Showing posts with label Thrillers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thrillers. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

"Don't Worry, Darling" and The Month in Reviews

[I review the new (and kind of controversial movie) "Don't Worry, Darling (yes, I will share the gossip), as well as the horror film "Goodnight Mommy" and the supernatural thriller "The Empty Man."  The Book of the Month is "I'm Glad My Mom Died" by Jennette McCurdy]

It's been a horror of a month - well, at the movies, anyway! Sometimes you need a little movie horror to take you away from the horrors of real life!

Don't Worry Darling (2022)

A woman with a seemingly perfect life discovers that all is not what it seems.

Okay so let's get this stuff out of the way first.

There are all kinds of burning questions surrounding the making of this movie.  Did Shia LeBeouf quit or was he fired from this film?  Did Florence Pugh and director Olivia Wilde not get along?  Did Harry Styles spit on Chris Pine?  And can Harry Styles act?

You might think, who cares?  But there is possibly something at work here that smacks of sexism in undermining a film in this way before it has even been released. According to Olivia Wilde, this is the kind of backlash a woman gets when a woman tries to step into a traditional man's role, here, as a director. And I agree that some of that might be happening here.  For one thing, you can count on one hand the number of successful female directors in Hollywood, and I don't think a male director would be getting the kind of negative outside-the-movie press that Wilde is getting.  Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for abusing his actresses, especially Tippi Hedren in "The Birds." He had a penchant for blondes and when she rebuffed him, Hitchcock used real birds rather than mechanized birds in that famous scene in "The Birds," where birds cover Tippi's head and attack her. Likewise, directors Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick and Werner Herzog, were notoriously difficult, but we never heard about their controversies at the time. But here we have a female director who is accused of things not even remotely like what those other male directors did and it's big news. 

Rant over. I rest my case.

Anyway, let's get to the important thing.  The movie.  

And I have to say that after seeing it, I have all kinds of other burning questions, the main one being...if men had the opportunity to design the perfect world, would it consist of mid-century homes with sunken living rooms, green bathtubs and stay-at-home wives who have dinner on the table every night when they got home and a desire for sex on said table? Duh.

Florence Pugh plays Alice, who is just such a wife.  She is married to Jack (Styles) and they live in the perfect 1950's desert community of Victory. Every morning, along with the other wives in the neighborhood, Alice stands out in front of her house and dutifully waves her husband goodbye as he and his fellow husbands head off to work in their cool vintage cars, out into the desert at the Victory Project, a top secret government project.  While they are gone, the women clean their homes, hang out the wash, take ballet lessons, shop and gossip. In the evening, they all party together.  All the women have to do is stay in their little town and never go out into the desert or show up at their husbands' work. Sounds pretty ideal for the husbands, right?

But then Alice starts to experience bits and pieces of strange memories.  Her friend, Margaret (KiKi Lane), appears to be having a breakdown, calls her and tells her that things are not what they seem and then commits suicide. While out riding in the town trolley, Alice sees a plane crash and goes out into the desert to investigate and finds a mysterious build. Then she wakes up in her bedroom with no recollection on how she got back home. When Alice tries to talk to her friend, Bunny (Wilde also stars), about her fears, Bunny tells her to keep quiet. And then Frank (Pine), the town founder, gives her a warning.  Something is not right and Alice soon discovers the secrets behind not only the Victory Project but her own life and it's not good.

As I said, after seeing this movie I have some burning questions of my own but sadly, I can't really get into them without spoiling the twist but let me just say when the twist came I thought, "What the hell?" I might have even said it out loud. And I laughed.  I don't think I was supposed to laugh.

With a screenplay by Katie Silberman who also wrote "Booksmart," Wilde's first directorial feature, this film is very much in the "Rosemary's Baby" and "Stepford Wives" thriller genre - a seemingly happy woman discovers that her life is not what it seemed and starts questioning her sanity but there are some huge stretches here. However, this story is not as smart as "Booksmart." There are holes in this story as big as the Grand Canyon, some bad directorial choices and more questions than answers, except I can answer this one.  Can Harry Styles act?  Surprisingly, yes.

And speaking of the acting, Florence Pugh can always be counted on to give a great performance and Wilde is also good in a smaller role. Pine can also be counted on to be very, very handsome. Just kidding. He was also good, though his role was not very complex. The whole ensemble is fine and the set design beautiful.  But the soundtrack was very annoying at times, the visuals used to show that Alice was losing it were distracting and monotonous, and I just wish the twist had made more sense.

Freud supposedly asked "What does a woman want?"  Disturbingly, this film appears to ask and then answer the question "What does a man want?"  And it's scary. Perhaps, the theme of this film is why Wilde was getting such a backlash. I liked the idea of this film, I just wish it had been better.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish film that will take you on a journey, but sadly it's a journey with a lot of potholes. I like movies that make me think but I don't like to have to wrack my brain to understand what I just saw. Though I liked some things about this film, I can't really recommend it. (In theatres)


Goodnight Mommy (2022)

Twin brothers return home to live with their estranged mother and begin to wonder if she is really their mother.

Twin Elias (Cameron Crovetti) and Lukas (Nicolas Crovetti) move back in with their mother (Naomi Watts), a former actress, after staying with their father since their divorce. When they see her again, her face is fully bandaged as if she were wearing a ski mask.  She tells them she has just had plastic surgery.

The boys quickly sense something different about their Mother.  She has told them they can't go into her room or into the barn and she is drinking and smoking, something they don't remember her doing.  When asked to sing them the lullaby she always sang to them, she doesn't seem to remember it and she hardly acknowledges Lukas at all. Lukas also tells Elias that their mother had green eyes.  This woman has blue eyes. They both start questioning whether this is really their mother.

After Elias tells her she is not their mother, she slaps him.  Things are getting out of hand so the boys run away but are soon returned by two State Police troopers.  When they get back home, their mother has removed her bandages but the boys still don't believe she is their mother.

The next morning, Mother awakes to find herself tied to her bed with duct tape and demands to be freed.  She says she is their mother and when they ask why her eyes have changed color she explains that she wore green contact lenses as an actress and they are downstairs in her purse.  Lukas tells Elias he searched the purse and she is lying. So they leave their mother tied to the bed and run away again.  But Elias says he needs to go back to get his toothbrush and when he does he looks in his mother's purse and finds the contacts.

What is going on here?  Is she their mother or isn't she?

Things go from bad to worse but all is revealed in this scary and moody remake of an Austrian film. I am not a fan of remakes of perfectly good foreign films, but since I did not see the original, I guess I can't complain too much. As for the concept, is there anything scarier than children in jeopardy or Naomi Watts in a white ski mask?  But she is fine in this role. And speaking of children, I usually don't like child actors, especially the very precocious smart alecky ones, but these two boys are very good little actors, very believable and poignant.  

And speaking of believable, the film, directed by Matt Sobel with a screenplay by Sobel and Kyle Warren was compelling, and I bought everything right up until the very end, but then I had yet another "What the hell?" moment. But it was enjoyable getting there.

Rosy the Reviewer says...motherhood can be a horror story! (Amazon Prime)

The Empty Man (2022)

While investigating a missing person, ex-cop James Lasombra stumbles upon a sinister cult that is trying to conjure a supernatural entity.

The film begins in Bhutan in 1995.  

Day 1 - Four friends - Greg (Evan Jonigkeit), Fiona (Jessica Matten), Ruthie (Virginia Kull) and Paul (Aaron Poole) - are hiking on a mountain when Paul hears a strange sound.  When he goes to investigate, he falls down a crevice.  Greg gets down there to investigate and finds Paul in a catatonic state, staring at a skeleton hanging from the wall of the cave.  The group gets Paul out of there and Greg carries him to an empty house.  

Day 2 - some strange start happening. 

Day 3 - some really, really bad things happen.

Fast forward to 2018.  

Ex-cop James Lasombra (James Badge Dale) is grieving the death of his wife and son.  When Nora (Marin Ireland), his neighbor, tells him her daughter, Amanda (Sasha Frolova), has run away and left a message written in blood that says "The Empty Man made me do it," James begins an investigation and discovers that Amanda and her friends were into a local legend, summoning The Empty Man. To summon him, you find an empty bottle on a bridge and blow into it and think of The Empty Man. The first night you hear him, the second night you see him and the third night, he finds you. Oooh, scary.

So James goes to the local bridge, finds a bottle, ("Don't blow into it!)m he blows into it and when he goes underneath the bridge, he finds Amanda's friends dead, hanging from the bridge.

James had also found a brochure for the Pontifex Institute in Amanda's room.  When he researches it, he discovers it is a cult originating in Bhutan.  He goes to the institute and hears a talk by the leader who refers to The Empty Man and says he is an entity that gives his followers what they want as long as they do what he wants.

Remember that James blew into the bottle on the bridge?

Day 1 - James starts to hear what he thinks is The Empty Man. 

Day 2 - James starts to see what he thinks is The Empty Man.

Day 3 - Gulp.

This did not need to be two hours and 17 minutes, but I have to say it moved along and the 22 minute cold opening is literally a killer.  Starring mostly unknown actors, all very believable, the movie, written and directed by David Prior and based on the Boom! Studios graphic novel by Cullen Bunn, is clearly capitalizing on the Slenderman legend and the notorious murder of a young girl by his young followers but this film did not initially do well at the box office. However, it has since taken on its own cult status, and I have to say, it's compelling, even if at times there are some gaps in the plot. I almost said "What the hell?"

Rosy the Reviewer eerie thriller and a cautionary tale.  Do you know what your teens are up to right now?  If you like strange and moody supernatural films, you will like this. (HBO Max and on VOD and on DVD)

***The Book of the Month***

"I'm Glad My Mom Died" by Jennette McCurdy (2022)

Actress Jennette McCurdy shares her story of growing up a TV child star.

You might not think that this fits into the horror theme this month, but child abuse is definitely horror and McCurdy experienced an exquisitely strange and sad bit of horror growing up.  Her mother desperately wanted her daughter to be a child actor and would go to extreme lengths to make it happen.  Jennette didn't really want to do that but wanted to please her mother, so went along with it. 

Ex-child actor McCurdy shares the story of her growing up years in Hollywood with an overbearing mother who worked to achieve stardom for her young daughter, and, wanting to please her mother, McCurdy endured endless auditions, eyelash tinting, daily weigh-ins, guilt trips and breast and vaginal exams from her mother until she was 17. Her mother made “Mommy Dearest” look like Mother of the Year. Though McCurdy achieved success (Nickelodeon’s “ICarly” and the spin-off “Sam and Cat” with Ariana Grande), it was not without a price. There was bulimia, addiction, and bad relationships. “Fame… I wanted [my mother] to be happy.  But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not.  Her happiness came at the cost of mine.  I feel robbed and exploited.” So no wonder she is glad her mother died because then she was free.

But McCurdy eventually sought help and found herself.  Though this is a grim tale of a lost childhood, a real life horror story, it's not unlike stories of other child actors. But McCurdy is a good writer and her compelling story is not without humor, though as one can tell from the title, the dark kind.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like candid celebrity memoirs and stories about overcoming the odds, this is for you. 

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

What I Watched (and Liked) While on My 2021 Summer Stay-cation: Part 2 - Some Good Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review "Summer of Soul," "Georgetown," "The Last Letter From Your Lover," "Honest Thief," and "Supernova."]

"Summer of Soul...or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised"

A documentary of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that celebrated African-American music and culture and black pride.

The what?

Who knew that, musically, 1969 wasn't just the year of Woodstock but the year of the Harlem Cultural Festival that also drew hundreds of thousands. Except Woodstock became famous with all kinds of coverage and a feature film and the footage from the "Black Woodstock" languished in a basement for 50 years...until now. Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) has rescued it and makes his directorial debut with this feature film streaming on Hulu.

After the losses of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and police violence, The Harlem Cultural Festival was a chance to heal and celebrate black music and culture by bringing together some of the most famous black artists to perform in Mount Morris Park. Black Panthers were hired to provide security so that there wasn't a huge police presence.

Forty hours of footage was shot by producer Hal Tulchin but unlike Woodstock, nobody wanted to turn it into a film or show it on TV, so the footage sat dormant in a basement for decades until rescued and made into this wonderful and inspirational film. And after seeing it, one has to wonder why this got no coverage at the time or since. Mmmm, one does.

See a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder come into his own: Sly and the Family Stone kicking the usual proverbial ass; along with Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Fifth Dimension, Hugh Masekela, the stars of gospel and more. A particular moving and controversial segment shows Nina Simone reading a poem by David Nelson that is clearly not flattering to white folks.

She asks the crowd:

“Are you ready, black people? Are you ready to do what is necessary? Are you ready to smash white things, to burn buildings, are you ready? Are you ready to build black things? Black people, are you ready?"

Fred Hampton was killed later that year, and still today, continuing police brutality and deaths of young black men...At the end of the film, I cried, because so little has changed.

But thankfully, the music hasn't changed and is a positive that endures...and this film is a musical extravaganza!

Rosy the Reviewer missed it in 1969 but now you get to be there!

(Now streaming on Hulu)


An ambitious social climber marries a much older but well-connected woman in order to be somebody.

What is it with old ladies who think a handsome, much younger man wants anything to do with them except money?  Don't they know that once they hit 50 they are invisible?  I know, I'm being cynical, but if you have ever seen some of those TV shows about older women being catfished by young men on the Internet, you would be cynical too.

So anyway, that's what this is about and, of course, it's based on a true story, an article "The Worst Marriage in Georgetown."  It's a pretty bad marriage - well, the worst, really - when the husband kills his wife, right?

Ulrich Mott (Christoph Waltz) has arrived in Washington, D.C. from...not sure where.  He has a very mysterious past but so far he has landed a job as an unpaid intern, though at the age of 50, an intern is not how Ulrich sees himself.  The congressman he works for also doesn't see it so he lets him go ("Not a good fit"), but that doesn't stop Ulrich from getting himself invites to "in" parties and attaching himself to the rich and powerful D.C. society.  And it's at just such a party that Ulrich meets Elsa Breht (Vanessa Redgrave), a rich and famous journalist who knows everybody. When they first meet, Elsa is married but Ulrich so charms her, that when her husband dies, they connect again and ultimately get married, he 50 something, she 40 years older.

When the film begins, Ulrich is hosting a dinner party and Elsa's daughter, Amanda (Annette Bening) shows up.  It is clear that Amanda dislikes Ulrich but her mother dismisses her.  After the dinner, Elsa also dismisses Ulrich telling him not to smoke in the house so he goes out for a walk to have a smoke.  When he gets back home, 91-year-old Elsa is dead.  As Keith Morrison says on "Dateline," "Could it be murrrr-der?"

Well, duh.

So in flashback we see how Elsa and Ulrich meet, how he courts her and how she helps open doors for him in D.C. society. She enjoys helping him make a name for himself in D.C.  However, realizing her mother is being woo'd by a gigolo, Amanda tries to intervene but Elsa is one of those old ladies I mentioned earlier.  She thinks she still has it.  She doesn't.  Ah, vanity. But Elsa eventually catches Ulrich in his lies. Turns out our Ulrich not only doesn't like old ladies, he doesn't like girls! 

But for a time, he manages to cast himself as a player, starting The Eminent Persons Group (I mean, who doesn't want to be an "eminent person?) and parlaying his life into that of a kind of diplomat, getting credit for a peace-making mission when in fact he just took credit for what others did.  Ulrich had a knack for being at the right place at the right time and playing whatever cards he could get. Georgetown is a metaphor for social climbing and hanging out in the corridors of power and that is what Ulrich was all about.  He was a genius at sucking up and giving the rich and powerful what they wanted and needed to hear.  

Written by David Auburn (based on Franklin Foer's aforementioned New York Times article) and directed by Waltz, the film captures the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes in our Capitol, the jockeying for position, the posing, the posers.  It's great to see Waltz, Vanessa Redgrave (who at 84 still looks great, by the way) and Annette Benning chewing that proverbial scenery. I just wish there had been a bit more background on Ulrich. What was his life like before he came to Washington?  What motivated him? Who was he really?

Rosy the Reviewer says...but all-in-all, a satisfying, old-style melodrama brought to life by wonderful performances.

(On DVD and for rent at Amazon Prime)

The Letter from Your Lover

Two parallel love stories 56 years apart.

Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is a journalist who has broken up with her long-time boyfriend. She is tasked to write an article about the recently-deceased editor of her newspaper and while searching the newspaper archives runs across a love letter to someone identified as "J" from "Boot." Intrigued, Ellie is determined to learn who "J" and "Boot" were and what happened to them.

So begins this romantic film starring Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley.

Flashback to the 1960's, we learn that "J" is married socialite Jennifer Stirling (Woodley) who meets foreign correspondent Anthony O'Hare (Callum Turner) who has arrived on the French Riviera to interview her husband, Laurence (Joe Alwyn). Laurence is called away and Jennifer and Anthony end up spending the summer together. They write little letters to each other signing them "J" and "Boot" but it's all platonic until Jennifer tries to kiss Anthony. He pulls away and rejected, she returns to London. But Anthony contacts her, asking to meet, and thus begins a clandestine love affair and the two decide to run off together. But wouldn't you know, as Jennifer rushes to meet Anthony at the train station she gets in a car crash resulting in amnesia. Yes, it's one of those where the lovers almost get away but one of them doesn't quite make it. I think that storyline started with "An Affair to Remember."

In the meantime, Laurence has found the last letter Anthony wrote Jennifer, the one where he asks her to meet him and he hides the letter. Jennifer desperately tries to regain her memory and finds several letter from "Boot" hidden around the house which in turn leads her to a post office box that Laurence has closed. When Jennifer confronts Laurence, he reveals that he knew about Anthony but that Anthony has died. And that's that. Or is it?

In the present day, Ellie has a sort of relationship with Rory, the newspaper archivist, as they get to know each other while looking for more love letters but she is down on romance because of her recent break-up.

So...will Jennifer and Anthony ever see each other again?  Will Ellie and Rory hook up?

Again, duh.

This is one of those big production, old-fashioned, romantic feature film soap operas that we came to expect from producter Ross Hunter and director Douglas Sirk during the 50's and 60's. Great sets, lavish costumes, exotic locales. Think Lana Turner in "Imitation of Life" or "Portrait in Black." It's all here: lovers thwarted, amnesia, love letters, the lovers trying to reunite but just missing each other - you know, one walks into an elevator while the other walks out, making you go "Noooo!" 

Yes, well-known potboiler tropes but I loved those movies so I loved this film too.  

I have to say that I was rather put off at first by the casting of Shailene Woodley for this, because I think of her as more of a teen action character, not a sophisticated London socialite. She is certainly no Lana Turner.  But she grew on me.  And I always like Felicity Jones. Her charm is her fidgety sweetness.

Written by Nick Payne and Esta Spalding, based on the book by JoJo Moyes and directed by Augustine Frizzell, the film beautifully recreates the mid-60's where we were still wearing hats and gloves.  A side note: Everyone thinks the 60's was all about hippies but that's not true.  I graduated from high school in 1966 and we were still dressing up with hats and gloves to go to church.

Yours truly with her mother, circa 1966.  

It wasn't until the end of the 60's and the early 70's that the hippie ethos really kicked in. 

Yours truly with a friend circa 1971.  I rest my case!

Rosy the Reviewer says.. it doesn't matter that this is predictable and that you know how it will end.  It's an old-fashioned romance and we need a satisfying ending, preferably with some tears attached - mine - and that's what I got. I enjoyed it and if you like romantic dramas, you will too.

(Now streaming on Netflix)


Honest Thief

A bank robber (Liam Neeson) falls in love and tries to go straight -- but it ain't workin' out.

I can't resist Liam Neeson movies. His ability to remain stoic in the face of adversity is a thing to behold. I mean who can forget these lines from the first "Taken" movie:

"...what I do have are a very particular set of skills...skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it...But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

Liam has made an entire career out of movies and lines like that, and this one is no exception, though I hate to say it's not as good. But if you like to see Liam work his way out of a sticky situation in his usual deadpan way, you will enjoy this.

Liam plays Tom Dolan AKA "The In-and-Out-Bandit," so-called because he has been robbing banks for six years. He gets in, he gets out. But now he is in love with Annie (Kate Walsh) and wants to get his past behind him. He wants to turn himself in, do his time and then get on with this life. But not as easy as it sounds. He calls the FBI to make a deal. He will turn himself in and hand over the money for a minimum sentence. However, here's the problem. THEY DON'T BELIEVE HIM! They have heard too many false confessions before. But when two of the cops finally decide to check his story out, they find the money and decide to keep it! So now poor Liam has to STEAL THE MONEY BACK!

Okay, I know. Implausible? Yes. But entertaining. Yes! It's Liam bloody Neeson. He always delivers.

So we have bent cops, car chases and over-the-top dialogue.

"I will never see you again."

"I promise you will."

"Because I am Liam bloody Neeson!"

I made that last line up but you get the drift.

Written by Steve Allrich and Mark Williams and directed by Williams, it's all very B-movie with lots of "Huh?" moments, e.g. I couldn't figure out how a guy could be stabbed in the scrotum with a pair of scissors and just keep going. But, you know, if you can suspend disbelief and all of that, this is fun.

Rosy the Reviewer's kind of a cartoon but, hey, we love cartoons, right? And it's Liam Bloody Neeson!

(Available on Amazon Prime)


Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play a married couple dealing with dementia.

Sam and Tusker are a married couple who have been together for years, but two years before, Tusker was diagnosed with dementia and now he is declining quickly. The two decide to go on a road trip, one last one, to say goodbye to friends and family but more importantly to spend time together.  Just like a supernova - a star running out of fuel and exploding - so is Tusker's life.

So Sam and Tusker rent an RV and head out to travel around England's Lake District to see friends and family but when Sam discovers that Tusker has a suicide drug, that changes everything.

Written and directed by Harry Macqueen, this is a tender, quiet film that explores how dementia affects not just the person dealing with it, but that person's loved ones as well.

There is a quote highlighted in the film: 

"We will not starve from lack of wonders, but lack of wonder."

 And this film does not lack wonder. Tucci and Firth are wonderful in this, creating a completely believable, loving relationship between these two characters, often without saying a word.  This is probably their best work to date.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you enjoy seeing two consummate actors at the top of their games at work, then this is for you.

(On DVD and available to rent on Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple+ and Vudu)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at 

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)!