Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Review

Um, you know, the good guys need to defeat the bad guys because it’s the last movie.

I am of an age to have seen the original Star Wars movie (which I will forever refer to as Star Wars, NOT ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’, dammit!) in the theaters, and if you have listened to any of us old people go on and on about it, you know what a life changer that was. As were the two sequels.

Then came the travesties that were the prequels, and the less said about them the better. (Episode I came out before I started writing reviews and I’m sure not going back and seeing it again, but here are Episode II and Episode III for your reading pleasure.)

Then Disney bought the franchise, and of course they had to make billions more dollars and put their stamp on it…and the first of their movies, that would be Episode VII, was pretty good. The second, Episode VIII, was pretty good.

Aaaand…here’s the one where they are supposed to wrap all of it up in a pretty bow, and finish it off satisfyingly. And…not so good.

As my daughter, Maid of Awesome, said, it’s okay for a standalone but really doesn’t work as part of the series.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge fan. I can’t tell you who all the characters and aliens and background plot points are. But even I had trouble with some things:

The ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ are really hard to tell apart. I don’t mean the individual people- obviously, if they’re wearing black, or look scary, or have British accents, they’re BAD. Otherwise they’re GOOD. The Republic and the Resistance are the good guys (and if they’re a Republic, why do they need to also be the Resistance?). The First Order is bad guys. Okay. But the good guys are presented as scrappy fighters without much of a budget, fighting against the big bad guys…but they always seem to have a nice big army at the end, like this movie, where literally thousands of spacecraft show up to fight the bad guys. Who coordinated that? and how? You can’t just send out one call for help and hope someone shows up…and the bad guys had this amazing fleet of ships on a secret planet, each one with a weapon that could vaporize an entire planet. Why were they sitting there waiting for the good guys to destroy them, instead of being used?

Stuff like that kept bothering me, and to be honest, there were so many characters jockeying for their minute of screen time that I was not even trying to keep track, but just letting it flow in front of my eyes. I was sorry that Rose got shorted in this one, she was a good character. Poe just had the ‘maverick’ label stuck on him, so his major character trait was to go off half-cocked and do whatever he wanted in any given situation…not a good thing in a secret army. I felt like the writers were just coming up with characters, and audience reaction would determine who got a good role in the next movie. Again, not good.

This was okay but not great, and I can’t envision myself ever wanting to see it again. At least (I hope) the series is over; the one-offs seem to have stopped with the abysmal failure of Solo. But with Disney, nothing ever ends…


The Abyss

February 4, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A group of oil rig workers and scientists use their submersible to try and rescue a nuclear submarine that has been lost in a deep sea trench.

It was New Year’s Day, and the Videofest was in progress. This was our third movie, so we were settled in, ready for some action. The theme was Under Water, and I had picked this not only because I had heard of it (and there weren’t a WHOLE lot of films that fit the criteria  that weren’t submarine movies) but also because I was ready for some scary shark attack scenes.

Boy, was I ever wrong! Not at all about shark attacks. Not scary. Just really fun and good.

This is a James Cameron movie, which should have clued me in at the start- big budget aliens and stuff like that, not jump scares.

Everyone but Mr. Otter really liked this; Ottersis and Music Mike had seen it before, but Kelly and I had not. Mr. Otter hadn’t either but gave up and walked out on it halfway through, saying it was boring.

He was wrong. This movie has a good plot and characters (Ed Harris playing the lead quite ably), great special effects, and moves right along. It starts out as ‘outrageous but extremely competent guys doing a dangerous job’ and suddenly segues into ‘weird stuff is happening and we have to figure it out and deal with it.’. The transition works well, and the ending is excellent.

If you (like me) haven’t seen it yet, rent or stream it, it’s worth the effort of finding it.


The House with a Clock in its Walls

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book with the same name by John Bellairs

A recently orphaned boy goes to live with his uncle and finds out that said uncle is a sorcerer…and the house he lives in hides a secret that can destroy the universe.

So firstly: the book. I loved this book when it came out, and during my years as a children’s librarian would hand it to any kid who was looking for a scary story that was more engaging than Goosebumps. It’s creepy, atmospheric, and (bonus) illustrated by Edward Gorey, which only adds to the creepy factor. After seeing this movie, I reread the book…and did enjoy it, remembering the major plot twists as I read, and vividly remembering the illustrations. But (as many older things are to our modern sensibilities) it had less ‘scary roller coaster’ feel to it than I remembered; although the payoff at the end is still awesome, much of the book is descriptive rather than action. Which I enjoyed, but modern readers (aka kids) might not.

And then there’s the movie. Jack Black is awesome as Lewis’ uncle Jonathan, and Cate Blanchett is the next-door neighbor and Jonathan’s best friend. It was nice to see that the movie kept their relationship friendly without throwing love overtones in it; not every pair of people hanging out together has to be romantic. The story was good and of course the special effects were excellent.

But (and you knew this was coming, right?) But.

And here’s where the SPOILERS come in…

Kyle MacLachlan (or as he’s known Chez Otter, Peggy Waffles) is the evil Isaac Izard, who, with his wife, want to unmake the world even after they’re dead. Which is their whole motivation in the book, and a perfectly good one. But no. Not in the movie. In the movie, Izard wants to start time over again so that his PTSD will go away. Seriously. Not because humanity sucks, not because he lost someone and wants to get him/her back, not because he’s just evil and rolls that way. He’s a whinyboy trying to make all the hurty feelings go away.

As a motive, it really didn’t work for me. PTSD is so prevalant for so many awful reasons that this guy just made me roll my eyes and want to smack him upside the head for a whiner.

And I really get tired of bad guys needing hifalutin reasons for being bad…almost every movie now does this, and I’m pretty tired of it. I’d love to see one about a bad guy who’s just bad because he’s, well, BAD.

LIke, well, Joker…


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…


Captain Marvel

May 10, 2019

marvel

Internet Movie Database         Movie Reviews

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.

 


Venom

October 19, 2018

venom

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

An alien comes to earth and takes over Tom Hardy.

This was actually pretty good; I read some buzz on the interwebs ahead of time, and it was awful…and then I found out that Lady Gaga’s fans were badmouthing this movie before it even came out because A Star Is Born came out the same day, and they didn’t want the competition…sigh.

But yes, this was good. Venom is in the Spider-man universe, although there are lots of crossovers, and since Venom is a symbiote, the possibilities are endless.

I really like Tom Hardy, Revenant and Inception notwithstanding–oh god, and he was Bane too, wasn’t he?–and he was perfect for this role…not so superhero-y, but fun to watch, and a good mix of jerk and nice guy. The repartee between him and Venom was good too, and well done.

I liked this enough to be looking forward to the next entry in the series!

Warning: there is one teaser trailer in the middle of the credits. Don’t bother waiting til the end, that is not a teaser, it’s a trailer for the Spider-man multi-universe animated movie coming out in December…which they ALREADY showed a trailer for before this movie. Not cool, Marvel. Not cool at all. This otter does not like being beaten over the head with promotional propaganda.


Deadpool 2

June 7, 2018

deadpool

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The Merc with a Mouth is back, and just as rude and violent as ever.

I can’t talk a lot about the plot of this one without giving out a HUGE SPOILER…and for once, I hesitate to do so, more fun to see it played out.

I will say that Deadpool is great and funny and totally not PC. His enemy in this one is Cable, a warrior from the future, played by Josh Brolin (who now has a huge part in both the Marvel and DC universes, so go Josh!). Yes, his ‘buddies’ from the X-Men mansion are back as well, and they’re great.

And…I can’t say a whole lot more. But go see this one, if you liked the first you won’t be disappointed. Trust the Otter. (In fact, trust both of them…Mr. Otter was surprised to find that he liked this one too.)


Avengers: Infinity War

May 3, 2018

infinity

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Everything in the Marvel universe just goes to hell in the worst possible ways.

So…the 18th movie in the Marvel franchise, plus who knows how many tv shows, ‘one-shot’ shorts, and related stuff. In just 10 years, if you start counting from Iron Man In 2008. Here’s a list. The hype over this has been incredible, and if you missed it, you have been living in the outback with the dingoes, seriously. Even Mr. Otter, who dislikes all things Marvel, knows that this exists. (Probably because I can’t stop talking about it…)

In fact, four days after this movie came out, Mr. Otter was being prepped for (NOT SCARY OR LIFE THREATENING let me point out) surgery, and I asked his doctor how long it would take. About 2 1/2 hours, he said. Just enough time for me to see a movie! I chirped, and when the surgeon asked which one, we both geeked out about it for about 5 minutes. Then I kissed Mr. Otter, ran off to meet Ottersis at the theater, and had a wonderful time, totally ignoring my phone’s vibrations during the movie as the nurses tried to tell me that Mr. Otter was fine and was I going to come back and visit him anytime? In my own defense, I DID walk out on the credits and the amazing teaser trailer at the end and went to see him, so I get some spouse points there…

Anyway. Wow. There is so much in this movie, so many different plot lines and personalities pulled together to make up this megablockbuster of a movie- I knew (from the several trailers that hit the Interwebs) that literally everyone that had ever had a Marvel movie about them would be in this, and the thing I was worried about was that it would just be a big ol’ scrimmage with lots of fighting but no plot development…but no.

Sure, there was A TON of action, fighting and general mayhem, but the characters were good and the movie mostly did them justice. The plotting was tight and the writing was great, and nobody did anything that made me go, Huh?

I am hoping that, like the three first Lord of the Ring movies, a 4 hour Director’s Cut will be released on DVD; there was obviously more story here than they could cram into a movie in the theater, and cuts had to be made…but I want it ALL.

And the ending was…I’ll just say amazing. And unexpected, at least to me. And that is all I can say about this movie without ruining it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet…and if not, WHAT IN THE HELLS ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Go! Go NOW!

 


Ready Player One

April 26, 2018

ready

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline.

A dystopian future where everyone lives in a virtual world and a contest pits teens against a soulless company in a race for money and power.

Okay, you all know what I’m going to say right off the bat, don’t you? Yup. READ THE BOOK FIRST. The day after I saw this I had to wear my excellent new t-shirt that says, Don’t judge a book by its film adaptation…because oh, boy is that ever true in this case.

Now, don’t get me wrong- this is a good movie. Teens competing with the evil corporation that wants to destroy something of value to them, beautiful special effects, a good solid plot, good actors, what’s not to like? Nothing. It’s a good, likeable movie.

 

But if this is the movie:

  mandala 2

This is the book:

mandala

I read this book when it came out in 2012, and loved it. And since then I have listened to it on audiobook (excellently read by WIL WHEATON) at least three times. I love love love this book. And there are so many things that they just couldn’t do in the movie…not ‘couldn’t do right’, but just could not do at all. The whole movie is packed to the gills with pop culture from the 70s to the 90s- books, movies, music, computer games, video games, television show, you name it. There is no way anyone could get the copyrights to actually use all that stuff.

Plus the main character, Wade/Parzival, narrates the whole thing in first person, and literally the first quarter of the book is backstory to the rest of what is going to happen…again, no way a movie can do that. There was a tiny bit of the backstory, because the story wouldn’t make sense without it, but not much.

But mostly- and I know many people don’t agree with this- I think the characters in the book were excellent, well drawn and really interesting. And that is the place the movie most falls short- the characters are just ‘teens on a mission’ and the viewer really doesn’t care about them at all, because there is no investment in them or their world or their problems.

So I’m not going to be a hardnose and say, don’t see the movie. I’m just going to say, if you read the book first, you’ll enjoy it more because IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.

Listen to the Otter. She know what she’s talking about.

 


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.