Friday, February 9, 2018

"Phantom Thread" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Phantom Thread" as well as DVDs "Geostorm" and "Last Flag Flying.  The Book of the Week is "After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Sansho the Bailiff."]

Phantom Thread

A brilliant dress designer and confirmed bachelor meets his muse...and his match.

This film is hyped as Daniel Day-Lewis's last performance as he has announced that he is retiring from acting.  But he has retired before.  Remember when he "retired" and moved to Italy to become a cobbler?  I'm not lying.  You can't make this stuff up.  But then he started acting again so I'm not holding my breath this time.  Actors are actors for a reason -- they need the spotlight.  But you never know.  Day-Lewis is a strange guy.

Speaking of strange guys, here Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a brilliant English dress designer and confirmed bachelor living in 1950's London. He lives with his current muse and his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), but it is obvious early on that his current muse is getting on his nerves.  You see, Reynolds is a fastidious, prickly sort, one of those guys who expects everyone to kowtow to him, the kind of man who expects to get his own way all of the time and has no problem showing his irritation when he doesn't.  Geniuses are like that, I guess, and can get away with being jerks.  Reynolds has his routine and he likes to stick to it.  No one should speak to him in the morning (if breakfast doesn't go right, it ruins his whole day) or disturb him while he is working and absolutely no surprises. I'm not a fan of those kinds of guys, brilliant or not. 

However, all of that changes when Reynolds meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young immigrant waitress in a seaside town where he has a cottage.  Alma is a beautiful, but quiet and shy, much younger woman and is taken in by Reynolds' charm and sophistication, though, I found his wooing of her very, very creepy.  However, she becomes his muse and lover, and moves in with him, but she, too, soon falls prey to Reynolds' lifestyle which includes his irritation at her interruption of his quiet breakfast.  Scraping her toast with butter and pouring coffee is enough to make him bristle. He also takes to ignoring her for long periods of time.  It quickly becomes clear to her that he isn't going to marry her any time soon, either, except, what Reynolds doesn't realize is that he has met his match in Alma. Sometimes it's those quiet, shy types who end up getting what they want.

Reynolds' doting but no-nonsense sister, Cyril, whose territorial presence hovers over everything, watches the relationship unfold (think Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca"). She has seen it all before.  But what she and Reynolds don't realize is that Alma may see to be a shy, retiring and moldable young woman, but there is a steely interior at work in Alma and she figures out a unique way to get Reynolds to propose. 

Sometimes the thread that holds people together could be an unseen strange or even dangerous one.

Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson, who has a cult following for his film "There Will Be Blood (which also starred Day-Lewis)," and who also directed "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "The Master," among other critical successes, can be counted on to make interesting, original films and does it once again here, though this is definitely a departure from the content of his other films.  He has produced a film more in the vein of the glamorous romantic films of the 50's - think Douglas Sirk and Ross Hunter or the elegant and lush British films of Merchant and Ivory with beautiful cinematography and gorgeous dresses by Mark Bridges, who has an Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. But don't be fooled. The film may be lush and beautiful and romantic but it has a twist that reminds us once again of Anderson's originality and quirky take on life and the last 30 minutes were very strange and kind of lost me, but then what great film doesn't leave some questions to be asked and thought about? The film is also one of the nine films nominated for Best Picture this year.

As I said, Day-Lewis is a strange guy - he is one of those actors who lives his role at home as well as on the screen (his poor wife) - but he is also one of our greatest actors.  Whenever he is in a film, an Oscar nomination for Best Actor is a no-brainer and this year is no exception.  Lesley Manville is also nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and though you might not know her name, if you watch a lot of British mysteries or films you will recognize her face. 

Krieps is a newcomer and could be a clone of a young Meryl Streep.  In fact, watching the film I could have sworn she was one of Streep's daughters.  Her performance was impeccable and she held her own with Day-Lewis, but unfortunately she was not recognized for her performance by the Academy, but keep your eyes out for her.  She is one to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that deserves its Best Picture Oscar nomination and harks back to the romantic films of the past highlighted by an interesting, twisty story and brilliant performances. 

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


Geostorm (2017)

It seems that a couple of years from now - actually next year, 2019 - all hell is going to break loose with the weather but never fear.  The world will come together to find a way to counteract the storms - or will it?

So when this film begins, there were some weather issues but we have made it through 2019 and everything has been going along swimmingly.  No major weather catastrophes because of a weather satellite net called Dutch Boy (remember the Dutch kid who put his finger in the dike?) that was invented to keep bad weather in check.

But what do you do when the satellites start blowing fuses?

Well, you call in Gerard Butler, that's what.

This film turned out to be a surprise hit last year so never doubt the box office power of Gerard Butler.  The same thing happened with his most recent film "Den of Thieves."  No one heard of it and it made a splash at the box office.

So what's a Geostorm?

No, it's not the Republicans taking over Congress, that's the GOP.  No, a Geostorm is basically the end of the world.

The film begins with thunder and ominous music and a child's voice-over:

"Everyone was warned but no one listened."

So it's a good thing we have Gerard Butler who plays Jake Lawson, the scientist who invents Dutch Boy, a sort of satellite net that protects earth from bad weather.  Dutch Boy has been doing a good job of keeping the world safe from the weather and it's all been handled by the United States.  But in three years, the United States will be handing Dutch Boy over to an International Committee and Lawson is called up in front of a U.S. Committee to reassure them that Dutch Boy is working properly and everything is going to be fine.

However, Lawson is not the reassuring type and manages to insult everyone there. You see, Lawson is a bit of an arrogant rogue.  He is abrasive and angry and his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), who also works for the government and who is usually able to smooth things over for Jake, can't do it this time.  Jake rankles the Committee so much that he is fired and Max is assigned to take over Dutch Boy. That certainly doesn't help the brothers' relationship, which was on a slippery slope to begin with.

Fast forward three years and you can guess what is going to happen, right?

UN troops discover a village where everything is frozen including the inhabitants.  Now that wouldn't necessarily be a strange thing except the village was in the middle of an Afghan desert.

Now Dutch Boy is in trouble and seems to actually be attacking earth. Horrible weather has returned and only one person can save the world.  Guess who.

Right, Gerard Butler, I mean, Jake Lawson.

But Jake, after being fired, has gone off the grid to pout and is living in a trailer with his young daughter.  He is divorced and why he has custody of his daughter when it seems he has a perfectly good relationship with his ex-wife is never explained but we had to have the little girl so we could have that ominous voice over at the beginning.  And of course the little girl is super smart and precocious and says things like "shit happens."  Shoot me now.

So Max has to coax Jake back and he does that by telling Jake it's a mistake he has made and now he has to fix it.  And there isn't much time because all hell is breaking loose with the weather again.

None of this film really makes any sense, and it's actually more of a Star Wars kind of spy movie than a disaster film, even though the trailer definitely hyped this film as a classic disaster film.  In between the few disaster scenes there is a lot of boring, geeky science talk and the whole thing is overdramatic as hell with Girard angrily yelling most of his lines. It's also a mystery, a story of sabotage, a romance and did I mention it's all very overdramatic?

To save the world, Jake has to make his way up to the space station where he meets an International crew and they all try to figure out why Dutch Boy is malfunctioning while at the same time the weather is wreaking havoc on women in bikinis and little dogs.  It seems that someone is covering up a defect and if what is going on isn't figured out soon - we actually have a timer - a Geostorm is an inevitability.

Now I am going to give you a hint.  It's not exactly a spoiler but here is something I have discovered from watching many, many British mysteries.

In murder mysteries, if you are trying to identify the killer and there is an actor in the film who is quite famous but who has a very small part, nine times out of ten, that's your killer. Or as in this film, if we are trying to figure out who is sabotaging Dutch Boy, look for a character with a very small part who seems to be out of place or you wonder why he or she is in the film.  That's all I'm going to say about that but I had it figured out by the time the big reveal happened.  And you can thank me later for that important information.

Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot and directed by Devlin, the film seems to be very pro-globalization, which is a very controversial topic these days and the President is a controversial character, which also seems familiar, but the whole thing plays like a cartoon and it's difficult to care about any of it.  Lots of big names in this film and you have to wonder what they were thinking.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the disaster scenes were the best part of this film but unfortunately there weren't enough of them to save this film from the disaster it is.

Last Flag Flying (2017)

Considered a "spiritual sequel" to "The Last Detail," and a 30 year update.

I have to say right up front that "The Last Detail" was one of my all-time favorite films with Jack Nicholson doing his thing and a brilliant, touching story by Daryl Ponicsan who also wrote this screenplay.  Also I am a huge fan of director Richard Linklater (who collaborated on the screenplay), so that's why I wanted to see this film, despite the fact that I am not much of a Bryan Cranston or Steve Corell fan, I don't really like guy buddy movies and the trailer looked dumb.

But I was looking forward to seeing this only to discover that the names of the characters had been changed and the film didn't really have much to do with "The Last Detail" at all.

But I wanted to give it a chance.

It's 2003 and Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) is on a mission.  His wife has died and his only son has just been killed in the Iraq War and his body is coming home to be buried at Arlington with full military honors.  Doc looks up his old Vietnam War buddies, Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranson), who is an alcoholic and ironically running a bar in Norfolk, and Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), who has become a pastor, to ask them to accompany him to pick up his son's body.  These men haven't fared very well since they served together in Vietnam.  They were something once, now they are something else, so says Sal philosophically. 

The film takes quite a while to set up the story before much happens, but in the second half we finally find out just how Doc's son was killed and Sal and Richard have to decide whether to tell Doc.  Doc also decides he doesn't want to bury his son at Arlington after all, but rather to take him home, and the film becomes a sort of sad buddy road trip film with a very anti-war tone.

Isn't it strange how you take a dislike to some actors even though you don't know them personally and never will?  And you don't really have a good reason for not liking them?  That's how I feel about Cranston and Corell.

Not sure why I don't like Carell.  He has certainly grown up a bit since "The Office " and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."  Maybe it's the characters he has played - clueless idiots - and playing Bobby Riggs in "Battle of the Sexes" didn't help.  However, he is very toned down here.  In fact he is so toned down he barely registers.

Likewise, I don't relate to Cranston, though I certainly give him props for his versatility.  He can play comedy ("Why Him?") or drama ("Trumbo") but something about his delivery seems to be bombastic and grumpy, no matter what he is playing.  I like Fishburne but he can be kind of one note as well.

But I am a huge fan of director Linklater - I thought "Boyhood" was brilliant - so you can imagine my disappointment when I didn't really like this film. For me, something just got lost along the way.  The film was too talky, too didactic, too slow, and I kept waiting for something to happen and nothing did. 

Though the film seemed to be a labor of love for Linklater - his affection for the characters was apparent as was his message of friendship and his views on the Iraq War and of America are ones I agree with, but despite good intentions, the film was not a particularly good theatrical experience and seemed too overt, something that surprised me coming from Linklater.  I think of him as a more subtle filmmaker who lets things happen visually. Perhaps if you are a man and a veteran the film might speak to you more. The film felt like a coming-of-age film for middle-aged men and maybe it was.  You have to grow up sometime, I guess. 

Rosy the Reviewer Linklater but he missed the mark on this one for me.

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

156 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

In medieval Japan, a governor is sent into exile for choosing compassion over his duty, and when his wife and children try to join him, they are enslaved and put through a life of oppression and suffering.  I know it sounds bleak and it is but trust's also inspiring.

Based on a classic folk tale and directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, this is the story of human reslilience in the face of evil.

An idealistic governor in 11th century Japan disobeys the feudal lord and is cast into exile, leaving his wife, Tamaki (Kinuyo Tanaka) and children, Anju (Kyoko Kagawa) and Zushio (Yoshiaki Hanayagi), to fend for themselves. Their compassionate father had taught the children that "Without mercy, a man is like a beast," and Zushio never wanted to forget that.

Six years later, the wife and children set off to find him.  When they can't find lodging, an old seemingly kind lady offers to put them up but instead sells them into slavery.  The mother and children are separated, the mother is taken by boat to be sold into prostitution and the children are sold to Sansho the Bailiff for a life of hard labor. 

Ten years pass.  The kids are now 18 and 23.  Zushio has given up and accepted his lot, and forgotten what his father had taught him about mercy. In fact,  he has become a trusted henchman for Sansho, carrying out brutal acts on anyone who tries to escape.  He had not been able to live up to his father's teachings about being merciful, but he eventually has an epiphany about how bad he has become.  He decides he must find his father, and Anju and he plot his escape.  He pledges to come back for her but Anju, realizing the futility of that and in order to help Zushio's escape, kills herself as a decoy.

Zushio does escape and is able to regain his family's noble standing and returns to Sansho's compound, this time as an official where he outlaws slavery.  That done, he goes to find his mother in what is one of the most emotionally charged scenes ever.  I defy you not to cry.

This film is a reminder that no matter what century you live in, life can be very hard for many and evil exists, but the love of family and the strength of the human spirit can prevail.

Why it's a Must See: " of the great emotional and philosophical journeys ever made for the cinema.  Possibly the high point in an unbroken string of masterpieces made by Kenjo Mizoguchi shortly before his death, [this film] features the perfection of a signature visual style -- made up predominantly by long, complexly staged shots, paced by gliding camera movements..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Mizoguchi was not as famous as Kurosawa but directed 86 films between 1923 and 1956.  He is not well-known now but in the 1950's he was considered the best.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a beautiful film that shows that despite a world of violence, betrayal and evil, love will transcend it.

***Book of the Week***

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, A Daughter's Search by Sarah Perry (2017)

A young girl comes of age after the murder of her young mother.

Natural events take on more significance when accompanied by unnatural tragic events in one's life and that is why Perry remembers an eclipse when she was 12 - because soon after her young mother was murdered.  That eclipse was forever imprinted on Perry and stands as a symbol of the darker side of life. 

Sarah lived with her single mother, Crystal, in rural Maine.  Sarah was 12 and asleep in her bed when she heard her mother cry out and when she found her mother, her mother was dead.  The assailant escaped into the night and Sarah was left motherless.  Shipped back and forth between well-meaning friends and her mother's sisters, Sarah's life was difficult and lonely and she grew up in the shadow of her mother's unsolved murder.

Twelve years later, there was a trial but still many unanswered questions, so the adult Sarah, who wanted to understand her mother's life, began a personal investigation that took her back to Maine and back to all of those childhood memories. 

This book is part memoir and part true crime who-done-it as Perry tries to not only make sense of her mother's life but to discover who killed her.  It was 12 years before a suspect surfaced but even today Perry is not really sure if he was the one or what really happened that night even though she was there.

This is a very heart-felt and emotional read that will pull you in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like well-written true crime with a personal slant, you will like this book.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"The Shape of Water"


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). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, February 2, 2018

"The Post" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Post" as well as DVDs "Happy Death Day" and "The Snowman."  The Book of the Week is "Everything You Need to Know About Social Media (Without Having to Call a Kid)" by Greta Van Susteren.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Salo (and I apologize for this one in advance"]

The Post

Before "fake news" and "alternative facts," people read newspapers and believed in the power of the press.

In an age where "fake news" and "alternative facts," two phrases unheard of ten years ago, have become part of our lexicon, no one seems to trust the press anymore, especially millennials, despite the fact that the press is an integral part of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and acts as an important part of the checks and balances that make up our democracy. 

The First amendment of the U.S. Constitution as adopted in 1791 reads as follows:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

However, our own current President has said that "The Press is the enemy of the people," something that Joseph Stalin also said.  Not sure if our President knew that Stalin said it first.  He probably heard it somewhere.

Now I am going to quote someone: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it" - so said philosopher George Santayana and history tells us that newspapers were and are a vital part of our free speech. Members of the press have risked their jobs and lives to give the American people the truth. It was the press that exposed the widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests ("Spotlight") and it was the press that told the American People about Watergate ("All the Presidents Men") and the corruption of the Nixon White House.  A free press protects our right to read and exposes corruption and lies, so, naturally, the first thing despots and dictators do when they take control is stifle the news.

Clearly the press is under attack today with our own President taking to social media and telling us the press is our enemy, but at the same time, since our President has been caught in lie after lie and exaggeration after exaggeration, we need the press more than ever. But we are also in a time when people are more likely to believe what they read on Facebook and Twitter than what they read in the newspaper, if they are even reading the newspaper anymore.

So in the midst of this controversy about whether or not we can trust what we read in the press vs. what our President says, here is the story of yet another secret kept from the American people that was exposed by a vigilant and courageous press, the story of the 1971 publication by the Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the lies that had been told to the American people by the government about Vietnam ever since Truman's Presidency.  Katherine Graham, the owner of the paper, and Ben Bradlee, the editor, published the papers despite the fact that they were under duress by Nixon's government to not do so and faced possible arrest for treason. 

The New York Times had first published revelations from the Papers but faced an injunction by Nixon's government if they continued.  Since The Post also had access to the Papers, they wanted to pick up the gauntlet and publish them, but Graham and Bradlee didn't know what the government would do if they did so. The Press and the First Amendment was clearly under attack by the government.  Sound familiar? 

This film is timely and could be taking place today except this was about the Nixon White House and the Pentagon Papers, a leaked report exposing America's losing strategy in Vietnam, a report showing that the government knew for years that the war was unwinnable despite the fact that the powers that be continued to send young men there to die.

But this film is not just a newspaper story.  It's also a story about the people behind the story.  It is also about gender bias and the courage of one woman, Katherine Graham, the owner of the Washington Post and the first female owner of any major newspaper.

The film reminds us that only 47 years ago women were not considered capable of having their own credit cards, let alone running a newspaper.  When he died, Katherine Graham's own father left the paper he owned to Katherine's HUSBAND instead of her because she was a woman.  

Katherine was a rich socialite who hobnobbed with the political glitterati, including Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense. She wasn't prepared to ruffle the feathers of people she had known for years and socialized with. She also wasn't prepared to take the helm of this lofty newspaper that was in the midst of negotiating to go public, so she was under intense pressure and scrutiny. 

When given the opportunity to make history by publishing the Pentagon Papers, Graham also had to not only weigh the legal repercussions but also the political and social repercussions.  She was courageous in her desire to print the truth because despite the injunction against the New York Times, she made the decision to forge ahead anyway.  The Washington Post was a well-respected newspaper and printing the Pentagon Papers would blow the lid off of Nixon's Washington, which it did, but it took Watergate (another Washington Post news coup which happened soon after) to finally get rid of Richard Nixon.

Meryl Streep once again shows her range as an actress, with a nuanced performance that beautifully expressed Katherine's trepidation as she was just starting to take control of the paper after her husband's death.  She has a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her performance.

Tom Hanks can also be counted on to put in a good performance and he does here as Ben Bradlee, the Editor-in-Chief who wants to publish the Pentagon Papers but must convince Katherine to be brave. He and Streep are great together and it's amazing to realize the two have never worked together before.  We are also used to Tom Hanks getting Oscar nominations for practically everything he does, but not this year, which is considered by many to be a major snub by the Academy.

Directed by Steven Spielberg with a screenplay by Josh Singer and Liz Hannah, it will not be lost on anyone who sees this film where Spielberg's political allegiance lies and what the parallels are between what happened in 1971 and what is happening today. Just as Nixon tried to stifle the press, so, too, today the press is under attack.

Interestingly, Spielberg was also snubbed by the Academy and was not nominated for a Best Directing Oscar, despite his deft direction, which included parts of Nixon's tapes, bringing this piece of history to the screen. The film is a real story about real reporting and the characters are real.  You can't make this stuff up.  But it's also good old-fashioned storytelling that even though you know how it ends will keep you riveted to your seat.

Rosy the Reviewer important but entertaining film that resonates in today's political climate.  It is also up for a Best Picture Oscar.


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


Happy Death Day (2017)

Think a horror version of "Groundhog Day."

Like "Friend Request," which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, this film falls into the category of "horror lite."  You don't need to worry about blood and gore and in fact this one actually is quite fun.

It begins with Tree Gelbman (Jessical Rothe) getting a text wishing her a "Happy Birthday" and waking up in a guy's dorm room after what looks to be a drunken one night stand despite the fact that the guy in the room with her, Carter (Israel Broussard), tells her nothing happened. However, she haughtily tells him that he had better not say anything to anyone.  Just as she is putting herself back together, Carter's roommate comes in and makes some crude remark about his getting some action the night before and Tree brushes past him to make the walk of shame across campus. 

As she does so she is approached by a young girl with a petition, she hears a car alarm go off, a hipster dude looks at her over his sunglasses, a young man, who is doing some sort of "99 beers on the wall" endurance challenge falls over and the sprinklers go on.  She runs into Tim (Caleb Spillyards) who asks her why she didn't text him back.  She insults him and heads to her sorority house where she is accosted by Danielle (Rachel Matthews), one of her sorority sisters, who reminds her about a house meeting at lunch.  She staggers up to her room and meets up with her roommate, Lori (Ruby Modine), who has baked her a cupcake for her birthday. Tree gets to class late, turns up at the lunch sorority meeting where Carter also shows up and she dumps a drink on him, and later we see that she is having an affair with her teacher. 

A day in the life of a college girl. 

Except, that night, as she heads to a party, she is followed by someone in a baby face mask (the baby face giving the killer an even more macabre feel), and, when she enters a tunnel by herself, she is confronted by the person in the mask and stabbed!

So is that the end of our Tree?

Not hardly.

Day 2, she wakes up in that same dorm room with Carter- ALIVE!  So thinking that her death was just a bad dream, she gets dressed and heads out onto the quad but there is that girl with the petition again, and the hipster who looks at her over his sunglasses and the guy in the endurance challenge who falls over, and the car alarm and everything else that happened the day before.  What's going on?  So you can imagine how nervous she is as she once again enters that tunnel on the way to the party, but when she manages to avoid the tunnel and thinking she is in the clear, breathes a sigh of relief and then - wham!

By Day 3, as Tree wakes up in Carter's room with everything happening AGAIN, she is really freaked out but she finally decides to break the cycle and, instead of going to that party, stays in her room, locking her door and boarding up the window.  You can guess what happens next.

And then we have Day 4 and Day 5...

But slowly, Tree figures out that every time she avoids being murdered the same way from the day before, the day expands and the murderer comes up with a new way to kill her, so she finally decides to tell Carter what is happening and he encourages her to solve her own murder.

Now it's ON!  Tree decides to try to take control of the situation.

Yes, she keeps getting murdered, but each day she tries to do something different and she gets closer and closer to solving her own murder.  And each day she starts to realize things about herself and, wouldn't you know, Tree turns from a mean girl to a nicer, more sensitive girl.

You see, this isn't just a horror film.  It's a film about learning to be a good person.

Carter tells her, "Each new day is a chance to be somebody better."

And Tree realizes that..."When you relive the same day over and over you kind of find out who you really are."

Directed by Christopher Landon with a screenplay by Scott Lobdell, and starring relative unknown but very engaging young actors, the solution to the mystery isn't that satisfying but the getting there is lots of fun.

Pay attention to the opening credits which are clever and fun and hint at the Groundhog Day aspects to come.

Rosy the Reviewer says...clearly aimed at teens, this film is fun even for us older folks and it has a good message, though getting murdered day after day is a rather radical way to get the message across to someone to become a better person.

The Snowman (2017)

A former legendary Oslo cop who has hit hard times and is on the way down finds himself trying to find a serial killer.

I remember seeing the previews for this in the theatre for months before its release and it actually looked quite good.  I like Fassbender and who wouldn't be intrigued by a serial killer who cuts people up and leaves a snowman as his calling card?  But when the film was released it was just trashed by the critics and ended up on many "Worst Films of 2017" lists.  So, OK, it was bad, but it wasn't that bad (I could name some worse movies - check out my worst list for 2017). 

The film starts with a young boy sitting at a table with his mother and a gruff old guy.  He is being grilled on Norwegian history by the old guy and, when the kids gets a question wrong, he doesn't get slapped, his mother does.  But then the guy and the mother have sex, and we realize that he is a married man having an affair with the woman.  When she threatens to tell his wife, he says she will never see him again and leaves in his car as if for good.  The mother and the boy chase him in her car but then, realizing the futility of the situation, the mother drives the car onto a frozen lake. with the car breaking through the ice and slowly sinking into the water.  The boy manages to get out but the mother stays in the car in a catatonic state as the car slowly slides under the ice.  Last we see a sad little snowman outside the house where the boy and his mother had lived.

So the film begins.

Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is an Oslo policeman.  He is an alcoholic grieving his marriage break-up and has literally fallen into a hole of alcoholism and defeat. Harry doesn't seem to have a home.  He sleeps on couches in the office or even on the street.  He's a legendary cop who is now on his way down so he needs a big case to solve so he asks his boss to assign him to a murder case.  His boss says Oslo doesn't have much in the way of murders and then, guess what?  A serial killer emerges and a rather nasty one, too. Women are disappearing and then found dismembered and weird snowmen have something to do with it.   

The film was beautifully photographed and shot in Norway, even if it was in my hated digital, but it's all very stylish. "Stylish" is the word I use when a movie is moody and beautiful to look at but one I don't really get at all or one that's pretty to look at and bad.  This film wasn't bad so much as boring and disjointed and there were some big holes in the plot.  The serial killer was almost an afterthought with all of the interpersonal angst that was going on - along with the deaths there was infertility, children born out of wedlock, infidelity.  Even The World Cup was thrown in.  .

But the film boasts a stellar cast in addition to Michael Fassbender: Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer, who looks terrible, by the way, ravaged by throat cancer.  It even seemed like Kilmer's lines were dubbed.  I have to say that some of Fassbender's films have been strange choices (I mean, did you see "Shame?"), but not as strange as some of the films that Charlotte Gainsbourg has been in. When she stars in a film, all bets are off.  You know it's going to be weird.  If you don't believe me, see "Nymphomania 1 and 2." 

So with the beautiful production values and that all-star cast, what went wrong?

Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo, directed by Tomas Alfredson with a screenply by Peter Straughan, Hossein Amini and Soren Sveistrup, the film just lacked the intensity that a serial killer movie needs to have and Fassbender was a bit of a sad sack, and lacked any kind of charisma, though I will say there was a brief glimpse of Fassbender's junk which woke me up for a minute (and those of you who did see "Shame" will know what I mean), but then I went back to sleep. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film was as cold as a Norwegian winter, tried to do too much and the point was lost.

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

157 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

In WW II Italy, fascists round up 18 young men and women and subject them to humiliation and torture.  And trust me, it's bad.

OK, I have finally seen the worst most disgusting film of my life.  I defy anyone to justify this film.

When director Pier Paulo Passolini shows people eating excrement and later says it was a response to our capitalistic junk food society, I am out the door...or should I say, in this case, off the couch.  This movie made "Caligula" look like a Disney film.

Basically, four fascist libertines imprison attractive young people in a beautiful mansion in a beautiful bit of Italian countryside and subject them to Marquis de Sade experiences. The depravity amidst the beautiful classical architecture and Italian countryside makes it all worse.  I mean, really?  Nazis AND the Marquis de Sade?  No one in the house is allowed to have heterosexual sex and if they do, death.  All of the young people are naked and treated like dogs, literally.  They are chained and must crawl around on their hands and knees and when eating out of a dog bowl, one of the men puts some glass in it so the girl eats glass and bleeds.  They get their eyes gouged out, scalped, their nipples burned...and that's only a small part of it.  The depravity just goes on and on with one shocking image and horrific scene after another with the libertines feeling nothing. In fact, at the end they do a little chorus dance together.

Watching this film, I was trying to figure out where the line is drawn between art and pornography.  I guess if you are not sexually aroused, it's not pornography but the brutality shown in this film and the images that I will never get out of my head certainly smack of pornography to me because brutality and violence toward other human beings is the worse kind of pornography.  It's a horrible tale of power over others and I see why it was banned in many countries. 

Why it's a Must See (and this better be good!): "Pasolini's intent was to use the unbridled use of power, taken to the ultimate of sexual degradation, as a metaphor for Fascism itself, seen as a philosophy that worships power for its own sake."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Nope, not good enough. So it's an anti-fascist film showing the evils of fascism.  OK, but you can sugar coat this film all you want and paint its lofty motives, but it still wasn't necessary for me to see people getting peed on or eating excrement or all of the other horrific images of depravity for me to get that.

I have never seen anything like this before in my life and I never want to again. I have no idea why this was included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book.  Nothing written there justified it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I certainly could have died and gone to heaven without having seen this depiction of hell.  Remember I warned you.

**Book of the Week***

Everything You Need to Know About Social Media (Without Having to Call a Kid) by Greta Van Susteren (2017)

The title tells it all.

Considering my age, I probably would be as computer incompetent as movies like to make old folks look.  But I was a librarian in a public library so I had to have a basic knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. so I could help library users access those sites.  But it's mostly been self-taught, so I was drawn to this book to see if there was anything I didn't know or some tips that would help my social media experience.

And the answer is not really.

Veteran newswoman Van Susteren gives the basic mechanics of social media with chapters on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and personal communication outlets such as YouTube, blogging and others, but when I say basic, it really is.  As you can tell from the subtitle, this book is clearly aimed at the older folks and technology savvy younger people might find it a bit of a yawn.

However, I did learn a few things:

Facebook - Tagging

If you really want someone to see your post, you can tag them but I didn't realize that not everyone wants to be tagged. 

When you tag someone, your photo or post can be added to that person's timeline so their friends, who may not also be your friends, will see the post.  "Tagging could be considered invasive.  If your privacy settings are set to public for that post, the post will appear not only on their personal page but it will be published in all of their friends' News Feeds and available to anyone.  And when you tag someone, your post shows up in the New Feeds of their friends, many of whom don't know you." 

So technically, though in most cases it's not really practical, you should ask your friends if they mind being tagged.

Also did you know you can actually set your tag settings? 

Under Settings, you can click on Timeline and Tagging and find your tagging options and one allows you to review posts that your friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline.  If you set the Review tag to ON you will get to approve tagged photos before they appear on your timeline.  You can also remove tags and set who can see posts you are tagged in.  Seems like a lot of trouble and worry, but if you care about that kind of thing, you have options.

Facebook - Hiding Posts

If you have friends who constantly post what they ate for lunch or their political views and you are sick of it, you can hide certain kinds of posts.  Click on the little down arrow on the upper right of a post and you will get a box with multiple options.  If you choose Hide Post, FB will try to send you fewer of that kind of post, which once again reinforces that FB has power over what you get to see.  I swear that I don't see half of the posts my friends put out there and that they don't see mine.  I read in the paper today that fewer people are spending time on FB on a daily basis and perhaps that's why.  We are tired of being manipulated.

Twitter - Privacy settings

If you are worried about who can follow you, you can take steps upfront about that as well as other privacy issues, so check out your privacy settings.

Twitter - Pictures

Believe it or not, I have just discovered I can add pictures to my Tweets, so I guess I didn't know everything after all. For some reason, I never knew that.  


Does anyone actually use LinkedIn anymore?


Again, you might not want your Instagram account to be public.  You can set it to Private and people will have to ask to follow you.


I'm too old to go there.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though this may be too basic for most, the overview will be helpful to those who are just beginning and even the most seasoned social media users - like me - might find some helpful tips.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Phantom Thread"

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). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.