Interview with John Wick director Chad Stahelski – from stunt double to director

Remember the 1990s movie The Crow, staring Brandon Lee who was tragically shot on set during filming? In order to finish the movie, a young Chad Stahelski went from stunt double to actor double. Now here he is, decades later, as one of the brightest new directors in Hollywood.

Read the full interview at Yahoo.com.

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

Movie Review – The Intruder

Movie Review - The IntruderThe Intruder was a decent film. The story has been done before and was really predictable, but the performance that Dennis Quaid gave made it enjoyable to watch.

He really brought his character to life. That was fun. Basically, this was Cold Creek Manor all over again with Quaid as the bad guy, instead of the new homeowner. He just switched roles. I found his performance in this one a lot better than Cold Creek Manor. I think being a bad guy suits him.

I’m considering this movie as a great way to spend an evening in, curled up on the couch, watching it on the television. I don’t feel that it had enough presence to compensate for ticket prices.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: 2 Peetimes were submitted. They are equally good choices to use, easy to sum up, and I avoided any of the action/suspense moments.

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

Rated (PG-13) for violence, terror, some sexuality, language and thematic elements
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

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

Kevin Feige and Avengers Endgame at comic con
We love your work, Kevin Feige, but RunPee WILL find Peetimes for Endgame.

Dear Mr. Feige,

We here at RunPee love Marvel movies more than Nick Fury loves cats. And flerkens. We are super excited for Avengers: Endgame. So much so that we did two breakdowns of the first trailer:

  1. Avengers 4 Endgame – First Trailer Review
  2. A Slightly More Than Casual Fan’s Reaction to Avenger 4 Trailer

We also haven’t been able to stop ourselves from speculating on what Phase 4 of the MCU might hold. And we especially love Spider-Man: Homecoming.

There is always time to pee.

However, we must take issue with your statement that there won’t be time to pee during Endgame. While we expect that Endgame will be action-packed, emotional, and perhaps our favorite movie of the year, there is ALWAYS time to pee. Since we established the RunPee app in 2009, we have offered Peetimes for over 1500 movies — and all of the MCU movies. We offered Peetimes for roughly 169 movies last year alone, including three Peetimes for Avengers: Infinity War. No offense.

You might want to recall Captain America: Winter Soldier had one of the best Peetimes ever in RunPee  history. Not that it was an unnecessary scene, but it was very easy to summarize what happened. You do challenge us to find a scene we can sum up, but we’re up to it. Every time.

No intermission?

You’ve chosen not to give Endgame an intermission, and thus not put it in the same league with masterpieces such as Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And why would you? It’s only a movie about THE FATE OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE.

However, just because you’re not giving people an opportunity to pee doesn’t mean we can’t. We never failed to find a Peetime before and we will not fail now. We will do #WhateverItTakes.

We will not fail.

We realize Endgame is not Suspiria, for which we found an epic twelve minute Peetime. However, we have found Peetimes for such thrilling movies as A Quiet Place, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Mission Impossible: Fallout  — and we WILL find at least one good Peetime for Endgame.

(Don’t worry – we summarize what people will be missing during their few minutes away.)

We will guarantee at least three pee breaks, although two of them may be “emergency-only” Peetimes. But we promise you won’t have to make anyone squirm in their seats during your assuredly excellent movie. We’re superheroes at RunPee too. 🙂

One last thing.

By the way. I am severely disappointed you have not released any footage of Howard the Duck and Spider-Ham helping to save the day, but I trust you are saving that as a surprise for the theatrical release.

We here at RunPee wish you the best and we look forward to watching–and peeing during–Avengers: Endgame.

Sincerely,

Golden Man

—–

[…Learn all about the RunPee app…]

Endgame Pee Planning from Rudd, Ruffalo & RunPee

Peetimes Coming for Avengers Endgame BEFORE OPENING NIGHT

The 59 Hour MCU Rewatch Marathon Means the RunPee App is a MUST Have for Your Bladder

Did YOU Survive The Snap? You may as well get this over with…

Did Jordan Peele Play Fair? Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed On Your First Viewing of Us

Scissors from Jordan Peele movie Us
This poster contains a clue.

Jordan Peele made a splash with the satiric horror film Get Out and even won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  His new movie Us proves he’s not just a one-hit wonder, but a visionary filmmaker who will keep surprising, delighting, and frightening us for years to come.  (He’s already in talks to do a new Candyman film.)

One of the joys of Us is that it lends itself well to multiple viewings. I enjoyed it even more my second time around. There are things you won’t see your first time because you don’t know to look for them. Us is one of the rare films like The Sixth Sense or Memento that practically demands you watch it again immediately.  I watched this movie a second time two days after my first watch. 

Us — What I Noticed on My Second Viewing

— The movies on the shelf in the opening shot are Goonies, C.H.U.D., A Nightmare on Elm Street (which I thought was The Man With Two Brains because I can’t see well apparently), and some VHS tape I’m not sure anyone has been able to read the title of.  A lot of the action in Goonies takes place underground. The monsters in C.H.U.D. live underneath the city. Both of these are Easter eggs foreshadowing the Tethered.

— Adelaide’s father wins her a Thriller t-shirt.  Thriller is the video in which Michael Jackson reveals to his girlfriend he secretly has a monster inside him.  Just like adult Adelaide secretly has a monster inside her. Or viewed another way, we all have a Tethered self.  

— Everything in the movie has a double:

  1. The Vision Quest fun house is later Merlin’s Quest fun house.
  2. The twins are literally doubles of each other and even speak the same. (“Jinx!  Double jinx! Triple jinx!”)
  3. The bleeding man on the beach is the double/Tethered of the sign man.  (This is confirmed by one of the last shots of the film when we see him holding the Jeremiah 11:11 sign in flashback.)  
  4. The families are doubles of each other.  One black family, one white family, each with two kids.  

— One of the coolest bits of foreshadowing is an overhead shot of the family walking across the beach with their shadows walking beside them.

— The words above both versions of the funhouse door (“Find yourself”) are both foreshadowing and a subtle joke.

— On a second viewing, the rabbits in the cages are even more unsettling because now you know the context.

— When the family first get to the beach house and have dinner, Adelaide is very quiet.  She’s reliving her memory of what happened after the fun house incident at Santa Cruz beach.  Her parents are talking to a therapist about why Adelaide hasn’t spoken since getting lost at the boardwalk.  “I just want my little girl back,” the mother says. Hmmm. That’s the first clue that this isn’t her little girl.  

— Adelaide tries to talk Gabe out of going to the beach.  He guilts her into going. She finally reaches a compromise:  “We leave by dark.” (Um, “Because I don’t want the self whose place I took to try to take it back!”)  

— As they drive to the beach, they see paramedics putting a patient into an ambulance.  It’s the sign guy (Jeremiah 11:11). This creeps Adelaide out.

— Jason, the son, is making a tunnel out of sand on the beach.

— The frisbee lands on a dot on the beach towel, perfectly covering it up, a visual symbol/metaphor for humans and the Tethered selves that live in the darkness beneath them.  

–Jason sees a man on the beach who has blood dripping from his fingers.  This is the Tethered of the sign guy and presumably the reason for the sign guy’s injuries.  He’s also the only Tethered whose face we get a close up of later when everyone is joining hands.  He has a sort of maniacal smile. I believe he’s meant to be a Christ figure. Jeremiah 11:11 (NIV) says, “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.’”  When the Tethered sign man is bleeding on the beach, that is him crucified. When he is holding hands with others in the morning light with a rapturous look on his face as humanity is destroyed, that is his resurrection. And he is definitely forsaking mankind, reveling in its destruction.  As GameSpot pointed out, he is also the first link in the chain, standing in wait to join hands with the rest of the Tethered.

— Adelaide doesn’t just freak out because Jason is missing.  She freaks out because she thinks he went in Merlin’s Forest.  She knows that it’s the gateway to the Tethereds’ world.

The 11:11 on the clock at bedtime disturbs Adelaide because it reminds her of the sign guy and his fate.

— When Adelaide says, “I don’t feel like myself,” Gabe says, “I think you look like yourself.”  This line takes on new meaning on a second watch. Because technically she’s not herself.

— When the Tethered family appears in the driveway, Adelaide calls 911 immediately.  Not out of irrational fear, but because she knows what they are: their Tethered selves.  (There’s a separate theory that Adelaide has repressed the memory of dragging Red/the real Adelaide to the underworld until the end of the movie when it starts to come back to her.  And she really only has the memory of seeing a second self in the mirror as a child. I don’t subscribe to that theory.)

— I swear on my second viewing I heard Red say “the girl hated the shadow so much for so long until she realized she was being tested by God.”  But I seem to be the only one. Call it the Mandela effect.

–When Red tells Adelaide to tether herself to the table, it’s revenge for Adelaide leaving Red chained to the bed as a child.

— I love the small moments of the Tethered enjoying what they’ve been deprived of.  Abraham trying on Gabe’s glasses. Elisabeth Moss’s Dahlia playing with lipstick and trying out different facial expressions in the mirror.  

— Umbrae who was born laughing also dies laughing.

— Adelaide follows Red and Jason into Merlin’s Forest.  She seems to know the path a little too well and to not be surprised by anything she encounters.  

— Red’s creepy, hoarse voice is most likely due to her throat being injured from Adelaide choking her so hard when they were children.  

— I’m still confused as to the significance of the ballet recital other than it just looking cool as hell and poetic.  I also don’t understand why the dance is what convinced the Tethered to make Red their leader rather than her rare ability to speak.  

— Adelaide has a sinister grin on her face after she kills Red.  The type of remorselessness we don’t usually associate with our heroes.

— In the ambulance, when Jason looks at his mother, he pulls his mask down.  They are both wearing masks now.

I walked into my second viewing wanting to answer one question:  Does Jordan Peele play fair?

Initially, I wanted to see if Red’s final monologue made sense once one knew the twist.  “We were born special. God brought us together that that night. I never stopped thinking about you, how you could have taken me with you.”

That part still makes sense after the twist. Adelaide could have grabbed Red (the real Adelaide) and walked out of the fun-house with her instead of chaining her to the bed.  Presumably. “If it weren’t for you, I never would have danced at all.” This is literally true as it is Adelaide that starts taking dance lessons as part of her parents’ attempt to get her to talk by encouraging her creativity.  When Adelaide dances, Red has to dance. In a deeper sense, like Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” Red may not have done much with her surface life if she’d never entered the fun-house. But instead she’s started a revolution that is going to change the world.  Something that would never have happened if Adelaide hadn’t switched places with her.

But does Peele play fair with the rest of the film?  

Can one reasonably guess at the twist ending from the clues provided?  I believe so. I’ve mentioned several clues in this post that all point to the twist.  Red’s voice, the mother’s line about wanting her little girl back, Adelaide’s extreme reluctance to return to the beach, her overprotectiveness of Jason at the beach, her immediately calling 911, and Adelaide knowing the entrance to the tunnel system a little too well.  I’ve read one reviewer who made the assumption that the girls switched places from the edit the first time he saw the movie. Just like I assumed in The Sixth Sense (SPOILER) Bruce Willis had died from getting shot in the first scene. But soon abandoned that thought as the movie went on.

I definitely recommend seeing Us more than once.  

It has earned a place among my favorite horror movie endings of all time.   If you really want to jump down the rabbit hole, you can spend hours reading about fan theories, Easter eggs, and symbolism in Us online.  

And if you’re a horror fan, be sure to use the RunPee app to get Peetimes for Pet Semetary, and upcoming films like The Curse of La Llorona, the Child’s Play remake, and Annabelle Comes Home.  You can also find reviews for lots of great horror movies on our blog. Follow us on Twitter@RunPee for the latest movie news.

Movie Review – Us – Tons of Symbolism, Creepy, and a Great Time at the Movies

Movie Review – Get Out – Jordan Peele Hits A Home Run

19 Entry-Level Horror Movies for the Squeamish

 

Movie Review – Pet Sematary – A Worthy Adaptation

Movie Review - Pet SemataryThe newest adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Pet Sematary, was a solid remake. Thirty years after the original release, the makers attempted to revive their cult classic film. That’s a huge undertaking, and an enormous gamble, considering the die-hard fans of the original. To please or not to please — that is the question.

They took a chance and drastically changed the plot…and it worked! I loved what they changed up and was very satisfied they didn’t shame the original.

From the trailers, I had two major red flags go off. These differences were huge to me, and made me cringe in fear of a total flop.

First and foremost, the cat. The original Church exemplified terror. He was a majestic British Short Hair that is, and always will be, iconic. I was scandalized that they were using a fluffy, long haired Maine Coon. What?! This in my mind was going to be a CATastrophe! So there I was, sitting the theater waiting for my disappointment to build, and low and behold, Church 2.0 won me over. This cat worked it on the catwalk; his performance was CATaclysmic. Well done. I was wrong.

My second gripe was Jud’s role. When I saw and heard John Lithgow in the trailer, I thought to myself, “Lithgow’s got some Munster-sized shoes to fill.” To me, no one could replace Fred Gwynne. He 100% owns that part in Hollywood History. So again, I’m sitting there waiting for the disappointment. Happily, because of the drastic plot changes, Lithgow pulled it off. He melded perfectly into the film. Almost. They fleshed his character out more so than the original, and that was an enjoyable addition. My one complaint: the essence that was lacking in his role was a result of a directing issue.

So I am now two for two on my fears being squashed. Kind of like a kitty cat on a heavily traveled road. Squish. I love it when movies prove me wrong.

There are a few minor issues that I’m going to throw in real quick. Jete Laurence as Ellie Creed had a very big part to fill. Her presence just wasn’t strong enough. She was okay, but I could see the possibilities, I felt she came in just under the bar the rest of the movie set.

Amy Seimetz as Rachel Creed also slightly bothered me. However, after a long discussion with RunPee Mom, we deduced it wasn’t her fault. The character itself isn’t endearing, and we’re saying that about Denise Crosby’s portrayal too. Rachel comes across as weak and needy, but that’s how she was written. So technically, Seimetz pulled her part off. I’m a very strong-willed person and I don’t like it when women are portrayed that way, but here, it worked.

I like ending my reviews on a positive note, so let’s praise Jason Clarke: he was awesome as Louis Creed. His performance was phenomenal, as was little Hugo Lavoie. He did a dandy job as Gage. I’m sad I didn’t hear “No fair,” or “Now I wanna play with youuuu,” but he was still fabulous.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag about what I thought, I’ll end by saying, “Great job! I was not disappointed.”

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: This is a pretty short movie. 2 Peetimes were picked, and they both allow you plenty of time.

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

Rated (R) for horror violence, bloody images, and some language
Genres: Horror, Thriller

Movie Review – Us – Tons of Symbolism, Creepy, and a Great Time at the Movies

Movie Review - UsI’m by no means a lover of horror movies anymore, but when Jordan Peele writes one, you can’t help but wonder what it will be like. His freshman movie, Get Out, was creepy enough to motivate me to see more from him. Us didn’t let me down. It’s a little hard to write specifics about the movie without giving away spoilers, because there’s so much to say, due to Director Peele’s love for symbolism and thought-provoking cliffhangers.

Let me start with a little framework. Director Peele stated in interviews that the idea of this movie came from various iconic horror-based inspirations, but the 1960 Twilight Zone episode entitled Mirror Image, where Vera Miles encountered her own doppelganger in a bus terminal, sent his imagination over the top.

The movie begins with a few sentences on the screen, pointing out that there are miles and miles of tunnels and secret passageways underneath cities in America, of which some have no purpose at all. At first, when I read that I wondered if the theater had put the wrong movie on. The next scene didn’t do much for immediately confirming that I was watching the right film given that the time setting was 1986, and a very old television was playing a “Hands Across America” infomercial inviting people to take part in the hand-holding (thus, a tethering which you’ll see resurface as symbolism) around the USA, to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness.

The movie is extremely scary and creepy. Jordan does a good job setting up each scene, especially when the black doppelganger family arrived in the driveway. Director Peele took his time before revealing the family, I’m sure, to increase the suspense and wow factor.

In the meantime, the scenes played out with a little humor from the father Gabe, going from suburban sweet-talking with reason, as he’s a little naive to what’s going on, to straight up hood trash-talking. On the other hand, the mom Ade has a very good idea that something terrible is about to happen. That’ll make more sense as the plot thickens, and at the end of the movie (wink).

There’s a lot of killing, with blood flying and gushing everywhere. If you have a weak stomach for blood, cover your eyes, but don’t keep them shut, as the movie is not filled with massive narrative scripting as much as visuals and sound effects. Jordan Peele used Michael Abels again to do the music, which is the same man Jordan found on YouTube to do the music for Get Out.

The acting was very good by all the characters. Shout-out to Lupita Nyong’o who plays the mom, Ade. She needs an award nomination for the dual role she played — exceptional job, and that spooky voice she created for her doppelganger made her even scarier. Now, let me point out a few things I noticed about the movie that you may have missed, or you should look for when you see it a second time. You have to see it 2 or 3 times because you’ll discover something new every time you see it.

These notes aren’t true spoilers, but if you want to go into the film with no foreknowledge at all, you might want to stop reading here, and return after you’ve seen it. But I think these notes will help your first-time viewing enjoyment, so this will have to be your call:

1. The rabbits appear again in this movie just like in Get Out. Also, I noticed that the rabbits were mainly just white with only a few brown or black ones mirroring America, or some of the many environments we work and live in. Other rabbit sightings: the daughter’s t-shirt; when the homeless guy was taken into the ambulance, he looked to be wearing a rabbit’s foot around his neck; and the doll the young Ade played with was a white rabbit.

2. Don’t miss that deer on the wall of the fun house; it reminded me of the deer at the beginning of Get Out.

3. The signal to move when the doppelganger family stood in the driveway was the Wakanda arms pose from the movie Black Panther.

4. The counselor and the parents thought the daughter was suffering from PTSD.

5. There was a subtle spider doppelganger in the vacation home.

6. The son, nor the mom, had rhythm when the song I Got 5 On It was playing in the car on the road trip. Hmmm (remember I said this when you watch).

7. Jeremiah 11:11 “I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape” appeared as a reference several times: on the homeless man’s sign in 1986, during the present day when he got put into the ambulance, and then as the son Jason noticed the time was 11:11 at the vacation house, just before the doppelgangers arrived.

8. The name of the fun house in 1986 when young Ade entered was called Vision Quest, but in present-day of the movie when Momma Ade entered it was called Merlin’s Nest Hall.

9. Jason’s mask is red, like the doppelgangers’ clothing. More importantly, why does he have a mask in the first place? (Remember I said this, too.)

10. Jason growled like his doppelganger when he and his sister entered the neighbor’s house. Very questionable, or just a little touch of humor? (Remember this.)

11. Momma Ade and her doppelganger, Red, never seemed tethered like the others, as they didn’t have synchronized movements like some of the other copycat pairs. (And again, remember I said this…)

12. The scene of Momma Ade crying reminds you of the Get Out movie character Chris Washington, crying before he was sunk in the chair by the teaspoon-stirring Virginia.
13.  Jordan Peele has been making a cameo appearance in both his movies that no on would notice.  He does the voice of what sounds like a dying rabbit in Get Out and in Us.
14. While there were no extra scenes before or during the credits, Jordan Peele did list the doppelgänger cast names in a unique way.  He listed the human cast name in regular color, then he put the doppelgänger name right to it in red…which is what color they all wore…and the lead doppelgänger name is Red.

Lastly, I’ll mention those gold fabric scissors. I think they represent the act of cutting the ties or the tether between the two pairs. We often are our own worst enemy (as the movie subtitle states) and sometimes we need to sever that tether in order to escape what oppresses us.

I also agree with another theory that Peele portrays the doppelgangers as a means for him to continue to explore ‘double consciousness’ — W.E.B Du Bois’ influential race theory of how Blacks see themselves two-fold: as themselves, and as themselves through their oppressor’s eyes. Hence, the beginning of the movie with the long camera shot of the white rabbit’s eye staring at us.

Okay, I told you there was much to say without giving away spoilers, only tips to pay attention to as you watch. Hopefully, you enjoy it as much as I did. I’m headed to see it again tonight. Let me know your thoughts below.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: Oh my! I’m still shaking in my seat. It was difficult to find Peetimes. The plot didn’t let up much or long enough for anyone to leave their seat and not miss a good part, or one of the many symbolic references. I recommend the 3rd Peetime — it’s the longest.

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

Rated (R) for violence/terror, and language
Genres: Horror, Thriller

Movie Review – Get Out – Jordan Peele Hits A Home Run

Movie Review – Escape Room – Surprisingly Lively, Clever, and Fun

A Quiet Place – RunPee Jilly’s Movie Review (with SPOILERS)

A Quiet Place 2 Announced

Movie Review – Greta – Less Teeth, Still A Good Bite

Movie Review - GretaGreta didn’t have the teeth of some more memorable thrillers, such as A Quiet Place or Get Out, but it did have a good bite.

The first half of the movie was loaded with dramatic exposition, and the last half was the payoff, giving us one heck of a quirky ending. I loved it! I was entertained throughout the movie, and never bored.

The angelic Chloe Grace Moritz and the magnificent Isabella Huppert played off each other’s great performance beautifully. Hopefully, Isabella Huppert will spend a little more time in America, gracing our silver screens.

If you love a good jump scare, take time this weekend and check out Greta.

Grade: B

About The Peetimes: Greta is a tightly wound movie, making it hard to find a good 4 minute down-time. I highly recommend the 1st Peetime over the 2nd, which I only included as an emergency option.

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

Rated (R) for some violence and disturbing images
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery

A Quiet Place – RunPee Jilly’s Movie Review (with SPOILERS)

Movie Review: A Quiet Place (RunPee Dan’s Review)

Movie Review – Get Out – Jordan Peele Hits A Home Run

A Quiet Place 2 Announced

Black Panther – Does Killmonger Have a Point?

black panther and king T'Challa
If you can help, are you morally obligated to do so?  What is better: peaceful existence with a whiff of moral cowardice, or committing purposeful acts of brutality, to achieve real cultural equality?

[Spoilers ahead for everything Black Panther but not Infinity War]

For Black Panther Week, and before the 2019 Oscars, I’d like to give this gorgeous and exciting film a shoutout. Black Panther is up for no less than SEVEN Academy Awards, so beyond being yet another fantastic Marvel Universe superhero film, the tone struck a cord with audiences everywhere. And the more you dig into the narrative, the more story layers are revealed.

From the website Shadow and Act comes this thoughtful and possibly inflammatory piece (depending on your point of view). Do you believe the ends justifies the means? Can we ethically pursue freedom while co-signing on acts of inhumanity, in order to arrive at a more enlightened state?

Here’s the aforementioned article, which goes into some detail on Killmonger’s anti-heroic, yet not entirely misguided journey:

If you don’t agree with anything here, that’s fine too.  But it’s clear within Black Panther that some of our ostensible heroes are either committing their own foul acts (at worst), or turning a blind eye to them (at best).

(Remember, spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen Black Panther, but you are safe if you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War.)

Who’s Right? Who’s Wrong?

It’s really only T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) spy girlfriend Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o )who takes a strong stance on this issue. The entire royal family is otherwise quite comfortable in their position of prestige and luxury in the hidden Utopia of Wakanda.

I would say T’Chaka  — the kingly father of T’Challa — in his seemingly casual decision to abandon young Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) to the streets of Los Angeles, and by extension, the rest of the children lost from the diaspora, is cowardly and wrong-thinking (especially after killing his brother/Erik’s father!). But even the most noble kings have flaws. The movie takes great pains to point this out. Killmonger is beyond awful in his methods, yet is full of righteous rage, worthy of consideration.

In the above linked article, this line seems to stand out: “Swirling in constant reminders of worthlessness, of the specific anti-Black-American toxicity experienced by Black folk in the U.S.A., Killmonger is angry—not just at white supremacist oppressors or systemic racism, but also the Black Elite who left him behind. And he has every right to want vengeance.”

It’s a little risky to place your eponymous superhero in a morally questionable stance, but the movie and T’Challa himself (eventually) rise to the challenge. After the events of Avengers: Infinity War, we are forced to see how this might play out between Wakanda and the outside world.

All the Stars song and end credit image from black panther
What is the true role of a leader? Are you responsible for a nation, a race, a world, or even (within the MCU) the galaxy?

What Can We Take Away From Killmonger and His End Goal for Wakanda?

I asked our RunPeep Shani Ogilve  (see her previous post on A Black Perspective On Black Panther) for a few words about the Forgotten Children of Wakanda, and how sympathetically we can view Killmonger, his mission, and the central lesson of the Black Panther film:

Ogilve writes: “This is a great piece. To start, #TeamKilmonger with a caveat — there is no other team to be on. Killmonger can be compared to other figures in fiction and history — Malcolm X and Magneto come to mind. Though their methods also are extreme, they are justified. I usually go for the MLK and Professor X route, but in Black Panther’s case T’Challa wasn’t even any type of activist. Maybe Killmonger was the martyr for the diaspora. His hurt brought enlightenment to T’Challa, to hopefully step up and make meaningful changes to other black communities.

“I also would say that the blame doesn’t fall on Wakanda or T’Challa completely. Though Wakandans aren’t completely ignorant of how Black people outside of Wakanda are living, they aren’t all-knowing of the Black experience in America or elsewhere. That is honestly an experience that you must experience yourself to actually understand.

“Additionally, it’s not fair to say that because they are doing better than other Black communities, they should be the ones to help them. I don’t hate Wakanda for not helping, because I don’t actually believe that anything they do will make an impact big enough to change systematic injustices. I believe the only way to fix the injustice in our society — and hopefully prevent future Killmongers —  is for the colonizing bodies of the world to do what they must, to reverse the effects of colonization and slavery. By any means necessary.”

Things Black Panther Still Makes Us Think About

Who is really a true villain in the MCU, and who is better termed an ‘anti-villain’? Would you say you understand and sympathize with Killmonger in some way, or his stance? Are all methods fair — even through deliberate murder, casual brutality, and the possibility of inciting a world war — in the name of the greater good?

And on the other hand, as with T’Challa’s choice, if you CAN help others, are you morally obliged to do so? These aren’t easy questions. Feel free to sound off in the comments below. I won’t rip your heads off for your opinion. 🙂

#BlackPantherWeek #WakandaForever #IHaveADream

More RunPee Posts About Black Panther:

A Black Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther

All The Stars – End Credits Song from Black Panther – Video and Lyrics

Movie Review – Black Panther – One Incredible Party

The 5 Movies You Need To Watch Before Infinity War

How to Dress Like You’re From Wakanda in Black Panther

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Binge Watch Review – Russian Doll (A Netflix Groundhog Day themed series)

red headed actress in russian doll on netflix
The Groundhog Day theme as an entire Netflix show premise. And it’s damn good.

Russian Doll is the latest show to hit Netflix, and it has a great theme crossing the line between Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day…(and the new Happy Death Day 2U), and what’s even better, this is an entire series and not just one episode (or movie) with a repeating groundhog day time loop. And, in the best tradition, the protagonist is not someone we like, as things begin. Nadia, the lead here, is selfish, self-absorbed, and incredibly hedonistic. Just like Phil and Tree are, in Groundhog Day and Happy Death Day.

Russian Doll is very also funny. It’s a darkly comedic show.

Sometimes with all the new additions to the Netflix platform, it’s hard to decipher what’s worth watching. I’m only an episode in at this time, but this is definitely a show I would invest in. Natasha Lyonne, who also stars in Orange is the New Black as Nicky, plays Nadia in the series. I really enjoy the personality she brings to her characters. I’m not sure how the loop will be broken, but I definitely think a concoction of Oatmeal, the homeless man she recognizes, and the guy she left the party with all have something to do with it.
So, here is another Groundhog Day themed show for you to appreciate.
Once each two episodes we’ll have two episode summaries! Enjoy. 

Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 1 – 2

  • Episode 1 starts out with Nadia at her birthday party. As she goes through the party, we meet some close friends of hers, and learn about her vagabond cat named Oatmeal who hasn’t returned home in a while. She leaves the party with a guy, and she sees a man on the street who she thinks she recognizes. That same night, she sees Oatmeal. As she crosses the street to get him, she gets hit by a taxi and dies. Once she wakes up, she is back at her birthday party and begins again the death and resurrection loop.

  • Episode 2 of Russian dolls starts out with Nadia respawning once again.  She starts to investigate what is in the drugs that her friend gives to her. From her perspective, that’s when things started going awry. She begins to tell others around her that she’s re-lived this day before and she keeps dying. She’s very on edge because she has several moments when she dies by simply walking down the stairs of the apartment. Towards the end, she stops leaving the apartment via stairs. The number of times she dies by walking down the stairs seriously had me questioning her ability to stay alive. We know that she’s in this world where she’s destined to continue dying, but how many times can one person die by doing a simple everyday task. She’s honestly lucky that she has several lives to spare because it would be very tragic for her to die via stairs on her birthday.

Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 3 – 4

  • Episode 3 begins with her investigating the building her party was held in. It’s her friend’s apartment, but she also learned that it was a Jewish school at one point and there’s writing above the door. She solicits the help of her ex to visit a synagogue in order to learn more about this. She ends up seeing the homeless man named Horse, who she recognized in the first episode. She learns that he’s sleeping outside because his shoes were stolen at the homeless shelter and he doesn’t feel safe to sleep there anymore. They cuddle together under a blanket that night, and unfortunately, they both freeze to death. When she awakens, she goes on a mission to find Horse and guard his shoes at the homeless shelter, so he doesn’t end up freezing to death by sleeping outside. Upon leaving the shelter, she ends up in an elevator that begins to free-fall. She realizes this is how she dies again and notices there’s someone else in the elevator who isn’t panicked. She learns he also dies all the time.

This was a twist to the story because we learned that Nadia isn’t the only person in this alternate universe. In an earlier episode, something strange happened; though Nadia kept reliving the same day, no one else had any memory that they had previously lived this day. However, at the end of one of the episodes, we see a plant that was once alive is now wilting. I assume it’s because the plant has been continuing in its own dimension and not restarting like everyone else. Maybe everyone is restarting, but Nadia is the only one who remembers.

 

  • Episode 4 starts from Alan’s perspective on the same day he met Nadia. He’s keeping count of his deaths, and seems to relive his day the same way each time. He’s taking the fortune-telling perspective by trying to speed through conversations as if he’s already heard them. He’s found out his girlfriend is breaking up with him on the day they were supposed to take a trip. We get to the point when he dies in the elevator with Nadia. Their day begins again with each of them knowing about the other. This realization throws Alan off his usual path. Nadia sets out to find him and meets him at his apartment. His day is skewed and they agree to meet up at her birthday party when they die again. Out of frustration, he throws his ring into the river and dies of electrocution. When he respawns, both the ring and his pet fish (who he feeds everyday) are gone. This leads me to think that the world around them isn’t staying still, just like the flowers at Nadia’s party.

Russian Doll Summaries –  Episodes 5 – 6

Episode 5 – Alan respawns, and instead of going about his day in his usual routine, he goes to Nadia’s birthday party. When he arrives, he sees Mike, the man his girlfriend is cheating with. Alan suspects they are in this situation because they are being punished for being bad people. Nadia disagrees, and asks everyone at the party how she wronged them. No one responds, and she moves on to have a conversation with John about her never meeting his daughter, Lucy. Nadia leaves with John to meet Lucy the next morning at breakfast. When Nadia makes a stop at Ruth’s to get a book for Lucy, she stops to play with some Russian Dolls and also notices Ruth’s fruit are rotting.
(Just like the flowers in a previous episode). While making tea, Ruth’s apartment explodes, due to a gas leak, and Nadia is killed again. Nadia awakens at her party again, where Alan has also headed. She cuts to the chase with John and makes plans to meet Lucy. A couple respawns later — courtesy of Alan getting hit by a car and Nadia being shot by Ruth because she believes Nadia is a burglar — Nadia and Alan both respawn. We see Alan in his apartment, and as he goes to feed his fish, he notices the fish is gone.
When Nadia respawns, she has this idea that Ruth mourned her 15 times, and maybe this situation they’re in is affecting more than just her and Alan. Towards the end, Alan and Nadia realize they both died the same amount of times, and that they always die at the same time. Shortly after, they both get crushed by a falling generator in front of Alan’s apartment.This is an interesting episode, because we see many other instances where it seems like the world around them is changing. The weird part is, does no one else notice the rotting fruit or the flowers dying? Is the fruit only rotting to Alan and Nadia because so much time has passed for them? Does it look normal to everyone else?

This is also the episode where we see actual Russian Dolls. Which is a doll inside a doll, inside a doll and so on. It’s as though with each reset, Alan and Nadia are getting closer to the root of the issue.

Episode 6 – Alan and Nadia respawn and spend the day at his apartment seeing what they have in common. Alan can’t remember how he first died. They try to investigate by asking Ruth to trigger Alan’s memory. Alan hears the story about Nadia’s mother, and how she shattered all the mirrors in the home. She believed mirrors were a reflection, a proof of existence, and another pair of eyes.

They die via bees in the subway, and when they respawn, Nadia decides to go through Alan’s first day with him to see how he died.

They arrive at Beatrice’s house and hear her speaking to Mike. We notice Beatrice also has rotting fruit on the table. As Beatrice is breaking up with Alan, Nadia intervenes and tells her off. Alan and Nadia leave and they both feel really great that they are helping each other. They head to a bar and Nadia tells Alan about her gold necklace, which is the last piece of what used to be her college fund before her mother spent it.

Nadia tells Alan about the night she first died, and about how she slept with Mike. Alan is furious, and they decide to sleep together back at Nadia’s apartment to prove he is better than Mike. While Alan is sleeping, Nadia steals Alan’s shoes and gives them to Horse. Nadia also gives Horse her gold necklace. She goes to the deli with Horse and notices all the fruit are also rotting there. When Horse drops something in an aisle, it reminds her of the first night she died, and she remembers that the man she saw also dropping things was a drunk Alan.

When she returns to her apartment, Alan has cleaned it and has put up pictures of her mom that she was hiding. Nadia is angry and kicks Alan out. Alan goes home and we see him walking out on his rooftop. With Nadia she is venting to Ruth about what Alan did and her mom. Ruth asked Nadia to forgive and move on because she is always forgiving Nadia. When Ruth leaves, Nadia chokes on the chicken she is eating.

When she respawns in the bathroom, the mirror is gone. Her friend who is usually very happy to see her doesn’t sound as happy in this loop. She goes directly to Alan’s house and tells him that all of the mirrors in this loop are gone. Alan confessed to her that he committed suicide the first time he died.

This episode shows how selfish Nadia really is, and makes me believe this situation is more about Nadia’s problems than about Alan’s. She doesn’t forgive easily, and she’s a hypocrite. She got mad at Alan for cleaning her apartment and unintentionally taking out photos that he didn’t know would upset her. However, she had just stolen his shoes to give to Horse. Then she dismisses Ruth when Ruth does’t support how upset she is with Alan. Only to choke while eating and have no one to save her.

The mirrors vanishing is another layer of my Russian Doll theory — trying to get to the root of the issue. However, the mirror is a superficial layer.

Russian Doll Summaries – Episodes 7 – 8 (Season 1 Finale)

Episode 7 – The episode begins in a flashback to a young Nadia with her mom, picking up many watermelons.

In the present, Nadia tells Alan she saw him in the deli, but didn’t help him because she wanted to do something else instead. Alan also realizes he saw her when she got hit by the car, and didn’t save her because he was too drunk. They believe their connection is related to them not helping each other on the first night.

Nadia explains to Alan that somewhere in the universe, the original version of their lives still exist. They make a plan to respawn, and relive their first night to change the decisions they made to not help each other. When they leave to go to the deli, Nadia sees the child version of herself again…and begins to die of an internal organ attack.

When she respawns in the bathroom, someone different enters, and there are less people at the party. She goes to the deli, but once again sees her younger self and dies internally. After she respawns, there are even less people at the party, and this time no one knocks the bathroom door. She makes it to the deli, where things are also missing on the shelves. She sees her younger self and they both start bleeding — and Nadia dies, again. When she respawns, there is no bathroom door. The apartment is empty of items and furniture, and the only person at the party is her friend Max.

Nadia goes to Alan’s house and they decide they must right their past wrongs. For Alan, that is speaking to Beatrice, and for Nadia that is visiting Ruth. When Alan is making amends, Mike comes over. Mike and Beatrice seem nicer. After Nadia leaves Ruth, she goes to meet Lucy and gives her the Emily of New Moon book. She begins to cough up blood and dies.

Ruth’s analysis is Nadia is chasing down death at every moment. She isn’t fighting to be a part of this world as badly. This is apparent in all the drugs she takes, and even that her friends call her a cockroach. Nothing can kill her. Which is ironic is that she’s in this loop of constant death. Alan and Nadia realize they saw each other on the night of their first deaths. It was Nadia’s selfishness that got her in this situation. She was too self-involved to assist Alan.

Just like the Russian dolls that get smaller to get to the center, their world is getting smaller with things, and with people disappearing. I think the things and people around are distractions from the issue at hand…similar to the mirror that was a superficial layer of reality.

Episode 8 — The episode begins with Nadia and Alan in their respective bathrooms, looking into the mirrors that once again exist. Nadia’s bathroom door, the original woman knocking on the door, Alan’s engagement ring, and his fish…are all back!

They start their day and each get new pieces of clothing. Alan gets a scarf for good karma, and Nadia is wearing a new shirt due to Maxine getting the original one wet with a drink. They both attempt to go to the other’s apartment to find the other and eventually go to the deli. Nadia and Alan meet who they believe to be the other person, but they both realize they are meeting versions of the other person from the first loop.

They try to convince the other of their connection, and when that doesn’t work, current Alan and Nadia follow the originals around to make sure they don’t repeat that night by dying. Present Alan convinces original Nadia they are connected by telling her the exact cost of her college fund. He later saves her from getting hit by a car. Present Nadia takes original Alan to his apartment to watch him, and stops him from committing suicide.

In each universe, original and present Nadia and Alan join together and walk down the same street where their paths cross. The series then ends.

What is Russian Doll About?

To me, the conclusion for Alan and Nadia is their journey to care about the other person. In this alternate universe they are in, they try by any means to make sure the other person stays alive.

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What is Animated versus Live Action in Alita – Battle Angel

battle angle alita movie image
You can never have eyes that are too big. Not even as an animated superhero.

Alita: Battle Angel is one of my most-anticipated films of the year.  However, the trailers have been driving me crazy. My eyes can’t quite comprehend what they’re seeing.  What’s animated and what isn’t? Everything looks real and surreal at the same time, and two or three minute bursts of short clips are too quick to comprehend.  

A little research cleared up my biggest question:  Alita (played by Rosa Salazar) is CG. Christoph Waltz and most of the other actors are live-action.  

Weta did visual effects for the film.  They are famous for their work on Avatar, the Planet of the Apes prequels, and Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Salazar wore a performance capture suit for Alita. A Weta crew member followed Salazar around with a computer attached to a camera on Salazar’s face.  They made sure the dots on her face were all in the right place, and that they were collecting all the right information for her facial capture. Salazar says of the suit, “I was a piece of technology walking around.”  

Much like her character.

“The way the performance capture process worked,” says producer Jon Landua, “is we had a number of cameras placed around the set that would record markers on the actor’s physical body.  The system would interpret that marker and put it into three dimensional space. [And then] create a skeleton to go inside a CG model to drive that CG model’s performance.” (To see how this works, see the video below.)   

Landau explains the advances Weta made in facial animation.   “What they’ve really worked on is on the inside-out. Working on a system that is not driving the facial performance from the outside, but understanding what the muscles are doing under the skin, and then moving the skin…One of the artists talked to Rosa about all of the idiosyncrasies she does that we’re not supposed to be able to do, this eyebrow will go up but this lip will go down.  No one else does that, but Rosa does it…It was Weta learning and teaching their system from the inside out, which is a brand new thing they’re doing and really pushing the technology.”

Eric Saindon, visual effects supervisor for Weta and two-time Oscar nominee for The Hobbit films, expounds further on this topic.  “We’re now able to work at the level of the facial musculature—so it’s no longer about just moving the surface skin, but moving the underlying muscles.  You can see it in how the movements of Alita’s face look so much like Rosa’s. We spent hundreds of hours just working with Alita’s mouth, because what makes even a big action scene work, is getting the most human expressions, and Rosa has a very expressive face.”    

Instead of using computer graphics, a live set was constructed.   “We’re in a live-action world that has digital characters brought into it,” says Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor for Weta.  

“Rosa’s not performing against a green screen,” says Jon Landau, “We put a 97,000 square foot set on the back lot of Troublemaker Studios, where Keean could go on a bridge in the rain with Rosa right there, and tenderly touch her cheek in a romantic scene that you couldn’t do before.  But Weta pushing the technology is allowing the actors to really do performances with each other.”

Rosa Salazar confirms, “I was given the gift of…existing in a practical environment with practical props and practical people and, with the exception of one day working on a green screen stage, all the other days were in the real true environment of that set.”   

One of the main sets is Iron City, a future metropolis which has gone to waste, though Alita sees it as beautiful.  “Since she has no memory, she sees everything in a beautiful way,“ says director Robert Rodriguez. Creating Iron City fell to Steve Joyner and Caylah Eddleblute, production designers who have worked with Rodriguez ever since From DuskTill Dawn.  “We knew going in that Robert is all about depth,“ says Joyner. “We knew he would want a city that seems to go on forever. So we knew we would have to create an intricate network of streets, alleys, and corridors that all interconnect. Ultimately, the sets were so complex there were nooks and crannies even Caylah and I didn’t know were there!”  

A scanning crew would scan every environment, so they would have a 3-D model for every set they shot in.    

Of course, not all of the preparation for the movie has been effects-based.  Salazar started physical training for the demanding role the day after being cast.  “You don’t want to cast someone and then you get two takes out of her, and then she’s exhausted,” she says.“  You want to get your endurance level up for something as physical as this. I went into training the very next morning and I trained for close to five months for a few hours every single day.  I did some muay thai, some kung-fu, staff work, kick boxing.”

If you’re as excited for Alita as I am, you’ll want to stay connected with RunPee.  Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Alita review, and get the Peetimes for Alita through the RunPee app.  

 

Note:  The quotes used in this article came from the 20th Century Fox panel at New York City Comic Con, and from the production notes.