June 13, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel with the same title by Richard Hooker.

I grew up in a kind of a wierd family.

Firstly, we lived in a town small enough that there was no McDonalds and no movie theater. The closest theater was ten miles away in the next town, but that was a ‘two movies for 99 cents’ kind of theater, showing stuff that was about to disappear. The big town 30 miles away was where the first run movie theaters were, and that was a LONG DRIVE, so going to the movies was a big deal when I was a kid. Once in a while my dad would take me to see a musical (which we both loved) and sometimes when people visited from out of town, we’d go to the movies if something good was playing, but I probably saw no more than about 15 movies in the theater before I turned 16 and got my driver’s license and started being able to take myself.

So when I was 10, someone from out of town (I don’t remember who) was visiting, and the whole family (including the youngest child, me) went to the movie theater one night…and we saw this and Patton, both of which I loved. No, I knew nothing of the Korean war, or very much about WWII, and certainly all the innuendo and most of the jokes in this movie were way over my head.

But my whole family loved the book it was based on, and I read it several times in high school, laughing my butt off…and missing a lot of jokes which, later in life, I got when I reread it, and laughed even harder.

My book and movie review group voted for this and I was happy to reread it and watch the movie again. The book was just as good as I remembered it, funny and irreverent but with great characters and a good heart.

It was great to see the movie again. It’s a Robert Altman movie, which (to me) means well-crafted but low-key, maybe a little too low-key for the craziness of the book, although the movie does include most of the major plot elements…they did leave out the part where Trapper John is Jesus, which was one of my favorite parts, but they couldn’t have gotten away with it in 1970.

But the book gives the characters so much more personality, and motivation, and the reader finds out more about what happens; for instance, in the movie, they do operate on the baby from the brothel, but the whole aftermath, where Me Lay Marston adopts him, is left out…and that was kind of the point of the story.

Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerrit and Elliot Gould are great (and so young!) and the movie is full of younger versions of people who went on to make a lot of really good movies.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really good movie, a favorite of mine, and it was lovely seeing it again…but (as I almost always say) THE BOOK IS BETTER.

Just sayin’.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

June 13, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Sheep farmer falls in love with an outlaw’s wife. Shenanigans!

I have to admit, I’m kind of a sucker for movie trailers. I know they have refined them to the point that almost everyone likes the look of almost any movie trailer; they tailor them to get the maximum reaction from their target audience.

And I really hate mean, stupid humor. I don’t mind potty jokes if they’re funny, but many movies don’t understand that crudity is only funny in the right context. It’s like using swear words, the words themselves are not funny, it’s how they’re used.

So I saw the trailer for this movie, and laughed, and thought it looked funny. Then I remembered how many times I had seen comedy movies that I thought would be funny and turned out not to be. But on the OTHER hand, I had heard Seth McFarlane on Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me…and he was REALLY funny. On the other hand, almost everyone sounds good there, even Republican politicians. I mean, Mitt Romney was funny and charming when he was a guest, so if he can do it, I guess anyone can.

But I had an afternoon where I was stuck downtown while my truck was being worked on, so after having a lovely Indian buffet lunch with a good friend, I got her to drop me at the movie theater; I figured I’d see either this or Maleficent, whichever started first…and this movie won.

And I was pleasantly surprised…because I chuckled all the way through it and laughed out loud a few times.

I mean, sure, there are poopoo jokes, and a few of them fell kind of flat, in my opinion…but there was wit, and good comedic timing, and good acting, and a good script. Neal Patrick Harris plays the rival for the girl’s affection (and the Mustache Song, with accompanying dance, was one of the high points of the movie, in my opinion. That was FUNNY.) with panache and style. Liam Neeson is the evil outlaw, and he chews scenery with the best of them. Charlize Theron is the love interest, and is also very good. And the rest of the cast likewise.

There are some very funny bits, a few hilarious non-sequiturs, and Seth McFarlane is not annoying or overbearing or dislikeable…he’s kind of a regular nerdy guy in a difficult situation who is doing  the best he can, and McFarlane plays that to the hilt.

I really liked it…it would be fine at home as well as the theater, I think, so why don’t you run out and rent it and let me know what you think?

Love Me Tonight

June 13, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A French princess falls in love with a tailor, with much singing and dancing happening along the way.

Mr. Otter and I were visiting GATADD, and talk (as it often does) turned toward movies. For some reason that neither I nor Mr. Otter can remember, we started talking about this one, and Mr. Otter said he had always wanted to know the words that the soldiers sing during the “Isn’t It Romantic?” montage. I went looking on the interwebs, and by golly, a lot of other people want to know that too, but nobody had figured it out…we even played that clip on youtube, but the sound is not good, and it’s a choral number and it is almost impossible to figure out more than a few words.

Then Mr. Otter and GATADD found out that I had never seen this movie…and they were shocked! Horrified! Couldn’t believe it! but no, I had not.

So a week later, Mr. Otter came home with a used copy that he had bought, and we watched it.

And…well. Jeannette (Serious Honey) is wonderful. I’m not a big fan of Maurice Chevalier, even in his younger days (this movie was made in 1932). Just doesn’t do a thing for me.

The plot is silly- he’s a tailor who ends up at a chateau and is pretending to be an aristocrat (because someone mistakes him for one and to get closer to Jeannette) and then at the end he has to confess, but of course she still loves him.

It was okay. Silly, some good songs, beautiful costumes, much eyebrow raising from Mr. Chevalier. Not one of the best musicals ever (sorry, Mr. Otter and GATADD) but it was okay, glad I saw it.

Still couldn’t make out those lyrics, though.

5 Children and It

June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book of the same name by E. Nesbit

I was and am such a huge fan of Edith Nesbit’s children’s books. They are all about Edwardian (or later, up to the 20s) children, usually on their own without parental supervision, and usually involve magic. The kids are all great, totally believeable in both good and bad actions, and the writing is funny and wonderful.

I had had this on my netflix list forever- it’s arguably Nesbit’s best known book, about a family of children who discover a Psammead, a Sand-fairy who grumpily grants wishes that fade at sunset, and hijinks ensue.

I needed a good movie for the red cross (2 1/2 hours with needles in my arms) and brought this and a tv series to watch (this is only 90 minutes) and settled down happily.

Kenneth Branagh stars as the absentminded great-uncle, and Eddie Izzard voices the Psammead. It’s mostly silly fun, which seems sillier in a movie than in a book…truthfully, I haven’t read it in a couple of decades, so am not sure how well they kept to the plot, strictly speaking…but the spirit was fine. The Psammead was funny and grumpy but eventually came around, the parents came back (from WWI danger) and the children were written very well, squabbling among themselves but sticking up for each other to the grownups and going out on a limb to help each other and get the job done.

Pretty good! but now I’m going to reread it, we’ll see how that goes…

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Based on the book The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Sometimes I’m just a glutton for punishment. Transcendence and this in the same week, it’s a wonder I can even look at a screen again…so let’s get this over with.

Firstly, I love Lord of the Rings, and like the Hobbit, although it’s very different, much lighter and more of a children’s book, so it’s not quite as close to my heart. But I do like it and have read it many times.

Secondly, I loved Jackson’s three movies of LOTR. I have the director’s cuts and have a couple of times even watched them all in one day (takes some planning but very much worth the effort.) I don’t agree with all his plotting and character choices, but at least I can see why he made them and what he was trying to do, and I have always given him a strong B+/A- on this, which for something as difficult to film and as beloved as this trilogy is, is nothing short of phenomenal on his part.

Thirdly, I was pretty excited when I heard that Jackson had FINALLY worked out the rights disputes with the people who hold the Tolkien rights and was making The Hobbit. He’ll do it right, I thought, and couldn’t wait for the first one to come out.

Fourthly: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Take your time, I’ll wait right here.

So after that awfulness, I was not ABOUT to go see the second Hobbit movie in the theater. Sure, the trailers looked good, but they have done so much work on creating trailers to attract audiences that I rarely trust them any more. I waited until I could pick up the movie from my library for free…and I am so glad I did.

Because it was the same as the first Hobbit movie, in that the special effects and things-chasing-each-other budgets were way overfunded, and the ‘taking a good straightforward book and creating a good movie out of it without screwing it up’ column in the accounting ledgers had for some reason been left at 0.

Yes, I know. Jackson and the writers are trying to create a seamless whole, where these movies will lead right into the LOTR movies, so they included people and foreshadowing and stuff that refers to the previous set of movies. Didn’t work for the Star Wars prequels either, did it?

I know, they are really only putting in stuff that Tolkien wrote about in places like the voluminous appendices to LOTR and the Silmarillion and things like that. Padding, is what I say. They are padding these movies out to make them blockbusters. And it shows.

There are lots of scenes of people chasing each other (never a good sign, as we know from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) and often (like that whole ridiculous subplot of Thorin Oakenshield and the White Orc) the same people chasing each other over and over and over. There is Portentous Foreshadowing of Events That Will Come in Lord Of The Rings Movies (I was forced to use capitals to make the words seem more important, Mr. Jackson made me do it.) There are cameos by people playing characters who have nothing to do with The Hobbit, but who must be seen to be doing Important Things That Will Matter Later.

Basically, in LOTR, Jackson took a 1200 page trilogy and made three four hour movies of it. Not a bad thing.

But here, he is taking a 350 page book…and MAKING THREE THREE HOUR MOVIES OUT OF IT.

And I’m done. I’ve said enough. It was ridiculous, I sneered at it, it did not beguile me or capture my interest. It was all I could do to watch the whole thing so I would be entitled to write this review.

And that’s done. Forever.

And I have two years before the third one will come out…or longer, if I’m lucky.

Think good thoughts, true fans. Good thoughts indeed.


June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Um, it’s a computer/internet movie with Johnny Depp, what more do you need to know?

I think there are SPOILERS below…I don’t remember how specific the trailer is…

Embarassingly, that was about all I knew about it; I saw the trailer and was totally hooked.

Now, I’ve read about the current techniques of making movie trailers- they have done a huge amount of psychological study and they deliberately construct movie trailers that will attract people to the movie, whether or not it’s a good movie or even the kind of movie the current audience would normally go see…doesn’t matter, the trailer has been made to make you desperately want to see this movie.

In this case, all it needed was Johnny Depp. Serious Honey Johnny Depp. Who must be paying some kind of palimony after his split with his long-time girlfriend in 2012, because DAMN he’s been in a lot of bad movies…the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean (and a fifth in the works, evidently), The Lone Ranger, and this dog.

So in this, he’s a brilliant programmer whose consciousness is uploaded into a computer and starts taking over everything. He has a huge factory/research lab built out in the desert, and finally the government moves in to shut him down, even though he is curing people’s diseases and doing a lot to make life better. But he is so omnipresent in the internets that the only way to stop him is to use something like an EMP to destroy all computers, so now (the movie is a flashback) it’s like an apocalypse, life without electronics.

It actually sounds pretty good…and it might have been…except:

  1. The science was stupid. Really, really stupid.
  2. Depp shows almost no emotion, especially when he becomes part of the computer
  3. The rest of the actors are pretty wooden too.
  4. See #1. (Hint: Don’t make a movie about technology if you don’t get how technology works, it’s ludicrous.)
  5. There were really wierd things that made no sense, like the gigantic research lab with ONLY ONE SCIENTIST working there? Really?
  6. See #1. Even people who don’t know how computers work know plot holes when they see them, not to mention logical fallacies.
  7. Even Johnny Depp, Serious Honey that he is, cannot save a bad movie. Especially if
  8. See #1.

Skip it, you’ll be glad you did. Trust the otter.

Broadway Melody of 1938

June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Another in the series of Broadway Melody movies, which just get less and less interesting as they went on…I had seriously forgotten the whole plot of this one and had to look it up to remember it…

Well, okay. It’s a 30s Broadway Melody musical, you know what that means. Someone wants to put on a show, there isn’t enough money, they come up with it and the show goes on, usually with an ingenue taking the town by storm and much silly singing and dancing.

This was no exception; there is a horse race (and a horse) and fun is had by all. A very young Buddy Ebsen (the year before Wizard of Oz) and a youngish Judy Garland are in the cast as well.

For die-hard musical lovers. (oooh, Die Hard: the Musical! I’d pay to see that!)

How the West was Won

June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A multigenerational epic about the American Frontier, Hollywood style.

I have gone back and forth with Mr. Otter about this movie for years.

I’d bring it home from the library. Oh, god, he’d say, that’s the most awful movie, don’t watch it.

But it’s a big ol’ western epic, I say, how bad can it be?

No! he says, I saw it once, I won’t watch it again (runs out of room with hands over eyes.)

This is not much of an exaggeration. We danced this dance two or three times over maybe ten years.

Then I was in my library and needed something to watch at the Red Cross, which takes 2 1/2 hours or so. I saw this. Perfect! I said, and grabbed it.

Neener neener neener, I said to Mr. Otter, I’m going to watch it WITHOUT YOU and you won’t be able to say anything.

And he didn’t.

And I did.

And you know, it wasn’t bad.

It’s one of those 1960s things where they have every single star they can possibly get their hands on come in for a cameo in one movie, just so they can attract as many people as possible who wouldn’t otherwise see it…just one of those things they did back then.

But the story isn’t bad- it’s a family story, starting with a group that travel on the Erie Canal; there is a Civil War story, a Gold Rush story, and a western story. The main characters are all the same family, and it’s fun seeing some of them get really old.

Of course, because it’s the sixties, the native americans are basically treated as an impediment to expansion, and that’s it; Spencer Tracy’s narration pretty much says as much…shows you how much things have changed in the fifty years since this was made.

Not a great movie, not great moviemaking, but fun, and certainly not as bad as Mr. Otter said.

Penalty for inappropriate titles: in the credits, referring to the first section of the film, they misspelled the Erie Canal. Yup, it says Eerie. That made me laugh.


June 9, 2014


Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

An elderly man gets junk mail saying that he has won a million dollars and is determined to go to Lincoln, Nebraska (from Montana) to claim it.

This got great word of mouth- everyone on the interwebs was talking about it, praising it to the skies. I have always liked Bruce Dern, and it sounded interesting, so when I saw it on a cart at my library, I picked it up.

Look, Mr. Otter, I said, I brought this home. And he, too was interested, so we made time for it.

And we were so glad we did.

Bruce Dern plays a querulous aging parent who is fixated on one thing and not willing to give up control of his life. When he starts walking to Nebraska, his son brings him back, then realizes that humoring him is a better idea, and agrees to drive him, stopping at a relative’s house along the way.

This movie was a gem. It’s very appropriately filmed in black and white, with stark visions of the midwest, and the towns and people that are there. Mr. Otter and I are taking a road trip through the midwest this year and we kept saying, We’re going to see that! oh my god, does it really look like that? and chuckling. Because we know it really does.

The actors were so good, the cinematography was lovely, the script was terse and to-the-point (my favorite scene was the seven guys in a room watching baseball and exchanging monosyllables by way of conversation, all the while never taking their eyes off the TV. Oh, and the criminal cousins, what a hoot.

And the ending is totally worthy of the rest of the movie.

This one was a treat, watch it if you haven’t yet. Especially if you have relatives who are either elderly, in the midwest, or both…


June 5, 2014


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Two sisters who love each other as children are driven apart by the older girl’s fear of her magical powers.

If you have been living under a rock, you might never have heard of this movie, but otherwise you have been exposed to it everywhere- the songs, the book spinoffs, the toys, the advertising, the whole Disney machine at work.

I’m kind of indifferent to modern Disney movies- the formula is a little too formulaic for me, and I remember old Disney, where they were more telling stories than trying to hit target audiences. So I didn’t go see this in the theaters when it was playing.

But Maid-of-Awesome loves Disney, she grew up in a household where that was practically all she was allowed to watch (as opposed to me, who except for Fantasia didn’t see any of the Disney canon until I was grown.) She loves Disney movies, goes to see them in the theaters and likes many of them enough to buy them.

One night I was free and she and her husband, Soccer Sam, invited me over to join them and Allison-the-Baker-Allison-the-Baker* to see this. I was happy to, especially since she and Allison-the-Baker-Allison-the-Baker had, of course, been baking.

The movie was good. The plot, while pure Disney, was not stupid or overdone, and the danger/denoument was very good. I liked the love interest, and his reindeer buddy, and the whole ‘sisterly love’ thing was great.

But the snowman. Dear God, the snowman. Imagine a mix of Jim Carrey and Billy Crystal and the more annoying parts of Wallace Shawn, and you will pretty much have this snowman. There are many kinds of sidekicks, and there is at least one in every Disney movie, but the ‘annoying mouthy’ version is the worst, and this guy was the one I most hate out of that bunch. And he was in HALF THE DAMN MOVIE, I couldn’t get away from him. He’s even on the front of the DVD. I really really hated the snowman, and wish they had restrained themselves enough to just give the reindeer more lines.

Other than that? it was fun. I mean, baked treats, good friends, Max the dog lap-hopping, and a pretty good movie…what is there not to love about an evening like that?