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

Sunday, January 10, 2021

What I Have Loved Watching During Lockdown, Part 2

I was thinking this would be my last Lockdown installment but looks like we are in for more of the same - long days at home - so as usual you can count on me to help you decide on what is worth watching.

So here is Part 2 of what I have enjoyed watching while staying home during this latest lockdown. (Even if you aren't locked down anymore or are in more relaxed conditions than we are, these will all be enjoyable watching experiences). 

(As I said in Part 1, if you have been following my Facebook page, you will recognize some of these recommendations but, if not, here are some movies and TV series I have enjoyed while sheltering at home.  And even if you do follow me on Facebook, these are expanded reviews that might get you to watch if you haven't already).


Bridgerton


Wealthy and romantic shenanigants in Regency England.

Produced by Shonda Rhimes, who wrote and produced “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and other successful television series and based on the novels by Julia Quinn, this is a Regency romance about the wealthy Bridgerton family, particularly Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the oldest of eight, who feels compelled to find a husband during her debut year into London society. But she wants to find love too.
At first Daphne is the belle of London society until Lady Whistledown (the voice of Julie Andrews), who writes a high society scandal sheet, casts aspersions on young Daphne. Daphne's prospects start to dwindle. So when she meets Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page), the handsome Duke of Hastings (and did I say he was handsome?), a desirable catch but one hell-bent on avoiding marriage, the two join forces to help each other, even though they start out not liking each other at all (see where this is headed)? Here's the deal: He will pretend to be her suitor thus making her more desirable and shield her from unwanted suitors and his being her suitor will ostensibly take him off the market, because remember, he doesn't want to get married.

However, with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) doing a bit of matchmaking and Daphne's older brother, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) meddling in Daphne's affairs (there is a duel in his future) as well as the Featherington family, who are in competition with the Bridgertons, also in the mix, all kinds of drama ensues. You see, Daphne's brother feels a responsibility to marry Daphne off to someone suitable, and in the meantime, make sure she doesn't do anything to sully her reputation while the Featheringtons have daughters they need to marry off too, but they are having a bit of a problem about money which poses a difficulty when it comes to the issue of dowries. There is also a secret pregnancy, unrequited love and some lies and betrayals. You know, those sorts of things that find their way into costume dramas. All very delicious. And just who is the mysterious, gossip mongering, Lady Whistledown?

Dynevor and Page are a handsome couple, she projects a shimmering beauty and I am obsessed with her adorable bangs. And did I mention that he is just handsome as hell? It’s a big cast and almost everyone gets their time in the spotlight, though some more than others. Not everything works, but this will still quench your appetite for romance and opulence (the costumes and set design are to die for) and take your mind off your troubles for a time.

Created by Chris Van Dusen, who also worked with Rhimes on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," the series is definitely a comedy of manners. Yes, there is some comedy, some manners, but there is drama, too, and it's quite scandalous, with a decidedly modern feel. There are people of color in high places, all kinds of sexual inuendo, not to mention actual sex (the "modern" kind), and if you listen closely you will notice that the chamber music playing in the background is actually a current pop tune from today. However, for me, sometimes the anachronisms were a distraction.
Rosy the Reviewer says… if you have been missing “Downton Abbey,” you might enjoy this Regency comedy of manners that also plays a bit like “Pride and Prejudice” with a some of “The Bachelorette” thrown in. Yes, you heard me.
(Now streaming on Netflix)



Long Way Up

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman continue their motorcycle journeys, this time from the tip of South America to Los Angeles -- on ELECTRIC bikes!

I am not a huge fan of motorcycles, but I am a huge fan of this new 11-part documentary series now showing on Apple+ TV that follows actor Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (son of director John Boorman – “Deliverance”) as they ride motorcycles from the tip of South America to Los Angeles. I have to say it doesn’t hurt that I am a huge fan of Ewan McGregor too!

This is not the first time that these two adventurers have ridden their motorcycles on epic journeys. In 2004 they rode “around the world,” a 19,000 mile journey from London to New York, documented in “Long Way Round” and in 2007, it was “Long Way Down,” their motorcycle journey from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. Both of those series were fascinating and exciting but what sets this 2019 trip apart is the fact that this time they are riding electric motorcycles. You see, our Ewan is not only talented, super handsome and sexy but also environmentally conscious and cares about his carbon footprint.
The first episode is all about getting ready (it took eight months to prepare for this trip 13,000 mile trip), and if you are not into motorcycles, you might think that would be a snoozer but it’s not. Harley-Davidson makes them some killer electric bikes and the crew travels to my home state of Michigan to get some electric support trucks from Rivian, a company that looks like it will give Tesla a run for its money.
Ewan and Charley rode for three months (pre-Covid, of course), and had many adventures, some good and some bad (finding places to plug in the bikes was always challenging). There is beautiful scenery and they met some amazing people along the way. One was man riding a regular bicycle through the Andes -- and he only had ONE LEG!
And did I say how much I love Ewan? I know I did, but what you may not know is that I almost didn’t forgive him for singing in “Moulin Rouge.” I thought he looked like a Muppet. But I forgive you, Ewan. And thanks for being such a swashbuckling adventurer. You, too, Charley!
Rosy the Reviewer says…nothing like an exciting adventure to escape a pandemic lockdown!


Sylvie's Love


Two beautiful young people meet in 1950's Harlem and embark on a love story that endures through changing times and personal choices. 

I needed the comfort of a good old-fashioned love story and I got that with this romance that reminded me a bit of “The Way We Were.”
The film takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s in Harlem. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is a young woman working in her father’s record shop and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) is a saxophone player in a jazz band. Robert sees Sylvie through the window of the shop and gets a job there in hopes of getting to know her. Unfortunately, Sylvie has a fiancé fighting in Korea and her mother is an etiquette teacher so a jazz musician is certainly not a fit for her daughter. But the two get locked in the record store’s basement and sparks fly, literally. As in, how come I didn’t know what a “French light” was? Well, in case you didn't know either, it’s when your cigarette is only half lit. It means you will soon fall in love. Awww. Guess what? It happens to both of their cigarettes!

Let the love story begin.
But you know how these love stories go. True love never runs smooth. She gets pregnant but doesn’t tell him because he gets a gig in Paris, you know, that old love story trope – she doesn’t tell him, he doesn’t tell her, so they break up, years pass, they meet again.
We also have that other trope - boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy gets girl - then what happens? You will have to watch this and see. And if you like engaging actors, an engaging love story and great music, you will enjoy this.
Written and directed by Eugene Ash, the film also touches on issues of class, racism and the expected role of a woman in the 1960’s (did you know, a married woman could not get birth control until 1964 or her own credit card without her husband’s signature until 1974? That's not all in the movie. I'm just saying), but this is really one of those old-fashioned love stories that cuts through racial and cultural lines with a great musical score.
Rosy the Reviewer says…love, great music and a time that will bring back many memories for Baby Boomers (you young’uns will enjoy it too). Just what you need while you wait for that vaccine!
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)


The Wilds


After a plane crash, nine young girls find themselves on a deserted island...but turns out, they didn't end up there by accident! 

It begins with nine girls from disparate backgrounds on a plane headed to some kind of retreat. The plane crashes and eight of the girls survive but find themselves stranded on the proverbial desert island. However, we know they get rescued because each episode focuses on one of the girls as she is interviewed by some mysterious guys in suits. We learn each girl’s story, how she ended up on that plane to that mysterious retreat (each is damaged in some way) and how she fared on the island.

But were they really rescued? Twists and turns ensue.

As each episode progresses, we learn about each girl and the mysterious Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths) who seems to be the mastermind of an experiment and these girls are her lab rats! Turns out, the plane crash was supposed to happen and the girls were all being watched to see how they would handle their survival!
Created by Sarah Streicher, there is a strong ensemble cast of young women and it's all about female empowerment, friendship and survival.
Rosy the Reviewer…it’s a little bit “Lord of the Flies” and a little bit “Lost.” It will grab you because it’s a crazy plot, you will begin to care about these girls, and you will want to know how it ends. But let me warn you...you might have to defer gratification because it kind of doesn't end. Looks like a sequel in the offing.
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)



A Rainy Day in New York


A young couple plan a day together in New York City but get separated and embark on a series of separate adventures on a rainy day.

Whatever you may think of the controversy surrounding writer/director Woody Allen (and I personally think he got a bad rap), you would have to agree he is one of our premiere filmmakers. It says something about his stature that so many big name actors have wanted to work with him and at 85 he is still at it with his 48th film starring Timothee Chalamet and Elle Fanning and other all-stars.
Chalamet plays Gatsby Welles, a young college student at Yardley College, a lovely little college in the middle of nowhere (think Dartmouth). However, Gatsby is more of a gambler than an academic. When he wins big in a poker game, he invites his girlfriend, Ashleigh (Fanning), to a day in New York City where he wants to wine and dine her at some of his favorite spots (the Carlyle figures prominently) and hit the museums (wonderful scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). But Ashleigh is an aspiring journalist and gets an opportunity to interview Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), a famous director, and though Gadsby and Ashleigh make it to the City together, they get separated and basically spend the day each on their own having some wacky adventures in the beautiful atmosphere of New York City on a rainy day. A lot can happen in one day! And it does!
Chalomet is decidedly Woody’s surrogate here, even down to capturing Woody’s speech cadence and hangdog demeanor, a far cry from Chalomet's usual forays into handsome romantic leaddom. And Fanning is a ditsy blonde, a trope Allen seems to enjoy, who is caught up in some romantic situations with not just the director but his long-time friend (Jude Law) and a famous actor (Diego Luna). They seem to enjoy the fact that she can’t hold her booze. And Selena Gomez stands out as the younger sister of one of Gatsby’s old girlfriends.

Like I said, it's an all-star cast. Everyone seems to want to work with Woody!
Is this one of Woody’s best? No, but even his lesser films are better than most that are out there. And if you are a Woody fan, many of his signatures are here –a glum protagonist, a soundtrack of 40’s standards, witty repartee, references to classic films and beautiful cinematography, with the Big Apple playing a prominent role.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a classy, atmospheric day in New York City. Wish I was there right now!
(Available for rent on Prime - $4.99)



Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


August Wilson's award-winning play brought to the screen.
Ma Rainey was an early blues singer, considered “The Mother of Blues” and Viola Davis does her justice, fat suit and all, in this filmed version of August Wilson’s acclaimed play. August Wilson was referred to as "the theatre's poet of Black America." His plays reflected the African American experience in America but also the human experience.

The film begins in a rundown recording studio in Chicago in the 1920's while the band members who arrived on time wait for Ma to arrive. Three veteran band members, Toledo (Glynn Turman), Cutler (Colman Domingo), and Slow Drag (Michael Potts), show up followed by Levee (Boseman), the trumpet player.  Levee takes his time because he likes himself.  The older band members have been around the block a time or two and know the drill, but Levee has higher ambitions. He wants to write and play his own songs.  He is also holding back the rage of a black man in America, a man who has been held down.

When Ma finally arrives, she is not in a good mood because someone ran into her new car. She also doesn't want to do what has been planned, she has some demands of her own, and because her records make money, the white men who run the studio will do what she wants. She can throw her weight around, literally, but as a black woman, she also knows it all hinges on her continuing to make money for the white man. As the day progresses, we also get to know the band members as everyone gets a monologue that tells his story.

Viola is the centerpiece and is wonderful in the film, but Boseman is also wonderful and the film also marks his last performance before his shocking and untimely death. He is skinny and gaunt and you can see that he is not well but to think that he delivered this performance in the last months of his life is just jaw-dropping. When Boseman shares Levee's story of his mother getting gang-raped, and he rages against God - if he exists how could he let that happen? - one can't help but think that Boseman knew he was dying and was talking about himself. It's a powerful moment for him as an actor and for us watching him. It’s a physical performance, but it’s also a deep, heartfelt performance that not only embraces the struggles and exploitation of black people in the United States but foreshadows Chadwick’s own future. So sad to think that he won’t be able to bask in the glory of probably the best performance of his career.

Adapted from Wilson's play by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and directed by George C. Wolfe (Denzel Washington was executive producer), the film has performances that are not to be missed, especially since we won't be seeing Chadwick Boseman anymore, but the film is also relevant for today as the struggle for equality continues.

Rosy the Reviewer says…This is a must see. Ring, ring! Viola Davis? Oscar calling. Chadwick Boseman? Wherever you are... Oscar calling.
(Now streaming on Netflix)




Wonder Woman 1984





Rosy the Reviewer says...don't bother.



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 IMDB.com, 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.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"All the Money in the World" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "All the Money in the World" as well as DVDs "War for the Planet of the Apes" and "Atomic Blonde."  The Book of the Week is "Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Nightmare of Elm Street."]




All the Money in the World


Dramatization of the 1973 kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, the grandson of J. Paul Getty, then the richest man in the world.

People might be more familiar with the scandal surrounding the making of this movie than the name J. Paul Getty.  Kevin Spacey was slated to play Getty, who was not only the richest man in the world in the 1970's, he was the richest man EVER.  The kidnapping of his grandson, J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) for a $17 million dollar ransom was a news sensation in 1973 and the centerpiece of this film.  But the allegations of sexual assault against Kevin Spacey led to his being fired from this movie after being featured in the trailers and only a month before its release and 88-year old Christopher Plummer (no relation to Charlie) stepped in at the last minute.  Spacey was edited out and Plummer edited in as if Spacey had never been there. And seeing this film, ironically, it's difficult to imagine anyone else besides Plummer playing Getty, especially comparing Spacey in the original trailer and his over-the-top make-up to Plummer, himself who in reality is much closer in age to what Getty would have been.

J. Paul Getty made his money from oil.  Everyone seemed to know there was oil in Saudi Arabia but nobody could figure out how to get it.  But Getty did.  He made a deal with the Bedouins and discovered oil there four years later. But then how to get the oil out of Saudi Arabia so that he could sell it?  Getty invented the supertanker.  And that, folks, is how you become the richest man in the world.  But Getty was also a miser.  He famously had a pay phone in his house so visitors would not run up his phone bill. 

But when Italian thugs kidnapped Getty's 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III, known as Paul, they didn't know that.  They kidnapped Paul, demanded $17 million and were confounded by the fact that Getty said he wouldn't pay.  In fact at first, everyone thought Paul had engineered his own kidnapping to get some money from his grandfather, but when Paul's ear (yes, his actual ear - I will let you use your imagination) appeared at a Roman newspaper, everyone realized the kidnapping was indeed real.  But even then, the elder Getty wouldn't pay, priding himself on his deal making and not wanting to part with the cash.

Paul's mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) was divorced from Getty's son who was a failure and had given his life over to drugs, drink and general hedonism.  When they divorced she had given up any claim to Getty's money in return for custody of her children so when the kidnappers contacted her, she had no means to pay them so the film concentrates on Gail's frantic attempt to get the miserly Getty to pay and to save her son.

Directed by Ridley Scott (with a screenplay by David Scarpa adapted from the book "Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty" by John Pearson), this is a smaller film than we are used to from Scott, who famously directed "Blade Runner (the first one)," "Gladiator" and more recently "The Martian," but Scott shows his skills in his ability to reshoot and edit Plummer into the film at the very last minute as well as his evocation of 70's Europe. But the film is not just a biopic but a thriller and a film with a message - a reminder that all the money in the world can't buy happiness.  Money also can cause people to do bad things.

The film focuses on Williams as the mother desperately trying to save her son, and she is reliably good and gets the most screen time, but Plummer has been at this game longer and just steals the show as the misanthropic and miserly Getty who, disappointed by people, only finds comfort in beautiful objects and dies miserable and alone. It's also nice to see Mark Wahlberg playing a straight dramatic role as Fletcher Chase, the ex-CIA agent the elder Getty hires to find Paul, instead of his usual action heroes fighting transformers or oil rigs.

Speaking of Wahlberg, did you hear about the big flap concerning how much money Wahlberg received to do the reshoots versus what Michelle Williams received? - something like 1000 times more - and Williams was the star!  So I guess Ridley Scott not only suffers from gender discrimination but didn't seem to learn from his own movie - you know, that part about money making people do bad things.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling story with a performance by Plummer that deserves a Best Actor Oscar nomination.





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

On DVD







War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)



Number three in the Planet of the Apes prequels.

This is the third in the prequel trilogy which began with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," where the genius ape, Caesar, was created and a Simian flu killed most of humanity.  That was followed by "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," where Caesar and his ape friends try to get along with the few remaining humans. However, Koba, a rogue ape, attacked some humans, which in turn caused a war, so now with film #3 the war continues 

However, you don't need to have seen the first two to enjoy this one, because this film does a good job with an introduction that brings you up-to-date but if you haven't seen the original film - and I'm talking about the 1968 film starring Charlton Heston - you absolutely must see that one.  That one is the inspiration for the three films that followed so that you would understand what happened before Charlton came along.

As film #3 begins, Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, is trying to save himself and his fellow apes who are being hunted by the mean old colonel (Woody Harrelson) who had found Caesar's command center and killed Caesar's wife and child.  But the Colonel is not just mean, he's crazy.  The Colonel believes that the Simian flu has mutated and is turning people into apes, so he is bent on wiping out the apes.  But the Colonel is also a rogue and an army is on its way to arrest him, so he is building a wall and getting ready to fight them off so he can continue his genocide on the apes. He says that if they lose against the apes, the world will become a planet of apes.  Get it?

Since the Colonel and his men have found Caesar's secret command center, Caesar leaves the camp so that his followers can escape and find refuge somewhere else while at the same time seeking revenge on the Colonel because he killed his wife and son.  So with two trusted soldiers, Maurice (Karin Konoval), the wise Orangutan and Caesar's right-hand-man and the gorilla, Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Caesar goes after the Colonel.  Along the way they encounter and join forces with "Bad Ape (Steve Zahn)," a scared, formerly abused zoo chimpanzee who believes that's his name (I don't even want to think about what he went through to get that name) and a young girl who can't speak who they name Nova (Amiaha Miller).  Unfortunately, Caesar gets captured and is put in a work camp overseen by the Colonel and forced to work on building that wall.  His motley crew now must save Caesar.

The best thing about these movies is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar and who despite all of that ape make-up is still able to evoke drama and pathos.  Some people have said he deserves a Oscar nomination for his performance and he is very good.  The tender moments in the film actually got to me. Naturally, the apes are more human in a good way than the humans so this is also one of those "what makes us human" films.  It's also a tense thriller with lots of action and a dramatic story with depth and tenderness. The CGI and make-up also certainly play big roles.  I had to laugh that the ape make-up is so good that the only way to tell the girl apes from the boy apes is that the girl apes wear earrings.

Directed by Matt Reeves with a screenplay by Reeves and Mark Bombackthis is a great action film that pays homage to war films, most notably "Apocalypse Now" with Woody Harrelson seeming to channel Brando's Colonel Kurtz.

Rosy the Reviewer says...You will be rooting for the apes.






Atomic Blonde (2017)



An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and to recover a list of double agents so that it doesn't fall into enemy hands.

And that undercover MI6 agent is a badass blonde named Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) who wears sexy clothes, beats guys up with her stilettos and says things like "I'm my own bitch now!"

All I could think at first while watching this film was "Why? Charlize, you are an Academy Award winning actress.  Why are you playing this part?"

But then as I got into it, I thought, "Who wouldn't want to play a beautiful stiletto-wearing badass woman who gets all of the best quips and gets to beat the crap out of the bad guys?"

It's Berlin, 1989, right before the fall of the wall.  A British secret agent has been killed and MI6 spies have been compromised.  A watch that includes a list of all of the MI6 spies has disappeared and Lorraine needs to go to Berlin and find it before it falls into the wrong hands, read: KGB, especially since the list contains the identity of Satchel, a double agent.  Her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy) who is undercover in Berlin as a skinhead.  He is a bit dodgy and has actually taken on the skinhead lifestyle, but Lorraine teams up with him anyway to find Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), a guy who has committed the list to memory, and get him safely out of Berlin.  There are lots of fight scenes - there is one fight scene starring Lorraine that literally goes on for 15 minutes.  Well, maybe not literally but it felt like it.  There are also car chases and the usual other spy movie stuff but there is also a very big twist at the end that I didn't see coming.

Directed by David Leitch, with a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, the film plays like a graphic novel (and in fact it's based on the graphic novel "The Coldest City" written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart) filled with glamorous cartoon characters, but that's OK because the 80's music is terrific, the pop culture references are fun, we get to see Charlize in a series of body suits, thigh high boots and garters, and it's just a very stylish, thrilling ride.  

As over-the-top spy movies go, I actually liked this.  When I saw the trailers for this film, I originally thought it looked shallow and silly, but Charlize pulled it off.  I guess that Best Actress Academy Award Theron won was actually a testament to her acting abilities.  She had the skill to take this shallow character and make me care about her. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...unexpectedly good. 






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



160 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)



A serial killer has this penchant for killing people in their dreams.

I know, I know...I can just hear you saying, "What?  You never saw "Nightmare on Elm Street?!" No, I haven't because unlike some people I am not particularly fond of blood and guts and slasher films.  Anyway, that's the reason, but despite my fears about that kind of thing in a movie, it seems that when I do actually see it, I am often shocked at how tame the film was and wonder what all of the fuss was about.  And this one was no exception.  In fact, watching it I had a very hard time figuring out why this film is considered one of the best in the horror genre.  I know it's Wes Craven and all of that but it was really dumb.

Though Craven had already directed "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Swamp Thing," he was far from a mainstream director when he brought us Freddy Kreuger.  But the success of this film started him on the road to fame as one of our foremost horror film directors and which led to "Scream."

The basic plot features Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) and her teenage friends who all live in a quiet, seemingly safe little town. When her friends start dying and Freddy starts appearing in her dreams, Nancy is convinced Freddy is the culprit.  Who is Freddy?  Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) is a nightmare character who infiltrates these kids' dreams. He was originally a former child killer who was burned to death by a mob of furious Elm Street parents. I would be mad, too, if some weird guy killed my kid. Years later, he has returned from the grave obsessed with revenge on the teen offspring of those parents by getting into their subconscious and attacking them as they sleep.  If they fall asleep, they all have the same dream and get killed while they are asleep.  Once the kids figure this out, they must fight a seemingly hopeless battle to stay awake.

The film has the classic teen horror film tropes:

  • Good looking young people in skimpy attire
  • A seemingly safe middle class neighborhood where nothing bad could possibly happen
  • Cheap shots of people jumping out of the shadows that make you jump in your seat
  • Lots of fake blood
  • Killer bent on revenge
  • Teens getting killed after having sex because we know that's BAD
  • One final good girl left to fight off the forces of evil

The best thing about this film is seeing a very young Johnny Depp in his film debut before he developed all of those Johnny Depp mannerisms he has now.  The worst is Ronee Blakley as Nancy's mother.  Her performance is so flat and unemotional that she makes this film look like a zombie movie.  It is just unbelievable that nine years earlier she had been nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work in "Nashville."

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] creatively combined horror and humor, gothic literary motifs and slasher movie conventions, gory special effects and subtle social commentary.  And it let loose a new monster in America's pop culture: the wise-cracking, fedora-wearing teen killer, Freddy Kreuger."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I think the deeper meaning here (if there is one) is that growing up can be scary.  Or maybe it's just "Don't fall asleep!"  This film may have been something special back in 1984 but it just doesn't hold up today unless you really like campy bad acting.

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, so now I've seen it.



***Book of the Week***





Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Jaffe (2017)


A biography of singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell.

For all of the impact Joni's music had on my young years, especially the albums "Blue" and "For the Roses," reading this biography, I was surprised how much I didn't know about her.  I didn't know she had polio as a young girl; that she was married again after Chuck Mitchell (to a much younger man); that Prince was a huge fan of hers; or that she had such a healthy ego. I'm putting that nicely.  Suffice it to say that David Crosby said "She was about as modest as Mussollini," and that's saying a lot coming from him because he is no slouch in that department either.

She also had strong opinions. According to Yaffe, she couldn't stand Joan Baez; was disappointed in Dylan; she called Madonna "Nero;" she thought John Lennon was a mean drunk; and Jackson Browne was just mean, especially to women.  She also wouldn't give Judy Collins any props for making a hit of her song "Both Sides Now" which helped Joni become a star in her own right and she even made some snarky remarks about CSN's harmonies.

Born Roberta Joan Anderson in Alberta, Canada, Joni knew early that she was going to be someone and her belief in herself, her innate poetic talent and single-mindedness led her out of Canada to become one of the most influential singer/songwriters of our generation.

Yaffe does an excellent job of outlining Mitchell's life and career with interesting details about the making of each of her albums and how her career changed from the successes of the 1970's to some strange choices in the 80's to an inability to write in the 90's. 

She was a chain-smoker (four packs a day and a smoker since she was 9) and  in recent years suffered an aneurysm and is currently still recovering from that.

Yaffe paints a picture of Mitchell as a rather angry person with an opinion on everything and in most cases found her peers wanting.  Unlike the biography of Stevie Nicks that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago where the author gushed, Yaffe is a bit irreverent about Mitchell, which I think is healthy for a biographer, and in so doing, has created a very complete picture of Mitchell's life and career while still acknowledging her importance.  I just can't help but wonder what Mitchell's take on this would be.  I am sure she would have an opinion!

Rosy the Reviewer says...one of the best biographies I have read this year about one of the most influential singer/songwriters of my generation.



Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 

 
for my review of 


"The Greatest Showman"



 and
  
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." 


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

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 IMDB.com, 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.







Friday, December 15, 2017

"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" as well as DVDs "Lost in Paris" and "Lovely & Amazing."  The Book of the Week is a biography of singer Stevie Nicks, "Gold Dust Woman: A Biography of Stevie Nicks."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer."





Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


A mother is consumed with trying to get the local police to solve her daughter's murder so she comes up with a unique idea to get them to continue to investigate.

Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) is not a happy woman.  Nor should she be.  Her daughter, Angela, was raped and murdered and the Ebbing police have not found the guy. There is no DNA, there are no witnesses and the case has gone cold.  And, needless to say, Mildred is not happy about that.  Not happy at all.  In fact she is so unhappy that she rents three billboards outside of town, and like those old humorous Burma Shave billboards that used to dot the highways in the old days, the three billboards when read together form a saying, except it's not a humorous saying, not humorous at all.  The first one reads "Angela Hayes was raped while dying," followed by another one that reads "Still no arrests" and the third one, "How come, Chief Willoughby?" The billboards also stand within eyesight of Mildred's front porch and mark the spot where her daughter was murdered.

The billboards not only humiliate Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), but polarize the whole community particularly because everyone knows that Chief Willoughby is dying of pancreatic cancer.  How could Mildred do something like this to a man who is dying?  Well, Mildred has one goal and one goal only and that is to find her daughter's killer and make him pay so she doesn't much care that Chief Willoughby is dying.  A mother's grief knows no bounds.

Mildred and her son, Robbie (Lucas Hedges, who has put in some powerful performances in some high profile films recently - see my reviews for "Manchester by the Sea" and "Lady Bird"), are harassed by the police and the townspeople, but Mildred stands firm.  She is one tough cookie.  Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is particularly incensed, but then Dixon is not all there and has his own issues. He is a racist mama's boy with anger issues. When Willoughby commits suicide after a perfect day he planned with his wife and children, Mildred is blamed, though Willoughby disputes that by sending letters to several people, including one to his wife saying he did it because he couldn't stand for her to remember him as he faded away.  He also sent one to Mildred telling her it wasn't because of her.

This all may seem quite depressing and dour and it can be dark, but it also has humor and pathos thanks to the brilliant screenplay by Martin McDonagh, who also directs.  I see a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination in his future.  The screenplay is definitely original as well as thought-provoking and beautifully presented.

McDormand is mesmerizing and she and Rockwell are also sure to get Oscar nods for their performances, especially Rockwell, who in a supporting role, is almost unrecognizable as Dixon, the clueless swaggering Mama's boy who really does want to be a good cop but just keeps putting his foot in it.

But I was particularly taken with Harrelson's performance.  As you may have noticed, I have not been his biggest fan, though I was starting to soften towards him since "Wilson" and "The Glass Castle," but here he pulls out all of the stops - in a good way - to put in a nuanced and poignant performance about a man who really wants to help Mildred but is just too busy dying.

Written, produced and directed by McDonough (he also wrote and directed "In Bruges"), along with a Best Original Screenplay nomination, "Three Billboards" is a likely Best Picture and Best Director Oscar candidate. 

The film leaves a deep impression partly because of the performances but mostly because no easy answers are presented for any of these deeply flawed characters which is just like life, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says...already nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe as well as Best Original Screenplay with Best Actor nods to McDormand and Rockwell.  I have no doubt it will get similar Oscar nominations - so get thee to the theatre! 




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

On DVD






Lost in Paris (2016)


A Canadian librarian heads to Paris for the first time to help her Aunt.

Fiona (Fiona Gordon) lives in a part of Canada that is so cold it looks like the Himalayas.  As a young girl, her Aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva who so stunned in "Amour," which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013) regaled her with stories about living in Paris.  Now the grown-up Fiona is still in Canada working as a librarian and her Aunt did go to Paris, but now her Aunt Martha has written to her to come to Paris and help her because she says social workers are threatening to put her in a nursing home.

So Fiona packs up her huge backpack with her Canadian flag waving out the back and heads to Paris.  But when she arrives at her Aunt Martha's house, no one is home, and later when she asks a jogger to take her picture on a bridge with the Eiffel Tower in the background, she falls backwards off the bridge into the water, losing her backpack and all of her money.

Then we meet Dom (Dominque Abel), a homeless man camped out in a tent next to the Seine.  He finds Fiona's backpack and her purse with all of her money in it.  Donning one of her sweaters and carrying her purse, he heads to a posh restaurant where he encounters Fiona, who had received a meal voucher from the Canadian Consulate while she awaits her new passport.  She compliments Dom on his sweater which she says is just like one she has but when she sees her purse she realizes what has happened. 

That scene was rather funny but then it all went downhill for me after that.

I so wanted to love this film.  Librarian?  Paris?  Beautiful cinematography and production values? Accomplished actors?  What's not to like?  But it just didn't add up to anything for me.

Written and directed by the stars, Fiona Gordon and Dominque Abel, I had several issues with this film.  One, it was just too farcical.  I am not a big fan of broad, farcical comedy.  But having been a librarian myself, I am also not a fan of librarian stereotypes, and Fiona, with her weird hairstyle that reminded me too much of a librarian's stereotypical bun, her glasses and her sneakers just made me cringe.  Not to mention she didn't seem like she was very smart. She was a grown woman who was totally flummoxed by being in Paris for the first time.  I mean, she was a librarian.  Didn't she read any guidebooks before she went?  And then there was Dom, who came off as part Monsieur Hulot, part Mr. Bean, but unfortunately, I was never really into either of those characters.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like fantasy with broad humor you might like this, but despite the production values - the film was lovely to look at - and some sweet moments, the film was just too unrealistic and Keystone Cops-ish for me.






Lovely & Amazing (2001)


A little slice of life circa early 2000's about a mother and her three mixed up daughters.

The best thing about this film was seeing a very young Jake Gyllanhaal.  It was also a reminder why I never really liked Catherine Keener very much.  Not that she isn't a good actress.  She is and maybe that's the problem  She is too good.  She is too real, and unfortunately, she brings that realness to too many really annoying characters.  Since this film was 16 years ago, it's highly possible that this was the first of her many annoying characters.

Keener plays Catherine, a woman who - did I say she was annoying? - is in an unhappy marriage and can't seem to get a job.  Instead she makes little chairs out of twigs and tries to sell them to boutiques.

Elizabeth (Emily Mortimer) is Catherine's sister, and she is a model/actress who is very insecure, so insecure that in a cringe-worthy full-frontal nudity way she stands naked in front of Kevin (Dermot Mulroney), an actor she has just had sex with and only recently met and asks him to critique her body, though I will say it was refreshing to be reminded that women once actually had pubic hair.  Elizabeth is also obsessed with adopting stray dogs.

Jane (Brenda Blethyn) is the matriarch who has adopted Annie (Raven Goodwin), a little black girl.  And thank god we have Annie, because she seems to be the only one in this film with any sense. She serves as the conscience of these vapid L.A. people.  Everyone else is self-absorbed and insecure, especially in regards to their body image. We see where Catherine and Elizabeth get it from when Jane sets the tone by planning on getting some liposuction to lose five pounds.

This was an annoying movie about annoying people.  I think it was supposed to be quirky and funny and real, but I just thought the whole thing was annoying.  Everyone talks at each other and makes no connections and, in fact, Catherine is down right rude to little Annie, telling her when they are at the beach that she certainly doesn't need sunscreen.

Catherine is clueless and just taking up space and to make matters worse her husband is having an affair with her best friend.  Finally shamed about not working, Catherine gets a job at a quick stop photo developing shop.  Remember when we had to get our pictures developed?  There she meets Jordan, a very young Jake Gyllenhaal, and actually starts feeling a bit better about herself, probably because Jordan has a huge crush on her and she knows it.

All of the characters are train wrecks, but like a train wreck, you can't take your eyes off of them.  I guess we are waiting to see if they can be redeemed but halfway through the film I said out loud to the screen "Who are these people?"  But I guess the point here was that everyone's life is messy and narcissistic and it's all reflected in Annie, who no one seems to be taking care of.  There is one particularly poignant scene when Annie takes herself to McDonald's to eat because no one has the time to fix her dinner and she sits in silence as the adults around her act like idiots. She has a weight problem and you can see the insecurity of the adults is rubbing off on her when she feels like she has to justify how much food she has ordered.  "I'm not going to eat it all." But her no-nonsense innocence is in stark contrast to the jaded, bored sensibilities of the adults.  So if that was the point, OK, but I just wish the film didn't have to also be annoying to make that point. 

Not sure how I ended up watching this film. Must have been one of those instances where I saw a trailer for it.  You know the ones.  The trailer is more interesting than the film.  Or maybe I read somewhere that it was some sort of cult classic and I should see it.  Roger Ebert liked it, but then he liked most things.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who went on to direct "Enough Said," which I liked much better than this one, this film was notable for its portrayal of real women and the relationships between mothers and daughters. It had the makings of a smart, observant film but it just really didn't go anywhere and the fact that the characters were so annoying didn't help.

The film was also notable for the early careers of so many actors - Keener, Gyllenhaal, Dermot Mulroney.  But like I said, I never really liked Keener as an actress just because she seemed to play so many characters like this - quirky, inappropriate, awkward but these days she has morphed into a sort of middle-aged warmth that I like better. She is still awkward and has all kinds of actory mannerisms but at least she isn't annoying anymore.

But the film belongs to little Raven Marks in her very first film role (she was 9) and who went on to have a very successful TV career. This film was also at the height of Dermot Mulroney's popularity (it followed "My Best Friend's Wedding"), though he never really lived up to his promise as a leading man and is now seen mostly in bad guy roles.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I actually think it's possible to make a film about annoying people without it being an annoying movie but that didn't happen here.  It's neither lovely nor amazing.






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




162 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)



Henry likes to murder people.  A lot of them.

I had been putting off seeing this one because it just looked creepy as hell...and well, it was.

The film begins with a close-up of a woman's beautiful face, but as the camera pans slowly away we see that she is dead.

Then we meet Henry (Michael Rooker) driving his beaten up car interspersed with more flashbacks of other dead bodies as he drives along. Henry stops for coffee at a café and compliments the waitress on her smile.  Henry could just be any handsome young man.  Even serial killers can be sociable, I guess. But then he goes to the mall, targets a woman and follows her home.  But when she arrives home her husband comes out to help her with her packages so Henry backs off.  But he'll be back.

Then on the way home Henry picks up a young hitchhiker carrying her guitar. 

Henry lives with Otis (Tom Towles), a gas station attendant and part-time drug dealer, who has just picked up his sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold), at the airport.  Becky has left an unhappy marriage and needs a place to stay.  When Henry arrives, he has a guitar case with him and gives Otis the guitar. Oh oh.  So much for that young hitchhiker. 

Henry and Otis had met in prison. Henry was there for killing his mother. We get a little insight into Henry's character when Becky asks him about killing his mother but that is the only attempt made to explain why Henry likes to kill people or why or how he chooses his victims though he gives some insight when he says to Otis, "It's always you or them one way or another."

We never actually see the murders, just the bodies, until later in the film, when Otis witnesses Henry killing a prostitute and gets the bug himself and the two end up killing a family together and filming it with a video recorder and then watching it on their new TV.

Later it becomes clear that though Henry kills practically everyone he comes across he is more of a gentleman than Otis, who is quite the perv, especially when he tries to rape Becky, his own sister.  Even Henry has standards.

This was Michael Rooker's first feature film role and he is amazing as the handsome but dead-eyed Henry but for me that doesn't save this film.  It's just too dark and intense.

Directed by John McNaughton with a screenplay by McNaughton and Richard Fire, this is a low-budget film (he used then unknown actors and spent only $125,000) that does a good job of showing the seemy side of life and the actual brutality of murder, something that is often trivialized or even glamorized in films today, but the film is very, very hard to watch and I had problems with why it was even made or why it was a must see. I felt guilty for watching it.

Why it's a Must See: "[The film] is loosely based on the story of real-life serial murdered Henry Lee Lucas.  It is exceptional for its realism of style and amoral viewpoint, and it remains with the viewer as one of the most disturbing movies ever made...Henry evokes horror through gritty realism and excellent acting.  The film is not fun to watch, but it is important in that it forces viewers into questioning our cultural fascination with serial killers."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Oh...OK.

Rosy the Reviewer says...very, very disturbing.









***Book of the Week***





Gold Dust Woman: A Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis (2017)



A biography of singer Stevie Nicks who helped to make Fleetwood Mac one of the most popular bands of all time.

This is an unauthorized biography so rock and roll biographer Davis did not have access to Stevie herself so had to rely on existing interviews, articles and books about Stevie and the band, as well as the recollections of Stevie's friends, family and those she has worked with. But Davis has put together an entertaining biography that covers the basics of Nicks' life - her Welsh ancestry and her growing up years (she was born in Phoenix but her family moved to California when she was very young) as well as the ups and downs as she made a career for herself as one of rock and roll's leading ladies. 


Stevie came from a musical family.  Her grandfather had dreams to become a country singer and often brought Stevie along when he had local gigs.  In high school she started playing the guitar and writing songs and eventually met Lindsay Buckingham and they formed a duo - Buckingham Nicks. They worked the grueling music scene with Stevie waiting tables to make ends meet and hoping for a big break.  

In one of those classic Hollywood right-place-right-time scenes, it just so happened that Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac was looking for a replacement lead guitarist.  Fleetwood Mac was a successful rock band, but because of the loss of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, who both left the band under bizarre circumstances, they were faltering.  When a recording engineer at a studio where Nicks and Buckingham did some work recommended Lindsay, Mick offered Lindsay the job but Lindsay said yes only on the condition that they also take his girlfriend too -- and rock and roll history was born.  When Stevie and Lindsay joined the band, their songwriting, charisma and Stevie's flamboyant stage presence helped Fleetwood Mac become one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

Davis shares lots of inside information especially during the tumultuous time that they were all making the Rumours album, which could be called "The Break-Up Album."  All of the band members were in various stages of breaking up.  Davis also covers the personality clashes (according to Davis Buckingham wasn't a very easy guy to get along with); the-who-was-sleeping-with-who lineups; Stevie's relationships with Mick Fleetwood, Don Henley and Joe Walsh; the drugs and drinking that almost killed her; and her solo career that is still going strong. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...an entertaining biography of one of the most glamorous and sexy women in rock and roll who at 69 is still sexy and still rocking.

 


 
 
 
Thanks for reading!



See you this Tuesday for a


Special Edition of


Rosy the Reviewer:


"My New Kitchen,

Or

I Survived a Kitchen Remodel But Told My Kids if I Ever Decided to do Something Like That Again They Had My Permission to Put Me in a Home! "



 

  

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer

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).