Showing posts with label The Man in Grey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Man in Grey. Show all posts

Friday, February 1, 2019

"The Upside" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "The Upside" as well as DVDs "Bad Times at the El Royale" and "Operation Finale."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Man in Grey."]

The Upside

A man with a criminal record is hired to take care of a rich man with quadriplegia -- and yes, it's a comedy.

First of all, I have to say that I had no intention of seeing this movie.  Though I have always been a fan of Kevin Hart's, I was mad at him about "Night School (see last week's review)."  I also was not a big fan of Bryan Cranston.  Not sure why but he just always seemed like kind of a grump. And I also thought - heartwarming story of a guy with a criminal record being redeemed by caring for a disabled man. Fish out of water buddy film, opposites attracting, learning from each other.  Sounded like about a thousand other films.  So like I said, I had not planned to see this. but my Movie Pass finally kicked in with this one and I thought, OK, I want to get my money's worth out of Movie Pass.

Now let me stop for a moment and rant about Movie Pass.

For those of you who signed up, you will know what I mean immediately.  Movie Pass has turned into a real pain.  When it first started, for $9.95 a month you could see a movie every single day.  Sounded too good to be true?  Well, it was.  So when they figured out they were losing money, Movie Pass changed to your not being able to see the same movie twice.  Oh, OK.  That's fine because I rarely do that, but I guess the Marvel Superhero people do so they ruined it for people like me because they go not twice but many, many times.  So then Movie Pass had another think. Let's try this. Now you can only go three times a week...and then on and on until now I check into Movie Pass and discover only one movie that is available to see, or worse get the message for my local theatres that says "There are no more screenings at this theater today."  AND IT'S 8 AM!  So when I saw that I could use my Movie Pass to see "The Upside," I jumped at the chance, even though, like I said, I didn't really expect to like it. But I wanted to get my money's worth out of Movie Pass.

And that's how I found myself there in the theatre watching "The Upside"....

and loving every minute of it.

Philip Lacasse (Cranston) is a famous and very rich man who made his money writing about investing (based on the real-life man whose story this is - Philippe Pozzo de Borgo).  Unfortunately, for him, Lacasse was also a risk taker who thought he was immortal, as some rich men do, and took a hang-gliding adventure during a storm which didn't end well for him.  He is now a quadriplegic who needs constant care and unhappily for him he has not been happy with his caregivers and needs a new one.

Dell Scott (Hart) is recently out of prison and his parole office is hassling him about getting a job. But he's not in a hurry to get one but needs to at least show he is looking.  So when a job for what he thinks is a janitorial position comes up in a hoity-toity high rise in a hoity-toity part of town, he goes to the interview with no intention of taking the job, but rather getting a signature that would prove he interviewed so as to pacify his parole office.

So that is how Dell and Lacasse meet.

At the job interview, Lacasse has about had it with the politically correct responses of the applicants when Dell shows up and gives him very non-PC responses which Lacasse finds refreshing so he hires him immediately much to the distress of his assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) who tells Dell "three strikes and you are out," and don't think she doesn't keep count!  She wants Dell gone.  Dell and Lacasse have a rocky start but forge a friendship where Dell teaches Lacasse the joy of fast cars and Aretha Franklin and Lacasse introduces Dell to opera and the finer things in life.

Now you would think that this smacks of sentimentality but that's why this film is so good.  It is not sentimental in the slightest.  There is no tenderness in Dell's care taking.  He stuffs food down Lacasse's throat, lets him fall over in his chair and makes no bones about how horrifying it is to him to change Lacasse's catheter. or, horrors, say the word "penis."  All great fodder for Hart.

Based on a true story and directed by Neil Burger with a screenplay by John Hartmere (based on the highly successful French film "Les Intouchables"),  Hart and Cranston are an enjoyable odd couple.

I was really mad at Kevin after seeing "Night School," but he has redeemed himself with this.  In this film he is still very funny (the catheter scene is good old Kevin), but he also gets to show his dramatic side.  And I warmed up to Cranston too. It's not easy playing a part when you are supposed to be paralyzed from the neck down and only have your facial expressions at your disposal as an actor, so I have renewed respect for him.  And then there is Nicole.  She seems to be everywhere these days and I like that because her presence in a film means it's going to be a good one. Let's just say she "classes up the joint." Whether the role is large or small, she brings a warmth and depth to everything she plays.

Rosy the Reviewer says...thank you, Movie Pass, for being so flaky or I never would have seen this wonderful film.

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


Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

A cast of misfits meet at the El Royale hotel in Lake Tahoe (think Cal Neva), each with secrets, that when revealed, cause havoc.

I had a lot of preconceptions this week because this movie was another one I thought would be bad, but once again I was wrong.

This film seems to be channeling a bit of Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" and the Coen Brothers' version of Stephen King's "Barton Fink."  It takes place in The El Royale, a hotel fashioned after the Cal Neva Lodge on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, so much so, that I thought it was actually filmed there, but it wasn't.  As here, the Cal Neva hotel was situated on the California/Nevada border and the border literally ran right through it.  You could be in California and jump across a line right in the hotel and be in Nevada which meant, what?  Right!  You could gamble! The hotel was also notorious for having all kinds of tunnels running underneath that supposedly Frank Sinatra used to smuggle women into the hotel. Old hotels are fertile ground for creepy stories and this hotel is no exception.

The film begins with a guy entering a room at the seedy El Royale, which actually looks more like a motel than a hotel, digging a hole in the floor, and burying a bag.  Before we know it, he is killed.

Now fast forward ten years to 1969. The hotel is still seedy but now we have  strangers, all with secrets, arrive at the hotel.

Enter vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), a priest, Daniel Flynn, (Jeff Bridges), singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) and not-sure-what-she-does, Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), but she has a great name, all overseen by the hotel's one employee, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman, Bill's son), who turns out to be a heroin addict.  But no one is as they seem. 

Turns out Sullivan is Dwight Broadbeck, an FBI agent sent by J. Edgar Hoover to retrieve illegal surveillance equipment that is supposedly in the rooms to film and blackmail guests; Emily has kidnapped her sister, Rose (Cailee Spaeny), from a murderous cult led by the handsome but nutty Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth); and Flynn is really a criminal named Donald O'Kelly who has come to retrieve that mysterious bag that was buried in one of the rooms ten years earlier.  It is full of money from a robbery of an armored car that O'Kelly's brother, Felix, buried and who was murdered in a double cross.  Sadly O'Kelly can't remember which room his brother buried the money in, mostly because he is also dealing with some dementia. As for Sweet, she doesn't have any real secrets.  She just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time...or as the film plays out, maybe the right place at the right time.

Sullivan finds a secret tunnel and discovers two-way mirrors installed in the rooms that enable anyone in the tunnel to spy into the rooms, and while trolling the tunnel, he sees into Emily's room where she has Rose tied up.  Suspecting a kidnapping, he reports it to his boss J. Edgar Hoover, who tells him not to interfere with the kidnapping but instead to sabotage everyone's cars so they can't leave. Sullivan also finds some incriminating film that could hurt the career of someone big and famous. Meanwhile, O'Kelly, thinking that the money is buried in Sweet's room, invites her to dinner and attempts to spike her drink but she sees him do that and gives him a punch, knocking him out.

And that's just the beginning.  Then, Billy Lee and his minions show up and all hell breaks loose.

Written and directed by Drew Goddard, the film started out as film noir and worked its way into horror, which is not surprising since Goddard also wrote and directed "The Cabin in the Woods," which I reviewed back in 2017 as part of "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project (because it's one of those 1001 you are supposed to see)." But this film is also a bit of an homage to all of the real life shenanigans that took place at the Cal Neva back in the day in the late 60's and early 70's, with the Vietnam and Nixon era, and Motown music all playing out in the background.  It's a very moody, atmospheric film where nothing is as it appears. And this is one of those films where you don't want to get attached to any of the characters because they just might not make it to the end, no matter how compelling their stories or how big a movie star they might be.

Speaking of the characters, what has happened to Jeff Bridges?  He has gotten old.  I don't mean he is actually that old but he seems to play all of his characters "old."  He does something with his mouth that makes him look like he has false teeth.  He does it here and he did that in "Hell or High Water" too. It's like he has stuff in his mouth like Brando did when he played Don Corleone. Very distracting. However, loved seeing Dakota Johnson playing something besides the victim of an s/m slimeball and Chris Hemsworth, is, well, Chris Hemsworth, just as swoon-worthy playing a bad guy as a romantic lead.  It's fun seeing him be bad. But I have to give it to Erivo, who when this film was made was a new, charismatic face in films (she shows up later in "Widows"). I liked her and cared about her character, something I didn't really feel for the others.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like film noir that harks back to those old black and white films, this is a wonderful modern version!

Operation Finale (2018)

Based on actual events, the journey that brought Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann to trial.

At the end of WW II, many Nazi officers were able to escape to Argentina and that's what one of the Holocaust's masterminds Adolf Eichmann did, setting up a life for himself there pretending to be Ricardo Clement (Ben Kingsley).  Through a series of events, suspicions arise that Ricardo is actually Adolf and this information is passed to West German prosecutor-general Fritz Bauer, who in turn relays this information to the Mossad and a field agent is sent to Argentina to investigate.  When the investigation shows that Clement is indeed Eichmann living in Argentina, we also see a group of unrepentant Nazis living happily there and continuing their antisemitism. Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and his team are sent to capture Eichmann and bring him to Israel to face trial for his war crimes.

We all know how this ended because the trial of Adolf Eichmann played out on the television screen in the 1960's.  As a young girl, I remember it well, but even though you know the ending, the film is a thriller as Malkin and his team struggle to find and arrest Eichmann and then figure out how to get him out of the country.  It wasn't just a matter of grabbing him and taking him to Israel.  Eichmann had rights in Argentina and the airline company would not transport him without Eichmann's consent to leave the country.  How will Malkin get him to do that?  Plus there is a time constraint and time is running out. Director Chris Weitz builds the tension slowly as the film plays out with an edge of your seat urgency that is compelling in the last 20 minutes.

Kingsley and Isaac get some big actor moments as Eichmann is held hostage by Malkin  while they wait to get him out of the country and the two interact. Isaac plays the hero really well and we know Kingsley can do just about anything and in this case he is especially good at unrepentant evil.

The screenplay written by Mathew Orton uses a series of flashbacks within the story to remind us of just how evil Eichmann was.  I couldn't help but think and be shocked by the fact that there are not only hateful people out there who still idolize Hitler but there are also those who disbelieve the Holocaust, so movies like this are important reminders to all of us that yes, there was a Holocaust and yes, there are people among us, our fellow humans who are capable of doing such shameful, heinous and shocking things to other humans, to an entire race of people.  So be aware.

Rosy the Reviewer important reminder of human evil with a feel-good ending when the evil doer gets what's coming to him.

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

109 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Man in Grey (1943)

This is one of those films where a young trusting girl is taken advantage of by a brute and we discover that her best friend isn't her best friend at all but someone who is plotting against her.

Lord Ronan (James Mason) is a brute (I know, I already said that but it bears repeating) who marries the young and beautiful, Clarissa (Phyllis Calvert), just so he can have a "brood mare" and it doesn't help that Clarissa's best friend, Hesther (Margaret Lockwood), is a scheming cow who wants to take her place, not as a brood mare but as Lady Ronan.

The film begins when Clarissa and Hesther are young women at boarding school. While Clarissa is the pretty rich girl with a heart of gold, Hesther is the girl who has to work to pay her way, who gets no respect and, of course, is resentful.  But despite the fact that Clarissa is rich, she is a sweet girl with a pure heart and tries to make friends with Hesther.  Poor Clarissa is also a bit of a dummy because despite the fact that Hesther is not very nice to her, she perceives that she and Hesther are besties.  The two girls have their fortunes read by a gypsy fortune teller who tells Clarissa that she will have good fortune but to "make no friends of women," not very PC but in this case the gypsy was right. When the fortune teller looks at Hesther's hand, well, she refuses to tell her fortune.  It must have been really bad.  Like I said, Clarissa is not the sharpest utensil and all of that must have gone right over Clarissa's head because she doesn't make the connection with Hesther.

Later, Hesther runs off from the school with a man and Clarissa moves to London where she is the toast of the town.  There she meets Lord Ronan who is a grumpy guy who doesn't really like women much but realizes he needs an heir so he asks Clarissa to marry him even though they have never dated.  Like I said, Clarissa isn't the sharpest pencil in the box and she marries him and produces an heir.  Later we discover that Hesther has become an actress and she and Clarissa reconnect, with poor Clarissa thinking the two are still besties.  But in fact, when Hesther sees that Clarissa is married to a rich man and a hot one at that, she plots to take Clarissa's place.  It doesn't hurt that Ronan, too, becomes obsessed with Hesther, despite the fact that, like I said, I don't think he really likes women. Meanwhile, though, Clarissa isn't entirely stupid.  She realizes her life isn't very good married to Ronan so embarks on an affair with the handsome Peter Rokeby (Stewart Granger), who is a bit of a rake. but our Clarissa is so good and sweet and pure, she manages to turn him into a good person.  Sigh.

For those of you too young to remember, James Mason was Norman Maine in the first remake of "A Star is Born," back in 1954.  In that film, he was a likable, though complex, character...well, if you have seen the film or the remakes, you know the character.  Mason had that gorgeous voice but in his earlier films he played much less likable characters and this film is no exception.  Think Mr. Darcy but with no redeeming qualities.  But despite Mason's presence in the film and his titular role, the film is really more about Hesther, the evil scheming woman who wants to take Clarissa's place and who is the ultimate "bad seed," her character a jealous, heartless precursor to later incarnations like Alison in "Single White Female," Ellen in "Leave her to Heaven," Tessa in "Unforgettable," Ivy in "Poison Ivy" or even the ultimate bad seed Rhoda in "The Bad Seed."

I guess I am showing my age but this movie, directed by Leslie Arliss, is the kind of movie I enjoy.  

My mother took me to see "Gone With the Wind" when I was five and I used to stay up late watching old black and white costume films with my Dad, so I have been a sucker for costume melodramas ever since.  I know some of them don't hold up well today and they can be a bit uncomfortable e.g. the gypsy fortune teller here was portrayed in a very stereotypical way, not very PC, and I swear to God there was a little kid playing a key role as a young servant and he was in blackface, not to mention the "N-word" being thrown around, though I guess that would have been something effete snobby rich folks might have said in England back then, but all the same, I get squirmy watching these old films sometimes, but at the same time, I do love these plot heavy melodramas.

Why it's a Must See: "English cinema is perhaps best known for realist drama, but an important second tradition is the costume melodrama of which [this film] is probably the finest example...the real star of the film is its art design. Regency period England is faithfully resurrected with its ornate interior decor and European furniture, and its elaborate and elegant dress for actors and actresses alike. The sumptuous look...provides a perfect contrast to its exploration of the dark underside of aristocratic life..."
---"1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer don't watch old movies like this for anything deep or for social consciousness.  You watch them for the story and the production values, especially when they are kind of over-the-top which this one is, so recommended if you can get past some of the jarring stereotypes.  However, not sure it really rates as one of the all-time 1001 movies we need to see before we die.  But if you enjoy these old costume dramas, this is a good example of the genre.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Miss Bala"


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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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.