Hit The Deck

February 23, 2016

hit the deck

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Sailors on the town. Girls. Hijinks ensue.

This is billed as another charming ‘sailors on the town’ musical like On The Town and Anchors Aweigh…beware false advertising!

Yes, it’s a musical. Yes, it’s about sailors on leave. No, it is neither charming nor fun.

Firstly, it was made in the mid 1950s, and the heavy metal boots of the fifties have stomped all the fun out of it. There are cute situations, and some romantic mixups, but they are not charming or fun.

The costumes, sets and colors are all marked with that inimitable 50s style that puts red dresses against chartreuse walls (I am not joking) and everything in contrasting “We paid for technicolor and we’re going to use it!” color schemes. The dresses are frothy and full of skirt, and the romantic situations are all farce.

And Tony Martin, Lounge Lizard Extraordinaire, is the lead…now, Ann Miller is in this, and she’s good. Debbie Reynolds is always worth watching, and Russ Tamblyn (whom I had only seen in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) is adorable. But (except for the funhouse dance sequence, which was great) this is a lot of nothing blown up into a silly two hours of mistaken identity and dodging the MPs.

Not so much of a much. Worth it for those actors and that one scene, but really, don’t waste your time.

The Haunting of Winchester House

February 23, 2016


Internet Movie Database

A family moves into the ‘Winchester House’ as caretakers and of course there are ghosts and stuff.

This review contains SPOILERS but since it’s a low-budget straight-to-video movie, I doubt you’ll ever come across it…and truthfully, if you do, you won’t want to see it. Trust me.

We have had this movie in the pile of DVDs that we laughingly refer to as The Great Unwatched, and it’s been there for a while…Spider Jerusalem watched it one time while house-sitting for us and said it was kinda meh. But because it was the Winchester Mystery House, of course we had to see it!

So let me start off by saying that I have lived within two miles of the real Winchester Mystery House for many, many years. I’ve taken the tour many times (great for out-of-town guests) and have read a lot about Sara Winchester and her interesting obsession.

The real WMH is in San Jose, across and down the street from two different shopping centers, and right by the 280 freeway. It is not in the woods in the middle of nowhere, and in fact the ‘house’ (in an undisclosed location) they use to stand in for it is a really pallid imitation, like showing someone a minnow and claiming that it’s a whale. Or some simile to that effect.

The production values are okay, not great, as is the acting. The house seems to have about six rooms, plus a basement and a secret passage. There are a lot of jump scares, and a bit of oogies with the baby (where did that come from? the main ghosts are concerned with the mystery of Sara W’s daughter’s disappearance) that is crawling into the room. But mostly pretty typical horror movie stuff.

The ending was just a damn stupid ‘Sixth Sense’ ripoff.

In the immortal word of Spider Jerusalem, Meh.


February 23, 2016


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Guy becomes superhero, finds out his girlfriend is in danger, takes care of business.

This is one of the most hyped superhero movies ever- teasers, trailers, word of mouth. In the month leading up to its release, you couldn’t go anywhere on the internets (except maybe lolcat sites) without seeing references, promos or comments.  (No, I was wrong…)

And you know what? it was TOTALLY JUSTIFIED hype, for once.This movie was AWESOME.

I finally found time to go see it at the 9:50 show on a weeknight, about six days after it opened, after everyone else I knew had seen it and emailed me about how good it was.

Me: I’m going to the 9:50 show of Deadpool, want to come?

Mr. Otter: What’s it about?

Me: Costumed superhero. Fighting. Witty dialogue. Morena Baccarin.

Mr. Otter: Sure, what the heck. I got nothing else better to do.

Even Mr. Otter loved it. This movie hits all the right notes- over-the-top violence and gore, a great (and much more accurate than usual) car chase, wonderful dialogue and asides from Deadpool, great supporting characters, Serious Honey Morena Baccarin, and a good script that holds together well all the way through.

I can’t praise it highly enough. Go see it. I’m going a second time as soon as I have a spare minute.

Hail, Caesar!

February 11, 2016


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A ‘fixer’, the guy who solves problems for the studio, goes about his work in Hollywood in the early 1950s, dealing with a star who has disappeared, a cowboy star who has to act, a pregnant leading lady, and so on.

This was wonderful. Mr. Otter and I like most Coen Brothers movies, although I have seen The Big Lebowski twice and except for two scenes and one line, find it totally forgettable…on the other hand, they gave us Fargo and O Brother Where Art Thou, so I cut them MILES of slack.

And this was fun and charming. Josh Brolin is always worth watching, but there are also George Clooney, Scarlet Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton (twice!), Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, and an actor I had never seen before, Alden Ehrenreich, who is cute as a box full of puppy dogs.

Mr. Otter and I both enjoyed this. Not deep and enduring, but a damn good movie, fun, interesting, and full of slices of Hollywood at the time; the various films that one sees bits and pieces of are a hoot, the wonderful plot aside.

Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.

You Were Never Lovelier

February 11, 2016


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Rita is the second oldest daughter of an Argentine family; the daughters have to get married in order, so she’s under the gun, since her two younger sisters already have beaux. Fred is in town with Xavier Cugat’s band, looking for work as a dancer. Mistaken identities and hijinks ensue, and of course Rita and Fred end up together.

I’ve been listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent podcast series, You Must Remember This, and had heard the one about Hayworth’s really awful life, so was interested to see more of her movies; this was in our pile of dvds we laughingly call The Great Unwatched, so it was a good choice for the evening.

Hayworth is beautiful, composed, and charming. Astaire is, as always, Astaire. The fluff and shenanigans around them are amusing, but they are the best thing in the movie, and worth watching, especially when they dance.

Gentleman Jim

February 11, 2016


Internet Movie Database           Movie Reviews

The story of James Corbett, who became the Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1892.

This is kind of a puff piece, but hey, it has Errol Flynn in the ten years that he was a Serious Honey (1935-45, before his lifestyle caught up with him…) so is worth watching.

This is the last of the set of Flynn movies that I got a while ago, and we chez Otter are trying to get through what we refer to as the Great Unwatched, so we settled down with this, expecting it to be awful.

And it really wasn’t. It’s a typical early ’40s fluff piece, but Flynn is good, the writing isn’t bad, and Ward Bond is quite good as John L. Sullivan, especially in defeat. Flynn is good enough here that one is left wishing that he could have been allowed to do some serious movies in his prime, instead of the same kind of adventure movies he did over and over.

Ah well. If you like Flynn, this is worth a watch.

The Hateful Eight

February 11, 2016


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

A bunch of people are locked up in a cabin in a blizzard. Shenanigans!

Oh, Quentin Tarantino. How do I love and hate thee? let me count the ways:

Love: Brilliant, incisive dialog.

Hate: Bad-boy glee in using words and saying things calculated purely to offend, whether or not they are useful/appropriate/apropos in the movie.

Love: Action! Action! Action!

Hate: Action does not equal plot. Killing everyone off is not necessarily the best way to resolve the issues presented in the movie.

Love: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way.

Hate: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way, whether or not it makes sense.

Love: I can do any damn thing I want because I’m TARANTINO!

Hate: Nobody can stop me from doing really pointless and stupid scenes because I’m TARANTINO!

Okay, that’s enough, you get the idea.

Hollywood’s bad boy director has made his eighth movie and titled it in such a way as to make sure everyone who hears about it knows it. And as usual, it’s a mixed bag (see above.)

There are a lot of good things about this movie- great actors doing their best with what they’re given- Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Kurt Russell, to name the toppers. The filmmaking is beautiful, although the opening shot of the stagecoach in the snow lasted approximately two of the three hours of this film’s running time. The working out of the plot, of eight people coming together in this cabin who each have their own agenda and stuff to work out with the other characters is a good idea (remember Stagecoach, anyone? it worked there too…better than here…). The plot is full of (supposed) surprises that are meant to make the viewer go, Whoa! Didn’t see that coming! And the violence is suitably violent.


And you were waiting for this, too, weren’t you?

Like Stephen King, who exasperated me so much at one point that I created my own ‘Write your own Stephen King novel!) page, Tarantino has become unstoppable…and I mean that in a bad way. Nobody can say no to him. Nobody can tell him anything. Nobody can edit him down to a concise, well structured story and a reasonably paced movie. And this movie suffers from all those things.

I am willing to concede the coincidences that brought all these people together in this place and time, to work out all the grudges they have against each other.  I am even willing to sit through a three hour movie to see all of this worked out. What I am not willing to do is to be bored for three hours while doing it.

Mr. Otter and I were both expecting this to be a good movie; we have seen most of Tarantino’s oeuvre, and liked all of them except for Kill Bill 1 and 2, which we agreed was good moviemaking but not having seen the movies referenced, it didn’t do much for us. We are not intimidated by blood and body parts, bad words, sexual references or innuendos, loud noises, gross stuff happening onscreen, or Samuel L. Jackson acting to the top of his bent.

We watched this movie. And turned to each other and said, was it me, or was that just TEDIOUS?

The characters, none of whom are supposed to be likeable (hence the first word in the title) are none of them interesting. They are a bunch of people who are thrown together, connected in tenuous ways and by coincidence, and given motives which are mostly not revealed to the audience until part or most of the way through the film…with no previous hint of what was going to be revealed, so the audience just says, Huh? instead of being in on the reveal. This is Tarantino, like a kid who has to prove himself over and over, in the worst manner of a bad detective fiction writer, showing the audience how he is smarter than they are. Over and over and over.

There are a lot of things that make no sense in this movie, but the ones that still annoy me a month later when I write this (and yes, I did call in the Reality Police) are:

  1. They are in a permanent dwelling in Wyoming, and it’s winter (hence the blizzard) and yet in both the house and the barn, you can see light shining through the chinks in the planks. Everyone in the house and all the horses in the barn (who, btw, they put away hot without cooling them down) would be frozen to death, stove and fireplace notwithstanding. Certainly nobody would be wearing light cotton dresses, as the women in the flashback are.
  2. The whole desert scene where Jackson describes (and Tarantino shows) what Jackson did to the Southern general’s son. This had no actual bearing on the plot other than the fact of it happening. I was not shocked by it, I just rolled my eyes at Tarantino again gleefully saying, I’m so famous I can get away with THIS and nobody can stop me!
  3. The ‘haberdashery’ (does Tarantino even know what that word means? it’s not a general store, it’s a men’s clothing store. Why would there be one in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming?) is run by a free African American woman and her white (husband? lover? ) who obviously have a relationship. There is NO WAY IN HELL that either they would allow this infamous Southern general, trash-talking about people of color, to stay there, and there is NO WAY IN HELL that he would stay for a minute in a place run by these people. That made absolutely no sense.

Many of the plot points that combine to create the final bloodbath make just as little sense; I found myself saying, Huh? many times, and it may have all worked out if I watched the movie again knowing what was happening…but I have no desire to.

Skip this, it is indeed hateful, and not in a good way. Next time I want to do something tedious, I’ll clean out the fridge; at least at the end of that three tedious hours, something useful will have been done.

Key Largo

February 11, 2016

key largo

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A traveler arrives at a small hotel in the Florida Keys only to find out that it’s been taken over by gangsters.

Bogie and Bacall, together again. This is one of the four movies they starred in together, if one does not count a brief comic cameo in the film Two Guys from Milwaukee.

I have been listening to Karina Longworth’s amazingly good podcast series on Hollywood’s first hundred years, You Must Remember This, and she did an episode about Bacall, who was married to Bogie for fourteen years, and spent 57 years without him. Then, the next time I was at the Red Cross doing apheresis, I saw this and watched it again for the first time in maybe 20 years…certainly, I had not reviewed it before, so that’s at least 14.

And it holds up very well. Bogie has come to a small hotel in the Keys to talk to Lionel Barrymore and Bacall about their son/husband, who was under Bogie’s command in WWII, and inadvertantly puts himself in a hostage situation; Edward G. Robinson and his gang have taken over the hotel until they can escape on a boat to Cuba, which is coming that night. There is a lot of angst and action, and of course Bogie takes care of business.

I couldn’t help comparing this film to The Petrified Forest, Bogie’s breakout role; there are differences, and this is waaay less intellectual, but it’s still the man vs. villain plot that leads to admirable actions on the part of the guy caught in the bad situation.

This is good, well written and moves well; Bogie and Bacall shoot sparks every time they look at each other, and the ending is edge-of-your-seat, although we all know that Bogie as the good guy is likely to win.

Watch it again and enjoy!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

February 9, 2016

star wars

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

The seventh in the movie franchise. Good guys, bad guys, droids, some witty dialogue, some plot holes, you know.

There are SPOILERS in this review. You probably know them already, but just in case, I’ll move down the page a bit so you don’t see anything you shouldn’t…






Is this far enough? maybe not…





Okay, that’s it, here we go…

So this was probably the most hyped, talked about, and anticipated movie of 2015. It came out mid-December, but December is always a whirl of gaiety and obligations chez Otter, and as much as we wanted to see it, we just never got to the theater. And of course New Year’s Weekend was packed, what with the videofest and all. And the next weekend…we left for our xmas present to each other, a train trip to the Grand Canyon.

So we just didn’t have any time to go see it, although pretty much everyone else we knew had done so, and had given us various opinions (extremely various, from WHAT A PIECE OF CRAP! to Not bad… to AWESOME!) about it…although nobody let the big spoiler slip, for which we were grateful. Anyway. On our way to Arizona, we spent the night in Barstow.

For those of you who are not familiar with this town, it’s in the butt end of nowhere, the middle of the desert where three freeways come together. There is nothing there and nothing to do.

Except they do have movie theaters, one of which was very close to our motel. So that night we hied ourselves over, were pleased to find out that not only did Mr. Otter get the senior discount (he’s used to this) but I did as well (I am not so used to this, but am willing to learn to enjoy it.) So we saw it for six bucks apiece, which made us happy. And the coffee was decent, which made Mr. Otter happy. And the movie was pretty good, which made us both happy.

Yes, all the plotlines are familiar…mysterious messages, looking for a hidden jedi, the whole ‘we have to drop a bomb on this big space station before it blows up our planet thing.’ There was the alien bar, and the possible love interest (although we know how that turned out in the first three movies) and the running, jumping, flying and exploding.

Having said and agreed with all that, I was pleasantly surprised. On the one hand, Lucas tried to make the plot go in all kinds of new directions in the ‘first three’ movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) and <irony>we all know how well that turned out…</irony>

So I’m sure that when this was being written, in order to avoid all the pitfalls of actually trying something new and having it backfire, they said, let’s just stick with what works because WE KNOW IT WORKS…and they basically rehashed the three original movies. And it was pretty successful.

The characters were good. I liked the ‘rolling ball’ R2D2, very nice f/x there. I liked having one of the characters be an ex-Stormtrooper, and the actor was good, as was the lead girl who got to kick butt very nicely. Of course everyone from the original movies was there, and all looking pretty damn good forty years later. And (here’s the spoiler) I liked that they killed off Han Solo; if only the Star Trek franchise had been willing to carry through and kill Kirk in the last Star Trek reboot movie, it would not only have been a much better movie but it would have left the series go in its own direction. Which, hopefully, the next couple of Star Wars movies will do.

I did get annoyed at the ‘The bomb will go off in two minutes!” announcement, following which the main characters took at least 15 minutes to get out of the way, and Chewbacca, even though he was at ground zero for the detonation, came through just fine. Sigh.

But minor quibbles aside, it was pretty, fast moving, funny, there were good characters, and the plot was fine. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the next one…one can only do the same plot threads so many times before people get completely fed up with it…

Cats and Dogs

February 9, 2016


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Cats and dogs are waging a war for control of the humans and the planet. Cats are the archvillains, and dogs are the goofy good guys. This movie is about one puppy who joins the struggle.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: CATS) and this looked like a fun and silly movie to include. And it has Jeff Goldblum, Serious Honey. What’s not to like?

Pretty much everything. Firstly, the assumption in this movie is that CATS ARE THE BAD GUYS. Really?

Secondly, it’s full of stupid pratfalls and dumb jokes. Which can be funny, when done right. But not when not done right. Guess which category this falls into?

We may have judged this film harshly, having been watching movies for almost 12 hours straight; this was #7, and I think Mr. Otter decamped to the kitchen to watch dishes rather than watch it, muttering something about dogs under his breath. But it was really stupid. I like a lot of the people in it, the f/x of the dogs and cats doing stuff looked great, but it was just a dumb, not-very-well-written comedy.

I seem to be in the minority, btw, there is at least one sequel that got made. I will eschew it, and be made happier thereby.

If you like Stiller and Sandler and Ferrell and Carrey, you will probably like this movie. If you have good sense of humor, probably not. The Otter has Spoken.