Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe

September 22, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Joe Jr. drops out of medical school because he wants to go into show business, so Joe Sr. lets him run his nightclub for a while, and gets a girl to pretend she’s interested in him to keep Jr away from Sr’s girlfriend. Shenanigans! And lots of musical numbers.

Completely ordinary, great if you like the aforementioned musical numbers. Lots of good singers and dancers to watch.


The Suicide Squad (2021)

September 22, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A reboot of the DC Comics bad-guys squad, they are sent to the island of Corto Maltese to stop evil scientists from what? Oh yeah, TAKING OVER THE WORLD.

I liked the 2016 Suicide Squad movie (Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are, I think, the only two holdovers from that. There are a few other characters who are the same…but there are a lot of new ones, or remakes of the old ones: Idris Elba’s Bloodsport vs Will Smith’s Deadshot, King Shark instead of Killer Croc, you get the picture.) and was really looking forward to seeing a sequel…except this isn’t, it’s kind of a reboot; the same thing has happened, with evil boss Viola Davis putting bombs in supervillains’ heads and telling them to get out there and do a job for her or she’ll kill them. That was the only similarity.

SPOILERS ahead, nothing huge, just fyi.

So this was a big ol’ mishmosh of a movie; the team is put together, they interact in very dysfunctional ways (they put the fun in dysfunction!) and then decide they need to GET IT DONE. Most of them are killed on landing, and then we find out that there’s a second team that was sent in to do the same job three days earlier, and the team from the beginning of the movie was just a distraction…but what’s distracting is the number of people with weird powers running around, killing whoever is a target, exchanging witty (or not) repartee, and maybe solving the problem?

This was just too full of stuff. If they had crammed any more plot or characters into this movie it would have exploded like one of its own special effects.


Jungle Cruise

September 16, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A botanist and her brother hire the captain of a cruise boat to take them up the Amazon in search of a magical tree. Hijinks ensue.

Okay, Disney. You listen up here: just because you took a chance with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and ended up making a franchise, a worldwide phenomenon, and billions of dollars, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to keep throwing the same concept at the wall to see if it sticks. That’s what caused Haunted Mansion. And Tomorrowland. And now…this.

I’ve been going to Disneyland (in Anaheim) since I was a very young Otter;, waaay before Eisner got his hands on it and trashed all my childhood memories. I’ve been on the Jungle Cruise ride a ton of times, and always enjoyed the stupid eye-rolling puns and the Benji-peril.

I do have to say, I like Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock. He’s good-looking, and his on-screen persona is kind of low key and a little self-deprecating, both good things. In this, he tells a ton of ‘dad jokes’ because they’re riffing on the experience of the actual ride; I think every bad joke I’ve ever heard on that ride was incorporated into this movie somewhere, to groans from the audience, and Johnson was the perfect person in this role.

Having said that, the movie was awful. This was a serious mishmosh of well-known movie tropes: girl and brother off to find a magical item? The Mummy. Taking a boat up a river in search of something the Conquistadors found? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Two people fighting like cats and dogs on a boat trip but ending up smooching? The African Queen. And on and on and on. I don’t think there was an original idea or scene in the whole movie, truthfully.

I was rolling my eyes by the end of this thing, and not at the jokes; even for an action/magical events kind of movie, this was ridiculous. Every time someone thought the journey was over or the bad guys would win, they raised the ante on idiotic coincidental things that would happen, look great on film, save the day and make no sense, culminating with the huge waterfalls at the end.

Disney, give up. Be happy with one success and stop trying to make every damn ride in the theme park into a blockbuster movie…

This is a good choice for an evening when you have literally nothing else to do, but only if you enjoy dad jokes and promise to remove your brain first.


Thir13en Ghosts (2011)

August 5, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A remake of the 1960 Castle film of the same name (without the cutesy leet numerals)

This is recognizeably the same movie as the original: impoverished family inherits houseful of ghosts, moves in, ghosts are inimical, uh oh, family triumphs, bad guys Pay the Price.

The new screenplay ups the ante by 1. making the old haunted house a wierd glass construct with mazelike walls that move around, and have wierd glowing writing on them, and 2. turning said construct into a machine that will End The World if the evil plan succeeds.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. The ghosts are scarier and more inventive, there’s a lot more blood and violence, and it’s not as well written as the older movie (and when it’s not as well written as a Castle film, well, that’s saying something right there…)

As silly as it is, the older one works better…but don’t take my word for it, have fun watching them yourselves!


13 Ghosts (1960)

August 5, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A family moves into a haunted house holding the eponymous 13 ghosts.

It was Zoom Movie Night, and CoyoteRambles picked this one from the dim mists of his childhood. I gave my usual caveat about leaving if it got oogy…but this was typical sixties fluff.

The only actors I had really heard of in this movie were Martin Milner and Margaret Hamilton…this being a Castle production, I’m amazed it had anyone recognizable in it…

There’s really not much to this one; the family moves in, they have special glasses to see the ghosts (the family members know it’s haunted when they move in, but they’re desperate for a place to live.) One of the kids finds a ouija board and of course it Tells Them Things They Do Not Want To Know…and then they put it away and don’t use it again. If I were in a house full of beings I couldn’t communicate with, and something showed up that let me do that, I’d be using the heck out of it! but of course it’s a 60s scare film, doing sensible things is not in the script.

Which, by the way, was written by Robb White, one of my favorite teen writers.

Anyway. The ghosts are double exposures, and not very scary, and the big reveal/death scene is more amusing than alarming, and of course all is resolved satisfactorily, the family goes away and at the end there is a ‘For Sale’ sign on the house.

Silly fluff, kind of fun if you like this sort of thing.


Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Review

Um, you know, the good guys need to defeat the bad guys because it’s the last movie.

I am of an age to have seen the original Star Wars movie (which I will forever refer to as Star Wars, NOT ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’, dammit!) in the theaters, and if you have listened to any of us old people go on and on about it, you know what a life changer that was. As were the two sequels.

Then came the travesties that were the prequels, and the less said about them the better. (Episode I came out before I started writing reviews and I’m sure not going back and seeing it again, but here are Episode II and Episode III for your reading pleasure.)

Then Disney bought the franchise, and of course they had to make billions more dollars and put their stamp on it…and the first of their movies, that would be Episode VII, was pretty good. The second, Episode VIII, was pretty good.

Aaaand…here’s the one where they are supposed to wrap all of it up in a pretty bow, and finish it off satisfyingly. And…not so good.

As my daughter, Maid of Awesome, said, it’s okay for a standalone but really doesn’t work as part of the series.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan. I can’t tell you who all the characters and aliens and background plot points are. But even I had trouble with some things:

The ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ are really hard to tell apart. I don’t mean the individual people- obviously, if they’re wearing black, or look scary, or have British accents, they’re BAD. Otherwise they’re GOOD. The Republic and the Resistance are the good guys (and if they’re a Republic, why do they need to also be the Resistance?). The First Order is bad guys. Okay. But the good guys are presented as scrappy fighters without much of a budget, fighting against the big bad guys…but they always seem to have a nice big army at the end, like this movie, where literally thousands of spacecraft show up to fight the bad guys. Who coordinated that? and how? You can’t just send out one call for help and hope someone shows up…and the bad guys had this amazing fleet of ships on a secret planet, each one with a weapon that could vaporize an entire planet. Why were they sitting there waiting for the good guys to destroy them, instead of being used?

Stuff like that kept bothering me, and to be honest, there were so many characters jockeying for their minute of screen time that I was not even trying to keep track, but just letting it flow in front of my eyes. I was sorry that Rose got shorted in this one, she was a good character. Poe just had the ‘maverick’ label stuck on him, so his major character trait was to go off half-cocked and do whatever he wanted in any given situation…not a good thing in a secret army. I felt like the writers were just coming up with characters, and audience reaction would determine who got a good role in the next movie. Again, not good.

This was okay but not great, and I can’t envision myself ever wanting to see it again. At least (I hope) the series is over; the one-offs seem to have stopped with the abysmal failure of Solo. But with Disney, nothing ever ends…


For Me and my Gal

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

George Murphy, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly are vaudeville performers and there’s a love triangle and Judy’s brother gets sent off to WWI and stuff happens interspersed with song and dance numbers. You know how it goes.

This was a fairly mediocre movie for its time, been there done that. A couple of decent dance numbers, and for once Gene Kelly didn’t pull his hat over his ears…then suddenly they turn it into a huge patriotic spectacle for (in the movie) WWI but of course it was actually for WWII because this was made in 1942. Not only is the change jarring, but it’s eye-rollingly jingoistic and kind of boring, and detracts from any liking this otter had for the movie up to that point.

Not to mention the really clunky plot device they used to keep Gene Kelly from being drafted so he could go out and entertain the troops, find Judy, redeem himself, and be all patriotic and stuff.

Pretty lame, even for a musical of this era. Judy was certainly in there trying to keep it above water, but that was the only thing it had going for it.

 


The House with a Clock in its Walls

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book with the same name by John Bellairs

A recently orphaned boy goes to live with his uncle and finds out that said uncle is a sorcerer…and the house he lives in hides a secret that can destroy the universe.

So firstly: the book. I loved this book when it came out, and during my years as a children’s librarian would hand it to any kid who was looking for a scary story that was more engaging than Goosebumps. It’s creepy, atmospheric, and (bonus) illustrated by Edward Gorey, which only adds to the creepy factor. After seeing this movie, I reread the book…and did enjoy it, remembering the major plot twists as I read, and vividly remembering the illustrations. But (as many older things are to our modern sensibilities) it had less ‘scary roller coaster’ feel to it than I remembered; although the payoff at the end is still awesome, much of the book is descriptive rather than action. Which I enjoyed, but modern readers (aka kids) might not.

And then there’s the movie. Jack Black is awesome as Lewis’ uncle Jonathan, and Cate Blanchett is the next-door neighbor and Jonathan’s best friend. It was nice to see that the movie kept their relationship friendly without throwing love overtones in it; not every pair of people hanging out together has to be romantic. The story was good and of course the special effects were excellent.

But (and you knew this was coming, right?) But.

And here’s where the SPOILERS come in…

Kyle MacLachlan (or as he’s known Chez Otter, Peggy Waffles) is the evil Isaac Izard, who, with his wife, want to unmake the world even after they’re dead. Which is their whole motivation in the book, and a perfectly good one. But no. Not in the movie. In the movie, Izard wants to start time over again so that his PTSD will go away. Seriously. Not because humanity sucks, not because he lost someone and wants to get him/her back, not because he’s just evil and rolls that way. He’s a whinyboy trying to make all the hurty feelings go away.

As a motive, it really didn’t work for me. PTSD is so prevalant for so many awful reasons that this guy just made me roll my eyes and want to smack him upside the head for a whiner.

And I really get tired of bad guys needing hifalutin reasons for being bad…almost every movie now does this, and I’m pretty tired of it. I’d love to see one about a bad guy who’s just bad because he’s, well, BAD.

LIke, well, Joker…


Aquaman

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A princess of the undersea kingdom Atlantis refuses an arranged marriage, shows up on the doorstep of a lighthouse keeper, falls in love (of course), they have a kid and she has to go back.

There are a couple of SPOILERS below, but really, don’t worry about them, you’ve already guessed what’s going to happen…or won’t care by the time they do…

Oh, DC, why do you keep doing this to me? Why do I keep LETTING you do this to me over and over? It’s the classic abuse pattern- you show me awesome teaser trailers, and I think, this time it’ll be different! This time will be better! THIS movie won’t SUCK.

But it does.

The only exception I’ve found to this was the really good Wonder Woman movie…but the rest? meh. This one didn’t suck as badly as (insert name of any Batman or Superman movie made in the last 10 years)…but that doesn’t make it good.

So yes. I did have high hopes for this movie. They did Wonder Woman right, after all, so now they KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right? Marvel has practically made a checklist of HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, and DC has been studying their movies assiduously, so they get it now, right? They read all the bad press on the last ten years of suck, and they’re not going do do that any more, because NOT doing all that stuff will tell them HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right?

Right?

Well, no.

I do not know what is going on at DC, but Aquaman had all the same flaws as the rest of their movies. There were some things that have been improved, but not nearly enough. What could be improved?

  1. Jason Mamoa is really adorable; not only handsome, but he’s got a personality, and that comes through when he plays Aquaman. What does not come through is any vestige of acting ability. And he mumbles a lot, which for les femmes d’un certain age makes it REALLY hard to care about the interpersonal dynamics because I miss some of the witty repartee that passes for character development here.
  2. Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Things happen by coincidence or just because. Characters find stuff they need to find almost without trying. Things are where they need to be (or not where they should be) because if it happened otherwise the plot wouldn’t move. THIS IS EXTREMELY ANNOYING.
  3. Why can’t someone just, like, die or be gone? His mother is dragged away by her-father-the-king’s warrior minions, and shows up again in this wierd middle-of-the-earth kind of place protecting (what a coincidence!) the very thing he needs to be king himself. That nobody but he has ever been able to fight well enough to reach. Um, okay, sure. WAAAY too much of this movie just has to be accepted on faith. 
  4. The whole air vs. water thing. In the Justice League movie, one of the things that made me roll my eyes was when Aquaman went to his undersea kingdom and he and someone else (might have been his mom then too) had to GET INTO A BUBBLE OF AIR to talk. No, didn’t work. So now the filmmakers have decided that air or water works with no difference for talking or listening or whatever. Except it does, of course. And in theory, he is the synthesis of water and air and is comfortable in either. But so is his girlfriend. And his mother. And the minions sent to fetch her. So why is he special? 
  5. The whole ‘kid who can suddenly talk to animals’ scene, straight from the Harry Potter movies. Which is cute with a kid. But when he’s a grownup and fighting battles, isn’t it WRONG to use your command over all the aquatic species to simply order them to fight for you, and to let you ride them to war where they get killed with no choice in the matter? Really? I hated that.
  6. And finally…the whole DC need for attention. The way the main character strikes a pose, not just once as in the Marvel movies when he/they are about to take care of business, but OVER and OVER and OVER. There were at least 5 times in this movie when Aquaman would stop for just a second, strike a superhero pose, and then go do whatever it was. And he changed underwater armor like Cher in a concert, he had at least three sets of it, finishing up with GOLD LAMÉ … or LAME, as I see it. 

DC has a justly earned reputation of venerating their characters, wanting them to be larger than life, impressive and, well, SUPER. The problem is, THAT IS NOT GOOD MOVIEMAKING. As we’ve seen over and over and over again, the more they try to impress us with how totally cool they are, the less cool the movies are. This one was supposed to do for DC what Iron Man did for Marvel…and it might have, with good writing and character development, two things Marvel excels in right now. 

Sorry, DC. You lose.


7 Days in Entebbe

March 20, 2018

entebbe

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A ‘Inspired by True Events’ story about the hijackers who took a planeful of people (including a hundred Israeli citizens) to Uganda, and how the Israeli government sent special forces troops in to rescue them.

Mr. Otter and I went to see this; both of us, of course, were around when it happened, but considering that it was the month I graduated from high school, I wasn’t reading a lot of newspapers at the moment. But nobody at that time could miss hearing about it, it was a huge deal. And still is.

This movie…is not as good as we hoped it would be. I can’t speak for absolute historical accuracy, but they spent a lot of time trying to humanize the terrorists, which neither Mr. Otter nor I thought was either a good idea or very well done.

There was also a big plot thread with one of the soldiers and his girlfriend, who was pissed off that he wouldn’t be around to see her dance performance (really? Army guy is supposed to not follow orders to see your show?) and many cuts to the dance itself, which was an modernish thing that had us saying, Huh? Here is what Mr. Otter found out about it afterwards, because (good librarian that he is) he looked it up:

Mr. Otter: Apparently the first one is a piece about conformity among
the Haredim, which is supposed to somehow tie in to Israel’s tough
stance vis-avis the Palestinians. It’s a fairly famous piece, first
danced in 1990. The other piece is probably something about something,
too.

The second piece was during the credits, and was also a weird modern thing. And btw, this is not a reflection on the dancers, who were excellent; it just seemed out of place in a movie like this, especially with no explanation. I would have been happier with more politics and soldiering and less touchy-feely. I wonder if this stuff was put in specifically so that women would come to see an action movie?

This was okay, but not great. There was not enough tension, and the politics and public opinion were mostly told rather than shown…we were pretty nonplussed by the whole thing.