Dolittle

March 3, 2020

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Dr. Doolittle sets out (with his apprentice and a bunch of animals) to find a cure for the Queen’s illness.

I have so many things to say about this movie, very little of it positive…so hold onto your hats, kids ! Oh, and there are SPOILERS if anyone cares (and you shouldn’t, really. Trust the Otter.)

Firstly, let me say that I loved these books; I had a collection of four or five of them in paperback that I read over and over and over. Before seeing this movie I reread the first one, The Story of Dr. Dolittle. And enjoyed it, although being a British book of its time, it is not politically correct in any way. So I was ready to see a more modern and less Rex Harrison-y version, and to like it very much. I mean, ROBERT DOWNEY JR? Oh yes.

And I was in the theater with Ottersis. And the movie started…and the opening credits were pretty awesome. They were set against a series of drawings showing the story of how Dolittle had a medical practice, learned to talk to animals, met a beautiful woman explorer, fell in love, she had to go on one more voyage, her ship was wrecked, and she sent Polly the parrot (whose REAL name was Polynesia, dammit!) back to Dolittle with her wedding ring…and he became a recluse.

THEN the movie started with him hiding in his house like Willy Wonka in the shut-down chocolate factory.

And you know what they say about sequels, that they’re never as good as the first movie? It was true in this case too…because the story that was told in the opening credits was AWESOME and would have made a WONDERFUL movie. This, although technically a stand-alone, was really a sequel to that story, and like most sequels…it SUCKED. (Here’s Otter’s list of Sequels that Don’t Suck)

Firstly, it was predictable. Grieving curmudgeon is forced to come back to life by a cute child and His Duty.

Secondly, the animals were way more fun than any of the actors.

Thirdly, Downey was just not at the top of his game. He was so completely phoning it in that I thought maybe he owed a favor to whoever made this damn thing and had been forced to appear in it. I mean, Iron Man. The Avengers. And as soon as his Avengers contract is over, he does…THIS? But no. He was the executive producer. It was his baby.

He must bear the blame. Especially for NOT engaging his audience, a mortal sin in a kids’ movie. Gene Wilder was a curmudgeon but (as soon as the ‘walking slowly out of the factory and scaring everyone’ part was over, he was obviously fun and interesting and engaged with the kids. Downey…was not. Granted, it can’t have been easy doing that much green screen time, since most of the actors in this movie (the animals) were cgi…but he’s done this before and it’s worked. It truly looked and felt like he just didn’t want to be there at all. And after a bit, neither did I. He was so low-key and nonreactive that it was almost painful to watch him…he was certainly not interested in engaging his audience, any more than he was interested in the movie he was STARRING IN…!

Fourthly, the plot was trite and didn’t make sense. The queen is sick, we have to assume Queen Victoria, although she is never mentioned by name. She is played by a 30 year old woman and looks younger than that, but we’ll give it 30. That would mean this movie is set in 1869 or thereabouts, but nothing in the politics or period detail reflect this. But wait, you say, this is a kid’s movie, you are overthinking it! Nope. If a movie has a definite time and place, it has to WORK. This didn’t. And of course there are plots, and one of her advisors is poisoning her with a nebulous poison that leaves her at the brink of death for an unspecified time, which Dolittle goes off on adventures and gets the fruit to make her better and gets back JUST in time to unmask the bad guy and fix ol’ Queenie right up. Shades of The Magician’s Nephew, seriously.

The CGI animals were darn cute, although a little too cute and scene-stealy. The rest of the cast was fine. But the plot…there were other plot problems, which brings me to

Fifthly. More than once, we are told about something amazing and exciting, either because the movie was getting too long or they ran out of CGI budget. There was a point, I think when they reached the island of the guy who was supposed to help them but threw them into prison instead, and the movie literally cut from the ship to them climbing up the ramparts of the castle while the parrot (Emma Thompson) who was also the narrator told us that amazing adventures had happened to get them there. Huh? Then why didn’t you show them to us instead of referring to them so offhandedly? This is just plain bad writing, for whatever reason, and should not have happened.

So yes, I disliked this movie intensely. It was badly written, Downey was awful, and the plot, even for a kid’s movie, was trite and annoying. Why, oh why, did they not make the movie from the beginning credits? I guess we’ll never know…

 


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.


Justice League

November 22, 2017

jl2

Internet Movie Database        Movie Reviews

There are a few small SPOILERS here, but you already know what’s going to happen in this movie…a bad guy appears because of shiny powerful boxes, starts destroying cities, the good guys get together and…

Oh, wait a minute, that’s The Avengers.

Um, there are short intro segments about several superheroes who end up banding together to…

Nope, Avengers again.

There’s a bad guy somewhere beyond Earth that’s come back to take over…

Oops. Avengers.

Bright shiny boxes of dangerous stuff from the beginning of time.

Nope. Ditto.

A bunch of superheroes who don’t get along but have to work together?

Been there, done that.

Joss Whedon.

Sigh.

You know how in a lot of families, there’s a smart and charming and successful kid, and then they have a sibling who wants to be just like them but JUST DOESN’T GET IT? That second kid is DC. Oh my god, they want to be the Marvel Universe SO BADLY.

Emphasis on the BADLY.

Wonder Woman was great. I liked many things about Suicide Squad. The TV show Gotham is way amazing, and we love it, Chez Otter. But otherwise? Even when Marvel SHOWS THEM HOW TO DO IT (the aforementioned Avengers movies) they JUST DON’T GET IT.

Now, I have to admit, they are not working with a great palette…I have never been a fan of Superman, and Batman is only as good as his foils; my favorite part of the Batman universe is ancillary stuff that take place in Gotham (which is one reason that I’m enjoying the TV show so much). In this movie, Wonder Woman was fine, The Flash was cute and funny, the cyborg guy was the smart-but-conflicted-and-bitter one, and Aquaman…well, we’ll get to him.

And I have to say right now, I hated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and didn’t much like Man of Steel either. And I knew when Superman ‘died’ that it couldn’t be permanent, because why would DC shoot themselves in the foot like that?

So yes. DC is trying to be Marvel but just failing miserably, and this movie was no exception. Sure, Gal Gadot is a really good Wonder Woman, and they actually gave her a couple of good moments. Ben Affleck as Batman…well, he was in there trying, but he didn’t have much of a part; he divided his time between being Dark and Serious, and trying to cajole everyone into staying together. The cyborg guy (whose name I just don’t remember because he was really not memorable) was there so they’d have someone to be super smart, and The Flash was the cute funny kid who makes the smartass comments.

But all of their character traits are superficial. Like they’re holding up signs saying, I’m the genius and I love my dad or I’m cute and funny and will learn to be brave when it’s needed. But nothing they do really tells us about their personality, it’s just fitting them into the boxes.

Aquaman. Yes, he’s kinda hot, and he can kick ass, but what the hell was he doing in this? The baddie stole the shiny box from his people and he was righteously angry, but he has no special powers on land, aside from looking awesome and being strong. He got ONE SCENE where his water powers were useful, just by chance, and that’s it.  And what was up with that whole thing where he was talking to his mom the Queen underwater, in their castle in Atlantis and…THEY NEEDED AN AIR BUBBLE TO TALK? Even in a comic-book universe that makes NO SENSE AT ALL. There were plot holes one could drive a Mack truck through, but of all of them that was the one that made me go, Huh?

Speaking of stupid plot holes, if I were waking a preternaturally powerful being (Superman) up from the dead with ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA whether or not he’d be insane or evil or even kind of homicidal to the guy who did him in, I wouldn’t rely on his love interest to focus his attention on the Light Side, I’d damn well have a big ol’ hunk of green kryptonite ready to go JUST IN CASE. Duh.

And DAMMIT even though he’s been dead since the first movie, they still managed to work Kevin Costner into this movie. That’s THREE TIMES I’ve seen him when I swore I’d never see another movie with him in it. Dammit.

This was ponderous and slow-moving. The villain was stupid and not scary or even interesting; he was so generic that Schwarzenegger could have played him (and sometimes I could have sworn he was…). The ‘boxes that can end the universe’ thing was kinda stupid, especially since even though they were put together, the good guys (of course) managed to pull them apart at the last minute at no actual cost to themselves. The banter was dull; the only person who got good lines was Alfred, which (much as I like Jeremy Irons) is just sad. And I really got tired of the ‘pose shots’, where they’d stop for a second in a heroic pose. Once in a movie is okay. Maybe twice. But that’s it.

And Joss Whedon. He kind of plays both sides of the fence, Marvel and DC. When Zach Snyder (writer and director) had to step down, Whedon took over for the last six weeks of shooting…and gets no director credit. But he DOES get a screenplay credit, which according to The Rules means at least 33% of the script is his. Interesting. But even Joss Whedon couldn’t save this turkey.

This is a SUPERHERO ACTION MOVIE, folks. What it should be is fast-moving, fun to watch, and full of action balanced with character development. What it should NOT be is dull and ponderous, with characters who have no chemistry together. And of course as soon as you bring Superman into the mix, it kind of ends any suspense the viewer might be feeling about whether or not the universe will be saved; there is no chance of mission failure.

On the other hand, the mission is the movie…and the movie is a failure. But this is an ‘epic’, so…EPIC FAIL.

 

 


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         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
CinemaSins         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
CinemaSins         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

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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

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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

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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.