Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

deadpool 2

After two years of working as a mercenary, and killing many bad guys, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) decides to start a family with girlfriend Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin)  When those plans are interrupted, Deadpool is convinced by Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) to join the X-men as a trainee.  His first mission is to rescue a teen boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a home for orphaned mutants, Russell is causing damage with his powers and the police are called, but Deadpool screws up the mission and both he and Russell  go to the Icebox, a mutant prison where their powers are controlled by collars around their necks.  While in prison, Russell seeks revenge on the headmaster(Edde Marsan)  of the orphanage and enlists the aid of Juggernaut,(himself)  the biggest prisoner in the Icebox.

From out of the blue, a soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell, but Russell escapes Cable with his new friend Juggernaut, and heads for the orphanage to get his revenge on the headmaster,  Cable follows Russell, and Deadpool with his new ‘family’ the X-Force, which mainly consists of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and they go to find Russell.  Can Deadpool and Domino stop Russell before he and Juggernaut exact their revenge?  Can Deadpool stop Cable from killing Russell.

Deadpool 2 is a mix of a great deal of violence, scatological teenage anatomy humor, both disturbing and derivative plot elements, and what Hollywood does best, explosions substituting for plot.  There’s a joke in the film that refers to Ryan Reynolds saying. “He doesn’t like sharing the screen with others” which is basically wish fulfillment for the rest of the film.  This is Ryan Reynolds’ film, and he chooses to carry the load mostly on his own.  The mood alternates between frathouse humor and some very disturbing allegations at the orphanage, and the film doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious film about serious issues, or Animal House with mutants, and that is part of the problem .  The mood shifts are so sudden and violent that any viewer would suffer from being whipsawed between laughter and angst  It doesn’t make the X-men look very good either, sending a trainee on a mission they should be handling.  The ending is not surprising, because it’s a Marvel movie, and endings don’t matter in Marvel movies.

The acting s ok, just ok, Ryan Reynolds is not a great actor, he’s as average actor, maybe below average.  So maybe,  sarcastic, snide, comic book superhero Is the best he can do for himself.  His best movies are Van Wilder, and Definitely, Maybe, frathouse comedy romantic comedy.  Deadpool weirdly combines both genres, so no wonder he feels comfortable.   Josh Brolin was a serious actor, he was good in No Country For Old Men, he did a good job as George W Bush in W.  But now he’s not in one but two Marvel movies, playing the heavy, Thanos on The Avengers, but playing a more complex role, as Cable.  Since Brolin is not known for comedy, he plays Cable as a straight man.  Here’s a suggestion, how about Larry the Cable Guy plays Cable?  Need an assassin?  Larry would Get ‘er done!  All kidding aside Brolin is quite good in this role.  Zazie Beetz was a breath of fresh air as Domino, she added snark, and a woman’s perspective to the testosterone dominated cast  She almost steals the movie from the incessantly mugging Reynolds. .  Julian Dennison was a bit too whiny, as Russell, he was boxed in by bad writing.  This was not the comic book Russell’s origin story.

The direction was good, pacing was fast, not an over reliance on special effects,  the pacing is good, a few too many explosions.  He gets mostly good performances from the cast.  And the guy is a stuntman, which makes sense for a movie like this which involves big action scenes and lots of stunts.   He directed  Atomic Blonde too, which I did not like.

Deadpool 2:  Not quite dead in the water.

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steve martin martin short

The legendary stand-up comedian and writer Steve Martin and SCTV and Saturday Night Live alumnus Martin Short perform for an audience in Greenville, South Carolina.

Steve Martin and Martin Short met over 30 years ago while filming the movie the Three Amigos.  Please don’t judge their careers by that movie, it is awful.  If you want to fairly judge Steve Martin, find an old copy of his “Wild and Crazy Guy” stand-up routine, or watch the movie The Jerk or Bowfinger with Eddie Murphy, a side-splitting satire of guerilla filmmaking and big Hollywood studios.  If you want to judge Martin Short, watch old episodes of SCTV or Saturday Night Live.

This comedy show is pretty funny, the first thing to notice is the jokes have some pretty recent references.  The two do a sketch with pictures of themselves, which is hilarious only to see the hairstyles of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s amusing to see the pair try their hands at insult comedy.  Short does a few impressions, and sings, and gives insight into one of his recurring characters.  Steve Martin, shows off his musical talent, and the guy has some serious musical talent.  There was only one really unfunny sketch was one which Short did by himself which was a satire of Broadway shows, but ended up being an embarrassment to Short and diminished the show a little.

Overall, the show is very funny, and a nice showcase for these two talented performers, who get to put their many talents on display for the masses once again.

Martin and Short:  Long on Laughs.

 

Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is a firefighter in the future in Cleveland Ohio.  In this America, firefighters don’t put out fires, they start them.  Specifically they start fires to burn books that are deemed offensive by the government.  The government allows people to read the Bible, In the Lighthouse and Moby Dick, but bans all other literature.  There is a group of people that are fighting this censorship, derisively called Eels by the government and the firefighters.  Under pressure by Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) a young Eel named Clarisse McClellan ( Sophia Boutella) gives Beatty information on one of her fellow resistors, an old woman with a vast library.  When Montag and Beatty get to the location, the old woman burns herself and the library.  Before she burns herself, she yells the word, “Omnis !” The old lady burning herself has a profound effect on Montag.  How does he change?  What is Omnis?

This is not a faithful adaptation of the classic book by Ray Bradbury, and that is not a good thing for viewers of this film.  The central premise of the book involves people turning away from reading books, in favor of other forms of entertainment.  This premise should be more prescient today with the advent of social media, online shopping, and streaming movies, but somehow this adaptation concentrates more on style than substance.  It changes substantial plot points until almost nothing remains of the original book but the title.  This new adaptation adds a meaningless romance to the story and changes the ending to make it look like every other action movie that Hollywood churns out today.  Do yourself a favor, read the book and skip this movie, it will make Ray Bradbury happy and save you the time of comparing this version of the movie to the book.  The book is vastly better anyway.

The acting is above average, for the most part.  Michael B. Jordan is convincing as the conflicted firefighter, where does his loyalty lie, to Beatty or to his conscience? He is boxed in by a script that doesn’t allow for character or plot development Michael Shannon is once again excellent, and turns the intensity up to 11 as Beatty.  He wants to find those eels and stomp out this movement.  Once again, the character is not allowed to develop, and seems one-dimensional.  Sofia Boutella is again hired for her looks and doesn’t even get a chance to show any range in her acting skills.

The direction is more interested in making this a fast-paced glossy image of a movie rather than conveying any big ideas.  So the viewer moves from chase scene to chase scene and images projected on sides of a building.  It’s all style over substance.  The pacing is surprisingly slow for a movie that purports to be an action film.

Fahrenheit 451:  Not So Hot

Avengers-Infinity-War

Thanos wants to steal all the Infinity Stones and kill half the universe’s population.  On the planet Asgard, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is searching for the Space Stone, encased in the tesseract , Thanos battles Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom  Hiddleston) on Asgard.  While the battle rages, Heimdall (Idris Elba) sends the The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to Earth where Bruce Banner warns Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that Thanos wants the Time Stone and already has the Power Stone.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to take the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, but he refuses to give it up.

Some of Thanos’ minions attack Vision (Paul Bethany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) but they are repelled by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)   Thanos wants the Mind Stone from Vision, Vision wants to sacrifice himself, and destroy the Mind Stone.

The Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Thor from outer space after Asgard is destroyed,  Thor wants to go to Nioavillir tobuild the Strormbreaker an ax capable of killing Thanos, he is accompanied by Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot. (Vin Diesel)  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)  and the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere, where Thanos seeks the Reality Stone.  Gamora  (Zoe Saldana) knows a secret about the Soul Stone, that she effuses to tell Thanos.  Will Thanos learn the secret of the Soul Stone?  Will Thanos collect all the Infinity Stones?  Or will Thor build the Stormbreaker Ax and kill Thanos?

Infinity War does one thing well, and that is to give each character enough lines to make each character contribute an important piece of the film.  The premise of killing half the population of the universe is a dumb one, because repopulation  is a continual thing.  The humor is well-placed, but then becomes overdone, and completely contradicts the stark nature of the ending.  The ending is jarring, it left me depressed and angry, hardly feelings that I expected to have coming out of a superhero action film.  I didn’t expect to have such a visceral reaction to this film, but I’ve spent 18 years watching these Marvel films and suffered through a few bad ones, Thor 1 &2, the first Guardians, the first Avengers, and this is my reward?  The fate of these characters seems random and capricious, and any attempt to write a revision to this movie in the next Avengers movie should be met with loud displeasure.  I, for one will not watch the next Avengers movie, why should I reward such shameless manipulation?

The acting is very good.  At the head of this very big class is Josh Brolin, he is decidedly cruel, but he is also conflicted about killing, and he displays that dichotomy very well.  Robert Downey Jr. plays the snarky Mr. Stark to perfection, like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, no one should ever play Tony Stark other than Downey Jr. because no one can play Stark better.  Benedict Cumberbatch does a nice job as Dr. Strange.  Chris Hemsworth is finally comfortable as Thor.  He is funny and having fun as the Norse god. And Zoe Saldana packs an emotional punch as Gamora.  She is fantastic.

The direction by the Russo Brothers is over the top.  Pacing to them is getting the audience from one action sequence to another, and jamming as many special effects into one movie as possible, which is fine if that’s all the viewer demands, but there is little time for plot development, character development or backstory, despite its 2 ½ hour running time.  They get good performances, but sometimes the special effects overwhelm the acting.

Avengers:  Infinity War: Thor-oughly unfortunate ending.

 

the-foreigner

An overprotective Chinese immigrant father named Quan (Jackie Chan) is living in London. He loses his daughter , Fan (Katie Leung) to an IRA terrorist bombing.  Despondent, he searches for answers.  He finds ex-IRA terrorist, Ian Hennessy. (Pierce Brosnan) Hennessy is now a British government official, who is trying to keep the 20 year peace accord between Northern Ireland and England.  Hennessy at first says he knows nothing about the bombing that killed Fan.  Quan doesn’t believe him, at first he is a nuisance calling Hennessy and staying in his office.  Quan then tries to blackmail Hennessy by taking pictures of Hennessy and his mistress, Maggie. (Charlie Murphy) Little does Hennessy know that Quan trained with the Americans during the Vietnam war, and will not give up fighting to find out what happened to his daughter.  What tactics does Quan use next?  How much does Hennessy know about the bombing that killed Fan.  Are there more bombings to come?

Why in the world would Jackie Chan and 3 Chinese media companies resurrect the Irish Republican Army to make them the central plot point of a fictional movie?  The IRA hasn’t been active in almost twenty years and the peace accords are holding strong.  With so many trouble spots around the world, why would Chan, and his fellow producers re-ignite a dormant war?  He could have picked Thailand to be living in and gone after an offshoot of ISIS or Al-Qaeda, he could shave been living in America and exposed an American cover-up about some group, Chan could have picked any locale and made the story more current and resonant.   Instead, the story seems dated, and filled with clichés.  There are also some sensationalistic aspects of the film that the story could have done without.

The acting is a mixed bag.  Jackie Chan is at his best in light comedic roles, like Drunken Master,  or the Rush Hour movies. His personality lends itself to those roles, he’s a likeable guy, who plays likeable characters.  Chan does not have the skill to play characters beyond that comic range.  But he attempts to play a laconic, non-verbal Rambo role and walks around in a stupor, until he gets his mission done.  It’s not a welcome change.  On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan is very good as a guy facing pressures from many sides, the viewer does not know where his loyalties lie, and Brosnan does a good job of keeping the viewers guessing.  He made this movie worth watching.

The directing is also a mixed bag.  The pacing is very slow at times, and that doesn’t help the movie at all. The director doesn’t use many visual flourishes, and he doesn’t get much of a performance from Chan.

The Foreigner:  Brosnan pierces the fog of formulaic writing.

 

 

the shape of water

In 1962, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaning woman, taking care of her neighbor, a “starving artist” Giles (Richard Jenkins) who was forced into retirement and is trying to make his way back into the workforce, by drawing an ad for instant gelatin.  Elisa works in a government lab where scientists are analyzing an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) from the Amazon jungle. Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) head of security, thinks he can extract the creature’s secrets by force.  Scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michel Stuhlberg) thinks the creature could yield great scientific benefits, but he is conflicted.  After one of Strickland’s attacks on the creature, Elisa feels badly for the creature, and takes him a hard-boiled egg for lunch.  The creature snaps at her, and then takes the egg.  Depite the rocky beginning, the lunches become more frequent, and Elisa realizes that she’s falling in love with the creature, but Strickland and Hoffstetler may have other ideas for the Amphibian Man, can Elisa save him from further torture or worse?

At first glance, The Shape of Water is simply a science fiction movie with a monster and a damsel in distress, except this movie flips the script, and the damsel is the one doing the saving, and the monster is not the amphibian.  If the viewer digs a little deeper there are all kinds of themes in this movie.  Outcasts looking for happiness, the heartbreak of loneliness, the haves and have nots, the subjugation of women, the power of love, sometimes returned, sometimes unrequited, ageism, a celebration of classic film, all overlaid in a cold war settling where everyone spies on each other. The love story doesn’t work so well, because to be in love, there has to be communication, and other than a few words in sign language, Elisa doesn’t really communicate with the amphibian, and by making Elisa a mute, the film accidentally promotes a theme it’s trying to speak out against, the submissive female.  The ending is a cop out, but there are so many themes covered in the script that it’s hard to say it’s a let-down.

The acting is superb, it made the story much better.  Sally Hawkins was incredible, as Elisa, what made the role harder for her is she had to emote while having no dialogue.  Somehow, she accomplished this with her eyes and very expressive face, and the urgency of her sign language. Richard Jenkins is also fantastic as Giles, he complains about getting older in public, but is hiding part of his identity in private, which makes the character complex and makes the performance nuanced. Michael Stuhlberg is also hiding part of his identity, and that makes his role more complex.  Where do his loyalties lie?  Stuhlberg keep the audience guessing. Octavia Spencer is also very good as Elisa’s co-worker, Zelda.  She is especially intense when confronting her husband at a critical point in the film. Michael Shannon undoubtedly gives the best performance in the film, as Richard Strickland someone who has power, prestige and position, and uses all three to degrade and humiliate those below him, and aggrandize himself.  He sees himself as a modern day Samson, on a mission from God to save society from the Philistines or bring down the temple. More like Ahab in the Bible or Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, Strickland’s obsession with the creature made him oblivious to everything else.  Strickland’s black, moldering fingers, which are unsuccessfully reattached after a run in with the creature, are reflective of his black soul.  Shannon plays Strickland as devoid of a shred of decency or humanity, yet he thinks of himself as a decent man.  And Michael Shannon understood the contradiction, and played both sides, decent to those who mattered to him, reprehensible to those that didn’t.  Shannon should have won the Oscar for Bes Supporting Actor, I saw Sam Rockwell in 3 Billboards, Shannon was better.

Guillermo Del Toro once again infuses this film with color, mostly green.  The creature is green, the water he swims in is green, the bathroom walls are green, even the gelatin Giles puts in his ad is green.  There are big, bold shots of an old movie theater where there The Story of Ruth is playing.  There is one scene where Del Toro’s fondness for classic film gets the best of him, but The Shape of Water, like all his films is a visual treat.  He gets excellent performances from his actors, and the pacing is good.  Del Toro deserved the best director Oscar.

The Shape of Water:  Dive in.

 

i tonya

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) was obsessed with ice skating from the time she was three years old.  Her mother Lavona (Allison Janney) helped her train, but was also verbally and physically abusive to Tonya.  When she was 15, Tonya met Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and although he abused her too, she married him, and continued her skating career.  The abuse got so bad that she put out a restraining order on him, she stayed with him, but after placing fourth in the 1992 Olympic games she divorced Gilooly in 1993 and tried to make the Olympic team.  She tried to reconcile with her mother and Gillooly and made the 1994 Olympic team, but Gilloly and Tonya’s bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser) are coming up with a plan to help Tonya win a medal in the 1994 Olympics, what is the plan?  Does it help Tonya Harding or hurt her?

When a movie starts out with essentially a three line disclaimer about the contents of the film, the viewer better buckle up, because there’s going to be a battle coming with the truth.  The problem with this film is that it’s not really a biographical film, it’s more an advocacy film.  From the first frame, it advocates Tonya Harding’s position, and uses the fact that she may have been abused to excuse her attitude and behavior.  It replaces fact with opinion, and that should never happen with a biographical film.  Tonya Harding had talent, but when the time came to show that talent, she blew it.  Even before her free skate which the movie focuses on, she was in 10th place, so her lack of focus betrayed her talent, and that’s what the movie should have been about.  The movie treats the whole fiasco, like a comedy which is tone deaf.  There were a lot of serious issues in this movie, which shouldn’t have been handled so lightly.

The acting is much better than the material deserved.  Margot Robbie almost succeeded in making Tonya Harding a sympathetic character and that is one hell of an acting job.  Harding has the personality of a sour persimmon.  Sebastian Stan is surprisingly versatile in this role, humorous one minute, and menacing the next.  Surprising, since he was kind of a monotone actor as Bucky Barnes.  Allison Janney did her best, but the character is too one-dimensional, no human being is that singularly cruel.  Human beings are complex people, who don’t operate under one set of emotions.  Janney doesn’t get to show any different sides, because the character is written as a mean, spiteful vindictive person, all the time.  Paul Walter Hauser is very funny as Shawn Eckhardt, a man with delusions of being a spy, even though he lives with his parents.  Hauser has excellent timing and a deadpan delivery.

The direction is done much in a fake documentary style, with hand held-video-cam footage, which is meant to boost the humor, but doesn’t do much for the pacing.  The director tries to make the skating sequences more exciting, by zooming in for close-up shots, but how exciting is ice skating anyway? Not very.  There was also a lot of breaking down the fourth wall, or talking directly to the audience, a technique popularized by Woody Allen in his early comedies.  Again, this technique is good for the comedic elements of the movie, not so good for the dramatic elements.

I Tonya.  On thin ice.