Pokémon Is a Mystery (Pokémon Detective Pikachu, 2019)

Pokemon_Detective_Pikachu_PosterI will be honest…I went into this film knowing very little. Pokémon rose to prominence at a time where it passed me right by. So, I sat in the theater basically knowing that Pokémon are super powered animal things that people catch or somethings.

Thankfully, Pokémon Detective Pikachu gives you just enough information to make it easy enough to follow.

Justice Smith is Tim Goodman…a young man who once aspired to be a Pokémon Trainer, but after his mother dies and his relationship with his father fell apart, he never even took on a Pokémon partner.

After he is informed his father is dead, he finds his father’s Pikachu, who has amnesia, but is certain that Tim’s dad is alive.  Unexpectedly, Tim is able to speak with Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Reluctantly, the two try and determine what has happened to Tim’s dad.

This brings them into contact with Lucy, an aspiring reporter who is certain she is onto a dark secret involving Pokémon.

After the debacle involving Sonic the Hedgehog, it is interesting to see how successfully the filmmakers adapted the aesthetic of the cartoon designs to a live action setting.  The various Pokémon simultaneously are cartoonish, but feel very plausible in the world we are watching.

The humor is well played throughout the film, embracing the absurdity of it’s premise.  And there is a really good chemistry between Smith and Reynolds, they play off each other really well.

All in all, as someone that had no attachment to the Pokémon franchise, I had a lot of fun watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu.  It was goofy fun, And the reviews from my two nephews (six and eight) was that they loved it.

 

Look Ma! A Sequel! (Deadpool 2, 2018)

Deadpool_2_posterOkay….before I write up this review…give me a moment to go check out Twitter to find out how I should really feel about Deadpool.

 

 

 

 

 

Okay.  Well… let us try this as spoiler free as possible.  First, I cannot believe they killed Professor X twice in the film.

Oops.  Boy off to a bad start.  Let’s try this again.  Deadpool 2 is a sequel to a film from 2016 that was called Deadpool. It featured a bunch of characters from a comic book, also called Deadpool. It was pretty well received and now we have this movie. In this movie, some characters from the first film show up again, including Deadpool. Some new characters also show up.  There are fights, people die, there is swearing and lots of Ryan Reynolds. It is a sequel to a movie.

What? You want more?

Fine.

So, Deadpool would have been a perfectly fine film to leave as a one off. But apparently movie studios like money.  Part of what made the first film work for so many is it had a rather irreverent approach to Super Hero films.  Wade Wilson is a sarcastic mercenary who, in the first film was subjected to tests that left him severely scarred, but unable to die. He can recover from most any wound. That film centered around his relationship to Vanessa. In this film, we find his life bordering on blissful, until one of his contracts results in tragedy.

Deadpool finds himself, somewhat unwillingly, into trying to save a mutant kid from the time traveling Mutant Cable.  Things go haywire and violent stuff happens.

While the main theme of family does not always quite come together, the film is still ambitious in how it tries to give a character who cracks jokes to the theater audience an emotional through line. Sometimes it works and other times not so much.

Where the film works best is it’s humor.  The jokes come at a pretty fast pace, but Reynolds has a certain charm that allows for most of the jokes to land. There is an ongoing bit where Deadpool and new teammate Domino debate if “being lucky” is a real super power or even remotely cinematic.  But the filmmakers have a lot of fun with Domino’s amazing luck.

The film managed to surprise me repeatedly. I just had certain expectations due to “Comic Book Movie” that managed to surprise and entertain me. Brolin’s Cable is played straight which works very well against Reynold’s rapid fire motor mouth. I found Domino to be a blast in this film.  My one complaint is that I wish we got more Teenage Negasonic Warhead in this film, as she was such a highlight of the first film.

So, the first film was a bit stronger in how tightly it kept to the story, but honestly, I found myself (and the audience I was with) laughing throughout the film.  I enjoyed this one, and think in some areas, they may have even made some improvements.

You Take the Good, Take the Bad (Life, 2017)

life_2017_posterA sci-fi thriller set aboard the International Space-station, Life is a competent film.  The effects are good enough to allow for suspension of disbelief.  The cast  is quite likeable.  The story is uncomplicated.

A research team discovers a life form in soil samples from Mars.  Eventually, the life form grows and as often happens, it gets free and starts killing people.  The scientists must find a way to keep the creature from reaching earth and…well, not die.

It might sound like I disliked Life.  But actually?  I enjoyed it just fine.  I never got bored and liked the characters.  But it was not nearly as risky, even the ending feels like an attempt to feel edgier than it is.

Again, I enjoyed the film, but it won’t be joining the pantheon of Sci-Fi monster movie classics.  But it was okay.

It Ain’t Easy Being Green (Green Lantern, 2011)

green-lantern-movie-posterTwo years before the Man of Steel, Warner Brothers had an opportunity to start building their cinematic universe.  In simple ways, they could have started building.  Hints of a bigger universe…start introducing characters who could cross the films.  I have talked about the missed opportunity before.

The film introduces us first to the ancient evil Parallax trapped by the powerful Green Lantern Abin Sur.  When some unfortunate astronauts stumble into his prison, he uses their fear to free himself and pursue Abin Sur.  This results in Sur crash landing on earth and his magic ring seeking a worthy person.  It chooses carefree pilot Hal Jordan.  When he is dragged into space he is trained in the ways of Space Copping by Sinestro, Tomar-Re and Kilowog.  Sinestro is dismissive of Jordan, thinking he is unworthy of being a part of the core.  Tomar-Re and Kilowog are less certain.  Hal returns to earth and tries to patch things up with Carol Ferris, a fellow pilot and daughter of the guy who owns Ferris Industries.  Both are not noticing the changes occurring their friend Hector Hammond, who was infected by Parallax.

There is a final grand battle where Hal Jordan vanquishes Parallax into the sun all by himself.  Note, Sinestro took a squadron of the finest Lanterns with him and they were all destroyed in seconds.  The film also has a voice over from Tomar-Re declaring Hal the best Green Lantern ever!  This is not a particularly good way to end the first film in a franchise.  It clearly was not meant to be the only film in the series based on the end credits scene.

Characters appear that have no place and are used very poorly, such as Amanda Waller, who resembles he namesake not one bit.  Using a universe ending villain in your first story pretty much means you have nowhere left to go.  No other villain is going to feel like such a large threat after that.

Reynolds is rather charming, but ironically, he and Blake Lively have no onscreen chemistry in the film.  The characters are bland, and how Hal uses the ring are not terrible imaginative (He makes a car! A jet plane! A Gatling Gun!).  The effect are decent, but not really memorable.  Maybe I hoped for better from the director of Casino Royal.  But this film missed the mark on many levels and failed to take the opportunity to start building the franchise they wanted.  Which I guess is all the better for Deadpool.

Lil’ Wolverine (X-Men Origins: Wolverine,2009)

x_men_origins_wolverine_posterNo doubt, the fan favorite of of the X-Men films was the comics fan favorite Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman held his own with some top talent in those first two films… a solo Wolverine film was kind of a no-brainer.  And putting it in the hands of the director of the stunning Tsotsi, Gavin Hood seemed like a terrific idea.  Then casting started to leak… Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (what a good choice), Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth-wait…what?  In the first X-Men Movie, Sabertooth was played by wrestler Tyler Mane.  Now, the change in actors is no big deal,  It happens.  But the first movie played off the characters as unfamiliar with each other.  Wolverine’s memory loss is his easy defense…Sabertooth’s?  Don’t know.

Borrowing heavily from the comic series Origin the film establishes Wolverine and Sabertooth to by half brothers.  Big plot point to miss.  The opening credits feature a really nice montage of the young men growing to adult hood as soldiers in a series of wars, world war one, two and so on…finally settling on Vietnam …Jame’s brother Victor goes ballistic and kills civilians, as James tries to stop him…they end up being court marshaled.  They are recruited by Stryker (Danny Huston) who is putting together a special ops team comprised of mutants.  After a mission snafu, James, now called Wolverine walks.

Wolverine hides out in the wilds of Canada where he meets a beautiful young woman named Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins).  They fall in love and live in a cabin.  After she is killed (as super-hero girlfriends are prone to do) by Sabertooth, Wolverine seeks revenge.  Wolverine is approached by Stryker with an offer to make him stronger to be able to take revenge.  It is no surprise they try and double  cross Wolverine.

He escapes and meets up with surviving members of Stryker’s crew, discovering that Stryker has a secret plan to build the ultimate mutant soldier that he can control.  Wolverine finds out that Stryker is kidnapping young mutants and using his brother to do the deed.  Wolverine runs off to the secret base with the help of Gambit (who doesn’t do much beyond fly Wolverine there and wish him luck.

A final confrontation results in Wolverine and Sabertooth fight Deadpool to the kind of death, Wolverine losing his memory via a magic Adamantium bullet and Kayla’s death-but not before sending Stryker for a long walk, and a digital Professor X who needs no chair.

The truth is, this film is what you call a major mess.  By setting it in a vague “the 70’s” you start forcing the films into a specific timeline.  The first three X-Men films all took place in “the near future”.  The film features a high school age Psyclops.  Making him in his mid to late 40s.  Actor James Marsten was about 27 at the release of the first X-Men.  And there are the confusing aspects of why nobody seems to remember this moment of history.  It is hard to believe that Professor X knew where to pick up all those kids and yet is oblivious to Wolverine.  And good grief did they muck up Deadpool, nearly killing the plans to spin Deadpool off.

The real positives of the films are the strong casting choices (Lost’s Kevin Durant is great as the Blob…Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber and Ryan Reynolds are strokes of genius).  Jackman shows why he owns the character on screen again.  The performances are mostly good…but they are in a story that seems overly convoluted and needlessly confusing-even by comic book standards.  It has a nice beginning, but it falls apart quickly.  It has some very goofy action set pieces and some legit humor going for it.  It is so busy packing the film with so many characters and killing several of them off and making sure to fill in all the missing blanks of the original trilogy (How did Wolverine get his metal skeleton? How did he lose his memory?) that it becomes bloated.  And it is under two hours.  The fan service is very careless.  We meet young Emma Frost, we meet Gambit, we meet…oh, it goes on.

There were plans for a series of X-Men Origins and the next film was going to be Magneto…but this film ended those plans.  And no small wonder…in spite of excellent casting and a talented director, this film fails hard.

Four or Five Moments (Deadpool, 2016)

deadpool_imax_posterTim Miller’s Deadpool is hilarious and fun.  A darkly comic take that brings the pages to life by simply understanding the character.  The movie is also extremely crass, full of over the top cartoonish violence, raunchy humor, some nudity and plenty of profanity.  This is not for everyone, and if you find those things hard to get past, I would recommend skipping this one.  It is also not for your kids.  This film earns it’s ‘R’ rating.

Honestly, it is a bit amazing this film got made.  While attempt to parody and mock super-hero film have been attempted, they are really never successful.  They never seem to understand the thing they are lampooning.  Miller, Ryan Reynolds and the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have given us a surprisingly clever film.  It is a bit amazing that they even got the opportunity to make it.  After the disaster of X-Men Origins: Wolverine (The first attempt at playing the character by Reynolds), the idea of a Deadpool movie was shelved by the studio.

Then, somebody leaked test footage of a sequence that was created to pitch the shelved film.  The response was so overwhelmingly positive the film got greenlit and Miller and Reynolds went to work.

And what they gave us is one of the most unique super-hero movies we have seen, while still fitting into that world.  Reynolds bring snarky charm to Deadpool, also known as Wade Wilson.  Wilson has been experimented on and his latent mutant genes activated.  He takes damage, but due to a healing factor, all his wounds fix themselves.  So, like a real life Wile E. Coyote, he gets abused relentlessly, but keeps coming back.  A lot of the film’s humor comes from this.

There is a running gag that Colossus is always trying to get Deadpool to change his ways and join the X-Men.  And along with the sullen Teenage Negasonic Warhead, he spends the film trying to get Deadpool on that path.  And these two characters are great additions.  They fit into the world well.

Deadpool_trio

The real success is pulling off the character of Deadpool.  Constantly cracking wise, he spends the film talking to the audience.  In one scene Colossus is startled by a comment from Deadpool, not understand why he made his comment.  Deadpool explains that he is not talking to Colossus…he is talking to “Them”.  Them is the audience.  Wilson is constantly breaking the fourth wall.  Instead of narrating the film, he just turns and talks to the audience.  He is fully aware he is in a movie universe.

One of the other fun aspects is that Reynolds is merciless to himself.  There are numerous slams of his previous film outings and even a slam on himself as a talent.  And the film’s opening credits (which kept me laughing even after I got the gag, it just stayed funny) effectively let you know the film’s sarcastic attitude.  This is not your regular X-Men movie.

Of course, the movie is definitely set in the Fox Marvel X-Men Universe.  This has caused some consternation among some geek sites, as they cannot reconcile the difference between Daniel Cudmore’s Colossus in the previous X-Men films and the version we see in this film, who appears older and is voiced by Stefan Kapicic with a thick Russian accent.  This is pretty easy to reconcile, as the Days of Future past altered the timeline.  It is entirely possible Colossus came from Russia when he was older.

I found myself liking all the characters in Wilson’s circle.  There was an oddball charm in his relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  His roomate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) is a riot.  T.J. Miller’s bartender (he runs a bar for mercenaries) Weasel is a fun character (his best line comes right before Deadpool goes to take out his villain, Francis (Ed Skrein).  Francis really hates Deadpool because he is so mouthy…and Deadpool refuses to call him by his chosen villain codename… Ajax.

Anyways, while I have repeatedly expressed concern that the film will not be successful for precisely the reasons I enjoyed it, I am more than pleased if it succeeds, as it could open the doors to more creative takes in superhero films.  There are a lot of them on the slate, and it would be great if they all sought to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Green Flashes

Greenlantern+New+Film+PosterI had not paid attention to this before…but I realized this week, some of the same people that gave us the Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern brought us Arrow, Flash, Supergirl.  This includes Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim.  And I have to say, in some ways it is very obvious.

The film draws heavily on characters from the comics, though sometimes to poor effect.  Amanda Waller, for example.  She is simply a scientist named Amanda Waller.  That is supposed to a cool Easter Egg for fans.  But aside from getting her race correct, the film gives us an uninteresting scientist…not the Wall.

Based on the Flash?  This would seem mystifying.  The Flash does Easter Eggs extremely well.  Except, there is also Arrow.  Arrow is problematic most of the time.  Relying all too much on Flashbacks and a darker tone than appropriate for the Green Arrow…it has gotten by on a likable cast.  But from the first season, it was incredibly obvious that the creators of Arrow did not want to make a Green Arrow show, but a Batman show.  They just could not get the greenlight for it.  The same thing happened on Smallville.

green-lantern-movie-image-42

And we see the same problems in 2011’s Green Lantern.  There are some great things in the film.  Marc Strong’s performance as Sinestro stands out.  However, the film was designed to kick off a franchise.  And yet, it makes Hal Jordan’s first fight against a universe sized threat.  Where do you go from that?  Instead of keeping it small, allowing Hal to save the planet, rather save the entire universe right away.

There are no other future Lanterns introduced.  I mean, seriously, you want an Easter Egg?  Introduce John Stewart in the film(He was cut from the script).

In addition, when this film came out, Marvel was only a year away from the hotly anticipated Avengers.  DC and the WB had a very prime opportunity to start building that shared universe they desperately wanted.  The script even considered showing Clark Kent in a brief cameo as a candidate for the ring and the film has a sign for Central City.  It was cut on the idea of not relying on other heroes.  So, we ended up with a closed universe.  This could have opened the door and with a better setup than we got from Man of Steel.

I was disappointed, in the end, with Green Lantern because it falls short all to easily.  Seeing what Berlanti and Guggenheim have pulled off on the Flash makes me wonder how much involvement they had in the final product.

Early Reports of Death

deadpool-movie-poster-2016

The early reports from folks who have seen Deadpool are coming in, and they are quite positive.  Deadpool is a film that exists predominantly due to the fact that fans (and that includes Ryan Reynolds) want it really bad, like really bad.

And yet, part of me suspects it may be an overall flop, even if it is loved by critics.  Right now?  It is the fan community getting to see it.  Of course, Fox wants that positive word of mouth.  And it is encouraging to hear that the filmmakers really get what makes the comics and character so entertaining.

The ad campaign is very tongue in cheek and funny.

And yet, I wonder…will that all translate to success with a wider audience?  Is the Deadpool fanbase enough to make this film a hit?  Will the dark and violent humor translate outside that target market?  It make, but I suspect that right now, this film may not be the success some are anticipating, precisely because it appears to be very reverent to it’s source material.

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