Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

Life (2017)

Wow. I really had no idea what to expect from Life, which I knew virtually nothing about other than that it was a horror sci-fi starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal (I didn’t even watch a single trailer). Such movies are usually a disappointment, so I am glad to report that I was thrilled with Life, a strong contender for biggest pleasant surprise of the year.

I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone, so I will simply say that the film takes place in the International Space Station following the return of a soil-collecting mission to Mars. I guess the title of the film explains the rest.

There are no big surprises in terms of the basic plot and its progression—you can more or less guess what happens on a general overall level. However, its the way director Daniel Espinosa deals with the story, characters and tension that makes Life one of the better if not best “man should not mess with nature” sci-fi horrors. It’s way better than the most recent one in the genre I watched, Morgan (from last year), and a notch above other ones I remember such as Splice (2009) and The Last Days on Mars (2013).

After an initial set-up introducing us to the premise and the characters, Life buckles down and becomes a terrifying and gripping horror movie that makes great use of man’s fear of the unknown and the claustrophobia provided by the interior of the space station. Some sci-fi movies are good at delivering an interesting idea but not at horror, while some horror movies are good at deliver the horror but not interesting ideas. Life is a rare film that manages to do both really well, and more than once I found myself either gripping the seat rest or reaching for my wife’s hand.

The film would not have been as effective but for the strong performances of the star cast, which apart from Gyllenhaal and Reynolds also includes Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation‘s Rebecca Ferguson, The Last Samurai‘s Hiroyuki Sanada, British actor Ariyon Bakare (most recently seen in Rogue One), and Belarusian actress Olga Dihovichnaya. One of the weaknesses of the film is that there’s not a whole lot of character development (they’re too busy being terrified), and the dialogue designed to promote character development was often clunky, but the performances are good enough that you still end up thinking of them as real people and caring about their fate.

Additionally, the special effects are excellent, not just with the creature designs but also the space station itself as well as the outer space sequences. It’s great that CGI is so good these days that you don’t even think about it and simply accept it as real. You can also tell proper research was undertaken to make the science in the film feel legitimate.

I don’t want to create unrealistic expectations because there are limits to what a film like Life can achieve. Within those limits, however, it mostly ticks all the right boxes and hits the right notes to give us a genuinely terrifying, thoughtful, well-scripted and well-acted horror sci-fi. It may fall short of becoming a classic, but it’s certainly worth watching if you are a fan of the genre.

4 stars out of 5

Deadpool (2016)

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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!

Self/less (2015)

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Self/less is a frustrating movie for several reasons.

First of all, the title sucks. I’m not going to spell it out for you, but let’s just say it goes against the philosophy of this blog.

Secondly, it wastes a very intriguing sci-fi premise. Without giving away too much, the story revolves around a billionaire with a terminal illness (played by Ben Kingsley) who opts for a controversial procedure that essentially turns him into Ryan Reynolds. Nothing is that simple, of course, and when the first side effect hits it becomes pretty obvious where the film is heading.

Instead of dissecting this interesting premise with a thought-provoking filmic analysis of the complex moral and ethical issues at hand, Self/less ends up becoming a typical action flick. That choice of genre is not the problem per se; the problem is that the film’s action is really quite bland. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in the most average of action flicks. The plot also grows more conventional and preposterous as it nears its predictable climax and conclusion.

It’s a shame, because I expected more from a talented cast that includes Reynolds, Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Victor Garber and Derek Luke. The main and pretty much only female character, played by the lovely Natalie Martinez, also turned out to be quite a thankless archetypal role.

Director Tarsem Singh, who has some visually impressive titles on his CV such as The Cell, Immortals and Mirror Mirror, doesn’t have as many chances to showcase his flashy visual style in this one, though he also doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity to focus on bringing us a more compelling narrative or innovative action sequences.

The result is a sci-fi action film that isn’t bad — I think it’s adequate and the cast alone elevates it above straight-to-DVD quality. It’s just annoyingly pedestrian.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Captive (2014)

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Atom Egoyan has made some terrific films about loss and grief throughout his career. His latest effort, The Captive, starring Ryan Reynolds, Mireille Enos, Rosario Dawson, Scott Speedman and Kevin Durand, has been panned by critics, earning just a 24% approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes. Sure, it’s not nearly as good as his earlier movies or recent abduction films like Prisoner, but I think everyone’s being way too harsh.

Ryan Reynolds plays a father whose daughter is kidnapped under his watch. With no witnesses, he is considered the prime suspect by police detectives (Dawson and Speedman), while his wife (Enos) quietly blames him for allowing the abduction to happen.

The story jumps back and forth between the time of the abduction and eight years later, when the daughter is still yet to be found and the lives of the parents are left in tatters. But new clues arise, and it appears their daughter might still be alive and living under the control of a child sex ring.

It’s nightmarish stuff, and the film is often difficult to watch as a result. As a parent myself, I can only imagine the pain and anguish from losing a child under such circumstances. I had never thought much of Ryan Reynolds as an actor, but he is very good here, especially as he has to deal with the suspicions of the police on top of his guilt.

It seems most people who did not enjoy the film had a problem with its preposterous plot. I admit that some of the things that occur in the film are a little fanciful, though thanks to the unsensationalized approach of Egoyan I did not have to suspend my disbelief. In fact, I don’t think anyone would have any qualms about the film’s realism if Egoyan slapped a true story tagline on it (and no, it is not a true story).

My major problem with the film was its unnecessary shift back and forth in time, which were occasionally confusing. Notwithstanding that, however, I think the captive is a flawed but solid thriller worth checking out.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: R.I.P.D. (2013) (2D)

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When I first caught a glimpse of the trailer for RIPD I thought, man, this looks a lot like Men In Black for ghosts. A young guy joins a clandestine organization dedicated to eradicating threats common folks don’t know anything about — for their own good — and gets paired with an older partner who is somewhat wacky. Throw in some special effects, light humour and an anagram for a title. Sound familiar?

And so I watched RIPD and my thoughts were confirmed. Yes, it is strikingly similar in idea and tone to MIB, except it’s not as good — and I don’t even think MIB is particularly good.

Ryan Reynolds plays a young cop who does something a little dodgy with his partner, Kevin Bacon, but then his conscience strikes and he has a change of heart, which of course inevitably leads to his demise. Given his skills, he is given an option (which he naturally accepts) by Mary-Louise Parker to join the RIPD, which stands for the Rest In Peace Department (so clever). He is teamed up with an old gunslinger from the 1800s, played by Jeff Bridges, who is quick with his gun and has a fetish for hats and ankles. The two are sent back up to Earth where they take on “deados”, essentially demons disguised as humans. Somehow, they become embroiled in a case where the whole world is at stake and they have to save the day.

As it turned out, a derivative premise is the least of RIPD’s worries. The biggest problem with this film is that it is boring and unexciting, even when our heroes are driving around, chasing and shooting at comically grotesque monsters. The plot is painfully predictable. The progression is flat. The jokes are not funny or fresh (they try to milk this gag where our RIPD officers are in avatars of a hot blonde woman and an old Chinese man — for far too long). The special effects are some of the worst I have ever seen in a recent movie, with the deados looking less authentic than creations in most modern video games. They essentially look like cartoon characters — no joke. And the tone of the film was clearly designed to appeal to a very very young audience.

RIPD might be a passable 96 minutes of fun-ish entertainment for audiences with very low expectations, but the truth is that it is one of the worst comic book adaptations, possibly ever. I won’t lie. I missed a bit of the movie because I fell asleep. It really was that bad.

1.25 stars out of 5

PS: I pity anyone who paid extra to watch this in 3D.

Movie Review: The Change-Up (2011)

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Body-swap movies have been done plenty of times before, and they all seem to follow a similar trajectory — but it doesn’t mean they can’t be funny, especially if done right. The Change-Up, yet another Jason Bateman movie, was much better an expected, and probably the best of his recent batch of films (being Couples Retreat, The Switch, Paul and Horrible Bosses — though some may enjoy the latter two more).

Bateman plays Dave, a corporate lawyer on the verge of partnership. He has a beautiful and loving wife (Leslie Mann) and three young children, but he hardly has any time for them. His unlikely best friend Mitch is played by Ryan Reynolds. Mitch is an immature, struggling actor who spends most of his time on drugs and sex. On a wild boys night out a drunken wish is turned into reality, and before things can be rectified, Dave must now live as Mitch and vice versa.

Of course, you probably already knew this. The selling point of The Change-Up is not the predictable premise, but the laughs spawned from watching Bateman and Reynolds play each other. And there are quite a few decent laughs (which I won’t spoil except to say they are not all revealed in the trailer like the majority of comedies these days) because we are so used to seeing Bateman as the straight man (which he is in just about everything — Smoking Aces is the only exception I can think of) and Reynolds as the cocky, charming hotshot/slacker.

The unfortunate thing about The Change-Up is that it often resorts to crude jokes and gross-out shock tactics. Some of them work; some of them don’t. Honestly, I don’t get what is wrong with so many comedies nowadays, which seem to confuse outraging audiences with amusing them using genuine wit and comedic timing.

Some might also feel that the main female characters don’t get a fair shake in the movie. Mann is your typically supportive but emotional housewife, while Olivia Wilde’s ‘hot law associate’ is perhaps more of a plot device than a realistic character. And before you boys spray your shorts, nudity from both these actresses are done through body doubles and digital effects.

A further problem audiences might pick up is the gaping plot holes. But trying to figure out how a bum with no college education can not only work as a senior associate for days without anyone getting suspicious but also stuff up mega deals without repercussions will only dampen your enjoyment of the movie — so it’s best just to go with the flow and forget about them.

Flaws notwithstanding, The Change-Up is still funnier and more engaging than I had expected. Part of it is due to the fantastic chemistry between Bateman and Reynolds, but what surprised me was that the film actually had some heart at its core. Sure it was the exact same message that all body-swap movies have, but I somehow found myself caring much more than I should have in the end.

3.25 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Green Lantern (2D) (2011)

Green Lantern, the latest comic book adaptation (from DC), is the type of film that would have been better received a few years ago — before the genre got ‘realistic’ and before the bar was exponentially raised by films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Does that make Green Lantern a horrible film?  No.  But when lined up against the other quality superhero films of recent times — actually, even just 2011 (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) — Green Lantern suddenly looks like a weak link.

I had almost no idea who or what Green Lantern was before this film came along — for years I got it confused with The Green Hornet (I thought the hornet lived in the lantern).

Well, in short, it’s about this intergalactic league of superhero protectors called ‘Lanterns’ that rely on the green power of ‘will’ (encased in a ring, powered by an actual lantern!) to fight enemies that utilise the yellow power of ‘fear’.  Stuff happens, a new Lantern is needed, and the ring chooses a human, a reckless fighter jet pilot by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Of course, fear has also chosen someone, and it’s up to Jordan to overcome his own fear and save the world.

That sounds like a silly and derivative premise (it has shades of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Superman), and it is, but so are the premises of most comic superhero films.  It’s up to the makers of the film to make us believe in it, even if it’s just within the confines of the story’s own universe.

And that’s where Green Lantern struck out for me — apart from a fairly strong introduction, I didn’t believe in the story for the majority of the film’s 114-minute running time, and as a result, couldn’t connect emotionally with the narrative or the characters.   There were just too many gaps, inconsistencies and avoided issues to prevent the film from being a more engaging experience.  The writers and the director (Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness) didn’t make the necessary adjustments in bringing a comic book to life, and instead, the film played out like a children’s cartoon with (predominantly) human actors.  Perhaps for once they stayed too true to the original source.

Speaking of actors, Ryan Reynolds did everything he possibly could to fill the shoes of Hal Jordan but was still a disappointment.  On paper, Reynolds, with his pearly whites, ripped bod, boyish charm and wry sense of humour, was probably the one of the best choices for this superhero, but the poor screenplay never allowed him to fully break out.  The result was a relatively flat, forgettable performance and a character that should have been a lot more likeable.

Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood friend and fellow pilot Carol Ferris, and does a surprisingly good job, and dare I say looks better as a brunette than a blonde.  There is genuine chemistry between her and Reynolds, but again, something was holding them back.

The remainder of the all-star cast were all solid — Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi (from Boy), plus the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clancy Brown (everyone’s favourite warden from Shawshank) — with the standout being Peter Saarsgard’s wonderful villain, who was more interesting to me than the hero and deserved more.

Having come across as rather negative, Green Lantern certainly wasn’t bad.  There were some exciting scenes, a few cracking action sequences and moments of ingenuity, and none of the film could be described as slow.  The digital effects were also very good, but nothing outstanding by today’s standards.  If we hadn’t been spoiled by so many good superhero movies in recent years, Green Lantern probably would have received a lot more love from critics and viewers alike.  Nonetheless, I hear Warner Bros are pushing forward with a sequel, with a potential for a trilogy.

2.75 stars out of 5

10 Movies That Make Men Want to Work Out

I say this with an unblemished record of heterosexuality (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Have you ever watched a movie that made you want to go work out afterwards?

I have.  Well, I’ve never actually gone out and done it, but real men would have.

What I have noticed is that these films usually feature men who were either previously unknown to mainstream audiences and/or have undergone amazing physical transformations.  For example, Arnie or Stallone films rarely have that ‘Wow’ factor because they’ve always looked that way, and in any case from my research it seems looking ‘cut’ is generally preferred to looking ‘buffed’.  Anyway, it’s no surprise that the Internets is filled with guides on how to transform your body to replicate the following movie stars.

Without further ado, these are what I think are the 10 films that have inspired more meatheads than any other.

(click on ‘more’ to read on)

Continue reading 10 Movies That Make Men Want to Work Out

Movie Review: Buried (2010)

I feel I must break my usual code and begin with a kind of spoiler as a warning to all potential viewers.  Buried, the new thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, is filmed almost entirely in one location with one actor from start to finish (I’ll say ‘almost’ so you won’t know what the ending is).

Accordingly, there’s a couple of ways you could look it.  The first is that it is one of the most inventive and intelligent films of the year because, as far as I know, it’s never been done before for a mainstream feature film.  Somehow, despite these constraints, the Rodrigo Cortes-directed film manages to tell an entire 94-minute story (and a thriller, mind you) in this manner.

On the other hand, you could consider Buried a stupid, boring and frustrating film that never really gets you anywhere because the protagonist is stuck somewhere he can’t get out of.

In my opinion, Buried is a bit of both, though I liked it a lot more than I disliked it (my wife was the opposite).  It was a pretty amazing film that kept me, for the most part, interested in what was going to happen.  The way they paced the film, the way they wrote the dialogue, and the way they built up the sense of claustrophobia and suspense, were all very commendable.  Conversely, because they had to fill up the running time, there was indeed a fair bit of repetition and what I would consider time-fillers.  It did get a bit frustrating and tedious after a while, and I was desperate for more to happen.  On the whole, I still quite liked it.  I wouldn’t call it a great film but it’s good to see movie studios producing something new every now and then rather than simply sequels and remakes.

3.5 stars out of 5

DVD Review: The Proposal (2009)

The Proposal is one of those romantic comedies that you wouldn’t necessarily call good, but there are worse ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon than watching Sandra Bullock (Ms Oscar Nominee) and Ryan Reynolds (Mr Scarlett Johansson) on screen (though let’s face it, not many).

Without giving too much away, Bullock plays Magaret Tate, the bitchy executive editor-in-chief of a publishing company, and Reynolds is Andrew Paxton, her hard-working assistant.  You can pretty much work out the whole story from there if you have a think about the name of the film (ie The Proposal), the poster, and what type of roles Bullock and Reynolds seem to always play in rom-coms.  And to top it off, the director is Anne Fletcher, who was at the helm of Step Up and 27 Dresses.  Let’s stop pretending the movie is not entirely predictable.

Fortunately, The Proposal does have some funny parts, and it does have a bit of heart.  There are a few decent laughs, mostly involving Bullock and her silly character traits, though Reynolds does have surprisingly good comedic timing.  However, it’s not what I would call a hilarious movie – a number of jokes don’t quite have the intended effect, and a few simply fall flat.

Another plus of the film is that there a couple of minor breaks from the ordinary rom-com cliches, and a few unexpected little twists.  You probably wouldn’t even notice them, but they’re there.

What I probably liked most was that the film was set in a major publishing company.  Though the opening scenes were relatively short, it was interesting to see how a place like that worked.  I’m not so sure I’d like to work in one now!

3 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Sandra Bullock’s character unfortunately reminds me of quite a few power women at work.  Despite the fact that it’s hilarious to make fun of them, their lives are actually really really sad.]