Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

January 23, 2018

jumanji

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the book by Chris Van Allsburg

Four teens end up inside a video game and must win it to escape.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a librarian. And for most of my career, I’ve worked in Youth Services, aka the Children’s Room. So I read Jumanji when the book first came out, and loved it. Different, funny, beautiful black and white illustrations.

I saw the first movie, which was a pretty good take on the book, when it came out in 1995. And really liked it too (although I haven’t seen it since I started reviewing movies in 2002, so there’s no review of it on this site.) Well done, a good translation of the book to film.

And then, twenty-two years later…it’s BA-AAACK.

I saw the poster for this and rolled my eyes. Do they have to remake every single successful children’s film twenty years later? Really? I said to myself or whoever was with me.

But then I swathe trailer…and loved it. It looked like a really funny fresh new take on the story, with good people in it, and maybe even good writing.

So last week, I went to my favorite local ‘plex and saw three movies in a row, because they were all about to leave town and I had the time free. And this was the first of the day. And the trailer (for once) did not lie- I loved it.

This movie is smart, funny, sassy, well written and very tongue-in-cheek both about the situation and about video games in general. Yup, video games…the board game in the book and the movie has been changed to an old-school cartridge-run video game, and the kids who find it and play it (and are stuck in the story until they complete it) are literally transferred inside the game, rather than having the occurances of the game happen to them in their home.

And of course, when they enter the video game, they are turned into characters, two of whom are played very well by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jack Black. The other two are good too, I just didn’t recall seeing them in anything (turns out I had seen Karen Gillan, as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but didn’t recognize her without a ton of makeup and costume…!)

Anyway. Even though the end is not much in doubt, this is a fast funny ride of a movie, very enjoyable, and worth your time. And I don’t want to say any more, the jokes and plot twists are too good to give away.


Blade Runner 2049

October 12, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

Bears some relationship to Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But not much…

This otter is old enough to have seen the original Blade Runner in the theater. Yes, some people walking on this earth are actually that old. And what was released in the theater had a truly awful ending, which was rectified when DVDs were invented and we all went out and bought the Director’s Cut (which is the one to watch, kids, just sayin’).

And in fact, I have not seen it since I started this blog on January 1, 2002, so it has indeed been a while, although I think Mr. Otter watched it while I did something else and I saw the best bits over again.

Anyway. So Blade Runner is a very old classic movie, justly famous, well written, good actors, blah blah blah. Amazing.

And…now there’s a sequel.

So first: this review contains

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

SPOILERS

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mr. Otter and I had a rare afternoon together with nothing planned. We had heard many conflicting things about this movie, about half good and half bad. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score in the 80s, though, which is usually a good sign. So we went to our local Emporium du Movies to see it.

And…hm. I liked the look of it, not quite as low-rent and filthy as the original, but they had a ton more money, and this time they had computers (the original Blade Runner was one of the last analog-effects movies that wasn’t purposely made without computers). The light, scenery, sets, everything was visually stunning.

The actors were good- Ryan Gosling, although he had an emotional range that went all the way from A to about D, was good in a part where he didn’t know stuff and was trying to find out. Robin Wright was great, I didn’t even recognize her, although I did recognize David Bautista. And of course there was someone else I recognized…but we’ll get to that.

And I am not at all a prudish Otter, but they sure threw in as many naked women as they possibly could. No men, just women. Hmpf. Although the scene where he started to have sex with both the prostitute and his computer lady was REALLY good.

The music was PORTENTOUS. Mostly I didn’t notice it, which is good (it’s always a bad sign when you notice the background music in a movie) but every now and then, it would get VERY MEANINGFUL to let us know that SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING. Especially toward the end of the movie.

I thought the first couple of hours (oh yes, this movie was TWO HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES LONG, this was one of the problems) was pretty good- the plot was good, everything was fine…then, when the scene moved to what I think was the remnant of  Las Vegas…it all went south.

It got PRETENTIOUS. And MEANINGFUL. And DEEP. And…just took itself WAAAY too seriously.

And Harrison Ford, reprising yet another famous role. I’m waiting for him to drive by in a souped up race car, 90 years old and trying to find the guy he’s supposed to be racing…that’s pretty much the only iconic role of his that he hasn’t done again lately…

Why couldn’t they just write a good sequel-ish script, make a good story and leave it at that? Why does this have to be a direct Harrison-Ford-involving, rewriting-the-original, spawning-yet-another-franchise kind of thing?

The two things they did right was that A) Gosling WASN’T the child of the replicants, and the reveal was very good, nice foreshadowing without giving it away; and B) the dog didn’t die. Because that’s always a deal-killer Chez Otter.

But seriously? This was WAAAAY overblown. And also, even though it was nice to see a movie that took some time with scenes and characters and all that, this needed an hour cut out of it. And I would volunteer pretty much the whole last hour for the chop, as well as the long loving pans over the computer-generated apocalyptic landscape. That was at least half an hour of movie time.

Yes, you probably need to see it if you loved the first movie. Enjoy it for what it is and don’t expect too much, and more importantly don’t be surprised when the third (of course there’s going to be a sequel, that was obvious) shows up.

But I won’t be in the theater with you, I’m done with this. I’m going home and watching the original over again.

 


Wonder Woman

September 2, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins          Movie Reviews

Princess Diana, raised among Amazons, is drawn into our world by a WWI aviator who crashes his plane on her secluded island home.

This movie had awesome buzz. A female superhero in her own movie DIRECTED by a woman? Hellz yeah, about time. But…what if it’s awful?

No worries. This was so good that even Mr. Otter condescended to say, wow, that wasn’t bad for a superhero movie…!

Even though they had to include an origin story (usually the kiss of death for me, but a lot of people don’t know her underpinnings, and besides, it’s fun) it was fast-paced, well written and not boring. I liked that the older Amazon women weren’t wearing makeup and (of course) still looked AWESOME, except, y’know, the way REAL PEOPLE look awesome without Hollywood magic being done to their faces.

Gail Gadot is perfect as Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, radiating confidence with a hint of vulnerability,  and Chris Pine is an excellent foil as her love interest/WWI aviator who leads her through the maze of 20th century American life, and the complexities of same during wartime.

I really liked this- the story and characters were engaging, it was brought up to the present time very well (the movie is basically a long flashback.), and unlike pretty much every other movie DC has made lately (Batman vs. Superman, I’m looking at you here), it WASN’T whiny and boring. Kudos to the team, can’t wait for the next one!

 


The LEGO Batman Movie

April 8, 2017

legobat

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

Yet another Batman movie…but wait! This is LEGO Batman!!

Okay, embarassing fact: I loved the LEGO Movie and have (so far) seen it three times. And when I saw the trailers for this, I was so excited. Because it looked like they were going to take the usual Batman plot points and do the same kind of amusing turn-them-around thing they did in the first one.

I also love Batman, he’s one of the few costumed superheroes for whom I actually read some of the graphic novels; not just the ordinary stuff, but the dark alcoholic self-hating lonely Batman? I love that stuff.

So I went to see it the week it opened…and I was not disappointed. Batman (voiced by Will Arnett, who also did Batman’s voice in The LEGO Movie) is moody and self-loathing, and is forced to let people into his life. And it’s done with wit and charm and great special effects, none of which I am going to describe here because it was so much fun to see it play out onscreen.

Trust me, this one’s a winner for adults as well as kids, and you’ll watch it more than once given a chance. I certainly intend to! Want to come over and see it again with me?


The Last Remake of Beau Geste

April 8, 2017

lastbeau

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Very loosely based on the novel Beau Geste by P. C. Wren

Two Englishmen end up in the French Foreign Legion because of the theft of a famous and valuable jewel.

Confession: I, the Otter, am a HUGE French Foreign Legion junkie. I have a couple of dozen books (plus just about everything P.C. Wren ever wrote, and I’m not kidding), and have seen all the movies and tv shows I can find on Le Légion étrangère. 

I saw this movie when it was new (a couple of times, I think, back when you had to see it when it was at a theater, because there was no way to watch it at home when you wanted to…yes, I’m old.) and I remember that it was hysterically funny. Now, there is a phenomenon which we Chez Otter call the “Caddyshack effect”, where you remember something you saw when young as being awesome and it isn’t when you see it twenty or thirty or forty years later…but I was willing to take the risk.

I saw this on Amazon.com, and bought it…and a bit later Mr. Otter and I watched it, with not a little trepidation on my part.

And it was fun. Silly 70s era fun, with a lot of good people (Michael York, Ann-Margret, Marty Feldman, and a host of people who were well-known then but not so much now) being pretty amusing. The plot was silly but good, and gave a couple of nods to the novel, and it was nice to see it again.

Not one of the funniest or best movies of all time, but certainly fun to watch, and (more importantly) not at all disappointing. Whew.


Copper Canyon

March 19, 2017

copper

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Oh, you know, the bad guys are taking advantage of the miners in the small western town and the local beauty asks the guy for help and he doesn’t want to but he falls in love with her and takes care of business.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme was Hedy Lamarr. One of the reasons we chose her was that she made such a broad range of movies, especially this one, which is a western.

And- bonus!- it streamed for free. Now that all the video rental stores are gone, and Amazon and Netflix are going head-to-head, older movies are sometimes hard to find. We had to buy three of the movies we watched for this New Year’s Day fest, because they weren’t available anywhere.

So we watched it. We did take a short break in the middle when a couple of friends and their kids came over, but otherwise we paid attention.

And…it wasn’t bad. A typical late 40s/early 50s (1950, to be precise) western, with pretty scenery, a so-so plot with a couple of amusing parts, Hedy Lamarr looking gorgeous and acting fiesty, and Ray Milland cracking jokes and trying to act all aloof but he’s really taken with Hedy and if it means coming out of hiding and saving the town from the evil Yankees who are stealing from the peace-loving ex-Confederate miners (yup) then that’s what he’ll do.

A perfectly okay Western, totally watchable.


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.