Deadpool 2 – David Leitch (dir)

Deadpool 2

The first Deadpool film was a total surprise for me. I laughed a lot at Ryan Reynolds portrayal of the wisecracking antihero. The movie itself moved at a good pace, and like the comic, made fun of common superhero tropes without descending into parody.

Thus in theory a Deadpool sequel should be just as good. Now the character is established so we can move from the origin story and hopefully there will be a new adventure. What can go wrong?

Well …..

Let’s start with main plot. This time round there’s a main plot and a subplot and Leitch ties them fluidly: Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa is killed on the day they decide to start a family and Deadpool realises that he has to change his ways or his personal life will become wore. In the meantime cyborg, Cable (Josh Brolin, fresh off his Thanos role in Avengers: Infinity War )from the future has time travelled to present day in order to kill a mutant, Firefist, who murders his family in the future. Thus it’s up to Deadpool to stop Cable and  Firefist, restore peace and go through some self-assessment. Also Deadpool forms X-Force, a sub band of mutants.

As the plot does require some scene building, it means that the film suffers. Deadpool’s first half is slow, almost to the point of being boring. Deadpool’s snarkiness is toned down, the characters don’t seem to gel too well and the whole first half moves at a plodding pace.

Deadpool’s second half though is fantastic. The jokes come a bullet speed, witty dialogue, tons of  action, in jokes, rude humor, red herrings and gore. It’s basically what I wanted from a Deadpool movie. Obviously Deadpool does see the error of his ways and understands the concept of a family . But that’s not the point. Personally I see the Deadpool franchise as a meta comedy and that’s when Deadpool 2 works best.

I cannot complain about the characters. All the cast from the first film play their roles excellently and the newcomers are having a lot of fun. Josh Brolin makes a fantastic Cable, I enjoyed Firefist as the angsty mouthy New Zealander and Zazie Beetz as Domino is a standout. Technically this also means that now with X force taking shape and brief glimpses of the classic X-men team I can foresee a third installment of the Deadpool franchise.

Although there is a weak first half, I urge you to be patient because Deadpool 2 has a rewarding second half. Despite the flaws the Deadpool films are approaching superhero films in a fun way and, to be fair, it is sorely needed in the superhero genre (ok the MCU does have jokes but Deadpool takes them to a new level)

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Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson (dir)

Isle of Dogs

Every Wes Anderson film has what I call a boy scout element to it. What I mean is that usually there is a moment, when all the main characters gather as a gang stand up with their backs straight and go off on a mission determined to achieve their goal, no matter what. Thinking about that I would say that Wes Anderson’s latest film is his most boy scoutish yet.

However Isle of Dogs does tinker with the Wes Anderson formula a bit. For starters this is a dystopian film; it takes place in a futuristic Japan, where dogs are banished to trash island because they have snout fever. Secondly this is the most overtly political film I have ever seen by this Wes Anderson, a director known for focusing mostly on family dynamics (those are still there, no worries). Here we have an actual dictator and a government conspiracy. I would also say for a stop motion film, Isle of Dogs has a gritty plot. In fact when the 12 year old Atari Kobayashi crashes his airplane (don’t ask) into Trash Island to find his dog Spots, he has a piece of a propeller stuck in his head and removing it involves drops of blood spurting out of his cranium.

Saying that there’s a lot to like about this film. Isle of Dogs is fun, fast paced, has endearing characters, both dog (there’s an all star cast voicing the dogs) and human. Loads of in jokes and clever references to Japanese popular culture and western dystopian literature, namely Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Then there’s the meticulous attention to detail. There is a ton of it so repeated viewings will definitely unveil more surprises. Isle of Dogs is entertainment in it’s pure sense. I was left breathless.

The film is not perfect though and there were a couple of things niggling me. Mainly that Isle of Dogs does suffer from cultural appropriation. We are getting a westerner’s view of Japan: A country that contains emotionally reserved people, eats only sushi plays taiko  drums and wallows in its mythology. Somehow the scenes taking part in the fictional town of Megasaki didn’t feel right (not off putting though). Saying that kudos for having the Japanese characters speaking in their native tongue.

My other qualm is that all the female characters, both dog and human were submissive with the exception of on human character and she is a white American. I can’t understand why there couldn’t be a Japanese heroine?  I expected better from Wes Anderson.

Saying that Isle of Dogs main message of child/adult- child/dog relations comes through and I guess that regardless of the culture a person’s love for a dog (or a pet as I am a cat fan) will transcend anything and this is where Isle of Dogs triumphs.

 

 

 

Avengers: Infinity War. Anthony and Joe Russo (dirs)

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If one has been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one would have noticed a series of mysterious stones reoccurring. There was one in the first Thor film, the purple one played a huge part in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The character Vision thrived on the yellow stone, The plot of Dr.Strange revolved around it and even in the first Captain America film one of the stones has a role. After 10 years of hints we finally know the importance of those stones.

Infinity War is the film I have been waiting for as it ties up a lot of loose ends that were rampant throughout the MCU. In Infinity War Thanos manages to collect all the stones in order to create a new world (or universe to be more precise) order and it’s up to the protectors of all three dimensions, Avengers for the Earth, Guardians of the Galaxy for other space and Dr. Strange of the nether dimension to stop him.

Yes Infinity War is ambitious. To have about twenty superheroes all sharing screen space must have been a daunting task, not to mention the constant set changes and character arcs. It is not easy but The Russos pull it off and the end results are fantastic. There is a lot going in favor of this film.

First of all each character retains his own sense of humor. For example we all know that The Guardians of the Galaxy have a lot of funny lines and that is kept, in fact the last joke in the film is uttered by Rocket.

Secondly we finally know the answers to all the loose ends the other films left behind, I’ve already expanded on this.

Thirdly there’s a villain who is actually a villain. one that you love seeing punched and yet displays enough complexity for you to feel some sort of pity. Although Thanos is a ruthless killer and intends to destroy everything, he is also a father and has to make ethical decisions in order to carry out his plans.

It would be silly of me to spoil the film but there is one scene where Thanos gets hurt badly and is stabbed in the heart, however he then tells his attacker to aim for the head, which summarizes Thanos pretty much.

Yes, as blockbusters go Infinity War is one of the better ones but it is two and a half hours and at this it feels like it, especially in the first part which is devoted to setting up the plot but I also understand that when the cast is this varied, it is better to take time and develop things slowly and anyway there is a pay off as the battle scenes are gorgeous.

As this is the first part, the film does end on a cliffhanger but I am curious to see how Thanos will be defeated. I suggest sticking around to watch the post credits sequence as there are teasers featuring a character who will definitely surprise us when the second part of Infinity War will be screened next year.

 

 

 

Steven Spielberg – Ready Player One

RPO

I know that Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One gets a lot of negative criticism; too much reliance on nostalgia,overly simplistic writing, tons of tropes. It is an easy book to hate on but let’s be realistic, Cline’s novel is a ton of fun to read and it does have a gripping plot. Inevitably an adaptation was bound to happen and Steven Spielberg is probably the best person to direct this type of film. Also it is worth noting that Ernest Cline wrote the screenplay so I guess any changes to the book were officially overseen by Cline.

Like the book, the film opens up in a futuristic world, which is so bad, everyone escapes via a virtual reality program called OASIS created by the eccentric James Halliday, who is deceased when the film starts.

On frequent visitor of OASIS is Wade Watts who has a mission: to find the three Easter Eggs that Halliday left in the OASIS when he died. Anyone who finds these eggs will have sole control over OASIS. However rival company IOI want OASIS badly and are hunting eggs on a larger scale. IOI head, Nolan Sorrento will stop at nothing to find the eggs, even if it means killing.

Obviously you can guess how this is going to end but the main message is that, no matter how bad reality is, one has to face. No matter how wonderful the other world is one needs to live life.

Personally I liked this film. It is fun, fast paced and most of all has tons and tons of references to pop culture: from films to video games. In some cases this could be daunting to the point of annoying but here it works. I enjoyed playing ‘spot the reference’ Mind you some are explained to the audience but on the whole it is up to the viewer to guess. The cleverest moment is when Wade is transported to a certain Kubrick film in order to find a clue. It is brilliant and well executed.

That is not to say that the film has flaws: character development could have been better. There’s the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and maybe OASIS could have been slightly prettier, just to act as a contrast to the real world. Still though Ready Player One is a pleasurable movie, just don’t look into it that much and you’ll enjoy the ride.

 

The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro (dir)

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The Shape of Water falls into that category of films that are solid, beautiful to look at but have a predictable story. Despite the predictability the film is so good that the simplistic plot can be easily ignored. The other films that are in a similar vein are Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre and Michael Radford’s The Postman.

The film is essentially about a mute cleaner who works at a top secret  building, who falls in love with a fishlike humanoid, not too dissimilar to the creature from the black lagoon. She smuggles him out of the building and he lives with her and her close friend. Obviously the nasty head of the agency wants him back due to pressure of the military and eventually discovers where the creature is staying, which leads to a showdown but the fishman does escape and takes his love with him to the sea where they live happily ever after. There’s also a tiny subplot which concerns Russian spies but there’s no need to delve into that. All I can say is that it ties nicely with the main storyline.

A more cynical person could point out the flaws instantly. You can spot the bad guy after the first five minutes, you know that there will be a happy ending, you know that there will be a death. However, I didn’t care.

The Shape of Water, is an aesthetic masterpiece. After the credit roll my girlfriend remarked that the coloration of the film is like Jean Pierre Jeunot’s Amelie that, combined with del Toro’s distinct visuals heightens your senses when watching the film.

There’s also a lot of charm, the characters may be one dimensional but it doesn’t matter. You will still emote for the main protagonists or show hatred for the bad guys in this film. The Shape of Water sucks you in. It’s a wonderful story from beginning to end.

I did have one gripe though.

The baddy of the film, compulsively eats mints. When he is nervous he bites them but normally he sucks on them loudly. I cannot stand the sound of people eating, let alone the clacking of mints against teeth and every time I heard that character suck his mints I would shudder. Thankfully this only happens about five times throughout the movie.

What else can I say? now and then we need a film that is well structured but also manages to welcome you into their world and seduce you. I felt that Shape of Water managed that. After all cinema is supposed to be a form of escape and del Toro’s latest follows that maxim excellently.

 

 

Wes Anderson Retrospective: The Royal Tenenbaums

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Mother’s day 2002.  I was having lunch with my grandparents but my mind wasn’t there, it was on the 4:00 screening of a film which received positive reviews. It was by the same guy who did Rushmore, a film I missed out on due to exams and I was determined not to miss this one, mainly because I also read quite a few Wes Anderson interviews and this heightened my expectations. I HAD to see why the media were going crazy over this director.

After watching The Royal Tenenbaums I instantly declared it my new fave movie: it was quirky, funny and was in the form of a story, an aspect I still like to this day. For me, this film even looked different; lots of bright colors, walls with funny patterns and the use of futura. One month after the film’s screening, I went to watch it again at our art house cinema.

Now many years later and several viewings later. I can say that I think The Royal Tenenbaums is Wes Anderson at his best. It is perfect. The viewer can feel that Anderson has got total control over everything, from the story to the overall look.

Royal Tenenbaum left his family and seperated from his wife and after twenty or so years is hearing that she is remarrying, something he does not like so he decides to move back to his old house, Royal, though always has an ulterior motive and he also being kicked out of the hotel he lives in.

At the same time his three children, all prodigies gone wrong have returned to the house as well. At this point Royal believes that it is time to make amends for all the things he did in the past.

Calling the Royal Tenenbaums a family saga is not doing it justice, Anderson pulls off complex familial relations and yet makes everything seem light and breezy. Sure over the bright colors there are pretty dark undertones but it’s balanced well. As always a great film needs an strong supporting cast and The Royal Tenenbaums has a big one, something Wes Anderson would continue doing for many of his films, and they all give a 100% effort. Gene Hackman is a perfect loveable sleazeball , Gwyneth Paltrow is superb as the moody Margot Tenenbaum, the Wilson brothers reappear Luke as failed tennis star Richie and Owen as his crazed best friend Eli, Ben Stiller is an excellent neurotic Chas Tenenbaum, Bill Murray gives a funny performance as the hopeless but determined Raleigh St Clair and Anjelica Houston as the long suffering Mrs. Tenenbaum – just great.

The Royal Tenenbaums is Wes Anderson’s masterpiece, and although not my personal favourite film, it still ranks highly as the essential Wes Anderson to watch if you are new to his work. Of course the soundtrack is perfect, no need to mention that.

Quintessential Wes Anderson Moment: So many to choose from but I love the part when Royal takes his grandchildren for a fun day out, which involves gatecrashing tormenting drivers, shoplifting and betting on dog fights.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Martin McDonagh (dir) Two Mini Reviews.

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In order to try something new both my girlfriend, Camille and I decided to write a mini review of Three Billboards… Really the experiment is to see what aspects we would tackle. To make sure we don’t influence each other we won’t be seeing each other’s reviews until the post is up.

Camille’s review:

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a person? Being raped & killed is quite bad, but having someone you love raped & murdered is worse, I think. The premise of this film is set out quite plainly, as plainly as a message on a billboard.

Femininity

Strength and femininity are at odds in this narrative. In the scene with Angela, Mildred’s hair is long, but after the murder Mildred’s image changes. Her hair is cut short: shaved at the back, but with a ponytail on top – an amalgamation of masculine and feminine, she wears the same blue overalls, no make up. Did Mildred ‘toughen up’ and become masculine to be strong in her tragedy?

In contrast to Mildred, the male characters show only weakness. Chief Willoughby does not solve the crime. He doesn’t spend his last few months alive trying to find a solution, he gives up and leaves loose ends, he is afraid of pain. Officer Dixon’s weakness frustrates him into violent anger, and he too does not solve the crime.

Town as character

This film takes on a lot of issues that are particularly problematic in the south of the US. There are many references to an outdated way of thinking, on racism and homophobia, and sexism. Are progressive ways of thinking changing the landscape of America? Or is everything staying the same?

Hope

In the end, nobody solves the crime. Girls will be raped, and murdered, and criminals will get away. The world is cruel and nothing has any meaning. Life will go on, we will die, and life will still go on.

 

My review:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri poses an ethical question: What if an unsolved investigation was exposed to the public in the most outrageous way possible? would there be repercussions? and if so what type?

This is the main plot of Martin McDonagh’s latest film. The main protagonist, Mildred, played excellently by Frances McDormand hires three billboards and pastes the sentences ‘Raped While Dying’ ‘And Still No Arrests?’ and ‘How Come Chief Willoughby?’ Her aim being to coerce the police force to find the person who raped and burnt Mildred’s daughter, which has taken seven months.

At first the plan works but McDonagh throws another ethical problem. Chief Willoughby has cancer and the stress of the billboards is not helping it. Nonetheless Mildred will keep the billboards up.

As a result the police force rebel and Willoughby is getting worse, which results with him committing suicide. We viewers know it’s not the billboards, although as one of his final acts Willoughby pays to keep the billboards up for another month, in order to keep the investigation going AND to get her into further trouble. However Mildred becomes the enemy.

The final ethical question comes from officer Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, who is superb as the officer who does not behave like someone is to protect law and order: he is a racist, violent, is homophobic and a drunk. By the end of the film he is fired and yet does something which is character worthy and does not get his job back.

Although I want to keep this short. There’s a scene where Mildred gives a speech about culpability, and yet she commits two actions. One is drilling a hole in a dentist’s finger and she denies it. The other act is a form of mistaken revenge and she only admits this to Dixon, who cannot do anything to her.

Was Mildred’s actions correct? should she have put the billboards down in order to help the sick policeman? despite her talk of culpability she refuses to acknowledge her actions, is she a hypocrite for doing so?  Although Three Billboards leaves it up to the viewer to decide and rightly so. Ultimately despite what happens life still continues, regardless of our actions.