Black Panther

February 22, 2018

panth

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A superhero fights the bad guy to save his country.

Seriously, that’s the basic plot…sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it?

But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you know how much more there is to this movie-not only an excellent addition (#18, I think) to the Marvel universe of movies, but the first big-budget high-profile superhero movie about a Black superhero and country.

The hype was astronomical, but the trailers looked damn good. Even Mr. Otter wanted to see this, so on a Monday holiday a few days after it opened, we sauntered down to our local Emporium des Movies at 9:30am, thinking we’d walk right into the 9:45 show.

Were we ever wrong. Not only that show, but the WHOLE DAY, was already sold out. So being retired, and Mr. Otter having Tuesdays off right now, we bought a ticket for the NEXT day, getting excellent seats, and went home and watched the second season of Preacher instead. And loved it.

But I digress.

So on Tuesday, there we were, Mr. Otter with his chai and me with ice cream, and the movie…was amazing. Beautifully filmed, gorgeous sets, costumes and special effects, good acting, good writing…pretty much what I expect from most Marvel movies, although this was better than most.

T’Challa (the eponymous Black Panther) has recently inherited both the name/powers of this superhero, and the rule of the kingdom of Wakanda, from his father. Wakanda (which is somewhere in central Africa) is a super-technologically advanced country that also is sitting on the world’s supply of Vibranium, which is not only the hardest metal in the world (Captain America’s shield is made of it) but also incredibly valuable. This is one of the plot lines, since nobody else in the world (except for a select few) knows that Wakanda is anything but a backwater third-world country. The other is the contention between T’Challa and someone from his past, Erik Killmonger (The Bad Guy), and all kinds of issues about freedom and responsibility are raised. This was so well done that there is a big faction who object to how the movie played out and are on Killmonger’s side. That’s some seriously good writing, folks.

But the best thing was having a movie written by and starring Black actors that was so intelligent, had such great characters (especially the three women) and a really well-thought-out plot. (With no major plot holes that I could see…and that’s really rare for a superhero movie, even a good one.) What a game-changer. At least I hope it will be, and from now on superhero movies will have a whole lot more variety and inclusiveness.

Here is a great article by an African-American writer that talks about some of the racial issues and attitudes that were part of the impact of, and discussion sparked by, this movie, including the number of people who were rooting for the ‘bad guy’. This article has SPOILERS, which I am trying really hard to avoid in this review.

Basically, this movie was very, very good; run, don’t walk, to the theater and see it.


The Phantom Thread

January 23, 2018

phantom

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A high-end fashion designer in 1950s London meets a girl, and things proceed from there…

I am not one to go to a movie based on an actor that happens to be in said movie. That’s something Mr. Otter often does, but I am plot-driven; I am happy when an actor I like is in a movie I want to see, but I have to be interested in the story, or I don’t bother to see it.

Except in the case of Daniel Day-Lewis. I would go see him read a laundry list, and be happy to pay my (whatever ungodly amount they’re charging for movies now) for it.

He is a Serious Honey. What’s more, he is, in my opinion, one of the very best, if not THE best, actor on the Big Screen right now…and I have heard rumors that he’s retiring after this movie. More power to him for having a life, but damn I’m going to miss him.

Even in a slow, strange, beautiful movie like this, he is riveting.

And it was slow. And beautiful. And very character-driven. And not much happened, although the end made us both sit up and say, What?…but it worked. I don’t know if I’d go see it again unless I was in desperate need for eye-candy, but it was good.

And aside from also saying that if you are interested in fashion or costume design, you will have even more reason to enjoy this movie, I will say no more. Discover it on your own, like it or hate it, Day-Lewis is definitely worth watching. As are many of the cast, but who sees them when he’s on the screen?

Thank you, Daniel. But I certainly hope I’m wrong and this is not your last movie.


Coco

January 23, 2018

coco

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A boy searches for his lost great-great-grandfather…in the Land of the Dead.

EVERYONE I talked to told me that this movie is awesome.

But it’s Disney, I said, I’m not crazy about Disney movies. They’re kinda all the same and kinda predictable.

No, said Everyone, this one is different and it’s really good.

Whatevs, I said, and rolled my eyes.

Then last Friday, it was raining and I decided to go have a multi-movie day at my local ‘plex. There were three movies about to leave town, and I had a few movie passes left from the batch that I had gotten, so I managed to work them all in…and this was second. After Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which was awesome and funny and a hard act to follow.

But this movie totally did. Everyone was right. This was a great movie.

Yes, it’s an animated Disney movie, so you know that

  • The animation will be excellent.
  • There will be a kid doing something to repair his/her (his, in this case) family.
  • There will be a cute animal sidekick.
  • There will be a villain standing in the way, maybe a scary villain (but it’ll be Benji-peril)
  • There will be a heart-rending scene toward the end that will make me cry like a bitch whether or not I want to.
  • All will be well in the end.

And all of those things were true…but in a very very good way. This story is about a Hispanic boy whose great-great-grandfather left his ggg’mother to be a famous musician. The only picture of him has the face torn out of it, so all the kid is going on is family legend. He ends up in the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos, makes a friend whom he tries to help, finds the person he’s looking for, and things go differently than he expects, but not (at the end) so badly.

And although it’s nice having a boy be the main character in a Disney movie (not unheard of, but rare) and it’s nice seeing a Hispanic community and having them and their lives and celebrations as the center of the story, the BEST thing is the animation.

This is WONDERFUL animation, even in this day and age. The real-world part is good, but when he enters the Land of the Dead, it’s breathtaking. I won’t spoil it, but be preparted to say WOW a lot. I certainly did! I don’t use the word STUNNING much anymore when it comes to special effects, but it’s appropriate here. If you can see it on the big screen do it, this is one time when it won’t be nearly as awesome on your tv.

And the flying leopard!!!

Just…go see it. It was great. Thank you, Everyone. You were right.


The Brothers Karamazov

January 9, 2018

kara

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Dostoyevsky.

Ivan is in love with Katya is in love with Dmitri is in love with Grushenka who is sleeping with the brothers’ father Fyodor while brother Alexi the priest tries to make peace and everyone despises Smerdyakov, Fyodor’s smarmy illegitimate son.

No kidding. I thought it was going to be yet another Russian political the-government-is-evil-let’s-have-a-revolution kind of thing…but no. It’s a big ol’ thundering family drama, full of anger, tears, forgiveness and lots of people ending up unhappy (because Russian).

Ottersis, Mr. Otter and I wanted to see this…not only is it the last movie we had chosen and not seenfor the New Year’s Day Moviefest 2018 (theme: Hollywood’s take on other countries) but also Ottersis and I are in complete agreement on the hotness of Yul Brynner, which is awesome. In fact, I am now promoting him to Serious Honey. You’re welcome, Yul.

So this takes place in the 1870s in Russia, and everyone is fighting over money and sex, and it’s actually really good. Although it clocks in at 2 1/2 hours, it moves really well, and what developed in the last half hour surpised me, if not everyone (Mr. Otter says he read the book but doesn’t remember it that well.)

And the cast list is a 50s roll call of good actors: Brynner, Lee J Cobb, Harry Towne, Claire Bloom, Richard Basehart, and (we were all surprised to see) William Shatner playing the priest brother. And he was actually good, and SO young!

But the best was Serious Honey Maria Schell, sister of Maximilian Schell, as Gruschenka. She was so good when she was onscreen you couldn’t look away from her- beautiful, a good actress, a worthy foil to Yul and his high horse, which he kept getting on…she was just amazing. I looked at the list of her credits, and as I thought, I’ve never seen her in anything except (and I didn’t remember this) a forgettable part in the first Superman movie from 1978.

Anyway. This was really worth watching- lots of drama, tension, pretty good writing and good plotting. Guess I’m going to have to read the book now…


Bright

January 7, 2018

bright

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two cops, one of whom is a despised ethnic group, and the other is his partner under protest, stumble on a gang, several murders and a conspiracy, during which they learn to respect each other and maybe take a few steps toward being friends.

And the cop nobody wants to partner with is an Orc…

This takes place in a future LA, with annoying fairies, rich and beautiful Elves who live in an enclave, and Orc hooligans and gang members. Will Smith’s partner (yes, Serious Honey Will Smith is back in a really good role, yippee!) is an Orc who has cut off his tusks (and is called ’roundtooth’ by other Orcs) but all he wants to be is a good cop.

This is an excellent example of taking a plot everyone has seen many times, and remaking it with one element (fantasy creatures in our world) changed, and thereby creating a new and interesting story. The worldbuilding is good, there are rules for the magic and abilities and the plot makes them clear, and the writers stick to the rules.

Mr. Otter was kind of rolling his eyes at this and claiming that it didn’t explain stuff or follow the rules, but he doesn’t read fantasy novels, and I do, and I say this was really good.

You better watch it for yourself, though, and see what you think.


What We Do In The Shadows

January 4, 2018

shadows

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A group of vampires living in a house together in Wellington, New Zealand, decides to tell their side of the story.

The New Year’s Day Videofest for 2018 had the theme Hollywood Around the World. When we were putting together the movies, there was one we couldn’t find anywhere, so I started looking for something from Australia and New Zealand, came across a review of this and said, that’s it!

And we were glad of it, because it’s really funny. Three vampire from 200-500 years old, and their 800 year old master (who looks like Nosferatu, and lives in the cellar) are sharing a house. They have let a documentary film crew into their lives because they want to go public and change how the world sees them.

They are all hilarious in their own ways, all the ancillary people in their lives who are interviewedand when a modern vampire complete with smartphone is added to the mix, it gets even better.

This is smart and funny, the characters are great, and I just don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away all the good stuff. See it, you’ll love it too.


Guardians of the Galaxy 2

August 31, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

The Guardians are back, and the universe needs saving!

Woo HOO! I was so looking forward to this movie…the first one was DAMN good, and the previews of this one were all excellent…but of course we know how that goes, don’t we?

I am SO PLEASED to say that this is a sequel that, contrary to the usual run of things, is at least as good as, if not better than, the original.

The main storyline has to do with Peter Quill/Starlord’s absent father, who shows up, and is everything Peter dreamed of his father being…or is he? Meanwhile, characters we think are bad guys might be good guys and vice versa, and of course there must be deadly danger, great action scenes, and snappy dialogue.

I was totally in tears at the end of this movie, and really really liked it; the two GoG movies together are a really excellent continued story, but either of them can stand alone, which is hard to pull off well.

Hurrah for the Guardians of the Galaxy!