Showing posts with label Novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Novel. Show all posts

Friday, October 27, 2017

"Blade Runner 2049" and The Week in Reviews

It's Halloween Week!

[I review a dark and spooky sci fi movie, the new "Blade Runner 2049" and two horror films, one on DVD and one streaming now on Netflix: "47 Meters Down" and "Gerald's Game."  The Book of the Week is a scary novel (especially if you're married): "The Marriage Pact," and I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Godard's "Pierrot Le Fou," which is not particularly scary per se but scary to me because I don't like Godard and I am scared thinking that this might not be the last one I have to watch!]

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the 1982 classic groundbreaking "Blade Runner."

Ryan Gosling stars as "K," a replicant cop.  What's a replicant?  Well, if you saw the original 1982 "Blade Runner," you know the answer to that. But for those of you who haven't seen that one, replicants are basically bioengineered humans brought to life to act as servants and slaves for real humans.

It would probably not be a bad idea to watch the original first or at least read the Wikipedia synopsis, but if you don't want to do that, I will try to bring you up-to-speed.

In the original film, the replicants didn't want to be servants and slaves and wanted to determine their own lives so they rebelled and all hell broke loose.  They were considered criminals and were hunted down by "blade runners."  Now 30 years later, a newer, better version of a replicant has been manufactured by evil genius Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) who bought out the Tyrell Company where the original rogue replicants were manufactured.  Wallace has created new and improved replicants that are programmed to obey.  We don't want any more of that nasty rebellion nonsense, now, do we? 

But some of those older replicants are still out there on the run and they are being hunted down and "retired," future speak for killed. And what better job for an obedient replicant than to be a blade-running cop?

K works for the LAPD of the future in a Southern California that is dark and gruesome. Think sci-fi noir. Ironically San Diego has fared least well and become a scary wasteland.  K's job is to hunt down any of the older models of replicants, and the film begins with him locating one of them, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and a fight to the death ensues.  K wins out but after "retiring" Morton he discovers a box buried on Morton's property and in it are the bones of a female replicant who it turns out...wait for it...gave birth!  She died during a caesarean section.  K's boss, Joshi (Robin Wright) orders K to find the child, destroy it and to erase all remnants of its existence because she believes that if it gets out that replicants can reproduce, something not thought possible, it would cause an interspecies war.

Now K must find the child. He goes to the Wallace Corporation to check the archives of the Tyrell Corporation and discovers some information that leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), our original blade runner from the first film.

But there is someone else looking for the child and that is Wallace, who has yet  to be able to manufacture a replicant who can give birth. He sends his evil replicant minion, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), to follow K and find Rachael's child and, let's just say, her name is ironic - you don't want to mess with Luv.  She is a nasty piece of work.

Meanwhile, K lives with his girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas, an absolutely gorgeous young actress), who is actually a hologram who can become any woman that K might want. What man wouldn't want that?  Wallace, it seems, is not just in the replicant business but also manufactures hologram versions of humans too. Joi can - ahem - perform certain duties for K but also is his confidant and support.  He shares with her some of his childhood memories which he knows can't be true because he was born full-grown so those memories must have been programmed into his brain, right? But through a series of events K starts to think that perhaps HE is that replicant child.

Is he?

Naturally K finds Deckard, and I am once again reminded why Harrison Ford did mostly action films, rather than straight dramas.  I mean did you see him in "Hanover Street?"  Dreadful.  And here he looks like he is mostly holding his nose and would rather be anywhere else than playing Rick Deckard again.

However, Ryan Gosling is great, not only as a dramatic actor, but as an action hero, though he seems a bit dour most of the time, but for this role it works.  But I wonder if he can do comedy.  Jared Leto is well, Jared Leto.  He does strange very well and this time he is very, very strange, indeed, helped by some weird glass eyes.

The women are also particularly good, not to mention stunning: Robin Wright, who never seems to age; Sylvia Hoeks, gorgeous but I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley; and if every man could have a hologram like de Armas, we real live women wouldn't have a chance!

I had high hopes for this film and thought it was going to be very big. 

I participate in a Fantasy Movie League (I will write about that some time) and bet big on this film (fake money, not real money) when it was first released, but unfortunately for me and this film, it did not do as well as expected at the box office despite the original film's cult status and Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford starring.  I guess there aren't too many folks out there who remember the original "Blade Runner" or maybe Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford don't have the star power to carry a film.  Or maybe it was just the 163 minute running time.  We Americans don't have very long attention spans these days.

At any rate, I was very surprised this film was not a blockbuster, because it's a great film that captures the mood of the original and ponders the age-old question of what it means to be human. 

With a screenplay by Hampton Fancher, Michael Green and directed by Denis Villaneuve, who was nominated for a Best Director Oscar last year for "Arrival," it has a good mystery story, it's action-packed, the score fits it perfectly, and it's beautiful to look at thanks to the cinematography of veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins. I also enjoyed some little perceived nods to Pinocchio and Fagen from "Oliver Twist."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like sci fi, this is a good one but don't drink too much soda before or during.  It's almost three hours long (if you get my drift).

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

Streaming and on DVD


47 Meters Down (2017)

Two sisters vacationing in Mexico decide it's a good idea to descend into the ocean in a shark cage to do a little shark watching.  Talk about the vacation from hell.

Statistics say that your chances of dying from a shark attacked are about one in over three million, but getting into a shark cage is probably pressing your luck.

But sisters Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) weren't thinking like that when they decided to do something adventurous.  Lisa confides in Kate that the reason she isn't on this vacation with her boyfriend, Stewart, was because he has left her.  And the reason he left her was because she is boring.

So when they go out dancing and meet two locals who invite them to go down in a shark observation cage to do some shark-watching, Kate urges Lisa to say yes.  As Kate reminds Lisa, Stewart sure wouldn't think she was boring if she went down in a shark observation cage, right?  They could take pictures and send them to Stewart and make him wish he was with this new adventurous Lisa.  Lisa is actually kind of boring and also fearful but when one of the guys tells her:

"It's like you are going to the zoo except you are in the cage.  Totally safe."

She says yes.  Ruh-roh.

Well, since there was ominous music almost from the start of this film even when Kate and Lisa were lounging on the deck sipping exotic drinks, you know things are not going to go well for them.

So even though the boat that takes them out to sea is rickety, the cage has seen better days and the captain seems dodgy, they still go down in the shark cage. Naturally the winch breaks and now they are sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor - 47 meters down, get it? - and running out of oxygen.

What makes horror films so scary is a beautiful setting, happy unknowing soon-to-be victims and their doing something that is seemingly safe...until it isn't.  What could possibly go wrong?

Moore, who has probably been more well-known for her singing career than her acting career, has hit it big with the successful TV show "This is Us."  But she couldn't have known that was going to happen to her when she made this film. Though not released until this last summer, this was a low-budget film made in England in 2016, and though she is very good here, it probably wouldn't have done that much for her film career.
Matthew Modine has a small role as the boat captain, Captain Taylor.  Whatever happened to his career?  He was on fire in the 80's and 90's and, though he has worked steadily since, he has been toiling in smaller roles and hasn't carried any films.

There are plenty of thrills as well as plenty of, WHAAAT?  My yelling at the TV! "Don't do that?"  "Don't leave the cage!"  This is one of those horror films where the heroines keep doing really stupid things. The sharks are scary and look quite real and these days you can't necessarily count on a happy ending.  Remember when movies always had happy endings?  I can remember saying to my Dad when I was little, "Don't worry, Daddy.  The hero never dies."  I was probably saying that to myself.  But then movies took a turn, probably in the 70's, and we could no longer count on everyone making it out alive.  I'm not saying that's what happens here.  I'm just saying that knowing that it could all end badly makes these movies even scarier.

There are also some "Huh?" moments, such as why did the girls do down by themselves?  Why didn't the guys go with them?  Or why didn't Captain Taylor have a Plan B for something like this happening?  Why didn't the girls just leave the cage and go to the surface?  I know, the bends, but if they go slowly they are OK and, as it was, they spent way more time outside of that cage than they should have anyway!
But despite those small things, this film directed by Johannes Roberts with a screenplay by Roberts and Ernest Riera, is scary and effective, though not blood and gore/slasher scary. This film reminded me of "The Shallows" which I reviewed last spring.  "The Shallows" was a low-budget film that did very well, which could explain why this film was released when the original plan was to send it directly to video. If you do a double feature with this film and "The Shallows," you could have a beachy Halloween scare fest. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is the kind of film that nightmares are made of. 

Gerald's Game (2017)

Speaking of nightmares... 

What if you and your husband decided to go to a remote cabin and have a little bondage fun but after he handcuffs you to the bed frame, he suddenly has a heart attack and dies, leaving you hand-cuffed to the bed and no one around to help you? 

That's the premise of this Netflix original adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name.

Carla Gugino plays Jessie Burlingame and Bruce Greenwood is her husband, Gerald.  The two have gone off to a remote cabin to try to rekindle their marriage.  As they enter the cabin, they leave the door open.  And just so we are sure to see that, Jessie turns and gives that open door a look as if to say, "Shouldn't we close the door?' but continues on into the bedroom. Yes, Jessie, you should have closed the door!

Turns out Gerald has some kinky bondage/rape fantasies so he has brought handcuffs.  Jessie isn't sure this is what she signed up for but is game until Gerald gets a little rough and she demands that he take off the handcuffs.  Unfortunately, before he can take them off, he has a heart attack and falls off the bed leaving Jessie handcuffed, splayed out on the bed and helpless.

When they had first arrived, they had encountered a stray dog, and Jessie had attempted to feed it.  Well, remember that open door?  In comes our little scruffy hungry dog who helps himself to a big bite of flesh off of Gerald's arm.

So now we have an excruciating 90 minutes left to see how and if Jessie is going to get out of this predicament.  I mean, imagine being handcuffed to a bed and there is absolutely no one around, no one to hear you AND the door is wide open with a bloodthirsty dog roaming around.  Might not be too scary the first hour or two but when you've been lying there for days...think about it.

Lest you think this film is just Gugino lying there on the bed thinking and wondering where her next glass of water is going to come from, as the hours go by her mind conjures Gerald who "comes alive" as does her alter ego and the three of them interact and Jessie's and Gerald's particular marital issues come to light. As this all plays out we have to ask ourselves "Do we really know who we married?"

Jessie is also visited by "The Moonlight Man (Carel Struycken)," a creepy guy who appears in the shadows as Jessie finally confronts the child abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, abuse that she had repressed but that had taken a toll on her as a woman. The handcuffs become a metaphor for the psychological shackles that women carry.

"The people who are supposed to protect you from monsters turn out to be monsters themselves."

But it's not all mental horror. There is certainly some physical horror as well. Jessie has to use her pluck (don't you love that word?) to try to survive and it gets a bit gruesome!

Directed by Mike Flanagan with a screenplay by Flanagan and Jeff Howard, this is intense psychological horror at its best, and Carla Gugino is wonderful as Jessie.  I first noticed her in the short-lived Showtime series "Roadies" and noticed then the warmth and realness she brings to her roles.  Now I add grit to that description of her.

Bruce Greenwood has made a name for himself playing bad and kind of pervy guys, and speaking of pervy, I have also come to the conclusion that the mind of Stephen King is pervy too.  He is one weird dude.  There was supposedly some disturbing stuff in the book "It" that was left out of the film, and when you think back on his books and the movie versions of them, it seems like there is always something sexually disturbing going on.

Rosy the Reviewer says...disturbing but really intensely good.

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

164 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Pierrot le Fou (1965)

A bored married man gets himself involved with a nutty woman who has gangsters chasing her.
Ferdinand Griffon (Jean-Paul Belmondo) is married to a wealthy Italian woman, has children and has been recently fired from the television station where he worked. His wife forces him to go to a party at the house of her influential father who wants to introduce Ferdinand to a potential employer. Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), the niece of a friend and Ferdinand's ex-girlfriend, arrives to take care of their children. Ferdinand is bored with his life and even more bored at the party where everyone seems to be embroiled in vapid chatter.  There are a series of very stylized scenes where people mindlessly chatter about cars and quote from TV commercials. 

So Ferdinand leaves the party and discovers he is able to have a deep conversation with the young Marianne, who was his lover five years ago and who insists on calling him Pierrot. It's a running joke through the film.  She calls him Pierrot and he always corrects her by saying "My name is Ferdinand."

They spend the night together and there just happens to be a dead body in Marianne's apartment, a dead body that neither of them acknowledges. Director Godard like to do stuff like that. The body just happens to be there, but eventually we and Ferdinand discover that Marianne is involved in smuggling weapons and that some very bad men are after her, so Ferdinand and she go on the run like Bonnie and Clyde, leaving Paris and his family behind, to go find her brother so they can get some money.  From then on, the movie is a sort of road trip gangster movie.

Turns out Marianne has a dark past with gangsters.  She has stolen some money from them and now they want their money back.  Marianne is trouble, and if you ask me, a bit of a nutter.  This is one of those films where the evil woman takes advantage of the clueless guy.  Think "Body Heat," except "Body Heat" made sense.

As they Marianne and Ferdinand flee the gangsters, they try faking their deaths in a car accident.

"It must look real.  This isn't a movie."


When they drive their car into the ocean, I said out loud, "What the hell?"

Written and directed by French auteur, Jean-Luc Godard, there are all kinds of allusions to art and all kinds of deep conversations.  This film reminded me that movies in the 60's were very deep, so deep that I didn't have the slightest idea what was going on most of the time.  And I still don't.

Speaking of the 60's, there is no more iconic figure from the 60's than Jean-Paul Belmondo with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. I think he did that in all of his films.  And Anna Karina is gorgeous.  Both are beautiful, excellent actors so I am not going to hold this movie against them.

I think I have finally decided that I am not a fan of Godard. I am giving up on him. 

Roger Ebert said in a review in 1969:

"So let this be a warning: You probably won't like "Pierrot le Fou." One of Godard's films, seen by itself, can be a frustrating and puzzling experience. But when you begin to get into his universe, when you've seen a lot of Godard, you find yourself liking him more and more. One day something clicks, and Godard comes together. And then, perhaps, you decide that if he is not the greatest living director he is certainly the most audacious, the most experimental, the one who understands best how movies work." 

He was right.  I didn't like this film.  It was just too weird, even for the 60's, and there were some weird films in the 60's. I think Godard made movies on purpose that we wouldn't understand hoping we would be stupid enough to think that because we didn't understand them, they must be deep when in fact it was just Godard being pretentious and messing with us.  If I could reply to Roger I would say that I've had it with Godard, I have already seen several of his movies since I started this project, and I don't really want to "get into his universe" or see any more of his movies.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film is] Jean-Luc Godard's important milestone in the director's long and brilliant career...[It is} bitter, satirical, humorous, and beautiful -- but perhaps its most charming (and arresting) feature is it sheer outrageousness...The potency of Godard's imagery and satire has not diminished with age.  If anything it's even more relevant today."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Outrageous is right. There are eight of his films listed in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die." God, I hope this is the last one I have to see.

***The Book of the Week***

The Marriage Pact: A Novel by Michelle Richmond

Marriage can be a scary place.

Jake and Alice are newlyweds.  Alice was once a singer in a rock band and is now a successful attorney.  Jake is counselor in a psychology practice.  One of their wedding gifts was a mysterious package enticing them to join "The Pact," an exclusive group formed to help make marriages last forever.

So Alice and Jake are intrigued and meet Vivian who shows them a slide show about "The Pact," gives them a manual to "memorize" and some documents to sign. "The Pact" is a secret group with a set of rules or laws and once a member, you are never supposed to talk about "The Pact."  Think "Fight Club," except for marriage.

Certainly Jake and Alice want their marriage to last, so, even though they are a bit uneasy about the documents they have to sign, they decide to join.  It all seems innocuous and sensible at first, even fun:  "Give your spouse a special gift every month," "Plan a trip every quarter," "Always answer the phone when your spouse calls," but when Alice is perceived as breaking some rules and is sent to "prison," it becomes clear "The Pact" is no joke and Alice and Jake want to unjoin.  But not only is marriage for life, it looks like "The Pact" is for life too.  These people aren't playing and Jake and Alice realize that they have gotten themselves into a nightmare.

As you have probably realized by now, I don't review a lot of fiction.  That's because I haven't been reading much fiction lately.  I don't know when I stopped.  I could probably trace it back to an argument I had with one of my ex-husbands - which now thinking back is probably one of the reasons he is an ex.  He had mentioned that he didn't believe in reading fiction, that it was a waste of time. He only wanted to read books where he would learn something.  I tried to explain to him that you definitely could learn from reading fiction.  Fiction opens up new worlds to the reader, worlds he or she might never be able to experience.  Fiction explores the human condition and connects us all in our shared experiences.  And fiction is just fun and enjoyable to read and what's wrong with that?

In my younger years, I was an avid reader of fiction.  I burned my way through Nancy Drew, then the classics - Tolstoy, Nabokov, Shakespeare, etc.  When  I was a teen, I found a book called something like "The 100 Masterpieces of Literature," so I decided to read them from A to Z.  I dutifully went to the library and found Booth Tarkington's "Alice Adams," worked my way through Somerset Maugham's "Of Human Bondage," and finished with "Zorba the Greek."  Looking back, some of those "100 Masterpieces" may have been considered masterpieces in the 1960's but are little known today but I am glad I read them.  It was a "project" I enjoyed completing.  I guess I like projects (see "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" above)! 

But despite all of that fiction I read in my younger days, somehow over the years, I have veered away from fiction and concentrated mostly on biographies, autobiographies, true crime and pop culture, but when I started writing this blog and reviewing books, I was asked by some readers of my blog why I didn't review fiction.  I had to ask myself that too, so because of that I decided to go back to reading fiction and that is what I have done.  You will notice that every fifth book or so that I review on this blog is a novel and you know what?  I am really enjoying it. 

And this book reminds me of how much fun reading fiction can be.  And there is nothing wrong with reading for enjoyment!  I particularly enjoyed the San Francisco and Northern California settings since I not only lived in San Francisco, I actually lived right where Jake and Alice live in San Francisco's Richmond District.

Richmond may not be a Tolstoy or a Nabokov, but she is an excellent writer who has written a smart, engrossing thriller with interesting characters and a story that will keep you guessing.  Think Scientology meets "The Stepford Wives."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a novel with a tight, engrossing and scary story.  I couldn't put it down and you won't either.

Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday

for a special Halloween edition


Rosy the Reviewer

and then next Friday 

for my review of  

"Goodbye Christopher Robin"  


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). 

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Girls Trip" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Girls Trip" as well as DVDs "Wilson" and "Table 19."  The Book of the Week is the novel "Do Not Become Alarmed!"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Man Bites Dog."]

Girls Trip

Four ladies who have been friends since college gather in New Orleans to rekindle their friendships and have some fun.  And, boy, do they!

Well, my peeps, I am on a roll. Not one, but two funny comedies two weeks in a row. Hallelujah!  Last week I reviewed "The Big Sick" which was sweet and funny and now we have this one. It's also funny, but where "The Big Sick" was sweet funny, this one is raunchy funny so leave your tsks-tsk's at home.

The four friends:

Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has made a name for herself as a motivational speaker and author and is hyped as the next Oprah.  Her book "YOU Can Have it All" is a best-seller and an inspiration to her fans.  She is married to Stewart (Mike Colter), a handsome ex-NFL player, and the two are about to sign a big "Live with Kelly and Michael" kind of deal. (I know, I know, it's "Live with Kelly and Ryan" now, but that just somehow didn't fit with where I was going with this analogy).

Sasha (Queen Latifah) was a journalism star in college but instead of making a name for herself as a serious journalist circumstances led her to "Sasha's Secrets," a celebrity gossip blog, but it's barely paying the bills and she is about to be evicted from her apartment. 

Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a divorcee with two small children who in her college days was a wild one, but since her divorce, lives a nice, quiet buttoned-up life being an over-protective mom.  I mean, she's worried about leaving her kids with her own Mom!

And then there's Dina (Tiffany Haddish), who was just fired for assaulting a co-worker for "stealing" her lunch - she clearly has anger issues - and who is up for anything.  She is also a little crazy.

When Ryan is asked to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, she decides that this trip is just what she and her "Flossy Posse" need to rekindle their friendships and relive the good times.  What she doesn't know is that Sasha has seen a picture of Stewart kissing another woman and is torn about what to do. Should she tell Ryan? Should she post it to her gossip blog?  If she did, it would solve all of her financial problems. But then what would that do to her friendship with Ryan?

Tiffany Haddish is getting all of the love for her performance, and she is definitely a stand-out.  She is like a female Tracy Morgan in her delivery and like Morgan, she is very, very funny. The now infamous scene with the grapefruit is one you will never forget.

But the other actresses also pull their weight.

Jada Pinkett Smith was another stand-out for me.  I have never seen her in a part like this. She is natural and effortless as she goes from buttoned-up Lisa to Lisa the Freak!  And Queen Latifah?  She has a screen presence that is like, well, a queen.  She just exudes REAL and warmth just oozes off the screen.  I loved her. And she is funny too! Regina Hall gets to play straight woman to the other three's antics, but definitely holds her end up as Ryan deals with a cheating husband and rekindles a romance with Julian (Larenz Tate), an old college friend. 

I also have to give props to Kate Walsh as Ryan's agent.  Her attempts to impress Ryan by acting and talking like a hip black woman are awkwardly funny. 

As you know, I am always looking for a comedy that is actually funny.  Last week I struck gold with "The Big Sick," and now, here is another funny comedy, but, be warned, it's very "R-rated."  But amidst all of the crazy antics, it had it's sweet elements too and a message.  There is nothing sweeter than a loyal posse of girlfriends.  Your husbands and boyfriends may come and go, your children will grow up and leave, but your girlfriends are always there for you.

But that doesn't mean this film is sentimental and mushy. 

Quite the contrary.  It's out there.  

Speaking of out there, there was one scene early on in the film where on the plane headed for New Orleans, Dina takes over First Class and the flight attendant's tray and starts serving the passengers shots.  In this flying climate, that would never happen, and, in fact, the plane would have turned around and Dina would have been escorted off the plane.  Kind of hard to suspend disbelief when the disbelief is so strong.  Sometimes comedies go a bit too far to try to be funny, but other than that little blip, the movie was right on! It's right up there with the best of the "women behaving badly" genre ("Bad Moms," "Bridesmaids") that we have come to love, but this one goes much deeper in celebrating the power and joy of female friendships.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and with a screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, there are some scenes you have never seen before.  Let's just say that you will never look at grapefruit the same way again.  Likewise, when the ladies get high on absinthe and Sasha mistakes a lamp for a man...well, you have never seen Queen Latifah like that, and it's all very, very funny.

Oh, and since this is the Essence Festival, keep your eyes open for all of the celebrity cameos from Iyanla Van Sant to Ne-Yo to Sean "Diddy" Combs to Carla Hall to Mariah -  over 20 celebrities make an appearance as themselves.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a very funny film that celebrates the joys of female friendships. See it with your posse!  But you guys will like it too!


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


Wilson (2017)

A lonely middle-aged guy with no filter (which could explain why he has no friends) finds his estranged wife and discovers he has a daughter.

I have to say that I've never been much of a Woody Harrelson fan. 

I didn't like him as the clueless bartender in "Cheers," didn't particularly like the parts he has played in films since (always wise-cracking and annoying) and even in his personal life he comes across as a wise-cracking smartass who finds himself in strange taxi car chases in London. So you can imagine that I wasn't planning to like him or this film.

But I was wrong.  That happens from time to time.

Woody stars as Wilson, a middle-aged curmudgeon who is a negative kind of guy who doesn't seem to enjoy life very much.  He is socially awkward, quick-tempered, intolerant, overshares, lacks self awareness and bitches about all kinds of things, but at the same time he is desperately trying to make connections with people.  He is the kind of guy that would come and sit right next to you on an otherwise empty bus, or if you are a guy, he would choose the urinal right next to you in the mens' room, unselfconsciously start up a conversation and when finished, comment on your having a nice penis.  He's that kind of guy.

But when Wilson's Dad dies and he is confronted with his Dad's storage unit filled with pictures and his Dad's meager belongings, Wilson has a sort of epiphany.

"I don't have a single person that shares my same memories."

So he decides to go find his ex-wife, Pippi (Laura Dern) who left him 17 years ago and moved to L.A.  She was also pregnant and got an abortion. Wilson leaves his beloved dog, Pepper, with a dog sitter, Shelley (Judy Greer), and heads to L.A. in his Dad's old car, driving down the center of the road as clueless, self-absorbed people are prone to do.

Guess what?

He finds her.

And guess what else?

She didn't get an abortion.  Wilson has a daughter out there that Pippi gave up for adoption, and Wilson thinks this is his one chance to have a family so he decides to find her too.

Wilson and Pippi find their daughter, Claire (Isabella Amara), who turns out to be a teenager with a weight problem and an attitude and who is bullied by the kids in school.  Like Wilson and Pippi, she is a bit of an outcast.

Let the generational schism commence as Wilson tries to forge a relationship with Claire.  And when Pippi gets the idea that they should all go on a road trip to her judgmental sister's house to show her that she has a family and that she hasn't screwed up her life after all, we not only have the road trip cliché but the fish out of water trope as the outcasts visit the perfect family in the perfect suburban setting.

And if that's not enough, it all gets worse for Wilson when he ends up in prison.  You will have to see the film to find out how that happens, but surprisingly it's all very funny, in a very dark way.

Speaking of road trips. 

Have I ranted about road trip movies yet?  I will spare you, but road trip movies are such a cliché that they are getting on my nerves.  Can't someone take the train or go by boat once in a while?

This is a tour de force for Woody (he is in every scene), and he manages to keep his usual mannerisms to a minimum.  One can't help but wonder, though, does Woody choose these strange roles or do they find him because he himself is so strange?

But Woody actually pulled me into this story. 

Laura Dern plays against type here as the ex-crack whole Pippi (those are Wilson's words, not mine), because it seems she has been playing smaller forgettable roles lately such as the long suffering faithful wife ("The Founder") or TV roles like Renata in "Big Little Lies."  Here she makes Pippi edgy but likable without falling into sentimentality.

Directed by Craig Johnson with a screenplay by Daniel Clowes (from his graphic novel), I can't believe I liked this film as much as I did even with Woody and a road trip.  What could have been a drippy sentimental coming of middle-age tale actually manages to avoid that route and tell an original, engaging story.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dark comedy about coming of age - middle-age that is.  It's never too late to figure things out.

Table 19 (2017)

When Eloise is demoted from Maid of Honor in her best friend's wedding, because the Best Man, who also happens to be the bride's brother, dumped her via text, she decides to attend the wedding anyway and finds herself at the table reserved for "The Randoms."

Anna Kendrick stars as Eloise, and let me rant for a minute. Am I the only one who doesn't get Anna Kendrick?  I particularly don't get her in the "Pitch Perfect" movies which is all about singing, basically because I don't like her voice.  I find it very nasally.  And as an actress, she's OK, but I am getting sick of the characters she seems to play of late - the put-upon-yet-perky heroine who always perseveres.  What happened to all of that promise she showed when she was nominated for an Academy Award for "Up in the Air?"  That was nine years ago! She needs to find some roles with some meat where she can show some acting chops. Rant over.

But yet again we have that same character. This time she plays Eloise, who has been dumped and is suffering.  She was supposed to be the Maid of Honor at her best friend's wedding, but when Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the bride's brother, dumps her for another girl, the bride must have felt that would be a tad awkward so she relieves Eloise of her Maid of Honor duties, probably hoping she won't show up at the wedding.

But Eloise decides to go to the wedding anyway (see? perky!), but gets yet another blow.  She finds herself at Table 19, the one reserved for "The Randoms," those people that didn't fit in at any of the other tables, a table that is in no man's land, so far from the bride and groom you would need to send a messenger pigeon to communicate with them. Think the worst table in a restaurant, near the kitchen and next to the restrooms.  My idea of hell.  

This turn of events is particularly hard for Eloise, who when fulfilling he Maid of Honor duties had helped the bride decide who was going to sit where e.g. one table called "Eligible Singles," another, "Iffy Singles," etc.  Table 19 is clearly the worst table and it gets worse when Eloise sees who she is seated with.

  • Walter (Stephen Merchant) is an ex-con who lies about everything.
  • Jo (June Squibb) was the bride's first nanny.
  • Renzo (Tony Revolori, who made a splash as Zero in "The Grand Budapest Hotel") just wants to get laid but is a loser with the ladies and a mama's boy, and I never figured out his relationship to the bride and groom or how he even got invited to the wedding.
  • Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry (Craig Robinson), a married couple who own a local diner.  They don't get along and haven't had sex in years.

This is one of those films that uses the Table 19 concept as a device to put six very different and odd characters together who eventually all end up helping each other.  That's a device that has been used many times before and here nothing new is brought to the, er, table.

Each character has his or her own storyline, and we follow them as they go off and do stuff and then come back to the table and interact with each other in a non-funny way. All of these characters have secrets that are revealed by the end of the film e.g. nanny Jo is a pothead (see rant below about how old people are portrayed in films), but by the time that happened, I just didn't care anymore.  And that's the main problem with this movie.  Despite the fact that all of these actors are good actors, there just wasn't any depth to these characters.

Anna Kendrick plays yet another young woman in a fix. As I said earlier, I'm not a huge fan.   She needs to get some more challenging roles.  Wyatt Russell, son of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, was actually quite good in that his character was really a believable sleaze, but he reminded me so much of T.J. Miller that it was actually a distraction for me.

June Squibb came to out attention in 2014 when she was nominated for an Oscar for her work in "Nebraska." As with most actors, she had been toiling in character roles since the 1980's but now she is everywhere.  If a film needs a wise-cracking old lady, she gets the part.

And now I am going to rant about that. 
(Not about June Squibb, but about wise-cracking old folks and other old people stereotypes in movies).

Being a woman of a certain age, I am getting sick of old people being the butt of jokes in films.  Old person?  Let's make sure that person knows nothing about those newfangled computers and have a funny scene with the old lady poking the keyboard with one finger and ending up on a porno site.  Old people?  Why, wouldn't it be funny if they smoked pot and got all silly or, hey! What about a sweet little old lady who turns out to have a filthy mouth or what about an old guy with a cane who suddenly starts break dancing?  STOP THAT!!!  Quit making us old folks the butt of jokes like that.  It's been done already and it wasn't funny then and it's not funny now.

OK, rant over.
(This movie brought out the rant in me)!

Directed by Jeffrey Blitz with a story by Mark and Jay DuPlass, this was an interesting concept that just didn't go anywhere.  I wasn't sure if they were going for a comedy or a drama.  If it was supposed to be funny, it wasn't. 

There is a running joke that because Bina is wearing a jacket that looks exactly like the jackets worn by the servers, she keeps getting mistaken for a server.  If you think that's funny, you might like this film but I didn't and I didn't.

If this film was supposed to be dramatic, it wasn't. There was a scene between Eloise and Teddy that was actually overdramatic followed by a slapstick bit where the wedding cake gets knocked over - and, can I just ask, is there ever a movie about a wedding where the cake DOESN'T get knocked over?

And, oh, yes, the music in this film was so loud it was difficult to hear the dialogue.

However, despite all of my complaints, I will give the film credit for it's spoof of cheesy wedding toasts and the funniest line in the film:

"You are Romeo and Juliet and we all wish you the same happy ending."

But that's as good as this movie ever got.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when Lisa Kudrow's character, Bina, says, "What are we doing here?" I asked myself the same thing.  You can skip this one.

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

192 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Man Bites Dog (1992)

A film crew follows a serial killer as he goes about his deadly deeds in this pseudo-documentary where the film crew becomes part of the story.

Ben (Benoit Poelvoorde) is a serial killer and rapist who agrees to let a film crew follow him around and film him.  Ben is a seemingly ordinary guy with a sense of humor who wants to find love.  However, Ben just so happens to also be a cold-hearted serial killer.  As the film crew follows Ben around, the objectivity between the filmmakers and their subject becomes less and less as the crew actually become involved in the killings, helping him dispose of bodies. Ben even helps them out financially.

This pseudo-documentary is a satire on reality TV well before reality TV became the reality it is today.  

Very much in the vein of Christopher Guest's pseudo-documentary "This is Spinal Tap," except this one has murder and rape, the film is funny up to a point until the film crew starts getting involved in the killings that culminate in a very graphic scene that is decidedly not funny.  Then the film seems to be asking the question: 

How complicit are those who film people doing things they shouldn't in the name of showing reality, and how complicit are we, those who watch this stuff? How far will filmmakers go to get the public's attention and when do we draw the line at what we do and don't want to watch?

In showing a serial killer's human side, are the filmmakers condoning what he does for a living and saying, see? He's just a regular guy who happens to kill people?  I mean, Ted Bundy was a handsome charming guy, but does that make him any less evil?

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is probably the most controversial film in the history of Belgian cinema [and]...According to the creators...the idea for the film stemmed from a Belgian tabloid journalist TV series, one which blew small stories out of proportion and intruded on people's private lives.  This underlying concept helped guarantee the film's success, and secured its status as an all-time cult favorite."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is not for everyone, and it's very much a one joke very sick joke...but resonates loudly 25 years later.
(In b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Do Not Become Alarmed: A Novel by Maile Meloy (2017)

Three families become friendly on a beautiful cruise to Central America, but the cruise turns ugly when the children go missing on a shore excursion.
When long-time friends and cousins, Liv and Nora, decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is happy. The adults are happy for a chance to get away and relax and the kids are happy to be free of the adults as they explore the ship and eat the food from the endless buffet. But when they all go ashore - the husbands to play golf and the women and children for a zip line adventure - things take a turn.  The tour guide's car breaks down leaving Liv, Nora and their new friend Camilla and their children stranded near a beach.  So the group decides to spend the day at the beach while they wait to be rescued, but a series of events lead to the adults and the children getting separated and the children being kidnapped.

As the parents try to find their children, they blame themselves and turn on each other.
In the meantime, the children - one of whom is a Type 1 diabetic without his insulin - must become resourceful to find their way back to their parents.  Will they make it?

There is also a side story about another child, a poor Ecuadorian who is on her way to the U.S. with her uncle to be reunited with her parents and her story eventually becomes entwined with that of the American children's.

This is a page-turner that could be written off as a nice summer beach read, but there is a deeper message: being a parent is a blessing and a curse.  We love and enjoy our children, but once we have children, we have the continuous burden of worry and fear that something will happen to them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fast read that you won't be able to put down.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  


 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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