Friday, November 10, 2017

"A Bad Moms Christmas" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "A Bad Moms Christmas" as well as DVDs "Lady Macbeth" and "Amreeka."  The Book of the Week is "Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Kenneth Anger's underground film "Scorpio Rising."]

A Bad Moms Christmas

"Bad Moms" Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn are back, but this time they not only have Christmas to deal with, they also have to deal with their own Moms and you might ask yourself, who really are the "Bad Moms" this time around?

Well, you might ask yourself that if you really cared because speaking of bad, this movie is a prime example of why I usually don't like sequels.  And I really, really don't like bad sequels.

Here is my definition of a bad sequel:

Start with a little film that was a charming surprise hit, a warm reminder of the difficulties of motherhood with just the right amount of fun and sentimentality...

 -- and then ruin it by rushing another one into production as soon as possible using the exact same plot (underappreciated and stressed out Moms) and the exact same jokes (except this time make them raunchier and less funny) and then throw in Christmas and more dysfunctional mothers.

If three Bad Moms are funny, six Bad Moms would be even funnier, right?  Wrong! 

When we left Amy (Kunis), Kiki (Bell) and Carla (Hahn), they had just finished dealing with the Mean Moms of the PTA who had been so judgmental and made their lives a misery. They decided they would no longer stress themselves out trying to live up to the standard of perfection expected of Good Moms, but rather do the best they could and try to be happy with that, which they ultimately did. The film was funny and sweet and I enjoyed it.

Now this second time around, Amy is divorced (remember, her husband cheated on her) and has a boyfriend, Jessie (Jay Hernandez) but is still stressed  out because Christmas is coming and Christmas is a particularly stressful time for Moms, right?  Kiki has managed to keep her controlling husband, Kent (Lyle Brocato), in check and Carla is...well, still Carla, except now she works in a beauty salon where her specialite is waxing, especially down there where the sun don't shine.  I only bring that up because that is a particular motif that we are beaten over the head with because for some particular reason the writers thought waxing peoples' private parts (and they didn't use the term private parts, either) was very, very funny.  I didn't.

So now we have Amy, Kiki and Carla getting ready for Christmas, which is stressful enough, right?  And who should show up, but their mothers!  Funny, that all three of their mothers would show up at the same time, don't you think? And funny that all three Moms are not particularly beloved by their daughters. 


Well, Amy's Mom, Ruth (Christine Baranski) is overly-critical and expects everything to be perfect and done her way and she has no problem expressing her distaste when she doesn't like something; Kiki's Mom, Sandy (Cheryl Hines), wants to be close to Kiki - so close that she thinks its OK to sit in their bedroom while Kiki and Kent are having sex; and Carla's Mom, Isis (Susan Sarandon) is a pot-smoking hippie who likes to gamble, who Carla hasn't seen in years and who shows up in Carla's life when she needs money. She doesn't even know her own grandson's name.  Oh, and don't think her name isn't an attempted source of amusement.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear that our Bad Moms are not nearly as bad as their mothers.

So?  Does any of that sound even slightly funny to you?

I like my comedies to at least be on the edge of reality.  What makes a comedy funny is imagining yourself in the same situation as the characters, but the characters and antics in this film are so beyond the realm of reality and possibility that you are more likely to shake your head than laugh. I did a lot of head shaking.

  • For example, how likely is it that you and your friends would get drunk at the mall and get away with stealing the Christmas tree at Foot Locker during regular business hours? 
  • Or carry out lewd acts on the department store Santa Claus without anyone throwing you out? 
  • Or that you would sing carols at over 300 homes in one night to win a prize? 
  • Or that your mother doesn't know your son's name? 
  • Or that you can give your son his own baseball glove for Christmas year after year and he doesn't notice?
  • Or that a potential boyfriend would do a raunchy Chippendale style dance at the Christmas dinner when meeting you and your family for the first time?

I could go on and on but I will spare you.

But reality aside, I also expect comedies to be funny. 

This one isn't.  But maybe that's just me.

I will let you be the judge.

  • Do you think it's funny to meet the man of your dreams while waxing his privates?
  • Do you think it's funny that a woman would yell out "Put a baby in me, Santa #2!" when judging a sexy Santa contest in a bar?
  • Do you think it's funny that a camel would stroll through the living room after you and your mother have had a big brawl on Christmas Eve that results in the destruction of all of the over-the-top Christmas decorations including pulling down the Christmas tree?
OK, so now I am going to digress for a moment.

What is the deal with Christmas parties and big brawls and pulling down Christmas trees?  Remember "Office Christmas Party?"  The big brawl that results in a Christmas tree falling down is a Christmas movie cliché. What-is-the-deal with that?

Well, I think I know the answer to that question. 

Pulling down Christmas trees is a primal response to anger.  I myself have done it.  When I was putting my husband through college and discovered he was cheating on me with a 19-year-old coed I took it out on the Christmas tree too, so I totally get that.  When I was a little girl, I also remember waking up one morning and finding that our Christmas tree had mysteriously "fallen down." The tree is there as a happy reminder of the holidays, but it can also symbolize the fact that things aren't so happy, so pulling down the Christmas tree is a movie cliché for a reason.  But despite the fact I understand it, I don't find it funny and I'm sick of seeing it in Christmas movies.

So, anyway, directors and writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore must have thought all of that was funny, but I didn't laugh once and no one else in the theatre laughed either. It's difficult to believe that those two also wrote the first one "Bad Moms."  The first one was funny and sweet and believable.  This one was not funny, not sweet and not believable, and the writers missed a big opportunity to explore the complicated mother/daughter relationship, something that might have turned this movie into something special instead of recycling the first movie and just giving us six Bad Moms.

However, I am not going to fault the actors. 

They all did the best they could with what they were given.  Baranski had the best lines and carried off haughty very well, though a couple of the things she said were very anti-Semitic.  I know she was supposed to be a woman who didn't approve of much, but saying something negative about Jewish people as a way to express that was cringe worthy and didn't need to be there. And I love Justin Hartley, who plays Kevin on the hit TV show "This is Us," and here plays the male stripper who meets Carla while getting his #&*@ waxed, but I hated seeing him like that. 

Wanda Sykes makes an appearance in the only scene I enjoyed, and I use the word "enjoy" loosely.  Kiki and her mother, Sandy, have sought the help of Dr. Karl, a therapist, to help them with the "how close is too close" issue.  When Sandy leaves the room, Kiki asks Dr. Karl why her mother is so crazy at which point Wanda, who up until now had been rolling her eyes at everything Sandy said, tells Kiki that going through childbirth, sleepless nights and worrying about the child for the rest of its life would turn anyone from a normal human being into a crazy person.  Let's hear it for motherhood.  We finally catch a break instead of it being the other way around - that mothers make their children crazy.  It's the children who make US crazy!  But despite my little mental "rah rah," it wasn't enough to save this movie. 

Oh, and was there a Power Walk?  Of course there was.  Sigh. 

I also found it very odd that a Christmas movie would be coming out this early (it opened before Halloween).  I couldn't help but think the filmmakers wanted to get this released before "Daddy's Home 2" comes out, a very similar Christmas film (which opens today), except it's about Dads, not Moms. However, I hope it's not really similar because I want to see that one too, and ever the optimist, I want it to be funny.  Please don't let there be a final bit of Christmas mayhem with the Christmas tree being pulled down.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you were planning on seeing this film closer to Christmas - which makes sense BECAUSE IT ISN'T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!!!! - save your money.  It's awful.


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


Lady Macbeth (2016)

A young 19th century bride who was sold into marriage to a much older husband enters into an affair with one of the workers on her country estate.

The title can be a bit confusing because this is not Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. There is no Lady Macbeth in this film per se, except as a metaphor for murder, but this Lady Macbeth seems to be even colder than Shakespeare's Lady as she doesn't seem to mind the blood on her hands.

Katherine (Florence Pugh) is a young woman who has entered into an arranged marriage with Alexander Lester (Paul Hilton), the master of a large country estate.  They live on the estate with Alexander's father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank).  Neither of these men is very nice to Katherine, who is expected to do as she is told and stay inside the house. It is a time when women had few options, were nothing more than chattel, there to do their husband's bidding and eventually produce an heir.  However, even that last bit seems unlikely as Alexander doesn't seem to have much interest in her and appears to be impotent.  On their wedding night, he orders her to take off her clothes which she does and then he leaves her standing their naked as he goes to sleep.  Another time, he orders her to strip and then to stand facing the fall while he masturbates.  All very dark and gloomy and grim for our young Katherine.

So Katherine is young and beautiful and bored.  And we all know what happens to bored housewives.

When both Alexander and Boris must leave the estate on business, Katherine is left to her own devices and she isn't about to hang around alone in the house. Though we are initially sympathetic to Katherine's lonely and cruel circumstance, it soon becomes clear that our Katherine has gumption. She goes on long walks outside and encounters Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), one of the farm workers and the two embark on a passionate affair.  As time passes and neither Alexander nor Boris return, Sebastian takes on the role of the man of the house and the two make no effort to conceal their affair, all of it unfolding under the watchful, and disapproving eye of Anna (Naomi Ackie), Katherine's maid servant.

Katherine also doesn't mind having a drink or two or three, so when Boris returns and asks Anna to bring them wine, she tells them it is all gone.  Blaming Anna, Boris makes her get down on her hands and knees and crawl out of the room, another startling reminder of not only a woman's place in those times but the treatment of the underclass by the ruling class, especially a woman of color. And Katherine has no problem letting Anna take the blame which doesn't help their relationship nor does it make her a very likable character, and we see just what kind of a character Katherine really is when she poisons Boris and lets him die.  

And then when Alexander returns, he figures out what is going on and things take an even darker turn. This isn't just a beautifully shot British costume film, it's a beautifully shot British costume film with a bit of horror thrown in.

Do we root for Katherine to determine her own fate as a 19th century woman with few options or is she just a selfish nut job who will do anything to get what she wants?

Newcomer Florence Pugh looks very much like a young Kate Winslet and her intensity burns up the screen in this grim but exciting story based on the 19th century novella "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" by Nicolai Leskov.  But kudos to all of the actors, especially Ackie, whose performance doesn't include much dialogue but whose quiet presence is very powerful.  Directed by William Oldroyd and adapted for the screen by Alice Birch, it is a brutal depiction of the power struggle that existed between men and women and the upper and lower classes in 19th century England.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am a sucker for these British costume dramas but this is unlike any I've seen before.  I saw the trailer for this film and was anxious to see it.  It did not disappoint. 

Amreeka (2009)

Muna, a single mother living in Palestine with her teen-aged son, immigrates to a small town in Illinois.

Muna (Nisreen Faour) is a divorced Christian Palestinian living with her teen-aged son, Fadi (Melkar Muallem), when she gets the opportunity to move to Amreeka (America in Arabic).  She works as an accountant in a bank, and every day, after picking up Fadi at school, the two must cross Left Bank Israeli checkpoints to get to their home in Bethlehem.  One day, when Muna finds out that she has been awarded a U.S. green card via the lottery system - something she and her husband had applied for when they were still together and it had taken so long to come through that Muna had forgotten about it - her son encourages her to go ahead and make the move. 

But Muna is fearful, feeling that she would merely be a visitor in the U.S. and never really feel at home.  But her son reminds her that it's better than being a prisoner in her own country, and that is brought home to her when there is an incident going through the many checkpoints and Fadi is harassed.  That did it. She makes up her mind that they will go.

Muna and Fadi arrive in the U.S. right after the start of the post-9/11 Iraq War and are greeted by her sister, her sister's physician husband, and their three children, thus the reason why Muna and Fadi end up in Illinois.  However, after a happy welcome, Muna is horrified to learn that the cookie tin she had brought from home was confiscated at customs and all of her savings had been in that cookie tin.

So now Muna must find a job, and despite her banking experience and many degrees, she can't find a banking job and ends up working at a White Castle which just to happens to be conveniently located right next door to the bank.  Muna, being a proud woman, can't admit to her sister that she is working in a hamburger joint, so every day when she is dropped off for work, she walks into the bank and then, when her sister disappears, Muna runs over to White Castle.  The bank employee and her blue-haired teenaged co-worker at White Castle befriend her and both help her carry out the ruse to much humorous effect.

Meanwhile, Muna's sister and husband are feeling the effects of the Iraq War fallout.  They are not Iraqis but we Americans haven't been very good about distinguishing who is from what country or who practices what religion, instead judging people by how they look.  Muna and her family are not Muslims; they are Christians.  They are not Iraqis, either, but Muna's brother-in-law is still losing patients, which in turn is causing them to have money problems.

Written and directed by Cherien Dabis in her directorial debut, this is a human and heart-warming depiction of what it must be like for immigrants coming to this country: having to start over, the homesickness, the different customs, language issues and of course the resulting racism. It's also a fish out of water story as Muna tries to understand how looking for a job in the U.S. works; as she encounters all of the junk food and tabloids in American supermarkets; and, of course, the prejudice aimed at people from Arab countries, especially in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War.  Likewise, Fadi is not immune to all of this either. He is bullied at school until he finds a niche with his cousin and her friends. 

But what could be a dark and depressing story just isn't.  It's sweet and human and funny.

This is a very special film. 

All of the actors are wonderful, especially Faour, who has created a charming, lovely woman in Muna.  Muna is a real, three-dimensional character thanks to Dabas' screenplay and Faour's ability to beautifully and poignantly bring her to life.  You can't help but root for her. The screenplay also wonderfully captures the newcomer's experience in a humorous yet poignant way.  Imagine being an Arab newcomer to the U.S. after 9/11.  And yet Dabis does not just paint a one-sided picture.  In the midst of Fadi's bullying and Muna's humiliations, there are Americans who are sympathetic and understanding.

This film is not just about the immigrant experience, though.  It's about a lot of issues that everyone can relate to: coming of age, racism, pride, friendship, family, overcoming odds.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I loved this film and feel like my life is better having seen it.  That's why movies matter.

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

162 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Scorpio Rising (1963)

Pop hits from the late 1950's and early 1960's highlight this 30 minute underground film that glorifies the biker culture interspersed with images of Jesus and his disciples.  You have to see it for yourself.

I first knew of Kenneth Anger way before seeing any of his films.  As enthralled as I am with Hollywood celebrity gossip, it was only natural that I would be drawn to his book "Hollywood Babylon," a shocking book for its time, a time before the Internet or TMZ.  The book shared some of Hollywood's best kept sordid secrets and bizarre stories e.g. up close descriptions of Jayne Mansfield's death by decapitation in a horrible car accident or the revelation that actress Clara Bow slept with the entire USC football team.  Many of his claims have been called into question over the years, but I have to say it's a fun read if you like that kind of thing.

Described as one of America's first openly gay filmmakers, Anger worked exclusively with short "underground" films and this one is considered one of the most influential of all "underground" films.

It begins with the title of the film and the director's name spelled out in studs on the back of a leather jacket and goes on to glorify a biker gang, showing images shot mostly in a Brooklyn biker garage. It's all very fetish-inspired in a leather, abs, James Dean/Marlon Brando, swastika and gleaming chrome sort of way with one late fifties-early 60's rock song after another playing over the images. That was all fine but then came these scenes of Jesus and his disciples that looked like something out of the silent version of "King of Kings," and that's when Anger kind of lost me.  Jesus and his disciples as a biker gang?  Biker gangs mark the end of Christianity?  Not sure.

Why it's a Must See: "Without [this film], Martin Scorsese would not use pop music the way he does in Mean Streets (1973), David Lynch couldn't have found the disturbing undercurrents in Bobby Vinton's song 'Blue Velvet (which is also used here), and action movies wouldn't include homoerotic strapping-on-the-weapons montages."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Though I could definitely see the influences this film might have had on Roger Corman and other filmmakers, this is very much a niche film and an acquired taste.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is no dialogue in this film, just the music, and what it was actually about?  Your guess is as good as mine.

***Book of the Week***

Grace Kelly: Hollywood Dream Girl by Jay Jorgensen and Manoah Bowman (2017)

A gorgeous coffee table book that highlights the life and career of Grace Kelly.

Many people remember Princess Grace of Monaco but fewer probably remember Grace Kelly, the actress.  Authors Jorgensen and Bowman want to rectify that with this lavishly illustrated book highlighting Kelly's acting career.

Countless books have been written since her untimely death in 1982 but the authors say  "...this may be the first book ever to present the story of Grace's life as viewed through the lens of her film career," a career that included only eleven films over a six year period before she was whisked off to Monaco by Prince Rainier to become Princess Grace, but in that short time she won a Best Actress Academy Award and made three iconic films with director Alfred Hitchcock ("Dial M forMurder," "Rear Window" and "To Catch a Thief").

Speaking of Hitchcock, Grace wasn't just Hollywood's dream girl, she was his dream girl.  She fit his muse criteria: the icy blonde, and he fell madly in love with her. He was actually kind of creepy about it, because when Grace went to Monaco Hitchcock replaced her with more icy blondes: Kim Novak and then Tippi Hedren (read Tippi's book for more on that).

The details of Grace's life are here.  She grew up in a wealthy athletic Philadelphia family of overachievers.  As gorgeous as she turned out to be, growing up, she was a nearsighted quiet child who was not considered exceptionally good looking by her relatives.  Her sister, Peggy, was considered the beauty of the family, so Grace had to find other ways to stand out which led her to modeling and eventually an acting career.

As promised, this book concentrates on the films and goes year by year, giving details about the making of each one with lots of insider information (she had affairs with practically all of her leading men) and illustrated with gorgeous photos.

  • Grace's first film role was in the western "High Noon" playing Gary Cooper's wife, a strange bit of casting since Grace was young enough to be his daughter.  

  • In "Mogambo," a film she also made early in her career, she and co-star Clark Gable had a romance but when the film was finished he rejected her, though in later years he confessed he had been seriously in love with her but they had to part because he was just too old for her.

  • And in "Rear Window," when Grace first appears on the screen, we see her move in for a slow-motion kiss with Jimmy Stewart, a kiss that has become one of Hitchcock's most iconic film moments.

There are many more juicy bits about her life and her films and, the book ends with her reign as Princess Grace.

But before Princess Grace was a Princess, she was a beautiful movie star, part of The Golden Age of Hollywood, and the photographs in this book show off what a beautiful star she was. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this would make a great holiday present for anyone who loved Grace Kelly, the actress, and who still remembers and enjoys The Golden Age of Hollywood.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  


"Daddy's Home 2"  


 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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


Friday, November 3, 2017

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Goodbye Christopher Robin" as well as the DVD "Beatriz at Dinner" and the documentary about Dana Carvey's ill-fated sketch comedy TV show "Too Funny to Fail," now streaming on Hulu.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Seventh Victim."  The Book of the Week is "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI."]

Goodbye Christopher Robin

The little-known story behind the creation of "Winnie-the-Pooh."

In 2011, Winnie the Pooh was voted onto the list of icons of England, and in 2014, a British poll named "Winnie-the-Pooh" the favorite children's book of the last 150 years.  And yet little is known about its creator, A.A. Milne or the inspiration for the book that went on to become one of the most beloved childrens' books series of all time.  This film shows how the book came to be and sheds particular light on one of its main characters, young Christopher Robin (Will Tilston).

Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) was already a successful author when he returned from serving in WW I.  He and his wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), were the toast of London and enjoyed the perks of fame and society.  But he came back from the War with a bad case of PTSD, though it wasn't called that then.  Shell-shocked was the term but same thing.  If a balloon popped or a car back-fired, Milne was transported back to the horrors of war. 

In the meantime, Daphne and Alan had a son, something Daphne wasn't too thrilled about.  She didn't particularly care about giving birth nor did she want a son.  She wanted a daughter.  After all, she had purchased all of those pretty frocks.  More importantly, though, she never wanted to have to send her son off to war and wait for him to come back as she had with Milne.  But no matter.  The upper classes in Britain then didn't particularly live their lives around their children as we all do today.  In fact, a child was almost an afterthought, someone to have a bit of fun with but then trot off to the nanny.  So Olive, the nanny (Kelly MacDonald), who Billy dubbed Neu (again, not sure where the nickname came from) was hired and she and baby Christopher Robin lived happily together while Mummy and Daddy traveled and partied. Occasionally, Mummy would surprise Christopher with stuffed animals so he had a bear named Edward, a stuffed donkey and a tiger to keep him company.  See where this is going?

For some reason unexplained, Milne was called Blue, not only by Daphne but by Christopher Robin as well.  Christopher Robin was dubbed Billy Moon.  Not sure why they called him Billy, either, but the Moon part came from him not being able to pronounce Milne. The British seem to like nicknames.

As Billy grew, so did Milne's PTSD and his writing faltered. He decided he no longer wanted to write frivolous fun but something serious about the horrors of war.  He also decided he needed to get out London where the noise reminded him of the war, so the family and the nanny moved to the Ashdown Forest to a lovely 100 acre estate where Milne could wander in blissful silence. 

One day while out on a walk, Milne discovered that young Billy was following him.  Irritated at first because he liked wandering the forest alone and because, frankly, he didn't spend much time with his son, he softened when Billy helped him through one of his episodes.  Bees were buzzing and the sound took Milne back to the War where blowflies buzzed over the dead, but Billy, sensitive to his Dad's issues, explained that the sound was just honey bees buzzing around their honey.  That was the first step in father and son finding each other.

However, Daphne hated being out in the country where little was going on and hated it even more that Alan wasn't able to write thus limiting her social obligations.  She hated it so much that she decided to move back to London for awhile until Alan got himself together.  Coincidentally, Neu's mother was ill and she also left, leaving Milne to care for Billy by himself.  After some awkward conversations as the two got to know each other over breakfast, a breakfast where Milne realized he had no idea what his own little son liked to eat, the two began to bond over tea parties with the stuffed animals and walks with Billy and his stuffed bear.  One day Billy came into Milne's study and asked him to write a book for him. 

Milne, inspired by the tea parties and the walks with the stuffed bear, dashed off a little poem that Daphne got published and thus, Winnie-the-Pooh was born.

But the film doesn't stop there. 

This film is less about Pooh and more about the price of fame and the toll it took upon a young boy. 

As Milne wrote more books featuring Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eyore and young Christopher Robin, and when it was discovered that there was a real Christopher Robin, everyone wanted to meet him.  Hundreds of fan letters arrived and Christopher's days were filled with teas and parties with important dignitaries.  Now he was a little character himself to be trotted out to perform and it took a toll on him and his relationship with his parents.

When what he had done to Billy finally dawned on Milne, he vowed he would never write any more books about him and his bear and he didn't.  He also sent Christopher Robin him off to boarding school thinking he was sheltering him from the glare of celebrity, but as with many young boys, especially someone like Billy, he was bullied at school and his life was a misery so when he came of age and had the opportunity to join the military and serve in WW II he took it.  Daphne's lifelong nightmare had come true.  And more nightmare was to come.

Older Billy had some issues about all of those Winnie the Pooh books and took the opportunity to tell his Dad just how miserable his books had made him. 

"I asked you to write a book for me, not about me!"  

This is the story of the creation of Winnie the Pooh but it's also a story of the price of fame and lost innocence.  Bring your hankies.

Now I am going to take a moment to say something you would probably never think I would ever say.  I have fallen in love with a child actor.  I know that I have softened my stance on child actors lately because I liked the kids in "It" and that young actor, Iain Armitage, who starred in "Our Souls at Night" and "Big Little Lies." I have come to realize it's not the kid actors that are obnoxious so much as it's the writers giving those kid actors obnoxious things to say.  Here I give credit to screenwriters Frank Cotrell Boyce and Simon Vaughn for writing a believable character who doesn't rattle off precocious comments to get a laugh and make us go awww.  Usually when that happens I go yuk. 

But I also have to give young Will Tilston props for making eight-year-old Christopher Robin come to life.  He is so damn cute I could hardly stand it and an amazing young actor.  I was thinking while watching him that he could very well get an Academy Award nomination for Best Support Actor.  I mean Tatum O'Neal was only ten when she won hers.  But I hope that doesn't happen.  I totally do not believe in giving Oscars to children.  No matter how good their performances are, they need to pay their dues. so though I am softening my stance on child actors, I won't go that far.  No Oscars should go to anyone under 25!  I could do a whole rant on that...but I won't.

Director Simon Curtis presents a beautiful golden world with the help of cinematographer Ben Smithard where the fictional Winnie the Pooh was born, but also the darker real life world of the creator and his son, Christopher Robin. 

I am a huge fan of Domhnall Gleeson, though he seemed a bit young for the older Milne, and you may recognize Kelly MacDonald from "Boardwalk Empire."  She is a lovely actress.  Margot Robbie does a good job of playing Daphne, who is really a bit of a cold fish.  She didn't want Alan to come in to see her after giving birth because she didn't want him to see her blubbering and in fact no blubbering was allowed by anyone in the house.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I loved this film.  I loved this film so much I cried.  No, actually I blubbered.  Sorry, Daphne.

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


Beatriz at Dinner (2017)

When her car breaks down at a wealthy client's home, a holistic medicine practitioner is invited to attend an important dinner party and very early it becomes clear that she is a fish out of water.

Beatriz (Salma Hayek) is a hard-working holistic medicine practitioner working at a cancer clinic and living in L.A.  After driving down to Newport Beach to attend to one of her wealthy clients, when she is ready to leave, her car won't start.  Kathy (Connie Britton), her client, invites her to stay for dinner, a dinner that is actually an important one for Kathy and her husband, Grant (David Warshovsky). 

They are entertaining Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a billionaire developer whom they want to impress because, well, he's Grant's boss.  They and some other invited guests are all celebrating a successful business deal and everyone is gushing over Doug, laughing at his jokes and agreeing with everything he says.

Unfortunately, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.  Kathy didn't know what she was doing by inviting Beatriz to dinner. You see, Beatriz is very New Age.  She's warm, a hugger and she's a liberal.  She is also a Mexican immigrant who is clearly not in the same economic bracket as her dinner mates and it isn't long before she can clearly see through the bull that is being thrown around at dinner where everyone is bragging about their wealth, how they were able to bypass regulations, and play the system in order to make money.  And Doug is a very uptight privileged bragging egotist who lacks self awareness and is very right wing (sound familiar)? 

Beatriz doesn't know how to play the game and frankly, she doesn't want to.  Her presence challenges the conscience of the social order.  She is the eyes and ears of the little people who aren't supposed to know what the 1% are up to.

First, Beatriz is basically ignored as the dinner progresses so, even though she doesn't usually drink, she helps herself to some wine.  And then more wine.  The guests are mostly chatting about clothes, money and gossiping about celebrities.  When Beatriz is brought into the conversation she talks about spirituality and saving the earth.  Uh...awkward.  And when she challenges Doug's ethics about some stuff he is doing in Mexico, things start to take a turn.  These people are not used to being challenged. Turns out Doug is also a big game hunter and brags about his kills, showing pictures to the group.  Everyone is very impressed.  Everyone except Beatriz.  She calls it disgusting and storms out of the room.

Kathy follows her.  She isn't mad especially when Beatriz apologizes and tells her about her bad week.  She works with dying kids, which takes a toll on her and one of her pet goats has died.  So Kathy tells her to go to bed.  Beatriz goes off to a bedroom but not before she sneaks a bottle of wine and smokes a doobie (she's on a roll now) and decides to do a little research on Doug on the computer.  Turns out Doug is even worse than he seemed at dinner.

So Beatriz goes back downstairs. Ruh-roh.

Directed by Miguel Arteta with a screenplay by Mike White, this film explores the cultural gap that exists between the rich and the poor, between Americans and immigrants from other countries, especially less prosperous countries. Kathy says to Beatriz, "I feel like I don't know you," to which Beatriz replies, "You don't know me."  Kathy thinks that she knows Beatriz because she meets with her regularly as a client and even introduced Beatriz to the dinner guests as a "friend of the family," because Beatriz had helped them through a cancer scare, but Kathy doesn't know anything about her. She never made the effort to go further than their client-caregiver relationship. 

Well-meaning people can sometimes be the worst because they think that being nice gives them a pass for the rest of their lives and the rest of the things they do.  Think about people who feel good about themselves for delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the needy on Thanksgiving but never "dirty their hands" the rest of the year or find out anything about the people they are helping. 

I talked about how much I admire Salma Hayek in my review of "How To Be a Latin Lover. My admiration stems from the fact that she chooses important projects that try to make a statement even when they might be small projects with small roles for her as in "Latin Lover," or a less glamorous role where she eschews make up to play a regular, hard-working woman as she does here.  This film is clearly Hayak's movie, make-up or no make-up.  She is mesmerizing, and she is not only an amazing actress, she is an amazing woman. 

Rosy the Reviewer enjoyable but also important satire on our world today. 

Streaming on Hulu

Too Funny to Fail (2017)

With the talent behind Dana Carvey's 1996 TV sketch comedy series, "The Dana Carvey Show," how could it possibly have failed?

Well, it did, and this feature length documentary now streaming on Hulu is a testament to the fact that no matter how much talent there is behind a project, there is no guarantee it will resonate with the American public.

The failure of "The Dana Carvey Show" was one of the most spectacular failures in TV history despite the great comic minds involved.  I remember watching that show because I was a big Dana Carvey fan and f you watched "Saturday Night Live" back then, you probably were too.  Who wasn't a fan of The Church Lady, or of his George H.W. Bush impersonation, or of Wayne and Garth? 

The film begins with Dana talking about his influences growing up and shows his SNL audition ("Choppin broccoli..." - so funny.  If you have never seen it, here it is)

But watching his show I had no idea that his writers and other cast members included Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Robert Smigel and Louis C.K.  Smigel had been one of the writers on SNL and left when Dana did. Carell and Colbert were both at Second City and were recruited along with Louis C.K. who was going to be the head writer.  Robert Carlock and Charlie Kaufman rounded out the group. 

So with all of that talent, what could go wrong?

They all wanted to do "edgy topical comedy," like Monty Python, and because of that, Dana thought they would do better on HBO, but since HBO wasn't the behemoth it is today he was talked out of it. So it was going to be on ABC during primetime following "Home Improvement."  What better position could they be in?  What a mistake!

ABC thought they were getting The Church Lady and other characters that Dana had created on SNL.  Instead they got "Stupid Pranksters,"

and "Waiters who are Nauseated by Food."

But there were other edgier sketches: "Skinheads from Maine" and "Grandma the Clown," where the clown really was an old lady who couldn't do tricks very fast, she did them very, very slow---ly.

It was all just too much for middle America after watching the homespun "Home Improvement." I thought these sketches were really funny and I liked the show, but I don't think I am your typical American TV viewer nor do I have a typical sense of humor. I like edgy.

Anyway to make matters worse, right after the show was given the green light, Disney bought ABC.

The show failed within the first five minutes of its first show with a sketch about the nurturing nature of President Clinton, showing him with multiple breasts, breastfeeding a bunch of babies.  Six million people deserted the show in the first five minutes and the next day the reviews were savage and the show lasted a mere seven more episodes.

The participants weigh in:

Steve Carell talks about getting one fan letter for the show and then recognized the handwriting as his mother's.  Robert Smigel remembers creating the Ambiguously Gay Duo with Colbert and Carell as the voices of Ace and Gary. Colbert relates that he thought he would never work again. Dana told the cast and writers he was sorry for ruining their careers.

What really happened?

Written and directed by Josh Greenbaum, this movie attempts to figure it out.  It's not entirely successful, but it does show that no matter how much talent is attached to a project one can never completely gauge the taste of the American public.  Was Carvey, who is one of those comedians who is always on, be just too much for primetime TV?  Was the comedy too out there for a 1990's American public?  But to be frank, I don't think these guys were really into pleasing anyone but themselves.  They had a vision and they went with it.  And that vision failed.

But then we all know how it worked out:

Robert Carlock has since written some hugely successful TV shows and Charlie Kaufman went on to write the screenplay for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." 

The sketch with Colbert and Carell as the nauseated waiters led to both of them becoming a part of "The Daily Show" and we all know how their careers went after that!

Likewise Louis C.K. went on to comedy stand-up greatness and his own TV show.

Smigle's "Ambigulously Gay Duo" became a big hit later on SNL and he invented Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.

And Dana?  Well he is still Dana Carvey.  He tours the country with his one man show and has appeared in films and continues to be over-the-top.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a fascinating look into television history and the early careers of some of today's biggest talents.

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

163 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Seventh Victim (1943)

A young woman searches New York City for her missing sister and uncovers a satanic cult.

I didn't know that devil worship was a thing in the 1940's.  I learn something every day watching movies.

Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter) is at boarding school when she is called into the office by the principal and told that her tuition has not been paid by her sister, Jacqueline (Jean Brooks), who is her guardian, and no one has heard from her in over six months.  Worried, Mary decides that she must take leave of the school and go search for her sister.  As she gets ready to leave, the principal's assistant takes her aside and tells her not to come back.  It's nothing ominous.  She is basically telling her if she comes back she might never get out of there, just like her, and thus become a spinster.  Another thing about the 40's - a great fear of ending up a spinster.

Mary is young and naïve, so young and naïve in fact I was shocked she was able to just leave her school like that, but she has gumption, another 40's thing.  She heads to the big bad city all by herself. gets a room over an Italian restaurant and meets Grant, a lawyer who knows Jacqueline.  And guess what?  It's The Beav's Dad - a much younger Hugh Beaumont.  She also meets a Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) as well as Jason Hoag (Erford Gage), a strange young man who hangs out at the restaurant and professes to be a poet.  Dr. Judd is a dodgy psychiatrist who claims to have been treating Jacqueline.  His specialty is treating alcoholics though that's not the case with Jacqueline, but he warns Mary about the evils of alcohol in my favorite line from the film: 

"Dipsomania is rather sordid."

They all work together to find Jacqueline, who it turns out has gotten herself involved with a bunch of Satanists who want to kill her for revealing their existence.

Directed by Mark Robson and starring a very young Kim Hunter in her first film role, Hunter went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1952 for her role as Stella in "A Streetcar Named Desire," but as happens to so many actors and actresses, despite bursts of promise and fame such as an Oscar, Hunter never really gained superstardom.  After that Oscar, her career was mostly guest appearances on TV dramas and recurring roles in soap operas.

Why it's a Must See: "Perhaps the best of the run of terrific RKO horror films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s. [This film] is a strikingly modern, poetically doom-laden picture...full of things that must have been startling in 1943 and are still unusual now: a gaggle of varied lesbian characters...[and] a heroine who comes to seem as calculating as the villains..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Yes, that's true along with absolutely atrocious dialogue and major over-acting. I also take issue with this one actually being labeled a horror film. But Val Lewton produced this one, and he's the guy responsible for such horror classics as "I Walked with a Zombie" and "The Cat People (the 1942 version, not the 1982 remake)," and when I say classics, I mean the cult variety.  But the film is strangely hypnotic, and I could see some possible influences that turned up in "Psycho (there's a similar shower scene)" and "Rosemary's Baby."

That said, I have to digress for a moment. I feel a rant coming on.

There is a scene that made my librarian blood boil.  Grant goes to the library to find out what books two suspects had read and the librarian cheerfully, not only gives him the titles, but hands over the books.  Now people, I want to assure you that would never happen today.  Libraries protect your right to read and your right to privacy so do not let this film undermine your feelings about the integrity of libraries and librarians. No librarian will tell anyone what you are reading unless they present a warrant! There, rant over.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some of these older films don't hold up well today and this is no exception, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you can have some campy fun with this one.  Make some popcorn and invite some friends over! 
(b & w) 

***Book of the Week***

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017)

In the 1920s, after oil was discovered on their land, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be mysteriously killed off.

When the white man came, Native Americans were eventually shunted off to parts of the U.S. that white Americans didn't want.  Such was the case with the Osage of Oklahoma except they struck oil on their inhospitable land and became rich.  White Americans were not happy that the Osage became wealthy, especially since they didn't consider them real Americans nor smart enough to handle their own money.  So because of that, the government appointed white guardians to manage the money of many of the wealthy Osage who weren't considered competent, thus setting the stage for a full-blown conspiracy that ended in murder.

The family of Mollie Burkhart became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances and those who dared investigate the killings were also killed. 

As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four known cases, the FBI took up the case. The FBI was new to the murder investigation and so the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to agent and former Texas Ranger, Tom White, to help unravel the mystery and together with one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau, the agents exposed one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.  Their investigation has so many twists and turns, this book reads like a mystery novel, yet it's all true and like any great true crime book, the truth is stranger than fiction.

Meticulously researched, Grann has uncovered new evidence and believes that hundreds of Osage died as part of this conspiracy, not just the known 24, and that the extent of the conspiracy and much of the mystery will never be solved.

"In cases where perpetrators of crimes against humanity elude justice in their time, history can often provide at least some final accounting, forensically documenting the murders and exposing the transgressors.  Yet so many of the murders of the Osage were so well concealed that such an outcome is no longer possible.  In most cases, the families of the victims have no sense of resolution.  Many descendants carry out their own private investigations, which have no end. They live with doubts, suspecting dead relatives or old family friends or guardians -- some of whom might be guilty and some of whom might be innocent."

And that made me mad.

I am mad because of what Native Americans have had to endure, the brutal prejudice that existed against Native Americans and which still probably exists today, and the crimes against them that many white men perpetrated.  And this book made me mad because the Osage were not only treated like second-class citizens but callously murdered so white men could take over their land rights. I feel the same way when I see movies and read books about the Holocaust and about slavery.  I get really, really mad and ashamed that humans can treat other humans so badly.  And yet I read and I watch because we must never forget our shameful past so that we never repeat it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a true crime story, but it's also a history of the FBI and sheds light on a shameful part of America's past. 
(This book is a finalist in nonfiction for the 2017 National Book Award to be announced November 15.)

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"A Bad Moms Christmas"  


 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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