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Josh Reviews Deadpool 2

I feel about Deadpool 2 about the same way I felt about the first Deadpool: it’s a lot of fun and extremely well-made for what it is — a Mad Magazine version of a superhero movie.  That’s a compliment, as I hold Mad Magazine in the highest regard.  Twelve-year-old me didn’t think there was anything funnier than Mad Magazine, and I bet I’d have thought the same about these two Deadpool films.  They’re not exactly what I’m looking for in a superhero movie these days — a little too juvenile, a little too raunchy — but if you enjoyed the first Deadpool, I suspect you will love the sequel.  (Personally, I think I actually liked this sequel more than the original, which I was lukewarm on.)

Ryan Reynolds is again terrific in the lead role, and I love the way his Deadpool continues to be Bugs Bunny-like agent of chaos in the film (albeit an R-rated one!), unable to be destroyed and constantly commenting on everything going on around him.  The fast-talking Mr. Reynolds is very, very funny as this character.

Josh Brolin plays Cable, a super-soldier from the future come back in time to kill a super powered young Mutant before he wreaks havoc in the future.  Mr. Brolin is terrific, a great straight-man against Mr. Reynolds’ lunacy as Deadpool.  (Between this and his role as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Mr. Brolin is king of the superheroes this summer!!)  He also looks the part: the character-design of Cable in this film is perfect, a fantastic distillation of Cable’s iconic design (while losing some of the crazier aspects of the way the characters is sometimes drawn in the comics).  Mr. Brolin is so great as Cable that I sort of wish he was playing the character in a “real,” straight X-Men film as opposed to this silly one!!

The rest of the cast is strong.  Morena Baccarin, Karan Soni, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, and Leslie Uggams all return from the first film and all have some fun stuff to do.  (Well, mostly. SPOILER ALERT FOR THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH.  The film makes the unfortunate choice to write out Morena Baccarin’s character early-on, which strikes me as incredibly lazy.  Attention writers:  a strong, smart, funny woman COULD have been incorporated into this film’s story!  It’s cheap and lazy, and a waste of the great Ms. Baccarin, that her character was “fridged” so quickly.  (Google “women in refrigerators” if you don’t know what I mean when I refer to that unfortunate comic book trope.) They do sort of undo this in the closing credits, so I hope that if there is a Deadpool 3, Ms. Baccarin … [continued]

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Catching Up on 2016: Deadpool

I skipped Deadpool when it was released in theatres earlier this year.  I was impressed that Ryan Reynolds had gotten his passion project made, and super-impressed that Fox had the guts to release an R-rated superhero film (and, even more, one that was directly connected to their X-Men film franchise).  And yet, I’d never been much of a fan of the Deadpool character (I am an old enough comic book geek that I was reading and bought Deadpool’s first appearance in New Mutants #98 when it was first published back in 1991) and it didn’t look like the humor of the film was up my alley.  So I passed.  Still, I’d heard such good things about the film that, towards the end of 2016 as I tried to catch up with as many notable films of the year as possible, I decided to give it a try.

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I certainly enjoyed the film, and having watched it I am even more impressed that Ryan Reynolds and director Tim Miller were able to get this profane, violent super-hero film made.  But I also see that my earlier instincts were correct, and the violent and profane tone of the film wasn’t one that really spoke to me.  There were certainly plenty of jokes in the film that made me laugh — either because they were just plain funny, or because I was so shocked and impressed that such an envelope-pushing moment had made it into the film — but also just as many moments that fell flat for me.  All the violence and cursing and references to masturbation felt juvenile.  While I can see why so many people love this film, it’s not really for me.

There is no question that this is a near-perfect depiction of the comic book character.  Deadpool looks (the costume is spectacular) and sounds great (Ryan Reynolds truly was born to play this character).  His fourth-wall-busting address-the-audience nature has been preserved, thankfully, and the film is just as over-the-top violent and crazy as his best comic-book adventures.  There aren’t many second-chances in show business, so after the character was so spectacularly botched in the no good, horrible, very bad X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it’s pretty magical that, so many years later, Ryan Reynolds was given the opportunity to reprise the character and to do it right.

Right from the very silly opening credits (and bravo on the reference to Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld right there at the top), the filmmakers set the tone that this was going to be a very silly, borderline disrespectful take on a superhero film.  What’s impressive about Tim Miller’s achievement is that he is able to marry that tone with a film that … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Green Lantern!

Well, we’ve had two very solid super-hero films so far this summer, Thor (click here for my review) and X-Men: First Class (click here for my review), and while neither were quite as perfect as I might have hoped, I found both to be very solidly entertaining films.  But with Green Lantern, sadly, we have our first big super-hero swing-and-a-miss of the summer.

Green Lantern isn’t terrible, and there are certainly a lot of things that work in the film.  But it’s very, very mediocre, and it’s painful to see the potential for a much better film that was squandered.

What works?  The film is, for the most part, well-cast.  Ryan Reynolds does a fine job as Hal Jordan.  He certainly looks the part, and there are moments (such as his desperate, through-gritted-teeth declaration of the Green Lantern oath late in the film) that really made me believe in him as Green Lantern.  The voice actors chosen to portray the alien members of the GL Corps (most notably Geoffrey Rush as Tomar Re and Michael Clarke Duncan as Killowog) are spot-on, and Mark Strong is absolute perfection as Sinestro.

But all are completely wasted in the film!  Let’s begin with Hal Jordan, who is barely a character.  The film wants him to be Tony Stark from Iron Man (the self-centered asshole with incredible abilities who eventually learns to see beyond himself and his own ego to become a hero), but his character arc is so barely sketched in as to be laughable.  It all seemed very predictable and perfunctory to me.  I never felt that we really got to know Hal Jordan at all — who he is and why he behaves the way he does.  (And, no, the painfully on-the-nose flashback during Hal’s test flight at the start of the film didn’t do it for me.  That sequence seemed right out of Airplane!, and that’s not a good thing!)  When he stepped into the role of a hero, it didn’t feel earned the way that Tony Stark’s transition did in the first Iron Man film.

Speaking of Iron Man, the whole vibe of Green Lantern felt totally derivative of that film.  The movie desperately wanted to be hip and cool while also telling a fairly earnest super-hero story, just like the first Iron Man, but Green Lantern was never able to find that tone.

I had thought, from the trailers, that Green Lantern was going to be a cosmic adventure film.  That the film opens in space, and keeps cutting back to events taking place in space (rather than starting with human Hal Jordan and staying with him until he discovered Abin … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Adventureland

Set in 1987, Adventureland takes place over the course of one summer in the life of James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg), just out of college, whose dreams of traveling Europe with his friends have been dashed by his family’s financial problems.  Seeking a summer job instead, Jesse quickly discovers that his degree in literature doesn’t really qualify him for any sort of employment back home in Pittsburgh.  Thus, he winds up working at Adventureland, a somewhat tired old local amusement park.

Jesse befriends Joel (Martin Starr, who, as with most of the talented alumni of Freaks and Geeks, I would happily watch in anything), an intellectual loner, and quickly becomes smitten with the mysterious Em (the terrific, beguiling Kristen Stewart).  The self-contained universe of Adventureland is fleshed out by a variety of other interesting, quirky characters: park owners Bobby (Bill Hader) and Paulette (Kristen Wiig), handsome park mechanic Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds), Jesse’s not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is childhood friend Frigo (Matt Bush), the flirty Lisa P. (Margarita Levieva), and many others.

Taking place in the eighties, Adventureland is a “period piece,” but it never beats you over the head with obvious references.  Rather, the movie uses the setting to lend the story a sweetly nostalgic feel.  I love the care with which the movie explores the sub-culture of the summer staff experience at Adventureland, with all of its unique peculiarities.  I’ve never worked at an amusement park, but I certainly have spent many summers working at a summer camp.  And while the specifics of my summer camp jobs didn’t resemble in any way the specifics of working at Adventureland, I did really connect with the way the film captured the way in which these summer jobs can be transformative experiences for young people, and the way a short summer can be an epic of highs and lows and experiences of all kinds.  I have warm feelings for my summer camp experiences, and the film creates a similarly warm glow around Jesse’s experiences, even the painful ones.

Credit writer/director Greg Mottola (who also directed Superbad) with doing a terrific job in setting that tone.  The film is funny, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy.  However, the shifts from humor to drama never feel out-of-place.  Rather the film feels like a true-to-life picture of the ups and downs of a kid’s summer.  I never seem to get tired of a good coming-of-age story, and this is definitely a winner in that category.

The film only makes one teensy tiny misstep, in my mind.  I don’t want to spoil anything about the ending, but suffice it to say there’s a dramatic moment between two characters in the rain that is the only moment in … [continued]