A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

December 6, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A journalist is assigned to do a story about Fred Rogers and ends up becoming his friend.

This was more interesting than I expected. Mr. Otter and I really only went to see this movie because we both think Tom Hanks is the awesome with awesome sauce on top and a side of awesome. I thought, a movie about Mr. Rogers? Isn’t that going to be a little dull? But no, it wasn’t.

I was a little too old to watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid, but I’ve certainly seen his show since growing up, and I have to say, Tom Hanks really nailed his voice, movements and slow, friendly cadence. And seeing the contrast between this quiet, gentle person and the brash, conflicted, skeptical reporter really made for a good movie.

A reporter named Tom Junod (renamed Lloyd Vogel in the movie) is burned out from being a war correspondent, has burned bridges with every magazine editor in town, is a bad boy who’s hard to work with and who has big anger issues…and his editor, as his last chance, assigns him to do a short article on Mr. Rogers…which turns into a long article and a lifelong friendship, because that’s just how Mr. Rogers worked.

This movie is well made, charming and heartwarming without being stupid, soppy or sentimental. If you need a bit of ‘up’, it’s a great one to see.


Spider-Man: Far From Home

December 6, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

This review has, by necessity, spoilers for Avengers: Endgame…so if you haven’t seen that, go watch it now and come on back to find out what the Otter has to say about Spidey’s latest adventure!

 

No worries, I’ll wait…

 

and I’m waiting…

 

All done? Wasn’t that great? Now, let’s get back to Spidey.

 

Peter Parker goes on a class trip to Europe, hoping to just be a student, but of course Spider-man is needed.

This movie takes place after Avengers: Endgame, and if you recall, the people who disappeared at the end of Infinity War reappeared five years later. Peter Parker was one of them. I really loved that they made that part of this movie, and the fact that all these people (especially young people) are now dealing with having been moved ahead five years while everyone who didn’t disappear has gone on with their lives, and also gotten older…so high school students come back to a school where all their friends have graduated and moved on, and they are still the age they were. Really well done.

There is a world-wide threat, the Avengers are no more (literally, for many of them) and the world expects Spidey to take the lead role, not realizing that he’s a kid (or really caring). Peter is just trying to get on with his life, get a date with Mary Jane, and not be a superhero for a while…but of course is dragged into the mess. There are superbeings targeting different places on Earth, and a guy named Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) who shows up to help stop the baddies, and Nick Fury is trying to recruit Spidey, and of course things go wrong on the class trip.

This was a really good and satisfying coda to the Avengers saga, well worth watching. Good, fast-paced and believeable writing, characters that you care about, and some interesting plot twists made this one of the better Spider-man movies. Well worth seeing, says the Otter.


Joker

November 15, 2019

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Instead of the origin story of a superhero, we get that of a supervillain, the eponymous Joker.

There has been a lot of controversy about this movie, which is basically about the rise of a crazed serial killer; those who oppose it say that this is another example of glorified violence. Personally, I think the movie made the Joker and his life look damn unattractive, but that’s just my opinion. I did think it was brilliant and that Joaquin Phoenix (who is a favorite actor Chez Otter) deserves a damn Oscar for this. He was that good.

And now I’m going to venture into SPOILERLAND, so if you don’t want to find out anything about what happens, stop here.

So wow. I had tried to see this for a month, even attempting to get to a movie theater while on vacation, and it just didn’t work out…then I suddenly found myself with an afternoon free (anomalous for me) and just went ahead and did it…and I’m so glad I did.

This is the slow descent into madness of a serial killer, and Phoenix brings out every nuance of crazy. He is believeable, sociopathic, and scary as hell. I can see why it got huge acclaim at the Venice and Cannes festivals; it’s not about capes or superpowers, it’s just about this one guy and watching him live his life.

The one thing that I found odd was his last interaction with the woman and child he’s fixated on…did he kill them? He just left their apartment, but nothing was shown…I found out later that all his interactions with her were imaginary, from meeting in the elevator onwards; this makes more sense than that she (especially being the mother of a young child) would have ANYTHING to do with him, but I somehow missed that that was going on.

Otherwise (and that was probably my mistake, not the writers’) it was well written, amazingly acted, and dark as hell.

If your taste runs to this sort of dark psychological drama thing, make sure you see it. If it doesn’t, here’s a nice kitty you can look at instead:

 


Macbeth (1961)

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database

From the play of the same name by William Shakespeare.

Aaah,  the Scottish Play. With the Scottish Sean Connery. Back when he was seriously young and not well known, a year before Dr. No.

This is one of those 60s television theater productions, with minimal scenery, stark lighting and very earnest actors…and you know, Sean isn’t half bad, although then as now he tended to run his words together almost unintelligibly. There was nobody else in the production that I had ever heard of, but they were all good, probably bright lights of the TV theater scene at the time.

This is a pretty well done production, and worth seeing. Although they don’t cut off Macbeth’s head in the end and parade around with it, for some reason, even though that’s a high point of the play…


Les Visiteurs du Soir

November 15, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The Devil sends two demons to a castle in the Middle Ages to torment earthly souls.

When I was a young otter, back in the beforetime when movies were only available to watch when the Television Gods scheduled them, one would check the TV listings every week to see what was being shown and when, and plan ones calendar around seeing the things one loved because who knew when- or if- they would ever come back?

This movie was one of my favorites, and I would always stay up til whatever wierd hour it was being shown to see it again. It’s romantic (the demons decide to make two humans fall in love with them and thus destroy them, and you know what happens instead…!), beautifully filmed in black and white, and a treat to watch, even with subtitles. Very quiet and slow-moving by today’s standards, but stately and beautiful and inevitable in its course.

Interestingly enough, this movie was filmed in Vichy in 1942, in Nazi-controlled France; the reason they made a historical fantasy was to avoid censorship…but then they created an amazing gem of a movie.

If you haven’t seen it, find it…and have your box of kleenex handy.

 


Michael Collins

June 22, 2019

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Biopic of one of the major figures in the Irish War for Independence.

Mr. Otter and I had just come back from Ireland, and were watching some movies that had to do with the people and places we’d been…he was surprised that I hadn’t seen this, since Serious Honey Liam Neeson plays the title role.

So we watched it one night, and it was mostly very good. As far as I can tell it was pretty historically accurate; costumes and settings were good. The movie focused as much on Collins’ personal life as it did his politics and various roles in the War for Independence. And Neeson was very good as Colliins, as was pretty much everyone in this movie (there’s an added bonus of Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera)…except Julia Roberts, who played Kitty Kiernan, who was romantically involved with both Collins and his best friend, Harry Boland.

Which is a great story- a real-life romantic triangle set against the backdrop of nasty politics and the struggle for freedom.

If only Julia Roberts hadn’t been cast…sure, she’s pretty, she can act some…but she didn’t look, sound or act Irish or like a woman of the time. She stood out like a sore thumb in pretty much every scene she was in. If they had tattooed HEY I’M JULIA ROBERTS on her forehead it wouldn’t have been less distracting.

Otherwise? A fine movie, full of all the things that make movies good. But I’m downgrading it one $ for Roberts; I didn’t know she was in it when we started watching it…


Avengers: Endgame

May 10, 2019

endgame

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Can the Avengers save the world after Thanos destroyed most of it?

Five years after Infinity War, the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. We the moviegoers know that things will get better, but not exactly how…and it was a wild ride, let me tell you!

Firstly, just in case you haven’t seen it yet, of course I have to talk about what happens, so here’s the

SPOILER WARNING

 

Okay? Now the rest of us can get on with this…

What I knew going into this movie (and I was adamant about NOT reading or watching ANYTHING about it til it came out. Having just closed escrow on a house that needed a ton of work helped me to ignore all the buzz…!)

  1. Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, respectively) all had contracts that would end with this movie. Downey had made it public that this would be his last one, so everyone expected him to die; but I didn’t see anything about Evans’ or Hemsworths’ plans…but I figured they would be somehow written out of the future Marvel movies.
  2. The end of Infinity War signaled the Captain Marvel movie, which came out two months ago, so we all knew that she would in some way either save the day or help to do so.
  3. There would be some kind of time travel because A) Dr. Strange and B) how else were they going to fix it?
  4. THREE HOURS LONG.

So that was what I knew going in. I was bracing myself for disappointment, because how could a movie ever live up to that amount of hype and hope and scrutiny? And…overall,  I was pretty darn happy with it.

The first hour and a bit is ALL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. We see what has happened to the world since Thanos disappeared half the population, and specifically the chaos that has ensued, and how the Avengers themselves were impacted. No fighting, no flying, just…character development. Lovely.

Then they catch up to Thanos…and things don’t go as expected. By them or by me.

And then the time travel stuff starts; I always have a problem with time travel, it’s inherantly flaky. To be fair, they did everything they could to make this work sensibly and follow rules, which helped a lot. It was really well done, and although you could pick at details til the cows come home, get tired of waiting and go away again, it was good.

And what about the Big Three? I was very happy with the end results for both Iron Man and Cap. Thor…part of me thought what they did with his character was awesome, and part of me rolled my eyes and said, really? After Ragnarok and Infinity War you did…this? But sure, whatever. It did work, on many levels. And the changes in his character added a touch of needed humor, so that was good.

Overall? I call it excellent, and kudos to Marvel and Kevin Feige. Can’t wait to see what comes next…