The decade of 2010s when female protagonists said #MeToo to Science Fiction

Amy Adams in Arrival

Amy Adams in Arrival

Science fiction has long been dominated by male protagonists to placate the mostly male audience. But times are a changin’. Some of the most outstanding science fiction of the 2010s featured women as either the protagonist or equal partners alongside a male counterpart. Spoilers ahead for these 2010 films. 

Arrival (2016)

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer, based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Let’s start with what I think is the very best science fiction movie of the decade: Arrival. Amy Adams plays Professor Louise Banks in this cerebral exploration of language and time. In no other genre than science fiction could a professor of linguistics, male or female, play the protagonist of a story.

The protagonist in Arrival is patient, smart, thoughtful. Let’s face it, those are qualities more associated with women than men. She doesn’t rush to conclusions; she doesn’t approach the problem to be solved with pre conceptions; and in the end, she doesn’t resort to violence — but contrarily, uses her intellect to avoid violence.

In short, she doesn’t try to be a woman in a man’s role.

That said, I think the best display of Professor Bank’s qualities is when her counterpart, Professor Ian Donnelly — played by Jeremy Renner — makes a crucial discovery that helps solve the translation puzzle. Bank’s doesn’t show any signs of resistance to a new idea; nor does she resist an idea that isn’t her own; she even recognizes Ian discovered something before he tells her, and is genuinely excited at the prospect.

If the genders had been switched between Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, and it was the female, Professor Banks, who discovered the key that unravels the puzzle, then this is the part of the story where the female would have to do something heroic just so her idea could be recognized by the male.

I’m not just saying this to be critical of men. When trying to solve a problem I can absolutely recognize the tendency to resist changing direction. Sometimes there’s a feeling of mental momentum that builds up, and trying to stop it and change course requires effort. (Picture cartoon here of man driving, not knowing where he is or where he’s going, but stubbornly determined to continue driving, while ignoring the input of the woman in the passenger’s seat with a map.)

Arrival also brilliantly explores how a woman, Louis, can handle making the fantastically painful choice to have a child she knows will die young. Yet, before her child dies, they will have love and memories to last a lifetime. Ian, her husband, leaves her, because he isn’t strong enough to handle the emotional pain Louis embraces. 

I don’t want to suggest women have always taken a back seat to men as protagonists in science fiction. Linda Hamilton, as Sarah Connor in Terminator, and Sigourney Weaver, as Ellen Ripley in Aliens, have played powerful women protagonists, as have many other women in science fiction. However, those characters lean heavily on women thrust into traditionally masculine roles: violence.

The real beauty of Arrival is that a female character, in a military setting, uses her intellect to avoid violence.

Colossal (2016)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis

Colossal, staring Anne Hathaway

I know what you’re thinking: Colossal? I’ve never heard of it.

I know, right? I was right there with you until a few months ago. Colossal was in and out of theaters without so much as a “boo.” It couldn’t have been a wide release movie or we would have done Peetimes for it.

Yet here we are. Colossal is one of those movies I love telling people to watch. Don’t look for the trailer on YouTube; don’t look it up on IMDb; just try your best to watch it without knowing anything at all about it and enjoy.

It’s on my list here of great science fiction movies of the past decade, so you already have a hint, but I guarantee you, you won’t see it coming.

Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are both fantastic in their roles — but I’m not going to say anything more than that. You’ll understand when you see it.

Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman

Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson,

Okay, I’ll admit it: Lucy isn’t exactly great science fiction. It’s more like guilty pleasure science fiction. It’s a little like the movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper, except that it goes to infinity.

What makes Lucy so enjoyable is Scarlett Johansson’s performance. Going from a directionless young woman to, basically, a god, in the span of a day.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Bluntedge of tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

This is one of my all time favorite science fiction movies, and among the best of the Groundhog genre. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt co-star in this movie. However, when the backstory is considered, it’s Emily Blunt’s character, Rita, who is the hero. She’s the one who went through the temporal loop first and figured it out. And she’s the one who mentors Tom Cruise’s initially cowardly character, Private Cage. It only looks like Tom Cruise is the main character because of the point of view the story is told from.

Okay, they can be co-heroes. But still, Rita is the one who saves the day, twice.

A Quiet Place (2018)

Director: John Krasinski
Writers: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

A Quiet Place, staring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski

As long as we’re talking about Emily Blunt, let’s not forget how outstanding her performance was in A Quiet Place. Her character, Evelyn Abbott, wasn’t the hero of the story. Akin to Signs, every member of the family was the hero.

Bonus, we get A Quiet Place 2 — and thank you for not trying to be cute and name it A Quieter Place — on March 20, 2020.

Her (2013)

Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

her-starring- Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson

Yeah, yeah, I know this is a stretch. Joaquin Phoenix is the protagonist. But this is my list and I’m going to argue it’s merits for inclusion. It’s science fiction at it’s best and it explores (soon to be) very real experience that millions, perhaps billions, of humans will encounter: what to do when we fall in love with an artificial intelligence (AI).

I have to start by saying how masterfully Scarlett Johansson voices Samantha — the AI. I would fall in love with my Google Voice too if it had Scarlett’s voice. There’s no doubt that Joaquin Phoenix is a generational talent. However, his performance would have felt contrived if the AI he falls in love with didn’t do such a great job communicating the nuances of emotions through voice alone.

Aside: Have you ever noticed how rare it is that a woman narrates a documentary? It seems like the choices are Morgan Freeman, Neil Degrasse Tyson,  Richard Attenborough, or any other man with a British accent. I can’t even think of a scientific documentary that’s voiced by a woman. But would someone please put Scarlett Johansson to work narrating? Her voice soothes like freshly baked bread slathered in butter. I could listen to it all day.

First View Movie Review – Her

Ex Machina (2014)

Director: Alex Garland
Writer: Alex Garland
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Ex Machina, starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Maybe you think the inclusion Ex Machina is a bigger stretch to add to this list than Her. Granted there are no women in this movie: just two men and two AI/robots: Ava and the speechless Kyoko. While the AI have the shape of female figures — for less than research purposes — the AI use those shapes, and the effect they have on the two men, to their advantage.

When you think about it, it’s really quite brilliant. The AI Ava uses everything it knows of women and men as tools to plan her escape. She manipulates both men with such subtlety that Caleb believes he has successfully thwarted her plan only to find out that was actually part of her ultimate plan.

We could be here all day talking about the nuances of what this implies, but I think the big takeaway here is that each person’s deep seated values around gender attributes is something that other humans, and soon AI, can use to manipulate us. We all know this is true because no demographic is more easily manipulated than young men by sexy women. Want to sell more of anything? Just picture a sexy woman holding your product, or better yet, draped over it, and sales will increase. You think that won’t be the first thing AI recognize and use to their own advantage as soon as they have the will to do so?

Also worth mentioning:

I don’t consider superhero movies to be science fiction, however I must give a nod to the addition of Captain Marvel in the MCU.

I’m personally not a fan of Brie Larson in the titular role. I think Blake Lively would have been a better choice, but be that as it may, introducing a powerful female superhero is important for the growth of not only the MCU franchise, but also our culture. It saddens me that grown men reacted to Brie Larson with such animosity over her stance on women’s rights. But at the very least, this exposes a problem that these men need to work toward getting over, because we’re not going back to the culture they crave of women beholden to men to give them value.

At the same time that Captain Marvel is being heralded as the new age of powerful women in superhero films, we already had one in Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow. Natasha’s sacrifice was every bit as crucial to the resolution of Avengers: Endgame as was Iron Man’s. Yet, I don’t see in-universe acknowledgement in the same way. I really hope that during Phase IV of the MCU there are reminders that Iron Man wasn’t the only one to make the ultimate sacrifice to defeat Thanos.

Lastly, I do not remotely consider Star Wars to be science fiction. However, if you ask me, the only good thing about the Star Wars trilogy of 2010s was the female protagonist. I wrote a lengthy article about how women rated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker higher than men. And in particular, women under 20 had the highest rating of any age group for either gender.

Way back in the 1960s, the television series Star Trek broke new ground in creating an all inclusive cast, while still pandering to white entitlement. There’s little doubt that if Captain Kirk were in the captain’s chair today he’d probably face multiple counts of sexual harassment. But, at least there was an African-American female bridge officer, along with Asian and Russian men.

It’s clear that the future of all movie franchises will lean heavily on not only creating a balance between male and female protagonists but also reaching a balance in races and sexual orientations. Marvel has already announced that there will be multiple characters added in Phase IV and beyond who are on the LGBTQ spectrum.

We’ve come a long way as a culture, but clearly we’re not “there,” yet — and who even knows what “there” even looks like.

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The 6 Most Epic Lightsaber Fights in Star Wars (plus 3 that didn’t make the cut)

So many Star Wars movies. So many lightsaber and “lightsaber-adjacent” fight scenes over 42 years. Which saber duels are the best, the most visually stunning, or emotionally moving?

I don’t know much about sword technique (<—- we wrote about that here) beyond endlessly watching Lord of the Rings or Xena: Warrior Princess, but I know when a scene satisfies. Of course, this ranking is subjective. DUH. 😉 

Warning: spoilers ahead for the saga through Star Wars – Rise of Skywalker.

Counting down my top lightsaber fight scenes, with the videos to illustrate them…here we go!

6. Old Ben vs Darth Vader — (A New Hope)

It was slow;  it was sluggish, but it was our first lightsaber fight, and the emotional stakes were sky(walker) high. Looking back, it’s a wonderful galaxy-building scene, and when Luke sees Obi-Wan die, it packs a punch every time. Even after dozens of viewings.

(Even though the old Jedi Master doesn’t seem to become more powerful. I blame this on Sir Alec Guinness, who famously hated the role. That’s probably why we got Yoda in the first place.)

But this real life knight didn’t let us down — his expression when he sees Luke at the end of his Vader duel is subtle and fantastic. He gives a small smile to Vader before he puts up his sword. Iconic. Look for it. Well done, by a true acting legend.

RunPee Dan has a video explaining why this is actually one of the most realistic sword fighting styles shown in Star Wars, and here is the scene in question:

5. Young Obi-Wan vs Anakin Skywalker — (Revenge of the Sith)

I’m not a big fan of the prequels, but some scenes stand out. In Revenge of the Sith, I kept waiting for it to feel like Star Wars, instead of a documentary. I got that in the last half hour of Revenge of the Sith. And in my recent saga rewatch, I felt terrible for new quadruple amputee Anakin. Then he caught on fire and cried to his former ‘brother’ Obi-Wan. Ob-Wan is clearly full of torment, but almost casually picks up Anakin’s lightsaber and walks off. A real pal would have killed Anakin, instead of wandering away to let him burn to death. But then we would never have had Darth Vader, so….go with it.

The deciding fight on Mustafar is nicely done, if we can ignore the problems with the estranged Jedi duo fighting a foot away from LAVA. LAVA. I feel like I need to say this a third time: LAVA. Does being a Jedi give you heat resistance?

Oh well; the fight was still good. I think it gave us the emotional catharsis that we, the fans, needed, to buy fully into Akakin’s final fall from grace. As in killing Jedi Younglings and genociding the Sandwalker race isn’t enough!

For an up to date reference: Rey healed a serpent monster. Respect! And that worked into the rest of the narrative (including The Mandalorian, on Disney Plus). That made me happy and gave us important exposition without shoving our noses in it. Rey FTW.

Raise your hands if you think it’s any Dark Side coincidence that Darth Vader made his Mustafar Burad-Dur fortress on the planet he lost everything on. The Dark Side needs a constant source of pain and hatred fueled to keep fully aligned with the Sith need for anger/fear/resentment. Good way to keep hatred burning in your heart! I do get that: it gives unlimited Dark Side vested interest.

Yet…every time we see Vader in the Bacta Tank, or meditating in his oxygen cocoon, we can’t help but think he longs for his body/soul purity back. At this point I think he wants to escape the Emperor, but realizes he’s trapped by a mostly mechanical body and a well of bad deeds — he’s burned bridges from everyone who might have helped him purge the anger. It’s hard to redeem yourself after genocidal acts, even if” bringing order” to the galaxy seemed seductive at the time. No one thinks they are the Bad Guy in their story. I think Anakin did think he was helping the known worlds, and that the Jedi were the ones in the wrong with their non-attachment credo.

This video section is in 2 parts on You Tube:

4. Darth Vader vs the Data Tape — (Rogue One)

This bit gives me chills every time. It’s only a few minutes, and only at the very end, but we get to see Vader in his Sith-y prime, effortlessly wiping the walls with rebel troops. It’s a desperate scene, tracking the Death Star data tape, but fits into the beginning of A New Hope with crackling style. Even though  I knew the rebels got the plans, I was on the edge of my seat, urging, “Hurry, hurry, OMG HURRY.” So wonderfully done. When the Tantive 5 speeds away I couldn’t help but cheer. If you watch this scene directly before A New Hope you’ll notice some continuity problems, but that doesn’t diminish the power of this…raw slaughter. This is why we love to fear Vader:

3.  Luke vs Kylo Ren — (The Last Jedi)

By the Maker, this was an excellent duel: even better on repeat when you know Luke is just a Force projection. In my theater viewing, I noticed Luke’s feet didn’t stir up the salt or red iron soil beneath, unlike every other person or vehicle on Planet Crait. I chalked it up to bad continuity at the time, but then cheered like a fool when I realized this was no mistake. Mark Hamill sells the deception for all it’s worth, and when he dusts an imaginary speck off his shoulder I had to give him props for the ultimate in cool. Way. To. Go.

And the top 2 lightsaber fights…

2. Rey and Kylo vs Snoke and the Imperial Guard — (The Last Jedi)

For one thing, it was neat to see different laser weapons than sabers (the Guards’ weapons), and two…the rewatchability level of this battle royale is outstanding. The choreography was unprecedented — seeing two Force users playing off each other’s skills to fight together, like Hercules and Iolaus in The Legendary Journeys. It also lit a lot of shipper’s torches for the star-crossed couple of Rey and Kylo Ren. This was simply an outstanding scene. Great chemistry and a few really creative moves.

It lacked a distinctive theme soundtrack, and that brings it down a little.  It just isn’t the number one lightsaber fight, and that might contribute. Listen to this as it plays: it’s an “action wallpaper” of sound. But…it’s still emotionally satisfying, and impressively choreographed to show two people totally in sync.

1. The Duel of the Fates — (The Phantom Menace)

Say what you will about The Phantom Menace, but this prequel has the single best lightsaber battle in the live action Star Wars stories. John William’s soaring, ominous, chant-filled score is among the best tracks in any Star Wars movie, and Darth Maul is legit skilled and scary. When we see Qui-Gon quietly meditating on the floor, while Maul paces like a caged tiger who can’t wait to kill, it’s a perfect wordless exposition on the Dark and Light sides of the Force. And when the red laser walls kept Obi-Wan out of the fight while he watches Maul kills Qui-Gon…MAN. This was a stunning 5-minute scene that never drags.

I was surprised Obi-Wan bested Maul, despite knowing he lives through A New Hope. And losing Qui-Gon Jinn really hurt. He’s my favorite Jedi, and I was thrilled to hear his voice in Rise of Skywalker. (I held out hope til the end that Qui-Gon got together with Shmi Skywalker, so Rey could be a grandchild of the Skywalkers. Or a Kenobi: my favorite theory. But wishing does not make it so. At least we found out the truth in the end, and it didn’t fully suck.)

Just watch this again without Jar-Jar-Colored blinders and you’ll see this is inevitably the best Lightsaber duel on any level: 

Honorable Mention: Kylo Ren vs Finn

Finn’s desperate “traitor” stand against Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens was an emotional and successful moment — but missed out on the BEST OF scenes because it wasn’t that great a fight, overall. Finn was wildly overmatched, and that he stood as long as he did was a tribute to the character’s determination and concern for Rey. He also might have a touch of Force Sensitivity (See Rise of Skywalker). But a great lightsaber scene? Not as such.

Just Missing the Cut – Luke vs Darth Vader (Twice)

I didn’t include either of Luke’s lightsaber fights with Darth Vader for a few reasons that took a lot of time to consider. For one thing, Vader in Empire and RotJ was clearly toying with Luke. Vader basically Force-tossed the scenery at his son, instead of actually dueling. He wanted to make a point and then turn him to the Dark Side, not kill him. Mostly. “All too easy.” Until the whole ‘Sister’ thing came up in RotJ, when Luke started wailing on his father in rage.

The people Luke loves are his sore spot, and probably why he went into exile eventually. When Luke got angry enough in RotJ, his fighting style changed to swing, hack, swing, hack…and it’s clear he was using the Dark Side when he battered his father and cut his arm back off. (With the Emperor cackling like a damn fool from the sidelines.)  It’s a very emotional moment, but the lightsaber action isn’t that exciting. If this article was about meaningful fight scenes, this would be ranked highly. But as for a lightsaber showdown, it doesn’t perform.

 

Which top duel and/or lightsaber fight scenes did I miss? Yoda vs Count Dooku? Anakin and Dooku? Obi-Wan and General Grievous? Yoda and Palpatine? The big Order 66 showdown? Does anything from Rise of Skywalker make the grade? Tell me your thoughts in the comment section below.

Video Essay – How to Film a Good Sword Fight

All Star Wars Movies, ranked by personal watchablility. Now including Rise of Skywalker

 

Infographic of every Star Wars movie ranked by fans on IMDb and RottenTomatoes

Star Wars Revealed: Obi-Wan Kenobi is a lying liar who lies

5 Reasons Kylo Ren Is a Good Villain

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens soon.  The wait is finally over. The Skywalker family will wrap up with this end to the storyline (though not the series).  And audiences will get to take one last adventure with Rey, Leia, Lando, Chewie, Finn, Poe, C-3PO, and R2D2.

It also means another visit from the dark side’s Kylo Ren.  A lot of fans have issues with this newer character.  I, for one, though, am a fan.  So I present to you my defense with this list of reasons why Kylo Ren makes a good villain.  (Note:  This post contains SPOILERS for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.)

1.  Adam Driver is a talented actor.

The filmmakers didn’t choose an unknown actor to portray Kylo Ren.  They hired one of the best  young character actors working in Hollywood.  He’s worked with everyone from Noah Baumbach to Spike Lee to Martin Scorsese.  You may not agree with all of his acting choices, but he knows what he’s doing.  The man is an Oscar-nominated actor.

2. Kylo is human.

Kylo’s vulnerability makes him an interesting villain.  His emotions and his anger make  him more relatable than an indestructible killing machine like Darth Maul or Boba Fett.  When he tells his father, Han Solo, that he’s torn apart, you can feel it.  Being a young, passionate villain who is still in training also makes Kylo a perfect foil for Rey.

3. Kylo is a tragic figure.

My high school English teacher defined a tragedy as a story about the fall of a good man.  Kylo starts out as one of Luke’s students and ends up killing his own father in cold blood.  It’s like something out of Shakespeare or an ancient Greek drama.  The person Kylo worships, Darth Vader, is also a tragic figure.  Vader was also a young boy who trained to be a Jedi only to turn to the dark side, unable to overcome his own fear and anger.  Kylo’s fall from grace makes him that much more evil and that much more compelling.

4. Kylo isn’t Darth Vader. 

J.J. Abrams could have just given audiences the second coming of Vader, but where would be the fun in that?  The whole point of Kylo is that he’s not Vader, that he idolizes Vader but falls short of becoming him.  Kylo’s lightsaber is a perfect symbol of that.  It’s a jury-rigged device, a home-made contraption that sometimes seems slightly on the fritz.  Like Kylo, it’s unstable and dangerous because of that.  (And, because, you know, it has three blades and stuff.)  Because he’s his own person, Kylo is able to make choices and even mistakes that surprise us.

5. Kylo is conflicted.

The main plot of Force Awakens is about finding Luke Skywalker.  However, the subplot is about the battle for Kylo Ren’s soul.  Despite the evil inside him (he has a whole village slaughtered at the start of the film), Kylo does not completely belong to the dark side.  Leia senses good in him.  Snoke warns him against being seduced by the light side.  Kylo himself feels the pull towards the light, praying to Darth Vader’s mask to show him the power of the dark side.  When Han tries to convince him to abandon the dark side, Kylo genuinely seems to consider it.

Kylo’s relationship with Rey is also complicated.  He doesn’t merely want to destroy her.  During their lightsaber battle at the end of Force Awakens, he tells her she needs a teacher and offers to show her the ways of the Force.  In The Last Jedi, he briefly joins forces with her to kill Snoke.  Then he offers her the chance to rule the universe with him.  A shot in the final trailer for Rise of Skywalker hints that they work together again at some point in the storyline, and there might even be some redemption for Kylo,like there was for Vader.  Kylo’s internal struggle is more interesting to watch than a bad guy like Jabba, whose nature never changes.

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Movie analysis – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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7 Hidden Clues/Humor You Might Have Missed in Knives Out.[Spoilers!]

So far the RunPee Tamily watched Knives Out 7 times combined to do the Peetimes. Yes, it’s that hard! The movie is filled with clue Easter eggs. Like one of the characters says, “This guy pretty much lives in a clue board.”

Watching it the second time the next day, I noticed so many things I overlooked the first time. Some of them are just impossible to spot the first time because a significant plot distracts you. I can’t wait to share my findings, so let’s dive right into it!

#1 The Baseball
This is the finding that makes me most proud. The arc of the baseball contributes not to the main murder case plotline, but the “Linda-Richard” relationship. Here’s the trip the baseball took:

  • Richard first threw the baseball out of Harlan’s office window after finding out the letter he threatened to send to Linda is a blank paper — he felt played.
  • In the next scene, Detective Blanc notices the baseball and picks it up.
  • The next day, the dogs come to Blanc, drops the piece of wood from the wall frame, and bites on the baseball he was holding at the time. Blanc throws the ball for the dog to retrieve. But before the dog comes back, he notices the piece of wood and gets distracted.
  • The dog still has the baseball in its mouth a day later, at the family gathering requested by Marta. They thought she’s going to renounce the inheritance. The dog sits next to Linda. Linda recognizes baseball and takes it from the dog. She goes to put the baseball back to her father’s office. Notices the letter opened by Richard. Thus, finding out Richard’s affair.

See the full circle here? The director brilliantly made Richard bringing it all to himself.

Read more about the Baseball story here.

#2 The “Extra Bowl”
Remember the scene where Ransom (Chris Evans) and Marta sit down in a restaurant after the will is read? Ransom asked for an “extra bowl” from the waitress — for Marta to puke in later. I didn’t notice it even the second time, but Dan did.

#3 Where Is Marta from?
You probably get the symbolic immigrates subtext the first watch. But do you remember where Marta is from? Different characters describe her as from Ecuador, Brazil, and Uruguay — and perhaps a few others I forgot. The intention is clear: nobody of the Thrombeys’ family really cared.

Read more about the political subplot in Knives Out here.

#4 Secret Messages
Yes, it was revealed at the end of the movie, that it’s a father-daughter game to use invisible ink as Harlan and Linda’s secret form of communication. But the director had actually given us a clue before that. When Linda was in her room reading the letters from her father over the years, if you look closely, you will notice the burn traces.

#5 “Dogs are the best judge of characters.”
Yes, it’s so blunt that you won’t believe it the first time watching it. But it’s that simple. The movie starts with a scene of dogs running on the lawn. The dogs interacted with three main characters. Marta, Ransom, and Linda. They are very friendly towards Marta and Linda and aggressive with Ransom. If you look back at each of the characters, Marta is the kindest. Linda is the only one in the family that actually cares. (She looks down on her brother, but still protects him in front of the police) And Ransom? I don’t need to tell you about Ransom.

#6 What’s With The Donut?
The whole “Donut speech” delivered by Daniel Craig at the end of the movie is just so brilliantly funny. But why the donut? I have a wild guess. The director takes the genre — “whodunnit” — and turns it into a wordplay. “Dunnit”, “Donut”. Yes?

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but since we’re having fun… The throne of knives forms a donut. When the detectives interview the characters they sit in the chair in front of the knives, ostensibly “filling the donut hole.”

#7 Stage prop
Last but not least. On the faithful night of Harlan’s death, as Marta gives him his medications he talks about his children and their problems. While talking about Ransom he picks up a knife and removes it from its sheath, and says, “There is so much of me in that kid: confident, stupid, protected. Playing life like a game without consequences. Until you can’t tell the difference between a stage prop and a real knife.” Then he stabs the knife into the tabletop. Of course in the climax of the movie Ransom tries to stab Marta with a stage prop.

Did you spot any other hidden clues? Let us know in the comments below.

Was The Infinity War Snap random in who was dusted?

Thanos Snap
Is it really random? Or was there a plan?

A thought occurred to me last night while watching a YouTube video about Thanos’  Snap: were the people who became dust selected at random? At first glance I always assumed so, but maybe not.

I’m not a mathematician, and questions of probability can confound even professors of mathematics.

I’ll lay out my reasoning and you tell me if I missed something in the comments.

We know Dr. Strange observed 14,000,605 outcomes of the conflict with Thanos, and in only one of those outcomes did it end satisfactorily for the Avengers in Endgame.

Dr. Strange voluntarily gives up the Time Stone, and perhaps performs a few other tasks we don’t know about, to set the course for the one favorable outcome.

Spoilers follow for Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Make sure you’ve seen these before reading further!

The question is: how did Dr. Strange know Tony Stark/Iron Man would not be dusted?

The simple answer: Dr. Strange watched the outcome and knew Tony survived after a certain chain of events occurred.

Right? Then the snap itself does not randomly select lifeforms to dust. If an event — Tony surviving The Snap — always follows a chain of previous events, then it is a determined event, and not random.

If the snap itself randomly selects, then each snap will select a different set of lifeforms to dust. Therefore, all Dr. Strange could know is there’s one chain of events that ends well for the Avengers, as long as Tony doesn’t get dusted.

Remember, based on the outcome of Avengers: Endgame, the only solution Dr. Strange saw was for Tony to be the one, and the ONLY one, to reverse The Snap.

What do you think?

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Movie Review – Avengers: Endgame

Avengers Endgame – a very long breakdown (Massive Spoilers!)

Avengers Infinity War – Whose Fault is the Snap?

Avengers Endgame Song and Lyrics to Supersonic Rocketship

The Bentatar stranded in space in Endgame
Rocket and his Supersonic Rocketship

Rock Music in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

If you’re paying at all attention to the music during the already overcrammed events in Avengers Endgame, you’ll notice a few classic rock songs stand out. This technique’s been in play since Iron Man, but really ramped up with Guardians of the Galaxy and just kept on that path.

Warning: Spoilers follow for Endgame.

Endgame is no different. The Marvel Studio Credits sequence play, usually, to the same orchestral Avenger’s themes we’re used to. Endgame logos opens with a soft credits sequence set to Mr. Fantasy (just another way Endgame chose to stand out from 22 years of world-building and as a saga coda), and there are a few more 70s rock hits along the way.

When Supersonic Rocketship Plays in Endgame

My favorite is Supersonic Rocketship, when Peter Quill’s — now Rocket’s — ship (The Benatar) lands while poor Ant Man has his taco blown away by the jet’s engines. Professor Hulk sweetly hands hims two new ones (the big green guy now has a lot of food at all times), and smiles at him. This is a nice moment, since everyone else in Endgame treats him with zero respect, starting with Tony Stark, and ending with Rocket himself. (“Does the puppy want to go to SPACE?”)

Then Hulk and Rocket, the two Avengers left who care most about, Thor get in the back of an old pickup to head to new Asgard (a Norway fjord town), to convince a guilt-devoured Thor to rejoin ‘the team’ to take on Thanos. Thor refuses to even speak his name, in spite of delivering the killing blew. (“I went for the head.”) Thor spent the last five years self-medicating in New Asgard with junk food, booze, and video games, hiding out with fan favorite Korg and their little buddy Meik. When Rocket promised there’s beer on the ship, Thor agrees to come along.

The Kinks’ Supersonic Rocketship mostly plays during the truck ride to New Asgard, but it’s a perfect song choice. The happy chords and silly lyrics are perfect, since Quill’s ship is now Rocket Ship’s by default (get it), and he’s planning let the team ‘use it at their disposal if they feel so inclined,” as the lyrics go. A lot of this song is really perfect, and at the time of the narrative has a fittingly happy quality it.

Listen to the song below and see how well this works in the film. A complete list of the lyrics follow the music video. Enjoy!

Lyrics to Supersonic Rocketship

(Performed by The Kinks, 1927)

Let me take you on a little trip
My supersonic ship’s at your disposal
If you feel so inclined. Well alright.
We’re gonna travel faster than light
So do up your overcoat tight
And you’ll go anywhere you want to decide. Well alright.
Too many people side by side
Got no place to hide.

On my supersonic rocket ship
Nobody has to be hip
Nobody needs to be out of sight. Out of sight.
Nobody’s gonna travel second class
There’ll be equality
And no suppression of minorities. Well alright.
We’ll take this planet, shake it round
And turn it upside down.
My supersonic rocket ship.

It ain’t no magic, ain’t no lie,
You’ll laugh so loud you’ll cry.
Up and down, round and round
On my supersonic rocket ship.

Let me take you on a little trip
My supersonic ship’s at your disposal
If you feel so inclined. Well alright.
Nobody’s gonna travel second class
There’ll be equality
And no suppression of minorities. Well alright.

Let me take you on a little trip
On my supersonic rocket ship…

[Songwriters: Ray Davies
Supersonic Rocket Ship lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

Avengers Cameo – That random kid in Endgame is someone we’ve seen before

Avengers: Endgame – What was that hammer sound in the credits?

Life on Earth After Avengers: Endgame (Post-post Snap)

Each Dog Death in A Dog’s Journey

As the member of the RunPee Family subjected to this “family-friendly” horror-series of doggy deaths and near-deaths that I lovingly/dismissively term The Dog Trilogy, I thought I’d recount the ways that “Bailey” — the St Bernard mix that survives the end of A Dog’s Purpose — dies repeatedly in A Dog’s Journey. (This isn’t a spoiler, BTW: it’s the entire film’s premise, picking up right where A Dog’s Purpose ends off.)

a dogs way home by w bruce cameron
It’s sort of a sequel and definitely a reboot.

Note: A Dog’s Way Home  is part of this trilogy, but isn’t about Bailey — it’s considered part of a shared universe of the unbreakable bonds of love for dogs and their people.

 

Warning – Spoilers Ahead for A Dog’s Journey

I’ll start by saying I refuse to rewatch A Dog’s Purpose to list the very frequent and often gruesome deaths Bailey experiences there. Honestly, why anyone thought that was supposed to be uplifting and inspiring enough to make two more similarly-themed films mystifies me. But, as I wrote about them elsewhere (follow the links above), I won’t go into that.

Bear with me as I recount Bailey and his kinder, gentler deaths in A Dog’s Journey — the finale and cherry on the cake of this manipulatively sentimental/cathartic dog celluloid extravaganza.

How Often Does Bailey Die in A Dog’s Journey?

Well, only four times on this outing…with all indications the poor canine soul finally ends his long existence. At last he deserves to cross the Rainbow Bridge to live forever with his best friend Ethan.

  1. Bailey as Bailey, the St. Bernard Mix — Pleasingly, he lives a long life with his (now older) man Ethan, played by Dennis Quaid. He’s gently euthanized in Ethan’s arms after falling ill to (presumably) cancer. Unfortunately, he’s tasked with ‘saving’ granddaughter CJ, prompting a new series of reincarnations.
  2. Bailey as Molly, the Beagle. She dies in a harrowing car wreck as CJ, now a teenager, is rear-ended by a vicious ex-boyfriend.
  3. Bailey as Big Dog, the Mastiff-Mix. Not much time is spent with Big Dog, who peacefully wanders off to die in the woods, after a long and peaceful life in a rural countryside with Joe.
  4. Bailey as Max, the Yorkie. Max dies a natural death after a long and happy life with adult CJ. This ending is the best-case scenario we hope for with any beloved pet. It’s apparently the fulfillment of Bailey’s ‘purpose’ and ‘journey’.

Along the way, the dog is menaced by scary things like a horse-kicking, being put down in an overcrowded dog shelter,  running alone in city streets and getting run over (but not hit), and most heart-wrenching: getting nearly strangled when his leash gets caught in an elevator going up. (That last one really had me panicking.)

But to be honest, this movie lets the audience off most easily of the three films. I only cried a few times, even though I was prepared, bringing tissues and a stern message to myself not to blubber.

Should you see this movie?

Sure, if you’re an adult and don’t mind a few tears. But think twice about taking the kids if they’re sensitive and love dogs. The canine poop humor won’t make up for the amount of trauma the film subjects them to. Read a lot of other reviews before sending them off alone with ticket money.

Is A Dog’s Way Home a Sequel to A Dog’s Purpose?

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose – A Brutal Experience in Non-Stop Crying

Movie Review – A Dog’s Way Home – A Brutal Experience for Dog Lovers

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

Are We Sure These Wick Movies Aren’t Another Version Of The Matrix?

John Wick: Prince of Puppies
Created in the RunPee app using #MovieMeme. Just tap on the movie poster (located on the Movie Info Screen) and have fun making your own movie memes.

I’ve gotta say, I disagree with RunPee Dan’s John Wick 3 review on Parabellum. Some of what he says holds true with the choreography and perhaps the length of the film.  But I didn’t get bored with the action.

Very light, vague John Wick Parabellum spoilers lie ahead…

The end of the second Wick movie set the tone for this one, and I feel we got what was teased. EVERYONE is after this man and his bounty.

The action is intense and has plenty of humor mixed in. Especially from Sofia’s attack dogs.

But then here’s where The Matrix seeps in.

Neo…I mean John Wick…is on a mission to clear his Excommunicado with the High Table.

The High Table is determined to clear the board of what they perceive as weakness. The Man that sits above the table is inclined to give The One…I mean Wick…his chance at redemption — at a cost.

And Morpheus…I mean, The King…seems to be setting up the next chapter, with a fair bit of visual humor at the end of the film.

Loyalty and betrayal, determination and doubt.

“If you want peace, prepare for war.”

The Baba Yaga is coming, Parabellum.

Movie Grade: B+

The Matrix After 20 Years – A Retrospective: A Different Kind of Hero, a New Kind of Science Fiction

Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Not as good as the first two)

Movie Review – John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum (Not as good as the first two)

Avengers Endgame and a certain missing weapon [SPOILERS]

Heads up: this is about a specific plot point in Avengers: Endgame. Do NOT read this if you haven’t seen the movie yet. You’ve been warned.

At the end of the movie, Cap goes back in time to return the stones to their original timeline. He takes with him his shield and Thor’s hammer: Mjölnir.

Cap doesn’t return from the trip as planned,  and the crew notice an old man sitting on the bench. At this point Old-man Cap gives his shield to Mac. Very nice and touching scene. But, where’s Mjölnir?

One explanation I like is that during Cap’s time travels to return the stones he returns the Power Stone last, to 1970, and that’s where he stayed, with Peggy. At this point, there would have to be two Captain Americas in the same timeline that the MCU has traveled for the past 10 years. The Old-Man Cap decided to live with Peggy, in seclusion. (He couldn’t exactly go out and advertise who he was, could he?)

Update: in the comments Chris Estrada points out that Cap almost certainly goes back to the 1940s to be with Peggy. I highly suggest reading his entire comment. It sheds a lot more light on this topic.

If this is what happened, then Cap would have taken on a role of a average, nondescript citizen, and he would have to have an agreement with Peggy not to influence the timeline.

So here’s Cap, putting down his hero persona and living as a regular citizen. He has his shield and hammer, probably stored away in the hall closet. But at some point, Cap is no longer “worthy” of the hammer; he’s mowing the lawn instead of fighting the good fight against evil.

And so Mjölnir sits, unmovable, in the hall closet. I picture a scene of one day Cap goes to pick up the hammer and it doesn’t budge; he suddenly realizes he’s no longer a hero.

Unfortunately, none of that works for the continuity of the timeline. Because Cap would have to have left Mjölnir back in Asgard to replace the one that Fat-Thor brought back with him. Basically, they borrowed Mjölnir from the past to fight Thanos.

The big problem with Cap going back to live a life with Peggy — Peggy was already married and had a child with another man. We know that from an interview with Peggy shown in Captain America: Winter Soldier, recorded in 1953. We can say that maybe Peggy and this man were no longer together by 1970 when Cap went back — that’s believable. However, again in Winter Soldier there’s a scene with Cap and old Peggy, and she definitely doesn’t remember a relationship with him after he went down in the plane in the arctic.

The only way this works is if Cap told Peggy what would happen in the future, that he would be thawed out of the ice, and at some point she would have to convince young Cap that they never had a life together.

That’s some serious fan-wanking, but pretty much every single story that involves time travel requires those sort of blinders. Don’t pull too hard, or the whole story unravels.

I’m not complaining. I think Endgame did a fantastic job of injecting time travel into the plot in a playful and thoughtful way. But it’s not flawless. Clearly, this wasn’t the plan all along, because if it were they could have added a few tiny easter eggs in the previous movies that only hatch during the time travel scenes.

What do you think? Are there any other temporal paradoxes that the story glosses over?

Avoiding Endgame Spoilers – Your #AES Mission

THE ENDGAME IS NIGH
THE ENDGAME IS NIGH!

Many of you have your tickets for the Thursday (April 25th) evening premier of Avengers Endgame at 6:00 pm Eastern Time, or at least only a few hours later.  You can’t wait to see the movie opening night, plus you don’t want to worry about getting spoiled by those who see the movie before you.

Good job! You have successfully completed your #AES  (Avengers Endgame Spoilers) mission. But…you’re still not out of the woods.

BREAKING NEWS:
The Earth is round!

That means we have time zones, which means some countries will get to see Endgame before it opens in the USA. This is bad news for those of us living in America.

So, you’re still in danger of contracting #AES

To make matters worse, Endgame opens a few days earlier (on Tuesday, April 24th) in quite a few countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

I did a little quick math — and around a BILLION people live in countries where Avengers: Endgame opens on the 24th.

But it gets worse. Endgame opens in a bunch of other countries on Wednesday 25th.

With the exception of Russia, the USA will be the last country to premier Avengers Endgame to the public

If you live in the USA and want to avoid the barrage of spoilers bound to flood social media about Endgame, then I suggest taking a sabbatical from all social media and news coverage starting around Tuesday at noon, New Zealand North Island Time (8:00 PM Monday night on the USA east coast — or 5:00 pm US Pacific Time).

We will still have early Peetimes ready for Endgame on the RunPee app before the USA’s opening night. The film is over three hours long, and you’re going to want to pee at some point, no matter what MCU producer Kevin Feige says. Good luck, and don’t forget to have the RunPee app downloaded and ready before this crazy long Marvel Cinematic extravaganza begins playing at your film’s showing.

#SeeYouOnTheOtherSide

#ThanosStillDemandsYourSilence

#WhateverItTakes

Peetimes Coming for Avengers Endgame BEFORE OPENING NIGHT

Movie Spoiler Etiquette – For Avengers Endgame and Beyond

A Open Response to Kevin Feige (re: Using the Bathroom During Endgame)

Your 20 big benefits to using the RunPee app