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.


What We Do In The Shadows

January 4, 2018

shadows

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A group of vampires living in a house together in Wellington, New Zealand, decides to tell their side of the story.

The New Year’s Day Videofest for 2018 had the theme Hollywood Around the World. When we were putting together the movies, there was one we couldn’t find anywhere, so I started looking for something from Australia and New Zealand, came across a review of this and said, that’s it!

And we were glad of it, because it’s really funny. Three vampire from 200-500 years old, and their 800 year old master (who looks like Nosferatu, and lives in the cellar) are sharing a house. They have let a documentary film crew into their lives because they want to go public and change how the world sees them.

They are all hilarious in their own ways, all the ancillary people in their lives who are interviewedand when a modern vampire complete with smartphone is added to the mix, it gets even better.

This is smart and funny, the characters are great, and I just don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away all the good stuff. See it, you’ll love it too.


Thor: Ragnarok

November 7, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Thor is trying to prevent Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard, duh.

The third movie in the Thor section of the Marvel combined universe, and a worthy addition. There are SPOILERS here, I think, so I’d recommend that you go see the movie first; it’s WAAAAY more fun if you don’t know what to expect.

I’ll just wait here while you run off to the theater or stream it (if you’re reading this later than I wrote it).

No hurry. No pressure. Take your time.

Okay. All done? Here we go:

WOO HOO! what a fun movie!

And I am so tempted to end my review there…what more needs to be said? But I’ll go on, Devoted Fans, because it’s fun to babble about stuff like:

  • Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum! I saw this in the theater with Ottersis and we both said OMG at the same time when he appeared. And what a great role!
  • The whole thing where half the movie takes place in a science-fictional other world instead of our own, but that’s connected to ours (Hulk and a Valkyrie both show up, so obviously SERIOUSLY connected.) And I loved the trash heap/sybaritic rich people/gladiator thing, it was great.
  • Speaking of Valkyries, what a great character she is. Looking forward to seeing more of her.
  • Yay for Thor’s haircut, a very good change for him going forward into a new kind of role!
  • Also Yay for Thor actually being kind of less of an asshole, and being able to stop hitting things long enough to look at a situation and figure it out, or actually talk to people first. Good character development.
  • AND Dr. Strange showed up, in a great short sequence. Very nicely done! I was so happy to see this, I love the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. Not just that the backstories are connected  but that characters show up in other characters’ movies, like Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming.
  • Awesome special effects, but (within the MU thing) believeable. And the special effects were never there in and of themselves, as awesome as they were; they were there for the story. Speaking of special effects, Hulk going mano-a-mano with Fenrir, Wow.

Okay, I’ll stop babbling about the things that stood out in my memory, having seen it about 24 hours ago. Can’t wait to see it again and catch details.

One thing (because I’m such a picky picky reviewer): If Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown, btw, an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is destined to destroy Asgard, but the point is made that Asgard isn’t a place, it’s the people, why is he stomping on the buildings and letting the ship full of Asgardians get away? doesn’t that make the prophecy untrue? Hm. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Anyway. A seriously excellent addition to the MU canon, fun, well written, beautiful to watch (Cate Blanchett, yes indeedy!) and a really good time was had by all. Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

September 3, 2017

spider

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Spidey is back and trying to find a balance between his real life and his superhero thing.

This movie got awesome buzz before it came out. I was hearing stuff about it from EVERYONE. And (having very high expectations walking into the theater) I was pleased that both the buzz and my expectations were correct.

Let me start by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Spider-man. Even in my long-ago youth, this was a comic series I never read. Sure, I know the basics. I’ve seen the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000s (liked the first and the second, didn’t like the third much). I missed the interim Amazing Spider-Man series because meh.

But then, not only was there a GREAT Spider-Man bit in Captain America: Civil War, but also I heard from Geek Girl about the casting, and I was intrigued. What she told me is, Marvel is trying hard to include people of color in their movies (and is Otter excited about Black Panther? You damn betcha!!). But Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, even though he is a Marvel creation, Sony owns the rights, and has to okay any use of him in a film. What Geek Girl told me is, the contract says that Spider-Man has to be white and straight (a shame, I love the idea of a gay Spidey) but says NOTHING about other characters. So his love interest, Liz, is African-American, and his best friend/computer whiz/geek buddy is played by a Filipino-American actor. Marvel FTW!!

Oh, the plot? it was excellent. Funny and irreverent, as Spidey is known to be. He videoblogs his adventures with the Avengers, Tony Stark checks in on him, he is in school and trying to keep his two lives separate but functioning. His struggles with not being able to do it all are central to his character, and Tom Holland does this admirably, while being adorable, charming and believeable.

The main villain is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, and it was great seeing him in this role, running a local gang of thieves for years and getting serious chops in the process.

And I have to say, there was a big reveal in this that was so surprising, everyone in the audience with me (including me) gasped and said, Wait a minute…(various exclamations). It worked, it was totally believeable and we were all compeletely surprised by it.

An excellent addition to the wonderfulness that is the Marvel Universe!


A Knight’s Tale

August 28, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A squire pretends to be a knight and wins tournaments and his lady’s heart.

So there I was at the Red Cross, about to start apheresis, which takes about 2 1/2 hours. I wanted something amusing that would make the time pass quickly, and was looking over the shelves of dvds, nearly all of which I’ve either seen or don’t want to see…and saw this.

Now, I had picked up this movie AT LEAST THREE OTHER TIMES at my library or here or other places, looked at it, and thought, meh, another King Arthur retelling, even with Heath Ledger, not interested.

But this time? This time I actually turned the dvd over, and found myself looking at the back…and there a name leapt out at me:

ALAN TUDYK.

Alan Tudyk, for those of you who have not been fortunate enough to see it, was one of the cast of Firefly. And if you haven’t seen that series and movie, run right out and do it, I’ll wait for you.

Okay. So he’s one of our favorite actors, chez Otter.

Oooh, I said, even if it’s crap, I’ll watch it for Alan Tudyk.

And I watched it. And COMPLETELY LOVED IT. As soon as I got home I ordered it from Amazon and showed it to Mr. Otter as soon as he arrived, and HE loved it.

And I asked Maid of Awesome and Craftygirl and Ottersis WHY THE HELL HADN’T THEY TOLD ME TO WATCH IT?

Oh, they all said, I just assumed you had, EVERYONE has seen it, it’s awesome!

Sigh.

Heath Ledger and Alan Tudyk are two of the three squires of a knight (Mark Addy is the third). The knight dies suddenly, and William (Ledger) decides to take on his identity, win jousting contests and make them some money.

And of course shenanigans happen. When they showed the first joust, with the accompanying musical track, I fell totally in love with this witty and charming movie.

And that’s all I’m going to say. I won’t tell you THE BEST PART (Hint: Paul Bettany) because it’s hilarious how it happens. Honey Rufus Sewell is the bad guy, and James Purefoy (whom we like very much chez Otter) has a good part too.

This was absolutely a joy to watch, and I would be happy to do so again. Want to come over and enjoy it with me?