Iron Man 3

May 7, 2013

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CinemaSins       Movie Reviews

The third, and probably last, in the Iron Man franchise. And an excellent addition to the series.

Spider Jerusalem: Iron Man 3 is opening this coming Friday.

Me: Mr. Otter and I are out of town for the weekend, and I hate seeing stuff opening weekend. How about Monday?

SJ: Done.

And it was perfect. We went to our favorite Emporium du Movies, had excellent pizza for dinner and I smuggled in a huge pile of sugar and ate it all before the movie started. There was hardly anyone else in the theater except a full row of twentysomethings hooting and bellowing before the movie started; I was very pleased that they were PERFECTLY BEHAVED during the movie, I actually thanked them and told them I’d go to the movies with them anytime. They were amused.

But how was the movie?

EXCELLENT. Worthy. Full of plot twists and character development. Enough explosions to make even an otter happy. Good actors who were a joy to see- Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley were wonderful, and even Guy Pearce didn’t annoy me as much as he generally does. Gwyneth Paltrow was fine, she actually got to do something this time. Good writing, which is rare in the current crop of superhero movies- only The Avengers and these Iron Man movies make that a priority.

So yes, the otter loved it, will buy all three and is already planning a marathon. You coming over for it?


Les Miserables

January 4, 2013

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From the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, and dudes, if you haven’t read it DO IT NOW, it’s AWESOME.

Love + forgiveness = redemption in France in the early 1800s.

So this musical came to the SF Bay Area around 1990. And Mr. Otter and I, who love musicals, borrowed the soundtrack from one of our libraries and listened to it.

And we were not impressed.

But we had never read the book, and that was a point in our lives when we spent a lot of time reading to each other. So we got the book from the library and read it to each other.

The whole thing.

It took NINE MONTHS.

It is, after all, 1400 pages long; think of reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy out loud (which I have also done).

And it was GREAT. We loved it, and I have re-read it several times.

And after reading the book, we totally got the musical. Because now we understood and loved the characters, and the situations, and why everyone was doing/feeling/reacting as they were. And I saw the musical twice in San Francisco (with that huge revolving stage, it was amazing!). And I have the French, British and American soundtracks (the American is best) and have listened to them a billion times. And love them. And the book.

So guess how excited I was about the movie? Yup, on a scale of one to ten it was about 150.

We saw previews. I *vibrated* in my seat, I was jumping up and down so fast. I was so excited.

And then it was opening. On CHRISTMAS DAY, oh my god. No, I’m not THAT excited.

But…Mr. Otter and I both had the day after Christmas off, and it’s a big shopping day. Let’s go to the very first show that day at our local movie theater, I said. Everyone will either be shopping or sleeping in.

So we got there at 10 am, on a bitterly (for the San Francisco Bay Area, around 45 degrees) cold morning, before the box office opened. We were third in line, and the theater was half full…although when we got out, there were lines EVERYWHERE, and didn’t we feel smug?

So after all that…how was it?

Well, True Fans, as you know, I sent an email right afterwards to say how wonderful it was. I was overwhelmed. I was not the only woman in the theater crying my eyes out, I can tell you. It was really really amazing.

But…details kept niggling in my brain. So I decided to wait to review it til I had seen it again, which I knew was imminent.

And indeed, we ended up with a house full of guests over New Year’s, and the Barracuda, the Magyar Princess and I joined Bassoon Boy and Craftygirl at the 8:30 pm show on New Year’s Eve, figuring nobody else would be there. We were partly right, nobody else but ANNOYING SOCIAL REJECTS were there…someone kept kicking my seat, and the guy ahead of us had to make all possible noise with far too much food…but I digress.

It was really really good. Anne Hathaway was AMAZING, she just broke my heart both times. Hugh Jackman was excellent. I liked the guy who played Marius. I kept thinking Amanda Seyfried looked familiar, and I was right, I had just seen her in In Time. The actress who plays Eponine (Craftygirl says she was Cosette in the original production) was excellent too. And I liked Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter more than I have in anything else they’ve done.

Russell Crowe…not so much. Not a good choice. I always think he looks whiny and depressed because he has almost no facial expression…and in this movie, everyone sang in real time with closeups, so that was not so good. Especially the part where he can’t really sing that well. Sure, he was on key and hit the notes…but everyone else in the cast was a GOOD SINGER. Him? no. And it was painfully obvious, and a shame, because Javert’s songs are really wonderful if you can do them justice. Which he didn’t.

The cinematography, settings, costumes, all the STUFF was good. The bits of rewriting to make it comprehensible to people who have not seen the show or read the book (now you know why you should, don’t you?) were good.

What DIDN’T I like?

  • Russell Crowe. Okay, but not as good as someone who could actually look and sing the part AND ACT.
  • The rinky-dinky disneyesque song they added for Valjean to sing in the carriage as he takes Cosette away.
  • Cutting some really good songs that advance the plot and make more sense of it. Would it have been so hard to keep them in and make it a 3 hour movie instead of 2 hrs and 30 minutes?
  • Cutting whole characters (like Marius’ grandfather, who shows up for approximately twelve seconds).
  • Having Javert pin his medal on Gavroche. This is an affront, would never have happened and should never have been done. Feh.
  • Why didn’t Fantine lead him away at the end? did Jackman really have to grandstand? it’s what the song says, after all…and is an awesome ending. Wierd.

Overall? lovely. I’d go see it in the theater a third time. I’m probably not going to buy it, but would gladly rent it every couple of years. But really? the book is SO good and so much better, I’m just going to reread that. Join me!

Oh, and this is the best review ever.  Wish I had thought of that.

Also awesome: Les Mis in emoticons

Okay, one more: Nostalgia Chick talks about the stage show and the movie. Funny and absolutely on target, in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.


The Yakuza

December 21, 2012

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A movie about Japanese gangsters and an American who gets mixed up in a vendetta

I was visiting The Barracuda and The Dog Master, and he and I got to talking about movies. He loaned me several, and this one was great.

Firstly, the star is Robert Mitchum, who I’ve always liked.

Secondly, it’s about the Yakuza, the mafia-like Japanese gangster organization.

But thirdly and most importantly, it’s from 1974, which means that not only is it NOT solely a martial-arts fest, but also it’s an interesting, thoughtful Film Noir movie with great character development. Sure, there are kickass action scenes, but the people and what they do and why they do it is the most important part of this film. And the love story was so good, another surprising thing in an action film.

Brilliantly directed by Sidney Pollack, this was a real treat. Both Mr. Otter (who was dubious about it) and I really enjoyed it.

Oh, and the cats do just fine. Which is the part that Mr. Otter and I were concerned about, of course.


Up

December 18, 2012

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An old man and a boy scout-type travel to a lost South American paradise in a house lifted by helium balloons.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest (Theme: Flying)

Mr. Otter and I had just watched The Big Lift, which nobody else (Spider Jerusalem, Ottersis, Maid-of-Awesome and The Boyfriend) wanted to watch. The Squirrel Lady had gone home. We had time for one more movie…and this one, which is the one M-o-A really really wanted, was chosen. And everyone came wandering back into the den to join us again for our last movie of the Videofest. Nice.

Now I have to say, as much as I like animation, I have not been excited by the recent crop of animated movies. 9 was fine, but I really hated both Happy Feet and Wall-E.

So although everyone, including the aforementioned M-o-A, said Up was a wonderful movie…I was skeptical.

But they were right. Maybe not amazingly fabulously wonderful, certainly not the best movie ever, but fun. Charming in many ways. Worth seeing. Beautifully animated. I liked the talking dogs. A good movie. Okay, M-o-A?

Two side notes: I enjoyed the missing Amazon explorer, since I had just read a book about Percy Fawcett, his explorations and travels, and the ongoing search for clues about what happened to him when he disappeared in the 1920s.

Also, I love the NPR radio show Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me! and was listening to it two days later on my ipod, catching up on my podcasts, and the special guest for the December 5 show was Pete Docter, the writer and director of Up. He was very funny, and told some good stories about making this movie. You can download the podcast here!


Hell’s Angels

December 18, 2012

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Two brothers are fighter pilots in World War I and are in love with the same girl.

So there I was in Portland, last December, visiting Otterbro and the Mermaid. And while I was there, the Mermaid and I were talking about movies, and she mentioned that they had seen this, and about a powerful scene where the troops on a zeppelin have to lighten the load, and the soldiers on board are ordered to jump off to their deaths; she said, they jumped through this opening that looked like a coffin, it was an amazing scene.

Then I was talking to Spider Jerusalem when he and Ottersis visited for the New Year’s Day Videofest, and he (completely independently) mentioned the same scene.

Then, during the New Year’s Day Videofest, one of the movies was The Aviator…and the first hour of that movie involves Howard Hughes making Hell’s Angels, first as a silent film, then reshooting it as a talkie when (before it was released) it became obvious that the silent film was dead.

So I said, well, this is meant to be, and ordered it from Netflix.

And we watched it the other night, and it was really good.

The zeppelin scene totally lived up to what we were told; even knowing it was coming, it was chilling. The story, while having some parts that seemed totally predictable (as soon as the German challenged one brother to a duel and the other brother took his place, I was saying, okay, that’s foreshadowing, that’s what’s going to happen…and was I ever wrong!) is interesting and thoughtful. There’s one short scene of soldiers attacking from trenches, and I said to Mr. Otter, you know, the guys who filmed this REMEMBERED what it was like, or talked to people who did…it was recent memory for the filmmakers.

And oh my golly, the dogfight scene. Remember, it’s 1930- there ARE NO COMPUTERS. Which means that all those dozens of lovely biplanes are REALLY UP THERE, zooming around, swooping down on each other…it’s live. There are probably no more than one or two of those planes left now…what an amazing scene it is.

Jean Harlow is beautiful and brassy and unrepentant. What a breath of fresh air, instead of good girls who just seem to be bad or bad girls who just need the right man in their life…she was a bad girl who was perfectly happy that way. A great part for her, and this was her breakout role,

And I have to admit, I was totally in tears at the ending…it was really good. Mr. Otter and I agreed that this movie was WAY better than either of us expected, and we were glad to have seen it. So thanks, Mermaid and Spider Jerusalem!


Under Two Flags

December 18, 2012

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From the novel of the same name by Ouida, which (being a Foreign Legion junkie) I can’t believe I never read…

Sgt. Victor (Serious Honey Ronald Colman) is in the Foreign Legion because he took the rap for someone else, and of course is vindicated and also gets the rich girl (a very young Rosalind Russell, yowza!) at the end.

This is a lot of fun, actually, even with my husband pointing out that half the time what they called the ‘Foreign Legion’ was actually the Chausseurs D’Afrique (cavalry) instead…but we’ll let Historian on a Stick sit alone, muttering into his goatee, and get on with the movie.

Brainless amusement. Good scenes, Claudette Colbert as the beautiful native/Eurasian girl in love with the aristocratic guy, you know she’s gonna get bumped off to get her out of the way, but she’s so great to watch, and cute as a button. The scenes are good, the plot moves quickly enough that you don’t notice the huge holes (like Colbert’s conveniently disappearing father) too much.

Get some popcorn and enjoy, don’t expect great literature or moviemaking, but it’s certainly fun.


The Tune

December 18, 2012

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Animated feature about a songwriter who is trying to write the perfect song and hit the big time…

Life’s guilty pleasures:

  • Beer and chocolate
  • Game Boy
  • Stephen King novels
  • Cheap high heeled boots
  • Deep fried crap
  • Letting the cats sleep on the bed
  • This movie

Very strange and funny…Plympton has a really outre sense of humor, and most of the time I think his stuff is hysterical…this is no exception. Mostly, it’s just a bunch of songs with animations and a very loose plot holding them together, a time honored tradition since Yellow Submarine.

I also love Plympton’s signature scratchy animation style, it’s really wonderful. Most of the songs aren’t bad either…and who can resist the two guys in business suits whangin’ on each other? always makes me laugh.

The wierdness level is really high in this one…you just have to see it and decide for yourself.


To Be or Not To Be

December 18, 2012

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A troupe of Polish actors trying to get out of Nazi-occupied Warsaw.

This is one of the funniest movies ever…it was the night of the AGVAPSNBA, and the Squirrel Lady and the Bird Lady were over, we were chowing down on pizza, beer and cookies, and our theme was black and white comedies. What a wonderful bunch of films!

Jack Benny and Carole Lombard are husband and wife, the leading actors in this troupe. After a farce about the Nazis is shut down (due to Warsaw’s occupation) they put the costumes to good use, fooling the bad guys, saving the underground, and getting out of Poland.

This is one of the best things Jack Benny ever did…funny, understated, no scenery chewing…and yet he steals every scene. And Carole Lombard was at the height (and, unfortunately, end) of her career, beautiful, talented and just as funny as Benny.

The supporting actors are good, the awfulness of the Nazi occupation is not too heavyhanded (this is a comedy, after all) but not treated lightly, and the ending is satisfying.

Rent it, buy it, enjoy it, this one is a winner.


The Three Musketeers

December 18, 2012

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From the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Pere. This is the first half of the book, The Queen’s Necklace, wherein Our Heroes save the Queen of France’s reputation (and life) by foiling the Cardinal’s plot to discredit her.

France in the Early 17th century. D’Artagnan goes to Paris to become a Musketeer and finds adventure and romance.

Gosh, what a great flick. I was reading George MacDonald Fraser’s latest book, which is autobiographical, and he was talking about how much fun it was to write this movie and The Four Musketeers and I just had to watch them both again.

There are many versions of Dumas’ book around, but this is arguably the best. The director shot the whole book as one movie with an intermission, then it was decided to release it as two seperate pictures.

This one is more fun than the second…Funny, earthy, full of action and gorgeous sets/costumes, great lines, excellent cast, tons o’ swordplay, just an all around stylish film. This first movie sticks pretty closely to the book as well, which is generally something I like to see in movies made from my favorite books.

One of the best movies ever.


They Died With Their Boots On

December 18, 2012

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The story of George Armstrong Custer, ending, of course, in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

You know, this wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered…sure, it’s fairly historically inaccurate in many ways, but in other ways, it’s not bad moviemaking. The plot is good, and even if many of the characterizations are not really credible, they work well. And some of the historical stuff is fine, although of course, being Hollywood, the filmmakers just couldn’t bear not to improve it.

And Errol Flynn (serious honey from 1935-45) is in it, very very nice. He’s great fun to watch, chewing scenery like there’ll be no dinner tonight. Olivia De Havilland looks WAY better than she did in Gone with the Wind, and is a good foil to Flynn’s overacting.

And of course there are the usual supporting actors, including Sydney Greenstreet as General Scott, and Anthony Quinn as Crazy Horse, that famouse Irish/Mexican Sioux…

The battle scenes are good, although it was a hoot to see that they shot the Little Big Horn stuff in California…Montana sure doesn’t look like that! but again, they’re fun to watch, many good bits of action.

Worth owning and watching, if only for amusement.