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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"Good Luck To You, Leo Grande" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new Hulu film, "Good Luck To You, Leo Grande" as well as  "Blacklight" and an anime classic that somehow I missed, "Spirited Away."  The Book of the Week is “Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century” by Stephen Galloway]


Good Luck To You, Leo Grande (2022)





Widow and ex-school teacher Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) hires a young sex worker so she can experience some good sex!

I never thought I would ever say a movie that is all about sex was sweet but I am going to say it. This film was sweet.  But it was also charming and wonderful.

Widow Nancy was married for 31 years and the sex was the slam-bam-thank-you- ma'am variety and she had never experienced an orgasm.  Her husband was also the only man she had ever been with. Oh, she has had opportunities to be with other men since her husband's death but they were all old.  She doesn't want old, she wants to be with a young man and to experience some good sex.  So she hires a young handsome (and I DO mean handsome) sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to learn about the joys of sex. So she books a lovely London hotel room, meets Leo and is then utterly terrified and wondering what she has done.  Over the course of four meetings, Leo is patient, non-judgmental and amazingly understanding as Nancy works through her fears and old beliefs and patterns.

This film, written by Katy Brand and directed by Sophie Hyde, is what the Brits call a two-hander. It's just two people, Nancy and Leo, meeting over the course of a few weeks and Nancy trying to get up the courage to try all of the sex situations she has on her list.  So they talk...and talk...and talk.  But don't get me wrong. It is not boring.  In fact, it's quite wonderful.

Emma as Nancy displays the whole range of emotions that a woman of a certain age might feel meeting a gorgeous and very young kind man, a woman trying to spread her wings and, uh, have an orgasm.  Thompson is a wonder of an actress and is at the top of her game. But McCormack holds his own.  As I said, he is gorgeous so just watching him gave me a bit of a flutter.  But he is also a good actor who shows vulnerability and kindness.

Yes, it's all about sex, but there is much more.  The film also deals with aging, body image, self-empowerment, not to mention a plug for legalizing sex work but all-in-all, it's a lovely, er, satisfying film experience that is not to be missed.  And I predict a long successful career for McCormack...as an actor!

Rosy the Reviewer says...no matter how you feel about a movie about sex, this one will make you smile.(Hulu)


Blacklight (2022)


Liam Neeson is a deep cover FBI operative with a shadowy past and when his past catches up with him, he has to save his family.

Okay, I know, I know. How many iterations of “Taken” is Liam going to star in? But you know what? I don’t care. He has “a very particular set of skills” that I like, so they could film him putting on his shoes and I would watch. Yes, you might think he is getting a bit long in the tooth for this stuff but, c’mon, look at that movie poster. He’s still got it. He is such a nice big tall man and with that Irish lilt in his voice…sigh. What woman wouldn’t want to…well, you know…ahem…be rescued by him? Yes, you will chuckle at some of the really serious lines he delivers but I believe everything he says and does.
Anyway, this time Liam plays Travis Block, a deep cover FBI agent with some OCD, a penchant for Bud Lights and the desire to retire and become a good grandpa. His job is rescuing other deep cover agents who have lost it or gone rogue. But when Sofia Flores, a progressive politician who is running for Congress and who looks just like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, is mowed down in a hit and run and one of Block’s operatives contacts a reporter with information about it that implicates the FBI, Block discovers corruption at the FBI (I guess the FBI didn't like progressives). He confronts his boss, who he thought was his friend and mentor, but it doesn’t go well and then his daughter and granddaughter disappear – IT’S GAME ON!
Written by Nick May and Mark Williams (from a story by Brandon Reevis) and directed by Williams, this has all of the usual Liam Neeson thriller tropes: ominous music, rather unbelievable fist fights, guns, car chases - though I had never seen a Dodge Charger chasing a garbage truck before - and Liam using his “particular skills” to nail the bad guys – all the usual stuff you have come to expect in these Liam Neeson thrillers, though in light of recent events, the gun fight was rather stomach churning.

Rosy the Reviewer says...is it a good movie? Not really but if you enjoy Liam in his predictable troubled hero role and want to see the bad guys get what's coming to them, you will probably like this. (On DVD, Apple+ and for rent on most platforms)



Spirited Away (2001)


A ten-year-old girl finds herself in a strange fantasy world.

I have to confess a little crack in Rosy the Reviewer’s movie cred. I just don’t understand how I missed this one. I mean, I worked my way through all of “The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” book, and I guess I thought I had seen this one, but when it came to my attention recently as the most celebrated animated film of all time, I had to ask myself, “Had I?”
I had not.
When I say the most celebrated animated film ever, I’m not kidding. It was not only Japan’s highest grossing film of all time, it is considered by some the greatest animated film ever. It is #6 on IMDB’s “1001 Greatest Films of All Time” and won the Oscar for Best Animated feature film in 2001, the only non-English animated film to have done so and it was hand-drawn as opposed to all of the computer generated films we now have.
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and dubbed in English, it tells the story of 10-year-old Chihiro (voice of Daveigh Chase) who is on her way to her new home in the suburbs with her parents when they take a wrong turn and discover a mysterious tunnel. They explore the tunnel and find themselves in what looks like an abandoned amusement park. Chihiro’s parents discover a food shop that is open, the counter filled with food. Her parents stuff themselves with the food (Chihiro isn’t hungry) and are turned into pigs, and it’s all one crazy adventure after another for Chihiro as she makes her way around this strange fantasy world, “Alice in Wonderland” style.
This is one of those animated films that will appeal to all ages. Kids will enjoy it because there are all kinds of wild shape-shifting creatures and a lesson about friendship. Adults can get into the deeper messages of western consumerism and the environment as well as the beauty of the animation itself and be blown away by the fact that it was so meticulously hand drawn frame by frame.
Rosy the Reviewer says…I am not usually a huge animation fan but this is a very special film that everyone should see. Am I glad I finally saw this? Yes! You will be too!
(Available on DVD, on HBO Max and for rent on most platforms)


***The Book of the Week***


Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century by Stephen Galloway (2022)


American audiences probably know Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind” and possibly also as Blanche Du Bois in “A Streetcar Named Desire (she won Oscars for both performances)” and Laurence Olivier gained widespread acclaim as a movie actor as Maxim de Winter in “Rebecca” and as Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights,” but what Americans might not know is before that, they were both British stage actors, most notably Olivier, who brought Shakespeare to the masses.
But perhaps what made them even more famous was their epic love affair and the aftermath.
When the two met, they fell “truly, madly” in love. Unfortunately, they were both married to other people, and in those days, a woman, unless she could prove abuse or abandonment, could not get a divorce without her husband’s permission. Yes, you heard me. And Vivien’s husband was not about to give her a divorce. But Olivier and Leigh couldn’t live without each other and eventually did marry. They lived and worked together for 20 years hoping to become the British version of Lunt and Fontaine until Vivien’s mental illness drove them apart.
Though Galloway’s prose is at times a bit overly dramatic, the Olivier and Leigh love story was a dramatic one and he includes new research, unpublished correspondence and interviews with family and friends and lots of behind the scenes anecdotes. It’s juicy.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you are fans of Leigh and Olivier or want to know more about them or you miss The Golden Age of Hollywood, this is for you! And here’s a fun fact. My little beloved poodle, Tarquin, was named after Olivier’s son!
(Check it out at your local library)!


(Tarquin as Romeo)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow 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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Road to the 2022 Oscars, Part 3: Which Film Will Win Best Picture?

[I review Best Picture nominees "West Side Story," "Belfast," "Nightmare Alley" and "Drive My Car"]

If like me, you participate in Academy Award competitions or you just want to be knowledgable around the proverbial water cooler or at cocktail parties, I feel it is my duty as Rosy the Reviewer, that critic you have come to count on for true, reliable (and often all about me) reviews, to review as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible before the event on March 27. So here we go.

And the nominees are...


Dune

The Power of the Dog

Don't Look Up 

Licorice Pizza

King Richard

CODA


As well as "West Side Story," "Nightmare Alley," "Belfast" and "Drive My Car," which I am reviewing here.

With the four reviews in this post, I have now reviewed all of the nominees (click on the links above for my earlier reviews) except "Dune" and "Licorice Pizza," but that's okay, because they are not going to win anyway (but if I watch them between now and the awards on March 27, I will probably review them, so watch this space, and if you didn't see "The Road to the 2022 Oscars, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2," here they are)

I could go into the whole issue of there being ten Best Picture nominees (which I don't agree with and don't get me started), but I won't so let's get on with it.



West Side Story (2021)


Stephen Spielberg decided he needed to remake "West Side Story."  Oh, no he didn't!

When I first heard that Steven Spielberg was remaking "West Side Story," my first thought was "Whaaaaat?"  Why?  Because number one, I hate remakes of perfectly wonderful films, and number two, you can't remake perfection.  I mean, the 1961 film was directed by Jerome Robbins, a king of Broadway musicals and Robert Wise, Hollywood royalty, and the film won Best Picture along with nine other Oscars. With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by a very young Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Robbins, it also was the film version of a play that changed the face of musicals. So, I said out loud (I do that sometimes), Mr. Spielberg, don't mess with "West Side Story," and I decided to boycott it, which wasn't difficult since there was that little thing called the pandemic, so going to a movie theatre was no longer my idea of fun.  And it actually looks like the public agreed with me because the box office for this remake was disappointing.  

But then the Academy Award nominations came out and the film was nominated for Best Picture, not to mention nominations in several other categories, and it is also streaming for free on HBO Max and Disney+ so I decided I needed to do my due diligence as a critic. So here I am.  Despite my misgivings, I did go into watching the film with an open mind.  I really wanted it to be good. I really did. It wasn't. 

As a bit of background, back in the 50's, it was Robbins' original idea to make a contemporary musical play about Romeo and Juliet. So Romeo and Juliet became Tony and Maria, and the Capulets and Montagues became two rival gangs - the Sharks (the Puerto Rican gang) and the Jets (the white American gang) - both fighting for turf on the Upper West Side of New York City. The play was a smash on Broadway and the 1961 film adaptation won Best Picture and nine other Oscars, the most ever for a musical. The music, lyrics and choreography were all new and exciting, and it was unusual for a musical to deal with real life issues like race and immigration. This musical heralded the modern world. 

In this version (screenplay by Tony Kushner), Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) lives with her brother, Bernardo (David Alvarez) and his girlfriend, Anita (Ariana DeBose, nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). Tony (Ansel Elgort) is just out of prison and is living in the basement of Doc's general store under the watchful eye of Valentina (Rita Moreno), Doc's widow.  And like the original, Tony and Maria meet at a dance, fall in love and all hell breaks loose from there. But in the meantime, there is that sublime music and fantastic dancing. 

When you try to remake a classic film, you run the risk of the remake being compared to the original, and in this case, since the 1961 film was so iconic, that couldn't be helped.

First of all, I can't quibble with the production values.  As in any Spielberg film, they were wonderful, though I missed some of the set design I have come to associate with the film, such as the underground parking garage.  And the acting was mostly fine, though I think that Elgort was miscast. He underplays too much, and I just didn't feel any passion coming from him. Likewise, there was something about the Riff character (Mike Faist) that didn't do it for me. However, I commend Spielberg for hiring an all hispanic cast to play the Puerto Rican characters, something that was not the case in the original. Also everyone did their own singing, again not the case in the original, but that's about all the props I can give this film that to me was not a satisfying film experience.  

So what went wrong?  

The opening was not at all inspiring. I know Spielberg was making a point about gentrification as the camera panned over the rubble of reconstruction.  But I missed the ominous whistling in the opening of the original. There was a little of it, but it was really down-played.  I also missed the underground parking garage where the Jets sang "When You're a Jet" with the finger-snapping choreography.  I mean, how many of us haven't copied that hopping and snapping down a deserted street late at night?  Duh-duh-da-da-da, duh-duh-da-da-da...

And what the heck was Rita Moreno doing in this film?  I guess I can answer my own question.  Spielberg created that character for her to play to give this remake an authentic feel.  See?  There she is, the original Anita.  Okay, I get it but when she sang "Somewhere," one of the most beautiful and romantic songs in the film, one that Tony and Maria are supposed to sing together, well, I lost my...well...you know. And to make matters worse, Moreno can't really sing. That beautiful song was just lost. 

Those all might seem like small things but put all together, I just couldn't buy this remake.  It lacked passion and it just didn't come together for me.

Okay, so Spielberg wanted to remake a classic film.  But why? He didn't really do anything new with it. It was fairly faithful to the original.  It was still in the 1950's. Why not update it?  Adapt it for the present day? Make it shorter? He did add some realism, making a stronger case for the immigration and racial issues in the story as well as adding the rise of gentrification, but even with that, the film lacked energy. 

Can you tell I am upset? I just can't fathom why Spielberg would want to take this on and think he could make it better. The only positive I can see in this new version is bringing this wonderful story, music and choreography to a younger generation who might have overlooked the original, but then I would say, "You have to see the original."

I was twelve when I saw the original film.  I was smitten with every moment of it, and I cried my eyes out at the end.  Did I cry at the end of this one?  Well, I did a bit, but it was an emotional response to the music which reminded me that seeing this film back in the early 60's was the beginning of my teen years, a time long gone. I was also reminded that my young daughter starred as Maria in a high school version of the play, another time that is long gone. My daughter is now 37 and lives in another state.  So there is a lot of emotion around this film, a reminder to me that time has moved on. But this story and the music - timeless.  I just wish Spielberg had done a better job with it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's not going to win Best Picture so see the original instead.                                                                                      (Streaming on HBO Max and Disney+)



Belfast (2021)

Actor/Writer/Director Kenneth Branagh's coming-of-age tale of his childhood in Belfast in the 1960's.

As the camera pans over a modern day Belfast in living color, it slowly fades to black and white and we find ourselves in 1969 Belfast at the beginning of The Troubles.  

Now if you don't know what The Troubles were you need to bone up, but basically it was a time where Northern Ireland was engulfed in a conflict that appeared to be between the Catholics and the Protestants, though it wasn't really a religious war.  It was a nationalistic conflict between those who wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and those who wanted to stay, and since those who wanted to stay were mostly Protestants and were in the majority and those who wanted out - the Irish Nationalists and Republicans - were mostly Catholic and the minority, the conflict appeared to be a religious war. But it was indeed a war.  The Protestants took advantage of their majority and many made life miserable for the Catholics. Anyway, like I said, you need to bone up on that part, because the film takes place during The Troubles and it is always in the background.  It plays a major role, but the film is not really about that. It's really about family. It's Branagh's personal story of his childhood, a love letter to Belfast and the adult world seen through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy. 

As the film begins, we meet nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), running up the street of his neighborhood, carefree, until a mob appears, reminding us of the time and place he lives in. He lives in Belfast with his mother (Caitriona Balfe) and brother, Will (Lewis McAskie).  His Dad (Jamie Dornan) is also around but works in England, so he is gone for weeks at a time, putting a strain on his parents marriage. They struggle over his Dad's desire to move to England because opportunities are better there and his mother's desire to stay.  But Buddy also has Granny (Judy Dench) and Pop (Ciaran Hinds) who live nearby, and the entire neighborhood is his playground, Protestants and Catholics living peacably together and everyone looking out for everyone else. Buddy plays with his friends, has a crush on a girl, goes to the pictures to see "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," a typical life for a young boy except there is always that ever present war playing out around him. (I couldn't help but wonder if that scene of the family enjoying "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was the moment Branagh decided to become and actor)!

I usually have an aversion to overly precocious child actors but young Jude Hill is a wonderful young actor and, well, adorable.  I couldn't take my eyes off of his face.  Jamie Dornan has come a long way since he used to tie up Dakota Johnson in the Fifty Shades of Grey films and is a fine actor.  There is one scene in this film where Dornan's character comes to a realization and it plays out slowly on his face, one of those "a picture is worth a thousand words" moments.  Likewise, veteran actors Judy Dench and Ciaran Hinds can always be counted on to bring in wonderful performances and this film is no exception.  It's also refreshing to see actors allowing themselves to age naturally, unlike American actors.  Let's just say we are not supposed to look like Jane Fonda when we are 84.  But the main revelation for me was Caitriona Balfe, who I did not recognize at first, even though I had watched several seasons of "Outlander."  As Claire in "Outlander," I actually thought she wasn't a very good actress.  I found her to be stiff and overly formal, but here she shines as a woman fighting for her marriage, torn between her love of her husband and her desire to stay in Ireland. She is also gorgeous.  Just ask Hubby.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet and poignant little film with a great Van Morrison soundtrack, but not likely to win Best Picture.                              (on DVD and for rent on Apple+, Amazon Prime and Vudu)



Nightmare Alley (2021)

An ambitious con-man running from his past hooks up with an unethical psychologist.

Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) is a mysterious film noir figure running from what appears to be a murder. In fact, in true film noir fashion, he is a man of few words.  He says nothing for the first 11 minutes of this film. He joins up with a carnival where he meets Clem (Willem Dafoe), whose "act" is a geek show. So what is a geek show, you ask?  Let's just say the "ew factor" is very high.  It's an act in which a man bites the head off of a live chicken and eats it.  Clem seeks out alcoholics with troubled pasts to be his geeks, luring them in with promises of a temporary job, then regularly giving them opium-laced alcohol to keep them in line. So right there, you know this film is going to be dark.  They don't call this genre film noir for nothing. And yes, it shows the guy biting the head off of the chicken.  I just hope there is a disclaimer at the end of the film saying no chickens were hurt during the making of this film.

I can't help but wonder how the word "geek" came to be used for socially inept people when it was originally a guy biting the heads off of chickens. And who are these people who would pay to see such an act? But I digress.

Stan also meets "Madame Zeena (Toni Collette)" and her alcoholic husband, Pete (David Strathairn). Zeena is a so-called clairvoyant who with the help of her husband uses coded language to read the audience. Oh, the tricks of the carny trade that you can learn in this film.  Pete has a whole book with the coded language and he begins teaching tricks to Stan. But Stan is an ambitious guy. He is also a murderer. He kills Pete, steals his book and runs off with Molly (Rooney Mara), another carnival performer he has fallen in love with. 

A couple of years later, Stan is in Buffalo and has reinvented himself as a medium and has a successful nightclub act with the help of Molly, who uses the coded language from Pete's book to feed him clues.  All is going well for Stan until he meets psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), who has figured out his act and is impressed with his skills.  However, she is not what you would call an ethical doctor.  Many of the Buffalo elite have been her patients and she has tapes of all of their sessions. The two join forces to con the rich out of their money.  But Stan is a loser and it doesn't go well for him.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, who won the 2018 Best Director Oscar for "The Shape of Water  (the film also won Best Picture)," this is a remake of the 1947 film from the book by William Lindsay Gresham (del Toro also wrote the screenplay with Kim Morgan). The film has an all-star cast and breathtaking production design thanks to Tamara Deverell.  It felt like a film noir movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood - think "The Postman Always Rings Twice" or "Double Indemnity," with a little bit of Tod Browning's "Freaks" thrown in -  but at two and a half hours, it's just too long, though I have to say that Hubby stayed awake the entire time which says something about how mesmerizing this film is. And it didn't fall under my usual aversion to remakes since I had not seen the original and, anyway, remaking something after almost 75 years doesn't bother me as much (but don't mess with "West Side Story" - see review above).

I have never been a big Bradley Cooper fan.  Not sure why, but he is outstanding here.  His Stan is malevolent and self-serving but just sensitive and inept enough for you to care what happens to him.  Blanchett is her throaty-voiced, vampy self whom we have come to expect and Mara Rooney is the one person who seems to have a soul.  Ron PerlmanRichard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen also make appearances.

I have to say that I knew how it all would end about halfway through the film, because I have this theory that appears to work almost every time.  If there is a plot element that is odd or a character, especially one played by a big name but the character doesn't appear to have much to do, that plot element will figure prominently at some point or that character will be the one who did it.  Anyway, even though I figured it out, that did not dampen my enjoyment of this film, if enjoy is the right word.  The film is very dark and there are not many redeemable characters but it is a satisfying, if too long, movie experience.

Rosy the Reviewer says...film noir at its finest, but again, not likely to win Best Picture.                                                                                            (streaming on HBO, HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu) 



Drive My Car (2021)


After his wife's unexpected death, a reknowned actor and director travels to Hiroshima to direct a play and discovers not only his wife's secrets but comes to grips with his grief.

When one of the main plot elements is a man's wife dying and she doesn't die until an hour into the film, you know it's going to be a long movie. And this one is at a whopping three hours.

Actor and theater director Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima), who is preparing to star in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," is married to Oto (Reika Kirishima), a screenwriter who seems to have her most creativity right after sex. One day, as Yūsuke is leaving for work, Oto tells him she wants to talk to him later that evening. But Yūsuke returns home late to find Oto dead from a brain hemorrhage. Two years later, Yūsuke has given up acting but accepts a residency in Hiroshima, where he will direct a multilingual adaptation of "Uncle Vanya".  Because of his glaucoma, the theater company requires that Yūsuke not drive but be chauffeured in his own car, his beloved red 1987 Saab 900 Trubo. He objects at first, but relents after meeting young Misaki Watari (Toko Miura), who proves herself to be a good driver. Over the course of the film, secrets are revealed in that car and Yusuke and Misaki bond, him sharing his guilt over his wife's death and she over the guilt she feels about her mother's death and each helps the other with their grief.

After the death of Oto, the car serves as a haven for Yusuke as he drives around listening to a tape of Oto reading him his lines when he was preparing to star in "Uncle Vanya." Later, it's a safe place for Yusuke and Misaki to share their stories.

If you are not a Chekhov fan or someone who enjoys the acting process, this might be a slog for you. The last half of the film consists of rehearsals for the play where not much happens. Even I, who does enjoy Chekhov and have dabbled in acting, found this to be tremendously tedious. 

I know this film, directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi with a screenplay by Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe (based on a short story by Haruki Murakami), is all about collaboration and the creative process and life and death and the kitchen sink, it just went on so long I had to fast forward through some of it. Why do movies have to be so long to get the point across? Since this was not the only film I have seen recently that exceeds two hours by a mile, I am starting to think that our contemporary directors are having difficulty editing themselves, that every single filmed moment is important to them. They can't stand to let any of it go onto the cutting room floor. But let me say - less is more!

However, I must be alone in my views, because this film is the first Japanese film to ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and it has also been nominated for Best International Feature (the category used to be called Best Foreign Film). Only a few films made in other countries have had that distinction, "Parasite," a film from South Korea, was one of them, a surprise win for 2020's Best Picture AND Best International Feature.  I really liked "Parasite."  I did not like this film.

But like "Parasite," will this film also have the distinction of winning Best Picture and Best International Feature?

Rosy the Reviewer says...No.                                                                         (In Japanese with English subtitles now streaming on HBO Max)


My Prediction for the Best Picture Oscar?  

Though it's not my favorite movie of the year nor is it my favorite Jane Campion film, I believe the winner will be:

"The Power of the Dog"

(though "CODA" could be a spoiler)


Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow 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)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)



Monday, February 28, 2022

More Movies You Might Not Know About

[I review the films "Last Night in Soho," "Swallow," "On the Rocks" and "No Time to Die" - I know you know about this last one, but I will share something you might not know... read on]


Last Night in Soho (2021)


A psychological thriller about a young present day fashion designer who finds herself back in the 1960's where she has some strange and frightening adventures.

Young Eloise, "Ellie" (Thomasin McKenzie), a sheltered girl from Cornwall gets the opportunity to go the London College of Fashion, but her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) is not sure she should go.  "London can be a lot."  And grandma is right.  She has reason to be fearful because her own daughter, Ellie's mother, went to London to be a designer and ended up committing suicide.  But Ellie is determined.

When Ellie gets to London, she discovers that the girls in her dorm are much more sophisticated than she is and not friendly, so she moves out of the dorm and finds a room in Soho in the home of Mrs. Collins (Diana Rigg in her last role before her death). Ellie is obsessed with the 1960's and somehow she is able to go back in time to the 1960's. It would have been nice to have some sort of explanation of how that happens, for example did she get bopped on the head like the kid in "Yesterday?" Is she dreaming?  Did she find a worm hole?  But that's okay - I liked this film anyway.

I liked this film because the 1960's was my young world, and boy, did I want to live in London.  I had a bad case of Anglophilia.  No, that's not a disease.  It's a love of all things British.

So I enjoyed following Ellie as she wandered around 1960's London living vicariously through Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, who helped us all get through the early days of the pandemic with her wonderful performance in "The Queen's Gambit"), an aspiring singer.  Ellie even takes on Sandie's look in real life - the blonde hair, the minidress - and uses Sandie as inspiration for her designs in fashion school. At first it's all fun and exciting, but as the film progresses there is a sense of foreboding and things start to go all wrong for Ellie and for Sandie. Ellie is haunted by her mother's ghost and Sandi meets Jack (Matt Smith), who uses Sandie's drive for success to lure her into a dark world.  Maybe the 60's weren't so magical after all.

Directed by Edgar Wright, who also directed "Baby Driver" and one of my favorite films, "Shaun of the Dead," this is part pschological thriller, part time-traveling murder mystery, part ghost story and part horror film.  The story by Wright (screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns) starts out strong but, I have to say that it could have been about 30 minutes shorter and the big twist ending was totally OTT (that's brit-speak for over the top).  But the film is very atmospheric and Anya Taylor-Joy is always, well, a joy with McKenzie keeping right up with her and providing a good contrast.

Actors Rita Tushingham, Diana Rigg, and Terence Stamp, who has a pivotal role, all fixtures of 1960's shows and films, add an authentic feel, though it's difficult to see how old they all look now, especially considering I was around in the 1960's too!  But it was great to see them.  Another bonus is the wonderful 60's soundtrack - Dusty singing "Wishin' and Hopin," Petula Clark singing "Downtown," Peter and Gordon singing "A World Without Love." Brought back a lot of memories.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if like me, you have always wanted to experience the "Swinging London" of the 1960's, this atmospheric film is for you, even if it's a bit OTT. (on DVD and available to rent on Amazon, Vudu and Apple+)

  


Swallow (2019)


Hunter (Haley Bennett), an overwhelmed housewife, feels compelled to swallow dangerous objects.

Okay, I know what you are thinking.  Ew.  Yes, there is an "ew factor" to this, but this is also a very compelling film.

Hunter is a soft-spoken young woman who wants to be the best wife to her rich and on-his-way-up husband, Richie (Austin Stowell).  He loves her in his way but doesn't validate her, and Hunter just can't seem to speak up for herself.  Just telling her husband she made a decision about the color for their new drapes seems to be a huge deal for her.  Add to the mix her husband's father (David Rasche) and mother (Elizabeth Marvel), both of whom look down on Hunter.  There is the sense that Hunter isn't good enough for their son. After all, she worked in a department store selling toiletries.  Hunter cleans the pool, cooks, has sex with her husband whenever he wants it but there is the sense that she isn't good enough. 

Then Hunter becomes pregnant and everyone is over the moon but Hunter is just overwhelmed. She has no power in her home and now she has no power over her body.  She is very insecure about speaking up or having an opinion and feels like she is not living up to her husband's expectations. She is clearly her husband's possession, not his equal. Think Stepford Wives. She is a kind soul who is over her head amongst more sophisticated people, all of whom have agendas.

She says to her husband, "I just want to make sure I'm not doing anything wrong." 

At dinner one night with Austin's parents, Hunter starts crunching on ice cubes. And then later, just like that, she swallows a push pin.  Yes, that was horrifying, but to Hunter it was a victory.  Now she has some power.  A secret life. And it's all downhill from there, especially when her husband finds out, not only what she has been doing, but a secret that Hunter has been carrying her whole life.

Now many women deal with issues like that by turning to drink or drugs or they stop eating but Hunter falls victim to a little known disorder - Pica - which involves swallowing all sorts of dangerous objects from push pins to batteries to needles.  Like I said, the "ew factor" is huge but think of all of those horror films you have watched. This is a kind of horror story, but this time there are no ghosts or monsters at work, just personal demons. But despite the subject matter, you will want to know what is going to happen to her.  Will Hunter escape the cold, sterile environment in which she finds herself? Will she find her voice?

So what's the point of this?  What's to be learned?

Written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, this film gives insight into how some people, who feel helpless and powerless and not seen, can feel some power. What happens to women who feel they need to be quiet and compliant, to women who have no voice?  Somehow that voice will come out as a silent scream of compulsion and addiction. And having a secret life can give a person a sense of power. Bennett brings Hunter to life in a beautiful, believable performance.

I was riveted to this film despite its subject matter.  My only criticism is the ending is a bit much, and I would think very controversial in some circles, but overall, this was an original and interesting story well executed. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...highly recommended but...watch out the next time you hear someone crunching ice cubes. (On DVD, AMC+ and Direct TV)


On the Rocks (2020)


A young mother reconnects with her playboy dad over her husband's possible infidelity.

I have never quite bought into Bill Murray as a dramatic actor.  I could never get his silly SNL characters out of my mind. It always looked like he was smirking his way through his roles. But then Sofia Coppola got a hold of him for "Lost in Translation" and found just the right character for him. He was subdued and poignant. I bought it. Since then he did well in "St. Vincent" and "Monuments Men" so I have given up my misgivings. But he hasn't really done much dramatic stuff of late, but then here comes Sofia again with just the right role for him. And once again, he puts in a subdued and poignant performance. They get each other, I guess.

Laura (Rashida Jones) is a writer with writer's block.  She also has children to take care of and a hard-working husband (Marlon Wayans) who is never home.  The thrill is gone and, what makes matters worse, is that Laura thinks her husband is having an affair. Her playboy dad, Felix (Murray), one of those charmers who is a stranger to no one, stops his jet setting ways to come and help her deal with her fears. He is such a charmer that he not only talks a cop out of giving him a ticket, but the cop offers to help jump start his car! However, rather than making Laura feel better, Felix feeds the flames of that fear by saying that men are basically not monogamous.  But he wants to help so the two go on an odyssey around New York City trying to catch her husband and adventures ensue.  Sound familiar? As "Lost in Translation" was a love letter to Tokyo, this does the same for New York City.

There is a little motif that plays out during the film. Laura can no longer whistle since she had a baby.  Gee, I wonder what's going to happen at the end of the film. Let's just say Laura holds her own and finds her voice and that's not a spoiler.  Even though you can probably figure out how it's going to go, in the meantime you can enjoy the ride because this is a satisfying and enjoyable film. And I am happy to report that Rashida Jones holds her own as an actress against that big on-screen personality that is Bill Murray.

I mean, when we are in trouble, don't we all want our dads to swoop down and help us?  But at the same time, though that is really nice, we women have to learn to take care of ourselves and that also often comes from our Dads.  My Dad was always there to help me but he also gave me the confidence to make my way on my own. That's what is happening here.

Coppola wrote and directed this father-daughter love story, and the dialogue is real and believable.  You are brought into this father-daughter world and feel like a fly on the wall, observing a real father and daughter. Felix is a very BIG personality, one of those types that sucks up all the air around him and everyone else. Laura is a quieter type, living in the shadow of her charming, out there, Dad. You can't help but wonder if this is a love letter to Coppola's own very famous and probably charming father.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's not deep but it's a lovely story about father-daughter bonding with many little moments that will bring a smile to your face. (On DVD and streaming on Apple+)



No Time to Die (2021)


James Bond is back...but not in a good way!

Okay, I know you know about this one, but if you haven't seen it, what you might not know is that it's not very good.  And it actually falls under part of the title of this blog - the "know about" part, because I just did not know what this movie was about. I mean, at any given time, I did not know what the heck was going on, and I don't think it's just me.  

So after the longest cold opening in James Bond history, or at least it felt that way, listening to a very non-iconic Billy Eilish song, and a first hour where I didn't have the slightest idea what was going on (something about microscopic robots with DNA to target a particular person?), I just lost interest. A sad commentary for Daniel Craig's last stint as 007. 

I have always been a huge James Bond fan, but maybe I'm just getting too old for these.  I mean, I still miss Sean Connery!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are into the heart-stopping chases, you might enjoy this but there aren't enough of those to sustain almost three hours. My advice? Don't bother. (But if you don't trust me, see for yourself. Available on DVD and for rent on Amazon and Vudu)

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