Take 2

Tamara Dunn is a card-carrying cinephile and the assistant city editor at the Standard-Speaker. Her writings here have earned her a Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association award in 2017. Her favorite films are “Bringing Up Baby” and “Moonlight.”

Rebecca Kivak considers herself a representative of the average filmgoer. She is also a copy editor for The Times-Tribune. Her favorite films are “The Illusionist” and “The Avengers.”

Share your summer plans with us

Share your summer plans with us

“Mission Impossible: Fallout”

What are you doing this summer? Are you planning the biggest jewelry heist of the century? Perhaps you’re reuniting with old friends — super ones, to be exact. Maybe you are visiting a theme park with real-live dinosaurs. If these are in your sights, you must be thinking about summer movies.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Join Standard-Speaker resident movie critic Tamara Dunn, and Rebecca Kivak and Joe Baress of The Times-Tribune of Scranton for a Facebook Live event Monday at 1:30 p.m. for a summer movie preview. Visit the Facebook pages of The Times-Tribune, the Standard-Speaker and Take 2 on Monday for our takes on this summer’s offerings and what titles we are most excited about.

“The Incredibles 2”

Trailer Talk: “Deadpool 2” takes shots, “Jurassic World” sequel chases suspense

Trailer Talk: “Deadpool 2” takes shots, “Jurassic World” sequel chases suspense

Chris Pratt stars in “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

“Deadpool 2”

The final trailer for the sequel to the massive 2016 hit is more meta than ever. Ryan Reynolds’ wise-cracking anti-hero takes aim at other comic book movies in this action-packed trailer.

To watch the NSFW trailer, click here.

With a cheeky card that says “The studio that killed Wolverine,” the Merc with a Mouth calls out Cable actor Josh Brolin for also playing the big bad villain Thanos in this summer’s Marvel epic “Avengers: Infinity War.” Deadpool also accuses Brolin’s time-traveling assassin of being dark enough to fit into the DC Comics Extended Universe films.

The teaser introduces more of the X-Force, the group of mutants that Deadpool puts together to protect a boy (Julian Dennison of “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) being hunted by Cable. There’s the punch-throwing Bedlam (Terry Crews), sword-wielding Shatterstar (Lewis Tan) and the lucky Domino (potential breakout Zazie Beetz). There’s also Peter (Rob Delaney), who claims to be an average guy without powers.

X-Men mutants Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) return from the first film, as well as anxious cabbie Dopinder (Karan Soni.)

With high-flying action, katana-slicing bullets and self-aware humor, “Deadpool 2” looks like it will give fans of the first movie more of what they want.

“Deadpool 2” slices and dices its way into theaters May 18.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Velociraptors, T. Rexes and hybrids, oh my! The second trailer for the sequel to 2015’s mega hit “Jurassic World” brings back some of the humans and plenty of dinosaurs for more dino-stomping action and adventures.

The fifth movie in the “Jurassic Park” franchise returns to the island of Isla Nubar four years after the disastrous end of the Jurassic World theme park. The dinosaurs and the island are in danger of being wiped out by a volcano. Former park executive Claire (a returning Bryce Dallas Howard) wants to rescue the dinosaurs and relocate them to a sanctuary in the U.S. On the rescue list is velociraptor Blue, a fan favorite from the first movie. Enter Blue’s former trainer Owen (Chris Pratt), who reunites with ex-girlfriend Claire to locate the dinosaur with whom he still shares a connection.

But not all is as it seems. The sanctuary working with Claire doesn’t want to just rescue the dinosaurs – it wants to auction them off to the highest bidder. This includes a new, genetically engineered dinosaur with Blue’s velociraptor traits. But when the creature escapes, all bets are off. Cue to dinosaurs traipsing around houses, bedrooms and terrorizing a young girl.

In the new trailer, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” winds the tension and doles out the horror. The film looks like it’s trying to recapture the suspense from the legendary cafeteria sequence in 1993’s “Jurassic Park.”

I like this trailer better than the first trailer, which felt like an awkward romantic comedy mashed up with an explosive dinosaur romp. We still may get that, but the new trailer emphasizes the intensity of the action and the terror of the situation. I’m excited, folks!

The teaser also highlights the return of Jeff Goldblum as the popular Dr. Ian Malcolm from “Jurassic World” and 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” Goldblum’s appearance in both trailers has been limited to a panel session where he utters his famous line, “Life finds a way.” This makes me worried that we may not get much Goldblum beyond these panel scenes.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” runs amok June 22.

“The Equalizer 2”

Leading man Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua team up once again in the ultraviolent follow-up to 2014’s crime thriller “The Equalizer.” The film marks Denzel’s first sequel in his illustrious career.

Washington reprises his role as former black ops agent Robert McCall, who uses his particular set of skills to find justice for the oppressed. The original film was notable for McCall’s methods of violence that excluded the use of guns, including its memorable finale involving a nail gun.

In the sequel, McCall’s mission becomes personal when his friend and former colleague (Melissa Leo, returning from the first film) is murdered. With help from “Game of Thrones” alum Pedro Pascal, McCall seeks to avenge his friend’s death, even if it means confronting faces from his past.

The trailer brings back McCall’s stopwatch as he uses a variety of methods to efficiently battle his enemies. I thought the original dragged on in between its action set-pieces, so I hope the sequel is as action-oriented as the teaser suggests.

“The Equalizer 2” looks to even the score July 20.

Where were you when Sean Connery was in town?

Where were you when Sean Connery was in town?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hollywood magic coming to Eckley Miners Village in Foster Twp. The patchtown rich in coal mining history was becoming celluloid history in 1968 with “The Molly Maguires,” starring Sean Connery, Richard Harris and Samantha Eggar, released in theaters two years later.

Set in the 1800s and based on the 1964 novel by Mahanoy City native Arthur H. Lewis, a group of Irish miners rise up against their cruel company bosses with dynamite and sabotage. Filming took place in the summer of 1968 with locals serving as extras and Eckley as the backdrop.

Director Martin Ritt had many movies under his belt, including working with Paul Newman, and “The Molly Maguires” was one of two movies he released in 1970. The other was “The Great White Hope.”

The movie with an $11 million budget – a large amount for 1968 – was a box office flop, earning about $2.2 million during its run. However, it help preserve Eckley as it is now.

Sean Connery, star of “The Molly Maguires,” is getting to shoot a scene for the film inside the Immaculate Conception Church in Eckley in 1968. (Times-Shamrock File)

To commemorate the anniversary, the Standard-Speaker is planning a special section about what took place in the summer of 1968 and what happened afterward. If you have a story, memorabilia or if you were an extra on the set, share your memories with the newspaper.

You can share your memories through Standard-Speaker Facebook page, by email at mollies@standardspeaker.com or by calling Tony Greco at 570-501-3576.

This Thursday, celebrate in Jim Thorpe with a viewing and benefit at the Mauch Chunk Opera. Arrive early at 6 p.m. for a pre-movie party, followed by the movie at 7:30. The cost is $50 for the party and movie and $20 for the movie. All proceeds benefit Eckley Miners Village. Tickets are available at mcohjt.com or SoundCheck Record at 570-325-4009.

 

Review: “Pacific Rim: Uprising”

Review: “Pacific Rim: Uprising”

“Pacific Rim Uprising.” (Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)

Rebecca’s Take

Giant robots? Check. Giant monsters? Check. Gloriously fun battles between said robots and monsters? Check.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” is an exciting follow-up to the 2015 sci-fi spectacle “Pacific Rim.” Like the original, “Uprising” takes its cues from cult monster movies and mecha anime.

The sequel introduces a new generation of likable heroes and well-crafted robots, called Jaegers. But without the hands-on touch of the original’s director, Guillermo del Toro, “Uprising” prioritizes metal vs. monster action over its characters, falling short of its predecessor.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” takes place 10 years after humanity defeated the Kaiju, alien monsters that live underneath the Earth’s surface. Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), the son of fallen war hero Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), rejects his past as a Jaeger pilot. The reckless playboy has been getting by through scavenging Jaeger parts.

Jake is reluctantly brought back into the field after crossing paths with teenage hacker Amara (Cailee Spaney), who has built her own unsanctioned Jaeger. After reuniting with his adoptive sister, pilot-turned-General Secretary Mako Mori (a returning Rinko Kikuchi), Jake serves as an instructor for a new class of pilots, including Amara. The pilots’ jobs are in danger after corporate bigwig Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) has developed Jaegers piloted by drones.

But the Jaeger pilots have bigger problems. A decade after their defeat, the Kaiju have returned – bigger and stronger – to attack the Pacific Rim once again. This time, they’re sending their own Jaegers. After tragedy strikes, Jake, rival instructor Nate (Scott Eastwood), Amara and the new recruits must work together to save the world and “cancel the apocalypse” one more time.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” carries on the tradition of rock ‘em, sock ‘em fighting fun between monsters and robots established by its predecessor. Showing reverence to the original, plenty of care and attention to detail is given to the design of the Jaegers, with names like Gipsy Avenger, the successor to the star Jaeger of “Pacific Rim,” Gipsy Danger. The Jaegers have been upgraded with cool features, like Saber Athena’s deadly blades and Bracer Phoenix’s powerful cannons.

Under director Steven S. DeKnight, the thrilling and crisp battle sequences span the Sydney coast to the city of Tokyo. However, there’s more Jaeger vs. Jaeger battles in “Pacific Rim: Uprising” than Jaeger vs. Kaiju. The supersized Kaiju don’t enter the action until the third act. Still, the fast-paced “Uprising” is so much fun that the wait is nearly worth it.

Where “Uprising” deviates from the original is in its shaky commitment to character development. Under del Toro’s influence, the original was a larger-than-life blockbuster driven by its human characters, much like the Jaegers themselves. The action of “drifting” – when two people connect their minds to jointly pilot a Jaeger – was a central concept in the first film. But in “Uprising,” the concept of finding a compatible drifting partner is teased but brushed aside.

The sequel starts out developing its characters, but readily drops multiple plot threads when the action kicks up in the final act. Amara, an orphan since she was 5, has trouble drifting with others, which is never fully explored. She finds herself at odds with a fellow cadet, the resentful Vic (Ivanna Sahkno) – then the two suddenly become chummy. Jake struggles with living in the shadow of his legendary father, and is often at loggerheads with Nate, but both problems are cast aside when the Kaiju pop up. The film could have used an extra 10-15 minutes to wrap up these character conflicts and growth.

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” benefits from a charming cast. Coming off “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi,” Boyega is as charismatic as ever. Also serving as a producer on the film, the British actor has found another franchise to showcase his sense of humor and action prowess. Boyega has a nice rapport with Spaney. As the tough yet vulnerable Amara, the young newcomer throws herself into the role. Look out for this rising star.

Burn Gorham and Charlie Day reprise their roles as buddy scientists from the original. As Dr. Newt Geiszler, Day’s character takes an off-putting turn. Jing is a welcome addition to the cast as the brilliant Shao, who is willing to get in on the action. As Nate, the rugged Eastwood is no-nonsense and a bit bland, but he’s a better fit in this franchise than his recent stint in “Fate of the Furious.”

“Pacific Rim: Uprising” pushes the franchise forward with new characters and new enemies. Though it doesn’t delve as deep under the surface as its predecessor, it’s a fun popcorn flick that serves as a welcome escape from reality. The “Pacific Rim” franchise is what the flailing “Transformers” franchise should aspire to be.

3.5 out of 5 stars

John Boyega, left, and Scott Eastwood in “Pacific Rim Uprising.” (Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)

Tamara’s Take

In 2009, I had the chance to see director Werner Herzog showcase one of two film he had playing at the Toronto International Film Festival, “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?” During the Q&A session following the showing, most of Herzog’s attention was paid to his hatred for the title of his other film, “Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans.” His movie had no connection to the 1992 Harvey Keitel crime drama as the newer one had a different cop and a different city. However, the producers thought that since they had the rights to the name, it would bring a built-in audience. Thus, Herzog’s vision was compromised for sales, Abel Ferrera, the director of the original film, was also not thrilled that another film act was attached to his vision.

The lesson of that short story is this: If you can’t make a true sequel, don’t make one. Someone should have said that to the makers of “Pacific Rim: Uprising.”

This sequel to the 2013 dazzler “Pacific Rim” takes place 10 years after the war between robots (the good guys) and underground aliens (the bad guys) ended, and the only fears people have are how to get food on their plates and how to make your own giant robot without the government catching you.

Jake (John Boyega) is a rebellious guy who is running from his fate when he runs into Amara (Cailee Spaeny), a teen hacker building her own baby robotic Jaegar. When they’re caught, they are ordered to join a group of next-generation Jaegar pilots. For Jake, it’s a less-than-thrilling homecoming as he is the son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba), who died in the first movie to save the world. Jake’s rival, Nate (Scott Eastwood), is there to be in charge and to be handsome. The new pilot cadets are a bunch of kids that have no connections with each other, but everyone is in fear of being replace by drones from China, heralded by Liwen Shao (Tian Jing), and a growing Kaiju threat.

There is some carryover from the Guillermo del Toro version: feuding scientists Dr. Newton Geiszler and Gottlieb (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) are back, and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) makes an appearance. The Jaegars have the same names. And it ends there.

Steven S. DeKnight jumps from television to film directing with this one, and if his signature is to create without heart, direction, connection or plot, it’s best to avoid this movie and possibly any future film he makes. “Pacific Rim: Uprising” disregards the foundation del Toro built in his ode to the monster and war movies years before he won two Oscars for “The Shape of Water.” One shared plotline is that to operate the Jaegar, the pilots’ brains must be in sync and their moves to be well choreographed. “Uprising” doesn’t even try to make this a priority. Whenever Jake and Nate are piloting the popular Gipsy Avenger, they are a half-step off in the moves. It doesn’t look right. And if the world’s future is in the hands of whiny cadets who can’t listen to directions, will there even be a future for this Universal Pictures franchise worth creating?

It’s too much to detail what doesn’t work with this movie without ruining the movie. Not even the robots are memorable this time around. However, there is one thing it has going for it. It’s one of the few tentpole movies to carefully craft a Chinese plotline targeting China’s huge box office. Shao is the only multi-dimensional character, with Jing having more charisma than Boyega and Eastwood.

Let’s hope that someone doesn’t think that “Pacific Rim” needs to be stamped onto another movie. The name has been abused enough with this stale sequel.

1 out of 5 stars

Tamara’s Take: Quick Reviews, April 3

Tamara’s Take: Quick Reviews, April 3

“Tomb Raider,” three stars out of five. In theaters.

“Tomb Raider”

Run through the jungle. Jump over fallen branches. Land in a raging river. Approach a waterfall and try not to go down it. Fight off a bad guy. Find a safe place to hide.

This is the plot of the latest reboot of a popular film franchise based on a video game. And like the Angelina Jolie-starring series, another supporting actress Oscar winner, Alicia Vikander, is sporting the signature tank top and ponytail of Lara Croft with a clean-cut objective – figure out what happened to her father (Dominic West) when he disappeared seven years ago.

Serving as an origin story with the hopes that another franchise is born, Lara is a young adult who is not ready to say that her father is dead after he didn’t return from one of his “business” trips. She instead lives modestly as a courier who makes the streets of London her extreme sport playground. As her father’s business partners and her guardian (Kristin Scott Thomas) pressure her to accept reality, a note from her father leads her to his secret mission to find the supernatural to connect with her deceased mother.

This leads Lara to a dangerous wonder of searching for an island that holds an ancient evil that if unlocked could devour the world and send it into chaos. Paired with her father’s captain’s son Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), Lara goes on her first, real adventure.

“Tomb Raider”

I hadn’t seen the Jolie versions or played any of the video games, so I approached this movie purely as a newbie. All I knew about the differences between the films were the physical differences between the pixel version, the Hollywood starlet and the former dancer-turned-actress (thank you, sexist fanboys, for your swallow online outrage). However, I am familiar with video game storytelling and mechanics, and “Tomb Raider” keeps those familiarities in tact throughout the film. Very, very few characters, including the main baddie Mathias Vogel (the overacting Walter Goggins), have ulterior motives or even a hint outside their personality zone. Lu Ren is stationed in the friend’s zone for so long that the zone itself is bulletproof.

And while the main attraction, the actual tomb raiding, was a hot mess, the movie overall was fun to watch. As Vikander is venturing away from the period pieces like “The Danish Girl” and “The Royal Affair” that got her notice and testing the waters of action flicks, it is good to see her having a good time in a purely popcorn movie. Honestly, there should be more movies of women pulverizing bad guys and it not seem like an abnormality.

“Assassin’s Creed”

Assassin’s Creed,” half-star out of five. Streaming on HBO until April 30.

Is the saying, “I’d rather watch paint dry,” familiar to you? In watching “Assassin’s Creed” one night, I was so bored that I started a craft project – repainting some figurines to create whimsical bookends. I skillfully coated two plastic giraffes with metallic gold paint for a couple of minutes as I watched two of my favorite actors, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, discuss the meaning of the Apple of Eden and how Fassbender’s character’s ancestral line had something to do with it. I figured it would be a boring part and that my eyes would lift up when the scene improved. It never did.

Fassbender is Callum Lynch, the offspring of two members of the Assassin Order who is executed for murder, only to be brought to a mysterious center where Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) is working to rid the world of violence. Her father, Alan (Jeremy Irons), has other ideas as Cal could possibly lead them to finding the Apple for a rival sect. They tap into the memories of Cal’s ancestors for clues.

Unlike “Tomb Raider,” I have played one of the many entries of the “Assassin’s Creed” universe – 2012’s “Assassin’s Creed III.” I purchased it once I heard that Fassbender was going to star and produce a movie version of the game. I was intrigued by the gameplay, the historical research and the storytelling. However, I really stink at sandbox games like “Assassin’s Creed.” I never even made to the point I was playing the character that appears on the video game’s cover. After this release, Ubisoft was criticized for releasing more “Assassin’s Creed” titles with similar storylines and little new gameplay each year.

“Assassin’s Creed”

Yet, I had high hopes that the movie would break the video game curse, especially with Fassbender and Cotillard reuniting with their “Macbeth” director Justin Kurzel. Like me, “Assassin’s Creed” doesn’t make it past its title card. Its moodiness, its misplaced treks to 1490s’ Spain to recover the Apple of Eden and moves taken directly from the game like the boldness the video game series is known for. It is very much an extended cut of the first one or two levels of the game with game trailer footage used for the action sequences.

I stared at my craft project, waiting for the gold paint to dry so that I could add another layer. Actually seeing the piles of foam brushes, paint-filled palettes and drop sheets on the floor was more entertaining than watching three highly acclaimed actors perform with the effort of a character of “The Sims.” What was missing a glowing, green plumbobs atop their heads.

What’s sad is that Ubisoft was also behind this film, so the source material was never neglected. However, creativity and enjoyment were. I think I should return to my giraffes now.

Review: “A Wrinkle in Time”

Review: “A Wrinkle in Time”

This image released by Disney shows Oprah Winfrey, left, and Storm Reid in a scene from “A Wrinkle In Time.” (Atsushi Nishijima/Disney via AP)

Tamara’s Take

There’s Oprah! There’s Reese and Disney! There’s Ava and Captain Kirk! There’s a big-screen take on a beloved children’s book! “A Wrinkle in Time” has so much power behind it and high expectations before the film even starts. Does the visual fantasy live up to the hype? Let’s reach across the universe to see.

Meg (Storm Reid), her mother Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) miss Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), who vanished mysteriously four years ago as he was discovering how to travel through space. Meg, who was previously a star student, is now an aloof, angry and uncaring teen. She is the target of school bullies, mainly her neighbor Veronica (Rowan Blanchard). Charles Wallace, in contrast, is optimistic and friendly. This makes him the perfect link to intergalactic beings, starting with bubbly but caustic Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon). Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), Meg and Charles Wallace meet Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), who can only speak using other people’s words, and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), a towering and all-knowing force.

The powerful women reveal that they are astral travelers, proving that Meg and Charles Wallace’s parents’ scientific theories are true. Unfortunately, the travelers must find Mr. Murry as an evil being, the It, is about to devour the universe. It’s up to Meg to find her father across galaxies, but she must be powerful enough to do so.

Ava DuVernay does something she has not done before in her career in the director’s chair – take on a big-budget tentpole full of computer-generated images and Disney magic. She keeps her signature moves – elevating women and people of color on the screen and giving roles to David Oyelowo (who provides the voice of the It) – and she finds a new way to tell a story.

Yet, “A Wrinkle in Time,” based on the book by Madeleine L’Engle, doesn’t feel as deep or as memorable as DuVernay’s previous offerings like “Middle of Nowhere” and “Selma.” As the kids and the travelers go through different worlds and encounter all sorts of danger, the images are breathtaking, but the plot is not. Moments are too short to absorb, and many characters are introduced and then quickly disappear. This works well for youngsters as they are the movie’s target audience, but the parents who grew up with the book may be disappointed that there’s little to keep them hooked.

There are some bright spots outside the imagery. Meg expands the very small group of black girl nerds that appear on screen. She employs her physics background, a connection she shares with her father, to move the team forward in their mission. Meg is also complex; she has the insecurities most girls her age have, including not being able to take a compliment as Calvin admires her natural curls. The love between Mr. and Mrs. Murry appears genuine, a couple who makes discoveries and a family together.

While Witherspoon, Kaling, Pine and Winfrey are the stars, the team of Reid, McCabe and Miller is allowed to shine. While they’re not the best child and teen actors out there, their performances are enough for the material they are given, and the bigger stars don’t steal the spotlight from them.

DuVernay makes a good effort in her blockbuster debut with “A Wrinkle in Time,” and a young audience can benefit from the images and people they see in a fantasy setting. Maybe some more space travel is needed to make a more perfect product.

3.5 out of 5 stars

From left: Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon star in “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Rebecca’s Take

When “A Wrinkle in Time” first came out in 1962, the sci-fi fantasy novel featured a female character as the lead, which was rare for the genre at the time. Troubled teen Meg Murry dealt with an absent father, self-esteem issues and wanting to fit in.

Over 50 years later, Meg Murry is just as relevant as ever. The delightful “Wrinkle in Time” brings the relatable teen to life, with an inspiring story, vibrant settings and larger-than-life characters.

The timing is right for the first live-action adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s novel, helmed by imaginative director Ava DuVernay. Though it may not reach all the heights it aspires to, the ambitious adventure offers valuable life lessons in self-discovery for kids as well as adults.

“A Wrinkle in Time” centers around Meg Murry (Storm Reid), the intelligent but insecure daughter of brilliant scientists Alex (an excellent Chris Pine) and Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Alex develops the controversial concept of a tesseract, a form of interdimensional travel that bends space. But soon after his discovery, he disappears in his lab, leaving behind his family and newly adopted son, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe).

Four years after her father’s disappearance, Meg, now 13, is an outcast at school, bullied by classmates and falling behind on her studies. Her younger brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious genius who sees the potential in his sullen sister.

Their lives change when three mystical beings – Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – appear to the siblings and alert them their father is in danger. With their new friend Calvin (Levi Miller) in tow, Meg and Charles Wallace embark upon a cosmic journey to search for their father that tests their strengths, weaknesses and love for one another.

I read “A Wrinkle in Time” in elementary school and really liked it, so I was looking forward to the film version. The movie is very faithful to the book, which can be a tricky read due to its dense subject matter. But the film succeeds at taking difficult scientific concepts and boiling them down for its young audience to understand.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is visually stunning, with breathtaking interplanetary settings and special effects. There’s colorful flowers that gossip among one another, a magical ride across the sky, and an abstract room that becomes a scientific puzzle. The bright hues contrast with the dark worlds controlled by evil, showing the battle between light and darkness that Meg and Charles Wallace are drawn into.

With their uniquely coiffed hairstyles and exquisite costumes, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who provide an engaging entry point into a larger universe. Witherspoon is the most fun as Mrs. Whatsit, striking up a sweet rapport with Charles Wallace and a tough-love dynamic with Meg. Winfrey is soothing as Mrs. Which, and Kaling brings a meditative vibe as Mrs. Who. Zach Galifianakis is cool, calm and encouraging as the all-knowing Happy Medium, a character I always liked in the book.

But the weight of “A Wrinkle of Time” falls upon its young heroine’s shoulders. Reid is up to the task, leading a diverse cast. As Meg, the young newcomer must learn to like herself – faults and all – if she is to find her father and bring him back home.

Meg must rely on her scientific knowledge to solve problems. It’s a good message for young people, showing the importance of STEM programs. Reid has a nice chemistry with DeCabe. Their bond is believable as both siblings are gifted in different ways.

As grounded as it is fantastical, “A Wrinkle in Time” tackles the theme of self-confidence, from embracing one’s natural hair to trusting your own instincts. These are issues that affect people of all ages. As an adult, I saw myself in Meg’s struggle. In a powerful scene, the character must confront her desire to conform and the price of her individuality.

Despite its many strengths, “A Wrinkle in Time” isn’t perfect. The third act feels a little rushed. The action jumps from place to place without much explanation, which could confuse non-book readers. As Calvin, Miller mainly tags along for the ride, with little to do except build up Meg.

“A Wrinkle in Time” brings home the lesson that ordinary people can do the extraordinary if we look within and trust ourselves. That makes all of us extraordinary. The cosmic outing delivers a new film classic that children and adults can enjoy together.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Trailer Talk: “Deadpool 2” forms new team, “Sicario” sequel reveals new name

Trailer Talk: “Deadpool 2” forms new team, “Sicario” sequel reveals new name

Ryan Reynolds stars in “Deadpool 2.”

“Trailer Talk” rounds up recently released trailers for upcoming and anticipated movies.

“Deadpool 2”

The wise-cracking Merc with a Mouth is back. After the huge success of 2016’s “Deadpool,” Ryan Reynolds returns with the crude language, raunchy humor and ultra-violent action we’ve come to expect from Marvel’s R-rated anti-hero. Wade Wilson is more self-aware than ever, continuing to break the fourth wall.

To watch the NSFW trailer, click here.

The new trailer offers more in the way of a plot for the X-Men-connected sequel. Time-traveling mutant Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives to kill a young boy, an apparent mutant with fire powers. To protect the child, the katana-wielding Deadpool assembles his own team of mutants – the X-Force.

The X-Force is made up of several new faces, including Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), an electricity-wielding mutant (Kutsuna Shiori) and Pennywise the Clown – no wait, that’s Bill Skarsgard in an as-yet-unknown role. We also see Deadpool in the X-Mansion where the X-Men live. Could one of the well-known mutants make a cameo appearance?

Returning for the sequel are Brianna Hildebrand as the atomic Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Morena Baccarin as Deadpool’s lady love, Vanessa, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, and T.J. Miller as Weasel.

“Deadpool 2” slices and dices its way into theaters May 18.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado”

The second trailer for the sequel to 2015’s highly acclaimed “Sicario” reveals a new name for the crime thriller, which was originally titled “Sicario 2: Soldado.”

In the follow-up written by the returning Taylor Sheridan, the drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border is heating up as cartels are smuggling terrorists stateside. CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin, returning from “Sicario”) pulls Alejandro, a volatile former undercover operative (memorably played in the original by Benicio del Toro) back into action.

The new teaser digs deeper into del Toro’s ex-hitman, who has some scores to settle from his past. The trailer also shows a bigger role for up-and-coming actress Isabela Moner (“Transformers: The Last Knight”), playing a young witness who Alejandro is determined to protect.

“Sicario: Day of the Soldado” busts theaters June 29.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

Moviegoers return to the wizarding world of Harry Potter in the second installment in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise from author J.K. Rowling. The sequel picks up where 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” leaves off.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” follows magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he teams up with former teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to track down evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who has escaped after his capture in “Fantastic Beasts.” The film introduces Law as a younger version of the Hogwarts school headmaster, played in the “Harry Potter” films by Richard Harris and Michael Gambon.

The new movie – the second of five in the franchise – has a darker look as the series treads into more adult territory. New spells, magical creatures and exotic locales conjure up the return of sister witches Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol. Dan Fogler is back as lovable no-mag Jacob Kowalski. There’s also new faces in the trailer, including Zoe Kravitz as Newt’s former flame Leta Lestrange, Callum Turner as Newt’s brother Theseus, and Claudia Kim as the mysterious Maledictus.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” casts its spell on moviegoers Nov. 16.

“Sorry to Bother You”

The trippy trailer for the sci-fi fantasy blends social commentary and comedy in a clever film from director Boots Riley.

“Sorry to Bother You” focuses on a black telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) in an alternate version of Oakland, Calif., who uses his “white voice” to climb the ladder of success. But success and money don’t come without personal and moral perils along the way.

The film has a stacked cast, including Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Danny Glover, Terry Crews and Steven Yeun.

“Sorry to Bother You” dials up theaters July 6.

“Mary Poppins Returns”

The 1964 Disney classic gets its sequel more than 50 years after the much-loved governess floated away with children’s hearts.

Taking up the umbrella, Emily Blunt steps into the role of Mary Poppins, who returns to the Banks family in 1930s London. Mary Poppins arrives to help her grown-up charge, Michael (Ben Whitshaw), who is struggling to raise his own kids.

The weather may be dreary and windy in the teaser, but after all these years, Mary Poppins still knows how to make an entrance.

The film also stars “Hamilton” mastermind and music heavyweight Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter working under Dick Van Dyke’s Bert from the original film. The film also stars Meryl Streep, Colin Firth and Angela Lansbury.

“Mary Poppins Returns” floats into theaters on Christmas Day.

“Christopher Robin”

After a lackluster August offered little for moviegoers last year, Disney hopes to fill the void with its latest live-action offering.

“Christopher Robbin” catches up with the little boy from A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh books and Disney cartoons. Now a weary adult played by Ewan McGregor, Christopher Robin is coping with a work crisis when his childhood friend, Winnie the Pooh, pops up to help him find his imagination.

The film also stars Hayley Atwell and Mark Gatiss, with an impressive voice cast including the return of Jim Cummings as Pooh; Chris O’Dowd as Tigger; Brad Garrett as my personal fave, Eeyore; and Peter Capaldi as Rabbit.

“Christopher Robbin” finds his way back to the Hundred Acre Wood on Aug. 3.

Hometown Review: “Columbus”

Hometown Review: “Columbus”

This is part of an occasional series of reviews focusing on streaming releases linked to places of my past and present.

“Columbus,” Four out of five stars. Streaming on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson in “Columbus”

In 1998 during my freshman year at college, I met a person would turn out to be one of my best friends. She was from Charlottesville, Virginia, so I immediately thought that her favorite band would be Dave Matthews Band. It wasn’t, but it was her roommate’s all-time favorite. Despite going to a school that was more than 200 miles away, she could not escape the feel-good jams and sounds.
Years later, we both became studio art majors and art history minors (she had a second minor in French whereas mine was in mathematics). I later found out that she spent part of her childhood in Indiana. My history realm was mostly in contemporary art and pop culture.
During my modern architecture class, I studied American communities that were like sandboxes for architectural masters like Eero Saarinen, Philip Johnson and Michael Graves. I was intrigued by the city of Columbus, Indiana, where your neighborhood bank was designed by someone famous and that nearly every building had a place in modern and post-modern architecture.
Then I learned that my friend moved to Columbus when she was little and later returned to Charlottesville. She still had family who lived in Indiana. Color me amazed because I wanted a reason to visit this art-important town and wondered what it was like to live in a city like that. My friend just said, “Yeah, we had weird-looking banks.”

“Columbus”

“Columbus” may be the closest I get to actually being there and getting a glimpse as to what it is like to live in this architectural mecca. Jin (John Cho) is the son of an architect who was about to give a lecture in Columbus before he became seriously ill. The son flies from Seoul, South Korea, to the Indiana city where his father is hospitalized. Jin meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent high school graduate who works at a library and lives with her mother. The two strike up an unlikely friendship – Jin is disinterested in architecture while Casey knows every detail about every designed building.

John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson in “Columbus”

What keeps Casey in Columbus is her need to take care of her meth-addicted mother Maria (Michelle Forbes). She puts her dreams on hold, drives a beat-up sedan and watches as her classmates leave Columbus for different futures. What writer/director Kogonada does with “Columbus” is take what architecture buffs are familiar with – Columbus’ striking buildings, bridges and landscape – and asks them to think about them deeply. Casey can recite all the facts of a bank building like a tour guide, but Jin challenges her to feel them. It opens up a window into her world, how she attaches herself and her life into each building without even knowing it. For Jin, who tries to escape from his father’s shadow and the responsibilities of being a son, he wants more for Casey than just being attached to her hometown and to her mother.

Haley Lu Richardson in “Columbus”

Kogonada shows how it’s easy to get lost in the beauty that surrounds us that can also mask what is within us. Casey does not have a great life; she lives in a sterile, domestic neighborhood untouched by art giants. The audience feels the pain Jin and Casey have been hiding – the fear of losing a parent – and by the end, they can free it and breathe again.
What spoils this sweet portrait is the presence of Eleanor (Parker Posey), Jin’s father’s assistant. She brings her own uptight baggage to the mix. If she weren’t the queen of independent film, Posey and her character would be misplaced in this one, but she is an energetic being in the middle of a melancholic setting. Cho finally has a meaty leading role as the conflicted Jin, and Richardson brings forth the mixed feelings of staying home and wanting to grow. Perhaps the biggest star of them all are the living buildings, which Kogonada gives heart in places some would think to be cold and brutal, especially when designed by the architecture firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

Trailer Talk: Let’s dive into the final “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer

Trailer Talk: Let’s dive into the final “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer

Chris Evans stars as Captain America in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The second and final trailer for the much-anticipated “Avengers: Infinity War” has dropped, giving us more to unpack about the epic Marvel Studios superhero team-up.

The film’s release date was pushed up a week, to April 27, so we’re one week closer to seeing what promises to be a game-changer for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new teaser for the 19th film in the franchise shows stunning action sequences, more of the characters we’ve come to know and love, and those same characters in increasingly dangerous situations. Not everyone will make it out alive of “Avengers: Infinity War.”

The trailer gives more insight into the world-destroying motivations of Thanos (Josh Brolin), the big bad who’s been lingering in the background of the MCU. He’s on a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, and once he has them in his Infinity Gauntlet, he can wipe out most of the universe with a “snap of his fingers,” as his daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), explains.

Still evading him are the green Time Stone, which Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is wearing as the Eye of Agamotto; the yellow Mind Stone, unfortunately situated in Vision’s (Paul Bettany’s) head; and the orange Soul Stone, which we haven’t seen yet in the films. The Soul Stone’s whereabouts remain unknown (though the trailer does cut to a scene of Wakanda after showing the Time and Mind stones. Hmm …).

In the new teaser, more superheroes are coming together. Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is reunited with Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) for the first time since “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Capt. James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) is back on his feet after being paralyzed in “Captain America: Civil War.” Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) mixes it up hilariously with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Drax (Dave Bautista).

In Wakanda, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), his security head Okoye (Danai Gurira) and brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) are met by Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Banner, Vision and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Also returning to action is Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stranded somewhere in space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel).

We get thrilling shots of vibranium armor, Stark’s Hulkbuster armor, and Wakandan battle sequences on land and in the air. Doctor Strange and Star-Lord team up to go through some sort of hazardous area. And Spider-Man gets his own share of the fiery action, donning his Iron Spider suit.

There’s also heart-pumping scenes of Thor and Doctor Strange in mortal danger, followed by Thanos saying the chilling lines, “I hope they remember you.” Then the trailer cuts to the two characters who most fans are speculating will not survive the film or its sequel: Iron Man and Captain America. Gulp.

The trailer sets up a momentous fight between Thanos, Iron Man and Captain America. As Cap forcefully pushes back against the Mad Titan, Thanos seems surprised to find someone who could potentially match him in strength. That brings to mind Cap’s famous phrase: “I can do this all day.”

The trailer ends with Spider-Man meeting Doctor Strange, both of whom were created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Along with Black Panther, who’s coming off his hugely successful solo outing, will Spidey and Doctor Strange become the new face of the MCU?

Conspicuously missing from the trailer are Cliff Barnes/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hope van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). To be continued …

When does April 27 get here? “Avengers: Infinity War” invades theaters then.

Your name in lights — a terrifying sight

Your name in lights — a terrifying sight

My name is Tamara, a name that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s as parents named their little girls after Russian and German figure skaters they saw on television. My parents named me after a game show contestant. As time passed, the name became rarer outside eastern Europe, and it’s even rarer as a character name in movies. This week, however, the name is a plot device in the horror flick “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”

“The Strangers: Prey at Night”

The sequel to the 2008 slasher flick stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison and Lewis Pullman as the unfortunate family subjected to scares as Dollface, Pin-Up Girl and the Man in the Mask return to drum up more terror at a trailer park.

 

This new film is already giving me the creeps. I watched a commercial for it late at night the first time, when an unmasked Dollface shows up at a trailer and asks, “Is Tamara home?” I jumped out of my skin. Blame the late hours, but that was terrifying for three reasons: 1) Tamara is rarely used in movies; 2) Dollface pronounces my name the way I say it (a rarity as most people pronounce it like “tomorrow”); and 3) Geez, another horror movie?

“The Strangers: Prey at Night”

A 2016 Vox article can help you know if your name is popular in the cinematic universe. There is an interactive tool using a database of thousands of character names. When you enter your name, you will find where it lies in popularity and how many movies had a character who shares your moniker over 100 years of movies. As for “Tamara,” it comes in at No. 779, appearing in 13 movies (lucky me). It is as popular as Meredith and Edna. In comparison, “Tamara” was No. 908 in popularity in the United States in 2009, according to the Social Security Administration. According to the article, the most common movie character names are Jack (38, SSA ranking for 2016), John (28) and Frank (353) for men and Mary (127), Sarah (57) and Lucy (55) for women.

These more popular names can be anyone – from pirates and spaceship captains to teachers and spies. What can a Tamara be on screen? She is a seductress, an unpopular girl or an unpopular girl-turned-seductive psychopath with an eye for revenge. These characters are not far off from where the name originates. Its root, “Tamar,” appears twice in the Old Testament – as a blackmailing prostitute (not exactly) and David’s only daughter, who is raped by her half-brother. It is also the name of a famous queen of the present-day Republic of Georgia as Tamara, as “a” is a common letter used to make a name more feminine.

“The Strangers: Prey at Night”

In the case of “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” Tamara is not just a name. According to the trailer, there are neon palm trees all over the trailer park. “Tamar” is Hebrew for “date palm” or “palm tree,” a sign for pilgrims that they had reached the Holy Land. This sequel turns that upside down as paradise is a land of torture and mayhem.

Here are three other films with Tamara as the titular character:

“Tamara” (2008)

Tamara” (2008) – Perhaps the most infamous one on film is this teen revenge flick starring Jenna Tatum as an unpopular teen witch who is killed in a prank-gone-wrong. She is reincarnated as a seductress that everyone who used to hate her are now in love with. All she wants is sweet revenge. Bonus points for having my pronunciation.

 

“Tamara Drewe” (2010)

Tamara Drewe” (2010) – This package of trouble heats up a sleepy English town where writers go to find themselves. Tamara (pronounced like “tomorrow”) comes back to town with a new nose and uncontrollable lust. It’s based on a 2007 graphic novel. Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans star.

 

“Tamara” (2016)

Tamara” (2016) – I can’t tell how the name is pronounced as it’s a French teen flick, and my French is really, really rusty. It centers around the mercurial love lives of teenagers as overweight teen Tamara tries to get the attention of new kid Diego.

 

“The Strangers: Prey at Night” is in theaters now,