Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

S’no Go

Muddled ‘Snow White’ prequel-sequel mash-up can’t find its way

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

PG-13

Hey Snow, where’d you go?

In 2012, Snow White and the Huntsman gave the age-old fairy tale a sassy new action-y feminist twist, with Kristin Stewart as the feisty, fair-skinned maiden—foretold by the Magic Mirror to be the loveliest in the land—and Chris Hemsworth as the evil queen’s “huntsman” ordered to take her into the woods and kill her.

Of course, things didn’t quite work out that way—and now we have The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a sequel. Actually it’s a prequel. Well, I think it’s a little of both, and a mash-up of several other things, too, and quite a bit of an all-around muddled mess.

Jessica Chastain

And Snow White seems to have wisely decided to steer clear from it all. So there’s no Snow in this Huntsman, unless you count the times she’s mentioned by name. But the movie certainly isn’t hurting for other talent. Hemsworth is back, and so is Charlize Theron as the wicked monarch Ravenna. Emily Blunt is newly aboard as Ravenna’s sister Freya, turned into a cruel “ice queen” by an act of heartless treachery. Jessica Chastain is Sara, who like Hemsworth’s rebellious Huntsman, grew up as an abducted child soldier forced to serve in Freya’s army of marauders.

British comedic actors Nick Frost and Rob Brydon, shrunk to wee size by the modern magic of digital effects, play a pair of dwarf brothers who provide most of the chuckles in this otherwise dull and dreary trek through a disjointed plot that feels like someone threw bits of Game of Thrones, Disney’s Frozen, Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz into a blender with some crushed ice, black goo and gold flecks, then set it to puree.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron

If you’re into ornate costumes, you might dig the over-the-top duds in which Blunt and Theron get to vamp. In the couple of scenes they’re together, I kept wishing Cher would suddenly appear—maybe descending from the ceiling—for a full-on Las Vegas revue.

The storybook decor is lush and quite lovely, especially when the Huntsman, Sara, the two dwarves and their special-effect dwarf dates (Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith) take a day trip to Goblin Land, or something like that, to retrieve the purloined Magic Mirror, which looks like a huge polished cymbal from a music store. Some of the location filming was done in England’s Windsor Great Park, although I’m pretty sure you won’t find any big, blue ape-men, giant moss-covered snakes or tiny florescent flying fairies there.

Not campy and gonzo enough to be real fun, nor dark and dangerous enough to qualify as truly grim, this is instead a drab, disjointed stab by a first-time feature director who, bless his heart, can’t seem to find his target in all the icy, FX-laden glop. The best—and most amazing—thing about it by far is its all-star, A-list cast, all of whom who gamely give it their best in the service of something clearly less than “the fairest of them all.”

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Super-smart astronaut survival yarn will leave you cheering

The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed by Ridley Scott

PG-13

Super-smart, sharp-witted, funny, dramatic and moving, The Martian is a gripping, gorgeous, geeky, high-tech, big-screen adventure-survival yarn that will leave you cheering.

When a brutal, blinding surface dust storm causes a group of scientist-astronauts to abort their Martian expedition after only a few sols (days, or solar cycles), one of them gets left behind, lost and believed to certainly be dead. But after the Ares III blasts off and heads for home and the Red Planet dust clears, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) revives, wounded but very much alive.

NASA and his crewmates have no idea he survived. He has to find some way to let them know, some way to stay alive, and some way to keep his hopes from fading—knowing that it could take years for another mission to mobilize and reach him.

What to do, what to do?

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his           ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m gonna have to science the s— out of this,” Watney says into a camera, in the video log he begins filming as a high-tech diary.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Watney “sciences” how to grow his own food, rig up a communication device, make water and generate heat from radioactive material. One of the coolest things about The Martian is the way it makes knowledge hip and cool, how Watney’s process of discovery and learning and figuring things out are integral parts of its plotline.

Kristin Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Back on Earth, the world becomes transfixed with the man marooned on Mars. NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) race to figure out how to reach Watney before he runs out of time and resources. America’s competitors in the space race on the other side of the world, the Chinese, offer their top-secret technology to help. And once Watney’s crew mates (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan) find out they’ve accidentally left him behind, they’re willing to spring into action, even if it means staying in space for another year or longer.

Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to space or the future, from Blade Runner and Alien to Prometheus. But there are no bioengineered androids, ancient astro-gods or acid-drooling space creatures anywhere to be found in The Martian—just real people, working together, using their heads, solving problems, focused on one man 50 million miles away and united in a single goal: to “bring him home.”

And despite its big ensemble cast, gorgeous special-effect space shots and marvelous, desolate red-orange Martian landscapes, this is Damon’s show. He is The Martian, and he sells every minute of it in a bravura, mostly solo performance that radiates humanity and humor, and shows the amazing, odds-defying things that science—and brainwork, and dedication and teamwork—can do.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Time Warped

Matthew McConaughey stars in mind-bending deep-space yarn

INTERSTELLAR

Interstellar

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway & Michael Caine

Directed by Christopher Nolan

PG-13

Outrageously ambitious, deliriously far-out and epically geeky, director Christopher Nolan’s sprawling Interstellar is a space movie with one foot on the ground and one in the stars, a story of both humanity and the heavens, with a thumping heartbeat driving its spewing intergalactic fountain of dazzling, digitized special effects.

In this mind-bending yarn about gravity, time and the power of love, Matthew McConaughey plays a family-man space cowboy on a mission to save the Earth. As its story unfolds, sometime in the not-so-distant future, our planet’s resources have been all but exhausted; the world’s a big dust bowl. McConaughey’s character, Cooper, a former moon-exploring astronaut, is selected for a top-secret, last-ditch NASA dash across deep space to chase down a probe signal that may possibly signal a new planetary home.

Big problem: The widowed Cooper will have to leave behind his sage old dad (John Lithgow) and his two young children, teenage son Tom (Timotheè Chalamet) and spunky young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Even bigger problem: Once he takes off, Cooper doesn’t know how long how he’ll be gone—or if he’ll be able to return.

INTERSTELLARCooper tries to reassure Murph—he gives her an old-school wristwatch and tells her that whenever she looks at it, she can know he’ll be looking at his, too, wherever he is, up there in space, for however long, until he comes home. Tick-tock, tick-tock.

Nolan, whose other films include the Batman Dark Knight trilogy and the mind-scrambling Inception, sets off an explosion of images and ideas as the tale unfolds both “on the ground” and “out there.” We’re taken through a space “wormhole,” a shortcut expressway compressing and expanding space and time, to a watery planet prone to monstrous tidal waves, where every hour counts for seven years of Earth time, and another that’s so cold, even the clouds are solid ice. We watch as Cooper, whose own aging has been halted by the time-warp of space travel, sees video feeds of his children grown into adults (Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck)—and bitter that their father has apparently abandoned them, “decades” ago.

INTERSTELLARAnne Hathaway plays one of Cooper’s fellow explorers—a key role in more ways than one because of her connection to her NASA scientist father (Michael Caine) back on Earth, and also to someone the astronauts will meet on their journey to the outer reaches of the cosmos.

Along the way, we’re introduced to some lofty concepts: Are we alone in the universe? Is it possible to go backward and forward in time, or to make it stand still? Is love a quantifiable force? Nolan lays out a narrative path between Odysseus, Albert Einstein and Buck Rogers, then paints it with bold cinematic brushstrokes inspired by the masters—Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, John Ford.

It doesn’t always work, but man, is it ever something to see. It gets pretty trippy (and even a bit hokey) in the end, and at nearly three full hours, it’s quite a journey. And this rip-roaring Rip Van Winkle rocket tale is unlike anything else you’ve seen at the movies this year, if ever. Hang on for the ride and you may come out on the other side feeling a bit wobbly and time-warped yourself.

And afterward, you might never look at the tick-tock of your wristwatch the same way again.

—Neil Pond, Parade and American Profile Magazines

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