Movie Review – The Lion King

Movie Review - The Lion KingWe’ll have a movie review from Dana Simone, who is a Lion King aficionado, soon.

If you’re not a Lion King fan then I think you’ll find this version more enjoyable than the animated, based on more humor and the outstanding cinematography.

For my part, I feel a little numb because I effectively watched the movie three times today working on the Peetimes. And, until two nights ago, I hadn’t seen the animated Lion King since it first came out.

The CGI is outstanding. There wasn’t a single moment where I could tell that something wasn’t real. Of course the animal talking is unavoidably clumsy because they don’t have the anatomy to actually talk. But I didn’t find it distracting.

The script has been revised slightly to make it more contemporary and add a little more humor.

Speaking of humor: Seth Rogen, as the voice for Pumbaa and Billy Eichner as the voice for Timon, absolutely carried the movie. John Oliver as Zazu was a perfect choice; I just wish the writers had given him one five second rant to enjoy.

I’m bummed they didn’t bring back Whoopi Goldberg as the voice for Shenzi the hyena, but at least they had “the voice” as Mufasa: James Earl Jones.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I would recommend either of the first two Peetimes.

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

Rated (PG) for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Remake

Movie Review – Midsommar

Movie Review - MidsommarMidsommer is a mind blower. It starts slow but it picks up steam  — and not just a little steam, but a lot. It is probably one of the most explicit movies I’ve ever watched.

I went in expecting not to like it, because it seems I’ve hated every A24 production I’ve ever seen. They fully redeemed themselves with this one.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I saw. RunPee Mom went with me and there was not a silent moment on the way home. We were both able to shed light on each other with the things we noticed. This is a great movie to see with a group of friends; you’ll be able to talk about it for hours.

It’s very artistic. I’ll be honest: I don’t usually like those types. I’m more of a comedy or horror movie fan. Scare me and make me laugh, but don’t make me think too hard. That’s what I have to do in life — just entertain me please. Midsommar gets a free pass. I was entertained and shocked.

The way they filmed it made me think I was tripping on the intense drugs they were using. The cinematography was amazing. One word comes to mind: psychedelic.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: Of the 2 Peetimes, I recommend the 2nd. It’s really the last moment in the movie that could be summed up without leaving you in the total dark. Side note: During the last 45ish minutes, there is a lot of nudity; full frontals of men and intense sex scenes. It is explicit.

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

Rated (R) for disturbing ritualistic violence and grisly images, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

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Movie Review – Rocketman

 

Movie Review - RocketmanI had a hard time with this review. Rocketman is both extraordinary (in costuming, sound, and visual sequences) and by-the-numbers (a creative life plagued by inner demons).

Elton John’s musical biopic is a grand fantasy with exciting numbers that feel like a top notch Broadway extravaganza. It’s got great pacing, fun set-pieces, an ideal cast, and a very special find in Taron Egerton.

Egerton looks like John, acts like him — and best of all — sounds like him. Except for the original Elton John song played over the end credits, Egerton does ALL his own singing. That’s no small feat. He’s simply brilliant. Egerton more than inhabits the role.

Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman
Taron Edgerton is Elton John in Rocketman

Rocketman is also very depressing. John has exactly two people in his life who are nice to him — his grandmother, and his long-time best friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin. Everyone else is either mildly abusive or very abusive. That isn’t fun to watch. Almost everything between the rollicking tunes is about John’s sorrow, loneliness, obsessions, addictions, self-loathing, and an insane ability to absorb decades of personal torment…but somehow still be a beloved worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.

Was John’s life really this difficult? How much of this tale is true? Or did they make things so awful for John’s film character just to ‘liven things up’?

I don’t think you have to be a personal disaster to be a creative icon. But what do I know?

Since John’s alive (unlike, say, Freddie Mercury), these questions are askable. Reportedly John was so happy with Rocketman that he cried with joy to Egerton after his personal screening. I’d like to know specifically what parts gave him that joy. I just want to know if his life was/wasn’t that awful.

Taron Egerton as Elton John on stage in lights
Our rocketman, in lights.

A friend told me no one wants to watch movies about creative happy people. I’d love to condemn that statement, but I’m also told I have an atypical POV on entertainment. I like to have a fun time at the theater. I want to go home feeling like a damn superhero. If I want turmoil and drama, there’s enough of that in the day-to-day. Or I could simply watch the news.

So, if you’re an emotional sponge who found A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody dismaying, just stay home and watch all your favorite Elton John songs on You Tube. Eventually every cool musical performance by Egerton will appear too, so you can realistically catch 90% of Rocketman for free. (There were so many songs in Rocketman that finding even three non-musical minutes for Peetimes was a challenge.)

But should you see this? Almost every review of Rocketman RAVES on it. It’s super ingenious from start to end. Many sequences are  absolutely in the realm of fantasy, but somehow it all works flawlessly as a biopic. The flick is probably destined to become almost as iconic as the legend himself. Rocketman makes Bohemian Rhapsody look like a documentary.

I’m giving Rocketman a solid A for being so lovingly, thoughtfully, gorgeously made. It’s a remarkable film on many levels — not the least being the framing sequences with John’s outrageous demon costume slowly shedding away, as the inner man reveals himself.

If you can handle intense drug and suicide themes, you’ll enjoy this Elton John tribute. It’s also worth it just for catching Egerton’s performance: there will be awards, without a doubt.

Finally, I’m genuinely happy Elton John is alive to see his film — and if the credit notes are true, things worked out happily in the end.  🙂

Grade: A

RunPee movie meme of rocketman
Fun with the RunPee #MovieMeme. Taron Egerton had literally big shoes to fill, but more than pulled it off in Rocketman.

About The Peetimes: As expected, this was a tough film to find Peetimes for, packed with iconic musical performances and hugely emotional scenes. The first 2 Peetimes are pretty good: I recommend the 2nd at 42 minutes — a nice long break. I avoided any major Elton John songs, as I assume these are what you came to see.

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

Rated (R) for language throughout, some drug use and sexual content
Genres: Biography, Drama, Music

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Movie Review – The Sun Is Also a Star

Movie Review - The Sun Is Also a StarI enjoyed The Sun is a Also A Star more than I thought I would, since romance flicks are not in my current job description.

The acting was pretty good, and I will say our two star-crossed lovers had great chemistry. The target audience — teenage girls — will not be disappointed. Charles Melton has the face of a fashion model, and exudes confidence in his role. And every young girl will want the face of Yara Shahidi, or at the very least, her hair.

Parents should feel comfortable taking their teens to see The Sun is Also A Star. It has very little cursing, no explicit love scenes, and no drug use. There is a thread running through the movie of destiny, hope, and perseverance — a good message for teenagers.

I’m giving The Sun is Also A Star a generous B-, based on the expected demographics. Their response to the chemistry between our two stars pretty much drives the movie.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: This movie is mainly dialog-driven, making it easy to find 2 good Peetimes — one of which is an Emergency Peetime — coming near the end of the movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Sun Is Also a Star. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some suggestive content and language
Genres: Drama, Romance

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Movie Review – Tolkien – Biography of the Master of Middle Earth

Movie Review - TolkienI don’t normally watch biographies. We don’t usually get Peetimes for them either, but this was TOLKIEN. The author of my favorite novel, movie, and world: The Lord of the Rings. So it wasn’t just any biopic to me, and Tolkien wasn’t just any author. Lord of the Rings (or LOTR) is a magnificent 1000+ page work of high fantasy, penned by JRR Tolkien as a sequel to the shorter, more youth-oriented The Hobbit.

With The Hobbit published and successful in 1937 (which the movie gets around to in a fantastic end moment that made me literally weep with joy), Tolkien was tasked with creating a ‘hobbit sequel’. This is a case where the sequel outshines its original by a great magnitude, and is literally Tolkien’s life’s work. (Let’s not discuss The Silmarillion here.) [/CanOfWorms] 😉

A new form of world-building fantasy

According to the Wikipedia, LOTR was “written in stages between 1937 and 1949, and is one of the best selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.”

LOTR also established the groundwork for nearly every novel, series, and film franchise in the fantasy genre to follow, introducing readers to a form of world-building never accomplished before. Tolkien invented entire languages and thousands of years of backstories, timelines and genealogical histories for his handful of mythological races, which he called the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth.

Before Tolkien, we had ancient ballads, plays, and operas to give us fantasy worlds, yet works like Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Beowulf, Shakespeare’s plays, The Iliad and the Odyssey, and the collected stories in Greek/Norse Mythology are very grandiose and quite a bit remote.

LOTR gave readers a story about fallible, often funny individuals who weren’t princes or warriors. In fact, the two main heroes of LOTR are a bookish young man and a gardener. The warriors, kings, and even wizards and dragons appear, of course (it’s still a high fantasy saga), but mostly as supporting characters. You didn’t need a professor to explain the plot to you. You could relate to the heroes. No one had seen anything like this before.

Legacy of the Lord of the Rings

There wouldn’t be any Harry Potter without The Hobbit and LOTR. The Star Wars Saga, Game of Thrones, modern Disney, Pixar and even the 23+ movie spanning Marvel Cinematic Universe owe a huge debt to Tolkien. Name any memorable work of fantasy or space opera, and you’ll find roots buried deep in Middle Earth.

Tolkien – the LOTR author’s biographical movie

Okay. So, I just went off on a long, rambling tangent, not unlike the super long novel in question, and the great films of Peter Jackson that finally paid justice to the source. But was Tolkien, by itself, a good movie?

Yes, very much yes. You have to be a Middle-Earth fan to appreciate it, but I loved seeing JRR — Ronald to his friends — in his early life, full of experiences that informed his creations. Tolkien has said he “cordially despises allegory in all forms”, but it’s hard not to see Mordor and the works of Sauron in the No Man’s Land of World War 1. Ronald is a sort of proto-Frodo, with a young Sam, in the trench scenes. Flames, ash, and great black clouds recall the fumes of Mount Doom.

I don’t think I’ve ever really understood the horror of The War to End All Wars before. It must have felt like the end of an Age. And in many ways, it was. (Compare: World War 2 offered a modern battle tableau, although it wasn’t long after WW1.)

One movie scene in particular, where Ronald lies unconscious in a hole full of the dead by a pool of noisome toxicity, recalls almost precisely Frodo’s fretful sleep before the Black Gates of Mordor.

Other ways The Lord of the Rings is hinted at in Tolkien

What else? Edith has an otherworldly personality and intellect — clearly the basis of Arwen Evenstar. The ‘Cellar Door’ courting scene is exquisite, and Ronald waited as long for Edith as poor Aragorn did for Arwen.

The pastoral countryside of England is very like The Shire, and Ronald’s passionate literary friends had obvious nods to The Fellowship  of The Ring (as explicitly noted in the trailers).

One of Ronald’s buddies had an immortal line where the audience barked in laughter: “It shouldn’t take six hours to tell a story about a magic ring.”

He was talking about Wagner, but Tolkien must have took that as a personal challenge. I’d love to know if his friend actually said that. (In another note, I did attend a showing of Wagner’s Ring Cycle Opera in Vienna once, and it IS incredibly long. Too long. Especially if you don’t speak German.)

A trip to Oxford, and The Inklings

The Oxford scenes had especial meaning to me, as I lived and worked at Oxford University in a post-college internship, and personally wandered through many on-location settings in the film. It was a vast treat to return there cinematically, making me long for an extended visit these many decades later. I even frequented The Eagle and the Child, a pub where Tolkien and The Inklings — who are fated to only appear after the movie ends — sat and shared literary chapters as they wrote them. It thrilled me to quaff a pint at the same table where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis discussed Lord of the Rings and the Narnia stories, working out the kinks of their epics.

Summarizing Tolkien as a movie experience

So, I’m a total geek with an encyclopedic working knowledge of Tolkien…but I think this biography is accessible to anyone who’s ever read the books or seen Peter Jackson’s movies. I was engaged, moved and thrilled, and though no Hobbits nor Rings of Power appear, Tolkien the film is still a very good time. I’m glad I expanded my horizons enough to look at the author as a real man, and not just a random shadowy figure recording the journeys of Frodo, Gandalf, Strider, Gollum, and Samwise Gamgee.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This was a hard movie to find Peetimes for. The movie cuts back and forth between war action, “Fellowship” character building, and important scenes at Oxford University. Both Peetimes center on the romance in Tolkien’s life: while they are nice, they are the least crucial bits building up to Tolkien’s masterpiece. The 2nd Peetime is recommended. Note: There are no Peetimes in the second hour, so plan accordingly.

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

Rated (PG-13) for some sequences of war violence
Genres: Biography, Drama, War

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Movie Review – The Intruder

Movie Review - The IntruderThe Intruder was a decent film. The story has been done before and was really predictable, but the performance that Dennis Quaid gave made it enjoyable to watch.

He really brought his character to life. That was fun. Basically, this was Cold Creek Manor all over again with Quaid as the bad guy, instead of the new homeowner. He just switched roles. I found his performance in this one a lot better than Cold Creek Manor. I think being a bad guy suits him.

I’m considering this movie as a great way to spend an evening in, curled up on the couch, watching it on the television. I don’t feel that it had enough presence to compensate for ticket prices.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: 2 Peetimes were submitted. They are equally good choices to use, easy to sum up, and I avoided any of the action/suspense moments.

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

Rated (PG-13) for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Movie Review – Breakthrough – Not a breakthrough in faith-based films

Movie Review - BreakthroughI do Peetimes for most of the faith-based movies. The Christian production company “PureFlix” turns out some really good faith-based films. Woodlawn comes to mind as an excellent representation of such films. Breakthrough isn’t one of those films. This movie was distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. This movie feels like a cheap attempt to grab some money over Easter Weekend.

The movie lacks decent production values, and I felt that the real life characters were not represented well. There was a lack of chemistry between the main cast members that could have brought the film up a notch or two.

Having been an ER nurse for a very long time, I’ve stood outside an examining room and heard the prayers and the pleas to God to let a loved one live, but to no avail. Often times, afterwards, the prayers turn to anger. My heart breaks for the loved ones who get no answer. Had I have witnessed a medical miracle such as the one we saw in Breakthrough, would it have changed my mind concerning the power of prayer? No. Having been a student of medicine, I know these ‘miracles’ can (and do) happen with medical intervention. It’s just science.

A very personal note: I did not want to see this movie.

The “all you need is prayer and faith, and all is right with the world again” theme has been a ‘thorn in my side’ (pun intended) for a better part of my life.

I’ll preface this review by telling you I’m the daughter of a Methodist minister. I grew up in the church, hardly ever missed Sunday School, and said my prayers every night.

Then Viet Nam happened.

My brother, Danny, two years older than me, was my best friend and confidant. When he left for Viet Nam, I prayed day and night that he’d come home safely. Then there were only eight days left before he came home. Oh, and by the way, it was only two weeks until Christmas. I was confident my prayers had been answered. Praise God: Danny’s coming home.

Then came the knock at the door. My brother was not coming home.

Why?

During my period of mourning that question was most often answered with the trite comment, ‘It was God’s will’ or ‘God needed another angel in heaven’. The message I took away from this tragedy was that it doesn’t matter how hard you pray or how deep your faith: no one is listening. Or, God had already made up his mind that this remarkable young man would die in a foreign country without his loved ones nearby. Neither answer brought me even the slightest bit of comfort.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: I have a recommended Peetime that gives you 4 minutes to get back to the theater — half way through the movie — and an Emergency Peetime giving you only 3 minutes, coming late in the movie. 

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

Rated (PG) for thematic content including peril
Genres: Biography, Drama, Religious

Movie Review – After – Happy and Bittersweet Young Adult Romance

Movie Review - AfterI didn’t realize that this movie was based on fan fiction until after I saw it. That said, I don’t know how it stacks up against the book. I do intend on reading it now, because the story caught my attention.

It’s your typical young romance movie. There are happy moments and bittersweet moments.

I felt that it was really well done. The acting and chemistry between the two main characters was great, and the pace kept me interested the whole time.

I’m curious to hear from the book fans how they felt the movie was, so please leave a comment to let me know. Did this stand up to your expectations, or did it fall flat?

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: I opted for 2 Peetimes, both work well without disrupting the flow of the movie.

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

Rated (PG-13) for sexual content and some college partying
Genres: Drama, Romance

Movie Review – The Best of Enemies

Movie Review - The Best of EnemiesThis biopic is set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971. First of all, the plot took me by surprise, given the magnitude of racial tension that still exists. This is not your normal racially-charged kind of black-versus-white-movie where tensions escalate, folks get hung, justice is never served, and everyone walks out the movie theater quiet and mad as hell. Nope, this one is completely different.

Durham is faced with a court-order to desegregate its schools when the black school becomes severely damaged, and those students need a place to learn. Unfortunately, the whites are against the blacks coming to their school, so a court-order is issued, and the town must figure out how to solve the problem themselves with little financial help from the State. The State calls upon the help of a Raleigh organizer known for his success in implementing charrettes.

char·rette /SHəˈret/ (wiki)
a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

During the span of the Durham charrette meetings, two co-chairs are selected who are the most vocal/influential in the white and black communities, respectively; then more community members discuss issues and concerns, a senate is developed of representatives that will vote on desegregating the schools overseen by the co-chairs, and an open-forum is held where everyone from the community are invited to witness the voting process.

Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson) and C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell) are chosen as the co-chairs. C.P. is the president of the Ku Klux Klan and Ann is an aggressive and “by any means necessary” community activist. The two of them know of each other very well and the thought of working together for the charrette makes their blood boil, but they agree to co-chair for selfish motives. C.P. is a typical KKK member with a family and owns a gas station. He has a son with Down Syndrome that doesn’t live with the family, but in a nearby psychiatric center. While C.P. is a tough guy filled with hatred, his weakness and soft spot is his ill son. Despite the hatred Ann has for C.P., she uses this weak spot to forge their Best of Enemies relationship.

While the relationship isn’t like that seen in the movie Greenbook, Ann softens C.P.’s heart, one artery at a time. The dynamics of how their role in the charrette plays out is really interesting and thought-provoking. C.P. discovers the void in his life as a child that influenced his membership into the KKK may no longer be valid, but that epiphany comes with drastic consequences. However, his newfound friend comes to his rescue, yet again.

Overall, the acting was good. The plot kept a good pace and didn’t dilly-dally to get to the climax. Ann’s brass and sassy humor will have you laughing throughout the entire movie. In addition, Taraji’s acting was spot-on, right down to that walk (I chuckled a couple of times watching that walk).

On the other hand, the plot doesn’t provoke a need to discuss the issues with friends later on after seeing the movie. The movie will, however, stimulate some self-reflection on how we treat others. But, given that our country seems to be widely-divided right now and sometimes mirrors the 60s and 70s racial undertones, I’m not sure many people will leave the theater creating a charrette of their own, or singing Kumbayah. Wait for the credits at the end to discover how C.P. and Ann’s friendship evolved after the charrette experience.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: It was difficult finding good Peetimes for this well edited and well paced movie. At times, it seemed like the start of a scene would make a good Peetime, but then the plot thickened, adding value to the story. I would suggest suggest the 2nd Peetime.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – Hotel Mumbai – Unrelenting Violence

Movie Review - Hotel MumbaiHotel Mumbai is not an easy movie to watch; it’s brutal, and the killing is unrelenting. It hits the deck running and doesn’t let up for two hours. There were very short scenes of personal interaction — few and far between. Most of the movie was about chaotic running and killing, and many times the dialog was impossible to understand.

We get to know several guests and employees of the hotel, but still know very little about them — just enough to make us care if they can get out of this alive, and many don’t.

I was impressed with the writing and subtle foreshadowing of events to come — pay close attention to the one-second shot of a dropped shoe that becomes important to the plot.

I don’t know who the target audience is for Hotel Mumbai, because I don’t know why the movie was made in the first place.

Was it to pander to the ‘I just can’t get enough of murder and mayhem’ crowd out there? Or hopefully, to pay homage to those hotel employees who stayed behind and risked their lives to protect the guests? Whatever the reason, Hotel Mumbai certainly will impact the audience in some way.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This was the most difficult movie for Peetimes I’ve encountered in the 10 years I’ve been doing this. The pacing was incredibly fast, with almost nonstop action. There was absolutely no ‘down time’ in this film. Quite literally, the action started in the first 3 minutes and never let up. I chose 3 Peetimes that had the least amount of action and could be summed up in the synopsis. I’ve included one Emergency break at 1:34, and this one is only 3 minutes long.

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

Rated (R) for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language
Genres: Drama, History, Thriller

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