Showing posts with label Seven Samurai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seven Samurai. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2019

"The Favourite" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Favourite" as well as DVDs "Night School" and "The Equalizer 2."  The Book of the Week is Joanna Gaines' latest: "Homebody."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Seven Samurai."]

The Favourite

Two "ladies" vie to become Queen Anne's "favourite" in 18th century England.

This is a comedy of manners - a very dark comedy with very bad manners - that features Queen Anne of Britain (Olivia Colman), though her life was hardly a comedy.  She was pregnant at least 17 times but had miscarried or had still births 12 times.  Of the five live births, four died before reaching the age of two and the only child to survive infancy, Prince William, the Duke of Gloucester, only lived to the age of 11.  

Though the film alludes to all of that, it actually begins later in Queen Anne's life when her husband has died and she is alone, bewildered, in poor health and actually quite mad with only her 17 rabbits to keep her company (each rabbit representing a lost child).  Because of Queen Anne's state, much of the ruling of the country has fallen into the hands of her friend and current favorite, Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz).  Lady Sarah is also the Duchess of Marlborough and the Mistress of the Robes, the highest office a woman in court could achieve. Things are going well for Lady Sarah.

But all of that changes when Lady Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah's distant cousin, arrives looking for work.  Though she is an aristocrat, her family has fallen on hard times and she hopes to gain employment in the royal household.  Sarah is a tough cookie and not much for handouts but she puts Abigail to work, though in the kitchen. Abigail starts out sweet and accommodating, but it isn't long before she figures out what is going on with Sarah and decides to curry favor with the Queen herself, which she does much to Sarah's dismay.  Abigail worms her way into Queen Anne's affections and a tug of war ensues between Sarah and Abigail to see who will be the Queen's favorite, er favourite.

I am a huge fan of British TV so I was familiar with Olivia Colman.  She is a big star in the U.K. but probably not as well known in the U.S. - yet. This film is a high profile for her, and though Queen Anne is a spoiled, reckless and crazy Queen, Colman manages to also add a layer of sensitivity that makes us care about her.  Her portrayal has already won her a Best Actress Golden Globe, but one wonders how many people have seen this film.  But an Oscar nomination could be in the works which will add to her visibility, and if that doesn't do the trick, she will certainly be a household name when the next season of "The Crown" kicks off.  She will be taking the reins from Claire Foy to play the mature Queen Elizabeth. And Colman deserves to finally get international stardom.  She is a wonderful actress who has been toiling in British television for almost 20 years.

And Colman more than holds her own with more well-known actresses Emma Stone and Rachel Weitz who also have Oscar buzz around their performances.  They both give star performances as they go head to head in their scheming to become Queen Anne's favorite.  There is nothing these two won't do to win over the Queen, including becoming her lover. They are a delight to watch and have a wonderful script to work with thanks to Deborah Davis's and Tony McNamara's delightfully funny screenplay.

Though the men play supporting roles, a stand-out is Nicholas Hoult, as Speaker of the House of Commons, Robert Harley.  He is wonderfully slimy and calculating wearing towering wigs that could carry a film all on their own.  Joe Alwyn (Taylor Swift's current squeeze) as Lord Masham lends his handsomeness to the proceedings, giving Abigail a love interest and a way for her to move up the class ladder.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos who also directed the wonderful "The Lobster," and the oblique "Killing of a Sacred Deer," this is an edgy but funny period romp about the quest for power which illustrates that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." The film is more accessible than his earlier films, and he wonderfully captures the decadence of 18th century court life with duck races and liberal sexual liaisons and the film is just gorgeous to look at from the curious and liberal use of fisheye cinematography to the set design to the costumes.  All first rate.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish comedy of manners where good manners do not come into play.  Expect Oscar nominations for the acting, costumes and directing - at least.
(Note: I don't mean to brag - well, yes I do - but I wrote this review before the Academy Award nominations were announced and well...didn't I tell you? Best Actress nods for Colman, Stone and Weitz and Best Director nod for Lanthimos. It also received Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Production Design and Best Cinematography nods)

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


Night School (2018)

Forty-year-old Teddy (Kevin Hart) realizes he doesn't have much of a future without a high school diploma so he goes to night school to get his GED.

From the wonderfully absurd "The Favourite (see review above)" to the just absurd.

The film starts with Teddy Walker (Hart) at 18 in high school finding it difficult to concentrate during a crucial test. It wasn't a particularly good start for the film because Hart at 39 was playing the 18-year-old Teddy and looked like a 39-year-old trying to play an 18-year-old. But, I thought, OK, I'm a Kevin Hart fan.  I will give this a chance. 

But now fast forward 17 years, Teddy is living large in Atlanta selling barbecues at BBQ City.  He lives above the store and his boss has told him that he is going to leave the business to him.  But Teddy ends up blowing up the place, literally, and is left with no job, nowhere to live and no future.  He doesn't even have a high school education.  So when his friend tells him he will hire him if he gets his GED, Teddy heads off to night school which is actually in his old high school where he has some bad memories, and to make matters worse, the high school principal is Stewart (Taran Killam), a nerdie kid Teddy used to bully. Stewart is now all grown up, a very strict principal brandishing a baseball bat a la Morgan Freeman in "Lean on Me, and not averse to a little revenge on Teddy.  But Stewart is nothing compared to what Teddy encounters when he meets his teacher, Carrie (Tiffany Haddish), who shall I say uses rather unconventional teaching methods to make sure her students get their GED.

Along with Teddy, the class is full of an assortment of misfits - a sort of adult version of "The Breakfast Club."

There is Mackenzie (Rob Riggle), a moving man who has a bad back and needs a desk job instead of moving furniture; Theresa (Mary Lynn Rajskub) who got pregnant in high school and had to drop out; Mila (Anne Winters) who was kicked out of high school for drugs; Luis (Al Madrigal), an ex-waiter who longs to be the next Justin Bieber; Jaylen (Romany Malco), a conspiracy theorist; and Bobby (Fat Joe), a guy in prison who is taking the class via Skype.  When they all decide to steal the answers to the midterm and get caught, Carrie has had it with them.

And speaking of Carrie.  She is one dedicated teacher who also has some unorthodox teaching methods.  She is going to make sure Teddy gets his GED even if she has to put him in a boxing ring and kick the crap out of him...which she does.

I am a fan of Kevin Hart's and even if the script isn't funny, he usually is.  However, this time around the film was only funny when Haddish was on screen and even that was a stretch.

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee who also directed "Girls Trip," an actually funny comedy, one has to ask "What happened?"

Which brings me to my usual rant about comedies today.

Why aren't they funny?  When screenwriters write these things, don't they tell the jokes to someone or each other to see if they laugh? This film gives credits to six screenwriters, including Hart, so you would think at least one of them would have come up with something funny. I had high hopes for this film because I love Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish is on fire these days but...nope.  Not funny.  Didn't laugh.  Though the film has an important message - perseverance in the face of adversity - people, this was supposed to be a comedy.  It was supposed to be funny and it wasn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...with Hart and Haddish, this should have been fun.  It wasn't.

The Equalizer 2 (2018)

Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) is back meting out his own brand of justice.

Denzel, Denzel, Denzel. You can do anything but you are particularly good at playing badasses. I think your own son called you a badass on a recent talk show.  Denzel just has this way of delivering lines that makes you sit up and listen which is why he is so believable as a badass.  But I would watch Denzel read the phone book.  He is that riveting to watch.

This is a revenge is sweet movie that begins in Turkey where we meet our anti-hero as he gets righteous on a guy who has kidnapped his daughter and taken her to Turkey. McCall is there on behalf of the guy's ex-wife who wants her daughter back.  He encounters the guy on a train and when he confronts him, McCall says...

"There are two kinds of pain in this world.  The pain that hurts, the pain that alters.  Today you get to choose."  

Sounded a bit like Clint in "Dirty Harry," doncha think, punk?

So begins our journey with Denzel exacting righteous revenge on the baddies.

Though McCall has kept his hand in with his old employer the Defense Intelligence Agency, these days he is sticking closer to home, mostly as a Lyft driver by day, Equalizer by night.  When he overhears something bad while driving Lyft, he is able to make things right.  For example, one night some guys put a prostitute in the back of the car.  She has been beaten up so Denzel goes back and beats the crap out of the beaters and then says "I expect a five star rating!"

But when his ex-DIA friend, Susan (Melissa Leo), is killed in Brussels, McCall is called upon once again to get involved with international bad-doers and to do some European ass-kicking.

Once again directed by Antoine Fuqua with a screenplay by Richard Wenk, the movie started out really strong, and like I said, Denzel is great, but the film bogged in the middle though I give it credit for a spectacular ending.  

Certainly, this is a formula movie that doesn't take much mental energy to watch, but sometimes you just need something like this - watching the bad guys get what's coming to them - and this movie was just what I needed at a time when I was feeling sorry for myself.  Thank you, Denzel.  When you are feeling down, it's nice to get uplifted by other people getting what they deserve and ending up way worse off than you.  God, I love the movies.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when you just need to see some good old fashioned butt kicking.  But also, next time you use Lyft be careful what you say and doYou never know who your driver might be!

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

110 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Seven Samurai (1954)

A poor village besieged by bandits hires some out of work Samurais to save them.

One of the most influential movies of all time, it has been remade countless times.  "The Magnificent Seven," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "The Wild Bunch," "Once Upon a Time in the West," all owe their stories to "Seven Samurai" and director Akira Kurasawa.

This was a groundbreaking film in Japanese cinema because up until this film was made, Japanese films were rather bland, traditional experiences, but then this action-packed film came along where Kurasawa used multiple cameras to facilitate unusual, fast-paced editing.  Fast-paced is a bit of an oxymoron, though since this film is three and a half hours long! 

In early 16th century Japan, a poor village is constantly being attacked by bandits.  Now they are fed up and want to fight back - but how?  Why, hire some Samurais

Watching this film just reinforced what I already knew:
  • Not a fan of movies that take place in the 1500s
  • Don't like movies longer than two and a half hours unless it's "Gone with the Wind" or "The English Patient."
  • Don't like movies starring mostly men, which is why I don't like most westerns and this film IS a "western"
Rosy the Reviewer says...I know as a sophisticated movie critic that I am supposed to like this, but I mostly didn't but now at least I can say I have seen it before I died.

***The Book of the Week***

Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave by Joanna Gaines (2018)

Joanna shares her design strategies.

I can call her Joanna because if you didn't know Joanna Gaines by her first name, you must have been living in a cave somewhere with no HGTV. I might even call her Jo-Jo, which Chip sometimes does, because like millions of others, I have fallen under the "Fixer Upper" spell and consider Chip and Joanna people I know.  

Who knew a little show on the HGTV channel like "Fixer Upper" would turn into such a huge success?  Well, it's thanks to the down-to-earth Joanna and sometimes zany Chip, the likable couple from Waco, Texas, who helped people renovate their properties. Their show and their Magnolia company have taken on lives of their own with Magnolia products in Target and fans traveling to Waco from far and wide to pay homage to the couple and their homespun lifestyle.

I was late to the "Fixer Upper" party.  

My daughter-in-law turned me onto the show, but wouldn't you know, it was in its last year when I started watching. Joanna became unexpectedly pregnant and the couple bowed out to supposedly spend more time with their family, though I suspected they had gotten so big they were heading for more fertile fields, and sure enough, they are getting their own channel!  But even though I wasn't there from the very beginning, I fell fast and hard and thanks to the wonder of On Demand I was able to go back and immerse myself in all things Chip and Joanna. I have even purchased some of her stuff from Target so I feel that I, too, am one of her acolytes though I have no desire to go to Waco. I still remember David Koresh and the Branch Davidians! And speaking of Waco, I couldn't help but wonder: "How does a town of 136,000 people manage to have so many houses for sale that need renovating at any given time?" But that's just me.  That's how my mind works! 

Joanna published a cookbook last year (which I reviewed), and now we have her design advice to apply to our own little abodes.

It's mostly a coffee table book with hundreds of pictures of her work, some you will recognize from the show.  The book is divided into nine sections where she talks about each room of the house from entryways to places to retreat to, but first, in her introduction she tells the reader to...

"...Light a candle, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a fresh iced drink and get comfortable.  Consider this book your tool, or somewhat of a companion, here to guide you toward a better understanding of how to create rooms that look and feel like you.  This is how you begin to create spaces you love to be in."

She then goes on to talk about "six core design styles" that are the "foundational genres that make up your personal style," and then shares a mix of homes that she has designed that incorporate two or more of those styles to show "how personal styles are iterated in different people's spaces."

Each chapter includes a "What To Consider" page where she spells out details to look for and elements to include in each room, e.g. in the chapter on bedrooms, she points out the importance of layered, interesting textiles on a unique bed as a focal point and then adding a bench or chaise lounge, personal artwork, an armoire or writing desk, side tables, a valet tray, soft area rugs and window treatments as additional elements.  And then she ends each chapter with "Troubleshooting" tips, i.e. how to deal with difficult issues such as insufficient storage, a small space, bare windows, etc.

She ends the book with some space to take notes and a design template where you can design your own room using her advice.

This is just the kind of cozy, homespun advice we have come to expect from Joanna who, with Chip, comprises probably the most clean cut couple on the planet, so her fans will not be disappointed.  And she has some great ideas, too, though some might be obvious to people already into design. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Joanna fan, you will enjoy spending this time with her. I just think in her opening, where she tells the reader to pour a cup of coffee or a fresh iced drink, she should add a glass of wine! But that's just me...

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Upside"


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.