August 4, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Howard Fast

A slave leads an almost successful revolt against the Roman Empire.

I love this movie so much. It’s got a great story, spends a lot of time on the characters (which is kind of hard on the viewer, since this is one of those movies where just about everyone dies), and really lovely cinematogaphy (which is one of the four Oscars this movie won.). Three’s lots of Roman pomp and a pretty darn good scene with the Roman legions deploying for battle. There’s enough action to keep my explodo-loving brain happy, but enough character development to engage me as well.

Aaand…there are so many more things to talk about relating to this movie, I’m just going to hit the high points:

  • As you can see, this is an Otter Family Favorite Movie. Both Mr. Otter and I have seen it many times and love it.
  • The cast is amazing: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, and Tony Curtis, to name just a few. Not to mention being directed by Stanley Kubrick, who took over from the original director; evidently the first scene, in the mines, is all that remains of the footage Anhony Mann directed
  • Fun fact: the mine scenes in the beginning were shot in Ryan, a mining area near Dante’s View in Death Valley..
  • This was the movie that finally ended the Hollywood Blacklist, when Kirk Douglas insisted on giving Dalton Trumbo credit for writing it (after being blacklisted, Trumbo had written a ton of movie screenplays, two of which had won Oscars, but all had been credited to pseudonyms)
  • The book was excellent as well, but very differently structured from the movie. Howard Fast, himself a victim of the blacklist, wrote it while serving time in prison for contempt of Congress.
  • There is a scene in the middle of the film that is pretty tame now but at the time was cut for being waaaay too suggestive; when the original version was restored, the film existed but not the soundtrack for that part. Tony Curtis rerecorded his lines, but Olivier was dead, so Anthony Perkins did a really fabulous job of putting his Olivier on.

If you haven’t seen this excellent classic movie, DO IT NOW. Trust the Otter, you won’t regret it.

Les Visiteurs du Soir

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The Devil sends two demons to a castle in the Middle Ages to torment earthly souls.

When I was a young otter, back in the beforetime when movies were only available to watch when the Television Gods scheduled them, one would check the TV listings every week to see what was being shown and when, and plan ones calendar around seeing the things one loved because who knew when- or if- they would ever come back?

This movie was one of my favorites, and I would always stay up til whatever wierd hour it was being shown to see it again. It’s romantic (the demons decide to make two humans fall in love with them and thus destroy them, and you know what happens instead…!), beautifully filmed in black and white, and a treat to watch, even with subtitles. Very quiet and slow-moving by today’s standards, but stately and beautiful and inevitable in its course.

Interestingly enough, this movie was filmed in Vichy in 1942, in Nazi-controlled France; the reason they made a historical fantasy was to avoid censorship…but then they created an amazing gem of a movie.

If you haven’t seen it, find it…and have your box of kleenex handy.


The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

October 27, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

December 21, 2012


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Zack and Miri make a porno. What did you think it was about?

We chez Otter like Kevin Smith movies a lot. We are even very amused at the rude hilarity of Jay and Silent Bob. We think Dogma is one of the best movies ever.

So when Mr. Otter brought it home from work, we watched it right away. We expected it to be rude, not politially correct, full of naked people doing wierd things, and pretty funny.

What we did not expect was that it would also be sweet and romantic.

See, Zack and Miri are sharing an apartment. He is obviously in love with her, but she just sees him as a guy friend. And they are broke. They are beyond broke. And when events conspire to give them the idea to make a short porn movie and put it out on the internet to make some money, well, all kinds of things happen.

This movie is not for the faint of heart, nor the weak of stomach. They are indeed filming a (unintentionally hilarious) porn movie, so if you are not amused by the concept, don’t watch this.

But if you like Kevin Smith, if you have always wanted to see Jason Mewes (aka Jay) naked (and he’s worth seeing, believe me), and if you have a sense of humor that night, give this a try…I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

What Dreams May Come

December 20, 2012


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Richard Matheson.

A man travels from heaven through hell to find his wife and bring her back with him.

I’ll admit it: I really, really, love this movie. The ‘true love conquers all’ story. The vision of heaven as a place you make yourself. The idea of hell as a place where you’re trapped not by some medieval theology or Satan but by your own mind and patterns you can’t break. The beautiful realization of the places, both heaven and hell. The malleability of forms, both for people and places. The sheer sentimental crap of it, OK? I really do love it.

A good story with excellent plot twists, a short and sweet script, stunning visual effects, and a feel-good ending. This must have been one of Cuba Gooding’s first major roles, and he’s a TOTAL BABE here, yowza!

And where would we all be without Richard Matheson, I ask you? What an impressive resume of screenplays and novels, good and bad…so many things that have entered our pop culture, both novels and screenplays, from the Incredible Shrinking Man to the Night Stalker to The Pit and The Pendulum…keep it coming, Richard!

Grab the kleenex and enjoy!

The Empire Strikes Back

December 12, 2012


The Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

The middle of the GOOD Star Wars trilogy. Luke gets Jedi training and finds out a dark secret from his past. Things heat up between Han Solo and Princess Leia. And lots of explosions and special effects…

Mr. Otter is a purist, he only likes the first Star Wars movie (the one people are now calling Episode IV: A New Hope instead of just Star Wars, since Lucas has inflicted Episodes 1, 2, and 3 on us…may he burn in hell for it…)

Anyway. Mr. Otter really, really hates this movie and Return of the Jedi, and refuses to watch them again, so I cleverly waited til he was out of town before settling down with the cats to watch this one.

And it was indeed good. Now, it’s the middle story, so it doesn’t really have a definite beginning or end…it’s assumed that you’ve seen the first one, and that you will see the last one…but there are still some really good things, plot and character-wise, about this one.

Firstly, Luke gets more interesting, not only in his antecedents (not to give anything away, in case someone who’s been in stasis for thirty years is reading this…) but also his relationship with Yoda, and that whole thing is great.

And Han and Leia. The banter heats up (and is way better, of course, than anything in the newer movies). You can see the sparks start to fly. Serious Honey Harrison Ford is at his best, gorgeous and charming. And the five minute scene by the carbon freeze is, in my opinion, one of the most romantic moments in movie history. Mr. Otter is snorting with contempt as he reads this, but truly, it is right up there. Their facial expressions, body language, everything is just right. Get the kleenex, boys…

Anyway. For a bridging, middle movie whose only function is to get the viewer from point A to point B, bringing up some important plot points and keeping everyone amused with banter and explosions in the meantime…it’s great.

Watch all three of these great flicks in a row, it’s a fine ride.

Return of the Jedi

December 12, 2012


The Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

The final volume of the REAL Star Wars trilogy, where all plot threads are wrapped up and everyone gets what’s coming to them.

This review has SPOILERS that totally give away the ending, so if you haven’t see this movie (i.e., you’re Amish, you’ve been living on a mountain in Tibet as a hermit, or you are a tree frog that has just recently evolved into a thinking being and discovered this movie review) then please watch the movie first, it’s too good to ruin it.

Yes, Mr. Otter, that’s what I said. THIS MOVIE IS GOOD. Not only as an action/explodo flick, as the conclusion to the trilogy, a buddy picture, and a great special effects fest, but just as a piece of screenwriting, this movie is good.

And I’ll stand by that.

Ah, the summer of 1983. I was living with Mr. Otter, but had not yet actually legally joined my name to his (so I guess technically he wasn’t Mr. Otter yet, but was still plain ol’ Badger…). We went to the local multiplex on a date one afternoon, saw whatever the heck it was we had gone there to see, and as we left, saw a huge line for Return of the Jedi, which had just opened about 2 days before (a huge line for then, not now…movie theatres just didn’t seat a thousand people in those days, except the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. But I digress.)

We saw the line, found out that it was for a show two hours away, and said, what the heck? we’d just be hanging out together talking all afternoon anyway, since that was one of our favorite pastimes…so why not just get in line, spend a couple of hours hanging out, and then see the movie while it’s new? And we did, and it was way fun.

And I seem to remember Mr. Otter-To-Be liking it too, although 25 years later he heaps scorn upon its metaphorical head.

All right, I’ll admit it: I did get tired of every single dang kid you saw ANYWHERE dragging those stuffed Ewoks around. Oh my god, that got old so fast…they were cute for about 10 minutes, and that was completely it. But in the movie, they were okay. Some aliens are just cute and cuddly, and that’s the way it is.

And the speculation on WHO THE OTHER JEDI COULD BE went on from the end of The Empire Strikes Back until this movie opened and we found out who it was. That was fun.

This one is great…lots of action, very satisfying in the ‘finishing off plot threads’ department, Han and Leia are hot, the bad guys get theres, and a whole lot of stuff explodes/collides/get shot. Very satisfying. And is there anyone who didn’t cry when Yoda died? No, you’re all lying, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I remember.

Fav scene: the bad guys come up behind Han, he puts his hands up facing Leia, who is crouching on the ground, he looks at her, she shows him the gun hidden in her lap.

Han: (giving her a ‘you are so cool’ look) I love you.
Leia: I know. (blows both bad guys away).

Now, this kind of scene makes it way more believable and palatable when Leia, in turmoil, turns to Han and asks him to hold her.

Unlike the passive and puddingy brood mare Padme (Hold me, Anakin! Hold me the way you did on Naboo!), she’s tough enough that there is a contrast between that and her soft side, and this makes her a well-rounded character. But I was going to try not to mention the hideous travesties that are the “first, second, and third” Star Wars movies…and I almost managed it.

This is one serious action flick, with good characters, great dialogue, lots of special effects, and explosions galore.

I saw this at the Red Cross, and it was perfect for distracting me for two hours of needles-in-the-arms…and then…my donation time is up, and I’m all cuddled up in the chair under blankets and heating pads, finishing off the movie before I go. And at the very end (remember, I warned you about the spoiler), after the new Death Star is destroyed, Darth Vader has killed the evil emperor and been killed in turn, Luke’s faith in his father has been vindicated, everyone parties the night away…and there came the final scene, which we all remember: Luke sees Obi Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and his father, become Anakin Skywalker once more, appear to him one last time.

And the mystery is solved.

Oh, I thought, THAT’S why the hired that extremely wooden and unconvincing bad actor Hayden Christenson to play the young Anakin Skywalker. Because he kinda looks like the guy they had play him in Return of the Jedi twenty years before, and I guess they thought it would look wierd if he didn’t look sort of the same in the two movies.

But no. No, no, no, no, no. The truth is so much more evil and horrible than that…I can hardly bear to tell you…but of course I will.

George Lucas, MAY HIS SOUL BURN IN HELL FOREVER, added Hayden Christensen’s image to the end of Return of the Jedi when the DVDs were released in 2004.

So now I actually have Hayden Christensen in my personal DVD collection. And I will never, never, never forgive George Lucas for screwing around with part of the memories of my youth.




Slumdog Millionaire

December 10, 2012


The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup

A young man who grew up in the slums of Mumbai is on the game show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire (the Indian version)…and it’s the last question, for 20 million rupees.

This is one of those word-of-mouth movies that is brilliant and you’ll probably never hear about it unless someone tells you to go see it. A couple of people mentioned to me how much they liked it, and so when I realized that it was payday and we had no plans, I emailed Mr. Otter and said, date? dinner and movie?

Being a good hubs, he said yes, and when I suggested we go see this, he said, sure. So we had an excellent dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, came home and got our warm clothes on, and walked to the local movie theater.

I had asked him if he wanted to know what this was about. No, he said, that’s okay, we’ll just go.

And we got to the box office, and everyone standing in line in front of us was of an Indian background. And they were all buying tickets for this movie. Mr. Rees was nonplussed. Afterwards he admitted that from the title, he assumed it would be another ‘splodie movie like Boondock Saints. How wrong he was!

Because the movie shows how the young man has gotten to the point of being about to win the biggest show jackpot possible, how an uneducated slum boy could have answered those questions, by showing his life and how each important thing that happened to him happened to be the answer to one of the questions. And we see him and his brother and the girl he loves and loses and everything that happens to them.

And you can find that much out by reading the description on…but I’m not going to tell you any more, except that this is one of the best movies of the year. Beautiful, romantic, exciting, sad, you will LOVE this movie. Mr. Otter and I certainly did.

And he’s certainly pleased he let me pick the movie this time. You’re welcome, Mr. Otter!

Oh, and stay for the credits, they’re GREAT..

Shakespeare in Love

December 10, 2012


The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews


Wonderful movie about Shakespeare and the writing of Romeo and Juliet. Co-written by Tom Stoppard, one of Otter’s favorite writers, brilliant and witty.

Good history, good Shakespeare, a comedy, a love story, a play within a play, beautiful costumes and sets, a suspenseful plot, Joseph Fiennes, Ben Affleck, Rupert Everett (uncredited, as Kit Marlowe) all very easy on the eye, and the best work Gwyneth Paltrow has ever done. Oh, and Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth, if you need another reason to see it.

I can’t recommend this too highly, try it, you’ll love it.

The Sea Hawk (1924)

December 8, 2012


The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini.

Oliver Tressilian is betrayed by his brother and sweetheart, and abjures Christianity, becoming a Muslim pirate…until those who wronged him fall into his hands…

Oh, the joy of this movie. Firstly, this is the silent version, made in 1924, because the better-known Errol Flynn version from 1940 has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with this novel except having the same title.

So. The Sea Hawk. This book is right up there with The Brethren by Haggard, Pride and Prejudice by Austen, and some of Georgette Heyer’s better books as One Of The Most Romantic Novels Ever.

And the movie does it such wonderful justice! True, it was colorized. Not so badly, and in fact the effect of the torches is nothing short of stunning, but still. And it’s a silent film, which is not to everyone’s taste, although the more silent movies I see, the more I’m enjoying them.

This one is very, very good- good costumes, good title cards, excellent acting without a lot of overacting, a nice looking leading man (Milton Sills) and (I’ll say it again, because in this case it’s really really important) IT FOLLOWS THE BOOK.

So sue me, I love Sabatini’s novels and have all of them but one short story collection. (The Reaping, if you happen to have it sitting around on a shelf collecting dust. Can’t find it anywhere.)

Anyway. A fitting ending to the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: Pirates) and a good time was had by all. This one is hard to find, a friend taped it for me from TCM…I’ve never seen it anywhere else. So if you’re in the mood, come on over and we’ll play it again, it’s definitely worth seeing several times.