Friday, October 9, 2015

"The Martian" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Martian" and DVDs "What We Do in the Shadows" and "Every Secret Thing." The Book of the Week is Erica Jong's new novel "Fear of Dying (Yes, believe it or not, I am reviewing a NOVEL this week)!"  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Celebration (and let me tell you it is anything but!)"]

The Martian

During a mission to Mars, a space storm forces U.S. astronauts to abort their mission and leave the planet.  Unfortunately, they leave one of their own behind.

Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is separated from his fellow astronauts during a space storm on Mars and believing him dead, they leave him behind.  Finding himself alone, Mark marshals all of his skills to survive and to find a way to let earth know he is still alive.

Think MacGyver on Mars. 

Mark has some skills.  He knows that even if he survives, he has to wait many months before he can be rescued.  He needs food. He is a botanist so he figures out how to use the human waste left behind to fertilize plants and grow some potatoes.  I know, ew, but the guy's gotta eat.  He rigs up all sorts of contraptions to make his life easier on Mars and eventually is able to communicate with Earth.

If I was to judge this film on the basis of Matt Damon, it would be two thumbs up.  He does a great job with what he has to work with. 

But then there are the other issues.

This is basically a one man tour de force.  Why was it necessary to have such big names as Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean and Kate Mara in this thing when they had so little to do? These are A-List actors whose talents were basically wasted.  And mostly, what the hell was Kristen Wiig doing in this movie?  Duct tape had a bigger part than she did.  When she was seen in the movie, all she did was look concerned and utter a few concerned sounding words.  Speaking of duct tape, I think it should get billing since it played such a major role.

I won't complain about the other stars - Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor - since they at least had major storylines as NASA bigwigs trying to bring Mark home, but in general this was Matt Damon's movie so, in my opinion, anyone could have handled those supporting roles.  The other actors were just window dressing.  One wonders why they agreed to play supporting roles, but it probably helps their acting cred to be in a Ridley Scott film.

As for Matt, it is never easy to be a one man show, but he is an actor who can always be counted on to put in a great performance.  Similar stories come to mind: When I think of films where a man is all alone on a planet, I think of Sam Rockwell in "Moon."  Likewise, Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" comes to mind. Though not alone on a planet, Hanks was alone on an island and had to find a way to get home. Unfortunately, both of those films were one man shows that were much more compelling and dramatic than "The Martian," despite Matt Damon's excellent acting.

Director Ridley Scott notwithstanding, this film would have benefited from about 30 fewer minutes.  It was just too long and boring at times.  It wasn't until the the end that anything much happened.

However, based on the book by Andy Weir, the production values and special effects are first rate, especially in 3-D.  Filmed in the deserts of Jordan, the "Martian landscape" is breathtaking thanks to the cinematography of Dariusz Wolski.  And the science all rings true.  So much so, in fact, that social media has shown that many people think this film was based on a true story!  People, we haven't put a human on Mars yet.

And speaking of science, science geeks will probably love this.  However, I can't help but draw comparisons to "Interstellar," which I also didn't really care for and "Gravity," which I loved.  Ironically the science in "Interstellar" was lauded and the science in "Gravity," was not, so I guess that might say something about me.  But when I am watching a movie, none of that really matters to me.  What matters is the story and the dramatic effect and this film, despite its excellent science, didn't really have any drama until the end.  I mean, at least Tom Hanks in "Cast Away" had that damn soccer ball to talk to. And "Gravity" did win seven Oscars, so it certainly had something going for it.

But again, I enjoyed Matt's performance.  He was really, really good.  He just didn't need all of those other stars cluttering up his space.  Space, get it?

If you do want to see it, and like me, science doesn't necessarily turn you on, see it in 3-D, because the landscapes and special effects were breathtaking at times and seeing it in 3-D will keep you awake.

Rosy the Reviewer nerds will probably love this.  Sadly, I am not one.

Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
***Now Out on DVD***

Modern day vampires - Viago, Deacon and Vladislav - find the routines of everyday life daunting - hilariously so.

With a story similar to Jim Jarmusch's "Only Lovers Left Alive," where Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are also modern day vampires trying to get along in the modern day world, this is a hilarious comic take on that idea.

The film asks the question: What if four vampires from various centuries and cultures shared a flat and a documentary was made about it? What if a bunch of vampires from various eras lived together in a flat and had to take turns cleaning and doing the shopping and had to deal with all of the mundane activities of daily life that we humans have to deal with?

The film starts with Viago waking up all of his flatmates for a flat meeting to make sure everyone is pulling his weight.  It seems Deacon hasn't washed the dishes in years. 

Life is tough for these vampires. How do you get ready for a night out if you have no reflection?  How do you avoid sunlight?  Where is your next meal of blood going to come from?  Why can't they get into nightclubs?

A documentary crew from the non-existent New Zealand Documentary Board has been invited to film them for a "day in the life" as they get ready for "The Unholy Masquerade," a secret society party that meets once per year.  The flat mates want to do this documentary because they feel that vampires in general have gotten a bad rap.

The film crew follows them as they take a bus into town where they have trouble getting into a nightclub. They also run into some werewolves and get into it with them trading insults.  Hilarious.  "Say it, don't spray it, bitch!" This is what the Twilight series might have been like if it had been a comedy.  To some of us those films were comedies, but that's a different review.

Each of the housemates tells his story and how he ended up in New Zealand.

Deacon (Jonny Brugh) was a peasant who used to sell his wares castle to castle until he was abducted by a vampire.  And Deacon says, "And we are still friends today." That's because the vampire who abducted Deacon and turned him into a vampire was Petyr (Ben Fransham) who looks strangely like Nosferatu and who also now shares the flat but spends most of his time in his casket in the wall in the basement.

Deacon also has a "familiar," Jackie (Jackie van Beek), a suburban housewife who does his bidding in hopes that she, too, can become a vampire and thus have eternal life.

Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), is a medieval guy, a bit of a pervert, with some old ideas about things.  "Let's get some slaves."  Think Vlad the Impaler except here he says "I would poke people," so I guess he is Vlad the Poker.

Viago (Taika Waititi) is an 18th century dandy.  "He can be very fussy."  He asks his flat mates to please put down a towel if they are going to kill a victim on the couch.

Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) is a "recent" vampire so we also get to follow what it's like for a newly "born" vampire in the 21st century.  The old vampires don't approve of Nick, especially since his enthusiasm about his new status compels him to tell everyone.  However, they like Nick's friend Stu who is friendly and easy-going.  He's an IT guy so Stu (Stu Rutherford) introduces them all to technology in another hilarious scene where he shows them how to access porn.

Written and directed by Waititi and Clement (Clement was one of the creators and stars of the comedy troupe "Flight of the Conchords"), they take the clichés about vampires and vampire movies and suck the blood out of them.  These vampires are not romantic and eerie.  They are geeky and clueless and just plain hilarious.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you are a fan of The Flight of the Conchords" or of Christopher Guest and his films ("This is Spinal Tap," "A Mighty Wind"), then you will love this movie. And just if you want to laugh out loud, this film is A MUST!  It's one of the funniest movies I have ever seen.

Every Secret Thing (2014)

Two young girls recently out of prison for killing a baby are now under suspicion when another child goes missing.

As little girls, Ronnie and Alice were neighbors and grew up together. They had uneasy childhoods:  Ronnie, because she came from "the wrong side of the tracks," Alice because she was overweight and unpopular and her own mother seemed to prefer Ronnie.  In fact, Alice's mother made Alice include Ronnie in her activities, one of which was a pool party where Ronnie caused a scene and was asked to leave. Because Alice brought Ronnie, Alice was kicked out of the party along with Ronnie, which didn't help their relationship.  Early on, you get the idea that Ronnie is a bit of a "bad seed."

Alice (Danielle MacDonald) and Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) were both convicted of killing a biracial baby when they were 11.   

Now the girls are 18, out of juvenile detention and trying to fit back into the community.  Alice is overweight, obsessed with fame and spends her time walking around town under the pretense of looking for work.  Ronnie is quiet and working at a bagel shop.  Both seem to be lost and blaming the other for what happened.

Then another biracial child goes missing.

Through a series of flashbacks we see the uneasy forced relationship between the girls, Helen's disapproval of Alice ("Sometimes I think you were switched at the hospital") and her approval of the skinnier Ronnie and just what really happened when that first baby went missing when they were 11. 

MacDonald is not a sympathetic character, but are we unsympathetic towards her because she is overweight? I think the filmmaker was commenting on that. Fanning is always good but isn't given much to do here as Ronnie.

Diane Lane plays Helen, Alice's mother, who is a bit of a free spirit and a bit of a lush and a bit of a nut.  Lane is almost unrecognizable here and once again shows herself to be one of our most underrated actresses.

Elizabeth Banks is the detective looking for the missing three-year-old and we discover that she also has a past.  She was the detective who found the dead baby seven years before.  One wonders when Banks will have that break out role that will bring her to the status of a Julia Roberts.  She has played a wide range of roles in the last couple of years: the character part of kooky Effie Trinket in "The Hunger Games" series, a comic role in the romantic comedy "Walk of Shame," and her dramatic role here.  She seems to be able to do anything.

Based on the book by Laura Lippmann with a script by Nicole Holofcener and directed by Amy Berg (her first feature film), this movie is about secrets, lies and jealousy.  Before this film, Berg directed the acclaimed documentary "West of Memphis," which explored some of these same themes, looking at the case of the West Memphis Three, who were wrongly convicted of killing some young boys. 

Though the crime is different, I can't help but draw comparisons between the characters in this film and the young girls in the compelling "Heavenly Creatures."

There seems to be a racial theme running throughout the film, but it doesn't go anywhere and the twist ending is  a bit too pat and melodramatic.  There is a bit of a Lifetime Movie feel to this, but, hey, I like Lifetime Movies.

All in all, a compelling psychological true crime drama.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked "Heavenly Creatures" or enjoy true crime dramas, you will like this film.

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

277 to go!

The Celebration AKA Festen (1998)

It's Helge's (Henning Moritzen) 60th birthday and the family has gathered to honor him.  But he gets an unexpected "present." 
All of Helge's children have come together to celebrate Helge's birthday. Christian (Ulrich Thomsen) is seemingly the most successful child and Helge has asked him to give the toast.  He is a twin and hanging over the celebration is the recent suicide of his twin sister.  When Christian gives the toast, a bombshell is dropped and all hell breaks loose.
Putting people together around a table creates a claustrophobic effect where all kinds of things can happen.  It reminded me of another classic film I reviewed recently, "The Exterminating Angel" where people are forced together in a room and eventually their worst natures come to light.
This film reminds you why family reunions are so scary. And also funny in a black humor sort of way.  There is a Bergmanesque feel to this film.

The acting is sensational as truths are revealed and the family secrets laid bare.

"[This film is the product of]...Dogme95 -- a Danish film manifesto that calls for location shooting, handheld cameras, direct sound, [no music] and an avoidance of special effects...[and uncredited director] Vinterberg's genuinely explosive and powerfully executed...The extreme forms of aggressive behavior that emerge from the onset and Vinterberg's jagged style of cross-cutting disguise the fact that this is basically a very well written, acted, and directed piece of psychodrama rather than the revolutionary experiment it was proclaimed to be..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"
Rosy the Reviewer says...A celebration?  It's anything but!  If you like Bergman, you will like this film.
(In Danish with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Fear of Dying by Erica Jong (2015)

Vanessa Waterman is a woman of a certain age and she is not happy about it.  Her parents are dying, she is about to become a grandmother and her spouse is experiencing the dreaded ED.  Should she try Internet dating or just decide to accept where she is in life?

Though this book is listed as a novel, it's less a novel and more of Jong's own musings about no longer being young and vital. It is a testament to the fact that even uber-feminist/sexual enthusiast Jong is not immune to the plight of all of us Baby Boomers: our parents dying, our becoming grandparents, our fear of dying, our search for meaning and the loss of sexuality in our partners. Her dog is even dying. Getting old sucks and Erica wants us to know that.

Jong's first book, "Fear of Flying" was a book of major importance to this Baby Boomer.  It awakened my feminism (not a dirty word) and my power in this world. It was one of the most important books of my life. Since then, Jong has talked about her journey into midlife in a later book "Fear of 50" and written countless other works of nonfiction, novels and books of poetry, but now she resurrects her heroine and alter ego of yore, Isadora Wing (from "Fear of Flying,") in this latest book which is not so much a novel as her ruminations about getting old and facing her mortality.

Isadora Wing, who we first encountered in "Fear of Flying" and associate with the "zipless f**k" is here as Vanessa's friend. Isadora represents Jong's sexual and feminist alter-ego, but her heroine here, Vanessa, is now her geriatric one who is looking into that great maw called death.  So now Jong's heroine is more interested in relationships, spirituality and what comes next rather than the zipless f**k.

Vanessa is dealing with dying parents, a pregnant daughter (so she is going to be a grandmother), a sexually dysfunctional husband who also has health problems, growing old and facing her own mortality.  She briefly toys with the idea of Internet dating but runs into too many men who either want to put her in a rubber suit or want to be her slave.

There is no real story here unless talking about your parents and dog dying, your husband's ED and wondering about the hereafter and whatever happened to sex is your idea of a novel. It's more like real life for many of us in the "over the hill gang."  Erica/Isadora/Vanessa can hardly believe she is a member of that club and that the aging thing has happened to her.

This is not a groundbreaking book like "Fear of Flying." All of us Baby Boomers seem to be writing about how shocked we are about getting old.  We thought we were going to live forever.  Jong is no exception.  She has always denied that her books were autobiographical, but it's difficult to think that "Vanessa" isn't Jong pontificating about the realities of getting old and what we aging Baby Boomer women have to look forward to and already know.  Getting old sucks.  And Jong can't quite believe she is there.  Welcome to the club, kiddo!

Rosy the Reviewer says...even our feminist idols have to face reality.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Things Husbands Don't Know How To Do"

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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, October 6, 2015

The Joy of Retirement

It has been two years and three months since I said goodbye to my staff, closed the door of my office and left work for the last time.

I retired.

So what has it been like?

It took me about a year to get used to being retired, to not feel guilty for walking away from a job I could keep doing perfectly well, not to mention the money.

But now as I said in my very first blog post, "The Long Goodbye," I appreciate not having a landlord or a boss and the opportunity to do as I please.

What does a typical day look like?

Well, let's see...

6am     Hubby gets up (he's not retired).
           Me?    Zzzzzz  (but I am)

7am     Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

8am     Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

9am    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Wait a minute!  Stop the presses!

Hubby just told me I have written this same sort of blog post before.

Have I learned nothing since that first blog post where I extolled the virtues of retirement because I could sleep in and watch TV with my wine-guzzling poodle?

Looking back on what I was writing about when I first started this blog, over two years ago, I see that there was much trepidation and confusion about what my life would look like in retirement.

In "The Long Goodbye, Pt. 2," written four days before I left work for good, I worried about turning into a "little old lady," wearing pants with elastic waistbands and eschewing make-up for good.  I worried about not having that paycheck anymore and missing out on travel, eating out and expensive theatre tickets.  I worried about the end of my shopping career, but most of all, I worried about purpose and meaning in my life, something that my 40 year career as a librarian availed me.

Well, I am happy to report none of those fears came true.

I still wear make-up (well, not every day but when I go out), and I don't think I look like a little old lady.

As for travel, since I retired, Hubby and I have been to Italy, we have visited the grandsons in California several times and I just went on a six day vacation to Santa Fe and Taos with my daughter.

Eating out and theatre tickets - I am still working my way through Seattle restaurants A-Z and, since I retired, we have seen everyone from Lionel Richie to Cher to Robert Plant ("My Summer in Concerts") and had Meet and Greet tickets to see Tony Boudain (and those weren't cheap!).

And I just happened to run into Andie MacDowell at the Cher concertHow do you like my earrings?  Are those the earrings of an old retired lady?

Shopping?  I still sneak the occasional bag from Nordstrom past Hubby, and I have a personal relationship with the UPS guy.

As for that purpose and meaning thing...

I became a Senior Peer Counselor. This is a volunteer position through our local Senior Services.  I took an eight-session training course and then was assigned a "client."  The clients are seniors who are going through some kind of change or bereavement or event where they need support and someone to talk to.  I just completed six months with an 82-year-old woman who had been moved from her home to an assisted-care facility.  I met with her every week for six months and it was an extremely satisfying and meaningful experience for me.  I like to think I helped her - she said she told me things she had never told anyone - but she also helped me.  By helping her, she helped me to realize that my life still has purpose and meaning, even if I am not bringing home a paycheck anymore.

And I actually thought about becoming a therapist at one time.

Since I retired, Hubby and I have also done all 25 stair walks in Seattle, I have discovered meditation and tarot card reading, am on my local library board and a council that works to advocate for seniors and my Fitbit and I try to get at least 10,000 steps in a day.

I have also discovered the joys of 4pm Happy Hour with Hubby.

But I didn't know all of that would happen back when I first retired.

On the first day of my retirement ("Retirement- Day 1") I related a typical day and lamented that it didn't look like I was going to change the world.

But a week later, I was already learning some things and putting together the bones of this blog ("Retirement: First Week in Review and What I've Learned So Far") defining it as

 "A mostly humorous blog of reviews and pop culture observations from a retired Baby Boomer and movie loving librarian who reviews not just films and books, but fashion, food and fun while navigating her new life of leisure."

Looking at those older blog posts, I also see that I was trying to be all things to all people on every post. I was reviewing 4-5 movies, 2-3 books, restaurants, plays, fashion trends all in one post.  They make me tired just re-reading them!

I now realize I was still trying to figure things out.  I was not only feeling my way through the whole blogger thing but through the whole retirement thing.

What I have discovered since is that I don't have to be all things to all people and I don't have to change the world.

I discovered that retirement afforded me the opportunity to change ME, and to reinvent myself.

Since I retired I have written about "Retirement as a Real Housewife," wondered if dogs ever retire ("Do Dogs Ever Retire?"), talked about my good days and bad days ("Retirement: Good Days and Bad Days") and
 my "new job (Me!)."

But I have also written about the Beatles ("Why the Beatles Matter"), Oprah ("Why Oprah Still Matters"), meditation ("A Little Meditation on Meditation..."), travel (Rosy the Reviewer Does Italy...") television ("Confessions of a TV Addict"), literature ("A Christmas Carol"), fashion ("A Baby Boomer's Fashion Show" and "Librarian Fashion"), food ("Cooking in an Empty Nest") and a wealth of other topics that interest me, many of them involving dogs in costumes ("My Life Story by Mildred Pierce").

I am not above exploiting my dogs for cheap laughs.

After over 2 years and 245 blog posts, I guess I can call myself a writer and a blogger.

Some of my blog posts have even been very popular in France and the Ukraine!

I have discovered that I like to communicate and in so doing, I hope I am imparting some information and insights, giving you something to think about and, at the very least from time to time, amusing you.

I always wanted to be an actress and actually studied to be one.  But I also wanted to write, and after discovering Siskel and Ebert back in the 80's, I thought what better way for someone with a penchant for acting and movies to express herself than as a movie critic?  I thought, what a great job.  But I never hoped that I might aspire to that.

But now, in retirement, here I am reviewing movies.  I am a movie critic of sorts with my Friday reviews that are also published on IMDB
(The International Movie Database - look up a movie you are interested in and find me under "External Reviews" for that film).

And working as a Senior Peer Counselor, I am fulfilling an interest in counseling.

So as I look back on the last two plus years since I retired, many of those fears I had were never realized and, I am no longer defined by what I did for a living:  a librarian. 

And I am no longer feeling guilty, confused and worried. Oh, I will always be a librarian and probably a worrier, too, but now I have discovered that I am a blogger, a movie critic, a pop culture reporter, a meditator, a counselor, a foodie, a tarot card reader and a stair climber in addition to what I always was: a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a librarian, a fashionista, a dog lover and a TV addict.

And that's enough. There is joy in that.

Without someone telling you what to do and without obligations that are not of your making, retirement becomes a time of reflection, adventure and reinvention.  Now is the time to do what you have always wanted to do or to find out what that is.  Become the YOU, you have always wanted to be.  Find your joy, even if it's sleeping late and watching TV with your wine-guzzling poodle.

So this is for all of you out there who might be newly retired or just contemplating it.  If you are newly retired, give yourself a break and don't worry too much.  It might take awhile, but the joy will come.  If you are contemplating retirement and you are scared, be brave.  The joy will come.

Retirement is not for the retiring.  Be brave. 

Retirement is a chance for reinvention, discovery, freedom and joy, and, for me, I can't wait to see what the future brings.  Maybe when next you see me I will be giving tarot card readings as Madame Rosy!


Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday

for my review of the new movie 

"The Martian" 


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

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Pawn Sacrifice" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Pawn Sacrifice" and DVDs "Wild Tales" and "November Man." The Book of the Week is "Reckless: My Life as a Pretender" by rocker Chrissie Hynde.   I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Pandora's Box"]

Pawn Sacrifice

Biopic of the chess phenomenon, Bobby Fischer, whose battle with World Champion Boris Spassky of Russia riveted the nation during the Cold War.

The film starts in true biopic fashion - from the end of the story, during the 1972 chess match between Fischer and World Champion Boris Spassky, and then through a series of flashbacks we are brought back to where the film started.

Bobby Fischer might not be a familiar name to the current generation but back in the 1970's during the Cold War with Russia, he was a rock star - a rock star of chess - and his brilliance brought chess to the mainstream public.  But he was also arrogant, selfish and paranoid.

But no matter how aberrant Fischer's behavior became, he was a brilliant chess master and he was expected to represent the U.S. and beat the Russians in a kind of intellectual war. No one had ever beaten the Russians at chess.  We couldn't bomb the hell out of Russia, as we probably would have wanted to, but, by god, with Fischer, we could kick their butts in chess and prove our intellectual superiority.  Despite the fact that his family and his handlers knew he was losing his grip on life, they kept him going because there was so much riding on his becoming World Champion. He was exploited, much as Amy Winehouse was (see the documentary "Amy," one of the best films of the year) - she was clearly unfit to continue to tour and perform but too many people were making money off of her success. 

Eventually, it became apparent from Fischer's strange behavior that he was going off the rails.  In fact he was a total loon.  He hated Communists and Jews, despite the fact that he was Jewish, and he believed in all kinds of conspiracy theories.  He thought the Russians were bugging his phones and rooms.  There is a funny counterpoint scene to that in the film where Spassky comments on his phones and rooms being bugged.  Except in his case, they probably were!

Did chess and the pressure to beat the Russians make Fischer crazy?  Was it his mental illness that led to his solitary focus on the chess game? Does genius inspire madness? Or did his being raised by a single Communist mother with her own paranoia about the government contribute to Fischer's mental illness?  Unfortunately, though the film alludes to the chess game's ability to make anyone crazy (there is a scene where Spassky appears to have his own issues), the film also alludes to Fischer's lonely childhood without a father and his turning to chess to escape as a possible reason for his mental illness.  However, the film doesn't really answer those questions.
The title is chess lingo but it is also a metaphor for Fischer being used as a pawn and exploited to beat the Russians and give glory to the old U.S.of A. when in fact he should have been treated for his mental illness. 

Who knew chess matches could be so dramatic and exciting?  Directed by Edward Zwick with a script by Stephen Knight, the chess matches for the 1972 World Championship are the dramatic highlights of the film, but of course, a character doesn't get much more dramatic than Bobby Fischer himself.  Game Six with Spassky is a nail biter and is still considered the greatest chess match of all time.

Toby Maguire plays Fischer brilliantly.  There is no trace of Spider-Man here. There was a rumor that during the making of the film, Maguire was so into his character that he was a total jerk to everyone.  Not sure about that but he seemed to be channeling something here. 

Liev Schreiber as Spassky says hardly a word in English but is a riveting presence, especially during the chess scenes.  Michael Stuhlberg is the celebrity lawyer, Paul Marshall, who considered himself an American patriot and saw the opportunity Fischer presented to represent the U.S. and who kept exploiting him until it was too late. Peter Sarsgaard plays Father Bill Lombardy, who was his coach and supposedly the only one who ever beat Fischer in his younger years who travels with him during his tournaments as his "second," but his relationship to Fischer is not really explained.  But all of the acting is first rate, though I could have done without the scenes with the kindly hooker.  It was an unneeded distraction.

The film ends with another biopic cliché:  what happened to Fischer in real life after his World Championship win and it wasn't pretty.  It's not a spoiler to say he never recovered from his mental illness, continuing to be anti-Semitic and anti-American as he lived his life out in Iceland, the only country that would give him asylum after he defied a United Nations Resolution against dealing with Yugoslavia by playing Spassky again there.  He died in Iceland at the age of 64.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sad tale of genius gone awry and a wonderful, moving film, despite the fact that Fischer is so hard to love.

Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
***Available on DVD***

Wild Tales  (2014)
Six black comedy vignettes in an anthology of revenge.

Vignette #1 - "Pasternak:"  Everyone on a plane discover they were all invited on this plane ride by the same person - a person they had all done wrong.

Vignette #2 - "The Rats:" A waitress recognizes a customer as a gangster who had something to do with her father's death.  She and her co-worker discuss the pros and cons of putting rat poison in his food.

Vignette #3 - "The Strongest One:" A guy in an expensive Audi is driving on a lonely country road and encounters a slow-moving truck in the left lane.  The truck eventually gets over but as the yuppie drives by he calls the red neck truck driver an asshole.  A few miles later, the expensive car gets a flat tire and just as our guy gets out to fix it, guess who comes along? Uh-oh.

Vignette #4 - "Bombita (Little Bomb):" A guy leaves work to pick up a birthday cake for his daughter's birthday party.  While picking up the cake his car is towed which makes him very angry especially since he missed his daughter's birthday party.  When he goes to retrieve his car, a series of Kafka-esque events occur that end up ruining his life.  Think of spending the rest of your life at the DMV.

Vignette #5 - "The Proposal:" The son of a rich family is involved in a hit and run where a pregnant woman and her baby are killed. They try to get their gardener to take the fall for the son for 500K and then try to bribe the prosecutor.  Things go from bad to worse.

Vignette #6 - "Til Death Do Us Part:" At the wedding reception, a bride starts wondering who some of the people are. She realizes her new husband has invited some old girlfriends and during their first dance, she accuses him of sleeping with one of them. Let the wedding from hell commence.

Written and directed by Damian Szifron, all of the stories are tied together by people frustrated by a sense of unfairness and inequality when things fall apart and how they react.  It seems it is our nature to resort to revenge and out-of-control behavior.

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (Argentina) in 2014, this film is a master of color and atmosphere thanks to cinematographer Javier Julia, the actors are all wonderful, and despite the dark themes, this film is hilarious.  Think Almodavar meets Quentin TarantinoAnd it's no surprise since the Almodavar brothers co-produced.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Almodavar or you like black comedies, you will love this film.
(In Spanish with English subtitles)

November Man (2014)

An ex-CIA agent, Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan), who left service because of a botched operation in 2008, is brought back into service to find another agent and bring her in.  She has some information that scares even her.

Five years after a botched mission to protect an Ambassador in Montenegro,  ex-CIA agent Peter Devereaux is now retired and running a café in Lausanne, Switzerland.  He retired from the CIA after his protege, Mason (Luke Bracey), disobeyed Devereaux's order and a child was killed during an operation.

Now Devereaux is approached by his old boss, Jake Hanley (Bill Smitrovich), who convinces him to come back to extract Natalia Ulanova (Mediha Musliovic), who is working undercover as an aide to a Russian Presidential candidate, Arkady Federov (Lazar Ristovski).  She has uncovered some information about the Presidential candidate that can ruin him.  Unfortunately the Russians figure out where her loyalties lie and just as Devereaux is rescuing her, she is killed by our own CIA.  She was no longer valuable to them because the Russians had "made" her.  Before she dies, she leaves Devereax with only a name:  Mira Filipova. 

Now Devereaux's ex-team led by his ex-protégé, Mason, wants him killed because they think he will come after them for killing Natalia.  It's a cat and mouse game between mentor and student.  Both sides want Devereaux dead while both Devereaux and a Russian assassin are looking for Mira because Mira knows something that can damage Federov. The last person to see Mira is a social worker named Alice (Olga Kurylenko) who it turns out has a dark past.


It is easy to be confused by these spy thrillers, because the plots are usually so complicated and convoluted. I often question my intelligence when I am watching these things because I never seem to know what's going on.  But here, the plot is actually easier to follow than most, though it has its "huh?" moments. I figured out the twist but still enjoyed the film.

Based on the 1987 novel "There Are No Spies" by Bill Granger, the 7th installment in his "November Man" series, and directed by Roger Donaldson, this is all very old school "Mission Impossible," the TV show, not the movies. Not much in the way of special effects, just a good old spy thriller that also seems to be an indictment of the U.S. government and how our CIA seems to back bad guys and get us into wars.  We do "bad" to "do good."

Pierce is always good, especially with the snappy dialogue.  He is also aging exceptionally well and he's still got "it." This movie makes it on the strength of his performance. I couldn't help but wish he was still James Bond.

Rosy the Reviewer says...just a really good and satisfying spy thriller.

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

278 to go! 

My faithful followers may note that the cover of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book looks different. You are so right!  And if you have been following my journey on this project, you will note a discrepancy from last week in the number of movies I have to watch to attain the "1001."  Last week it was 291 and now it's 278!

Wouldn't you know that since I started this project, they have now come out with a NEW edition!

However, after painstakingly going through this new edition, my new goal is 278!  It must be all of those "new" movies I have seen since the earlier edition.

Since this is a new edition but the number to attain is still 1001, I am assuming there are some new movies included and some others (THAT I HAVE PROBABLY ALREADY SEEN AND NOW WON'T COUNT) left out.  But nevertheless, I have seen some great movies I otherwise might never have seen.

So, with my new revised number, let's get on with it!

Pandora's Box (1929)

The classic tale of a sexually inclined woman being the source of all the evil men do.  Moral:  Women, don't be sexually inclined or something bad is going to happen to you.
Lulu (Louise Brooks) is a chorus girl and bon vivant.  She is also the mistress of newspaper publisher, Ludwig Schon (Fritz Kortner), but he doesn't consider her marriage material.  When he tells her he is marrying someone else, Lulu sets him up backstage at one of her performances and his fiancé discovers them in a compromising position.  His fiancé breaks off the engagement and Schon marries Lulu, even though he says it "will be the death of me."  Which it is.  In an argument, Schon points a gun at Lulu and in the struggle it goes off and he is killed.  But Lulu is arrested for his murder and goes on the run with his son Alwa (Francis Lederer), who has always lusted after her, along with her ex-lover and old gnome Schigolch (Carl Goetz) and her lesbian admirer, Countess Geschwitz (Alice Roberts).  They all end up on an illegal gambling ship where Lulu is almost sold into slavery. After Alwa is caught cheating at gambling they make their escape and finally end up in a garret where Lulu is stalked by a modern day Jack the Ripper. Things don't end well for our Lulu. Girls like Lulu always had to get their come-uppance.
This movie brought fame to Louise Brooks, an American actress who German director Pabst fought to have in this film. She made 17 silent films but never really got very far once sound came along.  She is remembered in pop culture for her Lulu character and her bobbed haircut which was embraced by women in the 1920's.  My own mother was no exception.  Even today, this haircut is known as "The Louise Brooks" or "The Lulu."
Louise Brooks                                                                 My Mother

"[Director G.W] Pabst surrounds Brooks with startling secondary characters and dizzying settings, but it is the actress's vibrant, erotic, scary, and heartbreaking personality that resonates with modern audiences...and her acting style is strikingly unmannered for the silent era."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...Modern audiences may no longer have the patience for silent films but they can be surprising and this one is worth a look if only for Brooks' remarkable presence.
(Silent with German and English subtitles) 

***Book of the Week***

Reckless: My Life as a Pretender by Chrissie Hynde (2015) 

Rocker Hynde, of the rock group "The Pretenders," tells her story.

In a no-holds-barred, spare prose style, Hynde shares her growing up years in 1950's and 60's Dayton, Ohio, where her parents were decidedly middle class and not ready for a daughter who didn't care for school and just wanted to listen to music and smoke pot.  Despite her lack of academic credentials, she made her way to Kent State and was there on that infamous day when several students were gunned down (one of whom was her girlfriend's boyfriend) during an anti-war protest.  Still rootless, she eventually made her way to London and eventually started her own band - "The Pretenders."

Her book almost reminded me of "Zelig."  She was at Kent State when students were gunned down, she rubbed elbows with rock royalty, wrote for the music paper NME, even though by her own admission she couldn't write, worked for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren in their early days in their shop "Craft Must Have Clothes but Truth Loves to Go Naked," later named "Sex," hung out with the Sex Pistols and was there when the whole Sid Vicious/Nancy Spungen thing went down and yet, by her own admission, never had anything more going for herself than the ability to hang with these people, play the guitar, shoot her mouth off and do drugs.  But as things do, they came together for her and the rest is rock history.

She lived life as if she was a man and I don't mean that in a sexist way. She was just really ballsy.  Back in those days, there were not many women who lived rough like she did and who took life as it came.  I had a similar upbringing to Hynde and wished I could have just chucked it all and moved to England, but I wouldn't have dared.  But she did it.  And she just lucked out and happened to be in the right place at the right time and knew the right people.  Oh, and right.  She also had immense talent.

She also sings one of my all-time favorite songs, "Back on the Chain Gang," which helped me get through a bad divorce. 

This is not a sentimental memoir. Not much emotion.  It's self-deprecating, tough and there's no rationalizing here. It's much like Hynde's music: rough and real.

You might be disappointed if you know that she had a child with Ray Davies of The Kinks as she barely mentions him.  Nor does she talk about her marriages or even that much about herself once she had success with The Pretenders, though it's apparent she was devastated by the deaths of two of her bandmates (half of her band within a four year time period).  It's all about us Baby Boomers.  Some of us went straight; and some of us became rock stars.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a real rock & roll memoir by a real rock & roll woman.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"The Joy of Retirement"


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