Friday, October 10, 2014

"Gone Girl" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Gone Girl," the DVDs "Third Person" and "Breathe In" and Dick Cavett's new book, plus I bring you up to date on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project." 

And new feature:  My A-HA! Moment of the Week:  This week I've discovered Wendy Williams!]

***NOTE:  Change is afoot.***

I have decided to make a bit of a change with my blog. 

Instead of writing a full-blown piece or rant on both Tuesdays and Fridays (plus my Friday reviews), I will rant on Tuesdays and review on Fridays. 

So if you are a fan of my rants, stories and observations, check in with me on Tuesdays.  If you are a fan of my witty and cheeky reviews and/or want to follow me as I work on my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project," check in on Fridays.  I will also include an "A-HA Moment of the Week" on Fridays.
And if you are a TRUE FAN, I will see you here both days, right?

"This Girl is Gone in More Ways Than One"

Gone Girl
(now showing)
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) discovers his wife missing and he becomes the prime suspect in her possible murder.
Nick had been visiting with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon, who does look amazingly like Ben/Nick as well as looking amazingly like Janeane Garolfalo), at The Bar, a bar he and his wife own.  When he returns home and finds his wife, Amy (Rosamunde Pike), missing and what looks to be a crime scene in his living room, he calls the police. What they find is more than a smashed coffee table in the living room.  They find blood spatter. Not good for Nick.

Through a series of flashbacks, we also get a portrait of Nick's and Amy's courtship and marriage via Amy's voice-overs and diary entries.  As the police investigate Amy's disappearance, we learn that Amy is a well-known children's author who was the inspiration for a series of children's books, "Amazing Amy," that Nick and Amy both lost their jobs due to the recession and moved from NYC to Missouri to care for his ailing mother and that their marriage is also ailing.  Motive for murder?
Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, I can't comment on how well this was translated to the screen since I didn't read the book, but since Flynn also adapted the screenplay, I would say if it's OK with her, it's OK with me.  And I am glad I hadn't read the book.  This is the kind of film where you don't want to know the plot twists and how it's going to end, though it's my understanding that the ending of the film is different from the ending of the novel.
The characters are complex.  Amy grew up rich and may have been the inspiration for "Amazing Amy," the fictionalized character in a series of children's books her parents created who could do anything, but she felt she never lived up to that character.  Nick came from Missouri and worked hard for what he had but alternates between smarmy charm and disloyal husband.
Director David Fincher, whose body of work includes "The Social Network," "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and "Se7en," here deftly creates a fast-paced, intriguing, thriller with echoes of the Scott Peterson case, the movie "Body Heat,"  and some Hitchcock thrown in for good measure that explores the dark places in a marriage.  I figured out the first twist early on, and despite the fact that the movie is engrossing and I liked it, I found it too long and the ending unsatisfying.  I actually came up with a better ending which I wish I could share, but then that would spoil the film.
"Gone Girl" also presents a rather jaundiced view of marriage, seeming to say we act one way to attract a mate, but over time as the trials of marriage occur, we cannot keep up the pretense. We learn early on that Amy believes marriage is hard work, and then we learn that she will do anything to make it work - her way. Amy's and Nick's relationship started with sophisticated, snappy patter, lots of sex and deteriorated into...well, you will have to see the film.
I have been a big fan of Ben Affleck ever since his speech to Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" where he tells Matt he is too smart to stay in their town, working menial jobs.  I think he stole the show there.  Here he is also good, turning on the charm when needed and sweating profusely when needed. I think Ben is one of our most underrated actors, along with Leonardo Dicaprio.  Also after seeing Ben step out of the shower in the buff, I like him even better!
But this is British actress Rosamund Pike's film. She runs the gamut of emotion and character and takes us on a roller coaster ride.  Tyler Perry shines as Nick's lawyer, Tanner Bolt (it's refreshing to see Perry in a suit instead of women's clothing) and Kim Dickens as Det. Rhonda Boney is also outstanding.
As the media frenzy builds surrounding Amy's disappearance, there are some very funny digs at the media, Nancy Grace especially (I'm surprised she didn't mention her  twins), which I enjoyed very much, because I hate Nancy Grace.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a must see suspenseful Hitchcockian thriller, but be prepared for two and a half hours and a strange ending. 

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
Third Person (2013)
Three different love stories play out simultaneously in Rome, Paris and New York.
Liam Neeson plays a Pulitzer Prize winning writer in Paris struggling with writer's block and also with a nutty estranged wife (not a stretch for Kim Basinger) and a young girlfriend (Olivia Wilde).  In Rome, Adrien Brody gets mixed up with a mysterious homeless woman who may or may not be scamming him and, in New York, Mila Kunis is a mess but trying to get custody of her son from Mr. Meany, James Franco.  How these stories connect will be your mission for over two hours, if you care to stick around that long. 
Director/writer Paul Haggis won an Academy Award for "Crash" in 2005, and this is more of the same formula: seemingly disparate stories that will come together somehow in the end. Haggis likes this formula and to drop a bomb at the end, which he does, but he defeats himself because that bomb kind of ruins the whole 135 minutes you just spent watching this film.  It's one of those films that makes you go "Huh?"
Haggis has said in press releases that the title is symbolic of the "third person" that exists in every relationship.  I am not sure this is borne out in the film, but it definitely relates to the twist, which as the film progresses you might be able to figure out, though Haggis does not provide any clues.  He just drops the bomb.
A big stellar cast, glamorous locations, and lots of money thrown at this film, and Haggis is a serious filmmaker, but ultimately it doesn't add up to much.  I love Neesom and the other actors are fine, but they don't have much to work with.  The characters are shallow and detached, much as the title implies
Rosy the Reviewer says...I liked "Crash," but I didn't need to see it again in a lesser version.

Breathe In (2013)

This is what happens when you invite a pretty exchange student from the UK into your home. 
Guy Pierce plays, Keith, a music teacher who really wants to play his cello with the New York Symphony.  He and his wife have been married for over 20 years, but are clearly not on the same page.  He tries to share some music with her.  She puts on the headphones and her first comment is that it's too loud.  She calls his being a sub at the symphony a hobby; he corrects her - it's a part-time job.  She collects cookie jars.
Enter Sophie (Felicity Jones) as a sensitive exchange student who plays divine piano and you have a recipe for disaster.
This is not the edgy Guy Pierce in "Memento."  This is the gaunt, sweaty, pervy Guy Pierce.  Amy Ryan plays his thin-lipped wife, Megan, and she is smarmy and cold. Mackenzie Davis is their daughter, Lauren, who shares her room with their exchange student and comes to wish she hadn't. 
As Keith becomes more and more interested in Sophie and she him, you begin thinking about calling Child Protective Services.  Jones looks so young compared to Pierce, it's an uncomfortable romance.
This is a portrait of a family where everyone "breathes in," as in holding it in and no one "breathes out," shares what they really feel or tells the truth, which could have been an interesting story to tell but in the end, there is no substance here.
There is an almost improvisational quality to the interactions, especially early in the film when the three family members are interacting which adds to the realism, but it's not enough to save a story that really doesn't have much going for it.  And it's just too excruciatingly pervy.
Rosy the Reviewer Felicity Jones, love Guy Pierce, hated this movie.

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


310 Movies to go! 

Laurel and Hardy want to attend their Sons of the Desert convention but their wives say no.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were a comedy duo, Laurel a thin, English child-like character and Oliver, a pompous heavy-set American and together they were a popular team from the 1920's through the 1940's. 

In this film, their fourth full-length feature, Laurel and Hardy want to attend the Sons of the Desert convention in Hawaii.  The Sons of the Desert is a fraternal organization they belong to.  Their wives say no so we spend the next 60+ minutes watching them try to foil their wives.  They think they have a plan, but in slapstick comedy, you know how that turns out.

It's all very politically incorrect stuff by today's standards.  Lots of domestic violence (the women abusing the men), nagging and domineering wives and the men scared of their wives so they have to sneak around so their wives won't find out what they are up to.  When the wives do find out, it's hell to pay.

Today a wife hitting her husband over the head with a vase is not considered funny, nor, in my view is eating waxed fruit or sneaking a drink or cigarette behind the wife's back. This sort of comedy wasn't my cup of tea 60 years ago, and it's not my cup of tea today, but if you are a student of film, you at least need to know what these two were all about.  Their comedy influences can be seen in later TV classics such as "I Love Lucy" and "The Jackie Gleason Show."

Rosy the Reviewer says...before you die, you need to know who Laurel and Hardy were and this was considered their best feature film.
Thirty-two brilliant little vignettes illustrate the life of this eccentric concert pianist.
Glenn Gould was a Canadian concert pianist best known for his interpretations of Bach.  He quit performing at the age of 32 and became a recluse but still made some acclaimed recordings, hosted experimental radio programs, made a fortune in the commodities market and indulged in bizarre late-night phone calls until his death at age 50.  Gould was so renowned that his recording of a Bach prelude was included in the Voyager spacecraft.
This is a documentary that effectively, and sometimes humorously, uses dramatized scenes (Colm Feore plays Gould), animation and Gould's gorgeous music to tell his story.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love classical piano and innovative film-making, you will love this film.  This is definitely a must before you die.


***Book of the Week***

Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments and Assorted Hijinks by Dick Cavett (Publication date: October 28, 2014)
TV talk show host Cavett reminiscences about funny and poignant moments from his life and career as a talk show host.
In the late 60's to mid-70's "The Dick Cavett Show" was a late night TV destination, and Cavett has been a presence on television ever since.  He was known as the smart, in-depth interviewer who enjoyed a pun or two.  He could be pompous and he didn't take any guff from his guests either.  There is a famous story about a show in 1971 with Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal.  Mailer and Vidal were not fans of each other.  Mailer was drunk, belligerent and trading insults with Vidal when Vidal finally said to Cavett,"Why don't you look at your question sheet and ask your question?" to which Cavett responded "Why don't you fold it 5 ways and put it where the moon don't shine?"
He shares anecdotes about Arthur Godfrey and Art Linkletter, TV personalities mostly forgotten today, as well as more well-known people such as Groucho Marx, John Lennon, Jerry Lewis, Muhammad Ali and others, stories many of which are taken from his opinion column that he writes for The New York Times.
Verdict: If you like Dick Cavett's kind of wit and you are old enough to remember some of the people he talks about, you will enjoy this.

***My A-HA! Moment of the Week***

I have just discovered "The Wendy Williams Show."  Who Knew?
The show is basically Wendy talking about TV reality shows, celebrity gossip, Lifetime Movies and what's happening in pop culture, and you know me, I'm in heaven.  And Wendy is a hoot.  She calls it as she sees it.  Just like me!

Thanks for Reading!



See you Tuesday


"Why I Love My Library"




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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Note:  Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Here is a quick link to get to all of them.  Choose the film you are interested in and then scroll down the list of reviewers to find "Rosy the Reviewer."

Or you can go directly to IMDB.  

Find the page for the movie, click on "Explore More" on the right side panel and then scroll down to "External Reviews."  Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Welcome to Sweden - My Swedish Genealogy

Over the summer, I ran into a little TV sitcom called "Welcome to Sweden." 

It starred Gregg Poehler (Amy's brother) and humorously documented his real life story of moving to Sweden with his Swedish girlfriend.  It's your classic "fish out of water" story of an American trying to fit into another culture without making too much of an ass out of himself.  (Amy Poehler was the executive producer and made some cameo appearances. Originally broadcast in Sweden in March 2014, it made it's way over here a few months later and has been renewed for another season).

Since I have Swedish roots and have been to Sweden a few times, it was a fun show for me.  According to my Swedish cousin, not so much for those in Sweden. 

Despite some stereotypes, I enjoyed thinking about my times in Sweden and my Swedish relatives and realized that I knew a great deal about my Dad's side of the family, but not so much about my mother's side, the Swedish side.

My father was an only child and his family can be traced back to the early settlers of the United States and the Revolutionary War.  His family had been Americans for generations. His grandfather and great-grandfather were wealthy Michigan pioneers, and it is all documented in a great bit fat genealogy book.

My mother's parents, on the other hand, were immigrants from Sweden and my mother was a first generation American.  The documentation is not as easy.

I know a great deal about my grandparents on my Dad's side because, as I said, the history of that family is documented, and it didn't hurt that they lived across the street for almost all of my growing up years.  If I had a question, I could ask them.  But unfortunately, when you are young, you don't usually care that much about your family's history so many questions were never asked.

I know even less about my mother's parents partly because they came from Sweden and partly because my grandfather died before I was born and my grandmother died when I was five.  Despite my mother growing up in a large family, and they all lived in the same town, I didn't know much about them. I was born to my own parents late in their lives too, they were both 40, so I was 10-20 years younger than my first cousins.  Nobody paid much attention to me, except as you would a little child, so I guess I missed out on all of the family gossip. 

But I did know that my mother was in touch with some of her Swedish relatives.  She corresponded in Swedish, despite always telling me she didn't know much Swedish and wished she did.  She would tell the story that she didn't want her mother and Dad to speak Swedish to her because she was an American and it embarrassed her.  See, no matter what generation you are in, your parents are a source of embarrassment!

So I have always felt out of the loop when it came to my Mother's side of the family and I have always wanted to know more.

I have gleaned what I could from (free at many libraries) and eventually finding out more from my Swedish relatives in person (more about that later).  However, I am hindered by the fact that my grandfather and grandmother both had fairly common Swedish names and immigrated during a busy time for Swedish folks.

Here is what I think I know...

My grandfather, August Johnson, was born in Sweden in around 1859 - the birth date varies from 1858-1860 depending on the source. 

Now that blows my mind right there. 

This is my GRANDFATHER.  Not my Great Grandfather or Great-great grandfather.  My GRANDFATHER.  My mother's Dad.

And he was born before the end of the Civil War!

Here I am alive in the 21st century and my own grandfather was born in the 19th century. That's what happens when people have children late in life over and over.  My mother was the second youngest of seven and August was already in his late 40's by then and then my mother having me when she was 40 basically skipped a generation.  There was already almost 100 years between the birth of my grandfather and my birth.  And interestingly, I also had my children late in life so my parents were 72 when my first child was born, once again creating that huge generation gap.  There is 121 years between the birth of my grandfather and the birth of my first child.

August immigrated to the U.S. in 1880, and I think he settled first in Chicago, where he met my grandmother, Jennie. 

My grandmother, Jennie, was born in Sweden in 1869 or 70 and came to the U.S. in 1888.  She was just 18.

What brought them both to the U.S. is unknown, but Jennie did go back to Sweden for a time.  My cousin said her grandmother told her that Jennie had come back to Sweden and tried to get her to go back to the U.S. with her, but her father wouldn't let her leave.  My cousin's grandmother was my mother's first cousin, which would make her grandmother my grandmother's niece (I think). I kid my cousin about how that would have changed her history had that happened! 

At any rate, there was a huge Swedish migration in the late 1800's, especially from Smaland, an area that was difficult to farm because of the rocky nature of the soil. So many came from this area, that once when we were getting off the train there to visit my cousin, a Swedish gentleman said, "Americans?"  And we replied, "How did you know?"  He said "So many Americans get off the train here because this is where their Swedish relatives came from."

But in general, young Swedish men and women came to the U.S. in the late 1800's because of cheap farmland in the Midwest and good paying jobs in the big cities, especially Chicago. 

Jennie and August married around 1898 and somehow ended up in Michigan.  I would love to know more.  I wish they would do my mother's family on "Who Do You Think You Are?" 

Anyway, August was a carpenter and together they had seven children.  He was such a good carpenter, that he was called "Prince" in the Swedish community.

My mother is the youngest girl in the picture sitting in the middle with the bow (that's a boy on August's lap).

They all lived and died in the same town.  August died in 1942 before I was born and Jennie sometime in the early 50's.  They both became U.S. citizens.

My Mom and Dad met in high school - my Dad an only child with deep American roots - my mother one of seven children, a first generation American.  I see trouble brewing, but they were married for the rest of their lives, almost 60 years.

My mother is the one with the chic haircut on the right.

My mother traveled to Sweden all by herself when she was in her late 50's or early 60's (my Dad rarely traveled). I'm not sure of the dates because I was in my selfish period - my twenties - didn't care what my Mom was doing.  But I guess she figured it was now or never. She had never been overseas before.  She met all of the living relatives, one of whom was her cousin's granddaughter, Jane. Jane was a young girl with a desire to go to the U.S. so a few years later, she contacted my mother and asked to visit.  I didn't meet Jane, because I was living in San Francisco at the time.  My dates are a bit fuzzy, but I remember talking to Jane on the phone while I lived there.

With being half Swedish, I was happy that my son showed an interest in Sweden and wanted to go there to study for a semester when he was in college.  Though I had never met Jane and it had been years since she had stayed with my parents, I wanted my son to meet his Swedish relatives and to have a local contact, so I tried to find her.  I am not sure why my mother and sister couldn't point me directly to her, but I remember sending an email and saying, "Are you the Jane who stayed with my parents?"  And she was.

Thus began a long and wonderful friendship.

Our son was going to study at Lund University, near Malmo.

Lund University

We flew into Copenhagen and crossed the very new Malmo Bridge into Sweden.

Jane and her partner, Lars (who is now her husband), traveled down to Malmo to meet us for the first time.  While our son was there, she introduced him to all of the relatives, entertained him in Stockholm and when he was injured in Prague (long story), she looked after him.  It was so comforting to know there was family there if he needed someone.

Especially since he joined what was the equivalent of an American fraternity - called Nations in Sweden.  I don't even want to know what went on!

We went back to Sweden three more times and each time had wonderful visits with Jane, Lars, and the other relatives.

We also visited the Ice Bar in Stockholm...

and the Kingdom of Crystal

and had some cheap laughs.

The second time we went to Sweden, we flew directly to Stockholm and arrived at Midsummer and here is a travel tip. 

Don't go to Stockholm in Midsummer if you want to mingle with the locals. 

It's like Paris in August.  They aren't there. 

There was nobody around but us!

They are off in the country enjoying summer.  So as they say, "When in Rome..," er, "When in Stockholm, do as the Stockholmers do..."  We went in search of them and found many of them in Skansen, an island retreat decked out as "Old Sweden." 

And we joined in, yelling "Hey Ho" as they raised the maypole.

Hey Ho!

Hey Ho!

Hey Ho!

And, of course, we needed to dress appropriately.

Hey, it's Midsummer!

The house where my grandmother was born still stands and belongs to the family and we have been there a couple of times. 


The relatives like to relate the story of Alex finding out for the first time that there was no toilet inside the house.  It was in the outhouse.  This is quite common for the "summer houses" in this part of Sweden (the family now uses the house as a "summer house"), because the ground is so rocky, trying to put in plumbing would be prohibitive.  But they also seem to enjoy "roughing it," so to speak - it's like camping out, living like the old days.

The dark building is the outhouse.

So the last time we visited, we once again went to the "summer house."

Jane gathered everyone together. We played the Swedish game Kubb,

and had a lovely lunch. 

This last time we were there, I would guess I was about my mother's age the first time she visited. I could hardly believe I was sitting in the house where my Swedish grandmother was born and lived and where my mother and my son met their Swedish relatives for the first time. 

Here I sit in this house with my Swedish relatives 142 years after my grandmother was born in this house.  

Can you imagine the feeling?

My parents were 72 when my son was born and 77 when my daughter was born, so I was fortunate that both of them lived long enough that my children remember them.  They were able to spend a couple of summers with them. 

One summer when my daughter was quite young, she spent some time there alone as our son was playing baseball that summer.

My mother belonged to Vasa, a Swedish-American group, and my daughter was able to get a little taste of Sweden at their version of Midsummer, dancing around the Maypole.

Four generations of Swedish women spanning across three centuries.

Can you imagine the feeling?

Thanks for Reading.

See you Friday
"Gone Girl"
The Week in Reviews

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Naked TV and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "This is Where I Leave You," DVDs "Belle" and "Blended" and the book "I Said Yes to Everything" by actress Lee Grant.  I also keep you up-to-date on my "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project" and how I'm doing with my changing my life thing]
But First

I am sure you know that I write this blog as a public service to you, so I feel it is my civic duty to warn you of just what is happening on TV these days.

It's called "Naked TV."

Did you know that people are dating naked, shopping for homes naked, trying to survive naked (and afraid) and getting their naked bodies painted, all in the comfort of YOUR living room?

Well, they are, and as much as I love reality TV, this must stop, I tell you!

Buying Naked

With such titles as "Brave Nude World," "The Big Bust," and "Nude to the Neighborhood," each episode features real estate agent Jackie Youngblood showing homes to house-hunting nudists in clothing optional communities - in the nude, of course (the house hunters, not Jackie).

Rosy the

Rosy the Reviewer says...I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole, pardon the expression.

Dating Naked

The point of this show (if it really has one) is that when "stripped" of artiface people can find a true connection. 

Two contestants, a man and a woman, date each other and then they both go off on two other dates, nude on all fronts, and then at the end, they each choose a person they want to see after the show, presumably WITH clothes as well as without.  There are lots of activities, such as nude zip-lining and nude boating, lots of alcohol and lots of butt.  Breasts and genitalia are pixilated, but bare butts must have passed the good taste test.  My favorite episode was the first one - Joe and Wee Wee.  I will leave it at that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like butts, this is for you.

Skin Wars

This is a body painting competition hosted by Rebecca Romijn and judges declare a winner after ten episodes.  The people being painted are referred to as "canvases.'

Rosy the Reviewer says...kind of like "Project Runway," except without clothes.

Naked and Afraid

In this program, it's not enough to be naked, you have to be afraid too.  A man and woman contestant are brought to wild locations such as the Louisiana swamp or the sand dunes of Brazil where they strip off and then must survive for 21 days - no food or water that they don't find themselves.  They only get to bring one personal item - machete or fire starter, pot, etc.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this one I like, because it's not really about the nudity.  It's like "Survivor," but here you really, really do suffer to survive and they don't even win any money if they make it for the 21 days.  But best of all, and, mercifully for the viewers, we don't have to listen to Jeff Probst's long winded sermons at tribal council. 

Now, I feel better.  I have done my duty and warned you. 

You are welcome.

Now on to The Week in Reviews

***In Theatres Now***

This is Where I Leave You

The death of their father forces three grown brothers and a sister to return home to sit shiva for seven days with their mother, spouses and assorted other friends and foes from their past.

Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) returns home to find his wife in bed with his friend and employer, radio shock jock Wade (Dax Shepherd).  Speaking of shocks, his sister, Wendy, (Tina Fey) then calls to tell him that his father has passed away so he heads home to join her and his brothers, Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll) to sit shiva with their mother.  Paul is there with his wife, Alice (Kathryn Hahn). The two of them are desperately trying to have a baby.  Phillip arrives with his much older girlfriend, his ex-shrink (Connie Britton).  And then we have the matriarch played by Jane Fonda.  You now have all of the ingredients for dysfunction and comedy.  Unfortunately, there is more dysfunction than comedy.

When everyone comes together they overshare their disappointments.  Judd has his unfaithful wife; Wendy has a husband who is always on the phone; Phillip is a playboy ne're-do-well and Paul and Alice can't seem to get pregnant.

Based on a best selling novel by Jonathan Tropper (2009) and directed by Shawn Levy of the "Night at the Museum" franchise, this could have been fertile ground to explore these issues of infidelity, infertility, loss and family dysfunction, but these issues are glossed over and replaced with supposed witty repartee and the easy laugh.

It's not a bad movie and in fact, the cast is what saves it.  The ensemble works, and there are some genuinely funny moments, such as a baby monitor broadcasting Phillip and Alice trying for that baby.  I just wished that there could have been more depth to some of the touching moments, rather than going for the cheap laugh.

Bateman has come into his own from his teen TV years and as in "Bad Words," another near miss I reviewed recently, he is the king of comic timing and the slow burn.  Rose Byrne, who seems to be everywhere these days, provides romance for him as an old childhood flame.

The fun one here is actually Fonda as the mother without a filter and enhanced breasts.  And Kathryn Hahn, who co-starred with Bateman in "Bad Words," is always wonderful, but rarely has her own vehicle.  For that, check her out in "Afternoon Delight."

A funeral is a popular movie device for getting a dysfunctional family together, as in "August:Osage County," but this one is less venomous, much sweeter. It's a reminder that no matter how much dysfunction may exist in a family, in the end they are there for you.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a likable comedy but not a great one.

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

Belle (2013)

After the death of her mother, her father, a Royal Navy Admiral, recognizes his mixed race daughter and takes her to live with his artistocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.

The illegitimate daughter of Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode, who you might recognize from the wonderful mini-series "Dancing on the Edge" and "Birdsong") and a slave, Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha Raw) is sent to live on the palatial estate of his uncle, William Murray (Tom Wilkinson), the 1st Earl of Mansfield. who is also the Lord Chief Justice, the highest judge in the land. (The estate was Kenwood House, which still stands in Hampstead Heath in London). This is a singularly unusual act in 18th Century Britain considering it was a slave-trading nation and a Colonial Empire. There she is treated as one of the family, becoming good friends with her cousin Lady Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), and enduring the initial discontent of Murray's wife (Emily Watson).

Though the family grows to love her, Dido is not allowed to eat with them, always reminded that she is somehow "less than."  However, there is irony in the fact that when Dido's father dies at sea, he leaves her a fortune whereas Elizabeth is part of the penniless aristocracy. This is brought to the fore as Lady Ashford (played venomlously by Miranda Richardson) tries to marry off her sons Oliver and James to the one with the money, despite her racism. But another irony is the fact that despite Dido's wealth, once married she would for intents and purposes be a slave to her husband, since men basically owned their wives and their fortunes.

Based on a true story, a painting of the two young women hangs in Scone Palace in Scotland.

There is a side story about the Zong massacre, in which over 140 slaves were dumped off a ship in order to collect the insurance money on them. Dido becomes involved and tries to reason with her uncle to do the right thing.  She aligns herself with a young lawyer, John Davinier (Sam Reid), who seeks mentorship from Sir William and who becomes Dido's suitor.

It's a very interesting story but sadly treated with a shallow approach.  We don't see much in the way of the harsh realities of slavery in this film, just lots of talk. 

The film is beautifully photographed, Gugu Mbatha Raw plays the title role effectively and it's fun to see all of these great British actors together, but the script lets them all down.

Rosy the Reviewer's a worthwhile film that Jane Austen fans will enjoy but in the end, it is a serious subject simplified to melodrama.

Blended (2014)

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore get together again for a romantic comedy about two single parents.

Sandler (Jim) and Barrymore (Lauren) meet for a blind date at Hooters. (That right there should be fair warning about what you are getting yourself into).  It is not a successful date so both seem happy to never see each other again.  However, through a series of events, they both end up on a joint vacation in Sun City, South Africa with their kids - he has three girls, she has two sons.  The kids are out of control and Jim and Lauren hate each other - until they fall in love that is.  What?  You didn't see that coming?

It is amazing to me to think that Rhinos having sex and scatological humor does a comedy make, but Sandler thinks that is all he has to do.  That and his constant smirking. Barrymore is sweet but not sweet enough to save this thing.

The black "Greek chorus" that follows them all around singing is borderline offensive and Sun City is an uncomfortable symbol of Apartheid.  Bad taste.

 I didn't get Adam Sandler when he started out as Stud Boy on the MTV show "Remote Control," and I still don't get his appeal. How he could get something like this made says much about his power, but little about his taste.  And it seems like he makes these films so he can go on vacation with buddies and family (I counted no less than five family members in the credits).

Rosy the Reviewer says...horrible.  I just don't get what other people get about Adam Sandler.
"My 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project."
I talked about this project in my blog post last month, where I shared how many of the 1001 films I had seen (685), which meant I had to watch 316 more before I die.
So I have included this project in my Friday blog post and will let you know how I am doing and point out some of the films YOU need to see (or maybe not) before YOU die.  There could definitely be debate on some of the films included.
I am now down to 312 to go.

Daisies (1966)

Two young Czech girls run around town pulling pranks, taking advantage of old men and acting silly.

These girls see to be so annoying at first, but when you realize this was made in Communist Czechoslovakia before the Czech Spring of 1968, then you realize just how subversive and feminist it was for its day and for its location. These girls were doing whatever the hell they wanted despite the repression. The exuberance of these two girls was a call against the repressive Communist rule. There are many references to being hungry and cold followed by orgies of eating.  In fact, this movie was banned and the director, Vera Chytilova, was not allowed to work in her country again until 1975. It's all very psychedelic and slapstick.

Rosy the Reviewer says...These girls grow on you. (subtitles) 

Cyclo (1995)

In 1990's Hanoi, a young rickshaw driver (called a Cyclo) is robbed of his rickshaw.  To pay off his employer, he is forced to work for a local pimp and, unbeknownst to him, his sister is forced into prostitution.

One can't help but think of Vittorio De Sica's "The Bicycle Thief (another classic film)," but here the director focuses on the brutal landscape lurking behind the rhythms of the city and finds beauty in the violence.

Tony Leung plays the pimp, a brooding, chain-smoking character named Poet.  Tony would go on to make the impossibly beautiful "In the Mood for Love" (also one of the 1001 films).

Rosy the Reviewer uncomfortable film to watch. I think "Cyclo" rhymes with "Psycho" for a reason.  Whether this is a masterpiece of film-making would be up for debate. (subtitles).
***Book of the Week***
I Said Yes To Everything: A Memoir  (2014)

Actress Lee Grant tells a story of success, devastation and then success.

Actress Lee Grant was celebrated on Broadway and nominated for an Academy Award all by the age of 24 and then lost it all.  She was named to the Hollywood blacklist by the House Un-American Activities Committee and her life fell apart.  After 12 years of fighting the blacklist, she was exonerated and her career took off again:  "Peyton Place," "Valley of the Dolls,"  "In the Heat of the Night" and "Shampoo," for which she won her first Oscar.
Grant is not that well-known to the younger generation, but she is an acclaimed actress who worked with all of the greats:  Brando, Poitier, Beatty.  She had to say yes to everything to survive those bitter black list years but she rose from the ashes to great heights. 

She talks about her growing up years as "the perfect child" whose mother wanted her to excel in the arts - any of them - and her failed marriage and the bitter insecurity brought out in her by the withholding personality of her first husband.  But eventually she was to find happiness. 
Rosy the Reviewer important actress you should know about, writing about an important, but sad part of our history.


***And finally, if you have been keeping track of my other project, where I am attempting to get myself out of a rut and change my life by adding a new habit every month, well, don't. ***

I am not doing so well.  I did OK in July where I promised to break the habit of ordering a Skinny Vanilla Latte, but now I am back to that again.  In August, I vowed to moisturize.  I managed only a couple of those days.  And for September, I was supposed to ride my bike every day that the sun shone.  I could try to trick you and say the sun didn't shine much because, hey, this is Seattle, right?  Well, wouldn't you know, we have had a fantastic summer and in September, too, the sun was shining almost every day.  And (hanging my head), I only rode my bike on two of those days.  So now I am scared to remind you and myself of what I said I would do in October.

***Walk 10,000 steps every day***
If you read last Tuesday's post, "Fitbit on My Shoulder," you will know that I am already struggling with that.  I doubt that I will do it every day, but it's my new goal to get there at least five times a week. 

One thing I am learning is that it's damn hard to change! 
Check back at the end of the month to see how I do with this one!
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