Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 28, 2017

lastjedi

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The second in the third series (7, 8, 9 in the franchise). Things look bad for the Good Guys. What will they do?

I would highly recommend that you A) see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens before seeing this, and B) see this movie before reading this review; it’s full of

SPOILERS SPOILERS
SPOILERS

and I really don’t want you coming after me with rage in your heart.

I also wish to apologize for the length of this review, but, like this movie, it’s not as long as it will seem…

I talked to several people after I saw this, and our reactions were so mixed I’m going to make this review a kind of dialogue between C-Dub, who most emphatically did NOT love it, and me, who was not entirely happy with it, but didn’t dislike it as much.

I will say also that C-Dub and I are women of un certain age and that when I asked Maid-of-Awesome and her hubs Soccer Sam, both in their early 30s, they loved everything about this movie.

So here we go:

Otter: I liked a lot of things in The Last Jedi, but the thing that kept annoying the crap out of me was that dress that the Admiral (Laura Dern) was wearing. Everyone else was in uniform. Even Princess Leia had a black dress and a military-cut tweed cape; I actually had to look back at her costume to confirm that she WASN’T in uniform. Then there’s the Admiral of the Fleet in a full-length dress that the costume designer is happily telling everyone, It’s PUCE! like we’ve never seen puce before. The reasoning being that the director wanted everyone to ‘see her body language’ and make her look elegant. I thought at first that it was supposed to give the impression that the Rebel Alliance had to leave so fast that she had no time to change, but srsly, if it had been me, five minutes after getting on the ship, I’d be, bring me some jeans and a uniform jacket NOW!

C-Dub: Yes! Everyone is in uniform, but the woman admiral is all dressed up like she’s going to a ball, in a long gown that would trip her if she had to run. How is she an officer on duty in that get-up? The admiral’s collar bone showed through her dress, and Rei showed cleavage. Why? If you’re an action hero, or an officer, you don’t point up your sexuality, you hide it. It’s not a strength, it’s a vulnerability.

Otter: And also, I can’t help thinking, if a man were playing that part, would he be wearing a tux and shiny shoes? Would he have a form-fitting bodysuit that was cut away to show his muscles? No, he’d be in a (probably elegant) uniform, WITH HIS RANK INSIGNIA ON IT. And speaking of costumes, Rei’s arm wrappings look cool, but either she leaves them on all the time, in which case they’re going to get dirty and ratty, or she has to have someone else dress her every morning. As anyone who has tried to put a bandage neatly on their arm with the other hand knows, it’s not easy and often doesn’t look that good. Cool looking costume choice but impractical.

C-Dub: Every major action was an event I’ve already seen in a Star Wars movie, beginning with: any enemy armament you want to destroy, you do so by launching an individual toward it under heavy fire, and they have to drop a bomb down a slot. Saw that in the Death Star. You’d think they would have fixed this weakness by now, but no . .

Otter: Yup, I caught that too, and had the same thought. I think the idea is, one tiny fighter can get in where a lot of them or a bigger one can’t, but they’re beaten that horse to death. I was disappointed to see it yet again.

C-Dub: And the major plot line, chasing down the rebels and picking them off, is like a slow speed chase. All the other fractured plot lines serve to mask the fact that this one event– chase the rebels, pick off the rebels, chase the rebels, pick off the rebels– is the one main event of this story, and it is unpleasant, and unsatisfying.

Otter: It certainly seemed to take forever. And the whole ‘we can put power to the shields but then we’re sitting ducks’ just seemed to be a weak plot device to give the Rebels time to figure out some way to save themselves again at the last minute…which, btw, felt JUST LIKE the scene in the original movie (which will forever be known to those of my generation, who saw it in the theater when it came out, as STAR WARS) when the Death Star is closing in on the Rebel moon, and there’s a countdown as the Death Star gets closer and closer to being able to fire, which of course doesn’t happen. Again, been there done that.

C-Dub: Then another major plot line, hunting down the code breaker, is stupid. “We need to break in to this one place on the enemy ship, to do this we need the one guy who can break the code, to find him we have to go to this other planet, seek him out, and bring him back with us, and then sneak aboard the enemy ship and break the code to get at the device, which is allowing them to hunt us down.” It is just one thing, in one place, guarded in a way that needs hacking (not 10 guards that need fighting. It’s otherwise unguarded.) So so so so so contrived. So that they can go to the other planet (in the middle of the ongoing rebel chase).

Otter: Yup. The casino was cool, the racing beasts (Fathiers) were really great, but this made no sense, not only that they would have the time to do this in the middle of the countdown and there are Empire ships everywhere but they can get out and in again to do this? But also, I agree, way too contrived. There could have been a dozen other exciting ways to break into that part of the ship, and this was not a good one. My disbelief hit the theater floor with a thud.

C-Dub: Speaking of the Fathiers, I saw a documentary last year about child camel jockeys in the Emirates — boys as young as 2 are used to race camels. The details of the racing on the casino world was right out of that documentary, except that the camels are pampered and the jockeys are abused. It was annoying to see that modern story cut as pasted into the movie.

Otter: Well, actually I had no problem with this, it’s been done in a lot of places and times. not just in the Emirates. I liked the kids, and how they were presented; they weren’t just abject slaves, and in fact with the reaction to the Fathiers and this world and the last scene where the kid obviously shows Jedi powers, they might end up in the next part of the story. Who knows?

Otter: And (since I mentioned CGI animals), I really liked the Porgs. Awwww! so cute! but they have personalities. And speaking as someone who REALLY REALLY REALLY hated the Ewoks and everything Ewok-related, that’s saying something. And the Vulpices (the crystal foxes) were just so beautiful.

C-Dub: Okay. But cute cgi aside, I felt like the reality of the story changed at the convenience of the writer. The bad guy (Han’s son) is so powerful he can choke a person without touching them, but he had to fight really hard against the red guys.

Otter: Yes! And he CUT THEIR BOSS IN HALF! You’d think he could take care of them by waving his hand!

C-Dub: And he is SO WHINY…

Otter: I am going to partly agree with you there…I’m still having flashbacks to the ultimate whiny teenager, Hayden Christiansen as the young Darth Vader. If I could have the Death Star burn those three movies out of my brain, I would probably be glad to do so. But saying he’s not as bad as the worst example is not much praise. I do like that he’s not awfully handsome. He’s normal-good-looking, which is nice. He’s conflicted by his feelings for Rei and also his embracing of the Dark Side. I have to say, I was expecting them to recreate the Han-Leia love-hate-banter thing, and so far they have not done that, which is good.

C-Dub: Rei is — what? She has no character.

Otter: I admit, after seeing the previous movie two years ago, and only once, I had a hard time even remembering any of the characters’ names. I remembered Finn, and that he used to be a Stormtrooper, and that he and Rei (whose name I didn’t remember) were chasing around looking for something, and that she found Luke in the end while everything was blowing up and Han Solo died. So I spent a certain amount of this movie just remembering who people were and what their relationships were. But all I have for Rei is “determined Jedi wannabe”. That’s not much.

C-Dub: The death of 99% of the rebels is not a good ending. In the first set of movies that we saw, they rebels beat the Death Star and won. There was hope. In this movie, they are reduced to a small shipload of fighters. That is a miserable ending. But there’s hope, because the camel jockey boys will tell one another the story! — that’s right out of Camelot. All their major events are derivative. Even their minor events are derivative. There isn’t an original thought in this entire film.

Otter: I agree that things look bleak for the Rebels, but I’ll reserve judgement until the third movie. Remember how we all felt when Leia was a prisoner and Han was frozen in that ice stuff? and yet it all worked out. So Otter the Optimist will forget all about the three horrible prequels and give Disney the benefit of the doubt.

C-Dub: Nope, not me.

Otter: There were a few other things I liked about this movie. I did like that the older women (Leia and Laura Dern), clothing quibbles aside, were strong characters and had no trouble asserting their authority.  I also liked the way they did the CGI at the end, on the salt-world, Crait; there is red under the salt, which shows up when anything disturbs the surface. Walking, flying vehicles that break the surface (and what was up with those flyers with the wierd rudders? What were they thinking?) and weapons made very visually satisfying red splashes and clouds. BUT when Luke shows up, and walks out of the fortress…his footprints don’t turn red! Huge giveaway, but so understated that many
people I talked to didn’t notice it the first time. I liked that, well thought out.

Overall, I thought it was good; the bad stuff wasn’t horrible, and the good stuff was satisfying (except for the things that made me say, Huh?) I’m hoping for better and tighter plotting next time. And I have to say, although I noticed Mr. Otter looking at his watch, I never looked at mine, I was along for the ride.

Thanks, C-Dub, for showing up as guest reviewer!


Batman: The Killing Joke

December 21, 2017

killjoke

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Azzarello.

This is a really good origin story for the Joker and also tells how Barbara Gordon goes from Batgirl to being Oracle, the (basically) reference librarian/computer whiz that Batman and many other superheroes in the DC universe rely on.

Sure, there are things we’ve seen before- Batman trying to talk someone else out of doing exactly what he himself does (being a vigilante), or the chasing-the-bad-guy-through-the-funhouse thing, where of course the mirrors reveal more than just the reflection…but given who the Joker is, this is actually very appropriate, and works well.

But the writing and animation are both good, the buildup is excellent, and there’s more character work here than one generally finds in a comic-book movie, including some great backstory on The Joker.

The storytelling here is good, but (and Azzarello’s name on top should be enough warning) it is adult. There is strongly implied sex and a probable rape scene, and of course Barbara is shot in the spine and loses the use of her legs, hence Oracle.

Better than average for an animated feature made from a graphic novel!

 

 


Thor: Ragnarok

November 7, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Thor is trying to prevent Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard, duh.

The third movie in the Thor section of the Marvel combined universe, and a worthy addition. There are SPOILERS here, I think, so I’d recommend that you go see the movie first; it’s WAAAAY more fun if you don’t know what to expect.

I’ll just wait here while you run off to the theater or stream it (if you’re reading this later than I wrote it).

No hurry. No pressure. Take your time.

Okay. All done? Here we go:

WOO HOO! what a fun movie!

And I am so tempted to end my review there…what more needs to be said? But I’ll go on, Devoted Fans, because it’s fun to babble about stuff like:

  • Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum! I saw this in the theater with Ottersis and we both said OMG at the same time when he appeared. And what a great role!
  • The whole thing where half the movie takes place in a science-fictional other world instead of our own, but that’s connected to ours (Hulk and a Valkyrie both show up, so obviously SERIOUSLY connected.) And I loved the trash heap/sybaritic rich people/gladiator thing, it was great.
  • Speaking of Valkyries, what a great character she is. Looking forward to seeing more of her.
  • Yay for Thor’s haircut, a very good change for him going forward into a new kind of role!
  • Also Yay for Thor actually being kind of less of an asshole, and being able to stop hitting things long enough to look at a situation and figure it out, or actually talk to people first. Good character development.
  • AND Dr. Strange showed up, in a great short sequence. Very nicely done! I was so happy to see this, I love the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. Not just that the backstories are connected  but that characters show up in other characters’ movies, like Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming.
  • Awesome special effects, but (within the MU thing) believeable. And the special effects were never there in and of themselves, as awesome as they were; they were there for the story. Speaking of special effects, Hulk going mano-a-mano with Fenrir, Wow.

Okay, I’ll stop babbling about the things that stood out in my memory, having seen it about 24 hours ago. Can’t wait to see it again and catch details.

One thing (because I’m such a picky picky reviewer): If Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown, btw, an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is destined to destroy Asgard, but the point is made that Asgard isn’t a place, it’s the people, why is he stomping on the buildings and letting the ship full of Asgardians get away? doesn’t that make the prophecy untrue? Hm. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Anyway. A seriously excellent addition to the MU canon, fun, well written, beautiful to watch (Cate Blanchett, yes indeedy!) and a really good time was had by all. Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.


Suicide Squad

October 8, 2017

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From the graphic novel series; the first bunch of New 52 issues are by Adam Glass.

A group of extremely powerful supervillains are taken from the maximum security prison where they have been locked up, fitted with explosives that will blow their heads off if they don’t obey orders, and are sent on a mission to save the world. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one thing, it’s DC…and they are not solid with me. They have been trying with very little success to find a way to a version of the sweet sweet money train that is the Marvel Universe these days, and it’s been like watching a wreck…you know it’s awful, but you can’t look away. Yes, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m looking at you here.

I agree, Wonder Woman was very good. Even Mr. Otter enjoyed that one. But I haven’t seen ANYTHING else from DC that was worth mentioning…until Suicide Squad.

Jared Leto did a really creditable job as the Joker (who is not in the Squad, but is major character Harley Quinn’s abusive boyfriend.) Margot Robbie totally nailed Quinn, in a really crazy-but-cute way. And Serious Honey Will Smith as Deadshot, the other most important member of the group? He was GREAT. This was a really good role for him, and it was nice to see him firing on all cylinders again. And the rest of the squad was good, but not as memorable; in the comics, they come and go, depending on who gets killed in each mission.

So yes, violent, funny, good action, good characters, good writing. Not the best superhero movie ever, but a really good contender, just when I thought DC was never going to be able to show us anything worth going to the theater to see.

Now it’s almost time for Justice League…and I have serious doubts about this one…

 


The Founder

October 8, 2017

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A biopic about Roy Kroc, the founder of the McDonalds megalopoly, from his early days as a not-very-successful traveling salesman to becoming an international businessman.

This had great trailers, but I never got to the theater to see it…actually, it was the first movie I downloaded and watched on my iPad, once I found out that Netflix was doing that (yes, I’m old and behind the times.)

If you don’t know much about Ray Kroc, there might be some SPOILERS here. Just sayin’.

 

Serious Honey Michael Keaton is Kroc, and manages to walk the fine line of making him a sympathetic enough character, but also letting the viewer see the shark in him, so that when (as is inevitable) he screws the McDonald brothers over, it’s completely believeable.

The setup is good- the guy who’s going to make it rich on the next scheme, and his wife at home, whom he visits now and then Laura Dern) who is tired of his promises…and then he stumbles on a winning idea, and runs with it, and makes it a success…and buys it from the originators for a pittance (which is the story I had always heard too).

The ‘running the business’ part is well written too, interesting but not so much detail as to lose the viewer; the personalities are front and center here, and the inevitable clash of ideas for the future of the company.

The setting (late 50s) is well replicated and nothing I saw seemed to be out of place except…this Otter was born in San Bernardino, and grew up near there…and that was not shot anywhere near there, there are TREES and GREENERY. The credits say that it was shot in Georgia and New Mexico…

This was a good movie, well written, well acted and interesting.

 


Spider-Man: Homecoming

September 3, 2017

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Spidey is back and trying to find a balance between his real life and his superhero thing.

This movie got awesome buzz before it came out. I was hearing stuff about it from EVERYONE. And (having very high expectations walking into the theater) I was pleased that both the buzz and my expectations were correct.

Let me start by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Spider-man. Even in my long-ago youth, this was a comic series I never read. Sure, I know the basics. I’ve seen the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy from the early 2000s (liked the first and the second, didn’t like the third much). I missed the interim Amazing Spider-Man series because meh.

But then, not only was there a GREAT Spider-Man bit in Captain America: Civil War, but also I heard from Geek Girl about the casting, and I was intrigued. What she told me is, Marvel is trying hard to include people of color in their movies (and is Otter excited about Black Panther? You damn betcha!!). But Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man, even though he is a Marvel creation, Sony owns the rights, and has to okay any use of him in a film. What Geek Girl told me is, the contract says that Spider-Man has to be white and straight (a shame, I love the idea of a gay Spidey) but says NOTHING about other characters. So his love interest, Liz, is African-American, and his best friend/computer whiz/geek buddy is played by a Filipino-American actor. Marvel FTW!!

Oh, the plot? it was excellent. Funny and irreverent, as Spidey is known to be. He videoblogs his adventures with the Avengers, Tony Stark checks in on him, he is in school and trying to keep his two lives separate but functioning. His struggles with not being able to do it all are central to his character, and Tom Holland does this admirably, while being adorable, charming and believeable.

The main villain is The Vulture, played by Michael Keaton, and it was great seeing him in this role, running a local gang of thieves for years and getting serious chops in the process.

And I have to say, there was a big reveal in this that was so surprising, everyone in the audience with me (including me) gasped and said, Wait a minute…(various exclamations). It worked, it was totally believeable and we were all compeletely surprised by it.

An excellent addition to the wonderfulness that is the Marvel Universe!


The Night They Raided Minsky’s

September 2, 2017

From the novel of the same name by Rowland Barber

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A burlesque theater in New York is being threatened with closure by a member of the Society for Decency, and an Amish girl who has run away from home shows up looking for a job doing Biblical-themed dance. The theater owner and the star performer hatch a plot to advertise her as a sexy French singer and dancer, then have her do her Bible dance to fool the prudes.

What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. Otter picked this up in a bargain bin, and we watched it with Music Mike. It was a fun evening, with a movie Mr. Otter and I had heard about for many years but never seen. Mike the Builder hadn’t heard of it but enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is a real artifact from its time, well written and funny. The list of actors is also great: Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Elliott Gould, Forrest Tucker, Denholm Elliott, Jack Burns and Bert Lahr, among others.

The buildup is slow (looking backwards from the frantic pace of modern movies) but steady. The character development is the most important thing, and of course setting the scene for the big denouement that is obviously coming, given the title.

A pretty good blast from the past!