Movie reviews: 'A Wrinkle in Time,' 'Gringo' and 'Thoroughbreds' opening weekend of March 9
Walt Disney Pictures, 2018.

Can anything dethrone "Black Panther" from the top of the box office charts? One movie with a star-studded cast looks to try this weekend, as "A Wrinkle in Time" leads a pack of new films that will try to place a dent in the unstoppable, unprecedented Marvel film that has been shattering box office records for weeks.

Here are reviews of all of the new films opening on Friday, March 9th, 2018:

 


"A Wrinkle in Time"

"A Wrinkle in Time" has all the heft of Hollywood behind it, but it is a film lost in space.

Oscar-nominated director of "Selma," Ava DuVernay takes quite the departure from heavy-hitting political fare to bring to life this Young-Adult classic, based on the novel by Madeleine L'Engle. It's the first giant role for the young actress Storm Reid, who plays the adolescent misfit, Meg, who along with her younger adopted brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), is transported into space in search of her missing scientist father (Chris Pine). Along the way she is helped by a slew of mystical beings, such as Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah herself).

The source material has been updated for modern audiences, and the result is a shamble of confusion. While there are some nice costumes and production elements here and there, the plot is all over the place and not easy to understand. At times the movie is abstract and artsy, while at other times it is dark and quite scary...it's not clear how this movie scored a PG rating, as "abstract" and "scary" are not usually words associated with a family film.

The movie's messages of inclusion and family are distorted and lost in a movie that is more ambitious than it is effective. Let's not be cruel to child actors, but some of the performances here are quite horrible, helped out very little by the cheesy, stilted dialogue. DuVernay tries to make this a magical, fantastic journey but in the end, "A Wrinkle in Time" is not a trip worth taking.

Grade: D

Rated PG.
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy. Run Time: 1 hour and 49 minutes.
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Storm Reid, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Pena, David Oyelowo.
Directed by Ava DuVernay ("13th," "Selma," "Middle of Nowhere").


"Submission"

If the film "Submission" seems to cover familiar ground, that's because it's nothing new. It's a story that has been told many times in different incarnations, loosely based on the classic 1930 film "Blue Angel" and on the book by Francine Prose. A respected author and professor falls for one of his talented young students, and the relationship takes him in directions that only he is not able to predict.

The great Stanley Tucci is Professor Ted Swenson, who is growing bored teaching at an uppity college while he works on his next big novel. A young and ambitious student, Angela (Addison Timlin) sparks his interest and catches his eye, both on the page and off. She is a big fan of his work, and although he knows he is on dangerous ground, she continues to bait him into considering chapter after chapter of her work, a novel that is explicit and erotic and that Swenson can't stop thinking about. He eventually falls for her, risking his career and his marriage to his wife Sherry (Kyra Sedgwick).

"Submission" is a film that takes place in stuffy classrooms, cocktail parties and libraries, and is all about the performances. Tucci is fantastic, as always, but so is Timlin, Sedgwick and all of the bit players. The film itself is very concerned with coming across as cliche, because it knows it is dealing with familiar material. But Tucci and company make the film compelling, and although we know where things are headed, the occasional detour here and there makes for an interesting journey.

In a heightened era of sexual harassment, "Submission" could have tried to tackle some of these hot topics head-on, so there is an air of missed opportunity. But that being said, "Submission" works as a straight-forward story about lust, complicity and the need to be seen.

Grade: B+

Rated R.
Genre: Drama. Run Time: 1 hour and 46 minutes.
Starring: Stanley Tucci, Addison Timlin, Janeane Garofalo, Kyra Sedgwick, Ritchie Coster.
Written and Directed by Richard Levine ("Every Day").


"Gringo"

There was some potential in "Gringo", but sadly, it's an epic mis-fire.

"Gringo" involves Mexican drug lords, shady business deals and innocent "gringos" that find themselves caught up in the middle of everything. Harold (David Oyelowo) is a straight-laced businessman who accompanies his crooked boss (Joel Edgerton) and another cutthroat executive (Charlize Theron) on a trip to Mexico to shore up some above-board business transactions. Little does Harold know, his company also has a lot of "below-board" dealings going on as well. He befriends a young woman (Amanda Seyfried) who tries to help him navigate his way through a bunch of bad dudes who want him dead.

This is a drab movie given its subject matter, as these crime-comedies usually come with a real sense of style and confidence. It's shot plainly, directed poorly, and is unbearably uneven in tone throughout...some moments it embraces its own dark sense of humor while at other times, it wants us to take it seriously. Almost none of it works however. "Gringo" is a movie that so desperately wants to be cool, but hasn't the first idea as to what cool even means.

Grade: C-

Rated R.
Genre: Action, Crime, Comedy. Run Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried.
Directed by Nash Edgerton ("The Square (2008)").


"Thoroughbreds"

"Thoroughbreds" will be remembered as the final on-screen performance by the late Anton Yelchin, who was tragically killed in 2016. But "Thoroughbreds" has a lot else going for it too, and is one of the more refreshingly weird movies to hit theaters in quite some time.

Yelchin appears only in a supporting role, but shows a side of him that we hadn't yet seen...his range clearly knew no bounds and he had only begun to scratch the surface on what could have been a phenomenal career. The movie centers on two young women, Amanda (Olivia Cooke), who is incapable of feeling any sort of emotion and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who feels a bit too much. Amanda did something horrible recently, but her mom arranged for her to be tutored by the studious Lily, hoping that it would be a good influence on her. Instead, the reverse happens when Amanda ends up affecting Lily in some pretty impactful ways. Lily has a lot going for her, but she is made completely miserable by her rich step-dad (Paul Sparks). The pair decides to do something about it.

This film is so compelling, mainly because it's almost impossible to label it. For sure it can be called an "indy," but after that it becomes a bit messy. It's dark and strange enough to qualify as a thriller, but it's so well-written and bitingly funny that it could also easily be called a black comedy. Underneath these labels though, it's an exploration of friendship and meaning...it's a coming-of-age story that's a different breed than we're used to, and you'll never be quite sure where this is heading.

Taylor-Joy, Cooke, Sparks and Yelchin all give brilliant performances, and you'll be invested in these characters even if you realize later that there isn't a good soul in the bunch, and nobody to really root for. Kudos to first time screenwriter and director Cory Finley, who instantly enters the conversation of "filmmakers to watch" in 2018.

Grade: A-

Rated R.
Genre: Drama, Thriller. Run Time: 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Kaili Vernoff, Paul Sparks, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin.
Written and Directed by Cory Finley (directorial and screenwriting debut).


All of these movies open Friday, March 9th, 2018. Check here for show times.

Reviews next week include: "Tomb Raider" and "Love, Simon."