Spider-Man: Homecoming

September 3, 2017

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Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Spidey is back and trying to find a balance between his real life and his superhero thing.

This movie got awesome buzz before it came out. I was hearing stuff about it from EVERYONE. And (having very high expectations walking into the theater) I was pleased that both the buzz and my expectations were correct.

Let me start by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Spider-man. Even in my long-ago youth, this was a comic series I never read. Sure, I know the basics. I’ve seen the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000s (liked the first and the second, didn’t like the third much). I missed the interim Amazing Spider-Man series because meh.

But then, not only was there a GREAT Spider-Man bit in Captain America: Civil War, but also I heard from Geek Girl about the casting, and I was intrigued. What she told me is, Marvel is trying hard to include people of color in their movies (and is Otter excited about Black Panther? You damn betcha!!). But Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, even though he is a Marvel creation, Sony owns the rights, and has to okay any use of him in a film. What Geek Girl told me is, the contract says that Spider-Man has to be white and straight (a shame, I love the idea of a gay Spidey) but says NOTHING about other characters. So his love interest, Liz, is African-American, and his best friend/computer whiz/geek buddy is played by a Filipino-American actor. Marvel FTW!!

Oh, the plot? it was excellent. Funny and irreverent, as Spidey is known to be. He videoblogs his adventures with the Avengers, Tony Stark checks in on him, he is in school and trying to keep his two lives separate but functioning. His struggles with not being able to do it all are central to his character, and Tom Holland does this admirably, while being adorable, charming and believeable.

The main villain is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, and it was great seeing him in this role, running a local gang of thieves for years and getting serious chops in the process.

And I have to say, there was a big reveal in this that was so surprising, everyone in the audience with me (including me) gasped and said, Wait a minute…(various exclamations). It worked, it was totally believeable and we were all compeletely surprised by it.

An excellent addition to the wonderfulness that is the Marvel Universe!


Wonder Woman

September 2, 2017

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Princess Diana, raised among Amazons, is drawn into our world by a WWI aviator who crashes his plane on her secluded island home.

This movie had awesome buzz. A female superhero in her own movie DIRECTED by a woman? Hellz yeah, about time. But…what if it’s awful?

No worries. This was so good that even Mr. Otter condescended to say, wow, that wasn’t bad for a superhero movie…!

Even though they had to include an origin story (usually the kiss of death for me, but a lot of people don’t know her underpinnings, and besides, it’s fun) it was fast-paced, well written and not boring. I liked that the older Amazon women weren’t wearing makeup and (of course) still looked AWESOME, except, y’know, the way REAL PEOPLE look awesome without Hollywood magic being done to their faces.

Gail Gadot is perfect as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, radiating confidence with a hint of vulnerability,  and Chris Pine is an excellent foil as her love interest/WWI aviator who leads her through the maze of 20th century American life, and the complexities of same during wartime.

I really liked this- the story and characters were engaging, it was brought up to the present time very well (the movie is basically a long flashback.), and unlike pretty much every other movie DC has made lately (Batman vs. Superman, I’m looking at you here), it WASN’T whiny and boring. Kudos to the team, can’t wait for the next one!

 


Guardians of the Galaxy 2

August 31, 2017

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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!

 


Doctor Strange

March 15, 2017

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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.


Ghostbusters (1984)

January 25, 2017

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Three guys start up a business catching ghosts that are annoying people in New York City. Then things get wierd…

I was kind of horrified to learn that, in the 15 years since I started reviewing movies…I HAVEN’T WATCHED THIS ONE EVEN ONE TIME.

I know I haven’t, because if I had, it would have been here. So, after seeing the excellent update of Ghostbusters that just came out in 2016, I went downstairs to our Basement of DVDS and…this wasn’t there! Anywhere! I know we own it, honey, have you seen it? No I haven’t seen it, did you loan it to someone? (loud wails and cries of woe) (clicking keyboard keys) 2 days later: Amazon delivery! And now we own it again. Whew.

I was actually dating Mr. Otter when this came out, and we saw it in the theater together. And, of course, loved it. This movie is right up there with Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Terminator 2 for great quotable sound bytes; there are many I use to this day, in all kinds of situations. And I won’t launch into them here, because they are already bouncing around in your head. Don’t pretend they’re not.

But I will tell a story. In 2012, I spent a long weekend in Santa Barbara with a couple of girlfriends; one of them traveled with me by train, and the other joined us later that night after driving up from LA. The two of us who took the train got to the motel to check in, and were joking with the desk clerk, and suddenly noticed that her name tag said ZOOL. I am not joking. We (including the clerk) laughed ourselves silly, claimed to be the Keymaster, and made all the Ghostbusters jokes. Turned out that the day we checked in was the day (or day after) Whitney Houston died, and the desk clerk’s name was Whitney and she just didn’t want to deal with everyone having to comment on it…so she became ZOOL for the duration. I loved that!

So back to this awesome movie. The casting is superb (I’m a huge fan of both Murray and Ackroyd, although they were by no means the only good actors there. I also had a crush on Ernie Hudson for a long time…), the writing is fast paced and witty, the special effects were amazing in their day (and many of them purposely looked slightly cheesy, because the story required it).

Truthfully, I cannot praise this movie highly enough, and the best thing is that it stands up extremely well to repeated watching…which I’ll be glad to do, just come on over and we’ll call the Ghostbusters one more time…


Star Trek: Beyond

August 2, 2016

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The third installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, which unfortunately is continuing to go where everyone has gone before…

<sigh>. Okay, it’s time to get on my soapbox again: Giving people the same stuff they’ve already seen is so boring. Sure, everyone will come see it, and you’ll make a lot of money on the opening weekend…but it’s just the same old stuff over and over. (Are you listening, DC Comics? You should be..)

So let me start by saying that I loved the first of the new Star Trek movies. It was well written, edgy, exciting, fun, and a great new take on a series that has been done to death.

But the last two movies show that they are not willing to take any chances any more…

So on the good side, this was better than Star Trek: Into Darkness, which just annoyed the crap out of me. Gaaah. I don’t even want to think about it.

This was fun in many ways: excellent special effects, good explodo, well-known characters doing the usual stuff, a few nods to the original series and (this was nice) acknowledgement of Leonard Nimoy’s death in 2016. All that was well done. The basic plot wasn’t bad either.

But (and here is where the Physics Police show up) there were some things that made my disbelief hit the ground with a loud thud. Many of them had to do with the ship being in outer space:

  • If a sharp pointy object (or many of them) hits hard enough to breach the hull and end up with the point in a pressurized area, the hole is not going to seal itself; it’s either going to leak air around the projectile or (more likely) forcibly expel the projectile and all the air through that great big hole.
  • Also, if there is any kind of a hole in a pressurized area, you aren’t going to have only the people near it sucked in…it’s like a party, if anyone is invited, you have to invite everyone.
  • A deep space ship cannot fall to land without burning up or coming apart; you won’t have just a few burned spots, it’ll be GONE. They cannot be made to survive that…and they actually made this point about another ship, not the Enterprise…but if it’s true for one, it’s true for all.

That’s enough of physics; there was a lot more, and it annoyed me. That’s sloppy writing, and you can work it out so it’s more believeable IF YOU CARE ENOUGH TO TAKE THE TIME.

Also, one of the things that EVERYONE rolls their eyes about on the original show was how often all the senior officers would trot down to a planet and all be in danger at once. In this movie, Spock has to go down to the planet, and he’s hurt, so they send McCoy with him TO FLY THE SHUTTLE on the pretext that he has to make sure that Spock is okay…then he does nothing except lend Spock a shoulder to lean on. And, I will point out, he is helping him in such a way that he is ripping Spock’s wound open, rather than taking his other arm. Wouldn’t a doctor know that? Anyway…it makes no sense to have McCoy do any of this, except that evidently the powers that be decided that McCoy needs more screen time for his curmudgeonly rants, and that’s how they did it. Seriously stupid writing.

So…it was okay. There were some good parts. It wasn’t as bad as the second one (and is this going to turn into a series where every other one is awful, like the original Star Trek movies???) I’d say this is a renter, except it was great on the big screen.

Oh, and just before the movie, Simon Pegg (Scotty) came onscreen with an announcement filmed on set, thanking everyone for coming to a movie theater to see it. Interesting.


John Wick

August 2, 2016

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Russian mobsters piss off the eponymous character and he spends the whole movie getting his revenge.

Let me start by saying that yes, this movie was beautifully filmed, amazingly choreographed and the fight scenes were really, really well done. Okay? I get why people like it. I really do.

But…

  1. Keanu Reeves. That’s a deal-killer. The only way I agreed to let Spider Jerusalem show me this was that I didn’t have to pay a cent for it. Because there are several people I will not knowingly or willingly pay money ever again to see on the big screen (or even the small screen, if I have to pay for it) and Reeves is one of them.*
  2. This is pretty much the same plot as Taken, in that something is done to the main character and he spends the rest of the movie putting it right. Except for the part where Taken had good writing, Liam Neeson, and a plot and characters that had at least a bit more to them than just a series of violent acts.
  3. No, having Reeves spend thirty seconds remembering moments with his dead wife does not count for either character development, good reason for the following hour and a half of violence, or believeable emotion from Keanu Reeves, who hasn’t had a facial expression other than “Huh?” in at least ten years.
  4. And this is the worst: AN ADORABLE PUPPY IS KILLED TO SET OFF THE PLOT. No. No way. No how. Nuh uh. Not Chez Otter. We do not watch movies where the animal dies, especially gratuitiously to give the plot a reason to happen.

When this scene was over, I paused the movie and said to Spider Jerusalem, in effect, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING SHOWING ME A MOVIE WHERE THE DOG DIES?

His answer combined parts of, it’s part of the plot! I told you this was part of it when I saw it last year! You like Boondock Saints and the cat dies in that!

No, sorry. “Part of the plot” does not fly. I pointed out that when he told me about it last year and told me about the dog dying (which I do not remember) I am sure I said no, not if the dog dies. And in Boondock Saints (a favorite of mine) you see the cat walk across the table, one of the guys throws a gun on the table, it goes off and there is a huge splotch of blood on the wall. It is hysterically funny and you DON’T SEE IT DIE OR HAVE TO SEE ITS ADORABLE CORPSE. Big difference. And it isn’t killed to make the story move, which I think is heinous.

So if you like action, can stand Reeves, movies with very little wit or charm but hella good fight choreography, and (unlike me) don’t care about the ADORABLE PUPPY being beaten to death…go for it, you’ll probably like this.

*Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Kevin Costner…and I think there’s one more but I’ve mercifully forgotten who.