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Chris Pine

Gal Gadot tackles the role of Wonder Woman in Warner Brothers new superhero flick. Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Daniel Dunaief

Remember those Mad Libs games? You’d insert an adjective, a noun, a verb, adverb, a command, perhaps, into a premade sentence and then you’d read it back, laughing or pondering the combination of words thrown into the structure of a familiar narrative?

Superhero movies, particularly those about the origin of a character we all know, are like a game of Mad Libs. Few superheroes start out life with a cape, a star or a penchant for helping society and standing up against supervillains. Superheroes start out not knowing their fate, or some secret about themselves, and then have to learn the truth along the way.

“Wonder Woman,” the film version from Warner Brothers Studios based on the DC Comics, provides an enjoyable Mad Libs experience, sticking, for the most part, to a familiar structure. The movie, which has been flying high at the box office despite the lack of an invisible plane, executes on its premise well, while offering a few moments of levity scattered through its mix of high-action battle scenes.

Played by the easy-on-the-eyes Gal Gadot, to whom the movie’s other characters react with the kind of awe and attraction the audience might have if they met her, Wonder Woman tells the tale of Diana, the Amazonian princess of Themyscira. We meet her as a young girl, on a picturesque island full of woman who are forever training to fight a battle against man, who may discover their island some day despite remaining hidden from view.

Diana’s mother Hippolyta, played by Connie Nielsen, doesn’t want her daughter to be a warrior, which, of course, means that Diana’s primary focus is on developing her battle skills.

Enter Steve Trevor, an American spy played by Chris Pine, whose plane penetrates the fog that renders the island invisible. Now grown up, Diana races to save Trevor, who crash lands off shore. Trevor, unfortunately, brings an armada of Germans to the beach, where the first of many battles occurs. Diana is determined to end the War to End All Wars by returning to the outside world and fighting an enemy Trevor doesn’t see. While Pine’s Trevor doesn’t understand much about Diana and the island, Diana, in turn, finds the American warrior confounding and slightly amusing.

The interactions between Diana and Trevor throughout the film are amusing, filled with a blend of Trevor’s humorous awe and Diana’s unrelenting sincerity in her quest to end the war.

Complete with the Mad Libs collection of damaged heart-of-gold band of merry men, which fits conveniently into the superhero plot, Diana, Trevor and company seek out the evil General Ludendorff, played by Danny Huston, who seems bent on using a toxin Dr. Maru, Elena Analya, is creating.

The best parts of the film are when Diana, who is unaware of the broader conflict around her, drives the action. She races out of the trenches to try to save a town held by the Germans, followed by the reluctant heroes-despite-themselves band, including Trevor. Movie aficionados have focused on the glass ceiling shattered by director Patty Jenkins, who set a box office record for a movie directed by a woman. Jenkins has blended character development, high energy and an enjoyable script to create a worthwhile comic book movie. Her direction, with battle scenes alternating with the ongoing quest to end the war, kept the pace of the movie. The interaction among the main characters — friend and villain alike — made this Mad Libs origin story a success.

Now playing at local theaters, “Wonder Woman” is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action.

A scene from ‘The Finest Hours.’ Photo from Walt Disney Pictures

By Rich Acritelli

Last week Walt Disney Pictures released “The Finest Hours,” a film based on the story of four Coast Guard members that braved a nor’easter that caused havoc off the coast of Cape Cod in 1952. From the beginning, you will notice an impressive cast that works well together to bring this story to light. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film stars Chris Pine (Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard “Bernie” Webber), Casey Affleck (Robert Sybert), Holliday Grainger (Miriam Pentinen), Ben Foster (Seaman Richard Livesey) and Eric Bana (Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff). 

Gillespie depicts the simple life of the 1950s with the customs of enjoying a nice drink, meal and the chance to attend a town dance. This film starts by showing Coast Guard service member Webber as an easy going and hard-working man who goes on a blind date with Miriam Petinen. While they are opposites, they fall in love with each other.  The movie depicts a different kind of love with Miriam asking the cautiously mannered Bernie to marry her. After an awkward moment, he states that they will get married, but only after he receives permission from his commanding officer.  As Webber works on getting approval from Chief Cluff, a terrible storm hits the shores of Cape Cod. 

Gillespie does a good job in casting Bana who is a proven actor who could handle the rigors of military films (“Black Hawk Down,” “Munich,” and “Lone Survivor”). Before Webber can ask for approval, Cluff is faced with anxiety from two different fronts.  First, he understands that a rescue operation for the SS Pendelton is being conducted from the headquarters in Boston, but he is unsure how his men fit into the rescue endeavor. Second, he is a southern officer who has not yet gained the respect of these northern men who openly doubt his professional abilities.

As rescue efforts are mounted, Webber is ordered to take three Coast Guardsmen to search for the Pendleton.  It is believed that this is a suicide mission that will only lead to the death of these men. Webber has to maneuver through hazardous waters in a vessel that is too small to handle the fury of these poor maritime conditions. 

The film does a masterful job of showing the strains that are placed on these men to locate this ship. They display a comradeship that never losses focus of their objective to locate the Pendleton.

With Webber organizing the rescue efforts, the Pendleton and its crew is commanded  by Sybert played by Affleck who is masterful in showing a man who is conflicted by his superior knowledge of this ship, but a man who is deemed to be a loner.

It becomes apparent that the ship will sink after it is split in half by the storm.  Sybert refuses to accept his crew’s position that they should abandon ship in their small rescue boats. He firmly states that they will be killed from the rough waters. Sybert believes that they have to run the tanker ashore if they are  going to have any chance of seeing their loved ones. At the same time, Webber’s crew is risking their lives to reach the Pendleton: Their compass malfunctions from the multiple times that their ship takes on water from the tenacity of the massive waves.

Unflinchingly, Webber is faithful to his duty to find the Pendleton and save the crew of thirty-two men from drowning.

The film concludes with the residents  of Cape Cod helping Webber bring the men to safety. Members of this community along with Webber’s fiancée figure out the location of the tanker and they travel to a nearby dock where they turn on all of their car lights as beacons of hope to guide the rescuers to safety.  From start to finish, “The Finest Hours” portrays the devotion of the Coast Guard to overcome the gigantic weather strains that are caused by Mother Nature.

‘The Finest Hours,” rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of peril), is now playing in local theaters.

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