The Men who Stare at Goats

April 8, 2017

mengoats

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson

Several men are involved in the US Army’s attempts to make new-age and paranormal abilities useful in spying and combat.

I was at the Red Cross to do Apheresis, which means a couple of hours with needles in my arms, and I was looking for something amusing to watch, and this caught my eye…and boy, was it ever amusing. I was laughing out loud and all the nurses were coming over to see what was so funny.

The cast is stellar- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey. Ewan MacGregor is a reporter trying to find out about a program that was designed to teach soldiers (or spies) to use mind power for various things, including making an enemy’s heart stop by staring at them (they trained on goats, hence the title). He tracks down Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all of whom have history with each other, and he is led on a chase from one place to another as he tries to find out the truth.

This was actually a gem-well written, funny, full of great details. The military background is hilarious, and Clooney is so deadpan it’s amazing.

Trust the otter- use your mental powers to track it down, you’ll be glad you did.

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The Last Remake of Beau Geste

April 8, 2017

lastbeau

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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 Revenant

January 25, 2017

revenant

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“Based in part on” the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

Guy gets mauled by a bear, left for dead, returns (title, get it?) to take revenge. Wonder how it’s going to end?

This won a SLEW of awards, including Best Actor, Director and Cinematography awards, and was nominated for even more (both Golden Globe and Academy awards). And…well…I’ll give you cinematography and even director.  Leo didn’t have to do more than stumble around looking half dead, so although he’s an excellent actor, there is no way I would agree that he deserved best actor for this; it was probably just, oh, here’s Leo again, we’ll give it to him so he’ll stop bothering us. And you notice that neither of these august bodies offered this movie best screenplay.

And why? Because it was AWFUL.

Yes, I came out and said it. One of the most talked about and lauded movies of the year (2013) that it was made…is just appallingly awful.

And there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you really do want to watch this tedious and annoying movie without knowing what will happen (but you really do know what will happen, trust me…there are no surprises in store) then stop reading here and come back after you’ve wasted TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF YOUR SHORT LIFE on this thing. You could have read my review in five minutes and then picked up a good book, but no. You have to show how you know better than I do. Go ahead. See where it gets you. Prove me wrong.

I’ll just wait here.

(2 hours and 34 minutes later)

So. Now you know. Aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to the Otter?

I was at the Red Cross, doing apheresis, which means that I spent nearly three hours in a chair, covered with warm blankets, needles in both arms while they took out all my blood, drained the plasma and platelets, and put it back. And I get to watch a movie. I picked this one.

Oh my god. Tedious, moody, serious as all hell. Very very very predictable. Sudden flashbacks to tell the backstory (about his Native American wife, which explains why his young son is with him (because their village got torched by Bad Men and she died in the fire and they were the ONLY TWO who survived)). Then he gets mauled by a bear. Oddly enough, him surviving this is one of the few parts of the story I DON’T have a problem with; it did happen from time to time. Not likely, but possible. But the bad guy (Tom Hardy, excellent as always, although (as another reviewer pointed out) he is a serious mumbler…) gets tired of waiting, decides that Leo won’t make it, and ends up killing his son, then mostly burying Leo because he’s mostly dead anyway. Cue revenge music.

So of course Leo survives (and at one point puts gunpowder on the wound in his throat and lights is to cauterize it…THAT made my disbelief take a serious nosedive.) Then he is chased by the Bad Indians and (he has gotten a horse by this point) he and the horse jump off a waterfall, the horse dies, but he manages to get to safety, and cuts the horse open to A) eat it and B) crawl inside to keep from freezing.

But he continues down a frozen river in winter. In north Missouri. In WINTER. And he doesn’t die, get frostbite, or pneumonia? I found this impossible to believe; his extremities would have been GONE.

There are a lot of People (mostly white males) Being Evil To Each Other (mostly to Native Americans). Not untrue at all, but heavy handed. Oh, and remember the part where he set off gunpowder in his throat wound? so after the first half hour of the movie, he CAN’T TALK. Most of the movie is scenery, heavy breathing, flashbacks and sign language. Gaah.

So then he makes it back to the fort, finds out that Tom Hardy made it back, and gets ready to take care of business, which (of course) has to be done before he rests or recuperates from his ordeal. And this was the part that really cooked my pemmican.

Because during this knife fight (in the snow and freezing river near the fort) there is a scene where Tom Hardy stabs Leo through the hand with a knife. And you see the blade go through his hand into the snow/ground on the other side. And the blade of the knife (which is about an inch and a half wide) is perpendicular with Leo’s fingers. See where I’m going with this? The knife blade ( and you can see the wound on his hand) HAD to have cut muscles and tendons through his whole hand. And HE USES THE HAND TO FIGHT AND HIT WITH. And of course wins, finally.

And there I am in the Red Cross, with needles in my arms and earphones on, saying loudly, NO WAY! There is NO WAY he is using that hand for this fight and probably NEVER AGAIN! No! That hand is TOAST! and the nurses are walking over to see what I’m talking about and laughing at me and nodding in agreement.

So yeah, I guess it’s an okay movie of revenge and perseverence, but it takes itself waaaaay too seriously, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too full of modern sensibilities and has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY too much Leo doing totally unbelieveable things that are just ludicrous.

The otter would like to bury this one alive and not let it come back for vengeance.


Hell or High Water

January 25, 2017

hellhigh

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two brothers in Texas are desperate to save their farm after the 2008-9 economic downturn and start robbing branches of the bank that tried to foreclose on them.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster are the brothers, who have a great plan that (of course) doesn’t work out quite the way it was supposed to. Jeff Bridges is the Texas ranger trying to track them down (and he does a great job in a role that seems like it was written for Tommy Lee Jones…). Gil Birmingham is also excellent as Bridges’ partner Alberto.

Mr. Otter and I felt like seeing a movie, and this was the one we could agree on. We both really enjoyed it, although we disagreed about the ending; I wanted more, and he was happy with the open-endedness of it, with a hint of what would happen. I think we should have been shown that last scene.

But this was an interestingly written modern story about desperate men who take the law into their own hands for reasons that, if not good, are at least understandable to the audience. Both sides of this series of events are given a fair presentation, and the ending is worthy. Even if I wanted something more explicit.

But you should rent it…and let me know what you think.


What did you do in the war, Daddy?

August 4, 2016

war

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

 A group of American soldiers is told to capture an Italian village; the Italians want to have a festival before they surrender, the Americans haven’t had R&R in a long time, hijinks ensue.

Mr. Otter brought this home from the library where he works, and Ottersis and I thought it might be fun…I’ve heard of it, and didn’t mind giving it a try. Plus there were some good people in it, most notably James Coburn, a favorite actor Chez Otter, and Harry Morgan, who will be forever known as Col. Potter from the TV series M*A*S*H.

This was great farce, with nothing really unbelieveable happening but silliness piling on silliness until suddenly everything works out and the Americans come out heroes. But getting there is all the fun, and fun it is.

From the shenanigans at the festival, to the following near-disasters, to the crazy solutions to problems, and subplots adding in, this was funny, well written and pretty hilarious.


The Letter

August 2, 2016

letter

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From a short story of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham

Bette Davis is the wife of the manager of a rubber plantation in Singapore; as the movie opens, he has been shot to death, and as more information surfaces, secrets are revealed…and the letter that will clear it all up (or implicate someone) has gone astray…

Mr. Otter brought this home from the library where he works; I said, wow, a Bette Davis movie I’ve never even heard of! so we watched it that night, and it was great! Bette Davis was at the top of her form, the writing was excellent, and the moodiness and starkness of the black and white film were amazing.

This was a real winner- good characters, suspenseful plot, beautiful cinematography. It might be hard to find, but it is definitely worth the trouble.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

May 9, 2016

uncle

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two spies during the cold war, one British and one Soviet, are forced to work together. Hijinks ensue.

This otter is old enough to remember the original TV series this is based on, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum…I didn’t watch it, but my mom did; I would hear the theme music as I was getting ready for bed the night it was on every week.

I had not gone to see this in the theater, since most reboots of 60s stuff are not that great, but I was at the Red Cross to do apheresis, and needed something amusing for a couple of hours, and thought, what the heck?

And it was amusing. I liked Cavill in this better than I do as Superman; he’s not as stiff and ponderous here. I always like Armie Hammer, and he was good as the Russian spy. And (bonus) Hugh Grant was their handler!

This was fluff, light and fun and self-consciously retro. They got most of the period detail as right as they needed to (although the plot revolved around a ‘computer disk’ that was about 3 inches square. Nothing like that existed or could have existed…anything with info on it would have been a big ol’ reel of tape…) But quibbles aside, it was fun and not too annoying.