Life (2017)

 

Released: March 24, 2017. Directed by: Daniel Espinosa. Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds. Runtime: 1h 44 min.

A crew at the International Space Station – two Americans, two Brits, a Russian and a Japanese dude – are tasked with retrieving a sample from Mars that could contain the first proof of extraterrestrial life, and the first evidence of life on Mars (hence the title of Life).

After it gets on board, things go awry – and they still have to get it home because of what it means for science. The cute little guy does look like the parasite at the beginning of The Faculty, and the life-form is given the name Calvin by an elementary school.

Sounds cute enough, right? Don’t let names fool you because it becomes quite frightening when it starts bulking up.

The British biologist on the crew, Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare) is the only one who actually calls the little thing Calvin, as he spends his time studying it. He nearly seems fatherly to it, which brings up interesting dynamics because others are extremely wary of it. They’re afraid of the unknown thing – and for good damn reason.

I liked Hugh’s story because there’s a heartwarming aspect that he’s wheelchair-bound on Earth, but when he’s in space he can float around and do almost anything his heart desires.

The rest of the crew includes Dr. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an American medical officer, whose story is cool, too, because he likes the hum of space. The other American is system engineer Rory Adams, played by Ryan Reynolds.

Rebecca Ferguson plays Britain’s other representation Miranda North, who’s in charge of keeping the specimen in quarantine. Katerina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) is the Russian crew commander of the International Space Station. The crew pilot is Sho Murakam and is played by Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada.

Life - Ryan

Ryan Reynolds in Life. (Source)

The cast assembled makes an impressive ensemble. So much screen time is shared that they’re all supporting performers more than leading, even though Gyllenhaal, Ferguson and Reynolds are the most recognizable of the bunch. Gyllenhaal and Ferguson also offer the most compelling performances. No one’s wearing the redshirt from Star Trek per se, but there are people who feel more expendable. Talents don’t get wasted – but some are less utilized than others. Naturally, the cast’s chemistry is good since they’re stuck on a space station together.

They all have nice banter and the dialogue’s well-written. It’s witty and best fit for Ryan Reynolds since it’s from the minds of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (writers of Deadpool and Zombieland). The writing pair also bring in a smart amount of scientific dialogue that’s so nerdy, you’re thankful that some characters dumb it down for us.

The story of Life wears its homage to Alien on its sleeve and while it is nothing new, it’s an entertaining and unnerving ride. It takes a hardcore horror route and it’s surprising in its brutality and it packs relentless, edge-of-your-seat thrills. It’s quite scary, and that’s what helps it be a great addition to the trapped in space genre.

The premise is just so terrifying, when they’re trapped with something they can’t permanently escape from, and it’s a hell of a long phone call away from Earth. It’s just freaky that they can’t be helped, and it shows how much can go wrong in the limitlessness of space. Some of the cinematography’s a bit too dark to see some aspects, but otherwise the visuals are great.

The only part of the writing that doesn’t compel is the beginning because it’s plainly trying to get into the story, but it’s helped by smart dialogue. When the carnage begins, it comes with a force that doesn’t let go. It makes at least an hour of this a lot of fun and scary, and the writers find a way to breathe fresh life into a premise we’ve seen before.

The writers can do it all when it comes to foul-mouthed superheroes, zombie horror comedies and now bat-shit craziness of astronauts being trapped in space with Calvin. He might not go down in the same infamy as the Xenomorph from Alien, but he’s memorable and I won’t be going to space anytime soon.

Score: 75/100

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Deadpool (2016)

 

Released: February 12, 2016. Directed by: Tim Miller. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein. Runtime: 1hr, 48 min.

The wait for the man in the red suit is finally over. It’s not Santa Claus – but the merc with a mouth himself, Deadpool. And it’s everything I’ve dreamed a Deadpool movie would be.

It’s fun and consistently entertaining. The strong pacing and the film’s fourth-wall breaking enables smooth transitions in the well-written screenplay. As a bonus, it’s heartfelt.

It’s an R-rated dream, challenging the likes of Kick-Ass and The Punisher as one of the most violent super hero films. Though, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is more like a super vigilante.

Wade Wilson was Special Forces before he became Deadpool, signing up for treatment that’s said to cure his cancer. It turned him into an ugly, super human, immortal ass-kicking machine, which led him to leave his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) in heartbreaking nature.

I was hooked from the film’s opening credits – a flipped car frozen in motion, as the camera takes us through a variety of items. The clever film induces big laughs in the most violent situations. The movie and violence work because of its over-the-top nature, and director Tim Miller really makes the humour hit in his directorial debut.

Colossus, Deadpool

Deadpool, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool. (Source)

The way the non-linear storyline weaves throughout the present and how Wilson became super is an intriguing style for a super hero film, which meets a balls-to-the-wall revenge tale.

Wilson has pledged revenge on Francis (Ed Skrein, The Transporter Refueled), who is responsible for the way Wade looks. Which, as the amusing T.J. Miller’s character Weasel describes, it’s like “Freddy Krueger face-f**ked a topographical map of Utah.”

Francis, whose villain name Ajax is more threatening, is a strong villain. He’s as sadistic as he is unrelenting. His power is a curse – where the super serum that Wade was put through turned Francis into someone who could not feel pain.

His right-hand woman is Angel Dust, a villain with super strength portrayed by former MMA fighter Gina Carano. She’s kick-ass, even though she can’t act her way out of a paper bag. For me, she’s the film’s biggest flaw.

Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (Source)

Wade enlists two X-Men to take down the baddies. One is Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), an iron man with super strength; and the other is a trainee called Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). She has explosive powers, and is described as a “moody teenager” in Wade’s amusing vision of opening credits.

Deadpool’s great self-referential humour featuring digs at X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Green Lantern make this a winner. It also feels so fresh and unique.

Even when it falls into a standard hero versus villain battle at the end, the humour and ambition add a fresh spin. The pure beauty of the film is Wade Wilson and how well Ryan Reynolds does as the character.

His comedic timing fits the badass character as well as the red suit fits him. Reynolds’ ability to act so effectively with his voice brings an energetic aspect to the performance, and he seems to be picking his roles better since his entertaining turn in The Voices. It seems like a promise for better things for Reynolds.

He knows he isn’t a hero and he just does his thing and it’s awesome. The hero is harshly judged and his ugliness gives him a vulnerable layer that makes him relatable. The memorable action scenes and soundtrack complement the mood so well, which is the cherry on top on this glorious movie.

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

R.I.P.D. (2013)

R.I.P.D.Release Date: July 19, 2013. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon. Runtime: 96 min.

A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department, that hunt Deados (ugly spirits who slipped through the cracks of the system and are now rotting on earth), and tries to find the man who murdered him.

It isn’t truly fair to compare films; but with “R.I.P.D.,” it’s nearly impossible to not make comparisons to the “Men in Black” franchise. They’re both buddy action comedies. Cops from both films battle otherworldly beings. The characters are similar, even if the character arcs are different. (More on that later.) There is one fundamental difference: The “Men in Black” franchise is smart, funny and fun; while “R.I.P.D.” is only one of those things. (Note: The “MIB” comparisons stop here, for the most part.)

Unoriginality and laziness are a few of the main problems that plague this film. The story is a basic save-the-world narrative. The story also isn’t enthralling, and there are few surprises in this safe feature. At one point, when the film seems to be holding a potentially awesome reveal for the end, it cowers away and restrains itself. The movie is never boring because there’s a lot going on and it’s loud. Its goofy tone helps it to be moderately fun. It’s never downright hilarious because, as much as The Dude and Van Wilder try, the writers don’t write many great jokes for them to deliver. The last time director Robert Schwentke made a comic book a movie (“Red”), it ended being a great success. This movie can’t be a great success, because this moderately entertaining time-waster is insanely disposable.

A fair deal of the content is chuckle-worthy throughout and the fact that the movie doesn’t take itself seriously is welcome. There’s only one laugh-out-loud moment, delivered by Jeff Bridges. Bridges is the most amusing part of the film, playing a cop who thinks he is the best lawman to ever live and die. He’s doing his best impersonation of John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn. He is the most memorable part of the movie – because for audiences, it will be fun to impersonate his impersonation of Cogburn. Ryan Reynolds is okay, his character’s arc is interesting; he hasn’t yet come to terms with his unexpected death, because he didn’t get closure with his wife (Stephanie Szostak). However, this thought-out arc almost feels strange in such a silly movie.

“R.I.P.D.” is just forgettable. It’s hard on the eyes, because the darkly tinted glasses make the ugly 3-D effects even worse. (If you do end up seeing this, do yourself a favour and watch it in 2-D.) The Deados are also hard on the eyes because they’re so damn ugly, and not in the awesomely ugly way some creatures are, like in “Pacific Rim.” They’re all a bit too similar, too, even the underwhelming leader. One of the coolest things about the movie are the guns. However, they look like they’re stolen from the set of “MIB.”

It’s amusing when we get to see the avatars of Reynolds and Bridges. Reynolds appears to the real world as an Asian man (James Hong, “Balls of Fury”) shooting a banana, instead of a gun. Bridges appears as a supermodel (Marisa Miller) who, appropriately, everyone gawks at while Marvin Gaye plays over the soundtrack. (Those scenes are chuckle-worthy, and it’s where the writers show shades of cleverness.) It would be welcome to see entire sequences with the characters’ respective avatars, rather than only the bit-sized periods of time they are on-screen. It’s distracting to constantly see the characters go from Bridges to Miller; from Reynolds to Hong.

If you see “R.I.P.D.,” you might or might not like it, but you surely won’t care if you ever see it again. Suffice to say, you could see worse this summer (“Grown Ups 2“), but you could see so much better. Or you could even re-watch “Men in Black.” This movie will struggle to linger in the mind, because it will be known as that one movie that’s a lot like “Men in Black,” but isn’t “Men in Black.”

Score50/100

Box Office Predictions: July 19-21

There are four big releases coming out this weekend, so I’ll try to keep my thoughts on each of the movies brief, so this article doesn’t become too tedious. The movies are “The Conjuring”, “Red 2”, “R.I.P.D.” and “Turbo”.

“The Conjuring” will do superb business this weekend. James Wan’s movies have an average opening of $10.9 million. Supernatural horror movies open at an average $15.26 million, but 2013 horror movies have been outstanding in their opening weekend performances. “Mama” opened to $28.4 million back in January, and “The Purge” opened to $34 million last month. Those movies opened to little to no competition. (“Mama” was up against “Broken City” and “The Last Stand”, two under-performing movies; while “The Purge” was up against the modestly-performing “The Internship”.) This movie opens on a busy weekend, but it is heavily anticipated and it has critics raving. Also, since “The Purge” had such poor word-of-mouth, it plummeted from $16.7 million on the Friday to $10.4 million on the Saturday, a day where movies usually earn more than the Friday. Anyway, horror fanatics haven’t received a horror movie since “The Purge” in June, and they haven’t received a good horror movie since April’s “Evil Dead”. Since it is anticipated, has star power (Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson), and since it looks great, I’m going to go high with my prediction. I also think this will have phenomenal word-of-mouth, so this will go strong all weekend. I’m predicting $37.5 million for its opening.

“Red 2” is the sequel to 2010’s action comedy hit. It brings back the cast and this one looks really fun. I haven’t seen the first movie, so I’ll be watching the first one sometime this week. The first “Red” opened to $21.76 million back in October 2010, against “Jackass 3-D”, that opened to $50.3 million. “Red” has a good following, though, as it has a standing 7.0 IMDb score based on over 140, 000 user ratings. It is also the tenth-best selling DVD of 2011 (sandwiched between “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Despicable Me”). The movie has a great cast including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins and Mary-Louise Parker (who is also starring in “R.I.P.D.”).With this film’s good following, I think this sequel will beat its predecessor in its opening weekend number by a decent-sized margin; so for the three-day weekend, I’m predicting this at $25 million.

“Turbo” is DreamWorks’ latest production, and I think it’ll do well, as family audiences aren’t yet tired of animated movies. They have emptied their pockets on “Monsters University” and those little yellow minions are still dominating the market, so this could very well suffer from competition of those animated movies, and the other new releases. And families just could wait for “The Smurfs 2”. This seems like DreamWorks’ answer to “Cars” and “Ratatouille” in the way that it’s an underdog story. Kids like racing movies, but are they willing to see a racing movie that has a snail going for gold? Of course, Pixar was able to make a rat appealing in “Ratatouille”, but DreamWorks isn’t nearly as respected as Pixar. (But then again, which animated studio is?) And “Epic” had a snail and a slug as supporting characters, but they were there for comic relief, mostly. Anyway, with a decent-looking underdog story and a good voice cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Ken Jeong), this should do decent business on a busy weekend. For the three-day, I’ll predict $28.8 million; and for the five-day (Wed-Sun), I’m predicting $43 million.

Now that I’ve discussed all the ones I think will do well, this is the one I don’t have a lot of faith in. “R.I.P.D.” looks like fun, but it’s the least appealing out of all of the new releases. The 3D action comedy is adapted from a comic book of the same name, but I don’t see it doing well. Audiences haven’t been showing a lot of enthusiasm for it yet, but I think it’ll still attract a small audience somewhere in the low-teen millions. People like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds (who’s going to have a busy weekend), but I don’t know if this is on many people’s radars. I think it could do decent business, but it’s going to suffer because of all of the competition. And older action fans will probably just see “Red 2” instead. It’ll break $10 million, I think, but I don’t think it’ll go past the $15 million mark. I’m going to underestimate Bridges and Reynolds’ combined popularity and say an awful $12.8 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:
1. The Conjuring: $37, 500, 000
2. Turbo: $28, 800, 000 (5-day: $43M)
3. Red 2: $25, 000, 000
4. Despicable Me 2: $22, 473, 000
5. Pacific Rim: $19, 825, 000
6. Grown Ups 2: $19, 500, 000
7. R.I.P.D.: $12, 800, 000
8. The Heat: $9, 025, 000
9. Monsters University: $6, 000, 000
10. The Lone Ranger: $5, 800, 000

The Croods (2013)

The Croods

 

The Croods
Release Date: March 22, 2013
Director: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Stars (voices): Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds
Runtime: 98 min
Tagline: The Journey Begins

Meet the Croods, the world’s first family who live strictly in routine thanks to a strict father, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage). There’s also the eldest daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), who has a very curious mind, much to her father’s dismay. Ugga (Catherine Keener) is Grug’s wife, Gran (Cloris Leachman) is Ugga’s mother, Thunk (Clarke Duke) is the eldest son, and Sandy (Randy Thom) is the speedy little baby.

Whenever the coast is clear, the family runs out of the cave and hunt for whatever food they can find. The family is usually okay with this, though the eldest daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), has a more curious mind and wants to explore the world.

One night, she spots a light glooming outside of her cave and she follows it, where she meets a slightly more advanced human, Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and his adorable sloth buddy, Belt, who holds his pants up. Belt has a love for being theatrical at any suspenseful moment, as when they come around, he just loves to say “Da-da-daaaaaaaa!”

When Grug comes to find her the next morning, the family is on the way back to the cave when their world begins to collapse around them. Their cave is destroyed, and they must travel across a spectacular landscape and a new world, and with the help of Guy and Belt, discover their only hope of survival might just be a large mountain in the distance. Since Grug has been one of the only reasons the family has survived so well (believing that curiosity, new things and just about everything else equals death), his and Guy’s beliefs collide when he realizes he isn’t the only one who’s able to protect them.

The Croods is an incredibly simplistic journey. The message is also rather straight-forward, that sometimes letting your children have a life of their own is good for them. The film isn’t too imaginative either, with the journey consisting of a fast-paced trip where they discover the wonder of fire, shoes, jokes and, of course, a whole new world and strange new creatures none of these neanderthals have encountered before. Grug has the hardest time adapting, as the new world seems to be much for him to handle. Where the movie lacks in sheer imagination, it makes up for it with the fast-paced plot, heart, charm and beauty. It’s also cool to see that the family dynamics back in this time aren’t too different from what they are today. Though, you shouldn’t educate yourself from an amusing movie like this.

The norm for animated films these days are to appeal on some level to adults, as well as kids. Just look at Wreck-It Ralph, a film that was filled with video game easter eggs that actually made it more enjoyable for adults. The Croods is really more for the kids to enjoy, with childish humour like an adorable sloth, the family biting each other, or them not being able to extinguish a fire. I still did think it was hilarious, but I’m eighteen, and it might not make all people over 30 years of age find a ton of hilarity in this.

The real appeal for adults, if any, is that it’s made relatable for fathers, especially. Grug is a strict father who is most worried about Eep, and he just doesn’t want to see her grow up and not need him anymore. It is made relatable for fathers because some are afraid of losing their little girl and it might be be stressful for many to see them leave the nest, or in Grug’s case, the cave. Now, I’m not near a father yet, so I’m not speaking from personal experience — but it seems that is the emotional appeal of this feature, and it makes the characters easier to care about. One other way it is made appealing for fathers is that there’s a running gag at roll call where Grug is almost always disappointed when Gran shows up. It is really funny and it is made appealing for fathers because, really, how rarely does one find a person who loves their in-laws?

The fast-paced plot is exciting and there is hardly a dull moment. It’s an adequete plot, but it isn’t top-tier. The only things that really have room for improvement is the plot, the voicework and the imagination. The voicework is good at best, with most of the voice actors being funny and The Cage only sometimes bringing some craziness to Grug. The voicework is good during, but none of it notable or extremely memorable. It’s one of the weaker aspects of the film, sure, but the film has strong aspects in its amount of heart, childish hilarity, and charm and great replay value.

While those aspects are all fine and dandy, the real notable part is the gorgeous animation (oh, and the adorable belt). The creature animation is fantastic and everything just looks stunning, with vibrant colours and amazing palaeolithic landscape. This also has some of the most beautiful water you ever will see in animation, and you’ll just want to swim in it.

83/100

Safe House (2012)

Safe House

Release Date: February 10, 2012

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Stars: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga

Runtime: 115 min

Tagline: No one is safe.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young CIA agent whose mission is to go to this safe house and look after a fugitive, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost used to be a great CIA agent, until he turned rogue. It turns out others want Frost dead, too. After the safe house is attacked, Weston must protect Frost at all costs.

The action sequences are pretty great at the time, but they aren’t very memorable at all. There’s also quite a few boring scenes.  The plot also isn’t all that memorable either, and it can get a little complicated at times – when you’d think a film with such a seemingly simple plot wouldn’t involve any thinking power at all.

The performances are decent, Washington is the best in his role, though. This movie stars Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick and Joel Kinnaman.

What you get is an action film I could live without, but I enjoyed quite a few aspects of it. Nothing I regret seeing but it just left a feeling of “that could have been so much better,” by the end of the running time. It isn’t a total waste of time as some of it’s interesting, see it if the opportunity comes along; as some of it has some good action and isn’t a complete fail of a film.

I was generally disappointed by this really decent action flick that could have been greater, considering it has seemingly such a simple plot and a great cast, but ended up being unfortunately between average and pretty good.

63/100