Posts Tagged ‘Chris Pine’

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.

Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Elena Anaya

Monster director Patty Jenkins delivers a feminine superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman featuring the beautiful Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons.

Gal Gadot first appeared as Wonder Woman in the male-orientated film Batman v Superman and she certainly was no femme fatale, proving a viable counterpoint to Ben Affleck’s Batman.

The first fifteen minutes of Woman Woman, there is no man in sight as the tribe of Amazonian female warriors live blissfully unaware of external strife on an island Themyscira.

As a headstrong young woman, Diana (Wonder Woman) is heavily watched by her protective mother Hippolyta played by Danish beauty Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) while being influenced to train as a Amazonian warrior by her aunt Antiope played by Robin Wright soon to be seen in Blade Runner 2049.

The idyllic exclusion of Themyscira is shattered when the young Diana sees a plane crash into the distant sea and jumps into the ocean saving the bewildered WWI pilot Steve Trevor wonderfully played with bashful humour by Chris Pine (Hell or High Water, Into the Woods).

In an ironic female gaze, director Jenkins turns the camera on a naked Steve as he emerges refreshed from a luxurious infinity pool under the lustful eye of Diana who asks pointedly “Do all men look like that?”

The action moves swiftly to the gritty battle lines of World War 1 as Britain and the allies are about to sign a shaky armistice with Germany. There Diana sees the brutality of man first hand and director Jenkins does not shy away from a valid point that men are the cause of all the wars and the subsequent destruction in the world.

At this point, the audience assumes that the villain of Wonder Woman is the evil German officer Ludendorff played by Danny Huston (Hitchcock, Wrath of the Titans) who is developing chemical weapons with the help of poison specialist Dr Maru played by Elena Anaya.

Diana and Steve form a band of mercenaries set on destroying Ludendorff made up of smooth talking Sameer played by French Moroccan star Said Taghmaoui, Scotsman Charlie played by Trainspotting’s Ewen Bremner and Red Indian chief played by Eugene Brave Rock.

Serving as an origins story and since Wonder Woman is immortal, this is a snapshot of bravery at time when the World was fighting the War to end all wars, circa 1918. What Jenkins manages to do so brilliantly is defy the conventional roles woman play in superhero and adventure films by making the heroine the woman that boldly saves the day, instead of just portraying her as a helpless damsel in distress, leaving the men bewildered, confused and looking like idiots.

As a superhero film, Wonder Woman delivers on all fronts, including lots of humour, copious amounts of action, sufficient visual effects and a surprising plot denouement to keep audiences engaged.

The strikingly gorgeous Gal Gadot holds her own in a big budget franchise film opposite a brilliant blue-eyed Chris Pine, while the period costumes by Lindy Hemming add to the effect of a superheroine stuck in the middle of an antiquated man-made war, which only leaves death and devastation in its wake.

Wonder Woman gets a rating of 8 out of 10. Soon audiences will see more of Wonder Woman as Diana, Princess of the Amazons will next be seen in the highly anticipated Justice League opposite Batman and newcomer Aquaman.

 

They are all packing in Texas

Hell or High Water

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Director: David Mackenzie

Cast: Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Dale Dickey, Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon

British director David Mackenzie’s riveting and quick-witted Texan thriller Hell or High Water features some brilliant performances by Ben Foster (The Program, 3:10 to Yuma) and Oscar winner Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart).

Foster along with Chris Pine (Star Trek, Into the Woods) play brothers Tanner and Toby Howard who set out by terrorizing West Texas in a series of well-executed bank robberies in small towns only hitting the branches of the Texas Midlands Bank stealing untraceable notes. This is the same bank that is about to foreclose on their late mother’s farm, whilst there are possibly oil drilling rights on the land.

Mackenzie paints a decaying portrait of rural Texas, a backwater where everyone is struggling to make ends meet, an environment ripe with desperation and reckless activity. This would be quite an ordinary film except for the extraordinary performances by all three leads especially Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, a Texan law enforcement officer who is dreading the banality of retirement. Instead Hamilton likes teasing his half-native American partner Alberto Parker played by Gil Birmingham during a stakeout.

Ben Foster is equally striking as the hot-headed and reckless ex-con Tanner Howard, clearly not the brains behind the heists. Tanner even robs a bank while his brother Toby is being chatted up by a curvaceous waitress wonderfully played by Katy Mixon, as he finishes his steak in a diner.

With a particularly insightful and witty script by Taylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water is an amusing and enjoyable contemporary Western, without resorting to levels of unexpected violence so frequent in such Coen brothers’ films as No Country for Old Man or True Grit.

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Instead director David Mackenzie delivers a smartly scripted film about two brothers trying to rectify their financial situation through unlawful means whilst a patient and watchful Hamilton waits for the two to make an irrevocable mistake. That happens in the final heist in a small town called Post, Texas where even the locals give chase to the Howard brothers through the expansive and desolate terrain. For everyone is packing a gun in Texas.

A touching moment before the fatal heist the night before between the Howard brothers, is a precursor to their luck running out. Like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as with most cops and robbers tales, eventually the tide does turn.

From Texas to Oklahoma and back again, Hell or High Water is a thoroughly enjoyable and well scripted film, featuring superb performances by Foster, Pine and Bridges and is definitely worth watching.

Cape Cod Sea Rescue

The Finest Hours

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Director: Craig Gillespie

Cast: Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Eric Bana, Holliday Grainger, John Magaro, Kyle Gallner, John Ortiz, Michael Raymond-James

Million Dollar Arm director Craig Gillespie brings to cinematic life the true story of one of the greatest small boat rescue operations ever attempted by the US Coast Guard in his new film, The Finest Hours featuring a cast of rising Hollywood actors including Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck.

Chris Pine stars as the shy yet brave coast guard officer Bernie Webbers who on the day of asking his commanding officer for permission to marry the gorgeous Miriam Pentinen played by Holliday Grainger (Great Expectations) is sent on a tough mission to save the crew of an oil tanker SS Pendleton which broke in half during a monstrous storm in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Chatham, Massachusetts.

The Finest Hours is based on the The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman and developed into a screenplay by Eric Johnson, Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy. Aboard the SS Pendleton is seaman Ray Sybert, who realizes that after the tanker has been ripped in to two by a massive storm the only way for his crew to survive is if they run the ship aground as using lifeboats during such awful weather would only result in serious loss of life.

Sybert expertly played by Oscar nominee Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) reassures the crew that they have to sit tight on the remaining section of the tanker in the hope that a rescue mission is being sent out for them.

That rescue mission is headed by Webbers with the assistance of seamen Richard Livensey played by Ben Foster last seen in The Program, Andy Fitzgerald played by Kyle Gallner and Ervin Maske played by John Magaro last seen in Carol.

As The Finest Hours is set in February 1952, and the maritime rescue technology then was not quite advanced as it in the 21st century, the feat of this rescue mission is truly inspirational. Viewers could also be forgiven for wondering how such a small rescue boat CG36500 is able to save over twenty men aboard a stranded oil tanker out in the roaring and unforgiving North Atlantic Ocean during a horrendous winter storm.

The Finest Hours is captivating as a historical drama although the palette for the film is a bit dark and indistinguishable, but director Craig Gillespie did this intentionally so to visually submerge the audience in a real life sea rescue mission off the coast of Cape Cod during a winter blizzard.

The visual effects are amazing and those that enjoy historical dramas should definitely see The Finest Hours. The cast is superb given the material they work with and despite a lack of dialogue, the drama of a sea rescue mission is conveyed accurately although not as good as the excellent film Captain Philips.

 

Not So Happily Ever After…

Into the Woods

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Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lucy Punch, Tammy Blanchard, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Murzy

Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago director Rob Marshall strikes gold with this cinematic adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical Into The Woods featuring a fabulous ensemble cast made all the better by Meryl Streep playing the meddling Witch.

Imagine Little Red Riding Hood teaming up with Jack the Giant Slayer, Cinderella and a forlorn Rapunzel, that is Into The Woods, a wonderful mixture of all the classic fairy tales thrown together in a delightful musical which is hinged with darkness and loaded with metaphors and familial moral codes about life’s unpredictability.

Director Marshall brings out the best in his cast including a superb performance by Emily Blunt as the barren Bakers Wife along with the irrepressible Meryl Streep as the evil Witch who asks the Baker, played by British actor James Corden to collect Cinderella’s golden slipper, a white cow, a lock of Rapunzel’s hair and a red cape naturally belonging to Red Riding Hood.

Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in The Air) holds her own as the doomed Cinderella who is wooed by a shameless prince played by Chris Pine (Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit, Horrible Bosses 2). Cinderella’s evil stepmother is superbly played by Christine Baranski of The Good Wife fame and The Birdcage. Audiences should also watch out for British comedian Tracey Ullman who plays Jack’s exasperated mother. Child stars Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford are amazing as Jack the Giant Slayer and Little Red Riding Hood.

Three times Oscar winner Meryl Streep reunites with her Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt, and it is clear that both these actresses keep this wonderful musical firmly rooted in brilliance. Blunt is absolutely amazing, delivering some quick witted lines and belting out some wonderful songs while Streep relishes the chance to play the blue haired vain and selfish Witch who is desperate to reclaim her lost beauty by reversing a curse placed on her. The Witch also incidentally holds her daughter Rapunzel played by Mackenzie Murzy hostage in a tower and much to her horror, has fallen for a young but clumsy prince played by the gorgeous newcomer Billy Magnussen.

Oscar nominee Johnny Depp who was spine chillingly excellent in another Sondheim musical film, Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street makes a brief appearance as the cross dressing wolf who terrorizes Little Red Riding Hood.

Even though Into The Woods is aimed at children, there are certainly slightly darker adult undertones to this extraordinary film as unlike the fairy tales, not everyone lives happily ever after. For those that enjoy expertly directed and acted big screen musicals, like Chicago, Les Miserables and Hairspray, then Into The Woods is definitely recommended viewing.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods is a truly imaginative, witty and fabulous fable sure to enchant both adults and children alike and as a stage production it would be equally extraordinary to watch.

The Sequel Syndrome

Horrible Bosses 2

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 Director: Sean Anders

Cast: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jennifer Aniston, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx

The original comedy Horrible Bosses was hugely hilarious, so the question begs why spoil it with a sequel?

Especially in light of the 2008 economic recession, Hollywood has increasingly fallen prey to the sequel syndrome as a way of generating additional work for actors and more profits for the main film studios. Not every successful original comedy or action film needs to be made into a sequel. Horrible Bosses 2 and Red 2 are example of this money making cinematic phenomenon which started in the 1980’s. Think The Lethal Weapon, Rambo and Die Hard franchises.

Director Sean Anders’s Horrible Bosses 2 has very little to do with Bosses and a lot to do with three losers Dale, Kurt and Nick played with great glee by Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day and Jason Bateman who after appearing on Good Morning Los Angeles TV show get conned into selling their shower buddy product to a wealthy but unscrupulous industrialist Bert Hanson played by Oscar Winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and his spoiled playboy son, Rex wonderfully portrayed by Chris Pine (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Star Trek).

So begins a rather lame ploy on the classic Stockholm syndrome plot as the gang of three attempt to kidnap Pine and in a rather strange twist of events gets manipulated by him into extorting a huge ransom sum for his so called release. The dialogue is not that funny, the script lazy, not to mention the appearance of highly talented Oscar Winner Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects), who was one of the original Horrible Bosses, is completely underutilized.

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Even Jennifer Aniston (We are the Millers, The Bounty Hunter) reprisal of her role as a nymphomaniac dentist Dr Julia Harris, also one of the original Horrible Bosses does not save the blighted plot. The best scenes in the film are actually provided by Oscar Winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) as MotherF*cker Jones and of course Pine who has a field day as the manipulative kidnap victim.

This sequel is really cashing in on the success of the first film and let’s hope that Hollywood does not make a third without there being a more credible and inventive storyline. Audiences who loved the first film, might be disappointed, so save Horrible Bosses 2 for some lazy Saturday afternoon viewing.

 

Live Without Regrets

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

A Dazzling Enterprise

Star Trek: Into Darkness

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Director: J. J. Abrams

Cast: Chris Pine, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Alice Eve, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, John Cho, Peter Weller, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Bruce Greenwood

Director J.J. Abrams dazzling reinvention of the Star Trek franchise continues with the glossy sequel to the 2009 smash hit Star Trek with Star Trek: Into Darkness, pulling together the same cast from the original and then adding the amazing talents of big screen-newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch (last seen in the extraordinary Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as the evil villain and celestial terrorist Khan, a reinvented character from the 1982 film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek: Into Darkness opens with a spectacular volcanic sequence on a primal planet in which Captain Kirk rescues his half Vulcan friend Spock from near extinction to the 23rd century high tech metropolises such as London and San Francisco. Meanwhile back on Earth the sinister superhuman Khan destroys an Enterprise space library in central London and then wages an attack on the commanding officers of the Enterprise fleet at their Californian headquarters before fleeing Earth for a Klingon refuge on a distant planet.

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Captain Kirk played with boisterous heroism by Chris Pine and his team including Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and ubiquitous Karl Urban as Bones, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov head to the outer reaches of Klingon galactic territory and capture Khan, whose wily ways are only revealed as they head back towards earth. Cumberbatch is really superb as the sinister villain and far out does any of his co-stars maybe with the exception of Quinto’s slightly robotic yet sensitive Spock.

The unrequited love between Kirk and Spock is highlighted in a particularly touching scene when the dashing Captain appears to be dying in the heart of the Star Trek Enterprise and Chris Pine’s gorgeous blue eyes make the audience feel for his unfulfilled love as he seemingly expires due to radiation exposure under the mournful gaze of Quinto’s Spock.

But never fear Trekkies, Spock takes revenge on Khan and in a brilliantly orchestrated chase sequence through 23rd century San Francisco resulting in an extraordinary fight sequence aboard an industrial spacecraft, not to mention a crashing spacecraft taking out Alcatraz.

Whilst Star Trek: Into Darkness has less characterization as the 2009 Star Trek, it really is Cumberbatch’s film as he makes the villain into a truly deceptive sinister terrorist with some superb dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast ham it up in their Trekkie uniforms without too much in depth characterization whilst the only subplot to attract minor interest is Alice Eve as the blonde weapons expert Carol channeling the Nicole Kidman look as she reveals her complex relationship with her dubious father veteran Captain Marcus played by Peter Weller from Robocop fame.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is for true sci fi fans and whilst not in the same thought-provoking existential vein as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus or Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion, it is pure glossy sci-fi entertainment and sure to remain an inspiration at future Comicon conventions , not to mention Trekkie conventions from Tokyo to Anaheim.

After all what can audiences expect from the producers of the successful Hawaii 5 0 series, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman but another action-packed brilliant bromance, however this time the visual effects and excellent sound editing triumph over characterization whilst the script retains its mythological narrative that has made the Star Trek franchise so enduring and iconic.

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