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.


Blade Runner 2049

October 12, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

Bears some relationship to Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But not much…

This otter is old enough to have seen the original Blade Runner in the theater. Yes, some people walking on this earth are actually that old. And what was released in the theater had a truly awful ending, which was rectified when DVDs were invented and we all went out and bought the Director’s Cut (which is the one to watch, kids, just sayin’).

And in fact, I have not seen it since I started this blog on January 1, 2002, so it has indeed been a while, although I think Mr. Otter watched it while I did something else and I saw the best bits over again.

Anyway. So Blade Runner is a very old classic movie, justly famous, well written, good actors, blah blah blah. Amazing.

And…now there’s a sequel.

So first: this review contains

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mr. Otter and I had a rare afternoon together with nothing planned. We had heard many conflicting things about this movie, about half good and half bad. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score in the 80s, though, which is usually a good sign. So we went to our local Emporium du Movies to see it.

And…hm. I liked the look of it, not quite as low-rent and filthy as the original, but they had a ton more money, and this time they had computers (the original Blade Runner was one of the last analog-effects movies that wasn’t purposely made without computers). The light, scenery, sets, everything was visually stunning.

The actors were good- Ryan Gosling, although he had an emotional range that went all the way from A to about D, was good in a part where he didn’t know stuff and was trying to find out. Robin Wright was great, I didn’t even recognize her, although I did recognize David Bautista. And of course there was someone else I recognized…but we’ll get to that.

And I am not at all a prudish Otter, but they sure threw in as many naked women as they possibly could. No men, just women. Hmpf. Although the scene where he started to have sex with both the prostitute and his computer lady was REALLY good.

The music was PORTENTOUS. Mostly I didn’t notice it, which is good (it’s always a bad sign when you notice the background music in a movie) but every now and then, it would get VERY MEANINGFUL to let us know that SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING. Especially toward the end of the movie.

I thought the first couple of hours (oh yes, this movie was TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES LONG, this was one of the problems) was pretty good- the plot was good, everything was fine…then, when the scene moved to what I think was the remnant of  Las Vegas…it all went south.

It got PRETENTIOUS. And MEANINGFUL. And DEEP. And…just took itself WAAAY too seriously.

And Harrison Ford, reprising yet another famous role. I’m waiting for him to drive by in a souped up race car, 90 years old and trying to find the guy he’s supposed to be racing…that’s pretty much the only iconic role of his that he hasn’t done again lately…

Why couldn’t they just write a good sequel-ish script, make a good story and leave it at that? Why does this have to be a direct Harrison-Ford-involving, rewriting-the-original, spawning-yet-another-franchise kind of thing?

The two things they did right was that A) Gosling WASN’T the child of the replicants, and the reveal was very good, nice foreshadowing without giving it away; and B) the dog didn’t die. Because that’s always a deal-killer Chez Otter.

But seriously? This was WAAAAY overblown. And also, even though it was nice to see a movie that took some time with scenes and characters and all that, this needed an hour cut out of it. And I would volunteer pretty much the whole last hour for the chop, as well as the long loving pans over the computer-generated apocalyptic landscape. That was at least half an hour of movie time.

Yes, you probably need to see it if you loved the first movie. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t expect too much, and more importantly don’t be surprised when the third (of course there’s going to be a sequel, that was obvious) shows up.

But I won’t be in the theater with you, I’m done with this. I’m going home and watching the original over again.

 


My Favorite Spy

April 8, 2017

spy

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A silly farce where things are lost and found, people are mistaken, and hijinks ensue.

It was December. We were making plans for our yearly New Year’s Day Videofest, and I had a list of movies starring Hedy Lamarr, because that was our theme for this year. Mr. Otter and I discussed possible movies, taking into account what was available on Netflix, at our local libraries, and things we could either buy cheaply or rent cheaply from Amazon. This movie streamed for free, and Mr. Otter said, Oh, I saw that when it was new, it was HILARIOUS. Great, I said, we don’t have any comedies, let’s go with that.

And we did. It was #6, after everyone else (Ottersis, mostly) had left, and we started watching it. And after a bit, Mr. Otter said, um.

Um? I said, something wrong?

Well, said Mr. Otter rather sheepishly, this isn’t the movie I was thinking of. I just remembered that the hilarious spy movie that I mixed up with this one was called Comrade X. I’ve never seen this one.

Um, I said…

But it was there and we watched it. Silly lightweight farce. Lamarr and Bob Hope were individually good but didn’t have much chemistry. The plot was heavy on slapstick and light on plot. It was okay but not great.

Um.


The Strange Woman

April 8, 2017

strangewoman

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Ben Williams.

A beautiful woman from out of town marries a wealthy merchant in 1820s New England…but also seduces his son and factory foreman. Things do not go well.

The New Year’s Day videofest was in session, and this year’s theme was Hedy Lamarr. This was our fifth movie, and it was okay, but there were parts that really made us roll our eyes.

Hedy was beautiful and believeable as the manipulative, self-centered girl who is trying to escape a life of poverty by marrying rich, but (not being satisfied with the quiet life she’s chosen) is looking for more on the side.

But some of the plot twists were just so ridiculous…like the scene from when she’s a kid, and pushes a boy who can’t swim into the river, and doesn’t rescue him til adults come by to see her do it…of course this boy is the son of the rich merchant she marries, and then she seduces him. That’s the kind of thing that had us saying, Nah! very loudly at the screen.

It wasn’t bad, just really unbelieveable in places…I don’t know if this was a faithful rendering of the novel, but the movie was only so-so.