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

Movie Review – Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Movie Review - Nancy Drew and the Hidden StaircaseWho would have thought that Nancy Drew would still be rocking it after 89 years?

This new and improved version of Nancy Drew is perfect for the target audience of today’s prepubescent girl. The movie addresses bullying, body image hating, peer pressure, and the need to fit in as the new kid in school. So it’s a job well done for the writers, and director Katt Shea. Young girls will flock to this movie.

The acting was well done, and I can’t say enough about the performance given by Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew. She provided most of the comedic relief with her perfect delivery of some hysterically funny lines. The ‘new Drew’ is spunky, funny, rebellious — but in a cute way — and smart, and doesn’t understand the meaning of ‘no’ or ‘you can’t do that’. She’s a great role model!

And it was so nice to see Linda Lavin — of Alice and Barney Miller fame — is still cranking out product at 82 years young.

I whole-heartedly recommend Nancy Drew for kids of all ages, but most especially, prepubescent girls.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a short movie, needing only 1 Peetime. I chose 1 at about half way through the movie: it gives you plenty of time to get back to your seat before the drama picks up again.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for peril, suggestive material, thematic elements and language
Genres: Crime, Drama, Family

Movie Review – The Kid Who Would Be King is Charming and Sweet

 

Movie Review - The Kid Who Would Be KingThis character driven movie was about a half hour too long, and that’s the only negative thing I have to say about The Boy Who Would Be King.

I enjoyed this movie a lot. It has all the ingredients needed to keep the audience of children entertained: out of control roots, things on fire, trees that want to hurt you, and a never ending supply of blazing skeletons on horseback. Aren’t there always blazing skeletons on horseback?

There’s enough sound and movement to keep the very young kids happy, and the story will fascinate middle schoolers and even those well into junior high.

As for the adults, well, there’s Patrick Stewart…what else needs to be said? So, parents, back the SUV out of the garage, belt the kids in, and head on down to the local theater. Everyone will have a great time.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: A lot happens in this 2-hour young person’s movie. If you keep to the Peetimes you won’t miss the best action or magical scenes. Try to use the 1st Peetime if you can, but any of the 3 are fine.

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

Rated (PG) for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and language
Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy

Quiz – Sir Patrick Stewart in the Movies

Quiz – King Arthur and his Legend

A Brief Preview Review of The Kid Who Would Be King (No Spoilers)

Movie Review – Storm Boy

Movie Review - Storm BoyI went to this re-make of a classic Australian movie (based on the book by Colin Thiele) with my fourteen-year-old daughter and my ten-year-old son. It is a lovely story where a grown Michael reminisces with his granddaughter, Maddie, about his time growing up near the beach, and particularly the special times he had with a group of baby pelicans he hand-raised (with assistance from his father and his local Aboriginal friend, Fingerbone).

The movie shows some of Australia’s natural beauty, taking advantage of drone photography.

All the actors, including Geoffrey Rush, Jai Courtney, David Gulpilil, Erik Thomson and the young Finn Little, do a great job representing their characters.

We all enjoyed the movie, although the kids both felt ”it had too many sad bits and not enough happy bits.”

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Storm Boy is an Australian movie and the Peetimes are brought to us by our newest RunPeep: Rach Jewiss. There are 2 Peetimes that would be good for this movie. If you are with children or don’t particularly like tense scenes, I would definitely recommend the second.

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

Rated (PG) for some thematic elements, mild peril and brief language
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Family

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home – A Harrowing Experience for Dog Lovers

 

Movie Review - A Dog's Way HomeA solid B film where I ugly-cried six times, including within the opening three minutes. That’s got to be some kind of record. I wrote down how many times I cried as I jotted down notes for Peetimes (and my male companion cried three times, so it’s not just a girl thing).

In any case, I really don’t like movies that make me cry and try to avoid them, but since I saw the previous year’s A Dog’s Purpose, I felt I should see the ‘sequel.’ (A Dog’s Journey is not technically a sequel, but this is intended to a be part two of a dog trilogy in a shared universe.)

In any case, I’ve been referring to this as “The Dog Movie” — and that’s exactly what you get. There are a few people, some cats, and lots of pretty scenery, but for the most part you’re in the mind of a young part-pit pup who’s got a single-minded goal to play “Go Home”…a long, scary, and thrill-filled “game” that takes her over two and a half years, and 400 exhausting miles.

Bella’s not the world’s smartest dog, but she’s loving, loyal, and committed to reuniting with her human. I’m not going to give anything away, and while you probably can guess how it ends, a few things happen along the way that will surprise you.

For one thing, an almost unrecognizable Edward James Olmos has a couple of emotionally distressing scenes, and those will probably upset children.

Speaking of which: there were some little kids in my theater, and they were restive at times, because things get gripping and tense frequently. I don’t recommend letting your children see this alone, to be honest; you might get them back scared and crying. There’s a scene that’s even frightening for adults: I was legitimately freaking out watching a confused Bella try to cross that six lane interstate into Denver.

There were some weird filming liberties here and there, like a brief bit showing a moose (there are none in Colorado…but since this was filmed in British Columbia, we’ll just let that go). And the CGI animals were badly done, jarring me out of a few scenes where fake critters interacted with real ones.

Bella the dog was thankfully a real animal, and she did a fine job carrying the story on her canine shoulders. Bryce Dallas Howard narrated Bella’s thoughts, and was pleasing enough in an earnest way. Bella meets a lot of nice people along her journey, and I loved the bookend scenes with the disabled vets. No one really stood out though, which was appropriate in this kind of flick. The writer did a great job having the POV center almost entirely on Bella.

In the end, A Dog’s Way Home is a mostly-harmless fluff film that dog lovers will appreciate. You’ll forgive me though, for saying the Disney classic Incredible Journey from 1963 is still the best version of this kind of tale.

PS: These kinds of things do happen with animals. I had a beloved dog escape from my dog-sitter in Arizona and make it across the desert by himself to San Diego, CA. He arrived in a few weeks, with bloody paws and a lot of hunger, but he did make it, and we were reunited.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: I have 3 Peetimes, and recommend the 1st if you can pop out early. Pay attention to the Peetime meta in this film and you’ll be okay with the second 2. (This movie is a series of repetitive travel scenes, intercut with emotional vignettes you won’t want to miss.)

Animal Abuse Alert: This movie has intense scenes of animals in peril. Children and animal lovers will find a lot of this movie disturbing — too many scenes to make them all into Alerts.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Dog’s Way Home. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG) for thematic elements, some peril and language
Genres: Adventure, Family

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Journey – Manipulatively Emotional, But The Least Heart-Rending of the Dog Trilogy

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose – A Brutal Experience in Non-Stop Crying

Movie Review – Mary Poppins Returns

Movie Review - Mary Poppins ReturnsCan I start by saying bravo?! I’m a huge fan of Mary Poppins (MP), and Mary Poppins Returns (MPR) did not disappoint. While we all knew that filling Julie Andrews’ shoes as MP would be nearly impossible, Emily Blunt nailed the role.  I enjoyed this movie so much because of the animation, storyline, cast, and the soundtrack. The Sherman Brothers rocked the music, yet again.

Many people thought this movie was a remake of the original 1964 movie. However, this is a continuation of the original storyline.

This storyline could stand-alone if you had never seen the first installment, but it was very exciting to recall scenes from the first MP to understand the narrative of MPR. For example, let’s start with how Mary Poppins arrived the same way in this movie as she did in the first movie—-with a strong wind. Jan and Michael Banks are portrayed as adults, with Michael living as a widow in their childhood home…with three children and a housekeeper. Jane works as an advocate like her mother, and Michael is an artist and works at Fidelity Fiduciary Bank like his dad.

Side note: when the bank chairman sent the attorneys to Michael Banks’ house to demand payment of his loan or the house would be repossessed, that scene reminded me of It’s A Wonderful Life, when George Bailey experienced a similar scenario as the bank examiners arrived.

It was so funny that Admiral Boom used to be so precise with time when blasting the canon, but in this movie, his old age has impaired his precision. Do you remember the kite scene from MP along with the song “Let’s Go Fly A Kite?” Well, that same kite is crucial to the plot in this movie. Then there’s that scene in MP where Michael is shocked with his mouth open; MPR recycled that line with Michael as an adult…and MP said “Close your mouth Michael, we still are not codfish.” LOL Now as for Meryl Streep, she played MP’s second cousin named Topsy. I don’t care what role Meryl plays, she’s going to kill it. Her dance moves were on point too.

Cousin Topsy’s scene put me in the mindset of the scene from MP with Uncle Albert’s flying giggles to the song “I Love to Laugh.” The scene with the song “Follow the Light” reminded me of the chimney sweepers scene to the tune of “Step in Time” from MP. And yes, the penguins are back in the broken antique bowl scene.

One last similar scene I’ll mention is that the children disrupt the bank lobby like young Michael did, when he ran out of the bank because he didn’t want to deposit his tuppence.

Speaking of tuppence, the tuppence that Michael was forced to deposit into the bank comes full circle in MPR in a major way.

As I said earlier, the Sherman Brothers rocked the songs again, and my favorite song in this movie is “The Cover is Not The Book” especially Jack’s (Lin-Manuel Miranda) solo, because it was sang/rapped in his iconic Hamilton-like tempo. Sweet!!!

Familiar terms used by MP that always bring a smile to my face were of course in her vernacular in MPR; such as spit pot, come along now, and pish posh. Furthermore, there were three moments when the audience applauded, which is a good indication of iconic scenes — especially when both parents and children are applauding enthusiastically.

I speak for myself when I say it was pleasing to see black casting in MPR. MP did not have any blacks (if I remember correctly) and in MPR, two of the major characters were black: one of the attorneys, and the bank chairman’s secretary, and another appearance of a black milkman. Woohoo! It was also nice to see Angela Lansbury as the balloon woman in the park at the fair, when Dick Van Dyke returns as Mr. Dawes, Jr.

Let me close by saying I almost want to raid Mary Poppins’ closet. She is the best-dressed nanny on the planet. Her exit from Cherry Tree Lane was the same in MPR as it was in MP—-slow, holding her open bird umbrella, fading into the sky, with a subtle look back at the Banks’ house with a slight smile. Mary Poppins Returns is epic and practically perfect in every way!

#MaryPoppinsReturns #EmilyBlunt #Disney #Movies #NewReleases #MovieReview #RunPee #FemaleMasterpiece #Hamilton #LinManuelMiranda

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: It was a little difficult to determine Pee Times because it’s a children’s movie — but adults love Mary Poppins as well — so determining when’s a good time for anyone to pee took some creativity. I recommend the 2nd Peetime, because it’s a very slow scene of the children sleeping and merely a lullaby song.

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

5 Differences between the Old and New Mary Poppins

Movie Review – Saving Mr. Banks

Classic Movie Re-Watch Review – It’s A Wonderful Life

Movie Review – Once Upon A Deadpool

 

Movie Review - Once Upon A DeadpoolThe Deadpool Before Christmas was hard to grade. I had to wonder if it’s better than the original Deadpool 2, if it added anything impressive to the canon, and if it’s worth spending your cash on what amounts to a re-tread of the same movie you saw last summer.

For real Deadpool fans, this is a must-see limited edition special event. Even for Princess Bride fans, you’ve got to get yourself out to see the painstakingly recreated bedroom for Fred Savage’s character, and to listen to him telling off Deadpool over the course of the film.

Also, Savage really wants to “fight” Matt Damon. As in REALLY REALLY, although it might not be “fight” so much as “f@ck”…if you’ve seen the Sarah Silverman parody song about Matt Damon, followed by the segue about Ben Affleck, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re old enough to permit some cussing in your humor, go look for it. Otherwise, ask your parents for some help.

The added Princess Bride footage was swell, from opening scene til the penultimate extra where Fred is finally permitted to go home. I wish there was more. The entire last third of the film had me waiting impatiently for new footage. My thought is that by then, the producers didn’t want to cut into the flow of the actual Deadpool story, but screw that — I came for more of the new wacky goodness.

One thing I found disappointing was how seamless the dirty language was. Instead of hearing some cool, really bizarre dubs, I barely noticed this was PG-13. I figured Deadpool would insert fun weirdo ‘curses’, like “you dirty hamburger monkey” for PG-13 friendly curses (shit and bitch are apparently okay, ya’ll), but, again, I didn’t notice the lack of the really R rated words. The ONLY fun cussing scene is the above-mentioned Matt Damon sequence with Deadpool bleeping out “fight.” Try not to run and pee then!

Also fun were a couple of scenes where certain body parts were pixellated. One in particular was super-maxi handy, since eyeball bleach can be hard to come by.

I also noticed a few neat things I missed on my previous DP2 viewing. One is all the insistence on DP’s part that he’s in a Marvel film. Also, as he talks to Juggernaut: “The sun is getting really low, big guy,” which is a certain someone’s sweet way to talk down The Hulk in another franchise. And, the dial we keep seeing Deadpool use “goes up to 11”, as we’re told in another old classic film: This Is Spinal Tap.

So, yeah. A few gory/graphic moments were cut, and some barely cleaner language was inserted, but this is absolutely the same DP2 you saw before, with 15 minutes of Princess Bride mashup interspersed.

Some people complained this was just a cash-grab by Fox and Marvel, but it’s still a unique way to re-package old material…plus Ryan Reynolds insisted a portion of the proceeds go to a “Fudge Cancer” charity…so you can feel good plopping out your money for this particular grab.

One last point: all the amazing cameos from the original DP2 are still in play. Dan’s first review of DP2 lists them all, so I’m not going to retread that — I just linked to his review. Sound good?

Last, last, last note: DO NOT LEAVE UNTIL IT SEEMS LIKE THE LIGHTS WILL BE COMING BACK UP. You’ll kick yourself if you miss the final cameo. Trust.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Don’t use the original Deadpool 2 Peetime information. This PG-13 special has an extra 15 minutes of story footage, and a new extra scene after the credits. This version has different Cue times. In certain places I listed NEW scenes, in case you don’t want to hit the bathroom for those. The 2nd Peetime was recommended in the original Deadpool 2, but I removed that because it has a NEW scene in it. I listed the 1st Peetime as recommended instead, because it was easy to sum up and gives you an extra minute if you need it. Try to use it proactively! 🙂

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

Movie Review – Ralph Breaks the Internet

 

Movie Review - Ralph Breaks the InternetI didn’t see the first Ralph movie, but it turns out that doesn’t matter. Everything interesting is explained, and the fun begins immediately.

I’ll say, right off the bat, that this movie is worth seeing on the big screen, although I look forward to having this on DVD so I can start and stop each frame at my leisure. I don’t think there’s another movie with this many in-jokes , asides, and easter-eggs crammed into each part of the story. It IS about the internet, after all.

In fact, right after the film ended, I went up to the  larger-than-life movie marquee poster and examined it for about ten minutes, to catch all the little internet allusions without stress.

I was there so long one woman asked me to get out of the way so her family could take a photo in front of it. Oops. I moved away with alacrity and some embarrassment. I’m supposed to be a grownup and not excited by cartoons, right? LOL. [pullquote]I’m (proudly) geeky enough to announce that this film was a big treat and not only to me: the audience roared with laughter the entire runtime.[/pullquote] It made finding Peetimes a challenge.

You do NOT want to miss the Disney section, at all, with the Princesses and the Star Wars characters. And I can happily report that almost everyone playing their original characters showed up for a voice cameo. And then some!

[pullquote position=”right”]Look at the cast credits as they scroll, and see if you picked up on any of the many celebrity voices. You’ll have to sit there until the end in anyway, to catch the prankish extra scene.[/pullquote]

Ralph 2 simply rocked. See this in 3-D if you can, but see it on the big screen no matter what. This movie is ginormous fun and should not be missed.

If you take the family to see this on the holiday season, I promise that kiddos and adults alike will have a great time.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Note: my showing had a ‘thank you to the fans’ segment before the film began. Don’t start the timer at this point. Wait until the Disney Castle fades afterward. I’d recommend the 1st Peetime if possible. The movie is so chock-full of great things to see in the internet-verse, with so many in-jokes that are truly amusing — you won’t want to miss much of this film.

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

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