theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the category “$$$$$ $$$”

The LEGO Batman Movie

legobat

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Yet another Batman movie…but wait! This is LEGO Batman!!

Okay, embarassing fact: I loved the LEGO Movie and have (so far) seen it three times. And when I saw the trailers for this, I was so excited. Because it looked like they were going to take the usual Batman plot points and do the same kind of amusing turn-them-around thing they did in the first one.

I also love Batman, he’s one of the few costumed superheroes for whom I actually read some of the graphic novels; not just the ordinary stuff, but the dark alcoholic self-hating lonely Batman? I love that stuff.

So I went to see it the week it opened…and I was not disappointed. Batman (voiced by Will Arnett, who also did Batman’s voice in The LEGO Movie) is moody and self-loathing, and is forced to let people into his life. And it’s done with wit and charm and great special effects, none of which I am going to describe here because it was so much fun to see it play out onscreen.

Trust me, this one’s a winner for adults as well as kids, and you’ll watch it more than once given a chance. I certainly intend to! Want to come over and see it again with me?

Saving Mr. Banks

banks

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

P. L. Travers (author of the Mary Poppins books) comes to Disney to oversee the writing of the screenplay for the Mary Poppins movie in 1964.

Sure, I saw the movie as a kid. At least, I think I did…maybe on TV? or during a Wonderful World of Disney special? or…hm, maybe I didn’t. But I knew all the damn songs, you heard them EVERYWHERE in the 60s. Feed the Birds, and Chim-Chim-Cheree, and A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down, and Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious…you literally heard them EVERYWHERE. Or were forced to sing them in school. Or to listen while other people played or sang them.

But there was a time, after Mr. Otter and I were married, when we were both really sick with colds at the same time; we were so sick we took a week off work and stayed home together. And we were bored. So we went to the local video rental store (yes, kids, we’re talking about a time before Netflix, Amazon, or DVDs, if you can imagine that) and rented some movies to watch. On VHS tapes.

And this was one of them, because neither of us had seen it for at least thirty years (and I couldn’t actually remember having seen it at all…just clips of some of the dance numbers, or hearing the songs).

And we watched it…and we HATED IT. Oh my god. We love Julie Andrews in musicals. We love Dick Van Dyke. But this movie was just appalling. Inane, stupid, childish in a bad way. Van Dyke’s accent just made us cringe and grit our teeth, and when he dropped his pants and started dancing with the penguins, I just put my head in my hands til it was over.

WE HATED THIS MOVIE.

Now, the other parenthetical thing I must say is that although I have been a librarian my whole career, mostly in Children’s and Teen Services, I have never read the original Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers. I don’t know why; I read a lot of older British authors (Nesbit and Lofting and others) but I was never drawn to these.

And when this movie came out, I was actually interested because I like Andrews and Tom Hanks so much…but I never went to see it.

So now, Mr. Otter and I were home, and he had brought home some movies to watch, and as is often the case I took a look at them and said, meh, you watch them and I’ll read or do computer work or something and keep you company.

And this movie sucked me in within ten minutes.

What a good movie. Charming writing, great characters, a wonderful plot, great storytelling, good acting. I loved this movie.

I’m not going to say much about it, because one of the joys of it was watching it unfold. But this is a REALLY REALLY GOOD MOVIE.

The only thing I’ll add is, make sure you don’t turn it off at the end; watch the credits. Because there is footage of Travers working with the Disney writers and it’s JUST LIKE THEY SHOWED IT IN THE MOVIE.

This was a winner, we both thought it was excellent.

Doctor Strange

strange

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A surgeon is hurt in a car accident and turns to Eastern teachings to heal, along the way becoming a powerful sorcerer.

When I was a young otter (4 1/2) I literally learned to read on comic books…my family were taking a long vacation, and there was NOTHING TO DO during the driving, so I learned to read. And I loved comic books until I turned 11 or 12 and decided they were not as much fun as books. (Don’t worry, I found out the truth later and now love them.)

We had a lot of comics in our house- Archie, Batman, Superman, Thor…but my very favorite was Dr. Strange. I still have a three-part series packed away somewhere, torn and crumbling and probably destroyed by roof leaks in this house we’re in right now…but they were my favorites.

So imagine my joy when I saw previews of this, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, whose very name is so much fun to say.

Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch.

Okay, sorry, I had to just roll it over for a bit. Anyway, the previews looked good…but I know how sucky origin stories can be. Like this one. And this one. Even if the later movies are good (and both second movies in those series were) a bad origin story is like eating something nasty that makes everything taste bad for a while.

But I am an optimistic otter, and the previews looked good…so one day I hied me to the local emporium du film, and watched it.

And I was so happy with it. Sure, it’s an origin story, but it’s well told, and has good character development…he has mostly stopped being such a jerk by the end.

There are excellent actors- Cumberbatch (he of the excellent name) himself, Rachel McAdams (whom we love ever since we saw the first season of Slings and Arrows a million times over), Mads Mikkelson (with AMAZING makeup that kept getting better and better) and Chiwetel Ejiofor, whom we Chez Otter are old enough to remember as the bounty hunter from Serenity…and the guy Kiera Knightly marries in Love Actually, an Otter Family Favorite Film.

So there is serious talent in this movie. Now, there is a storm of controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, the leader of the Tibetan group (Kamar-Taj) where Strange learns his stuff. And yes, it would be nice if Hollywood cast Asians for Asian roles. I loved Benjamin Wong, btw, he was great as the Librarian.

On the other hand, Kamar-Taj did have people from all ethnic backgrounds, so at least it’s not beyond conjecture that someone other than a Tibetan could have risen to the top…as we know Strange may do someday when he’s done saving the world from America.

So I’m on both sides of the fence about that one, but leaning toward the ‘should have been an Asian’ side just because of the general refusal to cast people of Asian descent for Asian roles.

That said, this was really good. Well plotted, funny, GREAT special effects, Mads Mikkelson being E-VILE, as we say, and good action sequences. The next movie has been set up (and there is a hilarious teaser trailer at the end) and I went away happy, and in fact bought this on Blu-Ray as soon as it came out and have watched it again.

The Otter is pleased.

The Shawshank Redemption

shawshank

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Two men doing hard time become friends.

This is one of those just-about-perfect movies. The description doesn’t do it justice; Tim Robbins as a man facing life in prison for a crime he can’t prove he didn’t commit, Serious Honey Morgan Freeman as the guy who becomes his friend, and (how could I not mention) James Whitmore as the mild-mannered prison librarian (by default, no MLS here) who has no life outside the walls of the prison. Oh, and yet again Otter Family Favorite Actor Clancy Brown gets to play an evil bastard.

This is a gem of a movie. I was about to call it a short gem, but I checked and it’s two and a half hours…sure doesn’t seem like it. This tells you how good it is, well written and full of description and feelings. Freeman’s narration is matter-of-fact but warm, and every detail is perfect.

This one is too good to miss. If you haven’t already seen it, get it now and watch it. You can thank me later.

Hail, Caesar!

caesar

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A ‘fixer’, the guy who solves problems for the studio, goes about his work in Hollywood in the early 1950s, dealing with a star who has disappeared, a cowboy star who has to act, a pregnant leading lady, and so on.

This was wonderful. Mr. Otter and I like most Coen Brothers movies, although I have seen The Big Lebowski twice and except for two scenes and one line, find it totally forgettable…on the other hand, they gave us Fargo and O Brother Where Art Thou, so I cut them MILES of slack.

And this was fun and charming. Josh Brolin is always worth watching, but there are also George Clooney, Scarlet Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton (twice!), Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand, and an actor I had never seen before, Alden Ehrenreich, who is cute as a box full of puppy dogs.

Mr. Otter and I both enjoyed this. Not deep and enduring, but a damn good movie, fun, interesting, and full of slices of Hollywood at the time; the various films that one sees bits and pieces of are a hoot, the wonderful plot aside.

Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.

The Lego Movie

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Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Yes, The Lego Movie. Me. I watched it. Really. No, I have not been taking psychotropic drugs or joined a cult. Really. Yes, I liked it. Now can I get on with my review? Thank you.

One of the Lego workers (and Legoland is like 1984 in cheerful colors, with everyone doing their job and following orders to the Nth degree) breaks away and goes on a quest to save everyone from being glued into place.

Yup. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? And srsly, THE LEGO MOVIE? Like there isn’t enough stuff being made into movies solely to sell more stuff to more people, especially kids? I am so tired of animated movies that are the same story over and over, with cute stuff to get you to like the movie, and more cute stuff to get you to buy cute stuff that is shown in the movie. Gaaaaah.

But this movie was funny and charming, well written, even- dare I say it?- WITTY. I really really loved it, I laughed and chortled at the funny stuff all the way through, and there were surprising plot points.  The writers totally poke fun at the whole Lego phenomenon, and there are many send-ups of pop-culture icons (like Batman) as well. The ending was excellent, and I won’t give it away.

And it had Will Ferrell in it. Now there are THREE movies (the others being Megamind and Stranger than Fiction) with him in it that are worth watching. That’s more mind-blowing than me seeing the Lego Movie and liking it…

I’m going to watch it again! Want to come over and join me?

Live. Die. Repeat.

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.

Interstellar

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.

Birdman

birdman

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.

Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Oh, you know, the universe is about to be destroyed and it’s up to a wacky band of misfits to learn to work together and stop the bad guys.

This is yet another in the brilliantly integrated set of Marvel movies based on their comics series that all tie in together; the ultimate big bad in this is the same guy we saw at the end of the Avengers movie, so obviously this group is being groomed to at least show up in the next Avengers movie, and maybe vice versa.

Having said that, this stands on its own very nicely.

Mr. Otter and I were traveling, and let our friend Craiggers in Austin TX know that we were coming to town (he expected us but didn’t know the exact date til we got close enough to pin it down.)

What do you guys want to do while you’re here? Craiggers asked.

Well, I said, this movie is opening that weekend, want to go together?

Oh hells yes, he said, or whatever the equivalent is in Craigspeak. And so we did.

And he knew a theater that has good screen size and sound, but that would not be crowded, so we had rockstar seating, and enjoyed this movie very much.

The wacky misfit alien superheros (the usual group- a thief/charming rogue, the standoffish girl who only wants to save her people, a guy bent on revenge, and two cute nonhuman types, one of whom is a bounty hunter) are all given good character development; the writing is good, the plot holds together, the characters (at least on first watching) never do anything that doesn’t make sense for that character, and the special effects are awesome.

There are a lot of really good funny parts, and some near-sniffly bits. This totally lived up to its hype and the awesomeness of the trailer, and I am hoping the next one (because you KNOW there’ll be a sequel) is as good. See and enjoy, says the Otter.

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