind, and you realize she just wants to help. Yes, she's a meddler, but she is a good person and you root for her to find herself. And I have to say that Sarandon sure has good genes.  She not only looks good for her age, she just looks good! If she has had plastic surgery, I want to know who her doctor is.   

However, Rose Byrne needs to get some other kinds of roles.  She is most often seen as the compliant wife ("Neighbors"), and here she is the compliant daughter.  Harry Hamlin has a small role and it's fun seeing him actually acting.  These days, it seems like he is more famous for being Lisa Rinna's real life hubby on the "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" than a movie actor.  Sorry, Harry, but it's true.

J.K. Simmons provides a love interest for Marnie and his role here is a nice departure from his hardass Treasury Department agent in "The Accountant (see review above)" and his hard as nails drum teacher in "Whiplash." Here he is sensitive and kind, and I like him better playing this kind of character.  As an actor, it's actually more difficult to make a sensitive, nice character interesting than it is to play a villain.

Retirees will especially like this film because figuring out what to do with oneself in retirement is one of those things we have to deal with.  A parent who is retired and alone and at loose ends about it is naturally going to want to get into his or her child's business.  But mothers and daughters will also enjoy this - to see how NOT to act.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, this film captures that time of life when you feel like you are no longer relevant, so if you want to be happy you need to rethink your expectations of life and change course and focus on those little things that make life worth living.  It's a wonderful depiction of what it's like to try to find purpose (and love) after your children and spouse are gone.

This is one of those "adult" films I have been talking about.  No action heroes, no zombies, just real adult interaction exploring adult issues with great characters, great acting, and a great story - a story that gives all of us older folks hope and you younger kids, what you have to look forward too!

Rosy the Reviewer absolute MUST SEE!


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

228 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Foolish Wives (1922)

A Russian con artist sets up shop in Monte Carlo with his two mistresses, er, "cousins" and attempts to compromise and blackmail the wife of an American diplomat.

Erich Von Stroheim was famous for playing German villains until he also began writing and directing his own films.  Here he plays Count Sergius Karamzin, a Russian lothario who has come to Monaco with his two mistresses posing as Princesses and his cousins, to make a killing in the casino by using counterfeit money. "Princess" Olga is the hoity-toity one and has no problem pinching her maid if she displeases her. "Princess" Vera is a bit of a ditz.  They are visited by Signor Ventucci, the Count's counterfeiter and his rather simple-minded daughter, and you can tell the Count is a decadent as he gives the daughter a villainous, lustful look.  In fact, he gives every woman who comes his way a villainous, lustful look.

When Mr. and Mrs. Hughes arrive (he is an American diplomat), Sergius decides to ingratiate himself with them and seduce Mrs. Hughes and, once compromised, extort money from her.  He introduces himself and says he wishes to be her protector, to keep the con artists away, a cruel irony since she actually needs protection from HIM!  And hence the title. 

Guess what happens?  Sure.  She is a foolish wife who is easily flattered and when given the attention she doesn't get from her husband, even if it's from an oily dude, she still falls for him and gets caught in his web.  Why do we women get all of the blame?  Why couldn't this have been called "Crappy Con Men" or "Hopeless Husbands?"  But foolish or not, the wife gets saved and the Count is shown to be a coward and gets his in the end as is the usual outcome in these early films.  It wasn't until much later in film history that the bad guys ever won.

When the film was released in 1922, it was the most expensive film ever made, billed as "the first million dollar movie."  Von Stroheim intended for the film to run between six and ten hours and play over two evenings, but the studios said no, and the film was cut down to a little over two hours.  You see Von Stroheim was that kind of guy, very much like his film roles, autocratic and superior.  His unwillingness to do what he needed to do to be commercial, his haughty demeanor, his insistence that he be allowed to do whatever he wanted and his over-spending, led to fights with the studios and ultimately fewer and fewer directorial opportunities.  In his later years, he was best known as an actor.  Who can forget him as Gloria Swanson's butler in "Sunset Boulevard (for which he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination).

Why it's a Must See: "Greed is Stroheim's most famous film, but [this film] is his masterpiece...This witty, ruthlessly objective film confirms its director as the cinema's first great ironist...The film's tone of cool, lively detachment is enhanced by its exhaustive elaboration of the world around the characters, articulating space through visual strategies...that make us intensely aware of the entire 360-degree field of each scene...there's hardly a shot that doesn't dazzle the eye with rich, shimmering interplay of detail, lighting, gesture, and movement."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

The cinematography was by the famous William Daniels and original prints had hand-coloring by Gustav Brock.  Not sure if the copy I saw was from the original print or a facsimile but I found the changing colors -  from sepia to black and white to blue to red -  to be distracting and even irritating as especially the blue and red lacked clarity. However, I can see that would have been an exciting innovation for 1922 audiences.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Stroheim is a thing to behold and, for me, the main reason to see this film.  With his military uniform, straight back and monocle, he is the picture of the aristocratic decadent. They don't make villains like him anymore.

***Book of the Week***

My Journey: Donna Karan by Donna Karan (2015)



Fashionistas will enjoy this look into what it takes to make it in the fashion industry as a designer.

Donna Karan made a huge splash in the 80's with her "Seven Easy Pieces."
  • The bodysuit
  • Wrap and tie skirt
  • Pants - classic menswear inspired trousers or pencil
  • Jacket
  • Suede wrap jacket
  • Camel coat
  • Gold sequined skirt
  •  Accessorries included a white shirt and tights.

With these few pieces, she proclaimed, you could go anywhere and do anything by mixing and matching, something that was quite revoutionary in the 80's as most clothes were sold as "outfits."

Barbra Streisand was a big fan and, Karan and she actually became besties and Streisand wrote the forward to this book.

Growing up, Karan's father was a tailor and her mother a model.  The Seventh Avenue fashion district in NYC was like home and Karan swore she would never follow in her father's footsteps.  She wanted to be a dancer.  But you know how those things are. She had a talent for fashion and interned with designer Anne Klein, who mentored her and believed in her, and when Klein died unexpectedly right in the middle of fashion season, Karan was able to take up the reins.  However, after success, she was ultimately fired and forced to start her own company, she persevered and thus her place in the fashion world was established. 

Her career soared, but her personal life was a bit of a soap opera. She married Mark, her high school sweetheart, but during their courtship met another man, Stephan, and she fell in love with him, but she was pressured to marry Mark and she did.  When she later reconnected with Stephan, she couldn't deny her feelings and left her husband.

Karan comes off as a ballsy woman with many insecurities - just like many successful women.  She ends the book:

 "As I reflect back, I realize that so much of my career has been an adventure with twists and turns I never could have predicted...I've never been a woman with a laid out strategy.  I have passion and enthusiasm.  The word no is not in my vocabulary.  Don't tell me something's impossible.  In my mind, anything and everything is possible.  I just need to stay open and access my gift -- the light that flows through, that flows through all of us -- and trust that it will lead me in the right direction."

And that's the kind of life she has led.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love fashion, you will enjoy this book, but you will also enjoy this book if you like stories about strong women living the lives they want to live.


***A Night at the Theatre***

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical


This Tony-Award winning Broadway musical highlights the music and career of Carole King and is now on national tour.

Carole King, nee Carol Joan Klein, was only 15 when she sold her first song.  When she met and teamed up with another songwriter, Jerry Goffin, the two wrote some of the most recognizable songs of the Baby Boomer generation.  She wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics, which is amazing since many of his lyrics echoed a woman's sensibility.  "Natural Woman?"  "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"  A man wrote those lyrics?

Carole married Goffen and they set up shop in the Brill Building where they hung out with another songwriting team, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, but when Carole and Jerry divorced and she moved to California, she found herself and a solo career.  Her solo album "Tapestry" was one of the biggest selling albums of all time. That album was a "tapestry" of its time.

This musical touches on all of that in a fast-paced and breezy way with lots of laughs and lots and lots of wonderful music. Those of us out in the provinces are lucky to have these Broadway touring companies come through our towns.  Sure, we may not see the people who made these shows famous on Broadway, but the actors on tour and the company are just as professional, and we are lucky to get this bit of Broadway.  In this case, Carole King is played by the wonderful Julia Knitel, who was the understudy for the Broadway show, so we certainly were not short changed.  She is brilliant as are the other cast members.

Rosy the Reviewer says...touring across the country now, if this show comes your way, don't miss it.  It's a great night of music and theatre! It's absolutely "Beautiful!"

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!


(yes, I feel a Tuesday rant coming on!)


"All the Lonely People"

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Must-See MUSICAL Biopics (With Performances by the Real Deals) - Did the Actors Do Their Subjects Justice? and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Noah," DVDs "Afternoon Delight," "Barefoot" and "Gimme Shelter," recommend a great true crime book about a crime that stunned the nation, am poetic about a musical theatre classic "Little Shop of Horrors" and review a new Seattle restaurant - Red Cow].

But first

Last week I gave you a list of must-see biopics.

To keep that first list under control, I deliberately left out those biopics that featured the stories of musicians, so to make my biopic list complete...

Here are some MUSICAL biopics
that are must-sees. 

Musical biopics are all about the performances, which is why so many of the stars in these biopics won Academy Awards.

But I have included some performances by the actual subjects of these biopics. 

How did our actors do?

Amadeus (1984)

The life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - from an "insane" point of view.

This film won eight Academy Awards but the guy who actually played Amadeus, Tom Hulce, didn't win.  Tom Hulce, who?

Why it's a must-see:  Won 1984 Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham), Best Adapted Screenplaly, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Costumes and Best Make-up. 

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Explores Liberace's career and his relationship with his much younger lover, Scott Thorson (based on Thorson's book of the same name).

Why it's a must-see:  Remarkable performances by Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson.

Here is the real deal.  How did Michael Douglas do?  You be the judge:

Buddy Holly Story (1978)

The life and career of this early rocker and his early, tragic death.

If you can get over what a nutter Gary Busey is these days, his performance DID win an Academy Award.  Who knew a head injury from a motorcycle accident could change someone into a person who speaks in acronyms and slogans!

Why it's a must-see: Busey channels Holly.

Did he?

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Loretta Lynn's life story.

Why it's a must-see:  Sissy Spacek did all of her own singing in this and won an Academy Award for Best Actress.  This is one of the "granddaddy's" of musical biopics.

Here's the real deal.  How did Sissy do?

The Doors (1991)

The story of the legendary band.

This is on as many worst lists as it is best lists, but for all of its histrionics and over the top stuff, it's engrossing.  Director Oliver Stone, for all of his excesses, never puts out anything boring.

Why it's a must-see: Oliver Stone films are always a must-see, even when they miss the mark.

How did Val Kilmer do?  Here's the real deal:

The Five Pennies (1959)

The story of 1920's Dixieland jazz cornetist Red Nichols.

I have included this one for my Dad.  I have such fond memories of going to the movies with him, and I specifically remember seeing this one.  I would have been 11.

I could have included "The Benny Goodman Story," The Glenn Miller Story," "The Gene Krupa Story," or any film highlighting the lives of the Big Band and jazz greats from the 30's and 40's,  but I chose this one because my Dad also played the cornet and loved Dixieland jazz music and this movie is filled with the music I grew up with.

Why it's a must-see: It's a great example of 1950's Hollywood, Dixieland, and it's a great tear-jerker.

This is for you, Dad, the real deal:

Hard Days Night (1964)

Why it's a must-see:  Duh.  It's the Beatles. (click on the link to see why)

No one can do the Beatles.

La Vie En Rose (2007)

The life story of French singer Edith Piaf.

And what a life it was.  Supposedly born on the streets of Paris in 1915, she was a street performer at an early age. She was discovered and became an acclaimed nightclub singer, singing about her hard life. "La Vie En Rose," was her signature song.  But it was her personal life that was not successful.  She was involved with gangsters, boxers, Yves Montand; there were car crashes, airplane crashes and she died at 47.

Why it's a must-see:  Edith Piaf's life makes for a riveting film and Marion Cotillard's Academy Award winning performance captures Piaf's "Little Sparrow" persona.

For you youngsters out there (and I'm one of them!), the real Edith Piaf:

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Billie Holiday was another tragic singer.

Her jazz singing was a masterpiece of phrasing and Sinatra has cited her as an influence.  However, her personal life was rife with drug addiction, alcoholism and legal issues and she died at the age of 44.

Why it's a must-see:  Diana Ross's performance which shocked the naysayers who didn't think she could do it. 

Did she do it?

Here is the real Billie Holiday:


Ray (2004)

The amazing life of Ray Charles.

Despite being blind from the age of 7, he was a pioneer of "soul" - rhythm and blues, gospel and blues, all fused together.  Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in show business." 

Why it's a must-see:  It's an inspiring life played wonderfully by Jamie Foxx.

The real Ray Charles:

Selena (1997)

Nobody listening to mainstream music had heard of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez until her murder in 1995 by an assistant who had been fired for embezzlement.

Selena was born in Texas and was "The Queen of Tejano Music."  At the time of her death, she was on the cusp of crossing into the mainstream, which, ironically did happen after her death.

Why it's a must-see:  Jennifer Lopez played Selena and this was the turning point in her career and also the moment I became a huge fan of J-lo.  She also had the first famous big butt, way before Kim Kardashian. Check it out!

Jennifer did not do her own singing, which I found strange, but then she wasn't the star then she is now, thanks to this film.

Sweet Dreams (1975)

The country singers seem to have the most difficult lives and tragic deaths.  Patsy Cline was no exception.

Part of the early Nashville Sound, Patsy Cline was also able to cross over into pop music.  She was arguably one of the most successful female vocalists of the 20th centuryPatsy Cline came before Loretta Lynn, but they were professional rivals. This film was produced by the same guy who produced "Coal Miner's Daughter," so there is a soap opera element to both.  Sissy Spacek sang her own songs; Jessica Langue lip-synched.  Watch them in tandem and see what you think.

Why it's a must-see: Lange's Oscar-nominated performance.

For you youngsters out there, here's the real Patsy who Jessica was lip-synching to:

Walk the Line (2005)

Johnny Cash's early life and rise to fame.

Why it's a must-see: Joaquin Phoenix does not readily come to mind when you think Johnny Cash nor does Reese Witherspoon when you think of June Carte,r but both won Oscars for their performances.

What's Love Got To Do With It? (1993)

Based on her book "I, Tina:  What's Love Got to do With It?" Tina Turner tells her story of stardom coupled with abuse at the hands of her husband, Ike, and how she was finally able to break free.

Why it's a must-see: Angela Bassett had been pretty much toiling in television and supporting roles until this role came along to make her a household name and give her an Oscar nomination.

Did she channel Tina?  Here's the real thing:

***In Theatres Now***
Man has been naughty so God plans to destroy mankind.  Or most of them, anyway. Noah is called upon by God to save the innocent (meaning the animals) from the coming deluge so Noah builds an ark.
I know.  Don't ask.
But I actually have a soft spot for biblical movies
Here is another genre my Dad liked, so he and I attended many of the biblical films which seemed to abound in the 50's and early 60's:  "The Ten Commandments (who can forget Yul Brynner's famous line, "Moses, Moses, Moses")," "Samson and Delilah" and "David and Bathsheba," to name a few.  Some of those biblical tales were a bit racy for my young self, I must say. (I wonder what my Mom was doing when I was going to all of these movies with my Dad).
This telling of the classic Bible story is a sort of Mad Max version.  It's a dystopian world and nobody gets to wear cute clothes.
I think I need to dust off my bible a bit, though, because this film had some things in it I didn't remember from Sunday school.
I didn't remember that:
1. Noah spoke with an Australian accent.
2. The bad guy spoke with a Cockney accent.
3. And Noah's wife (Jennifer Connelly) had to affect a slight British accent to keep up, I guess.
4. Fallen angels were stone monsters who could help build the ark
5. A bad guy stowed away on the ark
6. A lot of family drama took place, which I guess should be expected when you are trying to survive the end of the world and start a whole new civilization.  That would cause a certain amount of stress, I guess.
And here are some things I have never quite understood.
If the world started with Adam and Eve and they had three sons, Cain, Abel and Seth (didn't really know about Seth), and Cain kills Abel, and Cain and Seth start two different sides of the family, how was that possible? Where did the women come from?
Also, how did the animals know where to find the ark?
And along those lines, if Noah saved just two of each animal, to "go forth and multiply," wouldn't that involve an awful lot of inbreeding?  I am not even going to think about how the humans handled that issue.
Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), Russell Crowe (Noah) is joined by Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, Jennifer Connelly as Noah's wife, Ray Winstone as the guy from the bad side of the family (Cain's) and Emma Watson as some girl they found along the way to round out the family and allow there to be some going forth and multiplying.  Nick Nolte was the voice of one of the stone monsters.  Unfortunately the women aren't given much to do.
All in all, this film was better than expected, except for one thing. 
Please, Russell, do NOT sing.  I have barely healed from your singing in Les Miserables.
When I came out of the movie theatre, it was starting to rain so I got a funny feeling and raced home to beat the possible deluge.  It was that good.
Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like your bible stories with a touch of Mad Max and Lord of the Rings, you will probably like this.

You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a bored stay-at-home Mom with a lackluster sex life.  Then she meets McKenna (Juno Temple), a young stripper and invites her to stay with her and her husband.  You can kind of guess what's going to happen.

Kathryn Hahn has toiled in TV ("Parks and Recreation") and was a stand-out in "We're the Millers," which didn't do much for Jennifer Aniston's career.  With five films coming out in the next year or so and filming two more as I write, Hahn is ready for the big break out.  And if you read my blog, you know that I love Juno Temple and can't believe she hasn't hit the big time yet.  She is a Brit who has starred in more films playing an American than I can count.  But she is a delight and can do anything.

My main complaint about this film is the ending.  It was too pat.  The way this film was headed, the ending should have been devastating, not an "afternoon delight."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Another one of those little indies I like so much.  Get to know Hahn and Temple.  You will be seeing more of them.

Barefoot (2014)

The ne're do well son of a wealthy family (Scott Speedman) takes a young psychiatric patient (Evan Rachel Wood), who's been raised in isolation her entire life, to his brother's wedding as his nurse girlfriend.  Bad idea.

This is your typical "fish out of water" story, young girl who has never driven tries to drive a car, doesn't know what love is, yada yada yada.  It's a sort of "Being There," but without the "profundities" or really good filmmaking.

The barefoot part is because our heroine is always barefoot.  Duh.

Treat Williams is the father of our so-called hero and one can only be reminded of the career he once had (remember "Prince of the City?") and his leading man good looks.  He is still good looking, but leading man roles eluded him.  However, he appears to be working regularly but in decidedly supporting roles.  What happened Treat?

Rosy the Reviewer says...Tried to be a quirky rom-com, but in the end you just don't care about these people.

Gimme Shelter (2013)

 Agnes, AKA "Apple," a pregnant teen (Vanessa Hudgens) from an abusive home wants to keep her child and finds help from a caring stranger.

Don't confuse this film with the Rolling Stones concert film of the same name.

About 30 minutes into this film, I realized I was watching a blatant pro-life movie. It's funny, too, because I have seen countless films about girls and women not wanting to give up their babies, but this movie just screamed MESSAGE.

Sometimes I watch movies that I don't know that much about.  Sometimes that's a good thing; sometimes not. This being a pro-life movie is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, it so obviously has a religious message that the drama, acting and everything else takes a back seat to THE MESSAGE.  I'm not a fan of those kinds of movies.

Based on the true story of Kathy DiFiore, who started shelters for pregnant teens who wanted to keep their babies, this film is earnest and definitely putting out the conservative message.  But that doesn't mean that Hudgens doesn't do a good job of shedding her "High School Musical" image, which she does, though her character is hard to like. But someone who has been dragged through the foster system probably would be pretty bitter.

Rosario Dawson also does a good job as the crazy, drug-addicted mother.  I didn't even recognize her. Must have been the yellow teeth.  How she and Brendan Fraser got together to produce "Apple" is explained late in the film and is one of the more touching moments.

Ann Dowd plays DiFiore, and she is a wonderful actress who can do anything.  She is one of those "faces," but you should know her name.

Ironically, the best parts of this film are when Apple is in the shelter, but that's almost an hour in, and even the presence of James Earl Jones cannot compel me to recommend this film. 

I hate to say it, but this is more Lifetime Movie than feature film.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Pro-lifers will rejoice.  People who like their films with less heavy handedness will not.

***Book of the Week***

Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders and the Crime that Changed America by Kevin Cook (2014)

The murder of Kitty Genovese in a quiet part of Queens, New York, in 1964 shook the nation, because she was killed supposedly while 38 of her neighbors watched and no one called the police.

Or was that really what happened?

Cook attempts to clear the misconceptions surrounding this horrendous murder and whether or not her neighbors really did just watch her die and do nothing.

He sets the stage with Kitty's life and the murderers life until they collide in that horrendous night.  Something I didn't know. Kitty was a lesbian and was living that lifestyle...well, as much as any woman could in those days.  It was actually against the law in New York to even cross dress.

The murder of Kitty Genovese took place in 1964 and scared the crap out of me. It shook the sense of safety one has when one is young.
My mother and I went to visit my sister who was living in New York City at the time and to see the World's Fair so this was all fresh and scary.
It also scared the crap out of the whole nation.

But Cook contends that the New York Times article that called out the "38" neighbors who "didn't want to get involved," that scared a nation and was the catalyst for neighborhood watch groups and an emergency phone service was an exaggeration and that those neighbors either didn't really see what was happening or did try to help

In my mind, it doesn't matter whether it was 38 people or 3, no one came out to help her and that is the scary, scary part.

Grisly details and something to think about, but comforting to know, after all of these years, that Kitty Genovese didn't die alone.

But the question is this:  Does Cook make his point?  You decide.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you are a true crime fan, this is one of the most sensational and devastating crimes of the 20th century and, arguably, where the phrase "I didn't want to get involved" came from.

***Musical Comedy of the Week***
Seymour works in a flower shop on Skid Row and loves his co-worker Audrey.  He doesn't have many prospects until he discovers a strange plant.  The plant brings curious visitors and business to the shop and everything is looking up until we discover the plant needs blood to survive -- and it demands it!
This musical version of Roger Corman's cult film class of the same name has music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, who wowed us with his brilliant lyrics in "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast" and sadly died of AIDS at the age of 40.

Hilarious script and great catchy songs ("Suddenly Seymour," "Somewhere That's Green" and "The Dentist Song").

It is currently playing in Seattle at the ACT Theatre.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a perennial favorite of theatre companies nationwide so if it comes to a theatre near you, don't miss it!

***Restaurant of the Week***

Red Cow

Red Cow joins other restaurants in the Ethan Stowell empire in a renovated space in the Seattle Madrona neighborhood where the French restaurant Cremant used to be.

As the name implies, it's all about meat and you can get your steaks in a variety of cuts and a variety of cost points.  The French fries are very French, just the way I like them.

It's a small industrial space and can be quite noisy but it's also a charming space with a cozy bar.  The wait staff is friendly and attentive without being overly so.

The restaurant hasn't been open long but it's already popular.  Many people were being turned away while we dined so make reservations.
Rosy the Reviewer says...the steak frites rule the day here.
That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday for

"A Little Meditation on a Little Meditation by an Unlikely Meditator"

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