Tag Archives: Kristen Wiig

Who You Gonna Call?

New gender-flipping ‘Ghostbusters’ confronts critics—then gets down to funny business

1271033 - THE WALK

Ghostbusters
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones
Directed by Paul Feig
PG-13

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

The Ghostbusters, of course! But which ones? The latest, if you haven’t heard, are an all-female crew headed by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, with Saturday Night Live cast mates Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Months before the new Ghostbusters movie was finished, some people didn’t like the idea of anybody futzing with the iconic 1984 original, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis—and especially, apparently, changing the gender roles. The first trailer for the film ignited a firestorm of online trolling and ugly sexist criticism, mostly about bringing women into an all-boy’s club.

The new movie confronts its critics head-on, in a scene where the new Ghostbusters see the doubtful—and hateful—comments underneath online clips of the first spooks they’ve ever captured on video.

“You’re shouldn’t even be reading this,” Abby (McCartney) tells her colleague Erin (Wiig). “You’re not supposed to listen to what crazy people write in the middle of the night.”

Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon;Leslie JonesThen it’s back to funny business—and girls busting ghosts.

Mixing fresh new gags with respectful retro riffs, director and co-writer Paul Feig lets his funny bone point the way, as he demonstrated in BridesmaidsThe Heat and Spy. And he’s working with a cast of comedic dynamos. Wiig’s delightfully dry, droll wit is a perfect complement to McCartney’s bigger, brasher, bawdy physical bravura. They haven’t teamed up for a project since Bridesmaids, and it’s great to see them collaborating again.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth

Leslie Jones gets plenty of laughs as Patty, a subway worker with a knack for Big Apple history who becomes the fourth Ghostbuster. Chris “Thor” Hemsworth seems to be having a ball as the gals’ office “himbo” receptionist, perhaps relishing the opportunity to parody his own macho movie image and the film’s flip of gender roles in general.

But it’s Kate McKinnon who practically steals the show. Her wacky, tech-crazy, live-wire lab-nut weapons wonk feels somewhat of a nod to Dan Aykryod’s character in the original, but she takes it to a totally new place in a unique role that may break her out beyond her hilarious SNL skits.

The plot: Yes, there is one, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. There are fleeting cameos by former Ghostbusters stars and other folks too, including Ozzy Osborne, who shows up at a heavy metal concert. So does a big, bad winged ghost demon. The audience loves it—rock and roll!

It all rises to a screaming crescendo, wobbles and then kind of falls apart, when all the ghosts come out to wreck havoc on the streets and there’s a big, swirling special-effects vortex, a bunch of goop and goo, a parade of giant ghost balloons and appearances by Ghostbusters Hall-of-Fame specters.

Definitely stay for the credits, though, and beyond, because this is one movie that’s not over until it’s over—completely over. And when it is, as the final version of the familiar theme music (this time by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot) plays out and makes your toes tap, the message is clear: For good, ghostly summertime fun with a strong dose of freewheeling 2016 girl power, who you gonna call? You know who!

—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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Fire & Ice

High-flying DreamWorks sequel grows along with its young audience

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, & Cate Blanchett

Directed by Dean DuBois

PG, 102 min.

 

A follow-up to the animated 2010 DreamWorks hit about a young Viking boy and his flying dragon, this soaring sequel has grown along with its audience.

This new Dragon reunites director Dean DuBois with most of the original vocal cast (Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and takes place five years after the events of the first movie, as Vikings have learned to coexist with dragons instead of slay them. Now, as we see in the movie’s high-spirited opening, the feisty fire-breathers have become part of the everyday life of the mythical island of Berk, where they’re used for transportation, recreation, companionship and commerce.

“With Vikings on the backs of dragons,” says Hiccup (Baruchel), the son of the Berk’s burly tribal chief (Butler) grooming him for an eventual leadership role he doesn’t really want, “the world just got a whole lot bigger.”

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

And certainly a bit more complicated and dangerous—at least compared to the first movie. As Hiccup, now a gangly teenager, sails through the skies on his trusty night fury, Toothless, with his female friend, Astrid (Ferrera), he discovers a place where the inhabitants don’t see things—or treat dragons—the way they do back on Berk.

Hiccup’s discovery puts his entire village in peril and leads to yet another, even more startling revelation, an Armageddon-like, fire-and-ice showdown, and a life-changing decision. (I won’t reveal much more, but it’s connected to having Oscar-wining Cate Blanchett aboard as the voice of a new character.)

The first Dragon, praised by both critics and audiences, combined a rollicking, family-friendly story (adapted from Cressida Cowell’s British book series) with marvelously rendered, high-tech animation, plus a cast of colorful, amusing characters—and some dazzling scenes, especially if you saw it in 3-D. Dragon 2 upholds those high standards, even pushing them up a couple of notches. The whole movie looks fantastic—fluid, textured and alive.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2The dragons are things of whimsy, wizardry and wonder, intended to make you think of the bonds between people, nature and animals—at various times they mimic characteristics of puppies, ponies, birds, and butterflies. The returning supporting characters are a gaggle of loveable oddballs (Wiig, Hill, Mintz-Plasse), and a couple of new additions—especially hunky, comically inept Eret, Son of Eret (Game of Thrones actor Kit Harington) and the war-mongering dragon slave master Draco Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou)—both add depth and dimension to a story that’s grown up a bit over the elapsed years, just like many of its young audience members

But the real beauty of the first Dragon, and now this one, is how director DuBois and his team never approached them as purely “kids’ movies.” They always aimed higher than that, without ever losing sight of the children who’d find the most resonance in the fantasy-storybook-adventure elements of the tales. Witty, rousing, heartwarming, sensational-looking, and at times touching, uplifting and even moving, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is another fine feather in DreamWorks’ cinematic cap, and proof that it is, indeed, still possible for Hollywood to make movies that virtually all ages can enjoy, appreciate and admire.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Dreaming & Doing

Ben Stiller directs & stars in charming rom-com-adventure remake

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Blu-ray $39.98, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 

Most modern-day viewers are too young to remember the original movie with this title, a 1947 adventure-comedy romp starring Danny Kaye. Here Ben Stiller takes the same basic premise and runs with it, directing and starring in this delightful and fanciful tale of a timid LIFE magazine photo editor who gets a little too caught up in his daydreams—until his daydreams become an amazing, life-changing real adventure. Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine and Sean Penn round out the cast, and the bounty of bonus content includes several deleted and alternate scenes and behind-the-scenes mini-features about the making of the movie.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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