Deadpool (2016)

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Not like other Marvel outings, this riotous and violent action film is both an unconventional superhero flick and love story. It’s gleefully bold in being rude, bloody and constructed with pacy excitement. This is a great addition to the comic book world that does new things to finally twist the tired guidelines and therefore results in audiences seeing a fun new anti-hero to save the day.

Former mercenary and still loud and dangerous as ever Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) finds out he’s got serious bouts of cancer so he goes to Ajax/Francis (Ed Skrein) to get treatment thinking he’s being made into a superhero, as he becomes immortal. Wilson eventually finds out they’re turning people into slaves so he adopts a suited identity as Deadpool to avenge his torturous capture and win back his one love in the form of Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).

It’s awesome to see a superhero movie hit the screens that doesn’t feel bloated or tired. This project gladly drops the expected formula we’ve come to expect from the MCU and turns it upside down and inside out with added gore. Deadpool is a character that I admit I knew very little of, apart from the look of his costume, but from what I hear this film sticks very well to the source material unlike the X-Men bodge job they made with Ryan Reynolds the first time around. That’s the thing, this film is joyfully frisky because it winks at the whole superhero genre and specifically the X-Men family, to which Deadpool wants nothing to do with.

Tim Miller smashes onto the scene for his debut directing job and whoa Nellie does he show what a capable director for this he is. The way this superhero feature is shot does make you feel like you are witnessing something refreshing. The stylistic shots around the titular character and his fighting style or the zany quick back and forths between scenes does make this film entertainingly different. It’s like Miller seems to care more for the character tomfoolery than typical segwayed set ups for further instalments which are found in most other Marvel pictures. There’s a good amount of style and substance to the directing by Miller which blows apart the comic genre but still leaves enough to make it explosive, recognisable and…dirty.

One of the strongest components in this film is the character of Deadpool himself and the way he presents himself on screen. In fact he realises he is on screen and talks to us, breaking down the fourth wall and inviting us into his mad world. This new angle with self awareness and arrogant charm is a jewel to behold as it sparkles with satisfactory smarts in being a meta type nudge at the whole superhero brand. From his kiddy Adventure Time watch to the hero moving the camera away, Deadpool is a knowing and animated persona that just won’t quit and we’re glad for his maximum effort.

The opening credits alone give us a hint to the different road the film will travel down, what with no cast names but general stereotyped titles appearing for us to read. The best one has to be in the writing where it says something about being the real heroes and those heroes are Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick who really do craft a fantastically clever screenplay just with teenage crudity thrown in for the masses. The interactions between villain and hero or lover and lover are sharp and wickedly dark in places that makes this film stand on the edge, looking down into an abyss it could easily have toppled into if it wasn’t careful. Intelligently the writers carry on staring down at the likes of ‘Dirty Grandpa’ in said abyss as they know how to make the rude moments work.

Ryan Reynolds is a comforting jerk in this film as you feel at ease watching him sink into the red suited menace. It’s clearly a love child of Reynolds as he wants to get this hero right and not CGI green either. What with ‘The Voices’ and elements of ‘Self/Less’ Reynolds is proving himself to be a watchable rising actor from the usual comedy farces he made before. The movements and vocal delivery of him in this are so on point that he is Deadpool and there’s no denying it. Morena Baccarin steps away from the DC world of ‘Gotham’ to play the equally un-PC Vanessa to match up with Wade. She’s gorgeous and feisty in this film and not subjected totally to background boredom. Ed Skrein is the obligatory British villain as they themselves mention and he does it well, the rough tone to his voice helping shape him as a non-stop antagonist for Wilson to face. T. J. Miller serves his purpose as the comic relief and is still believable as a kinda friend of Wilson’s. All of this and I still haven’t mentioned Blind Al, Dopinder, X-Men mutants Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead who are all characters that get enough screen time for us to buy into them.

Whether we’re seeing Matrix like bullet countdowns, Hugh Jackman digs or knowing narrations lead us back to the origin story, this movie is colourfully manic but in a very very good way.

7.5/10

The Accidental Spy (2001)

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Don’t let the oddly constructed poster above fool you, this isn’t a cheesy and American explosive spy movie however it might look. This film has darker threads in it for Chinese superstar Jackie Chan to cope with. It is a pretty bad plot but the action moments more than make up for it I feel.

Two groups are after a new powerful drug and of course the CIA, Asian police forces and undercover detectives are out to stop them get their hands on it. Jackie Chan in the version I watched plays Jackie Chan who is a fit sports goods salesman who happens to feel intuition about troubling circumstances leading him to save the day in the shopping centre gaining attention that he could be a valuable asset as a spy.

Ivy Ho writes this martial arts spy movie with a keen sense of the meatier more entertaining moments but the filler in between is short lived and rushed. The characters don’t really connect and the main reasoning of who Chan is feels lost or dumb or perhaps both. We don’t really get to see more of who the normal Chan is/was and we don’t have enough moments to grasp the spy mission he is going along on. This film could have done with more detail or even a longer runtime to let us understand more of the narrative and make it a better spy plot than just a below average one.

It’s almost as if the director didn’t want the spy genre overshadowing Jackie’s skills at action either. Teddy Chan neatly exposes us to more exhilarating fights but the pieces in between are glossed over in a drab way that don’t live up to Bond or Bourne genre tropes. Sure there’s the globe-trotting and shadowy figures that may or may not be who they say there are but that feels like less than the focus for the film which is a disappointment because having more of an engaging spy plot run through would have been different for Jackie and for us also.

An example of the rushed attempt at being a spy thriller is having Chan trying to find information. It views like a plain Mission Impossible montage as he tries discovering things and playing his dead father’s game. The introduction of Yong to proceedings also clouds up the plot as we’re meant to believe that Chan cares for or loves her but there’s never enough time to buy into that relationship.

The action is great entertainment though and does make the film watchable and enjoyable. Jackie Chan comments that Buster Keaton was an influence and that can truly be felt in the defibrillator response, what with his brilliant clowning movements after the shocks. The taxi fight sequence is energetic but short-lived which is annoying. Though the spectacle of Chan using objects around him is found in a longer scene for amusing visuals of him utilising bubble blowing defence moves or handy tools at his disposal in the Turkish bazaar. The film has a surprising dark touch with blood, deaths and terrorist threats, addiction also plays a part for Yong but the film still gives us the gleeful humour we expect from Jackie Chan flicks.

Jackie Chan himself is as good as usual, the dedication he gives to the stunts makes everything more real. Even a non-dangerous moment where he twirls up into clothed disguise is done in such a cool way by the actor. He has a cheeky smile that lights up almost every scene even if they’re not all as exciting as you’d expect. Vivian Hsu as the damaged Yong tries her best at being an interesting character but they don’t give her much to do so you don’t ever feel for her. Eric Tsang as the mysterious Manny has a good stab at being comedic and layered as a character cropping up from time to time and he does well though that spy angle as mentioned isn’t cared about as much as letting the action do the talking.

A rushed shot that bounces off the target of being a good spy movie but it slam dunks for Jackie and his always fantastic action persona. Watchable but not overly recommended.

5.5/10

Spotlight (2016)

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Delicately handled considering the subject matter, this biographical film balances the story between the seekers of truth and the victims in a great way. It’s a movie that pulls you in by being interesting and giving enough time to the key characters that we understand all motives at play. I can really see why this is up for Best Picture and why it might win.

At the Boston Globe, a small group of 4 journalists called ‘Spotlight’ take their time in documenting big stories. After new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives, he suggest they look deeper into the allegations of perversion and molestation of children from priests in the Catholic Church. Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) wants his team to do it right so they trawl through files and reports uncovering a shocking statistic.

There’s never a moment in this film where it feels slow, even when briefings or meetings occur it all feels right for the story and therefore keeps the bubbling pace of this plot going nicely. It’s a film with something always around the corner and you want to find out what that is. Also, this film never comes across forced to seem more interesting or explosively damaging to the Church. It’s done with a calmness in the way the Spotlight team meticulously go over findings and try to help victims come forward. This movie could easily have been terrible if the four journalists were more dynamic for the sake of cinematic entertainment or if the whole uncovering was twisted in a more typically dramatic way, but gladly the film knows it’s dealing with a tough issue and focuses on the subtle moments building to the findings they make.

Tom McCarthy does a great job in firstly letting us buy into the film’s people and see their understanding of what’s happening slowly hit them. Secondly he does a greater job in reversing away from panned Adam Sandler flick ‘The Cobbler’ to prove directors need second chances. One of the good things here is that McCarthy still weaves a gripping dramatic tale even though the trailer gave us the knowledge of what’s to come. So a movie that has no true mystery left but is still overly engaging and thoughtful is one that must be seen and I’m glad I have.

McCarthy wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer and the two of them; like the Spotlight foursome are a great unison of harmony and talent. The story is done really well, they don’t make the journalists into heroes, in fact we learn hard truths about them. They don’t write harsh pot-shots at faith or the Church but more at the necessary problem of the system failing time and time again. It’s a narrative with no unneeded embellishments and that’s an admirable quality to look upon.

It’s a film that has to be seen, the true danger of the priests and their constant replacements is unbelievable. The lasting feeling this film gives is of overwhelming shock at the amount of locations listed and with this, there’s a feeling of laughable madness in a certain figure’s new position. It’s more than scary to think what’s being gotten away with and therefore this is a movie that must exist to shine a spotlight on what many people know but turn away from.

Michael Keaton is fantastic, toning his performance with direction and leadership, there’s a constant presence of damaged knowing to his character that comes into fruition later on. Mark Ruffalo transforms into his role, leaving Bruce Banner behind as he becomes the workaholic and fiery Michael Rezendes. It’s clear to see why he was nominated for Best Actor because he does bury his teeth into the character and give passion to the project. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer is gently reserved but bold in looking like she wants to do this story right. She brings compassion and morals to the piece. Brian d’Arcy James is magnificent also, not one of the four feels shaded or left with no meat on the bones so to speak. James does really well in showing his worried character and the home-life he faces with danger on the doorstep.

For me, this feature should win Best Picture, I’d give it to Room if I could. but in all likelihood I’d root for this excellent portrayal of character development and detailed professionalism concerning an absorbing and worrying subject matter.

8/10

Youth (2016)

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With great beauty comes this comedy/drama about life and most deep aspects surrounding that topic. It’s a very gentle affair with a sort of wavy slow amble at a story but how it looks and how it’s acted does make this Italian English language film a worthwhile and stylish study on the issue of age.

Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is staying at a spa/clinic/hotel resort in the Swiss Alps, it also happens that one of his close friends is too. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is an ageing writer and director. The pair of them discuss their past, their future and what they’re known for.

Paolo Sorrentino directs this promenade of cinema with such precision like he himself is a maestro to rival Ballinger. The scenes move with a flighty fluidity and practically every moment is full of class detail, be it with the location or the character which means every shot is something special. After his astounding and Oscar winning 2013 movie ‘The Great Beauty’ it’s clear this man is someone to watch as he knows how to make a film look stunning.

It’s like this feature is a lullaby of film-making, the soft touches to each moment being dealt with effortlessly which does help us linger and mull over the thematic questions possibly being raised at those times. The story may not be big or constantly felt but there is a larger presence of life that lingers with true grace and bitter emotion. As one of the youngest audience members of the screening I can still say I enjoyed and grasped the poignancy of the narrative, it’s a touching and affirming plot even if it does meander from time to time.

Sorrentino also writes for the movie, providing undeniable looks at love and loss, life and death and these themes made me feel like I was experiencing something, perhaps not profound as he desired but at the very least it’s entrancing. There’s a neat absurdity to the writing which is seen amongst the ritualistic movings of the Switzerland patients or in the comic dialogue spoken, the discussion about a dining couple stands out as one of these quirkier points.

I can’t complete this review without including my favourite moment, the scene leapt out to me with such sublime spine-tingling creativity and it’s when Keitel’s character looks back at his career and movies with a crowd of female stars presented in the sunshine on a Swiss hill. It looked amazing and provoked a true sense of wonder and regret at this section in his life. The Paloma Faith cameo and monstrous imagined music video is another note to the absurdest quality and how oddly fun this film is.

David Lang rightfully gets a nod for the upcoming Oscars with Simple Song #3, which is amusing considering how Ballinger wishes to be known for something else. Though it’s a moving and beautiful piece of music so it deserves the recognition and it fits in the crescendo of the movie rather well. The music is one of the strongest elements which grows in volume and enhances the scenes with extra grandeur. Sound is also important here, it’s very interesting as we hear cowbells or wrappers become tools for character behaviour and development.

Michael Caine is hypnotic and showcases one of his better dramatic roles. He plays the reserved patient composer at times but bounces against that when necessary with engaging comedic timing. Harvey Keitel is also funny and counters the comedy pairing moments with the growing concern he has about the directions of his films but also his own life. Jane Fonda is wickedly talented as the dolled up ageing screen gem, her strength is when opposite Keitel and knowing what she wants and getting it. Paul Dano is stellar and always impresses me, here is no different as he mostly watches on as studying/preparing screen actor, yet he’s watchable even when silent. Wait for it though as he’s utterly transformative when he inhabits one of the most recognisable looks in the world for his latest role. Rachel Weisz is strong as Caine’s daughter and gives the most physical emotion to the film with her relationship drama.

‘Youth’ may hover wearily on the verges of brilliance but it’s still a heartfelt operatic piece of cinema with spirited performances and thoughtful beauty.

7.5/10

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

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Just because it’s January and awards season, doesn’t mean it’s all personal high scoring movies and critically loved features; there is one movie that threatens to cast a frightening shadow over the first month of 2016 in being so awful that potential Oscar winning films could be forgotten. Which is worse because ‘Dirty Grandpa’ itself is the film you want to forget, ignore…erase from memory.

Uptight lawyer Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is due to be married very soon but before his big day, his once close grandpa Dick (Robert De Niro) has him drive him apparently to his home in Florida, but really dickish Dick wants to insult every living thing and have sex with an extremely lustful spring breaker.

Dan Mazer, the director, or whatever he was doing behind the camera needs to be ashamed because after his debut outing with the frankly funny and well structured ‘I Give it a Year’; this follow up is perhaps the least entertaining and crude movie I’ve ever had the misfortune to clap my eyes upon. No joke, character, scene or in fact second of this film feels comfortable or right, it can’t even be called clichéd because at least other movies of the comedy genre manage to land a laugh amongst the usual characters or situations.

John M. Philips will hopefully be a name we don’t see often because his screenplay for this despairing 102 minutes is nothing but distasteful pokes at anything and everything offensive. Racism, sexism, homophobia, nudity and De Niro masturbating are all common things thrown into this nasty bubbling pot. Somehow amidst all the failing jokes this rude freak show of cinema labels itself a comedy and can’t see how ugly it is from start to finish.

The cringe worthy photo-shopped opening with Efron and De Niro snaps should let you know what a train wreck you’re in for but if that doesn’t then a later scene with a near naked Efron and an ill aimed idea to poke fun at paedophilia will really let you know the horror of what this film contains. There is no desire for engagement or connecting to the flimsy family road trip plot, there’s no originality or humour. Generally this movie fails to make me see how anyone cared a damn when constructing such a dire story, in turn making me want to stop giving a damn wasting time writing a review about it.

Robert De Niro by this point has all but crapped on his career, this recent and grotesque escapade being further proof that this talented icon of the screen is waning. It makes me sad at his choices that are horrible, either he’s happy with the money easily cashed in from coasting through movies or he’s…um, deluded. The character of Dick is so disgustingly painted that not even De Niro can save him. Zac Efron isn’t anything special, solely being there as the good guy and to draw in ticket sales by showing his ripped bod, hell even at times he looks hurt to be in this picture. Aubrey Plaza is viciously bad and sluttily two dimensional in what may be the worst thing she’ll ever do. Julianne Hough is boring and stuck in a clichéd box of the boring partner not right for the protagonist.

Everything in this film is in bad taste and I hate it more for seeing De Niro at the continued beginning of the end in his career. This dirty film is painfully unfunny with no value apart from likely soaring to the tops of worst movie lists of 2016 before we’ve even seen what’s on offer in the next 11 months.

0/10

I guess parts of the awkward wedding break up and De Niro lifting Efron for real is impressive, so:

1/10

 

Swordfish (2001)

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Attempting to be cool and clever, this action film about computer crime becomes anything but those two things. Instead it feels incredibly cheesy, logically rubbish and at times plain dull. The forced sex appeal of making one of their stars go topless for even more insane fees does nothing to make the film better.

Top hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is offered a deal by Ginger (Halle Berry) to assist the plans of her boss Gabriel Shear (John Travolta). The problem is Stanley is a wanted man and can’t touch a computer again but wanting to see his daughter again and not anger the touchy dangerous Shear, he realises that he must hack money out of government funds.

It could have been a good film, there is plenty of room to make this plot stylish and tense but instead it feels like a washed up 90’s action crime flick without much action or indeed crime. Aside from a couple of so-so moments including the opening scene reveal to who Gabriel is surrounded by and the interrogation room shooting, this film tries outlandish ways to excite the audience and heck, even a bus soaring through the sky by helicopter can’t save it.

Dominic Sena, who had previously directed ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ tries revving back into gear with this technological film, but there isn’t any sleekness or glossy captivation to be found. Sena seems to miss the point and brushes over scenes that could hold more interest to paint a clichéd narrative with no excitement.

Of course this isn’t all his fault as Skip Woods, the screenwriter skips on logic to bash together a barmy shortcoming that he probably believed as explosive entertainment. There are explosions but aside from making Michael Bay happy, they don’t do much to stop this film from being average. It’s as if Woods was trying to be calculating and smart when writing the antagonist, but Travolta’s opening monologue is not a patch on the wit of Tarantino styled speech and when he mentions Hollywood being unrealistic, well boy this film fits right into that bill.

Hugh Jackman shows us the earlier potential he has now proven but aside from grimacing at having to go back to a life or crime or staring at many screens he doesn’t do much as an engaging protagonist. John Travolta, however hammy he may be as the villain actually is a breath of fun, there’s a clear sense of danger to his character and he seems to be enjoying every line. Halle Berry and her first topless scene become the biggest thing she does in this movie as she doesn’t do much apart from possibly being something and then not. Don Cheadle may as well be on auto-pilot playing an FBI agent as he doesn’t having anything extensive to do, maybe rolling down a huge hill with Jackman like a cartoon disaster would have been something, acting surprised that none of them broke their legs.

It’s beyond ridiculous, but it rises with a good set-up and a enjoyable villain before slumping with uninteresting typing, far-fetched sequences and a dire script that got a green-light somehow. Perhaps Skip Woods is an advanced hacker.

4.5/10

The Big Short (2016)

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5 Academy Award nominations and only one of those I see worthy, this comedy drama about the tumbling financial crisis in America seems to gloat with it’s overblown characters, in your face directing and Family Guy-esque cutaways. Saying all that there is some room for this film to succeed with some funny moments, an interesting summary by the end of the movie and the pacy nature involved.

The year is 2005 and Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is one of the first people to notice that the build up of the American housing market is very dodgy indeed. His quick thinking catches on with Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who ends up working with Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team in tackling this impending disaster.

I don’t know how to really go into the depth of this movie because it’s so bloated with insane blabber about the housing markets, banks, mortgages and the like that even if you know a little about what happened in 2008, you lose track of the dialogue because it’s stuffed to the rafters with technical babble meaning you can’t fully grip most of what’s going on. That could just be me, yes but I do feel that it could have been simplified instead of targeting Wall Street fat-cats but sounding exactly like one.

One of the main issues I found with this film is that it’s dealing with a very serious issue, not just within the States but something that affected countries over the world also. This story is something that suits a documentary style and though there are shaky camera shots and almost interviews with the characters as they break the fourth wall, it all feels like the movie is glossing over the seriousness with smug loudness. It would have been more understandable and perhaps more interesting if it was a documentary feature instead.

The only point where I really sat up and liked the film was in the last 15-20 minutes. This is where the heart-breaking reality of what has happened hits not just the characters we’ve heard but the huge population too. In fact the closing facts on the black screen give the most weight because it suddenly feels real and not like a cheesy montage of sound-bites and arrogant personas. 8 million just in America lost their jobs and as we see investors Charlie and Jamie step onto the empty Lehman Brothers trading floor, the movie finally feels tragic and echoes the greedy reality of what happened not long ago.

Adam McKay of comedy directing takes on this biographical movie as if he wants to show-boat a new sense of style. To be honest, this constant cutting back and forth and interspersing of stock footage becomes tired and more like a gimmick as it goes on. He does some interesting things in having a few characters look at the camera and spiel off some facts but that also gets stretched out as does the swiping to celebrities to try and explain financial facts to us. I don’t understand why he’s up for an award because it’s not original, it screams like a ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ copy but without the Scorsese class to be engaging.

Overall the characters seem to get lost in the language and chaos of time moving forwards. It does feel like at any moment Ron Burgundy will walk in and make light of the situation with a quotable retort and flute solo. It’s not an awful film just one that seems to me to be getting attention because it’s an American tale about Americans being smart and trying to save the day. Even Margot Robbie in a bubblebath cannot distract me from seeing how baffling and shallow the film comes across. It’s a shame because even though I wasn’t expecting to like it I thought I’d find it interesting but that only happened at the end.

Steve Carell for me stands out with the most development, his morals becoming clearer and his emotion making one character feel 3-dimensional amongst the sprawling ensemble involved. Christian Bale is good as he is in most things but the only interest is because he has a glass eye and doesn’t wear shoes, aside from that and his good hearted side I don’t see why Bale is up for Supporting Actor. Ryan Gosling smirks and preens his way along in a fun smarmy role, helped by a thick coating of fake tan he stands out as the Jordan Belfort figure. Brad Pitt seems to be left dangling with no true intentions of why he’s aiding the investors and risking his wanted safe life and seeds. It’s not anything challenging for him lets say. I may have to award the film something extra for the joyful surprise of Karen Gillan being in it, though her tiny part adds nothing at all. Then you have talented performers Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock, Marisa Tomei, Max Greenfield and um…Selena Gomez providing more confusion as we try to grasp more characters.

It’s a movie that feels tonally absurd, vaulting from comedic arrogance to serious truth without notice. ‘The Big Short’ is certainly zippy and sharp in places but aside from noticeably great editing, the film feels like another injustice to the ordinary folk that were dealt with blows by the bankers this movie is trying to blame.

5.5/10