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…

 


Night of the Living Dead

October 27, 2013

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The classic George Romero movie from 1968, the first zombie movie (although that word is never used in this film).

It’s almost Hallowe’en, and our local movie theater was hosting one of those Fathom events, where they charge you extra to see something that’s not the usual moviegoer fare.

This time, it was the Rifftrax guys…doing Night of the Living Dead.

Ooh, I said to Mr. Otter and Spider Jerusalem and Maid-of-Awesome and Soccer Sam. Wanna go? The first two said yes, the second two said no…so I got tickets, and we went.

Rifftrax is run by two guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater 3000; one of them is Mike, and although he was not our favorite writer (we’re fans of Joel Robinson) he is funny, and I’ve seen Rifftrax before, it’s pretty good.

And I had never seen this seminal movie in the zombie ouevre, so I was excited about that.

Now, I do remember an afternoon when I was growing up, when I started watching what I remember was Night of the Living Dead on the TV in my room (yes, we each had our own TVs, an American family in the 70s? of course we did!) and after a bit, thought, well, this is stupid, they’re all just going to get killed, who cares?

But I also remember the movie I saw having vivid colors, especially the blood…so it might have been a different movie.

On the OTHER hand (and I’m borrowing one from someone here) the TV in the room where I remember starting to watch it…was a black and white tv (with TUBES, okay? Yes, I am old.) so I COULDN’T have seen colors, which means this probably is the movie I started to watch.

I don’t know, it’s been 40 years. Brain cells deteriorate…

Anyway. I was glad to see this, movie food is always yummy (hot dog and popcorn, noms.) and it was fun to hear the Rifftrax guys going to town on it, because really? it’s kinda silly and boring. There isn’t much for the actors to do except nail stuff to other stuff, react to zombies, and die horribly. Oh, and yell at each other, they did a lot of that too.

No special effects budget; the zombies are kind of silly looking, wearing whatever they threw on on their way to the house. The captive people are idiots, but that’s a given in almost every zombie movie, since if people don’t act like idiots, if they communicate and get along and think a bit and pull together…zombies aren’t that much of a threat…

But it’s a classic, and now I’ve seen it.


Elvira’s Haunted Hills

June 19, 2013

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Elvira (whom I remember from when she got her start in LA as a horror movie hostess in the early 1980s) cowrote and stars in this heavy-handed and silly  parody of the Cannon horror movies of the 1960s.

Two performers end up at the haunted castle, and hijinks and sexual innuendos abound.

Richard O’Brien is also in the cast, the only other actor anyone has ever heard of.

Mildly amusing.


The Big Lebowski

May 22, 2013

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Three bowling partners get mixed up in a kidnapping and meet a bunch of very strange characters.

Mr. Otter and I saw this movie in the  theater. We had liked Fargo, which came out two years before, very much. We thought this could be a very good movie.

It’s not. We were nonplussed. The only thing I remembered from it, besides the bowling, was the scene where they were scattering the ashes and didn’t allow for wind direction, which was pretty amusing. We thought it was pretty stupid, and when O Brother Where Art  Thou? came out two years later, we figured it was the Star Trek Movie Syndrome- every other Coen Brothers movie is brilliant, and every other one is not.

So that was fine, not every movie is a winner.

Except…this movie became a cult favorite. People quoted it over and over. The Dude Abides is a well-known catch phrase. Jeff Bridges has said that of all the movies he’s done, this is the one people most want to talk about when they meet him.

And both Mr. Otter and I thought, well…it was a long time ago. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe we missed something.

So we got it from Netflix and watched it again.

And…nope.

Sure, there were moments. Some of the characters were amusing. But overall? no better than we remembered. We have no idea why it’s such a cult movie (Mr. Otter: Slackers. Must be slackers watching it…) but it sure did nothing for us.


Night Flight

April 30, 2013

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Based on the novel of the same name by Antoine de St. Exupery

A drama about the first planes to fly across South America at night, connecting cities to Europe that much faster.

A few months ago, I was talking to Ottersis, and she mentioned a short film about the Flying Codonas, a family of aerialists to whom she was briefly related by marriage. This film is the only existing footage of them, and she was desirous of seeing it and disappointed that it wasn’t available to stream anywhere.

Librarian that I am, I immediately got online and found the short on Amazon as part of the special features included with this movie (why? I don’t know), which was very reasonably priced. So she got it, watched the short, was very pleased with it, and brought the dvd with her when she visited so we could see it. But of course we had to watch the movie as well.

The short about the Flying Codonas was really good, they really were amazing. The movie? not so much.

For such a star-studded cast (Gable! Loy! Hayes! Two Barrymores! and MORE!), and such a potentially dramatic subject, AND having been taken from a book by St. Exupery, you’d think it would be a good movie, full of drama, human interest, and good writing.

You’d be wrong.

This movie was dull and pedantic. Even the dramatic scenes (where someone dies…but who?) barely kept our interest. There was lots of filler (which Mr. Otter says is true to the book, as one of the themes of the original book is how the connections by air change everyone’s lives in the country) of people and places with an airplane shadow moving across them. The plot was predictable (okay, we had the wrong guy pegged to die, but still…) and not well written, and the only drama was wondering whether or not we’d make it to the end of the movie, or go do something more fun (Otter and Mr. Otter stuck it out, Ottersis didn’t.)

If you want a wonderful movie about the early days of aviation with a star-studded cast, drama, good writing, action, romance and everything else…don’t watch this, put on Only Angels Have Wings again. And if you do, I’ll come and join you, I love that movie.


The Wild One

December 20, 2012

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From the novel The Cyclists’ Raid by Frank Rooney (or possibly just a magazine article, I’m having a hard time pinning that one down…looks to me like IMDB says Novel and many web sites are taking that and running with it, but all the sources that actually quote him quote his story from Harper’s in 1951)

Two motorcycle gangs come to town, with (yawn) predictable results.

Well, firstly, I have to admit that this is one of the movies of which MAD magazine did a wonderful parody…and I remember the whole thing vividly from when I was a young otter, mis-spending my youth reading those gol-durn comic books and illustrated magazines (instead of my sober adulthood, when I have graduated to Graphic Novels…!) and loved MAD’s movie parodies.

Also, this was an AGVAPSNBA* evening, and one of the rules there is that MSTing of movies is obligatory…still.

This movie was just really, really, completely and totally lame.

Okay, it was famous when it came out. Oh my golly! Motorcycle gangs! Outrageous! Young hellions! No respect for authority! Terrorizing the town! Drinking beer! Chasing girls! In PUBLIC! Brutally assaulting the respectable citizens of the town! Oh my sainted aunt!

Mr. Otter assured us that this movie was based on a real incident, in of all places Hollister, CA (right down the road from House o’ Otter), where there is now a yearly motorcycle convention…here is what one person had to say about this incident:

“The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California, (publicized in an issue of Harper’s Magazine in a January 1951 article titled “The Cyclists’ Raid” by Frank Rooney), when about four thousand people, composed of motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities. However, they did not ransack the town, confront the locals, or cause civil unrest (except for some arrests for drunkenness, or urinating in public – often due to a lack of restrooms).”
from Tim Dirk’s review at filmsite.org

Folks, this one was SO silly. Ooh, ooh, these teenagers (or, more like it, genuine former teenagers…some of those actors were pretty long in the tooth) are in town and are being (gasp) HOODLUMS! And then the OTHER motorcycle gang comes to town…and they’re DRUNK! in PUBLIC!

And so on. Makes you wonder if these townspeople ever had fun in their lives. And of course, as is the way with MAD parodies, many of the key scenes of the movie were so perfectly captured in their hallowed pages that, as in Chinatown, I could predict a scene in a movie that I had never seen…kinda fun.

Anyway. Marlon Brando was whiny, sneery and disaffected, made me want to smack him one up side the head. We discussed whether he actually made James Dean in East of Eden seem more appealing by comparison…a hard call. And (sadly) even in his youth (29 years old in this one) Mr. Brando was getting kinda tubby…his jeans (which were supposed to be outrageously tight and revealing) just had a little too much, mmm, how shall we say it delicately, avoirdupois in them for my taste…not the kind of image one would expect of a motorcycle ruffian, at least before the huge beer-bellied Hell’s Angel look was common. Brando was already starting on the poundage that would become his trademark later in life.

Now, Lee Marvin, whose part was much too small, and quite reminiscent of his role in Cat Ballou (genial drunk) was quite a nice picture in his tight jeans, which fit him to a fare-thee-well. Hm. Not sure if Mr. Marvin is a honey, but he just might be. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway. This was more a portrait of small town dithering when faced with emergency situation than youth gone wild…we really did make a lot of cracks at this one, and it was much better that way than if we had actually tried to take it seriously.

Yes, it’s famous, sure, go ahead and watch it, but it’s so dated…

*All Girls Video and Pizza Sleepover No Boys Allowed. Theme: Motorcycles.
Although since it turned out that Mr. Otter couldn’t take the weekend off from work, we let the guys come, and had a mixed-sex AGVAPSNBA. And all of us women agreed, the experience was certainly lacking somewhat from the prime AGVAPSNBAs of the past, when seven or eight women would spend the evening eating, gossiping, belching, scratching and making unbelieveably rude comments about whatever movie we were watching…ah well. We just did the one, and a very cool episode of a TV show called American Chopper (the Black Widow episode) and called it a night.


Vera Cruz

December 18, 2012

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This is one of those movies that sounds a whole lot better than it is. Burt “My teeth can blind men for miles around” Lancaster and Gary Cooper, Maximilian’s Mexico, a beautiful countess, a bunch of gold, you’d think it’d be great…but no.

Bad writing, silly dialogue, really painfully stupid action scenes, Coop and Lancaster having big-dick contests right and left, an annoying score, pseudo-French aristocrats…it was all just too much. Cesar Romero is the only breath of fresh air in this turgid oater, and by the time the big confrontation at the end rolls around, you’re begging them both to just die so you can turn off the tv and go do something interesting, like counting the dust mice under the bed or cleaning the toothbrushes…


They Came from Beyond Space

December 18, 2012

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Wierd meteorite sends out rays that take people over and make them send rockets to the moon.

Another from the set of “20 worst SF films available cheap on dvd”. Unlike Eyes Behind the Stars, this one was at least watchable, filmed in something approaching normal English and had a coherent plot.

On the other hand, it was extremely silly. The influence of the early Avengers was obvious, the ending was completely stupid (oh, then let’s be friends and we’ll stop attacking you), and there were some amusing moments…but not enough.

Skip it unless you are just one of those people who HAS to watch really really bad sf. And if you are, you might want to consider professional treatment…


South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

December 11, 2012

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fav

Taken from the cartoon tv series, South Park. If you’ve seen it, it’s the same but more…if you haven’t seen the tv series…well, buckle your seat belt, it’s quite a ride…

So the Beckster and I were visiting the Barracuda, and we decided to watch a movie and drink heavily. We picked this one (none of us having seen the tv show) because we wanted something really dumb to mock.

Were we ever surprised.

Not only by the crude language, violence, racial epithets, rude situations etc. etc. etc…but by the fact that it was FUNNY. and BRILLIANT. And INCREDIBLY rude and offensive as well…a perfect blend of humor and outrageousness, created by people with a lot of talent. The dialogue is sharp, funny, fast and topical…and the songs are wonderful, especially Blame Canada and the big showstopper takeoff on Les Miz…what a hoot.

Now, I have to say right here that Mr. Otter and I don’t have television…we have a box in our video room that shows movies, but nothing comes in from the outside world, and we like it that way. So when everyone was talking about South Park, we figured it was like the Simpsons, just stupid and crude but not particularly funny…and were we ever wrong about this one. So we have indeed gone out and bought all the South Park episodes that are available on DVD, and watch them over and over, and laugh our butts off.

But YMMV. This is not for everyone, so if you are INCREDIBLY OFFENDED or think this movie is IN BAD TASTE or that kids don’t actually talk like that, just quietly slink away and don’t admit it around us.

And if you do like this movie, try Trey Parker’s first effort, Cannibal: The Musical…it’s pretty darn good too.


Six-String Samurai

December 10, 2012

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The lord of a town dies, and the samurai start to converge to see who will take over.

Ottersis and I were at Spider Jerusalem’s, eating wonderful Indian takeout, and he was showing us movies. He showed us the ‘good’ one, Behind the Mask first, then said, this is not very good but it’s fun.

And my sister and I went NUTS over it. I ordered it from Amazon the next day.

See, it’s your typical samurai movie: the samurai are all converging on this town, and Our Hero (who, although an Anglo, is a martial arts champion) is kicking ass all the way there. He’s joined by the usual annoying kid that he can’t get rid of, and they bond. (The budget is amazingly low, there isn’t even any blood in the sword fights. As SJ says, blood costs money. Even fake blood.)

But that isn’t the BEST part. It’s set in post-apocalypse America. The Russians nuked us in 1957, invaded and took over, and the only free city left is (of course) Las Vegas. Where Elvis has been king for forty years. But now Elvis is dead, and all the King wannabes are converging on Vegas with their Roy Orbison suits and guitars. The costumes and broken-down-fifties settings are great, as is Vegas itself, when it is finally reached. Everyone is dirty and ragged and civilization as we know it is gone.

But even THAT’S not the best part. The best part? THEY FILMED IT IN DEATH VALLEY. Otter’s Happiest Place On Earth. The place I go every eighteen months, rain or shine, no matter what else is going on in my life. And Ottersis (who also loves and visits DV) and I were watching this movie and every time the scenes changed, we’d say, That’s the Devil’s Golf Course! That’s Rhyolite! That’s Badwater! That’s the Corn Field! That’s the Sand Dunes! That’s… but you get the picture.

And don’t get me wrong: this picture is so low budget that in one scene they use black plastic garbage bags for costumes…but the cinematography is EXCELLENT. They make the most beautiful place on earth look just as gorgeous as it really is, with all this other stuff going on as well.

This movie is a gem, whether or not you have ever been to Death Valley; fun, lots of action, good plotting…and the beauty of the scenery is just an added bonus. So queue it up, and if you’re free, come on the next trip to Death Valley. And bring your guitar and your samurai sword, you just might need them.