No Time To Die

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Bond comes back from retirement to face yet another villain armed with world-ending technology…

I am conflicted about Bond. For a long time I was a purist: I loved the books and refused to watch any Bond movies that didn’t at least give a nod to a Fleming book or story…but this is the Franchise That Will Not Die, and so must be fed.

And I really really liked (yes, he’s stepping down) Daniel Craig as Bond; I think he’s the best one since Connery, and have actually gone to see all of his movies in the role, unlike other Bonds whose non-canon movies I eschewed (yes, I’m looking at you, Timothy Dalton. And especially The Man of Wood, Pierce Brosnan.)

But…this one was really good. Daniel Craig was really good. The cinematography and special effects and all were really good…and wow, this movie had a lot going on. It was like they all got together and said, this is Craig’s last Bond film, let’s just throw EVERYTHING into it. And they did. And it was a lot of plot devices, reveals, backstory, imminent catastrophe, you name it…but it mostly worked well, and I enjoyed it as much the second time I saw it, six months later.

So okay. It’s the Bond that makes the movie, not the origin material.

So now we have to wait and see who the new Bond will be…

But this movie? Yes, go see it, it’s serious bang for your buck. Well worth it if you like the genre.


The Tomorrow War

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Aliens will kill most of Earth’s population in the future so soldiers are being drafted in the present and sent to the future to fight and die…until Chris Pratt takes care of business.

OMG. This is the reason that, as much as I love time travel movies, they really should be kept out of the hands of idiots. This movie had a lot of boom and whango, as we say Chez Otter, but very little about it made sense. There were so many plot holes related to time travel that I’m not even going to go there. Mr. Otter and I spent most of the movie yelling, Why are you doing this? at the screen, and pointing out the obvious paradoxes and inconsistencies.

And I really like Chris Pratt, but not here. Even he couldn’t save this dog.


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

November 17, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Shang-Chi finds out that A) his father is a Bad Guy and B) he has to use the power of the Ten Rings to save his mother, who everyone thought was dead, and they must also defeat an evil dragon.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It was actually much better than that description makes it sound. This was a compelling, beautifully made MCU movie (in one post-credits scene the heroes are taken to Kamer-Taj by Wong the Librarian) and very enjoyable…except for one small quibble: the evil dad, Wenwu, was a way more interesting and compelling character than Shang-Chi.

I mean, yes, the MCU is full of people like Captain America who are kind of vanilla; they’re unsalted good guys, probably okay for a snack but not what you are really craving. But to have such a contrast between the two stars of the same movie, and have the bad guy be the one I was really behind for the whole thing, evil or not, didn’t really work for me.

Yes, Loki is a bad guy that everyone likes…but he gets his comeuppance regularly, and bounces back for more. In this movie, the bad guy was just BAD. Until the very end, when he sacrifices himself and gives his kid his power source.

Hm.

I’m going to watch this one again before coming down too hard on it…I’m finding that the MCU movies are so full of stuff both from previous stories and their own that I usually like to see them twice before writing a review…and as I said, it was beautiful and I did get caught up in the story…so I’ll be kind to this one til then.


Dune (2021)

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert

Yeah, right, summarize Dune in one line! Okay, here goes: Paul Atreides’ father is killed, making him Duke of a planet that produces the most valuable substance in the universe, which everyone is assembling to fight over.

LOL. Not even close. The book is, even with its ponderousness, a wonderful classic that all of you should have read by now. It’s rich, full of great characters and inventive storylines and danger and romance and…

It’s good, okay?

But there is so much happening in the book that the 1984 David Lynch version on the big screen has been considered a joke ever since. I liked it at the time, but I had read the book and knew what was happening; I understand that if one has not read the book, it is well-nigh incomprehensible.

There was also an excellent miniseries made in 2000 with William Hurt; it was 4 1/2 hours long, and did a much better job of telling the story and making sense out of it.

So now here is yet another movie version, with all the modern FX tech. Mr. Otter and I were pretty excited and went to see it as soon as it hit the theaters…and our opinion is… (drum roll please) PRETTY DAMN GOOD.

The story is edited down to comprehensibility, and it was well done. The plot moves and makes sense, as far as I can tell nothing important was left out, the FX were, of course, wonderful, and the actors were good. Except Jason Momoa, who is good eye-candy but can’t act to save his life, but he played the warrior who dies nobly almost right away, so that worked out fine.

Really, my only quibble with this movie were the words in the title at the beginning of the movie: PART I.

On the one hand, dammit. I hate waiting for the next part of ANYTHING.

On the other hand, good. Making this into several parts will allow them enough time to actually tell the story right…and it looks like they got a good start.

So the Otter is cautiously optimistic about this one. Stay tuned for more reviews, everyone!


Venom: Let There Be Carnage

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Eddie Brock, the host of the symbiotic alien Venom, is trying to get his journalism career back and interviews a serial killer…who becomes the host for another Venom-class symbiote, and is out to get his super-powered lost girlfriend out of the slammer.

I really liked the first Venom movie with Tom Hardy, and had been looking forward to the next in the franchise…but of course 2020. So when it actually did get released, I was on the road with my friend Craiggers, driving halfway across the US. We were in Albuquerque, and had a free evening, so we went to see this.

And it was…okay. Way too much ‘this symbiote is now inhabiting this body’ for me, even for a comic book story that was kind of silly. Much less character development than the first one. But okay.

The teaser has Eddie Brock and Venom transported to a hotel room in the Spider-Man universe, so we’ll see what happens there…


Free Guy

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A mild-mannered bank teller finds out that he’s actually an NPC in a video game.

Okay, I’ll admit it: I really really like Ryan Reynolds. He’s not a Serious Honey, but he’s cute and charming and funny. And I have one of those movie passes where you can see all the movies you want to for one monthly fee. So, I thought, why not?

And I was glad I saw this. Yes, it’s silly and kind of predictable, but it was really charming. Reynolds is perfect for Normal Guy Rising to the Occasion, the writing was good, the plotting was solid and of course the special effects and animation were excellent. Following the Hero’s Journey as he realizes what his world is really like, and searches for a way out, is a great ride.

This was a really fun movie, and highly recommended.


The Suicide Squad (2021)

September 22, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A reboot of the DC Comics bad-guys squad, they are sent to the island of Corto Maltese to stop evil scientists from what? Oh yeah, TAKING OVER THE WORLD.

I liked the 2016 Suicide Squad movie (Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are, I think, the only two holdovers from that. There are a few other characters who are the same…but there are a lot of new ones, or remakes of the old ones: Idris Elba’s Bloodsport vs Will Smith’s Deadshot, King Shark instead of Killer Croc, you get the picture.) and was really looking forward to seeing a sequel…except this isn’t, it’s kind of a reboot; the same thing has happened, with evil boss Viola Davis putting bombs in supervillains’ heads and telling them to get out there and do a job for her or she’ll kill them. That was the only similarity.

SPOILERS ahead, nothing huge, just fyi.

So this was a big ol’ mishmosh of a movie; the team is put together, they interact in very dysfunctional ways (they put the fun in dysfunction!) and then decide they need to GET IT DONE. Most of them are killed on landing, and then we find out that there’s a second team that was sent in to do the same job three days earlier, and the team from the beginning of the movie was just a distraction…but what’s distracting is the number of people with weird powers running around, killing whoever is a target, exchanging witty (or not) repartee, and maybe solving the problem?

This was just too full of stuff. If they had crammed any more plot or characters into this movie it would have exploded like one of its own special effects.


Jungle Cruise

September 16, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

A botanist and her brother hire the captain of a cruise boat to take them up the Amazon in search of a magical tree. Hijinks ensue.

Okay, Disney. You listen up here: just because you took a chance with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and ended up making a franchise, a worldwide phenomenon, and billions of dollars, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to keep throwing the same concept at the wall to see if it sticks. That’s what caused Haunted Mansion. And Tomorrowland. And now…this.

I’ve been going to Disneyland (in Anaheim) since I was a very young Otter;, waaay before Eisner got his hands on it and trashed all my childhood memories. I’ve been on the Jungle Cruise ride a ton of times, and always enjoyed the stupid eye-rolling puns and the Benji-peril.

I do have to say, I like Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock. He’s good-looking, and his on-screen persona is kind of low key and a little self-deprecating, both good things. In this, he tells a ton of ‘dad jokes’ because they’re riffing on the experience of the actual ride; I think every bad joke I’ve ever heard on that ride was incorporated into this movie somewhere, to groans from the audience, and Johnson was the perfect person in this role.

Having said that, the movie was awful. This was a serious mishmosh of well-known movie tropes: girl and brother off to find a magical item? The Mummy. Taking a boat up a river in search of something the Conquistadors found? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Two people fighting like cats and dogs on a boat trip but ending up smooching? The African Queen. And on and on and on. I don’t think there was an original idea or scene in the whole movie, truthfully.

I was rolling my eyes by the end of this thing, and not at the jokes; even for an action/magical events kind of movie, this was ridiculous. Every time someone thought the journey was over or the bad guys would win, they raised the ante on idiotic coincidental things that would happen, look great on film, save the day and make no sense, culminating with the huge waterfalls at the end.

Disney, give up. Be happy with one success and stop trying to make every damn ride in the theme park into a blockbuster movie…

This is a good choice for an evening when you have literally nothing else to do, but only if you enjoy dad jokes and promise to remove your brain first.


Black Widow

September 16, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The story of the eponymous Marvel character’s early life and her relationship with her sister.

Before we get started, I want to say that I was REALLY EXCITED about this movie in late 2019, couldn’t wait for it to come out in…Spring of 2020…and we all know how that went. So a year and a half later, we’re all vaxed (at least I hope you are!) and this movie was finally released to theaters. And being a movie-loving Otter, I renewed my Ultimate Movie Pass from Regal and, mask firmly in place, went to see it. And it was LOVELY being in a movie theater again, and I’ve been going ever since…almost always middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-day, but still. I’m lovin’ it.

But I digress.

So let me just say right here and now: I love the MCU. Not ever movie or tv show is stellar, they have dropped the ball a few times, but over all, their body of work is breathtaking. They have been making good movies and tv shows that tell stories that interlock and create a shared history and mythology, characters that viewers really care about, and stories that are (mostly) really really good. And I love nothing better than to head to my local emporium des movies to see whatever the new one is, knowing that at the very least I’ll be entertained with an interesting, fun, well made action film with good characters.

And speaking of characters, this movie…was problematic.

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Just sayin’.

This is a prequel. And that poses big problems for the writers, because I think prequels are the hardest thing there is to write effectively. The audience (mostly) has already seen the movie that tells us what happens to this character (she died in Infinity War), and we’re all watching for continuity errors (given that the MCU is based on alternate timelines impinging on our own, but if that happens it better be for a good reason…). Black Widow’s antecedents wouldn’t have any of that, so whatever we learn about her is more of a memento mori than character growth, since (at least for me) her impending doom overshadowed the story.

It takes place after Civil War, and has flashbacks to her past; the basic plot is that the people who trained her control a bunch of other Black Widows all over the world, and Natasha and her adopted family must stop them.

Now, it was a good story, and when (as I do every few years) I have my next MCU binge and watch all the movies and TV shows in order (just the good ones…I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) then this will fit in nicely after Civil War, and might work better in that context.

Also, I did really like Florence Pugh as her sister, and evidently there is a movie coming up to showcase her as the lead in a group of anti-heroes…not only would I be glad to see that character again, but it would cement this movie more firmly in the MCU as her kickoff rather than a fond look back at a part of Natasha Romanoff’s life and career.

Another shout-out to Serious Honey Rachel Weisz who plays Romanoff’s surrogate mom, and who shows up to help her kick some serious booty.

Did I love it? no, but I liked it for what it was. Would I see it again? Heck yes. Want to join me?


The Call of the Wild

March 10, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Jack London

Buck the Dog goes from being a house pet to lead dog on a dog sled in Alaska during the Alaska Gold Rush at the turn of the last century.

If you are the one person on earth who doesn’t know how this ends, there is a SPOILER below. However, the dog DOES NOT DIE. That’s not a spoiler, it’s Otter’s Law of Animals in Movies. I don’t go see movies where the animal dies if I can avoid them.

I went to see this with my friend Dr. Turquoise; neither of us had high expectations, except for the certainty that the CGI dog would be awful, but it was a movie and what the heck.

She was pleasantly surprised to discover that our local emporium du movies had comfy recliner seats; I don’t know how long it’s been since she went to a movie theater…!

The book this movie is based on has been considered a childhood/YA classic for many years; it was London’s first big writing success, and has remained in print since publication. It’s one of those books everyone has heard of, whether or not they’ve read it. And to be honest, I think I read it back when I was a young Otter, but I couldn’t swear to it…probably time to download it to my Kindle.

Anyway. The story takes Buck from being the huge rambunctious family dog in Santa Clara County CA, through being kidnapped and sent to Alaska, where there was such a demand for dogs to pull sleds that this was a common thing on the West coast at the time. He runs into Harrison Ford a couple of times, then ends up with him in the wilderness, where he (the dog, not Ford) meets a pack of wolves and finally joins them.

But what about Buck, the main character/dog/CGI extravaganza?

He was actually damn realistic. I kept thinking, “that’s one well-trained dog…oh, right, it’s CGI”. Amazingly good.

Harrison Ford was also pretty good, and knew enough to NOT chew too much scenery and let the dog take center stage, so that was good.

What was NOT good was the villain. The city slicker (you can tell from his clothes) who does the stupidest things ever and yet DOES NOT DIE. He takes an overloaded team out into the wilderness with his two buddies, and even after Ford has cut Buck, the lead dog, free, the team goes (totally unbelieveable, a dog team ALWAYS has to have a lead dog to follow). After the sled crashes and the dogs “run off” (and his companions, one a woman, are never mentioned again) he manages to find his way back and cause  trouble again. And he does other completely unbelieveable stuff that just had me rolling my eyes, but I won’t give away the rest of the plot. So that’s the weakest part of this movie; otherwise, it was pretty good, and we enjoyed it.

A good kids’ movie that adults can watch without suffering.