The Brave One

January 4, 2018

brave

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A Mexican boy raises a bull for a bullfight.

The New Year’s Day Moviefest (theme: Hollywood goes Around the World) was in full swing, and there were a bunch of us having a great time watching movies. This was the entry for Mexico, and Mr. Otter and I had been wanting to see it because it won a Best Picture Oscar in 1957 for Best Original Story for Dalton Trumbo, whose name couldn’t be on it because he was blacklisted.

And in fact his name was not on the version of the movie (streamed from Amazon) that we watched, either.

It’s sweet and sentimental, and very very dated.

On the one hand, it’s a good straightforward story-the boy raises the bull for the ring, kind of ignoring the whole ‘the bull dies at the end’ thing. At the last minute, he tried to get him reprieved, even talking to El Presidente, but the reprieve comes too late. The ending is good, and believeable.

On the other hand, it’s old fashioned, predictable and sentimental. It’s a story we’ve seen over and over, and there was pretty much nothing new added.

The thing that was good about this (and I’m sure this was Trumbo’s writing shining through) was that the Mexican characters were all normal characters, rather than ethnic stereotypes. There were scenes in the school with the teacher talking about Mexican history (chronologically backwards, which made us all laugh) and in the end, the boy is going from famous place to famous place through the very modern Mexico City, and much of that seemed like it was put in to show American audiences a non-stereotypical view of Mexico and its people.

The one thing that was very very dated was that everyone spoke stiff formal English, to show that they were really speaking Spanish to each other, instead of just talking like normal people, but that’s a small quibble.

For the time, and the kind of movie it is, this was pretty good.

 


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 26, 2017

rare'

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A company is excavating a remote mountain in Finland to unearth a long-frozen Santa Claus, but a local kid does research and realizes that this is not a good idea…

We had dinner on Christmas Eve with Maid-of-Awesome and Soccer Sam, and he was all about this movie and how good it was. So on Christmas afternoon, Mr. Otter, Ottersis and I settled down to watch it…and we agreed with Soccer Sam.

This is a well-written and often funny movie that takes legends and brings them to life in the modern world, and points out the difference between the old version of Santa and our jolly friendly Santa Claus. The villagers in the tiny Finnish town where it takes place are funny and interesting, and the action (given the premise) is believeable.

The kid is really cute, without being icky, and the ending is perfect.

This is a (pretty bloody and violent) Christmas gem, watch it if you get a chance.


Batman: The Killing Joke

December 21, 2017

killjoke

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CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Azzarello.

This is a really good origin story for the Joker and also tells how Barbara Gordon goes from Batgirl to being Oracle, the (basically) reference librarian/computer whiz that Batman and many other superheroes in the DC universe rely on.

Sure, there are things we’ve seen before- Batman trying to talk someone else out of doing exactly what he himself does (being a vigilante), or the chasing-the-bad-guy-through-the-funhouse thing, where of course the mirrors reveal more than just the reflection…but given who the Joker is, this is actually very appropriate, and works well.

But the writing and animation are both good, the buildup is excellent, and there’s more character work here than one generally finds in a comic-book movie, including some great backstory on The Joker.

The storytelling here is good, but (and Azzarello’s name on top should be enough warning) it is adult. There is strongly implied sex and a probable rape scene, and of course Barbara is shot in the spine and loses the use of her legs, hence Oracle.

Better than average for an animated feature made from a graphic novel!

 

 


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews.

From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….

 


The Night They Raided Minsky’s

September 2, 2017

From the novel of the same name by Rowland Barber

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A burlesque theater in New York is being threatened with closure by a member of the Society for Decency, and an Amish girl who has run away from home shows up looking for a job doing Biblical-themed dance. The theater owner and the star performer hatch a plot to advertise her as a sexy French singer and dancer, then have her do her Bible dance to fool the prudes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. Otter picked this up in a bargain bin, and we watched it with Music Mike. It was a fun evening, with a movie Mr. Otter and I had heard about for many years but never seen. Mike the Builder hadn’t heard of it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is a real artifact from its time, well written and funny. The list of actors is also great: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Elliott Gould, Forrest Tucker, Denholm Elliott, Jack Burns and Bert Lahr, among others.

The buildup is slow (looking backwards from the frantic pace of modern movies) but steady. The character development is the most important thing, and of course setting the scene for the big denouement that is obviously coming, given the title.

A pretty good blast from the past!


Sing

August 31, 2017

sing

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An agent tries to revitalize his failing theater by having a talent show. Shenanigans!

I was at the Red Cross ready for apheresis, which involves three hours of time and needles in both arms, so I wanted something amusing. I saw this in the Netflix folder they have, and thought it might be fun…and indeed it was!

Matthew McConaughey (an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is the voice of a koala theater owner, in a city populated by all different kinds of animals dressed as, and acting like, humans. There is no explanation of this and there doesn’t need to be…it just is, and is actually peripheral to the story, which involves several different performers and groups all trying to win the competition as we get to know them.

This was well written, engaging and fun. Not deep, not meaningful, just good fun. Watch it, you’ll be glad you did.


Lust in the Dust

August 31, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A dancehall girl, lost in the desert, ends up in a saloon in a small town among a bunch of questionable characters, all searching for the same thing…

Mr. Otter and I are fans of John Waters’ oeuvre, and we had not seen this, so when Craiggers (whom we were visiting) suggested watching it, we were glad to join in.

And we were not disappointed. This is typical John Waters- a parody of a well-known genre with his own broad humor and quirks thrown in. Divine is the peripatetic dance-hall girl, Lainie Kazan is the saloon owner and her rival, Tab Hunter is the handsome stranger, and Otter Family Favorite Actor Woody Strode even had a small part.

Not a great movie, but a good one, fun and with a satisfying denouement. If you have never seen a John Waters movie, this is not a bad one to start with (but Hairspray is the best)…just remember to be sure the kids are out of the room.