Ready Player One

April 26, 2018

ready

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline.

A dystopian future where everyone lives in a virtual world and a contest pits teens against a soulless company in a race for money and power.

Okay, you all know what I’m going to say right off the bat, don’t you? Yup. READ THE BOOK FIRST. The day after I saw this I had to wear my excellent new t-shirt that says, Don’t judge a book by its film adaptation…because oh, boy is that ever true in this case.

Now, don’t get me wrong- this is a good movie. Teens competing with the evil corporation that wants to destroy something of value to them, beautiful special effects, a good solid plot, good actors, what’s not to like? Nothing. It’s a good, likeable movie.

 

But if this is the movie:

  mandala 2

This is the book:

mandala

I read this book when it came out in 2012, and loved it. And since then I have listened to it on audiobook (excellently read by WIL WHEATON) at least three times. I love love love this book. And there are so many things that they just couldn’t do in the movie…not ‘couldn’t do right’, but just could not do at all. The whole movie is packed to the gills with pop culture from the 70s to the 90s- books, movies, music, computer games, video games, television show, you name it. There is no way anyone could get the copyrights to actually use all that stuff.

Plus the main character, Wade/Parzival, narrates the whole thing in first person, and literally the first quarter of the book is backstory to the rest of what is going to happen…again, no way a movie can do that. There was a tiny bit of the backstory, because the story wouldn’t make sense without it, but not much.

But mostly- and I know many people don’t agree with this- I think the characters in the book were excellent, well drawn and really interesting. And that is the place the movie most falls short- the characters are just ‘teens on a mission’ and the viewer really doesn’t care about them at all, because there is no investment in them or their world or their problems.

So I’m not going to be a hardnose and say, don’t see the movie. I’m just going to say, if you read the book first, you’ll enjoy it more because IT’S SO MUCH BETTER.

Listen to the Otter. She know what she’s talking about.

 


Justice League Dark

April 26, 2018

dark

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The first team-up of the sorcery/magic Justice League group.

Okay. So first, you need to know that I am a HUGE John Constantine Hellblazer fan. I have the whole 300 issue run in graphic novel form, and Son of Man was one of the three comics that made me start reading graphic novels again after a 30 year hiatus. I LOVE Constantine.

So when DC did “The New 52”, finally ending the 20+ year run of the original comic, and rebooted it as this Justice League Dark teamup, I was skeptical…and read the first several issues and ranted for days about how bad they were. Constantine’s character was WAY watered down from his original foul, mouthy, semi-evil bad boy origins, and being a team player is NOT on his list of job skills.

But I somehow got a copy of this movie recently, and thought, well, let’s give it a try.

And…you know…I liked it.

The story is the usual thing, mysterious evil stuff at work and who’s doing it? and let’s go a lot of spooky places and fight stuff and find out.

But the story was good; Zatanna wasn’t as annoying on screen as she is in print because hearing her cast spells is much better than reading it  (she casts magic spells by saying things backwards, which I find extremely distracting, and kind of stupid). I always like Jason Blood, because Etrigan (a demon who talks in bad verse) is hilarious, and the group worked well. Constantine was really pretty well represented here; they had to clean up his language A LOT, but he was still rude and mouthy, obviously hot for Zatanna, and not so much a team player as a ‘I’m going to do this, you can follow if you want’ kind of person.

I enjoyed this a lot! might go back and give the later comics another try…


Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

April 26, 2018

gaslight

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

From the graphic novel of the same name by Brian Augustyn

Batman and other Gotham characters are recast in a late 1800s Gotham City, and must stop a series of “Jack the Ripper” style murders.

I loaned several seasons of the truly excellent Gotham TV series to a friend and his teenage sons, and one of the sons got me this as a thank-you present. And they say millenials don’t do well with social interactions! A very thoughtful gift!

Anyway. I took this along when I went to the Red Cross to do Apheresis, and it was excellent for lying for a couple of hours with needles in my arms- interesting, well done, suspenseful and fun.

The animation was good- stylish but not overfancy. The characters were good too, and the whodunit ending was surprising, if you haven’t read the book (and I don’t remember reading it if I did, so I was certainly not expecting what happened.)

My only slight problem with it was the period setting, which was a mishmash of both British and American and several different decades of things, references and happenings.

But, to misquote another movie…”Forget it, Otter. It’s comic books.”

Worth seeing if you are (like me) a fan of Batman or Gotham.


Touch of Evil

April 26, 2018

evil

 

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson

The hunt for a murderer in a town on the border between Mexico and the US involving a doctor, his wife and a hard-boiled cop.

CoyoteRambles was visiting, and for once, we all had plenty of time together to hang out. So of course alcohol and movie watching zoomed to the top of our list.

Mr. Otter and I led with Leningrad Cowboys Go America, one of our favs that CoyoteRambles had never seen…and he picked this as the second movie of the evening. He is a huge fan of noir, and is also amazingly knowledgeable about movies. He stopped the movie a couple of times to tell us interesting things about this movie…including the fact that the first ten minutes or so are all one long shot. Which didn’t impress me til I saw it…the camera goes up to roof-top level, back down again and follows several people and cars around several blocks….pretty amazing!

This movie was a good noir pick; the outstanding thing was the lighting and cinematography; it was BEAUTIFUL. The story was good, with a lot of twists and turns. Janet Leigh as the woman caught up in the plot was good; it was a little weird seeing Charlton Heston in brownface as a Mexican doctor, but at least he didn’t try to talk with an accent…he actually was pretty good. And Orson Welles played the corrupt cop that’s all over everything in the investigation…and I don’t know if it was an overabundance of makeup or his age, but I seriously didn’t recognize him, even when I knew it was him.

Speaking of recognizing people, it was fun to see Dennis Weaver as a very young clueless hotel night manager, and both Marlene Dietrich and ZsaZsa Gabor in vampy bit parts. Very nice!

This was a good one to watch with friends and alcohol- the story was interesting enough to keep us going but nobody minded some comments or discussion during the movie as well. A solid pick from Coyote Rambles!

 

 

 


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.


Ghostbusters II

March 1, 2018

ghost

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

The Ghostbusters are back! and this time they’re working with Sigourney Weaver to stop a centuries-old evil guy who wants to return to life…

OtherOtter and I were hanging out and decided to watch a movie, which of course meant trying to find something we both had not seen lately and wanted to watch…this one fit the bill nicely. She had not seen it and it has obviously been at least 16 years since I have, since there is no review of it.

And it was fun! it’s not as funny as the original, of course, but then nothing is. The Ghostbusters have fallen on hard times and disbelief, Sigourney Weaver has been married and divorced and has a child but no husband, and there is a bad guy wanting to be reincarnated into her kid. Hijinks ensue.

This was, of course, dated…and watching it with a 20something, there were many times I said, you’ve never heard of (reference they just made), have you? Sigh. But we enjoyed it.

Not top of the list, but good for an evenings amusement.


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.