Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A young version of Spider-Man finds that other versions of Spider-Man are being drawn to his universe from their own.

This had huge hype, and trailers everywhere. And…all the hype was justified, this is EXCELLENT.

In the universe in which this movie takes place, a young African-American kid is bitten by the spider and becomes Spider-Man, and then (see above). That’s no more than you will learn from the trailers, so no spoilers.

And I’m not saying anything more about the actual plot, because it was a joy to watch it unfold. I think I was sitting in my seat in the theater grinning the whole time, I liked it so much.

Not only are the characters- the kid who is this universe’s Spidey, his dad, mom and uncle, the kids at his school- all believeable, but the whole reason for the universes colliding, and the nefarious plan behind it, and what happens from that…it all WORKS. It’s well-written, funny, sad, charming, and I LOVED IT.

I saw this and Aquaman on the same day…and it was like night and day. Bad movie, good movie. If only DC was capable of learning how to make movies…but at least we have this gem.

Go see it. See it over and over. Buy it. Love it. Invite me and and I’ll join you. This movie is that good.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The lives of two outlaws and the woman who loves one of them.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, chez Otter, and this year’s theme was Best Cinematography Oscar Winners. We had picked eight movies, drawn the names of four randomly, and watched them, with nine people coming in and out at different times…but by 9 pm, everyone else had gone. And as is often our wont, Mr. Otter and I were not ready to call it quits. So we watched this one as well.

I loved this movie when I was a young Otter, although I don’t think I ever saw it in a theater…I do remember watching it on TV every time the Television Scheduling Gods decided to show it (because, kids, in those days nobody had control over what was shown or when; you had a paper television schedule and you’d check it to see what was available for your viewing pleasure. The old days SUCKED.) and in fact, it was a family favorite.

But I had not seen this movie in at least 20 years if not more…and it was time to revisit my old friends.

And…it held up pretty well, for a movie where I could have quoted most of the dialogue along with the actors. I really like director George Roy Hill’s work (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean was another family favorite), William Goldman was a stellar writer, and I have and always will have a HUGE crush on Paul Newman. Robert Redford, not so much, but Newman was tops in the Otter Book of Actors to Crush On.

This is one of the revisionist Westerns that started being made in the 60s and 70s, where the outlaws are the sympathetic characters and full of charm, whatever their flaws…and (except for that damn song in the middle) this is well written, with good plotting and character development, a lot of amusement but also serious moments.

I’m glad to say that this is still a winner. Come on over and we’ll watch it sometime and put pillows over our heads and scream during that awful song.


Romeo + Juliet

February 1, 2019
R and J

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the play by William Shakespeare

This resetting of

Leonardo DiCaprio (looking about twelve) and Claire Danes play the title roles in what is arguably one of the most famous plays in the world, and Baz Luhrmann’s setting of it is nothing but a delight.

Mr. Otter and I like Shakespeare, he more than I. This is not one of my favorite plays; I lean more toward the histories, and this one just makes me roll my eyes. If everyone would just TALK TO EACH OTHER, I say to him, it would all turn out fine.

But the Perfect Housesitters love this movie, and when we took them to dinner to thank them for Housesitting Perfectly, we were talking about this and that and they were amazed that we had never seen this movie. So we said, let’s pick a date, you bring it over, we’ll order pizza. And the plan was made.

And as soon as this movie started, we LOVED it. We loved Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, and had no idea that Baz Luhrmann had done this as well…we kind of wrote him off after the train wreck that was Australia (as did many people, judging from his IMDB page…)

Anyway. The setting is Venice Beach, the two families are rival gangs, everyone is dressed to the nines, and the visuals are amazing- cars, guns, bright colors, beaches, and it ALL WORKS. This is one of the best versions of R&J I’ve ever seen, and certainly the most fun to watch.

Which is what you should do if, like us, you haven’t seen it yet. Trust the Otter, you’re in for a treat!


Isle of Dogs

February 1, 2019
isle

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Because dogs are coming down with several dangerous and communicable-to-humans diseases, the mayer of Megasaki, a large town in Japan, decrees that all dogs will be taken from the city and dumped on Trash Island to live or die…including his own son’s beloved pet.

This was a strange and wonderful animated movie. The voice actors include a wide array of talent- Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber and Anjelica Huston were the names I knew, plus a host of Japanese actors. The voice talent was amazing; they really brought the animated dogs to life.

There are so many amusing and interesting things happening that it’s hard to describe how much fun this film is to watch; the story has great twists and turns. I mean, basically it’s about a boy determined to save his dog, and also about the abuse of power, and also has wierd science experiments, and is also a journey story, and has a lot of hilarious digs at cats.

This is not a typical Pixar-like kids movie; the stop-motion animation is extremely well done, but it gives this film its own look and feel, and the story and characters are wacky and interesting.

Well worth seeing!


Black Panther

February 22, 2018

panth

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A superhero fights the bad guy to save his country.

Seriously, that’s the basic plot…sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it?

But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you know how much more there is to this movie-not only an excellent addition (#18, I think) to the Marvel universe of movies, but the first big-budget high-profile superhero movie about a Black superhero and country.

The hype was astronomical, but the trailers looked damn good. Even Mr. Otter wanted to see this, so on a Monday holiday a few days after it opened, we sauntered down to our local Emporium des Movies at 9:30am, thinking we’d walk right into the 9:45 show.

Were we ever wrong. Not only that show, but the WHOLE DAY, was already sold out. So being retired, and Mr. Otter having Tuesdays off right now, we bought a ticket for the NEXT day, getting excellent seats, and went home and watched the second season of Preacher instead. And loved it.

But I digress.

So on Tuesday, there we were, Mr. Otter with his chai and me with ice cream, and the movie…was amazing. Beautifully filmed, gorgeous sets, costumes and special effects, good acting, good writing…pretty much what I expect from most Marvel movies, although this was better than most.

T’Challa (the eponymous Black Panther) has recently inherited both the name/powers of this superhero, and the rule of the kingdom of Wakanda, from his father. Wakanda (which is somewhere in central Africa) is a super-technologically advanced country that also is sitting on the world’s supply of Vibranium, which is not only the hardest metal in the world (Captain America’s shield is made of it) but also incredibly valuable. This is one of the plot lines, since nobody else in the world (except for a select few) knows that Wakanda is anything but a backwater third-world country. The other is the contention between T’Challa and someone from his past, Erik Killmonger (The Bad Guy), and all kinds of issues about freedom and responsibility are raised. This was so well done that there is a big faction who object to how the movie played out and are on Killmonger’s side. That’s some seriously good writing, folks.

But the best thing was having a movie written by and starring Black actors that was so intelligent, had such great characters (especially the three women) and a really well-thought-out plot. (With no major plot holes that I could see…and that’s really rare for a superhero movie, even a good one.) What a game-changer. At least I hope it will be, and from now on superhero movies will have a whole lot more variety and inclusiveness.

Here is a great article by an African-American writer that talks about some of the racial issues and attitudes that were part of the impact of, and discussion sparked by, this movie, including the number of people who were rooting for the ‘bad guy’. This article has SPOILERS, which I am trying really hard to avoid in this review.

Basically, this movie was very, very good; run, don’t walk, to the theater and see it.


Coco

January 23, 2018

coco

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A boy searches for his lost great-great-grandfather…in the Land of the Dead.

EVERYONE I talked to told me that this movie is awesome.

But it’s Disney, I said, I’m not crazy about Disney movies. They’re kinda all the same and kinda predictable.

No, said Everyone, this one is different and it’s really good.

Whatevs, I said, and rolled my eyes.

Then last Friday, it was raining and I decided to go have a multi-movie day at my local ‘plex. There were three movies about to leave town, and I had a few movie passes left from the batch that I had gotten, so I managed to work them all in…and this was second. After Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which was awesome and funny and a hard act to follow.

But this movie totally did. Everyone was right. This was a great movie.

Yes, it’s an animated Disney movie, so you know that

  • The animation will be excellent.
  • There will be a kid doing something to repair his/her (his, in this case) family.
  • There will be a cute animal sidekick.
  • There will be a villain standing in the way, maybe a scary villain (but it’ll be Benji-peril)
  • There will be a heart-rending scene toward the end that will make me cry like a bitch whether or not I want to.
  • All will be well in the end.

And all of those things were true…but in a very very good way. This story is about a Hispanic boy whose great-great-grandfather left his ggg’mother to be a famous musician. The only picture of him has the face torn out of it, so all the kid is going on is family legend. He ends up in the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos, makes a friend whom he tries to help, finds the person he’s looking for, and things go differently than he expects, but not (at the end) so badly.

And although it’s nice having a boy be the main character in a Disney movie (not unheard of, but rare) and it’s nice seeing a Hispanic community and having them and their lives and celebrations as the center of the story, the BEST thing is the animation.

This is WONDERFUL animation, even in this day and age. The real-world part is good, but when he enters the Land of the Dead, it’s breathtaking. I won’t spoil it, but be preparted to say WOW a lot. I certainly did! I don’t use the word STUNNING much anymore when it comes to special effects, but it’s appropriate here. If you can see it on the big screen do it, this is one time when it won’t be nearly as awesome on your tv.

And the flying leopard!!!

Just…go see it. It was great. Thank you, Everyone. You were right.


Dracula (1931)

January 21, 2018

dracula

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Bram Stoker. If you haven’t read it, for goodness sakes do it, it’s great.

An ancient vampire moves to England and makes a play for beautiful Mina. Can her fiancé stop him?

Craiggers and I were driving for nine hours together, and we had been together all weekend. We had been staying up too late and we were tired and talked out. I know he likes horror movies. I have this podcast series, I said, and I haven’t listened to it yet…want to try it?

And he did.

The series is Karina Longworth’s excellent and eclectic take on Hollywood’s first hundred years, called You Must Remember This. She has done many excellent serial podcasts, and the one I just happened to have on my ancient iPod Classic was a six-part series about Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, which we greatly enjoyed.

And that night, we had to watch this…I’m sure I saw it when I was a kid; it was always on TV, and my mom had seen it in the movie theater when she was six, when it was new. She said she sat in the front row with her older brothers, and when the closeup came of Dracula about to bite Mina’s neck, she went scampering to her parents in the back of the theater.

But I really couldn’t remember actually sitting, watching it and paying attention to it. And after hearing the podcast, I wanted to, as did Craiggers.

This was really really good. I love Tod Browning’s work, and had read about this from the other end in a bio of Browning; he was originally going to cast superstar Lon Chaney for the part, but Chaney died…this might have made him a better Dracula if it hadn’t seriously impacted his acting ability…! So Lugosi was hired to play the role, and did it to a T. He is suave, creepy and very Transylvanian. The closeups of his eyes, with a strip of light across them, are awesome, as is his whole presence.

Renfield, the lawyer who helped Dracula sell his castle (and imagine buying that!) and who is Dracula’s creepy minion, is great as well, chewing scenery with the best of them with his mad passion for eating gross insects, and Mina is ethereal and beautiful and not as passive as one might have thought.

Bela Lugosi was 48 at the time this was made, and this was literally the high point of his life…it seems like the rest of his career was an attempt to recapture the glory he had in 1931 for about 9 months, until Frankenstein (starring Boris Karloff) was released, eclipsing his star. Such is fame.

But all in all, an excellent movie, both as a film and as a piece of cinematographic and literary history. If you haven’t seen it, watch it (after you read the book, of course!) You will thank the Otter.