Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

January 23, 2018

jumanji

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Four teens end up inside a video game and must win it to escape.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a librarian. And for most of my career, I’ve worked in Youth Services, aka the Children’s Room. So I read Jumanji when the book first came out, and loved it. Different, funny, beautiful black and white illustrations.

I saw the first movie, which was a pretty good take on the book, when it came out in 1995. And really liked it too (although I haven’t seen it since I started reviewing movies in 2002, so there’s no review of it on this site.) Well done, a good translation of the book to film.

And then, twenty-two years later…it’s BA-AAACK.

I saw the poster for this and rolled my eyes. Do they have to remake every single successful children’s film twenty years later? Really? I said to myself or whoever was with me.

But then I swathe trailer…and loved it. It looked like a really funny fresh new take on the story, with good people in it, and maybe even good writing.

So last week, I went to my favorite local ‘plex and saw three movies in a row, because they were all about to leave town and I had the time free. And this was the first of the day. And the trailer (for once) did not lie- I loved it.

This movie is smart, funny, sassy, well written and very tongue-in-cheek both about the situation and about video games in general. Yup, video games…the board game in the book and the movie has been changed to an old-school cartridge-run video game, and the kids who find it and play it (and are stuck in the story until they complete it) are literally transferred inside the game, rather than having the occurances of the game happen to them in their home.

And of course, when they enter the video game, they are turned into characters, two of whom are played very well by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jack Black. The other two are good too, I just didn’t recall seeing them in anything (turns out I had seen Karen Gillan, as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but didn’t recognize her without a ton of makeup and costume…!)

Anyway. Even though the end is not much in doubt, this is a fast funny ride of a movie, very enjoyable, and worth your time. And I don’t want to say any more, the jokes and plot twists are too good to give away.


What We Do In The Shadows

January 4, 2018

shadows

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A group of vampires living in a house together in Wellington, New Zealand, decides to tell their side of the story.

The New Year’s Day Videofest for 2018 had the theme Hollywood Around the World. When we were putting together the movies, there was one we couldn’t find anywhere, so I started looking for something from Australia and New Zealand, came across a review of this and said, that’s it!

And we were glad of it, because it’s really funny. Three vampire from 200-500 years old, and their 800 year old master (who looks like Nosferatu, and lives in the cellar) are sharing a house. They have let a documentary film crew into their lives because they want to go public and change how the world sees them.

They are all hilarious in their own ways, all the ancillary people in their lives who are interviewedand when a modern vampire complete with smartphone is added to the mix, it gets even better.

This is smart and funny, the characters are great, and I just don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away all the good stuff. See it, you’ll love it too.


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 26, 2017

rare'

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A company is excavating a remote mountain in Finland to unearth a long-frozen Santa Claus, but a local kid does research and realizes that this is not a good idea…

We had dinner on Christmas Eve with Maid-of-Awesome and Soccer Sam, and he was all about this movie and how good it was. So on Christmas afternoon, Mr. Otter, Ottersis and I settled down to watch it…and we agreed with Soccer Sam.

This is a well-written and often funny movie that takes legends and brings them to life in the modern world, and points out the difference between the old version of Santa and our jolly friendly Santa Claus. The villagers in the tiny Finnish town where it takes place are funny and interesting, and the action (given the premise) is believeable.

The kid is really cute, without being icky, and the ending is perfect.

This is a (pretty bloody and violent) Christmas gem, watch it if you get a chance.


The Men who Stare at Goats

April 8, 2017

mengoats

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Loosely based on the book of the same name by Jon Ronson

Several men are involved in the US Army’s attempts to make new-age and paranormal abilities useful in spying and combat.

I was at the Red Cross to do Apheresis, which means a couple of hours with needles in my arms, and I was looking for something amusing to watch, and this caught my eye…and boy, was it ever amusing. I was laughing out loud and all the nurses were coming over to see what was so funny.

The cast is stellar- George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan MacGregor and Kevin Spacey. Ewan MacGregor is a reporter trying to find out about a program that was designed to teach soldiers (or spies) to use mind power for various things, including making an enemy’s heart stop by staring at them (they trained on goats, hence the title). He tracks down Clooney, Bridges and Spacey, all of whom have history with each other, and he is led on a chase from one place to another as he tries to find out the truth.

This was actually a gem-well written, funny, full of great details. The military background is hilarious, and Clooney is so deadpan it’s amazing.

Trust the otter- use your mental powers to track it down, you’ll be glad you did.


The Last Remake of Beau Geste

April 8, 2017

lastbeau

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Very loosely based on the novel Beau Geste by P. C. Wren

Two Englishmen end up in the French Foreign Legion because of the theft of a famous and valuable jewel.

Confession: I, the Otter, am a HUGE French Foreign Legion junkie. I have a couple of dozen books (plus just about everything P.C. Wren ever wrote, and I’m not kidding), and have seen all the movies and tv shows I can find on Le Légion étrangère. 

I saw this movie when it was new (a couple of times, I think, back when you had to see it when it was at a theater, because there was no way to watch it at home when you wanted to…yes, I’m old.) and I remember that it was hysterically funny. Now, there is a phenomenon which we Chez Otter call the “Caddyshack effect”, where you remember something you saw when young as being awesome and it isn’t when you see it twenty or thirty or forty years later…but I was willing to take the risk.

I saw this on Amazon.com, and bought it…and a bit later Mr. Otter and I watched it, with not a little trepidation on my part.

And it was fun. Silly 70s era fun, with a lot of good people (Michael York, Ann-Margret, Marty Feldman, and a host of people who were well-known then but not so much now) being pretty amusing. The plot was silly but good, and gave a couple of nods to the novel, and it was nice to see it again.

Not one of the funniest or best movies of all time, but certainly fun to watch, and (more importantly) not at all disappointing. Whew.


Ghostbusters (1984)

January 25, 2017

ghost84

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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…


What did you do in the war, Daddy?

August 4, 2016

war

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

 A group of American soldiers is told to capture an Italian village; the Italians want to have a festival before they surrender, the Americans haven’t had R&R in a long time, hijinks ensue.

Mr. Otter brought this home from the library where he works, and Ottersis and I thought it might be fun…I’ve heard of it, and didn’t mind giving it a try. Plus there were some good people in it, most notably James Coburn, a favorite actor Chez Otter, and Harry Morgan, who will be forever known as Col. Potter from the TV series M*A*S*H.

This was great farce, with nothing really unbelieveable happening but silliness piling on silliness until suddenly everything works out and the Americans come out heroes. But getting there is all the fun, and fun it is.

From the shenanigans at the festival, to the following near-disasters, to the crazy solutions to problems, and subplots adding in, this was funny, well written and pretty hilarious.