FILM REVIEW DOUBLE: DEADPOOL (2016) & DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

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DEADPOOL (2016)

Colossus: You will come talk with Professor Xavier.
Deadpool: McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines can get so confusing.

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humour is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.

Deadpool came out in 2016 in the peak of Comic Book Movie saturation. However with its R-Rated graphic violence, tongue in cheek humour and iconic performance from Ryan Reynolds this became the highest grossing X-Men film and a refreshing new take on the genre.

This is an average superhero origin story about a mercenary named Wade Wilson who falls for a stripper named Vanessa (played by the stunning Morena Baccarin) but soon gets cancer and doen’t have much longer to live. He decides to go through an experiment which will give him mutant powers similar to Wolverine where he can grow back his body parts and is unkillable. However the experiment leaves him disfigured and he leaves Vanessa and becomes Deadpool to exact revenge on the man who led the experiments, Ajax (Ed Skrein).

Although the plot is mediocre what elevates the material is the mix of R-Rated graphic violence
with the comedy of the character Deadpool who has constant witty remarks, breaks the fourth wall, insults himself and the X-Men Universe. Ryan Reynolds is brilliant as Deadpool, after many misfires as a superhero including Deadpool in the maligned Wolverine: Origins he finally found his own iconic performance. After this film everyone now knows him as Deadpool. Reynolds has always been a great presence on screen with his charming looks and Jim Carrey-esque humour. However he had more misses than hits. This film changed all of that as it was a massive success for an R rated Superhero film. Something the Studios never predicted.

The film also excels with its wonderful mix of supporting characters. The beautiful Morena Baccarin as Wade Wilson’s love interest is every comic book nerds fantasy. You have Karan Soni as the Indian Taxi Driver Dopinder, who seems sensitive and sweet in the beginning but has a dark side by the end. T.J. Miller as Weasel, Wade’s bartender who offers advice in times of need. Leslie Uggams (scene stealer) as Blind Al the ctrotchety blind old black woman who becomes Deadpool’s roommate.

This film is a lot of fun and similar to Iron Man, I wasn’t aware of the character from comic books or the X-Men Film Universe however this film changed all of that and I am now a huge fan of the character on screen and the comic book page.

A-

Highlights:
– Stan Lee as the Strip Club DJ
– Excellent opening establishing Deadpool as a character with his witty banter, conversations through the fourth wall, and then the action packed car chase sequence.
– The Soundtrack of cheesy 80’s/90’s hits

 

DEADPOOL 2 (2018)

Cable: You’re no hero. You’re just a clown, dressed up like a sex toy.
Deadpool: So dark. You sure you’re not from the DC universe?

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

Deadpool 2 is as fun and entertaining as the original. Ryan Reynolds is still perfect as the Merc with a Mouth. However like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 you love these characters and enjoy the ride but the movie doesn’t surpass the original as it is exactly the same experience without the surprise of the first time you see these characters and their depiction on screen. The format is the same with Deadpool still breaking the fourth wall with witty jokes about X-Men films, comic book and pop culture references, and a sweet heart. This time instead of a love story it is a family story at its core.

The film actually borrows a lot from one of the best sequels of all time Terminator 2. A soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin’s second Marvel villain this year) comes back in time to avenge the loss of his family by killing the Mutant who killed his family as a child. That child is Russell (Julian Dennison) a flame throwing mutant who is tested on in a Mutant Orphanage which is a front for dangerous tests and possibly sexual harassment of Mutants. Cable believes that if he kills him he can change the future and save his family. There isn’t much explanation of the character of Cable, all we know is that he is a strong soldier from the future with a cool gun who lost his family. Josh Brolin has a strong presence on screen however the character is quite underdeveloped and could have had more to do than being a killing machine like the original Terminator. Julian Dennison as Russell is a sympathetic character with a great story arc which coincides with each character. Deadpool’s bond with him becomes the heart of the story and provides drama to each action scene where he needs to protect Russell.

The Deadpool films aren’t your typical X-Men films. They are not dramatic character stories involving Mutants dealing with humanity. They are first and foremost superhero comedies (even parodies at some points) so you won’t get the characterisation and drama you expect from an X-Men film. All of the characters aside from Cable and Russell are comic relief with Deadpool as the main funny guy. I love this as it is a fun and different approach to the typical Marvel and DC fare, especially after the grim Avengers: Infinity War. This is just a fun pop-corn film with great action (new director David Leitch from the John Wick films brings a slickness to the action which was missing in the first) and great comedy from not only Ryan Reynolds Deadpool but from the supporting cast including Karan Soni as Dopinder, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Stefan Kapicic as Colossus, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al. The original built a successful formula with these characters and the sequel continues with their characters building on the original.

The sequel does introduce more comedic sidekicks with Deadpool trying to create his own version of the X-Men with X-Force which includes one of the best sequences of the film on their first mission to save Russell. Domino (played with charm and toughness by Zazie Beetz) is the stand out of the team and a great new addition to the Deadpool films.

If you enjoyed the first Deadpool I can’t imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this one. There is plenty of tongue in cheek humour and gruesome violence for the older comic book film fans to enjoy. It doesn’t capture the magic of the original but it is still a fun ride and I hope we get more Deadpool soon.

A-

Highlights:
• Best post credit scene ever
• The cameos
• Every scene with Dopinder
• Dubstep

FILM REVIEW: THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016)

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Baloo: [singing] Forget about your worries and your strife…
Mowgli: What’s that?
Baloo: That’s a song about the good life.

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.

Perhaps Jon Favreau’s most disappointing film in years after the game changing Iron Man films and 2014’s charming Chef. The film is visually stunning however there doesn’t appear to be any linking narrative aka beginning, middle, end or character development. It is simply random scenes connected together by the one-note Mowgli and various animals in the jungle. However I don’t completely blame Jon Favreau as he is merely reenacting the animated Disney original from 1967 with less songs.

The plot of The Jungle Book revolves around a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who has been raised by wolves and the wise panther Bagheera (voiced regally by Ben Kingsley) in the Indian jungle. With threats from the chilling tiger Shere Khan (voiced menacingly by Idris Elba) Mowgli must leave the wolves and find his own people. Along the way he meets a sneaky snake (voiced seductively by Scarlett Johansson) and a laid back bear named Baloo (voiced with charm by the always great Bill Murray). He also ends up in a temple run by the gigantic ape King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken playing The Godfather). These series of events barely connect with each other and the film eventually finds a climax where the hero prevails but little else really matters. In fact the whole film felt like a series of events that don’t really matter. Mowgli is constantly saved from any threats and the actor does such a poor job in gaining any respect from the viewer as he clumsily reads through his lines and stares blankly at cgi creatures. I understand it must have been difficult for him to stare at tennis balls or sticks and create a realistic performance but with Favreau’s past with child actors including Emjay Anthony from Chef or Ty Simpkins from Iron Man 3 I was expecting more.

Where Favreau doesn’t let the audience down is with the breath-taking special effects. All of the animals are uniquely structured with meticulous design to put you in a real world of walking talking animals with genuine personalities. It was amazing to watch however if only the story and protagonist were more impactful.

Rating: 2 Stars

FILM REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER (2014)

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Wayne Kyle: There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs, Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: The true story of Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in American history with over 160 confirmed kills over four tours during the Iraq war. However when he returns home to his family he can’t easily escape the war that now lives inside him.

Clint Eastwood returns to fine form in this gripping true story of American soldier Chris Kyle. The film opens in Kyle’s childhood with his strict Catholic father teaching him the respect for guns and to protect your own no matter what. It is these values that follow Kyle into adulthood when he begins to see America is under attack from foreign enemies. He joins the army and becomes a NAVY seal. His skills with a sniper rifle are quickly discovered by his superiors and he is promoted. Meanwhile Chris meets Taya and they soon fall in love and get married. However just before they get married the tragic events of 9/11 occur which sparks the American war with Iraq.

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Eastwood has a strong eye for action scenes from his early works such as The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) to Sudden Impact (1983) to Unforgiven (1992). Even his dramas can contain gripping action sequences such as Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Gran Torino (2008). It is during Kyle’s tours in Iraq where Eastwood’s direction really shines in his gripping and tension filled sequences involving Kyle having to take a shot, whether it is a child or mother or another skilled sniper these action sequences are breathtaking and elevate this film to a very high standard. Eastwood knows there is no black and white reason for the war or for taking a life and Kyle’s story is filled with compromised choices that no man should ever have to make. Eastwood also shows the human frailty of being in the war and taking so many lives as Kyle returns to a quiet and loving home but can’t get the screams and gunshots out of his head.

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Bradley Cooper gives a gripping performance as Chris Kyle not only physically (he put on mass pounds to appear bulky as the real Kyle) but also emotionally with his piercing eyes showing us the cost of war. He is riveting throughout and elevates the film to near classic status. Sienna Miller also turns in a strong performance as Kyle’s wife Taya who also must deal with raising a family and trying to save her husband from the war he can’t leave behind. The politics do become a bit shaky by the end of the film as Eastwood and Cooper show a man struggling with this devastating war however as the film ends Eastwood begins to portray Kyle as a true American hero however Cooper portrays him as a broken man who had given too much to his country with little reward. Although the politics are a tad unsteady, Eastwood and Cooper deliver a strong and riveting drama.

Rating: 4 Stars

FILM REVIEW: BIRDMAN (2014)

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Riggan: Just find me an actor. A good actor. Give me Woody Harrelson.
Jake: He’s doing the next Hunger Games
Riggan: Michael Fassbender?
Jake: He’s doing the prequel to the X-Men prequel.
Riggan: How about Jeremy Renner?
Jake: Who?
Riggan: Jeremy Renner. He was nominated. He was the Hurt Locker guy.
Jake: Oh, okay. He’s an Avenger.
Riggan: F – k, they put him in a cape too?

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan.

Synopsis: An aging actor who was once famous for playing the superhero ‘Birdman’ struggles to regain relevance when he attempts to adapt a play based on Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

A visually compelling and emotionally resonant motion picture from director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I loved Inarritu’s first two films Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003) however he lost me with Babel (2006). His first two films had a gritty visual style and fractured structure that resonated with the films themes of desperation, longing and failed dreams. However he went too far with Babel, which turned into two hours of depression porn. I’m happy to see that just like his lead character Riggan Thomson he has made a comeback with this important and relevant fable on celebrity culture, superhero/blockbuster cinema, arthouse cinema and his original themes of desperation, longing and failed dreams. The film is very meta not only for its director but also its lead character Riggan, who was once in a successful superhero franchise (Birdman 1, 2 & 3) just as its actor Michael Keaton (1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns). Keaton has always been a wild and charismatic lead actor and revealed a manic spirit in his first successful film 1988’s Beetlejuice. Keaton recaptures this manic energy and also adds a level of gravitas by knowing his history with the real life Batman franchise. He gives the character an extra level of reality with his casting.

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The film revolves around Riggan trying to make a comeback by adapting the Raymond Carver play What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, however his own hubris comes in the way as everything starts falling apart including the set, actors and his own fragile mind. Riggan continuously hears voices in his head from the character he once played, Birdman. Birdman believes that Riggan shouldn’t bother with this play, no one cares and he won’t be able to make it as a true actor. He tells him to take the check and star in another Birdman film which is what the audience really wants. No one cares about theatre and broadway. He may be right in this day and age of the superhero blockbuster. The film is a real time capsule of cinema in 2014 and is a savage attack on the entire superhero genre and how it is destroying true art. This is only one of the themes as the film also tackles age, father daughter relationships, art versus commercial, internet and viral marketing, actor’s egos, and the fall of success. It is a bold and powerful film.

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The real star of the film for me was cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. The film is made to look as if it is all one shot and this is breathtaking to behold. The amount of work from actors to crew (especially the stage handlers) is amazing as the camera pulls in and out of Riggan’s room, to the stage and to the streets of New York. The films distinct look is remarkable and will be talked about for years to come. I haven’t even mentioned the impressive performances from Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough and Amy Ryan. The film is quite the masterpiece and is clearly one of the best films of this decade.

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Rating: 4.5 Stars

REVIEW: THE CONJURING (2013)

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Ed Warren: The devil exists. God exists. And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow.

Director: James Wan

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor

Synopsis: The true story of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren who must help a family deal with paranormal activity in their new home.

The Conjuring directed by James Wan is a classically styled horror film which relies on genuine slowly built frightening sequences and excellent characters to entertain and scare its audience. Unlike other recent horror films which rely on torture (Saw series) or found footage (Paranormal Activity series) to scare its audience, The Conjuring harkens back to the days of masterful suspense by directors like Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter and William Friedkin. Wan clearly a fan of these great auteurs gives his film a sense of respectability in not relying on gimmicks to surprise or shock his audience. He relies on mood, sound, atmosphere and a slow feeling of dread that surrounds every moment of this film. He utilises these elements extremely well in developing frightening sequences which admittedly we have seen done before, however he treats the scares with a genuine sense of authenticity and doesn’t pander to his audience. Although the film relies on haunted house and exorcism film genre conventions, Wan injects them with more than what we have seen in recent horror films and this easily excels all others in comparison.

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Wan coming off the respectable horror film, Insidious, and the original Saw is now a genuine horror auteur and has reached his peak with this horror masterpiece. The film centres on the Perron family, father, Roger and mother, Carolyn (both played earnestly by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) and their five children. They move into a new house and soon begin to hear bump in the night. These early sequences are well choreographed and don’t rely on fake scares like a cat jumping out of the corner, instead cinematographer John R. Leonetti weaves his camera around the house and allows the darkness to creep into the daughter’s bedroom. His camera works wonders in setting up the shocking situation this family will soon be in. We also meet paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren who bring a sense of genuine chemistry to their partnership. Vera Farmiga excels as the tortured Lorraine Warren and Patrick Wilson plays Ed as a protective husband and father, a man willing to help and has a sense of duty to those in need. They meet the Perron’s and immediately sense a demonic presence in their home.

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The film then moves towards its compelling and shocking finale involving an exorcism that matches the original The Exorcist (1973) in its horror and intensity. With excellent acting, direction and cinematography, The Conjuring is perhaps one of the best horror films of the last decade. One which many will be aiming to replicate in our future.

Rating: 4 Stars