Transcendence

June 9, 2014

transcendence

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Um, it’s a computer/internet movie with Johnny Depp, what more do you need to know?

I think there are SPOILERS below…I don’t remember how specific the trailer is…

Embarassingly, that was about all I knew about it; I saw the trailer and was totally hooked.

Now, I’ve read about the current techniques of making movie trailers- they have done a huge amount of psychological study and they deliberately construct movie trailers that will attract people to the movie, whether or not it’s a good movie or even the kind of movie the current audience would normally go see…doesn’t matter, the trailer has been made to make you desperately want to see this movie.

In this case, all it needed was Johnny Depp. Serious Honey Johnny Depp. Who must be paying some kind of palimony after his split with his long-time girlfriend in 2012, because DAMN he’s been in a lot of bad movies…the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean (and a fifth in the works, evidently), The Lone Ranger, and this dog.

So in this, he’s a brilliant programmer whose consciousness is uploaded into a computer and starts taking over everything. He has a huge factory/research lab built out in the desert, and finally the government moves in to shut him down, even though he is curing people’s diseases and doing a lot to make life better. But he is so omnipresent in the internets that the only way to stop him is to use something like an EMP to destroy all computers, so now (the movie is a flashback) it’s like an apocalypse, life without electronics.

It actually sounds pretty good…and it might have been…except:

  1. The science was stupid. Really, really stupid.
  2. Depp shows almost no emotion, especially when he becomes part of the computer
  3. The rest of the actors are pretty wooden too.
  4. See #1. (Hint: Don’t make a movie about technology if you don’t get how technology works, it’s ludicrous.)
  5. There were really wierd things that made no sense, like the gigantic research lab with ONLY ONE SCIENTIST working there? Really?
  6. See #1. Even people who don’t know how computers work know plot holes when they see them, not to mention logical fallacies.
  7. Even Johnny Depp, Serious Honey that he is, cannot save a bad movie. Especially if
  8. See #1.

Skip it, you’ll be glad you did. Trust the otter.


The Witches of Eastwick

January 23, 2014

witches2

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by John Updike.

Three women in a small town in Rhode Island find their lives revolving around a man who moves to town.

This was a choice for my book and movie discussion group; the rule is, you have to read 50 pages of the book to attend the movie night, and only the people who come to the movie night get to vote on next month’s book. Works pretty well, actually.

Because even when the book is a real loser (like this one) you only have to read 50 pages of it to have the fun of dissing the movie communally.

There were five of us (out of ten or twelve in the group) who came to the movie, and I think only one of the five had read more than 50 pages. None of us liked it, and the movie didn’t do much for us either.

With the book, I disliked the east-coast-centrism- being a native Californian, that kind of snootiness just makes me roll my eyes. It was also written thirty years ago, by a man in his 50s, and his attitudes towards women were just eye-roll worthy as well. I tried to like it but was completely incapable of it.

The movie? well, the talent was excellent- Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher (okay, two out of four had talent…) The look was beautiful. They did their best to turn it into a coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end (which the book didn’t have much of). And the look of it, especially the party scene, was beautiful.

But it was rambling, the ending was silly, and much of it made no sense.

Been there, done that, never have to do it again.


28 Weeks Later

January 23, 2014

28later

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Sequel to the pretty darn good zombie movie 28 Days Later (except they’re not really zombies).

And this is another example of why when you have a hit movie, you generally should not try to follow it up with a sequel.

The danger is a known quantity. The only way for this movie to have any action, suspense and violence…is for the characters to be UNBELIEVEABLY STUPID. And at that point, who cares what happens to them?

Meh. Just not worth your time, watch something fun instead.


Night of the Living Dead

October 27, 2013

night

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The classic George Romero movie from 1968, the first zombie movie (although that word is never used in this film).

It’s almost Hallowe’en, and our local movie theater was hosting one of those Fathom events, where they charge you extra to see something that’s not the usual moviegoer fare.

This time, it was the Rifftrax guys…doing Night of the Living Dead.

Ooh, I said to Mr. Otter and Spider Jerusalem and Maid-of-Awesome and Soccer Sam. Wanna go? The first two said yes, the second two said no…so I got tickets, and we went.

Rifftrax is run by two guys who used to do Mystery Science Theater 3000; one of them is Mike, and although he was not our favorite writer (we’re fans of Joel Robinson) he is funny, and I’ve seen Rifftrax before, it’s pretty good.

And I had never seen this seminal movie in the zombie ouevre, so I was excited about that.

Now, I do remember an afternoon when I was growing up, when I started watching what I remember was Night of the Living Dead on the TV in my room (yes, we each had our own TVs, an American family in the 70s? of course we did!) and after a bit, thought, well, this is stupid, they’re all just going to get killed, who cares?

But I also remember the movie I saw having vivid colors, especially the blood…so it might have been a different movie.

On the OTHER hand (and I’m borrowing one from someone here) the TV in the room where I remember starting to watch it…was a black and white tv (with TUBES, okay? Yes, I am old.) so I COULDN’T have seen colors, which means this probably is the movie I started to watch.

I don’t know, it’s been 40 years. Brain cells deteriorate…

Anyway. I was glad to see this, movie food is always yummy (hot dog and popcorn, noms.) and it was fun to hear the Rifftrax guys going to town on it, because really? it’s kinda silly and boring. There isn’t much for the actors to do except nail stuff to other stuff, react to zombies, and die horribly. Oh, and yell at each other, they did a lot of that too.

No special effects budget; the zombies are kind of silly looking, wearing whatever they threw on on their way to the house. The captive people are idiots, but that’s a given in almost every zombie movie, since if people don’t act like idiots, if they communicate and get along and think a bit and pull together…zombies aren’t that much of a threat…

But it’s a classic, and now I’ve seen it.


Oz the Great and Powerful

July 2, 2013

oz

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Loosely based on the childrne’s book series by L. Frank Baum and others

The previews of this movie were really good, but of course these days movie trailers are deliberately orchestrated to be as appealing as possible, even when the movie is a dog.

Which this one is.

And it could have been good…if…

  1. The script hadn’t been so leaden. Oh my god, what awful writing. It was just painful at some points. Especially when it was supposed to be amusing and witty.
  2. They hadn’t wasted good people on the above mentioned leaden script- Rachel Weisz and James Franco deserved better. As did the audience. (I give a pass to Bruce Campbell, since he is always in Sam Raimi movies and his part was tiny and silly.)
  3. They hadn’t gone WAAAAY too far with the ‘normal world in black and white, Oz in color’ tradition. It’s one thing to show that it’s a fantasy world by doing this, but they cranked up the orange and cyan to absolutely painful levels. There was no need to do this, they just did it to make it look more otherworldly. Ouch.
  4. There had been no cute talking animal sidekick. I will keep saying it til someone listens to me: in most movies, a cute talking animal sidekick is the kiss of death. Especially a flying monkey, oh my god. Just painful.
  5. They had left out the Benjie-peril. Seriously? threatening characters with death that the whole audience KNOWS will be alive in the next movie? gaaaah. As if we cared about any of these characters anyway.
  6. They had had someone who had a modicum, a scintillum, even an IOTA of acting talent playing Glinda. Again, painful. Just painful.

okay, I’m done here. Bad enough I was stuck at the Red Cross for two hours with needles in both arms watching this turkey. My hope is that I have saved you from the same.

You can thank me later.


XXX

December 21, 2012

xxx

The Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins      Movie Reviews

Vin Diesel plays a world famous extreme sports guy who becomes a spy.

OK, I got sucked in by the previews. I like Vin Diesel a lot, thought he was FAB in Iron Giant and Pitch Black, and even though he’s dumb lookin’ in the face, as we say chez otter, he’s got a sense of humor and is fun to watch.

But I knew I was in trouble when I saw the PG-13 rating…generally, that means it’s a sucky compromise between getting young teens to see it for the action and not being able to have any real mayhem for fear of losing the rating…Men In Black II had that problem.

And indeed, even though this flick has Samuel L. Jackson (generally worth watching), some good f/x, a few good lines and a couple of good scenes, it got kinda dull by the end.

Don’t bother with this one unless you absolutely have nothing more exciting to do than sitting around watching the cats play with their little toys. And a sequel is coming out this year, imagine my excitement…


The Wild One

December 20, 2012

wildone

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel The Cyclists’ Raid by Frank Rooney (or possibly just a magazine article, I’m having a hard time pinning that one down…looks to me like IMDB says Novel and many web sites are taking that and running with it, but all the sources that actually quote him quote his story from Harper’s in 1951)

Two motorcycle gangs come to town, with (yawn) predictable results.

Well, firstly, I have to admit that this is one of the movies of which MAD magazine did a wonderful parody…and I remember the whole thing vividly from when I was a young otter, mis-spending my youth reading those gol-durn comic books and illustrated magazines (instead of my sober adulthood, when I have graduated to Graphic Novels…!) and loved MAD’s movie parodies.

Also, this was an AGVAPSNBA* evening, and one of the rules there is that MSTing of movies is obligatory…still.

This movie was just really, really, completely and totally lame.

Okay, it was famous when it came out. Oh my golly! Motorcycle gangs! Outrageous! Young hellions! No respect for authority! Terrorizing the town! Drinking beer! Chasing girls! In PUBLIC! Brutally assaulting the respectable citizens of the town! Oh my sainted aunt!

Mr. Otter assured us that this movie was based on a real incident, in of all places Hollister, CA (right down the road from House o’ Otter), where there is now a yearly motorcycle convention…here is what one person had to say about this incident:

“The tale was inspired and loosely based on a real-life incident over the Fourth of July weekend in 1947 in Hollister, California, (publicized in an issue of Harper’s Magazine in a January 1951 article titled “The Cyclists’ Raid” by Frank Rooney), when about four thousand people, composed of motorcyclists and other visitors and enthusiasts, roared into the town over a two day period, and overwhelmed the facilities. However, they did not ransack the town, confront the locals, or cause civil unrest (except for some arrests for drunkenness, or urinating in public – often due to a lack of restrooms).”
from Tim Dirk’s review at filmsite.org

Folks, this one was SO silly. Ooh, ooh, these teenagers (or, more like it, genuine former teenagers…some of those actors were pretty long in the tooth) are in town and are being (gasp) HOODLUMS! And then the OTHER motorcycle gang comes to town…and they’re DRUNK! in PUBLIC!

And so on. Makes you wonder if these townspeople ever had fun in their lives. And of course, as is the way with MAD parodies, many of the key scenes of the movie were so perfectly captured in their hallowed pages that, as in Chinatown, I could predict a scene in a movie that I had never seen…kinda fun.

Anyway. Marlon Brando was whiny, sneery and disaffected, made me want to smack him one up side the head. We discussed whether he actually made James Dean in East of Eden seem more appealing by comparison…a hard call. And (sadly) even in his youth (29 years old in this one) Mr. Brando was getting kinda tubby…his jeans (which were supposed to be outrageously tight and revealing) just had a little too much, mmm, how shall we say it delicately, avoirdupois in them for my taste…not the kind of image one would expect of a motorcycle ruffian, at least before the huge beer-bellied Hell’s Angel look was common. Brando was already starting on the poundage that would become his trademark later in life.

Now, Lee Marvin, whose part was much too small, and quite reminiscent of his role in Cat Ballou (genial drunk) was quite a nice picture in his tight jeans, which fit him to a fare-thee-well. Hm. Not sure if Mr. Marvin is a honey, but he just might be. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway. This was more a portrait of small town dithering when faced with emergency situation than youth gone wild…we really did make a lot of cracks at this one, and it was much better that way than if we had actually tried to take it seriously.

Yes, it’s famous, sure, go ahead and watch it, but it’s so dated…

*All Girls Video and Pizza Sleepover No Boys Allowed. Theme: Motorcycles.
Although since it turned out that Mr. Otter couldn’t take the weekend off from work, we let the guys come, and had a mixed-sex AGVAPSNBA. And all of us women agreed, the experience was certainly lacking somewhat from the prime AGVAPSNBAs of the past, when seven or eight women would spend the evening eating, gossiping, belching, scratching and making unbelieveably rude comments about whatever movie we were watching…ah well. We just did the one, and a very cool episode of a TV show called American Chopper (the Black Widow episode) and called it a night.


The White Countess

December 20, 2012

whitec

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

A blind American ex-diplomat opens a bar in 1936 Shanghai with a Russian ex-Countess as hostess.

“Let’s go see White Countess!” “Do you want to see White Countess?” “You know, White Countess opened this weekend…” “Want to go to the movies today? We could go see White Countess” This from Mr. Otter over about a 5 day period. We were off work for a holiday, so I said, sure, let’s go to a matinee.

All I knew about this movie was (per Mr. Otter) that it was about a bar in Shanghai in the 30s. But the other two times he had dragged me to a movie I knew nothing about, the movies turned out to be Forrest Gump and Rob Roy, both of which I liked very much…good track record, I thought, let’s go for it.

And we did have a spirited discussion after the movie:
“It was tedious,” said I as soon as the credits started.
“No, it was dull,” claimed Mr. Otter.
“Tedious.” “Dull.” etc.

And we were both right.

Now, this movie was pretty. The setting and the scenes were nice. The bit of explodo at the end where the Japanese are invading and blowing up stuff was good.

But that’s certainly not enough to base a 2 hour movie on.

This had about half an hour of plot, padded out to two hours, that the creators of this movie, I fear, considered to be ‘character development’ and which we chez otter considered to be ‘boring’.

There were good people in it: Ralph Fiennes, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and Natasha Richardson as the Countess. But the pace was slow, the editing was atrocious (I got the feeling that they kept looking at it and reediting it, trying to find some focus and interest, and failed miserably), and there was no real THERE there.

Ralph Fiennes’ character was blind, and he was totally unbelieveable as a blind person. How could he have reached the docks as fast as everyone else? where the heck did he get those tangerines? He went between total helplessness and amazing acuity, and it just didn’t work.

The eponymously named bar that he dreams of creating and finally does create should have been the centerpiece of this movie, much as Rick’s is in Casablanca, but it’s not. There are just too many plot threads, boring conversations, and low-key talking heads in this movie for it to work. Natasha Richardson as the Countess was much more interesting than whineyboy Ralph ‘I’ve lost everything so I’ll just feel sorry for myself’ Fiennes. Much more of the movie should have been about her and her ex-royal family.

And I wonder how many people seeing this movie thought the name of the bar referred to her ethnicity rather than her political affiliations? hm.

Skip it, or at least rent it and have something else to do during the boring parts. Which is about an hour and 50 minutes of this movie…


Where Eagles Dare

December 20, 2012

eagles

The Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Alistair MacLean. A bunch of British (and American) agents are sent behind Nazi lines to rescue the President’s double.

OK, it’s a hokey old movie, but it was one of my favs as a kid, hadn’t seen it in twenty years. Incredible yawn factor at the beginning, I was seriously wondering (not remembering anything about it) why I liked it so much…Clint Eastwood is his usual (“Try to spot the difference between me and a stick that mumbles!”) self, and Richard Burton was just mugging along and kissing anything in skirts…

But then, halfway through, was the dinner scene…and I remembered what I liked about it. And of course, everything after that is explodo city, high body count, many bad guys bite the big one, very satisfying.

Not a great movie, but that one scene is a real brain-twister, worth sitting through an hour of slow and excruciating buildup if you have nothing better to do.


The War Wagon

December 19, 2012

wagon

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From the novel Badman by Clair Huffaker

Huffaker, an excellent novelist, wrote the screenplay, and then the director added some funny stuff because Huffaker’s script was ‘too serious’…so it’s not pure Huffaker, but has some 60s yoks thrown in.

Five guys (John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, and Robert Walker) get together to steal a gold delivery in an armored wagon with outriders.

A mildly amusing heist movie, with Wayne just starting to gain way too much weight (his walk isn’t quite so mincing in this one…in later movies the contrast between his tiny butt and huge torso gave him quite a sashay from behind!) and Kirk Douglas doing his best to be roguish and charming. A very young Bruce Dern is (as always) killed soon after appearing onscreen.

realpol
Reality police: Well, for starters, a gatling gun in that wagon would probably destroy the eardrums of the guy with his head in the turret. And cutting a telegraph wire, attaching it to a pistol, and sending morse code? I’ll check with Mr. Otter, but I don’t think so!
Double penalty for inappropriate behavior: Howard Keel, a serious honey, as the ‘comic Indian’ (sic). AND he doesn’t sing. Not even the silly theme song, which Ed Ames sings instead.