theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

9

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In a post-apocalyptic world, little clockwork doll-people are the heirs to humankind, but need to find the secret to their creation to ensure their survival.

Otterniece and her son Flash, an almost-11-year-old, were visiting. There was a night when Mr. Otter was at his class, and my niece was in San Francisco seeing a play with a friend of hers. And I said to Flash, let’s make a night of it, we’ll do whatever you want!

What he wanted turned out to be:

  1. A visit to the local comics/trading card store
  2. A movie
  3. Dinner from Del Taco (nom!)
  4. Playing games til my eyes started closing by themselves (around 10 pm; I’d had to get up at 6 that morning for a meeting, and this otter does NOT get up that early ever unless it’s absolutely necessary)
  5. Watching dvds until it was 10:45 and I pronounced it to be bedtime (more like mine than his, but I had to get him all taken care of first.

As I said, I had never heard of this movie. When we talked about our plans, he suggested this. District 9? I said, Isn’t that rated R or PG-13?

No, he said, 9, it’s a different movie.

Sure, I said. Hey, I made it through Wall-E and Happy Feet, how bad could this be?

But I was pleasantly surprised.

Not unexpectedly, the animation was very good.

But what surprised me was, the story was also pretty good.

The humans are dead and our civilization is in ruins; the machines have taken over (think Terminator) and are still fighting each other and the doll-people. This is no brightly colored cartoon future; it’s dark, sepia and gray, and scary stuff happens.

As becomes clear soon after the beginning of the movie, nine dolls were made, each with a number on its back, and of course there are many obstacles (some pretty scary, like the skeletal cat who reminded me of Jack in full hunting mode.)

Given that it’s a pretty ordinary plot, and a kids’ movie, it was really well written. It’s rather dark; several major characters are killed almost right away, and the outlook is pretty grim. As one who loves SF movies, I could see bits of Terminator, Frankenstein, War of the Worlds and several other well-known plots mixed up in the storyline…but it works.

This is a good one to rent; short, enjoyable, not entirely predictable, lots of action. Grab a cat (not a skeletal one) or a kid to watch it with, and enjoy.

The 6th Day

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The bad guys have illegally cloned Arnold, and is he ever pissed off about it!

A mildly amusing action flick, some good explosions and fair f/x. Robert Duvall is his usual interesting self, and Arnold chews scenery in a quiet and dignified manner, especially when there are two of him.

Too bad that the best movie he’ll ever make is 11 years behind him, but he keeps on trying, at least. Some good lines, a couple of funny scenes, interesting ideas on how genetic engineering and cloning will become part of our lives in the next few years…but…

Soapbox time: as in John Q, this movie seems to mostly exist to make some really obvious points:

  • Cloning is scary. Yup.
  • Genetic engineering is something that might not be good. Oh, really?
  • Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well, duh.
  • Death is Nature’s Way and who are we to counteract it? Philosophy 1A, been there done that…

And was I the only person that thought that doll was REALLY CREEPY??? slight oogies on that one…

Reality police: firstly, how could the Bill Gates guy put the diseases into the clones without the CHIEF SCIENTIST IN CHARGE who has to oversee it all knowing about it? I don’t believe it. Even more unrealistic: at the end, the new cat is released from the box and he and the dog immediately get along JUST FINE??? I don’t think so!

And one more problem: In this movie, the attitude is, you can be cloned, and your memories up to the moment you are cloned are put into the clone, so for all intents and purposes the clone is you, so you don’t care if you die because your consciousness goes on.

But that’s not how it really works…I mean, it isn’t really you, it’s another person/being that looks like you and has your memories…but your consciousness is gone, you’re dead…so why are all these people so complacent about getting killed and being brought back as a clone? totally doesn’t work for me, but I guess most of the people who watched this don’t have degrees in philosophy…maybe I should turn mine in before I watch these things…

But the explodo is pretty good, worth watching for that.

50 first dates

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The Perennial Playboy, commitment phobic and full of enticing lines for any woman who catches his fancy and is going to be leaving on the next boat, falls for Lucy, who has been in a car accident and has lost her short-term memory: she relives the same day over and over, forgetting all about it in her sleep, with the help of her enabling family and friends.

Oh my god, I watched an Adam Sandler movie. And you know, it wasn’t that bad. Truthfully, like Jim Carrey in a very few of his movies (The Truman Show and The Majestic come to mind), when Sandler isn’t trying to convince you he’s the funniest thing on two legs, he’s not that bad. (Robin Williams used to be the funniest thing on two legs, but many of his later movies belied that impression…)

Sandler is kinda charming as a guy who is in love with a woman to whom he has to introduce himself over and over and over. Her father and brother (played by Blake Clark and Sean Astin) are also nicely drawn characters, and the crew at the diner where she has breakfast every morning are great.

But there were two things that were really annoying about this movie: Sandler’s sidekick, an older (possibly german?) woman who gets all the sex jokes and old woman jokes and walrus barf and…you guessed it. Sandler doesn’t do the gross-out stuff, so she gets it. Ew. Offensive and annoying.

And then there’s Drew Barrymore, who wins the Keanu Reeves Personality Sink award. Yes, she has negative amounts of charm…when she’s on screen, not only does she have absolutely none of her own, but she’s like a black hole, actually sucking the liveliness out of whomever is near her and deadening everything that happens in that scene.

But hey, she’s cute and isn’t barfing on anything, and in an Adam Sandler movie that’s a plus.

Don’t bother with this one, not much of a much, one idea that repeats itself over and over and over.

3:10 to Yuma

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A rancher who owes money to an unscrupulous man who is trying to run him off his land agrees to take an outlaw to the train station, to be sent to Yuma to be tried and executed.

I was really looking forward to seeing this, it got great reviews and has a good cast: Russell Crowe, of whom I am not fond…but once in a while, as in Gladiator and The Far Side of the World he is really good, so I had hopes for him. I like Christian Bale, even when he is in a sucky movie. Peter Fonda is also in this, and Alan Tudyk, whom we know better as Wash from Firefly.

So what’s not to like? Let’s use this movie as a negative example while we learn…

HOW TO MAKE A GOOD WESTERN

  1. Characters: even if they’re stock characters, you have to like at least one of them, or you’ll be thinking Who cares? when danger threatens. Russell Crowe was a slightly menacing whinyboy, Christian Bale was a wimp trying to make good, and the only person we liked in this was Alan Tudyk, who played the doctor. And because he was the only good character, you know what happened to him, don’t you?Oh, and the Evil Ex-Confederate Soldier was in this one, we’ve seen enough of him too. Sigh. Lee Van Cleef did it better, you know… 
  2. Action: Most Westerns need some of this. There are a few exceptions, but generally that’s what people are plonking down their ten bucks to see. This movie? LONG dull scenes that basically did very little to advance the plot.
  3. Speaking of plot, that’s another thing you need. And don’t be stingy! This movie had about forty five minutes of actual plot in a two hour movie. And not much explodo filling in, either. Mr. Otter fell asleep about half an hour into the movie, then woke up and wandered off to do email, and just came back for the gunfight at the end.And he didn’t miss much, believe me. 
  4. And if you’re working on a plot, some good dialogue would help too. The only vaguely interesting thing anyone in this movie said was (of course) Russel Crowe’s line, after one of the guys who are taking him to Yuma disses him and makes a disparaging remark on Crowe’s parentage: as he kicks the guy over a cliff, he gets to say, Even an outlaw loves his momma! That earned a small laugh from me. The only really enjoyable line in the movie.
  5. Cliches: Okay, there are some that are OK in a western…and there are others that are not. It’s not really so annoying that this movie pretty much goes through all the ‘Western’ stereotypes: the erudite outlaw who forges a kind of friendship with his captor, the evil guy trying to make money from the railroad taking over, the chinese railroad workers, etc etc etc. But the one cliche that OTTER NEVER FORGIVES is the Gloating Bond Villian Syndrome (and that gets the cliche police to show up.)They’ve captured the outlaw. They know his gang is trying to get him back. They want to make an example of him. Smart thing to do? shoot him and display his body to prove he’s dead. But no. The silly plot of this movie REQUIRES that they take him to a train station to catch the eponymous train so that he can be publicly tried and executed, thereby causing the most possible collateral damage from his gang, who (duh) are following the whole way, trying to get him back. What an idiotic thing to do!Not to mention the ‘shortcut through the Black Hills where the Apaches who wouldn’t go to the reservation are shooting at anyone who goes through there, so we must have a big ol’ discussion about whether or not it’s too dangerous before deciding to do it’…as everyone watching the movie knows they are going to. And the scary Injuns? three guys. Sheesh. Russell Crowe takes them out while WEARING HANDCUFFS. Needless to say, it didn’t make him look tough, it made the filmmakers look silly.

    And finally: THE BIG SHOOT-EM-UP AT THE END. This was actually pretty good, the most watchable ten or fifteen minutes of the film. Especially after the sheriff of the town where they’re supposed to catch the train shows up with his deputies to help out…and Evil Confederate Guy publicly offers 200 bucks to anyone who shoots one of the good guys. But why (in that case) didn’t the townspeople just go in the hotel and get them? Because then we would have missed the scenes of Crowe and Bale bonding some more. Have I already said ‘sheesh.’ too much?

     

Well, there you are. This movie got some serious critical acclaim (probably based solely on the actors’ previous reputations) and I really have no idea why. Oh, and the TWO OSCAR NOMINATIONS, much touted in the ads? both for score/composer. Nuf sed. Speaking as an Otter who really loves good Westerns, this one really sucked the ‘silly and boring’ lollipop. Rent it if you must, but don’t buy it. You’ll just be encouraging this kind of thing.

300 Spartans

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The battle of Thermopylae. Guess who got stomped?

So Ottersis and I were emailing, and she mentioned that she was watching this. Ooh, I said, I’ve never seen it. So she brought it when she came to visit.

And Mr. Otter and I watched it the other night.

It wasn’t bad…but man, they did talk a lot. The ratio of talky explication to actual battle scene time seemed like it was about 10:1, truthfully. Most of it was silly 60s over-the-top epic historical stuff. Pretty to watch, lots of bad guys to boo, but if I want a movie about a battle, damn, I want it to be ABOUT THE BATTLE. Like Frank Miller’s version of this same battle, which (over the top as it was) I really liked.

I can see Mr. Otter sneering now, since he was contemptuous of Miller’s historical veracity, and got tired of the puddles of drool in front of my seat from all the computer-enhances buffed-out Spartan dudes. Nevertheless, it was a fine example of a movie about a battle that was actually just about ALL ABOUT THE BATTLE. A minimum of side issues, just enough to let you know the political situation and why there wasn’t no help coming from nowhere.

So this was interesting, but not great. Worth watching. But of the two, I definitely prefer 300, and would gladly see it again.

Reality Police: Sir Ralph Richardson, who really was excellent in this as Themistocles of Athens, kept invoking Jove. Huh? Jupiter was the ROMAN version of Zeus, who is who he SHOULD have been calling on. No wonder they got pasted.

300

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel by the same name by Frank Miller, who is one of Hollywood’s golden boys right now, him and Alan “V for Vendetta” Moore.

Mr. Otter and I both read this book, and it was pretty good. It’s the battle of Thermopylae, 480 BC, where the Greek army, vastly outnumbered, held off the Persian hordes and did massive damage to them. The most famous part of this is the part the movie is about, where King Leonidas and 300 spartans (and 700 more non-Spartan Greek soldiers) hold the pass at Thermopylae for three days against the Persians.

Now, both of us had read the graphic novel, and as I remember, thought it was okay. Not as good as Sin City (which Mr. Otter has not read) but good. And I figured the movie would only improve on the novel.

Plus, of course, every single woman I knew had told me about the eye-candy contained therein. Not to mention that every reviewer had to use the word ‘beefcake’ somewhere in the review, without fail. Ah, thought I, this sounds like a serious, thoughtful, historically accurate yet sensitive movie full of cerebral delights.

And boy HOWDY was I ever right! Oh, sorry, I’m drooling.

Evidently they filmed the whole thing in front of a blue screen and then cgi’d the HECK out of it…which means that all these guys in their little leather speedos (yeah, sure, that’s what the Spartans wore…) are BUFFED OUT TO THE MAX. Six-packs everywhere. OMG. Like Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, filmed with an entirely nude cast (no kidding, even Sir John Gielgud), after a while you just don’t notice it any more. But it sure made for a nice movie-going experience!

This was a seriously guy-oriented action movie: very tough, very military, very bloody. And yet…many women liked it a lot, and not just for the scenery (which was indeed excellent, did I mention that part? good.) Because it’s really beautifully made.

Although this is the part where I have to mention that I did not go see this movie with Mr. Otter. Oh no. I foolishly agreed to accompany Mr. Otter’s dark side, Historian-on-a-Stick…and spent the whole movie next to him, with him just hating everything about it. He even got up and went to the lobby for coffee halfway through, not a good sign.

Must have been the giant rhinoceros…

Okay, it’s not historically accurate. Mr. Otter says (with scorn in his voice) that the COMIC BOOK is more accurate, and that may be true.

But folks, this is one wild ride. Good moviemaking, excellent pacing, really amazing animation, good writing…I really really liked it. Wish I had seen it on a really big screen instead of the emasculated bastard cousin of a movie theater we ended up in…but that’s a rant for later.

See it, rent it, love it. Try not to notice the inaccuracies, the fact that the spurting blood NEVER gets on any of the Spartans unless it’s their own. Be amused at the rhinoceros, and Xerxes, and all the over-the-top comic-booky stuff. And enjoy. It’s a great movie.

The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

A rancher befriends an illegal immigrant who is mistakenly killed by a Border Patrol officer, and they take him back to his home town for burial.

That is actually totally misleading, since there is a lot more going on in this movie than that. Tommy Lee Jones (for once, NOT AT ALL honeyesque) plays the rancher. Other notable actors (at least we noticed them) were Melissa Leo as the older cafe waitress having affairs with several guys, including Tommy Lee, and Barry Pepper as the Clueless Border Patrol Guy Who Is Taught A Lesson.

About a third of the way through, Mr. Otter commented, Somebody saw Lone Star one too many times…and he was right, that was the kind of feeling that was being aimed at, with various stories, flashbacks, etc.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have the brilliant John Sayles writing or directing, so it really didn’t work. There are some good scenes, there are some good characters, there is a twist in the end just in case you fall asleep, but overall…it just doesn’t work very well.

Sure, rent it for Tommy Lee and Melissa Leo…but don’t expect too much.

2012

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It’s 2012, and of course the world is ending because the Mayans said it would. With great special effects.

Okay, I only went to see this one for the special effects, I admit it. And they were AWESOME. Once. In a big theater with a full sound system.

Kids, don’t try this at home, you’ll only be disappointed.

So what is wrong with this movie? well, the Mayan calendar does indeed end in 2012. But that’s not because the world ends, it’s just because that’s when the cycle ends. They would have run down to Barnes Ignoble and bought a new one….but no! the fact that their cycle ends AT ALL has spawned a whole lot of stupid end-of-the-world crap (including Aronofsky’s The Fountain, and if you know not whereof I speak, consider yourself lucky) rivaling the Y2K stuff in stupidity if not intensity. So why not make a movie of it?

Well, because, as we know from so many idiotic movies that preceded it, unless you have an actual plot and good writing, special effects are just not enough to make this otter happy.

But I have to say, having figured out that it would be STOO-PID and gone solely to see LA destroyed while John Cusack gets his family out (barely) in the nick of time, that part was pretty damn good.

And Woody Harrelson was GREAT as the crazed geologist/survivialist/conspiracy nut in Yellowstone. That was actually the best part of the movie.

The rest? not so much. Didn’t care about the plot or characters. At all. And I’m an otter who not only cries when ANYONE in a movie dies, I will even burst into tears during movies I’m not even WATCHING if someone dies. I can’t be in the room while Mr. Otter is watching Million Dollar Baby any more.

So this will tell you how lame this movie was, that I not only didn’t care about which of the woman’s two husbands would come back from swimming through the gears of the door of the giant ship, but I didn’t bat an eye when the evil dad tossed his annoying children into the ship so they’d survive while he plunged to his death. Just didn’t care.

Yes, I know, this review is awfully late and you are probably not going to get to see it in a theater with the big ol’ booming sound system. I’d say skip it, but if you MUST, try to visit a friend who has the best home setup of anyone you know. And don’t even LOOK in my direction, I’m not watching this dog twice.

20th Century Boys

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From the 22 volume manga series by Naoki Urasawa

Okay, I have a confession to make: I love manga and anime.

I know, I know, you’ve all been reading my reviews all these years thinking I was just an ordinary boring otter who only watches movies…but you’re wrong.

I’m an ordinary boring otter who watches movies, reads graphic novels and recently has been converted to manga, and once you’re on that primrose path, anime is not far behind.

Yes, I too used to turn my nose up at those Japanese comics. Like you, I would describe Ranma 1/2: Throw water on boy, he turns into girl. Throw water on girl, she turns back into boy. Shenanigans! and I’d sniff superciliously.

Then (because I am a Teen Librarian) I started a manga discussion group in my library…and becuase I did, I had to start reading the stuff.

And you know what? like any other literature, there’s good and bad and stupid. And the stupid and bad are really stupid and bad…but the good is VERY VERY GOOD.

Which leads me (the long way round) to 20th Century Boys, which is VERY VERY GOOD INDEED.

A group of kids (mostly boys) are friends in the late 60s-early 70s. They have a secret hideout and try to avoid the local bullies and get on with their lives. We see many of the same people (and a bunch of new ones, including the Friend and his cult) around the turn of the year 2000, and also fifteen years later.

All of these time periods are brilliantly braided together with global epidemic death, the end of civilization, and giant robots attacking Tokyo.

And it’s WONDERFUL. This is one of the best SF series ever, beautifully written and illustrated, with great characters, an intricate and fascinating plot, and I can’t wait for the next issue (as I type this in August of 2011, there are 15 in English.)

But wait! you might say. This is a movie review…why are you blathering about a manga series?

Because, like most manga, there is also a film version…but instead of a whole lot of chapters of anime (the cartoons they usually make out of manga), this one is a LIVE ACTION FILM.

It’s a three-parter, and each part is 2 1/2 hours. A serious investment of time, and TOTALLY WORTH IT. They got actors who are PERFECT in their parts, all of them looking JUST like they do in the manga, which I loved. They cut out some unneeded plot elements, but the major points are all there, and are well written. And then I had to decide what to do…because the second DVD ended at the same place as I have read up to in the books.

Watch it? and find out the ending? or wait a year til the rest of the books come out before watching the last DVD?

No contest. I watched it. The ending was great.*

A very enjoyable SF movie/series, find it and watch it, you won’t be sorry.

*Note: there is an easter egg at the end, about a 15 minute “what might have happened” bit tacked on, and until I figured out that that was what was happening, I was all, Huh? and Mr. Otter decided that it just went too long and he didn’t like it, I think becaues of this bit. Not that it was bad, it was just jarring because it was a rewrite of part of the movie we had just seen.

1776

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From the pulitzer prize winning stage play (and if you dare to pronounce it pew-litzer, you can get off my web site and never come back…) by Peter Stone and Sherman Edwards.

This is one of the BEST MOVIES EVER. It’s the last 6 weeks of the meetings of the Continental Congress as they vote for independence and Jefferson writes the Declaration. Good (although largely not well known) actors, great songs, a good script, it’s a real winner.

Interestingly enough, the only other two things that Sherman Edwards (composer and lyricist) ever did were both Elvis Presley movies…that was it. And this one is SO GOOD…what a shame.

Mr. Otter (aka Historian-On-A-Stick) goes on and on about the inaccuracies in this movie, and there are indeed many, mostly one character saying something a different real person said, or characters slightly skewed to make conflict more obvious…but overall, it’s a fine movie, not only in and of itself, but also as an adaptation of a one-set stage play.

Run right out and rent this one, they’ve restored some footage cut from the theatre release, and it is simply WONDERFUL.

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