theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Archive for the category “f/x: excellent”

Logan

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel Old Man Logan by Mark Millar

Let me say right from the get-go that I am not by any means an X-Men fan. I’ve read a couple of comics, and seen a couple of the movies, didn’t like any of it much. I know enough about them to get the Deadpool jokes, but that’s about it.

But I did read Old Man Logan when it came out and made such a big splash…and I really liked it.

So when I saw that they had made a movie of it with Hugh “I’ve been Wolverine forever” Jackman and Patrick “Best Xavier Ever” Stewart, I was pretty excited.

And I was not disappointed. This is a story that takes place after the mutants have been hunted down and destroyed, and Wolverine is working a day job under the name Logan and trying to keep himself and Xavier (who is far gone in dementia) alive and under the radar…and of course something happens to pull them back into the world to help others.

 To my (not being up on all things X-Men) mind, this movie did everything right. The setting, the explodo, the characters, the plot, the reasons everyone does what they do, the consequences, the ending…it’s all done just right. It hasn’t at all converted me into an X-Men fan…but I did enjoy this one. Plus if you get Hugh Jackman and kids together, the result is nearly always good.

I really liked this movie, hope you do too!

Passengers

passengers

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Two passengers on a space ship bound for a colony world wake up 90 years early. Shenanigans!

And that is all I’ll say without warning you that there are BIG HONKIN’ SPOILERS coming. Because there is no way to convey my annoyance at this movie without telling you all about it.

So if you want to see it first, go ahead. I’ll wait.

<slow passage of time>

Done? Okay, let’s go…

Okay. How much am I annoyed at this movie? Let me count the ways…

  1. So there are these colony ships that take people in hibernation to other planets. Why are there restaurants and shopping malls on these ships if nobody is supposed to be awake? This makes no sense, and is a waste of space and money, even on a ‘luxury’ ship.
  2. We’ll give the movie the unlikely premise that one and only one pod (at this point) will fail in such a way that the occupant (Chris Pratt) wakes up and is fine…but is awake and alone on a ship that is supposed to travel for 90 years and there is no way for him to be sent back to sleep. Why is all this stuff (see #1) running? Even if there are restaurants and shopping malls and bars and gyms that can be available for (maybe) the beginning and end of the voyage (and again, why? wouldn’t the colonists be asleep at takeoff?) why don’t they all shut down as soon as everyone is asleep? There are no caretakers awake, remember. It’s all automated.
  3. Ditto Michael Sheen, playing the amusing robotic bartender (and it tells you a lot about this movie that the robot bartender is the most sympathetic character…)
  4. I can actually see Pratt being lonely and desperate enough to wake Jennifer Lawrence…but why is there no emergency way to get to or wake the CREW??? You’d think they’d put that in the computer from the beginning: by the way, if any passengers do somehow wake up, wake the captain IMMEDIATELY!!…but no.
  5. So he wakes up Jennifer Lawrence and doesn’t admit to doing it, just tells her they were two random awakenings…of course, this is the crux of the movie, and they start to address it then get sidetracked by explosions and fixing the ship and all, and they NEVER really deal with the fact that because he has done this, he’s doomed someone else and changed her life irrevocably. And this is the heart of the movie. And they (aside from her being mad at him then ending up forgiving him) really don’t go into the awfulness of it.
  6. Really? The ONLY OTHER person whose pod malfunctions just happens to be a crew member who can figure out what’s what, give them a wristband that lets them access all the ship functions, then conveniently dies of internal damage from his damaged sleep pod? Talk about (literal) Deus ex Machina! (and it’s Laurence Fishburne, so Deus indeed!) Why doesn’t Chris Pratt have the same damage? Or (as far as they know) any of the other pods? Why doesn’t ANYONE ELSE ON THE DAMN SHIP wake up, except Chris and the ONE GUY who can save them and the whole shipload of people? Because reasons. This is bad writing and it had me rolling my eyes.
  7. So they find out what’s wrong with the ship, and have to fix it, in the course of which Pratt goes to CERTAIN DEATH, the connotation being that he deserves it for what he did to Jennifer Lawrence (who, by the way, was EXTREMELY CUTE in this movie. Just sayin’). I was okay with that, except…<facepalm> he DOESN’T DIE. Almost, but she saves him. And forgives him. And they will live their lives out on this (now fixed) ship and never see the planet they’re emigrating to. But that’s okay,  they love each other. Cue music.
  8. Because the asteroids that damaged the ship (and the damage was getting progressively worse, and of course A) they figured out how to fix it by talking to Fishburne and B) it’s something only a human could do, not the ship itself, and the ship had no robots built in to fix it, just bartenders) not only didn’t damage it enough to not be fixable, or catastrophic at the time of damage (in which case there would have been no movie) but also didn’t knock it off its course or anything either…
  9. I would have liked this a whole lot better if he had died, and then she had faced the same problem he did, and seen her psychological reaction and what she would do as a consequence. That could actually have made this a good movie. But no, they took the easy, ‘happy’ way out.
  10. This was a movie with a lot of pretty scenes where the viewer was not supposed to think too much…which (again) would have been fine if the whole movie plot had not been based on a moral choice and the repercussions of that choice, but then sidestepped any real discussion of those ramifications.

Seriously disappointing, even with the amusing robot bartender and good eye-candy like Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

So I had a day free, and there were several movies I wanted to see in the theater before they left town. This was one of them, of course. Because I have been going to the Star Wars movie ever since the first one came out (the one that everyone in my generation will forever call ‘Star Wars’, not ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. Because that’s just how we are.)

And (except for Disney buying everything Star Wars, which I think nobody in the universe could miss) I really didn’t pay any attention to the hype or reviews or talk about this one; I wanted to see it cold and make up my own mind. I was kind of surprised at the title, though, since it is Star Wars 8. But whatever.

And I was ten minutes into this one trying to make the plot and characters jibe with what I remembered from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (including a sighting of R2D2 that completely puzzled me) when it hit me…this isn’t a sequel…it’s a PREQUEL.

(And there are SPOILERS ahead, just so you know.)

This is the story of how the Rebellion gets the plans of the Death Star so Luke can drop the bomb in the original Star Wars movie. And as soon as I realized that, I knew where it was going. Because even someone like me who doesn’t pay much attention to the Star Wars universe except to see each blockbuster as it comes out and rail against George Lucas for destroying my youth by mucking with the original films remembers the scene in Star Wars where they show the plans to the pilots and tell them that the people who smuggled them out died.

Okay. So now I know where this is going. And from then on, it was kind of fun.

They used a computerized version of Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin. This is something that still bothers me. It’s one thing when an actor who has been hired to play a part dies and the filmmakers do what they can to cover for it (as in Gladiator) but a whole other ball of wax when an actor is used in a movie and has no say about what the movie is or his/her part in it because they’re dead and their heirs okay it…another example of this was in this movie, and it appalled me. On the OTHER hand, I suspect that that is where things are going- actors and actresses will not be filmed, they’ll just license their image to be computerized into a movie, and that’s what the public will see. Hm.

But back to the movie.

They have a couple of scenes with Darth Vader, again voiced (although noticeably older, of course) by James Earl Jones, and the second one was especially good; this is the DV I remember, the one who is completely E-VILE and really really scary.

The main characters were good, and the writing was excellent. Even knowing that none of them would survive, it was great to watch it all play out, and since it’s leading up to (and overlapping just a bit) with an already existing movie, having them repeat scenes from that movie worked just fine.

A really enjoyable entry into the Star Wars universe!

Moana

moana

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Moana leaves her village and sails to an island to raise a curse from her people.

Maid-of-Awesome saw this and told me how much she liked it. Now, M-o-A likes Disney. She rarely sees a Disney/Pixar/whatever animated movie that she doesn’t at least like, and many of them she comes back raving about. But this one, she said, was one of the best she’d ever seen.

I am not nearly as much a Disney fan as M-o-A, but I do pay attention to her recommendations. I was planning a multi-movie day, and made this the first one I saw. And I was not disappointed.

It’s lovely to see non-white, non-Euro girls given the central role of ‘Disney Princess’. Moana is charming and beautiful, but also strong, smart, capable and determined. And other characters are standouts too…her sidekicks, the rooster and the pig, are not annoying (as the snowman in Frozen was, I hated him sooooo much…!). Most of the villagers are typical for these movies (especially her father), but her grandmother is wonderful.

And of course Maui, with his storytelling tattoos, is a great character too. The animation is wonderful, the story is compelling; there is so much to like in this movie.

And…a bit into the movie, she sings a song about how she feels about the ocean and how much she wants to be there and misses it when she’s not. And that song exactly summed up how I feel about the desert. I know, there’s more to the song, she’s leaving her home and all…but I really liked it.

This was better than most Disney movies, and didn’t have the kind of flaws that some of them have. I really enjoyed it!

Doctor Strange

strange

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

seven

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A remake of the 1960 western of the same name, which was itself based on Kurosawa’s movie The Seven Samurai. People in a small town hire seven down-and-out gunslingers to protect them from the bad guys.

So here’s what’s different:

  1. It’s not a Mexican town, it’s an American Southwest mining town, and the evil industrialist mine owner is trying to make people work harder so he can make a ton o’ money. I’m not sure how killing the workers is supposed to achieve this, but whatevs…
  2. Instead of an average Joe (or Jose, since the original was set in Mexico) being the town spokesman, a beautiful girl whose husband has been killed in the reign of terror (hired thugs shoot up the meeting in the church, then burn it down, ordering people to leave the bodies there as an example) goes on her own and hires some guys.
  3. She runs into Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, up to hijinks as a bounty hunter and gambler, and when she shows them some money and mentions the bad guy’s name, they’re all about helping her. And they find a bunch of other guys they know who can help.
  4. For a town girl, she sure does well at spending something like a week in the saddle doing hard riding…and they all seem to find their friends (in hiding) pretty well too.
  5. The seven are carefully multicultural and inclusive. The original group o’ white guys included Charles Bronson pretending to be Mexican, and Russo-Japanese Yul Brynner pretending to be just another guy, but the rest were Euro-types. The new set include Denzel, a Korean actor playing ‘generic Asian’, an ACTUAL Mexican guy playing a Mexican (must be a first for Hollywood) and, of course, a Native American. Plus three white guys.
  6. There is very little explanation of who these guys are, why they would be willing to do this, or what their connection is with Denzel.
  7. The Comanche (who, btw, is played by an actor who at least has some Native ancestry…Alaskan, but at least authentic…) of course runs into his arch enemy during the final battle and they fight. Because like women in a battle, who must be shown fighting each other, Native Americans must also be shown to fight each other instead of whatever target shows itself. Sigh.
  8. Don’t even get me started on the final battle, which was full of eye-rolling stuff like Gatling guns that accurately shoot single bullets over distance.
  9. And…of course they rescue the town, fulfill their various destinites, and (those who are left alive) ride out victorious.

I kind of liked this as I was watching it, but my brain kept saying, but…what about this? No, that’s not right…but this other thing? no, that doesn’t work either.

Even with the star power hired to attract viewers, this is a letdown. Pass on it and watch the original again instead, you’ll be glad you did.

The Green Mile

green-mile

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Stephen King

A prison guard in charge of Death Row in the 1930s South takes charge of a prisoner with unexplainable abilities.

This is one of those perfect movies. I remember seeing it in the theater, and how overwhelmed I was at just how good it is. The book is one of King’s best, originally published in six parts as a serialized novel (and it worked very well in this format, which was how I originally read it, although nowadays it’s collected into one volume).

Tom Hanks is in charge of the ‘Green Mile’, which is the section of the prison that’s Death Row. It’s in the 30s, so prisoners are executed with an electric chair, which is a big part of the plot. There’s a prisoner who has been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, a crazy bastard of a prison guard, and a whole lot of great plotting and good writing.

And the ending is perfect as well.

I really can’t praise this movie highly enough, and I’m trying not to say ANYTHING that will give any part of it away; it’s written so perfectly, every single detail fits in so well, that to tell any of it would rob you of the enjoyment of seeing it for the first time…and if you’ve already seen it, no need for me to blather about how good it is, you already know.

Whenever someone says, Top ten movies? the list changes. I know The Princess Bride is on it. I know The Man Who Would Be King is on it. And I know this movie is on it. The other seven? We’ll have to get together and discuss that, won’t we?

Ghostbusters (1984)

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…

Ghostbusters (2016)

ghost

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Five women take it on themselves to try to stop ghost incursions in New York City, with amusing results.

Who ya gonna call? This update to an old standard (which, I am horrified to find out, I have not reviewed, which means I haven’t seen it since 2001 or earlier…! Far too long.) is pretty damn good.

If you are one of the three people in the world who has not seen Ghostbusters (1984), you have missed one of the seriously most hilarious movies on the planet, with a stellar cast, great writing, and wild comedy.

How do you do it again? By changing it out…the five main male parts from the original are played by women (and awesome funny women, Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig being the standouts);  the female secretary is now gorgeous but dumb beefcake (Chris Hemsworth, a joy to see having so much fun in something less ponderous than Thor movies); the basic plot is changed to an occult terrorist rather than ancient gods returning; and many of the old Ghostbusters cast have token parts that made me laugh and point at them and enjoy seeing them again.

It wasn’t screamin’ hilarious, but it was funny. There was a lot of charm, and the humor fit the women who played the (not the same as the original) parts.  There were references to the original, but it was its own movie, and was good enough to stand on its own feet.

And of course, the special effects were excellent.

Well done, Ghostbusters. Very well done.

Star Trek: Beyond

stbeyond

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

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.

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