Posts Tagged ‘Kristen Wiig’

Wish Upon a Star

Wonder Woman 1984

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lily Aspell, Gabriella Wilde

Director Patty Jenkins had a hit with Wonder Woman back in 2017. Little did she realize what a challenge the sequel would be to get released on the big screen in 2020 amidst the ongoing crisis of the coronavirus pandemic?

Parent company Warner Brothers decided to come to a strange compromise which has divided the battling film industry in 2020 and release the sequel Wonder Woman 1984 in cinemas where possible and also simultaneously on the streaming service HBO Max.

Fortunately I was lucky enough to watch Wonder Woman 1984 in a cinema and apart from the impressive opening sequence featuring a young Wonder woman wonderfully played by Lily Aspell fighting in an Amazonian competition overseen by Antiope played by Robin Wright and Hippolyte played by Connie Nielsen, the first part of this sequel seemed slightly directionless and admittedly took a while to find its feet.

While setting the film in Washington DC in 1984 and using lots of gimmicky film references to the 1980’s especially the clothes, audiences will find Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC where she meets the nerdy Barbara Minerva and the seemingly harmless oil entrepreneur Max Lord wonderfully played with a zany insecurity by Chilean actor Pedro Pascal (Kingsman: The Golden Circle, If Beale Street Could Talk, The Great Wall).

The plot line stumbles here at the beginning of the film and only really gets invigorated once Max Lord wishes upon an archaeological stone and gets bizarre superpowers to grant wishes to every human in the world, good or bad. One of Lord’s first recipient is Barbara Minerva who gets super human speed and agility enough to turn her into Cheetah, another superhero who Wonder Woman will definitely confront.

Everything goes south from there as Maxwell Lord flies off to Egypt to gain all the countries oil supplies and Wonder Woman with the help of her first love Steve Trevor, a wonderful reprisal by Chris Pine chase after Lord on a stunning action packed sequence on an Egyptian desert highway.

What is remarkable about Wonder Woman 1984 is how little screen time, the male characters really get especially Steve Trevor and Max Lord, although as a villain Pedro Pascal gives his egomaniac character some personal dimension, especially some heart rendering flashbacks to his tortured childhood as an outcast.

Naturally the stars of Wonder Woman 1984 are Diana Prince and Barbara Minerva and it’s their showdown as two alpha females as Wonder Woman and Cheetah on a stormy island at the film’s end is what makes the second half of this sequel so worthwhile.

Wonder Woman 1984 is certainly not as brilliant as the original film, but given the challenging year of its release, it’s about the best form of escapism that 2020 has to offer and is worth watching. Wonder Woman 1984 gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Viewers can catch the film on HBO Max or at your nearest cinema depending on which country you are in.

Man from Mars

The Martian

martian

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Donald Glover

Oscar winner Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) takes the lead role in director Ridley Scott’s visually stunning adaptation of the Andy Weir novel, The Martian as he stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who after a sandstorm on Mars gets stranded on the red planet by his fellow crew members who abandon him unknowingly to head back to earth.

The crew members include Captain Melissa Lewis played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Beth Johanssen played by Kate Mara, Chris Beck played by Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rick Martinez played by Michael Pena (Antman, American Hustle) and Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (Hercules) as Alex Vogel.

Meanwhile back at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, NASA headquarters, Director Teddy Sanders played by Jeff Daniels channeling his role in Aaron Sorkin’s TV Series, The Newsroom, announces that Watney is dead. Back on Mars, Watney is alive and has to figure out a way to survive on a planet with minimal oxygen and no sustainable ecosystem to grow his own food supply, an obvious metaphor for the dwindling food supply on planet Earth. Watch out for a superb supporting role by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Vincent Kapoor who firmly believes in finding Watney and bring him back to Earth.

martian_ver2

Luckily Watkins is a trained botanist so with ingenuity and a lot of dry humour, he manages to harvest a small crop of potatoes inside the Mars man-made habitat. This is where Damon really inhabits the role of a lone space colonizer, the only man left on Mars who has to survive and adapt to his hostile and surreal environment, ironically while listening to 70’s disco music. Best line in the film is:

“Neil Armstrong, eat your heart out!”

As the team at NASA scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney after receiving an encrypted message from him letting them know he is still alive, Watney has to use all his own resources to remain resilient until a rescue mission, however precarious is assembled. Whilst the astrophysics of the rescue mission, will go over the head of most viewers, what makes The Martian such an enlightening cinematic experience are the stunning almost ethereal visual effects, held together by an Oscar worthy performance by Matt Damon as he contemplates that he could perish on this desolate and largely uninhabitable planet, if the rescue mission fails.

The rest of the cast are largely viewed in supporting roles, including Chastain as the steely Captain of the Hermes space craft, they support Damon’s character both psychologically, emotionally and spiritually as Watney gradually learns that back on Earth he is becoming a symbol of a lone survivor who if he manages to return home safely will definitely have a legendary tale to tell.

With breathtaking cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and production design by Arthur Max, The Martian is definitely in the same league as Alphonso Cuaron’s 2013 Oscar winner Gravity and humanizes space travel without delving to deeply into the philosophical elements of the infinite universe as done in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or more recently Christopher Nolan’s visually compelling but laden Interstellar which oddly enough also featured Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon.

With a running time of 141 minutes, The Martian is a superbly told adventure story about one man’s fight to survive and his resilient desire to return to Earth, brilliantly acted by Matt Damon and beautifully directed by Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Gladiator).

Highly recommended viewing especially in a cinema. Do not wait for The Martian to come on TV as the visual and sound effects will certainly be lost.

Suicidal Tendencies

The Skeleton Twins

skeleton_twins

Director: Craig Johnson

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Gleason

Milo decides that life is too much for him and writes a rather lame suicide note, then switching the music up, intends on slitting his wrists in a hot bath. Very melodramatic!

So begins director Craig Johnson poignant and brilliantly acted film, The Skeleton Twins, which whilst dealing with serious issues such as teenage trauma, abuse, suicide and adultery, transforms into a polished film with a sparkling on screen chemistry between twins Milo, a gay slightly hysterical but very witty guy and his confused and equally emotionally messed up sibling Maggie, wonderfully played by Kristen Wiig (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues).

It is this pure onscreen energy between Wiig and the hilarious Bill Hader who both make The Skeleton Twins so watchable, their angst so believable and the narrative arc of their characters so credible. With a superb script by Craig Johnson and Mark Heyman of Black Swan fame, The Skeleton Twins delves into a serious messed up and slightly kooky sibling relationship, not to mention rivalry based on emotional blackmail and a prickly sense of childhood abandonment which haunts the twins.

Milo after his unsuccessful suicide attempt has to be looked after by his twin sister Marg, (Kristen Wiig) and so he enters into a seemingly stable dynamic of middle class suburbia and discrupts all relationship surrounding him both intentionally and in that sort of bitchy way, which only a failed gay actor could do. Mainly the relationship between Maggie and her husband, Lance, a real macho man played by Luke Wilson is certainly dicey as they are trying to get pregnant. Except that Maggie has fallen for her Australian scuba diving instructor Billy played by Boyd Holbrook (Milk, Gone Girl).

Even the entrance of their mother, a Colorado spiritualist, played by Joanna Gleeson (Last Vegas) does little to disperse the shimmering tensions and anxiety between the twins.

All the drama and so called skeletons come out on Halloween as Maggie discovers the real reason why Milo is happily ensconced with her and Lance in middle class suburbia, while Milo, in full drag, forces his sister to confront the childhood trauma of their father’s suicide which is alluded to by shots of skeleton key rings falling to the bottom of a swimming pool.

The Skeleton Twins is a witty, sassy and cleverly plotted film, expertly directed by Johnson and superbly acted by Wiig and Hader, whose previous professional comic collaboration on Saturday Night Live clearly shines through. Highly recommended viewing as an intelligent comedy drama in the vein of Juno, Little Miss Sunshine and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

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