War and Peace

December 20, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.

A story of upper-class Russian families during Napoleon’s campaign against Russia in 1805. People live, die, fall in love, you know how these things go.

I’ve run a book and movie discussion group for a couple of years now; the number of attendees was dwindling, and I could see that the group was not long for this world; still, two years is a good run for something like this. So when Mr. Otter and I went away all summer, I gave the group a choice of not reading anything while we were gone, and picking up when we came back, or having three months to read a book. And everyone voted to try a really long book…this one, in fact.

I actually took it on vacation, and read the requisite 50 pages, but after that I opted for more fast-moving fare. Mr. Otter had read it fairly recently, and a couple of other people in the group had either managed to read the whole thing or at least gotten through those 50 pages. We assembled, the four of us, and watched the THREE AND A HALF HOUR version made in 1956.

And…well. Audrey Hepburn was beautiful, and young Henry Fonda is always worth watching. The movie gave me enough of a framework for the book that I will definitely tackle it again in future; it’s always easier to read something like this if you kind of know where it’s going. And we all enjoy each other’s company.

But it was slooooow. We ended up msting it a bit, and yelling at the stupid things (like a child that is born but the audience doesn’t see him til he’s 6 years old, and the time shift is not mentioned…!) The ending was satisfying, and the second half of the movie was better than the first, just because more was happening…but it was LOOOONG. And SLOOOOOW.

And that was the end of the book and movie group; now we just get together once a month to watch a movie…


December 20, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A fairy-tale detective story with a Rashomon retelling.

I was in Southern California visiting Ottersis and Music Mike was over as well; we had had dinner and were looking for something fun to watch. Ottersis had control of the paddle (and we were in her house, after all) so she got to choose.

Have you guys seen this? she said, it’s been on my list forever. We admitted that we had not, so she pushed the button.

And…it was cute. A ‘fairy tale characters meet noir police work’ sort of story. Silly, but funny. Predictable. And then…they started the Rashomon thing, retelling the events from each separate point of view. And it got funnier and funnier, and there were a lot of AHAs from us, and we laughed our butts off.

This one takes a bit of time to really get going; the first story is a setup for everything else that happens, and it just cannonballs along from there. We really liked it, and you will too if you give it a chance.


December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard are going to settle the Ohio Valley, and nobody is going to stop them!

Mr. Otter and I did some traveling this summer, and one of the places we went was the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh PA. He had just wanted to see where the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers come together to make the Ohio River, and maybe the site of the fort…I checked the map and said, there’s a museum there, why don’t we stop and see it? And so we did.

It was an excellent museum, city-run, with many good exhibits about the period when the British, French and Native Americans were duking it out for control of this area…and one of the exhibits the museum had was of movies that had been made about that period, including a lot of pictures and information about this one. And, in fact, they were showing this movie in their theater, but we couldn’t stay for it, since we had to be across the state in Gettysburg by 7 pm…we made it, but just barely.

But we said, that movie looks good, when we get home we’ll watch it. We ended up having to buy it on Ebay, and settled down to spend an evening with it.

And for what it was, an overblown paean to American imperialism (made right after WWII), it was pretty good. Gary Cooper is always fun to watch, and Paulette Goddard was excellent as the hot girl that he follows no matter what trouble she gets into. The bad guy (Howard Da Silva, who will always be Ben Franklin to me, so very odd seeing him as the villain) was bad, the Indians were restless, the fort was burned but by god, the English settlers just never gave up.

A real period piece, nothing really remarkable about it, kind of heavy-handed, but fun.


December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Okay, I’ll tell you what this is about, but you won’t believe me til you see it for yourself…a car tire comes to life and goes on a rampage, killing everyone with whom it comes in contact, and following a woman it has a crush on.

See? I told you you wouldn’t believe me. I didn’t either, til Ottersis showed me this wierd and silly movie.

There’s more to it than just that, which is what makes it so much fun to watch; the filmmakers break the fourth wall by including a bunch of people who have to watch the tire to make the movie happen, who know it’s a movie, but who are (of course) bound to become victims just the same…

This is a really funny, wierd and witty movie about the most unlikely of beings, a self-aware and independently mobile car tire.

Just rent or stream it, it’s funny and worth seeing. Trust the Otter.

47 Ronin

December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Yet another retelling of this Japanese story, about the outlaw samurai who do the right thing, save the day and then must honorably kill themselves for disobeying the Shogun’s order.

I keep saying that I will never see another movie with Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Kevin Costner or Keanu Reeves in it. I am pretty damn close to adding Ex-Serious-Honey Nicholas Cage to that list, and he better watch it or he’s toast. But mostly what I mean is that I will not willingly PAY to see any of these people, because I am invariably disappointed or enraged by movies that they have anything to do with.

Having said that, I did see this one, but for free; I was at the Red Cross doing apheresis, I had not brought my own movie, and there was NOTHING ELSE to see that I was more interested in (the curse of seeing so many movies…)

So I said, sure, let’s do it, and put this one on.

It was pretty. The writing was good. It was obvious that everyone was going to die, because it was a Japanese movie. And having said all that, it was pretty good…except.

Except for the fact that Keanu Reeves, the Black Hole of Acting, the man who not only can’t act, but sucks the talent out of other people nearby so that they are also wooden and stiff and not good, was in it.

Sigh. If you love Japanese stories, and samurai movies, and beautifully made movies, you might like this…if you can ignore Keanu Reeves. But that’s a hard thing to do, trust me.


December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Mr. Otter and I had just visited the Niles Film Museum on a Saturday night to see the silent movies, and one of the two intro movies was a Chaplin comedy short. I have never been a fan of Chaplin, but it was pretty funny, and a few days later Mr. Otter came home with this, and started watching it; I had intended to read, but it pulled me in and it was pretty damn good.

Well, and of course it has Serious Honey Robert Downey Jr in it, so what’s not to like?

This is an overview of Chaplin’s life, from his childhood to old age, and the frame story is him telling his life story to a biographer. Downey is very good as Chaplin, not only very believeable, but really good at the physical comedy that was so much a part of Chaplin’s popularity.

It was nice that they gave Niles Essanay (the place where The Tramp was filmed) a nod, and the story was interesting, well told and (as much as I knew about Chaplin) true. One of the more interesting parts was seeing the Oscar awards where Chaplin got his lifetime achievement award recreated; I remember seeing that happen live on TV when I was a young Otter, and I’m still feeling very odd about things that I remember showing up in ‘historical movies’…it’s kind of disconcerting.

Interesting: Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s actual daughter, plays his mother (her own grandmother) in this movie. Kind of wierd but cool.

A good biopic, well worth seeing.

Knights of Badassdom

December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A bunch of friends who like to LARP (live-action role playing) accidentally summon up a demon from hell and have to deal with it.

We chez Otter have been enjoying Game of Thrones (and Otter has been reading it since the first one was published TWENTY YEARS AGO, for all you latecomers…!) and Spider Jerusalem said, this movie not only has Peter Dinklage (from that series) but also Summer Glau from Firefly, and it’s really cute…and of course he brought it over for us to see, and indeed he was right.

It was fun watching such a geeky movie, about people getting together to play live D&D style stuff over a weekend; one of them gets ahold of a really cool old book, and reads a spell from it, summons a real demon (who proceeds to kill a whole lot of LARPers) and Our Heroes finally figure out what’s going on and take care of it.

Nerdy and funny, worth seeing.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The sequel to the excellent Sin City, with many of the same cast members.

Unfortunately, this one is not at all excellent.

Mr. Otter and I had come home from our travels and Spider Jerusalem and I resumed our practice of going to movies on the night that Mr. Otter meets with his playgroup…this had been playing for a while, and both SJ and I wanted to see it.

The reviews have not been good, said SJ, they say it’s just more of the same, just like Sin City.

But we both said, why is that a bad thing? and went to see it.

But, Faithful Reader, it was NOT just like the original, and this was actually the problem- it was violent, quirky, and mostly black and white. There was a lot of interesting camerawork, and a lot of nudity…these things were like the original.

Where it missed the mark is that the makers of this movie confused these things with what made the original Sin City good, i.e. good writing.

Yes, they did kind of follow one of Frank Miller’s storylines…but they overdid a lot of things that should have been used sparingly, as counterpoint to the main story. Spider Jerusalem actually said, I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but there was TOO MUCH NUDITY.

Sure, the naked girls were pretty, but there was no point to most of it except HEY COME SEE THIS WE GOT NAKED GIRLS.

In the original, also shot in black and white, there was an occasional bit of color, that called attention to one thing or person or important detail. In this one, they had something colored in each scene; it was too much and too cutesy.

There was too much stop-motion and slo-mo violence. There was too much gratuituous EVERYTHING. It felt like every single thing that reviewers mentioned as original or interesting about the first movie, the people who were involved with this said, let’s do LOTS of that.

It was pretty bad, unfortunately.

Ah well. Go see the original Sin City again, and love it.

The Pirates: Band of Misfits

December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Pirate Captain (his actual name) is trying to win the Pirate of the Year Award with his odd crew, and of course the snobbish awful bad guys are completely put in the shade.

A wonderful animated sendup of pirate movies from the people who made Wallace and Gromit.

Now, I have never really liked Wallace and Gromit much; for some reason, they do nothing for me. Mr. Otter loves them, but not me. I did like Chicken Run, though, so when we were visiting Otterbro and The Mermaid, and she suggested watching this, I said, sure, let’s give it a try. And it was good- funny, silly, a little bit sentimental, just what you want in a cute animated movie, especially when the excellent Portland OR beer is flowing freely.

We really liked this! you will too, give it a try one night when you’re in a silly mood.

Lady Windermere’s Fan

December 17, 2014


Internet Movie Database

From the play of the same name by Oscar Wilde

Lady Windermere is angry at her husband for spending time with a woman who is not welcome in good society, and she is even less happy when he invites this woman to Lady Windermere’s birthday party.

This is a British made-for-television version of Wilde’s play, and is pretty darn good. Granted, the big denoument is telegraphed way in advance, but it’s none the less enjoyable for that.

The actors and period details are excellent, and of course Wilde’s writing is witty and pointed- it is not only about not making assumptions about the worth of another person based on circumstantial evidence, but also has a lot of barbs to plant in ideas of how marriage and trust should work, and upper vs. lower class perceptions.

Well worth watching, a really good version of the play.