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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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

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

Thoroughbreds (2018)

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Posh and psychotic in a way that keeps you guessing and enthralled; this film is never one you can predict and thank goodness to see something original like this. Bolstered further by great performances, this is a nicely wound thriller left best without knowing too much going in.

After committing some extreme off screen act, unfeeling Amanda (Olivia Cooke) gets tutored by distant but once childhood friend Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy). The two girls talk, study and ultimately spend their time coldly discussing an idea to kill someone.

I’ll leave the plot at that, because I feel this film is definitely more rewarding with less prior expectations. This is how I entered, literally knowing who was in it and that’s it, luckily I avoided trailers and this made my viewing experience much better. Debut director and writer Cory Finley has certainly whipped up Patrick Bateman vibes in his story, featuring two females as similarly pinpoint sharp and calculated personas. When we watch the pair chat, reminisce and plot it’s a fascinating blend of dark humour and uneasy creepiness.

The music throughout this movie is perfectly designed, the choice of cellist Erik Friedlander gifts a good number of scenes a very unsettling string arrangement that almost makes you sit bolt upright with the goosebumps over your skin raised. It’s also mixed in with some sounds that I can only describe as unique, oddly pleasant and unsettling at the same time. Also, a workout machine throws another detail of tension as its sounds reverberate around the house.

The upper class is a platform for us to revel and revolt in, with the two prim, well educated and well off women shown to us as bored lasses, procrastinating from work and driven to conspire of murder like it’s nothing. The look of the film added to this interesting window-gaze into their lives, is clean and crisp; like the clinical white spa Lily and her mother visit. This precise cleanliness of every frame creates another layer of unease but doesn’t overtake the good moments of frost-bitten comedy that strikes in the same way as ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’.

Cooke excels in a role masterfully tailored to her performance power. She plays a character lacking joy or guilt in such a mesmerising way and she manifests tears, with an in-film technique that just shows what a talented actor she is. Taylor-Joy is an enigmatic presence, her large eyes drawing you in and really making us see how unflinching and cold they are. She perfectly travels a path into less empathy and cold hearted indifference which can be amusing and troubling to watch. The late Anton Yelchin isn’t involved much as Tim; a character that’s not wholly necessary or interesting, but the great Yelchin displays a maddening ferocity behind his eyes and future plans, which is a nice opposing quality to the skittish, on edge moments he goes through.

‘Thoroughbreds’ is probably something that’ll slip under the radar; like a horse left in the stables but it deserves to be seen because it’s different, killer and a jolt of talent from in front and behind the cameras.

7.5/10

Blockers (2018)

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Admittedly I wasn’t expecting much when I saw the trailer for this American comedy, but I should learn to not judge movies by trailers because this is a smart overturn on the usual laddish, adolescent sexual awakening that is found in almost every movie of this type.

With prom night coming fast, three best friends since the first day of school, agree to a sex pact of losing their virginity at the same time. Accidentally discovering this news via iPad, the girls parents do all they can to find their ‘sweet’ daughters and block them from having sex.

Kay Cannon; who had great influence behind ’30 Rock’ and ‘New Girl’, debuts as director with this female led comedy. One of the best things surrounding the feel of this film, is how pitch perfect (pun kind of intended) it is, in regards to finally toning down the boring frat boy nature of teen sex movies and seeing how the other half live, so to speak. Obviously, as a guy I can’t speak for the emotions/thoughts women go through before their first time, but it is refreshing to see something where girls go hard and still retain a genuine sister like bond.

A lot of the laughs, mostly from people around me, stemmed from the physical humour played by the adults of the scenario. I didn’t exactly laugh or chuckle very often, but I do agree that this is a fun film and the scrapes the parents end up in, however ridiculous, are entertaining to witness. To balance the comedy, there’s alright chemistry with the friends and enough behind the shift in life that happens, as the children inevitably fly the nest, as we all do. It may be obvious and not exactly refined or clever writing but it works for the target audience.

One of the girls is struggling with their sexuality and I found this a possibility to fill the film with more heart, to acknowledge all aspects of who are and who we like. It works in regards to the eventual father/daughter chat, but the moments where the film shows us the character looking at this caped beauty, arrives with mystical almost Oriental music which felt tonally off and like they’re playing this attraction for laughs. It almost harks to the Lady in Red use in ‘Dodgeball’.

There’s no doubt that this movie belongs to John Cena, who manages to squeeze overly worrying fatherhood in every look and action. It’s not exactly hilarious but it’s damn close. Leslie Mann excels as the clingy mother and Ike Barinholtz effectively annoys as the absent dad but gets his chance for predictable redemption. Angela Hayes lives another life as Julie; a girly girl who likes ‘Sixteen Candles’ and hopes for a perfect first time, played convincingly by Kathryn Newton. As a general note, it would have been good to see more of the 3 teens stories and less of the prat falls and dilemmas the parents face.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this is a cracking comedy, but there are good sparky moments that can make you laugh and best of all, it’s an open minded film about womanhood, sex, family and John Cena having a ball.

6.5/10

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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4 years after the sublime, (and one of my favourite movies) ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, director Wes Anderson returns with a wonderfully told stop-motion tale, centred around one boy and many dogs.

In a dystopian Japan, where all pooches have been exiled to an island away from Megasaki City, because of an outbreak of dog flu, is where we follow runaway boy and makeshift pilot Atari (Koyu Rankin). He crash lands on the Isle of Dogs, hoping to find his lost dog Spots (Liev Schreiber) and is helped by a pack of five, though one named Chief (Bryan Cranston) really doesn’t want to aid the quest.

Coming back to the amazing world of stop-motion, after his 2009 foray with ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ is the man who hands such detail and a clear stamp of identity to his work. Wes Anderson utilises the craftsmanship of this art form to great effect, in a way that never distracts from the wit and gorgeousness of the storytelling. Split up into numbered parts, this movie owes a lot to rich Japanese culture and director of ‘Seven Samurai’. The dystopian world and the adventure story of finding a dog is well realised and easy to follow for all.

There is so much incredible detail, even in the backgrounds, where so many must have tirelessly put great time and effort in ensuring all parts of the frame are filled with loving attention. Trash Island is literally littered with stunning scenery of coloured bottles, rubbish, an abandoned athletics centre and amusement park all gift the visuals, a grimy yet playful stroke. The dogs themselves shuffle along and move with the lovely manoeuvring as we see the stop-motion in effect. This feature film is further proof of my love for stop-motion as a beautiful means of telling stories, deserving of acclaim creating these textual landscapes and characters.

It can’t be a film solely judged on the means of how the visuals are presented though, story is of course a massive factor and though it’s fun, interesting in many points and screams Anderson, it isn’t an out and out success for me. There isn’t the same charm resonating in this, that can be found in ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ or ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. The grounded, dirty look thanks to the Island is somewhat cold and therefore leaves the story feeling vaguely dark and cold, I’d expect it to be uninviting for young children hoping to watch something parading cutesy dogs but I’d be lying if I said this film wasn’t mostly delightful to watch.

I wouldn’t be as harsh to say it was boring, but I did become disinterested in the middle of the narrative, Part 3 – The Rendezvous felt like a weak point and was a blip in the movie where I slightly switched off; thinking the plot was dragging but aside from that, this is a fully realised, smart and witty story thanks to the quirky genius of Anderson and fellow story gurus; Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura.

Cranston is ruff, sorry roughly irritable and brilliant as the naysayer and distant mangy mutt, hoping to eat scraps and have nothing to do with the little boy pilot. Jeff Goldblum wonderfully spiels off rumours his dog persona of Duke has heard. Scarlett Johansson uses her distinctive voice to suitably play enigmatic and mysterious show-dog Nutmeg. Edward Norton, in fact gets a lot more say than the Chief of the pack and in his usual Norton way, delivers an Anderson script with perfect execution. Courtney B. Vance is a solid casting choice with a soothing narration that guides us in places.

This comedy stop-motion animation is no bad dog and sits close to being a perfect pup. I wasn’t fully engrossed constantly but my interest peaked enough to label this worthy pedigree chum; a movie with a talented cast and enjoyable quirkiness.

7.5/10