Deadpool (2016): Marvel for the Big Kids (Review)

Deadpool and Colossus

It has been along time coming but at long last Hollywood, or more accurately FOX, have made a  Marvel action film  for the big kids. The ones who can get into a ‘R’ rated feature without being carded.  Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, joined the super anti-hero verse in the 1990s so this fourth wall breaking sensation is a new kid on the Marvel block.

Deadpool the movie opened to great box office and better than average reviews and has already been greenlit for a sequel and possible crossover with Spiderman in 2017.  This should come as no surprise as the film delivers as many laughs as it does action and obliterates the fourth wall completely.

The character of Wade Wilson goes beyond referencing pop culture in an accepted sense. He also references his own  as the actor who plays him;  Ryan Reynolds.  On the way to his cancer treatment, which will give him superpowers, the future Deadpool insists that his superhero suit not be green or animated. (Green Lantern, Reynolds’ previous superhero film that  failed to live up to expectations is the punchline here.)

Other  in-joke references includes  Deadpool’s response to Colossus, of the X-Men, who handcuffs the antihero to his own wrist and says they will speak with the professor.  Wilson asks, “Which one? McAvoy or Stewart?”  Later, back on the X-Men theme, Deadpool goes to the professor’s college.

He asks Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) for help rescuing his lady love, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  As an aside he ponders why they are the only two X-men in the facility. He muses that one would almost think that the studio could not afford more of the heroes. 

Reynolds chortles, chuckles and wisecracks his way through the film and he is what makes the whole thing work.  Although, disturbingly, without his mask, after his character’s transformation,  Wilson looks like John Malkovich with a bad skin condition.  

There is much more to the film than the tongue in cheek humor, in jokes and annihilation of the fourth wall.  Action, some brilliant fight scenes and actors who all know what they are doing take this films to great heights.  (London actor Ed Skrein plays his character dead straight (pun intended) and it works brilliantly in contrast to Reynolds’ comic interpretation of Wade.) 

Skrein does appear to channel his inner Vinnie Jones though and this too works well for the film.

That Deadpool was made for the big kids who love the Marvel verse is obvious by all the self referential humor.  The focus on IKEA and Stan Lee in his Marvel cameo as the emcee of a pole dancing club where Vanessa works points to giggles for the older audience members. (Although not too old as that demographic favor The Avengers and  and Iron Man…)

In many ways the film is a parody wrapped in a satire wrapped in a “Three Stooges” movie. Deadpool often veers into Bill and Ted territory with the odd detour into  “Dude, Where’s My Car?” although, once again this mix works well.

Everything about the movie works. The comedy routines, even the crackhouse bit at the end where Vanessa picks out that Deadpool lives in a house, all hit the nail on the head.  The music,  a splendid mixture of rap and ’80s pop, is perfect and makes each scene flow beautifully.

Tim Miller does an excellent job directing  his first feature length film and is already penciled in to helm  Deadpool 2.

This is a 5 star effort that proves  comedy works even if the picture is rated ‘R.’  Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson may be a newer member of the Marvel verse but he was designed for the big kids to enjoy.  Check this one out, it is streaming on a multitude of sites an is well worth the time spend to watch it, over and over.

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds  –  Wade Wilson/Deadpool
  • Ed Skrein  –  Ajax/Francis
  • Stefan Kapicic  –  Colossus 
  • Morena Baccarin  –  Vanessa
  • Leslie Uggams  –  Blind Al
  • Gina Carano  –  Angel Dust
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Casual: New Hulu Comedy is Formally Bad

Valerie, Alex and Laura in Casual

Hulu cannot seem to get it right in terms of comedic offerings. Casual, the new comedy from the site is just plain bad, formally or informally, nothing works here.  It should, any show about sexual “freedom”  has the potential to be a winner, but despite a 7.8 on IMDb, the series is,  thus far,  a clunker.  Presumably the higher rating on IMDb is down to the subject matter and the hot-tub scene with a “16 year-old” character having sex with her boyfriend.

*Sidenote* For the record, Tara Lynne Barr is 22 years-old and not 16. It is the character of Laura who is “underage.”

Casual stars Michaela Watkins (Wanderlust, In a World…), Tommy Dewey (The Escort, Step Up Revolution) and Tara Lynne Barr (God Bless America, Dawn) as dysfunctional family who all live together.  Dewey is Alex; a single 30-something man who develops his own website dating service, in order to have a constant stream of women at his beck and call. 

Watkins is his sister  Valerie. She is going through divorce proceedings with Laura’s (Barr) father.  Mom and her daughter share a home with Alex who encourages his psychoanalyst sister to start dating and turns a blind eye to his nieces “underage” sexual relations with her boyfriend.  Valerie also supports her child’s sexual freedom while maintaining a somewhat uneasy relationship with both her brother and Laura.

The show should work, but unlike Hulu’s other new comedy Difficult People (which was an abysmal attempt at humor that was painful to watch) Casual lacks the desperation and overplaying that seems to plague most of  American television’s “comedic” offerings. In fact the new series is so “laid-back” as to be comatose.

Lines are delivered with all the enthusiasm of a wet bagel, if it could talk, that is.  Intentionally (or perhaps unintentionally) each bit of dialogue is so underplayed that the participants seem bored to death.  Part of the problem could be with casting, the part of Alex screams for Ryan Reynolds who, unfortunately has left his Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza days  long behind him.

Tommy Dewey may be a fine actor, but Ryan Reynolds he is not,  and while Dewey may be in fine company with the other two leads in the show (as in being miscast) the man lacks what is needed for his character.  Were the show not a comedy, but more of a dramedy, things might work better, but it is doubtful.

Tara Lynne Barr, who was beyond brilliant in God Bless America has been put into a role that calls for funny versus acting straight in a funny film. While the latter is a must for a character to bring the comedy to the table, the  part Barr has been placed in requires more.

Watkins is a fine performer as well,  but like the other two protagonists in the show,  has been placed in an bad position.  Her character is just annoying and whiny, there is no comedy in her performance at all, while this could be on purpose it is not delivered in a fashion conducive to humorous entertainment.

The series’  pilot started out fairly creative, the funeral dream was at least interesting, but once Alex wakes up it loses that little tiny spark of “what could have been.”  Watching the first two episodes proved that,  unlike one other offering this season,  this comedy is not going to find its footing.

The lines are bland.  It does not help that the sound, whether this is down to poorly recorded ADR or some other reason, is muffled.  It feels like the actors were either recorded in a rehearsal or the director insisted that each line be delivered quietly into the microphone with a massive emphasis on downplaying each..and…every…syllable.

Thankfully, there is no laugh track; to help the audience find the humor, if there were it would only point out just how unfunny the show is.

Experimentation in comedy is a good thing, without it we would never have gotten past the 1950s and ’60s style of sitcoms like Mister Ed and Leave it to Beaver.   There is comedic gold in them thar hills, just not in Hulu’s latest attempt at humor.

Casual “airs” Wednesdays on Hulu and unless the viewer is a rabid fan of any of the performers,  give this one a miss.

R.I.P.D. (2013) Howard the Duck Dressed as Jonah Hex?

Film poster for RIPDThere are many reasons that R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), the Dark Horse limited edition comic-based film died a dismal death on screen and Jeff Bridges announced that the “suits” screwed the whole thing up after the movie got panned universally and was even compared at one point to Howard the Duck. Critic Roger Moore also blasted the film and called it the worst comic book adaptation since Jonah Hex.

Ouch.

A trifle unfair of Moore as at least R.I.P.D. did not have Megan Fox in it. Although the film is a stinker overall despite having a good cast to work with. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon and Stephanie Szostak the film should have entertained with so much talent shoved into one film.

Directed by Richard Schwentke (RED, Insurgent) the film confuses more than it entertains and spends far too much time on the James Hong, Marisa Miller gag which appears to be a lift from Dead Like Me where the returned deceased look different from when they were alive. Having said that, the joke could have been used to much better effect with a little more emphasis on the interaction of the two “avatars.”

The comic book, published by Dark Horse Comics; who published, amongst other cult favorites, Hellboy and Sin City, ran for four issues. Not unusual for the comic publisher who seems to specialize in “one-offs” and limited editions of comics. In the comic, the joke includes the fact that Nick Cruz and Roy’s big boss is indeed “God” and that there is a heaven and a hell. While the film skirts around this issue by referring to “judgement” and they mention hell, Nick’s old partner Bobby Hayes (Bacon) mentions that he refuses to go there, the big boss thing aka, God, is shuffled off to the side.

*To be fair, however, I have never read the comics and apart from the odd synopsis of the short-lived series, can only guess at the “God angle,” although it does seem that this was part and parcel of the wry tongue-in-cheek delivery of the comic.*

The plot of the film, which apparently does follow the comic’s main premise, has Nick Cruz being killed, although in the Dark Horse publication he does not know who killed him and in the film Nick knows his crooked partner did him in.

*A major complaint that I had with the film was the whole “shot in the face” schtick that is mentioned several times in the movie and the scene where Reynolds as Cruz is pumped full of lead, not one of the bullets hits him in the face. Was this considered too graphic or horrid for the film’s PG-13 rating or just on oversight?*

Watching the film one cannot help but have a sort of Deja Vu feeling. It is not too dissimilar to Last Action Hero; the Arnold Schwarzenegger hodgepodge where the comedy made no real sense, such as the inclusion of a cartoon cat as cop, and the producers used a “kitchen sink” approach to the comedic mix. R.I.P.D. feels much the same. The biggest difference between the two films is reception, Roger Ebert actually admitted to liking parts of the Schwarzenegger film.

It should be pointed out that Bridges got a chance to pay respect to his late father Lloyd Bridges with a visual lifted straight from Airplane!. Father Lloyd played a character named McCroskey in the 1980 film who had “picked the wrong time” to stop a number of things, including sniffing glue. At one point in the hysterically funny film, Bridges Senior has a close up of his wildly smiling face and his hair is standing straight up. The camera repositions and the audience can see that McCroskey is upside down. Jeff Bridges replicates that shot as his Sheriff Roy hangs upside down under a building overhang holding a rope attached to a “dead-o.” Complete with wild smile and long hair dangling Bridges does the shot, although without the camera repositioning.

R.I.P.D. iS just not as entertaining as it could have been. The lack of direction, the kitchen sink attitude towards its comedy and the missing coherency hurts the film overall. Bridges and Reynolds fail to mesh as the former seems to be channeling his Rooster Cogburn and the latter plays it all too serious. The two styles never quite fit together.

Watching the film, I kept wanting to see more of Miller and Hong in action and wondered how Mary Louise Parker could still look so young and attractive. This is a 2 out of 5 star film with little to recommend it except for the presence of the beautiful Parker and Szostak who each brighten up the film with their performances. The chaps in the movie are never really given a chance to shine.

Sorry fellas.

While the film is not really Howard the Duck dressed as Jonah Hex, it is a curious blend of both these misbegotten films where direction and focus were both lost by those making the film and the actors never stood a chance. Wait for this one to show up on telly.

10 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Life in the Real Desert: Sleeping in a Cloudy Oven

Cloudy sky in Quartzsite, AZThe real desert is cloudy today. It has a solid covering of dark hues which cries occasionally and lets a few dry tears plummet to earth. Striking tin roofs with a clunky, non-melodic rhythm that is short lived yet oddly comforting. The covering floated in yesterday, slowly filling the vast Arizona sky with something that resembled peaceful candy floss (cotton candy) with varying tints of color. The temperature was a cool 106 degrees Fahrenheit despite the lack of direct sun and sleeping in this stuporous heat felt like being in a cloudy oven.

I tweeted, at half 10 last night, that the temperature was a staggering 91 degrees. I watched RIPD, with Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Louise Parker (whom I have a huge schoolboy crush on, sorry Mary) and Kevin Bacon while baking on high for the duration. The heat from my laptop was a little worrying on top of all that external heat. I checked and the mercury inside the house was standing at 99 degrees and I switched the thing off afterward.

Until then, I sat with all windows open and a pedestal fan scant inches from my face and the laptop. I sat oozing sweat and battled the elements in order to be fair to the comedy action film. (After all that “suffering” I found I did enjoy the film after all.)

Around midnight I gave up waiting for the heat to drop much further, the gauge outside on the porch read 82, and I crawled, sans PJs into bed. I lay on top of the sheets with fluid leaking in a steady stream from the back of my neck. By the time morning came, a cool 78 degrees for around two minutes, I was semi-rested from sleeping in a giant Arizona-sized oven and my top pillow was drenched.

I have been told that July and August resemble hell on earth and I must agree with that description after living in Vegas last year and seeing that Quartzsite is hotter than the casino town on a regular basis. Still what does not kill you, or dehydrate you, makes you stronger they say and after last night’s turbulent sleep I am not too tired this morning.

Unfortunately I will not be heading to town today as thunderstorms have been forecast and I do not want to cross the desert on a metal bike inviting lightning to strike me and my Schwinn. Of course there is the paranoia that my MacBookPro gets soaking wet thereby stopping my sporadic memoir writing and the chances of being paid by another content mill for journo pieces. I do have a waterproof bit of stuff that I wrap the thing in, but between the wind, rain and lightning, sitting today out seems wise.

It was interesting, and not a little disturbing, to see that the cloud cover kept the heat in over night. Generally on a clear day, besides being able to see “forever” the heat dissipates once the sun goes down. By half 11 or so the temperature has lowered enough to allow something resembling sleep. Even on the hottest clear day, the mornings are pleasantly cool.

Sitting here now, in the Arizona room, I can see the wind pick up. The sound of rain hitting the roof is slowly increasing in volume, not of a decibel level but amount, and the sky is becoming a more uniform color, grey without so much black mixed in. Rather interestingly there has been a lot of rain since my arrival.

Meanwhile, life in the real desert goes on and tonight I’ll wager that sleeping in a cloudy oven will not be an issue since the weather has driven the mercury down for the day. Looking at the forecast, the average temperature will be around 106 over the next week or so which means spending a lot of time in Burger King and the public library. An unexpected bonus of living in this environment is that I’ve met some lovely folks at the local eatery and managed to lose most of the tummy pod that I’ve carried with me for years.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Ryan Reynolds two flops on the same weekend?

Ryan Reynolds two flops on the same weekend?