CVIndependent

Fri05252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Bob Grimm

The happily profane superhero party continues with Deadpool 2, a sequel that brings the anarchistic spirit of the original—although it doesn’t blaze any new trails.

Ryan Reynolds, who has experienced a career explosion thanks to this franchise (and, of course, his undeniable talents), continues to break the fourth wall, Ferris Bueller-style. While the gimmick definitely leads to some good laughs, it does get to a point where it feels a little too cute and repetitive. He winks at the audience so much that he must have some severe eyelid-muscle strains. He’s gonna have an eyeball pop out.

The film starts with Deadpool dejectedly blowing himself up, complete with a severed arm giving the finger; the film then goes into flashback mode as Wade Wilson cleverly and smarmily tells us why he did such a thing. We also get a repeat of the “Wiseass Opening Credits” gag that got the original off to such a good start. This time, instead of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning,” the credits roll to a brand-new ballad from Celine Dion, so the stakes have definitely risen.

Directed by David Leitch (one of the guys who directed John Wick), the film definitely ups the ante on the action front, with gunfights and swordfights that have some major zip to them. There’s no question: Leitch can more than handle a fight scene. He and his writers also provide a worthy Deadpool adversary in the time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin, having a helluva summer), a half-cyborg mound of angst with a human side. Brolin has cornered the market on “deep” villains this summer, with this and his emotive Thanos.

Much of the movie involves Deadpool forming X-Force and becoming an X-Men trainee. Deadpool’s first mission with his X-Force is a screamer, especially due to the participation of Peter (Rob Delaney), a normal, khakis-wearing guy with a killer mustache who joins the force because he saw an ad and thought it might be cool. Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) return, while Julian Dennison climbs aboard as Russell/Firefist, an angry young mutant Deadpool takes under his wing.

Juggernaut is the film’s other major villain, and Leitch pulls off some fun casting for the nasty-giant-mutant role. Watch the movie without knowing who is playing him, and see if you can guess. I bet you can’t!

Deadpool 2 does have some of the funniest cameos I’ve ever seen in a movie, and I will not give them away. Some of them are blink-and-you’ll-miss; others involve heavy makeup; and one involves a group of players that garnered the movie’s biggest laugh out of yours truly. If they continue with Deadpool movies—and they most certainly will, be they Deadpool or X-Force flicks—they must stick with this particular gimmick. It kills.

As for Deadpool constantly breaking character and the fourth wall, it works about half the time in this installment. Some of the jokes fall flat—sometimes because they’ve already played out in the marketing. The credits scene might be the best part of the movie, with some killer gags that, again, will go unspoiled here. There are also a lot of Wolverine jokes, and one half-funny Basic Instinct nod (one of the film’s least inspired moments).

Deadpool 2 is a hard R thanks to a steady stream of intermittently hilarious profanity and constant gore. Deadpool’s healing capabilities come in very handy this time out, with him riddled with bullets, being torn in half, blown up, etc.

Whatever you do, don’t look at the IMDB cast list before you see this movie, because it gives away the cameos, and the surprise of those cameos offers much of the fun in this worthy, but slightly inferior sequel.

I’m not sure what the future for Deadpool holds, but the film’s ending provides a lot of opportunities. Let’s hope it includes lots more Brolin, and fewer Basic Instinct jokes.

Deadpool 2 is now playing at theaters across the valley.

I’ve had it up to here with zombies (I stopped watching The Walking Dead after Season 2)—but Cargo, set in the Australian Outback, is actually pretty good.

Martin Freeman stars as a man who is surviving a zombie apocalypse on a houseboat with his wife and baby daughter. Things go very badly not long after the movie starts—and he must battle on land to ensure a future for his family. Directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (Ramke also wrote the screenplay) keep the origins of the apocalypse shrouded in secrecy, and that’s a good move.

There are cool elements, like government-provided survival (and disposal) packs for those who become infected, and the fact that Freeman has a baby strapped to his back during a rather harrowing medical emergency. The film relies more upon a sense of dread and impending doom rather than straight-up zombie violence. The humans who aren’t sick turn out to be a lot scarier than the ghouls.

The movie is more The Road than Dawn of the Dead, and Freeman’s stellar work makes it worth seeing, even if you’ve had your fill of flesh-eaters.

Cargo is currently streaming on Netflix.

The great Melissa McCarthy suffers from the Ben Falcone curse yet again in Life of the Party, a shitty Back to School rip-off—which makes it double-shitty, because Back to School sucked.

Falcone is McCarthy’s husband, and he has now directed her in three movies, all bad. Tammy was one of McCarthy’s worst films, while The Boss was better but still pretty terrible.

McCarthy plays Deanna, a frumpy middle-aged mom with a daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), going into her last year in college. Within minutes of dropping their daughter off at school, her husband (Matt Walsh) dumps her for a real estate agent played by an actress from Modern Family (Julie Bowen).

A dejected Deanna decides to enroll in school—a shockingly easy process in this film—and finds herself not only attending college alongside her daughter, but hanging out with her and her sorority sisters. She’s considered a square at first, but a quick makeover during a party has her emerge as the coolest new girl on campus.

Before long, she’s pulling all-nighters in frat houses with her new boyfriend (Luke Benward) in one of the film’s few likable aspects. (McCarthy and Benward are somewhat funny together.) She’s also break-dancing at ’80s themed parties, and desecrating the wedding cake at her ex-husband’s wedding. Basically, it’s a film full of comic setups that feel torturously familiar and ripped off. I’m surprised McCarthy didn’t bust out a vocal rendition of “Twist and Shout” à la Rodney Dangerfield at the ’80s party.

The movie is populated with characters played by stellar actresses who could’ve used some more screen time. Gillian Jacobs plays Helen, a genuinely funny character in concept: She’s an adult college student in school after spending eight years in a coma. Her story probably would’ve made for a more interesting movie, but the screenplay buries her deep in the background. The same goes for Heidi Gardner, one of the bright spots on this season of Saturday Night Live, as Leonor, Deanna’s goth roommate who never leaves their room and likes to hide in their closet. She’s funny, and rather than use her more, she’s saved for a dopey punch-line involving Christina Aguilera.

I’m always amazed when a film with McCarthy in it is awful, because she’s so damned good. Movies like Life of the Party make me mad at the movie, and not the star at its center. She does what she can with lousy material, and even manages to squeak out two or three genuine laughs. But her material here is her enemy.

The film starves for that moment when McCarthy transcends the material and lets loose in the way that only she can. It’s PG-13, so her penchant for profanity-laced dialogue art is mostly stifled, although she gets in a couple of good ones involving Google and her vagina.

Instead, we get scenes like Deanna getting nervous and sweaty during a midterm speech, and her trying to get laughs out of pit stains. There’s also an agonizing dance-off between her and one of the school’s mean girls, culminating in a stunt woman busting out those aforementioned break-dance moves. It’s beneath McCarthy’s talents in every way.

I’m thrilled that McCarthy and Falcone are happily married and working together—something tough to pull off in nasty Hollywood—but the fruits of their union are not magical in the cinematic sense. They should put the “making movies together” part of their relationship on ice. It’s just not working out.

Life of the Party is playing at theaters across the valley.

Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz is dynamite as Jen, mistress to Richard (Kevin Janssens), a rich man with a fancy house in the middle of the desert, in the film Revenge. Jen and Richard are enjoying a romantic getaway when Richard’s hunting buddies (Vincent Colombe and Guillaume Bouchède) show up early—and immediately commence ogling Jen.

After a night of partying and some seductive dancing by all, Jen passes out in the bedroom. Richard goes away to take care of some business for a couple of hours, and that’s all the time a friend needs to assault Jen. Upon Richard’s return, rather than helping Jen, he escalates the situation—until Jen winds up impaled on a tree at the bottom of a cliff.

Where the story goes from here is where the movie gets its name; director Coralie Fargeat isn’t interested in Jen simply getting away. She patches herself up and gets herself a gun; when the boys hunt for her after her body goes missing, major, messy bloodletting ensues.

Lutz takes her character from eye candy to kickass female avenger, and her every moment onscreen declares her a star. Janssens makes a fascinatingly horrible enemy, as does Colombe as the moron who crosses the line with Jen and unleashes the fury. Jen is super-hot and super-fit; the woman has been to the gym, and she will go Rambo on your ass if you wrong her. And, boy, does she ever go Rambo on their asses. The results are pretty unforgettable, and Lutz puts up one of the more memorable performances of the year.

Revenge is available via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com.

The hardships faced by a woman raising children while giving birth to another—with little help from the dad—are given the Diablo Cody treatment in Tully, the second time screenwriter Cody, director Jason Reitman and actress Charlize Theron have joined forces.

They worked together on the caustic comedy Young Adult, and Tully makes that one look like an ice cream social party featuring bounce houses and unicorns. (For the purpose of this analogy, the unicorns would need to remain outside of the bounce houses to prevent people from being impaled on their majestic horns.)

Theron is all kinds of magnificent as Marlo, a mother of two getting ready to give birth to her third—while getting her ass kicked physically and emotionally. Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), while not complete scum, should probably take off the headphones at night and go the extra mile to help keep the household in order, and keep his wife sane. Their young son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), has been dubbed “quirky” by his school, and finding a new one has become an unwelcome priority. Their daughter, Emmy (Maddie Dixon-Poirer), is slightly neglected, yet one of the more-together people in the movie.

Marlo’s well-off brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), gets his sis a special gift: a night nanny to help with the baby and household chores so she can grab some sleep. After the baby is born, Marlo is reluctant at first, but finally relents and calls the number her bro has provided.

Tully (Mackenzie Davis) arrives like an angel in bohemian clothing and immediately helps by brightening Marlo’s downer moods. She has an instant, mother-like rapport with the new baby, miraculously cleans the house overnight, and even bakes cupcakes for Jonah’s class. She also provides much-needed friendship to Marlo, who has fallen out of touch with Drew and has become prone to snapping at people in public. In short, Marlo has been close to a meltdown in a bad bout of postpartum depression. Tully helps Marlo rise above and power through.

The movie isn’t just about a mother in need getting a helping hand; that would be mighty conventional compared to what actually happens in Tully. Cody has had two children since her scripting debut with Juno, her first pairing with Reitman. For her sake, I’m hoping little of what Marlo goes through in her latest script is autobiographical. Marlo has it rough.

Theron makes physical and mental exhaustion totally enthralling, and the moments when Marlo can’t take it anymore and lets the world have it are barnburners. Theron is a miraculous actress, and she gets a nice counterpart in Davis, who represents the type of free spirit Marlo could never become. I’m doubting 2018 will give us many screen duos as captivating as this one.

I do have a minor quibble: Drew gets off the hook a little too easy in this movie. Granted, dudes are let off the hook everyday by moms taking on most of the challenges of child-rearing, but the last shot of Tully reeks a bit of over-compensation for the trials and tribulations that happened before it. It feels a little too cute.

However, there’s no denying that the rest of the movie is one of the more brutally honest depictions of the challenges (and undeniable blessings) of parenting. Yes, the price paid is often worth the reward, but Marlo definitely gets put through the wringer here, and Theron makes her pain and struggle real.

She also provides laughter with the shocks and sorrow, further proving she’s one of the greatest actresses to ever grace the screen. Reitman and Cody give Theron great stuff to work with—and once again, she’s in Oscar-worthy form.

Tully is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Nearly 30 years after last donning the headband in Karate Kid Part III, Ralph Macchio returns to the role of Daniel LaRusso, and old nemesis Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) is along for the ride.

As a 10-part series on YouTube Red, YouTube’s premium service, Cobra Kai gives us a chance to see how things turned out for Daniel—he’s a rich owner of a car dealership. While that’s fun, the real charm of the series is learning more about Johnny, who isn’t doing so well three decades later.

Prone to drinking, estranged from his son, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and constantly beating up on himself, Johnny hasn’t adjusted well after taking that kick to the face in the karate tournament. Yes, it looked like Johnny learned his lesson and tried to be a good sport in the aftermath, but the defeat ate away at him over the years. Now, while pounding beers and stuck in the past, Johnny decides to reopen the Cobra Kai dojo, much to the chagrin of Daniel, who doesn’t want his kids, especially his young daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser), exposed to its bad teaching ways.

Cobra Kai adds a great chapter to the Karate Kid saga by not making Johnny a cardboard cutout villain. In fact, the story allows Johnny to recount his side of the story. (He was sucker-punched; his girl was stolen, etc.) He becomes a surprisingly sympathetic character when he’s not acting like a complete asshole.

Macchio looks like he’s having a lot of fun, and the series is much better than anyone could’ve expected it to be. Among the myriad reboots currently happening, Cobra Kai counts as one of the best.

Cobra Kai is currently streaming on YouTube Red; the first two episodes are free to all.

The Avengers team takes a swift kick to their (remarkably muscular) collective ass from a super-baddie named Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, the best blockbuster you will see at the movies this year.

While Marvel has been on a nice roll lately (Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, Captain America: Civil War), the last “Avengers” movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was a misguided, boring dud. This third installment (the first of a two-parter, with the second being released next summer) lets it all hang out with a massive collection of characters and a true, scary sense of impending doom.

There are many, many storylines at play servicing so many superheroes and villains. Infinity War feels like the Magnolia of Marvel movies in that it takes all of those storylines and balances them in a cohesive, entertaining manner. The film is 2 1/2 hours long, but it’s never close to boring.

The balancing act is performed by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the team that made Civil War such a winner. The magic of that film carries over into this one, which picks up directly after the end of Thor: Ragnarok. That film ended with Thor and his fellow Asgardians feeling somewhat triumphant despite losing their planet while defeating emo Cate Blanchett. A mid-credits scene saw their ship coming into direct contact with one owned by the mighty Thanos (Josh Brolin).

In one of the great motion-capture achievements, Brolin is the best of monsters—one who manages just enough of a sensitive side that he falls well short of stereotype. At one turn, he’s obliterating planets and torturing horrified people under his large feet. Then he’ll shed a tear that shows there’s a big, obviously misguided heart pumping in his Infinity Stone-seeking chest. He’s much more complicated than your average CGI character.

I won’t go into the whole Infinity Stone thing, other than to say they’ve played a part in many past Marvel films—and they all come together and show their purpose in this movie as Thanos adds them, one by one, to his Infinity Gauntlet. Each time he gets another, a palpable sense of dread builds.

The gang is pretty much all here, so it’s easier to tell you who doesn’t show up in this installment: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) are nowhere to be seen, but Hawkeye, Ant Man and a newish Marvel superhero will play into the next chapter.

Robert Downey Jr. continues his magnificent trek as Tony Stark/Iron Man, who is trying to arrange a wedding and babies with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when yet another apocalypse begins. Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) continue their streak of weird humor after Ragnarok while Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America) continues to smolder after the events of Civil War. Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) provides the sensible-guy arc, and has some of the movie’s best scenes with Stark.

Tom Holland continues his joyful portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy join the fray with a welcomed—and quite substantial—contribution, especially from Zoe Saldana (Gamora) and Karen Gillan (Nebula), estranged daughters of Thanos. Some of the best banter in the film happens whenever Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) encounters an Avenger trying to out-cool him.

There’s a lot at stake in this movie—perhaps too much for one film. That’s not necessarily a complaint, but a slight sense of overload and an abundance loose ends keep Avengers: Infinity War from being a masterpiece. Hey, maybe it’ll get an upgrade to “part of a masterpiece” next summer, when the next chapter plays out.

For now, get thee to a big screen, and be prepared to have your face melted with superhero/bad guy greatness. It’s dark; it’s funny; it’s thrilling; it’s action packed; it’s fantastically performed ... and it’s just Part 1.

Avengers: Infinity War is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

After a strong, sweet and funny start, Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix effort, The Week Of, falls apart in its second half.

Sandler plays Kenny, a dad whose daughter (Allison Strong) is getting married in a week. He sees it as his last chance to do something for her, so he tries his best to put together an impressive spread for the two families. Chris Rock plays the father of the groom, a wealthy heart surgeon who isn’t impressed with the hotel Kenny has picked. Others on hand include Rachel Dratch (It’s good to see her!) as Kenny’s wife, and Steve Buscemi as a sleazy family member with amazing climbing abilities.

Directed by Robert Smigel, the film goes on long enough for the jokes to start dying from old age. A joke involving a legless uncle starts funny, gets funnier, almost gets really funny … then goes stale.

As a Howard Stern fan, I was happy to finally see the culmination of Ronnie the Limo Driver’s hard work; he’s a bad actor, but he was better than I thought he would be. (He’s a convincing sleeper.)

Having grown up on Long Island, I can say the movie does a good job of capturing the region, from the accents to the undying loyalty to Billy Joel. You have to have some respect for a comedy that kills a legless man by throwing him into a bounce pit in the middle of a strip club—but that’s not enough to make it a winner. That’s a shame, because Sandler is actually fairly endearing here, and some of the performers bring at least their B- game. The Week Of just needed to be about 25 minutes shorter, and 35 percent funnier.

The Week Of is now streaming on Netflix.

Writer-director Stanley Tucci asks the question, “When is a piece of art truly done?” with Final Portrait, an acting workshop for Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer.

The film is based upon the memoir A Giacometti Portrait by James Lord, an American author who sat for a portrait by famed artist Alberto Giacometti in the 1960s, shortly before the artist died in 1966.

Lord is played by Hammer, hot off his acclaimed performance in Call Me by Your Name, with Rush embodying the craggy, difficult and just-a-little-bit-crazy Giacometti. Much of the movie simply consists of these two fine actors bantering back and forth as Rush fiddles with painting paraphernalia, and Hammer keeps still in a chair.

Does that sound boring? If the idea of watching an artist neurotically working through his painting process sounds horrifying, then yes, you will find this boring, and you should probably stay away. I found myself taken by the pic, but not completely; I admit to getting a little restless with it at times.

What makes it work is that Rush and Hammer work so well off of each other times. Hammer does good work as a Manhattanite in Paris swept away by the notion of having his likeness put on canvas—yet unaware of the semi-ordeal into which he’s getting himself. Giacometti woos Lord by telling him the whole thing should take a couple of hours, and it winds up taking weeks. Needless to say, patience is tested.

Rush’s Giacometti is a bit of a mess, openly carrying on with a local prostitute (Clémence Poésy) while his wife, Annette (Sylvie Testud), and brother, Diego (longtime Tucci collaborator Tony Shalhoub), try to keep him under control. His artistic genius is matched by a total scattershot way of conducting business, life and artistic endeavors. His process is lacking a certain organization and sense of purpose.

He seems like a nut, and yet anybody who has tried to do a serious painting or drawing can relate to Giacometti’s lament that a true work of art is never really done. I love to draw, but I have a hard time finishing my projects. Watching this film, I recalled an 11th-grade art class in which I constantly argued with my teacher about putting time limits on true works of art. I could never get my assignments done in time, and I knew I had spent more time on them than other kids in the class. I raged against my teacher, calling her standards unfair and completely against the notion of what true art is. “Should a young man be downgraded for his art because he did not meet a proper deadline?” I asked passionately, a query similar to the one posed by Giacometti.

Mysteriously, I got shitty grades.

OK, back on point: The film convincingly shows the struggles of an artist whose art doesn’t come easily to him. Rush’s Giacometti hilariously interrupts multiple painting sessions by exclaiming, “Oh Fuck-uh!” and slathering paint all over his canvas for the purpose of starting the whole thing over.

The film comes up with a way to end the portrait session that, while kind of cute, feels a little too tidy. That said, I guess the movie couldn’t go on for weeks and weeks. That would be brutal.

While we’ve come to know Tucci for his character-actor performances in films such as The Hunger Games and The Devil Wears Prada, he made quite a splash back in 1996 with his directorial debut, Big Night. His directorial efforts since (The Impostors, Blind Date, Joe Gould’s Secret) weren’t bad, but he hadn’t really delivered on the promise of Big Night. Final Portrait is easily his best directorial effort since 1996, hinting that Tucci might yet have another big one in him. Final Portrait is not that big one—but it’s a good one.

Final Portrait is now showing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565).

A dying photographer (Ed Harris) coaxes his estranged son (Jason Sudeikis) into going on a road trip with him and his nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) to get some Kodachrome film developed before the world stops developing the brand in Netflix’s Kodachrome.

Yes, it’s yet another road movie, and yes, it has the “somebody’s dying” gimmick to go with it—but don’t write this one off based on the synopsis. The three stars are pretty good here, with Harris especially good as a miserable man trying, in a very strange and peculiar way, to make nice with his son before checking out.

Sudeikis is one of the more underrated actors out there, and he does a lot with a fairly stereotypical role. Olsen, one of my favorite actresses, puts the whole thing over the top as a nurse who’s more than just an extra passenger calling shotgun.

The movie falls into some of the typical trope potholes, but Harris and company consistently pull it out of the muck. There’s a music-business subplot involving Sudeikis’ character that is pretty good, too.

Kodachrome is not a great movie, but it is worth a shot late on a Saturday night.

Kodachrome is currently streaming on Netflix.

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