Shmee Gets Folded In To A Wrinkle In Time!

A Wrinkle In Time is a favorite from my childhood.  It was read to me when I was very young, and then I read it by myself latter, multiple times, so it was never a mystery to me why it was never made in to a major motion picture.  It is a weird book, and it would take a lot of effort to get right, and it would probably not get a lot of return on that effort.  Unfortunately for Ava DuVernay, her A Wrinkle In Time gets so caught up trying to wow us with magic and wonder that it doesn’t tell an engaging story.

The plot for the movie is similar to the one from the book.  Meg Murry (Storm Reid) has been a troubled kid since the disappearance of her father (Chris Pine) four years prior.  A scientist who believes that you can travel the stars with only your mind.  It turns out that he was right, and he is lost in the stars, so Meg, her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and friend from school Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) will go out to look for him with the help of the Mrs.’.  A group of space traveling supernatural beings, and Oprah.

Obviously since I love the book, I have no real problems with the plot of the movie.  The problem is that it is a little threadbare.  We know that Meg has issues, and that she has to deal with them so she can be a ‘warrior’ and find her father, but I am never sure that she really does.  A Wrinkle In Time says Meg does, and she does get less grumpy, but really she just moves from place to place while a giant Oprah Mrs. Which tells her affirming things.  When in actuality it seems like only The Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) gives her any useful advice.  Letting her know that it is okay to be scared of the answers to life’s questions, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking them anyway.

You would hope that with the story having issues that maybe the spectacle would make up for it, and they tried.  A $100 Million budget allows you to do whatever you want, but not well enough to not look cheesy.  Someone should have come along beside DuVernay and told her that she should scale things back a bit.  Like maybe have Oprah be normal sized, so the visual effects artists don’t have to do a poor job of digitally painting her on to the scenery, and so she can better interact with the other actors.  It is not just Oprah though, nothing ever looks 100% like it should, which is a shame.

The actors are all okay.  Though they are not given a lot to do except smile weirdly or look amazed while caught in an extreme close up.  So close.  If a child’s face doesn’t fit on a movie theater screen, you need to back up the camera a bit.  Storm Reid does her best to show Meg’s transition from troubled to ‘warrior’, but she doesn’t quite get the scenes necessary to make it work.  However, they did manage to pull it all together for an emotional punch at the end.

I wanted to love A Wrinkle In Time, but instead it was merely okay.  It had parts that worked, but they get lost between the poor plotting and bad CGI.  Kids will probably still like this movie, and it is fine family fare, but this is not the classic that I am sure Disney was hoping for.  That way they could green light the next four books.  I am sure that in ten years Disney will try again, and maybe then they will get it right.

Shmee Travels To Wakanda!

After ten years and seventeen movies, Marvel has finally made a movie based off of their first African superhero, Black Panther.  While King T’Challa technically made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, this is really our first big screen introduction to the character, and it was quite the introduction.  The reviews and the build up have been telling me that Black Panther is the greatest Marvel movie of all time, which it isn’t, but it is very good, and it makes me wonder why Marvel took so long to introduce such an important character.

Black Panther begins right after Captain America: Civil War ends, but just in case you are worried, they do a little flashback, so you don’t need to have watched that movie or re-watch it to remember what happens.  King T’Chaka (John Kani) has died, so the mantle of King of Wakanda and Black Panther now fall to his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman).  Unfortunately for T’Challa being King will not be easy because he will have to face down the failures of his father.

Black Panther is the best Marvel origin story since Iron Man.  It manages to tell a personal story with real stakes, and the villain’s motivations actually make sense.  He is not just trying to kill people and rule stuff because that is what villains do.  Michael B. Jordan’s Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is still undeniably evil, but you understand why his is doing what he is doing, and you sympathize with his quest.  You want him to fail, but at least you can see where his world view comes from.

While Jordan’s Killmonger may steal the show.  Chadwick Boseman’s uncertain yet always just Black Panther is also a treat.  Yes, he is another rich guy in a suit, but at least he isn’t a self absorbed jerk.  He values his friends and family, and that makes him much more likable.  Boseman brings him to life expertly.  Then just to tie things together they throw in a cast full of Oscar winners and powerhouse talent.  Black Panther’s casting director wasn’t playing around.

What didn’t hold up so well is the CGI.  For the most part it is okay, but during the big fight scenes at the end it starts to strain a bit.  The purple smudge of a Vibranium mine and some  globby charging animals just look off, and if you were hoping that Black Panther would end without two cartoony CGI guys punching each other you, will be disappointed.

Still, a slightly off ending was not a enough to derail all the good that Black Panther did in the first 90% of the movie.  Marvel has yet another great movie to add to its collection, and a new hero to move about its movie universe, so if you are one of the two people that hasn’t seen it yet, you probably should.  To Marvel fans everywhere, you should be thrilled.  The king has arrived.

We Finally Get A Look At Incredibles 2!

Pixar’s sequel to its best movie finally comes out this summer, and I am pumped.  Apparently Incredibles 2 deals with Mr. Incredible being a stay at home dad because Elastagirl is more marketable.  Which is an interesting idea.  Though I am guessing the family doesn’t stay on the sidelines forever.  Regardless of what happens, I know where I will be this June!

Shmee Enters A Den Of Thieves!

Den of Thieves is the type of movie I expect to see dumped in January (I know it is February now, but I saw it in January!).  It stars a lot of recognizable people doing pretty good work in a forgettable effort.  That is not to say Den of Thieves is bad, as a matter of fact the couple of gun fights in the movie are pretty good, but it is a shame they didn’t get a script doctor to look this one over before it went in to production.  Because the more you think about what happens in the Den of Thieves, the worse it gets.

Den of Thieves follows two groups: Gerard Butler group of ‘gangster’ cops, and 50 Cent’s crew of ‘honorable’ bank thieves.  Sort of.  Because as terrible as Gerard Butler’s cops act, they are never crooked or on the take.  Meanwhile the thieves do some pretty irredeemable things, especially at the end of the movie, that destroys any honor they may have had.  Which is a shame because it really muddles this movie’s message.

I am not saying all movies need a strong message, or even a message I agree with for that matter, but when a movie just kind of shrugs at you it makes the whole thing seem pretty pointless.  Not to mention the more you think about the job these thieves attempt, the less it makes sense.  I am not going to spoil it, but they think the job is far more clever than it is, and there is a reason no one has ever attempted it.

This movie’s saving grace is that when there is action, it is solid.  The guys seem to know what they are doing and it is very intense.  Unfortunately, the middle act of Den of Thieves is all setup, so it feels very long.  It should have been edited down quite a bit or found the budget for another action sequence to cut in to the down time.

Den of Thieves is a movie where actors you know get paid to do capable work on screen.  It is not bad, but once you see it, you will not be itching to see it again any time soon.  I would hold off on watching it until it is on Amazon or Netflix, or unless you are a MoviePass subscriber like me.

Shmee Rides With 12 Strong!

Post 9-11 Afghanistan war movies generally fall in to two categories, critiques on America’s wars in the Middle East, or super patriotic action flicks.  12 Strong is definitely the latter, but it tells a compelling story about the first boots on the ground after The World Trade Center attacks, and their stunning victory.  I am not sure how much of Jerry Bruckheimer’s war tale is true, but it shines a light on some of America’s recent forgotten history.

12 Strong starts on September 11th with Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) settling in to his new home.  The towers fall and he is in to his military base getting ready to head out.  The job he and his eleven squad-mates are tasked with is aiding the Afghanistan Northern Alliance by calling in air strikes on the Taliban.  They are riding horseback against heavy odds in extreme conditions, but they get the job done.

12 Strong never lets you doubt these men are going to succeed, which ruins some of the tension, but it is amazing to catch a glimpse of what they had to go through to destabilize the Taliban so soon after the attacks.  It is a shame that so much of what these guys did was classified for so long, but I guess aiding a rebel group against former allies probably needed to be handled with some discretion.

They got a great group of actors for this movie: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, and Michael Peña just to name a few.  They were all believable in their roles, even if Hemsworth did seem too pretty to have spent three weeks in the dessert, but this is a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, so everyone has to look great all the time.

My biggest critique of 12 Strong is that it is about thirty minutes too long.  Some of the movie felt a little redundant, so they could have done some editing to make this a much tighter and better movie.  Still, as it is, it is pretty enjoyable.

For a movie that was dumped in to the January wasteland of feature films.  12 Strong is a decent war movie.  It is not overly stirring, and it will not make you think about the complex politics about what is going on while these guys are riding their horses against overwhelming odds, but not all films need to.  Some movies, 12 Strong included, just need to show our military out there doing their job, or at least a Jerry Bruckheimer-ed super-explode-y approximation of it.