Geostorm

November 7, 2017

 Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

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From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….

 


Tortilla Flat

March 18, 2017

tortilla

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Based on the book Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

A group of happy-go-lucky guys in a small town on the California coast way back when there were sardine fisheries and everyone spoke with some kind of fake accent.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the first movie, and we were looking forward to it because not only was Ms. Lamarr in it, but also Spencer Tracy, several other good bit players, and it was adapted from a Steinbeck novel which Mr. Otter loved as a kid (Although I have read a lot of Steinbeck and enjoyed it, I have never read this one.)

And…it was pretty bad. Hedy was good, and extremely beautiful. John Garfield (as a Mexican-American…!) was cute and had a decent role, although he didn’t seem too bright, since he kept letting Tracy’s crew take advantage of him.

But oh my god, Spencer Tracy and his pack of layabouts (including Akim Tamiroff and Sheldon Leonard) were SO FREAKIN’ ANNOYING! Lazy assholes taking advantage of everyone, and Tracy’s character was so manipulative we were yelling at the TV by the end. The crap this pack of losers got away with, and the stunts they pulled, and their justifications for lying, stealing, arson and drinking, were just teeth-grindingly awful, especially as they were supposed to be happy-go-lucky older Mexican-Americans as well. But even for the time (1942) when this was made, they were just freakin’ annoying.

The only older guy in the town we really liked was Frank Morgan as the Dog-guy. He and his dogs were great. And John Garfield was cute and nice, if gormless. And Hedy was beautiful.

Otherwise? meh.


The Magnificent Seven (2016)

January 26, 2017

seven

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A remake of the 1960 western of the same name, which was itself based on Kurosawa’s movie The Seven Samurai. People in a small town hire seven down-and-out gunslingers to protect them from the bad guys.

So here’s what’s different:

  1. It’s not a Mexican town, it’s an American Southwest mining town, and the evil industrialist mine owner is trying to make people work harder so he can make a ton o’ money. I’m not sure how killing the workers is supposed to achieve this, but whatevs…
  2. Instead of an average Joe (or Jose, since the original was set in Mexico) being the town spokesman, a beautiful girl whose husband has been killed in the reign of terror (hired thugs shoot up the meeting in the church, then burn it down, ordering people to leave the bodies there as an example) goes on her own and hires some guys.
  3. She runs into Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, up to hijinks as a bounty hunter and gambler, and when she shows them some money and mentions the bad guy’s name, they’re all about helping her. And they find a bunch of other guys they know who can help.
  4. For a town girl, she sure does well at spending something like a week in the saddle doing hard riding…and they all seem to find their friends (in hiding) pretty well too.
  5. The seven are carefully multicultural and inclusive. The original group o’ white guys included Charles Bronson pretending to be Mexican, and Russo-Japanese Yul Brynner pretending to be just another guy, but the rest were Euro-types. The new set include Denzel, a Korean actor playing ‘generic Asian’, an ACTUAL Mexican guy playing a Mexican (must be a first for Hollywood) and, of course, a Native American. Plus three white guys.
  6. There is very little explanation of who these guys are, why they would be willing to do this, or what their connection is with Denzel.
  7. The Comanche (who, btw, is played by an actor who at least has some Native ancestry…Alaskan, but at least authentic…) of course runs into his arch enemy during the final battle and they fight. Because like women in a battle, who must be shown fighting each other, Native Americans must also be shown to fight each other instead of whatever target shows itself. Sigh.
  8. Don’t even get me started on the final battle, which was full of eye-rolling stuff like Gatling guns that accurately shoot single bullets over distance.
  9. And…of course they rescue the town, fulfill their various destinites, and (those who are left alive) ride out victorious.

I kind of liked this as I was watching it, but my brain kept saying, but…what about this? No, that’s not right…but this other thing? no, that doesn’t work either.

Even with the star power hired to attract viewers, this is a letdown. Pass on it and watch the original again instead, you’ll be glad you did.


John Wick

August 2, 2016

wick

Internet Movie Database          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.


Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

May 9, 2016

batsup

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Um…Batman and Superman have problems getting along and try to resolve them the old-fashioned way, by whining and punching each other until a smart female shows up and they realize how stupid they’ve been…right?

I guess you could say that there are SPOILERS here, but really? don’t worry, if you read this whole review I’m hoping you won’t go see this movie, or care if I tell you how bad it really is…

This was yet another attempt by DC to jump on the amazing freight train that is Marvel Comics’ multiplatform superhero series, and yet another chance for viewers to watch DC being thrown under the wheels and crushed into the ground.

Seriously, I was excited about this movie. I’m not crazy about Henry Cavill as Superman; he’s pretty, but he doesn’t have much personality…and it seems to me that more than most superheroes, Supes NEEDS to be relatable for viewers, him being a godlike alien and all. But Ben Affleck as Batman? Hellz yeah. I really do like him, have since Dogma (an Otter Family Favorite Movie) and was sorry to see his acting career come to a careening halt after Gigli. So I thought this might really do it for him, bring him back into the whole movie/acting thing.

And although I’m not a fan of Superman, I really like Batman and a lot of the Batman stories, especially the ones that take place in Gotham that Bats is only peripherally involved in. I also liked the look of the previews, and the seemingly intelligent handling of the moral problem of how one calls a superpowerful being to account.

But you know why I’m saying all this, right? to build up to how EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED I was in this movie. It wasn’t intelligent. It wasn’t insightful. Heck, I would have been happy with ‘well written’, ‘witty’ and ‘full of good character development’. It was none of those things.

What it was was dark. Disjointed. Whiny. Sometimes nonsensical. And kind of dull.

Except for the ten minutes when Wonder Woman shows up (although she’s been there all along, incognito). She is literally the only good thing about this whole movie, and that’s sad. Because she was awesome, and because the rest of this huge overblown overproduced overhyped steaming pile of ick is so much worse in comparison.

I saw it with my friend Spider Jerusalem, who had sent me this Scott Kurtz comic:

 comic

And luckily we were the only people in the theater, because every time there was an angsty flashback or ANOTHER wierd dream sequence where Batman was yet again having problems with his orphanhood, we both said this loudly and with feeling. And laughed. None of which we should have been inclined to do, but there was FAR too much whining in this movie.

And speaking of things there was far too much of, I have yet again broken my vow never to pay to see Kevin Costner in ANYTHING again. He DIED in the Superman movie, dammit! I should be safe from him! But no, Superman had to have an angsty dead parent flashback too, just to show that he was as screwed up as Batman. Seriously, the movie was like this.

And there were far too many people (title characters included) doing incomprehensible things for ridiculous reasons. More than once I turned to SJ and said, What the HELL is he doing that for? and it was never explained. Just, you know, reasons.

There were so many great reviews on the interwebs about why this was an absolutely terrible movie that I don’t have to hit it point by point…here’s a good one from cracked.com, there are lots of others. Just, seriously, don’t do it. Even if you think you might like it, there are so many better ways to spend two and a half hours. Go do something you like and leave me to try to heal on my own. But (I promise) without flashbacks or dream sequences. Thank you.


The Hateful Eight

February 11, 2016

eight

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A bunch of people are locked up in a cabin in a blizzard. Shenanigans!

Oh, Quentin Tarantino. How do I love and hate thee? let me count the ways:

Love: Brilliant, incisive dialog.

Hate: Bad-boy glee in using words and saying things calculated purely to offend, whether or not they are useful/appropriate/apropos in the movie.

Love: Action! Action! Action!

Hate: Action does not equal plot. Killing everyone off is not necessarily the best way to resolve the issues presented in the movie.

Love: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way.

Hate: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way, whether or not it makes sense.

Love: I can do any damn thing I want because I’m TARANTINO!

Hate: Nobody can stop me from doing really pointless and stupid scenes because I’m TARANTINO!

Okay, that’s enough, you get the idea.

Hollywood’s bad boy director has made his eighth movie and titled it in such a way as to make sure everyone who hears about it knows it. And as usual, it’s a mixed bag (see above.)

There are a lot of good things about this movie- great actors doing their best with what they’re given- Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Kurt Russell, to name the toppers. The filmmaking is beautiful, although the opening shot of the stagecoach in the snow lasted approximately two of the three hours of this film’s running time. The working out of the plot, of eight people coming together in this cabin who each have their own agenda and stuff to work out with the other characters is a good idea (remember Stagecoach, anyone? it worked there too…better than here…). The plot is full of (supposed) surprises that are meant to make the viewer go, Whoa! Didn’t see that coming! And the violence is suitably violent.

But.

And you were waiting for this, too, weren’t you?

Like Stephen King, who exasperated me so much at one point that I created my own ‘Write your own Stephen King novel!) page, Tarantino has become unstoppable…and I mean that in a bad way. Nobody can say no to him. Nobody can tell him anything. Nobody can edit him down to a concise, well structured story and a reasonably paced movie. And this movie suffers from all those things.

I am willing to concede the coincidences that brought all these people together in this place and time, to work out all the grudges they have against each other.  I am even willing to sit through a three hour movie to see all of this worked out. What I am not willing to do is to be bored for three hours while doing it.

Mr. Otter and I were both expecting this to be a good movie; we have seen most of Tarantino’s oeuvre, and liked all of them except for Kill Bill 1 and 2, which we agreed was good moviemaking but not having seen the movies referenced, it didn’t do much for us. We are not intimidated by blood and body parts, bad words, sexual references or innuendos, loud noises, gross stuff happening onscreen, or Samuel L. Jackson acting to the top of his bent.

We watched this movie. And turned to each other and said, was it me, or was that just TEDIOUS?

The characters, none of whom are supposed to be likeable (hence the first word in the title) are none of them interesting. They are a bunch of people who are thrown together, connected in tenuous ways and by coincidence, and given motives which are mostly not revealed to the audience until part or most of the way through the film…with no previous hint of what was going to be revealed, so the audience just says, Huh? instead of being in on the reveal. This is Tarantino, like a kid who has to prove himself over and over, in the worst manner of a bad detective fiction writer, showing the audience how he is smarter than they are. Over and over and over.

There are a lot of things that make no sense in this movie, but the ones that still annoy me a month later when I write this (and yes, I did call in the Reality Police) are:

  1. They are in a permanent dwelling in Wyoming, and it’s winter (hence the blizzard) and yet in both the house and the barn, you can see light shining through the chinks in the planks. Everyone in the house and all the horses in the barn (who, btw, they put away hot without cooling them down) would be frozen to death, stove and fireplace notwithstanding. Certainly nobody would be wearing light cotton dresses, as the women in the flashback are.
  2. The whole desert scene where Jackson describes (and Tarantino shows) what Jackson did to the Southern general’s son. This had no actual bearing on the plot other than the fact of it happening. I was not shocked by it, I just rolled my eyes at Tarantino again gleefully saying, I’m so famous I can get away with THIS and nobody can stop me!
  3. The ‘haberdashery’ (does Tarantino even know what that word means? it’s not a general store, it’s a men’s clothing store. Why would there be one in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming?) is run by a free African American woman and her white (husband? lover? ) who obviously have a relationship. There is NO WAY IN HELL that either they would allow this infamous Southern general, trash-talking about people of color, to stay there, and there is NO WAY IN HELL that he would stay for a minute in a place run by these people. That made absolutely no sense.

Many of the plot points that combine to create the final bloodbath make just as little sense; I found myself saying, Huh? many times, and it may have all worked out if I watched the movie again knowing what was happening…but I have no desire to.

Skip this, it is indeed hateful, and not in a good way. Next time I want to do something tedious, I’ll clean out the fridge; at least at the end of that three tedious hours, something useful will have been done.