White Cargo

March 18, 2017


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book Hell’s Playground by Ida Vera Simonton and the play White Cargo by Leon Gordon.

Yes, this movie of which you’ve never heard was not only a bestselling book but a play on both the New York and London stages. Who knew?

So it was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and our theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the second movie of the day, picked solely for the cheesiness of the title. And it was indeed cheesy.

The story is about being away from ‘civilization’ at a British-owned rubber plantation gruffly run by Walter Pidgeon. A new guy comes and Pidgeon gives him the talk about how he’ll go crazy too and everyone hates everyone there eventually and by the way DON’T mess around with the local girls. Which you know the new guy is going to do even though he says he won’t, because on the cover of the movie is Hedy Lamarr in slightly dark makeup and a skimpy outfit, saying, “I am Tondelayo!”

And of course everything goes wrong, and the new guy is carried home in a box. The story is told by the next guy who replaces him, who manages to stick it out and tells the story in flashback.

Evidently Tondelayo, in both the book and the play, is what they referred to in those days as a ‘negress’…this made the Hays office have kittens at the very thought, so that’s why Hedy Lamarr, as white as white can be, was put in makeup for the role. Bad enough to have sex alluded to in the movie, but INTERRACIAL sex? Never! even though of course that’s what this is all about.

A mediocre movie, fun to laugh at.


March 15, 2017


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A Roman tribune is given the job of keeping the Jews under control during and after the Crucifixion, then finding the missing body, and of course he comes to believe that Christ is the Messiah.

Mr. Otter and I have a guilty secret. We love cheesy biblical epics. Like this. And especially this. So when he brought this home from his library to watch, I was all over it.

And it stars Joseph Fiennes, whom I consider to be serious eye-candy.

And…this was actually pretty good. Fiennes is serious; he has a job to do and he is doing it, and trying not to let the supernatural get in the way until he can’t deny it any longer. He comes slowly around to his new fellowship with the people he’s supposed to be rounding up, and his change of heart is believeable.

The settings, costumes and soldier-stuff is also very good; they really did try to make this look as authentic as possible. It’s a little ponderous, because you just can’t be flippant about the Crucifixion…well, okay, Monty Python can, but nobody else.

So this was surprisingly not cheesy. It’s a little slow, and takes itself a little seriously, but it’s not at all bad.

And it’s nice to see that Joseph Fiennes is still good eye-candy. Whew.

Finding Dory

August 4, 2016


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CinemaSins       Movie Reviews

The eponymous fish, who we first met in Finding Nemo, now has her own movie. She has remembered her parents, whom she lost in childhood and then forgot (because, as she tells EVERYONE she meets, she has short-term memory loss…which means that the repeated joke in the movie is her doing or saying something, forgetting it and then repeating it ten seconds later.) And she goes to find them. Guess how it ends? (Hint: it’s a Disney movie. You know how it ends.)

Okay, I’m being kind of mean to it, which will get me in trouble, because Maid of Awesome loved it and told me to go see it.

Really, this was a charming feel-good movie, in the stamp of all others of its ilk. If you like them, you will like this one. I did enjoy it, I laughed at the funny parts, I got a little teary-eyed at the sad parts, and I loved the otters saving the day at the end, being one myself.

I am not a huge fan of modern Disney anything; I’m an old curmudgeon about it, and horrified a young friend when I admitted that not only have I not been to Disneyland in twenty years but have no intention of going again, except MAYBE to see California Adventure, which was just being built the last time I was there. I also admitted to loving Fantasia, which she hated, having been raised on the new Disney stuff.

Anyway. It’s  pretty typical Disney/Pixar, which is not a bad thing. Go see it, it’s fun. (Okay, Maid of Awesome?)

Cat People (1982)

February 8, 2016


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A girl goes back to her home for the first time in years, meets her brother, and finds out about the family secrets…

Flash back in time…it’s April 10, 1982. Mr. Otter and I were on our first date, and what do you do on a date, in Riverside California on a Saturday afternoon in the 80s? Why, go to the movies, of course! This was playing at the local theater. He paid for the movie, I took him to lunch (Big Macs for everyone!) and history was made.

I have always had a soft spot for this movie since that time; I remembered it as kind of slow moving, and (for the time) pretty sexy for a ‘first date’ movie. But I liked it. Malcolm MacDowell was young and handsome, trying desperately to help his career recover from the debacle that was Caligula (didn’t work). Nastassja Kinski and Annette O’Toole were both wonderful (and GORGEOUS) as well.

This is a dark emotional overheated slightly horror-ish movie about a family who are throwbacks to a prehistoric time when women were sacrificed to black leopards and humans had offspring with said leopards as well, so the ability/curse of turning into leopards has come down to MacDowell and Kinski, which he knows and she doesn’t. The problem is, they don’t really control the change; it’s brought on by the sight and smell of blood, which can get pretty inconvenient, not only for them but for people around them.

Moody and atmospheric, kind of slow moving, but I’m sentimental about it…especially when I get to watch it with Mr. Otter again…

The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini

January 16, 2016

ghost bikini

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A bunch of teenagers at a haunted house with a bikini-clad ghost trying to do a good deed within 24 hours. Shenanigans!

Our friend Craiggers was visiting us, and we all like silly movies; he has a penchant for both campy horror-ish stuff, and Beach Blanket movies, and this was a very silly combination of both.

The ghost does indeed wear a bikini (a huge one by today’s standards, covering up a lot of her) and the woo-woo special effect was that you’d see her in pale double exposure, but where her bikini was supposed to be, you could see through to the background.

Tommy Kirk is in this, and Nancy Sinatra as one of the teens (and of course she gets a song…) And Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff both have walk-ons as well, which was fun.

There is some campy stuff, and silly antics, but unless you really like this brand of silliness, it’s pretty excruciating…this one is not for the faint of heart, kids!


The Witchfinder General

January 5, 2015


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From the novel of the same name by Ronald Bassett

And for some reason, this was also released under the title The Conqueror Worm in its US release; that’s the name of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, except that it’s about death. What a catchy title! someone was really thinking…

This is about Matthew Hopkins, who was Witchfinder General during the English Civil War under Cromwell, and notoriously abused his power for his own selfish ends. In this, he sleeps with, and his henchman rapes, the daughter of a Catholic priest whom he promises to free but then hangs; her Roundhead fiancee swears vengeance and finally everyone gets what’s coming to them.

For a low-budget British 60s horror film (not thing-coming-back-from-the-dead horror, but torture-and-execution-run-rampant horror) this is actually pretty good. Vincent Price plays Matthew Hopkins, and is rather more low-key than we expected him to be. Ian Ogilvie was handsome and dashing as the Roundhead soldier, and the story actually made sense and had a good plot.

Not a bad choice for the New Year’s Day Videofest 2015 (theme: WITCHES)


January 5, 2015


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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Sleeping Beauty told from the evil fairy’s point of view. Sort of. And badly.

Mr. Otter and I took a long vacation this last summer, and once in a while we would find ourselves with a free evening in civilized environs, at which point I’d rev up my ipad, open the Flixster app, and look for a movie to go to.

This one was playing pretty much everywhere at that time, and we discussed going to see it several times in several places…but we didn’t. I saw How To Train Your Dragon 2, and we saw Snowpiercer and Guardians of the Galaxy…but not this.

And I am now so pleased that we didn’t. Because the reason that we kept going to other movies is that this one got bad reviews. Now, we chez otter really don’t read movie reviews (other than the ones I write; you all know that you should listen to me because I KNOW WHAT’S GOOD. Trust the Otter!) but NOBODY seemed to like this, other than the special effects.

And, as sometimes happens, those bad reviews were absolutely right.

This was one of the entries in the 2015 New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: WITCHES) and it was really, really bad. Not just ‘started out well and lost its way’ bad. Not just ‘meant well but got rewritten a bit too much’ bad. Not even ‘could have been a good story’ bad. This one was a full-blown ‘we decided to pull all the money out of the scriptwriting fund and put it in the special effects budget instead because people will be more likely to come see a badly-written movie with amazing special effects than they will a really good movie with ordinary special effects’ stinkeroo.

And things went south right from the get-go:

  • There was narration. A whole LOT of narration.
  • There was no real thought put into the world-building, they just put stuff in so they could do cool f/x.
  • There were people doing stupid pointless things for the sole reason that it advanced the plot.
  • I hated the idiotic grown women (the fairies, omg.)
  • Not to mention Angelina Jolie’s way over-photoshopped cheekbones.
  • And …oh, what’s the point? you get it.

This was a ridiculous insult to my intelligence. Skip it.

War and Peace

December 20, 2014


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From the novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy.

A story of upper-class Russian families during Napoleon’s campaign against Russia in 1805. People live, die, fall in love, you know how these things go.

I’ve run a book and movie discussion group for a couple of years now; the number of attendees was dwindling, and I could see that the group was not long for this world; still, two years is a good run for something like this. So when Mr. Otter and I went away all summer, I gave the group a choice of not reading anything while we were gone, and picking up when we came back, or having three months to read a book. And everyone voted to try a really long book…this one, in fact.

I actually took it on vacation, and read the requisite 50 pages, but after that I opted for more fast-moving fare. Mr. Otter had read it fairly recently, and a couple of other people in the group had either managed to read the whole thing or at least gotten through those 50 pages. We assembled, the four of us, and watched the THREE AND A HALF HOUR version made in 1956.

And…well. Audrey Hepburn was beautiful, and young Henry Fonda is always worth watching. The movie gave me enough of a framework for the book that I will definitely tackle it again in future; it’s always easier to read something like this if you kind of know where it’s going. And we all enjoy each other’s company.

But it was slooooow. We ended up msting it a bit, and yelling at the stupid things (like a child that is born but the audience doesn’t see him til he’s 6 years old, and the time shift is not mentioned…!) The ending was satisfying, and the second half of the movie was better than the first, just because more was happening…but it was LOOOONG. And SLOOOOOW.

And that was the end of the book and movie group; now we just get together once a month to watch a movie…

The Witches of Eastwick

January 23, 2014


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From the novel of the same name by John Updike.

Three women in a small town in Rhode Island find their lives revolving around a man who moves to town.

This was a choice for my book and movie discussion group; the rule is, you have to read 50 pages of the book to attend the movie night, and only the people who come to the movie night get to vote on next month’s book. Works pretty well, actually.

Because even when the book is a real loser (like this one) you only have to read 50 pages of it to have the fun of dissing the movie communally.

There were five of us (out of ten or twelve in the group) who came to the movie, and I think only one of the five had read more than 50 pages. None of us liked it, and the movie didn’t do much for us either.

With the book, I disliked the east-coast-centrism- being a native Californian, that kind of snootiness just makes me roll my eyes. It was also written thirty years ago, by a man in his 50s, and his attitudes towards women were just eye-roll worthy as well. I tried to like it but was completely incapable of it.

The movie? well, the talent was excellent- Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher (okay, two out of four had talent…) The look was beautiful. They did their best to turn it into a coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end (which the book didn’t have much of). And the look of it, especially the party scene, was beautiful.

But it was rambling, the ending was silly, and much of it made no sense.

Been there, done that, never have to do it again.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

October 27, 2013


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Four people whose lives coincide violently over the space of a week.

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and loved it.

I was pretty much the only person of my acquaintance who did…EVERY OTHER WOMAN I KNEW who saw it WALKED OUT OF THE THEATER. I’m not joking. Personally, I think this one is on my top ten movies of all time list…but certainly not one for everyone. Spider Jerusalem did not like it at all. Why doesn’t someone just kill him? he kept asking. That’s not the point, I said, it has to proceed to its inevitable conclusion. And yes, it’s hard to watch knowing that Things Will End Badly.

There is a reason that the very beginning of the movie shows theater curtains opening; that’s our tip-off as to what Greenaway is doing here. And it works-this is a perfect example of Grand Guignol- theater made to push the limits of fear, horror, sex, death…you name it.

Yes, it is EXTREMELY graphic. This is at the same time one of the most beautiful and one of the grossest, most appalling movies I have ever seen…it’s an amazing story of contrasts, and Greenaway handles them perfectly. The combination of beauty and true gross ickiness, of love and despair and cruelty, of quiet moments bursting into uncontrollable violence…it’s really amazing.

Seeing it again was a treat- I had forgotten almost everything except the scene in the delivery van (ugh) and the ending; it was so satisfying to once again see it unfold, in its inexorable way, with consequences following actions and no escape in sight for any of the characters. Really really good.

Watch it if you have a strong stomach. You’ll be glad you did.