Showing posts with label Patti Smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patti Smith. Show all posts

Friday, November 1, 2019

"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" as well as DVDs "The Dead Don't Die" and "Shaft."  The Book of the Week is Patti Smith's memoir "The Year of the Monkey."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Avengers: Infinity War"]

Maleficent" Mistress of Evil

Aurora (Elle Fanning) is about to marry Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is not happy about it.

As you may recall from the first film five years ago (yes, this is one of those sequel thingies I hate), Maleficent was really, really pissed off because she was done wrong by her man, Stefan, King of the Moors, so when he married someone else, Maleficent cursed his baby girl, Aurora - the curse being that when she turned 16, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a permanent sleep only to awaken by a true love's kiss. To protect her from the curse, Stefan sent Aurora into the forest under the care of some incompetent pixies and Maleficent ended up watching over Aurora and becoming her fairy godmother.  It's basically the Sleeping Beauty story with a bit of a twist, and I liked it.

So now in this sequel we pick up the story and I'm not liking it so much.

It's been five years since King Stefan's death and Aurora (Fanning) is now Queen of the Moors. Prince Philip (Dickinson) lives in the neighboring kingdom of Ulsted with his parents King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).  Philip has asked Aurora to marry him and she has accepted, hoping that their marriage will unite the two kingdoms which have been unhappily coexisting. The King and Queen don't really approve of Maleficent, but the King wants to unite the two kingdoms.  Queen Ingrith acts happy but has an evil plot in mind to not only get rid of Maleficent but of all of the fairies.

Oh, and did you know that Maleficent is actually a fairy, one of the last known Dark Faes (a fae is just a fancy word for a fairy) and the last descendant from the Phoenix, a powerful Dark Fae ancestor?  Well, she is, and she joins forces with an underground of Dark Faes who have been driven into hiding because of oppression by humans.

It all ends in a big showdown between Maleficent, the evil Queen and the Dark Faes.

So that's the gist of the film, but you know what?  I learned something about myself while watching this film.

No, it's not that I actually do like sequels.  I don't and this film just confirms that.  No, I learned that I have become too old to watch Disney fantasy films anymore, one, because I couldn't figure out what was going on most of the time and, two, the reason I was confused was that the plot WAS A MESS!!!

Not to mention the title.  Explain to me why the subtitle of this film is "Mistress of Evil," when it's the QUEEN who is evil, not Maleficent.

Anyway, the story, written by Linda Woolverton with the help of Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, is a mess of unlikely coincidences and happenings that are required for it all to turn out okay - the kinds of plot twists that make you shake your head and utter out loud, "What? How did that happen?"  or "What? How did she figure that out?" -  and though the film, directed by Joachim Ronning, is beautiful to look at, it's just a bore.  The best thing about the film is Angelina Jolie's cheek bones!

And speaking of Angelina, she does the best she can and Michelle Pfeiffer wears beautiful clothes and chews the scenery like mad as the evil queen, but poor Elle Fanning doesn't have much to do except look cute and react to everyone else.  Zzzzz

Rosy the Reviewer says...a disappointing snoozefest. Didnt like this one. 

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


The Dead Don't Die (2019)

The small town of Centerville must battle zombies who suddenly rise from their graves because of some sort of environmental disaster.

So, I guess director Jim Jarmusch wanted to make a zombie movie.  And I guess a bunch of actors wanted to help him because this film is star-studded, but sadly it's not one of my favorite Jarmusch films.

Bill Murray, the king of underplaying actors, plays police chief Cliff Robertson, who with his deputy, Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) and officer Mindy Morrison (Chloe Sevigny), keep the peace in a very small and seemingly safe town. But something has gone wrong with the earth's rotation caused by an environmental issue called "polar fracking," and that has caused the dead to rise up. The dead have come back and it seems that what they loved in life is what they seek now. 

"They gravitate toward things they did when they were alive."

So the wine drinking Mallory O'Brien (Carol Kane) needs her chardonnay and the coffee zombie (Iggie Pop) needs his coffee.  Zombie children hang around candy stores mumbling the names of their favorite candy and an ex-guitar player drags his guitar behind his shuffling feet.

Our victims include some kids in detention, some teens in a motel (one of whom is Selena Gomez), a crabby, racist farmer who wears a hat that says "Make America White Again (Steve Buscemi)," and who is fittingly devoured by a black zombie, waitresses and customers in a diner and the owner of a hardward store (Danny Glover).  And then there is Tilda Swinton.  Does she ever play a character that isn't strange? Here she plays a sword-wielding Samurai of an undertaker who comes to town to cut off some heads (you need to go for the head when trying to kill a zombie) and all of this is observed by Hermit Bob (Tom Waits).

Now I have been a huge Jim Jarmusch fan ever since his first major film "Stranger Than Paradise."  So I know his films are strange, strangely funny, and always slow to start and leisurely in execution.  You need to ease into them to get them so I gave this one a chance, but it just never went anywhere.  Yes, I got the point that we humans are addicted to commercialism, even in death, and that's kind of funny.  There are some allusions to our current Trumpian world, and the film was gory enough for even the most devoted horror fan, but this one was just a bit too out there for me.  I know that Jarmusch has his own vision and he puts things in his movies that are meaningful, funny and cool to him, and he probably doesn't really care if we get it or not, but this one had too many of those, though I will say Iggie Pop as a zombie is really cool and the whole idea about what to do when one of the zombies is a family member is enough to make you go "Mmmm?".

You may or may not know who Bertolt Brecht is, but I noted some Brechtian elements in the film. I know all about Brecht, because in my acting days, I was in two Bertolt Brecht plays.  Bertolt Brecht invented "Epic Theatre," plays that reminded the audience that they were watching a play. He didn't want the audience to get too involved or to identify emotionally with the characters thinking that too much emotion left the audience complacent.  He thought the theatre should provoke self-reflection and a critical response which in turn would engage the audience to get off their butts and leave the theatre to create change in the world. 

Jarmusch appears to use that technique a bit in the film when Murray and Driver actually start talking about Jarmusch and how, since they read the script, they know how the film is going to end, which is kind of funny because Ronnie keeps saying "This is definitely going to end badly."  But is this film a call to action?  And if so, what did he want us to go out and do?  Did he want to spur the audience to go out zombie hunting? Or are we the zombies, too tied to our superficial pursuits to really care about what is happening in the world now? Or does he want us to be sure to vote out Trump, otherwise it's going to end badly? Or are we all doomed no matter what we do?

But despite some interesting and yes, kind of cool elements, this film didn't really work for me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I think Jarmusch had fun with this.  Sadly, I didn't.  But even when Jarmusch is not at his best, his films are better than most.


Three generations of Shafts come together to solve a murder.

When the film begins it's 1989 and John Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson), his wife, Maya (Regina Hall), and their baby son, JJ, survive an assassination attempt by Pierro "Gordito" Carrera (Isaach De Bankole).  Maya says "No way," and takes the baby out of harm's way to raise him without Shaft.  

Fast forward 25 years and now JJ (Jessie T. Usher) is an FBI agent with a degree from MIT in cybersecurity.  When JJ's friend Karim (Avan Jogia) dies of a heroin overdose, JJ is suspicious, feeling he was murdered, so he goes to Harlem to talk to the local drug dealer who sold Karim the heroin.  When he is unceremoniously ejected from the premises, young JJ enlists his father's help and the two cultures collide - older Shaft's streetwise methods vs. young JJ's more white collar approach.  One is old school, the other PC.

"Men don't apologize." (Old Shaft)
"Real men admit when they are wrong." (Young Shaft)

Lots of that kind of banter but, of course, each learn from the other - old Shaft has a soft side, young JJ finds his darker side. Sam Jackson gets to be macho and swagger around using "F-M" in every other sentence and Usher gets to look bewildered and surprised until he finally gets sucked into his Dad's methods. But it's when "Grandpa" shows up - the original Shaft, Richard Roundtree - that we realize Sam was working really hard to channel Roundtree and he didn't quite make it.  And neither did the original soundtrack.  The film alluded to it, but never really embraced it.  I missed that the most.

Written by by Alex Barnow and Kenya Barris and directed by Tim Story, the film could have been done a bit more stylishly, but it has some fun moments and is often funny despite some cringeworthy non-PC moments. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...kind of silly but entertaining if you can get over the sexist, macho stuff.

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

56 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

The Avengers must stop the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) before he destroys the Universe.

Nine, count 'em, nine different Marvel franchises come together to beat Thanos, a mad genocidal maniac, as he seeks to collect the six infinity stones that will give him ultimate power.

I thought I could avoid these Avenger movies, but wouldn't you know? This one turned up in the new edition of "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," so here I am.  And can I say that because I hadn't seen most of the EIGHTEEN films that came before, I didn't have the slightest idea what was going on in this one, the penultimate edition to the series.  I saw "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Black Panther," but as far as the "Avengers" films, that's about it. I am more of a DC girl, myself.

As far as I can tell, this film starts where the one before it left off. Evil Thanos (Brolin) has acquired the Power Stone and when this film begins he has overpowered Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and kills Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to extract the Space Stone.  The Hulk crash lands into New York City to warn Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Wong (Benedict Wong) about Thanos' plan to take over the Universe and kill half of all life. Then Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Peter Parker/Spider Man (Tom Holland) get involved as well as Thor (Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Star Lord (Chris Pratt) and his Guardians of the Galaxy gang.
 There are a bunch of other side-kicks, too. Whew! Hope I didn't leave anybody out. The whole bloody bunch of the Marvel Universe seems to be in this thing and that's a lot for the uninitiated to take in. Oh, and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) gets a storyline that we didn't know about. 

The film, directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, and written by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely, is full of bad dialogue, comic banter, CGI and other special effects and lots and lots of action.  It's a formula: high intensity action followed by comic relief followed by high intensity action, followed by comic relief, etc. etc. etc.  However, this film also has surprises, because a LOT of the superheroes and their sidekicks die at the end. But there is no real resolution, because this film is a set up for the final installment in the series, "Avengers: Endgame," which came out this year and wrapped everything up. (No doubt, that last film will also be in the next edition of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," but hopefully, I will be done with this project by then.  But even if I'm not, I don't plan to buy the next edition anyway).

It's kind of fun to see all of these superhero stars together in one film and, for those who have been following these characters since the beginning, I can see how that is part of the excitement, but if, like me, you haven't seen many or any of the earlier films, you will probably be as confused as I was.

Why it's a Must See: "If the average Marvel movie offers a rollercoaster experience -- a bombastic, big-budget thrill-ride that leaves little time for the audience to catch its breath -- the nineteenth trip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe decides to throw a whole theme park at the audience...[and] the biggest success really lies in shoehorning so many lead characters into one narrative without every actually losing a grip on the story or its forward momentum."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is probably heresy, but all I can say is I find these movies to be silly.

***The Book of the Week***

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith (2019)

A year in the life of writer, artist and Punk rocker Patti Smith.

It's 2016, The Year of the Monkey, and Smith has just finished some New Year's Eve concerts in San Francisco at the Fillmore.  She embarks on a year of wandering, first heading down to Santa Cruz, where she starts the New Year on the beach at The Dream Inn.  She is 69 and we follow her through the year as she mourns the illness of a friend and mentor, travels to San Diego and Seattle, to the Arizona desert, to her home in Rockaway beach and to a Kentucky farm to help a friend - writer Sam Shepherd who could no longer write - and then farther afield to Lisbon, all the while musing on everything from aging to politics to the environment and lamenting the state of the world. 

The whole book is very much like a dream because it is difficult to tell truth from fiction.  Does Smith really try to get rides with strangers?  Does she really strike up conversations with old guys in cafes? Does she really pick up candy wrappers on the beach and save them to contemplate later?

It's all very poetic and surreal, which is not surprising because Smith has always been more of a poet than rock star.  Part travelogue, part memoir, but this is mostly the stream of consciousness musings of a woman moving into her seventieth year and wondering what it has all meant. She populates her book with her photographs documenting her year of wandering.

The book is like one long dream but as she says at the end of the book, "...the trouble with dreaming is that we eventually wake up."

Rosy the Reviewer says...not like Smith's award-winning book "Just Kids," but a mesmerizing foray into the mind of an artist.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Dolomite is My Name"


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

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.