Deadpool

From the opening title sequence, which is just about the best ever, to a truly wonderful Stan Lee appearance, to the Marvel trademark post-credits coda, Deadpool is bursting with surprises, action and superhero fun.

Deadpool has an edge not seen before in Marvel movies. It earns its R rating with salty language, nudity, sex (including some kinky stuff) and intense violence. But, along with its edge, Deadpool always has a quip or a funny sequence just around the corner.

Deadpool is the new (superhuman—but disfigured) version of Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), one of the X-Men. Wilson falls in love with the gorgeous Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) but he is soon stricken with terminal cancer.

Wilson undergoes treatment, administered by Francis (Ed Skrein) and cohort Angel Dust (Gina Carino). The painful procedure cures his cancer but leaves his face and skin looking horrible. The treatment also makes gives him super strength and makes him virtually immortal.

“You look like an avocado had sex with an older avocado, “ is how his friend/bartender Weasel (T.J. Miller) describes Deadpool’s post-treatment look. (He follows that line with a more graphic description.) Miller, from the Silicon Valley TV show and the Shocktop Super Bowl spot, plays his role laidback until he has to urge Deadpool to seek out Vanessa.

Because his looks are so gruesome, Deadpool avoids his true love because he fears she’ll be repelled by his looks. But they reconnect and she is part of the film’s big action sequence, a battle between Deadpool and Francis. Deadpool gets assistance from X-Men Colossus (Stefan Capicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). NTM’s resemblance to a certain pop singer generates one of Deadpool’s funniest lines.

Despite a costume similar to Spiderman’s and occasional reminders of Jim Carrey’s The Mask character’s speaking voice, Deadpool feels fresh. Deadpool delivers numerous asides directly to the audience, which is not normal superhero behavior.

And, in my estimation, Reynolds’ likability is exceeded in the Marvel world only by audience affection for Robert Downey Jr.

Deadpool should have a huge weekend at the box office, especially if ticket sellers are willing to agree with eager 15-year-olds that “yeah, you look seventeen” and admit them to this R-rated film.

If you are a fan of Marvel and superhero movies, Deadpool is a “must see.” Enjoy!

 

 

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Zoolander 2

When Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) make their runway return early in Zoolander 2, they are wearing shirts that read “Old” and “Lame.” It is, of course, lame of me to point out how accurately those shirts’ sentiments reflect my thoughts about the film. Sorry.

Zoolander 2 has a handful of slightly funny moments, but many more moments that are supposed to be funny but are not. But hey, the numerous surprise cameos ARE fun! (Note: Other reviewers will spill the beans about certain cameo appearances. I will not. You’re welcome.) And the soundtrack includes some cool EDM.

Not “cameos,” per se, because they appear in the trailer: Benedict Cumberbatch as an androgynous model looks like Voldemort during his brief appearance. Justin Beiber as himself manages to hang on for a selfie before he makes his final exit.

The 2001 Zoolander movie was relentless as it poked fun at the fashion industry. Stiller and Wilson were hilarious as clueless male models. Will Ferrell, as goofy looking villain Mugatu, was a hoot. Try though it may, the new version just does not connect. (Stiller, by the way, directed both films.)

During their 15-year absence, Derek constructed a building in NYC. The building collapsed, killing his wife and disfiguring Hansel. Unfortunately, the shots of a building falling down in New York City recall the real-life event that happened two weeks before the release of the first Zoolander.

In Z-2, Derek and Hansel are dispatched to Rome to be part of a fashion show. But the focus of the film is on Derek’s effort to reconnect with his son (who just happens to be in a Rome orphanage). Mugatu is now in a “fashion prison” which, amusingly, is built to resemble a giant thimble.

The film’s climax involves a quasi-religious ritual involving real life fashion industry figures.

Penelope Cruz appears as a gorgeous Interpol agent. An unrecognizable Kristen Wiig is an oddly-attired fashionista. (She looks almost like the late Tammie Faye Baker.) Keifer Sutherland is the leader of Hansel’s diverse “orgy crew.”

Some sequels are better left unmade. Zoolander 2 might’ve been a good idea on paper. But on film, not a good idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hail, Caesar!

In 1951, movies are huge. Their stars are big. Their colors are bright, if not garish. Television has not yet become a national obsession. In Los Angeles, Capitol Studios fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) loves his job even if his days and nights are spent putting out fires.

In Hail, Caesar!, the Coen brothers sprinkle their new film with fully realized scenes like those that electrified the movies Hollywood made in the postwar, pre-TV era. It’s a trick comparable to the addition of compelling music performances to brighten up a melancholy story in their most recent film, 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis. Music also spiced up their 2000 release Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? It worked then and it works now.

Among the films in production at Capital in the day-and-a-half that Hail, Caesar! takes place is a film called “Hail, Caesar” starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). Whitlock is kidnapped after a spiked drink he chugs in a scene knocks him unconscious. A missing star is just one of Mannix’s problems.

DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johanssen) stars in a swimming pool scene that recalls Esther Williams movies. Mannix works to make sure news of Moran’s out-of-wedlock child is kept quiet.

Director Laurence Larentz (Ralph Fiennes) pouts when Mannix forces him to cast handsome young cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) in a sophisticated society film.

When Mannix seeks approval from a panel of clergymen for the script for “Hail, Caesar” and its depiction of Christ, they protest.

Twin sister gossip columnists (and bitter rivals) Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton) threaten to write stories damaging to Mannix’s stars.

When Mannix drops in on an editor (Frances McDormand) and asks her to show him some footage, she nearly chokes when her scarf gets caught in the film.

A cushy job offer Mannix receives from Lockheed presents a chance to move into a more stable industry and spend more time with his family. Will he take it?

Among the film’s best scenes is a dance number featuring Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), channeling Gene Kelly. Gurney sings and he and three other guys dance on tabletops. They lament that where they’re going there will be no dames. Near the end of the scene, the performance takes an unexpected turn.

Another features Mannix setting Whitlock straight with a bit of physical discipline.

Hail, Caesar! is a movie I enjoy greatly. The Coen brothers present a whacked-out story with damaged characters and several juicy 50s-era “movie within a movie” scenes. Brolin is excellent. Clooney gets to indulge in some ridiculous overacting. And Swinton continues to be one of the most versatile actors around.

As can be said about almost any Coens film, Hail, Caesar! may not be everybody’s cup of tea. You may walk out muttering WTFs. But you may also be delighted. It’s worth a shot.