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Review: “A Wrinkle in Time” is a Beautiful Mess of Bluntness

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There’s a slew of inspirational messages in this film, and Ava Duvernay wants to make sure every young person hears them. She does so by repeating and stating them so directly and forcefully I almost expected her to jump out of the screen and start shaking every preteen girl into being positive. That’s a profound goal for such a director to instill a sense of heroism in the least popular kids at school, but it comes with a twinge of awkwardness in how the hero has to be told multiple times she is special and that only she can defeat the evil in the universe. She’s given so many pep talks I wondered why she didn’t start displaying the same uncomfortable nature of a kid’s over-encouraging parents at their baseball game.

What’s so unique about our protagonist of Meg (Storm Reid)? Nothing much. She seems to be your average nerdy kid in school that misses her dad (Chris Pine) who went missing years ago. But she’s in for a big surprise when her brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and her crush Calvin (Levi Miller) all discover that dear old dad found a way to bend space and time. He’s been held captive on the other side of the universe, and Meg needs to rescue him with the help of three astral travelers. These travelers include Reese Witherspoon trying to channel the ditziness of Amy Adams ala Enchanted, Mindy Kaling speaking only in Earthling quotes (a gimmick so monotonous even the character stops doing it), and Oprah Winfrey literally watching over them as a towering giant. I don’t fully understand who these beings are supposed to be past their good samaritan attitudes with warping space and time. Get used to this unexplained surrealness because the film won’t slow down to explain any of this.

While the story seems as though it’s taking steroids to sprint through a teenage hero plot in under two hours, I almost prefer it as opposed to when the movie slows down to focus on the theme delivered with the force of a sledgehammer to the face. When Meg isn’t having her self-esteem boosted by the magical female trio, she’s speaking awkwardly with her smart brother or shyly with her crush. Their dialogue is so matter-of-fact that their delivery comes off more clinical than charismatic. This is especially true for the young Deric McCabe that is struggling to pull double duty as an insanely intelligent young man and then a possessed vessel by the easily-angered spirit of evil. I felt bad for him since he’s the youngest and has the most demanding of roles among the young heroes, whereas Meg needs to look bewildered and Calvin needs to look cute.

It’s undeniable that A Wrinkle in Time is beautiful to look at, but one would hope so with a $100 million budget. Indeed, the first stop on a trip around the universe is too a grassy meadow of sentient flowers and flying creatures that look like a cross between a fairy and a manta ray. It seems like a fun place to frolic, but the plot seems to stop instantly as if the astral trio demand the children enjoy the production design. Those visual effects teams spent a fortune on making this world, and you will enjoy it, an impending quest for your long-lost dad be damned! There is an additional stop at the cave of a universal seer (Zach Galifianakis), dwelling in a cave of balanced rocks. Again, great to look at, but does little more than either push the plot or stop it. There’s no happy medium of establishing our characters, even with Galifianakis playing a role called The Happy Medium.

And you better get used to those ridiculous and base names. Oprah Winfrey’s character is Mrs. Which, a name that is quickly exhausted for all its comedic potential. The same goes for Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit and Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who. Curiously missing is Mrs. Huh to ground their clunky introductions. The evil they must face is referred to as the Darkness, controlled by the being known as the It. And when the It is finally met, it’s about as bland as its description implies. It’s a mess of dark tendrils that pulsate with bursts of orange light, completely underwhelming when finally revealed after the less frightening Darkness entrances of a wheat field and a crowded beach.

While I half-expected the movie to go for the old cliche of the Darkness representing all the anger in the universe and Meg is the only one that can stop it, I was still disappointed that the film went there. And in case that wasn’t blunt enough, the movie goes the extra mile to call Meg a warrior to be compared to the likes of Nelson Mandela, Oskar Schindler, and Gandhi. Those men made great sacrifices that will be remembered in history, but I guess you can be their equal if you fight a giant tendril monster by stating your love for your brother.

A Wrinkle in Time is mostly whimsy for the sake of whimsy, tossing as much magical surrealism as it can at the screen without much emotional weight behind them. It’s a gentle enough story where kids get to be the hero and boast positive messages so obvious it’d be impossible for kids to miss the themes. But so much gets lost in the race towards the special effects and broad motives that the film becomes difficult to follow at times, making most developments in the plot seem random at times. There came the point in the picture where I just stopped caring about what happened to these characters and tried to enjoy the spectacle of it all. That’s the best possible way to enjoy a picture that feels like playing the most trippy of video games with an empowering television commercial on a loop in the background.

As a kid’s first fantasy film, they’ll probably get a kick out of the visuals and the message. Just don’t expect it to stand as tall next to stronger fantasy films that do a far better job at placing young heroes on pedestals without directly telling them that they’re special.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]


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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.


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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.


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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.


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