Live. Die. Repeat.

December 22, 2014


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CinemaSins        Movie Reviews

Originally released as Edge of Tomorrow, then renamed when it went to DVD.  And that’s not all, the ORIGINAL original title was All You Need Is Kill, one of the stupidest titles ever. I vaguely remember seeing that title, which did nothing for me. And Edge of Tomorrow is so generic that (with the lackluster marketing that Warner Brothers gave it) they actually renamed it when they released it to DVD. Now the official title is Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow.

And the worst part? this is a REALLY GOOD MOVIE. If they could have found a good title (and Live. Die. Repeat is actually pretty good, at least it’s descriptive) and given it a bit or marketing oomph, it would have done very well.

So what’s it about? Tom Cruise (no, don’t roll your eyes and click away, stick with me here) is an army PR officer in a near-future time when aliens are taking over the world and humans are ready to mount a last-ditch assault trying to beat them back. He is sent to the front lines after pissing off a general, and (when he is killed) (and this is not a spoiler, look at the title) he comes back to the morning of the same day. Over and over.

Yup, it’s Groundhog Day with aliens and butt-kicking action. And it worked.

The science fiction is good; given the premise that this return to the same day every time he’s killed is possible, the writers really do a good job with it. Cruise is a good actor (yes, really) and he is just right for this, likeable and yet believeable when the action and violence start up. Emily Blunt is the love-interest, also a butt-kicker, and they are good on-screen together.

The Movie Group watched this together, and we all agreed that it was really good (in fact, Spider Jerusalem was seeing this for the second time, because he enjoyed it the first time)…but the last ten minutes were problematic. In fact, the five of us had to have a fifteen minute discussion, including backing up the dvd to see what happened again, before we agreed that the ending could work. We weren’t entirely happy with it, it had ‘First Release Bladerunner’ vibes all over it, but it was acceptable.

But otherwise? this is a rip-roaring, fun, well-written, exciting science fiction movie with a lot of action, a great plot, and good actors. I just can’t believe that WB could so drop the ball that it wasn’t the big movie of the summer…but there you go.

Rent it, and enjoy it. This one is a winner.

The Theory of Everything

December 22, 2014


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From the book of the same name by Jane Hawking.

Stephen Hawking’s life to date.

Mr. Otter was really, really wanting to see this movie. I had been to a LOT of movies in the theater, and was perfectly happy to wait for this to stream, but he wanted to see it. So okay, I’m glad to go to almost any movie almost any time.

And…this was okay.

I mean, it’s a biopic about living people, so the writers are going to be very careful about what they say. Plus, if you’ll notice, the book that this movie is based on was written by Lucy Hawking, Stephen Hawking’s first wife, so in addition to being about living people, it’s her take on the events…and both these things are evident from the story.

Aside from his sometimes confrontational and obnoxious personality, everyone in this movie is presented in a very positive way. Their relationship is whitewashed, their divorce is very low-key and friendly, and nothing is said of Hawking’s second marriage in this film, although Jane’s relationship to the man she married after the divorce is a part of the movie.

Eddie Redmayne plays Hawking, and he was damn good; his acting was the best thing in the movie.

I’m not a fan of biopics, especially of living subjects, since time and perspective are really needed to make a good story, but this wasn’t bad.


December 22, 2014


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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Okay, let me be really clear here: I have actually read the Tarzan books. All of them. Many times. Edgar Rice Burroughs books were one of the things that got me through the hell that was high school with a modicum of sanity, and I love them dearly.

So you know that the Otter knows whereof she speaks when she says that so far, this is the best adaptation of Tarzan for the screen that I have seen.

Didn’t expect that, did you? This Otter is just full of surprises.

But the thing is, they got the basic story right: shipwreck, parents die, baby adopted by great apes, learns to speak with them and other jungle animals before meeting Europeans, then (when Jane, her father and The Bad Guy come to that part of Africa) meets her, falls in love, and it turns out that he is Lord Greystoke, heir to a fortune and the series goes on from there.

Sure, they are full of purple prose, and are pretty racist toward the native peoples (one of the reasons Burroughs’ Mars books stand up a bit better over time than this series) but DAMN Burroughs could write. In 1944, he was the best paid writer in Hollywood.

So Disney has taken this basic storyline, dressed it up with great animation and some songs, and not dicked around with it too much. Jane is resourceful and scientific (she was pretty resourceful in the books too) and the title that Tarzan would inherit is nowhere mentioned, although the bad guy is called Clayton, which is the family name (and in the book, he has been Lord Greystoke because the heir, who is Tarzan, was thought to be lost)…but really, it has the same feeling to it, of finding out that the world is bigger and different from what you thought, and your place in it has suddenly changed. And you can kick ass and take names when needed, a useful survival skill.

If you like a good story with good animation and a LOT of cute animals and songs, or if you’re a Burroughs fan looking for something better than the other godawful Tarzan movies that have been made up to this point, give this one a try!

The Italian Job (2003)

December 22, 2014

italian job

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A caper flick, a remake of the movie of the same name from 1969.

And…’remake’ is not the right word, since the only two things these movies have in common is the name, and the fact that Mini Cooper automobiles play a major role in each heist.

This was a pretty good caper flick; sure, there was no Michael Caine, Serious Honey, but Mark Wahlberg is not a bad substitute; he’s a good actor, easy on the eye, and was fun to watch. Same for Charlize Theron, who is always good.

The caper was fun to watch, and played out well, intricate but not too hard to follow. The script was good, with actual character development and good repartee, and I don’t remember anything that made me ‘facepalm at the stupid’, as we say Chez Otter…nothing really idiotic that destroyed my suspension of disbelief.

Worth seeing for a fun evening of movies; not deep, but fast moving and amusing.

But for Michael Caine and a REALLY good caper flick…go with the original. Trust the Otter.


December 22, 2014


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From the book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith

Philomena is an Irishwoman who got pregnant in her late teens, was farmed out to the nuns to have the baby, and had no say in its adoption. In later life, she wants to find the child and is helped by a journalist who is writing a book about her life and search.

This was a good pick. The Movie Group was meeting at our house, and this was the month’s pick; I had wanted to see it in the theaters but missed it. We chez Otter really like Steve Coogan, and of course Judy Dench (Philomena) was amazing.

The story was pretty straightforward, but there were some surprised. Finding out at the end that it was  a true story was also an eye-opener, the events seemed almost too unlikely to be real.

Enjoyable, funny, sad, heartwarming. A good movie.


December 22, 2014


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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

In an apocalyptic future where global warming has destroyed the environment and plagues have killed off almost all food crops, ex-astronaut Matthew McConaughey must join NASA’s last mission to try and save mankind.

There are things in this review that might be considered to be SPOILERS.

Just sayin’.

When I was 9 years old, my good friend Banjosirena invited me to come with her and her dad to see 2001: a Space Odyssey at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood (over an hour’s drive) when it was new. It was an amazing experience, and I have loved that movie ever since.

And this is a worthy successor, in many ways:

  • It’s big and beautiful. The special effects, like its predecessor, are really good, and mostly really believeable.
  • There is a lot of made-up science-ish stuff. Because the premise of the movie, again like its predecessor, requires that there be a super-race for humans to evolve into, to make the ending work out and save the day. The fact that they are/will be us keeps the power to control our own destinies from being taken out of our hands. And of course it’s all storytelling, since we are not yet sure that we will become superpowered multidimensional beings. Although it would be nice.
  • The main character spends quite a bit of time blue-screening. McConaughey did it very well.
  • The space flights are state-of-the-art looking, which is nice.
  • The tech will look incredibly dated in twenty years…I read somewhere (and had never thought about it) that when you watch 2001 now, what they do NOT have anywhere in their computer-controlled world…is keyboards. Because back then, nobody realized how ubiquitous they would be as an interface. I can’t wait to look back on this in twenty years and realize where we have gone that these filmmakers didn’t envision…
  • There are great computers. HAL-9000, of course, is the famous one from 2001; in Interstellar, it’s the four-part mobile computers, notably TARS, that are the stars; they were great. I don’t know if they are feasible, but they were an interesting idea for the conjunction of robots and computers.

The plots are not really similar; 2001 is man vs crazy computer, whereas Interstellar is man vs the disaster man has made of the planet and the desperate search for a way to keep the species alive.

There is a section with Matt Damon as one of the scientists who was sent ahead through the wormhole and found a planet, who wants to be rescued at any cost; Mr. Otter thought this was bad writing,  but I do not agree. Not only did it add some much-needed action to the story, and cause the event that precipitated McConaughey’s desperate entry into the black hole, which ends up saving everyone, but it was really believeable; I could totally see someone doing this, rather than nobly dying alone on a distant planet.

So yes, even though, as Spider Jerusalem says, most of the science is crap or made up, this is, as he went on to add, a really good movie anyway. I saw it twice in a week, and enjoyed it very much both times. Even though I am no longer 10 years old.

The Judge

December 22, 2014


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Robert Downey Jr is a scummy personal-injury lawyer who has to go home to the small town he grew up in to defend his father, the Judge of the area for many years, from a murder charge stemming from a car accident. Much personal drama and revealing of family secrets ensues.

This was actually pretty good, given that it’s a father/son story and a courtroom drama; Downey and Duvall are both excellent actors, and they alternated taking over the screen very well, and worked well together. The story was well-written, no face-palming here, and the big denouement, although viewers kind of know how it’ll turn out, was satisfying and not completely by-the-book.

A good drama with excellent actors.


December 22, 2014


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An actor who is known for a series of comic-book based action movies is trying to change his image by starring in a theater adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.

Spider Jerusalem and I went to see this, thinking it would be a comedy and kind of an action movie…and we were pleasantly surprised, even though it was nothing like our expectations.

Michael Keaton is great, as the driven actor who is determined to prove that there is more to him than his superhero alter ego, which is what he is famous for. The movie pretty much takes place over one night, the opening night of the play, and was filmed in ten minute takes that were edited together to present a seamless picture of the few hours on each side of the opening; the viewer sees last rehearsals, hissy fits, nerves, disasters, fights, backstage cast and Michael Keaton, the epicenter of the hurricane, playing a wonderful role, a man who has a vision and is determined to see it fulfilled…and…what exactly was going on in his series of action movies when he played The Birdman?

This is a smart, fast moving and wonderful movie, full of surprises and good acting, and is very worth seeing, whether on the big screen or at home.


December 20, 2014


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Another ‘loop’ movie, like Groundhog Day, where someone is stuck reliving the same day over and over and over.

Spider Jerusalem is fascinated by my professed refusal to see ‘oogie’ movies, mostly meaning those with TTBFTD (Things Coming Back From The Dead.) No ghosts, spirits, revenants, hauntings or anything like that for me, I’m out the door so fast you can see the lines in the air. Sure, I’m fine with zombies and most vampire movies, they have RULES. I am also fine with the second Evil Dead movie and Army of Darkness, but I wouldn’t see the first Evil Dead movie again, even with a low budget and homemade special effects, it was too oogie for me.

So SJ, who loves anything paranormal or scary, keeps trying to find a movie that’s too oogie for me. Cabin in the Woods? nope, it was great, especially the elevator scene. 28 Days Later? No, that was great, even though it isn’t really zombies. John Dies at the End? pretty darn good, and really funny. Also more coherent than the book.

So it was his turn to pick a movie (Mr. Otter, SJ and I get together to have dinner and watch stuff a couple of times a week) and he said, this is a teen movie, even though it’s a ghost story, so it shouldn’t be oogie. Well, I said, if it is, I’ll just go and you guys can finish watching it without me.

And…it wasn’t oogie. It skirted the fringes of oogieness, but never quite got there.

The girl in the movie is smart and resourceful; when she finds herself in a wierd and awful situation (living through the same day over and over with her family) she does a good job of trying to figure out what’s going on, and taking care of business.

This is well written, and, for an obviously low-budget indie movie, well made.

But not oogie. Sorry, SJ!

The Color of Magic

December 20, 2014


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From The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Let it be said right up front that I spent 30 years NOT being a Discworld fan. I was loudly and vociferously NOT a Discworld fan to everyone who would listen to me, and at great lengths…and the reason I was NOT a Discworld fan was because I had bought and read these two books, the first two in the series, in the mid 1980s when they came out, and did not like them.

Fast forward to 2012, when Spider Jerusalem was our housemate for about 9 months.

Spider Jerusalem IS a Discworld fan. He’s read all the books and seen all the movies and expressed his amazement that I was NOT a fan. I explained my complete nonenjoyment of these two books.

Oh, those were his first books, SJ said, and he was learning to write. They’re much better now.

And he showed me several movies made from the series, and when I saw the movie of  Going Postal…by golly, I became a fan too. Of SOME of the books, and have read a bunch, and am now evangelizing and proselytizing to everyone I know, just as he has done.

So what does all that have to do with this movie? Well, Faithful Reader, as you see above, this movie was made from the first two books in the series, the ones I disliked and that made me NOT a fan. But now I am a fan, and I saw the movie, and it was cheap, so I thought, what the heck? and bought it, and recently took it to the Red Cross when I was doing apheresis and would need something amusing to watch for two and a half hours.

And…well, this was amusing. It’s about a wizard in the Wizard’s Guild who has never been able to learn any spells, and his adventures with the Discworld’s first tourist, and a magic book that wakes up after being quiet for a long time. Tim Curry is the bad guy in it, and there were several good scenes. The writing (‘mucked about by Terry Pratchett’) was good, better than the books, and the special effects and filming were excellent. All in all, it was pretty good, a decent fantasy, funny in parts, and with a satisfying ending.

It was good enough to show to Mr. Otter after I got back, although after seeing it twice, I probably don’t need to see it again.

But I am still a fan. Just in case you were wondering.