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.

 


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!


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!

 

 


Justice League

November 22, 2017

jl2

Internet Movie Database        Movie Reviews

There are a few small SPOILERS here, but you already know what’s going to happen in this movie…a bad guy appears because of shiny powerful boxes, starts destroying cities, the good guys get together and…

Oh, wait a minute, that’s The Avengers.

Um, there are short intro segments about several superheroes who end up banding together to…

Nope, Avengers again.

There’s a bad guy somewhere beyond Earth that’s come back to take over…

Oops. Avengers.

Bright shiny boxes of dangerous stuff from the beginning of time.

Nope. Ditto.

A bunch of superheroes who don’t get along but have to work together?

Been there, done that.

Joss Whedon.

Sigh.

You know how in a lot of families, there’s a smart and charming and successful kid, and then they have a sibling who wants to be just like them but JUST DOESN’T GET IT? That second kid is DC. Oh my god, they want to be the Marvel Universe SO BADLY.

Emphasis on the BADLY.

Wonder Woman was great. I liked many things about Suicide Squad. The TV show Gotham is way amazing, and we love it, Chez Otter. But otherwise? Even when Marvel SHOWS THEM HOW TO DO IT (the aforementioned Avengers movies) they JUST DON’T GET IT.

Now, I have to admit, they are not working with a great palette…I have never been a fan of Superman, and Batman is only as good as his foils; my favorite part of the Batman universe is ancillary stuff that take place in Gotham (which is one reason that I’m enjoying the TV show so much). In this movie, Wonder Woman was fine, The Flash was cute and funny, the cyborg guy was the smart-but-conflicted-and-bitter one, and Aquaman…well, we’ll get to him.

And I have to say right now, I hated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and didn’t much like Man of Steel either. And I knew when Superman ‘died’ that it couldn’t be permanent, because why would DC shoot themselves in the foot like that?

So yes. DC is trying to be Marvel but just failing miserably, and this movie was no exception. Sure, Gal Gadot is a really good Wonder Woman, and they actually gave her a couple of good moments. Ben Affleck as Batman…well, he was in there trying, but he didn’t have much of a part; he divided his time between being Dark and Serious, and trying to cajole everyone into staying together. The cyborg guy (whose name I just don’t remember because he was really not memorable) was there so they’d have someone to be super smart, and The Flash was the cute funny kid who makes the smartass comments.

But all of their character traits are superficial. Like they’re holding up signs saying, I’m the genius and I love my dad or I’m cute and funny and will learn to be brave when it’s needed. But nothing they do really tells us about their personality, it’s just fitting them into the boxes.

Aquaman. Yes, he’s kinda hot, and he can kick ass, but what the hell was he doing in this? The baddie stole the shiny box from his people and he was righteously angry, but he has no special powers on land, aside from looking awesome and being strong. He got ONE SCENE where his water powers were useful, just by chance, and that’s it.  And what was up with that whole thing where he was talking to his mom the Queen underwater, in their castle in Atlantis and…THEY NEEDED AN AIR BUBBLE TO TALK? Even in a comic-book universe that makes NO SENSE AT ALL. There were plot holes one could drive a Mack truck through, but of all of them that was the one that made me go, Huh?

Speaking of stupid plot holes, if I were waking a preternaturally powerful being (Superman) up from the dead with ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA whether or not he’d be insane or evil or even kind of homicidal to the guy who did him in, I wouldn’t rely on his love interest to focus his attention on the Light Side, I’d damn well have a big ol’ hunk of green kryptonite ready to go JUST IN CASE. Duh.

And DAMMIT even though he’s been dead since the first movie, they still managed to work Kevin Costner into this movie. That’s THREE TIMES I’ve seen him when I swore I’d never see another movie with him in it. Dammit.

This was ponderous and slow-moving. The villain was stupid and not scary or even interesting; he was so generic that Schwarzenegger could have played him (and sometimes I could have sworn he was…). The ‘boxes that can end the universe’ thing was kinda stupid, especially since even though they were put together, the good guys (of course) managed to pull them apart at the last minute at no actual cost to themselves. The banter was dull; the only person who got good lines was Alfred, which (much as I like Jeremy Irons) is just sad. And I really got tired of the ‘pose shots’, where they’d stop for a second in a heroic pose. Once in a movie is okay. Maybe twice. But that’s it.

And Joss Whedon. He kind of plays both sides of the fence, Marvel and DC. When Zach Snyder (writer and director) had to step down, Whedon took over for the last six weeks of shooting…and gets no director credit. But he DOES get a screenplay credit, which according to The Rules means at least 33% of the script is his. Interesting. But even Joss Whedon couldn’t save this turkey.

This is a SUPERHERO ACTION MOVIE, folks. What it should be is fast-moving, fun to watch, and full of action balanced with character development. What it should NOT be is dull and ponderous, with characters who have no chemistry together. And of course as soon as you bring Superman into the mix, it kind of ends any suspense the viewer might be feeling about whether or not the universe will be saved; there is no chance of mission failure.

On the other hand, the mission is the movie…and the movie is a failure. But this is an ‘epic’, so…EPIC FAIL.

 

 


Thor: Ragnarok

November 7, 2017

Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

Thor is trying to prevent Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard, duh.

The third movie in the Thor section of the Marvel combined universe, and a worthy addition. There are SPOILERS here, I think, so I’d recommend that you go see the movie first; it’s WAAAAY more fun if you don’t know what to expect.

I’ll just wait here while you run off to the theater or stream it (if you’re reading this later than I wrote it).

No hurry. No pressure. Take your time.

Okay. All done? Here we go:

WOO HOO! what a fun movie!

And I am so tempted to end my review there…what more needs to be said? But I’ll go on, Devoted Fans, because it’s fun to babble about stuff like:

  • Serious Honey Jeff Goldblum! I saw this in the theater with Ottersis and we both said OMG at the same time when he appeared. And what a great role!
  • The whole thing where half the movie takes place in a science-fictional other world instead of our own, but that’s connected to ours (Hulk and a Valkyrie both show up, so obviously SERIOUSLY connected.) And I loved the trash heap/sybaritic rich people/gladiator thing, it was great.
  • Speaking of Valkyries, what a great character she is. Looking forward to seeing more of her.
  • Yay for Thor’s haircut, a very good change for him going forward into a new kind of role!
  • Also Yay for Thor actually being kind of less of an asshole, and being able to stop hitting things long enough to look at a situation and figure it out, or actually talk to people first. Good character development.
  • AND Dr. Strange showed up, in a great short sequence. Very nicely done! I was so happy to see this, I love the interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe. Not just that the backstories are connected  but that characters show up in other characters’ movies, like Tony Stark in Spider-man: Homecoming.
  • Awesome special effects, but (within the MU thing) believeable. And the special effects were never there in and of themselves, as awesome as they were; they were there for the story. Speaking of special effects, Hulk going mano-a-mano with Fenrir, Wow.

Okay, I’ll stop babbling about the things that stood out in my memory, having seen it about 24 hours ago. Can’t wait to see it again and catch details.

One thing (because I’m such a picky picky reviewer): If Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown, btw, an Otter Family Favorite Actor) is destined to destroy Asgard, but the point is made that Asgard isn’t a place, it’s the people, why is he stomping on the buildings and letting the ship full of Asgardians get away? doesn’t that make the prophecy untrue? Hm. Maybe I’m overthinking it…

Anyway. A seriously excellent addition to the MU canon, fun, well written, beautiful to watch (Cate Blanchett, yes indeedy!) and a really good time was had by all. Go see it, you’ll be glad you did.


Geostorm

November 7, 2017

 Internet Movie Database          Movie Reviews

There is a grid of weather satellites controlling the weather all over the world…but of course things go horribly wrong…

I would normally put a SPOILERS warning here, because I’m going to give away the name of the bad guy (as if you can’t guess it from the cast list) so if you really care, stop reading. And do yourself a favor, don’t watch it either; really, you will thank me for this advice.

So yes. Climate change and all, so the nations of the world actually work together and put up a continuous sphere of satellites, controlled by an international space station, to control the weather.

So let’s allow this ridiculous premise, that anytime this century (much less soon) this would even be feasible, much less possible. The science police are out to lunch, and we won’t tell them.

The footage of this web of satellites doesn’t just have all of them in geosynchronous orbit…no, they are PHYSICALLY CONNECTED by lines of some kind of metal into a grid. Really? What kind of stupid is that, to think that that’s more believeable than just spacing them in orbit? Plus the space station is OUTSIDE this net, and shuttles go up and down. Could they have left a couple of big holes for this? no, the shuttle has to get through the spaces, which don’t really look big enough.

Then…the station was built under the aegis of, and control of, the US, but will soon devolve to the United Nations, and of course somebody doesn’t want it and is sabotaging the weather (over specific cities, we’ll get to that later) but has left clues and things so the Good Guys can Figure It Out. I’m tired of villains who are stupider than I am. And of course it’s Ed Harris, as soon as you see that he’s in the movie you know he’s the bad guy. Because Ed Harris.

And speaking of actors, how sad is it that it looks like 300, as awesome as it was, is probably the zenith of Gerard Butler’s career? And I say that not having seen most of the stuff he’s done, but now he’s in a high-budget dog like this? Sad. Just sad.

So yes, high budget. Really amazing sets and (at least in the trailers) mind-blowing special effects. Except…there were more or less 5 cities that got destroyed…and it was…well, not very exciting. Plus there was no indication that when each of these catastrophic events happened they would have repercussions outside the specific area of that one city, which was even more unbelieveable than the rest of this turkey. They were individual cities, and you saw cgi footage of stuff happening, but since there were no characters we knew involved, and the damage was limited to one tiny area, it was…just cgi.

And that (aside from the predictability and the stupid science) was the problem with this movie- for a thriller and a special-effects disaster movie, it was kind of boring. The plot was not very good (at least  they tried to give an explanation for there being a self-destruct device on the international space station) and none of the characters was really more than stock- the smart girl with a gun who is in love with someone she shouldn’t be in love with, the maverick who built the thing who is going to have to die to save everyone except he won’t die, the bad guy who turns out not to be the bad guys because (surprise) Ed Harris is actually the bad guy, the maverick’s daughter who is in the movie SOLELY to try to make us care whether or not the maverick survives the self-destruct thing, etc. etc. etc.

Meh. Skip it. Not worth even watching for free.