Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Television. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2020

What I Have Loved Watching So Far During Lockdown

In these terrible times, thank god for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple+ and HBO Max (did I miss anything)?  They have been my best friends off and on for the last nine months but especially during this latest lockdown.  

If you have been following my Facebook page, you will recognize some of these recommendations but, if not, here are some movies and TV series I have enjoyed while sheltering at home.  And even if you do follow me on Facebook, these are expanded reviews that might get you to watch if you haven't already.


1.  The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)



So...ever wonder what flight attendants get up to as they travel around the world? Well, my oh my, according to this, A LOT! Drinking, sex...AND MURDER? (Dateline fans, do Keith Morrison's voice when you read the word "muuurder").

Kaley Cuoco plays Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant who often finds herself waking up from a night on the town and not remembering what happened or who that guy is in bed with her. She's a bit of a party girl, well, actually not a bit of a party girl, a BIG party girl, and she has no problem entering the Mile High Club with customers. But when she wakes up the next morning in Bangkok after hooking up with Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman), a handsome passenger and finds him lying next to her, covered in blood, yes, dead, she decides to do a runner. Maybe no one saw her with him? Not likely. Bad choices and chaos ensues...and believe it or not, at times it's funny because Cassie is a cross between Goldie Hawn and Lucy Ricardo!

There are some side plots revolving around Cassie's brother (T.R. Knight) and her fellow flight attendant, Megan (Rosie Perez), who has gotten into some shady stuff herself but this is really all about Cassie and her crazy life.

Created by Steve Yockey (adapted from the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian), this is very entertaining and addictive, and Kaley Cuoco carries us along as Cassie tries to find out who killed Alex. There is a strange little hook with dead Alex turning up every so often to try to help Cassie figure his death out, which I rather liked, because did I say that Alex was handsome? But you know how I am with these elaborate spy movies. After many twists and turns and double-crosses, I often have trouble figuring out exactly what is going on - who is doing what to whom? So the last episode? Kind of didn't get it, but all-in-all, this was an enjoyable romp and maybe I was left a bit hanging because it looks like there will be a sequel.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a series that is both stylish, delicious and binge-worthy! And a lot of fun!



2.  A Teacher (Hulu)


A teacher and her student have an inappropriate relationship.

Meet Claire Wilson (Kate Mara), the new high school AP English teacher who has a handsome husband and a seemingly happy marriage. I mean, c’mon, they are trying to have a baby. But then enter Eric Walker (Nick Robinson, who starred in teen hits “Love, Simon” and “Everything, Everything), a handsome Big Man On Campus, who is hot for teacher. Both have issues. We learn early on that Claire is not your average teacher when she shoplifts some lipstick. We see some rebellion and entitlement there. And our young Eric? Who isn’t entitled when they are 17? He is the soccer team captain and wants to be a doctor, but he needs some help with his SATs. Claire conveniently steps up. And yes, they embark on a sexual relationship, and yes, they think it's love.

I know, there is a certain "ick factor" here, especially for you teachers out there. But the series offers some perspectives on this teacher-student phenomenon which we all watched play out most spectacularly and sadly with the Mary Kay Letourneau story, and believe it or not, teachers crossing the lines with their students is not as unusual as you might think. Google it. The title tells it all. It’s not “The Teacher,” it’s “A Teacher.” Teenaged boys want to be adults and young women teachers maybe don’t want to be and there you go. In this story, one bad decision leads to another and we know nothing good will come of it.

Mara is vulnerable and poignant as Claire, even as we shake our heads at her decisions. She is very believable and Robinson is the next big thing. I see a long career ahead for him.

Created and directed by Hannah Fidell (who also directed a feature film on which this TV series is based), this is a serious look at a gender stereotype that is often overlooked - the male sexual victim.
Rosy the Reviewer says…watching this, teachers and parents may cringe and be thankful school is not in session but this is a compelling series. You can’t take your eyes off of it. You know, like a train wreck? But it's a beautiful train wreck.
(The final two episodes air December 22 and December 29)


3.  The Prom (Netflix)


A group of Broadway stars on their way down head to a small Indiana town to give their lives some relevance by taking up the cause of a young girl who has been told she is not allowed to bring her girlfriend to the prom as her date.

The Great White Way may be dark right now but thanks to Netflix we can still enjoy Broadway with this film version of the groundbreaking musical “The Prom.” It’s kind of like “Footloose,” but instead of an uptight town banning dancing, this is about an uptight town canceling Prom because two young lesbians want to go as a couple.
Four narcissistic Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and James Corden) need a cause to make themselves relevant. Their show closed due to bad reviews, so they grab onto this story of these two Indiana teen girls who want to go to Prom together and think they can help. But despite a sympathetic principal (Keegan-Michael Key), the PTA headed by the uptight Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) says no, so our fish-out-of-water, clueless Broadway stars show up in Indiana to try to save the day.
If you are familiar with Broadway musicals, you know that people will break out into song and dance in malls and other odd places and there will be sentimentality and seemingly bad people will see the error of their ways and become good, but suspend your disbelief. It’s a musical. It’s meant to make you feel good and this one does just that.
But don’t think this is one of those fluffy musicals. This one has substance because it takes on the struggles of LGBTQ teens and is actually based on a true story. Yes, in this day and age, a school tried to keep two girls from going to Prom together. And "the prom" itself is also a metaphor for everyone's teenage angst and subsequent neurosis, right?
Once again Meryl kills. Who knew she could sing like that? And she shows her comic chops too. And James? Who knew he was so light on his feet? And Nicole? Well, actually, not sure why a star of her stature was in this because her part as a Bob Fosse chorus girl is small, though she has one of the great lines.

“When your hands are shaking, turn them into jazz hands!”

But still, I am glad she hooked her star to this because it’s a great show. And thanks to Ryan Murphy's direction and a wonderful screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, they are all hilarious and the young lovers are engaging.
The show opened on Broadway in 2018, was nominated for seven Tonys and ran for almost a year with a planned tour, but, well, you know how that went. But in the meantime, you can catch the show on Netflix and, I guarantee if you love musicals, you will love this (but remember, it’s a musical).
Rosy the Reviewer says…a feel good show where the Midwest meets Broadway. It shines a light on the struggles of the LGBTQ community, but it’s also an homage to the theatre, a reminder of what we are missing.


4. The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO Max)


The extraordinary story of the Bee Gees, one of the best selling artists of all time, with sales of over 120 million records.  But what was most extraordinary was how they were able to keep reinventing themselves to stay relevant with the times over a 45 year career.

The brothers Gibb, Barry, the oldest, and twins Robin and Maurice, formed the Bee Gees in 1958 and performed for 45 years and had a major impact on pop culture from the 60’s through the 90’s. Through a series of interviews with Barry, the sole surviving brother (teen idol Andy is also gone) and archival interviews with Maurice and Robin, the story unfolds.  Yes, this is an homage to the band and doesn’t go into too much detail about some of the issues they faced, though In the “Never-Before-Seen” category we see Robin attempting a solo career and at a performance in New Zealand the crowd is so incensed that it’s only him and not all three of the Bee Gees that they throw things at him, attack him and run him off the stage.

Written by Mark Monroe, and directed by Frank Marshall, this is a fascinating story of some brilliant singer/songwriters and it’s a brilliant film, so evocative of the times, a time captured so completely that it can be emotional for us Baby Boomers.  I actually cried…because I was that young 60's girl who loved the Bee Gees. 


Rosy the Reviewer says…not to be missed!




5.  Murder on Middle Beach (HBO Max)


A young filmmaker tries to solve the mystery of his mother's murder.

If you are a true crime aficionado, as I am, you will be intrigued by this four-part HBO documentary, “Murder on Middle Beach,” where a son tries to find his mother’s killer.
Madison Hamburg directs his first film in an effort to solve the death of his mother, Barbara Hamburg, who was brutally murdered March 3, 2010 at her home in Madison, Connecticut. After the case went cold, Madison interviewed his family members and others to try to gather evidence to solve her murder. As he did so, he uncovered many family secrets and long-term resentments and the thought that perhaps one of his own family members had killed his mother.

Did Barbara's ex-drug addict sister, Conway, kill her? Or Madison's entitled sister, Ali? What about his Dad who had some shady business dealings that Barbara had uncovered and who was due in court regarding their contentious divorce? Or was Barbara's involvement with Gifting Tables a reason for murder?
This is one of those crime stories made all the more ominous because of the setting – a beautiful serene little New England town where nothing bad could ever happen, right? – and a seemingly close-knit, normal big family that murder could never touch, right? And yet...

Rosy the Reviewer says…a spell-binding story full of twists and turns made all the more poignant because it’s also the personal story of a son trying to not only find his mother’s murderer but a son trying to understand who his mother really was.




6.  Big Sky (ABC)


A private detective and an ex-cop try to solve a kidnapping. 

Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) are private detectives searching for two sisters who were kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana.  But when Cody goes missing, Cassie joins forces with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick), Cody's estranged wife, an uneasy alliance since Jenny discovered Cody had been having an affair with Cassie. But that's the least of their problems when they discover that those are not the only girls who have discovered missing.

From the pen of David E. Kelley (best known for "L.A. Law" and "Chicago Hope" and "Big Little Lies" - he's also married to Michelle Pfeiffer), this is a little bit thriller, a little bit mystery and very character driven by, shall I say, odd characters? There is a twisted cop (John Carroll Lynch), a nerdie truck driver (Brian Geraghty), who not only lives with his mother but sometimes sleeps with her, prostitutes working truck stops and more. The series reminded me a bit of "Twin Peaks," and well, yes, "Big Little Lies," without the Monterey landscapes, because all of these characters are not just odd but have, shall I say, "issues?" And the first episode had a shocking ending! Enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way. Looking forward to its return.

Rosy the Reviewer says...check it out and let me know what you think. It's a bit over-the-top but stylish and intriguing and surprisingly out there for mainstream TV (or maybe I just don't watch enough mainstream TV).
(Currently on hiatus on ABC until January 26 but you can get caught up on Hulu and On Demand - and yes, it will leave you hanging)


7.  Dash & Lily (Netflix)


A boy with a broken heart and a naive but optimistic young girl embark on a series of dares via a notebook they hide around New York City.

Now that we’ve all seen “The Queen’s Gambit (see below),” we needed another bingeworthy Netflix show, and thank you, Netflix for “Dash and Lily,” which will be the next big thing, and it’s here just in time for the holidays to take our minds off of lockdown.

“The Queen’s Gambit” was about chess, “Dash and Lily” is about books…well, a notebook... and romance. Based on the young adult series "Dash & Lily's Book of Dares" by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, the series plays out in eight 25+ minute episodes (totally bingeworthy), we meet Dash (Austin Abrams), a handsome New Yorker, who is nursing a broken heart and is humbug about Christmas. Lily (Midori Francis) is his opposite. She loves the holidays and is looking for love but she is also socially shy and awkward. She has planted a notebook in the famous NYC Strand Book Store with a series of dares for anyone up to the challenge. Dash finds the notebook and embarks on the dares and then dares Lily. They leave the notebook in places around NYC with new dares for each other. Will they meet? The anticipation is half the fun and you care because these are two engaging young actors. And, yes, it’s a rom-com and it’s about young people but all ages will enjoy if you remember what falling in love is like.

Filmed prer-Covid, this is a love letter to New York City, too, showcasing its delights as Dash and Lily dash about the City, and it will put you in the holiday spirit.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s quirky and funny and utterly charming and isn’t charm something we sorely need right now?


8Emily in Paris (Netflix)


A young American girl from the Midwest gets a chance to live and work in Paris.

Emily (Lily Collins, yes, Phil's daughter) is a driven 20-something from Chicago who gets an unexpected job opportunity and moves to Paris. She is supposed to bring an American point of view to a French marketing firm. However, the Parisiens she works with not only don't think much of her Midwestern upbringing, they don't think much of America either. Emily is a fish-out-of-water, but there's a twist. She doesn't know it.  She thinks she is cool and swans around Paris like she owns the place. Her colleagues make fun of her behind her back and put roadblocks in her way, but this girl has pluck (don't you just love the word "pluck?") and some handsome suitors.

Created by Darren Star, this is a sort of Parisien version of "Sex and the City," and it's just as much fun. It's frothy, Lily Collins is a delight and so is Paris. So sit back and do some armchair traveling as Emily takes Paris by storm in some great clothes! Ooh la-la, the clothes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...rom-com fans rejoice and, ah, Paris, armchair travelers will also enjoy. Une délicieuse petite aventure.


9.  The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)



The true story of the Chicago 7 arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

And the wheels go round and round.

Don’t think writer/director Aaron Sorkin, the creator of “The West Wing,” doesn’t draw some connections between the trial of the Chicago 7 and the protests of the late 60’s to present day events. He does.

What became known as "The Chicago Seven" was a disparate group of organizers and protesters: Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), who along with Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the current President of the Black Panther Party, were arrested and tried for crossing state lines to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention when in fact they were there protesting the Vietnam War. They all had their own issues and causes and what they deemed appropriate protest. I mean, Abbie Hoffman was a Yippie who liked to plan over-the-top theatrical protests, Dellinger was a pacifist who promoted non-violent change and Hayden was one of the founders of the SDS - Students for a Democratic Society - and not particularly against violence but what they all had in common was a shared hatred of the Vietnam War. However, despite their differences, but they were rounded up and treated as one entity - The Chicago Seven.

Mark Rylance plays their attorney, William Kunstler, and Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman as rather senile, which would explain why the trial was such a circus.

Ah, 1968, the year that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, racism and political corruption abounded and the draft lottery sent 35,000 young men to Vietnam, some of whom were my friends. Hell, my ex-husband was sent there six months after we got married. Some of that from 1968 may sound familiar, except we Baby Boomers had Vietnam and now this generation has Covid. Both wars and still lots to protest.
And the wheels go round and round.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s a star-studded cast and a compelling story that resonates today. And next time you Gen-X-ers and Z-s sigh and say “Okayyyy, Boomers,” to your parents or grandparents, and blame us for where we are today, think twice. We had our own stuff. We tried to change things. Now it's your turn.




10.  The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)


Young orphan Beth Harmon becomes a chess prodigy and learns that success has a price.

This has been the hit of quarantine.

First there was "The Tiger King (remember that one? - we weren't quite as evolved then as we are now!)," and then there was "The Queen's Gambit." They actually have nothing in common except "The Tiger King" was a Netflix phenomenon and so is this one. In fact, "The Queen's Gambit" has become the most watched scripted series of all time for Netflix.

Beth Harmon has not had a good life. Orphaned in the 50's at a young age, sent to an orphanage and lonely, she befriended the janitor who taught her how to play chess. She quickly proves to be a prodigy at the game and starts entering competitions.

And then the older Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes the chess world by storm, something that was the world of men, and now there is Beth and she is crushing everyone. But here's the thing. Beth has some major emotional problems and a drug and alcohol addiction.

Speaking of taking the world by storm. That is what Anya Taylor-Joy has done. Not just with this, but her early foray into feature films was "The Witch," a film I didn't really like but I liked her. And in just five short years, she has a long resume that includes her most recent film, "Emma," which by the way was the very last film I saw in a theatre. She is a beautiful, talented actress who really shows what she's got in this incredibly mesmerizing series.

However, I also have to give a shout-out to Marielle Heller, who played Beth's foster mother. She went from an unsympathetic character who drank a bit, okay, a lot, and didn't understand her adopted daughter to become a lynchpin and huge supporter of Beth's career. Heller is also the writer/director of "Diary of a Teenage Girl" and the director of "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" - three movies I loved. So she is a successful writer and director and now we know she can also act. Keep your eye out for her!

Anyway, yes, this film is about chess, but don't let that turn you off.

It's about chess, but so much more. I mean, c'mon, "The Tiger King" was about big cat zoos, and you watched that one. This miniseries, which is not a documentary, by the way, but a dramatic series, might just make chess the next big thing! But this is so, so much better than "The Tiger King" and so much more than just about chess. Let's just say, chess is a metaphor here. And Beth Harmon is our new kick-ass woman!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you don't want to be the only one who hasn't seen this show, better get out the remote! Trust me, you won't be sorry!

NOTE: You might notice one obvious series that is missing - "The Crown." Duh. Yes, I binged on that one too but hasn't everyone?

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!



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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 IMDB.com, 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.

Friday, January 26, 2018

"I, Tonya" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "I, Tonya" as well as DVDs "Marshall" and "Kingsman: The Golden Circle."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Stalker."  The Book of the Week is a novel: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware. and there is a bonus feature this week: "TV - What I'm Watching!"]





I, Tonya


A pseudo-documentary on the notorious attack on figure skater, Nancy Kerrigan, at the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships.

When she first heard this story of the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships, Margot Robbie, who plays figure skater, Tonya Harding in this film, thought it was a fairy tale.  She couldn't believe something like this could happen in real life, but it did.

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile must know, I am a huge fan of figure skating.  I even wrote a blog post a few years ago that highlighted the parallels between figure skating and my life so of course I knew it happened.  I knew all about the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan "incident."

But in case you aren't a fan of figure skating or are too young to remember it, here's a recap.

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding were figure skating rivals and polar opposites.  Nancy Kerrigan represented the perfect little ice skating princess with her New England up-bringing and her Vera Wang skating costumes.  Tonya Harding came from a poor Oregon background, had to make her own costumes, swore like a truck driver, had a husband, and smoked.  Her coach said to her mother that Tonya looked like she chopped wood every morning to which her mother replied, "She does!"  But Tonya could also really skate.

Tonya Harding was the first woman to complete a triple axel in the short program; the first woman to successfully execute two triple axels in a single competition; and the first ever to complete a triple axel combination with the double toe loop.  She was also the 1991 National Champion, won a silver medal in the 1991 World Figure Skating Championship, won Skate America twice and was a two-time Olympian.

But the story doesn't end there. 

At the 1994 National Figure Skating Championships, a step closer on the road to becoming a member of the 1994 Olympic Figure Skating Team, someone (later identified as Shane Stant) attacked Nancy Kerrigan as she stepped off the ice after a practice session, hitting her in the knee with a baton.  It came to light that Tonya's husband, Jeff Gillooly and his side-kick, Shawn Eckhart, masterminded the hit in hopes of injuring Kerrigan badly enough that she would not be able to skate in the Nationals and thus get her out of competition for the Olympics leaving the road open to Tonya.  After the attack, Tonya went on to win Nationals, but Kerrigan was not seriously injured and, ironically, they both went to the Olympics where Kerrigan won a Silver Medal and Tonya finished eighth. 

When the conspiracy was discovered, Gillooly was offered a plea deal to implicate Tonya, which he accepted.  However, Tonya has always maintained her innocence but pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution, meaning once she knew what her husband and his cohorts did, she said nothing.  Now here's the rub.  The guys got 18 months and Tonya got probation BUT she was banned for life from the United States Figure Skating Association meaning that even though Tonya was not one of the attackers, she  actually got something worse than the prison sentence that the actual attackers received.  She could never compete as a skater again.

So the story at face value paints a picture of Tonya Harding as a villain picking on poor little Nancy Kerrigan, and today there are still people who feel that way about Tonya and refuse to see this movie.  But this film brings to light the true story of Tonya's life, something that was not widely known.

The film concentrates on Tonya's personal life, and according to this film, she grew up with her mother, LaVonna (Allison Janney), an abusive mother who beat her and never had a kind word to say to her.  Tonya fell in love at 15 with Jeff Gillooly (played by an oily Sebastian Stan), the first guy to tell her she was pretty so what do you do when you are insecure, wearing braces and a guy tells you that you are pretty?  Well, I guess you marry him...and she did.  And then she went from an abusive relationship with her mother to an abusive marriage. 

Because of her upbringing, Tonya grew up to be a tough cookie. She drank and smoked and drove a truck and because she didn't fit the mold of the pretty skating princess, her component scores (those are the artistic scores for a skater) supposedly suffered and she became more and more angry at her treatment.  But Tonya was already an award-winning skater, so we will never know why Gillooly thought he needed to cut down Tonya's competition or whether or not Tonya knew about it, and this film doesn't really attempt to answer that question.  You will have to decide for yourself. 

And lest you think this is a dark tragic story, you would be wrong. 

It's dark alright, and possibly a tragedy, but it plays as a dark comedy. 

Filmed like a pseudo-documentary or an episode of "Dateline," the characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to the camera, each telling their side of the story, and much of the film is "in their own words."  I recently watched an ABC special - "Truth and Lies: The Tonya Harding Story" - and recognized that much of what was said in the film came directly from interviews with Tonya and LaVonna. 

Margot Robbie is an unlikely Tonya, but believable, though I couldn't quite buy her as a 15-year-old, despite the braces.  Though Robbie is the star and in practically every scene, Allison Janney as Tonya's mother steals the show.  She makes Mommy Dearest look like Mother of the Year.  But both actors have deservedly been nominated for an Oscar for their wonderful performances.

Gilooly's friend, Eckhard, who fancied himself Tonya's bodyguard and was delusional about his role in international espionage and who stupidly screwed up the whole plot is wonderfully and hilariously played by Paul Walter Hauser and the rest of the ensemble are also all first rate.

This was a sordid little piece of figure skating history brilliantly adapted by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie.  But it's also the story of class consciousness and a young girl with a brutal history who wanted to beat the odds and be somebody, but because she didn't fit the mold or have the tools to move forward, was beaten down.  If Tonya was involved in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, then she deserved to go to jail. But if she wasn't, then this story is indeed a tragedy because she was given what could only be defined as a life sentence for a skater - she could never skate in competition again.

The way the film incorporated Robbie into actual footage of Tonya was also brilliant, though Robbie said she took skating lessons and did much of the skating herself, though I doubt she was pulling triple axels. 

However, there was one little thing that I noticed that grated:  In one of Tonya's competitions she skated to a ZZ Top song - with lyrics!  Now I know the filmmakers probably did that to show that Tonya was a rebel and a sort of wild child, to skate to a rock song instead of a classical piece as most of the skaters were doing.  But the filmmakers should have done their homework.  Skaters were not allowed to use music with lyrics until 2014!

But that was a small thing in an otherwise funny, sad and quite wonderful film!

Rosy the Reviewer says...an enlightening and original take on this little bit of history with stellar performances by Robbie and Janney, who are both deservedly nominated for Oscars. 




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

On DVD







Marshall (2017)


A biopic about Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

This film concentrates on Marshall's (Chadwick Boseman) early career starting in 1941 when he was only 32 and the head of the Legal Defense Fund for the NAACP and part of one particular trial.  He is approached by Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), a Jewish civil lawyer from Connecticut, to help him with a case where Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), a rich white woman has accused Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), her black chauffeur, of rape and attempted murder.  The pairing of these two lawyers, seemingly opposites, is an interesting one as they work together to defend their client, but it becomes clear that both men have faced their share of racism.

This is a classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" type courtroom drama except this is real. 

It also happened during Jim Crow when a black man accused of rape could be depicted in the newspaper as a gorilla.  So it was in that atmosphere that Marshall was involved in this case, but even though he had already argued a case in front of the Supreme Court, because he had not passed the bar in Connecticut, the white and probably racist judge (James Cromwell) would not give him a special dispensation to practice in Connecticut and told Marshall he could not speak, argue or examine witnesses during the trial.  That made it a bit difficult for Friedman, who was a civil lawyer with his life and practice on the line for taking this controversial case.  He had to conduct the trial with Marshall in the background, providing support and information behind the scenes and from the sidelines.

But the film is not just a courtroom drama.  It's also a mystery.  Did Joseph rape and try to kill Eleanor?  And if not, why did she accuse him?

Chadwick Boseman is wonderful as Marshall and is a versatile actor when you consider that his next movie is the superhero film "Black Panther!" And Gad, who often plays portly comic characters, pulls his dramatic weight against Boseman and creates a sympathetic character in Friedman who has his own battles to wage.

I am a big fan of the TV show "This is Us," which stars Sterling K. Brown, who plays Joseph Spell in this film, and I have to admit I have not been a big fan of his because of his character, Randall, on that show.  Despite all of the awards Brown has received for playing that character, I find Randall to be annoying in his intensity.  I was never sure if Brown was playing Randall or Randall was playing Brown. So here I kept waiting to see little signs of Randall in Brown's performance, and I have to say I didn't detect any, so kudos to Brown.  He really is a good actor.  I like him now.

Written by father-son writers Jacob and Michael Koskoff and directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film has been sited as an accurate depiction of Marshall and this trial and is an inspiring reminder of what Black Americans have had to endure to not just succeed but to exist.  When Marshall comes out of the courtroom after hearing he and Friedman had won their case (and you knew they would so I'm not spoiling anything here - this film is not about the outcome but about the journey), he is confronted with a "Whites Only" drinking fountain.  He drinks anyway.  Hello Supreme Court Justice Marshall.

Marshall went on to win many civil rights cases in front of the Supreme Court, most famously Brown v. the Board of Education.  Keep watching the credits to hear the real Marshall speak.

"You know, there are so many people, indeed my own sons at times, look at me with an expression on their face that they don’t believe what happened in the past.”

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a movie that needs to be seen to remind us of what has happened in the past so we won't repeat it.  We have come a long way, but not far enough.






Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)


Another one of those spy films where an evil organization holds the world hostage.

Spy movies and I don't usually get along. 

Even as far back as the James Bond films, whenever I watched a spy movie, I never seemed to know what was going on.  Now, I am an educated woman who has managed to get through life without screwing up too much, but for some reason, I don't seem to be smart enough when watching these spy films to figure out who the bad guys are, who the good guys are and what the hell is going on.  For some reason, the screenwriters of these things feel the need to  write convoluted plots that take every twist and turn possible - agents, double agents, double-crossing, triple-crossing, all of whom are looking for something - until it all makes no sense, I have no idea what they are looking for (though often it's a list) or why.  And then there's that whole question of why the bad guy doesn't kill the good guy when he has a chance - this happened all of the time in the Bond movies.  Bond is trussed up like a turkey and the bad guy only has to shoot him to get rid of him once and for all, but no...he wants to torture Bond, so he leaves him in the room with a ticking time bomb and, of course, Bond figures out a way to save himself.

But hey, I am here to report that I actually could follow what was going on here and the film is campy and fun!

This is round 2 of the Kingsman franchise based on the comic book "The Secret Service," and knowing how these things work, I would imagine there will be more.  Colin Firth starred in the first one and played a bigger role than he does in this sequel, especially since we thought he was dead (he got shot in the first film), but though Firth is in this one too, Taron Egerton, who we met in the first film, is the star as Eggsy, a street kid by day and dapper Kingsman by...well, day and night when needed.  When he dons his Kingsman duds, he could be a young Colin Firth, and I suppose that's the whole point.

The Kingsman Headquarters is under attack by evil drug kingpin, Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), who dresses like a 1950's housewife and oversees a 50's style amusement park called Poppyland in Cambodia.  Why Cambodia?  We will never know. Despite her sweet façade, she is prone to putting her enemies in meat mincers head first.  Not pretty.  Poppy also oversees the Golden Circle, a drug cartel, and she wants to force the world to legalize drugs.  If they don't, she is going to poison all drugs with a virus that will cause the victims to first go through a manic stage, then become frozen and then they die.  However, if the world succumbs to her demands, she will pass out the antidote and save the world.  But Poppy also wants fame.  It's not enough to take over the world.  She wants the world to know that SHE, Poppy, is the one taking over the world.

Poppy's slogan is "Save lives/Legalize!"

Because this is a worldwide issue and the Kingsman Headquarters has been blown to smithereens, Eggsy and his sidekick, Merlin (Mark Strong), are forced to team up with some Americans in Kentucky - the Statesman, a group of agents that includes Jeff Bridges as Champagne (AKA Champ), Channing Tatum as Tequila and Pedro Pascal as Whiskey. As you can probably tell from their names, just as the front for the Kingsman organization is the bespoke tailoring, the front for the Stateman is Kentucky Bourbon and they certainly don't want drugs to be legal since they sell alcohol!

See?  I figured this thing out. 

The film has the usual spy movie fights, car chases and spectacular disaster sequences, most notably a tram careening wildly down a mountain toward an old people's home that ends with one of the funniest lines in the film - I actually laughed.

As I said, Mr. Darcy, er, I mean, Colin was more in evidence in the first film.  He doesn't show up until the last hour in this one, and when he does he is wearing sweats.  Colin Firth wearing sweats is not quite the same as Colin Firth in full gentleman drag but I was glad to see him.  Edgerton is a sweet-faced young man who could pass as a young Colin Firth, and he is joined by Halle Berry as Ginger Ale (in case you haven't noticed, everyone has catchy James Bond kinds of names), but she doesn't do much except look dowdy. Julianne Moore overacts like mad - well, actually everyone overacts like mad - making this film one big campy romp.  I mean, Elton John is even in this.  He has been captured by Poppy and must dress like the old Elton, wear the flashy costumes and sing his old songs on demand but he gets a big moment at the end.

Directed by Mathew Vaughn with a screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, this is a comic spy film that is also a sort of satire on the pharmaceutical industry and the war on drugs with a bad American President who gets impeached.  Mmmm.  There is some fun to be had but at two hours and 21 minutes, it's too long.

Rosy the Reviewer says...silly and dumb but kind of fun.  It grew on me.




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




158 to go.

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Stalker (1979)



It's post-apocalypse and aliens supposedly reside in an area known as The Zone, but if you can make your way into The Zone, there is supposedly a room where wishes can be granted.

I know, it sounds weird and it is, but this film is a kind of weird gem.  And it's also Russian which explains a lot.  The Russians make some weird films.

It's the future and life is bleak.  The Zone is an area where it is rumored that some aliens have landed and taken control.  The laws of physics and geography have been suspended and power and transcendence are rumored to exist inside The Zone, a place where wishes can come true, so a cynical writer (Anatoliy Solonitsyn) and a renegade scientist (Nikolay Grinko) hire Stalker (Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy, who looks like a Russian Woody Harrelson) to take them there.  The Zone is patrolled by police to keep the unwary out and only stalkers can navigate the treacherous but magical space known as The Zone.

The scientist wants to go to The Zone to see reason triumph over faith and the writer seeks inspiration that the grim world of the future no longer provides.  The stalker also has his reasons.  Something bad has happened to his daughter and he wants to make that right.  Those three things - science, faith and feeling come together to produce an ending considered one of the most enigmatic in film history.

"The Zone is a series of traps and they are all deadly."

And so is life. The Zone is also a metaphor for life and a treatise on the human spirit and the will to live.

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky ("Solaris"), and adapted from a science fiction novel - "The Roadside Picnic" by Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky - this is one of those movies that is all about the visuals, all sepia and shadows, a chiaroscuro.  The world is in black and white and The Zone is in color, kind of like Oz, and we certainly aren't in Kansas anymore or any other place you would recognize.  The film is a kind of horror film but without the usual components of horror. It's more of a moody horror film with lots of philosophizing about the meaning of life.

Why it's a Must See: "The Zone is one of cinema's great magical places: damp green and sylvan above-ground giving way to watery, muddy, uninhabited recent ruins as the party nears the perhaps-mythical Room."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Be forewarned.  It's REALLY long.  It's so long it comes in two DVDs, and I usually don't like that, but this film is mesmerizing.  Strange, yes, but mesmerizing.  If you can make it through the set-up, the first hour, you will be rewarded.

Rosy the Reviewer says...very eerie and compelling.  It creates a mood that envelops you - you get into The Zone.




***Book of the Week***

 

 
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (2017)



Four young girls at an English boarding school create "The Lying Game," where they tell elaborate lies to their teachers and fellow students as a lark, not realizing that one day they will need to perpetuate a really big lie.
 
Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima all meet in their teens at boarding school in the picturesque village of Saltern.  They form a clique and have fun with a game they call "The Lying Game," where they tell lies large and small.  Kate kept the score with a tally sheet she kept above her bed: points for a new "victim;" points for getting someone to completely believe; plus extra points for elaborate details or for being able to reel someone back in after almost calling their bluff. 
 
"The Lying Game," like "The Fight Club," had its rules:
 
  1. Tell a lie
  2. Stick to your story
  3. Don't get caught
  4. Never lie to each other
  5. Know when to stop lying
However, now the girls are grown women with lives of their own.  Isa is married with a baby, Fatima is now a practicing Muslim and a doctor and Kate is an artist and has stayed behind in Saltern at the family home where she had lived with her artist father, Ambrose.  Thea was always the wild beautiful one and is still wild and beautiful.  The four haven't seen each other in years.

But when Kate sends them all a mysterious text:  "I need you," they all make their way back to Saltern to face the really big lie that they have all kept for over 15 years.
 
Ware is the author of "The Woman in Cabin 10," a novel I reviewed back in 2016, and like that first book, she has a way with dialogue.  And because of that, as you read you can imagine a movie.  But this is one of those novels with a mystery where the mystery is leaked slowly in bits and pieces and that became irritating after awhile. I kept thinking, "Get to the story!"  She did a similar thing in "The Woman in Cabin 10," but it worked better there. Though I was initially pulled in and liked the characters, I found myself scanning the pages to get to the end rather than really immersing myself in the story.

Rosy the Reviewer says...didn't like this one as much as "The Woman in Cabin 10," but if you like novels that read like movies, this one has its moments.


 
***TV - What I'm Watching!***

Yes, because I am a reality TV junkie, I am watching my usual favorites "The Amazing Race, "Project Runway All-Stars," "The Bachelor," "America's Next Top Model," "Catfish, "Married at First Sight" and "Ru-Paul's All Star Drag Race," but I also want you to know that I have other interests so I thought I would share with you some TV shows I am currently watching that you might like and might not know about.



Victoria on Masterpiece - Season 2


Miss "The Crown?"  I know I do but until the next season, this one fills the niche, though on a more melodramatic level.

On PBS.

(You don't need to see Season 1 to enjoy this but I recommend that you do - catch it On Demand or your favorite catch-up source or check out the DVD from your local library).





Grace and Frankie - Series 4


I mean, c'mon, women of a certain age starting a vibrator business?  That's FUNNY!

And you ladies will also find inspiration watching now 80-year-old Jane Fonda and still very funny Lily Tomlin do their thing.

This one and earlier seasons available on Netflix.

 




American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace



From Ryan Murphy and the folks who brought us the amazing "American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson" comes this new crime story, the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace.  It was filmed in Versace's actual home, which is enough reason to watch but this is another brilliant mini-series. Just like the O.J. story, this 10-part story will pull you in and expect it to capture many awards.  It's riveting.

On FX.



The Great British Baking Show


Who knew watching regular people like you and me bake could be so relaxing and yet so riveting at the same time. It's like a baking meditation but you get involved with the bakers and root for them too.  It's all very British and lovely and not a cross word is spoken.

I just finished bingeing Season 2 on Netflix.  There are four seasons there and this is also showing on some PBS stations.

Sadly, stars Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have parted ways and Paul has a new show which is ostensibly the same as this but on a different UK station. Not sure if Mary will get her own show or not.

On Netflix and PBS.



Stripped




I know, I wouldn't be me if I didn't include at least one low-brow reality show and this one fits the bill perfectly.  I couldn't help it.

People give up everything they own and I mean everything.  Even their clothes.  And all of their belongings are kept in a locker a half mile away.  Each day they can go to the locker and choose one item.

It's fun to see what their priorities are and yes, people, they learn from the experience!

What would your priorities be if you were stripped of everything?

On Bravo

And on that note...


Thanks for reading!

 
See you TUESDAY

 
with a special edition of

 
"Rosy's Test Kitchen"

 
where I will be testing various methods for cooking eggs and sharing some yummy recipes!

 
See you then!


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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). 

Go to IMDB.com, 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.