Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016)

What's it about? Wise-cracking solider-turned-mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) agrees to undergo a special treatment to cure his terminal cancer. It works, and gives him superpowers in the process, but leave him horribly disfigured. Out for revenge, he dons a mask and becomes....CAPTAIN DEADPOOL!!! No, wait, just Deadpool. 

Is it any good? Violent, profane, lewd, crude, puerile and.......really quite funny and entertaining. Sure, a few of the jokes and innuendo (in your endo *snigger*) come across like a teenage stand-up trying too hard to offend, but there's some funny stuff in here too as Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, makes pop culture references and sends up the comic-book super-hero genre. Thanks to a likeable and self-deprecating performance from Reynolds, Deadpool's smart-ass (ass *snigger*) attitude keeps just the right side of irritating and the snappy action is handled comfortably by former special-effects guy Miller.  It's all good, fun, and so I'm prepared to overlook the causal sexism and misogyny, which isn't really a problem, cos the opening credits show that it's all, like, ironic, don't you think? The endless joking aorund and wise-cracking does undermine the emotional core of the story, however - dealing with terminal cancer and horrendous scarring never seemed so easy. Plus, it's certainly not as subversive or satirical as it might have been in skewering the comic-book world properly. But it succeeds in its primary aim to amuse and is a vast improvement on both Reynold's first outing as Deadpool in the lamentable X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Clint Eastwood's last outing as Dirty Harry. (Dirty Harry? More like Farty Harry *snigger*).

Anything else I should know? Never heard of Deadpool? Well, here's a bit of background from the Marvel wiki. On this evidence, expect about sixty-nine sequels. (Sixty-nine, *snigger*). If you really want to geek out, here's the short DC Universe Online film by Miller that got him the Deadpool gig, which features about a million super-hero characters. Also, boobies (*snigger*)


What does the Fonz think? Dirty Ryan makes my day.

A Twitter Inspired Review Round Up

As well as teaching us procrastination and the art of wasting time, Twitter also helps us understand that short is indeed sweet sometimes. Which helps when you watch more films than you can actually review properly. Hence, in lieu of real analysis there follows a quick round up of reviews in 140 characters or less.

Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)
Jaws & Steven: The Early Years

Sudden Impact (Clint Eastwood, 1983)
aka 'I Spit on Your Flatulent Bulldog'. Did not even come close to making my day.

Goosebumps (Rob Letterman, 2016)
Not scary enough to raise any actual goosebumps, but clever enough to raise a few laughs instead.

Halloween II (Rick Rosenthal, 1981)
Patchy sequel set in the quietest hospital ever. Most A&E units would be glad to end a night with the modest body count that Michael manages

Oblivion (Joseph Kosinski, 2013) 
Remember that terrific film Moon? Now, imagine if it starred Tom Cruise and made no sense and was a bit shit. Well, then you'd have Oblivion

The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, 2014)
Strangers on a Greek Bus meets The Talented Mr Isaac

Sunshine on Leith (Dexter Fletcher, 2013)
Amiable musical-drama based on Proclaimers songs. I wouldn't be their biggest fan but I would.....WALK 500 MILES AND I WOULD WALK 500 MORE!! 

*links arms with strangers and dances off out the door*

Think that's special? I once reviewed 10 films in 10 words or less. Yeah, that's how I roll in my house, baby.

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)

What's it about? In a wintry, post-Civil War Wyoming, eight motley characters, including bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell), his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh), ex-solider Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson), a self-declared Sheriff (Walter Goggins) and others (Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern) are forced to shelter form a blizzard in a stopover cabin. But who is not who they say they are? Tensions rise, people swear, blood is spilled.

Is it any good? No need to review this - you've seen it before! Let's play Things The Hateful Eight is Like. Here's a hateful eight list that Tarantino stole influenced by.

  1. Sergio Corbucci's revisionist Spaghetti Western The Great Silence - the wintry Western setting
  2. Agatha Christie stories - the locked room murder-mystery
  3. The Thing - a grizzled Kurt Russell growling in the snow
  4. Blazing Saddles - the comic moments and the new Sheriff of Red Rock
  5. TV westerns - Those episodes of Bonanza and The High Chaparal where everyone ended up in one room
  6. The Dollars Trilogy - Ennio Morricone's magnificent score
  7. The Magnificent Seven - the title. Duh!
  8. And of course Quentin Tarantino - all the things we've come to expect, for good and bad: the long, dialogue-heavy scenes, the profanity, the non-linear timeline, the (over-)use of the n-word, the self-indulgence, the stand-offs, the violence, the blood, the black humour and a couple of great old songs on the soundtrack.

So if you like those, you'll like this. Although it isn't as good as any of the above.

I don't trust you. What do others think? A mixed reception. Hiding out in the saloon, there were those who admired Tarantino's film-making craft, his use of 70mm film and his mastery of set-pieces. Shooting at them from across the corral were those who didn't like such a gratuitously violent, overlong exercise in self-referential film-making, especially since none of the characters were as memorable as Tarantino's previous creations. Everybody liked Morricone's Oscar-winning score though. But no-one seemed as outraged as me at the numerically dodgy title - am I the only motherfucker in this motherfuckin' place who can count? It's basic maths, motherfucker! *shoots everybody*

Anything else I should know? Best keep your eyes closed during the opening credits which rather spoil a key development in the latter part of the film.

What does the Fonz think? Ten Little Cowboys

Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2016)

What's it about? The latest installment in the Rocky franchise sees Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) take on the role of reluctant trainer to Adonis Creed (Michael B Jordan), the illegitimate son of his old enemy-turned-friend Apollo. Training montages ensue.

Is it any good? We're going to roll out a predictable boxing analogy here, because a punch-drunk franchise which was clearly past its best has been whipped into pretty good shape for one last bout and emerges with a lot of dignity following a very creditable display. For this, kudos must go to director Coogler, who smartly revisits the beats of the original film to crowd-pleasing effect, complete with chicken-chasing, training montages and the Philadelphia steps. He also convinced Stallone into taking on the role once more, who repays him with a fine Oscar-nominated performance, a reminder of just how good he was in the original film, before the sequels turned Rocky into a laughable caricature. Beyond the central duo however, none of the supporting characters are as memorable as Adrien, or Paulie, or Apollo, or even Butch. Similarly, whilst Creed's opponents may be realistic adversaries, they lack the cult appeal of a Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. It means the film is likely to remain respected, rather than universally loved by adoring fans. Nevertheless, if you find you've lost faith in the Rocky films, you'll find the new Creed might restore it.

Anything else I should know? Fans of The Wire will no doubt be impressed by the transformation of Michael B Jordan, who is virtually unrecognizable from the slip of a lad who played the simple Wallace in Series 1. That physique took over 18 months of solid training, not to mention a few slaps in the mouth along the way to toughen him up. Like this one:

What does the Fonz think? Apollo would be proud.

One Armed Swordsman Double Bill

My good friend Hong Kong Phooey called round earlier this week to remind me I'd been neglecting my Asia-thon 2016 Film Project a little, and also my martial arts movies, a selection of which we had previously reviewed together a while back. So, in an attempt to kill those two birds with one flying kung-fu kick to the head, we sharpened up our weapons and settled down to watch a couple of movies which prove that a handicap, such as having only one arm, should be no obstacle to becoming a kung-fu master like myself and Hong Kong Phooey. 

One-Armed Swordsman (Chang Cheh, 1967) doesn't piss about with its title, relating all you need to know in three words. It's a colourful kung-fu romp from the renowned Shaw Bros Studio, who were massively influential in popularizing the wuxia martial arts genre in the 60s and 70s. Here, baby-faced Jimmy Wang Yu plays the likeable hero Fang Kang, an orphan who aims to honour his dead father by achieving martial arts greatness in his master's School of the Golden Sword. But his devotion makes him unpopular and next thing you know, he has let his guard down and carelessly got an arm lopped off. BOOOO!!! But all is not lost! He is nursed back to health by a good woman, who has conveniently inherited a instruction manual from her dead father which details how to be a deadly martial arts swordsman with one arm! HURRAH!!! Armed with the only keepsake he has from his father, an old broken blade, he sets out to protect his old School from the nefarious attentions of some dastardly mustachioed villains. The stage is set for lashings of artificial blood and some tremendously exaggerated reaction shots from onlookers as the action plays out against some really impressive set design. Disappointingly, however, the chop-socky swordplay sequences are rather underwhelming. If you're expecting long, graceful, gravity-defying wuxia battles, you'll not be impressed by the short, rather slow fights on display here. On the plus side, Hong Kong Phooey and I were impressed by some superior diabolical laughter from the snappily-named villains Smiling Tiger and Long-Armed Devil. Mwwwwuwhahahahaaa!

The Blade (Tsui Hark, 1995) is essentially a remake of the same basic story, but one that delivers a much grittier, gloomy take on things. Neither is it content to be just a kung fu film, striving for something more profound with a 'poetic' narration and a tedious, wholly unnecessary love triangle shoe-horned into proceedings. Unfortunately, the overall effect is rather muddled one, particularly in depicting the various relationships and motivations of the characters, and it has none of the straightforward charm of the original. However, it certainly ramps up the martial arts action from the above film. Our one-armed hero (Vincent Zhao) does have a much cooler fighting style - God of War fans will approve - which he hones during a Rocky-style training montage, then unleashes on various expendable bad guys. The result is some great martial arts action, especially in the final exciting showdown, which is really only superseded by a bit where a horse gets kung-fu kicked in the head. So it's worthwhile remake for the most part, which counts Quentin Tarantino amongst its fans, Best try and avoid the dubbed version of the film, however, which inflicts the already irritating central female character with a catatonic English voiceover, not to mention some sub-standard diabolical laughter.

Sadly, that's all we had time for as Hong Kong Phooey is due back on cleaning duty at the police station, but he will return to help me review some more martial arts movies later in the year. Incidentally, the Asia-thon 2016 Film Project is my New Year's resolution to watch more films from the Far East, a project which is both laudable and insufferably pretentious. A full list of films viewed can be found here.