The Violent Blue blog***Comics, Horror and Pop Culture***Updates Tuesday through Friday (and occasionally at random)

Argo City Movie Night

King of the Zombies

Movie bannerhqdefault (2)Ever since I first saw clips of it in Zacherly’s Horrible Horror, King of the Zombies has been one of my favorite zombie films. And the heart and soul of this movie is Mantan Moreland.

These days his kind of performance in both this and the follow-up Revenge of the zombies is considered racially charged, politically incorrect. But I never saw a racial stereotype here. I always saw a comedian, a goof whose charm and zany antics rivaled the talents of Lou Costello. His wit, his bulging eyes and frantic energy never failed to make me laugh.

It’s more than that, in a lot of ways, he felt like the everyman to me. As the postman in mantan-morelandSpider Baby, I certainly relate to him, the ordinary guy who’s just doing his job, and in King of the zombies he’s not the statuesque heroic dude like our stars. no indeed, he’s the poor slob who actually does the leg work. He uncovers the plot and his fearful reaction to the
zombies is perhaps the most reasonable of them all!

King of the Zombies is a regular selection here at Argo city, and it’s not unusual to see Spider baby or Revenge on my TV as well. Check these out the next time they come up on something like Svengoolie and let Mantan Moreland make you laugh all over again.

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The Predator

Movie bannerThe_Predator_official_posterRight off the bat, let’s get something straight – The Predator is not a remake. It’s not a re-imagining, It’s really only a reboot in that they are hoping to reignite the franchise with this movie. This is a sequel, and a proper one at that… there were references to previous films, and we definitely know where this movie stands in the continuity. We get homages although they’re not beating you over the head with them and yes somebody does utter the words “Get to the choppas!”

But it’s definitely a sequel another remake.They get points for that. Then they lose those points for casting Olivia Munn as a scientist.

They get docked couple more for Jake Busey the same role. Seriously, while Brent Spiner could pull off the slightly cracked scientist in government isolation, Busey just doesn’t have the chops for it. He’s too goofy in a Shaggy and Scooby kind of way. gallery-1536332655-olivia-munn-the-predator-casey-bracketThen there is Olivia Munn. Munn doesn’t smile once in this entire film, and she doesn’t know how to run – heroically or otherwise (don’t they have some sort of superhero school training in the X-Men films?). Seriously, those dainty little steps she’s taking are doing nothing for her performance. She spends the entire film with a shocked and confused look on her face – I can’t blame her for that one though, because I’m pretty confused as to why she was cast here. She lacks their gravitas for this sort of role, I just don’t buy her as an intellectual (was Kate McKinnon not available?) Moreover, she just isn’t an action hero. Yet they’re not exploiting her looks with a clingy T-shirt or something equally crass, so quite frankly I don’t understand what she’s doing here.

new-photos-predator-halloween-lego-spider-manIt’s not a bad film though – Boyd Holbrook does his best as the hero of the piece. Arnold has big shoes to fill, and they’re doing their best. I’m actually quite surprised at how much I enjoy Keegan Michael Key in this as well. His comic relief could very easily tip over into the annoying – and I’m betting a lot of people are still going to call it that- but I actually found him funny and doing some of his better work here. I wasn’t alone either, I could frequently hear laughter in the theater I was at whenever he’d be delivering outrageously offensive humor at the worst possible times.

The Predator wants to be Independence Day without the buildings exploding. It wants that sort of underground government investigation and involvement attempting as it does, a great scope in its storytelling. It’s particularly apparent in the first act. Things narrow down and get personal on the second act as our hero’s autistic son gets involved in the danger, and then we’re back to the big picture by the third act with the government tracking down the monster. I get the impression that there may have been a bigger story originally, and that it was cut down in certain places (more likely for pace rather than cost. This movie looks expensive). Indeed, I’m not sure if that was to the films benefit or detriment.

Gore hounds will be happy, this is easily the most violent predator film I’ve ever seen – and let’s face it, this franchise set the bar pretty high. Still, it’s usually stabbing or  lasers through the chest in these movies. With this installment we get tons of severed bodies, blood and organs flying all over the place – and far more intestines than I’m used to seeing, even with my film watching habits. I’m digging the way they push the mythology as well. We get a little bit more insight as to why the Predators take the sort of trophies they do, and when the Predator brings out his hunting dogs, it’s actually a great moment. The creature designs are beautiful and they’re a perfectly fitting addition to the predator mythos. It’s a shame they have to be completely CGI, gallery-1536145644-the-predatorbecause they do have that FX fake sheen sometimes. Indeed, the ships here have the same problem, though this film probably gives us the best look at the Predator vessels that we’ve ever seen. Someone to put some thought into this, both with the shapes that they have integrated into the hull as well as the brushed metal coloring that shows up all over them.

Overall, it’s a solid film – and if it were the first movie in the franchise, I think would be guaranteed a sequel. Because it’s part of a legacy series, it’s judged a lot more harshly,  but it’s definitely a Predator film rather than a derivative knock off. In fact it’s definitely the sort of film that couldn’t be anything else, and I’m looking forward to any follow-ups Fox has in store for us.

The Predator opens in Theaters September 14.


The Ninth Gate

Movie bannerlarge_uamhDQBebdW3UQqOaVmma3yW8pmThe ninth gate is really everything I love about cult films. We’ve got everything I could ask for, mystery, a Satanic order, adventure, and exotic locales, obsession and character. The film appeals to me in particular because of the bibliophile angle. I love all books, stories and if I’m at your house, you can be assured that at some point I’ve snuck away to look through your collection of books. This film understands that, and it understands exactly the sort of person I would be if I had the means these people do. Films like this, or like High Fidelity, or even the Fast and the Furious – movies that explore collections that have been obsessively accumulated and the people who curate them always fascinate me – it makes me wish I had that kind of passion and singular vision these people do

I love how intelligently written it is, and how it celebrates literacy and research. These characters are smart people, well read, you know what you’re talking about, and many are experts in their field.

fhd999TNG_Emmanuelle_Seigner_036The story of course is about the search for a very rare book, the nine gates – which supposedly holds the secret to immortality. It features Johnny Depp in one of his better roles. Mind you, I enjoy Captain Jack and I am a fan of his work with Tim Burton, but this is something completely different – a character with depth and smarm and purpose. It’s not a quirky character, and that in fact makes it a stretch – I love Depp in this.

It’s a film you may have overlooked because quite frankly, it’s as common as dirt – you’ll see it on every shelf in every video store and frequently on Netflix. Seriously, sit down and give this a watch.

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Incredibles 2

Movie bannerimagesPeople have been waiting fourteen years to see a movie with the Incredibles fighting together again. This is not that movie.

Much like the first Incredibles focuses on Mr. incredible for most of the film, with the family only coming together at the end, this does much the same, however the roles have been reversed. this time it’s Elastigirl who’s out fighting crime (in a new suit that I actually kind of like better….) while Mr. Incredible stays home and watches the kids. Despite the role reversal, the movie really follows a lot of the same beats and I feel like I’ve seen this plot before.

Like any good sequel, they’ve ramped up the action and I have to say, the action has never looked better. The renders are beautiful, and feel more detailed than the previous film and the action set pieces are WAY more involved. This is superhero action done right. You’re not going mistake this for a Marvel movie though, with goofier kid-friendly humor liberally applied throughout. It’s the sort of thing that reminds us we’re still in a Disney film.

I’m bewildered by the ad campaign for this though. Judging by the commercials, I expected a “getting the band back together” vibe. We see the red and black suits only at the setpiece that opens the film and not again until the climax two hours later. Insted, what we have here is a very girl-power movie, that focuses heavily on the suerhero exploits of Elastigirl, the protege that idolizes her and on the sever case of adolescence that is hitting Violet.

While they do fall back on the predictable fish out of water tropes with the dad being overwhelmed by the mom’s chores, to their credit they don’t dwell on it. In most cases a film would lean into the dad as a dope routine, and while they spend more time on it than I’d like, they also show Mr. Incredible rising to the challenge – and quite a challenge it is as Baby Jack Jack starts to develop powers.

I found the villian in this piece to be fare more interesting than the bad guy in the original, but I’ll admit – I spotted them early and knew who was “behind the mask” almost immediately. Still, with the increased action and more dynamic antics, it’s cool to see the bad guy has been upgraded as well.

All in all, if your a fan of this series, you’re going to love this (and I say this with confidence, considering I attended this screening with the biggest Mr. Incredible fan I know).

The Incredibles 2 opens in theaters June 13th.


Holy Flame of the Martial World

Movie banner33689094_1945313398846407_5087294277126455296_nI swear, I don’t know why I keep letting Cleveland cinemas do this to me. I know the secret film is going to be appalling, and yet I eagerly show up every time… Oh who am I kidding, I’m a glutton for punishment.

You never know exactly what they’re going to screen at one of these mystery films, it’s frequently horror but sometimes it’s some other sort of weird exploitation. I probably should’ve gotten clued in when the door prize was a Jackie Chan film. Still, When the Shaw Bros logo came up I thought I knew what we were getting into. I was so wrong.

Holy flame is kind of like A fever dream that happened when you fell asleep watching El 51IbMd2P04L._SY445_Rey television. I have a passing acquaintance with samurai films, a much greater experience with anime and a general familiarity with foreign films. But even by my standards, this was over the top.

Holy flame begins with two infants, the apparent murdered as rival schools fight over them… I think. This part was kind of unclear. One is taken by the villain, the other is taken by the protective phantom – who drives away the villain is using his technique of ghostly laughter. The babies grow up, each prepared to avenge the murder of their parents, the daughter not realizing that her master is in fact the one responsible for their deaths in the Sun preparing to quest for the legend airy sword; the holy flame.

Our hero arrives at the cave of the moon, right after he rescues the local snake catcher and his daughter from again of devilish warriors. Inside the cave he battles flying cardboard letters (which I suspect would translate into “eat at Joes “) in an Indiana Jones 002like booby-trap… All to protect what appears to be a sword shaped like a cricket bat and made out of red Plexiglas with a baseball sized jewel centered towards the top. Once he retrieved the blade, he returns to his master with the daughter of the snake catcher – now in powered by a magic snake bladder when they prepare for the showdown with the land that killed his parents. The brother and sister avoid dueling and she eventually learns that her master was a killer for parents and together they combined the powers of the holy flame – the male aspect and female aspect, yen and yang, to destroy the villains in a spectacular show down there ultimately ends in them inflating the swords to giant anime style sizes and ultimately flattening the bad guys with them – there is probably some pyrotechnics as well, because once our heroes board the swords to fly off, magic carpet style, we see their skeletons underneath.

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I’m leaving a lot out to be fair, because this film meanders and diverges incessantly. There is also a side bit with a death cult, a resurrected zombie wire, swordsman that appear out of paintings, I convent full of lady ninjas  and the Bard like a character that keeps teasing them – and engages in swordfights with his flute. The imagery frequently holyflame3-1goes from merely a loony to completely bat crap crazy. It’s one of these films that I genuinely wonder if they realized what they were making… They play it so earnest for most of it but then we have bizarre things like the way the Phantom does sitting somersaults while projecting ghostly laughter, or the least sexy sex scene ever,involving steam bath and bad special effects.

I’ve never so badly wanted to grab a film and give it the mystery science theatre 3000 treatment as I have with this one… The problem is for me to do that, I have to actually watch it again and I don’t think I have the fortitude to do that. It’s available on DVD, but quite frankly you view this sucker at your own peril.


Deadpool 2

Movie banner32191888_1925746840803063_7710354267923546112_nThe sneak preview began with an intro from the man himself.
“You @#$%nuggets are among the first to see Deadpool 2! And I’m sure you’re wondering the same thing I am; are the guys on Sesame Street full on Muppets or just puppets?” ‘Pool then warned us not to google the origin for Cable because it would just confuse us.

We launched directly into a gratuitous action sequence (there may or may not have been a chainsaw involved) before hitting the title credits. I’m really very pleased to report that the title credits are just as funny this time around as they were in the first film. I was genuinely surprised at how well the Celine Dion song works for this title sequence, but it fits the whole James Bond homage they seem to be doing here and the previous scene actually set the mood just right for it.

32286570_1925746834136397_103568789836136448_nJust as we see on the poster, there’s a lot of film homage and parodying here. More cribbing film styles than actual movies, done so they can poke fun in a goofy post-modern way. The film is drowning in fan service and in-jokes hitting X-Men, Avengers, Batman, Superman, Marvel in general….there’s even a pretty dead on swipe at Deadpool’s creator Rob Liefeld. If you are familiar with the genre it all lands with great hilarity, though I fear some of the broader audience is going to feel left out by some of these jokes (I’ll find out in a week when I go back to see it with the wife). It went to great lengths to poke fun at the hyper-politically correct culture we find ourselves in as well. At least, I think that’s what it was doing. It’s hard to tell sometimes, considering they had to change the race of one character and make another one gay in the name of diversity… isn’t that the very thing they’re supposed to making fun of?

The buzz around the lobby was Deadpool 2 exceeded the first. A lot of people felt it was a 32290812_2128876233819748_267699569188405248_nbetter film. I’m not so sure. It definitely had better villains and I really dug the whole X-Force connections. Honestly you could not have gotten better casting for Cable than Josh Brolin. He’s just pitch perfect – not too over the top, not to gritty and grim.  He looks the part and just embodies the character in a way  Ican’t imagine anyone else doing. I’m actually a big fan of Domino here as well – or at least of the character they are calling Domino. Honestly, Zazee Beetz’s character has more depth and heart than the rather one dimensional character she’s named after. It genuinely makes me wish they’d created her an original character to play instead of just flipping race. She’s sassy, dangerous and fun, with a touch of 70’s blaxploitation to her. It would be nice to see more of her (May happen in an X-Force movie) I’d totally read a comic series based on her instead of the albino Domino from X-Force. Like I said, shame they didn’t create an original character.

The problem is there’s moments where the movie just kind of stops dead. And in the end, I think that if I were looking at my library shelf with this and the first Deadpool, I’d be more likely to pull the first. It’s good, but the first was great.

Still, this is definitely a must see…and in the theater. More importantly, Deadpool 2 absolutely wins post credits scenes. That’s it, we don’t ever need another post-credits scene again… It will never, ever be as good as this. Trust me on this, just lay back, close your eyes, and wait through the entire credit sequence.

And if you can, hit it at the Midway Atlas Theaters in Elyria. Friday night, there will be superheros hanging out before the 7:30 screening, that…and this movie are not to be missed.

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Infinity War and Iron Man

Movie banneravengersMV5BMjMxNjY2MDU1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTUwNTM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Friday was our premiere event for Avengers Infinity War and we gathered up at the Midway Atlas Cinemas near my home to celebrate.

I’ve got to say, after the frustrating armor malfunction at the last charity event I wore Iron Man to, I was ready to retire it. Just not worth repairing again. I got a request from my friend Taylor to bring it out for the Infinity War premier though so I decided to give it one more chance.

During the repairs I completely reworked the midplate and made a few long overdue upgrades to the chestplate getting around to putting the elastic panels in the breastplate (which makes it WAY easier to get on – it’s been a standard feature of my armors since trying it out with Man-At-Arms) as well as making the collar breakaway. An interesting side benefit to the breakaway collar was that it gave me greater access to the upper arms, allowing me to properly attach them farther up and more securely.

Photos from that event are reminding me how much I really do like this armor, and I may keep it around a bit longer now. I’ll still have to detail the back of the midplate and 31369324_1911751505535930_8910448074183235491_nperhaps do some extra scoring  but I’m happy with the further evolution of my oldest armor.

So, Infinity War.

Is it just me or was that two and a half hours of superhero themed torture porn?

No, I mean it. There’s some Saw level grotesque brutality here. This is trauma equivalent to what we felt as kids watching the melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I’m genuinely not sure I want to take my children to this. I’m not opposed to violence in general. I’m not opposed to it in Superhero movies either. But this was a little more than what I’m comfortable with in this context. It’s much the same thing I felt during the beat-down of Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. It crosses the line from adventure and peril over to the squirm inducing pornography of violence and far more than what I expect from a PG-13 film.

I’m not completely down on Infinity War though. The movie has it’s fun moments. Rocket, Groot and Thor’s team up is some of the best stuff here. I’m also realizing that I REALLY like Doctor Strange when he’s in other people’s movies…way more than when he’s in his own film (I’ve said the same thing about Iron Man – and it’s still true). And then there’s the moment Buckey grabs Rocket and just…twirls. It’s easily light years better than Age of Ultron, and just about as good as Civil War.

At the end of the day though…I’m seeing all of these memes with everyone feeling empty and depressed when they leave the theater. I don’t get it. With an ending that is as cataclysmic as this, basically the next film gets to reset everything, as much as it wants. This movie shouldn’t have been called Infinity War, it should have been called “Avengers : Mulligan”, because a year from now, none of it will matter.

All in all though, it was a nice night, and after the movie we took a few more photos, then our own merry band of Avengers retired to Ihop for our own personal shwarma scene. That’s the great thing about this kind of film. It’s meant to be experienced together and talked about afterwards, and I have no doubt that it will be the main topic of discussion this weekend at Free Comic Book Day.

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Case Closed

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30698560_1896622683715479_5709502579388504929_nI headed out to the Winchester last night for a special screening of the new short film “case closed”. The cast and filmmaker were on hand, and the films creator, Andrew Sgambati gave a short introduction before the movie ran. I stuck around until after the credits rolled (remember, there just might be a special little something after the end credits! It even happens with short films!). After the lights came up, he returned to the stage and spoke a little bit about the movie he just screened. There may also have been a round of “Happy Birthday to you” sung.


Case Closed is a fan film set in the Batman universe, though if you’re expecting the Dark Knight you’re going to be disappointed.  What we have is a narrative heavily influenced from the Dark Knight trilogy – particularly the interrogation sequence in the second film… The set up is familiar, the Joker has done something horrific, and the plan is already set in motion even though he is in handcuffs.

cc2 copyWhat is interesting here is that the story is told from the perspective of a detective on the case. This has the unsettling effect of making it feel more personal. Usually we see the Joker’s crimes from the perspective of Batman, or the Joker himself. They are statistics, not tragedies. In this case the peril feels very real because the detective’s son is missing. The tragedy is much closer to home.

Our detective by the way, played by Scott Laing, is the real star here. Laing’s impressive performance grounds the piece, which is beautifully shot and composed. With the exception of a brief appearance from Harley Quinn, Laing’s character is the most engaging one on the screen.cc1

You can actually see Andrew Sgambati’s writing has captured the voice of the Joker quite well here. The dialogue is crisp, it rings true…  unfortunately his performance doesn’t live up to his script. I appreciate that Sgambati doesn’t fall into the trap that a lot of actors do with the Joker – that is to play him big. It’s easy to go over the top with the Joker and got completely off the rails without even realizing it… We go the opposite direction here – with a delivery that feels flat. It’s a shame, because he does capture the physicality of the character and the look is well chosen, but I need a little more expression and subtext in his line delivery. I’m IMG_8587hoping to see him grow into the role as these films progress…and I am expecting to see these films continue. the movie itself ends with the announcement that “The Joker and Harley Quinn will return.” I find it interesting that batman may still be absent. It’s a curious choice, but not an outrageous one. The grounded portrayal of these characters makes introducing the hero dressed up in a Bat costume a little more difficult of a prospect and I can see why they would shy away from it.

I’m about 20 years removed from my own film making days, but I remember the Premier night of Ron’s Big Adventure and I could feel that same electricity in the air at the Winchester last night. The film is on YouTube, and their goal is 10,000 views. Head up there and check it out,  and support our hometown filmmakers!

 


Tomb Raider

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MV5BOTY4NDcyZGQtYmVlNy00ODgwLTljYTMtYzQ2OTE3NDhjODMwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzYzODM3Mzg@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I’m not a gamer, which means I’m not as steeped in the lore of Tomb Raider as others may be… this may work in my favor actually, but it also affects my expectations – and this is not the Lara Croft that I was expecting to see. Oh sure, she looks the part, with the clinging  tank top and tight olive pants, but there’s something in her performance that feels off. This is most definitely an origin story and it shows. Lara’s got the drive but not the skill, she is intelligent but lacks wisdom, she blunders through the film lacking the grace and experience that I expect from this character. I remember being thoroughly let down by this approach to the Lone Ranger film, however I don’t have nearly the emotional connection to the Lara Croft as I do to the Lone Ranger so here it merely serves to keep me off balance.  It also lends to my incredulity when we see her figuring out the traps and puzzles in the titular tomb being raided in the third act. It seems an incongruity with what we’ve seen in the previous hour of film. Indeed, It almost seems like her father, Richard, should be the real main character of this piece.

MV5BZjdhMzc3OWQtN2IzZC00MzJkLWJkNmYtYzY2MWU4ZTkwMDMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzgyNzQzOTM@._V1_Alicia Vikander, playing our heroine this time around is quirky and fun – attributes that I usually enjoy, but somehow it feels a little bit wrong overlaid on a character that is generally betrayed with poise and determination and only underscores the difference between this movie and the Angelina Jolie films. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this – after all, what this is meant to be is a fun action romp with a wilderness twist.

The Macguffin used here, that of an ancient tomb that holds the old witch Himiko and her curse, is actually quite compelling and I wish we would’ve seen more of it. We’ve got a couple of scenes in the third act that are derivative of The Last Crusade and Temple of Doom, but overall, the whole archaeological aspect of the film is very understated which was a surprise to me. Lara Croft to me has always been Indiana Jones in hotpants. One of my friends pointed out that in recent years the games have shifted more towards survival games rather than straightforward treasure hunting adventures… It was his opinion that the film was going in that direction as well and I can certainly see it. It ofe1yvrifs9zdoesn’t bear a  great resemblance to the video game I remember, though as one friend pointed out they do manage to brilliantly capture the platforming aspect of it during a number of perilous scenes.

And make no mistake, there is indeed a great deal of peril and danger in this movie! I think I spent half of the film watching Lara fall, plummet, and hang off of ledges and such – it was such a repeating motif you could build a drinking game around it.

With all this, it actually manages to feel like it’s breaking a little bit of ground on it’s own… like the film could have easily stood by itself without the Tomb Raider name. The paradox of course is that while the movie is good enough to stand alone without the franchise, it never would’ve gotten the requisite number of eyes in front of it without tomb-raider-daniel-wu-alicia-vikanderthe Tomb Raider name to be successful. It’s a quandary that usually frustrates me, but this time around they manage to handle the balance very well, and mix it all into a fairly satisfying action movie.

In the end, it might not be a must-see-in-the-theater kind of film – although I’ll be perfectly fine tagging along with friends if they wanted to go see it… I’d be equally fine grabbing it from the red box when it comes out for rent. In fact that’s probably when I’m going to do for the kids – they’re not going to miss anything watching on the in fact that’s probably what I’m going to do for the kids – they’re not gonna miss anything watching it on the TV instead of a movie screen.  It’s a solid film, and definitely strong enough to warrant a couple of sequels – after all, the objective of the movie was to reboot the series and they’ve mostly done this in their own unique fashion.

Tomb Raider arrives in theaters March 16th.


A Wrinkle in Time

Movie bannerMV5BMjMxNjQ5MTI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ2MTAyNDM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I think A Wrinkle in Time may just be the best video game ever!

Wait. This is a movie isn’t it?

It’s awfully pretty, with tons of gorgeous CGI that probably couldn’t have been duplicated by puppets. It’s a rare thing for me to admit that a film is better enhance by CGI than practical, but if ever there was one… This is it.

Considering the challenging material from the book, the film doesn’t water it down excessively. There’s a little, but by and large it stays smart dealing with high concepts just as deftly as it tackles the mundane.

nullThe modernization of the film is predictable, but doesn’t really detract from it… I’m not sure that it makes it particularly more relevant, but it doesn’t hurt it. Our lead actress in particular is charming, cute and spunky and I hope to see her in more coming up.

The real revelation here though, is Chris Pine as the father. Pine turns in a brilliant performance, and it brings into sharp focus just how big a mistake doing the Star Trek movies was… he’s far better served in roles like this imagesthen he is pretending to be William Shatner.

The director really let her imagination fly here, not binding herself specifically to the book and opting for some radically different imagery. For the most part it works, but let me caution you… Do not see this in 3-D or IMAX. I caught this on one of those huge screens and it actually gave me motion sickness.

It’s a dazzling spectacle, and actually might have been better suited as a summer blockbuster. Definitely want to catch it in the theater, and bring the kids… Especially if it’ll get them interested later on in reading the book!

A Wrinkle in Time arrives in theaters on March 9th

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