Deadpool-The Merc With A Mouth

Released: February 2016

Director: Tim Miller

Run Time: 108 Minutes

Rated R….Thank God.

Distributor: Fox Studios

Genre: Action/Comedy

Ryan Reynolds: Wade/Deadpool
Ed Skrein: Ajax
Morena Baccarin: Vanessa
Brianna Hildebrand: Negasonic Teenage Warhead
T.J. Miller: Weasel
Gina Carano: Angel Dust
Stefan Kapicic: Colossus

When it comes to casting comic-book films, it’s extremely important to find the right actors for the job.  It’s an important aspect to ANY film for that matter.  Your average comic-book film tends to cast relative unknowns.  Some examples of that philosophy includes Christopher Reeve for the character of Superman, Hugh Jackman for Wolverine, and so on and so forth.  After we first see these people in these roles, our preconceptions of who should play the character tends to go out the window.  I can’t see anyone else playing Wolverine right now.  Speaking of Wolverine, the character got his first solo film in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  While I did enjoy the film to a certain degree, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a very substandard entry into the X-Men series.  There were a number of things that went wrong with that movie.  The special effects, especially the claw, were half-baked, some of the acting was pretty atrocious, and the overall story was just too jam-packed with other mutants.  The real sin that the film had committed was what they did with the character of Deadpool.  They sowed his mouth shut, gave adamantium swords in his arms and a ton of different mutant powers.  It was a mess.  Here’s the funny thing:  Somewhere, somehow, somebody had the bright idea of casting Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson for the film’s opening.  I think that was an unintentionally brilliant piece of casting, because after the movie came out, people were screaming for Ryan Reynolds to really portray Deadpool.  The Merc With A Mouth has arrived, and he is….glorious.

After a hilarious opening credits sequence, Deadpool starts proper with the titular character taking on a bunch of thugs on a freeway look for Ajax, the man who gave him his powers and also disfigured him.  That’s basically the story:  Wade Wilson is diagnosed with cancer, seeks out some people for a cure, but is made into a mutant and his face is hideously scarred.  Along the way, he falls for Vanessa, a prostitute and they begin a relationship.  That’s all you need to know about the story.  There isn’t a whole lot there.  But for a movie and character like Deadpool, do you really need something complex?  No.  You really don’t.  Why?  Because Deadpool isn’t a complex character.  He’s a smartass and bad-ass all rolled into one fantastic chimichanga.  But that’s basically it.  He’s an anti-hero, as he can be a bit of an ass sometimes.  This is one of those rare cases where the casting is absolutely PERFECT.  Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool?  He’s been pushing for this movie as much as the rest of us, but he was in a much better position as an actor to do it.  I honestly don’t think I can see anybody else playing the character for years.  Ryan Reynolds is to Deadpool as Hugh Jackman is to Wolverine.  They fit like a glove for their respective roles.  Reynolds has the wit, charisma and the talent to really give the wise-cracking superhero the respect he deserves.

Everybody else in the film did a fantastic job, particularly T.J. Miller as Wilson’s friend, Weasel.  Some of the funniest exchanges in the film happen between these two characters.  Especially when Wilson reveals his disfigured face.  Morena Baccarin plays Vanessa, Wade’s stunning girlfriend, who happens to be a prostitute.  Ed Skrein is surprisingly effective as the film’s main villain, Ajax.  He’s British, so he’s smarmy, arrogant and tough.  Former UFC Women’s Champion, Gina Carano plays his second in command, Angel Dust.  Like him, she’s also a mutant.  Any confusion about whether or not Deadpool is a part of the X-Men universe is thrown out when Colossus shows up.  The big Russian X-Man is clearly CGI, but he’s no less intimidating.  A shout-out has to go to Brianna Hildebrand for her portrayal of Negasonic Teenage Warhead.  She’s got an attitude to match Wilson’s.  It’s hilarious.

This is an R-Rated movie, and I do mean a hard R.  There are reasons for that.  The humor is incredibly raunchy at times, with a sex scene that goes on for about 5 minutes with various positions and other….things going on.  At first, you’re like, “Oh, they can’t go there, they can’t go there……they went there.”  This is NOT a family-friendly film.  It really isn’t.  Not only that, the constant breaking of the “Fourth Wall” is really funny.  The character at times talks directly to the audience and references tons of pop culture stuff that we’re familiar including previous films that Ryan Reynolds has done, like The Green Lantern.  They don’t shy away from the nudity and sex, and they certainly don’t shy away from the violence.  Oh, the violence.  There’s a key word that you probably noticed me using a few times in this review:  Glorious.  The action is absolutely phenomenal.  It’s framed and shot so you can actually see what’s happening, not like certain shaky-cam movie bullshit that’s been put out in the past decade.  It’s crisp, it’s clean, and it’s gory.  Yes, there are decapitations, dismemberments, impalements, bludgeonings and exploding heads.  From what I understand, the film-makers actually had to cut some stuff out to get it down to an R-rating.  Director’s cut on Blu-Ray, anybody?  I can’t wait.

One of the most interesting aspects about the film is its romantic angle.  Yeah, Wilson and Vanessa start off in a very sexual relationship, but it does evolve into a more romantic one.  It feels genuine.  That’s not exactly something I would expect from a movie like Deadpool.  Yeah, Wilson’s a smart-ass, but the chemistry between him and Vanessa is surprisingly strong.  When Wade is diagnosed with cancer, we feel the characters’ desperation to fight this thing.  It’s kind of profound in a way, because cancer is a bitch and does damage not only to the person suffering from the disease, but also to the victim’s friends and family.  It really helps to bring things into perspective and it doesn’t diminish what real people are going through.  I really, really like that.  While the film is mostly humorous, it does take some time to be serious enough to develop the characters.  Not many movies can really balance that out.

If there’s a downside to the film is that some of the CGI is somewhat obvious.  Colossus is clearly a CGI creation, so the fight between him and Angel Dust seems a little weird.  Aside from that, Deadpool is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years.  A lot of that humor, however, is going to depend on whether or not you are familiar with any of the other Marvel comic book films.  At the end of the day, Deadpool is everything I wanted and more.  If this movie was Fox Studio’s apology for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I humbly accept.  They got it right.  This is Tim Miller’s first real big movie and it’s very impressive.  My final conclusion and recommendation is this:  Go see this movie!  If you like comic-book movies with a sense of humor, this one is right up your alley.  9.5/10 is what I give Deadpool.

On Remakes and Reboots

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened up in December, the response to the film was mostly positive.  While some people really didn’t like the film, a lot of people agreed that Episode VII felt like some kind of remake or reboot of the original film.  I can see that argument from a certain perspective, I’ll grant you.  But the question seems to be:  What is the fundamental difference between a remake and a reboot?  They don’t necessarily go hand in hand, I can tell you that.  My answer is this:  A remake is a film that takes many familiar elements from the original film and reintroduces it in a different way for different audiences.  It generally follows the same story, but it changes around certain elements like characters and locations to try and make it feel different enough while remaining faithful to the source material.  A reboot generally takes the elements of a particular franchise and throws everything out with the bathwater save for certain themes and characters.  I’m going to go over why remakes and reboots can be a good thing or a bad thing, while providing multiple examples of each one, and whether or not each one is any good.

When I said that people felt that The Force Awakens felt like a remake, I believe they are correct in many aspects.  If you compare Episode VII with the original film, it follows a lot of the same beats, up to and including the Death Star.  BUT:  It is also a sequel.  The Force Awakens is one of the rare movies that manages to be a sequel as well as a remake of sorts.  The 2009 film Star Trek is a reboot in every sense of the word.  Why?  Because the story involves a divergence in the universe when Kirk is born.  A Romulan mining vessel appears out of a black hole and basically changes history, essentially rendering the previous films moot.  However, it does acknowledge the original universe because they included the original Spock, played by the late Leonard Nimoy.   Terminator: Genisys would also be considered a reboot, but a lot of critics call it a clusterfuck.  I don’t necessarily agree, but it does present a certain set of problems for the franchise.

So….are remakes/reboots good or bad?  Let’s take a look at some examples:  Most recently, I reviewed two films with the same name: Martyrs.  The original film was a French horror film involving a girl who escaped being tortured to death by cultists who felt that enduring horrific pain was the key to seeing into the next world.  It was a very unique film that touched on a lot of interesting ideas.  It was not an easy film to sit through, as a girl gets beaten, tortured and humiliated for hours on end.  It was an incredibly visceral and brutal experience, but one that stays with you long after the credits roll.  The American re-make essentially takes the same story, but changes it up enough to have a fairly hopeful ending.  The American version of the film lacks the brutal punch of the original Martyrs.  You don’t actually see a lot of the torture happening, because both Lucie and Anna were captured, but it was Lucie that’s the target of this cult in this film.  We don’t see her suffering, but we do hear it.  A lot can be said for less is more, and if you haven’t seen the original Martyrs, I can see how you could come to that conclusion.  There’s a bit of a problem:  The new film essentially wanted the fans of the original film to see it.  Lots of people didn’t like it, because the violence and brutality were watered down, robbing the film of it’s visceral power.  So was the remake in this case good or bad?  The overall reception was negative, but I was…indifferent.  It’s kind of in-between.

Let’s take a look at a reboot: Casino Royale.  After the…uh…disaster that was Die Another Day, the producers of the James Bond franchise decided to take a step back and re-assess how they were going to approach the next Bond film.  What they decided was to go back to the original novel of Casino Royale and make a movie of that with a new James Bond: Daniel Craig.  While there was some initial controversy in casting a blonde James Bond, Daniel Craig proved himself admirably in the role.  In fact, the reception of Casino Royale has led many people to conclude that the film is one of the best Bond movies ever.  I agree.  It was phenomenal.  It took a familiar character, and showed how he started as an agent.  He made mistakes, he almost dies, and he falls in love.  He’s a human being.  Not a superhero.  I think that’s why most people connected with the film.  It was gritty and brutal, but it was still a lot of fun.  So, that was a good reboot.  The Transporter Refueled is a perfect example of a reboot that DOESN’T work.  Why?  Let’s start with the recasting of Frank Martin.  In the previous Transporter films, Jason Statham took the lead and was absolutely fantastic.  For the new film, Ed Skrein takes the lead.  I’m not going to blame Skrein for the problems of the film, because it comes down to really bad writing.  The script was an absolute farce, the action was extremely derivative of better films, and the villain is your typical Russian gangster.  I think the real problem here is that they went with Jason Statham’s character instead of somebody new.  Ed Skrein had some big shoes to fill, so it doesn’t necessarily seem fair to criticize him for the failure of the movie.  Ray Stevenson was entertaining enough, but the overall film was just….bland.  An action movie is supposed to be exciting and intense.  The Transporter Refueled was neither of those.  It was a pretty bad movie.  So, yeah, it was a bad reboot.

Going back to remakes, I’m going to take a look at The Thing from 2011.  A lot of people would consider this film to be a prequel/remake.  In all honesty, it’s both.  The story follows a Norwegian group of scientists who unearth a shape-changing alien that basically devastates the entire compound.  John Carpenter’s film dealt with the same thing, except the Americans had to deal with this monster.  The interesting thing here, is that the 1982 film sees the aftermath of the creature’s attack on the Norwegians.  So, the newer film is more of a companion piece to Carpenter’s film than it is a total remake.  Both films are inspired heavily by the short story, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell.  Is the 2011 film a bad remake?  Not at all, I enjoyed it a great deal.  However, it does pale in comparison to the 1982 film, in a lot of ways.  The special effects in the 1982 The Thing are all practical effects and miniatures, all done by Rob Bottin.  Gruesome and fantastic.  The newer film opts for CGI effects.  While they are pretty cool, it doesn’t feel as authentic or as threatening as the previous film.

The Blob and The Fly are also other movies that managed to receive some really good updates.   The Blob had a remake in 1988.  All the deaths that were implied or off-screen in Steve McQueen’s film are shown in all their gory wonder, with some really gruesome visual effects.  It’s the same deal with The Fly.  David Cronenberg’s retelling has Jeff Goldblum who ends up becoming both the victim AND the antagonist in the film.  But you also get to see him deteriorate physically throughout the film.  It’s pretty unsettling actually, especially when he reaches his final form.

There are a lot of remakes out there, but are remakes actually a bad thing?  If done properly, no.  Sometimes they can actually end up being better than the original film.  It’s rare, but it does happen.  The problem with movie studios going for remakes is that it shows a lack of risk of going for a new and unique property.  So, the fall back on remakes which they hope will make them more money.  Audiences aren’t stupid, they KNOW when a movie studio is getting desperate.  I understand some film makers who want to take a different approach to a certain franchise or film, but if they aren’t careful, they end up with something like The Transporter Refueled, which is hilariously bad.

In conclusion, the remake phenomenon as I like to call it, has been around for decades.  About half of them are good and half of them are pretty bad.  Same thing with reboots, even though that’s a relatively NEW thing in movies these days.  For film-makers who want to do remakes, here is some advice:  1. Be careful of the movie studio that you do business with.  They’re in it for the money, and if they think that your vision is going to cost them more than they’re willing to spend, they’ll interfere and screw up your project.  2.  Some franchises don’t NEED a reboot or a remake.  Indiana Jones and Star Wars are some examples of franchises that endure despite some weak entries.  3.  If you do go for a remake, make sure you hire the best writers possible.  There’s nothing worse than a remake that’s been poorly written.  Bad writing, more often than not, will sink ships faster than an iceberg.  4.  Respect the source material.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times a remake falls flat on its face, because the film-makers didn’t pay attention to the original material.

Martyrs(2008) Vs. Martyrs(2016)

Director(2008): Pascal Laugier
Director(2016): The Goetz Brothers

Released: 2008 and 20016

Unrated For Both

Run Time: (2008)96 Minutes, (2016)86 Minutes

Genre: Horror

Morjana Alaoui: Anna
Mylene Jampanoi: Lucie
Catherine Begin: Mademoisselle

Troian Bellisario: Lucie
Bailey Noble: Anna
Kate Burton: Eleanor

I love horror movies.  I’ve loved them since I was a kid.  I grew up watching movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday The 13th and Hellraiser, as a lot of people from my generation did.  About 13 years ago, I was introduced to a new brand of horror movie:  The French Horror Movie.  High Tension, directed by Alexandre Aja, was a well-made and brutal slasher movie.  I was shocked at how violent it was.  Let me tell you about the French:  They don’t fuck around when it comes to horror.  Oh, no, they mean business.  High Tension blew me away.  It was a very recognizable kind of film, but it was done in such a way that gave the genre new life, so to speak.  So, I kept an eye out for more French horror flicks.  Inside and Frontier(s) came next and were exceptionally brutal.  They were absolutely fantastic, though.  In 2008, director Pascal Laugier unleashed one of the most controversial, brutal and unrelenting horror movies ever made: Martyrs.  It was very unsettling, and I had not seen anything like it before.  I had blind-bought it when it was released, and watched it.  The movie left such an impression on me, that I hadn’t seen it since then, until now.  So, why did I watch it again?  One reason: The movie was re-made for American audiences.  I know people didn’t like the original film because it was unflinching in its brutality and it didn’t pull any punches, but when I first heard about the re-make, I wondered why it was being re-made.  I’ll give my opinion on that later.

Both films have the same setup, with a young girl named Lucie, escaping from a warehouse.  She ends up with the police and is eventually handed over to an orphanage, where she befriends Anna.  10 years later, Lucie discovers that her captors had a family and she finds them.  After the father opens the front, he’s immediately blasted by Lucie wielding a double-barreled shotgun.  After sending him flying, Lucie hunts down and basically executes the rest of the family.  Afterwards, Lucie calls Anna over to the house to help her clean things, and Lucie begins to hallucinate.  She sees monsters that aren’t there.  This is where the two movies go in different directions.  In the original Martyrs, Lucie ends up slitting her own throat, because she couldn’t deal with the monsters that she was seeing.  In the new movie, she throws herself off the banister, but survives.  The story is interesting, but both movies come to some very different conclusions.  I won’t spoil the endings, but despite the same story, the movies are pretty different.

One of the things that I first noticed about the new film was the home invasion sequence.  It was far less bloody than the 2008 film.  The 2008 Martyrs was absolutely notorious for its violence.  Especially when it comes to the torture sequences.  See, in the original, Anna is captured and beaten to a pulp for minutes at a time.  It’s brutal.  In the new movie, it’s Lucie that gets the treatment, but we don’t see it.  We only hear it.  I can see how that can be unsettling for people who haven’t seen the 2008 movie.  I can certainly understand why the Goetz Brothers chose not to replicate Laugier’s film in it’s entirety, but they seem to counting on the people who have seen the original to see this new one.  The original Martyrs was a very bleak film, and when Anna was captured, we had absolutely no hope for her survival.  With the new one, there seemed to be a possibility that ONE of them could possibly survive.  The villains are also different.  The villains from Mr. Laugier’s film came across as a cult, led by an old woman who was at the end of her life.  For the 2016 version of Martyrs, these guys seem like organized crime.

The acting in both movies is surprisingly pretty good, even though the 2008 film takes the trophy.  The two ladies in the new movie do a really good job.  I don’t particularly like Kate Burton as the leader of the cult, because she comes across as slightly unhinged, whereas the Mademoiselle from 2008 has her shit together, and is as logical as you can be for a cult leader.  The new movie does borrow a lot of elements from the original such as the leader’s speech on martyrs and how rare they are.  They almost ripped that word for word from the French film.  The effects are fantastic in the original film, and mostly okay in the new one.  We do see some pretty bad CGI in the new Martyrs, but it’s a result of a low budget, so that can be forgiven.

A lot of critics who have seen both films tend to agree that the new Martyrs is watered-down.  I have to agree.  It doesn’t match the absolute brutal nature of the original film.  It’s a lot less violent and almost has a completely different kind of tone towards the end of the third act.  Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the villains get theirs, so the new movie is cathartic in that regard, but it is still very disappointing that they pulled their punches.  The 2008 film sucker-punched with an experience that you won’t soon forget.  I don’t consider the new Martyrs to be a bad film.  I don’t think it is.  If you haven’t seen the original film, you might actually enjoy this film a bit more.  I think that’s the key word: Enjoy.  I didn’t enjoy the original, but I appreciated it and I loved it because it was unflinching.   I think the Goetz Brothers missed the mark a bit when they tried to go for a more optimistic route.  Ultimately, however, the 2016 film is a pale shadow of Patrick Laugier’s far superior film.  This is part of what’s wrong with re-makes today:  Film-makers forget what made the original film so memorable in the first place.  Ultimately, I can’t really recommend either for regular audiences.  The original can be extremely violent, and the new one is not violent enough.

Both movies are worth watching.  But I started rolling my eyes when I saw the direction the new movie was headed in.  It was that predictable.  At the end of the day, which film is better?  Patrick Laugier’s film from 2008, hands down.  It’s a brutal and ultimately a thought-provoking film that stays with you long after the credits roll.  My final scores:  Martyrs(2008): 9/10.  Martyrs(2016): 7.5/10.  Not a terrible movie, but not terribly memorable, either.







So Bad It’s Good: Gymkata

Director: Robert Clouse

Released: May 1985

Run Time: 90 Minutes

Rated R

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Genre: Martial Arts/Unintentional Com

Sarcasm Level: This

Kurt Thomas: Jonathan Cabot
Tetchie Agbayani: Princess Rubali
Richard Norton: Zamir
Edward Bell: Paley
John Barrett: Gomez
Conan Lee: Hao

I’ve been accused by both friends AND family that I watch a lot of crap.  In my defense: Well…..okay, there really is none.  I DO watch a lot of crap.  During the 80’s, there was a TON of B and Z-level schlock going around.  Yeah, the decade had it’s fair share of blockbusters like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but it was also peppered with some really, REALLY bad movies like Remo Williams, The Black Hole, and most horror movies that came out at that time.  But the genre that really took a few bad hits, was the martial arts genre.  American made martial arts movies really weren’t that good, unless they featured Chuck Norris.  Even then, they still weren’t that good.  If you wanted a good fight movie, you either had to go back a decade with Bruce Lee movies, or you had to check out films from Hong Kong, which tended to feature Jackie Chan.  But somewhere in that sea of B-Grade madness was a little gem of a bad film known only as Gymkata.  When you have a movie that has this as a tag line, “A new kind of martial arts combat! The skill of gymnastics, the kill of karate,” you know you’re in for some Oscar-worthy film-making and performances.

Set in the fictional country of Parmistan, young gymnast Johnathan Cabot is approached by the US Government to take over his father’s assignment in said country after Johnathan’s father disappeared.  To take part in the country’s traditional, yet sadistic “game,” Johnathan trains to be a fighter, aided by Princess Rubali, the daughter of the ruler of Parmistan.  En route to Parmistan and after many shenanigans, our hero is welcomed by the evil Zamir, who intends to usurp the throne for himself.  When you have a movie taking place in a fictional country whose name is crossed between Afghanistan and parmesan, you are in for some SERIOUS cheese.  Well, if it’s cheese you want, it’s cheese you will get.  Gymkata is LOADED with cheese.

Where do I start?  Let’s start with the casting.  The main character of Johnathan Cabot is played by Kurt Thomas, who is neither an actor, nor a martial artist.  No, Thomas is a three-time Olympic gold medal gymnast.  The man’s physicality allows him to perform most, if not all of his own stunts.  So, when he’s tumbling or doing back flips, that’s not a stunt double.  Tetchi Agbayani is the requisite love interest, and a pretty face is all she is.  The real heavy-weight of the bunch here is Richard Norton as the villainous Zamir.  It actually makes sense for Norton to be here, because he is a phenomenal martial artist.  In fact, he trained Kurt Thomas for his role in the film.  For a guy who started out as a bodyguard, Richard Norton has some major screen presence.  He’s not a bad actor at all, either.  Except for Gymkata.  Nobody was good here.  The action is not good either as a lot of the set pieces were set up with specific objects for Kurt Thomas to use, like the high-bar and the pommel horse.  I wish I was kidding, but I’m not.  While there is plenty of action, the biggest and most memorable action scene is where Cabot is running through a village that’s populated by crazy people.  He ends up using a pommel horse, conveniently placed in the main square so he can take out the villagers one at a time.  That’s another interesting thing about the film:  Like the kung-fu movies of yore, each person takes on the hero one at a time instead of all at once.

Strangely, for a movie THIS bad, it’s surprisingly very entertaining, even if it IS unintentional.  The movie was directed Robert Clouse, who directed Enter The Dragon, arguably the best kung-fu movie ever made.  For a guy whose bread and butter was martial arts movies, Gymkata was definitely his weakest effort.  Gymkata is one of those glorious trainwrecks that while it bombed in the box office, it managed to gain a bit of a cult following because of how bad it is.  This was Kurt Thomas’s one and only movie.  In a decade that was dominated by Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, having a main hero that’s a bit of a waif compared to those beefcakes.  It is no surprise to me that his movie career was over before it began.  I’m also not going to go over how ridiculous the costumes are.  Cliche is all I will say.  The movie was filmed on location in Yugoslavia so it does have a kind of a European feel to it.

It’s amazing to me that somebody could actually make a movie like this and expect it to compete with other action movies during the 80’s.  Make no mistake, this is definitely an 80’s flick.  It has all the cheese you desire.  It’s a bad martial arts movie and a bad movie in general, but I can’t help but love the hell out of it.  There is something truly endearing about movies like this that I really enjoy.  I’m going to score this a little differently:
Acting: 2/10
Action: Not Boring/10
Awfulness: 10/10
Cheesiness: Velveeta/10
Story:  Lolwut?
Overall: 9/10.

What can I say?  I love it.  Yes, it’s terrible, but it’s a lot of fun….especially if you’re drinking.