Movie Review ~ Last Looks

The Facts:

Synopsis: A disgraced ex-cop seeks solace by moving to the woods, but his quiet life comes to an end when a private eye recruits him to investigate a murder

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Mel Gibson, Morena Baccarin, Rupert Friend, Lucy Fry, Clancy Brown, Dominic Monaghan, Cliff “Method Man” Smith

Director: Tim Kirkby

Rated: R

Running Length: 111 minutes

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:   Last Looks is a movie very much after its time.  Now, before you scroll past this review thinking this should be taken as a bad thing, let me explain.  Last Looks is the type of picture that would have played like gangbusters back in the mid to late ‘90s and will remind viewers of Hollywood insider crime romps like 1995’s Get Shorty.  True, even watching the original trailer for Last Looks (which I find to be quite bizarre, so…skip it) left me convinced it was another in the long line of adaptations of Elmore Leonard novels that explored organized crime infiltrating Tinsel Town.  Instead, this is based on the first of two books by television writer Howard Michael Gould, and he’s adapted his 2018 work as a star vehicle for Charlie Hunnam. 

As inferred above, a glance over the disjointed trailer didn’t inspire much hope for this one, and the opening moments might make you question if you’re even in the correct movie.  Hunnam (Pacific Rim) is former LAPD Charlie Waldo living a barebones lifestyle in Idlewild after leaving the force due to a botched investigation of a former case.  With a wild beard, un-showered appearance, and Zen attitude, he’s a man that appears content to be off the grid and solitary.  When former flame Lorena Nascimento (Morena Baccarin, Greenland) blazes in with her flashy car and proposition of an easy payday assignment back in Hollywood, which he politely declines, it invites a whole host of surly players into Waldo’s humble life who think he’s involved with either Lorena or the case.

All but forced to travel to Hollywood and clear up any confusion, it’s here that Last Looks catches its stride and sinks its hooks into viewers.  Famous actor Alastair Pinch (Mel Gibson, Boss Level) is the star of a popular television show and stands accused of murdering his wife. While it’s a boon in ratings the slimy studio executive (Rupert Friend, A Simple Favor) enjoys, no one wants to see the popular star thrown in jail for a crime he (maybe?) didn’t commit.  The trouble is, Pinch is a notorious temperamental boozer, and the live wire isn’t the easiest to warm to.  At first, Waldo is resolute against taking the case, but after meeting Pinch’s daughter and taking stock of the evidence against him, he’s inclined to stick around town and see what he can do to prove the innocence of his constantly inebriated client. 

Saying more about Waldo’s investigation or elaborating further on the various colorful people he encounters would muck up far too much of the enjoyment to be had in Last Looks.  Director Tim Kirkby is primarily a TV director, with episodes of Fleabag and Veep in his pocket, though he’s also credited with the 2018 Johnny Knoxville film Action Point.  That eclectic mix of style and mediums helps immeasurably in the timing of scenes (dialogue is fast, action sequences are swift but controlled) and keeping Last Looks light on its feet.  It’s often highly entertaining and connects the dots of its crisscrossing plot as it goes.  I’m always up for an insider-y look at Hollywood, and Gould inserts just enough gossipy talk into his efficient screenplay to satiate the cinephile needing a solid fix.

Even the best scripts and strong direction need a cast that can deliver, and Hunnam makes for a terrific leading man, and it’s a role he could parlay into an ongoing character (this is the first of two novels, after all) if he chooses.  I sure hope he’d be interested in continuing with Waldo because you can easily see a niche movie franchise or, better yet, a streaming TV series being crafted around the character.  The charisma factor is off the charts, and Hunnam is the kind of star who makes everyone around him look better, even the hard-to-write about Gibson.  It’s tough to know how to critique Gibson at this point because off-screen, he’s beating the same troublesome drum as ever, yet it’s impossible to deny how magnetic he is.  Like Hunnam, Gibson plays well with others (onscreen), and you crave more of him when he’s not there, and to be fair, his screen time in Last Looks is brief. 

Clever casting in the supporting roles gives Kirkby more room to score points with viewers.  Clancy Brown (Promising Young Woman) has a few nice scenes as Waldo’s former colleague, while Dominic Monaghan’s (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker) tiny cameo is well-executed.  Playing one of the shady sort more interested in Waldo’s ex than the murder case, Jacob Scipio (Bad Boys for Life) steals several scenes from his more notable co-stars, while Friend channels studio mogul Robert Evans just by donning a pair of oversized specs and questionably fashionable suits.  My nostalgia meter pinged seeing Robin Givens as a high-powered attorney defending Gibson’s character, and although Baccarin displays some nice heat with Hunnam, I’m glad her character is sidelined so Waldo can focus on the case.  The only bit of slightly akimbo casting might be Lucy Fry (Night Teeth), a little off-center as a schoolteacher who may know more than she’s letting on.  Perhaps it’s the Australian accent she’s working hard to cover up.

Back to what I said at the start, about how Last Looks is after its time.  I was recently remarking in a previous review how sad I was that the typical mid-budget film of an era long ago has seemed to vanish into the ether, replaced by either the franchise tentpole or quick glorified television movie.  Along comes Last Looks and restores my faith that there are filmmakers and studios out there fighting the good fight and delivering entertaining yarns reminding us how each ticket we buy doesn’t have to be for an established package.  It’s tremendous fun, the kind of film that for once actually deserves a sequel, and I think it would do quite well via word-of-mouth if enough people spread the news.

Movie Review ~ Greenland

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: John Garrity, his estranged wife and their young son embark on a perilous journey to find sanctuary as a planet-killing comet hurtles toward Earth.

Stars: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, David Denman, Hope Davis

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 119 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  I feel like I should give a disclaimer at the top of this review for the new end of the world disaster film Greenland which is being released onto streaming platforms after its summer 2020 release was delayed.  Though it had already arrived in theaters over in Europe back in July, it’s just now entering the U.S. atmosphere for all of us to see.  My disclaimer is that though I’m going to be dissecting some finer points of Greenland along the way and they are going to come off as maybe a tad harsh, I am definitely landing squarely on the side of recommending this film on the quality of the filmmaking and its overall effectiveness as a motion picture.  Whatever you may think of the characters within or the timing of its release, the movie has an almost tangible presence while you’re watching it that makes for an unsettling viewing experience.

Director Ric Roman Waugh reteams with his Angel Has Fallen star Gerard Butler in hopes of reigniting that same good chemistry and recapturing the rich details of their unexpectedly excellent third sequel to London Has Fallen and Olympus Has Fallen.  The film starts rather innocuously with spare titles and news of a recently discovered interstellar comet, named Clarke, that is making headlines but isn’t cause for much concern.  Butler is an Atlanta-based structural engineer estranged from his wife Allison (Morena Baccarin, Deadpool) but returning to help patch things up and host a party for his son (Roger Dale Floyd, Doctor Sleep) to watch the comet enter Earth’s orbit along with friends from their upper class neighborhood.

The fun stops quickly when John receives a message from the Office of Homeland Security notifying him that he, along with his family, have been selected for evacuation to a secret bunker and that they need to make their way to a designated location for transport immediately.  The comet’s trajectory has changed course and small fragments have begun to vaporize cities across the country and the world, with a massive sized chunk due to touch down in mere days, killing 75% of the population.  Leaving their dazed neighbors behind, the Garrity family heads for the transport base but getting to safety amidst the rising panic of a country not used to being denied access to anything proves to be a journey as perilous as the danger plummeting toward them from the sky.

Perhaps it’s just that as we’re reaching the end of 2020 I’ve had my fill of the selfishness I’ve seen overflowing in American cities, but there’s something about the actions of the central characters in Greenland that started to really annoy me early on.  Numerous times during the film John and Allison have a direct impact on preventing thousands of people making their way to safety (i.e. surviving) because of something stupid they’ve thrown a fit about being able to do (get on a plane, get off a plane, etc).  There’s even a scene where John says that if he can’t get on a plane, no one will be able to take off.  Is that really how we want our heroes in movies to act?  It’s likely something that every action hero or heroine has done in similar films throughout movie history but for some reason I couldn’t get over it while the film was rolling, and that frustration sat over me like a dark cloud straight through to the end of the movie.  Constant elbowing to the front of lines, moving from the back of crowds to the front touting their importance above the person next to them, numerous demands of attention needing to be paid right then and there while millions of lives hang in the balance echoes a lot of the kind of behavior we’re seeing today.  Then again, it could be one other thing.

Maybe…well.  How do I say it?  Maybe it’s also because there’s so much whiteness in the film as well.  There, I’ve said it.  That’s what’s really bothering me.  On more than one occasion, one of the Garrity family is directly helped by a minority character who either winds up sacrificing their life for a Garrity to survive or becomes collateral damage because of the actions caused by something a Garrity did or didn’t do.  It almost becomes a farce after a while because each person they meet you are almost counting down the minutes until they’re either dispatched or disappear without so much as a goodbye wave.  Complaining to a black female military official that she and her son aren’t able to board a plane to safety for those selected to go to the survival bunker, the official (Merrin Dungey, who faced another comet in 1998’s Deep Impact) tells Allison that her family wasn’t even allowed to go to the bunker and Allison takes it in for a moment, shrugs it off, and then asks for help finding her husband so they can get on the plane together.  It’s a constant feeling of “me first above all else” that starts to grate on you.

So, it almost feels wrong to whip my head around and tell you that Greenland is still quite an entertaining film…but it is.  Yes, it has some serious issues in the moral character department (strangely and in a scary way, it’s not as far-fetched as it may sound) but it finds a way to by-pass those problematic stumbling blocks with grounding the actors and situations with as much realism as possible.  Other disaster films are all about the massive visual effects and destruction scenes and while those are present here, Waugh is more adept at creating dread than causing mayhem.  The movie is infinitely more effective when it is leaving us to think about our current situation and what we’d do if faced with days left with nowhere to run.  It is frightening, I admit.

Arguably an experience that would be more impressive on the big screen, watching Greenland at home isn’t a total loss because at least when the tension gets too high you can (as I did) jump up and pace at your leisure without worrying about bothering your neighbors.  Fans of Butler will be pleased with his continued run of middle-aged do-gooders trying to do-good (even if John Garrity is, as mentioned already, kind of a Karen) and Baccarin is a fine match for him in the action scenes as well as the dramatic ones that make up the front end of the movie.  Watch with confidence of a film that delivers on its promise of entertainment value for the full two hours but do take note of what I’m talking about and see if you know what I mean about the whole “me first” attitude…

Movie Review ~ Deadpool 2


The Facts
:

Synopsis: Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA. Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy of supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling mutant, Cable.

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Zazie Beetz, Leslie Uggams, Jack Kesy, Shioli Kutsuna, Julian Dennison, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, Karon Soni, T. J. Miller, Bill Skarsgård, Rob Delaney, Terry Crews

Director: David Leitch

Rated: R

Running Length: 119 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (7.5/10)

Review: When Deadpool arrived on the scene in 2016, it sent a much-needed electric charge through the comic book genre that was quickly beginning to grow stale. Proving there was an audience for an R-rated superhero, Deadpool established a new breed of franchise that saluted the foul-mouthed and violent. To date, the copycat factor is low and if anything it’s asked PG-13 audience friendly fare to step up their game and get back to providing entertainment instead of just laying ground for future installments. Now, two years later Deadpool 2 is upon us and it’s poised to create similar sparks.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, Woman in Gold) has settled into life as Deadpool, a mercenary for hire intent on wiping out bad guys and gals in all walks of life as indicated in a prologue that brings us up to speed with his recent exploits in bloody fashion. Living with his love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Spy) and thinking about starting a family, Wade is just getting comfortable when everything goes wrong. Thus launches a surprisingly complex story involving time travel and Deadpool’s protection of a young mutant (Julian Dennison) from the Terminator-esque hulk Cable (Josh Brolin, Sicario).

There’s little more I could relay here without giving away major spoilers but if you were a fan of the first film you’ll find an equal amount of fun to be had here. I was worried the success of the wisecracking style in the first movie would result in smart-alecky shenanigans that were too self-aware and sure enough the movie struggles with sincerity out of the gate. In all honesty, the film takes a solid 20 minutes to find its feet and a frenzied bit of opening exposition weighs the film down needlessly. Thankfully, director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) and screenwriters Rhett Reese (Life), Paul Wernick, and Reynolds himself get these tiresome trapping out of their system early on.

What I continue to appreciate about this series is its willingness to make itself the butt of the joke. There’s a hefty amount of self-referencing gallows humor that works almost every time and enough inside jokes to keep the most pop culturally adept among us satiated. As was the case in the previous film, no superhero is off limits and one of the first gags employed is a hysterical Logan reference that sets the tone perfectly. Keep your eyes and ears open for a cavalcade of digs and dings at everyone from The Avengers to Brad Pitt – the jokes come fast and furious so stay alert.

Another selling point to this film is that it’s unpredictable and not just because it moves so fast you don’t have time to catch up. No, the film actually takes some turns that feel unique and that creates a sense of engagement to keep you on the edge of your seat. As more and more characters join the mix (and, in one laugh out loud diversion, form the basis for X-Force) it can feel overwhelming but it’s clear Reynolds and company know where this clown car of craziness is headed.

The closing credits of Deadpool 2 are alone worth the price of admission – I wouldn’t dream of giving away any of the surprises but I almost felt like standing up and applauding once they were complete. It takes a lot of balls and brains to pull off the feat of living up to a heralded original film and everyone involved in Deadpool 2 meets the challenge head-on. If you can forgive a rocky start (and I’m positive you will) this is one sequel that feels equal.

Movie Review ~ Deadpool

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The Facts
:

Synopsis: A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool.

Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Ed Skrein, Brianna Hildebrand

Director: Tim Miller

Rated: R

Running Length: 108 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  The first time I was supposed to see Deadpool, I sat in the theater for close to an hour while the projectionist and theater manager tried desperately to get the movie to  play.  We had just come in from the cold, the theater was hot, and the audience grew more restless as the minutes ticked away.  In the end, the technical difficulties sent us back into the chill and I had to wonder if a movie that relied so much on its smart-alecky marketing had pulled the ultimate prank on critics by getting us all ready to go and then leaving us hanging.

At the follow-up screening several days later I was just ready to get it over with.  Growing wearier with each passing comic book turned movie and already feeling strained with months of campaigns featuring Marvel’s wise-ass anti-hero lampooning itself and other similarly themed films, it was finally time for the long in the planning franchise starter to put up or shut up.  And put up it did, emerging as the first shamelessly entertaining movie of the new year.

First introduced awkwardly in the unkempt X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there was a hint in the final moments of a Deadpool spinoff that wound up bumped to the back burner when X-Men Origins: Wolverine tanked with audiences and critics (for the record, I didn’t mind it much).  While 20th Century Fox licked its wounds and threw money at a new path for the X-Men, memories of the Deadpool character started to become a distant memory.  With the rise in popularity of cross-over pictures in The Avengers franchise and soon with Batman/Superman, Fox looked for ways to cross-pollinate their own Marvel niche to co-exist with the X-Men and headline their own movie.  Finally… Deadpool was back in business.

Returning as Wade Wilson/Deadpool is Ryan Reynolds (Woman in Gold), an actor I’ve long since learned to expect little from. His sardonic flair mixed with frat boy good looks only took him so far on my popularity meter…so I wasn’t prepared for how perfect he meshes with the overall style and tone of the film.  Finally, he’s able to capitalize on his sharp snap and make it an actual benefit to a movie, rather than a detraction from the overall impact.

Opening with a ballsy title sequence that lets you know right away egos are being checked at the door, we meet up with an action sequence already in progress.  Bloody, violent, vulgar, and go-for-broke, the film starts out firing on all cylinders and manages to keep up that momentum throughout the remaining 105 minutes.  Flashing back to a time when Deadpool was just ordinary, cancer-striken, tough as nails yet romantic softie Wade Wilson, we gradually see how Wade’s desperate attempt to prolong his life backfires and leaves him with the power of regeneration but looking like a thumb pruned from too much time in the ocean.

Vowing revenge on the man that made him (Ed Skrein, The Transporter Refueled), Deadpool slices his way through a host of bad guys and girls (including Gina Carano, Haywire, as a powerful henchwoman) while trying to reconnect with his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin, Spy, a zinger of a match for Reynolds) and staving off the requests to join Professor Xavier’s elite X-Men.

I love a film that has a little spring in its step and wink in its eye and Deadpool hits the target squarely, never taking itself too seriously yet not becoming an outright spoof of itself.  Like it’s star/lead character, no entendre is left un-doubled and no fourth wall remains unbroken.  There’s references to other X-Men and the actors that play them, a dig at Reynolds stint as People’s Sexiest Man Alive (and recently named Sexiest Dad Alive!), and more profanity gore, and nudity (yep, that’s Reynolds going the full monty) than you’d ever find in the PG-13 recent big budget tentpole films,

Usually I’d be nervous with a first time director and screenwriters with a spotty track record but Tim Miller brings his history as visual artist and blends it nicely with Zombieland’s Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese’s cheeky tale.  Sure, some stuff doesn’t work like T.J. Miller’s (Transformers: Age of Extinction) deadpan comic second banana that feels extraneous when Reynolds already is more than pulling his weight in that department.  I’d also like to have seen more with Deadpool’s grumpy geriatric blind roommate played by Leslie Uggams but there’s only so much you can pack into a respectable running time.

As always make sure to stay until the end of the credits …and if you do you’ll have one upped me because preview audiences only saw one of two post-credit sequences.  Usually I’d wait to catch what I missed when it arrives on video but Reynolds is so in his element and the film so consistently entertaining that I’m already considering a return visit.

*A final note…parents, please for the love of Stan Lee do not take your kids to this. It’s rated R for a reason, make this the film your kids can look forward to watching when they reach the right age.  This is most definitely not for youngsters.

The Silver Bullet ~ Deadpool

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Synopsis: A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and adopts the alter ego Deadpool.

Release Date: February 12, 2016

Thoughts:  Ho-hum…I think my original feelings at seeing the Deadpool trailer are clouded in a sea of extreme superhero fatigue after being subjected to so many similar films in the past year.  I don’t think my brain can really get excited for anything with anyone in a costume that resembles a crusader right now.

I will say this for Deadpool, it’s certainly doing well with establishing itself as the anti PG-13 superhero film.  Releasing a gory and more profane trailer at the same time as a more tame option for the pearl-clutching crowd, it’s clear that Deadpool won’t be shying away from broken bones or spilled blood when it’s released in February…hopefully by that time audiences (and this critic) will be less weary when it comes to ass-kickers in skin-tight attire vanquishing bad guys.