Movie Review: A Man Called Otto

In the movie “Boomerang”, released in 1992 and starring Eddie Murphy I remember thinking at the time, that Halle Berry (in one of her early roles) was probably just about the most attractive woman to ever appear on the screen. Some four years later, Berry mentioned that her favorite sport was Baseball, referencing her current husband David Justice in the very good movie “Executive Decision”. About a year later, who would have guessed that Halle Berry was in her garage with her 2 dogs sitting in her car trying to commit suicide because the man she thought was the love of her life was divorcing her. It was only because of her two dogs that Berry decided against ending her life almost 26 years ago.

The new and very good movie “A Man Called Otto” is about grief and loss at the level that Halle Berry experienced in 1997 and the main character in this movie Otto, played very well by Tom Hanks, also tries and fails to kill himself several times in this film. The reason for this is that Otto also lost the love of his life and suicide was his own personal solution while failing to cope with the tremendous pain of losing the one person in this world who he thought was the only one for him. Probably the greatest pain in this world is the pain of the loss of a long-term life partner or the person that you think is definitely the love of your life. Some of us find ways to move on, others of us turn to alcoholism, and others turn to suicide like Otto and Halle Berry.

Otto’s unbearable grief manifests itself with episodes of extreme anger towards everyone who lives in the townhouse development he lives in. He wants everything to be perfect, for people in his neighborhood to follow the rules and even to be fairly treated in his job. Even though for all of us, working for other people in too many cases can be too much about injustice and never enough about fairness.

Over time, through a family that moves across the street in Otto’s development, Otto slowly learns that relationships with other people and a sense of purpose in helping others can for some of us, be one solution for unbearable grief. I thought the slow, long-term relationships that Otto maintains throughout this story are the best parts of this film, causing Otto to transition from the bitter and angry man he understandably is, into someone who actually cares about other people. It is his sense of purpose and friendship that helps Otto move forward from his extreme pain. Otto’s life story is told through flashbacks showing Otto’s relationship with his wife from when and how they met, and through all of the tragedies they lived through. All of this is very well performed, highly emotional and at times, hard to watch.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are a way too low and insane 68% and are once again, dead wrong. With this movie – because of its powerful message and storytelling is a solid 90% and a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: Elvis

Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977 almost 45 long years ago and after all of this time, Hollywood is still making movies about this life. This is representative of his huge world wide fame that eventually killed him at the young age of 42. In far too many cases, the greatest and the best entertainers that so many have said are the greatest ever, just cannot handle the abnormalities of their lives and die young. Considering the insanity of any life in a spotlight of world wide fame, is it possible for anyone to live a long time? Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, just to name three. The other problem is dealing with a mundane and boring real life opposed to the times when you are on stage, in front of many thousands, considered the best ever. In order to be a great entertainer, it takes much more than just talent. It also takes the ability to stand in front of thousands of people and not get stage fright. You must have the skin of the rhinoceros, you must be able to manage the money and not pay too many people in your security team and entourage, this last one being one of Whitney Houston’s biggest problems, along with Elvis Presley. Eventually you must come to the realization that its just singing and dancing, its not curing Cancer or saving the world. When it all goes to your head, your life will become uncentered and too abnormal. When you are not happy at the top of the world, the only remaining direction is down.

As far as the new movie “Elvis”, unfortunately it is told in an unexpected and different way, with too much jumping around from scene to scene, with too many different timelines. This film is not enough unlike the way Michael Bay directs a movie, and I for one, have never been a fan of Michael Bay. This movie is well acted throughout, making it more of a shame the way the story is told in too many sudden fragments, rather than just a simple straight forward story. Many times, trying to be different and innovative can backfire, as is the case here.

As far as the story, there is not too much we did not know that is revealed in these two hours, other than the fact that Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s promoter for almost all of his career, was stealing from him out of greed and to fuel his gambling habit and ongoing debts. Tom Hanks plays Tom Parker and the good news here is that Hanks wore a fat suit, rather than gaining and then having to lose a great deal of weight – an ongoing health hazard with too many movies. Hanks is unrecognizable in this film due to an outstanding makeup job, as well as his acting, that once again is great. The lead role of Elvis Presley is played by actor Austin Butler and the accolades from critics about his performance are all well deserved.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are a moderate 79% and I agree with that number only because of the performance of Tom Hanks and Austin Butler – with an equally moderate recommendation, despite the bad way the story was told.

Movie Review: News of the World

Every time Hollywood produces another Western – two of the last very good ones “Open Range”, 2003 and “Unforgiven”, 1992 (Won Best Picture) – we are all reminded of how difficult a time it was in the days of the mid 1800’s, most especially around the years of the Civil War. The new movie “News of the World” is surprisingly Tom Hanks very first Western. The story is a simple one, a man by the name of Captain Kidd, played by Tom Hanks travels from town to town and reads newspapers to groups of people – and makes a little money doing this. Back in the dark days in this country of the mid-1800’s so many people could not read, so this service of reading newspapers to a group of people was a viable profession.

One day Kidd rides by a wooded area, where there is a black man who was hung. Within the wreckage of the mans wagon, is a young girl Johanna, played by Helena Zengel, who was taken by Indians after her parents were killed and then released by the same Indians, making her an orphan twice.  Zengel has a look about her that almost makes her appear to be someone who was alive during the 1800’s.  Kidd then takes the girl to the military authorities along with her papers to try and get them to take her to her relatives, many miles away.  After they refuse, what follows is a long and hard road trip with Kidd taking care of the child and encountering two groups of extreme lowlife that always seem to be highly prevalent in all Westerns. There is a great gunfight, with even the girl getting in involved within a brilliant scene that involving quarters to load a rifle cartridge.  The ending of this movie was brilliantly conceived with a very good conclusion that was both emotional and satisfying. 

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie is a very solid 85% and I agree with this opinion.  Tom Hanks might be nominated for another Academy Award for this movie, for his strong acting and for the extreme lack of movies released this year due to the horrible Pandemic.  I highly recommend this film.