Showing posts with label film reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film reviews. Show all posts

Friday, March 14, 2014

My Top 10 Movie Musicals of All Time and The Week in Reviews

[I review "3 Days to Kill" and DVDs  "Jobs," " Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Broken Circle Breakdown" and "Inside Llewyn Davis" and give you "The Book of the Week."]

But first


The American Musical is beyond compare.

The Musical is an art form that through music, song, dance and dialogue takes us away from ourselves.  It is ever changing with the times.  During the Great Depression musical comedy soothed the national soul and later, shows like "South Pacific" and "Showboat" took on social issues. But no matter what the purpose, if you leave the theater humming the tunes, it has been successful.

I know I am putting myself out on a limb here to only choose 10, because I love musicals, but if I had to choose, these are the very best.

Note that these are MOVIE musicals, not Broadway musicals. 

If I did a list of best or most important stage musicals it might be very different, e.g. "Oklahoma" would be on the list, not because I love the libretto, (also known as the "book" ), or even the music that much, but, because it was the first musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Agnes De Mille did the choreography.  Likewise, "Rent" and "A Chorus Line" would be on that list, because they were ground breakers, but not here -- those two were abominable movies.

Likewise, I am hard pressed to find new musicals that measure up to the ones produced during the "Golden Age."  With the exception of a couple such as "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera" and "The Book of Mormon," recent musicals have been a disappointment.

 

Here are my Top Ten movie musicals
and why.



All that Jazz (1979)


What's it about?
Bob Fosse's dark autobiographical take on life and the musical.

Why it's in my top 10.
Bob Fosse and his dark take on life and the musical.




An American in Paris (1951)

 
 
 

What's it about?
An American in Paris, silly.

Why it's in my top ten.
Beautiful Gershwin music and the 18-minute ballet with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.




Cabaret (1972)


What's it about?
The divine decadence of 1930's Berlin before the Nazis came to power.

Why it's in my top 10.
Under Bob Fosse's direction, it's truly an adult musical. Liza Minnelli aint bad either.




Funny Girl (1968)

 
What it's about.
The life of Fanny Brice.
 
Why it's in my top ten.
Barbara Streisand singing "Don't Rain on My Parade."  She's also really funny.
 
 
 
 
Gypsy (1962)
 
 
 
What's it about?
A domineering stage mother and her famous stripper daughter "Gypsy Rose Lee."

Why it's in my top 10? 
Rosalind Russell as Mama (and of course, the songs).




A Hard Day's Night (1964)



What it's about.
The Fab Four out on the town.

Why it's in my top ten.
It's the Beatles, Baby! 
And this film also changed a lot of young lives (see my blog "Why the Beatles Matter").





Les Miserables (2012)



 

What's it about?
A bunch of miserable people in a miserable time in French history.

Why it's in my top ten.
"One more day."








Singin' in the Rain (1952)



What's it about?
The difficult transition from silent films to talkies.

Why it's in my top 10.
Gene Kelly and his famous dance in the rain and Donald O'Connor giving him a run for his money with his back flips.  And who can forget, "Good morning, Good morning, rise up and greet the day, good morning, good morning, to you!"  I know my kids can't.  We sang that to them every morning when they were growing up.




West Side Story (1961)



What's it about?
A modern retelling of "Romeo and Juliet."

Why it's in my top ten.
The first of the really modern, realistic (except for the dancing in the street, of course) musicals thanks to the sophisticated, edgy and gorgeous Bernstein-Sondheim songs and score.




The Wizard of Oz (1939)



What's it about?
If you don't know, you have been living under a rock for the last 75 years.

Why it's in my top ten.
Judy Garland



What do you think?
 

If there are any of these you haven't seen, get thee to your local library (or Netflix)!

I
t will be a great way for you to spend your weekend instead of bingeing on past seasons of "Game of Thrones" or "Breaking Bad."




 
 
 

A dying, but still smart-ass, CIA assassin must complete one last assignment in exchange for a treatment that could save his life.
 
Not many movies at my local theatres that I want to see or haven't seen, so decided to try this one. 
 
After all, I like the occasional spy thriller, and Kevin Costner has been my secret crush ever since I saw him, dressed head to toe in Armani, playing in the
A T & T Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach (and he still looks damn good)!  

Most of the story takes place in Paris which is always a plus and there are some great action sequences (I only had my hands over my eyes a couple of times).  However, I could have done without the father-daughter subplot and even the squatters, and I never figured out why it was just "three days."  I must have let my mind wander a bit fantasizing about Kevin.

Amber Heard acquits herself well as a tough CIA agent, but I don't think this is the breakout role she needs for super stardom (see my blog "15 Really, Really Good Actors You Have Never Heard Of").
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like action, this film has got it.  If you like smart-ass CIA agents, Costner makes a great grizzled action hero.  If you can overlook some of the plot devices, you will enjoy this. 
 
(Now I have to go tell Kevin he has been replaced with Chris Hemsworth as my secret crush.  I like them younger).
 
 

***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
 
  
 
Jobs (2013)
 


The story of Steve Jobs' rise to power as one of the most innovative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.

Ashton Kutcher is surprising as the mercurial Jobs.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Not sure it sheds any new light on the man, but it's an enjoyable two hours.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Katniss and Peeta are back for Round 2.

This just seems to be a rehash of the first movie in the series.  It must be the curse of the second installment of any trilogy.  It left you waiting for Round 3.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Hugely disappointed in this.  I hope the third one is better and wraps it all up. 




The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)


 
 
Can a marriage withstand the death of a child? 
 
This Belgian film was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year and many critics thought it would win ("The Great Beauty" was the winner).  It's original in its theme of a Belgian couple entranced with America and American bluegrass music, and there is lots of banjo pickin' and old country music throughout.  Yes, there are European country music devotees.
 
However, the crux of the film is how these two deal with the death of their little girl, with the stem cell research controversy and the belief in an afterlife vs. atheism thrown in.  Will the circle be unbroken?
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...not sentimental, no cliches, this will tug at your heart strings.  Reminded me of "Once."  A must see.



Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)



The Coen brothers take on the New York City Village folk music scene of the early 1960's and those who struggled to make it there.
 
This is not the kind of story you would expect from the Coens, though their cinematic style is in evidence:  quirky characters, moody cinematography, claustrophobic interiors and dark storyline.
 
Supposedly based on the life of folkie Dave Van Ronk, the film is peopled with some real and some fictional characters from that period such as Jim and Jean (I was a HUGE fan of theirs and still have two of their albums) and Bob Dylan, and, in general, most of the characters are very unpleasant folks.  Newcomer Oscar Isaac sings well and does a good job with this character, a not very likable guy...unless you are a cat.  He has five projects in the works so you will be seeing more of him.
 
See it with "The Broken Circle Breakdown (see review above)" for an interesting counterpoint.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...though an interesting film, I do not agree with some critics that it deserved to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  In fact, some Coen brothers fans might be disappointed in this.  But see it for yourself.  After all, it's the Coen Brothers, two of the most innovative filmmakers we have these days.
 
 
***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
 
May the Road Rise Up To Meet You (2012) by Peter Troy

 
 

Four characters from vastly different backgrounds come together with the Civil War as a backdrop.

Four parallel stories, each beautifully told from a different perspective:  an Irish immigrant, a feisty young woman of Spanish descent and two slaves.

“May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand”
― Irish Blessings
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Riveting.  A must read!
 
 
 
 
That's it for this week.

 

See you Tuesday for

"My Guilty Pleasures"

 

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends.



 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Best Films of 2013 That No One Saw, How I Met Hubby and The Week in Reviews

[Where I review "Endless Love" - the new one - and "Austenland" and  "Ender's Game" and recommend a great book.]

But first

With the Academy Awards only a couple of weeks away (March 2) and with all of the hoopla surrounding the nine nominated films, I thought I would highlight some other great movies that didn't receive much hoopla, but which, as they say over at the Academy, are also "worthy of your consideration."

(I have reviewed some of these in past blogs, but now you have a handy, dandy DVD to-do list!  You're welcome!)

So here are my Top Ten Films of 2013
that you probably didn't see.



20 Feet from Stardom




Documentary about the unsung world of the back-up singer.

Why you should see it:  Because you should know the musical contributions of Merry Clayton and Darlene Love and it will probably win the Academy Award for Best Documentary.  (Update:  I was right.  It won the 2014 Oscar for Best Documentary).





Adore





Two best friends fall for each other's sons.

Why you should see it:  C'mon.  Isn't that titillating enough, right there?  But also an interesting premise, excellent acting, beautiful people, beautiful scenery.




All is Lost




Robert Redford adrift at sea.

Why you should see it:  A Robert Redford tour de force and probably one of Redford's last great roles.  This should have brought him an Academy Award nomination (it didn't.  He was robbed).





Closed Circuit






Two ex-lovers must try a high profile terrorist case together.

Why you should see it:  Excellent fast-paced story and you should know who Rebecca Hall is.




Fruitvale Station





True life enactment of the last hours of Oscar Grant III who was gunned down by San Francisco BART officers for no apparent reason in the early hours of New Year's Day 2009.

Why you should see it:  Aching portrayal of Grant by Michael B. Jordan.  We need to see movies like this so this kind of thing won't happen again.





In a World




A young woman tries to break into the male-dominated world of movie trailer voice overs.

Why you should see it:  Lake Bell, who wrote, directed and starred in this film.




Last Love


A grieving, recently widowed professor living in Paris meets a young Parisian woman and they form a connection.

Why you should see this:  Michael Caine is an acting treasure, and you won't get that many more opportunities to see him.  And it's as good as "Amour," if not better.






This is the End


While attending a party at James Franco's house, he and several other celebrities face the end of the world.

Why you should see this:  Because it's really funny.



Way Way Back



It's the summer vacation from hell for 14-year-old Duncan until he meets Owen, the manager of the water park.

Why you should see this:  It's a coming of age gem.





World's End




Five friends reunite to try to complete an epic pub crawl that eluded them 20 years earlier.
Why you should see this:  Zany British humor from the folks who brought us "Shaun of the Dead."  What's not to like about pub crawling and alien robots?
What 2013 films would you add to this list?


The Week In Reviews

Endless Love (2013)
Wealthy girl, boy from the wrong side of the tracks, disapproving father.  Classic.
This is a supposed remake of the 1981 film of the same name and the credits include the Scott Spencer novel, but this 2014 version bears no resemblance to the earlier film or the book.
Gabriella Wilde bears a striking resemblance to a young Nicole Kidman and certainly is a better actress than Brooke Shields was in the earlier film. Alex Pettyfer is certainly a nice looking young man and together they are an engaging couple, but the script lets them down.  It's cliché ridden, far-fetched and riddled with stereotypes.  However, the teenaged girls behind me in the theatre seemed to like it.
Rosy the Reviewer says...for the under-25 set only and even some of them will probably think this is terrible.
NOTE:  Now you may wonder, why in hell did a person of my movie-going credentials I even go see this? 
I have to admit a soft-spot for the earlier film.  Well, the Lionel Ritchie-Diana Ross theme song, actually.  It figured prominently in my first meeting Hubby- that, and being hit over the head with a full can of beer.  But it's a long story.
Oh, all right.  Since you insist.
I was just getting over a bad divorce, and my friend, Janie was nursing the wounds of a recent break-up, so we went down to Big Sur for the week-end to assert our independence.  We laid out on the lawn of the River Inn, sunning ourselves, while Janie tried to teach me to play bridge. 
That evening we ate dinner at Nepenthe and flirted with the chef who wanted to meet us at the Fernwood Resort to hear some live music.  At Fernwood, the chef never appeared, but we engaged with one of the band members and danced and had a fun time.  The band was called "The Cousins."

That night, at our motel, Janie was sick, probably from dinner (sorry, Nepenthe), and I was in pain having gotten terribly sun-burned, but the next morning, we walked across the road to have breakfast at the River Inn and as we walked in, Janie poked me and whispered, "There's the band." 

The band from the night before was sitting at one of the tables, so we sidled over and sat near them. Not much later, one of the guys (it was soon-to-be Hubby) said to us, "So what do you ladies do?  Are you models or actresses or what?  What are your names?"  We giggled and I said, "I'm Rosy," and Janie said, "I'm Janie."  To which soon-to-be Hubby replied, "Well, I'm Chucky, this is Stevie, this is Sally and this is Joey."  More giggling on our part.  The ice had been broken (if there was any. If you read my blog, you already know I am a hopeless groupie).
We eventually ended up sitting outside drinking late morning cocktails with them.  There was lots of flirting, and I showed them my sunburn (I know).  Someone then suggested our moving the party down river and Janie and I, being newly single, adventurous, and a little tipsy, decided that sounded like fun, though I remember saying, as we walked through the woods, "This isn't like 'Deliverance' or anything, is it?"
The guys had a six pack cooling in the river and when Hubby-to-be asked me if I wanted one, I said yes and before I knew what had happened, he tossed it to me, and as I reached up for it, I was blinded by the sun and it hit me on the head.  I saw stars.
At that point, I wasn't worried about "Deliverance" as much as I was thinking I needed to call a medic.  My life passed before me and I thought, "Here I am in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers. My little son is going to be without a mother (and by the way, lest you think I had abandoned my son for a weekend of debauchery, he was with his Dad)."
However, though there was blood and Hubby-to-be tended to me as best he could, no one seemed concerned (must have been those cocktails), so I rallied, and we partied on.
Much later, Hubby-to-be and I ended up at my place playing records, and as the night wore on, both of us liking to sing, we engaged in a boozy version of "Endless Love" together, he was Lionel and I was Diana.  (I had probably pulled that out of the "I'm going through a divorce so I listen to all kinds of lonely love songs to prolong the pain" collection.)"
And other than a day or two in between, Hubby-to-be never left (his living arrangements were not the best and I think he liked my new car. His car wouldn't open on the driver's side).  I was attracted to his cheeky joie de vivre.  He was attracted to my feet.
A year later he became Hubby. 
And that was 30 years ago.
That's why I have a soft spot for "Endless Love." 
But I digress. 

Let's get on with the rest of The Week in Reviews!

***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)


Austenland (2013)


A woman obsessed with all things Jane Austen travels to England to a Jane Austen Theme Park.
Here is a really fresh idea gone terribly wrong.  What was supposed to be charming and funny was just silly, and Kerri Russell looks like a deer caught in the headlights in this. It's just awful.
Rosy the Reviewer says...cringe worthy.





Ender's Game (2013)

Young Ender is recruited to save the world due to his genius and amazing gaming abilities.
Based on the Orson Scott Card book which won the Nebula Award in 1985 and the Hugo Award in 1986, this science fiction movie finds earth preparing for an alien invasion by training a child army of the best and brightest, led by young Ender Wiggin.
There was controversy surrounding the film due to Card's conservative views and the film's supposed glorification of violence.
Rosy the Reviewer says...entertaining but falls a bit flat.  If you want more depth read the book instead.



***Book of the Week***

Dead MountainThe Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013) by Donnie Eichar


In February 1959, nine experienced Russian hikers died mysteriously while climbing in the Ural mountains.

Eerie aspects of their deaths such as their bodies being found outside in subzero temperatures in the middle of winter with no shoes, strange injuries and damage to their tent led to decades of speculation about what could have happened.

Rosy the Reviewer says... If you like books like "Into Thin Air," or true life mysteries, you will like this, though the author's assessment of what really happened is ultimately unsatisfying.

That's it for this week.
See you Tuesday!
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Ten Movies You Should See by the Age of 14 and The Week in Reviews

[ I review the movies "Her," "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "Bless Me, Ultima," "Gangster Squad" and "Sunlight Jr.]

But first
 


Ten Movies You Should See by the Age of 14


In 2005, the British Film Institute (BFI) put out a list of the 50 films kids should see before the age of 14 in order to inspire parents and educators to take films as seriously as books and other kinds of art. 

The list was put together by 70 film producers, authors and critics, and the top ten were the films that received the most votes. 


Here are the top ten.


How many of these have you seen?



Spirited Away (2001)


This film registered the most votes and won a Best Animated Film Oscar in 2002.





Bicycle Thieves (1948)


Vittorio De Sica's classic Italian film about a man and his son searching for his stolen bicycle which he needs to earn a living.





E T The Extraterrestrial (1982)




E.T. Call home!





Kes (1969)


First Ken Loach film about a young working class British boy who spends his time training his pet falcon.  I am a big Ken Loach fan and can't believe I haven't seen this one, but it's now on my list.





Night of the Hunter (1955)





Charles Laughton's only directorial effort, Robert Mitchum plays a bad guy (what else?) who marries a gullible widow to  get his hands on her husband's money and in the meantime terrorizes her children.  A classic American thriller that would probably scare the pants off young kids.





400 Blows (1959)


Francois Truffaut's French New Wave film about a misunderstood young boy entering into a life of crime.




Show Me Love (1998)


Swedish film whose original Swedish title caused a bit of a stir about two young girls embarking on a romantic relationship.






Toy Story (1995)


Who doesn't love this film? 

I especially loved Toy Story 3, which might have been on this list if it had been made when this list was compiled.





Where is the Friend's Home (1987)


An Iranian film that tells the simple account of a conscientious schoolboy's quest to return his friend's notebook so the friend will not get in trouble.  The film has been seen as a metaphor for civil duty, loyalty and everyday heroics.





The Wizard of Oz (1939)




Who hasn't seen this classic film?




So what do you think? 
Did they get it right? 
What other films do you think belong in the top 10 of films kids should see by the age of 14?

I cannot find a similar list put out by the American Film Institute (AFI), but if they had, I wonder if their list would include as many "foreign" films as are on this list or as many with what I might call a "cosmopolitan" bent.

Also I am struck by the limited number of Disney animation films.

And what the hell?  Where is "Mary Poppins?"

Here is the complete list of all 50.

(All films in the top 10 are on DVD so check your local library.  They are also available through Netflix except "Where is the Friend's House?" which can be found at Amazon.com)

There are three on this list that I have not seen so I have requested them through my local library and added others to my Netflix queue.



***In Theatres Now***



Her


Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is grieving the breakup of his marriage and embarks on a "relationship" with his computer's artificially intelligent operating system (OS).

From the looks of this film, everyone in the immediate future will look like a nerd.  I have never seen so many buttoned up shirts and high-waisted trousers on men since the 1950's.

This is a touching and funny (didn't expect the funny part) look at human relationships and how technology can isolate us so much that we can fall in love with the voice on our computer (Think Hal from "2001, A Space Odyssey," but female and not sinister)

Then we don't have to deal with the failings of humans, right? Theodore's operating system becomes his best friend, confidant, girlfriend and yes, lover. But what do you do if your computer crashes?

Makes me look at my computer in a whole new way.

Joaquin Phoenix should have gotten an Academy Award Best Actor nomination for this performance.  In most scenes,  he is acting alone to the sound of Scarlett Johansson's voice (she is also very good).  It is not an easy feat to act without another actor who is physically there and from whom you can draw energy.  And this is not the usual type of role for him either, nor does it indicate that crazy persona he took on a few years back.

Here's a little challenge:  The film is set in L.A. 
See if you can catch the other city that sometimes stands in for L.A. 
(I realized right away it wasn't L.A. I was close, but didn't get it right).

Rosy the Reviewer says...A strange, but original script (I always give props to originality), beautifully executed by writer/director Spike Jonze, who is nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (the movie is nominated for Best Picture). 


                          

***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
White House butler Cecil Gaines serves eight Presidents and is a witness to history.
Though I eagerly anticipated this film because of it's interesting concept, I was ultimately disappointed.  The production values bugged me and the whole thing was too earnest and heavy handed.  Though I loved Oprah.  I always love Oprah.
Lee Daniels directed "Precious." 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Ambitious film that is ultimately a disappointment. 


Based on the Rodolfo Anaya novel which blends Catholocism and mysticism to tell a coming of age story set in the rural New Mexico of the 1940's.
The book is considered a classic of Chicano literature and has won many awards.  It has also been one of the most challenged books in the U.S due to scenes of violence and sexual references.  Christy Walton, one of the Walton heirs, set up a production company with the sole purpose of getting this film made.
Rosy the Reviewer says...family fare.  This is what I think of most family fare:  Zzzzzzz
It's 1949 and mobster Mickey Cohen is terrorizing L.A.
I didn't think I was going to like this film, but it's snappy dialogue, film noir production values (the blood and gore notwithstanding), and Sean Penn chewing up the scenery like mad, it was a lot of fun.  Nick Nolte appears to be improvising the part of a refrigerator.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you don't take this one too seriously, you will enjoy it.  Think those old pulp fiction novels.





Sunlight Jr. (2013)

A convenience store (Sunlight Jr.) clerk and her paraplegic boyfriend, living hand to mouth in a motel, fall onto even harder times.

Here is the poster child for raising the minimum wage.  Crap happens when you are poor and crap is compounded upon crap.

Naomi Watts is known for "getting her kit off," a British term for taking off her clothes and this is no exception.

Rosy the Reviewer says...why Matt Dillon and Watts signed up for this thing, I am not sure, but there is no sunlight shining hereFor hardcore Matt Dillon and/or Naomi Watts fans only.

***Book of the Week***



Her (2013) by Christa Parravani

Not to be confused with the film of the same name, this is the true story of the close relationship between two twin sisters until one of them dies tragically

When her sister dies from a life of depression and excess, Christa tries to become her to her own detriment.

This is one of those memoirs that has so much bad stuff happen that it's almost unbelievable.

Rosy the Reviewer says...depressing and probably better understood by another twin.




***Musical Theatre***







Ladies, it's all here:  the hot flashes, the mood swings, the incontinence, the insomnia, the antidepressants, the weight gain, the anger, the Mom issues, memory loss, wrinkles and yes, vibrators...all set to the tunes we grew up with sung by four women who meet by chance in Bloomingdales.

Here is a taste:

(To the tune of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight").

Weeeee.. We um baum baum away
Weeeee.. We um baum baum away
(Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch
Shes a witch, shes a witch,
shes a bitch, shes a bitch)

In the guestroom or on the sofa,
my husband sleeps at night;
In the guestroom or on the sofa
my husband sleeps at night...
(it goes on)

Other songs include:

"Puff, My God I'm Draggin" and "My Thighs (think "My Guy)."

And we got up on the stage and danced with the stars at the end.  I am always amazed at the talented people out there in the world we have never heard of. This is a first rate show.  See it if it comes your way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...to every husband and family member who was wondering what has come over their wife and mother, you need to see this so you can understand the "Change, Change, Change."



That's it for this week. 


See you Tuesday

for my

"Word a Day Project" 

 

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and/or email it to your friends.



Check your local library for DVDs and book mentioned.