The Madwoman of Chaillot

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the play La Folle de Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux

A very old-fashioned countess takes on the destructive industrialists of the modern world with the help of various eccentric people.

I have loved this movie since I was a young Otter. I made time for it every time it came on TV (back in the days when the Television Gods ruled what you watched, and if it wasn’t scheduled to be on television, you couldn’t see it…) I had not watched in, maybe, 40 years (yes, this Otter is old.) but when I realized that it was on one of the streaming services, I chose it for our Saturday Night Zoom Movie group.

And…it was fun. I like Katherine Hepburn, and she was awesome as the Countess who does not approve of the modern world and is attempting to keep the businessmen from destroying the part of town she lives in in quest of oil lying below the streets. One of the businessmen is Serious Honey Yul Brynner (with hair!) There is more slapstick than I remembered, campy late 60s slapstick, but it was fun watching Hepburn and her coterie take on The Bad Guys and win.

A charming evening’s entertainment.


Quo Vadis

September 15, 2022

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From the novel of the same name by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

A Roman general falls in love with a Christian slave and is eventually converted, all against the backdrop of Nero’s Rome.

I was traveling, as is my wont, and was listening to a great audiobook series from the Teaching Company about movies that take place in Ancient Rome and their historical accuracy; the presenter was a Classics professor, and he was funny and had a lot of interesting things to say, both about the movies and about the whole ‘Roman Spectacle’ genre of movies. This was one of the films he talked about; it started the whole genre in 1951.

I read the book many many years ago as a young Otter, and still remember that it was a thunderin’ good read…this movie? not as much, although it wasn’t bad…

Robert Taylor is the Roman commander, and it’s a toss-up whether he or a block of wood would be a more compelling hero…he’s very handsome, but rather stiff and unemotional. Deborah Kerr is beautiful and awesome as the Christian slave Lygia, but the cake is completely taken, eaten and owned by Peter Ustinov as Nero; not only is Ustinov an Otter Family Favorite Actor, but this role is campy and awful. Scenery is chewed with gusto.

This movie has huge sets, scenes with hundreds if not thousands of actors, chariot races, Rome burning, and lots of overacting. What’s not to like?

But read the book as well, it was great.


Orlando

September 15, 2022

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From the novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf

A young man is commanded by Elizabeth I never to grow old…and doesn’t.

My book group read this, and it was pretty good; I certainly liked it better than the only other Woolf book I had read to that time, To The Lighthouse. So I said to Mr. Otter, we both really liked the movie when it came out, let’s watch it again!

And we did…and it was still good. Not as stellar as I had remembered, but certainly enjoyable.

Orlando, given the gift of long life and youth, is on a self-narrated quest for poetry and love. The tale is told with humor, especially when he goes on a voyage and returns as a woman, having decided that that may be the reason he can’t find true love.

There are some nice observations about male and female roles (especially in the second half of the movie, which is much more enjoyable than the first because of Orlando’s comments about being female) and beautiful settings.

This is charming and interesting, and lightly amusing. A fun movie for an evening with someone you love!


The Painted Veil (2006)

September 2, 2022

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From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor takes his unfaithful wife to a cholera outbreak in China.

My book group read this and it was OUTSTANDING. The characters, descriptions, events all masterfully written, what a wonderful book.

I chose the 1934 version of this for our Saturday Zoom Movie night, and when my turn to pick rolled around again, we watched the remake. And it was good, but like the previous one, suffered from rewriting.

This was really good in so many ways; Ed Norton makes a good obsessed researcher, and Naomi Watts is a good choice for Kitty, the vain socialite who marries him. And I love Liev Schrieber, what a good choice he is for Kitty’s lover Townsend!

This movie sticks closer to the book in most ways; the big difference is at the end, when Kitty returns to London, there is a scene between her and Townsend that is a modern woman-empowering rewrite of the book; it’s not bad, but it completely changes her character and her choices. Not sure I’m happy with that…but it’s still a very good movie.

Why don’t you read the book, and then come over and we’ll watch it again and discuss the ending?


The Painted Veil (1934)

September 2, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Somerset Maugham

A doctor forces his unfaithful wife to come to a city in China where there is a cholera outbreak.

My book group read this, and it was so good. The characters, the descriptions, and the story were just beautifully written, and I couldn’t put it down. So of course I wanted to see the movie, and when it was my turn to pick on Zoom Movie night with Mr. Otter and CoyoteRambles, we watched this.

So firstly, it’s a GARBO movie. You can’t miss that because the titles, all the freakin’ titles for the WHOLE MOVIE, appear below the giant word GARBO that stays there during the whole title crawl. You can see on the dvd cover above, the same thing. Oh, so Greta Garbo is in this? That’s nice…

But yes, she was that big a star back then. All it took was her name on ANYTHING (and she didn’t make a whole lot of movies, only 32 before she retired and became a professional Garbo-promoter) and people would flock to see it. Now, she was a great actress, but to me, ninety years later, promoting a movie by hyping one cast member seems kind of silly (and it’s still done, and it’s still silly) since it take so many people to make a movie good…especially the WRITER, who never gets enough credit.

Anyway. I digress.

This was a pretty good adaptation of the novel, except that the Hays Code was starting to take effect, which (I assume) is why they completely changed the ending; it’s not bad, and if I hadn’t read the book I would be happy with it…but her character is so much more interesting in the book, and she has so many more layers, that the story here was kind of disappointing. All the actors were good, the film was well made, the writing was good…but, as so often happens, just not nearly as good as the book.

Go read it, then watch this and make up your own mind! The Otter’s betting that you’ll agree.


Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

August 25, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Charles Shaw.

A marine and a nun are stranded on an island in WWII after it’s evacuated, and are still there when the Japanese come and occupy it.

This was one of the films we watched on our New Year’s Day Moviefest 2020 (theme: John Huston.)

This was really good! Robert Mitchum (who, I think, has just won promotion to Serious Honey) is perfect for the part of the guy who is trying to do his job and save his country but is falling for this woman he cannot be in love with; Deborah Kerr is a total hottie and very good for the part of the nun who is practical and not at all dainty and girlish, and the growing relationship between them, and the question of where it can/will go, gives as much tension to the movie as the Japanese occupation and their attempts to block that.

Highly recommended, very enjoyable.


Emma

March 10, 2020

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From the novel of the same name by Jane Austen

I recently listened to this on Audiobook; I had read it years ago, but literally couldn’t remember any of the plot other than that she’s a wannabe matchmaker. And in listening to it, I found out why I remembered so little of it…I really didn’t like it. Emma is annoying, very little actually happens, and I found it pretty hard going…if I weren’t driving so much that I’m virtually living in my car at this period in my life, I might not have finished it.

But the previews looked good, and Bill Nighy (an Otter Family Favorite Actor) was in it, so Mr. Otter and I hied us down to the movie house to see it.

And, well. It was a good adaptation, but it’s a book that is seriously improved by editing. The actors were good (and Bill Nighy was totally wasted- anyone could have played the role of her father as rewritten for this movie). I didn’t like Emma any more in the movie than the book, but it was well written.

But still. Compared to Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and Sensibility, or Persuasion, this story is just kind of lame. No sparkling characters or situations that make you turn pages to find out what is going to happen or wonderful dialogue…mostly it’s a spoiled rich girl learning her lesson, and class snobbery in the country.

And the score (which, if you actually notice it, that’s a bad thing) went from delicate early 19th century instrumental to rustic choruses singing pastoral and church songs…which was really distracting, and I guess was supposed to show the class contrast? didn’t work for either of us.

Watch it if you’re an Austen fan, or like movies of this period, or want to see pretty scenery and costumes…but otherwise? meh.


Spider-Man: Far From Home

December 6, 2019

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This review has, by necessity, spoilers for Avengers: Endgame…so if you haven’t seen that, go watch it now and come on back to find out what the Otter has to say about Spidey’s latest adventure!

 

No worries, I’ll wait…

 

and I’m waiting…

 

All done? Wasn’t that great? Now, let’s get back to Spidey.

 

Peter Parker goes on a class trip to Europe, hoping to just be a student, but of course Spider-man is needed.

This movie takes place after Avengers: Endgame, and if you recall, the people who disappeared at the end of Infinity War reappeared five years later. Peter Parker was one of them. I really loved that they made that part of this movie, and the fact that all these people (especially young people) are now dealing with having been moved ahead five years while everyone who didn’t disappear has gone on with their lives, and also gotten older…so high school students come back to a school where all their friends have graduated and moved on, and they are still the age they were. Really well done.

There is a world-wide threat, the Avengers are no more (literally, for many of them) and the world expects Spidey to take the lead role, not realizing that he’s a kid (or really caring). Peter is just trying to get on with his life, get a date with Mary Jane, and not be a superhero for a while…but of course is dragged into the mess. There are superbeings targeting different places on Earth, and a guy named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who shows up to help stop the baddies, and Nick Fury is trying to recruit Spidey, and of course things go wrong on the class trip.

This was a really good and satisfying coda to the Avengers saga, well worth watching. Good, fast-paced and believeable writing, characters that you care about, and some interesting plot twists made this one of the better Spider-man movies. Well worth seeing, says the Otter.


The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

May 10, 2019

lego2

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Five years after Emmet saves the world, Lego Duplos attack and, well, the world must be saved again…

And what I say below might be construed as SPOILERSso you’ve been warned.

So yes, I loved the first Lego Movie. I loved the Lego Batman Movie. So of course I had to see this one!

And…it was good. Amusing, well written, great characters and plot. But since the audience is in on the joke, that this is a world that Will Ferrell’s kids are making (and the problem in this one is that Finn’s younger sister is now allowed to play with the area in the basement with all the Legos. In the real world, when she fights with Finn and breaks his built stuff, it happens in the Lego world too, and everyone has to find a solution.

All our favorite characters are back, and many new ones besides; the animation is awesome, and the storyline is very satisfying.

This was funny and charming…the audience was in on the joke, so it wasn’t as OMG HOW AMAZING as the first one, but it was a worthy sequel and I liked it a lot.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

May 10, 2019

buster

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Six short Westerns, all set in different places with different characters.

Ah, the Coen brothers. We do love them, chez Otter. Even when they fall on their faces (yes, we hated The Big Lebowski, even though one of our cats is The Dude) they are interesting, inventive and make movies worth watching, at least once. And at their best, they’re incandescent.

I wouldn’t put this in that last category, but it was certainly good. They had us from the get-go, with the first story being about a singing cowboy (Tim Blake-Nelson) who is definitely NOT one of the good guys. Other stories include a spooky stagecoach ride, an Indian raid on a wagon train, a prospector who hits the big time, a bank robbery gone wrong, and a traveling showman.

All of them were interesting, all had good people acting in them, all were enjoyable.

And (the thing that sticks in the mind of everyone I’ve talked to who saw this) each seperate section is let into by the narrator opening an old-looking book of western stories, and showing an illustration and part of the text of the story that the movie audience is about to see.

And after it was over, Mr. Otter and I spent a couple of days talking about the stories, what we liked and didn’t like, and if they should have been in that order. Very satisfying.

This is stylish, well writing and certainly worth seeing if you can get your hands on it.