theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Immortals

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A complete and total mish-mosh retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur. With lots of special effects.

Okay, I admit it. I really liked 300. Good writing, great eye-candy. So when I saw previews for this (made by the same people) in the theater, I thought, oh HELLS yes.

Although even the previews (which are usually carefully crafted to make the movie look WAY better than it is) looked pretty awful…what I was expecting, having seen them, was incredibly good special effects and a plot and dialogue straight out of a 1960s Steve Reeves movie.

I hate it when I’m being cynical and turn out to be right…but yes, that’s exactly what this was. Even with good actors like John Hurt (who Craftygirl kept referring to as Ollivander because that’s where she knows him from…she’s so young…) and Stephen Dorff, who I mostly remember as the bad vampire from Blade, and he was AWESOME in that…and Mickey Rourke, for God’s sake, who has certainly done better…even with good actors like them, this was a seriously awful movie.

The writers grabbed bits and pieces of whatever legends they felt like, made the Greek Gods look like 80s glam rock stars (and not in a fun, campy, good way) and rewrote everything you think you remember about Greek mythology with a liberal hand. Not even worth a historical no-brainer category, because removing your brain WOULD NOT HELP when watching this turkey.

Maybe putting your eyes out with skewers, pouring hot wax in both ears til it solidified, and putting Wilson and Squink down your pants to fight with each other…but that’s about the only thing that could have made this ignorable.

No, I’m wrong; if SOMEONE ELSE had done all that so I could laugh hysterically and take pictures…THAT would have been fun. Although it would have had nothing to do with this godawful movie.

Craftygirl, Spider Jerusalem and I msted the hell out of it, made frequent pauses for drinks, ice cream and treats, and groaned at the stupid parts. Which were legion.

Profit from my example. Skip this awful movie. Or at least…if you feel compelled to watch it, and end up doing the skewer/wax/cat triathlon…call me first so I can bring my camera over…!

Kung Fu Hustle

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Poor boy becomes kung fu god.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I don’t get the whole martial arts thing. Sure, I watched the TV show Kung Fu as a kid, still like David Carradine…but that was about it. I fell asleep during Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (at home, not in the theater) and never finished watching it. I didn’t like Kill Bill, I don’t read manga, I just don’t get any of it.

But the Dog Master told me to try this…and he was right. Not only is this movie accessible to those like me who don’t do the whole Hong Kong Cinema/martial arts movie thing (although I could tell there were a lot of references I was missing) but it’s funny. And charming.

It’s about a bunch of crime lords who make a move on the poorest alley in town, full of low rent people…who happen to include three martial arts masters who take apart the bad guys…and then a wannabe who finally gets his wish.

This one is a winner, it’s well worth seeing.

Kiss Me, Kate (2003)

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From the stage play of the same name.

This is the filmed version of the Broadway revival from 2000…evidently the only time it was revived, although I find that hard to believe. They performed it in front of a live audience for the filming.

Well…hm. On the one hand, there are a lot of good things about this production, and it may very well earn Otter Family Favorite status…I certainly have heard Mr. Otter playing his favorite bits over again several times in the last three days since we watched it. The leads were really good- all could sing, act and dance, and they all looked right.

Unfortunately, the guy who played Frederic Graham, although he was handsome, funny, and could sing…was just not sexy. Not a bit. In a role where he should be shooting sparks off every which way, as indeed Howard Keel did in the 1953 movie of Kiss Me Kate, he was not a bit steamy. Ah well.

The musical numbers were staged well, the sets and costumes were good, and the songs were, by and large, wonderful.

But…the script. We have actually ordered a copy of the libretto, unable to believe that (as claimed) what they filmed was the original play…the cover of the dvd does say that the production was ‘adapted’ for television (they televised this particular performance after filming it) and there were absolutely no bonus materials, so there is nothing to tell what was ‘adapted’ or why they did what they did. It seemed to us that one character was ludicrous, even for a musical, and just screamed out TOPICAL…the story’s end was weak, the best scene (and a major amount of final explication) cut to ribbons, and the songs were in VERY odd places…truly, if this is indeed the actual script, they did it a favor rewriting it for the movies. More on this when the libretto arrives…

Verdict: the 1953 movie was better, but this is a kick and well worth watching.

Kiss Me, Kate (1953)

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Cole Porter’s musical about…well, about a musical production of the Taming of the Shrew, both onstage and off.

This is one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, and one I have loved since I was a very young otter indeed, watching it for the first time with the Barracuda.

Yes, they cut some great songs, and rewrote some of the plot, and have a cheesy guy actually playing Cole Porter in a very wierd intro scene…but really, overall, it’s wonderful. Great songs, great dancing, a hilarious plot, romance, you name it. Oh, and it was one of those 3d films, that’s kinda fun too.

Ann Miller is a serious honey, and you have to see James Whitmore Jr. and Keenan Wynn singing ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ to believe it.

And Howard Keel. Serious honey Howard Keel singing wonderful songs. The only thing better than Howard Keel…is himself in TIGHTS. with a BEARD. and an EARRING. Whew. Can I watch that part again?

Rent or buy it now, you’ll love it.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

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Partly from the novel Bodies Are Where You Find them by Brett Halliday

An East Coast crook hides out in LA by scoring a screen test in Hollywood and finds himself involved in a murder investigation.

Many people- including the Barracuda and her hubs The Dog Master, Miz Shoes, and I think Otterbro and the Mermaid- told me that I HAD to see this movie. Smugness abounds, they were right, it was GREAT.

Because not only is this a pretty good murder mystery, it’s a wonderful parody of the genre. All the sections of the movie are named after Raymond Chandler novels, and indeed many of the plot elements are taken from his books. And the books everyone is talking about and showing each other during this movie sound and look to me EXACTLY like my beloved Travis McGee novels.

The plot is fast-paced, interesting, and funny, and full of what my friend Mr. Hair called ‘splodie. But that’s not all! This movie stars Robert Downey Jr, an Otter Family Favorite Actor, and Val Kilmer, who is very good also.

But the best part, aside from the parody and references to old detective novels? well, I don’t want to give anything away, but the way it is written, especially Downey’s part, will have you laughing til you fall off your chair.

Great action, fabulous writing, explosions, chase scenes, and funny. How can you lose? watch it right away!

Kismet

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

A beggar and his daughter find their way through danger and mistaken identities to wealth and love.

Howard Keel is in it, what else do you need to know?

Although Vic Damone as the Caliph is so icky, he’s almost enough to cancel ol’ Howard’s honey factor, you betcha.

This is one of those wierd ‘experimental’ musicals…the tunes and much of the incidental music came from Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances…now, this has given us such wonderful songs as Baubles, Bangles and Beads, and of course Stranger in Paradise…and Howard gets some showstopper patter songs…but many of the songs are kind of wierd, and certainly not something you’d leave the theatre humming.

And of course, the costumes. 1955. As in Brigadoon, made a year earlier, the costumes are wierdly colored fifties ideas of trendy period costumes, and some of them (like the Caliph’s turban) are so silly as to be laughable. Howard and Ann Blyth (his daughter Marsinah) both look pretty darn good most of the time, but some of the other costumes are simply ludicrous.

But the plot is intricate, fast paced and funny…the songs are good, if some are odd, the costumes and settings are really eye-catching, there are a lot of good people in this version, and if they would ever release it on DVD instead of the hideous pan-and-scan video that is the only format it’s available in right now, it would be very watchable indeed.

But this is a good musical, well worth the time spent watching it…even in the current sucky format.

The King’s Speech

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About George the VI assuming the throne when his brother abdicates, his personal struggles with shyness and a stutter, and the speech therapist who helped him overcome it all and Do His Duty.

I must digress. As some of you may know, Mr Otter is a writer. Some of you know that he has lately been writing plays and hanging out with other playwrights. What you may not know is that he has been writing plays a long, long time. And in the early 90s, he wrote a full length play based on pretty much the same events that this movie is based on.

And it was really good. He read it to me several times, and we even had friends over for an actual staged reading of it. So I heard this play, in part or in whole, many, many times.

Fast forward a LOT of years. This movie comes out. Everyone is talking about it. And I was so, been there done that. Because Mr. Otter is a VERY GOOD WRITER. And I seriously didn’t think that even seeing yummy Colin Firth would make this story any better than what I had already heard.

Now, we chez Otter have some friends who have recently turned into our Movie Buddies. And this was the first time we got together. Doug wanted to see this, they had it, we invited them over. Don’t worry about me, I said. I’ll start it and when I get tired of watching it, I’ll check out and read or something.

So the MBs came over with it. And we talked and ate. And then we started watching the movie. Which I watched all of, for two reasons:

  1. It’s REALLY REALLY GOOD. Duh. This is what everyone had been saying about it, but I still thought, been there done that. But
  2. Although it’s the same people, events and time period, the focus of this movie is completely different.

Mr. Otter’s play was about George VI rising to the difficulty of being king, and actually went on into WWII. This movie is really about the relationship between the aforesaid king and his voice coach, Logue, and only takes the action through the crucial radio speech at the beginning of the war.

And it was DAMN GOOD. I was riveted. Everyone in the movie was excellent, the period detail was right on, and the acting (especially Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who played Logue) was a joy to watch.

So even if you were there for Mr. Otter’s play, go see this movie too. They are each excellent in their own ways.

King Kong

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Giant ape meets girl, giant ape loses girl, giant ape gets girl back.

I did not actually plan to see this movie, it not being a fav of mine.

Oh sure, in my misspent youth, my family would watch whatever was on TV on Sunday afternoons (yes, kids, there was a time before TiVo and even before VCRs, when you just had to watch what the Powers that Were put on TV and live with it). We especially liked horror/monster movies, and this was on A LOT. So I saw the whole thing once or twice, watched parts of it several times, ignored it more times, never really cared that much about it. Silly, really. Giant apes, dinosaurs, whatever.

But I had a day off right before christmas, and I was going to go see some movies, doggone it! and this and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe seemed to be my best choices…especially being able to see them for the matinee price, yay!

And. Well. We saw it. Um. Hm.

I do think it was a good idea for Jackson to do something completely different from his phenomenal Lord of the Rings series, of course…but King Kong? Give me a break. What can there be left to say about this story? What more can you add to the original movie? why remake it?

Because he’s Peter Jackson and he can do any damn fool thing he wants to and everyone in the world will throw money at it, of course. Sigh.

This is not to say that this movie is bad…if you liked the original, you’ll probably like this. The basic plot elements are there: the crazy producer, the beautiful ingenue captured by the giant ape, the ape itself (this time a recognizable silverback gorilla rather than a large generic apelike creature), the Empire State Building, the biplanes, everything.

But it’s the same story. The only real difference (other than this one being in color) is that it’s a huge special effects fest…the whole middle hour of this three hour epic was just a wild ride of special effects, not really necessary to the plot, although fun to watch.

It was also cool to see Jack Black as an Orson Welles-type, Naomi Watts was good, and it was VERY COOL to see Adrien Brody as an action hero, especially playing a writer.

But there was still no reason to make this. See it (on a big screen if you can) if you like special effects, but don’t pay a lot for it, there’s not much else here.

King Arthur

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Yet another lame retelling of the story of King Arthur and his knights.

I had wanted to see this in the theatre, but missed it (and word of mouth was that it sucked). I knew Mr. Otter wanted to see it too, so I rented it for my apheresis session at the Red Cross.

Now, if you’re flat on your back for two hours with needles in your arms and all you have to amuse you is the movie that’s four feet from your eyes, generally that movie takes up a large part of your attention, right?

Not this time. They actually took one of the most exciting and adventurous stories EVER and made it so boring that I was glancing at the clock every five minutes to see if it was time to go yet…the movie ended before my time was up, and it was such a relief that I took a little nap til I could leave. Whew.

Then I got home, and mentioned to Mr. Otter that I had this movie, and did he want to watch it before I took it back? It’s kind of sucky and boring, I said, and they actually made Arthur and his knights Roman soldiers… Oh, yes, he said, that’s the one that’s supposed to be historically accurate, they think now that they WERE Roman soldiers, I’ve been wanting to see it.

And he agreed, the suckage factor was huge.

Now, there were a few good things about it:

GOOD:

  • Clive Owen, who played Arthur, was not only handsome in a Pierce Brosnan sort of way, but he (unlike Brosnan) actually seemed to have a personality and some acting ability…although looking at his credits, I’m not so sure that’s true. Anyway, he wasn’t bad.
  • Kiera Knightley was ok, especially in the last scene where she was wearing very little (although Mr. Otter was disappointed, since the Picts traditionally wore nothing at all into battle…)
  • They had a good fight scene where they did the Alexander Nevsky thing on a frozen lake…I came back into the video room to see that one again.

And that’s about it for the good stuff.

Now let’s go over to the Dark Side:

BAD:

  • Too long, too boring. I see there is a director’s cut unrated version; I hope that what I saw was this version, since I hate to think that there is an EVEN LONGER one out there…it was really, really tedious.
  • The bad guys are the Saxons. The good guys are referred to as the ‘woads’ and seem to be the Picts, and are also getting stomped on by the Saxons, who are led by a guy who talks like Marlon Brando in the Godfather…and his son, a John Malkovich clone. Not very scary or intimidating, the Brits in Roman armor are much more impressive. Especially since several hundred Saxons at a time keep getting wiped out by six or seven of the good guys…makes you wonder why everyone was so worried about them…
  • I was pleased with myself for recognizing the trebuchets; I was less pleased not to remember (as Mr. Otter disgustedly pointed out) that both they and the CROSSBOWS were medieval inventions, and no matter how cool they made the movie look, they did not exist circa 400 a.d. Nor was there armor piercing ANYTHING, that’s why the knights were so powerful…
  • And why, whenever there were closeups in the dark, did all the actors’ faces get lit in wierd shades of purple and orange? was it supposed to look like firelight? if so, why didn’t they just USE firelight? because it sure didn’t look like anything but bad lighting…
  • Hard to get all worked up about a battle when you know the two main characters have to survive to become King and Queen of Britain, y’know? this was a big problem with that Star Wars travesty, Attack of the Clones as well. Just kind of takes all the tension out of the big suspenseful scene…
  • And it’s snowing like heck a couple of days ride north of Hadrian’s Wall, and cold enough for a lake to freeze over, but a couple of days later at the wall everything is green and springlike? Hardly.

And whatever Mr. Otter may say about new discoveries and historical accuracy, having Arthur and his knights working for the Romans, even if they are not strictly Roman themselves (they are Sarmatians who lost a battle and end up indenturing their sons to the Roman army in perpetuity, to serve 15 years and then go home and spawn the next generation of soldiers. Of course, Arthur’s mom was a Brit). Sorry, didn’t work for me. Throwing in a round table didn’t help.

OK, I’ll stop running off at the mouth here. Don’t bother with this dog unless you really really can’t resist…and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Kingdom of the Spiders

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

A bunch of tarantulas come to town…

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest. Our theme: Animal Attack movies. We had just seen Jaws and were in the mood for something really lame.

And this was it! William Shatner and Woody Strode (an Otter Family Favorite Actor) star as the local vet and a rancher…cattle and other animals (including a DOG, anathema chez Otter where movies in which the dog dies are generally NEVER shown) are dying of poisonous spider bites. Oh, look, there are lots of tarantulas, wonder if there’s a connection?

The budget for this movie was so low that they had to use real tarantulas. This was hilarious because:

  1. They had to take what they could get, which meant adding an explanation for a bunch of DIFFERENT kinds of tarantulas coexisting
  2. They didn’t have enough money for a lot of them, so someone would say, OH MY GOD, THEY’RE COMING UP THE ROAD…and the camera would cut to said road, where about 20 of the little beasties would be ambling towards us…not real scary.
  3. The tarantulas are so poisonous that by the middle of the movie, several bites = death to humans. With hideous blood and skin effects. Sorry, guys, but American tarantulas are just not that poisonous unless you’re allergic to them. And of course the super poison does NOT work on major characters…
  4. The tarantulas spin webs EVERYWHERE. Ditto above, true tarantulas do not spin webs like other spiders or wrap their prey. They sometimes line their burrows or wrap their egg cases with silk, but that’s it.
  5. And the best for last: in the scenes where people have to RUN THROUGH THE SWARMING TARANTULAS OH NO!…you can see them carefully placing their feet so as not to hurt any of the cute little critters, instead of stomping as many of them flat as they can, which is what would normally happen.

This one is silly, but better than many in this genre and budget range.

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