Showing posts with label The Stones and Brian Jones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Stones and Brian Jones. Show all posts

Sunday, April 21, 2024

"Civil War" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Civil War" as well as "The Miracle Club," and the documentary "The Stones and Brian Jones." I also review a stellar local production of "Sweeney Todd"]

Civil War (2024)

It's the future, the United States is in a civil war and a team of journalists travel to Washington D.C. to try to get an interview with the President.

In this dystopian tale, the President of the United States (Nick Offerman) is an authoritarian, has given himself a third term, speaks in hyperbole, thinks journalists are the enemies of the state, has disbanded the FBI and is kind of stupid.  Sound familiar?

In a very unlikely scenario, California and Texas have banded together to secede from the United States and a civil war has erupted against the authoritarian U.S. government.  War photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her colleague, Joel (Wagner Moura), have decided they need to travel from New York City to Washington D.C. to interview the President before the city is taken over by insurgents.  But before they leave, Lee saves a young girl - Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) - from a suicide bombing attack. Jessie just happens to be an aspiring photojournalist and manages to beg a ride from Joel.  Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an older journalist and Lee's mentor, also tags along, wanting to get as far as Charlottesville where the Western Forces (Texas and California) are assembling.  Lee is not happy that young Jessie is tagging along.  Lee is kind of a sourpuss.

The four go on a kind of dystopian road trip as they make their way to D.C. from New York.  They have to take a meandering route by way of Pittsburgh and West Virginia because the freeways are closed. The movie reminded me a bit of "The Last of Us" as the foursome encounter harrowing incidents as they make their way to D.C. but it wasn't nearly as good as that dystopian series. Will they make it to D.C.?

You know what?  After about a half hour, I didn't care if they made it or not. Though I liked the fact that the movie focuses on what photojournalists go through to try to bring us the news and dramatic pictures, that's all I liked.  What I didn't like was everything else. 

Kirsten was a one-note sourpuss throughout.  I know, I know, she is supposed to be war weary after having seen it all but as I always say...I judge a film on whether or not it's an enjoyable filmic experience and watching her act was not.  And Cailee Spaney, who starred as Priscilla Presley in "Priscilla," is practically unrecognizable and not given much to do. She deserves better than this. 

This movie was so slow going that I was actually glad for the gotcha moments because they woke me up.  The dialogue was over-dramatic, the acting was wooden and the story itself didn't seem to have a point other than paying homage to photojournalists, though we don't really get to know them as people. But as for the civil war motif, here was a chance to make some much-needed political statements, but...nope. Clearly, writer/director Alex Garland made that choice, but choosing to say nothing made the story really confusing.  Who was fighting whom or what? And why?

The movie was also fanciful. I still can't get over pairing California and Texas together. That would never happen!  But it really got me when the insurgents finally made it to the White House. Decoy cars left the White House and the President WAS STILL IN THERE. Number One, if the White House was under attack, I don't think anyone would be leaving via limo. And the President certainly would not stay behind on his own, Secret Service not withstanding.  Did British writer/director Garland not know there is a tunnel from the White House for just such moments as these so that the President and all of his allies can escape?  Why in hell wouldn't the President have left the building?  Well, remember what I said earlier. The President is kind of stupid. And the movie is, too, at times. I guess our journalists needed a quote from the President.  

Garland is better known for sci-fi and horror ("28 Days Later," "Ex Machina," "Annihilation") and, yes, a dystopic America in a civil war is a horror story.  I just wish he had made that point better. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like dystopian dramas, save your money and watch "The Last of Us" instead. (in theatres)

The Miracle Club (2023)

In 1967, four women travel to Lourdes from Ireland in hopes of a miracle.

Chrissie (Laura Linney), a woman in her fifties, returns home to Ireland from Boston for her estranged mother’s funeral.  Chrissie was banished from her home for something that happened when she was a young woman that is eventually revealed.  But she wasn't just estranged from her mother. She was also estranged from her cousin, Eileen (Kathy Bates), and her mother's friend, Lily (Maggie Smith).

Before her death, Chrissie's mother had arranged a talent contest and the prize was two tickets to Lourdes. You know, it's that place in France where the Virgin Mary was spotted and has since became a religious pilgrimage site where miracles are supposed to happen.  Lily, Eileen and, especially the much younger Dolly (Agnes O'Casey), are desperate to go to Lourdes.  Eileen has a lump in her breast, Lily has problems with her legs and has never gotten over the death of her son, Declan, and Dolly has a son who either can't or refuses to speak and she hopes that he will be cured.  Despite the animosity towards her, Chrissie also tags along because it was her mother's dying wish that she go. So the women go off to Lourdes, leaving their useless husbands (Stephen Rea, Mark McKenna and Niall Buggy) home to fend for themselves, something they are not used to doing.  But just as the women find resolutions in Lourdes, so, too, do the husbands learn some things about themselves.

Written by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer and directed by Thaddeus O' Sullivan, this is one of those films where you know what is going to happen.  The miracle isn't so much Lourdes itself, but what the women learn about themselves and the repairing of friendships but it doesn't matter if you know the outcome because it's the journey.  These Oscar-winning veteran actresses are always a joy to watch and it's a journey I enjoyed. 

Rosy the Reviewer old-fashioned, feel-good movie where the miracle is those wonderful actresses. (Netflix)

The Stones and Brian Jones (2023)

A documentary about Brian Jones, one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones and an early member of the 27 Club.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  One could say that about the 1960's and Brian Jones. If you weren't there, you can't really understand the youthful excitement that was in the air, especially the excitement bands generated in those days. But there was also a dark side.

This documentary highlights Brian Jones, one of the original members of The Rolling Stones, who has been virtually forgotten since his early death in 1969, and yet, he gave the band its name, was the leader of and spokesperson for the group when it began and was quite possibly the most talented of the founding members.  He could play any instrument and devised many of the memorable riffs we associate with The Rolling Stones today. He was also the handsome one, with that long blonde hair. But sadly, his personal demons, his rivalry with Mick Jagger and his insecurities about Mick's and Keith Richards' songwriting partnership got the better of him and drugs and alcohol took over to the point that he was fired from the band. It had been Brian's band and there is a sense here, that Keith and Mick stole it from him.

Jones started out as a dutiful son, but when he started playing guitar, he rebelled and his strait-laced father kicked him out of the house. So Brian started a blues band in 1962 with Mick and Keith. His family never came to his concerts and considered him a failure, even after becoming rich and famous. It didn't help that Jones also fathered a child at 16, and at the time of his death, had fathered at least five children. 

Written by Nick Broomfield and Marc Hoeferlin and directed by Broomfield, this documentary is filled with never-before-seen footage, interviews with ex-girlfriends and others who knew Jones, and the music.  It pays homage to Jones, who deserves to be remembered, though his is a sad story of success getting the better of a young, talented man. Not surprisingly, Mick and Keith do not weigh in here, but original Stones bassist, Bill Wyman, does, and he was clearly a fan of Jones, and offers some interesting insight. The film ends poignantly with a letter from Brian's father that Brian had kept and that was found after Brian's death. His father expressed regrets about the way he had treated him.

Rosy the Reviewer's a sad story about the dark side of fame. It turned out to be the worst of times for Brian Jones in a time that some of us Baby Boomers remember as the best of times, especially because of the music. (Hulu and for rent on Prime and Apple+).

***Live Theatre***

"Sweeney Todd" at the Paper Wing Theater and Supper Club, Monterey, CA

A first-rate production of the renowned Stephen Sondheim musical.
I live in a small town but last night sitting in the audience of my small town at the Paper Wing Theatre watching their version of “Sweeney Todd,” I felt like I was sitting in a theatre on Broadway or in London’s West End. It is a wonderful production that does Stephen Sondheim proud!
I can’t believe I have never seen “Sweeney Todd,” especially since it opened on Broadway so long ago (1979). And I am a musical comedy gal. I mean, I starred in the musical version of “Irma La Douce (yes, I was Irma).”
Based on the 1970 play by Christopher Bond, book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the subtitle of the play is “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and it tells the story of Benjamin Barker who was unfairly sent to prison in Australia by Judge Turpin, an evil judge who lusted after Barker’s wife. Now Barker is back in London calling himself Sweeney Todd and seeking revenge, not just on Turpin but everyone else who did him wrong. He reopens his barber shop and teams up with pie maker, Mrs. Lovett, who is having difficulty finding meat for her pies. You can see where this is going.
I am a believer in supporting local theatre but if you think this is a run-of-the-mill community theatre production, you would be wrong. This is an exciting professional production with a wonderful acting and singing ensemble. L.J. Brewer is first-rate as Sweeney Todd as is Olorin Braun as Anthony Hope, the young sailor in love with the ingenue, Johanna, played by Sarah Gaudoin. Braun has a gorgeous voice and reminded me of a young Orlando Bloom. And then there is Kate Faber as Mrs. Lovett. She lights up the stage every time she comes on!
This musical is not an easy one to pull off. Almost all of the show is set to music, and it is pure Sondheim with intricate lyrics and singers meshing with one another. And it’s also a dark tale…but funny dark.
Rosy the Reviewer says…thank you to producer Koly McBride, director Justin Gaudoin, Musical Director Taylor Safina, the actors and singers and everyone else who helped bring this show to our community. It’s very special and not to be missed! (playing in Monterey Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday through April 28 but if you are not local, support local theatre near you)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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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)!