Deadpool — a review

Whoa! Wait, I think I did leave the stove on after all!

Whoa! Wait, I think I did leave the stove on after all!

From the very opening of Deadpool, with its joke-filled titles (“Starring God’s Perfect Idiot”; “Directed by an overpaid tool”) set to Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning, I knew I was in for a very special treat. Ryan Reynolds, whose previous misbegotten superhero film, Green Lantern, is already a bad memory, redeems himself here as the titular character, a mercenary with superpowers who’s better known for his smart mouth than anything else. I’ve never read the comics, but Deadpool was well known for breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the reader, which is something that Reynolds’ version does in the film with the movie viewer to great effect.

It should be noted that Reynolds had played Deadpool once before, in another really bad superhero film called X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which was so bad it almost makes Green Lantern look good in comparison…almost). But Reynolds’ part in that film amounted to little more than a glorified cameo, and the Wolverine filmmakers didn’t have a very good grasp on who Deadpool really was–where first time director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick so faithfully recapture the essence of this irrelevant character with such fun that it makes their movie a sheer joy to watch.

Another reason Deadpool is so enjoyable is the fact that it’s rated R. Deadpool, along with everybody else in the movie, curses like a sailor, and it works so well you wonder why they didn’t do this sooner (technically, this isn’t the first R-rated superhero movie; that would be Blade, released in 1998–interestingly, Reynolds would later co-star in Blade Trinity, the second sequel). An R-rated superhero film was the next logical step at this rate, and Deadpool’s gritty world, along with his snarky, dark sense of humor, practically demanded the rating.

Reynolds is fantastic here, easily knocking it out of the ballpark. Morena Baccarin, best known from Firefly and Homeland, is perfect as the love interest. Carla Carano (Haywire) is a stand out as Angel Dust, an intimidating enforcer for the main villain. Brianna Hildebrand also stands out as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, the “moody teen” from the credits, and Stefan Kapicic provides the voice for Colossus, a CG-rendered hero from the X-Men who keeps trying to recruit Deadpool. I was very pleased to see this film was a smash hit, guaranteeing more off-kilter adventures of this extremely funny and very likeable hero. –SF

Crimson Peak — a review

I heard some strange noises, and now I'm going to investigate in the dark...what can go wrong?

I heard some strange noises, and now I’m going to investigate in the dark…what can go wrong?

In Crimson Peak, the latest film from director Guillermo del Toro, Mia Wasikowska, who starred in the title role in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, stars here as Edith, a young woman of means who lives with her wealthy widowed father in Buffalo, New York. Her father receives a visit from a British Baronet named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleson), who’s looking for investors for his drilling machine. Although he’s turned away by her father, Edith has fallen hard for him, and they begin a whirlwind romance that must come to an end at the insistence of Edith’s father, who bribes Thomas and his sister Lucille (the always great Jessica Chastain) into leaving town.

But when Edith’s father abruptly dies in a mysterious accident, it’s Edith who leaves town, with Thomas as her husband. Moving into Thomas’ decrepit old mansion, which sees rain and snow inside the main hall thanks to a large hole in the ceiling, Edith begins seeing scarier things than black mold. The house is crawling with frightening ghosts, all of whom are seemingly after Edith for some reason. Guillermo del Toro was coming off of the SF/fantasy Pacific Rim when he made this, and it’s a welcome return to the type of luridly fun dark horror story that he tells so well.

You couldn't have had a mice problem...oh no, it just HAD to be ghosts, right?

You couldn’t have had a mice problem…oh no, it just HAD to be ghosts, right?

Those expecting a typical horror movie might be disappointed here, as Crimson Peak is more of a Gothic Romance that slowly builds its story, as well as a keen sense of dread, from the very beginning of the film. It’s a credit to del Toro’s skill as a director, as well as his marvelous cast, that the romance aspect doesn’t feel silly or tacked on. Edith and Thomas had gotten married under very strained circumstances, and their struggles to rediscover one another rings very true.

Walk this way...wait until I give you the cane.

Walk this way…wait until I give you the cane.

However, the horror elements are handled expertly. Del Toro always had a great way of handling ghosts, making them appear truly frightening without the need for great melodrama. While the entire cast is very good, Wasikowska and Chastain are standouts. Just like she effortlessly carried Burton’s Alice on her slender shoulders, Wasikowska does the same here, and Crimson Peak is all the better for her presence. And Chastain takes what could have been a silly role and humanizes it greatly; the two lead actresses own this film, and it’s worth seeing for their performances alone. It’s good to have del Toro back on comfortable (and haunted) ground. –SF

Mr. Holmes — a review

Come, Watson, the game's afoo...wait, you're not Watson!

Come, Watson, the game’s afoo…wait, you’re not Watson!

Ian McKellen reteams with his Gods And Monsters director Bill Condon for Mr. Holmes. Based on the novel by Jeffery Hatcher, Mr. Holmes looks at the famous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, in the twilight years of his life. It’s 1947, and Holmes is a 93 year old man who lives on the coast in a quaint estate tending his bees and taking the occasional swim. He has a live-in housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Lara Linney) and she has a little boy, named Roger (the superb Milo Parker) who idolizes Mr. Holmes. It sounds like it should be the perfect existence for a man, a hero, who deserves it.

But there’s something that’s haunting Mr. Holmes. It’s his last case, the one that made him retire to the coast in the first place. Shortly after parting with John Watson, who had gotten married at that point, Holmes took on the case of a man who said his wife was behaving very strangely. Taking on the case solo, Holmes encountered a bizarre twist–but the problem is the aging 93 year old’s mind is slipping. He’s having trouble remembering things, and despite taking home made remedies, Holmes is afraid he may soon forget the very thing that haunts him before he can anything about it.

This is either a very important clue, or a very old baseball card.

This is either a very important clue, or a very old baseball card.

Ian McKellen is fantastic as Holmes. In fact he’s so good here that you wonder why he didn’t play the part much sooner in his career. In Mr. Holmes, he plays the role at 93, as well as thirty-some years earlier when he’s working his last case. While there’s a central mystery to be solved, the last one of Holmes’ career, the film focuses more on the relationship between Holmes and young Roger, who seeks to help him remember as much as he can about the case. McKellen and young Parker have great chemistry, and Lara Linney gives another great performance as Roger’s overwhelmed mother, who’s just struggling to provide a better life for the kid.

With most of the regular cast of characters–Watson, Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson–now all shades, Mr. Holmes has never felt more alone in his entire life. His intellect helps stave away the loneliness, but for only so long. If you’re expecting an action-packed high adventure tale, a last hurrah, you’ll be disappointed. Mr. Holmes is instead a wonderfully made drama that’s rich in characterization. It’s yet another take on an iconic character, one that’s managed to span three centuries, now, and yet still remains as vital and relevant here in the 21st century as he was in the 19th. Highly recommended. –SF

Doctor Who and the value of collecting what you love

I'm ready for a Doctor Who marathon.

I’m ready for a Doctor Who marathon.

I’ve always collected movies, ever since I discovered VHS tapes (I never had Betamax, which was supposed to be superior). I switched to laser discs, and then to DVDs, many times replacing copies of the same movie in a different format.

But after my father died, I had decided to cut back as much as I could on my entertainment spending. So I cut the cable TV and went with watching Netflix on the Roku on my TV. Netflix is awesome, quickly replacing channels like HBO in my affections. In addition to loads of movies, Netflix contained entire series, including Doctor Who.

Doctor Who had been a favorite series of mine since I first discovered him as a kid back in the 1970s. Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor back then, just as David Tennant is my favorite of the modern day Doctors.

I kept buying Doctor Who seasons on DVD even while I had the whole series to watch on Netflix. I recall feeling silly while doing this; why spend more money on something that I can watch whenever I want? And whenever I watched Doctor Who, I only saw it on Netflix. There were moments where I even stared at my growing DVD collection of Doctor Who and wondered if I should just sell them. Because, after all, the whole series was available on Netflix, right?

Nope. No longer.

On February 1st of 2016, Netflix removed all of Doctor Who from their network. The rights had ran out, and rumors were that the BBC had wanted to start their own streaming channel, with the Doctor Who series being the main attraction. Whatever the excuse, the Good Doctor and his extremely enjoyable adventures through time and space were gone.

But only from Netflix.

Now, when I stare at my ever-growing DVD collection of Doctor Who, it’s with immense relief. I now have all of David Tennant’s run as the Doctor on DVD, and I’m working on completing Matt Smith’s turn, as well. It’s ironic that the very week that Netflix removed Doctor Who, I received the second half of season Nine of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor on DVD in the mail from Barnes & Noble. Due to recent events, the ninth season of DW might never be seen on Netflix, but thanks to DVD, I’m watching it right now (a review is forthcoming).

I still enjoy Netflix; it’s a great way to sample new films and TV shows. But if I truly love something I see, I make sure to get an actual copy of it. Nothing beats physical media. When you buy something on DVD/Blu-Ray, you truly own it. And it won’t abruptly vanish on you whenever some suit in an office somewhere makes a cut and dried business decision. –SF