To properly calibrate your expectations for this review, I should say at the outset: I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time and therefore have no particularly strong feelings about the ways in which this film either pays homage to its source material or desecrates its codex. I judge the movie solely as a movie, and, as a movie, it’s mostly fine.
The original Death Wish is best known as a reactionary rejection of complacency with the violence that plagued America’s streets and the fear that preyed upon America’s citizenry in the 1970s. It was denounced as “fascist” for indulging in extrajudicial executions of unreformed (and unreformable) criminals, but that term feels wrong here. It is, instead, a rather fascinating examination of the ways in which the Constitution works to protect our Declaration-promised right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Red Sparrow feels a bit like a movie out of time. It has the sensibility of a Cold War spy thriller, pitting Russians against Americans. It has the feel of a John le Carré novel, more interested in moles and spy signals than generals and nukes. And yet it is undeniably modern: set in the present day, redolent of the current tensions between America’s national security apparatus and Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy.
If Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is at least in part about integrity of the mind—an examination of what consciousness means, how our memories define who we are, and the horror of facing deletion entirely at the whim of another—then Annihilation, Garland’s tricky new sci-fi horror film, can possibly be understood as a counterpart focused on integrity of the body. What could be more terrifying than losing control of your body, of feeling yourself change from the inside out into something … new?
Black Panther is unmistakably a Marvel Cinematic Universe origin film: competently executed with the house anti-style largely intact; solidly acted with a few well-choreographed action sequences that culminate in an un-rousing and sometimes-shoddy-looking CGI mishmash; and seasoned with a healthy dose of humor and inter-universe connections designed to appeal to those of us who have waded through the previous 17 entries in the indefatigable mega-franchise.
Imagine being surprised with a gift from a friend. They come to your office, put a nicely wrapped present on your desk, and say goodbye. How sweet! It’s not your birthday; Christmas is long past. You didn’t get married recently. This is just a nice little boost to your day. And then you open up the present and you look inside and it’s … well. Yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s doggie doo doo.
There’s a moment in 12 Strong—a fact-based accounting of the first Special Forces team inserted into Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks—when the soldiers we’ve been following watch a video of a woman being stoned to death in Afghanistan. It is brutal and ugly but not what one of the men had asked for. “This isn’t intel, it’s motivation,” he says, adding that he doesn’t need motivation. He’s got two collapsed skyscrapers and 3,000 dead Americans worth of motivation.