Friday, May 3, 2019

"Little" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Little" as well as the documentaries "Killing for Love" and "That Summer."  The Book of the Week is my new favorite cookbook "One -Pan Wonders."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Battle of San Pietro."]


A beautiful but hard-nosed CEO gets her comeuppance when she is unwillingly transformed into her geeky younger self.

Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall) was bullied in middle school when she was "little," so she vowed that when she was "big" she would get even.  And she does.  The "big" Jordan runs a successful gaming company and also runs her employees ragged.  When she comes to work, everyone heads for the hills.  No carbs allowed, no breaks, she insults her executive team for bad ideas, and she treats her assistant, April (Issa Rae), like crap.

One day while bullying a little girl who is practicing magic tricks with her magic wand outside the company where her Dad runs a food truck  - yes, Jordan also bullies little girls - the little girl asks Jordan why she is so mean and then puts a curse on her wishing Jordan was little. Wouldn't you know, the next day, when Jordan wakes up she has been transformed into her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin) complete with geeky glasses and a mop of frizzy hair.  Once she proves to April that she is indeed Jordan but in a 13-year-old's body, April is assigned the duty of taking care of the company while the adult Jordan must go back and relive middle school (the local neighbor turned her into CPS which results in a very funny scene with Rachel Dratch as the CPS rep).

Hilarity ensues.  Well, kind of...

Remember "Big" starring Tom Hanks?  Well, this is the opposite of that.  He was a little boy in an adult body.  Now we have an adult in a little girl's body.  Written by Tina Gordon and Tracy Oliver and directed by Gordon, this is a cute concept that didn't quite make it to "Big" status.

Speaking of concepts, this was Marsai Martin's concept (she also plays the young Jordan), and she is one of the producers, making her the youngest producer ever in Hollywood.  And she is a commendable actress as well.  Likewise, you can always count on Regina Hall.  But Issa Rae saves the day here.  Most of the laughs come from her performance, with her under-her-breath asides and comic reactions. She makes it all work.

There are also some laughs to be had as the adult Jordan in the middle-schooler body must attend school and once again endure bullying. But she also befriends some "other kids" who are also unpopular and tries to help them make it through and in so doing learns about herself.  And there is also a female empowerment message as April is finally able to find her voice. But sadly there are also some cringeworthy scenes such as when thirteen-year-old Jordan gives her hunky adult teacher (Justin Hartley) some sexy come-on looks and when she sings drunkenly on a bar top, all very inappropriate behavior for a thirteen-year-old and worse, not very funny.

But, hey, it's a comedy that is better than most that have come down the pike of late. "Come down the pike?"  Did I just say that?

And there is a message: Don't be mean to little kids or you might just wake up as one!

Rosy the Reviewer says...though the film hits and misses, if you need an escape, there are some laughs to be had here.

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


Killing for Love (2016)

A true crime documentary covering the 1985 murders of Derrick and Nancy Haysom who were supposedly killed by their daughter's boyfriend.  He was convicted but did he do it?

One of my guilty pleasures (I have many) is true crime.  I am guilty of being fascinated by the guilty.  I am obsessed with "Dateline," even though I know when it's a murder case involving a dead woman, it's always the husband who did it (don't these guys know about divorce)?

But in this case, it's patricide and matricide.

Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soring were students at the University of Virginia in 1985.  Jens was a student from Germany who had never been away from home nor had he much in the way of sexual experience.  So he was swept off his feet by the beautiful upper class and worldly Elizabeth who supposedly groomed him to kill her parents.  She regaled him with stories of her mother having a sexual relationship with her and all kinds of other abuse.  Jens was so besotted he would do anything for her.  

When the two were finally arrested, Jens confessed to the murders but later recanted, saying Elizabeth had done it and he had given a false confession to protect her, feeling that he would also be protected because his father was a German diplomat.  He said she did it and she said he did it.  But since the movie began with a version of "I Put a Spell On You," it's clear that the film is sympathetic to Jens and the implication here is that she did it and tried to get him to take the blame.  She confesses to being a drug addict, abused by her mother and even an accessory after the fact, but according to her, Jens killed her parents.  

Written and directed by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger, this is a well-made film, edited to dramatic effect.  The crime scenes are gruesome and Jens' interview 27 years later is compelling. This is a German film and comes from the place that Jens should at least be allowed to return to Germany for his sentence. He seems believable in his assertion it was she who killed her parents possibly with an accomplice, and he took the rap because he believed he would be sent back to Germany where his sentence would be lighter and then he and Elizabeth would be reunited.  Unfortunately that didn't happen.

We see actual court testimony by Elizabeth, but Elizabeth refused to be interviewed for this film, which is not surprising. But Jens' interview (in his native German) is fascinating, and when all is said and done, the film is persuasive in showing reasonable doubt, especially in light of recent DNA findings showing that two other men could have been at the crime scene.  No DNA was tied to Jens.  

This case has become a cause celebre as many have sided with Jens and lobbied for his release.  In fact, in 2010, while governer of Virginia, Tim Kaine approved Jens being sent back to Germany, but that was later rescinded by his Republican successor, Bob McDonnell.  Jens has been denied parole 14 times. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like true crime, this is a good one and there is a moral to the story: be careful who you fall in love with.

That Summer (2017)

A prequel to the famous documentary "Grey Gardens."

This is a strange little film that begins with Peter Beard showing off his photographs.  Beard is a photographer famously associated with the Kennedys. Beard and Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy Onassis's sister) had collaborated with the Maysles brothers (now famous documentarians) to make a film about Jackie's and Lee's childhood memories of visiting East Hampton as children and also include all of the changes that had occurred there due to rapid development.  They were going to touch on the lives of her relatives, the Beales, Big Edie and Little Edie, Lee's and Jackie's aunt and cousin who lived there, because Lee remembers visiting them. "I was really happy that summer." 

But when Beard and Radziwill discovered the squalor and eccentric life that the Beales were living in their big dilapidated estate in East Hampton that summer while working on the film, the Edies became the story instead. With the help from money given by Aristotle Onassis, Lee helped the Beales fix the plumbing, had electrical work done and the garbage and mold removed, so that they would avoid being evicted by the local authorities.  However, for some reason, the actual making of the film fell through and the footage that was taken that summer was lost for 45 years. Until now.

The Radziwill-Beard project fell through, but their idea turned out to be a windfall for the Maysles brothers who went back on their own and eventually made the wonderful "Grey Gardens (1975)," which featured Big Edie and Little Edie and which ultimately turned them into cult figures with a song and a Broadway musical written about them.  

This little film stands as a sort of prequel to "Grey Gardens" as it contains the lost footage that was shot when Lee and Peter Beard were working on their film. And Beale fans won't be disappointed.  There is lots of Big and Little Edie here.  Big Edie grouses and bickers with Little Edie, and Little Edie compares one of their cats to Ted Kennedy, sings a rendition of "My Adobe Hacienda," and sits in her "Disappointment Chair."

Directed by Goren Olsson, there is also some insight into Lee, the Bouvier sister who always lived in Jackie's shadow and about whom much less is known.  She comes across as a very charming and elegant woman as she spends time with both Edies.  She is accepting of them and kind, so the film doesn't feel exploitive of the Beales, as some critics claimed "Grey Gardens" was.  The Beales are caught even more off guard in this than in "Grey Gardens," possibly because they were related to Lee and felt comfortable around her. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...the Beales are interesting characters indeed, but the Radziwill connection is also interesting, and this is a nice accompaniment to "Grey Gardens.

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

97 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

San Pietro (1945)
(AKA "The Battle of San Pietro")

A documentary short directed by John Huston early in his career that documented the taking of an Italian hill town from the Nazis by American soldiers in WW II.

The Americans won but at a terrible cost - 1000 American soldiers were lost.

Huston had already made "The Maltese Falcon" before he served in the U.S. Army during WW II making films for The Army Signal Corps. He was a captain when he made this film (he eventually rose to the rank of major), which was one of three propaganda films commissioned he made to gain support for the war. He narrated the film, and his purpose was to portray the experience of war seen from the viewpoint of those fighting it.  Ironically, though, the film wasn't released until after the final victory in Europe because the film also showed some failure in U.S. intelligence that led to many American deaths.

Why it's a Must See: "Made for the U.S. Army as a propaganda film, John Huston's The Battle of San Pietro remains the best war documentary ever made..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Best war documentary ever made?  

Not sure, but it's 30 minutes of actual war footage from WW II with a dramatic narration.  And in general the film is unapologetically overdramatic and pro-U.S.A.  I mean, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings over his final words at the end as he talks about how much the Italians saw us as saviors.  So, you decide.  

World War II has always been depicted as a noble war for the U.S. But as someone born after W.W. II, I realized while watching this film that even at my age that I have never lived through a war that was a noble war. I like to think that the U.S. was a helper, a savior during W.W. II, because that's how our participation in WW II has always been sold to us. We know all about "The Greatest Generation."  But we have learned that we waited until it was in our best interest to get involved. And since then, all of the wars we have been involved in have seemed to be self-serving and/or unnecessary.  General Sherman said, "War is hell."  He was right.  But for many more reasons than he probaby thought at the time. War is not only hell but very, very wrong. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...compelling...and sobering.

***The Book of the Week***

One-Pan Wonders: Fuss-Free Meals for Your Sheet Pan, Dutch Oven, Skillet, Roasting Pan, Casserole and Slow Cooker by Cook's Country (2016)

Who doesn't love a cookbook that only uses one pan or pot?

I know I do.  

It has everything I love in a cookbook:

  • Colorful full page illustrations
  • Fun to read introductions for each recipe
  • Easy-to-use index
  • Delicious recipes that are easy to prepare -- in just one pot or pan!

From "Baked Shrimp and Orzo with Feta and Tomatoes (all in one skillet) to "Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Potatoes (one sheet pan)" to "Baked Ziti with Spinach and Sausage (one Dutch oven)" to "Hands Off Spaghetti and Meatballs (one casserole dish)" to "Peruvian Roast Chicken with Swiss Chard and Sweet Potatoes (one roasting pan)" to "Spanish Chicken and Saffron Stew (slow cooker).  One pot or pan means easy prep and easy clean up.

And you vegetarians and pescatarians haven't been left out either - there's "Chickpea Tagine," "Baked Mac and Cheese" and "Lemon-Herb Cod Fillets with Crispy Garlic Potatoes," to name just a few.  Yum!

Rosy the Reviewer new favorite cookbook!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Long Shot"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

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, April 19, 2019

"Dumbo (the new one)" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new live-action version of "Dumbo" as well as "The Dirt," a dramatized version of Motley Crue's rise to fame and "Bad Reputation," a documentary about Joan Jett's journey, both now streaming on Netflix.  The Book of the Week is "Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Luis Bunuel's "L'Age d'Or."

Dumbo (2019)

That adorable little Dumbo is back!

Though this Dumbo is not quite as adorable as the original Dumbo. Nor is this film as good.

You probably know I dislike American remakes of foreign films (see any of my reviews for movies that are remakes of foreign films) and also dislike sequels (see any of my reviews of movies that are sequels).  Now let's add live action remakes of animated films to that list of what Rosy dislikes.

Don't get me wrong, this movie is not really bad, but if you are hoping to relive the "Dumbo" of your childhood, forget it.  Naturally I had to watch the original again, and I was shocked at how different the two movies are. I mean, in the original, Dumbo doesn't even fly until the very end whereas in this remake his ability to fly and his exploitation by the mean circus owner is the main focus. Comparing the remake to the original aside, as a film this one is just OK despite Tim Burton as director and an all-star cast. It wasn't even very good Tim Burton. It just misses the mark as a really great film experience.  But one thing both have in common is that absolutely adorable little Dumbo.

Watching the original again after many years, I couldn't get over how simplistic it was.  But that was a good thing.

The original "Dumbo" was basically the story of a darling little elephant born with oversized ears, his mother loving and protecting him, his finding his "wings" as it were, and all of that capped off with lots of musical numbers.  

But what I have always remembered most about the original was the scene where Dumbo goes to visit his mother after she was labeled a "Mad Elephant" and put in solitary confinement because she tried to protect Dumbo from some jeering kids who were making fun of Dumbo's ears. She used her trunk to spank one of the kids. Dumbo goes to visit her and when they are reunited with the song "Baby Mine" playing over the hit me the same as ever.  In fact, I am crying right now.  Give me a minute...

Okay, I'm back. And let me just say that if you got through that scene without shedding a tear or at last feeling your heart strings pulled, you have a hard heart, indeed!

So of course when I was watching the remake, I was waiting for that scene with anticipation, hankies at the ready.  Well, that scene exists in the remake but only briefly.  They didn't exploit that wonderful scene the way they should have, whereas they exploited of bunch of other stuff that just complicated this simple story of mother love and a little misfit finding himself.

So, how else are the films different?

As I said, the original film was very simple.  Mrs. Jumbo is part of a circus.  She wanted a baby, the stork finally arrives with one but he is born with huge ears and he is the laughing stock of the circus. But that doesn't matter to Mrs. Jumbo.  She loves her baby and woe to anyone who tries to hurt him.  When he makes his debut at the circus some teen thugs make fun of him and Mrs. Jumbo smacks one of them resulting in her being branded a "Mad Elephant" and put in solitary confinement.  Dumbo is lonely and sad without his mother but is befriended by a plucky mouse who eventually shows him he can fly.  He becomes the toast of the town, reunites with his mother and that is that.  Happy ending with lots of musical numbers thrown in.

So, why I don't like remakes...this one was much more complicated and in so doing lost the simple sweetness of the original.

The story in the remake focuses on Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his two children, Millie (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), which right there was a problem for me.  I liked that Millie was smart and into science, therefore a good role model for little girls, but the film is called "Dumbo."  I wanted it to be about Dumbo.  

Anyway, Holt is just back from WW I.  He was once a famous horseback rider in the circus, but now he has lost his arm in the war and can no longer ride.  So he is put in charge of the elephants.  Mrs. Jumbo has her baby, he has big ears and is ridiculed.  But early in the film Millie and Joe figure out Dumbo can fly, and once that is discovered, the circus owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito), of course wants to exploit it.  To make matters worse, the owner of an even bigger circus, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) gets wind of Dumbo's ability and decides to not only exploit Dumbo but Max as well.  The film makes all kinds of comments about exploitation, the evils of the circus and keeping animals caged or made to perform for the benefit of humans which is a worthy cause but not what I wanted when I went to see the film.  I wanted to see that damn cute baby elephant being damn cute.

So the storyline itself is quite different but here are other changes from the original, some of which I'm not sure why they were changed or eliminated all together.

  • How Dumbo got his name is different.   In the original he is ridiculed for his big ears and called Dumbo because I guess he looked dumb.  In the remake it's a silly mix-up with a sign.
  • The famous pink elephants on parade sequence in the original was a centerpiece to the film. In the remake it makes no sense at all because in the original Dumbo was seeing pink elephants because he became accidentally drunk.  In the remake they only allude to it and use it to explain his nervousness when forced to fly.  But I guess Dumbo getting drunk is not PC in this world we live in.
  • Naturally the black crows are not in the remake for obvious reasons. 
  • And whereas the original was rife with musical numbers, the remake had no musical numbers at all.  Even my beloved song "Baby Mine" is treated like an afterthought.
  • And there is a complicated plot and way too many characters in the remake.

Disney is rolling out even more live-action remakes over the coming months and years, "Aladdin" starring Will Smith as the genie will be out next month, and "The Lion King" in July.  I wish they would just leave these wonderful originals alone so those of us who remember them can have our happy memories.

Rosy the Reviewer says..a disappointment.  See the original.

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

Streaming on Netflix

The Dirt (2019)

Based on the book "The Dirt," this film dramatizes the rise of the rock band Motley Crue.

Directed by Jeff Tremaine, it's all here - the womanizing, the drugs, the hair metal music, the out-of-control behavior, Tommy meeting Heather Locklear, Ozzie showing off by snorting a line of ants, all of the dirty deeds outlined in the book by the notorious Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth), Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars and how they all became Motley Crue.

Nikki Sixx was a street kid early in life.  He had an abusive stepfather, a mother who didn't care and anger issues. 

Tommy (Machine Gun Kelly) was a sweet kid from Covina but not too bright.

Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon) was older and suffering from scoliosis.

And when the guys decided they needed a guy who looked like David Lee Roth, they found Vince Neil (Daniel Webber).

The four were a wild bunch epitomizing the rock star persona of the 80's.

Here was a typical day described byTommy Lee:
  • 5:00 pm - Phone rings, wake up and remember nothing
  • 7:30 pm - hang out backstage and get pissed
  • 9:30 pm - show time
  • 10:30 pm - drum solo in spinning steel cage
  • After the show, call fiance before the real party begins on the plane with drugs and alcohol
  • 4:00 am - arrive in new city.  Go to nearest strip club.  Have sex with as many women as possible then throw up
  • 6:00 am - Back at the hotel sh*tfaced - trash hotel room
  • 5:00 pm - phone rings, wake up, remember nothing

Adapted from "The Dirt" by Amanda Adelson and Rich Wilkes, this is a biopic that acts like a documentary and an oral history and, yes, it kind of reaks of Lifetime Movie. But I like Lifetime Movies! Each of the guys gets to tell his story. But it's also kind of a comedy until they all end up in rehab, Vince Neil's child dies and Nikki Sixx kills a guy in a car accident.

Motley Crue was the worst kind of rock band in terms of them treating women like objects and being complete screw-ups but this film and the actors brought to light what was underneath it all and made you care.  And even if you didn't care, the film was a fun romp.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you love sex, drugs and rock and roll, you might love this film though it may not be entirely true to life and let me say, this is one of the few GOOD reviews. Most of the critics hated it.  But most critics hate Lifetime Movies too!

Bad Reputation (2018)

A documentary about rocker Joan Jett and what it was like for a woman who wanted to rock.

Joan got a guitar when she was 13, something she acknowledges was an unusual thing for parents to do back then considering she was a girl.  "Girls don't play rock and roll."  By 1975 Joan thought the feminist movement would protect her and she could rock.  She was wrong.  It was a long, hard road where she endured disrespect and sexism.  But it was also a time ripe for a tough women's band.  Men were becoming more feminine with their long hair and androgenous styles.  

She joined The Runaways but the usual band problems occurred and the band fell apart so Joan went off on her own and formed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

For all the drama of The Runaways and Jett's rocky rise to rock, this documentary written by Joel Marcus and directed by Kevin Kerslake is surprisingly dull. It's all over the place with talking heads and doesn't at all capture the excitement that a Joan Jett concert should.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I would think Jett fans will be disappointed in this since it doesn't really shed any new light on her. It didn't do her justice.

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

98 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

L'Age d'Or (1930)

A surrealistic tale of mad love.

This was autuer director Bunuel's first feature film, considered one of the most notorious works of avante-garde art of the 20th century.  When it premiered, it caused riots and was banned for decades but still became an underground classic.  I wish it had stayed there.  Underground, I mean.

It's a mishmash of images that seem unrelated and actually really are.  I am shaking my head right now just as I was while watching this.  But the one thread that drives the story is a man and woman who really, really want to have sex and keep getting interruped, either physically or metaphorically by the mores of the times.  But in general, a mishmash?  That about sums it up.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] has bequeathed some of the cinema's most unforgettable images: the mummified bishops; the painter Max Ernst as a frail, dying bandit; the cow on the bed of an elegant haute bougeois villa; Lya Lys sucking the tow of a statue;...and the angelic Jesus and his gleefully exhausted fellow libertines on the castle drawbridge..."

("1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die")

Jesus as a fellow libertine? And what were those women's scalps hanging on the scaffolding at the end?

Rosy the Reviewer says...tale of mad love?  This just made me mad.

(How many more of these things do I have to see?)

***The Book of the Week***

Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution by Amber Tamblyn (2019)

What is an "era of ignition?" A time of self-reflection after upheaval that leads to action and positive change.

And here actress/writer/director Amber Tamblyn (daughter of Russ) describes her personal journey that led to this book.  But she also applies the term to our nation.

She writes, 

"We are in an age when activism becomes direct action, when disagreement becomes dissention, when dissatisfaction becomes protest, when accusations become accountability, and when revolts become revolutions." 

Tamblyn has been nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award for her work in television and film.  She is also the author of three books of poetry and a novel and is a contributing editor for the New York Times.  She has made a name for herself with her fierce op-eds and her work as one of the founders of the Time's Up organization and she is a huge supporter of women's rights.  

But she wasn't always so fierce and successful.  In her late 20's, after realizing that her life as an actress was basically living other people's lives, and facing yet another rejection, she decided to take her life back.

"When you've spent your whole life pretending to be other people for a living, it is sometimes hard to know what you are capable of becoming or what you will want once you've stopped."

She came up with "The Age of Ignition" - a call to action for herself and for our nation.

"It is a thriving time of condensed evolution, where many discourses about where we are going kick into high gear. It is an age when activism becomes direct action, when disagreement becomes dissention, when dissatisfaction becomes protest, when accusations become accountability, and when revolts become revolutions."

And this is not just Tamblyn's own coming of age story.  It is a feminist manifesto for our nation that is inclusive and embraces diversity.

"Our nation's Era of Ignition is creating space for important conversations about identity, race, and gender in ways we have not witnessed in a very long time: from 2017's #MeToo movement and women getting together to decide their own fates, to the power of the Black Lives Matter movement, to the expansion of pronouns and language used to define the LGBTQIA community."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a new feminist manifesto that is also a call to action.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday




The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at

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.