More than 75 years after she debuted in the DC’s comic book universe, the Amazon Warrior Princess has finally gotten her due with Wonder Woman, a wonderful origins movie that marks the first live-action appearance of the character since Lynda Carter’s classic TV series that ran from 1975-79.
Marking the first solo movie for the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (a stunning Gal Gadot) after she made her scene-stealing debut in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2016, the movie takes us back to World War I, where an American spy pilot, Steve Trevor (the always great Chris Pine) crash lands in the ocean near the secret island paradise where Diana, Princess of Themyscira, was raised, and by happenstance drags her and her fellow warriors into the conflict.
Leaving behind her home to rid the world of the evil force she believes is responsible for the war, Diana finds adjusting to the outside world is a bit harder than she could have imagined — that is, until she discovers her true identity and destiny. Full of humor, heart and action, “Wonder Woman” is a must-see.
Lammometer: 8.5 (out of 10)
Hear Tim’s review of “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Underpants” with Tom Barnard on KQRS.
“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (PG)
A different kind of superhero saves the day (or at least, tries) in “Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie,” the first (obviously) of hopefully many movies based on the best-selling illustrated children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. Hilarious and full of heart, it’s easily the best animated movie of the year so far.
Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch bring glee to the voices of George and Harold, a pair of practical joking grade-schoolers who get revenge on their ultra-strict principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), who rules the school with an iron fist. Accidentally hypnotizing Mr. Krupp with a cereal box “Hypo Ring,” George and Harold convince Krupp he’s a dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants, who wears only underwear and a cape made of office drapery. Complicating manners is a Mr. P. (Nick Kroll, who steals the show), as a villainous science teacher who is onto George and Harold’s scheme.
“Captain Underpants” separates itself from most animated movies by relying on its already clever origins material (which is expanded here and there), instead of giving into Hollywood convention and employing pop culture references, sly jokes that only adults would get, and a hip soundtrack in a vain attempt to help tell the story. It’s a refreshing take in any genre, where story matters first — and in this case “Captain Underpants” is ultimately a great story about friendship.
Lammometer: 8.5 (out of 10)
Watch Tim’s review of “Wonder Woman” and “Captain Underpants” with Adrienne Broadus on KARE 11.
The 87th annual Oscars are Sunday night, bringing to an end another controversial awards season. At this point with all the guild awards decided, it’s pretty clear who and what film will win the big prize, although I personally hope for some big upsets just to keep the perennial overlong night interesting.
As usual, my predictions aren’t a reflection of who and what I hope will win, but educated guesses based on voting trends throughout the awards season. Of course, no one — no one — is a sure thing (remember Juliette Binoche upsetting Lauren Bacall?), so included in the picks is a wild card in each major category.
Best Supporting Actress nominees: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”; Laura Dern, “Wild”; Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”; Emma Stone, “Birdman”; Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods.”
Analysis: This category will likely signal the overrated “Boyhood’s” only big win for the night, but if any categories have upsets, it’s the supporting acting ones. Perennial nominee Streep generally bulldozes everyone she’s up against, and this year is no different. Arquette’s performance is the best of all those in “Boyhood,” but all the awards love for the movie is still mystifying.
Count Arquette’s win as the Academy’s tip of the cap to the year’s most gimmicky movie. A Dern win would be a salute to not one, but three Hollywood acting stalwarts: Dern and her parents Bruce Dern (who should have won for “Nebraska” last year) and Diane Ladd, but don’t hold your breath.
Will Win: Arquette.
Should Win: Streep.
Potential Upset: Dern.
Best Supporting Actor nominees: Robert Duvall, “The Judge”; Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”; Edward Norton, “Birdman”; Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”; J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash.”
Analysis: Not only has Simmons proven to be a great actor who has consistently delivered in his roles over the years, his turn as the vitriolic jazz conservatory conductor in “Whiplash” is hands-down the best nominated performance across all of the categories.
“Birdman” is shaping up to be this year’s awards juggernaut, and Norton — who is brilliant in the movie — could be a benefactor of that. Duvall, who is terrific as usual in “The Judge,” would be a shoo-in as a sentimental winner, but he already has an Oscar thanks to “Tender Mercies.”
Will Win: Simmons
Should Win: Simmons.
Potential Upset: Norton.
Best Actress nominees: Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”; Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”; Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”; Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”; Reese Witherspoon, “Wild.”
Analysis: With five Oscar nominations (including this year) to her credit, Moore is long-overdue. But this award isn’t being earned by Moore for sentimental purposes: Her turn as an early-onset Alzheimer’s disease patient is heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting, and one that stays with you long after the credits roll.
Cotillard (who previously upset Julie Christie, oddly enough, in Christie’s Alzheimer’s-themed movie “Away From Her”) and Witherspoon don’t have a chance because they’re won in the category before and it’s hard to repeat, and Jones, while great, is simply over-matched in the category. An upset for Pike’s ultimate ice queen role in “Gone Girl” would be a way to rectify the Academy huge oversights in several categories — including Best Picture and Best Director (for David Fincher) — in what is easily one of the best films of the year.
Will Win: Moore.
Should Win: Moore.
Potential Upset: Pike.
Best Actor nominees: Steve Carell, “Foxcatcher”; Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”; Michael Keaton, “Birdman”; Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything.”
Analysis: Keaton’s career performance in “Birdman” has dominated most of this year’s awards season, and since he’s sidestepped personal controversy (i.e., he’s said all the right things in his acceptance speeches and has been genuinely gracious) the award has been his to lose. Keaton is brilliant in the role with a fine mix of comedy and drama, but Cooper took the biggest risk with his moving, understated turn as late Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.
It’s not a flashy role, but yet somehow you can sense the inner-turmoil of Kyle as deals with the stress of the battlefield and suppressing his emotions on the home front. It’s an amazingly subtle role and a gutsy move for an Cooper since it flies in the face of Hollywood’s political ideas.
As much as Cooper deserves to win, the only possible person capable of upsetting Keaton is Redmayne, who gives a “My Left Foot” Daniel Day-Lewis-caliber performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” His unlikely Screen Actors Guild upset opened the door for a possible upset at the Oscars, but don’t bet on it. Carell’s and Cumberbatch’s nominations are well deserved, so don’t be surprised to see future noms, especially for the latter.
Will Win: Keaton.
Should Win: Cooper.
Potential Upset: Redmayne.
Best Picture nominees: “American Sniper”; “Birdman”; “Boyhood”; “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; “The Imitation Game”; “Selma”; “The Theory of Everything”; “Whiplash.”
Analysis: The race all along this awards season has appeared to be an even match between “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” but then a surprising surge with “American Sniper” (and a $300 million North American box office) with a strong showing in the nominations suddenly made the race that much more interesting.
Conventional thinking at the moment points to a big night for “Birdman,” since it has taken top honors with the Producers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America (for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – who will also win the Best Director Oscar) and the Screen Actors Guild Best Ensemble Award (the equivalent for a Best Picture prize) — so don’t be shocked when it when it wins the Best Picture Oscar.
As refreshing and inventive as “Birdman” is, remember 2015 as the year the chickens come home to roost on Hollywood. The Academy will appear completely out of touch with Middle America for not naming “American Sniper” its Best Picture; even more so if it goes the upset route and names the low-budget, gimmicky “Boyhood” as “the best.”
A film that rightfully puts the focus squarely on the American soldier and his or her families (and avoids the politics of war), “American Sniper” has had a profound emotional experience on viewers, and it will no doubt enrage them when it is passed over (watch out, Twitter!). Ultimately, if one film is going to make Hollywood stand up and listen to its audiences, this is the one, but they’re too afraid to honor a movie with ties to the right wing by default.