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Hello and welcome to the movie blog of author John DeFrank - FilmZ and Guy Sobriquet Malone - Researcher

10 Cloverfield Lane


Director Dan Trachtenberg, in his first feature film, working from a taut, suspenseful script written by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) and two others, gave us quite a few jolts and surprises. It kept us guessing up until the last ten minutes when it then betrayed us like Santa Claus did when we thought we were unwrapping an 18-year-old single malt only to find Jenga inside.
As the film opens, our heroine Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is fleeing across the rural Southland at night. She gets a call from her recently-jilted fiance Ben (voiced by Bradley Cooper--at first, I thought he had misdialed Jennifer Lawrence) pleading for Michelle to return to him. She hangs up, effectively isolating herself from the world. A sudden car accident renders her unconscious, and when she awakens she is handcuffed to a pipe, an IV tube stuck in her arm, and she is staring at blank concrete block walls and a double-locked metal security door wondering what the hell happened.
Enter Howard (John Goodman), who claims to have saved her, not only from the accident but also from a vaguely described invasion--"Russkies" or aliens, using poison gas or biological agents, he isn't sure. Howard has brought her to his well-equipped if Spartan bunker along with Emmett (Short Term 12's John Gallagher, Jr.), a field hand who has worked on Howard's farm. Emmett is a nice, good old boy who has a courteous Southern manner and some big regrets. Goodman's Howard is a conspiracy nut whose nuttiness isn't limited to conspiracies. He's a twitchy powder keg; much of the tension revolves around the question of how malevolent his intentions. But the movie belongs to Winstead, whose Michelle sees herself as the type of person who always runs away from problems, but in the strict confines of the bunker, she finds grit, resourcefulness, and an indomitable will.
I first saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the 2010 cult favorite Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film that featured a number of young stars, among them, Brie Larson, who recently won just about every Best Actress award for her role in Room, another movie about a young woman's claustrophobic confinement by a psychopath (there's even a skylight in both movies). Part of me wonders if Winstead saw Room and wondered what the hell happened.

6 out of 10

Carol


Carol is romantic. Wait, that's too simple; maybe capitalize the "R" and add that the film's romance is suffused with a rich blend of sight, sound, story, and atmosphere.
It's the holiday season in early 1950s New York. The nostalgic filter, the color palette that emphasizes greens and creams, the clothing, and the leisurely pace evoke our warm recollection of the simple perfection of the Eisenhower Era. The moral code of the time is not simple perfection, just perfectly simple: conform to society's norms, a dictate that forces some to live a lie. A young department store clerk named Therese (Rooney Mara) meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), a striking older woman who is shopping in the toy department for her daughter's Christmas present. The magnetism is immediate if subtle; the attraction palpable if reserved. That's how their relationship develops, each woman working through the obstacles presented by her own life: Therese wants a career as a photographer even as her boyfriend pushes her to go to Europe with him; Carol heading for a divorce from a husband (Kyle Chandler) who resents her lack of affection.
Credit Director Todd Haynes and his leading ladies that the film never portrays its characters as lurid or lustful. They fall in love, and it is natural and real. Cate Blanchett is regal, yet vulnerable, a soul in pain, yearning to be a good mother and live her life honestly. Rooney Mara (who seems like the reincarnation of a young Audrey Hepburn) is innocent, yet brave, as she seeks to discover her identity.
The film was nominated for a slew of awards, including six Oscars. Mara, who won Best Actress at the Cannes is really a co-lead in Carol, and it is category fraud that the was placed in the Supporting Actress category. Blanchett, as always, is Blanchett, arguably the top actress working today. It was also up for Adapted Screenplay, (from the novel, The Price of Salt), and its nominations for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Original Score attest to the aforementioned overall beauty of the film.

8 out of 10

Deadpool


Unlike other Marvel movies, Deadpool is irreverent, raunchy, rude, crude, and violent.  It's an entry and an origin story in its own right.  It's also a satire of superhero movies and at he same time a loving homage whose irreverence makes us laugh at them even as it reminds us why we love them.

Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson, former special forces operative who performs altruistic services to pass the time.  Make no mistake, though, Wade is an anti-hero whose good deeds provide cover to commit petty larceny, felonious assaults, and snarky insults.  He hangs out with kindred spirits at a seedy bar, whose barkeep is what passes for his best friend.

Early on, he meets the love of his life, a badass prostitute named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, who coincidently was a badass concubine in the cult TV showFirefly).  Their torrid love is interrupted by a singular tragedy, which precipitates events that make this human mayhem machine even more lethal and drives a simple plot of vengeance.

Deadpool is Stan Lee meets Quentin Tarantino.  Foul-mouthed characters deliver current cultural references, rapid-fire jokes and over-the-top cartoon violence.  Self-aware and self-referential, Deadpool is a joke that it's already in on, and it has no problems breaking the fourth wall to make sure the audience is in on it, tit; in fact, at one point, he breaks the "sixteenth wall" (you'll see).


8 out of 10
 
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