Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews.

From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….

 


Tortilla Flat

March 18, 2017

tortilla

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Based on the book Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

A group of happy-go-lucky guys in a small town on the California coast way back when there were sardine fisheries and everyone spoke with some kind of fake accent.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme this year was Hedy Lamarr. This was the first movie, and we were looking forward to it because not only was Ms. Lamarr in it, but also Spencer Tracy, several other good bit players, and it was adapted from a Steinbeck novel which Mr. Otter loved as a kid (Although I have read a lot of Steinbeck and enjoyed it, I have never read this one.)

And…it was pretty bad. Hedy was good, and extremely beautiful. John Garfield (as a Mexican-American…!) was cute and had a decent role, although he didn’t seem too bright, since he kept letting Tracy’s crew take advantage of him.

But oh my god, Spencer Tracy and his pack of layabouts (including Akim Tamiroff and Sheldon Leonard) were SO FREAKIN’ ANNOYING! Lazy assholes taking advantage of everyone, and Tracy’s character was so manipulative we were yelling at the TV by the end. The crap this pack of losers got away with, and the stunts they pulled, and their justifications for lying, stealing, arson and drinking, were just teeth-grindingly awful, especially as they were supposed to be happy-go-lucky older Mexican-Americans as well. But even for the time (1942) when this was made, they were just freakin’ annoying.

The only older guy in the town we really liked was Frank Morgan as the Dog-guy. He and his dogs were great. And John Garfield was cute and nice, if gormless. And Hedy was beautiful.

Otherwise? meh.


Passengers

March 18, 2017

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.


The Revenant

January 25, 2017

revenant

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

“Based in part on” the novel The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

Guy gets mauled by a bear, left for dead, returns (title, get it?) to take revenge. Wonder how it’s going to end?

This won a SLEW of awards, including Best Actor, Director and Cinematography awards, and was nominated for even more (both Golden Globe and Academy awards). And…well…I’ll give you cinematography and even director.  Leo didn’t have to do more than stumble around looking half dead, so although he’s an excellent actor, there is no way I would agree that he deserved best actor for this; it was probably just, oh, here’s Leo again, we’ll give it to him so he’ll stop bothering us. And you notice that neither of these august bodies offered this movie best screenplay.

And why? Because it was AWFUL.

Yes, I came out and said it. One of the most talked about and lauded movies of the year (2013) that it was made…is just appallingly awful.

And there are SPOILERS ahead, so if you really do want to watch this tedious and annoying movie without knowing what will happen (but you really do know what will happen, trust me…there are no surprises in store) then stop reading here and come back after you’ve wasted TWO AND A HALF HOURS OF YOUR SHORT LIFE on this thing. You could have read my review in five minutes and then picked up a good book, but no. You have to show how you know better than I do. Go ahead. See where it gets you. Prove me wrong.

I’ll just wait here.

(2 hours and 34 minutes later)

So. Now you know. Aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to the Otter?

I was at the Red Cross, doing apheresis, which means that I spent nearly three hours in a chair, covered with warm blankets, needles in both arms while they took out all my blood, drained the plasma and platelets, and put it back. And I get to watch a movie. I picked this one.

Oh my god. Tedious, moody, serious as all hell. Very very very predictable. Sudden flashbacks to tell the backstory (about his Native American wife, which explains why his young son is with him (because their village got torched by Bad Men and she died in the fire and they were the ONLY TWO who survived)). Then he gets mauled by a bear. Oddly enough, him surviving this is one of the few parts of the story I DON’T have a problem with; it did happen from time to time. Not likely, but possible. But the bad guy (Tom Hardy, excellent as always, although (as another reviewer pointed out) he is a serious mumbler…) gets tired of waiting, decides that Leo won’t make it, and ends up killing his son, then mostly burying Leo because he’s mostly dead anyway. Cue revenge music.

So of course Leo survives (and at one point puts gunpowder on the wound in his throat and lights is to cauterize it…THAT made my disbelief take a serious nosedive.) Then he is chased by the Bad Indians and (he has gotten a horse by this point) he and the horse jump off a waterfall, the horse dies, but he manages to get to safety, and cuts the horse open to A) eat it and B) crawl inside to keep from freezing.

But he continues down a frozen river in winter. In north Missouri. In WINTER. And he doesn’t die, get frostbite, or pneumonia? I found this impossible to believe; his extremities would have been GONE.

There are a lot of People (mostly white males) Being Evil To Each Other (mostly to Native Americans). Not untrue at all, but heavy handed. Oh, and remember the part where he set off gunpowder in his throat wound? so after the first half hour of the movie, he CAN’T TALK. Most of the movie is scenery, heavy breathing, flashbacks and sign language. Gaah.

So then he makes it back to the fort, finds out that Tom Hardy made it back, and gets ready to take care of business, which (of course) has to be done before he rests or recuperates from his ordeal. And this was the part that really cooked my pemmican.

Because during this knife fight (in the snow and freezing river near the fort) there is a scene where Tom Hardy stabs Leo through the hand with a knife. And you see the blade go through his hand into the snow/ground on the other side. And the blade of the knife (which is about an inch and a half wide) is perpendicular with Leo’s fingers. See where I’m going with this? The knife blade ( and you can see the wound on his hand) HAD to have cut muscles and tendons through his whole hand. And HE USES THE HAND TO FIGHT AND HIT WITH. And of course wins, finally.

And there I am in the Red Cross, with needles in my arms and earphones on, saying loudly, NO WAY! There is NO WAY he is using that hand for this fight and probably NEVER AGAIN! No! That hand is TOAST! and the nurses are walking over to see what I’m talking about and laughing at me and nodding in agreement.

So yeah, I guess it’s an okay movie of revenge and perseverence, but it takes itself waaaaay too seriously, is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too full of modern sensibilities and has WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYY too much Leo doing totally unbelieveable things that are just ludicrous.

The otter would like to bury this one alive and not let it come back for vengeance.


John Wick

August 2, 2016

wick

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Russian mobsters piss off the eponymous character and he spends the whole movie getting his revenge.

Let me start by saying that yes, this movie was beautifully filmed, amazingly choreographed and the fight scenes were really, really well done. Okay? I get why people like it. I really do.

But…

  1. Keanu Reeves. That’s a deal-killer. The only way I agreed to let Spider Jerusalem show me this was that I didn’t have to pay a cent for it. Because there are several people I will not knowingly or willingly pay money ever again to see on the big screen (or even the small screen, if I have to pay for it) and Reeves is one of them.*
  2. This is pretty much the same plot as Taken, in that something is done to the main character and he spends the rest of the movie putting it right. Except for the part where Taken had good writing, Liam Neeson, and a plot and characters that had at least a bit more to them than just a series of violent acts.
  3. No, having Reeves spend thirty seconds remembering moments with his dead wife does not count for either character development, good reason for the following hour and a half of violence, or believeable emotion from Keanu Reeves, who hasn’t had a facial expression other than “Huh?” in at least ten years.
  4. And this is the worst: AN ADORABLE PUPPY IS KILLED TO SET OFF THE PLOT. No. No way. No how. Nuh uh. Not Chez Otter. We do not watch movies where the animal dies, especially gratuitiously to give the plot a reason to happen.

When this scene was over, I paused the movie and said to Spider Jerusalem, in effect, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING SHOWING ME A MOVIE WHERE THE DOG DIES?

His answer combined parts of, it’s part of the plot! I told you this was part of it when I saw it last year! You like Boondock Saints and the cat dies in that!

No, sorry. “Part of the plot” does not fly. I pointed out that when he told me about it last year and told me about the dog dying (which I do not remember) I am sure I said no, not if the dog dies. And in Boondock Saints (a favorite of mine) you see the cat walk across the table, one of the guys throws a gun on the table, it goes off and there is a huge splotch of blood on the wall. It is hysterically funny and you DON’T SEE IT DIE OR HAVE TO SEE ITS ADORABLE CORPSE. Big difference. And it isn’t killed to make the story move, which I think is heinous.

So if you like action, can stand Reeves, movies with very little wit or charm but hella good fight choreography, and (unlike me) don’t care about the ADORABLE PUPPY being beaten to death…go for it, you’ll probably like this.

*Sylvester Stallone, Woody Allen, Kevin Costner…and I think there’s one more but I’ve mercifully forgotten who.


Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

May 9, 2016

batsup

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Um…Batman and Superman have problems getting along and try to resolve them the old-fashioned way, by whining and punching each other until a smart female shows up and they realize how stupid they’ve been…right?

I guess you could say that there are SPOILERS here, but really? don’t worry, if you read this whole review I’m hoping you won’t go see this movie, or care if I tell you how bad it really is…

This was yet another attempt by DC to jump on the amazing freight train that is Marvel Comics’ multiplatform superhero series, and yet another chance for viewers to watch DC being thrown under the wheels and crushed into the ground.

Seriously, I was excited about this movie. I’m not crazy about Henry Cavill as Superman; he’s pretty, but he doesn’t have much personality…and it seems to me that more than most superheroes, Supes NEEDS to be relatable for viewers, him being a godlike alien and all. But Ben Affleck as Batman? Hellz yeah. I really do like him, have since Dogma (an Otter Family Favorite Movie) and was sorry to see his acting career come to a careening halt after Gigli. So I thought this might really do it for him, bring him back into the whole movie/acting thing.

And although I’m not a fan of Superman, I really like Batman and a lot of the Batman stories, especially the ones that take place in Gotham that Bats is only peripherally involved in. I also liked the look of the previews, and the seemingly intelligent handling of the moral problem of how one calls a superpowerful being to account.

But you know why I’m saying all this, right? to build up to how EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED I was in this movie. It wasn’t intelligent. It wasn’t insightful. Heck, I would have been happy with ‘well written’, ‘witty’ and ‘full of good character development’. It was none of those things.

What it was was dark. Disjointed. Whiny. Sometimes nonsensical. And kind of dull.

Except for the ten minutes when Wonder Woman shows up (although she’s been there all along, incognito). She is literally the only good thing about this whole movie, and that’s sad. Because she was awesome, and because the rest of this huge overblown overproduced overhyped steaming pile of ick is so much worse in comparison.

I saw it with my friend Spider Jerusalem, who had sent me this Scott Kurtz comic:

 comic

And luckily we were the only people in the theater, because every time there was an angsty flashback or ANOTHER wierd dream sequence where Batman was yet again having problems with his orphanhood, we both said this loudly and with feeling. And laughed. None of which we should have been inclined to do, but there was FAR too much whining in this movie.

And speaking of things there was far too much of, I have yet again broken my vow never to pay to see Kevin Costner in ANYTHING again. He DIED in the Superman movie, dammit! I should be safe from him! But no, Superman had to have an angsty dead parent flashback too, just to show that he was as screwed up as Batman. Seriously, the movie was like this.

And there were far too many people (title characters included) doing incomprehensible things for ridiculous reasons. More than once I turned to SJ and said, What the HELL is he doing that for? and it was never explained. Just, you know, reasons.

There were so many great reviews on the interwebs about why this was an absolutely terrible movie that I don’t have to hit it point by point…here’s a good one from cracked.com, there are lots of others. Just, seriously, don’t do it. Even if you think you might like it, there are so many better ways to spend two and a half hours. Go do something you like and leave me to try to heal on my own. But (I promise) without flashbacks or dream sequences. Thank you.


The Hateful Eight

February 11, 2016

eight

Internet Movie Database           Movie Reviews

A bunch of people are locked up in a cabin in a blizzard. Shenanigans!

Oh, Quentin Tarantino. How do I love and hate thee? let me count the ways:

Love: Brilliant, incisive dialog.

Hate: Bad-boy glee in using words and saying things calculated purely to offend, whether or not they are useful/appropriate/apropos in the movie.

Love: Action! Action! Action!

Hate: Action does not equal plot. Killing everyone off is not necessarily the best way to resolve the issues presented in the movie.

Love: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way.

Hate: Screw science, physics and  history, I’ll write it my own way, whether or not it makes sense.

Love: I can do any damn thing I want because I’m TARANTINO!

Hate: Nobody can stop me from doing really pointless and stupid scenes because I’m TARANTINO!

Okay, that’s enough, you get the idea.

Hollywood’s bad boy director has made his eighth movie and titled it in such a way as to make sure everyone who hears about it knows it. And as usual, it’s a mixed bag (see above.)

There are a lot of good things about this movie- great actors doing their best with what they’re given- Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Kurt Russell, to name the toppers. The filmmaking is beautiful, although the opening shot of the stagecoach in the snow lasted approximately two of the three hours of this film’s running time. The working out of the plot, of eight people coming together in this cabin who each have their own agenda and stuff to work out with the other characters is a good idea (remember Stagecoach, anyone? it worked there too…better than here…). The plot is full of (supposed) surprises that are meant to make the viewer go, Whoa! Didn’t see that coming! And the violence is suitably violent.

But.

And you were waiting for this, too, weren’t you?

Like Stephen King, who exasperated me so much at one point that I created my own ‘Write your own Stephen King novel!) page, Tarantino has become unstoppable…and I mean that in a bad way. Nobody can say no to him. Nobody can tell him anything. Nobody can edit him down to a concise, well structured story and a reasonably paced movie. And this movie suffers from all those things.

I am willing to concede the coincidences that brought all these people together in this place and time, to work out all the grudges they have against each other.  I am even willing to sit through a three hour movie to see all of this worked out. What I am not willing to do is to be bored for three hours while doing it.

Mr. Otter and I were both expecting this to be a good movie; we have seen most of Tarantino’s oeuvre, and liked all of them except for Kill Bill 1 and 2, which we agreed was good moviemaking but not having seen the movies referenced, it didn’t do much for us. We are not intimidated by blood and body parts, bad words, sexual references or innuendos, loud noises, gross stuff happening onscreen, or Samuel L. Jackson acting to the top of his bent.

We watched this movie. And turned to each other and said, was it me, or was that just TEDIOUS?

The characters, none of whom are supposed to be likeable (hence the first word in the title) are none of them interesting. They are a bunch of people who are thrown together, connected in tenuous ways and by coincidence, and given motives which are mostly not revealed to the audience until part or most of the way through the film…with no previous hint of what was going to be revealed, so the audience just says, Huh? instead of being in on the reveal. This is Tarantino, like a kid who has to prove himself over and over, in the worst manner of a bad detective fiction writer, showing the audience how he is smarter than they are. Over and over and over.

There are a lot of things that make no sense in this movie, but the ones that still annoy me a month later when I write this (and yes, I did call in the Reality Police) are:

  1. They are in a permanent dwelling in Wyoming, and it’s winter (hence the blizzard) and yet in both the house and the barn, you can see light shining through the chinks in the planks. Everyone in the house and all the horses in the barn (who, btw, they put away hot without cooling them down) would be frozen to death, stove and fireplace notwithstanding. Certainly nobody would be wearing light cotton dresses, as the women in the flashback are.
  2. The whole desert scene where Jackson describes (and Tarantino shows) what Jackson did to the Southern general’s son. This had no actual bearing on the plot other than the fact of it happening. I was not shocked by it, I just rolled my eyes at Tarantino again gleefully saying, I’m so famous I can get away with THIS and nobody can stop me!
  3. The ‘haberdashery’ (does Tarantino even know what that word means? it’s not a general store, it’s a men’s clothing store. Why would there be one in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming?) is run by a free African American woman and her white (husband? lover? ) who obviously have a relationship. There is NO WAY IN HELL that either they would allow this infamous Southern general, trash-talking about people of color, to stay there, and there is NO WAY IN HELL that he would stay for a minute in a place run by these people. That made absolutely no sense.

Many of the plot points that combine to create the final bloodbath make just as little sense; I found myself saying, Huh? many times, and it may have all worked out if I watched the movie again knowing what was happening…but I have no desire to.

Skip this, it is indeed hateful, and not in a good way. Next time I want to do something tedious, I’ll clean out the fridge; at least at the end of that three tedious hours, something useful will have been done.