Newie Review – The Reef – Low Budget, Decent, Non Campy Shark Movie

This 2010 Aussie shark film should be fairly simple to review, as nothing much happened besides a lot of open ocean swimming. If you’re frightened easily and don’t like horror, don’t worry: you won’t have much trouble watching The Reef. It’s not that kind of movie. I’m not entirely clear what kind of movie this is, actually. A low-budget survival tale with mostly dimwitted people?

There are five folks trapped on top of an upturned ship who have to swim 12 miles in the tropics to reach an unseen island and possible safety. Will they reach it? Does it matter? It’s one of those attrition flicks where you have to guess who’s the last man standing — or swimming, as the case may be. It’s all very predictable, but surprisingly, not scary.

I liked the beginning. It started slow and built up the characters pretty well. It was well-told and well-acted at that point, and the scenery couldn’t be beat.

Nitpicking where I shouldn’t

Unfortunately, once the swimmers hit the water, they devolved into screechy fish bait. That’s not how you cross an ocean safely. I could nitpick the heck out of this. Hanging around the bloody dead people too long isn’t wise (that’s what chum is). Don’t kick up a storm like prey animals either. They also stopped a lot. I kept shouting ,”Keep swimming! But gently. Keep going with less splashing!”

I used to teach wilderness survival  and know something about it, so I’m being harsher on The Reef than most would be. It’s like trying to watch a film like Backdraft with a firefighter. When the one guy who knew something about sailing dove under the ship to retrieve items, I saw a TON of things the survivors could have used that he just ignored. It was a whole sailing ship loaded with DAYS of useful supplies. Arg. Make me stop whining.

What I liked

The plot was lean and easy to follow, and the shark wasn’t absurd — he actually seemed like a real animal instead of an insane monster. And The Reef wasn’t campy or gory. The ‘captain’ character was the guy who kept his head and was worth watching. 

But the ending was…sudden? Underwhelming? Perhaps the real beauty of The Reef is that it’s based on a true story and the producers didn’t feel a need to over-dramatize anything. These things happen. It’s tragic (mostly), and you’d never want to live though this. But movie-wise, it’s just on the high end of average. This isn’t like Jaws (an A+ film indeed). Or even The Meg. (We gave that a B-). I still have to see 47 Meters Down (I know, I know, the sequel’s coming). Come to think of it, I want to watch The Shallows and Deep Blue Sea too. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Overall: if you want a high-octane gruesome shark tale, keep looking. There’s plenty of them out there. I actually liked The Reef for its mild plotting…I just didn’t love it.

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Meet the Real Megalodon

Best Jaws Iconic Moments, plus Movie Analysis (videos)


 

Here’s the trailer for 47 Meters Down 2, set to arrive in 2019:

 

Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

margot robbie as harleyquinn in suicide squad
What? We’re bad guys.

Surprise, Surprise. Justice League is Actually a Good DC Flick

Movie Truism: Maybe going into a movie with low expectations makes it better. I didn’t bother to see DC’s highly anticipated 2016 Suicide Squad in the theaters because it was so lowly-regarded among critics and viewers alike. So I just let it slip by.

Cut to 2019. When I heard James Gunn  — beloved director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — was taking over the creative reins of Suicide Squad 2 (as a ‘soft’ reboot), hope flared anew that finally DC would have a group film brilliant enough, funny enough, and just damn worthy enough to counter the amazing ensembles produced by the MCU.

A Whole Lot of Good

The stars of Suicide Squad come down to two charismatic roles — Will Smith’s Deadshot — a decent man trapped by a nasty super-skill set, and Margo Robbie’s gleefully, lethally, nutso Harley Quinn.

Here’s Quinn’s efficient backstory from the movie:

Honestly, I enjoyed the whole misfit group. There was a one-take moment where I grinned from ear to ear, as the misfit crew executes a dynamic Hero Shot. It’s an expected trope in superhero films, right? In Suicide Squad, it felt earned and triumphant…until the next second, where you realized, hey, this is a Villain Shot. An Anti-Hero Shot? An Anti-Villain Shot? The sheer amount of dissonance was delightful.

(Some spoilers for Suicide Squad 1 follow)

This is good story making. Really. Suicide Squad had a ton of viewer treats that broke from DC’s usual grim-is-good comic world. I too wanted to see “The Bat” put away: as Quinn says, “He ruins all the fun.” Batman shows up, but he’s relegated to the background. Superman’s only mentioned in passing. Good and good. This isn’t about them.

There are so many Easter Eggs in the background, with great signage, throwaway lines, and outright allusions to other characters inside the DC universe and out. [They even predicted 2019’s “Evil Superman” Brightburn! ] This is some lively shit.

Another treat: the appropriately brief cameo of Flash. (Ezra Miller can do a lot in a small role, and was a bright spot in the mostly dreary Justice League.)

Suicide Squad has Two Great Music Tracks

As on Guardians of the Galaxy (which Suicide Squad was supposed to mirror) the extensive rock playlist is perfectly used. It’s great that movies list their songs during the credits, so I can remember to add them to my tune rotations. Suicide Squad leaned heavily into The Rolling Stones, which felt just right.

The second track — that instrumental background music we generally consider the “soundtrack” — was top-notch. In my notes, I scribbled several scenes where the music greatly underscored a character’s growth, emotional confusion, or was just plain…well…heroic. No other way to put it.

Another movie truism: bad guys can be heroes, and heroes can be bad guys. I think DC’s entire oeuvre is an ode to this concept.  (Exceptions: Wonder Woman and maybe Shazam.)

I’ll say this, though — the over-reliance on Queen tunes in genre films is starting to wear on me. When a scene perfectly uses a song in one film, said tune should be retired, like a great athlete’s number. So hearing Bohemian Rhapsody used by this crew was a nice moment, but as far as I’m concerned, BoRhap belongs to the wonderfully wacky Wayne’s World, forever. Can’t Stop Me Now was jarring in The Umbrella Academy, because why would anyone want to compete with the iconic zombie scene in the Winchester in Shaun of the Dead? (“Kill the Queen!”) And ripping Spirit in the Sky off the back of Guardians of the Galaxy went beyond homage.

Exposition and the Suicide Squad Characters

This is how you do it. With a large cast of super powered and/or crazy people to introduce, the best solution is to make the movie about THEM, not a MacGuffin plot. In a surprisingly smart move, that’s what Suicide Squad did. I loved the stylized flashback scenes of these criminals doing what they do best, their blink-fast list of skills, and how they each got taken down. These were very amusing scenes. Killer Crock especially was a hoot (Crock doesn’t seem actually evil, unlike most of the crew). His line about being beautiful was unexpected and well-played.

We also got some meaningful scenes with DeadShot in a text-book example of how to tell an emotional backstory in an efficient, effective way.

Speaking of DeadShot, he was a natural group leader, and Will Smith carried the movie effortlessly. Strangely, Smith apparently bugged on the James Gunn Suicide Squad 2 sequel. The news is Idris Alba is slated to recast Smith, which seems like a fair trade. Alba is the man, woefully underused as Heimdall in the MCU.

How About The Big Bad?

What really brought Suicide Squad down was the villain, and here I mean The Incubus. I’ll treat him separately from his sister, The Enchantress.

Actually, I don’t have time to discuss bad writing. The Incubus has zero development and isn’t worth delving into. He’s overpowered and boring. Next!

The Enchantress showed some promise in her CGI form, but when little June Moon started writhing around, it looked ridiculous. I appreciated the line that Mankind worships machines instead of gods now, but nothing was done with that intriguing concept. Fail. I don’t care. Bad villains are an ongoing superhero problem, but I mostly ignore that at this point.

An ensemble origin movie isn’t about who they fight, in any case. It’s about  group-building and world-building, which Suicide Squad got very right.

And the Joker?

Now, let’s talk about the real controversial role: Jared Leto’s Joker. So many Jokers over the years. Some get it right. All are distinctive.

I’ve got my favorites, but Leto’s not one of them: I’ll just say I’m glad his role was little more than an extended cameo. Let’s keep it that way in the sequel. Quinn on her own is much more fun and I prefer her out of the Joker’s shadow. With the Suicide crew she’s a fascinatingly deranged soul, instead of being a pet to the Joker. (Seriously, he whistles for her like a dog.)

I’ll give this Joker one thing: he had one deeply interesting line. It resonated so strongly for me that I wrote it down to think about —

“Desire becomes surrender…surrender becomes power.”

Suicide Squad, Overall

Something I hoped Suicide Squad would do is create real stakes and jeopardy…where not everyone you like is going to make it out alive. I had a feeling who that would be if they went there, and was satisfied with the payout when they did. It’s a brave gamble to take when you’re working with an ensemble you’re hoping to grow.

However, I didn’t buy their warm family feelings after sharing feelings over a few drinks, but I’ll give them this — bonds can form fast in life-threatening situations. And they had so much in common on a fundamental level: severely misguided people, good at being bad, damaged moral compasses, isolated, frequently abused, seen as the dregs of humanity, then abandoned in a dark hole with no hope of atonement.

Still, I’ll forgive some storytelling shortcuts in a movie this amusing.  With Gunn in the saddle, I’ve high hopes for Suicide Squad 2.

Color me pleased. I’m happy to add a third movie to the DCEU that I actually enjoyed, along with Wonder Woman and Shazam.

(BTW, stay through to the end credit scenes. Justice League was no Avengers, but it was thrilling to see JL’s inception anyway.)

Movie Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy Ex-Director James Gunn to Direct Suicide Squad 2

Movie Review – Batman vs. Superman

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

Is Shazam Part of the DC Universe or a Stand-Alone Film? How Shazam Could Fix the DCEU

Virgin Movie Review – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

I miss a lot of animated features working for RunPee, since that’s really RunPee Mom’s genre, and I see mostly science fiction, fantasy, and superhero blockbusters. So little gems like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs from Sony’s Animation Studio frequently slip past my radar for years. I just caught it with a congenial friend on Netflix and was pretty charmed.

The technobabble plot isn’t exciting and the characters aren’t actually memorable, but the creative scenes of food, food, and more food plummeting from the sky is distinctive and sort of brilliant. What happens to get to the point of hot dog hail, ice cream snow, nacho cheese fountains, meatball asteroids, and spaghetti tornadoes is beside the point.

Kids will enjoy the utter weirdness of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, but more pleasingly, there’s a lot of bizarre adult humor that will go right over kids’ heads. I kept looking at my friend in mild shock when they went places I normally find a bit risque (like nipple hair reacting to the changing weather). The wacky background signs and funny throw-away lines are worth a few rewind giggles. Honestly, I expect no less from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo later responsible for the absolutely brilliant Lego Movie films.

Apparently the sequel isn’t worth seeing, so I’m quitting while I’m ahead — this isn’t the Toy Story saga, after all. But if you’re bored and looking for an amiable story with a unique disaster theme and yellow Jello palaces, give this flick a try.

As a plus, the heroes dig science — always a good message in my book.

Movie Grade: C+

Are the Four Lego Movies Sequels or Prequel Films?

Movie Review – The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

Movie Review – The LEGO Movie

Rewatch Movie Review – Stardust – A Great Vintage Fantasy Film

“A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now that’s a question.”

And with those opening lines we are immediately enchanted by the world of “Stardust” (2007). And enchanting is exactly what we all would wish a fantasy movie would do for us every time we go to see one.

Now, I already had high hopes for Stardust because there were names in it like Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Peter O’Toole, and Ian McKellan. But what I didn’t realize was how little these people had to do with this movie. Don’t get me wrong, the parts they played were very important, and the storyline would have limped horribly without them. (Especially DeNiro –- who somehow managed to pull off convincingly the part of a cross-dressing pirate as happy trying on lipstick as he was slitting the throats of his enemies –- truly bizarre.)

The Plot of Stardust

But the stars of this movie are the unassuming youngsters that make up the love triangle (square?) running the entire plot.

I realize you’re probably thinking, “this has been done before, and before, and before.” Except I doubt most of the love stories you’ve watched before has the young woman being wooed actually been a real-life star, fallen from the sky.

And to make her plight worse –- not only is there a young man trying to catch her to take her back to the first young lady he is in love with, but there are also 3 witches who wish to cut out her heart and eat it. Because apparently eating star’s hearts keeps one young and beautiful. (I see a big run on Hollywood surgical centers -– and me in jail for suggesting this.)

But if this all weren’t bad enough –- the King of this magical kingdom has just died, and left no named heir except three squabbling brothers (there were seven, but four of them have already been killed off by their siblings.) This is a blood-thirsty bunch we have here.

So across one side of the kingdom race 3 brothers for the King’s necklace, and across the other side races a witch and a very nice boy for a fallen star.

Need I say that all these racing entities run into each other? Oh, yeah – there was that cross-dressing pirate, too.

Why you need to see Stardust

I refuse to divulge anymore of the movie. I will however say, Stardust is one of the most refreshing films I have seen in many years. My entire family watched it – me, my husband, my 17 year old son, my 11 year old daughter, and my six year old son – and we all loved it. We pull it out when there is nothing on TV and we want something fun to watch.

Stardust is rated PG-13 for a little bit of fighting violence, with mostly swordplay and a little risqué humor which will go mostly over the kids’ heads (unless you have bright kids).

Definitely add this one to your family DVD cabinet!

Movie Grade: A

A Godzilla Newbie Watches King of the Monsters

Why do I only see old movies in the Movie List?

Learn More About The RunPee App

 

Want to be a MIB? A Satirical Review of the Original Men in Black (1997)

men in black poster
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, out to save you from the scum of the universe

*Flash*

Everyone listen now: what you may think you just experienced is a house party with drunk teenagers and a crazy, lonely lady. In actuality, you traveled back in time 22 years to help us, the Men in Black, save the galaxy from an alien invasion. We’re looking for some new recruits and think all of you have potential, so you can call me Agent N. Let me explain what happened here today, so you can determine if you want to join us.

Let me set the scene. First, the Men In Black is an organization that keeps track of every alien life form not from Earth.

Second, we recently got a rookie named Agent J (former name Will Smith), who was partnered with our ace in the hole Agent K (former name Tommy Lee Jones).

Third, it just so happened that an alien bug decided to crash land here in search of something. We later found out he was looking for an alien prince hiding himself and a whole galaxy here on Earth. Long story short, the rook’s first day on the job somehow was smooth sailing — even though you may be hearing all of this thinking, “There’s no way this can go well”. No matter what you think, that’s the basics of what you need to know.

Now, let me explain some tiny details that might help you determine if you want to join the Men in Black permanently or not. Without a doubt, some of the jokes we like to crack on the job don’t land like we wish, but our aim is still pretty good. Especially between Agent J’s strong charisma and Agent K’s deadpan delivery, bouncing off each other.

You may also see some of our alien companions and realize they actually do look good, even though you all are from the future. Our 1997 technology advanced the human eye to make everything seem much better. When our alien friends are there, you can’t properly distinguish them from when they’re not there. And don’t tell them otherwise.

If you haven’t seen the report yet, consider this a warning. Our job may not be glamorous, even at the climax of our mission, which in this most recent mission was exactly the case. From what I’ve seen on the report, apparently all that happened was Agent J distracted the alien by swinging some sticks and getting flung around, while Agent K damaged the creepy-crawly in a slow but effective way…just for some girl from the morgue to give the final blow.

Everyone who has seen the report keeps talking about Frank the Pug and the Noisy Cricket, since apparently they stole the show. So if a dog they talked to for 3 minutes oozes enough charisma to leave a lasting impression, so can the Men in Black.

And of course, we need to have a moment of silence for Agent K…who at the end of his mission revealed that he wasn’t looking for Agent J to be a partner, but to be a replacement. For Men in Black agents who show no emotion to begin with, we were heartbroken to see Agent J use the neuralyzer on Agent K. Thankfully, we had a happy ending, but a heart-wrenching one at that.

Now it is time for you to decide if you’re going to join us in the Men in Black or not. If you are, you can stop here and you’ll get further notice later. If not, then let’s walk this way and let me explain what the neuralyzer is. ↓

……

……

A neuralyzer is a special tool we use to make sure you don’t remember anything we don’t want you to, so look right here at the red dot and…

*Flash*

…What you just witnessed here today is a couple of high school girls who decided to live it up a little after not going to any parties at all and instead spent all their time studying…

– – Written by RunPee guest writer Nicholas Collier, who secretly wants to join the MIB. Nick says, “I’ve been watching movies since I got my glasses in 5th grade. Movies are what I love, what I know, and what I aspire to create. Find me @LightCameraNick on twitter, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”  

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First View Movie Review – Jumanji (1995)

jumanji-game-box
Would you play this game? Like, ever?

Adoring as I do Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle — my favorite film of 2017 — I looked forward to finally watching the original Jumanji with Robin Williams. My understanding was the game updates itself for its era, meaning the 1995  game would be a vintage style board game — with an actual ‘board’ and dice. The kind of game where you move little pieces around, and the winner is the one who gets to the end first. (Warning: spoilers follow for Jumanji 1 &2.)

Problems with the Jumanji Board Game

What I didn’t expect was…well, several things. It doesn’t take place in the Jumanji world — a fantasy element I loved in Welcome to the Jungle. Instead, the jungle elements come to Earth, but only in an’ immersive’ way at the climax.

Second, I didn’t expect the original game to be so ludicrous and mean-spirited. The board game makes no sense. NONE. You have to randomly survive each roll of the dice, and it doesn’t seem like either skill or chance is involved.

In a typical board game, some turns reward the player. In this Jumanji sequel, every single die roll is a nightmare. Some player results are merely bad; others are downright demonic. I guess that fits in with the opening scene in historical times, where the sentient game is actually implied to be evil.

In Jumanji 2, it became an interesting video game, with lots of cool clues for each gamer. I like clues, especially ones the viewer can follow along and guess at. J2 didn’t cheat, although misdirection was in play. But the game didn’t seem sinister.

And lastly, there’s the reset-button ending. This isn’t how the game ends in J2, which confused me. If that was true, then none of the kids in Jumanji 2 would still have been around at the end. (J2 is a direct sequel, not a reboot.)

Back to Jumanji the First

To be fair, Jumanji 1 had some incredible set-pieces. The CGI looks as bad as one would expect of the time, but you get swept away (and the characters literally do get swept away) by the creative sequences. I think the indoor lagoon was my favorite, but also loved the lion in the bed, and the vicious man-eating vine plant scenes. It killed me when the vines crunched the police car.

And the monkey scenes? Meant as comic relief, they totally tanked. They looked bad, acted like Gremlins on speed (and that’s saying a lot)…and maybe were hilarious at the time? The mosquitoes were much, much more cool.

Robin Williams (and the Rest)

Unfortunately, Williams wasn’t exactly funny in this film. I’d say he was even subdued, and I wonder if this part of his life was more about his internal demons than creative work. The younger version of his character had more life to him.

I get that 26 years in a alternate world will change you, but I don’t think that’s what happened here. Normally Williams brings nuance and a sparkle to any role, but even his ‘silly’ Jumanji scenes felt off.

Knowing in hindsight Williams was deeply unhappy makes watching this 1995 movie painful, but he seemed to enjoy roles like The Genie in Aladdin (1992) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) so much more. Maybe the subsequent years took their toll on him.

Of the other actors, the little boy was often delightful, and the movie was much better for it. A young Kirsten Dunst was…fine. Her best scene involved swatting giant mosquitoes with a tennis racket, but she seemed to just screech her way through the rest of the film.

Altogether, I was surprisingly bored by Jumanji 1, since it was mostly a series of wild set-pieces barely stitched together with dysfunctional plot-lines and nonsensical game rules. I expected more fun. Maybe you had to grow up with this Jumanji to appreciate it.

I did like the coda, implying that you can’t get rid of the game, and Jumanji 2 picks right up on the beach where it leaves off.  And the drum sounds are used to great effect. If you listen through the credits, you can softly hear them right there. That was a nice stinger in an era where after-credit extras were barely a thing.

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Review – Jumanji 2: Welcome to the Jungle

And there’s news! Here’s a clip where the Rock discusses the upcoming Jumanji 3 (Release date December 13, 2019):

Every X-Men Film Explained

Dark Phoenix marks the 12th film in the X-Men franchise.  While there is still one more X-Men film in the can, this will be our last journey with this set of characters.  Now that Disney owns both Fox and Marvel, they will supposedly reboot the franchise at some point and make it part of the Marvel universe.

Until then, all signs point to Dark Phoenix being the natural conclusion of this chapter of the franchise. As we prepare to say goodbye, here’s a brief primer on the first eleven films to help refresh your memory.  

 

The Original Trilogy

  • X-Men   The movie that introduced the X-Men characters to mainstream audiences.  Charles Xavier — founder of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters — and his fellow peace-loving mutants, try to stop Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants from mutating world leaders to bring about worldwide acceptance of mutants.    

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Charles Xavier (aka Professor X), Magneto, Wolverine, Rogue, Mystique, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm,  Sabretooth

  • X2  (AKA X-Men United) Heroes and villains work together to stop Wolverine’s creator, William Stryker, from using Cerebro as a weapon to find and kill all mutants.  

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Nightcrawler, Iceman, Pyro, Lady Deathstrike

  • X-Men:  The Last Stand  The first attempt at telling the Dark Phoenix story from the comics.  A drug company found a cure suppressing the mutant gene. This divides the mutant community.  Magneto reforms the Brotherhood and with a resurrected Jean Grey in Dark Phoenix form at his side, declares war on humans.  A final battle between the mutants ensues in San Francisco.

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Angel, Beast, Juggernaut, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Callisto, Multiple Man

The Wolverine Trilogy

  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine   Wolverine’s origin story.  We learn more about his relationship with William Stryker, how he got those adamantium claws, and why he doesn’t remember his past.  This is the only movie where Gambit appears. Ryan Reynolds plays a weak version of Deadpool in this film and doesn’t even get to use the character’s trademark sarcasm.  (He redeemed this in his own feature film later.)

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Gambit, Deadpool , Blob, John Wraith, Chris Bradley, Agent Zero

  • The Wolverine   After the events of The Last Stand, Wolverine returns to Japan to protect a friend’s granddaughter.  

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Yukio and Viper  

  • Logan  Wolverine and Xavier, now old men, try to protect a young girl with powers similar to Logan’s, in a world on the brink of destruction.   

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Laura

The New Trilogy

  • X-Men: First Class  A soft reboot of the franchise.  New actors play younger versions of the characters.  This is an origin story for several X-Men characters including Mystique, Magneto, Beast, and Charles Xavier, set during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We find out why Xavier is in a wheelchair.

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Emma Frost, Azazel, Havok, Darwin, Sebastian Shaw, Banshee, Angel Salvadore, Riptide

  • X-Men:  Days of Future Past   Wolverine goes back in time to 1973 to stop the mutant-killing Sentinels from being invented.  This movie unites the cast from the original trilogy with the cast from First Class .

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Quicksilver, Bishop, Blink, Sunspot, Warpath

  • X-Men: Apocalypse   The first mutant awakens after thousands of years and puts together an apocalyptic team to create a new world order.  Xavier and Mystique must find a way to stop him.

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Apocalypse, Psylocke, Jubilee, Caliban

Deadpool Duology (And Once Upon A Deadpool)

  • Deadpool  The origin story of Deadpool.  Deadpool seeks revenge on the man who disfigured him.  Woe to the man known as Francis.

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Ajax, Angel Dust

  • Deadpool 2  To honor the memory of a loved one, Deadpool tries to save an orphan mutant from time traveling soldier Cable. 
  • There’s even a PG-13 version! <— With 15 minutes of new scenes! Read our review of Once Upon a Deadpool

Significant X-men/mutants introduced:   Domino and Firefist

 

The final X-Men film, The New Mutants, is slated to finally get a theatrical release next April.  Previous trailers suggest it will have a different tone than other X-Men movies and may even be a horror film.   As the title suggests, it will not feature Wolverine, Magneto, Mystique, or any other mutants we’ve come to love, but rather will feature a new cast of characters.  

Whether you need Peetimes for the latest superhero movies, need to know if there’s anything after the credits, or just want to stay up to date on the latest movie news, RunPee has you covered.  Follow us on Twitter @RunPee. Get Peetimes from our app to avoid missing the best parts of your favorite movies including Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Toy Story 4, and Men in Black: International.

 

Is Deadpool in the Avengers’ Universe?

Movie Review – Logan

Movie review : X-Men First Class

X-Men: Days of Future Past – movie review

X-Men: Apocalypse (movie review)

Movie Review – Once Upon A Deadpool

Rewatch Review – A Look Back at The Hunger Games Series

The Hunger Games, My current favorite franchise. Again…

Last night I wasn’t in the mood for TV. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch a movie, read a book, play the PS4…On a whim, I started the Vudu app on the fire stick and browsed my digital copy collection. When I saw the cover for the first movie, I knew I wanted to rewatch the Mockingjay saga almost instantly.

The Hunger Games is the first book series I read before seeing the movies. The film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone led me to read the books, which is where I developed my love of books. But Harry Potter doesn’t get to hold the spot that Katniss Everdeen does. Suzanne Collins’ books led me to the movie, in this case.

I remember reading the scene of the reaping. Imagining the crowd, the peacekeepers, the bowls filled with names.

I remember seeing this scene, almost exactly as I’d pictured it in my mind, on screen for the first time. I remember getting choked up when Prim’s name was called, and when Katniss screams she’ll volunteer.

That scene still hits me today. Even more so now, than then.

The sets of the districts, the Capitol, the arenas. Amazingly done, and the CGI holds up today. The screenwriters, directors, cast, and crew all did great jobs translating page to screen. I can even forgive most of the changes.

The casting of Jennifer Lawrence was perfect. She brought Katniss to life, in a way that is perfectly believable. She’s a normal person that wants to live and let live. To keep her head down and survive. When her life is torn away, she only wants to survive and return to some sense of normalcy.

Or course, she doesn’t get that wish. She truly didn’t want to cause the rebellion, the war. She just wanted the game makers to honor the rule change they made, and let Peeta be a victor by her side. To let them both live in peace.

Who among us could do what President Snow demanded in the second film? To calm the districts and end the uprisings? To convince him that she loved the boy she kept alive, when she wasn’t sure herself?

Maybe those of us that are a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit more connected to the real world. But who of us at the age of 17?

Not me. That’s for sure.

Then she became the face of the war. The voice, the moral compass, the hero. Still, not because she wants to be. But because she is continually being forced to do something she never wanted. But she clenched her bow and made a deal. Rescue Peeta and the others, and she’ll rally the troops.

In the end, when the lines get blurred, when enemy and friend aren’t clear, she makes another choice. Another choice that lands her in hot water again. Also a choice that keeps her, and those left that she loves, alive.

Katniss Everdeen, and Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of her, is a hero done right.

Rewatch Review – Godzilla (1998) – More overthinking than this film deserves

1998 godzilla title card
Tell this Godzilla to go go GO.

I really don’t want to make this a long review, since the movie’s trash and it’s not worth a lot of my day.

I say all this in advance and with apologies to Matthew Broderick, who’s a fine actor. Broderick is always adorable, and can normally pull a film out any mire it might be stuck in. Imagine LadyHawke without Mouse. It would be an overblown, floofy, brain-bashing melodrama with seriously depressing leads and minimal dialog. Broderick MAKES this movie. And he makes Ladyhawke a personal favorite of mine. I cry at that one day/night scene every time, but it’s only because Mouse keeps me in such good spirits, chatting with God, crawling in sewers, and being a lovable character throughout. You don’t even notice the bizarre 70s rock track. 😉

Wait. This is a Godzilla Review?

Back to 1998 Godzilla, which you can see I don’t want to talk about — sorry. I saw it in theaters in the day, and remember thinking, “Hmmmm, lousy ripoff of Aliens and Jurassic Park.”

Then I saw it again last night. I wondered if I’d been too hard on it in the past, so scrolled it up in preview preparation to the new Godzilla sequel out this week (2019). And what did I think?

More of the same, with a bonus: “Lousy ripoff of Aliens and Jurassic Park, but with endless hours of running and shooting in the rain!” I guess I was more tolerant of that back then. FX have come a long way, and we don’t need rain to hide the seams anymore. Yet I can forgive 2 & 1/2 hours of pouring rain if the PLOT WAS BETTER.

I watched this with my mother and we both agreed on two things (and we never agree on anything): 1.  Shooting bullets at Godzilla wasn’t working, so why did we have to follow the military around trying out new ways to shoot it…over and over…? Answer: filler.

2. And. We felt really bad for Godzilla and the babies. These aren’t monsters — they’re animals. Big ones. Looking for food and procreating. The better ending would have been finding a way to bring poor Godzilla to a (sizeable) animal sanctuary. Teams of happy conservationists and scientists would give body parts, vying to care for this new life-form.

Godzilla would have hot and cold running fish, and a carefully applied form of birth control to keep population levels stable.

Gremlins too?

Oh, and problem 3. Having the babies act like overgrown Gremlins wasn’t as  funny as the producers must have thought. (Oooo, another classic movie to rip off — they can fight over popcorn!)

Lastly, the slowly dying heartbeat sound at the end wasn’t remotely earned, unlike with King Kong, which was always intended as a tragedy. Here, there’s no “It was Beauty that killed the Beast” (goosebumps just thinking about it). As the Aliens Space Marines Corps once said, Godzilla was a ‘bug hunt.’ To its detriment.

How to fix Godzilla for Modern Audiences

I can’t say the 2014 remake is a work of genius (still too much padding with planes and guns) but it’s a world of better. With the Broderick version, I’d say there are two movies going on. One is decent, and human, and has a moment where the lead connects with the beast. The other is what the fast-forward button was made for. In a 2 and 1/2 hour film, excising an entire hour would make this watchable. My other issues (1, 2, 3…4?) remain, but it would be a tighter, more watchable experience, focusing on the human element and not illogical plot points that test the viewer’s patience.

Clearly, the Industry still has no idea how to handle Godzilla. Less bombs. More worry about animals we are now responsible for, in our hubris. More how to handle a brave new world that includes unintended creatures of mankind’s folly (the nuclear annihilation of South Pacific Islands).

Jurassic Park itself touched on these issues, but didn’t bring home the yummy carnivorous bacon. I think it’s time to move past Monsters As Bad and say, “We did this. Now what are we going to do about it?”

Movie Grade: D

Virgin Movie Review – Godzilla (2014) – Not as bad as the last one

Is Godzilla: King of the Monsters a Sequel to Kong: Skull Island?

How RunPee Began – A Retrospective on Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong

Movie review: Aliens

Movie Rewatch – Jurassic Park

Rewatch Review – Disney’s Animated Aladdin (1992) – A Classic Film with Deeply Modern Flaws

robin williams as genie in animated aladdin
Robin William’s Genie, mugging for the camera in the animated Aladdin.

The animated Aladdin of 1992 is a beloved Disney classic. It’s one of the great films of the Disney Renaissance Era, and features A Whole New World, a TOP EVER song of ever in the the Disney oeuvre. Yet parts of Aladdin are deeply problematic to modern audiences. Disney is going out on a limb here, and I’m not sure this was the best live action remake to do right now (which I also found at issue with the live action Dumbo choice).

First, The Genie is a Slave

It may be the overt racism isn’t as acceptable/noticeable now as it was in ’92. But let’s be real: the tale of Aladdin isn’t a modern one. Aladdin was recorded in the 18th century and had a prior rich oral tradition previously, stretching back to ancient times. Yes, the Genie was always a slave — the plot demands this — so I don’t know how they can even make this story work in 2019 without that uncomfortable element. The repeated prattle about finding the ‘diamond in the rough’ is all about Aladdin freeing the Genie. Aladdin doesn’t do anything else more worthy than any compassionate street rat would. No slave, no story.

Even the wonderfully crafted X-Files Je Souhaite doesn’t bother to avoid the sticky slavery aspect: at least here the jinn in question doesn’t wear actual chains. (And Mulder is a better, smarter Aladdin than anyone else ever, full stop. I won’t spoil his very intellectual, lawyerly three wishes.)

In 2019, depicting the Genie as a black/blue slave is…not exactly copacetic. It doesn’t matter that he’s freed at the end. He’s got metal wrist bands, and is trapped in a small vial for centuries. He has to please whoever rubs the lamp (oh, and ewww).

(BTW: that thing really doesn’t seem remotely lamplike…how is that tea kettle supposed to make light? Am I missing something?)
And you’re going to have to explain a few things to kids about slavery and Arabian culture/history. (For example — cutting a hand off for stealing bread or an apple was an accepted thing, you know.)
Let’s move on from the racism and ignorant Islamic-adjacent stereotypes for this review, shall we?

The Robin Williams Genie Controversy

What else is an issue for the live action version? For one, no one really wants to see anyone else replace the late, manic, fantasmic Williams as the iconic blue Genie.

Non-slave aspects…there’s the equally unpleasant reminder that Williams killed himself years after Aladdin came out. I think most people appreciate the manic aspect of The Genie as part of William’s brilliance/illness, but neglect to recall his intense depression. It eventually killed him. On the one hand we want to preserve Aladdin as one of William’s career peaks (granted, there are many, but not so much in the Disney-verse).

On the other hand, it’s uncomfortable to be reminded of how society failed this brilliant performer. If an A Lister in Hollywood can’t find help, what does that bode for the average bi-polar/depressed individual?

This doesn’t even open the can of worms a Will Smith casting gives us for the Live Action Aladdin remake. He’s black, so there’s the slave awkward thing again. And then he has to approximate the humor of the original Genie. I hope HOPE HOPE they take this in a new direction, because no one can be Robin Williams. They shouldn’t try. I’ll find out soon — Will Smith is nominally a versatile and talented actor. So, I bet if there’s a problem with his portrayal, it’s in the script. I can’t speak to the casting until I see it, but this is a troubling role to take on, at best.

Jafar, Iago, and Other Notes on the Animated Aladdin

Let’s talk about the animated Aladdin film in positive terms. When it starts, it’s really cleverly 4th wall breaking: the “storyteller” (voiced Robin Williams at his smary best) frames the movie as a narrative. Amusingly, the ‘camera’ gets distracted and wanders away when the anthropomorphic framing device peddler person goes off-topic. I loved Deadpool framing his films…I didn’t know Disney did it before him. It’s a bit short, but very cute.

One neat thing is how Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) actually talks. We’ve seen animal sidekicks speak before, but this is a parrot. Parrots talk! The monkey and tiger, the other sidekicks in Aladdin, don’t talk. That’s clever, as parrots actually DO speak. I had enough parrots growing up to realize parrots are smart enough to make connections between what they say and what they feel. I was happy to see an animal sidekick that could possibly do Human-speak in a Disney film. (Yep, I’m easily pleased.)

Jafar, the villain, is an oily one. He could be cross-species ‘brothers’ with Scar (from the Lion King) or married to The Little Mermaid’s Ursula (also cross-species, more or less). Note these characters all fall within the same Disney Era. It’s the formula that worked back then.  🙂

The magic carpet is really kind of awesome, and reminds me of Dr. Strange’s playfully loyal cloak.

But, really…there’s a lot of filmatic references to other classic movies here.  Moment from Raiders of the Lost Arc, from Titanic. That could be an entire article itself, so I’ll keep on keeping on.

Also worth noting — as this is a film from the Disney Renaissance period —  is how A Whole New World entices young people (or as in The Lion King, animals) to follow a path they never planned: to follow their dreams. This song works wonderfully here.

Who is the Disney Classic Aladdin MVP?

Um. Hey, wait…Aladdin is an orphan and a Chosen One? Ever see that anywhere before? (Answer — many many times before, with and without magic. And I bet the entire Internet we see it after Aladdin too.)

Back to to Robin Williams as the manic Genie. It’s a whole world of sad now, knowing Williams ended his own life via suicide. He made the Genie something special — something giddy and outstanding —  in his depictions of the wildly excitable magic-wish-giver.

I don’t know how the live-action version with Will Smith could even come close, since this was probably the closest Williams came to creating his own persona via film, and no one can truly compete. Honestly, I’m not sure how the animators followed William’s improv as well as they did. This version of the classic is worth watching just for seeing Williams on top of his game (even though he doesn’t appear until the half-way point in the film).

The past and future of Disney Live Action

Overall, Aladdin the film is still kind of cool, although it’s not as exciting as I remembered.  It’s no Little Mermaid, Lion King, or Beauty & The Beast (the top representatives from the Disney Renaissance Era, which all hold up so nicely.)

What stands out is how this is a Disney Princess tale where the princess takes a back seat. It’s a male-focused movie, and that’s a welcome branch off the typical trope. Jasmine isn’t sidelined at all, but the POV is about the ‘prince’.

That’s unusual. Imagine Eric from The Little Mermaid being the main POV, or even the otherwise bland Prince Charming from Cinderella. I think that would be interesting for the next live-action versions.

However: one of the most important and enduring aspects of Aladdin remains the same as it has for centuries…if you could have three wishes granted, what would they be? And how would you word them to escape the inevitable sneaky clauses?