Review: Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2.

The first Deadpool shocked the world, proving that an R-rated superhero film could 1.) be fantastic and 2.) make money. So now, Deadpool returns and spins off into a whole franchise that will likely last a long time. In this outing, were they able to recapture the magic?

The gist.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is happily in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and things seem to be going alright. That’s when a time-traveling soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives in the present day and seeks out a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). Russell is going to grow up and do something horrible, so Cable is going to kill him, but Wade feels like he can make a difference, teaming up with X-Men Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to try to turn the kid to the light.

However, Deadpool realizes he needs some teammates a little more morally gray, so he starts a team called X-Force, including a mutant with the power of luck called Domino (Zazie Beetz) and a ragtag group of other heroes.

Returning to the cast is also T.J. Miller as Wade’s associate Weasel and Karan Soni as the taxi driver Dopinder.

What works?

Almost everything that worked about the first Deadpool is still working here, so most fans should have an undeniably good time.

At its core, it’s a comedy and it will have you in stitches. Ryan Reynolds again carries the film but he has some great back and forths with the “straight” men of the movie, notably Colossus and Cable, who don’t crack jokes like he does. There are some incredible visual gags, plenty of jabs at other comic book movies, and some surprising cameos.

It also manages to balance some incredible action, as this movie is directed by John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch. We get a fight scene towards the end involving two characters that have battled for years and years in the comic books and my inner child screamed when this fight came to life on the big screen, finally. The fights are creative and look great, for the most part. Domino’s character especially steals quite a few moments, as her power of “luck” becomes incredibly cinematic.

This movie also revels in the decades of lore from the comics, taking moments to enjoy bizarre characters like the alien Shatterstar or even a few villains who pop up that you’d have never expected. It is incredibly truthful to the comics but also has a blast bucking those stories and doing something unexpected (the X-Force team especially plays a very different role than you’d expect).

What doesn’t work?

Like the first Deadpool, this movie feels relatively low budget and that comes across mostly in the visual effects department. There are a few comedic bits reliant on visual effects that flopped big time, as well as some villains that are entirely CGI. These villains look like the comic book counterpart, yes, but they look horribly out of place.

You also have to be prepared for this movie’s gore and raunchyness, it is a hard R rating. If you have a weak stomach or low threshold for language, this might be a tough one for you to sit through.

And while Cable was a fine addition, he didn’t really get much to do, aside from being a foil to Deadpool’s antics. Hopefully he returns for future films and gets a more substantial role.

Overall…

Deadpool 2 manages to recreate most of what made the first film so great, combining comedy with action in really unique ways. It also is surprisingly touching in moments, on a much more intimate level than the first film. However the movie has some flaws, including an abundance of horrible visual effects and some hit-or-miss humor that some of you might find a bit over the top. As a whole though, most of you should have a really great time with this one.

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Review: Life of the Party

Life of the Party.

Now here’s the thing. I think Melissa McCarthy is hilarious, in the right context, but she’s also had some pretty major flops. I was definitely curious about this one though, so I was hoping this might be the next big hit for her. So was it?

The gist.

McCarthy stars as a woman named Deanna, whose daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) is entering her senior year at (the fictional) Decatur University. Well, when things go sideways for Deanna and she finds herself in the midst of a divorce, she decides to re-enroll in school and finish her senior year that she quit many many years ago. What ensues next is a comedy combining McCarthy’s physical comedic chops and a plot resembling that of Old School. We also have Gillian Jacobs (Community), Maya Rudolph, and Chris Parnell.

It is directed by Melissa McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, who has also directed Tammy and The Boss, both in collaboration with McCarthy.

What works?

If you’re a fan of Melissa McCarthy, you’ll at least have a good time here. Her comedic timing is spot-on and there are plenty of (seemingly) improvised moments that had me laughing. This is a highlight reel for her, playing the mom character and the wild party character, all rolled into one.

There’s also some fun moments with the supporting cast, including some moments from SNL alums Maya Rudolph and Chris Parnell. Current SNL actress Heidi Gardner gets some time to shine, though she’s much funnier here than she’s ever been on SNL.

So if you’re looking for a comedy, I’d say this is a safe bet. If you’re not a fan of McCarthy, this obviously isn’t up your alley, but if you enjoy her at all, this is a good pick.

What doesn’t work?

While some of McCarthy’s supporting cast do their best, some are really inconsistent. Maya Rudolph is really hit or miss here, sometimes cranking the dial and going all out. Gillian Jacobs, known for Community, feels like an afterthought and is the only college student really given any name or attention, at least off the bat. It felt like a rewrite, there’s an obvious introduction scene wedged in and most of her lines feel like an afterthought to take some of the comedic weight off of McCarthy. With that said, some of Jacob’s moments are hilarious, but they still stand out.

The movie overall also feels very… familiar. It feels like moments from other movies glued together, there’s very little unique identity to this film and it left me somewhat apathetic in the end. Maybe I watch too many comedies, so I’m starting to see the “man behind the curtain” so to speak.

So don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t bad. It’s average. It’s predictable and exactly what you’d expect and most of you expect a night of laughter, so no harm done. But this movie isn’t doing anything revolutionary and out of the ordinary.

Overall…

Life of the Party is everything Melissa McCarthy does right but it feels incredibly familiar. The pacing is a bit off, some of the support characters miss the mark, and it’s predictable from the opening scene, but that doesn’t stop McCarthy from pulling all the stops and delivering some solid escapism and comedy hijinks. If you just want to laugh, this movie will do the trick, no worries, but it doesn’t deliver anything special or unique beyond that.

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(Review) Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War.

By now, I shouldn’t have to tell you that I live for Marvel. This is no surprise or shock to any of you. I’ve been waiting for this film for 10 years, which means there are incredibly high expectations and that I’m completely invested in this world. Your opinion of the film will likely be drastically different than mine if 1.) you haven’t seen the other movies, 2.) you don’t really know what’s going on, or 3.) you want a self-contained story. This entire movie is the culmination of 18 prior movies, there is no first or second act here. It’s all third act, it’s all climax, it’s all edge of your seat excitement that is completely reliant on you being completely onboard for the ride.

So does it succeed?

The gist.

If you’re somehow not caught up, this film isn’t for you. I’m not going to summarize the past 18 movies but you can catch my ~20 minute refresher video here.

In this film, we mostly follow the villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) who is on a quest to gather six powerful gems that together allow the wielder ultimate power and he intends to destroy half of the life in the galaxy. When the movie opens, Thanos has attacked a ship full of Asgardians, led by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the action is nonstop after that. On Earth, we follow Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) as they defend against some of Thanos’ goons. Another attack brings Captain America (Chris Evans) and his team of ‘secret Avengers’ out of hiding (including Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie) to protect the Vision (Paul Bettany) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). In the African nation of Wakanda, the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) prepares for an assault with the help of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Oh and did I mention the Guardians of the Galaxy are on their way to help? Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) take the Guardians to protect one of these gems in space before Thanos can arrive to claim it.

What works?

As a culmination of ten years of movies, this movie absolutely succeeds.

This movie is like a box of toys that you love and adore and you’ve played with all the toys before, but now you get to dump the box out and create the giant crossover that only your wildest imagination can come up with. We finally get to see these personalities clash and blend in the most interesting of ways and pair up in unique teams and it is everything that my inner child has been wanting to see for years.

As a standalone movie, this doesn’t work. It’s not supposed to. This entire movie is climax, it’s the third act of our entire franchise. It’s nonstop action and it’s fantastic. Everyone gets a moment to shine (for the most part) and there are some jaw-dropping action sequences, highlighting just how powerful some of our heroes (and villains) are. And to see them come together is incredibly rewarding. To see Dr. Strange and Iron Man and Star-Lord combine forces is something I never thought I’d see. The action is intense and looks fantastic.

However this movie also doesn’t hesitate to punch you in the gut, from the very opening scene. It’s unpredictable and throws you for quite a few loops, where absolutely no one is safe from Thanos. There are stakes here, unlike we’ve really seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, the question of permanence is a valid concern, but it still feels like there’s a weight to this film that we haven’t seen before.

In terms of performances, Josh Brolin steals the show as Thanos, undeniably the strongest villain that Marvel has given us yet. The CGI is astounding and Thanos is a complicated (and maybe even empathetic) character here. He is also an absolute beast, showing his dominant prowess in the opening moments of the movie and never slowing down.

My other favorite standout performance is Chris Pratt, who gets much more to do here than I really expected, having time to show his comedy chops as well as some real emotional depth. Not everyone gets this sort of time or attention but I think we all expected that going in.

What doesn’t work?

This movie doesn’t have any speed other than incredibly fast. There are no moments to breathe, no time to relax. That’s perfect though considering all those quiet moments occurred in the 18 movies leading up to this.

The resolution might also bother some of you, in that everything isn’t cheery and triumphant. It’s a gutwrenching climax with zero regard for your feelings.

Overall…

I’m not reviewing this as a standalone movie. I’m reviewing this as an experience. A climax to 10 years of films. This is simultaneously incredible to see your favorite characters together but also tragic in that nothing is safe. Thanos is the best villain Marvel has delivered yet and he is a force to be reckoned with here, destroying everything you’ve come to love. This is a powerful and emotional and action-packed culmination that will not be resolved until Avengers 4 next Summer, so there will be quite a few dangling threads here. For most of you, this is the epitome of the Avengers and everything we’ve been waiting for.

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Review: I Feel Pretty

I Feel Pretty.

Amy Schumer is divisive, let’s start with that. She’s crude and she’s alienated a lot of people with some of her comedy and off-handed remarks. If you dislike her, this movie won’t do anything to change your mind, but if you’re a fan of Schumer and her past works like Trainwreck, will this movie be up your alley?

The gist.

Schumer stars as a woman named Renee who works on the social media for a huge makeup company but is stranded in the basement and yearns to be a bigger part of the company. After a head injury, she suddenly believes she is incredibly attractive and this gives her all the confidence in the world, even though in reality nothing has changed. She gets highly involved in the upper workings of this makeup company and becomes close with the CEO (Michelle Williams) and her charming brother (Tom Hopper). She also begins seeing a man (Rory Scovel) who is head over heels for the real her, even though she doesn’t realize this. We also have her two best friends played by Aidy Bryant (Saturday Night Live) and Busy Philipps. Rounding out the cast we have Adrian Martinez and Emily Ratajkowski.

What works?

This movie surprised me in a lot of ways. I wasn’t really sold on the trailers at all and even though I loved Trainwreck (it was in my top 10 that year), I wasn’t really interested in this. However, I’m super glad I went because I had a great time.

As a comedy, this movie succeeds across the board. On the written page, these jokes are clever and subtle and sharp and it all works. There’s some more obvious humor but it’s an excellent blend to fit all sorts of comedic styles. Schumer delivers a great performance here, regardless of how you feel about her, and her supporting cast is excellent as well. Michelle Williams (yes, 4-time Academy Award nominee) kills it here in a performance that is completely different than anything she’s done. After her serious turns in Manchester by the Sea and All the Money in the World, this is a welcome change and something that proves she’s incredibly versatile.

I was also surprised by how affected I was by the plot. It’s predictable yes, but it’s still incredibly charming and powerful. It’s an inspirational movie about what we could achieve if we really believed in ourselves, but also about the dangers of vanity. It’s perfect for today’s world and you should be able to take a lot from it.

Another standout is the romantic lead of the film Rory Scovel, who I’ve never really seen anywhere. He’s subtle and normal, compared to the outlandish cast that he’s surrounded by. This movie managed to not only create interesting and complicated female characters but also well-rounded romantic male characters that subvert some expectations as well.

What doesn’t work?

This movie is predictable from the get-go, so you’re never quite surprised by where it goes. There’s a few fun twists and turns, but ultimately it’s a refreshing inspirational comedy, so it only has a few options in the end. I didn’t mind the predictability because the journey was such a fun one.

And if you’re not a fan of Amy Schumer’s work, this clearly isn’t up your alley. For everyone else though, this is a surefire pick.

Overall…

I Feel Pretty was a pleasant surprise. I had zero interest but it’ll likely end up in my favorite comedies of the year. It’s a heartfelt story full of great performances and some top notch comedy, held up by Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, and Rory Scovel. If you want some solid laughs, this is a good pick and might surprise you too.

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Review: Rampage

Rampage.

I bet most of you didn’t know that this movie is based on a video game, an old arcade game where you controlled monsters who destroyed a city and ate innocent civilians. This movie shares that same basic premise but otherwise deviates significantly.

The gist.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as a primatologist, an expert on primates, and he’s working closely with an albino ape named George. A strange canister crashes into George’s enclosure and infects him with a virus that causes him to go feral and increase drastically in size and strength. Two other canisters infect a wolf in Wyoming and an alligator in Florida.

Now Johnson has to find a way to cure his friend and stop these animals from terrorizing the United States. He’s helped by Naomie Harris who stars as one of the geneticists who created this virus. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead, Watchmen) also appears as a mysterious government agent.

As antagonists, we have Malin Ackerman (also Watchmen) and Jake Lacy (The Office) who head up the genetic editing corporation and seem to have no regard for human life.

What works?

Rampage is exactly what you think it will be. The Rock is just as charming as ever, he leaps from exploding helicopters, and there are giant monsters. This is no surprise, as this is his third teamup with director Brad Peyton (also including San Andreas and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). This movie is basically San Andreas but they just added monsters in post-production. And for many of you, that’s exactly what you want.

Let’s talk about the monsters. George, the albino ape that we spend the most time with, looks fantastic and elicits some very real emotions from the audience, as we start to care about him. The other two monsters don’t fare as well, getting less attention for their visuals (the wolf looks especially bad) and becoming more monstrous, like the Kaiju from Pacific Rim. This is “cool” but doesn’t really make sense when you keep seeing George whose only mutation is becoming slightly bigger. Still, George is a highlight for this movie.

What doesn’t work?

Like I said, the visuals are inconsistent. There’s some incredibly obvious green screens, some really bad monster effects, and the “city destruction” moments feel incredibly familiar (again, like some scenes from San Andreas were copied and pasted).

There’s also a problem with the human characters in this movie. There are surprisingly a lot of characters that we don’t need to care about and it’s painfully obvious. Throughout the movie we continually meet new characters but those characters spend very brief moments with us. Even late in the movie, we’re meeting new characters, while characters from the first part of the film disappear. It’s just a lot.

And some of these characters are very bad. Malin Ackerman and Jake Lacy star as two greedy corporate hacks who are trying to salvage what they can from this genetic experiment but somehow insist on trying to destroy the city of Chicago? I still don’t quite know why and they make some really stupid decisions (like staying in Chicago). Their performances are also ridiculous, amped up to 150% and they come off as cartoons, they’re so diabolically evil. Painful to watch at times.

We also have some humor issues here. A lot of the jokes fail. Many of them revolve around George the ape using sign language to say something nasty or sexual or crude. He gives the finger a lot. It seems like low-hanging fruit and barely caused a chuckle in our theater, aside from the kids that should not have been in this theater.

Here’s the biggest downside to this film: the pacing. It’s a long journey til we get any sort of action that resembles what the trailers have shown us. There’s a few little moments when the ape or the wolf attack something briefly, but it’s a slow burn. People see these movies for massive monsters and citywide destruction, yet this movie is bogged down with way too many tertiary characters and an over-complicated plot that delays the actual “rampage” that we’ve been waiting for.

Overall…

Rampage is a mixed bag. The Rock is likeable as always and his buddy George is given a lot of attention as well. Everyone else fares less well, with a bloated cast of characters and too much time spent on an overly complicated plot. When the monsters do get to fight, it’s also mixed, with some bad visual effects and bland city destruction that we’ve become numb to. It’s a fun ride, if you really just want some action, but even then you may find your patience tested in the long road to get to the good stuff.

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Review: A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place.

If you’ve noticed, I don’t really review horror movies. The last one I saw was The Visit and I’m still terrified of old people. A Quiet Place looks interesting though and I was curious about what John Krasinski could deliver (as he both starred in and directed this film).

The gist.

Our movie opens and it’s been 89 days since some sort of monsters started terrorizing the world. These monsters are blind but they have impeccable hearing, so even the slightest noise is instant death. We follow one family, though it’s clear there are other survivors out there. We have John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as the parents, and a son and a daughter played by Noah Jupe (Wonder) and Millicent Simmonds. The daughter, Simmonds, is deaf in the movie and deaf in real life. Together, they try to survive by making zero noise because their lives depend on it. To make matters worse, the mother is about to give birth, a scenario not typically known for being a quiet one.

What works?

I was worried this was going to be a real horror movie but it’s really not. This may upset some of you, but this is really just a suspense movie. There’s no real gore (it’s rated PG-13) and the jump scares are usually seen a mile away. But as a suspense film, it knocks it out of the park. From the first moment to the last, you’re on the edge of your seat. And the movie is almost entirely silent, aside from the occasional light music or during action sequences. This means you probably shouldn’t buy snacks or popcorn. There was the noisiest eater behind me that I wanted to punch. Even the smallest sounds become amplified in a theater of dead silence.

I was also intrigued by this world and the movie does a decent job of showing us instead of telling us. We see inventions and methods to survive in silence, without making a big deal of explaining those things. This is contrasted with a few overdone exposition moments including a white board that is really only intended for us. Some moments work, some don’t.

The cast is great, which is a relief. One weak link would’ve crashed this entire film. They managed to find two stellar children actors here and they each get moments to shine. Both Blunt and Krasinski carry the movie, though they don’t get to show much range. Unfortunately the only real emotion on display is “terrified.”

What doesn’t work?

This gimmick works as an idea. Monsters that kill based on sound. However, when that idea is implemented as a feature film, it becomes a bit of a slow burn. The second half of the film is fast and intense, though the first half is much slower. The characters communicate with sign language, so even dialogue is still near-silent. A few folks were dozing off in the theater or checking their phones.

I also mentioned there isn’t any gore. This normally isn’t a problem, but it also means that any character death is underwhelming because we never really get a death scene or anything, it all happens in a flash. There’s one death especially that could’ve benefited from some more time to really feel the impact.

And like I referenced in the what works section… The actors don’t get to show any range, though they excel at being terrified. The pacing is a little slow in the beginning. And one noisy person in the theater can ruin this entire experience, which is something out of your control.

Lastly, we have some huge plot issues, which I can’t really go into specifics on. Things happen which are unexplained, characters do things on a whim that somehow don’t feel earned, and ultimately there’s few big jumps in logic that don’t quite work.

Overall…

A Quiet Place is a unique story and a film that does something new. The cast is great, the world they’ve built is interesting, and the tension runs through the entire film. However, it’s a slow burn to get to the action, the actors only get one emotion to play with, and the few “big” moments are a bit underwhelming. Ultimately, this is a fun experiment, but is likely forgettable in the long term.

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Review: Blockers

Blockers.

Maybe this is the new Superbad for a new generation. But maybe that means I’ve outgrown this, maybe this story isn’t for me. I’m going to try to keep these things in mind as I review this movie.

The gist.

Three high school girls (Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, and Gideon Adlon) all make a pact to have sex on their prom night. However, their parents find out and try to stop this at all costs (Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz). We also have minor roles for Gary Cole, Gina Gershon, Hannibal Buress, and Ramona Young (Santa Clarita Diet).

What works?

Like I said in the intro, for high school and maybe young college kids, this might be a defining movie for them. The story of these high schoolers didn’t really resonate with me, but I think it’s starting to be an age thing. You might love this.

The humor is solid, laughs come at you quick, usually due to an incredibly funny performance by Ike Barinholtz, while John Cena and Leslie Mann play more of the “straight man” characters. The humor is raunchy, usually relying on grossout moments combined with sex. If you love that sort of stuff, you’ll love this. But if you find typical gross R-rated comedy to be a little much for you, this movie won’t entertain you one bit.

What doesn’t work?

I gave you two possible reasons already. You might be too old for this and find this crazy high school night a little hard to relate to, combined with incredibly gross humor. You know yourself. You’ll either fall into the category of “I can’t breathe, this is so funny” or “This is disgusting, I want this to end.”

Regardless of your attachment to the humor, I feel like this movie is lacking personality. This is a cast of unknown teens and B-list supporting actors, elevated to the headliners. John Cena is funny in Trainwreck and Leslie Mann has done well in the Judd Apatow films but they’re not headlining stars. Ike Barinholtz is the funniest one here and he’s meant to pop in and be crazy for a bit and then disappear, which has worked for him before. There’s no lead here, there’s no anchor. It feels like the movie is missing a vital piece.

Because of that, my score ends up falling at “middle of the road.” They do their best but their best is pretty average. These are jokes we’ve done, nothing is special. There’s not a lot of heart here and the unknown teen actors don’t really stand out in the way that the cast of Superbad did when that movie arrived on the scene.

Overall…

This is fine but it’s all familiar territory. The adult characters are fine, with the standout being Ike Barinholtz. The kids fare a little less, with none of them really making any sort of memorable mark. The movie ultimately is missing a star and the personality that a big comedic name would have brought. It’s a fun time, especially if you’re into grossout raunchy humor, but overall pretty forgettable.

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