Michael Collins

June 22, 2019

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Biopic of one of the major figures in the Irish War for Independence.

Mr. Otter and I had just come back from Ireland, and were watching some movies that had to do with the people and places we’d been…he was surprised that I hadn’t seen this, since Serious Honey Liam Neeson plays the title role.

So we watched it one night, and it was mostly very good. As far as I can tell it was pretty historically accurate; costumes and settings were good. The movie focused as much on Collins’ personal life as it did his politics and various roles in the War for Independence. And Neeson was very good as Colliins, as was pretty much everyone in this movie (there’s an added bonus of Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera)…except Julia Roberts, who played Kitty Kiernan, who was romantically involved with both Collins and his best friend, Harry Boland.

Which is a great story- a real-life romantic triangle set against the backdrop of nasty politics and the struggle for freedom.

If only Julia Roberts hadn’t been cast…sure, she’s pretty, she can act some…but she didn’t look, sound or act Irish or like a woman of the time. She stood out like a sore thumb in pretty much every scene she was in. If they had tattooed HEY I’M JULIA ROBERTS on her forehead it wouldn’t have been less distracting.

Otherwise? A fine movie, full of all the things that make movies good. But I’m downgrading it one $ for Roberts; I didn’t know she was in it when we started watching it…


Captain Marvel

May 10, 2019

marvel

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Carol Danvers is an Air Force pilot who is ‘adopted’ by aliens and given amazing powers, joining their galactic police force and their ongoing war against Bad Guys. Years later, she ends up on Earth and starts regaining her memory of her former life.

This was very good- even though it’s a prequel to the mainstream Marvel movies, it was well done; it’s set in the early 80s, and the period detail was darn good (says the Otter who was there to see that time period…). This lays the foundation for not only S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury and Agent Colson’s back stories, but also ties directly into the next movie that is the big culmination of the Avengers series, Endgame.

Given that that is a lot of weight to carry, the film does a good job. The two women who are the main characters actually get to have lives and a friendship that grows onscreen instead of the audience being told that they are friends; Danvers’ return after being missing for six years is also handled well. And the ending is satisfying.

It was wierd to see Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg (Fury and Colson) CGI’d to look thirty years younger, but not to look as the actors did in that actual time period…I know, the characters aren’t the actors so they don’t have to look like the actors did…but it was still kind of jarring.

And GOOSE. OMG what a wonderful cat. Or alien. Or whatever. He was GREAT.

This was a totally worthy entry into the MCU, and very very enjoyable.

 


The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

May 10, 2019

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Five years after Emmet saves the world, Lego Duplos attack and, well, the world must be saved again…

And what I say below might be construed as SPOILERSso you’ve been warned.

So yes, I loved the first Lego Movie. I loved the Lego Batman Movie. So of course I had to see this one!

And…it was good. Amusing, well written, great characters and plot. But since the audience is in on the joke, that this is a world that Will Ferrell’s kids are making (and the problem in this one is that Finn’s younger sister is now allowed to play with the area in the basement with all the Legos. In the real world, when she fights with Finn and breaks his built stuff, it happens in the Lego world too, and everyone has to find a solution.

All our favorite characters are back, and many new ones besides; the animation is awesome, and the storyline is very satisfying.

This was funny and charming…the audience was in on the joke, so it wasn’t as OMG HOW AMAZING as the first one, but it was a worthy sequel and I liked it a lot.


Alien

May 10, 2019

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A nearly perfect horror movie, with the crew of a space ship trying to escape/survive a deadly alien life force.

I saw this in the movie theater the year it came out (1979); it was the same summer Jaws was re-released, which is actually a great juxtaposition! I’m not a big one for jump scares or slasher movies, but this was well made and classy.

And I probably saw it a couple more times in the 80s, and maybe once after we got the DVD…but I know I haven’t seen it in 17 years, because I started this blog January 1 2002, and am only now reviewing this movie.

Which…actually ages pretty well. I mean, sure, a lot of the tech is dinosaurish, but one has to expect that, as fast as everything has changed. But the basics- a work crew out in the galaxy, harvesting raw materials from other planets, out of communication with Earth and having to deal with anything that comes up on their own, including problems with each other, is totally believable and very well done here.

All the actors are just amazingly young…this was made forty years ago as I write, so from this perspective they all look like teenagers! But the writing and acting was just as good as I remember it; the atmosphere is tense, the aliens are scary as hell…and of course Jonesie is the best cat ever.

Worth seeing, or seeing again. A classic in its genre.


Black Narcissus

February 8, 2019

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From the novel of the same name by Rumer Godden

Five nuns open a convent in the Himalayas. Stuff happens.

Mr. Otter and I hosted the New Year’s Day Videofest 2019, and the theme was Best Cinematography Oscar. We always choose eight movies, and watch as many as we can between 10 am and 9ish pm…that usually makes it 5 or 6 movies. This was one of them, but did not get chosen in our random drawings.

But we had really wanted to see it, so a night or two later we queued it up and watched it.

So these nuns are to establish a convent in a palace in the Himalayas that has been donated to the church by the general who runs the local town/area. Five nuns are sent there, and of course things happen. The isolation and being cooped up together, so to speak, cause all kinds of friction; plus there are various locals who add to the problems.

This is a pretty good drama combining interpersonal dynamics, the past coming back to haunt some of the characters, and outside influences that can’t be controlled.

And the Oscar is well deserved, it was beautifully filmed in black and white, with luminous lighting and amazing light and shadows.

Worth watching, we enjoyed it.


Isle of Dogs

February 1, 2019
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Because dogs are coming down with several dangerous and communicable-to-humans diseases, the mayer of Megasaki, a large town in Japan, decrees that all dogs will be taken from the city and dumped on Trash Island to live or die…including his own son’s beloved pet.

This was a strange and wonderful animated movie. The voice actors include a wide array of talent- Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber and Anjelica Huston were the names I knew, plus a host of Japanese actors. The voice talent was amazing; they really brought the animated dogs to life.

There are so many amusing and interesting things happening that it’s hard to describe how much fun this film is to watch; the story has great twists and turns. I mean, basically it’s about a boy determined to save his dog, and also about the abuse of power, and also has wierd science experiments, and is also a journey story, and has a lot of hilarious digs at cats.

This is not a typical Pixar-like kids movie; the stop-motion animation is extremely well done, but it gives this film its own look and feel, and the story and characters are wacky and interesting.

Well worth seeing!


The Ugly American

September 21, 2018

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From the novel of the same name by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

Mr. Otter brought this home, and we watched it. He had read the book, which I hadn’t, and I knew nothing about it except the current usage of the phrase, which is Americans going to other countries and behaving like complete assholes.

So this is about a fictitious Southeast Asian country named Sarkan, that has a northern half that has become Communist, and they and the Chinese are trying to take over the rest of the country…sound familiar? Yup, it’s Vietnam; I figured that out after about ten minutes, it’s really obvious. Brando is the new ambassador, sent there to make sure the new road through the country that the Americans are building (“Freedom Road”) goes through, after some sabotage halts construction.

Brando’s character has a close Sarkanese friend who is being led astray by those darn Communists, so that’s a huge plot point with much political talk, and he is also friends with two Americans who run a hospital for children that is much needed and appreciated.

Eventually it all goes pear-shaped, mostly due to misunderstandings and the machinations of those doggone Communists, and the Americans have to leave. Not really a spoiler, it’s obvious where the plot is going.

This was pretty heavy-handed, but since it was made in 1963 about current political events, that’s not surprising. I was surprised, though, when I was talking to Mr. Otter a few days later- he used the phrase Ugly American, and I said, I assume that movie is where the phrase came from, but Brando wasn’t what the phrase means now, he really appreciated the country, tried to follow the customs and respect the people, but was misinformed.

Mr. Otter said no, the eponymous Ugly American was the American doctor, who the local people considered to be ugly although they loved him anyway. Huh? Really, said Mr. Otter, I read the book, it was him.

O-kaaaay. So there you have it.

If you like heavy-handed political drama, or seeing history from the contemporaneous point of view, this is your movie. But be warned, Brando is already in mumble-mode in 1963, it was sometimes very hard to understand him.