Copper Canyon

March 19, 2017

copper

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Oh, you know, the bad guys are taking advantage of the miners in the small western town and the local beauty asks the guy for help and he doesn’t want to but he falls in love with her and takes care of business.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme was Hedy Lamarr. One of the reasons we chose her was that she made such a broad range of movies, especially this one, which is a western.

And- bonus!- it streamed for free. Now that all the video rental stores are gone, and Amazon and Netflix are going head-to-head, older movies are sometimes hard to find. We had to buy three of the movies we watched for this New Year’s Day fest, because they weren’t available anywhere.

So we watched it. We did take a short break in the middle when a couple of friends and their kids came over, but otherwise we paid attention.

And…it wasn’t bad. A typical late 40s/early 50s (1950, to be precise) western, with pretty scenery, a so-so plot with a couple of amusing parts, Hedy Lamarr looking gorgeous and acting fiesty, and Ray Milland cracking jokes and trying to act all aloof but he’s really taken with Hedy and if it means coming out of hiding and saving the town from the evil Yankees who are stealing from the peace-loving ex-Confederate miners (yup) then that’s what he’ll do.

A perfectly okay Western, totally watchable.

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White Cargo

March 18, 2017

cargo

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book Hell’s Playground by Ida Vera Simonton and the play White Cargo by Leon Gordon.

Yes, this movie of which you’ve never heard was not only a bestselling book but a play on both the New York and London stages. Who knew?

So it was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and our theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the second movie of the day, picked solely for the cheesiness of the title. And it was indeed cheesy.

The story is about being away from ‘civilization’ at a British-owned rubber plantation gruffly run by Walter Pidgeon. A new guy comes and Pidgeon gives him the talk about how he’ll go crazy too and everyone hates everyone there eventually and by the way DON’T mess around with the local girls. Which you know the new guy is going to do even though he says he won’t, because on the cover of the movie is Hedy Lamarr in slightly dark makeup and a skimpy outfit, saying, “I am Tondelayo!”

And of course everything goes wrong, and the new guy is carried home in a box. The story is told by the next guy who replaces him, who manages to stick it out and tells the story in flashback.

Evidently Tondelayo, in both the book and the play, is what they referred to in those days as a ‘negress’…this made the Hays office have kittens at the very thought, so that’s why Hedy Lamarr, as white as white can be, was put in makeup for the role. Bad enough to have sex alluded to in the movie, but INTERRACIAL sex? Never! even though of course that’s what this is all about.

A mediocre movie, fun to laugh at.


Tortilla Flat

March 18, 2017

tortilla

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Based on the book Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

A group of happy-go-lucky guys in a small town on the California coast way back when there were sardine fisheries and everyone spoke with some kind of fake accent.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the first movie, and we were looking forward to it because not only was Ms. Lamarr in it, but also Spencer Tracy, several other good bit players, and it was adapted from a Steinbeck novel which Mr. Otter loved as a kid (Although I have read a lot of Steinbeck and enjoyed it, I have never read this one.)

And…it was pretty bad. Hedy was good, and extremely beautiful. John Garfield (as a Mexican-American…!) was cute and had a decent role, although he didn’t seem too bright, since he kept letting Tracy’s crew take advantage of him.

But oh my god, Spencer Tracy and his pack of layabouts (including Akim Tamiroff and Sheldon Leonard) were SO FREAKIN’ ANNOYING! Lazy assholes taking advantage of everyone, and Tracy’s character was so manipulative we were yelling at the TV by the end. The crap this pack of losers got away with, and the stunts they pulled, and their justifications for lying, stealing, arson and drinking, were just teeth-grindingly awful, especially as they were supposed to be happy-go-lucky older Mexican-Americans as well. But even for the time (1942) when this was made, they were just freakin’ annoying.

The only older guy in the town we really liked was Frank Morgan as the Dog-guy. He and his dogs were great. And John Garfield was cute and nice, if gormless. And Hedy was beautiful.

Otherwise? meh.


Passengers

March 18, 2017

passengers

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two passengers on a space ship bound for a colony world wake up 90 years early. Shenanigans!

And that is all I’ll say without warning you that there are BIG HONKIN’ SPOILERS coming. Because there is no way to convey my annoyance at this movie without telling you all about it.

So if you want to see it first, go ahead. I’ll wait.

<slow passage of time>

Done? Okay, let’s go…

Okay. How much am I annoyed at this movie? Let me count the ways…

  1. So there are these colony ships that take people in hibernation to other planets. Why are there restaurants and shopping malls on these ships if nobody is supposed to be awake? This makes no sense, and is a waste of space and money, even on a ‘luxury’ ship.
  2. We’ll give the movie the unlikely premise that one and only one pod (at this point) will fail in such a way that the occupant (Chris Pratt) wakes up and is fine…but is awake and alone on a ship that is supposed to travel for 90 years and there is no way for him to be sent back to sleep. Why is all this stuff (see #1) running? Even if there are restaurants and shopping malls and bars and gyms that can be available for (maybe) the beginning and end of the voyage (and again, why? wouldn’t the colonists be asleep at takeoff?) why don’t they all shut down as soon as everyone is asleep? There are no caretakers awake, remember. It’s all automated.
  3. Ditto Michael Sheen, playing the amusing robotic bartender (and it tells you a lot about this movie that the robot bartender is the most sympathetic character…)
  4. I can actually see Pratt being lonely and desperate enough to wake Jennifer Lawrence…but why is there no emergency way to get to or wake the CREW??? You’d think they’d put that in the computer from the beginning: by the way, if any passengers do somehow wake up, wake the captain IMMEDIATELY!!…but no.
  5. So he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence and doesn’t admit to doing it, just tells her they were two random awakenings…of course, this is the crux of the movie, and they start to address it then get sidetracked by explosions and fixing the ship and all, and they NEVER really deal with the fact that because he has done this, he’s doomed someone else and changed her life irrevocably. And this is the heart of the movie. And they (aside from her being mad at him then ending up forgiving him) really don’t go into the awfulness of it.
  6. Really? The ONLY OTHER person whose pod malfunctions just happens to be a crew member who can figure out what’s what, give them a wristband that lets them access all the ship functions, then conveniently dies of internal damage from his damaged sleep pod? Talk about (literal) Deus ex Machina! (and it’s Laurence Fishburne, so Deus indeed!) Why doesn’t Chris Pratt have the same damage? Or (as far as they know) any of the other pods? Why doesn’t ANYONE ELSE ON THE DAMN SHIP wake up, except Chris and the ONE GUY who can save them and the whole shipload of people? Because reasons. This is bad writing and it had me rolling my eyes.
  7. So they find out what’s wrong with the ship, and have to fix it, in the course of which Pratt goes to CERTAIN DEATH, the connotation being that he deserves it for what he did to Jennifer Lawrence (who, by the way, was EXTREMELY CUTE in this movie. Just sayin’). I was okay with that, except…<facepalm> he DOESN’T DIE. Almost, but she saves him. And forgives him. And they will live their lives out on this (now fixed) ship and never see the planet they’re emigrating to. But that’s okay,  they love each other. Cue music.
  8. Because the asteroids that damaged the ship (and the damage was getting progressively worse, and of course A) they figured out how to fix it by talking to Fishburne and B) it’s something only a human could do, not the ship itself, and the ship had no robots built in to fix it, just bartenders) not only didn’t damage it enough to not be fixable, or catastrophic at the time of damage (in which case there would have been no movie) but also didn’t knock it off its course or anything either…
  9. I would have liked this a whole lot better if he had died, and then she had faced the same problem he did, and seen her psychological reaction and what she would do as a consequence. That could actually have made this a good movie. But no, they took the easy, ‘happy’ way out.
  10. This was a movie with a lot of pretty scenes where the viewer was not supposed to think too much…which (again) would have been fine if the whole movie plot had not been based on a moral choice and the repercussions of that choice, but then sidestepped any real discussion of those ramifications.

Seriously disappointing, even with the amusing robot bartender and good eye-candy like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

March 16, 2017

rogue

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

So I had a day free, and there were several movies I wanted to see in the theater before they left town. This was one of them, of course. Because I have been going to the Star Wars movie ever since the first one came out (the one that everyone in my generation will forever call ‘Star Wars’, not ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. Because that’s just how we are.)

And (except for Disney buying everything Star Wars, which I think nobody in the universe could miss) I really didn’t pay any attention to the hype or reviews or talk about this one; I wanted to see it cold and make up my own mind. I was kind of surprised at the title, though, since it is Star Wars 8. But whatever.

And I was ten minutes into this one trying to make the plot and characters jibe with what I remembered from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (including a sighting of R2D2 that completely puzzled me) when it hit me…this isn’t a sequel…it’s a PREQUEL.

(And there are SPOILERS ahead, just so you know.)

This is the story of how the Rebellion gets the plans of the Death Star so Luke can drop the bomb in the original Star Wars movie. And as soon as I realized that, I knew where it was going. Because even someone like me who doesn’t pay much attention to the Star Wars universe except to see each blockbuster as it comes out and rail against George Lucas for destroying my youth by mucking with the original films remembers the scene in Star Wars where they show the plans to the pilots and tell them that the people who smuggled them out died.

Okay. So now I know where this is going. And from then on, it was kind of fun.

They used a computerized version of Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin. This is something that still bothers me. It’s one thing when an actor who has been hired to play a part dies and the filmmakers do what they can to cover for it (as in Gladiator) but a whole other ball of wax when an actor is used in a movie and has no say about what the movie is or his/her part in it because they’re dead and their heirs okay it…another example of this was in this movie, and it appalled me. On the OTHER hand, I suspect that that is where things are going- actors and actresses will not be filmed, they’ll just license their image to be computerized into a movie, and that’s what the public will see. Hm.

But back to the movie.

They have a couple of scenes with Darth Vader, again voiced (although noticeably older, of course) by James Earl Jones, and the second one was especially good; this is the DV I remember, the one who is completely E-VILE and really really scary.

The main characters were good, and the writing was excellent. Even knowing that none of them would survive, it was great to watch it all play out, and since it’s leading up to (and overlapping just a bit) with an already existing movie, having them repeat scenes from that movie worked just fine.

A really enjoyable entry into the Star Wars universe!


Moana

March 16, 2017

moana

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Moana leaves her village and sails to an island to raise a curse from her people.

Maid-of-Awesome saw this and told me how much she liked it. Now, M-o-A likes Disney. She rarely sees a Disney/Pixar/whatever animated movie that she doesn’t at least like, and many of them she comes back raving about. But this one, she said, was one of the best she’d ever seen.

I am not nearly as much a Disney fan as M-o-A, but I do pay attention to her recommendations. I was planning a multi-movie day, and made this the first one I saw. And I was not disappointed.

It’s lovely to see non-white, non-Euro girls given the central role of ‘Disney Princess’. Moana is charming and beautiful, but also strong, smart, capable and determined. And other characters are standouts too…her sidekicks, the rooster and the pig, are not annoying (as the snowman in Frozen was, I hated him sooooo much…!). Most of the villagers are typical for these movies (especially her father), but her grandmother is wonderful.

And of course Maui, with his storytelling tattoos, is a great character too. The animation is wonderful, the story is compelling; there is so much to like in this movie.

And…a bit into the movie, she sings a song about how she feels about the ocean and how much she wants to be there and misses it when she’s not. And that song exactly summed up how I feel about the desert. I know, there’s more to the song, she’s leaving her home and all…but I really liked it.

This was better than most Disney movies, and didn’t have the kind of flaws that some of them have. I really enjoyed it!


Saving Mr. Banks

March 15, 2017

banks

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

P. L. Travers (author of the Mary Poppins books) comes to Disney to oversee the writing of the screenplay for the Mary Poppins movie in 1964.

Sure, I saw the movie as a kid. At least, I think I did…maybe on TV? or during a Wonderful World of Disney special? or…hm, maybe I didn’t. But I knew all the damn songs, you heard them EVERYWHERE in the 60s. Feed the Birds, and Chim-Chim-Cheree, and A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down, and Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious…you literally heard them EVERYWHERE. Or were forced to sing them in school. Or to listen while other people played or sang them.

But there was a time, after Mr. Otter and I were married, when we were both really sick with colds at the same time; we were so sick we took a week off work and stayed home together. And we were bored. So we went to the local video rental store (yes, kids, we’re talking about a time before Netflix, Amazon, or DVDs, if you can imagine that) and rented some movies to watch. On VHS tapes.

And this was one of them, because neither of us had seen it for at least thirty years (and I couldn’t actually remember having seen it at all…just clips of some of the dance numbers, or hearing the songs).

And we watched it…and we HATED IT. Oh my god. We love Julie Andrews in musicals. We love Dick Van Dyke. But this movie was just appalling. Inane, stupid, childish in a bad way. Van Dyke’s accent just made us cringe and grit our teeth, and when he dropped his pants and started dancing with the penguins, I just put my head in my hands til it was over.

WE HATED THIS MOVIE.

Now, the other parenthetical thing I must say is that although I have been a librarian my whole career, mostly in Children’s and Teen Services, I have never read the original Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers. I don’t know why; I read a lot of older British authors (Nesbit and Lofting and others) but I was never drawn to these.

And when this movie came out, I was actually interested because I like Andrews and Tom Hanks so much…but I never went to see it.

So now, Mr. Otter and I were home, and he had brought home some movies to watch, and as is often the case I took a look at them and said, meh, you watch them and I’ll read or do computer work or something and keep you company.

And this movie sucked me in within ten minutes.

What a good movie. Charming writing, great characters, a wonderful plot, great storytelling, good acting. I loved this movie.

I’m not going to say much about it, because one of the joys of it was watching it unfold. But this is a REALLY REALLY GOOD MOVIE.

The only thing I’ll add is, make sure you don’t turn it off at the end; watch the credits. Because there is footage of Travers working with the Disney writers and it’s JUST LIKE THEY SHOWED IT IN THE MOVIE.

This was a winner, we both thought it was excellent.