theotterlimits

Otter's Eclectic Movie Reviews

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

So I had a day free, and there were several movies I wanted to see in the theater before they left town. This was one of them, of course. Because I have been going to the Star Wars movie ever since the first one came out (the one that everyone in my generation will forever call ‘Star Wars’, not ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’. Because that’s just how we are.)

And (except for Disney buying everything Star Wars, which I think nobody in the universe could miss) I really didn’t pay any attention to the hype or reviews or talk about this one; I wanted to see it cold and make up my own mind. I was kind of surprised at the title, though, since it is Star Wars 8. But whatever.

And I was ten minutes into this one trying to make the plot and characters jibe with what I remembered from Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (including a sighting of R2D2 that completely puzzled me) when it hit me…this isn’t a sequel…it’s a PREQUEL.

(And there are SPOILERS ahead, just so you know.)

This is the story of how the Rebellion gets the plans of the Death Star so Luke can drop the bomb in the original Star Wars movie. And as soon as I realized that, I knew where it was going. Because even someone like me who doesn’t pay much attention to the Star Wars universe except to see each blockbuster as it comes out and rail against George Lucas for destroying my youth by mucking with the original films remembers the scene in Star Wars where they show the plans to the pilots and tell them that the people who smuggled them out died.

Okay. So now I know where this is going. And from then on, it was kind of fun.

They used a computerized version of Peter Cushing as Governor Tarkin. This is something that still bothers me. It’s one thing when an actor who has been hired to play a part dies and the filmmakers do what they can to cover for it (as in Gladiator) but a whole other ball of wax when an actor is used in a movie and has no say about what the movie is or his/her part in it because they’re dead and their heirs okay it…another example of this was in this movie, and it appalled me. On the OTHER hand, I suspect that that is where things are going- actors and actresses will not be filmed, they’ll just license their image to be computerized into a movie, and that’s what the public will see. Hm.

But back to the movie.

They have a couple of scenes with Darth Vader, again voiced (although noticeably older, of course) by James Earl Jones, and the second one was especially good; this is the DV I remember, the one who is completely E-VILE and really really scary.

The main characters were good, and the writing was excellent. Even knowing that none of them would survive, it was great to watch it all play out, and since it’s leading up to (and overlapping just a bit) with an already existing movie, having them repeat scenes from that movie worked just fine.

A really enjoyable entry into the Star Wars universe!

Moana

moana

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Moana leaves her village and sails to an island to raise a curse from her people.

Maid-of-Awesome saw this and told me how much she liked it. Now, M-o-A likes Disney. She rarely sees a Disney/Pixar/whatever animated movie that she doesn’t at least like, and many of them she comes back raving about. But this one, she said, was one of the best she’d ever seen.

I am not nearly as much a Disney fan as M-o-A, but I do pay attention to her recommendations. I was planning a multi-movie day, and made this the first one I saw. And I was not disappointed.

It’s lovely to see non-white, non-Euro girls given the central role of ‘Disney Princess’. Moana is charming and beautiful, but also strong, smart, capable and determined. And other characters are standouts too…her sidekicks, the rooster and the pig, are not annoying (as the snowman in Frozen was, I hated him sooooo much…!). Most of the villagers are typical for these movies (especially her father), but her grandmother is wonderful.

And of course Maui, with his storytelling tattoos, is a great character too. The animation is wonderful, the story is compelling; there is so much to like in this movie.

And…a bit into the movie, she sings a song about how she feels about the ocean and how much she wants to be there and misses it when she’s not. And that song exactly summed up how I feel about the desert. I know, there’s more to the song, she’s leaving her home and all…but I really liked it.

This was better than most Disney movies, and didn’t have the kind of flaws that some of them have. I really enjoyed it!

Saving Mr. Banks

banks

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

P. L. Travers (author of the Mary Poppins books) comes to Disney to oversee the writing of the screenplay for the Mary Poppins movie in 1964.

Sure, I saw the movie as a kid. At least, I think I did…maybe on TV? or during a Wonderful World of Disney special? or…hm, maybe I didn’t. But I knew all the damn songs, you heard them EVERYWHERE in the 60s. Feed the Birds, and Chim-Chim-Cheree, and A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down, and Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious…you literally heard them EVERYWHERE. Or were forced to sing them in school. Or to listen while other people played or sang them.

But there was a time, after Mr. Otter and I were married, when we were both really sick with colds at the same time; we were so sick we took a week off work and stayed home together. And we were bored. So we went to the local video rental store (yes, kids, we’re talking about a time before Netflix, Amazon, or DVDs, if you can imagine that) and rented some movies to watch. On VHS tapes.

And this was one of them, because neither of us had seen it for at least thirty years (and I couldn’t actually remember having seen it at all…just clips of some of the dance numbers, or hearing the songs).

And we watched it…and we HATED IT. Oh my god. We love Julie Andrews in musicals. We love Dick Van Dyke. But this movie was just appalling. Inane, stupid, childish in a bad way. Van Dyke’s accent just made us cringe and grit our teeth, and when he dropped his pants and started dancing with the penguins, I just put my head in my hands til it was over.

WE HATED THIS MOVIE.

Now, the other parenthetical thing I must say is that although I have been a librarian my whole career, mostly in Children’s and Teen Services, I have never read the original Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers. I don’t know why; I read a lot of older British authors (Nesbit and Lofting and others) but I was never drawn to these.

And when this movie came out, I was actually interested because I like Andrews and Tom Hanks so much…but I never went to see it.

So now, Mr. Otter and I were home, and he had brought home some movies to watch, and as is often the case I took a look at them and said, meh, you watch them and I’ll read or do computer work or something and keep you company.

And this movie sucked me in within ten minutes.

What a good movie. Charming writing, great characters, a wonderful plot, great storytelling, good acting. I loved this movie.

I’m not going to say much about it, because one of the joys of it was watching it unfold. But this is a REALLY REALLY GOOD MOVIE.

The only thing I’ll add is, make sure you don’t turn it off at the end; watch the credits. Because there is footage of Travers working with the Disney writers and it’s JUST LIKE THEY SHOWED IT IN THE MOVIE.

This was a winner, we both thought it was excellent.

Risen

risen

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A Roman tribune is given the job of keeping the Jews under control during and after the Crucifixion, then finding the missing body, and of course he comes to believe that Christ is the Messiah.

Mr. Otter and I have a guilty secret. We love cheesy biblical epics. Like this. And especially this. So when he brought this home from his library to watch, I was all over it.

And it stars Joseph Fiennes, whom I consider to be serious eye-candy.

And…this was actually pretty good. Fiennes is serious; he has a job to do and he is doing it, and trying not to let the supernatural get in the way until he can’t deny it any longer. He comes slowly around to his new fellowship with the people he’s supposed to be rounding up, and his change of heart is believeable.

The settings, costumes and soldier-stuff is also very good; they really did try to make this look as authentic as possible. It’s a little ponderous, because you just can’t be flippant about the Crucifixion…well, okay, Monty Python can, but nobody else.

So this was surprisingly not cheesy. It’s a little slow, and takes itself a little seriously, but it’s not at all bad.

And it’s nice to see that Joseph Fiennes is still good eye-candy. Whew.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

babyjane

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

An aging child star is taking care of her disabled sister.

Mr. Otter and I were traveling and enjoying Karina Longworth’s wonderful podcast series, You Must Remember This. On this trip, we listened to her series about Joan Crawford, about whom we knew very little, and decided to watch some of the movies Longworth discussed. This was one of them.

At this point in their careers, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are both older (54 and 56 respectively…oh my god, both younger than I am now!) and were looking for a vehicle that would give them, if not a comeback, at least some money.

Davis is truly awful to watch as she does an excellent job as the child star whose self-centeredness repels all who know her and who gives up her ‘career’ to take care of the sister who was disabled in a car accident she causes (this is all in the first ten minutes of the movie, no spoilers here.) She dresses, acts and looks like pure crazy. She is a joy to watch, truthfully, because one thing you can always say about Davis: she didn’t care how bad she looked or how much the audience hated her if the part called for it.

Joan Crawford should have looked equally awful, but couldn’t bear to, so she is more made-up and put-together. Her character is more sympathetic, and is good counterpoint to Davis’ horror.

I won’t say any more about the movie, because I don’t want to give anything important away. But seeing the characters go further and further down the path they’re on is like eating too many sweets…you know you’re going to regret it and you should stop, but you just can’t.

This is definitely worth watching at least once. Tacky, exploitive, brash, annoying but compelling.

Doctor Strange

strange

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

A surgeon is hurt in a car accident and turns to Eastern teachings to heal, along the way becoming a powerful sorcerer.

When I was a young otter (4 1/2) I literally learned to read on comic books…my family were taking a long vacation, and there was NOTHING TO DO during the driving, so I learned to read. And I loved comic books until I turned 11 or 12 and decided they were not as much fun as books. (Don’t worry, I found out the truth later and now love them.)

We had a lot of comics in our house- Archie, Batman, Superman, Thor…but my very favorite was Dr. Strange. I still have a three-part series packed away somewhere, torn and crumbling and probably destroyed by roof leaks in this house we’re in right now…but they were my favorites.

So imagine my joy when I saw previews of this, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, whose very name is so much fun to say.

Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch. Benedict Cumberbatch.

Okay, sorry, I had to just roll it over for a bit. Anyway, the previews looked good…but I know how sucky origin stories can be. Like this one. And this one. Even if the later movies are good (and both second movies in those series were) a bad origin story is like eating something nasty that makes everything taste bad for a while.

But I am an optimistic otter, and the previews looked good…so one day I hied me to the local emporium du film, and watched it.

And I was so happy with it. Sure, it’s an origin story, but it’s well told, and has good character development…he has mostly stopped being such a jerk by the end.

There are excellent actors- Cumberbatch (he of the excellent name) himself, Rachel McAdams (whom we love ever since we saw the first season of Slings and Arrows a million times over), Mads Mikkelson (with AMAZING makeup that kept getting better and better) and Chiwetel Ejiofor, whom we Chez Otter are old enough to remember as the bounty hunter from Serenity…and the guy Kiera Knightly marries in Love Actually, an Otter Family Favorite Film.

So there is serious talent in this movie. Now, there is a storm of controversy about the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, the leader of the Tibetan group (Kamar-Taj) where Strange learns his stuff. And yes, it would be nice if Hollywood cast Asians for Asian roles. I loved Benjamin Wong, btw, he was great as the Librarian.

On the other hand, Kamar-Taj did have people from all ethnic backgrounds, so at least it’s not beyond conjecture that someone other than a Tibetan could have risen to the top…as we know Strange may do someday when he’s done saving the world from America.

So I’m on both sides of the fence about that one, but leaning toward the ‘should have been an Asian’ side just because of the general refusal to cast people of Asian descent for Asian roles.

That said, this was really good. Well plotted, funny, GREAT special effects, Mads Mikkelson being E-VILE, as we say, and good action sequences. The next movie has been set up (and there is a hilarious teaser trailer at the end) and I went away happy, and in fact bought this on Blu-Ray as soon as it came out and have watched it again.

The Otter is pleased.

Now, Voyager

voyager

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Olive Higgins Prouty

A meek spinster who has been under her domineering mother’s thumb her whole life gets psychiatric help and celebrates her freedom by taking a world cruise, coming back a mature and confident person.

This is a movie that I have always heard about as incredibly romantic…I knew it was about a ship, and that Bette Davis and Paul Henreid were in it, but nothing more. And (I think) it was in listening to Karina Longworth’s excellent blog on the history of Hollywood, You Must Remember This, that this movie was mentioned and we said, we should watch this! So we did.

And it was NOTHING like what I expected. Rich Boston folks and a nebbishy daughter who can’t say BOO to her mother. They had Bette Davis dressed and not-made-up to look plain and mousy, so that when she took the trip and had an actual love affair, she could blossom into being beautiful.

It wasn’t a bad movie, for what it was worth; the actors were good, the writing was good…just not our cup of tea. When it was over, I looked up the book, and found out that not only was this novel that I had never heard of (I didn’t know the movie was based on a book) a best seller, it was one of a series of 5 books that were all famous in their time (1931-1951). She was also the writer of the book Stella Dallas, which is another movie I have heard of but didn’t know it came from a book. This book/movie were both evidently a huge boost to positive perception of psychiatry, as well

So…interesting. The movie is good, albeit predictable, and we found the ending a little hard to swallow…nobody is that nice! But it was good to finally see this. Worth the time for the actors and settings, not so much for the plot.

The Accountant

accountant
Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Ben Affleck plays an autistic-spectrum accountant, who, for various reasons, is not only the best accountant ever, but also can out-fight anyone and shoot a rifle extremely far and accurately. He lives a quiet life but is actually the accountant for various bad guys around the world, and the treasury department is trying to track him down.

Mr. Otter and I decided not to be at home for the little trick-or-treaters, and decamped to the movie theater instead, and this is one of the movies we saw.

This was watchable, but had a lot of problems. Firstly, Ben Affleck, who I think is actually a good actor, did a good job playing an autistic person-but since that means having a flat, un-outgoing personality and no real verbal skills, it meant that the character was not very interesting to watch…and he’s on screen for almost the whole time.

Secondly, there were HUGE coincidences and unexplained plot points that made no sense. I won’t go into them, one of them is the big reveal of the movie, but seriously, both Mr. Otter and I said, no way! Just…no way could that ever have happened.

John Lithgow was good, and it was nice to see him, but it was not much of a part.

And…no, this one really isn’t worth a long review. Good actors, some good action sequences, mediocre writing. Skip it.

Denial

denial

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From the book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt

A Holocaust denier sues a historian for libel when she says his facts are wrong. Because the lawsuit happens in Britain, the historian has to prove that the Holocaust happened.

This was a well-made and interesting movie. Didn’t hurt that Serious Honey Rachel Weisz played the historian, and Otter Family Favorite Actor Timothy Spall the denier.

Good courtroom drama, a bit of cliffhanging ‘what will happen?’ at the ending (although the fact that a movie was made at all means that the audience knows the ending already) and good writing and characterization.

An excellent and important piece of history, ably presented.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

seven

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A remake of the 1960 western of the same name, which was itself based on Kurosawa’s movie The Seven Samurai. People in a small town hire seven down-and-out gunslingers to protect them from the bad guys.

So here’s what’s different:

  1. It’s not a Mexican town, it’s an American Southwest mining town, and the evil industrialist mine owner is trying to make people work harder so he can make a ton o’ money. I’m not sure how killing the workers is supposed to achieve this, but whatevs…
  2. Instead of an average Joe (or Jose, since the original was set in Mexico) being the town spokesman, a beautiful girl whose husband has been killed in the reign of terror (hired thugs shoot up the meeting in the church, then burn it down, ordering people to leave the bodies there as an example) goes on her own and hires some guys.
  3. She runs into Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, up to hijinks as a bounty hunter and gambler, and when she shows them some money and mentions the bad guy’s name, they’re all about helping her. And they find a bunch of other guys they know who can help.
  4. For a town girl, she sure does well at spending something like a week in the saddle doing hard riding…and they all seem to find their friends (in hiding) pretty well too.
  5. The seven are carefully multicultural and inclusive. The original group o’ white guys included Charles Bronson pretending to be Mexican, and Russo-Japanese Yul Brynner pretending to be just another guy, but the rest were Euro-types. The new set include Denzel, a Korean actor playing ‘generic Asian’, an ACTUAL Mexican guy playing a Mexican (must be a first for Hollywood) and, of course, a Native American. Plus three white guys.
  6. There is very little explanation of who these guys are, why they would be willing to do this, or what their connection is with Denzel.
  7. The Comanche (who, btw, is played by an actor who at least has some Native ancestry…Alaskan, but at least authentic…) of course runs into his arch enemy during the final battle and they fight. Because like women in a battle, who must be shown fighting each other, Native Americans must also be shown to fight each other instead of whatever target shows itself. Sigh.
  8. Don’t even get me started on the final battle, which was full of eye-rolling stuff like Gatling guns that accurately shoot single bullets over distance.
  9. And…of course they rescue the town, fulfill their various destinites, and (those who are left alive) ride out victorious.

I kind of liked this as I was watching it, but my brain kept saying, but…what about this? No, that’s not right…but this other thing? no, that doesn’t work either.

Even with the star power hired to attract viewers, this is a letdown. Pass on it and watch the original again instead, you’ll be glad you did.

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