A Wrinkle in Time

ratings2

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.

AWrinkleInTimeTeaser.jpg

Advertisements

Cars 3

ratings3

After suffering a serious injury on the race track that could threaten to end his career, Lightning McQueen decides to give it his all and prove that he’s still the best race car out there, despite the more advanced technology in the new rookie racers around him.

There have been movies that I have watched an incredible amount of times as a kid, and among that list is the original Cars. Even eleven years after I first saw it, I still see it as an inspirational and touching flick, despite the idea of all the characters being talking cars. Pixar has made what are to this day the greatest, most touching, and mature animated films. Cars 3 may not reach the heights of the first film which is such a classic to me, but it’s a huge recovery from the awfully messy and disappointing mess of Cars 2, which is by far Pixar’s worst and a huge misstep for the franchise and the studio. Thankfully Pixar has been back on its feet lately and this film feels much more like the first than the second. The events of the second film even had absolutely no impact on this movie! Cars 3 is definitely the kind of sequel this film needed since 2011. The time lapse since the first film is used to the story’s advantage, bringing more challenges that McQueen must face such as new technology and forms of racing, and tackles the themes of generation differences and retirement, things we wouldn’t get from a studio that isn’t Pixar. Cars 3 also introduces new themes to the franchise that we need from a 2017 film, such as diversity, as a new main character, Cruz Ramirez, is a female car who is determined to be a racer no matter how much other cars discourage her, and her last name also implies a foreign ethnicity for the character. She is voiced very well by Cristela Alonzo, who I hope to see in more voice roles in the future. There are also other instances in the film which female characters are mentioned not stopping at any obstacles to get what they want, which you will notice in the film. There’s also the theme of mentorship as Lightning recounts his time from the first film with Doc Hudson, and later even becomes a mentor himself. The movie knows how to pay great tribute to the late Paul Newman, the legendary actor and voice of Doc Hudson in the first film. Owen Wilson is great as always as one of the most iconic animated characters. The film begins with the famous line, “Speed. I am speed.” and Wilson still has all the energy and fun that made McQueen so great 11 years ago. The movie doesn’t make the mistake of not making him the main character again, like in Cars 2. Chris Cooper and Armie Hammer also join the cast as interesting characters, and characters such as Sally and Mater return from the previous films, but this time in much smaller roles, although we still see the support and motivation McQueen gets from his loyal friends of Radiator Springs.

Ever since Inside Out was released to critical acclaim, Pixar has been on a winning streak, recovering from films that weren’t as well-received such as Brave and Monsters University, and I can’t say that Cars 3 is the one to break that streak. This movie still has plenty of heartwarming dialogue and themes, and some fun humor as well, Some of the callbacks to the original are especially entertaining. Director Brain Fee isn’t able to create sequences that are up there with the racing sequences, Lightning and Mater tipping tractors, or Doc training Lightning in the first film, or even close, but the plot is at least enjoyable and thankfully returns to the sports drama tone of the first one rather than the action spy thriller tone of the second one. Moments will have your young ones laughing and cheering, and will especially inspire younger viewers to pursue their dreams and there’s also plenty of great animation in the film, but younger ones won’t feel the intelligent spirit and heart built by the first one. It would be unfair if I just said this film isn’t great because it’s not as good as the first one, because I already knew it couldn’t and most likely wouldn’t be. However, some of the dialogue in the beginning isn’t written with much thought and feels just there to add to the film’s runtime. The first 5 minutes of the film is a quick montage of events that I think should have been stretched out to slightly longer. Although there are important events going on the dialogue did not intrigue me like it could have. Sometimes the film needed dialogue to build the rest of the scene and I don’t think those parts were handled very well. Similar literally every movie that is released nowadays, the film tries to deliver some smart lines from certain characters to inspire our leads but not every line sounds as wise as the script thinks it is. The humor is at first amusing but at one point gets too recycled and sometimes even unfunny at a few moments. Like I said before, the film delivers some poignant messages that I didn’t think an animated film like this one would handle, in a way that kids would enjoy, but once I understood the themes and messages the film was trying to convey, I immediately knew how the rest of the film would play out. It became very predictable yet somewhat heartfelt by the ending, which was fine but felt a little out of place and could have used improvement. At times the film relies on throwbacks to the first film a little too much just to carry the runtime forward, such as a scene in which Lightning and Cruz are training in a field of tractors. However, this did not stop me from having a fun time with this pleasing and lighthearted sequel that overall did not disappoint, and will entertain families, especially younger audiences.

Cars 3 is a step up from the disappointing second film and a strong finale to the Cars trilogy, that fans are sure to enjoy. It has some witty themes like most Pixar films, and even though it can’t be compared to the first film, the nostalgia and empowering messages are sure to be enough to make this worth a watch and anything but underwhelming. Also, make sure to be there on time for a short film before the feature, titled Lou, which wasn’t among Pixar’s best shorts but still a very sweet story about kindness that you’ll be sure to enjoy. So there’s another reason to buy a ticket for this sequel that’s fueled with family-friendly humor and fun!

Cars 3 poster.jpg

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

ratings2

In the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old rival, Captain Salazar, who along with his crew of ghost pirates has escaped from the Devil’s Triangle, and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack seeks the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.

Disney has benefited with billions of dollars from this popular franchise based on the famous Disneyland ride, so it’s no surprise that they’ve gone and made a fifth one. Dead Men Tell No Tales is not the worst of the series but it’s not the return to form that many fans were hoping for. I did not walk in with high expectations so I can’t say I was disappointed, but I was not impressed either. Johnny Depp is back as Jack Sparrow, one of the most popular live action heroes of our time, and he’s still entertaining in the role, but his character barely serves a point in the plot this time around. He has lots of screen time and makes lots of jokes throughout but he’s never developed at all or given a reason to be there other than the fact that the villain wants revenge on him. Brenton Thwaites and Kaya Scodelario play two new protagonists to the series, and they both deliver solid performances, but their character arcs aren’t interesting enough to carry the film along. Javier Bardem stars as a frightening villain who starts out interesting but the dialogue and CGI make his character feel more comedic then threatening. Geoffrey Rush is also back as Hector Barbossa and is made a big part of the plot but his character’s writing failed to interest me.

I was never a huge fan of the series, but even those who loved the first few films won’t get much that they’re hoping for besides entertainment. The plot that drives the characters and the film forward are nothing near as compelling as the first film offered. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley didn’t reprise their roles in the last film, and here, they don’t appear much, either. The new young protagonists and the story that revolves around them just couldn’t fill that void or push the story forward well enough. There are some entertaining action scenes, such as a scene in which a bank is being robbed (not just the money, but the entire building is being dragged away), as well as one in which an execution is thwarted. There are moments that managed to entertain me and make me laugh, and shots that are done well, but the writers couldn’t come up with a story and character arcs that the audience could also enjoy. There are many magical concepts and backstories that were introduced but none of them made much sense or excited me at all. The movie doesn’t conclude terribly, but the post-credits scene sets up the potential sequel that I won’t be looking forward to.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales isn’t the sequel many were hoping for, and although it will manage to entertain viewers, especially younger audiences and fans of the previous films, but the uninspired and boring storyline and character arcs make this film far from the saga’s best use of its potential. You may like it for its action, but there are films in theaters right now that you’ll probably like much better, like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Alien: Covenant, and the new DC film Wonder Woman, which hits theaters this Friday.

Official epic artwork poster

Moana

ratings4

In Disney’s latest animated musical, Moana, the teenage daughter of a village chief, sets out to save her island and her people, with the help of a troublesome but fearless demigod named Maui.

We all know from previous experience you’ve got to rush to the theaters whenever Disney releases an animated movie – and this one’s definitely worth it. Moana is not a princess movie – even Moana herself denies that she’s one. There are story elements and character arcs that will remind you of Aladdin, Frozen, and more, but Moana is as distant from the “Disney princess” genre as it gets. Auli’i Cravalho, 16-year old Hawaiian native and newcomer to showbiz, voices our lead and brings tons of heart and independence to her character. Moana isn’t looking for a prince to save her – she knows only she can embark on this journey to save her island. Disney wouldn’t have thought to create a heroine like that 10 years ago, and I’m glad we live in a world where our next generation will be getting films like these. Cravalho not only delivers her character’s courageous soul, but also a few memorable musical numbers with a voice that I’m sure will get her somewhere soon. You know who else can sing? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who sings my favorite and arguably the catchiest song in the movie, and he also delivers a phenomenal voice performance as the self-absorbed demigod who reluctantly joins Moana’s adventure. Disney hired the right person to write Moana‘s songs in Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although there is less singing than in Tangled and Frozen, and you probably won’t catch your children singing the songs from this film like they did with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let it Go” a few years ago, the songs here were much better written and a lot more enjoyable for me.

Should Moana enter the race to the Best Animated Feature Oscar alongside Finding Dory and Zootopia?  Well, I’d say that it absolutely should. Who thought that Disney could release two computer-animated movies in the same year without the Pixar trademark and they’d both be so successful? The animation is stunning, and the ocean and the creatures living in it, from sea turtles to stingrays, look gorgeous thanks to the hard work put into the movie’s visual appeal. The uniqueness and entertainment of Moana is why you should definitely see this one on the big screen. The movie’s humor is mostly aimed for younger audiences, but it still had me laughing hard throughout. Although some plot elements at one point feel too familiar from other Disney films, as well as the message about how every individual is important and can make a difference, it’s the way it’s executed that makes it all fit perfectly in the end, and will be sure to leave a huge smile on your face.

Disney has done it again with Moana, an extraordinary, heartfelt, and wonderfully executed musical adventure that the whole family is sure to love. A beautifully looking tribute to Polynesian culture and mythology, this is one entertaining journey that you should not skip watching on the big screen. Stay tuned after the credits for an extra gag, and make sure to be there on time for a fantastic short film before the feature.

Moana Teaser Poster.jpg

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

ratings3

A reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film, Pete’s Dragon is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliott, who just so happens to be a dragon.

Disney is continuing their surprising streak of great live-action remakes with Pete’s Dragon, which is based on the 1977 live-action classic, instead this time, the dragon is given a visual update with CGI instead of being hand-drawn. And once again, Disney succeeds at bringing a charming, family-friendly world of CGI to life. Although there isn’t as much visual weight and realism to the dragon as there was to the incredibly photo-realistic environment and characters in this year’s Jungle Book, there’s enough charm and fun to make it another solid and spirited Disney family flick. The is a splendid cast that helps carry the film that includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, and Robert Redford. Oakes Fegley, the child actor who plays Pete, does a remarkable job acting in front of his costars and sometimes in front of nothing (in the scenes in which his character must interact with Elliot). The majority of the film, however, didn’t require as much interaction with computer-generated surroundings as the leading child actors from The Jungle Book and The BFG, hence making Fegley’s performance less impressive and unique as the other actors and overall, I felt much more connected to the leads from the other two films. The standout of the cast is definitely Howard, who brings lots of life and energy to her character and delivers a notable performance from the film.

This movie may be a great time for families and especially younger kids, but that’s really the only target audience for the film. If you watch this film looking for a great story, you might not be satisfied. The story has lots of soul, but the film’s second half starts to slow down a little bit before entering familiar territory and following a formula used by too many family films.The story of a kid trying to protect an extraordinary being while the adults’ greed and fear prevents them from understanding the situation as well as the protagonist has already been used plenty of times. E.T. and How to Train Your Dragon are just a few examples of films that follow the exact same formula during most of their runtime. When the movie tried to get exciting during the final act, it was hard for me to care because of how cliched it mostly was. However, the film concludes with a great message about family and preserving your surroundings.

Although it does get too familiar at times, I can bet you Pete’s Dragon will be a great time if you go see it with your family, with lots of soul and great underlying messages, as well as outstanding cast members and writing. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re looking for the best movie out there, but if you want to see a fun and touching family film, then Pete’s Dragon is unlikely to disappoint you.

Petes dragon 2016 film poster.jpg

The BFG

ratings4

In Steven Spielberg’s live-action adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, an orphan girl named Sophie is taken to Giant Country by a big, friendly giant, and together they set out to stop the man-eating giants of Giant Country from invading the human world.

The BFG reteams my favorite director, Steven Spielberg, with Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and composer John Williams, to bring Roald Dahls’ imagination to life. Spielberg stays true to the story and of the book, as well as all the hilarious and nonsensical vocabulary spoken by the titular giant. This movie is so visually ambitious that it feels like Spielberg imagined a universe the size of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth when he was working on this movie. And that’s definitely not a bad thing in this case. You can feel how much visual imagination and work Spielberg put in this movie, that you can guarantee it’s from the same person who brought you Jurassic Park, Jaws, and E.T., which is exactly what I was hoping to get from this movie, if anything. The visual effects are so vivid and very well done, even though they don’t always blend in well with the live-action setting. Janusz Kaminski, who has worked with Spielberg before a million times, provides marvelous cinematography to the film, bringing the film some memorably beautiful shots. Whenever there’s an action scene, instead of providing constant fast cuts, Kaminski lets you enjoy longer shots of his style, to John Williams’ lively score that has a Star Wars meets Harry Potter vibe to it. Whenever Kaminski is shooting a Spielberg-directed film, you can alkways guarantee you’re up for something good.

The BFG also brings the best out of its main cast. Mark Rylance delivers a heartfelt performance as the lovable BFG, who may just make you cry by the end of the film. Winning an Oscar just isn’t enough for him, as he doesn’t hold back on putting his heart into this performance. I thought at first that Rylance would be the highlight of the cast, but I was clearly wrong. Eleven-year-old Ruby Barnhill, who plays the main character Sophie, steals every one of her scenes (which is pretty much every scene in the movie). It’s often hard to rely on child actors to pull off in films, but Barnhill nails it as the adorable and wholehearted lead role. There is also a pleasant supporting cast, including Shaun of the Dead‘s Penelope Wilton as the Queen of England, and The Prestige‘s Rebecca Hall as the Queen’s maid.

One of the reasons I love Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker so much is because of the tremendous amount of passion he has when it comes to movie making. Whether he’s teaching you about friendship in E.T., a history lesson in films like Schindler’s List and Lincoln, or trying to make you afraid to go into the water in Jaws, you always feel how much passion and hard work he puts into directing his films. Every film of his feels so personal and strong without exception. Here, you feel how hard he clearly tries to teach you a lesson: No matter how different you are, don’t ever let anyone bring you down. From this, I can even infer that the character of the BFG resembles Spielberg himself. I’ve read biographies about him, and I know that he, too, never fit in, but his differences were what made him unique, which is exactly the case with the film’s titular character.

So, if you’re still wondering, is The BFG a movie worth going to see? And if so, should you see it with your family? I believe that this movie is definitely worth a watch, and it’s not a movie that you should immediately go rush to see, but at some point I advise you see it because it’s a fun experience, and it’s a large box office bomb as of right now, so you should see it to go help it make some more money. If you’re a Spielberg fan, you’ll especially like this movie like I did. At one point in the first hour of the movie, I was starting to feel concerned that it would get repetitive and start to drag, and I felt like kids would probably get bored at that point. However, it picks up later and finishes very well. There’s some pleasant humor in there that’s quite enjoyable, and feels like it came right out of a Roald Dahl book, which it really did. This doesn’t feel a lot like a 21-st century live-action Disney fantasy, but more like a film that comes from the imagination and heart of Steven Spielberg. It may let down younger kids with its different form of entertainment than most family films, but audiences 11-12 and up will probably enjoy this movie. If you’re looking for a movie you can guarantee the whole family will consistently enjoy, then Finding Dory is probably the better movie to watch, but The BFG is still a film that you can smile at and even applaud by the end.

An elderly giant man holds a little human girl in his hand, while both look at one another.

Finding Dory

ratings4

One year after the events of Finding Nemo, Dory begins to have flashbacks of her childhood and sets out on a journey to find her parents. Along the way, she becomes captured and taken to a California public aquarium, where Marlin and Nemo attempt to rescue her within.

Finding Dory is a movie we’ve all been awaiting for thirteen years (just a year short of how long I’ve been alive). Its beloved predecessor Nemo is a film I’ve grown up with and watched more times than any other film in my life, so Dory isn’t just another newly released animated movie for me, it’s practically the sequel to my childhood. So for such an anticipated movie, this one definitely did not disappoint. Ellen DeGenres once again brings such charm and fun to the iconic amnesiac fish, and Albert Brooks is able to hold on to what made him so great as Marlin in the first film. Not to mention the newcomers of the cast,  Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neill as an octopus and Ty Burrell as a beluga whale, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton as Dory’s parents, and The Wire costars Idris Elba and Dominic West as two hilarious sea lions, who all do a remarkable job in their roles. The animation in this movie is absolutely beautiful, with more vividness and color than before. The way the ocean, fish, and underwater habitats were animated doesn’t try to be as photo-realistic as The Good Dinosaur, but focuses more on bringing back the familiar settings from the first film and much more, and still pays off just as well (and adds a lot more to the overall film).

The one thing I loved about Finding Dory more than anything else is the messages it tries to convey about family. Pixar’s movies are known to touch your heart and make you shed a few tears, and this film is no different. Unlike its predecessor, its title does not refer to a journey with the purpose to find someone physically, but this time around, our protagonist is trying to find herself. Dory’s journey to find her family is more emotional than physical, as she struggles to remember her past and who she really is. The message in this film about how family will never give up on you and that nothing is closer than your family was very touching. This movie, however, also explores the theme of living with disability. As all you viewers of the first movie know, Dory struggles with short-term memory loss, and you can see how this adds challenges to her everyday life. Her friend Destiny, a near-sighted whale shark from the aquarium, struggles with her visual impairment and always has to make sure she never crashes into any walls. Pixar’s ability to bring depth to fish and make them feel human in both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory is so intriguing and applaudable, as it’s something no other studio is really capable of doing. We’ve seen them do this before to toys, bugs, and other different things we’d never imagine be done. This is something that makes Pixar unique, as many other animated studios have similarly tried these things but it’s never really worked that well. Pixar can practically do anything with the amazing potential they have. My one problem with the film is that a few messages and lines get somewhat repetitive, but this did not bother me too much. Also, the way the movie’s climax plays out feels too forced  and unrealistic, and was probably only done to bring some excitement for younger audiences. Nevertheless, Finding Dory is another wonderful Pixar summer feature that you should definitely go watch with your family, not not just alone.

Also, there is a short film called Piper that plays before the feature film. The short is about  a young sandpiper bird learning to behave like her flock, searching for clams on a sandy shore with some of her mother’s instructions. On the way, she learns how to be resilient, brave, and try new things. Not to mention that all this is told without any dialogue. This short is animated marvelously, and it’s overall a very cute short that you should look forward to before the film begins.

Finding Dory.jpg