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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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.

Published in Reviews

Charlize Theron goes on a tear for the ages in Atomic Blonde, placing another pin on her action-hero lapel after her ferocious turn as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

As Lorraine Broughton—an undercover agent on a mission in Berlin as the wall begins to fall in the late 1980s—she showcases her ability to kick people through walls with the best of them. She also knows how to use a freezer door as a weapon.

Directed by David Leitch, one of the directors of the original John Wick and the future director of Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde pops with the same kind of kinetic energy that Wick did when the bullets and kicks were flying. Also a legendary stuntman, Leitch knows how to make a hit look real, and he choreographs action scenes that stand as some of the year’s best. When Charlize lands a blow in this movie, you feel it.

Based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, the film does drag at times, especially when Lorraine does the standard interrogation-room scenes, with Toby Jones and John Goodman drilling her for answers. Atomic Blonde could’ve used some tightening in the edit room; instead, one must wade through the shallow parts.

Lorraine tells her story in flashback as she hunts for a list containing nefarious info about her and her fellow agents—a list that could continue the Cold War for decades to come. Her hunt includes interactions with unorthodox agent David Percival (James McAvoy), somebody who mixes his espionage with partying—and trafficking in the black market for Jordache jeans.

Theron and McAvoy are good together onscreen, and their dialogue scenes are some of the best scenes that don’t involve teeth getting broken. As for the bone-crunching action, there’s a sequence in this movie that rivals a Logan scene as the best of the year thus far. Leitch coordinates a battle that starts in a building and culminates with a car chase, viewed as if it were all done in one shot. It’s an exhaustive exercise in how to keep fighting while falling down stairs, getting shot and getting your face kicked in. Even if the rest of the movie consisted of Theron and McAvoy gardening and sipping herbal teas while listening to a ballgame on the radio, Atomic Blonde would still be worth seeing for that scene. It’s classically good.

McAvoy, having a great year with this and Split, has elevated him himself from amusing curio actor to heavy hitter in 2017. He’s a nut in this movie, as was the case in Split. He’s an actor who is willing to take some risks, and they are paying off. He also might win the award for Best Strained Dialogue Delivery While Keeping a Cigarette in One’s Mouth Through a Major Ass-Kicking.

As good as he is, you won’t go to Atomic Blonde to see McAvoy. This is Theron’s vehicle, and she owns it. Theron, an Academy Award-winning actress who can dramatically spar with the best of them, is a physical performer in league with the best. In this movie, she’ll convince you that neither Conor McGregor nor Floyd Mayweather would stand a chance in the ring with Theron.

Late ’80s playlists are sure to spike on streaming services thanks to the film’s soundtrack, which includes David Bowie, Queen, Falco, ‘Til Tuesday, The Clash and, quite notably, George Michael. (His “Father Figure” is put to astonishingly good use in that classic scene I mentioned above.) Leitch and company find great ways to make the music part of the film, and while I probably never needed to hear “99 Luftbalons” again, the presence of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Cities in Dust” is much appreciated.

The summer movie season is coming to a close, and while Atomic Blonde isn’t one of the summer’s best, it does have a couple of the summer’s best scenes. I’m not sure if there’s enough here to warrant another Atomic Blonde movie, but there’s definitely room for more movies with Theron hitting people in the face with freezer doors. She’s quite good at it.

Atomic Blonde is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The latest Keanu Reeves vehicle is a stunner. John Wick boasts a high body count—and offers cinematic proof that you shouldn’t mess with a man’s best friend.

In the film’s opening moments, we learn that the title character (played by Reeves) has lost his wife, and he’s taking it understandably hard. Shortly after her death, a little pet carrier arrives at his door with an adorable beagle inside: His wife has given him a gift of companionship from the beyond, and it’s a very sweet moment. The scenes of Wick and the dog bonding help make him a likable character.

While John Wick is putting some gas in his sweet Mustang, a young Russian man (Alfie Allen) asks if he can buy the car. Wick groans that it is not for sale. His unwillingness to part with the car results in tragedy, as the Russian mob comes to his house, beats him to within inches of death, kills the dog and takes the car.

They’ve messed with the wrong guy. Wick is a former hired assassin with a bunch of weaponry and gold buried in his floor. We learn that Wick is known around town as the Boogeyman, and the asshole who stole his car has a father, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who once employed Wick. Viggo lived in confidence that Wick was retired and out of the game. Now, his son has killed the Boogeyman’s dog, and all involved, voluntarily or not, are going to face his wrath.

That wrath consists of some of the greatest choreographed carnage in recent movie memory. Wick shoots bad guys with a precision that protects the innocent—but anybody around with a criminal background is going to die.

A couple of stunt guys—David Leitch and Chad Stahelski—make their directorial debuts with John Wick. Stahelski has actually been a Reeves stunt double many times, in the Matrix films, Constantine and Point Break. Their familiarity pays off, because the stunt sequences and choreography are flawless. In the pantheon of action-movie directing debuts, this one stands tall.

Reeves is an actor who has taken a lot of shots over the years. True, he can be pretty darned terrible at times, but he has a strong command of himself in front of a camera. There’s a scene in this movie that may contain the best acting of his career. Wick is a character who doesn’t exactly wear his emotions on his sleeve. He’s a simmering sort, but once pushed to a certain level, he shows some mighty powerful rage. Reeves is very much up to the task.

It’s also very clear that Reeves does much of his own stunt work in the film. There’s a lot of rolling around, and numerous gun dances. He’s always been a capable action star, and his physical outing here is as impressive as his work in The Matrix series. (OK, the first one. Screw the sequels.)

The screenplay adds some nice touches, including an exclusive hotel for assassins run by Ian McShane. The place is like an artists’ loft, except the inhabitants paint with blood and brains. When Wick gets his stay violently interrupted, the calm calls from the front desk and visuals of criminals sleepily sticking their heads out their doors to see what’s going on are quite funny.

Willem Dafoe makes a nice mark in a few scenes as a double-crossing hitman. Adrianne Palicki, the actress who was supposed to be TV’s Wonder Woman (until NBC saw the pilot and puked), shows action-movie chops as another gun-for-hire who can’t be trusted.

John Wick is a great-looking movie that mixes in some strong emotions with awesome set pieces. It’s nice to see Keanu Reeves back in the saddle. Now, with the success of this film, perhaps somebody will finally green-light Bill and Ted 3.

John Wick is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews