A Wrinkle in Time

Fairly sure I never actually read this book as a kid. There were so many I did read though! And I’m familiar with the title, but I have no recollection of anything other than title and author. It mighta really helped the movie watching experience if I had tho.

Directed by Ava Duvernay, A Wrinkle in Time tells the story of a young girl Meg who travels across space and time to find her scientist father (Chris Pine) who disappeared four years ago. She’s able to do so with the help of the three Mrs. (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey), celestial beings charged with upholding the good in the universe.

There are some MAJOR positives in this film. Duvernay, a longtime champion of inclusion, has a very racially diverse cast. That’s huge. I was prolly most excited to see Mindy Kaling as one of the Mrs. You don’t often see an Indian actress in such a glorious role, and I adore Mindy but have seen little of her work (read her books, but never saw her tv shows).

The other positive was just the message of the film, that you can do anything or be anything, but being yourself is the most important thing. Especially seeing this message received by an African American girl. HUGE. So beautiful.

Unfortunately, the film itself turned out to be somewhat of a mess. Again, not having read the book, I feel this might’ve been one of those “unfilmable” stories. That word gets thrown around every so often about works (The Lovely Bones, The Watchmen) that are so nuanced and imaginative and layered, that they wouldn’t translate well and would lose much of their meaning. I feel that might’ve been the case here.

Traveling thru space and time in this way isn’t the easiest to put on screen (we can’t all be The Doctor), and I really didn’t get what was happening plot wise. Maybe you need to be a kid to get it, but I really think the context of the book is essential.

I could see this being the kind of movie that I woulda rented from Blockbuster on a sick day as a kid and watched over and over in bed. I hope that kids out there do discover this film and its message. I just think that the adults aren’t gonna know what to make of it.

A Wrinkle in Time – \m/ \m/

Thoroughbreds

I love Dexter, the all American psycho from the Showtime series based off a set of books. I never imagined I’d be thinking about what he’d be like if he were a teenage girl in high school. Now I feel like I have a sense of what he’d have been like.

The film follows two girls (Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy) who have formed a rather strange friendship. One confesses to be psychopathic (not in so many words, but again, I’ve read Dexter, I recognize it). The other is hiding some pretty serious details about her life, including her utter hatred for her stepdad. Long story short, the girls plan to kill said stepdad, and rope in a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin *tear*) to pull it off.

I often complain about weird tones in movies, but this is one of those cases where the weird tone served the film. It’s supposta be unsettling, and there’s a strange humor in that. Our three leads were great, although I generally prefer nice guy Anton over bad boy Anton. I’m just gonna choose to believe he went out on Green Room instead of this one.

It felt as though the film was building at a slow and steady pace and then abruptly got to its conclusion. I would have liked to see it savor the final act a bit more. Still, this is likely your best bet at this current weekend of mediocre wide releases.

Thoroughbreds – \m/ \m/ \m/

Gringo

Streaming is starting to become a real destination for films. Hopefully soon, studios will start to see this as a viable distribution option because there are some films that just don’t have a lot to offer on the big screen. Thank God we’ve at least got MoviePass.

Let’s see if I can rundown this crazy plot. David Oyellowo is middle management at a pharmaceutical company. His bosses Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron are working to create a marijuana pill, and send Oyellowo down to Mexico to oversee production. After a string bad luck causes him to realize that he doesn’t have much going for him anymore, he tries to fake his kidnapping in order to receive ransom money. Except it turns out, his company doesn’t really care about him enough to pay out. Oh and Amanda Seyfried has a storyline that doesn’t really seem to fit in with anything.

Here’s the thing, all the pieces are there. Fantastic cast (you saw those names), I did really like the premise, and cleverly written jokes. About those jokes though, here’s what baffles me. I’d hear them and think “yeah that’s a funny joke” but I wasn’t actually laughing. Something just went wrong, and I don’t know if I have ever experienced that before. I think the tone of the film was very offputting, and some of the characters were too unlikable. I just couldn’t get into it.

This might find an audience on Netflix one day, but it’s not a worthy movie going experience.

Gringo – \m/ \n

Red Sparrow

On Colbert the other day, Jennifer Lawrence said that all the haters with blogs were uninvited from seeing the movie. I just want to clarify this with the interwebs. I went into this film with the best of intentions. I adore J-Law and this looked like a fun spy thriller, somewhere between Jason Bourne as a ballerina and Black Swan as a spy. I really really wanted this to work. It’s not my fault the movie turned into such a mess.

Okay so J-Law is a ballerina whose career-ending injury drives her in desperation to join an elite group of Russian operatives. She undergoes intense training, mostly around sexual manipulation, before going on missions. When the ballet sequence went on to long (and I say this as a lover of ballet) I should have known something was off.

The film as a whole was way too long and dragged out. Individual scenes went on too long and there were plenty of sequences could have been cut or at least shortened. Despite having all this excess time, I still have no idea what was going on. I honestly have no idea what they were trying to do.

Jen was great, carrying on the role (and accent) with elegance and grace and strength. I just wish she woulda had a better film to showcase it

Red Sparrow – \m/ \n

Death Wish

I was excited for this one. I know it looked like crap, a remake of a classic (that admittedly, I’ve never seen) that no one asked for starring a once bankable star who has become less reliable, helmed by a director with a questionable reputation. Oh right, that’s why I’m excited. That director is Eli Roth. This marks the first time he strays from horror and the first time he isn’t working with original material. I was really stoked to see what he’d do with it.

Let’s back up. Bruce Willis is a family man who seemingly has it all. Until some baddies break into his house, kill his wife, and leave his daughter in a coma. When it looks like the cops aren’t gonna be able to do anything to help, he takes matters into his own hands, roaming the city of Chicago as a vigilante seeking justice.

Again, it’s not an Eli Roth original, so it didn’t entirely feel like one of his films–unless you knew what to look for. There was some gore (not up to his usual levels) and a jarring soundtrack and an overall subversive vibe to it. I could practically hear him laughing maniacally during some scenes.

This is a movie I would have loved to watch with my Daddy. He loved gritty shoot ’em ups, and I often feel like he’s with me when I see them. Then add in Eli Roth, whom I love, and you’ve created a combo that works for both of us. Lord knows the movie had so many flaws, but I was digging it.

Bruce actually did pretty well here. He’s kinda phoned it in a few times lately, but he seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. I could also see his character’s arc play out clearly in his mannerisms and expressions. Felt like Bruce was getting his groove back.

Look, haters gonna hate, and I totally get why. For me, this film was a jolt of adrenaline and I very much enjoyed myself. But if you’re not the type that’s into ultraviolent films, this ain’t the one to draw you to the dark side. I’m just there already

Death Wish – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Game Night

I was very much looking forward to Game Night because it was very much looking like my kinda movie: a clever and dark comedy with a unique premise and a great cast. And oh yes did it deliver.

Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman are a couple whose relationship is based on competition, both with each other and with other people, which has led them to host a weekly game night with some friends. When Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler) is in town, he offers to step things up a notch by hosting a murder mystery game night. But it all goes south when some bad guys that are really after him show up at the time the game’s scheduled. That leaves this crew of game enthusits believing that the crime they’ve just witnessed is all part of an ellaborate role play.

While we’ve seen some variations of this premise before, it felt wholly unique, and I found it hysterically funny. Just a really smart screenplay with some smart dialog and great twists and turns along the way. It’s really admirable how many moving pieces came together in the writing because it was certainly a ride.

But that cast, oh my that cast. First off, so excited to see Regina George, I mean Rachel McAdams doing comedy again. It had been way too long. It was also the first time for me to see comedy from Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemmons. I’d call Plemmons the MVP of the film, because he stole every scene he was in with this completely deadpan and awkwardly oblivious delivery. Who knew that weird sadistic kid from Breaking Bad had a future in comedy?

I’m hearing talk of sequels. I’m on board. No that was not meant to be a board game pun.

Game Night – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Annihilation

I had just gotten on top of my game, and then I fell way way way behind on posting. Between bday festivities, more responsibility at work, and a ski trip even though I don’t ski, the blog has fallen by the wayside. So let’s catch up while I (hopefully) watch the repeat of the Oscars bc said ski trip got me back halfway thru the ceremony.

I was very much surprised by Annihilation. It blew me away actually. It was suspenseful and scary and dramatic and smart and beautiful and grotesque and so much of what I love in a movie. And possibly most importantly, it was a female led cast. Srsly, how many times do you watch these into-the-unknown scifi’s and it’s all dudes? Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodgriguez (my fave in the movie), Tessa Thompson, so so good.

Okay so they didn’t replay the Oscars and I’m watching highlights on YouTube and getting distracted.

My one issue with this film is that the third act gets really weird. But I think I’m okay with that. It’s a weird that made sense in a way, in that it’s fitting for the genre. And it didn’t completely fall apart like I felt happened with Ex Machina. I still don’t understand what happened at all, but I was satisfied enough with the journey to accept it.

Annihilation – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Oscars 2018

I’m getting my Oscars post out early this year! It’s scheduled for a whole week early (and on my bday!) I’m just gonna run down all the categories. You can find me doing the same on Stardust

Best Picture:
Roughly in the order that I’d want them to win.
“Get Out” – This movie is revolutionary on multiple levels. It blends and blurs genres to the point where it created its own. AND on top of that, it’s started some very important conversations in this county. All of that embodies what a Best Picture should be. It changed the game, and it’s changing the world.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – This one is just my personal favorite out of the bunch. The screenplay, the cast, everything on point. And it’s just everything I love in a movie.

“Call Me by Your Name” – This is simply a beautiful movie and so well acted. For me, it’s the most emotional out of the nominees. I just wanna live in the world of this movie, and I want every movie I see to make me feel at least a fraction of the feels.

“The Shape of Water” – I still feel like this movie was missing something for me, but it’s such a great overall production. I also just love the idea of a monster movie doing well with the Academy. And points for genre blending of course.

“The Post” – There was a time when this would have won all the awards without a second thought. Now, it just managed to squeak out a nomination. This is a masterfully done film, and a timely one, and yet compared to some of the other choices it doesn’t feel as fresh or innovative.

“Lady Bird” – We’ve somehow seen this kinda movie before and yet it feels so new. The coming of age story is a common film subject, but this is among the best of ‘em. Heartful, great cast, quirky screenplay, all good.

“Dunkirk” – From a technical standpoint, this movie is flawless. It’s just too lacking in story or character for me to get behind it. I get it, that was an intentional choice that served the film, but it didn’t do it for me.

“Phantom Thread” – How can such an elegant and well done film leave me so bored? You know, every year there’s the one that everyone adores that I’m just not feeling, and this year, this is it.

“Darkest Hour” – This doesn’t belong on here. Even though I enjoyed it more than Phantom Thread, I’m ranking it lower because it’s not a best picture. Maybe 20 years ago, but this is simply a vehicle for Gary Oldman to win his Oscar. Everything about it is so paint-by-numbers, I can’t really support it.

Lead Actor:
This one is pretty locked for Gary Oldman, and I get it. If we’re looking at his full career, he absolutely deserves to have a statue on his mantle. Buuuut, this performance doesn’t quite do it for me. It’s way too obvious Oscar bait. It’s fantastic, but it didn’t surprise me. I knew exactly what we were gonna get. The one that did truly surprise me and take me thru a rollercoaster of arc and emotion was James Franco in The Disaster Artist, but that ship has sailed. If we’re looking at this short list, unexpectedly the one I’m most impressed with is Timothee Chalamet. I don’t do romantic films, but I loved Call Me By Your Name so intensely because I felt the raw emotion, and I felt it coming from Timmy. He made me feel everything and pulled me into his world and it’s phenomenal.

Lead Actress:
As you read thru this post, you’ll see a bunch of times where I said that I called it as soon as I saw the film. Frances McDormand is the first one of those. I was absolutely blown away by her in this film. It is a difficult screenplay to work with and she tears into it with confidence and glee. You can actually see her enjoying her work as she takes no prisoners. I’m proud of Margot Robbit for getting her first nod, and if she’d have pulled off Best Picture, she woulda been the first woman to have a producing and acting nod for the same film. That woulda been a great milestone.

Supporting Actor:
This category makes me so excited this year, because I have been a huge fan of Sam Rockwell ever since Choke, and I love that he is finally getting his due. I do like Willem DaFoe here too, but I feel like part of what impresses me about him in that role is that it’s against type. Any other actor wouldn’t have struck me. But Rockwell is masterful in his film. He gracefully weaves back and forth between the comedic and dramatic, in the same scenes, hell in the same sentences sometimes. It’s his best work, and he’s had a lot of good ones before.

Supporting Actress:
I love every woman in the category, although I really wish that Holly Hunter had joined them. She was fantastic in The Big Sick. But really, this is coming down to Allison Janney vs Laurie Metcalf. I called it for Allison when I saw I, Tonya, and I hold to that. She stole every scene she was in, which is something you want in a supporting role. You can go a little flashier with the category, and she’s beloved Hollywood royalty.

Director:
Nolan finally got the nod! He’s not likely to win, but he’s finally in the race! I think this one is going to GDT, and I love it. He’s such a creative director with his own voice and style, and it’s great to see him getting his due.

Animated Feature:
I could be confused that The Boss Baby and Ferdinand were nominated, but really, something has to be on the list to lose to Coco. Pixar topped themselves yet again, and I don’t see anyone else stealing this away.

Animated Short:
I don’t think I saw any of these. I know it should be fairly easy to find them on YouTube, but eh, I’m not feeling too inclined. It’s always a bit of a crapshoot anyways.

Adapted Screenplay:
This year was really about the original screenplays, which is a wonderful predicament to have. I don’t know that any of these wowed me more than the others, besides Molly’s Game that has the unfair advantage of being by Aaron Sorkin. I think this one is going to Call Me By Your Name, and I’m totally behind that because this beautiful movie needs at least one win on the big night. Also, mega props to Logan for breaking thru the superhero stereotype and to the big show.

Original Screenplay:
I called both Big Sick and Three Billboards from the moment I saw them. I love the former so much and wish it would get some love, but the latter is such a smart and brilliant screenplay, and of course the likely winner. This was a tough category to get into this year, so the other three should just be happy to be here.

Cinematography:
I really wish I could have seen Mudbound on the big screen because even on my small screen it was beautiful. And how amazing would it be if the first woman ever nominated in the category also took home the win? But it’ll be tough to pry it away from Roger Deakins and his thus far un-victorious work. Blade Runner was original and perfection, and this man is overdue.

Best Documentary Feature:
Generally speaking, documentaries me no likey. How many have you seen me write up before? Yeah, that’s not changing now.

Best Documentary Short Subject:
Do I ever have an opinion here?

Best Live Action Short Film:
Nope.

Best Foreign Language Film:
I don’t have too much opinion here. Saw the trailer for The Square and thought it looked weird, in a I won’t like it kinda way. A Fantastic Woman, however, I do wanna see. It sounds interesting to me, so without doing any other homework, I’m gonna blindly say I want it to win.

Film Editing:
I really like Baby Driver for this. I’m feeling like it’ll go to Dunkirk along with more of the technical below-the-lines, but Baby is more creative and outside the box for me.

Sound Editing:
I have a hard time believing anything other than Dunkirk is taking this one.

Sound Mixing:
I really wanted to see The Greatest Showman on here. The way the sound effects are blended in to the rhythm of the music is perfect (the horses clopping in on the opening song, or Hugh and Zack throwing down shot glasses on the bar). Alas. If I wanna go with something on the more musical side Baby Driver certainly fits the bill. I do think it’s more brilliant in its film editing than its sound tho. I kinda like Star Wars for this, but gut says that Dunkirk is still sweeping this set.

Production Design:
I kinda hoped Downsizing would be here because there was some really clever design going on there. Personal preference, I liked the look of Blade Runner, and of course the Disney kid in me wants Beauty and the Beast, but Shape of Water is impeccable. Five minutes into the movie, I totally called this for the win.

Original Score:
This is always a weird category for me because I rarely remember scores after the movie. Hell, unless it’s John Williams, I barely even notice them during the movie. Sure he’s here for Star Wars, but that feels like cheating. I think I remember noticing Shape of Water, but I can’t for the life of me recall it now. On my Dunkirk rewatch the score really did stick out and me and I was impressed with how it captured the suspense. However, it’s not really something you’d wanna just listen to, which I feel is an important marker here. So yeah I think it’s between Shape and Phantom Thread.

Original Song:
Lil sad that “Evermore” didn’t make the cut for Beauty and the Beast, but that’s okay because I’m all about “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. I’ve been so obsesed with that soundtrack. It’s gonna come down to that vs “Remember Me” from Coco. One gave me chills, the other made me cry. However, I feel like Remember Me relies too much on the context of the film to be powerful, whereas …Me is strong on its own. And a song you’re more likely to hum in your head for weeks. I know this because I’ve done this.

Makeup and Hair:
Darkest Hour is prolly the obvious pick since you kinda can’t talk about the movie without bringing up the makeup and Oldman’s transformation. I myself, however, would pick Wonder. They had a fine line to walk between making sure the disfigurement was prominent, without making it grotesque. AND, it had to be done in such a way that a kid could handle undergoing it ever day. Granted, Jacob Tremblay is likely more robot than human, he likely still only has a limited amount of patience.

Costume Design:
I feel like a movie that’s about a dressmaker and takes part in the fashion industry (as a period piece no less) has the unfair advantage here. While I might not otherwise be a fan of Phantom Thread, I’m okay with it winning. I also like Beauty and the Beast, but it almost seems like cheating since it’s going off the whole nostalgia thing.

Visual Effects:
I love the look of the new effects in Star Wars, but I want this to go to War For the Planet of the Apes if only because it’ll be like a symbolic Oscar for Andy Serkis’ MoCap work that is beyond awards worthy. I have an inkling the Academy might see this the same way too.

Samson

Once again, stealing from myself and reusing the opening I did for my Stardust reaction. Even though I’m a Christian, I avoid faith based movies like the plagues of Egypt. There are two main reasons for that. One is that they’re usually such poor quality (acting, screenplay, everything, ugh). Two, I don’t wanna be preached at or hit over the head with a message, regardless of whether or not I agree with it. That’s not why I go to the movies. The sad reality of this genre is that studio moguls have realized that if you make a movie with a message, there’s an audience that will pay for it, regardless of the effort (or lack thereof) put into it.

So why did I go see Samson? Because this was my favorite Bible story as a kid. I even had a dog I named Samson (aww, he was a good puppy). This is a good story, and in the hands of the right filmmakers it could be something truly epic. Of course, these weren’t the right filmmakers, but that’s not a surprise.

The movie was fine, mostly watchable, but very simple and cheesy. Honestly, it didn’t feel too different from the types of stuff we’d see in school or children’s church, and not like the experience that I want from going to the movies.

Also, I really didn’t care for the dude that played Samson. And then they put a fake beard on him late in the movie and it really just pulled me out. I did like our villain played by Jackson Rathbone, but he was almost trying too hard to make it all work. Honey, it wasn’t ever gonna work.

Again, it’s just so frustrating because there is so much potential in this story. Is it too much to ask for someone to give it a real shot with a legit budget and experienced actors? Samson is a legend and he deserves better

Samson – \m/ \m/

A Fantastic Woman

I don’t typically pay too much attention to the foreign category at the Oscars. I guess I average seeing about one a year at the theaters. Something about it has to be really special to not only get my attention, but get me to see it. After Chile got the nomination for this film, all I’ve been hearing is good things about this movie, including a story that truly grabbed me.

The film is about a transgender woman whose older boyfriend suddenly dies. While she’s trying to process her grief, she’s also dealing with rejection from his family who refuses to allow her that basic right.

For me, this movie is truly heartbreaking because I absolutely hate the thought that people could be so cruel. And that’s that I know they could have been way worse. Yet in the center of all that abuse and exclusion, she is strong and determined and powerful and beautiful.

This movie is such an important one though. It’s important to tell stories about characters that like this that aren’t transition stories. I feel like films like this teach empathy and acceptance, and it’s something we need more of.

A Fantastic Woman – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m