by Philip Price
What if I told you the best parts of “Deadpool 2” had nothing to do with the antagonist 20th Century Fox has been psyching everyone up for since last November? Or furthermore, since the post-credits scene in the first movie? I'll do you one more even-what if I told you the least interesting parts of Deadpool 2 in fact featured the same guy who was so charismatically devious three weeks ago in “Avengers: Infinity War”? Well, for my money's worth-I'd much rather watch the “Deadpool 2” that deals with the titular character figuring out how to balance his sarcasm and wit with that of being a part of something bigger-whether that be with Morena Baccarin's Vanessa or his newly formed X-Force family-but for the movie to go on for long stretches pretending as if Josh Brolin's Cable is a traditional villain in the sense that this is as much his movie as it is Deadpool's and that it is he who we will come to see the merc with a mouth clash with in the unavoidable climactic third act is a disservice to the movie in general as “Deadpool 2” is simply better than that. It's better than this because, for a lot of its running time, “Deadpool 2” balances so well the kind of irreverent humor that is the character's trademark and upending the expectations and conventions of the super hero genre in ways that aren't as obvious as one might imagine or as easy as it could be for writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to default to, but rather Reese and Wernick as well as star Ryan Reynolds, who gets a writing credit on this follow-up, insinuate from the get-go that this isn't just going to give you what you want while upending those expectations, but rather that it's going to do this in a way you don't necessarily see coming. The writers as well as new franchise director David Leitch (“John Wick”) stick to this main idea, this thesis if you will, throughout and layer in a genuine emotional pull to not hang their main character out to dry with little more than the same shtick we've come to expect. That said, there are plenty of laughs to be had here and viewers won't be longing for more of the old because this isn't completely more of the same, but rather there is a more intense satisfaction to be had from the bigger ambitions Reese, Wernick, and Reynolds have for the character this time around. Still, I'd be lying if I said those ambitions don't get away from them throughout the course of this neXt-level adventure.
When we talk about sequels there is such a pressure to go bigger, which “Deadpool 2” does, as well as this need to up the stakes from the original, which Deadpool 2 does, and then there is the internal conflict we all deal with-including writers and producers- where we want to see all these new characters we loved (or those with cult fan bases) in the comics come to life on the big screen into the fold ... which “Deadpool 2” does. And so, in all these ways Deadpool's sequel plays into the system in which it both exists and intends to lampoon, but where it deviates is not in the plot it dolls out, but more in how it conveys the story it wants to tell. For starters, the opening sequence of the film and opening credits both quickly establish that this isn't necessarily going to be the sequel we thought we would get. It should also be noted that both the opening sequence and opening credits are both fantastic and nail what it means to define up front what your audience should expect from the rest of your movie. Leitch, who has a long history of stunt work knows his way around an action sequence and while the first “Deadpool” was impressive for what it was able to accomplish on such a tight budget, it is quite evident from the first time we see Deadpool pull out his katanas that Leitch is working in a much bigger sandbox than Tim Miller was, and that money is on the screen. In a relentless montage of the work our anti-hero's been doing since we last saw him we get a DMX-laden, multiple location sequence of well-choreographed and widely captured encounters that, despite not personally being a Deadpool comic book reader, I imagine are damn close to the kind of action that might have been depicted in this character's many runs and what fans of the original comics might have imagined Deadpool embodied on screen to fully be. Take these impressively staged moments and throw in a narrative curve ball that bleeds into a spoof of the opening credits of a James Bond film as set to Celine Dion's gloriously self-knowing, "Ashes" that skillfully brings back the song/movie tie-in the industry has disregarded for far too long now and you're off to one hell of a start. Maybe this is why, after we're given the inciting set-up and slight insight into the probable motivation behind it, the movie feels like it grinds to a halt when it switches timelines and tone to introduce us to a character we've never seen or heard anything about before and, ultimately, don't come to know enough about to care much.
This goes for many of the new characters that are introduced in Deadpool 2 as that "X-Force" movie you thought you were promised in the trailers is more of a gag than anything else while more setting up that idea for the next movie than instituting it in this first sequel. The most memorable of the newcomers is Domino (Zazie Beetz) as her mutation is perfect for the world in which Deadpool operates whereas someone like Cable is called out for being so dark that he might in fact be a part of the DC universe. This is a funny if not easy joke to make, but Brolin's portrayal tells us nothing of who this guy truly is, was, or how he became this bionic man of sorts. All we know is that in the future Rusty Collins AKA Firefist (played in present day by Julian Dennison) murders Cable's wife and daughter and Cable only has enough juice in his time travel device to travel through time twice: once to the past and once back home meaning he's going to kill Collins even if it means he must kill a kid. This is all well and good if you're looking for a plot-heavy, futuristic sequel, but “Deadpool 2” kind of skimps on the exposition here which is nice in terms of the movie not getting bogged down in the logistics of the repercussions of Cable's actions, but more there isn't enough of it to flesh Cable out either. For those of us uninitiated in the world of the comics, Cable comes off as little more than an archetype of several characters we've seen in the movies before (some of which Deadpool himself references), but while the character slowly comes around and the narrative allows for his arc to take an interesting turn into a more interesting and complex grey area the whole middle section of the film where Cable is persistent in his seeking out of the boy Brolin takes the route of the strong, silent type giving his action scenes featured in this section the same feeling you get when you watch a recent Terrence Malick movie: it looks great and you know the potential is there, but you just don't care about anything happening in front of you. This, unfortunately, makes the much anticipated second coming of Brolin the Offender this summer the weakest link in a movie that otherwise succeeds in every other element that is occurring around him. In short, Cable feels like he's removed from the main throughline of the film and while I understand that the character isn't necessarily supposed to feel like he belongs in the same world as Deadpool, here it never feels as if Leitch or the writers knew how to marry the two in a cohesive or complimentary manner. As much as this would seem to sink any chance “Deadpool 2” has of rising above its predecessor the film in fact has so much other stuff going on and keeps the remainder of it in effective enough fashion that the whole Cable the Detractor deal more or less keeps it on par with the original in terms of quality as one of the more outstanding virtues of this sequel is just how daringly different it means to be in how wide-ranging and emotionally resonant it ends up feeling.
For example, the interplay that continues in “Deadpool 2” between our title character and his cab driver Dopinder (Karan Soni), his best friend Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) as well as her new girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), all continues in the tradition with which it started two years ago-though they certain cut down Negasonic's screen time rather than attempting to raise her profile as a member of the X-Men. The same goes for Leslie Uggams' Blind Al who serves in much the same capacity as she did in the first film but is relied on less for the interplay between herself and Reynolds and more for the convenience her situation presents despite the fact her inclusion often feels forced and a little inconvenient. Besides Blind Al though, each of these characters has an arc to take on-even T.J. Miller's less relied upon Weasel has a bit of raw character development here whereas Dopinder and Colossus' arc's and how they play into their evolving relationship with Deadpool is solid, fun stuff. The most interesting new dynamic that comes into play is of course the one between Deadpool and Dennison's Rusty who has reached a breaking point at a local boy's home run by a devious headmaster (Eddie Marsan). Considering this, Rusty is using what are his presumed newly acquired mutant powers to break out of the joint when the X-Men consisting of Colossus, Negasonic and "trainee" Deadpool show up to try and stop the kid from making a bigger mess than he realizes he's about to step into. From the onset of the first scene in which these two meet one another both Reynolds and Dennison are willing to play the game of matching wits. Reynolds' Deadpool can't figure the kid out beyond his clear justification for wanting to roast Marsan's headmaster whereas Collins sees in Deadpool the first person to ever take up for him, genuinely be on his side, and understand things from his perspective which makes his eventual disappointment in our titular character all the more earth-shattering.
Dennison does a fine enough job of managing the range of emotions his pubescent counterpart experiences throughout the course of the film, but it is his scenes where he is able to play off the charming Reynolds that show how much both are up to the task of going back and forth with one another in the battle of wits that both really shine. There is a whole mutant prison section of the film that’s, other than just generally being cool, is key to the foundation of this relationship and Deadpool’s development as this guy who is truly broken and chooses to filter it all through humor. I wish we might have seen more of the one on one interactions between Deadpool and Rusty as this is where the meat of the narrative lays, but to this point-and it feels easy to overlook-Reynolds gives a solid performance. Sure, the guy is essentially playing a heightened version of his own personality, but when the script calls for Reynolds, the actor, to show up and grow up-he does so in convincing fashion which is more difficult to do with real credibility after making a joke about 90% of the things/events that have come before this supposedly authentically emotional moment. In all actuality, “Deadpool 2” ends up feeling like an amalgamation of a few different kinds of movies to not feel like your typical sequel, but each of these strands are expertly weaved together by the same overarching needle and the movie is just so consistently entertaining and funny that it’s hard to argue Reynolds and his team didn’t largely accomplish exactly what they set out to create. Also, the mid-credits sequence is perfection.
by Julian Spivey
I lived far outside of town growing up and didn’t have a vehicle of my own so when my friends would hang out during summer between my junior and senior years of high school my best friend became Turner Classic Movies, where Robert Osborne would introduce me to Hitchcock, Ford, Huston, Lumet and more. One film that instantly struck me and became a favorite was Norman Jewison’s “In the Heat of the Night,” starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, a stunning one-two punch of leads.
Growing up in Northern Arkansas where diversity doesn’t exist, it was important to see strong black men like Poitier, and my God, Poitier’s Det. Virgil Tibbs was not only strong, but cool. When plantation owner Endicott slaps Tibbs in the face without hesitation, Tibbs slaps him back. Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne would call it the “slap heard around the world” in an American Film Institute special and it was one of the most daring things put to film at that time.
“In the Heat of the Night” won best picture in 1968 and often you’ll read pieces claiming more innovative or revolutionary films like “Bonnie and Clyde” or “The Graduate” should have won instead. But a movie featuring a black hero in the South, showing the white good ol’ boys how it’s done in ‘67 is about as revolutionary as it got in an era when Jim Crow laws had just been overturned.
Visiting a relative in nowhere Mississippi in the turbulent ‘60s, Tibbs gets caught up in a crime where he’s first the suspected perp and later helps Steiger’s small town police chief solve. It’s the friendship between Tibbs and Chief Gillespie that I focused on. Gillespie and Tibbs start off as foes, but by the end of the movie come to respect one another, if not become borderline friends.
It’s a message that despite differences, looks and beliefs we can all get along. And that’s something as important in today’s world as it was 50 years ago. It’s messages like these that make the medium of film truly important.
by Philip Price
There is a point in the first 10 to 15 minutes of Jason Reitman’s “Tully” where it’s fair to think this is going to be “one of those movies”. One of those movies that chronicles the small, but sometimes enormously stressful lives of middle-class suburbanites that have become increasingly difficult to feel sorry for in the climate of a world gone off the rails. Everyone has their issues, their problems, their struggles, and they come to be dealt with just as uniquely or just as commonly as the problems themselves might be, but there is no point in asking an audience, who is paying hard-earned money to be entertained, to feel sorry for someone who is going through some of the same experiences they've likely had. This is the key, the turning point really, for “Tully” in that the movie never asks the viewer to feel sorry for its protagonist and it never asks for forgiveness for her actions either. In fact, the titular character that comes to be embodied by Mackenzie Davis and who is described as a "night nanny", never passes a single judgement on Charlize Theron's Marlo thus encouraging the viewers to do the same; or to at least hold that judgement until we are delivered the entirety of the picture. And so, in many ways “Tully” simply asks the viewer to either sympathize or empathize with its characters plight, knowing that said viewers might be able to relate, rather than necessarily making a stand about opening a hidden world beyond the greeting card society we all like to pretend we exist within. The film, written by Diablo Cody, is best when it gets specific and Cody is known for excelling at this. There are multiple moments of unfiltered truth that capture the essence of what it feels like to be a parent to a newborn that, given how tired and how on auto-pilot new parents are, it’s a mystery how Cody had the forethought to write examples of as much down or even find the humor in certain situations, but she does and it is in these small truths, these everyday instances and challenges where the movie consistently keeps it real and yet moves on as we all have to do that the viewer is able to appreciate what “Tully” is doing, what it is saying, and what it becomes rather than dismissing it as another in a line of narratives that purport to pull back the curtain on the middle.
Reitman, who also directed Cody's screenplays for “Juno” and “Young Adult,” has had varying degrees of success when tackling the topic of not losing sight of who you are as you grow older-“Young Adult” would actually make a great companion piece to this as Theron plays the other side of the coin just as well as she does portraying Marlo-but with “Tully,” Reitman has crafted something wholly apart from anything he's done before. In fact, in tone this feels closest to what was his most critically-ravaged film in “Men, Women, & Children,” but while that film suffered due to convoluted storylines to make obvious points it is Cody's writing that seemingly allows for Reitman to hone in on the aspects he most needs to make the most compelling and captivating films. Yes, the main theme in “Tully” is a simple one in that it is the story of a mother of three trying to balance her work, her children, her husband, and her ambitions and how difficult it can be to keep an even balance making it easy to lose sight of who one is as a person as opposed to who they envisioned themselves becoming. What “Tully” is about though, is that of not losing sight of who you are and who you want to be despite the fact you are now responsible for other lives that depend on you to successfully shape who they might be. There is this inherent belief or almost expectation in life that once you have children or become a parent that one's own process of evolving ceases until they have completed the task of raising their children and this simply cannot apply or be executed in any successful manner without the parent ultimately becoming little more than a shadow of the person they once were; this kind of full-on devotion only making the process of allowing your children to eventually lead their own lives all the more difficult and frightening. It's a destructive lifestyle choice. And so, besides balance, how does one retain who they are while living for their children? This is something “Tully,” in the slightest of ways, seeks to try and figure out by operating on a premise that no doubt worked as a process of discovery for Cody herself. The answer it then seems that Cody has come up with is one that might feel obvious, but in the context of the film is one that lands with a powerful and genuine moment of clarity. To discuss too much would be to reveal certain turns the narrative takes that would be detrimental to the experience of those for whom this movie was made at and who will gain the most from it, but to say that “Tully” will be able to be enjoyed on a multitude of levels over multiple viewings feels like something of an understatement.
At first glance, “Tully” might seem like something you find on the Lifetime network and Cody is well-aware of such a fact by giving Marlo a level of discernment to the idea of how easily her life could become a said ninety-minute Saturday night feature should she allow this mysterious "night nanny" into she and her children's lives, but rest assured “Tully” is anything but a conventional family dramedy in the vein of either that network's schlocky guilty pleasures or network television's sappy hyper-sentimental sagas. Instead, “Tully” is more in line with something of a quaint fable, but without the anthropomorphizing. There is almost an ethereal quality to the film when introducing its titular character into the lives of Marlo and what is primarily her newborn child, Mia. As personified by Davis the other-worldly-like Tully is everything Theron's struggling, and exhausted Marlo needs now. Besides having just given birth to a newborn and dealing with a husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), who is trying his best despite the fact he doesn't always have the perspective to know that, except for a few things, he and his wife's roles in the lives of their children should be interchangeable she also has the two older kids, one of which she hasn't quite figured out how to deal with yet. Sarah (Lia Frankland) is eight and getting to that stage where she's beginning to be "too hard on herself" whereas she also must be the older sister to kindergartener Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) who is somewhere on the autism spectrum, but whom has not been diagnosed officially and who the doctors have only labeled as "atypical" thus far. Marlo and Drew's children can attend what looks to be a private Christian school due to the fact Marlo's brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), is a big donor, but given Jonah's increasing need for individual attention the school is asking Marlo and Drew to hire an aide to give Jonah that attention he deserves. Even in this small notion from the principal lies a large impact in the lives of our characters and extracts an even larger toll on Marlo's sanity. She loves her kids, that is easy to glean, but it's also clear quite frequently clear that Marlo feels more than out of her depth. She loves Jonah and is willing to try whatever might help (including brushing his skin) soothe his anxiety, but there is no textbook on how to handle a child with needs outside the norm. This is where Tully comes in. Reinforcing the silver linings to Marlo's every day that Marlo fails to see or acknowledge anymore. The routine, the sameness of it all scares Marlo, but on the other end of the spectrum the youthful and spirited Tully seems comforted by the thought of such safety.
Naturally, all of this is escalated to a certain level of authenticity by the combination of performances on display, the attention to detail in the production design (Marlo and Drew's house is a wonder of truth unto itself), and how deftly Reitman can control the mix of realness as combined with the fairy tale-esque quality of the film as it weaves in and out of the highs and lows Marlo experiences in her day to day. This is without mentioning the charm in Cody's screenplay as there are countless lines of dialogue that are laugh-out-loud funny as well as others that are excruciatingly honest and as sharp as anything you've heard on screen this year. From Sarah waking up and asking, “Why’s the house so clean?” as if something must be wrong because of it to Marlo and her hard, strong mindset dishing out gems such as, "You’re like a book of fun facts for unpopular 4th graders," and, "My body looks like a relief map for a war-torn country," to, "Girls don't heal. We might look like we’re all better, but if you look close, we’re covered in concealer.” They are both humorous in the best way in that they offer a very particular yet peculiar example that can still relate to the masses while also cutting to the core of certain elements of our existence. To this extent, the way in which Theron plays Marlo as both this neglected and vulnerable feeling woman to a fearless and sometimes even vicious example of what a mother is called to be allows the actress to not only play a range of emotions, but more Theron is able to put together a whole person and not just a single facet that serves just the story being told. Paired with Davis, the chemistry is infectious from the first moment Tully steps into the house. She is quirky (a word the movie comes to despise, mind you) and at first feels like the epitome of that old Cameron Crowe archetype, but as she and Marlo develop more of a relationship and become more comfortable with one another we see this facade fade away and her inner self come more to the surface just as Marlo learns to let her inner self go a little bit. To this extent, Marlo begins to build a kind of outer presence for herself, ensuring she shows herself enough attention and care to both be a good mother to her children as well as be able to enjoy the time she spends with them. That's all Cody, Marlo, and every other parent is chasing anyway right? To not just be there for their children, but to be present with them. If so, the final moments of the film are something as close to perfection as one could get regarding obtaining the goals your films set out to accomplish as the interaction between Marlo and Jonah will break your heart while simultaneously putting the biggest smile on your face.