Currently browsing the "Adaptation" category.

Mini-Review: The Leisure Seeker

I was looking forward to this road trip flick with Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren. But sadly, while they are both pretty great, the script for this movie, itself an adaptation of a well-reviewed book, feels hastily written without nuance or empathy for the characters. It’s the story is of a retired couple, John and Ella, he a former college professor with some sort of dementia and she his loving and patient wife with some unnamed, but advancing disease, taking off from their Boston home in their old Winnebago, heading for Key West to visit Hemingway’s house. Their kids are freaked out about it, but it could be John’s last chance to see the home of one of his favorite writers.

Review: The Miracle Season

The Miracle Season is one of those inspiring and bittersweet sports dramas about athletes overcoming adversity. In this case, the athletes are members of a high school girls’ volleyball team who struggled to regroup — and play on — after the tragic death of their team leader and star setter Caroline ‘Line’ Found. Here’s what the movie has going for it: The uplifting story is basically true; And, it stars two Oscar winners, Helen Hunt as tough-love coach Kathy Bresnahan and William Hurt as Caroline Found’s grieving father Ernie, who lost his wife to cancer just one week after his daughter died in a moped accident. Here’s the rub: Hunt and Hurt are all-stars. The rest of the cast is junior varsity. Not exactly a level playing field.

Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One is a futuristic homage to the past, circa 1980s, resembling somewhat of a cross between Avatar and Divergent with the added twist of being directed by the ever-popular and prolific Steven Spielberg (The Post). If all that appeals, then go to the top of the leaderboard and ready yourself for an appealing (though far from classic) adventure that explores the pros and cons of living in the real world with all its flaws versus disappearing into a virtual reality game that promises a real pot of gold at the end of the virtual rainbow. If you’re up on your pop culture references (it helps to have seen The Shining at least once), pine for those trips to Blockbuster for the latest on VHS, or still have an Atari in the storage room, then Ready Player One is worth seeing on the big screen. Plus, it’s got a pretty awesome soundtrack.

Review: Journey’s End

War is hell. Especially in this World War One drama, where almost the entire film is set in the trenches just yards away from the enemy Germans. It takes place over just four days and is adapted from a well-known play by WWI veteran R.C. Sherriff. What is different in this war movie though is that it isn’t about the derring-do, but is a portrayal of the time between the battles — the anticipation, the camaraderie and the boredom. Only a few of the officers know from very early in the story that they are vastly outnumbered and that there will be no reinforcements. They’re to be sacrificed to slow down the Germans. But stiff upper lip and all that rot, so they soldier on for the cause. And for their leader Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin, Hunger Games), it’s tearing him apart.

Review: Love, Simon

There’s plenty to love about Love, Simon. It’s a charming romantic dramedy about a cool high school senior who has an awesome family, a great circle of friends, and one big secret: he’s gay. This isn’t some small indie drama that weighs heavy on the soul. It’s a sweet, lighthearted, relatable coming-of-age and coming-out story that plays a lot like a typical John Hughes teen ensemble movie updated for the times, where snapchat, texting and online forums are a primary means of communication. It’s backed by a major studio (20th Century Fox) so it actually has a fighting chance to reach a wide, mainstream audience – as it should.

Review: A Wrinkle in Time

I sooo wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. But despite its star power both in front of the camera (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, etc.) and behind it (director Ava DuVernay), A Wrinkle in Time is a bit of a hot mess. It’s colorful, visually stunning in parts, and spreads a heartfelt message about familial bonds, embracing your faults, finding strength in your individuality and all that good stuff. But in the end, the narrative gets lost in the spectacle – and Oprah’s larger-than-life, eye-glittered presence is more of a distraction than a serviceable plot device. The story just doesn’t add up. I don’t recall that being the case with Madeline L’Engle’s classic novel, first published in 1962. I read it in the 1970s (when I actually devoured more books than movies – probably because I couldn’t drive) and have fond recollections of protagonist Meg Murry’s travels through time and space in search of her scientist father who went missing while studying the universe.

Review: They Remain

This psychological horror flick relies heavily on sound effects and music to take a walk in the woods to a very scare place. Adapted from Laird Barron’s short story “30”, the main plot revolves around two biologists hired by an unnamed corporation to investigate some strange animal behavior on a remote tract of land they bought. The land also just happens to be the site where a Manson-like cult ended up in a bloodbath years earlier. Keith (William Jackson Harper, Paterson and The Good Place) and Jessica (Rebecca Henderson, Manhunt: Unabomber) spend their days setting up motion controlled cameras and taking soil samples to try and find out if there is anything particularly supernatural about the place, though you never know exactly what the corporate overlords are looking for. And of course strange things do start happening. And the question becomes, what’s real and can this possibly end well?

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Review: Black Panther

Yes, it is very good. It’s even better if you happen to like the genre – at least to some degree. Black Panther works as both a standalone action drama sci-fi superhero movie, and as a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m a big fan of Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc.) so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of T’Challa/Black Panther in the near and distant future. He’s one cool dude surrounded and protected by a bunch of kickass cool women.

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Seven years hence the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it’s time to close the book on the movie franchise that the popular and controversial novel helped procreate. If you’ve read the full trilogy – “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” – and/or seen the first two installments of the erotic fairy tale – then it’s still worth seeing the final chapters unfold on the big screen, even if the ‘climax’ is a bit of a letdown.