1917

March 10, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

During one day in April 1917, two soldiers are sent to cross no-mans-land at the front and deliver a message.

Ottersis and I were all over this- the previews were amazing, the movie had great word-of-mouth, and we both love war stories. Mr. Otter was full of reasons why this movie couldn’t have happened the way it did, sight unseen, so we left him at home and had a good time.

April 1917, a message must be sent across no-mans-land to stop an attack that will kill hundreds of men, including the brother of one of the guys carrying the message. The phone lines have been cut and the radio won’t work for (reasons), so they have to carry it themselves. Through trenches, bodies, no-mans-land, the german lines, towns under attack, you name it.

The thing is, the movie is close to real-time; the whole thing takes place in less than 24 hours of screen time. And the camera either follows, looks at, or uses the main character’s own pov the whole time. That alone makes it pretty amazing, especially the first third of the movie which is right up close to them and what they’re seeing and doing; after that it’s more like a regular movie, but that first third is really involving.

The story is excellent- the things that happen to them, the things they see, their talk and their friendship, the events of the war: all of these are really well done. The cinematography is excellent, it’s a beautiful picture, if one can say such a thing when so much of what is on screen is the awfulness of WWI.

If you like war movies or edge-of-your-seat suspense, this is a great choice.


2001: A Space Odyssey

February 18, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a book with this title by Arthur C. Clarke; he worked on it with Stanley Kubrick while the movie was being filmed, and the book was released after the movie came out with out.

Like I can describe this movie in one sentence. Okay, here goes: Human evolution as enhanced by wierd monoliths, from early man to space travel, and what happens to the first astronauts to go to Jupiter. Hm. Not perfect, but it’ll do.

I saw this movie when it was new, when I was a very young otter indeed, at the Hollywood Cinerama Dome, which has an 86 FOOT WIDE SCREEN. It was quite an experience, and I’ve never forgotten the wonder and coolness of that movie, and have seen it many times.

And yet, here it is 2020, and I had not reviewed it…which means that I have not seen it since January 1, 2002, which is when I started reviewing every movie I watch. Wow. That amazed me.

CoyoteRambles was visiting us, and as is our wont, after a good dinner we settled down with some delicious libations to watch a movie or two. This came up in the conversation, and since he had taught it in a class for foreign students, we decided to watch it; one of the best things about watching movies with CoyoteRambles is that he knows so much about movies.

And as I remembered, it was wonderful.

But…there are SPOILERS ahead.

If you are one of the few in the world who haven’t seen it yet, you may want to come back to this review after watching it. Go ahead, I’ve got some free time.

You back? Okay!

So yes, the cinematography is amazing. And beautiful in many ways. We found out from CR that the only reason the makeup artist DIDN’T win an Oscar for the first section, the apelike hominids, was because everyone thought they were really apes instead of people with amazing makeup…wow.

It’s fun, fifty years later, to see the concept of future tech.

On the one hand, video phone calls and recorded video messages. On the other hand, no handheld devices.

On the one hand, computers. On the other hand, mostly keypads or voice commands.

On the one hand, a regular shuttle flight to the space station, stewardess and all. On the other hand, palatial amounts of room and meal/drinks service…not really the travel experience of today for most people, plus for a trip like that economizing on space would be important.

Hindsight is so easy. But the internal logic of how all of it worked together was very consistent, and a joy to watch, either then or now…although seeing it as a 10 year old, the plot didn’t completely make sense to me until I read the book…but I was that kind of kid, ALWAYS read the book.

CoyoteRambles said he had had an epiphany about the movie, even after watching it umpteen times: at the end Kier Dullea finds a hidden recorded message about the government finding a monolith on the moon, realizing that it was sending a signal to Jupiter, and covering that up…and that ‘knowing’ that, having it in his memory but having to lie about it, was what drove HAL crazy. That was an interesting insight!

This is one of the truly great movies. If you haven’t seen it, do it now.

 

 


Little Women

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

 

From the book of the same name by Louisa May Alcott.

The lives of four girls growing up during the Civil War.

I wasn’t a girly girl at all…I didn’t read Judy Blume or Nancy Drew or ANY book called Little Women. I did, however, read Little Men and Jo’s Boys and loved them, as well as a lot of other Alcott books. I didn’t actually read this book til I was in college. And I LOVED it, and read it several times.

I may have seen one of the earlier movie adaptations of this story, but (maybe happily) don’t remember either of them. A friend has told me that the Hepburn version BAD, Allyson GOOD. Maybe sometime I’ll watch them and let you know.

Mr. Otter and I went to see this, he never having read the book and me being very familiar with it, and we both loved it.

Firstly, it’s beautiful. The cinematography is lovely, and evocative, and a joy to the eye. Color, movement, flow, all wonderful.

The actors are all excellent, and it was nice to see Laura Dern playing Marmee with a bit of spunk. Mr. Otter’s Golden Love Object, Meryl Streep, plays Aunt March. And the rest of the cast was very well chosen, including Saoirse Ronan as Jo.

The manners are a little too modern; everyone is too open, too easy with each other, too informal. There is a scene where Jo (living on her own and trying to get published) is dancing in a pub or bar with a group of men. Nothing salacious, and today we’d think nothing of if, but it WAS NOT DONE then. Just things like that were noticeable…but make it a little more relatable to modern audiences.

Overall, this was a fine movie, and we both enjoyed it immensely.

 

 


Spider-Man: Far From Home

December 6, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

This review has, by necessity, spoilers for Avengers: Endgame…so if you haven’t seen that, go watch it now and come on back to find out what the Otter has to say about Spidey’s latest adventure!

 

No worries, I’ll wait…

 

and I’m waiting…

 

All done? Wasn’t that great? Now, let’s get back to Spidey.

 

Peter Parker goes on a class trip to Europe, hoping to just be a student, but of course Spider-man is needed.

This movie takes place after Avengers: Endgame, and if you recall, the people who disappeared at the end of Infinity War reappeared five years later. Peter Parker was one of them. I really loved that they made that part of this movie, and the fact that all these people (especially young people) are now dealing with having been moved ahead five years while everyone who didn’t disappear has gone on with their lives, and also gotten older…so high school students come back to a school where all their friends have graduated and moved on, and they are still the age they were. Really well done.

There is a world-wide threat, the Avengers are no more (literally, for many of them) and the world expects Spidey to take the lead role, not realizing that he’s a kid (or really caring). Peter is just trying to get on with his life, get a date with Mary Jane, and not be a superhero for a while…but of course is dragged into the mess. There are superbeings targeting different places on Earth, and a guy named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who shows up to help stop the baddies, and Nick Fury is trying to recruit Spidey, and of course things go wrong on the class trip.

This was a really good and satisfying coda to the Avengers saga, well worth watching. Good, fast-paced and believeable writing, characters that you care about, and some interesting plot twists made this one of the better Spider-man movies. Well worth seeing, says the Otter.


Joker

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Instead of the origin story of a superhero, we get that of a supervillain, the eponymous Joker.

There has been a lot of controversy about this movie, which is basically about the rise of a crazed serial killer; those who oppose it say that this is another example of glorified violence. Personally, I think the movie made the Joker and his life look damn unattractive, but that’s just my opinion. I did think it was brilliant and that Joaquin Phoenix (who is a favorite actor Chez Otter) deserves a damn Oscar for this. He was that good.

And now I’m going to venture into SPOILERLAND, so if you don’t want to find out anything about what happens, stop here.

So wow. I had tried to see this for a month, even attempting to get to a movie theater while on vacation, and it just didn’t work out…then I suddenly found myself with an afternoon free (anomalous for me) and just went ahead and did it…and I’m so glad I did.

This is the slow descent into madness of a serial killer, and Phoenix brings out every nuance of crazy. He is believeable, sociopathic, and scary as hell. I can see why it got huge acclaim at the Venice and Cannes festivals; it’s not about capes or superpowers, it’s just about this one guy and watching him live his life.

The one thing that I found odd was his last interaction with the woman and child he’s fixated on…did he kill them? He just left their apartment, but nothing was shown…I found out later that all his interactions with her were imaginary, from meeting in the elevator onwards; this makes more sense than that she (especially being the mother of a young child) would have ANYTHING to do with him, but I somehow missed that that was going on.

Otherwise (and that was probably my mistake, not the writers’) it was well written, amazingly acted, and dark as hell.

If your taste runs to this sort of dark psychological drama thing, make sure you see it. If it doesn’t, here’s a nice kitty you can look at instead:

 


Once Upon A Time….In Hollywood

August 3, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A pretty-much-washed up TV actor and his driver move through 1969 Hollywood, interacting with the movie/TV community and the Manson family…

 

Mr. Otter and I had to vacate the house for most of a day to let our awesome contractor, WonderPaul, do his thing.

I”m going to go see the new Tarantino flick at our local Emporium du Movies, I said. Wanna come?

Hm, said Mr. Otter, I didn’t much like his last couple of movies, and I’m not sure about this one…on the other hand, we have to be out of the house, so okay!

Thus we hied ourselves downtown, managed with help to find the almost-invisible parking garage, and armed with popcorn and coffee for Mr. Otter….were treated to half an hour of previews. Most of which we enjoyed.

But not half as much as we enjoyed this movie.

Bad boy, self-involved asshole, provacateur, annoying git…call Tarantino what you like, the fact is that along with all those things, he is brilliant. He knows his movies, TV shows and Hollywood history. And all of that knowledge makes this story wonderful. There is so much richness here, so many details that are just right, so many things to say Wow! and exclaim over. There are great characters, wonderful settings, good storytelling. A lot of the movie is just people talking to each other, and none of it is dull.

And then there’s the Manson family thing…because Di Caprio lives next door to Roman Polanski, his wife Sharon Tate, and their semi-permanent houseguest Jay Sebring. In 1969. And anyone in the audience who knows anything about the horror that was the Manson Family knows that this is not going to end well. I loved watching this movie. I enjoyed the characters, especially Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. I loved the carefully crafted cameos of well-known Hollywood figures who showed up here and there. I loved the dynamics, the jokes, the look of the movie. And every time the date on the narrative got closer to the end, my fingernails dug into the seat arms. Because even though I knew (from other reviews) that Tarantino, as is his wont, had played a bit fast and loose with the actual events…I was still expecting a bloody horror at the end.

And I will say no more, except that i was right, and it was both awesome and satisfying. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie and can’t wait to see it again.

I know there are a lot of people who are unhappy with the things Tarantino rewrote, but at both the beginning and end he emphasizes that this is a FABLE of Hollywood, not actual truth. And a very good one it is too.

A masterpiece, says the Otter. Go see it right now.

 


Avengers: Endgame

May 10, 2019

endgame

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Can the Avengers save the world after Thanos destroyed most of it?

Five years after Infinity War, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. We the moviegoers know that things will get better, but not exactly how…and it was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Firstly, just in case you haven’t seen it yet, of course I have to talk about what happens, so here’s the

SPOILER WARNING

 

Okay? Now the rest of us can get on with this…

What I knew going into this movie (and I was adamant about NOT reading or watching ANYTHING about it til it came out. Having just closed escrow on a house that needed a ton of work helped me to ignore all the buzz…!)

  1. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, respectively) all had contracts that would end with this movie. Downey had made it public that this would be his last one, so everyone expected him to die; but I didn’t see anything about Evans’ or Hemsworths’ plans…but I figured they would be somehow written out of the future Marvel movies.
  2. The end of Infinity War signaled the Captain Marvel movie, which came out two months ago, so we all knew that she would in some way either save the day or help to do so.
  3. There would be some kind of time travel because A) Dr. Strange and B) how else were they going to fix it?
  4. THREE HOURS LONG.

So that was what I knew going in. I was bracing myself for disappointment, because how could a movie ever live up to that amount of hype and hope and scrutiny? And…overall,  I was pretty darn happy with it.

The first hour and a bit is ALL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. We see what has happened to the world since Thanos disappeared half the population, and specifically the chaos that has ensued, and how the Avengers themselves were impacted. No fighting, no flying, just…character development. Lovely.

Then they catch up to Thanos…and things don’t go as expected. By them or by me.

And then the time travel stuff starts; I always have a problem with time travel, it’s inherantly flaky. To be fair, they did everything they could to make this work sensibly and follow rules, which helped a lot. It was really well done, and although you could pick at details til the cows come home, get tired of waiting and go away again, it was good.

And what about the Big Three? I was very happy with the end results for both Iron Man and Cap. Thor…part of me thought what they did with his character was awesome, and part of me rolled my eyes and said, really? After Ragnarok and Infinity War you did…this? But sure, whatever. It did work, on many levels. And the changes in his character added a touch of needed humor, so that was good.

Overall? I call it excellent, and kudos to Marvel and Kevin Feige. Can’t wait to see what comes next…


Bohemian Rhapsody

May 10, 2019

boho

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A biopic of the life of Freddie Mercury, of the legendary rock band Queen.

Okay, I’ll say it again: I’m so old I used to go see Queen (and Mercury) whenever they were performing in LA.

And having said that, this was an excellent movie. They got most of the detail right, although the ending, where the band breaks up and comes back together for the Life Aid concert, was pretty much made up for the movie.

The guy who played Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek, was excellent, and the hair and makeup person for the movie did an amazing job of making him look like the iconic rock star.

And the music! Mr. Otter got annoyed with me for singing along, but how could I not? This was the soundtrack to my older teenage years, and I still listen to Queen and love them.

A wonderful movie, watch it for the music if nothing else.


The Favourite

May 10, 2019

fav

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

In the early 1800s, two women vie for the attention of Queen Anne.

This got really amazing word-of-mouth recommendations. And it totally lived up to the buzz.

Queen Anne was the last of the Stuarts; when William and Mary died without heirs, she (being Mary’s sister) became queen until her death, when George I became the reigning monarch.

This movie portrays an aging queen who is unable to perform many of her duties, preferring to be with her SEVENTEEN BUNNIES (omg they were cute!), staying in her rooms, and relying on her friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) to do most of the running of  the country for her. A girl who was raised in the nobility but whose family has fallen on hard times is hired in the kitchens, and the queen takes her under her wing, with predictable friction between the two of them.

Having said that, this is an amazing movie. Not only an acclaimed feature film that’s just about women and their lives, but beautiful settings, great period details, good writing…it made me happy that a movie like this was even made, much less made so well.

 


Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A young version of Spider-Man finds that other versions of Spider-Man are being drawn to his universe from their own.

This had huge hype, and trailers everywhere. And…all the hype was justified, this is EXCELLENT.

In the universe in which this movie takes place, a young African-American kid is bitten by the spider and becomes Spider-Man, and then (see above). That’s no more than you will learn from the trailers, so no spoilers.

And I’m not saying anything more about the actual plot, because it was a joy to watch it unfold. I think I was sitting in my seat in the theater grinning the whole time, I liked it so much.

Not only are the characters- the kid who is this universe’s Spidey, his dad, mom and uncle, the kids at his school- all believeable, but the whole reason for the universes colliding, and the nefarious plan behind it, and what happens from that…it all WORKS. It’s well-written, funny, sad, charming, and I LOVED IT.

I saw this and Aquaman on the same day…and it was like night and day. Bad movie, good movie. If only DC was capable of learning how to make movies…but at least we have this gem.

Go see it. See it over and over. Buy it. Love it. Invite me and and I’ll join you. This movie is that good.