Django Unchained

January 10, 2013


Internet Movie Database 

CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

A freed slave turned bounty hunter searches for his wife.

There are SPOILERS ahead, if you haven’t seen it wait til you do or you’ll know what happens in the end. Okay, it’s Tarantino, you already know that the end is a bloodbath, but I do give away who gets killed first…

Okay, don’t get me wrong…I really really like Quentin “Bad Boy” Tarantino. I like a lot of his movies, and even when they’re not awesome, they’re still pretty good.

And when he’s good, he’s really damn good.

Violence doesn’t bother me, so I don’t have that objection to his movies, and I’m okay with the whole “I’m as good as Hitchcock and that ilk so I’ll do a lot of self-referential stuff that shows how cool I am”.  Sure, Q, go right ahead.

And I LOVED Inglourious Basterds. Wit, charm, violence, a bad guy you love to hate, silent film, what’s not to like? well, the ending was a little lame, but forgiveable.

So I was REALLY EXCITED when the buzz started on this. Not excited enough to stand in line for six hours at Comic-con to see him talk about it, but excited.

Then it opened on Christmas Day…the same day as Les Misérables, and that’s not even a contest. Sorry, Q.

So last night, about 2 weeks after it opened, Spider Jerusalem and I went to see it at a theater I hadn’t been to before (they just built them about 5 years ago, and it’s not a part of town I frequent) and had dinner there and the whole movie experience. And finally saw it.


Good writing. Lots of violence. Good plot that pretty much holds together, aside from a few quibbles like them using dynamite ten years before it was invented. Good actors- I like Jamie Foxx, am okay with Di Caprio, and adore Christoph Waltz, who was actually the high point of this movie.

But. Hm.

Waltz was so charming, and Foxx so deadpan serious, that once Waltz and Di Caprio were out of the movie, it really went downhill, violent payoff notwithstanding. This was a movie about a serious and touchy subject, and, like the charming and funny Nazi in Inglourious Basterds, Waltz was really needed to make it watchable…and once he was gone, there was nothing but shooting left to do (and there WAS plenty of shooting, for sure.) Foxx, although one could sympathize with his situation, was not sympathetic; he barely had a personality. He was just there to shoot people til he could take his wife away. She was pretty but ditto, very little personality. I liked the lawyer, played by Dennis Christopher, and Samuel L. Jackson chewed scenery like a pro.

But…I wanted more. I really did want it to be as charming as IB, and it just wasn’t, aside from a few of Waltz’s lines. I thought it was totally unbelieveable that someone as pragmatic as bounty hunter Schultz would suddenly, after witnessing one awful incident, get such scruples that he wouldn’t do the one thing guaranteed to bring the whole deal off without a hitch, and instead precipitate a bloodbath, as he had to know would happen.

So worth seeing, it’s Tarantino, good actors, good violent explodo, but not his best.

Oh, and I had no problem with the “N word”, as everyone is saying about this movie; in context, absolutely appropriate. Trust Tarantino to push America’s buttons on one of the few real taboo words that are left to us.

Northwest Passage

January 5, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book of the same name by Kenneth Rogers

1759: An artist accompanies Rogers’ Rangers to the Indian fort at St. Francis to destroy it.

This is a book that I have loved since I was 12. I was in 8th grade when I read it, and have reread it every few years since, and still love it. As the title of the movie in IMDB makes clear, this is only the first half of the book, since the second half mostly takes place in London ten years later. But it’s all a thunderin’ good read.

Langdon Towne (the artist) gets into trouble and has to leave town, falls in with Rogers and is taken along on this expedition. The problem is, not only are they out of supplies when they reach St. Francis, and now have to come back overland without food or water, but the French and Indians (1759, it’s the French and Indian war, which didn’t mean they were fighting each other, it meant they were allied against the British, which is the army that Towne has joined was because it’s pre-Revolution. Got it?) So they’re going through hell trying to get back, starving, freezing, wet and miserable AND being hunted down by the bad guys. One of the most thrilling books ever.

And they did a worthy job of making it into a movie, I have to say. They kept as much of the action and characters as they could (aside from casting Walter Brennan to play a gap-toothed Hunk Marriner for comic relief, and some big guy as tiny wiry red-headed invective-spewing Sgt. McNott.) I recognized whole chunks of dialogue, and the scenes were good. Seeing it on the screen wasn’t nearly as edge-of-my-seat as reading it, even re-reading, but that’s the difference between books and movies for you.

And Spencer Tracy. He was good. He was very good. He had personality. But he just wasn’t big and charismatic enough to be Rogers, unfortunately. He was in there trying, but you really couldn’t see why any of these guys was following him to the death…he just didn’t seem to inspire that kind of fanaticism.

Still…a good effort, and I’m glad I saw it. Soon it will be time to reread the book, and THAT’S what I’m really looking forward to.

Johnny Tremain

January 5, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the really excellent children’s book of the same name by Esther Forbes

A silversmith’s apprentice during the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence.

We were having the New Year’s Day Videofest. 2013: American History in Movies.

Ottersis picked this one, and it was fun. Originally it was two separate Wonderful World of Disney programs, and they have been stitched together into a short (about 70 minutes) feature filmish sort of thing. Very like all the other Disney historical stuff, but not badly written, fun to watch with a bit of msting, a good additon to the day.

Sergeant York

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Biopic about one of the most decorated soldiers of WWI.

The New Year’s Day Videofest. A time-honored tradition. This year’s theme was American History through Movies, and we had a great lineup, including a bunch of films I have long wanted to see and haven’t, for one reason and another.

And this was one of them. The brief description I had read about it made it sound like it was about a guy who ends up in WWI in the trenches and has to come back and face the changes in himself when he returns. What my friend Barracuda calls The Horrors of War.

But no.

We had a houseful of people to watch this- me, Mr. Otter, Spider Jerusalem, the Barracuda, Ottersis and the Magyar Princess. This was our first movie, and we all settled happily down to watch it.

And…it’s a 2 1/4 hour movie. An hour into it, we’re still in his life in Tennessee. An HOUR AND A HALF into it, he’s barely been drafted. Then suddenly, he’s on the Meuse/Argonne front, he’s a hero, he gets medals, he comes home and resumes his former life and is a credit to us all. The end.

Huh? That’s when I found out that it was a biopic of a living person (kiss of death right there for movie truthfulness, of course) and that this one thing in WWI was basically the only noteworthy thing that happened in his lifetime. Not to mention that (just by coincidence, of course) this movie was made in 1941…oh, that’s going to get us all patriotic, of course!

Gary Cooper is an awesome honey as always. An interesting look at life in a very small town a hundred years ago. Otherwise? not so much.

Les Miserables

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database 

CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, and dudes, if you haven’t read it DO IT NOW, it’s AWESOME.

Love + forgiveness = redemption in France in the early 1800s.

So this musical came to the SF Bay Area around 1990. And Mr. Otter and I, who love musicals, borrowed the soundtrack from one of our libraries and listened to it.

And we were not impressed.

But we had never read the book, and that was a point in our lives when we spent a lot of time reading to each other. So we got the book from the library and read it to each other.

The whole thing.


It is, after all, 1400 pages long; think of reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud (which I have also done).

And it was GREAT. We loved it, and I have re-read it several times.

And after reading the book, we totally got the musical. Because now we understood and loved the characters, and the situations, and why everyone was doing/feeling/reacting as they were. And I saw the musical twice in San Francisco (with that huge revolving stage, it was amazing!). And I have the French, British and American soundtracks (the American is best) and have listened to them a billion times. And love them. And the book.

So guess how excited I was about the movie? Yup, on a scale of one to ten it was about 150.

We saw previews. I *vibrated* in my seat, I was jumping up and down so fast. I was so excited.

And then it was opening. On CHRISTMAS DAY, oh my god. No, I’m not THAT excited.

But…Mr. Otter and I both had the day after Christmas off, and it’s a big shopping day. Let’s go to the very first show that day at our local movie theater, I said. Everyone will either be shopping or sleeping in.

So we got there at 10 am, on a bitterly (for the San Francisco Bay Area, around 45 degrees) cold morning, before the box office opened. We were third in line, and the theater was half full…although when we got out, there were lines EVERYWHERE, and didn’t we feel smug?

So after all that…how was it?

Well, True Fans, as you know, I sent an email right afterwards to say how wonderful it was. I was overwhelmed. I was not the only woman in the theater crying my eyes out, I can tell you. It was really really amazing.

But…details kept niggling in my brain. So I decided to wait to review it til I had seen it again, which I knew was imminent.

And indeed, we ended up with a house full of guests over New Year’s, and the Barracuda, the Magyar Princess and I joined Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl at the 8:30 pm show on New Year’s Eve, figuring nobody else would be there. We were partly right, nobody else but ANNOYING SOCIAL REJECTS were there…someone kept kicking my seat, and the guy ahead of us had to make all possible noise with far too much food…but I digress.

It was really really good. Anne Hathaway was AMAZING, she just broke my heart both times. Hugh Jackman was excellent. I liked the guy who played Marius. I kept thinking Amanda Seyfried looked familiar, and I was right, I had just seen her in In Time. The actress who plays Eponine (Craftygirl says she was Cosette in the original production) was excellent too. And I liked Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter more than I have in anything else they’ve done.

Russell Crowe…not so much. Not a good choice. I always think he looks whiny and depressed because he has almost no facial expression…and in this movie, everyone sang in real time with closeups, so that was not so good. Especially the part where he can’t really sing that well. Sure, he was on key and hit the notes…but everyone else in the cast was a GOOD SINGER. Him? no. And it was painfully obvious, and a shame, because Javert’s songs are really wonderful if you can do them justice. Which he didn’t.

The cinematography, settings, costumes, all the STUFF was good. The bits of rewriting to make it comprehensible to people who have not seen the show or read the book (now you know why you should, don’t you?) were good.

What DIDN’T I like?

  • Russell Crowe. Okay, but not as good as someone who could actually look and sing the part AND ACT.
  • The rinky-dinky disneyesque song they added for Valjean to sing in the carriage as he takes Cosette away.
  • Cutting some really good songs that advance the plot and make more sense of it. Would it have been so hard to keep them in and make it a 3 hour movie instead of 2 hrs and 30 minutes?
  • Cutting whole characters (like Marius’ grandfather, who shows up for approximately twelve seconds).
  • Having Javert pin his medal on Gavroche. This is an affront, would never have happened and should never have been done. Feh.
  • Why didn’t Fantine lead him away at the end? did Jackman really have to grandstand? it’s what the song says, after all…and is an awesome ending. Wierd.

Overall? lovely. I’d go see it in the theater a third time. I’m probably not going to buy it, but would gladly rent it every couple of years. But really? the book is SO good and so much better, I’m just going to reread that. Join me!

Oh, and this is the best review ever.  Wish I had thought of that.

Also awesome: Les Mis in emoticons

Okay, one more: Nostalgia Chick talks about the stage show and the movie. Funny and absolutely on target, in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

A Goofy Movie

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Goofy decides he and his teenage son need to bond, so he forces the kid to take a road trip with him.

Christmas Day. Maid-of-Awesome and her husband Soccer Sam invited us over for a delicious dinner, and we were sitting around talking afterwards. It was a lovely quiet day, and we all felt like a movie. MoA had mentioned that this was one of her favorite childhood movies and was surprised I had never seen it, so we cranked it up.

And it was better than I expected, not being a big fan of the whole Disney schtick.

One of the things I liked about it is that it’s old enough to really look like a cartoon, instead of the more and more real-looking animated movies of modern days, where they spend a boatload of money on the look of the movie and maybe not so much on a good storyline or good writing.

And it’s a road trip, which is something Mr. Otter and I love; we take road trips whenever we can. And I love stopping for stupid stuff- I would so have pulled over for the Possum Museum! so we laughed at that.

But the characters are really good- Goofy, his teenage son and the girl his son is crazy about are all good characters, and we liked them. Especially the relationship between Goofy and son. Very very nice, and the reconciliation at the end was good, even if the big denouement was resolved amazingly suddenly. But it’s a cartoon, sure, whatever.

Charming and funny. Perfect for Christmas. Thanks, Maid-of-Awesome!

In Time

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Um, it’s the future, and you only get to live 26 years because at 25 a clock on your arm starts counting down and when it hits zero you die so everyone uses time as currency and there’s lots of shooting.

Yes, well. I had gotten this from netflix because it looked like pretty good explodo.

And there were lots of explosions, gunshots and chases. Oh yes.

realpolPlot? not so much, the reality police hauled everyone away. I mean, okay, I’m always willing to suspend my disbelief for one thing if it’s intelligently carried out- sure, everyone has a clock, there’s only so much time, you can spend it for stuff. But at the point where there’s an authority at Greenwich that doles out time and there are these counters that you can use to add time to your clock and it’s like a bank and they control the supply because BASICALLY THEY’RE JUST THE FED AND ALL THE WRITERS DID WAS WRITE A GANGSTER MOVIE AND REPLACE ALL THE MONEY WITH TIME… that was where it hit the ground with a large THUD.

And none of this was helped by the fact that it was Christmas Eve, I had gotten up at 6:30 a.m. to get to the Red Cross by 7 for apheresis, and was watching this thing with needles in my arms…sheesh.

At least it kinda kept my interest. I liked Justin Timberlake, truth to tell, and it was amusing to see Amanda Seyfried here and in Les Misérables within two days…but otherwise? this one was pretty stoo-pid, as we say Chez Otter. Skip it and get some good explodo.

Withnail and I

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two young out-of-work actors hanging out for the summer. Lots of drugs and alcohol.

This is one of The Squirrel Lady’s favorite movies. She has often talked about how much she loves it and how odd and charming it is. She loaned it to us, and as is our wont, it got put at the bottom of the stack.

Then it was the weekend before Christmas.

We saw The Hobbit. We saw Hyde Park on Hudson. We tried to watch Magic Mike and couldn’t stand it. We were desperate for something we LIKED.

And I pulled this out and said, we’re seeing her tomorrow night. Why don’t we try watching it, and if it’s a fourth sucky movie, we’ll just read a book instead?

So we put it on. It’s odd. The two main characters, the eponymous Withnail and the narrator, who is unnamed (really. in IMDB he’s listed as “…and I”.) have rather thick brit accents. They drink a lot (a LOT) and use a lot of drugs. They get in wierd situations. They go away and inhabit a friend’s cottage in the middle of nowhere with hilarious results. They are hapless, cute, charming idiots in many ways.

And yet…charming is the best word. We kept saying, What the hell? but kept watching them go from one contretemps to the next, and really really liked them and the movie. Loved the ending. And, well, the bad mojo of the weekend was broken and we are very grateful to the Squirrel Lady for introducing us to this odd, quirky but wonderful movie.

Hyde Park on Hudson

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A weekend at FDR’s retreat, when the King and Queen of England came to visit and ask for Amerca’s help with WWII.

Mr. Otter and I have actually been seeing a lot of movies in the theater, which is kind of out of character for us; we’d usually rather wait and see them at home. Unless it’s big-time explodo, which I prefer seeing on the big screen with the ginormous sound system.

But we saw previews for this, and it looked good. We like Bill Murray very much, and the previews looked good…FDR and the royals, what could be better? and ACTUAL HISTORY, too. Mr. Otter was so excited.

So on opening weekend, he checked the local theaters…and it wasn’t playing.

And the next weekend, he checked…nope.

The third weekend, it was finally going to open…but we were out of town for a couple of days, and already had a date to see a movie in Ft. Bragg. So we got home from our trip at 1:30 pm. We checked movie times, thinking we’d go out that evening…and there was a 2:45 show.

We could make it, he said. It’s a short movie…

All right, I said, let’s go for it.

And after all that? it wasn’t so much of a much, unfortunately.

See, the previews showed all the good stuff- Bill Murray as FDR interacting with the very formal King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current QEII’s parents). The other part of the story, his affair with his cousin Daisy, was hinted at…but it turns out that that was most of the movie. The historical and interesting stuff was pushed to the sidelines, and she was the narrator and focus of the movie.

And you know what? she was DULL. Every time the movie switched back to her viewpoint, or her, it just slowed to a crawl. The fact that FDR had mistresses is not a revelation to me, the details did not titillate me, and I really didn’t care about her. It would have been a much stronger and more interesting movie if they had concentrated on the people who had actual personalities and left her out or on the sidelines.

Very disappointing.