Once Upon A Time….In Hollywood

August 3, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A pretty-much-washed up TV actor and his driver move through 1969 Hollywood, interacting with the movie/TV community and the Manson family…

 

Mr. Otter and I had to vacate the house for most of a day to let our awesome contractor, WonderPaul, do his thing.

I”m going to go see the new Tarantino flick at our local Emporium du Movies, I said. Wanna come?

Hm, said Mr. Otter, I didn’t much like his last couple of movies, and I’m not sure about this one…on the other hand, we have to be out of the house, so okay!

Thus we hied ourselves downtown, managed with help to find the almost-invisible parking garage, and armed with popcorn and coffee for Mr. Otter….were treated to half an hour of previews. Most of which we enjoyed.

But not half as much as we enjoyed this movie.

Bad boy, self-involved asshole, provacateur, annoying git…call Tarantino what you like, the fact is that along with all those things, he is brilliant. He knows his movies, TV shows and Hollywood history. And all of that knowledge makes this story wonderful. There is so much richness here, so many details that are just right, so many things to say Wow! and exclaim over. There are great characters, wonderful settings, good storytelling. A lot of the movie is just people talking to each other, and none of it is dull.

And then there’s the Manson family thing…because Di Caprio lives next door to Roman Polanski, his wife Sharon Tate, and their semi-permanent houseguest Jay Sebring. In 1969. And anyone in the audience who knows anything about the horror that was the Manson Family knows that this is not going to end well. I loved watching this movie. I enjoyed the characters, especially Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. I loved the carefully crafted cameos of well-known Hollywood figures who showed up here and there. I loved the dynamics, the jokes, the look of the movie. And every time the date on the narrative got closer to the end, my fingernails dug into the seat arms. Because even though I knew (from other reviews) that Tarantino, as is his wont, had played a bit fast and loose with the actual events…I was still expecting a bloody horror at the end.

And I will say no more, except that i was right, and it was both awesome and satisfying. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie and can’t wait to see it again.

I know there are a lot of people who are unhappy with the things Tarantino rewrote, but at both the beginning and end he emphasizes that this is a FABLE of Hollywood, not actual truth. And a very good one it is too.

A masterpiece, says the Otter. Go see it right now.

 


Michael Collins

June 22, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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…


The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

May 10, 2019

lego2

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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

alien

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.


Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A young version of Spider-Man finds that other versions of Spider-Man are being drawn to his universe from their own.

This had huge hype, and trailers everywhere. And…all the hype was justified, this is EXCELLENT.

In the universe in which this movie takes place, a young African-American kid is bitten by the spider and becomes Spider-Man, and then (see above). That’s no more than you will learn from the trailers, so no spoilers.

And I’m not saying anything more about the actual plot, because it was a joy to watch it unfold. I think I was sitting in my seat in the theater grinning the whole time, I liked it so much.

Not only are the characters- the kid who is this universe’s Spidey, his dad, mom and uncle, the kids at his school- all believeable, but the whole reason for the universes colliding, and the nefarious plan behind it, and what happens from that…it all WORKS. It’s well-written, funny, sad, charming, and I LOVED IT.

I saw this and Aquaman on the same day…and it was like night and day. Bad movie, good movie. If only DC was capable of learning how to make movies…but at least we have this gem.

Go see it. See it over and over. Buy it. Love it. Invite me and and I’ll join you. This movie is that good.


Aquaman

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A princess of the undersea kingdom Atlantis refuses an arranged marriage, shows up on the doorstep of a lighthouse keeper, falls in love (of course), they have a kid and she has to go back.

There are a couple of SPOILERS below, but really, don’t worry about them, you’ve already guessed what’s going to happen…or won’t care by the time they do…

Oh, DC, why do you keep doing this to me? Why do I keep LETTING you do this to me over and over? It’s the classic abuse pattern- you show me awesome teaser trailers, and I think, this time it’ll be different! This time will be better! THIS movie won’t SUCK.

But it does.

The only exception I’ve found to this was the really good Wonder Woman movie…but the rest? meh. This one didn’t suck as badly as (insert name of any Batman or Superman movie made in the last 10 years)…but that doesn’t make it good.

So yes. I did have high hopes for this movie. They did Wonder Woman right, after all, so now they KNOW HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right? Marvel has practically made a checklist of HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, and DC has been studying their movies assiduously, so they get it now, right? They read all the bad press on the last ten years of suck, and they’re not going do do that any more, because NOT doing all that stuff will tell them HOW TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE, right?

Right?

Well, no.

I do not know what is going on at DC, but Aquaman had all the same flaws as the rest of their movies. There were some things that have been improved, but not nearly enough. What could be improved?

  1. Jason Mamoa is really adorable; not only handsome, but he’s got a personality, and that comes through when he plays Aquaman. What does not come through is any vestige of acting ability. And he mumbles a lot, which for les femmes d’un certain age makes it REALLY hard to care about the interpersonal dynamics because I miss some of the witty repartee that passes for character development here.
  2. Plot holes you could drive a Mack truck through. Things happen by coincidence or just because. Characters find stuff they need to find almost without trying. Things are where they need to be (or not where they should be) because if it happened otherwise the plot wouldn’t move. THIS IS EXTREMELY ANNOYING.
  3. Why can’t someone just, like, die or be gone? His mother is dragged away by her-father-the-king’s warrior minions, and shows up again in this wierd middle-of-the-earth kind of place protecting (what a coincidence!) the very thing he needs to be king himself. That nobody but he has ever been able to fight well enough to reach. Um, okay, sure. WAAAY too much of this movie just has to be accepted on faith. 
  4. The whole air vs. water thing. In the Justice League movie, one of the things that made me roll my eyes was when Aquaman went to his undersea kingdom and he and someone else (might have been his mom then too) had to GET INTO A BUBBLE OF AIR to talk. No, didn’t work. So now the filmmakers have decided that air or water works with no difference for talking or listening or whatever. Except it does, of course. And in theory, he is the synthesis of water and air and is comfortable in either. But so is his girlfriend. And his mother. And the minions sent to fetch her. So why is he special? 
  5. The whole ‘kid who can suddenly talk to animals’ scene, straight from the Harry Potter movies. Which is cute with a kid. But when he’s a grownup and fighting battles, isn’t it WRONG to use your command over all the aquatic species to simply order them to fight for you, and to let you ride them to war where they get killed with no choice in the matter? Really? I hated that.
  6. And finally…the whole DC need for attention. The way the main character strikes a pose, not just once as in the Marvel movies when he/they are about to take care of business, but OVER and OVER and OVER. There were at least 5 times in this movie when Aquaman would stop for just a second, strike a superhero pose, and then go do whatever it was. And he changed underwater armor like Cher in a concert, he had at least three sets of it, finishing up with GOLD LAMÉ … or LAME, as I see it. 

DC has a justly earned reputation of venerating their characters, wanting them to be larger than life, impressive and, well, SUPER. The problem is, THAT IS NOT GOOD MOVIEMAKING. As we’ve seen over and over and over again, the more they try to impress us with how totally cool they are, the less cool the movies are. This one was supposed to do for DC what Iron Man did for Marvel…and it might have, with good writing and character development, two things Marvel excels in right now. 

Sorry, DC. You lose.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

February 8, 2019

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The lives of two outlaws and the woman who loves one of them.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, chez Otter, and this year’s theme was Best Cinematography Oscar Winners. We had picked eight movies, drawn the names of four randomly, and watched them, with nine people coming in and out at different times…but by 9 pm, everyone else had gone. And as is often our wont, Mr. Otter and I were not ready to call it quits. So we watched this one as well.

I loved this movie when I was a young Otter, although I don’t think I ever saw it in a theater…I do remember watching it on TV every time the Television Scheduling Gods decided to show it (because, kids, in those days nobody had control over what was shown or when; you had a paper television schedule and you’d check it to see what was available for your viewing pleasure. The old days SUCKED.) and in fact, it was a family favorite.

But I had not seen this movie in at least 20 years if not more…and it was time to revisit my old friends.

And…it held up pretty well, for a movie where I could have quoted most of the dialogue along with the actors. I really like director George Roy Hill’s work (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean was another family favorite), William Goldman was a stellar writer, and I have and always will have a HUGE crush on Paul Newman. Robert Redford, not so much, but Newman was tops in the Otter Book of Actors to Crush On.

This is one of the revisionist Westerns that started being made in the 60s and 70s, where the outlaws are the sympathetic characters and full of charm, whatever their flaws…and (except for that damn song in the middle) this is well written, with good plotting and character development, a lot of amusement but also serious moments.

I’m glad to say that this is still a winner. Come on over and we’ll watch it sometime and put pillows over our heads and scream during that awful song.