Shmee Pulls A Job With The Widows!

Widows is Steve McQueen’s first movie since his Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave.  It is based on the 80’s British TV show of the same name, but I am guessing the movie is quite a bit different than the show.  Yes, they are both about widows of thieves pulling a job to pay off their late husbands’ debts, but the 2018 move also pulls in commentary about the current state of Chicago, and what it is like to be African American in America, so in other words it is not just a gritty Oceans 8.

In the opening minutes of Widows, Veronica (Viola Davis) Rawlings’ husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), and his crew are gunned down by Chicago Police officers, and it turns out the man they stole the money from is a crime boss running for alderman, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), and he needs his money to run his campaign.  He gives Veronica a month to pay back the money.  With nowhere to turn for help she enlists the other widows of Harry’s crew to pull off a job to pay Jamal and secure their future.

What every good heist movie must to do is make the main crew sympathetic, and Widows does that very well.  The husbands were bad men, the crime boss is terrible, and the man Jamal is running against Jack Mulligan played by Colin Farrell might represent the worst of Chicago.  He comes from a long line of political wheelers and dealers that have allowed and helped bring Chicago to where it is today.  Some armed robbery considering all that seems minor.

If you are going to try adding politics and racial tensions to a heist movie, you need a good script, and Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl fame did a great job, and cast they got deliver the lines is phenomenal.  Even people that were on the screen for like five minutes is ‘A’ list talent.  Apparently once you win an Oscar everyone wants to work with you.

Not everything is perfect though.  Because of all the added commentary Widows is a bit slower than a standard heist flick, so if you were expecting action and tense scouting, you may be disappointed.  An Oceans or an Italian Job this is not.

I really liked Widows, and I thought McQueen and the bucket loads of talent that brought this movie to life did a great job.  It just might not be the movie that the trailers lead you to believe that it was.  Go in looking for something a little slower and more thoughtful, and I am sure you will be happy with what you see.

Shmee Heads West For Red Dead Redemption 2!

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed when Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced to be a prequel to Rockstar’s classic western game, but that disappointment was misplaced, Red Dead Redemption 2 is fantastic.  Just about everything about it works.  It turns out there is a reason it took them eight years to make a followup, near perfection takes time.

In the first game you as play John Marston hunting down your former crew, the Van der Linde gang, to free you wife and child, and now in RDR2 you play as Arthur Morgan one of the leaders of that gang during its final years.  I didn’t know if I wanted to be an outlaw, but they give the supporting cast so much heart and story, and Arthur’s yearning to be good even though he was raised bad is a little heartbreaking.  In other words, I am fine with it now.

Like all Rockstar games, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in an open world, but unlike most modern games, that open world is not just a series of icons to track down.  There are markers for different characters to interact with, but what you will be doing when you get there varies, and then there are just random things that happen as you ride by that you can interact with, or not, and most of it is amazing.  It is no wonder they force you to play the game awhile be for they let you buy your fast travel map, and even then, it is only to an unlocked location from your main camp, and it doesn’t let you fast travel back.  They want you to explore their world that they lovingly crafted.

That is not to say the normal open world stuff is not there, you can hunt, fish, ride up on camps, and get in all the shoot outs you want, but this feels more like a real place and not a carnival.  As a matter of fact, it makes Rockstar’s other premier franchise, GTA, feel like a cartoon.  If you do bad things exploring this western paradise, you will get punished accordingly, and you will have to pay your bounties or face the consequences, and due to the realism of the world, you feel bad about hurting people and taking what doesn’t belong to you.

It is not all sunshine and open pastures however, I hate their menu system. I know it is supposed to make the game more ‘tactile’ and ‘real’ feeling but holding down buttons while cycling other buttons is a chore, and once you have played for a while, the long horse rides do feel a little grindy, so you will be more willing to pay for a train ticket or a stagecoach ride.  These are minor quibbles, but over a lot of hours, they do start to get more annoying.

While I know this review is a little late for most gamers because they are already playing Red Dead Redemption 2, I just wanted to add my two cents because I have been thoroughly enjoying myself.  If you haven’t spent the money on Rockstar’s latest epic yet, you should.  It is an amazing accomplishment.

She-Ra Continues Netflix’s Reboot Success!

I have been singing Voltron‘s praises for a while now, so I was intrigued when Netflix and DreamWorks announced a reboot of She-Ra.  I was skeptical after the trailer.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the new look, but like I said, they had earned a little of my faith, and they largely came through.  I wouldn’t say it is as amazing as Voltron, but it is much, much better than the She-Ra of the past.

The basic setups are the same between the old and new shows.  Adora is an orphan kidnapped by the Horde, but then she finds a magic sword that lets her turn in to the super strong Princess of Power, She-Ra.  A lot of the characters from the old show are in this one as well, but what is different is that you care about all these characters.  They have stories and arcs.  The entire backbone of this first season is how Catra’s and Adora’s relationship defines and makes them who they are.  You know, a real theme and plot!

Not everything is perfect though.  While I appreciate that the series is mostly hand drawn, it is not drawn with a lot of depth.  You can tell that they did not have a massive budget, and while it is mostly smooth, it can still feel a little cheap.  Some of the story beats that do not belong to Catra or Adora can feel rushed or muddled, and Swiftwind is super annoying.

The Michael Bay Transformers broke me, and I never wanted anyone to reboot anything ever again, but then it turns out I just don’t want people to reboot things poorly anymore.  DreamWorks and Netflix can reboot whatever they want at this point.  However, this shared universe Roald Dahl show sounds like a bad plan, but they have earned my eyes for at least a few episodes because She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is better than I could have hoped for.

Shmee Listens To Sabrina’s Chilling Tales!

If you haven’t been following Archie Comics lately than you wouldn’t know that they have gotten an update to their grocery store checkout sensibilities, and their reemergence has been so successful it has launched a new TV show on the CW, Riverdale.  Riverdale has been a hit for the CW, so the CW went to Warner Bros. Television for another show to sit alongside it.  What they came up with was a little too dark for network TV, but before Warner could go back and retool it, in swooped Netflix, and Netflix was more than happy to have The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina get as dark as it wanted to get.

The setup for The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is very similar to the 90’s sitcom, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Sabrina (Kiernan Shipka) on her 16th birthday will have to leave her human life behind and become a full witch, she is only half witch on her father’s side, but like any teenager she doesn’t want to do what she is told.  This is where the changes start to appear.  You see the Dark Lord really wants her on his side for some reason, and he sends in his team to sway her to the dark by any means necessary.

The word ‘Chilling’ from the title is best descriptor for the show.  It isn’t outright scary, but it is darker and much gorier than anything the CW has ever put out.  So much so I am wondering if they punched it up once the show moved to Netflix.  However, most of the show’s storylines fit firmly in the teenage drama genre.  It is still a CW show at its core.  No amount of witchcraft can change that.

If you want a teenage drama with some gore and some spookiness, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is probably what you are looking for.  It has a good cast doing crazy things, and it feels like Riverdale’s cousin, so those are all positives.  Though all the talk about and interaction with the Dark Lord are big negatives for me.  I guess how you feel about the show will depend on if you are looking for a dark gory teenage show where a girl has to rebel against the Devil or not.