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

Sunday, July 18, 2021

What I Watched (and Liked) While on My 2021 Summer Stay-cation: Movies - Part 1

[I review "In the Heights," "The Courier," "The Last Vermeer," "Things Heard and Seen," "Memories of Murder," "The Woman in the Window" and "Another Round"]

I realize that the summer is not over but there are so many movies on my radar, I thought I had better get this first installment out.  

I had put out teasers for these films on my Rosy the Reviewer Facebook page but I have expanded those reviews and now you have a handy list of must-see movies, all in one place!

Let me know what your think!


In the Heights (2021)


Ever wonder what Lin-Manual Miranda did before he took the world by storm with “Hamilton?” Well, this was it.

He wrote this show in 1999, his sophomore year in college. It eventually made its way to Broadway in 2008, garnering 14 Tony Award nominations and winning four.
The story is set over three days in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, a predominantly Hispanic enclave and follows Usnavi de la Vega (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner who dreams of going back to his native Dominican Republic; Nina (Leslie Grace), who has made it out of the neighborhood to Stanford but is having difficulty finding her place there; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), an aspiring fashion designer who yearns for a nice apartment of her own; local businessman, Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits) and other Washington Heights community members, all seeking un sueno, “the dream.”
It seems a lottery ticket worth $96,000 was sold at the bodega so everyone wondering who has won that money is a theme throughout the film and there is a blackout, but other than that there isn’t much of a plot and it’s a bit long, but that doesn't matter, because this is all about these engaging characters and the exuberance of a vibrant community. Directed by Jon M. Chu (who made a big splash with "Crazy Rich Asians") and an adapted screenplay by Quiara Alegria Hudes, this is a celebration of community, music, dance, love and, life itself, and yes, rap...and you can’t help but get swept up in it all. It’s also an homage to the immigrants who have made this country great.

And for you Miranda fans (he has a cameo, by the way), as you watch this, it will be fun for you to think of him, that college boy writing this show fusing rap, hip-hop and salsa music before anyone did such a thing. And there is even a hint of "West Side Story" in there. And then came “Hamilton.” You can’t listen to the song “96,000” without thinking of “Hamilton.”

Rosy the Reviewer says…"West Side Story" meets "Hamilton." People, Broadway is BACK!
(This was streaming for free for subscribers of HBO Max but it's no longer available - these free streams only last a month - so if you want to see it, you will need to venture out to the theatre or wait for it to appear on the other streaming services. It is scheduled to be released on DVD August 31 so it should be On Demand or on Amazon or Netflix soon after).



The Courier (2020)


During the Cold War, an English businessman is recruited by MI6 and the CIA to spy on Russia.

Is there nothing Benedict Cumberbatch can’t do? Okay, he can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, though he has done some crazy stuff as Dr. Strange, but he is one hell of an actor who can play any character with ease and make him exceedingly believable.
That is the case here as he takes us on a Cold War journey as Greville Wynne, a British businessman who is approached by MI6 and the CIA to help them get information on the Soviet’s nuclear program. He is recruited to act as a business partner to Russian official, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), to take messages back to the West which eventually provided crucial intelligence that helped to end the Cuban Missile Crisis, an event that led us perilously close to a nuclear war. However, Wynne's and Penkovsky's participation led to some severe consequences for them.

Wynne is an unlikely spy. He is kind of a nerdy businessman who is better at schmoozing than spying, but it's the story of how ordinary people can be thrust into history for the greater good. It's a spy story you will recognize with the usual spy story tropes but this is also an intense and important story brought to life by wonderful performances by Cumberbatch and Ninidze.
Rosy the Reviewer says…based on a true story, adapted by Tom O'Connor and directed by Dominic Cooke, this is an intense spy thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat!
(Available on DVD, On Demand and to rent on Amazon Prime)





Post WWII, collaborators with the Nazis were not very popular...to say the least!

When Hitler’s Reich fell in May of 1945, the Americans discovered art that the Nazis had looted, one of which was a valuable Vermeer called “Christ and the Adulteress.” We all know that the Nazis were bad guys who killed six million Jews but they also stole their art. Joseph Piller (Claes Bang) is assigned to find the owners of the art and to return it to them, if they are still alive, that is.
Piller tracks down Han Van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), an artist who was known to have sold the Vermeer to Goring (Goring was a monster but I guess he loved art. Does that make him less of a monster? I think not). Now Van Meegeren is in the cross hairs as a possible collaborator with the Nazis. Was he? Turns out, nothing is as it seems.

He is brought to trial and his defense is that he was not collaborating with the Nazis, he was defrauding them because, you see, Van Meegeren is a master forger. Thus the age old question, "What is art?"
Written by John Orloff, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby and directed by Dan Friedkin, this is an examination of war and what people do to survive it.

Pearce (I am obsessed with his hair in this!) and Bang make great foils and might I add that Claes Bang is certainly a nice big handsome man?! I'm just saying.
Rosy the Reviewer says…an intellectual and, dare I say, “arty” foray into a little known part of the aftermath of WW II. If you like serious historical dramas, this is for you.
NOTE: I think this is available on STARZ, if you are currently signed up for that. However, I watched it on a DVD from Netflix. Okay, I know what you are thinking. Who on earth still gets DVDs from Netflix? Well, lest you think I am the little old lady holding up the line writing a check at the grocery store or fishing into my coin purse for exact change, my still getting DVDs from Netflix (I stream as well) puts me ahead of you in the queue. I have access to movies as soon as they are released on DVD, well before Netflix or Amazon or any of the other services get the film…so there! But watch for it, it will stream soon.







This is one of those “married couple moves into creepy house and creepy stuff happens” kind of movie.

It doesn’t help that the couple in question, George (James Norton) and Catherine (Amanda Seyfried) are also a bit creepy, well, George anyway.
As well as a ghost story, this is a story of a couple in trouble. Or, more like a couple with a really bad husband. George is a “failed artist,” who is forced to take a job as a professor in an upstate New York college, and Catherine has an eating disorder and other issues, probably because her husband is a cad. It isn’t long until ghostly happenings occur because it turns out there was a murder/suicide that took place in that house and it seems the murdered wife wants to get in touch with our Catherine, because, “Catherine, you are in danger, girl.”
Gee, I wonder if more bad stuff is going to happen. Duh, you think?
You “Granchester” fans might be uncomfortable seeing James Norton, who you remember as a benign priest solving crimes in a lovely English town, as a bad guy, but he does bad guy really well. And I enjoyed seeing Karen Allen, Michael O’Keefe and F. Murray Abraham get some screen time – where have they been?
And would you believe, the library plays a big role as Catherine does research on her “haunted” house? Yes, people, libraries are more than books and reading – you can research your house, town and your ancestry, take computer classes, find answers to questions that you can’t find on Google (it’s called asking a reference librarian who is trained to find answers to the most obscure questions) and meet up with your fellow community members. The library is a community gathering place where you can actually see your property taxes at work.

Based on the book "All Things Cease to Appear" by Elizabeth Brundage and adapted and directed by husband and wife team Sherry Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, this is an atmospheric ghost story with some psychology thrown in.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like ghostly stories about couples in trouble and things that go bump in the night, you will enjoy this.
(Now streaming on Netflix)




Before "Parasite" surprisingly won the Academy Award for Best Picture, there was this film from director Bong Joon Ho.

As you movie fans will remember, “Parasite” was a surprise win for the the Best Picture Oscar in 2020 and its director, Bong Joon Ho, who won Best Director, was only the second “foreign” director to win a Best Director Oscar.
This 2003 film about the inept investigation of a serial killer in Korea (based on a true case that was unsolved at the time of this film’s release) was only Ho’s second feature film and shows his filmmaking expertise – his ability to weigh humor vs. suspense - that would lead to his Oscar in 2020 for "Parasite." Thanks to his 2020 Oscar win, this earlier film is now available.
It’s the 1980’s and women are being killed in a small Korean town where the police are not prepared for this kind of investigation. In fact, they are incompetent and brutal, and not above forcing false confessions. When another officer comes from Seoul to help, he is shocked by the incompetence of the local cops and they are all shocked when they realize that perhaps this killer is getting the best of them. Like “Parasite,” it’s creepy and moody, but also funny and there are twists and turns, with a bit of a political statement about the state of affairs in Korea too.
Kang-Ho Song, who also starred in “Parasite,” stars here but the ensemble cast also deserves recognition.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you had seen this back in 2003, you might have said, “Wow…I see an Oscar in this guy’s future!” If you were a “Parasite” fan, you will enjoy this.
(Available on DVD from Netflix and streaming on Hulu. In Korean with English subtitles)




An agoraphobic woman spies on her neighbors and witnesses a murder.

Amy Adams stars in this psychological thriller about an agoraphobic psychologist (you heard me) who hasn’t been out of her Manhattan brownstone in over 10 months. When new neighbors move in across the street she spends some time spying on them only to witness a murder…and because she likes to drink wine with her meds (who doesn’t?), no one believes her because it appears no one is dead!

Anna is a psychologist who has experienced a breakdown. She hasn't been out of her house in 10 months and relies on food deliveries, old movies on TV and red wine. A family has moved in across the street and now part of Anna's routine is to watch their every move through their windows which are conveniently rarely covered. Jane (Julianne Moore), the new neighbor, visits Anna and the two hit it off (red wine will do that!) so it's a huge shock when Anna, during one of her "spying on the new neighbors" sessions, thinks she sees Jane's husband stabbing her. Anna calls the police and when they arrive with Jane's husband and Jane in tow, Anna is horrified that this Jane is NOT the woman she had just spent the evening with! What the...? And therein, my fellow peeps, lies the mystery ahead.
I am a big reader, mostly nonfiction, but I try my hand at fiction every third or fourth book, and I like the occasional thriller, so I read this bestseller by A.J. Finn a couple of years ago and looked forward to this movie version... and it mostly works. It’s a kind of modern day “Rear Window,” with agoraphobia instead of a wheelchair and lots of star power: in addition to Adams, there is Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, an almost unrecognizable Jennifer Jason Leigh (I think she's had some work done), and an uncredited Tracy Letts (a man of many talents, he also adapted the screenplay).

Directed by Joe Wright, this is atmospheric, suspenseful and has a very big twist.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you liked “Rear Window,” “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train,” you might also like this one.
(Now streaming on Netflix)




Four Danish school teachers hitting a midlife crisis get this idea that consuming just the right amount of alcohol every day will give them their mojo back. Mmmm.

Four Danish teachers - Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nicolaj (Magnus Millang) - are just phoning it in. They have become boring. They know it and so do their students and the other faculty members. But when one of them comes across a study that says the human body is lacking .05% alcohol in order to live happy, productive lives, the four embark on a social experiment to see if that is true. They start spending their personal and professional lives just a little bit drunk. But there are rules. They are not to drink more than required to get to .05% and they are not to drink after 8pm.

And wouldn’t you know it? They all have a renewed interest in their work, they are inspired to teach and their students are inspired by them. Martin reconnects with his wife and kids. But if a little booze is a good thing, more booze is better, right? Next the group decides to expand the drinking to .10% which also seems to work so why not try some binge drinking to see how that goes? Do you see where this is going to go? Right.

Written by Thomas Vinterberg and Tobias Lindholm, this is an engaging and entertaining film with an wonderful ensemble cast with Mads Mikkelsen a stand-out (his is a face you will recognize for his roles in many English language films as well as the TV show "Hannibal").
Rosy the Reviewer says…this won an Oscar for Best International Film and it’s a wonderful film experience, but I have to admit, not sure if the message here was booze is good or booze is bad. Watch the movie, have another round, and let's discuss!
(In Danish with English subtitles. And c’mon, folks you can do it. If you don’t watch films with subtitles, you are missing out! Available from Netflix on DVD or to rent on Amazon)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon
for My Summer Stay-cation Movies Part 2!



If you enjoyed this post, feel free to 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 

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 over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!


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!



If you enjoyed this post, feel free to 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 


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." 


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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.