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?


The LEGO Batman Movie

April 8, 2017

legobat

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         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

March 15, 2017

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.