A Merry Movie Christmas – The RunPee Family’s Favorite Holiday Films

Die Hard, A christmas movie
Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.

It’s that time of year again, when you can’t walk around in stores without hearing that Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, how mommy kissed Santa Claus, or that sad Last Christmas song by WHAM! In other words, ’tis the season to pay lip service to the holidays. (Ouch. I sound like a Grinch. Let me start again.)

Even if you’re not Christian, it’s tough to not feel your heartstrings tugged by the onslaught of themed family-friendly films. Now is when family becomes the central theme, and we spend too much money on presents nobody actually needs.  At its best, at Christmas, we remind ourselves family shouldn’t be taken for granted; we can forgive familial trespasses, and work on spreading love and cheer to all and sundry. Remember: family isn’t necessarily based on the bonds of blood. Do you care about someone? Let them know!

The RunPee Family is especially thankful to all of you, who’ve either been long term boosters or brand-new fans of the RunPee app: you are the reason we give up our nights, week after week, to see every movie, and share Peetimes with the world.

We thought you might enjoy hearing what our favorite holiday movies are. Please add your own in the comments section! You’re a part of our extended family, after all. 🙂

With no further ado, here are the favorite holiday movies from the members of the RunPee Family: (Note: reviewed movies and family profiles are linked.)

RunPee Dan:
Love, Actually
Lethal Weapon (written by Shane Black)
Die Hard
The Long Kiss Goodnight (written by Shane Black)
Iron Man 3 (written by Shane Black)
“I’m starting to notice a trend with Shane Black movies.”

RunPee Jilly:
Die Hard (“It’s just not Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off the Nakatomi building.”)
Lethal Weapon
Love, Actually
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (“It’s the one with Yule Ball celebration! Although each Harry Potter film has quite a bit of Christmas in it, to one degree or another.”)
Home Alone
Iron Man 3
Gremlins
“I’m also a sucker for the original Grinch holiday special.”

RunPee Mom:
“I would have to say that Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite. And on the other end of the spectrum, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is my second-favorite.”

RunPee Sis:
“Howdy…hands down, my #1 is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Also, the new Will Farrell and Mark Walhberg movies…Daddy’s Home 1 and 2.”

The RunPee Princess/Granddaughter:
RunPee Mom reports, Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (Max the dog was her favorite part), and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

RunPee Shani:
It’s a Wonderful Life
Home Alone

RunPee Dana:
It’s A Wonderful Life
The Preacher’s Wife
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer
“Sooooo!  I wanted to share a little tidbit about why I chose Its a Wonderful Life as one of my favorite Christmas movies.  As a child, it was the first encounter I had with hearing about a “bank examiner.” Do you remember when George was nervous when the deposit run started, and he said the bank examiner was coming, and he needed money to cover the books?  I never knew bank examining was a job or career until that movie. Then I went to college, and low and behold the FDIC was recruiting when I was 18 years old for bank examiners on my college campus.  Long story short, until you read it in my book, at age 21 the FDIC hired me…after I stalked them for 3 1/2 years in college.  I’ve been employed with them for over 26 years and lived in 5 states via promotions and special assignments.  Interesting, uh?!?! Yup, being a Female Masterpiece…It’s A Wonderful Life….pun intended! Wink wink.”


The RunPee Family wishes you and yours a very merry Christmas, a fabulous holiday season, and of course, a great new year. I think we could all use a good new year.  😉 Here’s to wishes and new year’s kisses that 2019 will rock!

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

The Weirdest Moments in Classic Christmas Specials

abominable snowman on the year without a santa claus
Turns out he’s not a bad guy. But still kind of strange.

Old Christmas TV specials can be downright bizarre. I grew up watching the animated cartoons like  Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch, and eagerly lapped up the clay stop-motions like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Joyous holiday fun, right?

Yes. And no. They’re enjoyable shorts, but as an adult I’m noticing really strange beats, weirdo songs, and odd, almost off-putting characters. Some of these things resonate through the years: we’ve learned to use the term Reindeer Games to signify human pack behavior that’s intended to be more clique-ish than inclusive. And among those experiencing “outsider status” alienation, the concept of The Island of Misfit Toys really hits home.

Here are some of the best wacked-out songs from decades ago that we still love, probably because of their strangeness.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974):

Remember the Heat Miser? There’s also a Snow Miser, but nobody remembers him. The Snow guy seems too nice, but the “Heat Blister” is the king of strange. If you’ve ever seen this, the lyrics come flooding back. (He’s too much…da da da duh…)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966):

I can’t go any further without mentioning the beloved song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. What great about this song is there are so many additional lyrics as the song reprises over the course of 26 minutes of cartoon runtime. It’s really creative and each set gets wilder and weirder. I love this. Between The Grinch and the Heat Miser, it’s like grumpy geek nirvana.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964):

This is the cutest one in the holiday lineup, with a whole lot of adorableness and a great message about tolerance, compassion for others who don’t fit the societal role, and the kind of understanding that leads (if we’re really lucky) to friendship. Everyone in this special is damaged goods in some way, even Santa himself, who has to stuff himself unhealthily to fit the “image” of a fat old man. But the real strangeness award has to go to the Abominable Snowman, who’s only cranky because his teeth hurt. Enter the elf who wants to be a — gasp! —  dentist. It all comes around, and Rudolph’s deformity saves Christmas. I hope the other reindeer invite him to play their games and he tells them off. Although, I guess, that’s defeating the spirit of the message.

The Island of Misfit Toys also qualifies as weird. There’s a birdfish, a crying dolly, a Charlie in the Box, a train with square wheels…all toys probably made by elves on crack. The toys believe no child would ever want them. In reality — our reality — there are kids who’d love them instead of getting the boring same-old toys: these are unique. And remember, even in this day there are children who’s families can’t afford any gifts. They would CHERISH these toys.

Those who are different don’t have to be outcasts, or think of themselves as broken. Apparently Santa doesn’t even bother to save the toys in the original, as LifeNews reports in an excellent article (well worth a read — angry letters from children saved the day).

And that’s all I’m going to say as I put my soapbox away. Here’s the brightly, sprightly song the lonely toys sing, at strange odds with their predicament — they truly have no hope for themselves. It’s remarkably subversive, and I love it:

In sum, I’d posit that strange is memorable and fun, sticking to the nooks and crannies of the brain moreso than taking more expected  route. Look at the new (1918) Grinch movie. It’ a marvel of animation, but boring. Really, really boring.

Have I missed something noteworthy and odd from your favorite holiday specials? Do you prefer the Grinch song or the Heat Miser? Please add your comments below!

In Defense of the Grinch

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Movie Review – The Grinch

 

 

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

A Novice Rocky Review

rocky and adrian
Rocky — a love story.

I’d never seen the original 1976 Rocky in the past, because it seemed to be a “boxing” movie, and watching people hit each other into a bloody mess has never been my bag. Somewhere along the line I watched Rocky III, which was a decent enough film. It was sad and then triumphant. But I never became a Rocky fan. I did see Rocky IV, but thought that one wasn’t good, and then gave up on the whole thing as more decades of Rocky  and Rocky-adjacent films passed me by.

With Creed II killing it in theaters, all the Rocky movies have been re-playing on TV, so I DVRed I-III for a newbie review. I can’t quite call it a Virgin Review, since I did see two of the eight films in the franchise (although if you ask me for any details, all I remember is III is the sad one and IV is the one with the blonde Russian boxer.)

I figured it was time to see what the fuss was about with Rocky the First. I recently watched Jaws this summer, to prep for The Meg, and thought Jaws was truly an A+ film. I was too young to appreciate Jaws when it came out, thinking it a horror monster movie, when it really is not. It’s about three men and what they are made of when it counts. (Jaws is a perfect film. I gave it an A+  and posted a glowing rewatch review here.)

Well, Rocky is not really a boxing movie. The cold open shows Sylvester Stallone in a match, but we don’t see any more fighting until the end with the big champion-ship match. The plot is really more about this somewhat under-educated man with an unappealing job of collecting loan debts. He’s rough around every edge, but as you watch, you can sense he’s also so much more: he loves animals; is enamored with the shy bookish woman at the pet store; he tries to help a young girl on the streets, and, most tellingly, doesn’t break the thumb of the man he’s ordered to hurt when collecting a debt. Rocky also loves music. He fights because it’s the one thing he feels he’s really good at. He’s as insecure as everyone else seems to be in the story. One could argue Rocky is more about overcoming your self-loathing than fighting.

More than being a sports movie, it’s a love story and a drama. The scenes where Rocky tries to bring Adrian out of her shell are unusual: he likes the quiet girl that doesn’t speak words if she can help it. He gave her enough self-confidence to tell off her abusive brother, in a wonderfully acted and taut scene. I don’t understand why Rocky is even friends with Paulie, but I think we are given to understand Rocky likes everyone, and doesn’t hold their personality defects against them. What a rare trait, and something to consider in our own lives.

Rocky is also clearly a drama. The two fight scenes are more efficient than gripping, and I have no problem with that.  But the scenes that truly stick out show Rocky with coach Mickey, Rocky with Paulie, and Rocky with his strangely sympathetic loan shark. The one big scene with Coach, played in an astoundingly profound, yet gruff way, needs to be seen once, then seen again. It’s sorrowful, hopeful AND hopeless, and features two significant monologues, spoken to a closed door in one case, and then from listening alone in a stairwell for the second. This turns into a  masterful, surprising, and deeply moving pair of performances. Rocky and Mickey are damaged people who don’t know how to trust or feel hope again…yet the two men come together as the camera pans out to a wide shot on the streets, without any words at all. Its beautiful. You could cry right there. I hope this scene, and Burgess Meredith in particular, won an award. It’s that good. You feel you’ve witnessed a great moment in cinema.

Here’s a video of this duology of monologues. Watch this again, because scenes like this don’t come around very often: 

I had no idea Rocky was a good movie, let alone a great one, which puts me in my place. It’s got seven sequels for a reason. (Maybe I need to see the first Fast and Furious, by my logic?) 😉

Many iconic moments stood out that I only absorbed through pop culture til now:  when Rocky cracks five raw eggs into a glass and sloppily gulps it down. When Rocky, trying  to make a point with Paulie, beats up a side of beef so furiously that he breaks its ribs. When Rocky runs through the streets of Philly, pre-morning, and triumphs over the stairs that left him winded earlier, as the Rocky theme song we all love crescendos all around, Rocky’s arms making a V to the skies as the dawn emerges from the night. (I’ve got goosebumps remembering this.)

The training montage scene that should never be considered a Peetime:

And then, of course, the climax: Rocky blinded, bloody, and beaten, calls plaintively for Adrian. When she makes it through the throng, I thought this would be the time to say they love each other, which they do. I lapped up every second of that. Remember when this film came out in 1976, audiences were still hopeful movies would leave them happier than when they came in. Now we are cynical and a bit jaded, so it’s nice to see an early film that awards the viewers for their patience, as a slow tale reaches a beautiful conclusion.

I think the only reason this film doesn’t get a Plus on that A, is from the confusing ending. Who won the fight? I have no idea from watching it. I asked my mother, also watching, who won and she had no clue either. Nobody was punched out on the ground. We re-wound the scene and still didn’t understand what happened, although I could barely make it out that Apollo Creed mumbled something about a re-match. So, was it a tie?

I texted a friend and asked WHO WON IN ROCKY? He said Creed did, from “points” — and the denouement is about Creed respecting Rocky enough to give him a real chance for the title next year. Or something like that? When I watch Rocky II I might understand better, but I think it’s unforgivable to keep your non-sport oriented viewers this confused. At that time in movie history, sequels were not much of a thing, so this might have left us confused forever. I don’t mind him not winning: I just want to know what happened without asking the Wikipedia. (It turns out they professed love and a vow to not have a re-match? I am not sure how I’m supposed to know this from watching it on film.)

There’s a nice bit of background to Rocky: Stallone himself wrote it, and the story says he was down to around $106 left to his name. The studios offered him $300, 000 for the script and wanted to put someone like Burt Reynolds in the role. Stallone turned it down, insisting that he should star in it. The rest, I guess, is history, as per Wikipedia:

The film, made on a budget of just over $1 million, was a sleeper hit; it earned $225 million in global box office receipts, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1976, and went on to win three Oscars, including Best Picture. The film received many positive reviews and turned Stallone into a major star.[4] In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. Rocky is considered to be one of the greatest sports films ever made and was ranked as the second-best in the genre, after Raging Bull, by the American Film Institute in 2008.

Movie Grade: A

The Rocky theme music for your nostalgic enjoyment, and good luck getting it out of your head:

PS: I’ve started noticing the use of holidays in films. Well, in this case, Rocky could be called both a Thanksgiving movie and a Christmas flick. Pay attention the next time you watch it. 🙂


Here are our detailed Rocky I–Creed II reviews, from a Rocky Virgin who’d never seen any of the films  in the franchise before.

Some related reviews we think you’ll like:

Movie Review – Creed II

Movie Review – The Meg

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Quiz – Schindler’s List

With the re-showing of Schindler’s List coming out soon, I wanted to do a little refresher course to reacquaint ourselves before the movie release. I would rate the difficulty of this quiz at average to hard. Good Luck.

Schindler’s list

I tried to choose questions that would engage the user to want to know more about this very dark time on planet Earth. Sadly, it’s true; those who don’t study history are bound to repeat it, and even then, there’s always enough idiots who do read history, but who go out there and muck it anyway.

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Movie Rewatch Review – The Birdcage

the birdcage with gene hackman, robin williams and nathan lane.
I’m still giggling. Some of this movie is just not cool today, but the basic madcap humor and earnest message is a win.

When The Birdcage opened as a feature film in 1997, I don’t remember people being quite so terrified of gay men…so it surprised me, 21 years later, to see such fear in the hearts of the young straight couple to admit the groom-to-be had two fathers. Or, as this movie made clear, one male father, and one male mother.

I’m guessing the producers chose to make the young lady’s parents so super conservative to even be close to being okay with this premise — even to making Callista Flockhart’s character’s father an uber republican senator, basing his platform almost entirely on a Moral “Something-Or-Other” Coalition.

I can’t imagine this movie being produced today. The son made his doting, supportive parents pretend to be something society deemed acceptable, deceive his fiance’s parents, bring on a “fake” (sort of–it’s complicated) cis female mother, and REDECORATE THEIR ENTIRE HOUSE to appear heteronormative. It felt so completely unfair and inappropriate that I had to sit back, reminding myself the original version of the story came out even earlier, in a time when “the gays” was a legitimate source of humor. (Gene Hackman’s senator is an equal-opportunity xenophobe: he also says “a Black.”)

As per the Wikipedia, The Birdcage was previously known on Broadway as La Cage aux Folles (written in 1973): “The original 1983 Broadway production received nine nominations for Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book. The success of the musical spawned a West End production and several international runs. The 2004 Broadway revival won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and the 2008 London revival garnered the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. The 2010 Broadway revival was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. La Cage aux Folles is the first musical which has won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical twice and the show that has won a Best Production Tony Award (Best Musical or Best Revival of a Musical) for each of its Broadway productions. The show has had five nominations for Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical from the three Broadway productions, twice for Georges and three times for Albin, and won twice, both for Albin.”

Not too shabby. I’d love to see it on stage, myself.

Anyway. I’ve decided not to judge an old story on new norms. So be it: in this film’s universe, it’s a screaming hoot to present a wildly feminine fellow as a manly men’s man. Yes, I’m being sardonic, but if we go with the old and acceptable trope of mixed identities and madcap humor, this really is a super fun film. It made me a little sad to see Robin Williams here, knowing now how his genius stemmed from intense depression, but he was note-perfect as the long-suffering father who stands by his man when it counted. Nathan Lane, as William’s effeminate mate, was at turns amusing and heart-breaking, but always fantastic. And Hank Azaria (as their houseboy) was a non-stop delight, and not because he was gay, but from being such a wonderful weirdo in all incarnations. (I want an entire movie based on the life and times of Agador Spartacus. )

Hank Azaria in the birdcage
Oh Hank Spartacus, you rock my world!

Everyone committed to their parts with genuine glee and abandon. It was a real pleasure and treat to rewatch this film, so many years later, in spite of the genuine frustration of intransigent attitudes that hopefully don’t persist today.

I give this a super high grade only because the film made me laugh harder than I have in many (many!) years, from seeing everyone scrambling to hide phallic statues and bowls with Greek boys playing “leapfrog” around the rim, serving shrimp soup with no shrimp (and uncracked eggs floating around) as the only dish, and the joyous end with Hackman’s senator finally accepting the inevitable and the ridiculous. I’m still  smiling two days later.

I don’t want to write any more for this review, for two reasons: it’s immensely funny and shouldn’t be spoiled, and because I’m kind of uncomfortable making a lot of comments on using Gay Panic as a source of humor. If you have any suggestions how to handle both loving and being disturbed by the themes of a  movie, please leave them in the comments below. 

Movie Grade: A+ (For being legitimately enjoyable when taken on its intended merits: showcasing great acting, playful humor, and showing that society should never make one feel ashamed of themselves. )

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Movie Rewatch Review — Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

The Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.
Spoiler: I cried at the end.

I don’t know if you can technically call a 26-minute television Christmas Special a movie, but let’s go with it, since it’s almost Christmas, and I owe the nice people who like sappy holiday shows a kind-hearted review.

Filmed in 1966 and based off the classic 1957 children’s tale by the beloved Dr. Seuss (who didn’t invent the term grinch, but did coin the word nerd), the short film really stands up well over time. It’s cranky yet sweet, has some great tunes you can’t help but sing to, and the late, great Boris Karloff narrates the thing.

Seriously. How can you NOT love this song?


The animation itself recalls old Looney Tunes, specifically The Road Runner shorts. Watch the special and listen, and see if you don’t agree.

The Grinch himself is basically Wile E. Coyote, but more creative. I couldn’t help but chortle as he slunk around the presents like a green furry snake, wearing a gleeful grin.

This version is just as long as it needs to be, telling an economical tale that’s got a good message and tugs at the heartstrings without being treacly.

And you know, the Grinch isn’t really evil; he’s misunderstood. I’ve even defended him here.

I’ll tell you a secret. I watched this last night with my mother, sang the Grinch song out loud, and cried at the end. I wasn’t just misty-eyed; actual tears ran down my cheeks. I was careful to hide this show of sentimentality, of course, but when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes, and he saved Max and all the presents and rode into town like a hero, I felt like my heart grew too. Like the Grinch, I can’t be all bad, right?

At this time, I’ve seen every Grinch movie, and saved my rewatch of this one for last. I really hoped it would still be good, that I hadn’t hardened too much to appreciate it, and that it wasn’t showing too many seams as the decades slipped by. I was thrilled when I realized it was as good as I remembered. It blows all other Grinches out the water: Jim Carrey’s live action movie is just too darkly weird, and the new full-length Grinch movie is oddly milquetoast. I’ve reviewed them as a set here.

Movie Grade: A

Happy Holidays to everyone, whether you’re a sentimental sort or a Grinchy grump!

Read more Grinchy Reviews on RunPee: 

Movie Review – The Grinch (2018)

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Can Dune be done? Should Dune be done? Bringing Long Books to the Screen

herbert sandworm dune
If you walk without rhythm, you won’t attract the worm.

Until the last generation, when Peter Jackson proved The Lord of the Rings could not only be made into a successful film — but be so off-the-charts good that it took home 11 Oscar Awards — it was unheard of to succeed at translating most of the great sci-fi and fantasy epics of literature to the big screen.

That’s not for lack of trying. Larry McMurtry’s  Lonesome Dove book-to-film effort was a grand feat, but it’s the mini-series scale that made it work. The book is too big and involved to be made into one cinema-length film. Nowadays it would be at least a film trilogy, but I don’t think it needs a reboot — the 1989 miniseries is already a flawless snapshot of the last gasps of the Western Expansion. So they could make a new movie with these characters, yes, but I’d say it’s time to move on and  tackle other works of genre literature. (Also, who’s going to try improve on Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duval?)

Watership Down is another epic tale in a brick-sized book, but it’s a hard sell, being entirely from the point of view of rabbits. And it’s absolutely not for children: the themes are mature and often mesmerizingly frightening. (The rabbits even have their own word for being stuck in a “mesmerizingly frightened” state — called Tharn –). The 1978 animated feature has its fans, but most people who’ve loved the book pretend the “movie” doesn’t exist. (Seriously, it’s like a long scary drug trip.) Hazel’s troop of rabbits could now be done with puppets, animatronics, or CGI — instead of animation —  but the question here is “Why?” We’ve seen entire CGI movies like Avatar, and they can be lush and sweeping films, but it still remains that Watership Down must be seen at rabbit-height and from rabbit-eyes. It would take a very special studio or director to take that on. This is probably why nobody is chasing this particular story at the moment.

Here’s a full length video of Watership Down, if you’re curious:

In  the Post-LOTR and Harry Potter world,  the densest, longest, and most involving books can come alive on film…with inspired directing, gobs of studio money (and little studio interference), the right acting ensemble, and legions of dedicated crew members. Not to mention a crack PR team dropping hints and teaser trailers to excite the fans. (See: anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

The key to adapting epic novels to the big screen, it seems, is respecting the source story. Behind the sets, Sir Ian McKellen (as Gandalf) would pace around Peter Jackson with this LOTR novels, saying, essentially, “Peter!That’s not how Tolkien wrote it!” This is probably one of the many interconnected reasons why Lord of the Rings, previously considered unfilmable, worked so well.

It’s not that a script can’t deviate from a source, but the result should clearly be recognizable from it. Book fans will be waiting for certain beats, beloved details, fantastic settings worthy of a grand story, and most of all: a faithfulness of essence to its literary origins.

There’s a line between slavishly book-faithful recreations (as in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), and movies that recalls its novel by name only (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, AKA Blade Runner, or Lynch’s Dune).

So, yes, finally. We get to Dune. It’s been tackled several times, although none were recent enough to benefit from the current seamless FX at our disposal. (Which doesn’t excuse anything at all. Look back on the practical effects of Star Wars: A New Hope, or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and tell me those films failed — they don’t.)

david lynch dune
Lynch’s Dune – looks good, tastes bad.

Lynch’s 1984 Dune remains a problem, and its not from poor effects. It’s mainly that Lynch took Herbert’s book, tore a few pages he liked from it, and threw away the rest. It’s only “Dune” because the characters have the same names, there are Fremen and there are Sandworms, and Arrakis, the desert planet, is still called Dune. Otherwise, it’s a sprawling, sometimes grotesque mess, bearing little likeness to the story they aim to tell. I admit they got to the story’s conclusion just fine, but the path to get there was completely unorthodox. I know Lynch’s Dune has its fans, so I’ll let it lie.

scy fy dune
SyFy gives Dune a try. Definitely more Herbert, but definitely still wrong.

When SyFy made Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000) into a television miniseries, you can see there were many attempts made to be faithful to the book…but Sy Fy also took liberties in the telling. The main arguments I’ve heard seem to coalesce around the casting, that the actors didn’t look like the part, or didn’t act like the part. I’d say in both versions they got Jessica right, and Chani, and Irulan, for that matter, but the men’s roles are hit or miss. I think they got a lot more right than wrong, and crafted a personable, sensible, enjoyable tale without a whisper of heart plugs.

In my grading system, I’d give Lynch’s Dune a D+. (While I thought it was overall atrocious, he got a few things right, and that’s where the + comes in.) I’d give SyFy’s Dune a nice fair B score. It crumples a little as time marches on, but at least it’s recognizably Dune. SyFy even went on to combine Dune Messiah and Children of Dune as a second mini-series, which was ambitious, welcome, and mostly effective.  That one gets a B as well; maybe a   B+ — I’d have to see it again.

jodorowksy dune
Jodorosky’s Dune. Third time’s a charm?

A lot of people mention Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013), which isn’t actually a movie. It’s more like an appetizer for a film, or a promise of Dune. You can watch the movie-length documentary for $3 on Amazon, or check out the free trailers on IMDb. However, if you watch the video, you can’t help but notice that it’s even stranger than Lynch’s version. There’s a lot of people who want to see this one picked up by the studios, but I’m not one of them. I want to see the story the way Herbert saw it in his mind’s eye.

The time is right to try Dune again, using a well-funded production studio, a director who is comfortable with an epic scale,  and detailed sets in grand desert locations. I want to see world-building. Toss in some smart humor, dynamic ensemble casting, and of course, magnificent sandworms: make me long to be a rider. The movie should be a visual delight, engulfing the audience so much you’ll think you can smell the sietches, taste the spice, and feel the grit of sand, sand, sand.

So, it’s exciting news that director Denis Villeneuve plans to try his hand at a multi-film Dune. He says he hopes to make Dune into the Star Wars movie he never saw. “Most of the main ideas of Star Wars are coming from Dune, so it’s going to be a challenge to [tackle] this,” Villeneuve said. “In a way, it’s Star Wars for adults. We’ll see.” (Read the Dune News page on IMDb.)

It ‘s a promising start. We’ll record the news for this Dune project as it comes along.

While you wait for the right version of Dune to thrill you, entertain yourself with Fatboy Slim’s song Weapon of Choice. The lyrics are definitely Dune-inspired, even if the setting isn’t. But watching Christopher Walken putzing  around an empty hotel is a whole lot of awesome by itself…

Which version of Dune is your favorite? Do you think it will be done right by Villeneuve?

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Quiz – Mary Poppins

These questions are taken from the 1964 Disney movie of Mary Poppins. I’ve made this quiz fairly easy, keeping in mind that the movie is over a half a century old. Best of luck!

Mary Poppins

It's been over 50 years since the original movie, Mary Poppins was released, so keeping that in mind I've made this quiz fairly simple. Best of luck.

With The Return of Mary Poppins this Christmas, expectations are high — Emily Blunt will probably rock the role. We can’t wait!

RunPee Mom is our emotional bedrock. Without her, RunPee never would have lasted a decade as an app (which is since the dawn of time in internet years). She’s our biggest cheerleader and an unending source of unconditional love. She works cheerfully and tirelessly, seeing any movie we ask of her, writing interesting reviews, and being our…well…MOM. Her genres of choice: kiddie flicks, animated movies, emotional dramas, historical features, war films, diverse biographies, and even dense, diabolically plotted thrillers. She knows more about famous and infamous figures in history than said figures probably knew about themselves. She’s the Quiz Manager for the RunPee.com blog, and Assistant Facebook Manager for our social media efforts. If you’ve interacted with someone on our Facebook page, you’ve most likely been given a virtual hug by RunPee Mom.

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews — Rocky 1 and 2

creed 2
Let the games begin…

Rocky is something I’ve heard about for all my life, but to be honest, I had never seen any Rocky films. The first Rocky related movie I watched was Creed in 2015, and I thought it was a pretty good movie. Now, as Creed 2 is about to be released, I took on a project to watch all of the Rocky films.  (We’ll enter this movie binge in two movie increments.)

Rocky (1976)

Wow! I am truly amazed at how amazing this movie is. I’m also really surprised at how a movie that is now more than 40 years old has such a great storyline and cinematography. I can only imagine how viewers at the time felt about it.

I think this first movie did character development very well. I think that Rocky is a very charismatic, charming, and funny character. He really allowed me to get sucked into the movie and really feel for the character of Rocky. In terms of movie theme, for a sports film about boxing there was very little time spent boxing. I will say that the boxing scenes were spectacular. I was cheering from my couch!

On top of this, I learned so much from Rocky: 1) A split decision does not mean it’s a tie! 2) There were 15 rounds (then) in a boxing match. 3) If a boxer is down for 10 seconds, then the other boxer wins the whole match (not just that round). 4) Rocky is a South Paw. Which means his left hand is his dominant fighting hand.

One question still unanswered: did Adrian truly believe that Rocky could hear her through the crowd and the reporters swarming him?? 🤔

Grade: A

Stay tuned for Rocky II. I’ll be adding these reviews here as I binge through the franchise.

Rocky II

The beginnings of this movie were exciting because it gave a recap of the previous movie. I think that’s a pretty cool technique. Even though I am binge watching and my memory of Rocky I is still fresh, I still found it helpful. I think many viewers would appreciate if all movies gave a recap of the previous movie, especially if a few years have passed.

This movie picked right back up where the last one ended. There’s a lot of scenes that don’t seem relevant to boxing in the beginning of this movie. About half of the movie is about character development and build up for the rematch between Rocky and Creed. It isn’t until an hour in until a rematch is even set. If Rocky wasn’t such an entertaining character this would have deterred me from continuing the movie.

The first half of the movie, Rocky carelessly spends his money and attempts to film commercials. But during the commercial filming, everyone learns that Rocky can’t read, which I think is the main driver for Rocky’s boxing interest in the first place. In this movie, Rocky isn’t too interested in boxing because he’s already proven that he can box to himself, but due to his inability to read and find a decent job, he feels he has no other option. The way he spends his money also adds to the storyline and to the character development of Rocky. He’s never had this much money before and yet he’s not afraid to spend on those who he loves. I find that to be pretty selfless. I also see more character development with Adrian in this movie. Frankly, I wasn’t too sure of Adrian’s purpose in the first movie, specifically because she didn’t have many lines, but as I continue watching, I see that her character is just shy and is slowly becoming her own woman.

When Rocky finally decides to go up against Creed again, I learned he has a significant blind spot in his right eye. He’s determined to fight, so he trained to use his right hand. Remembering that Rocky is a South Paw, I find this to be one heck of a strategy and also is very inspiring.

The funniest scene in my opinion is when Rocky stops to see his priest before his fight. He’s already late, but he drives up to the priest’s window and yells to ask for a blessing.

The fight scene at the end rivaled an actual fight, because it was longer and it wasn’t only a bunch of clips strung together. During the fight scene, Creed really brings his all. This isn’t a joke to him anymore, because Rocky has shaken his confidence in his title. I wasn’t too sure how things would end, and during that final round both Creed and Rocky got knocked down. I was once again on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t sure the direction the fight would go. I thought for sure Rocky was going to lose, and that would be the premise of Rocky III. What I loved most about this movie was the twist at the end, when everyone waits to see who will stand up in time.

Honestly, I have so much respect for both Rocky and Creed. You could see the exhaustion in both of them, but they both refused to give up.

Here’s a quiz question for the next time: What can you count on to happen in a Rocky film?

Grade: A

Stay tuned for the answer and for Rocky III!

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews – Rocky 3 and 4

Virgin Movie Binge Reviews – Rocky Balboa and Creed 1

And here is our original review when Creed first came out:

Movie Review – Creed

Shani Ogilvie

Watching movies in theaters is an indescribable experience for me. This, doing laundry, and visiting the Container Store bring me true joy. When I’m not watching movies or getting Peetimes, I like keeping up with the latest technology, learning to code, and building things. Career wise, my passion lies with improving access and equity within the health, tech, and social sectors.

Every Harry Potter Film, Ranked

harry-potter-movies-ranked
The trio, saving the world at a theater near you.

We haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald yet, but RunPee has an early showing next Tuesday, November 13th, three days before the film officially opens. I’ll be attending in full Hogwarts robes, with my cherished Elder Wand, getting early Peetimes. In any case, this is as good a time as any to rank the 9 movies thus far in the Wizarding World, from least good to the best. Remember, though, any of J.K. Rowling’s wizard movies are better and more consistent than just about any franchise out there, save the superhero flicks in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

NOTE: Spoilers for the entire Harry Potter series starts right here. Use a memory charm to forget what you’re about to read if you’re not up to date with the series.

My  subjective list, from worst to best, including Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them:

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 – While there are some really good sections in this story (the Battle of the Seven Potters, the Gringotts Bank Heist, the flight of the dragon, the scenes at Malfoy Mansion, and the tear-jerking death of Dobby), most of the film feels like the boring sections of the Lord of the Rings: to wit, there is a lot of walking, camping, and doing nothing. Also, the locket acts a lot like the One Ring, which feels more derivative than like an homage. Also, there’s barely any humor, the tone is depressing, the characters are mostly silent, and some scenes are among the only big misfires in the entire series (ie – the wedding, the visit with Xenophilus Lovegood, the creepy trip to Godric’s Hallow).  So it’s really the only middling chapter in a long series of grade A films. Something has to come in last in a list, after all.

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – I don’t like this one very much. I hate the spiders scene so much that I fast forward over the whole thing (I’m not an arachnophobe, but this is all still disturbing), Hagrid’s helpful presence is missing through most of it, and I didn’t enjoy his being blamed for opening the titular Chamber. The overall tone is more depressing than it should be, so early into the longer story arc. The Basilisk doesn’t make much sense: he’s too big to roam unseen in the crowded Hogwarts Halls, or to fit through that toilet exit. Also, I’n not a big fan of the climax in the the Chamber itself, or the reveal about Ginny Weasley. The good: the flight of the Ford Anglica, the trip to Diagon Alley, Kenneth Branagh’s amusing portrayal of Professor Gilderoy, and Hagrid’s apparent bit of talking to himself as he’s brought away by the Minister of Magic (“If I was looking for something, I’d follow the spiders.”) I’ve come to appreciate this movie more over the years, but it’s still the one I’m happiest to skip. Fortunately, things get a lot better very quickly in the next films.

7.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone (the title depends on which country you’re from) – This is lightweight, yet appealing fluff. It’s very truthful to the book, which I actually like, is adorably sweet, and ends on a low-stakes high note (Gryffindor winning the House Cup, a topic we never hear about again). The film does a good job introducing a large cast, which thankfully stays with us for the next ten years (Dumbledor’s actor aside, for unfortunate reasons of real-world death).  Alan Rickman’s Snape is better than the book version, and better than a kiddie-movie like this one deserves.  Most of the stage is set for the  ensuing chronicles, and the filmation is straightforward, yet deeply pretty.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 – I’d rate this finale higher if it was either more fun, or stood better alone. It picks up right after DH1, and maintains a  breakneck pace for its rather long runtime. The battle is competent, and everyone involved put in a good effort. The aftermath is rushed, and the coda sort of divided the fans (I liked it, though). The best scenes start right after Harry uses the Stone, sees his loved ones, walks to his death, and visits the train station at King’s Cross, London.  Heartfelt, mysterious, clearly spiritual, and nicely tear-jerking. Answers that are non-answers are provided, leaving the viewer to decide what actually happened to Harry, and how he was able to defeat Voldemort. Once you puzzle it out to your satisfaction (ie  – Harry is a horcrux), you’re all set to let the real Battle of Hogwarts begin.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  – I sometimes dislike this film, even though it’s really quite good and mostly book. It bothers me that Harry has a raging case of PTSD about the death of Cedric, and no one tries to help him emotionally. And I’m sad about Sirius  — he was my movie boyfriend, as far as I was concerned. I so wanted Harry to ditch the Dursleys and move in with his godfather. It disturbed me that Sirius spent the short remainder of his life in that hideous house that brought him nothing but pain…and it doesn’t help that it was Harry’s awful mistake  (and no small amount of teenage hubris) that led to his godfather’s death. I blame  Dumbledore too — so much pain could have been averted if he’s handled that year better. I also didn’t like that Kreacher’s backstory was mostly ignored. I love Kreacher’s journey in the book, and feel the movie lost a big chance to add a very poignant touch. Apparently, Rowling herself had to insist on ensuring Kreacher was included at all.  High points in the film: Dolores Umbridge. She’s the kind of villain you love to hate. I hate her with the force of a thousand suns; a testament to good acting and marvelous casting. I actually think Umbridge is worse than Voldemort. All the proclamations were good fun, and the Weasley twins’ exit, while not as good as how it went down in the book, was a definite highlight, as were the charming scenes where Harry taught Protection against the Dark Arts to Dumbledore’s Army.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Newt Scamander might seem an odd sort of fellow to base a five-part series around, but he’s odd in the good way; sweet, unassuming, yet very competent. He’s completely devoted to his creatures and their future survival…and in spite of being a bit socially awkward, attracts a nice trio of friends to help him save the world from evil wizards. I love Queenie and Jacob. I love the workshop and wildlife preserve in the suitcase. Newt’s an adult, unlike Potter and friends, and this makes for a tonal shift in the film. It’s less colorful and, well…”magical” — except when the fantastic beasts themselves come around. This is a film I like better and better upon every viewing. I’m truly excited to see how this series develops.

3.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Many people position this as the best of the series. It’s shot on location in the lush highlands of Scotland (places I visited to see the real deal in person, being a supergeek of all things Potter). Azkaban has a complicated, yet completely coherent story that other time travel movies should study. The direction is winningly stylish. We’re also introduced to Hogwart’s best teacher ever in Remus Lupin. This is where Sirius Black emerged, and began stealing my heart.  Our new Dumbledore was nothing like the previous one, but slid seamlessly into the role. The main trio puts in their first real acting performance — either the young actors finally settled into their characters, or the director led them there. Alfonso Cuaron completely knocks this one out of the park, and I wish he’d stuck around for the rest of the franchise. It’s simply glorious in direction, setting, and tone.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – I’m a sucker for quest-type stories like this one. It’s got recognizable act breaks between the three tasks, introduces great new characters, provides a lot of humor, and is the first film where the kids enter fully into teenhood. The Hogwarts characters we know and love are no longer children, and the pains/pangs of love emerge. I love this movie more than it probably deserves, but it also offers an astounding ending that changes the series forever. Here’s where the darkness finally takes firm root over the rest of the saga.

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – this holds a special place in my heart for being the funniest of the films, with a good mystery, a lot of Draco (always a plus), reveals much-needed backstory, is mostly self-contained, and provides the last calm before the storm of the war against Voldemort. Everyone’s on the top of their game in this one. (Yes, the book is far superior, but it’s also super long. This would have been a better choice to divide into two films, IMO).

If you’re a die-hard Potter fan, you’ll notice I didn’t include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in this ranking. This would be because the last time I was in London, the play had not yet been created. The screenplay in book-format is a bit underwhelming, but I’ll chalk that up to the medium: it’s meant to be performed to a live audience. People who’ve seen it have great reviews on the experience.  Next time I hit the UK, you can bet I’ll catch a performance. If you’ve seen it, please talk about what it was like in the comments below.

Next week, with FB 2 gracing our screen, I’ll have to shake up this list again.  The trailers look good, albeit quite grim. Here’s to hoping it lands in the top five! I’ll be at the premier in my Gryffindor robes. Lumos, babies!

Related, on RunPee:

Every Harry Potter article on RunPee.com

And some featured posts: 

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Crimes of Grindelwald Prequel Fan Film – The Greater Good

Comic Con Releases Grim but Exciting Trailer for Fantastic Beasts — The Crimes of Grindelwald

Notes on Final Trailer for Fantastic Beasts — The Crimes of Grindelwald

 

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)