Showing posts with label Toni Tennille. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toni Tennille. Show all posts

Friday, May 13, 2016

"Keanu" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new comedy "Keanu" as well as DVDs "The 5th Wave" and "Jane Got a Gun."  The Book of the Week is Toni Tennille's memoir - (remember The Captain and Tennille?)  And I bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Force of Evil."]


Cousins Rell (Jordan Peele) and Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) pose as drug dealers to get Rell's stolen kitty, Keanu, back.

FINALLY a comedy that is actually funny.  And it doesn't hurt that it stars the most adorable kitten in the world.

The plot is not that original, it's a buddy fish-out-of-water mistaken identity  kind of thing, but the characterizations by and chemistry between Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key make this film a success and very, very funny.

Peele and Key first made their comic marks on Mad TV back in the 90's where they created some hilarious recurring characters (who can forget Key's "Coach Hines" or Peele's Noodles, the abusive Krump dancer?) Their recent critically acclaimed sketch show - "Key and Peele" - played on Comedy Central, and this is their first film together. I am anxious to see what they will do next.

Key plays Clarence, a nerdy straight-as-an arrow middle class guy who is married, works for companies as a team builder and loves George Michael, which according to this film decidedly puts him in the square category. He is so straight and driven, in fact, that his wife wishes he would be a bit edgier and his cousin Rell says he sounds like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white person. Peele plays Rell, Clarence's cousin, a sort-of-loser who is in a terrible funk because his girlfriend has broken up with him.  He has been lying around his messy apartment smoking weed and has given up on life. 

In the meantime, a gang of two, the Allentown Boys, have gone in and shot up a church where a drug deal was going down.  These guys are real bad asses that no one would want to mess with.  In fact, they are so bad they actually look and act like zombies. But right before they kill one of the drug dealers, they find his kitten and are struck by how cute it is. However, while they are busy with the business of killing, the kitten escapes and gets the hell out of Dodge only to show up on Rell's doorstep.

Now this kitten must have magical powers because everyone who encounters him turns into, well, a pussy cat.  When the kitten scratches on Rell's door, Rell gets off the couch where he has lain for days, instantly falls in love with the kitten and his life is transformed.  He now has something to live for -- the little kitten who he names Keanu. He starts up his photography business again and takes cute pictures of Keanu dressed up as characters from "The Shining," Freddy Krueger in "Nightmare on Elm Street," etc.

All is good until one day Rell and Clarence return to Rell's house to find it has been ransacked and, god no, Keanu IS GONE!!!

Who would want to ransack Rell's house looking for  --- what?  Drugs?

Rell gets an idea.  His drug dealer, Hulka (played by Will Forte, his presence in the film an interesting mash-up of Mad TV and SNL, both of which were in competition for late night TV on Saturday nights in the 90's) lives across from him.  Rell demands to know who might have done this?  Hulka fingers the gang leader, Cheddar.  They think that perhaps Cheddar went to the wrong apartment.

Cheddar (Method Man).  Clarence thinks the name is funny and anyone with that name would be a pushover.  Right, says, Rell.  His experience has been that anyone with a "cute" name like "Pink Fluffy Bunny Head" would be the person most likely to knife you in the stomach.

Cheddar is the leader of a gang called The 17th Street Blips (these are folks who weren't good enough to be members of the Crips or Bloods) and turns out Rell was right and the bad guys did turn over the wrong house.  Hulka tells the guys where they might find Cheddar and his gang ("Where do we find them?" "Uh, 17th Street?"), and they go to the strip club where Cheddar hangs out.  When Rell and Clarence first arrive at the strip club as themselves, they stand out from the gang members who have tattoos all over their faces not to mention how they both talk.  Clarence talks like a guy with a stick up his butt and is wearing khaki, for god's sake.

So they need to get their "gangsta" on quick and with the liberal use of the "n word (which I guess is what you have to talk like if you are in a gang)" and scaling their voices down about two octaves they think they can pull it off. They talk their way in to see Cheddar and sure enough  there is Keanu, renamed New Jack and wearing a do-rag and a gold chain.  Rell realizes this isn't going to be easy and he has some competition because now Cheddar is entranced with Keanu too. But Rell will do anything to get Keanu back.

When Cheddar asks if Clarence and Rell if they are the Allentown Boys, wanting some street cred but not really knowing what they are saying, they say "Sure." Not good. They have no idea who the Allentown Boys are. Cheddar has a deal for them.  Go sell some of this new crack he has just manufactured called "Holy Sh*t" and they can have Keanu.  Cheddar assigns four of his drug dealers to him as well as a bad ass girl named "Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish)."  Clarence can't help himself and uses his team building skills asking everyone to introduce themselves and say two things about their lives in a very funny scene where each drug dealer gives his gang name and "shares" who they have killed and how many. 

So they head to actress Anna Faris's house - yes, the real Anna Faris playing herself and you will be shocked at what transpires. Rell and Hi-C go in to get the deal down while Clarence and the other drug dealers wait in Clarence's mini-van.  Of course he drives a mini-van. 

One of the funniest scenes in the film has to do with the ongoing theme of Clarence's obsession with George Michael.  According to this film, George Michael epitomizes "white" music so when Clarence is waiting in the minivan with the four hardcore drug dealers and they want to hear some music, they play his phone and on comes George Michael singing "Faith."  Clarence using his team building skills convinces them that Michael is not only cool, he's black and before we know it they are all singing along to Michael's album, "Father Figure" becoming a favorite.

While all of this is going on the Allentown Boys are looking for Keanu too.

There are two big twists, neither of which I saw coming (I must be losing my twist mojo).  One becomes clear during the film but stay for the credits for the second one.

Key and Peele are, dare I say?  A-peeling?  Ok, Ok, but they are.  And that goes a long way in this very funny film that skewers African-American stereotypes and gang culture.

Written by Peele and Alex Rubens and directed by Peter Atencio, this is the funniest film I have seen since "Spy."

It's edgy and I have a feeling there won't be that many 60-year-olds in the audience for this one, but if you can get over your squeamishness about violence, language and sex talk, you will discover this one is a lot funnier and more fun than the egregious "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" and the silly "Mother's Day."

Rosy the Reviewer says...remember what I have always said about how I judge a comedy?  Right.  I laughed.  And so will you.


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

Now Out on DVD

The 5th Wave (2016)

Yet another "Aliens take over the earth" film.

The film begins in a post-apocalyptic world and we hear the voice-over of young Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) setting up a flashback by saying "I miss the Cassie I was."  Flashback to before the apocalypse.

We see Cassie as a typical teenager, partying hard and being a good sister to her little brother and experiencing the usual teenage angst.  She even says, "When you are in high school everything feels like the end of the world."

Yikes.  Little does she know.

Suddenly strange things start happening.  Cars and airplanes start crashing and the people of earth begin to realize that an alien invasion is occurring.  First a large space ship hovers over earth creating an electromagnetic pulse killing all of the power so there is no water, no electricity.  Everyone has to start camping out but, hey, we are resilient folks.  They all set up camps and seem to be getting along fine, but they know they are under attack from aliens that the humans dub "The Others."

But that was just The First Wave.

Next comes The Second Wave - earthquakes and tidal waves, even in Ohio!

And if that didn't kill everyone, then unleash The Third Wave! - Avian flu.

Next the Army shows up led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) and forces all of the kids to become soldiers to fight the alien invasion.  It seems that these aliens saw the movie "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" because the aliens are taking over the humans' bodies so you can't tell who is human and who is an alien. That is The Fourth Wave.  

But the Army has figured out a way to tell which folks are aliens and which are human by implanting a device in the kid soldiers that with night vision goggles they can see the alien inside and stave off The 5th Wave, which is full on annihilation of all humans by..well, you've probably figured that out by now.

So once all of this is established, Cassie is separated from her younger brother, Sam (Zachary Arthur), and spends the second half of the movie trying to find him.

There is ample opportunity for romance as Cassie meets Evan Walker (Alex Roe, a hunky young man, if I might say so, and a bit of beefcake when he does a gratuitous scene in the water with his shirt off), but Ben (Nick Robinson), her high school boyfriend who has also somehow managed to survive the first four waves, is also hovering in a sort of "Twilight -ish" "two guys in love with one girl" storyline.

In addition to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," there is a bit of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" thrown in, all very YA with a teenage girl heroine and adults who are either ineffectual or the bad guys and only the kids can save the day.  Like those other YA dystopian films, this one seems ripe for a sequel, though with the last "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" installments not performing as well as hoped, perhaps we won't have to endure "The 6th Wave."

Directed by J Blakeson and based on yet another YA novel (Rick Yancey), the film is quite exciting at the outset but drags in the middle and the twist is easy to spot early on.

There is nothing like the occasional disaster film.  Even if it's bad, it can be a fun experience.  I mean, who doesn't want to experience disaster without having to actually experience it?  Isn't that what the media is all about?  Oh, isn't that terrible what's happening in that country over there.  Give me all of the details.  Glad it's them, not me.  Disaster films are a sort of schadenfreude thing that we humans can't resist.

However, the film was a bit of a letdown.  I thought it was going to be about a tsunami that shows up five times.  I wish it had been.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like alien invasion films, this is a servicable one with attractive young people.

Jane Got a Gun (2016)

A gang is headed to Jane's ranch to kill her husband so she enlists an ex-lover who just happens to live nearby to help.

It's New Mexico, 1871 and Jane (Natalie Portman) is happily playing with her young daughter when her husband, Bill (Noah Emmerich) arrives home wounded.  Jane tends to his wounds and he reveals that the Bishop Boys are looking for him and want to kill him.  Turns out that Bill used to be a member of the Bishop Boys Gang, led by John Bishop played by an almost unrecognizable Ewan McGregor who I quite like with black hair.  I also don't think I have ever  heard him speak "American."  He usually lulls us with that lovely Scottish burr.

So what the hell happened?  Why is this gang after Jane and her husband?

Through a series of flashbacks we learn that back in Missouri, Jane was in love with Dan (Joel Edgerton), but when he went to war she thought he had died.  In the meantime she had his daughter, so thinking she is all alone with her daughter, she decides to hitch a ride with a wagon train headed West run by John Bishop, not realizing that he does not have her best interest at heart.  In fact, he plans to turn Jane into a prostitute and get rid of her young daughter.  But John Hammond took a shine to Jane and rather than let that fate befall her, he helps her escape the gang, but to do that he had to kill a few of them, thus making him Enemy #1 to The Bishop Boys.

So that's the set-up and now Jane is married to Bill and they have their own daughter.  But Bill's wounds have left him immobile which is not good with the Bishop Gang breathing down their necks, so Jane decides she needs to get help.  She drops her daughter off at a neighboring ranch and heads to Dan's place. 

Now this is where they lost me a bit because it's quite coincidental that Dan not only survived the war but lives close by, well, close enough that Jane can get there in what appears to be less than a day's horse ride.  That little detail was never satisfactorily explained. But it's a small thing to get Dan into the mix and I am glad they did, because Joel Edgerton is a wonderful actor.  He is a complete chameleon and seems to be able to play any part.  I first saw him in "The Gift" and later in "Black Mass" and both roles couldn't have been more different.  And now here he is as a macho love interest, again miles away from his characters in the first two plus he's an Aussie, like Ewan, speaking "American."  He is just a wonderful actor and McGregor and Portman are also first rate as always. 

Anyway, Dan is not surprisingly upset with Jane that she didn't wait for him but reluctantly decides to help her. She also never told him they had a daughter together. They both ride back to the ranch and plan how they will defend it.  Bill is not particularly pleased with this threesome, both men in love with Jane, but there is a wary alliance as they wait for the inevitable arrival of the bad guys. 

Let the bloodbath begin.

Oh, and did I say there was a big twist?  Well, there was and believe it or not, despite the fact that I am almost undefeated when it comes to spotting twists way before they happen, I DID NOT SEE THIS ONE COMING.  So that makes TWO films in one week where I missed the twist.  But not seeing the twist coming makes a good film.

The two guys-one girl in the wake of possible disaster reminded me of the little seen but enjoyable "Z for Zachariah."  Like that film, this one was not in the theatres very long but deserves a viewing.  It's a wonderful film with the most gorgeous cinematography I have seen in a long time. 

My only criticism is the unfortunate title.  It reminds me of an Aerosmith song ("Janie Got a Gun") and gives the film a youthful pop culture feel.  I think that might have been the point to draw an audience but I feel it trivializes the film, making it seem to be something it's not.  Maybe that's why no one went to see it.

Like I said when I reviewed "The Hateful Eight," I don't usually like westerns.  I think that's because I got my fill of them growing up in the 1950's and 60's where westerns were a staple on TV - "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun - Will Travel," "Bonanza."  Since my Dad always wanted to be a cowboy he was in heaven watching those shows.  And since those were the days when families had only one TV, if they had one at all, if I wanted to watch TV, it was usually a western.  I think it's mostly a bias based on not liking movies where the men are the heroes but actually I have discovered that if it's a good story and there are some women in them, I actually like them.  Westerns are usually just soap operas in period costumes, anyway.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor with a script by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tabakis and Edgerton and produced by Portman, this film had a bumpy road to get made which might explain why if you blinked it was gone from the theatres.  But it is an unusual love story cum revenge film (aren't most westerns revenge films?) that is tense and engrossing with exceptional performances. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this one is a MUST SEE!  You will thank me.

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

252 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Force of Evil (1948)

A shady lawyer for a numbers racket kingpin tries to help his brother, who runs a numbers "bank" that the kingpin wants to take over.

Joe Morse (John Garfield) is in it for the money.  He is a lawyer but an unethical one and he works for Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts), a gangster who wants to take over the numbers racket by rigging the numbers on July 4.  The numbers 776 are traditional numbers that everyone seems to play that day and this July 4th those numbers are going to come up.  When they do, it will drive all of the numbers "banks" bankrupt, thus enabling Tucker to take over. Unfortunately, one of those banks is run by Joe's brother, Leo (Thomas Gomez).

Now Joe may not be a nice guy, but he has a soft spot for his older brother who has a heart condition.  He tries to warn him and offers him a deal. But Leo isn't having it.  He doesn't want to work for a gangster. You see, Leo may run a numbers game but he has a conscience and can't leave his customers hanging. Joe is torn between his greed and his love for his brother and it all doesn't end well, because...

This is classic film noir.  What makes it film noir?

  • Filmed in black and white
  • Lots of shadows
  • Lead character usually does a voice over
  • Over dramatic close-ups, especially highlighting the eyes
  • Melodramatic score
  • Good brother/Bad brother
  • Good girl/Bad girl (with Marie Windsor usually playing the bad girl)
  • Redemption of the bad guy by the good girl (sometimes)
  • Women are treated like crap
  • Someone is usually double-crossed
  • Lines like this:  "A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn't have said."
  • And they usually don't end happily

John Garfield was the hard-boiled "king of the B noir films." The film "introduces" Beatrice Pearson who plays the love interest and who doesn't appear to have done any other films but this one.  One of Garfield's "dames" perhaps, in real life?  Oh, I should have added, in film noir, women are always called dames.

Written and directed by Abraham Polonsky who was later victimized by the Hollywood Blacklist, (he didn't direct another film until 1969 when he directed Robert Redford in "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here"), the film includes some biblical references:  A Cain and Abel story and a love scene that very much evokes the snake in the Garden of Eden seducing Eve.  

Why it's a Must See: [This film] sits uncomfortably within the film noir genre, despite the presence of a star (John Garfield) associated with hard-boiled,  streetwise movies.  It is above all a film of poetry, carried by a 'blank verse' voiceover and a highly stylized singsong dialogue, which are among the most astounding and radical innovations of the 1940s cinema..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Martin Scorsese credits this film as being a major influence on his films "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas."

Rosy the Reviewer says...the overdramatic acting doesn't hold up well today, but it is still a sophisticated piece of filmmaking with an interesting story and Garfield always delivers.

***Book of the Week***

Toni Tennille: A Memoir by Toni Tennille (2016)

Tennille shares her story and it's a surprising one.

Baby Boomers will remember The Captain and Tennille.  He was the guy with the captain's cap who played the keyboard and rarely smiled or said anything and she was the bubbly, out-going one with the blonde bob.  They had huge middle-of-the-road pop hits extolling the virtues of love ("Love Will Keep Us Together"), but what no one knew was that there was little love going on behind the scenes in their personal lives.

Tennille grew up in Montgomery, Alabama during segregation.  Her mother was a beautiful socialite and her dad a binge drinker.  The goodie two shoes image evoked by The Captain and Tennille was pretty much the truth.  Tennille really was a goodie two shoes southern belle who eschewed the drinking and drugs so prevalent in the 70's and 80's.  The Captain was Daryl Dragon, son of the famous conductor, composer and arranger, Carmen DragonThey met touring with the Beach Boys and their connection was music. They formed a duo where Toni did the singing and Daryl arranged their songs and played keyboard. They eventually married, mostly because of pressure from the record company.  Believe it or not, in the sexually permissive 70's, living together was not accepted. 

The Captain and Tennille, with their wholesome pop tunes and their squeaky clean TV variety show represented happily married bliss, but according to Tennille in this revealing autobiography, their marriage was anything but.  I mean, can you imagine marrying someone who never said "I love you," and cringed every time you hugged him?  He wanted his own bedroom and when they toured they each had their own hotel room.  She would visit him in his room and leave when she got the signs that she was boring him.

Who would put up with this kind of stuff?  Well, Toni Tennille, apparently.

She put up with her husband's kooky dietary fads, his controlling ways (when she was on "The Love Boat" she was not allowed to kiss her co-star even though it was in the script - Daryl considered that cheating), his anti-social behavior and his emotional withholding, thinking that if she catered to him she would eventually break through to his wonderful self. Unfortunately, she kept trying for decades and never found that wonderful self.  She divorced him when she was in her 70's.

This story is a perfect example of being enamored of someone so much that you overlook some very important issues and, those you do acknowledge, you think you can change. 

If everything Tennille relates is true, I can't believe some of the stuff she put up with.  I mean, she laments not seeing the Sistine Chapel because they were denied entrance because Daryl wouldn't take off his hat (his hair was thinning)!  I was about to rip the page out of the book and scream "Honey, GO BY YOURSELF!" And when they toured, she would eat the "health food" he carried around with him rather than going out with the other band members to the restaurants famous for their food - pizza in Chicago, seafood in Boston, Chinese food in New York City - all off limits.  Again, why didn't you GO BY YOURSELF?  But she had her reasons and did finally show courage by leaving him in her 70's.  Not THE 70's, HER 70's! And trust me, leaving a long term marriage when you are closer to the nursing home than to another hit record, takes courage.

All of the signs were there that this guy had some serious issues.  But we women think that a man who withholds just needs US to unlock the key. 


So, Ladies, this is a cautionary tale. 

If the guy doesn't want you to hug him, doesn't say "I love you," ruins experiences for you with his entitled socially awkward behavior, get the hint and run like hell. No matter what you do, you will NOT change him. Tennille wasted all of her positivity, bubbliness and the best years of her life on a man who did not appreciate her and wasn't capable of affection or cared about making her happy. If you can relate, learn from this book.

In addition to her marriage, Tennille also shares career ups and downs such as when she sang "Muskrat Love" at the White House with The Queen as the special guest. Not a good choice. I mean, can you imagine The Queen listening to a song about two muskrats getting it on? Henry Kissinger, who was also in attendance, was visibly upset. Tennille says "Muskrat Love" was one of those songs that people either really loved or really hated.  Put me in that last category.

Little known fact about Toni Tennille:  She sang back-up on Pink Floyd's "The Wall." 

Rosy the Reviewer says...for fans of Tennille and those who are married to emotionally unavailable men who might need a little inspiration.

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for


 "Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder"

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