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Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

Grade: A-

I liked this better than the original Lego Movie – this one is skewed a little more sophisticated for the grownups – but still has lots of color and spectacle for the kiddos. It’s a very charming film, with a surprisingly good storyline. Things move quickly, and there is a lot to see, making you want to go back and view it again – just to catch all the little jokes, asides, and throw-away lines. I loved the humor. Be aware this Lego flick focuses on Batman’s crew, and not the characters from the first Lego outing.

Cameos abound, and you will be amused at who is included: we briefly see the entire Justice League at a party, and then such famous baddies as Sauron, Voldemort, Jaws, the Gremlins, a Velociraptor, King Kong, Godzilla, the creature from the Black Lagoon, Agent Smith clones, Dracula, Medusa, Flying Monkeys and the Wicked Witch of the West…and even several Daleks from Dr. Who (EXTERMINATE!) make an appearance. I think Warner Brothers had a great time producing this sweet little film.

There are actually a few poignant, moving scenes, with a decent villain plot, and super cute background moments. I rate this as one of the top Batman movies in the entire Bat oeuvre.

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This film has recently shown up again at the AMC theaters we see our films at. So, it’s back. We’re not sure why. If you missed it before, you can catch it now.

Movie Review – Ghost in the Shell

Grade: A-

This is a really, really pretty movie. It’s also a seamless use of CGI, and I’m normally really hard on films that rely extensively on computer animation. It totally works in this one.

Ghost in the Shell is an origin story for a comic book character called Major, and apparently this isn’t a case of ‘Asian whitewashing’ if you are an established fan. Johannson does a good job carrying the film, giving us a stoic, understated hero, struggling to understand whether she has any humanity left. Don’t expect a lot of humor – the main lighthearted moments are reserved for her friend and coworker Bantou, who really is the best part of the film. I smiled whenever he entered a scene.

Everyone else is deadly serious. I’m not a huge fan of deadly serious stories, but understand how the themes in GitS are relatively mature – presenting the nature of man, and the ethics of cybernetic enhancements. Where exactly do we draw the line in upgrading one’s given body, in pursuit of perfect health, upgraded skills…or frivolity (for example, getting an implant that lets you drink too much, so you don’t get hung over)? If you like the works of Philip K Dick, you’ll relate to this story. I do wish it had been a bit lighter in tone, however.

It’s a relatively short origin superhero tale (at one hour and 47 minutes), with an efficient pace. The action is exciting, reliable, and easy to follow. There’s a tremendous amount of dialog though, making it tough to find Peetimes. If I had to relate this movie to others, I’d say it has elements of Blade Runner, Minority Report, and a bit of The Matrix. Ghost in the Shell doesn’t achieve any of the bars set by those films, but is a respectable offering for what I expect to be a new franchise. I wasn’t disappointed, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Movie Review – Beauty and The Beast (live action version)

Grade: B

I saw the movie with a Disney fan, and she was really impressed with this rendition of Beauty and the Beast. The theater was packed (with several showings sold out), and at least four women attended in formal ball gowns. People applauded at the movie’s end.

I was expecting more, though. More spectacle, more rousing musical numbers, and a better connection to the characters. I’m not sure why I didn’t enjoy this more. It was pretty enough, but nothing to get worked up about. The visuals were kind of dark, the pacing plodded, and I thought the acting was better in the animated version. I love Emma Watson, but she really had to carry this entire film, and I don’t think she was up to the task. Maybe it was a problem with the direction. Hard to say. The titular Beast was a no-show in the charm department, and the guest starring household appliances were essentially props. (Pity – normally actors like Ian McKellan and Stanley Tucci can do a lot with a little.)

Even the effects underwhelmed. The big musical numbers – Be Our Guest, Beauty and The Beast – didn’t hit the full marks I’d anticipated. Things just fell a little short of what they should have been.

I think many people were happy because of what I can call the Disney Effect. I’ve noticed people get really excited about new “princess” films, in the way that I get about science fiction movies. It’s clearly a ‘thing’, and my sense is people were super relieved that the live action outing of B&tB didn’t suck. 😉

Since the target audience seemed pleased, I’ll give the film a solid B. In comparison, I’d give the animated variant an A. That one really hit it out of the ballpark, setting a high bar for Disney Princess films…this one was just sort of there. I hope the live action Little Mermaid film does it better.

Movie Review – Logan

    Grade: A+
    Dan writes: I just watched the movie, so I’ll think about it some more before I write a full review. Until then, I can easily say that this is by far the best X-Man movie. (Not that that is a high bar to clear.) The story, dialog, acting, pacing, and fighting were all extraordinary.
    You can probably tell from the credits that this is an emotional movie. I’m man enough to admit that I cried more than once. And the ending… Yeah, I’m getting misty just thinking about it.
    Jill, RunPee Wife here: With Dan in Hong Kong, I’ll expand on the Logan review.
    So. The X-Man franchise has been wildly inconsistent. Some of the films in the series were dreadful (hey there, Last Stand and Apocalypse). And some were extremely competent and enjoyable (X-Man 2, plus First Class and Days of Future Past). The original X-Man movie was genre-defining, giving us a live-action superhero ensemble with real storytelling. It provided a mold for future superhero films to follow. There was nothing really like it before. And, we got our first taste of Wolverine, and the world fell instantly in love with the brutal, endearing character.
    …And then…there were the Wolverine stand-alone films, which were problematic. The first one was stricken from cannon. Not sure if the second was similarly disowned. But Hugh Jackman so owned the iconic role that really, no one should be surprised they went in for thirds.
    The difference this time is astounding. Logan is a perfect movie. It’s character-driven, a drama. The stakes are thankfully small, and so is the focus. It doesn’t even feel like a superhero flick – it takes more cues from Westerns (Unforgiven springs to mind, and Lonesome Dove; Shane is specifically homaged). It’s also a traveling buddy film, with Jackman and the always fantastic Patrick Stewart playing brilliantly off each other. Lastly, it is a movie about family – even with such three damaged individuals as Wolverine, Professor X, and newcomer Laura. I completely bought into Laura: she embodies the feral child we would expect on learning her background. Her fierceness was bold and exciting – violently gleeful – and also deeply realized. Kudos to this young actress  – she completely holds her own against the two grizzled veterans.
    Where Logan succeeds the most is in execution of a sunset arc for a really broken character – a man who has sometimes been a hero, and sometimes just a wild thing. You feel the real emotional weight of this movie, from the first three minutes, to the final moments; nothing that ultimately happens here should come as a shock to fans.
Amazingly though, even non-fans can jump right in, with no prior X-Man knowledge. That is a rare thing. Try taking a newbie to an Avengers film (and I love the Avengers). I saw Logan with a Muggle, and she cried right along with me. Which is also to say: bring tissues. There’s humor here, and some very cute moments, but this isn’t a happy film. It is an ending. And I don’t know where this will fit into X-Man cannon – since they established time-travel is a thing, anything can be changed – but neither do I care. Logan is just right, where and as it is.
    Thank you, Hugh Jackman, for providing the universe with an unforgettable character, and having the integrity to not sell your arc short in the end. And thank you, too, for publicly admitting you love the RunPee app. We love you right back.

Movie Review of Kong: Skull Island

Grade: B-

There have been many King Kong movies over the decades, yet people are still fascinated by the idea of a gargantuan gorilla. This movie at least has some original themes, focusing entirely on Skull Island, and forgoing the New York plot entirely. Neither is there much ado between Ape and Girl – which, honestly, was fine by me. It’s been done. This outing is pretty non-offensive fare.

It also rips off Apocalypse Now to the point past being an homage, but honestly, whatever.

While things move along at a good clip, and most scenes are creatively staged, *Kong: Skull Island* falls short of being more than a mildly enjoyable episode in the King Kong oeuvre. John C. Reilly is the stand-out here, playing the only genuinely amusing character (as you could probably tell from the previews anyway). John Goodman is totally wasted, and Samuel L. Jackson’s hollow role is beneath his skills (although he seems to relish a reprisal of his Jurassic Park line, “Hold on to your butts!”). Tom Hiddleston is lovely to watch, as always, but has almost nothing to do in this story. I liked this film during my viewing, but am already relegating it to the “Only Okay” bin. There are big monsters; there are fights; lots of people die.

What is exciting to us here at RunPee HQ is that the 2005 King Kong film started it all. Watching Peter Jackson’s 3 hour/7 minute devotion to the giant ape gave Dan and Jill the idea to start an app where we would tell people exactly when to pee during a long movie. Jill wanted to shout to everyone in line at the theater to “go” during the unnecessary Valley of the Bugs scene…while Dan bravely squirmed his way through to the end, thinking, “Die, ape, die!” (So, yes, we included a giant bug Peetime in this film for honor’s sake.)

Dan took our rather genius but casual idea, and turned it into an actual phenomenon – resulting in worldwide acclaim and millions of downloads. We wanted to thank you all for being a part of the ride, and supporting this small family business. And thank you, Big Monkey, for being the reason RunPee happened at all. 🙂

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong

    Peter Jackson, coming off the high of his fantastic Lord of the Rings saga, was permitted to make a really, really long love letter to Kong, King of Monster Mammals. His big ape movie went on and on and on…for 3 hours and 7 minutes. Dan and I sat there, holding it in…and talked about how we wanted to tell the waiting queue to pee during the vile, unnecessary Valley of the Bugs scene (you know the one, with the Andy-Serkis-slurping slugs. Seriously: gross, man).
    It was so agonizing to sit through this film, that we thought it would be great if there was a website telling people exactly when to run and pee in long movies, so no one would miss the good parts. Thus, the idea for RunPee was born. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter Jackson and King Kong.
    But, is this a good movie?
    We’d have to say, cautiously, yes. It is assuredly an epic, often capturing the emotional spirit of the 1933 original. Aside from being wildly overindulgent and often tedious, it’s a credible ride. There are some moments of real heart, and the production values are top notch: Jackson clearly spared no expense. When things weren’t busy being disgusting, the island was super pretty. The dinosaurs were cool, and Kong himself looked amazing. Finally, a Kong that looked real, with expressions and nuance.
    The ape scenes with the girl are the best – sensitive and funny, well-acted and well-written.
    The Skull Island scenes, however, are uneven – while everything with Kong was great, the explorers lacked spark or likeability. In New York we get the same thing – the Central Park scenes with Kong and his girl are adorable, but the finale on the Empire State building is laborious. We wanted the giant gorilla to get it over with and die.
    In the end, it’s a bloated movie. The stuffing was overbaked, and the actors (besides Naomi Watts) didn’t bring anything to the buffet. Jack Black was a muddled mess, and Adrian Brody barely made a showing. No one else was memorable at all.
    It’s been my opinion that Jackson needed a firm editor with his material, to pare things down and keep the pacing tight. This was overkill – like no one wanted to be the one telling the successful Lord of the Rings director when to stop. There’s nothing wrong with a long movie – *Titanic* shows us how it’s done – but there wasn’t enough excitement or depth to fill out the running time. There is plenty of spectacle, and you can feel the loving hand behind this remake, but it’s basically a two hour film padded out to an excessive three. ‘Tis a pity, because this easily could have been an A film. But if it had been, there’d be no RunPee.
B-

Movie Review – Passengers

Grade: A+

I am exhausted from a long, late night movie, so I will be short and sweet tonite. Mainly, I want to say: SEE THIS FILM. I never give an A+ rating, and this movie deserves it.

Chris Pratt is a treasure; Jennifer Lawrence brings her A-game, and this movie is a pure delightful mix of romance, science fiction, adventure, and just…beauty. It was hard to find Peetimes, since each moment was a pleasure and a joy.

I saw this film in a rear corner, in a mediocre room, with a small screen and tinny sounds, and it still knocked my socks off. I swear; I cannot find my socks. See this in a great theater, with 3D, with good sound…I will get out to see this properly again as soon as possible. FANTASTIC.

UPDATE: I just saw this film again, in 3D. I recommend the 3D version, even though it wasn’t filmed with that in mind, simply because this movie is so beautiful. On a 3D screen, the space scenes really made me feel like I was there, which is a sort of wish-fulfillment for my geeky soul. The glasses didn’t make anything noticeably darker. It just made everything in space prettier.

NEW NOTE: It seems that if you loved Gravity, you may not like Passengers. And vice-versa. You can tell where I fall on this spectrum. To those berating Jim’s big decision, I ask you – what would YOU have done in his situation? Sometimes I think the critics judge too harshly, without taking human nature into account. In any case, this film is a lot more like The Martian than Gravity, or any of those other uber-serious sci fi films.

Movie Review – Rogue One : A Star Wars Story

Grade: A-

There’s a lot to like about this movie. The humor, particularly from K-2SO, or K-2 as he’s more often referred to, is outstanding. I have to say, K-2 really carried the movie. It’s not going to happen, but I would love to see a movie with him as the main character. He’s that entertaining.

They did a great job of propping up “A New Hope” with various sayings, cameos, and scenes. That just makes me love both movies even more. And the end of the movie is just awesome.

I wasn’t crazy about the first 30 minutes of the movie, give or take. The scenes are short, and skip back and forth from one planet to another, setting up characters and plots. It just felt too disjointed to me, but eventually it settles down and the pacing improves.

There’s no question that this is a fine addition to the Star Wars universe.

3D Notes from RunPee Wife: Don’t spend your extra money on the 3D version of this film. It doesn’t add anything, or bring you into the universe in the way a good 3D film can…here, it only makes the images darker. Everyone talks about how pretty this movie is; don’t let the glasses bring that down. I actually took the glasses off a few times so I could see the scenes better. Will watch this again in 2D.

Later Note: the 2D version is cleaner and brighter, and improves the viewing experience a lot. The film graininess is intentional, as part of the war mood they were evoking. This movie also gets better every time you see it, storywise.

X-Men: Apocalypse (movie review)

MV5BMjU1ODM1MzYxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTA4NDE2ODE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Grade: B

It’s always a struggle to rate and review movies like this. I’m going to take the easy way out and judge it against the other X-Men movies.

“Apocalypse” is way better than “The Last Stand”–universally believed to be the worst in the franchise. But, I don’t think it was quite as good as “First Class” or “Days of Future Past”–considered to stand together at the top of the list.

I’m going to put “Apocalypse” right below the top tier along with the the original X-Men and “United.”

There was a touch of humor in the movie, but nothing hilarious. Still, it’s WAY more humorous than the DC movies–not saying much–but not quite as humorous as most Marvel movies.

The action was good, but not spectacular. Maybe I’m just superheroed out, but it’s increasingly difficult for any action movie to impress me.

The acting and directing were both top notch. That leaves us with story and characters. So, here’s the problem: we all know they’re going to defeat the bad guy in the end. That means the only way we can really care is if there’s some sacrifice and there really wasn’t one. Certainly nothing that balances out their victory.

I think that’s the major problem with all superhero movies these days. The cast of characters just keeps growing. They really need to cull the teams and let some characters die off every now and then. That goes for the Avengers as well.

Basically, I liked it. It was an enjoyable two hours. But I didn’t love it.

Additionally, I saw the movie in 2D, so I can’t speak directly about how good it did, or didn’t look, in 3D but I didn’t see anything in the movie that made me wish to see it in 3D. The 3D ratings by RunPee users is currently at about 33%. That’s the lowest of any movie this year. Even lower than Gods of Egypt. (Kind of odd that two of the worst 3D ratings in the past year are for movies about Egyptian gods.)

Movie review: Batman vs. Superman

BMvSMGrade: C+

[Spoilers are limited to things seen in the movie trailer]

I have to say, Batman vs. Superman didn’t wow me. That’s not completely true. Parts of it wowed me, but not many. Most of the movie tried to crank up the tension, which got a little tedious at times, and the payoff wasn’t always worth the buildup.

What I liked best
It was pretty awesome when they *finally* got around to introducing Wonder Woman. I could hear the giddiness of the people in the theater. I think we’ve all been waiting to see Wonder Woman on the big screen now for, lets see, FOREVER!

The fight scene she was involved in was okay. I thought that the biggest problem was that it was filmed at night, so it was hard to see details. Also the scale made it difficult. Doomsday is huge, and dwarfs the three that are fighting him. In many shots it was almost hard to even make out Wonder Woman chopping away at him with her sword. They had some closeup scenes, but I think they needed more.

The fight between Batman and Superman was, good, but not great. I think the choreography of the movements, especially Batman’s, was too laborious. However, the way the fight actually went, the back and forth between them, was decent.

[Major spoilers below. Don’t read until after you’ve seen the movie.]
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[Stop now if you haven’t seen the movie.]
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[Last warning]
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I found Batman’s dream sequences to be quite annoying. They started right at the beginning of the movie with the young Bruce Wayne levitating out of the cave, seemingly flying with the bats. Then Bruce Wayne awakens in the present day. I don’t think the dream sequences would have been so annoying if we had known from the start that’s what was happening. There were entire action scenes that *never happened*.

And it wasn’t just Batman. Superman had his *father vision* in the arctic. What was that all about? Was that his father’s spirit? Was it all Superman’s imagination? They can’t just stick things like that in there without some basic explanation. We got to see Jor-El in the first two Superman movies and they had a decent explanation for what was going on. This time they just plopped Jonathan Kent into the story and said, “Don’t ask how.”

I have to say, Superman is my least favorite superhero. He’s just too powerful. To me the most important characteristic of a superhero isn’t their powers–it’s their weaknesses. And Superman’s only weakness is kryptonite, which okay, at least there’s something, but that’s hard to keep playing up. I’m bored with every Superman fight because he’s indestructible. He was right on top of a nuclear bomb explosion and didn’t get much more than a sunburn. Come on, at least show him with his hair messed up.

And that brings us to the movies end. Yes, it was cool that Superman sacrificed himself to destroy Doomsday. But then they drag us through all these funeral scenes, that take up about eight minutes, and then end with the hint: wait a second, maybe he’s not dead. Oh really. That’s a shocker. Of course he comes back. He’s Superman. You can’t have a Justice League without him. So it isn’t, “if he comes back,” it’s, “how he comes back.”

My hope is that Superman won’t be in the next DC movie. Let Wonder Woman and Batman assemble the Justice League themselves and have a decent fight against a decent foe. Then bring Superman back for the following movie, or never. I’d be good with that as well.