Movie Review: “Deadpool”

Starring
Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic
Director
Tim Miller

A Deadpool movie has been bandied about for years – particularly by star Ryan Reynolds, who’s been dying for another shot at playing the so-called Merc with a Mouth after his bastardized appearance in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” – but it wasn’t until the test footage shot by first-time director Tim Miller was leaked in 2014 that Fox decided to move forward with the project. And it’s a good think they did, because although the film deviates slightly from its source material and relies a lot more on the included love story than expected, “Deadpool” is a fresh and entertaining action-comedy that demonstrates why studios should take more risks, especially when it comes to the superhero genre.

Before he went by the name Deadpool, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) was a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary just trying to earn a living and help people out along the way. But when he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly after meeting his kindred spirit, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wade accepts an offer to take part in an experimental treatment from a shadowy organization run by a deranged mutant named Ajax (Ed Skrein), who takes pleasure in torturing his patients. Miraculously, Wade’s cancer is cured and he gains accelerated healing abilities not unlike those of a certain X-Man, but his entire body is horribly scarred in the process. After he escapes from the facility, Wade decides to wear a disguise and assume a new identity in order to exact revenge on the man responsible for both saving and ruining his life, unwittingly dragging Vanessa into the conflict.

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Movie Review: “Mississippi Grind”

Starring
Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton
Director
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Gambling addiction has been explored to terrific results on film, with two of the finest examples being Robert Altman’s “California Split” and “The Gambler,” both the original film starring James Caan as well as the overlooked Mark Wahlberg-led remake. The tropes of gambling films are well-established, and writing/directing duo Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”) aren’t afraid to acknowledge those conventions in their newest and deeply human film, “Mississippi Grind.”

At the start of the story, Gerry (Ben Mendlsohn) has already hit rock bottom. The gambling addict has a rightfully bitter ex-wife, a job as a real estate agent that he’s no good at, and he owes money to everybody. His luck quickly changes when he meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a younger, more charming and luckier fellow. Curtis is a people person, and he wants to help Gerry out, so the two gamblers decide to team up and go on a road trip through the South, hitting up all the big games and casinos together, with Curtis bankrolling Gerry.

This might be Boden and Fleck’s best collaboration to date. Their script is dense yet loose, hugely influenced by Altman’s approach to “California Split.” In fact, the first half of “Mississippi Grind” almost plays out as an unofficial remake of the 1974 film, sharing more than a few character traits and story beats in common. But what could’ve been a recycled, pale imitation of Altman’s film ends up standing on its own. “Mississippi Grind” features fully realized characters, from the film’s stars to the small supporting roles. We get snippets of other gamblers’ lives, whether at the poker table, or in a friendly and seemingly random exchange with Gerry and Curtis, and these discussions create a lived-in, believable atmosphere – one filled with highs and lows, desperation and joy.

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Movie Review: “Self/less”

Starring
Ryan Reynolds, Ben Kingsley, Matthew Goode, Natalie Martinez, Michelle Dockery, Derek Luke, Victor Garber
Director
Tarsem Singh

Nobody makes movies like Tarsem Singh. The polarizing visionary always brings his colorful personality to all of his projects, whether it’s a thriller (“The Cell”), a swords-and-sandals action pic (“Immortals”), or his adult fantasy masterpiece, “The Fall.” Tarsem tells stories through images, not only through dialogue. His latest film, “Self/less,” is his most story-heavy picture to date, but once again, he energizes a familiar tale with his bold eye.

The man responsible for some of New York’s most beautiful buildings, Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley), is dying. The billionaire industrialist is filled with regrets; he once thought his checkbook was sufficient enough to take care of his daughter, Claire (Michelle Dockery). Hale wants a second chance at life, and he receives it in the form of “shedding,” a procedure that transfers one’s consciousness to a young, healthy body. The company responsible for the technology is led by Albright (Matthew Goode), and his dream is to give the most important and influential figures – or failing that, the richest – more time on Earth. Hesitantly, Damian accepts Albright’s very pricey offer, and after the procedure, he’s no longer himself, but Edward (Ryan Reynolds), a young, handsome and retired millionaire. Damian is meant to start a new life in New Orleans where he can’t contact anyone from his past, but when he starts seeing Edward’s memories, Damian begins to ask questions about who he is and whose body he’s taken over.

“Self/less” is more of a thriller than a summer action movie; it’s a high-concept detective tale. Screenwriters David and Alex Pastor manage to tell a personal story, and like all good detective stories, they follow a detective haunted by his past. Damian Hale’s journey is as engaging as the film’s ideas. Ryan Reynolds hasn’t always had the best luck with studio films, especially in the summer, but he’s given more to work with this time around. There’s an actual arc for him to communicate.

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Movie Review: “The Voices”

Starring
Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, Ella Smith
Director
Marjane Satrapi

Ryan Reynolds has starred in some pretty big movies over the last five years, and while they’ve helped cement his place on the Hollywood A-list, many of them (“Green Lantern,” “R.I.P.D.”) have done more harm than good for his career. The actor has had really bad luck when it comes to blockbuster filmmaking, but he’s proven that he can carry a movie on his own, particularly when there aren’t hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. In fact, he’s done some of his best work in smaller independent films like “Buried” and “Adventureland,” and that trend continues with “The Voices,” a flawed but amusing dark comedy that plays like a delightfully strange mix between “Doctor Dolittle” and “American Psycho.”

Jerry Hickfang (Reynolds) just wants to fit in. A socially awkward but overall nice guy who works at the Milton Bathtub Factory in the small town of the same name, Jerry is trying to lead a normal life in the wake of a family tragedy with the help of his psychiatrist (Jacki Weaver). When he’s asked to help plan his company’s annual picnic alongside bubbly British import Fiona (Gemma Arterton), Jerry builds up the nerve to ask her on a date. But Fiona stands him up in order to go out with some work friends, and when their paths cross later that night, he inadvertently murders her in the middle of the woods. At least, he thinks it’s an accident, but Jerry hasn’t been taking his meds lately, which is why he’s starting to hear voices – namely his loyal dog Bosco, who speaks in a Southern drawl, and his sociopathic cat Mr. Whiskers, who speaks in a Scottish brogue (both voiced by Reynolds) – urging him to kill again.

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Movie Review: “Turbo”

Starring
Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, Michael Pena, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Snoop Dogg
Director
David Soren

If you sit and think about “Turbo” for even half a second, it’s difficult not to notice what’s wrong with it, from the formulaic story to its blatant disregard for the rules of auto racing (spoken by a man who doesn’t follow auto racing; that’s how egregious the oversights were). Luckily for the film, it has several other things working in its favor, namely some inspired voice casting, gorgeous design, and smarter than average dialogue. “Turbo” rises above its familiarity and makes for a charming, if predictable, experience.

Theo (Ryan Reynolds) is a snail who, along with his brother Chet (Paul Giamatti), works in the garden outside a suburban southern California house. At night, Theo watches video tapes of race car driver Guy Gagne (Bill Hader), and dreams of being fast like him, a racer named Turbo. One night, while watching the cars on the 101 from an overpass, Theo inadvertently winds up taking part in a street race and ingesting nitrous oxide, which rewrites his DNA and gives him incredible speed. (Warning to children: drinking nitrous oxide will not give you superhuman speed. If anything, it will put you to sleep.) Soon after, Theo and Chet are captured by Tito (Michael Pena), who co-owns a taco truck in a run-down strip mall, and races snails for fun with his fellow mall employees. Once they realize that Theo is actually fast, Tito begins raising money to enter him into the Indianapolis 500, and his new crew of racing snail buddies, led by Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), provides support.

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