Black Panther

February 22, 2018

panth

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A superhero fights the bad guy to save his country.

Seriously, that’s the basic plot…sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it?

But unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you know how much more there is to this movie-not only an excellent addition (#18, I think) to the Marvel universe of movies, but the first big-budget high-profile superhero movie about a Black superhero and country.

The hype was astronomical, but the trailers looked damn good. Even Mr. Otter wanted to see this, so on a Monday holiday a few days after it opened, we sauntered down to our local Emporium des Movies at 9:30am, thinking we’d walk right into the 9:45 show.

Were we ever wrong. Not only that show, but the WHOLE DAY, was already sold out. So being retired, and Mr. Otter having Tuesdays off right now, we bought a ticket for the NEXT day, getting excellent seats, and went home and watched the second season of Preacher instead. And loved it.

But I digress.

So on Tuesday, there we were, Mr. Otter with his chai and me with ice cream, and the movie…was amazing. Beautifully filmed, gorgeous sets, costumes and special effects, good acting, good writing…pretty much what I expect from most Marvel movies, although this was better than most.

T’Challa (the eponymous Black Panther) has recently inherited both the name/powers of this superhero, and the rule of the kingdom of Wakanda, from his father. Wakanda (which is somewhere in central Africa) is a super-technologically advanced country that also is sitting on the world’s supply of Vibranium, which is not only the hardest metal in the world (Captain America’s shield is made of it) but also incredibly valuable. This is one of the plot lines, since nobody else in the world (except for a select few) knows that Wakanda is anything but a backwater third-world country. The other is the contention between T’Challa and someone from his past, Erik Killmonger (The Bad Guy), and all kinds of issues about freedom and responsibility are raised. This was so well done that there is a big faction who object to how the movie played out and are on Killmonger’s side. That’s some seriously good writing, folks.

But the best thing was having a movie written by and starring Black actors that was so intelligent, had such great characters (especially the three women) and a really well-thought-out plot. (With no major plot holes that I could see…and that’s really rare for a superhero movie, even a good one.) What a game-changer. At least I hope it will be, and from now on superhero movies will have a whole lot more variety and inclusiveness.

Here is a great article by an African-American writer that talks about some of the racial issues and attitudes that were part of the impact of, and discussion sparked by, this movie, including the number of people who were rooting for the ‘bad guy’. This article has SPOILERS, which I am trying really hard to avoid in this review.

Basically, this movie was very, very good; run, don’t walk, to the theater and see it.


The Phantom Thread

January 23, 2018

phantom

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A high-end fashion designer in 1950s London meets a girl, and things proceed from there…

I am not one to go to a movie based on an actor that happens to be in said movie. That’s something Mr. Otter often does, but I am plot-driven; I am happy when an actor I like is in a movie I want to see, but I have to be interested in the story, or I don’t bother to see it.

Except in the case of Daniel Day-Lewis. I would go see him read a laundry list, and be happy to pay my (whatever ungodly amount they’re charging for movies now) for it.

He is a Serious Honey. What’s more, he is, in my opinion, one of the very best, if not THE best, actor on the Big Screen right now…and I have heard rumors that he’s retiring after this movie. More power to him for having a life, but damn I’m going to miss him.

Even in a slow, strange, beautiful movie like this, he is riveting.

And it was slow. And beautiful. And very character-driven. And not much happened, although the end made us both sit up and say, What?…but it worked. I don’t know if I’d go see it again unless I was in desperate need for eye-candy, but it was good.

And aside from also saying that if you are interested in fashion or costume design, you will have even more reason to enjoy this movie, I will say no more. Discover it on your own, like it or hate it, Day-Lewis is definitely worth watching. As are many of the cast, but who sees them when he’s on the screen?

Thank you, Daniel. But I certainly hope I’m wrong and this is not your last movie.


The Greatest Showman

January 23, 2018

show

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A musical about P. T. Barnum’s life.

I had seen posters for this, but didn’t know what it was about. Then I was talking to C-Dub, who said, Awesome musical with Hugh Jackman, loved it!

Hmmm, I thought, high praise indeed if C-Dub was so pleased with it…and I put it on my mental list of That Which Should Be Watched. Which, of course, is an IMMENSELY long list, off of which many things fall without my noticing, my mental being what it is.

Then, wonder of wonders, I suddenly had a free day in my schedule, and decided to spend most of it at my local ‘plex, and see three movies. Of which this was the third.

And I am happy to say that once again, C-Dub was right. This was an awesome movie.

Firstly, Hugh Jackman in a good musical.

Secondly, colors and lights and songs and dances. The songs were modern pop-style songs, but not bad, certainly fun to listen to even if I didn’t leave the theater remembering any of the tunes. The costumes are what you’d expect of a musical about the beginnings of the circus, and were great.

Now, there’s a lot of furor on the interwebs because in the movie Barnum is portrayed as basically a nice guy with a vision, maybe a wheeler-dealer, but a decent guy. In real life, Barnum was a slaveowner and pretty much did anything he could to make money, including funding minstrel shows and the like. Not really a nice man.

But you know what? this is a MOVIE. It’s not real life, nor is it presented as the truth about Barnum; in fact, it plays fast and loose with both the timeline and events of Barnum’s life. It’s a MUSICAL, guys, and NOBODY expects musicals to be historically accurate.

But thirdly, and most importantly, this version of Barnum is not only an appealing person, he is a friend to, and his show is a haven for, people who are outcasts and who are looked down on because they’re different- the circus performers and attractions. They bond and become confidant and strong together, and that is a very happy message, both in this movie and in life as it is today.

This was really fun to watch, and I left the theater smiling. You will too.

 


The Brothers Karamazov

January 9, 2018

kara

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Dostoyevsky.

Ivan is in love with Katya is in love with Dmitri is in love with Grushenka who is sleeping with the brothers’ father Fyodor while brother Alexi the priest tries to make peace and everyone despises Smerdyakov, Fyodor’s smarmy illegitimate son.

No kidding. I thought it was going to be yet another Russian political the-government-is-evil-let’s-have-a-revolution kind of thing…but no. It’s a big ol’ thundering family drama, full of anger, tears, forgiveness and lots of people ending up unhappy (because Russian).

Ottersis, Mr. Otter and I wanted to see this…not only is it the last movie we had chosen and not seenfor the New Year’s Day Moviefest 2018 (theme: Hollywood’s take on other countries) but also Ottersis and I are in complete agreement on the hotness of Yul Brynner, which is awesome. In fact, I am now promoting him to Serious Honey. You’re welcome, Yul.

So this takes place in the 1870s in Russia, and everyone is fighting over money and sex, and it’s actually really good. Although it clocks in at 2 1/2 hours, it moves really well, and what developed in the last half hour surpised me, if not everyone (Mr. Otter says he read the book but doesn’t remember it that well.)

And the cast list is a 50s roll call of good actors: Brynner, Lee J Cobb, Harry Towne, Claire Bloom, Richard Basehart, and (we were all surprised to see) William Shatner playing the priest brother. And he was actually good, and SO young!

But the best was Serious Honey Maria Schell, sister of Maximilian Schell, as Gruschenka. She was so good when she was onscreen you couldn’t look away from her- beautiful, a good actress, a worthy foil to Yul and his high horse, which he kept getting on…she was just amazing. I looked at the list of her credits, and as I thought, I’ve never seen her in anything except (and I didn’t remember this) a forgettable part in the first Superman movie from 1978.

Anyway. This was really worth watching- lots of drama, tension, pretty good writing and good plotting. Guess I’m going to have to read the book now…


Spider-Man: Homecoming

September 3, 2017

spider

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

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!


Guardians of the Galaxy 2

August 31, 2017

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews

The Guardians are back, and the universe needs saving!

Woo HOO! I was so looking forward to this movie…the first one was DAMN good, and the previews of this one were all excellent…but of course we know how that goes, don’t we?

I am SO PLEASED to say that this is a sequel that, contrary to the usual run of things, is at least as good as, if not better than, the original.

The main storyline has to do with Peter Quill/Starlord’s absent father, who shows up, and is everything Peter dreamed of his father being…or is he? Meanwhile, characters we think are bad guys might be good guys and vice versa, and of course there must be deadly danger, great action scenes, and snappy dialogue.

I was totally in tears at the end of this movie, and really really liked it; the two GoG movies together are a really excellent continued story, but either of them can stand alone, which is hard to pull off well.

Hurrah for the Guardians of the Galaxy!

 


A Knight’s Tale

August 28, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A squire pretends to be a knight and wins tournaments and his lady’s heart.

So there I was at the Red Cross, about to start apheresis, which takes about 2 1/2 hours. I wanted something amusing that would make the time pass quickly, and was looking over the shelves of dvds, nearly all of which I’ve either seen or don’t want to see…and saw this.

Now, I had picked up this movie AT LEAST THREE OTHER TIMES at my library or here or other places, looked at it, and thought, meh, another King Arthur retelling, even with Heath Ledger, not interested.

But this time? This time I actually turned the dvd over, and found myself looking at the back…and there a name leapt out at me:

ALAN TUDYK.

Alan Tudyk, for those of you who have not been fortunate enough to see it, was one of the cast of Firefly. And if you haven’t seen that series and movie, run right out and do it, I’ll wait for you.

Okay. So he’s one of our favorite actors, chez Otter.

Oooh, I said, even if it’s crap, I’ll watch it for Alan Tudyk.

And I watched it. And COMPLETELY LOVED IT. As soon as I got home I ordered it from Amazon and showed it to Mr. Otter as soon as he arrived, and HE loved it.

And I asked Maid of Awesome and Craftygirl and Ottersis WHY THE HELL HADN’T THEY TOLD ME TO WATCH IT?

Oh, they all said, I just assumed you had, EVERYONE has seen it, it’s awesome!

Sigh.

Heath Ledger and Alan Tudyk are two of the three squires of a knight (Mark Addy is the third). The knight dies suddenly, and William (Ledger) decides to take on his identity, win jousting contests and make them some money.

And of course shenanigans happen. When they showed the first joust, with the accompanying musical track, I fell totally in love with this witty and charming movie.

And that’s all I’m going to say. I won’t tell you THE BEST PART (Hint: Paul Bettany) because it’s hilarious how it happens. Honey Rufus Sewell is the bad guy, and James Purefoy (whom we like very much chez Otter) has a good part too.

This was absolutely a joy to watch, and I would be happy to do so again. Want to come over and enjoy it with me?