Deadpool 2: Silly Sequel is Surprisingly Dark, Relentlessly Juvenile

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)

Deadpool 2 poster
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Deadpool 2 is the first disappointment of 2018.  With a genius marketing campaign, hilarious trailers, and the prospect of seeing our favorite foul-mouthed antihero again, I was ready to dive head-on into this Pool.  Sadly, Deadpool 2 is a needlessly darker and sophomoric outing that emphasizes violent action over clever wit, making for a film that will satisfy action junkies, but leave those who enjoyed the cleverness of its predecessor yearning for more.

The mess of a plot involves Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) mourning over the death of his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin), joining the X-Men, and attempting to save an annoying teenager (Julian Dennison) from, brace yourself, a cyborg from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin).  Wade will sort of go on a journey to discover his inner hero and learn to move on from the death of his loved one, while still cracking jokes to the camera.

Deadpool 2 could have been a savage satire on how sequels always darken, but falls into that trap instead.  While still charismatic, Ryan Reynolds isn’t as likable here, overdoing Wade’s depression in the opening act and attempting to make out-of-place statements on sexism, racism, and other topics Deadpool should not discuss. Brolin acts like he’s in a completely different movie, but has good chemistry with Reynolds when onscreen with him.  The plentiful action sequences are well-done yet sadly unmemorable, and Dennison alternates between unlikable and annoying rather than menacing.  Lastly, the supposed emotional punch of an ending rings hollow.  I came here to laugh hysterically, not think about character drama.  It’s a sad state of affairs that should hopefully be remedied with the upcoming 3rd installment.

Deadpool 2 has more than enough action, but the plot and tone meander without much logic, the characters aren’t as endearing, and the writing is surprisingly juvenile rather than clever or witty.  While it certainly isn’t the worst X-Men film, Deadpool 2 is only slightly above X-Men Origins:Wolverine in terms of quality enjoyment.  I am sad to report that, of the three films I’ve seen this week, Book Club was the funniest one, not this.

Rated R for Strong Violence And Language Throughout, Sexual References, And Brief Drug Material.  Sorry, DP, but X is not gonna give this one to ya.

4 Reasons to see Logan

5 out of 5 stars (One of the Best of its franchise)

Logan Movie Poster
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Logan is one of the most hyped superhero movies of this or any year, with brilliant marketing, a fan-praised hard-R rating, and the final performance by Hugh Jackman in the role of most people’s favorite superhero.  It is an emotional night for me as I compose this list, as Logan exceeded my abnormally high expectations and made me cry as the end credits rolled.  But you’re here to read why you should see the movie, not listen to me cry about it, so here are my 4 Reasons to see Logan.

  1. Hugh Jackman’s final turn

There’s no escaping the fact that Hugh Jackman is Wolverine/Logan.  He has put 17 years into the character, providing intensity, humor, and humanity that have differentiated him from other Marvel characters.  All good things must come to an end, and Hugh Jackman has stated that this is that end.  His performance is a mesmerizing one, playing Logan’s brokenness and anger with perfection.  Jackman goes all in here, showing a side of the character we’ve never seen onscreen and displaying raw acting talent that should not be ignored.  Jackman is at his height in Logan.  If anything, see it for that.

  1. The Story

I can’t get too in-depth without spoiling it, but next to the action (which I will discuss later), Logan’s story is the best of the cinematic franchise.  It is refreshingly character-driven, perfectly paced, and treats the audience with the respect they deserve rather than spoon-feeding them.  Though some questions are given vague-ish answers (what exactly happened to the other X-Men?), they will be quickly forgotten as you are sucked in to Logan’s newest adventure that will leave him forever altered.

  1. The Action

Logan is the first Wolverine movie with an R-rating, and the violence is a large part of that.  While previous films have seen largely bloodless fights in terms of Wolverine’s powers, Logan finally portrays the realistic consequences of a man with adamantium claws going through people like playdoh.  Before I sound too much like a burgeoning serial killer, the bloody action is not here simply to obtain an R-rating.  Every action sequence is relevant to the narrative, extremely well-shot, and possesses emotional impact.  Director James Mangold understands that this is a story, not a 2-hour + killathon.  However, it is quite exhilarating when the action comes.  The camera follows the action in a fluid motion, each shot lasting long enough for the viewer to take it in (you know, like action is supposed to do.)  if you want to see realistic fight sequences that astound you without overstaying their welcome, then Logan will leave you satisfied.

  1. The Characters, Old and New

The X-Men franchise has and always will be about its characters.  The action is astounding because it involves characters we have come to love and care about.  We want them to fight another day, and James Mangold, along with fellow screenwriters Scott Frank and Michael Green have made Logan as much a character piece as it is an action-thriller.  While the action stunningly brutal, the story and characters around that action provide that beauty.  This is Marvel’s Dark Knight.  Both films have more than enough memorable action, but that action would mean nothing if it didn’t center around characters that we love.  Logan understands that, and I hope future X-Men films, and action movies in general, will take heed and craft better stories to center their gorgeous action around.

Logan is an enthralling character piece, a thrilling action movie, and an emotionally satisfying final chapter in the present-day X-Men franchise.  Jackman is smart to hang up the claws with this installment, as he likely could not do any better with this character than he does here and deserves to move on to a bright future, sans mutant powers.  It has been a great joy watching these films over the course of my life, and I can say that this could be the final film in this series and I would be completely happy.  Sure, it had a few bumps, but if this were the end, I would leave feeling totally satisfied.  Unfortunately, that is not the case, and we will see how the next film (taking place in the 90’s) holds up to this one.  For now, we can enjoy this fitting end to Jackman’s run and look toward the future for later adventures.  I give Logan 5 out of 5 stars.  See it.

Rated R for Strong Brutal Violence and Language Throughout, And Brief Nudity (a girl flashes her breasts at one point).

X-plosions Abound in Newest Installment of Marvel Franchise

3 out of 5 stars (average)

X-Men Apocalypse poster
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Despite the seriousness of its title, “X-Men: Apocalypse” is one of the goofier entries in the ongoing franchise of films centering on the X-Men, a group of super powered people lead by Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) as they fight oppression from fearful humans as well as Xavier’s old friend Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  This time around, the mutants must defeat a villain more powerful than anyone or anything they have ever encountered, Apocalypse (an overacting Oscar Issac), the world’s first mutant.  He has awoken from a centuries-long snoozer and decides to, what else, destroy the world and rebuild it in his own image (can someone say God complex?)  Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence out of the blue makeup for most of the events) must put aside their differences and, with the help of a quirky host of new mutants (including some you may recognize, others you will not), defend the world once again.

To give away any more of the plot would be to spoil the proceedings, so I won’t. I came into this movie hoping for the best, as it has received very polarizing reviews in the mainstream community.  Some are praising it for “finally” embracing its comic book roots, while others are calling it goofy, boring, and too action-happy.  I am somewhere in the middle of those two camps, as I appreciate the goofier look of some characters (especially Nightcrawler, a blue teleporter), as well as the action (however much of it there may be), but feel the pacing is off in some places and the acting is occasionally mixed.

First and foremost, I found the story to be engaging. It isn’t anywhere near the level of narrative engagement as “Days of Future Past”, but it kept me interested.  I wanted to see where the characters would go and how they would change by the end, something this series has always nailed in my opinion.  Even if it isn’t Shakespeare, the story in “X-Men: Apocalypse” is nothing to scoff at.

A large part of that is due to the actors involved. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender once again prove themselves as capable actors here, allowing us to feel their emotions gracefully and sympathetically.  I never would have imagined McAvoy as a young Patrick Stewart, but he finally shows shades of the original character here that make the transition easy to see.  Fassbender continues to stun me as a young Magneto, channeling Ian McKellan’s menace while adding sympathy to the character that McKellen never had.  Also, fan-favorite Quicksilver (Played with an unstoppable and unpredictable energy by Evan Peters) rushes back into the fray, providing much-needed snarky commentary on the tumultuous events.  I love this character because of the actor, and want to see him at least one more time.  Lastly, Jennifer Lawrence imbues Mystique with the maturity seen in the original films.  However, her character arc in these films has been eerily similar to that of Katniss Everdeen, her “Hunger Games” character.  I won’t say how, but you’ll know it if you think about it.

Unfortunately, the rest of the actors are either standard or not that great. Oscar Issac alternates between passable intimidation and YELLING ALL OF HIS LINES.  I hdon’t know if director Bryan Singer told him to do this or if Issac felt the need to imitate a Power Rangers villain, but it became unintentionally funny at some points.  Overall, he does a decent job, but this is a poor follow-up to Peter Dinklage’s menacing Bolivar Trask.  We also see younger versions of past X-Men here, and their actors are suitable, if not perfect.  That said, they had a lot to live up to, and they do a serviceable, if not memorable, job.

The action thankfully makes up for most of the acting shortcomings, until it doesn’t. The first half of the movie is primarily plot, something I did not expect and also enjoyed.  There is action, but it is quick and serves to move the plot forward. I was waiting anxiously for the big set pieces to come, and when they did, I wanted the dialogue scenes back.  The action is decently shot and suitably intense, with a minimum use of shakeycam and effective use of CGI, but the last 30 minutes hit us over the head with loud, endless explosions that nearly made me forget the end goal.  The 3rd act almost felt like a “Transformers” movie in its level of destruction, something I never want to feel in a Marvel movie.  I understand it’s the end of a trilogy (and likely the start of another), but the previous films were able to have big climaxes without sacrificing their narrative integrity, a trap that “Apocalypse” sadly falls into.  That said, it is a summer movie, so big over-the-top action is expected, especially in end-of-trilogy installments.  I just wish that I could have been affected emotionally by the action instead of staring in disbelief at its absurdity by the end.

All in all, I would recommend this movie to fans of the series. It’s action-packed, decently acted, and surprisingly funny for the circumstances (much of the humor comes from Quicksilver and Nightcrawler).  McAvoy and Fassbender again provide fascinating and layered performances that help compensate for the over-emphasis on explosions, and the new characters are good editions to the series.  “X-Men: Apocalypse” might not rock your world, but it will provide a chasm of entertainment for the summer season.

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Violence, Action, And Destruction, Brief Strong Language, And Some Suggestive Images

“Days of Future Past” is X-hilarating

4.5 out of 5 stars (nearly a classic)

X-Men: Days of Future Past Poster
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X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the best films of the long-running X-Men franchise.  It combines everything I love about the franchise: Interesting characters, good humor, and engaging action sequences, once again under the direction of Bryan Singer, the man who arguably started the public’s fascination with comic book films.  If you have not seen or have a general dislike of the X-Men films, then this will only confuse you.  If you love the films, this one will entertain you.

Logan (Hugh Jackman once again proving he’s the only man for the role) has joined forces with Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and his once-foe Magneto (Ian McKellen) along with a rag-tag band of mutants who are fighting against the Sentinels, giant mutant-hunting robots created by Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage displaying that his small stature does not hinder his ability to intimidate).

The situation has escalated to the point that the mutant’s only option is to send someone back to 1973 and stop the Sentinels from being created in the first place.  A mutant with the ability to project people’s brains back in time does so to Logan so that he can get a younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to assist him with this.  Once there, he discovers that it was Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence once again displaying her amazing acting talents) who unintentionally caused the present problems.  Unfortunately, Charles is in a mental funk at this point, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is still up to his old tricks.  Time is of the essence, however, so Logan must accomplish his mission or risk the annihilation of the mutant population.

I cannot begin to describe how much this movie surprised me.  The trailers made it look as if it would be one of two things: absolutely amazing, or just okay.  Thankfully, it was absolutely amazing.  The plot moves quickly, the characters are as engaging as ever, and all of the humor hits the mark.  The story was written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (Vaughn directed X-Men: First Class, which breathed new life into the series), and the two of them have that rare ability to balance humor and seriousness without there being tonal whiplash.

Dinklage is the perfect man to play Trask, being so intimidating that you forget his dwarfish size.  He is one of the best villains I’ve seen in this series, the second being William Stryker in X2.  The viewer can hate and understand his goals at the same time, another rarity in an action film.  The real standout performance is Jennifer Lawrence, who commands the attention of the audience whenever she’s onscreen.  Provided she doesn’t pull any Lindsay Lohans on us, Lawrence should have a long and prosperous career.  McAvoy also succeeds at playing a broken man while not making his character depressing.  My only complaint is that some of the actors don’t get a lot to do.  Halle Berry shows up as Storm in the climax, but that’s about it.  Hopefully, she will get more to do in the next film.

All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fantastic movie, mixing the five star rating by a grain of salt.  It’s funny, action-packed, and absolutely amazing.

Rated PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Sci-Fi Violence and Action, Some Suggestive Material, Nudity (one humorous scene) and Language (not all that much)

Sink Your Claws into this Summer Slash-Fest

3 out of 5 stars (average)

The Wolverine is Marvel’s latest edition to ongoing X-Men film series, and it’s actually pretty good.  The plot isn’t (totally) ridiculous, it’s easy to like and care about the characters, and the action is well-choreographed.  Hugh Jackman also gives renewed energy to his character, energy he lost in the pitiful X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009.  If you have seen and liked the other X-Men movies, then Wolverine should entertain you.  If not, then look elsewhere.

The story takes place following the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (the one where Brett Ratner kind of totally messed it up).  Logan (Jackman) is reeling over the death of his forbidden love Jean Grey (Famke Jannsen) and now sports a beard that could rival the guys from Duck Dynasty.  In short, he’s a drifter once again.  Logan hates his “immortality” because he wants to die and reunite with Jean.  Logan’s pain has also caused him to renounce killing, unless of course the men deserve it.

One night, a mysterious woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) comes for Logan asking for him to visit her dying employer, rich tech mogul Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), who Logan saved during the bombing of Nagasaki. Once there, Yashida offers to rid Logan of his immortality so that he can have a normal life in return for saving his.  Because Logan cannot bear the thought of someone else enduring the pain he has gone through, he refuses, just before the old man kicks the bucket.  The next day at his funeral, Logan meets his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), moments before a Chinese gang attempts to end her.  Logan intervenes and becomes her protector as they try to determine who might want her dead and why.

I was surprised by The Wolverine.  The plot was relatively engaging (for a modern day action movie) and the characters moved the story forward instead of stuff blowing up.  While the film lacks the dramatic punch of the first two X-Men films and X-Men: First Class, it still manages to make you feel empathy for Logan, an emotion that was completely abandoned in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which unfortunately killed the entire line of Origins movies they planned to make).  The action scenes are appropriately placed, and they never make you want to check your watch.  Again, it’s not as good as the first two films or the previous one, but The Wolverine is still a suitable summer action movie.

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence, Some Sexuality and Language