Why Newt Scamander is a Fantastic, Yet Underrated Hero

newt scamander in fantastic beasts where to find them crimes of grindelwald
Not the usual male protagonist, but my new favorite hero.

Not every hero has to fit the typical mold we’re so very used to in epic storytelling. It’s always either the manly man’s man who is the big, strong, authoritative handsome guy, like Thor and Captain Kirk. (This really doesn’t even have to be a man — look at fighters like Black Widow and Wonder Woman — but we’re going to focus this piece on men, because it’s specifically about Newt Scamander from the Wizarding World’s Fantastic Beasts series.)

Or the protagonistic hero is frequently The Chosen One, who is “Called to the Quest” by nature of birthright or a unique ability, like Harry Potter himself, Luke Skywalker of Tatooine, Paul Atreides of Dune, Neo from the Matrix, or even pint-sized Frodo of the Shire.

Some men like Thor, Hercules, and King Arthur fit both the strong fighting man and Chosen One categories. It’s a very well-worn premise. These heroes fit the archetype most clearly defined by Joseph Campbell’s Journey of the Hero.

The third most common kind of male hero is a leader by nature of being the smartest, most talented guy in any room, like Captain Picard, Dumbledore, Gandalf, or Dr. Strange.

There’s also a fourth common heroic category: the lovable rogue with a heart of gold. Mal from Firefly, Han Solo of Star Wars, and Starlord from the Marvel Universe nestle right in there.  Iron Man may be more smartass than badass, but he fits the mold, along with being super smart like Dr. Strange (and to wit, in his words: genius, billionaire, philanthropist.)

I freely love these heroes, these ‘accepted’ stereotypes. I grew up adoring them and never thought much about it before.

So what about the humble, good-natured, perhaps shy man, exhibiting gentleness and compassion? His skill sets usually don’t include fighting; he isn’t of noble birth, and is actually not interested in the big events of the world except as they effect his personal goals: in Newt’s case, communing with and conserving the endangered magical creatures of the world first, and secondly, to find his girlfriend and help her (she is the one actually interested in fighting Grindelwald).  I’m not sure he even believes in evil at all: he says he doesn’t choose sides, and twice ignores Dumbledore’s behest to take the safe house card in Paris.

I think an attempt was made in Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald to have Dumbledore retcon Newt into being a sort of Chosen One, in the mold of Frodo Baggins (“You’re a man with no lust for power, so you’re the only one who can do this…blah blah bah” I was pleased to see Newt still wanted none of it).

This video below by Pop Culture Detective came highly recommended to me by several RunPee fans, most of them, happily, from men. And it’s AWESOME.

If you read the comments, it’s clear there’s room out there for exactly this kind of protagonist among the male gender. I applaud every bit of it. I’ve loved Newt Scamander as a new kind of protagonist as soon as I realized his social awkwardness likely stemmed from a bit of Asperger’s Syndrome: he approaches people (save his very, very few friends) in the same way one would a dangerous animal, in a submissive posture with almost no eye contact. And yet he comes alive most when he’s loving on the fantastic beasts in both the magical suitcase and his wonderful zoo-like apartment. Freddy Redmayne is astounding as Newt. The video below shows a few clips that can’t not make you go Awwwwwww.

I hope Newt isn’t marginalized as the series plows on. We have three more films of which he is the intended main character. But from his unusual nature, even JK Rowling worries he might be pushed aside for more typical male heroes to assume the center spot.

Do you believe we have room in the world of epic genre entertainment for a gentle, quiet, and unassuming male figure to remain in the center of political intrigue, wizardly power plays and world-dominating plots? Do you like Newt at all? Please use the comments section 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.)

Why Fantastic Beasts 2 is not so Fantastic

poster for Fantastic Beasts the Crimes of Grindelwald
Who are all of these PEOPLE?

I feel like a guilty Gryffindor, A Harry Potter heel, and a bad geek, because I have such confused thoughts about Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald. I’m supposed to love it: I’m a crazy fan for everything Harry Potter. I even came around on the first Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them — which I had mixed feelings about originally . So, surely it will be the same for me on Crimes of Grindelwald, right? Right??

Truth be told, while my immediate review/reaction was less than stellar, I liked it a WHOLE lot more on my 2nd and 3rd viewings. I considered changing my review, and even bumped it up a few grades. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling there was a lot inherently wrong with CoG. It reminded me, unfortunately, of my experience viewing  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, another very pretty but deeply flawed movie. Yikes.

So I sat on it and let things digest in my brain, avoiding other people’s reviews. Until last night. That’s when I took to You Tube to see if my perspective was just dead wrong. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Turns out: no. I mean, I’m right. The other Potterheads are just as confused and butt-hurt too. Attached are some of the best video breakdowns of why CoG failed, based on impossible inconsistencies within JK Rowling’s OWN canon, in small part — and in just weird cinematic storytelling, in large part.

large cast in fantastic beasts 2
This isn’t even everyone.

To wit: who ARE all these characters? Why should we care about the endless in-depth backstories and reveals of folks we’ve never met, some of which die right there in the same film? In Avengers: Infinity War, by comparison, it took 18 films to earn their immense casting roundup. In-Universe, The climactic Battle of Hogwarts was full of characters we knew and loved — absolutely LOVED, and died, and #YesDamnYouJK for breaking my heart there.

It doesn’t help that CoG undid the main emotional beats of the previous film in the second (also recalling The Last Jedi. #WTG).

As for the eponymous Grindelwald, we don’t get to see a lot of actual crimes. He orders the killing of one family (and their toddler child, which, yes, bad)…and, um, boots his faithful lizard to its death out the prison carriage for the ‘crime’ of being affectionate…and, hmm. Escapes from  prison, sort of, though it seems he maybe wasn’t in it…? The whole breakout scene was unclear. He bothers to save the life of one of his jailers, which I found a nice enough gesture.  He also holds a rally protesting the Holocaust. This is the most evil wizard of his generation, the Big Bad before Voldemort?

man with the eye parasite in Crimes of Grindelwald
“Tentacles”: I don’t remember his deal, either.

While Johnny Depp was never my first choice to play Grindelwald, he wasn’t awful in the part. I think the main flaws in CoG, which are legion, is that half the film was devoted to useless flashbacks and — let’s face it — underwhelming and/or incredibly contrived reveals. Who is Corvus?  (I’ll do you one better: WHY is Corvus?) What is the incredibly tangled Lestrange family tree about and why should we care? Who is Tentacle Guy  — do you remember he was in this film and what his purpose was?

Then there’s this: Credence is a Dumbledore? How does this in any way make sense? It’s like everyone is a Skywalker, all over again.

Even Queenie and Jacob, so reliable in the first Fantastic Beasts, were poorly used here. I see what Rowling was after with Queenie’s arc, but the logic doesn’t stick. You’ll see what I mean in the videos.

Where the film DID shine was three-fold: I continue to love and admire Newt, the fantastic beasts themselves were still a joyous addition to the lore, and Jude Law’s Dumbledore was note-perfect. And I love being among wizards again, especially at Hogwarts, albeit briefly. (Also, Tina’s eyes are like a salamander’s, which is a little bit true, and very cute, and if you think about Newt Scamander’s whole name, it’s essentially “Salamander Salamander”, so Awwwww.)

a cute salamander
How Newt Sees Tina

With no further opinionated grumblings from me, here are the best five reviewer videos breaking down and backing up my fretful thoughts on Fantastic Beasts 2:  (PS: start with the excellent SuperCarlin Brothers, and work your way down. All these videos will take a while to view, and I put them in order of insightfulness in my ranking scale. Your mileage may vary.)

What did you think of this second-of-five installment of Fantastic Beasts? We’ve got a comments section below: please use it.

Lastly, if you’re still reading, here are our RunPee reviews on the two films thus far:

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts 2 Review from a Harry Potter Novice

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

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.)

A Very Harry Cruise – Hogwarts at Sea

Harry potter luxury cruise
A luxury Harry Potter cruise. It’s nicer than apparating.

I can’t put my jaw back in place. It dropped when I heard there was going to be a week-long luxury Harry Potter cruise. I want more information. Also, I want $4,000 to pay for this.

My dream Harry Potter cruise would have Hogwarts teachers, with classes in Defense Against The Dark Arts, Muggle Studies, Potions, and Caring for Magical Creatures. We’d play Quidditch above the pool. The last night would have a fancy formal Yule Ball. And I wouldn’t mind if a few actors from the movies made an appearance.

Ooh, and on the first night we could have a Sorting Hat ceremony-slash-feast! House Elves would make our beds and leave fantastic beast towels on our pillows. The shopping level would look like Diagon Alley; all meals would include Treacle Tarts and unlimited Butterbeer.

Honestly, I think this ship should hire me as a cruise director.  Like Julie McCoy from The Love Boat, except with magic.

 

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.)

Fantastic Beasts 2 Review from a Harry Potter Novice

dumbledore, newt scamander, and grindelwald go head to head
A sort of love triangle

I’m not a Harry Potter fan. Don’t get me wrong; I like the stories. I think they are rich and compelling. But I’ve never read the books — it’s on the list — and I personally wouldn’t bother seeing any of the movies on opening weekend if it wasn’t my job.

I’m only setting the stage for where this review is coming from, because a movie review, or any review for that matter, isn’t about the thing being reviewed, it’s about the relationship between the writer and the object of the critique. If you share something in common with the reviewer, then perhaps you’ll share a similar relationship with the object of comment.

What I liked
Grindelwald is a great villain. He’s a freedom fighter. Not out for personal aggrandizement, at least not yet, but for the betterment of all. He’s only a villain because the Ministry — the centralized power — says he is. Honestly, if I were a wizard listening to him speak, I’d be on his side too. We’ll maybe not on his side, but definitely opposed to the Ministry.

JK Rowling consistently projects an air of self importance on the Ministry, who ends up as an obstacle to the heroes and is always lead by a bunch of incompetent sycophants. If she consciously writes that as a reflection of her own government, then I wonder what she must think of the US government…

OMG, I just realized: Trump is Dolores Umbridge. Sadly, the world makes a little more sense.

Rowling weaves a rich tapestry of characters and conflict over a framework of a masterfully created fantasy world. It’s not flawless, but so nearly so, that I’d feel it next to sacrilege to mention any trivial shortcomings. Let’s just say no one alive does it better. (Something I wouldn’t have been able to say just last week. #StanLeeRIP)

What I didn’t like
There are a LOT of characters and it’s hard to keep everyone, along with their relationships, straight. But it doesn’t help at all when so many lines are squashed under background noise or run over by music. Did the director/editors not listen to the dialog? Maybe they didn’t notice how unintelligible so many lines were because they were privy to the script, and just mentally filled in the auditory blanks. I was in a theater with state of the art Dolby sound and at least half a dozen times I had to wonder what on Earth a character said.

I really wish I had rewatched the first Fantastic Beasts before seeing The Crimes of Grindelwald because I spent most of the movie lost trying to remember what exactly was going on in the character relationships: wait, she likes him, and he likes her, but something happened — I can’t remember what, and why are those two characters looking at each other like that? Is there something going on between them that… oh, right, now I remember… wait, no that was the other girl who… Screw it. I give up. Just show some more fantastic beasts.

So yeah, warm up for CoG by rewatching the first FB.

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

 

Movie Review - Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldI don’t know what happened with this movie. It looked great from the trailers, and seemed like the story would make sense. The film itself, though, was a big beautiful mess. I’m not even sure what I saw.

I’m essentially a Harry Potter expert. I’ve read the books dozens of times, seen the movies even more, visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and traveled to places filmed on location in both London and Scotland. I belong to a Harry Potter Meetup group, and have different wizard outfits, cobbled together over the years. I’ve made wands. Blah blah blah. All this to make it clear when I say I don’t understand Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s a painful feeling.

It’s not even just me. I went with a fellow wizard friend, and he was disappointed and lost too. After the film, we tried to figure out what the movie was about, why the characters did the things they did, and were both just puzzled.

I saw the movie in IMAX at a select early screening with reserved tickets in a packed theater. Everyone there was a big HP fan, ready to have an exciting time. The audience started out applauding and cheering when different things occurred onscreen, like seeing Dumbledore, during the Hogwarts scene, when different creatures showed up, and when certain early secrets were revealed. However, as the movie wore on, the audience got more and more quiet. By the end, you could hear a pin drop. There was no final applause, which spoke volumes in its silence. People filed out with no fanfare or excitement. Basically, JK Rowling’s biggest fanbase seemed alienated.

I’ll probably see this a few more times in the theater — and it really is a pretty piece of work. I hope to figure out what the plot was about and why the characters did the things they did. I’m positive I’ll have better things to say about this film then. But in the meantime, I’ll say this: if I couldn’t follow the weird, convoluted, and very messy narrative told here, I doubt the casual fan will know what to make of it.

UPDATED OPINION: I saw this a second time and have a somewhat different review and grade for it in mind. I ‘m thinking a solid B now. My first experience was spent taking an intense amount of notes for RunPee and I missed a lot of what transpired. This is the kind of film you really can’t be distracted for. (Don’t make Peetimes kids, if you like movies!) I enjoyed my second viewing, but still stand by my original take — this sequel is problematic.

Grade: B (Updated)

About The Peetimes: I attended a premier showing before the film officially opened. (I had to drink my hoarded Felix Felicis Potion to get this ticket.) While this is great news for RunPee fans, I will admit this was the hardest movie ever for me to get Peetimes. The film moves at a breakneck pace, with too many characters — many of whom were brand new and didn’t make any sense in the film. I added 2 Peetimes, in any case. The 1st is better, at 39 minutes in. The 2nd, at 1:16 will also serve. Neither of these scenes have any interesting action or fantastic beasts.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Why Fantastic Beasts 2 is not so Fantastic

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.)

Every Harry Potter Film, Ranked

harry-potter-movies-ranked
The trio, saving the world at a theater near you.

We haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald yet, but RunPee has an early showing next Tuesday, November 13th, three days before the film officially opens. I’ll be attending in full Hogwarts robes, with my cherished Elder Wand, getting early Peetimes. In any case, this is as good a time as any to rank the 9 movies thus far in the Wizarding World, from least good to the best. Remember, though, any of J.K. Rowling’s wizard movies are better and more consistent than just about any franchise out there, save the superhero flicks in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

NOTE: Spoilers for the entire Harry Potter series starts right here. Use a memory charm to forget what you’re about to read if you’re not up to date with the series.

My  subjective list, from worst to best, including Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them:

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 – While there are some really good sections in this story (the Battle of the Seven Potters, the Gringotts Bank Heist, the flight of the dragon, the scenes at Malfoy Mansion, and the tear-jerking death of Dobby), most of the film feels like the boring sections of the Lord of the Rings: to wit, there is a lot of walking, camping, and doing nothing. Also, the locket acts a lot like the One Ring, which feels more derivative than like an homage. Also, there’s barely any humor, the tone is depressing, the characters are mostly silent, and some scenes are among the only big misfires in the entire series (ie – the wedding, the visit with Xenophilus Lovegood, the creepy trip to Godric’s Hallow).  So it’s really the only middling chapter in a long series of grade A films. Something has to come in last in a list, after all.

8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – I don’t like this one very much. I hate the spiders scene so much that I fast forward over the whole thing (I’m not an arachnophobe, but this is all still disturbing), Hagrid’s helpful presence is missing through most of it, and I didn’t enjoy his being blamed for opening the titular Chamber. The overall tone is more depressing than it should be, so early into the longer story arc. The Basilisk doesn’t make much sense: he’s too big to roam unseen in the crowded Hogwarts Halls, or to fit through that toilet exit. Also, I’n not a big fan of the climax in the the Chamber itself, or the reveal about Ginny Weasley. The good: the flight of the Ford Anglica, the trip to Diagon Alley, Kenneth Branagh’s amusing portrayal of Professor Gilderoy, and Hagrid’s apparent bit of talking to himself as he’s brought away by the Minister of Magic (“If I was looking for something, I’d follow the spiders.”) I’ve come to appreciate this movie more over the years, but it’s still the one I’m happiest to skip. Fortunately, things get a lot better very quickly in the next films.

7.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone (the title depends on which country you’re from) – This is lightweight, yet appealing fluff. It’s very truthful to the book, which I actually like, is adorably sweet, and ends on a low-stakes high note (Gryffindor winning the House Cup, a topic we never hear about again). The film does a good job introducing a large cast, which thankfully stays with us for the next ten years (Dumbledor’s actor aside, for unfortunate reasons of real-world death).  Alan Rickman’s Snape is better than the book version, and better than a kiddie-movie like this one deserves.  Most of the stage is set for the  ensuing chronicles, and the filmation is straightforward, yet deeply pretty.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 – I’d rate this finale higher if it was either more fun, or stood better alone. It picks up right after DH1, and maintains a  breakneck pace for its rather long runtime. The battle is competent, and everyone involved put in a good effort. The aftermath is rushed, and the coda sort of divided the fans (I liked it, though). The best scenes start right after Harry uses the Stone, sees his loved ones, walks to his death, and visits the train station at King’s Cross, London.  Heartfelt, mysterious, clearly spiritual, and nicely tear-jerking. Answers that are non-answers are provided, leaving the viewer to decide what actually happened to Harry, and how he was able to defeat Voldemort. Once you puzzle it out to your satisfaction (ie  – Harry is a horcrux), you’re all set to let the real Battle of Hogwarts begin.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  – I sometimes dislike this film, even though it’s really quite good and mostly book. It bothers me that Harry has a raging case of PTSD about the death of Cedric, and no one tries to help him emotionally. And I’m sad about Sirius  — he was my movie boyfriend, as far as I was concerned. I so wanted Harry to ditch the Dursleys and move in with his godfather. It disturbed me that Sirius spent the short remainder of his life in that hideous house that brought him nothing but pain…and it doesn’t help that it was Harry’s awful mistake  (and no small amount of teenage hubris) that led to his godfather’s death. I blame  Dumbledore too — so much pain could have been averted if he’s handled that year better. I also didn’t like that Kreacher’s backstory was mostly ignored. I love Kreacher’s journey in the book, and feel the movie lost a big chance to add a very poignant touch. Apparently, Rowling herself had to insist on ensuring Kreacher was included at all.  High points in the film: Dolores Umbridge. She’s the kind of villain you love to hate. I hate her with the force of a thousand suns; a testament to good acting and marvelous casting. I actually think Umbridge is worse than Voldemort. All the proclamations were good fun, and the Weasley twins’ exit, while not as good as how it went down in the book, was a definite highlight, as were the charming scenes where Harry taught Protection against the Dark Arts to Dumbledore’s Army.

4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Newt Scamander might seem an odd sort of fellow to base a five-part series around, but he’s odd in the good way; sweet, unassuming, yet very competent. He’s completely devoted to his creatures and their future survival…and in spite of being a bit socially awkward, attracts a nice trio of friends to help him save the world from evil wizards. I love Queenie and Jacob. I love the workshop and wildlife preserve in the suitcase. Newt’s an adult, unlike Potter and friends, and this makes for a tonal shift in the film. It’s less colorful and, well…”magical” — except when the fantastic beasts themselves come around. This is a film I like better and better upon every viewing. I’m truly excited to see how this series develops.

3.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Many people position this as the best of the series. It’s shot on location in the lush highlands of Scotland (places I visited to see the real deal in person, being a supergeek of all things Potter). Azkaban has a complicated, yet completely coherent story that other time travel movies should study. The direction is winningly stylish. We’re also introduced to Hogwart’s best teacher ever in Remus Lupin. This is where Sirius Black emerged, and began stealing my heart.  Our new Dumbledore was nothing like the previous one, but slid seamlessly into the role. The main trio puts in their first real acting performance — either the young actors finally settled into their characters, or the director led them there. Alfonso Cuaron completely knocks this one out of the park, and I wish he’d stuck around for the rest of the franchise. It’s simply glorious in direction, setting, and tone.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – I’m a sucker for quest-type stories like this one. It’s got recognizable act breaks between the three tasks, introduces great new characters, provides a lot of humor, and is the first film where the kids enter fully into teenhood. The Hogwarts characters we know and love are no longer children, and the pains/pangs of love emerge. I love this movie more than it probably deserves, but it also offers an astounding ending that changes the series forever. Here’s where the darkness finally takes firm root over the rest of the saga.

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – this holds a special place in my heart for being the funniest of the films, with a good mystery, a lot of Draco (always a plus), reveals much-needed backstory, is mostly self-contained, and provides the last calm before the storm of the war against Voldemort. Everyone’s on the top of their game in this one. (Yes, the book is far superior, but it’s also super long. This would have been a better choice to divide into two films, IMO).

If you’re a die-hard Potter fan, you’ll notice I didn’t include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in this ranking. This would be because the last time I was in London, the play had not yet been created. The screenplay in book-format is a bit underwhelming, but I’ll chalk that up to the medium: it’s meant to be performed to a live audience. People who’ve seen it have great reviews on the experience.  Next time I hit the UK, you can bet I’ll catch a performance. If you’ve seen it, please talk about what it was like in the comments below.

Next week, with FB 2 gracing our screen, I’ll have to shake up this list again.  The trailers look good, albeit quite grim. Here’s to hoping it lands in the top five! I’ll be at the premier in my Gryffindor robes. Lumos, babies!

Related, on RunPee:

Every Harry Potter article on RunPee.com

And some featured posts: 

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Crimes of Grindelwald Prequel Fan Film – The Greater Good

Comic Con Releases Grim but Exciting Trailer for Fantastic Beasts — The Crimes of Grindelwald

Notes on Final Trailer for Fantastic Beasts — The Crimes of Grindelwald

 

 

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 Grinch (2018)

 

Movie Review - The Grinch
Max the dog was cute. So was Fred the Reindeer. So, not a total loss.

It’s time to cease re-doing The Grinch. Full stop.

I can’t believe I was sucked into thinking this movie would add anything to the tale that wasn’t done perfectly already in the 1966 Xmas Special. What can I say, except to watch that perfect, iconic 26-minute version again, and to skip this bit of ‘meh.’. SKIP IT. YOU HEAR ME? It’s simply not good. Everything funny was shown in the trailer, and anything emotionally resonant still lies in that long ago Special that still holds up, after all this time.

If you want to feel touched by the Grinch’s heart growing three times, return to the original, and use that as your annual holiday touchstone. You’ll get misty-eyed, and walk away feeling good about life. Not so with this flick. This Grinch had great animated hair, and that’s all I can really say about it.

Moreso, egregiously, none of the genius grinchy musical numbers made it into this feature. It’s too bad, as I was ready to sing along with the audience. This was a just a big waste of time. I’m actually mad about it. STOP rebooting the Grinch, Hollywood! Is anybody listening?

The entire Cindy Lou Who subplot was a boring, meandering, meaningless misfire. Her “big” question for Santa underwhelmed, and her friends had no personality. What was the point of introducing them?

I honestly don’t know why the producers thought they could improve on the animated classic with this dreck. Even the lamented Jim Carrey live-action version was better, and that’s saying a lot.

I LOVE the classic Grinch story from Dr. Seuss, but can’t understand why this 2018 movie was necessary. Stick with the 1957 book or the 1966 TV special, and you’ll understand why this story is so important, so enduring. Loneliness and alienation are real concerns, and that first story offers hope for us all, even if we are sometimes humbugs where Christmas is concerned.

What did work in this film: Max the dog and Fred the reindeer. They had the most laughs from the young audience. As for the Grinch, not even Benedict Cumberbatch could make this film work.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: This is a short movie, and only 2 of the Peetimes are workable. The 1st one is really nice and long. The 2nd is fine too. Don’t use the 3rd Peetime if you don’t know the story of the Grinch — it’s just for emergencies.

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

The Grinch Who Keeps Stealing Christmas

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 – Halloween

Movie Review - HalloweenWhat a movie! My long awaited excitement was finally satisfied! This was an event of epic proportions.

Picture it: I walk into the theater, and it is sold out. The crowd was rowdy and ready for Michael. People were chanting, “Michael, Michael!” It was awesome. The lights went down and the theater became deathly quiet.

From the moment the movie started my eyes were glued to the screen. I had extremely high hopes they were going to not only scare me, but toss in some amusing throw-back innuendos. They did! There were four separate times the entire audience cheered and clapped — it’s times like those that a movie screams, “We’re killing it!”

This franchise has stood the test of time; we’re talking forty years, folks. That is an amazing achievement in my book. Jamie Lee Curtis has done it again. Let’s just think about this: forty years ago Laurie took on Michael as a young woman, only to come back and kill him as a grandmother four decades later.

Go see this movie. I want to see some records broke and huge profits made. They said this was the last one, but I think we’re all in for a surprise. Pay close attention to the final scene.

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: I put 2 Peetimes in for you. They will both work well, but I do recommend the 1st one, since it’s mainly dialog. The 2nd Peetime has a lot more action in it.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Halloween. (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

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

When I was in college, I worked at the United States Space Academy. It was an amazing experience. I grew up fascinated with space and science. I literally cried when my parents dragged me out of the Space and Rocket Center after our first, and only, visit. Years later, when I got to work there, it was rewarding to have the opportunity to help young children experience the joy and wonder I had when I was their age.

Obviously I’ve never flown in space, but I understand better than most the incredible technical hurdles it took getting to the moon. I’ve studied math, physics, and history, and the history of space exploration in depth. There is no doubt that the United States of America achieved something wholly remarkable when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. But it is truly an epic achievement by all humanity. The USA would have never achieved all they did, in the time they did, if it wasn’t for the German engineers that came to America after WWII. Those engineers would have never come to the USA had the Allies not defeated Germany.  And the Allies couldn’t have defeated the Axis powers if not for the sacrifices of the British people early in the war, and more so the Russian people throughout, who sadly endured horrors that are hardly acknowledged today.

How could anyone land on the moon without radio communications — invented by an Italian? How could they navigate to the moon without calculus — invented by an Englishman and a German? (Note: Newton did it first; Leibniz did it better.) Without Modern Analytic Geometry — invented by the Frenchmen René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat — Newton and Leibniz wouldn’t have the tools to invent calculus in the first place.

As Newton said, If I have seen farther, it is only because I stood on the shoulders of giants. The United States of America finished a long endurance race that began millennia ago when a group of hominids — Homo erectus — discovered that putting meat and vegetables in fire made them more palatable and, unknowingly, more nutritious. Without that discovery, the moon would be nothing more than a bright source of light for a week out of the month to a bunch of bipedal hominids who don’t know what a month is.

The night before Apollo 11 returned to Earth Neil Armstrong signed off by saying:

The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort; next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire; next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will; and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft; who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Where’s the American Flag in First Man?

Movie Review – First Man

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – The House With A Clock In Its Walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movie Grade: C-

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

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.)