Movie Review: Deadpool


Deadpool stands out from other superhero movies in that its title character is a raging weirdo. He’s not adverse to blasting through a bad guy’s head with bullets, and he has a rabid disregard for other people’s comfort zones. Just like in the comics, Deadpool has the Bugs Bunny ability to break the 4th wall and talk to the audience. He addresses the audience by looking at the camera or narrates with colloquial voice-over. Most of the story is standard superhero origin mumbo-jumbo, but when Deadpool is suited up and the action is piping hot, the movie hits its stride.

In terms of performance, adaptation and realization, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool is pitch perfect. The on-screen Deadpool is identical to his comic book counterpart in terms of movement, humor and unpredictability. The tone of the movie can be best described as violent, irreverent and zany, a step beyond The Kingsmen but not quite as wacky as The Mask. Reynolds delights in the role like a kid in an elevator pressing all the buttons. There is a strange seamless chemistry between actor and character, as if the humor of the comics was personally designed for Reynolds’s delivery. It almost goes without saying to praise Reynolds as there is so much non-stop full-force Deadpool voice in the movie that it nearly becomes overwhelming. If only Fox had given the filmmakers enough money to get Hugh Jackman as Wolverine we might have gotten a B-plot somewhere.

The story is so cookie-cutter it almost makes Wolverine look like Hamlet. But the humor is the real driving force here, so your enjoyment of the movie will largely depend on how deeply you know your comic books and how much you enjoy watching Reynolds talk about a bullet hole in his ass. It’s unfortunately an obligatory origin story, paint-by-numbers. Odder still, the romantic and body horror elements of the plot are treated with strange reverence when compared to the Duke Nukem style action sequences. I could have done with more tongue-in-cheek humor during these pseudo-scary moments.

The villain isn’t interesting, but Deadpool’s jokes at his expense make up for it. We’ve got a bajillion X-Men bad guys to choose from and we get this bad guy? He doesn’t even have a clear evil scheme. Stop Deadpool? Avoid Deadpool? Attract Deadpool? The movie veers off into giving side characters screen-time rather than explaining the plot. Then again, do we really need another story about a villain trying to blow up the world? It’s a straight-up grudgematch in Deadpool, and that serves the Merc with a Mouth quite well. There are some logical gaps overlooked to fit the film’s shrinking budget and ballooning insanity, but it all works in a screwball way. The average American filmgoer is pre-programmed to understand superhero origin stories by now, so a tweaked one is a welcome mix-up.

That being said, the jokes could use a little tweaking too. For as much of the comedy works, the screenwriters are fearful to poke fun at Sony and Disney, competing studios that also own Marvel properties. The film could have used its meta-humor to make broader satiric points about the state of superhero movies, but it chose instead to make jests at Reynolds’s expense. It’s self-effacing and funny, but it doesn’t have the same satiric edge as the comics or even The Simpsons. There is a sense that the writers pulled those punches and stuck to X-Men formula to keep the studio happy, which makes sense, but keeps the film from reaching the comedic heights of Tropic Thunder. It also locks the movie’s humor in sophomoric territory without the wit or precision of South Park. It’s more of a scattershot Mel Brooks approach. I’m impressed that the writers managed to give the film any romantic or dramatic tension at all considering how wild it is.

Deadpool himself sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie’s dour blue-grey visuals, and that’s perfect for a character trying to distance himself from the X-Men and their generally humorless heroics. Fans will be pleased that the film does the titular character justice, even if it spends so much time setting up his origins that the rest of the story feels hollow. Though its appeal might be lost on general audiences, there is just enough charm for Deadpool to coast by as a unique and memorable film, if not a particularly meaningful one. It’s worth noting that my friday night crowd was filled with too-young tweens and kids accompanied by their parents, in spite of the film’s gore and nudity. The audience was packed and roaring with laughter at times, so maybe for whatever reason, this is just the right place and right time for Deadpool, Christmas or not.




Birth of the Modern Comedy


Here’s a link to my new article about why I think The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle are even funnier than Anchorman 2 This second sentence serves no purpose other than to make the previous link stand out. Let’s face it, you’re paying more attention to Jennifer Lawrence.

Top Ten Best Movies of 2012

Here I will collect my thoughts on the creamiest of the cream of the crop. As we plunge further into Awards Season, it’s important to remember the dear-departed films of yesteryear. These are the movies I most enjoyed in 2012. Let me know if you agree or not by tweeting me @shorester.

I liked how the bong was a thermos. Genius!

10. The Cabin in the Woods

Director Drew Goddard surprised me many times in the best Whedon-fueled movie of the year. The Cabin in the Woods starts with the abrasive surreality of Funny Games then dips back toward rote idiocy, only to turn the tropes of the horror genre on their head in way that I wish Scream had. Reminiscent of the equally funny Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, this paint-by-numbers slasher picture evolves into a twisted tongue-in-cheek mind-bender. I loved the clever blend of horror and comedy. A movie so esoteric and strange, replete with genre meta-commentary is usually shot down at a scripting stage. Cabin‘s mere existence is proof that sometimes the filmmakers and the filmgoers are on exactly the same wavelength.

Argo Fuck Yourself!

9. Argo

Ben Affleck further proves his filmmaking prowess with Argo, a steeped-in-history yet too-juicy-to-be-true tale of espionage and Hollywood magic. Affleck stars as real life spy and award presenter Tony Mendez, the man behind one of the strangest and most roundabout escapes in history. Mendez enlists a team of Hollywood executives to build hype around a fake movie, a movie that will provide a cover story for the real operation: a rescue mission to save American hostages. The tense direction and wonderful cinematography make this movie more exciting than your average trip to the airport, although security is just as painstaking.


8. The Dark Knight Rises

Nay to ye haters! The Dark Knight Rises closes the Dark Knight trilogy in fine fashion, tying together the first film and the second nicely, while adding enough new elements to provide the necessary drama. As a fan of the franchise, I can’t help but praise the picture for its ability to accurately present a Batman story in the light I’ve always wanted to see: as if the old Animated Series had been brought to life, shot-for-shot. Sure there’s a gritty air of realism to it, but this is a cartoon, complete with the outlandish villains and their equally ridiculous plots to back it up. To those who claim Rises is a travesty in comparison to its predecessors, I will remind you: Batman never intended to be Oscar bait. Ledger raised it to that level. And insulting the follow-up for never matching an uncanny performance by an unmatchable actor is short-sighted. This movie makes no attempts to replace or undermine the power of The Joker’s role in this universe, only to show the next horrifying inevitability. Conquering the psychological torture of a madman was no easy feat, and overcoming the intense physical challenges of Bane is Batman’s final battle. Kudos to this flick for rounding out the Ra’as Al Ghul story line. Now let’s move on to Clayface.

WTF is Happiness Therapy? Also, I wish American movie titles were more honest like this too.

7. Silver Linings Playbook

This movie was a great surprise. The previews made it look like a romantic comedy, or an awkward dramedy, neither of which really fit the bill. This film is a character study with the same vibes and undertones as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There can be no doubt that this is Bradley Cooper’s finest performance to date, and Jennifer Lawrence is unstoppably charming playing opposite him. It’s weirdly nice to see Chris Tucker again, even in a limited role. DeNiro’s father character begins fairly predictably then evolves into one of his gentlest and most nuanced performances. There’s a lot of good acting in this picture. The movie leaves you with a feeling that is far more pleasant than you’d expect from any movie about mental illness, and that includes another movie on this list. I enjoyed the ride throughout, and I hope that David O. Russell continues to innovate.

So Fresh! So Fierce! So UNSTOPPABLE.

6. Zero Dark Thirty

This film was predictable because I watched a lot of news last year. That being said, this movie is something of an upgrade from your standard episode of Homeland. Though it’s hard to say Claire Danes is any less talented than Jessica Chastain, the stakes are higher, and wouldn’t you know it, this all “really happened.” I put that in quotes because the CIA made me. They said if I claimed that Zero Dark Thirty is based on a true story they would do stuff to me that they would never ever admit that they would ever do to anyone. But you know what? They can kiss my {REDACTED}. I loved the emotional roller coaster of Zero Dark Thirty and would gladly compare the experience to a ride at Universal Studios, if the comparison didn’t make me feel so tawdry and cheap. We get it now. Katherine Bigalow knows how to direct a movie. Now can we stop forcing her to film in the desert? Give that poor woman a break!

What a great movie!

5. Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is consistently one of my favorite directors, and this movie is nearly perfect. It’s a spirited love story with enough family drama to make it a spiritual prequel to The Royal Tenenbaums. Everything takes place in Anderson’s too-twee universe as usual, but this time the emotions are grounded like in Rushmore. Only the visuals feel pretty but unknowable. We hear two stories of star-crossed love and get funny performances out of wonderful actors. In some ways the whole thing feels like a response to the delightful innocence exhibited by Anderson’s so-called children’s movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. In the end, we’re left with a charming anecdote of a film that provides as much edgy humor as heart.


4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

This film was another surprise. I had not anticipated liking it, but having it recommended to me I gave it a shot. Perks is not only a great film, it’s a boundary pushing one. Sold to me as coming-of-age story with some American version of Hermione, I was shocked to discover that this film had more heart and integrity than most movies about full-grown humans. The hard part is discussing its emotional affect on the viewer without revealing too much of the plot, so I’ll simply say that once you’ve given your heart over to the characters, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

Cool Pic Bro

3. Beasts of the Southern Wild

I watched this movie with my family, and we all struggled to make heads or tails of it. It’s like a trip through the rabbit hole for people in the upper-middle class, and I think that’s why it’s so effective. Not only is it strange and sometimes wonderful to live with Hushpuppy and her family, it’s also tragic. Beasts is a microcosmic example of life’s beauty. All living things struggle to stay alive, and yet, what of the inherent futility? Beasts suggests that there can be delight in spite of the tragedy, and that the struggle for life can be beautiful in itself.

Let's Go Exploring!

2. Life of Pi

The sheer beauty and spectacle of the journey cannot be overstated. Everything fires on all cylinders, from the acting of the young lead to the special effects work abounding in every frame. Beyond the sheer sensory overload, there’s something magnificent about presenting an audience with a movie about religion that is non-denominational. It forces them to think and to consider the nature of faith without preconceptions. Even when the movie is heavy-handed or worse, intellectually stimulating, there’s something noble and artistic about Pi’s ability to communicate with the viewer visually. Life of Pi is a living work of art.

I guess I can see why he was so desperate to get back to her.

1. Django Unchained

An edgy, exciting movie no matter how you slice it, Django Unchained surpasses Inglorious Basterds in terms of skillful use of revisionist history. Django faces its controversy head on, forcing the viewer to do the same. Rather than shy away from the violence or brutality, Tarantino exemplifies it. But never does Tarantino want you to forget his purpose. This isn’t a Lincoln-like attempt to recreate minutia in detail. This is a character study by way of Kill Bill, a revenge picture with wonderful dialog and fantastic performances. Leonardo DiCaprio succeeds in shaking the dust off his character work, and Christoph Waltz shines as well. Jamie Foxx’s understated, restrained performance may deserve the most credit. Rather than embracing the blacksploitative origins of such a ’70’s-infused premise, Foxx plays Django as realistically as possible, giving a terse and evocative performance that provides the heart of the movie.

I did not see The Master or Cloud Atlas, so let that be known. I plan to, but it’s already February and therefore, far too late to wait on my account.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I would like to see it again to confirm my suspicions, but I believe that Christopher Nolan has outdone himself once again, writing himself out of the unparalleled challenge of both Heath Ledger and the Joker’s deaths, and facing down the negative stigma of horrifying recent events. This movie shines as a reminder of why thoughtful filmmaking will always overrule crass cinema, and why movies should emulate Inception not Battleship. The plot is contrived like a hard-boiled detective novel. The pieces are set in motion expertly. Batman is no longer Batman. The man formerly known as Batman is now billionaire shut-in Bruce Wayne, a wounded bearded shadow of a man. Wayne is still torn-up about the death of his either-actress girlfriend Rachel who exploded in the previous movie. The threat of a new criminal mastermind, Bane, looms over Gotham City and Batman is nowhere in sight. Gotham needs a hero. Should be easy work for Brick alum Joseph Gordon Levitt who ends up chewing a majority of the screen time. While this story is about Bruce Wayne’s personal journey, don’t be mistaken. This is a puzzle with many working parts. As usual, this movie centers on a core moralistic mythology, and the way in which its story unfolds is masterful albeit weighty.

Catwoman was the nicest surprise of this entry in the trilogy. After the Halle Berry botch-job and the tough-to-follow Michelle Pfeiffer act, Anne Hathaway surprisingly rises to the occasion in a wonderfully charming performance. It’s enough for the ticket price, actually. While not as breathtaking or mind-blowing as Ledger’s Joker (what is?) the comparison is hardly fair as the two characters share a disproportionate amount of screen time and serve functionally different roles. Bane is the challenger for the villain of Gotham throne, and while Hardy’s performance is admirable, I do not think it quite measures up. That being said, I think it is an interesting and charismatic portrayal of an oft-maligned character (see Batman & Robin, no wait don’t). His delivery of the key moments is impeccable. But even as written, Bane is not meant to be a sole successor to the Joker. He is the delivery boy for the League of Shadows, those dark bastards you’ve probably forgotten about from Batman Begins. That’s right folks. This is a trilogy. And like Harry Potter, or any other shamelessly self-important thing, it deserves your respect! So pay attention!

I like Bane in small doses, and that’s exactly how he’s delivered. After a skillfully shot opening sequence in which Bane decimates Tommy Carcetti on an airplane, the terrorist sneaks right into Gotham turning Wayne Co’s own weapon against them. Uh-Doy! Watch your back door Lucius Fox! (That must remind him of Shawshank.) Speaking of which, the oldies in this movie (Morgan Freeman and Grandfather Time, I mean, Michael Caine) deliver immensely subtle and beautiful performances, showing just how much they care about this supposedly overblown picture. The nuance in this movie thrives in abundance and almost outweighs the unwieldy plot, which meanders into an Inception-level conundrum or two in the third act. It’s one thing to hint at a twist, and it’s another thing to rewrite history. With five seconds left in the clock, The Dark Knight Rises throws a few hail marys. Their success or failure depends on your individual level of involvement with these characters and knowledge about their universe. I saw one of the twists coming a mile away, but I was surprised by how long they waited to reveal the cloak and dagger. There was more to be done with the character in question, and clearly very little time in which to do it. That being said, it’s not bad if a movie series leaves you wanting more.

I am impressed that I have gone this whole review without admitting how much I love Batman, Nolan’s style of filmmaking, and the weird strange places this movie takes us (like that desert prison- yikes!). I think that upon repeat viewings I will be just as enamored with, confused and thrilled by The Dark Knight Rises as I was the first time, even if I don’t completely understand it until the fifteenth. In preparation for this movie, I watched the first two again, and what I noticed is that all three are vastly different movies that all center on the same man in the same universe. What is most consistent about the universe is his character. The one thing that Nolan really understands is Batman. And while some of the edges are polished to make the story slicker and more cerebral than it ever really was in the comics, the psychology behind it holds true and believable. There is rarely a question of motivation in this series, which is strange given the questions of motivation raised by the villains in most superhero fare (see: The Lizard, Whiplash, Loki). In this case, all you need to answer your questions is a Netflix account and a DVD player. The story’s only weakness is ending here in its current form. A fourth movie in this universe would be nice, but I know whatever Nolan makes next will be spectacular. He’s always surprised me, and the Dark Knight Rises is no exception.

Spider-Man Comedy Podcast!

Do you have Netflix Streaming? Want to try something new? Download my new comedy podcast and commentary track! Simply download the m4a audio file, play it in iTunes or your audio player of choice, and follow the directions. If you’ve ever seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 or listened to RiffTrax, this should be right up your alley. For those poor uninformed masses, here’s the rundown:

  • This Spider-Man Comedy Podcast mocks the first episode of the 90’s Spider-Man animated series, available streaming on Netflix.
  • The audio file functions as a DVD commentary track to be played while watching the episode of Spider-Man.
  • The podcast begins and ends with a sketch. All jokes are written and performed by yours truly, Matt Shore. The podcast was also edited by me. I do not own the rights to anything Spider-related aside from my bug bites.
  • In order to ensure that the commentary matches up with the episode, you will have to sync the audio to the video. Lucky for you, I have made the process as simple as possible. Listen to my instructions and wait for me to say “5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Go!” then press play on Netflix and let the commentary roll.

If you’re interested in more thwips and quips or commentary tracks for any other shows on Netflix streaming or otherwise, feel free to leave a question or a comment below. Thanks, and let me know what you think! Hope it’s funny!

Download the Spider-Man Comedy Podcast Here.