Wednesday, May 30, 2018


I loved DEADPOOL - the dark humour, the self-awareness, the bloody violence, and the surprisingly mushy love story at its heart.  And I can happily say that DEADPOOL 2 lives up to the promise of the first film, while giving the protagonist a motley crew of superhero buddies and poking even more fun at superhero films, its own actors, and everything else.

The movie opens with our cynical wise-cracking mutant hero murdering bad guys for pay before going home to his beloved wife who is murdered in turn.  Being worthy of meeting her in heaven motivates the otherwise self-interested Deadpool to try to save an angry young mutant called Firefist (Julian Dennison who could easily be Rebel Wilson's kid brother such are his looks and facility for comedy).  Deadpool has to do this in opposition to time-travelling tough guy Cable (a ridiculously ripped Josh Brolin), who just wants to kill Firefist to prevent  him wreaking havoc in future.  Along the way, Deadpool picks up a new super-lucky mutant friend called Domino - a charismatic scene stealing performance from ATLANTA's Zazie Beetz - while hooking up with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the first film, as well as her girlfriend Yukio.

What I love about this film is that while it has a filthy sense of humour it really does have a heart. It really is about family and reaching out to people. And it's values are rock solid. Not just in the classic mutant universe as a metaphor for civil rights way. But in making a point about having a protagonist who is plus sized, a teenage lesbian relationship, and a strong black female lead.  The film is also clever. The way in which it uses time travel is neat, and all of its jokes hit their mark, getting particularly meta in the credits sequence, and with a fantastic use of music. 

Having tired of the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, I can honestly say I'm genuinely looking forward to DEADPOOL 3!

DEADPOOL has a running time of 119 minutes and is rated R. It is global release.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY averages the same rating as I gave THE LAST JEDI - 2.5/5. The difference is that what I really loved about TLJ I REALLY loved - some of the production design and visual styling was superb. And what I hated about TLJ I really hated - the clunky humour. By contrast, SOLO was a solidly okay film, unvaryingly ok throughout, with nothing I absolutely loved, nothing I hated, just a failure to ignite my excitement or imagination, but with some nice nuanced plotting.

First things first, Alden Ehrenreich is not bad as Han Solo, despite rumours of having an acting coach on set. He doesn't do a Harrison Ford impression in the way that Donald Glover tries to with Landon. He's charming and cheerful and was just fine. I thought he worked well with Chewie, and we get a lovely reverse meet-cute as Han is thrown to "the beast" and helps him escape. Is this really the blood debt we've heard so much about? Or will something happen in the contracted next two Solo movies that has more heft? Chewie remains a badass. Moreso in the modern movies. We actually do see him rip someone's arms off. But he's also lovable. Like when he goofily makes the same dumb move on the Falcon's chess set, or politely lets a girl co-pilot the Falcon until it's clear she has no clue. More meaningfully, we get a great thematic storyline here about slavery and freedom played out through Chewie freeing slaves in a mining colony that echoes what we know about his own people enslaved on Kashyyk. I hope we get to see more of that in later films.  This story is also echoed in L3's storyline about freeing enslaved droids.

This brings us to the next pairing - Lando and L3.  This is truly Donald Glover's moment and it's true that he brings the swagger to Lando with his awesome collection of capes. It made me truly sad that we didn't get Billy Dee Williams in the new films.  Many people said we should've had a Lando prequel and I guess that hyped up my expectations for this character. To be sure Glover is good, but I felt that his relationship with feminist cranky droid L3 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) just didn't jive for me. I wasn't upset when she died. And I felt her witty one-liners weren't landing for me. I didn't laugh once at her. I didn't care when she died. And then lessened Lando's storyline. She also has a weird design - what's with those hips? Overall, a fail - and epically so compared to the awesome droid in ROGUE ONE.

The funny thing is that when it comes to swagger, Paul Bettany's ganster baddie, Drydon Vos, arguably has more swagger and cape-game than Lando. And Woody Harrelson's gang leader Tobias Beckett brings more of the casual comedy and roguishness than Alden Ehrenreich ever could. These are the characters that actually brought some fun and panache to the film! Poor Thandie Newton as Beckett's wife Val is fine but gets little screen time. (Did filming WESTWORLD get in the way?)  In fact, I cared more about the CGI creation Rio (voiced by Jon Favreau). 

So the plot basically sees Han meet cute with Chewie - join Beckett, Val and Rio on a heist - fail to get the goods - promise Drydon Vos to try again - only to be last minute jacked by a bunch of Marauders - and betrayed by both Beckett and Han's love interest Qi'ra (a feisty and fun Emilia Clarke who apparently knows kung fu).   The Marauders have some of the coolest designed costumes and their leader, Enfys Nest (Erin Kellyman) is actually a proton-rebel and does all the scene stealing I'd expected Lando to do! In fact, I want a film about her!  One also wonders if she's a candidate for Rey's mum.

As for Qi'ra her eventual betrayal is really just an avenue to reveal the existence of Darth Maul as a criminal mastermind. I know this confused some of my friends, and you'd have had to be watching The Clone Wars and Rebels to be up to speed with how Maul survived apparent death at the hands of Kenobi though sheer force of evil will, fashioned new legs from trash, and rose to lead a criminal alliance against Darth Sidious. At any rate, from being basically a fun costume in the prequels, he's become one of the more interesting characters in the EU, and if there are more SOLO movies, then this will be super-interesting to explore. 

This sums up how I feel about SOLO:  It's visually well-designed and the story is neat.  Not just in a macro sense - bringing back Maul is awesome - but in how it ties down little things like why Han hugs Lando that way in EMPIRE - checking for cards. I also loved the themes of freedom vs slavery. I think Ron Howard failed to make the action scenes sufficiently exciting, and that cinematographer Bradford Young didn't light the entire movie bright enough to see all the detail in the sets and costumes.  And I feel that for me some of the humour - especially around L3 fell flat.  I could've watched this at home rather than in the cinema - it isn't urgent or visually grand enough. But it's a story I will follow through with. And it's far less divisive and frustrating than TLJ.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 135 minutes. It is on global release. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

FAHRENHEIT 451 (2018)

HBO's new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's iconic sci-fi dystopian novel is a strange and bloodless beast, differing wildly from the source material, handsomely designed, yet lacking in real punch. The film stars the wildly talented Michael B Jordan (BLACK PANTHER's antagonist) as Montag, a Fireman whose job is to burn books. Not just seditious books. All books. Because in this dystopian future books are scene as sowing chaos and frustration - giving people too many ideas - ideas that confuse or offend.  As the film progresses two important character developments occur that felt unearned and unexplored to me.  The first is that Montag steals a book - in shock that a woman would love them so much she would commit suicide rather than survive them.  This leads him to speak to Clarisse (Sofia Boutella), an "eel" who subversively reads books, leading him to a spiritual awakening.  Boutella is wasted here in a thin role that's basically a plot advancer.  The second thing is that we learn that Montag's supposedly dogmatically rigid boss Beatty is actually a secret reader too. And yet Montag never looks intellectually enquiring and Michael Shannon gives his standard 2-D performance as snarling baddie.

The plot motors on and we get to a finale that is meant to be profoundly moving but left me unaffected, as did the entirety of this film. I am deeply disappointed by Ramin Bahrani (MAN PUSH CART)'s direction and actually his failure to get better performances out of Jordan and Shannon - two actors I love. I suspect that this has something to do with a rather thin screenplay by Amir Nedari, that strips Montag of his wife, his home life, and makes Clarisse a much thinner character.  The only thing that I found really interesting was the production design and the way in which book burning is now a kind of reality TV show. But how much more powerful it could've been to show flashbacks to the world that slipped into illiteracy - to show our world - in which long form reading has given way to headlines and click bait - and fake news.....

FAHRENHEIT 451 has a running time of 100 minutes, premiered at Cannes 2018, and was released on HBO this week.