November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Instead of the origin story of a superhero, we get that of a supervillain, the eponymous Joker.

There has been a lot of controversy about this movie, which is basically about the rise of a crazed serial killer; those who oppose it say that this is another example of glorified violence. Personally, I think the movie made the Joker and his life look damn unattractive, but that’s just my opinion. I did think it was brilliant and that Joaquin Phoenix (who is a favorite actor Chez Otter) deserves a damn Oscar for this. He was that good.

And now I’m going to venture into SPOILERLAND, so if you don’t want to find out anything about what happens, stop here.

So wow. I had tried to see this for a month, even attempting to get to a movie theater while on vacation, and it just didn’t work out…then I suddenly found myself with an afternoon free (anomalous for me) and just went ahead and did it…and I’m so glad I did.

This is the slow descent into madness of a serial killer, and Phoenix brings out every nuance of crazy. He is believeable, sociopathic, and scary as hell. I can see why it got huge acclaim at the Venice and Cannes festivals; it’s not about capes or superpowers, it’s just about this one guy and watching him live his life.

The one thing that I found odd was his last interaction with the woman and child he’s fixated on…did he kill them? He just left their apartment, but nothing was shown…I found out later that all his interactions with her were imaginary, from meeting in the elevator onwards; this makes more sense than that she (especially being the mother of a young child) would have ANYTHING to do with him, but I somehow missed that that was going on.

Otherwise (and that was probably my mistake, not the writers’) it was well written, amazingly acted, and dark as hell.

If your taste runs to this sort of dark psychological drama thing, make sure you see it. If it doesn’t, here’s a nice kitty you can look at instead:


Avengers: Endgame

May 10, 2019


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Can the Avengers save the world after Thanos destroyed most of it?

Five years after Infinity War, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. We the moviegoers know that things will get better, but not exactly how…and it was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Firstly, just in case you haven’t seen it yet, of course I have to talk about what happens, so here’s the



Okay? Now the rest of us can get on with this…

What I knew going into this movie (and I was adamant about NOT reading or watching ANYTHING about it til it came out. Having just closed escrow on a house that needed a ton of work helped me to ignore all the buzz…!)

  1. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, respectively) all had contracts that would end with this movie. Downey had made it public that this would be his last one, so everyone expected him to die; but I didn’t see anything about Evans’ or Hemsworths’ plans…but I figured they would be somehow written out of the future Marvel movies.
  2. The end of Infinity War signaled the Captain Marvel movie, which came out two months ago, so we all knew that she would in some way either save the day or help to do so.
  3. There would be some kind of time travel because A) Dr. Strange and B) how else were they going to fix it?

So that was what I knew going in. I was bracing myself for disappointment, because how could a movie ever live up to that amount of hype and hope and scrutiny? And…overall,  I was pretty darn happy with it.

The first hour and a bit is ALL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. We see what has happened to the world since Thanos disappeared half the population, and specifically the chaos that has ensued, and how the Avengers themselves were impacted. No fighting, no flying, just…character development. Lovely.

Then they catch up to Thanos…and things don’t go as expected. By them or by me.

And then the time travel stuff starts; I always have a problem with time travel, it’s inherantly flaky. To be fair, they did everything they could to make this work sensibly and follow rules, which helped a lot. It was really well done, and although you could pick at details til the cows come home, get tired of waiting and go away again, it was good.

And what about the Big Three? I was very happy with the end results for both Iron Man and Cap. Thor…part of me thought what they did with his character was awesome, and part of me rolled my eyes and said, really? After Ragnarok and Infinity War you did…this? But sure, whatever. It did work, on many levels. And the changes in his character added a touch of needed humor, so that was good.

Overall? I call it excellent, and kudos to Marvel and Kevin Feige. Can’t wait to see what comes next…

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

August 31, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

The Guardians are back, and the universe needs saving!

Woo HOO! I was so looking forward to this movie…the first one was DAMN good, and the previews of this one were all excellent…but of course we know how that goes, don’t we?

I am SO PLEASED to say that this is a sequel that, contrary to the usual run of things, is at least as good as, if not better than, the original.

The main storyline has to do with Peter Quill/Starlord’s absent father, who shows up, and is everything Peter dreamed of his father being…or is he? Meanwhile, characters we think are bad guys might be good guys and vice versa, and of course there must be deadly danger, great action scenes, and snappy dialogue.

I was totally in tears at the end of this movie, and really really liked it; the two GoG movies together are a really excellent continued story, but either of them can stand alone, which is hard to pull off well.

Hurrah for the Guardians of the Galaxy!


Captain America: Civil War

May 10, 2016

civil war

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Basically, this is about the morality of being a superhero…should they be free to take care of what needs doing, or is that vigilanteism? And what if they make a mistake? And who has the authority to say do this or don’t do that? And what do they do if they don’t agree with their orders?

In other words, Marvel has taken on one of the central problems with the whole superhero thing, and done an absolutely brilliant job of it. There may be some SPOILERS in the following; I’ll try not to be too specific in my rapturous prose, but DAMN this was good.

Things I liked about this movie:

  • Bad Boy Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) coming down on the side of being supervised, with good reasons for doing so, and then legitimately losing his shit when it was reasonable to do that. Very well written, great character development.
  • The major disagreement being between Captain America and Iron Man, who started out snarling and circling like wild dogs and became friends, only to (now) come down on opposite sides of the central issue that affects them both.
  • In fact, with basically ten superheroes in this movie, six or seven had great character development. Ant-man and Spider-man were just fun walk-ons, and the same for Hawkeye, although it was great to see him back in the thick of things. Very Whedon-esque (In fact, I just had to check back and make sure Whedon was not one of the writers…much of this felt like him. No, he wasn’t, but it’s worthy of him.)
  • I liked that the characters who weren’t there either had reasons for not being there, or at least their absence was acknowledged…it makes for better continuity within the Marvelverse of these movies and shows.
  • And speaking of which, there were several mentions of things that tied this to the previous movies and some of the TV shows like Agents of SHIELD…but that weren’t necessary to have seen. Good writing.
  • And thank you for not going into everyone’s origin story yet again. That is one thing I hate about all the Batman movies, they feel the need to reinvent the wheel over and over and over…but don’t get me started on that latest DC godawfulness
  • I liked that (except for the first scene, which had plot reasons for it) they managed to keep the fighting to places where there were fewer people, and the filmmakers made it look like they were doing that on purpose…in other words, they actually learned from The Incident (destroying NY in the first Avengers movie).
  • There was also a lot of talking, and conversation, and character development. Again, kudos for that. Do you catch a theme here, Devoted Fans? I love that the Marvel universe is mostly populated with people who have extraordinary abilities, not just fighting suits who spout lines.

I could go on for an hour, but suffice it to say that this might be the best thing Marvel has done since the first Avengers movie made us all stand up and cheer. You go, Marvel! Keep it up, we love it!

And I’m off to see this movie again…anyone coming along? You’ll love it, I promise!!

The Martian

January 18, 2016


Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Andy Weir.

An American astronaut is left alone on Mars and has to survive while the world watches and rescue is attempted.

EVERYONE on the planet (this planet) was reading this book in 2015, and I put my name on the list at my library; it took two months for me to get my hands on it, and I was reading it when I visited Dog Acres. I was staying up way past midnight every night because I couldn’t put it down, and the Barracuda said to me on the second morning, What were you laughing about at 1 am? because I laughed so loud they could hear me…

So having read and loved this book, and having gotten Mr. Otter to read it (and, Faithful Fans, if you haven’t read it you should run right out and do so as well!) we were both very excited about the movie.

And we were not disappointed, for many reasons.

Firstly, Matt Damon. There is not another actor I can think of who could play the main character of this book so perfectly. He was born for this role, and I am happy that it worked out for him to be cast in it. He was AWESOME. Great sense of humor, a good presence for as much screen time as he got with nobody else there, young enough to pull it off…he was just perfect.

The screenplay was very good too; it preserved the major events and the humor and charm of the book, although (of course) the plot was edited down somewhat…but it was done well and intelligently.

The special effects were awesome.

And…it was amazing. A wonderful movie. Read the book first, because this movie is no exception to the Otter’s almost invariable rule, THE BOOK IS BETTER…but this was damn good.

Mad Max: Fury Road

October 25, 2015


Internst Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

The fourth in the Mad Max franchise. Guns and cars, what else do you need to know?

Now, I must confess: I’ve never seen either the original Mad Max nor the sequel, Road Warrior. Yes, I know, I know, they’re on my list, okay? Back off, I’m warning you…

And although I had never seen the first two, in 1985 Mr. Otter and I went to see Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and both really liked it. So I did have some idea what to expect.

That’s why when this movie came out, we were very interested, for many reasons:

  1. Better special effects. Yes, Thunderdome did have a good budget, and (for the time) amazing special effects. But this movie? WOW. Just WOW. Explosions, car crashes, chases, body mods, you name it. Wow.
  2. No Mel Gibson. Now, he was fine in the first three Mad Max movies, but not only is he getting a little long in the tooth, and way too full of himself, but he is a total nutcase in real life, and I really don’t enjoy even seeing him on the screen any more. I don’t usually worry about what actors do away from the camera or let it keep me from seeing good movies, but in Mr. Gibson’s case I’m willing to make an exception.
  3. Charlize Theron, who is AWESOME.
  4. All the mysogynistic assholes who started ranting about this movie as soon as it came out. Here’s a scathing post on the controversy. We Chez Rees were glad to plonk down our hard-earned money to support women kicking ass and taking names, you damn betcha.
  5. Fun. All the reviews said this movie was just a whole lot of fun to watch.

I was also interested to see how they would manage replacing an icon like Mel Gibson in a new entry into the series, since there are a lot of continuing series where the actors are getting a bit long in the tooth to keep making the same kind of movies. No, Bruce Willis, I am not actually pointing my finger at you, but if the shoe fits…

And I have to say, I was very pleased. Sure, there are plot holes you could drive a souped-up Cadillac with spiked hubcaps and a jet engine through, but damn it was good. Charlize Theron was awesome, and carried her share of the plot and then some. There was an actual story that sort of made sense, a bonus for action movies. The special effects were AWESOME, and there was a lot of OH MY GOD WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN? suspense. The bad guys were very bad, and it was a joy to see them go down. And Tom Hardy was good as the 21st century Mad Max; he was a good action hero, and not so eye-catching that he detracted from Charlize Theron. I’m sorry this movie terrified so many stupid men, but truly it was a joy to see women being intelligent and capable action heroes.

The otter loved this movie, you will too!

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

October 27, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Four people whose lives coincide violently over the space of a week.

I saw this movie in the theater when it came out, and loved it.

I was pretty much the only person of my acquaintance who did…EVERY OTHER WOMAN I KNEW who saw it WALKED OUT OF THE THEATER. I’m not joking. Personally, I think this one is on my top ten movies of all time list…but certainly not one for everyone. Spider Jerusalem did not like it at all. Why doesn’t someone just kill him? he kept asking. That’s not the point, I said, it has to proceed to its inevitable conclusion. And yes, it’s hard to watch knowing that Things Will End Badly.

There is a reason that the very beginning of the movie shows theater curtains opening; that’s our tip-off as to what Greenaway is doing here. And it works-this is a perfect example of Grand Guignol- theater made to push the limits of fear, horror, sex, death…you name it.

Yes, it is EXTREMELY graphic. This is at the same time one of the most beautiful and one of the grossest, most appalling movies I have ever seen…it’s an amazing story of contrasts, and Greenaway handles them perfectly. The combination of beauty and true gross ickiness, of love and despair and cruelty, of quiet moments bursting into uncontrollable violence…it’s really amazing.

Seeing it again was a treat- I had forgotten almost everything except the scene in the delivery van (ugh) and the ending; it was so satisfying to once again see it unfold, in its inexorable way, with consequences following actions and no escape in sight for any of the characters. Really really good.

Watch it if you have a strong stomach. You’ll be glad you did.

Les Miserables

January 4, 2013


Internet Movie Database 

CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, and dudes, if you haven’t read it DO IT NOW, it’s AWESOME.

Love + forgiveness = redemption in France in the early 1800s.

So this musical came to the SF Bay Area around 1990. And Mr. Otter and I, who love musicals, borrowed the soundtrack from one of our libraries and listened to it.

And we were not impressed.

But we had never read the book, and that was a point in our lives when we spent a lot of time reading to each other. So we got the book from the library and read it to each other.

The whole thing.


It is, after all, 1400 pages long; think of reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud (which I have also done).

And it was GREAT. We loved it, and I have re-read it several times.

And after reading the book, we totally got the musical. Because now we understood and loved the characters, and the situations, and why everyone was doing/feeling/reacting as they were. And I saw the musical twice in San Francisco (with that huge revolving stage, it was amazing!). And I have the French, British and American soundtracks (the American is best) and have listened to them a billion times. And love them. And the book.

So guess how excited I was about the movie? Yup, on a scale of one to ten it was about 150.

We saw previews. I *vibrated* in my seat, I was jumping up and down so fast. I was so excited.

And then it was opening. On CHRISTMAS DAY, oh my god. No, I’m not THAT excited.

But…Mr. Otter and I both had the day after Christmas off, and it’s a big shopping day. Let’s go to the very first show that day at our local movie theater, I said. Everyone will either be shopping or sleeping in.

So we got there at 10 am, on a bitterly (for the San Francisco Bay Area, around 45 degrees) cold morning, before the box office opened. We were third in line, and the theater was half full…although when we got out, there were lines EVERYWHERE, and didn’t we feel smug?

So after all that…how was it?

Well, True Fans, as you know, I sent an email right afterwards to say how wonderful it was. I was overwhelmed. I was not the only woman in the theater crying my eyes out, I can tell you. It was really really amazing.

But…details kept niggling in my brain. So I decided to wait to review it til I had seen it again, which I knew was imminent.

And indeed, we ended up with a house full of guests over New Year’s, and the Barracuda, the Magyar Princess and I joined Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl at the 8:30 pm show on New Year’s Eve, figuring nobody else would be there. We were partly right, nobody else but ANNOYING SOCIAL REJECTS were there…someone kept kicking my seat, and the guy ahead of us had to make all possible noise with far too much food…but I digress.

It was really really good. Anne Hathaway was AMAZING, she just broke my heart both times. Hugh Jackman was excellent. I liked the guy who played Marius. I kept thinking Amanda Seyfried looked familiar, and I was right, I had just seen her in In Time. The actress who plays Eponine (Craftygirl says she was Cosette in the original production) was excellent too. And I liked Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter more than I have in anything else they’ve done.

Russell Crowe…not so much. Not a good choice. I always think he looks whiny and depressed because he has almost no facial expression…and in this movie, everyone sang in real time with closeups, so that was not so good. Especially the part where he can’t really sing that well. Sure, he was on key and hit the notes…but everyone else in the cast was a GOOD SINGER. Him? no. And it was painfully obvious, and a shame, because Javert’s songs are really wonderful if you can do them justice. Which he didn’t.

The cinematography, settings, costumes, all the STUFF was good. The bits of rewriting to make it comprehensible to people who have not seen the show or read the book (now you know why you should, don’t you?) were good.

What DIDN’T I like?

  • Russell Crowe. Okay, but not as good as someone who could actually look and sing the part AND ACT.
  • The rinky-dinky disneyesque song they added for Valjean to sing in the carriage as he takes Cosette away.
  • Cutting some really good songs that advance the plot and make more sense of it. Would it have been so hard to keep them in and make it a 3 hour movie instead of 2 hrs and 30 minutes?
  • Cutting whole characters (like Marius’ grandfather, who shows up for approximately twelve seconds).
  • Having Javert pin his medal on Gavroche. This is an affront, would never have happened and should never have been done. Feh.
  • Why didn’t Fantine lead him away at the end? did Jackman really have to grandstand? it’s what the song says, after all…and is an awesome ending. Wierd.

Overall? lovely. I’d go see it in the theater a third time. I’m probably not going to buy it, but would gladly rent it every couple of years. But really? the book is SO good and so much better, I’m just going to reread that. Join me!

Oh, and this is the best review ever.  Wish I had thought of that.

Also awesome: Les Mis in emoticons

Okay, one more: Nostalgia Chick talks about the stage show and the movie. Funny and absolutely on target, in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

Young Frankenstein

December 21, 2012


The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews


From the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Sort of. In a very oblique way. But funnier.

This was the third film we watched at an AGVAPSNBA*, the other two being Sin City and Laura.

Okay, I am totally shocked that in five years of reviewing movies, I have not yet reviewed this one. And I KNOW I’ve seen it. I think Mr. Otter has had it on a couple of times while I was doing other things like packing or crocheting or working on my web site, and I don’t tend to review movies that I don’t pay attention to unless it’s that they’re so bad I have to wander off

So here goes.

Firstly, this is one of the Four Good Movies of Mel Brooks (the other three being Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and The Twelve Chairs.) And don’t be emailing me about Spaceballs or High Anxiety or any of those other movies. Otter has spoken.

Anyway. This is a WONDERFUL movie. Filmed in black and white, in the original set used in the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie from 1931, it’s about Victor Von Frankenstein’s grandson…who has inherited some of his grandfather’s talents.

The cast is just perfect: Marty Feldman, Gene Hackman, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Madeleine Kahn, Kenneth Mars, oh man. It’s a symphony of funniness, yes indeedy.

And I will tell you no more, because I do not wish to spoil a single hilarious second of your pleasure at seeing this movie for the first time, except to tell you that there are a million great lines that you will quote forever more. And a story: Otter first saw this in the theater when it was new. I was with my dad and his mother, a stolid middle-westerner.

Dad and I laughed hysterically, until both of us were crying and panting for air. Grandma…was not amused. One of my favorite childhood memories. You can see where I get my totally twisted sense of humor.

*All Girls Video and Pizza Sleepover No Boys Allowed


December 18, 2012


The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

The story behind the staging of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado, from start to finish.

I do love G&S, and Mr. Otter claims that when we went to see this in the theater, he kept looking over at me and I was just beaming with smiles through the whole thing. This movie is not only interesting, well made and well acted, it is an absolute JOY to watch.

Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner play the duo, and are wonderful. The movie shows the whole process, including their squabbling over the story, the backgrounds (some fairly unsavory) of everyone involved, the rehearsals, everything.

And it’s brilliant. And beautiful. And full of lovely music. And funny. And charming.

What are you waiting for?