Deadpool 2

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Breaking the 4th wall in a film is always a risk. I recall the late great critic Gene Siskel who said, “If you’re going to turn to that camera, you’d better have something to say.” Some actors can pull it off. Ryan Reynolds turns it into an artform in the sequel to “Deadpool”, the most raunchy of the Marvel superheroes. I liked the first film, even though at times it could be a little too jokey. Reynolds really wanted to redeem the “House of the Dead” reject-looking character from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”. And he certainly did.

Now, he brings “Deadpool” into full-on parody mode in “Deadpool 2”. While there is a bit of a serious storyline, and some touching moments, “Deadpool 2” is an onslaught of in-jokes and making fun of not only the MCU, not only Deadpool himself, but even the actors–and, sometimes, other franchises.

The plot is fairly basic: Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is enjoying an anniversary date with his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) when one of his targets barges in and murders her. Feeling guilty about allowing her death, Wilson tries to kill himself. But, if you recall, Deadpool can’t die by dismemberment. Instead, he reluctantly joins the X-Men in order to kind of redeem himself. They’re enlisted to help a young kid named Russell (Julian Dennison) who is becoming more unstable and could be a future villain. In fact, those worries are confirmed by a time-traveling anti-hero named Cable (Josh Brolin), who has come back to stop him. He lost his family because of Russell’s wrath. Russell can harness fire through his hands, lending to naming himself Firefist.

Cable wants to kill the boy, but Deadpool believes he can redeem him. While in his subconscious, Deadpool revisits Vanessa as sort of a window into his soul, to find his “heart” and save the kid.

In the meantime, we get a lot of jokes. Most of these are hit-or-miss, and when they hit, they hit big. This is basically a Zucker Brothers movie set in the Marvel universe. The film is extremely meta, and comes close to even parodying meta. But, it’s not quite that clever. Nor does it need to be. The college level humor works just fine.

Spending time watching “Deadpool 2” is a bit like spending 2 hours with a stand-up comedian. At times you will be laughing your head off; other times, you’ll want them to pump the brakes a bit. But, even at its most goofy moments, “Deadpool 2” still finds time to have some strength and depth in character. Reynolds may have found his real vocation with this role. He’s had a career before this franchise, but this has really defined him. And it’s served him well. Brolin is great as the comic “straight man”, the Dean Martin to his Jerry Lewis. They work well together, and Brolin has a knack for the grim-faced, hardboiled type.

It’s great entertainment if you’re ready for this kind of humor. You are definitely not getting anything real dramatic; and after “Avengers: Infinity War”, it comes as a much needed comic relief in the MCU.

Grab some chimichangas, fire up the EDM, sit back, and enjoy.

My rating: :D

The Expendables 2

September 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

In the 1980’s, there was an entire subgenre of action/adventure that was dedicated to roided up hunky heroes killing bad guys and loving every minute of it. The kings of this subgenre were definitely Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and to an extent, Bruce Willis. The three of them were icons of machismo in that decade, bringing back the identity of the alpha male in lead roles for blockbuster films. The three of them even ran a restaurant business together–we all have to remember Planet Hollywood. I personally enjoyed the Hollywood Club. The one disappointing thing was, though, the three of them never shared air time in a movie together.

Well, in 2010, Stallone decided it was better late than never to bring them all together in a big, bombastic action lark, “The Expendables”. Unfortunately, the chemistry wasn’t all there yet in that film, and Arnold only shared a brief cameo with Willis and Stallone that was meant to be funny but came off more as awkward. The film itself seemed to take itself too seriously considering what it was supposed to be, which was just a big dumb action picture. There was an unnecessary heavy-handed (and heavy drooled) scene with Mickey Rourke, who was basically evoking his Randy the Ram character from “The Wrestler”, and the characters weren’t fully fleshed out yet.

Here, the formula and chemistry finally comes together. This movie is fun. The cast seems to be more at ease with each other; it helps that they can all speak English (letting Li have a small role in this film was a great choice). The bickering, snarkiness, and good natured ribbing between Stallone and Jason Statham is much more amusing than it was in the first film. The two really seem to like each other more as people in this one. Lundgren is also more entertaining…he was a bit too brooding in the first film. Here, he’s more of a comic foil, and that works fine. I liked the new additions of some younger blood with Liam Hemsworth and Yu Nan. And another thing missing from the first film that fits perfectly here?

Chuck. Norris. Yes, he’s only in a bit role, and he also looks a tad uncomfortable. He does borrow a “Norris”ism from the famous internet meme. But it’s cute because Norris is so genuinely nice that he seems to be enjoying having fun with himself. I would’ve liked to see him perform a roundhouse kick to the face of someone, but that’s OK. We do get a few good ones from the villain, who is very nicely played by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Everyone is right at home in this film, and it really comes off the screen so we can just sit back and watch the sparks fly. The plot, which is the weakest element of the film, revolves around a mission to nab something from a safe, and it gets taken by Van Damme and his crew, and the gang has to retrieve it. We never really know why this thing is important, but this is one of those movies that when you start trying to break it down, you’re just going to get lost in plot hole hell. So don’t think about it.

This film is the definition of a popcorn movie. But it seems to be more self aware, and I like that Stallone handed off the directing duties this time. It’s great to see these guys still be abe to carry a film, even though they’re too old to do it without a little help. It’s sad in a nostalgic way–growing up these guys were just awesome. They’re showing they’re mortal, and they’re not exactly aging well. But their sense of humor is in the right place here, although some of the self-referential stuff gets a bit drawn out (the “Rambo” line was useless).

If you’re up for some brainless action candy, this will not disappoint. It’s a good excuse to get out of the house for a few hours, and it’ll put a smile on your face to see that these aging hunks still got it.

My rating: :-)

The Avengers

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

We are still in the throes of the Super Hero Blockbuster era, and it seems to have gotten so out of hand that now individual super heroes are going to share screen time with others, while also enjoying their own separate franchises. In the DC Universe, we’ve been familiar with this idea with the Justice League. Everybody knows the Justice League–Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and who could forget Aquaman? Well, it seems as though JL has a long ways to go before being able to make their own film. On the Marvel side, however, things have been gearing up for years to make “The Avengers”. Beginning with 2008’s “Ironman”, and culminating in last summer’s “Captain America”, the ingredients were there to put together Marvel’s own Justice League: Ironman, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and various members of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and Hawkeye. You’ll have to be somewhat knowledgeable to follow who Hawkeye and the Black Widow are; but really, we just want to see the heavyweights. We’re introduced to a new Hulk, because Ed Norton from the 2008 reincarnation of the super beast was “not available” (he declined). So we’re given Mark Ruffalo to provide the body needed for the brainiac Bruce Banner. The body needed for the rageaholic Incredible Hulk is already provided by the obligatory CGI post production magic.

The set up for the story of “The Avengers” couldn’t be simpler: Loki (well played again by Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother (did you see “Thor”? well, maybe it won’t matter either way), wants to harness the power of the Tesseract, a cube shaped energy source with limitless possibilities, and control the world. He wants to use a race of supreme beings from another world known as the Chitauri to conquer Earth and be master of the universe, I guess. He infiltrates by way of a portal opening up during a Tesseract trial run and steals the the cube from S.H.I.E.L.D. that’s been protecting it, and also turns a few people into turncloaks–like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

The rest of the plot is basically about assembling the Avengers and winding them up into an inevitable climax with a lot of bad guys and a few creepy slug like monsters that wreak havoc on New York City. But the joy of “The Avengers” is not about the plot. Unless you were totally riveted by my last paragraph, what you came to see was a bunch of super heroes geeking out and bantering. And that’s just what Joss Whedon provides in this easily predictable but still most entertaining action tour de force.

Whedon didn’t have too much to think about while constructing the plot with co-story writer Zak Penn. But his script is crisp and full of wit. You have the familiar Whedonisms he’s utilized in “Buffy” and “Firefly”/”Serenity”–the zippy one-liners, characters you really like will meet untimely deaths (I won’t say who), girl power, and at least one or five fist fights among the main characters. Nothing gets too bitter or over the top. Whedon does a fine job of keeping everyone in each other’s faces but not at each other’s throats. There are some in-fights between the heroes–after all, they’re super heroes. Don’t think they have super egos to go along with them?

The wonderful thing about the film, too, is that these heroes are portrayed by good actors. Robert Downey, Jr. is always a welcome face, especially as Tony Stark/Ironman and provides the most throwaway lines. Chris Evans is extremely credible as the patriotic but still questioning Captain America. Chris Hemsworth is charismatic and hunky as Thor. Scarlett Johansson is more than just pretty, she’s also quite cunning as Black Widow. No surprise, but certainly a treat, is of course having the new guy, Mark Ruffalo, who will most likely get his own rebooted franchise for the “Hulk” (which would make the third time this happens in the last ten years, but who’s counting?). Ruffalo is cool and calm and smart as Banner; but he has something inside that’s itching to come out. And his best line–“I’m always angry”–perfectly defines Banner/The Hulk. I was always fascinated by this Jekyll/Hyde character, and Ruffalo pulls it off pretty well. He doesn’t have the angst level of Ed Norton or the good looks of Eric Bana; but he’s got that just-right touch that makes him instantly believable.

Most of the film is a mix of characters chiding each other and wall-to-wall action. Just about all of the third act involves the baddies from another universe coming down to earth. This is probably where the film gets the most derivative as far as modern action films are concerned. Nothing here is anything you haven’t seen in just about every summer blockbuster of the past 5 years. But that’s really just window dressing. There’s not a lot to admire in the action department. We’ve seen all of that. But it’s still fun because Whedon has done a really good job of setting everything up with likable and entertaining characters. I wasn’t a fan of the film “Captain America”, but his character is well written in “The Avengers” that I’d be willing to give him another chance whenever his sequel is released.

And of course, we’re going to have another “Avengers” movie. It can get a bit groan inducing to think that we’re going to have an “Iron Man 3”, “Thor 2”, and eventually another “Hulk” movie. Not to mention, Spidey’s movie is coming out this summer too. For those who follow the comics, Spider-Man is also an Avenger. So, we could have him show up in “The Avengers 2”. That’s an awful lot of Marvel inundating Hollywood.

If they could get Whedon to helm more of these projects, though, I think I’d be more excited to see them. This stuff is right up Whedon’s alley. While I thought he was trying too hard to press the right buttons with “Cabin in the Woods”, here the keystrokes come easy. He just has a knack for turning the cliched and predictable action genre into something fresh and fun. And you just want more.

My rating:  :-)

Super 8

June 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Movies

J.J. Abrams has recently become a mini-Spielberg, a guy he unabashedly worships as a hero and influence for his own films. But there’s something that Spielberg has had for a long time that Abrams lacks, and that’s vision. Nothing is more apparent in that criticism of Abrams than his new film in which he wrote and directed, called “Super 8′. He can basically thank screenwriters like Chris Columbus for a lot of the film’s first act, as he took most of it from movies like “The Goonies” or “Explorers” or any kids movie from the 80’s. The film centers around a group of kids led by Joe Lamb (played very well by newcomer Joel Courtney) who are trying to make a movie for an amateur film festival. There are some nice set ups for this premise as the director, Charles (Riley Griffiths) barks orders to everyone and takes immense joy in reading about film and storytelling, and wants to flesh out his characters and scenes, and loves saying the word “mint” and “production value”. Joe is the make-up artist and he’s overjoyed to know that they’ve cast a girl, Alice (Elle Fanning), that he likes. She starts to like him as well, and the two form a bond. All of this sounds like it’s going to be a fun little summer movie about kids wanting to make a movie. But there’s a caveat.

While they’re shooting a scene in front of a train, a pick up truck suddenly runs right into the train, and causes a massive wreck. The kids are okay, but the train and the pick up truck are dismantled. Surprisingly (and I use the word derisively) the driver of the truck is still alive, and is one of their teachers, who warns them about things to come. They find some strange little objects from the train, and then the military comes in and takes over. Then, the whole town begins to experience strange happenings as their power goes out, the sherrif goes missing, and other wild things occur while the ubiquitous military starts to impose their presence more and more. Meanwhile, the kids are still trying to make their movie, but they’re scared about what they know and what the military knows they know. Not to mention, they’re scared about whatever the military is supposed to be protecting them from.

There’s a subplot that’s supposed to bring a human element to the film in which Joe has lost his mother. We have no idea what kind of relationship he had with her or why that’s important to the “reveal” about what they have discovered as a result of the train wreck, and it seems very clunky and slows down the pace of the film in scenes where he’s watching old home movies of him as a baby and her taking care of him. While I know this is supposed to be poignant–and the performances during these scenes, especially by Elle Fanning are very nicely handled–the drama seems out of place in that it really doesn’t enhance anything about the direction of the plot nor does it really flesh out the characters. We never really understand the family element of the film because they don’t give the story enough life or time to develop anything. Joe’s father is an estranged man, but we’re not really sure why, nor do we understand why he can’t relate to his son. There’s a scene where he wants to send Joe to a baseball camp but that’s never mentioned again. Alice’s father is an alcoholic who is the bane of Joe’s dad’s existence because he was the guy who was supposed to be on the shift that his wife took that ultimately got her killed (she died in an accident at a warehouse). We’re not even sure how she died. All of these hinted-at elements just aren’t enough for the arc to stand on its own legs, and we’re bogged down so much toward the end with special effects and a climax that is so routine and predictable, you could easily get up and leave and know exactly how it ends, so it just seems disjointed.

The kids are very charismatic but their story arc of making their movie doesn’t really go anywhere either, and their characterizations don’t have any uniqueness in the way that “The Goonies” did. There’s a kid who likes to light firecrackers, but that’s never really explored. It’s offered as comic relief and then a cheap payoff in the film’s third act. The director, Charles, admits he wanted to cast Alice because he liked her and he was jealous of Joe liking her, but there’s no payoff in that storyline either. Even them capturing something they’re not supposed to doesn’t really have a huge impact on them because the military never really seeks them out. They really don’t have much at stake at all, except knowing something that’s eventually going to be revealed to everyone in town anyway.

The biggest problem I have with this film, though, is that it’s so by-the-book and standard, it just feels like you’re being taken through a re-run of older, better movies. It’s part “Close Encounters”, part “Jaws”, part “Goonies”, part “Stand By Me”, part “E.T.” and because it’s this Frankenstein monster cut up of all of them, it comes off as just shoddy. Whereas movies like “The Goonies” and “Stand By Me” actually explore the characters and have them relate to each other, this movie just uses the kids ultimately as props and throw in some standard talking scenes–but nothing is really revealed about them as people.

There’s nothing special about this movie and I guess that’s what’s let me down the most. Much like “Cloverfield”, this movie had promise and it seemed to want to be a little different. But in the end it’s nothing but an average summer action flick that has nice moments, but not enough to make it a good movie. Instead of a work of art, it’s pre-packaged leftovers.

My rating: :(