John Wick

August 2, 2016

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CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Russian mobsters piss off the eponymous character and he spends the whole movie getting his revenge.

Let me start by saying that yes, this movie was beautifully filmed, amazingly choreographed and the fight scenes were really, really well done. Okay? I get why people like it. I really do.

But…

  1. Keanu Reeves. That’s a deal-killer. The only way I agreed to let Spider Jerusalem show me this was that I didn’t have to pay a cent for it. Because there are several people I will not knowingly or willingly pay money ever again to see on the big screen (or even the small screen, if I have to pay for it) and Reeves is one of them.*
  2. This is pretty much the same plot as Taken, in that something is done to the main character and he spends the rest of the movie putting it right. Except for the part where Taken had good writing, Liam Neeson, and a plot and characters that had at least a bit more to them than just a series of violent acts.
  3. No, having Reeves spend thirty seconds remembering moments with his dead wife does not count for either character development, good reason for the following hour and a half of violence, or believeable emotion from Keanu Reeves, who hasn’t had a facial expression other than “Huh?” in at least ten years.
  4. And this is the worst: AN ADORABLE PUPPY IS KILLED TO SET OFF THE PLOT. No. No way. No how. Nuh uh. Not Chez Otter. We do not watch movies where the animal dies, especially gratuitiously to give the plot a reason to happen.

When this scene was over, I paused the movie and said to Spider Jerusalem, in effect, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING SHOWING ME A MOVIE WHERE THE DOG DIES?

His answer combined parts of, it’s part of the plot! I told you this was part of it when I saw it last year! You like Boondock Saints and the cat dies in that!

No, sorry. “Part of the plot” does not fly. I pointed out that when he told me about it last year and told me about the dog dying (which I do not remember) I am sure I said no, not if the dog dies. And in Boondock Saints (a favorite of mine) you see the cat walk across the table, one of the guys throws a gun on the table, it goes off and there is a huge splotch of blood on the wall. It is hysterically funny and you DON’T SEE IT DIE OR HAVE TO SEE ITS ADORABLE CORPSE. Big difference. And it isn’t killed to make the story move, which I think is heinous.

So if you like action, can stand Reeves, movies with very little wit or charm but hella good fight choreography, and (unlike me) don’t care about the ADORABLE PUPPY being beaten to death…go for it, you’ll probably like this.

*Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Kevin Costner…and I think there’s one more but I’ve mercifully forgotten who.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

May 9, 2016

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Two spies during the cold war, one British and one Soviet, are forced to work together. Hijinks ensue.

This otter is old enough to remember the original TV series this is based on, with Robert Vaughn and David McCallum…I didn’t watch it, but my mom did; I would hear the theme music as I was getting ready for bed the night it was on every week.

I had not gone to see this in the theater, since most reboots of 60s stuff are not that great, but I was at the Red Cross to do apheresis, and needed something amusing for a couple of hours, and thought, what the heck?

And it was amusing. I liked Cavill in this better than I do as Superman; he’s not as stiff and ponderous here. I always like Armie Hammer, and he was good as the Russian spy. And (bonus) Hugh Grant was their handler!

This was fluff, light and fun and self-consciously retro. They got most of the period detail as right as they needed to (although the plot revolved around a ‘computer disk’ that was about 3 inches square. Nothing like that existed or could have existed…anything with info on it would have been a big ol’ reel of tape…) But quibbles aside, it was fun and not too annoying.


Hit The Deck

February 23, 2016

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Sailors on the town. Girls. Hijinks ensue.

This is billed as another charming ‘sailors on the town’ musical like On The Town and Anchors Aweigh…beware false advertising!

Yes, it’s a musical. Yes, it’s about sailors on leave. No, it is neither charming nor fun.

Firstly, it was made in the mid 1950s, and the heavy metal boots of the fifties have stomped all the fun out of it. There are cute situations, and some romantic mixups, but they are not charming or fun.

The costumes, sets and colors are all marked with that inimitable 50s style that puts red dresses against chartreuse walls (I am not joking) and everything in contrasting “We paid for technicolor and we’re going to use it!” color schemes. The dresses are frothy and full of skirt, and the romantic situations are all farce.

And Tony Martin, Lounge Lizard Extraordinaire, is the lead…now, Ann Miller is in this, and she’s good. Debbie Reynolds is always worth watching, and Russ Tamblyn (whom I had only seen in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) is adorable. But (except for the funhouse dance sequence, which was great) this is a lot of nothing blown up into a silly two hours of mistaken identity and dodging the MPs.

Not so much of a much. Worth it for those actors and that one scene, but really, don’t waste your time.


You Were Never Lovelier

February 11, 2016

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Rita is the second oldest daughter of an Argentine family; the daughters have to get married in order, so she’s under the gun, since her two younger sisters already have beaux. Fred is in town with Xavier Cugat’s band, looking for work as a dancer. Mistaken identities and hijinks ensue, and of course Rita and Fred end up together.

I’ve been listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent podcast series, You Must Remember This, and had heard the one about Hayworth’s really awful life, so was interested to see more of her movies; this was in our pile of dvds we laughingly call The Great Unwatched, so it was a good choice for the evening.

Hayworth is beautiful, composed, and charming. Astaire is, as always, Astaire. The fluff and shenanigans around them are amusing, but they are the best thing in the movie, and worth watching, especially when they dance.


Gentleman Jim

February 11, 2016

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The story of James Corbett, who became the Heavyweight Champion of the World in 1892.

This is kind of a puff piece, but hey, it has Errol Flynn in the ten years that he was a Serious Honey (1935-45, before his lifestyle caught up with him…) so is worth watching.

This is the last of the set of Flynn movies that I got a while ago, and we chez Otter are trying to get through what we refer to as the Great Unwatched, so we settled down with this, expecting it to be awful.

And it really wasn’t. It’s a typical early ’40s fluff piece, but Flynn is good, the writing isn’t bad, and Ward Bond is quite good as John L. Sullivan, especially in defeat. Flynn is good enough here that one is left wishing that he could have been allowed to do some serious movies in his prime, instead of the same kind of adventure movies he did over and over.

Ah well. If you like Flynn, this is worth a watch.


Born Free

February 8, 2016

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From the book of the same title by Joy Adamson.

Joy Adamson and her husband spend most of their year on a game park in Kenya, where George Adamson is a warden in charge of taking care of animals that attack humans. When a lion and lioness are killed to protect a village,  they rescue three lion cubs whose mother is dead, and when they turn them back into the wild, one stays with them. Hijinks ensue.

I remember seeing this when I was growing up, but I’m not sure if it was the movie or the subsequent TV series; I did read the book, I know- everyone did, it was a huge best-seller- but it all kind of blurs together with the unending 60s nature documentaries and tv shows…

Back to now. We were watching this as part of the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: CATS) and several friends had stopped by to join in the fun…and this was fun, because it was so MSTable. Times have changed a lot in the ensuing 50 years, and a lot of what was happening and what they did was really amazingly not what people do now, or at least not what they admit to…like letting a small adorable rodent (and I don’t remember what it was) drink alcoholic beverages because it was so cute when it was drunk…

And there was a lot of soul-searching, which made us all roll our eyes, since from the perspective of fifty years later (and from the title, duh) we already knew that the lioness would survive and do fine in the wild.

This was a fun blast from the past, but very dated. The lions were cute as well, although they were obviously trained lions, as they must be interacting with actors.

Fun, not great, but amusing.


Night Shift

February 8, 2016

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A nebbishy morgue attendant gets put on night shift, and is given a wierdo slacker as an assistant, and hijinks ensue.

I was at the Red Cross doing apheresis, and for once I hadn’t brought my own movie…I have been through their four cabinets of DVDs and watched pretty much everything I want to see, and at this point I’m going for anything that looks like it’ll distract me for a couple of hours…and this filled the bill nicely.

Henry Winkler is the nebbish that everyone walks over, Michael Keaton is perfect as the crazy slacker daydreamer who is full of get-rich-quick schemes, and Shelley Long (whom I remember from Cheers because I’m old) is the hooker they befriend…and end up pimping the girls out of the morgue, to great success because Winkler is a genius with money and not only gives them a fair share of the money, but health care and retirement as well! which, of course, does not go down well with the other pimps in town, and there are threats, chases and shenanigans.

Charming and funny, a period piece but nonetheless enjoyable.


Taken 3

December 26, 2015

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Liam Neeson has to kick ass and take names yet again.

I was at the Red Cross doing apheresis, and, anomalously enough, I had not brought a movie with me. I went through their many cabinets of dvds, and this was the only thing I saw that I hadn’t seen and that looked remotely interesting.

And…well, it was. Remotely interesting. Neeson is always fun to watch, and there was a lot of action, and Forest Whitaker is good…but really, it’s the second sequel to a movie that needed no sequels. You know all the way through that he’s going to find out who killed his ex-wife and framed him for it, and his buddies will be there to help him, and he and his daughter will be together at the end.

So sure, a full measure of brainless action, lots of witty taglines and butt-kicking, not so much on compelling plotline.


Hector and the Search for Happiness

October 29, 2015

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From the novel of the same name by Francois Lelord

Plot? Hector searches for happiness, what do you think?

We chez Rees really like Simon Pegg’s action movies. We loved Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and Paul. He was awesome as Scotty in the new Star Trek reboot (at least the first one; I was less happy with everything in the second one…)

But I do not really enjoy him in regular, everyday-life kinds of movies. I really hated How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (except for one scene, which was excellent) and I was not happy with this movie; in both cases, he was perfectly good as an actor, but every British actor does the whole ‘I’m so repressed by this stiff-upper-lip culture that I can’t unwind and be happy’ thing, and frankly, I’m pretty tired of it. I guess if you’re British it continues to be amusing, but as an American who has no problem being happy, spontaneous, cheerful, having fun, doing pretty much what I want, and all that other stuff…I really don’t need to see any more movies on this theme. Okay?

Other than my rant, it was a perfectly good movie and amusing in many ways. Just…been there, done that.


Jurassic World

October 29, 2015

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Bringing back dinosaurs and other prehistoric predators. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, let me get the complaints out of the way right now. Firstly, Mr. Otter and I (especially Mr. Otter) love dinosaurs. I mean, we LOVE DINOSAURS. Even I, who am not nearly as steeped in their lore, know a fair amount about them, and Mr. Otter is really savvy on the subject. So we were in line to see Jurassic Park on the day it opened, which is not something we do very often. And we loved it.

The sequels? not so much, Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum notwithstanding.

When we saw that there was yet another JP movie coming out, we rolled our eyes but said, of course we’ll have to go. And we did. Okay.

Secondly, they are beating this into the ground. Granted, this one was better than JP 2 or 3, for sure. Better special effects, better writing, more humor without slapstick, cooler prehistoric beasties. But how many times can you find a reason for dinosaurs to run amuck and kill a lot of people without getting into Friday the 13th franchise land?

Thirdly, the sense of wonder is gone gone gone, just like the said prehistoric beasts. I remember what it felt like, watching JP and seeing Sam Neill and Laura Dern get out of their little car and SEE REAL DINOSAURS for the first time ever. It was one of the most amazing movie moments of my life. And in among the havoc and suspense and running and bloodshed, the sense of wonder and awe at these amazing animals was there. This is not the case in JP2, 3 or this movie.

Fourthly, my suspension of disbelief took a nosedive when I found out that the premise for this movie was that it takes place in a time after JP 1,2 and 3- so DESPITE THREE INSTANCES of resurrected dinosaurs going ballistic and killing everyone they could, the people in this movie were not only stupid enough to keep this park open, stupid enough to PAY MONEY TO COME TO IT, but also the parkgoers are so blase that attendance is declining so the scientists decide to genetically alter T-Rex to be even MORE scary and smart…again, what could possibly go wrong?

Seriously, this was ridiculous. The plot was ludicrous, there was a lot of stuff that just couldn’t happen (pterosaurs picking up people?) and we rolled our eyes all the way through it.

Having said that, it was a funny, fast moving plot and Chris Pratt is cute as a box full of puppy dogs. If that’s enough for you, go for it, you’ll love it. But we Chez Rees have higher standards.

Until they come out with the next damn Jurassic Park movie spawn…then (sigh) we’ll be there in the audience too.