Posts Tagged ‘Kristen Wiig’

Gal Gadot

“WONDER WOMAN 1984” My rating: C (HBO Max)

151 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Perhaps the most telling commentary on “Wonder Woman 1984” has come from a critic who observed that the only way to enjoy the movie is to imagine that it is actually a relic from 1984.

Yeah, that works.  Kinda.

Had we seen this movie back in the Reagan years we’d have been blown away by the special effects — WW’s sinuous glowing lasso, that suit of golden armor in which she confronts the bad guy at the end, the flying, etc.

Pedro Pascal

And we’d have forgiven its grievous dramatic shortcomings — the utter lack of psychological realism, the plot holes big enough to accommodate an aircraft carrier, the ever-meandering and overly complicated narrative — because 30 years ago superhero/comic book movies were, for the most part, pretty awful. We didn’t expect anything better.

(Although, the first Christopher Reeve “Superman” from 1978 remains imminently watchable…not for the eye candy but for its wit, its celebration of a cultural icon and the genuine affection it exudes for its hero and his world.)

Anyway, this latest from director Patty Jenkins is most noteworthy for its utter lack of style.  There’s no edge, no real humor aimed at anything that matters (we’re supposed to get off on Chris Pine’s wardrobe  of ghastly ’80s fashion).

Which comes as a surprise since 2017’s “Wonder Woman,” also helmed by Jenkins, oozed style and attitude.


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Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon

“DOWNSIZING” My rating: C+ 

135 minutes | MPAA rating:

There’s a work of genius lurking inside “Downsizing,” one that struggles to make itself heard and ultimately loses steam and dribbles away.

Bottom line: The first half of Alexander Payne’s sci-fi/fantasy satire/end-of-the-world warning is pretty wonderful. After that, things get iffy.

In the film’s first moments we’re introduced to the concept of “downsizing” — not corporate layoffs but rather the shrinking of human beings to the size of Barbie Dolls.

Downsizing could be the answer to, well, everything.  An ear of corn could feed a dozen people for a week.  Tiny homes require almost no power to heat and cool efficiently.  Moving around is easy — downsized citizens ride in shoebox-sized containers that can fit easily in a bus or airplane’s overhead rack.

Omaha residents Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig) are initially bemused by this new technology.  But after a decade of hand-to-mouth living they come to the conclusion that downsizing is the key to a prosperous future — especially when it is explained to them that after downsizing their modest savings will translate into millions of dollars.

So they contract to live in a downsized community (a glass dome offers protection from predatory birds). This mini-metropolis takes up only a couple of acres of real-world real estate but, in shrunken form, is the size of greater New York City. Their built-to-order mansion awaits.

The actual process of downsizing is cleverly laid out in Payne and Jim Taylor’s screenplay…and it’s a techno-nerdish wonder. Once sedated, the client’s dental fillings are removed (only organic tissue can be shrunk…a ceramic filling could cause the client’s head to explode).  All body hair is shaved (again, hair follicles are not alive…only the roots).

Once downsized, the comatose clients are moved about on spatulas, like burgers on a short-order grill.

It’s all very amusing, yet weirdly plausible.

Just one problem. Upon awakening Paul learns that Audrey got cold feet at the last minute. She now wants a divorce from her tiny husband and most of  their savings.


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sausage-party-post1“SAUSAGE PARTY”  My rating: B

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The animated “Sausage Party” is so thick with puerile sexuality that a viewer must choose between bailing on the whole experience or embracing it in a spirit of unfettered adolescent humor.

I  mean, here’s an R-rated movie about a hot dog named Frank (Seth Rogen) who dreams that Brenda (Kristen Wiig), the bun he has worshipped from afar, will open up and allow him to nestle his full length in her soft, spongy interior.

Other characters include a lesbian taco with a Mexican accent, a bottle of tequila that talks like a wise old Indian chief, a neurotic jar of honey mustard, a box of grits and even a used condom. Then there’s  Lavosh — a Middle Eastern wrap — who is always exchanging insults with a Jewish bagel. The villain of the piece is the megalomaniac Douche (yes, a feminine hygiene product).

These characters are brought to life by a Who’s Who of voice talent that includes Salma Hayek, Bill Hader, David Krumholtz, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Michael Cera, Paul Rudd and James Franco.

Narratively “Sausage Party” feels likes something a bunch of stoners dreamed up at 2 in the morning (duh).

It’s July 3 in the supermarket, and all of the products sitting on the shelves are pumped because so many of them will be “chosen” by the “gods” (i.e., human shoppers) and taken out of the store to what they are sure will be a paradisiacal eternity in the Great Beyond. They  celebrate their imminent liberation in a rousing song (music by Alan Menken).

Frank and his fellow wieners (they’re crammed in eight to a package) have been gazing lustfully at a nearby package of buns (six to a package…go figure), awaiting the day they will be joined in the hereafter,  “where all your wildest and wettest dreams come true.”


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martianMV5BMTUxODUzMDY0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDE0MDE5NTE@._V1__SX1377_SY911_“THE MARTIAN” My rating: A

141 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

With “The Martian” director Ridley Scott and star Matt Damon deliver an almost perfect piece of popular filmmaking, an intimate sci-fi epic that is smart, spectacular and stirring.

This big screen adaptation (by screenwriter Drew Goddard) of Andy Weir’s best-seller about an astronaut stranded on Mars has just about everything — laughs, thrills, visual splendor and a rousing endorsement of the brotherhood of man.

It’s the least pretentious and most wholly enjoyable film of Scott’s extensive career (which includes  “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator”) and pushes Damon’s acting talents to the max.

The premise melds elements of 1964’s “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” and “Apollo 13” (earthbound scientists and engineers invent ways to help their desperate colleague).

Matt Damon

Matt Damon

And nestled inside this riveting adventure is a sly commentary on bureaucracy.

Set in a near future in which the American space program is thriving (the film’s most patently fantastic assertion), “The Martian” opens on Mars, where a team led by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is wrapping up a month-long scientific mission. A fierce sandstorm catches the astronauts out in the open, and they barely make it to the Martian lander that will return them to the orbiting mother ship.

But one of them, botanist Mark Watney (Damon), is literally blown away by the raging wind. Believing him dead, Lewis has no choice but to take off without him before the storm makes liftoff impossible.

But Mark isn’t dead. He awakens to a beeping alarm in his helmet telling him he’s almost out of air, struggles out of the sand in which he is half buried and discovers that he’s been skewered by a shard of wind-blown metal.

He barely makes it into the now unoccupied housing module where he performs a bit of surgery on himself and takes stock of his situation. (more…)

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Bel Powley as Minnie

Bel Powley as Minnie


102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“I had sex today,” 15-year-old Minnie tells us in the first scene of “Diary of a Teenage Girl.”

“I think this makes me officially an adult. I guess.”

Striding down a street in 1970s San Francisco, Minnie is quietly proud of  her recent transition to womanhood. She doesn’t even seem particularly concerned that the man who took her virginity is Monroe, the 35-year-old boyfriend of her bohemian mom.

In fact, Minnie targeted and seduced him. Monroe isn’t really a bad guy, but he’s kinda thick. He didn’t put up much of a fight.

“Diary…” features a home run performance from newcomer Bel Powley as Minnie while offering a non-hysterical depiction of sex between a grown man and a young girl. This is not an after school special warning of the dangers of pedophilia, and writer/director Marielle Heller (adapting Phoebe Gloeckner’s novel) doesn’t condemn her heroine to a life of misery for her youthful indiscretions.

By film’s end, in fact, we’re pretty sure that Minnie is going to not only survive, but thrive.


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Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader

Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader

“THE SKELETON TWINS”  My rating: B (Opening Sept. 26 at the Tivoli and Leawood)

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The old adage about a tragedian lurking inside every comedian is perfectly illustrated by “The Skeleton Twins,” an achingly sad yet hugely amusing study of self-destructive siblings — played by “SNL” alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig — who can find comfort only in their shared misery.

In an early scene of Craig Johnson’s dramedy, Maggie (Wiig) is preparing to gulp a handful of sleeping pills when her grim ritual is interrupted by a phone call.  Across the country in LA, her twin brother Milo (Hader) has beaten her to the punch, slitting his wrists while sitting in the tub.  He’s in the hospital.  Can Maggie — who hasn’t seen her bro in a decade — come and fetch him?

Granted, this doesn’t sound like a laugh riot. Wiig and Hader — who a few years backed played husband and wife in the coming-of-age comedy “Adventureland” — initially approach their roles with dead-on seriousness, their performances imbued with a sense of weariness that makes simply rising from a chair a monumental effort.

But after Milo returns with Maggie to her home in upstate New York, the film (co-written by Mark Heyman) gently begins working its magic.

The twins have been cursed with self-awareness. They realize they are unhappy, they see themselves almost as psychological caricatures, and if they’re not actually going to kill themselves they need to make fun of themselves to get through it all.

Why do they gravitate toward self-destruction? The film offers no easy answers. In brief flashbacks we see their beloved father — himself an early suicide — giving life lessons and presenting the children with colorful plastic skeletons (the message: Get used to death, come to an accomodation with it.)  About halfway through the film they are visited by their absentee mother (Joanna Gleeson), a New Age groupie so bent on spiritual self-improvement that she’s never had time for her progeny.

With no pat psychological explanation of Maggie and Milo’s dilemma we’re left with the conclusion that maybe some people are just born miserable.


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Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce

Kristen Wiig, Guy Pearce

“HATESHIP LOVESHIP” My rating: B (Now playing at the Screenland Armour)

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It seems that inside every comic genius there lurks a tragedian just itching to break out.

The latest funny person to make the leap into seriousness is former “SNL” star Kristen Wiig, who in “Hateship Loveship” excels at poartraying a lonely woman who risks all on a last desperate attempt at happiness.

Wiig plays Johanna, who as the film begins is a care-giver for an old lady in small-town Iowa. Johanna has no family and has been with the old lady since she was 15 — or more than half her life. As a result she is emotionally and intellectually naive, not to mention painfully shy.

With her employer’s death Johanna finds a new job in the household of lawyer McCauley (Nick Nolte), a widower caring for his teenage granddauther Sabitha  (Hailee Steinfeld, an Oscar nominee for the Coens’ “True Grit”). Her arrival coincides with a rare visit by Sabitha’s father Ken (Guy Pearce), an alcoholic and druggie whose irresponsible driving led to the death of his wife.

Now Ken is trying to convince his father-in-law to invest in his latest get-rich-quick scheme, refurbishing a run-down motel in Chicago. McCauley isn’t buying; besides, he’s never forgiven Ken for the death of his daughter.


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Walter-Mitty-575“THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY” My rating : C+ (Opening wide on Dec. 25)

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

You’ve got to be of a certain age for the name Walter Mitty to even mean anything. In other words, old.

First appearing in a short story by James Thurber and then enacted on the screen by Danny Kaye in 1947, the story of a milquetoast Every Man who dreams himself the hero of countless adventures became so ubiquitous that any mousey guy with an active fantasy life was immediately identified as a Walter Mitty type.

More than 60 years later we have Walter’s latest incarnation in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” starring and directed by Ben Stiller. An actor who has often dealt in broad caricatures, Stiller here dials things way down. And he’s more interested in heart than in laughs.

The film opens cleverly enough with poor gray Walter wending his way to his job at Life magazine. He’s usually so lost in his own imagination that he misses his train. The opening credits are cleverly projected onto the city buildings around him.

Walter is a shy guy who aches longingly for a new coworker (Kristen Wiig) who seems not to know he exists. So he invents fantasies in which he’s able to sweep her off her feet. Part of the fun of the film’s opening passages is not knowing what’s real and what’s in Walter’s noggin.

Walter lives in the tomb-like basement of a vast office building where he’s a “negative assets manager.”  His job is to receive, process, and print the rolls of film sent by the one Life photographer who has resisted the digital revolution. Of course you could also read “negative assets manager” in another way…and in fact Walter finds his livelihod threatened when the magazine is taken over by a sneering  downsizer (Adam Scott) who announces they’re closing up shop after publishing one last issue. (more…)

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