Cats

February 18, 2020

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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…

 


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.

 


The Enemy Below

February 4, 2020

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From the novel with the same name by D. A. Rayner.

A U-boat captain and the captain of an American destroyer play cat-and-mouse across the Atlantic.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and our theme was Under Water. I had warned Ottersis and Mr. Otter that there would only be ONE submarines-at-war movie, because my tolerance is low, and this is the one that Mr. Otter chose.

And it was good! Both Mitchum (the American captain) and Curt Jurgens (the German captain) were excellent. The plot was suspenseful without being either too “Americans good, Nazis bad” preachy, and the Germans, as well as the Americans, had real personalities.

There were some technical ‘how a boat works’ details, not overwhelming but interesting, and the denouement was very good.

I’ve seen some bad submarine movies (K-19, I’m looking at you here), and some of them are just ‘guys in a box’…but this was a great choice!

 


Joker

November 15, 2019

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Instead of the origin story of a superhero, we get that of a supervillain, the eponymous Joker.

There has been a lot of controversy about this movie, which is basically about the rise of a crazed serial killer; those who oppose it say that this is another example of glorified violence. Personally, I think the movie made the Joker and his life look damn unattractive, but that’s just my opinion. I did think it was brilliant and that Joaquin Phoenix (who is a favorite actor Chez Otter) deserves a damn Oscar for this. He was that good.

And now I’m going to venture into SPOILERLAND, so if you don’t want to find out anything about what happens, stop here.

So wow. I had tried to see this for a month, even attempting to get to a movie theater while on vacation, and it just didn’t work out…then I suddenly found myself with an afternoon free (anomalous for me) and just went ahead and did it…and I’m so glad I did.

This is the slow descent into madness of a serial killer, and Phoenix brings out every nuance of crazy. He is believeable, sociopathic, and scary as hell. I can see why it got huge acclaim at the Venice and Cannes festivals; it’s not about capes or superpowers, it’s just about this one guy and watching him live his life.

The one thing that I found odd was his last interaction with the woman and child he’s fixated on…did he kill them? He just left their apartment, but nothing was shown…I found out later that all his interactions with her were imaginary, from meeting in the elevator onwards; this makes more sense than that she (especially being the mother of a young child) would have ANYTHING to do with him, but I somehow missed that that was going on.

Otherwise (and that was probably my mistake, not the writers’) it was well written, amazingly acted, and dark as hell.

If your taste runs to this sort of dark psychological drama thing, make sure you see it. If it doesn’t, here’s a nice kitty you can look at instead:

 


Once Upon A Time….In Hollywood

August 3, 2019

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A pretty-much-washed up TV actor and his driver move through 1969 Hollywood, interacting with the movie/TV community and the Manson family…

 

Mr. Otter and I had to vacate the house for most of a day to let our awesome contractor, WonderPaul, do his thing.

I”m going to go see the new Tarantino flick at our local Emporium du Movies, I said. Wanna come?

Hm, said Mr. Otter, I didn’t much like his last couple of movies, and I’m not sure about this one…on the other hand, we have to be out of the house, so okay!

Thus we hied ourselves downtown, managed with help to find the almost-invisible parking garage, and armed with popcorn and coffee for Mr. Otter….were treated to half an hour of previews. Most of which we enjoyed.

But not half as much as we enjoyed this movie.

Bad boy, self-involved asshole, provacateur, annoying git…call Tarantino what you like, the fact is that along with all those things, he is brilliant. He knows his movies, TV shows and Hollywood history. And all of that knowledge makes this story wonderful. There is so much richness here, so many details that are just right, so many things to say Wow! and exclaim over. There are great characters, wonderful settings, good storytelling. A lot of the movie is just people talking to each other, and none of it is dull.

And then there’s the Manson family thing…because Di Caprio lives next door to Roman Polanski, his wife Sharon Tate, and their semi-permanent houseguest Jay Sebring. In 1969. And anyone in the audience who knows anything about the horror that was the Manson Family knows that this is not going to end well. I loved watching this movie. I enjoyed the characters, especially Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. I loved the carefully crafted cameos of well-known Hollywood figures who showed up here and there. I loved the dynamics, the jokes, the look of the movie. And every time the date on the narrative got closer to the end, my fingernails dug into the seat arms. Because even though I knew (from other reviews) that Tarantino, as is his wont, had played a bit fast and loose with the actual events…I was still expecting a bloody horror at the end.

And I will say no more, except that i was right, and it was both awesome and satisfying. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie and can’t wait to see it again.

I know there are a lot of people who are unhappy with the things Tarantino rewrote, but at both the beginning and end he emphasizes that this is a FABLE of Hollywood, not actual truth. And a very good one it is too.

A masterpiece, says the Otter. Go see it right now.

 


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.


Romeo + Juliet

February 1, 2019
R and J

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From the play by William Shakespeare

This resetting of

Leonardo DiCaprio (looking about twelve) and Claire Danes play the title roles in what is arguably one of the most famous plays in the world, and Baz Luhrmann’s setting of it is nothing but a delight.

Mr. Otter and I like Shakespeare, he more than I. This is not one of my favorite plays; I lean more toward the histories, and this one just makes me roll my eyes. If everyone would just TALK TO EACH OTHER, I say to him, it would all turn out fine.

But the Perfect Housesitters love this movie, and when we took them to dinner to thank them for Housesitting Perfectly, we were talking about this and that and they were amazed that we had never seen this movie. So we said, let’s pick a date, you bring it over, we’ll order pizza. And the plan was made.

And as soon as this movie started, we LOVED it. We loved Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, and had no idea that Baz Luhrmann had done this as well…we kind of wrote him off after the train wreck that was Australia (as did many people, judging from his IMDB page…)

Anyway. The setting is Venice Beach, the two families are rival gangs, everyone is dressed to the nines, and the visuals are amazing- cars, guns, bright colors, beaches, and it ALL WORKS. This is one of the best versions of R&J I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most fun to watch.

Which is what you should do if, like us, you haven’t seen it yet. Trust the Otter, you’re in for a treat!