Rat Race

November 30, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Six keys to a two million dollar treasure…and no rules.

You know, Mr. Otter and I were just looking for brainless entertainment, and fully expected to dislike this intensely…and found ourselves laughing hysterically at this movie in spite of that.

Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s a remake of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which I personally hated so much I never got through more than about 15 minutes. Yes, a lot of really silly things happen…but, as Mr. Otter pointed out, and contrary to the general tenor of most current comedies, this one has nothing mean about it. Nothing. It’s silly and funny, and that’s it.

And some of the stuff they came up with…the Lucy bus, the squirrel lady…and the Barbie museum. Oh my god, the Barbie museum. That was the point where Mr. Otter and I totally lost it, we were on the floor we were laughing so hard.

Doesn’t hurt at all having Cuba Gooding Jr in it, mostly in his skivvies; he’s SO CUTE! and I especially liked Rowan Atkinson…whenever that man opens his mouth, he makes me laugh very hard. What a great character! John Cleese, the teeth were a little wierd, but maybe that was the point…?

Even if you hate the recent crop of nasty low-rent potty humor genX comedies, give this one a try, you may be surprised.

Random Harvest

November 30, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by James Hilton

Ronald Colman is a shell-shocked amnesiac at the end of WWI, wanders out of the asylum where he is being kept as a John Doe, and finds a new life.

I picked this up because I really like Serious Honey Ronald Colman, who has one of the sexiest voices ever, and also because I was going to be at the Red Cross for a couple of hours doing apheresis, and since I was getting library dvds I wanted a backup in case my first choice (Dark Victory) was damaged. I’ve learned this one the hard way.

But no. Both disks were fine, so I watched this one when I got home. Mr. Otter was scornful and refused to be in the room with it, but I have to say, after having read the blurb on the back, I was pleasantly surprised.

Because I knew that he was going to start putting together a life and then regain his memories of his former life, which was going almost certainly going to put a serious spoke in the wheel of the woman he ended up with while his memory was gone. I had no idea how much more interesting than that the plot would get.

And I’m not about to throw a spoiler in here, it was just too much fun to watch. This was a good movie- a little silly and sentimental, but (to use a third S) solid. Good actors, an engaging plot, some romance, good writing, and I really did wonder if it would all would work out in the end, which is not something I am usually concerned about in movies of this sort, since they all too obviously are going to.

Thumbs up from the otter! try this one, it was good.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

November 30, 2012

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The first of the Indiana Jones movies: it’s 1938, and our eponymous hero goes looking for the Ark of the Covenant and finds danger and romance…

I have to admit, when I first heard the name of this movie, I thought, what a stupid name for a movie, nobody will ever remember it and it’ll be gone in a week…was I ever wrong about that one!

What can one say about a movie that is, I believe, one of my generation’s cinematic turning points? Sure, there are great action movies, but this one truly transcends the adventure genre; as Star Wars is to science fiction films, and The Princess Bride to swashbuckling fantasy, so this is to classic exotic adventure films.

And what a film! Action, adventure, romance, not too bad in the history department (Historian-on-a-Stick loves this one) dozens of excellent tag lines, exotic locales, wonderful special effects, some oogies at the end (not too bad, but the first time I saw it it was pretty scary); a wonderful cast, including Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Rhys-Davies, Denholm Elliott and Alfred Molina…wow.

I truly can’t praise this too highly…I’ve seen it so many times that I can quote the dialog right along with the actors, and it’s still wonderful, especially now that it’s arrived on DVD in a fresh and lovely print, widescreen so you can see all the action, yippee!

I would find it hard to believe that anyone over the age of 15 hasn’t seen this, but even if you have, get it. Yes, you have to get all 4 dvds in a boxed set for now, including the sucky second one, but it’s worth it. Trust the Otter.

*No, the name of the movie is NOT Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I refuse to change it just because they renamed it to make the DVD set look better.

<curmudgeonly rant>
One of my real flash points happens when the Powers that Be go back and change a work to get more people to buy it…the title, the thing itself, adding stuff back in…for example, modifying the original name of a movie to make it easier for stupid people to find (oh, we better put Indiana Jones on the front of the first movie or nobody will be able to figure out that Raiders of the Lost Ark has him in it…sorry, folks, he is ONE OF THEM. Adding “Indiana Jones and…” to the title is redundant, meaningless and idiotic.) Or putting back edited material into a movie or book to sell even more copies (Stephen King’s The Stand, for instance…the stuff that was cut from the original version doesn’t add a thing to it, and in fact bogs it down considerably…but that’s Stephen King for you…) And don’t even get me started on what George Lucas did to the Star Wars trilogy…

Anyway. Usually, editing is A GOOD THING. It’s hard to edit too much, especially with books…and the only example I’ve seen so far of extra movie footage that was an improvement is the inclusion on the DVD Special Features of the 15 minutes of footage that they cut from the original Italian version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to make it shorter for American audiences, that contains major plot points that always puzzled me, it was wonderful to have this added to the dvd…but with very few exceptions (ok, 1776, I’ll give you that) the version that was released in the theatre IS THE MOVIE.

I can see a day where nobody will be able to discuss any movie without half an hour of blather about which version, which cut, etc. before they can agree on what they’re talking about…and I’m really really tired of people saying, well, if you haven’t seen the added material on the dvd you haven’t REALLY seen it. Yes, I have really seen it, and if the director put his name on it, he or she should be prepared to stand by it, not bleat sadly about how he had to make choices and cut stuff to make it right for the theatergoing public.

That’s the name of the game, everyone, the dollar is the bottom line…but I continually see filmmakers who are talented enough to make the movie for release in the theatres, make it the right length, and make it GOOD.

So stop all this crap, agree on a standard, and let’s go watch some movies.
</curmudgeonly rant>

And of course I have had to eat my words now that Peter Jackson has released the Director’s Cut of the Lord of the Rings movies, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King…because he actually cut the footage back into them that they needed, that he was forced to take out so the moviegoing audience wouldn’t have to sit through four hour movies…and you know, he recut them himself for the dvd release, and they’re BRILLIANT. Even when I don’t agree with his choices for changes, they’re brilliant.

But these are an exception, the curmudgeonly rant above stays as written.


November 30, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel by the same name by E. L. Doctorow

A slice of life in New York City of a hundred years ago (1910s), contrasting different classes and races. The story goes from a celebrated murder trial to a black piano player’s struggle for fairness.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest. Two of the Movie Buddies, Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl, had come, Spider Jerusalem was spending the weekend, and we were munching on the doughnuts they brought and watching the first in our James Cagney themed day. This was the one we randomly picked to start with, and it was excellent.

I had read the book when it came out, and really liked it; I remembered the book as being more about the murder trial than about Colehouse Walker taking over the library and threatening to blow it up; we picked it because it was Cagney’s last movie. Also, Mr. Otter had seen it when it came out and vouched for it, and after The Aviator, I am inclined to trust him on this sort of historical movie.

And this was indeed excellent. Beautifully filmed, excellent period detail, good attention to history, and it’s fun because it’s one of those movies that a whole lot of people who became better known later on were in…like a very young Samuel L. Jackson playing “Gang Member #2”! Also, Serious Honey Mandy Patinkin has a good role here as the artist who goes on to make silent films.

A real winner, watch and enjoy.

The Quiet American

November 29, 2012

From the novel by Graham Greene

A British journalist in Saigon in 1952 trying to stay out of local politics and the war between the French and the Communists is drawn in through his acquaintence with an American.

Well, sort of. The book has a whole lot more nuance and character detail that, of course, just don’t come through in the movie; the focus of the movie is the woman that both men are in love with, Fowler’s Vietnamese mistress, with less emphasis on his determination not to take sides, and his eventually being forced to do so.

Michael Caine is still wonderful, a total honey 70 years along, and quietly steals the show…but this is also one of the best things Brendan Fraser has done, a chance for him to really act after a string of action flicks. The period detail is truly excellent as well, both Mr. Otter and I were both pleased.

Worth seeing, even if you haven’t read the book.

Queen of Spades

November 29, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From a story of the same name by Tolstoy.

Two men are in love with the Countess’ ward, but one just wants to use her to get the secret of winning at cards from the Countess…

We watched this on Hallowe’en night (the same night that someone in a parking lot dented the fender of my truck, also named The Queen of Spades…coincidence??? probably.) because it had been loaned to us by the Squirrel Lady, being on the same dvd as Dead of Night and it was time to get it back to her.

It was a good story, a little creepy, kinda mst-able, but fun to watch. Dame Edith Evans has a WONDERFUL time playing the horrible Countess, and Leslie Howard’s son Ronald is the lead. I kept saying, he looks like Leslie Howard, is he related? and sure enough…none of his dad’s acting talent or Serious Honey-ness, though.

Anyway. If you’re looking for a not-too-scary ghost story that’s a little different, give this one a try.

The Queen

November 29, 2012

Helen Mirren plays QEII in the week following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

WARNING! Small SPOILER ahead, although obviously most of the plot is pretty well known to everyone…

This was pretty good. Mirren, of course, shines. The camerawork, costumes and settings are WONDERFUL, like being in the Palace. Also, Tony Blair had only been Prime Minister for a few months at that time, and a lot of the film was about him coming into his own and forging a relationship with the Queen.

And since the movie is about people who are now living, they had to be careful how everyone was presented; for instance, Prince Philip, played by James Cromwell (whom we like, but why was he chosen for this role?) is much nicer and more involved in the Queen’s life in this movie than in reality (yup, I read about these people, my dirty little secret is out).

So there aren’t any big emotional crises or AHAs or scenes or anything like that. The biggest liberty the filmmakers took was to show a beautiful 12 point buck that Elizabeth sees and is impressed by, kind of bonding with it. Later on in the film, she hears that it’s been shot and goes to a neighbor’s house and sees it hanging up, dead. Mr. Otter and I both thought that it was rather silly to show her regret over this, since she comes from a hunting family and is not at all sentimental about this sort of thing. Seemed to be out of character.

Anyway. Perfectly watchable, a bit interesting, pretty. Mostly worthwhile for the interchange between Blair and the Queen. A good rental.

Quantum of Solace

November 29, 2012

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CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

James Bond is back, and is Jamesier and more Bondish than ever!

This is the direct sequel to Casino Royale, and takes place immediately after the previous movie left off.

As I have said in other reviews, I am a Bond purist. If Fleming didn’t write it, I don’t read it or watch the movies. But not only is Daniel Craig a worty wearer of the 007 mantle (suave, handsome, yet not TOO handsome, and tough enough to be believeable) but this was a Sequel That Doesn’t Suck.

A Quantum of Solace was actually one of Fleming’s short stories, and it shows; the plot in this movie is kind of lightweight compared to the excellence that was Casino Royale…but the viewer will not mind, since the (as Mr. Hair used to call it) ‘splodie factor is top notch. In the first half hour of the movie are a breathtaking car chase, a boat chase and many other roller-coaster ride moments. The action doesn’t let up, the plot works, Daniel Craig is worthy…the movie was very very enjoyable.

This is better seen after Casino Royale, but is fine as a stand-alone. But why stint yourself? enjoy both, they’re good.


November 29, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the play by George Bernard Shaw.

Obsessed lingistics professor teaches a lower class flower girl to pass herself off as a lady.

Wow, this was good. I like Leslie Howard (serious honey? dunno (later note: YES)) a lot, and was pleased to see him playing a part like this, a bullying, thoughtless nerd, rather than his usual quiet but nice roles…and Wendy Hiller was amazing. Not having read the play since high school, I’m not sure how closely this follows it…but it’s miles better than My Fair Lady, as much as I like that version.

Wendy Hiller is so much more believeable as a guttersnipe than Audrey Hepburn, I mean really! that woman (Hepburn) could be covered with mud and pigswill and would still look like a diamond…really not a good choice. Whereas Hiller is (not stunningly) beautiful, but was also wonderfully low and grubby in the beginning…much more satisfying changeover.

The actors who played Pickering and Eliza’s father were also excellent, and the camerawork was lovely.

Definitely worth watching, and probably owning as well.

The Pursuit of Happyness

November 29, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Will Smith and his real-life son play a father and son down on their luck.

And the Will Smith-fest continues! Mr. Honeypants (as he is known Chez Otter) plays a guy who can’t make ends meet, and is in debt from a bad business deal. He decides he wants to be a stockbroker and is accepted for an (unpaid) intern program just as his wife (the breadwinner) leaves him with their son and goes back to her hometown. But we’re all pulling for you, Will! We know you can do it!

And of course he does, and that’s not a spoiler, since you know from the start of the movie that he will. No matter what happens or how bad their lives get.

Mr. Otter liked this more than I did; I found the relentlessly “things are getting worse, how can we go on?” thing to be kind of annoying, especially since everyone knows it’s gonna be ok. His son is cute and engaging and acts like a real kid (which he is).

The best thing about this movie for me was the setting…San Francisco in the 1970s. The period details (including Mr. Honeypants’ ridiculous sideburns and moustache) were great, and I love watching movies that take place in areas I know. So watch it for the visuals rather than the story, you won’t miss too much.