Showing posts with label The Fourth Man. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Fourth Man. Show all posts

Friday, January 4, 2019

"Second Act" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Second Act" as well as DVDs "The House With a Clock in its Walls" and "Lean on Pete."  The Book of the Week is "This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Fourth Man."]

Second Act

A forty-year-old woman with a GED who has toiled in a big box store for years gets the chance to prove that street smarts can be as valuable as a college degree when she is given the chance at a high-paying corporate job on Madison Avenue.

You might be wondering with all of the big blockbuster films and the serious, Oscar-worthy ones vying for my attention during this holiday and awards seasons, why I would choose to see this film.  Well, my peeps, I absolutely love Jennifer Lopez.  It doesn't matter if she is in something as wonderfully romantic as "Maid in Manhattan (and it doesn't hurt that Ralph was in that too - he's one of my movie crushes) or something as awful as "Gigli (which truth be told, I never thought was as bad as everyone said)," her realness, her warmth shines through.  I just love her and have ever since I saw her in her breakthrough movie "Selena."

So anyway, I went to this thinking I was going to see a cross between "Maid in Manhattan (romantic)" and "Working Girl (girl overcomes inequality in the work place)," but it was neither a romantic comedy nor anything particularly to do with the male/female equality thing, though Jennifer has to overcome discrimination against people with no college degrees. But there is also a whole surprising other tact that the film takes regarding giving up one's child and how that guilt can affect one's entire life.

Jennifer (I get to call her that because I am such a fan) plays Maya, a woman with a GED who has worked for years in a big-box store. She may not have a college degree but she has street smarts when it comes to her job. She does a pitch to the big boss about some great marketing ideas she has, expecting that her pitch will lead to her getting promoted to store manager.  Instead, she is bypassed by a man with little experience.  But he has a college degree. 

Naturally she is really ticked off and complains to her best friend, Joan (Lisa Remini, Jennifer's best friend in real life which shows onscreen).  Joan's son, Dilly (Dalton Harrod), who is also Maya's godson and a computer savant, overhears the conversation and takes it upon himself to make up a resume for Maya that not only includes a college degree (Masters in business from Wharton), but also a stint in the Peace Corps, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and all kinds of other stuff that educated folks supposedly do.  He then sends it off to a cosmetics company without Maya's knowledge and all of a sudden Maya is being interviewed for a job in a high rise downtown by the big boss, Anderson Clarke (Treat Williams), and she doesn't even know what the job is!  Naturally, with all of those "credentials," she gets the job, is given a penthouse to live in, unlimited credit cards and finds herself in a face-off with the boss's daughter, Zoe (Vanessa Hudgens), to come up with a better skin product than the company's current one, thus having to show that street smarts can outdo book smarts.  

OK, I know, not very believable.  The screenplay by Justin Zackham and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas requires us to suspend disbelief just a tat more than usual but it doesn't matter.  IT'S MY GIRL, JENNIFER.  She can make it work and after we get over the hard to believe hurtles, it's smooth sailing all of the way.

Director Peter Segal lets Jennifer do what she does best - act naturally, exude warmth and look luminous.  It's good to see Treat Williams again, but I have been surprised that he didn't turn out to be a superstar.  I remember being blown away by him as Berger in "Hair," way back in 1979 and thinking he was going to be the next big thing, but despite a good career and some subsequent big roles in feature films, he never seemed to ever get back what he had back then.  He has toiled in television and when he is in feature films, he always seems to be playing businessmen.  I was also happy to see Vanessa Hudgens doing something other than judging on "So You Think You Can Dance."  I was wondering what it was she did and now I know.  She's a lovely actress and her story line in this film is a twist you almost don't see coming.

In a time when there is so much bad news, this is just what I needed. 

I loved this film.  I know I'm supposed to be gushing over "Vice" right now (check in with me next week) or "Green Book (well, I already did that)" and some of the other Golden Globe nominees (it's on this Sunday night), but if you want to have an enjoyable time in the theatre watching a film that has some touching moments and will make you laugh, this is for you.  

Speaking of laughs, Leah Remini is hilarious in this and reminds me of how she used to hold her own with Kevin James on "King of Queens," instead of what she has been doing lately - trying to bring down Scientology. The supporting players also offer some laughs, especially Charlyne Yi, Maya's mousy little assistant who works in a high rise but always has to back out of the elevator because she is afraid of heights and tells her potential boyfriend she is kinky.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when you want a movie that is uplifting, fun, and enjoyable starring a down-to-earth, likable actress who feels like your best friend.

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


The House With a Clock in its Walls (2018)

It's 1955 and ten-year-old Lewis, who is orphaned, goes to live with his eccentric uncle in Michigan and gets embroiled with witches and warlocks and the hunt to find a clock that could end the world.

Based on the book by John Bellairs, ten-year-old Lewis (Owen Vacarro) loses both of his parents and goes to live with this uncle, Jonathan (Jack Black) in Zebedee, Michigan in a mysterious house with a ticking clock.  The fact that the film takes place in Michigan was especially fun for me because that's where I'm from, but I've never heard of Zebedee, probably because it does't exist, though Bellairs based it on his hometown of Marshall, another Michigan town I've never heard of but I haven't lived there for over 40 years so what do I know?  Anyway, as usual, I digress.

Jonathan is an eccentric who wears kimonos and lives in a haunted house where the furnishings seem to have a life of their own.  He hangs out with Florence (Cate Blanchett), another eccentric, who is his platonic friend.  The two talk smack to each other and turns out Jonathan is a warlock and Florence is a witch.  In fact, the film is full of witches, warlocks, strange characters and glib talk. One could say this was actually a sad story.  A little kid loses his parents, has to go live in a scary house, gets bullied at school and has to hang out with a couple of witches. But it's not.

Speaking of witch, I mean which, I am not a fan of unlikely premises or unlikely characters so I was distracted by a scene at school when a kid on crutches gets picked for a basketball team before Lewis.  Now perhaps I can see that might happen since Lewis was the new kid and that was the ultimate dis by his classmates, but then Lewis didn't even know he was supposed to try to get the ball into the basketball hoop.  That seems highly unlikely. Even the nerdiest kid on earth knows how basketball is played.  So I wasn't getting a good feeling about this film (screenplay adapted by Eric Kripke). It seemed like it was going to be yet another story of a lonely, misfit kid finding himself with the help of a couple of lonely, misfit adults.  Well, it kind of was, but the film is so stylish and steampunk and atmospheric that I got into it.

So while Lewis is trying to acclimate to his Uncle's house and all of the strange goings on there as well as dealing with a new school, he also learns that his uncle Johnathan is a warlock who is trying to find a clock left in the walls of the house by the previous owner, a bad guy with some major issues especially when you consider the fact that the clock has the potential to blow up the world. And then Lewis decides he wants to learn to be a warlock too and we are off and running.

This film, directed by Eli Roth, who is more well-known for gross horror films like "Hostel," is less horror and more of a creepy but charming, steampunk tale reminiscent of the Harry Potter films. It has its share of scary stuff but nothing to be really scared of.

I have always thought that Jack Black was very, very funny. I first saw him in "High Fidelity" as the stuck up and fussy record aficionado, Barry, who worked in the record store and made fun of the customers' tastes.  He stole the show.  But here I think he is overdoing it a bit, trying to upstage the other actors even more than usual.  We have come to expect that Cate Blanchett will also overdo it in her rather cold, queenly way, but here she makes me forget she is Cate Blanchett and I warmed up to her character.  And then there is young Owen and you know how I feel about child actors.  Well, my peeps, I liked him.  He managed to avoid the obnoxious precociousness so many child actors play in films these days. 

But when all is said and done, the real star here is the house itself. It comes alive. The set design is fabulously retro and full of atmosphere and who wouldn't love a chair that acts like a dog?

Rosy the Reviewer says...a spooky film that younger kids can enjoy and if you have been lamenting that there are no more Harry Potter films, this might fill the void.

Lean on Pete (2017)

A neglected teen gets a job working with a churlish horse trainer and befriends an aging race horse named Lean on Pete.

Now the first thing I need to say here is this.  Boy, horse, you would think this was a kid's movie.  IT IS NOT A KID'S MOVIE as there is swearing, adult themes and worst of all...well, you will see when you watch the film. What happens is a real downer, but... yes, despite my disclaimer, you should watch this film.  You may not have heard of it (I hadn't), but believe it or not, it is on several Best Movies of 2018 lists, which is why I decided to watch it. And I am glad I did.

The film centers around Charley (Charlie Plummer - he recently played John Paul Getty III in "All The Money in the World"), a young teen whose mother has left him with his drunken, drug addled Dad. The two have settled on the outskirts of Portland.  Charley is largely ignored by his Dad, so left to his own devices he mostly runs and runs and runs.  On one of those runs, he migrates to a local horse training facility where he meets Del (Steve Buscemi), a rough and tumble horse trainer who makes his living racing second rate horses at second rate horse races. Charley gets a job working for Del, walking the horses and cleaning out the stables and the horse trailer.

Charley takes a liking to Lean on Pete, a quarter horse, whose racing career appears to be fading. So when Charley's Dad dies and Charley learns what happens to horses who start losing races, he takes off with Pete on a cross country odyssey to find his aunt, the only person who had tried to help him when his mother died, but with whom he has lost touch. A series of adventures ensue, some good, but mostly bad and it goes from bad to worse.

Written and directed by Andrew Haigh, adapted from the novel by Willie Vlautin, this is no "National Velvet" and Buscemi is no Mickey Rooney.  This is about the tough world of second class racing, guys just eking out a living, doing shady deals, racing on farms or wherever they can make a buck, but it's mostly about a teen who just can't seem to get a break. It's a reminder that there are kids out there on their own trying to make sense of a rough world. This is not one of those boy-meets-horse heartwarming stories.  So what makes it worth seeing? The acting is first rate - Charlie Plummer is phenomenal - and it's a coming-of-age road film except with a horse that manages to avoid the usual cliches thanks to Haigh's unsentimental screenplay. It's all very, very real.  And turns out, Charley's Aunt is a librarian!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a spell-binding coming of age tale.

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

113 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Fourth Man (1983)

Gerard Reve (Jeroen Krabbe) is a wreck and it doesn't help when he meets Christine (Renee Soutendijk).

Let's just say we get the drift early while enduring a really ominous opening over the credits, with a huge spider catching a fly and slowly wrapping it into its web with the fly struggling to free itself, and then we see Gerard, our anti-hero, awakening from what looks to be a drunken night.  Or let's say many drunken nights because he is shaking and can't even shave because hands are shaking so much.  He is also seeing things.

And speaking of seeing things, you will probably recognize Gerard, real name Jeroen Krabbe.  You might not recognize his name but you will certainly recognize his face.  He went on to play many a villain, often of the German variety.

Despite Gerard being a decadent, he is also a writer and a closeted gay man full of self-loathing.  He makes his way to a small Dutch town where he is giving a talk, and at the talk, he tells the audience that he "lies the truth" and then proceeds to offend almost everyone there, everyone that is except Christine, a icy cold but beautiful blonde who owns a prosperous hairdressing business. Gerard does a mental "cha-ching" and despite Gerard's predilections, the two embark on a hot affair until Gerard learns that Christine has been married before, not just once but three other times and all three husbands died from apparent accidents.  Or were they?

Gerard hallucinates into the future and thinks he might be husband #4 - the fourth man - and that he will meet some horrible fate.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, this was his last film in Dutch.  He went on to direct "Robocop," "Total Recall," and "Basic Instinct," the latter film being highly influenced by this one even down to Christine's haircut which was re-imagined on Sharon Stone nine years later.

As we are used to with Verhoeven, the cinematography is vibrant, religion is a theme, and there is a lot of eroticism.  And like I said in my review for "Fox and His Friends," movies seemed to be quite a bit more out there and erotic in the 70's and 80's, especially foreign films and this one lives up to it.  There are also all sorts of gross images interjected throughout, especially of the religious variety, and much of it is not particularly subtle, in fact it is very in your face.  For example,  when you think back to the opening credits - that spider, that fly - mmm, Black Widow?  Also Christine cuts Gerard's hair and her cosmetics line is called Delilah.  Mmmm. However, rumor has it that Verhoeven put all kinds of meaningless symbolism in the film just to throw critics off!  All, in all, though, the film is over-the-top and lots of fun!

Why it's a Must See: "...Verhoeven would later revisit essentially the same scenario with his Hollywood smash Basic Instinct (1992), but that far glossier film failed to recapture the humor and twisted energy of [this one]."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says... For a fun evening, see this one and then see "Basic Instinct" again.

***The Book of the Week***

This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are by Melody Warnick (2017)

"How does the place we live become the place we want to stay?"

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, especially those Tuesday blog posts I used to do where I chronicled my retirement journey and my move to Seattle from California, will understand my interest in this book, especially since I have moved once again, back to California.  

Warnick says that the average American will move 11.7 times in a lifetime and when I counted how many times I have moved, it's been more than that!

Warnick, too, has moved around a lot and when she made her 6th move to Blacksburg, Virginia she started to wonder if she would ever put down roots or become attached to a place. 

How does one become attached to a place?

In the book, she offers a quiz - 24 questions aimed at discovering how attached you might be to where you live.  Answering "yes" to 19 or more would indicate a strong connection to where you live.  Six or less suggests you live somewhere unfamiliar or you are not happy where you live.  Well, guess what?  I had lived in Seattle for 14 years and I only said yes to seven of the questions whereas answering those same questions about the place I moved away from 14 years again and have since moved back to - 19!  No wonder I've been depressed for the last five years!

"Physically, when we're happy where we live and like the people who live around us, we're less anxious, less likely to suffer heart attacks or strokes, and less likely to complain about ailments...Other researchers have linked place attachment to a general sense of well-being."

Sheesh.  Good thing I moved back home. And this is where I am staying!

But this is not all about studies and statistics. This is Warnick's personal story of trying to be happy wherever she found herself. Suddenly after move #6, Warnick found herself in a place she wasn't particularly attached to and not particularly happy about. But then she had an epiphany.  Why not make wherever she was that happy place? She decided to start a "Love Where You Live Experiment." 

She came up with "ten basic place attachment behaviors that were relatively doable and potentially enjoyable" that she hoped would make her feel more rooted to where she lived:

1.  Walk more

2.  Buy local
3.  Get to know my neighbors
4.  Do fun stuff
5.  Explore nature
6.  Volunteer
7.  Eat local
8.  Become more political
9.  Create something new
10. Stay loyal through hard times

Then she tried them out. Warnick devotes a chapter to each of these behaviors, sharing her journey as she applied them, and then ends each chapter with a "Love Your City Checklist," basically some practical ways to achieve that behavior.  For example, in the "Walk More" chapter called "Lace Up Your Sneakers," she ends with these tips: "Follow the '1-Mile Solution,' which is basically seeing what tasks you can get done by walking within a one-mile radius of your home; or wandering around town rather than using a GPS...

Her advice is practical, makes sense and is not just for those of you who are unhappy where you live but especially good for anyone who has just moved to a new town.

Who knows? If I had read this book a couple of years ago and followed her advice, perhaps I would still be in the Seattle area, even though I certainly intuitively did much of what she recommends.  And who knows?  Perhaps if I had had that list before I moved 14 years ago, perhaps I would have realized that if I had stayed loyal to my town I would have made it through the hard times and not felt like I needed to move. And who knows? If we had moved into Seattle proper and not the suburbs...Woulda, shoulda, coulda...

But what I do know is that now that I am back in California in a town where I had lived for over 30 years, I am doing every single thing on that list and I am going to keep doing them because I ain't moving again, no matter what! 

Because I agree with what Dorothy said to the Tin Man when he asked her what she had learned in Oz, 

"If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard.  Because if it isn't there...I never really lost it to begin with."

If you are not loving where you live or even just new in town, following Warnick's checklist will help you find your heart's desire in where you live and hopefully save you from thinking you need to move to find happiness because it's probably no further than your own back yard.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I'm so glad to be back.  This is where I belong.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




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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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, 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.