Movie Review – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Movie Review - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseAs my faithful followers know, I always review a movie based on the response of the target audience. Okay, that being said, I saw this movie with my 6 year old great-granddaughter. The child never took her eyes off the screen; she even forgot about the candy I purchased for her at the concession stand; only an ‘A’ movie could make her do that.

There’s so much good in this movie I don’t know where to begin. For me, watching this was a little like watching an animated version of Inception. Throughout the movie there would be scenes of color, movement, and music that would almost make you dizzy. It was wonderful.

The comic book character of Spider-Man absolutely screamed, “Animate me”. In animation, anything is possible; not so if the director is restricted by human form. In Spider-Verse we got to see Miles do outstanding things that wouldn’t be possible in a live-action movie.

This is the perfect holiday movie for the entire family, so while you’re at the mall, fighting crowds just to find that perfect gift (which will end up in the back of someone’s closet), take time to stop by the theater and spend two hours being wholeheartedly entertained.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: I have 2 good Peetimes. Neither one is really any better than the other, so use which ever is more suitable to your needs.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

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 Review – Jim Carrey’s The Grinch (2000)

Jim Carrey is the grinch
He’s a mean one. Also deranged, and possibly a pedophile.

Holy hell, this was directed by Ron Howard? Normally I love his touch. And as for Jim Carrey, I’ve always been a fan. Not with this. This is the Carrey equivalent of Bill Murrey’s Garfield: a true WTF?

I imagine (and know for sure, based on my own great-niece’s preferences) some people like this Grinch. Maybe they weren’t weaned on the 26-minute 1966 animated Dr. Seuss version like I was, that with even this year still made me cry with happiness. CRYING. TEARS running down my face.

This one? I was confused. I was bored. I had a headache from the non-stop and frankly exhausting Grinchy chatter intended as humor, and came off just weird — the bad kind of weird. It felt more like a Tim Burton offering. (Which is weirder than ever for me, since I normally am not a Burton fan. But then, I just did a Virgin Review of Tim Burton’s 2001 Planet of the Apes and kind of loved it. It’s clearly opposite week for me.)  😉

Even Max the dog couldn’t save this effort, and I previously gave the 2018  ‘meh’ new Grinch full length animal feature a D+ for cute animal action. This one, sadly, gets only a D, at best, for Whoville’s creative set design, and a nice kiddo as Cindy Lou Who. This Cindy Lou was sweet, and saved the 2000 Grinch from a D- or F+ grade.

By contrast, I gave the old 1966 Christmas special an A grade, and I don’t give that grade away easily. I expected it look old at the seams…but it happily held up through time, and made my own heart swell three sizes by the end.

Back to the 2000 live-action Grinch. I watched it last night with zero foreknowledge and the best of intentions. And for the first time in EVER in Netflixing films, I had to fast-forward over entire sections of dullness. I would have turned this off and picked something else,  but had to watch it through for my review.

Also, I wanted to know why the Grinch was compelled to sound like Sean Connery? Minor note, but it distracted me. Jim Carrey normally is brilliant in his vocal and physical humor. Was he directed to filibuster like this? Is he proud of this film?

There were a few funny jokes landing among the barrage of awkward efforts: I thought the joke about Santa’s reindeer was cute: “On Thrasher and Crasher and Vomit and Blitzkrieg…” <—- heh. Some moments of cleverness stuck, but most felt like film spaghetti tossed at the wall to see what would stick. Robin Wiliams mastered that kind of improvisation, and maybe that’s what Carrey was going for.

Even the songs lacked. I expected a fun delivery of the classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”…well, yawn. Then the final “Fahoo Foray” song was merely competent. Moving on.

What about the Whos in Whoville? Here was another cardinal sin:  these townspeople were unpleasant, underhanded, and a little bit creepy. While the Grinch, instead of being merely a cranky, damaged soul, was just deranged. I have no idea why this movie went down the paths it chose. Dark, weird, sinister, yada yada. The Grinch tale at heart is a story about alienation, rejection, and isolation, but it isn’t supposed to make you wonder if predatory sexual advances (with a whiff of pedophilia) are appropriate.

The Cindy Lou character saved this version me, but expanding her role also undercut the rest of what should have went down that fated Christmas morning in Whoville. I know this is subjective, but one nice child can’t a plot pivot make. I didn’t buy this Grinch’s transformation: I don’t think he did either. We weren’t given a beat to breathe or let the story have any emotional landing space.

A tale of two Grinches
Some Grinch on Grinch action.

Alternatively, the new 2018 full-length Grinch movie didn’t make me cry either. It had nice technical animation and cute critters, but the story was a cup of plain vanilla yogurt.

So here it is: I say it’s time to stop messing with a classic. It’s like when Peter Jackson made that short Hobbit book into three bloated, sometimes off-putting films: like butter scraped over too much bread. If you’re a big LOTR fan, you’ll get the reference.  But anyone who’s had breakfast will get it anyway. 🙂

Movie Grade: D 

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

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

In Defense of the Grinch (1966)

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 Review – Aquaman

Movie Review - AquamanWhat does DC have to do to shake off the feeling that it’s the poor man’s Marvel?

For starters: make better movies.

I’m not saying Aquaman is bad. Far from it. It’s a decent movie despite being as predictable as it is visually appealing. But it’s no better than the first Thor movie. Which would be fine if Aquaman came out a decade ago. Unfortunately, Marvel beat them to the punch. DC is trying to find their feet while Marvel is breaking Olympic records.

Here’s my best guess why Aquaman doesn’t soar: it just doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s an origin story for sure, but not much of one. For such a long movie, the origin of Aquaman only comes up in a few brief flashbacks and only one of them — when he’s a young boy — really works.

There’s a little romance, which is fine, but the timing of the scenes are completely wrong.

Then there’s a few scenes that feel like they were stolen from a National Treasure sequel.

The worst part of all of this is the inclusion of Black Manta. I don’t know why the writers felt compelled to throw this character into the story, because it only drags the plot beneath the waves.

All of this happens in the middle third of the movie, robbing the plot of any real dramatic weight when it needs it the most.

It looks like the creative decision makers behind the DC movies heard the criticism about their previous movies being too dark, and decided to “lighten things up a bit.” All I can say is it’s just not that easy. The audience needs a feeling of impending doom so the story grabs them, but there’s also a time and place for the distractions that make a story memorable.

That’s why DC movies are like a mixed salad of moments while Marvel serves a complex meal, where each serving is meant to compliment the others.

Grade: C

About The Peetimes: We have 4 good Peetimes. We recommend the 2nd and 3rd over the others. The 2nd Peetime is a chase scene — pretty — but nothing you haven’t seen in previous scenes. The 3rd is mostly a music montage, followed by a transitional plot that’s easy to summarize.

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

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Virgin Movie Review – Planet of the Apes (2001)

2001 planet of the apes
I’m not convinced a chimp would find a human sexy, no matter how hot Walhberg is.

Who knew Tim Burton could direct a grand scale epic adventure? I always thought his specialty was weirdos doing wacky things. But I was surprised and pleased with how much I enjoyed this 2001 version of Planet of the Apes, especially since I’m not impressed with the more recent trilogy.

I also didn’t realize Mark Walhberg  could do a heroic genre role. The man seems pretty talented and versatile, when he’s not confined to goofy comedies. Not to rag on wacky weirdos and goofy comedies, but this is more of the kind of world-building I’d expect from The Lord of the Rings.

Following this point will be some mildly vague spoilers…

There was a lot of genre-hopping, from space stations off Saturn, to Bronze Age ape civilizations, to a Mad Max climax. And while bouncing around through space and time, I had to remind myself of something deeply embedded in the mythos of Planet of the Apes: total mind-screwing. At its heart, Apes is a dystopian vision of what can or could be, if conditions were right. I wanted to yell at Walhberg’s character at the very end: to never mess with the timeline. He had a good thing going there on that planet. Has he never seen the original 1968 movie?

But before we get to the denouement that should surprise exactly no one, there were hugely impressive sets, makeup, and costumes. A lot of care and detail went into the construction of this remake: it’s clear everyone involved was a fan. The final setting in the desert landscape with the rock formations was filmed on location near Death Valley, CA. I hiked there this spring and took a lot of photos (I’ll post some soon and link to it), and it really added to my film enjoyment to recall how cool a place it was in real life. (To be fair, I visited the park because Star Trek was also filmed there, but once I saw the formations above the battleground in Apes, things clicked into place.)

What was good: the apes looked great. I enjoyed seeing the variety of Great Apes represented: chimps, gorillas (lowland gorillas, I think), baboons, orangutans, and humans. The ape actors moved like apes; this was most noticeable with the chimps. They sounded like apes and had temper tantrums like apes. Although it might have seemed a bit overwrought with all the leaping and the screeching, zoologically speaking, everything was spot on.

I had to ask myself, can’t apes swim? I never considered their construction might prohibit it.  But then, humans lost the ability to brachiate, so we ourselves picked up water during our evolution, but lost the trees.

We just have to go along with the apes’ ability to speak, since a silent film wouldn’t be as fun.

Something that stood out to me too was how violent General Thade was. Was he psychotic, or more like a real chimp? He was one mean monkey. From what I’ve heard, adult chimps can fly violently off the handle and rip your face off:  not the kind of creatures you want living in your house. Although clearly, from watching this, the apes didn’t want us around either. Of all the primates, it seems gorillas are the sweetest: and their noble warrior personas were interestingly played.

Side Note: Hey! Want to get scared to death by chimpanzees? Have fun watching this video:

 Back to the film: I liked the apes discussing whether humans had  souls. Don’t we debate that about animals we’ve domesticated?  I hope we treat our “pets” better than we see the apes doing in this flick, although I know from my experience working in animal rescue that we often, quite sadly, do not. (Even with animals we think we’re decent to, I have to wonder. Look at our beloved horses. We sit on their spines, kick their ribs when we want them to go, and force cold iron bars between their teeth to steer them. Dammit, I’m on my soapbox again. )

What I didn’t like as much: the human characters, save Walhberg’s, were completely underdeveloped. They were like stand-ins for real people. It was strange that the best individuals were the apes, although that is probably intentional. But I can’t say it made for good storytelling to have the humans be sparsely written caricatures. And the the line about “Damn dirty humans” — while intended as humor — felt like a cheap shot. I guess they couldn’t resist an ironic nod to the iconic original.

Ultimately, were the apes wrong about humans? Some of it was pretty true: we can be savage and mindless. But we, like they, could become much more. So I managed to do a little soul-searching in a sci-fi/fantasy film; not a bad thing. I’d say this earnest remake of Planet of the Apes is worth a watch.

Movie Grade: B

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.)

What DC Can Learn from Marvel Movies

DC comics superheroes
Let’s bring some playfulness into DC, okay?

This awesome 10 minute video (below) by ScreenRant picks apart how and why the Marvel Cinematic Universe kills it over the DC Extended Universe. You may be a bigger DC fan over Marvel, but it’s hard to argue the MCU movies are  more inspiring, with strong character beats and good-natured humor…while DC limps along being largely morose. This might change with the Aquaman film (he was quite amusing in The Justice League, along with The Flash). And then there’s the really fun-looking trailers for the upcoming April 2019 release of Shazaam.

I think DC might be getting the picture: stop with the grim, and come in with the ability to transport fans to a place where they can let go of their worries and enjoy a couple of hours at the cinema.

Marvel used humor way back in the beginning  (ten years ago) with Iron Man 1, and upped the comic ante with time and expertise — just look at Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok, and most of the latter film entries. Those are beautiful films, and also carry important messages. Did “We Are Groot” make you tear up? How about as Peter Parker cried under the rubble, then realized no grown-up was going to swoop in and save him? Did you enjoy when Ant-Man ecstatically learned he could join the ‘real’ heroes in Captain America: Civil War as a certified Avenger, or when Black Widow asked Hawkeye, mid-fight, if they were still buddies?

There’s a lot to deconstruct with Marvel, and that’s not EVEN getting into the masterpiece that was X-Men’s Logan. (Which I have seen only once, because extra curricular crying is not  on my list of daily fun stuff.)

In any case, I think DC might be getting the message. When James Gunn was unceremoniously fired from Disney’s Marvel world, DC eagerly snapped him up, to do for Suicide Squad what he did for Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m sure this wasn’t a good move for Marvel, but hey — we’ll get what I expect to be a fantastic treatment for Suicide Squad, on a premise mostly squandered before.

So, enjoy this video about what Marvel does that DC needs to emulate:

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

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 – 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.)

Yes, it’s about Dune – The Lyrics to Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice

sand dune weapon of choice
Yep. Here’s a Dune.

If you know anything at all about Dune, the grand brick-sized novel by Frank Herbert, you know there are gigantic, dangerous, and strangely helpful Sandworms featured in it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan or hater of the Lynch movie version, Sy Fy’s mini-series, or the potential interpretation by Jodorowsky. One thing they all keep intact are the worms, and the use of the Bene Gesserit Voice.

Why Fatboy Slim made a top pop song about Dune remains a mystery (they must be fans, I guess. Like Led Zepplin and The Lord of the Rings). But the song is undeniably catchy, the lyrics are super fun…and the wacked out video with Christopher Walken FLYING around a hotel atrium is truly inspired.

If you haven’t deciphered all the lyrics of Weapon of Choice, we’ve faithfully recorded them here. And the sweet, sweet music video is on the bottom for your viewing enjoyment.

Weapon of Choice: Fatboy Slim (2001)

Come forward and get your teeth smoked, word
Come forward and get your teeth smoked, word
Come forward and get your teeth smoked, word
Come forward and get your
Come forward and get your
Come forward and get your
Come forward and get your
Come forward and get your
Don’t be shocked by tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Don’t be shocked by tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice yeah
Listen to the sound of my voice
You can check it on out, it’s the weapon of choice yeah
Don’t be shocked by tone of my voice (aah…)
It’s the new weapon, the weapon of choice yeah
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
Or you can blow wit’ us
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’…
Walk without rhythm, it won’t attract the worm
Walk without rhythm, and it won’t attract the worm
Walk without rhythm, and it won’t attract the worm
if you walk without rhythm, huh, you’ll never learn
Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Be careful, we don’t know them
Be careful, we don’t know them
Be careful, we don’t know them
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
Or you can blow wit’ us
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’…
Organically grown
Through the hemisphere I roam
To make love to the angels of life, yeah
and my girl …..
I guess you just don’t understand
It’s gone beyond being a man
As I drift off into the night
I’m in flight
She’s a boy’s scoundral gal
But I’m gonna hold my cool
Cause the music rules
Yeah, so move on baby, yeah
Halfway between the gutter and the stars
Yeah
Halfway between the gutter and the stars
Yeah
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
Or you can blow wit’ us
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’ this
Or you can blow wit’ that
You can blow wit’…
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 Deadpool Before Christmas

We’re beside ourselves with Christmas joy over this one: IT’S THE DEADPOOL BEFORE CHRISTMAS! 

What a fantastic gift for the fans. Ryan Reynolds is my new bestest friend. And then there’s Fred Savage, who’s just annoyed at the whole thing. He seriously needs to be booped on the nose. Really. Because what could be better than The Princess Bride mashed up with Deadpool?

Watch it for yourselves, little children:

You better be good this holiday season, or Deadpool will absolutely put something naughty in your stocking.

 

 

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!

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