Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

“Life”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Life” is a movie about death, a strange sci-fi / horror hybrid that is certainly not destined to be a crowd pleaser. This dark, bleak film provides a few suspense-filled thrills but not nearly enough, and the paper-thin “Aliens” rip-off (or is it homage?) story feels all too familiar.

It’s predictable with far too much hokey dialogue and mildly schlocky scares, but at least the film is grounded with commendable performances, particularly from Jake Gyllenhaal, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as the ill-fated astronauts trapped onboard a space station with a killer alien. As the deaths begin to pile up, the bloody killings become repetitive and lose all impact (with the exception of the very first victim’s death scene: it’s effective, horrific, and upsetting). The film quickly becomes a bit of a snore when it’s made clear that the audience is in for more of the same for the next 90 minutes, and it ends with a twist that’s so predictable you’ll see it coming early on.

The special effects are wholly mediocre, which proves to be a significant problem because one of the film’s stars is an animated alien named Calvin, and there are plenty of exterior shots of the space station that look unsightly and very, very fake. Even worse, the hostile alien life form turned brilliant murderer plot is just plain dumb.

If you are a fan of science fiction and horror, you could do much worse, but you’d be better served by just re-watching “Aliens” instead.

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“Criminal”

LOUISA:   1.5 STARS    MATT:   1 STAR


LOUISA SAYS:

Once in a while a movie comes along that’s so bad it’s good. “Criminal” is so bad that it’s just plain bad. There is only one thing remotely redeeming about this hopelessly awful excuse for a movie, and that laurel rests on Gary Oldman’s ridiculously cheeseball performance. Oldman’s character should be called ‘Captain Obvious’ because his dialogue consists of nothing more than rehashing whatever is going on in the plot at the time. I am not kidding. It is so funny that ultimately, finding myself no longer able to stifle my laughter, I let out a hearty belly laugh that didn’t subside for at least three minutes.

The moronic plot deals with the early onscreen death of CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds, the only actor smart enough to limit his screen time in this crap) whose memory is transplanted — I know, I know, you are laughing already — into hardened criminal Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). Doctor Franks (Tommy Lee Jones, whose acting abilities have been diminished to nothing more than cantankerously shuffling around and scowling like he can’t find his way to the Country Kitchen Buffet for his early bird dinner) leads this miraculous transplant at the command of CIA bureau chief Wells (Gary Oldman, in one of the most unintentionally silly performances in recent cinema). As per usual, when the memories start to kick in, Jericho starts to have some lovey-dovey feelings towards Pope’s wife and kid (Gal Gadot and Laura Decaro).

There are some kooky plot points about an anarchist hacker and wormholes and misplaced flash drives (the audience thankfully isn’t left in the dark thanks to Oldman consistently shouting “don’t give him that flash drive!“).

“Criminal” is overly bloody and overburdened with fiery explosions and car crashes that dominate the film’s finale. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout much of the film’s ridiculous conclusion. Could “Criminal” have staked its claim as one of the ‘so-silly-it’s-awesome’ action films like “London Has Fallen,” “Bad Boys II” or “White House Down?” Maybe. But the entire cast and director Ariel Vromen seem to be earnestly playing it straight, which makes the film more worthy of audience pity rather than cult status praise.

MATT SAYS:

This movie is terrible with a capital “T.”

First, if the preview has you believing that “Criminal” stars Ryan Reynolds, let me disabuse you of that notion. Yes, Mr. Reynolds, the master of the body-switch movie (see also: “Self/less“, “R.I.P.D.“, and “The Change-Up“) is in the movie, but only briefly. Reynolds plays Bill Pope, a CIA agent whose memories get transplanted into serial killer and prison lifer Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner). Pope’s CIA handlers (including boss Gary Oldman) hope to use Jericho to find out information that only Pope knew, but predictably things go awry. Jericho quickly escapes from CIA custody, and finds himself hunted down both by the CIA and by a nefarious terrorist network. Reynolds is the best thing about this film, and his part is concluded after the first 10 minutes or so. For the rest of the movie, it becomes the Costner and Oldman show, with a dash of Tommy Lee Jones thrown in for good measure.

“But wait!” You might say. “I like Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, and Tommy Lee Jones. How could a movie with all three of them suck?” Take my word for it: it doesn’t just suck, it sucks hard. Costner’s performance is a one-note series of grunts and growls indistinguishable from those we got from Christian Bale’s Batman. Oldman, as the chief CIA agent in charge, may as well have been called “Mr. Shouty,” because that’s pretty much all he did. Jones was a little more understated — and therefore the best of the three — but his character and the lines assigned to him were so inane that he was unable to elevate this material.

“Criminal” is full of logical plot holes that quickly pile up, one on top of the other, and the fall under their own weight. Look, I can suspend my disbelief as well as the next guy. But this film doesn’t just ask you to suspend disbelief: it asks you to check your brain at the door. It’s simply impossible to accept this low-rent and dumbed-down world of spycraft when there are so many better options out there.

At some point, this dim-witted movie got so absurd that it actually became funny (so there’s a positive, I suppose). Just for fun, here’s a partial list of some of its many problems:

  • The CIA is so inept at its tradecraft that “The Agency” becomes indistinguishable from the Keystone Cops.
  • The head bad guy is a direct rip off of Javier Bardem’s character from “Skyfall,” except unlike the “Skyfall” baddie, he has zero personality and an unexplained array of hacking abilities beyond that ever seen in any movie, anywhere.
  • There is a Russian female assassin reminiscent of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who serves no apparent purpose other than to check a box on some focus-grouped list.
  • The key MacGuffin in the picture is some kind of super hacking tool that allows anyone to command all U.S. military assets, including nuclear missiles. Despite the possible world-ending value of this item, the CIA can apparently only afford to task 10, maybe 15, people to find and obtain / destroy it.
  • More on that point: this movie takes place entirely in the U.K., and despite the bad guy using weapons that pose an immediate threat to the country’s most populous city of London, we see zero involvement of the British government.
  • Tommy Lee Jones plays a doctor who talks like he is just making s*** up as he goes along, but everyone believes every single word he says.

Okay, I have to stop at some point so this is as good as any. Don’t go see “Criminal” in the theater, skip it in Redbox, and delete it from your Netflix Queue.

“Deadpool”

LOUISA:   2 STARS     MATT:   3.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I’m frequently accused of being a contrarian when it comes to crowd-pleasing blockbuster movies, but let me start this review by saying that I really, really, really wanted to like this movie. “Deadpool” is the perfect example of why box office receipts don’t always accurately reflect quality. Just because everyone you know has seen it and is talking about it, and just because it’s made millions of dollars doesn’t mean it’s a good movie. It’s juvenile, gimmicky and not much more than a barrage of lame pop culture references. Is that the point of the movie? Maybe. But “Deadpool” is one big yawn.

I love the concept of an R-rated made-for-grownups superhero movie, and I welcome more in the future. But “Deadpool” is a fairly mild R; a rating that feels more like an obnoxious attempt to bully the audience into thinking that it’s a much more clever movie than it actually is. It’s full of cussing and violence and nudity “just because.”

I can already hear the backlash I’m going to get from the online dork community: “well, you would’ve loved the movie if you knew the character and the comics.” I find this a seriously flawed argument. A good movie should have me engaged and make me care about the character even if I have zero background knowledge of the source material. Never have I picked up one comic book but I was instantly head over heels for Magneto, Wolverine, Tony Stark and Captain America (among others) in far better movie franchises. There’s no doubt in my mind that the folks who made this movie have serious love for “the merc with the mouth,” but a good movie would’ve made me fall in love with the main characters too, warts and all. In-jokes and references are fun for hard-core fans, I get that. But when a movie is mostly comprised of those little winking Easter eggs, it leaves nothing for your casual audience to enjoy. That in itself is something I see as a huge filmmaking failure.

I can also hear the cries of “you just didn’t ‘get’ the movie!” Believe me, I “got” the movie, I “got” the sarcastic anti-hero, I “got” the jokes — they just weren’t funny. I didn’t find the repeated comic references nor constant scenes of Deadpool breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience nearly as satisfying or as clever as the filmmakers obviously did. In my mind I can see Ryan Reynolds‘ and director Tim Miller‘s smirking faces, both of them kicking back with a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

The tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic opening credits showed a ton of promise, but it turned out that sequence was not only the first but also the last thing I liked about this predominantly laugh-free movie. Like its titular character, “Deadpool” is snarky, obnoxious and just a pain in the ass.

MATT SAYS:

I liked the idea of “Deadpool” more than I liked the actual movie. I mean, the movie was okay, but I was hoping I would love it.

What a compelling narrative in the film world: Ryan Reynolds, after playing a mute version of the character (which has been widely criticized, and rightly so), lobbies Fox (the owner of rights to the “X-Men” franchise) to make a version of “Deadpool” that isn’t completely watered-down and spineless with a PG–13 rating. Finally Fox relents and gives the production company $55 million to make the movie, the way Reynolds thinks it should be made. Fast forward to 2016, when the movie breaks all kinds of records (biggest February opening of all time; fifth-biggest superhero movie of all time; biggest R-rated opening of all time; the list goes on).

Wow, what a narrative! Maybe it will result in studios taking more chances! Maybe we will stop getting watered-down PG-13 travesties! Maybe studios will now be encouraged to trust filmmakers and producers to make their passion projects without too much interference! I still hold out hope that these things will happen, but I’m cynical and think that will probably not be the case.

With a pedigree like this, I wanted so much to LOVE the movie. There are a lot of things to like about it. The Honest Trailers-version of the opening credits were incredible and almost worth the price of admission, all by itself. I liked that this “Deadpool” didn’t hold back on the quips. While I’m not a comic-book guy, I understand that Deadpool is known as the “merc with the mouth,” and he certainly lived up to that reputation. I liked the character, and I liked Reynolds’ version of it. Plus, I love Ryan Reynolds (and have since “Van Wilder” — if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it right now!) and this movie let Ryan Reynolds be “Ryan Reynolds.”

What I didn’t like was that it sort of fell into the typical super-hero tropes. As the credits promised, there was a crappy-looking CGI character. There was a obligatory Stan Lee cameo (which by itself isn’t a bad thing, but it always leads to the inevitable mass breaking of one of the Moviegoer’s 10 Commandments). There were fast-cutting action sequences. There was a final battle staged on a giant CGI whatsit that just looked dumb. In other words, for all of the things that the movie did well in trying to break “the rules” of big studio superhero movie, in many respects it followed them, too. And it suffered for it.

Okay, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this character, and yes, I hope all of the aforementioned good things that COULD come out of it, will (but the cynical me says they won’t), but I am disappointed to not be able to put this movie in the four-star category. Standing on its own, it would be strictly a three-star, but it gets an extra half-star for Reynolds’ passion and how it got made (please oh please let this mean that studios will be less risk-averse in the future).