Duck Soup

March 3, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Groucho ends up running a country. Wheee!

Who doesn’t love the Marx Brothers? Well, at least we Chez Otter do! CoyoteRambles was visiting, and movies are a big part of his visits, so we all decided on having some fun and watching this again.

It’s one of my fav Marx Bro movies; the ridiculousness of the plot (Groucho is made the leader of a fictional country that is on the brink of war with another country. You can guess how well that turns out…), the Hail Freedonia song (as well as Hurray for Captain Spaulding), the costumes and settings, the silliness of everything going on…this movie has it all!

Whether or not you have seen it before, or even if you have never seen the Marx Brothers at the top of their game, this is a great one to watch over and over and over…


2001: A Space Odyssey

February 18, 2020

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There is a book with this title by Arthur C. Clarke; he worked on it with Stanley Kubrick while the movie was being filmed, and the book was released after the movie came out with out.

Like I can describe this movie in one sentence. Okay, here goes: Human evolution as enhanced by wierd monoliths, from early man to space travel, and what happens to the first astronauts to go to Jupiter. Hm. Not perfect, but it’ll do.

I saw this movie when it was new, when I was a very young otter indeed, at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome, which has an 86 FOOT WIDE SCREEN. It was quite an experience, and I’ve never forgotten the wonder and coolness of that movie, and have seen it many times.

And yet, here it is 2020, and I had not reviewed it…which means that I have not seen it since January 1, 2002, which is when I started reviewing every movie I watch. Wow. That amazed me.

CoyoteRambles was visiting us, and as is our wont, after a good dinner we settled down with some delicious libations to watch a movie or two. This came up in the conversation, and since he had taught it in a class for foreign students, we decided to watch it; one of the best things about watching movies with CoyoteRambles is that he knows so much about movies.

And as I remembered, it was wonderful.

But…there are SPOILERS ahead.

If you are one of the few in the world who haven’t seen it yet, you may want to come back to this review after watching it. Go ahead, I’ve got some free time.

You back? Okay!

So yes, the cinematography is amazing. And beautiful in many ways. We found out from CR that the only reason the makeup artist DIDN’T win an Oscar for the first section, the apelike hominids, was because everyone thought they were really apes instead of people with amazing makeup…wow.

It’s fun, fifty years later, to see the concept of future tech.

On the one hand, video phone calls and recorded video messages. On the other hand, no handheld devices.

On the one hand, computers. On the other hand, mostly keypads or voice commands.

On the one hand, a regular shuttle flight to the space station, stewardess and all. On the other hand, palatial amounts of room and meal/drinks service…not really the travel experience of today for most people, plus for a trip like that economizing on space would be important.

Hindsight is so easy. But the internal logic of how all of it worked together was very consistent, and a joy to watch, either then or now…although seeing it as a 10 year old, the plot didn’t completely make sense to me until I read the book…but I was that kind of kid, ALWAYS read the book.

CoyoteRambles said he had had an epiphany about the movie, even after watching it umpteen times: at the end Kier Dullea finds a hidden recorded message about the government finding a monolith on the moon, realizing that it was sending a signal to Jupiter, and covering that up…and that ‘knowing’ that, having it in his memory but having to lie about it, was what drove HAL crazy. That was an interesting insight!

This is one of the truly great movies. If you haven’t seen it, do it now.

 

 


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

February 4, 2020

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From the book of the same title by Jules Verne.

A group of scientists trying to find out what has happened to a missing ship in the early 1800s finds a reclusive misanthrope who lives in a submarine and takes his revenge on the world by attacking merchant ships and military vessels.

This was one of my favorite books when I was a young otter, and I have to say that Disney cheesiness aside, it’s a heck of a movie. Mr. Otter has loved this movie since he first saw it in the theater, and showed it to me many years ago.

Kirk Douglas is the main character and comedy relief, as a harpooner who is invited to join Professor Aronnax’s expedition to find the missing ship; after they do come across Nemo, they realize they must stop him.

James Mason is wonderful as Nemo, as he on the one hand proudly shows off all his scientific innovations and on the other foams at the mouth when talking about the evils of modern society. Douglas is amusing and well cast, and Peter Lorre is the professor’s much-put-upon assistant. There is also a sea lion mascot, and a giant squid attack. Who could ask for more?

This is just fun to watch, no history or science brain needed.

 


Les Visiteurs du Soir

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The Devil sends two demons to a castle in the Middle Ages to torment earthly souls.

When I was a young otter, back in the beforetime when movies were only available to watch when the Television Gods scheduled them, one would check the TV listings every week to see what was being shown and when, and plan ones calendar around seeing the things one loved because who knew when- or if- they would ever come back?

This movie was one of my favorites, and I would always stay up til whatever wierd hour it was being shown to see it again. It’s romantic (the demons decide to make two humans fall in love with them and thus destroy them, and you know what happens instead…!), beautifully filmed in black and white, and a treat to watch, even with subtitles. Very quiet and slow-moving by today’s standards, but stately and beautiful and inevitable in its course.

Interestingly enough, this movie was filmed in Vichy in 1942, in Nazi-controlled France; the reason they made a historical fantasy was to avoid censorship…but then they created an amazing gem of a movie.

If you haven’t seen it, find it…and have your box of kleenex handy.

 


Alien

May 10, 2019

alien

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A nearly perfect horror movie, with the crew of a space ship trying to escape/survive a deadly alien life force.

I saw this in the movie theater the year it came out (1979); it was the same summer Jaws was re-released, which is actually a great juxtaposition! I’m not a big one for jump scares or slasher movies, but this was well made and classy.

And I probably saw it a couple more times in the 80s, and maybe once after we got the DVD…but I know I haven’t seen it in 17 years, because I started this blog January 1 2002, and am only now reviewing this movie.

Which…actually ages pretty well. I mean, sure, a lot of the tech is dinosaurish, but one has to expect that, as fast as everything has changed. But the basics- a work crew out in the galaxy, harvesting raw materials from other planets, out of communication with Earth and having to deal with anything that comes up on their own, including problems with each other, is totally believable and very well done here.

All the actors are just amazingly young…this was made forty years ago as I write, so from this perspective they all look like teenagers! But the writing and acting was just as good as I remember it; the atmosphere is tense, the aliens are scary as hell…and of course Jonesie is the best cat ever.

Worth seeing, or seeing again. A classic in its genre.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The lives of two outlaws and the woman who loves one of them.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, chez Otter, and this year’s theme was Best Cinematography Oscar Winners. We had picked eight movies, drawn the names of four randomly, and watched them, with nine people coming in and out at different times…but by 9 pm, everyone else had gone. And as is often our wont, Mr. Otter and I were not ready to call it quits. So we watched this one as well.

I loved this movie when I was a young Otter, although I don’t think I ever saw it in a theater…I do remember watching it on TV every time the Television Scheduling Gods decided to show it (because, kids, in those days nobody had control over what was shown or when; you had a paper television schedule and you’d check it to see what was available for your viewing pleasure. The old days SUCKED.) and in fact, it was a family favorite.

But I had not seen this movie in at least 20 years if not more…and it was time to revisit my old friends.

And…it held up pretty well, for a movie where I could have quoted most of the dialogue along with the actors. I really like director George Roy Hill’s work (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean was another family favorite), William Goldman was a stellar writer, and I have and always will have a HUGE crush on Paul Newman. Robert Redford, not so much, but Newman was tops in the Otter Book of Actors to Crush On.

This is one of the revisionist Westerns that started being made in the 60s and 70s, where the outlaws are the sympathetic characters and full of charm, whatever their flaws…and (except for that damn song in the middle) this is well written, with good plotting and character development, a lot of amusement but also serious moments.

I’m glad to say that this is still a winner. Come on over and we’ll watch it sometime and put pillows over our heads and scream during that awful song.


Ghostbusters II

March 1, 2018

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The Ghostbusters are back! and this time they’re working with Sigourney Weaver to stop a centuries-old evil guy who wants to return to life…

OtherOtter and I were hanging out and decided to watch a movie, which of course meant trying to find something we both had not seen lately and wanted to watch…this one fit the bill nicely. She had not seen it and it has obviously been at least 16 years since I have, since there is no review of it.

And it was fun! it’s not as funny as the original, of course, but then nothing is. The Ghostbusters have fallen on hard times and disbelief, Sigourney Weaver has been married and divorced and has a child but no husband, and there is a bad guy wanting to be reincarnated into her kid. Hijinks ensue.

This was, of course, dated…and watching it with a 20something, there were many times I said, you’ve never heard of (reference they just made), have you? Sigh. But we enjoyed it.

Not top of the list, but good for an evenings amusement.


Dracula (1931)

January 21, 2018

dracula

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From the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker. If you haven’t read it, for goodness sakes do it, it’s great.

An ancient vampire moves to England and makes a play for beautiful Mina. Can her fiancé stop him?

Craiggers and I were driving for nine hours together, and we had been together all weekend. We had been staying up too late and we were tired and talked out. I know he likes horror movies. I have this podcast series, I said, and I haven’t listened to it yet…want to try it?

And he did.

The series is Karina Longworth’s excellent and eclectic take on Hollywood’s first hundred years, called You Must Remember This. She has done many excellent serial podcasts, and the one I just happened to have on my ancient iPod Classic was a six-part series about Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, which we greatly enjoyed.

And that night, we had to watch this…I’m sure I saw it when I was a kid; it was always on TV, and my mom had seen it in the movie theater when she was six, when it was new. She said she sat in the front row with her older brothers, and when the closeup came of Dracula about to bite Mina’s neck, she went scampering to her parents in the back of the theater.

But I really couldn’t remember actually sitting, watching it and paying attention to it. And after hearing the podcast, I wanted to, as did Craiggers.

This was really really good. I love Tod Browning’s work, and had read about this from the other end in a bio of Browning; he was originally going to cast superstar Lon Chaney for the part, but Chaney died…this might have made him a better Dracula if it hadn’t seriously impacted his acting ability…! So Lugosi was hired to play the role, and did it to a T. He is suave, creepy and very Transylvanian. The closeups of his eyes, with a strip of light across them, are awesome, as is his whole presence.

Renfield, the lawyer who helped Dracula sell his castle (and imagine buying that!) and who is Dracula’s creepy minion, is great as well, chewing scenery with the best of them with his mad passion for eating gross insects, and Mina is ethereal and beautiful and not as passive as one might have thought.

Bela Lugosi was 48 at the time this was made, and this was literally the high point of his life…it seems like the rest of his career was an attempt to recapture the glory he had in 1931 for about 9 months, until Frankenstein (starring Boris Karloff) was released, eclipsing his star. Such is fame.

But all in all, an excellent movie, both as a film and as a piece of cinematographic and literary history. If you haven’t seen it, watch it (after you read the book, of course!) You will thank the Otter.


The Last Remake of Beau Geste

April 8, 2017

lastbeau

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Very loosely based on the novel Beau Geste by P. C. Wren

Two Englishmen end up in the French Foreign Legion because of the theft of a famous and valuable jewel.

Confession: I, the Otter, am a HUGE French Foreign Legion junkie. I have a couple of dozen books (plus just about everything P.C. Wren ever wrote, and I’m not kidding), and have seen all the movies and tv shows I can find on Le Légion étrangère. 

I saw this movie when it was new (a couple of times, I think, back when you had to see it when it was at a theater, because there was no way to watch it at home when you wanted to…yes, I’m old.) and I remember that it was hysterically funny. Now, there is a phenomenon which we Chez Otter call the “Caddyshack effect”, where you remember something you saw when young as being awesome and it isn’t when you see it twenty or thirty or forty years later…but I was willing to take the risk.

I saw this on Amazon.com, and bought it…and a bit later Mr. Otter and I watched it, with not a little trepidation on my part.

And it was fun. Silly 70s era fun, with a lot of good people (Michael York, Ann-Margret, Marty Feldman, and a host of people who were well-known then but not so much now) being pretty amusing. The plot was silly but good, and gave a couple of nods to the novel, and it was nice to see it again.

Not one of the funniest or best movies of all time, but certainly fun to watch, and (more importantly) not at all disappointing. Whew.


The Green Mile

January 26, 2017

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From the novel of the same name by Stephen King

A prison guard in charge of Death Row in the 1930s South takes charge of a prisoner with unexplainable abilities.

This is one of those perfect movies. I remember seeing it in the theater, and how overwhelmed I was at just how good it is. The book is one of King’s best, originally published in six parts as a serialized novel (and it worked very well in this format, which was how I originally read it, although nowadays it’s collected into one volume).

Tom Hanks is in charge of the ‘Green Mile’, which is the section of the prison that’s Death Row. It’s in the 30s, so prisoners are executed with an electric chair, which is a big part of the plot. There’s a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, a crazy bastard of a prison guard, and a whole lot of great plotting and good writing.

And the ending is perfect as well.

I really can’t praise this movie highly enough, and I’m trying not to say ANYTHING that will give any part of it away; it’s written so perfectly, every single detail fits in so well, that to tell any of it would rob you of the enjoyment of seeing it for the first time…and if you’ve already seen it, no need for me to blather about how good it is, you already know.

Whenever someone says, Top ten movies? the list changes. I know The Princess Bride is on it. I know The Man Who Would Be King is on it. And I know this movie is on it. The other seven? We’ll have to get together and discuss that, won’t we?