No Time To Die

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Bond comes back from retirement to face yet another villain armed with world-ending technology…

I am conflicted about Bond. For a long time I was a purist: I loved the books and refused to watch any Bond movies that didn’t at least give a nod to a Fleming book or story…but this is the Franchise That Will Not Die, and so must be fed.

And I really really liked (yes, he’s stepping down) Daniel Craig as Bond; I think he’s the best one since Connery, and have actually gone to see all of his movies in the role, unlike other Bonds whose non-canon movies I eschewed (yes, I’m looking at you, Timothy Dalton. And especially The Man of Wood, Pierce Brosnan.)

But…this one was really good. Daniel Craig was really good. The cinematography and special effects and all were really good…and wow, this movie had a lot going on. It was like they all got together and said, this is Craig’s last Bond film, let’s just throw EVERYTHING into it. And they did. And it was a lot of plot devices, reveals, backstory, imminent catastrophe, you name it…but it mostly worked well, and I enjoyed it as much the second time I saw it, six months later.

So okay. It’s the Bond that makes the movie, not the origin material.

So now we have to wait and see who the new Bond will be…

But this movie? Yes, go see it, it’s serious bang for your buck. Well worth it if you like the genre.


The Day The Earth Stood Still

November 18, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the short story Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates

An alien comes to earth with an ultimatum: abandon war, especially nuclear war, or the Earth will be destroyed by other alien races.

This is, of course, a legendary SF movie. My family always had the TV going on Sunday afternoons to watch whatever cheesy old SF and horror movies were playing (back in the days when you had to watch whatever the Television Gods decreed, rather than choosing for yourself.) This was a big favorite, and my sister had a huge crush on Michael Rennie, who I will admit is easy on the eye.

I saw bits and pieces of it, and of course Klaatu Barada Nicto is a famous catchphrase…but I really don’t remember ever having actually watched it all the way through, until Mr. Otter mentioned it and I said, I’ve never seen it. Well, that was a gap in my cultural literacy that got addressed pretty quickly!

For what it was, a preachy cold war movie about eschewing violence, it was pretty good. The special effects weren’t bad for the time, and the story, although pretty far-fetched (none of his abilities was ever explained, he could just do all this random stuff. And he was exactly like Earth humans…hm.) it all held together pretty well.

The story was interesting enough not to be draggy, and of course the ending, “The decision rests with you…” was great.

The Otter liked this classic and was happy not to be disappointed by it!


Don’t Look Now

November 17, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From a short story of the same name by Daphne DuMaurier

Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are in Venice, trying to get over their grief at the death of their only daughter…then WEIRD STUFF starts happening.

This was at the same time compelling, creepy, slow moving, strange and atmospheric, and ultimately satisfying. Sutherland and Christie are great at showing the strain on their marriage their daughter’s death has caused, and their ups and downs are very believable. The wierd psychic stuff is kind of low-key; you have to watch for what is happening to put it all together at the end. And the ending, the final payoff, is very satisfying.

Worth tracking down and watching!


Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

November 17, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

Shang-Chi finds out that A) his father is a Bad Guy and B) he has to use the power of the Ten Rings to save his mother, who everyone thought was dead, and they must also defeat an evil dragon.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

It was actually much better than that description makes it sound. This was a compelling, beautifully made MCU movie (in one post-credits scene the heroes are taken to Kamer-Taj by Wong the Librarian) and very enjoyable…except for one small quibble: the evil dad, Wenwu, was a way more interesting and compelling character than Shang-Chi.

I mean, yes, the MCU is full of people like Captain America who are kind of vanilla; they’re unsalted good guys, probably okay for a snack but not what you are really craving. But to have such a contrast between the two stars of the same movie, and have the bad guy be the one I was really behind for the whole thing, evil or not, didn’t really work for me.

Yes, Loki is a bad guy that everyone likes…but he gets his comeuppance regularly, and bounces back for more. In this movie, the bad guy was just BAD. Until the very end, when he sacrifices himself and gives his kid his power source.

Hm.

I’m going to watch this one again before coming down too hard on it…I’m finding that the MCU movies are so full of stuff both from previous stories and their own that I usually like to see them twice before writing a review…and as I said, it was beautiful and I did get caught up in the story…so I’ll be kind to this one til then.


Dune (2021)

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert

Yeah, right, summarize Dune in one line! Okay, here goes: Paul Atreides’ father is killed, making him Duke of a planet that produces the most valuable substance in the universe, which everyone is assembling to fight over.

LOL. Not even close. The book is, even with its ponderousness, a wonderful classic that all of you should have read by now. It’s rich, full of great characters and inventive storylines and danger and romance and…

It’s good, okay?

But there is so much happening in the book that the 1984 David Lynch version on the big screen has been considered a joke ever since. I liked it at the time, but I had read the book and knew what was happening; I understand that if one has not read the book, it is well-nigh incomprehensible.

There was also an excellent miniseries made in 2000 with William Hurt; it was 4 1/2 hours long, and did a much better job of telling the story and making sense out of it.

So now here is yet another movie version, with all the modern FX tech. Mr. Otter and I were pretty excited and went to see it as soon as it hit the theaters…and our opinion is… (drum roll please) PRETTY DAMN GOOD.

The story is edited down to comprehensibility, and it was well done. The plot moves and makes sense, as far as I can tell nothing important was left out, the FX were, of course, wonderful, and the actors were good. Except Jason Momoa, who is good eye-candy but can’t act to save his life, but he played the warrior who dies nobly almost right away, so that worked out fine.

Really, my only quibble with this movie were the words in the title at the beginning of the movie: PART I.

On the one hand, dammit. I hate waiting for the next part of ANYTHING.

On the other hand, good. Making this into several parts will allow them enough time to actually tell the story right…and it looks like they got a good start.

So the Otter is cautiously optimistic about this one. Stay tuned for more reviews, everyone!


The Madwoman of Chaillot

October 21, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the play La Folle de Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux

A very old-fashioned countess takes on the destructive industrialists of the modern world with the help of various eccentric people.

I have loved this movie since I was a young Otter. I made time for it every time it came on TV (back in the days when the Television Gods ruled what you watched, and if it wasn’t scheduled to be on television, you couldn’t see it…) I had not watched in, maybe, 40 years (yes, this Otter is old.) but when I realized that it was on one of the streaming services, I chose it for our Saturday Night Zoom Movie group.

And…it was fun. I like Katherine Hepburn, and she was awesome as the Countess who does not approve of the modern world and is attempting to keep the businessmen from destroying the part of town she lives in in quest of oil lying below the streets. One of the businessmen is Serious Honey Yul Brynner (with hair!) There is more slapstick than I remembered, campy late 60s slapstick, but it was fun watching Hepburn and her coterie take on The Bad Guys and win.

A charming evening’s entertainment.


Stillwater

September 22, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

An unemployed oil-rig worker from Oklahoma goes to France and takes on the French legal system to try to exonerate his daughter of the charge of murder.

This was pretty darn good. Matt Damon, of course, is the reason Mr. Otter and I ventured out to our local movie theater, but everyone in this movie was good. Damon did a wonderful job of the bewildered father trying desperately to find some way to save his daughter in a country where he doesn’t even speak the language, let alone understand the legal system. The plot has several twists, some fast action and some slow contemplative moments, and all are paced just right.

Very enjoyable!


Black Widow

September 16, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

The story of the eponymous Marvel character’s early life and her relationship with her sister.

Before we get started, I want to say that I was REALLY EXCITED about this movie in late 2019, couldn’t wait for it to come out in…Spring of 2020…and we all know how that went. So a year and a half later, we’re all vaxed (at least I hope you are!) and this movie was finally released to theaters. And being a movie-loving Otter, I renewed my Ultimate Movie Pass from Regal and, mask firmly in place, went to see it. And it was LOVELY being in a movie theater again, and I’ve been going ever since…almost always middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-day, but still. I’m lovin’ it.

But I digress.

So let me just say right here and now: I love the MCU. Not ever movie or tv show is stellar, they have dropped the ball a few times, but over all, their body of work is breathtaking. They have been making good movies and tv shows that tell stories that interlock and create a shared history and mythology, characters that viewers really care about, and stories that are (mostly) really really good. And I love nothing better than to head to my local emporium des movies to see whatever the new one is, knowing that at the very least I’ll be entertained with an interesting, fun, well made action film with good characters.

And speaking of characters, this movie…was problematic.

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Just sayin’.

This is a prequel. And that poses big problems for the writers, because I think prequels are the hardest thing there is to write effectively. The audience (mostly) has already seen the movie that tells us what happens to this character (she died in Infinity War), and we’re all watching for continuity errors (given that the MCU is based on alternate timelines impinging on our own, but if that happens it better be for a good reason…). Black Widow’s antecedents wouldn’t have any of that, so whatever we learn about her is more of a memento mori than character growth, since (at least for me) her impending doom overshadowed the story.

It takes place after Civil War, and has flashbacks to her past; the basic plot is that the people who trained her control a bunch of other Black Widows all over the world, and Natasha and her adopted family must stop them.

Now, it was a good story, and when (as I do every few years) I have my next MCU binge and watch all the movies and TV shows in order (just the good ones…I’m looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) then this will fit in nicely after Civil War, and might work better in that context.

Also, I did really like Florence Pugh as her sister, and evidently there is a movie coming up to showcase her as the lead in a group of anti-heroes…not only would I be glad to see that character again, but it would cement this movie more firmly in the MCU as her kickoff rather than a fond look back at a part of Natasha Romanoff’s life and career.

Another shout-out to Serious Honey Rachel Weisz who plays Romanoff’s surrogate mom, and who shows up to help her kick some serious booty.

Did I love it? no, but I liked it for what it was. Would I see it again? Heck yes. Want to join me?


Quo Vadis

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

A Roman general falls in love with a Christian slave and is eventually converted, all against the backdrop of Nero’s Rome.

I was traveling, as is my wont, and was listening to a great audiobook series from the Teaching Company about movies that take place in Ancient Rome and their historical accuracy; the presenter was a Classics professor, and he was funny and had a lot of interesting things to say, both about the movies and about the whole ‘Roman Spectacle’ genre of movies. This was one of the films he talked about; it started the whole genre in 1951.

I read the book many many years ago as a young Otter, and still remember that it was a thunderin’ good read…this movie? not as much, although it wasn’t bad…

Robert Taylor is the Roman commander, and it’s a toss-up whether he or a block of wood would be a more compelling hero…he’s very handsome, but rather stiff and unemotional. Deborah Kerr is beautiful and awesome as the Christian slave Lygia, but the cake is completely taken, eaten and owned by Peter Ustinov as Nero; not only is Ustinov an Otter Family Favorite Actor, but this role is campy and awful. Scenery is chewed with gusto.

This movie has huge sets, scenes with hundreds if not thousands of actors, chariot races, Rome burning, and lots of overacting. What’s not to like?

But read the book as well, it was great.


Orlando

September 15, 2022

Internet Movie Database Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Virginia Woolf

A young man is commanded by Elizabeth I never to grow old…and doesn’t.

My book group read this, and it was pretty good; I certainly liked it better than the only other Woolf book I had read to that time, To The Lighthouse. So I said to Mr. Otter, we both really liked the movie when it came out, let’s watch it again!

And we did…and it was still good. Not as stellar as I had remembered, but certainly enjoyable.

Orlando, given the gift of long life and youth, is on a self-narrated quest for poetry and love. The tale is told with humor, especially when he goes on a voyage and returns as a woman, having decided that that may be the reason he can’t find true love.

There are some nice observations about male and female roles (especially in the second half of the movie, which is much more enjoyable than the first because of Orlando’s comments about being female) and beautiful settings.

This is charming and interesting, and lightly amusing. A fun movie for an evening with someone you love!