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

Friday, February 9, 2018

"Phantom Thread" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Phantom Thread" as well as DVDs "Geostorm" and "Last Flag Flying.  The Book of the Week is "After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Sansho the Bailiff."]

Phantom Thread

A brilliant dress designer and confirmed bachelor meets his muse...and his match.

This film is hyped as Daniel Day-Lewis's last performance as he has announced that he is retiring from acting.  But he has retired before.  Remember when he "retired" and moved to Italy to become a cobbler?  I'm not lying.  You can't make this stuff up.  But then he started acting again so I'm not holding my breath this time.  Actors are actors for a reason -- they need the spotlight.  But you never know.  Day-Lewis is a strange guy.

Speaking of strange guys, here Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant English dress designer and confirmed bachelor living in 1950's London. He lives with his current muse and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), but it is obvious early on that his current muse is getting on his nerves.  You see, Reynolds is a fastidious, prickly sort, one of those guys who expects everyone to kowtow to him, the kind of man who expects to get his own way all of the time and has no problem showing his irritation when he doesn't.  Geniuses are like that, I guess, and can get away with being jerks.  Reynolds has his routine and he likes to stick to it.  No one should speak to him in the morning (if breakfast doesn't go right, it ruins his whole day) or disturb him while he is working and absolutely no surprises. I'm not a fan of those kinds of guys, brilliant or not. 

However, all of that changes when Reynolds meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young immigrant waitress in a seaside town where he has a cottage.  Alma is a beautiful, but quiet and shy, much younger woman and is taken in by Reynolds' charm and sophistication, though, I found his wooing of her very, very creepy.  However, she becomes his muse and lover, and moves in with him, but she, too, soon falls prey to Reynolds' lifestyle which includes his irritation at her interruption of his quiet breakfast.  Scraping her toast with butter and pouring coffee is enough to make him bristle. He also takes to ignoring her for long periods of time.  It quickly becomes clear to her that he isn't going to marry her any time soon, either, except, what Reynolds doesn't realize is that he has met his match in Alma. Sometimes it's those quiet, shy types who end up getting what they want.

Reynolds' doting but no-nonsense sister, Cyril, whose territorial presence hovers over everything, watches the relationship unfold (think Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca"). She has seen it all before.  But what she and Reynolds don't realize is that Alma may see to be a shy, retiring and moldable young woman, but there is a steely interior at work in Alma and she figures out a unique way to get Reynolds to propose. 

Sometimes the thread that holds people together could be an unseen strange or even dangerous one.

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson, who has a cult following for his film "There Will Be Blood (which also starred Day-Lewis)," and who also directed "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "The Master," among other critical successes, can be counted on to make interesting, original films and does it once again here, though this is definitely a departure from the content of his other films.  He has produced a film more in the vein of the glamorous romantic films of the 50's - think Douglas Sirk and Ross Hunter or the elegant and lush British films of Merchant and Ivory with beautiful cinematography and gorgeous dresses by Mark Bridges, who has an Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. But don't be fooled. The film may be lush and beautiful and romantic but it has a twist that reminds us once again of Anderson's originality and quirky take on life and the last 30 minutes were very strange and kind of lost me, but then what great film doesn't leave some questions to be asked and thought about? The film is also one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year.

As I said, Day-Lewis is a strange guy - he is one of those actors who lives his role at home as well as on the screen (his poor wife) - but he is also one of our greatest actors.  Whenever he is in a film, an Oscar nomination for Best Actor is a no-brainer and this year is no exception.  Lesley Manville is also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and though you might not know her name, if you watch a lot of British mysteries or films you will recognize her face. 

Krieps is a newcomer and could be a clone of a young Meryl Streep.  In fact, watching the film I could have sworn she was one of Streep's daughters.  Her performance was impeccable and she held her own with Day-Lewis, but unfortunately she was not recognized for her performance by the Academy, but keep your eyes out for her.  She is one to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that deserves its Best Picture Oscar nomination and harks back to the romantic films of the past highlighted by an interesting, twisty story and brilliant performances. 

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


Geostorm (2017)

It seems that a couple of years from now - actually next year, 2019 - all hell is going to break loose with the weather but never fear.  The world will come together to find a way to counteract the storms - or will it?

So when this film begins, there were some weather issues but we have made it through 2019 and everything has been going along swimmingly.  No major weather catastrophes because of a weather satellite net called Dutch Boy (remember the Dutch kid who put his finger in the dike?) that was invented to keep bad weather in check.

But what do you do when the satellites start blowing fuses?

Well, you call in Gerard Butler, that's what.

This film turned out to be a surprise hit last year so never doubt the box office power of Gerard Butler.  The same thing happened with his most recent film "Den of Thieves."  No one heard of it and it made a splash at the box office.

So what's a Geostorm?

No, it's not the Republicans taking over Congress, that's the GOP.  No, a Geostorm is basically the end of the world.

The film begins with thunder and ominous music and a child's voice-over:

"Everyone was warned but no one listened."

So it's a good thing we have Gerard Butler who plays Jake Lawson, the scientist who invents Dutch Boy, a sort of satellite net that protects earth from bad weather.  Dutch Boy has been doing a good job of keeping the world safe from the weather and it's all been handled by the United States.  But in three years, the United States will be handing Dutch Boy over to an International Committee and Lawson is called up in front of a U.S. Committee to reassure them that Dutch Boy is working properly and everything is going to be fine.

However, Lawson is not the reassuring type and manages to insult everyone there. You see, Lawson is a bit of an arrogant rogue.  He is abrasive and angry and his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who also works for the government and who is usually able to smooth things over for Jake, can't do it this time.  Jake rankles the Committee so much that he is fired and Max is assigned to take over Dutch Boy. That certainly doesn't help the brothers' relationship, which was on a slippery slope to begin with.

Fast forward three years and you can guess what is going to happen, right?

UN troops discover a village where everything is frozen including the inhabitants.  Now that wouldn't necessarily be a strange thing except the village was in the middle of an Afghan desert.

Now Dutch Boy is in trouble and seems to actually be attacking earth. Horrible weather has returned and only one person can save the world.  Guess who.

Right, Gerard Butler, I mean, Jake Lawson.

But Jake, after being fired, has gone off the grid to pout and is living in a trailer with his young daughter.  He is divorced and why he has custody of his daughter when it seems he has a perfectly good relationship with his ex-wife is never explained but we had to have the little girl so we could have that ominous voice over at the beginning.  And of course the little girl is super smart and precocious and says things like "shit happens."  Shoot me now.

So Max has to coax Jake back and he does that by telling Jake it's a mistake he has made and now he has to fix it.  And there isn't much time because all hell is breaking loose with the weather again.

None of this film really makes any sense, and it's actually more of a Star Wars kind of spy movie than a disaster film, even though the trailer definitely hyped this film as a classic disaster film.  In between the few disaster scenes there is a lot of boring, geeky science talk and the whole thing is overdramatic as hell with Girard angrily yelling most of his lines. It's also a mystery, a story of sabotage, a romance and did I mention it's all very overdramatic?

To save the world, Jake has to make his way up to the space station where he meets an International crew and they all try to figure out why Dutch Boy is malfunctioning while at the same time the weather is wreaking havoc on women in bikinis and little dogs.  It seems that someone is covering up a defect and if what is going on isn't figured out soon - we actually have a timer - a Geostorm is an inevitability.

Now I am going to give you a hint.  It's not exactly a spoiler but here is something I have discovered from watching many, many British mysteries.

In murder mysteries, if you are trying to identify the killer and there is an actor in the film who is quite famous but who has a very small part, nine times out of ten, that's your killer. Or as in this film, if we are trying to figure out who is sabotaging Dutch Boy, look for a character with a very small part who seems to be out of place or you wonder why he or she is in the film.  That's all I'm going to say about that but I had it figured out by the time the big reveal happened.  And you can thank me later for that important information.

Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot and directed by Devlin, the film seems to be very pro-globalization, which is a very controversial topic these days and the President is a controversial character, which also seems familiar, but the whole thing plays like a cartoon and it's difficult to care about any of it.  Lots of big names in this film and you have to wonder what they were thinking.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the disaster scenes were the best part of this film but unfortunately there weren't enough of them to save this film from the disaster it is.

Last Flag Flying (2017)

Considered a "spiritual sequel" to "The Last Detail," and a 30 year update.

I have to say right up front that "The Last Detail" was one of my all-time favorite films with Jack Nicholson doing his thing and a brilliant, touching story by Daryl Ponicsan who also wrote this screenplay.  Also I am a huge fan of director Richard Linklater (who collaborated on the screenplay), so that's why I wanted to see this film, despite the fact that I am not much of a Bryan Cranston or Steve Corell fan, I don't really like guy buddy movies and the trailer looked dumb.

But I was looking forward to seeing this only to discover that the names of the characters had been changed and the film didn't really have much to do with "The Last Detail" at all.

But I wanted to give it a chance.

It's 2003 and Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) is on a mission.  His wife has died and his only son has just been killed in the Iraq War and his body is coming home to be buried at Arlington with full military honors.  Doc looks up his old Vietnam War buddies, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranson), who is an alcoholic and ironically running a bar in Norfolk, and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who has become a pastor, to ask them to accompany him to pick up his son's body.  These men haven't fared very well since they served together in Vietnam.  They were something once, now they are something else, so says Sal philosophically. 

The film takes quite a while to set up the story before much happens, but in the second half we finally find out just how Doc's son was killed and Sal and Richard have to decide whether to tell Doc.  Doc also decides he doesn't want to bury his son at Arlington after all, but rather to take him home, and the film becomes a sort of sad buddy road trip film with a very anti-war tone.

Isn't it strange how you take a dislike to some actors even though you don't know them personally and never will?  And you don't really have a good reason for not liking them?  That's how I feel about Cranston and Corell.

Not sure why I don't like Carell.  He has certainly grown up a bit since "The Office " and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."  Maybe it's the characters he has played - clueless idiots - and playing Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes" didn't help.  However, he is very toned down here.  In fact he is so toned down he barely registers.

Likewise, I don't relate to Cranston, though I certainly give him props for his versatility.  He can play comedy ("Why Him?") or drama ("Trumbo") but something about his delivery seems to be bombastic and grumpy, no matter what he is playing.  I like Fishburne but he can be kind of one note as well.

But I am a huge fan of director Linklater - I thought "Boyhood" was brilliant - so you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't really like this film. For me, something just got lost along the way.  The film was too talky, too didactic, too slow, and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. 

Though the film seemed to be a labor of love for Linklater - his affection for the characters was apparent as was his message of friendship and his views on the Iraq War and of America are ones I agree with, but despite good intentions, the film was not a particularly good theatrical experience and seemed too overt, something that surprised me coming from Linklater.  I think of him as a more subtle filmmaker who lets things happen visually. Perhaps if you are a man and a veteran the film might speak to you more. The film felt like a coming-of-age film for middle-aged men and maybe it was.  You have to grow up sometime, I guess. 

Rosy the Reviewer Linklater but he missed the mark on this one for me.

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

156 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

In medieval Japan, a governor is sent into exile for choosing compassion over his duty, and when his wife and children try to join him, they are enslaved and put through a life of oppression and suffering.  I know it sounds bleak and it is but trust's also inspiring.

Based on a classic folk tale and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, this is the story of human reslilience in the face of evil.

An idealistic governor in 11th century Japan disobeys the feudal lord and is cast into exile, leaving his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) and children, Anju (Kyoko Kagawa) and Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), to fend for themselves. Their compassionate father had taught the children that "Without mercy, a man is like a beast," and Zushio never wanted to forget that.

Six years later, the wife and children set off to find him.  When they can't find lodging, an old seemingly kind lady offers to put them up but instead sells them into slavery.  The mother and children are separated, the mother is taken by boat to be sold into prostitution and the children are sold to Sansho the Bailiff for a life of hard labor. 

Ten years pass.  The kids are now 18 and 23.  Zushio has given up and accepted his lot, and forgotten what his father had taught him about mercy. In fact,  he has become a trusted henchman for Sansho, carrying out brutal acts on anyone who tries to escape.  He had not been able to live up to his father's teachings about being merciful, but he eventually has an epiphany about how bad he has become.  He decides he must find his father, and Anju and he plot his escape.  He pledges to come back for her but Anju, realizing the futility of that and in order to help Zushio's escape, kills herself as a decoy.

Zushio does escape and is able to regain his family's noble standing and returns to Sansho's compound, this time as an official where he outlaws slavery.  That done, he goes to find his mother in what is one of the most emotionally charged scenes ever.  I defy you not to cry.

This film is a reminder that no matter what century you live in, life can be very hard for many and evil exists, but the love of family and the strength of the human spirit can prevail.

Why it's a Must See: " of the great emotional and philosophical journeys ever made for the cinema.  Possibly the high point in an unbroken string of masterpieces made by Kenjo Mizoguchi shortly before his death, [this film] features the perfection of a signature visual style -- made up predominantly by long, complexly staged shots, paced by gliding camera movements..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Mizoguchi was not as famous as Kurosawa but directed 86 films between 1923 and 1956.  He is not well-known now but in the 1950's he was considered the best.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that shows that despite a world of violence, betrayal and evil, love will transcend it.

***Book of the Week***

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry (2017)

A young girl comes of age after the murder of her young mother.

Natural events take on more significance when accompanied by unnatural tragic events in one's life and that is why Perry remembers an eclipse when she was 12 - because soon after her young mother was murdered.  That eclipse was forever imprinted on Perry and stands as a symbol of the darker side of life. 

Sarah lived with her single mother, Crystal, in rural Maine.  Sarah was 12 and asleep in her bed when she heard her mother cry out and when she found her mother, her mother was dead.  The assailant escaped into the night and Sarah was left motherless.  Shipped back and forth between well-meaning friends and her mother's sisters, Sarah's life was difficult and lonely and she grew up in the shadow of her mother's unsolved murder.

Twelve years later, there was a trial but still many unanswered questions, so the adult Sarah, who wanted to understand her mother's life, began a personal investigation that took her back to Maine and back to all of those childhood memories. 

This book is part memoir and part true crime who-done-it as Perry tries to not only make sense of her mother's life but to discover who killed her.  It was 12 years before a suspect surfaced but even today Perry is not really sure if he was the one or what really happened that night even though she was there.

This is a very heart-felt and emotional read that will pull you in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like well-written true crime with a personal slant, you will like this book.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"The Shape of Water"


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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
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 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, November 3, 2017

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Goodbye Christopher Robin" as well as the DVD "Beatriz at Dinner" and the documentary about Dana Carvey's ill-fated sketch comedy TV show "Too Funny to Fail," now streaming on Hulu.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Seventh Victim."  The Book of the Week is "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI."]

Goodbye Christopher Robin

The little-known story behind the creation of "Winnie-the-Pooh."

In 2011, Winnie the Pooh was voted onto the list of icons of England, and in 2014, a British poll named "Winnie-the-Pooh" the favorite children's book of the last 150 years.  And yet little is known about its creator, A.A. Milne or the inspiration for the book that went on to become one of the most beloved childrens' books series of all time.  This film shows how the book came to be and sheds particular light on one of its main characters, young Christopher Robin (Will Tilston).

Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) was already a successful author when he returned from serving in WW I.  He and his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), were the toast of London and enjoyed the perks of fame and society.  But he came back from the War with a bad case of PTSD, though it wasn't called that then.  Shell-shocked was the term but same thing.  If a balloon popped or a car back-fired, Milne was transported back to the horrors of war. 

In the meantime, Daphne and Alan had a son, something Daphne wasn't too thrilled about.  She didn't particularly care about giving birth nor did she want a son.  She wanted a daughter.  After all, she had purchased all of those pretty frocks.  More importantly, though, she never wanted to have to send her son off to war and wait for him to come back as she had with Milne.  But no matter.  The upper classes in Britain then didn't particularly live their lives around their children as we all do today.  In fact, a child was almost an afterthought, someone to have a bit of fun with but then trot off to the nanny.  So Olive, the nanny (Kelly MacDonald), who Billy dubbed Neu (again, not sure where the nickname came from) was hired and she and baby Christopher Robin lived happily together while Mummy and Daddy traveled and partied. Occasionally, Mummy would surprise Christopher with stuffed animals so he had a bear named Edward, a stuffed donkey and a tiger to keep him company.  See where this is going?

For some reason unexplained, Milne was called Blue, not only by Daphne but by Christopher Robin as well.  Christopher Robin was dubbed Billy Moon.  Not sure why they called him Billy, either, but the Moon part came from him not being able to pronounce Milne. The British seem to like nicknames.

As Billy grew, so did Milne's PTSD and his writing faltered. He decided he no longer wanted to write frivolous fun but something serious about the horrors of war.  He also decided he needed to get out London where the noise reminded him of the war, so the family and the nanny moved to the Ashdown Forest to a lovely 100 acre estate where Milne could wander in blissful silence. 

One day while out on a walk, Milne discovered that young Billy was following him.  Irritated at first because he liked wandering the forest alone and because, frankly, he didn't spend much time with his son, he softened when Billy helped him through one of his episodes.  Bees were buzzing and the sound took Milne back to the War where blowflies buzzed over the dead, but Billy, sensitive to his Dad's issues, explained that the sound was just honey bees buzzing around their honey.  That was the first step in father and son finding each other.

However, Daphne hated being out in the country where little was going on and hated it even more that Alan wasn't able to write thus limiting her social obligations.  She hated it so much that she decided to move back to London for awhile until Alan got himself together.  Coincidentally, Neu's mother was ill and she also left, leaving Milne to care for Billy by himself.  After some awkward conversations as the two got to know each other over breakfast, a breakfast where Milne realized he had no idea what his own little son liked to eat, the two began to bond over tea parties with the stuffed animals and walks with Billy and his stuffed bear.  One day Billy came into Milne's study and asked him to write a book for him. 

Milne, inspired by the tea parties and the walks with the stuffed bear, dashed off a little poem that Daphne got published and thus, Winnie-the-Pooh was born.

But the film doesn't stop there. 

This film is less about Pooh and more about the price of fame and the toll it took upon a young boy. 

As Milne wrote more books featuring Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eyore and young Christopher Robin, and when it was discovered that there was a real Christopher Robin, everyone wanted to meet him.  Hundreds of fan letters arrived and Christopher's days were filled with teas and parties with important dignitaries.  Now he was a little character himself to be trotted out to perform and it took a toll on him and his relationship with his parents.

When what he had done to Billy finally dawned on Milne, he vowed he would never write any more books about him and his bear and he didn't.  He also sent Christopher Robin him off to boarding school thinking he was sheltering him from the glare of celebrity, but as with many young boys, especially someone like Billy, he was bullied at school and his life was a misery so when he came of age and had the opportunity to join the military and serve in WW II he took it.  Daphne's lifelong nightmare had come true.  And more nightmare was to come.

Older Billy had some issues about all of those Winnie the Pooh books and took the opportunity to tell his Dad just how miserable his books had made him. 

"I asked you to write a book for me, not about me!"  

This is the story of the creation of Winnie the Pooh but it's also a story of the price of fame and lost innocence.  Bring your hankies.

Now I am going to take a moment to say something you would probably never think I would ever say.  I have fallen in love with a child actor.  I know that I have softened my stance on child actors lately because I liked the kids in "It" and that young actor, Iain Armitage, who starred in "Our Souls at Night" and "Big Little Lies." I have come to realize it's not the kid actors that are obnoxious so much as it's the writers giving those kid actors obnoxious things to say.  Here I give credit to screenwriters Frank Cotrell Boyce and Simon Vaughn for writing a believable character who doesn't rattle off precocious comments to get a laugh and make us go awww.  Usually when that happens I go yuk. 

But I also have to give young Will Tilston props for making eight-year-old Christopher Robin come to life.  He is so damn cute I could hardly stand it and an amazing young actor.  I was thinking while watching him that he could very well get an Academy Award nomination for Best Support Actor.  I mean Tatum O'Neal was only ten when she won hers.  But I hope that doesn't happen.  I totally do not believe in giving Oscars to children.  No matter how good their performances are, they need to pay their dues. so though I am softening my stance on child actors, I won't go that far.  No Oscars should go to anyone under 25!  I could do a whole rant on that...but I won't.

Director Simon Curtis presents a beautiful golden world with the help of cinematographer Ben Smithard where the fictional Winnie the Pooh was born, but also the darker real life world of the creator and his son, Christopher Robin. 

I am a huge fan of Domhnall Gleeson, though he seemed a bit young for the older Milne, and you may recognize Kelly MacDonald from "Boardwalk Empire."  She is a lovely actress.  Margot Robbie does a good job of playing Daphne, who is really a bit of a cold fish.  She didn't want Alan to come in to see her after giving birth because she didn't want him to see her blubbering and in fact no blubbering was allowed by anyone in the house.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I loved this film.  I loved this film so much I cried.  No, actually I blubbered.  Sorry, Daphne.

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


Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

When her car breaks down at a wealthy client's home, a holistic medicine practitioner is invited to attend an important dinner party and very early it becomes clear that she is a fish out of water.

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a hard-working holistic medicine practitioner working at a cancer clinic and living in L.A.  After driving down to Newport Beach to attend to one of her wealthy clients, when she is ready to leave, her car won't start.  Kathy (Connie Britton), her client, invites her to stay for dinner, a dinner that is actually an important one for Kathy and her husband, Grant (David Warshovsky). 

They are entertaining Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a billionaire developer whom they want to impress because, well, he's Grant's boss.  They and some other invited guests are all celebrating a successful business deal and everyone is gushing over Doug, laughing at his jokes and agreeing with everything he says.

Unfortunately, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.  Kathy didn't know what she was doing by inviting Beatriz to dinner. You see, Beatriz is very New Age.  She's warm, a hugger and she's a liberal.  She is also a Mexican immigrant who is clearly not in the same economic bracket as her dinner mates and it isn't long before she can clearly see through the bull that is being thrown around at dinner where everyone is bragging about their wealth, how they were able to bypass regulations, and play the system in order to make money.  And Doug is a very uptight privileged bragging egotist who lacks self awareness and is very right wing (sound familiar)? 

Beatriz doesn't know how to play the game and frankly, she doesn't want to.  Her presence challenges the conscience of the social order.  She is the eyes and ears of the little people who aren't supposed to know what the 1% are up to.

First, Beatriz is basically ignored as the dinner progresses so, even though she doesn't usually drink, she helps herself to some wine.  And then more wine.  The guests are mostly chatting about clothes, money and gossiping about celebrities.  When Beatriz is brought into the conversation she talks about spirituality and saving the earth.  Uh...awkward.  And when she challenges Doug's ethics about some stuff he is doing in Mexico, things start to take a turn.  These people are not used to being challenged. Turns out Doug is also a big game hunter and brags about his kills, showing pictures to the group.  Everyone is very impressed.  Everyone except Beatriz.  She calls it disgusting and storms out of the room.

Kathy follows her.  She isn't mad especially when Beatriz apologizes and tells her about her bad week.  She works with dying kids, which takes a toll on her and one of her pet goats has died.  So Kathy tells her to go to bed.  Beatriz goes off to a bedroom but not before she sneaks a bottle of wine and smokes a doobie (she's on a roll now) and decides to do a little research on Doug on the computer.  Turns out Doug is even worse than he seemed at dinner.

So Beatriz goes back downstairs. Ruh-roh.

Directed by Miguel Arteta with a screenplay by Mike White, this film explores the cultural gap that exists between the rich and the poor, between Americans and immigrants from other countries, especially less prosperous countries. Kathy says to Beatriz, "I feel like I don't know you," to which Beatriz replies, "You don't know me."  Kathy thinks that she knows Beatriz because she meets with her regularly as a client and even introduced Beatriz to the dinner guests as a "friend of the family," because Beatriz had helped them through a cancer scare, but Kathy doesn't know anything about her. She never made the effort to go further than their client-caregiver relationship. 

Well-meaning people can sometimes be the worst because they think that being nice gives them a pass for the rest of their lives and the rest of the things they do.  Think about people who feel good about themselves for delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the needy on Thanksgiving but never "dirty their hands" the rest of the year or find out anything about the people they are helping. 

I talked about how much I admire Salma Hayek in my review of "How To Be a Latin Lover. My admiration stems from the fact that she chooses important projects that try to make a statement even when they might be small projects with small roles for her as in "Latin Lover," or a less glamorous role where she eschews make up to play a regular, hard-working woman as she does here.  This film is clearly Hayak's movie, make-up or no make-up.  She is mesmerizing, and she is not only an amazing actress, she is an amazing woman. 

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable but also important satire on our world today. 

Streaming on Hulu

Too Funny to Fail (2017)

With the talent behind Dana Carvey's 1996 TV sketch comedy series, "The Dana Carvey Show," how could it possibly have failed?

Well, it did, and this feature length documentary now streaming on Hulu is a testament to the fact that no matter how much talent there is behind a project, there is no guarantee it will resonate with the American public.

The failure of "The Dana Carvey Show" was one of the most spectacular failures in TV history despite the great comic minds involved.  I remember watching that show because I was a big Dana Carvey fan and f you watched "Saturday Night Live" back then, you probably were too.  Who wasn't a fan of The Church Lady, or of his George H.W. Bush impersonation, or of Wayne and Garth? 

The film begins with Dana talking about his influences growing up and shows his SNL audition ("Choppin broccoli..." - so funny.  If you have never seen it, here it is)

But watching his show I had no idea that his writers and other cast members included Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Robert Smigel and Louis C.K.  Smigel had been one of the writers on SNL and left when Dana did. Carell and Colbert were both at Second City and were recruited along with Louis C.K. who was going to be the head writer.  Robert Carlock and Charlie Kaufman rounded out the group. 

So with all of that talent, what could go wrong?

They all wanted to do "edgy topical comedy," like Monty Python, and because of that, Dana thought they would do better on HBO, but since HBO wasn't the behemoth it is today he was talked out of it. So it was going to be on ABC during primetime following "Home Improvement."  What better position could they be in?  What a mistake!

ABC thought they were getting The Church Lady and other characters that Dana had created on SNL.  Instead they got "Stupid Pranksters,"

and "Waiters who are Nauseated by Food."

But there were other edgier sketches: "Skinheads from Maine" and "Grandma the Clown," where the clown really was an old lady who couldn't do tricks very fast, she did them very, very slow---ly.

It was all just too much for middle America after watching the homespun "Home Improvement." I thought these sketches were really funny and I liked the show, but I don't think I am your typical American TV viewer nor do I have a typical sense of humor. I like edgy.

Anyway to make matters worse, right after the show was given the green light, Disney bought ABC.

The show failed within the first five minutes of its first show with a sketch about the nurturing nature of President Clinton, showing him with multiple breasts, breastfeeding a bunch of babies.  Six million people deserted the show in the first five minutes and the next day the reviews were savage and the show lasted a mere seven more episodes.

The participants weigh in:

Steve Carell talks about getting one fan letter for the show and then recognized the handwriting as his mother's.  Robert Smigel remembers creating the Ambiguously Gay Duo with Colbert and Carell as the voices of Ace and Gary. Colbert relates that he thought he would never work again. Dana told the cast and writers he was sorry for ruining their careers.

What really happened?

Written and directed by Josh Greenbaum, this movie attempts to figure it out.  It's not entirely successful, but it does show that no matter how much talent is attached to a project one can never completely gauge the taste of the American public.  Was Carvey, who is one of those comedians who is always on, be just too much for primetime TV?  Was the comedy too out there for a 1990's American public?  But to be frank, I don't think these guys were really into pleasing anyone but themselves.  They had a vision and they went with it.  And that vision failed.

But then we all know how it worked out:

Robert Carlock has since written some hugely successful TV shows and Charlie Kaufman went on to write the screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." 

The sketch with Colbert and Carell as the nauseated waiters led to both of them becoming a part of "The Daily Show" and we all know how their careers went after that!

Likewise Louis C.K. went on to comedy stand-up greatness and his own TV show.

Smigle's "Ambigulously Gay Duo" became a big hit later on SNL and he invented Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

And Dana?  Well he is still Dana Carvey.  He tours the country with his one man show and has appeared in films and continues to be over-the-top.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look into television history and the early careers of some of today's biggest talents.

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

163 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Seventh Victim (1943)

A young woman searches New York City for her missing sister and uncovers a satanic cult.

I didn't know that devil worship was a thing in the 1940's.  I learn something every day watching movies.

Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) is at boarding school when she is called into the office by the principal and told that her tuition has not been paid by her sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), who is her guardian, and no one has heard from her in over six months.  Worried, Mary decides that she must take leave of the school and go search for her sister.  As she gets ready to leave, the principal's assistant takes her aside and tells her not to come back.  It's nothing ominous.  She is basically telling her if she comes back she might never get out of there, just like her, and thus become a spinster.  Another thing about the 40's - a great fear of ending up a spinster.

Mary is young and naïve, so young and naïve in fact I was shocked she was able to just leave her school like that, but she has gumption, another 40's thing.  She heads to the big bad city all by herself. gets a room over an Italian restaurant and meets Grant, a lawyer who knows Jacqueline.  And guess what?  It's The Beav's Dad - a much younger Hugh Beaumont.  She also meets a Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) as well as Jason Hoag (Erford Gage), a strange young man who hangs out at the restaurant and professes to be a poet.  Dr. Judd is a dodgy psychiatrist who claims to have been treating Jacqueline.  His specialty is treating alcoholics though that's not the case with Jacqueline, but he warns Mary about the evils of alcohol in my favorite line from the film: 

"Dipsomania is rather sordid."

They all work together to find Jacqueline, who it turns out has gotten herself involved with a bunch of Satanists who want to kill her for revealing their existence.

Directed by Mark Robson and starring a very young Kim Hunter in her first film role, Hunter went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1952 for her role as Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire," but as happens to so many actors and actresses, despite bursts of promise and fame such as an Oscar, Hunter never really gained superstardom.  After that Oscar, her career was mostly guest appearances on TV dramas and recurring roles in soap operas.

Why it's a Must See: "Perhaps the best of the run of terrific RKO horror films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s. [This film] is a strikingly modern, poetically doom-laden picture...full of things that must have been startling in 1943 and are still unusual now: a gaggle of varied lesbian characters...[and] a heroine who comes to seem as calculating as the villains..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Yes, that's true along with absolutely atrocious dialogue and major over-acting. I also take issue with this one actually being labeled a horror film. But Val Lewton produced this one, and he's the guy responsible for such horror classics as "I Walked with a Zombie" and "The Cat People (the 1942 version, not the 1982 remake)," and when I say classics, I mean the cult variety.  But the film is strangely hypnotic, and I could see some possible influences that turned up in "Psycho (there's a similar shower scene)" and "Rosemary's Baby."

That said, I have to digress for a moment. I feel a rant coming on.

There is a scene that made my librarian blood boil.  Grant goes to the library to find out what books two suspects had read and the librarian cheerfully, not only gives him the titles, but hands over the books.  Now people, I want to assure you that would never happen today.  Libraries protect your right to read and your right to privacy so do not let this film undermine your feelings about the integrity of libraries and librarians. No librarian will tell anyone what you are reading unless they present a warrant! There, rant over.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some of these older films don't hold up well today and this is no exception, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you can have some campy fun with this one.  Make some popcorn and invite some friends over! 
(b & w) 

***Book of the Week***

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017)

In the 1920s, after oil was discovered on their land, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be mysteriously killed off.

When the white man came, Native Americans were eventually shunted off to parts of the U.S. that white Americans didn't want.  Such was the case with the Osage of Oklahoma except they struck oil on their inhospitable land and became rich.  White Americans were not happy that the Osage became wealthy, especially since they didn't consider them real Americans nor smart enough to handle their own money.  So because of that, the government appointed white guardians to manage the money of many of the wealthy Osage who weren't considered competent, thus setting the stage for a full-blown conspiracy that ended in murder.

The family of Mollie Burkhart became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances and those who dared investigate the killings were also killed. 

As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four known cases, the FBI took up the case. The FBI was new to the murder investigation and so the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to agent and former Texas Ranger, Tom White, to help unravel the mystery and together with one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau, the agents exposed one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.  Their investigation has so many twists and turns, this book reads like a mystery novel, yet it's all true and like any great true crime book, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Meticulously researched, Grann has uncovered new evidence and believes that hundreds of Osage died as part of this conspiracy, not just the known 24, and that the extent of the conspiracy and much of the mystery will never be solved.

"In cases where perpetrators of crimes against humanity elude justice in their time, history can often provide at least some final accounting, forensically documenting the murders and exposing the transgressors.  Yet so many of the murders of the Osage were so well concealed that such an outcome is no longer possible.  In most cases, the families of the victims have no sense of resolution.  Many descendants carry out their own private investigations, which have no end. They live with doubts, suspecting dead relatives or old family friends or guardians -- some of whom might be guilty and some of whom might be innocent."

And that made me mad.

I am mad because of what Native Americans have had to endure, the brutal prejudice that existed against Native Americans and which still probably exists today, and the crimes against them that many white men perpetrated.  And this book made me mad because the Osage were not only treated like second-class citizens but callously murdered so white men could take over their land rights. I feel the same way when I see movies and read books about the Holocaust and about slavery.  I get really, really mad and ashamed that humans can treat other humans so badly.  And yet I read and I watch because we must never forget our shameful past so that we never repeat it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a true crime story, but it's also a history of the FBI and sheds light on a shameful part of America's past. 
(This book is a finalist in nonfiction for the 2017 National Book Award to be announced November 15.)

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"A Bad Moms Christmas"  


 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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