The Day The Earth Stood Still

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the short story Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates

An alien comes to earth with an ultimatum: abandon war, especially nuclear war, or the Earth will be destroyed by other alien races.

This is, of course, a legendary SF movie. My family always had the TV going on Sunday afternoons to watch whatever cheesy old SF and horror movies were playing (back in the days when you had to watch whatever the Television Gods decreed, rather than choosing for yourself.) This was a big favorite, and my sister had a huge crush on Michael Rennie, who I will admit is easy on the eye.

I saw bits and pieces of it, and of course Klaatu Barada Nicto is a famous catchphrase…but I really don’t remember ever having actually watched it all the way through, until Mr. Otter mentioned it and I said, I’ve never seen it. Well, that was a gap in my cultural literacy that got addressed pretty quickly!

For what it was, a preachy cold war movie about eschewing violence, it was pretty good. The special effects weren’t bad for the time, and the story, although pretty far-fetched (none of his abilities was ever explained, he could just do all this random stuff. And he was exactly like Earth humans…hm.) it all held together pretty well.

The story was interesting enough not to be draggy, and of course the ending, “The decision rests with you…” was great.

The Otter liked this classic and was happy not to be disappointed by it!


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

November 17, 2022

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Shang-Chi finds out that A) his father is a Bad Guy and B) he has to use the power of the Ten Rings to save his mother, who everyone thought was dead, and they must also defeat an evil dragon.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It was actually much better than that description makes it sound. This was a compelling, beautifully made MCU movie (in one post-credits scene the heroes are taken to Kamer-Taj by Wong the Librarian) and very enjoyable…except for one small quibble: the evil dad, Wenwu, was a way more interesting and compelling character than Shang-Chi.

I mean, yes, the MCU is full of people like Captain America who are kind of vanilla; they’re unsalted good guys, probably okay for a snack but not what you are really craving. But to have such a contrast between the two stars of the same movie, and have the bad guy be the one I was really behind for the whole thing, evil or not, didn’t really work for me.

Yes, Loki is a bad guy that everyone likes…but he gets his comeuppance regularly, and bounces back for more. In this movie, the bad guy was just BAD. Until the very end, when he sacrifices himself and gives his kid his power source.

Hm.

I’m going to watch this one again before coming down too hard on it…I’m finding that the MCU movies are so full of stuff both from previous stories and their own that I usually like to see them twice before writing a review…and as I said, it was beautiful and I did get caught up in the story…so I’ll be kind to this one til then.


Venom: Let There Be Carnage

October 21, 2022

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Eddie Brock, the host of the symbiotic alien Venom, is trying to get his journalism career back and interviews a serial killer…who becomes the host for another Venom-class symbiote, and is out to get his super-powered lost girlfriend out of the slammer.

I really liked the first Venom movie with Tom Hardy, and had been looking forward to the next in the franchise…but of course 2020. So when it actually did get released, I was on the road with my friend Craiggers, driving halfway across the US. We were in Albuquerque, and had a free evening, so we went to see this.

And it was…okay. Way too much ‘this symbiote is now inhabiting this body’ for me, even for a comic book story that was kind of silly. Much less character development than the first one. But okay.

The teaser has Eddie Brock and Venom transported to a hotel room in the Spider-Man universe, so we’ll see what happens there…


The Madwoman of Chaillot

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the play La Folle de Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux

A very old-fashioned countess takes on the destructive industrialists of the modern world with the help of various eccentric people.

I have loved this movie since I was a young Otter. I made time for it every time it came on TV (back in the days when the Television Gods ruled what you watched, and if it wasn’t scheduled to be on television, you couldn’t see it…) I had not watched in, maybe, 40 years (yes, this Otter is old.) but when I realized that it was on one of the streaming services, I chose it for our Saturday Night Zoom Movie group.

And…it was fun. I like Katherine Hepburn, and she was awesome as the Countess who does not approve of the modern world and is attempting to keep the businessmen from destroying the part of town she lives in in quest of oil lying below the streets. One of the businessmen is Serious Honey Yul Brynner (with hair!) There is more slapstick than I remembered, campy late 60s slapstick, but it was fun watching Hepburn and her coterie take on The Bad Guys and win.

A charming evening’s entertainment.


Rome, Open City

October 20, 2022

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Although Rome is classified as ‘open’, meaning that citizens are not in imminent danger of bombing and they can move about the city fairly freely, the Nazis are in everyone’s faces, there are curfews and rationing, and life is still hard. There are two couples in love and a priest who all become involved with a fugitive Resistance worker.

It was Saturday night, time for our Zoom Movie Group. Mr. Otter had chosen this one, and he, I and Coyote Rambles all settled down to watch it.

This is the first in Rosselini’s Neo-Realist Trilogy (Rome, Open City; Paisan; Germany Year Zero) and was made so soon after the collapse of the Fascist govenment in Italy that they had to use black-market film. It was a big success, so Rosselini went on to make the other two.

Because Rossellini used mostly non-actors, and because it was shot in a Rome that looks tired and war-worn, it has a realism that is fascinating. The story is good, but the setting and visuals are actually as interesting as the plot, showing as they do how people were actually living at the time.

A unique perspective on WWII in Italy, well worth watching.


The Guns of August

September 15, 2022

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From the book of the same name by Barbara Tuchman

It was time for the Saturday Night Zoom Movie, and Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I were ready for our weekly shared flick! Mr. Otter (aka Historian on a Stick) chose this one.

This is a very good documentary about WWI, but mostly about the antecedents, the origins of the actual conflict, and the first month of the war. It’s narrated by Fritz Weaver, using contemporaneous photographs and footage. Tuchman’s book, which it was based on, won a Pulitzer Prize for literature in the year it was published (1962)

If you’re looking for an interesting and well-made introduction to WWI, this is it!


Quo Vadis

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

A Roman general falls in love with a Christian slave and is eventually converted, all against the backdrop of Nero’s Rome.

I was traveling, as is my wont, and was listening to a great audiobook series from the Teaching Company about movies that take place in Ancient Rome and their historical accuracy; the presenter was a Classics professor, and he was funny and had a lot of interesting things to say, both about the movies and about the whole ‘Roman Spectacle’ genre of movies. This was one of the films he talked about; it started the whole genre in 1951.

I read the book many many years ago as a young Otter, and still remember that it was a thunderin’ good read…this movie? not as much, although it wasn’t bad…

Robert Taylor is the Roman commander, and it’s a toss-up whether he or a block of wood would be a more compelling hero…he’s very handsome, but rather stiff and unemotional. Deborah Kerr is beautiful and awesome as the Christian slave Lygia, but the cake is completely taken, eaten and owned by Peter Ustinov as Nero; not only is Ustinov an Otter Family Favorite Actor, but this role is campy and awful. Scenery is chewed with gusto.

This movie has huge sets, scenes with hundreds if not thousands of actors, chariot races, Rome burning, and lots of overacting. What’s not to like?

But read the book as well, it was great.


Zorba

September 15, 2022

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From the novel The Life and Times of Alexis Zorba by Nikos Kazantzakis

An English writer inherits a house in Greece and meets Zorba, who shows him how to enjoy life.

I expected to love this movie, which Mr. Otter, CoyoteRambles and I watched as part of our Saturday Night Zoom Movie series…the elements are all there: uptight British guy with writer’s block goes somewhere to find himself, freewheeling enthusiastic local takes him under his wing, pretty girl in village, lots of colorful characters…but no. While this movie has its moments, it’s not only really misogynistic (even granted the time and place, very hard to watch) but really awful stuff happens in this lighthearted movie, and the people who have bad things happen to them are the women!

Quinn was really good at playing Zorba, who really cares for nobody but himself and handsome Alan Bates was perfect for the repressed Englishman. This film is famous and won a bunch of awards…but all I have to say is, be warned. It’s not all fun and games.


Orlando

September 15, 2022

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From the novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf

A young man is commanded by Elizabeth I never to grow old…and doesn’t.

My book group read this, and it was pretty good; I certainly liked it better than the only other Woolf book I had read to that time, To The Lighthouse. So I said to Mr. Otter, we both really liked the movie when it came out, let’s watch it again!

And we did…and it was still good. Not as stellar as I had remembered, but certainly enjoyable.

Orlando, given the gift of long life and youth, is on a self-narrated quest for poetry and love. The tale is told with humor, especially when he goes on a voyage and returns as a woman, having decided that that may be the reason he can’t find true love.

There are some nice observations about male and female roles (especially in the second half of the movie, which is much more enjoyable than the first because of Orlando’s comments about being female) and beautiful settings.

This is charming and interesting, and lightly amusing. A fun movie for an evening with someone you love!


Ziegfeld Follies

September 2, 2022

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William Powell plays Flo Ziegfeld, up in Heaven, thinking about the perfect show that he would put on if he were still on Earth.

I’m not joking. That’s what this whole movie is. The acts that Powell/Ziegfeld dreams of having perform in his theater while he looks down from Heaven and does introductions/commentary.

This movie is, of course, purely a vehicle for whatever Warner Brothers stars were available (or forced to perform, since it was the bad old days when they were under contract to the studio and had to do what they were told. It’s not a bad list- Lucille Ball (singing a serious song as a beautiful Ziegfeld Girl instead of the wacky funny woman we all know her as nowadays), Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and many more very talented people.

Pretty good for what it is, definitely a period piece.