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 – The Possession of Hannah Grace

Movie Review - The Possession of Hannah GraceHollywood pulled off another movie that actually had me a little bit afraid. I’ll say I was very tense during some scenes. That sure doesn’t happen very often anymore.

They did an incredible job of setting the tone of this horror flick. The ambiance was perfect; it kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering what was around the next dark corridor.

The special effects were awesome, right down to the noises that were made. I found myself cringing when I knew the super bad noise was going to happen again.

I also wanted to mention that this movie was almost entirely acted by Shay Mitchell. There were other actors, but the main focus of the movie was her and how she was dealing with this supernatural terror. She did a fantastic job — her role came to life onscreen. So if you’re a fan of the show Pretty Little Liars, I’d 100% recommend this movie to you. You’ll love what she does.

All in all, The Possession of Hannah Grace was a hit in my book. I enjoyed myself, just like I think you will.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This was an incredibly short movie. I feel that only 1 Peetime was needed. After 45 minutes, there really isn’t a break in the build up or the finale that you’d want to miss.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Possession of Hannah Grace. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Christene Johnson (RunPee Sis)

RunPee.com owes RunPee Sis a huge debt of gratitude. She sees any movie needed with no complaints and has done so for ten years (even basing Thanksgiving and Christmas family festivities around the seeing films). In 2015 Sis ran the entire RunPee enterprise herself, while RunPee Dan, Jilly and Mom went traipsing off to Europe. Sis is the spider in the web holding the RunPee family together — besides being a funny, well rounded person, and a joyous pleasure to be around. Her favorite films start and end with horror (which thank goodness she’s happy to see, since most of us don’t have the stomach for it) — but also likes silly comedies, sad dramas, and musicals of all types. If you’ve used a Peetime for a scary film, you probably have RunPee Sis to thank for it.

Favorite movie genre: Horror, horror, and more horror. The more disturbing, the better. Period.

Bio

Virgin Movie Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane
He sees you when you’re sleeping.

I hadn’t seen any of the films with Cloverfield in the title, not Cloverfield itself,  or 10 Cloverfield Lane, nor the Cloverfield Paradox. I’m not clear if they’re even related to each other. Some sources say yes, but think it might indicate a anthology of unrelated trippy stories, like a  movie analog to TV’s Twilight Zone.

So while I cannot confirm or deny if these movies are even in the same universe, I will go on record to say 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very enjoyable film. It’s kind of like one of those “experience” movies, where a first time viewing is the best, because you don’t know what’s going on, or how things will end up.

It’s also one of those films you can’t describe without spoiling it, like Cabin in the Woods and Gone Girl and — you know what? Even just saying there’s stuff I can’t say is a spoiler.

If you’re spoiler averse, you might want to stop reading now and come back after you see this flick.

Okay, here we go. This psychological suspense thriller could have been penned from Hitchcock himself. It’s a perfect example of a bottle show, taking place almost entirely in a confined room. The claustrophobic tone is enhanced by the camera  staying very close to the characters’ faces. There are a few takes where this is very noticeable, like when Michelle and Emmett are sharing their life stories.  The camera swaps tight images of their faces without pulling back to show them in  the same frame, to enhance the feelings of separation and loneliness.

There’s a lot of close-in, canted angles, interesting framing devices, and many symbolic shots cleverly taking the place of verbal exposition — like Michelle’s nail polish slowly chipping off to show the passage of time, and the recurring image of the Eiffel Tower reminding us of possible dark deeds around the fate of Howard’s daughter. An agitated Michelle in the teaser tells us all the backstory we need about this character, without a word.

There are very few wide shots, and the few we do see just reinforce that the entire movie is filmed in a small bunker. We don’t see any landscape shots until the last act, with a surprise tonal change that manages to genre-shift the entire movie. What began as a tautly compelling suspense mystery suddenly turns into a science-fiction feature. I enjoyed both storylines, but it really was an abrupt mood swing.

One cool bit of attention to detail: Howard was watching Pretty in Pink, and they manage to name drop the movie out loud for our benefit. If you recall, that’s the one were Molly Ringwald wanted to be a clothes designer. Which is what we know Michelle wanted. (Ya think that will become important?)

So, is Howard right, or is he looneytunes? (Answer: both.) What’s with the girl who may be Megan, but is more likely Tiffany? Who wrote HELP on the window and what happened to her? Why does Howard have a barrel full of hydrochloric acid? What were those things doing to the world?

I kind of like that so few elements were resolved: I can use my imagination to fill in the rest of the blanks. I also have to wonder…what would I have done in her situation?

Movie Grade: B+

One cool thing I wanted to add: there’s a scene were Howard tells Michelle “Let’s go — bathroom time!” Wouldn’t that be the best meta cue for a Peetime?

RunPee’s original Movie Review of 10 Cloverfield Lane

Movie Review – 10 Cloverfield Lane

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 – Patriot Games

classic patriot games with harrison ford
Another Sean Bean bites the dust

Patriot Games was always on my list of favorite films, up until some other good stuff came along (like the Harry Potter films, the Lord of the RingsThe Hunger Games, and even The Martian) to push it off my personal Top Ten List.

Still, it’s a very fine movie. Really! The soundtrack and Enya crescendos rocked. It was a fine emotional family journey. It just hasn’t aged as well as it did before the Information Age kicked in. The amazing things we see the CIA do are simply no longer that amazing.

It’s like, “Yeah, yeah, re-task the damn satellites;  I could probably do this from my cellphone.” And the stand-out moment, where a cold analyst says, “That’s a kill,” well…it was a bone-chilling line at the time. But after a few long decades of CIA intel flicks, this doesn’t have the resonance it once had. We’ve become  immured to deaths we see from afar.

Don’t take this as a political statement: we now only feel sad when the “good guys” die. Who’s to say who is good, and who isn’t? For far-away people caught up in a crusade that means everything to them and nothing to us, they must die. Fox Mulder of The X-Files understood the US government wasn’t as benign as they wanted us to believe. I’m just glad they destroyed the desert cell they intended to, based on absolutely no evidence and Jack Ryan’s hunch. (A sunburned man and a girl in a tank top. Really? Do we that casually wound and mass-murder in the name of justice?) [/end rant]

It was also filmed in a world of graininess. The climactic night scenes were hard to decipher, even though from my years of rewatches I knew this film like I knew my face in a mirror. Harrison Ford pulled a perfect performance, and was awesomely reunited with James Earl Jones — his first major role since the voice of Darth Vader — in a film where Sean Bean makes one of his early many, many, many (MANY) movie deaths. (What a thing to list on top of your resume. Sean, my Boromir, I love you anyway.)

All this to say that what was once an A+ film has dropped, through no fault of its own, to an A-. We’ve had so many better films over the ensuing decades. How could I say this is a better film than the last batch of Mission Impossible flicks?  Or Jason Bourne‘s journey? Just because I have a super soft spot for Patriot Games doesn’t mean it’s still the best bag of chips in the vending machine.

Movie Grade: A- (I feel terrible giving this a lower grade on my rewatch. Thank goodness Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jaws, are still perfect films!)

NOTE: I need to rewatch the prequel Hunt for Red October, which I recall as an incredible film, even though Jack Ryan (and his wife) were played by other actors. I recall that the threequel was not up to snuff.  Thoughts?

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 – Gone Girl (with Spoilers)

Gone-girl-actors
The girl is back.

I feel physically unclean after seeing Gone Girl. Seriously. Please excuse me while I take a scalding shower….

Okay, I’m back. Very clean. HEY, past this point, there be SPOILERS in DETAIL about Gone Girl.

I think I washed the stench of evil from my skin. Eeeeevil. E-VIL. The ‘girl’ is the scariest psychotic imaginable. Sweet Holy Moses, Gone Girl was an intense experience. I shuffled through a lot of emotions, viewing it. Initial interest, a pervading sense of depression, to thinking I guessed the secret, to being lost in layers of deceit, experiencing a bit of boredom in the middle…then with more depression seeping in, and finally ending on a note of mesmerized fascination as the two leads went head to head in a battle royale for power (Amy) or life (Nick).

And you know what? By the end, smart as Nick is, Amy wins in every way that counts. Back to feeling depressed. Fade to black.

To start, I was very much a Virgin to Gone Girl. I heard nothing about it, save that people liked it. I’d thought maybe kidnapping was involved. But most consistently, nobody — nobody — would tell me what it was about. They’d say, “I can’t discuss it without spoilers.” To which I felt, “Screw that: there must be something you can tell me.”

I guess I should thank all those folks, since if anyone had given me a rough outline of Gone Girl, I never would have seen it. And I’m glad I did, even though that woman makes my skin crawl. I like thrillers and dislike drama, and this one walks a line somewhere between both genres.

The cleverness of the plot is based on a somewhat dismal viewer realization: that no one in Gone Girl are nice people. Not the estranged couple, or Neil Patrick Harris’ character, Amy’s parents, her various neighbors, the story-chasing news casters, the lawyer (although at least he’s jovial about it)…I’ll make an exception for the sister and the detective. I actually kept waiting for the twin sister to kill Amy at the denouement, maybe offscreen, freeing up her brother and getting satisfaction for ridding the world of a very, very dangerous woman. One who should NOT be raising kids.

This is a bit glossed over in the end, but if I was the husband, I’d spend the next few years planning the perfect murder, before Amy terrorizes and ruins their child. (And I speak as a pacifist. Some psychopaths are too dangerous to keep alive.)

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike were perfectly cast: I believed in their characters, the narrative, their pain, their violent tendencies. I felt like a voyeur at times, intruding on people’s private, very dirty laundry. Some details you’re better off not knowing about your neighbors, friends, co-workers, or even your spouse. Some people are too steeped in rot to be redeemed. Sometimes a thing is too broken to be fixed.

This is a hard one to grade, since it’s both an excellent flick, and one that’s intensely unpleasant to sit through. Is this a masterfully told, extraordinarily acted, awful film?

It’s not really my genre. I love a good thriller and a mystery, which this has in turns, but tonally it’s suffused with creeping dread and claustrophobic horror. Hitchcock would love this story. It’s almost too dark for words, even though the plot very much works, within the boundaries of flashback structures, the flow of acts, a distinctly non-linear narration, and an ending that makes you want to do bad things to bad people for good reasons. When it concludes, it’s sudden and unexpected: you’re left with only the pervasive sense of being trapped, for life, in a lethal, gilded cage.

[“I say they should take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” — Ripley, from Aliens.]

Movie Grade: B+

(A Virgin Movie Review is one where we haven’t seen the movie in question when it came out, and watched it with no particular expectations.)

Read the original RunPee Review of Gone Girl by RunPee Dan.

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 – The Girl in the Spider’s Web

 

Movie Review - The Girl in the Spider's WebIt’s a sad fact: sometimes a good book can make a not so good movie. Such is the case of The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

The pacing was frenetic, making the plot hard to follow. There were scenes that went by so quickly, I hardly had time to incorporate them into the movie in my brain. Most of these scenes were filled with gratuitous explosions or implausible car chases that hurt my brain.

I didn’t feel there was any chemistry between the characters, and in my heart of hearts, I don’t think the actors had fun in making this movie. I most certainly didn’t have fun watching it.

TGitSW could have been shot in black and white, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. There was very little color, except for a brilliantly red outfit worn by Camilla during a portion of the movie. And speaking of the red outfit: hats off to Sylvia Hoeks for running up a snow-covered hill while wearing six inch red stilettos. You go girl!

I’m assuming that the target audience are those who have read the book, which I have not. How well did the movie follow the book? Did the personalities of the book follow the personalities of the movie? I don’t know, because I haven’t read the book and probably never will.

I did find it interesting that the movie opened with a ‘Me Too’ moment, showing Lisbeth emasculating an abuser by hanging him from the ceiling, and tazing the creep ’til he literally peed his pants. The icing on the revenge cake was when Lisbeth mostly depleted his fortune by transferring funds into a private account for the wife. A lot of people would consider this scene worth the price of admission. I did! I believe that TGitSW would have been so much better if tazing psychotic husbands had been the plot of the movie.

My bottom line…….wait for the DVD.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: This movie was almost non-stop action, making it difficult to get good Peetimes — however, I managed to find 2 action scenes that were easily summed up.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Girl in the Spider’s Web. (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 – Get Smart

get smart movie
Less than smart.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many spy movies this month, but I was bored during this otherwise okay comedy spy film. We have a lot of US spy films, like the Mission Impossible series, RED 1 and 2, the Patriot Games trilogy, and Jason Bourne’s franchise. I recently reviewed a glut of British spy movies too, covering James Bond, The Kingsman, Johnny English and Austin Powers. I’m kind of spied out.  I know there’s more spy movies out there, but I have to ask myself WHY? Do we all secretly want to use cool gadgets and murder with government consent? Does this make us a little bit evil, somehow?

In any case, Get Smart is based on a TV franchise my mother watched back in the day, and something I sat through as a child, for lack of anything more charming onscreen. I recalled the Shoe Phone, the Cone of Silence, the Telephone Booth entrance (a gag reused recently in Harry Potter of all things), and how the Maxwell Smart character made endless silly mistakes, yet carried the day in spite of it all. Smart is booksmart, but not really skilled in the field. In the Get Smart movie, Steve Carell plays the smart/dumb role with aplomb. Kudos to him.

For the rest of the cast, it was kind of an excuse to show up as a “Hey, I know that guy” trope, thinking that was good enough. (Clue: It wasn’t.) Anne Hathaway was over-cast and made no sense being in a silly feature like this. Don’t get me started on the total waste of The Rock’s talents. Why they agreed to show up for Get Smart is something I can’t understand. There’s also a very strange cameo with a beloved actor, who has a tiny scene while hidden in a tree on the White House lawn. I have no idea what that was about, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Look for him, and tell me if you think the scene added anything to the plot.

The best role went to the amiable Alan Arkin as the head of Control. I love his voice, and how he can be an average sort of fellow who never-the-less has a commanding presence. That worked. Not brilliantly, but good enough.

I did enjoy the dance-off scene, and Maxwell’s adorable partner. When she flipped the bird to the pretty little mean girls, I gave a small cheer. Not to say that fat jokes are cool, but it was pleasing to see her cut a rug with Max on the dance floor. The scene where Agent 99 and Max gyrate around deadly laser beams was a cute take on the the old trope. And I liked the nod to the old Bond movies with the Jaws-type henchman character, who they call Easter Island Head — which I totally see. The skydiving segment uncannily pre-dates the recent HALO jump on Mission Impossible: Fallout, but not with the panache of Tom Cruise’s real-life stunt.

Basically, Get Smart is a non-offensive movie that thinks it’s funnier than it is..however,  my mother laughed a lot. Personally, if I’m going to watch a spy spoof, I’d prefer Austin Powers or The Kingsman. Still, Get Smart is better than Johnny English. Ah, the power of faint praise. 😉

Movie Grade: B

(A Virgin Movie Review is one where we haven’t seen the movie in question when it came out, and watched it with no particular expectations.)

Cruise’s HALO MI Dives: 106 jumps at 25,000 feet, w/broken ankle

Best Bond and Bond Parody Intro Songs

Fantastic Theme Music from the Entire Mission Impossible Franchise

 

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 – RED 2

Not even Anthony Hopkins could save RED 2
This time the band didn’t bother coming together.

Well, now. I recently re-watched RED 1, and loved it. I gave it an A. So maybe you can understand my disappointment when I say this sequel was the pits. It made almost no sense, even with Anthony Hopkins doing his usual bang-up performance, acting his heart out in a film so completely narratively lacking. What the hell happened here?

Sometimes a sequel isn’t warranted, even though the original left on-screen hints there was more to come. They should have stopped right there, leaving their future to our imagination. RED 2 (still shorthand for Retired, Extremely Dangerous) has none of the charm or style marking the first film. I want to shake the producers for making this dreck happen, for forcing it into existence. WHY?

The original great ensemble didn’t come together. Most of the main characters were completely sidelined or missing entirely. Our ex-Russian KGB expert came in and out like a pee break (as in, his role was like a 3 minute Peetime over the course of the film). Helen Mirren fared slightly better, but had only one or two lines with any of the warmth she showed before. Sure, she can shoot like nobody’s business, but her role was frustratingly fungible and spare. She acted like she knew it. Paycheck time, I guess.

Morgan Freeman’s absence was sorely missed. I know he had stage 4 cancer in RED 1, but hell, this is a movie; they could say it went into remission and no one would bat an eye. Why make continuity a thing when your second best character is missing, without a single line bemoaning his off-screen apparent death? He’s still acting in 2018, so its not like the actor died. My best guess is Freeman read the incoherent script and passed.

Which leaves us with Bruce Willis and John Malcovich turning the ensemble into a duo. It’s like a band of two reuniting on a cruise ship gig because the rest of the musicians retired. This time, Willis and Malcovich have no chemistry at all all. They barely looked at each other. In fact, Malcovich only had on-set chemistry with Willis’ love interest Mary Louise Parker. She did her usual quirky fun job, but it couldn’t save RED 2 from a poor overall performance. 

Who else appeared? David Thewlis (Professor Lupin from Harry Potter), Catherine Zeta Jones, some cringingly bad bad guy whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, and Byung-Hun Lee as Han, the new mercenary who’s Death Incarnate all movie long, but turns into a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Softie in the end. The transition didn’t work, though, unlike Karl Urban’s good turn in RED 1.  Thewlis was quite good as The Frog, and should have been in more scenes. Zeta-Jones…well, looked good. As a past flame for Willis’ character, she pulled off a workmanlike job. The script didn’t give her much to work with. Too bad. Too bad for everything: I was really looking forward to this sequel.

What good things can I say? The cool soundtrack from the first didn’t happen for the 2nd. The plot skipped and jumped; the actors mumbled most of their lines, and the plot was made of Swiss cheese. I still don’t know what the Red Mercury bomb was supposed to be — it sure didn’t make a lick of sense. Wait: these aren’t good things.

Let me try again. Willis and Parker were fine together. Parker’s pleasant presence provided the most laughs. The gag about the gang stealing Han’s plane was amusing, with a good payoff.

The worst crime in this crime movie: it wasn’t funny. RED 1 is all about the fun. There’s enough other, more serious Gun Movies out there if that’s what you want. I hope RED 3 is never a thing. Let these RED ex-agents finally retire.

Recommendation: Pass.  Stream it free, if you must. It’s a much longer movie then RED 1, but that didn’t make it better.

Movie Grade: D+

Note: A virgin movie review highlights films from the past that we haven’t seen before, unlike a regular review from a current film, or a rewatch review from something we’ve seen previously. 

Movie ReWatch Review – RED

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 – RED

bruce willis and morgan freeman in RED
Retired, Extremely Dangerous

To start with, the title RED in this film is an acronym for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. As retirees, we see these characters don’t have much of a life anymore. That’s the set-up, starting with Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses, lost in an empty house devoid of personal decor. I can see where it would be tough for such deadly folks to ease back into American suburbia, after a career of honing themselves into CIA weapons.

What do you do, after a rough life of adventure and government-condoned murder? Make bogus government paycheck calls in a desperate attempt to connect with someone, like Bruce Willis’ infamous black-ops character? Pine away over lost love, like Brian Cox’s Russian spy; live in a bunker, like John Malcovich’s crazy bomber; or make flower arrangements and bake like a Martha Stewart clone, as Helen Mirren’s wetworks expert is reduced to?

These are good questions, and I don’t know how the real-life ex-agents manage to “transition,” as Moses puts it.

In RED, it’s nice to see the connection — and grudging respect — growing between Karl Urban’s ambitious young agent, in contrast to Willis’ older, jaded Moses. Urban’s Cooper is well on his way to becoming just like the people he’s hunting, but we start rooting for all of them somewhere along the way. There’s a lot of care to establish these characters as gifted, yet fallible people, and not impervious superhero agents. They take bullets, make costly mistakes, love the wrong people, and — in spite of the pain —  they miss the old days.

Make no mistake.This is a clever, funny movie. It doesn’t shy from violence, but there’s a lot of discretion shots and it’s not gory. The soundtrack is absolutely affable, with the whole affair as slick and stylish as Pulp Fiction — or even better, an older and more lethal version of Ocean’s 11. When Freeman gleefully announces, “The band’s getting back together,”  I wanted to cheer.

These actors are known for their authentic character roles over decades of work, and the ensemble meshed like magic. I couldn’t get enough of their amusingly tense sparring, and can’t wait to see the sequel I somehow missed the first time around. I’ll catch RED 2 next and see if the story picks up right where it leaves off.

Helen Mirren’s Virginia reminded me of a gleeful, older Xena: Warrior Princess. She has the same focused, deadly, competent joy in her work; she just seemed grateful to get to murder with the other kids again. You go, Dame Mirren!

Even though this movie came out in 2010,  the actors haven’t aged at all. Morgan Freeman and Mirren both just headlined a brand-new fantasy feature this week (The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms), and honestly, they look the same. Good genes, I guess. (I don’t think Morgan Freeman ages. He did play God once…)

Usually the villains in CIA/FBI shoot-em-up movies are lame, with the MacGuffins fungible. Here, I felt invested in the stakes and cared about the outcome. The Vice President was a sad figure in the end. That worked.

Richard Dreyfuss’ self-titled Bad Guy was a bit over the top (not in the good way), and detracted somewhat from the otherwise graceful “execution” (lol) of a really enjoyable thriller. Dreyfuss is usually an extremely competent actor. But his was the only off-key note in RED. Maybe I can  blame the director for that.

Basically, this is darn good movie that holds up nicely over time. I’m excited to view the sequel tonite, and will post a review to the link soon.

Movie Grade: A

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.)

Best Movie MacGuffins Explained

Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins. Can you name them all?

A MacGuffin is any object that drives the plot and motivates the characters in a movie. You might have seen the name “MacGuffins” over bar bistros in the lobbies of many AMC theaters. That’s an industry in-joke. It sounds like the name of an Irish pub, but it’s really a nod to a long standing film tradition, coined by Alfred Hitchcock himself, for an object that’s an excuse to make characters do things, have a quest for, and usually fight over.

MacGuffins can be almost anything, but the point is, it is a “thing.” Sometimes a MacGuffin can be a person-as-thing, but that’s a bit more rare. Another crucial point about MacGuffins — they’re usually quite fungible. It really doesn’t matter what the thing is, so long as the characters spend their narrative trying to get it (or, in some cases, lose it). 

Here are some well-known movie MacGuffins that you probably never thought about: 

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark — this whole flick is about finding the Ark, protecting the Ark, using the Ark, and finding a safe place to store it. I’m not sure an FBI warehouse is the safest place, but it’s probably as good as keeping it under the sands of Tanis. Note that for all Indy’s efforts,  nothing he does actually helps the cause in the end. He’s just lucky he knew enough not to die from it. And as we saw in the subsequent Indiana Jones films, there’s always some kind of MacGuffin driving the plot, including the Holy Grail. This is a case-book example of MacGuffins in action. (And yes, the holy grail in Monty Python’s Holy Grail counts too.)
  • Titanic – The Heart of the Ocean. Awwww.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of The Black Pearl – the last coin of the cursed gold qualifies, and so does Will Turner himself. I think each film in this increasingly bizarre series centers in a MacGuffin of some sort.
  • Most of the Mission Impossible series has a MacGuffin driving the plot, which really is just an excuse to see Tom Cruise pulling off his own wild stunts.
  • The Necronomicon in Army of Darkness qualifies in a super fun way. Have you seen this movie? (Go find it. Bruce Campbell is the best B actor in the business.)
  • A Fish Called Wanda has the bag of money, and a whole lot of tomfoolery involved in getting it, including an actual fish named Wanda. (Haven’t seen this? It’s one of the world’s funniest movies and stands up to the test of time.)
  • The Project Genesis in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. But you knew this, right? Even the whales in The Voyage Home count.
  • Unobtainium is kind of a jokey name, but certainly qualifies as a MacGuffin in Avatar. The natives of Pandora need it to survive, and the invading humans want it. They also kind of get it. Bummer.  It all works out in the end, mostly.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is all about MacGuffins. You could make a case for each of the current 20 films having some kind of MacGuffin. Most of them have to do with Infinity Stones, and who has them, and who tries to protect them from Thanos (or Ronan, or Loki, or the bad guy in Dr. Strange, or that dark Elf in Thor 2). Remember the stones go by all kinds of names, like the Orb, the Aether, the Tesseract, and so on. But it’s not always about the stones: Vulture just wanted alien technology. The Iron Man trilogy was about arc reactor tech. Killmonger wanted the power of Vibranium. Thor sought a replacement for his hammer, so Stormbreaker was the latest MacGuffin. Ant Man is about Quantum Tech and Pym Particles. Name me one MCU movie NOT about a MacGuffin, and you’ll win ten points to your Hogwarts House.
  • Speaking of Harry Potter, I don’t think a single entry in the 8 movie pantheon is MacGuffin-free. Look at the Sorcerer/Philosopher’s stone, the Tri-Wizard cup, the orb of prophecy, the Horcrux search, the quest for the Sword of Gryffindor, and the Deathly Hallows. Since Harry turned out to be a horcrux himself, he qualifies as a personified MacGuffin.
  • Like with the Sword of Gryffindor, swords are common themes to base a quest around. Look at the King Arthur movies: we even have two swords! The sword in the stone is one, and the one the Lady of the Lake tossed at Arthur. (“You can’t expect to wield supreme power just ’cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!” <— recognize this quote? If you’re a true cinephile, you should.)
  • The Lord of Rings is a great exception to the ideal of questing FOR an object. In this case, the fellowship is about destroying something: the One Ring of Power. It’s a self-proclaimed fool’s quest, but somehow, the good guys win. (Although not without great cost along the way.)
  • The Lord of the Rings does the sword thing too, with the shards of Narsil being forged as a great flaming weapon, to be reforged and wielded only by a descendant of Isildur. So we can check that box too.
  • In the Hobbit, it’s the Arkenstone.
  • The Wizard of Oz has the Ruby Slippers.
  • In the various incarnations of Dune, the Sandworms are an unusual MacGuffin, which, like Harry Potter, are also in the form of a living being. The spice itself is a HUGE MacGuffin — without it, space travel would simply cease. And this relates right back to the Sandworms. Lost yet? Ignore David Lunch and the SciFi versions; re-read the novel. I hear there will be yet another filmatic attempt at Dune soon…so we can hope it’s the definitive version.
  • In a less fantasy mode, we’ve got Pulp Fiction. What exactly was in the magically glowing briefcase? Was it Marcellus Wallus’ soul, as many fans speculated? We never find out, although it actually doesn’t matter in the end.
  • Fantastic Beasts also featured a magical suitcase that all characters sought. In this film, however, we definitely saw what was in there.
  • Star Wars is usually about MacGuffins, which are often force-users (ie – people). In Solo, look at how Coaxium drives the plot. The Millennium Falcon  qualifies too. In The Force Awakens, Luke himself is the MacGuffin (and so is his lightsaber). A New Hope and Rogue One have the stolen Death Star data tapes. Star Wars is loaded with MacGuffins, including R2D2 himself. Once you start noticing these, you can’t stop. (Kind of like eating Pringles.)
  • The Maltese Falcon – an obvious one, from a classic-era film. Hmmm, also Rosebud in Citizen Cane.
  • All heist, thriller, and caper movies are about finding a thing. Often a tech thing, and sometimes just money — as in Die Hard. I dare you to name a caper that isn’t about acquiring something. Look at the Ocean’s films for a start. Everyone’s after something, and the whole plot hinges around that thing.
  • Apollo 13 and even First Man are about similar MacGuffins, be they the moon itself, or just finding a way to get home from said moon.
  • Are you a Buffy fan? Remember her Axe of Power? MacGuffin. The entire series is loaded with MacGuffins, including Buffy herself.
  • In the X-Files, aliens from space qualify as MacGuffins. And I’m not sure this was ever resolved. At least Scully learned to believe. 😉

Clearly, this is an ongoing list. I can’t sit here all day naming every flick with a MacGuffin. But feel free, absolutely, to name your favorites in the comments. It’s good geeky fun!

MacGuffins Bars at AMC Theaters

Movie Theater Review – AMC Fashion Valley in San Diego

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.)