What We Do In The Shadows

January 4, 2018

shadows

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A group of vampires living in a house together in Wellington, New Zealand, decides to tell their side of the story.

The New Year’s Day Videofest for 2018 had the theme Hollywood Around the World. When we were putting together the movies, there was one we couldn’t find anywhere, so I started looking for something from Australia and New Zealand, came across a review of this and said, that’s it!

And we were glad of it, because it’s really funny. Three vampire from 200-500 years old, and their 800 year old master (who looks like Nosferatu, and lives in the cellar) are sharing a house. They have let a documentary film crew into their lives because they want to go public and change how the world sees them.

They are all hilarious in their own ways, all the ancillary people in their lives who are interviewedand when a modern vampire complete with smartphone is added to the mix, it gets even better.

This is smart and funny, the characters are great, and I just don’t want to say too much for fear of giving away all the good stuff. See it, you’ll love it too.


Gold

January 4, 2018

gold

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A modern-day prospector (1980s) strikes it rich in Indonesia, and along with a lot of money comes a lot of trouble…

This was movie #5 for the New Year’s Day Videofest (theme: Hollywood Goes Around the World) because A) a lot of it takes place in Indonesia and B) I wanted to see it in theaters and missed it.

Matthew McConaughey is one of my favorite actors, as well as being a Serious Honey. He has reinvented himself from romantic lead in romcoms to a lot of varied and interesting movie roles, and is very very good at them.

This one was no exception. Here he is the 3rd generation owner of a family mining company that is going down the tubes and he is desperate to make that one big strike…with the help of a South American playboy/prospector he does, only to run into trouble from the IRS, the Indonesian government, and Wall Street investors.

This movie is loosely based on real events but they change a lot of the later ones, including the ending. Having said that, this was interesting, exciting, and well-written. McConaughey (aka Mr. Dimples) is awesome as a desperate wheeler-dealer caught up in his own story and devastated when things go south. Bryce Dallas Howard is also excellent as his love interest, and Edgar Ramirez as the gold-finder are good as well.

A good roller-coaster of a movie, with an ending that is not easy to predict.


The Thing

January 4, 2018

thing

Internet Movie Database       Movie Reviews

Based on the short story, “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell, Jr.

Scientists at a research station in Antarctica are attacked by a Thing.

It was the New Year’s Day Videofest, and the theme was Hollywood’s Version of the World. I have always wanted to see this IN A LIGHTED ROOM WITH LOTS OF PEOPLE AROUND so it was a perfect choice for Antarctica.

And not only was it good, but it was not oogie at all…it’s basically Alien or Jaws, the monster picking people off one by one, the survivors getting more frantic and over-the-top with damage control.

The underpinnings (scientists alone at a research station, no way out, can’t let it get loose or the world will end) were very good, and the buildup was great. Kurt Russell was his usual no-nonsense kick-ass self, very enjoyable, and the characters of the scientists who had to deal with this menace were good.

And the monster was scary and gross, and very well done.

A good time was had by all!


The Brave One

January 4, 2018

brave

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A Mexican boy raises a bull for a bullfight.

The New Year’s Day Moviefest (theme: Hollywood goes Around the World) was in full swing, and there were a bunch of us having a great time watching movies. This was the entry for Mexico, and Mr. Otter and I had been wanting to see it because it won a Best Picture Oscar in 1957 for Best Original Story for Dalton Trumbo, whose name couldn’t be on it because he was blacklisted.

And in fact his name was not on the version of the movie (streamed from Amazon) that we watched, either.

It’s sweet and sentimental, and very very dated.

On the one hand, it’s a good straightforward story-the boy raises the bull for the ring, kind of ignoring the whole ‘the bull dies at the end’ thing. At the last minute, he tried to get him reprieved, even talking to El Presidente, but the reprieve comes too late. The ending is good, and believeable.

On the other hand, it’s old fashioned, predictable and sentimental. It’s a story we’ve seen over and over, and there was pretty much nothing new added.

The thing that was good about this (and I’m sure this was Trumbo’s writing shining through) was that the Mexican characters were all normal characters, rather than ethnic stereotypes. There were scenes in the school with the teacher talking about Mexican history (chronologically backwards, which made us all laugh) and in the end, the boy is going from famous place to famous place through the very modern Mexico City, and much of that seemed like it was put in to show American audiences a non-stereotypical view of Mexico and its people.

The one thing that was very very dated was that everyone spoke stiff formal English, to show that they were really speaking Spanish to each other, instead of just talking like normal people, but that’s a small quibble.

For the time, and the kind of movie it is, this was pretty good.

 


Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

December 26, 2017

rare'

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A company is excavating a remote mountain in Finland to unearth a long-frozen Santa Claus, but a local kid does research and realizes that this is not a good idea…

We had dinner on Christmas Eve with Maid-of-Awesome and Soccer Sam, and he was all about this movie and how good it was. So on Christmas afternoon, Mr. Otter, Ottersis and I settled down to watch it…and we agreed with Soccer Sam.

This is a well-written and often funny movie that takes legends and brings them to life in the modern world, and points out the difference between the old version of Santa and our jolly friendly Santa Claus. The villagers in the tiny Finnish town where it takes place are funny and interesting, and the action (given the premise) is believeable.

The kid is really cute, without being icky, and the ending is perfect.

This is a (pretty bloody and violent) Christmas gem, watch it if you get a chance.


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!

 

 


Beauty and the Beast (2017)

September 3, 2017

beauty

Internet Movie Database
CinemaSins         Movie Reviews.

From the fairy tale by Charles Perrault.

In order to save her father, Belle agrees to go live at the Beast’s castle, and of course they fall in love and his curse is lifted.

There are SPOILERS ahead. Just go on and read this anyway, it’ll save you from having to see it.

Hey, Disney! I have a great idea! Why don’t you take one of the BEST MOVIES EVER, the 1991 animated version, with good writing, an innovative story, lyrics by Howard Ashman, and some of the most romantic scenes ever…and do a COMPLETELY SCREWED UP REMAKE?

<facepalm> Why, oh why did they do this? There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH IT…let’s count them, shall we?

  1. Live action. Now, this might have been okay, and in fact I was looking forward to it, if they had just remade the original, exactly as it was, but changing the animation to real people and settings; that would have made it different enough to be interesting, but kept the parts that made it good.
  2. Emma Watson. I really like her, and she looked good…but she can’t really sing. She was in there trying, and hit all the notes, but in my head, I was comparing her with the memorized voice of Paige O’Hara, and Ms. Watson just didn’t cut it.
  3. Gaston. Luke Evans was in there trying, but he just wasn’t convincing. And one of the best parts of the original is that Gaston is purely and simply self-centered chauvinistic evil, so you can really get behind hating him. It seemed to me that they tried to soften his badness and give him more of a personality. Didn’t work.
  4. All the furor over Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character. Whatever. Firstly, it’s 2017, guys, that shouldn’t even have been an issue. Especially that he is their first. Secondly, he’s the villain’s stupid sidekick. Way to be inclusive, Disney. Great step forward, there.
  5. Kevin Kline. Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. Was he out of money or something?
  6. TIM RICE. Oh my god, I will never forgive them for this. The original has about five, maybe six songs, some of them repeated with other words or used as a theme for a certain character. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken were an amazing duo, and I am still sad about Ashman’s death; he was THE BEST LYRICIST at Disney, and losing him was awful. So when Mr. Otter and I were watching this, and I was still at the point where I expected it to follow the brilliant original pretty closely, suddenly there was a song. I don’t remember which one, maybe Kevin Kline sang it…and I said to Mr. Otter, WTF? This isn’t one of the original songs, they added it.  In fact, they added several, and (I said to Mr. O) they sounded like bad Anthony Newley songs…and I wasn’t far wrong. They hired TIM RICE to do three songs. Menken said, We wanted to add material where it felt organic (what does that even MEAN?). The new songs are awful and kind of boring.
  7. TIME TRAVEL. No joking. I am actually going to include the plot synopsis from IMDB because I can’t even make myself type the words: The Beast later shows Belle an enchanted book that allows anyone to travel anywhere they want to go if they can visualize it. Belle places her hand in the book and they are transported to an old house in Paris. It was once home to Maurice and his wife when Belle was a baby. The Beast finds a doctor’s mask, indicating that Belle’s mother was killed by the plague. A flashback shows Maurice tending to his wife as she is dying. She tells him to protect Belle, and all that was left behind was a glass rose, which Belle finds. Why? Why on earth is there any need for this? If you look up the word GRATUITOUS in the dictionary, there will be a reference to this sequence. By this point, Mr. Otter and I were hooting at the screen.
  8. The ending. Not only does a bridge crumble in the nick of time to send Gaston to his doom (granted, in the original he slipped, couldn’t get a handhold and fell off the tower, but at least it was satisfying) but THE BEAST DIES. Yup, stone dead, and everyone and everything in the castle feels the curse falling on them forever, they’re turning into the objects that they have been animating, and it’s all over. But no! It’s Benji-peril! Disney has the sorceress who originally cursed the prince and the castle COME IN AND SAVE THEM ALL. Not Belle kissing the Beast just in time. No. She failed, he failed, they all failed and if the sorceress hadn’t decided to come in and do her magic, it would all have been for nothing. This is on a par with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, where the fairies actually defeat the dragon for the prince but he gets the credit for it.
  9. No, that’s enough, my whole brain is curdling just thinking about this movie.

This was a bad idea, badly done, badly executed, badly rewritten and DISNEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.

I’m going to re-watch the good one to get the bad taste out of my brain. Want to join me? we could have a sing-along….