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‘A Wrinkle In Time’ Takes Us Far, But Goes Nowhere

wrinkle

A Wrinkle in Time probably should have been an animated movie. Disney has had a better track record with animation when it comes to fantasy if we’re being honest, and it’s a shame to see a filmmaking team produce such a visually stunning movie trapped inside a vacuous bore of a screenplay.

The film is based on the 1962 book of the same name by Madeleine L’Engle. Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) and screenwriter Jennifer Lee (Frozen) have adapted this story—the first in a series—rather faithfully from what I remember of the source material, telling the tale of a 13-year-old girl named Meg (Storm Reid) who travels through space and time to find her father (Chris Pine) with the help of her two friends and a trio of inter-dimensional sorceresses, or “Ws” as they’re called.

The craft and artistry behind Wrinkle is its own worthwhile experience. Every planet, astral jump, and reality-bending set design has a sense of place and style harkening back to some of Disney’s most memorable animated locations. Except Wrinkle has more than just one Cave of Wonders or Atlantica to boast.

Go on…‘A Wrinkle In Time’ Takes Us Far, But Goes Nowhere

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No Surprise: The Nominees For ‘Best Picture’ are Ridiculous

oscars 2015 best picture

The nominees for Best Picture aren’t very surprising, save for Gone Girl getting snubbed in favor of noticeably weaker films. But first, here they are:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  • Boyhood
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel  

One of the trends you’ll notice on this list is that it’s very biopic heavy. Four of them are direct biopics, while another two are indirectly centered around the actor being the movie’s gimmick (Birdman and Boyhood). Only two of these movies are just that: Movies.

These are all great films. The only one of these I didn’t enjoy was Birdman, mostly because it’s such an uneven film made that way because it wants awards.

The only thing about it that worked for me was Edward Norton, but everything else felt so condescending toward nothing. It was just two hours of people screaming at each other for no reason but to vent out frustrations I couldn’t care about.

I sort of understand the appeal of stories that make no sense. But for me, narrative has to have cohesion, or else I’m not going to appreciate the movie as a whole. So for that reason, I’m not on the Birdman bandwagon.

Whiplash is still my favorite film of the year, and I’m also excited to see Selma and Boyhood getting their due. But Imitation Game and American Sniper beating out Gone Girl and Wild seems like a huge “We hate Ben Affleck and Reese Witherspoon” message from the Academy, even though Rosamund Pike and Witherspoon got the obligatory Best Actress nods.

And no, Interstellar doesn’t deserve to be on this list, but I feel terrible for Matthew McConaughey’s snub for best actor.

The 10 Movies That Made 2014 Incredible

I don’t usually do “top lists” for movies because, well, who cares what I think? So, instead I made a list of the “best” highlights of 2014.

As usual, I watched plenty of movies this year, but I didn’t see all of them. If there’s a movie missing from this list (or just something about movies in 2014 that you loved), don’t hesitate to share in the comments!

 

#10 The One I Love

the one i love

Mad Men‘s Elizabeth Moss was in a movie with The League’s Mark Duplass this year. But unless you regularly scroll through your Netflix queue (like I do), you probably missed The One I Love, which was one of 2014’s most inventive, and unsettling, films.

It’s hard to describe the movie without spoiling it, but I will say that it’s a dark romantic science fiction comedy (sorry for being so vague) centering around a couple trying to make their marriage work during a weekend getaway.

The movie wins this spot on my list (from Reese Witherspoon’s incredible performance in Wild) simply for being one of the few movies in recent memory to actually make me think critically about relationships and love. In a way that I probably never would have.

This one was 2014’s BEST romantic anything.

 

#9 Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain america winter soldier

This is the superhero movie that made superhero movies cool again. And with Captain America, no less.

TWS wasn’t just an excellent sequel, it was one of Marvel’s strongest films period, even compared to The Avengers.

It was the perfect film to kick off what turned out to be a fun summer for movies, and it was the first case study of how Marvel can nail just about any genre with their capes.

2014’s BEST hero.

 

#8 Nightcrawler

nightcrawler

Imagine my surprise when this low-profile Jake Gyllenhaal movie about filming crime scenes in LA turned out to be one of the best films in Gyllenhaal’s already incredible career.

I still hold Lou Bloom as Gyllenhaal’s best role yet, and it was easily one of 2014’s most memorable characters.

2014’s BEST car chase.

 

#7 The Imitation Game

imitation game

This isn’t a perfect movie by any means. I think Keira Knightley was miscasted (her final, excellent scene notwithstanding), and parts of the script dragged on. When the credits rolled, I didn’t feel like I knew enough about Alan Turing, though I think that’s the point.

Still, Benedict Cumberbatch did a fantastic job as the genius who invented the first computer, only to be shunned for his private life. The Imitation Game had the most teary ending of any of the movies on this list, and the end still gives me chills when I start to think about it.

Sorry Fury, this was the BEST WWII movie of the year (that I saw, anyway).

 

#6  Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

A post-apocalyptic science fiction movie about trains? Sheldon Cooper would be proud.

Easily the best sic-fi movie of the year (and there were tons of other great sci-fi movies this year), and I’m really shocked that Chris Evans managed to be in two movies on this list. Never thought I’d see the day circa 2007.

Snowpiercer brings back the overused post-apocalyptic premise that audiences declared “stale” back in, I don’t know, 2012, I guess. It also recycles the familiar rich vs. poor/revolution message that sci-fi has been throwing at us since before my parents watched movies.

Despite this, Snowpiercer was almost impossible not to like. The action, cinematography, and overall tension of watching abused survivors fight their way up the last train on Earth is one of the best ways you can spend a weekend.

And yes, it has the BEST twist ending of 2014.

 

#5 Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy

If Captain America made superhero movies cool again, then Guardians of the Galaxy is the movie that made space operas cool again. And I can’t think of a better way for Disney to tell us a year early that they can handle Star Wars.

This was one of the biggest movies of the year (the biggest in the U.S. for sure), and for good reason. It was funny, the characters were lovable, and the action was on-point.

BEST soundtrack, by the way.

 

#4 How to Train Your Dragon 2

how to train your dragon 2

The subtitle for this movie should really be: Don’t worry Pixar fans! We’ll make a great animated movie for you while you wait for the next Pixar movie in 2015!

This was my favorite animated movie of the year (sorry Big Hero 6. You were a lot of fun, but DRAGONS), and I would even say it’s neck and neck with Captain America for the year’s best sequel.

BEST animation of 2014.

 

#3 Boyhood

boyhood

I watched Boyhood on a plane to Florida recently, and I noticed two important things about the movie: it’s my childhood, but in movie format — I couldn’t stop watching.

A lot of people give Boyhood flack for being a bit of a “gimmick” movie. Its main selling point is that it’s one of the most ambitious films of all time, in that it filmed the same boy (and other actors) for over 12 years. We literally watch him grow up onscreen.

But honestly, that’s not what makes the movie great. Strangely, the movie’s lack of narrative worked for me, and I normally hate mosaics (think Tree of Life or anything else by Terrence Malick). In a way, the boy’s life is the story, which made me connect with Boyhood in a way I don’t think I’ve ever connected with a fictional character.

This one had the BEST script of 2014.

 

#2 Gone Girl

gone girl

Like Boyhood, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen as I watched the movie where even the twists have twists.

Gone Girl is filet mignon. It’s a movie that just gets everything right and cooks it perfectly. The pacing, acting, story, dialogue, and even Ben Affleck are executed brilliantly in this creepy thriller about a man whose wife goes missing.

In my opinion, the BEST story of 2014.

 

#1 Whiplash

whiplash

It’s tragic that this movie hasn’t reached a broader audience yet, but I’m really hoping it will as we enter the new year. Featuring Miles Teller (the future Mr. Fantastic) and J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson and TENZIN), Whiplash is the chaotic tale of how obsession separates ordinary people from legends.

But the real draw of the movie was watching Simmons play the brutal Jazz instructor, Fletcher. His character was the most memorable villain of 2014, I think, and his terrorizing teaching tactics were a real thrill to watch.

And of course, if you’ve seen the movie already, you know that it has the BEST ending of 2014.

whiplash

 

But these aren’t the only movies that made 2014 such a great year for movies. Here are some other standouts:

BEST Cinematography: Birdman

BEST Wit and Humor: Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST Premise: The LEGO Movie

lego movie

BEST Biopic: Selma

BEST New Character: Baymax (Big Hero 6)

BEST Onscreen Pair: The Skeleton Twins

BEST Prequel: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

BEST Special Effects: Interstellar

BEST Actress: Reese Witherspoon in Wild

BEST Action: The Edge of Tomorrow

BEST New Universe: John Wick

BEST Use of Michael Fassbender: Frank

frank

 

Have a great 2015!

Review: ‘Wild’ is Reese Witherspoon’s Best Movie In Years

Based on a true story, Wild features Witherspoon like you’ve never seen her (especially if you’ve seen Election recently). She’s broken, vulnerable, and utterly real.

It’s not enough that the story is good — Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, a divorced heroin junkie who attempts to hike the treacherous Pacific Crest Trail (over 1000 miles total) to heal herself emotionally and physically. The story is also brilliantly told.

We watch her journey in the “present” filtered with constant flashbacks that range everywhere from her childhood to how quickly her life fell apart as an adult. This is a great example of how to use the benefits of a “mosaic” style of filmmaking while also keeping a level of coherence.

It’s easy to follow along, but more importantly, it’s effortless to care about Cheryl Strayed. And that’s where Witherspoon shines: maintaining the line between realism and likability.

Every step of her journey feels like one the audience is taking. Every blister, cut, scrape, and sigh of desperation is felt, in no small part thanks to a dedicated script written by Nick Hornby, coupled with Witherspoon’s commitment to her own trauma.

One scene in particular places Cheryl in her room before she’s taken a single step. Her struggle to even get her oversized gear on her back is just one indication that the running time of Wild won’t be easy for anyone involved with this film, mainly Cheryl herself.

It’s still a self-help story that leaves much of the grittier aspects of Cheryl’s transformation to the imagination (this is a Hornby script, after all). And there are just a few too many flashbacks that over-explain Cheryl’s backstory to a degree, especially when some of the final scenes could have received a little more love without stuffing the script.

Cheryl Strayed’s story of redemption is certainly a mark above other nature-centric journeys, including the more popular (and unremarkable) offerings that include Eat, Pray, Love and Into the Wild, which are also based on books.

The soundtrack is also an uplifting accessory to Cheryl’s long trek through the wilderness, combining a sense of freedom that comes with putting everything you have into a singular goal, as well as the dread that comes from that same action. “The Air That I Breathe” captures this tone in surprising ways for a throwback.

Though we never see firsthand why and how Cheryl chose this adventure has the core of her redemption, the script wisely lets us focus more on who Cheryl is at this point, setting up a journey that is as affecting as it is dreary.

Grade: B+ 

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