Cloud Atlas

July 27, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by David Mitchell.

I run a book and movie discussion group. We read the book, get together and discuss the movie and book, vote on next month’s choice. Fun.

A friend told me this was really good, although I had heard mixed opinions about it; I put it in the voting list and it was picked for July.

I started reading it the Monday before we watched it (on Friday); the rule is, you have to read 50 pages of the book to come to the movie, so I figured that even if it was a dog, I could read enough to see the flick with the group. (Which is all that Spider Jerusalem and Mr. Otter did, btw.)

And…the book is amazing. It’s beautifully written, made up of several stories that take place from the mid-1800s to the future, and as you read it the stories, which don’t seem to connect at first, do…I spent most of the movie day trying DESPERATELY to find time to read, but am barely more than halfway through as I type, which means I saw the movie before I had finished the book.

And I kinda wish I hadn’t; the book is SO GOOD, so beautifully written, so layered and full of good language and characters (even the middle section, which everyone but me said was awfully hard to read, it was written in a dialect that they all found difficult.) I totally love this book, and even knowing where it is going from having seen the movie, I’m looking forward to the journey.

The movie? well…they had to rewrite a whole lot of it. They had very good actors- Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant and some Keanu Reeves lookalike who could actually act…all of whom played multiple roles, because that’s the kind of story it is. The rewrites were thoughtful, and they interwove the stories more than the book does so that viewers could keep track of them better.  Oh, and they added some exciting stuff, car chases and the like, just because they could and probably because they knew viewers would expect them.

But as usual, the book is way better. The characters were pretty shallow, there was no description/definition of the future societies, which were a really good part of the book. The relationships are not as deep, and the connections seemed more tenuous and coincidental, even with the wrap-up at the end. And Tom Hanks spoke in the dialect that everyone had trouble with in the book, and he MUMBLED a lot. Very hard to hear what he was saying, for my old Otter ears.

Read the book. Sure, see and enjoy the movie, but make sure you read the book, it’s amazing.

Pacific Rim

July 16, 2013


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Giant robots. Fighting giant monsters. What more do you need to know?

Nothing, actually. They had me at giant robots…

Spider Jerusalem and I have been VIBRATING with excitement all summer over this one. Every time either of us saw a trailer we’d send it to the other, and we kept looking at the release date and grinning like idiots. We have a standing date for any movie we want to see, to go on the Monday night after it opens to avoid the crowds, and for this one we went to the big expensive cineplex (TWELVE DOLLARS OH MY GOD) to see it on the big screen. Soccer Sam joined us just as the lights were getting low. And it started.

Now, my expectations were low. I know that having a huge special effects budget not only does NOT guarantee a huge ‘good plot’ budget, it might even be an inverse proportion…so I was really there for the ‘robot vs monster’ action.

Although, knowing that Guillermo del Toro co-wrote and directed it…a tiny part of me had a tiny tiny shred of hope for something good…

And I am happy to say that it was, amazingly enough, pretty good.

Sure, the special effects were great. Giant robots fighting giant monsters, remember? lovely. Big and loud and destructive, even if the human shape of the robots was amazingly inefficient and should be fragile as hell. But that’s okay, they looked awesome.

Yes, there were some places I had to scratch my head and say, Huh? …like if the monsters are clones, why is one of them having a live birth? because it advances the plot, of course.

But then the robots and monsters would start fighting, or some plot point would go whizzing by and totally distract me.

The characters were good, some over-the-top, some just what you’d expect, but all enjoyable. My fav was Idris Elba, who totally stole the show.

It was really really fun, and I enjoyed it.  Without really expecting to. So thank you, Mr. Del Toro. The Otter appreciates your talent and attention to tiny details like good plotting and characters. I can’t wait for your next movie…I’ll be there, popcorn in hand.

Much Ado About Nothing

July 10, 2013


Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

A film version of the play by William Shakespeare.

So last summer, everyone was talking about The Avengers.

But those of us who love Joss Whedon and all his creation were also talking about the movie that he made when he took a two week break from Avengers…and (after a year of impatience) here it is.

And it was worth every bit of the eager anticipation. Because this movie is a gem.

And I say this as an Otter who DOES NOT LIKE most of the Shakespeare comedies. Sure, something with some meat to it, like Measure for Measure or Tempest, I’m fine with that…but shoot me in the head before I willingly pay to see Midsummer Night’s Dream even one more time.

So for me to see one of the plays that I have seen far too many times, that I can’t keep straight from the other four or five just like it, that I am NOT a fan of…and to say that it is a gem, lovely, brilliant, and that I can’t wait to own it and see it again and again…that will tell you how wonderful it is.

Whedon edited the play down to make it flow better, which is totally fine; the only time I’ve ever seen a ‘complete’ Shakespeare play was Branagh’s Hamlet, and even then he had to use fancy sets and cinematography to make it watchable. Editing it right, though, is not easy…but Whedon makes it LOOK easy.

The main actors are well known in the Whedonverse- Mr. Otter and Spider Jerusalem and I kept pointing out people we recognized. But all of them were perfect for their parts, and all of them were good.

The movie is in modern dress, and was shot in two weeks, in black and white, at Joss Whedon’s own house.  It’s simple, elegant, and perfectly done.

And I have used all the superlatives in my bag. I have nothing bad to say about this movie except that I am afraid that it may be the only time this amazing man will find time to do Shakespeare and do it right…and that makes me sad.

See it. Love it. Show it to someone you want to make happy.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife

July 2, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Audrey Niffenegger.

Clare is married to/in love with/lives her life around Henry, who involuntarily travels back and forth in time, over about a hundred year span, returning over and over to seminal events in his life. many of which involve Clare at different times in her life.

My book and movie discussion group chose this for our monthly meeting. I had read it ten years before, when it was a bestseller, and I said to everyone, it’s very good and I loved it, but it’s so sad, I cried all the way through it…which was true, and what I remembered of reading it.

And I reread it…and, ten years later, ten years older, not (as before) at such a highly emotional and sleep deprived time in my life, and remembering in general what happened in the book…I didn’t cry all the way through it this time.


I did, however, greatly enjoy rereading it- the writing is excellent, full of details that really convey each time and place, and good  characters. It was a joy to reread, and I’m glad we picked it. And Henry is a librarian, bonus points there to the writer, who does a good job making his librarianship credible.

The movie? it’s good. There’s no way it can convey the deep emotional attachment one has to the characters, the movie is too short and there is no good way for the viewer to hear their internal monologues; nevertheless, they managed to make a good, and coherent, movie of it.

But really? the book was so much better, the only reason for watching this is Eric Bana. He could show up naked in my meadow anytime. Woof!

Oz the Great and Powerful

July 2, 2013


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Loosely based on the childrne’s book series by L. Frank Baum and others

The previews of this movie were really good, but of course these days movie trailers are deliberately orchestrated to be as appealing as possible, even when the movie is a dog.

Which this one is.

And it could have been good…if…

  1. The script hadn’t been so leaden. Oh my god, what awful writing. It was just painful at some points. Especially when it was supposed to be amusing and witty.
  2. They hadn’t wasted good people on the above mentioned leaden script- Rachel Weisz and James Franco deserved better. As did the audience. (I give a pass to Bruce Campbell, since he is always in Sam Raimi movies and his part was tiny and silly.)
  3. They hadn’t gone WAAAAY too far with the ‘normal world in black and white, Oz in color’ tradition. It’s one thing to show that it’s a fantasy world by doing this, but they cranked up the orange and cyan to absolutely painful levels. There was no need to do this, they just did it to make it look more otherworldly. Ouch.
  4. There had been no cute talking animal sidekick. I will keep saying it til someone listens to me: in most movies, a cute talking animal sidekick is the kiss of death. Especially a flying monkey, oh my god. Just painful.
  5. They had left out the Benjie-peril. Seriously? threatening characters with death that the whole audience KNOWS will be alive in the next movie? gaaaah. As if we cared about any of these characters anyway.
  6. They had had someone who had a modicum, a scintillum, even an IOTA of acting talent playing Glinda. Again, painful. Just painful.

okay, I’m done here. Bad enough I was stuck at the Red Cross for two hours with needles in both arms watching this turkey. My hope is that I have saved you from the same.

You can thank me later.