Deadpool 2 – Movie Review

deadpool 2

We couldn’t help but ask “why?” when the sequel was announced, even though we knew the answer was money. There was little hope in improving on the first DEADPOOL (2016), and since that film’s director, Tim Miller, was tied up with upcoming projects for X-Men and Terminator, there was understandable concern that changing the recipe could result in huge disappointment. While it may not be an improvement on the first, only those with unrealistic expectations are likely to be disappointed … the rest of us will spend most of two hours laughing and enjoying the spectacle.

Director David Leitch exploded onto the scene with last year’s surprise action hit ATOMIC BLONDE, and his stuntman experience is once again on display with even more frenzied action and fight sequences this time out. As you might expect, there is no easing into the comedy routine here. The Opening Credits are laugh out loud funny and the only thing better may be the closing credits sequence, which is an instant classic.

No punchlines will be spoiled here, and it’s an obvious statement, but clearly no topic or subject, or at least very few, are off-limits. Targets of barbs include LinkedIn, YENTL, FROZEN, Fox & Friends, and well, the list goes on and on. You’ll likely miss 20 percent of the dialogue whilst laughing. The “Merc with a Mouth” breaks the 4th wall in atypical fashion – blurring the line through dialogue incorporated into the story. The self-awareness is comical in its own right.

Some familiar faces are back. Wade’s main squeeze Vanessa (Marina Baccarin) kicks off the “kids” discussion (Yikes!) and the couple seems to have settled into cohabitant bliss – never a good sign in a superhero movie. TJ Miller (despite his recent headlines) is back running Sister Margaret’s Bar, though his minimal presence is noted. Also back is Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), and his expanded role finds him turning Deadpool into an X-Men trainee at Professor Xavier’s School for the gifted. This occurs after tragedy strikes and we are introduced to some new players. Julian Dennison (so good in HUNT FOR THE WILDERBEAST) plays FireFist, and of course, the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin) shows us what happens when a time-travelling Terminator type is out for revenge.

Snarking, mocking and irreverence remain in full force throughout, but if you happen to pay attention to the story, you’ll notice a (not-so) subtle transition taking place. The renegade superhero shifts from loner to team player, and even picks up some life lessons along the way – mostly related to loss and collaboration. Deadpool even forms his own team called X-Force, and one of the more interesting members is Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose superpower is luck (yep). We do get a surprise cameo, and there’s even a shot of Deadpool with no pants … and it’s markedly unsexy. The music selections are inspired, however, if you are unsure whether this movie is for you … it probably isn’t.

 

4 out of 5 stars

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Deadpool (2016) – Movie Review

deadpool

Wanna know what reading a Deadpool comic is like? It’s like waking up pants-less, ferociously hung over, and covered in a variety of cuts, bruises, and condiments, but then getting to eat a big stack of pancakes off the back of the hooker still sleeping next to you. Or, it infects your brain enough that those are the sort of similes you’re liable to cough up. And yet, for the reigning king of contemporary nerd humour, who plays like a cross between Kick-Ass and a Canadian Guardians of the Galaxy (smaller- scale and more belligerent), it’s been surprisingly agonizing bringing everyone’s favourite chimichanga-chomping Merc with the Mouth to the big screen in his own film. Thankfully, Fox’s common sense was tingling. So, fans: think long and hard (snicker) about the uncompromising, mostly amoral, full-on bonkers Deadpool movie you’d lacerate any limb for. Your wishes have finally been granted.

Debut director Tim Miller manages the impossible: a film quintessentially built on fan- service that doesn’t suck. It’s appropriate that Deadpool has borrowed DMX as his theme tune (at least until the George Michael kicks in), because this crudely charitable spirit ebbs throughout the flick. Want some deliciously profane, sex and hyper-violence-stuffed whimsy, replete with a Guardians-calibre hilariously on-point soundtrack, and the comic’s fourth wall-shattering snark integrated in a way that’s actually funny? How about daring to dream even bigger: a big studio production that mercilessly pokes fun at its skittish budget cuts, the former cinematic bungling of the titular antihero, and even the requisite Hugh Jackman appearance in every X-Men spin off – even the magical (jizzing) unicorn of a superhero origin story without waiting an hour for the lead to appear in costume. Want all of that? Wade gon’ give it to ya.

But don’t make the mistake of dismissing the film as a feature-length meme: Miller is savvy enough to understand there’s more to Deadpool than quips and dismemberment. Sure, the plot is about as flimsy and insubstantial as anything, but, like a messier, crunchier Guardians, that’s not the point. The point lies in the emotional and character beats. Like most of cinema’s funniest, Deadpool’s psychotic humour roots in real pain, and Miller doesn’t shy away, lingering on the physical and emotional pain of Wilson’s cancer and his multifaceted torture in attempting to cure it through forcible scientific mutation to a genuinely uncomfortable extent, to ensure that neither plays as gratuitous.

But lest you be feeling goth enough to slink off to the premiere of Blade III, the film’s real surprise is yet in store. For all the gleeful irony of its Valentine’s Day release, Deadpool is a surprisingly heartfelt, hilarious and tragic romance at its core. Yes, really. Only the most ‘Pool-schooled readers would recognize that peeling away the irreverence, pancakes, and phallic samurai swords reveals a hugely self-conscious, sentimental sap within, but Miller is clearly one of the initiated. Appropriately, some of the film’s most charming, hilarious, and devastating scenes involve Wilson daring to let his guard down enough to fall in love, and, like a reddit-rattling Phantom of the Opera, too crushingly ashamed to reconnect after his superpowered facelift leaves him looking like, as T.J. Miller’s Weasel puts it, “an avocado had sex with an older avocado”. This is about as profound as the character ever really gets, but there’s poignancy and pathos to be gleaned from Wilson’s grubby fumbling at sentiment, and Miller and Reynolds nail it here.

But don’t worry – we’re still miles away from the doom ‘n gloom of the average contemporary superhero austerity, and their generic ‘all the CGI sets crumble’ climaxes. Sure, Deadpool being pared down to three action sequences does draw attention to its comparatively tiny budget, but in this age of bloated superhero excess, seeing fights kept this lean is a godsend in itself, even if it weren’t clinched by a not-so-subtle hysterical recurring gag justifying their sparsity. Still, we’re hardly left wanting: the fights are short, snappy, creatively ultra-violent (“count the bullets” being the most meta and thrilling), and stylish as hell, just as they should be, while fellow X- folk Colossus (flawlessly animated and finally Russian; a hilariously po-faced foil) and Brianna Hildebrand’s amiably sulky Negasonic Teenage Warhead allow for some buddy banter and help keep the action beats bumping all the while.

There’s no secret that Deadpool is the Ryan Reynolds show though, and his burning passion for the character fuels a now career-defining performance. Imbued with the divine gift to make even the crudest riffing gleam with cheery, sparky charisma, Reynolds nails each beat of wacky humour, springy physicality and seething, volcanic rage and hurt so effortlessly there’s the uncanny feeling of him dripping ink from being lifted off the pages of a comic. Despite having to combat a disappointingly under-written part, Morena Baccarin matches Reynolds in adorable damaged snappiness, steering just shy of sultry, manic-pixie-dream-girl stereotype by keeping the right amount of crazy in her eyes. T.J. Miller is consistently hilarious and uncompromisingly unsentimental as Wilson’s buddy Weasel, while Ed Skrein as “that British villain” brings enough pompous, brawny sadism to make his Francis-ahem- Ajax only feel slightly generic. The under-used Leslie Uggams is perfectly salty as Deadpool’s crusty roommate Blind Al (not an abductee here…), making a recurring IKEA joke surprisingly sweet. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for half of Vancouver in the background.

I’d waste time with more adjectives, but you get the idea, and can use a thesaurus as well as me. Basically, Miller and Reynolds have delivered the most cathartically satisfying cinematic Deadpool imaginable, sure to capture the hearts or slice off the heads of diehards or inductees alike.

 

5 out of 5 stars

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Big Hero 6 (2014) – Movie Review

big hero six

Walt Disney Pictures’ latest animated feature Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel comic – a first for the company. The titular team was created in 1998 and has only appeared in what amounts to a handful of comic book issues. This obscurity ends up working in Disney’s favor as they were given the freedom to tweak and mold Big Hero 6 into something that is much more family friendly than your typical Marvel fare without being beholden to some nonsensical reverence to the comic’s roots. Yes, there are lessons to be doled out here and positive messages abound, but Big Hero 6 is so much fun and its “big message” so earnest and culturally relevant that these life lessons actually strengthen the film rather than provoke unintentional eye rolls. Big Hero 6 stars Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) as a child science prodigy who, in the film’s early scenes, is content using his abilities to hustle in the underground world of “bot fighting,” which is exactly what you imagine. Hiro’s older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) pushes him to be more than just a back-alley robotics hustler and brings him to his school to hopefully persuade him into enrolling. It is there that we are introduced to Tadashi’s classmates, all of which possess a very specific science-based skill: The cartoonishly meticulous laser expert Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), adrenaline junkie and daredevil Go Go (Jamie Chung), bubbly chemistry expert Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and the lovable slacker known as Fred (T.J. Miller). We also get to meet Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) and his ethically unsound adversary, Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk). It’s worth noting that all of this tablesetting and introduction of heroes and villains occurs in the university’s aptly named Exposition Hall – one of many clever sight gags in a film loaded with them. It is also here that we’re introduced to the real star of Big Hero 6, Baymax – an inflatable robot whose sole purpose is to provide medical care to people.

Baymax (voiced by 30 Rock’s Scott Adsit) provides the film with a majority of its comic relief. The puffy balloon design of the character is played for laughs often and the animators really let their imaginations run wild here. The film has a great understanding of physics and, as you might imagine, there are plenty of physically amusing things you can do with a balloon. Now picture that balloon having the ability to speak with the voice of a trained comedic actor because as great as those bits of physical humor are, the real charm of Baymax lies in Scott Adsit’s vocal performance. He delivers his lines in a deadpan, matter-of-fact cadence that is both childlike and maternal in nature. It’s an odd pairing of traits but it really works for such a unique character whose only desire is to heal, at all costs. With Baymax, we have the ultimate comedy presence on screen; he is both the foil and the straight man and that makes for a comedy act that never grows tiresome.

Anyone looking for the depth of The Incredibles should keep searching because you won’t find it here. The rest of the Big Hero 6 team can’t really compete with Baymax’s wit or charm but they really don’t have to. This is an animated team that functions much better as a team (Baymax included) than as individuals. Not that they’re boring, per se, but these characters are more or less types rather than fully fleshed out heroes like Pixar’s aforementioned team. Fortunately, teamwork is one of Big Hero 6’s messages and so it’s likely that these specific, one dimensional supporting characters are meant to shine a light on the greater good of teamwork rather than that of the individual. Still, it’s frustrating when you’ve seen other films champion the idea of teamwork while handling the supporting cast much better.

The main message of Big Hero 6 is this: don’t take the easy way just because you can. It urges its characters (and hopefully the audience) to solve problems by looking at them at another angle, to use your imagination and think creatively. This point is made no fewer than a half dozen times in the film and I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at every occurrence. Maybe it’s just my personal bias or maybe it’s because I’ve never seen a film so eagerly invested in inspiring its kid- centric audience to actually think but I loved Big Hero 6 for this reason above all. The excitement of having a logical breakthrough is treated as being one of the greatest feelings one can have and I’d be lying if I said I disagree. This is a movie you can actually feel great about letting your kids watch approximately two million times before they become treacherous adolescents.

Despite some glaring black holes in the plot Big Hero 6 is a whole lot of fun. It’s got heart, humor, and action and looks absolutely beautiful. This is a stellar animated film that will not only keep your kids entertained, but possibly inspire them to do much more than sing “Let It Go” in a cacophonous shriek for the rest of their childhood.

 

8 out of 10 stars

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Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) – Movie Review

transformers age of extinction

Michael Bay’s fourth installment of the “Transformers” franchise is certainly going to split critics, fans, and casual movie goers alike. This mostly comes from the fact that “Age of Extinction” is VERY similar to other films by Michael Bay. And by this I mean extremely loud and extremely abundant explosions, at every possible moment. The funniest part of this is that Bay feels no shame in starting this at about the fifteen minute mark, and it does not stop until the films conclusion.

For all its faults, and this film has a fair number of them, it is the first Transformers film where I actually do not want the humans to get stepped on (purposely or “accidentally”). In truth, I actually liked the humans in this film, and cared about what happened to them. Mark Wahlberg’s role is a generic father type character that has been seen dozens of times throughout the history of cinema. However, it is two large steps forward from Shia LaBeouf and his screaming throughout the entire film; “BEE! BUMBLEBEE! OPTIMUS! AHH!” Alongside Walhberg are Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor. I felt Reynor’s character was sort of bland, and although Peltz is obviously in this film to provide the “hot” female role, she gives a more believable performance than either Megan Fox or the blonde chick from “Dark of the Moon.” The rest of the human characters try do the best they can with the script they are given, and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. But for the most part, the humans were actually not the weak link in this film.

Sadly, the weak link was actually the special effects. There were times where I was rolling my eyes at the CGI, or cringing at the “Shaky-Cam” that was added to a number of action shots. The robots in this movie sometimes appear far less real than they did in previous films, and this really needs to be touched up in later films.

Of course, as I’m sure most of you can tell, this movie still focuses a bit too much on the humans. That being said, this film finally has every Autobot speaking and doing something on screen. This is very important, as the film series is called TRANSFORMERS. The characters I care about the most in this series are the Autobots, and one in particular; Optimus Prime. “Age of Extinciton” gives a new way of looking at the iconic leader, as his position is not 100% the same that we have seen in other films. Believe me when I say that there are some moments that you, as a movie goer, will be surprised by how characters, both human and Transformer, react to circumstances that surround them.

All in all, “Age of Extinction” is by no means movie of the year, but it is a fun film. The story is muddled, like in previous films, but it is still a bit more cohesive and believable than, say, “Dark of the Moon.” I personally felt that this was the best Transformer’s film to date, but I know some people will disagree. It is a film that has some moments that truly deserve applause, and others that will anger the audience greatly. Nevertheless, this is a fun summer film. I would recommend seeing this film, but do not expect to it to be a picture perfect movie. If you are willing to let certain things go, I believe that most people will be able to find something fun in “Age of Extinction.”

 

7 out of 10 stars

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