Movie Review – Mortal Engines

 

Movie Review - Mortal EnginesI’m still digesting this pretty darn awesome movie. I’ll just say I’ve never seen a better Steampunk film (not that there’s a lot out there…). This has interesting characters, amazing world-building, and spectacular set-pieces. It’s a brilliant effort by the producers of The Lord of The Rings. I’m a happy girl tonight. Loved it.

….Don’t read any further if you don’t want spoilers…..

More goodness: the bad guy was played by Hugo Weaving, who’s shaping up to fill the hole left by the demise of Alan Rickman. He was just lovely in the part, even if his character’s motivations seemed forced. I’m going to blame the writing on that one.

Weaving did a great job with what he had. Most movies have “villain problems” — it’s hard to make a baddie we can relate to, or at least understand. The character of Thaddeus Valentine should have been more layered. He has an adult child with him, who presumably might have noticed once or twice if her father was evil. I get that London needed more fuel to survive, but I’m not sure using the particular weapon he did would net London any resources: it’s too destructive. By the end he became a generic cackling guy with a world-killing weapon. It’s absolutely a fine film, but this issue keeps it from getting an A+.

I felt like the narrative could have used some more backstory about why the cities and towns had to be mobile (something more than the cool factor). And there was a missed opportunity by never using the zeppelin a character sees and looks at thoughtfully. I kind of feel that maybe a later scene with it was cut from the film — or why bother showing it tethered nearby?

I did like the creative designs used on the different airships, and how they recalled a feeling of sailing on the ocean more than flying in a plane. The various captains even had a piratey flair.

This future world was splendidly envisioned, which is to be expected from WETA Workshop, who, along with producers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens,  created The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. And of course we know Weaving as Elrond of Rivendell. I’m guessing a lot of crew members were also ported over from that universe to work on Mortal Engines. It really is a visual achievement.

As far as the plot goes, I kept thinking I was missing big pieces of the story, things that might be better explained in a novel. So I had to go check..and guess what? Mortal Engines is indeed a book. In fact, there are four of them.

Personally, I’m all in for a sequel set. I was engaged by this new Steampunk world and seriously wanted a lot more exposition than we got.

(Here’s a example: what in Thor’s name was Shrike? Some kind of cyborg? The memories of a person transplanted into a robot? Was he a technological version of a zombie? Why was he making dolls, why did he take in a little girl; why did he need Hester to become like him? What was the story with his elaborate prison cell? He was an intriguing element in the story, but his arc seemed undercooked.)

I feel like I could fill in some of this backstory on my own, but I’ll probably just read the book. And I’m sure I’ll see this film again when it’s available for streaming.

I’ll leave you with this quote from William Shakespeare‘s Othello, explaining the film’s title: “Othello: And O you mortal engines whose rude throats/Th’immortal Jove’s dread clamors counterfeit…” Mortal Engines refers to the concept that a society based on Municipal Darwinism is not sustainable, and that the cities’ engines are indeed mortal.

Grade: A
Movie Release Date: 12-14-2018

About The Peetimes: A lot happens in this movie, and it’s quite economical in pacing throughout. I’d recommend the 1st Peetime if you can manage it. The 2nd Peetime has an interesting set-piece, but it’s not relevant to the plot. The last Peetime contains action, but in a movie as full of action as this, you’ll be fine if you stick to the 3 minutes I gave you.

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

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 – 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.

Avengers 4 Title Announced – First Trailer Review

iron man in avengers endgame
Tony Stark, somewhere in the universe.

Oh dear Thor! I’m sitting here sobbing my heart out. I just watched the first (amazing!) trailer for Avengers 4, which finally has a title: Avengers: Endgame. It’s under three minutes long and I’m a mess. Just like I was at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. As soon as it flipped to the title card that dissolved into ASHES, the tears started, and I lost it.

As I’m sure the producers intended.

Damn them, DAMN THEM…okay, I also love them. So it’s complicated. If you’re a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll be leaking from the old tear ducts too.

SPOILERS HERE for Infinity War (has anyone not seen this yet?) and the Avengers 4: Endgame trailer. (Get caught up to Infinity War with only five films.)

Here’s the first Endgame trailer, with only a few spoilers (Ant Man‘s inclusion  should be no surprise, if you paid attention to the end of Ant Man and the Wasp).

But don’t blame me if you get something in your eye while watching this. (Full Trailer Review is below video.)

Alright — let’s get to my notes:

  • I knew Tony had a ship available to him, since the Guardians flew to Titan. But with Rocket and Nebula elsewhere, Tony has to figure out 1. how to fly Star Lord’s ship and 2. how the heck to find Earth. Now it seems he’s out of food and water. Also: oxygen. He gives a last message to — who else? — Pepper Potts, who he didn’t manage to marry before hitching a ride to Titan. I’m confident he’ll work this out — he’s a genius, right? And if he asphyxiates in space, the whole Iron Man arc will implode. He’s the brains, while Cap is the heart. An ignominious death won’t satisfy. And, trust me, fans would get ugly.
  • Nooooo! That dusting logo is killing me. Remember when they did that to the title card during the end credits to Infinity War? All the feels just came rushing back.
  • Thanos’ armor is hanging like a scarecrow, perhaps at Thanos’ farm. It’s a pretty world. I wonder if anyone else is on it. There’s a castle-looking building way up on a mountain in the background.
  • We see someone strolling through fields of thistle flowers (?), brushing them with a big gloved hand. Probably Thanos. I can’t tell if the glove is the Gauntlet. Wasn’t that broken by the Snap? Black Widow voice-overs about how Thanos did what he said he’d do.
  • Cut to a wide shot of the Avenger’s compound.
  • OMG how DARE they show a picture of Peter Parker (presumed dead). TEH FEELS, THEY HAS MEEEEEEE……
  • Anyone catch Shuri on the screen just before Peter? We  know she’s been confirmed alive by the MCU producers, so it seems these are people listed as Missing and not Presumed Dead. You have to catch the right second to see this. Also, we see that Scott Lang (Ant Man) is prominently displayed.
  • Where’s Bruce Banner? Oh, there he is!! I was distracted by the cheap shot with Peter Parker. Banner’s got his hand over his face as he watches the screen of the missing. Specifically when young Peter’s face comes up. I know, Bruce, it hurts.
  • So, next. Where did Thor go? (Maybe he’s in the escape pod with Rocket, searching for Tony Stark? This would work. Also, Thor now controls the Bifrost, so he might be checking on the status of the Nine Realms. Or looking for Valkyrie and Korg. My sense is since he was so prominent in Infinity War, Endgame might feature more of Cap.)
  • Where is Nebula? Why don’t I remember where Nebula is?
  • I assume the producers are withholding Captain Marvel from any of this. Patience! 😉
  • Back to the actual trailer. We’re in the Avengers hangar deck at sunrise/set.
  • And there’s our Thor. He’s looking lost in a hoodie — you can see the bleakness in his eyes. I want to hug everyone.
  • Nebula!!! I should finish this trailer before making some of these comments. She looks like she’s on a spaceship. Maybe with Tony. I still don’t remember where she was at the end of Infinity War. I even wrote an entire article about “those left behind”, but Nebula is not on the list, so they must have shown where she was.
  • Who is the hooded sword guy?? Is that Hawkeye?
  • YES, IT IS HAWKEYE! He’s somewhere in Asia and it looks like Natasha went to find him. Which makes me think his entire family must have been dusted. He looks like a man driven insane by grief. Notice the street in China (?) is completely empty. Maybe, post-Snap, people are afraid to leave their homes. It must be an incredibly dark time across the universe. How nice for Thanos to be so happy with himself at the end of Infinity War.
  • Cap looks at an old photo. I assume Peggy Carter. He’s lost everyone who mattered to him now.
  • Captain America and Black Widow talk about the post-Snap universe. It’s grim. Cap wants to be optimistic, because the alternative is unthinkable. Cap has always been the biggest believer in truth and honor prevailing over evil, so I buy it. Black Widow has more of a cynical view of reality… but you can see she’s trying, for Cap’s sake, to salvage the situation.
  • Cut to the A4 logo, looking like the ashes reforming…but the music swells in a mighty crescendo of minor keys. Not a happy track. It’s game time.
  • Because this is Marvel, we even get an extra scene in the trailer: Ant Man waving and shouting at a security camera in front of the Avengers compound. The old van (containing the Quantum Tunnel) is right behind him. Remember, the Avengers think he’s dead. We end on a fun note of him saying basically, “Hey guys, remember me from that big airport fight? Can I come in?”  Nice. I appreciate a little lightness in this otherwise harrowing trailer.
  • We end on the A from Avengers superimposed on April, when the movie is expected to come out.

Overall, I’m super pleased this upcoming movie seems to have the real stakes we’ve waited 10 — soon 11 — years to pay off. April can’t get here soon enough. I wonder how many times I’ll watch this trailer? RunPee will do an MCU rewatch before Avengers: Endgame, and keep you updated with newly posted rewatch commentary.

Related MCU posts with our predictions: 

10 Ways Ant Man Could Escape the Quantum Realm

Once More, with Ant Man. Why him, and why now?

The 5 Movies You Need To Watch Before Infinity War

Even more: Read every RunPee article about the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Any Endgame early predictions? Leave your comments below!

 

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.)

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.)

Video – How Marvel Finally Got Thor Right

Is Thor your favorite Avenger? Did the Ragnarok movie change your feeling towards him as a legitimate character?

This 10 minute video breaks apart the progression of the “Strongest Avenger” and tells us how he went from meh to awesome, becoming the character we most root (Groot for?) for by the time of Infinity War:

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.)

Dune – What is the Litany Against Fear (and why should we care)?

dune and the litany against fear
I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer.

Can an old science fiction book from the 60s offer modern man any surfeit from pain? Do we allow fears — both great and small — to rule our lives? Can  we train ourselves to be greater than our anxieties?

I’d say yes, although I’ve yet to achieve this enlightened state myself. But, there’s this: courage is NOT being unafraid. Get that out of your mind now. Courage is about being afraid and going forth anyway. If we can gain mastery of our fears, we can live our lives more aware, more gracefully, and accomplish great things perhaps against great odds. People through history have done it. Wisdom from not so long ago in our literary past can absolutely help us today. And while Dune’s author Frank Herbert might have had a lesson in mind more about planetary politics or the future of humanity than the test of one young human, the Litany he penned resonates now, as it did then, and will continue to touch people newly discovering this great tome of a book. (And yes, there have been several attempts to turn this into film…we’re still waiting for the one to do it right.)

Here is the Litany Against Fear, directly from the (1965) Dune novel, by Frank Herbert:

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Is this the kind of thing anyone should care about? Or use? And why would we?

Well, has fear gone away since 1965? I’d even posit we’ve found more things to be afraid of with the ease we now devour world news and calamitous global misery.

In my college years, the Litany was something I’d scrawled on a Post-it and pasted to my mirror.  I made a best friend after those days, in my old town of Flagstaff, AZ, who I learned kept a copy of the Litany on a note in his wallet. I’d ended up more impressed with him than before: you can have a lot of fun with someone, but also find unplumbed depths together in the strangest moments.

When I got married later on, I found someone who may not have kept the Litany on his person, but for whom the book Dune is his favorite science-fiction touchstone of all time. The Spice must flow, after all.  🙂

I might have forgotten the Litany’s usefulness as the years slipped by, but in my current re-read it’s come to my attention again. It was a pleasant shock to have it re-spool into my neurons; now it’s written on a note in my own wallet, like my friend kept his, long ago.

My paperback copy of Dune was re-published in 1971 and is tattered and torn, with a broken spine. I don’t care — it smells like a real book, and it’s a great reading copy, with the early cover artwork. I want to put it in an archival bag, and probably will when my re-read is done. I’ve also got copies of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune that are older than me. At age 50, finding a 53 year-old novel at a garage sale or thrift store is like finding something precious and rare.

Dune keeps me doing regular re-reads over the decades, and I find something new and exciting every time, stuff I scrawl in my journal and try to remember when times get tough. I’m not really a fearful person (I love things like rock climbing and solo backpacking), but stupid small anxieties master me every day. The Litany is a good balm for the soul, a salve to one’s agitation, and simply a soothing chant to memorize for times of emotional turmoil.

Has Dune affected you? Do you think you can learn from the Litany Against Fear?  Add your insights to the comments below. I won’t judge. We’re all in this together.

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

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

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.)

Why The Last Jedi Sucked

star wars the last jedi
Stop screwing around. I want my Star Wars back.

Did you like Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Are you still on the fence? I don’t think anyone would say it doesn’t look pretty. It looks expensive, and on the surface seems like it belongs in the Star Wars galaxy (the one that is long ago and far away).

It’s got a few great set-pieces (Porg Island, Salt Planet, Rey and Ren tag-teaming it).

And it has a whole lot of sound and fury, signifying a whole lot of nothing. (Rey is who? Snoke is who? Why do we spend so much time on the casino planet? Admiral Holdo and hotshot pilot Poe: Mutiny? What? Why? …And, of course, we have the Deconstruction of Luke Skywalker — [shakes head, sadly].)

Here’s a detailed analysis of why The Last Jedi failed. (“You have failed me for the last time, Admiral.”) Take a look and tell me what you think:

An interesting video. However, I still love The Force Awakens, and think The Last Jedi is better than any of the prequels.

(Man, those prequels suck.)

But yeah, you could fly a Corellian Cruiser through the plot holes of TLJ. I blame Rian Johnson. JJ Abrams handed him a good set-up, but Rian blew it, on so so soooo many levels. I can only “hope” (get it, haha?) that the last movie will course correct these failures. Do it, JJ. Give us what we want.

Let’s wrap up this Skywalker Saga. I’ll be waiting right here.

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.)

Hollywood Celebrities Mourn Stan Lee on Twitter

comic book covers of superheroes from Stan Lee
Seriously. How can one man be so creatively prolific?

You can’t read this article about the legendary Stan Lee (who died this Monday at the age of 95) and not be moved, and a little choked up, by the wonderful list of loving tribute Tweets. And not only does this post scroll through messages from the expected Marvel actors and their corner of the universe, but also from ‘rival’ DC Comics,  actors from other properties like Star Wars and Star Trek, NASA, politicians, producers, directors, scientists, inventors, the US Army, space explorers, billionaires, and production studios.

If there is a big name in creative entertainment, that person has a nice story to share, or words of gratitude for the grand palette of imagination Lee painted onto our universe.

Everyone was a Stan Lee fan, and clearly, still is. Think about how different the landscape of entertainment would be without his boundless decades of genius. (And also, without his adorably amusing movie cameos.) We don’t think RunPee would have made it this far without Lee’s magical movie influence, inspiring the kind of films that help people see the value of friendship, love, and sacrifice.

Read the collected Tweets here: Hollywood Mourns the Loss of Stan Lee.

This is where social media, and especially Twitter, comes into its own, as a force for loving and not for hate.

Excelsior, Mr. Lee! Thank you for being our Guardian of the Galaxy. RIP, somewhere in the universe.

RIP Stan Lee – you will be missed

Four of Stan Lee’s Favorite Characters

Quiz – Learn About Marvel Studio’s Great Stan Lee

Stan Lee – His Marvel Cameos are a Secret Character

 

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.)