Macbeth (1961)

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database

From the play of the same name by William Shakespeare.

Aaah,  the Scottish Play. With the Scottish Sean Connery. Back when he was seriously young and not well known, a year before Dr. No.

This is one of those 60s television theater productions, with minimal scenery, stark lighting and very earnest actors…and you know, Sean isn’t half bad, although then as now he tended to run his words together almost unintelligibly. There was nobody else in the production that I had ever heard of, but they were all good, probably bright lights of the TV theater scene at the time.

This is a pretty well done production, and worth seeing. Although they don’t cut off Macbeth’s head in the end and parade around with it, for some reason, even though that’s a high point of the play…


The House with a Clock in its Walls

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book with the same name by John Bellairs

A recently orphaned boy goes to live with his uncle and finds out that said uncle is a sorcerer…and the house he lives in hides a secret that can destroy the universe.

So firstly: the book. I loved this book when it came out, and during my years as a children’s librarian would hand it to any kid who was looking for a scary story that was more engaging than Goosebumps. It’s creepy, atmospheric, and (bonus) illustrated by Edward Gorey, which only adds to the creepy factor. After seeing this movie, I reread the book…and did enjoy it, remembering the major plot twists as I read, and vividly remembering the illustrations. But (as many older things are to our modern sensibilities) it had less ‘scary roller coaster’ feel to it than I remembered; although the payoff at the end is still awesome, much of the book is descriptive rather than action. Which I enjoyed, but modern readers (aka kids) might not.

And then there’s the movie. Jack Black is awesome as Lewis’ uncle Jonathan, and Cate Blanchett is the next-door neighbor and Jonathan’s best friend. It was nice to see that the movie kept their relationship friendly without throwing love overtones in it; not every pair of people hanging out together has to be romantic. The story was good and of course the special effects were excellent.

But (and you knew this was coming, right?) But.

And here’s where the SPOILERS come in…

Kyle MacLachlan (or as he’s known Chez Otter, Peggy Waffles) is the evil Isaac Izard, who, with his wife, want to unmake the world even after they’re dead. Which is their whole motivation in the book, and a perfectly good one. But no. Not in the movie. In the movie, Izard wants to start time over again so that his PTSD will go away. Seriously. Not because humanity sucks, not because he lost someone and wants to get him/her back, not because he’s just evil and rolls that way. He’s a whinyboy trying to make all the hurty feelings go away.

As a motive, it really didn’t work for me. PTSD is so prevalant for so many awful reasons that this guy just made me roll my eyes and want to smack him upside the head for a whiner.

And I really get tired of bad guys needing hifalutin reasons for being bad…almost every movie now does this, and I’m pretty tired of it. I’d love to see one about a bad guy who’s just bad because he’s, well, BAD.

LIke, well, Joker…


Aquaman

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A princess of the undersea kingdom Atlantis refuses an arranged marriage, shows up on the doorstep of a lighthouse keeper, falls in love (of course), they have a kid and she has to go back.

There are a couple of SPOILERS below, but really, don’t worry about them, you’ve already guessed what’s going to happen…or won’t care by the time they do…

Oh, DC, why do you keep doing this to me? Why do I keep LETTING you do this to me over and over? It’s the classic abuse pattern- you show me awesome teaser trailers, and I think, this time it’ll be different! This time will be better! THIS movie won’t SUCK.

But it does.

The only exception I’ve found to this was the really good Wonder Woman movie…but the rest? meh. This one didn’t suck as badly as (insert name of any Batman or Superman movie made in the last 10 years)…but that doesn’t make it good.

So yes. I did have high hopes for this movie. They did Wonder Woman right, after all, so now they KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right? Marvel has practically made a checklist of HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, and DC has been studying their movies assiduously, so they get it now, right? They read all the bad press on the last ten years of suck, and they’re not going do do that any more, because NOT doing all that stuff will tell them HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right?

Right?

Well, no.

I do not know what is going on at DC, but Aquaman had all the same flaws as the rest of their movies. There were some things that have been improved, but not nearly enough. What could be improved?

  1. Jason Mamoa is really adorable; not only handsome, but he’s got a personality, and that comes through when he plays Aquaman. What does not come through is any vestige of acting ability. And he mumbles a lot, which for les femmes d’un certain age makes it REALLY hard to care about the interpersonal dynamics because I miss some of the witty repartee that passes for character development here.
  2. Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Things happen by coincidence or just because. Characters find stuff they need to find almost without trying. Things are where they need to be (or not where they should be) because if it happened otherwise the plot wouldn’t move. THIS IS EXTREMELY ANNOYING.
  3. Why can’t someone just, like, die or be gone? His mother is dragged away by her-father-the-king’s warrior minions, and shows up again in this wierd middle-of-the-earth kind of place protecting (what a coincidence!) the very thing he needs to be king himself. That nobody but he has ever been able to fight well enough to reach. Um, okay, sure. WAAAY too much of this movie just has to be accepted on faith. 
  4. The whole air vs. water thing. In the Justice League movie, one of the things that made me roll my eyes was when Aquaman went to his undersea kingdom and he and someone else (might have been his mom then too) had to GET INTO A BUBBLE OF AIR to talk. No, didn’t work. So now the filmmakers have decided that air or water works with no difference for talking or listening or whatever. Except it does, of course. And in theory, he is the synthesis of water and air and is comfortable in either. But so is his girlfriend. And his mother. And the minions sent to fetch her. So why is he special? 
  5. The whole ‘kid who can suddenly talk to animals’ scene, straight from the Harry Potter movies. Which is cute with a kid. But when he’s a grownup and fighting battles, isn’t it WRONG to use your command over all the aquatic species to simply order them to fight for you, and to let you ride them to war where they get killed with no choice in the matter? Really? I hated that.
  6. And finally…the whole DC need for attention. The way the main character strikes a pose, not just once as in the Marvel movies when he/they are about to take care of business, but OVER and OVER and OVER. There were at least 5 times in this movie when Aquaman would stop for just a second, strike a superhero pose, and then go do whatever it was. And he changed underwater armor like Cher in a concert, he had at least three sets of it, finishing up with GOLD LAMÉ … or LAME, as I see it. 

DC has a justly earned reputation of venerating their characters, wanting them to be larger than life, impressive and, well, SUPER. The problem is, THAT IS NOT GOOD MOVIEMAKING. As we’ve seen over and over and over again, the more they try to impress us with how totally cool they are, the less cool the movies are. This one was supposed to do for DC what Iron Man did for Marvel…and it might have, with good writing and character development, two things Marvel excels in right now. 

Sorry, DC. You lose.


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.


The Student Prince

February 1, 2019
prince

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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 Desert Song

July 12, 2018

desert

Internet Movie Database

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.


Money Train

June 7, 2018

money

Internet Movie Database           Movie Reviews

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.