A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Will Make You Feel Loved Again

mr fred rogers neighborhood trolley
Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) and Trolley.

I just came out from viewing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. And this is funny: last night I watched the award-winning 2018 documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I like being a sort of completist.

Bear this in mind: I don’t like documentaries.

I can’t think of another documentary I’d watch on purpose if’s not about science fiction (for example, later tonight I’m watching the Galaxy Quest retrospective <— see, that’s sci-fi).

But the Fred Rogers documentary is really something special. Partly riding on nostalgia, and partly posited as a wish fulfillment for adults who don’t like who they’ve become, knowing Mr. Rogers loved everybody makes all the difference. And “everybody” includes me. And YOU.

I cried like a baby during the documentary to be reminded that someone likes me. Just exactly the way I am.

So I was excited to catch Tom Hanks’ dramatized version of Fred Rogers. What did I walk away with? A complicated set of feelings.

First off, Hanks was just lovely in the part. At times he sounded a little more like southerner Forrest Gump than Fred Rogers, but the actor freely admitted he never intended to mimic Rogers. He wanted to capture the essence. And in that, I believed him.

When he talked to the camera and told me he liked me, I felt liked. I felt accepted and appreciated. And ultimately, though the film was ostensibly about a jaded reporter and his dysfunctional family — which would normally bore me silly — the message of loving acceptance came shining bright, shining through. The message was sincere and sorely needed in this era of intolerance and hate-mongering.

This is timely. This is needful.

What I didn’t like

I wanted more Fred Rogers. More Tom Hanks. He felt sidelined in his own movie. 75% of the film focuses on Lloyd Vogel (a sort of real, sort of fictional character). Way too much time was spent with Lloyd, his wife, his father, and various family members (the baby was super cute, though). I wasn’t caught up in the ‘reporter angle’. And I’ve been a reporter myself, although in my case that didn’t cause rifts in my family. This is a story ostensibly about Mr. Fred Rogers. I was expecting Lloyd’s tale to be a side-plot.

I realize the movie had to ramp up the drama to be a box office success, but what I didn’t expect was that meant taking the spotlight off Mr. Rogers and his fantasy neighborhood. I am deeply grateful I watched the documentary first, to reacquaint me with Trolley, Picture Picture, King Friday the XIII, and of course Daniel Tiger, since the Tom Hanks film didn’t go there enough.  Those too few segments taking place on Fred Rogers’ show were weirdly positioned as a dreamscape. And now it seems I must find those old PBS episodes to feel loved and cherished again.

31 seasons of loving acceptance, crossing several generations

The best moment on Neighborhood was — of all things — on a New York subway. Fred Rogers, recognizable TV star and all,  loved taking the Subway. In one scene, people in the subway car gave him the side eye at first, wondering if this was actually Rogers himself. Quickly deciding he was, everyone  (including two hardened NYC beat cops) sang his famous Won’t You Be My Neighbor song out loud to honor him.  I’ve read this actually happened.

You could see Hanks channeling the joy and gratitude of this beautiful experience. Rogers touched so many, in several generations.

Do you realize the show ran for a mind boggling 31 seasons? How many mothers, fathers, and children grew up hearing his message of tolerance and self-forgiveness? Grew up realizing we are not broken, and are all deserving of unconditional love? That we are liked for who we are.

Did anyone tell you this lately?  Do you tell this to the people YOU love?

As I said above, I didn’t care for the focus on the reporter and his family. I realize part of this was based on a real-life experience, but it was just your basic family drama, seen a gazillion times before. Yawn. I’m glad Lloyd learned what heroism really is, but it was all so telegraphed. Yes, he forgives his father. His family comes to realize familial love and ends up happier.

But could we get back to the Kingdom of Make Believe now?

Full Disclosure:

It hurt to see Lloyd’s relationship with his dying father. It hit a little too close to home. My father has a disease that steals him from me day by day. He was always my hero, and now he’s a shell of a person who needs more care than my mother and I can handle. I wish I had Mr. Rogers around to tell me how to handle the difficult emotions this brings up.

Sorry. Maybe that’s too much to share. But, as Mr. Rogers makes a point of telling us in this film, being open, honest, and accepting of things like death is one of our greatest challenges. What he says, actually (and this is deeply hopeful), is that “anything mentionable is handle-able.”

I hope so. As Mulder would say, ” I want to believe.”

And yes, I did cry at the end. I was moved by this singular, loving, kind man. I’m a sucker. I just wished there was more Fred Rogers in it.

Noteworthy observation:

I wouldn’t have noticed this if I didn’t just watch the documentary, but Joanne Rogers (Mr. Roger’s real life wife) makes a brief cameo in the food diner scene. I almost expected her to say, “I’ll have what she’s having,” but that’s another background story for a different type of movie.

Movie Grade: B+

 

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

mr rogers neighborhood
Even the trailer for this has me crying.

Everyone’s saying the Tom Hanks Mr. Rogers movie is great and I definitely plan to see it this Thanksgiving week. I remember loving “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” as a child, with the trolley and the cute puppet kingdom…but haven’t given the show another thought as the decades passed. Then 2018’s documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor hit the indie circuits, and people recalled Fred Rogers as a sort of folk hero.

I figured I’d watch the documentary before seeing the dramatic, wide release version.

I’m happy to report Won’t You Be My Neighbor is an absolutely lovely 90 minutes of time, well-spent. If you watch it before seeing Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you’ll go in with a greater understanding of this incredibly kind, compassionate man. I look forward to seeing Tom Hank’s take on it: I’m told Hanks channels Rogers’ essence, instead of performing an exact mimicry.

The documentary shows clips of the television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (which ran 31 seasons, beginning in 1968), interview segments with Fred Roger’s wife and sons, and a bit of background on what the show was about — mainly (and I didn’t realize this as a child) to provide children a role model for dealing with difficult emotions. The show promoted tolerance for others and self-love.

In a world where hate is accepted as the New Normal, being reminded of human kindness/acceptance of differences is hugely important.

Did I cry while watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor? You bet I did. The documentary felt like a long, warm hug. Fred Rogers somehow radiated love and patience to everyone he met, even through the TV screen, to thousands of children everywhere. I’d forgotten this.

How often do you hear “I like you just the way you are?”

My guess is, not enough. Perhaps never. And that’s a damn shame. It’s so easy to accept and love one another, and yet we don’t. Life hurts us and we get jaded. We harden our hearts. And sometimes we hurt each other because we don’t remember what’s it’s like to receive unconditional love.

Watching a grown man reach out to others through old puppets, especially the sensitive tiger Daniel (who, like The Velveteen Rabbit, has most of his fur loved off) was surprisingly heartwarming. You absolutely buy into the notion that Mr. Rogers loves everyone. And everyone includes me and you.

Watching this made me want to be better — to be like him. And it made me feel more optimistic about humanity in general. I don’t think it’s possible to watch Mr. Rogers do his thing and not be comforted.

And I for one am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review - A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodFirst of all, big kudos to the writers, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, and Noah Harpster. They put together an amazing story which showcased the brilliance of the beloved Fred Rogers. Although the story was only partially true (the character of Lloyd Vogal was based on writer Tom Junod) the embellishments were there to emphasize the true nature of our….hero.

Tom Hanks, of course, did a spectacular job of capturing the essence of Fred Rogers. The tone of Tom’s voice was a little off, but every inflection and nuance was shown respect by this talented actor. For me, it was in the eyes of Tom Hanks that revealed the absolute perfection in which he portrayed Mr. Rogers. It has been said that Tom has the kindest eyes in Hollywood, and this characteristic translated beautifully into the eyes of Rogers. So beautifully that it should garner, at the very least, an Oscar nod for Supporting Actor.

This is not a children’s movie; they’d be bored senseless. Instead, I believe the target audience are those who grew up watching Mr. Rogers. Or, as it is in my case, had children who watched the show.

I give A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood a solid ‘A’.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: I was able to get two good Peetimes in this movie. Both Peetimes have protracted scenes of very little dialog or complete silence as the characters have moments of deep reflection.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (PG-13) for some strong thematic material, a brief fight, and some mild language
Genres: Biography, Drama, True life story

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Ancestry.com has discovered that Tom Hanks and Fred Rogers are sixth cousins. That’s made all the more relevant due to Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in the critically-acclaimed movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. (Bringing a whole new meaning to getting into character.)

“It all just comes together, you see,” Hanks told Access Hollywood when the show informed him of the relation.

According to Ancestry.com, Fred and Tom share a 5x great-grandfather (Johannes Meffert), who immigrated from Germany to America in the 18th century.

At first glance, that seems pretty astounding, but when you consider probabilities of family trees overlapping, it becomes less and less impressive the further back in time you go. For instance, there’s nearly a 100% probability that any two people of European decent share an ancestor from 1,000 years ago.

And of course, if you want to get pedantic about it, that banana you had for breakfast was your 108-cousin. 🙂

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

What happened to Pete Miles – Ken’s son in Ford v Ferrari?

ford-v-ferrariPeter Miles was 14 years old — almost 15 —  at the time of his father’s fatal crash. Shortly after his father’s death, Peter went to work for Ken’s friend Dick Troutman at the Troutman and Barnes custom car shop in Culver City, CA. Peter worked there for 14 years.

Peter joined Precision Performance Inc. in 1986. He started out as a fabricator, and then became a mechanic, before advancing to the position of crew chief. Peter was the crew chief for Ivan Stewart when Stewart won the 1991 Nissan 400 in Nevada.

In a 2019 interview, Peter revealed that the last time he went to Le Mans was in 1965 with his father Ken.

Ray McKinnon in Ford v Ferrari – where have I seen him before?

Movie Review – Ford v Ferrari

Movie Review – Ford v Ferrari

Movie Review - Ford v FerrariIt’s not often that a movie gets perfect marks on writing, acting, and directing, but — pardon the pun — Ford v Ferrari hits on all cylinders.

No one could ask for better chemistry between the two A-list movie stars Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Every scene they had, both together and apart, was perfect.

The writers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth worked together on The Edge of Tomorrow — another great movie — and they’re joined by Jason Keller. I hope these three get together for a few more projects because they nailed this one.

Director James Mangold added another great job to his resume, along with Logan, Knight and Day, (a sleeper of a fun movie with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz) Kate & Leopold, and Girl, Interrupted. Mangold turns out some quality work on a regular basis. I hope he stays busy because we need more quality in theaters these days.

Finally, editors never get the credit they deserve, but this is a 2 1/2 hour movie that doesn’t feel nearly that long. Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker, and Dirk Westervelt should be on the short list for best editing come Oscar season. (And we managed to find plenty of good Peetimes for the RunPee app.)

Movie Review – Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat.)

Movie Review – Logan

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This is a long movie and deservedly has 5 Peetimes.

I think the 3rd and 5th Peetimes are best.

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

Movie Review – Harriet

Movie Review - HarrietAs many of you know, I am a fan of biopics. I said to myself, “Self, is Hollywood going to mess this story up?” But, surprisingly, they didn’t let me down. Harriet is a must-see for sure. Given that many people may not know the full story about Harriet Tubman, this movie does a good job with the golden nuggets about who she was and how she became one of the most renowned conductors of the Underground Railroad.

While watching, I didn’t feel as if the scenes were over dramatic or over saturated with the use of the N-word. The drama, location, and subtle use of humor were blended nicely for such grim subject matter.

The actors did a great job! I can never get enough of Janelle Monáe.

Cynthia Erivo played an excellent Harriet, although many of us may still be partial to Cicely Tyson in that role in 1978. Cynthia also sang one of the songs on the soundtrack — Stand Up. It will raise the hairs on your skin. Speaking of the soundtrack, you might add this one to your musical playlist; it’s hella good.

A couple of quick things that resonated for me. There’s a part in the movie where Harriet makes up her mind to go back to rescue others. Marie, played by Janelle Monáe, teaches Harriet how to blend in and not look or sound like a slave. That scene validated what I tell the women I mentor all the time. Don’t dress like the job you have; dress like the job you want.

The last thing that was paramount in Harriet’s journey was her realizing what her journey was all about. She went back with one mission, but she quickly had to shift gears when she learned that wasn’t her mission at all. That was the moment her real transformation into a courageous, strong-minded, ingenious hero began.

There’s a lot more I can say about this movie but I’ll stop here for now. Feel free to share your thoughts below. I want to know what resonated with you about the movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: It wasn’t too difficult selecting Peetimes. This is a biopic about a well-known figure in American and Canadian history; therefore, sensitivity to the plot was imperative. There are 3 Peetimes. I recommend the 2nd Peetime.

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

Rated (PG-13) for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

Movie Review – The Current War

Movie Review - The Current WarUnless there’s some compelling reason you have for seeing this movie in the theater, I think it would make an excellent movie night at home when it’s streaming online, or on DVD.

The only negative thing I have to say about this movie is that the pacing goes way too fast. The scenes cut back and forth between settings way too fast. A long scene in this movie is probably only 3 minutes long, and there’s few of them.

I think this movie could have been much better if it were 30 (or even 45) minutes longer. I felt like I was watching a movie and not experiencing a movie — if that makes any sense.

The casting and acting were good, but not great. It was cool to see Dr. Strange and Spider-Man side by side for a few scenes. But honestly, I think the character of Mr. Insull was totally wasted on Tom Holland. Not that Tom did a bad job — there just wasn’t anything in the script for him to work with.

If there’s one place the movie totally fails, it’s that they focus on the main characters and plot at the expense of establishing just how profoundly impactful electric lights were to the common man.

Can you remember that feeling the first time you used a smartphone? Now take that and multiply by a billion. Humanity had lived forever in darkness, minus a candle or campfire, until the advent of electric lights. (Yes, there were oil lamps on streets in select cities, but even that was ultra new.)

Electric lights, along with the phonograph and telephone, were nothing short of the introduction of magic. They just scratched the surface of expressing that in the movie.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: It was hard to get Peetimes for this movie because it cut from one short scene to another fairly consistently. Most of the longer scenes were too important, and full of dialog, to use as Peetimes. I have three Peetimes spaced through the movie. I can’t really say than any one of them is better or worse than the others.

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

Rated (PG-13) for some violent content and thematic elements
Genres: Biography, Drama, History

Movie Review – Judy

Movie Review - JudyI was sitting in the theater watching Judy when I realized I’m the target audience. I grew up idolizing this gifted woman and was well aware of her continuous struggles to rid herself of the demons that seemed to dictate her life. So I feel most qualified to review this movie.

When you see Renee Zellweger’s interpretation of Judy Garland, you’ll see why everyone (that matters) is raving about her performance. Some people (who really don’t matter) are panning Renee’s performance as over-exaggerated and off-key.

I think perhaps these people didn’t grow up knowing the real Judy Garland — they only know Dorothy Gale. Renee’s gesticulations were spot on. And because Renee’s voice didn’t reflect the golden tones of a sixteen year old girl singing about rainbows and such, she was unduly criticized. Director Rupert Goold explained that during 1969, Judy’s voice was older, and the years had not been nice to her vocal cords, nor the rest of her body. In short, Renee nailed it. Move over Oscar #1, Mamma’s bringing home Oscar #2.

I have to say that in my theater the demographics were couples over sixty. I spoke with several couples who found, just as I did, that Renee’s interpretation was spot-on. I fear that movie-goers younger than fifty will not get the same enjoyment as the baby boomers will have. But this does not include folks under fifty who actually have very good cinematic taste.

In all respects, this is an excellent movie; well acted, directed, and written. Also, major kudos to the costume and makeup departments. I see an Oscar nod in their future. BTW, the ending alone is worth the price of a ticket.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: About midway through the movie I’ve given you a 5 minute break. You may want to take advantage of this Peetime, because it’s the last one, and there’s still about another half hour of the movie left.

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

Rated (PG-13) for substance abuse, thematic content, some strong language, and smoking
Genres: Biography, Drama, History, True life story

The Essential Will Smith

 

Gemini Man opens October 11.  The name Will Smith has become synonymous with  sci-fi action films.  Smith has had a long and varied career, even if his genre roles are my favorite.  I’ve been a fan of his since I was a kid.  Somewhere I have a Soundtracks cassette of eight-year-old me rapping (or attempting to)  “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”  (Once upon a time, kids, we paid to do karaoke and they gave us recordings of it.)  On the eve of Will Smith’s latest movie, let’s take a look at his most essential performances.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Will Smith’s first significant acting job was starring in this long-running sitcom.  He played a fish out of water who left a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia to live with his rich relatives in California after getting in a fight.  But you probably already knew that from the famous, catchy theme song.  I had loved Will aka The Fresh Prince for his novelty rap songs like “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”  This show was what made him a household name though.

Six Degrees of Separation

This was one of Will Smith’s first movie roles and it proved he could play serious parts.  Smith’s character interrupts a rich couple’s dinner party claiming to be a friend of their Ivy League children.  He charms his way into their home but there may be more to him than there appears.  This movie, adapted from John Guare’s play, is the basis of the Kevin Bacon game aka Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.   (I can link Will to Kevin in 2 degrees.  Will Smith stars with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.  Tommy Lee Jones stars with Brad Pitt in Ad Astra.  Brad Pitt is in Sleepers with Kevin Bacon.)

Bad Boys

Will Smith joined fellow sitcom star Martin Lawrence for this action film where they play detectives.  The duo proved to be so popular that not only did they make a second movie, a third one is slated to come out next year and a fourth one is in pre-production.

Independence Day

Man, I miss 1996!

This blockbuster set a precedent for a while.  It just wasn’t summer without a Will Smith movie, most of them coming out on Fourth of July weekend.  Smith plays a military pilot who helps defend Earth against an alien attack.  The special effects may seem dated today, but at the time the White House getting blown up by a UFO was the coolest thing any of us had ever seen.  The movie became the highest-grossing film of 1996.  The following summer would see Smith working with aliens again.

Men in Black 

Don’t look at this or they’ll flashy-thing you.

Based on a comic book, this sci-fi comedy blockbuster paired Will Smith with Tommy Lee Jones.  They made for a winning team.  They play secret agents who are part of an organization that supervises alien lifeforms on Earth and hides their existence from humans.  The movie spawned three sequels and a cartoon series.

Ali

Smith plays boxer Muhammad Ali in this biopic.  His performance earned him his first Oscar nomination.  (I’m not going to discuss his second Oscar nomination for The Pursuit of Happyness.  If you want to see Smith in an inspirational role, watch The Legend of Bagger Vance instead.  It’s much less schmaltzy.)  Sadly, this is one of those films where the movie isn’t as good as the performance.  But it’s still worth seeing.  Will Smith becomes Muhammad Ali.

 

I Am Legend

I still feel like Smith was within a hair’s breadth of getting an Oscar nomination for this role.  You can feel his loneliness and isolation as the last man on earth after a zombie apocalypse.  The scene where he begs a mannequin to talk to him is SO GOOD!  This is easily one of my top films of 2007.  It’s a change from the more humorous sci-fi roles of ID4 and MIB.  This one’s more serious.  And he still rocks it.  It’s amazing how they were able to film/create an abandoned New York City, especially Times Square.

Focus

I love movies about con men.  And this one has Margot Robbie to boot.  Usually, Smith plays the hero.  It’s rare to see him play an antihero (like in Hancock).  This is a fun movie with some twists.

Concussion

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in this important film about how football can lead to brain damage.  He was nominated for a Golden Globe but snubbed by Oscar for his performance about a doctor who takes risks to do the right thing.  This underrated performance is one of his best roles.

Suicide Squad

Deadshot putting up with Harley.

There aren’t words for how bummed I am that Smith won’t be reprising his role as Deadshot for the new Suicide Squad movie.  He made a great antihero, a villain you cared about.  He was a badass but he was also a loving father and made both halves of that believable.  He also had great rapport with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.  My only consolation is that he’ll probably play someone equally badass in the Marvel Cinematic Universe eventually.

Aladdin

No one else will ever be Robin Williams.  However, Smith brought his own original spin to the role of the Genie.  It’s hard not to enjoy this new version of the classic.

Don’t miss the best parts of Gemini Man or any of your other favorite movies.  Always use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for the latest movies like Ad Astra, Joker, and the upcoming Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.  You can also keep up with the latest movie news and reviews by following us on Twitter @RunPee and liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/RunPee/).