[#366Flicks] MAXIMUM EFFORT + Oscars Round Up

Deadpool

It’s a big day! Today we have an R rated superhero movie, my Oscar round up and predictions, and it’s Leap Day! This is the day that forces…er…allows me to watch one more movie than the average movie-a-day watcher this year. Huzzah! Now, without further ado, it’s time for some spandex and dick jokes.

I am a comics noob. I’m interested in them, I’ve read a handful of story arcs, but if you ask me who the first Human Torch was I will fail spectacularly. All I knew about Deadpool going into this movie is that he has a Wolverine-esque healing factor, he’s very much a jokester, he is aware that he is in a comic book, and in one of the Marvel vs. Capcom games his super move involves him grabbing his health bar from the top of the screen and beating his opponent with it.

What I got in the movie Deadpool made good on all that and absolutely blew me away. From the incredibly honest opening credits all the way to the super great post post credits scene scene (that’s not a typo) I was loving this movie. We have so many superhero movies that fill different genres. Captain America: Winter Soldier is a spy thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy is an buddy adventure film, and The Dark Knight is a gritty crime story. It’s really fun to see Deadpool take the formula and apply it to a raunchy comedy, toss in some fun action, and lovingly take the piss out of the whole superhero schtick while it’s at it.

Ryan Reynolds undoes the travesty that X-Men Origins: Wolverine did to the Deadpool character by bringing charisma and rat-a-tat wit to the Merc with a Mouth. From what I know of the character this feels like perfect casting. Reynolds owns the role completely even in the rare earnest and emotional moments. T.J. Miller matches Reynolds joke for joke when on screen and performs well as the “buddy.” Morena Baccarin is woefully reduced to little more than a damsel in distress but she brings all of her substantial acting abilities and charm to legitimize the role more than the script does. Everyone else…gets the job done. I especially liked the strip club DJ.

But let’s be honest, this is really the Wade Wilson Comedy Hour. This movie lives and dies on it’s laughs. The action is really enjoyable and violent but it’s Deadpool’s ability to break the fourth wall more often than Zack Morris that really sets him apart. I’m a sucker for self referential humor and Deadpool revels in acknowledging that it’s a movie and poking fun at other actors and movies in the X-Men universe. The jokes come fast and furious; if one doesn’t hit you there is another one right behind it. If you enjoy laughing and cringing at the same time and not believing that they “went there” you’ll enjoy the brand of humor here. I worry that the self referential jokes may not age well, but for the moment I find Deadpool to be consistently funny all throughout.

And thank goodness they decided they could ignore all logic and animate the eyes on the mask so the character could emote better through it. Iron Man came up with the helmet cam  to allow us to see Tony’s face more often, but most other movies try to find some reason to get the actor out of the mask. Spider-Man’s mask gets ripped to shreds. Bruce Wayne takes the cowl off for anyone who asks politely. Green Arrow on TV just has some guy liner. CGI animated eyes may not work for every masked vigilante but it was perfect to see here.

Deadpool was made for a meager $58 million, a fraction of the budget for your average superhero blockbuster nowadays. Coming in as the cheapest X-Men film it also had the highest opening weekend box office numbers of any X-Men film as well as breaking all sorts of other records for R rated movies and February openings. For a movie that, if the behind the scenes stories are to be believed, took quite a bit of fighting to get made, everyone sure did want to see it. I thoroughly enjoy it myself, and I can’t wait for the already greenlit sequel.

Maybe theaters can sell promotional chimichangas!


Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):

Oscars edition!

Bridge of Spies – Tom Hanks plays a lawyer during the height of the Cold War who is called upon to negotiate a prisoner exchange; a Russian spy for an American pilot. Everything I knew about this movie going in was about that exchange, yet the first half of the movie focuses on Hanks acting as the Russian spy’s lawyer making sure due justice is served and the harassment he receives because of it. I found myself much more interested in this courtroom drama and the notion that even our most bitter enemies should be allowed a fair and just trial. Once Hanks leaves the States things slowed down for me. Top notch performances all around, certainly from Hanks and also from the Russian spy. His quiet strength and the odd friendship that formed between him and Hanks really made the movie for me.

The Revenant – Leonardo DiCaprio is the guide in a group of hunters gathering pelts and fighting off Native Americans in the 1820s. Early on he befriends a bear. (Well, the bear mauls him nearly to death.) Drama ensues. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu brings the same unique eye he demonstrated with Birdman using long takes to show off action scenes and make the bear attack feel frighteningly real. The actors and crew should be commended for putting themselves through frozen hell to make this film. All that said this movie sometimes feels like a lot of filler between incredibly tense and dramatic moments. When characters get to actually have conflict it excels but there is quite a bit of travel and picturesque landscapes before getting there. A little more judicious editing could have tightened things up to the film’s benefit. Still, DiCaprio and Hardy are amazing to watch when they’re given the chance to do more than grunt and groan.

Room – I was told that this movie is best seen knowing as little as possible. Having seen it myself I agree that ignorance creates extra levels of tension and interest, so I will only give you the setup you discover in the first ten minutes. A mother, Brie Larson, and her young son are locked in a small room. The boy knows nothing of the outside world and believes that this room is all that exists. The movie spends the rest of the time exploring this odd situation and how both react to it. The boy is charming and cute without ever getting annoying and Larson gives a powerful performance of a mother struggling to hold it together for the sake of her son. This curiosity of a movie is strange but absolutely engaging thanks to its strong actors.

Brooklyn – A portrait of young woman, an Irish immigrant, making her way in 1950s America. I hadn’t even heard of this movie until it was nominated. That normally signals a really stuffy drama that usually isn’t my speed. I was glad to be mostly wrong this time around. Lead actor Saoirse Ronan gives a compelling and heartfelt performance as she is torn between America, the new exciting life she wants for herself, and Ireland, the more “common” life that her family and friends would rather she choose. She is surrounded by good supporting actors but the movie rests squarely on Ronan’s shoulders and she carries it well. She is a strong contender for best actress in my book.

The Big Short – Did you see Wolf of Wall Street? This is that, only less raunchy. Once again explaining the shady dealings of the financial world with charming actors and ignoring the fourth wall, The Big Short takes a different thematic approach than Wolf of Wall Street. Instead of focusing on the sleaziest and most unapologetic of the crooked suits this movie focuses on a handful of people who see the housing market crash coming before anyone else as they uncover the insane and irresponsible mentality many big banks have towards their customers. Yes, they do ultimately profit from the crash, but they are not the ones causing it to happen and they deal with conflicting feelings as they profit from the losses of millions of Americans. I still can’t say I totally understand the workings of it all, but that’s not entirely the point; the heart of the movie is how the characters react to their discoveries. This movie’s slick style kept me watching even when the content was dry resulting in a good, but not great, movie.

Spotlight – A group of Bostonian investigative reporters uncover a disturbing trend of Catholic priests molesting children and the church doing nothing. The escalation of evidence from isolated incidents to an epidemic and systemic cover up carries the audience through the movie in an engaging way. There are many solid performances but Mark Ruffalo steals the show with his impassioned search for the truth and desire to expose injustice. Powerful film all around.

Click here for a full list of all the movies I’ve seen.

I hereby swear I wrote all of these Oscar reviews before the Oscars aired. So what are my predictions?

Best Picture – I would love Mad Max or The Martian to win, but that won’t happen. I think this is a toss up between The Revenant and Spotlight. Trying to predict what the Academy will pick is a tough choice though. I suspect it will be The Revenant, but I hope it’s Spotlight.

Director – See above. Although if Mad Max is going to get one of the “big” awards it’ll be this one for  George Miller bringing such a vision to the screen.

Actor – I haven’t seen all the nominated performances, but please just give it to Leo so he can stop crying himself to sleep at night.

Actress – I didn’t see Jennifer Lawrence’s performance this year, but I suspect she won’t be getting another statue. I also didn’t see Cate Blanchett but unless she blew it out of the water this is going to Brie Larson.

Supporting Actor – Mark Ruffalo or bust. Although I would love to hear Stallone’s acceptance speech.

Supporting Actress – This is the category I have the least on. The only two performances I did see, Leigh in The Hateful Eight and McAdams in Spotlight, I don’t expect to win. I’d put my money on Rooney Mara for Carol, but that’s really just a guess.

BONUS – If Mad Max doesn’t win cinematography I’m flipping a table.

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