Archive for Ryan Reynolds

Deadpool: Lives up to Hype and…Don’t Get Greedy That’s Good Enough

Posted in 8, Action, Comedy, New Releases, Ratings, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2016 by mducoing

DeadpoolIn the vein of tongue-in-cheek super hero films/spoofs, Deadpool ups the ante as one of those splendid films that lives up to the hype. Imperfect as it is, this is swept quickly beneath the rug in favor of playing along with this self-aware, dark, violent comedy.

Premise: A military operative turned mercenary is subjected to a terrible experiment that leads him to become alter ego Deadpool. Result: A fun spoof on super hero films that is as smart as it is violent (oh and raunchy).

Skeptics need only wonder how many times Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) can deliver the same film before somebody, anybody, could finally stop him. But unlike recent and not so recent catastrophes (Green Lantern, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he actually played the same, albeit vastly distinct, character) this film seems retrofitted to Reynolds and his self-deprecating, irreverent, machine gun style humor.

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Bang, Marry, Kill: Tarsem Singh

Posted in Bang Marry Kill, Comedy, Comedy, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2015 by notlaz


We’re deep into the summer movie season. Max’s have been mad, Avengers have assembled, and Chris Pratt had a topless, Top Gun-style volleyball montage with raptorsSo which director’s body of work should I be an immature jerk towards in a futile attempt to cope with my own crippling inability to accomplish anything of significance?

There’s lot’s of big movies left to choose from, so instead let’s look at the really obscure director that no one’s heard of because he keeps changing his damn name with every movie he releases.

It’s like click-bait reverse psychology. By practically daring you not to click the link, you’ll click it so fast that the server room (aka Maurice’s porn dungeon) will explode and release the souls of all those 1920’s bootleggers buried in his basement.

Subject: Tarsem Singh


Occupation(s): Director. Guy who always has that smirk when you cut a silent fart in a crowded elevator.

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Safe House: An Exhilarating Thrill-Ride

Posted in 7, Action, Ratings, Reviews, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on February 29, 2012 by mducoing

Director Daniel Espinosa has managed to take a strong cast and script and give it the power and thrills it deserves.  While likely not the best film of the year, it is certainly a formidable entry, keeping audiences captivated by action and intrigue throughout.

Premise: A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge. Result: An exciting spy/action thriller that entertains throughout despite a slight downturn at the end

This film begins with some covert operation whose complexity is designed to not only fool pursuers, but also the audience. However, the degree of complexity here is complimented perfectly by action and suspense which make it work, as supposed double agent Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) shows us not only his intensity, but his precision. With the moves of Jason Bourne and the finesse of 007 (think Sean Connery, as Frost constantly swirls and tastes fine wines), Frost rampages through the screen with heart-pounding elegance. 

Abruptly, however, he surrenders to the US Embassy where he is then transported to a Safe House in Cape Town, South Africa under the protection of unseasoned agent Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds). A team of CIA agents under the direction of Robert Keifer (Robert Patrick) attempt to extract information from Frost using various cringe-inducing water-boarding techniques.  Frost is amply prepared for this and they have no effect.  However, without notice, there is an attack on the Safe House, and a battle ensues.

As Weston attempts an escape with Frost, he is aided by David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) and Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) who appear to be rival agent supervisors vying to provide the right solution for their Deputy Secretary Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard) via satellite. The two butt heads constantly over the right approach, and Linklater does not hold back her lack of faith in supposed novice Weston while Barlow defends his mentee. This conflict adds to the excitement, as their tension supplies the proper drama and urgency to the situation.

The rest of the film is a rollercoaster ride of spy-caper action with Weston trying to protect his house guest who is clearly manipulating him while also trying to escape unknown assassins. As the film progresses, Espinosa does a good job of managing an exciting pace while also inserting interesting twists and turns that will keep audiences guessing. 

The action sequences themselves are quite engaging, grounding the film but also consistently pressing boundaries.  There is also the sense that each battle sequence could be the end for either character, as their journey is plagued by injury and a seemingly inescapable trail of death and destruction.  Plus, it’s in South Africa, so anything goes.

Washington is incredible in his role as Tobin Frost, creating a character that is worthy of his talent while also avoiding any of the over-the-top outbursts that some of his more recent past characters have been plagued with.  Here, Washington mixes elegance and poise with a ruthless power and frightening manipulation to create a memorable and frankly exemplary character.

Reynolds for his part manages to avoid much of the camp and shtick that many of his roles require, moving headfirst into a serious action role that helps exemplify his talent rather than smother it.  Like his powerful portrayal of a trapped man in Buried, here Reynolds has cultivated a terrified agent while also making him strong and resilient.  He is believable in every scene and rather than distract without pointless comedic sarcasm, he comes off as a serious actor, and not just a pretty face (there is only one shirtless scene!)

The rest of the cast also does a strong job of supporting these two stars, keeping each scene flowing quickly and even adding value themselves.  Farmiga, who apparently can now only get roles portraying someone in government, and Gleeson are fantastic foils, delivering their characters in such ways as to always keep the audience guessing.

The end of the film is somewhat interesting, but unfortunately departs from the intriguing and unique nature of the rest of the film.  Here we have an outcome that feels a bit predictable, albeit it will take some time for the inevitable prediction to materialize. Nevertheless, there is something disjointed about it, leaving audiences wondering whether or not the creativity just suddenly ran out before the finish line.

In the end, Safe House is a strong, exhilarating spy thriller with the requisite action to twists ratio to make it entertaining.  While the film seemed to lose a bit of steam by the end, it is certainly worth watching for the rest of the film, the strong direction, pacing and performances from an all-star cast.

Rating: 7 – A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

Green Lantern: More Aptly Called the Brown Lantern….

Posted in 4, Action, Reviews, Sci Fi/ Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2011 by mducoing

When Kermit the Frog first uttered those immortal words, “It ain’t easy being green” he certainly wasn’t kidding, and Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness) knows this all too well.  

However, to provide a more thorough introduction to my initial reaction to the Green Lantern, I will use the following breakdown:

Reasons you may want to see this film:

  • A bizarre fetish for the color green (or to a lesser extent yellow)
  • The possibility of seeing Ryan Reynolds Naked (or even half-naked)
  • An insatiable hunger to waste time on unfulfilling activities
  • A lost bet

Reasons you will likely not want to see this film:

  •  An unreasonable expectation that films “have a point”
  • The need to see good acting
  • A phobia of déjà vu, where you fear reliving the same clichéd explanations you have seen in countless other films
  • A phobia of Ryan Reynolds wearing clothes (a true disappointment explored thoroughly in this film)

Premise: A test pilot named Hal Jordan is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with unlimited powers that he must use to destroy an ancient evil known as Parallax. Result: A messy, mishandled movie that combines impressive visuals with flimsy, clichéd storylines to create a must miss.

It is impossible to know what Director Martin Campbell was thinking the moment he found himself at the end of post-production.  Naturally, he was accustomed to making good films (his most recent works Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness where both very strong) and so the idea that he could be stricken with anything other than a disorienting terror at the sight of the finished piece boggles the mind.  Sadly, the story of what Campbell actually felt in those horribly disappointing moments when Green Lantern was “ready” for public consumption may never be told; worse still, that story would likely be more interesting than what audiences saw instead.

Green Lantern is the tale of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) a messed up flyboy intent on flying planes and breaking rules. He has issues; we know this because of occasional clichéd conversations with his wide-eyed nephew and the longing, silent manner with which he regards a ubiquitous picture of his Dad. 

Jordan is not the only one harboring Daddy issues, however: Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is apparently a great disappointment to his father Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins) and this is flaunted continuously for no apparent reason. There is also the enchanting Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) with whom there is the requisite unspoken sexual tension, which is channeled, also expectedly, into nonstop outbursts regarding Jordan’s lack of focus and control.

Of course, all of this is of little relevance since the Universe is in grave danger.  It seems that a great evil, Parallax (Clancy Brown), has somehow escaped his prison (it is never really clear how, it just sort of happens suddenly) and is growing as a mortal threat to the Universe as his control of Fear is capable of dissolving entire worlds.  The only power that can stop him is the Corps of Lanterns, powerful, green, ring-wearing creatures from across the galaxy that have been given great strength by immortal beings to harness the power of Will. 

Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), the Lantern who originally imprisoned Parallax, is mortally wounded in another altercation with the horror and falls to Earth in time to help the ring find a new master.  The ring chooses a member of this youthful planet, the impetuous Hal Jordan. Jordan is taken to the home base world of the Lanterns where he will learn to control his new power to help defeat this new enemy. The supposed leader of the Lanterns (at least it appears that way) is Sinestro (Mark Strong) an otherworldly being who simply cannot believe that Jordan will amount to anything.

At the same time, Hammond is accidentally exposed Parallax via an autopsy of Abin Sur, (despite being a science teacher at a local school in a preposterous moment of anti-nepotism) and begins to mutate as the substance changes him into a vile henchman of the monstrous immortal.  He grows a head larger than a Tea Party Republican with all the mean-spirit that the role requires, now capable of telepathy and other powers that the “yellow” Fear brings.  Parallax, for its part seems unstoppable, churning through space rapidly as it soon engulfs Earth and its inhabitants in a horrific manner so unique it was basically cut-and-pasted directly from the Final Fantasy video game.

Nothing really goes right for the film before or after this point.  It should be noted that the initial visual success of this movie should manage to mollify the audience’s most visceral responses to the disaster everywhere else on screen; it is not long, however, before observers will awaken from this hypnosis to realize that even these stunning scenes are really just brighter amalgams of countless images we have seen before. The resolution is sudden and forgettable almost the instant it takes place, giving the sense that everyone in the film gave up and thought they’d drown their miseries at the local Applebee’s.

Unfortunately, Campbell makes a boring movie that could have been interesting.  Worst still, he allows and perhaps induces performances from relatively strong artists that fall flat at best and are painful and laughable at worst.  Reynolds takes a full step back in this movie after a leap forward in Buried (read full Buried review); Blake Lively appears bored with her own performance to such an extent that audiences will long for the days of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Of course, nothing could be worse than what was done to Sarsgaard, transformed into a pathetic mess on screen without even the semblance of an intriguing back story; a talent like his was completely mishandled in this catastrophe, downgraded from nuanced performer to sideshow attraction.  I won’t even get into Tim Robbins who at best looks like a shadow of Norville Barnes in The Hudsucker Proxy with none of the likeability.

Green Lantern is clearly disappointing; of this there can be little doubt.  It does not smack of an awful film on first glance only because it is more irrelevant than bad; there is really nothing notable about it other than its distinct inability to interest anyone. If only there was a color to represent that accomplishment.

Rating: 4 – A case of PBR and a “Dear John” letter

Buried: Much More Lies Beneath This Film Than Expected

Posted in 7, Drama, Independent, Reviews with tags , , , on February 21, 2011 by mducoing

Director Rodrigo Cortés presents his audience with a chilling question: what would you do if you found yourself buried underground?  The premise, while rife with nuance and complexities, is relatively straightforward.  His film, considering the limitations inherent with the plot, delivers profound horror and emotion in this cathartic thriller.

Premise: A U.S. contractor working in Iraq is buried alive inside a coffin after an attack by a group of Iraqis and wakes to find he is in a claustrophobic death trap. Result: A rollercoaster of emotion where the audience ebbs and flows between boredom and complete horror.  In the end, its innovative approach wins the day.

The film begins in darkness.  The audience is keenly aware of something rustling in the deep black, slowly.  A dim light throbs feebly from a small cigarette lighter revealing our protagonist Paul Conroy (played by Ryan Reynolds) overcome by disorientation.  He instinctively tests the perimeters of his new surroundings, toggling haplessly between violent thrashing and weak, defeated jabs and with each thud, the audience can sense the claustrophobia. 

Conroy is presented a series of choices, subtly developed that will either lead him to rescue or certain death.  He has been given a lighter, a pen, and his cell phone (however, with only Arabic characters, which he can obviously not read.)  Reynolds delivers a riveting performance as Conroy slowly accepts his terrifying circumstances and desperately attempts his escape.  He calls, often random numbers stored in his phone, hitting answering machine after answering machine and with each failure the audience is suffocated by the dark desperation as it oozes from the screen.

Worse still are Conroy’s successful attempts: first, scattered, muted calls with various US officials, ever ascending in importance as Conroy’s dilemma is revealed.  Eventually, Conroy speaks with a US Operative responsible for dealing with such abductions which the audience is obliquely informed happen frequently.  At the same time, Conroy reaches his apparent abductors, who inform him that he must secure a ransom or he will be left to die.

The film ebbs and flows between mild discomfort to utter asphyxiation, as both time and air run out for Conroy.  The audience is left fighting with themselves – often Conroy’s actions seem unreasonable or completely absurd, and so believability is sacrificed only to be balanced with audience’s sudden comprehension that their own actions might be unclear in a similar situation.  As the film progresses, the team Cortés and Reynolds masterfully break down the audience’s cynical defenses, luring us into not only the spatial limits of Conroy’s tomb, to experience the horror with him, but we are forced into subconscious empathy, feeling our hearts lurch violently as Reynolds’s despair becomes palpable and the misery beocmes our own.

While there are segments of the film that could have used some re-writing, such as the over-the-top sequence with Conroy’s HR person via cell phone (the man actually fires Conroy over the phone in the film’s potent WTF moment) or Conroy’s off hand political debates with his captors that sometimes border on over-explanation.  However,  the film’s final twist is so enthralling that it was some time before I fully recovered from the trauma.

Reynolds completely transforms himself from rom-com darling to legitimate on-screen powerhouse.  His performance often borders on flawless, helping him re-invent his Van Wilder image and in the process give upmost credibility to the film’s parallel storyline: a man reflecting on his life as it is drained from his body and feeling it has been a life perhaps not really lived.  This, combined with Cortés’ brilliant visuals and use of angles to magnify Conroy’s emotion, makes a film about a man in the box utterly watchable.

While perhaps not one of the best films of the year, this film is worth watching, providing the audience with an innovative approach to story and filmmaking.  And in perhaps the ultimate irony, this film is quite the breath of fresh air.

Rating: 7- A refreshing Champagne that a cute bartender comp’d you!

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