Friday, April 20, 2018

‘A Quiet Place’ explores the difficulty – and necessity – of adaptation

“A Quiet Place” (2018). Cast: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cade Woodward, Leon Russom. Director: John Krasinski. Screenplay: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck and John Krasinski. Story: Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. Web site. Trailer.

Imagine what it would be like to drastically change how you conduct your life in very fundamental ways. The adjustment could be extremely difficult, especially if you’ve grown accustomed to following certain established practices and procedures. But suppose your life depended on making those now-necessary alterations. Picture that, and you’ve got an idea what a family of everyday folks must do to cope with life in the gripping new science fiction stunner, “A Quiet Place.”

With the arrival of a race of vicious predators, the Earth has become, as the film’s title observes, a very quiet place. That’s because the beastly creatures hunt based on sound, with the slightest noise capturing their attention. Indeed, anything louder than a whisper could suddenly place your life in serious jeopardy. Those wishing to stay alive have had to learn how to keep mum to avoid the prospect of an utterly devastating end.

Those are the conditions under which the Abbott family must now function in order to survive. The farm family struggles to keep quiet, something that proves more difficult than one might initially realize. As humans, we take our actions and their associated sounds for granted. It thus truly becomes challenging to lead lives where we must constantly look for ways to suppress the noise. But, then, that’s essential given what’s at stake.

[caption id="attachment_9828" align="aligncenter" width="238"]Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt), a caring wife and mother, constantly reminds her family to keep mum to stay alive in the chilling new horror film, “A Quiet Place.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.[/caption]

The film follows the lives of the family patriarch, Lee (John Krasinski), and his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), in their efforts to protect their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward). No matter how diligent they are, however, tragedy looms at every turn, something that inevitably can’t be avoided. The same is true for its potentially devastating consequences.

Nevertheless, these circumstances force the family to get creative in their self-preservation efforts. Through rather perilous trial and error, the Abbotts come to learn when it’s safe to vocalize their thoughts and when to look for other means of conveying them. Ironically, one “advantage” they have is their knowledge of American Sign Language, the means by which they learned to communicate with Regan, who was deaf before the predators’ arrival. ASL thus becomes the primary means by which the family members communicate with one another, too, something that proves a godsend under such extremely trying conditions.

Still, even with such creative means at the family’s disposal, situations arise that cause trouble. Incidents as simple as the shattering of glass, for example, cause panic to set in, prompting hyper-vigilance to evade the predators and stay alive. And, as the Abbotts’ story plays out, seemingly everyday events that naturally produce sound – and that we take for granted – suddenly become matters of life and death. One can only imagine how things will unfold when a pregnant Evelyn is ready to give birth.

[caption id="attachment_9829" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Husband and wife Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski, right, Emily Blunt, left) struggle to keep their family alive under unusual and trying circumstances in the gripping new sci-fi release, “A Quiet Place.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.[/caption]

Given the nature of this story, which principally focuses on taking viewers on a tour of this new and very different world, the narrative is somewhat episodic in scope, but, in this case, that works because of the common elements that link different segments to one another. Also, because of the small ensemble involved here, the film doesn’t cast an especially wide net with its characters, but, again, that works well to keep the story from becoming cluttered or unfocused.

With that said, though, the picture is by no means simplistic or monodimensional. Themes like overcoming fears, surviving the dark night of the soul and thinking creatively to solve personal dilemmas are effectively addressed with treatments reminiscent of those found in movies like “Signs” (2002). What’s more, the picture’s richly layered narrative is deftly punctuated with spiritual symbolism that carries deeper meanings, a quality rarely, if ever, seen in releases in this genre.

This includes the principles of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. The aforementioned concepts of facing fears and overcoming limitations, for example, figure prominently in conscious creation practices, as well as in the film’s narrative. The characters’ actions in these regards provide viewers with an effective showcase for these principles at work.

[caption id="attachment_9830" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Devoted father Lee Abbott (John Krasinski, right) doggedly protects his children, Marcus (Noah Jupe, left) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds, center), against deadly predators in the new sci-fi offering, “A Quiet Place.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.[/caption]

Of course, if conscious creation maintains that we create the existence we experience, one might wonder why the Abbotts have manifested the reality in which they find themselves. Why would anyone intentionally want to materialize such dire circumstances?

That’s a legitimate question, to be sure. And the exact reasons rest with the characters themselves, something with which viewers are not privy. However, in situations like this, we usually manifest such conditions as a means to learn and experience certain life lessons, no matter how pleasant or difficult they may be, because the only way to do so is to immerse ourselves in them to gain firsthand knowledge. We may disagree with the way in which the Abbotts have chosen to pursue such matters, but, then, it’s not up to us to judge them (or anyone else who elects to manifest any kind of comparably difficult circumstances for that matter). Since conscious creation fundamentally makes all options possible, for better or worse, at any given moment in time, the choice for experiencing certain kinds of lessons lies with each of us, and, because of that, those choices, in all fairness, should be free from such undue judgment and scrutiny. Like all of us, the characters here should be allowed to learn these lessons and experience these circumstances for themselves, no matter what we may think. We wouldn’t want others to subject us to such intense examination, and we should be willing to grant the same to them.

[caption id="attachment_9831" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Doting mother Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt, left) struggles to protect her daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds, right), against constant perils in “A Quiet Place.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.[/caption]

Writer-actor-director John Krasinski’s atmospheric offering serves up a haunting, suspenseful tale that proves it’s possible to make a chilling horror film without worrying about how high the body count gets. Despite a few minor plot holes, the story is solid, inventive and skillfully executed, making stunning use of elements – like sound and sound editing – that rarely get a chance to play center stage in a film’s finished product. But be cautioned that, if you go see this one, you should also be prepared to have the crap scared out of you.

Those familiar with my viewing habits are well aware that I rarely screen horror films. As I have written on previous occasions, their gore-dripping gimmickry and gratuitous imagery frequently make me wish that I would have skipped the concession stand on my way into the theater. However, when pictures in this genre are intelligently handled and have something meaningful to say, I’m more than happy to sing their praises, and that’s certainly the case here. Take the time to see this one, and, if you like it, be sure to shout about it from the rooftops.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tune in for The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, tomorrow, April 18, at 12:45 pm ET, available by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on demand!

Monday, April 16, 2018

This Week in Movies with Meaning

Reviews of "A Quiet Place" and "Lady Macbeth," as well as a radio show preview, are all in the latest Movies with Meaning post on the web site of The Good Media Network,  available by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Check out The Cinema Scribe

Tune in for the latest Cinema Scribe segment on Bring Me 2 Life Radio, tomorrow, April 4, at 12:45 pm ET, by clicking here. And, if you don't hear it live, catch it later on demand!


Friday, March 30, 2018

‘Keep the Change’ looks at love in its own unique way

“Keep the Change” (2017 production, 2018 release). Cast: Brandon Polansky, Samantha Elisofon, Jessica Walter, Tibor Feldman, Will Deaver, Nicky Gottlieb, Gabe Rhodes, Dylan Rothbein, Dorsey Massey, Johnathan Tchaikovsky, Christina Brucato, Anna Suzuki, Sondra James. Director: Rachel Israel. Screenplay: Rachel Israel. Source material: “Keep the Change,” short film (2013). Web site. Trailer.

It’s been said that love knows no bounds. But how widely are most of us willing to apply that notion? Does that include only the limited sorts of romantic circumstances with which we’re most familiar? Or are we capable of envisioning it on a broader scale, applying it to scenarios that aren’t neatly compartmentalized into tidy little boxes? For those who have special needs or who represent constituencies outside the mainstream, we may not readily consider their situations and requirements, even though the need is just as valid – and viable – as it is for the rest of us. Those are among the issues explored in the inventive new romantic comedy, “Keep the Change.”

When David Cohen (Brandon Polansky) is assigned to attend sessions at a support group for adults with special needs, he’s not thrilled with the idea. Having committed some kind of minor, unspecified criminal infraction, the 30-year-old would-be filmmaker is ordered to spend some time at Connections, an organization aimed at assisting adults living with various forms of autism and learning disabilities. But David, who lives a comparative life of privilege with his affluent parents, Carrie (Jessica Walter) and Lenny (Tibor Feldman), strongly resents the idea, finding the group, its participants and its programs unduly limiting. And, after his first session, he rails at having to go back. However, Carrie convinces him to return in order to restore all of the rights and privileges to which he’s grown accustomed.

Not all is lost, however. During his time at Connections, David gradually becomes acquainted with another of the organization’s clients, Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon), a bubbly, enthusiastic, fully engaged participant in many of the program’s available activities. Although David initially finds Sarah somewhat annoying, a mutual attraction slowly simmers, especially when she unreservedly admits that she finds the newcomer “smokin’ hot.” Before long, David and Sarah become an item, with the warmth between them obvious for all to see.

But not everyone is thrilled about the new couple’s romance. Sarah’s onetime beau, Will (Will Deaver), for example, is more than a little jealous. Carrie and Lenny have their reservations, too, convinced that Sarah is a gold-digger, someone not worthy of their son’s affections (or assets). What’s more, the relationship itself is not without its challenges, given the condition (and attendant ramifications) that each of them must cope with. Considering their lack of “filters,” for instance, each of them unwittingly engage in what some might characterize as inappropriate behavior, creating potentially embarrassing or awkward circumstances for themselves, with each other and for those around them.

[caption id="attachment_9813" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Adult autism support group members David Cohen (Brandon Polansky, left) and Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon, right) get off to a rocky start but slowly build a loving relationship in the charming new romantic comedy, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.[/caption]

Nevertheless, David and Sarah show us what it means to really be in love, no matter what others may think, say or do. They thus demonstrate the undeniable power of this emotion and what it can do for us in transforming our lives – and in allowing us to truly be ourselves. In fact, in some ways, the couple may have an advantage over pairs with more traditional sensibilities because of their lack of the aforementioned filters. They don’t know how to be phony, letting their true selves, feelings and beliefs come flowing forth.

That can be a decided advantage when it comes to employing the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience though the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. Those who tend to get the best results with this practice do so when these underlying metaphysical building blocks are expressed in their truest (i.e., least tainted) sense. The thoughts, beliefs and intents in those situations are honest, unfettered by the often-contrived (and less than genuine) considerations designed to accommodate what are often seen as perfectly acceptable social graces, taboos and personal façades. The absence of these forms of artifice thus allows David and Sarah to be themselves and to express themselves freely, without reservation.

Because of this, one gets the impression that those who operate from such a standpoint probably have the best chances of creating workable, harmonious relationships. They needn’t worry about pretense or the “what would people think” issues that frequently inhibit – and may even sabotage – the success of many other pairings.

The principles involved in this are applicable to more than just romance, too. Taking such a direct, integrity-laden approach to our beliefs makes it possible to achieve desired outcomes more easily in pursuing virtually any form of endeavor or in manifesting any other aspect of our existence. Indeed, those of us who are uncomfortable around such unencumbered individuals – or who may even feel “embarrassed” for the nature of their situations – could end up learning a lot from these unlikely role models, especially in terms of being honest with ourselves, our beliefs and what we intend to manifest with them.

[caption id="attachment_9814" align="aligncenter" width="300"]When an adult autism support group member announces his budding new romance to his affluent parents, Carrie (Jessica Walter, left) and Lenny Cohen (Tibor Feldman, right), he’s met with a less-than-enthusiastic response when they reveal their concerns, as seen in the new independent release, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.[/caption]

A large part of the success David and Sarah experience stems from their willingness to think outside the box, to sincerely ask themselves “why not?” when it comes to forging a relationship of their own. This requires an aptitude for envisioning alternatives that aren’t necessarily mainstream. It also calls for shedding the fears that can hold us back and keep us from attaining the true happiness that’s just a few unconventional beliefs away.

Through their experience, then, David and Sarah show us much about love and life. While it’s true they may have their share of challenges to contend with, they also have skills to teach us, abilities that we can adapt to produce fulfilling outcomes for ourselves, be it in love or otherwise.

Based on a short subject by the same name, “Keep the Change” represents an impressive feature film debut for director Rachel Israel, one that’s justifiably been drawing raves among both critics and audiences. This touching, sweet romantic comedy has a definite point of view, as well as a definite edge, one that takes chances other films in this genre probably could not get away with (don’t be surprised if you often find yourself snickering at things you think you shouldn’t be laughing about). The heartfelt romance between the developmentally challenged leads comes across as nothing but genuine while successfully maintaining a high degree of irreverence and ever-present unpredictability. And the filmmaker’s bold decisions to cast actors coping with autism and to employ innovative directorial techniques designed to encourage spontaneity among the cast members add ample degrees of authenticity that make the picture truly unique and wholly believable. This charming offering definitely pokes fun at a lot of sacred cows while simultaneously poking viewers in the ribs virtually nonstop from start to finish. It’s a flat-out winner for sure.

[caption id="attachment_9815" align="aligncenter" width="300"]What begins awkwardly slowly builds into a solid romance between adult autism support group members David Cohen (Brandon Polansky, left) and Sarah Silverstein (Samantha Elisofon, right) in director Rachel Israel’s acclaimed debut feature, “Keep the Change.” Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber.[/caption]

Some may find the notion that “love conquers all” a little naïve, perhaps even unrealistic. Yet, as many of us well know, it can prove to be a valuable ally in helping us deal with difficult circumstances, especially those that might otherwise sap all of the life and enthusiasm out of us. So, in circumstances like that, it’s comforting to know that it can help steer us through the rough patches and make them more tolerable – maybe even outright enjoyable – especially when we find the right companion to come along with us for the journey.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

‘The Death of Stalin’ skewers unrestrained ambition

“The Death of Stalin” (2017 production, 2018 release). Cast: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale, Adrian McLoughlin, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Olga Kurylenko, Dermot Crowley, Paul Whitehouse, Paul Chahidi, Rupert Friend, Tom Brooke, Karl Johnson, Diana Quick, Gerald Lepkowski. Director: Armando Iannucci. Writers: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows. Original Screenplay: Fabien Nury. Comic Book Source Material: Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, The Death of Stalin. Web site. Trailer.

When opportunity knocks, it may be tempting to pursue it with all the gusto we can muster. The rewards awaiting us can be incalculable. But what if such a quest prompts us to engage in questionable, almost Machiavellian behavior? Is the prize still worth it if we must go to such extreme, unethical, immoral lengths? It probably depends on one’s mindset and ambition, qualities examined in detail in the dark new political satire, “The Death of Stalin.”

In 1953, longtime Soviet dictator Josef Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) met his demise, opening up the door to a host of prospective new leaders. But, like the aggressive residents of a koi pond all jumping over one another to get to the fish food tossed their way, the coterie of would-be successors who once unabashedly sucked up to the old man eagerly began positioning themselves for a power grab, their true intentions and natures at last surfacing. However, given the complicated dynamics of this situation, who would come out on top? For each of the contenders, this represented a challenge that meant balancing a number of complex issues, some personal, some political – and all of them heavily invested in self-interest.

The leading candidate was Stalin’s deputy, Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor). But, as a weak-willed, often-clueless apparatchik, he often didn’t know what to do now that he didn’t have his boss around to dictate his every move. Then there was rising politico Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), a savvy operator who claimed to be a reformer but who always looked out after himself first, never hesitating to screw over others in the inner circle if it would work to his advantage. Of course, Malenkov and Khrushchev also had to deal with Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), the sinister, scheming head of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police force, which was known for its efficiency in making enemies of the state – or the premier – disappear on a moment’s notice.

As the big three battled it out, several other ministers (Michael Palin, Dermot Crowley, Paul Whitehouse, Paul Chahidi) vied for their place in the thick of things, too. But they, like everyone else, also had to contend with the involvement and influence of others, such as Stalin’s children, Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough), a somewhat-sheltered but often-hysterical protector of her now-deceased doting father’s reputation, and Vasily (Rupert Friend), a manic, self-important ne’er-do-well with alcohol issues and a history of being shuttled off to projects to keep him occupied (and out of sight) but who now wanted to play an active role in glorifying his old man’s legacy. And then there was Field Marshal Zhukov (Jason Isaacs), head of the Soviet Red Army and a decorated World War II hero, who wanted to make sure his voice was heard, especially now that Beria and the NKVD were trying to marginalize the role of the military and his influence in affairs of state. Meanwhile, lurking in the background were dissidents like concert pianist Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (Olga Kurylenko), who quietly tried to undermine everything – and may have unwittingly had more influence in setting off this scenario than anyone knew.

Set against this backdrop, then, the games – and gamesmanship – began as the country’s leadership (if one could call it that) attempted to sort out its challenges and find direction for its future, a process that proved far easier said than done. With everyone trying to one-up one another, unlikely alliances began to form, arrangements that led to outcomes even more unpredictable than anyone might have imagined.

While this story is loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on the truth, it nevertheless illustrates the pitfalls inherent in these kinds of power struggles. What’s more, even though this story is superficially a dark comedy, it’s ostensibly a potent cautionary tale, one that might easily be viewed as no laughing matter, given the actions that take place and the stakes involved for the population of an entire nation, if not the whole world.

An ailing, incapacitated Josef Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin, foreground) is surrounded by wannabe successors to the Soviet leader, including Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi, left), an up-and-coming politico, Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor, second from left), Stalin’s lapdog deputy, and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale, right), head of the secret police, in the outrageous new dark comedy, “The Death of Stalin.” Photo by Nicola Dove, courtesy of IFC Films.[/caption]

If things don’t always work out as planned for the principals, it’s largely due to the thoughts, beliefs and intents they each harbor, the cornerstones of the conscious creation process and, by extension, the building blocks of the respective realities they manifest for themselves. Given that this process faithfully materializes what we’re focused on, it naturally follows that the existences we experience will reflect their source material, right down to the finest of particulars, whether or not we’re fully cognizant of what they are. The would-be politicos depicted here are by no means immune from this, either, so, if they hope to get the results they want, they – like us – need to have a good grasp on the nature of their beliefs in every respect.

As often happens, however, we may have a handle on the basic thrust of our intents but lack an awareness or understanding of the nuances that further define them – and frequently have influence over how the resulting outcomes manifest. For instance, for the aspiring leaders who claim to be reformers of the brutality of the Stalinist system, they may genuinely believe in the nobility of their cause but lack mindfulness of some of the measures that may be required to achieve that end. The presumed “need” of eliminating enemies who get in the way, for example, might get overlooked or could be viewed as merely part of the process of attaining “a greater good.” In circumstances like that, the manifesting beliefs associated with such “pesky details” may easily be ignored or dispensed with, conveniently rationalized away in the name of “progress,” despite the actual nature of the acts required and the underlying intents involved. But, hey, if an adversary needs to be bumped off to achieve a laudable outcome, there’s nothing wrong in that, is there?

This is where the conscious creation process can get tricky. When our beliefs are qualified by other related intents, the outcomes are generally imbued with elements that embody those underlying qualifying aspects, whether we like it or not. But, because we’re unaware of those influences or willfully choose to ignore them, we may find ourselves disappointed when such results show up as part of the mix. This leaves us with new challenges to sort out, which could prompt new materializing beliefs that are, in their own way, just as compromised as those that led to the unexpected outcomes in the first place.

In many instances like this, such warped results arise from a fundamental intent of attaining success at any cost, regardless of the associated fallout, a practice sometimes called un-conscious creation or creation by default. In such scenarios, we often take an approach that essentially assumes a stance of “consequences be damned.” But that kind of willful shortsightedness nearly always carries unanticipated complications that can range from annoying to catastrophic.

In cases like this, we frequently engage in a practice known as pushing the Universe, our divine collaborator in the conscious creation process. As those well versed in this philosophy know, the energetic and metaphysical co-collaborative resources provided by the Universe are designed to work toward the faithful fulfillment of our underlying thoughts, beliefs and intents. To that end, as it’s often said, the Universe naturally “leans in our direction,” giving us exactly what we need when we need it. However, if we become too aggressive in our approach, we may end up trying to force matters by poking and prodding our collaborator to bring about the results we seek on our time and terms. This usually leads to compromises in the source materials behind our manifestations, which, in turn, frequently result in outcomes reflective of those concessions – as well as disillusionment and unwanted disappointments.

Is that what we really want? Probably not. But it’s what we’re often left to contend with when we don’t pay close attention to our beliefs, as the Keystone Cops of Communism find out for themselves in this film. Seeking power may not be a regrettable goal in itself, but, when its pursuit becomes unduly tainted by intents that cause such a quest to become perverted or compromised in unintended ways, that quickly becomes a problem, one that may carry implications far removed from what was originally envisioned.

Keeping up appearances of grief proves challenging for the would-be successors to Soviet strong man Josef Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin, background), most notably up-and-coming politico Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi, middle) and deputy head of state Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor, second from right), in “The Death of Stalin.” Photo by Nicola Dove, courtesy of IFC Films.[/caption]

The cautions in this should be obvious. But, all seriousness aide, “The Death of Stalin: is nevertheless a devilishly funny romp that skewers the lunacy of bureaucracy and the buffoonish behavior of the power hungry (the fact that it’s based on a comic book of all things should say a lot about it!) The film’s stellar international cast, combined with a wickedly funny script and endless touches of high camp, make for uproariously funny viewing. Not all of the jokes work, and sometimes the film gets a little too political for its own good, but, these shortcomings aside, director Armando Iannucci serves up loads of big laughs, an effort that earned the picture BAFTA Award nominations for best adapted screenplay and best British feature film. Enjoy, comrade!

Getting what we want need not be a difficult process unless we make it so, and that’s where this picture gives us an excellent look at the pitfalls involved in such distorted game plans. And the message here is by no means limited to the comic madness of the now-defunct Soviet system as it entered into its long, slow, inevitable decline. Those of us who live under conditions afflicted with comparable problems should pay attention if we hope to avoid a similar outcome where we, too, find ourselves eventually coming apart at the seams.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ illustrates how to grow into ourselves

“A Wrinkle in Time” (2018). Cast: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Zach Galifinakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowa Blanchard, David Oyelowo, Daniel MacPherson, Conrad Roberts, Yvette Cason, Will McCormack, Bellamy Young, Lyric Wilson. Director: Ava DuVernay. Screenplay: Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell. Book: Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time. Web site. Trailer.

Life’s challenges sometimes appear daunting, especially to those of us still growing into our maturity. We may see life as unfair and insurmountable, conditions that lead to frustration and behaviors that ultimately don’t adequately prepare us for what lies ahead. But this doesn’t mean we should just roll over in the face of these circumstances; we can grab ahold of our personal power and look for inventive ways to resolve these matters. And finding out what that means is an undertaking explored in the whimsical new fantasy adventure, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

When physicist Alex Murry (Chris Pine) goes missing, his disappearance creates a mystery – and a variety of problems. At the time he vanished, Alex had been studying the theoretical notion of folding over time, creating a “wrinkle” in the fabric of the Universe that would make it possible to traverse great distances instantaneously. This audacious idea was groundbreaking but largely considered implausible by Alex’s peers, who openly laughed at him when he publicly presented his theory. Even Alex’s scientist wife, Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who helped him develop the concept, believed that he should proceed cautiously in publicizing it, given its radical nature and the fact that not all of the details were worked out, conditions that left him open to ridicule.

But Alex, eager to see things though, was undeterred by the doubt and scorn. And, even though the nature of his disappearance was never officially confirmed, those close to him believe that he figured out how to make things work and went on a journey across the cosmos. But was this indeed true? And, if so, where was he now?

Physicist Alex Murry (Chris Pine) tests out his inventive theory about how to instantaneously traverse the Universe in Disney’s new fantasy adventure, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.[/caption]

Alex’s unexpected absence creates more than a scientific conundrum; it also raises a number of issues for his family, especially his 13-year-old daughter, Meg (Storm Reid). As a bright but somewhat temperamental teen, she experiences the usual adolescent issues of fitting in, challenges made worse by her dad’s absence and by the routine taunting she receives from those who mock her father and his ideas. These circumstances land her in trouble at school, further complicating her life.

All is not lost, though, thanks in large part to the support Meg receives from her protective, encouraging friend, Calvin (Levi Miller), and her younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), a prodigy who believes in his older sister’s ability to resolve her challenges. However, Charles Wallace has even higher hopes for Meg; he believes she’s capable of finding their missing dad.

Before long, Charles Wallace introduces Meg to a trio of magical interdimensional guides whom he believes can help her find Alex, Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). They share insights into how Meg can proceed with her quest, providing the means and the wisdom to move forward. And so, in no time, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin, accompanied by their guides, pass through their own wrinkle in time to search for the missing scientist.

Troubled teen Meg Murry (Storm Reid) faces a variety of challenges at home and in school when her physicist father mysteriously disappears in the inspiring new fantasy adventure, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.[/caption]

As their journey unfolds, the travelers visit a number of beautiful and mystical locales where they meet a number of unusual individuals, such as a seer known as the Happy Medium (Zach Galifinakis). But, even with the newfound knowledge and experience they amass during their trek, Meg and company are no closer to finding Alex. Eventually their travels take them to a foreboding land known as Camazotz, a place characterized by ever-present deception and an ever-growing evil. If this band of seekers is ever to achieve their goal, they’ll need to tackle a number of additional challenges, many of which relate to their personal growth and development. But, if successful, they’ll be able to embrace skills and traits that they can employ in taking on the perils of Camazotz – and that, one hopes, they can take back home with them (that is, if they ever manage to escape).

Fortunately, Meg and company figure out ways to rise to the occasion, thanks in large part to the principles of conscious creation, the philosophy that maintains we materialize the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. While this band of explorers may have never heard of this discipline, they nevertheless engage in many practices reflective of its concepts, as evidenced by the results they attain.

For instance, extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures to overcome them, something that innately calls for thinking outside the box. As Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace wend their way through their journey, they’re frequently called upon to do this, conceiving of and implementing the means and methods to succeed in their tasks. This may push them outside of their respective comfort zones, especially when it involves considering and making use of ideas that run counter to the restraints of the conventional wisdom (something they run up against routinely in their everyday dealings before embarking on their quest). However, when they see the payoffs that come from such unconventional undertakings, they can take pride in having successfully embraced and employed these notions.

Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), a sage old soul, is one of three metaphysical guides charged with aiding a troubled teen search for her missing father across the cosmos in the new fantasy adventure, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.[/caption]

Of course, making such bold moves and surpassing such restrictions takes courage, specifically a willingness to confront and conquer our fears, something that often holds us back in our lives and manifestation efforts. By doing this, however, we can successfully forge ahead, making it possible to implement innovative solutions that solve our problems and empower us as masters of our destiny. That’s quite a bargain for being willing to take a few chances now and then, especially if we believe in the realization of our desired outcomes, as well as our own abilities.

This is not to suggest that we should proceed recklessly; it means assessing our prospective beliefs carefully, evaluating the intellectual and intuitional input that goes into their creation, selecting the belief candidates that appear more likely to succeed, and putting them into place. This is the power of discernment at work, a key component in the efficient functioning of the conscious creation process. It’s something that may take a little trial and error to perfect, but it often proves invaluable, especially when we find ourselves embroiled in our own personal versions of Camazotz. It’s a skill that helps us cut through the deception, and the examples set by Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace provide valuable insight into how we can make use of it.

Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), a magical, shape-shifting spirit, helps a troubled teen search for her missing father across the dimensions of the cosmos in director Ava DuVernay’s latest release, “A Wrinkle in Time.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.[/caption]

Taken together, experiences with these principles reveal to the intrepid travelers aspects of themselves that they were unaware of before launching into their journey. Coming face to face with parts of ourselves we never knew existed can prove quite revelatory, not to mention personally empowering. It shows that we have talents that we can employ in addressing all kinds of challenges, as well as in pursuing ventures we may have never previously considered. To that end, the travelers’ multidimensional adventures are inherently a metaphor for their multidimensional selves, showing them their true nature and providing them a valuable learning experience in how to tap into it.

Thus, as Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin explore these far-flung exotic dimensions, they learn a variety of valuable life lessons, teachings that are just as pertinent to their peers in the viewing audience as they are to the characters on screen. In that regard, then, the film is highly instructive to impressionable young minds in need of hefty doses of such noble qualities as responsible thinking, courtesy, consideration, compassion and personal self-empowerment. That’s not a bad message for those growing up in an age typified by rampant cynicism, self-absorption, incessant fear mongering and less-than-honorable behavior.

Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), a storehouse of inspirational quotes, provides insights that help a troubled teen search for her missing father in “A Wrinkle in Time.” Photo by Atsushi Nishijima, courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.[/caption]

However, with that said, “A Wrinkle in Time” is also a frustrating watch at times. As ambitious as it is, the picture is somewhat uneven, an issue attributable mainly to its problem-ridden screenplay. Having not read the Madeleine L’ Engle book on which the film is based, I can’t personally vouch for how faithful it is to its source material, though I have seen many accounts that suggest that the original story would undoubtedly make for a difficult adaptation, largely due to the breadth of topics addressed in it. And, as I screened the film, I truly got that sense, that there had to have been material that was left out – and whose exclusion from the script had to have impaired the flow (and sometimes the comprehension) of the story. What’s more, some of the screenplay’s treatment of the source material seems rather anachronistic. For example, hordes of scientists scoffing at Alex’s radical theories may have been the norm in 1962, when the book was written, but they’re far from laughing matters among contemporary physicists, many of whom consider the notions presented in the film quite legitimate.

Also, given the sensibilities of the movie’s target audience – pre-teens and adolescents – the film includes elements that I can’t help but think would be either a little too complex and/or a tad frightening, especially for younger tykes. While I applaud the picture’s efforts to incorporate and disseminate information about such enlightened topics as the inherent harmonious nexus between science and spirit, the related principles (especially those of a scientific nature) are often explained in ways that could easily sail over the heads of viewers not well versed in the subject matter (most likely younger viewers).

Yet, despite these shortcomings, “A Wrinkle in Time” also represents a valiant cinematic undertaking. It’s indeed refreshing to see a film boldly take on the kinds of subjects it addresses, especially for a younger audience. Director Ava DuVernay does a commendable job in crafting a finished product that makes the most of the script she had to work with. The film’s dazzling special effects are worth the price of admission, presenting gorgeous images reminiscent of such releases as “Avatar” (2009) and “What Dreams May Come” (1998). And the picture’s genuine warmth comes through loud and clear, thanks to the heartfelt performances of the ensemble’s principals.

When life hands us circumstances that seem patently unreasonable or inequitable, we may be tempted to lash out, especially if we’re not equipped with the coping skills and creative thinking needed to address such issues. But all need not be lost. With a little ingenuity and a properly focused moral compass, we can take on these challenges and overcome them. And sometimes all it takes is a little wrinkle in our thinking – or our existence – to reach our goals.

Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.