Love, Simon

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Simon is a teenager who has a loving family and a great group of friends, and he’s doing great in school, but he’s got one big secret: he’s gay. One day, Simon becomes pen pals with a boy at his school who comes out anonymously and tries to find out who he is, but soon another classmate finds out about Simon’s secret and threatens to reveal it to the whole school.

Love, Simon tackles what is obviously an important topic in our world, but would it be able to capture these themes realistically or would it try too hard to be a “message” film? Thankfully, it’s the former that we get here. This movie doesn’t get too unbelievable trying to convey the struggles of gay teens to come out to even the people closest to them, and instead presents it as a realistic story of a teen living life in the closet. It’s less about accepting others for being “different” but more about accepting yourself for who you are and being yourself. Simon feels like a person teenagers can relate to if they’ve ever struggled with their sexuality or identity, or if you’ve ever had a secret you’ve felt uncomfortable sharing with others. Nick Robinson is superb as Simon, delivering a humanly nuanced performance as a character you could believably buy as an everyday guy with a secret. His acting is very well-realized in every scene and he brings out a very heartfelt character to follow. Also great is Katherine Langford (who you may remember as Hannah Baker from the powerful Netflix series 13 Reasons Why) as one of Simon’s best friends, as well as Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel as Simon’s parents.

Love, Simon has a clever story and smart way of tackling its themes, with nearly every scene entertaining and many moments being touching, and though it’s a topic not everyone may love, it’s important to discuss in today’s world, and thankfully it doesn’t feel like propaganda for equality, and instead like a touching and authentic teen love story. We see the love Simon gets from his family and his friends, and one of the most powerful moments is when Simon reminds us that he’s still him, no matter how he chooses to live. Many scenes may get some viewers emotional, especially the heartwarming ending that everyone, regardless of sexuality, can be touched by. It’s a film that even as a critic I can agree is not just a movie with a good message to the world, but also a great film with a powerful story, as we feel for our protagonist as he goes through the film, and ultimately Love, Simon is worth checking out, even though it’s mostly centered towards teens, it’s funny, touching, and emotional for those who choose to see it.

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A Wrinkle in Time

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Meg Murry is a young girl whose astrophysicist father disappeared four years ago. One day she learns from three magical travelers that she can find her father if she embarks on a journey of self-discovery across the universe, accompanied by her brother and her classmate.

A Wrinkle in Time had some big names in its cast, a popular source material, and lots of ambition which was evident from the intriguing trailers — so why did Disney go ahead and make a safe children’s movie with the same plot they always use instead of something that families can love too? Ava Duvernay is not a bad filmmaker, she did a fantastic job directing Selma so I had faith that I could really enjoy this film. However, the overuse of visuals, waste of great cast members, and 100% familiarity and predictability of the plot offer nothing new that will resonate. Storm Reid is great as the young Meg who is curious, rebellious, and learns to embrace who she is. However, the rest of the actors, while great, aren’t used to the movie’s advantage. With names like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling, we’d surely get some great leading faces, but not only are they not present for a good amount of the film, but the actors are just being the typical persona of how they usually portray their characters. Oprah is of course just there to inspire people, Witherspoon is funny but really just there to charm, and Kaling is extremely annoying as a character whose only dialogue is famous quotes from historical figures or celebrities. The cast’s (and the film’s) greatest strengths are Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who have been promising in nearly everything they’ve done. We’ve come to know Pine as Captain Kirk and more recently, Wonder Woman’s love interest, and Mbatha-Raw is a rising talent most notably in her role in Black Mirror. Here they play the most remarkable parts of the film; an ambitious scientist who loves nothing more than his family, and the wife and mother whose life is left with a void after her husband’s disappearance. They are both terrific to watch on-screen, yet so underused, and this part of the story could have been used more dominantly but in the middle of the film it’s ditched for the classic formula we see in nearly every film. Other familiar faces include Zach Galifiankis and Michael Pena, but they too are forgotten and we spend more time with the generic love interest played by Levi Miller and the irritating younger brother by the name of Charles Wallace.

A Wrinkle in Time had a lot going for it, and though lots of it feels like a missed opportunity, there are some things it gets right. We’re ultimately left with a theme about being your best and embracing your faults, because in the end, we can all do great things. Kids will love this message and be empowered by this theme, but to everyone who’s seen a movie before, it’s all the same. An ordinary kid who feels isolated from everyone else is pulled into a magical journey and learns to be a hero and a better version of themselves, and falls in love and the way. Sound familiar, right? It feels like this could’ve been something unique but instead used the same recycled formula for a new generation. Even Star Wars has a significantly similar plot to this one. The CGI and green-screen don’t feel real and intimate enough either, and at the end, it doesn’t seem like much of the story had a point either, just a bunch of names and concepts thrown at you that don’t have some sort of resonance and thrills to offer. Some may argue this movie celebrates female empowerment and diversity, but is that enough to make a good movie? That part should be the icing on the cake that can be added to something great.

Your kids may be enamored and entertained by the messages this film has to offer, but if you’re over 10 years old, A Wrinkle in Time will leave you thinking about nothing but the potential that was missed here. This should’ve been something families will talk to their kids about and recommend to friends, but in the end, we’re left with a familiar story accompanied with forgettable execution. Ava Duvernay and Disney should’ve learned, like their protagonist, to embrace their faults and improve upon what’s done before, and trust me, I’ve seen lots of great Disney movies, but this one just doesn’t add up to something I’d recommend to anyone going to the movies with friends or a date. On the bright side, there’s still Black Panther and Annihilation out there for whoever hasn’t seen those yet.

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The Oscars (90th Academy Awards)

The Oscars were this Sunday, and of course I made sure to tune in and watch it live! Jimmy Kimmel hosted for the second time in a row, and there were lots of surprises as memorable moments and winners. In case you missed it, here is the full list of winners:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Best Actor: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Best Original Screenplay: Get Out
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
Best Original Song: “Remember Me” (from Coco)
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Best Documentary Feature: Icarus
Best Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child
Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (from Chile)

These are the winners of this year’s Oscars! Now I bet you’re all dying to find out my thoughts! Usually a write a paragraph or two beneath the winners list about my thoughts, but this time, I decided to try something different: a YouTube video! So, here is my latest video talking about my thoughts on the ceremony, I’d love if you all checked it out:

Annihilation

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A biologist joins an expedition into a mysterious zone called The Shimmer, full of mutating landscapes and creatures that threaten whatever enters it.

Natalie Portman leads the cast of this ambitious sci-fi feature from Ex Machina director Alex Garland. This corner of the sci-fi genre is one of my favorite types of films because they’re often the most shocking and thought-provoking. i like to watch science fiction movies not just for excitement or satisfaction, but to be surprised and to think about what happened. Ex Machina was a smart cautionary tale about how scary a future with artificial intelligence may become, and Annihilation is much more complicated than just having a single theme like that. However, it’s a good thing that a movie is trying to be more intellectual, although Garland’s refusal to alter the film to make it more pleasing for mainstream viewers cost it its theatrical release overseas, so if you don’t live in North America you’ll only be able to see this on Netflix, which is unfortunate because this movie is a gorgeous theater experience. Portman is exceptionally deep as Lena, who leads a great cast along with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac. The way Portman expresses her feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and agony serve the character very well, and also noteworthy is Isaac as her husband. Annihilation is what people may call classic sci-fi, as it does have the buildup, clues, and mystery until there’s a final twist reveal, but I personally don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these films because of how many questions they can raise and how puzzling they can be but still intrigue (like the bizarre but fascinating Cloverfield franchise). People can draw comparisons to Arrival, and I think that one is a far superior film to this because it doesn’t just talk about the sci-fi concept it introduces but also presents more layered themes about humanity that don’t just belong in science fiction, not that this one doesn’t have any of that. Annihilation definitely has a lot under the surface that I still have yet to discover but I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since I saw it and I remember sitting quite shocked in the theater as the credits rolled. Some of it doesn’t completely add up, including some subplots and details that weren’t fully realized but that doesn’t stop this from being a worthy experience. Don’t go in expecting anything because the story takes many unexpected turns and has some visually marvelous sequences, as well as a spectacular musical score, but though it has a horror scene here and there, don’t expect too many answers right away but a lot is left open-ended for the audiences that aren’t mistaking this for an Alien or Predator-style film.

Annihilation presents marvelous visuals and style, as well as questions that sci-fi fans will love to discuss, with Natalie Portman giving it her all, and though Alex Garland encountered some problems with the international release of this film, he has nothing to apologize for and should continue making smart and unique science fiction like this, because these are really the films we need to remind us how intriguing science fiction cinema can be.

A woman armed large gun, backed by four others, enters a heavily forested area