Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Rosy the Reviewer Recommends: Some Movies Worth Watching Right Now at Home!

[I review Spike Lee's new film "Da 5 Bloods" as well as "The Traitor," "The Love Birds," "The High Note," "The Invitation" and "Hush."]

I did mini-reviews for these films on my Rosy the Reviewer Facebook page over the last few weeks, but here are the longer versions, all in one handy-dandy place for your viewing enjoyment at home!

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Four African American Vietnam vets travel back to Vietnam to find the remains of their fifth “blood brother” and, oh, yeah, there’s that gold they buried…

Spike Lee has always been a controversial director over the last four decades, probably because he is not afraid to go there, meaning he tells it like he sees it, even if it might make you uncomfortable. But always, he is original and provocative.  Maybe that’s why I am such a fan.  I have been ever since his first feature film  - She’s Gotta Have It.” 

In this latest film, Spike tells the story of Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), former Vietnam vets, who along with their squad leader, Norman (Chadwick Boseman), had dubbed themselves "bloods" when they did their tour of Vietnam.  While there, they had come upon the site of a plane crash and the wreckage had contained a locker of gold. They decided to bury the gold and come back later to retrieve it. But in the meantime, Norman was killed, and when the surviving four went back to find the gold, they were not able to find it, because a napalm strike had destroyed all of the identifying landmarks.

Now it's present day and the four surviving "bloods" have learned that the tail of the crashed plane had been uncovered, so they decide to, not only go back to Vietnam for the gold, but to find the remains of their fallen comrade, Norman. Along the way, Otis reunites with his old Vietnamese girlfriend, Tien (Y. Lan), who introduces the "bloods" to Desroche (Jean Reno), a rather shady French businessman who agrees to help them smuggle the gold out of Vietnam.  They are also joined by Paul's son, David (Jonathan Majors).

But as these treasure-hunting stories often do, nothing runs smoothly.  We learn that Paul has PTSD and he is starting to lose his you-know-what. The men meet Hedy (Melanie Thierry) and two other rather suspicious acting volunteers who are in Vietnam to clear land mines.  Or are they? Oh, and did I mention that there are land mines? And then there are those nasty guys with guns who want the gold.  And to make matters even more complicated, it doesn't help that the bloods are now getting suspicious of each other. 

It's wonderful to see these veteran actors getting their day, especially Delroy Lindo who puts in an Oscar worthy performance. And speaking of the Oscars. Here's a question.  Do you think there will even be an Oscars ceremony next year

Written by Lee, Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, and Kevin Willmott, this film is jam-packed and a bit too long, but Spike’s worst is better than most directors’ best. And this is one of Spike’s best.  It’s an exciting departure from what you have come to expect from him. It’s part The Treasure of the Sierra Madreand part “Apocalypse Now,” but a more realistic depiction of the Vietnam War than some we have seen since 30% of the soldiers fighting that terrible war were African American at a time when young black men made up only 11% of the population of the United States. It also wouldn’t be a Spike Lee film if it didn’t deal with racism, black history and politics (Paul voted for Trump and wears a MAGA hat!)

Rosy the Reviewer says…an important film that you don't want to miss!
(now streaming on Netflix)

The Traitor (2019)

Biopic of Thommaso Buscetta, the so-called "boss of the two worlds" who in Sicily during the 1980's turned mafia informant, the first high up mob boss to do so.

This is an epic film, and when I say epic, you know what I mean.  It’s long.  I am not usually in for two and a half hour movies these days.  My attention span has gone to hell.  Is it the coronavirus?  Or just old age?  Not sure, but I am often critical of films that go over two hours, thinking the director could have done a bit of editing.  But not this time.  This film was mesmerizing from the first frame.

Written (with Valia Santella, Ludovica Rampoldi, Francesco Piccolo) and directed by Marco Belloccio, “The Traitor (which won Best Picture in Italy)” tells the true story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), who in the 1980’s, was the first Sicilian mafia boss to become an informant. 

The film follows Buscetta from his early days as a loyal member of the
Cosa Nostra to his hiding out in Brazil to escape some drug charges to his disillusionment with the mob (let's just say, he didn't approve of the heroin trade and he developed a distaste for murder, especially when the victims were his own sons). So when he was forced to return to Italy and given a deal by the authorities that he couldn't refuse, he decided to break the code of silence and turn informant, testifying against his fellow bosses in an unprecedented seven-year trial that illuminated the inner workings of the Cosa Nostra and forced Buscetta to live out the remainder of his life in the witness protection program. And it's a hairy seven years to say the least. Let’s just say that you don’t want to mess with your fellow bosses and living in the witness protection program is no piece of cake. 

There is nonstop violence, but at the same time, the film is brutally beautiful to look at and stylishly done. Favino is in almost every scene and is remarkable. And yes, it’s long and in Italian with English subtitles and, yes, it's sometimes confusing with so many characters coming and going, and if you are unfamiliar with Italian politics you might get confused, but you can do it!  It’s worth it.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you are a big fan of “The Godfather” films, you will like this.  It’s right up there with the best of them.
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)

The Love Birds (2020)

Leilani (Issa Rae) and Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) find themselves unwittingly embroiled in a murder mystery.

I remember, not too long ago, was it March? Ah, March... when I was going to the movies in an actual theatre and watching the previews for this film. It looked funny and I wanted to see it. I like Issa Rae, I like Kumail Nanjiani and I would have paid money to go see this, but then we had to stay home, right? Well, Netflix to the rescue. This movie was going to be released in the theatres in April but thanks to Netflix we can see it for free (if you have Netflix) in our own homes. Sadly, though, this was a perfect example of the trailer having all of the best bits, and I am glad I didn't pay $10 to see it. But that doesn't mean it's not worth watching on your comfy couch for free.

Leilani is an advertising executive and Jibran is a documentary filmmaker. She is a spontaneous type who likes to take risks.  Jibran is not.  He likes to plan things down to the minute so as to avoid risks.  So though they had an instant connection when they first met, four years later they are getting on each others' last nerves and are contemplating breaking up.  But then fate intervenes.

They witness a murder and the hapless couple find themselves over their heads in a big murder plot where they become the suspects and are on the run, not just from the authorities but from some very bad guys. They decide they need to solve this murder plot themselves.  So, guess what? Their situation actually brings them together, because, there is nothing like being stalked by bad guys and almost dying to bring you closer together, right?

In the screenplay by
Brendan Gall and Aaron Abrams, there is a nod to the racism people of color experience when pulled over by the police (which is why Leilani and Jibran decide to solve this murder plot themselves), but all in all the film is mostly so-called witty banter between Leilani and Jibran as they go from one scary situation to the next and director Michael Showalter keeps the film fast-moving and breezy. But was it funny?  Sometimes but I couldn't help but wish it had been funnier or as good a film as Nanjiani's "The Big Sick," which I loved.

However, Rae and Nanjiani are appealing, relatable actors with a strange but warm chemistry and they are very good at witty banter so they keep this film alive. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's an hour and 28 minutes of diversion in this challenging time. Funny or not, you might enjoy it. Get some popcorn, pretend you are at the movies, give it a try and see what you think.

(Streaming on Netflix)

The High Note (2020)

Superstar Grace Davis's long career has hit its high note and she's getting older so it's looking like the only way is down. And Maggie, Grace's personal assistant, who secretly wants to be a music producer has yet to hit her high note. She is on her way up.

I am sure you all know that Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) is pop diva Diana Ross's daughter and here Tracee gets to be a pop diva herself.

Grace Davis (Ross) is a huge singing star but as happens with women of a certain age in show business, no matter how successful they may be, when they hit 40, they have basically hit their “high note” and there is no way but down.  She hasn’t had a hit record in ten years but her act is still popular and everyone loves her old stuff.  She has been offered a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, but despite a lucrative offer, a residency in Las Vegas is tantamount to advertising to the world that you are a has-been when it comes to generating hits.

Unlike Grace, her assistant, Margaret AKA Maggie (Dakota Johnson), is on her way up.  She is young, mad about Aretha and knows just about everything about music.  She is also ambitious and wants to be a record producer. But Grace’s demands take up most of Maggie’s time and Maggie is afraid to ask Grace for help…until Maggie meets David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young singer with potential.  All kinds of twists and turns ensue.

This is a classic chick flick with engaging performances and some good music, both old and new.  There is even a cameo appearance by Eddie Izzard, which was a high note for me. I had planned to see this in the theatre, because I enjoy films about show business, so the $19.95 rental fee didn’t bother me (Hubby watched it with me so that’s what it would have cost if we had both gone to see it), even if it was predictable and at times a bit far-fetched. But I sometimes like the predictability of feel-good films and this one has that vibe with engaging actors (Ross gets to show what she can do), classic old Hollywood production values, and a straightforward story. Sometimes you want to revel in something light.

Rosy the Reviewer says…it’s not Citizen Kane,” but it’s a fun diversion that will take you away from your troubles for a bit.
(Available for rent on Amazon Prime or On Demand $19.95)

The Invitation (2015)

Beware of dinner invitations from people you haven’t seen in years.

Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are on their way to a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills hosted by Will’s ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (Michael Huisman).  On the way, Will hits a coyote and has to put it out of its misery.  As they say in the movie biz, a bit of foreshadowing because let’s just say this dinner party isn’t going to go well.

Eden and Will divorced because of a shared tragic event and Eden has invited Will and his new girlfriend to dinner in the house that Eden and Will had shared to try to heal some wounds.  This is not something Will really wants to do because he is still haunted by the events that happened in that house.  Add to that the guests - some old friends and some new ones, the new ones, Pruitt
(John Carroll Lynch) and Sadie (Lindsay Burdge) who are rather creepy - and Will becomes increasingly uneasy, especially when he starts to feel that Eden and David are involved in some kind of cult.

Whenever people are gathered together for an unknown purpose, you can figure it’s either an Amway recruitment presentation or a horror show. In this case, Eden’s house has no land line, no cell service and her new husband has locked all of the doors. So let the horror show commence as the reason for the invite slowly and horrifically unfolds.

The acting ensemble of relatively unknown actors is first-rate, the screenplay by
Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is original and keeps you guessing and the direction by Karyn Kusama builds the right amount of tension to keep you on the edge of your seat, which isn't easy when you consider this is a film about a bunch of people trapped in a house together.

Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like good psychological horror or dinner parties from hell, take a seat at the table. This is for you!
(Streaming on Netflix)

Hush (2016)

A deaf and mute writer living in a remote location must fight for her life when she encounters a creepy masked intruder.

Blumhouse Productions, which is basically producer Jason Blum, has practically cornered the market on low-budget horror, but as I have said in the past, there is good Blumhouse (“TheInvisible Man”) and bad Blumhouse (“Fantasy Island”). Production values vary. But some Blumhouse are gorier than others and this one falls into the gorier category. But it's also in the good Blumhouse category.

Maddie (Kate Siegel) is a writer who at the age of 13 had an illness that left her deaf and unable to speak.  For some unknown reason she has decided to live a solitary life in a very remote location.  And also for some unknown reason a creepy guy in a mask (John Gallagher Jr.) shows up and he is bent on killing her.  He steals her phone, slashes her tires and cuts off her power, so now she not only can’t hear, she can’t see, and worse NO INTERNET!

The woman in danger horror film has its own set of tropes.  She lives alone, the best friend gets killed, the concerned friend/neighbor/cop/boyfriend (fill in the blanks) gets killed and so she is on her own.  She is terrorized by a sadistic killer but…our heroine has pluck (don’t you love that word?). She ain’t going to go down without a fight and a wine bottle opener to the neck usually figures prominently!

Remember Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark?”  This one is like that except with cell phones, the Internet and some gory stuff.

Siegel, who wrote the screenplay with her husband, Mike Flanagan (Flanagan also directed), is a compelling actress who is believable as a deaf mute as well as believable as a kick-ass woman who isn't going to let some loser in a mask ruin her life!

Rosy the Reviewer says…I guess I’ve been in the mood for horror lately because there is nothing like fake horror to take the edge off some real horror! Tense, very tense. Don’t watch this alone!
(Streaming on Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you soon!

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 https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

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 IMDB.com, 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.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Bad Days and Good Days in the Year of the Coronavirus

So...which do you want first?  

The good days or the bad days?

Well, since it's my blog, I get to decide, and I always think it's best to get the bad news, er, bad days out of the way first because, then the good news, or in this case, the good days seem even better, right?

Looking back on my early blog posts that I wrote when we were first sheltering in place ("What I Have Learned While Sheltering in Place...Parts 1, 2 and 3"), I was all full of hope and going on and on about gratitude, having a sense of humor, telling you what to do if you were having a bad day and yada-yada-yada. But what I didn't do was actually talk about those bad days.  Now almost three months later, I am really pissed off.  

I've had it with reminding myself what a good life I have had, with masks and Zoom, with feeling like I need to be productive since I have all of this time on my hands (yesterday I defrosted the freezer and cleaned out the refrigerator - not fun), eating at home and bingewatching TV.  Yes, folks, even I can get overdosed on the telly.  And it doesn't help that in the midst of it all, there are those really... 

Bad Days

  • It's a bad day when I wake up with a sense of dread because of the state of the world.  It doesn't help that along with a worldwide pandemic and overt racism, I just found out there is an asteroid the size of a football field headed toward earth, and to make matters even worse, the gardener from hell is outside my bedroom window with his weed wacker or leaf blower (same thing) before 9 am. That's the beginning of a bad day. Okay, judgy, so I like to sleep in.  Shoot me.

  • And when I do get up, this doesn't help. I get on the scale...

  • Next, I get in the shower after realizing I haven't bathed in days only to discover there is no water pressure.  Oh, that's what those guys from the water company were doing out there.  Trying to ruin my life on this already very, very bad day.

  • Then, I look in my closets (I have three of them) and realize I will never wear all of those clothes in my lifetime, because I haven't been out of my pajamas in weeks! Now it's not only a bad day, I'm disgusted with myself!

  • And then, if I want to go out, I have to wear a mask - not a particularly good look.  I didn't let my ass get big to save my face only to have to cover my face up! (and if you don't get the reference about saving your face versus your ass, here it is). Having to wear a mask when I go out makes for a bad day. But I can add a positive spin.  I now have masks in a variety of prints and colors to match all of those clothes I will never wear!

  • When "The View" is on hiatus, I am bummed.  I need those ladies to get me started. Bad day when they are not around.

  • And then I get an invitation to Zoom.  I'm sorry, folks, but for me, Zoom overdose has set in. Yes, it's wonderful to keep in touch with friends and see them face-to-face, and I am grateful that anyone gives a crap about keeping in touch with me, but don't you find that hanging with people on Zoom for hours at a time can be exhausting? Sitting attentively and everyone getting a chance to share is one thing, but there is always someone who can't stop talking.  At least when we used to meet in restaurants and bars, when that happened we could excuse ourselves.  On Zoom?  Awk-ward.
  • But finally, after an already bad day, I settle down in the living room, only to discover that there is nothing on the television that I actually want to watch.  That's a very bad day.
  • And then, the next day, I wake up to find that yet another black person was killed by the police or white vigilantes. The worst day.

So those are the bad days. 

But what makes a good day?

  • I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I can walk to practically everything. When I do that, it's usually a good day! However, I have to get myself off my butt and out the door, which is a bit difficult wearing pajamas.  But I can sometimes do that.

  • The family comes to visit. That's a good day!

  • And when I wake up to find a new email from my nine-year-old and seven-year-old grandsons, that's a good day!

  • Likewise, when an old friend calls out of the blue to tell me how much our friendship has meant to her. That's a good day!

  • And as things start to open up, we can go to a restaurant for some outdoor dining and pretend that things are sort of normal. That's a good day!

  • And then, these guys. Humans can learn from the unconditional love and purity of heart demonstrated by dogs. Looking into those little faces always turns a bad day into a better day.

  • It's also a good day when we find a way to hang out with friends outside. I like seeing my friends in person! 
  • Helping other people takes my mind off of myself, so when I am able to do things that help others, that, in turn, helps me, lifts my spirits, and makes for a good day. (In general, I have always tried to not just live my life for myself but for others too.  I don't have much patience with people who only live for themselves. When I encounter those people, that's a bad day).

  • Young and old coming out all over the world to protest racism gives me hope. Yes, it's scary considering the pandemic, but I have a good day when I see that my fellow humans care about this, that white people understand white privilege and that the hope for real change is in the air. When we are all anti-racists, it will be the best day ever!  

Here is a start...

So there you have it. While this whole Covid-19 pandemic really, really sucks and the world seems to be going to hell, there are those bright spots.  I have to cling to those until life improves for all of us. 

Until then, I will try to follow the sage advice of Elizabeth Taylor:


So how are you doing?  Bad days or good days?

Thanks for Reading!

And I Hope to See you Soon... 

Here and on my Rosy the Reviewer Facebook Page!

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 https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

What To Watch While You Are Sheltering in Place (Coronavirus 2020), Part 2.

I know.  I hate sequels so why am I doing a Part 2 for my blog post "What To Watch While You Are Sheltering in Place?"  Well, sometimes things get desperate. I am running out of couch potato content, so I thought I would do my civic duty and help out, in case you are, too.

So here are some DVDs and movies streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime with the Rosy the Reviewer stamp of approval:

"Life Itself," "Ordinary Love," "Just Mercy," "Black Christmas,"and "Love Wedding Repeat."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Project" with "Zero Kelvin." (And yes, I did need to see that one before I died)!

Life Itself (2018)

The story of a young New York City couple, the twists and turns of their life together and the serendipitous effect it had around the world and on other generations.

I have to tell you this story.  One time, when my son was very young, he told me he loved me "more than life itself."  I was so taken aback and happy that he loved me that much - and how precocious for a five year old! - until I just happened to come into the living room when he was watching the animated Disney film "Robin Hood" for the millionth time, and I heard Robin tell Maid Marian that he loved her "more than life itself." So much for that.

The title of this film made me think of that. However, this movie really doesn't have much to do with that per se, though it fits into the whole idea of our narration of life and the idea of the "unreliable narrator," a literary term, that plays a role in this film. The "unreliable narrator" is almost always a first person narrator who you discover has been withholding information or has some characteristic that is not reliable.  However, I promise you in my narration of my own life, I am completely reliable. That, and everything I have blogged about over the last seven years really happened! I swear!

The film begins with Will (Oscar Isaac), a seeming nutcase of a guy.  We know this because he is unkempt, orders a coffee in a coffee house and adds two small bottles of liquor and some Xanax and starts loudly singing Dylan songs. In fact, Dylan plays a big role in this film (his music, not him), especially his song "Make You Feel My Love." 

Turns out Will has lost his wife, Abby (Olivia Wilde), and he was institutionalized because of it and is in therapy.  Flashbacks show our "hero" in happier times meeting Abby in college, getting her to marry him and then her pregnant with their child, but it all goes bad when he loses her. The film goes back and forth between happy Will with his wife and nutty Will sans wife.  

There is also a long section where we get to know Abby: we find out that her parents were killed in a car accident when she was only seven and she was the only survivor; she was raised by an abusive uncle but then she turned all of that around and became an accomplished college student, met Will, and was on her way to a happy life until.... 

So what the hell happened?


Half-way into the film the film takes an unexpected turn, and if I tell you any more, it will ruin all of those twists and turns that the film takes. Just like life itself, we never know what is going to happen.

Written and directed by Dan Fogelman who brought us the TV show "This is Us," there are some strange cinematic devices at work here but despite some missteps, I really enjoyed this film.  This is a movie for serious film lovers who like originality, whether it all works or not,  It also has humor and a satisfying ending where everything seems to come together. I like movies like that.  I hate movies where the movie ends and I am thinking, "Huh?"  This has many twists and turns and is never boring. In fact I found it mesmerizing.  I wanted to know how it was all going to come together. If you have watched "This is Us" from the start, then you get how Fogelman makes that all work.

But despite the inevitable twists and turns of life, some of which are tragic, the film ends on a message of hope, just what we need right now.

"Life brings you to your kneesIt brings you lower than you think you can goBut if you stand back up and move forwardif you go just a little farther, you will always find love."

And there is also a message that we all live on in our children, they in their children, and on and on.  Life itself goes on, carrying us along with it.

I know. It sounds kind of schmaltzy and it kind of is, but I like schmaltz, and the actors make it work.  Besides, in these terrible times, we all need to hear messages of hope and experience a little catharsis and I got that from this film.

There is also an all-star cast in addition to Isaac and Wilde.  Jean Smart and Mandy Patinkin play Will's parents, Annette Bening plays Will's therapist, Antonio Banderas has a big storyline and even Samuel L. Jackson makes a cameo appearance. Fogelman seems to like "Pulp Fiction" as much as he likes Dylan.

Rosy the Reviewer says...my favorite movie since the quarantine began.

(Now streaming free on Amazon Prime)

Ordinary Love (2016)

A long-married couple face the wife's cancer diagnosis.

Okay, I can just hear you.  Rosy, why are you recommending a movie about cancer when we are all in the midst of being stuck at home and worrying about dying of Covid-19?  Well, I am glad you asked.

Let's just say that this film is about the fact that we all live with the possibility and ultimate inevitability of death, even before Covid-19, and when we witness the triumphant struggles of others, we have a renewed hope for our own lives.

Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are a longtime, happily married couple.  How do we know?  Because they are prone to the mild bickering, affectionate swats and humorous exchanges that characterize longterm, happily married couples' relationships.

But then, uh-oh, Joan finds a lump in her breast while showering, every woman's worst nightmare, and the film wastes no time, in fact just 20 minutes in, she finds out it's cancer. And after listening to the diagnosis, hearing that there will be upcoming chemo and a double mastectomy, what do you do?  Why you go home and get drunk, right?  But then it's stiff upper lip and time to get on with it.

Written by playwright 
Owen McCafferty, we follow Joan from diagnosis to the operation to chemo to her mastectomy and reconstruction, the tedium of the follow-up hospital visits and the effects of chemo, the whole bloody mess.  For a cancer patient, fighting cancer becomes one's whole life.  It becomes the new normal, but not just for the one fighting cancer, but for the spouse and loved ones as well.

So, okay.  I hear you. Cancer?  Sounds grim.  Why do we need to see this?

Though cancer survivors will be able to attest to the truth of Joan's cancer journey (the film is based on McCafferty's wife's bout with cancer), this film is not really grim. It's really a celebration of love and commitment in the face of the "for worse" part of the wedding vows. It doesn't have to be cancer. It could be coronavirus or the death of a loved one. Speaking of which, we discover that Joan's cancer diagnosis is not the only life-changing event the two have had to weather. And that's the "ordinary love" of a successful marriage. Two ordinary people who love each other have decided they are together no matter what and will be there for each other.  However, the title is also ironic because Joan and Tom's love is really no ordinary love. It's anything but ordinary. It's the kind of love we all wish for but few can achieve, let alone sustain, and it's an inspiration to be a witness to it. 

And there is another reason to watch this film. It's an inspiration to watch Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville. I don't need to wax poetic about the big, tall and handsome drink of water that is Liam Neeson, not to mention what a great actor he is, but I am going to wax poetic about Lesley Manville, because she is the centerpiece of this film. For those of you who, like me, are fans of British films and TV shows, she will be a face you recognize, but you probably don't know her name.  And you should.  She has been a successful actress since the 70's, and she is one of those veteran actresses who is one of those rare ones - no actressy mannerisms, she can play anything, and she is always real. This may be a sad topic but there is joy in seeing these two accomplished actors at work.

So, yes, this is not a happy topic, but the film is an inspiration for today, and it's a wake up call that no matter what you are going through, live and appreciate every moment, especially the love you have in your life.

As we deal with the coronavirus, many of us feel it will change us all forever in a bad way, but perhaps not.

Joan says, "You know, when this all started I thought that, if I made it through, the experience would somehow change me.  I don't think it has.  I don't think I want it to."

No matter what happens, we are who we are, our human spirit remains, and we keep going as long as we can, one foot in front of the other.

Rosy the Reviewer says...sensitively directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburnthis film pays homage to the vitality of the human spirit, reminding us that if we hang in there, we can get through the challenges with which we are faced with our abilities to laugh and love still intact.

(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)

Just Mercy (2019)

Now here is some more inspiration!

Based on the memoir of Harvard-educated civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who in the 1980’s, fresh out of law school, instead of using his credentials to set up a money-making law practice, set up the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama to help the most poor and desperate. This film focuses on one of Stevenson's very first cases, his attempt to save wrongly condemned death row prisoner, Walter McMillian AKA Johnnie D. (Jamie Foxx), a black man who was convicted of murdering a young white woman in Monroeville, Alabama, despite a slew of evidence to the contrary.  Lack of evidence did not seem to be an issue in the racist climate Stevenson found himself in, and, coincidentally and ironically, Monroeville was the town where Harper Lee's book "To Kill a Mockingbird" was set, something the townspeople liked to smugly point out to Stevenson. So how could they possibly be racist?

This film shines a light on institutionalized racism that still runs rampant in our society. There is a telling scene when Stevenson arrives at the prison to interview McMillian and the guard tells him to strip. Then he tells Stevenson to bend over and spread ‘em and, when Stevenson looks alarmed, the guard smirks and says “Just kidding.” Why did the guard do that?  Because he could.  Sickening but true.

Jordan and Foxx are both superb in this.  No flashy mannerisms, no over-the-top dramatic speeches, just real life played out on the screen. It's the still moments and facial reactions that show what great actors these two are. Their best work yet. Brie Larson was in this too, but with little to do and overshadowed by Jordan and Foxx, you will hardly remember she was there.

Adapted by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham and directed by Cretton, the film takes place in the 1980’s, but sadly we are still living in a society that assumes black men are guilty and white men feel justified to chase after them and kill them in the streets (does Ahmaud Arbery ring a bell)?

This is yet another film that made me mad as hell.  And it was supposed to.  It's an important film, but, this is not only an important film, it’s a very, very good one with powerful performances by both Jordan and Foxx. It just makes me sad to think that the people who need to see this film probably won’t.

Rosy the Reviewer says…. not just another courtroom drama, it's a must see that will give you something else to think about besides Covid-19!
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)

Black Christmas (2019)

And now for something completely different.  Some fun escapism to take your mind off your troubles. Yet another horror film about sorority girls being stalked -- but it has some depth!

Written by Sophia Takal and April Wolfe and directed by Takal, this is another offering from that horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions, and as I have said in previous reviews, there is good Bluehouse like “The Invisible Man” and bad Blumhouse like “Fantasy Island.”  Then there is campy Blumhouse like “Happy Death Day,” with the familiar horror trope of sorority girls being terrorized. This one is also about sorority girls being terrorized but it has a feminist bent that adds some political depth to the film and is ultimately very satisfying, especially if you are a woman.

It's Christmas, and Riley (Imogen Poots) and a few of her fellow sorority sisters at Hawthorne College are staying on campus to throw an "Orphans Party" and keep each other company.  But when a couple of the sisters turn up missing, the women realize they are being stalked by a stranger or strangers in what turns out to be a campus conspiracy against women. If you are a good little compliant woman, you live.  If you are one of those damned feminists, you die!

But of course our heroine and her sorority sisters aren’t going to take this lying down. Riley had been sexually assaulted in the past, so to help her deal with the trauma, she became active on campus and organized to make sure that didn't happen to any other women, so let's just say that the stalker or stalkers have messed with the wrong sisters!

Poots, of the unfortunate name (though I give her credit for keeping it) is an underrated British actress who I have enjoyed ever since seeing her in "Green Room" and "Frank and Lola," all the way back in 2015. It seems like she has been around forever. Sadly, huge stardom has escaped her, but just considering the fact that she is 30 and can pull off playing a college girl says something about her skills.

This is a remake of sorts (the title "Black Christmas" has been used before), but this one hits a new high as a horror film, so I am going to give it a break (because you know I hate remakes).  It's not just a horror film but a political and feminist film that embraces sisterhood and puts men in their place!  If only we could!

Rosy the Reviewer says…maybe a little pretend horror can take your mind off the real horror that is a worldwide pandemic.
(Available on DVD from Netflix or for rent on Amazon Prime)

Love Wedding Repeat (2020)

“Chance can be a real bastard.” 
So begins this film, now streaming on Netflix, that gives alternative versions of the same day.

Jack (Sam Claflin) has his hands full at his sister, Hayley's (Eleanor Tomlinson) wedding in Rome. He is trying to rekindle a romance with Dina (Olivia Munn), "the one who got away," while at the same time deal with Amanda (Freida Pinto), his angry ex and a drunk uninvited guest (Jack Farthing) who wants to stop the wedding.  Stir all of that up with some little kids switching the place cards at the reception table for the English contingent and a sleep sedative that ends up in the wrong glass and you have a delightful little British rom-com written and directed by Dean Craig, that is reminiscent of “Love Actually,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with a little “Sliding Doors” thrown in.

Haley has given her brother, Jack, a mission - to make sure her ex-boyfriend, Marc (Farthing) doesn't ruin her wedding by revealing they had done some dilly-dallying recently, of which Hayley's soon-to-be-husband would not approve, so Jack decides to put some sleeping pills in Marc's glass to shut him up.  But, yes, you guessed it, the sleeping pills end up in the wrong person and hilarity ensues. 

You might recognize Tomlinson from the "Poldark" series.  Here she just radiates on the screen with her beautiful red hair and gorgeous smile.  And Claflin was a regular in "The Hunger Games" series (he was Finnick). But the standout is Joel Fry, who plays Bryan, Hayley's "maid of honor," and who has the misfortune to mistakenly ingest the sleeping pill concoction.  

Much of this has been done before but the actors turn this into a fun romp.

Rosy the Reviewer says…a  rom-com that actually has rom and com and will take your mind off pandemics for awhile.
(Streaming on Netflix)

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

34 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Zero Kelvin (1995)
(Orig. title: Kjaerlighetens kjotere)

A young poet joins a fur trading expedition and discovers he is not the man he thought he was...in a bad way.
Zero Kelvin” – about as cold as it gets - and that can describe this gritty story of Henrik Larsen (Gard B. Eidsvold), an educated, middle class Norwegian poet who decides he needs an adventure and joins a fur trading expedition in Greenland where he meets the malevolent and psychopathic Randbaek (Stellan Skarsgard), and Holm (Bjorn Sundquist), a quiet scientist.  

The film gives new meaning to the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” as Larsen’s arrival upsets the balance and all hell breaks loose. Randbaek doesn’t appreciate a college educated, violin playing poet and goes about making Larsen’s life a misery.  But Randbaek underestimates Larsen to his detriment.  

Written by Hans Petter Moland and Lars Bill Lundholm and directed by Moland, the film is about isolation and class struggle, even in an icy wasteland, and how a seemingly good man can turn murderous.
Why it’s a Must See: “[This film] brilliantly examines what a normally civilized person will do in extreme circumstances, with all restraints removed, it asks what can separate men from beasts.”
("1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die")
Rosy the Reviewer says…a first-rate psychological thriller with first-rate performances, especially by Stellan Skarsgaard, though the dog cruelty is pretty hard to take. And yes, this was a film I needed to see before I died and reminded me that there are worse situations to be in than mine right now.
(In Norwegian with English subtitles)
(Available for purchase from Amazon)

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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 IMDB.com, 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.