La La Land

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A pianist and an actress meet in LA and fall in love.

We chez Otter had gathered for the annual New Year’s Day Videofest, which had as its 2019 theme: Best Cinematography Oscar. Mr. Otter and I had not seen this one, so we were happy when it started off the day of movies (the names of the 8 films we choose get drawn from a bowl so we never know what’s coming up.)

This got a ton of press and awards; the list of Oscars that it won:

  • Best Actress
  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Music, both Original Score and Original Song
  • Best Achievement in Production Design (which I had never heard of and had to look up; used to be called Best Art Direction. Whatever.)

You’ll notice that NONE of these awards have anything to do with the quality of writing or plot. And with good reason. This was beautiful fluff.

Yes, it is a pretty movie. The first number, with everyone dressed in brightly colored clothes, stuck on a freeway onramp, dancing around and on their cars, was awesome.

And it kind of went downhill from there, for several reasons:

  1. Neither Ryan Gosling nor Emma Stone can really sing. They can, as we say Chez Otter, carry a tune in a bucket, and they look really pretty, but neither are really singers.
  2. The plot was so not that good. Two broke wannabes in LA find each other, but then they have to choose between each other and their dreams. Either way, btdt.
  3. The songs were so generic; I literally cannot remember one tune, phrase or song title, even the one that won an Oscar. Just pretty fluff.

And…you know. Blah blah blah, and except for the VERY pretty eye candy all through this movie, that was about my reaction to it. Glad I watched it, never need to see it again, meh.


Money Train

June 7, 2018

money

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Woody and Wesley are transit cops who have a boss (Robert Blake) who is a bastard and they get back at him by hijacking the subway car that carries all the money for the transit system.

Um, stupid people doing stupid things stupidly.

This is not to say that this movie was not mildly enjoyable; Woody and Wesley are both young and cute (1995) and JLo is ditto. The plot was okay, just unbelieveable enough to make me roll my eyes, which (being in the middle of apheresis at the Red Cross) was about all I could move.

Mildly amusing, a good way to pass the time, no great shakes.


The Night They Raided Minsky’s

September 2, 2017

From the novel of the same name by Rowland Barber

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A burlesque theater in New York is being threatened with closure by a member of the Society for Decency, and an Amish girl who has run away from home shows up looking for a job doing Biblical-themed dance. The theater owner and the star performer hatch a plot to advertise her as a sexy French singer and dancer, then have her do her Bible dance to fool the prudes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. Otter picked this up in a bargain bin, and we watched it with Music Mike. It was a fun evening, with a movie Mr. Otter and I had heard about for many years but never seen. Mike the Builder hadn’t heard of it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is a real artifact from its time, well written and funny. The list of actors is also great: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Elliott Gould, Forrest Tucker, Denholm Elliott, Jack Burns and Bert Lahr, among others.

The buildup is slow (looking backwards from the frantic pace of modern movies) but steady. The character development is the most important thing, and of course setting the scene for the big denouement that is obviously coming, given the title.

A pretty good blast from the past!


How to Stuff a Wild Bikini

August 28, 2017

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We were visiting Craiggers in his lair, and (among other fun and games) we had an evening to watch a movie in. Mr. Otter and Craiggers share a dark secret: they both love Annette Funicello/Beach Blanket type movies from the 60s. We have watched several before with our friend, and it was time for another one!

This was the last of these movies that Funicello made, and in fact, because of her contract with Disney, she couldn’t wear a bikini (unlike pretty much every other woman there…). She had long pants and long sleeves every time she was on camera, even on the beach (she was bookish, and we all know that THOSE PEOPLE never have any fun!)

There was a frame story about her boyfriend being in the South Pacific with the Naval Reserve, and he hires a witch doctor (Buster Keaton) to magically keep an eye on her. There is an animated bikini filled with an invisible ghostly presence floating around for extra laughs, and hijinks ensue.

This was better than some; there were some funny scenes, and it didn’t take itself seriously at all. A good evening’s silliness, especially with alcohol involved…!


Manchester by the Sea

August 28, 2017

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A loner finds out when his brother dies that he has been named as his 16 year old nephew’s guardian.

This is one of those movies that looks really, really good in previews, mostly because of really, really good editing.

We chez Otter really, really like Casey Affleck. (Okay, I’ll stop the really, really thing. Really.) He is a fine actor and has been in a lot of (didn’t say it) very good movies.

This movie felt like it was trying to be deeper than it was, but it never really got off the ground. Taking this kid in makes Affleck’s character face a horrible mistake he made in the past, and they all work through it, and it’s all better in the end. Hope that wasn’t a spoiler, because that was seriously the whole movie.

Lucas Hedges was excellent as the teenager. The writing was good. The story could have been good, but it was like hearing someone tell you a really great story in a mumbling monotone…there are good bits, but they get lost in the telling.

I was underwhelmed by this, although I wanted to like it.


Copper Canyon

March 19, 2017

copper

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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.


White Cargo

March 18, 2017

cargo

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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.