Posts Tagged Kristen Wiig

STEELE PICKS: Best Films of 2015

I’m not a film critic although when I worked at Harvard Business School I was the film critic for The Harbus and it was great fun going to screenings and interviewing actors such as Claire Danes, Rose Byrne, Donnie Wahlberg, Rose McGowan, Aidan Quinn, Andie MacDowell and David Cronenberg.

I’m a music critic and a book critic. That’s my focus. I can’t do everything. Yes, I cover the occasional television program.

I love film. I love indie film. I try to see a new film in the theater each week and my Netflix account [both streaming and DVD] remains quite active. I saw about 200 films this year. I don’t always pick the award winners but I pick what truly moved me. 5/20 of these films directed by women. 9/20 written or co-written by women. Many strong, intriguing female protagonists in these films.

Far from the Madding Crowd
directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
screenplay by: David Nicholls
starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen

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Brooklyn
directed by: John Crowley
screenplay by: Nick Hornby
starring: Saorsie Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

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Carol
directed by: Todd Haynes
screenplay by: Phyllis Nagy
starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler

Carol

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
directed by: Marielle Heller
screenplay by: Marielle Heller
starring: Bel Powley, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgaard

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Spotlight
directed by: Tom McCarthy
screenplay by: Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
starring: Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton

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Tangerine
directed by: Sean Baker
screenplay by: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch
starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian

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Suffragette
directed by: Sarah Gavron
screenplay by: Abi Morgan
starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep

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Room
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
written by: Emma Donoghue
starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers

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While We’re Young
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Noah Baumbach
starring: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver

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Love and Mercy
directed by: Bill Pohlad
screenplay by: Oren Moverman, Michael A. Lerner
starring: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks

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Grandma
directed by: Paul Weitz
screenplay by: Paul Weitz
starring: Lily Tomlin, Sam Shepard, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden

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Sicario
directed by: Denis Villeneuve
screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan
starring: Emily Blunt, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Brolin

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Mistress America
directed by: Noah Baumbach
screenplay by: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
starring: Greta Gerwig, Lola Kirke

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Steve Jobs
directed by: Danny Boyle
screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin
starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen

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Infinitely Polar Bear
directed by: Maya Forbes
written by: Maya Forbes
starring: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky

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McFarland, USA
directed by: Niki Caro
screenplay by: Christopher Cleveland, Bettina Gilois, Grant Thompson
starring: Kevin Costner, Maria Bello, Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts , Johnny Ortiz

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The Age of Adaline
directed by: Lee Toland Krieger
screenplay by: J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz
starring: Blake Lively, Michiel Huisman, Harrison Ford

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Advantageous
directed by: Jennifer Phang
screenplay by: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang
starring: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams

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Digging for Fire
directed by: Joe Swanberg
written by: Jake Johnson, Joe Swanberg
starring: Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Sam Rockwell, Orlando Bloom

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I Smile Back
directed by: Adam Salky
written by: Paige Dylan
starring: Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles

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Chi-Raq
directed by: Spike Lee
written by: Spike Lee
starring: Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack

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notable performances: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo; Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road; Will Smith in Concussion; Amy Schumer in Trainwreck

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FILM: Stand-Out Performances of 2014

these films didn’t make my 12 BEST FILMS of 2014 list but included stand-out performances:

railway man

Colin Firth in The Railway Man
director: Jonathan Teplitzky

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Minnie Driver and Gugu Mbathal-Raw in Beyond the Lights
director: Gina Prince-Blythewood

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Julianne Moore in Still Alice
director: Richard Glatzer

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Mia Wasikowska in Tracks
director: John Curran

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Marion Cotillard in Deux Jours, Une Nuit
director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

fort bliss

Michelle Monaghan in Fort Bliss
director: Claudia Myers

foxcatcher

Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carrell in Foxcatcher
director: Bennett Miller

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Ben Schnetzer in Pride
director: Matthew Warchus

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Dakota Fanning in Night Moves
director: Kelly Reichardt

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Emma Roberts in Palo Alto
directed by: Gia Coppola

patricia

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
directed by: Richard Linklater

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Eva Green in White Bird in a Blizzard
directed by: Greg Araki

Kelly-and-Cal-Review

Juliette Lewis in Kelly & Cal
directed by: Jen McGowan

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Kristen Wiig in Hateship Loveship
directed by: Liza Johnson

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STEELE PICKS: 12 BEST FILMS of 2014

I’ll choose indie, quirky and dark over anything else anytime. Also quite clear that I support women screenwriters and directors and women in film. I also immensely like Kristen Wiig, Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss. THREE films from Knightley make the list. Themes running through my list: depression; finding oneself; feeling wayward; and musicians.

For two years while I worked at Harvard Business School I was a film critic for the newspaper The Harbus. I wrote reviews for several other publications but I’ve always been primarily a music critic. I’ve also become a book critic. I appreciate great films but don’t write about them.

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1. Whiplash

incredible film about the power of music, redemption and perseverance.

starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
written and directed by: Damien Chazelle

BEGIN AGAIN

2. Begin Again

promising singer-songwriter gets her shot at recording an album.

starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keenar, Adam Levine
written and directed by: John Carney

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3. Under the Skin

a weird mesmerizing film. stunning cinematography.

starring: Scarlett Johansson
written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer
directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Gugu Mbatha-Raw Sarah Gadon

4. Belle

In 19th century England, a young black woman gets brought up alongside her white cousin. She learns that she’ll never be treated equally despite their similarities. Belle [Gugu Mbathal-Raw] battles racism and joins the fight for equality under the law.

starring: Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Gugu Mbathal-Raw
written by: Misan Sagay
directed by: Amma Asante

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5. The Skeleton Twins

touching film about estranged twins with depression and stagnant lives. perfectly played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.

starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
written by: Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson
directed by: Craig Johnson

nightcrawler

6. Nightcrawler

didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did and I was blown away. it’s riveting and disturbing. Gyllenhaal outstanding in every scene.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Written and directed by:Dan Gilroy

laggies film

7. Laggies

loved this film about not being quite an adult and no longer being a teenager either. That point where you just don’t know what to do with yourself anymore but know that you can’t remain in a stagnant life.

starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloe Grace Moretz
written by: Andrea Seigel
directed by: Lynn Shelton

frank-indie-movie

8. Frank

sometimes the best (or most memorable) artists are eccentric, sad or both. Frank is about such a musician leading an indie group who makes it to perform at SXSW.

starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy
written by:Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson

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9. The Homesman

Not generally a fan of westerns this one got me. a feminist Western with a strong, uncompromising woman [Hilary Swank] at its core.

starring: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto
written by: Tommy Lee Jones and Kieran Fitzgerald
directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

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10. The Imitation Game

amazing story about the small group of mathematicians led by Alan Turing [Benedict Cumberbatch] who broke the Nazi’s Enigma Code during WWII. what happens to Turing in the 50s– getting prosecuted for being gay– is horrific. The film is wonderful. Keira Knightley excellent as the lone female in the group.

starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Good, Allen Leech, Mark Strong, Charles Dance
directed by: Morten Tyldum
written by: Graham Moore

SELMA

11. Selma

An important film about civil rights. So moving. I cried. Martin Luther King Jr. works to secure equal voting rights during the 1960s with a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussant, Tom Wilkinson
written by: Paul Webb
directed by: Ava DuVernay

Listen Up Philip (2014) Jonathan Pryce and Jason Schwartzman

12. Listen Up Philip

starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter
written and directed by: Alex Ross Perry

Acerbic wit. Arrogant self-centered writer (aren’t most writers?). Highly quotable and darkly amusing film.

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FILM: on my must-see summer list

girl most likely

Girl Most Likely
–actress has nervous breakdown and must move in with her hands-off mother
directors: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon
release date: July 26

much ado about nothing

Much Ado About Nothing
–I adore modern retellings of Shakespeare
director: Josh Whedon
starring: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese
release date: June 7

new-bling-ring

The Bling Ring
–based on actual events. Sofia Coppola is amazing. Plus, Emma Watson and Vera Farmiga has another acting sister, Taissa!
director: Sofia Coppola
starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga
release date: June 14

i'm so excited

I’m So Excited
director: Pedro Almodóvar
starring: Javier Cámara, Pepa Charro, Lola Dueñas, Cecilia Roth
release date: June 28

lone ranger

The Lone Ranger
director: Gore Verbinski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson
release date: July 5

blue jasmine

Blue Jasmine
director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K.
release date: July 26

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Closed Circuit
–Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana? Yes please. a thriller about terrorism– even better.
director: John Crowley
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Eric Bana, Jim Broadbent, Ciarán Hinds
release date: August 30

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Bridesmaids Trailer [weddings–boo; Kristen Wiig–hooray]

Here are a few reasons to see the film Bridesmaids when it opens in May:

–co-written and starring SNL’s Kristen Wiig [Adventureland, Whip It, Date Night] and Annie Mumolo
–also stars Maya Rudolph [so wonderful in Away We Go], Melissa McCarthy [Samantha Who,? Mike and Molly], Rose Byrne [Damages, Adam]
–produced by Judd Apatow
–likely to be a strong contender for the female version of The Hangover
–Jon Hamm is in it
–VEGAS!

trailer:

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12 Reasons to Adore Whip It!– on DVD

Title: Whip It!
Written by: Shauna Cross
Directed by: Drew Barrymore
Starring: Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Drew Barrymore
Running time: 111 minutes
Release date: January 26, 2009
ASIN: B002VPTJOA
MPAA: PG 13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: A

  1. Directed by Drew Barrymore– Whip It! is simultaneously edge-of-your-seat exciting and inspirational. Just like Drew has been all her life. Drew [who also plays Smashley Simpson in the film] chose a great project, script, cast for her directorial debut.
  2. Written by Shauna Cross based on her novel. Just the right mix of cool and touching.
  3. Organized sports are empowering for girls and young women. Being involved helps to build self-esteem and encourage female-bonding. [I played soccer from age 8 through college and also competed in equestrian events, often as part of a team, through Groton Pony Club.]
  4. Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem—she’s the sweet “aunt” figure for Bliss. Charming performance. More of this Kristen, less SNL please. Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven—she’s scary fierce. You don’t want to mess with her but you also want to hang out with her.
  5. The realistic love-hate mother-daughter relationship between Bliss Cavendar [Ellen Page] and her mom, Brooke Cavendar [Marcia Gay Harden]. It is okay for a teen to love her mom and not like the choices her own mom made in her life. It is okay for a teen to disagree with her mom. It is okay for a teen to be someone different than who her mom envisions her to be.
  6. Departure from Juno for Ellen Page. Here she’s not so precocious and witty, but she’s smart and determined.
  7. Friendship between Bliss [Page] and Pash [Alia Shawkat of Arrested Development]. This is what high school friendships are like. You cry to each other. You disappoint each other. You hold each other’s hair when you puke for the first time at a party. You are honest.
  8. Women are not sex objects. Women are powerful as jocks. They kick ass on skates and that attracts the men. Sure, they wear fishnets but it has little to do with their overall appeal.
  9. Bliss falls for a band guy [unappealing and uncharismatic Landon Pigg] and he hurts her and she doesn’t take him back. After letting him know that he blew it. Big time.
  10. Bliss has a wonderful, loving, understanding Dad [Daniel Stern].
  11. Other derby girls: Eve as Rosa Sparks, Zoe Bell as Bloody Holly, Ari Graynor as Eva Destruction
  12. Feminist through and through. Girl power. Women power: directed by a woman, written by a woman, starring women and produced my women.

DVD Special Features: alternate ending, deleted scenes

OUT ON DVD JANUARY 26, 2010

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DVD review: Extract


Title: Extract
Written and directed by: Mike Judge
Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, J.K. Simmons
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: December 22, 2009
ASIN: B002RBNNTA
MPAA: rated R for language, sexual references and some drug use
Studio: Miramax
Review source: Click Communications
Rating: B-

If you think Extract is going to be as hilarious and original as the genius gem of a film Office Space, you will be very disappointed. However, Extract offers a fantastic cast including Jason Bateman [Arrested Development], Mila Kunis [That 70s Show], Kristen Wiig [Whip It!] and everyone’s favorite straight man and character actor, J.K. Simmons. The basic premise is that Joel [Jason Bateman in standard uptight executive mode] is planning to sell his extract company until there’s a freak on-the-job-accident [naturally involving testicles] that looks like it just might put a huge kink in Joel’s plans. Soon a con-artist [a beguiling Mila Kunis] is cozying up to the guy who had the accident, threatening all of Joel’s master plans to get out of the extract business for good. A sub-plot is Joel’s sexual frustration with his wife [a cunningly amusing Kristen Wiig] and a male gigolo is thrown in for good measure. Ben Affleck [and so what if I’m biased because I think he’s a fine actor—see State of Play—and director and he’s from Cambridge, Mass. and married to Jennifer Garner who I adore] turns in some hysterical moments as Joel’s earthy bartender, druggy best friend [“Xanax just makes you feel good about everything.”]. Extract will make you laugh and the performances by every actor and actress are on point. With lines such as “Are we still looking into replacing her with a robot?”, Extract is worth adding to your Netflix queue.

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