Movie Review – The Meg

I’m mulling over The Meg. It was a ton (er, rather, several tons) of fun, but after having viewed the original Jaws this week, my expectations are a bit high. I also have high expectations for movies with dinosaurs and other ‘real’ animals (as opposed to ‘monsters’).

Megalodon was a real shark, and an ancient one, and it’s not totally inconceivable that there could be a thermal inversion layer under the Marianas Trench with a “lost world” of prehistoric creatures roaming around. It’s been said we know more about the moon than what’s deep in our own oceans.

In fact, the brief dive under the Thermocline is the best, most beautiful, and stirring part of the movie. It wasn’t goofy, like many later scenes; in fact, it was almost like seeing Pandora, from Avatar. It was a magical glimpse of a place I would have happily watched through an entire movie. That early part, with the submersible rescue, is the best act of the film, laden with all the adventure, heroism, action, suspense, and scares I hoped for.

I loved the top of the line undersea rig too: it had a spiffy science-fiction feel. More of that would have been welcome too: like a space station, or moments of life on an underwater planet. So there was some wonderful stuff to play with, had the story chosen such routes.

Once the Megalodon follows our heroes to the colder, more modern ocean, everything got a bit more staid…and eventually silly. I didn’t mind if the entire film was comedic — honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from this one, whether straight up horror or camp — but I got mental whiplash from trying to follow what genre The Meg wanted to settle on.

Were any of the characters good? Um. Hmmmm. Jason Statham did about as well as any actor leading an adventure genre, but with less of the grace and humor I would expect from Vin Diesel or The Rock. He had the in-joke name of Jonas, but his is the only name I recall out of any of the other characters. The little girl was a good child actor, but I can’t say anyone else even tried.

The scariest scene for me: when the Meg starts to SWALLOW the plastic canister. I’m not going to say more about this, in case you haven’t seen the film yet, but that had me pretty gripped/grossed out. And then there’s the early moment when the Meg bites the sea station. This shark is fast, mean, and incredibly ungainly. Ugly and vicious.

But still, the movie is no adrenaline  joyride. By the time The Meg ended I was kind of tired, instead of happy, or jazzed, or excited. After the disappointment of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I didn’t really know what to feel. I wanted wondrousness, and to be moved — or at least feel my pulse pound — and saw a couple glimpses of what could have been. I’ll stick with a B- for now, but I’ll think on it. It might not be worth more than a C+.

However, maybe it’s best to not think on this movie at all, and let it be lightly fun, instead of grand or thoughtful. There’s always the original Jaws for the best of this kind of summer blockbuster fare.

Movie Grade: B-

About the Peetimes: We have 3 good Peetimes. Each has pros and cons, but I’d recommend the 1st over the others. There’s no action until after the Peetime ends.

Related: 

Movie Rewatch Review — Jaws

Meet the Real Meg

RunPee’s Original Infographics: Meg 1 and Meg 2

Why Avatar Was Such a Good Idea

Best Scenes From Jaws and Why They Work

Things You Didn’t Know About Jaws/Things Wrong with Jaws

Best Quotes from Jaws

Jaws: Honest Trailers

 

Movie Review – BlacKkKlansman

This movie has an A in my book. An amazing, classic Spike Lee joint. I think Spike Lee always knows how to draw an audience in using comedy, and hits them with very blatant, hard to discuss (but necessary) topics.

The movie is tied together very well. The ending scenes especially paint the picture for viewers to understand the status of America’s racial climate. I don’t think anyone walking into a Spike Lee film should be surprised at the level of honesty that the film tells, or the trueness the actors bring to the film’s characters.

Grade: A

About the Peetimes
This movie had an amazing mix of comedic and serious scenes.

Spike Lee does a great job at distinguishing what scenes are meant for laughter and what scenes are meant for silence.

Though not easy, I was able to get 4 Peetimes throughout the movie.

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Dun dun. Dun dun. DUNDUNDUNDUNDUNDUNdoodooDOOOO!

This movie still blows me away (not unlike the way a certain 25-foot Great White got blown) and I am super surprised. I knew it was good, but I didn’t remember it being THIS good. Like A+ level good. Steven Spielberg, while young, was already on his game.

It’s hard to hold the title of First Ever Blockbuster. And it’s harder even to look back since 1975 and agree that such an “old” film holds up to our current movie-going standards.

Remember, suspense-horror-action fans, it’s what you don’t see that’s the best kind of scare. Alien did it. Recently the very good A Quiet Place did this perfectly.

This review is going to have some spoilers, but since it’s been a while since the 70s, even people who missed Jaws the first time pretty much knows most of the plot (via pop culture osmosis).

The gore is surprisingly low key. There are two distinct grisly moments, and one of those is a jump scare. (That would be the one-eyed human head under the boat). And the only real icky scene is the real early one, where the naked girl’s remains are a bloody lump chewed on by a seething mass of crabs. It’s a quick thing, and you get more visceral punch from the random policeman who found her: he’s so squicked out he can ‘t watch, stand, or even be near the remains. You can almost smell it yourself.

The less you see of ol’ Bruce (Jaws’ real-life mechanical contraption) as he swims by or attacks, the better he looks. He’s got one or two raggedly bad side shots that really look awful (like when it’s on the boat, attacking Quint). Since Spielberg knew how bad his rubber shark looked, the crew kept it mostly underwater or head on, where we see only the big bloody mouth coming at the screen.

But. Then. The film really lucked out. Now we’re talking about the human actors – the big three. It works, and works fabulously. You know who they are. These are three very different characters, who come together and make you sit forward, avidly watching each moment build, smiling as they compare scars, then shivering in suspense as the story plays upon what came before. When the stricnine laced needle falls useless to the ocean floor, and the shark cage is in tatters, you’d do just what Hooper did — lie still under some flotsam and ride it out. Recall that the shark responds to prey-like panicky ‘fear’ movement.

Back on what’s left of the ship “Orca” (a great in-joke), Brody has one trick left, and isn’t looking like he’s going to survive this. However, the magic of subtle foreshadowing saves the day in a way that simply makes sense. It’s not a last minute Hail Mary – this has been baked in from early on, if you paid attention. The resolution is incredibly satisfying.

The fine acting of characters Brody, Quint, and Hooper elevate what could have been just another sensational summer disaster film into the stratosphere of real greatness.

And you know what else? THIS MOVIE IS INCREDIBLY FUNNY! I don’t think childhood “me” thought it was funny (I thought it was scary, even though the iconic Musical Shark Cue gave me most of those shivers).

But in this viewing, if I wasn’t gripped by a scene, I was laughing. And sometimes I was gripped AND laughing. This is frakking good storytelling.

The ending is so completely satisfying that you walk out with a big smile. I sat through the entire end credits, just to see Brody and Hooper make it, swimming on those barrels, back safely to shore. Then I could breathe again, and turn the laptop off. I haven’t felt so excited and satisfied by a monster action movie since Pitch Black or Aliens.

Something really fun: there’s a heat wave going on in So Cal, and I’ve been swimming in the pool daily. To the point where I wan’t going to dry out for movie watching…and yeah, I swam and paddled through my entire Jaws rewatch, laptop on the edge of the pool. This wasn’t planned. By the time I realized it, I was glad it was a pool, and not, you now, the ocean. (Although I love the ocean and no fraking fish is going to keep me out of it.) I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition.

So.

Did I bother to watch the sequels?  Good question. In a word: No.

Should I?

———————————————-

Want to hear some crazy stats from the Jaws franchise? Rotten Tomatoes gives 1975 Jaws a coveted 97% score. For a film in an era of public smoking and casually sexist behaviors, that’s pretty awesome. For the sequels, the critic scores drop down FAST:

Jaws 2 – 57% (Meaning more than half of the reviews think it’s worth a shot – like a B- or C+)

Jaws 3 – 41% (Meaning “meh”…see it at home if you can’t get enough sharks chomping swimmers)

Jaw 4: The Revenge – 0% GOOSE EGG. It’s in fine company with several John Travolta movies (see even recently: Gotti gets the Goose). But the ZERO is way more than enough to sink the shark and his brethren for decades. Only weird franchises like Sharknado returned to this well, and as far as I know (I haven’t seen them), they are mostly a joke, like Snakes On A Plane.

And now….we have The Meg: all about an ancient, titanic sea shark the size of a cruise ship. We’re covering the science of Megalodon, the Mosasaurus, and the Great White on RunPee.com for your geeky enjoyment!

Movie Grade: A+

About the Peetimes:  “The Meg” inspired us (Dan, Jill, and RunPee Mom) to do a rewatch of the classic JAWS and add Peetimes for it. (Just for fun.) We even recorded a podcast of our discussion about which Peetimes we would select. To sum: With a perfectly made film like this, finding Peetimes was easy and a joy. We always maintain that a well made film has both times of excitement, and times to recover. The movie builds on these solid principles.

Movie Review — Dog Days

This small but cute film is solid middling fare, and a possible excuse to get into air conditioning during these “Dog Days of Summer”. If you’ve ever had a canine friend, Dog Days has got something for everyone — there were nine storylines, but none of them felt forced. I even shed a tear (and you will know that moment, if you’ve ever had to put a beloved pal down). If you’ve loved pets, especially dogs, you’ll find a moment that feels like you. 

Small, sweet, well done. Nothing momentous; certainly not worth $15 in the theater — my opinion: wait for the DVD/streaming choices to come. There’s not much to say, narratively about this film. 

It’s not as charmingly off-the-cuff as Best In Show (2000), but still has some easy-going moments of nice add-libbing (stay through the entire end credits scenes).  If you love dogs, consider this a good date night film (specifically, if you both love dogs).

To sum: surprisingly charming and well-produced. But there’s also this: I don’t remember anyone’s name, not the human names anyway, and don’t feel bad about that. There’s the brother/musician, the sister, the athlete, the newscaster, the sad older guy, the pizza boy, and the adopted family. I remember most of the dogs’ names, as that’s how I roll. I had to write down some of the human characters’ names to help with your Peetime Cues, but otherwise almost everyone has a sort of low-key fungability. A pleasant B movie. 

Movie Grade: B

About The Peetimes: This was a kind of difficult movie to get Peetimes for, since there are so many plotlines and stories happening simultaneously. However, it’s really okay to jump out at the 3 Peetimes I chose, because nothing momentous happens in the movie, and each break is easy to summarize. Go with your bladder to pick a Peetime, as each one is decent.

Movie Review – Eight Grade

Eighth Grade is most definitely going to be enjoyed by its target audience. The trials and tribulations that adolescents go through are very well demonstrated in this movie.

The acting was spot on. I can’t think of one person that didn’t bring their best. Most notably, Josh Hamilton. He plays the father, and my heart went out to him. The torment teenagers put their parents through is agonizing, but this guy was always smiling. He was a joy to watch.

I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone other than teenage girls. I found it to be torture to watch; I didn’t like middle school then, and feel no need to relive it now.

I’m confused why they let this movie out with an R rating. This movie is geared around coming-of-age kids, yet they put in sexual items that bump it to an R rating. Who do they want to see this?

In my opinion, this is yet one more bomb that A24 has released. I’ve yet to see one that lives up to its hype.

Grade: C-

About the Peetimes
This is a slow moving adolescent movie. Finding Peetimes was pretty simple, and even if you run over the allotted time, you’ll be able to catch up easily.

Movie Review – Christopher Robin

Winnie The Pooh was a wonderful part of my childhood. And then it became a big part of my son’s childhood, followed by my daughter’s, granddaughter’s, and finally my great granddaughter’s childhood. That said, I feel most qualified to review Christopher Robin.

I found it interesting that there were mostly adults in my theater who laughed frequently and loudly. We baby boomers do love a walk down memory lane.

The animation used to create Pooh and friends was beautiful and well done. The story flowed nicely and kept my interest right to the last moments of the movie.

Grade: A

About the Peetimes
Both Peetimes are pretty good, but if I had to pick, I’d say the 1st is a little better, because it contains less emotion than the 2nd.

Movie Review – The Darkest Minds

Here is yet another Young Adult Dystopian film that feels a lot like many others that came out of last decade’s love affair with young people who are either 1. the Chosen Ones or who have 2. Superpowers. Sometimes both apply. These characters even ask themselves what Harry Potter characters they would be in “real life”…and we come full circle between a meta-moment and in-narrative story telling.

In The Darkest Minds Children/Teens are placed in experiments (like The Maze Runner), or killed outright to save society (as in The Darkest Minds/The Hunger Games). They are abandoned in city simulations for unclear reasons (look to Divergence). And there are dozens of one-and two-shot similar films that will never find a filmatic resolution, box office stakes being too small to serve their small but ardent fanhoods.

Rule Number One: Make a good movie. Rule Number Two: Make a good movie. Lord of the Rings crashed and burned many times before settling on when Peter Jackson got it right. And then he still lost his touch with 75% of The Hobbit. Watership Down — referenced often, appropriately even, still hasn’t found a way to make this long, traumatic, yet ecstatic epic come to life.

There’s a reason so very many sci fi classics haven’t transferred to the big screen. Your material can be momentous or tripe, but if you have the triumvirate of good individual actors, good chemistry between them, and a director who’s on the right emotional page as the story, it will be a good movie. For a GREAT movie, you need a few more things. (I’ll save that topic for another day.)

So, what is The Darkest Minds? It’s somewhere between a decent movie and a good one. It might spawn a sequel. The kids need to grow into their roles (which actually did happen in the meta-referenced Harry Potter and at this point can’t happen in The Chronicles of Narnia). They need stakes more than the “oooh, mutants are scary, and mutant kids are scarier” line of thought that sent the Divergent series into final oblivion.

The Darkest Minds is pretty, and it’s fluffy, and it might have a chance. I’m hard on this genre, as it is one of my favorites. I’m going to think over this and possible adjust my grade.

Movie Grade: B-

About the Peetimes: Lots of scene changes happen in this YA origin story. You’ll be fine with any of the 3 Peetimes, although the 1st 2 are better. The 2nd Peetime is recommended, if you can manage it.

Related:

Sad, Sorry YA Franchises That Never Finished Their Stories

Movie Review – The Spy Who Dumped Me

Let’s face it, the spy/comedy genre isn’t exactly littered with high quality films. The genre leans on the fantasy of what it’s like when average people become enveloped in an international crisis…so we can eject ourselves from the drudgery of everyday life and fantasize about a life unplugged from the conventions of society.

That’s the situation Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) find themselves in. They are two individuals, very different from each other, who support each other like sisters. It’s basically a bro-mance for women. (A sis-mance?)

Not to knock Mila or Kate as actors, but they didn’t have to act much to pull this one off. It’s obvious they are really crazy close friends in real life. (LA Times: Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon play a more real female friendship for laughs in ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’).

Where The Spy Who Dumped Me shines is exploring how two friends can support each other into concurring unbelievable obstacles. The creators clearly wanted to create a narrative of female support and empowerment, and kudos to them for not making it painful to watch. During the movie I never felt the subplot of exploring how women solve their own problems, sans men, was forced.

What I find unique about this movie is that an external force introduces the two friends to the situation, but they decide to jump in anyway. They’re not dragged into it and then abandoned to their fate. They walk in willingly. And on top of that, they go in alone. There have no one to lean on, or trust, but themselves.

Everyone who goes to see this movie is probably only hoping for a few hours of crazy action, a few laughs…followed by a little day-dreaming of what we’d do if we were surreptitiously tossed into a real life drama of running around Europe — fighting and fleeing — from international terror networks. However, I think the real takeaway this movie provides is the alternative narrative that inspires us to ask: could I be as supportive to my friends and family in a situation like this?

We may not be able to live the life of a spy, unplugged from the conventions of society, but we can live a life where we create inspiring relationships with those we are closest to. It’s not often that a silly spy/comedy movie can actually give us attainable fantasies to strive for.

Grade: B+

About the Peetimes:
I found 2 good Peetimes that didn’t have any humor or action — which is really the best parts of the movie.

As silly as this movie is, there is some character development here, and there that makes the relationships meaningful. That’s why I would recommend the 1st Peetime over the 2nd: because the 2nd has a tiny bit of character development.

The Spy Who Loved, Shagged, and Dumped Me

Movie Review – Blindspotting

I think this movie was great. The acting and lyrical performance of Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal were excellent. I hope there are nominations in their future.

The movie itself touched on the two serious topics of police shootings and gentrification. I like this movie because it discussed the dual effect that each topic has on various parties involved, how people are defined by the opinions of others, and how we are all victims of implicit bias.

Grade: A

About the Peetimes:
This movie was both funny and serious at times. Since the movie was short and there were so many scenes that had dual meanings to the theme of the movie, I did find it difficult to get Peetimes; I managed to get two: one about half way in and the other 20 minutes before the end of the movie.

 

Movie Review – Teen Titans Go!

I’ll try to stay away from spoilers, but let it be said of Teen Titans Go To The Movies! that there are hilarious references to the Marvel universe, along with a multitude of other jabs toward superheroes in general.
The plot was typical of most animated movies about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. Lots of bathroom humor that kept the kiddies laughing in their seats, while keeping the adults entertained as well.
This is a great movie to get the kids out of the house, out of the heat, and out of parents hair for an afternoon.