7 Days in Entebbe

March 20, 2018

entebbe

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A ‘Inspired by True Events’ story about the hijackers who took a planeful of people (including a hundred Israeli citizens) to Uganda, and how the Israeli government sent special forces troops in to rescue them.

Mr. Otter and I went to see this; both of us, of course, were around when it happened, but considering that it was the month I graduated from high school, I wasn’t reading a lot of newspapers at the moment. But nobody at that time could miss hearing about it, it was a huge deal. And still is.

This movie…is not as good as we hoped it would be. I can’t speak for absolute historical accuracy, but they spent a lot of time trying to humanize the terrorists, which neither Mr. Otter nor I thought was either a good idea or very well done.

There was also a big plot thread with one of the soldiers and his girlfriend, who was pissed off that he wouldn’t be around to see her dance performance (really? Army guy is supposed to not follow orders to see your show?) and many cuts to the dance itself, which was an modernish thing that had us saying, Huh? Here is what Mr. Otter found out about it afterwards, because (good librarian that he is) he looked it up:

Mr. Otter: Apparently the first one is a piece about conformity among
the Haredim, which is supposed to somehow tie in to Israel’s tough
stance vis-avis the Palestinians. It’s a fairly famous piece, first
danced in 1990. The other piece is probably something about something,
too.

The second piece was during the credits, and was also a weird modern thing. And btw, this is not a reflection on the dancers, who were excellent; it just seemed out of place in a movie like this, especially with no explanation. I would have been happier with more politics and soldiering and less touchy-feely. I wonder if this stuff was put in specifically so that women would come to see an action movie?

This was okay, but not great. There was not enough tension, and the politics and public opinion were mostly told rather than shown…we were pretty nonplussed by the whole thing.


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.

 


Coco

January 23, 2018

coco

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A boy searches for his lost great-great-grandfather…in the Land of the Dead.

EVERYONE I talked to told me that this movie is awesome.

But it’s Disney, I said, I’m not crazy about Disney movies. They’re kinda all the same and kinda predictable.

No, said Everyone, this one is different and it’s really good.

Whatevs, I said, and rolled my eyes.

Then last Friday, it was raining and I decided to go have a multi-movie day at my local ‘plex. There were three movies about to leave town, and I had a few movie passes left from the batch that I had gotten, so I managed to work them all in…and this was second. After Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which was awesome and funny and a hard act to follow.

But this movie totally did. Everyone was right. This was a great movie.

Yes, it’s an animated Disney movie, so you know that

  • The animation will be excellent.
  • There will be a kid doing something to repair his/her (his, in this case) family.
  • There will be a cute animal sidekick.
  • There will be a villain standing in the way, maybe a scary villain (but it’ll be Benji-peril)
  • There will be a heart-rending scene toward the end that will make me cry like a bitch whether or not I want to.
  • All will be well in the end.

And all of those things were true…but in a very very good way. This story is about a Hispanic boy whose great-great-grandfather left his ggg’mother to be a famous musician. The only picture of him has the face torn out of it, so all the kid is going on is family legend. He ends up in the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos, makes a friend whom he tries to help, finds the person he’s looking for, and things go differently than he expects, but not (at the end) so badly.

And although it’s nice having a boy be the main character in a Disney movie (not unheard of, but rare) and it’s nice seeing a Hispanic community and having them and their lives and celebrations as the center of the story, the BEST thing is the animation.

This is WONDERFUL animation, even in this day and age. The real-world part is good, but when he enters the Land of the Dead, it’s breathtaking. I won’t spoil it, but be preparted to say WOW a lot. I certainly did! I don’t use the word STUNNING much anymore when it comes to special effects, but it’s appropriate here. If you can see it on the big screen do it, this is one time when it won’t be nearly as awesome on your tv.

And the flying leopard!!!

Just…go see it. It was great. Thank you, Everyone. You were right.


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.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi

December 28, 2017

lastjedi

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The second in the third series (7, 8, 9 in the franchise). Things look bad for the Good Guys. What will they do?

I would highly recommend that you A) see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens before seeing this, and B) see this movie before reading this review; it’s full of

SPOILERS SPOILERS
SPOILERS

and I really don’t want you coming after me with rage in your heart.

I also wish to apologize for the length of this review, but, like this movie, it’s not as long as it will seem…

I talked to several people after I saw this, and our reactions were so mixed I’m going to make this review a kind of dialogue between C-Dub, who most emphatically did NOT love it, and me, who was not entirely happy with it, but didn’t dislike it as much.

I will say also that C-Dub and I are women of un certain age and that when I asked Maid-of-Awesome and her hubs Soccer Sam, both in their early 30s, they loved everything about this movie.

So here we go:

Otter: I liked a lot of things in The Last Jedi, but the thing that kept annoying the crap out of me was that dress that the Admiral (Laura Dern) was wearing. Everyone else was in uniform. Even Princess Leia had a black dress and a military-cut tweed cape; I actually had to look back at her costume to confirm that she WASN’T in uniform. Then there’s the Admiral of the Fleet in a full-length dress that the costume designer is happily telling everyone, It’s PUCE! like we’ve never seen puce before. The reasoning being that the director wanted everyone to ‘see her body language’ and make her look elegant. I thought at first that it was supposed to give the impression that the Rebel Alliance had to leave so fast that she had no time to change, but srsly, if it had been me, five minutes after getting on the ship, I’d be, bring me some jeans and a uniform jacket NOW!

C-Dub: Yes! Everyone is in uniform, but the woman admiral is all dressed up like she’s going to a ball, in a long gown that would trip her if she had to run. How is she an officer on duty in that get-up? The admiral’s collar bone showed through her dress, and Rei showed cleavage. Why? If you’re an action hero, or an officer, you don’t point up your sexuality, you hide it. It’s not a strength, it’s a vulnerability.

Otter: And also, I can’t help thinking, if a man were playing that part, would he be wearing a tux and shiny shoes? Would he have a form-fitting bodysuit that was cut away to show his muscles? No, he’d be in a (probably elegant) uniform, WITH HIS RANK INSIGNIA ON IT. And speaking of costumes, Rei’s arm wrappings look cool, but either she leaves them on all the time, in which case they’re going to get dirty and ratty, or she has to have someone else dress her every morning. As anyone who has tried to put a bandage neatly on their arm with the other hand knows, it’s not easy and often doesn’t look that good. Cool looking costume choice but impractical.

C-Dub: Every major action was an event I’ve already seen in a Star Wars movie, beginning with: any enemy armament you want to destroy, you do so by launching an individual toward it under heavy fire, and they have to drop a bomb down a slot. Saw that in the Death Star. You’d think they would have fixed this weakness by now, but no . .

Otter: Yup, I caught that too, and had the same thought. I think the idea is, one tiny fighter can get in where a lot of them or a bigger one can’t, but they’re beaten that horse to death. I was disappointed to see it yet again.

C-Dub: And the major plot line, chasing down the rebels and picking them off, is like a slow speed chase. All the other fractured plot lines serve to mask the fact that this one event– chase the rebels, pick off the rebels, chase the rebels, pick off the rebels– is the one main event of this story, and it is unpleasant, and unsatisfying.

Otter: It certainly seemed to take forever. And the whole ‘we can put power to the shields but then we’re sitting ducks’ just seemed to be a weak plot device to give the Rebels time to figure out some way to save themselves again at the last minute…which, btw, felt JUST LIKE the scene in the original movie (which will forever be known to those of my generation, who saw it in the theater when it came out, as STAR WARS) when the Death Star is closing in on the Rebel moon, and there’s a countdown as the Death Star gets closer and closer to being able to fire, which of course doesn’t happen. Again, been there done that.

C-Dub: Then another major plot line, hunting down the code breaker, is stupid. “We need to break in to this one place on the enemy ship, to do this we need the one guy who can break the code, to find him we have to go to this other planet, seek him out, and bring him back with us, and then sneak aboard the enemy ship and break the code to get at the device, which is allowing them to hunt us down.” It is just one thing, in one place, guarded in a way that needs hacking (not 10 guards that need fighting. It’s otherwise unguarded.) So so so so so contrived. So that they can go to the other planet (in the middle of the ongoing rebel chase).

Otter: Yup. The casino was cool, the racing beasts (Fathiers) were really great, but this made no sense, not only that they would have the time to do this in the middle of the countdown and there are Empire ships everywhere but they can get out and in again to do this? But also, I agree, way too contrived. There could have been a dozen other exciting ways to break into that part of the ship, and this was not a good one. My disbelief hit the theater floor with a thud.

C-Dub: Speaking of the Fathiers, I saw a documentary last year about child camel jockeys in the Emirates — boys as young as 2 are used to race camels. The details of the racing on the casino world was right out of that documentary, except that the camels are pampered and the jockeys are abused. It was annoying to see that modern story cut as pasted into the movie.

Otter: Well, actually I had no problem with this, it’s been done in a lot of places and times. not just in the Emirates. I liked the kids, and how they were presented; they weren’t just abject slaves, and in fact with the reaction to the Fathiers and this world and the last scene where the kid obviously shows Jedi powers, they might end up in the next part of the story. Who knows?

Otter: And (since I mentioned CGI animals), I really liked the Porgs. Awwww! so cute! but they have personalities. And speaking as someone who REALLY REALLY REALLY hated the Ewoks and everything Ewok-related, that’s saying something. And the Vulpices (the crystal foxes) were just so beautiful.

C-Dub: Okay. But cute cgi aside, I felt like the reality of the story changed at the convenience of the writer. The bad guy (Han’s son) is so powerful he can choke a person without touching them, but he had to fight really hard against the red guys.

Otter: Yes! And he CUT THEIR BOSS IN HALF! You’d think he could take care of them by waving his hand!

C-Dub: And he is SO WHINY…

Otter: I am going to partly agree with you there…I’m still having flashbacks to the ultimate whiny teenager, Hayden Christiansen as the young Darth Vader. If I could have the Death Star burn those three movies out of my brain, I would probably be glad to do so. But saying he’s not as bad as the worst example is not much praise. I do like that he’s not awfully handsome. He’s normal-good-looking, which is nice. He’s conflicted by his feelings for Rei and also his embracing of the Dark Side. I have to say, I was expecting them to recreate the Han-Leia love-hate-banter thing, and so far they have not done that, which is good.

C-Dub: Rei is — what? She has no character.

Otter: I admit, after seeing the previous movie two years ago, and only once, I had a hard time even remembering any of the characters’ names. I remembered Finn, and that he used to be a Stormtrooper, and that he and Rei (whose name I didn’t remember) were chasing around looking for something, and that she found Luke in the end while everything was blowing up and Han Solo died. So I spent a certain amount of this movie just remembering who people were and what their relationships were. But all I have for Rei is “determined Jedi wannabe”. That’s not much.

C-Dub: The death of 99% of the rebels is not a good ending. In the first set of movies that we saw, they rebels beat the Death Star and won. There was hope. In this movie, they are reduced to a small shipload of fighters. That is a miserable ending. But there’s hope, because the camel jockey boys will tell one another the story! — that’s right out of Camelot. All their major events are derivative. Even their minor events are derivative. There isn’t an original thought in this entire film.

Otter: I agree that things look bleak for the Rebels, but I’ll reserve judgement until the third movie. Remember how we all felt when Leia was a prisoner and Han was frozen in that ice stuff? and yet it all worked out. So Otter the Optimist will forget all about the three horrible prequels and give Disney the benefit of the doubt.

C-Dub: Nope, not me.

Otter: There were a few other things I liked about this movie. I did like that the older women (Leia and Laura Dern), clothing quibbles aside, were strong characters and had no trouble asserting their authority.  I also liked the way they did the CGI at the end, on the salt-world, Crait; there is red under the salt, which shows up when anything disturbs the surface. Walking, flying vehicles that break the surface (and what was up with those flyers with the wierd rudders? What were they thinking?) and weapons made very visually satisfying red splashes and clouds. BUT when Luke shows up, and walks out of the fortress…his footprints don’t turn red! Huge giveaway, but so understated that many
people I talked to didn’t notice it the first time. I liked that, well thought out.

Overall, I thought it was good; the bad stuff wasn’t horrible, and the good stuff was satisfying (except for the things that made me say, Huh?) I’m hoping for better and tighter plotting next time. And I have to say, although I noticed Mr. Otter looking at his watch, I never looked at mine, I was along for the ride.

Thanks, C-Dub, for showing up as guest reviewer!