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

Thumbnail Sketches: Solo, Deadpool 2, and Ocean's 8

Solo, Deadpool 2, and Ocean's 8 by Guy S. Malone, Researcher

We're not going to spend too much time on these movies because, entertaining as they may be, they don't warrant a lot of keystrokes.  Except Deadpool 2, that is, but even though I could wax poetic about the sheer joy of that film, I'll keep it brief.  After all, these are popcorn flicks, and they do what we want them to: divert us from the grim affairs of the day, light fare to see with a few friends to put you in a good mood before going out for crabcakes and a couple or eight IPAs.  So, let's take them in order from good to best:

Ocean's 8
The main charms of Ocean's 8 are the likability of Sandra Bullock, the scene-stealing performance of Anne Hathaway, and the unparalleled talent of Cate Blanchett (we can argue the merits of this thesis at another time).  Throw in the gifted Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter, and Mindy Kaling, and round out the crew with Rihanna and Awkwafina--there that's eight.  Throw in Richard Armitage as a foil and writer-director Gary Ross is off to a flying start.  There are problems with having such a large cast, though: first, we only get a surface glimpse of what makes each character tick, which makes it difficult to relate or empathize; second, these are some talented women, and I want to see them be more than caricatures--Bonham Carter is reduced to silly clothes and wide-eyed ditziness.  What about the dozens of superheroes in Avengers movies, you ask?  Well, those films don't need character building because we know them all so well; the writers know them, too; so they can make the most of limited screen time.

Which brings us to the writing.  Ross has made his bones both writing and adapting screenplays, and he has a rich kernel of an idea--a jewel robbery at the Met Gala (complete with some unexpected--and expected (Elliott Gould) cameos).  But heist films are a different animal; they require inventiveness and twists.  Ocean's 8 has a few twists, and enough inventiveness to keep our interest; however, it relies too much on deus ex machina and other contrivances.  Whenever a hurdle springs up, our heroines have some coincidental convenience that gets them around it rather than developing a novel way of leaping it.  At one point, an unanticipated plan-buster arises--that is, until Rihanna's character makes a call and the problem is preposterously fixed, spit-spot.  If you're looking for a nice evening at the theater to enjoy popcorn and watch beautiful people plot and cavort in ritzy surroundings Ocean's 8 will do.  If you want an original heist film, though, toggle through the index and find The Italian Job, The Inside Man, Charade, Inception, Reservoir Dogs, A Fish Called Wanda, Heat, Hell or High Water ...
7.0 out of 10 on a popcorn scale, only because of our great affection for the cast and director.
Not an awards player

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows the depth of my cynicism toward the Star Wars franchise.  After starting off as a fan of Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977, my ardor increased with The Empire Strikes Back, then it took a veritable sucker-punch to the groin, thanks to those hirsute little cretins, the Ewoks.  The main achievement of Episodes I, II, and III was to nearly ruin Natalie Portman's industry respect.  In 2015, The Force Awakens gave us the big trifecta: a thinly-veiled remake of A New Hope, an over-emoting Daisy Ridley, and the totally unnecessary John Boyega.  The next year brought Katniss in Space Rogue One. a decent film.  But last year, The Last Jedi arrived and it was ... good!  It was relatively original, Daisy Ridley toned down the grimaces, and we had less John Boyega.  Still, we were skeptical when Solo hit the multiplexes.  After all, they fired their director and brought in Ron Howard to salvage the film. And I asked, "What's the deal with a young Han Solo?  I mean, wasn't Harrison Ford pretty young in 1977?"

Well, shut my mouth.  Solo isn't bad.  Some have complained that, as Solo, Alden Ehrenreich lacks Ford's charisma. True, but he ain't bad.  The film starts off a parsec a minute as Han and his love Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) try to escape the slum planet where they live.  They are separated and Han's motivation throughout is to reunite with Qi'ra.   Of course, what Star Wars movie would be complete without rehashing something that already had been done -- young Han Solo is just a bit too much like one young James Tiberius Kirk.  Anyway, we get to see how Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) meet and how both encounter Lando Calrissian (a well-cast Donald Glover).  Han and Chewie join forces with pirates Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his love Val (Thandie Newton), reunite with Qi'ra, and work for and against crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).  As you might have guessed, a major theme here is, "Trust no one."  And one of the very pleasant surprises of Solo is the sheer number of surprises and twists (pleasant and otherwise) that permeate the plot, written by longtime Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jonathan.  This is an underrated entry into the series.
7.5 out of 10 on a popcorn scale as the Kasdans and Ron Howard provide a fun ride.
Not an awards player

Deadpool 2
Yes, the best of this trio is in my opinion is Deadpool 2.  Perhaps that is a commentary on something, but best we all drop that thought before it blossoms into a weed we would all like to forget.  First and foremost, do not take children to this movie!  It's a hard "R" folks; you bring your kids, then it's on you when your seven-year old says, "Gimme the f**king popcorn" and jams a handful up her brother's nose.  Deadpool 2 is, of course, the continuing adventures Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) the anti-hero X-Man who isn't an X-Man.  In fact, we finally learn why only a few X-Men ever appear at Prof. Xavier's mansion, and it's not--as Deadpool surmises to the camera--because the studio wants to keep production costs down.  As you can guess, it involves iconoclastic humor and breaking the fourth wall.  Throw in imaginative profanity and a level of violence that lands somewhere between Tarantinoic bloodshed and Road Runnerian mayhem and you get an idea of what to expect.  As directed by stunt expert David Leitch and written with love by Reynolds, Rhett Reese, and Paul Wernick, D2 brings joke-a-minute comedy (Serfing Dude, Ambrose, Captain HE, FilmZ, and I haven't laughed so hard at a movie since Aubrey Plaza's equally raunchy and rollicking The Little Hours), but what sets this sequel a smidge above the original is its unexpected heart.

As we open, our sardonic motormouth is still with the love of his life Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who coaxes out the best in him--in this case, to have empathy for orphaned outcast teen Russell (Julian Dennison).  As a mutant, Russell becomes Firefist, and when he gets angry, watch out.  A dangerous cyborg named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives from the future to kill Russell, so Wade sets up interviews with his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) to build his own team (a bit if a ripoff of the 1999 superhero comedy Mystery Men).  The results are spotty, at best: Bedlam (Terry Crews), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), Vanisher (you'll see), and Peter (Rob Delaney), just a guy who answered the ad.  And then there is Domino (a charismatic Zazie Beetz) whose superpower--being lucky--at first seems like a dubious strength.  Just watch.  Returning are Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), next-door neighbor Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and cab driver Dopinder (Karan Soni) and en masse, the gang makes an impressive force--X-Force, in fact, as Wade dubs them, a derivative name, Domino points out.  They are, nevertheless, powerful as they face the real enemies, who reveal themselves to be worse than any cyborg.  As we've come to expect in superhero movies, there is an overextended battle at the end, as Deadpool cynically points out.  But the film's surprises and aforementioned heart give Deadpool 2 the edge over its predecessor.
8.0 out of 10 on a popcorn scale
Not an awards player


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