Just how many superheroes exist in the Marvel Comics universe? Wait. Don’t answer that. I’m probably not going to keep tabs or remember the answer, because other than a cursory interest in the Superman movies that made Christopher Reeve a household heartthrob, it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m most decidedly not the target audience for this type of story. So what am I doing at the AMC watching Deadpool on a Friday night in early March?
No clue. Curiosity, perhaps?
Let’s leave it at that. Also, from what little I know, this was/is a totally different creation in the Marvel Comics Universe, one so blatantly outre and dripping in sheer bravado that I kind of had to give up a little snobbery and concede. You see, when you see a little of yourself in a character you get the character and Deadpool has attitude in spades. Heck–his attitude has attitude. He’s like the honey badger video that’s made the rounds on YouTube forever, voiced by the lisping gay guy: he doesn’t give a shit. And he wants you to know he doesn’t give a shit. Everyone’s game; everyone’s a target, and even when you need him to do a favor for you, don’t expect him to accept your thanks because he just needed to vent a little and make a stalker pee in his pants and never, ever, consider terrorizing the girl on campus (as is what happens in one of the film’s many flashbacks). Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the reluctant hero. If you’ve seen his movies you knew this one was coming: he has the right amount of comedic presence, the right amount of vocal delivery, and even the right amount of visual badassery to convince me that he, Wade Wilson, would don a red suit and strike out on his own.
His Wade Wilson gets introduced in medias res as he’s about to engage in some massive ass-kicking. But first: cue the credits, who roll with outrageous mentions as “a British Supervillain” “a hot chick” “the gratuitous cameo” “the comic sidekick”. I loved it. This is a hard-rock movie that doesn’t take anything that happens in its story too seriously and wants you to know it and have fun.
And the fun explodes from the intro and then gets amped up to eleven real quick. What helps it is a composition of its plot which can be summed up as “Deadpool goes after the man who ruined his life; mayhem ensues”–backed up with some hilarious set pieces that work perfectly as flashbacks. These flashbacks come in the form of thought bubbles stemming from Deadpool’s stream of consciousness as he, the former Wade Wilson, flies through the air after getting a hit from someone. They manage to give us a connect the dots from point a) when he saved a girl from a stalker (see paragraph above), to b) when he met the woman who was essentially his match in every shape and form, fell in lust/love, and just as they were about to find bliss? Point c) Cancer. Incurable. Tick-tock.
Wade’s problem stems from the fact that he buys into the seemingly impossible sell that he may regain his life back through an obscure procedure. Here is where he meets Ajax/Frank, a man who uses him as a guinea pig with the sole intent to make him suffer. One experiment goes too far, and Wade’s defense mechanism goes into absolute overdrive, creating a new creature who’s basically invulnerable to injuries, but hideous. Or as he himself states, “I look like balls with teeth.” Sounds like an episode from Botched on Bravo.
And there you have it — that’s the meat of the story; how it’s a matter of time until Deadpool and Ajax meet for One Final Encounter. Tim Muller has created a massively frantic movie that throws everything that it can to the viewer — in one rapid-fire scene I counted no less than 3 jokes and several visual sight gags along with several pop-culture references. Some of the funniest set pieces involve him and a man he uses as a limo/taxi driver whom he also lectures in how to act in his private life (which yields some rather hilarious circumstances). Not as funny are the fight scenes themselves, but I guess they were necessary, although a small exchange between Colossus and Angel Dust who are battling it to the death made me laugh out loud. After all, when a man is fighting a woman and she reveals a naked breast (which Muller blocks by placing Colossus’ hand in a strategic position), it’s no reason why he should forget to be a gentleman. Those two should pair up. That’s the sequel I want to see.
This is a fun as balls movie. It’s outrageous, it’s raunchy, it’s almost disgusting, and completely politically incorrect, and that to me is solid popcorn entertainment I enjoy. And coming from someone who’s numb to fantasy superhero movies, that is saying a lot.
Not as fast moving as Deadpool is Glassland, an Irish movie that demands you to sit back and see the slow-burn train wreck unfolding in the lives of a young Irish man and his alcoholic mother. The situation as it is, starts out pretty bad: a mostly wordless montage introduces you to John (Jack Raynor), a taxi driver working late nights to support his alcoholic mother Jean (Toni Collette). Upon returning from his shift he comes back to find her unconscious and drowning in her own puke on the bed after what seems like one too many drinks. An emergency hospital visit doesn’t give John too much hope: if she continues the way she’s carrying on she’ll need a liver transplant. When John and Jean return to their apartment she goes into a frenzy and rips the place apart looking for her drinks. Jean would rather drink herself to death than sober up and face life and is dragging Jack along for the miserable ride. It’s a gamble if Jean will survive her own addiction or one day, not wake up.
While there are other subplots, Glassland is a haunting two-person character study of people in pain who don’t see a way out. This brutal movie will linger long after the credits have rolled, it’s that good. All of the most powerful scenes involve Jean and John as they both confront and argue with each other — he’s heartbroken that she’s unwilling to let go of the drink; she’s just too dependent on the bottle for reasons she eventually discloses in an emotional scene. Toni Collette continues to essay strong performances that flesh out real people; her Jean is drowning in more ways than one. It’s painful to see her face filled with lines, wallowing in her own self-pity, screaming at the top of her lungs, a woman gone mad. Also good is Jack Raynor who creates a solid character of John without turning him into a caricature of selfless suffering. He provides the film with enormous gravity.
Glassland is available on VOD and premieres in limited release Friday March 18.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:
And now, a different type of film with a different type of heroine. Based on her memoirs, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is another slice of cinematic chick-lit peppered with a faux-grittier slant that feels a little too color-by-numbers. And I’m not saying this is a bad thing: I like movies where the main character goes into unknown territory to explore and possibly, oh, learn something, and I assume the real Kim Barker did, but somehow, it just didn’t quite register here. Perhaps if it had taken a cue of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (its distant cousin) I would have felt like this was less a somewhat feel-good movie about war in Afghanistan and something closer to the stuff Christiane Amanpour goes through when she’s out in the field and bombs are exploding in the distance. To a degree, this is no one’s fault: there has to be a story and as based on reality as it portends to be, elements of the fictitious creep in and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot somehow does justice to its acronym and morphs into a sometimes credible, sometimes “eh” Tina Fey vehicle where she gets to do something serious for about two hours and emerges less dirty and hopefully a little bit wiser.