‘Deadpool 2’ makes fun of everybody, and it’s awesome

Deadpool 2 is an overwhelming experience. In other words, I laughed a lot and that’s with only registering three quarters of the jokes, pop culture references, Marvel slams, DC Film slams, and all the other humor jammed into this two-hour action comedy blast starring the one and only Ryan Reynolds.

I say one and only because no one could pull off Wade Wilson-the merc with a mouth who needs a microphone and a sold-out Madison Square Garden stage-but Reynolds. The Canadian-born actor resuscitated his static career by replaying a character he helped malign in Wolverine: Origins back in 2009. By giving Deadpool a new coat of paint and replacing everything under the hood that 20th Century Fox and director Gavin Hood tamed down for profit, Reynolds did something truly special.

Do I really need to tell you what this sequel is about? Fine, let’s do it, just in case you miss the second-to-none marketing campaign, countless parody trailers, and hilarious usage of social media by Reynolds and his co-star Josh Brolin ( taking a break from infinity stone theft here in a different Marvel arena). Continue reading “‘Deadpool 2’ makes fun of everybody, and it’s awesome”

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Jessica Jones mixes real world fear with Marvel geeky fun

Jessica Jones doesn’t like people much. Jones drinks bourbon like a fish and only eats after a long night of bed breaking sex. She doesn’t care what you think. She doesn’t care for costumes. She is a cynical loner who has no need for heroism worship. Best of all, she kicks butt, takes it well and keeps on coming back for more. Jones is the first truly relatable superhero.

No offense to the world’s greatest heroes, but as much as the world can adore the more popular Marvel toughies, it’s hard to stand next to them as equals. I couldn’t drink a super serum today and become Captain America. When I get mad, I don’t shred my clothes and become a gigantic green rage monster. Tony Stark isn’t superpowered but his bank account sure is. Thor isn’t even human. While Black Widow is human enough, they don’t make look that way in Avengers films.

Jones, as played by the tough and witty yet vulnerable well of sorrow Krysten Ritter, is just another lady looking for work from the first time we see her on screen in the new Netflix series. She is taking pictures of a cheating husband for a stash of cash as a very good private investigator. Soon enough, we find out she can manhandle people and easily pick up furniture. Okay, so she is kind of superhuman when it comes to strength but the show never lets that distract from the main chunk of meat of the plot.

The thing is, Jones used to fight crime. She tried to do the right thing but when she ran into a manipulating mind controlling baddie called Kilgrave(David Tennant, channeling Tom Hiddleston’s Loki here with his devilish portrayal here), something terrible happened and she went off the radar. Someone died and she didn’t feel like being a hero anymore. A somebody that wanted to be a nobody.

She’s having a good old time being empty and full of cheap whiskey until Kilgrave returns to send her a message in the form of a missing young woman. The search for her and resulting find sets off a cat and mouse chase between Jones and Kilgrave, pulling her back into the world of a man who broke her years ago.

Jones’ sister Trish(Rachael Taylor), a popular talk show host, gets involved with the hunt and Taylor and Ritter have amazing chemistry as sisters. The writers pay careful attention to all the subplots in this show and the characters are anything but cardboard cutouts.

The major find and standout here is Mike Colter, otherwise known to TV fans as Lamont Bishop from CBS’s The Good Wife. He has a true breakout role here as Luke Cage, the love interest in Jessica’s life that eventually gets sucked into the Kilgrave hunt. A loner with impenetrable skin and superhuman strength, Cage shares a lot in common with Jessica, the least of which being a freak among normal’s. Here is a superhero who puts on a t-shirt and jeans and is ready to rock. He will instantly become a hero to millions of men across the world. Best of all, Colter has found himself a role that he was born to play. He doesn’t overplay the complexities of Cage and has a lot of fun with the action sequences.

Ritter and Tennant are perfectly matched here. Ritter is a veteran actress who most TV addicts know as Aaron Paul’s doomed girlfriend on Breaking Bad. She tosses everything you think you know about her and produces a signature role here as the centerpiece of the action. She doesn’t overdo the dramatic parts of Jones or treat the role too light. It’s a well balanced and fully realized performance that sets the 33 year old up for a long run. Just like Colter, she has scuffled around Hollywood in supporting or bit parts. Now she is at the front of the line, thanks to Marvel’s once again beautiful casting.

Tennant has a whole lotta fun as the bad here, a man who can tell you to shoot yourself or walk off the ledge of a building. When we first see him, he walks into a family’s apartment and promptly orders them around. He tells the kids to hide in the closet and pee in their pants while demanding the wife to feed him. Draped in a purple suit, he is a seemingly feeble man who you don’t realize his power until its too late. The actor, like the rest of the cast, doesn’t overplay the role even when it begs him to try.

The rest of the body of this show’s cast is well filled out. Carrie Anne Moss, Will Traval,Clarke Peters, Eka Darville, Robin Weigert and Erin Moriarty are all very good here, filling out parts with nuanced work instead of campy foreplay.

The show is uncompromising and goes in a number of directions. Right when you think it’s tapped for a certain direction, it pivots out and moves elsewhere. There are many great moments, such as a romantic tryst involving a moving bus. A room full of cops pointing guns at each other. An interrogation device that grows more thrilling by the moment. These people don’t need suits to exhibit their powers. Their own given bodies are painful enough reminders of the damage they can hide and the war they can wage.

Like Daredevil before it, Jessica Jones uses its 13 hours to fully flesh out a story while also introducing and building characters viewers will want to see more of. Colter’s Cage is getting his own show in 2016. Jones will most likely show up in that series. Both will come around future Marvel projects. Kevin Feige and company have composed a seamless system of original character construction. They put out the flames of a terribly failed cinematic attempt of Daredevil but going bare bones with Charlie Cox and telling a true origin tale. With Jones, they have finally delivered a female superhero worth rooting for and getting close to.

All thanks to the wonderful work from creator Melissa Rosenberg and her gifted group of actors. The fight choreography is extremely well done as well, never moving the camera too quick or getting too close to the action. It’s more of an adrenaline placement of action than a nervy twitch. Seeing Jones and Cage toss people around like rag dolls never gets old because it’s handled realistically. Well, as realistic as watching a nurse try to administer meds to Cage and having the needle get bent in half on top of his skin or him taking a circle saw to his abdomen to prove a point.

Jessica Jones mixes real world terrors and fears with the geeky Marvel superhero fun we have come to expect. Daredevil started something original and cool earlier this year. This new series improves upon that show and raises the bar. When Daredevil returns this summer and introduces Jon Bernthal’s take on Frank Castle, the engine will keep on roaring.

In case you forgot, all 13 episodes went live on November 20th. No waiting. No sitting around for six days. I won’t just recommend you watch Jessica Jones. I’ll urge you to. It’s extremely well done and you don’t have to know a single thing about these comic book characters. It’s better if you meet them like a stranger on the street. A stranger that can toss you a couple of blocks if they wanted to.

Civil War: Ranking the MCU Movies

Ranking the Marvel movies.

You’ve heard about them, like it or not. The Marvel film franchise. MCU. With Captain America: Civil War serving up its first teaser, I wanted to present my ranking of the Marvel flicks up to date.

With that being said, it’s time to rank the other Marvel Cinematic Universe film series. I am not talking about the Spider Man films or the old Hulk film. I am swinging via the Thor hammer at the recent batch of films that started with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man back in 2008 and most recently produced Guardians of the Galaxy last August. So let’s see which films are awesome, which are great, good, okay or as Thor himself would said, “tiny”.

12.) Thor: A Dark World

I wasn’t impressed with this second solo act with Hemsworth’s tortured demi god mission. To me, he is the weakest Avenger and this sequel proved that he needs the group to make a true impact. You basically have him and Loki teaming up(that won’t last) and going up against another powerful baddie that will get extinguished. What was so fresh about the first Thor(fish out of water hero tale on Earth) gets forgotten here and a regular action superhero mashup takes place. Thor is the least interesting Avenger and this film showed it. It wasn’t a bad film but it was kind of tiny compared to the other films.

 

11.) The Incredible Hulk

Sure, Norton did a lot better of a job as Banner than Eric Bana(rough get up from the start) and the movie captured a tiny more of the idea of the monster’s origin, but once Mark Ruffalo blew our minds in Avengers it’s quite silly to think of anyone else as The Hulk. It may have served more juice to the idea that this character is much better in smaller doses. While it had good action, a solid pace, a decent end fight and wrap up Stark tease at the end, this Hulk is nothing compared to the one and only Ruff-Hulk. Again, it’s hard to find a bad film in this set, but this one vanishes from my memory quick when it’s mentioned.

 

10.) Thor

You may see that I am not the biggest solo Thor movie fan here and I stand by it. While better than the sequel and having some good moments between Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and some unexpected humor in the beginning, I don’t think on this film and remember any game changing moments. It’s just a standard character introduction piece(let’s get Hemsworth into the mix and make a movie around it). Granted, Hemsworth is great here and is a better actor than given credit for, but the story around him(compared to the other heroes here) is kind of trite. The whole “I am a god thing and can swing a very heavy hammer and look amazing doing it” gets old quick. The fish out of water parts of the film are great and it’s never a waste of time to see Natalie Portman.

 

9.) Iron Man 2

I was a bigger fan of the sequel than most were because I thought it was a cool old school action film and I loved Mickey Rourke’s bad guy so much that he made me forget about Sam Rockwell’s character. Yes, the reshoots and stress from director Jon Favreau does show in the film but I dug it. Having a three year old who is tearing into Marvel’s movie also helps because I’ve recently watched this movie at least ten times. I love the opening reel of Stark’s speech playing as Rourke’s Ivan makes his suit. I love the race car track showdown and the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. Don Cheadle’s entrance as Rhodes didn’t make me feel any better about Terrence Howard’s departure, but he grew on me a bit as the film proceeded. My favorite scene was Howard Stark(the classy John Slattery playing the role here) sending that private message to Tony and that made him create the element that saved him. Iron Man 2 was flawed(too many baddies and subplot) but it was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewatchable flick. Also, the interrogation scene between Downey Jr. and Rourke was a lighter faster version of The Joker and Batman. The coolness of this flick does survive on the easy going charm and rock star talents of RDJ though. The man is a genius.

8.) Avengers: Age of Ultron

The more I thought about this film, the more it rubbed the wrong way. Maybe it was James Spader’s dull and ineffective Ultron. Maybe it was the overlong action sequences or the need to duplicate or top Avengers. The story was imbalanced and weighty at the end of the running time. For all the hype it got leading up to May, the end result was tiring. It is watchable, entertaining but after a few viewings, just decent. That’s it.

 

7.) Guardians of the Galaxy

Everybody else went nuts on this film, but all I saw was a light cool funny Marvel film that had a great soundtrack at first viewing. After a few replays, I liked it more and more. The wise crack touch of  Chris Pratt was good and Vin Diesel did more with one line than most could do with 20. Danny Bautista’s beast Drax with his eccentric vocabulary and deadly touch worked. The whole idea of this movie being wicked great never struck me but it had a perfect tone. I didn’t finish it and feel the need to write a 3,000 word essay on it(I did that with Pacino and DeNiro’s Heat). I thought the bad guy was terrible. The whole time he can take out our heroes but doesn’t and Bautista’s character CAN’T beat him in a fight and keeps trying.  Bradley Cooper’s Rocket was hilarious and in the end, I didn’t just want to be Groot…I wanted more Groot.

 

6.) Captain America: First Avenger

While I wasn’t as crazy about Red Skull as a villain, I loved the way Hugo Weaving played him and Chris Evans did some truly good work here as Steve Rogers before he came magnificent. It was the scenes before he became Captain that really allowed me to love his character later. “I’m just a kid from New Jersey” never got old and by the end, when he throws himself, the cube and the jet into the ocean only to wake up decades later without the love of his life, you feel his pain because Evans created that in the first hour. Real breakthrough for Evans. The film is a little long but brilliantly realized. Rodgers is the red, white and blue hero but Evans always gives him an uncertain edge. It started here.

Ant-Man-Paul-Rudd-Shower.jpg

5.) Ant-Man

I admit. The mere mention of this film at first wasn’t exciting but Paul Rudd knocked this shit out of the park. Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Corey Stoll, and Bobby Cannvale rounded out a perfect cast. Director Peyton Reed delivered a similar dose of Marvel versatility that the first Iron Man and GOTG were. Easy going yet potent fun. Rudd’s interaction with Anthony Mackie’s Falcon couldn’t have teased Civil War better. Give me more. You’ll never look at an ant the same way again.

 

4.) Iron Man 3

People hated the card shark switch that director Shane Black did with the Mandarin here, but I loved the changeup. Tell me you expected that to happen when Ben Kingsley’s hapless drunk actor turned terrorist spewing bad guy came out of the bathroom. Black’s light touch mirrored Favreau’s original film method of madness, and I liked Guy Pearce and James Badge Dale’s bad guy combo and the coming out badass femme fatale party of Gwyneth Paltrow enjoyed at the end. This film carried such an effortless cool pace that I didn’t want the film to end but it wrapped up the last solo journey of Stark quite well and sets up Avengers 2 in the process. The greatest strength of Kevin Feige and Marvel is connecting all these films seamlessly and mixing in the stories without overstepping. It’s confidence. I am glad they supported Black’s idea to throw a change at the fans. Iron Man 3 was strong.

 

3.) Iron Man

The original stake in the sand by Marvel is still a cool ride seven years later. Favreau’s plea to bring in Downey Jr. being looked on with risky stress but now looking like a stroke of genius. All of it still plays well today, especially Stark’s transformation in the desert when he sees up close and personal the destruction his weapons can do. The way Stark became this guy who wanted to better himself by burning up his past and starting something new was so well done. Downey Jr. is at the heart of the greatness, putting exactly the right amount of cynical charm and bravado in the role that people debated for so many years. Howard’s work as Rhodes is bittersweet because he was good effortless and had great rapport with RDJ. Jeff Bridges Obadiah was well rendered, as was Paltrow’s first piece of work as Potts. There’s something nostalgic about Iron Man. It was the beginning and always will carry a certain juicy flow with its experience. Before the Avengers Assemble could happen, Tony Stark had to light the match.

 

2.) Captain America: Winter Soldier

Talk about combining real life world weary issues and mixing in the Marvel madness. Every time I watched Winter Soldier, it got better. The transformation of Bucky into the Winter Soldier that changes our titular hero was the key ingredient in this madness. Sebastian Stan’s work is astounding and he does it with barely any dialogue. Just looks, action and moves. Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow also got a much needed tease here before his deadly Crossbones heats up Civil War.  Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was also a nice light touch to the proceedings, as were Scarlett and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury(who always gets just the right amount of screen time per appearance). The scenes near the end between Stan and Evans, as two best friends facing off, is heartbreaking and thrilling. Winter Soldier may go down as the most complete Marvel film. Maybe.

 

1.) Avengers

That’s right. The moment where the Avengers Assemble kicked off.  Joss Whedon’s ability to take all these misfit toys, toss them together and spin them into this kickass, poignant and thrilling combo of heroic danger was such a miraculous feat. I don’t think any other director could have blended the personalities and actions of these heroes as well as he did. He got the best of Thor and brought out the Hulk we all knew was there in Ruffalo’s rendition. There isn’t one part of this movie that feels flat and it can be consumed and savored well today with the right amount of surround sound. It plays like a greatest hit and it’s only three years old. The shot towards the end during the huge NYC battle where the camera whips around to all our Avengers fighting is still a piece of art. Avengers is going to be money decades from now and that makes the expectations for this week’s Age of Ultron fly through the roof with ease.

That’s my list. What is yours. Civil War may end up being #1 in the end.

Captain America: Civil War pits friends against each other

The new Marvel adventure could be its sharpest yet.

What if your friends didn’t share the same ideals and beliefs that you did? What if this mutual disagreement pitted you against each other, separating one party into the land of the law and placing the other on the run as a fugitive? The new trailer for Marvel’s next cinematic thrill ride, Captain America: Civil War, promises their best adventure yet because it gets personal. Are these people heroes or vigilantes? Marvel is tapping into their internal Dark Knight questions. Are these Marvel heroes the ones we deserve?

Captain America: Civil War Trailer and Posters are Here!

After the fun yet overlong and silly Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Russo brothers are bringing the Winter Soldier real world touch to the table again, honing in on the conflict between Steve Rodgers’ Captain and Tony Stark’s Iron Man. When the government(welcome back William Hunt) wants to start regulating superheroes instead of simply turning them loose, Stark agrees with the philosophy and Rogers rebels against it. When Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is targeted, the band splits down the middle.

“If we can’t accept limitations, we are no better than the bad guys.” Stark has a point, and he has come a long way since Iron Man 2, where the government wanted his suit and he said no. This time it wasn’t Garry Shandling asking though.

War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther(hello Chadwick Boseman) and Vision join Stark while Hawkeye, Falcon, Winter Solder aka Bucky and possibly others join Rodgers. This sets up a showdown unseen before in these Marvel adventures. Namely, it pits Stark against his friend Rodgers. The best line of the trailer was the simplest.

When Rodgers apologizes for going against Tony because of his friend Bucky, Stark’s response is tragic and chilling. “So was I.” Wow. The poster’s tagline couldn’t be more spot on. “Divided we fall.”

This is going to be the must see film of 2016, at least the first half of the cinematic schedule. The people who laugh off the silliness of these superhero films miss the moral of the story from Winter Soldier. What happens when you fail to regulate people with extraordinary powers? Is that a good thing? Winter Soldier asked about the cost of war and if sacrificing civilians for the greater good was digestible or not. Civil War aims for a destruction of the brotherhood. The music used in the trailer is perfect. This is going to be bittersweet and contain mega loads of awesome sauce.

It’s been hinted at before. In both the Avengers films, the crew have tussled internally. Nothing like this though. Civil War puts these matters on a global scale and turns the meter to red before leaving the building with the gas leaking. This is going to be explosive and it’s only six months and change away so start re-watching.

The only letdown for me was seeing no glimpse of Frank Grillo’s Crossbones. A guy who historically(comic book wise at least) has a lot to say about the fate of Mr. America. Someone who lost to Rodgers in the elevator but has come back stronger and deadlier than before. I can’t wait for their showdown. I needed a little Grillo and got none. The only drawback of an otherwise great first look.

Watch for yourself.

 

Paul Rudd makes light “Ant-Man” tick

Paul Rudd anchors a light dose from the mighty Marvel gang. See it without feeling like you need to think.

Scott-Lang-Paul-Rudd-Steals-Ant-ManCinema’s first truly family friendly superhero is super tiny, and his name is Scott. If there is one clear reason why Marvel’s latest cinematic party guest Ant-Manworks, it’s the presence of Paul Rudd, the easy to like comedy star next door.

He’s relatable. While it’s highly unlikely you’ll run into Thor or Iron Man in a grocery store, you might bump into a guy like Rudd. His ability to slip into Scott Lang’s skin makes this light as a feather summer delight go down smooth if not blow people away.

The setup is easy to get comfortable with. Lang is a thief who can’t stay out of trouble and comes into the sight of Dr. Hank Pym(Michael Douglas), a man who may know a thing or two about shrinking a man down to the size of an ant to fight crime. When Pym’s deranged protege tries to sell the science to Hydra(remember those bad dudes from Captain America: Winter Soldier), Pym calls on the ordinary Scott to help him save the day. Our hero also has a daughter he wants to see more. It’s all familiar so just roll with it. Continue reading “Paul Rudd makes light “Ant-Man” tick”

Guardians Is An Enjoyable Romp

2014_guardians_of_the_galaxy-wideGoing into Guardians of The Galaxy this week on DVD at home, I felt like the last soul on the planet to watch this flick. I sat in my living room on my couch like a lonely soul in a movie theater. It felt weird and that is something a film-addict should never feel. Imagine getting to a Christmas party and seeing the cake all picked at and eaten and somewhat missing. Sometimes, films come and go without me seeing them in theaters. It happens when you digest so many cinematic treats. Occasionally the cookie jar gets crowded with forgotten fare and I don’t make it a point to see the big blockbusters in theaters.

What did I think of Guardians? Is it the greatest thing since toasted garlic bread or just another fun film to get lost in for two hours? This film wasn’t exactly polarizing but it had its lovers, admirers, and haters.

A few things about the film I liked-

*The soundtrack is kickass. Take some 70’s and 80’s rock and pop classics, blend them in with some forgotten bluesy gems and the movie never feels boring. The tunes selected makes for one great mix and doesn’t feature one original soul. Thankfully, there is no Fall Out Boy or other weak boy band lead song stuck in the end credits. Instead, we get Marvin Gaye singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. On the DVD menu, we get Blue Swede’s unforgettable classic, “Hooked On A Feeling”. At the beginning of the film, Chris Pratt dances around a lost planet in space to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”. If there is a sequel, the soundtrack has big shoes to fill. Nicely picked, James Gunn(the writer and director from St. Louis, MO).

*Chris Pratt is very good here. The guy has serious comedic chops and keeps the action light and moving. He has spent his career hanging around the movie stars and taking the supporting helpings. Here, he is the main guy and his “Starlord” routine is hilarious. He anchors the action. Continue reading “Guardians Is An Enjoyable Romp”

No Amazing Spider Man 2 for This Critic

In 12 years and 5 films, what has cinema told us about Peter Parker?

amazingspiderman2Listen up film-addicts. Feel free to spend your hard earned money on The Amazing Spider Man 2. I get it. It’s new, bright and showy. It’s the official blast off the top of summer movies. Every spring, the summer movies come to the forefront and kick off a long season of loud, shiny, and popcorn fueled entertainment. This year, it’s the latest therapy session for the fragile Marvel hero with webs coming out of his hands. Here are a few reasons I won’t be seeing the film in theaters.

It’s unconventional for a critic to put down a blockbuster film before seeing it and on the weekend it opens up. However, we here at film-addict like to go against the common grind and share something unique.

I am tired of Spider Man and his insecurities. With Batman and Superman, there’s a neurosis that is cool, powerful and relatable. With Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner, there is an underlying drama that is irresistible. When it comes to Spider Man and Peter Parker, there simply isn’t enough juice to keep the franchise running for me.

My biggest problem with the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy was my outright disdain for Maguire. Whenever he comes on screen, I get turned off. The face, presence and ability all just do nothing for me. I am sure he is a fine little sweet gambler in real life, but on screen he is blank. Spider Man 2 was very well done but the third film was a silly, overlong and all together useless waste of time and money. I thought it would end there in 2007 with Maguire, the black suit, the death of Topher Grace as a legit actor and Thomas Haden Church’s waste of talent.  I was wrong.

In 2012, Marc Webb brought us the exact same story of Peter Parker to the big screen with a better actor in Andrew Garfield, a better leading lady in Emma Stone and a very similar take on the hero. He is a lonely young man, gets bitten by a spider, retains his daddy issues, learns to fly via the web(from the spider and not the internet) and fights a moderately boring villain. Blah blah, cue the sleeping pill.

This weekend, Spider Man is back with no new material. He still doesn’t know what to think of his super powers and makes new friends and villains. Stone and Garfield are there but then we have Jamie Foxx cashing a paycheck as Electro and Paul Giamatti as a bald maniac. Dane Dehaan subs in for James Franco as the tortured Harry Osborne. What are these great actors doing here? Get out of this.

The biggest problem is this. Where has Spider Man gone in 5 films when it comes to story? When you leave the theater, tell me if you learned anything new about the guy? In the comics, Parker has become a public crime fighting figure and joined up with the Avengers. In the movies, he is still a poor wounded animal looking for home.

Sony Pictures isn’t getting my money this time. I will wait for Redbox. I will skip 2 hours and 21 minutes of boring looking cinema(followed by a quizzical drive home) and chase down an indie like Dom Hemingway or Locke(opening in the coming weeks in select cities).

Alert me when Marvel/Spider Man/Sony stop running in circles and stealing our hard earned cash. In 12 years and 5 films, what has cinema told us about Peter Parker?