Showing posts with label Wallis Simpson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wallis Simpson. Show all posts

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Black Panther" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the superhero film "Black Panther" as well as the film "The Cloverfield Paradox," now streaming on Netflix and the Showtime documentary "Eric Clapton - A Life in 12 Bars." The Book of the Week is "Wallis in Love" by Royals watcher Andrew Morton.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "A Brighter Summer Day."]

Black Panther

T-Challa (Chadwick Boseman) rises to the throne of Wakanda, a technologically developed but purposely isolated African nation, but he is faced with many challenges before he can take his rightful role as King and as the Black Panther.

It's a sad testament to Hollywood that a film starring mostly African-American actors is still such a novelty in 2018 and that it took a Marvel Comics superhero story to make that happen.  It's also a testament to the movie-going public that this film was the ninth highest grossing film in the United States and the 41st of all time.  The public obviously wants to see more movies like this.  

The story centers around a centuries old tribal war over a meteorite that fell to earth.  The meteorite contained vibranium, a precious metal with super powers and when one of the warriors ingested a heart-shaped herb containing the precious metal he gained superhuman powers and became the first Black Panther.  He was then able to unite all of the warring tribes except the Jabari and formed the country of Wakanda.  Vibranium was the source of wealth and technological advancements for Wakanda making it the most technologically advanced country in the world, but in order to keep other tribes from invading and trying to steal the vibranium, Wakanda isolated itself from the rest of the world and posed as a third world farming nation.

Fast forward to the present day.  The people of Wakanda live in peace and harmony, enjoying the technological advancements that vibranium has given them while still posing as a primitive farming nation thus having avoided colonization. 

T-Chaka, the King of Wakanda, has died and his son T-Challa is called upon to become king and lead Wakanda but he is faced with challenges to his throne and the dilemma of whether or not to continue to remain isolated from the rest of the world or help other African nations by sharing Wakanda's riches.  Share with the world but run the risk of the problems that would bring? How does a very rich country share its wealth while at the same time not bring itself down?

Meanwhile, evil arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) along with Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) are trying to steal the vibranium.  These two are very bad guys.  Klaue murdered the parents of T'Challa's best friend, W'Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) and Killmonger is bent on revenge against T'Challa.  T'Challa must hunt down Klaue and in so doing discovers the truth about the true identity of Killmonger.

This may be a superhero film based on a comic book but don't think it doesn't make political statements, especially in light of President Trump's recent comment about Third World nations.  This is a film about tradition vs. progress and revenge vs. doing the right thing.

I have never been much of a fan of superhero films and have little knowledge of the Marvel superheroes and how they all fit together, but that is not necessary to enjoy this film because it's beautiful to look at and has a story that stands on its own.  But don't take my word for it. The film has already received high praise from critics for its cinematography, screenplay, direction, performances, costume design, soundtrack, and action sequences. 

It's also exciting and refreshing to see so many African-American characters and actors in one film, especially the strong women characters, another element that sets this movie apart: From T'Challa's regal mother, Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett to Nakia, a spy and T'Challa's ex-girlfriend (Lupita Nyong'o) to Okoye, the head of Wakanda's all-female Royal Guard (Danai Gurira) to T'Challa's sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is the tech wizard responsible for Black Panther's high-tech suit - a sort of female version of James Bond's "Q" - these women kick butt. It's also fun to see Andy Serkis without his ape make-up.

Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole and directed by Coogler (Coogler also directed "Creed" and the astonishing "Fruitvale Station," both starring Michael B. Jordan), I hope the fact that this film made so much money is a wake-up call to Hollywood that black actors are in demand and that there are many more opportunities for actors of color to star in films.  Clearly the public is thirsting for this.  As Frances McDormand said at the Oscars - "Inclusion Rider!"

Rosy the Reviewer says... This is a pop culture phenomenon so if you want to be in the know you need to see this film, but it's also a really good movie with wonderful production values and some serious themes. Might we see this film in Oscar contention at the 2019 Academy Awards?

Oh, and by the way, this movie is so good that some people think Wakanda is a real place! 

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

Now Streaming on Netflix

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

It's 2028 and Earth is facing a global energy crisis. The world is experiencing blackouts and gas shortages.  Energy supplies are running low. The good news is that there is a possible solution: the Shepard particle accelerator.  The bad news is that if it is successful it could unleash horrors from a parallel universe.  Gee, I wonder what's going to happen.

The Cloverfield Station is orbiting earth and onboard is the Shepard particle accelerator which, if successfu,l would provide Earth with all of the energy that it needs. All of the nations of the world are working together to make this work, and the Cloverfield Station contains a crew representing several nations. There is Ava Hamilton, an English engineer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Commander Kiel, an American (David Oyelowo), German physicist Ernst Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Brazilian medical doctor Monk Acosta (John Ortiz), Irish engineer Mundy (Chris O'Dowd), Russian engineer Volkov (Aksel Hennie), and Chinese engineer Tam (Ziyi Zhang). They have all been up in space for over two years and so far tests of the particle accelerator have been unsuccessful.  Testing the accelerator is not an easy task and every time they test the accelerator it disrupts space and time.  The crew members are also anxious and worried about being away from their families, especially Ava Hamilton whose relationship with her husband Michael has floundered since the loss of their children to a house fire.

And then there is that little thing that conspiracy theorists fear - that if the particle accelerator is successful, yes, the needed energy for earth would be provided but it could also open parallel universes and possibly unleash demons or worse, hence the "Cloverfield Paradox."

So after several attempts, the particle accelerator is successful. And yup - this is one time the conspiracy theorists are right. Let the horrors begin!

Oh, and there's more.  Someone is sabotaging the space station.

I have been a big fan of the Cloverfield franchise that began with "Cloverfield" and was followed by "10 Cloverfield Lane."  Watching the first two films, they seemed to not be particularly related, but this film tries to bring them all together. Does it succeed?  Sort of. But all three are very creepy and scary. What makes these films so scary is not what you see on screen but rather what you don't see.  Our imaginations are far worse than anything movies can conjure up.  When right along with the characters you have no idea what is going on, that is creepy and scary.

That's not to say that there aren't some unsettling things that are actually seen on the screen such as an "Alien" inspired scene where one of the crew members is invaded by worms and another where a crew member's arm is cut off and the arm runs around wreaking havoc on the ship.

As I said, I didn't have a clue about what was going on half the time.  I have never been very good at understanding time travel or other dimensions.  I wish I did because I find it incredibly tantalizing.  I consider myself a smart woman, but for some reason I am not very smart about intricately plotted spy movies and movies that travel time and take place in different dimensions. For example, Ava discovers that her children, who she thought were killed in the house fire, are actually alive in another dimension.  Huh?

This film directed by Julius Onah with a screenplay by Oren Uziel was released directly to Netflix during the Super Bowl, an interesting way to market a film. It is really good, really creepy and really scary even though much of the time I was confused thus creating another paradox.  It's possible to enjoy a film even though you have no idea what is going on.

However, I did get this part... Don't mess with Mother Nature!

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't know what the hell was going on most of the time...but I LIKED IT!

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (2017)

A documentary about the guitar "god," Eric Clapton in his own words.

Clapton narrates this film and gave director Lili Fini Zanuck free rein to tell his story, warts and all.

It begins with Clapton describing an idyllic childhood until he was around nine.  He was an introvert who liked to draw comics.  But from the start he felt he was different and had an inferiority complex.  Turns out the woman who he thought was his sister was really his mother and the woman he thought was his mother was his grandmother.  Back on the day, this was more common than you might think.  I actually had a friend in a similar situation, but what was done to save the reputation of an unwed mother back in the 50's turned out to be a traumatic situation for the child when the truth was discovered and that was the case with Eric. The woman he thought was his sister had moved to Canada but when she came back to visit when he was nine, he found out she was his mother.  When he asked her, "Are you going to be my Mum?" she replied no, that it was best to leave it where it was. He was devastated to learn that his life had basically been a lie and he wasn't a very happy guy for his whole life after that.

But then he discovered the blues and the guitar and both became his obsessions and his life.

Eric says, "One man with his guitar versus the ease his pain and it echoed what I felt."

He met Mick and Keith and Brian at the Marquee Club on Oxford Street and they all bonded over the blues.  Eric's first band was The Roosters when he was 17 and from the start he decided he wanted to be a professional musician. Next stop, The Yardbirds who were hardcore blues men and who all thought the Beatles were "wankers," though later George Harrison became one of Eric's best friends.  But even The Yardbirds weren't into the blues enough to satisfy Eric.  When they had a hit with "For Your Love," Eric left disgusted that the band had sold out to pop music.  So then he joined John Mayall and his Bluesbreakers and
discovered Marshall amps.  That's when the "Clapton is God" graffiti started to appear.

And finally came Cream and Blind Faith.  

Clapton changed how people thought about lead guitarists.

The film provides all kinds of great never seen footage of Dylan, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix as well as rare audio during recording sessions and it's all seamlessly infused. This film is a sort of oral autobiography.  It's all here.  Finding out that his sister was his mother, his obsession with the blues, his love for his best friend's wife (George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd who inspired the "Layla" album), his career choices, the drugs (about heroin - "I felt like pink cotton wool surrounding me"), his conquering heroin but then his subsequent alcoholism, his little son's death falling from a high rise - it's a raw documentary with Eric weighing in as well as Pattie, Steve Winwood, Ahmet Ertegen, Eric's grandmother and others who played a role in his life.  

The whole love story between Eric and Pattie is an amazing one and if you want more information on that she wrote a fascinating book about it.  Eric basically became obsessed with Pattie and because she was loyal to George, she didn't succumb, even after he played the "Layla" album for her. So Eric became a recluse heroin addict for over four years but he continued to woo and badger Pattie until she eventually left George but then not long after she did it all fell apart.  Ironically, George and Eric were able to remain friends and Patti was out.

Clapton's story is a fascinating one and the chronology is effective as Baby Boomers can't help but reflect on where they were themselves as Eric's life unfolds.  And his story is also an inspirational one because despite all of the tragedy, Eric's life turned around. After the death of his little son, Eric vowed to live the rest of his life honoring his son and he has done that.  He is happily married with three young children and he founded Crossroads in Antigua, a drug treatment facility. 

But it was the music that healed him.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like Eric Clapton and are a fan of the blues, you will be fascinated and inspired by his story and how beautifully it captures the demons that drove Eric but also how he was able to pull himself out of the depths of despair.

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

152 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

This is a tale of restless Taiwanese youth, a Romeo and Juliet love story and a coming of age tale gone wrong.

First of all, I have to say that I am fundamentally opposed to any movie that is longer than two hours unless it's "Gone With the Wind."  There has to be a mighty good reason to go beyond the two hours.  And this film is FOUR hours long!  And though the story is compelling, it just does not warrant four hours.

Based on a true crime event, this film tells the story of S'ir (Chen Chang), a Chinese teenager living in Taiwan in the late 1950's.  It was a time when many Chinese moved to Taiwan but it was an uneasy life for them there and many of the kids formed gangs.   S'ir is the fourth child of a large Chinese family living in Taipei.  His father works for the government but it is clear that S'ir's parents are not happy living in Taiwan. The film covers a four year period and when it begins S'ir is in middle school and his father is pleading with a school official to let his son attend day school rather than night school, because night school has so many delinquents but that's where S'ir ends up. And yes, there are two gangs of kids - the Little Park Gang which consists of kids of civil servants and the 217 Gang, kids of military parents - and these kids don't get along.

S'ir meets Ming (Lisa Yang) who was the girlfriend of Honey (Hung-Ming Lin), a member of a rival gang.  Honey isn't around because he has disappeared, supposedly having killed a kid who tried to get close to Ming.  S'ir falls in love with Ming but then Honey comes back and we basically have a Taiwanese "West Side Story" with the same kind of tragic ending.

As I said, I am fundamentally opposed to really long films but I have to say that this film has a tendency to envelop you and it did me.  It's a fascinating look inside a history and culture we know little about.  It's also an epic story that shows what the adults were going through having to leave their homes in China and start a new life in another country and then the kids trying to shape an identity through joining gangs.  It's mesmerizing.

Why? What makes a film mesmerizing?

Directed by Edward Yang, who is probably best known for his film "Yi Yi," which I reviewed last year, this film is based on a true crime event from director Edward Yang's own childhood and evokes the world he grew up in.  He has created a combination of time and place and coupled that with an exotic atmosphere and pending doom that draws the viewer in and you feel as if you are living it all with the characters. That is what makes a mesmerizing film.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] manages to seamlessly weave together the story of Taipei street gangs, puppy love, rock and roll, lost cultural signifiers, and the search for a national identity. While often compared to Nicholas Ray's moody classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955), [this film] is so much more.  A masterpiece of the Taiwanese New Wave and a cinematic highpoint of the tail end of the twentieth century, this is a film whose grasp of period and place is masterful almost beyond the realm of mere storytelling."

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

Rosy the Reviewer says...but with that said, did it really need to be four hours long?

***Book of the Week***

Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton (2018)

The subtitle for this book could also be "Be careful what you wish for!"

Wallis Warfield Simpson took the rap for Edward VIII's abdication - who gave up the the throne for "the woman I love" - but according to author Morton, Edward didn't really want to be king, though Wallis, a social climber of the highest order, certainly wanted to be Queen. But as we all know (and there are various versions of exactly how it all came down) Edward VIII stepped down, his younger brother became King George VI and George's daughter, Elizabeth, ascended to the throne when he died.  If Edward had not abdicated, Elizabeth II, now the longest ruling monarch in history, might never have been Queen.  Funny how life works.

Royal watcher Andrew Morton, who is best known for his then shocking book about Princess Diana (
which turned out to be practically written by her), doesn't paint a particularly flattering portrait of Mrs. Simpson.

Raised in Baltimore, her supposed first words were "me, me, me." She was a spoiled child who grew up to be a charming but ambitious woman who ruthlessly sought status and social acceptance.  She had already been married twice when she met the Prince of Wales and his falling in love with a divorcee and wanting to marry her and make her his Queen caused a major threat to the Monarchy eventually leading to Edward abdicating.  The irony of Mrs. Simpson's life was that in seeking social status - marrying a king is about as high up the social ladder as you can get - she was cast out of society when the King abdicated. It also didn't help that they were both Nazi sympathizers as well. 

Though Wallis did get a title when Edward was made the Duke of Windsor (she the Duchess), she was denied the title of HRH, something that nagged at her for her whole life.  Also neither were welcome in England and the two basically lived sad lives, the Duke utterly devoted to her until the end, she in love with another man and treating the Duke like a bothersome pest.

Morton includes many new details of Mrs. Simpson's life and clears up some rumors and gossip about her, such as she was able to mesmerize the Prince with sexual wiles learned at a Shanghai bordello.  Not likely, says Morton.  A fascinating glimpse into another era of class consciousness and privilege.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a soap opera of the highest order -- and it's all true!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Red Sparrow"


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.