Showing posts with label Smitten Kitchen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Smitten Kitchen. Show all posts

Friday, September 29, 2017

"mother!" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Mother!" as well as DVDs "How To Be A Latin Lover" and "My Cousin Rachel."  The Book of the Week is "The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Delicatessen."]


A poet and his much younger wife live a seemingly idyllic life until uninvited guests arrive -- and then they won't leave!

This is one of those movies that you need to mull over until it hits you, but while you are watching, it is excruciating.  There is a lot going on here, and even though I found the experience difficult, it must have affected me, because when I stepped out of the movie theatre into the mall teeming with people, I didn't have good feelings about my fellow human beings, and from the looks of this movie, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, he doesn't either.

Basically, the story is about a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband (Javier Bardem) living in an old house.  They are childless and the woman is working to restore the house that had been partially destroyed by a fire. One night, a man (Ed Harris) shows up at their door explaining that he is there because he was told that the house is a bed and breakfast. However, it turns out he is there because he is a fan of the poet's writings. The husband invites the man into the house much to the unease of his wife.  Then the man's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives, then their sons arrive.  Soon the man and his wife become involved in a drama with their sons where one of the sons is killed. Now the the young wife married to the poet is not just uneasy, she is horrified. 

(You might notice that I am not mentioning any given names here and the reason is that there aren't any.  Neither the husband nor the wife are named. The wife is listed as "Mother," the husband as "Him," the uninvited guests as "Man" and "Woman.")

Anyway, people keep arriving and things get out of hand, items in the house are broken, "Mother" starts going nuts and has a final meltdown that reminded me of the ending of "Carrie."

The film is obviously an allegory (it's usually some kind of symbolic allegory when the characters are named "Mother," "Him," "Man" and "Woman"), but what it all adds up to in the end is anyone's guess.

The biblical and symbolic references aside - I mean, there is God, there is Cain and Abel, there is the Eucharist, there is Mother Earth...anyway, I think that's what was going on...on a purely superficial level this is my idea of a horror film - uninvited guests who won't leave. Right?  I would find that to be a horrific experience.  

But on a larger scale, I think Aronofsky thinks that if we keep repeating history, the end of the world is nigh.

Don't mess with Mother Nature!

But there is also all kinds of other stuff going on in this film. 

Aronofsky also seems to be saying that we humans worship love, but we don't practice it; we search to find in others what we ourselves lack; and that there is a price to fame and celebrity.  He also comments on the relationship between men and women, how difficult it can be to create both artistically and physically and the sad political state of the world. This film is A LOT.  It's also about a really bad husband. He was not supportive.  If I had been "Mother," I would have kicked all of those people out of the house and him as well!

There is also homage to horror films.  I already mentioned "Carrie," but this film also had a bit of "Rosemary's Baby" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," "Woolf" being, in my opinion, a horror story about marriage.

Written and directed by Aronofsky who gave us the nightmarish but much more accessible "Black Swan," this is a very personal work that includes casting Jennifer Lawrence. You can tell Aronofsky and Lawrence have a relationship because the camera is up close and personal on her at all times.  And her relationship with Aronofsky is the only reason I can figure out why Lawrence wanted to play that character. I don't think this role did her any good. Though she is the center of the film, her character mostly reacts to what is going on around her. She runs around the crumbling house looking wide-eyed and worried, then upset and frantic and that's about it.  It's Pfeiffer and Harris who steal the show.

What Aronofsky was trying to do here isn't entirely clear, and I still haven't gotten over the rather pretentious title.  I mean a lower case title with an exclamation point? But I have to give him credit for trying to make a film that tries to say something.  Unfortunately, my problem was that I wasn't sure what that something was.

Rosy the Reviewer says...probably one of the most controversial films of the year.  Whether you like the film or not, it will certainly spark conversation. 

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


How To Be A Latin Lover (2017)

An aging gigolo finds himself out on the street when his much older wife of 25 years swaps him out for yet a younger gigolo.

Though young Maximo was raised on the maxim, "You get what you work for, not what you wish for," he doesn't buy it, especially when his father is killed while working hard on the job.  That just proved to Maximo that working hard doesn't get you anywhere, so he decides finding a rich wife is the way to go.  He is a young attractive man and has no trouble finding an older woman willing to lavish him with a life of luxury. 

Be careful what you wish for.

Twenty-five years later, Maximo (Eugenio Durbez) is married to Peggy (Renee Taylor), his much older wife.  He drives expensive cars and doesn't have to do much except make Peggy happy.  He gets around the house on a hover board  and basically his day consists of hanging out by the pool and driving his hot car. 

But when Maximo's wife is attracted to a younger man, Maximo, who was never trained to do anything except be taken care of by a rich wife, is forced to give up his luxurious life.  He is out on the street with nowhere to go and no way to make any money.  He asks his friend, Rick (Rob Lowe), another kept man, to take him in, but Rick tells him that since he and Millicent (Linda Lavin) have sex in every room, the only accommodation he has is Millicent's granddaughter's playhouse out back. Everything is doll-sized and pink.  

When that doesn't work, Maximo is forced to make contact with his estranged sister, Sara (Salma Hayek) and ask her to take him in. Sara is an aspiring architect, and a single Mom with a little boy, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro).  Maximo is an out-of-work gigolo who is inappropriate and out of touch.  So a clash of lifestyles ensues - hard-working Sara with a young son vs. jaded gigolo who has no concept of the real world and has never held a job.  

When Maximo arrives at Sara's apartment and she frets about where he will sleep, Maximo asks "Can't I sleep upstairs?" to which Sara replies, "Upstairs?  Those are other peoples' apartments!" Like I said, Maximo doesn't have a clue about real life.

What is Maximo to do?  

He is no longer the young hunk who can attract any woman, and he doesn't know how to survive on his own. What was once easy for Maximo when he was young and handsome is now not so easy.  Rick tells him that the two of them are survivors and they need to do whatever they have to do to survive.

Then a light bulb goes off for Maximo.

Hugo goes to an expensive private school on scholarship and when Maximo takes Hugo to school he smells money and sets his sights on Celeste (Raquel Welch), who it just so happens is the grandmother of Hugo's love interest, Arden (McKenna Grace, another child actor that I didn't hate in this, though I didn't really like her in "Gifted"). Maximo decides to use Hugo's interest in Arden to get to Celeste in some funny scenes where Maximo teaches young Hugo the art of seduction.

So Maximo hatches a plan to attract Celeste.  He knows to attract money he has to look like he has some so he gets a make-over, buys expensive clothes and basically maxes himself out to get his latin lover mojo back. 

But will what worked 25 years ago work now?

Rob Lowe and Linda Lavin are very funny as the role-playing couple, Rick and Millicent.  Millicent is insatiable and Rick really has to earn his gigolo dollars.  One scene where he plays a pizza delivery guy delivering pizza to Millicent is hilarious.  Rob, who himself started out as a young hunky actor, has now made a career as a comic actor and basically making fun of himself. Nice to see a handsome guy who doesn't take himself seriously.

This is a funny premise and there are lots of laughs to be had mostly because of Durbez who is so charmingly bad - but in a good way.  This is his film and he makes the most of it. However, I also loved seeing the older actresses - Welch, Lavin and Taylor - getting parts again, though I have never seen so much Spanx in my life.

I have a lot of respect for Salma Hayek.  Though she can pick and choose pretty much whatever vehicles she wants (she is married to a billionaire), she chooses to honor her heritage and promotes Spanish language films and films with Latin American themes and characters.  She is also a strong woman who produces and stars in her own films, promotes women's roles and doesn't mind lending her name and presence to the film, even if her part is not the lead.  She brought Frida Kahlo (unibrow and all) to life and who makes serious movies about artists anymore? And here she has also honored our legendary older actresses and given roles to women of a certain age - Raquel Welch, Renee Taylor and Linda Lavin.

Written by Chris Spain and Jon Zack and directed by Ken Marino, there are laughs to be had here even though the film devolved into ridiculousness at the end, but I forgive it because it was cute and funny for most of the film.  And what's not to like.  Weird Al even had a cameo.

Rosy the Reviewer of the better comedies of the year.

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Believing that his beloved cousin's new wife might have had something to do with his cousin's death, a young Englishman plots revenge against her but instead falls under her spell. 

I am generally down on remakes when the first film was perfectly fine.  I mostly apply that to foreign films, but it could be said for remaking old classics as well.  The original of this film was made in 1952 and starred Olivia De Havilland and Richard Burton.  You couldn't get much better than that, right?  Well, I have to eat my words to a certain extent.  This one was really good, and since I am also partial to good stories and good storytelling, this remake is worth seeing.  Plus it's in color and new technology allows this film to do things that the original couldn't.

In case you missed the first one or didn't read the book by Daphne Du Maurier, Philip (Sam Claflin, who played Finnick Odair in "The Hunger Games" series and more recently, the love interest in "Me Before You") was an orphan raised by his older cousin, Ambrose.  While Philip was attending college, Ambrose had taken ill and gone off to Florence to recover.  He wrote to Philip and told him that while there he had met another cousin, their cousin, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), whom he married.  Philip found this very unsettling that Ambrose would marry so late in life as he had not shown any interest in women before. 

As more letters arrived, Ambrose's letters took on an ominous tone.  He complained of Rachel controlling him and that Rachel had become "his torment."  He begged Philip to come and rescue him, but when Philip arrived in Florence, he found only an empty villa and Enrico Rainaldi (Pierfrancesco Favino), Rachel's lawyer who told him that Ambrose was dead, Rachel had left and he didn't know where she had gone. Rainaldi tells Philip that Ambrose had a brain tumor that affected his behavior.

Philip returns to the estate where he shared his happy childhood with Ambrose, and since Ambrose left everything to him, Philip is now the master of the estate and will inherit everything when he turns 25.  It isn't long before Rachel asks to come and visit Philip, and though he says yes, he has a major chip on his shoulder about Rachel even before he meets her.

Poor Philip. It would have been much easier to hate her if she had been unattractive, but of course, Rachel is beautiful.  And as it turns out, Rachel is not only beautiful, she is considerate and charming.  Even the dogs like her.  And our guy is a handsome, red-blooded young man so it's not long before Philip is in Rachel's thrall. He asks his godfather to increase Rachel's allowance even though his godfather tells him her reputation is not good - has something to do with her having some sort of insatiable appetite.  Mmmm.  Now they couldn't have said THAT in the 1952 version!

However, it isn't long before cracks start appearing and Philip's godfather tells him he thinks Rachel is sending money overseas.  She is also continually making Philip cups of her "special tea."  Now that wouldn't be such a big deal except Philip also starts experiencing strange symptoms and feeling ill.

As more strange events occur, Philip becomes more and more suspicious but Rachel is always able to explain everything away, and he is just so besotted he believes her.  He is also so besotted that he decides that when he becomes of age at 25 and his inheritance kicks in, he is going to give her everything. And that is very soon.

Ominous music plays throughout and there is this one scene when Rachel and Philip hug and her hand goes around his neck in a sort of claw so now, despite the fact that Rachel seems to be a loving and charming woman, we have to wonder about Rachel as well. 

Should Philip believe his cousin Ambrose's letters as he struggled with his illness?  Did Rachel have something to do with his death? Or was it a brain tumor that affected his mind and Rachel is innocent?

A series of events occur and Philip makes some assumptions that lead to a tragic end.

Directed and adapted by Roger Michell from the classic book, this is a great gothic story and a showcase for Weisz and Clafill, both attractive and talented actors. Believe it or not, I first noticed Rachel Weisz in the 1999 version of "The Mummy," and she has had a solid career and a Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe ("The Constant Gardener"), but for some reason, she is undeservedly still not a household name.  Perhaps she shuns superstardom to play supporting roles in smaller indie movies she believes in, like "The Lobster," which I loved.

I also have to give props to Holliday Grainger, an actress to watch out for.  She is lovely here and was one of the best things about the recent film "Tulip Fever." Plus, I love her name!

Rosy the Reviewer says...sometimes there are stories worth retelling.  This is one of them.

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

184 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Delicatessen (1991)

A post-apocalyptic black comedy about a clown who moves into an apartment over a delicatessen and falls for the butcher's daughter unaware that the butcher is serving up some "unsavory" meats. 

Actually, the ex-clown is lured to the apartment by Clapet, the butcher (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) through an ad in the paper for a maintenance man. You see, it's post- apocalyptic France and food is in short supply.  It's in such short supply that the people have to use grain for money, and the butcher, whose deli is on the ground floor of an apartment building that he also owns, is luring people to his deli with the promise of job opportunities only to murder them, cut them up and sell their flesh as meat to his tenants.

Unemployed circus clown Louison (Dominique Pinon) is the next targeted victim, hired by Clapet to do routine maintenance at the apartment building.  While there he befriends Clapet's daughter, Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), and they fall in love. He is a good worker, so Clapet decides to keep him around for awhile and as Louison interacts with the various odd tenants of the apartment building, they like him too.  However, Julie becomes aware of what her father is doing and decides to ask for help from the Troglodistes, a mysterious and feared vegetarian group who live in the sewers.

The Troglodistes attack but are repelled and despite the fact that the tenants like Louison, the desire for meat is too strong so Clapet and his tenants decide Louison's time has come and Julie and Louison must fight for their lives.

Now if any of that sounds funny to you or you enjoy films about cannibalism, you might like this film. I have actually been known to enjoy such films. I quite enjoyed "Eating Raoul" and "The Cook, The Thief, The Wife & Her Lover," but this film lacked the sophistication of those two and the story was just too out there.  Plus the humor was very slapstick, which is not surprising when you consider that the French worshiped Jerry Lewis, the king of slapstick and physical humor. I don't like slapstick humor.

The real star of this film is the cinematography and camerawork.  There are lots of super close-ups and shots from below and a moody, foggy look to the film similar to some of the Coen Brothers' films.  But that is where the similarity ends.

I watched the film on Netflix and Netflix gave it only one and a half stars.  So the critics in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book think this is one of the greatest 1001 movies ever made but looks like most of us regular folks who have watched it think otherwise. I thought it barely deserved those one and a half stars.

Why it's a Must See: "Creatively combining genres -- post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, black comedy, and sweet romance -- and offering audiences an impressively oddball collection of sounds, colors, actors, and images, [directors] Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's inspired film...was the recipient of several European awards and anticipated the pair's subsequent collaboration, The City of Lost Children (1995). Jeunet would go on to direct Alien Resurrection in 1997, which was followed by the international blockbuster Amelie in 2001."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...oddball is right. It was so oddball I found it unwatchable.
(In French with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook by Deb Perelman (2012)

Award-winning blogger Perelman ( shares her favorite recipes in her first cookbook.

Perelman was never a chef, never a restaurant owner.  She never even worked in a restaurant.  She was just a home cook cooking in a tiny New York City apartment kitchen who wanted to cook really delicious food and she wanted it to be fun.

Early on she was overwhelmed by the number of recipes out there in the world.  When confronted with all of the choices on the Internet alone, she wondered how do you pick the best recipe?

I can attest to this dilemma.  I love cooking but even more than that I love READING recipes and reading about cooking.  I subscribe to several magazines that are full of recipes and I have tons of cookbooks.  I have folders and folders of recipes I have ripped out of said magazines.  Am I really going to be able to actually try all of those recipes?

Perelman founded her blog Smitten Kitchen as a way to not only wade through all of the recipes out there so that you and I can avoid making a bad recipe but she also wants cooking to be fun and the result to be delicious.

"I never set out to build a website that would draw more than five million visitors a month...The reality of what drives me into the something far less bragworthy: I am picky as hell...and also, a little obsessive."

She goes on to tell you about an experience in a restaurant where she found the chicken less than wonderful so she went home and worked on it again and again until it WAS wonderful.  And instead of you having to go through all kinds of recipes to find the one that works and is delicious, she has done it for you and shares them here in this delightful cookbook.

I mean, who wouldn't want the best version of French toast or meat loaf or lemon bars?

Perelman includes opinionated homespun, fun-to-read commentary and pulls no punches.

Here's a, er, taste:

"Maple Bacon Biscuits"

"A whole big lot of the time, recipes come from disappointment, from something I'd ordered out somewhere, imagining it would taste one way, when really it tasted another way. (and not a good way)...It's hardly the most honorable of inspirations -- being convinced that everyone else is doing it wrong, that I alone can do things well...But it did produce a fine biscuit...The results of my complaints are sweet but salty, buttery and bacony and as light as can be.  You should probably serve them alongside eggs, but they have a tendency not to last long enough for you to scramble some."

"Iceberg Stack with Blue Cheese and Radishes"

"You can't eat as many iceberg wedges as I have without forming an opinion or two about them, and what some places get right, most get very wrong.  The first is bottled dressing.  Do you know how easy it is to make blue cheese dressing?  Seriously, just skip ahead to the recipe for a second, did you see that?"


  • 1/2 c. well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 t. table salt
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
(In a medium bowl, whisk together...until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste)

And I do see...looks very easy and I am going to try it.

Her directions are detailed, easy to follow, and yes, opinionated.

There are breakfast recipes, recipes for salads, sandwiches, tarts, pizzas, seafood, poultry, meat, sweets and party snacks as well as an entire chapter devoted to vegetarian cooking and the whole book is beautifully illustrated and fun to read.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you like to cook or just read, this cookbook is a delight!

Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"American Made"  


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).