Comedy, Reviews

Deadpool

deadpool_poster

Copyright © 2016 by 20th Century Fox

Story
An ex-special forces officer turned mercenary, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is diagnosed with terminal cancer and leaves his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) to fight the illness alone. He meets an agent from a clandestine facility who guarantees him a cure. Wade undergoes the treatment headed by Ajax (Ed Skrein) through torturous methods leaving him permanently disfigured but healed of his cancer. Claiming his horrific scarring is reversible, Wade relentlessly tracks Ajax for a cosmetic improvement.

Review
Time to make the chimichangas and brace for a whole lot of adult and meta humour from your friendly neighbourhood Pool guy. A passion project since his introduction in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, Reynolds has tirelessly sought for the right talent to evoke goodwill and erase any animosity fans may still have in Gavin Hood’s dismal entry.

The gamble led to a $132.7 million opening and a ‘Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy’ nod from the Golden Globes and Producers Guild of America. Though not fully deserving the highest echelon during this awards season, a slot in the ‘Best Picture’ race from the Oscars would put the academy on track in its quest for continuous diversity.

Starring God’s perfect idiot and written by the real heroes here, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who knew that breaking the fourth wall can be this profanely merry. Many quotable one-liners quipped by a duly nominated Reynolds for ‘Best Actor – Musical or Comedy’, he is only let down in trite plotting. The film hangs firmly on his charms and offers nothing new.

With an R rating exhibited so prominently in its marketing, the promise of a rebooted Deadpool mirroring the comics looked set for a bloody delivery. It is bloody and there is loads of cussing. The merc with a mouth is back and as cool as he was as Weapon XI, there is no denying that his witticism is his defining asset. But we cannot coast only on personality, can we?

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B

Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity

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Reviews, Thriller

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier
Copyright © 2014 by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Story
Since the defeat of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in New York, Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) remains in S.H.I.E.L.D to assist Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his team in covert missions while adjusting to life in the 21st century. During a rescue operation to free hostages on board of one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s vessels, Rogers catches Agent Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) downloading information from the ship’s computers under Fury’s orders. When the data cannot be unlocked, Fury grows suspicious of foul play and is attacked in the process. He turns to Rogers for help on a looming threat that is festering from within the agency itself. With the aid of Romanoff and former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), he must quickly nip this clout of terror and unravel the mystery surrounding Fury’s attacker, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Review
After a solid introduction to our first Avenger in the World War II themed 2011 feature and as part of the ensemble team in ‘The Avengers’, the morally upright Captain with his very cool shield is back; bigger, louder and definitely better in every way to its origins story. Being revived in a time where everything is less black and white, his stand against evil and transgressions is very much tested in ‘The Avengers’. In the company of Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) and Romanoff whose moral compass shifts according to the missions, Rogers still manages to maintain his steadfast principles. In this latest offering, he is once again thrown into a malevolent situation where the lines between good and bad are so blurred, he may finally need to embody the shades of grey which he so despised previously.

Blame it on a new era of borderless boundaries, there really is not much room for Rogers’ chivalry and traditional values to compete in a time when ‘tweeting’, ‘instagraming’ and ‘selfies’ are the rage these days; even Clark Kent underwent a make-over in Zack Snyder’s retelling of Marvel’s direct competition (mankind’s saviour has a little bit of a temper and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty). While the man of steel did have a reason to be reinterpreted with Christopher Nolan’s sensibilities (after all, there have been countless Superman movies and series made prior to this), our very retro Captain is still very much ‘fresh faced’ with lots more development the film makers can head for his new adventures.

It is through his constant need to serve and protect his country that plays extremely well to a more politically-inclined tale of deceit from a threat thought to have been exterminated a while back. The move is bold (what with ‘Thor: The Dark World’ opted for simple plotting and comic moments), reminiscent of stronger efforts from the ‘X-Men’ series and Marvel’s very own underrated ‘Iron Man 2’. It is by far the most satisfying piece of work from the MCU (for the uninitiated, Marvel Cinematic Universe) utilising some of the best elements in other political classics such as ‘All the President’s Men’ and Robert Redford’s ‘Three Days of the Condor’. By the end of this journey, albeit a very topical one, we see the ramifications of his decisions not only affect his friends and foes but most importantly, himself as a beacon of honour.

His acceptance to go rogue and challenge a very controversial policy is realistic, showcasing once again why Rogers is the man for all seasons (or in this case, eras). He proves that to be a good leader, you sometimes really need to just follow your heart and be unexpected. And unexpected is what you get in this thriller by the bucket loads. You may be able to fit the pieces initially but the bigger picture revealed would certainly blow your mind. Not to give much away, watch out for another winning performance from Redford as the ambiguous Alexander Pierce. He lends gravitas to a character that could have easily been boringly over the top.

At the end of the spectrum is Jackson whose outlandishness is still uniquely his but his expanded role here does put him in a more human and likable position. Johansson rounds up with her usual magnetic presence on the chameleon-like Black Widow though character revelation about her past is rather scarce (the producers may be saving the good stuff for a spin-off ala ‘The Wolverine’). With so much talent bursting through, it is rather unfortunate that Mr America is a little sidelined here. The problem is not on Evans unable to convey the necessary emotions. It is just that the personal stakes are not as high for this war veteran to shine as compared to his other compatriots.

As the title may suggest of this mysterious mercenary, do not be fooled into thinking it is all about the ‘Bucky Barnes Show’. With all Marvel productions, the introduction of an iconic adversary may very well play into a couple of chapters or crossovers. It is pivotal for him to be part of a larger plan in the compromised S.H.I.E.L.D agency but what is seen as of now is only the tip of the iceberg. Brace yourselves for continuous wonderment as directors Anthony and Joe Russo are already hard at work for the next level of storytelling. Only question is, why would the Superman sequel even bother to position itself directly with the threequel on the same release date?

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A-
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout

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Action, Reviews

X-Men

X-Men

Copyright © 2000 by 20th Century Fox

Story
In a world where gifted beings with superpowers are alienated and feared by the rest of the community, the film is about two different approaches used to get acceptance from the normal humans about mutant kind. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) establishes an institute for the gifted to help all fellow mutants to control and hone their abilities in hoping to co-exist peacefully with humans. The X-Men team consists of Cyclops (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry) and is led by Xavier himself. But for former ally and friend, Magneto (Ian McKellen) believes that humans and mutants can never live ideally as Xavier envisioned and together with his Brotherhood of Mutants, plan to mutate all the world leaders in order to achieve mutant acceptance. Caught in the crossfire between both the groups are Wolverine and Rogue (Anna Paquin) who may be the key to Magneto’s diabolical plan.

Review
The pioneer to the reemergence of future comic book adaptations i.e. Marvel’s fellow Spiderman, Iron Man, Thor & Captain America and DC’s new interpretation of Batman & Superman all receiving critical acclaim throughout the decade, it proved to mainstream filmgoers that the superhero genre was not all campy or superficial but can actually be artistic, serious, intelligent and still able to deliver the required over-the-top action pieces with panache. Just like what Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Gladiator did for their respective genres, the X-Men movies have been regarded to kick start a loyal following with the newer generation who may or may not be aware of such classic characters. Just for the record, I was one of them who was totally oblivious of their existence having only known the ‘Big Three’ (here is looking at you Bats, Supes and Spidey).

Enough of gushing and let’s get to why this remains my favourite franchise (even more so than Christopher Nolan’s reimagining of The Dark Knight). Call me sentimental, but this film had so many ‘powerful’ scenes that still evoked goose bumps every time I watch it (I have lost count). From the opening sequence where Magneto is separated from his parents upon entering a concentration camp and discovering his ability to Rogue’s ‘death’ only to be resurrected by Wolverine, these moments provide the emotional weight that you seldom see in a summer blockbuster. Speaking of emotional weight, it definitely will strike a chord to those who are looking for characters that they can identify with and there are plenty. I am sure that we have all been alienated and shunned at some point in our lives before like Wolverine or Rogue and even disliked just for looking different like Cyclops. Besides having a consistent theme running throughout about isolation for being ‘gifted’, it is interesting to note that the drafts submitted before this was green lit were more light-hearted and action oriented. Good call from Fox.

Although we can think of many other great directors to fill Bryan Singer’s shoes, I for one am grateful that he finally decided to take on this project after turning it down several times. The pacing was great and at a running time of only 104 minutes, we get sufficient back story from all the main players here. Known for his knack of handling large casts, each character certainly had his/her moment to shine. Kudos to top notch performances from Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and an outstanding portrayal from new comer Hugh Jackman as the adamantium-clawed Wolverine. He certainly had the look and gravitas for the role. To think that he was a last minute replacement when Dougray Scott had to pull out due to his prior commitment to Mission: Impossible II. Talk about perfect timing. The members from the Brotherhood of Mutants also left good impressions of themselves albeit only briefly on screen. Clearly, Tyler Mane (Sabretooth), Ray Park (Toad) and Rebecca Romijn (Mystique) were having a blast while playing them. It would have been nice to see more development in their characters though. I guess that is where the sequels come in.

While the casting was almost impeccable, I thought that Storm would have been better suited if it was played by someone a little taller and with a more convincing accent. Nevertheless, her gift was such a joy to be seen on screen. Highlights came from the attack in the train station and the finale where she got to zap Toad while uttering the now infamous line of informing him that he’ll burn just like everything else. The fights between Sabretooth and Mystique were strong and stylised courtesy from action director extraordinaire, Cory Yuen. While it is understandable that the studio wanted to keep the budget at a low, the scope of it still feels larger-than-life thanks to tight editing and a script that dares to address some of the more challenging issues we are facing currently i.e. on equal rights, consequences on the invasion of privacy and fearing the unknown/being different. It could have been a run-of-the-mill offering with a world domination plot taking centre stage, but I am glad that we are served with something more substantial without losing its entertainment value and comic book roots. All in all, it’s just a very well made film with some unanswered questions raised for the sequel to continue its fight for mutant kind.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting: A-
Plot: A

Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence

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