Showing posts with label True Crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label True Crime. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2020

What I Have Loved Watching So Far During Lockdown

In these terrible times, thank god for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple+ and HBO Max (did I miss anything)?  They have been my best friends off and on for the last nine months but especially during this latest lockdown.  

If you have been following my Facebook page, you will recognize some of these recommendations but, if not, here are some movies and TV series I have enjoyed while sheltering at home.  And even if you do follow me on Facebook, these are expanded reviews that might get you to watch if you haven't already.


1.  The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)



So...ever wonder what flight attendants get up to as they travel around the world? Well, my oh my, according to this, A LOT! Drinking, sex...AND MURDER? (Dateline fans, do Keith Morrison's voice when you read the word "muuurder").

Kaley Cuoco plays Cassie Bowden, a flight attendant who often finds herself waking up from a night on the town and not remembering what happened or who that guy is in bed with her. She's a bit of a party girl, well, actually not a bit of a party girl, a BIG party girl, and she has no problem entering the Mile High Club with customers. But when she wakes up the next morning in Bangkok after hooking up with Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman), a handsome passenger and finds him lying next to her, covered in blood, yes, dead, she decides to do a runner. Maybe no one saw her with him? Not likely. Bad choices and chaos ensues...and believe it or not, at times it's funny because Cassie is a cross between Goldie Hawn and Lucy Ricardo!

There are some side plots revolving around Cassie's brother (T.R. Knight) and her fellow flight attendant, Megan (Rosie Perez), who has gotten into some shady stuff herself but this is really all about Cassie and her crazy life.

Created by Steve Yockey (adapted from the novel of the same name by Chris Bohjalian), this is very entertaining and addictive, and Kaley Cuoco carries us along as Cassie tries to find out who killed Alex. There is a strange little hook with dead Alex turning up every so often to try to help Cassie figure his death out, which I rather liked, because did I say that Alex was handsome? But you know how I am with these elaborate spy movies. After many twists and turns and double-crosses, I often have trouble figuring out exactly what is going on - who is doing what to whom? So the last episode? Kind of didn't get it, but all-in-all, this was an enjoyable romp and maybe I was left a bit hanging because it looks like there will be a sequel.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a series that is both stylish, delicious and binge-worthy! And a lot of fun!



2.  A Teacher (Hulu)


A teacher and her student have an inappropriate relationship.

Meet Claire Wilson (Kate Mara), the new high school AP English teacher who has a handsome husband and a seemingly happy marriage. I mean, c’mon, they are trying to have a baby. But then enter Eric Walker (Nick Robinson, who starred in teen hits “Love, Simon” and “Everything, Everything), a handsome Big Man On Campus, who is hot for teacher. Both have issues. We learn early on that Claire is not your average teacher when she shoplifts some lipstick. We see some rebellion and entitlement there. And our young Eric? Who isn’t entitled when they are 17? He is the soccer team captain and wants to be a doctor, but he needs some help with his SATs. Claire conveniently steps up. And yes, they embark on a sexual relationship, and yes, they think it's love.

I know, there is a certain "ick factor" here, especially for you teachers out there. But the series offers some perspectives on this teacher-student phenomenon which we all watched play out most spectacularly and sadly with the Mary Kay Letourneau story, and believe it or not, teachers crossing the lines with their students is not as unusual as you might think. Google it. The title tells it all. It’s not “The Teacher,” it’s “A Teacher.” Teenaged boys want to be adults and young women teachers maybe don’t want to be and there you go. In this story, one bad decision leads to another and we know nothing good will come of it.

Mara is vulnerable and poignant as Claire, even as we shake our heads at her decisions. She is very believable and Robinson is the next big thing. I see a long career ahead for him.

Created and directed by Hannah Fidell (who also directed a feature film on which this TV series is based), this is a serious look at a gender stereotype that is often overlooked - the male sexual victim.
Rosy the Reviewer says…watching this, teachers and parents may cringe and be thankful school is not in session but this is a compelling series. You can’t take your eyes off of it. You know, like a train wreck? But it's a beautiful train wreck.
(The final two episodes air December 22 and December 29)


3.  The Prom (Netflix)


A group of Broadway stars on their way down head to a small Indiana town to give their lives some relevance by taking up the cause of a young girl who has been told she is not allowed to bring her girlfriend to the prom as her date.

The Great White Way may be dark right now but thanks to Netflix we can still enjoy Broadway with this film version of the groundbreaking musical “The Prom.” It’s kind of like “Footloose,” but instead of an uptight town banning dancing, this is about an uptight town canceling Prom because two young lesbians want to go as a couple.
Four narcissistic Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and James Corden) need a cause to make themselves relevant. Their show closed due to bad reviews, so they grab onto this story of these two Indiana teen girls who want to go to Prom together and think they can help. But despite a sympathetic principal (Keegan-Michael Key), the PTA headed by the uptight Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) says no, so our fish-out-of-water, clueless Broadway stars show up in Indiana to try to save the day.
If you are familiar with Broadway musicals, you know that people will break out into song and dance in malls and other odd places and there will be sentimentality and seemingly bad people will see the error of their ways and become good, but suspend your disbelief. It’s a musical. It’s meant to make you feel good and this one does just that.
But don’t think this is one of those fluffy musicals. This one has substance because it takes on the struggles of LGBTQ teens and is actually based on a true story. Yes, in this day and age, a school tried to keep two girls from going to Prom together. And "the prom" itself is also a metaphor for everyone's teenage angst and subsequent neurosis, right?
Once again Meryl kills. Who knew she could sing like that? And she shows her comic chops too. And James? Who knew he was so light on his feet? And Nicole? Well, actually, not sure why a star of her stature was in this because her part as a Bob Fosse chorus girl is small, though she has one of the great lines.

“When your hands are shaking, turn them into jazz hands!”

But still, I am glad she hooked her star to this because it’s a great show. And thanks to Ryan Murphy's direction and a wonderful screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, they are all hilarious and the young lovers are engaging.
The show opened on Broadway in 2018, was nominated for seven Tonys and ran for almost a year with a planned tour, but, well, you know how that went. But in the meantime, you can catch the show on Netflix and, I guarantee if you love musicals, you will love this (but remember, it’s a musical).
Rosy the Reviewer says…a feel good show where the Midwest meets Broadway. It shines a light on the struggles of the LGBTQ community, but it’s also an homage to the theatre, a reminder of what we are missing.


4. The Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO Max)


The extraordinary story of the Bee Gees, one of the best selling artists of all time, with sales of over 120 million records.  But what was most extraordinary was how they were able to keep reinventing themselves to stay relevant with the times over a 45 year career.

The brothers Gibb, Barry, the oldest, and twins Robin and Maurice, formed the Bee Gees in 1958 and performed for 45 years and had a major impact on pop culture from the 60’s through the 90’s. Through a series of interviews with Barry, the sole surviving brother (teen idol Andy is also gone) and archival interviews with Maurice and Robin, the story unfolds.  Yes, this is an homage to the band and doesn’t go into too much detail about some of the issues they faced, though In the “Never-Before-Seen” category we see Robin attempting a solo career and at a performance in New Zealand the crowd is so incensed that it’s only him and not all three of the Bee Gees that they throw things at him, attack him and run him off the stage.

Written by Mark Monroe, and directed by Frank Marshall, this is a fascinating story of some brilliant singer/songwriters and it’s a brilliant film, so evocative of the times, a time captured so completely that it can be emotional for us Baby Boomers.  I actually cried…because I was that young 60's girl who loved the Bee Gees. 


Rosy the Reviewer says…not to be missed!




5.  Murder on Middle Beach (HBO Max)


A young filmmaker tries to solve the mystery of his mother's murder.

If you are a true crime aficionado, as I am, you will be intrigued by this four-part HBO documentary, “Murder on Middle Beach,” where a son tries to find his mother’s killer.
Madison Hamburg directs his first film in an effort to solve the death of his mother, Barbara Hamburg, who was brutally murdered March 3, 2010 at her home in Madison, Connecticut. After the case went cold, Madison interviewed his family members and others to try to gather evidence to solve her murder. As he did so, he uncovered many family secrets and long-term resentments and the thought that perhaps one of his own family members had killed his mother.

Did Barbara's ex-drug addict sister, Conway, kill her? Or Madison's entitled sister, Ali? What about his Dad who had some shady business dealings that Barbara had uncovered and who was due in court regarding their contentious divorce? Or was Barbara's involvement with Gifting Tables a reason for murder?
This is one of those crime stories made all the more ominous because of the setting – a beautiful serene little New England town where nothing bad could ever happen, right? – and a seemingly close-knit, normal big family that murder could never touch, right? And yet...

Rosy the Reviewer says…a spell-binding story full of twists and turns made all the more poignant because it’s also the personal story of a son trying to not only find his mother’s murderer but a son trying to understand who his mother really was.




6.  Big Sky (ABC)


A private detective and an ex-cop try to solve a kidnapping. 

Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt (Ryan Phillippe) are private detectives searching for two sisters who were kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana.  But when Cody goes missing, Cassie joins forces with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt (Katheryn Winnick), Cody's estranged wife, an uneasy alliance since Jenny discovered Cody had been having an affair with Cassie. But that's the least of their problems when they discover that those are not the only girls who have discovered missing.

From the pen of David E. Kelley (best known for "L.A. Law" and "Chicago Hope" and "Big Little Lies" - he's also married to Michelle Pfeiffer), this is a little bit thriller, a little bit mystery and very character driven by, shall I say, odd characters? There is a twisted cop (John Carroll Lynch), a nerdie truck driver (Brian Geraghty), who not only lives with his mother but sometimes sleeps with her, prostitutes working truck stops and more. The series reminded me a bit of "Twin Peaks," and well, yes, "Big Little Lies," without the Monterey landscapes, because all of these characters are not just odd but have, shall I say, "issues?" And the first episode had a shocking ending! Enjoyed it in a perverse sort of way. Looking forward to its return.

Rosy the Reviewer says...check it out and let me know what you think. It's a bit over-the-top but stylish and intriguing and surprisingly out there for mainstream TV (or maybe I just don't watch enough mainstream TV).
(Currently on hiatus on ABC until January 26 but you can get caught up on Hulu and On Demand - and yes, it will leave you hanging)


7.  Dash & Lily (Netflix)


A boy with a broken heart and a naive but optimistic young girl embark on a series of dares via a notebook they hide around New York City.

Now that we’ve all seen “The Queen’s Gambit (see below),” we needed another bingeworthy Netflix show, and thank you, Netflix for “Dash and Lily,” which will be the next big thing, and it’s here just in time for the holidays to take our minds off of lockdown.

“The Queen’s Gambit” was about chess, “Dash and Lily” is about books…well, a notebook... and romance. Based on the young adult series "Dash & Lily's Book of Dares" by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, the series plays out in eight 25+ minute episodes (totally bingeworthy), we meet Dash (Austin Abrams), a handsome New Yorker, who is nursing a broken heart and is humbug about Christmas. Lily (Midori Francis) is his opposite. She loves the holidays and is looking for love but she is also socially shy and awkward. She has planted a notebook in the famous NYC Strand Book Store with a series of dares for anyone up to the challenge. Dash finds the notebook and embarks on the dares and then dares Lily. They leave the notebook in places around NYC with new dares for each other. Will they meet? The anticipation is half the fun and you care because these are two engaging young actors. And, yes, it’s a rom-com and it’s about young people but all ages will enjoy if you remember what falling in love is like.

Filmed prer-Covid, this is a love letter to New York City, too, showcasing its delights as Dash and Lily dash about the City, and it will put you in the holiday spirit.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s quirky and funny and utterly charming and isn’t charm something we sorely need right now?


8Emily in Paris (Netflix)


A young American girl from the Midwest gets a chance to live and work in Paris.

Emily (Lily Collins, yes, Phil's daughter) is a driven 20-something from Chicago who gets an unexpected job opportunity and moves to Paris. She is supposed to bring an American point of view to a French marketing firm. However, the Parisiens she works with not only don't think much of her Midwestern upbringing, they don't think much of America either. Emily is a fish-out-of-water, but there's a twist. She doesn't know it.  She thinks she is cool and swans around Paris like she owns the place. Her colleagues make fun of her behind her back and put roadblocks in her way, but this girl has pluck (don't you just love the word "pluck?") and some handsome suitors.

Created by Darren Star, this is a sort of Parisien version of "Sex and the City," and it's just as much fun. It's frothy, Lily Collins is a delight and so is Paris. So sit back and do some armchair traveling as Emily takes Paris by storm in some great clothes! Ooh la-la, the clothes!

Rosy the Reviewer says...rom-com fans rejoice and, ah, Paris, armchair travelers will also enjoy. Une délicieuse petite aventure.


9.  The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)



The true story of the Chicago 7 arrested for protesting at the 1968 Democratic Convention.

And the wheels go round and round.

Don’t think writer/director Aaron Sorkin, the creator of “The West Wing,” doesn’t draw some connections between the trial of the Chicago 7 and the protests of the late 60’s to present day events. He does.

What became known as "The Chicago Seven" was a disparate group of organizers and protesters: Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), John Froines (Danny Flaherty) and Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), who along with Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), the current President of the Black Panther Party, were arrested and tried for crossing state lines to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention when in fact they were there protesting the Vietnam War. They all had their own issues and causes and what they deemed appropriate protest. I mean, Abbie Hoffman was a Yippie who liked to plan over-the-top theatrical protests, Dellinger was a pacifist who promoted non-violent change and Hayden was one of the founders of the SDS - Students for a Democratic Society - and not particularly against violence but what they all had in common was a shared hatred of the Vietnam War. However, despite their differences, but they were rounded up and treated as one entity - The Chicago Seven.

Mark Rylance plays their attorney, William Kunstler, and Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman as rather senile, which would explain why the trial was such a circus.

Ah, 1968, the year that Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, racism and political corruption abounded and the draft lottery sent 35,000 young men to Vietnam, some of whom were my friends. Hell, my ex-husband was sent there six months after we got married. Some of that from 1968 may sound familiar, except we Baby Boomers had Vietnam and now this generation has Covid. Both wars and still lots to protest.
And the wheels go round and round.
Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s a star-studded cast and a compelling story that resonates today. And next time you Gen-X-ers and Z-s sigh and say “Okayyyy, Boomers,” to your parents or grandparents, and blame us for where we are today, think twice. We had our own stuff. We tried to change things. Now it's your turn.




10.  The Queen's Gambit (Netflix)


Young orphan Beth Harmon becomes a chess prodigy and learns that success has a price.

This has been the hit of quarantine.

First there was "The Tiger King (remember that one? - we weren't quite as evolved then as we are now!)," and then there was "The Queen's Gambit." They actually have nothing in common except "The Tiger King" was a Netflix phenomenon and so is this one. In fact, "The Queen's Gambit" has become the most watched scripted series of all time for Netflix.

Beth Harmon has not had a good life. Orphaned in the 50's at a young age, sent to an orphanage and lonely, she befriended the janitor who taught her how to play chess. She quickly proves to be a prodigy at the game and starts entering competitions.

And then the older Beth (Anya Taylor-Joy) takes the chess world by storm, something that was the world of men, and now there is Beth and she is crushing everyone. But here's the thing. Beth has some major emotional problems and a drug and alcohol addiction.

Speaking of taking the world by storm. That is what Anya Taylor-Joy has done. Not just with this, but her early foray into feature films was "The Witch," a film I didn't really like but I liked her. And in just five short years, she has a long resume that includes her most recent film, "Emma," which by the way was the very last film I saw in a theatre. She is a beautiful, talented actress who really shows what she's got in this incredibly mesmerizing series.

However, I also have to give a shout-out to Marielle Heller, who played Beth's foster mother. She went from an unsympathetic character who drank a bit, okay, a lot, and didn't understand her adopted daughter to become a lynchpin and huge supporter of Beth's career. Heller is also the writer/director of "Diary of a Teenage Girl" and the director of "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" and "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" - three movies I loved. So she is a successful writer and director and now we know she can also act. Keep your eye out for her!

Anyway, yes, this film is about chess, but don't let that turn you off.

It's about chess, but so much more. I mean, c'mon, "The Tiger King" was about big cat zoos, and you watched that one. This miniseries, which is not a documentary, by the way, but a dramatic series, might just make chess the next big thing! But this is so, so much better than "The Tiger King" and so much more than just about chess. Let's just say, chess is a metaphor here. And Beth Harmon is our new kick-ass woman!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you don't want to be the only one who hasn't seen this show, better get out the remote! Trust me, you won't be sorry!

NOTE: You might notice one obvious series that is missing - "The Crown." Duh. Yes, I binged on that one too but hasn't everyone?

Thanks for reading!

See you again 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 IMDB.com, 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.

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Isle of Dogs" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Isle of Dogs" as well as DVDs "Molly's Game" and "Proud Mary."  The Book of the Week is "I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Lola."]




Isle of Dogs


It's a Japan of the future and the fear of Dog Flu and Snout Fever has banished all dogs to Trash Island but an intrepid little boy travels there to find his dog, Spots.

I am not a big fan of stop-action animation and Wes Anderson is a strange guy.  I mean I am still mulling over what the heck was going on in "Moonrise Kingdom," though he won me back with "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and I am still a big fan because I absolutely loved this film.  And it is a testament to Anderson that so many big name actors wanted to do the voices in this film - from Bryan Cranston to Scarlett Johansson to Yoko Ono, there are almost 20 A-listers here, not to mention a boat load of big name Japanese actors.


There is a dog flu virus rampant in Japan and the new mayor of Megasaki City, Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura), a member of a long-time cat-loving family, banishes all dogs to Trash Island, despite the fact that a scientist named Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) insists he is close to finding a cure. But Kobayashi ignores him. Japan is a cat world now. The first dog to be banished is Spots (Liev Schreiber), who was the canine bodyguard for twelve-year-old Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the orphaned nephew and ward of the mayor.


Missing his beloved Spots, Atari steals a plane and flies to Trash Island to find him. After a crash-landing, he is rescued by five dogs: Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and Chief (Cranston) who decide to help Atari locate Spots, although Chief, who was a former stray, wants nothing to do with it at first.  He doesn't trust humans, is bitter about his life and often says, "I bite."  But with the help of a female show dog named Nutmeg (Johansson), Chief has a change of heart and decides to help.


Nutmeg: Will you help him, the little pilot?
Chief: Why should I?
Nutmeg: Because he's a twelve year old boy, dogs love those.

So the motley crew traverse Trash Island to look for Spots and survive a series of adventures that involve fighting off a rescue team sent by Kobayashi to retrieve Atari and a band of cannibal dogs.
Meanwhile, back in Megasaki City, Professor Watanabe finds a cure, but is poisoned by Mayor Kobayashi to prevent the dogs from being returned from Trash Island, but American foreign exchange student, Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), suspects a conspiracy to exterminate all dogs and begins to investigate.  When Atari and his dog friends arrive back in Megasaki City and confront the Mayor, a fight ensues, but it all wraps up nicely because, hey, it's a cartoon.

I say it's a cartoon but that's not to say that this film is for children.  It's not. 

This is definitely too dark for young children. On a superficial level, it's about the love between humans and dogs and the companionship they provide, though Anderson uses a humorous device to remind us that little Rover doesn't really understand us when we ask him about his day.  All of the humans speak only in Japanese with no subtitles and the dogs speak English, reminding us what we humans must sound like to our dogs, like we are speaking in another language. But there are deeper themes at work here - genocide, loyalty, death, and the abuse that animals suffer at the hands of humans 
Narrated by Courtney B. Vance, the story, which Wes Anderson wrote with Roman Coppola, Kunichi Nomura and long-time collaborator Jason Schwartzmanis an engrossing and often humorous one but also a touching tale of dog and human love.  It has also been controversial as some critics felt the film was an appropriation of Japanese culture and an example of the "white savior."  You will have to decide what you think of that. 
As I said, I am not usually a fan of stop-motion animation, but thanks to animation director Mark Waring, who worked with Anderson on "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," this film pays homage to Japanese anime and pop culture and was really life-like and lovely to look at, and thanks to Anderson's story, it pulled my heart strings.  However, it helps if you love dogs.

And I do.




Rosy the Reviewer says...an enjoyable and original film experience and a clear nominee for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.  One of my favorite films of the year so far.  


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


On DVD




Molly's Game (2017)


What do you do when you are an Olympic class skier who has sustained a career-ending injury?  Why you run one of the world's most high class and exclusive poker games, right?  Huh?  How did that happen?

Based on a true story, this film takes us on Molly Bloom's journey from a skier on her way to Olympic glory to a career-ending back injury to running high stakes poker games and ultimately tangling with the FBI.


Molly (Jessica Chastain) was one of those athletes with a Dad who was short on praise ("What's the worst thing that can happen in sports?  Coming in fourth.") and big on working his daughter to the point of exhaustion.  When a back injury ended her skiing career, Molly moved to L.A. to go to law school but before starting school she just wanted to take some time off, be young and enjoy the nice weather.  


So she got a job as a cocktail waitress, but when she met Dean (Jeremy Strong), an obnoxious but successful real estate developer, she became his office manager. But her job didn't just include office work.  Dean also ran underground high stakes poker games for celebrities, so when he asked Molly to help him - set up the bar, handle the music and the food - and she made $3000 in tips, a light bulb went off in her head so I guess it was only natural that when Dean and she had a falling out Molly figured she could run her own games.  And that's how Molly found herself running her own poker games and raking in the cash.  And she was good at what she did.  She kept the confidences of the rich and famous players who populated her underground (but still legal) games, and she was living large until the inevitable happened.  She got into drugs, started taking percentages of her large pots and found herself involved with the Russian mob.  That's when the FBI got wind of what she was up to which led to her arrest. Not good.


Adapted from Molly Bloom's memoir and directed by Aaron Sorkin who is best known for his writing smart and fast-paced dialogue for "The West Wing" and movies such as "Moneyball" and "A Few Good Men," this is his directorial debut.  It's also a tour de force for Jessica Chastain because the film is all about her and it's a true tale of a tough woman making it in a man's world.  Told in a series of narrated flashbacks, she plays a powerful woman living life on her own terms and she delivers a powerful performance.  


The rest of the cast is also good especially Idris Elba (sigh) as her lawyer, Kevin Costner (another sigh - he and Idris are two of my celebrity crushes) as Molly's father and Michael Cera as Player X, who I am pretty sure was supposed to be Tobey Maquire. Remember?  I told you it was a true story.

Anyway, with that said - all of those great performances - the film just didn't resonate with me.  It was too long and there just wasn't that much of a story to sustain it.  The first half of the film sizzled.  The last half fizzled.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Though I enjoyed Chastain's performance, the second half of the film bogged down and I couldn't help but wonder why this story was worth telling. 





Proud Mary (2018)


Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hit woman for a crime family whose life is changed when she meets a young boy in trouble.


This is a stylish film that pays homage to the Blaxsploitation films of the 1970's - remember "Foxy Brown" and "Shaft?"  And in case you didn't notice that right away, the film begins with "Papa Was a Rollin Stone," which puts you in the mood as we watch Mary get ready for a hit. 

During the hit, Mary notices a young boy in one of the rooms and realizes that she has just killed his Dad.  Then she sees him later walking around town, and figures out what he is up to.  He is a young drug runner and when he is beaten up and lying in an alley, Mary's so far suppressed maternal instincts kick in and she takes him to her apartment.  

When it becomes clear that Danny (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) is in deep with "Uncle (Xander Berkeley)," a Russian mob drug dealer, she takes charge and shoots "Uncle" to save Danny, but in so doing becomes a target herself, not just of the rival drug gang but in her own circle as her boss (Danny Glover) tells the rival gang he will find out who killed "Uncle" and deal with "him" so as to avoid a drug war. To point suspicion away from herself, Mary fingers someone else and when ordered to kill him she does, so our girl is not above immorality to save her own skin, but the gangster life is starting to get to her and her relationship with Danny brings those feelings to the surface.  So now she wants out and she discovers getting out is not as easy as getting in.

Directed by Babak Najafi with a screenplay by Steve Antin, John Stuart Newman and Christian Swegal, this reminded me of "Atomic Blonde," which was also about an empowered woman who takes care of business, her business being shooting people.  But "Atomic Blonde" was a stylish cartoon compared to this gritty story of the drug culture, child abuse, young children just trying to survive and a hit woman who experiences guilt.


Speaking of children.  By now you must know how much I dislike annoying, overly precocious child actors but I have to say that Jahi was not that kid.  His Danny was a tough street smart kid who was suffering and he brings that character to life beautifully.


Taraji B. Henson is wonderful in this. She makes a great conflicted hit woman.  This film pays homage to the Blaxsploitation films but where those were short on character development, this one allows Henson to show her full range of acting skills and characterization. 


I have to add that twenty minutes into the film, I thought I had figured out the twist.  Turns out there was no twist, but I really think this film would have been better if my plot line twist had been how it ended.  But that doesn't matter.  I still liked the film.  The soundtrack is spot on and of course we can't call this film "Proud Mary," unless we play that iconic song, perfect for when Mary is taking everyone out.  This film is as much about the soundtrack as it is the story.


Rosy the Reviewer says...not a fan of gangster films that involve nail gun torture and plastic bags over people's heads, but I love bad ass women characters and this film showcases Henson nicely.




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





147 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Lola (1961)




Two ex-lovers rekindle their romance even though one of them is carrying a torch for another old love.

Lola (Anouk Aimee) is a cabaret dancer who is still in love with Michel, who left her.  However, she rekindles a romance with Roland, a childhood friend she hasn't seen in ten years and, if that wasn't enough, an American sailor is also in love with her.  Our Lola is a busy girl.


Lola has never gotten over Michel (Jacques Michel) who is the father of her child and she is waiting for him to come back to her, but in the meantime she carries on romances with Roland (Marc Michel) and Frankie (Alan Scott), the sailor.  There is a parallel story about Roland and his inability to get his life together but when he meets Lola that gives him the spark he needs to get a job and become someone.  However, wouldn't you know it's a dodgy smuggling job.  Can't end well.  And the film is all about unrequited love which also can't end well.  And it doesn't.


Anouk Aimee was already a star when she made this film but before she became a huge international star in "A Man and a Woman." Here she personifies the feminine yet complex woman men so adored in French New Wave, but her acting ability imbues the role with a softness and vulnerability not often found.


The score is lush and romantic and establishes the long-ranging relationship that would develop between composer Michel Legrand and Director Jacques Demy.  Anouk pays homage to Marlene Dietrich in "Blue Angel" with her cabaret act (Dietrich's character's name was also Lola) and writer/director Jacques Demy dedicates this film, his feature film directorial debut, to Max Ophuls who was known for his smooth camera shots and films told from a female point of view. It's also a sort of fairy tale of lost love, which hints at Demy's films to come, the dreamy "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," which was to follow three years later and "The Young Girls of Rochefort" which followed six years later.


Why it's a Must See: [This film] is imbued with a poignanet awareness of the transience of happinesss and the difficulties and unlikelihood of love...Oh, and Anouk Aimee is unforgettable."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...if, like I did, you loved "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," you will like this.

(b & w, in French with English subtitles)


***Book of the Week***






I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara (2018)


For over ten years in the 1970's, The Golden State Killer sexually assaulted 50 women in Northern California, then became a murderer, killing ten people in Southern California, avoided capture and then disappeared. Who was he and would he ever be caught?

Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist and creator of the website TrueCrimeDiary.com was obsessed with finding out who The Golden State Killer was.  His crime spree began in the Sacramento area in the 1970's where he was dubbed The East Area Rapist.  He had an MO - he was a young Caucasian guy who staked out his victims beforehand, often entered their homes to check out it out when they weren't there, then wearing a mask broke in during the night shining a flashlight in their eyes to blind them.  He had a strange gutteral whisper of a voice seemingly through clenched teeth, smelled bad, and took items of little value.  He started by attacking women who were alone but graduated to attacking couples as they slept.  He terrorized the Sacramento area  - and then he moved South and his rapes became murders.

Thirty years later, McNamara, who was also the wife of actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, became obsessed with him and it was she who dubbed him The Golden State Killer.  For years she focused on his crimes by reading police reports, interviewing surviving victims and participating in online communities who were also obsessed with trying to figure out who he was.  Sadly McNamara died tragically before finishing the book, but it was completed by her lead researcher and friend using McNamara's notes, and it's a compelling true crime story as well as the story of a woman's dogged journey to discover the identity of the Golden State Killer and bring him to justice.

The title comes from something The Golden State Killer said to a victim:  "You'll be silent forever and I will be gone in the dark." Chilling.

Did McNamara discover the identity of the Golden State Killer?  You will have to read the book to find out.

Rosy the Reviewer...if you enjoy true crime, this is a good one.  But be forewarned.  It's scary and you will also want to make sure all of your windows and doors are locked!


Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


"I Feel Pretty"

 and
  
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 
  
I Die Project." 




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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 IMDB.com, 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.