The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

May 10, 2019

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Five years after Emmet saves the world, Lego Duplos attack and, well, the world must be saved again…

And what I say below might be construed as SPOILERSso you’ve been warned.

So yes, I loved the first Lego Movie. I loved the Lego Batman Movie. So of course I had to see this one!

And…it was good. Amusing, well written, great characters and plot. But since the audience is in on the joke, that this is a world that Will Ferrell’s kids are making (and the problem in this one is that Finn’s younger sister is now allowed to play with the area in the basement with all the Legos. In the real world, when she fights with Finn and breaks his built stuff, it happens in the Lego world too, and everyone has to find a solution.

All our favorite characters are back, and many new ones besides; the animation is awesome, and the storyline is very satisfying.

This was funny and charming…the audience was in on the joke, so it wasn’t as OMG HOW AMAZING as the first one, but it was a worthy sequel and I liked it a lot.


Black Narcissus

February 8, 2019

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From the novel of the same name by Rumer Godden

Five nuns open a convent in the Himalayas. Stuff happens.

Mr. Otter and I hosted the New Year’s Day Videofest 2019, and the theme was Best Cinematography Oscar. We always choose eight movies, and watch as many as we can between 10 am and 9ish pm…that usually makes it 5 or 6 movies. This was one of them, but did not get chosen in our random drawings.

But we had really wanted to see it, so a night or two later we queued it up and watched it.

So these nuns are to establish a convent in a palace in the Himalayas that has been donated to the church by the general who runs the local town/area. Five nuns are sent there, and of course things happen. The isolation and being cooped up together, so to speak, cause all kinds of friction; plus there are various locals who add to the problems.

This is a pretty good drama combining interpersonal dynamics, the past coming back to haunt some of the characters, and outside influences that can’t be controlled.

And the Oscar is well deserved, it was beautifully filmed in black and white, with luminous lighting and amazing light and shadows.

Worth watching, we enjoyed it.


The Student Prince

February 1, 2019
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A prince goes to school in Heidelberg to learn how to socialize instead of being way too formal and stuffy, and in the process falls in love with a barmaid in the tavern where the students hang out.

This is a Sigmund Romberg musical, and being fans of Nelson and Jeannette as we are chez Otter, I had wanted to see this for the longest time, and since Mr. Otter had not watched it in many years, we indulged ourselves.

The story is okay, although it’s been done many times before. The songs are good, especially (of course) the drinking song. The best part is Mario Lanza’s amazing voice.

Lanza had originally been cast to play the Prince, but he and the director started snarling at each other, Lanza walked off and was forbidden to do any voice work of any kind for over a year (the length of his contract for the movie) and they settled by Lanza recording the songs to be dubbed for another actor, Edmond Purdom, who is quite easy on the eye in this movie.

So this is cheesy fun, but it is enough fun to be watchable. Purdom and Ann Blyth (the barmaid) are good together, and he goes from an officious stick to a real guy very nicely.

An amusing evenings watching, especially if you join in on the drinking.


The Ugly American

September 21, 2018

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From the novel of the same name by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

Mr. Otter brought this home, and we watched it. He had read the book, which I hadn’t, and I knew nothing about it except the current usage of the phrase, which is Americans going to other countries and behaving like complete assholes.

So this is about a fictitious Southeast Asian country named Sarkan, that has a northern half that has become Communist, and they and the Chinese are trying to take over the rest of the country…sound familiar? Yup, it’s Vietnam; I figured that out after about ten minutes, it’s really obvious. Brando is the new ambassador, sent there to make sure the new road through the country that the Americans are building (“Freedom Road”) goes through, after some sabotage halts construction.

Brando’s character has a close Sarkanese friend who is being led astray by those darn Communists, so that’s a huge plot point with much political talk, and he is also friends with two Americans who run a hospital for children that is much needed and appreciated.

Eventually it all goes pear-shaped, mostly due to misunderstandings and the machinations of those doggone Communists, and the Americans have to leave. Not really a spoiler, it’s obvious where the plot is going.

This was pretty heavy-handed, but since it was made in 1963 about current political events, that’s not surprising. I was surprised, though, when I was talking to Mr. Otter a few days later- he used the phrase Ugly American, and I said, I assume that movie is where the phrase came from, but Brando wasn’t what the phrase means now, he really appreciated the country, tried to follow the customs and respect the people, but was misinformed.

Mr. Otter said no, the eponymous Ugly American was the American doctor, who the local people considered to be ugly although they loved him anyway. Huh? Really, said Mr. Otter, I read the book, it was him.

O-kaaaay. So there you have it.

If you like heavy-handed political drama, or seeing history from the contemporaneous point of view, this is your movie. But be warned, Brando is already in mumble-mode in 1963, it was sometimes very hard to understand him.


The Professionals

September 21, 2018

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From the novel A Mule for the Marquesa by Frank O’Rourke

Four guys who specialize in fighting and weapons are hired by a Very Rich Guy to get his wife back after she’s been kidnaped by Mexican bandits.

I love Las Vegas. I don’t do the usual Vegas stuff, much- I love the bookstores, the Neon Museum, and places like that. I also love the two parks nearby- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Valley of Fire State Park.

Valley of Fire is gorgeous, and many movies have been shot there…but this movie is special to them, because not only did the movie company build a road out to the White Domes, where the did a lot of the shooting, but there are pieces of the set still there that you can hike to.

So Squirrel Lady and I were in Nevada, and stopped at this State Park. We were going to take this hike, but when we got to the Visitor’s Center, on the white board where they list current information it literally said, Hiking: NOT RECOMMENDED. It was over a hundred degrees there at the time, so I can see why they said this…so we drove and looked at stuff, but did not hike.

When I got home from this trip, I had a free evening, so I rented this from Amazon and watched it…and you know, it was pretty good!

The plot is one of those 60s ‘bad guys are good and good guys are bad’ revisionist Western plots…but there were good people in it (Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Woody Strode actually playing a main character instead of getting killed in the first ten minutes, Ralph Bellamy and- wow, I just saw this- Jack Palance playing the bad-guy Mexican bandit who’s causing all the trouble. And Claudia Cardinale as well. Kind of a 60s Western go-to list of actors.

The story was good, with lots of action and some humor. The ending was predictable but well done. And it was cool to see how much of it they did shoot in VoFSP…I recognized a lot of the landscape.

So go there, then rent this…you’ll be glad you did!

 


The Desert Song

July 12, 2018

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Another in the ‘innocuous socialite masquerading as a daring do-gooder’ genre, this time Nelson Eddie is the son of a general in the French Foreign Legion, and they all hang out in the local town. He is also (really not a spoiler) the Red Shadow, who is somehow helping the Rifs rebel against the French.

And The Girl comes to town, engaged to an officer, with Romantic Notions, so of course he decides to kidnap her so that she will fall in love with him…hey, it’s musical comedy, it doesn’t have to be PC or make sense!

This made-for-TV version of the Sigmund Romberg operetta is mostly intact; Mr. Otter checked and they cut out one song which he dismissed as ‘forgettable’. Gale Sherwood is very cute and has a fine voice, and even the aging Nelson Eddy sounds good.

Filmed in black and white, which is probably better than the hideous color mixes that would have been used in the 1950s, this is, with all its flaws, much much much much much better than the hideous 1953 movie version with Gordon MacRae and Kathryn Grayson, which still makes me shudder when I think of it, thirty-some-odd years after I saw it while dating Mr. Otter. (And I hasten to add that I saw it on TV, folks. This otter is not old enough to have seen it in the theater. (Mr. Otter is, but I’m not.))

Anyway. There are some good songs, too many dream ballet sequences (one is too many), some good dancing by Bambi Linn, and a lot of silly drama, as is usual in Romberg’s pieces.

But Mr. Otter wooed me with many of these songs, so I loved watching it with him. Baritones. They’re the BEST.


Ant Man and the Wasp

July 12, 2018

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Ant-Man is back! Under house arrest for helping out the Avengers in Germany, but still needing to save the world…or at least a little part of it. Joined by the volatile Wasp, and up to amusing business as usual.

This is the ‘bumbling superhero’ type of movie, and while amusing, is not really my cup of tea. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are good, the plot moves well, there are great special effects and some surprises (including the traditional Marvel added scene in the end credits, DO NOT MISS THIS) but it was just funny hijinks with not really much at stake.

And…I know the Marvel universe is full of pseudoscience, but in many of the movies they try to make the pseudoscience make sense in the context of the movie. In this one I felt like they would throw around some science-y sounding words and then MAGIC! Something would happen and I would just be expected to go with the flow. I got really tired of this after a while: OMG (science sounding words) we better (more science sounding words) (MAGIC HAPPENS) because (science sounding words).

So yes, the story was amusing, I kinda like the “bumbling but it all turns out ok” way that  And-Man operates, sure. But not the best Marvel movie ever.

Except the tardigrades, aka water bears, who were ADORABLE. Aaaawwwww.