theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the category “characters: good”

Logan

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel Old Man Logan by Mark Millar

Let me say right from the get-go that I am not by any means an X-Men fan. I’ve read a couple of comics, and seen a couple of the movies, didn’t like any of it much. I know enough about them to get the Deadpool jokes, but that’s about it.

But I did read Old Man Logan when it came out and made such a big splash…and I really liked it.

So when I saw that they had made a movie of it with Hugh “I’ve been Wolverine forever” Jackman and Patrick “Best Xavier Ever” Stewart, I was pretty excited.

And I was not disappointed. This is a story that takes place after the mutants have been hunted down and destroyed, and Wolverine is working a day job under the name Logan and trying to keep himself and Xavier (who is far gone in dementia) alive and under the radar…and of course something happens to pull them back into the world to help others.

 To my (not being up on all things X-Men) mind, this movie did everything right. The setting, the explodo, the characters, the plot, the reasons everyone does what they do, the consequences, the ending…it’s all done just right. It hasn’t at all converted me into an X-Men fan…but I did enjoy this one. Plus if you get Hugh Jackman and kids together, the result is nearly always good.

I really liked this movie, hope you do too!

The Men who Stare at Goats

mengoats

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson

Several men are involved in the US Army’s attempts to make new-age and paranormal abilities useful in spying and combat.

I was at the Red Cross to do Apheresis, which means a couple of hours with needles in my arms, and I was looking for something amusing to watch, and this caught my eye…and boy, was it ever amusing. I was laughing out loud and all the nurses were coming over to see what was so funny.

The cast is stellar- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey. Ewan MacGregor is a reporter trying to find out about a program that was designed to teach soldiers (or spies) to use mind power for various things, including making an enemy’s heart stop by staring at them (they trained on goats, hence the title). He tracks down Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all of whom have history with each other, and he is led on a chase from one place to another as he tries to find out the truth.

This was actually a gem-well written, funny, full of great details. The military background is hilarious, and Clooney is so deadpan it’s amazing.

Trust the otter- use your mental powers to track it down, you’ll be glad you did.

The Last Remake of Beau Geste

lastbeau

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Very loosely based on the novel Beau Geste by P. C. Wren

Two Englishmen end up in the French Foreign Legion because of the theft of a famous and valuable jewel.

Confession: I, the Otter, am a HUGE French Foreign Legion junkie. I have a couple of dozen books (plus just about everything P.C. Wren ever wrote, and I’m not kidding), and have seen all the movies and tv shows I can find on Le Légion étrangère. 

I saw this movie when it was new (a couple of times, I think, back when you had to see it when it was at a theater, because there was no way to watch it at home when you wanted to…yes, I’m old.) and I remember that it was hysterically funny. Now, there is a phenomenon which we Chez Otter call the “Caddyshack effect”, where you remember something you saw when young as being awesome and it isn’t when you see it twenty or thirty or forty years later…but I was willing to take the risk.

I saw this on Amazon.com, and bought it…and a bit later Mr. Otter and I watched it, with not a little trepidation on my part.

And it was fun. Silly 70s era fun, with a lot of good people (Michael York, Ann-Margret, Marty Feldman, and a host of people who were well-known then but not so much now) being pretty amusing. The plot was silly but good, and gave a couple of nods to the novel, and it was nice to see it again.

Not one of the funniest or best movies of all time, but certainly fun to watch, and (more importantly) not at all disappointing. Whew.

Passengers

passengers

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two passengers on a space ship bound for a colony world wake up 90 years early. Shenanigans!

And that is all I’ll say without warning you that there are BIG HONKIN’ SPOILERS coming. Because there is no way to convey my annoyance at this movie without telling you all about it.

So if you want to see it first, go ahead. I’ll wait.

<slow passage of time>

Done? Okay, let’s go…

Okay. How much am I annoyed at this movie? Let me count the ways…

  1. So there are these colony ships that take people in hibernation to other planets. Why are there restaurants and shopping malls on these ships if nobody is supposed to be awake? This makes no sense, and is a waste of space and money, even on a ‘luxury’ ship.
  2. We’ll give the movie the unlikely premise that one and only one pod (at this point) will fail in such a way that the occupant (Chris Pratt) wakes up and is fine…but is awake and alone on a ship that is supposed to travel for 90 years and there is no way for him to be sent back to sleep. Why is all this stuff (see #1) running? Even if there are restaurants and shopping malls and bars and gyms that can be available for (maybe) the beginning and end of the voyage (and again, why? wouldn’t the colonists be asleep at takeoff?) why don’t they all shut down as soon as everyone is asleep? There are no caretakers awake, remember. It’s all automated.
  3. Ditto Michael Sheen, playing the amusing robotic bartender (and it tells you a lot about this movie that the robot bartender is the most sympathetic character…)
  4. I can actually see Pratt being lonely and desperate enough to wake Jennifer Lawrence…but why is there no emergency way to get to or wake the CREW??? You’d think they’d put that in the computer from the beginning: by the way, if any passengers do somehow wake up, wake the captain IMMEDIATELY!!…but no.
  5. So he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence and doesn’t admit to doing it, just tells her they were two random awakenings…of course, this is the crux of the movie, and they start to address it then get sidetracked by explosions and fixing the ship and all, and they NEVER really deal with the fact that because he has done this, he’s doomed someone else and changed her life irrevocably. And this is the heart of the movie. And they (aside from her being mad at him then ending up forgiving him) really don’t go into the awfulness of it.
  6. Really? The ONLY OTHER person whose pod malfunctions just happens to be a crew member who can figure out what’s what, give them a wristband that lets them access all the ship functions, then conveniently dies of internal damage from his damaged sleep pod? Talk about (literal) Deus ex Machina! (and it’s Laurence Fishburne, so Deus indeed!) Why doesn’t Chris Pratt have the same damage? Or (as far as they know) any of the other pods? Why doesn’t ANYONE ELSE ON THE DAMN SHIP wake up, except Chris and the ONE GUY who can save them and the whole shipload of people? Because reasons. This is bad writing and it had me rolling my eyes.
  7. So they find out what’s wrong with the ship, and have to fix it, in the course of which Pratt goes to CERTAIN DEATH, the connotation being that he deserves it for what he did to Jennifer Lawrence (who, by the way, was EXTREMELY CUTE in this movie. Just sayin’). I was okay with that, except…<facepalm> he DOESN’T DIE. Almost, but she saves him. And forgives him. And they will live their lives out on this (now fixed) ship and never see the planet they’re emigrating to. But that’s okay,  they love each other. Cue music.
  8. Because the asteroids that damaged the ship (and the damage was getting progressively worse, and of course A) they figured out how to fix it by talking to Fishburne and B) it’s something only a human could do, not the ship itself, and the ship had no robots built in to fix it, just bartenders) not only didn’t damage it enough to not be fixable, or catastrophic at the time of damage (in which case there would have been no movie) but also didn’t knock it off its course or anything either…
  9. I would have liked this a whole lot better if he had died, and then she had faced the same problem he did, and seen her psychological reaction and what she would do as a consequence. That could actually have made this a good movie. But no, they took the easy, ‘happy’ way out.
  10. This was a movie with a lot of pretty scenes where the viewer was not supposed to think too much…which (again) would have been fine if the whole movie plot had not been based on a moral choice and the repercussions of that choice, but then sidestepped any real discussion of those ramifications.

Seriously disappointing, even with the amusing robot bartender and good eye-candy like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

So I had a day free, and there were several movies I wanted to see in the theater before they left town. This was one of them, of course. Because I have been going to the Star Wars movie ever since the first one came out (the one that everyone in my generation will forever call ‘Star Wars’, not ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. Because that’s just how we are.)

And (except for Disney buying everything Star Wars, which I think nobody in the universe could miss) I really didn’t pay any attention to the hype or reviews or talk about this one; I wanted to see it cold and make up my own mind. I was kind of surprised at the title, though, since it is Star Wars 8. But whatever.

And I was ten minutes into this one trying to make the plot and characters jibe with what I remembered from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (including a sighting of R2D2 that completely puzzled me) when it hit me…this isn’t a sequel…it’s a PREQUEL.

(And there are SPOILERS ahead, just so you know.)

This is the story of how the Rebellion gets the plans of the Death Star so Luke can drop the bomb in the original Star Wars movie. And as soon as I realized that, I knew where it was going. Because even someone like me who doesn’t pay much attention to the Star Wars universe except to see each blockbuster as it comes out and rail against George Lucas for destroying my youth by mucking with the original films remembers the scene in Star Wars where they show the plans to the pilots and tell them that the people who smuggled them out died.

Okay. So now I know where this is going. And from then on, it was kind of fun.

They used a computerized version of Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin. This is something that still bothers me. It’s one thing when an actor who has been hired to play a part dies and the filmmakers do what they can to cover for it (as in Gladiator) but a whole other ball of wax when an actor is used in a movie and has no say about what the movie is or his/her part in it because they’re dead and their heirs okay it…another example of this was in this movie, and it appalled me. On the OTHER hand, I suspect that that is where things are going- actors and actresses will not be filmed, they’ll just license their image to be computerized into a movie, and that’s what the public will see. Hm.

But back to the movie.

They have a couple of scenes with Darth Vader, again voiced (although noticeably older, of course) by James Earl Jones, and the second one was especially good; this is the DV I remember, the one who is completely E-VILE and really really scary.

The main characters were good, and the writing was excellent. Even knowing that none of them would survive, it was great to watch it all play out, and since it’s leading up to (and overlapping just a bit) with an already existing movie, having them repeat scenes from that movie worked just fine.

A really enjoyable entry into the Star Wars universe!

Moana

moana

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Moana leaves her village and sails to an island to raise a curse from her people.

Maid-of-Awesome saw this and told me how much she liked it. Now, M-o-A likes Disney. She rarely sees a Disney/Pixar/whatever animated movie that she doesn’t at least like, and many of them she comes back raving about. But this one, she said, was one of the best she’d ever seen.

I am not nearly as much a Disney fan as M-o-A, but I do pay attention to her recommendations. I was planning a multi-movie day, and made this the first one I saw. And I was not disappointed.

It’s lovely to see non-white, non-Euro girls given the central role of ‘Disney Princess’. Moana is charming and beautiful, but also strong, smart, capable and determined. And other characters are standouts too…her sidekicks, the rooster and the pig, are not annoying (as the snowman in Frozen was, I hated him sooooo much…!). Most of the villagers are typical for these movies (especially her father), but her grandmother is wonderful.

And of course Maui, with his storytelling tattoos, is a great character too. The animation is wonderful, the story is compelling; there is so much to like in this movie.

And…a bit into the movie, she sings a song about how she feels about the ocean and how much she wants to be there and misses it when she’s not. And that song exactly summed up how I feel about the desert. I know, there’s more to the song, she’s leaving her home and all…but I really liked it.

This was better than most Disney movies, and didn’t have the kind of flaws that some of them have. I really enjoyed it!

Risen

risen

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A Roman tribune is given the job of keeping the Jews under control during and after the Crucifixion, then finding the missing body, and of course he comes to believe that Christ is the Messiah.

Mr. Otter and I have a guilty secret. We love cheesy biblical epics. Like this. And especially this. So when he brought this home from his library to watch, I was all over it.

And it stars Joseph Fiennes, whom I consider to be serious eye-candy.

And…this was actually pretty good. Fiennes is serious; he has a job to do and he is doing it, and trying not to let the supernatural get in the way until he can’t deny it any longer. He comes slowly around to his new fellowship with the people he’s supposed to be rounding up, and his change of heart is believeable.

The settings, costumes and soldier-stuff is also very good; they really did try to make this look as authentic as possible. It’s a little ponderous, because you just can’t be flippant about the Crucifixion…well, okay, Monty Python can, but nobody else.

So this was surprisingly not cheesy. It’s a little slow, and takes itself a little seriously, but it’s not at all bad.

And it’s nice to see that Joseph Fiennes is still good eye-candy. Whew.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

babyjane

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

An aging child star is taking care of her disabled sister.

Mr. Otter and I were traveling and enjoying Karina Longworth’s wonderful podcast series, You Must Remember This. On this trip, we listened to her series about Joan Crawford, about whom we knew very little, and decided to watch some of the movies Longworth discussed. This was one of them.

At this point in their careers, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are both older (54 and 56 respectively…oh my god, both younger than I am now!) and were looking for a vehicle that would give them, if not a comeback, at least some money.

Davis is truly awful to watch as she does an excellent job as the child star whose self-centeredness repels all who know her and who gives up her ‘career’ to take care of the sister who was disabled in a car accident she causes (this is all in the first ten minutes of the movie, no spoilers here.) She dresses, acts and looks like pure crazy. She is a joy to watch, truthfully, because one thing you can always say about Davis: she didn’t care how bad she looked or how much the audience hated her if the part called for it.

Joan Crawford should have looked equally awful, but couldn’t bear to, so she is more made-up and put-together. Her character is more sympathetic, and is good counterpoint to Davis’ horror.

I won’t say any more about the movie, because I don’t want to give anything important away. But seeing the characters go further and further down the path they’re on is like eating too many sweets…you know you’re going to regret it and you should stop, but you just can’t.

This is definitely worth watching at least once. Tacky, exploitive, brash, annoying but compelling.

Doctor Strange

strange

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A surgeon is hurt in a car accident and turns to Eastern teachings to heal, along the way becoming a powerful sorcerer.

When I was a young otter (4 1/2) I literally learned to read on comic books…my family were taking a long vacation, and there was NOTHING TO DO during the driving, so I learned to read. And I loved comic books until I turned 11 or 12 and decided they were not as much fun as books. (Don’t worry, I found out the truth later and now love them.)

We had a lot of comics in our house- Archie, Batman, Superman, Thor…but my very favorite was Dr. Strange. I still have a three-part series packed away somewhere, torn and crumbling and probably destroyed by roof leaks in this house we’re in right now…but they were my favorites.

So imagine my joy when I saw previews of this, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, whose very name is so much fun to say.

Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch.

Okay, sorry, I had to just roll it over for a bit. Anyway, the previews looked good…but I know how sucky origin stories can be. Like this one. And this one. Even if the later movies are good (and both second movies in those series were) a bad origin story is like eating something nasty that makes everything taste bad for a while.

But I am an optimistic otter, and the previews looked good…so one day I hied me to the local emporium du film, and watched it.

And I was so happy with it. Sure, it’s an origin story, but it’s well told, and has good character development…he has mostly stopped being such a jerk by the end.

There are excellent actors- Cumberbatch (he of the excellent name) himself, Rachel McAdams (whom we love ever since we saw the first season of Slings and Arrows a million times over), Mads Mikkelson (with AMAZING makeup that kept getting better and better) and Chiwetel Ejiofor, whom we Chez Otter are old enough to remember as the bounty hunter from Serenity…and the guy Kiera Knightly marries in Love Actually, an Otter Family Favorite Film.

So there is serious talent in this movie. Now, there is a storm of controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, the leader of the Tibetan group (Kamar-Taj) where Strange learns his stuff. And yes, it would be nice if Hollywood cast Asians for Asian roles. I loved Benjamin Wong, btw, he was great as the Librarian.

On the other hand, Kamar-Taj did have people from all ethnic backgrounds, so at least it’s not beyond conjecture that someone other than a Tibetan could have risen to the top…as we know Strange may do someday when he’s done saving the world from America.

So I’m on both sides of the fence about that one, but leaning toward the ‘should have been an Asian’ side just because of the general refusal to cast people of Asian descent for Asian roles.

That said, this was really good. Well plotted, funny, GREAT special effects, Mads Mikkelson being E-VILE, as we say, and good action sequences. The next movie has been set up (and there is a hilarious teaser trailer at the end) and I went away happy, and in fact bought this on Blu-Ray as soon as it came out and have watched it again.

The Otter is pleased.

Now, Voyager

voyager

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty

A meek spinster who has been under her domineering mother’s thumb her whole life gets psychiatric help and celebrates her freedom by taking a world cruise, coming back a mature and confident person.

This is a movie that I have always heard about as incredibly romantic…I knew it was about a ship, and that Bette Davis and Paul Henreid were in it, but nothing more. And (I think) it was in listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent blog on the history of Hollywood, You Must Remember This, that this movie was mentioned and we said, we should watch this! So we did.

And it was NOTHING like what I expected. Rich Boston folks and a nebbishy daughter who can’t say BOO to her mother. They had Bette Davis dressed and not-made-up to look plain and mousy, so that when she took the trip and had an actual love affair, she could blossom into being beautiful.

It wasn’t a bad movie, for what it was worth; the actors were good, the writing was good…just not our cup of tea. When it was over, I looked up the book, and found out that not only was this novel that I had never heard of (I didn’t know the movie was based on a book) a best seller, it was one of a series of 5 books that were all famous in their time (1931-1951). She was also the writer of the book Stella Dallas, which is another movie I have heard of but didn’t know it came from a book. This book/movie were both evidently a huge boost to positive perception of psychiatry, as well

So…interesting. The movie is good, albeit predictable, and we found the ending a little hard to swallow…nobody is that nice! But it was good to finally see this. Worth the time for the actors and settings, not so much for the plot.

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