November 7, 2017

 Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.

The Revenant

January 25, 2017


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“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.

Star Trek: Beyond

August 2, 2016


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The third installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, which unfortunately is continuing to go where everyone has gone before…

<sigh>. Okay, it’s time to get on my soapbox again: Giving people the same stuff they’ve already seen is so boring. Sure, everyone will come see it, and you’ll make a lot of money on the opening weekend…but it’s just the same old stuff over and over. (Are you listening, DC Comics? You should be..)

So let me start by saying that I loved the first of the new Star Trek movies. It was well written, edgy, exciting, fun, and a great new take on a series that has been done to death.

But the last two movies show that they are not willing to take any chances any more…

So on the good side, this was better than Star Trek: Into Darkness, which just annoyed the crap out of me. Gaaah. I don’t even want to think about it.

This was fun in many ways: excellent special effects, good explodo, well-known characters doing the usual stuff, a few nods to the original series and (this was nice) acknowledgement of Leonard Nimoy’s death in 2016. All that was well done. The basic plot wasn’t bad either.

But (and here is where the Physics Police show up) there were some things that made my disbelief hit the ground with a loud thud. Many of them had to do with the ship being in outer space:

  • If a sharp pointy object (or many of them) hits hard enough to breach the hull and end up with the point in a pressurized area, the hole is not going to seal itself; it’s either going to leak air around the projectile or (more likely) forcibly expel the projectile and all the air through that great big hole.
  • Also, if there is any kind of a hole in a pressurized area, you aren’t going to have only the people near it sucked in…it’s like a party, if anyone is invited, you have to invite everyone.
  • A deep space ship cannot fall to land without burning up or coming apart; you won’t have just a few burned spots, it’ll be GONE. They cannot be made to survive that…and they actually made this point about another ship, not the Enterprise…but if it’s true for one, it’s true for all.

That’s enough of physics; there was a lot more, and it annoyed me. That’s sloppy writing, and you can work it out so it’s more believeable IF YOU CARE ENOUGH TO TAKE THE TIME.

Also, one of the things that EVERYONE rolls their eyes about on the original show was how often all the senior officers would trot down to a planet and all be in danger at once. In this movie, Spock has to go down to the planet, and he’s hurt, so they send McCoy with him TO FLY THE SHUTTLE on the pretext that he has to make sure that Spock is okay…then he does nothing except lend Spock a shoulder to lean on. And, I will point out, he is helping him in such a way that he is ripping Spock’s wound open, rather than taking his other arm. Wouldn’t a doctor know that? Anyway…it makes no sense to have McCoy do any of this, except that evidently the powers that be decided that McCoy needs more screen time for his curmudgeonly rants, and that’s how they did it. Seriously stupid writing.

So…it was okay. There were some good parts. It wasn’t as bad as the second one (and is this going to turn into a series where every other one is awful, like the original Star Trek movies???) I’d say this is a renter, except it was great on the big screen.

Oh, and just before the movie, Simon Pegg (Scotty) came onscreen with an announcement filmed on set, thanking everyone for coming to a movie theater to see it. Interesting.

The Hateful Eight

February 11, 2016


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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.


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.


December 26, 2015


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Yet another superhero origin movie. Guess why he’s called Ant-Man? Yup, he can get really really tiny.

I had an afternoon to kill and, as I usually do, a free movie pass, so I decided to go see this in the theater. And I was not sorry I did.

The previews had looked smart and funny, but we all know that movie trailers are psychologically tailored to be as attractive as possible to the widest possible audience whether or not they will actually enjoy the film…I’ve been burned fairly often by awesome trailers that make me go to awful movies (yes, you have too, True Fan, I know it to be true.)

So I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was fast-moving, funny, and full of good action sequences. The main character (Ant-Man) is mouthy and sarcastic (reminiscent of The Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy) and the plot, aside from the obvious problems the Physics Police will have with size and mass, is good.

An enjoyable romp, the Otter recommends it for just plain fun.

San Andreas

October 28, 2015


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The San Andreas Fault gives way and Dwayne Johnson must save his family.

Oh my god, this was so stupid. I mean, the movie itself was okay, for an explodo…but I LIVE ON THE DAMN SAN ANDREAS FAULT. I have lived on it pretty much all my life, and have had earthquake knowledge drummed into me since I was a tiny little otter…and as bad as it’s going to be when and if The Big One happens, it won’t be anything like this.

Because this was STUPID. They had the wrong fault lines going the wrong way and doing the wrong things, they had tsunamis and floods and…gaaaah. It’s just too awful a mish-mosh to write it all. I called out the Science Police, and here’s what Buzzfeed and a bunch of actual scientists had to say about it.

Yeah, The Rock is pretty good in this, and there’s action, and suspense, and great special effects…but unless you can completely turn off the part of your brain that knows ANYTHING about science, you’ll be rolling your eyes all the way through, just like Mr. Otter and I did.

The Imitation Game

January 5, 2015


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From the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges

Yet another movie about Turing and the breaking of the Enigma code.

Now, don’t get me wrong. What Turing and his group did was amazing, and they changed the course of the war by figuring out the code. He gets top marks for that Chez Otter.

But is there anything new to say on the subject? Mr. Otter and I have seen at least two or three other movies and TV miniseries about him, his (illegal at the time) homosexuality, his supposed communist leanings and/or info leaks, his difficult personality, and also how he broke this extremely difficult code by inventing a type of calculator/computer that could figure it out in the time frame (it was changed every 24 hours.)

This was a well-made and well-written movie, beautifully filmed and, except for a regrettable scene where white-out was used to correct typewriting (Otter ground her teeth at that one) very historically accurate. Benedict Cumberbatch (who has the BEST NAME EVER in the Otter Family’s opinion) played Turing, and did a very good job of it, giving his extremely difficult personality enough human feeling for viewers to empathize with him.

But…did we really need another movie about this? Well, yes and no, I think. On the one hand, it’s been done before. On the other hand, with fan-favorite Cumberbatch in it, this will introduce Turing and what he did to a whole new generation.

But (and this is where the reality police come in and haul everyone away) it WAS NOT THE FIRST COMPUTER. Yes, they actually said this in the trailers for the movie, which made me shoot steam out of my ears. The Turing machine models algorithms, but is not itself a computer, and even if it were, it was a hundred and fifty years too late to be the FIRST computer.

But those are minor quibbles. If you don’t know this story, or are a Cumberbatch fan, or just like a well-written drama, you’ll enjoy this one.

High Plains Invaders

December 3, 2013


Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There are SPOILERS below, I give the whole ending away. If you care.

Aliens come to Earth in the American West to get minerals and make a mess of things.

And if you think that sounds like Cowboys and Aliens…that’s because it’s a made-for-tv ripoff of the feature film.

Now, that’s not always a bad thing…and one GOOD thing about this movie was that it starred James Marsters, aka Spike on the Buffy TV series.

What more excuse do I need to rent it? Spike and aliens, I’m there.

So Spider Jerusalem and I settled down without too many assumptions that this would be anything to write home about…and mostly, it was better than we thought it would be.

Marsters was great, and good eye candy, although I hated to hear him with his normal (American) accent rather than a snarky British one. There were some other good actors, especially the woman bounty hunter, she chewed scenery like a pro.

The people who were stuck in the town by burrowing aliens with laser guns mostly did sensible things, especially when faced with a technology that was like magic to them.

Truthfully, my biggest problem with this movie was the denoument. Turns out <sarcasm>SURPRISE!</sarcasm> that the crazy scientist was digging up and refining uranium. Four years before it was even isolated in a LAB. And the crazy scientist has A THOUSAND POUNDS of it in his outbuilding? Don’t look now, but the Reality Police just hauled the cast and crew away…

Plus it was way too easy to destroy the mother ship, sorry. It was like the timer went off and they had to end the movie quick quick quick before the budget ran out, and bam! it was over.

Mildly amusing, some explodo, not too bad. Except the stupid ending.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

December 20, 2012


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From the novel of the same name by Peter Hedges

This review contains a MAJOR SPOILER, just so you know..

Gilbert lives with his EXTEMELY eccentric family, and tries to have a life.

Well, this one was problematical…on the one hand, there were excellent actors in it, starting with a VERY young Johnny Depp, Serious Honey even before having all his teeth capped (almost cuter then, hm) in a very good role; Leonardo Di Caprio, by no stretch of the imagination a honey, but just amazingly good as Depp’s younger, mentally handicapped brother, and Juliette Lewis (might also be a honey, we’ll see) whom we last saw as the teenage girl in From Dusk Til Dawn. Oh, and Mary Steenburgen, whom Mr. Otter thinks is a total honey. And the people playing the other roles were good too.

So here you have this wonderful pool of acting talent, a script full of small town nutcases, a wacky family with many internal conflicts…but the movie just really doesn’t go anywhere.

Yes, Depp finds love with Lewis, and that’s really nicely done, and it’s fun to watch everyone interact and see their lives either come together and come apart, and the kids are fiercely protective of their mom…but the ending just totally blew it for me.

realpolTHEY SET FIRE TO THE HOUSE? Now, granted, it’s run down, they think there is no way to have their mom taken to the morgue without people making fun of her, they’re emotionally overwrought, and of course the house burning down makes a lovely metaphor for ending their old enabling ways of life and starting over. Not to mention being damn cool, cinematographically.

But seriously. Who would do that? Even if they hate the house and plan to move, they all need money and a place to live. One of the kids is 15, too young for a job and income. And even if the house is run down, they could sell it for SOMETHING. Plus there were a dozen solutions to the problem of getting the mom downstairs without the indignity of using a crane.

And why did she go upstairs (which exertion obviously caused her heart attack) anyway? Just so she could kick off and advance the plot? makes no sense.

Ah well. It was fun to watch, a lot of good characters, and a Serious Honey. Rent it, enjoy it, don’t expect too much.

The War Wagon

December 19, 2012


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From the novel Badman by Clair Huffaker

Huffaker, an excellent novelist, wrote the screenplay, and then the director added some funny stuff because Huffaker’s script was ‘too serious’…so it’s not pure Huffaker, but has some 60s yoks thrown in.

Five guys (John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, and Robert Walker) get together to steal a gold delivery in an armored wagon with outriders.

A mildly amusing heist movie, with Wayne just starting to gain way too much weight (his walk isn’t quite so mincing in this one…in later movies the contrast between his tiny butt and huge torso gave him quite a sashay from behind!) and Kirk Douglas doing his best to be roguish and charming. A very young Bruce Dern is (as always) killed soon after appearing onscreen.

Reality police: Well, for starters, a gatling gun in that wagon would probably destroy the eardrums of the guy with his head in the turret. And cutting a telegraph wire, attaching it to a pistol, and sending morse code? I’ll check with Mr. Otter, but I don’t think so!
Double penalty for inappropriate behavior: Howard Keel, a serious honey, as the ‘comic Indian’ (sic). AND he doesn’t sing. Not even the silly theme song, which Ed Ames sings instead.