Movie Review – Harriet

Movie Review - HarrietAs many of you know, I am a fan of biopics. I said to myself, “Self, is Hollywood going to mess this story up?” But, surprisingly, they didn’t let me down. Harriet is a must-see for sure. Given that many people may not know the full story about Harriet Tubman, this movie does a good job with the golden nuggets about who she was and how she became one of the most renowedn conductors of the Underground Railroad.

While watching, I didn’t feel as if the scenes were over dramatic or over saturated with the use of the N-word. The drama, location, and subtle use of humor were blended nicely for such grim subject matter.

The actors did a great job! I can never get enough of Janelle Monáe.

Cynthia Erivo played an excellent Harriet, although many of us may still be partial to Cicely Tyson in that role in 1978. Cynthia also sang one of the songs on the soundtrack — Stand Up. It will raise the hairs on your skin. Speaking of the soundtrack, you might add this one to your musical playlist; it’s hella good.

A couple of quick things that resonated for me. There’s a part in the movie where Harriet makes up her mind to go back to rescue others. Marie, played by Janelle Monáe, teaches Harriet how to blend in and not look or sound like a slave. That scene validated what I tell the women I mentor all the time. Don’t dress like the job you have; dress like the job you want.

The last thing that was paramount in Harriet’s journey was her realizing what her journey was all about. She went back with one mission, but she quickly had to shift gears when she learned that wasn’t her mission at all. That was the moment her real transformation into a courageous, strong-minded, ingenious hero began.

There’s a lot more I can say about this movie but I’ll stop here for now. Feel free to share your thoughts below. I want to know what resonated with you about the movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t too difficult selecting Peetimes. This is a biopic about a well-known figure in American and Canadian history; therefore, sensitivity to the plot was imperative. There are 3 Peetimes. I recommend the 2nd Peetime.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – The Current War

Movie Review - The Current WarUnless there’s some compelling reason you have for seeing this movie in the theater, I think it would make an excellent movie night at home when it’s streaming online, or on DVD.

The only negative thing I have to say about this movie is that the pacing goes way too fast. The scenes cut back and forth between settings way too fast. A long scene in this movie is probably only 3 minutes long, and there’s few of them.

I think this movie could have been much better if it were 30 (or even 45) minutes longer. I felt like I was watching a movie and not experiencing a movie — if that makes any sense.

The casting and acting were good, but not great. It was cool to see Dr. Strange and Spider-Man side by side for a few scenes. But honestly, I think the character of Mr. Insull was totally wasted on Tom Holland. Not that Tom did a bad job — there just wasn’t anything in the script for him to work with.

If there’s one place the movie totally fails, it’s that they focus on the main characters and plot at the expense of establishing just how profoundly impactful electric lights were to the common man.

Can you remember that feeling the first time you used a smartphone? Now take that and multiply by a billion. Humanity had lived forever in darkness, minus a candle or campfire, until the advent of electric lights. (Yes, there were oil lamps on streets in select cities, but even that was ultra new.)

Electric lights, along with the phonograph and telephone, were nothing short of the introduction of magic. They just scratched the surface of expressing that in the movie.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: It was hard to get Peetimes for this movie because it cut from one short scene to another fairly consistently. Most of the longer scenes were too important, and full of dialog, to use as Peetimes. I have three Peetimes spaced through the movie. I can’t really say than any one of them is better or worse than the others.

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

Rated (PG-13) for some violent content and thematic elements
Genres: Biography, Drama, History

Movie Review – Judy

Movie Review - JudyI was sitting in the theater watching Judy when I realized I’m the target audience. I grew up idolizing this gifted woman and was well aware of her continuous struggles to rid herself of the demons that seemed to dictate her life. So I feel most qualified to review this movie.

When you see Renee Zellweger’s interpretation of Judy Garland, you’ll see why everyone (that matters) is raving about her performance. Some people (who really don’t matter) are panning Renee’s performance as over-exaggerated and off-key.

I think perhaps these people didn’t grow up knowing the real Judy Garland — they only know Dorothy Gale. Renee’s gesticulations were spot on. And because Renee’s voice didn’t reflect the golden tones of a sixteen year old girl singing about rainbows and such, she was unduly criticized. Director Rupert Goold explained that during 1969, Judy’s voice was older, and the years had not been nice to her vocal cords, nor the rest of her body. In short, Renee nailed it. Move over Oscar #1, Mamma’s bringing home Oscar #2.

I have to say that in my theater the demographics were couples over sixty. I spoke with several couples who found, just as I did, that Renee’s interpretation was spot-on. I fear that movie-goers younger than fifty will not get the same enjoyment as the baby boomers will have. But this does not include folks under fifty who actually have very good cinematic taste.

In all respects, this is an excellent movie; well acted, directed, and written. Also, major kudos to the costume and makeup departments. I see an Oscar nod in their future. BTW, the ending alone is worth the price of a ticket.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: About midway through the movie I’ve given you a 5 minute break. You may want to take advantage of this Peetime, because it’s the last one, and there’s still about another half hour of the movie left.

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

Rated (PG-13) for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

The Essential Will Smith

 

Gemini Man opens October 11.  The name Will Smith has become synonymous with  sci-fi action films.  Smith has had a long and varied career, even if his genre roles are my favorite.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid.  Somewhere I have a Soundtracks cassette of eight-year-old me rapping (or attempting to)  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  (Once upon a time, kids, we paid to do karaoke and they gave us recordings of it.)  On the eve of Will Smith’s latest movie, let’s take a look at his most essential performances.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith’s first significant acting job was starring in this long-running sitcom.  He played a fish out of water who left a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in California after getting in a fight.  But you probably already knew that from the famous, catchy theme song.  I had loved Will aka The Fresh Prince for his novelty rap songs like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”  This show was what made him a household name though.

Six Degrees of Separation

This was one of Will Smith’s first movie roles and it proved he could play serious parts.  Smith’s character interrupts a rich couple’s dinner party claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League children.  He charms his way into their home but there may be more to him than there appears.  This movie, adapted from John Guare’s play, is the basis of the Kevin Bacon game aka Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.   (I can link Will to Kevin in 2 degrees.  Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.  Tommy Lee Jones stars with Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.  Brad Pitt is in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.)

Bad Boys

Will Smith joined fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence for this action film where they play detectives.  The duo proved to be so popular that not only did they make a second movie, a third one is slated to come out next year and a fourth one is in pre-production.

Independence Day

Man, I miss 1996!

This blockbuster set a precedent for a while.  It just wasn’t summer without a Will Smith movie, most of them coming out on Fourth of July weekend.  Smith plays a military pilot who helps defend Earth against an alien attack.  The special effects may seem dated today, but at the time the White House getting blown up by a UFO was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.  The movie became the highest-grossing film of 1996.  The following summer would see Smith working with aliens again.

Men in Black 

Don’t look at this or they’ll flashy-thing you.

Based on a comic book, this sci-fi comedy blockbuster paired Will Smith with Tommy Lee Jones.  They made for a winning team.  They play secret agents who are part of an organization that supervises alien lifeforms on Earth and hides their existence from humans.  The movie spawned three sequels and a cartoon series.

Ali

Smith plays boxer Muhammad Ali in this biopic.  His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination.  (I’m not going to discuss his second Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.  If you want to see Smith in an inspirational role, watch The Legend of Bagger Vance instead.  It’s much less schmaltzy.)  Sadly, this is one of those films where the movie isn’t as good as the performance.  But it’s still worth seeing.  Will Smith becomes Muhammad Ali.

 

I Am Legend

I still feel like Smith was within a hair’s breadth of getting an Oscar nomination for this role.  You can feel his loneliness and isolation as the last man on earth after a zombie apocalypse.  The scene where he begs a mannequin to talk to him is SO GOOD!  This is easily one of my top films of 2007.  It’s a change from the more humorous sci-fi roles of ID4 and MIB.  This one’s more serious.  And he still rocks it.  It’s amazing how they were able to film/create an abandoned New York City, especially Times Square.

Focus

I love movies about con men.  And this one has Margot Robbie to boot.  Usually, Smith plays the hero.  It’s rare to see him play an antihero (like in Hancock).  This is a fun movie with some twists.

Concussion

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in this important film about how football can lead to brain damage.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by Oscar for his performance about a doctor who takes risks to do the right thing.  This underrated performance is one of his best roles.

Suicide Squad

Deadshot putting up with Harley.

There aren’t words for how bummed I am that Smith won’t be reprising his role as Deadshot for the new Suicide Squad movie.  He made a great antihero, a villain you cared about.  He was a badass but he was also a loving father and made both halves of that believable.  He also had great rapport with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.  My only consolation is that he’ll probably play someone equally badass in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually.

Aladdin

No one else will ever be Robin Williams.  However, Smith brought his own original spin to the role of the Genie.  It’s hard not to enjoy this new version of the classic.

Don’t miss the best parts of Gemini Man or any of your other favorite movies.  Always use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies like Ad Astra, Joker, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).

 

 

Movie Review – The Goldfinch

 

Movie Review - The GoldfinchDisclaimer; I did not read the 800+ page Pulitzer Prize winning novel. I should have.

Not having read the book, I don’t know how closely the movie followed it, but I did read an article that director John Crowley took great pains to remain faithful to the book. Plus, the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes — 74 — is a pretty good indicator that the fans did approve of the movie.

Okay, so I didn’t read the book, but saw the movie, blah, blah blah. How did I feel about The Goldfinch?

Ansel Elgort did a fine job portraying the adult Theo. And he certainly did look like a Manhattan preppy. Nicole Kidman, as Theo’s guardian after the death of his mother, honestly could have been played by just about any other actor. Her character had no meat on her bones.

A Couple of Issues with The Goldfinch

Here’s one problem I encountered with the movie: the two actors playing Theo’s love interests, Willa Fitzgerald and Ashley Cummings, looked just enough alike to confuse me. And what with the flow of the movie that went forward and backward throughout the film, it kinda messed with my head. I really didn’t like that.

I was entertained on a fairly consistent level, and enjoyed the twists and turns that kept the pace going. Biggest complaint: it was about half an hour too long and it wasn’t even a Marvel movie.

I give The Goldfinch a B-.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: This movie was slow paced, making it fairly easy to get 3 Peetimes due to the length of the movie – 2 & 1/2 hours. I had a problem with my timer half way through the film, so the last Peetime may be off by a minute or less. So, sorry if this creates any confusion.

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

Rated (R) for drug use and language
Genres: Drama

Avengers: Endgame Re-Release Extra Footage Explained

Movie Review – Blinded by the Light

How to Avoid Being Eaten by a Shark In a Shark Movie (or real life)

the meg shark mouth poster
Don’t be like dumb people in shark films.

Like shark movies? Ever wonder WHY we enjoy these monster/disaster/fish bait movies so much? I wonder that myself. It’s not like they’re teaching us how to avoid being eaten alive, hunted like prey, or anything useful.

So here’s the top ten ways to avoid becoming “chummy” with the sharks. (Get it? Get it? Sheesh.) I’m getting my safety information from National Geographic, but I’m also not an idiot. These things are common sense.

Top Ten Ways to Avoid Being Eaten by Sharks (with movie examples of what not to do).

1. STAY AWAY FROM DEAD THINGS IN THE WATER.

You’d think this would be obvious. Someone something will be hanging around said dead fish, whale, or person, eating the body. Always. People in the movies are always dangling around with tasty arms and legs, paddling about, curious and/or sad about the dead thing. Move along, people! (These are the same characters who think it’s a great idea to split up in haunted houses to look for clues.)

the reef shark movie
Swim away from the bodies.

Point: In The Shallows, Blake Lively’s character swam up against a chewed up,  bloody whale. That would have been a great time to LEAVE. Don’t even get me started on the people in The Reef.

2. On a similar note, avoid schools of fish, seals, or sea lions.

Don’t add to the buffet. Simple rules, here.

3. If you see a lot of seabird or dolphin activity, be aware they are attracted to the same food sharks like. 

So far, Rules 1-3 are variations on a theme. Stay off the menu when there’s a meal about.

4. ALSO SHOULD BE OBVIOUS: Stay away from fishing boats, which usually dump entrails and blood in the water. 

I just watched 47 Meters Down 2 – Uncaged. Vague and minor spoiler: some people surface right as a glass bottomed shark boat dumped chum in the sea for the pleasure of tourists. This did not go well for those people.

47 meters down 2 uncaged fishbait meme
Fixed it.

5. Are you bleeding at all? Menstruating, even? Get out of the ocean.

Sharks can smell tiny amounts of blood over large distances. That big snout isn’t just a container for teeth. Remember the movie Pitch Black? (Which wasn’t a shark film, but the idea still applies.) #BloodSmells

pennywise chapter one it
Ewww. Okay. Just no to blood.

6. Avoid storm drain release points. Likewise, places where sewage enters the ocean.

These ‘garbage’ points attract bait fish, which attracts the sharks who eat them. Also, gross! Don’t swim there! I live right beside a lovely bay on the sea with plenty of nice places to swim, and STILL see young families playing in the water around the YUCKY WATER, E COLI PRESENT, DON’T SWIM HERE signs.

Just because the water’s shallow doesn’t mean it’s safe.

7. Avoid: Harbor channels, steep ocean floor drop offs, river entrances, and any place the water is murky. And be aware that after rains, river entrances will sweep yummy baitfish out to sea. 

These are places sharks like to patrol. And they can see quite well in the muck.

deep blue sea shark fin
They can still see you.

8. Don’t swim at dusk. Or dawn or night. Or any time alone, in an isolated area, especially at night. 

Twilight isn’t the time only Vampires like to feed. Also, with the not swimming alone? You’re safer in numbers. Just like with Vampires!

Did you see The Shallows? Blake Lively should have known better than to swim alone at a remote beach like that, even in broad daylight.

the shallows with blake lively
Don’t swim alone on a super remote beach, not even if you’re Blake Lively.

9. Don’t wear bright colors (yellow and orange are supposed to be the worst), or reflective jewelry that a shark will interpret as fish scales. 

Although, back to The Shallows, the jewelry did a fantastic job stitching up Blake’s skin after her first shark encounter. So if you wear jewelry, consider the kind that can double as a needle and thread.

10. Don’t splash too much. 

Man, it annoyed me in The Reef when those survivors not only hung around the dead bodies, but kicked and splashed and made too much activity while drifting around the Pacific. This is how scared prey acts.

Remember in Jaws when Richard Dreyfuss lost his poison-laced spear? He was not in the shark cage anymore, and a really mean Great White was right there. Playing a legitimately smart character, he dove down under some flotsam in his scuba gear to wait out the shark presence. The scientist survived with no worries.

jaws movie poster
Great movie that actually featured smart people.

There are different ways to swim. Some involve a lot of splashing. Others have more sinuous moves. Try to do, say, the breaststroke. Or at least kick smoothly, under the water, if you’re holding onto a float.

And keep your pets, especially dogs, out of the water. They make a lot of commotion. The pet rat in The Abyss was an unusual case, but worked out for the rat. The bird in Deep Blue Sea was less lucky. I won’t spoil what happens to the dog in Crawl, but that’s an alligator movie, and I don’t have any details on gator attacks.

What if you’re diving and a shark does approach you?

Stay as still as possible if you can’t easily exit the water. But if you’re actually attacked, or if the shark has you in its mouth, don’t play dead. Attack back with everything you can, and try to get the shark in the delicate areas of eyes, gills, or snout. If you recall, in Deep Blue Sea, a large crucifix made a great shark weapon.  (Again with the useful jewelry…hmmm…)

I’m not saying to use movies for your guide in survival situations, but at least these are things to think about.

Overall, Be Aware of Yourself in the Water

When all is said and done, here’s the note attached to the credits of 47 Meters Down: Uncaged Sharks kill ten people a year. People kill ten million sharks a year. So the idea here is to be aware, but not paranoid. Note also that this statistic doesn’t include people who are attacked and survived. Famous surfer Bethany Hamilton probably didn’t commit any of these Ten Deadly Sins, but lost an arm anyway.

bethany hamilton unstoppable movie poster
Bethany Hamilton, still rocking it.

Just be think of how sea predators work, and you won’t have to avoid swimming in the ocean altogether. And if you feel something touch you while swimming, calmly but efficiently get the hell out of the water.

Don’t be like the stupid people in these shark movies:

Movie Review – 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

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

First View Movie Review – Jaws 2

The Shallows – First View Movie Review (2016)

Deep Blue Sea – First View Movie Review (With YouTube Clips)

 

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Urban Legends (that might be true)

scary image for scary stories in the darl
This might keep you up at night.

Guillermo del Toro’s new movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — an adaptation of Alvin Schwartz’s book series — haunts theaters this week. I didn’t read the books growing up as a child. I was too much of a scaredy cat.

But then I studied collections of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand — one of Schwartz’s influences — when I was in my twenties. It may not be Halloween yet, but it’s the perfect time to swap scary stories. Here are some of my favorites, and some are actually true.

Tell me which I of your stories I missed in the comments section below..

Note: In true Urban Legend fashion, I elected not to reread any versions of these stories, but to tell them as well as I can from my own memory. This is how stories grow and change from one teller to the next.

The New Pet

On a trip to Mexico, a woman found a sickly, abandoned dog. She snuck it back across the border with her and nursed it back to health. However, she became very concerned about her new pet. It had a nasty temper, often tried to bite her, and had a voracious appetite. She finally took her new dog to the vet. After a while, the veterinarian came out and asked her, “Where did you get that thing?”

“I found that dog in an alley in Mexico,” she confessed. “He was very sick. I couldn’t leave him there.”

“That’s no dog,” the vet told her. “That’s a Mexican sewer rat!”

She nearly fainted.

(This is the first urban legend I ever heard.)

scared woman and scary stories to tell in the dark
Urban legends…are sometimes true.

 

Kidnappers!

This is a legend that constantly gets told about a certain theme park. Brunvand has tried to track down anyone who can verify it. But everyone always claims it happened to a “friend of a friend.” It’s why he likes to call these FOAF stories.

“If you ever go to [World Famous Theme Park I’m Not Getting Sued By], keep a close eye on your children. If you lose a child, report it to an employee immediately. Time is of the essence.

Security will take you to an underground room with monitors that show you the entire park. They’ll tell you to search for your child’s face. Their clothing and hairstyle may have already been altered by the kidnappers.

True story: my cousin’s friends got lucky. They were able to recognize their kid and stop the kidnapper. The little boy’s head had been shaved, and he was dressed differently. I hate to think about what happens to other families. Something shady is going on there. If you vacation there, be careful.

(It’s never made sense to me that you would lose valuable getting away time to shave the child’s head. When I discovered this was an urban legend, I thought it would bring my sister some relief, as this is one of her greatest fears every time we visit this park. Instead, she double downed on her belief that this story is 100% true. Some people don’t want to hear that their kid isn’t the most valuable thing on Earth.)

The Killer With the Hook

Several variants on this story. Here’s one: A couple was parked out on Lover’s Lane one night. They kept hearing this “scratch, scratch, scratch” noise. When the man got out to investigate, he saw a hooded figure with a hook for a hand, scraping away at the roof of the car. The hook-handed fiend swiped at the man, nearly taking his head off. The man got back in the car and locked the doors. He started the car and gunned it, but the killer hung on, crawling down onto the hood of the car and shaking his deadly hook at them. The woman shrieked. The killer crawled back up the car and began trying to punch his way through the back windshield. The driver sped up and finally lost the killer on a sharp curve.

Later, when he got home, he tried to convince himself it had all been a bad dream. But the next morning, when he came outside, he found a hook caught in the car window.

[Ed Note: I STILL find this one scary….shudders.]

A Scary Drive

A woman was driving alone at night. A large truck came behind her, all of a sudden. It flashed its lights at her and honked, but refused to pass her. She became nervous because of the other vehicle’s aggressive actions. She sped up a little but every time she sped up, so did the truck. Every now and then, it would honk and flash its lights again.

She tried to motion for the truck to go around her, but the driver stayed on her tail as if he were stalking her. When she finally came to a gas station, she pulled over and jumped out of the car, yelling for help. When the truck pulled in, the driver yelled out the window, “There’s someone else in the car!”

Moments later, the truck driver and the service station manager, both armed, approached the woman’s car. In the backseat, they found a killer with a knife. He’d snuck into the car at the last gas station she stopped at. Every time the killer had reared up to stab the woman, the heroic trucker flashed his lights to blind him.

(This story is the reason I look in my backseat EVERY time I get into my car. The opening scene of the movie Urban Legend does a good adaptation of this one.) [Ed Note: Also the 10th Rule in ZombieLand.]

The Babysitter

This Urban Legend pops up in a lot of horror movies and surely you’ve seen this terrifying idea or a variant of it: 

One night, a young woman was babysitting her neighbors’ kids. All night long, she kept getting creepy phone calls. “You’re all going to die,” the voice on the other line would say. Thirty minutes later, she would receive another call, “I’m going to slit your throats.” After she put the children to bed, she got a third nasty phone call. So she dialed the operator to see if they could trace the calls.

When the threatening voice called again, it was followed by another call from the operator. “Get out! Quick! The call’s coming from inside the house!”

Don’t miss the best frights from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Use the RunPee app. We’ve got Peetimes for Midsommar and Crawl and we’ll be adding new ones for 47 Meters Down: Uncaged and IT: Chapter 2. You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RunPee/.

Movie Review – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

http://runpee.com/ranking-the-chucky-movies-from-a-true-horror-fan/stories.

19 Entry-Level Horror Movies for the Squeamish

Movie Review – The Art of Racing in the Rain

Movie Review - The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain is yet another animal flick to tug at your heart strings. Are you a dog lover? If you answer yes, then this movie will not only tug at your heart strings, but will rip them out of your chest and wrap them around your windpipe.

One man in my theater was sobbing so hard, he was having a difficult time breathing. It kinda scared me for a second, but my eyes quickly went back to the screen.

The production quality of the movie was good and I have absolutely nothing negative to say about ‘Art’. I read the book when it first came out, being a big fan of Garth Steine. I realized then that if it were made into a movie, Kleenex stock would rise dramatically. The movie followed the book very well.

A lot of critics have panned it for the saccharine dialog, but hey, Hollywood loves ‘Sweet & Low’. Why is saccharine a bad thing? Everybody needs a good cry every once in a while. (It cleans out the tear ducts.)

The movie is about a dog who wants to die because he once saw on television that when a dog dies he returns to Earth as a human. More than anything, Enzo wanted to race in the rain someday. I enjoyed Kevin Costner as the voice of Enzo. Maybe Kevin will return to Earth as a dog.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering; did I cry? No. Why, you ask? Besides being just a bit hard-hearted [according to any one of my four husbands], I have an uncanny ability to separate reality from fiction.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This movie was evenly paced, making it easy to get 2 good Peetimes. Both give you 4 minutes to break, so let your bladder decided.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Art of Racing in the Rain. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic material
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Tear-Jerker

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

Each Dog Death in A Dog’s Journey

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

 

Movie Review – Brian Banks

 

Movie Review - Brian BanksI really love movies based on a true story. I’m always curious to see how the storyline will play out, and if it seems grossly embellished or not. Brian Banks is relatable and “reel” on so many levels.

Yes, this movie can be categorized into the files of the “MeToo Movement” for sure, but with a little twist, and intense and valid emotions throughout the whole movie.

The actors were very good, and I’m a huge fan of Morgan Freeman. Freeman is not one of the main characters; he is a catalyst to the transformation of Brian Banks. Morgan is never bad; he’s like the godfather of movies. He shows up and shows out at the most opportune moments.

Was He Like the Real Brian Banks?

I watched interviews with the real Brian Banks before going to see the onscreen depiction, just to be able to validate whether Aldis Hodge (Brain Banks) gave us a top notch reflection of the real guy.

And Aldis did. His movements, diction, and emotions were on target. Now, I’m not sure about seeing Aldis in another movie involving him in jail though, which comes out December 2019. I clutched my pearls with confusion when I saw the trailer for Clemency immediately before the Brian Banks Movie started. I thought Brian Banks had begun, and that I missed the cue to start my timer. LOL! But I digress…

The pace was good for one hour and 39 minutes. The use of flashback scenes were very effective, especially toward the end when Brian was waiting to hear the judge’s decision. All the critical moments in his life flashed before him as he awaited yet another moment that would change his life.

An Insightful Film

What I found very insightful was how the director explored the dynamics behind criminal law. He peeled a lot of the onion back to reveal crucial case law, how attorneys collaborate, and why some things are presented in the courtroom or not.

I especially liked that, because I know I sometimes ask myself, “Self, why didn’t they say this?” “Why wasn’t that important?” or “What in the heck was the judge thinking?”

So pay attention to the law narrative. I also liked how there were lots of plot pieces, but the director pretty much flushed them all out to the end;he didn’t leave me hanging.

Everyone had a connection to Brian’s struggle directly or indirectly, including his workout partner. Ultimately, I was tuned in to see if the plot was realistic and believable for such an event that happened to teenagers. And I was elated that the plot made you think and get watery-eyed; not frown and question the likelihood of the tragedy.

The use of light was very emotional; reminded me of an epiphany at its best. Another thing that resonated was the “tether.” The tether took me back to Jordan Peele’s movie Us. I admired how the director ended the movie at the exact location where the movie and Brian Bank’s dreams started.

Check it out for yourself, and take your teenagers, because when they know better, they will certainly do better. We have to teach/show our children how to stop and think about the “what ifs” on a daily basis, thus to matriculate through life without becoming a part of the existing societal problems — instead becoming an intelligent, good-natured, ethical citizen that’s part of the solutions.

(By the way, for those that may be running late, there were 24 minutes of previews in my showing.)

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t difficult selecting Peetimes, given this is a biopic, and I knew a little about the back story — which gave me some perspective. I recommend the 1st Peetime.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content and related images, and for language
Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport, True life story

Movie Review – Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Movie Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

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 [email protected])

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

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