Friday, April 1, 2016

"Deadpool" And the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Deadpool" as well as DVDs "Trumbo" and "Steve Jobs." The Book of the Week is "Raising the Barre."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project with "Chronicle of a Summer (Paris 1960)]


A former special forces operative gets special powers after a rogue experiment.

It's that time of year when movies are not vying for Oscars so the pickins' are slim.  That's how I found myself at this film.  Don't get me wrong, I know this movie is wildly popular, but let's just say that when I went up to the young man selling tickets and said, "One senior, please," he replied, "I sure haven't heard that."  And sitting through this film, I know why.

Yes, this is a super hero flick, but it is definitely NOT for children ("Iron Man," it is not) and seniors need to be cautious as well if you are easily offended, because there is much to offend here.

So there I was in this movie with a bunch of twenty-something young men, watching the gratuitous violence and gore, the gratuitous sex, the gratuitous torture, the gratuitous vulgar but snappy dialogue, and thinking, that kid was right.  Not because I'm a senior, but just because I wasn't enjoying this kind of thing.  I don't think I ever did.


So, here goes.

Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is a Marvel comic anti-hero who first appeared in comics in 1991 and Ryan Reynolds first portrayed him in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."  There are a couple of jokes in this one referring to Wolverine and Hugh Jackman, especially since both Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman were deemed "Sexiest Man Alive" by People Magazine. This is the eighth installment of the "X-Men" series and based on box office for this film I would say he will have his own franchise.  I smell some sequels. Oh, right, there is already one scheduled for next year.

You get the tone of the film in the opening credits where the production company is listed as Douchebag Productions (I thought, "What a clever name for a production company, and then as the credits rolled further, and the director was listed as "an overpaid tool," I got the joke) and it goes downhill from there.

To bring you up to date on Deadpool, he was once a sort of a regular guy named Wade Wilson, if an ex-special forces operative turned mercenary can be called a regular guy.  He is also a bit nutty.  He meets his match in Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and everything is hunky dory until he finds out he has cancer.  Then a mysterious guy shows up who says he can turn him into a super hero and cure his cancer, so enter arch villain, Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his henchwoman, Angel Dust (Gina Carano).  Ajax's real name is Francis, which Wade mocks and which becomes a running joke throughout the film. 

Supposedly if you can endure the literal torture of the treatment, you become a mutant of sorts and have super powers. However, there are side effects.

Ah, the side effects: there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that our hero now is basically indestructible.  The bad news, though, for our handsome hero, is disfigurement with a face his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) said "looked like an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado."  Wade can't bring himself to let Vanessa see him like this so he dresses up in a super hero suit with a mask that covers his face and adopts the Deadpool persona and the rest of the movie is spent with Deadpool trying to find Francis who he thinks can cure him of his disfigurement and after that Deadpool plans to kill him.  Deadpool is joined by super-hero friends Colossus (voice Stephan Kapicic), who does not approve of Deadpool's bad language and penchant for killing, and a sullen teenager, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand - I wonder where her parents got that name from)? 

Ryan Reynolds is a versatile actor who started out as a handsome heartthrob in rom coms but has morphed into more dramatic and, in this one, dorkier parts.  I just think it's weird that he is encased in red leather for most of this film.  It could be anyone in there.

Lots of quips and comebacks, pop culture references and breaking the fourth wall asides from scriptwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick that you may or may not find funny (I didn't).  There is so much of it being thrown out there rat-a-tat-tat, that it's hard to keep up with all of the jokes.  Deadpool is a wise-cracking smart ass and I never liked smart asses.

Directed by Tim Miller, this comic book hero comedy is definitely R-rated so it's not a little kids' movie and as for seniors?  We LOVE R-rated comedies if they are funny.  This one just wasn't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...there is an audience for a film like this, because it broke box office records, but definitely not for little kids and maybe not for seniors who are looking for a less raunchy comedy.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

Now Out on DVD

Trumbo (2015)

Biopic of Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood's top screenwriters in the 1940's, until he was branded a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee. and blacklisted.

Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is not a household name these days but back in the 1940's and 1950's he was a successful novelist and screenwriter and one of the highest paid writers in Hollywood until his communist affiliations landed him on the House Un-American Activities Committee's Blacklist. 

The 1950's were a dark era in American history as the Cold War spawned one of the most outrageous attempts to purge America of communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was formed and went about routing out communists wherever they could find them.  Once identified, they were drummed out of their professions and anyone hiring them was also shunned and abused.  

Red baiting was felt most strongly in the Hollywood community.  Trumbo was an outspoken advocate of free speech and one of The Hollywood 10 who would not testify or name names before the Committee.  He was sent to jail for contempt and when he was released, his career languished for 10 years where he and other blacklisted writers continued to write screenplays but under pseudonyms.  He won two Academy Awards ("Roman Holiday" and "The Brave One") but could not collect them because they were either written under a pseudonym or attributed to someone else.  He also wrote "Spartacus" and "Exodus," but this time, Kirk Douglas, who was starring in "Spartacus" and Otto Preminger, who directed "Exodus" defied HUAC and gave Trumbo screenwriting credit.

Actor Edward G. Robinson (played by the wonderful Michael Stuhlbarg) is portrayed as a Communist sympathizer but instead of standing strong with the others, like many in Hollywood, he caved and named names to save his career, thus underlining what people will do to save themselves.

Bryan Cranston makes us forget his Walter White TV persona from "Breaking Bad" and lives up to his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this tour de force where he captures Trumbo's staunch defense of our freedom of speech and his will to write.  Helen Mirren is, well, Helen Mirren, playing the imperious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who according to this film, was a major rabble rouser when it came to getting these writers and actors blacklisted.  Diane Lane is making a career of playing wives and mothers.  I miss her in edgier roles. Comic Louis C.K. gets to show his dramatic acting chops as a fellow writer who is committed to the cause.

Director Jay Roach deftly incorporates the actors into actual footage from the time and the impersonations of John Wayne and other actors from the The Golden Age of Hollywood are fun, but Cranston is the reason to see this film, because the movie itself is a bit disappointing.  It is a well-done film that is very earnest, yes, but it doesn't really shed any new light on HUAC or the Blacklist and the script by John McNamara from the book by Bruce Cook is often emotional and clichéd such as when Trumbo's young daughter asks, "Daddy, are you a communist?" which gives Cranston a chance to explain why he has chosen this road or the ending where he gets to give a heartfelt speech.  But it was a dark time in American history that should be remembered.

Rosy the Reviewer says...see it for Brian Cranston's bravura performance and to get mad all over again about the egregious activities of HUAC.

Steve Jobs (2015)

Biopic of Steve Jobs that starts with the launch of the Macintosh computer and ends with the launch of the IMac.

The film starts in 1984 with the launch of Apple's Macintosh computer.  Right away we see that Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) was not a very nice guy.  I won't use the word that would best describe him but it starts with a "d" and ends with a "k."  But Jobs is a visionary.  He doesn't write code, he is not an engineer, but he could see the future.  During a power play with President John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Jobs is fired from Apple and goes off to do his thing until Apple starts to fail and he is called back, unrepentant and arrogant still.  In this film, he never attains nice guyness.

"Why do you want people to dislike you?"
"I don't want people to dislike me.  I am just indifferent to whether they like me or not."

The film starts out cold with little back story about the players, so if you don't know much about Jobs or Apple, you would probably be confused.  I actually know something about both and was.

This is not a typical biopic that covers Jobs' birth and growing up years or his early death of pancreatic cancer.  It concentrates on three pivotal times in Jobs' business career:  the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, the launch of NeXT computers, the company he started after he was fired from Apple, and the launch of the IMac in 1998.  Interspersed with those events are events that were also happening in Jobs' personal life.

Much is made of Jobs' complicated relationship with his illegitimate daughter, Lisa, who he refused to acknowledge until much later in life, though she was in his life and he supported and at times doted on her, an irony when it is brought to light that Jobs was adopted.

Michael Fassbender joins Eddie Redmayne, Christian Bale and Tom Hardy as, in my mind, the four best and most versatile movie actors working today.  He is amazing here and in everything he does.  He captures Jobs' megalomania but also the charisma that kept people by his side, despite his cruelty and obsessiveness.  Jobs' cruel streak is evident early in the film when he demands that Andy Hertzfeld (another great performance by Michael Stuhlbarg - see "Trumbo" above) make the Macintosh say "Hello' - no matter what!

Was Kate Winslet's performance as Joanna Hoffman worthy of a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination?  Yes and no.  For one thing, she had a huge part which I would say was a leading role, not a supporting role.  She is always good and projects warmth, and I am sure she captured the essence of the real woman who appeared to be the wind beneath Steve Jobs' wings, but there was an early scene when she meets Jobs' daughter, Lisa, and says something to her like "You have always liked the way I talked."  I could not figure out what that meant until 38 minutes into the movie when Kate's Polish accent suddenly kicked in.  I swear, she had nary a wee bit of accent until then and suddenly, oh, right she is Polish.

Seth Rogan plays Steve Wozniak and reminds us that despite his comedies for which he is more well-known, he is a really good dramatic actor.  Jeff Daniels as John Scully, Jobs' ultimate foil, is also very good and makes you forget "Dumb and Dumber" and "Dumb and Dumber To," which is a very good thing because both of those movies should be forgotten.

It's not easy to make a likable film about a very unlikable guy and it doesn't help that the film is very disjointed.  I can handle flashbacks and flash forwards with no problem, but this film just jumps around willy nilly.  I think it would have benefitted from a more linear approach especially since there is not much introduction to the story itself or the people involved.  Those who don't know much about the history of Apple and the drama behind the scenes or about Jobs' life would be confused.

Directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (from the book by Walter Isaacson), the cinematography had a grainy quality that I didn't like and Sorkin, who usually writes smart and witty dialogue, tends to wallow a bit in melodrama from time to time here.  Also it was never really explained why Jobs was such a d..k, I mean, unlikable person.  And speaking of clichés, for once, I wish the film had employed that biopic cliché of bringing us up-to-date with the characters before the end credits.  I mean, whatever happened to Joanna Hoffman?  Or Lisa?  I wanted to know.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't care for the film itself that much but I LOVED Fassbender in it.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

254 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Chronicle of a Summer Paris 1960 (1961)

A documentary that captures everyday life in 1960's Paris.

Shot by Sociologist Edgar Morin and anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch, this is cinema verite, the first film to embody that term, a term that was invented by Rouch, and the film uses a combination of observation and performance to examine whether or not people in a film can be themselves and not "act" for the camera.

The film begins with one of the subjects asking men and women on the streets of Paris if they are happy. The film continues by interviewing a group of Paris residents - artists, factory workers, an Italian immigrant and an African student - about political issues of the day (Algerian War) and their hopes and dreams.  The film ends with the participants gathering together to watch the film and to critique it.

There is the concentration camp survivor who admits she is not attracted to black men; the Italian immigrant who has given up on life until later in the film when she has done a 360; the factory worker who expects little from life.

There are times when you can't really tell if you are seeing the truth or someone acting out the truth.

Why it's a Must See: " of the most significant and quoted of all documentary films...This is a visionary work...a critical exploration of the powers and techniques of 'direct' cinema."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a moment in time that is almost like watching a group psychotherapy session.  A fascinating test of "cinema verite," but if you don't like to watch people talking about themselves, you probably won't like this.
(In French with English subtitles, b & w)


***Book of the Week***

Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Quest to Dance The Nutcracker by Lauren Kessler (2015)

A middle-aged woman seeks to live out her dream of dancing with a professional company in "The Nutcracker" ballet.

Told at the age of 12 that she would never be a ballerina, Lauren Kessler was disappointed but went on with life.  But at mid-life with her three children growing up, Kessler decided that she needed something and that something was to dance with a professional company in "The Nutcracker."

Kessler is not middle-aged in the way us over 60's think of ourselves.  She is more the 40-50 middle-aged type but that's just old enough to start having regrets and to start feeling invisible.  And Kessler never really got over being told she just didn't have what it took to be a ballerina.  Now four decades later, she finds herself restless and while her husband is away, goes on a  journey she calls the "Transcontinental Nutcracker Binge Tour," attending performances of "The Nutcracker," one right after the other in Chicago, New York, Boston and San Francisco.  This inspires her to go on another journey - to dance in "The Nutcracker."

She approaches the director of the professional ballet company in her home town, the Eugene Ballet Company, and she is given her chance, provided she can do the work.  In so doing, she discovers not only what it's like to be a part of a professional ballet company, but she discovers a great deal about herself as well.

The first thing she discovers is that she not only was not ready to take class with the professionals, she wasn't ready to take a beginner's class in a ballet company either.  She had to prep by taking a beginning class for a beginning class at a fitness center and add yoga, Pilates and Gyrotonics in an effort to lengthen her line and create something approximating a dancer's body. She has to take stock of herself in a leotard, learn to put on eye makeup (ballerinas even wear make-up to work out) and come to terms with her own perfectionism in a world that seeks it.

This is a story about ballet, but it's also a story of shaking up one's life, taking risks and trying to fulfill a dream.  It's one of those "all about the journey" stories and less about the destination, though Kessler really, really wanted to dance in "The Nutcracker."

If you want to find out if Lauren actually danced in "The Nutcracker," you will just have to read this book!

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance." - Japanese proverb.

Rosy the Reviewer says...balletomanes will enjoy this as well as us middle-agers who need a dose of inspiration.

That's it for this week!

Thanks for reading!

See you Tuesday for


"Has Your Spouse Checked Out of Your Marriage?"
(How to Tell)

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  1. For SURE Deadpool is off my list and Trumbo is on it! Was debating about Trumbo but thanks to your review I definitely will see.


    1. Yeah, I don't think you would like "Deadpool," but I think you will really like "Trumbo."