Showing posts with label Ordinary Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ordinary Love. Show all posts

Saturday, May 16, 2020

What To Watch While You Are Sheltering in Place (Coronavirus 2020), Part 2.

I know.  I hate sequels so why am I doing a Part 2 for my blog post "What To Watch While You Are Sheltering in Place?"  Well, sometimes things get desperate. I am running out of couch potato content, so I thought I would do my civic duty and help out, in case you are, too.

So here are some DVDs and movies streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime with the Rosy the Reviewer stamp of approval:

"Life Itself," "Ordinary Love," "Just Mercy," "Black Christmas,"and "Love Wedding Repeat."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project" with "Zero Kelvin." (And yes, I did need to see that one before I died)!


Life Itself (2018)



The story of a young New York City couple, the twists and turns of their life together and the serendipitous effect it had around the world and on other generations.

I have to tell you this story.  One time, when my son was very young, he told me he loved me "more than life itself."  I was so taken aback and happy that he loved me that much - and how precocious for a five year old! - until I just happened to come into the living room when he was watching the animated Disney film "Robin Hood" for the millionth time, and I heard Robin tell Maid Marian that he loved her "more than life itself." So much for that.


The title of this film made me think of that. However, this movie really doesn't have much to do with that per se, though it fits into the whole idea of our narration of life and the idea of the "unreliable narrator," a literary term, that plays a role in this film. The "unreliable narrator" is almost always a first person narrator who you discover has been withholding information or has some characteristic that is not reliable.  However, I promise you in my narration of my own life, I am completely reliable. That, and everything I have blogged about over the last seven years really happened! I swear!


The film begins with Will (Oscar Isaac), a seeming nutcase of a guy.  We know this because he is unkempt, orders a coffee in a coffee house and adds two small bottles of liquor and some Xanax and starts loudly singing Dylan songs. In fact, Dylan plays a big role in this film (his music, not him), especially his song "Make You Feel My Love." 


Turns out Will has lost his wife, Abby (Olivia Wilde), and he was institutionalized because of it and is in therapy.  Flashbacks show our "hero" in happier times meeting Abby in college, getting her to marry him and then her pregnant with their child, but it all goes bad when he loses her. The film goes back and forth between happy Will with his wife and nutty Will sans wife.  

There is also a long section where we get to know Abby: we find out that her parents were killed in a car accident when she was only seven and she was the only survivor; she was raised by an abusive uncle but then she turned all of that around and became an accomplished college student, met Will, and was on her way to a happy life until.... 

So what the hell happened?

Life...itself...happened.



Half-way into the film the film takes an unexpected turn, and if I tell you any more, it will ruin all of those twists and turns that the film takes. Just like life itself, we never know what is going to happen.


Written and directed by Dan Fogelman who brought us the TV show "This is Us," there are some strange cinematic devices at work here but despite some missteps, I really enjoyed this film.  This is a movie for serious film lovers who like originality, whether it all works or not,  It also has humor and a satisfying ending where everything seems to come together. I like movies like that.  I hate movies where the movie ends and I am thinking, "Huh?"  This has many twists and turns and is never boring. In fact I found it mesmerizing.  I wanted to know how it was all going to come together. If you have watched "This is Us" from the start, then you get how Fogelman makes that all work.


But despite the inevitable twists and turns of life, some of which are tragic, the film ends on a message of hope, just what we need right now.

"Life brings you to your kneesIt brings you lower than you think you can goBut if you stand back up and move forwardif you go just a little farther, you will always find love."


And there is also a message that we all live on in our children, they in their children, and on and on.  Life itself goes on, carrying us along with it.


I know. It sounds kind of schmaltzy and it kind of is, but I like schmaltz, and the actors make it work.  Besides, in these terrible times, we all need to hear messages of hope and experience a little catharsis and I got that from this film.

There is also an all-star cast in addition to Isaac and Wilde.  Jean Smart and Mandy Patinkin play Will's parents, Annette Bening plays Will's therapist, Antonio Banderas has a big storyline and even Samuel L. Jackson makes a cameo appearance. Fogelman seems to like "Pulp Fiction" as much as he likes Dylan.

Rosy the Reviewer says...my favorite movie since the quarantine began.

(Now streaming free on Amazon Prime)




Ordinary Love (2016)



A long-married couple face the wife's cancer diagnosis.

Okay, I can just hear you.  Rosy, why are you recommending a movie about cancer when we are all in the midst of being stuck at home and worrying about dying of Covid-19?  Well, I am glad you asked.


Let's just say that this film is about the fact that we all live with the possibility and ultimate inevitability of death, even before Covid-19, and when we witness the triumphant struggles of others, we have a renewed hope for our own lives.


Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are a longtime, happily married couple.  How do we know?  Because they are prone to the mild bickering, affectionate swats and humorous exchanges that characterize longterm, happily married couples' relationships.


But then, uh-oh, Joan finds a lump in her breast while showering, every woman's worst nightmare, and the film wastes no time, in fact just 20 minutes in, she finds out it's cancer. And after listening to the diagnosis, hearing that there will be upcoming chemo and a double mastectomy, what do you do?  Why you go home and get drunk, right?  But then it's stiff upper lip and time to get on with it.


Written by playwright 
Owen McCafferty, we follow Joan from diagnosis to the operation to chemo to her mastectomy and reconstruction, the tedium of the follow-up hospital visits and the effects of chemo, the whole bloody mess.  For a cancer patient, fighting cancer becomes one's whole life.  It becomes the new normal, but not just for the one fighting cancer, but for the spouse and loved ones as well.

So, okay.  I hear you. Cancer?  Sounds grim.  Why do we need to see this?


Though cancer survivors will be able to attest to the truth of Joan's cancer journey (the film is based on McCafferty's wife's bout with cancer), this film is not really grim. It's really a celebration of love and commitment in the face of the "for worse" part of the wedding vows. It doesn't have to be cancer. It could be coronavirus or the death of a loved one. Speaking of which, we discover that Joan's cancer diagnosis is not the only life-changing event the two have had to weather. And that's the "ordinary love" of a successful marriage. Two ordinary people who love each other have decided they are together no matter what and will be there for each other.  However, the title is also ironic because Joan and Tom's love is really no ordinary love. It's anything but ordinary. It's the kind of love we all wish for but few can achieve, let alone sustain, and it's an inspiration to be a witness to it. 


And there is another reason to watch this film. It's an inspiration to watch Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville. I don't need to wax poetic about the big, tall and handsome drink of water that is Liam Neeson, not to mention what a great actor he is, but I am going to wax poetic about Lesley Manville, because she is the centerpiece of this film. For those of you who, like me, are fans of British films and TV shows, she will be a face you recognize, but you probably don't know her name.  And you should.  She has been a successful actress since the 70's, and she is one of those veteran actresses who is one of those rare ones - no actressy mannerisms, she can play anything, and she is always real. This may be a sad topic but there is joy in seeing these two accomplished actors at work.

So, yes, this is not a happy topic, but the film is an inspiration for today, and it's a wake up call that no matter what you are going through, live and appreciate every moment, especially the love you have in your life.


As we deal with the coronavirus, many of us feel it will change us all forever in a bad way, but perhaps not.


Joan says, "You know, when this all started I thought that, if I made it through, the experience would somehow change me.  I don't think it has.  I don't think I want it to."


No matter what happens, we are who we are, our human spirit remains, and we keep going as long as we can, one foot in front of the other.


Rosy the Reviewer says...sensitively directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburnthis film pays homage to the vitality of the human spirit, reminding us that if we hang in there, we can get through the challenges with which we are faced with our abilities to laugh and love still intact.

(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)




Just Mercy (2019)


Now here is some more inspiration!

Based on the memoir of Harvard-educated civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who in the 1980’s, fresh out of law school, instead of using his credentials to set up a money-making law practice, set up the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama to help the most poor and desperate. This film focuses on one of Stevenson's very first cases, his attempt to save wrongly condemned death row prisoner, Walter McMillian AKA Johnnie D. (Jamie Foxx), a black man who was convicted of murdering a young white woman in Monroeville, Alabama, despite a slew of evidence to the contrary.  Lack of evidence did not seem to be an issue in the racist climate Stevenson found himself in, and, coincidentally and ironically, Monroeville was the town where Harper Lee's book "To Kill a Mockingbird" was set, something the townspeople liked to smugly point out to Stevenson. So how could they possibly be racist?

This film shines a light on institutionalized racism that still runs rampant in our society. There is a telling scene when Stevenson arrives at the prison to interview McMillian and the guard tells him to strip. Then he tells Stevenson to bend over and spread ‘em and, when Stevenson looks alarmed, the guard smirks and says “Just kidding.” Why did the guard do that?  Because he could.  Sickening but true.

Jordan and Foxx are both superb in this.  No flashy mannerisms, no over-the-top dramatic speeches, just real life played out on the screen. It's the still moments and facial reactions that show what great actors these two are. Their best work yet. Brie Larson was in this too, but with little to do and overshadowed by Jordan and Foxx, you will hardly remember she was there.

Adapted by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham and directed by Cretton, the film takes place in the 1980’s, but sadly we are still living in a society that assumes black men are guilty and white men feel justified to chase after them and kill them in the streets (does Ahmaud Arbery ring a bell)?

This is yet another film that made me mad as hell.  And it was supposed to.  It's an important film, but, this is not only an important film, it’s a very, very good one with powerful performances by both Jordan and Foxx. It just makes me sad to think that the people who need to see this film probably won’t.

Rosy the Reviewer says…. not just another courtroom drama, it's a must see that will give you something else to think about besides Covid-19!
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)




Black Christmas (2019)



And now for something completely different.  Some fun escapism to take your mind off your troubles. Yet another horror film about sorority girls being stalked -- but it has some depth!

Written by Sophia Takal and April Wolfe and directed by Takal, this is another offering from that horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions, and as I have said in previous reviews, there is good Bluehouse like “The Invisible Man” and bad Blumhouse like “Fantasy Island.”  Then there is campy Blumhouse like “Happy Death Day,” with the familiar horror trope of sorority girls being terrorized. This one is also about sorority girls being terrorized but it has a feminist bent that adds some political depth to the film and is ultimately very satisfying, especially if you are a woman.

It's Christmas, and Riley (Imogen Poots) and a few of her fellow sorority sisters at Hawthorne College are staying on campus to throw an "Orphans Party" and keep each other company.  But when a couple of the sisters turn up missing, the women realize they are being stalked by a stranger or strangers in what turns out to be a campus conspiracy against women. If you are a good little compliant woman, you live.  If you are one of those damned feminists, you die!

But of course our heroine and her sorority sisters aren’t going to take this lying down. Riley had been sexually assaulted in the past, so to help her deal with the trauma, she became active on campus and organized to make sure that didn't happen to any other women, so let's just say that the stalker or stalkers have messed with the wrong sisters!

Poots, of the unfortunate name (though I give her credit for keeping it) is an underrated British actress who I have enjoyed ever since seeing her in "Green Room" and "Frank and Lola," all the way back in 2015. It seems like she has been around forever. Sadly, huge stardom has escaped her, but just considering the fact that she is 30 and can pull off playing a college girl says something about her skills.

This is a remake of sorts (the title "Black Christmas" has been used before), but this one hits a new high as a horror film, so I am going to give it a break (because you know I hate remakes).  It's not just a horror film but a political and feminist film that embraces sisterhood and puts men in their place!  If only we could!

Rosy the Reviewer says…maybe a little pretend horror can take your mind off the real horror that is a worldwide pandemic.
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)




Love Wedding Repeat (2020)


“Chance can be a real bastard.” 
So begins this film, now streaming on Netflix, that gives alternative versions of the same day.

Jack (Sam Claflin) has his hands full at his sister, Hayley's (Eleanor Tomlinson) wedding in Rome. He is trying to rekindle a romance with Dina (Olivia Munn), "the one who got away," while at the same time deal with Amanda (Freida Pinto), his angry ex and a drunk uninvited guest (Jack Farthing) who wants to stop the wedding.  Stir all of that up with some little kids switching the place cards at the reception table for the English contingent and a sleep sedative that ends up in the wrong glass and you have a delightful little British rom-com written and directed by Dean Craig, that is reminiscent of “Love Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with a little “Sliding Doors” thrown in.

Haley has given her brother, Jack, a mission - to make sure her ex-boyfriend, Marc (Farthing) doesn't ruin her wedding by revealing they had done some dilly-dallying recently, of which Hayley's soon-to-be-husband would not approve, so Jack decides to put some sleeping pills in Marc's glass to shut him up.  But, yes, you guessed it, the sleeping pills end up in the wrong person and hilarity ensues. 

You might recognize Tomlinson from the "Poldark" series.  Here she just radiates on the screen with her beautiful red hair and gorgeous smile.  And Claflin was a regular in "The Hunger Games" series (he was Finnick). But the standout is Joel Fry, who plays Bryan, Hayley's "maid of honor," and who has the misfortune to mistakenly ingest the sleeping pill concoction.  

Much of this has been done before but the actors turn this into a fun romp.


Rosy the Reviewer says…a  rom-com that actually has rom and com and will take your mind off pandemics for awhile.
(Streaming on Netflix)



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



34 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Zero Kelvin (1995)
(Orig. title: Kjaerlighetens kjotere)


A young poet joins a fur trading expedition and discovers he is not the man he thought he was...in a bad way.
Zero Kelvin” – about as cold as it gets - and that can describe this gritty story of Henrik Larsen (Gard B. Eidsvold), an educated, middle class Norwegian poet who decides he needs an adventure and joins a fur trading expedition in Greenland where he meets the malevolent and psychopathic Randbaek (Stellan Skarsgard), and Holm (Bjorn Sundquist), a quiet scientist.  

The film gives new meaning to the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” as Larsen’s arrival upsets the balance and all hell breaks loose. Randbaek doesn’t appreciate a college educated, violin playing poet and goes about making Larsen’s life a misery.  But Randbaek underestimates Larsen to his detriment.  

Written by Hans Petter Moland and Lars Bill Lundholm and directed by Moland, the film is about isolation and class struggle, even in an icy wasteland, and how a seemingly good man can turn murderous.
Why it’s a Must See: “[This film] brilliantly examines what a normally civilized person will do in extreme circumstances, with all restraints removed, it asks what can separate men from beasts.”
("1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die")
Rosy the Reviewer says…a first-rate psychological thriller with first-rate performances, especially by Stellan Skarsgaard, though the dog cruelty is pretty hard to take. And yes, this was a film I needed to see before I died and reminded me that there are worse situations to be in than mine right now.
(In Norwegian with English subtitles)
(Available for purchase from Amazon)




Thanks for reading!

See you soon!


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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).


Go to IMDB.com, 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.