Showing posts with label Vaccine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vaccine. Show all posts

Monday, March 8, 2021

What I Enjoyed Watching While Waiting for Vaccine #2

[The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Judas and the Black Messiah, Pieces of a Woman, Nomadland, Let Him Go and The Little Things]

I have to say it was a big relief to get my first shot of the vaccine. We had to drive 75 miles to get it but we got it. But one shot does not make me want to go out and mingle, so I am still on a kind of self-imposed lockdown until shot #2, though I do venture out upon occasion to sit, drink a glass of wine (or two) outside and listen to music.

But despite those few forays out into the world which provides a modicum of normalcy, it's still the old TV that keeps me company these days and thank goodness there are some great movies available out there to get me through.

A little known side of singer Billie Holiday's life.

Diana Ross introduced audiences to singer Billie Holiday back in 1972 in "Lady Sings the Blues" and showed theatre goers she could act. She was awarded a Golden Globe as "Best Newcomer" and a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance. Now almost 50 years later yet another generation is being introduced to Holiday, this time starring singer Andra Day.

One can't help but make comparisons between this new biopic and "Lady Sings the Blues." Both films explored Holiday's tumultous life that included a horrific childhood and later an adulthood rife with drug abuse; both showed Holiday was hounded by the FBI for her drug abuse; both films starred singers in their first acting roles; and both actresses won awards for their performances (Andra Day won this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress).

But what sets this film apart from the first one is the premise that the real reason the FBI hounded Holiday was not as much about her drug use as her song "Strange Fruit," which metaphorically dramatized the horrors of the lynching of black people.

When the film begins, Holiday's career is in full swing and so is her drug use. FBI head J. Edgar Hoover and Head Narc, Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund) are bent on bringing Billie down, seeing the song as un-American, a call for civil rights that would stir people up and a threat to the status quo, the status quo being white supremacy. Ainslinger also had a vendetta against jazz! So they recruit Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), a black agent, who wants to make something of himself, to go undercover and befriend Holiday, "befriend" being a euphemism for some very steamy sex scenes. This film is almost as much about Fletcher as Holiday as he was one of few black agents in a segregated agency. Anslinger and the FBI harassed her to the end of her life at 44, even when she lay in a hospital dying her feet were handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Day is a compelling Holiday and I couldn't help but remember that Billie Holiday was also called "Lady Day," so Day starring as Holiday is an interesting coincidence, though she gave herself that stage name in honor of Holiday. And her performance is not just interesting, but raw, compelling, riveting and wonderful, and her Golden Globe win for Best Actress is well deserved, which brings me to one of my pet peeves that I rant about from time to time. Okay, I rant about it a LOT.

I have not liked it when first timers like Day and Ross won the big awards over veteran actors who have paid their dues. For example, Day beat Frances McDormand for this one, and I was not happy when the award was announced, because I thought that McDormand was flawless in "Nomadland (see review below)." However, that little hissy fit was before I saw this film, and after seeing it, I have decided that I will no longer have this bias about first-timers getting awards over old-timers. Day was phenomenal as an actress and a singer, bringing Billie Holiday to life for modern audiences. Her rendition of "Strange Fruit" is beyond moving.

So from now on, I will take it case-by-case, or should I say performance by performance (In future, I will have to come up with something new to rant about. And you know I will)!

Anyway, based on the book "Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs" by Johann Hari (adapted for the screen by Suzan-Lori Parks) and directed by Lee Daniels, this film is a grim and harrowing account of Holiday's later years and what she went through trying to speak her truth.  It resonates today because people of color are still being harassed for not only speaking their truth, but just living their lives.

Oh, and by the way, the film begins with a written opening sequence that reads:

"In 1937 a bill was introduced to ban lynching."
"It didn't pass."

And the film ends with this epilogue:

"The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act was brought back in 2020 and has yet to pass."

Do you believe that? We can't even get a bill passed TODAY that says it's not okay to lynch someone!

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tough movie to watch but a profound and satisfying film experience that brings Billie Holiday and her music to life for a new generation. Day does Lady Day proud.

A docudrama about Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) and the undercover FBI informant who brought him down.

The name Fred Hampton is probably not a name that most of you remember today, but in the late 60’s he was the Illinois Chairman of the Black Panther Party and Deputy Chairman of the National Black Panther Party, and it was a name that J. Edgar Hoover knew well. You see, Hoover wasn't too thrilled with the Black Panthers and he was particularly concerned when Fred founded the Rainbow Coalition, a political organization, that not only included the Black Panthers, but also the Young Lords and other street gangs, an alliance that was meant to stop the infighting among the various groups so they would all work together for social change. J. Edgar Hoover felt threatened by that and didn’t want that to happen so he planted an informant, Bill O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) in Fred’s midst which eventually led to Fred’s assassination (and planting informants seems to have been one of Hoover's things. See review of "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" above).
I remember the name Fred Hampton well because I was living in Michigan at the time, I was a young woman also interested in social change (you may not know this, but the SDS started in Michigan) and because how Fred died was so shocking. He was only 21.
How it all got to that point is explored in this powerful docudrama starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield who both bring in incredible performances. Kaluuya won this year's Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, which was well-deserved, but I was surprised that Stanfield was overlooked because this film is really about him and what happens when you make a deal with the devil. With a screenplay by Shaka King and Will Berson and directed by King, the film is also a reminder of how hard the struggle for justice and equality has been for people of color. And a reminder that the struggle continues still.
Rosy the Reviewer says…lots of buzz around this movie of the Oscar variety. Don’t miss out. And when you watch, don’t miss the epilogue. It will choke you up and make you go “Whaaat???” as you wipe away the tears. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

The repercussions of a tragic home birth.

You fans of “The Crown” will recognize Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret from the first two seasons. She was wonderful in that, but the character she plays here is about as far from Princess Margaret as she could get. But she is still wonderful.
Here she plays Martha, a woman grieving the loss of her baby after a tragic home birth. And the birth itself takes up the first 20+ minutes of the film and it’s pretty real and raw made worse by the fact that the baby doesn't make it.
The crux of the film written by Kata Weber and directed by Kornel Mundruczo asks the question: How does one pick up the pieces and go on after giving birth and then having no baby as life goes on around you? There is grief, guilt, isolation and shame. And then anger and blame. Whose fault was this? It must be someone’s fault. Martha wonders did she do something wrong while pregnant? Was it the midwife’s fault? Anyone who has lost a baby would be able to relate to this. But anyone who has gone through any kind of loss can also relate because the film is about mourning, how the sadness from loss affects entire families and how one learns to go on.
Kirby puts in a profound performance that pulls no punches. Her performance won her a Best Actress Golden Globe nomination, and I would guess an Oscar nomination is also in the offing. Ellen Burstyn has a small role as Martha’s mother and shows that at 88 she can still bring it (she has several award nominations for this performance) and Martha’s husband is played by Shia LeBeouf, who always puts in great performances in films but can’t seem to put in very good performances in real life. But I digress.
This is all about Kirby’s performance. However, sadly, as a completely satisfying film experience, it kind of fell apart.
Rosy the Reviewer says…I can’t whole heartedly recommend this film. It isn’t for everyone, but if you are into great acting, it’s worth seeing for Kirby’s performance. (Now streaming on Netflix)


After losing her job and her husband, a woman starts her life over as a modern day nomad.

It seems that every film that Frances McDormand stars in results in not only an award for her but for the film as well. And her latest film is no exception. Her performance won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress and the film won Best Picture along with a nomination for Best Screenplay and a win for director Chloe Zao, one of three women directors nominated this year and the first Asian woman winner ever for Best Director (she wrote the screenplay too).
And these wins and nominations are well-deserved because this is an extraordinary film with an extraordinary performance by McDormand. You can expect that there will be Oscar nominations as well.

Based on the nonfiction book, “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century” by Jessica Bruder, this is the fictionalized story of Fern, a victim of the Great Recession of the late 2000’s. In 2011, the US Gypsum plant where she worked closed down after 88 years, turning the town of Empire, Nevada into a ghost town. You know things are bad when a town’s zip code is discontinued. And then her husband died leaving her alone.
So Fern hits the road in her van she dubs “Vanguard” and becomes part of the Nomad culture, people who move from place to place, following job opportunities. We see Fern working in an Amazon warehouse, a rock quarry and a beet farm and along the way forming relationships with other nomads.
But this is not a story of despair. As Fern explains, she is not homeless, she is just “houseless” and it seems she prefers it that way. Yes, some living the nomad culture are there by circumstance but others have chosen this life. Many are older Americans who love the freedom of living on the open road, explaining that it’s a last chance to really live, to do the things they want to do before it’s too late. “Don’t die with your sailboat in the driveway.”
Though Fern makes connections with others on the road, we see that she is ultimately alone, living a life of solitude, but you don’t feel sorry for her because there is a quiet resignation, dignity and humanity about her. But one also can’t help but draw some comparisons to the uncertainty of today and think, “There but for fortune…”
This is a quiet film where not much happens as we follow Fern on her journey, but the beauty of the landscapes and the short scenes keep the pace brisk and I guarantee that you will be mesmerized.
And much of that is because of McDormand. She does a lot of listening and reacting in this film, listening and reacting to her fellow nomads, many of whom are not actors but actual nomads living the lifestyle. Hers is the quiet performance of an accomplished actress at the top of her game. She has an amazing ability to express herself without speaking. She can act with her eyes.
You know how I judge a movie? If it makes my eyes well up at the end. And I’m not talking about a sad movie. The film can be a drama, a comedy, a thriller, whatever, but if my eyes well up when it’s over (I also might chuckle, too), it’s because I just had a very, very special and wonderful movie experience.
Rosy the Reviewer says…my eyes welled up. (Now streaming on HBO Max)

After the death of their only son, a retired sheriff and his wife set out to find their only grandson.

Kevin Costner plays George Blackledge, a retired Montana sheriff. When we meet him, he is living on his ranch with his wife Margaret (Diane Lane), his son, James (Ryan Bruce), James’ wife, Lorna (Kayli Carter), and their newborn baby son, Jimmy. All is happy families until James dies in an accident, and a couple of years later, Lorna remarries Donnie Weboy (Will Brittain), and Margaret observes Donnie abusing Jimmy and Lorna.
And then one day Donnie, Lorna and Jimmy are gone.

So Margaret decides that she and George need to go find them and bring Jimmy back to live with them. And that’s not an easy task, because they don’t know where they went nor much about Donnie and it’s the 60’s as in no Internet, no cell phones, nothing but good old-fashioned sleuthing. They do find them but get much more than they bargained for because the Weboys turn out to be one nasty family, thanks to Blanche (an almost unrecognizable Lesley Manville), the matriarch.
Halfway into the film it looks like George and Margaret will be reunited with their grandson, but when there is still an hour to go, you know there is time for everything to go terribly wrong and it does.
Leslie Manville as Blanche is one mean mother. Manville is a British actress you have probably seen a million times and recognize but have never known her name. However, here, playing a tough and ornery North Dakota farm woman, she was unrecognizable to me at first which says something about what a great actress she is.
Now, let me wax poetic for a moment about Kevin Costner.

Okay, it’s not exactly poetic. I am just going to slobber a bit over him. I just think he is one handsome, sexy guy and at 66 he is still one handsome, sexy guy. I have never gotten over the sex scene in the back of the car in “No Way Out” and seeing him here once in person playing at the Pebble Beach A T & T Pro-Am dripping in Armani, well, let’s just say going into this film I was already a fan. Oh, and did I mention he is a really good actor too?
But this is really Diane Lane’s movie. She is one of those actresses who puts in subtle performances that exude light. No actressy mannerisms for her. Her Margaret is a grandmother with quiet determination who can’t be stopped when it comes to saving her family. And you believe her.

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha and based on the novel by Larry Watson, this is a compelling story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rosy the Reviewer says…really liked this one. And the moral of the story? Don’t mess with us grandmas!

(Available on DVD from Netflix and to rent on Amazon Prime. By the way, I would say Kevin has a thing about Montana. We are currently working on Season 1 of “Yellowstone,” now available on Amazon Prime).

A Deputy Sheriff from Bakersfield becomes embroiled in a search for a serial killer in L.A.

Denzel Washington plays Joe “Deke” Deacon, a Bakersfield Deputy Sheriff, who is sent to Los Angeles to retrieve some evidence and finds himself involved in a search for a serial killer. He teams up with local detective, Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek, and the two hone in on Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) who pulls them into a cat and mouse game.
This will pull you in, too, with a harrowing “woman in danger” opening scene and, from there, it’s a fast-moving crime drama – almost too fast for me because sometimes I didn’t know what was going on. But that’s okay. It’s all very noir and compelling and the last 20 minute sequence is a nail biter.
Denzel may be getting older but he’s still got it as a disgraced and tormented cop (that’s how he ended up in Bakersfield – Deke, not Denzel); Rami Malek is fine but a strange choice for this – I guess I can’t forget him as Freddie Mercury; but it’s Jared Leto who almost steals the show. I say almost because nobody steals the show from Denzel. But Leto is chilling and creepy. Do you notice that most of the characters he plays these days are odd or extremely strange? When did he change from that handsome teen idol from “My So-Called Life” to Rayon in “The Dallas Buyers Club” or The Joker in “Suicide Squad?” Anyway, I guess it works for him. He was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination for this latest strange, but riveting, performance.

Rosy the Reviewer says…an old-fashioned who-done-it crime drama with some modern twists and some great performances.
(Now available On Demand)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll 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.

Monday, February 15, 2021

What I Enjoyed Watching While Waiting For the Vaccine

[I review the TV series "All Creatures Great and Small," "Firefly Lane," "Pretend It's a City," "Bling Empire," "The Morning Show," and films "Blood and Money," "One Night in Miami," and "What Would Sophia Loren Do?"]

Who knew it would be so difficult to get the Covid vaccine?

But thank you, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and yes, PBS, for some stellar programs to keep me occupied while I wait.  Even though some places are no longer on lockdown or only in limited lockdown, once I heard that we needed TWO masks and it's not really safe to go grocery shopping, I decided to continue a sort of self-imposed lockdown until I get that elusive vaccine.  

So if you are like me, in a sort of self-imposed lockdown, here are some more movies and TV shows that will keep you company while you wait for that first shot!

All Creatures Great and Small

James Herriot and his cronies are back in a new version of this beloved show.

If you were around inte 70's, you couldn't avoid the books of James Herriot, the Yorkshire veterinarian who shared his G-rated stories about life in Northern England from the 1930's to the 1950's. A PBS series followed and if you were around then, you probably got to know James and the other cast of characters: Siegfried, James' mentor who ran the surgery in the fictional town of Darrowby; Tristan, Siegfried's feckless brother; the practical and caring housekeeper, Mrs. Hall; Helen, soon to be James' love interest; and Tricki Woo, rich Mrs. Pumphrey's Pekingese who dined on caviar, roast beef, trifle and brandy with Mrs. Pumphrey wondering why Tricki was under the weather and getting fat.  

Back when I was working full-time and raising my family, I would take refuge in this program that played for four seasons on PBS back in the late 70's and late 80's (The series had two runs: the original -1978 to 1980, based directly on Herriot's books - was for three series; the second - 1988 to 1990, filmed with original scripts but generally regarded as a continuation of the 1978 series - for four. A total of ninety episodes were broadcast.) I could forget my troubles, travel back in time to a lovely English village where everyone was civil to each other and the worst thing that could happen would be that Tricki Woo would have a tummy ache.  Well, not exactly, but let's say this show was as soothing as "The Great British Baking Show" is now. 

But now it's back in a new incarnation, and I wouldn't blame you if you had been a fan of the earlier series and are now reticent to commit to this one, thinking it couldn't possibly be as good as the first one.  Well, my peeps, it's not only as good but might just be better. It's so good that there will be a Series Two! 

We still have the same cast of characters but younger versions.  James (Nicholas Ralph) is just out of vet school and gets the opportunity to work for Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), who already has a practice in Darrowby and is much admired by the townsfolk.  So James needs to prove himself and not just to Siegfried, but to the townspeople as well.  Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is still sternly comforting and Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), Siegfried's ne'er do well brother, just out of vet school himself, is clueless and on board to provide some comic relief. Helen (Rachel Shenton), Mrs. Pumphrey (Diana Rigg) and Tricki Woo also make appearances.  Sadly, this was the last performance of the late Diana Rigg.

And don't worry about this just being a rehash of the original. It all feels fresh and new, just waiting for some new fans. But don't worry if you are a fan of the first one.  James is still sticking his arm up both ends of a cow!

If you want to get away from Covid, political divide and the cares of the modern world, this one does the trick.

Rosy the Reviewer says... and if you love British dramas, the beautiful English countryside and humorous, warm-hearted stories, you will love this. I know I do.  I am loving every minute of it. (Now playing on PBS)

Firefly Lane

A dramatic series that follows the friendship of two women from their teens to their forties.

Though there is some cheese to be found here (as in cheesy), this is a satisfying and very bingeable story of female friendship.  Think “Beaches.” Taken from the novels by Kristin Hannah, and adapted by Maggie Friedman, this 10-part series follows Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) and Kate Malarkey (Sarah Chalke) over three decades in a coming-of-age tale of two besties, one beautiful, popular and out-going, the other nerdy and smart.

They meet in the 70’s when Tully moves across the street from Kate on Firefly Lane.  Tully has a hippie mother who abandons her so she sets out on a journey to find love and looks to men to fill that void. She is a bit of a slut.  She is also ambitious and becomes a celebrated television star. Kate, on the other hand, plays second fiddle to her more glamorous friend, envying her success and doesn’t really have much ambition herself besides being a wife and mother, never realizing that perhaps Tully wants what she has.

The series follows the up and downs of their friendship – jealousy, hurt, betrayal, those things that put friendship to the test - and hops around willy-nilly in time, but it’s not too confusing because it's amazing how music and hairstyles tell you what decade you are in!

Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke do a good job of portraying the yin and yang of Tully’s and Kate’s friendship, and it’s nice to see Heigl having some success.  Despite her being the Rom-Com Queen in the late 2000’s, she has had a rocky career of late but this is right up her alley.

As an aside, the series supposedly takes place in Seattle, so having lived in Seattle, I was surprised I didn’t recognize any of the bars (and I’ve been in a few!) or other sites, so I decided to look one up and yep!  Just as I figured.  The series was filmed in Vancouver, a common occurrence.  Whenever you see a TV movie that takes place in Seattle, especially if it’s a Lifetime movie, you can bet it’s really in Vancouver, B.C.  

But, this is no Lifetime movie.  It’s a coming of age tale that not only celebrates female friendship, but explores what it was like for women coming of age in a time when they suddenly had more choices and how difficult it can be to make the right ones.

Rosy the Reviewer says…we don’t see enough shows that celebrate female friendship, so despite the sometimes soap opera feel, I’m in! I mean, I loved “Beaches!” (Now streaming on Netflix)


Pretend it's a City

Writer and humorist Fran Lebowitz walks around New York City and hangs out with Martin Scorsese in the Players Club, talking about everything that bothers the hell out of her.

I am a huge fan of Fran Lebowitz, a female curmudgeon if ever there was one. She has opinions on everything, she knows everybody, and she is very, very funny. I have read all of her books and never forgot what she said in her first book, a series of essays - "Metropolitan Life" - about people who wear sayings on their shirts:

"If people don't want to listen to you, what makes you think they want to hear from your sweater?"

I think that's hilarious (and by the way, if you want to buy the book, Amazon is asking $500+ for it so get it at the library)!
Well, now Martin Scorsese is highlighting Fran as she makes her way around New York City, making those kinds of comments about everything from her stint as a New York City cabbie to working for Andy Warhol to the New York subway system to libraries in a series of 30 minute episodes about living in New York and about life itself. What's also hilarious is what a kick Scorsese gets out of Fran. He laughs his ass off at everything so watching him is as much fun as listening to her!

The title of "Pretend It's a City" comes from Fran's observations about people who don't seem to know how to walk properly through the city's streets. 

Pretend it's a city where there are other people,” she says, “Pretend it's a city where people are not just here sightseeing."

See?  How people walk around New York City also bothers her.
Rosy the Reviewer says...this is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of Fran or even a fan of the Big Apple, you will enjoy this. It's like spending the day with a crabby aunt who is also very, very funny.

Attractive rich Asians frolic and flaunt their wealth in L.A. in this eight-episode series on Netflix that will give Bravo a run for its money.

Yes, there is a stereotype at work here, but it’s not what you think. It’s not a stereotype about Asians but rather a stereotype about the superrich.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “[The rich] are different from you and me” and he was right. They are rich! But for us plebes, it’s fun to see what the very rich get up to. Think a private jet to Paris for a birthday lunch or party favors in a red box (you know what a gift in a blue box signifies, right? But did you know about the red box?)
Part soap, part reality, the series follows a bunch of attractive young people presided over by Anna, the Grand Dame, who is CRAZY rich. This offers 45 minutes of escapism into the world most of us could only dream about, but it’s not all fun and games. There is also some substance here as this is one of the first reality shows with an all Asian cast, and it casts a light on what it’s like to be Asian in the U.S. It highlights the cultural differences between Asians and Americans, but it also shows the diversity of Asian culture. All Asian communities are not the same and not everyone within each community wants the same thing.
This is also the story of Kevin, a handsome model, who is kind of a fish out of water, not only with his rich friends (because he is not rich), but with Asian culture, because he was adopted by a non-Asian couple and grew up in a white Pennsylvania neighborhood. He embarks on a journey to find his birth parents along with Kim Lee, who is searching for her biological father.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you enjoy the Housewives or loved “Crazy Rich Asians,” you will enjoy this too. It’s addictive!

A behind-the-scenes look at the nationally televised morning show. Think "The Today Show."

We're not really supposed to think "The Today Show" but you won't be able to help it because it involves a handsome achor who has been fired for sexual misconduct and a culture of silence has been uncovered. Sound familiar?

This is a wonderful, topical series that highlights the #Metoo Movement but also shows all of the behind the scenes machinations at a high pressure NYC television morning show. There is also a nod to the film, "All About Eve," as the younger anchor, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) puts the pressure on the older long-time anchor, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston).

Jennifer Anniston manages to avoid some of her twitchy mannerisms and brings a great performance. Reese Witherspoon plays against type as a tough reporter from the wrong side of the tracks and Steve Carell, not one of my favorite actors in the past, proves me wrong. He is believable as the disgraced anchor and I enjoyed his performance. 

But it’s Billy Crudup, as slimy Cory Ellison, who is the revelation.  I was a huge fan of him as a handsome leading man 20 years ago when he starred in “Waking the Dead.”  I thought he would really blow up as a romantic lead, but for whatever reason, he didn’t, but rather has made his name as a wonderful character actor. And lucky us because he really blows up in this.

Created by Jay Carson and Kerry Ehrin, I don’t know how I missed this Apple+ series.  Last year, it won Golden Globes for most of the stars and a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Series as well as five Emmys.  Oh, right.  I missed it because I didn’t have Apple+, but now I do and I am glad. 

Rosy the Reviewer says…a smart, well-written and well-acted dramatic series that will keep you guessing and coming back for more. (Now streaming on Apple+ and Season 2 is now in production)

Blood and Money

A retired loner hunting in the Maine back country stumbles upon some bad guys and a lot of money.
Remember when Tom Berenger was one of the sexiest actors of the 1980’s? I do, and I also remember that I didn’t think he was a very good actor. Well, Tom has gotten older (he’s 71) and is showing his age, but with age comes experience and he has certainly upped his acting game. He carries this film about Jim Reed, a damaged, recovering alcoholic, out in the desolate Allagash back country of Maine looking for that elusive buck so many hunters seek, but instead accidentally kills a woman who, along with four of her cohorts, had robbed a local casino of over a million dollars. Oh, and Jim finds the money, too, but the bad guys don’t like that, so now the hunter becomes the hunted. But those bad guys don’t know who they are dealing with.
Written and directed by John Barr, this is a slow-moving film but in a good, intense way. Berenger’s character is a complex man – lonely, angry and living with grief and guilt - and Berenger is up to the task of making you care about Jim.
The Allagash back country is so remote and desolate that there are checkpoint stations where those entering and leaving must check in. Naturally, he finds himself in a part of it that is not being monitored at the moment so when he encounters the bad guys, he must survive on his own.
I don’t know what it is about my love of survival shows because I am not an outdoor type at all. My idea of roughing it is having to shop in an outdoor mall. But for some reason I can’t resist movies and TV shows about survival – everything from “Survivor” to “Alone” to “Naked and Afraid (I even wrote a whole blog post called “How Would I Do on Naked and Afraid?- not well, as it happens).” I may not be a survivalist myself, but I can appreciate what it would take and am in awe of people who can and want to do it.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like harrowing stories of survival against all odds this is a good one.
(Available on DVD from Netflix and for rent on Prime ($3.99) and Vudu ($2.99) – well worth the price!

One Night in Miami

This is one of those "What if?" movies. What if Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown got together to talk about Civil Rights and what was going on in the 1960s? It's a fascinating "What if?"

It's 1964, the eve of Cassius Clay’s (Eli Goree) victory over Sonny Liston to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the World (Clay was soon to become Mohammad Ali), and he has gathered in Miami with Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) to celebrate.
Though this is a fictionalized account, the four did know each other and did get together and we get to be flies on the wall and hear what they might have talked about.
All were already famous but not everyone had made the impact they would soon make, but it was clear that no matter how famous they all were, they were still struggling with what it meant to be a black man in America as well as coming to grips with the struggle within the black community itself – does one try to get along in the white world or shake everything up?
There is something for everyone here: boxing, politics and the dulcet sounds of Sam Cooke thanks to Leslie Odom Jr. who has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. But it's also about so much more and where we still haven't gotten to when it comes to equality.
Ali says later in the film, when talking about Black Power: “Power just means a world where it’s safe to be ourselves.”
Written by Kemp Powers and directed by Regina King, who is also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director, this is a film about a time 60 years ago that resonates today because, even though Sam Cooke sang that “A Change is Gonna Come,” sadly nothing seems to have changed. We not only no longer have the Black Power movement, America still does not appear to be a safe place for black people to be themselves.

Rosy the Reviewer says…knowing what we know about the lives of these four men and everything that has transpired since, if the ending doesn’t make you cry, then you have no heart. A must see!
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)

Penguin Bloom

A paralyzed woman finds something to live for when her family rescues an injured magpie.

Describing the plot, it probably sounds corny as hell but I promise you it is not. Based on a true story from the book by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive and adapted by Shaun Grant and Harry Cripps, Naomi Watts plays Sam Bloom, an energetic and happily married Aussie with three sons who goes on a fateful trip to Thailand where she falls off a balcony and is paralyzed. Goodbye old life. Needless to say, she doesn't deal well with this.

In the meantime, her young son, Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston), finds a baby magpie that has fallen from its nest. He rescues it and nurses it back to health. He names it Penguin because of its black and white markings and it becomes a pet. But Sam wants nothing to do with it or anyone else for that matter until one day she is alone in the house and must look after Penguin. A bond is forged (and can I say for a magpie, Penguin is awfully cute)?

Needless to say, Penguin worms his way into her heart. But this isn't just a story of an animal healing a human. Penguin has issues with flying and Sam, of course, has her own issues. Both overcome. Both learn to fly.

Like I said, this could have been a corny film but it is saved by the direction of Glendyn Ivin and stellar performances, most notably Watts, whose quiet strength permeates the film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, this is a quiet film but a testament to the healing power of our connection to animals and a reminder, especially relevent today, that no matter what your situation, there is still joy to be found in life. Now pass the box of Kleenex, please.
(Now streaming on Netflix).

What Would Sophia Loren Do?

A short documentary on the power our heroes have on our lives.
Eighty-two-year-old Italian-American Nancy Kulik, who lives in New Jersey, is a Sophia Loren superfan who, when facing adversity, was helped by Loren's movies. The film intertwines Kulik's story with Loren's, both of whom faced challenges in life. Kulik looked up to Loren's portrayals of strong women and mothers in her films and highlights how two very different women were connected by the power of film.

But this documentary short directed by Ross Kauffman is not a puff piece about a movie star. This is also an homage to the power of movies and how our admiration for celebrities can sometimes be a good thing that actually inspires us and helps us get through life. It also reminds us what a superstar Loren is.

And get out your handkerchief because the ending is not just surprising but heartwarming.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Sophia Loren, and I am, you will enjoy this, but now I am a superfan of Nancy Kulik! A very powerful and emotional 32 minutes. (Now streaming on Netflix)

Oh, and by the way. NEWS FLASH! I just had my first shot of the vaccine! My wait is over. My next post will be about waiting for the second dose!

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll 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.