Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Things I Didn't Know I Needed

I have to admit I am highly susceptible to suggestions.

And it doesn't help that I am addicted to women's magazines.  My idea of a wonderful morning is waddling downstairs, having my morning OJ with a touch of Perrier and immersing myself in a stack of magazines.

But those magazines have all kinds of ads and articles trying to get me to buy or do things, shaming me if I haven't done my spring cleaning using this new miracle mop, admonishing me to moisturize with this new miracle formula and inspiring me to buy this new miracle bathing suit that promises to make me look ten pounds thinner.

If I didn't know I needed these things, I do now!

I know my susceptability is a problem, because when I am shamed, admonished and inspired to do something, I am driven to try it.

For example, a recent article was titled "Life requires a crisp white shirt!"

OMG, I thought, I didn't know that.  Do I have one?  And if I do, is it crisp enough?

When I am standing in line at the store, I know very well items are placed at checkout for impulse buying but I can't help it.

Gum.  Right.  I didn't realize I needed some gum. Need that minty, fresh breath.  Oh, look, what a cute little Beanie Baby. I need that!  "Summer Recipes 5 ingredients or less."  I think I need that (I have over 200 cookbooks at home).  Fourth of July plates are half off!  I never thought of 4th of July plates.  I need those!

You get the picture.

It all started with an ad for a Bikini trimmer.  What a nifty little thing, I thought.  I didn't know I needed that.  So I ordered it. But when it arrived, I realized I had not worn a bathing suit for almost 10 years and I didn't own a bikini!  And ow!  The damn thing hurt!

The View's "Must Have Monday" is like crack to me.  Every Monday, they showcase all kinds of items I didn't know I needed at huge discounts.  Today there was a $60 clothes steamer for $20, 32 makeup brushes, a curling iron that looked like a vibrator and a "legacy box."  I don't know what that is, but I now know that I need it.  I bought a purse from them once that I didn't know I needed.  It's still hanging on the chair in the kitchen.

My house is full of items I didn't know I needed.

  • A librarian action figure that shushes you when you pull on her arm

  • A sparkly sign that says "I'm so glam I sweat glitter."

  • A "Dammit Doll" (it's a little stuffed doll that when you are mad you can whack the table with it and yell "dammit, dammit, dammit" instead of whacking Hubby)

  • A creamer shaped like a cow (you pour the cream by holding its tail and the cream comes out it's mouth) - and I don't even put cream in my tea or coffee!

  • Zebra print boots

  • A collie


Our houses are all filled with stuff we didn't know we needed until suddenly we did!

But in the end, what is important is that I know the things I DO need.

I know I need my family.


That weekly phone call from my adult children and seeing the little grandkids

A cuddle with my dogs


Oh, yeah, and Hubby too.


I need friends, a creative outlet, to feel my life has meaning, time alone to appreciate what I have (and watch TV), healthy activities, wine.

So I guess it's OK to clutter our lives a bit with things we didn't know we needed as long as we also fill our lives with what we really need.

Oh, I just thought of something else I didn't know I needed.


I didn't know how much being grateful for what I do have adds to my life. It puts things in perspective to look up at the sky or at a beautiful flower or at your children and give thanks for being alive.  No amount of stuff you didn't know you needed can replace that feeling.

Why don't you try it?

And ask yourself...

What do I really need?

Why not take some time today and every day to ask yourself that, to feel gratitude and say "thank you" to the universe for what you have.

But while we are on this topic.  I keep seeing ads for a pelvic surgical mesh transplant?  Do I need that?


See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 

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."

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, July 17, 2015

"Amy" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Amy," an extraordinary documentary about singer Amy Winehouse and the DVDs "Gett:  The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" and Kristen Wiig's "Welcome to Me." The Book of the Week is "After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project:" with Kurasawa's masterpiece "Throne of Blood"]


A documentary on the short life of singer Amy Winehouse, yet another member of the "27 Club."

If ever there was a film about someone who died and came back to tell her story in her own words, this is it. 

Using incredible footage of home movies, filmed interviews and performances, and using lyrics from her songs like subtitles to the film, Amy's life unfolds.  She's right there talking to you from the screen.  The film captures Amy's brash personality, but also her funny side, sweetness and heart.  You don't need to have been a Winehouse fan to be affected by this film.

The film begins with a home movie of Amy (age 14) at a friend's 13th birthday party.  As she sings "Happy Birthday," it is apparent she has an amazing, big voice. Growing up she loved jazz singers Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn.  

Amy's talent was recognized early and by the time she was 18, her career had started.  She moved out of the house at 18 because of "family issues," and so she could write songs and smoke weed all day (her words). She talks about suffering from depression as a young girl and says that picking up a guitar and writing music was a good antidote. She also liked to drink and was bulimic.  Not a good combo.

She met the love of her life, Blake Fielder, and the two of them weren't good for each other to say the least. He introduced her to crack and heroin.  But Amy's love for Fielder also seemed to be a drug for her. She had some hits in the U.K. but when Blake broke up with her to return to his girlfriend, that's when the album "Back to Black" was born, which led to Amy's incredible stardom. 

And a Grammy for "Rehab."

Unfortunately, Amy didn't really want fame.  Several times in the film she is heard saying that fame would drive her mad.  And so it did.  And as she fell, her meltdowns became the fodder for comedians' jokes and pictures for the tabloids and no one helped her.

What is it with musicians and the age of 27?  Winehouse joins Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Kurt Cobain as yet another musician who didn't make it past 27 due to drug and alcohol abuse.

I can certainly see why Amy's family was not happy with this film, especially her Dad.  It paints a bleak picture of her Dad, who is seen as someone who didn't believe she needed rehab back before she hit it big, the point in the film being if she had gotten help before fame hit, she might have had a chance.  As she says in her song "Rehab," "My Daddy thinks I'm fine..." He is also seen as someone who kept her touring and recording even though it was obvious she was in bad shape.  Early in the film he also says Amy didn't seem to mind his divorcing her mother when Amy was nine.  Not too self aware, Dad.  In Amy's words, that's when all the bad stuff started for her.

Directed by Asif Kapadia ("Senna"), I see an Oscar in his future for Best Documentary.

There is a very poignant scene near the end of the film when Amy gets to sing a duet with her idol, Tony Bennett (which you can hear on his album "Duets II," where they sing "Body and Soul" together). She is nervous and adoring and he is sweet and charming to her.  But he knows her struggles and says in a voiceover "Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough."

Sadly she didn't and we are robbed of what her gift might have looked like as she matured and now, in this documentary, forever young, she haunts us from her grave.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is an extraordinary documentary, though a sad commentary on the price of fame on one too young to handle it and no one there to help her.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
But not this week!


Viviane wants a divorce but in Israel, that is only possible if her husband consent and he does not want to let her go.

In Israel, there is no civil marriage or divorce

Marriage and divorce are legitimized in religious courts.  Only rabbis can legitimize a marriage or dissolve it and if there are no grounds, the husband makes the decision whether or not to grant his wife the divorce.  If he does, a "gett" is written that says "You are hereby permitted to all men," thus saying she is no longer married and free to marry again without the stigma of adultery. It is a physical act whereby the husband literally places the "gett" into his wife's hand, thus releasing her.  The husband needs no grounds for refusal and if he refuses the wife does not get her divorce.  And if a wife lives apart from her husband without a "gett," she is automatically treated as a lesser being.

Viviane (Ronit Elkabetz) has been trying to divorce her husband for three years and her husband Elisha will not agree.  No longer loving your husband is not grounds for a divorce in Israel.

Elisha holds all of the power.  For one and a half years, he didn't even show up for court.  The rabbis did not want to force him. The rabbis, whose main goal is to preserve the family, keep telling Viviane to move back home and try to work things out.  Viviane keeps returning to the court and is caught in a series of Kafka-esque Catch-22s.   It's a man's world.

As the years tick by, Viviane's appearance starts to change from a modest black dress with hair tied back to flowing hair, red dress and sandals, a physical representation of one of the problems in their marriage.  Elisha is very religious and Viviane is more secular.  And her transformation also shows her resolve to get this damn divorce!

Through a series of witnesses, Viviane's and Elisha's marriage unfolds and we see the hatred that can come of 20 years of marriage.  We hear about their fights and that Viviane sometimes yells and throws things. When Viviane testifies that "It's easy to blame the one who yells," she is speaking for every woman with a withholding and non-communicative husband.

Elisha's witnesses say he never laid a hand on her.  "He lets her go out alone." One witness for Elisha talks about his own wife when he says:  "Who cares if they are compatible?  Is my wife right for me?  Who cares?  I make her right for me and that's it.  No nonsense."

Is all we can expect from marriage that our husband doesn't raise a hand to us and lets us go out alone?

Reminiscent of the Palestinian film "A Separation," which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2012 but more powerful, its an ironic reminder that despite the fact that Israel and most of the Arab nations are at war with each other, they hold one thing in common: subjugating women.

This is one of the most provocative films about the disintegration of a marriage ever.  

The film takes place completely in the courtroom and when I read that, I thought, that sounds kind of boring.  I almost didn't watch.  But I promise you, it is mesmerizing.  You won't be able to stop watching as you see what Viviane has to listen to and go through to get away from a man she no longer loves.  Think about it, ladies.  If you hated your husband or even decided this marriage wasn't for you, and you could not get a divorce unless three male judges and your husband said yes, what would you do?

This film is maddening and if you don't come away from it hating men, there is something wrong with you (even you men)!  A court of men deciding the fate of a woman, treating her as chattel. Grrrrr.

Ronit Elkabetz plays Viviane.  Her face is beautiful in its resolution to not be brought down.  Simon Abkarian as her husband Elisha is also wonderful, though you just want to slap him.  But I guess that's called good acting.  And Menashe Noy as Viviane's lawyer is also wonderful.

At the end, a deal is made between Viviane and her husband (and you won't guess what it is and just what she is willing to do to get away from this guy), and as the final shot shows her feet, clad in espadrilles, walking I'm not sure where, I cried.

Written and directed by Ronit and her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, this is the third film in a trilogy about Viviane and her marriage, and it is an extraordinary film.  (And you don't have to have seen the other two to appreciate this one).

Rosy the Reviewer says...one of the best films I have seen this year (and now I want to see the other two).
(In Hebrew, Arabic and French with English subtitles)


Welcome to Me (2014)
Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) worships Oprah and when she wins 86 million dollars in the lottery, she buys her own talk show.

Unfortunately, Alice has some mental issues (Borderline Personality Disorder) and takes meds for them.  She is a complete whack job who is on disability, keeps her TV on 24/7 (it's been on nonstop for 11 years) and talks in aphorisms and mnemonics, much like Gary Busey

When she appears on the news after winning the lottery, Alice starts to read a "written statement," but when she veers into the topic of masturbation, she is cut off.  With her winnings, she stops taking her meds and moves into a casino hotel. While sitting in the audience of an infomercial, she gets called up on stage and hijacks the show, once again talking about her life, and other inappropriate topics, including masturbation.

Joan Cusack and James Marsden star as producers of TV shows on one of those little stations no one watches, specializing in infomercials.  They need money because the infomercial that has been funding them so far is not doing as well as it once did.  So when Alice comes along and offers them 15 million to produce one hundred 2-hour talk shows for her, they agree, even though Alice says the show is going to be just her talking about herself. The show will be called "Welcome to Me." 

And talk about herself she does! Her show consists of her riding onto the stage in a swan boat and such strange topics as her making a meatloaf cake and spending air time eating it and acting out a scene with actors so she can publicly shame a woman who wronged her in high school.

Alice says all kinds of inappropriate things because she is a self-absorbed ego-maniac trying to manager her own mental illness and no one steps in to help her, not the producers of her show who are making money off of her and not even her long time therapist (Tim Robbins, who even when counseling her treats her like she is a pain in the ass).  However, when she spends one whole week neutering dogs, the producers know it's gone too far and shut the show down. Plus after all of those reenactments of remembered childhood slights where she calls out people by name, Alice has been served with numerous lawsuits for slander.

Alice finally has a breakdown, but when she recovers, she decides she wants to do one more show to end it with a big bang.

No one does awkward like Wiig and though she was great in "Hateship/Loveship" and "The Skeleton Twins," this film really highlights her acting ability. Despite Alice's narcissistic nature, Wiig is able to show a vulnerability so that no matter what cringeworthy antic Alice gets up to, you are on her side.

The screenplay by Eliot Laurence is original, funny and poignant at the same time, and Shira Piven has directed this film with a sensitivity to the character of Alice.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is Wiig at her best.  See it!

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

254 To Go!

Throne of Blood  (1957)

A Samurai warrior in feudal Japan works, egged on by his wife, to fulfill a prophecy that he would be Lord of the castle, thus setting in motion a series of bloody, tragic events.

Two soldiers, Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Akira Kubo), encounter a witch in the forest.  The witch prophesizes that Washizu will this very day become head of the North Garrison and eventually become the Lord of the Spider Web's Castle.  He also prophesizes that Miki's son will rule after him.  Both laugh this off as impossible because they are both loyal to the current Lord.  But when Washizu indeed gets this promotion, he starts to envision himself Lord and goaded on by his wife, Asaji (Isuzu Yamada) he plots to kill the Great Lord and fulfill the prophecy. 

Akira Kurosawa is considered one of the most influential and important filmmakers in the history of cinema.  Here he adapts Shakespeare's "Macbeth" using a fusion of Noh theatre and Buddhist elements, complete with Kurasawa's adaption of Lady Macbeth's "Out damn spot" scene.

Why it's a Must See:  "Quite rightly, Akira Kurosawa's artfully chilling, formal and extremely close adaption of Macbeth is regarded as one of the most breathtaking screen versions of the play...and [Toshiro] Mifune...furthered his reputation as Japan's preeminent international star with this performance. Washizu's [Mifune's character] brilliantly staged death scene...is one of the great iconic images of world cinema."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Kirosawa asks, "Why do people kill one another so often and throughout history? There is no satisfying conclusion to this film because as in Buddhist teachings, there is no answer to this question.

What people will do for power. Shakespeare wrote the original "Game of Thrones" script and here you have it feudal Japan style.

Rosy the Reviewer says....  A classic that should be part of your film repertoire.
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

After Perfect: A Daughter's Memoir by Christine McDowell (2015 

When Christina's father was arrested as part of the fall-out from Jordan Belfort's ("The Wolf of Wall Street") illegal dealings, her seemingly perfect life falls apart.

This is one of those memoirs where when you think the person is down as far as she can go, she keeps going further and further down. And you have a hard time believing it can really be that bad in real life. Christina is a bit maddening because she keeps whining about what a perfect life she had and how she never had to learn to do anything for herself because her Dad took care of everything so she didn't need to take care of herself.  You just want to shake her and say, Get over it!  Learn some skills then!

If you like memoirs about losing it all and starting over - Gelsey Kirkland's "Dancing on my Grave" or MacKenzie Phillips' "High on Arrival" are more compelling.

Rosy the Reviewer says...difficult to care. 

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Things I Didn't Know I Needed"


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
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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). 



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, July 14, 2015

How Would I Do On "Naked and Afraid?"

As you may know, I am a huge reality TV fan and I have always enjoyed survival shows ever since "Survivor" debuted. 

Back when "Survivor" aired in 2000, there was no show like it. It combined the reality show element of strangers living together in "tribes" with few supplies trying to survive with the game show element of having to compete in competitions to win rewards and immunity in order to guarantee they could stay for one more week.  There was also the drama element of "tribe" members conniving and plotting to vote each other off combined with the need for a "social game," so when the jury of those voted off decided at the end who should win, it would be you. It's all about "Outwit, Outlast, Outplay."  "Survivor" has been on American TV for 15 years and continues to have good ratings. 

So knowing how TV likes to take a popular concept and ratchet things up, as in, gee, "Survivor" has been so popular, let's make some more of those kinds of shows, then it's no surprise that the powers that be would say, hey, this time, let's make them take off their clothes!

For the uninformed, let me just say at the outset, "Naked and Afraid" is not a porn horror film.  In fact, despite its lurid title, it's not the least bit prurient, unless you have a thing for butts.  You get to see butts, "butt" that's about it.

"Naked and Afraid" is the real deal, a TV survival show that asks the question - how would two strangers, a man and a woman, survive 21 days in the wilderness with no clothes and no supplies save one item each may bring with them?

The survivalists are dropped in a very remote location such as a jungle in Costa Rica or the Serengeti Plain in Tanzania or a desert island in the Maldives.  Did I say this show is also educational?  You learn a lot about geography, as in, where the hell are the Maldives?
(Did I say this blog is also educational?  If you click on my links, you will know.)

If they do survive, there is no $500,000 prize, which is what the "Survivor" winner gets.  It's just some badass survivalists doing it for the bragging rights.

When I say "survivalists," the "contestants," if you can call them that, compete with varying levels of survival skills.  You might have an ex-Green Beret adept at eating worms paired with an ex-stripper who walked the Appalachian Trail by herself.  The show gives each a PSR (Primitive Survival Rating - a score out of 10) at the outset and then re-evaluates them after the 21 days, or however long they can make it.

A camera crew follows them but may not intercede unless there is a life threatening situation or the contestant wants to "tap out," which is "Naked and Afraid" talk for "get me the hell out of here."  I'm done!" 

It's pretty brutal.  The survivalists have to endure hunger and thirst and other inconveniences such as horrible sunburns, insect bites and being stalked by cougars.  I would think it would also be really, really boring since you can't bring a book or your cell phone.

So as I watch the show, I can't help but wonder what it would be like if I went on the show? 

I have some skills. 

I would be a very good conversationalist with my partner, regaling him with synopses of movies and books and the importance of libraries. I could sing parts of Beatles songs for entertainment and since I am a hard worker, gather berries or whatever stuff is around. 

My PSR is 1.1, which could be better.  That might be because I said I wanted to wear clothes and that my biggest foray into nature was watching nature shows on TV and driving with the top down (If you want to take the test, here it is).

I would need to choose my personal item that I am bringing with me. 

On the show, this is usually a fire starter, a machete, a pot to boil water in or something like that.  I would bring a muumuu.  I wouldn't want my partner and the viewing public to be horrified when I took off my clothes.  However, since the show is called "Naked and Afraid," I guess that wouldn't qualify for the "naked" part so failing the muumuu, I would bring a big needle and some heavy thread so I could sew myself a leaf skirt and coconut bra as soon as possible thus sparing us both, and the viewing public, quite a bit of unpleasantness.

But since we have to meet without clothes, I need to think of a witty thing to say when we first meet. 

The contestants always say something cute or funny about the fact they are meeting each other for the first time without clothes.  They say such things as "We are wearing the same outfit" or "Fancy meeting you in a Colombian jungle.  Do you do this often?" 

I would say "Don't look down. My eyes are my best feature." 

And no way am I giving him a hug!  Ew!

After we meet, we must find a spot to set up camp. 

This might include a day's hike through rugged terrain.  This is when I am wishing my personal item had been sunblock because, when growing up, my brother did not call me "Casper," as in Casper the Friendly Ghost, for nothing.  My skin is so pale, Procol Harum wrote a song about it.


So I decide to cover myself with mud (good thing we are not on the Serengeti Plain) thus solving part of that "naked" thing as well.  Hopefully we will not set up camp on top of a red ant colony.  That would not be good.

As we are setting up camp,  I would ask him if he is married.  If so, I would have to figure out how to broach the topic of spooning while sleeping.  It can get very cold at night and it's going to be bad enough trying to sleep with rats and insects crawling all over us. I will explain to him that I am used to a little poodle cuddling up next to me in bed.

Once we are settled, finding water and food will be the most important task. 

I will remind him that I am very squeamish and cannot possibly kill a living thing. He will have to do that. I will eat berries and seaweed, and kill two birds with one stone (animal lovers, pardon the reference) by maintaining my love of wildlife and losing at least 25 pounds at the same time. But I can spend my time weaving baskets or something or boiling water in a bamboo stick.  This is when I wish I had brought a pot from home and start whining about how thirsty and bored I am.

As the days go by, I am becoming increasingly bitchy about the lack of amenities and the fact that my partner refuses to talk about his feelings. We get in a huge fight and I stomp off to a rock (these things always happen on the show).

After several more nights of no sleep, the silent treatment and getting tired of chewing seaweed, I decide this is not working.  I have already missed three episodes of "Dance Moms," so I decide to tap out, realizing that I don't have what it takes to be "Naked and Afraid."

As I think about my imagined experience, I have come up with a new TV series idea especially for us Baby Boomers, who now make up 25% of the population. 

"Partially Naked and Afraid -- For Seniors."


Here are some tips for the producers to get seniors to compete on the show.

  • "Partially naked" works much better for us seniors.  Some of us have saved our faces.  Some of us have saved out butts.  Either way, we are not likely to be that stoked about flaunting our naughty bits to the general viewing public unless we are nudists.  What we can flaunt is our biggest asset - the great wisdom we have acquired over the years, which we feel the viewing public should hear, even though our kids won't listen to us.  I also recommend shoes.

  • Scooters or walkers, depending on the terrain, should be provided for those of us who have trouble walking.  We don't mind if you have to put some camo on them.

  • Each contestant should get a swag bag containing a fire starter, a pot for boiling water, a machete, a blanket, sun screen, bear spray, a fishing rod, some smoked salmon, some mascara, toilet paper and a couple of magazines.  Why make us choose which item to bring ourselves or to be bored out of our minds?  It's too hard to decide and we are used to our little comforts these days.  We should also have the option of bringing our dog in case our partner is a dud.  My dog likes to spoon.

  • Medications should be allowed (some of us seniors have "issues").  "Medications" can be defined as pills, coffee, a case of wine or some Knob Creek.

  • Pajamas.  I am willing to be partially naked during the day, but if I am going to sleep in some makeshift lean-to with no blanket, we seniors need our flannel jimmy-jams.

  • And about those locations.  Why can't we be partially naked and afraid in Tuscany?  I'm sure it's scary at night and I would be very afraid after coming back from an evening of wine and small plates at the local osteria.

  • Also I think the time out there should be cut down to seven days.  I don't want to miss too many of my shows.

  • And it wouldn't hurt if there was a defibrillator and some Viagra. At our age, it can go either way. Or both. You never know. I'm just sayin'.

You may think this is all very silly, but even just imagining ourselves in situations outside of our comfort zones gives us awareness about ourselves.

I now know I don't have what it takes to be "Naked and Afraid," and I'm not even certain I could do "Partially Naked and Afraid," so maybe I should just try camping. 

Or maybe not.


Do you have want it takes to be
 "Partially Naked and Afraid?"


See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 

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."

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, July 10, 2015

"Spy" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Melissa McCarthy's new movie "Spy," the DVD "Black or White" and the Glen Campbell documentary "I'll Be Me." The Book of the Week is "Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project": David Cronenberg's strange but hypnotic "Videodrome."]



An inexperienced CIA agent goes undercover to try to prevent the sale of a nuclear bomb.
Yay!  Melissa McCarthy is finally starring in a comedy that is actually funny after the egregiously awful "Tammy" and "Identity Thief," where her being fat was mostly the joke.  Here she creates a real live character who just happens to be fat.
Think what it would be like if Moneypenny was actually talking into James Bond's earpiece, helping him fight the bad guys.  Or James Bond was a wise-cracking, insecure but smart chubby woman.  Well, that is what this is like.  And it's funny as hell.
Bradley Fine (Jude Law, who is looking VERY fine) is a suave, debonair spy and Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst back at headquarters, down in a basement rife with vermin, feeding information to Fine via an earpiece.  She is very good at her job. As he eludes the bad guys, Susan is using technology and talking into his earpiece to tell him which way to run, who is coming after him and how to escape.  She is also in love with Fine.
But Susan yearns to be the glamorous lady spy out in the field instead of behind the scenes, and when Fine is killed in Bulgaria by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who is trying to sell a nuclear bomb to enemies of the U.S. and who also knows what all of the other CIA spies look like, Susan begs her boss (Allison Janney) to let her go find Rayna. No one knows what Susan looks like and Susan proved to be a badass fighter in training so her boss says OK but Susan is only to track Rayna and report back.  But things don't always work the way they are supposed to and Susan races from Bulgaria to Paris, Rome and Budapest, making up her own rules as she goes along. 

McCarthy is at the top of her game in this one. She plays her Susan Cooper character with intelligence and ease. Her throwaway lines and physical comedy are hilarious and Susan is lovable AND a badass.  She is a testament to feminism as she figures out how to solve problems and takes care of business.
Jason Statham plays Rick Ford, a rogue CIA agent who can't believe Susan is being used when he himself claims to have done everything there is to do as a spy.  His exaggerated rants about his exploits are hilarious, but I just wish he hadn't overplayed the part. Statham is out of his usual serious action character roles, so probably was thrilled to get to do a comedy.  But he overplayed his part just a teensy bit, which was grating because everyone else in the film played it straight, which is what made it so funny. The script, written by Paul Feig (who also directed) was funny enough without the need for overplaying and has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged and chuckling. 
Rose Byrne is great, playing against type as a spoiled, mean rich girl, Bobby Cannavale plays Rayna's handsome playboy contact for the bomb, Sergio De Luca, and Peter Serafinowicz is a standout as Aldo, Susan's Italian contact who can't keep his hands off of her.
Miranda Hart, who made her mark in the "Call the Midwife" series, plays Nancy, Susan's friend and co-worker in the basement.  Her deadpan delivery is hilarious.
The allusions and homage to James Bond films are plenty, from the usual Bond cold opening as the suave and calm spy kills the bad guys and makes his escape, to the sexy song and swirling images over the opening credits, the European locations and the soundtrack, which evokes the classic Bond theme.
There is a running joke throughout that whenever Susan gets a new identity it's a lonely woman on disability with 10 cats or a sad divorced housewife with bad hair instead of the glamorous identity she seeks.  She also gets some James Bond-type weaponry, but instead of the cool stuff, hers are disguised as hemorrhoid cream, constipation pills and anti-fungal cream.  She is not pleased.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I see a sequel coming but if it is as entertaining as this film, bring it on!  This one is a winner!

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

Black or White  (2014)
A widower gets into a custody battle over his little biracial granddaughter.
When Elliott Anderson's (Kevin Costner) wife, Carol (Jennifer Ehle) dies, he's not sure how to take care of his little granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell) who has lived with them ever since their daughter (Eloise's mother) died in childbirth.  When Eloise asks Elliott to brush her hair and put a bow in it, it's apparent that Carol did all of the childcare.  Elliott is also grieving the loss of his wife and hitting the bottle pretty hard.
Eloise is a biracial child and when Carol was alive, Eloise's other family was happy with the arrangement.  But now Rowena (Octavia Spencer), Eloise's grandmother, does not approve of Elliott's drinking and decides Eloise should live with them, so she takes Elliott to court.  Rowena's brother is an attorney and turns the fight into a racial issue.
Elliott doesn't approve of Octavia's son, Reggie (Andre Holland), who was married to his daughter who died.  Reggie is a three time drug felon, so Elliott is not having it and fights for custody.
If you have read my reviews before, you know I am not usually a fan of precocious kids in movies, especially smartass precocious kids.  Jillian Estell was one of those who irritated me.  It might not be all of her fault though.  The script could have treated the kid thing better.
Octavia Spencer shines and Paula Newsome as the judge is great and a high point as she and Rowena get into it in court.
Written and directed by Mike Binder and inspired by true events, this film examines the issue of a wealthy, educated lawyer vs a self-made black woman realtor who is taking care of a large family and asks the question - Do we uproot the child from what she knows (the white neighborhood and the private school) to send her to live with her large extended black side of the family? 
There are some script issues.  I didn't understand how the little girl could have been so bonded with Elliott when it was obvious he didn't do much to take care of her. He didn't know how to get to her school or that Carol had to force her to brush her teeth.
Also there are many didactic statements like this: "This isn't about black and white.  This is about right and wrong." And there is a long speech that Elliott gives in the courtroom about race that defies reality.  What judge would let someone go on and on like that?  But these kinds of movies need these dramatic wrap ups, I guess.

The film is not perfect and could be criticized for not going deep enough into these issues, but despite the clichés and sentimentality that are always inherent in films like this, the film is strangely affecting and I think it's down to Kevin Costner.  This is Kevin's show. The strength in this film lies with Costner's ability to evoke warmth and charisma no matter what role he is playing.  He is handsome yet real, sexy yet tough and always believable, so he appeals to men and women. Kevin is good whether he's playing one of the Hatfields or a drunken lawyer.
And the other performances are good.  There is humor and it is a satisfying film experience.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a sentimental yet effective story made believable by the always great performance of Kevin Costner.

A film that documents Glenn Campbell's farewell tour as he battles Alzheimer's Disease.

Glenn Campbell had 21 Top 40 hits in his singing career.  But before that he was also a respected studio session player and appeared on hundreds of albums.  He could really play that guitar.  But now at 76 he is in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease.  But before he succumbed, he made one final U.S. tour.

The film begins with Campbell and his wife, Kim, watching old home movies.  He doesn't recognize himself, his wives or his children. When being given a memory test by a doctor - what day it is, who the President is, etc. - he makes stuff up to cover his loss of memory and says, "I have no use for [knowing that]."  Sad testaments to the fact that no amount of fame, money or talent can protect you from this devastating disease.

In 2011, right after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, Campbell embarked on a farewell tour.

It's easy to think that his current wife was exploiting him by sending him out on tour to promote his last album, "Ghost on the Canvas." But as the movie progresses, you can see that despite the fact that he can't remember his life or current events, he can remember the music.  He can still play the guitar and sing the words.  At 76 and in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease, Campbell could still sing, remember lyrics (though he had a teleprompter) and play the guitar. The gift of music sustained him.  He was able to exercise that part of his brain that still worked and by activating his musical talent, his overall intellect was improved.

Three of his children are in his band and their talent is evident.  But so is their love and support of their father.  They are upbeat and ready for anything on stage because Glenn is unpredictable and there are some meanderings.  A particularly poignant part of the film is his playing "Dueling Banjos" with his daughter.

Campbell performed 151 concerts but as he declined, meltdowns started to occur onstage so his wife decided to end it all on a high note.  His last show was Nov. 30, 2012.  Concert #151

Campbell now resides in a nursing home.  His music was the last thing to go.

James Keach produced and directed this extraordinary glimpse inside the life of an icon who is slowly losing all memory of himself.  Interviews with other musicians and songwriters - Jimmy Webb, who wrote many of Glenn's biggest songs ("Wichita Lineman," "Galveston"), Kathy Mattea, The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Steve Martin, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley - show the high esteem that Glenn Campbell was held in the music world.

This film will acquaint those too young to remember Campbell in his heyday with this extraordinary talent.  It's an important film.

At the end of the film, Campbell sings the poignant song "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," which he co-wrote with producer Julian Raymond for this film and which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song.  It marked the last time Campbell was in a recording studio. The idea for the song came from a conversation Campbell had with Raymond while on this tour where Campbell was tired of everyone asking him how he felt about his diagnosis. He said to Raymond, "I don't know what everyone's worried about.  It's not like I'm going to miss anyone anyway."

Rosy the Reviewer says...We are certainly going to miss HIM! Stunning but sad and "there but for fortune..."  A must see!


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

255 to go! 

Videodrome (1983)

Max Renn (James Woods) is a sleazy cable TV producer, always looking for the most shocking shows and ultimate TV thrills including real life torture and murder.  When he comes upon "Videodrome," he thinks he has found the next big thing but doesn't realize what he has gotten himself into.

Max sees a pirated version of "Videodrome," a show that is nothing but torture and murder, though he thinks the people in the films are actors.  He seeks it out and meets Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), who likes pain and to get cut, especially during sex.  He also meets Bianca (Sonja Smits) the daughter of Prof. Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) who believes that TV will solve all of the problems of the world.  But after watching "Videodrome," strange things start happening to Max. Turns out that if you watch "Videodrome," you get a brain tumor from the signal. The message being, if you like violence and murder and watch this show, then you deserve what you get thus solving the problems of the world by weeding out the scum of the earth.  Metaphorically speaking, a statement on how TV can ruin your mind.

Talk about the evils of TV!

David Cronenberg wrote and directed this film starring Woods and Deborah Harry, in her first feature film role.  Rick Baker's makeup also stars with an ending that is about as gross as it gets thanks to his amazing make-up effects.

You can count on Cronenberg to be kinky, with lots of nudity, eroticism and violence and in this one, the violence and gore is ratcheted up.  The thing about Cronenberg is that he can make brilliant films like "A History of Violence" and "Dead Ringers," but then he also makes "Naked Lunch" and "Cosmopolis," which to me were unwatchable.  But one thing you can always count on - he will be evocative and provocative.

Why it's a Must See: "A groundbreaking film of the commercial/independent movement of 1980s Hollywood, David Cronenberg's story about the horrible transformations wrought by exposure to televised violence wittily thematizes the very problems that the diretor's exploration of violent sexual imagery in his previous productions had caused with censors, Hollywood distributors, and feminist groups...Even in its edited forms, Videodrome remains one of Hollywood's most unusual films, too shocking and idiosyncratic to be anything but a commercial failure."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Rosy the Reviewer says...Cronenberg at his strangest and grossest best! I guarantee you have never seen anything like this!

***Book of the Week***

Healthy Pasta:  The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food by Joseph Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (2015)

100 pasta recipes that promise to be healthy and under 500 calories!
The book also promises that I will be sexy, skinny and smart if I make these pasta dishes.  I'm there!

The Bastianich's are part of the first family of Italian cookery. Their mother is famed celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich. Joe is a restauranateur, author and former judge on "Masterchef."  Tanya is also a restauranteur, author and produces her mother's cooking show.

The book wants to de-demonize pasta which has come under fire in recent years because of the low-carb/no-carb diet craze.  Here they promise that eating the pasta in this book will be delicious but also beneficial to our health and every recipe is under 500 calories.

Since I love pasta, I'm a believer.

I read cookbooks like I read biographies and other nonfiction.  I love to read the ingredients, the instructions, look at the pictures and eat the food!.  So this one is easy to read with lovely photos.

I book is divided into sections:  Verdure/Vegetables, Olio/Olive Oil/ Pomodoro/Tomato, Carne/Meats, Pesto, Pesce/Fish and Pasta in Modi Diversi/Pasta Done Different Ways.

My mouth is watering as I anticipate Pappardelle with Mushrooms, Penne with Artichokes, Peas and Ham, Linguine with Caramelized Onions, Bacon and Olives, Bucatini with Sausage and Peppers and Farfalle with Tuna, Marinated Artichokes, Olives and Peppers.

Despite the fact they use the occasional splash of heavy cream, the secret to the "healthy" part is using ingredients and cooking methods that maximize taste but minimize fat content.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Now I have to go.  The pasta is ready!

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"How Would I Do on Naked and Afraid?"


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