Live. Die. Repeat.

December 22, 2014

livedie

Internet Movie Database         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.

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The Theory of Everything

December 22, 2014

theory

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.


Tarzan

December 22, 2014

tarzan

Internet Movie Database          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

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.


Philomena

December 22, 2014

philomena

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.


Interstellar

December 22, 2014

interstellar

Internet Movie Database          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

judge

Internet Movie Database           Movie Reviews

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.