No Time To Die

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Bond comes back from retirement to face yet another villain armed with world-ending technology…

I am conflicted about Bond. For a long time I was a purist: I loved the books and refused to watch any Bond movies that didn’t at least give a nod to a Fleming book or story…but this is the Franchise That Will Not Die, and so must be fed.

And I really really liked (yes, he’s stepping down) Daniel Craig as Bond; I think he’s the best one since Connery, and have actually gone to see all of his movies in the role, unlike other Bonds whose non-canon movies I eschewed (yes, I’m looking at you, Timothy Dalton. And especially The Man of Wood, Pierce Brosnan.)

But…this one was really good. Daniel Craig was really good. The cinematography and special effects and all were really good…and wow, this movie had a lot going on. It was like they all got together and said, this is Craig’s last Bond film, let’s just throw EVERYTHING into it. And they did. And it was a lot of plot devices, reveals, backstory, imminent catastrophe, you name it…but it mostly worked well, and I enjoyed it as much the second time I saw it, six months later.

So okay. It’s the Bond that makes the movie, not the origin material.

So now we have to wait and see who the new Bond will be…

But this movie? Yes, go see it, it’s serious bang for your buck. Well worth it if you like the genre.


Don’t Look Now

November 17, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From a short story of the same name by Daphne DuMaurier

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are in Venice, trying to get over their grief at the death of their only daughter…then WEIRD STUFF starts happening.

This was at the same time compelling, creepy, slow moving, strange and atmospheric, and ultimately satisfying. Sutherland and Christie are great at showing the strain on their marriage their daughter’s death has caused, and their ups and downs are very believable. The wierd psychic stuff is kind of low-key; you have to watch for what is happening to put it all together at the end. And the ending, the final payoff, is very satisfying.

Worth tracking down and watching!


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

Internet Movie Database

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.


Stillwater

September 22, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

An unemployed oil-rig worker from Oklahoma goes to France and takes on the French legal system to try to exonerate his daughter of the charge of murder.

This was pretty darn good. Matt Damon, of course, is the reason Mr. Otter and I ventured out to our local movie theater, but everyone in this movie was good. Damon did a wonderful job of the bewildered father trying desperately to find some way to save his daughter in a country where he doesn’t even speak the language, let alone understand the legal system. The plot has several twists, some fast action and some slow contemplative moments, and all are paced just right.

Very enjoyable!


Black Widow

September 16, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The story of the eponymous Marvel character’s early life and her relationship with her sister.

Before we get started, I want to say that I was REALLY EXCITED about this movie in late 2019, couldn’t wait for it to come out in…Spring of 2020…and we all know how that went. So a year and a half later, we’re all vaxed (at least I hope you are!) and this movie was finally released to theaters. And being a movie-loving Otter, I renewed my Ultimate Movie Pass from Regal and, mask firmly in place, went to see it. And it was LOVELY being in a movie theater again, and I’ve been going ever since…almost always middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-day, but still. I’m lovin’ it.

But I digress.

So let me just say right here and now: I love the MCU. Not ever movie or tv show is stellar, they have dropped the ball a few times, but over all, their body of work is breathtaking. They have been making good movies and tv shows that tell stories that interlock and create a shared history and mythology, characters that viewers really care about, and stories that are (mostly) really really good. And I love nothing better than to head to my local emporium des movies to see whatever the new one is, knowing that at the very least I’ll be entertained with an interesting, fun, well made action film with good characters.

And speaking of characters, this movie…was problematic.

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Just sayin’.

This is a prequel. And that poses big problems for the writers, because I think prequels are the hardest thing there is to write effectively. The audience (mostly) has already seen the movie that tells us what happens to this character (she died in Infinity War), and we’re all watching for continuity errors (given that the MCU is based on alternate timelines impinging on our own, but if that happens it better be for a good reason…). Black Widow’s antecedents wouldn’t have any of that, so whatever we learn about her is more of a memento mori than character growth, since (at least for me) her impending doom overshadowed the story.

It takes place after Civil War, and has flashbacks to her past; the basic plot is that the people who trained her control a bunch of other Black Widows all over the world, and Natasha and her adopted family must stop them.

Now, it was a good story, and when (as I do every few years) I have my next MCU binge and watch all the movies and TV shows in order (just the good ones…I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) then this will fit in nicely after Civil War, and might work better in that context.

Also, I did really like Florence Pugh as her sister, and evidently there is a movie coming up to showcase her as the lead in a group of anti-heroes…not only would I be glad to see that character again, but it would cement this movie more firmly in the MCU as her kickoff rather than a fond look back at a part of Natasha Romanoff’s life and career.

Another shout-out to Serious Honey Rachel Weisz who plays Romanoff’s surrogate mom, and who shows up to help her kick some serious booty.

Did I love it? no, but I liked it for what it was. Would I see it again? Heck yes. Want to join me?


Zorba

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database

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

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

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!


The Painted Veil (2006)

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor takes his unfaithful wife to a cholera outbreak in China.

My book group read this and it was OUTSTANDING. The characters, descriptions, events all masterfully written, what a wonderful book.

I chose the 1934 version of this for our Saturday Zoom Movie night, and when my turn to pick rolled around again, we watched the remake. And it was good, but like the previous one, suffered from rewriting.

This was really good in so many ways; Ed Norton makes a good obsessed researcher, and Naomi Watts is a good choice for Kitty, the vain socialite who marries him. And I love Liev Schrieber, what a good choice he is for Kitty’s lover Townsend!

This movie sticks closer to the book in most ways; the big difference is at the end, when Kitty returns to London, there is a scene between her and Townsend that is a modern woman-empowering rewrite of the book; it’s not bad, but it completely changes her character and her choices. Not sure I’m happy with that…but it’s still a very good movie.

Why don’t you read the book, and then come over and we’ll watch it again and discuss the ending?


The Painted Veil (1934)

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor forces his unfaithful wife to come to a city in China where there is a cholera outbreak.

My book group read this, and it was so good. The characters, the descriptions, and the story were just beautifully written, and I couldn’t put it down. So of course I wanted to see the movie, and when it was my turn to pick on Zoom Movie night with Mr. Otter and CoyoteRambles, we watched this.

So firstly, it’s a GARBO movie. You can’t miss that because the titles, all the freakin’ titles for the WHOLE MOVIE, appear below the giant word GARBO that stays there during the whole title crawl. You can see on the dvd cover above, the same thing. Oh, so Greta Garbo is in this? That’s nice…

But yes, she was that big a star back then. All it took was her name on ANYTHING (and she didn’t make a whole lot of movies, only 32 before she retired and became a professional Garbo-promoter) and people would flock to see it. Now, she was a great actress, but to me, ninety years later, promoting a movie by hyping one cast member seems kind of silly (and it’s still done, and it’s still silly) since it take so many people to make a movie good…especially the WRITER, who never gets enough credit.

Anyway. I digress.

This was a pretty good adaptation of the novel, except that the Hays Code was starting to take effect, which (I assume) is why they completely changed the ending; it’s not bad, and if I hadn’t read the book I would be happy with it…but her character is so much more interesting in the book, and she has so many more layers, that the story here was kind of disappointing. All the actors were good, the film was well made, the writing was good…but, as so often happens, just not nearly as good as the book.

Go read it, then watch this and make up your own mind! The Otter’s betting that you’ll agree.