Friday, July 8, 2016

"Our Kind of Traitor" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Our Kind of Traitor" as well as DVDS "Son of Saul" and "After.Life."  The Book of the Week is "Game of Crowns."  I also bring you up-to-date with my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Pickpocket.]

Our Kind of Traitor

A British couple are lured into a complicated plot to help a Russian Mafioso defect to the U.K.

With a John Le Carre novel or film, you can expect a smart, tense story with some twists, a complicated rogue spy and an ordinary man caught in an extraordinary circumstance, and this film hits all of the notes.

Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris star as Perry and Gail, a British couple in Marrakesh on a romantic weekend in hopes their relationship will survive his infidelity.  Perry is a professor of Poetics and Gail is a barrister. When Gail leaves Perry in a restaurant, he is approached by a Russian, Dima (Skellan Skarsgard), who is drinking with his friends.  Dima takes a liking to Perry and invites him to a party.  Perry declines until Dima makes a bet with him.  He asks Perry to show him his credit card, and if he, Dima, can remember all of the digits on the card after looking at it for only a couple of seconds, Perry must come with him to the party.  If he can't do it, Dima will give Perry 5000 euro. Who wouldn't take that bet?  Naturally Dima wows him with his memory of the numbers (remember this for later), and they go to the party where Perry appears to have a bit of a roving eye.  The next day the two play tennis and after the match, Dima tells Perry his story.

He is the person in charge of laundering the money for the Russian Mafia.  The Mafia is opening a bank in London to continue their operations and to use it to launder more money.  He no longer trusts the head guy, The Prince (Grigoriy Dobrygin), basically because The Prince just ordered the killings of Dima's friends.  The Prince wants Dima to sign over the money laundering operation to him and Dima believes that once he does this, he will also be marked for execution.  But the clincher here is that Dima has proof that some high-ranking British officials are on the take from the Mafia and Dima wants to use that information for some insurance for himself and his family.  He asks Perry to take a memory stick (flashdrive to you and me), that contains all of his criminal activities, back to the U.K. and give it to MI6 in hopes he can make a deal to get himself and his family asylum in the U.K. 

Now, you need to suspend disbelief here a bit about why Dima would entrust a total stranger with this mission, but he does give a little speech about being a man of integrity, even though he is a mobster (I mean, they have their code of ethics too, I guess), and he recognizes that Perry must also be such a man.  Like I said, suspend your disbelief with this part. 

Perry does as Dima asks and is interviewed by MI6 agent, Hector (Damian Lewis). Hector shares the information with his boss but his boss says not to proceed.  Here's where the rogue spy element comes in.  Hector goes ahead anyway, and Perry and Gail find themselves at the center of a mission to not only get Dima and his family safely into the U.K. but to bring down high officials in the British government..

Ewen McGregor is a favorite.  I have forgiven him for his singing in "Moulin Rouge."  It wasn't that he was a particularly bad singer.  It's just that every time he opened his mouth to sing, he looked like one of The Muppets. He is a handsome guy but also a reliably good actor who brings great sensitivity to his roles.  He's also not afraid to get naked, which I also like.  Skarsgard is another actor who you can count on and who is really good here. Again, I have forgiven him for turning into a sleaze in "Nymphomaniac," which I deemed one of the worst movies of 2013.  Also notable is Naomie Harris, who you may remember as Moneypenny from "Spectre." She is someone to watch.

Adapted from the Le Carre novel by Hosein Amini and directed by Susanna White, this film is a refreshing respite from the mindless summer blockbusters.  My only complaint was that I couldn't figure out what the title meant.  Who was the traitor and why was he "our kind?"  But a small criticism for what was a satisfying film experience.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are sick of superheroes, horror, animation and Tarzan swinging through the trees, there is this bit of smart, tense adult entertainment where you get to use your brain, but don't delay.  I don't think this one will stick around long in the theatres.

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

Now on DVD

Son of Saul (2015)

Saul (Geza Rohrig) is a prisoner at Auschwitz and his job is to help burn the bodies of those killed in the gas chambers. When he sees the body of a young boy who he thinks is his son, he tries to save him from incineration so he can give him a proper burial.

When the film begins, you quickly realize where Saul is, even though the camera focuses primarily on him, and the background is out of focus.  But you still feel the chaos and horror, as you hear the loudspeaker telling people to quickly disrobe and take a shower so they can come out and eat soup and be assigned a job for pay at the camp.  You quickly realize what is really happening, and why so many people went willingly into the gas chambers.  As the victims, too, realize what is happening, the screams and pounding begin from inside the "showers," and the scene becomes more and more horrific.

Saul is a Jewish-Hungarian, a Sonderkommando, a prisoner who is marked for execution at some point, but until then he is a worker, going about his business like an automaton, herding people into the showers and then pulling their bodies out and helping to send them into the ovens. He wears the uniform of the Sonderkommando, a jacket with a big red X on the back, a marked man who must help with the killings until it's his turn.  One of his tasks is to go through the clothing of the victims to look for valuables.  Scattered about the floor, we see the personal effects the victims had chosen to keep when they were rousted out of their homes - letters, pictures, sheet music, all of which adds to the horror.  More and more people arrive and are herded into the gas chambers while the Sonderkommandos pick through their valuables like vultures pecking away at decaying bodies.

When a young boy is retrieved from the gas chamber still breathing, we see in the distance a doctor examining him and then one of the guards suffocating him.  Saul believes the young boy is his son and wants to rescue him from the ovens to give him a proper burial.  The boy is taken to the doctor's office for an autopsy.  Saul approaches the doctor who tells Saul that he too is a prisoner, and he must do what he must, but he gives Saul five minutes with the boy and Saul wraps him up and takes him away.

Saul is the focus of this film as he seeks a rabbi to give his son a religious burial.  The camera focuses on his back and serves as his eyes, then it shoots him from the side as he moves about, then from the front so we can see his thoughts and anguish as he lives amidst the inhumanity of the concentration camp, where not only the guards treat the prisoners like animals (the prisoners are called "its" and "pieces), there is also a tough hierarchy among the prisoners themselves as each does what he has to do to survive.

At the same time that Saul is trying to find a rabbi to give his son a proper Jewish burial, some of the other Sonderkommandos are planning an escape and want Saul to come with them. It all becomes more intense when it is clear 70 of them have been marked for extermination the next day.

This is Rohrig's feature debut and his performance as a man whose quiet determination to remain human in an inhuman world is astonishing. 

This is not an easy film to watch, but it's not supposed to be.  But it's a film that must be seen. 

Not only is it a riveting story of trying to hold on to some humanity in an inhuman world, it's a reminder of the evil that men do, and we must never, ever forget what happened so that it will never happen again.  As we go about our lives with our jobs, our happy families, our nice homes, our cars, our stuff, it's easy to forget the suffering that has taken place in history. 

Can you imagine being arrested, separated from your family, put in a prison camp, being forced to help kill people, all because of your religion?  As difficult as these kinds of movies can be, we need to see them to be reminded of the atrocities that humans are capable of in the name of...what?  It must never happen again.

Directed by Laszlo Nemes with a story by him and Clara Royer, this film won last year's Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and it is so deserving because despite the subject matter, this is a wonderful film, that despite what happens in the end, shows that in the midst of the worst possible circumstances, our humanity prevails.

This is the truest dramatic depiction I have ever seen of what the horrors of the concentration camps must have been like.  It's documentary counterpart would be the classic and horrific "Night and Fog."

You know that I often joke around about not liking films that don't have women in them or pretty costumes or romance.  That's usually because the film isn't very good and failed to draw me in, but when there is a really compelling, artistic film that says something important, it doesn't matter who stars, whether there are women, what the story is about  - none of that matters. The sign of a really wonderful film is that it immediately draws you in, makes you care about the people in it and what is happening, and it says something important -- and this is just such a film.

From the opening shots when we first meet Saul and see where he is and what he has to do, I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen.  He says little.  He doesn't need to.  The camera tells it all.   That is the sign of a really great film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is one of the best of the year or of any year! It's a MUST SEE!
(In Hungarian, German, Yiddish, Polish and Russian with English subtitles)

After.Life (2009)

A creepy funeral director has the ability to talk to the dead as they transition from life to death.

I didn't know anything about this film, but I think I saw a preview for it, and since I really like Liam Neeson, put it in my Netflix queue.  As I was watching the previews that lead up to the film, I realized they were all horror films which is a sure indication of what you can expect from the feature. So I thought, "Uh oh."

Christina Ricci is Anna Taylor and Justin Long plays her boyfriend, Paul Coleman.  Before I go any further, I need to say something about Justin Long.  I find him to be a most unlikely leading man. He is a bit dorky and looks like he should be in a new version of "Friends."  I just don't get him as a love interest, but I'm an old lady, not a hipster.  There are lots of things I don't get.  Maybe he has that hipster vibe that makes him attractive.

Anyway, Anna and Paul are having problems.  She is a middle school teacher who befriends, Jack, a strange little kid who is getting bullied.  She is also not a happy camper.  She takes pills.  Paul is a bit of a control freak, but he is about to propose at dinner one night, but before he pops the question, he tells Anna he has been transferred which Anna misunderstands as his telling her he is breaking up with her.  She gets angry and leaves, driving off into a rain storm, crying and looking at her cell phone.  You know where that's going.  Oops....

Next we see her at the funeral home on a slab in the embalming room with Elliot Deacon (Neeson), the local undertaker.  Though I am a big fan of Neeson who I find very attractive, I must say that he is particularly creepy here.  When Anna wakes up, Deacon is undressing her and she very rightly asks "Where am I?"  Deacon patiently explains that she is dead to which she replies "I am not dead."

He sighs and says "You all say the same thing."

What's going on here?

"Why am I talking to you if I am dead?" Anna asks, to which Deacon replies, "I have the gift to help the dead make the transition." 

Uh, OK.

And then throughout the rest of the film, Deacon makes a lot of wise pronouncements about life and death such as "You all say you are scared of death but the truth is you are scared of life."  That sort of thing.

The crux of the film, and what makes you keep watching, is that maybe Anna isn't really dead and Deacon is going to help her along a bit. The horror here lies in our fear of being thought to be dead when we really aren't, with the possibility of being buried alive, and that our last moments on earth would be with someone creepy like Liam's character. It plays on our deepest fears.  What if we really aren't dead when we end up at the funeral home or worse yet, at our grave?

I said that Deacon was creepy, but everyone in this film is creepy, from Anna's wheelchair bound mother who doesn't appear to be that broken up that her daughter is dead, to that little boy, Jack (Chandler Canterbury), who has an unnatural interest in the dead for a little kid, to Jack's mother who appears to be a zombie sitting and watching black and white game shows from the 50's.

Anna is stripped down to her red slip and eventually is naked for the rest of the film.  I couldn't help but laugh that every time the camera panned over to Anna lying on the slab, she was in some sort of a cheesecake pose.  None of us would look particularly good lying on a slab with our thighs all squished down or our stomachs sticking out so Ricci made sure she was always up on her elbow or with her back arched, not something I think a corpse would do, do you?

Anyway, Anna is not having this dying stuff so she tries to escape.

Deacon asks her "Was your life worth clutching onto?  Maybe you died a long time ago."

Ahhh, OK, now we are getting somewhere.

It looks like Liam's mission is to get rid of those of us who aren't enjoying their lives enough.

It's all an exercise in appreciating our lives, a sort of horror version of "It's a Wonderful Life" for millennials, except in the guise of a Michael Crichton medical thriller with a bit of "The Sixth Sense" and "The Fall of the House of Usher" thrown in.  Turns out the creepy little kid, Jack, doesn't see dead people, as the kid in "The Sixth Sense" did.  Our little Jack sees people who are ABOUT TO BE DEAD!
I have had a hard time thinking of Christina Ricci as anyone but Wednesday Addams from "The Addams Family," and I got another laugh when Deacon put makeup on her and made her look just like her!

Written and directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, it's an enjoyable bit of horror that isn't too horrific.

Heed the message in this film:  Enjoy your life or you will end up on a slab with creepy Liam hanging over you.  'Course I can think of worse things than spending my last moments with Liam Neeson!

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like movies like "The Sixth Sense," you might like this one.

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

245 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Pickpocket (1959)

A primer in the art of pickpocketing with some existential stuff thrown in.

Well, not exactly, but this is the story of a young disaffected French intellectual (Martin LaSalle), who looks like a young Montgomery Clift.  Michel becomes a pickpocket because it seems an easy way to make a living, but he eventually starts to see it as an act reserved for those who are so smart they are above the law.  He apprentices himself to a career criminal and becomes adept.  More and more, he isolates himself from his dying mother and his girlfriend until the pickpocketing is the most important emotional connection he has with the world.

Auteur Robert Bresson liked making existential, minimalist films.

And the critics who compiled "The 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" really liked Bresson.  He only made 13 feature films in his lifetime and five are listed in the book, which is better than many directors who made many more films. 

He focused his camera on his subjects to the point of excruciatingly slow and close scrutiny.  He eschewed the niceties of filmmaking like music, trained actors and plot to instead minimalize production values, minimalize actors showing emotion, and not worry too much about a compelling story to instead focus on the image.  I usually like films that replace endless exposition and talking heads with pictures, but Bresson goes too far.  His untrained actors are stiff and expressionless, and I much prefer a plot to concentrating on the subject's face for five minutes.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is among the most perfect examples of Bresson's style...The scenes of pickpocketing are breathtaking and rival any in cinema for their excitement and sheer cinematic virtuosity...This is one of those pictures that completely changes one's understanding of what cinema is or can be.  Bresson is one of the most novelistic of filmmakers, in that he is able to depict the inner world of characters and abstract philosophical concepts that are more easily expressed in language...Watching a Bresson film is a demanding but extgremely satisfying and enjoyable experience."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Demanding, yes.  Satisfying, no. No doubt that Bresson's work was original and unlike anything that had been done back in his heyday, but today, I find it slow, tedious and self-indulgent.  This may be art house fare, but if films were being made like this today, I don't think anyone would go see them. Last week I reviewed his "A Man Escaped," which I likened to watching paint dry.  For this one, I felt like I was watching an industrial training film on how to be a pickpocket.

Rosy the Reviewer says...75 minutes that felt more like 175.

***Book of the Week***

Game of Crowns: Elizabeth, Camilla, Kate and The Throne by Christopher Andersen (2016)

The relationships and rivalries between Queen Elizabeth II, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Kate.

Well, I wouldn't say that the Queen has any rivals, because she's, well, she's the Queen.  Many may not realize that Queen Elizabeth II is both the oldest and longest-reigning of all British monarchs and her life as Queen has seen 18 different Prime Ministers and 15 U.S. Presidents come and go. So she is unrivaled as a ruler and stateswoman.

But who knew there was some rancor between Camilla and Kate?
According to Andersen's book, Camilla is a huge snob and didn't want the future king to marry a "commoner," whose parents she didn't approve of, so she actively tried to discourage the marriage.
There's more.

Andersen has been Royal Watching for some time with his books "William and Kate" and "The Day Diana Died."  He has also written many, many celebrity biographies.  He is one of my favorite biographers because he tells a really good story and is not afraid to try to get inside the heads of his subjects.
Here he begins the book with speculation on what will happen when Elizabeth II dies.  He goes through a day-by-day scenario that culminates with the downfall of the House of Windsor!
He also gives interesting details on all that took place to allow Prince Charles to marry Camilla.  She was already reviled as the person who broke up the marriage of Charles and Princess Diana, but after Diana's death, everyone hated her even more.  No one wanted her to ever, ever, ever be Queen.
I have been a loyal Royal Watcher since I was very young. Prince Charles and I were born in the same year, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that my mother thought I could grow up to marry a Prince.  She was a Royal Watcher, too. 

When Diana came along and married Charles, I was as fascinated as everyone else and when she died, a little bit of myself went with her.  I know that sounds overly-dramatic, but there was something about Princess Diana that struck a chord, not just in me, but in so many people. She made us happy she was in the world with us.  When she was no longer there, it just wasn't the same.  I was reading this book at the gym on the elliptical, as I am wont to do, and when I got to the part about Diana's death, I started to tear up, remembering how awful I felt when she died. I stayed up all night, sobbing, to watch her funeral and the long ride as the hearse took her to her final resting place at Althorp with mourners standing all along the roadway as she went, tossing flowers onto the hood of the hearse. There were so many flowers being tossed onto the hearse, that the driver had to stop from time to time to take the flowers off of the windshield so he could see to drive.  I think I am going to cry right now.

But though one can't write about The Royals without writing about Diana, this book is less about her and more about Charles and Camilla and William and Kate.  
For those of you who have read Andersen's other books about the Royals or who are loyal Royal Watchers (like moi), there might not be that much new to you here about their lives or some of the chain of events, but what's fun about this book are the many details he shares that you might not know about, e.g. did you know that The Queen's breakfast never varies from Special K or oatmeal (served in a Tupperware container), crustless whole wheat toast with orange marmalade, a single boiled egg and small bowls of prunes, apricots, and macadamia nuts  - and she loves the British tabloids.
Here are some more fun facts revealed:
  • The Queen has over 200 purses (I am sure they all match a coat and a hat)!
  • Princess Kate liked to moon people from her boarding school window.
  • Growing up, Kate had a big crush on William and went to the same college as William in hopes of marrying him.
  • Prince Charles was not happy if the ice [cubes] in his drinks were not round, because he thought the angles made regular cubes too noisy.
  • Prince Charles valet was not only in charge of squeezing the toothpaste onto Charles' tooth brush, tying his shoes and zipping the Royal fly, but also holding the specimen cup for a urine sample at the doctor's office. (TMI?)

And there is much more.

But finally, there is this question:

The Queen is 90 and her son, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, isn't getting any younger.

Will the Queen abdicate in favor of Charles?

Some have said she never would, but there have been many "nevers" that have come to pass. 

The Queen would never pay taxes.  She does.  The Queen would never open the doors to Buckingham Palace for tours.  She has.  The Queen would never allow Charles to divorce.  She did.  The Queen would never eat at McDonalds or lift a pint in a pub.  She has.

So we will just have to see what will happen...and it will be ever fascinating.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Royal Watchers will love every juicy bit of this!

That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

 "Personal Style for Women of a Certain Age"

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or 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

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, 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, July 5, 2016

Why Long Distance Relationships Don't Work

You might think this post is about long distance romantic relationships.  Though I have had to endure those, too, it's not.  It's about trying to maintain a relationship with family members who live far away.

My Mom and Dad were born, lived their lives and died, all in the same town.  My Dad was an only child, but my mother had five brothers and a sister and almost all of them also lived in that same town all of their lives.  That's the way most people lived in the mid-20th century.

However, the Baby Boomer generation felt differently and many of us wanted to experience the world outside of our small towns.  I grew up in Michigan and for some reason, everyone wanted to move to California so that's what I did. 

Right after college I moved to California and, except for some brief back and forth forays due to some unhappy situations in my life, that's where I stayed until a few years ago when I moved to Washington State.

I am sure my parents were not happy that I decided to make that move, especially my mother.  But another thing about parents of Baby Boomers - they all had pretty stiff upper lips.  If they were upset about it, they didn't really show it, though over the years my mother would say things like, "Well, if you didn't live so far away..."

I know it's difficult for young people to even grasp this concept, but back when I was in my 20's and 30's,  there were no cell phones with unlimited calling, no email, no Skype, no Facetime.  If you wanted to talk to your parents or they to you, you had to call long distance. 

Now for my younger readers, long distance was not just a description of how far away we lived from each other, but the term for calling someone who didn't live in your area code, and a long distance call cost quite a bit of money.  My mother would almost invariably say during what was already a short phone call, "Well I don't want to run up your phone bill," which was code that it was time to get off the phone.  It was also code for "Goodbye," because she would then abruptly hang up the phone!

Likewise, you could call collect, which I did quite often in my youth when I worked jobs that didn't pay much.  Calling collect meant you talked to a telephone operator first who placed the call.  When your Mother or Dad answered the phone, the operator would say, "Collect call from Rosy. Will you accept the charges?" and then the call would go onto their phone bill.  It was also not uncommon to try to get around the charge by arranging with your parents ahead of time that you would place a collect call when you arrived home so they would know you had arrived safely. When asked by the operator if they would accept the charges, they would say no but they knew you were home safely. A free long distance call.  Hey, we had to be tricky like that.

The other way we communicated was by writing letters. 

Yes, you heard me.  I am not talking about typing out an email, but actually putting pen to paper and writing a letter in longhand.  If I was on a roll, I would write my parents once a week to let them know how I was doing.  I still have some of those letters because my Mother kept them.  My Mother and my Dad would write long letters.  My mother's letters were full of details about her social life, potlucks she attended, what she ate, I mean right down to the ingredients in the food, who she saw and whether they looked older than she did and other stream of consciousness, whereas my Dad's letters were always philosophical and might have included his most recent "Letter to the Editor."  Both were comforting in their own ways.

I didn't get home much, especially after I had kids.  Airfare was more expensive in those days, and I didn't have much money.  My parents would come out for visits every year or so, mostly my mother by herself, especially to see her grandkids.

At the time, it didn't seem like such a big deal.  I knew my parents loved me and were out there in the world and that seemed to be enough.  I didn't give much thought to the fact that I hardly knew much about their lives and them as people because I interacted with them so rarely.  Now that they are gone, I think about that a lot and wish things had been different.

So since I left home, I shouldn't have been surprised that my kids would do the same, right?  Wrong.  It was just as much of a shock to me as it must have been to my mother.  I had this idea that our kids thought we were cool and we would all hang out together forever. I liked my kids and looked forward to having them nearby as adult friends.  It's a nice thought but these days our kids have to go where the jobs are and where their hearts take them.  As it was, our kids grew up in a small town that had more rich retired people and tourists than young people with careers, so off they went to college and they never lived with us again.

When my kids left home I tried to stay relevant.  Looking back, I can see that I just didn't have a clue about how to be a long distance Mom.  It hurt my feelings when they didn't answer their phones. They both had cell phones and I knew they knew it was me.  Or when they did answer, our conversations were often short and terse.  I took it personally.  So I decided to avoid feeling like that, they should call me when they had the time.  I figured that was better.  That way, they would call when they had the time to talk.  That worked a bit better, but they still didn't have much to say.  I guess I had forgotten how happy I was to get out on my own and how little I had in common with my own parents when I was 18 and knew everything.

These days it is the most natural thing in the world for our kids to move out of the house and have their own lives.  Some go to college, some join the military, some get transferred to other cities.  It is probably more unusual for people to live in one town all of their lives.  And we want our children to have their own lives, right?  And these days, it's not easy for our kids to get started.  It's expensive.  So I am proud and happy that both of my kids are launched, as they say, and are successful and have their own families.

But I'm not happy that I don't see them much. 

When your kids don't live close by, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a close relationship.  When you think that for 18 years, people lived in your house, you saw them every day, you thought you had the same values because they obeyed the rules, right?  You ate together, you traveled together, you played games together, you had shared histories.  You thought you knew them, and then one day, they are gone and suddenly you discover they have their own values and ideas about how they want to live.  "When did you start eating tuna sandwiches?"  "Since when do you like jazz?"

Suddenly your kids are creating their own histories and it's not with you.  And that's what's wrong with long distance relationships.  Without a shared history, it is difficult to have a close relationship.  You just don't know them anymore.

A shared history is often the main thing that keeps couples together during difficult times and the same is true of your relationships with your family members.  You lose touch with who they really are because you no longer have the same experiences.  You are not creating memories together anymore.

I love my children and I know they love me, but now that they are adults with spouses and children (and I will get to grandchildren in a minute), their own families and lives are their primary focus, as they should be, but the added barriers of distance and time make it difficult for us all to share out lives.

Yes, we visit but I feel that visiting family is a strange thing.  When you don't see your family very often, when you do see them the push is on to make every minute count.  For example, if your adult children lived in the same town, you might get together once a week for Sunday dinner or to play golf or to watch your grandchildren play sports.  You would all go about your business most days, but get together when you wanted to.  But when you don't see your family members very often and then you do for a long weekend or a week's visit, the pressure is on to make the most of your time together, doing things together for entire days, 24/7, and likely disrupting normal schedules.  It's no wonder that family gatherings at Christmas and Thanksgiving have such a bad reputation for arguments and dread.  But why would we expect to just naturally have a wonderful time with people we rarely see?

We can maintain relationships with our family members by calling regularly, using Skype, even writing letters (gasp!), but in our crazy, busy lives, even those little niceties can fall by the wayside.

And then there is the whole issue of grandchildren who live far away.  Likewise, we grandparents want our grandchildren to know who we are and to love us, which is not easy when we only see them a few times a year.  Growing up, my grandparents lived across the street so I saw them all of the time.

But these days it is not unusual for grandparents to live far away. I actually wrote about that in a blog post called "Parenting and Grandparenting from a Distance."  Re-reading that one, I see that I gave some good advice, some of which I haven't followed myself!

So you can see how long distance relationships not only don't work very well, but can lead to isolation, regrets, loneliness and the feeling that you are no longer relevant in your children's lives.

So long distance parents and grandparents, what do we do about it?

Though I will always believe that long distance relationships don't really work very well, there are some things we can do to try to make ithem work.

  • Take the initiative to create memories. 
By that I don't mean whine to your kids about how lonely and isolated you feel.  I did that and believe me it doesn't work.  No, I mean, try to figure out how you can make some memories together and act on it.  My daughter and I have started a mother/daughter vacation that we hope will be a regular thing.  Last year we met up and toured Santa Fe, Taos and Albuquerque together, just the two of us, which, of course I wrote about ("How to Have a Successful Mother/Daughter Getaway..."). 

It included some of our favorite things: eating and shopping!


When you go on a trip together, away from each other's routines, it feels more like a fun vacation (which it is) than a forced visit.

  • Accept your adult children for who they are now.
I know it's difficult to think of that little tow-headed girl as a grown-up with her own beliefs that might not be yours, but you have to accept that she has grown up and respect her as she is now.  My mother was still telling me to stand up straight and smile more when I was in my 40's, which didn't do much for a happy adult relationship.  So when you do get to see your adult children, don't go into mother mode, nag them about their posture or try to change them, get to know the adults they are now.

  • Text and email ideas, stories and information you think might be of interest.
It is difficult to stay close to people when you are not sharing daily or weekly events.  Though you are far away, you can still keep your kids in your life by sharing your observations and ideas via text and email.  Don't necessarily expect a reply or get upset if you don't get one.  You are letting them know they are in your thoughts and they are learning some things about you too.

  • Be a supportive listener.
Your kids probably have busier lives than you do now, so when they do contact you, make it about them, not you, so you can be a part of the experiences they are having, even if just vicariously.

  • Keep in contact with your grandchildren. 

If they are little, send them cards and Skype or talk to them on the phone.  When they are older, maybe they will actually let you friend them on Facebook! Visit when you can.  Try to be there for the big events. It's easier for you to travel than for a family with little children.

  • Relish the memories and shared history that you do have with your children and grandchildren and continue to try to create new ones.

  • And then... plan to move in with them!

So my fellow long distance parents and grandparents, hang in there!  As my mother used to say, "It will get better."

How do you handle your long distance family relationships?


Thanks for reading!

See you Friday

for my review of

"Our Kind of Traitor"


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, July 1, 2016

"Now You See Me 2" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Now You See Me 2" as well as the DVDs "45 Years" and "Ride Along 2." The Book of the Week is Bobby Brown's memoir "Every Little Step: My Story."  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Robert Bresson's "A Man Escaped."]

Now You See Me 2

The "Horsemen" have come out of hiding from the first " Now You See Me" to star in this sequel.  They should have stayed in hiding.

With all of the bad stuff happening in the world today, why do we have to have movie sequels to add to the agony?  I mean, the summer is awash in sequels. It's called "Sequel-itis."  Now I don't mind sequels that are based on books and have a natural progression and reason for a sequel: Harry Potter, "Lord of the Rings," "Hunger Games"... It makes sense that those movies would have sequels, because they are part of a popular series of critically-acclaimed books, but in many cases, we are getting sequels for movies that not only didn't come from well-reviewed books, they came from movies that weren't very good in the first place.   "Conjuring 2," "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Ride Along 2 (see review below)," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" and now this.  It seems like they can put out a sequel for anything.  What's next?  "Citizen Kane 2: Rosebud's Story" or "Casablanca 2: The Do-over?"

If you saw the first "Now You See Me" (and actually, this sequel will make more sense if you did see the first one), you will remember that "The Four Horsemen" are masters of illusion and work for a mysterious organization called "The Eye."  The four are amateur magicians: J. Daniel "Danny" Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher who has made the smart move not to return for the sequel), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), who were brought together in the first film and hired by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) to perform an elaborate Las Vegas act. However, they turn the tables on Tressler, because Tressler is a bad guy who denied Hurricane Katrina victims their insurance. 

You see, the "Four Horsemen" are modern day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and shower the money on the audience.  So now the FBI is involved, which brings in Mark Ruffalo as Agent Rhodes, as well as Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a James Randi type who debunks magic tricks and shows how they are done. However, the "Horsemen" manage to not only turn the tables on the villainous Tressler, but frame Thaddeus.  We also learn that Dylan, whose father was a magician who died doing an escape trick inside a faulty safe, is the mastermind of the "Horsemen" and has been working with them all along to avenge his father's death!

Whew!  With me so far?  And that was just the first one!

So now we have the sequel, which is just as confusing.

It begins with a young Dylan watching his Dad die in that escape trick that went awry.  But that's about all you get as a catch-up from the first film.

Back to the present, the three remaining "Horsemen" have been in hiding.  Miraculously, Dylan is still working for the FBI, pretending to be looking for the "Horsemen."  Since Isla Fischer made the smart decision to not return for the sequel, her absence is explained away and they are joined by Lizzy Caplan as Lula.  Her expertise is pickpocketing and, I have to say, Caplan's dizzy character is quite captivating. 

They all meet up with Dylan who tells them their next mission is to expose Owen Case (Ben Lamb), a rich entrepreneur who has invented a cell phone that secretly steals the user's data so he can use it for his own purposes. In fact, the technology allows someone to access every computer IN THE WORLD! The mission is to hijack Case's launch party and expose Case's intentions, but right in the middle of their presentation, a mysterious voice takes over and exposes not only the "Horsemen," but Dylan's undercover identity in the FBI as well.  As they make their escape, they are captured by some bad guys, one of whom is Merritt's twin brother, Chase, which just gives Woody Harrelson more screen time, and they are all taken to Macau where they meet Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), Case's former business partner.  Mabry faked his own death after Case stole his company and has been working behind the scenes in Macau to get his cell phone technology back.  He wants the "Horsemen" to steal "the stick" that contains the technology or he will kill them.

This scenario now gives them all the opportunity for yet another elaborate heist, as we saw in the first film, along with all kinds of mistaken identities, plot twists and illusions.  And speaking of the illusions.  Even though, after each one they show how the tricks were done, which could be very cool, the illusions themselves are so improbable and so reliant on CGI that even when explained, you can't believe them.  Suspending disbelief is one thing, but after awhile some of these stunts are just ridiculously unbelievable.

Still with me?  There is more, much more, but I am going to stop with that. Just explaining the first third of the movie has ME confused and my head is still spinning.  Just because a movie is about illusion and magic, does that mean it doesn't need to make sense? At the end, one of the characters says, "We still have 6 million questions."  You said it!

Eisenberg is his usual twitchy self, Woody hams it up as the twin brother, Franco flashes that big smile of his, and Ruffalo is as laconic as ever.  Ruffalo, coming off a Best Supporting Actor nod for "Spotlight," should know better. But it's Caplan who shines.  She is the best thing about this movie.

Directed by Jon M. Chu with a screenplay by Ed Solomon, I hate to say this, but the ending leaves this franchise open for yet another film.  Please don't.
I reviewed the first "Now You See Me" back in 2013.  I didn't like that one and I didn't like this one. I can't for the life of me figure out why we needed a sequel.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Now you see me, now you don't.  I vote for "Don't."

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

Now on DVD

45 Years (2015)

A couple, married for 45 years, are planning a celebration for their anniversary until some news from the past impacts their marriage.

Charlotte Rampling plays Kate Mercer, a happily married woman. Tom Courtenay plays her husband, Geoff. They are planning a big celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary, but then Geoff receives a letter.  A body has been found encased in ice in a glacier in Switzerland.  It's his first love, Katya, who had fallen to her death years ago when they were hiking in the Swiss Alps.  The letter arrives just as Kate and Geoff are planning a party to celebrate 45 years of marriage. 

The letter lists Geoff as Katya's next of kin. Geoff confesses to Kate that Katya and he had pretended to be married to make it easier to get a room together.  The story slowly unfolds as Kate asks Geoff questions about his first relationship and secrets and regrets come to light. If Katya hadn't died, would you have married her?  Yes. 

So now Kate is confused, feels like second best. The letter has brought up topics they had never talked about in 45 years.  Remembering the girlfriend he had when he was 25 brings back feelings in Geoff about his youth and that perhaps life has passed him by.

"The worst part of getting losing purposefulness."

"As we get older, we stop making choices...but the choices we make when we are young can be bloody important."

Geoff can't stop thinking of Katya and Kate can't stop thinking about her either.  When Kate goes up into the attic to try to find out what memories he is harboring, she discovers all kinds of pictures of Katya and mementoes and she also discovers that Katya was pregnant when she died.

Even after 40 years of marriage there can be jealousy and insecurity about lost youth and what went on before you. The fact that Katya was found encased in ice, perfectly preserved, forever 25, is a threat to the aging Kate.

Watching this film, we learn that you can be married for 45 years and there still can be things you don't know about your spouse. What do you do after 45 years of marriage when your husband's past rears its ugly head?  And what do you do with your own secrets?

I think about my own parents who were married for over 50 years.  I can't help but wonder what secrets and regrets they harbored.  But even if they had them, does that negate 50 years of marriage? We are couples, but we are also separate people with our own separate youths, our own separate thoughts and our own separate secrets and regrets.  It's a miracle, in light of that, that we get together and stay together at all.

Of course there has to be a sex scene.  It's a British film!  I saw my first bare bottom in a British film in 1966. And let's just say that the fact that Jeff has some erectile disfunction is at least realistic.  Things do get harder as we age, or should I say...well, you know.

Rampling puts in a subtle, but stellar performance as a woman who suddenly has doubts about her 45 year marriage.  I have to say that Rampling has the best "resting bitch face" in the business.  Don't get me wrong.  She was and is a beautiful woman, but when she is not smiling, well, she looks like a bitch. And speaking of which, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this performance, but when she made that bitchy, insensitive remark in response to the brou-haha over the lack of diversity at this year's Oscars, I hate to say that it took away from what was a brilliant performance here.

Tom Courtenay is always good and doesn't disappoint. This film is what would be called in Britain, a two-hander.  It's mostly just the two of them grappling with this new information about each other after 45 years together and each actor puts in a superb performance.

Directed by Andrew Haigh with a screenplay by him adapted from a short story by David Constantine, the film plays out in the beautiful Norfolk countryside with a background score full of popular songs from the sixties, which adds to the atmosphere of the past when Courtenay and Rampling, too, were young hot stars with their whole lives ahead of them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a thoughtful film with stunning performances.

Ride Along 2 (2016)

Cops Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) and James Payton (Ice Cube) head to Miami to take down a drug dealer. Hilarity ensues.  Well, there was supposed to be hilarity.

Ben, who you may remember from the first film, was a security guard who really wanted to be a cop.  Well, now he is one, and he is just out of police training school.  He is also about to get married to James' sister, but Ben's wife-to-be and the pushy wedding planner (Sherri Shepherd) want Ben out of their hair, so when James, who is the experienced police detective, is sent to Miami to track down a drug lord, he takes Ben with him to prove to him once and for all that he doesn't have what it takes to be a detective.

Now right there, I have to stop.  These are ATLANTA cops.  Since when do Atlanta cops go down to Miami to solve a crime that took place in Miami?  Am I missing something here?

Benjamin Bratt plays Antonio Pope, a Miami shipping company owner and kingpin drug dealer who has been bribing port commissioners to get his drugs into the country. He has also been supplying drugs to Atlanta so I guess that's how our guys are getting involved. Improbable, but OK. Pope thought he had the last Port Commissioner in his pocket, but when he discovers that wasn't the case, he has the Port Commissioner killed.  This is all overheard by AJ (Ken Jeong), Bratt's hapless computer hacker.

When Ben and James get to Miami they hook up (no, not that kind of hook up) with police officer, Maya played by Olivia Munn, not to be confused with Olivia Wilde.  (Olivia Munn is the one going with the football star, Aaron Rogers.  And Olivia Wilde is going with Jason Sukeikis.  I always get them confused). Anyway, Ben and James find out about AJ and go to his house, but he runs off because he knows that what he knows about Bratt can get him killed. But eventually they all work together. 

James is the experienced undercover cop and Ben is just out of training.  It becomes clear early on that Ben is going to be our resident screw-up and, just like in the first film, that's what happens. Every plan gets gummed up by Ben. Ice-Cube basically plays a grumpy straight man to Hart's Ben, who talks non-stop and is bent on messing everything up.

I sometimes think there are certain movies that don't play out well on the smaller screen in our homes even if the smaller screen is 80 inches.  I saw this movie on a 50" and for an action film it didn't feel very "action -y." It had the usual car chases, things blowing up, foot races, etc. but they just weren't very exciting.  And maybe that was because they couldn't make up for the fact that this was supposed to be a comedy and it wasn't funny.

Ben is marrying James' sister so there are lots of jokes about James not liking Ben and their being brothers-in-law and we know Kevin is short, so there has to be tons of short jokes too. Ken Jeong is funny but not funny enough to make up for this film not being funny.

Directed by Tim Story with a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, this is a plot that has been done many times before, but the plot doesn't really matter, because it's just a vehicle for Hart to do his thing - set ups for him to scream, to be attacked by an alligator, to talk incessantly.  I am a big Hart fan but this film just doesn't do him justice.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't laugh.


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

246 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

A Man Escaped (1956)

French Resistance fighter Fontaine awaits death in a Nazi prison.  His only hope is to escape.

Based on the true account of an imprisoned French Resistance leader, Andre Devigny, who managed to escape from prison on the very day he was to be executed, this film is "considered one of the greatest prison-break movies ever made (Tony Pipolo)."

It's Lyon, 1943.  Freedom fighter Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) is alone in a Nazi prison cell but attempts to communicate with his neighbors by tapping on the wall.  He climbs up on a ledge and can see out into the courtyard and is able to communicate with those walking back and forth. Some days he is able to pass notes to other prisoners.

So what does one do when one has been given a death sentence, is alone in a bare cell, with the days stretching out ahead and nothing to do except listen to the distant sound of rifles executing your fellow inmates?  Why, you do whatever you can to escape.  Fontaine fashions a chisel out of a metal spoon he has managed to steal and starts to chip away at the wooden door frame until he finally creates a hole big enough to slip through but which he can also put back together.  He wanders the prison at night undetected, making his escape plans.  He creates rope out of his bed springs and bedding and all of this is leading up to his big escape along with Jost (Charles Le Clainche), a young inmate he befriends, who looks just like a young Matt Damon.

It's all very slow, very methodical and very existential.

Why it's a Must See:  "Like all of Robert Bresson's films, this one illustrates the director's long-developed theories of the 'cinematograph' - nonprofessionals giving strict de-dramatized performances, enormous emphasis on offscreen sound and the information it carries; music held off until a final, glorious moment. And like the other great prison films of French cinema...[this film] offers a remarkably potent allegory of human suffering and the drive to liberation.  At the same time, it delivers a taut form of suspense to rival the best of Alfred Hitchcock."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"

Director Bresson is considered one of the most influential filmmakers in French cinema. French Director Jean-Luc Godard once wrote, "Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is to German music." He was noted for his minimalist style: using non-actors, little music and spare production values.

The film highlights our needs as humans to connect with others and to be free.  But watching Fontaine chisel his way out of his cell was tantamount to watching paint dry.  The prison break itself, which is highly dramatic and tense, only takes up the last twenty minutes of this film and, for me, it was a long slog to get there.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though I can appreciate the artistry of this film, just not my kind of film.
(In French with English subtitles, b & w)

***Book of the Week***

Every Little Step: My Story by Bobby Brown and Nick Chiles (2016)

Singer Bobby Brown shares his story and the aftermath of the deaths of his ex-wife, Whitney Houston and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina.

Bobby Brown started his career when he was only 14 as a member of the New Edition.  He quickly made a successful solo career and by the time he was 20, he was a full-fledged hip-hop star who easily crossed over into the R & B and Pop charts.  Who, in the 80's, doesn't remember dancing to "My Prerogative?"

But for the younger generation, Brown's singing career is probably overshadowed by his marriage to Whitney Houston and her subsequent untimely death.  Likewise, when their daughter Bobbi Kristina also died young in the same manner as Whitney, it was all tabloid fodder and Brown's influence was blamed for much of it.

Here he attempts to set the record straight.

Brown starts out with what was a happy childhood, though a hardscrabble one, in a rough neighborhood in Boston. He had a gift for dance which led him to form a boy group - New Edition - when he was only 14.  By the time he was 17, he was a big star.  But when he met and married Whitney Houston in his early  twenties, his fame became infamous, especially after their short-lived reality show "Being Bobby Brown," where the two came off as crazy drug-addicts, which was especially shocking for Whitney's fans.  Whitney had always had a "girl next door" look and reputation so, naturally, Bobby's bad influence must have led her down the wrong path. He has been accused of introducing her to drugs, of domestic violence and other crimes, and cheating, all tabloid fodder to which Brown replies is all wrong and for much of this, he blames Whitney's relatives, the Houston family.

According to Brown, Whitney was doing drugs before they met and was hardly Miss Goodie Two Shoes.  Yes, he has been to prison but it was a misunderstanding about a probation violation for a DUI.  Yes, he hit Whitney, but only once and for that he is truly remorseful.  Yes, he cheated but so did she. In the end, Brown, now in his 50's, wants you to know that he loved both Whitney (they were married for 15 years) and Bobbi Kristina, and he is a committed family man who has been clean for several years.

There is no doubt that Brown has suffered greatly from both Whitney's death and Bobbi Kristina's, and he has paid the price of a life maybe not so well lived.  This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when someone very young has too much fame and too much money too soon, but Bobby still believes he was born to entertain and that he was unfavorably portrayed in the press.

"People need to understand that I love this industry with all my being.  Entertainment is...what I was born to do...Yes, I might fall short sometimes, and I've gotten mixed up in drugs and alcohol and all of that, but that comes with show business.  It comes with the territory.  I want people to understand that when I hit that stage, if I'm a beast, then that's my truth.  That's what Bobby Brown is.  Were you entertained?  If you were, that's what matters...In this day and age, the media dissects every inch of your life, everything that has nothing to do with entertaining.  And critics and journalists write all these ridiculous things about me but have no idea of the craziness I went through before I even got into the industry, all the people I've lost...Drugs were a crutch to deal with early pain, and I know now that the pain has to be dealt with in other ways in order for me to be the best I can possibly be.  And I'm working on that, on a daily basis."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a believable and sad cautionary tale and a bit of a mea culpa.


That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for

  Why Long-Distance Relationships Don't Work"

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to copy and paste or 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

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, 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."