Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

Friday, February 23, 2018

"Darkest Hour," "Call Me By Your Name" and The Week in Reviews

[I review 2018 Best Picture Oscar nominees "Darkest Hour," and "Call Me By Your Name" as well as one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film - "On Body and Soul."  The Book of the Week is "I Hear She's a Real Bitch."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Mr. Hulot's Holiday."]

Darkest Hour

As the Nazis close in on British troops at Dunkirk during WW II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill must decide whether to negotiate a peace settlement with Hitler or fight on with the lives of hundreds of thousands of troops hanging in the balance.

"The darkest hour is just before dawn." 

There is no record of Winston Churchill having said that, but he faced his darkest hour right before the Nazis were closing in on over 300,000 British troops who had been driven back to the beaches of Dunkirk and faced certain death with little time to decide what to do.  Churchill had two choices. One, negotiate a peace deal with Hitler which would certainly result in humiliation and sanctions against the British people, or fight on, even though defeat looked imminent.

Well, the British were (and are) a tough lot and Winston Churchill was no exception.  Though he was urged by cabinet members to take a peace deal, Churchill was a fighter.  The film follows Churchill as he struggles with what to do and argues his case to Parliament.

Winston Churchill was an unlikely Prime Minister.  He had a scotch and wine for breakfast and champagne for lunch and dinner and probably several other drinks in between.  He was old, overweight, bombastic and uncouth and smoked cigars constantly.  But he was also eloquent, brave and heroic.  However, Churchill was not a popular choice for Prime Minister.  When his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, was renounced, Churchill only won the post by default. 

This film highlights a bit of British history that we Americans know little about, but it also highlights why Churchill rose to become a folk hero among the British people and later the world. After asking the Americans to help, Roosevelt declined due to our then very isolationist philosophy, and with his own Cabinet against him, Churchill was very much alone. How does he save the British army from mass slaughter? How does he save Britain from Nazi rule?  Dunkirk looms in the background but in this film we never see any of what is going on over there.  This is all about Churchill and it's all about Gary Oldman playing Churchill. 

Oldman has had a wide ranging career as an actor.  He has played Sid Vicious ("Sid and Nancy" - 1986), an out of control playwright ("Prick Up Your Ears" - 1987), Lee Harvey Oswald  ("JFK" - 1991), a vampire ("Bram Stoker's Dracula" - 1992) and Sirius Brown in the "Harry Potter" series, but this portrayal of Churchill is a true tour de force and caps off a legendary acting career, and there was not a smidgeon of Gary Oldman to be found in this characterization.  He truly embodied Churchill. The rest of the ensemble cast, which included Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill's wife, Clementine; Lily James as Churchill's secretary (an unnecessary character, in my opinion); Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI; and others are all excellent, but this is Oldman's picture all of the way and this is the role that will win him a Best Actor Academy Award.

Though I must say that the make-up also had a starring role in this film.  The prosthetics were amazing, and though I tried, I could not detect where Gary Oldman left and Winston Churchill began.

This was a riveting drama directed by Joe Wright with a screenplay by Anthony McCarten and it's no easy feat making a dialogue heavy film riveting.  The score by Dario Marianelli was also spot on, tense when it needed to be, dramatic when it needed to be but also silent when it needed to be.

In counterpoint to this film, the film "Dunkirk," which opened earlier this year, tells the other side of the story, what was happening on the beach while Churchill and his cabinet tried to decide how to save all of those troops.  The two together would give you the whole picture and would make an awesome movie binge day.

It is a strange coincidence that two movies so closely aligned in story would be released in the same year but despite the fact that they are both about Dunkirk, each tells the story from a different perspective but each is equally compelling about this incredible bit of English history.

Rosy the Reviewer says...And the Oscar for Best Actor goes to Gary Oldman!

Call Me By Your Name

While staying in Northern Italy with his family in the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Elio bonds with his father's research assistant, Oliver, a much older American, over his emerging sexuality and their mutual Jewish roots.

There was a time when Merchant-Ivory films dominated the market for period pieces and sensitive dramas.  Ishmael Merchant often produced (though he was also a director) and James Ivory directed and they were not only filmmaking partners but partners in real life as well until Merchant passed away in 2005.  Along with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, they won six Academy Awards.  Ivory alone has had four Oscar nominations for his work.

Here Ivory has written the screenplay for this Best Picture nominee (his screenplay is also nominated) based on the novel by Andre Aciman, the story of a young man summering in Northern Italy with his academic American father (Michael Stuhlbarg, who I loved in "The Shape of Water" and who plays a small but pivotal role here) and Italian mother (Amira Casar), who is a translator and has inherited this beautiful house in Italy. 

But seventeen-year-old, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is bored. It's summer and there's not much to do.  He rides his bicycle into the village, swims in a nearby river with his friends and hangs out with girls, catching a kiss and maybe more when the opportunity presents itself.  He's a typical teenager trying to find himself.

But when Oliver, an attractive and carefree American (Armie Hammer), arrives to stay with the family and work as a research assistant with Elio's father, Elio has to deal with his burgeoning feelings toward Oliver and eventually the two embark on an affair.

I have to say that the acting was excellent (Chalamet and Hammer are both handsome and exciting actors), the cinematography was wonderful and the setting was gorgeous (who doesn't love looking at the beautiful Italian countryside and dreaming about a summer swimming in the river and eating juicy peaches right off of the tree?), but I just could not understand why this film was nominated for Best Picture. And speaking of peaches, there is a scene  involving a peach that made me cringe as I figured out what Elio was going to do with it.  

But why do I question this as a Best Picture nominee? 

Yes, the film was dreamy and arty and evoked a lovely summer love affair, but it was also very slow moving, and I just wasn't sure what the point was.  Yes, it was a coming of age story where a young man was exploring his burgeoning sexuality and yes, it was the 80's where Americans were still very closeted when it came to being gay and yes, it was a lush love story, but the film directed by Luca Guadagnin didn't really develop into anything. Both men bonded over being Jewish, but again, the Jewish experience was only hinted at. Like a summer romance, it happened and then it was over and didn't leave me with much.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film evoked a sense of time and place, which was enjoyable, but the film as a whole was disappointing.

Streaming on Netflix

On Body and Soul

Endre and Maria both work in an abattoir (that's a nice word for a slaughterhouse) and discover that they are having the same dreams.

This Hungarian film, nominated for this year's Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, begins with a buck and a doe checking each other out in a lovely snowy landscape, but lest we get too comfy, the next shot is of cows awaiting slaughter.  This film will not sit well with vegans.

Meet Endre (Geza Morcsanyi).  He is the chief financial officer of the slaughterhouse and likes to stay in his office.  He's not very social.  Then meet Maria (Alexandra Borbely), who has just been hired to be the quality control inspector.  She, likewise, is not social.  In fact, she is so antisocial that she goes about her job and rarely speaks, but when she does she is abrupt and cold.  She is also socially awkward and doesn't like to be touched. She also has total recall.  When asked by a psychologist when she had her first period, she was able to give her the exact date.  She is also able to remember everything that is said e.g. ask her what the third sentence was in a recent conversation and she can recite it verbatim. Maria is definitely somewhere on the spectrum.

And both Endre and Maria are lonely souls. So it's inevitable that Endre and Maria will meet and the device used to bring them together has a humor to it.  It's the most original "meet cute" I have come across. 

Some mating powder has gone missing and all of the workers at the slaughterhouse are called in to be interviewed by a police psychologist.  She asks them all a series of strange questions, one of which is what their last dream was about (not sure how that is relevant to mating powder getting stolen but what do I know?  I've never worked in a slaughterhouse) and when the psychologist realizes that Endre and Maria are having the same dream - they both dream about that buck and doe, she at first thinks they are pulling a prank and confronts them both together.  In so doing, Endre and Maria realize they are having the same dream which basically breaks the ice between them.  Voila!  Meet cute!

Their awkward attempts at getting to know each other are interspersed with scenes of the buck and the doe with each scene, or dream, showing the relationship between the buck and the doe progressing, and just as the buck and doe are thrown together and seem to like each other, so too are Endre and Maria.  But like the buck and doe who fear hunters, so are Endre and Maria fearful about socialization and taking the risk to love.  However, I would say socialization is hardly as scary as someone trying to shoot you in the wild or slaughter you in a slaughterhouse!

Eventually the two bond over their mutual dreams and want to be in love like the buck and the doe.  Our souls are our true best selves but our bodies often betray us. It's not easy to be our true selves and live out our dreams especially in what can be a brutal real life.  Just ask those cows in the slaughterhouse. 

Written and directed by Lldiko Enyedi, the film bobs back and forth between the tranquil landscape inhabited by the buck and doe and the gruesome reality of animals getting butchered. I get it. If we thought animals had souls, would we still eat them?  However, there was just too much detail about what happens in a slaughterhouse for my liking.  I mean long, lingering shots with the blood dripping down like rain on a roof.

Despite the humor (of the dark variety) and the fine acting by Morcsany and Borbely, the characters were just so stunted and strange that it was difficult to relate to them. This was not one of my favorite foreign films, so probably not voting for this one in my Oscar pool this year. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if a love story about two socially awkward lost souls with a slaughterhouse as a backdrop interests you, you might like this but I found it disturbing.  I think I will stop eating meat.
(In Hungarian with English subtitles)

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

154 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953)

M. Hulot goes to a beach hotel for a vacation and causes his usual clueless havoc.

I didn't like "Playtime," which also featured the M. Hulot character, and I didn't really like this one either, though it was a bit more fun than "Playtime," because I at least got the story.  "Playtime" was more about the set design and color than there being any kind of actual plot. If you can call it a plot, at least this one had more of one.

The film begins on a humorous note with M. Hulot (Jacques Tati) at the train station.  An announcement is broadcast over the loud speakers but the announcement is absolutely unintelligible and people run back and forth to various platforms as the announcement changes and everyone tries to figure out what is being said.  

That was very funny and I could relate, because we actually had that happen to us waiting for the train from Bologna to Venice.  The announcement came on, it was garbled but it was also in Italian and everyone waiting for the same train as we were took off running to another platform.  However, even if we could have understood what the person was saying over all of the static on the loud speaker, we didn't understand Italian, so we didn't know where to run to and missed our train.  Relating to something personally certainly helps humor, so I found that opening scene very funny.  Alas, it all went downhill from there for me because I am not a big fan of slapstick and M. Hulot is all about that.

M. Hulot is a quiet fellow who means well but for some reason wreaks havoc all around him.  But like Chaplin's Little Tramp, Hulot is also all about poking fun at pomposity and the peccadillos of us humans.  Writer, director and star Tati finds humor in the mundane and M. Hulot's humor come from a series of "bits," as in M. Hulot putting on a hat, taking off a hat, then putting it back on again. The humor is in the visuals, one little humorous bit after another as Mr. Hulot enjoys his vacation at the beach.  There is not a lot of conversation or dialogue, but when sound is used, Tati has fun with it like a screen door making a sound like a guitar every time someone passes through.

I give props to films that use visuals rather than dialogue to advance the story because that is what film is all about, and since M. Hulot rarely speaks, this film is all about visuals.  In fact, there was no dialogue whatsoever for the first 11+ minutes of this film and I still knew exactly what was going on.

As I said, there is also not much of a plot. The film is all about disparate French characters on vacation at the seaside and Tati is making fun of what people do and how they act while on holiday.

You see, watching M. Hulot's antics are not really about the plot.  It's about his good-natured self inexplicably messing things up for other people. It's a series of gags that are comments on human nature.  M. Hulot is someone who can't do anything right. He keeps having mishaps - his car breaks down, he sets off fireworks by accident and basically wreaks havoc on everyone around him but is oblivious to the chaos and always lands on his feet. I know M. Hulot is supposed to be a sort of innocent but I actually find him kind of creepy, lurking around, observing people and never saying anything.  If you are familiar with Mr. Bean, it's like that. To me they are two beans in a pod, I mean peas.

As I said, M. Hulot rarely speaks and dialogue is at a minimum. A device used in both this film and "Playtime," and I imagine all of the Hulot films, is that when there is dialogue it is usually not attributed to any one character.  You don't see mouths moving and words coming out.  Rather the dialogue, what there is of it, is more ambient noise off screen and sometimes it's just unintelligible mumbo jumbo.  It's like a silent film but it uses un-attributable dialogue thrown in over the action just to remind us that it's NOT a silent film.  When you hear a voice, the camera does not seek the person speaking, almost as if the dialogue was added after the film was made, much like a soundtrack.

Another device at work is that most of the film is shot in long shots.  There are no close-ups as if we are also on the beach observing everything.

Why it's a Must See: "This enduring classic of French cinema revealed Jacques Tati, in only his second feature as a director, to be one of the medium's most inventive and original stylists."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Tati was nominated for an Academy Award for this screenplay in 1956.

This is not a criticism of French culture, but after watching this film I can't help but feel that the French seem to have a strange sense of humor.  How else do you explain their obsession with Jerry Lewis?  But then critic David Ehrenstein lauds this film as "one of the most original -- and hilarious comedies ever made." So go figure.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is some charm to this film but it's just not my kind of humor.
(In French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

I Hear She's a Real Bitch by Jen Agg (2017)

Jen Agg is a Toronto restauranteur and owner of The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar, Rhum Corner, Agrikol and Grey Gardens and she shares her views on opening and running a restaurant, fine dining and being a woman in the sexist restaurant industry.

I credit Anthony Bourdain with my interest in restaurants, food and fine dining.  His first book, "Kitchen Confidential" was a real eye opener and his TV shows since then have spurred me to experiment with my palate. So his recommendation that "Whatever Jen Agg says is worth listening to" was enough to lead me to this book and he was right. This book is a wonderful how-to for anyone opening a bar or restaurant, but it's also an inside look at the restaurant industry, the "bro" culture" within it and a really entertaining and candid memoir. 

Agg knew at an early age that she needed to be her own boss and after paying her dues as a bartender and server, she was able to open her own restaurant.  The restaurant business is one of the most difficult to succeed in and she had her failures but now owns several of the most popular and successful restaurants in Toronto and Montreal.

Here she humorously and candidly shares her story of growing up in Toronto, her sexual experimentation and meeting her husband but this book is all about her views on how to open a restaurant and how it should be run. She also blows the lid off of the "bro" culture, the sexism that exists in the restaurant world and how difficult it is for a woman to break through all of that, even as the owner of the restaurant.

Speaking of how a restaurant should be run, Agg has very strong opinions about restaurant service.

Here are a few of her "Commandments" of Restaurant Service - what she expects from her servers - and once you are aware of these, it will change your dining experience for good or ill:

  • No lifting glasses to pour water.
  • No saying "no problem."  Why would anything be a problem?  Just say 'you're welcome' or 'absolutely' or anything but 'no problem.'
  • No saying 'you guys still workin' on that?' This should be so obvious but I still hear servers say it.  Food isn't work.
  • Always be positive about bar stools.  Like, don't say in an apologetic way, 'sorry, no tables, but I can put you at the bar,' like it's somehow worse.  It isn't. Make it sound like a win. 'Lucky you, I have these lovely bar stools available.'
  • No octopus hands.  Do not grab and carry glasses from the top.  Keep fingers as far away from the rim as possible.  I don't know where yours have been, but I know where mine have been.
And servers shouldn't remove plates until everyone is finished at the table and for you diners: don't stack the plates.  There is a system that the servers follow for clearing your table!

From that you can get a clear idea of Agg's tone and her opinions on how things should be done.  And I agree with her.  After reading those, I dare you to not notice the next time a server breaks one of those "rules."

I also learned what "dropping your food" meant - no, it's not when the server has an accident, it means how the food is delivered to your table.  And salt.  Yes, salt usually makes everything come alive and taste better but she thinks it's overused.  Did you know that some restaurants even salt your dessert?

Agg also has opinions on everything from restaurant critics (a necessary evil) to gin (she hates it) to chefs who yell at their staff (cough, Gordon Ramsay) and for those of you who see yourself opening a restaurant or bar one day, she offers tips on the importance of lighting, great restrooms (she calls them washrooms - remember she's Canadian), bar seats and everything else from walk-in refrigerators to how to handle the clash between the kitchen (back of the house) and the front of the house. 

This is a fun read because Agg has a sense of humor about herself and an interesting story to tell, but it's also an important inside look into the restaurant industry and the sexist "bro" culture that exists and the difficulties that women face in that industry. When a woman has opinions and is running things in that kind of culture, there is a lot of hostility aimed at women and the "B" word gets thrown around. Agg is a feminist but instead of whining about that state of affairs, she re-appropriated the "B" word and formed a one-night conference called Kitchen Bitches where women shared their stories of abuse working in restaurants in hopes to raise awareness.

Anyway, one of the reasons I liked Agg's book so much was the fact that I too have some opinions of my own about restaurants and dining out.  Naturally I wrote about them in a blog post called "My Restaurant Pet Peeves, or How Not To Get the Worst Table in a Restaurant."

When I first moved to Seattle 15 years ago, I was amazed at what a foodie town Seattle was.  Restaurant reviews abounded so I started making an alphabetical list of all of the restaurants I wanted to try (I know, an alphabetical list - but hey, remember?  I'm a librarian) and then slowly made my way down the list. I made it up through "F" and realized many new restaurants with names starting with A-E had opened since I started my "project," so I changed my tactics to listing restaurants by neighborhood and I am still working my way through them all.  If you are ever in Seattle and need a recommendation for a great restaurant, I'm your gal!  

Rosy the Reviewer says... After you read this book, you will never look at restaurants or restaurant service the same way again!  And that's a good thing.  Thanks for the recommendation, Tony!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

For a 

"Special 2018 Best Picture 
Oscar Recap"

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, 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, July 21, 2017

"The Big Sick" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new rom-com "The Big Sick" as well as DVDs "Sleepless" and "A Cure for Wellness."  The Book of the Week is "Ten Restaurants that Changed America."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "The Last Laugh."]

The Big Sick


A Pakistani-American stand-up comic meets a non-Pakistani girl and they start a relationship, but as we all know, true love never runs smooth.

I am starting to think that I am an angry person because I rant so much.  Over the last couple of weeks, I ranted about how much I hate movie sequels and remakes, and in my review below of "Sleepless," I rant a bit about movies that use digital photography. 

Now I am going to rant about rom-coms that aren't funny.

What is the deal with comedies these days?  They are just not funny anymore.  I can count on one hand the number of comedies that have made me laugh.  Actually, not even that many.  Where are the Woody Allen's (his early films), John Candys and Peter Sellers of today, comic actors who could make you laugh just by looking at them?  Oh, I know we have Melissa McCarthy and Christopher Guest and some others, but in general, when I have watched a comedy in the last couple of years, I have been disappointed.  And romantic comedies?  Those have practically gone the way of the dinosaur.  Where are the "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "When Harry Met Sally" rom-coms of today?

Well, rant over.  I finally found one.

This film is delightful, romantic and funny, all of the traits that a successful rom-com should have.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a comic slogging away in small clubs in Chicago at night and working as an Uber driver during the day when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a girl who "Woo hoos" during his set.  In a very cute meet-cute, Kumail explains that any kind of audience participation, even if it's positive, can be considered heckling and would throw a comic off his game. Emily asks him: "So if I said you were great in bed, that would be heckling?" 

 And so she had him at "Woo hoo."
Though this could be considered a basic boy meets girl, boys loses girl, boy gets her back rom-com, it has some very special elements that separates it from the pack.
First of all, Kumail is Pakistani and is part of a traditional Pakistani family who believes that marriages should be arranged.  As Kumail explains to Emily, "In Pakistan arranged marriage is just called 'marriage."  So we have the dramedy element of Kumail not telling his parents about Emily while at the same time entertaining their picks for his arranged marriage, women who "just happen to drop by" when he is dining with his parents. 

In the meantime, Kumail and Emily are happily in love until Emily finds Kumail's stash of "bio-data." These are like resumes which potential brides bring to a meeting with her potential husband and his family, a common practice in the course of arranging a marriage.  When Emily finds these, she breaks off their relationship. 

So that's one element that sets this film apart from other rom-coms. But then there is the coma.  I don't remember a coma as a central element in a rom-com

This film reminded me of  the comic documentary "Meet the Patels."  Even though that was about Indian arranged marriages, the process seems to be very similar with Pakistani families, and the protagonist of that one was also a stand-up comic with an American girlfriend he doesn't tell his parents about.  

Directed by Michael Showalter (he also directed "Hello My Name is Doris" which I liked), produced by Judd Apetow, and written by Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily V. Gordon, based on their real life courtship with some literary license thrown in, this film is delightful and avoids any juvenile humor, which can sometimes be found in Apetow's films.

Kumail is adorable.  His deadpan delivery and facial expressions are funny just on their own, but the writing is quick and witty and best of all...funny.  Zoe is adorable, quirky and smark and I love adorable, quirky and smart.  I am not a big fan of Holly Hunter who played Emily's mother.  I find her mannerisms and voice annoying but here she was fine.  But it was Ray Romano who was a revelation.  Not usually a big fan of him, either, and he also has an annoying and very recognizable voice, but, here, he brings huge heart to his role as Emily's Dad. You wouldn't even recognize him as that Raymond from "Everybody Loves Raymond," except for that voice.  He was adorable too. The whole thing was so damn adorable...and, what do I do when I have a really good film experience?  Yes, you are right, I cried...for joy!

Rosy the Reviewer takes a coma to make a guy realize he loves a good way.  Don't miss this one.  It's the best comedy to come along in a long time.



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


Sleepless (2017)

This is one of those cop thrillers where you have to ask - Good cop or bent cop? 

OK, here I go again.  Over the last couple of weeks I have ranted about how much I hate sequels and movie remakes, and I just finished ranting about rom-coms that aren't funny.  Well, I feel another rant coming on.

Movies shot in digital!

I can always tell when a movie is shot in digital rather than film because it looks like one of those old soap operas that used to be on TV.  Remember "The Guiding Light?"  Shooting in digital lacks depth of field and resolution which makes all of the frames look flat.  There is no texture and that makes me feel like I am watching TV and I didn't pay $12 to watch TV.  Well, I know, I was watching this on DVD so I didn't actually pay $12 but that's not the point.  The point is that watching a movie on digital is annoying, and I shouldn't have to be annoyed when I am watching a movie! Now there might be times when digital works better, especially when the filmmaker wants to have a home movie look, but for a film like this, no!

Anyway, rant over.  Let's get on with it! 

Jamie Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, a vice cop in Las Vegas (except this was actually shot in Atlanta, another complaint of mine - setting a movie one place and filming it another.  When you live in Seattle you have to accept that all movies set in Seattle will be filmed in Vancouver, B.C. I might rant about that next week). Anyway, Downs and his partner, Sean Cass (T.I.), rob casino owner Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) of a shipment of cocaine who Rubino had intended to sell to Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), the son of a crime boss.  Ironically, Downs and Cass are also the investigators in the robbery, but clash with Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour), who are Internal Affairs investigators and who are suspicious of them.

Meanwhile, Downs has a messed up personal life.  He is estranged from his wife, Dena (Gabrielle Union), who is getting married to someone else.  He also has a 16-year-old son, Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson), who gets kidnapped by Rubino's guys and held hostage so that Vincent will give Rubino his cocaine back. Rubino is sweating it, because he owes the cocaine to Novak who is not a nice guy.  Let's just say I know this about Novak because there is a disturbing scene where a kid is hung upside down and pelted with baseballs from a pitching machine, and if that's not enough, he cuts off his thumb.  So these are not guys who Rubino does not want to mess with. 

So Vincent gets the cocaine he and Cass stole, hides it in a ventilation shaft in the mens' bathroom in Rubino's casino hoping to have some leverage as he makes a deal with Rubino. However, what he doesn't know is that Bryant, thinking Vincent is a bent cop, has followed him, finds the cocaine and hides it in the womens' bathroom and a little game of revolving bathroom doors ensues.

When Vincent discovers that the cocaine is missing, he has to figure out a way to get his son back without that cocaine so he comes up with the bright idea to substitute sugar for the cocaine. It kind of all goes to hell after that, but here's the main thing for you to wonder about in this movie:  Is Vincent a good cop or a bad cop?  And what about Bryant and Dennison?  Good cops or bad cops?

Directed by Baran bo Odar with a screenplay by Andrea Berloff (adapted from the film "Nuit Blanche" - yet another remake - sigh), this film doesn't really say anything new about the good cop/bad cop trope with the usual car chases and gun action found in this kind of film.

I haven't quite decided yet on Jamie Foxx as a dramatic actor.  Oh, I know he won an Oscar for "Ray," but here is overacts just a teensy-weensy bit.  No actually, he overacts a lot!  He played this same kind of part in "Baby Driver" too.  It's like he wants to make sure we know he's a dramatic actor so he looks hard and says every line with deep, deep conviction. But I also feel like Foxx can't decide what he wants to be - dramatic actor?  Action guy? Comic?  Singer?  And I have to admit, I still can't watch Jamie without thinking of him as Ugly Wanda on "In Living Color."  Sorry, Jamie, but I can't.

It's fun seeing Dermott Mulroney as a bad guy and all of the other bad guys are believable.  Speaking of bad guys, why is it that they all seem to look alike?  They are all skinny with five o'clock shadows, bald heads or very short shaved hair and they all seem to wear t-shirts under suit jackets.  Is there some code amongst movie bad guys about appropriate attire when torturing people?

Now, Michelle Monaghan.  I really like her, and she is an actress who should be a lot more famous than she is.  She is beautiful and talented and could play any part. Here she kicks some you know what and I like tough women characters. However, she doesn't seem to carry very many films and I don't know why, but if you want to see her in a starring role, see "Fort Bliss."  The film is forgettable but she is not.

Rosy the Reviewer says...and this film? Speaking of forgettable...

(***Sorry about the rants but I just can't seem to help myself. I already feel another one coming for next week where I plan to rant about the excessive use of Power Walks in movies***)


A Cure for Wellness (2016)

A young executive is sent to bring back his company's CEO who has gone to a spa in the Swiss Alps but this spa turns out to be

People who work in a high pressure environment are prone to dying from heart attacks and stress so it's a good thing to go to a spa and de-stress, right?  Well, we shall see.

A large company is on the verge of a merger so when Pembroke (Harry Groener), the head of a large company, sends a letter to his Board of Directors that he is at a spa in the Alps and will not be returning. With the merger threatened, the Board sends young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan, a hot young actor currently starring in "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" opening in theatres today)) to find his boss and bring him back.  When he arrives in the town at the base of the spa, Lockhart learns that there is bad blood between the townspeople and "the people on the hill," and when he finally makes his way to the spa, he realizes that there is something strange going on there.  And trust me, there is.

However, on his way back to his hotel, a deer hits the car (cover your eyes for this part - deer death by car is horrible), and Lockhart finds himself back at the spa with a broken leg. When Lockhart finally makes contact with Pembroke, Pembroke tells him he is not well and does not want to leave the spa.

In the meantime, with time to kill as he convalesces, Lockhart meets Hannah (Mia Goth, who looks eerily like a young Shelley Duvall), a strange girl who doesn't seem to be a patient and, of course, there has to be a sinister doctor running everything so he also meets slithery Dr. Volmer (Jason Isaacs).  Volmer orders the spa treatment for Lockhart, which involves being submerged in water, a lot of slithery eels and drinking water, lots and lots of water.  About 3/4 of the way through the film, when much of the bad stuff was kicking into gear, I shouted at the screen, "Stop drinking the damn water!"  Eventually, Lockhart discovers the dark history of the spa but not before enduring some terrible trials, one of which was a bit of dental torture that would give that scene in "Marathon Man" a run for its money.

Let's just say that this film gives the expression "taking the waters" a whole new meaning.

It's all very Stephen King and Michael Crichton with the kinds of odd characters and strange locations you find in Wes Anderson films with some gaslighting thrown in for good measure as Lockhart starts to question his own sanity.  Who and what is real?

There is a thing I have noticed about movie previews (what would one of my reviews be without a rant?). 

A preview, or trailer, is designed to make you want to see the film, but sometimes when you finally see it, you realize that the the best bits were all in the trailer.  The film never gets any better than the preview.  That is especially true of many comedies.  So before I saw this film, I had seen the trailer countless times at the theatre and thought it was one of those strange films with all kinds of kooky characters and a weird plot that wouldn't really make sense so I didn't particularly want to see it. I only watched this film because it had just come out on DVD and I can't help myself. I want to see everything, but in this case, the trailer was odd and the movie was a bit odd, yes, but mostly really good. Yes, there are kooky characters and a strange plot but it's fun. Moral of the story?  Don't judge a film by its trailer. However, I do have to say the film was also too long and took a strange turn at the end that lost me.

Directed by Gore Verbinski with a screenplay by Justin Haythe, the cinematography is gorgeous and surreal and the film reminded me a bit of "The Lobster," a wonderful film that not enough people saw.

DeHaan reminded me of a young Leo DiCaprio and, I think he is going to be a big star.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like Stephen King, Michael Crichton with a little bit of Wes Anderson thrown in, you will enjoy this film.

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

193 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Last Laugh (1924)

An aging hotel doorman must face the humiliation of losing his prestigious job.

Emil Jennings stars as an aging doorman, who when fired from his job as a doorman at a luxurious hotel, faces the laughter and scorn of his family and neighbors. His job is a prestigious one for the lower class neighborhood in which he lives.  Every day he puts on his fancy uniform and walks through his neighborhood to the admiration of his friends and neighbors.  So when he is demoted to a men's room attendant he can't bring himself to tell anyone.  He steals back his fancy uniform and puts it on each day and then takes it off before he gets to work and stores it in a locker. 

Eventually he is found out, is rejected and dejected and falls into a deep depression.

But wait!

As we learn from a title card (also called intertitles):

"Here our story should really end, for in actual life the forlorn old man would have little to look forward to but death.  The author took pity on him, however, and provided quite an improbably epilogue."

Guess who got the last laugh?

This is a silent film directed by F.W. Murnau, and except for that last title card, or subtitle, this was a silent film with absolutely no subtitles and yet I knew what was going on at all times.  Such is the power of this visual medium called the moving picture.  As I have said in past reviews, I tend not to be a big fan of early cinema.  I am a child of television and I guess I need more stimulation but this film reminded me again of that old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  So I may not extoll the virtues of every silent film because of the overacting that was required and the scant plots, but I do admire films that use visuals instead of words.  The camera work in this film was so beautiful that I was transported to another time and place and it was all without words.

Why it's a Must See:  "Despite a ludicrously unconvincing happy ending grafted on at the insistence of the UFA, [this film] remains a very impressive attempt to tell a story without the use of intertitles...[It is] one of Murnau's typically eloquent explorations of cinematic space: the camera prowls around with astonishing is the camera's mobility that is evocative, as when it passes through the revolving doors that serve as a symbol of destiny. The dazzling technique on display may, in fact, be rather too grand for the simple story of one old man, yet there is no denying the virtuosity either of Murnau's mise-en-scene or of Karl Freund's camera work."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful example of the innovations of movie making in it's infancy.
(Silent, in b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Ten Restaurants That Changed America by Paul Freedman (2016)

A history of dining out in America through the profiles of ten restaurants that helped shape American eating habits. 

Freedman chronicles ten different restaurants over three different centuries, from the 1830's to the present.  He makes clear that these are not necessarily the ten BEST restaurants over that time period, though these restaurants served wonderful food, but perhaps food that would not necessarily be popular today.  These restaurants did more than serve wonderful food; they changed how we Americans ate, they influenced our tastes and got Americans to dine out.  According to Freedman, what we eat today is the result of the innovations of these ten restaurants.

This famous restaurant began as a simple pastry shop in New York City in 1827, but by 1830 it was serving fine French food, had an immense menu, efficient service and a gracious atmosphere and set the standard for fine dining.  It also inspired many imitators who used the name Delmonico's without authorization.

Established in 1840 in New Orleans' French Quarter, Antoine's, serving French-Creole cuisine, is the oldest grand restaurant in continuous existence.

"The Ladies Who Lunch." The first restaurant to market to women at a time when women were discouraged from dining without a man and the first to cater to the middle class.  "From its very beginning, Schrafft's epitomized the restaurant's role as a decorous but economical refuge, a midday oasis of sorts, where women who were shopping could dine and recuperate, or where women who worked in offices or stores could have a tranquil if more hurried lunch."

Howard Johnson's
"As American as fried clams."  Starting with its first restaurant in suburban Boston, fried clams was one of their specialties along with their 28 flavors of ice cream.  Can you name them?  What was your favorite? I think Bergundy Cherry was mine. Who of us Baby Boomers didn't go on road trips with our family hoping to stop at Howard Johnson's?  But then McDonald's came along and it was a whole different ball game.

Mama Leone's
Mamma Leone's was an Italian restaurant that flourished in New York City from 1906 to 1994 and was a forerunner in the popularity of "ethnic" restaurants.

The Mandarin
"The Best Chinese Food East of the Pacific."  Freedman writes that with so many to choose from, it was daunting to choose one Chinese restaurant to highlight, but the Mandarin was "both historically significant and intriguing." It opened in San Francisco in 1961 and closed in 2006 and was one of the first Chinese restaurants to serve "Mandarin" food or non-Cantonese.  It was at the Mandarin where Americans had their first pot-stickers, hot-and-sour soup and other Sechuan dishes. With over 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States - "more than there are branches of McDonald's, Burger King and KFC combined...Chinese food is as American as apple pie," the popularity of Chinese restaurants in America came from the restaurants catering to American taste.  Chop Suey is NOT Chinese. 

Sylvia Woods opened her restaurant in New York's Harlem in 1962 and was famous for its soul food, rural, Southern "down-home" cooking.  This restaurant, according to Freedman, "reveals the cultural implications of the movement of black people from the South to the North in the first part of the twentieth century." 

Le Pavillon
This was the leading high-end restaurant in America in the mid-twentieth century run by Henri Soule and began as a temporary restaurant, part of the French exhibit created for the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940.

The Four Seasons
The epitome of modern at the time, The Four Seasons is credited with introducing the idea of seasonally-changing menus to America. It was the first destination restaurant to print its menus in English.

Chez Panisse
Celebrity chef Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1971 and her "farm to table" approach to food still influences how we eat now.

Freedman includes biographies of the various chefs who moved in and out of those restaurants, copies of menus, lots of historical photographs and he goes on to talk about the end of the fine French dining craze, concluding with a discussion of five major current and recent dining trends:

  • Farm to table
  • Molecular/Modernist Gastronomy
  • Celebrity Chefs
  • The Influence of Asia
  • The New Informality of the Dining Experience

And there are recipes too!  Classic recipes from the ten restaurants.  Who doesn't want to make those fried clams from Howard Johnson's?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a foodie, you will love this well-researched history of dining out in America.


Thanks for reading!

 See you next Friday 

for my review of  
"Girls Trip"


 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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