“Deadpool 2”

If Ryan Reynolds decides to play Deadpool for the rest of his career, I’m totally okay with that. Deadpool 2 is a sequel that tops its predecessor.

Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool (Reynolds) is now an international assassin. When he changes careers and briefly joins the X-Men, he meets a troubled mutant teen named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison from the great Hunt for the Wilderpeople). He takes a liking to the angsty kid and becomes obligated to protect him from the time traveling assassin Cable (Josh Brolin). But Cable has justifiable reasons for wanting to kill the kid.

For a sequel that changed directors and its entire crew, Deadpool 2 is an improvement in nearly every way. The action is bloodier and more kinetic, the meta jokes and pop culture references are edgier and more subtle, and the songs are better suited. Just when I got tired of hearing AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” in action movies, Deadpool 2 has me wanting more of that song.

John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch (credited as “One of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick”) understands the source material and knows when to get crazy with the action. His trademark single take choreography is present, but he gets delightfully frenetic in certain sequences, including one spectacular highway truck chase.

The movie gets darker and more dramatic by exploring Deadpool’s suicidal tendencies and Russell’s outsider attitude, but it still has heart. After all, Deadpool himself calls this movie a family movie (which, it weirdly is). That’s what I love about these movies – they improve upon the source material by humanizing their titular character.

Reynolds once again is delightfully vulgar, ruthless, and unhinged as Deadpool. I’m not sure if it’s the script or Reynolds, but Reynolds makes you root for a character that’s despicable. Brolin is a great foil as Cable. He’s not as compelling as he was in this year’s Infinity War, but he delivers plenty of dry humor and arm-breaking moments. Zazie Beetz also scores some great moments as the lucky mutant, Domino, who’s a member of Deadpool’s X-Force team.

Deadpool 2 may come off drawn out and a tad uneven to some and offensive to others, but it continues Reynold’s A-game streak. The question is will we get Deadpool 3 or x-Force next?

Grade: A

 

Advertisements

“Hail, Caesar!”

The wacky Coen Brothers go back to their bizarre and experimental comedic roots with “Hail, Caesar!”. This is when they are at their best.

“Hail, Caesar!” is an episodic dark comedy set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, starring Josh Brolin as fixer, Eddie Mannix. Mannix is a neurotic man who acts tough, but is soft in a rough industry. We get a glimpse at a day in the life of Mannix, as he sorts out a pregnancy scandal with a single actress (Scarlett Johansson), manages a cowboy star’s (Alden Ehrenreich) miscasting in an art film, and searches for a missing debauched Hollywood favorite (George Clooney); all while keeping twin journalists (both played by Tilda Swinton) off his back.

“Hail, Caesar!” is likely the Coens’ most polarizing film since “The Big Lebowski” and it’s just as weird, due to its episodic format and semi-confusing plot. It’s also a movie that satirizes the movie industry while delivering jokes that require your undivided attention. Sure, it’s a bit drawn out and semi-heavy handed, but it’s damn good!

The Coens craft “Hail, Caesar!” as a part Film Noir, part Hollywood satire, and a part political satire, and it all works for the most part. Each cast member delivers rich and funny performances, as expected in a Coen Brothers movie.

Brolin delivers one of his quirkiest performances, portraying Mannix as a tough guy who’s overly concerned with whether or not he’s a good person, stressing over bad habits like smoking. Clooney is always his best with the Coens and delivers a hilarious performance as the dimwitted, egomaniac Kirk Douglas-type. Ehrenreich steals every scene as a Texan star who can’t deliver a simple line as directed, and Channing Tatum dances in a terrific cameo as a musical star with a mysterious background.

The Coens load “Hail, Caesar!” with great sequences, including movies within the movie (these are more introductory sequences for our cast), a smart banter between different religious figures on how Jesus should be portrayed, and some beautiful imagery (the film is shot by Roger Deakins of “Skyfall” and “No Country for Old Men”).

Some sequences and characters aren’t as well developed as others, particularly Tatum’s. With his character (not spoiling anything here), we should have either had more of him or none of him, despite the golden dance sequence.

The Coens vary between dark and violent thrillers like “No Country for Old Men” and Fargo, and quirky comedies like “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski”. “Hail, Caesar!” falls under the latter and is for anyone who loves movies or film history.

Grade: A-

“Sicario”

Sicario
Emily Blunt’s Kate with her gun ready to fire.

“Sicario” states with a nihilistic tone that the war on drugs will never end and that you have to fight evil with evil. It’s also a very convincing look at how crippling cartel activity is in Mexico.

Emily Blunt stars as Kate; she’s the idealistic cop we’ve seen several times before, who grows cynical and horrified over a case she’s been given. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are a pair of mercenaries who act as Kate’s superiors; Brolin’s Matt is a smart ass calculating individual whilst Del Toro’s Alejandro is cold, mysterious, and trigger happy. These men are prepared to use Kate to wipe out all cartel leaders while Kate questions their morals.

“Sicario” is the third film I’ve seen of director Denis Villeneuve’s (“Prisoners” (2013),  “Enemy” (2014)), and after seeing “Sicario”, Villeneuve is here to stay. “Sicario” is a cynical masterpiece filled with endless suspense, masterful directing, and excellent performances.

Blunt is Oscar worthy as Kate, delivering a hardened and vulnerable performance. We know she’s going to become jaded by the end of the movie, but we so desperately hope she sees the light. Del Toro is the scene stealer in this movie. He uses his expressive face to bring the morally ambiguous hitman much more depth. And of course, Josh Brolin is always enjoyable to watch.

The execution of “Sicario” makes it look like a dreadful maze. Between the aerial view shots of suburban Arizona and war-torn Juarez, Mexico, we know we’re following Kate into Hell and back. She thinks she’s going into this war for the right cause, not realizing she’s aiding anarchy.

That’s the most haunting part of “Sicario” – there isn’t hope in the war on drugs and the movie perfectly states it in the final act. In season one of “True Detective,” there’s a great line about time being a flat circle and how we’ll always do the same things. This applies perfectly in the final scene of “Sicario”, demonstrating the war on drugs will never end and will only open more doors for it to continue.

Villeneuve continues to handle moral ambiguity very well and the drug war is a perfect topic to practice this storytelling style with.

Grade: A