Stuber vs Uber – Welcome to the Ratings Game, in Real Life

stuber movie dave bautista
You WILL drive Drax the Destroyer anywhere he wants to go.

Well, it’s official. We’ve had an action movie about Uber driving. I suppose the next film will be a thriller about a couple in for trouble at an Air BnB. 🙂

It’s a sign of the times for sure. I’ve been using Uber almost exclusively to get to movies for RunPee every week for more than a year, and I think I know the system pretty well. However, there’s always new things to learn about being a good Uber passenger, and interesting ways drivers try to earn a coveted five star rating.

In Stuber, an Uber driver named Stu is essentially kidnapped by a policeman to drive him around to crime scenes and…ahem…learn to shoot at perps. I won’t give any more away, but it’s kind of a fun film, if a bit surreal. I mean, why doesn’t Stu just get out of there? It’s his (leased) car. And Stuber’s an action film…so do you think his nice electric Uber vehicle will get munched? You can answer this if you’ve ever seen an action flick. I think the police force owes him big time.

Furthermore, poor Stu has his precious rating held over his head if he won’t drive Dave Bautista to dangerous stakeouts. The police will owe him for his livelihood too, I think, by the end of the film.

I have to say, I really feel for these Uber drivers in real life. Did you know they get summarily FIRED if their rating drops below 4.5? I think that’s insane. Let me explain.

I used to review for Amazon Vine and reached the Top 250 Reviewer level. That takes some work.

My system for rating Amazon items was like this:

Five Stars: An outstanding product in almost every way

Four Stars: A great product I could recommend, with a few caveats

Three Stars: A good product, average

Two Stars: The item is fair, but isn’t awful, buy with caution

One Star: Poor Product, awful, don’t buy

By this system, roughly correlating to an A, B, C, D, and F, my readers could trust I was giving a thoughtful, critical review. However, in Uber-land, a 4 star rating is considered a fail. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

Rating Uber Drivers – why you should care that this sucks

Should I give an Uber driver 5 stars just because they didn’t kill me on the road? Apparently, the answer is yes. By my standards, I was getting people fired by rating them 4 stars. I only learned this recently. I find this astonishing.

Let’s look at movies. I review hundreds of movies for RunPee and use the same rating system I gave above for Amazon products. I’m not going to give an A to every film that made it to the end without being dreadful. Would you? I wouldn’t trust a reviewer who couldn’t critique freely.

But with the new economy, you’re a bad consumer if you don’t automatically give five stars to your Uber driver. And after talking to a lot of drivers, and after watching Stuber, I now understand what kind of pressure they’re under.

(BTW, to get another look at how terrible the tyranny of this rating system is, watch Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode. We’re on our way there now. If our “personal rating” falls under the four star level, we won’t even get basic human services…but that’s another article. Just watch Nosedive: trust. It’s on Amazon. And I’m not paid to tell you that.)

So how do drivers try to get a consistent 5 Star Rating?

In Stuber, Stu has a vanity plate reading FiveStar. He goes out of his way to provide the best level of service. He’s got free bottles of water and classy chocolates, offers musical choices, arranges the car temperatures, and tries to make pleasant conversation with every passenger. People crowd into his car, make him wait while they do errands, vomit on his seats when drunk, and say offensive things. Apparently, a lot of people are entitled jerks. I’ve talked to enough Uber drivers to get an idea about the reality they face.

And although I’ve been offered water bottles, gum, and lifesavers, I’ve never seen a driver with chocolates, or had anyone offer to change their music station. As a rational person, I don’t expect these things. (I did get some beads over mardi-gras season. Which was totally cool.)

These are the things I’ve learned being an Uber passenger:

  • Never fiddle with someone’s stereo/heat/mirror settings, or use their sockets to charge your phone without asking.
  • Don’t leave garbage.
  • Don’t eat or drink in their car.
  • If you want to chat with the driver, sit in the front. If you want to be silent and use your phone, sit in the back. (I’ll admit I sit in the front all the time and don’t want to talk. Somehow I can’t change this. I hate the back seat — to me that’s where children sit. But I don’t want to talk either. This is my problem, but now I know it exists. I’ve had some very interesting conversations sitting up front.)
  • If you’re at the airport, the ride is going to cost more (airports have fees). This sucks, but it’s still cheaper than a taxi. That said, be careful with your luggage. The drivers are using their own cars and you don’t want to scratch up their backseats or trunks.
  • The drivers will pick you up if you’re intoxicated, which is great for keeping drunks off the road. But. If you think you’re going to vomit, tell them to pull over. Please don’t ever puke in someone’s private car.
  • If you choose Uber Pool, that means others will get in the car with you, you might get dropped off last, and the ride might go far away from your destination to get you home. That’s why it’s the cheaper option.

The Most Important Advice

  • As Wil Wheaton says as his internet motto: Don’t Be A Dick. He used to be Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he knows about dick behavior. Just be nice, or at least quiet, on your ride. Then go for a solid run or play a video game later to work off your frustrations. This is a good lesson for life.  🙂

The Tyranny of The Ratings Game

FYI: If you’re a bad passenger, you will get a bad ‘rider’ rating. Enough of these can get you turned down for pickups, but this doesn’t really equate to getting no rides, since if a driver turns down enough riders, they get censured. So, you’re going to get a ride almost no matter what. Really, the power is all in the hands of the rider, for better or worse.

I’ll freely admit I think this demand economy is problematic. It’s too easy to hold the fear of a bad rating over someone’s head to demand concessions and freebies, and get away with generally obnoxious behavior.

After ten years of running RunPee — a highly popular, world-renowned movie app — we’ve seen firsthand how personally frustrating it can be to get a knee-jerk one-star rating from someone who never bothered to learn how our app works, or send a support email to have a question answered. Are you confused? Do you not like your service? Reach out and explain. You might be surprised by the human kindness you receive on the other end of your maturely worded email. (BTW, our contact info is support@runpee.com)

As for Uber, yes, sometimes things don’t go right. Your ride doesn’t show. You are too lost to explain where you are to the driver and the GPS is wonky. You miss your plane or get charged for a toll you didn’t plan for. I can tell you from experience that Uber will make it right and give you a little extra credit, if warranted. All you have to do is email customer service. They’re pretty responsive.

But what to do about Ratings?

Is the answer to give a 5 star rating to everything? No. I honestly think companies like Uber need to grow up and realize the equivalent of a B is a good grade, not a fail. Somehow, I’m supposed to give top marks to everyone who drives me from point A to point B without incident.

But, I don’t want to get Uber drivers fired, either. So the only kind thing is to give out all the stars, every time, unless a I have a damn good reason.

I’d love to tell Uber how unrealistic this all is, but this seems to be the way things are headed. In the meantime, I advise people to be considerate where they can, and follow customer service channels for complaints otherwise.

Rating Stuber, the Movie

And BTW: I have to give Stuber (the movie) a C+ rating…or maybe a B- if I’m feeling generous. And, yes I enjoyed it! It’s not a great film, but I smiled a few times and wasn’t bored. Does that mean it automatically gets an A grade?

Well, no. I don’t give out A ratings often. I save that for the likes of Titanic, Avatar, Jurassic Park, Into the Spider-Verse, or Avengers: Endgame. But in real life, it’s increasingly beholden on us to hand out the high scores for average service. I’ll be interested to see how this goes in the next decade.

What do you think? The comment section is below, and if you don’t give this article a 5 star rating, I promise I won’t be upset. 🙂

Movie Review – Stuber

FAQ – Peeple’s Poll

Your 20 big benefits to using the RunPee app

 

 

Newie Review – The Reef – Low Budget, Decent, Non Campy Shark Movie

This 2010 Aussie shark film should be fairly simple to review, as nothing much happened besides a lot of open ocean swimming. If you’re frightened easily and don’t like horror, don’t worry: you won’t have much trouble watching The Reef. It’s not that kind of movie. I’m not entirely clear what kind of movie this is, actually. A low-budget survival tale with mostly dimwitted people?

There are five folks trapped on top of an upturned ship who have to swim 12 miles in the tropics to reach an unseen island and possible safety. Will they reach it? Does it matter? It’s one of those attrition flicks where you have to guess who’s the last man standing — or swimming, as the case may be. It’s all very predictable, but surprisingly, not scary.

I liked the beginning. It started slow and built up the characters pretty well. It was well-told and well-acted at that point, and the scenery couldn’t be beat.

Nitpicking where I shouldn’t

Unfortunately, once the swimmers hit the water, they devolved into screechy fish bait. That’s not how you cross an ocean safely. I could nitpick the heck out of this. Hanging around the bloody dead people too long isn’t wise (that’s what chum is). Don’t kick up a storm like prey animals either. They also stopped a lot. I kept shouting ,”Keep swimming! But gently! Keep going with less splashing!”

I used to teach wilderness survival  and know something about it, so I’m being harsher on The Reef than most would be. It’s like trying to watch a film like Backdraft with a firefighter. When the one guy who knew something about sailing dove under the ship to retrieve items, I saw a TON of things the survivors could have used that he just ignored. It was a whole sailing ship loaded with DAYS of useful supplies. Arg. Make me stop whining.

What I liked

The plot was lean and easy to follow, and the shark wasn’t absurd — he actually seemed like a real animal instead of an insane monster. And The Reef wasn’t campy or gory. The ‘captain’ character was the guy who kept his head and was worth watching. 

But the ending was…sudden? Underwhelming? Perhaps the real beauty of The Reef is that it’s based on a true story and the producers didn’t feel a need to over-dramatize anything. These things happen. It’s tragic (mostly), and you’d never want to live though this. But movie-wise, it’s just on the high end of average. This isn’t like Jaws (an A+ film indeed). Or even The Meg. (We gave that a B-). I still have to see 47 Meters Down (I know, I know, the sequel’s coming). Come to think of it, I want to watch The Shallows and Deep Blue Sea too. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Overall: if you want a high-octane gruesome shark tale, keep looking. There’s plenty of them out there. I actually liked The Reef for its mild plotting…I just didn’t love it.

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Meet the Real Megalodon

Best Jaws Iconic Moments, plus Movie Analysis (videos)


 

Here’s the trailer for 47 Meters Down 2, set to arrive in 2019:

 

Movie Review – Rocketman

 

Movie Review - RocketmanI had a hard time with this review. Rocketman is both extraordinary (in costuming, sound, and visual sequences) and by-the-numbers (a creative life plagued by inner demons).

Elton John’s musical biopic is a grand fantasy with exciting numbers that feel like a top notch Broadway extravaganza. It’s got great pacing, fun set-pieces, an ideal cast, and a very special find in Taron Egerton.

Egerton looks like John, acts like him — and best of all — sounds like him. Except for the original Elton John song played over the end credits, Egerton does ALL his own singing. That’s no small feat. He’s simply brilliant. Egerton more than inhabits the role.

Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman

Rocketman is also very depressing. John has exactly two people in his life who are nice to him — his grandmother, and his long-time best friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Everyone else is either mildly abusive or very abusive. That isn’t fun to watch. Almost everything between the rollicking tunes is about John’s sorrow, loneliness, obsessions, addictions, self-loathing, and an insane ability to absorb decades of personal torment…but somehow still be a beloved worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.

Was John’s life really this difficult? How much of this tale is true? Or did they make things so awful for John’s film character just to ‘liven things up’?

I don’t think you have to be a personal disaster to be a creative icon. But what do I know?

Since John’s alive (unlike, say, Freddie Mercury), these questions are askable. Reportedly John was so happy with Rocketman that he cried with joy to Egerton after his personal screening. I’d like to know specifically what parts gave him that joy. I just want to know if his life was/wasn’t that awful.

Taron Egerton as Elton John on stage in lights
Our rocketman, in lights.

A friend told me no one wants to watch movies about creative happy people. I’d love to condemn that statement, but I’m also told I have an atypical POV on entertainment. I like to have a fun time at the theater. I want to go home feeling like a damn superhero. If I want turmoil and drama, there’s enough of that in the day-to-day. Or I could simply watch the news.

So, if you’re an emotional sponge who found A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody dismaying, just stay home and watch all your favorite Elton John songs on You Tube. Eventually every cool musical performance by Egerton will appear too, so you can realistically catch 90% of Rocketman for free. (There were so many songs in Rocketman that finding even three non-musical minutes for Peetimes was a challenge.)

But should you see this? Almost every review of Rocketman RAVES on it. It’s super ingenious from start to end. Many sequences are  absolutely in the realm of fantasy, but somehow it all works flawlessly as a biopic. The flick is probably destined to become almost as iconic as the legend himself. Rocketman makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like a documentary.

I’m giving Rocketman a solid A for being so lovingly, thoughtfully, gorgeously made. It’s a remarkable film on many levels — not the least being the framing sequences with John’s outrageous demon costume slowly shedding away, as the inner man reveals himself.

If you can handle intense drug and suicide themes, you’ll enjoy this Elton John tribute. It’s also worth it just for catching Egerton’s performance: there will be awards, without a doubt.

Finally, I’m genuinely happy Elton John is alive to see his film — and if the credit notes are true, things worked out happily in the end.  🙂

Grade: A

RunPee movie meme of rocketman
Fun with the RunPee #MovieMeme. Taron Egerton had literally big shoes to fill, but more than pulled it off in Rocketman.

About The Peetimes: As expected, this was a tough film to find Peetimes for, packed with iconic musical performances and hugely emotional scenes. The first 2 Peetimes are pretty good: I recommend the 2nd at 42 minutes — a nice long break. I avoided any major Elton John songs, as I assume these are what you came to see.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Rocketman. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content
Genres: Biography, Drama, Music

Elton John – Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Did Rami Malek Sing In Bohemian Rhapsody?

Elton John & Rocketman – Lyrics & Video to I’m Still Standing

taron egerton as elton john in his bird costume
A triumphant Taron Egerton is Elton John in Rocketman.

I’m Still Standing is probably the most important song to Elton John’s Rocketman biopic, as the movie follows his story from rehab to recovery and success. Watch this video and learn the lyrics to I’m Still Standing so you can sing along!

Video to I’m Still Standing

 

Lyrics to I’m Still Standing

[I’m Still Standing performed by Elton John]

You could never know what it’s like
Your blood like winter freezes just like ice
And there’s a cold lonely light that shines from you
You’ll wind up like the wreck you hide behind that mask you use

And did you think this fool could never win
Well look at me, I’m coming back again
I got a taste of love in a simple way
And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

Once I never could hope to win
You starting down the road leaving me again
The threats you made were meant to cut me down
And if our love was just a circus you’d be a clown by now

You know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah
I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

[Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
I’m Still Standing lyrics 1983 © Universal Music Publishing Group]

Elton John – Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets

Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman

Taron Egerton apparently makes the perfect Elton John, and it’s kind of great he and Elton worked together last year in Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (with Elton playing himself!). Egerton reported that John was so happy with is biopic that he broke down crying to Egerton. Can we just say Awwwww?

We know Bennie and the Jets will be in the film — at the very least, it’s featured heavily in the trailers. Here’s a great video, followed by the lyrics to this iconic song.

Benny and the Jets Video

Benny and the Jets Lyrics

[Performed by Elton John] 

Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight’s hitting something
That’s been known to change the weather
We’ll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You’re gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Uh but they’re so spaced out, B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along

Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who’s right and who’s wrong
Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh but they’re so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they’re weird and they’re wonderful
Oh Bennie she’s really keen
She’s got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine, oh
B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets

Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie and the Jets
Jets, Jets

Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie, Bennie
Bennie, Bennie and the Jets…

[Songwriters: Olubowale Victor Akintimehin / Miguel Jontel Pimentel / Elton John / Bernie Taupin
Bennie & The Jets lyrics 1974 © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group]

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John

Lyrics & Video to Rocketman by Elton John

Taron Egerton as Elton John on stage in lights
Elton John ((Taron Egerton) is the Rocketman.

With the long awaited Rocketman Elton John movie finally out, it’s time to get ready and learn the lyrics to the iconic songs, starting with the eponymous tune Rocketman itself.

Here’s a video and the lyrics to Rocketman to get you excited for the new biopic that test audiences are raving about!

Rocketman Video

Rocketman Lyrics

[Rocket Man by Elton John]

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine AM
And I’m gonna be high as a kite by then

I miss the earth so much I miss my wife
It’s lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home

Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science I don’t understand
It’s just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
‘Till touch down brings me round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time
And I think it’s gonna be a long long time…

[Songwriters: Elton John / Bernie Taupin
Rocket Man lyrics, 1972 © Universal Music Publishing Group] 

Lyrics & Video to Bennie & the Jets by Elton John

Quiz – Test Your Knowledge of Elton John Songs

Quiz – The Amazing Elton John

Each Dog Death in A Dog’s Journey

As the member of the RunPee Family subjected to this “family-friendly” horror-series of doggy deaths and near-deaths that I lovingly/dismissively term The Dog Trilogy, I thought I’d recount the ways that “Bailey” — the St Bernard mix that survives the end of A Dog’s Purpose — dies repeatedly in A Dog’s Journey. (This isn’t a spoiler, BTW: it’s the entire film’s premise, picking up right where A Dog’s Purpose ends off.)

a dogs way home by w bruce cameron
It’s sort of a sequel and definitely a reboot.

Note: A Dog’s Way Home  is part of this trilogy, but isn’t about Bailey — it’s considered part of a shared universe of the unbreakable bonds of love for dogs and their people.

 

Warning – Spoilers Ahead for A Dog’s Journey

I’ll start by saying I refuse to rewatch A Dog’s Purpose to list the very frequent and often gruesome deaths Bailey experiences there. Honestly, why anyone thought that was supposed to be uplifting and inspiring enough to make two more similarly-themed films mystifies me. But, as I wrote about them elsewhere (follow the links above), I won’t go into that.

Bear with me as I recount Bailey and his kinder, gentler deaths in A Dog’s Journey — the finale and cherry on the cake of this manipulatively sentimental/cathartic dog celluloid extravaganza.

How Often Does Bailey Die in A Dog’s Journey?

Well, only four times on this outing…with all indications the poor canine soul finally ends his long existence. At last he deserves to cross the Rainbow Bridge to live forever with his best friend Ethan.

  1. Bailey as Bailey, the St. Bernard Mix — Pleasingly, he lives a long life with his (now older) man Ethan, played by Dennis Quaid. He’s gently euthanized in Ethan’s arms after falling ill to (presumably) cancer. Unfortunately, he’s tasked with ‘saving’ granddaughter CJ, prompting a new series of reincarnations.
  2. Bailey as Molly, the Beagle. She dies in a harrowing car wreck as CJ, now a teenager, is rear-ended by a vicious ex-boyfriend.
  3. Bailey as Big Dog, the Mastiff-Mix. Not much time is spent with Big Dog, who peacefully wanders off to die in the woods, after a long and peaceful life in a rural countryside with Joe.
  4. Bailey as Max, the Yorkie. Max dies a natural death after a long and happy life with adult CJ. This ending is the best-case scenario we hope for with any beloved pet. It’s apparently the fulfillment of Bailey’s ‘purpose’ and ‘journey’.

Along the way, the dog is menaced by scary things like a horse-kicking, being put down in an overcrowded dog shelter,  running alone in city streets and getting run over (but not hit), and most heart-wrenching: getting nearly strangled when his leash gets caught in an elevator going up. (That last one really had me panicking.)

But to be honest, this movie lets the audience off most easily of the three films. I only cried a few times, even though I was prepared, bringing tissues and a stern message to myself not to blubber.

Should you see this movie?

Sure, if you’re an adult and don’t mind a few tears. But think twice about taking the kids if they’re sensitive and love dogs. The canine poop humor won’t make up for the amount of trauma the film subjects them to. Read a lot of other reviews before sending them off alone with ticket money.

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose – A Brutal Experience in Non-Stop Crying

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home – A Brutal Experience for Dog Lovers

Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review - A Dog's JourneyI’m relieved to say this heartrending three-movie schmaltz-fest is over. I did the Peetimes for each movie in the semi-trilogy, and was relieved that A Dog’s Journey made me cry the least. By which I mean I cried only three or four times, and these were little teary moments, not the big gulping ugly cries I endured in A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Way Home. (Links go to my reviews. Yes, I’m a masochist and saw all three.)

I was prepared, though. I brought tissues! This marks the first time in ten years of RunPee movie-going that I preemptively (one fan said I should call it ‘pee-emptively’) came prepared to cry. So, if you’re curious, YES, the dog dies in this movie.

Many times. Confused? Read on.

A Dog’s Purpose

In A Dog’s Purpose, Bailey the dog dies and reincarnates. A LOT. I cried a river for  about hours. It was brutal.

A Dog’s Way Home

In A Dog’s Way Home, it’s no longer about Bailey or reincarnation (it’s actually a remake of The Incredible Journey), but the film is considered Bailey-adjacent. Call it a Shared Universe.

That doesn’t let you off the emotional hook, though. All kinds of fresh torture awaits the sensitive dog lover, most tellingly in a devastating scene with Edward James Olmos as a homeless vet who dies alone in the wilderness…with the titular dog chained to his body, a few feet too far from the river to drink. FOR DAYS. Imagine taking your kids to this. Or rather, don’t.

There’s also a scene where the dog gets hit by a car trying to cross a busy freeway…and just lies there…consider this a PSA. I was twitching during that entire sequence, and I think everyone else was too. If you’re a sensitive sort, you can skip the middle movie entirely and just focus on Bailey’s bookend films.

A Dog’s Journey

Which brings us back to A Dog’s Journey. Or, rather, the end of his journey. I’m telling you these things so you’ll be prepared. This isn’t a spoiler — even under the best conditions, dogs don’t live much longer than a decade. This last flick returns to the theme of reincarnation, but somehow is a lot easier on the heart-strings overall. I have to wonder if writer W. Bruce Cameron took pity on his audience and eased up on the heartbreak on purpose.

Should you see a A Dog’s Journey?

Ultimately, A Dog’s Journey is actually a good movie to take your kids to (although you’ll have to explain a few things about dog souls and the Rainbow Bridge).

I’m pleased to say this film is a good evening out — more sentimental than sad. I don’t have a headache from crying, and feel reasonably stable. Can’t expect more than that, right? I mean, it’s a DOG MOVIE. Are there any movies about pets that aren’t tear-jerkers? Even John Wick lost it when his dog was [redacted]. Is it a cooincidence that John Wick Chapter 3 came out today as well…?

Overall, A Dog’s Journey was nicely filmed. The acting (aside from the reliable Quaid) wasn’t very exciting, but the movie is well paced, looks good, and delivers some affably low-key doggy humor. No canine actors were in mortal peril this time, unlike in the first film. The dogs do great work, especially “Molly” — but then, I have a soft spot for beagles.

If you love dogs — and why would you see this kind of thing if you don’t? — you’ll know you’re being emotionally manipulated, but the tale’s more sweet than tragic. Thankfully.

Grade: B-

PS: As per your requests, we are adding an Alert Warning to the Peetimes this film on the RunPee app re: traumatizing dog moments. (But at this point we’re pretty sure you know this about W. Bruce Cameron and his canine oeuvre. This film is the gentlest of the three. Relatively speaking.)

About The Peetimes: This was a fairly simple film to get Peetimes for. Here are 3 evenly spaced Peetimes that don’t feature any big emotional moments or plot points.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Dog’s Journey. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic content, some peril and rude humor
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home

Movie Review – Tolkien – Biography of the Master of Middle Earth

Movie Review - TolkienI don’t normally watch biographies. We don’t usually get Peetimes for them either, but this was TOLKIEN. The author of my favorite novel, movie, and world: The Lord of the Rings. So it wasn’t just any biopic to me, and Tolkien wasn’t just any author. Lord of the Rings (or LOTR) is a magnificent 1000+ page work of high fantasy, penned by JRR Tolkien as a sequel to the shorter, more youth-oriented The Hobbit.

With The Hobbit published and successful in 1937 (which the movie gets around to in a fantastic end moment that made me literally weep with joy), Tolkien was tasked with creating a ‘hobbit sequel’. This is a case where the sequel outshines its original by a great magnitude, and is literally Tolkien’s life’s work. (Let’s not discuss The Silmarillion here.) [/CanOfWorms] 😉

A new form of world-building fantasy

According to the Wikipedia, LOTR was “written in stages between 1937 and 1949, and is one of the best selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.”

LOTR also established the groundwork for nearly every novel, series, and film franchise in the fantasy genre to follow, introducing readers to a form of world-building never accomplished before. Tolkien invented entire languages and thousands of years of backstories, timelines and genealogical histories for his handful of mythological races, which he called the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth.

Before Tolkien, we had ancient ballads, plays, and operas to give us fantasy worlds, yet works like Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Beowulf, Shakespeare’s plays, The Iliad and the Odyssey, and the collected stories in Greek/Norse Mythology are very grandiose and quite a bit remote.

LOTR gave readers a story about fallible, often funny individuals who weren’t princes or warriors. In fact, the two main heroes of LOTR are a bookish young man and a gardener. The warriors, kings, and even wizards and dragons appear, of course (it’s still a high fantasy saga), but mostly as supporting characters. You didn’t need a professor to explain the plot to you. You could relate to the heroes. No one had seen anything like this before.

Legacy of the Lord of the Rings

There wouldn’t be any Harry Potter without The Hobbit and LOTR. The Star Wars Saga, Game of Thrones, modern Disney, Pixar and even the 23+ movie spanning Marvel Cinematic Universe owe a huge debt to Tolkien. Name any memorable work of fantasy or space opera, and you’ll find roots buried deep in Middle Earth.

Tolkien – the LOTR author’s biographical movie

Okay. So, I just went off on a long, rambling tangent, not unlike the super long novel in question, and the great films of Peter Jackson that finally paid justice to the source. But was Tolkien, by itself, a good movie?

Yes, very much yes. You have to be a Middle-Earth fan to appreciate it, but I loved seeing JRR — Ronald to his friends — in his early life, full of experiences that informed his creations. Tolkien has said he “cordially despises allegory in all forms”, but it’s hard not to see Mordor and the works of Sauron in the No Man’s Land of World War 1. Ronald is a sort of proto-Frodo, with a young Sam, in the trench scenes. Flames, ash, and great black clouds recall the fumes of Mount Doom.

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the horror of The War to End All Wars before. It must have felt like the end of an Age. And in many ways, it was. (Compare: World War 2 offered a modern battle tableau, although it wasn’t long after WW1.)

One movie scene in particular, where Ronald lies unconscious in a hole full of the dead by a pool of noisome toxicity, recalls almost precisely Frodo’s fretful sleep before the Black Gates of Mordor.

Other ways The Lord of the Rings is hinted at in Tolkien

What else? Edith has an otherworldly personality and intellect — clearly the basis of Arwen Evenstar. The ‘Cellar Door’ courting scene is exquisite, and Ronald waited as long for Edith as poor Aragorn did for Arwen.

The pastoral countryside of England is very like The Shire, and Ronald’s passionate literary friends had obvious nods to The Fellowship  of The Ring (as explicitly noted in the trailers).

One of Ronald’s buddies had an immortal line where the audience barked in laughter: “It shouldn’t take six hours to tell a story about a magic ring.”

He was talking about Wagner, but Tolkien must have took that as a personal challenge. I’d love to know if his friend actually said that. (In another note, I did attend a showing of Wagner’s Ring Cycle Opera in Vienna once, and it IS incredibly long. Too long. Especially if you don’t speak German.)

A trip to Oxford, and The Inklings

The Oxford scenes had especial meaning to me, as I lived and worked at Oxford University in a post-college internship, and personally wandered through many on-location settings in the film. It was a vast treat to return there cinematically, making me long for an extended visit these many decades later. I even frequented The Eagle and the Child, a pub where Tolkien and The Inklings — who are fated to only appear after the movie ends — sat and shared literary chapters as they wrote them. It thrilled me to quaff a pint at the same table where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis discussed Lord of the Rings and the Narnia stories, working out the kinks of their epics.

Summarizing Tolkien as a movie experience

So, I’m a total geek with an encyclopedic working knowledge of Tolkien…but I think this biography is accessible to anyone who’s ever read the books or seen Peter Jackson’s movies. I was engaged, moved and thrilled, and though no Hobbits nor Rings of Power appear, Tolkien the film is still a very good time. I’m glad I expanded my horizons enough to look at the author as a real man, and not just a random shadowy figure recording the journeys of Frodo, Gandalf, Strider, Gollum, and Samwise Gamgee.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This was a hard movie to find Peetimes for. The movie cuts back and forth between war action, “Fellowship” character building, and important scenes at Oxford University. Both Peetimes center on the romance in Tolkien’s life: while they are nice, they are the least crucial bits building up to Tolkien’s masterpiece. The 2nd Peetime is recommended. Note: There are no Peetimes in the second hour, so plan accordingly.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Tolkien. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some sequences of war violence
Genres: Biography, Drama, War

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Movie Review – The Best of Enemies

Movie Review - The Best of EnemiesThis biopic is set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. First of all, the plot took me by surprise, given the magnitude of racial tension that still exists. This is not your normal racially-charged kind of black-versus-white-movie where tensions escalate, folks get hung, justice is never served, and everyone walks out the movie theater quiet and mad as hell. Nope, this one is completely different.

Durham is faced with a court-order to desegregate its schools when the black school becomes severely damaged, and those students need a place to learn. Unfortunately, the whites are against the blacks coming to their school, so a court-order is issued, and the town must figure out how to solve the problem themselves with little financial help from the State. The State calls upon the help of a Raleigh organizer known for his success in implementing charrettes.

char·rette /SHəˈret/ (wiki)
a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

During the span of the Durham charrette meetings, two co-chairs are selected who are the most vocal/influential in the white and black communities, respectively; then more community members discuss issues and concerns, a senate is developed of representatives that will vote on desegregating the schools overseen by the co-chairs, and an open-forum is held where everyone from the community are invited to witness the voting process.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) are chosen as the co-chairs. C.P. is the president of the Ku Klux Klan and Ann is an aggressive and “by any means necessary” community activist. The two of them know of each other very well and the thought of working together for the charrette makes their blood boil, but they agree to co-chair for selfish motives. C.P. is a typical KKK member with a family and owns a gas station. He has a son with Down Syndrome that doesn’t live with the family, but in a nearby psychiatric center. While C.P. is a tough guy filled with hatred, his weakness and soft spot is his ill son. Despite the hatred Ann has for C.P., she uses this weak spot to forge their Best of Enemies relationship.

While the relationship isn’t like that seen in the movie Greenbook, Ann softens C.P.’s heart, one artery at a time. The dynamics of how their role in the charrette plays out is really interesting and thought-provoking. C.P. discovers the void in his life as a child that influenced his membership into the KKK may no longer be valid, but that epiphany comes with drastic consequences. However, his newfound friend comes to his rescue, yet again.

Overall, the acting was good. The plot kept a good pace and didn’t dilly-dally to get to the climax. Ann’s brass and sassy humor will have you laughing throughout the entire movie. In addition, Taraji’s acting was spot-on, right down to that walk (I chuckled a couple of times watching that walk).

On the other hand, the plot doesn’t provoke a need to discuss the issues with friends later on after seeing the movie. The movie will, however, stimulate some self-reflection on how we treat others. But, given that our country seems to be widely-divided right now and sometimes mirrors the 60s and 70s racial undertones, I’m not sure many people will leave the theater creating a charrette of their own, or singing Kumbayah. Wait for the credits at the end to discover how C.P. and Ann’s friendship evolved after the charrette experience.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: It was difficult finding good Peetimes for this well edited and well paced movie. At times, it seemed like the start of a scene would make a good Peetime, but then the plot thickened, adding value to the story. I would suggest suggest the 2nd Peetime.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Best of Enemies. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story