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.




Movie Review: Hereafter

Hereafter is clearly an interesting choice for Clint Eastwood. It’s a supernatural drama, which isn’t exactly the genre you’d expect from the dude who brought us a decade’s worth of dour dramas grounded in reality. It’s kind of fun to see Eastwood stretch as a director to fit a more conventional genre of cinema. At times it really works for him. The opening sequence of the film – a terrifying tidal wave decimating a scenic beach-side market – is an excellent example of the skillful camerawork Eastwood is capable of. The sequence is momentarily muddled by shoddy water effects – no doubt a constraint of the film’s seemingly meager budget – but otherwise the directorial style gives the audience an effective first-hand glance at what it’s like to be swept down stream and nearly drowned by crushing water. It is effective in the same vein as a good chase scene in Jurassic Park: “Must go faster! Must go faster!” We’re along with the characters for the ride so it’s easy to get swept away in the action.

The main flaw of Hereafter is that there is so little action otherwise. We begin with three characters in different stages of life at different locations around the world. It should be no surprise to the average film-goer that these three individual narratives will no doubt intertwine at some point through a catastrophic or serendipitous and ultimately life-changing series of events. The problem is that the average film-goer is baited for so long that by the time the three narratives converge the event is greeted with the guttural grunt, “Finally!” This is not to say that the individual plot-lines and performances are uninteresting. Quite the contrary, they are very engaging and watchable for the most part, assuming you like slow-moving dour dramas. Those hoping for new insight into the afterlife can check their hopes at the door. This movie is about the characters, solely.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Matt Damon’s love-interest in a sequence with a much-needed burst of sweetness that ultimately fades too soon. In fact, one might go so far as to say that between the three narratives – a young British boy who loses his twin brother in a fatal car crash, a French female news anchor trying to rekindle feelings with the preternatural after a near death experience, and Matt Damon as a petulant working class American psychic – Damon’s is the one that sticks out like a sore thumb for inappropriate inclusion. The other stories are distinctly European, work perfectly in coincidence of tone, and it is clear that inspiration from French filmmakers guide Eastwood’s hand as he shoots several sequences. Damon’s character quests for love, but every time he touches a woman’s skin, he connects with a bad memory from their past or a dead relative trying to make contact. Bryce Dallas Howard plays sweet and bats her eyelashes, clearly down to ride the Sarah Silverman express-line into Matt Damon’s bedroom. Damon meets her in a cooking class, and they immediately hit it off with lots of tasting, chopping and sexual tension. She exists solely as a character to express Damon’s inability to find love and inadequacies when it comes to intimacy, not to mention the fact that his psychic ghost-powers have great power and great responsibility. We spend so much time with Bryce, as well as with Damon’s shyster brother (a hungry Jay Mohr) that it almost seems completely arbitrary when Damon finally catches a flight to Europe and incidentally runs into the other two plotlines at the World Book Fair – probably the lamest third act set piece in film history.

There’s one really great moment where Jay Mohr finds out that his ghastly brother Matt Damon has flown to Europe through a letter. Mohr looks at the letter, then stares off at nothing and shouts angrily with all the fervor of a Home Alone actor who just realized that he left Kevin at home. This is incredibly funny, albeit not intentionally. This is one of the film’s few moments of humor. Once Damon actually meets the little boy that lost his twin brother, there are some great moments of acting as Damon acts like a hilarious jerk to a tiny emotionless child. It’s too little too late, but I will say this for Hereafter: it’s incredibly well-shot, well-acted and dementedly slow-paced. If you can put up with the unforgiving slowness, you’ll be able to enjoy the moments that follow, but for the most part this is one to catch on HBO.

Movie Review: Inception

I’ll be writing my movie reviews for from now on, so be sure to check there for my latest reviews, news and editorials. I’ll try to post my links directly here so you can have easy access to the pages directly.

Here’s my review for Inception, definitely the movie you’ll be talking about this summer (or possibly all year).

“Movie” Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Calling Prince of Persia a movie is probably the highest compliment it will ever receive.  A failure on every level, from cinematography to casting to performance to writing, this travesty is almost likable for containing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 level of hap-hazard behavior that allows it to stumble from set-piece to set-piece as if any of them actually mattered.  Based on the totally badass video game of the same name, PoP:SoT is the story of a wise-cracking Parkour enthusiast with a magic time-traveling dagger that allows him to reset the last few things that just happened, thereby eradicating the need for “extra lives.”  As a movie, this device is notably moronic, and if you’ve read any other reviews you’ll find many of the writers complaining that the time-travel robs the movie of tension by providing an easy quick-fix for any problems that the Prince might encounter.  In reality, the dagger is used so infrequently that it might as well relinquish its credit as the movie’s McGuffin.  Once the dagger is activated, you’ll see the only passable special effects in the entire film, but for some reason the screenwriters seemed more concerned with the Prince’s intense familial drama than the magic fucking dagger that supposedly everybody in the movie wants. If even your characters don’t care about the McGuffin, why should we?

Horribly miscast from moment one, Jake Gyllenhaal’s tenuous acting abilities fare no better here than anywhere else. You can hear his vocal chords cracking under the weight of his faulty British accent.  Love interest Gemma Arterton is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and charismatic young actresses we have available these days, but for some reason she made the hideous choice to speak like Newt from Castle Anthrax for the entire movie.  So distractingly bad are the vocal affectations in this film that you almost forgive Ben Kingsley for chewing the scenery, in the same way you forgive a lab rat for gnawing the sides of his cage.  Bad decisions are made in succession in Prince of Persia, so the fault must lay with the director, Mike Newell.  Previously responsible for the massively more watchable action-fest Harry Potter and the Goblet of Spooky Dragons, there is really no excuse for this movie’s failure.  It almost seems like Newell wanted to undermine his own credibility by producing a mindless Michael Bay-style action flick.  It’s endearing that a kindly old Brit would want to expand his horizons from emotional drama to utter crap, and to a certain extent he achieved the unthinkable.  He actually produced a movie somehow dumber and more incompetent than Clash of the Titans.  I had a shocking amount of fun in Titans compared to this piece of crap.  And yes, there is ostrich racing in Prince of Persia, but beyond that, I cannot honestly tell you a damn thing that happened.  Mostly Jake and Gemma spit petty meaningless banter as they wander around boring, endless deserts.

There’s probably a story in here somewhere, but after playing the original video game in which there were maybe three important characters, it seemed like a waste of time to start memorizing the Prince’s long family tree, especially when most of them end up dead, albeit not soon enough. Toby Kebbell, playing one of the prince’s brothers, might be the worst actor in a big-budget feature ever.  He is the human equivalent of that terrible CGI in The Mummy where Billy Zane’s jaw stretches and locusts fly out.  Again, calling him human is a huge compliment.  I didn’t even recognize that the annoying ostrich racing organizer (yes, this is an integral character; no, the game contained no ostrich racing) was played by notorious hammy sell-out Alfred Molina.  I can’t wait until Sorcerer’s Apprentice so I can watch him belch out more self-absorbed villain dialog like he’s masturbating all the way to the bank.  Way to go, Alfred.  You’ve effectively developed duel-personality disorder.  One personality is a talented theatrical actor who cares deeply about his characters, and the other is the one we’ve been seeing on the big screen since Spider-Man 2.  You know, the one that hates audiences?  Stop hamming it up, and give your film characters the same attention that you give to your theatrical ones.  I’m sick of paying eleven dollars to see you take a shit on screen, Molina.  Kingsley is forgettable, but you’re so bad you’re memorable.

What else is there to say?  You’re not going to watch this movie.  I’m never going to watch it again.  I might actually play the video game again, because it was the one thing related to this movie that didn’t suck.  I hope the guys at Rifftrax take this down (if they haven’t already…I can’t imagine it’ll be a long wait until the DVD comes out) because there are so many opportunities for humor and foul comments amongst this dreck.  The thing I regret most about seeing this movie were the other members of the audience.  Two old ladies were sitting in the front row with their caretaker, whom they needed to walk them back and forth in front of the theater before the movie started, assumedly so their legs would not atrophy and die during the proceedings.  It struck me that these women were potentially not far off from death, and the shocking realization crept into my brain that this, Prince of Persia, this incredible piece of crap, could be the last movie these women ever see in theaters.  After a lifetime that’s spanned The Maltese Falcon to The Dark Knight, these women get to experience their death rattle along with the lousiest piece of garbage released by a studio yet this summer.  Then again, maybe I’m being a little too speculative and hyperbolic.  They might stick around for a while more, see The Last Airbender and finally croak.


DVD Review: Mystery Team

Mystery Team is the result of a lot of hard work and monetary investment from a little group called Derrick Comedy.  Featuring familiar faces like The Office‘s Ellie Kemper (a.k.a. the internet’s Blowjob Girl) and the endearingly morose Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation) this movie is the product of a bunch of good friends getting together and collaborating on an exceedingly fun and goofily eccentric concept.  Based off their favorite junior detective mystery novels growing up, Mystery Team asks the question, what if Encyclopedia Brown never really grew up? Take one part Hardy Boys, one part Scooby Doo and mix it with the stark reality of gritty street crime, and you’ll have the basic tenets of Mystery Team.

The real star here is Community‘s Donald Glover.  Though the titular Mystery Team consists of three equally dorky members, Glover’s performance as Jason is the only one that struck me as memorable.  The other two characters each have a gimmick; Duncan is an all-grown-up boy genius (a comedy trope utilized to better success in popular animated masterpiece The Venture Bros.) and Charlie is “the strongest kid in town,” although he isn’t very strong.  It’s a fairly conventional comedic device to set up a statement and then ironically deny it to produce laughs, but when two of your three main characters begin to blend into the wallpaper, it raises some concerns.  It’s not just that their schtick is noticeably less funny than Glover’s, whose delightfully hammy over-acting as a “master of disguise” is a perfect blend of nerdy and charming- it’s also the fact that his teammates’ acting chops aren’t up to par.  Glover acts circles around his compatriots, making it less of a Mystery Team and more of a solo detective story with two relatively annoying sidekicks.  The sidekicks occasionally get a good bit or two, but it really depends on how much you enjoy bloody noses and pee-drinking jokes (and if I know my audience, that’s plenty!).

Ellie Kemper is remarkably underused considering her talent, and Aubrey Plaza is lovably awkward as usual.  The truth is that Glover’s charm is so charismatic, all of the movie’s low-budget flaws melt away.  There’s a great cameo by SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan as a likeable yet semi-creepy store clerk, but beyond that, this is Glover’s show.  The plot unravels in typical children’s mystery format, i.e. the characters can reason out the mystery based on internal clues, but there is no chance for the audience to figure it out at home.  Which is fine, seeing as this movie is primarily gunning for laughs, but again, if your movie is about a Team, you might want to include more interesting team dynamics from the beginning.  Since the other two members are so inept, the movie basically wanders from set piece to set piece waiting for Glover to do something insane to liven it up a little.  The end result is a surprisingly funny comedy that is definitely worth a rental.  As the stakes escalate, our former boy detectives find themselves fearing for their lives, pitted against real-world criminals in a battle of wits.  Fans of the now-defunct Party Down will excuse the metaphor, but Mystery Team is like a crock-pot.  It’s a slow burn, and by the end you’ll have fallen in love without even realizing it.