Showing posts with label Nanaville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nanaville. Show all posts

Friday, August 9, 2019

"The Lion King (2019)" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new live action version of "The Lion King" as well as DVDs "The Public" and "The Female Brain."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Trust."  The Book of the Week is "Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting" by Anna Quindlen]

The Lion King

After the murder of his father, a young lion must find his own way.

Yet another live action remake of a Disney animated classic. Disney has discovered a way to make more and more money without coming up with something original.  "The Lion King" joins "Cinderella," "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast" and others with varying degrees of success e.g. "Dumbo" was terrible.  You know how I feel about remakes.  I say "Why?"  But we know why.  It's all about the money.  But this film really stretches it.  How is this really a "live action" remake when in fact all of the animals are CGI? We have actors providing the voices for CGI animals.  How is that very much different from animation?  

"The Lion King" was not one of my favorite Disney animated films in the first place, so again I ask "Why?" but I will admit that the young Simba and Nala are damn cute. So if you like watching video of kittens playing with balls of yarn and puppies tumbling all over each other on YouTube, then you will probably love this.

So once again Simba is brought into the world by lions Mufasa (James Earl Jones of the magnificent voice) and Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), the King and Queen of the Jungle.  Mufasa is a wise and good king and brings young Simba (JD McCrary) up to be wise and good. Simba and his friend, Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph), have an idyllic childhood until Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mufasi's brother, who is not so good, manages to kill Mufasa and make Simba think it's his fault.  So Simba runs away.  Meanwhile, Scar sets up shop as King with the evil hyenas as his henchmen.  Through a series of adventures, Simba meets Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogan), a meerkat and warthog respectively who were made famous by the song "Hakuna Matata" and together with them and others, they are able to defeat Scar, so that Simba (Donald Glover) can take his rightful place as King of the Jungle. With Nala (Beyonce) at his side, the two return the jungle to a happy place and welcome their own little cub, thus continuing the Circle of Life.

Speaking of "Hakuna Matata,"the Elton John-Tim Rice songs are also back, but seemed really strange coming out of the mouths of real live animals, well, real live CGI animals. The music didn't have quite the same impact as in the original, though the opening "Circle of Life" number was as moving as ever. I mean, it's difficult to mess that one up!

Unlike "Dumbo," where the filmmakers went rogue and changed everything about it to its detriment, this version written by Jeff Nathanson and directed by Jon Favreau follows the animated version almost exactly, except I really, really missed Jeremy Irons' voice as Scar.  When he said "Simba, what have you done?" - he just oozed villainy.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is good but doesn't quite bring it like Irons did.  

There is nothing really wrong with this film but every time I see one of these "live action" remakes I ask "Why?"  We had a perfectly good original.  Why not just leave it at that?  And I am probably going to keep saying that with every single live action remake.  I hate remakes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...did we really need another version of this?

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


The Public (2018)

Homeless people take over the Cincinnati Public Library to seek shelter from the cold.

It isn't often that a feature film is all about a public library, so I have to hand it to Emilio Estevez who wrote, directed and starred in this film. I can't think of anyone else who considered libraries important enough to center a feature film around them. He even entertains that age old saw - "Do people actually go to the library these days?"  Yes, they do so, thank you, Emilio. That is hit and miss as to the realities of library work.  How do I know?  Well, I was a librarian.

The film starts with an old black and white librarian recruiting video - "Do you like books?"  "Do you like people?"  Then consider becoming a librarian.

Then the next shot - reality - homeless people.

That was the part they didn't teach you in library school.  It helps to like books if you are a librarian and it certainly helps to like people but you should also like social and janitorial work when you work in a public library because when you are out there in the public anything can happen from dealing with needles in the bathroom to unplugging the toilets.  So as a librarian, if one more person had asked me if I enjoyed being a librarian because I got to read so many books, as if I was reading on the job, I would scream.

So I happily anticipated watching this film. I so wanted to like it, but I had a hard time with some of it.

Stuart (Estevez) is a do-gooder librarian who knows his "regulars" by name, the regulars being the homeless people who would set up shop in the library every day.  He even loans them money.  Not sure if that happens much. However, the library is being sued by a homeless man for being kicked out of the library because he smelled.  And yes, that is a reality - librarians struggling with the rights of individuals vs. the experience of others.

Meanwhile, it's winter in Cincinnati and the homeless shelters are full so the "regulars, led by Jackson (Michael Kenneth Williams) refuse to leave the library one night and stage a non-violent sit-in which eventually gets out of hand and becomes a stand-off with the police, and hostage negotiator, Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin), is called in. Stuart and his colleague, Myra (Jena Malone), are caught in the middle. There are also some distracting and rather extraneous side-stories about Ramstead's missing son and an obnoxious district attorney (Christian Slater) with political ambitions.

What Estevez got right:

  • Librarians are not shy violets who want to hide out in the library reading books. Many are activists.
  • We don't read on the job.
  • The library is the last bastian of true democracy that we have.
  • Librarians in public libraries are on the front lines and are as much social workers as librarians as they must deal with social issues on a regular basis 
All of that was right on!

But what started out as a promising look at what goes on in public libraries these days kind of fizzled and fell apart into some plot twists that were overdramatic and sentimental. And if you are going to highlight the issue of homelessness, let's say something new about it.  But that doesn't happen.  And not sure it helps the image of public libraries to focus on homeless people hanging out there. I think the film strengthens that negative stereotype, one that is not completely a truism, and keeps the potential regular library user away. Yes, librarians have to deal with the homelessness issue but there are many positive things going on in public libraries these days like ESL, citizenship and computer classes, childrens' programming, book sales, film programs and much more.  All free to the public.

The film is very earnest and well-meaning, and I like anything that shows libraries as relevant, but the film became kind of far-fetched and wandered off into some subplots that didn't really go anywhere. And I hate to say it, it got boring, something that doesn't help the image of libraries.

There were also some things that would never happen.  I don't think most librarians would loan homeless folks money nor would the computers still be on once the library had closed. That one really bugged me. Librarians and regular library users all know that the computers go off automatically at closing because how else would we ever get people out at night?

I wish this film had been more of a paean to librarians taking a leaf from the recent superhero films, blowing up the librarian stereotype by featuring a sexy, superhero librarian flying around protecting people's free speech and right to read and pummeling censorship. That would have been exciting!  For me, anyway.

Here is my take on what REALLY goes on in a public library:

What Do Librarians Really Do? The Reality Show

Things Librarians Hate

But despite its flaws, the film does highlight the library as the last real protector of our free speech, and for that I thank you, Emilio Estevez. 

And for those of you out there who have dismissed libraries as out-dated and not needed, think again. 

Why We Need Librarians

Rosy the Reviewer says...I will give Estevez credit for highlighting the public library.  Maybe it will inspire people to go to the library.  I just wish the it had been a more enjoyable film experience.

The Female Brain (2017)

A humorous look at the differences between men and women.

"Women are crazy."
"Men are stupid."
"Women are obsessed with marriage."
"Men are obsessed with sex."

These are some of the stereotypes that get thrown around about the differences between men's and women's brains.  It was also thought that men had bigger, better brains with more brain cells than women but turns out women have the exact same number of brain cells, they are just jammed into a smaller, cuter place.  We just learned that back in 1995 so if we just learned that, what else don't we know?

That's the premise of this film inspired by the book by Louann Brizendine and follows neurologist Julia (Whitney Cummings who also directed and wrote the screenplay with Neal Brennan) and her subjects as she investigates the science of the differences between men's and women's brains and their romantic impulses.  Her research is illustrated by three couples: newlyweds Zoe (Cecily Strong) and Greg (Blake Griffin) whose careers are off balance; Lisa (Sofia Vergara) and Steven (Deon Cole) who want to spice up their sexless marriage; and Lexi (Lucy Punch) who keeps trying to change her boyfriend, Adam (the adorable and handsome James Marsden). 

But this is also the age-old story of the researcher understanding everyone else except herself.  She has closed herself off to love.  We know where this is going.  She meets Mr. All-Wrong (Toby Kebbell) who is eventually going to end up being Mr. All Right.

And here's the problem.

I thought Mr. All-Right was Mr. Really Awful and that ruined the film for me.  It also made me mad. If she is going to go against her better judgment, couldn't it be with a guy worth her time who is actually nice to her?  So instead of this film getting rid of female stereotypes, Julia becomes one.

Beanie Feldstein, with one of the greatest of all movie star names, plays Julia's assistant, Abby, and is every bit as charming as she was in "Booksmart." Cummings is a comic, actress and producer best known for creating the TV sitcoms "Two Broke Girls" and "Whitney," and starring in the latter.  She wrote and directed this film, her first feature film.  What do you do when you want to get out of TV and star in a movie?  You write and direct it yourself!  As for the couples? Zzzzz.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I enjoyed Cummings and Feldstein, but the story was predictable.

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

67 to go!
(Note:  I have updated this number.  I have painstakingly gone through the book and realized I have seen more than originally thought - or perhaps somewhere over the years I have lost count - but this is the right number now)!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Trust (1990)

Maria (Adrienne Shelly) finds herself pregnant, is blamed for her father's heart attack and kicked out of the house, is dumped by her boyfriend, is assaulted, meets a disgruntled computer geek and gets involved with the kidnapping of a baby -- all in the same day! 

Maria's father drops dead after a fight with her and her mother blames her for his death so kicks Maria out of the house. It doesn't help that Maria is also pregnant. Then there is Matthew (Martin Donovan).  He lives with his Dad but has trouble keeping a job, something they fight about so he leaves home, giving him the opportuity to meet Maria in an abandoned house. Then Maria runs into a married woman sitting outside a convenience story.  The woman wants to have a baby but can't and then a baby is left outside the store and mysteriously disappears along with the woman.  So Maria gets mixed up in trying to find the woman and the baby.

Just writing that synopsis reminded me of how much I did not like this film.

The problem I have with this film is the same problem I had with writer/director Hal Hartley's first film, "The Unbelievable Truth," which I reviewed back in April.  If Adrienne Shelly is a teenager, I'm Jennifer Lopez (I said that in my first review too).  I mean, does chewing gum and wearing a high school letter jacket make you a teenager even if you look like you are pushing 30?  But worse, the acting lacked emotion and the writing was just terrible.  I know Hartley is probably trying to make a point with all of that about America, but who cares what the point was if the film was annoying and, worse, boring? 

Shelly who looks like a young Rosanna Arquette appeared in Hartley's first film as did Edie Falco.  Falco became a big star, Shelly didn't.

Why it's a Must See: "Unpredictable while remaining honest to both its characters and its milieu, this flaky comedy drama improves as it proceeds, much as Hartley's own body of work has often done."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Faint praise, indeed.

Rosy the Reviewer says...flaky is right!

***The Book of the Week***

Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen (2019)

What does it mean to be a grandparent today?  Author Quindlen offers some wit and wisdom as she explores that question.

Quindlen has been writing about motherhood and family for years, but now she plays a new role - grandmother, a role where she is no longer the decision maker but rather a secondary character.

"Someone else nurses the baby.  Someone else decides whether he will be rocked to sleep or allowed to cry it out, whether he will be permitted his thumb or switched to a pacifier, whether he will be circumcised and weaned and shod.  Someone else will choose his name, and if you don't like it you'd damn well better arrange your face as though you important part of being a grandmother is that thing that mothers often find most challenging: hanging back."

Quindlen shares her experiences as a mother and how she has had to change as a grandmother.

"We were mother and father, most of us, before we became grandmother and grandfather.  And because of that it is sometimes hard to accept that we have been pushed slightly to the perimeter.  We are now the people whose names come in the smaller print in the credits...where I once commanded, now I need to ask permission.  Where I once led, I have to learn to follow. For years I had strong opinions for a living.  Now I need to wait until I am asked for them, and modulate them most of the time."

I had to learn those lessons, too.

She also talks about the differences in parenting today compared to the "olden days."  In fact, it wasn't even called "parenting" then, a term that somehow elevates being a mother and father and makes it sound like a serious job.  When I was young, I was told to go out and play and ran all over the neighborhood until my mother rang a big bell to let me know it was time for dinner.  She didn't even know where I was most of the time.  I don't think that would happen with my grandkids.

And grandparenting is different today, too.  The average age of a grandparent these days is 50.  That was old back in the day when many people didn't live beyond 70.  But now with so many people making it to 90 and beyond, 50 seems young.  But contrarily with so many women waiting until their thirties to have children, many of us won't become grandparents until our 70's.  But we Baby Boomer grandparents are more active and involved than many grandparents 30 and 40 years ago.

Since my parents had me when they were 40-years-old, something odd for the 1940's, my grandparents were quite old when I was little.  They looked the part - wrinkled and white-haired.  My grandmother was blind and diabetic and my grandfather was lame, not mentally.  He just couldn't walk very well.  

But even though I was an older mother when I had my son, too, and in my 60's when my first grandchild was born, I refused to be a typical grandma.  When thinking about what the little tyke should call me, I didn't want to be called Grandma or Grandmother and I couldn't be Grammy, because that was what my kids called my mother.  So I became Glammy!  And I think that says a lot about what has transpired since my parents had children and everything that came after.  We Baby Boomers are Peter Pans, forever young.  No getting old for us!  We may be someone's grandmother but we don't have to look or act like it!

But becoming a grandparent does freak some of us out.  We suddenly become an elder and are staring our mortality in the face.  Or not becoming a grandparent freaks some of us out.  There are those who may never be grandparents with the fertility rate in the U.S. and other countries plummeting. Those darn Millennials aren't having kids!

Quindlen writes with honesty and humor, a style I enjoy and try to emulate in this blog.  Her personal stories are relatable, funny and enjoyable.

Becoming a grandparent is all part of The Circle of Life. When my first grandchild was born, I remember saying to my son, "Now you know how much you were loved."  He got it.

Quindlen sums up grandparenting this way:

"There are really only two commandments of Nanaville: love the grandchildren, and hold your tongue."


Rosy the Reviewer says...a fun but important primer for grandparenting.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Art of Racing in the Rain" 


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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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.