Monthly Archives: February 2016
There are few movies today that rarely make an impact or hit the mark. In fact, last year’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” rocked theater seats for the wrong reasons. The hyped killed the movie along with its boring script and unsexy scenes of foreplay. Why do I bring this clunker up? Because it was released during Valentine’s Day. Jump to a year later and finally we get a movie around the holiday that is unapologetic, offensive, sexy, loaded with harsh language and very ultra violent in spots. And I loved every minute of it.
“Deadpool” is another Marvel adaption done right as the red-suited, breaking the fourth wall superhero has languished in development hell for 10 years. Now, he finally gets his due with Ryan Reynolds donning the suit he was born to play in. The character as a whole is fun to watch. Armed with two katanas and limited gun ammo, this baddie spends most of his time chasing down folks that damaged his life and poking jabs of his own movie to the audience. Not only is he immune to bullets, his body can regenerate new limbs while also cracking one comedic catchphrase after another. Reynolds clearly is having a ball playing the ultimate satire of brooding superheroes here.
Without spoiling too much, Deadpool’s true face is Wade Wilson, a mercenary whose fun life is turned upside down when he’s diagnosed with cancer. I always find it odd when a movie like this goes from ultra-fun to a serious tone shift. But the way it gets executed works. It provides there is more dimension to this pun-spewing maniac and even some tragedy like other superheroes.
At his reluctant aid are two X-Men members, the metallic Colossus (motion capture by Andre Tricoteux, voice by Stefan Kapičić) and the cynical Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). While most of the comic relief is played up from their interactions with the hammy ego, they both have a unique yin and yang personality with Colossus believing in the moral ways of a superhero while NTW just wants to see stuff blow up. Seeing these two mutants makes me wonder why they weren’t used as much (with the exception of Colossus who was performed originally by Daniel Cudmore in previous X-Men installments. He declined when he found out his voice was to be dubbed), but it opens the door for more under used Marvel characters to be seen.
Also enjoyable are Deadpool’s adversaries in the form of a blind roommate (Leslie Uggams donning a foul mouth) and a social bartender (T. J. Miler) that assist the loony ranging from weaponry to advice. Even if they don’t make a big difference, you can appreciate the fun personalities when it comes to taking bets on who is going to die or stashing a supply of drugs for fun.
As fun of a thrill ride “Deadpool” is, there are only two minor problems. On paper, the story is not that interesting. If you took away the comedy and the incredibly, graphic action scenes, you get a run of the mill origin and revenge story. Guy goes through chemically imbalanced transformation, seeks to avenge those who wronged him and so forth. I feel without the comedic moments or the over-the-top environement, this would have been a generic “Darkman.” Thankfully, this is not that kind of movie. This is almost like if “Darkman” mated with “Wayne’s World” and gave birth to an R-rated “Freakazoid.” And that’s the G-rated description.
The only other fault I can think of is the villain Ajax (Ed Skrein). There really is nothing that memorable I can think of outside of giving Wade a reason to go after him. They don’t him much of a motive outside of using people to test a mutagen on for study. But when you consider the amount of harm he caused, it does give Wade reasons to get back at him. I just wish they made this Brit baddie a little more interesting outside of being a mutant that has great strength and can’t feel pain.
But I can ignore those flaws because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I can hold my head up high and be glad we got another Marvel movie done right. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man,” we are giving a movie that is straight to the source and all out fun. Heck, I would actually like to see what direction they would take this insane character for at the next movie. Overall, “Deadpool” is the first movie I have seen in theaters this 2016 and can say its going to be hard trying to top this one. Now of course, a little minor caution that this movie has tons of bloody action and bare nudity to the fourth base. But hey, would you rather see this with your girlfriend or sit home and watch Jamie Dornan seduce Dakota Johnson by eating a piece of toast shirtless? I think the answer is very obvious.
And like with all Marvel movies (well some), this one has a post-credit scene. Please do stick around because it is worth it. To quote a wise man, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”
P.S. Best Stan Lee cameo to date…ever
Coming from someone who never saw the movie “Grease” in full or even seen the Broadway show, it was interesting to see how little expectations could change during a performance. What turned me away from this 1960s throwback was the other 1960s throwbacks I was exposed to at the time. “Hairspray” was a unique commentary on the racial tensions of the time while Coppola’s adaptation of “The Outsiders” was a powerful coming of age story. Whenever I heard something on” Grease,” I would kind of shrug it off. It also didn’t help I only saw parts of the film as a kid and didn’t get into it. “Little Shop of Horrors” was more of my forte for its fun premise, well-written characters and catchy songs.
So when Paramount Television and the Fox Network teamed up to produce a live telecast of the Broadway show, my reaction was fairly obvious. After coming off of NBC’s streak of live musical telecasts (“Sound of Music,””Peter Pan” and recently “The Wiz”), part of me felt like it was a bit of a cash-in but mostly disinterested. Don’t get wrong, I didn’t think it couldn’t do a live musical. I just didn’t get hyped over it. So doth to my surprise when I found myself humming “Beauty School Dropout” and appreciating the presentation midway. By the time it was over, I was surprised at how enjoyable it was and how pale the NBC performances were in comparison.
Now before everyone leaps on, I will state this review is based on the performance only sans compare/contrast to the 1978 film or the Broadway version. I’m only going by what I saw here and not riding on my nostalgia seeing I wasn’t a fan of both. The story is basic, corny but a little fun at times. It centers on a group of high school seniors that are going through the typical situations one would experience. Peer pressure, gang tussles, social conflicts and even at one point pregnancy. There really isn’t much substance but it can be interesting these try and manage these situations. Sure they’re generic but have tend to have a heart and soul.
Aaron Tveit is a blast as Danny Zuko, the greaser with a heart of gold that has the usual thoughts of car mechanics and babes on the mind. But Aaron’s innocence when his character calls to be emotion and talk about his true state of mind really show during the “Sandy” number. Julianne Hough is sweet as Sandy, the heartthrob with a shy mind. Like Aaron’s take on Danny, Julianne’s Sandy shows similar trends as a teen who is good but not with the times. It makes her transition from nice girl to open-minded rewarding seeing how “safe” her character takes things.
The rest of the cast is remarkably good too. The teachers can get a funny line once in a while and the comic relief is your typical comic relief. Though I’m certain praise will be left for Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo. The sassy leader of a clique who is all about risk taking and less about thinking through. This is a great contrast to the Sandy character who is all about being cautious while Rizzo just acts before thinking through. It should be noted that coming off of the success of “High School Musical,” it’s nice to see a Disney veteran broaden her horizons. Granted, Hudgens has proven this before with “Spring Breakers” so a role that calls for one to be rebellious and regretful surprisingly fits. You can tell she’s having fun with this role while also delivering the soul of the character.
The songs I’m sure everyone knows by now for those who are fans of “Grease.” The beach rock tones of “Greased Lightening,” the angelic feel of “Beauty School Dropout,” the ballad-like “Sandy” and the list goes on. A song is performed well when the singer can emote and carry a tune. Honestly, I don’t remember a single moment when I felt taken out of one’s singing. Though, maybe Boyz II Men’s rendition of “Beauty School Dropout” seeing the slow delivery kills some the punches in the lyrics. “Your The One That I Want” is energetic as “Summer Nights” is giddy in its delivery. But again, for my taste, I don’t recall a moment when I didn’t enjoy a song. But I didn’t have this feeling to hum each one aside from a select few. I just think they are fine tunes that are performed with plenty of energy.
With this elements in play, it makes for a decent performance. So what makes this stand out from all the others? The answer is in the technical work. When NBC performed their telecasts, they were always enclosed on a set and surrounded by effects crew and cameras. “Grease Live,” on the other hand, pushes things a step up. Instead of one sound stage, there are multiple ones making it interesting yet easy to transition from one place to the next. There’s always an audience around to cheer on or applaud at the end of each song. Sometimes, they will even allow them as extras into a scene which is very clever.
This is very evident early on during Jessie J’s performance of the opening song. A normal telecast would either cut the song out or just do something within the set. Here, they go all out. They have her move constantly from dressing room to the next, the camera is always following her and even they take the performance outside DURING THE RAIN! Yeah, during the live telecast, there was weather concerns about a rain storm. But as they say, the show must go on and use it to their advantage.
In fact, most of the time, I feel like I’m not watching a live show but a feature film sometimes. In a Broadway play, actors would have to emote and look to the audience in order to understand their emotion. Seeing this is a TV production, we get a better advantage at seeing close-ups and these multiple camera set-ups which give a better look at the environment. Its a very clever, and from the looks of it, possibly complex presentation that obviously doesn’t look easy.
My only nitpicks are questioning how the audience during the filming was able to move from one place to the next (unless they were positioned in one spot which feels kind of a bummer) and that with the complex camera work, it does make me wonder why this wasn’t a feature film for television. When they would show a close up of someone’s face or a split screen, I would feel that emotion and be cheated into thinking I was watching a theatrical feature by the amount of staging and blocking.
So overall, “Grease Live” was a nice surprise. I found myself amazed at how all out the production was to deliver a musical spectacle. Future live telecasts should probably take a cue from this one. While I can’t say it was 100% seeing some audio issues and the climactic drag race being one of the most embarrassing (reduced to shaking cameras and actors sitting in toy vehicles suited more for soapbox racing), it was an enjoyable performance none the less. You can tell your having fun when the actors and audience jive with it. All I have left to say is that I’m certainly looking forward toward Fox’s telecast of Rocky Horror with more hope than ever.