Dave is an artist, worried he'll never create anything significant. That is, until he makes a cardboard maze which gets out of control.
A monk goes with several unlikely knights to find where the BLACK DEATH has been evaded in a creepy little village, possibly harbouring witches.
Not usually a fan of Marvel movies, this one thrilled me with exciting action & a surprisingly well-juggled ton of characters.
THE WINTER SOLDIER plays less like a Marvel film, more like a political action-thriller. And that's a-okay by me!
Refn brings his wild sensibilities to a dark fantasy epic involving the possible course of a Viking trip to North America before anybody other than the Natives set foot on its ground.
Sunshine. 2007. Directed by Danny Boyle. Screenplay by Alex Garland.
Starring Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, & Michelle Yeoh. 20th Century Fox/DNA Films/Ingenious Film Partners/MPC.
Rated 14A. 107 minutes.
Ever since first laying my eyes upon Trainspotting, I’ve more or less knelt at the altar of Danny Boyle. His films are incredible, often very emotionally compelling and with lots of interesting things happening, no matter the subject. I’m a fan of most of his films, barring a couple that weren’t my cup of tea. On the whole, he’s fantastic. Particularly I find he has two talents: working with science fiction elements (even if he’s only really done that previously with 28 Days Later…) and working with human drama. Luckily, sometimes both of these crossover into one another.
Sunshine is such a film. There’s part of this story focused on the sci-fi plot, the idea of the sun beginning to burn out and mankind trying to find some way to reignite it, lest they be relegated to a world that will perish without its heat and power. The other part is about men and women, human beings, how we see the world and how we imagine what’s outside our own. Furthermore, Boyle and writer Alex Garland look at the human relationships which ultimately the fate of mankind will rely on should we need a crew like those abord the Icarus II to go on a similar mission. In addition to the great drama and the solid science fiction, Sunshine is a visual and auditory journey which many films of its kind aren’t often able to achieve. Garland gives us the interesting writing, as Boyle works his magic with the help of cinematographer Alwin H. Küchler to craft a gorgeous piece of cinema that stands up to some of the better efforts out of the genre in these past few decades.
I’m sure a good deal of right-wing leaning moviegoers will dismiss this as leftist propaganda. However, forget those types. This is a solid science fiction story. It has echoes of other films we’ve seen before, from Event Horizon to Alien. But Sunshine is very much its own tale. Alex Garland is a solid screenwriter, having already worked with Boyle on The Beach and 28 Days Later…, so that’s at least given them chemistry. And they use it to their advantage. Garland is great at getting to the raw emotion of characters, which is evident in the other aforementioned films, as well. When Capa (Cillian Murphy) must be the only one to go through the airlock, the interim captain isn’t happy, and this brings out a load of tension for a while that plays into the idea that humans aren’t all built equipped with the capacity to handle such tension. These are the situations of human drama that make science fiction better than just a ton of wild elements. Without this basic suspense and tension brought out through the humanity of characters (they don’t even need to be human just have to have heart), sci-fi can easily fall flat. This movie is served well by the writing of Garland’s characters, their development, and the situations in which they find themselves forced along their arduous journey.
Moreover, Garland has a good writer’s mind for action. Not every writer is as good with one as the other. Although, Garland breaks that open being capable of good dialogue, interesting characters, as well as making the story feel exciting by pacing things well, and adding in the appropriate action like he does here.
A few of the sequences are spectacularly adrenaline-filled. One of my favourites is the whole airlock scene, as the interim captain ends up floating off in space and freezing, his face cracking into bits. Sad, even if he’s an asshole. Then just the entire suspense of Mace (Chris Evans) nearly freezing to death too is thick enough to cut with a knife. The first time watching, I wasn’t sure he’d make it. Nice when action scenes aren’t simply big set pieces or explosions or anything like that, but rather built on suspense and tense developments.
Not only are the characters and the plot well written, Garland’s writing is given breath by the excellent performances. Cliff Curtis, ever a solid character actor, does such a good job as the resident psychologist, whose own obsession with the sun mirrors the villain Pinbacker (Mark Strong). Love Curtis and to see him here giving his all is one reason the supporting cast is as good as the leads. Rose Byrne and Michelle Yeoh are each excellent, as well. They add a great element to counter all the testosterone brought particularly by Evans. Speaking of him, he does well with his character, meant to be a hot-headed sort that wants to kind of push his way forward rather than sit around and talk. In that sense, Evans and Murphy’s characters are juxtaposed nicely. Murphy, as always, is a powerhouse, and he gives a quiet, thoughtful performance as the lead Robert Capa. On his back and through his perspective we encounter each twist and turn throughout Icarus II’s mission. There’s always an intriguing aspect to Murphy, both physically in his looks and in the way he acts. He can become many types, most recently wowing me in BBC Two’s Peaky Blinders. Here, he plays this young doctor, but one with a head on his shoulders, a conscience, so that Capa eventually goes through this trial where he’s put to the physical test, not just having to use his brain but also his body. Lots of great performances make this one entertaining bit of science fiction adventure.
There’s a bittersweet devastation about the finale. Sunshine takes you to a place of serious science fiction and drama, then twists it all up into something amazing, dark, exciting. Once we come to discover Pinbacker, the fifth crew member left on the Icarus II in its waning moments, the whole eerie angle of the story comes to light (pun not intended; pun hilarious, though). The final half hour has plenty of sweaty tension once more. This carries you right to a beautiful yet slightly sad conclusion. Either way, Danny Boyle and Alex Garland created one hell of a sci-fi picture. From the 1990s onward there aren’t a huge amount of sci-fi movies that I consider amazing. Some, yes. Not a lot. In my humble opinion, Sunshine is an amazing film. It is beautiful, strange, dark at times. Never will you find the pace too slow, nor will you feel as if excitement is lacking. With so many good performances and the writing tightly woven into an emotion-filled, tense, and wild story, it’s hard not to enjoy. Throw this on next time you need a science fiction injection. I hope Boyle will go back to the genre someday, as he has great chops for it.
A first-person shooter inside an action film inside a sci-fi story inside a whole lot of fun.
Prometheus. 2012. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Damon Lindelof & Jon Spaihts.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, & Charlize Theron. 20th Century Fox.
Rated 14A. 124 minutes.
Ridley Scott is a treasure. He is one of the greatest gifts to the science fiction world in film throughout the course of moving pictures. Outside of sci-fi, his direction is still masterful, as is his enthusiasm and inventiveness as a storyteller. But starting with Alien, then moving next to an equally groundbreaking motion picture with Blade Runner, within the first five years as a feature film director he announced himself as a visionary. Only recently returning to the genre in which he so quickly rose to prominence (though I can’t forget his amazing debut The Duellists which garnered him considerable attention), Scott decided to revisit one of his greatest pieces of work by elaborating on its concepts, themes, and overall world.
Prometheus did not do as well as one might expect. So many are intent on considering this a trash follow-up/semi-prequel to a better movie. And many are right: Alien is the better film. But you can’t discredit this bit of sci-fi for not trying, and as far as I’m concerned you also can’t insist this is a bad movie. It is not. This is a fascinating piece of mysterious science fiction, which uses the talents of Scott to tell us the origins of the story we’ve already seen in 1979’s Alien and lay out the map of an even broader tale. Including the influence of biblical scripture, the theories of pseudoscientists, even some creepy horror literature, Prometheus aims at the larger questions of life’s origins and where exactly we come from. Furthermore, Scott asks deeper questions about belief, faith, how we see God and finally what exactly were his intentions.
Maybe this film doesn’t succeed with everyone. For me, it was a cinematic experience of a lifetime. I don’t often go to theatre. As a film lover, I prefer a quieter environment where I don’t have to contend with noisy moviegoers. Yet Prometheus had me in line buying tickets twice in two weeks. Suffice to say I’m a huge fan.
Ultimately, Scott’s film sets up what eventually comes out in 1979’s Alien. Although it isn’t right before those events. Rather it’s the beginning of the story which brings us to that classic science fiction-horror. But more than that Scott is exploring our own origins, too. While the Xenomorphs are an engineered species, as are humans in Prometheus. In that sense there’s so many things going on. The creation of both Xenomorphs and humans brings them into parallel with one another; while the aliens wreak havoc in space down the line, humans were brought into being only to eventually wreak their own havoc and cause destruction on Earth.
At the base of the story is a relation between man and God. You could probably say Prometheus is a story of faith, religion, belief. All disguised under a thick layer of science fiction. The religious elements of Prometheus are buried all throughout its screenplay. For instance, they head to LV-223 (in the same system as LV-426 from the original Alien), which is more than likely a reference to Leviticus 22:3. This passage from the Bible relates to the Prometheus crew touching the “holy gifts” or “holy offerings” of the Engineers, and essentially overstepping boundaries: “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.”
A major reason why I love the religious elements here is due to the fact Scott, essentially, holds up the belief in God and the belief in extraterrestrial life as being two sides of the same coin. I am without belief, but never understood how people who believe in aliens(et cetera) can possibly look down on and mock those with religious conviction. It’s the exact same concept.
Shaw: “It‘s what I choose to believe”
Not going to waste time on telling you why other reviews got it wrong. I’d rather discuss all the elements I found impressive, unique, as well as those moments which allude to the 1979 Alien in an exciting way.
When I saw this movie in theatre, the opening scene hooked me immediately. Before Scott even mentioned it during interviews I knew that Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? was a huge influence on this film’s story. The Engineers are essentially Ancient Astronauts, a theory for which Däniken is widely regarded as the originator (for those who haven’t yet read the book; even sceptics will be thrown by one or two things in there). But just simply the cave markings, all the work Holloway and Shaw (Marshall-Green/Rapace) do tracking down the same drawing spread out over various locations across the world, it is absolutely like many of the cave paintings, murals (et cetera) which people now claim in contemporary reassessments as being evidence of extraterrestrial life, or possibly presence of these ancient astronauts. Overall, imagining these Engineers that Holloway and Shaw have dreamed up, then later found, is similar to the ideas of Däniken in that some otherworldly beings created us in their image, thereby replacing God. Along with Däniken there is most certainly a brief, fleeting influence of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, as both the Lovecraft tale and this film share similar science fiction/adventure angles. The fact remains Däniken is clearly the most impressive influence on Scott and the writers.
One thing I love is that the film doesn’t rely totally on elements from the original movie to make it work. Yes, obviously Scott is setting up the elements that relate to that film. But above anything else he tries to create a broader universe in which the series as a whole can sit. Whereas some seemed to be disappointed by this, I dig that Prometheus has its own feel. Instead of fighting against some completely inhuman beast, the crew in this movie are forced to confront their literal makers, these partly human entities which came before us.
And in that we’re given the Man v God scenario.
This leads us into John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein territory, working our way back through literary history. Milton began what Shelley continued, which is the examination of an absent creator; the belief that God has created us and all life, but left us and the world to our own devices, not some big moral king sitting atop the clouds judging and handing down punishments. At the same time, this type of creator is no less abusive, as in this scenario he leaves his creations without any guidance or help. Like God casting out Satan, like Victor Frankenstein shunning his monster and casting him into the cruel outside world, the Engineers of Prometheus created man, then decided man ought to be annihilated for one reason or another, prompting the creation of the “weapons of mass destruction” found on LV-223 in the terraforming structure (and as we know the Xenomoprhs that effectively act as such weapons possibly used to wipe out/clean up a planet). What’s most exciting is that this movie is the start of a couple others, including the already announced/dated/titled Alien: Covenant, so here’s to hoping Scott and his writers will continue exploring the absent creator, the implications and effects, as well as bringing us closer to the original film, aligning the mythologies as one cohesive unit.
Something that angers me is the fact some fans are intent on misreading things in the film as meant to be directly related to Scott’s original 1979 classic. He has stated on many occasions this is not a direct prequel; Prometheus is like the first of several steps before the story meets up with Alien. But then there are moments so many supposed fans of the original don’t even appear to be watching, or seeing correctly. Such as Fifield (Sean Harris) becoming a mutated version of himself. He’s not a zombie, and it wasn’t the acid blood that did that to him. If you didn’t notice, he does a faceplant in the black liquid, which of course infects his blood and turns him into a half-superhuman. Case closed. Second of all, when Millburn (Rafe Spall) sees the space snake and gets close to it, leading to him getting attacked, so many act as if that’s the ultimate stupid screenplay move possible for the character. Sorry, but have you ever seen any wildlife experts that are uber enthusiastic about animals? Steve Irwin often ran in and pet down dangerous animals because he loved them, he wasn’t afraid and if he was it was a respect for them. So why is it THAT hard to believe Millburn was overwhelmed by the thought of actually discovering an entirely new species, on a new planet they just found, that he went and got too close? It isn’t, only for people who need to fit everything into a silly little box of predetermined emotion and character actions. These are some of the points of contention for others I wanted to address because they’re absolutely foolish to me.
Oh, and if you really feel so adamant Millburn’s actions are written poorly and unbelievable, have a look at the deleted scenes; one in particular has direct relevance to this scene that’s kept in, then you can see for yourself the intention behind Millburn doing what he does.
If you don’t understand why David (Fassbender) gave Holloway a drop of the black goop, if you can’t grasp very easy plot points – which are explained, as opposed to what other critics might have written in their reviews – then perhaps don’t blame Ridley Scott, Damon Lindelof, or anyone else for what you consider plotholes, or whatever. I’m sick and tired of people not paying attention to movies. And that’s what it boils down to. Even Quentin Tarantino says some dumb shit from time to time like he did about this movie. Now if you just don’t dig it, that’s fine. I don’t mind people having different opinions. Just don’t base them on things that don’t make sense.
For me, this is a magical bit of science fiction that Scott uses to start opening up the world he began in 1979 with Alien. No it is not perfect, but it’s still almost flawless to me. I love every last bit and Scott so obviously has heart in the project. Enjoy it, or don’t. Just make sure you’re paying attention because too many amongst the huddled masses of the internet seem prejudiced against Prometheus for at least SOME reasons that aren’t so reasonable. Even at the bottom of it all there’s some fun sci-fi action and adventure to lose yourself in. Me, I’m looking forward to Scott’s next continuation of this expanding universe.
Midnight Special. 2016. Directed & Written by Jeff Nichols.
Starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver, Bill Camp, Scott Haze, Sam Shepard, Paul Sparks, David Jensen, Sharon Landry, Dana Gourrier, Sharon Garrison, Allison King, & Sean Bridgers. Faliro House Productions/Tri-State Pictures/Warner Bros.
Rated PG. 112 minutes.
When it comes to independent films, Jeff Nichols is a writer-director I’ve admired now for a few years. Shotgun Stories in 2007 was a great little movie that tackled the flawed masculinity inherent in Southern blood feuds as it examined two sets of half brothers in the aftermath of their father’s death. It also starred the wonderful character actor Michael Shannon, whom many have grown to love as of late particularly. Later, in Take Shelter again starring Shannon, Nichols took us into a highly psychological world that bent the limits of reality, begging us to wonder whether or not the events onscreen were real, or if they were just manifestations of the lead character’s troubled mind. Mud was an interesting, subtle look at people on the fringe, how they come together, and how they survive.
But now, teaming once more with Shannon alongside a slew of other wonderful talents from newer (Adam Driver) to classic (Sam Shepard), Nichols breaks out with an emotionally charged, intelligent, slick thriller that runs the gamut of family drama and adventure to science fiction. Midnight Special is a lot of things. Above all, it is engaging. In a day and age of remakes – some good, a lot terrible – big budget blockbusters without any soul, Nichols’ films are continually a ray of light. This is no different. There are many things to enjoy. And if I can suggest anything, go in without knowing anything. Even the plot. It won’t ruin things if you do, but the beginning is even more tense and filled with excitement if you’re relatively clueless.
And for that reason let’s just dig right in.
The plot is a lot of fun. Despite knowing from trailers that the film is heavily science fiction, there’s a very raw human drama to the opening few scenes. It doesn’t stop there either. As Roy (Michael Shannon) and Lucas (Joel Edgerton) rush Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberher) around from one place to the next, under cover of night, all we know of the situation for sure is that there’s a massive hunt for the boy, an amber alert, everything. So if you had no better idea it’d seem like a truly distressing situation. But slowly, Nichols lets the information trickle down. What starts and continues as a human drama also takes on elements of a larger, more complicated, complex universe that Nichols has created.
We’re introduced to people from The Ranch, the men dressed in suit and ties, the women dressed like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They all seem to have a strange fascination, or rather obsession, with little Alton. And the gravity of everything is so evident. Not only are Roy and Lucas transporting Alton extremely secretively, to the point of gunning down a cop early on, it seems the father is dead set on protecting the boy. There are a ton of things happening, too. In a movie that’s just a little shy of two hours in length, Nichols packs a good punch. All the different aspects of the screenplay are pretty well fleshed out without having to be too full of exposition. Plus, things get real action oriented past the half hour mark, which then takes the pacing to another level. The first thirty minutes are a nice, effective slow burn that picks up steam quickly heading forward.
When we finally start to see more of Alton and his powers, the whole movie gets infinitely more interesting. More and more, scene after scene, Nichols reveals further bits of the boy’s abilities. Yet there’s a cryptic nature to them until late in the game. We’re never cheated, but Nichols definitely draws it out. Expertly. The suspension and tension as the plot moves on at a steady pace really will get your heart rate up, in the best kind of sense.
Alton: “What‘s Kryptonite?”
Lucas: “It‘s the only thing that‘ll kill Superman”
Roy: “It‘s made up”
There is never enough Michael Shannon. He’s a talented actor whose work is consistent. Even in movies that aren’t so great (i.e Man of Steel, The Iceman, Premium Rush), his talent makes things more interesting, more credible. He can really disappear into a lot of different roles, which is why he’s best deemed a character actor. His strength is that he’s got the handsome look, though there’s something odd about him, too. He has an affable quality, then there is a dangerous, strange side to him that can come out just as easily. Here, he plays a devoted, loving father pushed to the limit. He is a father under special circumstances. So there’s all this conflict in his character, but above all he is a father who wants to protect his son, no matter what the cost. And he’s forced into a blind faith, all out of love for his boy. A great performance, well written role.
The rest of the cast are equally as excellent. Edgerton is a fantastic talent (also a good writer) and he plays well off Shannon. They’re very believable together, which is honestly something I never predicted beforehand. What I like is that Edgerton has the same kind of qualities as Shannon, except in a different way. He is at once that manly, tough-looking kind of guy when he wants to be, at others he has a sensitive quality. In addition, Kirsten Dunst is good here as the mother of Alton, estranged from Roy. I’ve long said she is a solid actor, having recently given a complex performance in Season 2 of Fargo. She adds an extra, intriguing aspect to Alton and Roy, as a family. That brings us more of the family drama that makes Midnight Special a more interesting science fiction themed film than many others out there.
When the action gets pounding the film never lets up. There are moments where it’s a chase movie, others the guns start to fly. Sometimes we get wild expressions of Alton’s powers. All the while, the cinematography by Adam Stone captures everything so naturally, and in turn beautifully, even in the moments of pure speculative fiction that happen throughout. Add to that some really great synthesizer score from composer David Wingo, and those moments of tension where things are tight, the pulse is pumping, they become more intense. Sometimes it’s a semi-homage to the 1980s, but most of all it is simply an effective bit of electronic music that serves to augment a film; like any good score should.
This is all around an excellent film in terms of its visual components and its sound, not just the score but also the design. There are too many moments to list really. But Nichols, as director, crafts Midnight Special into a beautiful piece of work aided by these two artists.
Absolutely a 5-star film. There are so many derivative science fiction works out there, in movies and literature. It’s nice to see Jeff Nichols take the initiative and make something different. He lets everything flow out organically, never pushing the plot too much or too far, but rather just allowing it to unfold. The science fiction, though utterly central to the story, is not always the most interesting element. The family, the cult at The Ranch, the relationship between father and son, the relationship between best friends Lucas and Roy; so many things take precedence over the presence of a little boy with sort-of-super powers. Everything comes together here and Midnight Special takes its rightful place near the top of the best list of modern science fiction over the past couple decades. Nichols turns this into something completely unexpected. By the time it’s over, you won’t know what hit you.
Deadpool. 2016. Directed by Tim Miller. Screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, Ed Skrein, Michael Benyaer, Stefan Kapici, Brianna Hildebrand, Style Dayne, Kyle Cassie, Taylor Hickson, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, & Gina Carano. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Marvel Entertainment/Kingberg Genre/Donners’ Company/TSG Entertainment.
Rated R. 108 minutes.
The only thing I’ve ever enjoyed that I know director Tim Miller was involved in is the way underrated 1995 Hideaway. Surprisingly, Deadpool is Miller’s first feature film. Not saying they shouldn’t have done it, but it blows me away they gave him the reins to this adaptation. The bet pays off. While this isn’t nearly what I’d call a revelation, as some people out there would have it be seen.
That being said, Deadpool is absolutely a solid, fun bit of cinema. A superhero movie technically, in category, there’s a bit more to it. The humour is better, obviously more nasty and foulmouthed than others. The action is wild, and at times a bit gruesome in an awesome comic book way. There’s a more interesting structure of storytelling that puts it above the other comic adaptations in Hollywood. Using the Rated R stamp, Miller, with a playfully devious screenplay from writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, crafts one of the best superhero movies to date. I’m not a hardcore comic fan, not for a long time. But the Deadpool comics were some I read, as well as X-Men, Batman, and others. I feel like this adaptation was made not simply for nerds, but with the readers of the comics in mind – and taking into consideration they’re now adults. So away with the campy, light visions of superheroes and the villains they confront. This carves out its own niche.
For those who don’t know, Deadpool was Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) once upon a time. He had a nice life brewing with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Then, he became riddled with cancer.
Conveniently enough, later he gets recruited to have some experiments done on him. The villainous Ajax – a.k.a Francis Freeman (Ed Skrein) – does it, destroys his face, makes him hideous.
Left on his own, Wade takes up the moniker Deadpool. He hunts down Ajax to try and take revenge for what’s happened to him. What ensues is darkly comedic, foolishness, nasty, and violent, as Deadpool slices, dices, joking his way from start to finish.
I have to say, above all else Deadpool is subversive. From the very beginning, even the credits are lampooning the seriousness of comic book superhero movies already out there – “Written by the real heroes here” is an awesome touch. But immediately this obviously sets itself apart from the regular pack of Marvel films thus far. The metafiction elements of the Deadpool comics come out quickly. Some of them are misses. One of the early Wolverine/Hugh Jackman references made me laugh out loud. A few of the lines were just crude and not actually funny. A lot of them were pop culture references and gags that definitely worked, and they were in the spirit of today – instead of sticking with references from the period of the comics themselves. The best is that Deadpool skewers the Marvel movies themselves even, or just poking fun at little bits and pieces. My favourite of those is when Colossus says he’ll take Deadpool to see the Professor, to which Deadpool responds: “Which one, McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines are so confusing.”
The pacing of the film is proper, as we’re almost introduced to the schizophrenia of Deadpool through how many jokes and foolishness are packed tight into the dialogue. I mean, Deadpool is a mile a minute, like the comics. And that’s due to the writing. How we’re introduced quickly to Wade as Deadpool then work back through his story, it’s more interesting than the way we’ve seen the stories of other superheroes in other films. Because the story of Wilson up until he becomes Deadpool is, if we’re being realistic, sort of cliche in terms of comic book characters – we recognize it especially because the whole thing rings bells re: Wolverine, just a different treatment (plus the comics had Wolverine’s blood used in the experiment on Wade, so, yeah). But that’s not a bad thing. Because it’s only that one component, then everything else becomes a subversive, edgy take on superheroes. As well as just downright balls-to-the-wall fun in a Rated R romp. Not that it makes any grand statements. Only that the writing is significantly different, and that’s refreshing. We even get Deadpool commenting on the genre within his dialogue, breaking the Fourth Wall as we go along. Then there are just completely hilarious, laugh out loud lines, such as when Deadpool calls Professor X a “Heaven‘s Gate looking motherfucker” and many more.
Wade: “Fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break. That‘s like… sixteen walls.”
I firmly believe nobody else in Hollywood could’ve played Deadpool. The character is too goofy, too fun, all while being annoying and charming wrapped into one. Ryan Reynolds was almost born to play this one role. He has the physicality, obviously, needed to play a superhero character. And no matter how funny I find Hugh Jackman can be, and James McAvoy too in a sly sense, the material of Deadpool is what allows Reynolds to knock it out of the park. His portrayal and the adaptation of his character to film are equal parts what make this so worthwhile. There are a few misses along the way in the writing, ones even Reynolds can’t save. In the end, though, the energy of his performance is undeniably infectious.
Over everything else, the screenplay for this film is what makes it so spectacular. While keeping certain elements of the superhero movie genre, Deadpool totally subverts it at the same time, making fun while being a part of the gang. It’s the oddball out at the party, just like its titular character. And that’s what makes it wonderful. Because the filmmakers simply go for broke.
Deliverance. 1972. Directed by John Boorman. Screenplay by James Dickey, based on his 1970 novel of the same name.
Starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Ed Ramey, Billy Redden, Seamon Glass, Randall Deal, Bill McKinney, Herbert ‘Cowboy’ Coward, Lewis Crone, Ken Keener, Johnny Popwell, John Fowler, Kathy Rickman, & Louise Coldren.
Warner Bros./Elmer Enterprises.
Rated 18A. 110 minutes.
Truly, despite the praise he does certainly get, I do feel John Boorman is an underrated director. There are some of his films which are heralded properly. Others are not. I’m one of the ten people on the planet who loves Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic, even if he hates it himself. Then there’s The Emerald Forest, a film I never knew existed until it popped up for a special screening while I lived in Ontario, and one that surprised me after the credits rolled. There’s also Zardoz, which is not particularly great, but it’s weird, unconventional, sports Sean Connery in a mind boggling outfit, plus it tries to tackle an interesting science fiction topic regardless of the end result. On top of that, though, is the weight of Excalibur – possibly the King Arthur tale to end all King Arthur tales, featuring an enjoyable cast, excellent visuals, and a great story. Also, can’t forget The General, a true tale of Martin Cahill starring Jon Voight and Brendan Gleeson. So while he has a few films, including more than I’ve listed, which people seem to love, Boorman has his fair share of misunderstood titles, too.
Now, certainly Deliverance doesn’t, and never will, fall into the category of his films which people don’t give enough respect. However, I’m not sure people take the time to appreciate its masterpiece qualities. Too many will only refer to the infamous “Squeal like a pig” scene, which I’ve included above linked from YouTube. While that is definitely the most intense scene, as well as holds a particularly weighty significance, the film is so much more. It is one of the ultimate city dweller vs. hillbilly movies out there. Perhaps its greatness is due in part to the novel of the same name by James Dickey, published in 1970. Even more than that, the screenplay was adapted by Dickey himself. So I’m always keen on a story that gets shaped into a film by the same author. Add in a talented main cast, a raw and beautifully gritty aesthetic, luscious landscapes caught in perfect frames, and you’ve got Boorman’s greatest work in cinema.
A group of friends head out to the wilderness for a weekend excursion, in the forest, on the water. Canoes and gear in tow. Lead by the survivalist Lewis (Burt Reynolds), the group consists of mild mannered Bobby (Ned Beatty), easygoing Ed (Jon Voight), as well as Drew (Ronny Cox). When first they arrive in hillbilly central, Drew befriends a young boy, clearly the victim of inbreeding, and they play “Dueling Banjos” together; afterward, though, Drew tries to shake the boy’s hand and receives the cold shoulder. Brushing off this early, strange incident, the men head further to find someone to drive their vehicles down to the end of the river where they plan on canoeing.
Except the vast Appalachians hold many horrors. And when the city men run into a couple disgruntled mountain men their weekend outing goes from wild to worrisome. Once an act of hideous physical violence is committed against Bobby, the equal act of violent retribution by Lewis propels the four friends into not a fight for their lives, but for their very humanity.
If they’re lucky, they’ll see the city again. Someday.
“We‘re going to rape this whole landscape,” Lewis (Reynolds) sadly tells his friends in the opening moments of the film; he’s referring to the destruction of beautiful natural spaces to create man-made, artificial spaces. So when the mountain men take the city boys hostage and one of them proceeds to rape Bobby (Beatty), these words echo through our ears. The rape of Bobby is a metaphor – it is the mountain, the landscape fighting back by proxy.
Also, early in the movie we see Ed (Voight) unable to kill an animal. Later he’s confronted with one of the mountain men and similarly can’t bring himself to shoot the bow’s arrow, which demonstrates the idea that Ed sees all life as sacred or precious, even in a case where he’s being hunted alive; this is the fundamental difference between Ed and Lewis, but most importantly between Ed and the dangerous men in the woods.
One of the most impressive contrasts in the entire film is near the end, after Ed and Bobby are sitting down at a table with a crew of old folks. They all start to eat, as Ed comes in last. He sits down and tries to put his best face on, but bent over his ready meal Ed cries a little, almost bursting out in front of everyone. It’s because Ed finds himself back amongst the civilized, even if they’re still down South, out in hillbilly county. Such a stark difference from the other mountain people he’s met out there, and that’s sort of what hits him – how certain people can be so hateful, disgusting, evil, while other people in the same area are welcoming and hospitable.
The acting in Deliverance is part of why the film works. If lesser acting talent were employed, Boorman would never have gotten the resonance out of this plot and story that’s intended. Reynolds is always a treat, especially in many of his early movies. But above all else, it is the performances of both Beatty and Voight which make the whole thing so special, and definitively powerful as one of the best films of the 1970s.
Voight provides us with one of the best characters because, as I mentioned, the contrasts and parallels through which we watch the character of Ed are a large reason for the movie’s excellence. Via Ed we see the city vs. rural battle, as well as a very human quality. With all the nastiness, from the mountain men and later the city boys themselves, there is a thread running through Deliverance concerning humanity – what it is, how one holds onto it in times of terrifying strife and pain, how we cope with the inhumanity of others, and more. On the other side of that there is Beatty’s character Bobby, whose sexual assault is the catalyst for murder; though, I would say definitely justified. But in his case the idea of justice also comes into the situation, whether or not murder can be justified under certain circumstances. Also, Bobby represents an idea of manhood – the covering up of Lewis killing the mountain men initially is supported by Bobby, as he quips “I don‘t want this gettin‘ around.” A lot of themes happening here intertwined with the characters, with the construction of masculinity hovering around heavy after the rape. So having quality actors such as Voight and Beatty in the meatiest roles is a huge success. There’s a range in these two which lends itself to the thematic elements present, and in turn we also get two iconic performances viewers will never forget easily.
A landmark film of the 1970s. 5 stars. From a more fearless time of filmmaking, both in terms of technique and also of story, Deliverance absolutely delivers the goods. There are too many amazing moments in this film to list them all one by one, but hopefully I’ve covered some of the best, most inspiring aspects of this amazing and brutal movie. John Boorman will be remembered most for this, no matter how many great pieces of cinema he delivers. The examination of city life, and justice, versus rural backwoods style living and their draconian forms of so-called justice; the performances of Jon Voight and Ned Beatty particularly; and Boorman’s capturing of nature, while unnatural things happen within it – all these aspects make up the cinematic classic that is Deliverance. Perhaps the most perfect movie about men surviving in the backwoods. Either way, tread lightly. Though this is a solid movie with tons to offer, it isn’t always easy to watch.