Showing posts with label Wilde Lake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wilde Lake. Show all posts

Friday, July 22, 2016

"Ghostbusters" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new all-female remake of "Ghostbusters" as well as DVDs "By the Sea" and "The Water Diviner." The Book of the Week is "Wilde Lake: A Novel" by Laura Lippmann.  Yes, people, you heard me.  A novel, which shows that I have heard my fans who like fiction.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Luis Bunuel's "Viridiana."]


Four female Ghostbusters band together to save Manhattan from otherworldly creatures in this update of the classic 1984 film.

Kristen Wiig is Erin Gilbert, a professor at Columbia University who is up for tenure.  It's not a sure thing and she doesn't want to rock the boat, so she is shocked when she discovers an old book of hers on Amazon.  It's a book about the paranormal that she wrote years ago with her friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy).  However, since nothing came of the book (they never proved the existence of ghosts), and Erin is now a physics professor, she doesn't want anyone to know she had anything to do with that book, which would hardly be called scholarly by her colleagues.

She goes to see Abby to tell her to stop promoting their book only to discover that Abby is still deeply immersed in the study of the paranormal, this time with fellow scientist Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), who puts a whole new spin on the term "mad scientist."  When they investigate a haunting at a local historic mansion, they all see a ghost and Erin is convinced and pulled into starting a ghost hunting business with Abby and Jillian.  Later transit worker and NYC historian Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins forces with them after being attacked by a ghost down in the subway.  Turns out there is an evil hotel janitor (Neil Casey) seeking revenge on the world for the bullying he endured as a youth who is responsible for unleashing all of the ghosts lurking about.  He also has an even more diabolical plan and our ladies must take him down before he takes them down.

It's all silly stuff but not any sillier than the first "Ghostbusters."  I mean, remember the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? I love that this remake stars women and these women are very funny.

Which leads me to go on a bit of a rant.

Sadly, sexism is still alive and well. The movie hadn't even been released yet and there was grumbling about why remake this classic film?  Well, you know from my post last Tuesday that I usually hate remakes (and sequels), but I have to say that this was every bit as good as the first one, and I think the grumbling came from the same people who don't think women are funny.  It's a three letter word that starts with "m" and ends with an "n." Sexism, sexism, sexism is alive and well...still.  Sigh.

These four women are four of the funniest comic actors working today.  And you notice I didn't say WOMEN comic actors.  Women are every bit as funny as men, if not more so. This whole notion that women can't be funny is ridiculous.  Comedian Jerry Lewis started it all and professional curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens added fuel to the fire with his article in "Vanity Fair" - "Why Women Aren't Funny."  But the only people who think Jerry Lewis is funny anymore are the French and Hitchens is dead, so there you have it.

McCarthy is adept at physical comedy, Wiig at nuanced funny expressions and double takes and Kate McKinnon is over the top. She always goes all out for the sake of a laugh. She is shameless, shamelessly funny.

But for me, I enjoyed Leslie Jones the most.  At 48, she is the oldest member of SNL ever hired for the cast, and, in my opinion, one of the funniest. So glad she is making it.  AND YET, the Internet trolls aren't happy unless they are bringing someone down. This week she was attacked on Twitter and called racist names I don't intend to repeat here.  It has gotten so bad for her that she was forced to close her Twitter account. What is wrong with people?  Any loser can sit in his mother's basement and print all kinds of trash about people.  So sexism is not only alive and well, sadly so is racism. But Leslie, YOU get the last laugh, because YOU are a star and the racist trolls are not.  I hope to see much more of her, because she is one of the funniest people in show business today.

On a less heavy note, another revelation here is Chris Hemsworth.  I have made no secret of my love for the hunky Hemsworth, but who knew he was funny?  Here he pokes fun at his handsomeness and the dumb blonde stereotype by playing the handsome but clueless receptionist, Kevin, hired by the ladies, partly because he is such great eye candy, but also because they didn't have any other applicants.  He is so dumb he doesn't have lenses in his glasses because then he won't have to clean them and when he hears a loud noise he covers his eyes.

Paul Feig directs this reboot of the 1984 film (he also wrote the script with Katie Dippold), and it's just as funny as the original.  And note:  Feig also directed some other funny films with Melissa McCarthy - "Bridesmaids," "The Heat" and "Spy." If you like Melissa McCarthy, see her in Paul Feig films, not the ones she does with her husband, Ben Falcone.  Just remember this.  Paul Feig movies funny.  Ben Falcone movies not funny. 

Homage is paid to the first film with heavy usage of the jaunty theme music we have come to associate with the film and cameos by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver.  I kept waiting to see Rick Moranis pop up, but he never did and, sadly, Harold Ramis, who was also one of the original "Ghostbusters" and who co-wrote the 1984 film with Dan Aykroyd, died in 2014.

Be sure to see this one. You will have a rollicking good time. Oh, and don't get up and leave when the credits roll.  There is more comedy, not to mention more of Chris Hemsworth strutting his delicious self.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a testament to female friendship and one of the few comedies this year that is actually funny.  I laughed.


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

Now on DVD

By the Sea (2015)

Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie Pitt), a 1970's married couple, head to a seaside resort hoping to save their crumbling marriage.  When they befriend a couple of passionate newlyweds, they are confronted by the lack of passion in their own marriage.

What do you do when your 14-year marriage is in trouble?  Why you go on a "dirty weekend," of course.  That's what the Brits call a weekend away where sex is on your mind.  But actually the shrinks say that is the worst thing you can do when things are not going well in a marriage.  I guess all of that alone time together actually exacerbates the problems and that's just what happens to Roland and Vanessa.

The two have a lovely hotel room with a view of the sea in the South of France, but Roland is a writer who is having trouble writing so he goes off to the local café to try to write but mostly hangs out with the owner and bartender, Michel (Niels Arestrup).  Vanessa is a troubled ex-dancer.  We know she is troubled because she looks sad all of the time and looks longingly out to sea.  She is also left alone for long periods of time with nothing to do, so she is bored. You know what they say about the devil and idle hands...or something.

Vanessa discovers a peephole in the wall into the next door bedroom. When you are so bored that you notice little peepholes down by the baseboard of your hotel room, you are really bored. But lucky for Vanessa, what's going on in the room next door is NOT boring.  It's the room where a couple of newlyweds, Lea (Melanie Laurent) and Francois (Melvil Poupaud), are staying.  Being newlyweds, you can imagine how they spend THEIR day.  When Roland discovers the peephole too, watching the newlyweds becomes a shared activity complete with wine and food. Roland and Vanessa have finally found something to do together. Eventually, it becomes very erotic.

Roland and Vanessa strike up a friendship with the newlyweds and some jealousy ensues.  Vanessa is not easy to like.  She accuses Roland of wanting to have sex with Lea, and there is some foreshadowing of trouble ahead and eventually we discover why Vanessa is not happy and why she and Roland are struggling.

Brad and Angelina are indeed a gorgeous pair and the French seaside is also gorgeous, making for a movie that is gorgeous to look at.

However, I have a hard time thinking of Brad as a Roland and the mustache he sports here makes him look like Homer Simpson's neighbor, Ned Flanders, but an extremely handsome Ned Flanders.  But that's just a minor thing.

Written and directed by Angelina, I was prepared to dislike this film because the trailers were awful.  All kinds of existential moping and looking out the window, lots of anguish and crying, sitting in a corner in the fetal position etc.  The film started with about 15 minutes of close-ups of Angelina crying and Brad hanging out in the bar and looking out to sea, so I wasn't hopeful, but after that, things picked up and this film was really good and gorgeously produced and photographed. I think that's the fourth time I have used the word gorgeous, but it truly describes the look of this film. 

As the director, Angelina has done a wonderful job framing the shots and creating atmosphere.  I feel that Angelina is a brave old soul and you can tell this was a labor of love for her. I have a great deal of respect for Jolie.  She has directed some wonderful films ("In the Land of Blood and Honey" and "Unbroken") and has not gotten the credit she deserves, something women directors have to endure.  Filmmaking is still very much a man's world.  It's nice to see Brad supporting her here, though, since Angelina also wrote this film, one can't help but wonder if this is a comment on Brad's and Angelina's own marriage.

On a more frivolous note, which I sometimes fall victim to, Vanessa wears a series of big hats.  I couldn't help but wonder how she packed so many hats for a short vacation.  However, after thinking that, it dawned on me that perhaps the hats were symbolic.  The white hat when things were going well, the black hat when not so much?  Deep, Angelina, deep.

Also every day Vanessa and Roland see a fisherman taking his boat out of the harbor and every day he appears to return with no fish.  Why does he keep going out?  Like marriage, you are sometimes pulled by the tides and you just have to go with it...until one day you catch a fish?   Again, deep.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish, poetic film where you can wallow, not only in the beauty of the French seaside, but the beauty that is Brangelina. 

The Water Diviner (2014)

An Australian farmer travels to Turkey to try to find his missing sons who fought at Gallipoli.

Inspired by true events, the film begins with the WW I battle of Gallipoli, December 20, 1915, where the Turks beat back Australian and New Zealander troops to win the bloody campaign.

Russell Crowe plays Connor, a farmer who is adept at finding water using divining rods.  When the film opens, we see him dousing, finding the water and triumphantly digging the well.  But when he returns home, his wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), is talking about their sons as if they are still young boys living with them. Though we see flashbacks of happy times when the boys were little, it is clear the boys are no longer with them.  They fought at Gallipoli and never returned home so they are presumed dead.  She is clearly a bit off her rocker and rails at Connor that he can find water but he can't find their sons.  She drowns herself in the pond, so without anything to live for, Connor decides to go to Turkey to find his sons' bodies and bring them home.

It's been four years since Gallipoli and despite that one victory, the Turks have lost the war and the Australians are in charge.  However, there is a truce of sorts and the Aussies have asked the Turks to help them find their dead so they can bury them.  Meanwhile, Connor can't get to Gallipoli.  Civilians are not allowed there.  However, he is determined to find his sons so he can bury them next to their mother, and where there is a will there is a way, especially in the movies.

In flashbacks we see the brothers fighting and presumably dying together on the battlefield in a heart-breaking scene, but there is a twist.

There is also a side plot with the widow at the hotel where Connor stays.  Her brother-in-law wants to marry her but she is more interested in Connor, which adds a bit of culture clash and schmaltz to the film.

Here is another film I put off seeing because #1, it starred Russell Crowe and I was not particularly a fan.  It has something to do with "Noah" and "Les Miserables," but also I always thought he was a bit of a grump.  Secondly, I am not a huge fan of war movies.  But again, I was wrong.  This is not a war movie but rather the story of a father's mission, Crowe was very poignant, and it was a really excellent film written (with Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios) and directed by Crowe in his directorial debut.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Russell, because I liked this film, I have forgiven you for your singing in "Les Miserables."  I won't mention it again.

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

243 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Viridiana (1961)

Viridiana, a young nun about to take her vows, visits her rich uncle and finds her piety challenged.

Viridiana (Sylvia Pinal)  lives in a convent and is about to take her vows to become a nun.  Her rich reclusive uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), invites her to visit, but Viridiana is reluctant.  Though her uncle has been supporting her, she hardly knows him.  However, the Mother Superior urges her to go.  When she arrives, it is clear that Don Jaime is very taken with Viridiana because she looks so much like his dead wife, who he is still obsessed by, so much in fact that we see him trying on his dead wife's high heels and her corset, pretty shocking stuff for 1961.  Don Jaime  is also obsessed with Viridiana and wants to marry her.  The night she is to leave, Don Jaime persuades Viridiana to put on his dead wife's wedding dress.  His maid, Ramona, drugs her drink and Don Jaime carries Viridiana to bed with the intention of raping her.  However, he doesn't.  The next day, when Viridiana is bent on leaving, Don Jaime tells her he has taken her virginity so she can't leave and go back to the convent. She is no longer pure.  Viridiana still plans to leave so he confesses he didn't actually do it.  As Viridiana is ready to board the bus, the local authorities find her and take her back to the estate.  Don Jaime has hanged himself.

Viridiana was made co-heir of the estate and decides to stay on at the estate, but when Don Jaime's son, Jorge, arrives with his girlfriend, it is clear he too lusts after Viridiana. Though not following through with taking her vows, Viridiana still wants to do good, so she gathers together a motley crew of beggars and installs them all in an out building on the estate with the intent of feeding them and educating them.  But they are an unruly bunch and when Viridiana and Jorge leave for a couple of days, the beggars break into the main house and help themselves to food and drink and drunkenly wreck the place.  When one of the beggars wants to take a picture, they all pose on one side of the table in a strange depiction of "The Last Supper." When Viridiana and Jorge return, the beggars attack Jorge and Viridiana, and Viridiana is ultimately forced to confront the limits of her idealism.

Luis Bunuel was a Spanish filmmaker who made films in Spain, Mexico and France.  With his film "Un Chien Andelou," he was a leader in avante-garde surrealism, though his career spanned over 50 years and he made films in every genre. Fifteen of his films appear in "They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?" which lists the 1000 greatest films ever made (he tied with John Ford for the second most).

"Viridiana" was the first film Bunuel made in Spain since he left for Mexico in 1939.  He was much criticized for his return because fascist dictator Francisco Franco was in power and Bunuel was considered a protester and loyalist.  Up until this time, though Spanish, most of Bunuel's films had been made in France and Mexico, one of which was "The Exterminating Angel," which is also one of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" and which I reviewed back in 2015. 

Though Bunuel made some great films, it wasn't until he made "Viridiana," that he had international success.  The film won the Palme d'or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival but was banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican. His exploration of religious belief and do gooders versus the march of progress and the appetitites and violence of human nature was considered blasphemy.

Why it's a Must See:  "Full of moments of surreal observation, the film remains one of Bunuel's most perfect expositions of the irredeemable follies of human nature and the irrepressible comedy of life."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I find I am more susceptible to well-made classic soap operas than films trying to make statements about film like Bresson's minimalism. Here Bunuel makes his statement about human nature by telling a good story with lush production values.  Where Bresson shunned music almost completely, Bunuel used religious music throughout the film until the end, when the music changed to pop, symbolizing Viridinana facing her own human foibles. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a riveting film where one could surmise that Bunuel wants us to remember the old adage:  "No good deed goes unpunished" and that we humans are, well, human.
(In Spanish with English subtitles, b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Wilde Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman (2016)

Newly elected state's attorney, Luisa Brant, thinks she remembers the details of what happened at Wilde Lake when she was 10 and her brother was involved in the death of a young man at a high school graduation party.  He was cleared of any responsibility, but some new facts come to light and now she is not so sure.

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected state’s attorney - the first female - representing Howard County in suburban Maryland, a job her widowed father also held.  Lu grew up in the 1980's in Columbia, a planned community situated on Wilde Lake, a community meant to be a modern utopia of racial and economic equality.  She may be the state's attorney with all of the administrative duties that are a part of that job, but Lu is ambitious and competitive and she doesn't plan on giving up trying cases.

Her first case after taking office is a murder case.  A drifter is accused of breaking into a woman's apartment and bludgeoning her to death.  But as she prepares for trial, some events from the past haunt her.  While at a graduation party at the lake, her older brother (by eight years), AJ, saved his best friend, Davey, an African American, from an attack by some brothers who accused Davey of raping their sister.  Davey was stabbed and as AJ chased one of the brothers, the brother fell on his own knife and died.  AJ was cleared of any charges by a grand jury, but now some facts and people have come to light that make Lu question her memories of that time. After all, she was only a little girl.  Was justice done?

Lippman has woven a crime story that moves back and forth between Lu's first person memories of her childhood where she grew up with her widowed father (her mother died soon after her birth) and a brother eight years her senior and a third person point of view as she takes on her new role as state's attorney and gets ready for a murder trial. Lu herself is a widow raising her two small twins on her own.  Her husband died unexpectedly while on a business trip and he wasn't "alone" if you know what I mean.

Lippman tells a good story (she also wrote "Every Secret Thing."  I liked the movie version and reviewed it a few months ago), and she is a good writer.

"It is one of those January days that feels like a hangover."

That's good writing.  She also builds suspense so that you want to keep reading to find out where she is heading.

Lippman is also good at capturing family relationships we can all relate to, such as the older brother/younger sister dynamic she so vividly portrays.  A young teenaged AJ is given the responsibility to watch over the house and his sister while their father goes away for a night or two.  "No parties."  "Of course, Dad."  "Bye, AJ." "Bye, Dad." 

LET'S PARTAY!!!  AJ tells Lu to stay in her room and only come out if she has to use the toilet.  When she does come out, she tries to shield her eyes from what is going on around her.  I have a daughter who can totally relate, right darling?

You know that I am not a regular fiction reader, but I have fans who are, so I feel it's Rosy the Reviewer's duty to throw in some fiction recommendations from time to time, and I have to say that I am enjoying my quest to be inclusive.  I enjoyed this book and spent a whole Saturday afternoon reading it, because I wanted to find out what had really happened back at that lake.  There were some twists I saw coming and some I didn't, and, you know me, movies are always on my mind.  I think this book would make a pretty good film. I am casting it in my mind right now.  Let's see, Julia Roberts for Lu? Tom Cruise for AJ? Cuba Gooding Jr. for Davey?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Thomas Cook or Louise Doughty or you like intricately plotted modern mysteries with some psychological elements, you will enjoy this book.


That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

 "The Key to a Happy Retirement:
Yes, I Have Found the Key!"

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