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 – Us – Tons of Symbolism, Creepy, and a Great Time at the Movies

Movie Review - UsI’m by no means a lover of horror movies anymore, but when Jordan Peele writes one, you can’t help but wonder what it will be like. His freshman movie, Get Out, was creepy enough to motivate me to see more from him. Us didn’t let me down. It’s a little hard to write specifics about the movie without giving away spoilers, because there’s so much to say, due to Director Peele’s love for symbolism and thought-provoking cliffhangers.

Let me start with a little framework. Director Peele stated in interviews that the idea of this movie came from various iconic horror-based inspirations, but the 1960 Twilight Zone episode entitled Mirror Image, where Vera Miles encountered her own doppelganger in a bus terminal, sent his imagination over the top.

The movie begins with a few sentences on the screen, pointing out that there are miles and miles of tunnels and secret passageways underneath cities in America, of which some have no purpose at all. At first, when I read that I wondered if the theater had put the wrong movie on. The next scene didn’t do much for immediately confirming that I was watching the right film given that the time setting was 1986, and a very old television was playing a “Hands Across America” infomercial inviting people to take part in the hand-holding (thus, a tethering which you’ll see resurface as symbolism) around the USA, to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness.

The movie is extremely scary and creepy. Jordan does a good job setting up each scene, especially when the black doppelganger family arrived in the driveway. Director Peele took his time before revealing the family, I’m sure, to increase the suspense and wow factor.

In the meantime, the scenes played out with a little humor from the father Gabe, going from suburban sweet-talking with reason, as he’s a little naive to what’s going on, to straight up hood trash-talking. On the other hand, the mom Ade has a very good idea that something terrible is about to happen. That’ll make more sense as the plot thickens, and at the end of the movie (wink).

There’s a lot of killing, with blood flying and gushing everywhere. If you have a weak stomach for blood, cover your eyes, but don’t keep them shut, as the movie is not filled with massive narrative scripting as much as visuals and sound effects. Jordan Peele used Michael Abels again to do the music, which is the same man Jordan found on YouTube to do the music for Get Out.

The acting was very good by all the characters. Shout-out to Lupita Nyong’o who plays the mom, Ade. She needs an award nomination for the dual role she played — exceptional job, and that spooky voice she created for her doppelganger made her even scarier. Now, let me point out a few things I noticed about the movie that you may have missed, or you should look for when you see it a second time. You have to see it 2 or 3 times because you’ll discover something new every time you see it.

These notes aren’t true spoilers, but if you want to go into the film with no foreknowledge at all, you might want to stop reading here, and return after you’ve seen it. But I think these notes will help your first-time viewing enjoyment, so this will have to be your call:

1. The rabbits appear again in this movie just like in Get Out. Also, I noticed that the rabbits were mainly just white with only a few brown or black ones mirroring America, or some of the many environments we work and live in. Other rabbit sightings: the daughter’s t-shirt; when the homeless guy was taken into the ambulance, he looked to be wearing a rabbit’s foot around his neck; and the doll the young Ade played with was a white rabbit.

2. Don’t miss that deer on the wall of the fun house; it reminded me of the deer at the beginning of Get Out.

3. The signal to move when the doppelganger family stood in the driveway was the Wakanda arms pose from the movie Black Panther.

4. The counselor and the parents thought the daughter was suffering from PTSD.

5. There was a subtle spider doppelganger in the vacation home.

6. The son, nor the mom, had rhythm when the song I Got 5 On It was playing in the car on the road trip. Hmmm (remember I said this when you watch).

7. Jeremiah 11:11 “I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape” appeared as a reference several times: on the homeless man’s sign in 1986, during the present day when he got put into the ambulance, and then as the son Jason noticed the time was 11:11 at the vacation house, just before the doppelgangers arrived.

8. The name of the fun house in 1986 when young Ade entered was called Vision Quest, but in present-day of the movie when Momma Ade entered it was called Merlin’s Nest Hall.

9. Jason’s mask is red, like the doppelgangers’ clothing. More importantly, why does he have a mask in the first place? (Remember I said this, too.)

10. Jason growled like his doppelganger when he and his sister entered the neighbor’s house. Very questionable, or just a little touch of humor? (Remember this.)

11. Momma Ade and her doppelganger, Red, never seemed tethered like the others, as they didn’t have synchronized movements like some of the other copycat pairs. (And again, remember I said this…)

12. The scene of Momma Ade crying reminds you of the Get Out movie character Chris Washington, crying before he was sunk in the chair by the teaspoon-stirring Virginia.
13.  Jordan Peele has been making a cameo appearance in both his movies that no on would notice.  He does the voice of what sounds like a dying rabbit in Get Out and in Us.
14. While there were no extra scenes before or during the credits, Jordan Peele did list the doppelgänger cast names in a unique way.  He listed the human cast name in regular color, then he put the doppelgänger name right to it in red…which is what color they all wore…and the lead doppelgänger name is Red.

Lastly, I’ll mention those gold fabric scissors. I think they represent the act of cutting the ties or the tether between the two pairs. We often are our own worst enemy (as the movie subtitle states) and sometimes we need to sever that tether in order to escape what oppresses us.

I also agree with another theory that Peele portrays the doppelgangers as a means for him to continue to explore ‘double consciousness’ — W.E.B Du Bois’ influential race theory of how Blacks see themselves two-fold: as themselves, and as themselves through their oppressor’s eyes. Hence, the beginning of the movie with the long camera shot of the white rabbit’s eye staring at us.

Okay, I told you there was much to say without giving away spoilers, only tips to pay attention to as you watch. Hopefully, you enjoy it as much as I did. I’m headed to see it again tonight. Let me know your thoughts below.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Oh my! I’m still shaking in my seat. It was difficult to find Peetimes. The plot didn’t let up much or long enough for anyone to leave their seat and not miss a good part, or one of the many symbolic references. I recommend the 3rd Peetime — it’s the longest.

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

Rated (R) for violence/terror, and language
Genres: Horror, Thriller

Movie Review – Get Out

Movie Review – Escape Room – Surprisingly Lively, Clever, and Fun

A Quiet Place – RunPee Jilly’s Movie Review (with SPOILERS)

A Quiet Place 2 Announced

Movie Review – Captive State

Movie Review - Captive StateCaptive State had a good idea of dropping the movie goer right into an alien invasion. The aliens have been in control of earth for years and are known as “legislators.” They control the law and humans.

Okay, great idea up to that point. It’s a dandy way to start a movie. I like the idea of seeing how the humans and aliens basically have to work together. That’s where the greatness ends. The mere idea of it. The execution was retched, absolutely discombobulated and confusing.

It’s really an hour and a half give or take of humans passing messages and traveling from one secret location to another secret location. I honestly didn’t even know the characters names until I got home and looked them up on IMDB.

One of my biggest gripes is John Goodman. I’ve loved that guy since the beginning of Roseanne. He is a staple in the strong male actors category. Did he have bills to pay? Why in the world did he take this role? The character was written so poorly that even the great Goodman couldn’t bring life to the role. Sad face.

The only reason I’m not giving this movie an F is because the sets were done really well. They immersed you into a bleak, poverty stricken world that oozed with desperation and hopelessness. Good job there.

Another positive note was that while doing my job I have to sit through the credits to tell you wonderful people if there is anything extra. Happily they were only four minutes long. I thought to myself, “Wow, those credits were really short. Woohoo for that!” Most movies run at least 7 minutes, sometimes longer. I figured out why as I was falling asleep last night trying to forget this movie. The credits are so short that no one wanted to take credit for this farce of a movie. I chuckled to myself as I fell into a peaceful sleep that luckily contained no part of this movie in my dreams.

Treat yourself to a wonderful movie and get out of the house for a while. You deserve it! I just wouldn’t pick this one.

Grade: D+

About The Peetimes: I only submitted 2 Peetimes due to the fact that this was a really hard movie to follow. I chose scenes that were fairly easy to summarize.

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

Rated (PG-13) for sci-fi violence and action, some sexual content, brief language and drug material
Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller

Movie Review – Wonder Park

Movie Review - Wonder ParkI’ve just spent half an hour reading several different reviews for Wonder Park and I just have to laugh, maybe hysterically laugh, at the verbosity spewed forth by the well paid critics.

It’s a toddler movie! Children care nothing about the movie’s conceptual resemblance to Inside Out. And a visual and aural cacophony of frenzied action sequences, is exactly what delights your children.  Loud sounds, and plenty of moving color and light, keep their attention. And the parents aren’t really watching the movie, they have their entertainment right there in their hands. The mother next to me played Solitaire all through the movie. They don’t care either.

All that being said, I enjoyed Wonder Park just fine. Children under eight — and old women with spotty short term memories — will have fun.

I felt that the animation was well done and there were a few catchy little songs that were pleasant. This film won’t win any Oscars, but who cares, the Oscars are dying anyway.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a short movie filled with plenty of action and dialog, making it just a little difficult getting good Peetimes. I have 2, spaced almost 20 minutes apart, and both will serve you well — so let your bladder decide.

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

Rated (PG) for some mild thematic elements and action
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy

Movie Review – Five Feet Apart – Sweet, but just too depressing

Movie Review - Five Feet ApartYeah, yeah, it’s sweet and touching, but why would anyone subject themselves to a movie like this if they had a choice? I don’t like dramas, because I don’t like watching people suffer and die. Not my kind of film, and I’m annoyed at the entire enterprise. Can I recommend it? No. I just don’t get it. Life is tough enough without having to endure the pain of others.

A well-made movie but not fun, not uplifting, not funny, and I would never encourage anyone to spend an evening watching something like this. Go see Captain Marvel instead, and you’ll want to fly across the universe and kick some evil-doer arse. This film will just make you go home and cry.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: Here are 2 good Peetimes. Both will work well to get you through the movie without missing anything very emotional.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic elements, language and suggestive material
Genres: Drama, Romance

Movie Review – Captain Marvel – A Pretty Good Origin Story

Movie Review - Captain MarvelI’ve seen Captain Marvel twice now, and can honestly say I enjoyed it more the second time around. With my initial impressions I gave the movie a B. I’m bumping it up to a B+ now.

As a big Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, I think the most useful rating is to place it along with all the other 20+ MCU movies. Personally, I don’t dislike any of the movies, so the worst ones are still decent. But there are clearly the best of the best, the really good ones, and just good groupings.

In no particular order, I’d say the best of the MCU best are:

Avengers (the first one), Infinity War, GotG, GotG2, Thor: Ragnarok, Civil War, and Age of Ultron.

You’ll notice that all of these are ensemble movies, and none of them are an origin story, unless you consider that the first Avengers movie is a quasi-origin story for the ensemble.

When I look over that list, I can’t say that Captain Marvel can bump any of the top tier of MCU movies out, but it’s close…very close.

How Was Brie Larson as Captain Marvel?

I think Brie Larson did an adequate job with her character, but it’s going to take time to see if she can really “own” the role of Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. However, the action scenes lacked a certain physical presence I think the role requires. Personally, I wish they had chosen Blake Lively for the role. She has the snarkiness — and definitely the physical presence —  to express Captain Marvel. I hope in time Brie can show us she was the right choice, but for now, I think the jury is still out. Let’s see how she measures up when she’s grouped with the other Avengers going forward.

The humor in Captain Marvel is good. It’s nothing like either of the Guardians movies, or Ragnarok, but there are still plenty of good laughs to be had.

I love the way the story gives us not only Captain Marvel’s origin, but also Fury’s. That was deftly handled.

What I liked most about the movie was the theme of the story. (Which I can’t really get into without mentioning spoilers.  Click on the spoiler tag below only if you’ve seen the film.)

Captain Marvel Spoilers

Click here to read further: spoilers
Without coming across as preachy, the story deftly explores how important it is to always question one’s allegiances.

Early in the movie Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) says, “Know your enemy. It might just be you.” We later learn the statement is literally true, when Marvel discovers she’s fighting on the wrong side of an unjust war.

There is a scene early in the movie that foreshadows Marvel’s change of allegiance, when Agent Coulson lowers his weapon and allows Fury and Marvel to escape. That not only sets the stage for putting Coulson on Fury’s map as his “one good eye” (a line from the original Avengers) but in a conversation shortly after that, Fury tells Marvel that what Coulson did –listening to his gut — is a hard thing to do, but that’s what makes us human.

MCU movies have also explored this idea with Captain America. He starts out as the dedicated patriot, and evolves into a fugitive from the very same authority that created him.

I personally find it ironic that society/authority/governments continually preach loyalty and patriotism. Essentially encouraging citizens to offer robotic support, while the computers we create are becoming more adept at questioning, understanding, and adapting. What makes us human — humanity — may soon be the purview of our creations.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: Overall, all 3 Peetimes are pretty good. I would recommend the 1st Peetime over the others. It’s very easy to get caught up on what happened. The 3rd Peetime is almost as good, but includes a little humor. The 2nd Peetime is almost all dialog so it has a longer than average synopsis.

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

Rated (PG-13) for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive language
Genres: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero,

Movie Review – Greta – Less Teeth, Still A Good Bite

Movie Review - GretaGreta didn’t have the teeth of some more memorable thrillers, such as A Quiet Place or Get Out, but it did have a good bite.

The first half of the movie was loaded with dramatic exposition, and the last half was the payoff, giving us one heck of a quirky ending. I loved it! I was entertained throughout the movie, and never bored.

The angelic Chloe Grace Moritz and the magnificent Isabella Huppert played off each other’s great performance beautifully. Hopefully, Isabella Huppert will spend a little more time in America, gracing our silver screens.

If you love a good jump scare, take time this weekend and check out Greta.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Greta is a tightly wound movie, making it hard to find a good 4 minute down-time. I highly recommend the 1st Peetime over the 2nd, which I only included as an emergency option.

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

Rated (R) for some violence and disturbing images
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

A Quiet Place – Jilly’s Movie Review (with SPOILERS)

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (RunPee Dan’s Review)

Movie Review – Get Out

A Quiet Place 2 Announced

Movie Review – Fighting with My Family – Pleasant, Non-Demanding Fun

Movie Review - Fighting with My FamilyFighting with my Family is a pleasant little true-life-based sporting movie leaving you feeling a little happier than when you went in.

It’s not about Earth-shattering events or anything particularly profound for humanity, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s a small and surprisingly charming story: a young woman gets plucked out of obscurity in the UK to train for the big leagues of US WWE Diva wrestling. Cue the nominally familiar underdog narrative…but it works.

The best part of the movie is how it’s grounded by a loving, oddball wrestling family. The rough-n-tough parents seem intimidating at first, until you realize how sweetly kind these people are, and how much they care for each other.

The comedy is never over the top: you buy the reality of these people. Kudos to the acting and directing team for making this tiny corner of history so palatable — and relatable.

I also appreciated the brother’s side-tale of changing the lives of underprivileged youngsters in his neighborhood, via instruction and a strong sense of community. (The blind wrestling teen was a highlight, and I could have watched an entire movie about him. Somebody make this film happen.)

In any case, Fighting With My Family is almost entirely about the daughter. Paige’s story is a quite a bit like the blockbuster scenario of Rocky — just younger, female, and on a different scale. Also, this series of events really happened. 🙂 We get a young “buck” with a lot of raw potential, who gets tested too far, and lets her coach and family down. She finds her “Eye of the Tiger”and gets serious about pursuing a WWE championship goal. This isn’t brand new material, right? But the movie makes it fresh.

Something I appreciated was Paige’s clear joy in the sport itself. And make no mistake, the movie makes pro wrestling look exhausting, but also super fun. Now I want to be tossed around a ring, bounce off the bungies, and leap over people who know when to duck (yet know how to make it look real). I had no idea the whole pro wrestling scene was so playful and adventurous. There are scenes where pros decide whether to take random PR stunts in stride, like being thumped on a bed of thumbtacks, to getting smacked in the head with a garbage can lid. If you can take it, it adds to the fun, and everybody gets paid. Even The Rock is thankful for someone who took a spectacularly painful fall to make him look good (in a really satisfying small scene that’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention).

However. One thing you should know before you go: The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) isn’t in this film very much — he bookends the plot. But he shouldn’t be the center of this film. It’s not his story. As he was involved in these real events — creating this film was his passion project — he takes up just as much visual space as he should. It works. I hope it went down in reality just like this.

Still. This is THE ROCK, and he’s got quite a WWE legacy before he became a movie star. His opening “mentoring’ scene is NOT to be missed. It’s priceless and I’m still smiling over it. Don’t run to the toilet then…use our Peetimes. 🙂

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was an easy film to find Peetimes for. I won’t let you miss any moment The Rock appears, or any of the best fighting action. I recommend the 2nd Peetime if you can manage it, but all are fine.

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

Rated (PG-13) for crude and sexual material, language throughout, some violence and drug content

Genres: Action, Biography, Comedy, Drama, Sport, True life story


 

More Movies Starring The Rock: 

Quiz – The Rock AKA Dwayne Johnson – Action Hero with Surprising Range

Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious

Movie Review – Skyscraper

San Andreas – movie review

Movie Review – The Tooth Fairy

 

Movie Review – Run the Race – Faith-Based but Sad

Movie Review - Run the RaceAs is my usual, I’ll address the target audience first.

Run the Race has all the ingredients needed for a faith-based movie — a loss of faith, a terrible tragedy, hope, and renewal. Christians of all denominations will be satisfied, and happy with the outcome. (Does anyone write a faith-based movie where God doesn’t prevail?)

Now I’ll address the mechanics of the movie: The pacing was dreadful, with too many protracted scenes of very little payoff.

The acting was sub par, with the exception of the coach played by Mykelti Williamson. Does that name sound familiar? Mykelti is Bubba Gump, and his acting was the real stand-out. The remaining cast came across as wooden, bored, and not very interesting at all.

The setting for the movie was excellent. Principal filming took place in Birmingham, Alabama, which is only 15 miles from Bessemer, and yes, Bessemer is a dying town. I lived in this area during the 1980s, and graduated from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, so it was a real trip down memory lane for me.

The ending didn’t leave me with a sense of hope and renewal; I just found it to be very, very sad.

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: Run The Race is a short flick, so I felt 2 breaks were sufficient. The pacing made it fairly easy to choose 2 Peetimes and not miss anything important.

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

Rated (PG) for thematic content and some teen partying
Genres: Drama, Sport, Religious


 

Some other faith-based movie reviews on RunPee.com: 

Movie Review – God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

Movie Review – Let There Be Light

Do You Believe? – movie review

Movie Review – Alita: Battle Angel – Lighter, more Enjoyable than Ghost in the Shell

 

Movie Review - Alita: Battle AngelAlita: Battle Angel is a sort of YA version of Ghost in the Shell, and I’m not exactly thrilled to see the same thing re-done in so short a period of time. At least this one was more enjoyable, with better humor, more likable characters, and a universe that might be more interesting to explore if a sequel happens. And let it be clear: a sequel isn’t just hinted at in Alita. A sequel is guaranteed, if the movie’s ending is to be understood. It’s a cliffhanger, ya’ll. You should know this going in.

What’s good? [pullquote]The animation is seamless, and the battling Alita herself looks great, giant eyes and all. The Uncanny Valley is not even an issue here: “cute” bypasses the Valley entirely.[/pullquote] And cute Alita is. So is her boyfriend. And her ‘dad.’ It’s not a depressing film, unlike Ghost in the Shell, so it’s got that going for it.

I’m not even sure what else to say about this film because I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be. I saw a special early showing that was entirely sold out (my seat was in the literal front row, lending the 3D glasses a terrible viewpoint).

Clearly, the anime excitement and interest was there for this series, even if the presentation wasn’t as freshly new as I’d hoped. Also, while Rosa Salazar is adorable as Alita, she’s no Scarlett Johansson.

What is it about waifish cyborg girls and a future of augmented human bodies? Are we just our brains?[pullquote position=”right”] Can a brain-in-a-jar still be human? These are questions our progeny will have to address, and it comes up fruitfully here.[/pullquote]

I’m giving Alita a good B grade — it’s worth seeing on the big screen, and there’s potential for a decent franchise here. I smiled and laughed, and wanted to know more about the air city above the space elevator.[pullquote] Is the Earth used up? Is humanity lost and debased? And, ultimately, can a few good people influence the course of the future?[/pullquote] According to Margaret Mead, that’s all that ever can. Alita: Battle Angel seems to think we can too.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 Peetimes of 3 minutes, nicely spaced apart. The 2nd and 3rd Peetimes are better. There’s a lot of action in Alita, so you’ll want to pick a Peetime to not miss the better scenes.

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

Rated (PG-13) for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Genres: Action, Romance, Sci-Fi

Movie Review – Ghost in the Shell

 

Quiz – Scarlett Johansson – Not Just a Pretty Face

What is Animated versus Live Action in Alita – Battle Angel

Movie Review – Mortal Engines

Movie Review – The Terminator

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)