Dolittle

March 3, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Dr. Doolittle sets out (with his apprentice and a bunch of animals) to find a cure for the Queen’s illness.

I have so many things to say about this movie, very little of it positive…so hold onto your hats, kids ! Oh, and there are SPOILERS if anyone cares (and you shouldn’t, really. Trust the Otter.)

Firstly, let me say that I loved these books; I had a collection of four or five of them in paperback that I read over and over and over. Before seeing this movie I reread the first one, The Story of Dr. Dolittle. And enjoyed it, although being a British book of its time, it is not politically correct in any way. So I was ready to see a more modern and less Rex Harrison-y version, and to like it very much. I mean, ROBERT DOWNEY JR? Oh yes.

And I was in the theater with Ottersis. And the movie started…and the opening credits were pretty awesome. They were set against a series of drawings showing the story of how Dolittle had a medical practice, learned to talk to animals, met a beautiful woman explorer, fell in love, she had to go on one more voyage, her ship was wrecked, and she sent Polly the parrot (whose REAL name was Polynesia, dammit!) back to Dolittle with her wedding ring…and he became a recluse.

THEN the movie started with him hiding in his house like Willy Wonka in the shut-down chocolate factory.

And you know what they say about sequels, that they’re never as good as the first movie? It was true in this case too…because the story that was told in the opening credits was AWESOME and would have made a WONDERFUL movie. This, although technically a stand-alone, was really a sequel to that story, and like most sequels…it SUCKED. (Here’s Otter’s list of Sequels that Don’t Suck)

Firstly, it was predictable. Grieving curmudgeon is forced to come back to life by a cute child and His Duty.

Secondly, the animals were way more fun than any of the actors.

Thirdly, Downey was just not at the top of his game. He was so completely phoning it in that I thought maybe he owed a favor to whoever made this damn thing and had been forced to appear in it. I mean, Iron Man. The Avengers. And as soon as his Avengers contract is over, he does…THIS? But no. He was the executive producer. It was his baby.

He must bear the blame. Especially for NOT engaging his audience, a mortal sin in a kids’ movie. Gene Wilder was a curmudgeon but (as soon as the ‘walking slowly out of the factory and scaring everyone’ part was over, he was obviously fun and interesting and engaged with the kids. Downey…was not. Granted, it can’t have been easy doing that much green screen time, since most of the actors in this movie (the animals) were cgi…but he’s done this before and it’s worked. It truly looked and felt like he just didn’t want to be there at all. And after a bit, neither did I. He was so low-key and nonreactive that it was almost painful to watch him…he was certainly not interested in engaging his audience, any more than he was interested in the movie he was STARRING IN…!

Fourthly, the plot was trite and didn’t make sense. The queen is sick, we have to assume Queen Victoria, although she is never mentioned by name. She is played by a 30 year old woman and looks younger than that, but we’ll give it 30. That would mean this movie is set in 1869 or thereabouts, but nothing in the politics or period detail reflect this. But wait, you say, this is a kid’s movie, you are overthinking it! Nope. If a movie has a definite time and place, it has to WORK. This didn’t. And of course there are plots, and one of her advisors is poisoning her with a nebulous poison that leaves her at the brink of death for an unspecified time, which Dolittle goes off on adventures and gets the fruit to make her better and gets back JUST in time to unmask the bad guy and fix ol’ Queenie right up. Shades of The Magician’s Nephew, seriously.

The CGI animals were darn cute, although a little too cute and scene-stealy. The rest of the cast was fine. But the plot…there were other plot problems, which brings me to

Fifthly. More than once, we are told about something amazing and exciting, either because the movie was getting too long or they ran out of CGI budget. There was a point, I think when they reached the island of the guy who was supposed to help them but threw them into prison instead, and the movie literally cut from the ship to them climbing up the ramparts of the castle while the parrot (Emma Thompson) who was also the narrator told us that amazing adventures had happened to get them there. Huh? Then why didn’t you show them to us instead of referring to them so offhandedly? This is just plain bad writing, for whatever reason, and should not have happened.

So yes, I disliked this movie intensely. It was badly written, Downey was awful, and the plot, even for a kid’s movie, was trite and annoying. Why, oh why, did they not make the movie from the beginning credits? I guess we’ll never know…

 


Cats

February 18, 2020

Internet Movie Database           Movie Reviews

From the wonderful Old Possom’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot

And the stage play by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

A group of cats are waiting to see who will be chosen to be reborn into a new life. Really, that’s the plot.

I am an old enough otter to remember when this show came out; a dear friend had tickets and couldn’t go, so she gave them to me and Mr. Otter, and we sat in the THIRD ROW CENTER. There were cats EVERYWHERE. And I loved the poetry, which I had never read, and got the book, and got the album, and listened to it a lot, and…got over it. Not the poetry, that’s still awesome. And in fact Jennyanydots was my cat, and if you want to hear stories about her I’d be glad to tell them, she was one of the Great Cats.

But I digress.

The thing you have to know is, we Chez Otter DO NOT LIKE Andrew Lloyd Webber. We DO NOT LIKE him with a particular and virulent passion  that we reserve for few other human beings. We don’t play his music, or go to any of the millions of the revivals of Phantom, or anything like that, and when his name comes up we heap SCORN on him. My favorite comment about this show is, yes, but he had a great lyricist…

Although I have to admit I inadvertently tear up whenever I hear the song Memories, so there it is.

So this movie trailer came out and pretty much broke the internets. I think we were all under the assumption that this would be more like a filmed version of the play, with HUMANS in cat makeup. Instead of the weird looking CGI…THINGS… that were on stage. And the movie opened to even more WTF and furor.

I turned to Ottersis. Want to go hate-watch Cats? (yes, this is a thing).

Sure, she said, and we did.

And, well. At least I had seen the trailers and read about what to expect, because WTF was a pretty mild reaction.

They put people in full-body fur suits and CGI’d over them to make them…kinda…look…like…maybe…cats? They more looked like people in tight fur suits, because PEOPLE ARE JOINTED DIFFERENTLY FROM CATS and (as the man says) there’s no doing anything about it. So even thought they tried to look like actual felines, it failed, and looked wierder than if they were just people dancing like people.

The furry ‘suits’ were really odd, the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, they CGI’d the actors’ bodies to look more like cats, but all they ended up being was amorphous shapes…no boobs (hmm, cgi’ing 6 nipples on Taylor Swift might have been interesting…) and of course no boy bits on the boy kitties, although (as I said to my sis) at least they had the good sense to neuter these travesties so they don’t reproduce…! Their fur is fur, but doesn’t really look like cat fur, it more looks like thin soft rabbit fur. This makes the actors even less catlike than they would have been if the feline-ness were just suggested. Didn’t work for me.

And they had them on overlarge sets to make them look like they were cat-sized, but the relative sizes of the stuff around them wasn’t consistent, so it was just wierd as well.

To (I guess) make it more of a story/experience/worth the money, they rewrote it and added a lot of plot that wasn’t originally there…including at least one more song, which was completely MEH. The new (way overwritten) plot was stupid, and there was WAY too much overproduction…more sets, dancing cats, fancy effects, you name it.

At its core, this is a simple musical that shows off Eliot’s brilliant poetry to great effect; all the boom and whango of the movie doesn’t add anything to that, and distracts from it. It would have been SO much better to pick a really good production of the play (or hire the actors to do one) and present that…but no.

I understand that this has already become a cult singalong movie…have fun, kids. I have so many earworms from this show (even as I type) that I don’t dare go see it again for fear my head would explode…

 


Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Review

Um, you know, the good guys need to defeat the bad guys because it’s the last movie.

I am of an age to have seen the original Star Wars movie (which I will forever refer to as Star Wars, NOT ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’, dammit!) in the theaters, and if you have listened to any of us old people go on and on about it, you know what a life changer that was. As were the two sequels.

Then came the travesties that were the prequels, and the less said about them the better. (Episode I came out before I started writing reviews and I’m sure not going back and seeing it again, but here are Episode II and Episode III for your reading pleasure.)

Then Disney bought the franchise, and of course they had to make billions more dollars and put their stamp on it…and the first of their movies, that would be Episode VII, was pretty good. The second, Episode VIII, was pretty good.

Aaaand…here’s the one where they are supposed to wrap all of it up in a pretty bow, and finish it off satisfyingly. And…not so good.

As my daughter, Maid of Awesome, said, it’s okay for a standalone but really doesn’t work as part of the series.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan. I can’t tell you who all the characters and aliens and background plot points are. But even I had trouble with some things:

The ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ are really hard to tell apart. I don’t mean the individual people- obviously, if they’re wearing black, or look scary, or have British accents, they’re BAD. Otherwise they’re GOOD. The Republic and the Resistance are the good guys (and if they’re a Republic, why do they need to also be the Resistance?). The First Order is bad guys. Okay. But the good guys are presented as scrappy fighters without much of a budget, fighting against the big bad guys…but they always seem to have a nice big army at the end, like this movie, where literally thousands of spacecraft show up to fight the bad guys. Who coordinated that? and how? You can’t just send out one call for help and hope someone shows up…and the bad guys had this amazing fleet of ships on a secret planet, each one with a weapon that could vaporize an entire planet. Why were they sitting there waiting for the good guys to destroy them, instead of being used?

Stuff like that kept bothering me, and to be honest, there were so many characters jockeying for their minute of screen time that I was not even trying to keep track, but just letting it flow in front of my eyes. I was sorry that Rose got shorted in this one, she was a good character. Poe just had the ‘maverick’ label stuck on him, so his major character trait was to go off half-cocked and do whatever he wanted in any given situation…not a good thing in a secret army. I felt like the writers were just coming up with characters, and audience reaction would determine who got a good role in the next movie. Again, not good.

This was okay but not great, and I can’t envision myself ever wanting to see it again. At least (I hope) the series is over; the one-offs seem to have stopped with the abysmal failure of Solo. But with Disney, nothing ever ends…


City Beneath the Sea

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A city beneath the sea. Alien attacks. Irwin Allen. What more do you need to know?

We knew this would be cheesy going into it…Irwin Allen, for those of you who missed the 1970s, is synonymous with big (or low, in this case) budget disaster movies, his two most famous being The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. This…is not of that calibre.

This is a silly, low-budget, badly written filler of a movie. The sets are slightly futuristic but minimally so to keep them cheap; I was about to say they were on a par with low-budget tv series of the time, and looked on IMDB and found that this was indeed a made-for-tv movie. Nuf sed. The costumes lean towards jumpsuits for the men and tight miniskirts for the women, because the future will of course be like that. The writing is abysmal, about the level of a 1930s serial movie like Flash Gordon. This movie is only good to make fun of, which we did.

Otherwise, don’t waste your time on this dog.

 


For Me and my Gal

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

George Murphy, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly are vaudeville performers and there’s a love triangle and Judy’s brother gets sent off to WWI and stuff happens interspersed with song and dance numbers. You know how it goes.

This was a fairly mediocre movie for its time, been there done that. A couple of decent dance numbers, and for once Gene Kelly didn’t pull his hat over his ears…then suddenly they turn it into a huge patriotic spectacle for (in the movie) WWI but of course it was actually for WWII because this was made in 1942. Not only is the change jarring, but it’s eye-rollingly jingoistic and kind of boring, and detracts from any liking this otter had for the movie up to that point.

Not to mention the really clunky plot device they used to keep Gene Kelly from being drafted so he could go out and entertain the troops, find Judy, redeem himself, and be all patriotic and stuff.

Pretty lame, even for a musical of this era. Judy was certainly in there trying to keep it above water, but that was the only thing it had going for it.

 


Anything Goes

September 21, 2018

anything

Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

Two song-and-dance men on a sea cruise rehearsing a new show with two women, plus gangsters. Hijinks ensue.

This is a pretty badly done remake of a sparking and wonderful Cole Porter musical. Not only did P G Wodehouse co-write it, but Sidney Sheldon, he of Sexy Potboiler Thriller fame, had some kind of hand in it…and the script is just awful, even for a 50s musical.

Plus extra songs were added in, which OF COURSE don’t stand up to the original brilliance of Cole Porter.

Bing Crosby and a VERY young-looking Donald O’Connor (but he always looked young, come to think of it) are mugging their way through this thing, trying to be upbeat and doing what they can to keep up the pace; a woman named Zizi Jeanmaire (and who did very little else in her career) and Mitzi Gaynor are the female leads.

There are a few good moments, but you have to sit through a lot of bad ones to get to them. Give this one a pass.


7 Days in Entebbe

March 20, 2018

entebbe

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A ‘Inspired by True Events’ story about the hijackers who took a planeful of people (including a hundred Israeli citizens) to Uganda, and how the Israeli government sent special forces troops in to rescue them.

Mr. Otter and I went to see this; both of us, of course, were around when it happened, but considering that it was the month I graduated from high school, I wasn’t reading a lot of newspapers at the moment. But nobody at that time could miss hearing about it, it was a huge deal. And still is.

This movie…is not as good as we hoped it would be. I can’t speak for absolute historical accuracy, but they spent a lot of time trying to humanize the terrorists, which neither Mr. Otter nor I thought was either a good idea or very well done.

There was also a big plot thread with one of the soldiers and his girlfriend, who was pissed off that he wouldn’t be around to see her dance performance (really? Army guy is supposed to not follow orders to see your show?) and many cuts to the dance itself, which was an modernish thing that had us saying, Huh? Here is what Mr. Otter found out about it afterwards, because (good librarian that he is) he looked it up:

Mr. Otter: Apparently the first one is a piece about conformity among
the Haredim, which is supposed to somehow tie in to Israel’s tough
stance vis-avis the Palestinians. It’s a fairly famous piece, first
danced in 1990. The other piece is probably something about something,
too.

The second piece was during the credits, and was also a weird modern thing. And btw, this is not a reflection on the dancers, who were excellent; it just seemed out of place in a movie like this, especially with no explanation. I would have been happier with more politics and soldiering and less touchy-feely. I wonder if this stuff was put in specifically so that women would come to see an action movie?

This was okay, but not great. There was not enough tension, and the politics and public opinion were mostly told rather than shown…we were pretty nonplussed by the whole thing.


Geostorm

November 7, 2017

 Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews.

From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….

 


Tortilla Flat

March 18, 2017

tortilla

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Based on the book Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

A group of happy-go-lucky guys in a small town on the California coast way back when there were sardine fisheries and everyone spoke with some kind of fake accent.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the first movie, and we were looking forward to it because not only was Ms. Lamarr in it, but also Spencer Tracy, several other good bit players, and it was adapted from a Steinbeck novel which Mr. Otter loved as a kid (Although I have read a lot of Steinbeck and enjoyed it, I have never read this one.)

And…it was pretty bad. Hedy was good, and extremely beautiful. John Garfield (as a Mexican-American…!) was cute and had a decent role, although he didn’t seem too bright, since he kept letting Tracy’s crew take advantage of him.

But oh my god, Spencer Tracy and his pack of layabouts (including Akim Tamiroff and Sheldon Leonard) were SO FREAKIN’ ANNOYING! Lazy assholes taking advantage of everyone, and Tracy’s character was so manipulative we were yelling at the TV by the end. The crap this pack of losers got away with, and the stunts they pulled, and their justifications for lying, stealing, arson and drinking, were just teeth-grindingly awful, especially as they were supposed to be happy-go-lucky older Mexican-Americans as well. But even for the time (1942) when this was made, they were just freakin’ annoying.

The only older guy in the town we really liked was Frank Morgan as the Dog-guy. He and his dogs were great. And John Garfield was cute and nice, if gormless. And Hedy was beautiful.

Otherwise? meh.