In the cinema: “Armageddon Time” almost reaches the top

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By Megan Bianco

Currently, James Gray’s new family drama, armageddon timecomes out two weeks before Steven Spielberg The Fabelmans. Both are about a Jewish child growing up in mid-20th-century America, and they’re also loosely based on the directors’ own childhood.

It figures that Gray’s picture is one of this year’s “twin films”. While Gray’s artistic success is modest compared to the power of Spielberg’s legacy, I don’t think anyone would confuse either film aesthetically, luckily for Gray and his team.

In 1980 Queens, New York, 12-year-old Paul Graff (Banks Repeta) is forced to leave his public school for the private school of his older brother Ted (Ryan Sell) after Paul is caught trying to smoking a joint in the bathroom with Johnny (Jaylin Webb), one of the few black students on campus.

Photo: Courtesy of Anne Joyce/Focus Features

Paul’s parents, Esther (Anne Hathaway) and Irving (Jeremy Strong), believe Paul has all the opportunities and potential for a good education that can lead to a career in business, while Paul’s grandfather, Aaron (Anthony Hopkins), thinks he should follow his passion for art.

The first misstep for armageddon time is the title that sounds too much like a sci-fi adventure. The namesake makes more sense when we watch the movie and see Paul’s family early on watching a TV interview with then-President Ronald Reagan, who uses the word “Armageddon” during a commentary. But on its own, the title is completely misleading for someone going into feature film blindly.

But the real problem here is that by releasing armageddon time so close The Fabelmans, it’s a little too obvious how, in the shadows, Gray’s career is compared to his peers and idols. I don’t think his films are bad on any level, but nothing about his style or his stories stand out cinematically or singularly.

I doubt The Fabelmans will have some of the darker aspects of armageddon timeand I guess the former will have a more lasting impact on me, since Spielberg is already one of my favorite filmmakers and has an infallible track record.

I would still recommend armageddon time for the cast, and if you’re in the mood for a period drama, because there are ultimately talented people involved who usually deliver. But overall I don’t think armageddon time will leave a big impression on me, unfortunately.

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