Deadpool 2

Deadpool2

Deadpool 2

Directed By: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Julian Dennison, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy, Eddie Marsan, Shioli Kutsuna, Stefan Kapicic, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: A-

After the love of his life is killed by people seeking vengeance on him, Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool) spirals into a suicidal mania, complicated by his mutant ability to heal rapidly. Eventually taken in by his X-Men friends Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Wade attempts to join their team in an effort to give purpose to his life. On his first outing, Wade connects with a young mutant who is angry and lashing out at his abusers, causing Wade to attack the men and get both Russell and himself arrested and sent to a secure mutant prison. While there, an assassin from the future named Cable arrives to stop Russell from becoming a powerful supervillian called Firefist who winds up killing Cable’s family. Wade then decides to form his own team of heroes to find and rescue Russell and the future is show Cable that people can change by persuading Russell that revenge isn’t always the best answer.

The original Deadpool movie managed to revive Fox’s dying superhero franchises. With the X-Men slowly losing steam and failures to launch from Fantastic Four and Daredevil, the much-awaited Deadpool was seen as a way to renew interest in the characters the studio still held the rights to. Its self-aware, self-referential humor was a breath of fresh air compared the increasing seriousness of its counterparts. This sequel continues with that brand of humor, keeping its tongue firmly planted in cheek, and still manages to have an emotional through point. In many ways, Deadpool 2 is better than Deadpool. One of them being that the storyline is slightly stronger, and the fact that there are actual emotional stakes and reasons behind the action. And, while Reynolds and company manage to find the humor in most scenes, it doesn’t detract from the message about acceptance and forgiveness.

The effects in the movie are great, and on par with the quality of the previous film. There are several explosions and displays of mutant powers. The background filler isn’t noticeable.

Anyone who was a fan of the first movie should like this one, too. The humor is on the same level and there’s a better story. It’s also something you can watch without getting lost, as is typical for most action/comic book movies.

Deadpool 2 isn’t available anywhere to stream at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased at a participating store or online retailer.

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Snowman

Snowman

The Snowman

Directed By: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jonas Karlsson, J.K. Simmons, Val Kilmer, David Dencik, Toby Jones, Chloë Sevigny, James D’Arcy, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C-

As the first snowfall of the year hits Oslo, women begin disappearing from their homes, only to be found later having been murdered and gruesomely displayed. Homicide detective Harry Hole, who has been contacted by the perpetrator, races against time as more women go missing, eventually being found murdered, all the while attempting to battle his own personal demons.

Normally when a book, or series of books, is turned into a movie, they start with the first in the series, which isn’t what happened here. Instead, we’re dropped into the middle of a universe with little to no explanation as to what’s going on with the characters, resulting in a movie that’s choppy, strangely paced, and has characters and subplots that seem to go nowhere. There are also, apparently, a number of flashback sequences that are presented as real time, including an entire character who is revealed to be long dead, despite appearing in what seem to be present day scenes. Despite the movie taking place in Norway, the standard of using an English/British accent in place of anything foreign is used, with the handful of American actors using some muddled hybrid of vaguely British and vaguely Scandinavian.

There aren’t any obvious special effects beyond some practical uses of severed limbs and blood spatter. The background filler isn’t really noticeable

This movie could, and should, have been better than it was. Nearly all of the actors involved are known talents, but most of them are underutilized here. Those involved in post production also should have spent a little more time trying to create a comprehensive story, instead of the rambling mess we were given. Unless you really want to watch this, it would probably be best left to waiting until you don’t have to pay, as it likely won’t be worth the cost.

The Snowman isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Rampage

Rampage

Rampage

Directed By: Brad Peyton
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Ackerman, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jake Lacey, Marley Shelton, Joe Manganiello, P.J. Byrne, Jack Quaid, Will Yun Lee, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C+

After an orbital research station suffers a malfunction and begins to crash to Earth, the specimens onboard are jettisoned and land in different areas across the US, infecting local wildlife with a virus that causes them to rapidly grow and mutate, all while giving them a nearly uncontrollable violent streak. When one of the specimens lands in a zoo, infecting a normally gentle albino gorilla, the zoo’s Primatologist, Davis Okoye, joined by disgraced geneticist Dr. Kate Caldwell, sets out to find a cure for the pathogen from its source at Energyne Labs in Chicago before the mutated animals can tear the city apart.

Turning video games into movies is notoriously hit and miss. The biggest hurdle they face is finding a good reason for the plot of the movie to be taking place, which can be difficult depending on the game. Unfortunately for Rampage, a little research tells us that the mutated creatures are the “heroes” of the game, and the destruction of various cities is the main goal. Despite all that, Rampage does maintain a sense of fun. Dwayne Johnson is Hollywood’s leading go-to action/comedy man, and for good reason. It’s easy to tell that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, which usually translates into his characters looking as though they’re having fun. Most of the other actors also seem to be having fun with the movie, which is one of the reasons it’s not a total bust.

The special effects are all relatively well done. The giant monsters don’t look too cartoony, but they don’t look terribly realistic, either. The destruction of downtown Chicago, including a skyscraper, looks like it could have been using miniatures and set pieces, though there were a few sequences done with CGI. There are also a couple of death scenes but they’re either blink and you’ll miss it, or played off for laughs.

Anyone looking for fun, semi-mindless popcorn flick should find this enjoyable. As stated before, the actors all seem to be enjoying themselves, though Malin Ackerman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan lean towards scenery-chewing every now and then. If nothing else, it’s worth the price of a rental, and shouldn’t wear too thin on repeat viewings.

Rampage isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Night Manager

NightManager

The Night Manager

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Olivia Coleman, Elizabeth Debicki, Alastair Petrie, Michael Nardone, Hovik Keuchkerian, Adeel Akhtar, Tom Hollander, Douglas Hodge, David Harewood, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Network: AMC/BBC
Grade: B+

Jonathan Pine, the night concierge at a Cairo hotel, is unwittingly placed in the middle of a MI-6 investigation into Richard Roper, an internationally renowned businessman, philanthropist, humanitarian, who has been using his status to run weapons smuggling ring around the world. After a guest places a list of weapons being sold by Roper in Pines hands, he anonymously hands the information over to British Intelligence and attempts to keep woman who gave him the information safe. After he fails and she is killed, Pine leaves his job and seeks employment elsewhere, eventually landing in a remote Swiss hotel, where he encounters Roper himself. Fueled by a need for revenge, Pine offers himself to MI-6 as a possible mole in Roper’s group of friends and associates. As Pine gets closer to Roper’s inner circle, lines get blurred, and Pine’s motives become less clear, as he becomes dangerously close to losing his life in order to get justice for Roper’s victims.

This slow-burning spy drama, based on the novel by John le Carré, is a serialized show that takes its time in unraveling. While you are presented with the knowledge that Roper is a backroom arms dealer early on, the real test is if and how the evidence will get into the hands of the agents Pine reports to. Roper himself is possessive and paranoid, to the point where he doesn’t allow anyone but his young son have a cell phone unless absolutely necessary. The story itself holds enough interest to keep you watching, and the one-hour episode format gives viewers a chance to walk away and process information without overwhelming them.

The acting is we done. Laurie seems to be having fun playing the bad guy, which isn’t something he seems to do very often. Hiddleston’s performance is superb, with him infusing a bit of barely-contained rage into nearly every scene he shares with Laurie. Since the show was originally filmed for the BBC before being picked up by AMC, a few of the actors are Brits playing Americans, though the accents are spot-on. Everyone else appears to be using their natural accents.

The scenery is beautiful. Filmed mostly on the Mediterranean coast, there’s a sunny warmth in most of the scenes, which is a nice counter to the grim dealings of the characters. There are a few noticeable special effects in the form of rather impressive explosions, with anything else being background filler or practical blood effects for the few gruesome death scenes.

I would recommend this series. The story is interesting, and there are times when you wonder if Pine was won over by Roper’s charm and the luxury of his lifestyle. It is something you’d have to pay attention to, but it’s worth the time and effort. It does end on a bit of an odd note, however, with little actual closure given to most of the characters.

The Night Manager is available to stream through Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Netflix home delivery service or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Tag

Tag

Tag

Directed By: Jeff Tomsic
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Leslie Bibb, Nora Dunn, Steve Berg, Rashida Jones, et. al.
Rated: R
Grade: B+

For the last 30 years, five lifelong friends have devoted one month out of every year to a no-holds-barred, anything goes game of tag. After learning that their best player and friend Jerry, who has never been “it” in all the years they’ve played, is planning on quitting once the current game is finished, Hoagie sets a plan in motion to finally see their friend tagged. Joined by a reporter who is inadvertently made aware of the game while interviewing Bob, one of the players in the group, for a magazine article, they use increasingly elaborate ruses in an attempt to catch Jerry off-guard in the days leading up to his wedding.

Although loosely based on a true story, the actual plot of the film, and the characters used, are all original to the movie. That said, the actors are all believable as a group of lifelong friends, with all of them sharing similar personality traits while remaining individual people. The actual plot itself could be a bit more fleshed out since the “let’s tag Jerry” motive doesn’t hold up to some of the massive lengths the characters go to in order to corner their friend and finally tag him. And, while the ultimate motivation for one of the characters is eventually revealed, it’s almost too late to redeem the movie, though the final sequence makes up for it partially.

There are no obvious special effects outside of background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

This is a fun movie that will appeal to most people. Despite some clunky bits of plotting, the general story is amusing, and the trap sequences in which the group tries to tag Jerry are interesting to watch. The only thing that didn’t sit well with me was a minor plot point in which Jerry’s fiancée fakes a pregnancy, and eventually a miscarriage, which detracted from the overall light tone of the film. Overlooking that minor hiccup, this should stand up to multiple viewings, and it doesn’t require a ton of effort to follow. It should be worth spending the money to rent or buy.

Tag isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Infinity War

AvengersInfinityWar

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War

Directed By: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johanssen, Chadwick Bozeman, Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elisabeth Olsen, Idris Elba, Danai Gurira, Peter Dinklage, Benedict Wong, Pom Klemintiff, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Benicio Del Toro, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A+

Thanos, an evil genius, is bent on collecting the six Infinity Stones so that he can enact a plan to wipe out half the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. Using a select group of his “children,” what he calls the young orphans he’s taken off of the planets he’s conquered over the years, he attempts to recover the remaining stones needed to finish his gauntlet and enact his plan. The only ones standing in his way are the Avengers, or what’s left of them anyway, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the few heroes the two groups have managed to find along the way. As the groups cross paths on their missions to stop Thanos, they learn they must all band together to defeat him as he razes a path of death and destruction across the galaxy from Knowhere to Earth in order to complete his mission.

As I’ve stated before, Marvel has used the last ten years or so to perfect the fine art of a fleshed-out, fully populated comic book universe. Avengers: Infinity War, the 19th movie in the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe, brings together nearly every hero introduced up to this point in a massively ambitious crossover event that is unlike pretty much anything seen before it. Due credit should be given to the casting directors, as they’ve managed to assemble (pardon the unavoidable pun) a group of actors that all work amazingly well together, even though many of the groupings include characters that are meeting for the first time. Since about 90% of the characters have been previously introduced over the last decade of movies, and Thanos has more of his back story filled in, only his Children are left a mystery, since we don’t learn much about them in their limited screen time.

The special effects are top notch, which is to be expected. With everything from ships traveling through space and alien planets, to the slightly futuristic technology of Wakanda, it all blends well and has a realistic quality. There are also several fully CGI characters and creatures, which also have a realistic quality. The background filler is unnoticeable.

Despite the fact that several of the characters from the comic book story line don’t appear in the movie because of licensing issues, the movie is still really good. Viewers may need to watch the previous 18 films in order to know what’s going on, but it’s worth the time spent since much of the series is above-par, with only one or two missteps. And, as long as you don’t let the cliffhanger ending get to you, it’s one that can be watched more than once without getting too old.

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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The Darkest Minds

DarkestMinds

The Darkest Minds

Written By: Alexandra Bracken
Published: December 2012
Grade: B+

In the near future, children between the ages of 10 and 18 are afflicted with a disease called Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration, which is referred to simply as IAAN by most characters, which kills most of those who contract it, and gives the ones lucky enough to survive super powers. On her 10th birthday, Ruby Daley wakes up to find that her parents no longer recognize her, and she is sent to the brutal Camp Thurmond along with several other children from her area. While there, Ruby learns that the children are being separated into groups by color: Greens, who are highly intelligent and are good at solving puzzles and breaking codes; Blues, who are telekinetic; Yellows, who are electrokinetic; Reds, who are pyrokinetic; and Oranges, who have telepathic abilities. She manages to convince the doctor doing her intake exam that she’s a harmless Green, and for six years she tries to keep her head down and hopes that no one notices that she’s actually an Orange. One day, after a test of the facility’s suppression system, Ruby is informed by a doctor that they know she’s really an Orange, and that she has a limited amount of time before they come to eliminate her. After escaping with the doctor and another inmate, Ruby learns that the people who rescued her, the Children’s League, aren’t what they seem, and she runs from them as well. In her escape, she teams up with a small group of other kids who have run away from a different camp, consisting of Liam, the group’s leader, who is a Blue; Chubs, who’s a Green, and Zu, a young Yellow. Afraid that her new friends will cast her out if they learn she’s an Orange, she keeps up the ruse that she’s a Green for as long as she can as she and her new friends seek out a safe haven for kids like them. On their way, they meet some familiar faces, as well as discovering new threats that they must face.

The Darkest Minds is the first book in this series, so not all of the characters are well developed. You learn the most about Ruby, who is the main character and narrator, and most of the more minor characters don’t get much more than a name and a color, if they even get that much. With Liam and Chubs we learn that their parents attempted to hide them from the government before they were eventually caught, and we also learn about Liam’s brother and his history with the Children’s League. Zu is the one we learn the least about since her character is voluntarily mute for the time being, due to the torture and experimentation she received at the camp she, Liam, and Chubs were at before they escaped.

Released in the midst of the YA dystopian craze a few years ago, The Darkest Minds holds up okay. Most of these books have similar plots, which a small group of special-in-their-own-ways teens accidentally stumbling on a governmental conspiracy and then leading the charge to topple said corrupt government, and in the realm of these books, this looks to be one of the better ones. I haven’t read/started the remaining books in the series (there are two more in the series proper, with a collection of short stories and a post-series follow up novel as well). The biggest issue I had with the book was the was oversimplification of the powers the kids developed. It would have been interesting, at least in my opinion, to see slight variations on the categories, but it’s understandable that she would want to keep things easy to manage.

If you like dystopian YA, or just want an easy fantasy novel to read, then you’ll probably like this one. The characters are, for the most part, likeable, and the story is easy to follow without spoonfeeding information to you. Some bits of plot stumble on longer than they should, but that can be said about nearly every book written. It also seems like something that could possibly happen, given how little we actually know about how the brain works.

Check your local library or bookstore for availability, or purchase through any on-line book retailer.

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47 Meters Down

47MetersDown

47 Meters Down

Directed By: Johannes Roberts
Starring: Many Moore, Claire Holt, Chris Johnson, Yani Gellman, Santiago Segura, Matthew Modine
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C+

While on vacation in Mexico, sisters Lisa and Kate decide to go cage diving with a pair of handsome strangers. After watching the guys dive go off without a hitch, the girls enter the cage and prepare to view sharks up close. As they watch the sharks, however, one of the sharks grabs the cage and snaps the cable tethering them to the boats. After they land on the ocean floor, they race against time to get rescued by the people in the boat before their air runs out, or they get eaten by one of the sharks that’s still circling the area.

As far as ticking-clock movies go, I’ve definitely seen better. Despite the fact that the main characters are literally stranded at the bottom of the ocean and surrounded by sharks, the sense of urgency needed for a film like this doesn’t really start until more than halfway through. And, although they give it their best efforts, Mandy Moore and Claire Holt don’t seem to quite give off a sisterly vibe, and seem come off more as somewhat close friends. There are also a few questionable character choices, but those are more forgivable as they tend to be typical of pretty much every movie ever made.

The special effects are okay. Much of the movie was filmed underwater, with depth added into the background. Despite advances in digital rendering, liquids and living beings remain a couple of the things that are notoriously difficult to render, and from what I can tell, the sharks were also digitally added in most scenes, though they’re rarely close enough for a long enough period of time to scrutinize every detail. There’s also a scene near the end where blood is shown to be floating off a character’s hand, which doesn’t look very real, but in that circumstance, it’s a bit forgivable, as that character isn’t in their right mind at the time.

This movie wobbled between being a theatrical release and going straight to video, but with the recent rise of popularity for shark-related movies, they decided to go with theatrical. Unfortunately, that wobble resulted in choppy dialogue and a slightly abrupt ending. While the movie itself is mildly entertaining, it’s probably not something that people would be itching to spend tones of money on. I would also definitely not recommend it to anyone who has fears of the ocean/drowning, sharks, or tight spaces, since that’s what most of the movie is comprised of.

47 Meters Down is available free to stream from Netflix, and it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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