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A Wrinkle In Time • Death Wish

A Fantastic Woman

March 8, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time (** ½) PG  

The long-delayed big screen adaptation­—a TV version appeared some time ago—of the celebrated series of children’s books A Wrinkle in Time brought to mind a quote from years ago concerning another celebrated literary adaptation. Shortly after the release of the 1980 film The Shining, author Stephen King was asked what he thought of the adaptation of his book. I’ll paraphrase by saying that he basically thought it was akin to a nice, shiny Cadillac with no engine inside.

That analogy could certainly be applied to this film as well. It looks great on the surface but the emotional takeaway that was readily apparent in the books is largely MIA in this adaptation. How slavishly one is devoted to the heart and emotion found in the original books will largely dictate one’s level enjoyment of the picture. It’s basically much of the same thing that the Disney company has been known for, taking a celebrated property and molding it to their sensibilities and formula.  

Scene from A Wrinkle in Time  

The big surprise is how calculated the whole thing feels in spite of director Ava DuVernay’s honest attempts at crafting a winning film. With the exception of a few throwaway moments sprinkled throughout, there’s hardly an honest moment to be found. It doesn’t help that things come to a screeching halt every so often in order for the marketing department to cram a pop song on the soundtrack for no other reason than to obviously sell an album. When I mention that the film is calculated, this is the sort of thing to which I am referring. 

For those not familiar, the story concerns the bullied adolescent Meg Murry (Storm Reid), who not only is struggling with finding her place in her middle school environment but is also dealing with the disappearance of her scientist father (Chris Pine), some four years prior. Meg bears witness on a daily basis to her mother’s heart aching for her missing father. Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), connects with three celestial figures (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling) and they offer to help the two siblings find their lost father. Meg and CW, along with Meg’s classmate, Calvin (Levi Miller) embark on a journey that whisks them away into many fantastical worlds on their quest to reconnect with their father and heal their mother’s broken heart.   

Wrapped inside the preponderance of CGI special effects, there is a message about learning to appreciate one’s own unique talents and gifts, and for that the film does get bonus points. A Wrinkle in Time may not be the most emotionally engaging film we’ll see this year, but if it does inspire some positive thinking in kids who are attempting to find their way then it will have accomplished a lofty goal. For that reason alone I’m glad the film exists even if it doesn’t quite get the job done for the older and more jaded members of its audience.

Death Wish (**) R

Eli Roth is a director who’s made a career out of crafting horror films loaded with scenes of over the top blood and gore, as evidenced in such works as Hostel and Cabin Fever. Most of his films harken back to the days of the 60s, 70s and 80s when those types of films cropped up on a regular basis. Since Roth seems to have an appreciation for that sort of thing you’d think he’d be the perfect director to tackle a remake of the 1974 classic Death Wish. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prove to be the case, which is more of a surprise than anything found in the film.

Death Wish 2018 takes the same plot structure as the original film—man becomes a vigilante after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked—and reworks things in a way that surprisingly has less emotional impact than the original film did all those years ago. For instance, the scene where the main character Paul Kersey’s (Bruce Willis) wife and daughter are attacked were much more emotionally involving and disturbing the first time out, and this is a film that requires the audience to be disturbed in order for it to understand Kersey’s reasons for taking the law into his own hands.

Roth does manage to toss in some gore when Kersey becomes judge, jury and executioner in an effort to clean up the streets but the whole endeavor is just a bit too polished and by the numbers. That’s certainly a first for an Eli Roth film.

A Fantastic Woman (***) R

 The 2017 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film, A Fantastic Woman, is an engrossing character study revolving around the life and losses of the transgender woman of the film’s title. The Chilean film is more evidence that some things are the same no matter what part of the world from which you hail, and that discrimination is truly universal.

The real life transgender actress and soprano Daniela Vega gives a powerhouse performance as Marina, who works as a waitress by day and a lounge singer by night. Marina and her much older (by twenty years) boyfriend, Orlando are in love and planning for what comes next in their relationship. Orlando, celebrating Marina’s birthday one evening, falls victim to an aneurism. And this is where Marina’s problems begin, sending the woman’s life into a direction she could never have predicted.

Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman

The film depicts the problems that ensue in the wake of Orlando’s death. Marina is kicked out of the couple’s apartment, left homeless and forbidden by Orlando’s family to even attend her lover’s funeral. When Orlando’s former wife tells Marina she doesn’t know what to make of her or what to call her, it’s a painful scene to watch.

The film is somewhat low-key and centers more on the problems Marina deals with in the wake of Orlando’s death than on her problems adjusting to life as a transgender. Still, it’s a powerful portrait of grief that offers many emotional rewards.

A Wrinkle In Time and Death Wish are playing in Hickory and all over this area. A Fantastic Woman is playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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