DEADPOOL 2: Filth, Violence And… Kindness?

This contains full unmarked spoilers for Deadpool 2.

Deadpool 2 is maybe one softball game away from being a perfect X-Men movie. Strip away the fourth wall breaking, the filthy humor and the ultraviolence and you’re left with a story about a group of misfit mutants coming together to be better people than they can be alone, and to save someone from becoming the worst version of themselves. Along the way there’s tragedy, there’s action, there’s death, there’s teen romance, there are timeline shenanigans and there’s heavy-handed anti-mutant sentiment from villains representing Christianity/conservatives. It’s been almost twenty years since the X-Men first appeared on a movie screen and only now, in this weird jokey side franchise, is their spirit being honored appropriately.

But why would you want to strip away the fourth wall breaking, the filthy humor and the ultraviolence? They’re vital parts of what makes this movie work, and the absurdity and silliness are rivaled only by the movie’s weird pairing of intense violence and sweet kindness. And you know what? I think that kindness is also a thing that Deadpool 2 gets right about X-Men stories that few of the previous films in the sprawling and weird franchise bothered with.

Continue reading “DEADPOOL 2: Filth, Violence And… Kindness?”

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE VOL 2: The Best Since M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H has to be the greatest TV show based on a movie. I know there’s likely a big contingent who will go to bat for Buffy the Vampire Slayer – which I love love love – but the difference there is that Buffy the movie didn’t quite work, and Buffy the TV show got to improve on the original. But M*A*S*H? The movie is a classic, yet the show somehow manages to be better and more iconic than the movie (I fully expect some pushback on that from Altman diehards. Fair enough!).

Dear White People on Netflix is closer to M*A*S*H than Buffy; it’s based on a 2014 movie that’s quite great, but the TV version manages to take everything worked in the movie and make it even better. Season one was sort of the Evil Dead 2 of Dear White People – a retelling of the events of the movie with included aftermath – and it was a phenomenal achievement. Creator Justin Simien, who wrote and directed the movie, inherently understood the Netflix binge model, and the show’s format follows one character per episode, with all the stories colliding in the finale. He did this better than Arrested Development season 4’s much-heralded experiment, which I think fundamentally failed. Dear White People focuses on one character at a time, but it doesn’t eliminate the others; it’s sort of the Marvel Cinematic Universe model of TV storytelling, where characters can and will cross over in their individual stories but the focus is always on the episode’s lead.

Continue reading “DEAR WHITE PEOPLE VOL 2: The Best Since M*A*S*H”

Lost In WESTWORLD

Spoilers for Westworld ahead. 

The first season of Westworld ended with a remarkable reveal – we had been watching two timelines all along. The cruel and driven Man in Black, played by Ed Harris, was actually the same character as the sweet, naive William (Jimmi Simpson), just thirty years more jaded. The man who had been reluctant to come to the park and engage in the violent, sexist fantasies had matured into a man who had mastered them all, and who was looking for something more meaningful beyond the gunplay and brothels.

Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy apparently decided that this was the most interesting part of their first season, not the deep philosophical debate about consciousness, or the investigation of the gameification of culture or questions about deeply ingrained misogyny in even the nicest of men. That seems to be why Westworld season two has taken that conceit and doubled down on it; three episodes into the new season it appears that every point of view character is operating in their own timeline, with some of them separated by decades while others appear to be only days or hours apart. The result? So far it’s a jumbled structure that has consistently kept me disengaged from the emotional arcs of the characters. (Vulture counts five timelines, but I suspect they’re right when they guess that the fourth timeline itself features myriad mini-timeline jumps back and forth)

Continue reading “Lost In WESTWORLD”

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Heavy Spoiler Review

This contains complete spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, and begins spoiling right from the first sentence.

There will likely be more from me about this movie in the days ahead, but I think that the structure and the form of the film make it hard to write about properly before the sequel is released.

This is your last chance to turn around.

Continue reading “AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Heavy Spoiler Review”

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Rereview

We’re 18 movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with another two to come this year. We’re 123 superhero films deep, according to BoxOfficeMojo (but they don’t have Abar, The First Black Superman on their list, so who knows how many other holes there are. But 123 sounds fine for the purposes of this rereview). And not one of those 18 MCU movies, and not one of those 123 superhero movies have a moment of pure, beautiful, inspiring, chest-tightening, hope-raising heroism as good as the one featured in Captain America: The First Avenger.

And get this: the moment happens before Steve Rogers even turns into Captain America.

Continue reading “CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER Rereview”

THOR Rereview

“How quaint.”

This is the thought that kept going through my head while revisiting Thor on this runup to Infinity War. Back in 2011 I hated this movie, thought it was just simply the worst of the worst and a huge, boring misstep for Marvel Studios. Today I look at it and see that it’s a movie developed in a world where comic book movies hadn’t yet entered their modern age, and the film has echoes of a landscape where David Hasselhoff played Nick Fury and where superheroes and their enemies usually had their final battle in a warehouse, or on docks, or on a bridge. Marvel knew how to make more grounded characters like Iron Man or more familiar characters like the Hulk work, but Asgardian gods? Space cities? Magic and high weirdness? They weren’t quite ready to commit just yet. Looking back from the post-Thor: Ragnarok vantage point how can we say anything but “How quaint”?

Continue reading “THOR Rereview”

IRON MAN 2 ReReview

A wise man once noted that it’s a fine line between clever and stupid. There is also a fine line between fun and irritating, between banter and bickering. Iron Man 2 crosses all of those lines, in the process creating the most egregious misstep in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. Yes, more so than Thor: The Dark World, which for all its problems still has really good chemistry between Thor and Loki. Iron Man 2 loses not only plot coherence and villain quality, it completely throws away the good chemistry between its leads in favor of sniping, unpleasantness and a manic quality that makes it feel like a cocaine movie from the 70s.

Continue reading “IRON MAN 2 ReReview”

ISLE OF DOGS Review

Listen, I don’t want to harsh anyone’s buzz, and I love Wes Anderson and it’s great seeing people be excited by his work, but I’m having a hard time getting on the Isle of Dogs train. Believe you me, I want to be on it. I love dogs. I love stop motion animation. I love Fantastic Mr. Fox! And yet halfway through ISLE OF DOGS I got that sinking feeling I get when a movie isn’t working in a way that I need the movie to work, and that sinking feeling was bolstered by a growing sense that ISLE OF DOGS, beyond its other problems, is racially… how do I put this?… weird.

Continue reading “ISLE OF DOGS Review”

THE INCREDIBLE HULK Re-Review

Twenty minutes into The Incredible Hulk I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, is this actually a forgotten masterpiece in Marvel’s Phase One?’ Thirty minutes later I realized that no, this was in fact not the case. But by the time this rewatch was over, I had come to a heretical position – I think I like Ed Norton as Bruce Banner more than Mark Ruffalo.

Look, I’m not running down Ruffalo. I love him, and I love him in the Marvel movies. I love him as Science Bros with Tony Stark and I love him as Charles Grodin in Thor: Ragnarok’s take on Midnight Run. But Ruffalo and Norton approach the role in such different ways that the two Banners feel like different characters, and I do have a preference for one version over the other.

Continue reading “THE INCREDIBLE HULK Re-Review”

LOVE, SIMON Review

I’m a middle aged straight cis white guy, so Love, Simon isn’t my story. But at the same time I found Love, Simon to be a story I could identify with deeply, personally and immediately, because Love, Simon is a truly human story with truly human concerns. For me this movie rebuts the silliness of retrograde white male issues with onscreen representation skewing away from us – if the movie is good and you’re open-hearted, even the most specifically identity-based story can speak to everyone in some way.

Continue reading “LOVE, SIMON Review”