“Deadpool”: 4 out of 5 stars. In theaters.
Bring on the chimichangas! “Deadpool” is a gleefully funny, vulgar and violent take on Marvel’s popular anti-hero, self-aware of being a comic book movie but creating a new spin on the genre in the process.
Twentieth Century Fox goes full-blown rated R to tell the story of how mercenary-for-hire Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) suffers through an experimental program to gain healing powers and become the katana-wielding, revenge-seeking Deadpool.
From its hilarious opening credits, “Deadpool” establishes itself as a different kind of superhero movie. Reynolds was born to play the Merc with a Mouth, spouting rapid-fire jokes, dropping F-bombs and delightfully breaking the fourth wall. There’s a sex montage, self-pleasure jokes, dozens of curse words and bloody violence.
The inclusion of these elements did jar me a bit at first, as I’m not used to them in your average Marvel movie. But this is the Deadpool from the comics that fans have wanted to see onscreen since the outcry over the character’s neutered portrayal in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” This movie is not for kids, but that’s not the target audience – adults are.
A partial parody, “Deadpool” pokes fun at other comic book movies while remixing the typical hero origin story. There’s laugh-out-loud jokes at the expense of “X-Men” movies and the actors who play superheroes, including Reynolds’ own past efforts. But the film also balances comedy with drama, adding depth to a character known for being a jerk. It makes us care about Wade’s romance with stripper Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and root for their love. The torturous experiments Wade endures make us sympathetic toward him and cheer on his path of revenge against his tormenter, Ajax (Ed Skrein).
Most of the intense and superb action in “Deadpool” encompasses just two settings. A blood-thirsty Deadpool slices, dices and fires off bullets during the freeway sequences, which channel the leaked test footage that got the film its green light. The climactic shipyard battle adds spectacular explosions and hand-to-hand combat, to the tune of DMX’s fighting anthem “X Gon’ Give It To Ya.”
The inclusion of X-Men mutants Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) is a lot of fun. Colossus makes a good foil for Deadpool, challenging him on whether he’s really a hero or anti-hero. Negasonic Teenage Warhead lives up to her name in both temperament and explosive ability. TJ Miller stands toe-to-toe with Reynolds in the comedy arena as his sidekick Weasel.
The villains in “Deadpool” are on the bland side. Skrein is one-note as Ajax, but that one note works well for his purpose of being the object of Deadpool’s revenge. Gina Carano just stands around and looks menacing as Angel Dust until she breaks out her killer MMA skills in the final fight.
In breaking the boundaries of its genre, “Deadpool” stays true to the character of Deadpool. The movie charts a new course for R-rated comic book films.
“The Forest”: 3.5 stars. Saw in theaters.
The unnerving and atmospheric psychological thriller benefits from beautiful cinematography and a dual performance by Natalie Dormer. A woman (Dormer, of “Game of Thrones”) travels to Japan to look for her twin sister, who has disappeared in the Aokigahara Forest, a real-life place where people go to kill themselves.
The lackluster first act relies too much on dream sequences and jump scares before we even enter the forest. But once we do, first-time director Jason Zada builds tension by integrating signs of a supernatural presence believed to twist the perception of reality. Zada sprinkles close-ups of trees and branches that may belie something darker. The film keeps us guessing as to what’s real and what’s not, from creepy apparitions and crawling insects to the intentions of the journalist (Taylor Kinney) who accompanies Dormer into the forest. “The Forest” also delves into the fascinating link between twins, with Dormer taking care to distinguish the two sisters.
“The Forest” doesn’t wrap up neatly. It leaves some questions unanswered as its story comes to its frightening finish, which left me wanting a bit more for closure’s sake. But its gut-punching twist stayed with me for days.
“Ex Machina”: 4 stars. Streaming on Amazon.
The sparse yet dazzling science fiction thriller questions what makes us human amid the expanding capabilities of technology. An Internet company coder (Domhnall Gleason) is chosen by the company’s reclusive CEO (Oscar Isaac) to interact with a beautiful robot (Alicia Vikander) housing an artificial intelligence at his sweeping, isolated estate.
“Ex Machina” is a slow burn, moving at a deliberate pace that can feel too slow at times. But it’s a must-see for sci-fan fans, featuring elements of a horror film. First-time director Alex Garland relies on a confined setting and minimal special effects to deliver a chilling tale about the will to survive. The mansion’s sleek and sterile look gives off the vibe of a scientific lab, as well as a prison. The small cast features stellar performances from its three leads; the film put Vikander on the map as Hollywood’s new It girl.
“Ex Machina” takes directions you don’t expect, escalating to a crescendo of chaos.
“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension”: 1 star. On Demand.
The final entry in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise is a huge disappointment, squandering the inventiveness and scares that gained the found-footage horror series a following in the first place. “The Ghost Dimension” isn’t scary at all, with forgettable characters and dull camera angles. The boring film is only marginally better than the bizarre comedy/horror hybrid that was “Paranormal Activity 4.”
The sixth film promises to wrap up the ongoing storyline of a demon named Toby and the family he haunted through the previous films, but “The Ghost Dimension” fails to provide those answers. Instead it follows what has become a predictable formula for the films, where the most action happens in the last 10 minutes. For the first time, we “see” the activity – and it’s really bad CGI. This is a big letdown for a series that relied on simple but realistic effects to create genuine fright.
I’m just going to pretend the series ended after “Paranormal Activity 3.”