Justice League

November 22, 2017

jl2

Internet Movie Database        Movie Reviews

There are a few small SPOILERS here, but you already know what’s going to happen in this movie…a bad guy appears because of shiny powerful boxes, starts destroying cities, the good guys get together and…

Oh, wait a minute, that’s The Avengers.

Um, there are short intro segments about several superheroes who end up banding together to…

Nope, Avengers again.

There’s a bad guy somewhere beyond Earth that’s come back to take over…

Oops. Avengers.

Bright shiny boxes of dangerous stuff from the beginning of time.

Nope. Ditto.

A bunch of superheroes who don’t get along but have to work together?

Been there, done that.

Joss Whedon.

Sigh.

You know how in a lot of families, there’s a smart and charming and successful kid, and then they have a sibling who wants to be just like them but JUST DOESN’T GET IT? That second kid is DC. Oh my god, they want to be the Marvel Universe SO BADLY.

Emphasis on the BADLY.

Wonder Woman was great. I liked many things about Suicide Squad. The TV show Gotham is way amazing, and we love it, Chez Otter. But otherwise? Even when Marvel SHOWS THEM HOW TO DO IT (the aforementioned Avengers movies) they JUST DON’T GET IT.

Now, I have to admit, they are not working with a great palette…I have never been a fan of Superman, and Batman is only as good as his foils; my favorite part of the Batman universe is ancillary stuff that take place in Gotham (which is one reason that I’m enjoying the TV show so much). In this movie, Wonder Woman was fine, The Flash was cute and funny, the cyborg guy was the smart-but-conflicted-and-bitter one, and Aquaman…well, we’ll get to him.

And I have to say right now, I hated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and didn’t much like Man of Steel either. And I knew when Superman ‘died’ that it couldn’t be permanent, because why would DC shoot themselves in the foot like that?

So yes. DC is trying to be Marvel but just failing miserably, and this movie was no exception. Sure, Gal Gadot is a really good Wonder Woman, and they actually gave her a couple of good moments. Ben Affleck as Batman…well, he was in there trying, but he didn’t have much of a part; he divided his time between being Dark and Serious, and trying to cajole everyone into staying together. The cyborg guy (whose name I just don’t remember because he was really not memorable) was there so they’d have someone to be super smart, and The Flash was the cute funny kid who makes the smartass comments.

But all of their character traits are superficial. Like they’re holding up signs saying, I’m the genius and I love my dad or I’m cute and funny and will learn to be brave when it’s needed. But nothing they do really tells us about their personality, it’s just fitting them into the boxes.

Aquaman. Yes, he’s kinda hot, and he can kick ass, but what the hell was he doing in this? The baddie stole the shiny box from his people and he was righteously angry, but he has no special powers on land, aside from looking awesome and being strong. He got ONE SCENE where his water powers were useful, just by chance, and that’s it.  And what was up with that whole thing where he was talking to his mom the Queen underwater, in their castle in Atlantis and…THEY NEEDED AN AIR BUBBLE TO TALK? Even in a comic-book universe that makes NO SENSE AT ALL. There were plot holes one could drive a Mack truck through, but of all of them that was the one that made me go, Huh?

Speaking of stupid plot holes, if I were waking a preternaturally powerful being (Superman) up from the dead with ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA whether or not he’d be insane or evil or even kind of homicidal to the guy who did him in, I wouldn’t rely on his love interest to focus his attention on the Light Side, I’d damn well have a big ol’ hunk of green kryptonite ready to go JUST IN CASE. Duh.

And DAMMIT even though he’s been dead since the first movie, they still managed to work Kevin Costner into this movie. That’s THREE TIMES I’ve seen him when I swore I’d never see another movie with him in it. Dammit.

This was ponderous and slow-moving. The villain was stupid and not scary or even interesting; he was so generic that Schwarzenegger could have played him (and sometimes I could have sworn he was…). The ‘boxes that can end the universe’ thing was kinda stupid, especially since even though they were put together, the good guys (of course) managed to pull them apart at the last minute at no actual cost to themselves. The banter was dull; the only person who got good lines was Alfred, which (much as I like Jeremy Irons) is just sad. And I really got tired of the ‘pose shots’, where they’d stop for a second in a heroic pose. Once in a movie is okay. Maybe twice. But that’s it.

And Joss Whedon. He kind of plays both sides of the fence, Marvel and DC. When Zach Snyder (writer and director) had to step down, Whedon took over for the last six weeks of shooting…and gets no director credit. But he DOES get a screenplay credit, which according to The Rules means at least 33% of the script is his. Interesting. But even Joss Whedon couldn’t save this turkey.

This is a SUPERHERO ACTION MOVIE, folks. What it should be is fast-moving, fun to watch, and full of action balanced with character development. What it should NOT be is dull and ponderous, with characters who have no chemistry together. And of course as soon as you bring Superman into the mix, it kind of ends any suspense the viewer might be feeling about whether or not the universe will be saved; there is no chance of mission failure.

On the other hand, the mission is the movie…and the movie is a failure. But this is an ‘epic’, so…EPIC FAIL.

 

 


Thor: Ragnarok

November 7, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Thor is trying to prevent Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard, duh.

The third movie in the Thor section of the Marvel combined universe, and a worthy addition. There are SPOILERS here, I think, so I’d recommend that you go see the movie first; it’s WAAAAY more fun if you don’t know what to expect.

I’ll just wait here while you run off to the theater or stream it (if you’re reading this later than I wrote it).

No hurry. No pressure. Take your time.

Okay. All done? Here we go:

WOO HOO! what a fun movie!

And I am so tempted to end my review there…what more needs to be said? But I’ll go on, Devoted Fans, because it’s fun to babble about stuff like:

  • Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum! I saw this in the theater with Ottersis and we both said OMG at the same time when he appeared. And what a great role!
  • The whole thing where half the movie takes place in a science-fictional other world instead of our own, but that’s connected to ours (Hulk and a Valkyrie both show up, so obviously SERIOUSLY connected.) And I loved the trash heap/sybaritic rich people/gladiator thing, it was great.
  • Speaking of Valkyries, what a great character she is. Looking forward to seeing more of her.
  • Yay for Thor’s haircut, a very good change for him going forward into a new kind of role!
  • Also Yay for Thor actually being kind of less of an asshole, and being able to stop hitting things long enough to look at a situation and figure it out, or actually talk to people first. Good character development.
  • AND Dr. Strange showed up, in a great short sequence. Very nicely done! I was so happy to see this, I love the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. Not just that the backstories are connected  but that characters show up in other characters’ movies, like Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming.
  • Awesome special effects, but (within the MU thing) believeable. And the special effects were never there in and of themselves, as awesome as they were; they were there for the story. Speaking of special effects, Hulk going mano-a-mano with Fenrir, Wow.

Okay, I’ll stop babbling about the things that stood out in my memory, having seen it about 24 hours ago. Can’t wait to see it again and catch details.

One thing (because I’m such a picky picky reviewer): If Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown, btw, an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is destined to destroy Asgard, but the point is made that Asgard isn’t a place, it’s the people, why is he stomping on the buildings and letting the ship full of Asgardians get away? doesn’t that make the prophecy untrue? Hm. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Anyway. A seriously excellent addition to the MU canon, fun, well written, beautiful to watch (Cate Blanchett, yes indeedy!) and a really good time was had by all. Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.


Geostorm

November 7, 2017

 Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.


Blade Runner 2049

October 12, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Bears some relationship to Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But not much…

This otter is old enough to have seen the original Blade Runner in the theater. Yes, some people walking on this earth are actually that old. And what was released in the theater had a truly awful ending, which was rectified when DVDs were invented and we all went out and bought the Director’s Cut (which is the one to watch, kids, just sayin’).

And in fact, I have not seen it since I started this blog on January 1, 2002, so it has indeed been a while, although I think Mr. Otter watched it while I did something else and I saw the best bits over again.

Anyway. So Blade Runner is a very old classic movie, justly famous, well written, good actors, blah blah blah. Amazing.

And…now there’s a sequel.

So first: this review contains

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mr. Otter and I had a rare afternoon together with nothing planned. We had heard many conflicting things about this movie, about half good and half bad. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score in the 80s, though, which is usually a good sign. So we went to our local Emporium du Movies to see it.

And…hm. I liked the look of it, not quite as low-rent and filthy as the original, but they had a ton more money, and this time they had computers (the original Blade Runner was one of the last analog-effects movies that wasn’t purposely made without computers). The light, scenery, sets, everything was visually stunning.

The actors were good- Ryan Gosling, although he had an emotional range that went all the way from A to about D, was good in a part where he didn’t know stuff and was trying to find out. Robin Wright was great, I didn’t even recognize her, although I did recognize David Bautista. And of course there was someone else I recognized…but we’ll get to that.

And I am not at all a prudish Otter, but they sure threw in as many naked women as they possibly could. No men, just women. Hmpf. Although the scene where he started to have sex with both the prostitute and his computer lady was REALLY good.

The music was PORTENTOUS. Mostly I didn’t notice it, which is good (it’s always a bad sign when you notice the background music in a movie) but every now and then, it would get VERY MEANINGFUL to let us know that SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING. Especially toward the end of the movie.

I thought the first couple of hours (oh yes, this movie was TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES LONG, this was one of the problems) was pretty good- the plot was good, everything was fine…then, when the scene moved to what I think was the remnant of  Las Vegas…it all went south.

It got PRETENTIOUS. And MEANINGFUL. And DEEP. And…just took itself WAAAY too seriously.

And Harrison Ford, reprising yet another famous role. I’m waiting for him to drive by in a souped up race car, 90 years old and trying to find the guy he’s supposed to be racing…that’s pretty much the only iconic role of his that he hasn’t done again lately…

Why couldn’t they just write a good sequel-ish script, make a good story and leave it at that? Why does this have to be a direct Harrison-Ford-involving, rewriting-the-original, spawning-yet-another-franchise kind of thing?

The two things they did right was that A) Gosling WASN’T the child of the replicants, and the reveal was very good, nice foreshadowing without giving it away; and B) the dog didn’t die. Because that’s always a deal-killer Chez Otter.

But seriously? This was WAAAAY overblown. And also, even though it was nice to see a movie that took some time with scenes and characters and all that, this needed an hour cut out of it. And I would volunteer pretty much the whole last hour for the chop, as well as the long loving pans over the computer-generated apocalyptic landscape. That was at least half an hour of movie time.

Yes, you probably need to see it if you loved the first movie. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t expect too much, and more importantly don’t be surprised when the third (of course there’s going to be a sequel, that was obvious) shows up.

But I won’t be in the theater with you, I’m done with this. I’m going home and watching the original over again.

 


Suicide Squad

October 8, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel series; the first bunch of New 52 issues are by Adam Glass.

A group of extremely powerful supervillains are taken from the maximum security prison where they have been locked up, fitted with explosives that will blow their heads off if they don’t obey orders, and are sent on a mission to save the world. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one thing, it’s DC…and they are not solid with me. They have been trying with very little success to find a way to a version of the sweet sweet money train that is the Marvel Universe these days, and it’s been like watching a wreck…you know it’s awful, but you can’t look away. Yes, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m looking at you here.

I agree, Wonder Woman was very good. Even Mr. Otter enjoyed that one. But I haven’t seen ANYTHING else from DC that was worth mentioning…until Suicide Squad.

Jared Leto did a really creditable job as the Joker (who is not in the Squad, but is major character Harley Quinn’s abusive boyfriend.) Margot Robbie totally nailed Quinn, in a really crazy-but-cute way. And Serious Honey Will Smith as Deadshot, the other most important member of the group? He was GREAT. This was a really good role for him, and it was nice to see him firing on all cylinders again. And the rest of the squad was good, but not as memorable; in the comics, they come and go, depending on who gets killed in each mission.

So yes, violent, funny, good action, good characters, good writing. Not the best superhero movie ever, but a really good contender, just when I thought DC was never going to be able to show us anything worth going to the theater to see.

Now it’s almost time for Justice League…and I have serious doubts about this one…

 


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.

 


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database          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….