Once Upon a Time in America

August 26, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel The Hoods by Harry Grey

A gangster returns to the Lower East Side where he grew up and started on his life of crime, hoping to put his past to rest.

This was one of our Zoom Movie Nights; during the lockdown in 2020, Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I would set up a Zoom session, and after we had chatted a bit, would watch a movie while connected and talk about it afterwards. It was so much fun that we are continuing the movie nights indefinitely! We alternate choosing movies, and this was my choice; I’ve seen most of Sergio Leone’s movies, but always wanted to catch this one and never had. And I was not disappointed!

De Niro is a gangster who is haunted by his past, and that past (and his childhood) make up a large part of this movie; most of his young life is shown, with the present as a frame story and mystery about what actually happened to De Niro’s friends from the past.

This was so enjoyable! Not a typical mobster movie (and I had really expected a Godfather clone), but more of a character study framed by the question of what’s really going on in the future. The prohibition-era kids who will grow up to be gangsters are really good, and the fact that the film focuses so strongly on them makes it a much better viewing experience than it otherwise would have been.

Recommended by The Otter!


August 26, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

William Shakespeare leaves home to pursue his dream of becoming a writer…

It was 2020, and Mr. Otter and I spent much of that year watching various things on television…including streaming all eight seasons of Horrible Histories (well, we had to buy the last two from England, they don’t stream here…) We also looked for other things the same cast had done, and this was one of them.

This was funny and charming; Shakespeare is in London trying to make it as a writer and gets mixed up in all sorts of other things including murder and a plot to blow up Queen Elizabeth I. There is madcap humor and silliness galore, and overall it’s a fun romp.

Well worth watching the next time you’re locked up for a year!


August 26, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Joe is a middle school music teacher who dreams of being a jazz musician; he falls down a manhole and goes to the afterlife, has adventures and things work out in the end.

This was cute, and I wanted to like it more than I did, but it was a pretty typical Disney/Pixar kind of movie; I wanted to like it more than I did.

The vision of the afterlife was bland but interesting, with souls needing to find their ‘spark’, their inspiration to return to Earth, to be reborn, but not enough to save the movie from being pretty ordinary.


August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the book of the same name by Michael Ende

Momo lives in a peaceful village until the Grey Men show up and start buying everyone’s time…and then everyone is busy and stressed, and Momo has to fix things.

I have a German friend who has been in the US for many years, but when she still lived in Germany, Michael Ende wrote the Neverending Story…and she sent me a copy of the beautiful English language edition from there, with multicolored type and lovely illustrations. And when I raved to her about how much I enjoyed it, she sent me his previous novel, Momo (which was originally translated into English as The Grey Gentlemen.)

And forty years later, I still have both of these books and still love them.

Ende’s worldbuilding is a big part of his appeal; his plots are interesting, and his writing doesn’t talk down to children.

I found the movie of Momo cute, but very ‘kids will like this because it’s cute and quirky’, rather than a good fantasy story that happened to have children in it; but this movie was made in the days of Goonies and Explorers (No, I am not a fan of either Goonies or Explorers. Deal with it.), and has that same kind of ‘adults writing for kids with no idea what they really like’ feeling.

And I just looked…and Michael Ende, unhappy with the movie of Neverending Story, is one of the screenwriters. But I stand by my comments, the movie is just…cutesy. There are some good action sequences, but it never really seemed to come together.

The girl who plays Momo is cute and perky, the Grey Men are not scary but certainly not appealing, and there are some good scenes. It wasn’t horrible, just not as good as I remember the book being…I guess I need to go back and reread it.

Still…not one I’d recommend.

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse

August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Another ‘psychologist who identifies with his study too well’ movie, Dr. Clitterhouse is so absorbed by his study of the criminal mind that he becomes one.

This was one of the movies on our New Year’s Day Moviefest (theme: John Huston, who wrote the screenplay.)

This was pretty good for a 1938 psychological melodrama; Edward G. Robinson chews scenery like the pro that he was, and you can’t go wrong with Serious Honey Humphrey Bogart.

Predictable (Crime Does Not Pay) but the twists and turns, and the struggle for control of the gang between Bogie and Robinson, are worth watching.

Wise Blood

August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Flannery O’Connor

A WWII vet returns, finds his family home abandoned, has a crisis of faith, and starts an ‘un-church’, an anti-religious ministry in a Southern city. Various things happen.

This was one of the movies for the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: John Huston), and was not one of the better ones.

Evidently the book, O’Connor’s first, was made up of a group of short stories reworked, including her master’s thesis. The movie supposedly stays pretty close to the book, which does not recommend said literary oeuvre to this Otter.

It was wierd and disjointed. A lot of things happened for seemingly random reasons that never got resolved. None of the characters was particularly interesting, and truthfully, as I wrote this review, I had to go back and read a synopsis to remember any of the details of what happened to this guy at all.

I usually love John Huston movies, but this one? Fuggedaboudid.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Charles Shaw.

A marine and a nun are stranded on an island in WWII after it’s evacuated, and are still there when the Japanese come and occupy it.

This was one of the films we watched on our New Year’s Day Moviefest 2020 (theme: John Huston.)

This was really good! Robert Mitchum (who, I think, has just won promotion to Serious Honey) is perfect for the part of the guy who is trying to do his job and save his country but is falling for this woman he cannot be in love with; Deborah Kerr is a total hottie and very good for the part of the nun who is practical and not at all dainty and girlish, and the growing relationship between them, and the question of where it can/will go, gives as much tension to the movie as the Japanese occupation and their attempts to block that.

Highly recommended, very enjoyable.

Night of the Iguana

August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the play by Tennessee Williams

Defrocked-preacher-turned-alcoholic-tour-guide Richard Burton is working in a small town in Puerto Vallarta. A bus with a load of church ladies breaks down and he recommends they stay at the hotel run by Ava Gardner. And everyone is chasing everyone else, demons are unleashed, and the titular iguana is pursued and caught by two cabana boys to be fattened up for sacrifice…or rather, dinner.

Our New Year’s Day Videofest theme was John Huston, and this was one of the first movies. This is a rather heavy handed and slow moving version of the play; the only time I’ve seen that, it was awesome, well written and acted; this movie feels like someone said, Whoa! gotta tone down the interesting stuff and make it slow and sultry!.

Burton is phoning in his performance as the disillusioned preacher circling the drain, consumed by lust and his need for alcohol. He (of course) was thrown out of his church for seducing one of the church ladies, and now has his eye on a young thing who is part of the tour…at the same time that the tour leader (hottie Deborah Kerr) also has her eye on the same girl, and Ava Gardner has her eye on him. Much shouting, many accusations, tears and recriminations follow.

If you like overblown emotional meltdowns, this is a good example, but otherwise not so great.

Citizen Kane

August 5, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The life of a rich and famous man told in flashbacks by a reporter who is trying to figure out the meaning of Kane’s last word: Rosebud.

So this movie came out in 1941, flopped, was hidden in the RKO vaults in embarrassment, and got boo’d at the Academy Awards for that year every time it won…nine times, that was. And yet it’s one of the most famous, studied, and talked about films of all time. It wasn’t until it was rereleased in the 1950s that people said, wait a minute, look at that camerawork! And history was made. Just goes to show how public opinion can change.

My experience of this movie is exactly the same: when I saw it as a young Otter, I thought it was kind of stupid. I didn’t know anything about cinematography or William Randolph Hearst or the times, and just didn’t get it.

Then on one of our Saturday Zoom movie nights, Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I watched Mank, which was very good, and I said, if you guys don’t mind seeing Citizen Kane yet again, I would love to give it a rewatch when it’s my turn to pick. And so we did.

And like Americans of the 1950s and later, this time I got it.

It’s a good movie, a good story, Welles is awesome, and the cinematography, especially the camera angles and the light, is really amazing.

Small quibble: there is a librarian in this movie, and she’s a stereotypical dragonish book guardian who doesn’t want anyone touching her hoard…meh.

So much has been written about this movie and it’s so ingrained in our pop culture that I really don’t have much else to say about it…my readers (bless them) have probably seen it more times than I have.

But I’m glad to join the group of Kane supporters. Thanks for waiting, everyone.


August 5, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Daphne DuMaurier

A new bride has to deal with everyone’s memories of her husband’s previous (dead)(perfect) wife.

So it was 2020, and everyone was in lockdown. Mr. Otter and I were still having fun watching movies and TV series that we hadn’t seen, either ever or for a long time, but we also decided it was time for him to start reading aloud to me, which we both used to enjoy very much when we made time for it. This was one of the first books he read, and it was so good that he read for four or five hours straight at the end because neither of us could wait.

Then we had to see the movie…which was pretty good.


Well, probably more than pretty good…the cast (Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson) were excellent, especially Anderson as the incredibly annoying and creepy Mrs. Danvers. The look of it and the cinematography are also excellent.

The problem that I had with this movie is basically that it’s not nearly as good as the book…which is often my problem with movies. This was good, but not nearly as detailed or atmospheric. Joan Fontaine’s character is so much more self-possessed and confidant than the character in the book, and her relationship with Maxim is much more of a love match; in the book, she is a shy and mousy girl, and is never sure where she stands with him, or indeed why he married her. Maxim in the movie has episodes of anger but is much more involved in his new marriage than he was.

Mrs. Danvers, however, is pretty much the same in both versions!

The biggest changes are at the end; because of the Hays Code (murder always has to be punished) Maxim watches Rebecca fall and hit her head and die; in the book, he shoots her and hides the body. At the end of the book, the current Mrs. DeWinter (who, by the way, has no name in the book and narrates the whole story) and Maxim are driving home and find Manderley in flames, and the implication is that Mrs. Danvers has burned the place down and herself with it; in the movie, Maxim is coming home from London, finds the house ablaze and rescues everyone but Mrs. Danvers.

That was a little too much rewriting for me…the movie was fine, but seriously? Read the book, it was amazing.