Review of “Pokemon Detective Pikachu”

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) lives in a small village outside Ryme City. He’s informed his father Harry, a private detective in the bustling, high-tech city, had died in a car crash while on a case. Tim and Harry weren’t close as Harry had moved to Ryme City after the death of Tim’s mother, leaving the boy in the care of his grandmother. Tim felt abandoned and wanted nothing to do with his father. Tim goes to Ryme City’s police department to see Lt. Yoshida (Ken Watanabe) and get the keys to his father’s apartment. Tim is checking his father’s mail when he’s approached by a junior reporter named Lucy (Kathryn Newton). She is working on a story about a mysterious surge in Pokemon attacks that somehow involves Harry. In Harry’s apartment, Tim finds a Pikachu. The weird thing is, Tim can hear what Pikachu is saying, which is unheard of. This Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) is Harry’s partner, but is suffering from amnesia. Ryme City was founded by billionaire Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy). In Ryme City, humans and Pokemon live together in harmony with no Pokeballs and no battles. Clifford is suffering from a degenerative neurological disease and is trying to find a cure by studying Pokemon. His son Roger Clifford (Chris Geere) has taken over much of his father’s businesses, including a news network Lucy works for. Tim wants nothing to do with investigating whatever Harry was looking into despite the urging of Pikachu. It’s only when it appears Harry may not be dead that Tim joins with Pikachu to investigate Harry’s last case, one that may completely change the relationship between humans and Pokemon.

I was too old to get into Pokemon when it came to American airwaves on the Kids WB back in the late 1990’s. It also isn’t something that I believe would have interested me if it had come along at a more appropriate age. It’s a story that has no discernible ending and no purpose other than to pit these animals against each other for the glory of the trainer. It has a stink of animated cock fighting that I’ve always found objectionable. There’s not much battling in “Pokemon Detective Pikachu” and that makes a big difference for me. It’s also a plus that Ryan Reynolds provides the voice for Pikachu and gives the cute yellow electrified Pokemon enough mature edge to keep adults interested in what is a kids’ movie.

The extensive integration of digital characters with the human actors looks very good for the most part. There are some scenes where the people are clearly interacting with nothing but trying to look like they are working with something three dimensional. This is especially obvious when there are several small Pokemon climbing on a character or attacking a character. I think it’s the lack of weight and the missing reaction to that weight that makes some of these scenes noticeable. When humans and Pokemon are walking together or otherwise interacting, the eye lines and occasional contact between them is believable.

There is also an effort to add depth to the story by making it about a grown son that feels abandoned by his father. This isn’t examined very deeply but provides the basis for a somewhat moving scene where Tim begins to accept the death of his father. Justice Smith delivers a very good performance as a young man struggling to find his way in the world without both of his parents. The script doesn’t spend a great deal of time studying how Tim’s father’s leaving has hurt him, but it does show a young man that seems lost and without direction. In this world where everyone has a Pokemon partner, Tim can’t invest the time and emotion into getting close to one. The implication is he fears the Pokemon will leave him like his father did and he doesn’t want to take the chance of getting hurt again. While it barely scratches the surface of something deeper, the film at least tries to throw some emotion into a fantasy adventure movie.

Ryan Reynolds is the only thing that might attract adults without children to “Pokemon Detective Pikachu.” Unless they have fond memories of collecting the trading cards or playing the various video games, those unfamiliar with Pokemon and the various creatures may find themselves overwhelmed and a bit lost. Reynolds voicing Pikachu is the gateway for those of us that are pocket monster illiterate. Reynolds provides a bit of mature snark to the fuzzy yellow Pikachu. His comic riffs and asides make every scene with Pikachu completely watchable and entertaining. I would probably watch another film with just Pikachu, voiced by Reynolds, walking around and commenting on things he sees in Ryme City. Reynolds seems to enjoy providing voices for characters that are hidden behind masks or otherwise hide his face. Perhaps that is freeing and allows him to explore his imagination and sense of humor and improvise lines he discovers in the moment. That’s easier on the “Deadpool” films as those are live action and the character’s snarky lines aren’t reacted to by the other characters other than an eyeroll. With the animated Pikachu, Reynolds probably had to stay more on script since his lines were performed on set by another actor. Reynolds then voiced the character that then needed to be animated. Still, there are scenes where Reynolds appears to be winging it and they are very funny despite his not being able to use the kind of colorful language allowed in the R-rated “Deadpool.”

“Pokemon Detective Pikachu” is rated PG for some rude and suggestive humor, action/peril and thematic elements. Pikachu suggests he passed gas in one scene. There is a scene where Pikachu is injured that caused some tears and sniffling in the audience. The Earth seems to be trying to kill Tim, Lucy, Pikachu and Psyduck in one scene. There is a violent car crash that is shown at least four times. Pokemon become violent when exposed to a gas on a couple of occasions. Pikachu battle Charizard. Foul language is limited to one “Hell” and one “damn.”

Do those adults that know nothing about Pokemon need to take a crash course in the various types of pocket monsters they’ll be seeing? No. Just accept you’ll be exposed to numerous types of fantastical animals that are both familiar and strange and just let it wash over you like all the unnamed aliens you see in “Star Wars” and other sci-fi films. While on-screen labels would have been nice for the uninitiated, knowing their names and powers isn’t important as the film isn’t about the Pokemon, but about Tim, the search for his father, and the mystery at the center of Harry’s last case. It also helps that the movie is funny, moving and entertaining. Who cares what a Squirtle or a Bulbasaur can do?

“Pokemon Detective Pikachu” gets five stars.

Next week, I’ll be reviewing “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” for WIMZ.com.

Other movies coming out this week:

A Dog’s Journey—

The Sun is Also a Star—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Deadpool 2”

Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) has expanded his hunt for the worst of the worst bad guys worldwide. He takes out sex traffickers and gangsters no matter where they work from. One drug trafficker works in his own hometown and while Deadpool is able to kill many of his henchmen the main bad guy manages to hide in his safe room. Deadpool heads home to see Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) because it’s their anniversary. Vanessa tells him she wants to start a family and they have sex. After, they are chatting when Deadpool senses trouble coming, leading to an event that sends Deadpool on a downward spiral. In a dystopian future, cybernetic soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) comes home to find his wife and daughter burned alive by a vicious mutant calling himself Firefist. Equipped with a time-travel device, Cable travels back to a time when Firefist is also known as Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) and is a troubled teen at a mutant reeducation center run by a sadistic headmaster (Eddie Marsan) that tortures the children in his care. Russell has blown some things up at the school and Deadpool, along with Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and others try to rein him in. Deadpool talks to Russell and the boy points out a member of the staff that has abused him. Deadpool then kills the staff member before he is subdued by Colossus. Both Deadpool and Russell are sent to a mutant prison called the Icebox where all prisoners are forced to wear collars that inhibit their mutant abilities. Cable shows up and tries to kill Russell but Deadpool stops him when the collar gets knocked off. With Cable’s technology and cybernetic implants Deadpool knows he needs help protecting Russell from another attack. That’s when he decides to form…The X-Force.

“Deadpool 2” is hardly a surprising take on the superhero movie genre considering it is very much like the original “Deadpool.” Star Ryan Reynolds as the title character is quick with a joke, insult and fourth-wall-breaking comment that skewers the idea of sequels and team-up films in a movie filled with second and third-string characters that could never topline a movie of their own. It could be looked at as derivative and a mere copy of its earlier self. The fact that “Deadpool 2” is subversive in its own way by being a story about family, loss, grief, mercy, self-awareness and forgiveness is how this sequel sets itself apart from the original.

Without spoiling too much Deadpool goes on a literal self-destructive journey as the film starts: He blows himself to bits in an effort to commit suicide. The shock of this is somewhat softened by the decapitated head of our hero explaining there’s more to the story that we learn in the flashback. Deadpool is dealing with a loss so profound he can only end the pain with his demise. Having the mutant power of healing makes that a tad difficult. The story sends him on other journeys of self-pity, family building and forgiveness. Most other superhero films don’t put their main character through such an arduous emotional journey as we get in “Deadpool 2.”

The film doesn’t seem that deep but if you give it a bit of thought you discover many of the same themes as in your highbrow, Oscar-bait dramas. Granted these themes are handled with broad humor, bloody violence and sexual suggestions that would make a sailor blush but it is still noteworthy.

“Deadpool 2” doesn’t work at all without the pitch perfect and enthusiastic performance of Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds, who was a driving force along with the original director Tim Miller in getting the first film made, is also a producer and credited writer on the sequel. His energy and charisma as a character that could easily be very annoying and unsympathetic makes Wade Wilson one of the most enjoyable members of Marvel Comics moviedom.

The direct opposite of Deadpool in tone and style is Josh Brolin’s Cable. Brolin has the aged and weathered face of experience that is perfect for the role of the cybernetic soldier from the future. He is able to maintain that serious and world-weary look throughout the film and gives the Merc with the Mouth someone to play off of and with. Brolin has spoken highly of Reynolds in publicity interviews about “Deadpool 2” as you would expect; but in an interview with Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast, which was about far more than just promoting the film, Brolin seems to express a genuine affection and appreciation for Reynolds that’s more than just interview fluff. Brolin provides a level of gravitas to the film that it needs to counterbalance Reynolds manic humor.

Zazie Beetz is also a nice addition to the cast as the super lucky Domino. Her calm feminine energy is a nice respite from the hyper-masculine Deadpool. Beetz also delivers a fine performance as a hero that is constantly under estimated since she lacks a flashy ability. Being supernaturally lucky may not have the same cache as invulnerability or flight but as the old saying goes, I’d rather be lucky than good and Domino is always lucky.

“Deadpool 2” is rated R for language throughout, brief drug material, sexual references and strong violence. The drug material is when Deadpool retrieves a packet of cocaine from a hiding place in Blind Al’s apartment and sticks it under his mask, appearing to consume it all at one time. Sexual references are usually brief and consist of physically impossible acts suggested by or to Deadpool. Violence is frequently bloody and often involves heads being removed or crushed, bodies being ripped in half, limbs being amputated by swords and heads being impaled by various instruments and shot at close range by guns. Foul language is common throughout the film.

If you tire of laughing at the jokes or cringing at the violent ways various people die you can entertain yourself by looking for the hidden celebrity cameos throughout the film. The list of people includes several cast members from “X-Men: First Class,” Alan Tudyk, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and a ceramic Stan Lee. Don’t worry if you don’t see them all as some are blink-and-you’ll-miss-him quick while others are buried under makeup, wigs and beards. This is a small part of why “Deadpool 2” is so much fun. It is not only an action-packed and exciting superhero story but it also is something of a scavenger hunt which is on top of the story about family. It is the One a Day multivitamin of movies and it is well worth your time and money. Also, don’t miss the mid-credits scene. It is split into two sections so don’t leave until you see the second half.

“Deadpool 2” gets five stars out of five.

This week the only new film in wide release is “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

Listen to The Fractured Frame wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

 

 

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) refers to himself as a Triple A Rated Personal Security Expert. He guards less than savory characters if they are willing to pay his high rates. One client, a Japanese arms dealer, is killed while under Bryce’s protection. He blames his girlfriend Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), an Interpol agent he told about this client. His anger at her over her alleged betrayal leads to the ending of their relationship. The death of his client destroys his reputation and Bryce is reduced to protecting lesser clients for whatever cash he can get. Meanwhile, the former dictator of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is on trial for war crimes at The Hague. All the testimony from the prosecution witnesses is deemed hearsay by the panel of judges and all the other witnesses who can provide corroborated evidence have been killed by Dukhovich’s band of thugs. The only surviving witness is a notorious contract killer named Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who is being held in prison. Kincaid agrees to testify against Dukhovich in exchange for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) who is being held in custody. Roussel and a group of Interpol agents are tasked with transporting Kincaid to the court but a mole within the agency has told Dukhovich’s men and they attack the caravan. Kincaid and Roussel are the only survivors and they hide in a nearby safe house. Desperate, Roussel calls Bryce to guard Kincaid and get him to The Hague before a deadline otherwise Dukhovich goes free. Bryce and Kincaid have a great deal of history and don’t like each other. If they get to the court without killing each other or getting killed by Dukhovich’s men will be a miracle.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a perfect summer popcorn movie. It’s filled with jokes and action while also being about nothing particularly controversial and having a villain that is easy to loathe. With a cast made up largely of well-known comedic and action stars and locations scattered around Europe, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” has all the makings of a massive hit…almost.

There is a great deal of laughs in the film. The script, written by Tom O’Connor, was originally created as a drama but underwent a major rewrite to add the humor. I can see how the film could have gone either dramatic or comedic as the trial of a brutal dictator for crimes against humanity isn’t exactly the foundation of a laugh-a-minute action romp. O’Connor has managed to find a way to show the audience Dukhovich’s cruelty and have that banked in their mind while also giving us two characters that have the kinds of personalities that create sparks and the likelihood of humorous situations.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are perhaps the perfect actors to take these roles. Both are known for their comedic turns in various films that aren’t necessarily comedies. Reynolds is currently shooting the sequel to the very funny “Deadpool” and has made a career out of playing the smart aleck ready with a quip at the drop of a hat. Even his Twitter feed is often funny to follow. Both these actors have terrific comedic chemistry together and the film largely is successful due to their combined talents.

Salma Hayek is also amazing as Kincaid’s wife Sonia. Most of her scenes are in a prison cell talking to guards or officers and to Jackson in a phone call. Her passion and anger as Sonia is nearly overwhelming. Speaking in a combination of English and Spanish, Sonia pulls no punches and never should be underestimated. Even her cellmate spends most of her time cowering in a corner until Sonia tells her it’s alright to move. Hayek’s role needed to be bigger, perhaps breaking out and helping her husband get where he needs to go. Still, Hayek is a burst of unpredictable energy in a very predictable movie.

That’s my biggest problem with the film: It is so predictable. Once the story gets going it is clear how it will play out. The identity of the traitor in Interpol is obvious from the first time the character appears on the screen. Kincaid questions Bryce’s commitment to his security clients and the exact situation occurs later in the story. None of the main story beats and their connected events will come as a surprise to anyone watching with the least bit of interest. I suppose giving us a unique story is asking a lot from a standard Hollywood action/comedy vehicle but would it have killed them to throw a little curveball in to the story just to shake things up a bit? Apparently, yes, it would have killed them.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. There are numerous shootings that are bloody. There is a scene of torture using wet cloth and a car battery. We also see a pen stabbed into a character’s hand. Samuel L. Jackson is in the film so you know there’s going to be enormous numbers of “MF’s” and assorted other foul language from most of the characters.

I enjoyed “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” as a mindless summer action/comedy and didn’t give much thought to the silliness of the plot or the blandness of most of the characters. There isn’t a great deal of imagination in the film aside from its basic premise. Still, the film has some big laughs and great action scenes but it just needed a better and more unique story to take it over the top. If you don’t think about it too much, it is worth your time.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” gets four stars out of five.

This week faith plays a part in all three new films: Faith in God, faith in yourself and faith in your talents. I’ll see and review one of the following:

All Saints—

Birth of the Dragon—

Leap—

Listen to my podcast “The Fractured Frame” dropping every Monday on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.

Review of “Deadpool”

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a former Special Forces soldier who is now a mercenary for hire. If you have a problem and aren’t real concerned with things like laws and ethics, Wade is the man that can solve your problem. While hanging out at a bar frequented by more of his kind and run by his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), an escort who is as tough and foul-mouthed as Wade. They quickly begin a relationship that seems destined for marriage; however, one night Wade passes out. At the doctor the next day, he and Vanessa find out he has terminal cancer. Vanessa is hopeful there is a treatment that might save him but Wade is certain he will die and doesn’t want to put her through the trauma of watching his decline. At the bar, Wade is approached by a recruiter (Jed Rees) who claims he can cure his cancer. Initially skeptical, Wade packs up in the middle of the night and leaves for the program without telling Vanessa. There he is strapped to a gurney and rolled through a chamber of horrors. A man in a lab coat calling himself Ajax (Ed Skrein) tells Wade they will inject him with various chemicals to activate any mutant genes in his DNA. He will then be subjected to various physical tortures to activate the mutation. If he survives the treatment and his mutation activates, he will likely be cured of his cancer but will then be a slave to the project and never go home. Locked in an airtight chamber, Wade is deprived of oxygen. This activates his mutation, giving him quick healing power but scarring all the skin on his body. Wade manages to escape the chamber and fights Ajax, whose real name is Francis Freeman, who has himself gone through the treatment and does not feel pain and possesses enhanced strength. Wade is left for dead but is actually on a path of revenge. He is looking for Francis with the mission of getting him to fix his skin and he doesn’t care who he has to kill to find him. Weasel suggests a mask to cover his face while Wade comes up with a catchy name for his merc with the mouth: Deadpool.

“Deadpool” is not your usual superhero movie. Most noticeably, it’s rated R and deservedly so. The violence, language and nudity in the film are unlike anything ever seen before in this genre. The character of Deadpool is also unlike your everyday superhero. He is willing, almost eager, to kill those that fight against him. He seems to enjoy inflicting pain his enemies. Even the opening credits of the film take potshots at superhero movies. This isn’t a film for the easily offended… and I think the format could use more like “Deadpool.”

The movie moves at a brisk pace with the story told in a combination of flashbacks and present time. While the origin story is a bit slow at times the rest of the film more than makes up for it with snappy action sequences, funny lines and so many in-jokes that you probably need to see the movie more than once to catch them all. It is certainly a feast for those wanting to see the character get a bit of redemption after it was so poorly handled in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
(which also gets skewered in the film). With its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, “Deadpool” is well aware everything we are seeing is utter ridiculous and even characters that are treated seriously are played as superhero/villain stereotypes making them easy targets for satire.

Ryan Reynolds is a perfect choice for the Merc with the Mouth. Reynolds has the smartass delivery that makes this character pop. Whether he’s making goofy sweet talk to Vanessa, bro bud talk with Weasel or tough talking Francis, Reynolds gives Wade Wilson/Deadpool the kind of nimble comedic repartee necessary for the character not to come off as trying too hard. Busting balls is second nature to the character and I believe to Reynolds as well.

Morena Baccarin is a perfect mix of sexy and tough, playing Vanessa as a woman who doesn’t need a man to protect her or complete her. In her relationship with Wade, Vanessa gives as good as she gets (sometimes literally) and is about as equal a partner as has ever been seen in a superhero movie; however, the script turns Vanessa into a hovering mother when Wade receives his diagnosis. For some reason, screenwriters Rhett Rees and Paul Wernick fall back on tried and true sexual stereotypes. Vanessa originally seems like the kind of woman who wouldn’t allow her partner to wallow in self-pity the way Wade does. She would demand Wade fight. Sadly, Rees and Wernick turn this strong, modern woman into a 1950’s housewife. Tonally it doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.

That could also be said of the standard issue finale. I won’t give anything away but if you’ve seen one superhero film you won’t be surprised about how “Deadpool” ends. While the character does throw in a small twist it isn’t one that isn’t obviously coming from the beginning of the movie. Considering whom Vanessa is in the comics, they could have set up a mind-blowing sequel by showing us her abilities and what kind of heartache was in store for Deadpool. Perhaps that’s on the drawing board for a future film but considering everything else “Deadpool” did to separate itself from most other genre movies, a last-page-of-the-comic twist would have fanned the flames of viewers’ interest even more than the snarky post-credits scenes that may or may not tell us what’s going on in the sequel.

“Deadpool” is rated R for language throughout, graphic nudity, sexual content and strong violence. There are beheadings, dismemberments, stabbings and gory gunshot wounds galore. There is both male and female nudity and an extended sexual montage that may change the way you look at mashed potatoes forever. Foul language is common but not overwhelming.

Opening to a box office total well over projections and a fair amount of critical love, 20th Century Fox basically had no choice but to greenlight a sequel. While this film is certainly far different from any other Marvel superhero movie we’ve had since the premiere of “Iron Man” in 2008 and that uniqueness likely encouraged possibly comic-book-film-fatigued fans to turn out, “Deadpool” still couldn’t escape the predictable third act heroics of a character that boasts about how he is not a hero. Perhaps the makers of the next film will have the courage to fight studio pressure to turn the Merc with the Mouth into just another spandex-wearing goody-two-shoe. That’s the way Wade Wilson would want it.

“Deadpool” gets four stars out of five.

A film of bravery, a film of faith and a film of dark magic open this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Race—

Risen—

The Witch—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.