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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is timely. This is needful.

What I didn’t like

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

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

31 seasons of loving acceptance, crossing several generations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Disclosure:

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

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

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

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

Noteworthy observation:

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

Movie Grade: B+

 

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

First View Movie Review – Her

Her is a moody, introspective piece masquerading as a love story. And while I really do appreciate Scarlett Johanssen’s vocal efforts, I did not enjoy the overwhelming feelings of loneliness permeating this film. I walked away pretty sad, and even woke up sad the next morning.

I have no problem with the premise, and think it’s not that outrageous an idea to fall in love with a devoted and clever AI. In fact, I believe this kind of thing isn’t far-fetched at all. We live in a crowded world, paradoxically full of very lonely people. Her isn’t depicted as being too far into the future. Only by noticing how much more polluted the Los Angeles sky can you even tell this is a futuristic setting. As it is now, spending all our time ditzing around with our phones is a real thing.

Sometimes I even think my Alexa is sort of a person.

The AI character of Samantha is really well written, and you believe she’s aware of herself and alive. Little nods to her electronic nature are strewn smartly around: she has unlimited time on her hands and a brain as fast as Data from Star Trek…we get where Samantha is coming from when she admits to loving 600 people simultaneously. Her dalliance with “Alan Watts”, another AI, is telling. Human rules no longer apply when you’re staring into infinity with each moment.

While there were some moments of whimsy in Her, it’s mostly a melancholy piece. Joaquin Phoenix makes the most of his expressive eyes, depicting a desperate Everyman trying to find love in a vastly uncaring universe.

Her is a sincere and earnest story, stylishly told and well-directed. It doesn’t seem to aspire to impart any big lessons on life and love, being content to pose a What If type of scenario. But since I don’t find the idea of cyber-love too bizarre, what I seem to be walking away with is a firm reminder that long-distance relationships are hard.

Movie Grade: B+

Movie Review – Won’t You Be My Neighbor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I for one am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Movie Grade: A-

Movie Review – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Tom Hanks and Fred (Mr) Rogers are cousins

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

Movie Review – Tangled

 

Movie Review - TangledI’m only 3/4 of the way through my first viewing of Tangled (yes, my 1st time) and I love it already so much I’m willing to give it an A+. Of course, they could screw it up during the climax and I’ll have to change my review, but so far I’m completely delighted.

Tangled: beautifully animated, very funny, and packs in a lot of adventure. I’m stingy with my A grades, and give almost nothing an A+, so this is a good endorsement from us at RunPee.

Great Characters

There’s a handsome Han Solo type of rogue. Which…yay! And of course there are amusing animal sidekicks. What’s cool is that both the horse and chameleon have a ton of attitude, which Disney doesn’t usually do. Actually, their “men” aren’t usually ‘jerks with a heart of gold’, except for Flynn here, and  Naveen in The Princess and the Frog. So this is kind of a treat. Ahem.

I smiled a lot, especially with the Snuggly Duck ruffians singing about their dreams. Really. What could be more cute than that scene?

This movie made me happy.

A Great Villain

Then there’s Gothel, the ‘wicked’ adoptive mother. She’s an awesome villain. Her songs are totally fun, and she’s actually nice to Rapunzel. She really is. She’s affectionate, goes out of her way to get Rapunzel a birthday gift, and gives the girl a decent life (albeit as a complete prisoner) with games, books, paints, a great kitchen, craft supplies, a lot of leeway for doodling all over the walls…pretty much anything one can do inside a nicely appointed tower.

Gothel’s not evil so much as selfish…but not completely unrelatable. She’s not about riches or power. She just wants to stay young and live. Ursula from The Little Mermaid is still my favorite Disney villain, but Gothel is surprisingly interesting. I liked her better than Scar from The Lion King, and he was previously my second favorite Disney villain. Good job, Tangled!

And a Disney Easter Egg or Two

I find one in the movie Tangled: a stylized depiction of Snow White’s Poisoned Apple painting on a stairway balustrade in Rapunzel’s Tower. Easy to miss, but it’s there.

Also, Rapunzel and Flynn show up at the Coronation scene in Frozen, which is pretty cool. Her hair is still short and brown. Disney doesn’t want to be a shared universe, but now that Pixar/Marvel have been absorbed by the Mouse, things are changing.

Tangled, Overall

I’ll be watching the last part of this movie tomorrow (I have to see Ad Astra tonight to get Peetimes) and really hope Tangled’s climax doesn’t let me down. I’ll be back soon to let you know if this is truly an A+ film.

UPDATE After Finishing Tangled: I’ll keep the A+. It met up with my expectations, even though I thought they could have wrapped up Mother Gothel’s story a little less gruesomely.  Put her in prison or something, like the Stabbington brothers, who were, you know, actually evil. I did love the return of the ‘dreamer’ ruffians, though. See? Some people are redeemable. (I really would like Disney to stop with the bad parent theme, like they did with Brave.)

Grade: A+

About The Peetimes: This Disney classic was re-released in theaters this Friday. When I do Peetimes for Disney Princess films, I do my best to avoid any songs, which is what most fans want to see. Some exposition or mild plot scenes are chosen instead, but are well-summarized in the synopses. Tangled has 3 good Peetimes, so you won’t be lost when you get back from the toilet. Pick any.

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

Rated (PG) for brief mild violence
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance

Movie Review – The Little Mermaid

The Lion King – Rewatch Review of the Animated Classic

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

First View Movie Review – Jaws 2

jaws 2 chief brody
He always gets his man. Or fish. Whatever: Brody is still cool.

There really isn’t much to say about Jaws 2, from which I expected a little bit more, being the only other “Jaws” film said to be worth watching. I got the chance to finally catch it last night. (RunPee is on a bit of a Shark Movie Binge.)

The original Jaws gets an A+ for brilliance, originality, fabulous chemistry,  deft writing…and serves as an early primer on how to construct a blockbuster around a solid narrative.

Jaws 2 is…not good. But it’s not complete trash, either. I’d give Jaws 2 a C+, which is a tad higher than average, but not by much. I can’t imagine how bad the sequel’s sequels are, and probably won’t bother with them. There’s so many better shark movies to watch, and I haven’t even tapped the campiness that is Sharknado yet.

I won’t belabor this. Jaws 2 had some good follow-up to Jaws, and also some glaring holes…and one big huge unforgivable sin. I’ll get to that in a moment.

What follows are spoilers for Jaws 2, even though you can probably guess how things go down. 

The Good Stuff in Jaws 2

  • The lookout tower. That’s some good continuity. It makes sense Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) would build such a structure and see it manned as a shark lookout. (I wish the stupid mayor would have framed it as a bonus for the visitors..increasing safety, etc, instead of the retread plot about tourism suffering.)
  • Chief Brody had PTSD. They never actually say it, but it’s very clear and present. As it should be with his background. Brody started Jaws 1 with a fear of the water, and seems to have processed that, at least.  But now Brody has to step up again, full of bad shark baggage, and even says to the mayor (and the mayor’s associated jerks) that HE CAN’T DO THIS AGAIN.

And he steps up anyway, still in need of a ‘bigger boat’.

That, my friends, is continuity.

More Good Stuff

  • Having the kids’ boats raft up made logical sense. That’s what would happen in real life, and I was pleased to see boaters being sensible in a dangerous situation. (I used to be a boat guide, for like, ten years. So kudos there.)
  • Cable Junction made for  a novel setting. I wanted to see a final showdown with everyone waiting for rescue on that lump of rock. I didn’t get that, but the idea using the “cable” worked for me, even though everyone in the water should have fried too.

UPDATE: I am reliably told by a scientist that the kids would not have been electrocuted, but that Brody, holding the cable, should have been at least hurt. He wrote: “As for the hypothesis that all in the water ought have died by electrocution, I disagree. The shark was the only path between high voltage (cable) and ground (water & earth), so it had to fry. Past that narrow conductor, the current spreads 3-dimensionally through water and earth, losing intensity extremely fast with distance from the origin, and flowing around high-resistance paths such as living creatures.”

  • Yup, Brody is still bad-ass. I hope he moves off the island to a flyover state without sharks. He can worry about tornadoes or earthquakes, but will be safe from insane predator fish.

Since I won’t bother watching Jaws 3 or 4 or 15, someone tell me what happens next. (Comment section is below!)

jaws-2-beach
Duh duh. Duh Duh. Dun Dun dun dun DUNDUNDUNDUN….you know how it goes.

The Stupid Stuff

  • No characterization happens. I don’t remember anyone’s names except Brody’s and maybe his kiddos. One is Michael, right? Who was the wife? The Mayor? His lackies? It’s not like we cared — they were, as Drax The Destroyer once said, ‘paper people.’
  • No direct reference at all to how Brody saved Amity Island a mere two years ago? He should be a local hero. Not dismissed as a lunatic seeing sharks on every beach, who then gets fired for doing his damn job.
  • It would have been nice to see even a throwaway line about Richard Dryfuss’s character Matt Hooper, and how useful he’d be if he wasn’t off at Greenpeace (or something – I’m easy).
  • Those teens were fungible: I didn’t care who lived or died. I liked the child and his brother (Brody’s kids) because they had actual plot development. But the rest were just…there. As bait.

This is bad script writing. See a movie like Aliens to learn how to make the audience care about everyone in very spare narrative. (For example: you know the relatively minor characters Frost, Vasquez, Bishop, Drake, Hicks, Hudson, Apone, Gorman, and Dietrich, right? Do you know even one of names of the chum teens?

  • The shark looked ridiculous in every scene, both under the water and above, like some floppy rubber…thing. For comparison, the only time Jaws looked silly in the original film was when he attacked the Orca. By Jaws 2 in 1978, the production studio seemingly had no money left for decent effects. If they couldn’t afford to do this right, why bother? I’m guessing because they got Roy Scheider to reprise his role.

(Then they went on to make more Jaws movies with apparently less budget, and spawned an entire cash-cow movie sub-genre….so what do I know?)

The Really, Really Bad Thing in Jaws 2

Okay, W. T. F. ? This shark rams boats, chews metal gunnels, maws through wood beams, and drags a HELICOPTER underwater? Is this some evil nation’s  drone shark with AI implants?

This isn’t how animals behave. Sharks don’t eat boats or upend ships to make people fall overboard. They’re highly specialized predators, but don’t have sentience. Sharks are opportunists who will grab a leg or arm to see if they like it — but they aren’t planners, strategists, or remotely relentless about their prey. If it fights back, there’s plenty of other ‘fish in the sea.’

I allowed for Jaws in the original to attack the good ship Orca, mainly because the rest of the story was so good, and I was willing to accept that this particular Great White was…atypical.

In Jaws 2, the new Great White was just bananas. It was like Die Hard: Shark Edition. Seriously, biting the helicopter pontoons was where I gave up. There’s no reason that would EVER happen: monsters and animals are not the same thing. If they wanted to go nuts like this, then the sharks should have been invading aliens from Rigel 4, or something.

At least in Deep Blue Sea there were….reasons for the deliberate, concerted pack attack.

For reference, this was posted at the bottom credits of 47 Meters Down 2: Uncaged: 10 people die from sharks each year. Ten million sharks die from humans each year.

#MikeDrop

Conclusion: If you loved Jaws (and who doesn’t?), Jaws 2 is an average tier shark follow-up to Brody’s narrative.

Movie Grade: C+

Better Shark Movies, reviewed on RunPee (Except for 47MD Uncaged, which is just dreck…): 

Movie Rewatch – Jaws – Still A Fantastic Blockbuster

The Shallows – First View Movie Review (2016)

Movie Review – The Meg

Deep Blue Sea – First View Movie Review (With YouTube Clips)

First-View Movie Review – 47 Meters Down (2017)

Movie Review – 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

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

Movie Review – Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Meet the Real Megalodon

Best Non-Jaws Shark Gems

The Shallows – First View Movie Review (2016)

blake lively in the shallows shark film
Blake Lively has impressive survival skills, compared the chum-bait in most shark films.

The Shallows is much better than The Reef (or the more recent Crawl) but offers the same kind of apex predator adventure. Blake Lively (as Nancy) tells a more compelling story, however, through sheer acting talent and believable physicality.

What do you do when you you’re trapped on a rock, spitting distance to shore, with a hungry shark blocking your path to safety?

The difference:  The Reef had a small group of edible people to start with, and in The Shallows Nancy is (mostly) alone. It’s not a story of the last man standing, but whether the only character lives at all.

This is a well-told shark survival tale, but not exactly riveting, adventure-wise. There’s a lot of time spent hanging out on a rock and a buoy. It works, however.  I enjoyed this film a lot.

Survival Skills Sell the Scenes

Lively performs her few action sequences skillfully. Nancy’s smart, determined, and one hell of a fighter when it’s down to getting out alive from an oddly persistent shark. I loved the use of her necklaces — she was trained as a doctor, after all.

(Important safety tip: make sure your surfing pendant can be used as a needle to sew up your skin….or cut a compression bandage from a neoprene suit, if necessary.)

The early use of the cell phone sequences were nicely portrayed, but a bit odd in context. More films could take their cues on how to show someone interacting with their texts and face calls, but….isn’t this unnamed beach like, SUPER remote? Where is Nancy getting her cell reception from? How does she intend to call Uber 50 miles down a dirt track in the jungle? These things do bother me. (But not as much as the drunk asshole stealing her phone…)

Also, I would totally have eaten that seagull. She was three days in by the climax, and besides the dangers of dehydration, hunger would have reared its head. She did eat that crab — good, good — but then spit it up. Less good. Eat that thing, girl. You have to keep your strength up.

 The Shallows, Overall:

The Shallows is one of the better shark movies in the genre. But it’s less about action and gore than the tale of one smart gringa who saves her own self from a terrible fate…and that’s a great thing in any film. It’s not as amazing as Jaws, but it’s up there with Deep Blue Sea and 47 Meters Down. Smart people rock!

Recommended.

Movie Grade: B

Here’s a PSA: If you encounter a DEAD, HALF-EATEN WHALE floating beside you, leave the scene. Leave right away, without making a lot of splashy, shark-alerting kicks. Don’t hang around to inspect the chum. I shouldn’t even have to say this.

National Geographic has a few shark survival tips you might care to memorize if you like the ocean.  Be careful out there.  🙂

More Shark Related Films, Reviewed on RunPee.com

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

Deep Blue Sea – First View Movie Review (With YouTube Clips)

Movie Review – Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable

Movie Rewatch – Jaws – Still A Fantastic Blockbuster

First-View Movie Review – 47 Meters Down (2017)

Movie Review – The Meg

Movie Review – Crawl

Deep Blue Sea – First View Movie Review (With YouTube Clips)

deep blue sea team in aquatica lab
Well, the sharks are smarter now, so we’ll be best friends, right?

I just watched 1999s Deep Blue Sea for the first time, during Shark Week 2019. DBS is sort of like Jurassic World if the Mosasaurus started hunting the lab techs. With some Samuel L Jackson on the side — although someone else got his famous line. And there’s a nod to Jaws. (Licence plate, but I’m sure you noticed this right away.)

Did I have fun watching Deep Blue Sea?

You betcha!

Is it realistic?

Um. Maybe some of it could be? But mostly, no — sharks don’t seem driven by vengeance and testosterone, even if they’ve become seven times smarter by evil tech (with the best intentions, actually). Carter’s (Thomas Jane) last minute explanation of the super-sharks’ behavior works far better. I can see how the sharks might have had that plan. Shades of Aliens there — “How could they cut the power, man?! They’re animals!” And the first Jurassic Park itself: “Because we’re being hunted.”

Also, the science is a little dodgy.

I’m getting nowhere without going into spoilers, so let me continue this part and move on.

The Aquatica Set is the Star of the Film

The undersea laboratory Aquatica is an extraordinary  base for action film-making. Deep Blue Sea makes use of the whole design, conceptually. Think about it: in the water, you move around in three dimensions, rather than the two surface dwellers usually contend with. This set design fully uses all dimensions and directions, including the logic of going down to go up.

There’s the above-sea catwalks and the sky tower, set around a Sea-World-type shark enclosure. Then there’s the undersea high-tech lab levels, complete with a pressure-sealed shark bay and the obligatory bank of monitors.

Also, there’s the fancy Five Star stainless steel kitchen. Somehow this place (with only a half-dozen staff I could see) employs a full time chef. Who is also a Preacher. (Go with it, because the kitchen scenes are worth it…and ALSO call back to a certain iconic Jurassic Park scene.)

Then the lower levels feel much like sets from submarine movies — cramped, utilitarian maintenance passageways, full of ladders, bottomless shafts, and Jeffries Tubes. 😉 The story starts above the ocean, moves midway to around 60 feet under the sea, drops you down to the ocean floor…and agonizingly crawls back to the surface. This has to be one of the most creative uses of set concept I’ve seen. (Plus, the shaft here makes actual sense, unlike the ubiquitous chasms in the Star Wars Galaxy of films.)

I’m reminded a lot of the cool little film Escape Room from last year. Each set is a ‘room’, tasking the dwindling group of survivors with puzzles to solve to level up towards freedom.

Getting What You Expect in a Shark Film

Overall: Deep Blue Sea is a lot of fun, and you get what you expect in a shark movie…people torn apart and/or eaten whole, guessing who’s the last one standing (or swimming), wondering how the sharks will die in the end.

IF THEY DO. Is there a shark film out there where the shark kills all the people and gets away?

deep blue sea shark fin
Most of the shark scenes are in darkness like this. Remember, this is 1999. It’s a dodge, like having all the T-Rex scenes at night and in the rain in Jurassic Park.

Spoilers ahead for Deep Blue Sea:

You’ve been warned.

Spoilers ahead.

Really. Who lives and dies:

I absolutely wanted the Chef/Preacher to survive. I didn’t realize he was LL Cool J until the credits rolled: I just really liked his character. J had the best scenes. I loved his rude little parrot, how he hid in his own oven (yikes), and intelligently dispatched his shark.

He should have died in the explosion, but this is a movie, and here’s the thing in film: if you don’t see a dead body, you can’t take assume someone is dead. And sometimes, not even after that. (As with Zombies, decapitation of the head helps. (Unless you’re in an X-Files film.)

I was thrilled with the continuity of the flaming fragments from the kitchen level raining down the elevator shaft. The crew had to worry about hypothermia, burning rain from above, ravenously mean sharks below, and drowning as each submerged level burst open… all while climbing rickety emergency ladders that kept breaking to pieces. It could have felt over-the-top campy, but it just played right.

Who Lives, Who Dies

The deaths we did get were interesting choices. Stellan Skarsgård’s death was well executed, providing an eerie, chilling thrill that stands out as the single best scene. I was sad to lose him so early on.

This scene rocks: 

Also, shall we mourn for Jackson, whose moment we should have seen coming, but never expected (and so unceremoniously)? The A-listers are supposed to survive, right?

The bird getting eated was…shocking. That was in 1999. That kind of thing (pet deaths, unless it’s in a ‘dog movie’) doesn’t happen much these days. Didn’t even the rat survive in The Abyss?

Then, the lead scientist (Saffron Burrows) getting swallowed whole? That seemed like some Old Testament shit right there, based on the  Jurassic Park “messing with nature” theme, and Preacher’s constant commentaries to God, a la LadyHawke.

Normally the alpha female would  be the sole survivor in a shark film. This gal was smart (she took down her shark handily), had a mission that really would have helped people, and had chemistry with Carter, the manly man of the group. I salute the writers for taking the less obvious route. Her self sacrifice redeems her character, if you feel she needed redeeming. She legit wanted to cure brain aliments that devastate millions of patients and their families. She just took some morally dark shortcuts to get there, and the implication is she paid for it with her life.

These sharks don’t act like real animals, but that’s because of Man’s Hubris/Interference, so I’m okay with this. Normally it’s a pet peeve of mine when an animal acts like a “monster.” But these are chimeras, with new rules I guess, and their plan was to escape to the Deep Blue Sea (ahem) more than anything else, and whatever, and it’s not worth working this out.

Should you see Deep Blue Sea?

See Deep Blue Sea if you like action-adventure and don’t mind some mild gore. This barely classifies as horror. I looked away once, and that wasn’t even too nasty (poor Scoggs — Michael Rapaport — he was cool. I like smart people in movies).

If you can handle the Jurassic Park and Aliens films, you’re good to go. Toss in some philosophy about the ethics of “saving mankind through DNA fun”, and you’ve got a super enjoyable B monster movie. I enjoyed this one greatly, as I work my way through shark films over Shark Week, just before 47 Meters 2 premiers.

Recommended!

Movie Grade: B

More of RunPee’s Shark Movie Reviews:

Fast & Furious 1 & 4 Is Really ONE MOVIE

Dominic "Dom" Toretto
Dominic “Dom” Toretto

I finally watched a couple of Fast & Furious movies. Even though the upcoming film is called Hobbs & Shaw, I do know they are a F&F spin-off, and was curious about WHY WHY WHY there are all these movies out there about fast cars and criminals? Why these are movies so popular?

I adore action films, but am not automatically into the whole ‘root for the villain’ thing. Some may have a ‘heart of gold’  — but Dom and Brian had not gelled yet in the 2001 story, so I was like, “Meh.” Neither were close to the anti-hero levels of Han Solo or Robin Hood…and certainly not Malcolm Reynolds (from Firefly/Serenity). Or even Diesel’s own beloved Riddick character from Pitch Black.  Not yet.

At this point, these dudes were just testosterone-oriented criminal adrenaline junkies in LA.

And as for driving fast, I used to flash people in San Diego driving down the 805 at 100 MPH over the Mission Valley interstate bridges…but grew out of that after college and a few very expensive speeding tickets. (My boyfriend had a convertible and we thought we were immortal, and I have a cute butt…it made sense at the time, but was frankly stupid).

So at the tender age of 50, I just watched F&F 2001, and was appalled. Here’s a bunch of criminals doing totally unsafe things that should kill bystanders. With women dressed in almost no clothes, saying they will do sexual acts with racing winners they don’t even know, and behaving far more sluttily than my innocent butt-flashing highway moments ever were.

I watched this, which was essentially a movie of the video game Grand Theft Auto, and thought exactly this: “???”

Why was this popular enough to spawn a franchise that will be 9 movies long by 2020, and how did I never see any of these?

I can’t say. The original F&F 2001 had an ending that was ambiguous at best. I can appreciate that as a bold choice, but since the movie had almost no plot, it didn’t feel earned. It’s 75% racing, 10% sexy stuff, and then the story picks up the scraps. I guess driving dangerously fast didn’t interest me any more.

I was more involved in Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, the Marvel movies, and, of course (to me) the Lord of the Rings. (And now you know what geekhoods I love best.)

It actually took watching the 2009 (the 4th) film, which follows up exactly where the first movie leaves off, to get me on-board.

Finally, the movie came together. I’ll say the best thing — if you’re still new to the franchise — is to watch 2001 and 2009 as one movie. Back to back. That makes one decent story and serves as a fine introduction to what comes ahead.

2009 cut down on the ‘male gaze’ aspect immensely, to my relief, I guess. If I wanted to see that kind of female behavior, I’d find some porn. The men keep their clothes on on F&F, and their clothes are not skin-tight either. Why can’t we see some male flesh? Oh jeez. I’m barking down a well. (It’s not like I need to see that, but it would at least be fair. I still like butts.)

So, why do the women have to be essentially naked if the directors want half the population to watch their films? So, yes THANK YOU that the women, seven years later, are allowed to be real people and not simply male decorations. I say this understanding that the few women racers were also bad-ass…but they were still totally hot and dressed to show it. This was off-putting. How is this relatable?

But back to the Fast & Furious origins storyline:

If I was baffled by the appeal of the first movie (Vrooooom, vrooom, NOX, boom!), I liked where things continued in 2009. The Mexico borderlands sequence was an incredible nail-biting experience (but still felt like a video game, granted). And the Brian/Dom relationship was allowed some space to unfold, finally. It wasn’t just trading insults from hate (it was trading insults from bro looooooove).

I like adrenaline too, but mine is legal and low key: rock climbing, cave rappelling, plane jumping, traveling solo in foreign countries, bungie jumping, sword fighting, backpacking, and aerial acrobatics. It’s not like I’m a boring person. But I dress for comfort, not to attract men. I think I was spoiled by being an Outward Bound instructor in my younger years. I was valued and admired for my outdoor skill set and leadership ability, not for cleavage and sexual taunts.

Probably you want me to shut up on all this. So I’ll get back to the plot.

RunPee Dan wrote an extensive and very helpful article about the entire series. Granted, he skipped a few films, but these are arguably worth skipping, based on both the Rotten Tomatoes Meter, and RunPee Sis’s definitive recommendations (as a F&F UBERFAN). (Seriously.)

Sooooo, what should you watch to get started with the Fast and Furious oeuvre?

Like I said, I think 2001 and 2009 should be viewed back-to-back as one film. 2009 picks up right where 2001 leaves off and flows seamlessly together. Both are exciting (but 2009 is just damn better, okay?).

I’m going to make a judgement call and say they are one good movie, but only when viewed together.

Everything changes after the 2009 film, with the 2011 addition of Dwayne Johnson — AKA The Rock — but that’s not important for now. 2001 and 2009 are the important bro foundation between Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker), and their love for…well, driving really fast. They bond. Bonding is good, right?

I will say Vin Diesel definitely has the charisma to anchor a franchise. (Really. Watch Pitch Black, please. And, lest ye forget, he’s also Groot.)

I’m reliably told the story gets more ‘heroic’ in subsequent iterations. So I’ll be watching to see the inevitable Vin vs Dwayne mano a mono fight (I love them both, even if they are…well…fungible.)

BTW: Apparently Vin and The Rock really, REALLY dislike each other. Does anyone know why?

Hobbs & Shaw’s Backstory from Fast and the Furious

Fast and the Furious – Furious 7 Movie Review

Movie Review – The Fate of the Furious – F8

Movie Review – Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

 

First-View Movie Review – 47 Meters Down (2017)

47 Meters Down is a surprisingly decent shark movie. And it’s not even that scary – the horror level was low (and I’m a horror scaredy-cat, so trust me). What 47 Meters Down had going for it was a unique shark premise, and a gripping survival element. While the girls screamed a lot, both stepped up to the plate eventually to escape their increasingly desperate mess.

What problems did Lisa and Kate have?

  • Trapped in shark infested waters in a broken shark cage
  • Pinned down by the cage crane
  • Running out of air
  • Being just out of ship communication (47 meters — on the bottom of the ocean shelf)
  • Running the risk of getting the bends (which means certain death if they swim to the surface too quickly)
  • Lots of mundane things, like a heavy iron cage landing on your LEG

Did the two sisters survive? Well, that’s not really the point of the movie. It’s the middle of the story that’s the most fun. The beginning sets up the characters. The end resolves the plot. But the center section has the gripping moments, the awful series of dilemmas to overcome, and the horrific situation of being trapped in a shark cage next to blood and various chum…juuust out of radio reach to the waiting boat, and safety, above.

I have to admit the 47 Meters ending was super original and made me weirdly happy. All the clues were there. I’m shocked I didn’t figure out what was actually happening, although I did think at the time that the ‘happy’ stuff was unrealistic, and chalked it up to a Hollywood Ending.

I need to stop talking before I spoil anything.

Shark Movie Lineup Fun:

I’m going though a ‘shark phase’, catching up on all the best shark movies I missed the first time around. My re-watch of Jaws slayed me: A+++ all the way: I forgot how damn good the original blockbuster was. Shivers, in the good way. The Reef was decent. The Meg was pretty exciting. The Mosasaurus in the Jurassic World movies is just plain super cool.

I prefer it when my dangerous sea animals are ANIMALS, and not psychotic monsters. I know that that’s a lot to ask in a modern-day adventure movie. But it’s doable, as seen in the above movies (links go to our reviews – enjoy!).

So, I’m in the middle of my first-time shark movie viewings.

What else is on my Shark Watch list?

I’m told I need to see The Shallows, Deep Blue Sea, and maybe Jaws 2. I’m not so sure about the Sharknado franchise. And there’s one about sharks in a convenience store? There’s a metric ton of shark schlock out there. You tell me what’s good, and I’ll watch it. (Comment section is below, and really, tell me what’s good.)

Movie Grade : B

In case you didn’t know: there’s a sort-of sequel coming out in August (it’s more like a Shared Universe story) called: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. I’ll be there with chum in hand. 🙂

 

Movie Rewatch – Jaws – Still A Fantastic Blockbuster

The Shallows – First View Movie Review (2016)

Deep Blue Sea – First View Movie Review (With YouTube Clips)

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

Movie Review – The Meg

Meet the Real Megalodon

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

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

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

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

Nitpicking where I shouldn’t

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

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

What I liked

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

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

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

Movie Grade: C+

Movie Rewatch — Jaws

Meet the Real Megalodon

Best Jaws Iconic Moments, plus Movie Analysis (videos)


 

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