Monday, February 15, 2021

What I Enjoyed Watching While Waiting For the Vaccine

Who knew it would be so difficult to get the Covid vaccine?

But thank you, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and yes, PBS, for some stellar programs to keep me occupied while I wait.  Even though some places are no longer on lockdown or only in limited lockdown, once I heard that we needed TWO masks and it's not really safe to go grocery shopping, I decided to continue a sort of self-imposed lockdown until I get that elusive vaccine.  

So if you are like me, in a sort of self-imposed lockdown, here are some more movies and TV shows that will keep you company while you wait for that first shot!



All Creatures Great and Small


James Herriot and his cronies are back in a new version of this beloved show.

If you were around inte 70's, you couldn't avoid the books of James Herriot, the Yorkshire veterinarian who shared his G-rated stories about life in Northern England from the 1930's to the 1950's. A PBS series followed and if you were around then, you probably got to know James and the other cast of characters: Siegfried, James' mentor who ran the surgery in the fictional town of Darrowby; Tristan, Siegfried's feckless brother; the practical and caring housekeeper, Mrs. Hall; Helen, soon to be James' love interest; and Tricki Woo, rich Mrs. Pumphrey's Pekingese who dined on caviar, roast beef, trifle and brandy with Mrs. Pumphrey wondering why Tricki was under the weather and getting fat.  

Back when I was working full-time and raising my family, I would take refuge in this program that played for four seasons on PBS back in the late 70's and late 80's (The series had two runs: the original -1978 to 1980, based directly on Herriot's books - was for three series; the second - 1988 to 1990, filmed with original scripts but generally regarded as a continuation of the 1978 series - for four. A total of ninety episodes were broadcast.) I could forget my troubles, travel back in time to a lovely English village where everyone was civil to each other and the worst thing that could happen would be that Tricki Woo would have a tummy ache.  Well, not exactly, but let's say this show was as soothing as "The Great British Baking Show" is now. 

But now it's back in a new incarnation, and I wouldn't blame you if you had been a fan of the earlier series and are now reticent to commit to this one, thinking it couldn't possibly be as good as the first one.  Well, my peeps, it's not only as good but might just be better. It's so good that there will be a Series Two! 

We still have the same cast of characters but younger versions.  James (Nicholas Ralph) is just out of vet school and gets the opportunity to work for Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), who already has a practice in Darrowby and is much admired by the townsfolk.  So James needs to prove himself and not just to Siegfried, but to the townspeople as well.  Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley) is still sternly comforting and Tristan (Callum Woodhouse), Siegfried's ne'er do well brother, just out of vet school himself, is clueless and on board to provide some comic relief. Helen (Rachel Shenton), Mrs. Pumphrey (Diana Rigg) and Tricki Woo also make appearances.  Sadly, this was the last performance of the late Diana Rigg.

And don't worry about this just being a rehash of the original. It all feels fresh and new, just waiting for some new fans. But don't worry if you are a fan of the first one.  James is still sticking his arm up both ends of a cow!

If you want to get away from Covid, political divide and the cares of the modern world, this one does the trick.

Rosy the Reviewer says... and if you love British dramas, the beautiful English countryside and humorous, warm-hearted stories, you will love this. I know I do.  I am loving every minute of it. (Now playing on PBS)


Firefly Lane



A dramatic series that follows the friendship of two women from their teens to their forties.

Though there is some cheese to be found here (as in cheesy), this is a satisfying and very bingeable story of female friendship.  Think “Beaches.” Taken from the novels by Kristin Hannah, and adapted by Maggie Friedman, this 10-part series follows Tully Hart (Katherine Heigl) and Kate Malarkey (Sarah Chalke) over three decades in a coming-of-age tale of two besties, one beautiful, popular and out-going, the other nerdy and smart.

They meet in the 70’s when Tully moves across the street from Kate on Firefly Lane.  Tully has a hippie mother who abandons her so she sets out on a journey to find love and looks to men to fill that void. She is a bit of a slut.  She is also ambitious and becomes a celebrated television star. Kate, on the other hand, plays second fiddle to her more glamorous friend, envying her success and doesn’t really have much ambition herself besides being a wife and mother, never realizing that perhaps Tully wants what she has.

The series follows the up and downs of their friendship – jealousy, hurt, betrayal, those things that put friendship to the test - and hops around willy-nilly in time, but it’s not too confusing because it's amazing how music and hairstyles tell you what decade you are in!

Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke do a good job of portraying the yin and yang of Tully’s and Kate’s friendship, and it’s nice to see Heigl having some success.  Despite her being the Rom-Com Queen in the late 2000’s, she has had a rocky career of late but this is right up her alley.

As an aside, the series supposedly takes place in Seattle, so having lived in Seattle, I was surprised I didn’t recognize any of the bars (and I’ve been in a few!) or other sites, so I decided to look one up and yep!  Just as I figured.  The series was filmed in Vancouver, a common occurrence.  Whenever you see a TV movie that takes place in Seattle, especially if it’s a Lifetime movie, you can bet it’s really in Vancouver, B.C.  

But, this is no Lifetime movie.  It’s a coming of age tale that not only celebrates female friendship, but explores what it was like for women coming of age in a time when they suddenly had more choices and how difficult it can be to make the right ones.

Rosy the Reviewer says…we don’t see enough shows that celebrate female friendship, so despite the sometimes soap opera feel, I’m in! I mean, I loved “Beaches!” (Now streaming on Netflix)


 

Pretend it's a City


Writer and humorist Fran Lebowitz walks around New York City and hangs out with Martin Scorsese in the Players Club, talking about everything that bothers the hell out of her.

I am a huge fan of Fran Lebowitz, a female curmudgeon if ever there was one. She has opinions on everything, she knows everybody, and she is very, very funny. I have read all of her books and never forgot what she said in her first book, a series of essays - "Metropolitan Life" - about people who wear sayings on their shirts:

"If people don't want to listen to you, what makes you think they want to hear from your sweater?"

I think that's hilarious (and by the way, if you want to buy the book, Amazon is asking $500+ for it so get it at the library)!
Well, now Martin Scorsese is highlighting Fran as she makes her way around New York City, making those kinds of comments about everything from her stint as a New York City cabbie to working for Andy Warhol to the New York subway system to libraries in a series of 30 minute episodes about living in New York and about life itself. What's also hilarious is what a kick Scorsese gets out of Fran. He laughs his ass off at everything so watching him is as much fun as listening to her!

The title of "Pretend It's a City" comes from Fran's observations about people who don't seem to know how to walk properly through the city's streets. 

Pretend it's a city where there are other people,” she says, “Pretend it's a city where people are not just here sightseeing."

See?  How people walk around New York City also bothers her.
Rosy the Reviewer says...this is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of Fran or even a fan of the Big Apple, you will enjoy this. It's like spending the day with a crabby aunt who is also very, very funny.



Attractive rich Asians frolic and flaunt their wealth in L.A. in this eight-episode series on Netflix that will give Bravo a run for its money.

Yes, there is a stereotype at work here, but it’s not what you think. It’s not a stereotype about Asians but rather a stereotype about the superrich.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said, “[The rich] are different from you and me” and he was right. They are rich! But for us plebes, it’s fun to see what the very rich get up to. Think a private jet to Paris for a birthday lunch or party favors in a red box (you know what a gift in a blue box signifies, right? But did you know about the red box?)
Part soap, part reality, the series follows a bunch of attractive young people presided over by Anna, the Grand Dame, who is CRAZY rich. This offers 45 minutes of escapism into the world most of us could only dream about, but it’s not all fun and games. There is also some substance here as this is one of the first reality shows with an all Asian cast, and it casts a light on what it’s like to be Asian in the U.S. It highlights the cultural differences between Asians and Americans, but it also shows the diversity of Asian culture. All Asian communities are not the same and not everyone within each community wants the same thing.
This is also the story of Kevin, a handsome model, who is kind of a fish out of water, not only with his rich friends (because he is not rich), but with Asian culture, because he was adopted by a non-Asian couple and grew up in a white Pennsylvania neighborhood. He embarks on a journey to find his birth parents along with Kim Lee, who is searching for her biological father.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you enjoy the Housewives or loved “Crazy Rich Asians,” you will enjoy this too. It’s addictive!





A behind-the-scenes look at the nationally televised morning show. Think "The Today Show."

We're not really supposed to think "The Today Show" but you won't be able to help it because it involves a handsome achor who has been fired for sexual misconduct and a culture of silence has been uncovered. Sound familiar?

This is a wonderful, topical series that highlights the #Metoo Movement but also shows all of the behind the scenes machinations at a high pressure NYC television morning show. There is also a nod to the film, "All About Eve," as the younger anchor, Bradley Jackson (Reese Witherspoon) puts the pressure on the older long-time anchor, Alex Levy (Jennifer Aniston).

Jennifer Anniston manages to avoid some of her twitchy mannerisms and brings a great performance. Reese Witherspoon plays against type as a tough reporter from the wrong side of the tracks and Steve Carell, not one of my favorite actors in the past, proves me wrong. He is believable as the disgraced anchor and I enjoyed his performance. 

But it’s Billy Crudup, as slimy Cory Ellison, who is the revelation.  I was a huge fan of him as a handsome leading man 20 years ago when he starred in “Waking the Dead.”  I thought he would really blow up as a romantic lead, but for whatever reason, he didn’t, but rather has made his name as a wonderful character actor. And lucky us because he really blows up in this.

Created by Jay Carson and Kerry Ehrin, I don’t know how I missed this Apple+ series.  Last year, it won Golden Globes for most of the stars and a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Series as well as five Emmys.  Oh, right.  I missed it because I didn’t have Apple+, but now I do and I am glad. 

Rosy the Reviewer says…a smart, well-written and well-acted dramatic series that will keep you guessing and coming back for more. (Now streaming on Apple+ and Season 2 is now in production)


Blood and Money

A retired loner hunting in the Maine back country stumbles upon some bad guys and a lot of money.
Remember when Tom Berenger was one of the sexiest actors of the 1980’s? I do, and I also remember that I didn’t think he was a very good actor. Well, Tom has gotten older (he’s 71) and is showing his age, but with age comes experience and he has certainly upped his acting game. He carries this film about Jim Reed, a damaged, recovering alcoholic, out in the desolate Allagash back country of Maine looking for that elusive buck so many hunters seek, but instead accidentally kills a woman who, along with four of her cohorts, had robbed a local casino of over a million dollars. Oh, and Jim finds the money, too, but the bad guys don’t like that, so now the hunter becomes the hunted. But those bad guys don’t know who they are dealing with.
Written and directed by John Barr, this is a slow-moving film but in a good, intense way. Berenger’s character is a complex man – lonely, angry and living with grief and guilt - and Berenger is up to the task of making you care about Jim.
The Allagash back country is so remote and desolate that there are checkpoint stations where those entering and leaving must check in. Naturally, he finds himself in a part of it that is not being monitored at the moment so when he encounters the bad guys, he must survive on his own.
I don’t know what it is about my love of survival shows because I am not an outdoor type at all. My idea of roughing it is having to shop in an outdoor mall. But for some reason I can’t resist movies and TV shows about survival – everything from “Survivor” to “Alone” to “Naked and Afraid (I even wrote a whole blog post called “How Would I Do on Naked and Afraid?- not well, as it happens).” I may not be a survivalist myself, but I can appreciate what it would take and am in awe of people who can and want to do it.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like harrowing stories of survival against all odds this is a good one.
(Available on DVD from Netflix and for rent on Prime ($3.99) and Vudu ($2.99) – well worth the price!



One Night in Miami


This is one of those "What if?" movies. What if Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown got together to talk about Civil Rights and what was going on in the 1960s? It's a fascinating "What if?"

It's 1964, the eve of Cassius Clay’s (Eli Goree) victory over Sonny Liston to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the World (Clay was soon to become Mohammad Ali), and he has gathered in Miami with Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) to celebrate.
Though this is a fictionalized account, the four did know each other and did get together and we get to be flies on the wall and hear what they might have talked about.
All were already famous but not everyone had made the impact they would soon make, but it was clear that no matter how famous they all were, they were still struggling with what it meant to be a black man in America as well as coming to grips with the struggle within the black community itself – does one try to get along in the white world or shake everything up?
There is something for everyone here: boxing, politics and the dulcet sounds of Sam Cooke thanks to Leslie Odom Jr. who has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. But it's also about so much more and where we still haven't gotten to when it comes to equality.
Ali says later in the film, when talking about Black Power: “Power just means a world where it’s safe to be ourselves.”
Written by Kemp Powers and directed by Regina King, who is also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director, this is a film about a time 60 years ago that resonates today because, even though Sam Cooke sang that “A Change is Gonna Come,” sadly nothing seems to have changed. We not only no longer have the Black Power movement, America still does not appear to be a safe place for black people to be themselves.

Rosy the Reviewer says…knowing what we know about the lives of these four men and everything that has transpired since, if the ending doesn’t make you cry, then you have no heart. A must see!
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)


Penguin Bloom



A paralyzed woman finds something to live for when her family rescues an injured magpie.

Describing the plot, it probably sounds corny as hell but I promise you it is not. Based on a true story from the book by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive and adapted by Shaun Grant and Harry Cripps, Naomi Watts plays Sam Bloom, an energetic and happily married Aussie with three sons who goes on a fateful trip to Thailand where she falls off a balcony and is paralyzed. Goodbye old life. Needless to say, she doesn't deal well with this.

In the meantime, her young son, Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston), finds a baby magpie that has fallen from its nest. He rescues it and nurses it back to health. He names it Penguin because of its black and white markings and it becomes a pet. But Sam wants nothing to do with it or anyone else for that matter until one day she is alone in the house and must look after Penguin. A bond is forged (and can I say for a magpie, Penguin is awfully cute)?

Needless to say, Penguin worms his way into her heart. But this isn't just a story of an animal healing a human. Penguin has issues with flying and Sam, of course, has her own issues. Both overcome. Both learn to fly.

Like I said, this could have been a corny film but it is saved by the direction of Glendyn Ivin and stellar performances, most notably Watts, whose quiet strength permeates the film.

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, this is a quiet film but a testament to the healing power of our connection to animals and a reminder, especially relevent today, that no matter what your situation, there is still joy to be found in life. Now pass the box of Kleenex, please.
(Now streaming on Netflix).



What Would Sophia Loren Do?


A short documentary on the power our heroes have on our lives.
Eighty-two-year-old Italian-American Nancy Kulik, who lives in New Jersey, is a Sophia Loren superfan who, when facing adversity, was helped by Loren's movies. The film intertwines Kulik's story with Loren's, both of whom faced challenges in life. Kulik looked up to Loren's portrayals of strong women and mothers in her films and highlights how two very different women were connected by the power of film.

But this documentary short directed by Ross Kauffman is not a puff piece about a movie star. This is also an homage to the power of movies and how our admiration for celebrities can sometimes be a good thing that actually inspires us and helps us get through life. It also reminds us what a superstar Loren is.

And get out your handkerchief because the ending is not just surprising but heartwarming.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of Sophia Loren, and I am, you will enjoy this, but now I am a superfan of Nancy Kulik! A very powerful and emotional 32 minutes. (Now streaming on Netflix)


Oh, and by the way. NEWS FLASH! I just had my first shot of the vaccine! My wait is over. My next post will be about waiting for the second dose!


Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!



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And 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.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

What I Have Loved Watching During Lockdown, Part 2

I was thinking this would be my last Lockdown installment but looks like we are in for more of the same - long days at home - so as usual you can count on me to help you decide on what is worth watching.

So here is Part 2 of what I have enjoyed watching while staying home during this latest lockdown. (Even if you aren't locked down anymore or are in more relaxed conditions than we are, these will all be enjoyable watching experiences). 

(As I said in Part 1, if you have been following my Facebook page, you will recognize some of these recommendations but, if not, here are some movies and TV series I have enjoyed while sheltering at home.  And even if you do follow me on Facebook, these are expanded reviews that might get you to watch if you haven't already).


Bridgerton


Wealthy and romantic shenanigants in Regency England.

Produced by Shonda Rhimes, who wrote and produced “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and other successful television series and based on the novels by Julia Quinn, this is a Regency romance about the wealthy Bridgerton family, particularly Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the oldest of eight, who feels compelled to find a husband during her debut year into London society. But she wants to find love too.
At first Daphne is the belle of London society until Lady Whistledown (the voice of Julie Andrews), who writes a high society scandal sheet, casts aspersions on young Daphne. Daphne's prospects start to dwindle. So when she meets Simon Basset (Rege-Jean Page), the handsome Duke of Hastings (and did I say he was handsome?), a desirable catch but one hell-bent on avoiding marriage, the two join forces to help each other, even though they start out not liking each other at all (see where this is headed)? Here's the deal: He will pretend to be her suitor thus making her more desirable and shield her from unwanted suitors and his being her suitor will ostensibly take him off the market, because remember, he doesn't want to get married.

However, with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) doing a bit of matchmaking and Daphne's older brother, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) meddling in Daphne's affairs (there is a duel in his future) as well as the Featherington family, who are in competition with the Bridgertons, also in the mix, all kinds of drama ensues. You see, Daphne's brother feels a responsibility to marry Daphne off to someone suitable, and in the meantime, make sure she doesn't do anything to sully her reputation while the Featheringtons have daughters they need to marry off too, but they are having a bit of a problem about money which poses a difficulty when it comes to the issue of dowries. There is also a secret pregnancy, unrequited love and some lies and betrayals. You know, those sorts of things that find their way into costume dramas. All very delicious. And just who is the mysterious, gossip mongering, Lady Whistledown?

Dynevor and Page are a handsome couple, she projects a shimmering beauty and I am obsessed with her adorable bangs. And did I mention that he is just handsome as hell? It’s a big cast and almost everyone gets their time in the spotlight, though some more than others. Not everything works, but this will still quench your appetite for romance and opulence (the costumes and set design are to die for) and take your mind off your troubles for a time.

Created by Chris Van Dusen, who also worked with Rhimes on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," the series is definitely a comedy of manners. Yes, there is some comedy, some manners, but there is drama, too, and it's quite scandalous, with a decidedly modern feel. There are people of color in high places, all kinds of sexual inuendo, not to mention actual sex (the "modern" kind), and if you listen closely you will notice that the chamber music playing in the background is actually a current pop tune from today. However, for me, sometimes the anachronisms were a distraction.
Rosy the Reviewer says… if you have been missing “Downton Abbey,” you might enjoy this Regency comedy of manners that also plays a bit like “Pride and Prejudice” with a some of “The Bachelorette” thrown in. Yes, you heard me.
(Now streaming on Netflix)



Long Way Up

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman continue their motorcycle journeys, this time from the tip of South America to Los Angeles -- on ELECTRIC bikes!

I am not a huge fan of motorcycles, but I am a huge fan of this new 11-part documentary series now showing on Apple+ TV that follows actor Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (son of director John Boorman – “Deliverance”) as they ride motorcycles from the tip of South America to Los Angeles. I have to say it doesn’t hurt that I am a huge fan of Ewan McGregor too!

This is not the first time that these two adventurers have ridden their motorcycles on epic journeys. In 2004 they rode “around the world,” a 19,000 mile journey from London to New York, documented in “Long Way Round” and in 2007, it was “Long Way Down,” their motorcycle journey from Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. Both of those series were fascinating and exciting but what sets this 2019 trip apart is the fact that this time they are riding electric motorcycles. You see, our Ewan is not only talented, super handsome and sexy but also environmentally conscious and cares about his carbon footprint.
The first episode is all about getting ready (it took eight months to prepare for this trip 13,000 mile trip), and if you are not into motorcycles, you might think that would be a snoozer but it’s not. Harley-Davidson makes them some killer electric bikes and the crew travels to my home state of Michigan to get some electric support trucks from Rivian, a company that looks like it will give Tesla a run for its money.
Ewan and Charley rode for three months (pre-Covid, of course), and had many adventures, some good and some bad (finding places to plug in the bikes was always challenging). There is beautiful scenery and they met some amazing people along the way. One was man riding a regular bicycle through the Andes -- and he only had ONE LEG!
And did I say how much I love Ewan? I know I did, but what you may not know is that I almost didn’t forgive him for singing in “Moulin Rouge.” I thought he looked like a Muppet. But I forgive you, Ewan. And thanks for being such a swashbuckling adventurer. You, too, Charley!
Rosy the Reviewer says…nothing like an exciting adventure to escape a pandemic lockdown!


Sylvie's Love


Two beautiful young people meet in 1950's Harlem and embark on a love story that endures through changing times and personal choices. 

I needed the comfort of a good old-fashioned love story and I got that with this romance that reminded me a bit of “The Way We Were.”
The film takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s in Harlem. Sylvie (Tessa Thompson) is a young woman working in her father’s record shop and Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) is a saxophone player in a jazz band. Robert sees Sylvie through the window of the shop and gets a job there in hopes of getting to know her. Unfortunately, Sylvie has a fiancé fighting in Korea and her mother is an etiquette teacher so a jazz musician is certainly not a fit for her daughter. But the two get locked in the record store’s basement and sparks fly, literally. As in, how come I didn’t know what a “French light” was? Well, in case you didn't know either, it’s when your cigarette is only half lit. It means you will soon fall in love. Awww. Guess what? It happens to both of their cigarettes!

Let the love story begin.
But you know how these love stories go. True love never runs smooth. She gets pregnant but doesn’t tell him because he gets a gig in Paris, you know, that old love story trope – she doesn’t tell him, he doesn’t tell her, so they break up, years pass, they meet again.
We also have that other trope - boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy gets girl - then what happens? You will have to watch this and see. And if you like engaging actors, an engaging love story and great music, you will enjoy this.
Written and directed by Eugene Ash, the film also touches on issues of class, racism and the expected role of a woman in the 1960’s (did you know, a married woman could not get birth control until 1964 or her own credit card without her husband’s signature until 1974? That's not all in the movie. I'm just saying), but this is really one of those old-fashioned love stories that cuts through racial and cultural lines with a great musical score.
Rosy the Reviewer says…love, great music and a time that will bring back many memories for Baby Boomers (you young’uns will enjoy it too). Just what you need while you wait for that vaccine!
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)


The Wilds


After a plane crash, nine young girls find themselves on a deserted island...but turns out, they didn't end up there by accident! 

It begins with nine girls from disparate backgrounds on a plane headed to some kind of retreat. The plane crashes and eight of the girls survive but find themselves stranded on the proverbial desert island. However, we know they get rescued because each episode focuses on one of the girls as she is interviewed by some mysterious guys in suits. We learn each girl’s story, how she ended up on that plane to that mysterious retreat (each is damaged in some way) and how she fared on the island.

But were they really rescued? Twists and turns ensue.

As each episode progresses, we learn about each girl and the mysterious Gretchen Klein (Rachel Griffiths) who seems to be the mastermind of an experiment and these girls are her lab rats! Turns out, the plane crash was supposed to happen and the girls were all being watched to see how they would handle their survival!
Created by Sarah Streicher, there is a strong ensemble cast of young women and it's all about female empowerment, friendship and survival.
Rosy the Reviewer…it’s a little bit “Lord of the Flies” and a little bit “Lost.” It will grab you because it’s a crazy plot, you will begin to care about these girls, and you will want to know how it ends. But let me warn you...you might have to defer gratification because it kind of doesn't end. Looks like a sequel in the offing.
(Now streaming on Amazon Prime)



A Rainy Day in New York


A young couple plan a day together in New York City but get separated and embark on a series of separate adventures on a rainy day.

Whatever you may think of the controversy surrounding writer/director Woody Allen (and I personally think he got a bad rap), you would have to agree he is one of our premiere filmmakers. It says something about his stature that so many big name actors have wanted to work with him and at 85 he is still at it with his 48th film starring Timothee Chalamet and Elle Fanning and other all-stars.
Chalamet plays Gatsby Welles, a young college student at Yardley College, a lovely little college in the middle of nowhere (think Dartmouth). However, Gatsby is more of a gambler than an academic. When he wins big in a poker game, he invites his girlfriend, Ashleigh (Fanning), to a day in New York City where he wants to wine and dine her at some of his favorite spots (the Carlyle figures prominently) and hit the museums (wonderful scene in the Metropolitan Museum of Art). But Ashleigh is an aspiring journalist and gets an opportunity to interview Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber), a famous director, and though Gadsby and Ashleigh make it to the City together, they get separated and basically spend the day each on their own having some wacky adventures in the beautiful atmosphere of New York City on a rainy day. A lot can happen in one day! And it does!
Chalomet is decidedly Woody’s surrogate here, even down to capturing Woody’s speech cadence and hangdog demeanor, a far cry from Chalomet's usual forays into handsome romantic leaddom. And Fanning is a ditsy blonde, a trope Allen seems to enjoy, who is caught up in some romantic situations with not just the director but his long-time friend (Jude Law) and a famous actor (Diego Luna). They seem to enjoy the fact that she can’t hold her booze. And Selena Gomez stands out as the younger sister of one of Gatsby’s old girlfriends.

Like I said, it's an all-star cast. Everyone seems to want to work with Woody!
Is this one of Woody’s best? No, but even his lesser films are better than most that are out there. And if you are a Woody fan, many of his signatures are here –a glum protagonist, a soundtrack of 40’s standards, witty repartee, references to classic films and beautiful cinematography, with the Big Apple playing a prominent role.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a classy, atmospheric day in New York City. Wish I was there right now!
(Available for rent on Prime - $4.99)



Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom


August Wilson's award-winning play brought to the screen.
Ma Rainey was an early blues singer, considered “The Mother of Blues” and Viola Davis does her justice, fat suit and all, in this filmed version of August Wilson’s acclaimed play. August Wilson was referred to as "the theatre's poet of Black America." His plays reflected the African American experience in America but also the human experience.

The film begins in a rundown recording studio in Chicago in the 1920's while the band members who arrived on time wait for Ma to arrive. Three veteran band members, Toledo (Glynn Turman), Cutler (Colman Domingo), and Slow Drag (Michael Potts), show up followed by Levee (Boseman), the trumpet player.  Levee takes his time because he likes himself.  The older band members have been around the block a time or two and know the drill, but Levee has higher ambitions. He wants to write and play his own songs.  He is also holding back the rage of a black man in America, a man who has been held down.

When Ma finally arrives, she is not in a good mood because someone ran into her new car. She also doesn't want to do what has been planned, she has some demands of her own, and because her records make money, the white men who run the studio will do what she wants. She can throw her weight around, literally, but as a black woman, she also knows it all hinges on her continuing to make money for the white man. As the day progresses, we also get to know the band members as everyone gets a monologue that tells his story.

Viola is the centerpiece and is wonderful in the film, but Boseman is also wonderful and the film also marks his last performance before his shocking and untimely death. He is skinny and gaunt and you can see that he is not well but to think that he delivered this performance in the last months of his life is just jaw-dropping. When Boseman shares Levee's story of his mother getting gang-raped, and he rages against God - if he exists how could he let that happen? - one can't help but think that Boseman knew he was dying and was talking about himself. It's a powerful moment for him as an actor and for us watching him. It’s a physical performance, but it’s also a deep, heartfelt performance that not only embraces the struggles and exploitation of black people in the United States but foreshadows Chadwick’s own future. So sad to think that he won’t be able to bask in the glory of probably the best performance of his career.

Adapted from Wilson's play by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and directed by George C. Wolfe (Denzel Washington was executive producer), the film has performances that are not to be missed, especially since we won't be seeing Chadwick Boseman anymore, but the film is also relevant for today as the struggle for equality continues.

Rosy the Reviewer says…This is a must see. Ring, ring! Viola Davis? Oscar calling. Chadwick Boseman? Wherever you are... Oscar calling.
(Now streaming on Netflix)




Wonder Woman 1984





Rosy the Reviewer says...don't bother.



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And 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.