Feel-good trailer

Movie trailer review, A Wrinkle in Time (2018). The premise of A Wrinkle in Time seems quite “unrealistic”—in perhaps simplifying issues young people face of missing parents who may or may not turn up. But in a sense, it may be a theme worth it’s while.

The trailer of A Wrinkle in Time features a young black woman (Storm Reid) whose father has disappeared. He’s a scientist who has perfected instantaneous time travel, but his disappearance has caused a hole in her heart.

Something’s missing in her life that hasn’t been filled. However, Meg’s given the opportunity to find her father with the help of angelic-like beings (guardian angels perhaps)—most notably played by Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey in the trailer.

Another time and place is replete with danger and the fantastical (read: big budget). There’s a popular song running through this trailer that adds to a feel-good, optimistic feel.

May be this trailer is saying to young woman to not give up on finding what’s missing. Perseverance in finding one’s long lost family is surely a worthwhile endeavour.

Some of us may agree and others won’t. I guess it depends on who you are.

Meg’s told to have faith in herself as she searches for her Dad through deathly obstacles. It seems faith in herself will help her overcome these obstacles. The idea may be a bit New Age in that respect.

The trailer’s okay, its palette of colour stands out, but does not convince me to believe in the idea and come on board.


When strangers at the same school get together

The Breakfast Club (1985) **** Starring: Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Ally Sheedy.

We may not be entertained by teens saying meaningless and pointed things in real life, but if they are played in film, then it’s okay, isn’t it? Most entertaining is the role playing in The Breakfast Club. The Breakfast Club has lots of smart ‘teen talk’, but also interesting characters. A Saturday High School detention brings them together with different reasons for being there.

Set in a high school for most its running time, it stars Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, who were all recognizable Hollywood names in the 1980’s, with this film landing many of them into the limelight.

As students on detention, their tough supervisor, played by Paul Gleason, assigns them to write an essay on “who they are” which gets predictable results and blank stares. Instead of writing, they talk, and the teacher gets on their nerves and vice versa.

Judd Nelson as John Bender (bent by name and game) is believable as the bully who has been bullied. Firing off one-liners, he doesn’t hold back, words which have an unbridled ring of honesty, and underlining humor.

The five grate each other, which has a ring of truth about it, and the whole event is saying something about transience, friendship, and healing—unusually so for detention. The real-life stuff that they hide gets shared eventually.

There is coarse language at times. A scene where the students get ‘high’ on drugs is handled less than meaningfully, but with a touch of humor.

However, I laughed only a couple of times, but I was entertained all the way.

I appreciated the banter between the students, the always amusing role playing, the human connection, and the acting’s good. The Breakfast Club may even touch the cockles of your heart.

It seems that when strangers at the same school get together there is stuff they can talk about and connect with, despite all the other stuff that goes on.


Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes

The Color Purple (1985) ****½ Starring: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey Director: Steven Spielberg. Warnings: a profanity, domestic violence, and sexual situations.

Based on Alice Walker’s diary-formatted novel, The Color Purple is well translated to the screen. It all cohesively comes together. The performances are memorable—Whoopi Goldberg as Celie is outstanding in her subtle and nuanced delivery, Danny Glover is, as always, convincing, this time playing Albert, Celie’s husband by arrangement. Great support comes in all directions, especially Margaret Avery as a singer who shows Celie affection for the first time and Oprah Winfrey storms her way through her role like a powerhouse.

The story begins with the young Celie giving birth to a son and a daughter, caused by incest. When older, Celie is given as the housewife of Albert (Danny Glover), who needs her to look after all the household chores. Though Albert would sooner have married Celie’s sister Nettie.

Celie, they say, is ugly, but knows how to work hard, and Nettie isn’t for “sale”. The hardest thing for Celie to take is when Nettie is thrown out of Albert’s house when she’s visiting Celie. A powerhouse scene shows their separation in its raw emotion.

When I looked closely at the first half of The Color Purple, it is bleak. Hardship abounds in black lives in the South during the early 1900’s. Manhood and masculinity are equated with aggression and abuse to show who’s boss, but it leaves the women in their lives hurting and fighting for survival.

If you look at what’s happening to their lives, which is bleak, it’s not an easy watch in the first half.

However, it shows people doing the best they can in a difficult world. This is someone’s story. This is real.

I looked up the deeper meaning for ‘purple’ and couldn’t find what I was looking for. Basically (and we may find meanings at the most basic level) purple is an intermediately colour between blue and red. This sums up the effect of the first half for me. Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes, it’s not flash, but somehow one gets through. It’s the ‘colour purple’. Though purple has other meanings that are transcendent and are better expressed in the second half.

The second half is punctuated with the theme of redemption and confronting the abuse and coming to terms with a relationship with God in their almost hopeless world. The second half is dramatic relief. It’s thoughtful, thematic, dramatic, and transcendent.

As well, the second half broadens the scope of the film, to how black and white interact. Sofia, played with spunk and fire by Oprah Winfrey, comes out worse for ware in her interactions with whites, but Sofia is not one that is easily walked over.

At the forefront of the film, though, are the rich characters and performances.


Faithfulness and duty in Dicky Tracy

Dick Tracy (1990) *** Starring: Warren Beatty, Madonna, Al Pacino, Glenne Headly, Charlie Korsmo. Director: Warren Beatty.

Warren Beatty’s movie is a stylish film version of the Dick Tracy comic strip from the 1930’s.

Dick Tracy is about organized crime and emboldened detective Tracy is onto it like a bolt.

The Kid (Charlie Korsmo) is an orphan that detective Dick Tracy picks up on a job and takes under his wing. Tracy and his girlfriend don’t live together and have contemplated getting married. When Tracy is tempted by singer Breathless Mahoney, he knows to resist.

Criminal’s names are monochrome as in Big Boy, Flat Face etc. The film features hardened criminals whose clothes fit the times, and so do their noses, which are bent out of shape.

Distortion and facial peculiarity is taken to a new dimension in this film. They come with the most inventive botox of the year, which went on to win the Oscar for best make-up.

You may know Al Pacino from his charismatic style of performance, but you’ll have to look close to see him underneath a sheet of plastered ugliness as Big Boy Caprice, a criminal mastermind. Big Boy throws his weight around as the other colourfully attired gangsters oblige.

Big Boy brings his boys on board in what he says is their quest to be the top dogs in the city, but we know who’s got the ego here. All the same, a solid, reliable hero in Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) who fights back.

Madonna as Mahoney seems to be going through the motions. Yet Dick Tracy is an artfully made matinee style blockbuster and utilizes the framing style of comic strips in many scenes. Art director and cinematographer give the look of the film a winning ambiance.

No swearing and sex, but there are scenes of heavy cartoonish violence and sexual references. The main theme is top notch, it’s about love or duty or both love and duty.

Dick Tracy is innovatively done, but for a blockbuster it is not fun Saturday evening entertainment.


Better than it seems

The Boss Baby (2017) ***½ Starring: voices of Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Buscemi, Miles Bakshi. Director: Tom McGrath. Based on the book by Marla Frazee. Written by Michael McCullers.

The best of The Boss Baby is letting the viewer imagine the big picture of the story, which comes alive in the mind’s eye for just a moment. That by the end clicks in place rather than has been joined at the dots. Imagination theatre for young and old alike. It makes everything seem great.

That may not be an advertisement for the film—it withholds things from the viewer. But to be fair, when everything clicks into place, it’s magic. You just got to give it a chance.

The story starts with contended seven-year-old Tim Templeton (Miles Bakshi) in his ideal life as Mom and Dad’s centre of attention. Then the improbable arrival of the Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin), who claims to be Tim’s brother, changes all that.

Mom and Dad believe the Boss Baby is Tim’s brother and their son, but this business-minded, briefcase wearing, appointment bound CEO is on a mission.

The centre of this film is the Boss Baby, a stand out, but surrounding him is necessary essential characters than enhance the film.

Into all this is a strong theme of getting along as brothers despite all the negatives that go on between brothers.

It all made better sense in the end with that eureka moment I wrote about—but on closer inspection the meat in the sandwich tastes good as well. Well-made.


Sentimental dog stories

A Dog’s Purpose (2017) ***½ Starring: Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron.

A Dog’s Purpose is not electrifying viewing but coming with something interactive–trying to understand what makes a dog tick, a dog’s purpose.

It’s easy enough to join the dots and find out, from the roustabout antics of puppies, to the loyalty of a faithful friend who adapts his owner’s wishes though would sooner be free. Yet these adaptable dogs keep on giving to their owners even against their own natures to be free.

One may leave the final word to the narrator at the end of the movie, which has the ring of truth. Even the hardest of hearts may let the sentiment of that moment in. But one may also resist it.

Central to proceedings is the dog belonging to Ethan. The story of Ethan and his dog goes from Ethan’s childhood, teenage years, to adulthood.

Dennis Quad plays the older Ethan. Ethan has a background of lost love and a tough father, which comes back to, I was going say haunt him, but in this kind of film, it is gentler than that and may even move one’s feelings.

There are two other stories, both set in the city, featuring the same dog as Ethan’s. Ethan’s dog dies and comes back to life, but this isn’t a metaphor for reincarnation. It’s a metaphor for what is a dog’s purpose in different situations.

Not a bad film, quite a sentimental one, just lacking that bite (excuse the pun).

Okay for safe viewing

Monster Trucks (2016) ***½ Starring: Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Barry Pepper, Rob Lowe. Director: Chris Wedge. From an original story by Matthew Robinson, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger. Screenplay by Derek Connolly.

There are signs Monster Trucks has got a heart for all things nature. In it, drilling for oil is putting the environment and an ecosystem at risk. A private tussle between teenager Tripp (Lucas Till) and the oil company ensues.

But the monster will tale centre stage for the kids in this safe family film. Tripp inadvertently discovered a creature that is in the path of the drillers and takes it under his wing to protect it from the company.

Tripp and the monster become great friends. Tripp even has a way of souping up his four-wheel drive with the Free Willy-like creature with teeth and body coming very close to that whale in that oh so old 1990’s family film about protecting the environment.

Since the creature can live off oil, it comes in handy for accelerating Tripp’s vehicle.
There’s a girlfriend in all this and she’s a nice hometown girl, played by Jane Levy, who is the kind of palatable character that would make someone’s evening quite nice. Tripp and Meredith have a burgeoning relationship.

While Tripp’s trying to bring the company to account for their illegal drilling he’s also trying to make a life for himself outside his small home town, with some nice supportive characters such as Mr Weathers played by the always likeable Danny Glover.

The authorities may put the company in its place if they get wind of what the company is hiding. Or maybe Tripp will outwit them. The sheriff (Barry Pepper) may or may not be sympathetic to Tripp’s cause, but may come around.

One should take sides in this. The company men are the baddies, Tripp, his nice girlfriend, and the inoffensive monster, the ones you’re rooting for. There is exaggerated conflict rather than real conflict, but it’s pleasant enough, if a little uninvolving at worst.