Movie Reviews: “Book Club” Vs. “Deadpool 2,” Vs. “I Feel Pretty” Vs. “Avengers 3”

By | May 26, 2018

For no real reason other than I was kind-of bored, I decided to just review all four of these movies against each other. Who will come out on top? It’s surprisingly difficult since they’re all pretty close in quality…

Book Club…Judging by “50 Shades Freed,” a movie about 70-year-old women reading “50 Shades of Grey” may now be more exciting than an actual “50 Shades” movie. Even if the “50 Shades” craze may be a few years too late for a movie to cash-in on, you can’t resist the subtly-revolutionary appeal of a big studio sex comedy that follows a seriously underserved slice of the moviegoing public. But since this is essentially four separate stories (there are only a handful of actual book club scenes, not that most will complain), you’ll probably pick favorites as to which you prefer. I kept wondering why the Mary Steenburgen storyline (her long-time husband, Craig T. Nelson, is in a sexual funk after retirement) felt so slapped-together when it’s arguably the most realistic of the bunch. For a better take on that same topic, check out Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in the deeper, more thoughtful “Hope Springs.” Although technically the worst movie of the bunch, I still have to give this film credit for being about older women’s sexuality without taking on some aspect of revenge (“She Devil,” “First Wives Clubs,” “The Other Woman”). The options for women-over-40 romances are pretty dismal, and this is an agreeably wide-open, humanistic comedy. Grade: B-

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Deadpool 2…Although I felt the first “Deadpool” was slightly overrated (after the terrific opening and credits scene, many of the jokes stalled out by the end), this really is a better movie. A big part of that is because the supporting cast is hand-over-fist better: “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”‘s hilarious Julian Dennison as a possibly psychotic teenage firebomb; the always-excellent Josh Brolin as stoically cool Cable (he’s the most likely successor to Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sam Elliot); and Zazie Beetz is effortlessly charismatic as supernaturally-lucky Domino, a supporting role that still gives her more to do than the entire first season of “Atlanta.” Even small cameos by Terry Crews and “Catastrophe”‘s Rob Delaney (as the world’s least likely superhero sidekick) generate belly laughs and sympathy for their characters. Altogether, this is a looser, less grimy, more likable film than “Deadpool” that scores laugh-out-loud zingers against everyone from X-Men to Beyonce, and the mid-credits scene is not to be missed. In fact, the only things that really don’t work are holdovers from the first film, like some of that film’s sidekicks or a heavenly scene with Morena Baccarin (a sappy Deadpool is not entirely believable or enjoyable). Grade: A-

Vs.

I Feel Pretty…Has there been a more unnecessarily scrutinized film this year? My God, Amy Schumer likely just wanted to score a quick studio hit (this is definitely more her “Trainwreck” comfort zone than last year’s refreshingly against-type “Snatched”) that landed a few zingers against the beauty-industrial-complex, and instead wound-up being picked apart for being either too blonde or too tall or too tone deaf, depending on which outrage-industrial-complex think piece you were reading. The irony of Schumer–who’s best comedic bits have nearly all been self-effacing about her looks, like the legendary “12 Angry Men” episode of “Inside Amy Schumer”–all the sudden being “too hot” to be in a movie like this must’ve struck her as head-scratching. “I’m applauded for this same bit in my stand-up, TV show, and first movie, but not this movieHuh?” Although it’s now become obvious Schumer will have to find a new signature than self-parodying her looks, this film still has enough laughs to more than recommend it for at-home HBO viewing in a few months. I particularly enjoyed the handful of scenes where Schumer’s unshakeably confident Renee (who now thinks she’s hot due to a head trauma, in a savage skewering of dumb, magical women’s comedy plots) confuses the vapidly hot types that are so used to thinking they’re better than her, their confidence is shaken when she doesn’t agree. Grade: B

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The Avengers: Infinity War…What at first comes off more like the Lido deck of a Carnival cruise than a real movie (too many people in too tight a space), “Infinity War” eventually settles down to an actual story once it focuses on its strongest aspect: Thanos. That’s right, Marvel might have officially kicked their “weak villain” problem since only a few months after giving us Michael B. Jordan’s electrifyingly hateful, vibrantly seething Killmonger, we get their second best villain ever in this film, fully holding his own against a literal galaxy of Marvel’s best and brightest (well-known IP). Too many Marvel characters feel like talking toy commercials, but Thanos has real pain and dark charisma behind that Jay Leno-sized chin. His logic and flashback scenes practically hum with twisted cool, and I think that’s at least partly owed to Josh Brolin’s towering performance. It’s not easy to be the company new man in a sea of well-known faces, and it’s even less easy to steal that film with a single snap. Yet he does it. [Although supposedly Thanos’s comic book motives are different and make more sense–he’s motivated to kill half the cosmos because he wants to impress the sexy lady Death, which easily could’ve been changed to Cate Blanchett’s “Thor” character. In the movie, you might wonder why Thanos doesn’t just use his new powers to terraform more planets if he’s really out to save lives in the long run.] Grade: B

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