Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Favorite Movies, DVDs, TV Shows and Books of the Year 2014 (and some I hated)!

In the midst of the Holiday frenzy, I thought I would pause and reflect on some of my favorite movies, DVDs, TV shows and books of the year so that when YOU have a minute, you can relax and enjoy something new and good.  Likewise, I will steer you away from some that would ruin your Holiday. 

You can also bone up for the Golden Globes. It's gratifying to see that many of the films and actors I lauded in my earlier reviews have received Golden Globe nominations.  Stick with me.  I won't steer you wrong!

Here's my Holiday Gift to YOU!

***Because I know you are busy, busy, busy, I am just going to say a few sentences about each one.  However, if you are interested in my full review, I have linked each title back to my original review.  Enjoy!***

Rosy the Reviewer's Favorite Movies of 2014
(These are films I actually ventured out of the house and plunked down the cash to see but many are now out on DVD):


Grand Budapest Hotel

A Wes Anderson comedy in the style of French Farce and Ralph Fiennes as you have never seen him.  He actually smiles!  This film has already garnered a Golden Globe nomination for the film and for Fiennes and is a likely candidate for a Best Film Academy Award nomination.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Just a lotta, lotta fun and very, very charming.  It's that simple. 
If I had my way, this would also get an Academy Award nomination for Best Film, but these kinds of films are usually undervalued.

Jersey Boys

The film version of the Broadway stage hit of the same name that chronicles the rise and fall and rise again of the musical group, The Four Seasons.  Yes, it's a musical but a very cool one.  Directed by Clint Eastwood, could be an Oscar contender.

St. Vincent

Bill Murray plays a "get off my lawn" type of curmudgeon who seems to only care about himself until he is redeemed by the little boy who moves in next door. Yes, that's a plot line done scores of times before, but here, it's done better.  For one, the kid is not obnoxiously precocious and two, this is one of Bill Murray's best performances.  He has already gotten a Golden Globe nomination and this should get him an Oscar nod for Best Actor as well.  Also Melissa McCarthy sheds her over-the-top goofy character for once to play it straight.  If you saw "Tammy," this one should help you get that bad taste out of your mouth.


Nobody does creepy like Jake Gyllenhaal and this movie is all him as he plays a man looking for a job and finds his purpose as a crime scene photographer.  And let's just say he will do anything to get a good picture.  I would give him an Academy Award just for his buggy eyes.  He already has a Golden Globe nod.  Expect an Academy Award nod as well for him and the film.

The Theory of Everything

I predict Eddie Redmayne will win an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking.  You heard it here first, folks!  He already has been rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor as has this film.  Expect to see this film as one of the ten Best Picture nominees for an Academy Award too.

Gone Girl

A good old fashioned suspense story based on the best-selling book. This film was snubbed for a Golden Globe, but I will think it will be one of the ten Oscar Nominations for Best Film.  Rosamund Pike deservedly has a Golden Globe nomination.  She is also in the new film "Hector and the Search for Happiness" and seems to have a lock on the strange girlfriend/wife role.

Michael Keaton was a revelation in this story of an actor unraveling as he rehearses a Broadway show while trying to shake his past superhero persona, "Birdman."  Outstanding cast (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone), original story.  If my beloved Eddie Redmayne doesn't win the Oscar for Best Actor, it will be Keaton.  Keaton, Norton and Stone all are nominated for Golden Globes as is this film.


So happy to see that this little film has received a Golden Globe nod.  It's a charming feel good picture with a lot of heart about the unlikely alliance of UK gay activists and striking coal miners in 1984 with a great British cast of recognizable actors - Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine along with some newcomers.

Rosy the Reviewer's Favorite DVDS
(2014 releases and some classics)
Tom Hardy, as successful, happily married Ivan Locke, takes you on a lonely road trip from Wales to London in this 90-minute-real time ride that slowly unfolds the reason for the trip.  Hardy, probably best known for his performance in "Inception" and as Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises" pulls off a tour de force performance here.  It's just he, his cell phone and his BMW and it's a memorable 90 minutes.

Only Lovers Left Alive

What it might be like to be a modern day vampire living in Detroit and just trying to do the right thing.  It's a vampire movie like you have never seen.

Hateship Loveship

Kristen Wiig has finally made the dramatic leap.  I didn't think she had the acting chops needed for dramatic roles but she got me here.


A woman of a certain age tries to find love in Santiago, Chile. You will fall in love with Gloria, even with those dreaded subtitles.

Grave of the Fireflies

A masterpiece of anime that will mesmerize you, even if you are not an anime fan.

2014 TV that Rosy the Reviewer Says is Worth Seeing
(and probably available on DVD)

The Affair


Playing now on Showtime, this is just what the title says, the story of an affair.  But it's an affair with many tosses and turns, a mystery, wonderful acting (Dominic West and Ruth Wilson - both are up for Golden Globes) and a haunting Fiona Apple song over the opening credits.  An adult, intelligent piece of television.

The Roosevelts

Ken Burns has done it again.  He has produced an absolutely riveting piece of history as he tells the story of Teddy, FDR and Eleanor.  Also up for a Golden Globe.  This would make a great holiday present for anyone who loves history.


This is a British mini-series about the search for a boy's murderer.  It played this year on BBC America.  As American television frequently does, it steals really good British stuff and passes it off as its own.  Thus we had this year's "Gracepoint."  However, if you watched the American version instead of this one, you missed out. David Tennant is good, which is why he also starred in the American version, but I can't imagine this mini-series without Olivia Coleman.  There will be a second "Broadchurch" series.  Not so for "Gracepoint."

The Missing

The Brits have the production of excellent dramatic mini-series down.  No one does it like they do.  Here is another not-to-be missed drama now playing on STARZ and it has been nominated for a Golden Globe.  Eerily like the famous unsolved Madeleine McCann case (and perhaps not by accident) where a little British girl was abducted from her bed in Portugal while on vacation there with her family, here James Nesbitt is in a similar situation when his son is abducted in France while on vacation there.  The series moves back and forth from 2006, when the boy was abducted, to the present, and shows the toll such a tragedy takes on everyone involved. Frances O'Connor plays his wife and is a Golden Globe nominee for her excellent work.

Appropriate Adult

This is the true story of the Gloucester, England, serial killers, Fred and Rose West who over a 20 year period tortured and murdered at least 11 young women, some of whom were family members.  This two-part series once again stars Dominic West as Fred (a far cry from his role in "The Affair" and almost unrecognizable with false teeth to make him look like West), who seems to be everywhere these days ("The Affair," "Pride" - see above) and Monica Dolan as Rose.  Emily Watson is the appropriate adult of the title, a UK position provided by the courts for adults who might be "at risk" or who might not understand the ramifications of the charges.  Fred West was barely literate so qualified. All three actors won BAFTAs for their work.

Books Rosy the Reviewer discovered in 2014

Thirteen-year-old Theodore Decker is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother when a terrorist bomb goes off. He rescues a small painting - "The Goldfinch" - which takes him on an odyssey to adulthood across country and to Europe and introduces him to many unlikely people.  A 700+ page-turner with gorgeous prose and suspenseful story.  This is Donna Tartt's third novel and one for which she won a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and one of Ten Best books cited by the New York Times for 2013

An elegantly told memoir of actress Huston's early years and a profile of the acting dynasty she came from -- father/director John Huston and actor Grandfather Walter.  The second installment "Watch Me" is calling me.  Can't wait to read about Jack Nicholson and her and the crazy 70's.

Inspiration in 288 pages.  Oprah DOES know.
A boozy tour of Hollywood watering holes, restaurants and hotels that are famous for the drinks they produced and the drunks who visited.  Mini-biographies of Hollywood drinkers and the recipes they inspired make up this delightful compendium. Want to know who invented "The Moscow Mule" or why Bing Crosby was called "Binge Crosby?"  It's all here and more.  A great book for reading on the toilet if you are into that sort of thing.

You know I now have that "project," inspired by this book.  I have a bit less than 300 films to go to hit 1001.  Want to join me? Follow me every Friday to see how I am doing and hear about some movies YOU need to see before you die.

Kitchn Cookbook

From the blog Kitchn which began in 2005 comes this wonderful kitchen resource that foodies and novices alike will enjoy. Food writers Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand share their expertise about cooking with advice on setting up the kitchen, tools to have on hand, stocking the pantry, planning meals, cooking technique and recipes.  This is the kind of book you will want to own -- and I do!

Rosy the Reviewer says...


And to think that Melissa McCarthy and her husband wrote this execrable thing as a starring vehicle for Melissa.  She needs to retire this character and move on.


Sandler is just phoning it in these days.  I never thought he was funny then and he isn't funny now.

Mom's Night Out

An anti-abortion film masquerading as a comedy.  And it's not even funny.  Anything with Patricia Heaton in it, beware.

Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson is some kind of vampire trolling around Scotland seducing men and then reducing them to some kind of goop.  Or I think that is what is happening here.  If you can figure out what is going on in this film, let me know.  But remember, I warned you.

Nymphomanic I and II

The most unsexy film about sex I have ever seen.  And it's boring too.

Love Punch

Don't be fooled by the presence of Pierce and Emma.  This thing is awful.


There you have it. 

***Note that this list only includes films released before Christmas Day.  As the Oscar race heats up, I am sure I will have some additional favorites.  I will give you my early Oscar picks in a January post.

Now you know what I have been doing all year.  But, hey, it's my new job!

Thanks for reading!
See you Friday
for my review of

Chris Rock's new movie

"Top Five,"

"The Week in Reviews"
and the latest on my
"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."

Check your local library for books and DVDS. 

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


Friday, December 12, 2014

"Hector and the Search for Happiness" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Hector and the Search for Happiness," the DVD's "A Summer's Tale and "Wish I Was Here" and Gail Sheehy's new book "Daring, My Personal Passages."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project,"  tell you about a great new Seattle restaurant (Hecho) and share this week's "A-Ha Moment."

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector (Simon Pegg) is a London psychiatrist.  He has a predictable, tidy life and predictable, tidy girlfriend, but when he no longer thinks he is helping his patients, and, in fact, thinks they are just whingeing (he staves off his boredom by doodling pictures on his notepad while they prattle on), he decides it is time to go on a journey to discover what happiness is.
Hector leaves his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike, who since "Gone Girl" seems to like to play strange) and hightails it off to China (why China was never explained).  Clara has given him a diary in which to chronicle his journey so after each experience he asks those he encounters, "What makes you happy?"
In China, he has a "happy" experience with a "student" and notes that "Freedom is loving two women at the same time," until he discovers the "student" is really a prostitute.  He makes friends with a monk in a monastery far up in the mountains (he helps the monk put up his satellite dish) and then continues on to Africa where a scary plane ride makes him write "Fear is an impediment to happiness."  In Africa, he befriends a drug lord (JeanReno, a recognizable Spanish actor) and gets himself kidnapped by some gun-toting bad guys, and on the plane to L.A. he helps a dying woman suffering the effects of brain surgery and she tells him "Listening is Loving."  In L.A. he meets up with an old love, Toni Collette, and her colleague who is a "expert" on happiness.
Let's just say that "The Wizard of Oz" had it right all along.
This is an adaptation of Francois LeLord's French novel "Le Voyage d'Hector ou la Recherche du Bonheur," directed by PeterChelsom.
This is very Walter Mitty-ish, but in the James Thurber way with little cartoons and drawings expressing Hector's journey and thoughts.
This film is a departure for Pegg who we have come to love in "Shaun of the Dead" and the rest of his "CornettoTrilogy," where his character is a smarmy nebbish.  Though here he is still a nebbish, he's a kind nebbish.
I was surprised to see this little gem playing at my local multiplex theatre at the mall amidst the Hollywood blockbusters.
Many critics have not been kind to this film saying it is too pat and glorifies rich people finding their happiness by dabbling in the lives of people who are poor, likening it to "Eat, Pray, Love," in a bad way.
I, however, disagree.
Despite how it may appear to some, I think the film's intent was in the right place.  I found it to be the story of a person learning to live in the present moment, and thus finding happiness and that is something that transcends being rich or poor.  That's something we all need to be reminded of.  And, hey, I liked "Eat, Pray, Love," too, so there.
Rosy the Reviewer say...if you want some relief from the holiday blockbusters, this charming little film could do the trick.

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

A Summer's Tale (Conte D'ete)  (1996)

A quiet math student visiting Dinard, France finds himself in a triad of relationships.

Gaspard is on vacation in a Breton seaside town right before starting a new job. He is also waiting to meet his girlfriend, Lena. In the meantime, he becomes friends with Margot, a local young woman who works at her aunt's creperie in town.  They do a lot of walking and talking where Gaspard shares that he isn't sure about this new job.  He really wants to be a musician. And he isn't really sure about Lena either.  Margot, who is also in a relationship, in turn introduces Gaspard to Solene.  When Lena finally does arrive, Gaspard must figure out who and what he wants.

Gaspard doesn't really know what he wants. There is some homage to "The Graduate" when a man tells Gaspard he should get into "plastics."

Gaspard and Margot do most of the walking and talking with gorgeous French seascapes as their backdrop, very reminisicent of Richard Linklater's "Before Trilogy" ("Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset" and "Before Midnight") where Celine (Julie Delpey) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) explore their relationship as they walk around Vienna, Paris and a Greek peninsula respectively.

This film, directed by French auteur Eric Rohmer, is also part of a series, Rohmer's "Tales of the Four Seasons," which in addition to this one (Summer) includes "A Tale of Springtime (1990)," "A Tale of Winter (1992)," and "Autumn Tale (1998)."  Though  this film preceded "Autumn Tale," it was oddly never released in the United States until this year.

Rohmer's films are character studies where not much happens, well, not overtly, anyway.  What he captures is real life. You feel as if you are a fly on the wall, eavesdropping on the most personal conversations and human emotions, all beautifully photographed and eloquently paced.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Rohmer is a master filmmaker and if you liked the "Before Trilogy," you will like this.


Wish I Was Here (2014)

Aiden Bloom (Zach Braff) is 35, an unemployed actor with a wage-earning wife who hates her job (Kate Hudson) and a dying father.

Aiden doesn't have a job but is following his dream, his wife is being sexually harassed at work, his kids are more Orthodox than their parents and therein lies the comedy.

Or not. 

Aiden's Dad (Mandy Patinkin) would pay for private school for Aiden's kids as long it was Jewish Orthodox school.  Now Aiden's Dad is dying and Aiden has to pull his kids out of that school.  However, they are very entrenched, even to the point where his daughter is already fantasizing about shaving her head and wearing a wig once she is married, as Orthodox women do.  So because Aiden is an unemployed actor, he decides to homeschool the kids.  Aiden's brother (played by Josh Gad, who is a sort of indie Jack Black) is a hermit living in a trailer above Pacific Palisades (not a bad life) on money his mother left him and obsessed with Comic-con and his female neighbor, who has embraced the "furry" thing.

Zach Braff and his brother Adam wrote this film about their relationship with their Dad.  There is a reference to "Star Wars" as when Aiden is stressed, he imagines himself a superhero following a dark Darth Vader-like character ("Luke, I am your father.")

Though the film is earnest and well-meaning, it's all over the place.

The film raises issues of death and dying, raising kids in faith, family, following your dream, the meaning of life, how do you reconcile your faith with living your life.  This movie is all over the place and therein lies the rub.  It's well meaning, but not very good.  It's schmaltzy and earnest with a touch of Woody Allen.  I think Braff would like to be Woody.  But he's not there yet.

Zach Braff actually financed this film using Kickstarter.  He put it out there and within 48 hours had the money to fund this film, which shows how many fans he has from "Scrubs."

Rosy the Reviewer says...obviously a labor of love on Braff's part, but love does not a good film make.  Not a bad movie, but not a very good one either.

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

295 to go!

Bruce Lee plays a martial artist who is asked to attend a tournament in order to spy on a suspected drug lord.

Why it's a Must See:  "...the action still delivers nonstop astonishment as, without the aid of the wires or effected used in the likes of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Lee goes magnificently through the motions, twirling his signature nunchaku, flexing his oiled torso.  Influential on an entire genre of subsequent martial arts movies and a template for every beat-'em up computer game, Enter The Dragon wins its place in film history purely on the strength of Lee's charismatic presence and literally inimitable fighting moves."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Lee is not what I would call a great actor and the dubbing didn't help, but the fight scenes were indeed impressive.  Lee designed all of the fight scenes himself.

And I can see evidence of influence on Quentin Tarantino too and definitely the Chinese films to come as mentioned by "1001 Movies..". 

However, this film also bears some influences and appears to be borrowing heavily from the James Bond films, especially "Dr. No (the villain even has a white cat)" and the climactic scene in the hall of mirrors is reminiscent of Orson Welles' similar scene in "The Lady from Shanghai."   (1947)

This was Lee's last film before his untimely death.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite its ground breaking fight scenes, this film is very 70's - the music, the clothes, the dialogue - and doesn't hold up well by today's standards, despite Lee's martial arts prowess.  It reminded me of the "Mod Squad" and blaxsploitation films and is more of a reminder of Lee than a great movie.

Within Our Gates (1920)

Sylvia Landry (Evelyn Preer), a Southern black teacher travels north to raise money for her school in this silent film about prejudice in the early part of the 20th century. 

In flashbacks, we see Sylvia's story: her adoptive parents lynched and an attempted rape.

This film was banned in many theatres of the time.

Why it's a Must See: Successful author, publisher, homesteader, and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux is widely considered the father of African American cinema; only his second effort, Within Our Gates is one of forty films Micheaux wrote, directed, and independently produced between 1919 and 1948.  Besides it's gripping narrative and artistic merits, [this film] has immense historical value as the earliest surviving feature by an African American director. Powerful, controversial, and still haunting in its depiction of the atrocities committed by white Americans against blacks during this era, the film remains, in the words of one critic, 'a powerful and enlightening cultural document {that} is no less relevant today than it was in 1920'"
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Melodramatic and at times stereotypic, still, Micheaux was heroic in his film-making. He affirmed education and equality.
This film was lost for 70 years and rediscovered at the Filmoteca Espanola in Madrid in 1990 and restored.  Despite restoration, the film is still rough.  Silent films are not easy, either, these days. 
Rosy the Reviewer says...I knew nothing of Micheaux and as a film lover, am glad to see this film and to get a glimpse of early African-American films.  But it was not an easy watch.

***Book of the Week***

Daring: My Passages by Gail Sheehy (2014)

Gail Sheehy made her mark with her landmark book "Passages" in 1976, named by the Library of Congress as one of the ten "most influential books of our times." This is a memoir about her personal "passages."

Before she hit it big with "Passages," she was an early contributor to "New York Magazine" and after a long and rocky courtship famously married its founder and much older, Clay Felker.  She chronicles his struggle with cancer, her caregiving and his eventual death.
Sheehy's style of journalism fell into what Tom Wolfe called "New Journalism," a style that was literary and unconventional for the time.  Think Joan Dideon and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." Since "Passages," she followed up with several other books to help us understand how the years take their toll, a book on the "silent passage (menopause), "new" passages and passages in caregiving.

She was a trail-blazing journalist and was one of the women who paved the way for the rest of us feminists, though she didn't know it at the time.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you have enjoyed the "Passages" books and stories of career women of the 1950's and 60's, you will enjoy this.

***Restaurant of the Week***


Where Carmelita used to be in Phinney Ridge, we now have a Mexican restaurant featuring delicious street food.

Hubby was kvelling over the fried plantains with black bean sauce and his carne asada was cooked perfectly.  If you like soft tacos, there are many to choose from on fresh made tortillas. Speaking of which, the tortilla chips were to die for - deliciously homemade and fresh as was the salsa, though the salsa could have used a bit more spice and heatStaff is noticeably very friendly, always a welcome aspect.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is always room in Seattle for a good Mexican restaurant (they are hard to come by) so welcome, Hecho!

***My A-HA Moment of the Week***

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."  Brene Brown said that.
 Everyone needs to feel seen and heard.  I said that.



Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.


See you Tuesday for

"My Favorite Movies, DVDs, and Books of the Year
(And Some I Hated)" 



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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 many 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."