Friday, March 10, 2017

" I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Netflix original movie "I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore" as well as DVDs "The Light Between Oceans" and "Allied."  The Book of the Week is a biography of Paul Simon called "Homeward Bound."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Jean Renoir's "The Golden Coach."]

I Don't Feel At Home in this World Anymore


A depressed woman is burglarized, which makes her even more depressed, but when the cops won't help her get her stuff back, she decides to find the bad guys herself. She is joined by her quirky neighbor and they both get more than they bargained for.

Ruth (Melanie Lynsky) is a depressed nursing assistant who isn't having a very good day.  First, a patient she is looking after dies, but not after uttering a profane racist diatribe.  On her way home in her car, Ruth sits behind one of those huge trucks spewing exhaust fumes all over everyone. Then when she returns home, her neighbor's dog has defecated on her lawn once again and worst of all, she has been burgled.  The thieves stole her laptop, her grandmother's sterling silver flatware and her anti-depressants. When you are depressed and your anti-depressants get stolen, you know you are having a bad day. You know that children's book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?"   Well, that's how Ruth's day is shaping up.

To make matters worse, when the police arrive, and it is discovered that perhaps Ruth just might have left her back door unlocked, instead of taking the matter seriously, Detective Bendix (Gary Anthony Williams) condescendingly lectures Ruth on the importance of keeping her doors locked.  Realizing that she isn't going to get much help from the police, Ruth goes door-to-door to find out if her neighbors saw anything.  When she gets to Tony's (Elijah Wood) house, she realizes he is the one whose dog poops on her lawn and she confronts him.  He apologizes and when he finds out she has been robbed he becomes enraged that one of his neighbors could be violated in that way.  You see, Tony is a rather odd duck who is a wannabe martial arts guy with a penchant for nun-chucks and throwing stars.

Later, when Ruth's "Find Ruth's Laptop" app tells her where her laptop is, she once again asks the police for help, telling the 911 operator that she has the actual address where her stolen laptop is, and can they please send someone there to get her laptop, but the 911 operator tells her there is nothing they can do.  And let me digress for a moment.  This is so frustratingly true to life.  Here in Seattle one of the journalists for the local paper wrote a piece about his daughter's phone being stolen out of their car, and they actually tracked the phone to a van in a parking lot and sat looking at it while they called the police.  The police wouldn't do a thing.  So if your stuff gets stolen, don't bother to call the police, I guess.  Now I'm depressed.

Anyway, getting no help from the police, Ruth rails at the violation of her home and her life, and rants about how badly people treat each other. She wonders about the point of living when no matter what good you do in life you will end up as carbon anyway.  

"Everyone is an asshole."

Ruth is a bit of a Debbie Downer.

With everything that has happened to her, Ruth is so mad that she decides she is going to find these people herself and enlists Tony to help her get her stuff back. They embark on a black comedy vigilante odyssey of originality and depressing realism filled with strange characters that ends with one of the craziest blood baths I have ever encountered in a film, and it's actually kind of funny in a funny blood bath kind of way. 

The film focuses on Ruth trying to right a wrong and get justice in a world where nothing seems fair to her, but the film is bigger than that.  You can substitute her world for the bigger world that we all live in now where we often deal with a lack of connection to others, shocking violence, intolerance and general indifference.  We have all had very, very bad days where the last straw just could be that bit of dog poop on our lawns. 

From time to time, I like to review new films that are not in wide release or are available only on Netflix or Amazon or some other streaming vehicle. It takes a village to make, release and distribute films these days, especially small independent films, so there are a plethora of really good films out there that you will never see in the theatres.  They either get very limited release or can't find a distributor. So I am grateful to companies like Netflix and Amazon who have taken up the gauntlet and made some of these small films available to us.  This film, now streaming exclusively on Netflix, won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year, so I am glad that Netflix has released it.

The film, written and directed by Macon Blair, stars Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynsky, who have both been working in smaller independent films since their acting careers first broke out, Wood as Frodo in the "Lord of the Rings" series and Lynsky, whose first film was "Heavenly Creatures" with Kate Winslet in 1994 (it was Winslet's first film as well) - and one of my favorite films.  Woods and Lynsky have proven themselves to be distinctive actors who can take on a wealth of different kinds of roles. Linsky's "everywoman" looks makes her easy to identify with. However, for that very reason, you may not recognize her, despite the fact that she has been working regularly since her debut in 1994.  She is one of those actors who disappears into her roles.  She also projects a particular vulnerability which belies Ruth's ability to get herself out of sticky situations. She has created an unlikely feminist figure.  Wood, in particular, has been choosing quirky roles, probably to distance himself from Frodo, and here he is a good foil for Linsky. In addition to Lynsky and Woods, Williams as Det. Bendix, is a standout as the gruff cop who breaks down in front of Ruth, telling her he is being divorced.

These days, like Ruth, many of us probably don't feel at home in the world anymore either. The world can sometimes be a difficult place to feel at home in. I think we have all had days where we wanted to just take the law into our own hands and DO something about all of the crap that is happening. Fortunately, we don't have to.  We can let Ruth do it!

Rosy the Reviewer says...some vicarious adventures for the overworked, underestimated and overlooked.  To see really good movies, sometimes you just need to stay at home.  Don't miss this one.

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


The Light Between Oceans (2016)

A lighthouse keeper and his wife, rescue a baby from a boat that washes up on the shore, and raise the child as their own.

My father and I used to watch many movies together, and one of the things he enjoyed was watching movies in which the actors had met and fallen in love in real life. He liked to see if he could tell they were falling in love. This is one such movie, since Michael Fassbinder and Alicia Vikander are now an item.  And it's no wonder, as this is an intense and romantic film.

Tom Sherbourne (Fassbinder) is an ex-soldier recovering from the ravages of World War I.  He wants nothing more than to go off onto an island off the western coast of Australia, 100 miles from everything, be the lighthouse keeper and be left alone to heal his wounds. However, the reason this job is available is because the last lighthouse keeper had gone mad from cabin fever and isolation, and Tom is warned about that, but he is numb and welcomes the isolation. But he is also lonely, and when he meets Isabel Graysmark (Vikander), they fall in love.  Since he is the only eligible man for 100 miles, I would say that was part of the attraction for Isabel, considering she would have to move to a deserted island with no one to keep her company except Tom and a lighthouse. 

The two move to Janus Island to watch over the lighthouse and all is well when Isabel gets pregnant, and they anticipate having a family.  But she miscarriages, and when she gets pregnant again and the baby dies at birth. Isabel falls into a deep depression... until one day, a miracle happens.  A dingy washes up on shore and inside is a dead man and a baby who is very much alive.  Tom wants to immediately inform the authorities but Isabel wants to keep the baby.  Who will know?  They will say she gave birth to the baby.  Since they live an isolated life and only travel to the mainland every few months, no one will know.  So the two make a pact and keep the baby. 

However, at the baby's christening, Tom encounters a woman in the graveyard (Rachel Weisz), and she is clearly the mother of the baby.  So now Tom has a crisis of conscience. Time passes, but there is a mother out there, the baby's real mother, who is suffering and has not given up on finding her child, which leaves a cloud over Tom's and Isabel's lives, and when it is discovered that the baby might still be alive, Tom and Isabel must make a decision.  Betrayal, guilt and tragedy follow.

Based on the bestseller by M.L. Stedman and directed by Derek Cianfrance (he also adapted the screenplay), the light from the lighthouse guides ships between oceans from the northern hemisphere, but that light can also be the love that can bring people together who otherwise would be oceans apart. Tom is numb and falls in love with Isabel's energy. Isabel is lonely and wants a change in her life.  Marriage is a strange institution.  We often marry people we shouldn't because we think what that person has will rub off on us.  Tom marries Isabel for her zest for life hoping she will heal him.  She marries him because she is bored and wants a change in her life.  Both learn that they cannot save each other as their decisions take their toll and the light of love fades.

The score by Alexandre Desplat is hauntingly beautiful as is the cinematography by Adam Arkapaw.  And the acting is first rate. Fassbinder is one of the great brooders, so he is perfect for this role, and Vikander's Isabel artfully goes from hopeful to hopeless as the decision the two made comes to haunt them. Rachel Weitz is also wonderful as the grieving mother who must decide on whether she can forgive.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a good old-fashioned tearjerker with great acting and production values, the kind of film that we don't see much anymore.  Highly recommended.

Allied (2016)

A Canadian intelligence officer and a French resistance fighter meet in North Africa during WW II and fall in love.  But not everything is as it seems.

Did they or didn't they?

This is the week for real life love stories between the stars of the movies (see the review of "The Light Between Oceans" above). 

Stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard were rumored to have had an affair during the making of this film, but Pitt and Cotillard denied any hanky panky despite a pretty hot movie sex scene in a car during a Moroccan sandstorm.  However, it's just a teeny tiny coincidence that the break-up of the Pitt-Jolie marriage coincided with this film, and rumors abounded about a relationship between Pitt and Cotillard as the catalyst.  It's too bad, because all of that press about a real life affair overshadowed what was actually a compelling film.  And here is the irony about all of that.  I didn't really detect a lot of chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard, that sex scene in the car notwithstanding.  Nothing like the heat you could feel coming off the screen when Pitt and Jolie did "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" together, so I am thinking not much was going on between the two and that was just an excuse for Jolie to end the marriage.

So let's forget about all of that and get on with the film.

Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence agent Max Vetan (Pitt) and French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) are thrown together in 1942 to act as husband and wife in a plot to kill a German official in Casablanca. Marianne has already ensconced herself in Casablanca and knows everyone.  When she and Max first meet, she attributes her successful cover to the fact that she does really like the people she is fooling.

"It works because the feelings are real."

Before the mission, the two hook-up (yes, that kind of hook-up), but you can tell that something is going to go wrong.  And it does. 

However, they make it back to London and Max proposes to Marianne.  They marry, they live a conventional life in the London suburbs and she gets pregnant.  All seems hunky dory until Max is told that Marianne is under suspicion as a spy for the wrong side, and if it is discovered that she is indeed a spy, he must kill her. Max must set a trap for her.  But he also wants to prove her innocence so he goes behind enemy lines to find out the truth.  Will he be able to live with the outcome?

Directed by veteran director Robert Zemeckis with a script by Steven Knight, this is good old-fashioned storytelling with war, love, betrayal and sacrifice, all the stuff that makes up a story that is easy to lose yourself in. With so few dramas out there aimed at adults who like adult stories, this film is a welcome relief. The title of the film has a double meaning: Max and Marianne are supposedly working for the allies during the war but as husband and wife, they are also allies in life and those two personas come into conflict. 

Pitt and Cotillard are certainly actors who are lovely to look at and both are also wonderful actors.  I feel sorry for Brad a bit because I think his handsomeness has held him back from some of the kinds of roles that win Academy Awards, the kinds of roles that go to the more chameleon actors like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch.  But you can always count on Brad to put in a good performance.  As for Cotillard, she has that face, one that not only exudes beauty, but a deep poignancy. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked the WW II spy film/love stories of the 40's, this is an updated version that you will enjoy.

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

211 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Golden Coach (1952)

A troupe of commedia dell'arte actors, led by the vivacious Camilla, arrive in 18th century Peru from Italy on the same day that the Viceroy's golden coach arrives.

A Viceroy (Duncan Lamont) in the New World buys a golden coach, but when he encounters the vivacious and tempestuous Camilla (Anna Magnani), star of a traveling group of actors, he becomes enamored of her.  When he shows her his coach she tells him she was on the same boat as the coach and slept in it during the voyage.  That makes the Viceroy laugh, and he is so enchanted with her that he impetuously gives her the coach, much to the annoyance of the other aristocrats, whose money was used to pay for the coach.  They demand that the Viceroy make Camilla return the coach.

The Viceroy is not the only man in love with Camilla.  Her colleague, Felipe (Paul Campbell) and the famous local toreador, Ramon (Riccardo Rioli), whose snood absolutely fascinated me (I had never seen a snood on a man before!) are also in love with Camilla.  What's a girl to do, especially a girl who now owns a magnificent golden coach?  And she ain't giving it back!  Farcical situations arise and the film becomes almost a play within a play as the three men vie for Camilla's affections and the coach causes a scandal that threatens everyone's lives.

With Vivaldi music playing throughout, Director Jean Renoir (yes, the son of THAT Renoir, the painter) has mounted the film as a play.  When the film begins, we are in a theatre looking down on a stage with a proscenium arch and then the camera pans in and the arch and the stage disappear, and we are in the film.  Beautiful costumes and sumptuous color cinematography and, just in case during the film we forget this is really a play, at the end the camera pans back out, we see the stage and the proscenium arch once again, and it ends with yet another play, an homage to actors and the theatre..

This is a showcase for Magnani, whose face is one of those ugly/beautiful - beautiful/ugly faces but she fills the screen with her personality.  Camilla is a social climber who eventually realizes that success isn't everything.  Magnani can do farce but she also exudes a warmth, all of it playing out on her magnificent face.

With sumptuous color cinematography provided by Claude Renoir, Jean's brother, the film is a farce but it is not without its socially redeeming qualities.  It's a tale that shows the brutality and dishonesty of the so-called civilized society in contrast to the simpler, more pure lives of the Peruvian indians. It also shows the hypocrisy of political power and how the tides shift depending on what is right for whoever is in power.

I also was taken by the statement:

"Nobility has never paid taxes in any country of the world."


Renoir made more than 40 films from the silent ere through the 1960's and his "La Grande Illusion" and "The Rules of the Game," are often cited as two of the greatest films every made.  Though he was a French director, this version that I saw was in English, and that was Renoir's favorite version of the film.

Film critic Andrew Sarris wrote for "The Criterion Collection:"

"In its own time, however, The Golden Coach was an international failure in all three language versions with both the critics and the public. (Produced at Cinecittà in Rome, it was premiered in its French version in Paris in February 1953. Renoir repeatedly preferred the English version presented in this release to the Italian version.) The fifties were not a time for subtextual analysis of movies. Yet even Bosley Crowther, the powerful no-nonsense critic of the New York Times, was compelled to acknowledge the sensuous texture of the color photography as he dismissed the film’s apparently naïve plot and its supposedly 'beauteous' and 'ravishing' star. 'But what we see in Miss Magnani,” the captious Crowther cackled, 'is a bar refinement of a female guttersnipe, a lusty and lumpish termagant with more raucous vitality than charm.”

Why it's a Must See:  "The movie's surface frivolity and farcical plotting camouflage a mature, even melancholy film about the fraught relations between love, art, and life.  Francois Truffaut called it 'the noblest and most refined film ever made..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer...a frothy romp with a message in gorgeous color with beautiful Vivaldi music and the incomparable Magnani.

***Book of the Week***

Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon by Peter Ames Carlin (2016)

The life of singer/songwriter Paul Simon.
Written in a very readable style, rock biographer Peter Ames Carlin tells the story of Paul Simon, a boy from Queens who had his first hit as a teenager as part of the group Tom and Jerry ("Hey, Schoolgirl").  Paul was Jerry and yes, Art Garfunkel was the other half, even then.  However, after that first hit, nothing much happened for the two until "The Sounds of Silence," and they reformed as Simon and Garfunkel. The two were friends since childhood, but over the years, it was a rocky friendship, and Simon eventually went off on his own, where he had a string of hits in the 1970's and ground-breaking albums like "Graceland."  In the 80's he reunited with Garfunkel for a special concert in Central Park that drew half a million people.

And at 75, he is still going strong.  I saw him perform in a small venue last spring and he killed it!


The grandchild of Jewish emigrants from Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the 75-year-old singer-songwriter has not only sold more than 100 million records, won 15 Grammy awards and been installed into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame twice, he wrote many of the songs that were anthems for Baby Boomers:  "I Am a Rock," "The Boxer," "Mrs. Robinson," "Still Crazy After All These Years."

Carlin does a good job of avoiding a puff piece - in fact Simon comes off as a bit of an arrogant smarty pants - but it's a well-rounded view of not only Simon, the singer/somgwriter, but Simon the man.  Carlin covers Simon's marriages to Carrie Fisher and Edie Brickell, drugs, depression, the whole gamut of the man and doesn't pull any punches. There are some facts about him that you might not know:  he was a popular frat guy in college, he and Carrie got divorced but then lived together for awhile after that, and he wrote and produced a Broadway play. There's more, and Carlin tells Simon's story with a vibrant writing style that will keep your interest. 

All geniuses have their issues and Simon is no exception.  But what is not at issue here is his brilliant music, which formed a backdrop for the lives of many of us Baby Boomers. 
Rosy the Reviewer says...a must-read for those of us who grew up with Simon's music.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"A United Kingdom"


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

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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Friday, March 3, 2017

"Get Out" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Get Out" as well as DVDs "Inferno" and "The Shallows." The Book of the Week is "The Royal We."  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Cabin in the Woods."]

Get Out

A young white woman takes her African-American boyfriend to meet her parents.

I don't usually jump on the horror movie bandwagon, not at the theatre, anyway, but this last week, the movie theatre pickins were slim, and since I am a Jordan Peele fan and this movie is getting a lot of buzz, I thought I would give it a try.

I first encountered Jordan Peele on "Mad TV," where he and his cohort Keegan-Michael Key created some funny characters and gave SNL a run for it's money.  The two went on to do their own sketch comedy show, "Key and Peele" and starred together in the movie "Keanu," which I really liked.

But now Peele has gone off on his own and written and directed this comedy-horror film about a young black man off for the week-end to meet his white girlfriend's parents. And for those of you who abhor horror, this film is really more a psychological thriller than a classic horror film (and there is humor too), and it saves what blood and gore there is (which isn't much) until the end.

This is a difficult film to review since telling too much about it gives away the twist, though you will quickly figure some of it out, but I will do my best to give you a taste without any spoilers.

The film begins with a hip young African-American man walking around in a neighborhood in the dark.  He is lost and a bit nervous as he talks to his friend on his cell phone.  He is not familiar with this neighborhood but thinks he is in an all white neighborhood, hence his nerves.  All of a sudden a strange car rolls by, turns around and starts stalking him and - bang! - someone jumps out of the shadows and drags the young man into the trunk of the car.

Cut to Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), two attractive young people who are clearly in love.  They are packing for a weekend away because Allison has decided that it's time that Chris met her family. Chris is African-American and Rose is white, so Chris is a bit apprehensive, especially when Allison says she has never dated an African-American before and her parents don't know about him.  However, she reassures him, saying that her parents are not the least bit racist, in fact her father wished he could have voted for President Obama for a third term. They travel to her family's estate in the country where Chris meets Allison's mom, Missy (Catherine Keener), a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnotherapy, her Dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and her brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who comes across as a stoned Johnny Depp.

Everyone is cordial but, Walter (Marcus Henderson), the black gardener and Georgina (Betty Gabriel), the black housekeeper, are a bit stiff and strange, and give Chris the creeps.  Rose apologizes to Chris for having what looks like black servants, but she explains that Walter and Georgina had been hired to help her family care for her grandmother and grandfather and they didn't have the heart to let them go when her grandparents died. 

One night Chris can't sleep and gets up to have a cigarette.  He has promised Rose that he will quit.  He is surprised by encountering Walter running in the dark and when he returns to the house he is also surprised that Missy is up.  She asks him to sit down with her and she asks if he would like her to hypnotize him to help him to stop smoking.  He says he will take a pass but before he knows it, he finds himself unable to move and his mind's eye sees him falling down a deep well. He wakes up the next morning in bed.  He knows he was hypnotized but, though he's not thrilled that Missy hypnotized him without his permission, he realizes that he no longer wants a cigarette.

Chris learns that a big annual party will be taking place at the house that weekend, and he will be meeting all of the Armitage's friends. Chris is seemingly the only black guest and as Chris is introduced to all of the white liberal couples, he becomes more and more uncomfortable as they spout cringe worthy liberal stuff about how cool it is to be black.  But then he spots a fellow African American and...guess who?  You are right!  Our young man from the opening scene, but he is dressed like an old white guy might be dressed and talks in a stilted white guy manner, nothing like the hip young man in the opening scene.  Though, of course, Chris was not there for that opening scene, he does recognize the young man as Andrew Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield), a young man who had gone missing.

What the hell is happening here?

All along Chris has been in touch by cell with his friend, Rod (LilRel Howery), who is a TSA Agent, and he tells Rod about some of the strange goings on as well as his being hypnotized.  The more Chris tells Rod, the more Rod tells Chris to get the hell out of there because maybe the family is hypnotizing black people and turning them into sex slaves.  Rod is proud to be a TSA agent and considers being a TSA Agent the same as any other law enforcement officer, so in a very funny scene he goes to the police to tell them about Andrew and the sex slave operation he thinks is happening at the Armitages.  Well, you can guess how that goes over...

That's as far as I am going to go with this, but this is a very funny film thanks to Howery, whose love for being a TSA Agent is an homage to the profession, but it's also a very smart social commentary on racism and white privilege, as well as a tense and scary thriller thanks to everyone playing it straight, especially Kaluuya, who is wonderful and Howery, who provides the comic relief. Allison Williams ("Girls") provides a believable love interest, while Keener and Whitford are appropriately sinister in a very white bread way and Jones as Rose's brother is...well... just really strange.

Peele has written a witty and smart script that uses devices from "Rosemary's Baby," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Stepford Wives" to give horror fans the horror jolt they need.  I have been known to yell "Get out!" at the movie screen when a character in a horror film stupidly goes down into a dark cellar, but the humor and the horror clichés also act as a vehicle for Jordan to comment on where the true horror lies in the everyday lives of African Americans. 

Rosy the Reviewer says... don't be put off by the idea that this is a horror film.  It's scary but not gory, and I guarantee you an enjoyable night at the theatre that will also make you think.

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


Inferno (2016)

Writer Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up with amnesia in a hospital in Florence and finds himself embroiled in a deadly global plot.  Anyway, I think that's what this movie is about.

I have nothing but respect for Tom Hanks.  There is no doubt that he is a great actor. He has done some wonderful acting work: "Philadelphia," "Captain Phillips," and "Sully."  Also, everything I have seen and heard is that he is as real and nice in real life as he appears on the screen and on talk shows. 
So I hate to say this...

If you see this film you might change your mind about all of that.

Robert Langdon is a symbologist and a character in the Dan Brown novels that started with "The DaVinci Code," and Hanks has played that character in the movie versions. I can't say I have read the Dan Brown novels because I haven't, so I don't have a starting point.  That said I don't generally believe in comparing books and films either.  I believe the two are two different art forms so a book or a film should be able to stand on its own.  I should be able to watch a film and get the point even if I have not read the book.  Here, I have to say I didn't know what was going on half the time. 

Now that's not Tom Hanks' fault, I know.  What is his fault, though, is his terrible overacting and the fact that he appears to be shouting all of his lines and actually acts hysterical through the whole film, but I guess if people were chasing me trying to kill me I would be hysterical too.

This is what I was able to figure out.

A guy is running through the streets of Florence and when he gets to the top of a bell tower he jumps in actually a quite spectacular fashion.  Things looked good at the beginning of this film.

Then in the next frame we find Langdon in a hospital having a nightmare with lots of fire. At first I thought this was going to be about firefighters.

"Abandon all hope."

Oh, OK, this isn't about firefighters, it's about hell.  I get it, especially when the people with their heads on backwards showed up and there was all kinds of mystical stuff going on.

Actually, I was wrong.  I didn't get it.

Felicity Jones is Sienna Brooks, Tom's doctor.  She asks him the last thing he remembers. He doesn't remember anything, and he suddenly realizes he is in a hospital in Florence and doesn't know how he got there.  She tells him he is Robert Langdon, a writer, and Sienna recognizes him because she is a fan.  She tells him he had fallen because he had been shot.  Just as she tells him that, the police arrive, but it's not really the police, it's would be assassins -- and they are after Langdon.  Things don't look good for him.

However, the doctor helps him escape, and they go on the run from we know not what or who...until of course the end.  Seems he has a code these bad guys want back because, of course, they have a diabolical plan to kill a bunch of people.  It seems that the guy who jumped was a billionaire, Bertrand Zobrist, who believed that the world was overpopulated so he invented a plague (I think) to rid the world of so many people and stem the tide of an increasing population.  The question is, how did Langdon get the code and who are these people chasing him? Are they good guys or bad guys?

The next 90 minutes is all about Langdon's nightmare's about Dante's circles of hell (Dante's "Inferno," get it?), decoding the riddle and doing a lot of running.  There is a big twist at the end - isn't there always - but not enough to save this film.

Director Ron Howard has filmed it all like a bad dream, but unfortunately it's a bad dream that turns into a bad movie.  If bad dreams are supposed to not make sense, then he has done a good job, but I don't think that was his intent. There are all kinds of disturbing images of devilish creatures, men in masks, fire and blood, women in flowy chiffon. I will say that the cinematography is gorgeous and takes us to a couple of my favorite cities - Florence and Venice - but the movie just seemed to go on and on. There was too much exposition and not enough tension to sustain the film. Good guys turn into bad guys and bad guys turn into good guys.  I was watching it on a Thursday night at home and couldn't wait for it to be over so I could watch "Project Runway Junior."  That's not a good sign for a movie.

I know I am picking on old Tom.  In his defense, he didn't really have much to work with here.  His character is kind of boring and just a pawn in everyone else's game.  And it's not easy to do a good acting job when your character can't even remember who he is. But in the end, I guess I just don't buy Tom as an action hero.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you liked the Dan Brown books, you might like this, but otherwise, I think you can give it a pass.  It might change the way you feel about Tom a bad way.

The Shallows (2016)

Surfer Nancy (Blake Lively) is attacked by a shark not far from shore, but too far from shore to safely get back.  That shark seems to have ti out for her. Will she make it?

Most horror films use several cliché devices and this film is no exception:

Device # 1:
Found footage. The film opens on a deserted beach with a little boy finding an abandoned helmet with a camera attached. He turns on the camera and watches a tape of someone being attached by a shark.  Now flashback to the time leading up to that attack (think "Blair Witch Project").

In the flashback, we learn that Nancy's mother has died, and Nancy is traveling as an antidote to her grief much as Cheryl Strayed did in "Wild."  She has traveled to a deserted beach in Mexico, a beach that her mother had discovered and loved.  Nancy is an experienced surfer and also a med school student, which will be a good thing later in the film.

However, she is here alone because her girlfriend has bailed on her.

Which leads us to ...

Device # 2:
A seemingly innocent event causes our heroine to be unexpectedly alone.

Device #3:
As soon as Nancy arrives at the deserted beach, ominous music is heard, which makes us wonder, "Gee, is something bad going to happen to our beautiful heroine?"

Device #4:
The use of gorgeous scenery, which makes us think nothing bad could possibly happen here, and then when something bad does happen, it's even more bad.

Device #5:
Girl alone in an isolated place wearing a bikini which makes her seem even more vulnerable and gives male horror fans an extra little thrill. Lively and her swimsuit harks back to Ursula Andress or Halle Berry in the Bond films.

Device #6:
Feet and arms dangling perilously under the water with the camera shooting above the water, then under, above, then under.  You might think this device only works for shark movies but it works well for boogie men under the bed too.

Device #7:
Nancy runs into two young surfers and asks the name of the beach.  They won't tell her.  The guy who drove her to the beach wouldn't tell her either.  So her not knowing the name of the beach will either play a key role later in the film (it does) or at the end of the film when we find out the name and hit our heads exclaiming "Of course!"  That actually doesn't happen.

Device #8:
The film is slow to build as we enjoy a time of calm beauty and then wham!  Gotcha!

After all of that beauty, some awesome surfing scenes and Nancy in her bikini, Nancy is finally attacked by a shark, loses her surfboard and takes refuge on a dead whale.  She has happened upon a shark feeding ground, and though she is not far from shore, she is too far to get back there. 

She sees a guy sleeping on the beach and yells for him to help her.

Device #9:
Someone you think will help you actually steals your stuff and leaves you there...until that person gets what he deserves!

Device #10:
The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game - girl vs. shark.

Who will win?

All movie genres have their clichés but that doesn't mean they are bad movies.  It just depends on how well those devices and clichés are executed and in this film, they are executed very well. Those devices and clichés are there for a reason because when put together in a masterful way as in this film, they work.

Along with gorgeous cinematography and a tightly wound film (with a screenplay by Anthony Jaswinski), director Jaume Collet-Serra gives us lots of close-ups of Blake and her cleavage, and Blake is certainly a lovely screen presence who rises to the occasion of carrying this film mostly by herself.  And she also kicks some serious shark butt.  The film also uses a cool feature for exposition - showing texts and pictures from Nancy's phone on the side of the screen, whenever she is looking at her phone or talking to her family.

One can't help but compare this to "Jaws," and one can easily see that fake shark technology has come a long way, but this isn't so much a "Jaws" film and, it's not so much of a horror film, either, as it is a psychological thriller, though it certainly would be a horror to be stalked by a shark.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I would call this "horror movie light," for those of you who don't like the blood and gore of the slasher films but who still enjoy the thrills of being a little scared.  And you guys out there would probably enjoy Blake and her bikini.

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

212 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Five college friends plan a getaway to a cabin in the woods, not realizing that their every move is being watched and minipulated.

But the film begins with two seemingly ordinary guys (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford again - see review above for "Get Out") in white short-sleeved shirts heading to work in a gleaming laboratory.  What?  At first you might think you have happened onto the wrong film.

But then we get down to business and it slowly becomes clear what is going on.

College friends retreat to a remote cabin to have some fun. The group is comprised of some standard horror movie stereotypes:  There is The Scholar (Jesse Williams), The Sexually Active Bad Girl (Anna Hutchison), The Jock (Chris Hemsworth, before he hit it big and aa personal favorite of mine) and The Virgin (Kristen Connolly), and The Stoner (Fran Kranz), roles that have significance as the movie plays out. Upon arrival, the group discovers unsettling pictures, two-way mirrors and a mysterious door in the floor.  They also find a diary with some incantations and conjure up the Buckners, a family of zombies, who unbeknownst to our young kids, are headed their way with evil on their minds.  They are all oblivious to the danger and to the men in white shirts who are watching their every move and influencing their lives, except, wouldn't you know it's The Stoner who eventually figures out what is going on.

But, OK, already I have some questions about horror cliches:

  • Why are the girls always running around in bikini underwear?
  • Why are people so quick to go down into dark cellars?
  • Why are people so quick to recite incantations that can bring out the dead?

The film relies on the "gotcha" effect, that sharp bit of music followed by something jumping out at you on the screen which in turn makes you jump out of your seat (I jumped four times. I counted).

This was an early film for Chris Hemsworth and he and his fellow actors all deliver credible performances but this film is not so much about the acting as the plot, which is fresh and original and caused quite a stir when it was first released.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is a fiendishly clever horror with an unexpected plot development that's one of the great surprises in recent cinema...With its bloody exploration of ideas of sacrifice, the movie prompts difficult questions about the audience's need for and enjoyment of onscreen violence and fear."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

Directed by Drew Goddard, who also wrote "Cloverfield," one of my favorite horror films, and co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, who created "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," this film is a pastiche of homages to other horror films. It embraces most of the horror movie tropes but with the added twist of those strange people in the white shirts watching them, and I couldn't help but wonder...

"What if horror films were real life people being manipulated, tortured and filmed for our enjoyment?"  Ew.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fresh, original horror film -- and you will never guess the ending!

***Book of the Week***

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (2016)

What if Prince William had fallen in love with an American?... and other what-ifs of the Kate and William love story.

American Rebecca Porter, AKA Bex (the Brits love to shorten everything into a nickname), was the practical one, the one who played soccer and didn't care that much about girly stuff. Her twin sister, Lacey, was always the romantic one who wanted to marry a Prince, so Bex was the most unlikely of the two to end up going to Oxford and to meet and fall in love with a prince.  But she did.  However, the road to Royal love is not an easy one.

Knowing my love for all things royal, my daughter bought me this book.  Though it's a novel, it allows us American women to live out the dream of marrying a prince. I was born the same year as Prince Charles and my mother was a bit of a Royal watcher, so I think she might have had some thoughts of her daughter marrying a prince.  I inherited her love of England and all things Royal and was transported by the Charles and Diana so-called love story and despaired at the subsequent tragic end.  But then, we had Kate and William, and this novel is basically the story of Kate and William, American-style, with a few stretches of the truth and what-ifs thrown in.

  • What if Pippa and Harry had gotten together?
  • What if Pippa and Kate had had a falling out over the wedding?
  • What if Kate had snogged Harry, not once but twice?
  • What if Diana hadn't died?  What would she be like now?
  • What if a huge scandal had threatened the wedding?

Authors Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, creators of the witty fashion/celebrity blog "Go Fug Yourself, (something else my daughter introduced me to)" propose those questions and more, and it's all played out against the back-drop of a fictionalized Kate and William love story and wedding, most of which is thinly veiled as in the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but you will have fun recognizing what's beneath those veils.  In this story Rebecca and Nicolas stand in for Kate and William. You get to be a fly on the wall with their romance, their break-up and, well, you know how the real life story ends.  In this story the ending is different but then if there weren't some departures from the truth, it wouldn't be a novel, now would it? 

Rosy the Reviewer says...classic chick lit but ROYAL chick lit!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"I Don't Feel at Home in this Life Anymore"


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

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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