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

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

Movie Review – Toy Story 4

Movie Review – The Art of Racing in the Rain

Movie Review - The Art of Racing in the RainThe Art of Racing in the Rain is yet another animal flick to tug at your heart strings. Are you a dog lover? If you answer yes, then this movie will not only tug at your heart strings, but will rip them out of your chest and wrap them around your windpipe.

One man in my theater was sobbing so hard, he was having a difficult time breathing. It kinda scared me for a second, but my eyes quickly went back to the screen.

The production quality of the movie was good and I have absolutely nothing negative to say about ‘Art’. I read the book when it first came out, being a big fan of Garth Steine. I realized then that if it were made into a movie, Kleenex stock would rise dramatically. The movie followed the book very well.

A lot of critics have panned it for the saccharine dialog, but hey, Hollywood loves ‘Sweet & Low’. Why is saccharine a bad thing? Everybody needs a good cry every once in a while. (It cleans out the tear ducts.)

The movie is about a dog who wants to die because he once saw on television that when a dog dies he returns to Earth as a human. More than anything, Enzo wanted to race in the rain someday. I enjoyed Kevin Costner as the voice of Enzo. Maybe Kevin will return to Earth as a dog.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering; did I cry? No. Why, you ask? Besides being just a bit hard-hearted [according to any one of my four husbands], I have an uncanny ability to separate reality from fiction.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This movie was evenly paced, making it easy to get 2 good Peetimes. Both give you 4 minutes to break, so let your bladder decided.

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

Rated (PG) for thematic material
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Tear-Jerker

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

 

Movie Review – The Kitchen

Movie Review - The KitchenAndrea Berloff did a fantastic job writing and directing the Kitchen. There are no wasted scenes in this tightly edited film. Everything follows from one step to the next. The characters are very well defined, and evolve during the movie for obvious reasons.

The three actors — Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elisabeth Moss — headlining this movie were fantastic. Each totally sold their characters as fearful timid women to begin with, that became powerful confident women later…and in McCarthy’s case oscillated back and forth a few times, all with good reason.

The plot isn’t as predictable as the trailers might suggest. There’s a few enjoyable twists and turns I didn’t expect.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: This movie is very well edited. There were lots of Peetime options early in the movie to select from, but were all very short. I  recommend the 2nd Peetime. It’s near the middle of the movie and doesn’t have much dialog. The 3rd Peetime is for Emergencies only. There’s a big plot development, but it’s the only describable scene in the last 3rd of the movie to pick from.

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

Rated (R) for violence, language throughout and some sexual content
Genres: Action, Crime, Drama

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Movie Review – The Art of Self-Defense

Movie Review – Brian Banks

 

Movie Review - Brian BanksI really love movies based on a true story. I’m always curious to see how the storyline will play out, and if it seems grossly embellished or not. Brian Banks is relatable and “reel” on so many levels.

Yes, this movie can be categorized into the files of the “MeToo Movement” for sure, but with a little twist, and intense and valid emotions throughout the whole movie.

The actors were very good, and I’m a huge fan of Morgan Freeman. Freeman is not one of the main characters; he is a catalyst to the transformation of Brian Banks. Morgan is never bad; he’s like the godfather of movies. He shows up and shows out at the most opportune moments.

Was He Like the Real Brian Banks?

I watched interviews with the real Brian Banks before going to see the onscreen depiction, just to be able to validate whether Aldis Hodge (Brain Banks) gave us a top notch reflection of the real guy.

And Aldis did. His movements, diction, and emotions were on target. Now, I’m not sure about seeing Aldis in another movie involving him in jail though, which comes out December 2019. I clutched my pearls with confusion when I saw the trailer for Clemency immediately before the Brian Banks Movie started. I thought Brian Banks had begun, and that I missed the cue to start my timer. LOL! But I digress…

The pace was good for one hour and 39 minutes. The use of flashback scenes were very effective, especially toward the end when Brian was waiting to hear the judge’s decision. All the critical moments in his life flashed before him as he awaited yet another moment that would change his life.

An Insightful Film

What I found very insightful was how the director explored the dynamics behind criminal law. He peeled a lot of the onion back to reveal crucial case law, how attorneys collaborate, and why some things are presented in the courtroom or not.

I especially liked that, because I know I sometimes ask myself, “Self, why didn’t they say this?” “Why wasn’t that important?” or “What in the heck was the judge thinking?”

So pay attention to the law narrative. I also liked how there were lots of plot pieces, but the director pretty much flushed them all out to the end;he didn’t leave me hanging.

Everyone had a connection to Brian’s struggle directly or indirectly, including his workout partner. Ultimately, I was tuned in to see if the plot was realistic and believable for such an event that happened to teenagers. And I was elated that the plot made you think and get watery-eyed; not frown and question the likelihood of the tragedy.

The use of light was very emotional; reminded me of an epiphany at its best. Another thing that resonated was the “tether.” The tether took me back to Jordan Peele’s movie Us. I admired how the director ended the movie at the exact location where the movie and Brian Bank’s dreams started.

Check it out for yourself, and take your teenagers, because when they know better, they will certainly do better. We have to teach/show our children how to stop and think about the “what ifs” on a daily basis, thus to matriculate through life without becoming a part of the existing societal problems — instead becoming an intelligent, good-natured, ethical citizen that’s part of the solutions.

(By the way, for those that may be running late, there were 24 minutes of previews in my showing.)

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t difficult selecting Peetimes, given this is a biopic, and I knew a little about the back story — which gave me some perspective. I recommend the 1st Peetime.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content and related images, and for language
Genres: Biography, Drama, Sport, True life story

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Movie Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Movie Review – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Movie Review - Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkScary Stories to Tell in the Dark thoroughly entertained my 6 year old granddaughter. I found myself slightly bored.

For starters, I was expecting a more mature horror movie based on the previews I saw. I didn’t realize that it was from a series of books written in the 1980’s. I wish I would have known that before I saw it.

So keeping that in mind, I gave it a better grade than I was originally going to. I’d compare this movie to the Goosebumps series. It will be a great movie for let’s say, the junior high school kids, perhaps freshman in high school also.

There was a few moments that screams of fright escaped from the audience. One in particular got me too. No spoilers here though. I think this movie would be perfect for a slumber party night.

So if your teen aged daughter or son ask you to take them to see it, you won’t be terribly bored. It has its moments that you’ll enjoy.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: I’ve got 2 Peetimes for you to choose from. I recommend the 1st one. It’s your best choice, but the 2nd is just in case you need it a little later in the movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) No rating.
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Movie Review – Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

Movie Review - Fast & Furious: Hobbs & ShawIMDb categorizes Hobbs & Shaw as: “action, adventure”. I think they should add “comedy” to that as well. The odd couple relationship between Hobbs & Shaw has been building since their “relationship” began in Fast and the Furious 7, and they milk it to great effect in this movie while simultaneously letting their relationship grow.

Hobbs & Shaw also elevates the over-the-top action sequences expected of any movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. There’s definitely a few, “Oh wow, that was cool. I haven’t seen that before,” scenes — mostly by Brixton on his motorcycle.

If there’s one gripe I had going into Hobbs & Shaw, it’s that the ubiquitous trailers appeared to have already spoiled the best action and funniest scenes, but now I can assure you that isn’t the case. There are plenty of funny scenes never hinted at in the trailers and a few — exactly two — “special moments” that will leave you looking to your friends around you in surprised awe. (Note: If you’re a fan, then avoid any Hobbs & Shaw news on social media, or anywhere else, until after you see the movie. You don’t want to get spoiled.)

Good Acting

A special mention has to be given to the rising star Vanessa Kirby. The action movie genre isn’t exactly littered with great acting performances, but Vanessa Kirby, as Hattie Shaw, delivers in every scene — whether it calls for humor, drama, or action. And as unbelievable as some of the action scenes can be, the relationship between Hobbs and Shaw that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham deliver is perfectly believable.

The casting of Idris Elba was perfect. Few actors have the physicality and gravitas to be such an outstanding villain.

Great Writing

None of this would be possible without the outstanding writing skills of Chris Morgan, who also penned the screenplays for all the F&F movies, going back to Tokyo Drift.

I’m not saying that this script, and his others, are examples of high literature. There are too many instances of unrealistic conveniences that keep the story going, like the main characters just happening to run across the right people at the right time to keep them on their mission. However, this also isn’t the sort of movie that needs to get bogged down in the the nuances of logistics. One of the best tricks Chris Morgan employs in his scripts is to introduce those convenient characters in a surprising and enjoyable manner.

Basically, if Chris Morgan were a chef he would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But not just any old PB&J sandwich. He’d use the good stuff, on really good bread, and maybe sneak an in Oreo cookie — or two — there as a surprise.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: It was difficult finding decent Peetimes in the 1st half of this movie. There’s a lot going on: action, character development, etc. The 3rd and 4th Peetimes are the best. Try to use one of those if you must. None of the Peetimes have any action scenes, because that’s what we’re here to watch! Am I right? 🙂 However, there is just a little bit of humor in a few of the Peetimes, but nothing like the best humor.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language
Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Hobbs & Shaw – The Entire Backstory from Fast and the Furious

Fast & Furious 1 & 4 Is Really ONE MOVIE

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Movie Review – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Movie Review - Once Upon a Time ... in HollywoodOnce Upon a Time… in Hollywood is, without question, the least enjoyable movie I’ve ever given an A+ to.

The writing and directing are some of Tarantino’s best. The acting was as good as you’ll see. Leonardo DiCaprio was at his best, which let’s face it: is the best ever. Brad Pitt was fantastic. My only mark against Pitt in this movie is that his character isn’t much of a stretch from many other roles he’s played.

To be fair, there were a few scenes, here and there, where I saw DiCaprio’s character from Wolf of Wall Street.

However, even though the movie gets high marks all around, I didn’t love it. I’m certainly impressed by the acting and craftsmanship on display. I just found the setting disinteresting. It’s the 70s, for crying out loud. They thought neon was amazing. If there’s a decade that needs to be flushed down a time toilet, it’s that one.

However, I can hardly knock a movie for that, now can I?

Spoilers to come if you want them:

Click to read spoilers.

Going into the movie, all I knew about Manson was that he lead a cult, or something like that, and his followers killed some people. I didn’t know who, or why.

By the end of the movie I understood the reason for the movie title: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Tarantino winds the story around two characters Rick and Cliff, played by DiCaprio and Pitt, with Sharon Tate and the Manson clan in the background. He does this so well I didn’t realize the ending was fictitious until the credits were about to roll.

“Wait, they killed someone, right? … Ohhh, ‘Once Upon a Time…'” I get it now. That much was brilliant. This is how Hollywood wishes things had turned out.

I guess I should go read up on the real events of the story, but I don’t think it ends well in reality. Maybe it’s best to just roll with Tarantino’s fictitious version. I’m pretty sure I’ll sleep better.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: There are 4 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out through the movie. Any one of the 3 will work for you, but I suggest the 2nd one, since it is the longest and has a very short synopsis.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for language throughout, some strong graphic violence, drug use, and sexual references
Genres: Comedy, Drama

The Essential Tarantino – What to watch before Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Movie Review – The Art of Self-Defense

The Wolf of Wall Street – movie review

Movie Review – The Art of Self-Defense

Movie Review - The Art of Self-DefenseThe Art of Self Defense blew me away. These are my favorite moments in the RunPee Universe. When RunPee Dan asked me to do this movie, I thought to myself, “Great; he’s punishing me for something.” Well ha ha, jokes on you, big brother. Little sister loved it.

The story itself was so well told that I never got bored, and was seriously surprised on a few of the scenes. I didn’t see that coming; it hits like a freight train right to the throat. Or like a punch from the foot. I’m dying right now. When you see the movie, you’ll get how funny it felt.

Back to the Art of Self Defense review:

The story has a terrific message. It’s something I feel every man, woman or child should see that’s ever been subjected to bullying. (Not like a small child though, because there is full frontal nudity of the male type.)

There is hope in all situations — it comes down to how you you see things and react to them. Do you roll over and take it, or do you stand up and foot-punch the world? In every one of us there is the power to achieve what needs to be achieved.

There is a particular line from the movie that Jessie’s character says, it goes a little something like this…

“I want to be what intimidates me.”

Pause, let it sink in. Wow, that’s a powerful line. It stopped me in my tracks; I wrote it down to ponder later. He spoke that line in such a way that the impact is still felt. It’s forever embedded into my brain — way to go, Eisenberg.

Jessie Eisenberg was a perfect choice for this role. I can’t think of one other actor that could have done it better. His timing and delivery was magical. Alessandro Nivola, who plays the Sensei, was evenly matched with Jessie. Those two worked together like peanut butter and jelly. Their chemistry was simply delicious.

So in summary for The Art of Self Defense:

This dark and somewhat creepy movie ends up being one of the feel-good movies of the year in my book. I loved it and would love to recommend it to you.

Please leave me some comments; I’m super curious to see what other people think of it.

Just to kind of back my love for this film, I watched it with two other movie reviewers. These guys were hard-core, who write for major publications. They both back it too. So you have three reviewers from different walks of life saying the same thing. See it — you won’t walk out disappointed. Thanks for reading, folks.

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: I recommend the 1st Peetime; there was humor that you’ll miss, but it was easy to summarize. The 2nd Peetime is great, but beware of running over the time on that one. A big reveal happens directly following that Peetime.

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

Rated (R) for violence, sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Sport

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Movie Review – The Lion King (2019)

Movie Review - The Lion KingIf you’re not a Lion King fan, then I think you’ll find the 2019  live action (CGI, really) version more enjoyable than the animated one, 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 in the 90s.

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 animals 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. And the voice cast is top-shelf.

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 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

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Movie Review – Crawl

Movie Review - CrawlDue to a terrible mistake made by myself on opening night, I had to go back today and watch Crawl all over again. It didn’t get any better the second time around.

I have lived in Florida for a number of years now and can empathize with the two characters in this movie. Yes, hurricanes suck and alligators are terrifying. Put dealing with those two things together and you got yourself the makings of a great movie. At least I thought so.

It was boring. Most of it takes place in the basement, and it’s just them moving around in the water trying not to get eaten. The subplot of the father and daughter trying to reconcile hurt feelings felt tedious to me. There was no chemistry between them and I honestly didn’t care if they made it out alive.

The only thing I did enjoy were the sound effects. The gators sounded cool and when they would chomp down on body parts it was even cooler.

There was one moment when the entire crowd laughed. Exactly as the movie ends and the credits begin, they play, “See You Later, Alligator,” by Bill Haley.

This would make a great way to spend a rainy evening on the couch; my recommendation is to wait for the DVD.

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: Crawl is a super short movie, so I only submitted 1 Peetime. It’s well placed during a moment that was easy to sum up, and gives you plenty of time to run and pee.

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

Rated (R) for bloody creature violence, and brief language
Genres: Action, Adventure, Horror