Alien

May 10, 2019

alien

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A nearly perfect horror movie, with the crew of a space ship trying to escape/survive a deadly alien life force.

I saw this in the movie theater the year it came out (1979); it was the same summer Jaws was re-released, which is actually a great juxtaposition! I’m not a big one for jump scares or slasher movies, but this was well made and classy.

And I probably saw it a couple more times in the 80s, and maybe once after we got the DVD…but I know I haven’t seen it in 17 years, because I started this blog January 1 2002, and am only now reviewing this movie.

Which…actually ages pretty well. I mean, sure, a lot of the tech is dinosaurish, but one has to expect that, as fast as everything has changed. But the basics- a work crew out in the galaxy, harvesting raw materials from other planets, out of communication with Earth and having to deal with anything that comes up on their own, including problems with each other, is totally believable and very well done here.

All the actors are just amazingly young…this was made forty years ago as I write, so from this perspective they all look like teenagers! But the writing and acting was just as good as I remember it; the atmosphere is tense, the aliens are scary as hell…and of course Jonesie is the best cat ever.

Worth seeing, or seeing again. A classic in its genre.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

May 10, 2019

buster

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Six short Westerns, all set in different places with different characters.

Ah, the Coen brothers. We do love them, chez Otter. Even when they fall on their faces (yes, we hated The Big Lebowski, even though one of our cats is The Dude) they are interesting, inventive and make movies worth watching, at least once. And at their best, they’re incandescent.

I wouldn’t put this in that last category, but it was certainly good. They had us from the get-go, with the first story being about a singing cowboy (Tim Blake-Nelson) who is definitely NOT one of the good guys. Other stories include a spooky stagecoach ride, an Indian raid on a wagon train, a prospector who hits the big time, a bank robbery gone wrong, and a traveling showman.

All of them were interesting, all had good people acting in them, all were enjoyable.

And (the thing that sticks in the mind of everyone I’ve talked to who saw this) each seperate section is let into by the narrator opening an old-looking book of western stories, and showing an illustration and part of the text of the story that the movie audience is about to see.

And after it was over, Mr. Otter and I spent a couple of days talking about the stories, what we liked and didn’t like, and if they should have been in that order. Very satisfying.

This is stylish, well writing and certainly worth seeing if you can get your hands on it.


Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

February 8, 2019

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.