A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle In Time is a very famous Science Fiction book, written in the 1960’s. It was a historic achievement when it comes to the genre, because it was written by a woman, and it was even about a girl.

Not many books in the genre, especially at that time, catered to women at any level. It would take decades for them to get any sort of real success in that area.

Now, so many decades later, it is being haled as a film celebrating those beginnings by trying to do the same thing for the genre. Avu DuVernay, famed director of Selma (who many feel should have been nominated for Best Director for that film) and 13th, is getting her hands on a big budget fantasy/sci-fi romp. And she is going to make sure it has people in it that will speak to people of all ages, of all colors and creeds. She is getting diversity across all the levels, and it is honestly a great move on her part.

No matter how good or bad the film is, the movie is an experiment gone right when it comes to casting. She wants to make sure girls out there have more diverse people to look up to, because everyone has the right to see themselves in the media they consume.

Family
And look! A character for those gingers out there as well.

Meg (Storm Reid) was a happy go lucky girl, good at math and science, lover of life. Her dad (Chris Pine) worked for Nasa and mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) also was a scientist. They were smart, and happy, and about to adopt another child, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Things were great.

And then her dad disappeared, without a trace. The parents had pretty strong scientific opinions on space travel and time travel, but most people did not take them seriously. Either way, with her dad gone, Meg has gone on hating her life, becoming a shell of her former self.

But things are about to change. Life is about to get a bit weirder, thanks to her younger brother. He is very trusting and wise beyond his years. And he starts to introduce Meg to the “Misses”, including Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). They are denizens of the universe, much like Meg, but more in tune with its frequencies and have heard a cry of help from her father.

So these ladies are going to take Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin (Levi Miller), a nice friend of Meg, on a journey across space and time, to see just where her father went.

Also starring Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, and the voice of David Oyelowo.

Daddy
Ah, here he was, the last place I would expect. A very orange room. Yuck!

A Wrinkle In Time is supposed to be a fantastic book, part of a pretty good series, and tells a story across space and time. And based on who I have talked to, that is believable. This movie is unfortunately not the book.

This movie is surprisingly under two hours, but it has a lot of hardcore concepts it wants to talk about and use in the movie. Instead of explaining them in a nice wrapped box, the movie just runs with these ideas, you either understand or you don’t, and blasts off into its plot. It is so fast and high energy early on that it is hard to keep up and understand where it is going.

The only part of the film that takes its time is the ending, which is a bad move for a few reasons. At this point, a regular member of the audience who didn’t read the book is so lost and confused that having a more explained ending won’t fix that. A lot of people watching will have already lost interest, and then get annoyed when the pace finally slows the fuck down.

We have some scary stuff by the end too. Stuff that should have large impacts on the audience based on who is involved and how drastic the changes feel. But without the proper build up, it feels very wasted.

At the end of the movie, I cried. There are still emotional points. I get the final purpose of the film, what it says about growing up and the pains associated with it. But I felt like I was just along for a ride that didn’t care if I needed to stop to pee or eat along the way.

There are so many concepts that you are just forced to accept. Hell, we have a character who is brought along they say for diplomacy reasons, and then fail to include any sort of diplomacy scene. A Wrinkle In Time is probably a good film if you include what was cut out in the editing room. But this is the type of movie that might only be understood if you have read the material before hand, which is unacceptable, especially with a budget and scope of this size.

It is a shame, because this film won’t do great, and the execs might blame it on diversity reasons, instead of the more obvious confusing as heck plot lines. It is still a very pretty movie, with some fun characters. I am just left struggling to really explain what the heck I watched.

1 out of 4.

Moonlight

The only reason I am late on seeing the film Moonlight is mostly out of confusion. I was definitely invited to a pre-screening, it looked good to me, but then the date kept getting changed around, so it got lost in the shuffle.

I also thought I had to choose between Moonlight and Doctor Strange, and I have to go for the giant blockbuster a lot of those times. Especially if the blockbuster is something I have been wanting to see for years.

Another fun fact about Moonlight is that two of the stars in this film were also in big roles in Hidden Figures. That on its own isn’t weird, it is just amusing given the subject matter of this movie, compared to Hidden Figures, a PG Disney real life film.

Enough mindless stalling, lets get on to the crack.

Teenager
No no no, I said crack, not smack.

Moonlight is broken into three parts of a Chiron’s life. We have 9 year old Chiron, or Little (Alex R. Hibbert), teenage Chiron (Ashton Sanders), and adult Chiron, now going by Black (Trevante Rhodes). It takes place in a lower class area of Miami, not Chicago which I assumed, allowing the film to make a lot more sense.

When Chiron was growing up, he was picked on a lot for his size (See: Nickname of Little). He didn’t like going home to his mom (Naomie Harris), who doesn’t care for him and is getting into drugs herself. By accident he runs into Juan (Mahershala Ali), who decides to give him a meal, since he finds a frightened boy who wont talk and is lost. He even gets to spend the night and meet his wife (Janelle Monáe). And yes, Juan is a big time crack dealer.

When he is a teenager, Chiron gets bullied (by Patrick Decile) a lot more, which leads to a rougher home life. He only has one friend his age, Kevin (Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, André Holland), and their relationship is a very close one.

Needless to say, Moonlight is a story examining the choices in a man’s life. What led him to his decisions, how those decisions affected him later down the line, and the internal struggles he had to deal with mostly on his own.

Adult
The good news is he turned into a not so little adult.

Moonlight is certainly a hard movie to talk about, for those easily distracted they will watch it and assume not a lot actually happened. There are longer shots, there are long moments of silence, there are only a few characters, and so on. But what drives Moonlight is how deep it gets into our main character, how much it shows through his face and through his surroundings.

The themes that Moonlight explored I certainly didn’t expect, as they didn’t really explain a lot in the IMDB synopsis, so I will avoid going into explicit detail. But part of the plot is not just growing up in an emotionally abusive household, where the nicest people in your life deal drugs. It is also exploring his sexuality, figuring out how to be true to himself, and deal with issues in his own way.

All three Chiron’s give deep, personal performances. It is strange how three different people can feel so connected. But it works.

Moonlight feels like a dream at some point, branching out into some Terrence Malick territory. Nothing too out there, but visually it was unexpected given what many might just assume is another “gang/drug” adolescent movie.

Basically what I am getting at is that Moonlight is full of surprises. It defies the genre you think it will play into, and it gives a few powerful but subtle performances.

4 out of 4.

Black Or White

The middle day of Blackweek and also the last expected review for this theme. I had said three movies came out in January with Black in the title, and you probably could figure them out. Day 4 and 5 are a mystery though!

Black or White is the first (and only? We will seeee) of the movies in this theme to actually have anything to do with race. Who the fuck even know what Blackhat was about, title wise. Some hacking shit.

This movie however does not feature the Michael Jackson song of the same name, nor a Macaulay Culkin cameo. Such a shame.

Girl
“If you’re thinking about my baby it don’t matter if it is while watching Black Or White!”

This movie isn’t about your ordinary child custody case. This one involves mostly grandparents. Elliot (Kevin Costner) and his wife Carol (Jennifer Ehle) have been looking after their granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell). Her mom, their daughter, died during child birth due to complications. Complications that could have been stopped if hey were there, but she gave birth in secret hiding it from them, because the parents wouldn’t have approved of her relationship. Not just because it was interracial, but because of age differences and more.

Well, now Carol is dead too. So Elliot is over his head. He is also an alcoholic. Either way, he does the best he can, gets a tutor (Mpho Koaho), and takes time off work. But it might not be good enough. So, Eloise’s other grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer) wants to sue for custody. She has a big support network, has culture and experience and believes has the better interest for the girl. Heck, she eventually even has the father (André Holland), out of prison and off drugs now, ready to be a daddy (maybe).

So let the digging up of dirt and lawyer shenanigans begin!

And maybe. Just maybe. Some life lessons along the way to learn to be good to people and not be racist. Or something.

Also with Bill Burr, Anthony Mackie, Gillian Jacobs, and Paula Newsome.

Family
I am half tempted to give a tag to “sweet ass lawyer table.”

I will just go out and say it, Black or White was better than I gave it credit for. On the outside, it looks like a cliche family movie treading very lightly on the subject of race relations. I figured it would end with everyone hugging saying “Give Peace A Chance!” and warm happy rainbows. And hey it doesn’t have a 100% happy ending. It is more complicated. People get dragged through the mud and not everyone is a great person. Fantastic.

My other concern was Kostner. Last year at the beginning of the year he had Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, 3 Days To Kill, and Draft Day, all of various meh to lame movies. So when I saw he had multiple movies within a month or so of each other, I figured we were in for a repeat.

I am not saying his performance was fantastic by any means. It was okay. But the characters and the story made this a worth while movie, not Costner getting old.

3 out of 4.

Selma

I’ll be honest, when I first heard of the movie Selma, I had no idea what it was about.

When I found out it was a pseudo-biographical film about a moment in MLK’s life? I assumed Selma was his wife.

Nopers, I was way wrong. Selma is actually a city in Alabama! Yeah, who knew? Not only that, but it was a huge staging ground for civil rights in the mid 1960s, and it had nothing to do with sit-ins, busses, or fire hoses. That is pretty exciting on my part, because that means I will actually learn something new instead of the same few tales they teach us about in school. As it deals with race relations, it will probably end up being topical too in some way.

Protest
Not sure how, but I am sure someway it could be topical. Hmmmm.

Martin (David Oyelowo) (We are on cool enough terms for me to just use his first name) had just received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, but he wasn’t done yet. This was after his I Have A Dream speech. There was a big issue with Jim Crow laws in the south. Sure, technically, everyone now had the right to vote. But people were getting in the way of that.

Poll taxes, literacy tests, inconvenient hours, and rude as shit clerks made things like that hard. Not to mention the general threat of violence for those who might attempt if they were black. Martin wanted LBJ (Tom Wilkinson) to make fixing this issue a priority, but LBJ wouldn’t have it. He had other issues like poverty he wanted to work on. So Martin and his comrades (Common, Andre Holland, Wendell Pierce and more!) found the staging grounds for their next battle in Selma, Alabama.

A student group (Stephan James, Trai Byers) was already working there, building up community support, and of all the registered votes, only 1% were black despite about equal numbers. It was a great battleground. Even had a super racist sheriff (Stan Houston)! Martin just also has family issues with his wife (Carmen Ejogo) while all this is going down, so, pretty intense stuff.

Oh and a whole lot of people are in here as smaller or villainous roles as cameos. We have Tim Roth, Giovanni Ribisi, Cuba Gooding Jr., Martin Sheen, Dylan Baker, and Oprah Winfrey.

Walk
People walked a lot more back then, just a matter of fact.

Thinking back on it, I don’t think I have ever seen a high quality film about MLK and his life. He has appeared in other movies I have seen, like Nelsan Ellis last year in The Butler. But filmmakers seem to be afraid of his life, despite clearly being a popular figure. I wonder if people are afraid of doing him badly and not living up to his larger than life persona?

Well, if they were afraid in this movie they shouldn’t be. David Oyelowo did an INCREDIBLE performance. His walk, his talk, his power, he had it all. His looks weren’t perfect, but man were they believable. And when he did his speeches or sermons in this movie? Yeah, his voice carried it hardcore, and not in the same stereotypical way people normally do Martin’s voice. It had its own uniqueness and similarity that made it seem just as awe inspiring and just as real. Shit, the final speech he gave? I was almost certain it was an actual recording instead of Oyelowo, but I was wrong. It almost made me tear up.

My only issues with the film is that despite its superduper lead, the supporting cast didn’t seem to catch up with him. I think this is the worst ever portrayal of J. Edgar I have ever seen. Out of no where it all seemed more comical instead of serious. Roth was awkward as the evil Governor and he also felt quite cartoonish. I couldn’t take these guys seriously, limiting the seriousness of the film.

I learned a shit ton about the subject though and it is an incredible story, even if certain aspects are fabricated. A very nice watch to learn about a very overlooked yet important event in American history. And damn Oyelowo. You good, you good.

3 out of 4.

42

First off, I am a bit disappointed. The movie 42 doesn’t get me any closer to figuring out the question of life, the universe, and everything.

Unless that question is baseball related. That’s right, 42 isn’t about The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, but instead baseball, go figure. Not just any baseball story, like the forgettable Trouble With The Curve. This is baseball history! The story of Jackie Robinson, the first black MLB player. Well, technically the first black MLB player in modern, post World War II baseball. After all, Moses Fleetwood Walker played in the MLB for a season in 1884. But after that, sixty years is a pretty long time, with “Negro Leagues” put in place, so Jackie Robinson still turned heads in his debut.

Mirror
Despite the turned heads, he still didn’t help us answer that dang question…
42 doesn’t focus on Jackie Robinson’s (Chadwick Boseman) entire life, but instead about 2.5 years of it. But before we get to Jackie, we first get to learn about Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers. If we listen to his reasoning at the beginning, he wants to try something crazy. That’s right, a black man on the Dodgers! Why not, that should increase ticket sales, and he will also do whatever he can to get his team a pennant.

So he picks Jackie from the pile, gets him on their minor league team, and hopes he can kick enough ass to make it on the MLB team, while holding back his anger enough to not let the rampant racism get to him.

This is a true story, we all know he makes it to the team after a year in the minors, and the rest, really is history. We also see a little bit into his relationship with his wife (Nicole Beharie), and I do just mean a little bit. There are other members of his team who all embrace in him different ways, some with petitions (Ryan Merriman), some with open arms (Lucas Black). Some managers didn’t give a shit (Christopher Meloni), and some made it their mission to make his life a living hell (The Phillies) (Alan Tudyk). But that is to be expected from a Philadelphia based team I guess.

This also has the smaller, yet still important, story of Wendell Smith (Andre Holland). He was the the first black member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, but first had to travel with the teams for two years, writing articles about Jackie and his struggles. That means Jackie Robinson was influential on more than just the baseball level, he just chose to end racism through beating the other team’s pitchers and stealing bases.

Oh there is also a John C. McGinley cameo as the radio announcer, dropping classic line after classic line of old timey talk.

Gang up
Jackie probably thinks I am talking far too much about white people in this review.
Speaking of white people, I guess Branch Rickey was pretty dang important to this story, but no one really talks about him in popular culture. The filmmaker makes sure you know how much of this all falls on his shoulders, and how it would not have happened (so soon) without him. Yep, this just ends up being another civil rights movie where white people are the saviors. Just like The Help and The Secret Life Of Bees. This literally keeps happening in film, and it is kind of annoying.

Even though in this example it might be true, it is still frustrating to see that it is focused on so heavily just to sell more tickets.

I loved Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. I am glad they went with a relatively unknown actor for the role, because that was one of my bigger problems with the movie Ali.

Overall, 42 is a feel good inspirational movie and it succeeds at that level. There is some intense emotion in here, but it still ends with everyone smiling by the end. It could have dealt with a lot more of his life, but hey, after his first year, he wasn’t the only guy able to make the switch. He was a great athlete, and this is an acceptable (if not entirely accurate) portrayal of his life. I personally still left the theater happy, despite any real issues.

 

3 out of 4.