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Review – Deadpool (15) [2016]

Deadpool - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • Tim Miller

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds – X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Buried, Truth In Advertising
  • Karan Soni – Supremacy, Goosebumps, Other Space, Ghostbusters
  • Ed Skrein – The Sweeney, Game of Thrones, The Transporter Refueled, The Model
  • Stefan Kapicic
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Prism, First Girl I Loved
  • Gina Carano – Haywire, Fast & Furious 6, In The Blood, Scorched Earth
  • Morena Baccarin – The OC, Homeland, Gotham, Malevolent

Music Composer:

Ryan Reynolds has wanted to play Deadpool since 2005. In 2009’s (forgettable) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he got his wish; although, it was an insignificant role and did such an injustice to the foul-mouthed, raunchy character that has lit up Marvel comics since 1991. Well, now, Reynolds has finally got his wish and has made a Deadpool standalone film. But is the movie any good? Does the movie do justice to the character?

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Wade (Ryan Reynolds) with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two of them hit it off quickly.

Deadpool centres round Wade Wilson (Reynolds). Wade is a former US special forces operative who works as a mercenary in New York City. One day, he finds out that he has multiple and terminal cancer(s). Not wanting to die, Wade goes to a special, underground clinic that claims to be trying a new cure for cancer, which could potentially save him.

However, when Wade arrives at the dodgy clinic, he learns that Ajax (Ed Skrein), the one performing the experimental cure on him, is not trying to cure him at all. Rather, Ajax is attempting to create a mutant, super-slave and disfigures Wade. Wade escapes, but does not manage to kill Ajax before the latter gets away. Wade is out for revenge and puts on the red spandex for good measure.

Deadpool is an entertaining film. It is action-packed, rude and raunchy. Wade/Deadpool is also the antithesis of what a superhero should be. Spiderman, the X-Men, Fantastic Four and Captain America are modest, selfless and caring individuals, while Iron Man and Thor are egotistical maniacs yet altruistic characters at heart. Deadpool, on the other hand, is irredeemably arrogant and selfish, and Reynolds looks like he is revelling in it all. (And fair play to him too. If one generally waits a decade to play a role, one should enjoy every moment of it when it finally comes around.)

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

Wade about to undergo an experimental procedure, with Ajax (Ed Skrein) looking over him and telling him so much that he would not want to hear.

The film’s filthy dialogue reflects the character. Possibly the best element of the movie is the numerous, inappropriate jokes. Not only are they genuinely funny, they keep audiences entertained when the action is not taking place. Nevertheless, due to the way Tim Miller has put the film together, one is never more than ten minutes away from a shoot-out or an explosion. The movie starts on an over-the-top chase scene. It keeps cutting out/back in time during this chase scene to explain the background, with the (unneeded) aid of a voiceover from Wade, until the movie catches up with the chase scene. Then, the film continues with the action.

As one can imagine, this style of directing can become grating after a while; particularly as Wade/Deadpool is so unapologetically full of himself. Equally grating are the constant (and unsubtle) references to other comic-book films, such as The Wolverine and the X-Men franchise. (We get it, Deadpool, you were in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the studio did not want to pay for the entire X-Men cast. You don’t need to ram it down our throats every fifteen minutes.)

Furthermore, the plot is silly and the villain is clichéd. Indeed, the silliness of the plot and the clichéd nature of the stereotypical British villain (played with unrepentant glee by Ed Skrein) should have fans wondering if the creators of Deadpool could have been any lazier in their planning.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

Wade in his Deadpool spandex, taking out those who are either after him or who disfigured him.

The women add nothing to the film too. They are either there to be the (hackneyed) damsel-in-distress or to kick some arse. These are comic-book tropes that have been done repeatedly since Sam Raimi’s Spiderman came out in 2002. All the same, if done well they make for entertaining viewing. And Deadpool is undoubtedly entertaining viewing.

Over-all, Deadpool is a fun film. It has action aplenty and enough genuinely funny jokes to render it better than most comedies. Of course the movie is silly, referential to other comic-book movies, filled with tropes from the genre, and annoying. Yet, that is all pars for the course with the character and the movie certainly does our rude, crude and foul-mouthed super anti-hero justice. Thus, Deadpool has exorcised the pale imitation that appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and is the film that Ryan Reynolds and fans of the comics have been waiting for.

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Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past (12a) [2014]

X-Men 2 - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • John Ottman – X-Men II, House of Wax, Fantastic 4 I-II, Valkyrie, Non-Stop, X-Men: Apocalypse

The Batman and X-Men franchises have undergone similar arcs and reboots in relatively recent times. 1997’s Batman & Robin and 2006’s X-Men 3: The Last Stand were so bad that the franchises were torn up and magnificently re-started in the form of 2005’s Batman Begins and 2011’s X-Men: First Class. And just as 2008’s The Dark Knight was a great sequel to Batman Begins, so Bryan Singer’s return to the X-Men franchise with X-Men: Days of Future is a great continuation of First Class.

Storm (Halle Berry), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Blink (Blingbling Fan), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) decide upon their plan of action, whilst watching in horror as the Sentinels attack.

Storm (Halle Berry), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Blink (Blingbling Fan), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) decide upon their plan of action, whilst watching in horror as the Sentinels attack.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is loosely based on the comic-book with the same title. The movie starts in the apocalyptic, present day or the near future. Led by the reunited Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellen), the last handful of mutants are trying desperately to hold out against the invincible, changeable Sentinels.

With the situation hopeless, Professor X, via Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), sends Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973. Professor X’s hope is that Wolverine can persuade a younger, mentally-broken Charles (James McAvoy) to re-establish his friendship with Erik (Michael Fassbender) and stop Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) from creating the Sentinels.

X-Men: Days of Future Past has an engaging storyline that interlinks the two time-periods within the film nicely, if not without problems for some of the other X-Men films. Indeed, Days of Future Past may come at the expense of some elements of the three original X-Men movies and may even black-out the existence of the two Wolverine spin-offs (but that is probably for the best).

Moreover, Days of Future Past involves itself in crucial events in history, in the same way that First Class did with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Civil Rights movement in America in the 1960s. Like with its prequel, Days of Future Past does this in a smart and hilarious way. This, combined many in-jokes and phenomenal special effects, makes Days of Future Past very enjoyable to watch.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finds Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who finds out that she is still furious with him about something that happened off-screen in the past.

Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) finds Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who finds out that she is still furious with him about something that happened off-screen in the past.

Nevertheless, what makes (First Class and) Days of Future Past so interesting is that it is not about a showdown between Good and Evil; it is about the friendship/rivalry of Professor X and Magneto. These two characters may not have the depth or the darkness of Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but their personalities and differing ideologies make for a refreshing change to the crash, bang, boom nature of other superhero movies like all five Spiderman films, Iron Man III and Captain America II among countless others.

Additionally, the dialogue and acting in the latter two X-Men films is significantly better than in those above-mentioned superhero movies, with the exception of The Dark Knight Trilogy. All the actors in Days of Future Past (old and new) are brilliant without fail. Whether it is Sir Ian McKellen or Michael Fassbender, Magneto is played with the same vigour and damaged personality as in First Class; Jennifer Lawrence is wonderful as the vulnerable Mysterique, whose unhappiness in her own skin has led her to take vengeance against anyone who takes a dislike to mutants; Hugh Jackman once again shows that he owns the Wolverine character; Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy play magnificently as Charles Xavier, although McAvoy undoubtedly has the more demanding parts of the role; and Peter Dinklage is great as Dr. Trask, even if his accent switches from his normal New Jersey accent to Tyrion Lannister’s English accent for no obvious reason.

The above-mentioned characters may dominate Days of Future Past, but they are only a minority of the swollen cast. Consequently, a great many characters are not given much screen time, including new mutants like Blink (Bingbing Fan), Sunspot (Adan Canto) and Warpath (Booboo Stewart). These mutants have a back-story and it would have been good to hear it.

Otherwise, in the eleven years between the end of First Class and the beginning of Days of Future Past (1962-73), viewers are told of many interesting developments that have occurred off-screen. It would have been nice to have been shown these. (Then again, another film in between these two movies would have been needed for that.)

Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) explaining why he needs to create the Sentinels.

Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) explaining why he needs to create the Sentinels (which come to look remarkably like the machine-monster Thor fights in Thor I).

And, lastly, the film deviates quite significantly from the same-named comic-book; for example, in the comics, it is Kitty Pryde who goes back in time, not Wolverine. But if comic-book geeks are honest, even they would accept that Kitty Pryde cannot dominate the screen (or hold viewer’s attention) in the same way that Wolverine can. And besides, these alterations should not knock down a film that achieves so much by way of its ambition and is so entertaining.

Over-all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a really good film. It has its flaws and it would have been nice to learn more about the non-central characters, and to see some of the events that happened off-screen. But, on the whole, Days of Future Past is amusing; it deals well with its two competing time-periods; continues the conflict maturely between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr; and is a credible sequel to X-Men: First Class. Now all the franchise needs, like with The Dark Knight Trilogy, is a satisfying conclusion in its third instalment, X-Men: Apocalypse.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Wolverine (12a) [2013]

The Wolverine - title banner

Star Rating: 2/5

Director:

  • James Mangold – Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 To Yuma, Knight & Day, Three Little Words

Cast:

  • Hugh Jackman – X-Men I-III, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Les Misérables, X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Famke Janssen – Goldeneye, X-Men I-III, Taken I-II, In The Woods
  • Rilo Fukushima
  • Tao Okamoto
  • Hiroyuki Sanada – The Last Samurai, Rush Hour III, The Railway Man
  • Svetlana Khodchenkova – No Love In The City, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Royal Killer

Music Composer:

Troubled productions can take on many forms. The Wolfman needed to reshoot scenes after completing filming; Transformers II: Revenge of the Fallen did not have script three weeks before filming; and Margaret had numerous post-production problems that led to the movie coming out six years after it was shot. Suffice to say, all of these movies were a mess when they arrived at cinemas. The same is true for The Wolverine, which had a change of director and several delays at pre-production stages.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for... well that's anyone's guess.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) running with Mariko (Tao Okamoto), trying to protect her from assassins working for… well that’s anyone’s guess.

The Wolverine follows on from events in X3: The Last Stand. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is traumatised from having killed his lover, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and he spends his time nomadically walking around.

One night, he stumbles into a bar and meets Yukio (Rilo Fukushima), a random Japanese girl who has been trying to find him for a year. Yukio tells Logan that Shingen (Hiroyuki Sanada), someone Logan apparently saved at Nagasaki as the nuclear bomb went off in August 1945, is dying and wishes to see him one more time before he dies. Reluctantly, Logan agrees to go to Japan for a day to grant Shingen his wish.

But upon arrival, the paralysed Shingen informs Logan that he can end his immortality and pain. Logan declines. Shingen then begs Logan to protect his granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), the heir to his company and fortune, from others wishing to kill her to seize everything for themselves, to which again Logan reluctantly agrees.

As is often the case with films with major production problems, The Wolverine’s dialogue is senseless and the plot is all over the place. A flashing red light should immediately go off in one’s mind upon realising that the film takes place after events in 2006’s panned X3, warning viewers of the train-wreck ahead. And also, when has it ever been mentioned in any of the other X-Men films that Logan spent time in Japan during World War II and survived a nuclear bomb? These oh so small details are merely the starting point for the film’s problems. That the film does not even bother to explain why Logan was in Japan/Nagasaki in 1945 or what his relationship with Shingen was in the first place merely adds to the sense that the movie lost its way long before filming started.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Logan with his claws out ready to fight a nameless, Japanese sword-wielding baddie.

Yet, what is probably most disappointing about The Wolverine is that it feels like an irrelevant sideshow throughout its 126 minutes of running time and adds nothing to Logan’s personal story. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine might have been (rightly) ridiculed by fans and critics alike, but at least it showed audiences (albeit badly) how Logan acquired metal claws and why he has blanks in his memory.

The only positive aspect of The Wolverine’s storyline is Logan’s trauma. One must praise James Mangold for making Logan keep his psychological problem. But a trauma is a little bit more than half a dozen flashbacks to a deceased loved one. That the film doesn’t explore other angles of Logan’s psychological issues hints that the trauma was the idea of Darren Aranofsky, a specialist in films focussing on psychological problems and the initial director of The Wolverine, and that James Mangold carried on with the idea without having any real clue as to how to develop it.

Contending with this mess of a movie, Hugh Jackman does not do a bad job as the eponymous character. Whilst his performance is nothing special, Jackman at least makes us believe that the invincible Logan is suffering internally. Undoubtedly, Jackman is the film’s saving grace. The leading Japanese male actors do little more than shoot and swing swords (because that’s all Japanese men can do apparently), and the leading female actresses Rilo Fukushima and Tao Okamoto have no chemistry on set with Jackman/Logan and barely have an expression between them. Perhaps this is because Fukushima and Okamoto aren’t even actresses! They’re models (reminding us all of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s dreadful performance in Transformers III). Why couldn’t James Mangold find some qualified Japanese or Japanese-American actresses to do the jobs? What possible excuse is there for this?

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

Logan attempting to fend off the allure/threat of the sexy Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), one of several ambiguously-motivated, peripheral villains in the film.

One may argue that viewers do not go to see films like The Wolverine (or Transformers II) for the acting, but rather for the action and the special effects. If that is the case, The Wolverine won’t frustrate such people since there is a plethora of decent-looking (if inconsequential) fight scenes that fill the time. But it has all been seen and done before in the previous X-Men movies, making the fighting pointless and tedious.

All-in-all, The Wolverine’s troubles behind the scenes are reflected in the film’s end result. The plot goes to nowhere; the script makes no sense; the cast (with the exception of Hugh Jackman) are wooden; and the special effects and action scenes fail to flatter. Thus, but for the fact that the film is about Wolverine, arguably X-Men’s most well-known superhero, The Wolverine might as well as have been thrown in the bin.

PG’s Tips

Review – Les Misérables (12a) [2013]

Les Mis - title banner2

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

Cast:

At the beginning of 2012, audiences were treated to the silent film, The Artist. It was unexpectedly charming and something different in an age of formulaic, clichéd blockbusters. A year on, and audiences are treated to something different once again in the form of the marvellous Les Misérables.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), looking like a scraggy vagabond, as a convicted criminal about to be released on parole.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), looking like a scraggy vagabond, as a convicted criminal about to be released on parole.

The storyline is based upon the 1862 historical-fiction novel by Victor Hugo and the subsequent theatre production. It loosely centres round Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and Javier (Russell Crowe). Jean Valjean is a convicted man, who breaks his parole and seemingly vanishes in his bid to start a new life. Javier, the Inspector, upon discovering what Jean Valjean has done, is determined to find Prisoner 24601 and bring him to justice.

The plot for Les Misérables is more detailed and layered than that, especially as it has a large cast all with roles to play before the story ends. Unlike the stage version, the film does a good job of keeping the narrative understandable and easy to follow, despite having to take out chunks from the book. This is no small achievement, considering that more or less the entire movie is sung. Credit should rightly go to Tom Hooper for this, as well as for successfully turning a theatrical play into an Oscar-nominated film. (It should be borne in mind that The Woman In Black was the last time a director attempted to translate a play into a movie, and the less said about that film the better!)

However, in spite of Hooper cutting out sections of the book, the film still seems too long and somehow bloated at 158 minutes. The Artist, it should be noted, is only 100 minutes and, consequently, does not feel over-stuffed. Part of the reason for why Les Misérables feels this way is due to the numerous sub-plots taking place throughout the story, many of which have only questionable importance to its outcome.

Inspector Javier (Russell Crowe), wearing almost the identical garb of the former (and now fallen) Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I, on the lookout for Jean Valjean.

Inspector Javier (Russell Crowe), wearing almost the identical garb of the former (and now fallen) Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I, on the lookout for Jean Valjean.

Yet, more significantly, does the story actually matter? When one watches Les Misérables in the theatre, one is more likely to be awed by the music and the mechanics of the stage, than taken in by the (slightly contrived) narrative. But the movie does not have an innovatively-devised podium. Additionally, it suffers from a cast that, while stellar in name, generally lack the powerful vocals of their stage counterparts.

Russell ‘wannabe-Napoleon Bonaparte’ Crowe and Hugh Jackman, the two leading men, are particularly guilty of this. It is not that their performances are bad, it is just painfully obvious that they are actors first and singers a distant second. One might argue that this is what Hooper desired as he claimed to want the vocals ‘raw’ and conversational, rather than melodramatic. (Then again, he could have been saying this as a defence of his cast, in hindsight, after realising that he should have used stage actors instead of Crowe and Jackman.)

Also, the more one sees and hears the supporting cast, the more Crowe and Jackman are shown up; in particular, against Anne Hathaway. Hathaway, as Fantine, might look pale and terribly thin with her skin, bone and flesh emaciated a la Natalie Portman in Black Swan, but she most certainly can sing. In Rio I, Hathaway showed that she can sing well and nicely. But in Les Misérables she takes her talents to a new level, acquiring immense vigour in her voice, despite clearly lacking in nourishment.

No-one else looks starved like her, but Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks, as the rebel Marius and Éponine, respectively, have very good voices; Amanda Seyfried, as Cosette, illustrates that she’s a better singer than actor (and that she can exist without her incongruous pink lip-gloss, unlike in the medieval-themed Red Riding Hood); while Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, as Thénardier and Madame Thénardier, respectively, show us that they may not have noteworthy vocals, but that they can still make us laugh whilst in tune.

Jean Valjean, now all cleaned up and living a new life under a false name, holding a poorly street-woman, who just so happens to be Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

Jean Valjean, now all cleaned up and living a new life under a false name, holding a poorly street-woman, who just so happens to be Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

Yet, if one is truly bothered about the singing not being up to scratch with the stage performers, one can still admire the sceneries and the visuals. Cinema, as opposed to theatre, is not limited by the area of a stage (however impressive the mechanics of it may be), and Hooper uses this to his advantage to give viewers a true feel for the (miserable) neighbourhoods that our characters come from in a way that the theatre perhaps can’t convey as deeply.

All-in-all, Les Misérables is very impressive theatrical production-cum-film. The cast’s vocals may not be as strong as those actors on the stage, and the movie lacks some of the charms of the theatre. Nevertheless, like The Artist, Les Misérables is something different, and it should be celebrated that an operatic-style film can be delivered in such a superb and entertaining manner.

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