Friday, September 9, 2016

"War Dogs" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "War Dogs" as well as the DVDs "Maggie's Plan" and the documentary about the politician with the unfortunate name and unfortunate life "Weiner."  The Book of the Week is "The Woman in Cabin 10 (another novel)!"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Ring (Ringu)."

War Dogs

Based on a true story, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller star as Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two guys who become "War Dogs," a not very flattering name for arms dealers, and find themselves in over their heads. 

The film begins in Albania with David being terrorized by Albanian gangsters.  How did he end of there?

Well, let's do a flashback and see...

David Packouz (Teller) is a certified massage therapist in Miami who is barely scraping by and who is getting tired of being hit upon by some of his rich male clients.  So he decides that selling high end Egyptian cotton bed sheets to nursing homes is the way to go. He uses every penny he has to invest in that new business.  Like I said, he's just scraping by.

Then David meets Efraim Diveroli (Hill) at a funeral.  The two had been friends in grade school and renew their friendship.  Efraim is a bigger-than-life loudmouth who seems to be doing well and he impresses David, who is looking for a way out of his current life and a way to make more money, particularly since his girlfriend is pregnant.

Efraim runs a company called AEY, selling arms to the U.S government for the war in Iraq.  He has discovered a website where all contracts for military weapons are posted, where anyone can place bids on filling the orders  ( and it's real! - you could become an arms dealer too)!  He found a loophole where few companies were bidding on the smaller jobs so he decided that would be their niche. Those smaller jobs were still worth millions of dollars.

Eventually, David and Efraim land a contract to provide Beretta pistols to U.S. Troops in Iraq, a deal that would put them on the map. Unfortunately, there is an embargo in Italy on shipments to Iraq so Efraim attempts to bypass the embargo by routing the shipment through Jordan, but the shipment gets held up there as well. David and Efraim fly to Jordan and they manage to smuggle their cargo into Iraq in a scary wild ride.

This emboldens the two and they continue to secure larger deals and make more money, moving into a larger office and hiring more employees.  Life looks good.  David has a new little daughter and is living the high life.  Efraim, however, is acting more and more erratically.

Is what they are doing illegal?  Not really.  Is it ethical?  Not really.

Then along comes THE BIG DEAL.  They are given a chance to land their biggest deal yet, "The Afghan Deal." The U.S. Government needs 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition.  It's a deal worth $300 million.  David and Efraim lowball their bid (by about $50 million, much to their chagrin) and get the order with absolutely no idea how they will fill it until they meet up with legendary U.S. arms dealer Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper in a small role). Girard has access to the massive weapon storages that were created in Albania but never used.  Why does he want to work with a small company like AEY?  He is on a terrorist watch list and is not allowed to work with the U.S.  Henry is a badass. Not a good sign.

David goes to Albania to make sure the ammo really works and Efraim gets the bright idea to cut Henry out of the deal.  And that's how David ended up looking down the barrel of an Albanian gangster's gun. Because Henry is not a particularly nice guy and doesn't like young punks like these thinking they can double-cross him.

And it's not over yet. There's more.  It gets worse.

Directed by Todd Phillips (the guy who directed all of those "Hangover" movies) and based on a true story chronicled by Guy Lawson in his book "Arms and the Dudes," don't expect it to be as silly and crazy as the "Hangover" films. If you do, you will be disappointed.  Though this has some very funny moments, it's more drama than comedy, more cynicism than slapstick.  But the film is still entertaining, though these guys are not nice guys and our government doesn't come off looking very good either.  Who are the worse war-mongers?  Guys like these who sell weapons to countries fighting wars or countries getting into those wars?

Teller made his big splash as a sensitive teen heart throb in "The Spectacular Now," followed by "Whiplash."  His star continues to rise.  He has several big projects in the works over the next year.

Jonah on the other hand, not so sure.  He is making a habit of playing unsympathetic characters and this is the first film he has starred in since 2014's "22 Jump Street."  He was hot, hot, hot after "Moneyball" in 2011 (he garnered a Best Supporting Actor nod), but, when you think about it, he has never really carried a film on his own, and since then, he has mostly done "buddy films" or played a pivotal part in an ensemble, such as "The Wolf of Wall Street," though again, for this one, he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  But I also don't see much in the offing for him over the next couple of years.  Such are the vagaries of an acting life.  One minute you are hot, the next you are not.  But here he is the star, though an unpleasant one, and Miles and he work well together.  It's a fun experience.  The film is a kind of "Big Short" for U.S. arms deals, and for me, that is the star of the show.  You will be surprised, and possibly troubled by, how it all works.

I often go to movies based on my schedule rather than whether or not I really want to see the film.  This isn't my usual fare, but this was a good one. I enjoyed it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A good story, some laughs and a not particularly flattering insight into how the U.S. gets its war weapons.

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

Now on DVD

Maggie's Plan (2015)

Maggie's first plan is to have a baby on her own but through a series of events, she comes up with Plan #2.

Tony (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Greta Gerwig) were once lovers but now he is married to her friend (Maya Rudolph) and they are all besties. Maggie is single and has never had a relationship that has lasted more than six months.  Maggie was raised by a single mother and has fond memories of life with her Mom, so she wants to have a baby.  She decides to impregnate herself using the sperm from her friend, Guy (Travis Fimmel), a mathematician turned pickle-maker, who works at the coffee shop. 

Maggie works at the New School as a graduate school advisor and meets John (Ethan Hawke), a professor of Ficto-critical Anthropology. Huh? He is a frustrated writer and he asks her to read his book. John is married to Georgette (Julianne Moore), also a professor, but one whose career seems to be shining brighter than his. She is Danish (and I guess Moore's idea of a Danish accent is not being able to pronounce her "r's?" - actually pretty funny) and has just been offered the Chair of her Department at Columbia.  And it doesn't help that she is an uptight, snooty, smug academic  So we have an uptight but successful wife who has eclipsed her husband, a husband who needs validation about his writing and a young women who is impressed and enthused about his writing. Guess what?  Fastest way to a man's heart and to an affair with a married man is to flatter that ego that has been flattened by his more talented wife.

While John's wife and kids are away, he goes over to Maggie's and he professes his love for her and tells her he no longer loves his wife.  All I could think was what a douchebag.  "I don't want you to have a baby with the pickle man.  I want you to have the baby with me."  Please.  A man will do anything to get a woman into bed.  However, Maggie is in love with John too.

Fast forward a couple of years and now John and Maggie are married with a baby girl.  He has made it as a writer using their affair as the cornerstone of his book (reminded me of the Showtime series "The Affair.").  But there is a slight problem.  Maggie no longer loves John.  She meets Georgette, likes her and realizes she has fallen into the trap of believing her husband was unloved by his ex-wife and needed someone like Maggie to help him write.  When Maggie discovers that Georgette isn't such a beast after all and actually still loves John, she dreams up another plan. 

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, this is yet another indie with Gerwig playing a quirky single girl in Manhattan, though Maggie is not quite as daffy as some of the other characters Gerwig has played. Gerwig has cornered the market on over-optimistic quirky millennials who get their hearts broken. But her characters are always plucky, and in this film Maggie describes herself as "capable."  But Gerwig is much more than capable as an actress, and I can't help but wonder when she is going to break out big.  Despite her resume of movie roles, I would dare say that most mainstream movie goers would not recognize her or her name. And that's a shame.  Why hasn't she yet become a big star? Is it her unconventional looks?  Her height? Long the muse of Noah Baumbach ("Frances Ha," "Mistress America"), I think of her as the Woody Allen of the indies, the Queen of the female quirky characters trying to navigate Manhattan. I want to see her make it big.

And speaking of making it, how did Bill Hader break out as a romantic lead?  I am seeing him more and more playing it straight. Doesn't anyone remember his silly characters on SNL?  Remember Stefon? Hader has come a long way.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a smart film with a fun twist.  If you like Woody Allen films, you will like this one.

Weiner (2016)

The political downfall of a what could have been an illustrious career.

Anthony Weiner. What an unfortunate last name for a man in public service who disgraced himself with his...well, his weiner. 

This Showtime documentary opens with the quote:

"The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers." - Marshall McLuhan

Must have been a tough childhood with a name like that.

Watching this documentary about the disgraced politician, one can't help but wonder why Weiner would put himself through this examination of the scandal that rocked his political life other than as a mea culpa of sorts, and he probably didn't want all of the good he had done in political office to be overshadowed by the scandal.  But here's the thing: all I could think about watching this film was, how could he be so stupid? 

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, Anthony Weiner was a Congressman serving New York State's 9th district from January 1999 to June 2011. He won seven terms and was a popular Democrat, never winning less than 59% of the vote.  Weiner helped get The Affordable Care Act passed, and, if you are a liberal Democrat, he was doing a lot of the things you would want him to do.  However, he was also doing some things you probably wouldn't want him to do.

In Congress, Weiner was a firebrand. He was unafraid to be scrappy and rant about his issues in the House of Representatives, yet that same ego drove him to think that he could get away with texting risqué photos of himself and not get caught in this age of social media. 

He was caught in his first sex scandal in 2011 when his wife was pregnant.
He posted a picture of his erect penis in underwear to one of his followers on Twitter.  He denied it at first but later resigned from Congress. 

This documentary film picks up in 2013, two years after his resignation for scandal #1, when he was running for Mayor of New York City.  It follows him as he campaigns and, of course, the number one question everyone asks is "Why?" Why is right.  And I'm not talking about the scandal.  I'm asking "Why would he put himself through this film?"  The film clearly shows him getting tired of saying "Sorry." 

There is a scene where Weiner is being interviewed by Lawrence O'Donnell on his MSNBC show "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," and O'Donnell is a good liberal who would most likely be on Weiner's side, but Weiner is clearly defensive and his attitude toward O'Donnell is embarrassing.  He is clearly feeling harassed and that the media is using the scandal to overshadow his stand on the issues.

Was the media harassing him? Could it be that unfortunate name was just too good for the media to pass up and they just wouldn't let up on him?  Or was it the fact that HE DID IT AGAIN! 

The filmmakers probably planned to follow Weiner as he campaigned for Mayor of NYC and make a film about a guy who makes a comeback.  But that ego got in the way again and Weiner in 2013 dropped a really good story in their lap by texting explicit sexual pictures to a 22-year-old fan who was in contact with him because she disapproved of his earlier sexting!  This time he thought he would outsmart social media and use a fake name - Carlos Danger.  Really?  And her name was Sydney Leathers.  This was just too good to be true for the media and for the filmmakers.

And unfortunately, even before Weiner screws up again, he comes off as arrogant, sleazy and a smartass.  And he wasn't that nice to his wife, either.

Yes, his wife, Huma Abedin, close adviser to Hillary Clinton. The other big question is why his smart and powerful wife would stand by him, but then why do women do a lot of things where their men are concerned?  Clearly, she loved him, they had a little girl together.  You know the drill.

But you have to hand it to the guy.  He has, er, balls.  First of all, you have to have the proverbial balls to even enter the political arena, but to try to make a comeback after humiliating yourself with your balls really takes balls.  And then to think he could get away with doing it again?  Clearly, now he has a career death wish.  But the guy is also clearly a narcissist and feels he is above criticism.  He lacks self-reflection and clearly isn't really sorry.  There is a scene in the film where he is practicing a mea culpa speech in front of a mirror and the insincerity just oozes out of the screen.  He watches film of himself being interviewed and ragged about the scandal and all he comments on is how his hair looks. 

This is a Shakespearean tragedy of sorts - a man with a bright future, tumbling down from his high place because of his own ego, because only a huge ego could think he would get away with posting explicit pictures of himself on Twitter in this day and age.  But the irony is, there have been politicians who have done far worse than sexting a picture of an enlarged penis in underpants.  Oh, how about Bill Clinton?  And yet Clinton came out of it and is now one of our most respected Presidents (by some, anyway).

This film doesn't explore Weiner's growing up years, but I couldn't help but imagine that as a kid, he was probably a huge dork, probably captain of the debate team, teased about his name, couldn't get a girl but then he grew up and started to get noticed in politics and it went to his head.  Unpopular dorks can have huge egos, but we just don't notice them until those dorks get some power.

So now we have scandal #2 and believe it or not, Huma hangs in there again.  So this is also a story about a smart accomplished woman caught up in a situation where she is continuously being humiliated by her husband, a husband she once admired for his political acumen and his fight for the right causes.  How much more can she take?

Well, not that much more.  This year (2016), HE DID IT AGAIN! Scandal #3! This guy just can't help himself and Huma finally decided that was it.  She has filed for divorce. 

This film started out to be a film about redemption, but instead it turned out to be a film about a man who couldn't get out of the way of his own ego.

Written and directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, the film was produced in true cinema verite, following Weiner around with no narration, the camera letting the story unfold and write itself because truth is more compelling than anything that could be made up. And it is fascinating to watch - like a train wreck.

When the filmmaker finally asked Weiner, "Why have you let me film this?" he replied, "I don't regret letting you follow me around.  I want to be viewed as the full person.  I can't believe this scandal eclipsed me."

See what I mean?  Still clueless.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look at the tragedy of promise dashed by narcissism.

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

237 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Ring (Ringu) (1998)

People start dying seven days after watching a strange video.

At least you get a warning.  The phone will ring.  Then you know you are going to die.

The film begins with two young girls repeating an urban legend about some kids watching a TV show and then dying seven days later.  Then one of the girls says she did see a "weird video" and that as soon as the show ended, the phone rang and no one was there.  Of course she dies. 

More and more indicents like this occur and when news reporter, Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) discovers that her niece is one of the girls who died, she gets involved.  She goes to the school where the first girl died and interviews her friends.  It seems that all of the people who have died came from one Japanese province and all were found with their faces frozen in abject fear.  They were young people whose hearts had stopped and autopsies showed no causes of death.  Reiko travels to a cabin where several kids had stayed.  She finds a video in the cabin and watches it. She is mesmerized by the strange images and when the video is over the phone rings!  While she was watching the video, I could see it too. SO NOW I'VE SEEN IT!  If the phone had rung, I would have lost it! When Reiko's four-year-old son gets a hold of the video and watches it, she is really freaked. Now Reiko has just seven days to solve the mystery of the videotape and break the curse.  

So the film starts out interestingly enough, but then there is all kinds of rigamaroll about a woman who predicted a volcanic eruption and then threw herself into the volcano.  The woman had a daughter, Sadako, and the woman's daughter supposedly has the power to kill just by wishing.  So what happened to Sadako?  Well, you will find out.  Ring, ring.

Why it's a Must See:  "Director Hideo Nakata achieves a steady sense of mounting disquiet throughout the film...There are no cheap shock effects here.  Instead, Nakata relies on sound and atmosphere to suggest the presence of the unquiet dead hovering over the living poised to strike...[This film] singlehandedly revived the horror genre for the end of the twentieth century, spawning two sequels, a prequel, a Korean remake, and an overcooked but hugely successful Hollywood remake...not to mention influencing dozens of horror films from all over the world."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I would say that's a bit of an overstatement. I remember being afraid to see this film because, from the previews, it looked so scary.  Turns out the only scary part is at the very end and even that's not so scary.  And I hate to say it, the "escape clause" from the curse is really improbable.  But this film is more about mood and suspense, and it's creepy and creates an atmosphere.  I just wish the ending had been a better one.

Rosy the Reviewer will never watch TV the same way again!
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016)

A young journalist who has a bit of a drinking and pill problem and a complicated love life, thinks she has witnessed a murder aboard ship.

Lo (short for Laura) Blacklock is burgled in her apartment in the middle of the night and encounters the intruder.  After that experience, she is really on edge so is happy when she gets an assignment from her magazine to spend some time on a luxury cruise ship.  It's a small (only 10 cabins), but very luxurious ship, where everyone is waited on hand and foot.

Once on board, as she dresses for dinner, she realizes she doesn't have any mascara so knocks on the door of her next door neighbor, cabin 10, and asks the young woman who answers the door if she can borrow some mascara.  Though the young woman is not particularly friendly, she gives Lo some mascara and they say bye. Lo is surprised not to see the young woman at dinner, but all goes swimmingly until later that night when Lo is awakened from a sound sleep by a scream and a big splash emanating from the cabin next door, the very same cabin where she had borrowed mascara from the young woman. When she reports the incident, not only does it turn out that everyone on board is accounted for, but there NEVER WAS ANYONE STAYING IN THE CABIN NEXT DOOR!  Lo finds herself embroiled in a mystery with many twists and turns.

The stage is now set for an Agatha Christie-type who-done-it, except it can't really be a who-done-it if we can't be sure anything was done.  But the cast of characters are all on the ship and we meet them one by one.  Who was that young woman in cabin 10?  Did she even exist or was she a figment of Lo's addled, drunk and pill-popping brain?

As I continue to expand my fiction horizons, I am finding that I am enjoying myself but also developing some bad habits. This book made me want to jump to the end to see what happened to that woman in cabin 10.  I resisted the urge, but I can see that might be a problem with future mysteries.

Ware has a real way with dialogue which makes the book zip along, though you have to forgive her the British-isms - be sure you know what "gobsmacked," "bloke" and "bollocks" mean.  But it's not her fault.  She's British.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are an Agatha Christie fan or you liked the recent bestseller"The Girl on the Train" or the movie "The Lady Vanishes," you will love this "can't-put-it-down" best-selling read.  And it will make a great movie!


That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!


See you Tuesday for

"Turn Your Home into a Sanctuary"


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fashion Essentials for a Woman of a Certain Age

I don't know why I do this to myself but despite the fact that the models could be my granddaughters, and I can't afford the clothes and accessories they wear, I can't resist fashion magazines.  I may not have much in common with Gigi Haddid and Kendall Jenner but show me a "Harper's Bazaar" or a "Vogue," and I can't help myself.

But that doesn't mean I am immune to it all.  Reading these magazines brings up all kinds of angst and bile and regret about growing old, not to mention I can't wear or afford most of the featured items.  So at least once a year, I am inspired to rant about fashion magazines and rail against what they say we should be wearing and doing.

So speaking of "Harper's Bazaar," they have a column called "The A-List," where someone famous "shares her essentials."  It's kind of like Nina Garcia's "What Nina Loves" that I ranted about last year ("What Rosy the Reviewer Loves and a Rant About Fashion Magazines.").  Now Nina is a woman of a certain age like myself and she can be forgiven for hawking outrageous items such as Tom Ford soap for $35 a bar and beaded Balenciaga sandals for $1375, because that's her job as a fashion editor, but when a twenty-year-old like Kendall Jenner is telling me what fashion essentials are, I have to draw the line.  I am a woman of a certain age and have pretty much given up on buying designer clothes and pricey soap, but, Kendall Jenner is a fashion icon who has millions of followers on social media and I would guess they aren't women my age.  They are young women who also can't afford some of the stuff she is saying is "essential" either.

Let's see... (and I am quoting here):

"When it comes to tops, I like something simple and easy to re-wear." Chanel sweater, $2050.

If I had a Chanel sweater that cost over $2000 it wouldn't just be easy to re-wear, I would be wearing it every day because it would be the only thing I owned!

"I wash my face a lot, wear sunscreen, drink tons of water and use Estee Lauder Products." - Rouge, $82. 

Uh, $82 for rouge? I just squeeze my cheeks like Scarlett O'Hara used to do and save myself the $82.

"I wear a watch every once in a while, usually a vintage Rolex that I really like." 

I would think she would like it.  It costs $11,000.  I would really like it too.  You notice she says she wears it every once in a while.  For 20-year-olds, a watch is not for telling time.  They have their IPhones for that.  A Rolex would be a fashion accessory that just happens to have a little thingy on it that tells the time.

"I'm a big shoe girl.  Shoes of all types, really, especially if they're comfortable."  Balmain, $1540!

For $1540 I sure hope they are comfortable, because you would have to wear thing constantly to get your money's worth!

"For jewelry, I really love chokers and sentimental necklaces.  And Chanel is always a go-to."  Chanel bracelet, $2200

OK, I can't take any more.  Speaking of chokers, I want to choke her!  Twenty years old and throwing around words like Chanel, Balmain and Rolex.  I can barely afford a sweater at Old Navy.

And I would imagine Kendall's 20-year-old followers can't afford Chanel, Balmain and Rolex either.

So why do we women, especially women of a certain age, read these magazines that show impossibly thin, impossibly young women talking about their essential fashion items that are impossibly expensive for most of us?

Well, I don't know about you, but I do it for the same reason I go to the movies.  For a short time, I can hang out in a different world.  I can imagine myself in Prada and Chanel, wearing a Rolex watch and sipping Veuve Clicquot with the beautiful people.

But more practically speaking, I also like clothes and like to keep up with the trends. I may be old, but I am not out of it.  I liked clothes when I was twenty, and I like clothes now. Certainly I can't afford the high end stuff, but if I know what's on trend, then I can usually put together something that shows I know what's going on. 

We women of a certain age tend to become invisible.  I am not having it.  I will not go quietly into old age and give up my big earrings and my leopard leggings.

And right there, that's the #1 fashion essential for a woman of a certain age.

Your Fashion Essential is YOU!

Don't give up on yourself.  Get on out there and stay there!

We may not be a 20-something Kendall Jenner who can afford to buy whatever she wants and has the best hair and make-up people at her beck and call, but we can still be presentable and look like we belong in the 21st century.

Yes, some days I don't get out of the bathrobe until noon, but at least I do get dressed and when I do, I try to look like I give a damn.

So to look like you give a damn, here are what I consider fashion essentials for women of a certain age who still care what they look like, but who don't have a lot of money to spend on themselves:


1. Shapewear.
If you are self-conscious about parts of your body - and who of us of a certain  age aren't? - and that self-consciousness restricts what you think you can wear, buy some shapewear, which is just a trendy name for what we used to call girdles or corsets. It doesn't have to be Spanx, which I find impossibly expensive considering all of the places on my body I need to shape.  You can get good quality shapewear at Penney's or discount places like Ross or Marshall's. Mostly I like to wear it to hold up my pantyhose when I am wearing a dress and boots or in summer to keep my thighs from slapping together when I am wearing a sundress. TMI?


2. A fashionable hat
Then you don't need to fix your hair.  However, be aware that once you have the hat on you will likely have to keep wearing it because otherwise when you take the hat off you will have hat hair.  So buy a hat your really like in case you can't take it off.


3. Active wear
This is just a trendy name for work-out clothes.  At least if you have some cute workout clothes, you might go to the gym...or to the mall.  I include mall walking as a work-out.



4. Make-up
When we ladies get old, I think the first thing that seems to go by the wayside is wearing make-up.  I am willing to accept that I have gotten old but I am not willing to accept how I look without mascara.  Given that, I am willing to take the five minutes it takes to slap on some make-up so I can fight the battle that is getting old.


5. Big Sunglasses
For when you don't want to wear make-up.



6. Trousers that make you feel good and look good
You notice I don't use the word pants.  That's for my British friends - in the UK "pants" are usually underpants so I am not talking about that here.  Trousers can be jeans or they can be a tailored trouser but they should be your go-to's, the ones you reach for when you want to look fabulous.


7. A fabulous coat or jacket
I am addicted to coats and jackets and they are essential to looking good when you are outside when the weather is colder.  They keep you nice and warm, and they can cover a multitude of sins. 


8. Black and/or white
Wearing all black or all white is a great look and also makes accessorizing easy.  Or mix the two. Always striking.

9.  A great uniform
Have a great stay-at-home outfit you can pull on without thinking and hang around the house in, but that doesn't make you look like you weren't thinking when you got dressed. You never know...the man (or woman) of your dreams might knock on the door and you don't want to be standing there in sweatpants and a t-shirt that says "My Cat Thinks I'm Cool."  Well, do you?  Even the cable guy shouldn't have to see you like that.

So here's a tip for that: I have just discovered a trick that works really well for looking good every day.  I have a ton of clothes that I have accumulated over the years.  I can basically shop my own closets.  I am not proud of my "collecting," OK, hoarding (I talked about it in May on my post "Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder"), but let's just say I am aware of the problem and am working on it.

But anyway, having so many clothes has its own problems in that sometimes I am overwhelmed with what to wear. When I am riding my stationary bike with the closet door open, I sometimes see items I haven't seen in years and think to myself, "Wow, that's cute. When did I get that?"  Sad.

So I now have this little pile of trousers/leggings and tops that I keep at the forefront of my closet and can just reach for. They consist of a few cute on trend outfits I can put on without thinking.  And I can wear the same thing a couple of days in a row if I am seeing different people.  Who will know but you?

10. Finally, as I said earlier, the best fashion essential is staying in the game.  You don't have to spend a lot to look good but spending a little time to look good will make you feel like a million bucks!

That is the most essential fashion essential: Feeling good about yourself no matter what your size, the size of your wardrobe or the wrinkles on your face.  Don't be invisible! It's your life so live it!

So I will end by sharing with you the fashion trends for fall to give you a little inspiration and to save you having to scout the fashion magazines and hang out with Kendall Jenner and start feeling bad again.

  • Leopard trousers (or trousers in a graphic print)
  • Military coat
  • Modern loafer
  • Puffer jacket
  • Long trench
  • Graphic bag
  • Cross body bag
  • Luxe fabric as in brocade
  • Velvet boots

Clothes hoarding has its perks. Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, check... oops.  Yes, I have all of the items on the list including the leopard trousers...but no velvet boots.

I think I need to go for a mall walk!

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday

for my review of

"War Dogs"
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, September 2, 2016

"Hell or High Water" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Hell or High Water" as well as DVDs "Dark Horse" and "Miss You Already."  The Book of the Week is a novel (I told you I was expanding my reading horizons!) "The Kitchens of the Great Midwest."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "The Naked Spur."]

Hell or High Water

Two brothers resort to robbing banks to save the family farm.  It's a classic plot elevated by great acting and direction and a multi-layered script.

West Texas has been hit hard by the economy and by those damn banks. With the death of their mother, divorced dad Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) are on their own.  Their mother has left the family farm to Toby but slight problem.  She had fallen victim to the bank during the economic bubble and gotten herself into a bad reverse mortgage. The farm is about to be foreclosed on in about a week, and Toby needs over $40,000 to save the farm.  He feels like a bit of a screw-up in life, but the one good thing he wants to do is save the farm for his sons. Turns out the farm is worth far more than what Toby owes because oil has been discovered there. 

Toby enlists Tanner to help him get the money by robbing branches of the very bank that scammed their mother.  They are going to steal just enough money to save the farm and come hell or high water, Toby is going to get that money to the bank in time to pay off the mortgage and get the farm back. Toby has figured out a good plan - rob small bank branches with few people around, steal only loose bills to avoid dye packs, wear masks and bury each car they use in the robbery on the family farm so there is no trace.  Sounds like a plan. But, of course, things have to go terribly wrong.

For one thing, the brothers didn't expect a tenacious Texas Ranger, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) to be enlisted by the local police.  Marcus is on the verge of retirement and is not particularly happy about it so he wants to solve this case - "come hell or high water" - before he retires.

Jeff Bridges is always a draw and can be counted on for a stellar performance, and he doesn't disappoint, though I became fixated on the prosthesis he was wearing in his mouth to make his character seem older.  It reminded me of the marbles Marlon Brando employed in his mouth to play "The Godfather."  And Chris Pine shows he has more going for him than his amazingly handsome face - he can act!  He also puts in a great performance.  But the one to watch is Ben Foster as Tanner.  He's been toiling on TV and in character roles until now, and I suspect his career will take off with this performance.  He's the screw-up kind of crazy brother with a possible death wish and combines a bit of crazy with a bit of sensitivity.  He is fascinating to watch.

Directed by David Mackenzie with a script by Taylor Sheridan, this film has many layers.  It's a Bonnie and Clyde kind of bank robber movie set in the vast wasteland that is modern West Texas, but it's also a film about the old way of life that no longer exists in the small rotting towns and farmlands of the United States because of the lack of opportunity and those unscrupulous banks. But it also mourns the old way of life in the West, when Native Americans owned their own land and farmers could make a living.  And it's also about old versus young.

Speaking of Native Americans, Marcus has a partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham), who is part Native American and part Mexican, and the two have a close relationship, though Marcus loves to "tease" Alberto, by needling him about Indian and Mexican stereotypes.  Clearly Alberto doesn't care for these comments, but he gives as good as he gets by telling Marcus how glad he will be when he retires and how much he hopes he hates it.  I guess scriptwriter Sheridan was going for the kind of good-natured give and take relationship we like to see between two cop partners and to make a statement about the inherent racism that exists even in "good people," but I have to say some of the comments Marcus made to Alberto were cringe-worthy.

Giles Nuttgens' cinematography beautifully captures the dusty, poverty stricken land of the modern West, with its signs advertising debt relief and bible- thumping spiritual relief, and the score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis hauntingly underlines it all.  

There was "The Big Short" which gave us a wonderful overview on how the banks bamboozled us, and then there was "99 Homes," which gave us a glimpse into the human side of all of that pain when many individuals lost their homes, but here it's all honed down to one man's story and how he got some measure of restitution.

And you know I have talked about this before - that I cry at the end of a really great movie whether or not it's sad.  I cry because I am so moved by really good filmmaking. I cried.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you have been tired of all of the summer blockbusters and have been yearning for an adult drama that has something to say, this is for you.  And remember, I cried.  It's that good.

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

Now on DVD

Dark Horse (2015)

Welsh working class people form a syndicate to breed a horse and participate in "The Sport of Kings."

In a small coal mining community in Wales, Jan Vokes works in a pub.  One day, she overhears Mark Davis, a tax lawyer, talking about his unsuccessful foray into horse racing and, right then and there, she gets the idea that she wants to raise a race horse.  After all, her Dad raised budgies and racing pigeons and showed whippets.  How hard could it be? 

Jan knows that she doesn't have the money to buy and raise a racehorse, but what if she got her friends to all chip in?  She does, including Davis, whose dream it still was to get into horse racing, and they all form a syndicate. Everyone pledges 10 pounds per week and they set about finding their horse.  And mind you, they aren't going to buy a racehorse.  They are going to find a mare, breed her and the colt will be their horse. They do and "Dream Alliance" is born, an apt name for a horse born of an alliance of dreams.  Though at first he doesn't look like a typical race horse, they find a trainer and when Dream Alliance wins his first race, they start really believing in their dream. 

But that's just the beginning of the story.  Dream Alliance has his ups and downs.  He starts as a bit of a joke but becomes a serious contender when he wins The Perth Gold Cup.  But then at a preparatory race for the 2008 Grand National he is injured.  His injury is one where the horse is usually put down but Jan feels the money they had won is Dream's money so they use their winnings for stem cell surgery on Dream and guess what?  Well, you will just have to see the film to find out.

Written and directed by Louise Osmond, I would call this film a "dramatic documentary."  The story is compelling and unfolds like a feature film, but it also includes interviews with the main characters and real racing footage.  It's a story about class with working class people rubbing elbows with their richer counterparts, those you would expect in the pricey "Sport of Kings," but it's also a story of the love these people had for a horse and what he represented to them.  And it's a feminist story because without the will and fortitude of Jan Vokes, there would never have been a Dream Alliance.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film is not just for those who love horses and horse-racing, it's for everyone who likes to feel good. It's the most human and uplifting movie I have seen in a long while.  Have some hankies handy.

Miss You Already (2015)

Two life-long girlfriends face life's ups and downs together.

Millie (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) met as young girls in the 1980's in London when Jess's family moved from America to the U.K.  They were instant friends.  Millie was the ebullient bon vivant and the one who got married and had a kid first.  Jess was more centered. She also wanted to have a child, but so far had been unsuccessful. The women love each other, share everything and when they take leave of one another always say "Miss you already," hence the movie's title, though I swear I only heard them say it once.  Millie is the one with the perfect life so of course she is the one who has to get breast cancer.

Jess lives with her boyfriend, Jago (Paddy Considine), on a canal boat, and she is trying to get pregnant so we get to see how IVF works up close and personal.  I think Drew must have been pregnant for real during this film because she wears the most god awful sack dresses and baggie coats. I'm just sayin.'

We also see the ravages of cancer up close and personal as Millie navigates wig shopping, head shaving, the trauma of a mastectomy, the hospital stay (though this hospital looks more like a 5-star hotel) and Millie's husband (Dominic Cooper) and family trying to deal with this unexpected turn in their otherwise perfect lives. Millie's mother, Miranda, an almost unrecognizable Jacqueline Bisset with blond hair and possibly plastic surgery, is not in touch with reality, can't connect with her daughter and is no help whatsoever.

Millie and Jess decide to go to the moors because Millie is obsessed with "Wuthering Heights."  Why is it that whenever we have a film where someone is dying, we have to go on a road trip?  We saw it in "Me Before You" and again in "The Fundamentals of Caring."  Anyway, off they go to commune with Emily Bronte, and there Millie connects with a very hunky bartender in what is a rather unbelievable and jarring plot twist.

However, I'm a sucker for these kinds of films.  Remember "Beaches?"  I cried my eyes out.  Though this is not in the same league as "Beaches," because how can you compete with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey? - but it's that kind of film so keep some hankies handy.

I don't know why, but I havn't likedToni Colette since she lost weight after making a splash in "Muriel's Wedding," her breakout film.  Maybe it's because she's now too skinny.  And likewise, despite what appears to be Drew Barrymore's ever present optimism and good nature, I haven't really connected with her either.  Maybe I have seen her too many times on late night talk shows being sunny and chipper.  I guess I'm not particularly into sunny and chipper.  But the two are good together here and you believe the friendship.

The gifted and handsome Dominic Cooper, who cut a swath as Ian Fleming in the 2014 British mini-series "Fleming" and has been everywhere you look ever since, plays Millie's husband and Paddy Considine plays Jago, Jess's quirky husband.  Both add a dimension to the story by not being the stereotypical husbands who are insensitive to their wives' struggles.

Written by Morwenna Banks and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, this film avoids sappy sentimentality when tackling Millie's cancer and Jess's struggle to have a baby, but the strength of this film is how well it captures that special bond that really close girlfriends share, one that exists on its own apart from husbands and family, so, I guess, it's only fitting that it was also written and directed by women.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the two may not be Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey but they have chemistry and pull you in.  The message?  Girlfriends transcend husbands.  Remember that ladies.  Keep your husbands close but your girlfriends closer.

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

238 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Naked Spur (1953)

Three bounty hunters and a woman work together (sort of) to bring a man to justice.

Howard Kemp (Jimmy Stewart) is on the trail of killer Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) when he runs into miner Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell).  Tate had seen a cold fire down the trail aways (I'm talking western talk), so Kemp enlists Tate to help him track Vandergroat.  Tate thinks Kemp is a lawman, but later learns he is a bounty hunter and Vandergroat is worth $5000.  The two also encounter Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker), a less than honorable cavalry lieutenant, and when Anderson uncovers that Kemp is not a lawman but a bounty hunter, Tate and Anderson want in on the loot.

As the film progresses, it is revealed that Kemp is a sort of sad sack who needs the reward money to buy back the ranch his wife sold when she ran off with another man while Kemp was fighting in the Civil War. He is not a happy man.

After a shoot-out, the three capture Vandergroat, who just happens to be traveling with Lena (a young and beautiful Janet Leigh), and all kinds of sexual tension occurs not to mention the greed that erupts over that $5000 reward. 

"Plain arithmetic.  Money splits better two ways instead of three," says Vandergroat, trying to goad Kemp, Tate and Anderson into turning on each other.

There is also a big gunfight between Native Americans and our bounty hunters which doesn't really figure in the plot, though supposedly Anderson was dallying with one of their women.  But it almost feels like a gratuitous knee jerk accommodation to the whole "cowboys and Indians" mentality of the 1950's and I didn't think it was necessary.

Director Anthony Mann made three westerns with Jimmy Stewart, but I am still having trouble with Jimmy Stewart as a western star.  He's too twitchy.  He works better in Hitchcock films (he starred in four) as a guy caught up in a plot he can't figure out.  Robert Ryan as Vandergroat actually had the flashier part here.

Why it's a Must See: "What makes this an exceptional film is, first, the tautly scripted and finely acted exploration of the tensions between the characters...Second Mann has a wonderful way with mountain scenery, using the arduous nature of the terrain as a physical counterpoint to the characters' inner turmoil."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

The film was shot entirely on location but the scenery is so gorgeous it almost looks like a fake backdrop.

I have never been a big fan of westerns, but when I tell myself that westerns are just melodramas with horses, I like them better, but not that much better.  I don't like the dearth of women, the wide open spaces, the gun fights, horses falling down and the fights with Native Americans where the cowboys usually win.  However, all of that not withstanding, the plot also kind of bored me and the soundtrack...well, hearing "Beautiful Dreamer" every time there was a sensitive moment almost drove me nuts.

See what I mean?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like westerns, this one has lots of testosterone and heroics so you will probably like it, but I never did find out what a naked spur was.

***Book of the Week***

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (2016)

How great chefs are made...a novel.

Lars Thorvald lives in the Twin Cities and can't be happier.  After thinking he would be alone forever, he is married to the love of his life, Cynthia, and has a daughter, Eva, who he would die for.  Well, don't wish for something... Cynthia leaves him to become a sommelier and tragedy befalls him.

Eva has tragedy in her life but also has an amazing palate.  At the age of 11, she is already raising hot peppers and gradually works her way into kitchens around the Midwest until she becomes a chef famous for her "pop-up" dinners that cost $5000 per person.  Different characters weave in and out of her life as Eva moves toward her bliss.

But this novel is not just about Eva. This is one of those novels where seemingly unrelated characters are introduced chapter by chapter and then all come together at the end as we discover their relationship to her.  But though that kind of plotline has been done before, Stradal uses some interesting literary devices to take a fresh approach.  And there are recipes, recipes that all play a role in Eva's journey to become a great chef.

Stradal comments about mothers and daughters, regret, and missed opportunities.  His female characters show an understanding of women, and he is actually at his best when focusing on Eva and her journey to chefdom, but he also really captures the spirit of the Midwest.  I should know.  I grew up there.

Stradal also has a lot to say about our current food snobbism.

One of the characters has traveled all the way from Iowa to Minneapolis to enter her award-winning cookie bars in a national competition only to be sneered at by foodies who can't believe she used actual butter, not almond butter, but actual butter from cows, cows that were not necessarily hormone-free.  She is accused of trying to trick people into eating food that is bad for them.

"Her family, God was telling her, was all that mattered.  Not the judgment of these people and their awful food.  She suddenly felt sorry for these people, for perverting the food of their childhood, the food of their mothers and grandmothers, and rejecting its unconditional love in favor of what?  What?  Pat did not understand."

Well, I do.  When I was growing up, my mother made everything from scratch, but I was a very finicky eater.  Not a foodie, just finicky.  I would ask her what was in the food and she would reply, "Flour, butter, sugar, milk...all good things."  And you know what?  She was right because back them those ingredients were not verboten but they were also not rife with additives either.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like a good story about food with engaging characters...and will love this book.

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

See you Tuesday for


"Fashion Essentials
for a Woman of a Certain Age"


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