A Waste in Time

A Wrinkle in Time   M Wrinkle 2018

Rated:  PG

Runtime:  109 minutes

Genre:  Adventure – Family – Fantasy – Science Fiction

Theaters:  February/March 2018

Streaming:  NA

els:  1.5/10

IMDB:  4.1/10

Amazon:  NA/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  5.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  2.5/5

Metacritic Metascore:  52/100

Metacritic User Score:  2.9/10

Awards: NA

Directed by: Ava DuVernay

Written by:  Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell (screenplay), Madeleine L’Engle (book)

Music by:  Ramin Djawadi

Cast: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Chris Pine

Film Locations:  Eureka, Los Angeles, Santi Clarita – California – US;  Hunter Valley, Wanaka – Otaga – New Zealand

Budget: $103,000,000

Worldwide Take: $39,000,000 (Opening Weekend)

Dr. Murray (Pine), an astrophysicist, referred to as Mr. Murray for reasons not stated, tells an audience of his peers that he can transverse 93 billion light years in the wink of an eye using a concept called tessering.  He is laughed off the stage. Later he disappears without a trace leaving his wife and two children adrift in the world without him. Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), youngest sibling of the two Dr. Murrays and a child prodigy, discovers the three Ws: Mrs. Which (Oprah), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling); shape shifting, time travelers who are in search of a hero to save the universe. Charles Wallace introduces his socially inept sister, Meg (Storm Reid) to the Ws and they all convince her to be that hero; to search for her father and save the universe before the evil thing, It, destroys all that is light and good.

B Wrinkle 1962The movie is based on the Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 book A Wrinkle in Time, a children’s book that was rejected 26 times before eventually finding a publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The book has been  in continuous print ever since.  The book, as with the movie, deals openly with evil while simultaneously equating Jesus with Buddha and other notable humans.  Publishers felt these topics too heavy for children and too anti-Christian for adults.  Later L’Engle hinted, because the hero was female, that misogyny also contributed to its multiple rejections. Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre, Scott Finch, Dorothy Gale, Anna Karenina, Joe March, Lady Macbeth, and Natasha Rostova could not be reached for comment.

The director, Ava DuVernay, opened the movie with a brief comment on making the film and thanking the viewers for watching, almost begging them to like it.  This was a tact that I have never experienced before, at least that I can remember (maybe Walt Disney did the same with his movies).  At some level, I suspect, she was warning us that what was to follow was an absolute rotter.  She has managed to make a movie where not one single thing clicks.  It’s all strung together scenes with no audience connection, no avenues provided to bring the viewers into the movie. She gives us no reason to like this movie, just reasons to hope it ends soon.  DuVernay along with the writers Lee and Stockwell seem to have a lot of ideas to make great movies but using them all in one film is probably not wise.  The long drudgery of scene on the planet Uriel comes across as an excuse to film in 3D and imitate the 2009 film Avatar. Sorry, but James Cameron did it better.  For a children’s movie the writing was childish. The Ws tell Meg that her faults are her strengths.  Later Meg tries telling her brother that she is uncoordinated and we are supposed to believe that this is a strength that will conquer the big bad evil thing, It.

This is the first movie that a female director was given a $100 million for a budget.  I’m sure it’s not the last big budget for a woman but hopefully its the last for DuVernay.  As for Jennifer Lee it appears animation is where her talents are best utilized.

There is very little good to say about the acting. Oprah is thoroughly wooden throughout the movie and never quite figures out where to look when using the green screen.  Mindy Kaling reads her lines with no delivery —  sad. Meg has no ability beyond deer in the headlights wonder. Witherspoon was charming and excellent but not enough to cancel out the bad acting going on all around her.  Zach Galifianakis, playing the Happy Medium, was also fun and he had the only line in the movie that made me laugh.  He is lecturing Meg and she tells him he sounds like her mother.  Galifianakis responds in all seriousness, “Why is she a baritone?”.

My family watched this movie together at a theater, which we very seldom do anymore; streaming at home is so much easier.  With my wife and I were our 26 year-old daughter, 15 year-old son, and 3 year-old granddaughter. Not one of us 5 liked the movie.  Not the kid, not the teenager, not the young adult, not us slightly older folks.

The granddaughter didn’t exactly say the movie was bad, she just didn’t watch it.  While the movie was playing she found a better use of her time; passing out popcorn to the rest of us one kernel at a time.  In the end I’m not sure who Disney made this movie for or why they wasted everyone’s time with it.  Save your time and cherish your time, see something else with your precious time.  I haven’t seen a movie this bad in long time.

It’s Magic-Fantasy Will Set You Free

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  (Theaters-2016; Streaming-2017)  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 133 minutesM Beasts 2016

Genre: Action-Adventure-Family-Fantasy

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.4/10

Amazon – 4.4/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 66/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.3/10

Directed by:  David Yates

Written by:  J.K. Rowling

Produced by:  David Heyman, Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling, Lionel Wigram

Music by:  James Newton Howard

Cast:  Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler

B Beasts 2001.jpgJ.K. Rowling, in 2001, wrote and published a Hogwarts textbook, under the pseudonym of Newt Scamander, on the magical world of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; a slim encyclopedic volume of fictional animals that made up the enchanted universe of Harry Potter and his bewitched school chums.  The book, though imaginative, generally did not interest anyone much past age of 12, being just a compendium of beasts without any pretense of a story or plot, but it did spin-off this wonderful film, a charming tale of magic and adventure, 70 years before Harry Potter, in the streets of New York.

The movie opens with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arriving in New York for a brief stopover before continuing onto Arizona to further his research into “Fantastic Beasts” but almost immediately has an itinerary change due to one of his creatures escaping from his improbably bottomless briefcase. Promptly the escaped beast goes on a hunt for anything shiny: usually solid gold, resulting in a hilarious wizard and beast chase through the streets and banks of New York.  Compounding Newt’s creature capturing problems is an anti-magical society trying to expose and eliminate all witches and wizards along with a controlling magical political hierarchy attempting to keep everything secret and under wraps, including the threat posed by impending arrival of arch-villain and dark wizard, Gellert Grindlewald (Johnny Depp).

David Yates, the director, and Rowling have put together a lively romp of fun through the magical world of New York, enhanced with exemplary acting by just about all involved.  J.K. Rowling continues to surprise her fans, including me, with the depth of her talent, by adroitly changing roles from an accomplished author to a novice, but never-the-less, a master producer and screenplay writer for this movie. I found this movie heads and lizard tails above the Harry Potter movies, mainly because Harry Potter’s sub-par acting was absent. Make time to see this entertaining film for itself, and ultimately, to keep you abreast of the likely sequels.


Family First

Shot Caller  (2017)  Rated R  Runtime: 121 minutesM Shot 2017

Genre: Action-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller-Crime-Prison

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.4/10

Amazon – 4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore – 59/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10

Directed by: Ric Roman Waugh

Written by: Ric Roman Waugh

Produced by: Jonathan King, Michel Litvak , Gary Michael Walters , Ric Roman Waugh

Music by: Antonio Pinto

Cast:  Nikolaj Coster-Walau, Jon Bernthal, Lake Bell

Jacob ‘Money’ Harlon, played by Nikolaj Coster-Walau, destroys his life, his family, and his friend, in a split second of inebriated inattention, tumbling him towards the gates of hell and hell’s masters. Harlon evolves from a successful stockbroker to a calculating gang member inside the go along or die, walls of prison.  Jacob on the outside; handsome, kind, likable, becomes Money on the inside; branded, stoic, brutal, shrewd; ultimately resolving all consequential moral issues bichromatically, there is no grey in staying alive, no grey in protecting his estranged wife and son from the callous wrath of the gangs; who operate with impunity, mockery, and charter, inside and outside the profane houses of correction.

Coster-Walau (whatever happened to the studios giving actors simple, pronounceable names) plays his part with feverish intensity, a resoundingly believable act dramatizing the ruthless lack of humanity that is our prison system.  He realistically reveals the absolute horror of living a life bound to a criminal tribe’s hellish code of control, unchained from any sense of compassion or mercy.

Ric Roman Waugh, as director and writer, brings a flawless, no tricks, script to life with a dual track film that unfolds Jacob’s trek to Money, and Money’s odyssey to redemption. A story of a lost life, a story of finding honor, a story of emancipation, a story of family.

Good Ape — Bad Ape

War for the Planet of the Apes  (2017)  PG-13  Runtime: 140 minutesM War Apes

Genre: Drama-Action-Adventure-SciFi-War

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.6/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 82/100

Metacritic User Score – 8.1/10

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Written by: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves

Produced by: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Music by: Michael Giacchino

Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

M Ape 1968War for the Planet of the Apes is the third, and unlikely the last for Cornelius is just a young monkey, installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot series, or if you are keeping track, the eighth movie since the original 1968 Plant of the Apes film. Keeping the story front and center, director-writer Matt Reeves, and co-writer Mark Bomback have created a compelling drama with just enough action-adventure-war added to maintain the tempo and interest in this 2 hour and 10 minute epic about biblical-type survival, family, and revenge.

Caesar played by Andy Serkis delivers a compelling performance of a compassionate angry ape, succumbing to baser instincts of survival, eventually finding peace through the delicate innocence of a mute little girl; enabling him to assume the mantle of Moses, leading his people from bondage. It might be a tad much to have both Caesar and Moses on the same stage, but it does seem to work.

Woody Harrelson, playing the hard, single vision, blinders on, Colonel, finally has found a role, post Cheers, to showcase his talents. Harrelson produces a highly believable persona of a driven man that allows the survival of his species to obscure the other options available to this other-wise intelligent character.

Bad Ape played by Steve Zahn provides the comic relief that so far has not entered into this franchise.  A short 2007 song by Bad Religion seems to provide some predictive pathos for Bad Ape and the movie as a whole.

Bad Religion – written by Brett W. Gurewitz and Greg Graffin – 2007

If you didn’t know your world’s a pile of s—
Listen to a riddle that’ll tickle every bit of it

Ha ha ha!

Ape shall not murder, ape wasn’t so sure
Bad ape, you made a mistake
Annihilation in a cannibal war
Well, cultivation might have served you
Might have raised you up unscathed
If you had called that f—– by its name…

Did you listen to the arbiter’s beck and call?
Did you find what you were looking for or not at all?

Not at all!

Ape shall not murder, ape take the cure
Bad ape you made a mistake
Annihilation in a cannibal war
Culture might have cured you
And raised you up unscathed
If you had called that f—– by its name…

Say the name!
Say the name!
Say the name!

The film is not a must see, but it is a worthy addition to the trilogy.  The title sells the movie as something that it isn’t: a war movie; it’s a drama about survival-family-revenge with some battle scenes thrown in to quicken the pace.

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