Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the category “$$$$$ $$”


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From the graphic novel Old Man Logan by Mark Millar

Let me say right from the get-go that I am not by any means an X-Men fan. I’ve read a couple of comics, and seen a couple of the movies, didn’t like any of it much. I know enough about them to get the Deadpool jokes, but that’s about it.

But I did read Old Man Logan when it came out and made such a big splash…and I really liked it.

So when I saw that they had made a movie of it with Hugh “I’ve been Wolverine forever” Jackman and Patrick “Best Xavier Ever” Stewart, I was pretty excited.

And I was not disappointed. This is a story that takes place after the mutants have been hunted down and destroyed, and Wolverine is working a day job under the name Logan and trying to keep himself and Xavier (who is far gone in dementia) alive and under the radar…and of course something happens to pull them back into the world to help others.

 To my (not being up on all things X-Men) mind, this movie did everything right. The setting, the explodo, the characters, the plot, the reasons everyone does what they do, the consequences, the ending…it’s all done just right. It hasn’t at all converted me into an X-Men fan…but I did enjoy this one. Plus if you get Hugh Jackman and kids together, the result is nearly always good.

I really liked this movie, hope you do too!

The Men who Stare at Goats


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Loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson

Several men are involved in the US Army’s attempts to make new-age and paranormal abilities useful in spying and combat.

I was at the Red Cross to do Apheresis, which means a couple of hours with needles in my arms, and I was looking for something amusing to watch, and this caught my eye…and boy, was it ever amusing. I was laughing out loud and all the nurses were coming over to see what was so funny.

The cast is stellar- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey. Ewan MacGregor is a reporter trying to find out about a program that was designed to teach soldiers (or spies) to use mind power for various things, including making an enemy’s heart stop by staring at them (they trained on goats, hence the title). He tracks down Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all of whom have history with each other, and he is led on a chase from one place to another as he tries to find out the truth.

This was actually a gem-well written, funny, full of great details. The military background is hilarious, and Clooney is so deadpan it’s amazing.

Trust the otter- use your mental powers to track it down, you’ll be glad you did.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

So I had a day free, and there were several movies I wanted to see in the theater before they left town. This was one of them, of course. Because I have been going to the Star Wars movie ever since the first one came out (the one that everyone in my generation will forever call ‘Star Wars’, not ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. Because that’s just how we are.)

And (except for Disney buying everything Star Wars, which I think nobody in the universe could miss) I really didn’t pay any attention to the hype or reviews or talk about this one; I wanted to see it cold and make up my own mind. I was kind of surprised at the title, though, since it is Star Wars 8. But whatever.

And I was ten minutes into this one trying to make the plot and characters jibe with what I remembered from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (including a sighting of R2D2 that completely puzzled me) when it hit me…this isn’t a sequel…it’s a PREQUEL.

(And there are SPOILERS ahead, just so you know.)

This is the story of how the Rebellion gets the plans of the Death Star so Luke can drop the bomb in the original Star Wars movie. And as soon as I realized that, I knew where it was going. Because even someone like me who doesn’t pay much attention to the Star Wars universe except to see each blockbuster as it comes out and rail against George Lucas for destroying my youth by mucking with the original films remembers the scene in Star Wars where they show the plans to the pilots and tell them that the people who smuggled them out died.

Okay. So now I know where this is going. And from then on, it was kind of fun.

They used a computerized version of Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin. This is something that still bothers me. It’s one thing when an actor who has been hired to play a part dies and the filmmakers do what they can to cover for it (as in Gladiator) but a whole other ball of wax when an actor is used in a movie and has no say about what the movie is or his/her part in it because they’re dead and their heirs okay it…another example of this was in this movie, and it appalled me. On the OTHER hand, I suspect that that is where things are going- actors and actresses will not be filmed, they’ll just license their image to be computerized into a movie, and that’s what the public will see. Hm.

But back to the movie.

They have a couple of scenes with Darth Vader, again voiced (although noticeably older, of course) by James Earl Jones, and the second one was especially good; this is the DV I remember, the one who is completely E-VILE and really really scary.

The main characters were good, and the writing was excellent. Even knowing that none of them would survive, it was great to watch it all play out, and since it’s leading up to (and overlapping just a bit) with an already existing movie, having them repeat scenes from that movie worked just fine.

A really enjoyable entry into the Star Wars universe!

Hell or High Water


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Two brothers in Texas are desperate to save their farm after the 2008-9 economic downturn and start robbing branches of the bank that tried to foreclose on them.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster are the brothers, who have a great plan that (of course) doesn’t work out quite the way it was supposed to. Jeff Bridges is the Texas ranger trying to track them down (and he does a great job in a role that seems like it was written for Tommy Lee Jones…). Gil Birmingham is also excellent as Bridges’ partner Alberto.

Mr. Otter and I felt like seeing a movie, and this was the one we could agree on. We both really enjoyed it, although we disagreed about the ending; I wanted more, and he was happy with the open-endedness of it, with a hint of what would happen. I think we should have been shown that last scene.

But this was an interestingly written modern story about desperate men who take the law into their own hands for reasons that, if not good, are at least understandable to the audience. Both sides of this series of events are given a fair presentation, and the ending is worthy. Even if I wanted something more explicit.

But you should rent it…and let me know what you think.

Ghostbusters (2016)


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Five women take it on themselves to try to stop ghost incursions in New York City, with amusing results.

Who ya gonna call? This update to an old standard (which, I am horrified to find out, I have not reviewed, which means I haven’t seen it since 2001 or earlier…! Far too long.) is pretty damn good.

If you are one of the three people in the world who has not seen Ghostbusters (1984), you have missed one of the seriously most hilarious movies on the planet, with a stellar cast, great writing, and wild comedy.

How do you do it again? By changing it out…the five main male parts from the original are played by women (and awesome funny women, Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig being the standouts);  the female secretary is now gorgeous but dumb beefcake (Chris Hemsworth, a joy to see having so much fun in something less ponderous than Thor movies); the basic plot is changed to an occult terrorist rather than ancient gods returning; and many of the old Ghostbusters cast have token parts that made me laugh and point at them and enjoy seeing them again.

It wasn’t screamin’ hilarious, but it was funny. There was a lot of charm, and the humor fit the women who played the (not the same as the original) parts.  There were references to the original, but it was its own movie, and was good enough to stand on its own feet.

And of course, the special effects were excellent.

Well done, Ghostbusters. Very well done.

The Letter


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Bette Davis is the wife of the manager of a rubber plantation in Singapore; as the movie opens, he has been shot to death, and as more information surfaces, secrets are revealed…and the letter that will clear it all up (or implicate someone) has gone astray…

Mr. Otter brought this home from the library where he works; I said, wow, a Bette Davis movie I’ve never even heard of! so we watched it that night, and it was great! Bette Davis was at the top of her form, the writing was excellent, and the moodiness and starkness of the black and white film were amazing.

This was a real winner- good characters, suspenseful plot, beautiful cinematography. It might be hard to find, but it is definitely worth the trouble.

Key Largo

key largo

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A traveler arrives at a small hotel in the Florida Keys only to find out that it’s been taken over by gangsters.

Bogie and Bacall, together again. This is one of the four movies they starred in together, if one does not count a brief comic cameo in the film Two Guys from Milwaukee.

I have been listening to Karina Longworth’s amazingly good podcast series on Hollywood’s first hundred years, You Must Remember This, and she did an episode about Bacall, who was married to Bogie for fourteen years, and spent 57 years without him. Then, the next time I was at the Red Cross doing apheresis, I saw this and watched it again for the first time in maybe 20 years…certainly, I had not reviewed it before, so that’s at least 14.

And it holds up very well. Bogie has come to a small hotel in the Keys to talk to Lionel Barrymore and Bacall about their son/husband, who was under Bogie’s command in WWII, and inadvertantly puts himself in a hostage situation; Edward G. Robinson and his gang have taken over the hotel until they can escape on a boat to Cuba, which is coming that night. There is a lot of angst and action, and of course Bogie takes care of business.

I couldn’t help comparing this film to The Petrified Forest, Bogie’s breakout role; there are differences, and this is waaay less intellectual, but it’s still the man vs. villain plot that leads to admirable actions on the part of the guy caught in the bad situation.

This is good, well written and moves well; Bogie and Bacall shoot sparks every time they look at each other, and the ending is edge-of-your-seat, although we all know that Bogie as the good guy is likely to win.

Watch it again and enjoy!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars

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The seventh in the movie franchise. Good guys, bad guys, droids, some witty dialogue, some plot holes, you know.

There are SPOILERS in this review. You probably know them already, but just in case, I’ll move down the page a bit so you don’t see anything you shouldn’t…






Is this far enough? maybe not…





Okay, that’s it, here we go…

So this was probably the most hyped, talked about, and anticipated movie of 2015. It came out mid-December, but December is always a whirl of gaiety and obligations chez Otter, and as much as we wanted to see it, we just never got to the theater. And of course New Year’s Weekend was packed, what with the videofest and all. And the next weekend…we left for our xmas present to each other, a train trip to the Grand Canyon.

So we just didn’t have any time to go see it, although pretty much everyone else we knew had done so, and had given us various opinions (extremely various, from WHAT A PIECE OF CRAP! to Not bad… to AWESOME!) about it…although nobody let the big spoiler slip, for which we were grateful. Anyway. On our way to Arizona, we spent the night in Barstow.

For those of you who are not familiar with this town, it’s in the butt end of nowhere, the middle of the desert where three freeways come together. There is nothing there and nothing to do.

Except they do have movie theaters, one of which was very close to our motel. So that night we hied ourselves over, were pleased to find out that not only did Mr. Otter get the senior discount (he’s used to this) but I did as well (I am not so used to this, but am willing to learn to enjoy it.) So we saw it for six bucks apiece, which made us happy. And the coffee was decent, which made Mr. Otter happy. And the movie was pretty good, which made us both happy.

Yes, all the plotlines are familiar…mysterious messages, looking for a hidden jedi, the whole ‘we have to drop a bomb on this big space station before it blows up our planet thing.’ There was the alien bar, and the possible love interest (although we know how that turned out in the first three movies) and the running, jumping, flying and exploding.

Having said and agreed with all that, I was pleasantly surprised. On the one hand, Lucas tried to make the plot go in all kinds of new directions in the ‘first three’ movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) and <irony>we all know how well that turned out…</irony>

So I’m sure that when this was being written, in order to avoid all the pitfalls of actually trying something new and having it backfire, they said, let’s just stick with what works because WE KNOW IT WORKS…and they basically rehashed the three original movies. And it was pretty successful.

The characters were good. I liked the ‘rolling ball’ R2D2, very nice f/x there. I liked having one of the characters be an ex-Stormtrooper, and the actor was good, as was the lead girl who got to kick butt very nicely. Of course everyone from the original movies was there, and all looking pretty damn good forty years later. And (here’s the spoiler) I liked that they killed off Han Solo; if only the Star Trek franchise had been willing to carry through and kill Kirk in the last Star Trek reboot movie, it would not only have been a much better movie but it would have left the series go in its own direction. Which, hopefully, the next couple of Star Wars movies will do.

I did get annoyed at the ‘The bomb will go off in two minutes!” announcement, following which the main characters took at least 15 minutes to get out of the way, and Chewbacca, even though he was at ground zero for the detonation, came through just fine. Sigh.

But minor quibbles aside, it was pretty, fast moving, funny, there were good characters, and the plot was fine. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with the next one…one can only do the same plot threads so many times before people get completely fed up with it…

The Rabbi’s Cat

rabbi's cat

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel of the same name by Joann Sfar.

In 1920s Algeria, the Rabbi’s cat eats a talking parrot, and gains the gift (?) of speech.

I loved this graphic novel (and the sequel) so when we decided (okay, it was a unilateral decision, Mr. Otter objected strongly, but we did his theme last year) on the theme of CATS for the New Year’s Day Videofest, this was an obvious choice.

Ottersis and Spider Jerusalem were with us, and we were all charmed by this movie. It’s done in Sfar’s scratchy, kind of blobby style, but so well done that the visuals transposed seamlessly into the movie. Sfar is French, so the movie was subtitled, but very well and humorously done. The story of the Rabbi, his beautiful strong-willed daughter and her cat was wonderful, especially the cat’s comments on the various religious discussions he enters into with not only other Jews but Muslims as well.

This was a real winner! I hope they make the second book into a movie as well…

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome


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Max is back! more post-apocalyptic vehicular mutant craziness as he travels across the landscape, into the city of Bartertown, and beyond. As the title promises.

Mr. Otter and I saw this in the movie theater BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED. Yes, we are very very very old. I had not seen either of the two previous movies, but Mr. Otter had and liked them, so we went to see i(t. Heck, back then I would go see almost anything with Mr. Otter, EXCEPT WOODY ALLEN MOVIES. And I’ve always like explodos, although I somehow missed Mad Max.

So I was pleasantly surprised, nay, almost ecstatic, at this movie. Mel Gibson was cute as a box full of puppy dogs at that point, and had not shown his frothing-at-the-mouth-racist side. I had loved Gallipoli and seen it a couple of times, so I didn’t have to be dragged to the theater at all.

And this movie was great. As it still is. Sure, it’s WAAAAAAY over the top. Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Very little is explained, and what is explained doesn’t really make sense.

But none of that matters.

This movie looks and feels right. The crazy promise of Road Warrior is realized perfectly here, with Bartertown full of glamor and mud and death matches for the masses. Who has not quoted, TWO MEN ENTER, ONE MAN LEAVES and BUST A DEAL, FACE THE WHEEL? Admit it, you know you have. Tina Turner is exotic and glamorous and sexy and fun, and everyone feels sorry for Master-Blaster when he is defeated.

And then, suddenly, one is transported to the oasis in the desert, where children are keeping the story of their parents alive and hoping for rescue…this is the other great part of the movie, Mel Gibson and the kids interacting. It’s so different from the first part that it’s almost like Miller was making two different movies, but it works.

This is not a great movie, in the usual sense…but it’s fun, visually arresting, full of action and fast paced plot and a blast to watch. Trust the Otter, and come over and have some popcorn; we’ll do a triple Mad Max feature night.

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