Movie review: Captain America: Civil War

I loved parts of Captain America: Civil War; I liked the rest, and there wasn’t anything to dislike.

First, the airport fight was great. It was everything you could hope for, and most importantly there were some big surprises that weren’t spoiled in the trailers.

The plot was good and easy to follow, but I don’t want to say anything more about that, for risk of spoiling exactly what goes down. It’s all very enjoyable, with a few decent laughs.

I think this might be the best acted of the Marvel movies. Robert Downey Jr. had a lot more to work with in this movie than the others. We usually only see him as snarky or melancholy. In this film, we get to see glimpses of his angry side — and he’s really good at it.

This is a Captain America-centered movie, but just barely. In many respects, the character arc of Iron Man shines brighter than anything else. And it feels like an *Avengers* film throughout.

Grade: A-

Movie review: Finding Dory

If *Finding Nemo* is pure gold, then *Finding Dory* is about 90% pure gold, which is still much better than most movies in this genre.

There was plenty of fun to be had, and the messages of inspiration were well told. I think kids will enjoy and learn from this movie. Adults who liked *Finding Nemo* will have a good time as well.

Grade: A

Movie review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It’s harder to love this movie than any of the *Harry Potter* films. The setting is rather gray and dreary, and the costumes are mundane, even for the time period. Main characters Newt and Tina are both underplayed, and hard to get a feel for. Their sidekicks, Jacob and Queenie, are much more appealing. There IS humor, but aside from a few really good “beast” scenes, nothing here feels very magical.

It’s possible the story will improve with subsequent viewings, but I found myself – a die hard HP fan who publicly dresses in full Hogwarts attire – not really caring much about the story. I couldn’t relate to the actual plot, and found this dense tale a bit confusing. I can’t imagine a casual Rowling fan would follow much of the situation. Things blow up and explode into little CGI bits, over and over again. Who is the smoky creature, who is the creepy little girl, and why is Colin Farrel so grim and stalkery? I’m not satisfied with that ending of the movie at all, or the reveal. Yet I’m just so thankful to have more of the Wizarding World to look at, and the abundance of amusing interactions between Newt and Jacob carry a lot of goodwill.

It also took me a while to clue in that Newt seems to be on the Autism spectrum, which would explain his constant under-emoting. He was hard to connect with when he wasn’t interacting with his creatures. I’m guessing — now that I understand he has trouble with actual people — that the movie will improve on re-watch. [Note from much later: *Fantastic Beasts* does get more fantastic. It’s now a beloved movie within my collection of *Harry Potter* universe films. I’m excited for the next one.]

I’m giving this movie a B+, but largely from grading on a curve within the *Harry Potter* universe. I miss Ron, Hermione, and Hogwarts…and Quidditch, classes, and teachers. I wanted some brooms (apparating is boring to watch), and those cool English wizard pub scenes. I missed the intricate detail of places like Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. We did get an excellent Wizarding Speakeasy scene. Being inside the suitcase was rewarding. The Niffler and Bowtruckle (he’s like Baby Groot!) were adorable, and the Thunderbird: simply magnificent.

I saw this movie in 2D, and will see it again in 3D. If that improves things, I’ll adjust the grade. Should you see this film? Yes. But don’t expect lush Scottish scenery or a sense of magical awe in this outing.

UPDATE: I saw this a second time, the very next day. This time I saw it in 3D, in a good seat, in a better room at the cinema. Don’t waste your time in a small theater with this – seeing it properly improved things a great deal. Also, the film is simply better upon a second viewing experience. The actual ‘evil’ plot is still tedious, but the Beast scenes really are very good. Any time we spend in the suitcase is precious. So I did upgrade the film to a B+.

I did want to add that enjoyment of the film DOES require significant investment in the books of Harry Potter, or at Pottermore online. You will need to have read the books to understand why Grindelwald is important. The HP movies alone don’t give much context with what happened in Dumbledore’s era.

And appreciating the Beasts themselves is better if you’ve read the 2001 Hogwarts “textbook” *Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them*, unless you are already conversant with the critters in question. These Beasts aren’t the well-known ones you might have expected — no gryffins, sphinxes, or even dragons. They’re pretty damn obscure. Ever hear of a Demiguise?

If you like JK Rowling’s Wizarding World, make sure you get in early for good seating in a quality theater — much more enjoyable. At this time, this movie is planned to be in one of five with these new characters, just so you’re mentally prepared.

Grade: B+

Movie review: Star Wars: A New Hope

*A New Hope* runs very closely to the number one spot that *Empire Strikes Back* occupies in the SW oeuvre — clipping its heels, as it were. It started the whole mythology and adventure in a well told opening story. It’s almost perfect. But the “official” name, *A New Hope,* is just lame. This movie will always be *Star Wars* to me. (And here I show my age. Yes, I was 12 in the theaters for *Star Wars*, and waited in those huge lines to see it over and over again.)

Grade: A+

Movie review: Aliens

This is, hands down, the best science fiction action movie of all time. There’s nothing more that need be said.

I don’t think anyone gives Carrie Henn, who plays Newt, enough credit for delivering, what I think, is the best child performance ever. She simply nailed it. And then never, ever, appeared in another film ever.

James Cameron isn’t mentioned often enough as one of the greatest directors of all time. He swings for the fences and repeatedly knocks them out of the park. And he takes huge risks as well.

Grade: A+

Movie review: The Secret Life Of Pets

*The Secret Life Of Pets* will appeal to movie goers of all ages. It has all the ingredients needed for a hit movie: outrageously funny, great characters, lots of action, and a cute plot with a message.

My theater was packed with parents and children alike, making it difficult to know who was laughing the loudest. I give big kudos to the casting director for the voices, especially Albert Brooks voicing the falcon, Tiberius.

Delightfully, I give *The Secret Life Of Pets* a well deserved A.

Grade: A

Movie review: Alien: Covenant

Here at RunPee we make a concerted effort to get the reviews for blockbuster movies up by Friday morning. Unfortunately, this week my heart just wasn’t in it. Not because I didn’t care for the movie, but because my heart was being poked and prodded by a team of professionals who didn’t care that I had a review to write. I genuinely want to thank my readers for being patient (during the time I was a patient) at my local hospital (pun intended).

*Alien: Covenant* was indeed a spectacular movie. Even though it was a physically dark movie, I found it rich and beautiful in its presentation. It goes without saying that the directing and pacing was spot on. The actors did a fine job, but I must give extra kudos to Michael Fassbender for his double role as David and Walter. I could actually believe that I was watching two different actors, rather than one actor playing two different roles.

Fans of *Prometheus* will be blown away by *Alien: Covenant*. And the wait for the next installment will give die-hard sci-fi fans something to look forward to, other than *Comic-Con*. Be strong; we will be rewarded for our diligence.

Grade: A

Movie review: Wonder Woman

I think this is easily the best of the Justice League series so far. (Not that that bar has been set very high.) What this movie has going for it is great casting. Gal Gadot as Diana/WW and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor have really good chemistry together. There were plenty of humorous and touching scenes between them.

It’s also refreshing to see a super hero movie where the main character is innocent and hopeful, and especially not filled with angst.

The story was predictable, but I’m not going to hold that against anyone because so many super hero origin stories have been told recently – there’s not many untraveled roads left to explore.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with the fight scenes. The moves and slow motion felt cartoony.

Grade: B

Movie review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Definitely one of the better Avenger movies, and I would say it’s easily the best *Spider-Man* of the bunch. This is a much lighter film than its predecessors. There was laughter throughout the movie, with a few really hilarious moments.

The acting was superb. Tom Holland, as the Spider-Man, was delightful. Michael Keaton (Vulture) brought a depth to his character that was both likable and terrorizing.

The story had some predictability to it, but this *is* an origins tale. We’ve seen so many of these — even several *Spider-Man* origins — that it’s hard to do something fresh and still take the time to develop a worthy villain.

I think the problem with all the previous *Spider-Man* movies was that he was alone in his universe, as the only superhero – a problem created by *Sony* owning the movie rights. Now that Spider-Man is wrapped up in the Avenger’s universe, he can be the kid we want to see grow up, instead of instantly having to be “the man.”

In this installment, Peter Parker is 15. I hope we get to see at least two more solo Spider-Man movies with him in high school, exploring smaller adventures in his neighborhood, instead of constantly trying to save the city or planet.

Grade: A-

Movie Review – Coco (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

This wildly beautiful animated film celebrates Latino culture, inter-generational family connections, one possible interpretation of the afterlife, and, most obviously, what the Day of the Dead is all about.

I’m not an expert on Mexican holidays, but it felt authentica. The animated humans were pretty adorable, and the Miguel/Hector interactions  stole my dark little heart. Then the perito…what can I say? He seemed firstly like a typical cutsie sidekick, but we get a little Scooby treat in the end.

Even the cast and plot held together — which in animated films can be hit or miss. Coco is on the level of Inside Out for me: giving me deeper things to think about, with a visual feast to sit back and enjoy.

The “real world” first act was only okay, (which brings the grade down from a perfect A+ score) – kind of like a Mexican Footloose – but once we let any semblance of reality go, crossing the bridge to the afterworld, things become fabuloso, wacky, quirky, and really, really fun.

New anthology films in this undead setting could start a whole new franchise. Like traipsing to a more colorful Narnia, we’d enjoy staying in the brightly festooned, colorful cities, teeming with glitzy skele-people and their bold, big lives-after-death. Nice place to visit, I think.

What this film does best of all (besides making me sob like a baby: be warned) lies in the pretty. It’s gorgeous. Every scene in the land of the dead is phenomenal.  Worth seeing in 3D, and definitely worth owning as a DVD, to play over and over again, no matter what your nationality, or afterlife belief.

Good, solid entertainment for anyone, at any age. This one reaches the ranks of the better animated movies (feel free to post those in the comments for discussion). Darkly beautiful: thanks, Pixar!

Movie Grade: A