Now, Voyager

January 29, 2017

voyager

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty

A meek spinster who has been under her domineering mother’s thumb her whole life gets psychiatric help and celebrates her freedom by taking a world cruise, coming back a mature and confident person.

This is a movie that I have always heard about as incredibly romantic…I knew it was about a ship, and that Bette Davis and Paul Henreid were in it, but nothing more. And (I think) it was in listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent blog on the history of Hollywood, You Must Remember This, that this movie was mentioned and we said, we should watch this! So we did.

And it was NOTHING like what I expected. Rich Boston folks and a nebbishy daughter who can’t say BOO to her mother. They had Bette Davis dressed and not-made-up to look plain and mousy, so that when she took the trip and had an actual love affair, she could blossom into being beautiful.

It wasn’t a bad movie, for what it was worth; the actors were good, the writing was good…just not our cup of tea. When it was over, I looked up the book, and found out that not only was this novel that I had never heard of (I didn’t know the movie was based on a book) a best seller, it was one of a series of 5 books that were all famous in their time (1931-1951). She was also the writer of the book Stella Dallas, which is another movie I have heard of but didn’t know it came from a book. This book/movie were both evidently a huge boost to positive perception of psychiatry, as well

So…interesting. The movie is good, albeit predictable, and we found the ending a little hard to swallow…nobody is that nice! But it was good to finally see this. Worth the time for the actors and settings, not so much for the plot.


The Accountant

January 29, 2017

accountant
Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Ben Affleck plays an autistic-spectrum accountant, who, for various reasons, is not only the best accountant ever, but also can out-fight anyone and shoot a rifle extremely far and accurately. He lives a quiet life but is actually the accountant for various bad guys around the world, and the treasury department is trying to track him down.

Mr. Otter and I decided not to be at home for the little trick-or-treaters, and decamped to the movie theater instead, and this is one of the movies we saw.

This was watchable, but had a lot of problems. Firstly, Ben Affleck, who I think is actually a good actor, did a good job playing an autistic person-but since that means having a flat, un-outgoing personality and no real verbal skills, it meant that the character was not very interesting to watch…and he’s on screen for almost the whole time.

Secondly, there were HUGE coincidences and unexplained plot points that made no sense. I won’t go into them, one of them is the big reveal of the movie, but seriously, both Mr. Otter and I said, no way! Just…no way could that ever have happened.

John Lithgow was good, and it was nice to see him, but it was not much of a part.

And…no, this one really isn’t worth a long review. Good actors, some good action sequences, mediocre writing. Skip it.


Denial

January 29, 2017

denial

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt

A Holocaust denier sues a historian for libel when she says his facts are wrong. Because the lawsuit happens in Britain, the historian has to prove that the Holocaust happened.

This was a well-made and interesting movie. Didn’t hurt that Serious Honey Rachel Weisz played the historian, and Otter Family Favorite Actor Timothy Spall the denier.

Good courtroom drama, a bit of cliffhanging ‘what will happen?’ at the ending (although the fact that a movie was made at all means that the audience knows the ending already) and good writing and characterization.

An excellent and important piece of history, ably presented.


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

January 26, 2017

seven

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A remake of the 1960 western of the same name, which was itself based on Kurosawa’s movie The Seven Samurai. People in a small town hire seven down-and-out gunslingers to protect them from the bad guys.

So here’s what’s different:

  1. It’s not a Mexican town, it’s an American Southwest mining town, and the evil industrialist mine owner is trying to make people work harder so he can make a ton o’ money. I’m not sure how killing the workers is supposed to achieve this, but whatevs…
  2. Instead of an average Joe (or Jose, since the original was set in Mexico) being the town spokesman, a beautiful girl whose husband has been killed in the reign of terror (hired thugs shoot up the meeting in the church, then burn it down, ordering people to leave the bodies there as an example) goes on her own and hires some guys.
  3. She runs into Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, up to hijinks as a bounty hunter and gambler, and when she shows them some money and mentions the bad guy’s name, they’re all about helping her. And they find a bunch of other guys they know who can help.
  4. For a town girl, she sure does well at spending something like a week in the saddle doing hard riding…and they all seem to find their friends (in hiding) pretty well too.
  5. The seven are carefully multicultural and inclusive. The original group o’ white guys included Charles Bronson pretending to be Mexican, and Russo-Japanese Yul Brynner pretending to be just another guy, but the rest were Euro-types. The new set include Denzel, a Korean actor playing ‘generic Asian’, an ACTUAL Mexican guy playing a Mexican (must be a first for Hollywood) and, of course, a Native American. Plus three white guys.
  6. There is very little explanation of who these guys are, why they would be willing to do this, or what their connection is with Denzel.
  7. The Comanche (who, btw, is played by an actor who at least has some Native ancestry…Alaskan, but at least authentic…) of course runs into his arch enemy during the final battle and they fight. Because like women in a battle, who must be shown fighting each other, Native Americans must also be shown to fight each other instead of whatever target shows itself. Sigh.
  8. Don’t even get me started on the final battle, which was full of eye-rolling stuff like Gatling guns that accurately shoot single bullets over distance.
  9. And…of course they rescue the town, fulfill their various destinites, and (those who are left alive) ride out victorious.

I kind of liked this as I was watching it, but my brain kept saying, but…what about this? No, that’s not right…but this other thing? no, that doesn’t work either.

Even with the star power hired to attract viewers, this is a letdown. Pass on it and watch the original again instead, you’ll be glad you did.


The Green Mile

January 26, 2017

green-mile

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Stephen King

A prison guard in charge of Death Row in the 1930s South takes charge of a prisoner with unexplainable abilities.

This is one of those perfect movies. I remember seeing it in the theater, and how overwhelmed I was at just how good it is. The book is one of King’s best, originally published in six parts as a serialized novel (and it worked very well in this format, which was how I originally read it, although nowadays it’s collected into one volume).

Tom Hanks is in charge of the ‘Green Mile’, which is the section of the prison that’s Death Row. It’s in the 30s, so prisoners are executed with an electric chair, which is a big part of the plot. There’s a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, a crazy bastard of a prison guard, and a whole lot of great plotting and good writing.

And the ending is perfect as well.

I really can’t praise this movie highly enough, and I’m trying not to say ANYTHING that will give any part of it away; it’s written so perfectly, every single detail fits in so well, that to tell any of it would rob you of the enjoyment of seeing it for the first time…and if you’ve already seen it, no need for me to blather about how good it is, you already know.

Whenever someone says, Top ten movies? the list changes. I know The Princess Bride is on it. I know The Man Who Would Be King is on it. And I know this movie is on it. The other seven? We’ll have to get together and discuss that, won’t we?


The Shawshank Redemption

January 26, 2017

shawshank

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Two men doing hard time become friends.

This is one of those just-about-perfect movies. The description doesn’t do it justice; Tim Robbins as a man facing life in prison for a crime he can’t prove he didn’t commit, Serious Honey Morgan Freeman as the guy who becomes his friend, and (how could I not mention) James Whitmore as the mild-mannered prison librarian (by default, no MLS here) who has no life outside the walls of the prison. Oh, and yet again Otter Family Favorite Actor Clancy Brown gets to play an evil bastard.

This is a gem of a movie. I was about to call it a short gem, but I checked and it’s two and a half hours…sure doesn’t seem like it. This tells you how good it is, well written and full of description and feelings. Freeman’s narration is matter-of-fact but warm, and every detail is perfect.

This one is too good to miss. If you haven’t already seen it, get it now and watch it. You can thank me later.


The Revenant

January 25, 2017

revenant

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

“Based in part on” the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

Guy gets mauled by a bear, left for dead, returns (title, get it?) to take revenge. Wonder how it’s going to end?

This won a SLEW of awards, including Best Actor, Director and Cinematography awards, and was nominated for even more (both Golden Globe and Academy awards). And…well…I’ll give you cinematography and even director.  Leo didn’t have to do more than stumble around looking half dead, so although he’s an excellent actor, there is no way I would agree that he deserved best actor for this; it was probably just, oh, here’s Leo again, we’ll give it to him so he’ll stop bothering us. And you notice that neither of these august bodies offered this movie best screenplay.

And why? Because it was AWFUL.

Yes, I came out and said it. One of the most talked about and lauded movies of the year (2013) that it was made…is just appallingly awful.

And there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you really do want to watch this tedious and annoying movie without knowing what will happen (but you really do know what will happen, trust me…there are no surprises in store) then stop reading here and come back after you’ve wasted TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF YOUR SHORT LIFE on this thing. You could have read my review in five minutes and then picked up a good book, but no. You have to show how you know better than I do. Go ahead. See where it gets you. Prove me wrong.

I’ll just wait here.

(2 hours and 34 minutes later)

So. Now you know. Aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to the Otter?

I was at the Red Cross, doing apheresis, which means that I spent nearly three hours in a chair, covered with warm blankets, needles in both arms while they took out all my blood, drained the plasma and platelets, and put it back. And I get to watch a movie. I picked this one.

Oh my god. Tedious, moody, serious as all hell. Very very very predictable. Sudden flashbacks to tell the backstory (about his Native American wife, which explains why his young son is with him (because their village got torched by Bad Men and she died in the fire and they were the ONLY TWO who survived)). Then he gets mauled by a bear. Oddly enough, him surviving this is one of the few parts of the story I DON’T have a problem with; it did happen from time to time. Not likely, but possible. But the bad guy (Tom Hardy, excellent as always, although (as another reviewer pointed out) he is a serious mumbler…) gets tired of waiting, decides that Leo won’t make it, and ends up killing his son, then mostly burying Leo because he’s mostly dead anyway. Cue revenge music.

So of course Leo survives (and at one point puts gunpowder on the wound in his throat and lights is to cauterize it…THAT made my disbelief take a serious nosedive.) Then he is chased by the Bad Indians and (he has gotten a horse by this point) he and the horse jump off a waterfall, the horse dies, but he manages to get to safety, and cuts the horse open to A) eat it and B) crawl inside to keep from freezing.

But he continues down a frozen river in winter. In north Missouri. In WINTER. And he doesn’t die, get frostbite, or pneumonia? I found this impossible to believe; his extremities would have been GONE.

There are a lot of People (mostly white males) Being Evil To Each Other (mostly to Native Americans). Not untrue at all, but heavy handed. Oh, and remember the part where he set off gunpowder in his throat wound? so after the first half hour of the movie, he CAN’T TALK. Most of the movie is scenery, heavy breathing, flashbacks and sign language. Gaah.

So then he makes it back to the fort, finds out that Tom Hardy made it back, and gets ready to take care of business, which (of course) has to be done before he rests or recuperates from his ordeal. And this was the part that really cooked my pemmican.

Because during this knife fight (in the snow and freezing river near the fort) there is a scene where Tom Hardy stabs Leo through the hand with a knife. And you see the blade go through his hand into the snow/ground on the other side. And the blade of the knife (which is about an inch and a half wide) is perpendicular with Leo’s fingers. See where I’m going with this? The knife blade ( and you can see the wound on his hand) HAD to have cut muscles and tendons through his whole hand. And HE USES THE HAND TO FIGHT AND HIT WITH. And of course wins, finally.

And there I am in the Red Cross, with needles in my arms and earphones on, saying loudly, NO WAY! There is NO WAY he is using that hand for this fight and probably NEVER AGAIN! No! That hand is TOAST! and the nurses are walking over to see what I’m talking about and laughing at me and nodding in agreement.

So yeah, I guess it’s an okay movie of revenge and perseverence, but it takes itself waaaaay too seriously, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too full of modern sensibilities and has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY too much Leo doing totally unbelieveable things that are just ludicrous.

The otter would like to bury this one alive and not let it come back for vengeance.