Mark Ruffalo Sneaks in a Hulk Movie

We’ve had two prior Hulk movies no one was happy with, and then Avengers rolled around. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was the one we’ve been waiting for, gifting us with a charming, quietly surprising underdog in his version of Bruce Banner. His friendship with Tony Stark enchanted, matching Robert Downy Jr.’s alpha male character unassumingly, while Banner’s tender, unexpected, and  tentative relationship with Black Widow was satisfyingly organic (if completely up in the air at this point).

Suffice to say Ruffalo could sell the big green goods in a way no one since the 1970s could, when the combo of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno touched us via small screen.

All well and fine. So, will we finally we get a proper Hulk stand-alone movie? Apparently there are rights issues. Spiderman had rights issues, and it worked out eventually with Marvel’s Civil War and Homecoming. But at this point in the MCU (Phase Whatever), I’m not sure a Hulk standalone would fit. He’s shown up in an outstanding co-starring role for Thor: Ragnarok, and Hulk’s story will continue through Avengers 3 and 4 (the Infinity Wars).

According to this quick interview below, Hulk gets a “mini-movie” snuck in, spread out over the course of other Marvel ensembles. I guess we’ll have to be content with that. If Ruffalo is fine with it, we can be too.

Mark Ruffalo on Hulk Movie  [<—- You Tube link]

So…for Thor 3 – Ragnarok…Rotten Tomatoes has it rated among the highest-rated Marvel films yet. Our two RunPee Ragnarok reviews (here and here) rate it in the A to A+ range, and we agree it’s a magnificent addition to the MCU. Thor’s Ragnarok is hysterically weird and beautiful, with a great plot and stylish characterization. It’s also got a direct lead-in to Thanos’ big entrance. A must-see before Avengers – Infinity Wars!

Where the Hulk will continue his “mini-movie” is anyone’s guess, now that we know Bruce and the Green Guy are at dire odds in their uneasy connection.  We’ll probably see Bruce Hulk out again…but at what cost?

How would you continue — or possibly end — this story? And will a Black Widow romance be a part of it? We find out part of these answers during the first part of Avengers: Infinity Wars. Soon, friends, soon.

Read More Marvel-Related Articles on RunPee.com

 

Movie Review – I Feel Pretty

Two kinds of people will like this film: Amy Schumer fans, and anyone who is body conscious (meaning: a lot of women). It doesn’t treat Schumer kindly (all the humor centers on her being chubby, yet thinking she’s hot stuff), and that kind of thing will be offensive to some. My very pretty movie companion felt really sorry for the character of Renee, and walked out a bit sad. She expected I Feel Pretty to be a whole lot funnier and seemed a bit downcast about it all.

I actually found this silly fluff movie empowering. Early on, Renee gets knocked out, and wakes up to think she’s suddenly become thin and sexy. While I don’t usually like ‘cringe humor’, I did appreciate that the character of Renee wills herself into a great new life, coasting on pure self-assurance. It reminded me that confidence and a great smile are the best accessories a girl can wear.

Things bog down a bit when she ignores and embarrasses her old friends for the new ones, but that’s presented in a rote fashion (message: don’t ditch your good pals for the new cool crowd). This isn’t what the film is about, though, unlike say, The Devil Wears Prada (which I love; don’t judge). Let’s get back to the point about confidence: just say YES to being vivacious and happy in your skin, no matter what society tries to sell you about unrealistic beauty. It’s presented here that even the skinny models worry about their looks, while portly Renee gets attention and accolades by simply believing she is the total package. Others feel it, and come to believe it too. It’s a nice little reminder for us all.

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Review – Isle of Dogs

Do see Isle of Dogs if it comes anywhere near your theater. It’s creative and quirky, with a great voiceover cast of big stars…and this is honestly something I haven’t seen before. Everyone in the production really pulled out a stylish little film. There are moments in this stop-animation tale that are sort of strange and artsy (I’m not normally a fan of artsy), but the story settles into a small-scale kind of epic adventure once the dogs start talking. There’s light humor, and “biting” humor, so both kids and adults will be able to “sink their teeth” into this (sorry about the puns).

I appreciated the conceit that the dogs are totally understandable, and the humans speak in gibberish (to them, and therefore to us, unless you speak Japanese). That was pretty clever. All the dogs were given a loving treatment, with their own personalities, and best of all: they didn’t come across as furry talking people (as Disney/Pixar oft do with their animal sidekicks). Their behaviors and conversations were recognizably doggie. Another item: the dogs of “our pack” stoically bear the kind of dorky names people have given them across time, like Chief, Spot, Buddy, Rex, Duke, King, Boss…it was cute.

And be warned, the cats in this movie seem fairly evil. “Finding the Cats” could be a vastly amusing drinking game — the corrupt government officials uniformly carry them around; they appear as statues, as logos on appliances and storefronts, and as iconography incorporated into maps and artwork. It’s somehow both subtle and overt. I kept expecting the proliferation of cats to have some great meaning, but that would be too obvious. Isle of Dogs is smarter and sneakier than that.

Really, the dogs as individuals were great. I could have sat through an entire movie with just the pack, hanging out, talking about favorite foods and their masters, flirting with the females, and composing Canine Haiku. Anytime we cut away to the people in the city, I started losing interest. Fortunately, most of the movie centers on “our pack” in this doggie dystopia, and it’s really groovy. There’s a few heartwarming moments to get teary-eyed, scattered throughout, but no real sob-worthy scenes. (I always like a head’s up if there might be ugly crying in my movie future. Yes, I’m still wary of seeing Toy Story 3.)

And I’m a sucker for hearing Jeff Goldblum’s voice from a dog’s snout. (The man embodies quirk.) Listening for all the celebrity voices was a treat. The screen lists the characters and actors in the intro, but it goes by so quickly that you can’t remember who plays what dog by the time you meet them. Part of the fun is recognizing these A-List actors as the film plays out.

There are a TON of visuals packed into most scenes, and it occurs to me this is the perfect kind of film to own on DVD, and play when you want something enjoyable in the background on house-cleaning day. You’ll keep finding things you missed on prior viewings. I can think of several scenes I wanted to pause the movie at, just to keep up with the casually sly asides going by.

Well paced, easy-going, unusual, and at times highly satiric. A real creative showstopper, Isle of Dogs gets a well-deserved A.

Movie Grade – A

Movie Review – God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

This movie is a largely dialog-driven effort, showing what modern times are like for the church, the law, and the direction of religion in our new cell phone/internet existence. It’s a nice story that even non-religious viewers can appreciate.

The audience, on opening night (my guess is these are faithful church goers), REALLY enjoyed this film. They laughed a lot and shouted out the big lines and seemed to have a roaring good time.

John Corbett gave an enjoyable performance, a nice treat for fans of his since the days of Northern Exposure, Sex and the City, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and The United States of Tara (to name some of his biggest roles in an admittedly huge filmography).

The production values were high, and the soundtrack/direction/storytelling were certainly adequate. For a religious or conservative family, this film equals a nice night out for the family. The message is sound, no matter what side of the fence your views fall on.

Movie Grade: B

Best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Here’s RunPee Jilly’s list of the best-to-worst films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since so many of these movies are good, and there are so many of them, I’ve chosen to rank the films by “tier”. Top Tier, Middle Tier, and Bottom Tier. I’m not going to stress out over exactly which ones are better than the others.

Keep in mind this list only goes as far as The Black Panther at this point in time. This is pre-Infinity Wars. Keep mindful also: this is my personal opinion of the best/worst MCU films — I expect everyone will have their own list. Scribble down your top to bottom tiers in the comments below.

TOP TIER

These are the BEST MCU offerings, IMO (of course). The most cohesive plots, solid connections to the through-story, best character pieces (whether solo or in ensemble form), prettiest filmation/scenery, and most enjoyable films that hold up to re-watches. Notice that the ensemble pieces largely wound up on top.

  • Avengers: Assemble (Top notch; Joss Whedon got everything right. Including shwarma, mmmmm.)
  • Captain America: Civil War (Basically an Avengers ensemble piece, and perfectly executed. The airport set piece is as good as the hype surrounding it. More like this, please!)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1 (My personal favorite movie in the entire MCU. And one of my new top five all-time films. I need this movie when I feel down. The humor, characters, music, and general story are everything I look for in a fun, feel-good, groovy film.)
  • Thor 3: Ragnarok (I have to admit, I didn’t think anything in the MCU would approach the likability factor of GotG 1. Well…this one does. Chris Hemsworth is hysterical, for one thing. And while ostensibly a solo film for Thor, it’s more like an ensemble piece for the spacefaring MCU characters. I expect the Grandmaster’s ship  – now Thor’s ship – is how we scoop up the Guardians in time for Infinity Wars.)
  • Spiderman: Homecoming (Everything in this movie went right. And the villain, usually the sore spot in the MCU, just rocked it! <—- finally)
  • Black Panther (Beautiful scenery, good characters, solid storytelling and a compelling connection to the larger universe).
  • Iron Man 1 (The movie that kickstarted the entire decade’s-worth franchise…and rebooted the bank-ability factor to a personable, funny, and charismatic star that redefined how Superhero films could be writ. Can’t forget this moment: “I am Iron Man.” And the world leaned back in their seats, satisfied.)

Middle Tier

  •  Captain America: The Winter Soldier (I know. This one is top tier for many. As a spy movie, it’s just not to my taste, and this is MY list.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 (I wanted to place this one in the top tier, but will concede it doesn’t hit all the marks it should have. If the first GotG is perfect, this one does show up and make the effort, in spite of not quite getting somewhere great.)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (Another one just shy of greatness. I wanted to place it top tier, but there are just better ones to choose from.)
  • Ant-Man (not an ‘epic story’, but fun ‘small tale’ with decent humor and a strong likability factor.)

Bottom Tier

  • Thor 1 (Not a bad movie; just not awesome. The MCU was still figuring out their formula.)
  • Thor 2: The Dark World (This one is easily one of the least exciting Marvel films, but on a rewatch it’s better served.)
  • Hulk (This is the bottom of the MCU barrel. I can’t even sit through this film in it’s entirety. I’m ashamed to admit it…but, well, there it is. I love Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, but anyone else falls flat.)
  • Iron Man 2 (Dull.)
  • Iron Man 3 (Dull again, bummer.)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (It’s okay. Like Thor, movies with Cap improve as his trilogy progresses.)
  • Dr. Strange (I wish I could place this one higher. It’s just a bit derivative and…well…strange. Not likable or particularly exciting…but we HAD to have the Gem of Amarra – look it up if you don’t know why).

MCU Movie Rewatch – Thor 2: The Dark World

I was surprised at how easy Thor 2 was to re-watch. I remember it as “the boring installment.” It’s still not exciting on the level of the top tier of movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers, Civil War, Black Panther and Thor’s own 3 – Ragnarok). Making myself even more clear, The Dark World is still a bottom-tier MCU movie…it’s just not as excruciating as I recall it being. It’s really pretty (with a sort of Lord of the Rings “lite” essence), there’s a a lot more plot and humor than I remembered, and the story hangs together pretty well.

So it’s worth watching for more than just pretty guys in capes! And if you are doing a re-watch to get ready for the Infinity Wars (part 1) coming up April 27th, 2018, The Dark World is kind of unmissable. Want to know where the Infinity Gems are? This one’s crucial. Making a guess that we’ll see The Collector again? Again, you have to catch this one. You’ll learn more about the Aether (the singular, non-solid Infinity Gem) than any other “stone” in the series.

Another thing that stood in hindsight: at this point in the MCU the directors clearly haven’t figured out just how FUNNY Chris Hemsworth is. All the humor goes to Loki and Darcy in The Dark World. Which is a pity — we get to see Hemsworth’s wonderful comedic timing in the ensemble pieces, one-shot webisodes, and Thor: Ragnarok. I wish they could go back in time (Dr. Strange could help out) and tweak Thor 1 and 2 for more comedic beats and a lighter tone.

Loki stands out here, as he does in any scene that he promptly steals. Eric Selvig put in a lovely turn (he got some of the funny as well), and this seems to be the last we see of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, or Darcy (or her intern).

I’ve heard Portman didn’t like working on Marvel films, so writing her out is probably for the best, and this frees up Thor to date Lady Sif, or Valkyrie, or perhaps Captain Marvel herself. Hey, why not even The Grandmaster, with whom, last we heard, is now bunking with Thor’s old housemate, Darryl.

What’s the takeaway for The Dark World? The Dark Elves aren’t important to the grand sweep of the Infinity Stone Saga. Jane and Darcy don’t matter. Erik still has a place on the science team (and here we find out he thinks better without his pants on). Loki both can and can’t be trusted. Thor Odinson has extremely dysfunctional family issues. And the Aether is (safely?) in the storerooms of The Collector. That’s it.

Skip this film if you’re in a hurry and you’ll be fine with that bit of info, unless you’re fascinated by the Infinity Stones/intrigued by the unusual form the Aether takes (which looks like a red “Obscurial”, a la Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them).

Movie Review – Midnight Sun

This is a nice date movie for young people, with decent drama and some excellent acting. I was really impressed with the sensitivity portrayed towards this young woman’s illness — she was cool, she was hip, and she wasn’t a victim…and yet, neither was she played as “bravely courageous” in a stereotypical way. Katie seemed like a real girl, living her life in as genuine a manner as possible, under her limitations.

Was there melodrama? Yeah, of course. It’s a movie about star-crossed lovers. They finally find each other, and have to deal with it being for a short time. You WILL cry in this film; the writers don’t pull any punches. But that’s not a spoiler — the company isn’t selling this as less than a tear-jerker.

I’m reminded of a similar movie last year, where a girl lived in a “bubble” house. That one ended in a way that undersold the entire premise, and everyone was magically A-OK in the end. Which was nice and all…but this film felt more vital.

Does Katie die? Maybe. Does she have to live in the dark? Not exactly. Does she end up with the boy? Hmmmm….it’s possible. But that’s not what the movie is about.

There’s nothing deep here, but also nothing fluffy. It’s just good, solid storytelling.

Grade: B+

Movie Review – Love, Simon

What a great little film. This was like a John Hughes classic from the 1970s, updated for our era of cell phones and Facebook, featuring a coming out plot that’s worthy of the premise.

The actors, the soundtrack, the goofy high school hijinks and wonderfully iconic scenes…it added up to a fantastic nostalgia trip that today’s young people can relate to and call their own. Great humor and pathos. I felt for Simon’s predicament, even though — be real — who hasn’t had intense teen emo experiences? As Simon’s friends properly point out, he’s not the only one dealing with confusing, painful problems. This is ultimately not about sexual orientation, but alienation of all kinds.

These kids come from privilege (each home is a mansion), but tolerance knows no income, color, gender, or sexual orientation. Race is (mostly) a non-issue in the narrative, focusing mainly on Simon’s angst. And if you’re wondering, there’s no teen sex in this movie; kissing scenes are as far as things go.

Thankfully, the coming out story isn’t a suicide scenario. Simon’s family and friends are smart, thoughtful people. I say this so you don’t worry about coming home from the theater in tears. Remember — it’s a light John Hughes-type flick. Hughes wanted you to laugh, fret a little, and feel positive in the end. Mission accomplished.

Don’t look for a lot of depth. Still, Love, Simon is the best film I’ve seen in 2018.

Grade: A

Seeking Movie Lover Down Under to Work for RunPee

RunPee Needs You!
 
Do you live in Australia or New Zealand?
 
We are looking to add 2 or 3 apprentices to do Peetimes with us. As you may have noticed, many movies show up down under before they’re released in the USA. If we had 2 to 3 people who could reliably work with us, we could have Peetimes before movies are released here, and be available early for RunPee’s international fans.
 
Here’s what we’re looking for:
* Be familiar with RunPee. Please know what Peetimes are. 🙂
* MUST be a fan of action/blockbuster movies.
* Bonus points if you’ve seen all the MCU films. (Do you know/guess where each Infinity Stone is?)
* Have very good writing and grammar skills.
* Have a Skype account, so we can communicate quickly/easily.
 
Here’s how this will work:
We’ll look at the applicants and pick those we think we can work with. Everyone we select will get a free Infinity Peecoin. Then we’ll set up a Skype call with you, and go over the ins-and-outs of getting Peetimes.
 
For those who pass this point, your first assignment (should you choose to accept it) will be to select Peetimes for Pacific Rim: Uprising. That movie comes out down under two days prior to its release in the USA. We’ll pick the best Peetimes from the bunch and enter them in the RunPee app. Dan will see the movie on opening night here in the USA, and we’ll be able to see who’s on the same wavelength with us.
 
(Tips: It will be helpful to watch the original Pacific Rim movie, and read the Peetimes we listed for it, to help you choose your own. This isn’t required, but it will probably make a difference in how well you do with the upcoming sequel. If you’re really eager to work with us, send us a sample movie review, on a movie of your choice. We don’t care if it’s a short or long review, but we’d like it to be well-written. We might even post it on the RunPee blog with your name, bio, and photo.) 🙂
 
Don’t kid yourself: this is difficult work and we don’t have deep pockets. You will need to see the first showings on opening night for the big international movies. We labor over these Peetimes, and even then we don’t get it 100% perfect. But…if you’re selected to work with us, then we’ll pay for your movie tickets, plus $40 US.
 
Pacific Rim: Uprising is out on March 22nd, so time is short. We’ll need to have time to schedule a chat with you, so the deadline for applying is March 18th. Respond by emailing support@runpee.com and we’ll get back to you quickly.

Movie Review – A Wrinkle in Time

I’m trying to figure out how to make A Wrinkle in Time make any sense. I love fantasy and science fiction, and am very forgiving of stories in these genres. From the trailer, I figured this would be a really pretty excursion into time travel, with kids discovering their powers in a whimsical land. The early reviews seemed disappointing, but I figured something visually enchanting would be enough for a pleasant afternoon.

But honestly, after my viewing, I’m not sure where the plot was going at all. I’m more confused what this movie was about than I’ve been in…ever? I didn’t read the 1962 children’s book this was based on, so that might be a part of my confusion. But a movie should stand on its own, regardless.

The original, award-winning novel is a slender volume, and I tried to read it a few times in my youth. I devoured fantasy voraciously, re-reading Lord of the Rings annually, and hoped the movie would encourage me to go back and finally get through the book. I’m still the perfect target audience, so I’m forced to think the movie just isn’t a good one.

It’s certainly a baseline attractive flick, with some occasional unique imagery…but it’s not as lovely as many other fantasies out there. I was expecting something on the ambitious level of Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets (another convoluted and unsatisfying film, but a visual treat), or Avatar (which is a work of art AND delivers on its story potential). Disney can do outstandingly pretty work, and very recently too: as in Coco, Finding Dory, the new Star Wars films, and their most recent MCU offerings of Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. So,  A Wrinkle in Time gets a “+” tacked onto my review grade for being nice-looking — however, this studio should have made this older classic stunning, and could have, if they tried.

Story-wise, you don’t get to know the characters well at all, and the execution is very convoluted. The moment when [a plot thing] is found is completely underwhelming. Normally the child actors in a Disney film are pretty good, but I have to admit I didn’t care for any of the three leads. (Or the adult leads. Only Chris Pine, in essentially a cameo role, brought any spark.)

One other thing: I think a good compositional arrangement could have raised the bar on WIT considerably. A nice track, with some good evocative and repeating themes, would have gone a long way. Think of all the wonderful genre films that make you feel, care, and sometimes cry, cued along by a wonderful soundtrack. Think of almost anything by John Williams. Now imagine those movies without his work. WIT stood out musically, in absentia.

I wish I could say better things, and I’m sure some folks enjoyed WIT. Personally, I can’t recommend this one. Even in 3D, I didn’t think this was worth a trip to the theater. I was actually the only person in the room on opening night, and that made me wonder how everyone else knew the movie was going to be a flop. Not even Oprah or Reese Witherspoon (who really didn’t seem like they were trying) could save this film from the dustbins of…well…time.

Grade: D+