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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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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The saga returns and the 2nd of the new Star Wars trilogy whams into the cinema with director Rian Johnson ensuring he gives fans a lot to be pleased about whilst gifting the starry sci-fi blockbuster some neat stylish additions of his own.

Continuing on from Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) island meet up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), she hopes to learn the ways of the Jedi. Meanwhile Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is desperately trying to evacuate the Rebel base as the First Order try and diminish hope from the galaxy and wipe out the chance of Luke’s return. As they keep trying to escape, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is at odds with his place in all this, not helped by visions that unwillingly connect him to someone else.

Rian Johnson ensures the Star Wars aficionados can enjoy seeing certain characters, screen wipes and the charm of space opera good versus bad as the ever central theme. Hope and the notion of crushing that ideal is what drives the franchise and this is no exception but gladly the director after J.J. Abrams hands this outing some stylistic moments; ones that almost step out of the comfortable SW bubble, that I thoroughly enjoyed. These choices keep the film fresh and help it look exciting but more brooding than ‘The Force Awakens’. A sequence with endlessly mirroring a character, the salted planet of red surface and crystal critters and an extremely amazing breathtaking snappy edit of a soundless explosion are some examples of the visual splendour Johnson and his huge crew have created, which keep the galaxy alive with big screen wonder.

There are some points, mostly that lay within the story, that can feel utterly safe and predictable. Obviously I’m not wanting to spoil anything in this review so I’ll keep hush on the negatives I had but sufficed to say there are space filled deus ex machinas abounds and little character events that I expected straight away which sort of took me out of the immersive thrill. Also, some writing choices they give the action and/or characters felt cheap or not wholly unnecessary and without spoilers I really felt no need for a kiss that comes at one time.

Luke’s island hideout is rife with creatures and one species is the well advertised and product placed Porgs that clearly strike for the kids and the cute factor. Granted they can be quite fun but the clear merchandise cash in that they are and their constant gaping mouth wide eyed shtick becomes less amusing and ever tiring. Aside from a couple of story gripes and these puffin-esque beasties this movie has a good amount of twists and turns that keep the narrative interesting, a mission on a casino centred Canto Bight is rich with wealth, class differences and a couple of fun cameos. Another positive is John Williams returning with a score that’s safe but swells and simmers with the fan buzz of familiar sounds to satisfy all. I also love that a lot of the creatures you see are handled with animatronics which look much better and charming than the sheen of CGI.

Mark Hamill gets his teeth into much more screen time and it’s nice to see Luke Skywalker back, though he’s getting to play well with the bitter side of things. Hamill delivers enough emotion into his journey of who he is now and why he’s left the Jedi Master qualities behind with a tinge of will he/won’t he be a bad egg. Both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher lift the film with an explainable grace that probably stems from the nostalgia of their presence amongst the whirlwind of desperate escape tactics. Fisher herself still carries Leia as a beacon of hope and strength, she’s good and efficient and Fisher performs this effortlessly filling the General shoes with ease. Adam Driver gets to slowly break away from his angsty teen fits and dramatics and the conflict in his path is nicely evident in the performance. Daisy Ridley manages to keep up the brave and strong qualities of Rey, a hero through and through but one where Ridley nicely plays with the pressure of balancing her place in the Force and the pull of the dark side. Domhnall Gleeson amps up the villainous panto switch with sneers aplenty. Supreme Leader Snoke gets more screen time and has more depth and a constant creepy shadowy presence thanks to the mo-cap work from Andy Serkis.

It’s definitely a long film and this is a long review to almost reflect that. It’s the longest one yet but luckily it never feels a slog; it may not zip on by but it’s a well handled and well paced space adventure that feels like a grand step up from Episode 7 and one that has humour and stakes around every corner.

8/10

Epic (2013)

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Of course the notion of good versus evil is done to breaking point, and even more so in family animations, to try and spark that idea to children about being on the good side, this 2013 feature is no exception, drafting in the well used handbook of wrongdoers trying to usurp a kind leader and her followers. The predictable storytelling is no issue when a film looks as stunning as this one does.

Travelling to visit and stay with her father, M.K (Amanda Seyfried) is nearly out the door in the first day as she realises her dad is still obsessed with the idea that the forest is full of little people living there. On the same day, the queen of the forest (Beyonce Knowles) is about to pick the heir when Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his baddies show up. M.K ends up the size of an ant as she tries to help Nod and Ronin (Josh Hutcherson and Colin Farrell) keep the heir protected and save the forest from rotting doom.

Written by Chris Wedge, James V. Hart and William Joyce, the story is nothing new or stirring but for young audiences the balance of nasty foes battling loyal and nice heroes is more than enough. There’s nothing overly grand to keep older audience goers amused or entertained in terms of writing but the story can’t be bemoaned as it does the job it’s doing well and this nature setting is a fine setting for the plot.

Every scene and moment with sequences or character motives, works in the building of the plot, even a brief moment with a Pitbull voiced frog has its reasoning for continuing the narrative. Chris Wedge directs this fantasy adventure film with a clear eye for microscopic detail, as if he too is zooming in on the greenery like M.K’s dad. The scenes work and though you know where moments may be going it doesn’t spoil the wonder of seeing it happen. It’s still got a fine level of suspense in trying to keep the forest warriors one step ahead of Mandrake and his cronies and Wedge demonstrates this good/evil back and forth solidly.

Blue Sky Studios are most known for their ‘Ice Age’ outings but these rises above in terms of visuals. It fails to mirror in terms of comedy and zaniness but the team of animators have lovingly crafted a gorgeous movie. The lush green palette runs through as a near constant colour for good and hope, making the gnarled blackened images that much worse. Bright purples, reds and blues aid the rainbow like world of living flowers and fungi folk and the general look of these dandelion people or the leaf-men is exquisite. The detail of this forest floor world and how M.K sees it is beautiful. Animation has never felt so crisp and perfectly designed.

It’s a shame then that a few well ridden practices of plot devices weigh down what could have been a very original bold and interesting film. Also, the happy ending is clear from a mile off, the estranged parent-child routine is tired now too and cliched sidekick characters aiming for laughs feels like a slimy stretch from the frankly irritating slug and snail duo. It’s a title that fails to live up to expectations as the film is not epic, it’s incredible at times and fun but certainly not epic.

Colin Farrell gifts the film that magical sort of lilt in his Irish accent. This helps further with Danny Elfman’s score that at times sounds like a tune of folklore from the Emerald Isle. Bouncy and jovial his music brings that element of fantastical frolic to proceedings. Farrell can be stern and gruff when he needs to be too. Amanda Seyfried has that enjoying pleasure of wonder in her voice recording, she sounds innocent and sweet but confident in herself and what she needs to do in the story. Josh Hutcherson steps up from the mopey Peeta angle and is jerky but likable as the gallivanting and cocksure Nod. Beyonce is the queen and that says it all as a fun little joke at her musical icon status. Jason Sudeikis sounds skittish and eccentric as the forest mad dad, though when he needs to lower this for attempts in patching up family problems he does so well. Christoph Waltz will always be the man to go to for villainous roles and this movie is no exception. That delicious snarl in the words he delivers makes for a charismatic yet clearly evil character.

A thinly constructed story built around the less than original notions of good and bad, family fractures and young romances but look more closely and marvel in the sheer bright fluidity of the animation. A joy to behold.

6.5/10

Megamind (2010)

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Hey! It’s been a year since I posted my first review on this very movie blog. That’s quite mega don’t you think, so in weak relation to that I’m reviewing ‘Megamind’. It’s zippy, fun and entertaining too, just like keeping up with writing for this review blog is, so dive right on in to see what I thought of DreamWorks 2010 hero themed toon.

Rivals since babies; Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) play the same revenge battles in Metro City until one day Megamind may finally come to winning. In the possibility of no hero and no need to keep on kidnapping reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey) what can Megamind do to keep occupied and will his answer make things worse like normal?

It’s not in any way a fresh story to run with, superheroes in both live action and animation are old hat but this film has some zippy visuals and fun energetic voice casting to help it along a lot. The destruction looks great and you can see where the 3D would have fitted in. Buildings crumble, sprays of Megamind graffiti line streets and explosions fill this Metropolis inspired city. The superhero angle is winked at from Lois Lane like Roxanne to Batman like lair and a mention of a Fortress of Solitude.

Brent Simons and Alan J. Schoolcraft don’t excel fully, some of their hero connected plot work is smart and suitably silly but not enough is different enough to feel as zany as it’s trying to be or remarkable enough to be a new thing. The story line is predictable from a long way off as you read into where each character is going, but that’s not a widely bad point, it is a family film after all and so it shouldn’t be too confusing, just maybe the good vs evil angle could have been played around in a less obvious manner.

Rocky soundtrack choices and humour in Megamind’s mispronunciation are a couple of selections from a few quite neat comedic touches in Tom McGrath’s enjoyable cartoon ride. The multiple coded code word back and forth discussions, the blase reactions of Roxie to her kidnaps, the radio cutting between songs and Megamind’s way of dealing with his loss of an obstacle are funny additions and keep the film running at a steady and welcome pace.

Will Ferrell gives the large blue headed alien baddie a buffoonish quality but yet with an endearing note that leaves you liking him no matter how idiotic he acts. The vocals he gives when the film spoofs Marlon Brando in Superman are hilarious and there for the adult audience. There’s a spark of wit in Megamind’s dialogue that gives him depth and character to carry the film more than well. This witty trend is shared greatly with David Cross and the quick firing banter he has with Megamind as talking fish sidekick, Minion. Brad Pitt gives his voice nicely to the showboating and over heroic Superman-esque stylings of Metro Man. Tina Fey is great at the nonchalant mannerisms and gives a balanced degree of heart and offish reaction to her reporting character. Jonah Hill as doofy nerd cameraman Hal is typically Hill but his character progresses and so does his vocal work so all in all the cast are very good at playing this story out.

A superhero parcel arriving at the door that needs not be opened before you know what’s inside, but there’s an amount of joy to be had in unwrapping that parcel. Metaphor aside and near the end of an anniversary review, ‘Megamind’ is rapid, fun and harmless heroic play.

6/10