Showing posts with label Sci Fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sci Fi. Show all posts

Friday, June 2, 2017

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" as well as the animated feature films "Moana" and "Sing," newly released on DVD.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "In The Year of the Pig."  The Book of the Week is a cookbook:  "Over Easy" by Joy Wilson.]

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Peter Quill AKA Star Lord is back and he is still trying to figure out his parentage.

I am not a big Marvel comics fan - well, actually I'm not a Marvel comics fan at all - so it was just by accident that I went to the first installment of this franchise, "Guardians of the Galaxy," which I guess looking back would now be Vol. 1.  I needed to review a new film and there just wasn't anything else to see.  And I have to say I was surprised.  I just loved it!  I loved it so much that I saw it again on DVD so Hubby could see it too.  Chris Pratt had lost all of that weight after his stint on "Parks and Recreation" and was breaking out in a big way, the "mixed tape" 80's soundtrack was awesome, and the story was fresh and original.  Also who knew a wise-cracking raccoon (Bradley Cooper), a talking tree who can only say "I am Groot (Vin Diesel)" and Drax (Dave Bautista), a tattooed knucklehead, could be so much fun? 

I really loved the FIRST "Guardians of the Galaxy" and thought it was just charming and even ended my review of it with "I can't wait for the next one!" 

But that was the FIRST "Guardians of the Galaxy." I am sad to report that the "next one" is here, and I did not feel the same way about this sequel.  You know how I feel about sequels anyway.  I usually hate them and avoid them, but because I loved the first "Guardians" so much I didn't even think about it being a sequel so I can guarantee you that the fact that it was a sequel did not color my judgment. I was expecting the same charm as the first and that Pratt would be his wise-cracking self. 

Well, folks, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" had no charm.  Whatever it was that made the first one so enjoyable was just not present here.  And worse, Chris Pratt has lost his charm too.  He seemed to be sleepwalking through his part with most of the other characters having the funny wise-cracking lines.

Well, anyway, enough about me. Let's get to the story.

As you may remember from the first one - and if you haven't seen the first "Guardians of the Galaxy," please see it, even if you don't plan to see this one.  But if you ARE going to see this one, it's a must to see the first one unless you want to be hopelessly lost or already know the story.  I saw the first one and still struggled to remember who was who and why was why in the sequel. Characters from the first one come and go and some new characters, like Baby Groot, are not really explained.

This time around, Peter and his side-kicks Rocket (the aforementioned raccoon); Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the sort-of love interest; Drax (the tattooed knucklehead); and Baby Groot (still Vin Diesel, but like I said, not sure where he came from) have been hired by the Sovereign race, a bunch of people who are all painted gold and look alike, to protect valuable batteries from a monster that is going to attack their planet.  In return, the Guardians get Gamora's estranged sister, Nebula (Karen Gillan), who had been arrested for stealing some batteries. Everyone in the universe seems to want those batteries. As for Gamora and Nebula...shall we say that Gamora and Nebula have a fractious relationship?  However, if you have not seen the first film, that whole thing probably won't make much sense to you either because it's not really explained here.

After killing the monster, the Guardians leave the Sovereigns, but not before Rocket helps himself to some batteries.  Not a good idea.  So now the Sovereigns are after the Guardians and they are forced to crash-land on a nearby planet where Peter meets a mysterious figure (Kurt Russell - it's nice to see him again) who purports to be the father he has never met. 

Again, it was established in the first film that Peter's mother had a relationship with some kind of "Star Man," and Peter has always wondered who his father was. Peter's father introduces himself as Ego (perfect name considering how things turn out) and invites him to his home planet. He also introduces Peter to
Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Ego's empath, who is very entertaining. She has these cute little antennae and the uncanny ability to touch you and tell what you are feeling and then make you feel better. Very sweet. She was actually my favorite character in this sequel, which tells you how desperate I was to like this film.
So anyway off they go accompanied by Gamora and Drax while Rocket and Groot remain behind to repair the ship and guard Nebula.

Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) and his crew (and Yondu is a whole other storyline that isn't really explained here until the end so, like I said, see the first one first) are after the Guardians too, but when Yondu won't turn over Peter to the Sovereigns there is a mutiny and Yondu's right hand man, Taserface (Chris Sullivan), leads a mutiny.  The film has fun with Taserface and his name, and he basically becomes one of the main villains. 

Nebula escapes and continues her obsession with killing her sister, and Peter bonds with his Dad. Turns out, Ego is a Celestial, an immortal, and he has been searching for Peter to find out if he too is a Celestial.  You see, Ego is seeking meaning in life, and needs another celestial to help him find the meaning he seeks.  Unfortunately that meaning he seeks is not to help the universe but to take over the universe.

When Peter discovers that his father might not be the nice sweet Daddy he had been looking for, things change and Peter finds out just who his real "Daddy" is.

Lots of fighting and space ships flying around and crashing, and you know that slo-mo walk that happens in practically every film these days whether it's a bachelorette party or a movie like this?  You know the one, where the main characters walk shoulder-to-shoulder to some powerful hair metal song as they get themselves ready to take on the world? That's called a Power Walk - and there was not just one of those in this film, but TWO!

Written and directed by James Gunn, there are some laughs to be had and lots of space ship fights and that sort of thing. I am sure fans of the Guardians will still enjoy this, but I was disappointed.  And worse...the soundtrack, or should I say, the infamous mixed tape, wasn't nearly as good as the first one.

Rosy the Reviewer I always say about sequels...but no doubt there will be a Vol. 3.


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


Moana (2016)

When Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) hears the story of Maui (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), who stole the heart of the Island Queen, Nafiti, she sets out to find Maui, restore the heart and make things right.

As a child in Polynesia, Moana many times heard the story of the shape-shifter Maui, a demon of earth and fire, who stole the heart of the Island Queen. Her heart is literally the heart of Polynesian life and without the heart, island life is threatened.

We see early in the film that Moana has some magical abilities when it comes to taming the ocean, and the ocean wants her to travel out beyond the reef to find the heart. But Moana's father (Temuera Morrison) is the island's chief and Moana is being groomed to take leadership of the island, and the rule has always been, no one goes beyond the reef. Her mother tells her, "Some things we wish we could do are not meant to be."

Guess what? 

Disney films all have a formula.  This could be a Polynesian version of "Frozen" or even "Finding Dory," but that's OK because if it's not broke, why fix it? Disney has been churning out these formulaic animated feature films for years, and I have only good things to say about films that empower young girls to think they can do anything they want to do.

Naturally, with much powerful singing, Moana goes out past the reef with her cute little pig (there are always cute little sidekicks) and gets caught in the coral.  She makes it back to shore and so much for venturing out past the reef.

So now Moana is discouraged until her grandmother (Rachel House) gives her inspiration to not give up.  Grandma tells her the real story of Nafiti and shows her a cave with a sailing ship and tells her who Moana is really meant to be.

Moana is meant to find Maui and restore the heart to Nafiti to stave off ecological disaster. So off she goes again, this time also accompanied by a ditzy and very funny rooster. She finds Maui and discovers that Maui isn't a very nice guy. He and Moana are not on the same page about saving the islands. Instead, he imprisons her.  He not only isn't a very nice guy, he is actually kind of a meathead.  Maui is not yet who he is meant to be either.  But he also doesn't realize who he is dealing with here.  He is dealing with a Disney Princess and Disney Princesses have PLUCK and GUMPTION!  And remember, the theme here is "Never give up!"

I applaud Disney for this Polynesian folk tale which is a nice and different addition to their film library and for keeping the musical comedy alive.  It's strange, but for some reason people are fine with animated figures and animals singing but when you talk about a musical with live actors doing the same thing, people usually say, "I don't like musicals."  But they love "Frozen" and "Snow White" and other Disney features, all musicals. People are strange.

The excellent quality of the animation is also what we expect from Disney films. Young Cravalho has a lovely voice and creates a perky and engaging Moana. Likewise, "The Rock," who seems to be everywhere these days does a good job as the voice of Maui.

Oh, and did I mention that Disney films are also masterful at pulling the heartstrings?  This one is no exception.

Directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, Chris Williams and John Musker with a screenplay by Jared Bush and score and songs by Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda respectively, the film not only encourages young girls to never give up but it also shows us what can happen if we don't take care of our earth.

Rosy the Reviewer says...not my favorite Disney film but Moana is a wonderful role model for young girls. 

Sing (2016)

Humanoid animals compete in an American Idol type competition (call it Animal Idol) to help save a theatre.

Koala Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) fell in love with the theatre at a young age.  He becomes a theatre empresario and is a fast talking promoter, but he is hurting financially and when his theatre is facing the chopping block, he comes up with the idea to have a singing competition.  He manages to eek out $1000 for a prize but, his aging, out-of-it secretary accidentally types $100,000 on all of the flyers and before Buster can proof-read them, the flyers all literally fly out the window and land all over town.

Singers come from far and wide to audition with Buster who does not realize the prize is $100,000! 

At the auditions, we are introduced to a series of performers:

  • Johnny (voice of Taron Edgerton) a teenage gorilla who has fallen in with a bad crowd as in his own family;

  • Rosita, (voice of Reese Witherspoon), a singing pig who is the beleaguered mother of 25 piglets;
  • Mike (voice of Seth McFarlane), a rat, who fittingly sings like Sinatra

  • Gunter (voice of Nick Kroll), a flamboyant Liberace style pig;

  • Meena (voice of Tori Kelly), a shy young elephant with a big voice;


All of our performers have their personal stories.  The gorilla teen has to fight his criminal Dad, the singing pig can't find a babysitter for her 25 piglets, the elephant girl doesn't make the cut at the audition because she is so shy, though Buster does hire her as a stagehand (and don't worry, she will get her shot).

So now Buster has the talent lined up for his show but when he finds out that the prize is supposed to be $100,000, how will he finance it?
Directed by Garth Jennings (he also wrote the screenplay) and Christopher Lourdelet with pop songs most of which you will recognize, this isn't Disney, but Illumination Entertainment, which produced "Despicable Me" and the recent "The Secret Life of Pets," has rounded up a star-studded cast to play anthropomorphic animals in a sweet film reminiscent of "Zootopia."  All of the stars give it their all and like "Moana (see review above)," the film explores the theme of "Never give up," as well as friendship, family and following your dreams.  The animation is first rate.  At times I thought I was actually watching humans!

Rosy the Reviewer says...Great songs, great performances, great fun that all ages will enjoy!

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

Only 200 to go!

This is a milestone and I am celebrating!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

In the Year of the Pig (1968)

Produced at the height of the Vietnam War, this anti-war film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1970.

Director Emile de Antonio uses American Civil War and empire building images to begin this film that is clearly against America's participation in the Vietnam War.  Filmed when the war was in full swing (1968), he used images of protest, news footage and interviews with military figures and journalists to trace the history of Southeast Asia from China's occupation followed by the various other European powers meddling in Vietnam and ending with France.  The film makes the argument that none of those wars and acts of imperialism did anything to help Vietnam and that the Vietnamese should determine their own fate.

Duh.  Too bad we couldn't figure that out long before we got involved.

There are also images of American politicians sitting in Washington in their nice suits talking about the war, intercut with images of the death and destruction occurring thousands of miles away. A voice-over of one of the politicians says "These prisoners are not being mistreated" while at the same time we see an image of a prisoner being kicked by an American soldier.

I got married to my high school sweetheart in 1967 when I was 19. Six months later he was drafted and sent to Vietnam.  I was in college at the time and had the unique experience of a husband fighting in Vietnam while I was at home in college protesting against the war. I also remember watching the news every night worrying that one night I might see my husband getting shot.  Yes, people, there was reporting about the war every single night on the news, showing images of the fighting and the bodies and every night there would be a count of how many Viet Cong and American soldiers had died.  Do we see any images of the wars we have been involved in since?

The film is insightful but very dry.  Lots of talking heads.  And I have to wonder if anyone cares about the Vietnam War anymore.  Maybe not, but seeing films like this is a reminder of a war that we had no business being involved in, letting our fear of communism and the domino effect cloud our judgement.

This film was made in 1968 and sadly the war went on another seven years.  All of that death and destruction and for what?

Why it's a Must See: " impressive attack on American foreign policy and the war in Vietnam.  One result is an extraordinarily provocative documentary.  Another is a textbook example of flaws within the American sensibility that are most easily identified as simple of the most successful antiwar, if at times, anti-American diatribes on the evils of political expediency."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a reminder of the debacle that was the Vietnam War that we can learn from today.

***Book of the Week***

Over Easy: Sweet and Savory Recipes for Leisurely Days by Joy the Baker (Joy Wilson) (2017)

Think you know how to boil an egg or make perfect scrambled eggs?  Think again!
Joy Wilson, AKA as Joy the Baker, shares recipes for breakfasts and brunches and the rest of a leisurely weekend.
Her cookbook "is meant to celebrate and facilitate our own lazy meal days.  The recipes here will satisfy any craving, whether you like things simple or decadent, savory or sweet."
She is mostly right.  Her cocktails - "Summer Pimm's Cup" and "Grapefruit Rosemary Mimosa" - would certainly satisfy my brunch cravings for a cocktail, and I am definitely going to try her "Extra-Egg-and-Bacon Fried Rice" and her "Favorite Breakfast Sandwich," where she uses a "folded" scrambled egg (see recipes below).
However, she complicated my life a bit by sharing her secrets for "Great Fried Eggs" and "Very Easy Poached Eggs. 
For all of the secrets, you will have to check out her book, but the one secret I have a hard time with is having to crack the eggs into a fine-mesh strainer when making fried or poached eggs.  This supposedly strains the watery portion of the egg whites, leaving the "best" parts for you to fry or poach thus creating a more compact egg.  I can just see myself cracking the egg into a strainer and breaking the yolk.  Not sure if I am going to do that, but check back to one of my upcoming Tuesday "Rosy's Test Kitchens" where I will test that tip. 
In addition to fried and poached eggs, she also reveals the "Secret to Perfectly Boiled Eggs (for hard-boiled, keep them in the fridge until the very last minute and then when the water is at a full boil, put the eggs in the water, turn the heat down to medium and boil for 11 minutes).  She says it's when you overcook your hard-boiled eggs that you get that ugly green or grey ring that sometimes appears around the yolk. I have my own method for hard boiled eggs which is easy and seems to work perfectly except now that I think of it, my eggs do seem to get that nasty little discoloration. And the "Secret to Fluffy Scrambled Eggs?"  She uses clarified butter and soy sauce in her scrambled eggs! Soy sauce?  I am also going to have to test that!
In addition to her egg tips, the cookbook has recipes for pancakes, waffles, quiches, breakfast BLT's , tacos, quesadillas and burgers and for the sweet tooth - scones, pecan rolls and doughnuts.
The cookbook is a lovely presentation with almost all of the recipes having accompanying color photographs.
And as promised, here are a couple stand-outs:
"Extra-Egg-And-Bacon Fried Rice"
  • Bake 8 slices of bacon in the oven on a rack in the upper third of the oven at 375 for 17-20 minutes.  Let cool and chop. (and baked bacon really works)!
  • Heat 3 T sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/3 c. sliced scallions with both white and green parts and 1/2 c frozen peas, thawed.  Cook until warmed, about 3 minutes.  Add 6 c. cooked white rice and toss to combine. Cook rice and veggies about 6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, mix 3 T soy sauce, 2 T rice vinegar and 1 to 2 T Sriracha or your fave hot sauce.  Pour the mixture over the rice and add the chopped bacon.  Scrape the rice to one side of the pan and add 2 large beaten eggs and stir immediately to scramble the eggs as they cook.  As the eggs firm, stir the rice mixture back into the eggs.  Season as you wish.
  • To serve, divide the rice among four shallow bowls and top each with a fried egg (cooked as she had instructed - remember that fine mesh strainer)?
As for that Breakfast Sandwich with the folded scrambled eggs I mentioned?
  • You put the whisked eggs (with that soy sauce) into a nonstick skillet and let the eggs set like a crepe.  Sprinkle it with cheese and then use a very thin spatula to fold the sides of the egg over the melting cheese creating a small folded square.
  • Then put the egg, your favorite meat and seasoning on a prepared English muffin and breakfast is served!
Rosy the Reviewer says...a delightful cookbook with breakfast and brunch recipes that will be delicious any time of the day.
(And keep your eye out for an upcoming "Rosy's Test Kitchen" where I will put her egg tips to the test and share my own secrets)!
Thanks for reading!


 See you next Friday 

for my review of  
"Everything, Everything"


 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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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Friday, February 10, 2017

"Passengers" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Passengers" as well as the DVDs "Holy Hell" and "Don't Breathe."  The Book of the Week is songwriter Carole Bayer Sayer's memoir "They're Playing Our Song."   I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Gertrud"]


Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is one of 5000 passengers in suspended animation on a space ship heading to a new planet over 100 years away to colonize it.  When Jim wakes up, he finds himself the only one awake -- 90 years too early!

***Warning: This review contains what might be considered a spoiler, so if you are one of those people who goes berserk when someone reveals a twist then read no further.  However, the "twist" isn't even really a twist, and you will see it very early in the film and there are still other plot twists to come, so, in my opinion, this isn't really a spoiler.  But like I said, if you like to go into your movies not knowing anything, better not read this because I certainly don't want you going ballistic and blaming me for ruining this film for you.
There, I have done my due diligence.***

Jim Preston is a mechanic hoping to start a new life on another planet.  He and 4,999 other passengers and a crew of over 200 are aboard the Avalon in suspended animation hoping to do the same thing.  Their new planet, Homestead II, is over 100 years away from Earth so not only will these passengers be starting a new life, they will be starting it in a new century.

En route, the ship is hit by a meteor and there are some mysterious malfunctions.  One of those malfunctions affects Jim directly.  It wakes him up and, though initially, everything seems cool - he is greeted by an animated flight attendant, shown the amenities of the ship and led to his cabin - he soon realizes that he is the only one awake.  Well, there is Arthur (Michael Sheen), but he is a robot/bartender. 

Jim does everything he can to try to find out how to save himself and put himself back to sleep.  However, once it has sunk in that he is indeed alone and, since the Avalon won't arrive at its destination for another 90 years, he is likely doomed to die of old age aboard the space ship, Jim accepts his fate, upgrades himself to the best suite, plays basketball, has dance contests with holograms and hangs out with Arthur, getting as drunk as he can.   But after a year has passed, all of that gets old, Jim is lonely, suicidal and a bit nuts and basically lets himself go. He starts looking like Tom Hanks in "Cast Away."  

Then he sees Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) sleeping in her pod.  He reads her profile and watches her application video about why she wanted to travel to the new planet.  He reads her books and sits next to her pod, talking to her.  Slowly he starts to fall in love with her.  Now he has a moral dilemma.  Should he wake her up so he has a companion, knowing that he is also dooming her to his fate?

He tries to resist, but, well, you know the answer to that or it wouldn't be a movie starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, now would it?  However, what will happen when she finds out he woke her up on purpose thus giving her a death sentence?

This film was hyped as a space movie with a love story, but if you are expecting that, you will be disappointed.  It's actually a love story that just happens to take place in space.  It's your typical boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-tries-to-get-girl-back story, except it's in a space ship.

But this is still an enjoyable movie, at least the first half is engrossing, and there is also some humor when Jim settles into his solitary routine and finds out just what his ticket entitles him to (let's just say that he is not a "gold star" passenger) and the repartee between him and Aurora is just plain good old rom com. The second half falls down a bit, though, as Jim and Aurora realize they must save the spaceship, when it REALLY starts to malfunction. Much has been made about the ending ruining this film.  I didn't get that.  It was about what I expected.

This is basically a two-hander and the weight of the film falls on Pratt and Lawrence. For most of the film, it's just Pratt and Lawrence as they get to know each other and eventually have sex and fall in love.  Though I like both of these actors, I have to say that I found the chemistry between them a bit tepid despite a scene where they have spontaneous sex on a table.  The sex could have been hotter.  If there is going to be sex in a movie, I want it to be hot! But that's just me...

Sheen does a good job as a robot bartender and adds a bit of humor while constantly polishing glasses and acting as de facto counselor as most good bartenders do.  Larry Fishburne shows up unexpectedly, and except for his adding a tiny bit of plotline, doesn't have much face time or much to do.

Directed by Morten Tyldum with a script by John Spaihts, this felt like a space age "Titanic," but without Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go on (you might find that a good thing)! The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is outstanding as are the special effects and the set decoration.  It's a beautiful film to look at.

Rosy the Reviewer's not "Titanic," but it's an interesting love story starring two of our most popular actors.


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

Holy Hell (2016)

A documentary about a little known West Hollywood religious cult.

Will Allen, the director and "star" of this documentary, shares his experience as a young man when he was trying to understand his existence and the mystery of the universe.  So what do you do when you are raised Catholic and are questioning life?- why you join a cult, of course!

In 1985, Will was a young film student and he was also gay.  When he came out to his parents, his mother kicked him out of the house.  Will's sister had already joined a cult called "The Buddhafield," a group of people who were looking for "something more" run by the charismatic and mysterious, Michel, who liked to sport Speedos and Ray-Bans, so Will decided to join her.  Michel used your basic Eastern tenets of living in the now and no judgment to guide his followers.  When Will joined, he was made the filmmaker for the group, recording everything for posterity, so he had a birds-eye-view of the goings on.

Everything was going swimmingly - literally, naked pool parties and the like - but in year four, things started to get these things usually do when the leader gets that old taste of power and realizes he can manipulate his followers any way he wants. No sex was allowed among members, they couldn't read books, watch TV or listen to the radio.

Michel came up with something called "The Knowing Session," a way to find enlightenment.  Gee, I wonder what that could be....Oh, maybe something to do with....SEX?!  As time went by, despite some misgivings by some of the members, a sort of mass hysteria ensued as everyone fell into line with the more and more bizarre practices and demands of Michel.  It became one of those things where no one wants to say that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.

By 2001 people started to question (it took them this long?) and wanted to leave, but when they did, they were demonized, another common practice among groups like this.  Michel told those who wanted to leave that if they left, something bad would happen to them.  And then in 2006, it came to light that Michel had been having sex with all of the young men all along, despite the fact he acted like he was asexual and didn't want anyone else having sex.


I couldn't help but yell at the screen, as I am wont to do upon occasion while watching DVDs at home - "WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE???"

I grew up in the 60's and 70's and could have fallen for this kind of thing, though I was such a pragmatist and accused of being judgmental when I actually wanted to do something besides lie in the dark grooving on the latest Led Zeppelin album.  I wasn't very popular with the granola-eating, soul searching types.  Hey, I was in my twenties.  I thought I already knew everything.

As the public became aware of stories like "Heaven's Gate," "cult awareness" brought pressure on Michel and his followers, so he moved the group from L.A. to Austin.  There he decided everyone would build a theatre and learn ballet and put on a show -- a show they worked on for a year and then only performed for each other.

Turns out Michel was once a dancer with the Oakland Ballet.  Did he start out to become a cult leader?  The film doesn't really go there, but I don't think people do.  Did Jim Jones start out to become a cult leader who would eventually urge his followers to kill themselves?  Did David Koresh?  Did Marshall Applewhite?  It's hard to say but in all of those cases, it seems that megalomania set in, and this story is no exception. 

AND THEN...horrors.  Michel hadn't just been a ballet dancer.  Michel had been a PORN ACTOR.  Turns out his real name was Jaime Gomez and he was a wannabe actor who had a bit part in "Rosemary's Baby," until turning to porn.

Then everything really went to hell...holy hell!  The group fell apart and Michel disappeared, but Will eventually tracked him down in Hawaii where he had started ANOTHER CULT, now calling himself Ryji which means God King.  Will is able to confront Michel, who appears to be unrepentant.

During the course of the film, ex-members share why they were drawn in and at the end of the film, there is a montage of those who stayed, those who left and what happened to them.

This is about as close as we will ever get to watching a cult grow and how it all happens.  These were smart, good-looking young people whose search for "something more" led them to a charlatan.  A cautionary tale to be sure.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you ever shake your head and wonder, how could someone join a cult?  Watch this film.

Don't Breathe (2016)

If you are a petty crook looking for a quick buck and think that breaking into the house of an old blind guy (Stephen Lang) and robbing him is a good idea...DON'T!

Some young people - Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) - think they can break into an old guy's house and rob him.  They want to do one last gig and then get the hell out of the wasteland that is Detroit.  Rocky wants to do it to get money to move to California and Alex loves Rocky.  Money just seems to want to do bad things. They know the old guy is an ex-army vet (that should be a clue right there - "Don't go in there, girl!), and he has gotten a settlement for his disability so they are certain he must have money in the house. 

The old guy may live in inner city Detroit but he lives in a neighborhood where no one else is around.  You know that old saying, "If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?"  Well the saying for this film might be, "If an old blind guy lives in a house with no one else around, and you break into his house, will anyone hear you scream?"  He may be blind, but once he knows they are in his house and what they are up to, he goes on a rampage and the rest of the film is about those three kids trying to get OUT of the house, with a scary twist.  Don't all horror films have a twist?  How do you hide from a blind man?  You don't breathe!

Directed by Fede Alvarez, this is very much a "B" horror film starring unknown actors. The characters are not particularly fleshed out so it's questionable about whether you care what happens to them, but maybe that's the point.  Who are the bad guys here?  But it was a surprise box office hit and certainly will get your blood going and take your breath away!

Rosy the Reviewer says...moral of the story? Never underestimate us old folks!

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

215 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Gertrud (1964)

Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode) is a bored Danish housewife who decides to ease her boredom with a lover.

Gertrud, once a promising opera singer gave up her career and is now a bored housewife married to Gustav (Bendt Rothe), a boring lawyer.

The film begins with Gertrud and her husband, Gustav, talking in their drawing room.  The subject of one of Gertrud's old lovers comes up and Gertrud dramatically says, "I'm thinking of all the poor human beings who allow themselves to love..."  She says this looking off just barely into the camera.  In fact Gertrud has this habit of doing that, making some proclamation about love while looking longingly off into space.  In fact all of the characters do it.  They all talk about passion and love and betrayal but never once speak passionately or even look at each other. 

When her husband tries to kiss her, Gertrud pulls away and Gustav says..."I seek your lips and you give me your cheek."  You get the idea. When she complains that her husband works too much and loves his work more than her and says, "I don't want to be an occasional plaything," we know what that means, right?

So after a long drawn out scene, Gertrud eventually tells Gustav that she wants to leave him and that she is in love with another man.  There are actually three men in Gertrud's life: her husband, a young poet and a musician.  They all love her but because none of them is willing to put her before everything else in their lives, she rejects them all and eventually is alone, but still extolling the virtues of having loved.

Adapted from a 1906 play by Swedish playwright Hjalmar Soderberg, this was director Carl Dreyer's last film after a 40 year career in filmmaking, and it is famous as a two hour film that consists of only 90 shots and few set changes.

However, I found it to be very two-dimensional, almost like a cartoon, very staged and passionless for a story about passion.  Even when two people were talking to each other, they both didn't look at each other but instead addressed the camera.  So because of that, it is very difficult to judge the acting because obviously the director wanted it that way.  There is a certain poetry to the dialogue, but I'm sorry to say I was as bored as all of these characters seems to be.

Why it's a Must See:  "At its premiere in Paris, Gertrud was received with uncomprehending hostility by press and public alike.  Since then, it has come to be recognized as the last lapidary statement of one of the most individual of filmmakers -- a film, like its heroine, to be approached on its own terms."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...I agree with the press and the public.  After seeing this, I felt a little hostile.
(b & w, In Danish with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

They're Playing Our Song: A Memoir by Carole Bayer Sager (2016)

I am sure you know the songs "Nobody Does it Better," "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love" and "That's What Friends Are For," but you might not know who wrote the lyrics for those songs.  Well, it was Carole Bayer Sager, who not only wrote those songs, but hundreds more.  This is her story.

Sager, who I will refer to from time to time as CBS, shares her growing up years where she suffered with crippling, irrational fears about everything from imagined illnesses to flying, and it didn't help that she had an overbearing, overcritical and insensitive mother who passed on her own irrational fears to Carole. She admits in the book that her fears and desire to feel safe lead her to the wrong men.

While still in high school, Carole started writing songs with her girlfriend, Sherry, and they were signed by a publishing company to write songs, but though they worked together for three years, none of their songs were recorded.  However, when Sherry got married and gave up her collaboration with Carole, Carole signed with another company and collaborated with another composer, Toni Wine, which led to Carole's first recorded song, "A Groovy Kind of Love (first recorded by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and later by Phil Collins)," and she was off and running.

Though younger, CBS was a contemporary of Carole King who was writing songs in New York with her then husband, Jerry Goffen and their paths crossed briefly early in CBS's career when Carole King was already well-known.  CBS got up the courage to say that they should write a song together to which Carole King politely said, "Sure," but nothing came of it until later in both of their careers, whenthey actually did write some songs together.

As Carole's career progressed, she crossed paths with many famous people and she shares anecdotes.  She was best friends with Elizabeth Taylor (don't call her Liz!), wasn't a personal fan of Dionne Warwick's and has stuff to say about Clint Eastwood, David Foster and others. 

Carole had a three year relationship with Marvin Hamlisch which was more of a song-writing partnership than a romantic one, though marriage was briefly on the table.  However, their relationship will live in musical comedy history because it was the basis for the long-running musical "They're Playing Our Song." She has relatively nice things to say about Hamlisch, but not her husbands, one of whom was Burt Bacharach with whom she also wrote songs. She describes him as a germaphobe and calls him a narcissist. And those are the nice things! She contends that Hamlish didn't have any pop credentials when they met and Bacharach's career, despite his many, many hits in the 60's, was on the wane so she felt they were both attracted to her for her ability to craft pop hits.  Neither relationship lasted (Burt cheated).

She admits to being one of those women who didn't want to be confrontational so she sucked up her feelings, told the men what they wanted to hear, went along with them, all because she feared being alone and wanted to feel safe.  She used her song lyrics to express herself and say what she really felt.

"Alone for the first time, I asked myself why I kept repeating the same dramas with different men I was attracted to in my life.  Men who never really saw me...I kept choosing men I hoped would love me who could only see me as an extension of themselves.  Men who loved me for my talent, but not for myself...I was starting to understand that if I wanted a different result in my life, I couldn't keep walking down the same street and falling into the same hole.  I would have to put more value on myself and begin respecting and loving myself if I ever was going to be deserving of a man who really loved me."

See?  Even celebrities struggle with this stuff.

But happily she found love and a happy marriage later in life, and she finally felt that she was loved for herself and not just her musical talents.

She was not only a writing partner with Hamlisch and Bacharach but also Peter Allen, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and many others including Bob Dylan ("Under Your Spell").  She has written the lyrics to some of my favorite pop songs: Diana Ross's "It's My Turn," Patti LaBelle's and Michael McDonald's "On My Own," and the theme from the film "Ice Castles:" "Looking Through the Eyes of Love."

She describes her writing style:

"I prefer being in the same room with the composer.  He or she plays a couple of chords and I start to hear words and one line triggers a melody or a melody line triggers a lyric.  We become one, inspiring each other to write the best song we can, and if something sounds untrue or mundane or tired, we're both there to try for something better together...writing together will alwalys be my favorite way to craft a song."

Rosy the Reviewer says...wannabe songwriters will find this inspiring and those of us who like candid celebrity memoirs will find it juicy.

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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