‘You are relentlessly annoying,’ barks arms dealer Ed Skrein to Ryan Reynolds’s wisecracking, fetish-clad anti-superhero midway through this latest romp inspired by a Marvel comic. It’s an insult that applies just as easily to the film itself. Bloody, shallow and oh-so-smug, ‘Deadpool’ is so eager to offend that it’d almost be sweet if it wasn’t so, well, relentlessly annoying. We first meet Wade Wilson as an ex-military drifter, working as a thug-for-hire and about to fall madly in love with (you guessed it) a hooker-with-a-heart, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wade is suckered in by a shady corporation run by the villainous Ajax (Skrein), who promises to save his life. The cure leaves Wade disfigured and scarred, but pumped with advanced healing powers, a hunger for revenge and a thing for bright red Lycra. Clearly inspired by the ooh-aren’t-we-naughty sweary superheroics of Matthew Vaughn (‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Kingsman’), ‘Deadpool’ is the kind of movie that thinks a shot of the hero being dildoed by his girlfriend on International Women’s Day is feminist enough to make up for the fact that she’s a foxy ex-prostitute and the script is peppered with rape jokes. It all looks cheap and grimy – whether this is a stylistic choice or a budgetary issue isn’t clear. Meanwhile the action sequences sacrifice tension and excitement in favour of hyperactive editing and splattering gore. The result is rarely boring, but it’s not half as smart, funny or sub
As we’ve seen with #OscarsSoWhite, Hollywood is slow to change. Right now, romcoms are cold-turkeying without Jane Austen’s nineteenth-century happy-ever-after plotlines and wrapping their heads around the brave new world of Lena Dunham. As modern dating movies go, ‘How to Be Single’ gets a lot right. A tale of four women in New York, it’s adapted from a novel by ‘Sex and the City’ writer Liz Tuccillo. Dakota Johnson is the same shy, pretty, quirky girl she played in ‘Fifty Shades’ as graduate Alice, who splits with her college boyfriend to ‘spend time alone’. Inducting Alice into the ways of singledom is hilarious Rebel Wilson (‘Pitch Perfect’) as her crazy mate from work, who has all kinds of theories about sex including a ‘drink number’: the total number of drinks it takes before any male-female friendship pair end up having sex. A storyline with Alison Brie as marriage-obsessed Lucy, who’s signed up to ten dating websites, is a bit try-hard. Ironically, the best plot here is a gorgeous romance between Johnson’s hardworking sister (Leslie Mann) and a puppy-dog adorable, much younger receptionist (Jake Lacy) – flipping romcom stereotypes. Nothing here will blow you away, but baby steps…
Fifteen years after ‘The Perfect Storm’, are we ready once again to plunge into icy offshore waters? Even though ‘The Finest Hours’ – about a real-life sea rescue in 1952 – has truth and honest-to-God heroism on its side, its fake-looking computerised squall is a turn-off. Among the movie’s mostly undistinguished performances, only ‘Star Trek’ star Chris Pine and the always-interesting Casey Affleck stand out. Pine plays rookie coast guard Bernie Webber, piloting a tugboat to rescue the crew of a capsized oil tanker. Affleck, aboard the stranded vessel, is a quizzically quiet engine man whose cool head and technical solutions (one of them demonstrated with a hard-boiled egg) eventually come to impress the other men. But despite the built-in suspense, the film’s a wash-out, ladling on camera lurches, foamy spray and dangling-ladder escapes. You never quite shake the sensation that you’re watching a big-budget screensaver – no one ever seems in actual jeopardy, even as the sea rises in a furious, digitally rendered chop.
After the playful, urban and contemporary humour of the Oscar-winning ‘Birdman’, this bleak-faced 1820s-set frontier western sees Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu return to the darker worldview of his earlier films like ‘Babel’ and ‘21 Grams’. Based on a 2002 Michael Punke novel about real-life folk hero Hugh Glass, ‘The Revenant’ stars Leonardo DiCaprio (gruff, committed, unreadable) as a fur trapper and frontiersman left for dead by his colleagues in a wintry American landscape after he is viciously shredded by a grizzly bear. Glass survives, and he hauls his damaged body through snow, across rivers, up rocks and over plains, driven by revenge. In his sights is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, savage with a dash of black humour), the man responsible for abandoning him to die and for forcing him to watch as his young son (of mixed-race parentage) is murdered in front of his eyes. So, no, it’s not a happy tale. But what survives from ‘Birdman’ is a compelling, forward-moving, simple approach to storytelling that grips us through stretches of silence and misery. The film's relentlessness itself becomes magnetic. There are times when 'The Revenant' feels like one long and unforgiving act of sadism, mostly directed at its lead character, but occasionally at us (a warning: the film is long, the dialogue is minimal and the violence is sharp). There are moments, too, that feel like parodies of awards-hungry acting, such as when we see DiCaprio chomping on raw animal organ
Cockroaches won’t be the only species to survive the apocalypse. Teenagers will breeze through whatever deadly pandemic, ecological armageddon or global breakdown of law and order kills off the rest of us. Think about it, their generation has been raised on dystopia; as long as the mobile networks are up, and they can start a WhatsApp group to join forces, these kids are well-equipped to survive almost anything. ‘The 5th Wave’, based on a bestseller by Rick Yancey, is the latest YA sensation to get the big screen treatment. Forgettably similar to every other girl-saves-the-world franchise, Chloë Moretz (on a downward turn since playing Hit Girl in ‘Kick-Ass’) stars as 16-year-old Cassie, a like-totally-ordinary teenager until aliens invade. Earth’s new houseguests, known as The Others, hover in a giant mother ship in the sky, unleashing waves of plagues to wipe out humanity (earthquakes, tsunamis, avian flu) before finally making an appearance as body-snatchers. Cassie is trekking cross-country to find her little brother when she’s rescued by a muscly dude in the forest. But can she trust him? Meanwhile, the US military is training an army of teens to take down The Others, including Cassie’s high school crush. Hormones rage (like cockroaches, teenagers can be prolific breeders), and after a while, it's all so ridiculous as to be dopily sweet as pint-sized kids bark bad-ass military slang at each other. Still, it's no successor to ‘The Hunger Games’.
Over the years, the 'Rocky' series became something sweaty and slightly embarrassing: an endless series of grunting wisdom, trumpet anthems, politically-symbolic opponents and Reagan-era showdowns. So here's a surprise: 'Creed' is a commanding and rousing new entry in the series, and it's the best thing that could have happened to Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa - even if it means demoting the poor guy to the coaching corner. If the film feels indie-ish, that’s because it basically is: director Ryan Coogler has only one film to his name - 2013’s socially-enraged 'Fruitvale Station'. But Coogler carries around the little-boy version of himself, a kid at heart whose dreams are full of ’70s stories like 'Rocky', the 1976 original which was always closer in spirit to 'On the Waterfront' and 'Raging Bull' than its sequels. 'Creed' gloriously indulges that nostalgia. It’s about a troubled inner-city youth turned seething young man, Adonis (Michael B Jordan, the fiercely alive lead from 'Fruitvale Station'), who knows his impulse to fight comes from the father he never met, heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. Will Adonis rise to claim his natural legacy? It’s a neat reversal from Stallone’s original idea in the first movie, that your two-bit surroundings don’t define who you are. Adonis heads from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, where he chases chickens, meets a tough but supportive dreamer (Tessa Thompson) and hooks up with the only man who can train him properly. Of Stallone’s s
David O Russell’s wacky screwball spin on the rags-to-riches biopic opens with the line: ‘Inspired by stories of brave women.’ He could just as easily have borrowed the opening line from his last film, ‘American Hustle’ – ‘Some of this actually happened.’ ‘Joy’ is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the Long Island single mom who in the early 1990s invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop and became a shopping channel superstar. Cinema is full of American dreams: stories of men battling to build empires. This is a film about three generations of women. It has some of the macho stuff: the nostalgic voiceover, Scorsese-style, by Joy’s grandma (Diane Ladd); Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ blasting out; and it ends with Joy sitting behind a giant I’ve-made-it desk like Don Corleone. But Russell also mixes in elements of kitsch soap opera, allowing the dialogue to tip over in bigger-than-life melodrama. Only he could pull off a film with one foot in daytime TV and the other in ‘Goodfellas’. ‘Joy’ is brilliantly feminist – written by Russell and based on a story by Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote ‘Bridesmaids’ with Kristen Wiig. We first see Joy as a little girl, making a fairytale forest kingdom out of paper. All that’s missing is a prince, says her sister – ‘I don’t need a prince.’ Later, Joy meets Bradley Cooper’s TV exec, the boss of the QVC channel that will make her a star. Both their hearts skip a beat – but this woman does not have time for that. Joy is too busy
What an ugly, idiotic mess this is. Like a sausage-faced, gender-flipped Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, a man on an epic quest to battle the dark forces of magical femininity under the watchful eye of his fusty British handler Dolan (Michael Caine). But when Dolan is attacked by an ancient evil, Kaulder teams up with good witch Chloe (Rose Leslie) to prevent the magical apocalypse. Give ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ some credit, though: unlike, say, ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’, it does go some way towards muting the inherent misogyny in the concept, largely by making a couple of the witches dudes. Also, there are two fun minutes near the beginning, when ‘This Is England’ legend Joe Gilgun turns up as a snarling, tattooed Irish nutter. Otherwise this is a relentlessly unengaging affair, its derivative and logic-deficient script matched by flat direction and fussy, unconvincing CGI. The performances are particularly rotten: we expect Vin to wobble about like a half-inflated penis balloon with a face scrawled on it, but Caine and Elijah Wood (playing his fellow priest) should know better; and the cut-glass-posh Leslie is simply unbearable – picture Princess Beatrice on a gap year working in a Manhattan goth bar. A hideous electro mangling of the Stones’ ‘Paint It Black’ over the closing credits adds insult to injury. But hey, at least that means it’s over.
The average lifespan of a chipmunk is five years – which means the kids’ cartoon franchise about the trio of singing superstar rodents has already outstayed its welcome. To be honest, if you have kids under eight, there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours over half term. ‘The Road Chip’ is pretty harmless for the most part. Though when the critters start singing, you might want to stick sharpened knitting needles in your ears.
Remaking Kathryn Bigelow’s brotastic 1991 surf-cop thriller was always going to be a tough proposition. Still, Ericson Core’s ultra-boring new version colossally misses the mark. (Technically, it misses it by several Swayzes.) Keanu Reeves’s original Johnny Utah, the most lovably dopey undercover fed in movies, is now played by charmless slab of beef Luke Bracey. He’s on the tail of spiritually intense thief Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). The chemistry between these two is nonexistent – all surly man-hugs instead of a too-close-to-the-flame bromance. Even worse, this ‘Point Break’ skimps on the surfing, widening out to include extreme sports like free climbing or ‘wingsuit flying’ (so utterly ridiculous, I refuse to believe it actually exists). The movie’s reliance on CGI during these cliff lunges and high-altitude dives results in a total weightlessness that robs the film of suspense. Only scowling Ray Winstone, playing Utah’s handler, seems aware of the awfulness all around him, but even he fails in comparison to the first film’s turn by crazy Gary Busey. No one gets out of here unscathed.