Showing posts with label Princess Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Princess Grace. Show all posts

Friday, November 10, 2017

"A Bad Moms Christmas" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "A Bad Moms Christmas" as well as DVDs "Lady Macbeth" and "Amreeka."  The Book of the Week is "Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Kenneth Anger's underground film "Scorpio Rising."]

A Bad Moms Christmas

"Bad Moms" Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn are back, but this time they not only have Christmas to deal with, they also have to deal with their own Moms and you might ask yourself, who really are the "Bad Moms" this time around?

Well, you might ask yourself that if you really cared because speaking of bad, this movie is a prime example of why I usually don't like sequels.  And I really, really don't like bad sequels.

Here is my definition of a bad sequel:

Start with a little film that was a charming surprise hit, a warm reminder of the difficulties of motherhood with just the right amount of fun and sentimentality...

 -- and then ruin it by rushing another one into production as soon as possible using the exact same plot (underappreciated and stressed out Moms) and the exact same jokes (except this time make them raunchier and less funny) and then throw in Christmas and more dysfunctional mothers.

If three Bad Moms are funny, six Bad Moms would be even funnier, right?  Wrong! 

When we left Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn), they had just finished dealing with the Mean Moms of the PTA who had been so judgmental and made their lives a misery. They decided they would no longer stress themselves out trying to live up to the standard of perfection expected of Good Moms, but rather do the best they could and try to be happy with that, which they ultimately did. The film was funny and sweet and I enjoyed it.

Now this second time around, Amy is divorced (remember, her husband cheated on her) and has a boyfriend, Jessie (Jay Hernandez) but is still stressed  out because Christmas is coming and Christmas is a particularly stressful time for Moms, right?  Kiki has managed to keep her controlling husband, Kent (Lyle Brocato), in check and Carla is...well, still Carla, except now she works in a beauty salon where her specialite is waxing, especially down there where the sun don't shine.  I only bring that up because that is a particular motif that we are beaten over the head with because for some particular reason the writers thought waxing peoples' private parts (and they didn't use the term private parts, either) was very, very funny.  I didn't.

So now we have Amy, Kiki and Carla getting ready for Christmas, which is stressful enough, right?  And who should show up, but their mothers!  Funny, that all three of their mothers would show up at the same time, don't you think? And funny that all three Moms are not particularly beloved by their daughters. 


Well, Amy's Mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski) is overly-critical and expects everything to be perfect and done her way and she has no problem expressing her distaste when she doesn't like something; Kiki's Mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), wants to be close to Kiki - so close that she thinks its OK to sit in their bedroom while Kiki and Kent are having sex; and Carla's Mom, Isis (Susan Sarandon) is a pot-smoking hippie who likes to gamble, who Carla hasn't seen in years and who shows up in Carla's life when she needs money. She doesn't even know her own grandson's name.  Oh, and don't think her name isn't an attempted source of amusement.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that our Bad Moms are not nearly as bad as their mothers.

So?  Does any of that sound even slightly funny to you?

I like my comedies to at least be on the edge of reality.  What makes a comedy funny is imagining yourself in the same situation as the characters, but the characters and antics in this film are so beyond the realm of reality and possibility that you are more likely to shake your head than laugh. I did a lot of head shaking.

  • For example, how likely is it that you and your friends would get drunk at the mall and get away with stealing the Christmas tree at Foot Locker during regular business hours? 
  • Or carry out lewd acts on the department store Santa Claus without anyone throwing you out? 
  • Or that you would sing carols at over 300 homes in one night to win a prize? 
  • Or that your mother doesn't know your son's name? 
  • Or that you can give your son his own baseball glove for Christmas year after year and he doesn't notice?
  • Or that a potential boyfriend would do a raunchy Chippendale style dance at the Christmas dinner when meeting you and your family for the first time?

I could go on and on but I will spare you.

But reality aside, I also expect comedies to be funny. 

This one isn't.  But maybe that's just me.

I will let you be the judge.

  • Do you think it's funny to meet the man of your dreams while waxing his privates?
  • Do you think it's funny that a woman would yell out "Put a baby in me, Santa #2!" when judging a sexy Santa contest in a bar?
  • Do you think it's funny that a camel would stroll through the living room after you and your mother have had a big brawl on Christmas Eve that results in the destruction of all of the over-the-top Christmas decorations including pulling down the Christmas tree?
OK, so now I am going to digress for a moment.

What is the deal with Christmas parties and big brawls and pulling down Christmas trees?  Remember "Office Christmas Party?"  The big brawl that results in a Christmas tree falling down is a Christmas movie cliché. What-is-the-deal with that?

Well, I think I know the answer to that question. 

Pulling down Christmas trees is a primal response to anger.  I myself have done it.  When I was putting my husband through college and discovered he was cheating on me with a 19-year-old coed I took it out on the Christmas tree too, so I totally get that.  When I was a little girl, I also remember waking up one morning and finding that our Christmas tree had mysteriously "fallen down." The tree is there as a happy reminder of the holidays, but it can also symbolize the fact that things aren't so happy, so pulling down the Christmas tree is a movie cliché for a reason.  But despite the fact I understand it, I don't find it funny and I'm sick of seeing it in Christmas movies.

So, anyway, directors and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore must have thought all of that was funny, but I didn't laugh once and no one else in the theatre laughed either. It's difficult to believe that those two also wrote the first one "Bad Moms."  The first one was funny and sweet and believable.  This one was not funny, not sweet and not believable, and the writers missed a big opportunity to explore the complicated mother/daughter relationship, something that might have turned this movie into something special instead of recycling the first movie and just giving us six Bad Moms.

However, I am not going to fault the actors. 

They all did the best they could with what they were given.  Baranski had the best lines and carried off haughty very well, though a couple of the things she said were very anti-Semitic.  I know she was supposed to be a woman who didn't approve of much, but saying something negative about Jewish people as a way to express that was cringe worthy and didn't need to be there. And I love Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on the hit TV show "This is Us," and here plays the male stripper who meets Carla while getting his #&*@ waxed, but I hated seeing him like that. 

Wanda Sykes makes an appearance in the only scene I enjoyed, and I use the word "enjoy" loosely.  Kiki and her mother, Sandy, have sought the help of Dr. Karl, a therapist, to help them with the "how close is too close" issue.  When Sandy leaves the room, Kiki asks Dr. Karl why her mother is so crazy at which point Wanda, who up until now had been rolling her eyes at everything Sandy said, tells Kiki that going through childbirth, sleepless nights and worrying about the child for the rest of its life would turn anyone from a normal human being into a crazy person.  Let's hear it for motherhood.  We finally catch a break instead of it being the other way around - that mothers make their children crazy.  It's the children who make US crazy!  But despite my little mental "rah rah," it wasn't enough to save this movie. 

Oh, and was there a Power Walk?  Of course there was.  Sigh. 

I also found it very odd that a Christmas movie would be coming out this early (it opened before Halloween).  I couldn't help but think the filmmakers wanted to get this released before "Daddy's Home 2" comes out, a very similar Christmas film (which opens today), except it's about Dads, not Moms. However, I hope it's not really similar because I want to see that one too, and ever the optimist, I want it to be funny.  Please don't let there be a final bit of Christmas mayhem with the Christmas tree being pulled down.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you were planning on seeing this film closer to Christmas - which makes sense BECAUSE IT ISN'T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!!!! - save your money.  It's awful.


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


Lady Macbeth (2016)

A young 19th century bride who was sold into marriage to a much older husband enters into an affair with one of the workers on her country estate.

The title can be a bit confusing because this is not Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. There is no Lady Macbeth in this film per se, except as a metaphor for murder, but this Lady Macbeth seems to be even colder than Shakespeare's Lady as she doesn't seem to mind the blood on her hands.

Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young woman who has entered into an arranged marriage with Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton), the master of a large country estate.  They live on the estate with Alexander's father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank).  Neither of these men is very nice to Katherine, who is expected to do as she is told and stay inside the house. It is a time when women had few options, were nothing more than chattel, there to do their husband's bidding and eventually produce an heir.  However, even that last bit seems unlikely as Alexander doesn't seem to have much interest in her and appears to be impotent.  On their wedding night, he orders her to take off her clothes which she does and then he leaves her standing their naked as he goes to sleep.  Another time, he orders her to strip and then to stand facing the fall while he masturbates.  All very dark and gloomy and grim for our young Katherine.

So Katherine is young and beautiful and bored.  And we all know what happens to bored housewives.

When both Alexander and Boris must leave the estate on business, Katherine is left to her own devices and she isn't about to hang around alone in the house. Though we are initially sympathetic to Katherine's lonely and cruel circumstance, it soon becomes clear that our Katherine has gumption. She goes on long walks outside and encounters Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the farm workers and the two embark on a passionate affair.  As time passes and neither Alexander nor Boris return, Sebastian takes on the role of the man of the house and the two make no effort to conceal their affair, all of it unfolding under the watchful, and disapproving eye of Anna (Naomi Ackie), Katherine's maid servant.

Katherine also doesn't mind having a drink or two or three, so when Boris returns and asks Anna to bring them wine, she tells them it is all gone.  Blaming Anna, Boris makes her get down on her hands and knees and crawl out of the room, another startling reminder of not only a woman's place in those times but the treatment of the underclass by the ruling class, especially a woman of color. And Katherine has no problem letting Anna take the blame which doesn't help their relationship nor does it make her a very likable character, and we see just what kind of a character Katherine really is when she poisons Boris and lets him die.  

And then when Alexander returns, he figures out what is going on and things take an even darker turn. This isn't just a beautifully shot British costume film, it's a beautifully shot British costume film with a bit of horror thrown in.

Do we root for Katherine to determine her own fate as a 19th century woman with few options or is she just a selfish nut job who will do anything to get what she wants?

Newcomer Florence Pugh looks very much like a young Kate Winslet and her intensity burns up the screen in this grim but exciting story based on the 19th century novella "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" by Nicolai Leskov.  But kudos to all of the actors, especially Ackie, whose performance doesn't include much dialogue but whose quiet presence is very powerful.  Directed by William Oldroyd and adapted for the screen by Alice Birch, it is a brutal depiction of the power struggle that existed between men and women and the upper and lower classes in 19th century England.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am a sucker for these British costume dramas but this is unlike any I've seen before.  I saw the trailer for this film and was anxious to see it.  It did not disappoint. 

Amreeka (2009)

Muna, a single mother living in Palestine with her teen-aged son, immigrates to a small town in Illinois.

Muna (Nisreen Faour) is a divorced Christian Palestinian living with her teen-aged son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem), when she gets the opportunity to move to Amreeka (America in Arabic).  She works as an accountant in a bank, and every day, after picking up Fadi at school, the two must cross Left Bank Israeli checkpoints to get to their home in Bethlehem.  One day, when Muna finds out that she has been awarded a U.S. green card via the lottery system - something she and her husband had applied for when they were still together and it had taken so long to come through that Muna had forgotten about it - her son encourages her to go ahead and make the move. 

But Muna is fearful, feeling that she would merely be a visitor in the U.S. and never really feel at home.  But her son reminds her that it's better than being a prisoner in her own country, and that is brought home to her when there is an incident going through the many checkpoints and Fadi is harassed.  That did it. She makes up her mind that they will go.

Muna and Fadi arrive in the U.S. right after the start of the post-9/11 Iraq War and are greeted by her sister, her sister's physician husband, and their three children, thus the reason why Muna and Fadi end up in Illinois.  However, after a happy welcome, Muna is horrified to learn that the cookie tin she had brought from home was confiscated at customs and all of her savings had been in that cookie tin.

So now Muna must find a job, and despite her banking experience and many degrees, she can't find a banking job and ends up working at a White Castle which just to happens to be conveniently located right next door to the bank.  Muna, being a proud woman, can't admit to her sister that she is working in a hamburger joint, so every day when she is dropped off for work, she walks into the bank and then, when her sister disappears, Muna runs over to White Castle.  The bank employee and her blue-haired teenaged co-worker at White Castle befriend her and both help her carry out the ruse to much humorous effect.

Meanwhile, Muna's sister and husband are feeling the effects of the Iraq War fallout.  They are not Iraqis but we Americans haven't been very good about distinguishing who is from what country or who practices what religion, instead judging people by how they look.  Muna and her family are not Muslims; they are Christians.  They are not Iraqis, either, but Muna's brother-in-law is still losing patients, which in turn is causing them to have money problems.

Written and directed by Cherien Dabis in her directorial debut, this is a human and heart-warming depiction of what it must be like for immigrants coming to this country: having to start over, the homesickness, the different customs, language issues and of course the resulting racism. It's also a fish out of water story as Muna tries to understand how looking for a job in the U.S. works; as she encounters all of the junk food and tabloids in American supermarkets; and, of course, the prejudice aimed at people from Arab countries, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War.  Likewise, Fadi is not immune to all of this either. He is bullied at school until he finds a niche with his cousin and her friends. 

But what could be a dark and depressing story just isn't.  It's sweet and human and funny.

This is a very special film. 

All of the actors are wonderful, especially Faour, who has created a charming, lovely woman in Muna.  Muna is a real, three-dimensional character thanks to Dabas' screenplay and Faour's ability to beautifully and poignantly bring her to life.  You can't help but root for her. The screenplay also wonderfully captures the newcomer's experience in a humorous yet poignant way.  Imagine being an Arab newcomer to the U.S. after 9/11.  And yet Dabis does not just paint a one-sided picture.  In the midst of Fadi's bullying and Muna's humiliations, there are Americans who are sympathetic and understanding.

This film is not just about the immigrant experience, though.  It's about a lot of issues that everyone can relate to: coming of age, racism, pride, friendship, family, overcoming odds.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I loved this film and feel like my life is better having seen it.  That's why movies matter.

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

162 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Scorpio Rising (1963)

Pop hits from the late 1950's and early 1960's highlight this 30 minute underground film that glorifies the biker culture interspersed with images of Jesus and his disciples.  You have to see it for yourself.

I first knew of Kenneth Anger way before seeing any of his films.  As enthralled as I am with Hollywood celebrity gossip, it was only natural that I would be drawn to his book "Hollywood Babylon," a shocking book for its time, a time before the Internet or TMZ.  The book shared some of Hollywood's best kept sordid secrets and bizarre stories e.g. up close descriptions of Jayne Mansfield's death by decapitation in a horrible car accident or the revelation that actress Clara Bow slept with the entire USC football team.  Many of his claims have been called into question over the years, but I have to say it's a fun read if you like that kind of thing.

Described as one of America's first openly gay filmmakers, Anger worked exclusively with short "underground" films and this one is considered one of the most influential of all "underground" films.

It begins with the title of the film and the director's name spelled out in studs on the back of a leather jacket and goes on to glorify a biker gang, showing images shot mostly in a Brooklyn biker garage. It's all very fetish-inspired in a leather, abs, James Dean/Marlon Brando, swastika and gleaming chrome sort of way with one late fifties-early 60's rock song after another playing over the images. That was all fine but then came these scenes of Jesus and his disciples that looked like something out of the silent version of "King of Kings," and that's when Anger kind of lost me.  Jesus and his disciples as a biker gang?  Biker gangs mark the end of Christianity?  Not sure.

Why it's a Must See: "Without [this film], Martin Scorsese would not use pop music the way he does in Mean Streets (1973), David Lynch couldn't have found the disturbing undercurrents in Bobby Vinton's song 'Blue Velvet (which is also used here), and action movies wouldn't include homoerotic strapping-on-the-weapons montages."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Though I could definitely see the influences this film might have had on Roger Corman and other filmmakers, this is very much a niche film and an acquired taste.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is no dialogue in this film, just the music, and what it was actually about?  Your guess is as good as mine.

***Book of the Week***

Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman (2017)

A gorgeous coffee table book that highlights the life and career of Grace Kelly.

Many people remember Princess Grace of Monaco but fewer probably remember Grace Kelly, the actress.  Authors Jorgensen and Bowman want to rectify that with this lavishly illustrated book highlighting Kelly's acting career.

Countless books have been written since her untimely death in 1982 but the authors say  "...this may be the first book ever to present the story of Grace's life as viewed through the lens of her film career," a career that included only eleven films over a six year period before she was whisked off to Monaco by Prince Rainier to become Princess Grace, but in that short time she won a Best Actress Academy Award and made three iconic films with director Alfred Hitchcock ("Dial M forMurder," "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief").

Speaking of Hitchcock, Grace wasn't just Hollywood's dream girl, she was his dream girl.  She fit his muse criteria: the icy blonde, and he fell madly in love with her. He was actually kind of creepy about it, because when Grace went to Monaco Hitchcock replaced her with more icy blondes: Kim Novak and then Tippi Hedren (read Tippi's book for more on that).

The details of Grace's life are here.  She grew up in a wealthy athletic Philadelphia family of overachievers.  As gorgeous as she turned out to be, growing up, she was a nearsighted quiet child who was not considered exceptionally good looking by her relatives.  Her sister, Peggy, was considered the beauty of the family, so Grace had to find other ways to stand out which led her to modeling and eventually an acting career.

As promised, this book concentrates on the films and goes year by year, giving details about the making of each one with lots of insider information (she had affairs with practically all of her leading men) and illustrated with gorgeous photos.

  • Grace's first film role was in the western "High Noon" playing Gary Cooper's wife, a strange bit of casting since Grace was young enough to be his daughter.  

  • In "Mogambo," a film she also made early in her career, she and co-star Clark Gable had a romance but when the film was finished he rejected her, though in later years he confessed he had been seriously in love with her but they had to part because he was just too old for her.

  • And in "Rear Window," when Grace first appears on the screen, we see her move in for a slow-motion kiss with Jimmy Stewart, a kiss that has become one of Hitchcock's most iconic film moments.

There are many more juicy bits about her life and her films and, the book ends with her reign as Princess Grace.

But before Princess Grace was a Princess, she was a beautiful movie star, part of The Golden Age of Hollywood, and the photographs in this book show off what a beautiful star she was. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this would make a great holiday present for anyone who loved Grace Kelly, the actress, and who still remembers and enjoys The Golden Age of Hollywood.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  


"Daddy's Home 2"  


 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).