Deadpool 2 (2018)

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So, the merc with the mouth is back. He’s taking names, punching balls and wreaking cinematic mayhem like the last time, but is the sequel as cool and fun as before?

A string of worldwide criminal culls leads danger straight to Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and soon he must learn to find a family and follow his heart to get back what he most desires; not chimichangas. The cancer riddled anti-hero winds up stuck with a powered kid called Russell Collins (Julian Dennison), who is the target of cybernetic Cable (Josh Brolin).

2016 saw ‘Deadpool’ arrive in cinemas with great acclaim, box office records and audience glee, it was always going to be a tough act to follow and the sequels marketing team have certainly taken promotion to the next level, but the movie doesn’t quite follow suit. In my eyes, it’s definitely like Reynolds and the returning two writers from before are hoping to recapture the same profanity fuelled magic, which makes it feel try hard more often than not.

It honestly isn’t as funny as the first outing, I didn’t laugh as much and a good proportion of the quips don’t land with confidence; it’s that try hard aspect where it’s obvious dialogue was shot multiple times and it’s almost like the final choice was picked out of a hat or likely, sealed by test audiences reactions. Also, the much talked about post credits scenes are admittedly amusing, but…here I go…they feature jokes mentioned time and time again and also undo everything just built up in the main feature. Now that’s either lazy writing or just pratting around for the sake of it, but both options grate me.

Saying all of this, the film isn’t bad at all. In fact, I found the action scenes to be more explosive and captivating than in the 1st movie. The plot does take a while to get going but once it does, there’s insane levels of carnage and joyous fourth wall breaking to revel in. A secret room in the Xavier mansion is perfectly timed and very funny, as is a parachuting sequence and the windy aftermath which is hilariously unexpected. Wade Wilson’s more developed emotive side out of the DP suit is nice to see. He learns to lead with his heart whilst still leading forward with his wit and katanas. The human touch presented is a needed touch and a back and forth connection with Russell makes for an interesting dynamic. Oh and anything that rips on DC with its tongue in cheek and laughs at the Martha line is okay in my book.

The movie’s music is filled to breaking point with hits. Firstly a Celine Dion belter seen over a James Bond inspired opening is a masterful parody. The rest of the film lets us listen to the likes of Enya and Skrillex with a Say Anything Peter Gabriel inspired moment to round things off with maximum effort.

Ryan Reynolds is clearly the perfect man to play Deadpool, in fact I don’t think they can be differentiated anymore. Julian Dennison is great as a fiery mutant, which is where I now see Ricky Baker ending up after working out the foster family wasn’t for him once he developed his power. The anger and later emotion he shows, highlight what a fantastic and funny young actor he is and I hope to see him in many more movies. Zazie Beetz excels as lucky Domino with a fun spin on being bad-ass. Josh Brolin may not be as interestingly three-dimensional as he is playing Thanos, but he’s just as gruff, violently determined with added comic chops to bounce off of Reynolds. The less said about the much too used T.J. Miller the better.

Enjoyably packed with violence, twisted humour and ripping into movies and superhero stereotyping. This is an action riot rocketed to the nth degree but still can’t match up to the funny heights of the first film and feels almost over-stuffed.

6.5/10

 

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Revenge (2018)

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Women are not to be messed with and ‘Revenge’ surely shows this, in an exploitation thriller bursting with female power.

Richard (Kevin Janssens) is a married man but has a young and attractive mistress called Jen (Matilda Lutz), who are both enjoying some time in Richard’s secret desert home. That is until two of his hunting buddies show up and drool over Jen, one thing to leads to another and then she’s out for revenge.

This is director Coralie Fargeat’s debut full length feature and if this anything to go by, then she’s someone I look forward to directing again. It easily could have been a schlock fest and gory sexplotation for the sake of it but the film rises above that simple route and provides an action thriller, led by a woman that messes with the genre and takes you on a sprint, almost making me need to catch my breath once the film was over.

There’s a brilliantly directed sequence where Jen suffers hallucinogenic nightmares which rivals ‘Dumbo’ for weirdness and it’s so perfectly edited that it becomes a frightening moment that worms into your very own head and plays tricks on you. It isn’t just that scene that’s scary, the blokes are obviously nasty too. The majority of the movie chooses to have close-ups which do a great job in adding engaging tension but also showing what disgusting creatures men can be; proved further by shots of a lizard cut after a shot of one of the men. Plus an extreme close up of a man eating a chocolate snack is a case in point of the ugly side of masculinity, that enhances the movie’s feminist spirit.

Colours pop with sharpness throughout this movie, but the saturation is truly turned up to the max in the house bound opening, with pinks, blues, reds and yellows searing the screen with vivid intensity. That bold play with colour comes back with attack come the latter stages of the film, with rivers of crimson red enhancing the revenge experience.

I was thinking, perhaps twice during the run-time, that it could have been a little punchier. It doesn’t ever feel long but it doesn’t zip along in the same vein as the zany ‘Mom and Dad’ did. I feel it could have been more energetic if ten or so minutes had been shaved off. There’s also a great example of needing to suspend disbelief at a crucial part in the story, that’s very far-fetched and I couldn’t shake it, but it doesn’t ruin what is a tense and explosive visceral flick that makes you squirm with imaginable pain at many points.

Lutz certainly goes through the ringer and has a tougher time of it than Alison Lohman in ‘Drag Me to Hell’, which is randomly what came to mind when I watched this Italian actress fight for her survival. She’s an incredible presence and does a mighty job in being believable, bad ass, vulnerable, motivated and someone to root for.

‘Revenge’ is a rip-roaring outing that’s soaked with so much blood, that the opening elevator doors in ‘The Shining’ look like a mere leaky tap.

8.5/10

 

Entebbe (2018)

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Inspired by a true moment in history, this biographical thriller from Jose Padilha has some nicely executed tension in places and a bold choice of book-ended dancing but isn’t as thrilling as you’d expect it to be.

Set over one week in 1976, we see the planning and execution of Palestine ‘freedom fighters’ hijacking a plane and keeping the passengers hostage at an airport terminal in Entebbe, Uganda. Hoping to lead and show they’re not radicals or dangerous is Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl) who doesn’t reckon on the Israeli government strategising a combat response to their demands.

Considering the events being shown to us are based on real life ones, the film never really lifts off and becomes as deeply tense as it would have been in that scenario for the captives. There are some brief elevations of tension that help keep some interest alive, but these are at the beginning and end of the film, which leaves a hefty middle portion to sit almost stale-like.

For a film that’s tackling events previously shown in other TV films, this one bravely includes a sequence to differentiate itself and stand apart. This is the opening dance number that then returns nearing the end and becomes a unique bookend for the movie, that I did find to work well. It mirrors the alarming nature of what is happening in Uganda and is exceptionally edited, giving the film a much needed sheen of atmospheric style.

More than anything, this is a movie that doesn’t just slow burn like great thrillers do, but just feels slow. Come day four and five, ‘Entebbe’ begins to lull and dare I say ache with boredom but does pick up its pace and as day six and seven roll around, the film had me more attuned and awake. There wasn’t much emotional attachment within the film and that’s maybe why the film feels slow, they try showing us a dancer and her soldier boyfriend but it comes to late to capture any connection to them and generally, there’s no one really to root for.

Bruhl is interesting in his role as someone wanting to fight against the powers of Israel and free his people, it also lets him briefly shine as he desperately hopes to step away from the expectations of society viewing the fact he’s German and taking prisoners, as the unfortunate parallels it has to WW2 Nazism, but it’s not his best performance by any stretch. Rosamund Pike is great in this, she has such expressive eyes which are full of guilt, sadness and ultimately, a realisation of the situation she’s ended up in. A scene with Pike at a payphone rings with softly powerful words and a simple yet effective static shot over this scene really hits home the problem Brigitte Kulhmann has gotten into.

The issue of the film is that there are no sides to take and the complexity of the still ongoing Palestine and Israel conflict; sees this film mired with frustrating emptiness, only briefly saved by some snippets of style and tension.

5.5/10

 

Fishbowl California (2018)

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A film showing people stuck in their own bubble and almost like a goldfish, they merrily swim around their own filth, not noticing or caring about the people and world around them, until of course that could change.

Rodney (Steve Olson) is an unmotivated individual who ends up losing his girlfriend Tess (Katrina Bowden). After this he winds up meeting June (Katherine Cortez), who enjoys alcohol and pushing others away, but these two crude figures find some weird connection and help each other out.

This is the first full length film from Michael A. MacRae and he definitely captures the sun-soaked portrait of California and gives it a semi vulgar filter in showing the rut people can get into, so much so that they lose everything. In the writing there are soft touches of comedy to be had, little moments like leaving a laptop in a coffee shop or a car trunk not closing, all add up to the pathetic character building of Rodney.

‘Fishbowl California’ definitely works better nearing the end as the dramatic side of June and her condition begins to escalate…it gets higher….it doesn’t deescalate! A moment seen after a passage of time where a character stumbles into a certain scenario is unexpected and quite cleverly done I must say. It’s a predictable narrative of souls randomly finding each other and fixing their flaws but it’s watchable.

The film never ever drags which is obviously a blessing and the interest is sustained mostly down to some assured directing and the performances of June, her daughter and a whip smart kid punctuating scenes with knowledge beyond his years. The biggest issue I had with the film was Rodney as a character, he’s just impossible to root for. Some could call it bad luck but I view it as his own making. He complains about everything going wrong but it’s fault that it did and he doesn’t even change come the end. By taking a peek at the money in his wallet instead of perhaps enjoying watching June cycle away shows no journey at all. The tagline states to be a better person but Rodney still feels like a man-child who would drift into laziness like before.

Olson; then is great at portraying this slob who never seems to learn. There’s a convincing idiocy added to his performance which works. Katrina Bowden is ideal as the all too perfect Tess making you wonder what she sees in Rodney before the film nicely reveals her flaws. Richard Riehle has a small but entertaining scene that plumbs to comedic waters in showcasing the funny pipes of plumbing and further illustrating Rodney’s ineptitude. Cortez is fantastic, in a fishbowl of her own drinking and being rude to neighbourhood neighbourinos. She gets the biggest change and Cortez acts this arc magnificently, plus she has some nice scenes with her hard working daughter played by Jenna Willis.

It might not be an outstanding movie but it retains an odd charm and 100% shows that if you have a film-making dream then go for it. Everyone has a story and studios aren’t always necessary to get your vision out there. As MacRae importantly states – “Get some friends, get a script, and make a movie.”

6/10

Beast (2018)

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Stalking the screen with effective tension is this beastly feature. It certainly has bark and bite, as we see this dark thriller take hold and swallow you up, in a dangerously palpable mystery.

Celebrating her birthday is Moll (Jessie Buckley), who ends up dancing the night away before crossing paths with the possibly shady Pascal (Johnny Flynn), the next morning. There have been a series of grim murders plaguing the island and it isn’t long until people suspect Moll’s new connection, as the man behind the disappearances.

This is a debut work from Michael Pearce; who unarguably knows how to layer on the tension. The film almost sweats out a deep and engaging psychological tale, as if Pearce is allowing us to peer through a magnifying glass at all the worrying little details possessed by Moll and Pascal, details that keep us questioning their relationship and the trail of murders.

Coinciding with Pearce’s fantastically hypnotic visuals is a score from Jim Williams that drips with almost spine-chilling strength. The entire look of this movie is that of a frightening British drama, with a cold dirtiness and a somewhat fun immersion into thriller territory that is enhanced by the plot. The narrative is one that definitely kept me guessing and the end is one I could talk about for some time yet, it’s visceral, unexpected and almost reaches the realm of being powerful.

Saying all of this, I don’t know whether it’s a film I’d watch again and it’s a story that I was a little disappointed didn’t end up being darker or more twisted. The film also slightly suffers from feeling like a slow tick-tock aspect, which does make it feel a little bit long. I’d definitely say the film is strongest in the first two thirds.

The acting is blindingly great, some of the most captivating performances I’ve ever seen. Flynn excels at playing this secretive, maybe dodgy character that turns up in Moll’s life. There’s a great balance of masculinity and softer love he portrays as he gets wrapped up in the whirlwind of the flame haired Buckley. She is incredible, the emotions she goes through are numerous and each one is carefully performed, drawing you into her as a character. It’s almost a tour de force show that she puts on and Moll comes to vivid and horrific life thanks to this.

This could be bad or good but I still don’t really know how I feel with ‘Beast’ and perhaps that’s testament to how fearless and different it is. The movie is rife with tension and I can at least safely say that it’s two leading stars ensure you cannot look away.

7/10

Tully (2018)

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Parenting has never looked so awfully stressful and yet this is a film that does shine a light on not missing out on those important family steps. This movie is the fourth team up between director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody and could well be their most brutally honest outing yet.

Mum of 2 and heavily pregnant with child number 3; is Marlo (Charlize Theron), who gets little in the way of support from husband Drew (Ron Livingston). The daily routine of making food, school runs etc is clearly piling up to boiling point, therefore Marlo’s brother suggests she uses a night nanny to help with the new baby, so she can some get much needed sleep. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) appears like a perfect granted wish to let Marlo get her life back on track.

First of all, the writing from scribe of ‘Juno’ Diablo Cody is sharp and almost overflowing with neat moments of humour. This is very carefully balanced with necessary elements of dramatic weight we feel towards to the weight Marlo clearly carries day in and day out. What I think works so well within this story, is the genuinely raw emotions and toil of a family set up, in which the script has a brilliant laser focus on the motherhood aspect.

Jason Reitman directs without shying away from the gross moments of raising children, the sweet touches of bonding with a new-born and the believable character building conversations between Tully and Marlo. There are a lot of scenes that see the camera up and close to the characters which really makes us feel the crazed routines Marlo goes through. On top of this, a sequence after the baby arrives, snips fast and precise like a montage as we see her doing a lot of things over and over again. If this film doesn’t at least as some point make you question having children because they’re a nightmare then I don’t know what will.

On the other hand, this film and the dialogue heavy moments shared with Marlo and Tully do a grand job in highlighting just how great being a parent can be, setting up a safe and well practised environment may be boring but it’s secure and it’s home. There are some touching and sometimes some odd dynamics to be had watching the developing relationship between Marlo and the newcomer nanny and the film definitely heads into an unexpected place but one filled with heart and it works well.

Charlize Theron is a joy to behold in this. She loaded on the pounds to play this part and is unshakably perfect as the downtrodden mother, hoping to feel some brief relief of escape. I honestly hope that people aren’t fickle thanks to time and she’s remembered come Oscar season because her performance is incredible. Mackenzie Davis is also great, in a different kind of way but one that mirrors the hopeful desire of Theron. There are some profound snippets of knowledge she provides and her youthful freedom is well realised in a performance that feels slightly weird but in a good way, a way that works for this character.

The pains and yet pleasure of being a mother truly come across in a grim, stressful but also beautifully emotive manner.

7.5/10

I Feel Pretty (2018)

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Sigh. I mean first of all, let me say that I’m not an Amy Schumer fan, so going into this was always likely to lead to pained reactions. In that sense, this film isn’t a disappointment because it is painfully unfunny and a right drag to complete.

Renee (Amy Schumer) helps control the website for a major cosmetics company, but she’s hidden away in a basement and on top of this she’s getting increasingly annoyed at the way society views woman who don’t conform to the stereotypical attractive ‘look’. After an accident at SoulCycle, Renee comes around and thinks she’s changed and become the typically gorgeous woman she always wished to be, but to the bemusement of those round her because she looks exactly the same.

Obviously this film is squaring on a message of powerful self identity and appreciating yourself no matter how you look or what others think and say, which is all well and good but there’s times when it doesn’t follow that road with great conviction and other times when it slams the audience over the head with excruciatingly on the nose dialogue, time and time again forcing the values home, of loving who you are.

The above issue of overbearing and patronising writing to deliver a theme wouldn’t be so bad, if we were at least distracted by some great moments of comedy, but there is none of that to be found. I didn’t laugh once, I counted 9 others in the screen and not one of those watchers laughed or chuckled either. It’s just so boring and seems to rely on the incessant yammering of Renee which is more annoying than amusing. As with Melissa McCarthy movies, these two female performers tend to literally fall back on the uninspired method of prat falling to try and elicit laughter….and I ain’t biting.

I don’t doubt that Schumer has talent and can be charming, but her turn as Renee is horrendous and she’s almost the villain of the piece because I just couldn’t ever connect to her or like her. There’s a couple of places near the beginning where Schumer is fine to watch and made me think this movie could be alright but then it gets worse. Michelle Williams? Yes, why is she in this, again at first I thought she could be great, a kind of Jesse Plemmons in ‘Game Night’ comedic supporting character, but she loses any of her icy fashionista aura and her child-doll voice gets ever irritating.

As said, this was never going to be a film for me, but then it’s great when a movie can subvert expectations and all films should possess that chance. This one never ever gets close to the chance of becoming a fun or funny watch. By the end of it, I Felt pretty close to falling asleep.

2.5/10