We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
A mutant is done justice, aliens haunt, and The Dragon gets a franchise.
Created twenty-five years ago in the pages of Marvel comic books, the motormouthed mutant mercenary Deadpool had a rough ride on his way to the big screen. Twelve years ago, the project was set up at New Line Cinema, where writer/director David S. Goyer and his Blade: Trinity star Ryan Reynolds were going to make it their second collaboration. That didn't end up happening and New Line lost the rights, which was actually a good thing because the ended up in the hands of Fox, where the rest of Marvel's mutants reside. At Fox, Deadpool would be able to interact with the characters from the various X titles, just like he does in the comic books. Unfortunately, that led to him making his screen debut in 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where Ryan Reynolds was wisely kept in the role he had signed on for five years earlier and was able to prove without a doubt that he was the perfect actor to play Deadpool, a.k.a. Wade Wilson, but then they totally went off the rails in the climax when they turned Wilson - known in the comics as "the merc with the mouth" - into the mouthless Weapon XI character that sure wasn't Deadpool.
A Deadpool solo film was announced on the heels of that quite unpopular entry in the X franchise, but Fox had cold feet. Such cold feet that it delayed the making of the movie several years, because they didn't have faith in the character or that audiences would turn out for a film that had the irreverent tone a Deadpool movie would require. But finally, thanks to the dedication of Reynolds, who stuck with the character all this time (I feared he had blown Deadpool's chances with the Green Lantern movie, but instead that just enabled him to drop some jokes about that movie within Deadpool), and the enthusiasm of the fans for the project, the Deadpool movie was made exactly how it should have been. For being such a good representation of the source material, it has been rewarded with record breaking box office.
In addition to the film having the perfect star, the perfect creative team was assembled to craft it, with Zombieland/G.I. Joe: Retaliation screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick handling the script and director Tim Miller making a very impressive directorial debut here. These guys definitely righted a wrong.
The Deadpool movie delivers an origin story for the title character within flashbacks as Deadpool goes on a mission of revenge to catch up with the person behind his origin. The story is told by Deadpool himself, who breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience - as he often does in the comic books. Deadpool is a character who realizes he is a comic book character, or in this case a comic book movie character. He owns a Weapon XI action figure, he has seen the other X-Men movies, he knows Professor Xavier has been played by both James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, and he is confused by the franchise's timeline, which was completely blown apart by X-Men: Days of Future Past. This film also blows up part of the timeline itself, because - despite a reference to Wilson having been in the Special Forces, as he was at the beginning of Origins - its version of Deadpool's origin certainly doesn't jibe with the version seen in the Wolverine movie. Wilson is living in modern day and definitely wasn't old enough to be in the Special Forces with Wolverine during Vietnam. But if there's one character you can retcon with without a second thought, it's Deadpool.
A messed up mercenary, Wade Wilson finds true love when he meets messed up prostitute Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). Their love is displayed in quite a naughty way, but there is a sweetness to it, and heartstrings are tugged when Wilson is diagnosed with terminal cancer. When some shady people offer him the chance to take part in an experimental procedure to cure his cancer, he takes the opportunity for Vanessa's sake. But it's a set-up. The guy doing the procedure, Francis "Ajax" Freeman (The Transporter: Refueled's Ed Skrein), and his henchwoman Angel Dust (Haywire's Gina Carano) aren't out to help Wilson, they're out to turn him into a superpowered slave and sell him off to the highest bidder.
I was enjoying the movie up to the moment when Wilson was wheeled into Ajax's makeshift laboratory, but then it totally won my heart when Angel Dust's habit of chewing on matchsticks was used to work in a subtle reference to the 1986 Sylvester Stallone classic Cobra. I can't tell you how happy it made me to hear a Cobra reference in a major modern movie.
Their experiments on him turn him immortal, giving him a healing ability that rivals Wolverine's own, but also has the side effect of hideously deforming him.
Wilson manages to escape from his captors, but before he can bear to face Vanessa again, he needs to get his face fixed. So he becomes costumed antihero Deadpool and sets out to track down Ajax and force him to reverse the side effects.
Along the way there's a lot of fights, swordplay, explosions, and gunfire... not so much gunfire from Deadpool, because he keeps forgetting his ammo... and it's all a lot of fun, despite budgetary restrictions. Fox didn't want to spend too much on this "risky property". Joining in on the action are hulking, metal-skinned mutant Colossus (who was played by Daniel Cudmore in X-Men 2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Days of Future Past, but here is brought to life through the motion captured Andre Tricoteux and the voice of Stefan Kapičić), who is trying to recruit Deadpool into the X-Men even though he has issues with some of the merc's methods, and X-Men trainee Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a fun character who I had never even heard of until she was added into this film. Created in 2001, she came a little after the days when I would have been aware of what was going on the X comic books.
T.J. Miller and Leslie Uggams also appear in supporting roles as Deadpool's very likeable and funny pals Weasel and Blind Al.
If you're up for spending a couple hours watching a highly entertaining superhero movie that doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest, I strongly recommend checking out Deadpool, but be warned - this is not your children's X-Men movie. It's rated R for a reason. The F-bomb is dropped nearly 100 times, the language is quite salty, there is bloody violence, masturbation references, and an extended sex sequence. Don't take your kids to this one expecting to see the usual safe superhero antics.
Of course, by the time this is being posted the movie has already been out three weeks, so I suspect plenty of parents have already been outraged by now.
DARK SKIES (2013)
Like many films from Blumhouse Productions, the company behind such franchises as Insidious, Sinister, and Paranormal Activity, writer/director Scott Stewart's Dark Skies centers on a family going through some very strange experiences. In the way the film delves into the everyday lives of the Barretts - parents Lacy and Daniel (Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton), children Jesse and Sam (Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett) - and features otherworldy forces messing around in the kitchen, rearranging and stacking things, it's also somewhat reminiscent of the Tobe Hooper/Steven Spielberg classic Poltergeist.
The things that occur in the first half of Dark Skies are the sort of things you would see in a haunted house movie. The aforementioned rearranging of items, security alarms getting tripped by what seems to be nothing, shadowy figures lurking around the house, mysterious wounds, members of the family starting to act strangely... But as the film goes on, it becomes more apparent that this isn't Poltergeist, it has more in common with a different Hooper/Spielberg collaboration. The 2002 alien invasion mini-series Taken. (Hooper also coincidentally worked on a short-lived alien invasion TV show called Dark Skies in 1996. That show has nothing to do with this movie.)
Yes, aliens are the culprit, and they prove to be just as unnerving of a household threat as any ghost or demon would be. Perhaps even more so.
I wasn't a fan of Stewart's previous movies, the horror/action flicks Legion and Priest, and when I saw the Dark Skies trailer I thought its shots of people in trances slamming their heads into glass and standing around with their mouths hanging wide open were laughable. I gave the movie a chance at the behest of my Remake Comparison Project co-writer Priscilla, and found it to be much more enjoyable than I expected to. And she was somewhat freaked out by it, which is a rare thing for a devoted horror fan like she is.
If you're a fan of the usual Blumhouse output or if you just feel like watching an atmospheric, involving horror film with an intergalactic twist, give Dark Skies a chance.
Schwarzenegger. Stallone. Willis. They all have their own multi-part action franchises, but as of this writing Don "The Dragon" Wilson, a real-life kickboxing world champion in addition to being an actor, has them all beat in the area of sequels. For Roger Corman's company Concorde-New Horizons, Wilson was the lead in eight Bloodfist movies, giving him the win over the Terminators, Rambos, Expendables, and Die Hards... although, Wilson didn't play the same character in all of the films. In his money-making wisdom, Corman decided to put the title Bloodfist on a series of what are actually separate action films starring Wilson. Cashing in on the viewing audience's desire to follow a franchise. If you enjoyed Bloodfist 1 and 2, you might want to check out a movie starring Wilson that's called Forced to Fight, but you're even more likely to check it out if it's called Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight.
Written by Robert King and brought to the screen by director Terence H. Winkless, the first Bloodfist's story is a familiar one, and the title might tip you off to the fact that it is Corman's answer to the 1988 Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport. I would suspect there was some Kickboxer in there as well, if not for the fact that Kickboxer came out just two weeks before Bloodfist.
Set in Manila, the film begins with American Michael Raye fighting in the Ta-Chang, a tournament put together by an illegal gambling club called Red Fist. There are no rules in the Ta-Chang, competitors simply fight until one is down for the count or dead. Michael has agreed to throw this particular fight, but when he gets annoyed with his opponent's grandstanding he starts fighting for real and ends up killing the guy. For going back on the deal, he is ambushed after he leaves the tournament and beaten to death.
Michael's half-brother Jake (Wilson) was a boxer who retired after donating one of his kidneys to Michael. Don't worry, though, he hasn't let himself go since retiring, because now he teaches a self defense course. When he finds out that Michael has been killed, he heads over to Manila and starts conducting a personal investigation to get to the bottom of what happened to his brother.
While in Manila, Jake befriends fellow American Baby Davies, who is planning to compete in the next Ta-Chang. Baby is the guy's real name, his parents couldn't agree on what to name him, and he's a wacky guy who's meant to provide comic relief, with actor Michael Shaner tending to overact big time. Jake also starts to fall in love with Baby's sister Nancy (Riley Bowman), who has pretty much had her life ruined by her brother's drunken antics and now works in a rowdy strip club.
A man named Kwong (Joe Mari Avellana) provides Jake with some of the answers he seeks. Kwong was Michael's trainer, and suggests that the way for Jake to find his brother's killer is to compete in the Ta-Chang himself. With the help of Kwong, Baby, and Nancy, Jake trains for the tournament, transforming from a boxer into a kickboxer, and the audience gets to enjoy the requisite training montages. The training was supposed to include the sight of Jake running up a long stairway Rocky-style, but on location it was decided to have Wilson run up an active volcano instead.
Jake's progress through the Ta-Chang takes up the bulk of the second half of the film, and Wilson wasn't the only real life fighter cast to show off his stuff here. The opening titles make sure you know this by listing each real fighter's standings beneath their credits. Among them is Tae Bo creator Billy Blanks as Black Rose, who presents an obstacle on Jake's way to the top. Although the opening fight with Michael is rather poor, don't let that discourage you from the rest of the film, because the choreography and presentation is much better in the later fights.
The tournament culminates in a match that pits Jake against a man named Chin Woo (kickboxing champ Cris Aguilar), who has beaten Baby to the edge of death and just might be Michael's killer. But then again, maybe he's not. Maybe there's more to Bloodfist than meets the eye... You'll have to see the movie to find out, and I think that's something you should do if you're a fan of movies like Bloodsport and Kickboxer.
Those Van Damme movies I keep referencing weren't exactly the glossiest of pictures to begin with, and Bloodfist is certainly a step down from them. If those were B movies, this is a B- at best, but even though it has a cheap, unpolished look, it still provides the same sort of entertainment. Don "The Dragon" Wilson never reached the level of some of his action hero peers, but he did quite well for himself in the low budget trenches and I always found him to be an enjoyable screen presence.
Corman is known for his cash-ins, and this one made him some major bank, officially putting him into the Don "The Dragon" Wilson business for years to follow.
On a somber note, I'm pretty sure that I was watching Bloodfist on the day one of my grandfathers passed away in 1993. I've always associated the image of Jake running on the volcano with that day.