Shmee Takes A Ride With Bumblebee!

The Transformers movies have a record that could be kindly described as ‘spotty’. Most would probably just say terrible. Finally sensing audience dissatisfaction, Paramount and the multitude of production companies providing financial input in to the franchise decided to do a soft reboot of the property focusing on one Transformer’s origin, Bumblebee. It turns out this was a good decision. Bumblebee is easily the best live action Transformers movie.

Bumblebee starts out on Cybertron. Showing the vicious war that causes the Autobots to flee their home world. Things do not go well for Bumblebee (Dylan O’Brien) when he lands on Earth. He is almost instantly hunted by Colonel Jack Burns (John Cena), so he goes in to hiding as a VW Bug, and ends up the car of a teenage girl, Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld). You can guess where things go from there.

While this movie shares a lot in common with the first Transformers film, it never feels like a retread. The core relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee is sweet, and you get the feeling that they both really need each other. It also manages to make a lot of 80’s adventure movie callouts without feeling stale or cheap. It is Spielbergian without feeling like a knockoff.

I would like to applaud two people behind the cameras for Bumblebee: First, Travis Knight. Bumblebee is his first live action directing gig, and only his second turn as a director. With the first being Kubo and the Two Strings (he is usually a producer for stop motion). His attention to detail that he must have developed for stop motion really paid off with Bumblebee. The story and the special effects really came together well, and that only works if you know how they will all fit together in post-production. Second, Christina Hodson. This is her first major screenplay, and she got a solo writing credit, which is almost unheard of in these days of large writing rooms. Given all that, it was a great script, and I expect big things from her. I hope her next screenplay, DC’s Birds of Prey, is equally entertaining.

Of course, all that good work behind the scenes would have been for not if Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena didn’t pull off their roles, but thankfully they were great. Steinfeld is a believable as a mourning teenager, and she and Bumblebee are cute (not a word I ever thought I would use in a modern Transformers movie review) in their scenes together. John Cena was given the job to be an over the top 80’s villain, and he rolled around in it like catnip. He was clearly having fun. Obviously, the special effects team that brought Bumblebee to life deserves a ton of credit as well because he was the most lifelike Robot in Disguise yet and displayed a lot of emotion considering he can’t talk for most of the movie.

Bumblebee is not a life changing movie. It is simply a fun popcorn movie made in the style of an 80’s Spielberg film, and that is more than enough to recommend this movie. It is almost worth a watch to prove that Transformers movies don’t need to be three hours of teenager ogling and explosions. They can be just as good as any other movie out there. By now you must know that I liked this movie, and that I think you will like it too. I am eagerly awaiting its follow-up, Prime.

Shmee Swims With Aquaman!

Thanks to Amazon and Atom Tickets I was able to see Aquaman a week early, so I am able to get a review out before the movie opens for once.  Aquaman is the sixth movie from the DC Extended Universe, and its second best.  Which to be fair isn’t hard, but it is still a good movie.  It is strange to think in this era of superhero films that an ‘A’ list hero created in 1941 is just now getting his own movie, but thanks to the 70’s animated cartoon Super Friends we think of Aquaman like this:

And not like this:

Anyway, the new movie from James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious) and Warner Brothers seeks to change all that, and for the most part they do.

Aquaman takes place right after Justice League, but in no way do you need to know what happened in that film, just that it happened, and Arthur Curry AKA Aquaman (Jason Momoa) reflects on how he came to be.  He has also started being a hero full time.  That is until Princess Exposition  Mera (Amber Heard) shows up and tells Arthur that he needs to come to Atlantis and claim the throne from his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) before Orm can declare war on the surface world.

Aquaman has the pretty standard origin story flow.  He is a misfit kid dealing with some trauma (though not as bad as most superheroes), and he is a reluctant hero until he gains the confidence to fight.  Now that may not have sold you on this film, but what should, is that this thing is non-stop action and spectacle.  It is always showing you something cool or crazy.  I mean there are sharks with lasers fighting giant crabs, Black Manta has his big dumb helmet, and if that is not enough Julie Andrews plays a kraken.  None of this will win an Oscar, but it is all peek ocular cotton candy.

Sadly, it has a few things that bring it down.  This movie is over two hours long and at that it still has barely enough time to tell its story, so a lot of things feel rushed or at least very convenient.  I didn’t like Amber Heard at first.  She was stilted and wooden, but that is because she was given nothing but exposition to say for the first hour.  Once she was done with that she got much better and was clearly having as much fun as Jason.  Willem Dafoe also spouts exposition, but he is much better at it.  It is a gift it seems.

Aquaman revels in being a popcorn movie.  One covered in cheese with some candy on the side, and you can tell the actors were all having a lot of fun with it.  I mean there are dinosaurs in this movie and nobody says anything about it.  They just exist.  Why?  Because they are cool, and that is this movie’s MO.  If you are going in expecting more than that, you may be disappointed, but I had a great time.  It is strange to think that Aquaman is this year’s fourth best superhero movie, but it is still pretty good, and worth your time and money.

Shmee Swings Into The Spider-Verse!

I am not a huge Spider-Man fan.  I think it is because when I was a kid I was supposed to like him, so I disliked him out of spite, but he has grown on me over the years.  To the point now that I was eagerly awaiting this new animated Spider-Man film, and it seems fitting that only a month after Stan Lee’s death that his most famous creation would get its best movie.  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just a little better than the rest of the Spider-Man movies, it is Miles better.

At the beginning of Into the Spider-Verse, New York has gotten used to being saved by the blond-haired blue-eyed Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man (Chris Pine).  Things seem to be going his way.  He recently got married, and he has never failed the city on the big stuff.  Meanwhile Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is just an everyday kid.  Smarter than average, and has a good heart, but not extraordinary.  This changes when he is bit by very familiar spider.  When Peter and Miles meet during a mishap with King Pin (Liev Schreiber)’s particle accelerator their universe will change forever.

Everything is on point with this movie.  The writing is fantastic, the action is insane, it has a great cast, and it looks like a comic book come to life.  I am not sure why everyone thinks live action is the way to go with comic book adaptations because you can do so much more with animation.  I know some people will not like the sort of stop motion look they gave this film to kind of mimic the changing panels of a comic book, but it grows on you, and it gives the movie a unique feel.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gets to the heart of what it means to be Spider-Man.  Living through the everyday failures but choosing to get back up and continuing to do what is right anyway.  Obviously, those failures include loss.  Almost all superheroes have tragic beginnings, and Miles’ is no different, but the movie never feels cheap and it drives Miles forward in believable ways.  Also we get to hear how tragedy as motivated the other Spider-People as well, and those stories help to inform Miles’ path forward.

The vocal cast for Into the Spider-Vese was great.  I already mentioned Pine, Moore and Schreiber who are all great, particularly Moore who really captures Miles’ complex feelings and wide-eyed awe of what is happening, but add to those guys, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, Jake Johnson, and Lily Tomlin and you can’t ask for much more.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse might be the best superhero movie released this year, and yes, I am aware Black Panther, Infinity War and Aquaman (review tomorrow) all came out this year, but it is that good.  I am on board for these high quality animated Spider-Verse movies, and hope Stan got to see it before he died because he would have loved it.  It was an ode to everything he and Ditko created in 1962.

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.

Blade And Feather Is Free Today! Through Monday…

Hey you know that book, Blade and Feather, I wrote a long time ago?  Well it is free today (8/16/2018) through Monday (8/20/2016), so if you have been wanting to read my super (not great) book, now is your chance to get the Kindle version without paying me or Amazon anything!  Right HERE.  It also may be your last chance because I am probably going to delist it soon.  Anyway, hope you have a great weekend!