January 23, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Frederick Kohner

Gidget hangs out at the beach during the summer, learns to surf, and gets kissed by a boy.

This was the last movie in the New Year’s Day Videofest 2014. Theme: Movies that take place in the LA area, with a recognizable landmark in them. In this case, of course, it was the Malibu beaches (specifically, Leo Carillo State Beach, which I went to many times as a young Otter.)

But oddly enough, I have also read the book…I remember reading it in high school, which was anomalous, since pretty much all I read during high school was fantasy and science fiction…and this was certainly neither! But I remembered it as being a good read, and so when we were discussing movies for the ‘fest, and this one was mentioned, I said, let’s watch that, since the book was good, and it was the first movie of its kind.

And you know, it wasn’t bad. Sandra Dee was either 15 or 17 years old, depending on which source you believe. Most of the rest of the ‘high schoolers’ in the movie were 22-25 years old, but at least Cliff Robertson’s character was supposed to be a Korean War vet, which makes him (at 29 real years) approximately the right age to be in this movie.

Sandra Dee was as cute as a box full of puppy dogs. Her swimsuits (probably very stylish, in 1959*) were laughable, and we were all amazed at how many times she would end up on the front of a surfboard, lying belly-down, with a guy on the board behind her with his head on her butt. Really? REALLY? In 1959? I guess it was all good teenage fun…

A fun movie of its type, not bad at all.

*The Squirrel Lady had come over to watch a couple of these with us, and I mentioned that this movie was released a week before I was born. She is years younger than me. Then Mr. Otter spoke: I saw it in the theater, you know…

He is officially old.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

January 23, 2014


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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews


From the novel of the same name by Gary K. Wolf

A detective is hired in a divorce case that turns out to be much more complicated than he thought.

I was surprised to find that I have never reviewed this movie. Mr. Otter and I saw it when it came out in 1988…and who among us who was old enough to go to movie theaters then can forget the joy of seeing this movie for the first time? Seeing such a witty, fast moving, wonderful script brought alive with people and toons INTERACTING? it was completely new and different. I still remember how amazing it was, sitting in the theater and seeing this and thinking, they can’t do this, it’s not possible…but it WAS.

And I’ve watched it several (okay, MANY) times since…but evidently not since January 1, 2002, when I started reviewing movies.

So now’s my chance. And what, twenty six years later, is there left to say about this movie?

It stands up to the test of time very well. It’s still charming and funny, bright and irreverent, a visual treat and a really wonderful piece of work. We love Bob Hoskins chez otter, and this is arguably the best-known thing he’s done in a pretty impressive body of work. And Chris Lloyd, oh man. What a genius of complete over-the-topness. And we still quote a lot of lines from this movie around the house- “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” and “oh my god, it’s DIP!” being two of my favorites.

So watch and enjoy, this is one of the best movies ever.

The Player

January 23, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Michael Tolkin.

A screenwriter in Hollywood is being blackmailed and is pretty sure the culprit is a writer whose script he rejected…

This was one of the movies for the New Year’s Day Videofest 2014. Theme: Movies that take place in the LA area with a recognizable landmark in them.

This one is all about the movie industry, and is full of LA locations, cameos by famous people, and in jokes for those in the know. Even for people like us who only know a bit about this milieu, it was good- moved well, characters interesting, good plot twists and a good ending.

Tim Robbins was great, and I loved Whoopi Goldberg as the detective. And it was nice to see Fred Ward (whom I remember mostly from Tremors) in something else.

Not a big explodo romp, but a good suspenseful buildup and a good payoff. And lots of “Oh, that’s so and so” along the way.

Safety Last

January 23, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A hapless shop assistant gets further and further in trouble trying to impress the girl he loves.

This was the first movie for the New Year’s Day Videofest 2014! this year’s theme: movies that take place in the Los Angeles area with a recognizable landmark in them.

This is a silent film starring Harold Lloyd, who was one of the funniest men ever to grace the motion picture screen…and this is his most famous movie. I know this, because as soon as you read his name, the scene where he is hanging from the clock tower by the hands of the clock, many stories above ground, in imminent danger of falling, flashed into your mind. That is an iconic image from Hollywood, everyone has seen it…and this is the movie it’s from.

The clock tower was on 7th street in LA, and although it is there no longer, still met our criteria for this day of movies. And a funny one it was, with Lloyd trying harder and harder to dig himself out of the problems he was getting into through his own folly.

Short but wonderful.

The Witches of Eastwick

January 23, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by John Updike.

Three women in a small town in Rhode Island find their lives revolving around a man who moves to town.

This was a choice for my book and movie discussion group; the rule is, you have to read 50 pages of the book to attend the movie night, and only the people who come to the movie night get to vote on next month’s book. Works pretty well, actually.

Because even when the book is a real loser (like this one) you only have to read 50 pages of it to have the fun of dissing the movie communally.

There were five of us (out of ten or twelve in the group) who came to the movie, and I think only one of the five had read more than 50 pages. None of us liked it, and the movie didn’t do much for us either.

With the book, I disliked the east-coast-centrism- being a native Californian, that kind of snootiness just makes me roll my eyes. It was also written thirty years ago, by a man in his 50s, and his attitudes towards women were just eye-roll worthy as well. I tried to like it but was completely incapable of it.

The movie? well, the talent was excellent- Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher (okay, two out of four had talent…) The look was beautiful. They did their best to turn it into a coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end (which the book didn’t have much of). And the look of it, especially the party scene, was beautiful.

But it was rambling, the ending was silly, and much of it made no sense.

Been there, done that, never have to do it again.

28 Weeks Later

January 23, 2014


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Sequel to the pretty darn good zombie movie 28 Days Later (except they’re not really zombies).

And this is another example of why when you have a hit movie, you generally should not try to follow it up with a sequel.

The danger is a known quantity. The only way for this movie to have any action, suspense and violence…is for the characters to be UNBELIEVEABLY STUPID. And at that point, who cares what happens to them?

Meh. Just not worth your time, watch something fun instead.

Ender’s Game

January 19, 2014


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From the novel by the same name by Orson Scott Card.

Ender is sent (at a very young age) to Battle School, where he and many other youngsters are being trained to combat the evil insectile aliens that will destroy Earth if they are not stopped.

Flashback: 1986. Mr. Otter and I are living in hell (Livermore CA) and there is nothing to do and nobody to do it with. I have just spent the day taking public transportation to Alameda (a two hour trip) and back to report for jury duty, with a horrible head cold, and was dismissed after lunch, so that was pretty pointless.

I was tired and cranky and felt bad.

And why do I remember this day so vividly? Becaues this was the amazing book that I read all the way there, while I waited for the Alameda County Court to tell me to go away, all the way home, and lying on the couch the rest of that afternoon. I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday, and Mr. Otter was in the kitchen doing the dishes, and I got to the ENDING. Oh my god. Almost thirty years ago, and I remember it.

Because there are some books that are so real, so engrossing, so VIVID that they become a part of you, and where and when you read them becomes a part of that book for you forever.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Carbonel, King of the Cats. Pride and Prejudice.

Those are just a few that I could tell you everything about when and where I read them for the first time and what was happening around me, no matter how much time passes. And this book.

The movie? very very good. The changes they made were intelligent and improved the flow of the story so that audiences who had not read the book could understand what was going on. They simplified The Game a lot, sadly; it was one of my favorite parts of the book.

The actors were very good too, especially Asa Butterfield, who actually looked young and vulnerable enough to be believeable. And kudos to them for having an ethnically mixed cast, as was in the book, very nice to see them doing that right. Harrison Ford refrained from chewing too much scenery, and that was good too.

But…and you knew ther’d be one, right? Did they HAVE to give away the ending with the trailers? deny future moviegoers the amazing OH MY GOD moment that the book has been giving us all for 25 years? I hate it when they do this, even if the thing they are advertising is that old and they assume everyone has read it…they know perfectly well that not everyone has, but the temptation of putting that great bit of special effects into the trailer was just too much to resist.

Also, they did leave the ending ready for sequels…and God knows Card wrote enough of the darn things to keep the franchise going longer than Harry Potter. I stopped after about the third one, truthfully…so we’ll see if the Powers that Be decide to funnel money into the continuance.

But this was awesome. Well worth seeing, with as big a screen and loud a sound system as you can get access to.

*********STOP THE PRESSES!!!*********

(Wow, Otter is really dating herself there, isn’t she?)

After I wrote this review, my book and movie review group chose this to read and then watch, and I had wanted to reread the book anyway…so I did. Then we watched the movie. And I was appalled.

The book is so much richer than the movie. And in the book, the children are purposely left without adult supervision to work things out on their own; there are very few times in the movie that there is not an adult looking over their shoulders or giving them feedback.

The game is a wonderful psychological revealing of Ender’s mind, and the movie simply shows the least and most simple level of this, and actually hints that it is taken over by the Formic Queen.

All of the struggle, the danger, the politics, the INTELLIGENTNESS of this wonderful book is taken out of the movie. And when I watched it again, having read the book very recently, it made me mad. Because a lot of people will think the movie is as good as the book, never having read it, and then will not bother to read it.

So I am going to do something I haven’t done before, and change my ratings; I had originally rated it as: $$$$$ $$$, characters: good, explodo: excellent; f/x excellent; ottersmile.

I have changed my ratings to the ones you see below. And I stand by those.

Read the book. It’s way better, trust the otter this time.

Catching Fire

January 19, 2014


Internet Movie Database
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From the teen novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

Second in a teen dystopia series where there is a nationally televised competition  every five years, with 24 teens participating and only one surviving.

I’m a teen librarian, and I’m kinda smug about having read these three books (this is the second) before they became huge bestsellers and were made into movies. I loved these books, and handed them out to anyone who would read them…until I no longer had to, because EVERYONE was reading them!

I was disappointed in the first of these movies, The Hunger Games– although they got the look right, and they did a really good job of editing, it was flat- there wasn’t much in the way of political infrastructure (a crucial part of all three books) and not much character development, either; Katniss’ interior monologes are a big part of the books, and without that, as good an actress as Jennifer Lawrence is, the movie was just not as compelling as the book.

So I did go see this, because the trailers were awesome. Didn’t have high hopes, to be honest; I just felt like a movie, and this was convenient.

And boy, was I pleasantly surprised. Jennifer Lawrence, and indeed all the cast, have really taken over their roles. The writing was MUCH better, there was a lot of character development and they really got into the politics (which, of course, is crucial to set up the third movie.) Donald Sutherland chewed scenery like a pro, which of course he is, and everyone on screen was really really good.

And the look of it was REALLY well done, bleak and awful in the different areas, bright and amazing for the celebrity shows, and beautiful but deadly outdoors scenes.

I was so pleasantly surprised, and I enjoyed it very much.

Can’t wait for Mockingjay!