Showing posts with label You Should Have Left. Show all posts
Showing posts with label You Should Have Left. Show all posts

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Rosy the Reviewer Recommends: What I've Been Watching At Home

[I review "Antebellum," "You Should Have Left, "The Hunt," "The Rental" and "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga."]

Well, we can't exactly go to the movies anymore, not where I live anyway, and there are no drive-ins here, but, fortunately, there is a lot of content to be found at home, and more and more, production companies are releasing first-run films to television venues and on DVD. So we can still "go to the movies" in the comfort of our own homes!

So let's go to the movies!

Antebellum (2020)

What starts out as a story about slaves being abused on a plantation taken over by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War turns into something decidedly different.

This film has a big twist that unfortunately I saw coming from the very start.  It wasn't helped by the fact that before the pandemic, when I was a regular moviegoer (remember those days?), I had seen the trailer for this multiple times and the trailer gives it all away. So don't watch the trailer!  But even though I figured out what was going on early, I still found this film to be worthwhile.  And here's why.

"The past is never dead.  It's not even past." 

So said William Faulkner whose novels were chronicles of the South, and here, what starts as a Civil War horror story (the Civil War WAS a horror story all on its own) becomes a horror story for today, and as Faulkner said, the past is always with us.

The film begins with several unspoken minutes of the camera moving over a beautiful plantation with hoop skirts and greenery and cute children and then a horrific scene depicting what happens to slaves who try to escape a plantation' one that had been taken over by some Confederate soldiers.  And that's when we meet Eden (Janelle Monae).  She is new to the plantation and endures branding and other torture and indignities along with her fellow slaves while the white Confederate soldiers and plantation owner flaunt their white privilege until about 40 minutes into the film, fast forward to the 21st century, where another story unfolds, with Monae playing Veronica Henley, a successful author and sociologist, who despite her degrees and success also endures racism, though the modern kind, more subtle, but no less insidious. 

How are these two stories and these two women related? If you haven't already figured it out, you will (especially if you had seen the trailer).

Is the film uneven?  Yes.  Is the film over-the-top?  Yes.  Is the film heavy handed? Yes.

But that doesn't mean it was not a satisfying film experiece.  It was.

Despite some reservations, I liked it and it needs to be seen.

This film appears when we need to, not only be reminded of a time when African Americans were subjugated, tortured and treated like animals while the American economy prospered from their free, back-breaking labor, but to also be reminded that African Americans are still subjected to white supremacy and brutal racial injustice today with Confederate flags flying, the arguments over preserving monuments to the Confederacy and the current killing of black men by police. 

It's also a reminder to us white folks about our white privilege, which to me is never more evident than when a white person responds to "Black lives matter," with "All lives matter." I think to myself, "What aren't you getting?" Dont you read the news? So here is my response: All lives will matter when black lives matter.  So we white people don't need to weigh in. Let black people get on with what they need to do and what they need to call things, and we white people need to go sit quietly and contemplate our white privilege. I know I have.

Okay, so the Confederate flag. Let's talk about that.

I've never understood the whole Confederate flag thing.  Why are so many white people obsessed with the Civil War, the Old South, the Confederate flag and preserving the statues that honor Confederate generals who were fighting to keep slavery? Are these people lamenting how it all turned out and wishing to go back to the plantation days of white supremacy over people of color? Is that what "Make America Great Again" means?  Duh. To me, that's all a sign that racism may not be overt and in your face every day, but it's alive and well, and there are people walking amongst us who do wish the days of the Confederacy would return, who want to live their white privilege and keep people of color "in their place."  We are now over 150 years past the Civil War.  And you wonder why black people are mad?

In my own life, I must confess, I have a memory of my Dad coming into my bedroom in the morning when I was a little girl and waking me up by announcing, "Save your Confederate money!  The South will rise again!"  I have no idea where he got that from or what it meant to him. He was not from the South and had no reason, that I knew of, to want it to rise again, but he thought it was hilarious and, I am embarrassed to say that I thought it was funny too.  But in my defense, I was a little girl and didn't know any better and, it's not like we had a Confederate flag hanging in the house or that my parents disparaged black people.  But as I got older, as Maya Angelou so sagely said, "When you know better, you do better," so I have come to understand that even though there were no particularly obvious signs, there was white privilege and racism in my family, and I have had to come to grips with that.

Jonelle Monae is a wonderful actress, but she is also known for her social activism, and this film gives her a dramatic platform to explore the plight of, not just black Amercans, but black women. Gabourey Sadibe offers some humor as Veronica's friend with Jena Malone and Jack Huston providing the personifications of evil characters.

So it's all here.  Slavery, racial injustice, the Civil War, a plantation, white supremacy, the politicals of the here and now, some horror...and thank, god, a rising up. Yes, it's a bit overdone and heavy-handed, but written and directed by Christopher Renz and Gerard Bush, this is a morality play.  Those plays were overdone and heavy-handed, too, but necessary to get the point across.  And God knows, unbelievably there are still knuckleheads, er, people today, who don't get the point that racial injustice and white supremacy is alive and well, that maybe not that much has changed since slavery.  African Americans might not be technically enslaved anymore but the scars of the past run deep.  Racism is alive and well, social injustice is alive and well, and we all need to do something about it. It's important.  It matters. Our lives depend on it. All lives will matter when black lives matter.

Rosy the Reviewer says...available now On Demand, this is a modern day horror story of where we may be headed and a reminder that we still have a long way to go on the road to social justice and equality (and take my advice, don't see the trailer)!

You Should Have Left  (2020)

With their young daughter, a banker and his actress wife rent a house in Wales for a brief vacation before she takes on a new acting job in London but what was supposed to be a dream vacation turns into a nightmare.

Yet another horror film from Blumhouse Productions, which has practically cornered the market on horror films.  As I said in my review of "Hush" back in June, there is good Blumhouse and bad Blumhouse but now I need to add another moniker to that production company - Big Name Blumhouse.  

Kevin Bacon stars as Theo Conroy, an ex-banker with a much younger actress wife (Amanda Seyfried) and an overly precocious daughter, Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex). They have rented an Air B&B in Wales and like many of my experiences with Air B&B the house was not what was expected.  In fact, it's a very, very strange house that is bigger inside than outside, has doors leading nowhere and everywhere, lights that go on and off by themselves and  "You should leave" appears in his journal.  This is another one of those tales of an innocent family stuck in a house that has it out for them.  And maybe they aren't so innocent either.

Theo has a past.  His first wife drowned in a bathtub and he was accused of killing her.  Though he got off, he is haunted by the past - literally.  He has horrible nightmares and it doesn't help that he worries that his young wife is cheating on him. He worries so much that he checks her phone, Ipad and laptop when she is taking a bath. It also doesn't help that he discovers she has a second phone, one he didn't know about.  Uh-oh. When he realizes the house has it out for him, he tries to escape but ultimately learns the one thing he can't escape is himself.

Written and directed by David Koepp (and based on the novel by Daniel Kehlmann), the film is slow-moving but once you are halfway in, it will get you, you will want to know how it's going to end, though you will also probably figure that out.

Bacon has worked with Koepp before, 20 years ago in "Stir of Echoes."  Speaking of 20 years ago, I couldn't get over how old Bacon looks now.  He is no longer the young man of "Footloose."  In fact, he looks more like Clint Eastwood these days.  He even walks like him! I know. I should talk.  We all get old. But aging or not, Bacon is still a good actor and seeing him in this is reason enough to see the film.  Sadly, Seyfried doesn't have much to do and as for young Avery - well, you know how I feel about precocious child actors.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of tales starring malevolent houses or you like psychological horror, you might enjoy this stylish film about guilt that reminded me of "The Shining."
(Available on DVD and VOD)

The Hunt (2020)

Blumhouse strikes again, but this time, along with some gore, there is political satire. We have liberals hunting down right wingers. Is there nothing Blumhouse won’t take on?

Originally slated to release last year, the film was pulled by Universal after the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, because, well, this movie is about hunting people down for sport, in this case, liberals hunting down the so-called “deplorables,” and, even those mass shootings notwithstanding, social media and the President had already weighed in on how horrible this film was supposed to be before anyone had even seen it.

Poor conservatives are kidnapped and drugged and taken to a field where they must fend for themselves as they are hunted down by the liberal elite in a remake of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game," a 1924 novela that is the basis for this and has been the basis for many other films from the 1932 film of the same name to "Open Season" to "The Hunger Games" to (my favorite) "Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity!"

Okay, liberals hunting down right wingers. I know. But hold on, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Like I said, this is a satire, a rather nasty one, yes, but there are no heroes here and no victims either. Everyone is really, really unlikable and the movie takes shots at both sides. The "deplorables," are, well, deplorable and the elites are the worst of that group. Everyone is a stereotype, but it's a lesson in what could happen when we all see each other as stereotypes and our political views take precedent over our humanity. And if you like gore, there is plenty of that as everyone gets killed off in unique and grisly ways.

Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof wrote this film directed by Craig Zobel and it's a timely foray into our current political divide -- except it's fun!

Hilary Swank and Ike Barinholtz star along with Betty Gilpin, who most recently starred in the TV series “Glow,” and who steals the show here as Crystal who turns the tables and reluctantly takes on everyone, and Gilpin is so good she just might emerge as a new action star.

Rosy the Reviewer says…no matter what your politics, there’s something here for everyone. It’s provocative, but also hilarious.

(Available on DVD from Netflix and for rent on Amazon Prime and On Demand $5.99)

The Rental (2020)

Two couples take a break from their California lifestyle to rent a fancy Air B & B on the Oregon Coast only to discover that instead of a fun vacation they have found themselves in a horror story.

What does it say about me that I am drawn to films about malevolent houses and landlords and evil psychopaths stalking innocent, unsuspecting victims? Maybe it means I’m depressed about having to stay home and watch movies to avoid the malevolent virus that seems to be stalking all of us.

Anyway, here we have two couples, Charlie (Dan Stevens), Michelle (Alison Brie), Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White) renting a posh house. All is well for a time until they discover they are being filmed and then they realize they are being stalked, all while dealing with some romantic and emotional issues that crop up.  Charlie and Mina work together and have a close relationship which Charlie's wife, Michelle, and Charlie's brother, Josh, can't help but notice, so all of that doesn't help when the stalking begins. It's a horror film in an Air B & B but it's also an emotional and relationship horror story where the characters keep making cringe-worthy decisions and you want to yell at the screen "No!!!"  

Written by Dave Franco (yes, James' little brother) and Joe Swanberg and directed by Franco, this is a tight little horror romp and it will keep you guessing. It was also supposedly written because of Franco's dislike of staying in Air B & B's.  Well, let me tell you, don't get me started.  I have some Air B & B horror stories of my own.

Going into this, I was certain that Dan Stevens was going to be the bad guy since that has been his m.o. in several films since leaving his role as Matthew Crawley in “Downton Abbey.” But I was wrong, though his character does cheat on his wife in this, so I guess that could be construed as being a bad guy, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says…this is an atmospheric little thriller about a rental that is also a rental. It’s a first-run movie available to rent on Amazon Prime.

A spoof of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Will Farrell and Rachel McAdams play Lars and Sigrit, a singing duo from Iceland called Fire Saga, and they want to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Lars has been obsessed with winning the contest ever since he saw ABBA win the contest singing “Waterloo.” However, there is a problem. Fire Saga isn’t very good. But a strange set of circumstances that can only happen in a crazy comedy lead them to the contest in Scotland.

Written by Will and Andrew Steele and directed by David Dobkin, this is a fairly predictable and really silly film that reminded me a bit of "This is Spinal Tap (though not as good)", but there is a sweetness to this film that is rather endearing, though, I couldn't help but wonder what my friends in Iceland would think about this depiction. Farrell hasn't had a hit film in a long time but he is actually funny here as he brings back his manchild schtick. The elaborate production numbers (a real thing in the contest), some of which, in the film, include actual winners and participants of the real contest, are great; Rachel McAdams is surprisingly funny, underrated as a comic actress; and, coincidentally, here is Dan Stevens again, playing against type as the macho Russian frontrunner.  He is neither the romantic lead nor the bad guy.  I will watch anything starring Dan Stevens and miss him so much when I watch "Downton Abbey." Pierce Brosnan plays Will's Dad and I will watch him in anything, too!

Rosy the Reviewer says…some of the film works, some of it doesn’t, and it’s silly, yes, but If you like Will Ferrell you might enjoy this send-up of the Eurovision Song Contest.  The film is now streaming on Netflix. (And if you don't know what the Eurovision Song Contest is, Google it.  It defies a short description).

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).

Go to, 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.