The Story of Dr. Wassell

October 20, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the book of the same name by James Hilton, although IMDB just gives him a ‘story by’ credit…

Dr. Wassell stays behind in Java when the US forces withdraw ahead of the Japanese invasion, and shepherds twelve wounded servicemen to safety.

This was one of the Saturday Zoom Movie picks; it was Mr. Otter’s turn, and he, CoyoteRambles and I watched it together with Zoom running and discussed it afterwards.

Aaaaand…that was a few months ago (I’m a little behind on my reviews) and I literally cannot remember a thing about this movie. Not a blessed thing. I read the plot outline in three different places (none of which had a synopsis, because that would have taken too much time and energy for someone to add) and I remember NONE OF IT.

Not my memory, folks. I think this one is that forgettable…but because of that, I’m not giving it any of my usual ratings.

Watch it if you like Gary Cooper or WWII stuff, or both.

The Cat From Outer Space

August 4, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Um, it’s about a cat. From outer space. What did you think?

Seriously, this is basically E.T. but not as annoying. It’s a cheesy 70s movie with an adorable kitty who is trying to get back to his alien planet with the help of kids and a couple of helpful adults, and of course the US Army and Air Force are trying to stop it. Oh, and the cat has a collar that lets it communicate with humans. Typical Disney fluff from the late 70s.

Speaking of that time period, the cast list reads like a Who’s Who of 70s second-tier-but-fun-to-watch actors: Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan, Harry Morgan, Roddy McDowell, McLean Stevenson, and Hans Conreid.

Not a great movie, but it had moments.

Broadway Melody

August 3, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Two sisters with a vaudeville act are trying to get a place in a big New York show; there are romantic complications, musical numbers and hijinks ensue!

This is one of the highlights of movie history: the first big-budget talking/singing/dancing musical. This movie was so cutting-edge at the time sound was coming into movies that they released in both sound and silent versions, because not all theaters could do sound films yet.

Another interesting thing to note is that unlike a huge number of musicals from about six months after this one was released (June 1929) for about ten years, the Depression was a major plot point; usually the person looking for work is desperate to find and keep a job because they are broke. In this one, the girls are just looking for a better, higher paid and more prestigious place to perform.

The songs and musical numbers are great; there is one, the Wedding of the Painted Doll, that was actually shot in Technicolor (yes, they had a certain amount of color technology ten years before The Wizard of Oz) but that film is lost, so it’s black and white in all the available prints of the film.

To modern sensibilities, this is kind of silly. Heck, at the time it was kind of silly; the point here is not the plot or character development, but rather having a light but interesting story framework for the musical numbers. Which are wonderful, and it’s worth seeing this movie for those alone.

If you haven’t seen it (or even if you have and want to watch it again) we have an extra space on the couch, if you don’t mind sharing with adorable dogs. Come on over and we’ll make some popcorn and watch it again!

Cutter’s Way

August 3, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg

A drifter moves in with old friends, sees a murder, and they realize that they will have to accuse the richest man in town of the crime.

It was Saturday Zoom Movie Night chez Otter, and this one was the pick of CoyoteRambles, who loves noir films; I’m happy to watch them once in a while, although it’s not my favorite film genre…indeed, mysteries in general are my least favorite book or movie genre, waay down there below even westerns and romance. But I am always open to trying something outside my comfort zone.

This was okay. The basic story is pretty straightforward, given the usual twists and turns and blackmail and the finale having to either be a big shocking reveal, or their realization that the bad guy will get away with it (those are pretty much the only choices in noir!).

The better part of this movie is the relationships between the characters, as well as the characterizations themselves. Everyone is connected, most of them are unhappy for reasons that have to do with others in the group, and all of their relationships change over the course of the movie.

Jeff Bridges is good, as always, and easy on the eye, ditto.

Worth watching if you want a decent mystery/thriller with good characters.

For Me and my Gal

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

George Murphy, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly are vaudeville performers and there’s a love triangle and Judy’s brother gets sent off to WWI and stuff happens interspersed with song and dance numbers. You know how it goes.

This was a fairly mediocre movie for its time, been there done that. A couple of decent dance numbers, and for once Gene Kelly didn’t pull his hat over his ears…then suddenly they turn it into a huge patriotic spectacle for (in the movie) WWI but of course it was actually for WWII because this was made in 1942. Not only is the change jarring, but it’s eye-rollingly jingoistic and kind of boring, and detracts from any liking this otter had for the movie up to that point.

Not to mention the really clunky plot device they used to keep Gene Kelly from being drafted so he could go out and entertain the troops, find Judy, redeem himself, and be all patriotic and stuff.

Pretty lame, even for a musical of this era. Judy was certainly in there trying to keep it above water, but that was the only thing it had going for it.


Now, Voyager

January 29, 2017


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty

A meek spinster who has been under her domineering mother’s thumb her whole life gets psychiatric help and celebrates her freedom by taking a world cruise, coming back a mature and confident person.

This is a movie that I have always heard about as incredibly romantic…I knew it was about a ship, and that Bette Davis and Paul Henreid were in it, but nothing more. And (I think) it was in listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent blog on the history of Hollywood, You Must Remember This, that this movie was mentioned and we said, we should watch this! So we did.

And it was NOTHING like what I expected. Rich Boston folks and a nebbishy daughter who can’t say BOO to her mother. They had Bette Davis dressed and not-made-up to look plain and mousy, so that when she took the trip and had an actual love affair, she could blossom into being beautiful.

It wasn’t a bad movie, for what it was worth; the actors were good, the writing was good…just not our cup of tea. When it was over, I looked up the book, and found out that not only was this novel that I had never heard of (I didn’t know the movie was based on a book) a best seller, it was one of a series of 5 books that were all famous in their time (1931-1951). She was also the writer of the book Stella Dallas, which is another movie I have heard of but didn’t know it came from a book. This book/movie were both evidently a huge boost to positive perception of psychiatry, as well

So…interesting. The movie is good, albeit predictable, and we found the ending a little hard to swallow…nobody is that nice! But it was good to finally see this. Worth the time for the actors and settings, not so much for the plot.

The Revenant

January 25, 2017


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

“Based in part on” the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

Guy gets mauled by a bear, left for dead, returns (title, get it?) to take revenge. Wonder how it’s going to end?

This won a SLEW of awards, including Best Actor, Director and Cinematography awards, and was nominated for even more (both Golden Globe and Academy awards). And…well…I’ll give you cinematography and even director.  Leo didn’t have to do more than stumble around looking half dead, so although he’s an excellent actor, there is no way I would agree that he deserved best actor for this; it was probably just, oh, here’s Leo again, we’ll give it to him so he’ll stop bothering us. And you notice that neither of these august bodies offered this movie best screenplay.

And why? Because it was AWFUL.

Yes, I came out and said it. One of the most talked about and lauded movies of the year (2013) that it was made…is just appallingly awful.

And there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you really do want to watch this tedious and annoying movie without knowing what will happen (but you really do know what will happen, trust me…there are no surprises in store) then stop reading here and come back after you’ve wasted TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF YOUR SHORT LIFE on this thing. You could have read my review in five minutes and then picked up a good book, but no. You have to show how you know better than I do. Go ahead. See where it gets you. Prove me wrong.

I’ll just wait here.

(2 hours and 34 minutes later)

So. Now you know. Aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to the Otter?

I was at the Red Cross, doing apheresis, which means that I spent nearly three hours in a chair, covered with warm blankets, needles in both arms while they took out all my blood, drained the plasma and platelets, and put it back. And I get to watch a movie. I picked this one.

Oh my god. Tedious, moody, serious as all hell. Very very very predictable. Sudden flashbacks to tell the backstory (about his Native American wife, which explains why his young son is with him (because their village got torched by Bad Men and she died in the fire and they were the ONLY TWO who survived)). Then he gets mauled by a bear. Oddly enough, him surviving this is one of the few parts of the story I DON’T have a problem with; it did happen from time to time. Not likely, but possible. But the bad guy (Tom Hardy, excellent as always, although (as another reviewer pointed out) he is a serious mumbler…) gets tired of waiting, decides that Leo won’t make it, and ends up killing his son, then mostly burying Leo because he’s mostly dead anyway. Cue revenge music.

So of course Leo survives (and at one point puts gunpowder on the wound in his throat and lights is to cauterize it…THAT made my disbelief take a serious nosedive.) Then he is chased by the Bad Indians and (he has gotten a horse by this point) he and the horse jump off a waterfall, the horse dies, but he manages to get to safety, and cuts the horse open to A) eat it and B) crawl inside to keep from freezing.

But he continues down a frozen river in winter. In north Missouri. In WINTER. And he doesn’t die, get frostbite, or pneumonia? I found this impossible to believe; his extremities would have been GONE.

There are a lot of People (mostly white males) Being Evil To Each Other (mostly to Native Americans). Not untrue at all, but heavy handed. Oh, and remember the part where he set off gunpowder in his throat wound? so after the first half hour of the movie, he CAN’T TALK. Most of the movie is scenery, heavy breathing, flashbacks and sign language. Gaah.

So then he makes it back to the fort, finds out that Tom Hardy made it back, and gets ready to take care of business, which (of course) has to be done before he rests or recuperates from his ordeal. And this was the part that really cooked my pemmican.

Because during this knife fight (in the snow and freezing river near the fort) there is a scene where Tom Hardy stabs Leo through the hand with a knife. And you see the blade go through his hand into the snow/ground on the other side. And the blade of the knife (which is about an inch and a half wide) is perpendicular with Leo’s fingers. See where I’m going with this? The knife blade ( and you can see the wound on his hand) HAD to have cut muscles and tendons through his whole hand. And HE USES THE HAND TO FIGHT AND HIT WITH. And of course wins, finally.

And there I am in the Red Cross, with needles in my arms and earphones on, saying loudly, NO WAY! There is NO WAY he is using that hand for this fight and probably NEVER AGAIN! No! That hand is TOAST! and the nurses are walking over to see what I’m talking about and laughing at me and nodding in agreement.

So yeah, I guess it’s an okay movie of revenge and perseverence, but it takes itself waaaaay too seriously, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too full of modern sensibilities and has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY too much Leo doing totally unbelieveable things that are just ludicrous.

The otter would like to bury this one alive and not let it come back for vengeance.

Hell or High Water

January 25, 2017


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two brothers in Texas are desperate to save their farm after the 2008-9 economic downturn and start robbing branches of the bank that tried to foreclose on them.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster are the brothers, who have a great plan that (of course) doesn’t work out quite the way it was supposed to. Jeff Bridges is the Texas ranger trying to track them down (and he does a great job in a role that seems like it was written for Tommy Lee Jones…). Gil Birmingham is also excellent as Bridges’ partner Alberto.

Mr. Otter and I felt like seeing a movie, and this was the one we could agree on. We both really enjoyed it, although we disagreed about the ending; I wanted more, and he was happy with the open-endedness of it, with a hint of what would happen. I think we should have been shown that last scene.

But this was an interestingly written modern story about desperate men who take the law into their own hands for reasons that, if not good, are at least understandable to the audience. Both sides of this series of events are given a fair presentation, and the ending is worthy. Even if I wanted something more explicit.

But you should rent it…and let me know what you think.

The Women

January 25, 2017


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A week in the life of half a dozen women, whose lives are intertwined.

Mr. Otter and I have been greatly enjoying Karina Longworth’s You Must Remember This podcasts. Every time we drive somewhere together we listen to several of them, and have a great time. In 2016, she did a six-part series about Joan Crawford, about whom we knew very little, and this was one of the movies Longworth talked about.

This was a groundbreaking movie for 1939, because THERE ARE NO MEN IN IT. There are six or seven women who are main characters, and the story is made up of their conversations both in person and on the phone. Now, they are mostly talking about what everyone at the time assumed that women mostly talked about: clothes, parties and men. The plot revolves around one woman and the question of whether or not Joan Crawford will/has managed to seduce him.

But having a whole movie with no men in it was an amazingly bold move for the time, and (given the society-gossipy nature of the plot) it’s compelling, funny, and very watchable.

And the star power is evident- Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard and other well-known actresses. Written by Clare Booth Luce and Anita Loos, and word is that F. Scott Fitzgerald also had a had in it.

It is a period piece, and nowadays many people would probably roll their eyes at these society women who do nothing but shop and get their beauty treatments and say catty things about each other…oh, sorry, that’s not so old-fashioned, is it?

Seriously, it’s worth watching for the writing, the actresses and the way the story is structured…and Joan Crawford (the vamp, of course, what else could she be?) is great.

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

August 4, 2016


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

 A group of American soldiers is told to capture an Italian village; the Italians want to have a festival before they surrender, the Americans haven’t had R&R in a long time, hijinks ensue.

Mr. Otter brought this home from the library where he works, and Ottersis and I thought it might be fun…I’ve heard of it, and didn’t mind giving it a try. Plus there were some good people in it, most notably James Coburn, a favorite actor Chez Otter, and Harry Morgan, who will be forever known as Col. Potter from the TV series M*A*S*H.

This was great farce, with nothing really unbelieveable happening but silliness piling on silliness until suddenly everything works out and the Americans come out heroes. But getting there is all the fun, and fun it is.

From the shenanigans at the festival, to the following near-disasters, to the crazy solutions to problems, and subplots adding in, this was funny, well written and pretty hilarious.