Shmee Takes A Ride On The Orient Express!

Murder on the Orient Express is a movie that thinks it is better than it is.  It thinks it is stylish and sophisticated, but in reality it is just a pretty façade with not a lot going on behind the scenes.  That is not to say the 2017 remake of the classic film based on the classic book is bad, it just doesn’t do anything interesting or new to justify its existence.  It just tells the story again in a very straightforward manner.

What is that story?  Well I am glad you asked, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on the titular Orient Express when a man is murdered under strange circumstances.  Everyone has a motive, so everyone is a suspect.  It is a good thing that Poirot is the world’s greatest mustache detective.

There is not a lot else I can say without spoiling the movie, but that is one of the main problems:  Besides the book there has been a movie, two TV specials, an anime and even a manga that have told the story of a Murder on the Orient Express.  We all know the story, and if you don’t, you are not the target market for this film.  This new one doesn’t change up the story at all.  It is simple retelling.  A very good looking retelling.  Sure they keep remaking Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers over and over again, but action and heroism are universal, and you can show them in new ways.  A who-done-it that is faithful to the book stops being captivating because we know who-did-it, and how Poirot solves it.

Luckily the cast saves this film from being unwatchable.  They are all great.  Even Johnny Depp tones down his weirdo of the week impulses, and any time you can add Michelle Pfeiffer to your cast you should.  Though I am not entirely sure that Kenneth Branagh pulls off his French accent.  It sounds okay most of the time, but it can get a little iffy.  I am sure there are four Frenchmen that saw this film that are supper offended.

If you somehow have never seen or read Murder on the Orient Express, this is not a bad version, but if you have, there is no real good reason to.  The best one I can think of is to support Michelle Pfeiffer, and even then I am guessing they credit all the eyes this movie gets to Sir Kenneth Branagh.  The other reason is that it is full of beautiful people in great clothes in front of some okay green screens.  Which is a 100% valid.  I am just not sure that is enough for most people.

Shmee Is Asked A Simple Favor!

If a drama mixed with a comedy is called a dramady, what do we call a thriller mixed with a comedy?  A thrilledy?  I am not sure, but that is what you get with Paul Feig’s latest film A Simple Favor.  Now the movie aficionados out there may be wondering, “Wouldn’t the jokes ruin the slow burn tension of a thriller, and wouldn’t the slow pacing of a thriller take the punch out of a comedy?”  The answer to those questions respectively is, kinda and thankfully no.

A Simple Favor is about a single stay at home suburban mother named Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) who has a poorly trafficked Vlog.  Her life gets way more interesting when she is asked to come over for a drink by the fabulous and exquisite Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) who runs PR for a large New York fashion company and is married to a famous author (Henry Golding).  Emily is everything Stephanie wishes she could be, but things go sideways when Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favor.

The movie has some problems if it is viewed as a pure thriller.  The pacing is off, the twists are too telegraphed, and the stakes never feel that high, but Kendrick and Lively are immensely watchable.  Their on screen chemistry is fantastic.  While the jokes are not coming out a mile a minute, they almost all land, and since they are not coming out rapid fire, you get to savor them a bit.  I was quite impressed with how well it all worked, and the level of talent on display.

Paul Feig knows how to direct a good comedy, and for A Simple Favor he got play with the tropes and toys that come with a thriller as well.  It was a fun mashup.  With lesser actors and a less deft director it could have been a snooze, but I was quite enthralled for most of the movie’s 117 minutes.  You don’t get many thriller-comedies, and almost no good ones, so A Simple Favor is a unique movie going experience.  For some it may not be worth a trip to the theater, but definitely check it out when it hits your streaming service or DVD kiosk of choice.

The Predator Hunts Laughs!

The Predator is back in its first solo outing since 2010.  What is different this time?  It is very silly.  I am not sure that is what Shane Black and co. were going for, but that is what we got.  Imagine a competently directed big budget SyFy Original film.  I am not saying it is as over the top as Sharktopus, but there are some tonal similarities.  For someone like me who enjoys that kind of thing, I had fun, but I can see fans of the franchise being let down.

As far as plot goes there isn’t a lot to talk about with The Predator.  A Predator lands and the government lead by Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) wants his stuff.  Complicating that is Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) and his elite Ranger squad are the first people to come in contact with this new Predator.  A bunch of stuff happens, McKenna gets a newer funnier squad, and the government chases him while he chases the Predator.  Meanwhile Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) is there to do science on all of it (and by science I mean shoot guns).

The Predator only has one gear, and it is high.  This movie never really slows down, and if it does, it is usually for Brown and Munn to give us some exposition.  Speaking of Brown, if there is an MTV Movie award for chewing scenery, he is a shoe in.  I mean he is literally chewing all the time, and if he had a mustache, you had better believe he would be twirling it, even though they never give him a motivation for being evil.  I mean all the people he is hunting down would be on his side if he wasn’t trying to kill them, but hey, you can tell he is having the time of his life, and his fun is infectious.

It is obvious that Shane Black wanted to make a riff on the old 80s/90s action movies, like the ones he got his start in, and there is no greater action movie from that era than Predator, but somewhere along the line ‘a riff’ got turned in to a kind of self parody.  Whether that was on purpose or not, it is hard to say, but I am leaning towards ‘not’.  I am also guessing he got a few studio notes that he had to work in to The Predator, which is probably why it feels so overstuffed.

It may sound like I didn’t like The Predator, and to be fair, I am not sure I could call it a ‘good’ film, but I did enjoy myself.  I laughed nonstop, and the movie never slowed down enough for its flaws to really bug me while watching it.  However, if you were looking for it to return to its scary mostly serious roots, you will be disappointed.  In other words, I think in order to have fun watching The Predator you will need to adjust your expectations:  Just go in expecting to watch a glorious SyFy Original.

Shmee Enjoys Mission Impossible’s Fallout!

Mission Impossible: Fallout is the sixth movie in the franchise, and despite that fact the series shows no signs of slowing down.  There are some nukes, and Tom Cruise is going to have to run them down, literarily.  While that may sound like the plot of at least half of the Mission Impossible flicks, it still works, and the movie is impossibly fun.

The past Mission Impossible plots for the most part have been separate from the films that preceded them, with the exception of some comments about Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) relationship status, but Fallout is a direct continuation of the story started in Rogue Nation.  Ethan took out the leader of the Syndicate (Sean Harris), but the Syndicate’s agents are still causing issues, and they want to nuke the world, so the IMF will have to find out who they are and stop them.  If they choose to accept the mission that is.

Listen, people don’t go to the Mission Impossible movies for plot.  They are always convoluted, you can never trust anyone, and there will always be a ticking clock.  However, in between all that they will throw in some of the best action set pieces around.  The stories all deflate with any sort of second look.  Fallout tries to get introspective about why Hunt is doing what he is doing, but we know why.  It is so we can watch him do cool stuff while he saves the day, and all with his signature smile.

What makes this all palatable is his crew.  Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames can be relied upon to narrate the action and deliver quips, and Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust continues be a, ‘can you trust her?’, love interest that can keep up with Hunt’s antics.  She is no damsel.  Which I suppose can be said for all three, yes I said three, of the women who have fallen for Ethan in this movie.

Mission Impossible: Fallout doesn’t stray from the formula that has been working since J.J. Abrams took over the series starting with Mission Impossible III, but it doesn’t need to.  Tom Cruise doing crazy stunts while Simon Pegg makes jokes is immensely watchable.  So much so that I am sure Ethan Hunt will accept his seventh mission.

Shmee Casts Supergirl!

It has been a long time since I have cast something, mostly because they announce the casts for movies so quickly now, but with DC’s latest flick Supergirl no lead was attached, so the time was right for me to pick the first girl of Krypton.  I know a lot of you are pulling for the CW’s Melissa Benoist, but pulling from DC TV has not been DC Film’s MO thus far, so I am leaving her off the table.  Here are my top five actors in reverse order!

5: Chloë Grace Moretz

Chloë is a talented actor with great comedic timing, and if Marvel has taught us anything, it is that comedians make great superheroes.  Not to mention at 21 she could play this character for a long time.  The only downside is that she might be a little short at 5’4″.

4: Lily James

Lily James just looks like Supergirl: the smile, the hair, and the figure.  Her biggest downside is her age.  At 29, she would be 30 by the time Supergirl started filming, not to mention any sequels.  So she wouldn’t really be a ‘girl’.  However, thanks to ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ we know she can do action, and I think she would be great for the role.

3: Zendaya 

I know Zendaya is locked in to a contract over at Sony playing ‘Not Mary Jane’, but she could bring a lot to Supergirl.  She can act, she can fight, and at 5’10” she can stand tall with the boys.  Zendaya would be a fun casting, and one with her notoriety that could really bring some interest to the picture.

2: Kiernan Shipka

Kiernan my be busy bringing Sabrina Spellman back to the small screen, but it might be time to bring all her talent to the big screen with Supergirl.  The teenage Mad Men alum as been great in everything she has been in.  There is no reason to think she wouldn’t soar as Kara.

1: Saoirse Ronan

The biggest reason not to cast Ronan is that no one can pronounce her name, but other than that she has everything that Supergirl needs.  A background in action with Hanna, she can probably out act the rest of the DCU, and at 24 she can act younger or older depending on what is needed for the script.  She would be great as last Kyptonian woman.  I would watch her anyway.

So that is my list.  I think it is pretty good, but I know you think I am wrong, so I would love to hear your list.  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.  Until next time!