Friday, May 12, 2017

"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new Ron Howard documentary "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years" which was in limited release and is now streaming on Hulu as well as DVDs "A Monster Calls" and "The Edge of Seventeen."  The Book of the Week is "The Curated Closet."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Ikiru"]

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years

A documentary about the 250 concerts the Beatles performed from 1963 to 1966 that includes never-before-seen footage and interviews.

Most of us Baby Boomers were Beatles fans. 

John, Paul, George and Ringo.  The Fab Four.  We all had a favorite (mine was Paul).  I can remember exactly where I bought my first album, how I felt when I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (and who I was with - Hi, Linda!) and the thrill I felt at one of their concerts in Detroit in 1965.  The Beatles so affected my young life that when I first started writing this blog, I was compelled to write "Why the Beatles Matter."

And yes, that's me in my bedroom with my girlfriends!

America was in mourning for President Kennedy and the Vietnam War was looming, so with their "long" hair, cheeky attitude and upbeat music, the Beatles brought excitement, happiness and hope and made my generation, the Baby Boomer Generation, feel like we could do anything. 

Using never-before-seen concert footage and interviews, as well as present-day comments from Paul and Ringo and other artists such as Elvis Costello and Eddie Izzard, this documentary was a labor of love from director Ron Howard, who captures that special moment in time when the Beatles were first starting out and took the world by storm.

When the Beatles first got together, things were really simple for them. They paid their dues in the dingy bars and sex clubs of Hamburg.  George reminisces about being 17 in "the naughtiest town in the world."

And Ringo remembered when "Playing was the most important thing."

John recalls that when they would get depressed, he would ask them, "Where we going, fellas?" and they would answer "To the top, Johnny!"  "Where's that, fellas?"  "To the toppermost of the poppermost!"  "Right!" And then they would feel better.

See why we loved them so much?

John was also known for his wit, and in one press conference, they were asked "How do you keep up the zest?" to which John replied "We do the zest we can!"

He was a genius at playing on words.

The film also briefly profiles Brian Epstein, whose parents owned a record shop in Liverpool.  So many people started asking for records by The Beatles that he decided to check them out and when he did, he saw their potential and signed up as their manager.  He thought they had an "untidy stage presentation" so he put them in suits, "Beatle boots" and invented that hair.

By mid 1964, The Beatles were the world's leading band.

When Paul was asked about their impact on Western culture, he replied "How can you ask me that?  What do we have to do with Western culture?  We're just having a laugh."  Little did he know how much influence they would have and how many other young men would become musicians because of the Beatles.  Even women were not immune to that dream.  Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart wrote in their book "Kicking and Screaming" (co-authored by Charles Cross) that they didn't want to be groupies for the Beatles, they wanted to BE the Beatles.

When George Martin came on board as their record producer, he decided that the Beatles would put out a single every three months and an album every six months.  That and the touring took its toll.

And as they became more and more successful, things got complicated, as happens with immense success. 

Eventually, they got tired of all of the publicity and everyone wanting a piece of them.  The movie "Help" was an anthem to that.  They really did need help.  The touring and performing and not being able to hear themselves over the screaming, weighed on them.

In 1966 they had three months off, the first time in four years they had any time off and the four all started to develop other interests.  George had developed an interest in Indian music, Paul was painting and for the first time their personal lives started taking precedent.

Then came the shocking butcher album cover and John's remark about their being more popular than Jesus and a back lash began along with anti-Beatles demonstrations.  It's interesting that the Jesus remark went practically unnoticed in the U.K. but here in the U.S. our Puritan roots got the better of us, especially in The South, where there were widespread record burnings.

By mid 1966, the Beatles were not happy.  George said it was starting to feel like a freak show and they all decided "That's enough of that" and they performed their last show in August of 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

The film makes the point that because the Beatles started touring at such a young age, their growing up years were stunted, and it was not until after they stopped touring that they started to live, and some of their most creative years took root with the "Revolver" album and culminated in the Sgt. Pepper album, where they musically liberated themselves from the burden of being THE BEATLES.  Sgt. Pepper was on the record charts for three years and in 2012 "Rolling Stone" named it one of the best albums of all time. 

The film also shows the impact the Beatles had on people of color (Whoopi Goldberg shares a moving story about going to see them with her mother), and their refusal to play in front of segregated audiences.  At a concert in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964, seats at the Gator Bowl were to be separated by race, but the band refused to perform until they were assured that the audience would be mixed. Rather than risk a riot of disappointed Beatle fans, the promoters relented and the venue was integrated, setting a precedent for all future Beatle performances.

Paul said, "It's a bit silly to segregate people. I just think it's stupid. You can't treat other human beings like animals. That's the way we all feel, and that's the way people in England feel, because there's never any segregation in concerts in England – and if there was we wouldn't play 'em."

"We played to people," Ringo Said. "We didn't play to those people or that people – we just played to people."

The Beatles only performed live one more time and that was January 30, 1969 on a rooftop in London and fittingly that's how the film ends, the Beatles playing for the last time and people down on the sidewalk listening and looking up, not quite believing what they are hearing.

Director Ron Howard has put together a fascinating look back at a time that is so meaningful for us Baby Boomers and at a band that changed our lives. If you are a Beatles fan and lived through Beatlemania, there might not be much here that you don't already know, but you will delight in all of the performance footage, the never-before heard recording sessions and interviews and the behind-the-scenes look at the making of "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help," and getting to relive it all over again.  But Howard didn't just want to appeal to Baby Boomers.  He made this movie for the younger generation, too, so they could see the impact the Beatles had on an entire generation and how much fun their parents had!

Rosy the Reviewer says...treat yourself to this.  It's a delight!
(This film had a limited theatrical release and is now available exclusively on Hulu but it's worth making the effort to see. If you don't have Hulu, go for the free 30-day subscription).

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


A Monster Calls (2016)

A boy with a dying mother gets help from a tree monster.

We first hear Liam Neeson's rich baritone voice say at the beginning of the film:

"It begins with a boy too old to be a kid, to young to be a man...and a nightmare."

And young Conor's life is indeed a nightmare.

Conor's (Lewis MacDougall) mother (Felicity Jones) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and Conor is devastated, but he has learned to take care of himself when his mother is at her worst. He doesn't want to face what is really happening.  Besides, he has other problems. He is lonely and isolated, he has nightmares, and he is being bullied and beaten at school.  And when Conor's grandmother (Signourney Weaver) comes to take charge, she isn't much help either.  She is stern and cold towards him.

Lewis's father (Toby Kebbell) arrives to say his last goodbye to his ex-wife, though he doesn't say that to Conor.  His Dad lives in L.A. and has remarried and Lewis wants to go live with him but it's clear he doesn't want Conor to.  Instead Conor is to live with his grandmother.

Everything is unsaid. Nobody, not even Conor, acknowledges the monster in the room - death.

Conor is dealing with a lot of monsters - bullies, death, a mean grandmother, and a Dad who doesn't appear to want him.

And as if Conor didn't have enough to deal with, one night at exactly 12:07am, the large yew tree that Conor can see from his bedroom window transforms into a huge monster with tree branch tentacles and glowing eyes and the voice of Liam Neeson and the tree monster pays Conor a visit. In his loud, booming Liam Neeson voice, he tells Conor that he will return four more times to tell him three stories, and that when he is done, Conor will tell him a fourth.

On each of the next three visits, the monster relates a story that is depicted in the film through animation.  These stories appear to be fairy tales but they all relate to Conor's life and are paradoxes meant to help him see the ambiguities of life and help him cope. Through the stories that the tree tells Conor, he is able to express his anger.

Finally, the monster calls to say that it's time for Conor to tell him the fourth tale.

Now Conor must face the nightmare he has been having, a nightmare in which he tries to save his mother from falling into a dark hole, but he can't, and through the telling of the tale, he finally acknowledges that his mother is dying, that he doesn't want to lose his mother but he wants the dying to be over. Another paradox. Another lesson for Conor. The tree has appeared to save Conor from being consumed by his mother's death and to help alleviate the guilt he feels.

"I did not come to heal her.  I came to heal you."

It's huge praise from me to love a film starring a child actor, but Lewis is wonderful here.  I believed every word.  Directed by J.A. Bayona with a screenplay by Patrick Ness (based upon his novel), this is a powerful film about death and grieving, and be warned.  Despite the animation and the monster motif, this is not a film for the very young.   

Fecility Jones has few lines but is very affecting as the mother.  Her quiet presence in the film is the centerpiece and being such a strong presence through her expressions alone is the sign of a wonderful actor.

The film is an allegory for the anger and fear of a young boy whose mother is dying and he has no way to express that anger and fear. Our lives are full of monsters but there is no monster worse than being a little child and watching your mother die followed by the monsters of anger and guilt. But in times of crisis, we create what we need to help us through. The tree monster appeared to help Conor face his monsters which in turn allowed him to finally express his love to his mother and say goodbye. Conor was able to hold his mother tight so he could let her go.  

At the end of the film, there is a bit of a twist.  Was the monster real or a figment of Conor's imagination? Let's just say that a mother's love is very powerful.

This is a three hanky film. I think I started crying about 20 minutes into this film, and I'm crying right now remembering it.  Conor is heart-wrenching, and from a young boy's perspective, it's almost inconceivable that his mother would die and that whole concept makes this film a tear-jerker.  And Liam Neesom's voice? Stentorian but kind.  I am starting to cry right now just remembering it.

Do you know the book "The Giving Tree?"  That is a book that I can't even think about without crying.  This movie is like that, and I haven't cried this much in a movie since "Titanic."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you want a good cry - in a good way - this is a must-see film and one of the best films I have seen that deals with death in such an honest and compelling way.  It's a film you won't soon forget.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is having a rough time in high school and it doesn't get any better when her best friend starts dating her brother.  Ew!

You might ask why I would watch this film.  I am decidedly NOT on the edge of 17.  I fell over the edge long ago.  But I'm not so old that I am no longer interested.  I can remember. 

Nadine lives with her widowed mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and from an early age was bullied at school but then she met Krista (Haley Lu Richardson).  A bestie can solve a lot of problems.  Fast forward and now Nadine and Krista are both 17, still friends, talking about losing their virginity and lusting over cute boys.

Nadine's mom goes away for a couple of days and Nadine and Krista have a two girl party and get drunk.  Despite the fact that Nadine had called dibs on the house from her older brother Darian (Blake Jenner), he shows up and Krista ends up sleeping with him while Nadine is throwing up in the toilet.

So Krista and Darian become an item, and it doesn't help that where Nadine is unpopular and an outsider, Darian is very popular and hangs with the cool crowd, so when it looks like Krista has moved into the cool crowd with Darian, leaving Nadine behind, Nadine is bereft.  Meanwhile, Nadine's mother is having problems of her own and shares them with Nadine, showing that while our teens are struggling with the onset of adulthood, we adults are not making adulthood look very attractive.

Nadine is jealous of Krista and her brother and tries to get Krista to choose between them.  Turns out that Nadine has a bit of a nasty side, but didn't we all when we were teens?  She doesn't have any friends so about an hour into the film she goes to see her teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson). I was wondering why Woody was in this movie and when he was going to get something to do.  So Nadine rants to him about her problems in a scene that does not ring true to me. Despite the fact that Mr. Bruner is one of those really hip, cool teachers that kids wish they could have, I can't believe he would get away with his teaching techniques today. 
When I was in middle school, one of the most popular teachers we had used to have a name plaque on his desk that said "God." But today, that kind of stuff just doesn't fly in today's PC public schools.  Anyway, she goes to see him and they have one of those witty give and takes that really is unlikely to happen in the real world.

In the end, Nadine finally has sex with the hot guy and has a kind of epiphany.  Do 17-year-olds really have epiphanies? That's probably not fair, but like I said, I am not this movie's demographic.

I have not been a big fan of Woody Harrelson (he seems to play the same kind of smart assed stoned or clueless character all of the time), and you know how I feel about child actors, especially child actors who are nominated for Oscars when they are way too young to have paid their acting dues (Steinfeld was nominated for "True Grit" in 2011 when she was only 13).  I also don't like angst-ridden smart-mouthed teenagers.  Been there, done that.

So we have the smart ass Woody, the angst-ridden smart-mouthed teen and a script full of zippy smarty-pants lines. My idea of hell.  But, actually, I was surprised. The movie had some sweet moments.

Written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, the film definitely captures the hell that is high school - Steinfeld is very good here, full of teen angst with a combination of self loathing and arrogance - but some of the stuff in this film is kind of cutesy.  I know this film was not aimed at my age group, but I would think some of the scenes would even be too cutesy for 17 year olds.  But you should probably take everything I say about this movie with a grain of salt, because like I said, I am not this movie's demographic.  I can only guess if these kids and their interactions are authentic teen things, but one thing we know for sure.  Being a teen ain't easy and this film nails that. 

One odd thing, though.  This film is aimed at teens and yet it has an R-rating, rated R for sexual content, language and some drinking - all involving teens. Seems counterintuitive that a film aimed at teens would restrict teens.  And what are we protecting them from with this rating? Teens don't have sex, swear or drink? As if.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some things that didn't ring true to me, this is a sweet film.

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

203 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Ikiru (1952)

When a bureaucrat locked in a soulless job discovers he has stomach cancer, he decides to seek meaning in his life before it's too late.

If, when you think of Akira Kurosawa, you think of "Roshomon" or "The Seven Samurai," you will be surprised by this tender drama. Considered one of auteur director Akira Kurosawa's greatest films, this is the story of Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), a bureaucrat who has been toiling in a Kafkaesque job in a Kafkaesque city office for years, the kind of place where if citizens have a complaint they are sent to one office after another with no one taking responsibility and no action is ever taken.

The film is broken into two parts. The first half of the film shows Watanabe's grim existence, a life with seemingly no meaning. When Watanabe discovers he has stomach cancer and not long to live, he realizes that he is going to die before he has really lived and he decides to change his life.

We can all relate to this story.  What if you discovered you only had six months to live?  Would you continue your life as you have always lived it?

Ikiru means "to live" and that's what Watanabe decides to do. He realizes that he is already dead and decides that he needs to do something important with his life.  He feels that he started out caring about others, but the bureaucratic machine has beaten him down.  He is merely a placeholder in his job, mindlessly stamping forms that will never go anywhere.

As Wantanabe starts to think about what to do with the rest of his life, he forms a relationship with a young girl (Miki Odagiri), who had quit a job in his office because she was bored.  Her quitting reminds him that if he had had the courage, he could have done that too. She is vivacious and full of life. She makes him laugh with her imitations of the people at work and the nicknames she had given everyone. She admits that she had called him The Mummy. He spends the day with her, buys her stockings and takes her to lunch. Watanabe says to her "Why are you so incredibly alive?"  He wants her to teach him how to live. But she is suspicious of his intentions and thinks he is kind of a perv.

When Watanabe tries to tell his son and daughter-in-law that he is dying, the son berates him about the young girl, worried about his inheritance and Watanabe's spending so much money on her.

Things look pretty bleak for Watanabe, but he wants to do something meaningful before he dies.  So he goes back to work but this time to make a difference. He decides to break the chain of bureaucracy and not just be a paper pusher anymore.

One of the complaints that had come to his desk was about a cesspool that had formed in one of the neighborhoods.  The townspeople wanted the city to build a children's park over it so Watanabe takes up that cause with a vengeance.  He cuts through all of the red tape and wills that park into existence.

The second half of the film, after Watanabe has died, shows his legacy.  Watanabe had discovered himself by actually doing something with his life, he had learned that doing was to live, but at his wake, he doesn't get the credit for what he did do.  Even his own son and daughter-in-law aren't sure. The bureaucrats attending his wake get drunk and start to diminish his accomplishment. No one can quite understand how Watanabe changed from a "mummy" to someone who cared about doing something.  

But then the people who wanted the park show up and Watanabe's son and daughter-in-law see that he was beloved by the people for the park and the bureaucrats are chastened by this show of affection. As they are all getting drunk and trying to figure out why Watanabe cared enough to do something and whether or not he deserved credit, they then get into railing about their own boring jobs that are robbing them of their lives and their time. 

When a policeman arrives at the wake, he tells everyone the story of Watanabe's final moments.  He had died on a swing in the park.  He froze to death there sitting on the swing in the children's park that he had willed into existence, dying knowing that he had lived.

This story and Watanabe's efforts seemed to wake everyone up.  They are all fired up to change.  When they get back to work they are all going to make things happen too...but come Monday morning?

There is an existential quality to the film. Life is meaningless and no one really cares about you, but within that existential framework, there is also an affirmation of life here that says it doesn't matter what others think of your life, if you yourself felt it had meaning. 

Why it's a Must See:  Kurosawa was cinema's greatest humanist, and nowhere is this more evident than in Ikiru..[This film] is immensely life-affirming, even if it is about death and sorrow.  Kurosawa's gift was to show how these moods are not contradictory, but united as part of the cycle of life.  His sincere belief that small things make a difference is both refreshing and touching."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Kurasawa is brilliant - from the framing to the actors to the editing - and so is Shimura's quiet and touching performance, an incredible tour de force.

Rosy the Reviewer absolutely beautiful and inspiring film. I am glad I saw this movie before I died.

***Book of the Week***

The Curated Closet: A Simple System for Discovering Your Personal Style and Building Your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees (2017)

A closet full of clothes and nothing to wear?  This book is for you.

Well, I thought it was for me, except I am having a problem with the word "closet,"  -- singular.  You see, I am dealing with closets -- with an "s."  But the same question still holds true.  I have more than one closet full of clothes and often lament that I have nothing to wear so I was drawn to this book. 
But let's start at the beginning.

To curate:  When I look up the definition, there are a couple of different ones. I don't think this book is about being a member of the British clergy, so, this book is using the word "curate" to mean "to take charge of (a museum) or to organize (an art exhibit) and for many of us who love our clothes, our closets are our museums and our art exhibits, and Rees promises to help us use our closets to discover our personal style and build the perfect wardrobe by using her simple system.

However, I have to say that Rees' system for discovering my personal style and building my dream wardrobe is hardly simple.

Here's why:

First of all, she expects me to take pictures of myself in every outfit that I wear for a two week period.  Since I am retired and don't do much, I hate to see what that would look like: nightgowns, fuzzy slippers, and sweatpants.  Not a pretty sight. Then I am supposed to look at every item in my closet(s) (my god, that would take me weeks) and make some decisions.  She is also addicted to pie charts and graphs and I have to answer all kinds of questions and make lists and mood boards.  I'm too old for this.

But, OK, I'm game.  I am willing to try to take her advice.

First step - Define your personal style. 

She walks you through figuring out what your clothes say about you.

Not sure what this says about me.

She also tries to get me inspired, help me discover my personal style and put together a style profile.

Then it's on to Step 2 - "Closet Detox:"

Now I am supposed to go through my closet(s) piece by piece and decide on which items are not working, which items I really love, which items are keepsakes and which items I are not sure of. 

This is the hard part for me because, as I have written in the past, I am not just a fashionista, I am a clothes collector...alright, a clothes hoarder ("Confessions of a Clothes Hoarder").  I might not wear that cute little dress but I HAVE TO HAVE IT.


So discarding items is particularly difficult for me, but OK, I did it and I have three boxes to take off to the local consignment shop. (By the way, I have the consignment thing down and if you are interested, I wrote about that too in my blog post "Confessions of a Baby Boomer Consignment Queen.)"

Next, I am supposed to pack away the keepsakes (check!), donate or sell the pieces that aren't working (check!) and of course keep the pieces I really love (check!) 

But here's my favorite step:  For the items I am not sure about, I am supposed to have a "trial separation."  I put them out of sight and once I do that in most cases they really will be out of mind because at my age, it doesn't take long for me to forget about things.  I am still looking for a velvet coat that belonged to my mother that I can't believe I would have sent to Goodwill.  So, OK, I put some things in a box for a "trial separation" and put the box out in the garage.  I do that and it works.  In fact, I can't even remember what I put on trial separation.  So when I remember them again, off those will go, too, to Goodwill or the consignment shop.

At least her method for "detoxing" my closet isn't as scary as Marie Kondo's "Tidying-up" and "Spark Joy" books where I was supposed to talk to my clothes and thank them for their existence and pack my drawers like bento boxes (I rant about her books in my blog post "How to Turn Your Undies into Origami...")

Step 3 - OK, I have done Step 1 and Step 2, so now it's time to build my wardrobe. 

Is this where I get to buy more clothes?

No, this is where I have to analyze my lifestyle by making a list of my activities.


"Repeat after me: Your dream closet should be tailored to your personal style and your lifestyle."

Right, my lifestyle.

My lifestyle consists of getting up at somewhere between 9 and 10am, reading the paper and the odd gossip magazine, shuffling upstairs to make the bed and watch "The View," shuffling back downstairs to have lunch, then heading to the gym (if it's a good day), going back home to watch "Dr. Phil (I am interested in psychology and the misery of others), fixing dinner and then settling in for a night of TV or a movie with the occasional happy hour or concert night out.  Doesn't seem like I would need more than gym clothes, slippers and jeans for that lifestyle. I'm retired, and my personal style is retirement chic on my good days and retirement slob the rest of the time.  But she's right.  My clothes need to fit that lifestyle, so I guess I no longer need my power suits or my pointy-toed high heels...

or these.

Next, she defines key pieces, statement pieces and basics and helps me discover a color palette to build on.  It all culminates in "outfit formulas," a specific combination of items I can wear in different versions, go-to outfits that will help me get ready fast in the morning (for those of you who need to get ready fast in the morning.  As I said, I don't).

But my favorite part of the book is putting together a "capsule wardrobe," 20-40 pieces (not counting accessories, underwear, gym clothes or sleepwear) that is a stand-alone wardrobe.  Other than tweaking it as the weather changes, these are the clothes I would wear most of the time and that I don't mix with my other clothes.  All of the other clothes are on hiatus until the next season or until I get tired of what I am wearing.

And so now after I have done all of the work to define my personal style, detoxed my closet, created a color palette, pinned down my lifestyle (which isn't hard because I don't really have one), etc., I finally get to buy more clothes!

Well, only clothes that fill in some gaps for my perfect wardrobe.

In addition to cleaning out my closet and putting together a wardrobe, Rees also tackles dealing with stress while shopping, how to shop like a conscious consumer and how to stop over-spending. 

Much of the book is just common sense, e.g. when she talks about fit problems and how to fix them.

"The waistband is uncomfortable."  Fix - try a bigger size.  Duh.

But, seriously, if you need to clean out your closet(s), love clothes and want to come up with a basic wardrobe that you will actually wear, this is a helpful tool.

Here is one outfit that made the cut!

Rosy the Reviewer says...though I question that anyone would go through all of the steps that she recommends, if you are serious about your clothes and about having a workable wardrobe, there are certainly many helpful tips and inspirational ideas to be found here.  In fact, I was so inspired, I bought the book (because it's going to take me forever to go through all of the stuff she wants me to do and the book was due back at the library)!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"LA 92"


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

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 

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Friday, May 5, 2017

"The Circle" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "The Circle" as well as DVDs "Fireworks Wednesday" and "Masterminds."  The book of the week is actor Alan Arkin's memoir "An Improvised Life."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fellini's Satyricon."]

The Circle

Emma Watson doffs her "Beauty and the Beast" petticoats and eschews singing to take on the role of a young woman who lands a dream job in a huge tech company called The Circle only to find herself at the center of a nefarious plot to take over the world. 

How much of our privacy are we willing to give up for the so-called greater good and to feel safe? Benjamin Franklin once said: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." 

This film explores privacy.  How much are we willing to give up to feel safe?

Mae Holland (Watson) is not from a family of means.  She drives an old car, works unpleasant temp jobs and is trying to help her Mom (Glenne Headly) and Dad (Bill Paxton in his last screen role before his untimely death).  Her parents are struggling because her Dad has MS and they have no insurance. When Mae's friend, Annie (Karen Gillen), who has a good job at The Circle calls to tell her she has secured her an interview there, Mae is ecstatic.

The Circle could be likened to Google, Amazon or Facebook, one of those Internet companies where a mysterious word association is a major part of the job interview and where the company does everything it can to make its young employees happy.  The company shuttles them from home to work, serves them gourmet meals, provides all kinds of activities on site, promotes a fun atmosphere and has rousing "Dream Fridays" where Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), the CEO, talks in platitudes and tells homespun anecdotes about the good they are all doing. 

All of this is designed to create a workplace esprit de corps and a place that these wide-eyed young millennials never want to leave.  The price?  They give up their privacy and they are all working so that the rest of us will give up our privacy too.

 "Knowing is good but knowing everything is better." So says Eamon Bailey at one of his Dream Fridays.

That's a bit scary when it's coming out of the mouth of a huge corporation's CEO, right?

But in this world where we all share everything about ourselves anyway on social media, do we really care?  I think this movie is trying to tell us we should care, but sadly, it's slow to get to the point.

Mae is by nature solitary.  Her idea of fun is kayaking by herself, so she is not prepared for the onslaught of social responsibilities she is confronted with at her new job.  Her job is customer experience where she gets a rating on just how good that customer experience is. Everyone is cheerful and friendly, and it is not long before it becomes clear that not only is she expected to interact with her co-workers, she is expected to do everything with them too. This place is starting to look like a cult.

At a "Dream Friday," Bailey introduces a new product: the See Change, a tiny camera that can go everywhere, see everything and be practically undetectable because it's so small and can be easily camouflaged.  When Mae stupidly goes kayaking out into San Francisco Bay AT NIGHT BY HERSELF - never explained why she would do such a thing - she is almost run over by a boat but is rescued thanks to The Circle's surveillance which is everywhere.  That rescue convinces Mae that The Circle's knowing and seeing everything is a good thing and that everyone should be totally transparent. She is all-in to The Circle and even volunteers for an experiment to be totally transparent, as in wearing the See Change camera everywhere and exposing every detail of her life 24/7 (except when she has to use the toilet - she gets three minutes of off camera time for that)!

Mae becomes an Internet darling and rises quickly up through the company, but she soon realizes that everyone knowing and seeing everything and The Circle having access to everyone's information is not necessarily a good thing for humanity after all. 

This movie did not do well at the box office. It was billed as a sci fi thriller but there were few thrills, so perhaps that's why. 

Tom Hanks may be considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, but I guess being a nice guy is not enough, because this hasn't been a very good few years for Tom Hanks' movies.  Except for "Sully," the other movies he has made since 2016 ("Hologram for the King," "Inferno" and now this one) have been disappointing at the box office.

And Emma Watson?  She has certainly come a long way since "Harry Potter," and she was wonderful as Belle in "Beauty and the Beast."  She can certainly carry a romantic fantasy like that, but I didn't find her particularly believable here and wonder if she is really ready to carry a big dramatic film like this one.  This film might have done better at the box office with a bigger name.

Ellar Coltrane, who so thrilled us in "Boyhood," is surprisingly wooden as Mae's friend Mercer, who unwittingly gets caught up in The Circle's web which in turn helps to open Mae's eyes to what really might be going on behind the scenes at The Circle.  But I will give him a pass because the lines he was given were really pretty bad.

However, John Boyega as Ty Lafitte, a wunderkind programmer/engineer who exposes the dark side of The Circle to Mae, was a stand-out in a small role.  I couldn't get over how much he resembled a young Denzel Washington, overbite and all.  He played Finn in the last "Star Wars" movie and is scheduled to reprise that role in at least one more, but I would like to see him in more dramas like this one or as a romantic lead.

Written and directed by James Ponsoldt and based on the 2013 book by David Eggers (Eggers co-wrote the screenplay), this plot is very similar to last year's film "Now You See Me 2," where a shady computer CEO wanted to use technology to access every computer in the world, thus hijacking everyone's personal information.  It's a compelling topic in this age where everyone shares everything on social media and no one seems to care that some great big computer in the sky is probably keeping track of everything they do and say.  Do we care about privacy anymore?  Are we willing to give up our privacy to feel safe?  It's a topic that should be explored and a concept that should scare the crap out of us, but this movie just wasn't compelling enough to get anyone to care. 

The story centers mostly on Mae and her family issues and her becoming an Internet sensation as people watch her every move on their computers and smart phones and then comment as people do.  That part of the movie was kind of fun and interesting and who wouldn't want to become a famous Internet personality?  It happens all of the time and many people have profited from it.  So if this film was supposed to scare the crap out of us regarding our loss of privacy and what the government or some nefarious corporation could do with all of that information they have on us (and I think we should be worried about that), this movie didn't make that point fast enough or strong enough.  It only hinted at how bad that could be and Mae's revelation that something bad might be going on behind the scenes and her conversion from all-in acolyte to all-in leader ready to bring down the company was so late in the film and so fast that it didn't make sense.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting concept that we should care about but that sadly falls flat.

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


Fireworks Wednesday (2006)

On the Wednesday before the Persian New Year, it's customary to celebrate with fireworks, but when new housekeeper, Rouhi, starts her new job she encounters fireworks of a completely different kind.

Mozhde (Hediyeh Tahrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farokhnezhad) are an Iranian married couple in turmoil.  They are preparing for a trip to Dubai and have hired young Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti) to clean and help prepare for their trip. Rouhi is soon-to-be married and looking forward to her new life. When she arrives at her new employer's home, she is immediately thrown into the drama that is Mozhde's's and Morteza's marriage, which is in extreme contrast to the married life that Rouhi is looking forward to. 

Morteza and Mozhde are arguing and it becomes clear that Mozhde suspects Morteza of having an affair with Simin (Pantea Bahram), a divorced woman who lives in a neighboring apartment and who has set up a hair salon there much to the consternation of her neighbors. Morteza is indignant and tells Mozhde that she is crazy. Roohi gets caught up in this domestic drama when Mozhdeh asks her to make an appointment with Simin to spy on her and try to get some information. Meanwhile, Mozhde takes Rouhi's chador and follows Morteza, who when he sees her, publicly beats her up.

When Rouhi discovers that Simin knows more about Mozhde's and Morteza's marriage than she should, Rouhi is suspicious, and later, when Morteza offers Rouhi a ride home in exchange for accompanying him and his son to see the fireworks, he leaves the two for a while and meets with Simin in private so, see?  Despite his trying to gaslight Mozhde and drive her crazy, he IS having an affair. When he comes back, Rouhi can smell Simin's perfume on Morteza.  How?  Well, when she was in the salon she was snooping around and had sprayed some of Simin's perfume on her hand.  Rouhi is a bit of a scamp.

So will Rouhi tell Mozhde about her suspicions?

This was director Asghar Farhadi's third film and, since then, he has had two directorial Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film ("A Separation") in 2012 and again in 2017 ("The Salesman").  You can see Farhadi's burgeoning brilliance here that he would display in those future award-winning films.  His films are small films centering on the every day lives of Iranians and they are mesmerizing.

I am fascinated by films that show the everyday lives of people in the Middle East, because we are so focused on that region and so fearful of its people and, yet, seeing a film like this we are reminded that despite our differences in religion, dress and social mores, we as humans are more alike than we are different.  Most of us hope for happy marriages, many of us fear betrayal, we have all experienced heartache and this is a story of a young girl dreaming of a happy marriage confronted by a marriage of betrayal and heartache.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the seeds of Farhadi's brilliance were already being sown in this earlier work.  Do yourself a favor and see his films.
(In Farsi with English subtitles)

Masterminds (2016)

A humorous take on the real life October 1997 Loomis Fargo robbery, the biggest bank heist in American history.

Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a Loomis security guard who, how can I say this?  He's not very smart.  Kelly (Kristen Wiig) is his partner, and David has a bit of a crush on her, despite the fact that he is engaged to Jandice (Kate McKinnon), who is a bit of a control freak and a Bridezilla of major proportions.

Kelly gets fired from Loomis, and we soon realize that she is hanging out with some bad guys, one of whom is Steve (Owen Wilson), who decides that it would be a good idea to rob the Loomis bank vault.  Kelly remembers that David had a crush on her and thinks she can get him to join them. 

David is not smart.  In fact, he is dumb.  How dumb is he?  David is so dumb he can't even ride a bike.  David is so dumb that when Kelly gets a cut on her bosom, David wonders why milk isn't coming out.  OK, you get the idea that David is dumb and, from that, you also get the idea that this movie is kind of dumb too, right?

So, ok, they get David involved and there is a heist and they all get away with it despite the fact that David is so dumb that he forgets to take out one of the security cameras and thus is easily fingered as the robber.  He also manages to lock himself inside the back of the van and has to drive it through a small opening from behind the seat using a makeshift pole out of the money. Are you thinking that this movie is funny yet?

But this film is not so much about the heist itself as about the aftermath of the heist.

Since David was the only one seen in the robbery, Kelly gives David $20,000 and tells him to go to Mexico, hardly a good deal for David considering the take was 17 million. But like I said, David is dumb.  Kelly has been David's main contact and he has never seen Steve.  When Steve has interacted with David, he has worn a mask. David puts the money in his shorts and somehow gets through security and into Mexico with the money.  The gang starts spending the money which calls a great deal of attention to them.  They aren't very smart either, and when Steve discovers that David knows who he is and can link him to the robbery, he hires a hit man (Jason Sudeikis) to kill David.  When the hit man finds David in Mexico and sees from his fake ID that they both have the same birthday, they bond.  Like I said, everyone in this film is a moron.

As you have probably figured out by now, the title is ironic.  Directed by Jared Hess, this is a heist movie except with morons. And there is so much far-fetched stuff in this film that you not only have to suspend disbelief, you have to suspend ALL belief in the existence of reality and life itself.  But I will give it some credit for some moments that made me shake my head and chuckle.

I stopped being a Galifianakis fan a while ago. I liked him in the first "Hangover" movie, but now his schtick as the hapless schmoe has gotten old, especially now that he has lost weight and seems to take himself more seriously. I have never forgiven him for the interview with Hillary Clinton on his talk show "Between Two Ferns." But I have to give him some props here. Though David is really dumb and naïve, Galifianakis plays it straight and gives David a sweetness and charm that I almost enjoyed. 

The rest of the cast is like an SNL reunion, with Wiig, McKinnon and Sudeikis joined by Leslie Jones as one of the cops after the gang, and that figures since this film was produced by Lorne Michaels.  Sudeikis is always good.  He is one of those actors who fully commits and goes all in with his character, which is why he is always funny (though see him in "Colossal," which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago and you will see a decidedly different side of him). Wiig is her usual quirky,charming self and McKinnon and Jones are their usual goofy selves.  And Owen Wilson?  I couldn't figure out what he was doing here.

Rosy the Reviewer I always say, good comedies are hard to come by these days. There are some laughs to be had but not enough to save this film.

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

204 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fellini's Satyricon (1969)

Federico Fellini's liberal take on Petronius's work, "Satyricon," which was written during Nero's reign in Imperial Rome.

Written and directed by Fellini, the film consists of a series of tales that follow the scholar Encolpio (Martin Potter) and his friend Ascilto (Hiram Keller) as they try to win the heart of the young slave boy Gitóne (Max Born), whom they both love.  Set in the time of Nero, Fellini has created a surreal dreamscape and he loved this film so much that he put his name on it.

The film opens with Encolpio lamenting the loss of his lover Gitóne to Ascilto. Vowing to win him back, he embarks on a series of adventures where he is faced with disaster and death but always manages to escape. Encolpio's friendship with Ascilto and their joint attraction to Gitone is the main theme running through the film, but otherwise, it's a surreal and disjointed film where people pursue only their own pleasure and satisfaction. Surreal and disjointed is my shorthand for saying that basically this film made no sense and is filled with all kinds of images that are meant to be shocking.

But it was 1969, another time, a time when movies were exploring sexuality and pushing the limits.  So hang onto your knickers, this is one of those "Yikes" movies.

There are orgies, farting, naked fat women, animal sacrifice, nymphomania, sex of all kinds, torture, death, slavery, decadence and cannibalism.  If that sounds like fun to you, then you will love this movie.  However, I'm not big on farting, torture, animal sacrifice and cannibalism, so this was a struggle for me, but I hung on for the orgies.

I have always had a bit of a problem with Fellini.  I loved "La Dolce Vita," though even with that one I wasn't sure I got it.  But then "Juliet of the Spirits" came along and I thought, "Huh?" And this one was no better. Though the film was beautiful to look at, there was almost too much strange stuff, even for me. Sometimes too much debauchery can actually be boring. I fast-forwarded through some of it.

Seriously, though, despite the fact that Fellini was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for this film, I don't think this film has held up very well.  I can see that it was arty and shocking in 1969 and was trying to use the decadence of Nero's time to show that the world had become a very me-me-me kind of place. But so much has come and gone since then, it just seemed like a cartoon.  We have our own Neros to deal with these days.  However, one of my very good friends was an older gay man and he LOVED this film.  Now I know why.

Why it's a Must See: "A comment, perhaps, on the hedonism and unrepentant materialism of modern society, the film is more memorable as a feast of surprising, even shocking images, with visual themes and repeated motifs imposing a kind of unity on the continuing flow."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die."

In 1970, Roger Ebert said..."Fellini Satyricon" is a masterpiece...and films that dare everything cannot please everybody....This time, Fellini invites us into his own mind. He makes no attempt to tell a story, although he succeeds in telling several. He makes no attempt to be lucid, or philosophical, or to make is the nightmare shared by all of the haunted characters from his previous films..."

It is interesting to note that by 2001, Ebert wasn't so sure this film was a masterpiece, which validates what I said about films from the 60's.  The 60's era was a time of excess in all things, and this film was very representative of that.  But like I said, it doesn't hold up well today.

But in 1970, Ebert was partly right. This film did not tell a story nor did it make sense and it was a nightmare.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I don't think that I am particularly hard to please but a film that makes no attempt to tell a story, makes no attempt to be lucid or to make sense, makes no sense.
(In Italian with English subtitles) 


***Book of the Week***

An Improvised Life: A Memoir by Alan Arkin (2011)

Actor Alan Arkin shares his life, his craft and himself in this heartfelt memoir.
Alan Arkin knew he was going to be an actor from the age of five:
"Every film I saw, every play, every piece of music fed an unquenchable need to turn myself into something other than what I was."
I think many people become actors for that very reason.  I know I wanted to be an actress when I was five after I saw "Gone With the Wind."  Arkin actually did become an actor, one of our best character actors, and this book shows how and why.
If you are looking for lots of celebrity gossip, you won't find it here.  Arkin is a very serious guy and deep.  Though he shares some highs and lows of his life and career, this book is not a behind-the-scenes anecdotal kind of memoir, but more of a cathartic exercise.  He wants you to know what he has learned about life and about acting and he shares it here.
Arkin struggled to become an actor, and it wasn't until Second City in Chicago discovered him that he was able to get his footing as an actor and learned the art of improvisation. Though he had success on the stage, he felt he really found himself when he became a film actor.  I first remember him in "Wait Until Dark," where he terrorized a blind Audrey Hepburn, but it was "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" where I became a big Alan Arkin fan.  At the end of that film, I literally screamed out.  He has been a working film actor in major films for over 50 years and is still going strong with his most recent film, "Going in Style" with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
But like I said, he doesn't regale the reader with one of those "And then I starred in..." kind of book.  This one is personal, and I have to say, one of the most candid and open memoirs I have ever read.  He admits to being judgmental, moody and a difficult guy to get along with until he discovered therapy and the joys of some of the tenets of Eastern religion and he was able to lighten up a bit.
Actors and wannabe actors will gain insight into the craft as Arkin shares what he has learned, especially using the art of improvisation, but the rest of us can also benefit from the authenticity Arkin seems to bring to his roles and to his own life.
"In the final analysis, it's all improvisation.  We're all tap dancing on a rubber raft.  We like to think otherwise so we plan our lives, we plot, we figure, we find careers that will guarantee us an early retirement, we look for relationships that are permanent, we fill out forms, we do scientific experiments, we write rules -- all in an attempt to solidify, concretize, and control this universe of ours that refuses to be pigeon-holed, to be understood, pinned down, categorized, or even named...This is what kills us, robs us of our spontaneity, our ability to improvise, which, as Webster's says, is to create something on the spur of the moment with whatever material is at hand. That's what we are all doing, all the time, whether we know it or not.  Whether we like it or not. Creating something on the spur of the moment with the materials at hand.  We might just as well let the rest of it go, join the party, and dance our hearts out."
I told you he was deep.
Rosy the Reviewer of the most honest and real celebrity memoirs I have ever read.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of

"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years"


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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