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.


Thor: Ragnarok

November 7, 2017

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Thor is trying to prevent Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard, duh.

The third movie in the Thor section of the Marvel combined universe, and a worthy addition. There are SPOILERS here, I think, so I’d recommend that you go see the movie first; it’s WAAAAY more fun if you don’t know what to expect.

I’ll just wait here while you run off to the theater or stream it (if you’re reading this later than I wrote it).

No hurry. No pressure. Take your time.

Okay. All done? Here we go:

WOO HOO! what a fun movie!

And I am so tempted to end my review there…what more needs to be said? But I’ll go on, Devoted Fans, because it’s fun to babble about stuff like:

  • Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum! I saw this in the theater with Ottersis and we both said OMG at the same time when he appeared. And what a great role!
  • The whole thing where half the movie takes place in a science-fictional other world instead of our own, but that’s connected to ours (Hulk and a Valkyrie both show up, so obviously SERIOUSLY connected.) And I loved the trash heap/sybaritic rich people/gladiator thing, it was great.
  • Speaking of Valkyries, what a great character she is. Looking forward to seeing more of her.
  • Yay for Thor’s haircut, a very good change for him going forward into a new kind of role!
  • Also Yay for Thor actually being kind of less of an asshole, and being able to stop hitting things long enough to look at a situation and figure it out, or actually talk to people first. Good character development.
  • AND Dr. Strange showed up, in a great short sequence. Very nicely done! I was so happy to see this, I love the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. Not just that the backstories are connected  but that characters show up in other characters’ movies, like Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming.
  • Awesome special effects, but (within the MU thing) believeable. And the special effects were never there in and of themselves, as awesome as they were; they were there for the story. Speaking of special effects, Hulk going mano-a-mano with Fenrir, Wow.

Okay, I’ll stop babbling about the things that stood out in my memory, having seen it about 24 hours ago. Can’t wait to see it again and catch details.

One thing (because I’m such a picky picky reviewer): If Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown, btw, an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is destined to destroy Asgard, but the point is made that Asgard isn’t a place, it’s the people, why is he stomping on the buildings and letting the ship full of Asgardians get away? doesn’t that make the prophecy untrue? Hm. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Anyway. A seriously excellent addition to the MU canon, fun, well written, beautiful to watch (Cate Blanchett, yes indeedy!) and a really good time was had by all. Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

September 3, 2017

spider

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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

strange

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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

ghost84

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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…