Tag Archives: gina carano

Deadpool (2016)

Deadpool-Poster-Dec1st

My first 2016 film at the cinema was also one of my most anticipated of the year.

The hype surrounding Deadpool has been astronomic thanks to rave reviews from early screenings and a wicked marketing campaign that has been described as the best of all-time. It is thus hard to keep expectations down under such circumstances, but I’m glad to say Deadool lived up to what I had hoped for — for the most part.  It’s clever, witty, funny, satirical, referential, parodic, irreverent, action-packed, and above all, incredibly entertaining. In many ways, it’s the perfect popcorn movie for adults looking for a fun night out.

The story is conventional — a mercenary named Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) makes a drastic decision to save his life but the consequence is that he becomes horrifically scarred with superpowers. He then proceeds to exact revenge against those who have wronged him in a tight red suit. At the heart of the film is actually a love story, which acts as the main source of character development and delivering emotional impact, but also makes things much more complicated for our protagonist. It’s an origins story we’ve seen before.

However, writers Rhett Reese Paul Wernick ensure that the plot is the only thing about Deadpool that’s conventional. The super duo — who are now no doubt in hot demand — infuse the narrative with loads of wild ideas, starting with repeated breaks of the fourth wall and a non-linear structure that utilises flashbacks to keep the momentum rolling. Like it did for Ant-Man, the simplicity works in Deadpool‘s favour. It’s not a story about the end of the world and the stakes are relatively small, but the effect of this is that the story feels more personal and appropriate for an origins movie. There’s no excess of characters either: just the hero, the love interest, two X-Men, two villains and two comic relief sidekicks.

The action, perhaps the most underrated part of the movie, is innovative, brutal and features copious amounts of blood. Considering the minuscule budget of US$58 million, the action sequences are as thrilling and exciting as anything I’ve seen in the big-budget Marvel blockbusters. The special effects and stunts are close to seamless (I watched it on an IMAX screen), and I was impressed by the variety of the violence — guns, sword fights, fist fights, car chases, superhero powers, you name it — most of which was done without the laziness of rapid cuts.

Still, the biggest draw of Deadpool is of course the comedy. The gags come fast and furious, and absolutely nothing is off limits. The actors (even those not in the movie), the director, other superheroes, other films, even the film’s low budget, are all targets for jokes. The majority of the humour comes from one-liners and wisecracks as opposed to set-pieces, so you’ll find yourself giggling all throughout the movie. Contrary to some reviews, however, the movie is not always in a joking mood — there are darker moments and “character development” scenes, mostly in the film’s middle section. But I recognise that this part of the film is necessary to make us care, and director Tim Miller does a great job in his feature debut in moving from one tone to another without making it feel jarring.

Unfortunately, as funny as I found the film to be, I didn’t laugh out loud as often as I thought I would (ie, all throughout), and this is because I had seen a lot of the jokes in the trailers. That’s partly my fault for watching all the trailers, and partly the fault of the marketing team for putting them in there to sell the movie. That said, thanks to the R-rating, there were still enough jokes I hadn’t seen to help me easily cruise past the six-laugh test for a good comedy. In fact, the jokes in Deadpool are so relentless at times that you may miss some because you’re still recovering from the previous gag. On the whole, there may have been a few too many masturbation jokes for my liking, but the hit rate of the jokes is already much, much higher than most other crude comedies.

Ryan Reynolds deserves all the credit in the world for being the driving force behind the film, which reportedly spent more than a decade in developmental hell. He is not only perfect as the titular character, he is also a fantastic comedian who apparently ad-libbed many of the classic one-liners. Plus he is ripped!

Homeland’s Morena Baccarin plays Vanessa, the other half of the love story. When I first heard she was the love interest I thought it was a bit of a strange choice, but now it makes complete sense after having watched the film. They needed someone as damaged as Wade but also someone with enough strength and sassiness to be more than just a damsel in distress. Baccarin fits the bill perfectly.

I enjoyed the X-Men characters not just because of their powers but because their banter with Deadpool works so well. I guess I’ll just leave it at that so as to not reveal too much.

As for the villains, I thought Ed Skrein (who was in that horrible Transporter reboot last year) could have been a little more formidable as Ajax, but his performance was generally pretty good. It’s unfortunate he kept reminding me of a buffer Nicholas Hoult. On the other hand, Gina Carano as Angel Dust was fantastic, largely because she rarely needed to change expressions.

Leslie Uggums is hilarious as a blind old lady with the acid tongue and heart of gold, though I was a little disappointed with TJ Miller’s role in the film, not because he wasn’t any good, but because he’s one of the best things about it and I wish he could have gotten more screen time. I loved his chemistry with Ryan Reynolds and thought he might get to do a little more since he delivered all my favourite lines. I’m looking forward to the DVD extras and hope he can feature more prominently in the sequel, which has to be a certainty after the film smashed the R-rated opening weekend record in the US with a haul of US$135 million (the previous record was US$91.7 million held by The Matrix Reloaded) and a worldwide box office of around US$300 million.

We’ve had R-rated (under the US classification system) superhero/comic book films before — Watchmen, Blade, V for Vendetta, Sin City, just to name a few — but never one that deliberately pushes the limits as far as Deadpool does with its gruesome violence, machine-gun-rapid profanity and crude, snarky humour. Kick-Ass is the nearest comparison but it’s not a close contest. As with all films that receive a lot of buzz before its release, Deadpool could not help but be overhyped, though despite this, the movie still turned out to be one of the most fun and funny cinematic experiences I’ve had in years.

4.25 stars out of 5!

Extraction (2015)

Extraction

I watched a bunch of movies lately and have been working hard to catch up on my reviews. There was one movie, however, that completely slipped my mind: Extraction.

Bruce Willis has been an action hero for as long as I can remember, and after phoning it in for a few years now, I suppose it is time for him to starting hanging up the gloves. And hence Extraction, where a retiring CIA operative (Willis) is kidnapped by terrorists and it is up to his son (Kellan Lutz) and his ex-girlfriend (MMA artist Gina Carano) to, um, “extract” him.

In theory, the film isn’t a bad idea. Willis is getting long in the tooth and Lutz is doing his best to be a new-generation action star. After the failure that was A Good Day to Die Hard, I didn’t mind another attempt at it with someone other than “charisma black hole” Jai Courtney, and without the pressure of having to live up to the name of the Die Hard franchise.

Unfortunately, Extraction is a pure vanilla action-thriller that offers nothing new or creative for fans of the genre. Willis doesn’t get to do a whole lot other than collect another paycheck, while Lutz gives Courtney a run for his money in the “zero charisma” stakes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lutz — even after The Legend of Hercules — because he seems like a nice guy who is working hard to make the most of his opportunities from Twilight, but no matter what he does here he can’t save the film from being an epic bore.

The action is stock standard, there is virtually no tension, the plot is uninteresting and the characters lack personality. I can’t really be more specific because, to be honest, there’s not much to remember about it. I do recall a particularly stupid pub scene, a moronic strip club scene, wondering why parts of the plot made little sense, and feeling like they completely wasted Carano’s martial arts talent. She was also a mismatch, chemistry wise, for Lutz.

The result is yet another stale and forgettable action flick that’s not necessarily horrendous but just so lame and uninspired that it falls below any reasonable expectation of what a Bruce Willis film should be.

1.5 stars out of 5

Heist (2015)

heist-2015

Bus 657 might not be a great name for a heist film, but it’s at least less generic than Heist, the name they later changed it to. And that’s ultimately the problem with this star-studded movie — everything about it feels awfully generic. It’s might be better than your average straight-to-DVD action flick, but you’ll just as likely forget about it next week.

Take the first three sequences of the film, for instance (too early spoilers, no?). It starts off with a bunch of masked robbers hijacking a bus full of people. In the next scene, a couple of people are being threatened and tortured by someone working under Robert De Niro, whose character is the ruthless boss of a casino. The third scene shows Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character working at that casino and desperate for money due to a sick daughter. Now, I bet you have basically figured out what this movie is all about.

You’re right, Heist is essentially a casino robbery meets Speed. You’ve got the robber with a heart of gold who is doing naughty things because he has no choice. You have the bad guy accomplice who deserves all the blame (Dave Bautista) because he’s doing it for selfish reasons. You have the scary casino boss who wants his money back. You’ve got the young police officer (MMA star Gina Carano) who develops a connection with the robber and the chief who will do whatever it takes to rescue to hostages (Mark-Paul Gosselaar).

It is absolutely by-the-numbers, even with the obligatory little twists thrown in along the way. Soon I started guessing how the plot would develop with high accuracy, and even when I missed I wasn’t impressed by what they did instead because it was even more cliched than I anticipated. While I would not call the film dull, the strong generic feel and predictability never got my heart pumping either.

The biggest problem I had with the movie was all the plot contrivances that stretched the limits of credulity. The characters did a lot of things that made little sense, but the film asks you to take them at face value instead of setting them up to be believable. I just didn’t buy their motivations and reactions.

It begs the question why so many name stars or at least former stars would latch onto this project, a film with a reported US$2 million production budget, no less. Usually you’d get maybe one star looking for a quick paycheck (think any Nicholas Cage film made in the last five years), but certainly not this many. I doubt they’re all starving, anyway. I haven’t even mentioned the highly-billed Kate Bosworth cameo and DB Sweeney’s role as the bus driver (hey, don’t knock DB Sweeney — he was pretty big back in the Fire in the Sky era). I’m sure there was something about Heist that made them think it could be a hit, but for whatever reason the potential did not translate to the finished product.

I’m probably harsher on this film than I would have been had it just featured a bunch of no-name actors. If you strip the expectations away, Heist is probably an above average rental or VOD given that it is generally adequate in most areas, from the production value to the direction of Scott Man (The Tournament), the execution of the action and even the dialogue. I guess it’s one of those unusual films where the great cast is a detriment because it develops unrealistic expectations. It’s always better to be pleasantly surprised than disappointed, no?

2.75 stars out of 5

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 5)

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011)

I have always been a fan of the Harold and Kumar series despite its tendency to be very hit-and-miss. And you really can’t go wrong with any film that features Neil Patrick Harris.

In this third installment, Harold (John Cho) has married his dream girl Maria (from the first film) and works on Wall Street. Kumar (Kal Penn) is still the same old stoner who failed to become a doctor after flunking a drug test. It’s Christmas, and of course, the dynamic duo team up for one more wild adventure. This time, it’s finding a Christmas tree.

To be honest, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas is perhaps the lamest of the trilogy. It doesn’t quite have the freshness of White Castle or the outrageousness of Guantanamo Bay. This is a “family” film, so to speak. But you know what? It’s still freaking funny a lot of the time.

As usual, there are some dud jokes thrown in there, but the good thing about there having been two earlier films is that you know Harold and Kumar’s personalities so well now that the laughs all come fairly easily.

Great to see Cho and Penn back in awesome form. Penn, in particular, had to resign from his post in the Obama administration to take the role, and there is a cracker of a joke about that in the movie. Needless to say, Neil Patrick Harris, who is supposed to have been fatally wounded in the second film, is back, and in peak condition. The always intimidating Danny Trejo (I last saw him in Machete…actually, in the PS3 game, The Fight) is also pretty good as Maria’s dad.

3D Christmas will probably go down as the weakest film in the series but fans of the two stoners will no doubt still be able to find plenty of amusement from it.

3.25 stars out of 5

Haywire (2011)

Okay, so Steve Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director of Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Oceans Eleven and Contagion is a pretty big deal. No wonder he managed to get guys like Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender to be in an action flick headed by an MMA star, Gina Carano.

Basically, Carano is a government agent who gets set up. Bad idea, because she knows how to kick some serious male ass. The story is a little convoluted for my liking but part of it has to do with Soderbergh’s distinctive style. Whenever the film gets into the fight scenes, however, the story is happy to take a back seat.

I don’t know much about Carano and I don’t care much for MMA, but I suppose the action in Haywire is pretty cool, somewhat Bourne-like in its pace, brutality and supposed realism, except with a less shaky camera and an actress that really knows what she is doing when she’s bouncing off walls, bashing heads in and choking people into submission. As a thespian though, I think Carano still has some work to do. Not horrible by any means, but could be better.

At the end of the day, Haywire is a decent action flick – but it just won’t be a very memorable one.

3 stars out of 5

Hesher (2011)

I’m a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Tremendous talent and versatility. And there’s no one quite like him in Hollywood. I was recommended Hesher by a bunch of people and I had a ball with it. The big surprise is that the screenplay was co-written by Aussie David Michod, the genius behind one of the best films from last year, Animal Kingdom.

It’s a highly-random, WTF kind of movie about this dude, Hesher (played by Gordon-Levitt), who intrudes the life of a weird little boy called TJ. He’s dirty and scruffy, walks around bare-chested, has awesome tattoos, smokes a lot, and does heaps of crazy and random things. To be honest, he doesn’t do a lot, and the things he does don’t always make sense. He’s just…there.

It’s really hard to describe what this movie is about or why it is so compelling to watch. The comedy in it is jet black. It’s not for everyone but I laughed out loud frequently and ferociously. Unbelievably, it has Natalie Portman in it. And she’s funny too, in a strange kind of way.

Towards the end, the movie moves ever so slightly from its path of irreverence to toss in some unexpected poignancy. It was something I had dreaded but surprisingly, it worked, in a Hesher kind of way. It’s not the kind of movie I would put in any “best of the year” lists, but it’s one I could definitely see becoming a cult classic.

4 stars out of 5

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

This was a film that divided critics and viewers alike. Some thought it was a heartfelt tribute to those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Others thought it was a pretentious, manipulating tear-jerker that failed to hit the mark.

I belonged to the latter.

The idea, based on a 2005 book of the same name, is not bad. A kid (Thomas Horn – who, amazingly, became an actor after competing on Jeopardy) loses his father (Tom Hanks) in 9/11. He finds a key in his father’s belongings and sets out on scavenger hunt through the five boroughs of NYC to find out what it opens, meeting a bunch of people along the way.

For starters, you need to be able to buy into the whole premise about there being something magical about this kid’s adventure. I didn’t have a problem with that. What I had a massive problem with was the kid, who comes across as someone who will grow up into one of the most annoying and obnoxious adults on the planet. I’m not entirely sure if it is the character or the performance, but it’s probably a lot of both.

For me, the whole thing just felt wrong. I didn’t find it entertaining or exciting. I found it desperately trying to elicit an emotional response, one that I could not squeeze out. I was surprised, because the director, Stephen Daldry, was previously at the helm of The Reader, which had its flaws but was on the whole pretty good.

The film was not poorly made, but personally, I hated it. It must be one of the worst Best Picture nominees at the Oscars – ever.

1.75 stars out of 5