The Founder

October 8, 2017

Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

A biopic about Roy Kroc, the founder of the McDonalds megalopoly, from his early days as a not-very-successful traveling salesman to becoming an international businessman.

This had great trailers, but I never got to the theater to see it…actually, it was the first movie I downloaded and watched on my iPad, once I found out that Netflix was doing that (yes, I’m old and behind the times.)

If you don’t know much about Ray Kroc, there might be some SPOILERS here. Just sayin’.

 

Serious Honey Michael Keaton is Kroc, and manages to walk the fine line of making him a sympathetic enough character, but also letting the viewer see the shark in him, so that when (as is inevitable) he screws the McDonald brothers over, it’s completely believeable.

The setup is good- the guy who’s going to make it rich on the next scheme, and his wife at home, whom he visits now and then Laura Dern) who is tired of his promises…and then he stumbles on a winning idea, and runs with it, and makes it a success…and buys it from the originators for a pittance (which is the story I had always heard too).

The ‘running the business’ part is well written too, interesting but not so much detail as to lose the viewer; the personalities are front and center here, and the inevitable clash of ideas for the future of the company.

The setting (late 50s) is well replicated and nothing I saw seemed to be out of place except…this Otter was born in San Bernardino, and grew up near there…and that was not shot anywhere near there, there are TREES and GREENERY. The credits say that it was shot in Georgia and New Mexico…

This was a good movie, well written, well acted and interesting.

 


Mud

July 24, 2014

mud

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A coming-of-age story set on the Arkansas rivers, when two teen boys find a mysterious drifter and end up helping him.

Mr. Otter and I were in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in a motel. If you have ever been to Scottsbluff, you will understand that there was not much to do that night; thank goodness our motel had fast wifi, because we decided to stream a movie on my ipad.

And after looking through available choices, this was the movie of the night.

And we both really liked it. It’s not really so much about McConaughey, it’s about the boys who get involved with him, and one of them in particular; he’s in love with a teen girl who treats him badly, his parents are getting divorced, he’s probably going to have to move away from the houseboat he lives in and the river he loves, and, well, he’s growing up and life is suddenly harder than it was.

All the characters are good; they’re mostly poor Arkansas river folk but they all have interesting dimensions, there is more to them than just that. McConaughey is a treat to watch in this film; he brilliantly treads the line between kooky and creepy in a really good way, making the viewer veer between, Why are you helping him? and Of course you’re going to help him! without ever really making it clear which side is the right one; the tension in the movie is really good.

An unexpected gem, watch it and enjoy it.


Zoot Suit

December 21, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

An otherwordly musical about the Zoot Suit riots in LA in the early 1940s that were the result of four Latino men being unjustly sent to San Quentin.

Okay, I grew up in Southern California, but of course in the small redneck community that was my home town, nothing was ever mentioned of something so controversial…so although when the musical, and then the movie, came out, I saw the ads on TV (yes, I was still hooked on the Box of Evil back then) and thought it looked interesting, I never got around to it.

Until this last weekend, when I went on a girls’ trip to Death Valley with La Cuerva.

We did all kinds of rugged outdoorsy things during the days, of course, but when night fell…there we were in our nice motel room, in our jammies, eating cookies, reading and talking. And we had brought some movies. Of which this was one.

It’s one of La Cuerva’s favorites, and has been on my list for a long time, so we watched it.

And it was really good. Not only historically accurate (and La Cuerva certainly knows her stuff there) but interesting to watch, with good music, great costumes and clever writing. Some of which is in Spanish, but understandable in context for gringos like me who only catch a little of it at any given time…and La Cuerva translated the salacious slang, that was fun!.

And Edward James Olmos is wonderful. He’s the centerpiece of the show, the instigator, narrator, and MC. He’s flamboyant, flashy, irresistable…and has a great part, very well suited to his talents.

The rest of the cast is good too, although the only other one of whom I had heard was Tyne Daly, who plays the woman who keeps their case going and finally succeeds in getting them released from prison.

The songs are not only good, but they fit the time period. Costumes and sets are excellent; this is a treat for all the senses.

A real winner, well worth watching. Even if you have no cookies.


What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

December 20, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Peter Hedges

This review contains a MAJOR SPOILER, just so you know..

Gilbert lives with his EXTEMELY eccentric family, and tries to have a life.

Well, this one was problematical…on the one hand, there were excellent actors in it, starting with a VERY young Johnny Depp, Serious Honey even before having all his teeth capped (almost cuter then, hm) in a very good role; Leonardo Di Caprio, by no stretch of the imagination a honey, but just amazingly good as Depp’s younger, mentally handicapped brother, and Juliette Lewis (might also be a honey, we’ll see) whom we last saw as the teenage girl in From Dusk Til Dawn. Oh, and Mary Steenburgen, whom Mr. Otter thinks is a total honey. And the people playing the other roles were good too.

So here you have this wonderful pool of acting talent, a script full of small town nutcases, a wacky family with many internal conflicts…but the movie just really doesn’t go anywhere.

Yes, Depp finds love with Lewis, and that’s really nicely done, and it’s fun to watch everyone interact and see their lives either come together and come apart, and the kids are fiercely protective of their mom…but the ending just totally blew it for me.

realpolTHEY SET FIRE TO THE HOUSE? Now, granted, it’s run down, they think there is no way to have their mom taken to the morgue without people making fun of her, they’re emotionally overwrought, and of course the house burning down makes a lovely metaphor for ending their old enabling ways of life and starting over. Not to mention being damn cool, cinematographically.

But seriously. Who would do that? Even if they hate the house and plan to move, they all need money and a place to live. One of the kids is 15, too young for a job and income. And even if the house is run down, they could sell it for SOMETHING. Plus there were a dozen solutions to the problem of getting the mom downstairs without the indignity of using a crane.

And why did she go upstairs (which exertion obviously caused her heart attack) anyway? Just so she could kick off and advance the plot? makes no sense.

Ah well. It was fun to watch, a lot of good characters, and a Serious Honey. Rent it, enjoy it, don’t expect too much.


Van Helsing

December 18, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

SPOILER ahead, read on at your own risk.

Um…Hugh Jackman is the good guy…and there were some bad guys…and some really good special effects…and maybe some vampires or something?

Okay, I did see this a while ago, I haven’t had time for reviews in weeks…but it really did take an effort to remember anything about it except that ol’ Hugh was in it. Not a honey, but very easy on the eye.

So as I remember, there are bad vampire guys trying to kill a brother and sister, Jackman is a professional vampire killer, and he sets out to rescue them, and uncovers (and saves the world from) billions o’ ugly vampire babies.

Unlike other recent movies of this type, there were actually some amusing parts to this, Jackman is his usual professional and fun to watch self, the special effects are darn good, and although it’s kinda obvious what’s going ot happen, it wasn’t hard work getting from point A to point B. Just kind of forgettable.

Rent it, open a beer, pull a cat onto your lap, just don’t expect too much.


Solaris

December 11, 2012

solaris

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Scientist goes to space station orbiting mysterious planet Solaris. Strange stuff happens.

OK, let me start off by saying that I really, really wanted to like this. I was not viewing it under good conditions, since I saw it on a plane, in the middle of a 10 hour flight, in daylight, going home from a wonderful vacation and thereby too tired to think, with attendants and passengers going up and down the aisles, and on a tiny screen in the awful pan&scan format…not ideal, to say the least.

But I had been sorry to miss it in the theatres, so I thought I’d give it a try…a good SF movie, with honey George Clooney in it, what’s not to like?

ghost
Unfortunately, the thing not to like was the totally incomprehensible ending…what the heck were they thinking? A really good movie, kinda oogie (his dead wife comes back, MORE THAN ONCE, ew!) but she wasn’t scary looking or anything.

Clooney was very good in this, as were the other actors, a suspenseful plot…but no resolution. Not to mention a lot of things with no explanation-where is Solaris? What is the space station doing there? How did Clooney GET there? basic stuff like that is just not explained, and the ending is totally unsatisfying.

The Russian language version of this is supposed to be much better…try that instead.


Sin City

December 10, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

From the series of graphic novels of the same name by Frank Miller.

This movie is actually taken from the first, third and fourth of the series: The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard. The books are incredible, hard hitting and often gruesome noir stories with some of the best illustrations I’ve ever seen…beautiful stylistic renderings with amazing perspectives and contrast, just wonderful stuff. The stories and the writing are excellent as well, but the art is eye-popping.

The creators of the movie really did a pretty darn good job of bringing these books to the big screen. The three main characters (Marv, Dwight and Hartigan) are great to watch, especially the makeup job on Mickey Rourke as Marv to give him that beaten-up ugliness he needs to have. The women all look great as well, and the hookers in Old Town were straight from the pictures. Very nice. Much of the writing was word for word from the books as well.

And the look of the thing, oh man. Shot in black and white with touches of color, or with blood showing up as white (or yellow) patches instead of red…perspectives, sets, whole SCENES are faithfully recreated from the stories.

I still think these stories are more successful in graphic novel (‘COMIC BOOK’ says Mr. Otter scornfully) format…the dialogue can actually sound a little silly out loud, and the harshness of the black and white page is softened just a little too much by the camera…but this was a totally worthy project, very well done, and really fun to watch.

Especially seeing Frodo as a homicidal cannibalistic killer. Worth the price of the rental right there.


Shall We Dance?

December 10, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Fred and Ginger strut their stuff again. The running gag here is that everyone else thinks they’re married, but she thinks he’s so annoying that he has to convince her to marry him and then not divorce him.

Overall, this is one of their best. The plot is silly but fun, they are in fine form, there are some of the best songs and dance numbers ever, the setting of a lot of the movie on an ocean liner lends itself to more variety in sets and dance numbers, very nice. And Edward Everett Horton and Eric Blore are both in this, an excellent added bonus.

And then we get to the last ten minutes of the movie, when the writers obviously said, “We have no idea what to do here” and started taking massive amounts of mind-altering drugs before finishing it off…in the last number, Fred is dancing with one group of women in (I am not joking) white frilly tutus and black T-shirt/leotards, not a very good combination, and the other bunch of women he is dancing with are all wearing (really, not joking) Ginger Rogers masks…it was completely surreal.

But, as these movies go, this was overall a really, really good one. I hereby promote Fred Astaire to the rank of Serious Honey…and I can’t wait to get to another Fred and Ginger movie!


Roberta

December 5, 2012

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The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Fred and Ginger are in Paris, and find themselves mixed up with Randolph Scott, Irene Dunne and a high-fashion clothing designer named Roberta.

Okay, this was a wonderful movie. And except for one thing, it would have gotten a higher rating. Fred and Ginger are really good, both individually and together. I’m kind of assuming that since they didn’t get top billing, that they were not at the peak of their fame, because who in his right mind would give Irene Dunne top billing over them?

In fact, after viewing this movie, the question, Who in his right mind would even put her in a movie? was resounding through my head.

Sure, we were trying to kill time on an Amtrak train that was several hours late. Yes, a Superliner Standard Room may not be the ideal venue to watch movies, although it IS cuddly. But…I was charmed by everything else in the movie EXCEPT Ms. Dunne. By her third song I was actually cringing and asking Mr. Otter if she had any more numbers…not QUITE as bad as hearing songs sung by the exceptionally wooden Pierce Brosnan but very close. She was truly awful, and it was surprising to see such awfulness juxtaposed with the delicious fluffy goodness of Fred and Ginger.

But that was the only bad part.

And I have to say, after this movie, that Randolph Scott has just been promoted to Serious Honey. Oh my yes. He was indeed worth watching…and watching…and watching…oh, I’m drooling again…

But back to the plot, which was silly but satisfying. All loose ends tied up, everyone gets the girl (except the girls, of course, who get the guys) and many good songs are sung and dances are danced. Oh, and the songs are by Jerome Kern, so you know they’re wonderful.

Very worth watching, just, you know, try to minimize your exposure to Irene Dunne, it could be bad for your health.


The Public Enemy

November 29, 2012

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

James Cagney stars as a Bad Boy Who Gets His Just Desserts.

SERIOUS SPOILER BELOW, in case you don’t want to know the ending.

This was actually pretty darn good, given the preachiness of it: A Life of Crime Is Bad. I think Cagney was a much better actor than people give him credit for, not to mention versatile, doing everything from gangster flicks to westerns to musicals. He’s fun to watch and listen to, and uses a whole lot of body language and expression, as well as the tough guy dialogue, to get his character across.

This is basically a story of a bad kid starting off by stealing and (gasp!) DRINKING BEER, becoming a bootlegger, rising in the local crime syndicate until there’s a war between his mob and a rival, at the end of which (of course) he is, rather spectacularly, killed.

I had seen the ending before as a clip in some program, so was not surprised. What did surprise me was how enjoyable this movie was, for all its preachiness. Cagney, of course, steals every scene he’s in; Jean Harlow is pretty but wooden, although there is a very young and skinny Joan Blondell for eye candy, nice! The scenes are good, the period detail (like a scene that takes place in 1925 with someone playing Scott Joplin on a piano in the background) is excellent, the parental hand wringing is kind of amusing.

A deserved classic, don’t miss it.