Showing posts with label The Invitation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Invitation. Show all posts

Friday, January 13, 2023

"Babylon"...and More!

[I review the new movie "Babylon" as well as "The Invitation" and a book! - Geena Davis's memoir "Dying of Politeness"]

Babylon (2022)

The not so golden side of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

After "La La Land," which I loved, I said in my gushing review that I couldn't wait to see what writer/director Damien Chazelle would do next.  Well, here it is and, for me, it is a shocking addendum to "La La Land."  Where "La La Land" was a love letter to Hollywood and the movies, this film is like a Dear John letter, as in the romance is over. It is for me, anyway.

Like I said, I loved "La La Land," but I am sad to say, I did not like this movie.

This is all about the Golden Age of Hollywood, but the part that wasn't so golden - the unglamorous, dark side of Hollywood, with the price of fame and its ephemeral nature and the drudgery that sometimes accompanies the making of films so that we in the audience can be entertained.  It's also about the effect talking pictures had on Hollywood.  According to Chazelle it was a big party during the silent movie era, but as soon as sound came to town, everyone had to shut-up and take movies seriously.  Careers fell when audiences didn't like the sound of their favorite actors' voices or tried and true storylines that worked well with no sound suddenly seemed silly with dialogue.

The story is told in part through three characters: Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), a young woman who has come to Hollywood in the 20's to become a star; Manny Torres (Diego Calva), another Hollywood wannabe who will do anything to get ahead in Hollywood; and actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), the handsome but aging leading man.   

When Nellie meets Manny early in the film, she tells him "It's written in the stars.  I am a star."  And she manages to make a name for herself in silent films by being able to not only cry on demand but manage her tears one by one, but sadly, when sound arrives, her voice is considered annoying and she finds her career in trouble. 

Manny makes himself useful to powerful people like Jack Conrad and works his way up the ladder. Manny's story is all about the American dream, and Manny's American Dream is to make it in La-La Land. All of these characters intersect at various times during the 1920's and 30's as their careers go up and down.

So that's the basic story, but to tell that story, Chazelle seemed to feel he needed to go very dark and shocking.  

If you remember the movie "Singing in the Rain," which also told this same story - the advent of talkies and the actors who struggled with it - this is almost a remake of that, and Chazelle gives it a big nod at the end of the film, and there are many other nods to Hollywood movies and actors of the past. You can figure that Brad Pitt is playing a John Gilbert character, a silent movie idol who struggled when the talkies came along.  It's fun to try to match the characters with real life actors from back in the day, to catch the allusions to other films and recognize the faces of many actors doing cameos. 

But that's where the fun ended for me. I understand Chazelle wanting to show us that Hollywood can eat people alive and making movies can sometimes be hard, tedious and even boring work but for some reason he felt the need to add the shock factor. The film starts with a cringeworthy scene featuring elephant poop and continues with projectile vomiting and a man eating live rats.  And there is more, but I choose not to remember the rest, because as the movie progressed, it seemed to be just one unpleasant situation after another.  

This film was just trying too hard to be shocking and what shocked me the most was that this was where Chazelle went after the beautiful, delightful and uplifting "La La Land."

I know the movie industry has been in a slump since the Pandemic, and watching this, I couldn't help but wonder if Chazelle, and/or the movie industry in general, has decided they need the shock factor to get us all off our couches and back into the theatres. If that's the case, I am going to stay home.  

And speaking of trying too hard, I have always been a big fan of Margot Robbie, but I just didn't believe her as the "wild child," Nellie LaRoy.  I could feel her trying too hard to be this out-of-control woman who has come to Hollywood to become a star. But no doubt she will get nominated for her performance because there was a lot of ranting and raving and crying going on. 

Sadly, this was just was not an enjoyable movie experience for me nor was it a satisfying one.  That is how I judge a film.  Was it an enjoyable or at least satisfying movie experience?  And it makes me sad to say it because I loved "La La Land" so much but for this film the answer would be a no.

And here's the thing.  Maybe if this movie hadn't been so long I would have enjoyed it more.

This movie was THREE HOURS and eight minutes!  That is just uncalled for.  Chazelle could have easily cut an hour off of this film without it making any difference and probably would have made it better.  PLEASE...filmmakers, if you want us back in the theatres do not make us sit through three hour films!

Okay, rant over.

However, there is a positive.

I have to give a shout out to Brad Pitt.  He almost saved this movie for me.  I have been wanting him to flaunt his handsomeness and here he does that, but he also shows his acting chops.  As the handsome matinee idol whose career takes a turn for the worst, he is funny but also poignant.  A wonderful tour de force and he certainly should have won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, though I question whether his part was a supporting role. In my book, he was the star. Let's hope the Oscars do better because he deserves one for this. 

As I was watching the film, I was thinking that Chazelle was mad at the movies because he paints such a cynical picture. But then he gives Jean Smart, who plays columnist Elinor St. John, one of the best moments in the film, when she sets Jack Conrad straight about his career.  In a brilliant speech, she tells him that the spotlight is fleeting, but he can take comfort in the fact that his movies will live on after he has gone. He will come alive for future audiences who see his films. And though Chazelle goes dark to make us appreciate what it takes to make a movie, I think he ends on a positive note by saying that movies matter because of what movies can do. They bring a disparate group of people together who are all enjoying the same experience.  For a few hours, it's a community.  

And I agree, but if he wants me to continue to be a part of that community, he shouldn't make a three hour movie and he needs to leave out the elephant poop!

Rosy the Reviewer says...all in all, though there were moments I enjoyed and this film will no doubt get many award nominations, because it's the big, boisterous, epic kind of movie that gets nominations, for me this was a huge disappointment (in theatres).

The Invitation (2022)

A young woman is invited to a wedding in England but it turns out to be much more than she a bad way.

The film begins with a suicide and then fast forwards to Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel who you might recognize from "Game of Thrones"), a New York City hospitality worker, who attends a self-help event with one of those "find-your-relatives" DNA tests in her swag bag.  She decides to try it and wouldn't you know?  She discovers a cousin she didn't know about and he's a charming Brit named Oliver L. Alexander (Hugh Skinner).  Since both of Evie's parents are dead, she is keen to find family.  Oliver invites her to join him at the wedding of a rich friend in England, an offer she can't refuse since all expenses will be paid.

The wedding is at the estate of the DeVille family and there she meets Walter - "Walt" - the handsome Lord of the Manor (Thomas Doherty).  And can I say that Evie is a bit over incredulous at the luxury of the place and actually acts like an Ugly American and is a big klutz? Not a good look. She is an accident waiting to happen and her behavior makes a bad impression on the scary butler (Sean Pertwee). But she appears to make a good impression on the handsome Walt.

But like I said, she isn't a very good guest. On her first night, Evie goes for a jog. Who does that?  Who goes for a jog at night in an unfamiliar place? And she goes into a room that she was particularly told to stay out of. But okay, let's see what will happen. She starts to see things and also starts to have nightmares that relate to that suicide I mentioned. What's going on?

Written by Blair Butler and directed by Jessica M. Thompson, this is a gothic thriller with the requisite gotcha moments (I counted five), but despite the gotcha moments, it takes over an hour before "the secret" is revealed and what is really going on at the DeVille mansion and this so-called wedding. It's a bit slow but I enjoyed the female empowerment theme.

Nathalie Emmanual does a fine job as Evie, but I was distracted by how much she looks like Meghan Markle, except with a nose ring.

Rosy the Reviewer step above a Lifetime movie but, hey, I have been known to do the occasional Lifetime movie.  A fun gothic diversion (Netflix, Prime).

And if you aren't up for a three hour movie in the movie theatre and you are not in the gothic mood, why not read a book?

"Dying of Politeness" by Geena Davis

Actress Geena Davis shares her life and accomplishments in this candid and self-deprecating memoir.

Who knew that Geena Davis and I had so much in common?

  • We both wanted to be actresses from a young age, studied acting in college and our Dads encouraged us.
  • She was an exchange student in Sweden and I have visited my Swedish relatives there.
  • We grew up with no shower and everyone used the same bath water on Saturday nights (I know, ew)!
  • And it was important to be polite at all costs

We are so alike except the main difference: she became famous and I didn't. Ha!  

Davis tells her story that starts with her knowing she was going to be an actress from a very young age.  She shares her romantic interests including her marriage to actor Jeff Goldblum, who it seems from reading this she never got over.  She also talks about finding a sort of second career as an Olympic archer as well as her lifelong fight for women's rights.

There are also behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the many movies that she has made such as "The Fly," "A League of their Own" and, of course, the iconic "Thelma and Louise."  She met Susan Sarandon on set and they became besties in real life. Total opposites in their approach to the world, Geena says that Susan helped her speak up and give up on some of that politeness. It's all told in a breezy and, shall I say? A very polite way.

Rosy the Reviewer says... it's a funny, candid and touching memoir, and if you are a fan or even just a celebrity maven, you will enjoy this. (check it out from your local library)!

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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And 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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Rosy the Reviewer Recommends: Some Movies Worth Watching Right Now at Home!

[I review Spike Lee's new film "Da 5 Bloods" as well as "The Traitor," "The Love Birds," "The High Note," "The Invitation" and "Hush."]

I did mini-reviews for these films on my Rosy the Reviewer Facebook page over the last few weeks, but here are the longer versions, all in one handy-dandy place for your viewing enjoyment at home!

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Four African American Vietnam vets travel back to Vietnam to find the remains of their fifth “blood brother” and, oh, yeah, there’s that gold they buried…

Spike Lee has always been a controversial director over the last four decades, probably because he is not afraid to go there, meaning he tells it like he sees it, even if it might make you uncomfortable. But always, he is original and provocative.  Maybe that’s why I am such a fan.  I have been ever since his first feature film  - She’s Gotta Have It.” 

In this latest film, Spike tells the story of Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), former Vietnam vets, who along with their squad leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman), had dubbed themselves "bloods" when they did their tour of Vietnam.  While there, they had come upon the site of a plane crash and the wreckage had contained a locker of gold. They decided to bury the gold and come back later to retrieve it. But in the meantime, Norman was killed, and when the surviving four went back to find the gold, they were not able to find it, because a napalm strike had destroyed all of the identifying landmarks.

Now it's present day and the four surviving "bloods" have learned that the tail of the crashed plane had been uncovered, so they decide to, not only go back to Vietnam for the gold, but to find the remains of their fallen comrade, Norman. Along the way, Otis reunites with his old Vietnamese girlfriend, Tien (Y. Lan), who introduces the "bloods" to Desroche (Jean Reno), a rather shady French businessman who agrees to help them smuggle the gold out of Vietnam.  They are also joined by Paul's son, David (Jonathan Majors).

But as these treasure-hunting stories often do, nothing runs smoothly.  We learn that Paul has PTSD and he is starting to lose his you-know-what. The men meet Hedy (Melanie Thierry) and two other rather suspicious acting volunteers who are in Vietnam to clear land mines.  Or are they? Oh, and did I mention that there are land mines? And then there are those nasty guys with guns who want the gold.  And to make matters even more complicated, it doesn't help that the bloods are now getting suspicious of each other. 

It's wonderful to see these veteran actors getting their day, especially Delroy Lindo who puts in an Oscar worthy performance. And speaking of the Oscars. Here's a question.  Do you think there will even be an Oscars ceremony next year

Written by Lee, Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and Kevin Willmott, this film is jam-packed and a bit too long, but Spike’s worst is better than most directors’ best. And this is one of Spike’s best.  It’s an exciting departure from what you have come to expect from him. It’s part The Treasure of the Sierra Madreand part “Apocalypse Now,” but a more realistic depiction of the Vietnam War than some we have seen since 30% of the soldiers fighting that terrible war were African American at a time when young black men made up only 11% of the population of the United States. It also wouldn’t be a Spike Lee film if it didn’t deal with racism, black history and politics (Paul voted for Trump and wears a MAGA hat!)

Rosy the Reviewer says…an important film that you don't want to miss!
(now streaming on Netflix)

The Traitor (2019)

Biopic of Thommaso Buscetta, the so-called "boss of the two worlds" who in Sicily during the 1980's turned mafia informant, the first high up mob boss to do so.

This is an epic film, and when I say epic, you know what I mean.  It’s long.  I am not usually in for two and a half hour movies these days.  My attention span has gone to hell.  Is it the coronavirus?  Or just old age?  Not sure, but I am often critical of films that go over two hours, thinking the director could have done a bit of editing.  But not this time.  This film was mesmerizing from the first frame.

Written (with Valia Santella, Ludovica Rampoldi, Francesco Piccolo) and directed by Marco Belloccio, “The Traitor (which won Best Picture in Italy)” tells the true story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), who in the 1980’s, was the first Sicilian mafia boss to become an informant. 

The film follows Buscetta from his early days as a loyal member of the
Cosa Nostra to his hiding out in Brazil to escape some drug charges to his disillusionment with the mob (let's just say, he didn't approve of the heroin trade and he developed a distaste for murder, especially when the victims were his own sons). So when he was forced to return to Italy and given a deal by the authorities that he couldn't refuse, he decided to break the code of silence and turn informant, testifying against his fellow bosses in an unprecedented seven-year trial that illuminated the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra and forced Buscetta to live out the remainder of his life in the witness protection program. And it's a hairy seven years to say the least. Let’s just say that you don’t want to mess with your fellow bosses and living in the witness protection program is no piece of cake. 

There is nonstop violence, but at the same time, the film is brutally beautiful to look at and stylishly done. Favino is in almost every scene and is remarkable. And yes, it’s long and in Italian with English subtitles and, yes, it's sometimes confusing with so many characters coming and going, and if you are unfamiliar with Italian politics you might get confused, but you can do it!  It’s worth it.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you are a big fan of “The Godfather” films, you will like this.  It’s right up there with the best of them.
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)

The Love Birds (2020)

Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) find themselves unwittingly embroiled in a murder mystery.
I remember, not too long ago, was it March? Ah, March... when I was going to the movies in an actual theatre and watching the previews for this film. It looked funny and I wanted to see it. I like Issa Rae, I like Kumail Nanjiani and I would have paid money to go see this, but then we had to stay home, right? Well, Netflix to the rescue. This movie was going to be released in the theatres in April but thanks to Netflix we can see it for free (if you have Netflix) in our own homes. Sadly, though, this was a perfect example of the trailer having all of the best bits, and I am glad I didn't pay $10 to see it. But that doesn't mean it's not worth watching on your comfy couch for free.

Leilani is an advertising executive and Jibran is a documentary filmmaker. She is a spontaneous type who likes to take risks.  Jibran is not.  He likes to plan things down to the minute so as to avoid risks.  So though they had an instant connection when they first met, four years later they are getting on each others' last nerves and are contemplating breaking up.  But then fate intervenes.
They witness a murder and the hapless couple find themselves over their heads in a big murder plot where they become the suspects and are on the run, not just from the authorities but from some very bad guys. They decide they need to solve this murder plot themselves.  So, guess what? Their situation actually brings them together, because, there is nothing like being stalked by bad guys and almost dying to bring you closer together, right?

In the screenplay by
Brendan Gall and Aaron Abrams, there is a nod to the racism people of color experience when pulled over by the police (which is why Leilani and Jibran decide to solve this murder plot themselves), but all in all the film is mostly so-called witty banter between Leilani and Jibran as they go from one scary situation to the next and director Michael Showalter keeps the film fast-moving and breezy. But was it funny?  Sometimes but I couldn't help but wish it had been funnier or as good a film as Nanjiani's "The Big Sick," which I loved.

However, Rae and Nanjiani are appealing, relatable actors with a strange but warm chemistry and they are very good at witty banter so they keep this film alive. 
Rosy the Reviewer's an hour and 28 minutes of diversion in this challenging time. Funny or not, you might enjoy it. Get some popcorn, pretend you are at the movies, give it a try and see what you think.
(Streaming on Netflix)

The High Note (2020)

Superstar Grace Davis's long career has hit its high note and she's getting older so it's looking like the only way is down. And Maggie, Grace's personal assistant, who secretly wants to be a music producer has yet to hit her high note. She is on her way up.

I am sure you all know that Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) is pop diva Diana Ross's daughter and here Tracee gets to be a pop diva herself.

Grace Davis (Ross) is a huge singing star but as happens with women of a certain age in show business, no matter how successful they may be, when they hit 40, they have basically hit their “high note” and there is no way but down.  She hasn’t had a hit record in ten years but her act is still popular and everyone loves her old stuff.  She has been offered a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, but despite a lucrative offer, a residency in Las Vegas is tantamount to advertising to the world that you are a has-been when it comes to generating hits.

Unlike Grace, her assistant, Margaret AKA Maggie (Dakota Johnson), is on her way up.  She is young, mad about Aretha and knows just about everything about music.  She is also ambitious and wants to be a record producer. But Grace’s demands take up most of Maggie’s time and Maggie is afraid to ask Grace for help…until Maggie meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young singer with potential.  All kinds of twists and turns ensue.

This is a classic chick flick with engaging performances and some good music, both old and new.  There is even a cameo appearance by Eddie Izzard, which was a high note for me. I had planned to see this in the theatre, because I enjoy films about show business, so the $19.95 rental fee didn’t bother me (Hubby watched it with me so that’s what it would have cost if we had both gone to see it), even if it was predictable and at times a bit far-fetched. But I sometimes like the predictability of feel-good films and this one has that vibe with engaging actors (Ross gets to show what she can do), classic old Hollywood production values, and a straightforward story. Sometimes you want to revel in something light.

Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s not Citizen Kane,” but it’s a fun diversion that will take you away from your troubles for a bit.
(Available for rent on Amazon Prime or On Demand $19.95)

The Invitation (2015)

Beware of dinner invitations from people you haven’t seen in years.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are on their way to a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills hosted by Will’s ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (Michael Huisman).  On the way, Will hits a coyote and has to put it out of its misery.  As they say in the movie biz, a bit of foreshadowing because let’s just say this dinner party isn’t going to go well.

Eden and Will divorced because of a shared tragic event and Eden has invited Will and his new girlfriend to dinner in the house that Eden and Will had shared to try to heal some wounds.  This is not something Will really wants to do because he is still haunted by the events that happened in that house.  Add to that the guests - some old friends and some new ones, the new ones, Pruitt
(John Carroll Lynch) and Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) who are rather creepy - and Will becomes increasingly uneasy, especially when he starts to feel that Eden and David are involved in some kind of cult.

Whenever people are gathered together for an unknown purpose, you can figure it’s either an Amway recruitment presentation or a horror show. In this case, Eden’s house has no land line, no cell service and her new husband has locked all of the doors. So let the horror show commence as the reason for the invite slowly and horrifically unfolds.

The acting ensemble of relatively unknown actors is first-rate, the screenplay by
Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is original and keeps you guessing and the direction by Karyn Kusama builds the right amount of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat, which isn't easy when you consider this is a film about a bunch of people trapped in a house together.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like good psychological horror or dinner parties from hell, take a seat at the table. This is for you!
(Streaming on Netflix)

Hush (2016)

A deaf and mute writer living in a remote location must fight for her life when she encounters a creepy masked intruder.

Blumhouse Productions, which is basically producer Jason Blum, has practically cornered the market on low-budget horror, but as I have said in the past, there is good Blumhouse (“TheInvisible Man”) and bad Blumhouse (“Fantasy Island”). Production values vary. But some Blumhouse are gorier than others and this one falls into the gorier category. But it's also in the good Blumhouse category.

Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a writer who at the age of 13 had an illness that left her deaf and unable to speak.  For some unknown reason she has decided to live a solitary life in a very remote location.  And also for some unknown reason a creepy guy in a mask (John Gallagher Jr.) shows up and he is bent on killing her.  He steals her phone, slashes her tires and cuts off her power, so now she not only can’t hear, she can’t see, and worse NO INTERNET!

The woman in danger horror film has its own set of tropes.  She lives alone, the best friend gets killed, the concerned friend/neighbor/cop/boyfriend (fill in the blanks) gets killed and so she is on her own.  She is terrorized by a sadistic killer but…our heroine has pluck (don’t you love that word?). She ain’t going to go down without a fight and a wine bottle opener to the neck usually figures prominently!

Remember Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark?”  This one is like that except with cell phones, the Internet and some gory stuff.

Siegel, who wrote the screenplay with her husband, Mike Flanagan (Flanagan also directed), is a compelling actress who is believable as a deaf mute as well as believable as a kick-ass woman who isn't going to let some loser in a mask ruin her life!

Rosy the Reviewer says…I guess I’ve been in the mood for horror lately because there is nothing like fake horror to take the edge off some real horror! Tense, very tense. Don’t watch this alone!
(Streaming on Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you 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, 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.