Movie Review – The House With A Clock In Its Walls

I wish this film was better. It started out lively, with some nice funky humor for a while. There were good production values throughout. Unfortunately, the story went downhill fast at the middle mark, and became a dreadful muddle by the end. I watched the children in the theater to make sure it wasn’t just me, and yup…the kids were bouncing around, completely bored, even during the climax. Bummer.

Here’s my thinking: it’s not Harry Potter, folks. Don’t toss your money away to see this in the theater. The kid is decent enough (he gives the erratic script a real go), but he’s hampered by the adult actors at every turn, and sadly, the work of the other children as well. The “Turby” stuff went nowhere — a pity.

Jack Black has a few good moments in the beginning, but this isn’t his best work (although there’s few movies he’s impressed me in, granted — Jumanji 2 being the exception). Why is this man getting work? His comedic timing is just strange. That works, somewhat, in the early stages of this wacky, kiddie horror house movie. Then the plot gets…well…”stupid” (that’s the only word that fits), as the story ineffectually tries to escalate the jeopardy. The “stupid ball” is passed around a lot in the finale.

Between the increasingly weird script and missed narrative opportunities, I can only say, “WTF were the writers thinking? Who greenlit this garbage? And why was a chair the best character?”

Even Cate Blanchett couldn’t elevate the lackluster material presented. How did she decide to throw her lot in with this? Did she hope to become the next Professor McGonagle? (Harry Potter reference, again, but Blanchett must’ve badly misjudged this.)

I really, really don’t know what happened here. It’s ultimately a movie mess that started out quite nicely. I’m grading it in the (low) C range and not worse, because it looked pretty, and had early potential with the surreal atmosphere,  incessant ticking clocks, and creepy toys. There was enough goodwill to carry the audience for part of the show. But by the time the pumpkins started puking,  I had to give up. Give this film a firm pass. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Movie Grade: C-

About the Peetimes: Here are 3 good, long Peetimes, spaced well thru the film. This was easy to get Peetimes for, since a lot of the exposition is either repeated, or provides plot points that kind of peter out, storywise. 

Free In Flight Movies – they rock, but are harder to find

See those screens? Where did they go? I want my MTV…

I used to love Delta Airlines, and willingly paid more for their expensive tickets.

Why? They had movies, over a hundred film options (some barely out of the cinemas, plus new popular TV show episodes), built into the backs of their comfy, relatively wide seats. For free. You brought or bought headphones, plugged them in, and blissed out for hours. I could catch up on lots of cool movies I didn’t get to see before, and arrive at my destination without stress. It was like having my own tiny, private movie theater, with flight attendants serving hot & cold running drinks. In coach!

So now, with airlines getting more and more stingy, why has Delta suddenly made my upcoming coast-to-coast CROSS COUNTRY red-eye flight a frustrating ordeal? I can’t even select my own seat anymore without a $30 fee (which means…the dreaded middle seat). But more importantly: I counted on having an in-flight personal movie selection for the long night flight. There’s no way pre-loaded entertainment on my phone or laptop will last long enough to fill the gap of midnight flight desperation.

Am I peeved? You bet. More than peeved. I could use stronger language here, since this is a long, late flight from RunPee HQ in San Diego to RunPee HQ in Orlando, and now I’ll be too tired to read, but not comfortable enough to sleep.  I want my movies.

Am I being picky over nothing? The touch-screen seat movies made flying almost acceptable again, in my mind. What’s your recent flight experience with free film screens? If you have tips on how to find these flights, add to the comments below.

How People Stay Germ-Free on Flights

Tips to Prevent Catching Swine Flu at the Movies

 

Movie Review – Peppermint

Peppermint was a tough film to grade. It doesn’t suck. But it’s also not that great. Ultimately, if you want to see it, I’d suggest waiting for the DVD, or a streaming option. It’s a ‘heart warming revenge tale’ along the lines of many stories we’ve seen in this genre before. The only thing making this different is the avenging angel is female.

I’ve never seen a movie before where I rooted for the protagonist to die. I know grief, and I wanted Riley’s grieving to end. It would make more sense for the narrative to end that way, and it’s kind of insane that a scrawny protagonist can go up against 20 or so burly bad guys at a time and survive. So…go with it. Apparently, it only takes five years to pick up the deadly skills required to take on a massive drug ring and prevail. I would have liked to see her learning these skills. We don’t.

There are decent moments in Peppermint, and a few genuine surprises here and there. That doesn’t make it good. Jennifer Garner gave it her all, even if she wasn’t really believable in the role. When someone like The Arnold does this, I buy it. Plus, he’s got great one-liners to prop up the narrative. Garner, well…a lot of luck plays into her survival, and it’s so consistently depressing that I mentally checked out a few times. Don’t expect much humor, or interesting/unusual set-pieces. Bang, bang, bang. That’s what we get here.

Ultimately, it’s yet another movie setting itself up for a possible franchise. I’m tired of seeing this happen. If a movie is a success, then GREAT! Make a sequel. But don’t put the horse before the cart at the very end of a ho-hum story, making viewers feel they spent their money to set up a series that may or may not happen. That’s cheating.

This film came out in the late summer doldrums, which goes to show the studios didn’t have much faith in the story. The longer I review films for RunPee, the more I see this kind of thing. Oh well. Next!

Movie grade: C

About the Peetimes:  Peppermint has a ton of shoot-up action, to the point that getting a quiet Peetime was almost impossible. I had to find Peetimes, though, so it really doesn’t matter which you choose — all have action moments. I’ve summarized what you will miss in the synopsis in each one, so pick whichever time you need to run and pee, based on your bladder.

 

Movie Review – Kin

Personally, I didn’t like this movie. I was expecting some sci-fi action and a futuristic dystopia…and what I got was a boring gangster film. Seriously, not my gig. I would have walked out if I didn’t have to cover it for RunPee. I’m actually mad at this film: it presented itself as a young-adult/sci-fi/dystopian film. Which it wasn’t. It was a street gang type movie with a futuristic gun in the mix.

It’s well made, so I’ll give it a B – for competence. But it seriously pissed me off; the only sci fi elements happened in the last five minutes — and the only reason we got that at all was clearly to set up a sequel. I don’t expect this sequel will ever happen, like many YA franchises that fizzled out.

What I can say is the actors really did give it a go: they were all in for the ride. The father, in particular, was extremely spot on for the character’s prickly yet loving (and perhaps borderline abusive) persona. This competency should be no surprise, as Dennis Quaid played the part.

A surprisingly amazing Zoe Kravits stole the show out from everyone in her role as Milly, the stripper girl. She made every scene of hers keenly watchable with her sympathetic and amusing character. This young actress is someone to watch as she matures into future roles. I know she plays a large part in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts film, and I look forward to seeing how she handles her Slytherin role outside of the classrooms at Hogwarts.

Will this go on to become a franchise? I honestly don’t think so, even though the denouement of the film was devoted to setting up the next installment. I see almost all the YA dystopian films for RunPee, and very few of them will be the next Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or even Twilight. I count this one as a non-starter, along with so many others in this category. And because most of the film had nothing to do with science fiction or a dystopian future, it’s kind of a conundrum as to who this film is targeted toward.

Grade:  B-

About the Peetimes: Kin was an easy movie to get Peetimes for — there is a lot of downtime in between the hyper violent gangster scenes. I have 3 Peetimes for you, nicely spaced apart. I do recommend the first Peetime at 31 minutes, if you can manage your bladder for it.

Related on RunPee: 

Sad, Sorry YA Book Series That Never Completed Their Movie Franchises – Here’s a list of Young Adult series that will probably never see completion, for better or worse

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds – Yet another Young Adult Dystopian film that feels a lot like many others that came out of last decade’s love affair with young people who are either 1. the Chosen Ones or who have 2. Superpowers. 

Movie Review – A.X.L.

In all my years as Runpee Mom, I’ve never given a movie the lowest grade possible. Allow me to expound on why AXL took me to the desert wasteland of F-. Watching this ‘robot dog’ being brutalized by a series of nefarious characters hit me like a gut punch. The movie demanded that we not only fear the viciousness of this creation, but also find him loveable.

Well, that notion severely backfired. Seeing AXL being tortured in so many ways was heartbreaking. In my theater, a child of about six was so upset at seeing the ‘doggy’ being torched like a metal marshmallow, that the mother took him out of the theater. Other young children in the audience were obviously traumatized by most of the torture scenes. No child left the theater with a happy face; most looked shell shocked.

The treatment of AXL is only the tip of the iceberg. The acting was substandard, the directing was miserable, and the writing felt as if it were written by a first year creative writing student. Plot holes were standard, and some scenes were absolutely ridiculous.

The last scene indicated there could be a sequel. Will the next one be set in a POW camp filled with children? And yes, these places do exist.

Grade: F-

About the Peetimes: I found two good Peetimes. Both give you four minutes to break, so let your bladder decide.

Movie Review – Slender Man

Over a year. Seriously, I have been waiting for this movie for over a year now. With the amount of material available on the internet about Slender Man it should have provided the writers and makers of this movie infinite ideas. The final cut was lacking in almost every aspect.

It starts off okay. Not great, but I could envision it picking up. What I ended up seeing was a disjointed movie that lacked depth and continuity.

Take for instance, in my second Peetime: the scene starts at school. Wren and Hallie are fighting over going to check on Chloe. Hallie refuses to go and the girls walk away from each other in a huff.

Now this is where it ticks me off. The very next scene is the two girls, at night, walking up to Chloe’s house. That’s a big leap. How did they get to that point? We go from fighting over it, to doing it hours later. Maybe editing? Perhaps they filmed a scene that explains how they overcame their differences. But nope, that wasn’t in the movie and it just bothered me, a lot. The movie is peppered with these small annoyances. So many in fact, that I couldn’t enjoy it.

I took my daughter and granddaughter with me to see this movie; what I’m about to tell you should sum up my feelings. They both fell asleep. A horror movie put a five year old to sleep. That says something right there, folks.

My advice — wait for the DVD. At least that way you’re only out a few bucks.

Grade:  D+

About the Peetimes:
Two Peetimes will work well since the movie is so short. Just to give you a heads up: at the theater there was a warning sign, telling people about a 30 second sequence that has a lot of bright flashing lights that may cause seizures. It was near the beginning of the movie, and they were right. It was bright.

Mega-fake-ladon – How Discovery Channel Deceives People for Viewership

Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to what people can be deceived into believing. But in my humble opinion, it is criminal for a media company, or anyone, to knowingly deceive people just to get views. Please watch the Vox.com video (below), but please don’t watch Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. The Discovery Channel needs to learn what it’s like to get bitten by the public for their lies.

How do you feel about shows like this? I’d like to read your comments.

Sorry YA movies that never finished their franchises

Where fighting becomes foreplay!

I’m the member of the RunPee family who LOVES the YA (young adult) Dystopian/Fantasy genre. Harry Potter is still an obsession for me (and I’m 50). I re-read The Hunger Games every year, and watch the franchise even more. I even think Twilight was decent, although The Host was better.

So, what’s the deal with this post-millennial spaghetti-on-the-wall approach to YA series? Do the studios really think every dystopian and fantasy series is worthy of the full big screen treatment? And if they do put out an origin story on spec, do they care about following through with the series? And what happens when the young actors age out of their roles?

Am I just barking down a well, here? Woof, woof — does anyone care ?

I ask right now because I just watched The Darkest Minds (2018). It was…okay. Was it good enough to follow through to the end of the franchise? I’d probably say no. I’ve been burned a lot recently.

Here’s a list of YA series that will probably never see completion, for better or worse:

A Wrinkle In Time (2018) — This was just awful; totally incomprehensible. The company spent some money on it, but somewhere along the way it devolved into a hot mess. I don’t expect any of the sequels will be forthcoming.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) — There are so many childish books in this series that kind of sucked — I lost interest early on while reading them. How many of these books came out? I can’t say. I couldn’t be interested enough to watch any of them onscreen. Remarkably juvenile writing, IMO. (Looking it up, three movies of the 13 books actually made it to the theaters.)

Maze Runner (2014-2018) — I recently rewatched Maze Runner, and I have my opinion — it’s an okay version of an actually quite decent book. The sequel was middling, and the third film was frankly awful. Is there more to come? Do I care? This is ridiculous. Nothing made any sense in the 3rd film, and my Peetimes probably reflected this.

Divergent (2014-16) — I’m not sure how many books made it through to the screen. Three? Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant? All I have to say is that the first movie hewed close enough to the book to be worthwhile, and things fell apart quickly after that. I think I turned off Insurgent halfway through, and certainly didn’t bother with the third. Is there more? Do I care? (Note: Ascendant is supposed to follow soon as a TV series, but Shailene Woodley isn’t bothering to appear.)

The Chronicles of Narnia (2005-10) — This one hurts. As a child, waaaay before I picked up The Lord of the Rings (best book ever penned), this was my absolute favorite novel series in the world. In the universe! I believed if I had enough faith, when I died that I’d go to Narnia. I even had a special role — I was a forest nymph. My best friend and I made up stories about our lives in a magical meadow in Narnia…and as grownups, we re-met to hold our hands and hold our breath, trembling with excitement, and watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the big screen. And you know what? It was kind of lame. Prince Caspian was about the same, while my favorite book, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was only a little bit better. Not better enough to save the series. If they ever do The Silver Chair, they’re going to have to hire newer, younger actors in a sort of soft reboot. Oh, well. I’ll always have The Lord of the Rings to rewatch.

The Golden Compass (2007) — to be honest, I tried to read the book and stopped pretty early in. I would love to give this series the full shake, but it seemed so…well, dark. It’s called His Dark Materials, so I guess that is to be expected. From the photos and the trailer, it looks really pretty, but it flew so far under the radar that I kind of can’t be bothered. One case where riding a super cool polar bear just isn’t enough.

I am Number Four (2011) — I did like this movie. I like the science fantasy aspects, and the story was well supported by both cast and narrative. Not enough to save it, however. Next.

Eragon (2006) — I didn’t bother with this one, so I’d love to hear if anyone enjoyed it. Dragons and fantasy sounds right up my alley, but all reviews say this was the pits, and there’s no news for keeping the saga going.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians (2010 and 2013) — These were pretty good! So why the silence? Good novels, decent films…and crickets. I would have stayed with this one. Bummer.

The Black Cauldron (1985) — Well, hmph. The Chronicles of Prydain is an underrated classic, and I’d love for some studio to try this again. The seven-novel YA series was my second youthful favorite adventure tale after the The Chronicles of Narnia, and since this one kickstarted so long ago, a reboot might do well. I mean, they did this one in the 80s! I doubt anyone has anything to hold against this poor attempt to get Taran’s saga going. Disney owns it, and they might be ready to option it again. Please, somebody give this excellent series a fair chance.

Vampire Academy (2014) — This sounds great on paper, sort of like a Harry Potter/Buffy match up. I’d watch that. Except somehow this was so bad I’d never even heard of it. Someone must have really screwed the pooch to mangle a really cool premise like this.

Ender’s Game (2013) — This one is truly a bad deal for us all. The book is magnificent. It was only a middling movie. You could watch it, and even sort of enjoy it, but Orson Scott Card’s literary masterpiece didn’t manage to move people in the theater. Maybe they can reboot it sometime and get the entire series done right. Or better yet, leave it be. Just re-read the novels.

The Mortal Instruments (2013) — Another one that slipped under my radar. There’s six books in this one, and people say the novels are fine. That doesn’t mean it translated well to the cinema, since it slid quietly into dust.

There’s more. I can delve further into the failed classics and promising franchises, but it’s frankly too depressing to keep going. Feel free to discuss what I missed and what I’m wrong about in the comments.

As for me, I’ll still keep the flame burning. I’m a believer in the genre, and I know there’s some good ones yet to emerge. Besides, someone has to watch these films and get the Peetimes for RunPee. 🙂

Related: 

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds

Movie Review – A Wrinkle In Time

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Movie Review – The Mockingjay, Part 2

Movie Review – Maze Runner, The Death Cure

Movie Review – Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Movie Review – The Vampire Academy

Movie Review – Twilight Eclipse

Movie Review – Twilight New Moon

Movie Review – Twilight Breaking Dawn, Part 2

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds

Here is yet another Young Adult Dystopian film that feels a lot like many others that came out of last decade’s love affair with young people who are either 1. the Chosen Ones or who have 2. Superpowers. Sometimes both apply. These characters even ask themselves what Harry Potter characters they would be in “real life”…and we come full circle between a meta-moment and in-narrative story telling.

In The Darkest Minds Children/Teens are placed in experiments (like The Maze Runner), or killed outright to save society (as in The Darkest Minds/The Hunger Games). They are abandoned in city simulations for unclear reasons (look to Divergence). And there are dozens of one-and two-shot similar films that will never find a filmatic resolution, box office stakes being too small to serve their small but ardent fanhoods.

Rule Number One: Make a good movie. Rule Number Two: Make a good movie. Lord of the Rings crashed and burned many times before settling on when Peter Jackson got it right. And then he still lost his touch with 75% of The Hobbit. Watership Down — referenced often, appropriately even, still hasn’t found a way to make this long, traumatic, yet ecstatic epic come to life.

There’s a reason so very many sci fi classics haven’t transferred to the big screen. Your material can be momentous or tripe, but if you have the triumvirate of good individual actors, good chemistry between them, and a director who’s on the right emotional page as the story, it will be a good movie. For a GREAT movie, you need a few more things. (I’ll save that topic for another day.)

So, what is The Darkest Minds? It’s somewhere between a decent movie and a good one. It might spawn a sequel. The kids need to grow into their roles (which actually did happen in the meta-referenced Harry Potter and at this point can’t happen in The Chronicles of Narnia). They need stakes more than the “oooh, mutants are scary, and mutant kids are scarier” line of thought that sent the Divergent series into final oblivion.

The Darkest Minds is pretty, and it’s fluffy, and it might have a chance. I’m hard on this genre, as it is one of my favorites. I’m going to think over this and possible adjust my grade.

Movie Grade: B-

About the Peetimes: Lots of scene changes happen in this YA origin story. You’ll be fine with any of the 3 Peetimes, although the 1st 2 are better. The 2nd Peetime is recommended, if you can manage it.

Related:

Sad, Sorry YA Franchises That Never Finished Their Stories

Movie Review – Mamma Mia 2

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again was very cute, but had no plot. It existed solely to let the actors sing some ABBA songs, cheerfully ignoring characterization, storybuilding, and conflict resolution.  These things largely didn’t exist.  It was…an energetically lazy movie, I hate to say.

I’m a HUGE fan of the first Mamma Mia film and play it all the time in the background to sing, dance and laugh to…but the original had an actual narrative. A really good one. This sequel/prequel mix was pretty odd: nothing significant happened during the entire runtime. It exists as a long music video. Which is fine, if that is all you want for your evening.

The very first showing was sold out, so I had to wait for the next one. I didn’t realize other people loved the original movie as much as I did! That night, the audience happily sang all the songs with the movie. It was a good time, but not worth paying modern  movie ticket prices for. MM2 didn’t even have the pretty island scenes from the first film, and I wonder if most of it was filmed in a sound stage. It felt like a fan film in a lot of ways. I think this is better served up via DVD release.

It’s actually hard to grade a movie like this. The music was great and there was a lot of energy from all the actors. There just wasn’t any…you know…acting.

Also, Cher (this isn’t a spoiler, as she was a big part of every trailer) had no business being in this film. She appeared as a gimmick, and as an excuse to sing a particular, popular ABBA song they needed to squeeze in there.  And — here’s an even bigger peeve — she took time away from the actual, legitimate cameo (which I won’t spoil) that was a lovely and much-needed wrap up to the film. Cher stole that actor’s thunder for no narrative reason. They didn’t develop the Grandma character at all, or come to any kind of plot explanation for her arrival 1. being a problem before, and 2. suddenly not being a problem now.  I’d love to chat with someone about this.

Needless to say, the Dynamo women (both older and younger versions) were not given anything to do at all. They showed no growth from the previous film and had no story arcs, except an awkward, unpleasant, clearly squished-in-there piece of ‘mid-story’ for one of them. (Sorry about the vagueness — I’m trying to stay spoiler-free.)

The three adult fathers also had zilch to do, aside from one set of sweet and funny lines that they put (of course) right in the trailer.

With the first movie so richly envisioned, acted, and natural-seeming, MM2 felt forced, aimless, and empty. The songs in the original didn’t feel like excuses to sing any particular song. For its genre, it was quite clever! This one was overly stuffed with songs and it felt like the writers were cheating. Even the Dancing Queen reprise lacked any of the empowering charm of the first.  If we just wanted to listen to ABBA, that’s what You Tube is for.

However, a patron leaving the theater told me he would grade this one an A-. So….take my review with a bit of salt. If you go see it, at least realize you are paying for the experience with an audience to sing along with, than viewing  a thoughtfully developed film.

Movie Grade: C+ (For good musical numbers, but no actual plot or characterization)

Peetime Data: Since this was a musical movie, it made finding Peetimes easy. The meta tells you what the songs are, so you won’t have to miss your favorite. Heads up: One thing to be aware of is the way the movie cuts back and forth through time. The scenes with Sophie are in the present. The Donna scenes are from that long ago summer she fell for 3 men. You will be all set if you read the Peetime meta details.