Friday, May 20, 2016

"Special Correspondents" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Ricky Gervais Netflix exclusive comedy "Special Correspondents" as well as DVDs "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" and Michael Moore's latest documentary "Where to Invade Next."  The Book of the Week is "Grilled Cheese Kitchen."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Blue Kite."]




Special Correspondents


Suave and slightly unethical radio news reporter, Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) and his sound engineer, Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) are supposed to go to Ecuador to cover a war there, but unforeseen circumstances lead them to pretend to be reporting on the war in Ecuador while across the street from the station upstairs over a restaurant.

Frank Bonneville is a radio newsman in New York who doesn't exactly play by the rules.  He has a big ego, is super slick, a womanizer and a bit shady about how he gets his stories, which is kind of funny right there because who is doing radio journalism anymore? How can you really get a big ego from doing that? Anyway, his boss has it out for him because he embellishes his stories and says if he screws up one more time, he's out. 

Ian Finch is a mousy sound engineer who is conscientious and married to Eleanor (Vera Farmiga).  Eleanor isn't that happy with Ian (she thinks he's a loser because he plays video games and collects action heroes - actually he kind of is), and when she meets Frank at a radio station event, she fails to tell him she is married and they hop into bed together.

Meanwhile, a war has broken out in Ecuador, (Ecuador?  A war?  Really?) and Frank is given the assignment and told to take Ian with him.  Frank is also told by his boss to not screw up.  But Ian inadvertently throws the tickets and passports into a garbage truck (long story) and the two must figure out what to do.  Since the war would probably be over by the time they were able to get new passports and this would constitute screwing up, thus losing Frank his job, they concoct a plan. They will stay in New York and PRETEND to be in Ecuador reporting on the war.  And how will they do that?

Welcome to the mind of Ricky Gervais who directed and stars in this remake of a French film that he adapted.

Ian has befriended a South American couple, Domingo and Brigida (Raul Castillo and America Ferrera) who own the restaurant across the street from the radio station.  Ian shares their idea with them and they offer Frank and Ian a room above their restaurant.  Ian sets up his equipment complete with jungle sounds and Domingo and Brigida provide Spanish language crowd noises to create an Ecuadorian atmosphere.  Ian and Frank actually pull this off.  Ian isn't a loser after all.  He is able to create a war-torn Ecuador in an apartment above a restaurant across from the radio station.

But then Frank decides to take it all to another level.  As he sends in his reports they get more and more colorful.  He creates a false story.  He invents a "man" who is working for the government who is funding the war. That story is picked up not only by the other news agencies but by the State Department.  The fake story goes viral and as the story is passed around it becomes bigger and bigger news.  Now Frank's boss tells him they needs to report to the Embassy in Quito.  Because they can't do that - they are in an apartment over a restaurant across the street from the station- they go even further and say they have been taken hostage.  If they are hostages, they can't very well report to the U.S. Embassy in Quito, right?

Ian's wife, Eleanor, who always wanted something more for herself finally gets the chance she has been waiting for.  She goes on TV to beg for Ian's release.  She has written a song about donating a dollar for the hostages and money comes flying into her.  So now she is not only famous as a wife of a hostage, she is rich.  When Frank sees her, he realizes she is Ian's wife. Uh-oh.

As they get themselves in deeper and deeper, they realize they somehow have to get to Ecuador if they are going to pull this off.  They hop a boat and guess what?  As soon as they arrive in Ecuador, they are taken hostage - FOR REAL!

Ricky Gervais is a comedian and for some an acquired taste.  His comedy is edgy and often "out there." He made his name writing and starring in the original version of "The Office" in the UK and creating the character of David Brent.  He went on to write and star in the HBO series "Extras,"and "Life's Too Short" and "Derek" on Netflix, but most Americans probably know him for his hosting of the Golden Globes, where he is known to be quite outrageous and totally doesn't care who he offends.  I think he is hilarious because his humor is fearless.  He fears nothing and no one.  But when you are that kind of comedian, your humor can sometimes be hit and miss.  That's what this film is like.  The concept is funny.  Many of the situations and scenes are funny...and some aren't.

However, Gervais is also attuned to the politics and culture of the day and this film is a bit of a commentary on the media and how easy it is to put untrue stories out there and have us all believe it.  I just wish the film had been funnier.

But the revelations here are Eric Bana and Vera Farmiga. We knew Ricky Gervais was funny, but Eric Bana? We are used to him in serious roles. Vera Farmiga? We are used to her in more sensitive roles.  Ricky actually plays straight to Eric in many scenes and Vera is just downright hilarious as the morally corrupt Eleanor.

This film was a Netflix exclusive and was available for streaming April 29th. More and more, we will be seeing films released exclusively on Netflix, Amazon, HBO and others, and the actors will be out there on talk shows hyping the films just as if they were going to be released in the theaters, except they are actually released directly into our living rooms..  And this film is one of those.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's a silly little romp with great performances by Gervais, Bana and Farmiga, and you can watch it right from the comfort of your own living room.!



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

Now Out on DVD







Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2016)


It's been 30 years since the defeat of the evil Galactic Empire but as these things go, there is another evil force at work:  The New Order.  And now we have to start all over again to get rid of these new guys.

You might have been wondering when I was going to get around to this one. 

Well, since this broke box office records, you probably didn't miss it when it first came out in the theatres like I did. By now my review is a bit anticlimactic, I know.  I tried to go when it first came out, waiting for what I thought was an appropriate amount of time so that the crowds would have dissappated and attending at an unfashionable time like Tuesday afternoon at 2pm.  But no, it was sold out.  So it just wasn't in my cards to see this in the theatre, but I wish I had because I am hoping it was better there.

And it's probably futile to even review it at this point.  If you are a big Star Wars fan, you have most likely already seen it, and if not, then nothing I am going to say will probably influence you.

First, you know how I feel about sequels.  But since the entire "Star Wars" franchise is made up of sequels, I can't really criticize it for that, except to say, the main problem with these movies that go on and on and on and try to keep a story going is that if they take years to make and get released, the audience forgets what happened in the last one.  That was a main criticism of mine with the last "Hunger Games" installment. 

If you are like me, here is what I would recommend:  Before seeing this film, watch all six that preceded it and then see this one.  I think that's the only way it will make sense.  I didn't really know what was going on half the time.  If a sequel is not going to stand alone in its storyline, then some effort needs to be made to bring us all up to date.  They didn't.

However, this latest (and no doubt not the last) installment in the "Star Wars" story does give homage to the original.

Luke Skywalker is the last of the Jedis and is almost mythical.  The New Order is the name of the bad guys, but they still look just like the Storm Troopers of old.  Oscar Isaac is the leader of The Resistance and everyone is trying to find Luke. The star is newcomer Daisy Ridley as Rey and she does a good job as the spunky female lead.

I don't think there is any need for me to go into the plot in detail. If you are a Star Wars fan you already know it.  And it's similar to everything that has gone on before so instead of that, I will just list what I liked and what I didn't.

Pros
  • Homage to the original with original cast and characters showing up
  • Space ship chases
  • Stars some hot actors of the moment (Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson)
  • A female lead - you go, girl!

Cons
  • It's been so long since the last "Star Wars," does anyone really care?  Yes, I know everyone stormed the box office, but now that you have seen it, was it worth it?
  • The technology seemed dated
  • Can't remember what happened in the last ones so confused most of the time
  • Sequels never replicate the magic of the originals

Here's a question that nags me: Apartment buildings and companies have cameras everywhere that record people coming and going, but characters seem to be able to wander around long corridors in spaceships and no one knows they are there.  Why is that? Just wondering.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, it's fun to see the aging stars from the original, and I am sure this isn't the end of it all.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love "Star Wars," you probably don't care what I think, but if you enjoy these but it's been awhile, I recommend either doing some homework ahead of time or binge watch all six previous episodes so you will know what the hell is going on because they don't really give you much from the past movies.  I still don't remember where Kylo Ren came from.






Where to Invade Next (2015)


Filmmaker Michael Moore, one of our very best documentarians, "invades" other countries to see what the United States can learn from them.

Since, according to Moore, the United States has not won a war outright since WW II, maybe we should stop making war and start "invading" in others ways, by learning from other countries what they are doing to solve some of their socioeconomic problems.  Moore decided that he would "invade countries to bring back what we need," something no army can do.

First stop - Italy.

Moore interviewed Italians from different walks of life and asked them about their vacations. They get six weeks of paid vacation per year plus 12 National holidays, and everyone gets an additional month's salary in December, as if there is a 13th month, because, well, December is expensive, and as they say in Italy, "What good is a vacation if you can't afford it?  If they are married, the Italians get 15 paid days for their honeymoons and if pregnant, five months of maternity leave.  And let's not forget those two hour lunches! 

Moore also interviewed the owners of Ducati and asked:  "Do you mind paying your employees for this much time off?"  No, because vacations relieve stress and no one is ever sick. And they acknowledge that they still make plenty of money.

When Moore shared with the Italian people he interviewed how little paid vacation Americans get, they couldn't believe it.

Oh, and the Italians live four years longer than us Americans.

France.

Moore traveled to a small village in Normandy where the school cafeteria serves four course lunches that could be found in a four star restaurant.  The city and school officials all go over the school menu with a dietician.  The kids are served the food while they sit at a table, they all eat family style and are taught good eating habits.  There is even a cheese course! When shown pictures of our school lunches, there was shock and dismay...from the kids!

Most countries in Europe have free health care and practically free child care and Moore wondered how they could do that.  We think it's because they pay way more taxes than we do, but he shows that the French only pay a bit more in taxes than we do but they GET much more and they get an itemized statement that shows them exactly where their taxes are going. What we don't realize is that by the time we pay college tuition, child care expenses and other fees we don't classify as taxes (and that are mostly free in European countries), we are actually "taxed" much more highly than the Europeans.

Finland.

Finnish children are the best educated kids in the world.  We rank #29.  How did they do it? 

No homework and short school days. 

They believe that the brain needs to relax. They also do not use multiple choice exams or teach kids to pass standardized tests.  Moore interviewed a Finnish teen who had been an exchange student in the U.S. and the kid said that in America he didn't really learn much.  He only learned how to pass those standardized tests. There are also no private schools in Finland.  In fact, it's against the law to charge money for education so rich kids don't get a better education than the poorer students.

Slovenia.

Their college students have no debt.  A college education is free - and it's free for Americans, too, if you want to move to Slovenia (not to be confused with Slovakia).

Germany.

If a doctor says you are stressed, your company sends you to a spa for three weeks.  It's also against the law to contact an employee when he or she is on vacation or to send a business related email to an employee at home.

Portugal.

They stopped the war on drugs and now have no drug problem.

Norway.

Prisoners are treated humanely with nice rooms and amenities.  The Norwegians believe it is punishment enough to take away someone's freedom. "No cruel and unusual treatment," an American idea.

We have the highest recidivism rate - 80%.  Norway only 20%.

Iceland.

In 1975 the women of Iceland went on strike to secure equality.  Iceland was the first to elect a woman president and other countries have gone on to do so, but not us. 

So those were some of the ideas Moore got from other countries. 

But lest you think Michael Moore in un-American for extolling the virtues of other countries (and he does get a bad rap for his movies), he actually reminds us that many of the ideas that these other countries embraced were American ideas.  Norway wants "no cruel or unusual punishment" for its inmates.  An American idea.  Women as equals?  Remember the ERA? Benefits for workers?  Remember unions? Those countries got their ideas from us.  We have just lost our way a bit.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a brilliant, thought-provoking (and fun) film.  I loved it so much that I cried.  I can't believe it was not nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.




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


252 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





The Blue Kite (1993)


The story of Tietou and his family in China from 1953 through the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath.

The film starts in Beijing in 1953 with the marriage of Shujuan and Shaolong.  They are happily married and loyal Communist Party members when their son Tietou is born.  Shaolong is a librarian and Shujuan is a school teacher, but soon, Shaolong is branded a reactionary in a sad and shocking scene.  At a library meeting he goes to the toilet and when he returns he finds that he has been banned for some seemingly innocent criticism.  So what does that tell you? Don't go to the toilet during a meeting!  He is sent to a labor camp and this changes everything for the family.

Over the next 15 years Tietou is witness to the effects of party policy on various members of his family as people report each other for the smallest infractions. and only the blue kite, given to him by his father, stands as a symbol of hope and freedom.

Why it's a Must See: [This film] offers a sublime and often subtle look at how history and politics disrupt ordinary lives...One comes away from this film with a profound sense of how individuals strive to maintain a sense of ethics within a changing society that periodically confounds those ethics or makes them irrelevant."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This film was banned in China and the director, Zhuangzhuang Tian, was placed under close scrutiny for making this film "without permission."  These repressive dictatorship and communist regime movies get me every time.  I still haven't gotten over "Dr. Zhivago."

Rosy the Reviewer says...get ready to be depressed.  I can't even imagine how awful it would be to live under such a repressive regime, but a reminder to be grateful for our freedoms.
(In Chinese with English subtitles)



***The Book of the Week***




Grilled Cheese Kitchen: Bread + Cheese + Everything in Between by Heidi Gibson (2016)


Who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches?  This book has the best grilled cheese and mac and cheese recipes on the planet!

I know, I need grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese like I need a hole in the head, but sometimes you just have to give in to your cravings for the comfort food of your childhood.  And when you do, this book delivers.

I have tried practically every mac and cheese recipe that has come my way, but this book has THE BEST!  Of course, it's good.  It uses over a pound of cheese!  But if you are going to eat mac and cheese, might as well not skimp.  As Julia Child used to say, and I am paraphrasing, "Yes, I eat cream and fat but not every day."  So when you want mac and cheese go for it - just not every day.

Likewise with grilled cheese sandwiches.  The recipes in this book are inspired.  I want to try them all (but no, Julia, not every day).

Here are some highlights:

  • Breakfast Grilled Cheese (a lovely fried egg squished in between two slices of grilled bread and cheese)
  • Mushroom-Gruyere Grilled Cheese
  • Indian Leftovers Grilled Cheese
  • Gruyere, Garlic and White Wine Mac
  • Crab Mac
  • Bacon and Jalapeno Mac
  • And the piece de resistance?  Mac 'n' Cheese Grilled Cheese!

However, here is a little tip about grilled cheese that is not in the book:  try baking your grilled cheese sandwiches. Set the oven for 425 degrees and place a cookie sheet in the oven while it's heating up.  Prepare your sandwich as per usual buttering both sides of the bread and places the slices butter side down on the baking pan.  Bake one side for about 6-8 minutes depending on your oven and how much browning you like on your sandwich.  Flip it over and bake for about five more minutes.  Mmm.  Delicious and crispy and so easy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...sometimes it's OK to splurge on what you really crave.  If you don't feed those cravings from time to time, you will end up eating far more calories trying to compensate.  Trust me, I know!









That's it for this week!


Thanks for reading!

  
See you Tuesday for

  
"How To Stay Married Forever"




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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


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Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.
NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." 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, May 17, 2016

Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder

Yes, I said clothes hoarder, not the proverbial clothes horse.

I have decided that I am not just someone who likes clothes, I am, indeed, a hoarder.

Oh, not the kind of hoarder where my house is piled high with boxes and dead cats are found under old newspapers. In fact, I have a very tidy home with pristine kitchen counters and uncluttered surfaces.  Well, mostly uncluttered.  I go for the cottage look so that does require a few tchockes to decorate the place.

No, my hoarding is in one area:  clothes and other adornments, also known as accessories.



I know I am a hoarder and not just a clotheshorse, because for some reason, I want to own the thing, have it waiting for me in my closet, but not necessarily wear it. Well, not right away, anyway.

It started early.  Not that my family had the money to allow me to hoard clothes, but when I did get something new, I would not wear it right away.  I would save it for some special but undefined occasion. Just having it hanging in my closet waiting for me gave me a great deal of pleasure. When I met Hubby I was stunned to see him buy something new and immediately put it on and wear it. Why didn't he save it for a special occasion?

No, it's more about the HAVING the item than actually wearing it. My closets are shrines to clothing with the tags still on waiting for just the right moment to wear them!

We might not be aware of it, but clothes represent who we are to the world.  If we only wear sweatshirts and sweatpants, that says one thing about us.  It could say we like to be comfortable and don't really care what people think.  If we are always all buttoned up, it could say we are inhibited or shy.  If we always wear bright colored sexy clothes, we are probably saying, "Hey, look at me!" 

In my case, I haven't really settled down into one style. I think that clothing represents how I want to be, how I see myself at any particular time.  When I see an outfit, I picture it as something that will change my life and I must acquire it. If I put it on, I feel it will somehow transform me.  I am always looking for that perfect outfit.  It's kind of like my dad who played the trumpet.  He kept buying new trumpets hoping one of them would allow him to hit the high notes like Doc Severinsen.



The problem is that perfect outfit keeps changing depending on what is going on in my life, the styles of the day and the size of my body. Maybe that explains why I am such a hoarder. You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince and in this case, I have to hoard a lot of clothes to have the right thing when I need it.  Plus, I enjoy the hunt.  However, I realize it's one thing to enjoy shopping, but when you find yourself with almost 100 jackets, hundreds of scarves and earrings, 25 pairs of boots, 100 pairs of shoes (or more but don't tell Hubby), coats up the wazoo, you know you have a problem.

I was lying in bed the other night thinking about this and realizing that there are not enough days left in my life to wear all of the clothes that I now own, especially when you take into consideration mixing and matching and what you can do with accessories.  And though we go out, I don't think there are enough events either that will require them.  I no longer go to work every day because I am retired.  The closest thing to a job I have nowadays is going to the gym so most days you will find me in what is now euphemistically called "active wear."


So I don't really need the sequined sweater that says "Librarians Do It Better" or the pencil skirt with the six-inch slit up the back.  I know I not only need to stop buying, I need to start getting rid of clothes. But even knowing that, there are things I just cannot resist:  anything with fringe, faux fur, velvet, leather and suede and anything sparkly.  You can see that there is a great deal of room for abuse there.

But clothing is a way to express myself.  And if you read my blog, you know I love to do that. But most of us express ourselves through how we dress whether we know it or not.  We use clothing to express our creativity and to put themselves out to the world as a particular person.  If you see someone in tight pants, tight jacket and big glasses, you know he's a hipster.  If you see someone in bell bottoms, a headband and clogs, you know she is a hippie.  If you see someone in a bright colored dress with matching coat, hat, shoes and handbag, you know it's The Queen.



But me?  Us hoarders can't decide.  We want to be all kinds of different people.  One day I might want to be sporty and wear a cute hoody and another day dramatic in a black slinky maxi dress.  Or I might want to look like a 40's glamour queen or a rocker.  I go through these different phases, if you will.  And to make sure I can fulfill the desired look, I must have the requisite clothes hanging in my closet ready for whatever sartorial whim takes my fancy, right?

I think that's the only way I can explain some of these...uh, looks, and why I still have some of this stuff.  As Tim Gunn would say, "That's a lot of look!"

 


80's Rock & Roller.









Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach?"







I think I was going for a rockabilly look here.

 








Faux fur look. 

This is my "pinto pony" look. Or does it look more like skunk? I can't resist faux fur of any kind.  I have about 20 fake fur coats and jackets and it doesn't even get that cold here.


 




My "I love all things UK look."

I can't resist anything with the Union Jack on it even if a woman in her 60's wearing PLAIN Doc Martens would look ridiculous.




"Game of Thrones" got into my head a little here for this look.

I got this from one of those "goddess/witchy/sexy costumes for your husband" catalogs that also sells vibrators.  It even has a little hood with a tassel on the end. It's one thing if I had gotten it to tease Hubby but I've never worn it! 







This is a "Look at me!" look.  Look at me, I'm wearing wooden shoes!

If I could have taken those wooden shoes home from Amsterdam I would have.  I loved Hans Brinker.









And then there's this.  It's a gorgeous dress, but where will I wear it?





See?  It's a disease.

It doesn't help that one of my favorite ways to get exercise is to walk the mall. It's like an alcoholic being hired as the night watchman in a bar.  I walk the mall and if I see something that is 65% off I can't help myself.  Hell, even if it's not on sale and it's a faux fur coat with the Union Jack on the back or a fringed bathing suit, I have to have it.

Earlier today, I just strolled through Ross and bought a couple of muumuus.  Muumuus?  What have I become? But I imagined myself floating around the house like an ethereal hippie with my hippie name, "Violet Skye" that I got from a Facebook quiz.  Anyway, back to the muumuus.  Even though there were selling points I find hard to resist (they were only $9.98 each and "one size fits all!"), but muumuus?  How far have I fallen?  Have I hit my bottom?



So now I realize I am at an all-time low and that's why I an confessing.

So you get the picture.  There is a fine line between a fashionista who uses clothes as a way to express herself and a hoarder where the clothes use her.

So now I need to go back to that book I reviewed a few weeks ago (and made fun of) -"Spark Joy" - by that trendy Japanese de-clutter guru and get some tips.  I saw the author on "Ellen" and she demonstrated how we are supposed to decide what to keep and what to toss.  First of all, you are supposed to put all of your clothes in a big pile. Then, take one item at a time and hold it up to your body, close your eyes and see if it "sparks joy."  If it does, keep it.  If it doesn't, toss it.

Can you imagine how long that would take me and how hard that would be? I have a feeling every item would "spark joy," because I never know when I might need those zebra booties or that "witch jacket."

I know what I have to do, but as Scarlett O'Hara famously said in "Gone With the Wind," "I'll think about it tomorrow."

Right now, just thinking about de-hoarding has given me an anxiety attack and with all of this confessing I have done, I had to soothe my nerves with a little Ben and Jerry's which in turn made me think I should probably get some exercise at the mall.

Pray for me.
 
Thanks for Reading! 
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of the new Netflix original movie 


"Special Correspondents"
 
and

 The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)



 and the latest on
 
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before



 I Die Project."


 
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Friday, May 13, 2016

"Keanu" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new comedy "Keanu" as well as DVDs "The 5th Wave" and "Jane Got a Gun."  The Book of the Week is Toni Tennille's memoir - (remember The Captain and Tennille?)  And I bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Force of Evil."]


Keanu


Cousins Rell (Jordan Peele) and Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) pose as drug dealers to get Rell's stolen kitty, Keanu, back.

FINALLY a comedy that is actually funny.  And it doesn't hurt that it stars the most adorable kitten in the world.

The plot is not that original, it's a buddy fish-out-of-water mistaken identity  kind of thing, but the characterizations by and chemistry between Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key make this film a success and very, very funny.

Peele and Key first made their comic marks on Mad TV back in the 90's where they created some hilarious recurring characters (who can forget Key's "Coach Hines" or Peele's Noodles, the abusive Krump dancer?) Their recent critically acclaimed sketch show - "Key and Peele" - played on Comedy Central, and this is their first film together. I am anxious to see what they will do next.

Key plays Clarence, a nerdy straight-as-an arrow middle class guy who is married, works for companies as a team builder and loves George Michael, which according to this film decidedly puts him in the square category. He is so straight and driven, in fact, that his wife wishes he would be a bit edgier and his cousin Rell says he sounds like Richard Pryor doing an impression of a white person. Peele plays Rell, Clarence's cousin, a sort-of-loser who is in a terrible funk because his girlfriend has broken up with him.  He has been lying around his messy apartment smoking weed and has given up on life. 

In the meantime, a gang of two, the Allentown Boys, have gone in and shot up a church where a drug deal was going down.  These guys are real bad asses that no one would want to mess with.  In fact, they are so bad they actually look and act like zombies. But right before they kill one of the drug dealers, they find his kitten and are struck by how cute it is. However, while they are busy with the business of killing, the kitten escapes and gets the hell out of Dodge only to show up on Rell's doorstep.

Now this kitten must have magical powers because everyone who encounters him turns into, well, a pussy cat.  When the kitten scratches on Rell's door, Rell gets off the couch where he has lain for days, instantly falls in love with the kitten and his life is transformed.  He now has something to live for -- the little kitten who he names Keanu. He starts up his photography business again and takes cute pictures of Keanu dressed up as characters from "The Shining," Freddy Krueger in "Nightmare on Elm Street," etc.

All is good until one day Rell and Clarence return to Rell's house to find it has been ransacked and, god no, Keanu IS GONE!!!

Who would want to ransack Rell's house looking for  --- what?  Drugs?

Rell gets an idea.  His drug dealer, Hulka (played by Will Forte, his presence in the film an interesting mash-up of Mad TV and SNL, both of which were in competition for late night TV on Saturday nights in the 90's) lives across from him.  Rell demands to know who might have done this?  Hulka fingers the gang leader, Cheddar.  They think that perhaps Cheddar went to the wrong apartment.

Cheddar (Method Man).  Clarence thinks the name is funny and anyone with that name would be a pushover.  Right, says, Rell.  His experience has been that anyone with a "cute" name like "Pink Fluffy Bunny Head" would be the person most likely to knife you in the stomach.

Cheddar is the leader of a gang called The 17th Street Blips (these are folks who weren't good enough to be members of the Crips or Bloods) and turns out Rell was right and the bad guys did turn over the wrong house.  Hulka tells the guys where they might find Cheddar and his gang ("Where do we find them?" "Uh, 17th Street?"), and they go to the strip club where Cheddar hangs out.  When Rell and Clarence first arrive at the strip club as themselves, they stand out from the gang members who have tattoos all over their faces not to mention how they both talk.  Clarence talks like a guy with a stick up his butt and is wearing khaki, for god's sake.

So they need to get their "gangsta" on quick and with the liberal use of the "n word (which I guess is what you have to talk like if you are in a gang)" and scaling their voices down about two octaves they think they can pull it off. They talk their way in to see Cheddar and sure enough  there is Keanu, renamed New Jack and wearing a do-rag and a gold chain.  Rell realizes this isn't going to be easy and he has some competition because now Cheddar is entranced with Keanu too. But Rell will do anything to get Keanu back.

When Cheddar asks if Clarence and Rell if they are the Allentown Boys, wanting some street cred but not really knowing what they are saying, they say "Sure." Not good. They have no idea who the Allentown Boys are. Cheddar has a deal for them.  Go sell some of this new crack he has just manufactured called "Holy Sh*t" and they can have Keanu.  Cheddar assigns four of his drug dealers to him as well as a bad ass girl named "Hi-C (Tiffany Haddish)."  Clarence can't help himself and uses his team building skills asking everyone to introduce themselves and say two things about their lives in a very funny scene where each drug dealer gives his gang name and "shares" who they have killed and how many. 

So they head to actress Anna Faris's house - yes, the real Anna Faris playing herself and you will be shocked at what transpires. Rell and Hi-C go in to get the deal down while Clarence and the other drug dealers wait in Clarence's mini-van.  Of course he drives a mini-van. 

One of the funniest scenes in the film has to do with the ongoing theme of Clarence's obsession with George Michael.  According to this film, George Michael epitomizes "white" music so when Clarence is waiting in the minivan with the four hardcore drug dealers and they want to hear some music, they play his phone and on comes George Michael singing "Faith."  Clarence using his team building skills convinces them that Michael is not only cool, he's black and before we know it they are all singing along to Michael's album, "Father Figure" becoming a favorite.

While all of this is going on the Allentown Boys are looking for Keanu too.

There are two big twists, neither of which I saw coming (I must be losing my twist mojo).  One becomes clear during the film but stay for the credits for the second one.

Key and Peele are, dare I say?  A-peeling?  Ok, Ok, but they are.  And that goes a long way in this very funny film that skewers African-American stereotypes and gang culture.

Written by Peele and Alex Rubens and directed by Peter Atencio, this is the funniest film I have seen since "Spy."

It's edgy and I have a feeling there won't be that many 60-year-olds in the audience for this one, but if you can get over your squeamishness about violence, language and sex talk, you will discover this one is a lot funnier and more fun than the egregious "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" and the silly "Mother's Day."

Rosy the Reviewer says...remember what I have always said about how I judge a comedy?  Right.  I laughed.  And so will you.




 

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

Now Out on DVD







The 5th Wave (2016)



Yet another "Aliens take over the earth" film.

The film begins in a post-apocalyptic world and we hear the voice-over of young Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) setting up a flashback by saying "I miss the Cassie I was."  Flashback to before the apocalypse.

We see Cassie as a typical teenager, partying hard and being a good sister to her little brother and experiencing the usual teenage angst.  She even says, "When you are in high school everything feels like the end of the world."

Yikes.  Little does she know.

Suddenly strange things start happening.  Cars and airplanes start crashing and the people of earth begin to realize that an alien invasion is occurring.  First a large space ship hovers over earth creating an electromagnetic pulse killing all of the power so there is no water, no electricity.  Everyone has to start camping out but, hey, we are resilient folks.  They all set up camps and seem to be getting along fine, but they know they are under attack from aliens that the humans dub "The Others."

But that was just The First Wave.

Next comes The Second Wave - earthquakes and tidal waves, even in Ohio!

And if that didn't kill everyone, then unleash The Third Wave! - Avian flu.

Next the Army shows up led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) and forces all of the kids to become soldiers to fight the alien invasion.  It seems that these aliens saw the movie "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" because the aliens are taking over the humans' bodies so you can't tell who is human and who is an alien. That is The Fourth Wave.  

But the Army has figured out a way to tell which folks are aliens and which are human by implanting a device in the kid soldiers that with night vision goggles they can see the alien inside and stave off The 5th Wave, which is full on annihilation of all humans by..well, you've probably figured that out by now.

So once all of this is established, Cassie is separated from her younger brother, Sam (Zachary Arthur), and spends the second half of the movie trying to find him.

There is ample opportunity for romance as Cassie meets Evan Walker (Alex Roe, a hunky young man, if I might say so, and a bit of beefcake when he does a gratuitous scene in the water with his shirt off), but Ben (Nick Robinson), her high school boyfriend who has also somehow managed to survive the first four waves, is also hovering in a sort of "Twilight -ish" "two guys in love with one girl" storyline.

In addition to "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," there is a bit of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" thrown in, all very YA with a teenage girl heroine and adults who are either ineffectual or the bad guys and only the kids can save the day.  Like those other YA dystopian films, this one seems ripe for a sequel, though with the last "Hunger Games" and "Divergent" installments not performing as well as hoped, perhaps we won't have to endure "The 6th Wave."

Directed by J Blakeson and based on yet another YA novel (Rick Yancey), the film is quite exciting at the outset but drags in the middle and the twist is easy to spot early on.

There is nothing like the occasional disaster film.  Even if it's bad, it can be a fun experience.  I mean, who doesn't want to experience disaster without having to actually experience it?  Isn't that what the media is all about?  Oh, isn't that terrible what's happening in that country over there.  Give me all of the details.  Glad it's them, not me.  Disaster films are a sort of schadenfreude thing that we humans can't resist.

However, the film was a bit of a letdown.  I thought it was going to be about a tsunami that shows up five times.  I wish it had been.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like alien invasion films, this is a servicable one with attractive young people.
 
 
 


Jane Got a Gun (2016)


A gang is headed to Jane's ranch to kill her husband so she enlists an ex-lover who just happens to live nearby to help.

It's New Mexico, 1871 and Jane (Natalie Portman) is happily playing with her young daughter when her husband, Bill (Noah Emmerich) arrives home wounded.  Jane tends to his wounds and he reveals that the Bishop Boys are looking for him and want to kill him.  Turns out that Bill used to be a member of the Bishop Boys Gang, led by John Bishop played by an almost unrecognizable Ewan McGregor who I quite like with black hair.  I also don't think I have ever  heard him speak "American."  He usually lulls us with that lovely Scottish burr.

So what the hell happened?  Why is this gang after Jane and her husband?

Through a series of flashbacks we learn that back in Missouri, Jane was in love with Dan (Joel Edgerton), but when he went to war she thought he had died.  In the meantime she had his daughter, so thinking she is all alone with her daughter, she decides to hitch a ride with a wagon train headed West run by John Bishop, not realizing that he does not have her best interest at heart.  In fact, he plans to turn Jane into a prostitute and get rid of her young daughter.  But John Hammond took a shine to Jane and rather than let that fate befall her, he helps her escape the gang, but to do that he had to kill a few of them, thus making him Enemy #1 to The Bishop Boys.

So that's the set-up and now Jane is married to Bill and they have their own daughter.  But Bill's wounds have left him immobile which is not good with the Bishop Gang breathing down their necks, so Jane decides she needs to get help.  She drops her daughter off at a neighboring ranch and heads to Dan's place. 

Now this is where they lost me a bit because it's quite coincidental that Dan not only survived the war but lives close by, well, close enough that Jane can get there in what appears to be less than a day's horse ride.  That little detail was never satisfactorily explained. But it's a small thing to get Dan into the mix and I am glad they did, because Joel Edgerton is a wonderful actor.  He is a complete chameleon and seems to be able to play any part.  I first saw him in "The Gift" and later in "Black Mass" and both roles couldn't have been more different.  And now here he is as a macho love interest, again miles away from his characters in the first two plus he's an Aussie, like Ewan, speaking "American."  He is just a wonderful actor and McGregor and Portman are also first rate as always. 

Anyway, Dan is not surprisingly upset with Jane that she didn't wait for him but reluctantly decides to help her. She also never told him they had a daughter together. They both ride back to the ranch and plan how they will defend it.  Bill is not particularly pleased with this threesome, both men in love with Jane, but there is a wary alliance as they wait for the inevitable arrival of the bad guys. 

Let the bloodbath begin.

Oh, and did I say there was a big twist?  Well, there was and believe it or not, despite the fact that I am almost undefeated when it comes to spotting twists way before they happen, I DID NOT SEE THIS ONE COMING.  So that makes TWO films in one week where I missed the twist.  But not seeing the twist coming makes a good film.

The two guys-one girl in the wake of possible disaster reminded me of the little seen but enjoyable "Z for Zachariah."  Like that film, this one was not in the theatres very long but deserves a viewing.  It's a wonderful film with the most gorgeous cinematography I have seen in a long time. 

My only criticism is the unfortunate title.  It reminds me of an Aerosmith song ("Janie Got a Gun") and gives the film a youthful pop culture feel.  I think that might have been the point to draw an audience but I feel it trivializes the film, making it seem to be something it's not.  Maybe that's why no one went to see it.

Like I said when I reviewed "The Hateful Eight," I don't usually like westerns.  I think that's because I got my fill of them growing up in the 1950's and 60's where westerns were a staple on TV - "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun - Will Travel," "Bonanza."  Since my Dad always wanted to be a cowboy he was in heaven watching those shows.  And since those were the days when families had only one TV, if they had one at all, if I wanted to watch TV, it was usually a western.  I think it's mostly a bias based on not liking movies where the men are the heroes but actually I have discovered that if it's a good story and there are some women in them, I actually like them.  Westerns are usually just soap operas in period costumes, anyway.

Directed by Gavin O'Connor with a script by Brian Duffield, Anthony Tabakis and Edgerton and produced by Portman, this film had a bumpy road to get made which might explain why if you blinked it was gone from the theatres.  But it is an unusual love story cum revenge film (aren't most westerns revenge films?) that is tense and engrossing with exceptional performances. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this one is a MUST SEE!  You will thank me.






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


252 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?






Force of Evil (1948)



A shady lawyer for a numbers racket kingpin tries to help his brother, who runs a numbers "bank" that the kingpin wants to take over.

Joe Morse (John Garfield) is in it for the money.  He is a lawyer but an unethical one and he works for Ben Tucker (Roy Roberts), a gangster who wants to take over the numbers racket by rigging the numbers on July 4.  The numbers 776 are traditional numbers that everyone seems to play that day and this July 4th those numbers are going to come up.  When they do, it will drive all of the numbers "banks" bankrupt, thus enabling Tucker to take over. Unfortunately, one of those banks is run by Joe's brother, Leo (Thomas Gomez).

Now Joe may not be a nice guy, but he has a soft spot for his older brother who has a heart condition.  He tries to warn him and offers him a deal. But Leo isn't having it.  He doesn't want to work for a gangster. You see, Leo may run a numbers game but he has a conscience and can't leave his customers hanging. Joe is torn between his greed and his love for his brother and it all doesn't end well, because...

This is classic film noir.  What makes it film noir?

  • Filmed in black and white
  • Lots of shadows
  • Lead character usually does a voice over
  • Over dramatic close-ups, especially highlighting the eyes
  • Melodramatic score
  • Good brother/Bad brother
  • Good girl/Bad girl (with Marie Windsor usually playing the bad girl)
  • Redemption of the bad guy by the good girl (sometimes)
  • Women are treated like crap
  • Someone is usually double-crossed
  • Lines like this:  "A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn't have said."
  • And they usually don't end happily

John Garfield was the hard-boiled "king of the B noir films." The film "introduces" Beatrice Pearson who plays the love interest and who doesn't appear to have done any other films but this one.  One of Garfield's "dames" perhaps, in real life?  Oh, I should have added, in film noir, women are always called dames.

Written and directed by Abraham Polonsky who was later victimized by the Hollywood Blacklist, (he didn't direct another film until 1969 when he directed Robert Redford in "Tell Them Willie Boy is Here"), the film includes some biblical references:  A Cain and Abel story and a love scene that very much evokes the snake in the Garden of Eden seducing Eve.  

Why it's a Must See: [This film] sits uncomfortably within the film noir genre, despite the presence of a star (John Garfield) associated with hard-boiled,  streetwise movies.  It is above all a film of poetry, carried by a 'blank verse' voiceover and a highly stylized singsong dialogue, which are among the most astounding and radical innovations of the 1940s cinema..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Martin Scorsese credits this film as being a major influence on his films "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas."

Rosy the Reviewer says...the overdramatic acting doesn't hold up well today, but it is still a sophisticated piece of filmmaking with an interesting story and Garfield always delivers.



 
***Book of the Week***





Toni Tennille: A Memoir by Toni Tennille (2016)
 

Tennille shares her story and it's a surprising one.

Baby Boomers will remember The Captain and Tennille.  He was the guy with the captain's cap who played the keyboard and rarely smiled or said anything and she was the bubbly, out-going one with the blonde bob.  They had huge middle-of-the-road pop hits extolling the virtues of love ("Love Will Keep Us Together"), but what no one knew was that there was little love going on behind the scenes in their personal lives.




Tennille grew up in Montgomery, Alabama during segregation.  Her mother was a beautiful socialite and her dad a binge drinker.  The goodie two shoes image evoked by The Captain and Tennille was pretty much the truth.  Tennille really was a goodie two shoes southern belle who eschewed the drinking and drugs so prevalent in the 70's and 80's.  The Captain was Daryl Dragon, son of the famous conductor, composer and arranger, Carmen DragonThey met touring with the Beach Boys and their connection was music. They formed a duo where Toni did the singing and Daryl arranged their songs and played keyboard. They eventually married, mostly because of pressure from the record company.  Believe it or not, in the sexually permissive 70's, living together was not accepted. 

The Captain and Tennille, with their wholesome pop tunes and their squeaky clean TV variety show represented happily married bliss, but according to Tennille in this revealing autobiography, their marriage was anything but.  I mean, can you imagine marrying someone who never said "I love you," and cringed every time you hugged him?  He wanted his own bedroom and when they toured they each had their own hotel room.  She would visit him in his room and leave when she got the signs that she was boring him.

Who would put up with this kind of stuff?  Well, Toni Tennille, apparently.

She put up with her husband's kooky dietary fads, his controlling ways (when she was on "The Love Boat" she was not allowed to kiss her co-star even though it was in the script - Daryl considered that cheating), his anti-social behavior and his emotional withholding, thinking that if she catered to him she would eventually break through to his wonderful self. Unfortunately, she kept trying for decades and never found that wonderful self.  She divorced him when she was in her 70's.

This story is a perfect example of being enamored of someone so much that you overlook some very important issues and, those you do acknowledge, you think you can change. 

If everything Tennille relates is true, I can't believe some of the stuff she put up with.  I mean, she laments not seeing the Sistine Chapel because they were denied entrance because Daryl wouldn't take off his hat (his hair was thinning)!  I was about to rip the page out of the book and scream "Honey, GO BY YOURSELF!" And when they toured, she would eat the "health food" he carried around with him rather than going out with the other band members to the restaurants famous for their food - pizza in Chicago, seafood in Boston, Chinese food in New York City - all off limits.  Again, why didn't you GO BY YOURSELF?  But she had her reasons and did finally show courage by leaving him in her 70's.  Not THE 70's, HER 70's! And trust me, leaving a long term marriage when you are closer to the nursing home than to another hit record, takes courage.

All of the signs were there that this guy had some serious issues.  But we women think that a man who withholds just needs US to unlock the key. 

Sigh. 

So, Ladies, this is a cautionary tale. 

If the guy doesn't want you to hug him, doesn't say "I love you," ruins experiences for you with his entitled socially awkward behavior, get the hint and run like hell. No matter what you do, you will NOT change him. Tennille wasted all of her positivity, bubbliness and the best years of her life on a man who did not appreciate her and wasn't capable of affection or cared about making her happy. If you can relate, learn from this book.

In addition to her marriage, Tennille also shares career ups and downs such as when she sang "Muskrat Love" at the White House with The Queen as the special guest. Not a good choice. I mean, can you imagine The Queen listening to a song about two muskrats getting it on? Henry Kissinger, who was also in attendance, was visibly upset. Tennille says "Muskrat Love" was one of those songs that people either really loved or really hated.  Put me in that last category.

Little known fact about Toni Tennille:  She sang back-up on Pink Floyd's "The Wall." 

Rosy the Reviewer says...for fans of Tennille and those who are married to emotionally unavailable men who might need a little inspiration.

 
 
That's it for this week!


 
Thanks for reading!



 
See you Tuesday for

 

 "Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder"




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