Free Guy

Officially, my favorite phrase from the above preview is “Not Streaming August 13”. I know that will not be popular with some people who because of their local restrictions or personal anxiety about Covid-19, are unable/willing to go to a theatrical presentation. I on the other hand want the Cinema platform to survive, and if the studios cannibalize their audience with day and date streaming, that experience will become the horseback riding weekend of the future. You know, people going retro for a few hours but doing so on very rare occasions. My second favorite line was “Fox Firesale” because this was a Fox film that Disney acquired when they purchased Fox and it has a specialty Label, “20th Century Studios” (let’s see how long that lasts). 

Repeatedly delayed, not because of quality but in trying to get to a date where the audience will show up, “Free Guy” is an absolute delight and for my money, one of the better pictures this year. I know it will go down like cotton candy or bubblegum flavored ice cream, but there is a little more to it than just the empty calories of CGI action fun and Ryan Reynold’s arch humor. There is a moral question that the characters in this story face. It may seem far fetched to think so, but A.I. is all around us , and the future is here. This film is a bit like “Her” , only instead of worrying about the effect of A.I. on the human race, it turns it around and wonders what responsibility humans would have to an A.I. creation. It is much less grim than the Kubrick/Spielberg A.I., but some of those themes are present. At least enough so the movie is not just jokes about video games. “Ready Player One”, “The Lego Movie” and “The Truman show, all have similar plot elements that mix reality with fantasy, and this film does it through the portal of  Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing games like Grand Theft Auto. 

I’ve said it before, I am not a comic book guy. So imagine how distant I am from the video game industry that now dwarfs my beloved film world. Most kids in the next generation will more quickly recognize characters form “Fortnite” than they will classic film characters. The last video based game I played was “Space Invaders” and that was a arcade version, I know next to nothing about the on-line gaming community, despite having a “Twitch” account. I do however know some of the routines from other mass culture and I did not really have a problem with most of the references. Several people appear on screen who I think are probably YouTube Gamer celebrities, This is another place where I can see my time as a member of the culture is limited.  I am sure there were some things that got by me because I am a newb, but I still enjoyed the film anyway.

Ryan Reynolds has cornered the market on sly, insider humor touched by both naivete and sadistic comic book violence. “Deadpool” is a character that he breathed life into after first sucking it out in an early form of the character.  He has also been the voice of gentle characters in animated movies and a sweet romantic partner in Rom-Coms. His voice and demeanor make the contrasting events feel more outsized without having to exaggerate every thing about the performance (ok, except for Deadpool). He has no writing credit on this film but he is a producer, and the film only moved forward when he got together with director Shawn Levy. The nice guy in the blue shirt is his persona to a tea. Hell, even when Deadpool is being a dick, he still speaks in mostly polite tones. I don’t know Jodie Comer but I thought she was just great in the two roles that she plays. Taika Waititi was fun, but not his usual oddball self, I thought this part could have been done by any number of actors, they don’t really get the best value out of having him in the film. Lil Rey Howery was funny as heck in “Get Out” and here he is funny with a little bit of heart.  

Because we know from the beginning that we are watching a video game, the elaborate visuals will seem less impressive because they are merely being used as background for the story. It’s a good looking movie, but I suspect it would be an above average looking video game, and the drama is lessened al little bit, even though the comedy is ramped up as a result. I will say this was one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in a theatre this year. It was a little deeper than I expected but it was also funnier than I had hoped. It worked out for me, my guess is that it will do the same for you. A completely satisfying dessert that also serves as the main course. 

Pick a Date.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

The original film came out four years ago, and was obviously successful enough to spawn a sequel. The high concept of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is all in the title. This film is no more subtle than the original. It hits you in the face with the premise, follows it up with a lot of mayhem, and then tops it with enough vulgar language for three Al Pacino and two Samuel L. Jackson films. This is the embodiment of mindless entertainment, it often makes no sense whatsoever, but you won’t care because you are shame laughing the whole time. 

I said it in the review of the first film, and I will repeat it and emphasize it here, Selma Hayak not only gives Jackson a run for his money, she clearly wins. It must have struck the writers of this film that doubling the use of the f-word by Jackson’s character’s wife would be funny, and they calculated correctly. Hayak delivers the good twice as much and frequently in a second language which makes this even more preposterous. She is a songbird with the f-word. Poor Ryan Reynolds has to make due with using the word mostly as a rejoinder to the other two. He can barely get a f-you in edgewise. 

It’s not entirely clear why the love interest for Reynold’s character in the original film was left out, although she would have been superfluous to the story with the direction they have taken here. Instead, they have inserted a character for Morgan Freeman to join the cast and get a paycheck. He also gets a few choice f-bombs but some of the biggest laughs he generates are from Reynold’s worshipful description of his voice. 

Appearing as the bad guy is Antonio Banderas, who does most of his acting with silly hairstyles and even sillier clothing choices. I would have appreciated a bit more by play with Banderas and Hayak, they were once matched together in another hitman story, “Desperado”  about twenty five years earlier. They do get a fight scene towards the end, and unlike the Robert Rodriguez film, this one is often played for laughs. In fact most of the action in the film has a comedic element to it. 

There is plenty of blood to go around, and many of the deaths are done for comic effect. Ryan Reynold is first billed but once things get started, he becomes a supporting character to the married couple of Jackson and Hayak. He is quite a bit the Coyote to everybody else’s Roadrunner. He gets dropped, kicked, run over, shot, stabbed and generally abused, but is right back up for the next sequence, ready to do it all again. 

The story is not as strong as the first film was, although neither is particularly sturdy. I do think there are more laughs in this film and that makes it a winner in my book. This is entertainment that is crude and disposable, which means for adults, you can enjoy your date night, drink to your heart’s content, and not worry that you don’t remember much about the movie the next day,…you don’t need to. 

Deadpool 2

Two years ago, the character of Deadpool was revived from a disastrous turn as a secondary character in a largely reviled X-Men movie. The character in that film was the mercenary named Wade Wilson, and the actor playing him was Ryan Reynolds, but in the most misbegotten script tuning imaginable, the character had his mouth removed permanently. Is there any way you can imagine Deadpool from two years ago and the one in this movie without the mouth that roars: sarcasm, cynicism non-sequesters and insults? It’s enough to stage a revolt, which is apparently how Ryan Reynolds managed to wrangle the character back into his hands and become the embodiment of this non-X-men mutant.

Deadpool” (2016) had so much going for it and it was so fresh, it was inevitable that there would be a sequel.  What is not inevitable is that it would work a second time. The original director was not attached, we’ve had a series of very successful “Avengers” films filling the void for the last two years, and the surprise of the filthy language, gross visualizations and overall snarkiness is going to be gone. Well never fear my friends, the people who are responsible for this property know what they are doing and they understand the treasure they have in Reynolds. They were very careful not to blow it while at the same time not trying to repeat the whole movie as a simple cash grab. Look there is nothing very deep in the film, it is not creating a universe that we will be seriously invested in, rather it is creating an alternate Marvel Universe, one that is closer to “Thor Ragnarok” than an X-Men movie.

Let me explain how this movie won me over in the very first few minutes. Anyone who has been on this site before will have discovered that I am a James Bond fan. Hell, I’m even an apologist for some of the worst 007 films. I thought I’d seen the perfect parody of the Bond signature title sequence in the comedy film “Spy Hard“. It turns out I was wrong. Nothing against Weird Al, but the title sequence from “Deadpool 2” has taken every trope used in the Daniel Craig Bond films and turned them into a perfect visual parody. The song is an Adele knock off that lacks the silliness of Weird Al, but fits the CGI  heavy synchronized graphics of recent Bond films more accurately than the Leslie Nielson joke film. It was a joy to watch and it matched the brilliance of the titles from the first “Deadpool”.

After the opening, we settle in for a story of redemption, hardly the thing that you would expect from this film series. Deadpool 2’s time altered opening sequence, like the first film, starts us a quarter of the way into the story, then takes us back to the beginning, and climaxes with the events we saw in the opening. OK, so they copied the exact device they used in the first film, but they did make it work anyway. Along the way we are reacquainted with some of the characters from the original film, but a new timeline is introduced as well. This second set of events brings the main story  plot into focus. A futuristic soldier comes back in time to stop a series of events from his time period. Look, if you are going to rip off another story, you might as well go big and do “Terminator“. Of course the movie not only acknowledges that it is doing so, it has a lot of fun along the way mocking itself for doing so.

In my review of the first “Deadpool” I suggested that it was not outright parody. I withdraw that statement. This movie is so full of pop culture references and self aware criticisms, that it is a little difficult to take any of it seriously. So don’t. Instead, you should luxuriate in the mocking of all comic book movies, regardless of what Cinematic Universe they occupy. I was on a podcast recently where one of the guests suggested that the offensive language in “Midnight Run” might have been done for shock and laughs but that it does not have the same appeal to someone at forty, that it might have had for someone at fifteen.  That may be true, and if you hate the use of the F@#k bomb and the potty mouth antics of smart ass hipsters, then you will be less enamored of this movie. It has enough references to body parts, sex acts and other taboo topics, to fill a couple of Guy Richie films. It also has some great fight choreography that is acknowledged as being ridiculous while at the same time being entertaining. This movie is not just a parody, it is a paradox. It undermines it’s very premises while still managing to tell a story that in the end was worth telling.

As is my policy, I have not given away any spoilers, so you are safe to read on. There are several post credit moments that will take you out of the film that you just saw and put you into several other perspectives. You should enjoy them. Along with the title sequence, the end credits serve as the rye bread to the film’s sloppy Reuben sandwich. You get the spiced meat, served with sauerkraut plot points and a sweet thousand island dressing that every word from Deadpool himself represents. I don’t know if it is a great movie, but I do know it was a great meal.Just sit down and eat it, don’t worry about counting the calories. That would be like trying to keep track of all the people killed in the story, a distraction and nearly impossible.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Video is NSFW)

Normally on this site we try to keep it at a PG-13 for the readers. If it is something I am writing, than I want it to be in my voice and I use vulgar language in a fairly narrow spectrum of circumstances. The trailer above however is an accurate reflection of the vulgarity and coarseness of the interactions in the film we are talking about here, so if you can’t guess how the maestro of the “MF” word does in this film, the clip will give you plenty to chew on. Reynold’s character actually suggests that Jackson is single-highhandedly ruining the word.

This kind of movie is mostly bulletproof. It is not critic friendly, it will be obvious as to what is going to happen, and it will offend a few people both intentionally and unintentionally. It will also entertain you for a couple of hours while you enjoy a refreshing beverage and some popcorn in a cool theater on a hot day. I prefer my popcorn with a good amount of butter flavoring and then I dump in a box of Hot Tamales to sweeten things up. The popcorn taste, mixed with the sweet but spicy candy is solid, but as the candy gets coated with the butterflavoring it adds an extra texture to the treat. If you are dieting, you should not go to see this film, because it demands that you consume things that are not good for you but taste delicious.

Mosaic electronic poster at Hollywood Achlight

Ryan Reynolds has become a very successful film star, although his most successful film is also one of his most recent. “Deadpool” has a few things in common with this movie, an irreverent sense of humor and a willingness to go for big action, but otherwise they are very different films. Samuel L. Jackson could make this movie in his sleep. He simply brings his usual bravado and colorful vocabulary and supplements it with the kind of gleeful violence we used to get from “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. The premise is simple, a professional bodyguard ends up trying to protect a contract killer that has crossed his path before. This is a bickering buddy film, each character has quirks that make them appealing and repulsive, and we spend a lot of time with the two of them togeteher matching insults.

If there is a pretender to the crown of “Most Colorful Cursing in the Movies”, it might be the character played by Selma Hayek in this film, plus she does it bi-bilingually. If you ever feel a bit overwhelmed by the language, let me suggest some Junior Mints to go along with the popcorn. A refreshing mint might take the edge off of the palate enough that you can tolerate a few more curse words, in at least two languages.

Now leaving the snack bar menu for a bit and talking about the movie, I will say there are a couple of things that were nice about the film. The locations for the last act are in Amsterdam and take advantage of the city’s quaint architecture and street layouts. There may have been an Alister MacLean film that used the canals of Amsterdam for a chase, I have a vague childhood memory, but it was certainly not as elaborate a chase scene as we get here. The integration of  boats, cars and motorcycles made for a terrific sequence. The main problem is that there are at least two more car chase scenes after this and neither is as exciting. Gary Oldman is in this thing collecting a paycheck and playing another evil villain. His part is so underwritten that when he gets to the big moral equivocation his character launches into, we are already laughing before Samuel Jackson does.

Mostly, I’m just filling space here. There are some moral qualms you can have about using genocide as a plot point in a comedy, and the use of vehicles as terror weapons may be offensive as well. This movie is too silly to take seriously. Go get a refill on your Dr. Pepper or other beverage of choice. Don’t worry about missing anything while you are gone, they will still be cracking wise and shooting crap up when you get back. As a matter of fact, you might want to go to the bathroom as well.


[This is traditionally a spoiler free site. This review may have content which indirectly gives away some plot elements. Sorry, but the movie turned me a bit reactionary.]

I will hold my powder dry until the end of this post. There are so many things I liked about this movie that it would be a disservice to start with the thing that irritated me the most. Instead, we’ll concentrate on the strong points at the outset and hope that my ire calms down enough to be fair to the movie. “Life” is a horror film in a science fiction atmosphere. That makes it sound derivative of “Alien”, but that’s OK because as great as “Alien” is, it is also a product of ideas that came before it, and it made a great film, so this could do the same.

An International Space Station, set up to process materials from other planets, (basically Mars), receives a sample back after the delivery capsule encounters some problems on it’s way to them. A group of six scientists and engineers are ready to take possession and begin analysis in the safety of space, above the Earth. Naturally things do not go as smoothly as expected. Proof of life beyond our planet becomes an international moment of celebration, but the initial joy of the scientists becomes dread as the life form begins to develop some dangerous characteristics.

As with all horror films, the group of potential victims is faced with a variety of options. Almost all of the choices are bad and most of the actions of the crew will in retrospect seem foolish. An early mistake that supposedly can’t happen allows the life form access to a larger area of the space lab. This sequence happens so fast that it is difficult to tell exactly what happened. However, the sequence that immediately follows is the best section of the film. Astronaut Ryan Reynolds attempts to rescue his comrade from a seemingly sudden attack. Just like in “Alien” someone has to break the protocol to allow events to play out. Immediately we get a sense of the power and potential intelligence of the new life form. Just as with Alien, the use of fire is not particularly effective.  The results are gruesome and frightening in a very tense five or six minute scene. It is exactly the kind of thing you hope for in a story of this type.

It begins to feel like we are playing out the “Ten Little Indians” scenario in a horror film one more time. We are given glimpses of the personalities of the crew and one by one they will be killed by the monster. A few red herrings are set up and the plotline plays them out reasonably well for a while. The visual effects of the activities on the station and the movement of the creature are very disturbing and effective. The actions of stars Jake Gyllenhaal , Rebecca Ferguson, and the rest of the cast, sometimes are heroic, sometimes lucky and occasionally clever. For most of the ride we get the kinds of action and suspense that we paid our money for. Just as I thought last year’s “The Shallows” was a reasonably entertaining variation of the “Jaws” concept, I found this to be a pretty effective variant on “Alien”. That is until we get to the Ian Malcolm moment.

[Potential spoilers. We wary of proceeding].

In “Jurassic Park”, the character of Ian Malcolm explains very simply that  “If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is. …”Life” finds a way.” We might be lead to believe that this is a description of the science team, and that gives us the rooting interest that an audience will need. Unfortunately just as most of the characters make a mistake  or bad choice along the way, just as we think the writers responsible for “Deadpool” and “Zombieland”  are about to show that they can find a way the make “Life” work, …they choose poorly. The twist suckerpunch at the end of the film destroys most of the goodwill the film built up for me. There were a lot of other options that could have been more satisfying, but no, the film makers go for a big finish and they flop.

There will be people out there who like the choice made at the end, I think those people are wrong. It denies the value of most of what we saw for the opening hour and forty minutes of the film. I saw this coming as soon as a sequence continues past a natural stopping place. I guess I could do what some folks do, step out at that point, or turn the movie off before the finale. That’s not in my nature. Which is why, like Sky Masterson I say, “Daddy, I got cider in my ear.”


Violent, vile, irreverent, and generally self aware, “Deadpool” has got to be the sort of film that fans of the Marvel comic book were looking for. Not being a comics guy myself, I can’t say how true the film is to the spirit of the character, all I can say is that the film character makes me want to read the comics. This film was a blast from the start to the finish and it will make some people want to accalim it the greatest film ever and others predict the end of civilization as we know it. While it is substantially different from anything that has come before it, I can say that the spirit of the movie is in line with “Kick Ass” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”. It is not quite a parody of comic book films, but it does act as if those movies are there to be mocked, inspired by and definitely commented on.

Ryan Reynolds is playing this character for a second time. In “Wolverine Origins” he played the mercenary Wade Wilson. I saw that movie one time and I have a vague recollection of it, but I do know that a lot of people thought he was cast right and they immediately started lobbying for a stand alone “Deadpool” film. After the misbegotten “Green Lantern” it’s a wonder that anyone let Reynold near another comic book character. Then he was in “R.I.P.D.” and came close to never being in anything again. Someone had faith however and their faith has been rewarded. Reynold seems the perfect match for this comic icon. He starts as pretty boy gorgeous, and is transformed into mildly hideous, but only someone as good looking as he was could imagine that his true love would not be able to stay with him with the disfigurement caused by his mutation being released. Wade Wilson was not a good guy, but he was less bad than others and aware of his own faults to the point that he had a loose code of conduct. The condensed romance that serves as the background for most of the film is centered on the warped personalities of the two lovers more than mere physical attraction, and that is the ultimate payoff at the end of the story here.

The movie is filled with violence of the type that we have come to expect in a hard “R” rated movie. You will see dismemberment, decapitation, splattered brains and torture of a wide variety. If that does not appeal to you, stay way. If on the other hand those things are selling points for you, get ready for a steady diet of satisfying money shots with bad guys getting pummeled and the hero going full James Franco for one scene. All the while, Deadpool provides his own commentary track on the film and the actions. He is the one to make a reference to “127 Hours”. He actually names the two main actors who have played Charles Xavier in the X-Men films. This character makes no pretenses toward being real or serious, he is a send up of all those other mutants that populate the Marvel Universe. His real super power is not that he is indestructible, it is that he can’t shut up. Thank goodness because a steady stream of trash talk and sarcastic self reference keeps this moving along at a jolly clip.

Instead of getting into the plot, you can know all you need to know about the film by hearing about the opening credits. The actors are not listed by name, they are described by type “Villain with British Accent” for instance. Reynolds own cover of “People” magazine naming him as the “Sexiest Man Alive” is used as a throw away visual reference to his being in the movie. The writers give themselves the credit as the real heroes of the story. I laughed out loud from the very beginning of the film. The opening scene is actually a middle of the story event that we flash back and forth to several times during the film. The character, speaks to the audience as active observers and reminds us of points that have been made or will need to be returned to. The script is a miracle of filthy talk, childish humor and clever cultural references. It is delivered with a sardonic cynicism that plays exceptionally well to an audience overwhelmed by the number of super hero movies they have been subjected to in the past few years. “Deadpool” is a palate cleanser of sorts, designed to have all of the action of a comic movie, but built to entertain people who are jaded by those very action motifs.

Attitude is what this film is all about, bad attitude. You will be hard pressed to find a two minute segment where something is not offensive to someone. I did see several people bringing kids to the film and I wondered how they will explain the doggy style sex jokes to them when asked. There are references to erections, testicles and vagina’s everywhere. I don’t know what the old folks are thinking, but they better not complain because everyone was warned early on that this was not a safe X-Men movie. It still has a sense of fun for the non-vile people out there as well. Wait through the credits and you will get a Samuel Jackson joke and a tribute to 80s films as well. This may not be everybodies cup of tea, but I would certainly be happy to put on another pot and sit down to further afternoons with this irresponsible jerk, who is as funny as hell.