Movie Review – Playing with Fire

Movie Review - Playing with FireI give high marks to this movie for the recognition it gives to the first responders out there risking their lives for us. And to show our younger generation that not all heroes wear spandex.

Playing with Fire itself is a decent movie. I think the target audience is the kiddies between six and twelve who’ll enjoy the bathroom humor, watching things get set on fire, and things crashing.

Parents will have a few laugh out loud moments, especially when John Leguizamo is reciting quotes from history. I especially liked Keegan Michael Key’s character, who showed a surprising range of emotions.

I did have one, ‘what were they thinking?’ moment when John Cena’s character was out in the woods taking a dump, while holding a three-year-old little girl in front of him. Really! Granted, he did have pine fronds covering his parts — but why would anyone think this was funny, and better yet — why was it even needed? I could almost feel the uncomfortableness coming from the adults in the audience. No one was laughing. Poor little Zoey; it seems she was only included in the cast for the bathroom humor.

Despite that one scene, I’m giving Playing with Fire a solid B.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was an easy film for Peetimes, even though there’s plenty of action. I included a 3rd Peetime as an Emergency, since it comes so near the end of the movie, but it will save you from long bathroom lines after the film.

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

Rated (PG) for rude humor, some suggestive material and mild peril
Genres: Comedy, Family

Movie Review – Arctic Dogs

Movie Review - Arctic DogsI just saw a headline that questioned if a child under five should see Arctic Dogs, due to rude humor and lots of action. My question is; would children over five want to see this film? It’s not a boring movie by any means. I truly enjoyed it, but it seems that the generation, of which my six year old great granddaughter is a member, is getting more sophisticated in their viewing preferences. My point is, anyone –even those under five will like this film — it provides lots of color and movement, and that’s what the kiddies, and some adults, like.

I was happy to see the movie touched on global warming, a subject children should be made aware of as early as possible. Arctic Dogs did a fine job teaching perseverance in the face of adversity — you know, like a fat walrus, with the voice of John Cleese — trying to melt the Arctic. Our little white hero Swifty showed if you want something bad enough, like being a Top Dog, no sacrifice was too large to make. Good for him.

Jeremy Renner did a fine job giving personality to Swifty, and Heidi Klum was excellent as Jade, Swifty’s love interest. And doesn’t John Cleese make the perfect gentleman villain? But James Franco’s character Lemmy just grated on my nerves.

Arctic Dogs will win no awards, but it’s still a fun little movie.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This is a short movie needing only 2 Peetimes. Let your bladder decide which is best for you.

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

Rated (PG) for some mild action and rude humor
Genres: Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy

The Cast of Voices for Arctic Dogs

Movie Review – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Movie Review - Maleficent: Mistress of EvilThere really isn’t a lot to say about this Maleficent sequel. It’s gorgeous to look at. If you like fantasy movies, you’ll have a great time.

Angelina Jolie brings back that good/evil vibe she did so well in the original. She also doesn’t look a day older from way back when, so I assume there was some CGI de-aging and very smooth fairy-tale make-up going on. Good on her. And good on everyone involved. The story isn’t gripping or even worth discussing, but it’s still just a lovely film.

What was better about this movie than the first is that it’s a brand new story. The classic tale had to conform somewhat to the Disney Briar Rose/Aurora/Sleeping Beauty concept. More or less. From the ‘evil queen’ point of view, except totally not. Evil is relative.

Maleficent 2 got to be a fresh new movie with a totally different concept. It didn’t let anyone down. The audience laughed, gasped, and even applauded at the end. I had a great time, and it was clear everyone left with a smile on their face and a spring in their steps. It’s nice to see a sequel surpass the original.

If you like fantasy movies, see this in the theater on a good screen, and reserve a good seat location for your ticket money. It’s that pretty. There aren’t a lot of good fantasy films out there, not compared to the current plethora of action, thriller, or sci fi flicks. This one’s worth it (again, if you like high fantasy and tales of magic).

To be totally honest, you’ll be completely lost if you haven’t seen the original, since almost no time is spent on exposition.

Go see the original again, and then this, and if you liked the first, you’ll love the second.

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 good Peetimes — I recommend the final one before the climax, but any will do. This is such a pretty movie, and I didn’t want to make Peetimes over the big fantasy scenes, so these are more like transitional sections with exposition I’ve summed up in the synopses.

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

Rated (PG) for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Sequel

Movie Review – The Addams Family

Movie Review - The Addams FamilyMost of my followers know that when reviewing an animated movie, I rate it according to the response of the target audience.

Having taken my six year old great granddaughter to see The Addams Family tonight, I can report that I’ve reached out to the target audience, and she reported to me that it deserves an A, and also a million ‘likes’. There was plenty of young laughter from the audience, and even a little older laughter.

What is my own personal review of this film? I did laugh out loud a few times and chuckled a few times, but my personal joy was seeing how my great granddaughter responded, and all the other kiddies in the audience. That’s enough for me.

The Addams Family first appeared on television when I was a sophomore in high school. I thought it was funny then, and I still think it’s funny even today.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This was a very short movie which really only needed one Peetime. However, I included an emergency break only 10 minutes before the end in case the tiny bladders can’t hold it for one more minute.

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

Rated (PG) for macabre and suggestive humor, and some action
Genres: Animation, Comedy, Family

Movie Review – Tangled

 

Movie Review - TangledI’m only 3/4 of the way through my first viewing of Tangled (yes, my 1st time) and I love it already so much I’m willing to give it an A+. Of course, they could screw it up during the climax and I’ll have to change my review, but so far I’m completely delighted.

Tangled: beautifully animated, very funny, and packs in a lot of adventure. I’m stingy with my A grades, and give almost nothing an A+, so this is a good endorsement from us at RunPee.

Great Characters

There’s a handsome Han Solo type of rogue. Which…yay! And of course there are amusing animal sidekicks. What’s cool is that both the horse and chameleon have a ton of attitude, which Disney doesn’t usually do. Actually, their “men” aren’t usually ‘jerks with a heart of gold’, except for Flynn here, and  Naveen in The Princess and the Frog. So this is kind of a treat. Ahem.

I smiled a lot, especially with the Snuggly Duck ruffians singing about their dreams. Really. What could be more cute than that scene?

This movie made me happy.

A Great Villain

Then there’s Gothel, the ‘wicked’ adoptive mother. She’s an awesome villain. Her songs are totally fun, and she’s actually nice to Rapunzel. She really is. She’s affectionate, goes out of her way to get Rapunzel a birthday gift, and gives the girl a decent life (albeit as a complete prisoner) with games, books, paints, a great kitchen, craft supplies, a lot of leeway for doodling all over the walls…pretty much anything one can do inside a nicely appointed tower.

Gothel’s not evil so much as selfish…but not completely unrelatable. She’s not about riches or power. She just wants to stay young and live. Ursula from The Little Mermaid is still my favorite Disney villain, but Gothel is surprisingly interesting. I liked her better than Scar from The Lion King, and he was previously my second favorite Disney villain. Good job, Tangled!

And a Disney Easter Egg or Two

I find one in the movie Tangled: a stylized depiction of Snow White’s Poisoned Apple painting on a stairway balustrade in Rapunzel’s Tower. Easy to miss, but it’s there.

Also, Rapunzel and Flynn show up at the Coronation scene in Frozen, which is pretty cool. Her hair is still short and brown. Disney doesn’t want to be a shared universe, but now that Pixar/Marvel have been absorbed by the Mouse, things are changing.

Tangled, Overall

I’ll be watching the last part of this movie tomorrow (I have to see Ad Astra tonight to get Peetimes) and really hope Tangled’s climax doesn’t let me down. I’ll be back soon to let you know if this is truly an A+ film.

UPDATE After Finishing Tangled: I’ll keep the A+. It met up with my expectations, even though I thought they could have wrapped up Mother Gothel’s story a little less gruesomely.  Put her in prison or something, like the Stabbington brothers, who were, you know, actually evil. I did love the return of the ‘dreamer’ ruffians, though. See? Some people are redeemable. (I really would like Disney to stop with the bad parent theme, like they did with Brave.)

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This Disney classic was re-released in theaters this Friday. When I do Peetimes for Disney Princess films, I do my best to avoid any songs, which is what most fans want to see. Some exposition or mild plot scenes are chosen instead, but are well-summarized in the synopses. Tangled has 3 good Peetimes, so you won’t be lost when you get back from the toilet. Pick any.

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

Rated (PG) for brief mild violence
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

 

Movie Review - Beauty and the BeastWithout any doubt, the 1991 animated Beauty & The Beast is considered among the best of the Disney Princess movies, or any of the the Disney films. It’s from the period known as The Disney Renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid, and ran through most of the 90s. (I think it concluded with The Princess & The Frog.) This was an era that brought a faded Disney empire back into the hearts of people who love stories of adventure, and of Princesses.

Four of the best Princesses came from this creative Disney restart: Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Nala (she may be ‘only’ a lion but as mate of the King, she’s royalty). In several RunPee Polls over the years, Belle’s always got the top spot as everyone’s favorite Princess.

So I want to give this beloved film an A+, but I just can’t, and that’s why I’ve been dragging my heels to write this review. I finally just decided to give my thoughts and say Beauty & The Beast misses that “plus” by a hair…and it’s not the hair of Belle or The Beast that brought it down.

What’s great in Beauty & The Beast:

Belle is a great role model — she loves books and adventure stories, and isn’t afraid to try to protect the ones she loves. She’s spirited and speaks her mind intelligently.

Belle’s also very nice to the furniture, which is a big deal if you know this classic tale.  😉

The Beast has a meaningful transformation that takes a good slow time to develop (the seasons change over the course of the film). He’s delightfully grumpy for quite a while, and his path to compassion feels largely earned. The two will probably make a good couple, and the message of “seeing beyond surface appearances” is profound enough.

What drags Belle’s movie down:

No, my main beef with Beauty & The Beast lies with Gaston. (Also, with the wolf scene, but I’ll get to that later.) Gaston is simply a bore. And not in the love-to-hate way. His character sucks life from the screen. Gaston’s little sidekick is intensely annoying (again, not in the good way). All the villagers seem like the world’s stupidest morons — from the first song Belle, through to the end with The Mob Song. I don’t understand how this village can possibly even function, given their apparent level of credulity and ignorance.

At least in The Lion King (who has a great main villain), the hyenas — also depicted as intellectually challenged — are amusing in their henchmen evilness. They also don’t just blindly follow whoever talked the loudest.

Anyway, all the scenes at the castle are simply gold, and if the movie focused more on the title characters and said furniture, we’d have a perfect film. Cogsworth and Lumiere aren’t quite Pumba and Timon, but come close. And that doggy footstool deserves a special mention: what a delightful idea!

There’s enough story to be told in the main narrative without manufacturing the Gaston side plot.

To be fair, I know they were trying to show that the “good looking” guy was a big jerk, while the scary, hairy Beast has a heart of gold, but the movie spent too much time with Gaston, his motley crew, and the idiots with the pitchforks. Either spend less time away from the castle, or make the other parts better. Too much creative time is squandered.

What about the wolves?

I did say I was going to mention the wolf scene. For one thing, it makes a great Peetime, since no one is seeing Beauty & The Beast for the action. But I also don’t understand Disney’s problem with wolves. Wolves don’t attack people. They especially don’t attack people riding giant Belgian Draft Horses like Philippe. I happen to like wolves and support their reintroduction to the wild, and was vastly disappointed with Disney maintaining their ‘wolves are evil’ stance in the 2017 live action Beauty & The Beast.

You know who gangs up on people like that in real life? Other people. They could have made the remake with a band of outlaws and moved away from the whole wolf thing… This is a personal peeve, and I won’t take marks from the film for it, but I do think it’s worth mentioning.

The animated classic, overall:

Had Beauty & The Beast been solid throughout, with an interesting villain and henchmen, it would be an easy A+ film. The Little Mermaid and The Lion King handle this effortlessly. The castle scenes are so fun and compelling, though, that I’ll say Beauty is probably the third best pre-Pixar Disney Princess movie, coming in with a high A score.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: The Disney classic is being re released to theaters on Friday. It was hard to make Peetimes, since I assume people want to see the songs in this 1991 classic, and there are a lot of them. I also didn’t want to have you miss the romantic parts. I chose 2 Peetimes during the silly villager songs, and one during an action scene, leaving you free to enjoy the best parts of the film.

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

Rated (G) N/A
Genres: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Movie Review – Beauty and The Beast (live action version)

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

 

Movie Review - The Little MermaidI am consumed by a move this weekend and will have to flesh this review out for real in bits and pieces.

To start off, the 1989 original Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is in the cinemas and you should absolutely catch it while you can. Take the entire family. The Danish version of Hans Christian Anderson’s tragic story doesn’t rear its head at all, so you’ll be safe.

The Little Mermaid is my absolute favorite animated Disney movie that manages somehow to offend almost no one.

I know there are issues with the upcoming live action remake, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

And the songs are among the best the studio ever made. I know them all by heart. When I take my sister to see this again on Sunday we’ll have a hard time not singing along, out loud. Unless everyone sings them too — then we’ll belt them along with the rest.

Although the sea scenes are luscious, especially within the limited animated style of the time, it’s the fun and gentle humor that I love so much. If you’re a fan of Finding Nemo, this undersea adventure should also be on your must-watch list.

Lastly, for now, Ursula the Sea Witch is one of Disney’s best villains. Might be their best ever. I have to think on that.

GO SEE THIS IN THE THEATERS NOW. And you might be introducing a ‘whole new world’ to an old classic. (To mix my princess movie metaphors).

#UnderTheSea

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This animated classic is being re-released in theaters Friday. All 3 Peetimes are good. Make SURE to use them, so you don’t miss the outstanding iconic songs in this wonderful musical.

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

Rated (G) Some scenes are a little *fishy*.
Genres: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Movie Review – Dora and the Lost City of Gold

 

Movie Review - Dora and the Lost City of GoldThere’s a lot of great kid movies out right now that adults can enjoy: Toy Story 4, The Lion King, Aladdin and Secret Life of Pets 2. I saw three of the four twice and recommend all highly for people of any age.

Unfortunately, can’t say the same for Dora and the Lost City of Gold. I expected a youthful, Latina-oriented take on a smart young girl, having an adventure in the jungle straight out of The Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What I got was some middlingly pretty set-pieces, a few chuckles here and there, and long stretches where I was…bored. And I am VERY forgiving on kid, teen, and especially YA films.

The target audience (I’m guessing, as a Dora newbie):

  • Those who’ve seen Dora The Explorer as a cartoon show, and long for some great nostalgia.
  • Or the very young, even though Dora is a teen here, and there are high school party-scene hi-jinks with some bullying. So things get confused a bit. I honestly don’t think this a clever enough film for teens, so why make Dora older at all?

What’s Good:

  •  Dora has a lot of cute meta moments deriving from the animated childhood series. She talks to the camera, asks questions of the audience, and cheerfully sings about digging poop holes in the wilderness. This has a delightful quality, especially since her vocabulary upgraded as she grew older. These bits drew the most laughs from the grown-ups in the audience.
  • Dora is relentlessly cheerful, even in the face of derision from the ‘normal’ public school kids. I liked that. I’d totally sing about my backpack with her. She does get some harassment for her ‘childish’ behavior (she was home schooled), as a total fish out of water. The tables are turned later on in the jungle. These are good elements.
  • The Latina/Latino elements were big and bold, as befits the franchise and the thousands of kids seeking young heroes who look and act like they do. It’s aspirational, cheery — and even ropes in ancient Inca culture in an inclusive way.
  • The Poop Hole scene is amusing and clever, and shouldn’t actually offend anyone. I could see myself singing the “Poop Song”, if I knew no one could hear me. And now I’ve said the word poop more times in one review than anyone should expect.
  • Eva Longoria and Micheal Pena tried. They weren’t give much to do, although Pena’s “Rave Song” was a highlight. It was like his character from Ant-Man paid us a visit.
  • I loved Dora’s jungle home on the water. Can I move there?

The Really Good:

  • The sequence with the Giant Flowers was pure gold — worth the price of admission right there. I won’t spoil it, but when the spores are inhaled, the laughs flow naturally. Adults will know it’s an hallucinogenic sequence, but kiddos will only see magic at work. It works on both levels and is just grand.
  • UPDATE: There’s also this. I’ll say no more, and thank you to all the RunPee fans who educated me about them:

 

What’s Less Good:

  • The Lost City of Gold is ridiculous. These sets were cheap looking. Compare the ‘city’ (looked like a market stall) to the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin. THIS was what people were willing to kill for?
  • The resolution is iffy. Just put the statue back? What? And if that statue was solid gold, tiny Dora lifted it like Styrofoam. At least pretend it’s heavy.  🙂
  • Dora’s insight to resolve the climax had no establishment either. This movie should have had clues for smart viewers to follow as the adventure unfolded, and be rewarded as they figured things out while Dora does. That’s a storytelling cheat.
  • The various CGI characters were a bad cross between realistic and cartoony. The director should have made a choice here to take it one way or the other. If animals can be said to fall into the Uncanny Valley, this is an example of just that.
  • The Alejando character was just painful to watch. Was that a direction error, or poor acting? His scenes brought the movie down. The henchmen were handled with much more amusement.

Dora & The Lost City of Gold, Overall:

It’s a silly romp that makes no sense, but since I don’t have those nostalgic Dora lenses, I’m going to give this a higher grade with the target audience in mind than I would have otherwise.

Am I being too harsh on a childhood classic? Educate me in the comments, please. 

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: All 3 Peetimes are great. 🙂 I don’t think I’ve ever had all the Peetimes be this good, so let your bladder decide.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Dora and the Lost City of Gold. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for action and some impolite humor
Genres: Adventure, Family

Easter Eggs in Aladdin and The Lion King – Disney Finally Loosens Up

Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

Movie Review – Toy Story 4

Movie Review – Aladdin (2019) – A Live Action Remake, Good for the Target Audience

Movie Review - AladdinThe 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin is a difficult movie to review, because I’m not the target audience — that’s mainly young kids. Personally, I found the movie to be occasionally entertaining at best, and barely tolerable for the rest. There were a few laughs here and there, and rarely did the song and dance bits drag on too long.

If you’re a parent taking their kids to see this movie, then you could do worse.

Based on the audience reaction in my theater, (mostly kids under 16) it will be a hit. Three teenage girls sat in the back row and laughed throughout.

The plot is simple and clear enough that young children will be able to follow along, and if not, there’s enough singing, dancing, and action to entertain them.

Will Smith is one of the few actors with the charisma to perform the role of Genie. I think Will did fine, but he fell short of making it iconic. I’d give him a B+.

I only vaguely remember the plot of the Disney Aladdin from 1992. From what I recall this retelling is generally the same, except Jasmine’s character has been fleshed out more. It wouldn’t be misleading if they changed the title to “Jasmine” or at the very least, “Jasmine & Aladdin,” since it’s mainly about womens’ empowerment, like “Mulan”. What do you think?

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I have 2 recommended Peetimes, both near the middle of the movie. The 1st of the Recommended Peetimes is a song/dance scene that young kids may enjoy, but it’s easy to summarize. The 2nd Recommended Peetime is all dialog. There’s a little humor, but not much. You choose which works best for you.

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

Rated (PG) for some action/peril
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Remake

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

Aladdin –  Animated vs Stage vs Live Action

A Whole New World – Aladdin Lyrics and Video (1992 Animated Version)

Movie Review – Dumbo – A live action remake your kids will enjoy

Movie Review - DumboIf you have a toddler, Dumbo is one of the few movies in the theater now that is specifically for your child. It’s PG-rated, so your kid won’t come home and ask you questions you don’t know how to answer. If you are worried about animal mistreatment with the circus background, by the end of the movie, they did mention no animals should be kept captive.

I was born and raised in China, and watching the original 1941 Dumbo with my dad is a piece of heartwarming memory from my early childhood. I was around 5 when I first watched it on a VideoCD. It was called “小飞象”  — Little flying Elephant — in Chinese. Yes, VCDs did exist.  🙂

Walking into the theater, I didn’t have an expectation. But as I was watching it, I was that 5-year-old girl again. The story has been changed here and there to fit the live action, but the spirit has not been changed at all. As far as I’m concerned, this movie brings back almost the same feelings I experienced over two decades ago. I’d call that a successful remake.

But for adults who don’t have any emotional connections to the original piece, this movie is probably going to be clicheic and pre-mature for you. It’s a remake that tries to be true to the original piece, so it’s still head to toe a 1940s style kids’ story. Unless, of course, you just like the idea of a cute little flying elephant.

Now here’s something extra for those who have watched the TV show West World: does the little girl in Dumbo remind you of anyone? 😉

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: We have a really good (recommended) Peetime right about the middle of the movie. Try to use that if you can. The last Peetime is okay, but you’ll miss a nice father-daughter scene. The 1st Peetime is only for Emergencies, because it’s short and is immediately followed by a scene that shouldn’t be missed, especially by children.

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

Rated (PG) for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Remake, Reboot, Sequel