The Merc with a Mouth in a Movie | Thoughts on the Deadpool flick

https://i0.wp.com/s3.foxfilm.com/foxmovies/production/films/103/images/posters/464-film-page-large.jpgOriginally posted @ Comic Book Fetish | By  Brandon L. Rucker

For an action movie with a foulmouthed blabbermouth antihero, it’s pretty good. The opening sequence let’s you know right away (and any parents who may have foolishly brought their little ones expecting Spider-Man, Iron Man or Captain America fare) what the nature of this movie is going to be about and what kind of content you can expect. The opening credits laced throughout that first sequence are written in Deadpool’s unique perspective, which also informs the flavor of this raucous, ultra-violent movie. Right away we see Deadpool doing what he does best, delivering graphic and gruesome punishment to bad(der) guys, all the while quickly rolling off a litany of witty, wisecracking one-liners off his swift tongue for all the chuckles, usually in voice-over or while looking right at us, breaking the fourth wall. The camera angles in these first few sequences are daring for great comedic effect.  You come to realize without a doubt during this first zippy action sequence that that Ryan Reynolds is the ideal actor for Deadpool.

Storywise, I think my favorite aspect was the choice to go non-linear with the narrative. I’ve preferred in-media res (starting in the middle) storytelling since I was a teenager first studying the art and craft of fiction. I think most of us prefer the immediacy of what’s happening now to start things off before we get into the why and how of it. At this point it’s become the formula for these kinds of movies and I’m good with that, all things considered. Since this is Deadpool’s first solo outing, it’s ultimately an origin movie.

So just as we’re getting into the rising action, the narrative shifts right at the perfect time to Deadpool’s past as Saskatchewan, Canada’s own Wade Wilson, an ex-Special Forces operative now working as a mercenary who’s just bad enough to kill the even worse guys who deserve it when the job calls for it.  These narrative flashback sequences – merged seamlessly with the present-time narrative – offer us what is effectively a love story, and a potentially tragic romance, which is my favorite kind. The pleasant surprise comes in the arrival of the always wonderful and oh-so-lovely Morena Baccarin as his lady love, Vanessa. As lovers ,Wade and Vanessa have that perfect — if unlikely and rare —  connection where their past psychological baggage is nearly equal in bleakness and volume, and they also just totally get and complete each other.

And therein lies the typical catalyst for a Marvel comics character: love, or the loss of it, is the main impetus for springing our would-be hero into action. But not before we see the events leading up to all of that – the torture at the hands of the villain Ajax (aka Francis) that brings about Deadpool’s apparently latent mutation, making him the badass ultra-healing human killing machine with an never-ending mouth to match. The Merc with a Mouth. His mission is to find and ultimately kill the bastard who made him what he is (through the ruse of curing his terminal cancer). Once the life of his lady love is seriously threatened, it’s really on. With the help of two sidekick X-Men characters in the classic Colossus and newcomer Negasonic Teenage Warhead (!),  who would rather he join their motley band of heroes, Deadpool ultimately triumphs — the ugly guy gets the girl back. The movie ultimately satisfies while not overachieving.

Since the movie’s record-breaking opening at the box office, much chatter has been made about the freedom a rated R “superhero” movies has in regards to language, sexual content and violence. In mainstream movies that aren’t exclusively adult in nature, I always say that less is more because it’s more impactful when it does occur. Deadpool is no exception, but it tries too hard to walk that edge, making some of the gags feel forced in my opinion. In effect, each timely F-bomb, witty sexual reference and gruesome dismemberment becomes overkill once they get well past the half-dozen quotient. But true blue — er — red Deadpool fans certainly won’t be bothered and will likely expect even more of the same in the imminent sequel. Hell, the studio may even go for an NC-17 just to prove the point they made with the R rating. I’m mostly kidding.

CBF Grade: B+

-B.

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Straight Outta Compton | It’s Not A Documentary

To put the bottom line at the top here: I came straight outta the movie theater last weekend  thoroughly entertained by this N.W.A biopic. At least on a popcorn movie level. What served me and my unfettered enjoyment going in is the acknowledgment of the inherent nature of the biopic. Firstly, you can’t effectively distill 29 years – or in the case of the movie’s timeline, a dozen years or so – into a 2.5 hour movie. Even in trying to include as many key moments as possible, a great deal of the “bio” aspect is going to be left on the cutting room floor, if shot at all. Secondly, this is not a documentary, it’s a Hollywood movie with a story, a screenplay, actors and a director (among countless other collaborators and interested parties), which means a plot of the story that is inspired by real-life and real events has to be agreed upon by the respective powers-that-be before the green light can be lit.

Given those two elements, there’s naturally going to be some concerns with the timeline of events (which obviously gets condensed for movie storytelling purposes) as well as whose perspective of the “truth” ultimately gets presented (NOTE: Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are listed as co-producers and there were reportedly some disagreements on an agreed upon “truth” during the arduous pre-production period). So with those two things firmly in mind, I went in with the purpose of being entertained rather than getting informed, since I already knew at minimum 95% of the larger story anyway, and I also didn’t go in expecting the film to present a mosaic point of view that would peer into every nook and crevice to fill in all the gaps within the story. Again, that’s what comprehensive documentaries are for, not Hollywood theatrical biopics. We’ve all seen these types before. These feature films exist as more of a Cliff’s Note, carefully packaged for easy consumption by the masses for two-hour or so escape.

I am a serious docu-junkie, so to ESPN’s Bomani Jones’ point: yes, I would have rather had a documentary that digs deeper and includes all minutia, plus all those ugly things that existed under the rocks, but that’s not what this is so neither I nor you nor the masses should have expected it. Straight Outta Compton is a well-crafted movie with some really nice performances in a story told with a dramatic and socially-conscious (and unfortunately timely) lens. Agile direction by F. Gary Gray of a smart script that’s definitely helped by the sharp casting.

Newcomer O’Shea Jackson, Jr. played his father Ice Cube perfectly and definitely up a few notches from his father’s first acting turn as Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood. The other great portrayal, if arguably the film’s best performance, was Jason Mitchell’s, the fairly new-to-the-game actor as Eazy E. Also strong was Corey Hawkins’ performance as Dr. Dre. This trio was defined well as: the streetwise poet, the streetwise business man (though the movie downplayed his visionary status), and the dreamy, ambitious and goal-driven music producer. With the focus being on these three main players, the roles ofM.C. Ren (portrayed by Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) are unfortunately relegated as secondary/support status, though they were also cast well. Surprisingly the cameos of Snoop Dogg and 2Pac, both portrayed by even lesser-knowns, were very faithful, which helped keep their sidebar inclusion from seeming superfluous (given the timeline faux pas). R. Marcos Taylor inhabited the alpha dog role of Suge Knight with the required gravitas and command. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Paul Giamatti’s strong yet nuanced embodiment of former N.W.A. manager and Ruthless Records co-owner Jerry Heller who was essentially the story’s main villain.

As I stated above, as a Hollywood movie Straight Outta Compton delivers the essentials of what you would want from a movie of its kind — it was really cool to see the guys I’d been into so much as a teenager realized on the big screen in such an artful way. Since it’s not a full-bodied real-life docudrama there’s no point in judging it as such. Though had it been, yes, of course it would be totally fair to call the movie out for its egregious lack of certain events and details, such as the more potent nature of the group’s (and the culture’s) misogyny and some of the altering of the chronology of events. Yet as merely a Hollywood move, I’d give it an A-.

GALILEE by Clive Barker

GalileeNovelClive Barker’s 1998 unrivaled tenth novel Galilee  (subtitled asA Romance” inside the cover, and also known as Galilee: A Novel of the Fantastic) is hands down one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read.  It became the inspiration for a novel series I’d thought up one cold winter evening earlier this year.  It’s funny that I’ve found myself virtually connected to it.  If you were to do a Google search of the book, one of the top links that shows up leads to a review I did of it on goodreads.com back in summer of 2011.  It shows up at the top on goodreads.com because it is the highest rated review for the book by the members there.  I had no idea of this until just recently when I was looking for info links on the book to share with my co-writer. Here’s the four years old text from that review:
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Galilee, for me, is Clive Barker at his storytelling best. It may not be as inventive as Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica & Everville, or as mind-bending as The Hellbound Heart (Hellraiser), nor as imaginative as Weaveworld, but it’s the best written, the best ‘told’ story of all of his with elegant, seductive, magnetic prose that’s as smooth as butter. His prose in this book can make even the most boring, mundane things seem worthy of your attention.

It should be stated right up front Galilee is not a horror novel, at least nowhere in the singular sense (though it has parts that may certainly exist on the periphery of that description). It’s a bit of a wonderful, odd beast. It’s my favorite kind of tome, running the gamut of several flavors from epic saga, historical suspense, myth-making, inter-familial drama, forbidden romance, light metaphysics, a teasing amount of the supernatural (almost maddeningly understated) and, being a Barker story, a touch of the dark fantastic, naturally.

It’s truly the hardest novel to nail down with a description that I’ve ever encountered, and I am honestly and thoroughly bummed that I have yet to encounter something of its ilk since. That’s over a decade of let down. Thankfully it’s so invitingly re-readable and continuously rewarding when you do so.

I love all the extraordinary elements . . . everything about the Barbarossa family, whom I did not ever think of as fantastical creations, but more supernatural. However, Barker wrote that Cesaria, the matriarch, was essentially a goddess-like being, more or less a demigoddess (in other words, she’s a direct descendant of, well, God) than a typical fantastical invention Barker is typically known for creating. Certainly a more metaphysical approach than his norm at the time. Like urban fantasy it’s a great merging of the mundane with the extraordinary.

As a writer, this book was such a defining, eye opening read for me. It was an “Ah, so THAT’S how you do it!” revelation. Part of that is due to the character-driven literary device he uses (kind of as a cheat) that allows him to tell a birds-eye view kind of sprawling epic story without sacrificing an ounce of the first-person intimacy since it comes from the MC’s near-omniscient point of view. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, but damned effective. But I won’t get more into that because it’s a real treat of reading the novel and I’ve probably teased enough details.

After the book came out Barker mentioned a sequel one day that would essentially focus more on the Barbarossas instead of the Gearys, who get the bulk of the focus in this book. I so hope he gets around to it before he retires.

Note: I’m giving this book 5 stars because there is no option for 4 & 1/2 stars.

— from Brandon Rucker’s review on goodreads.com

PROMO & REVIEW: Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel

I now have in my anxious hands my signed copy of Bob Thurber’s debut novel, Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel (Casperian Books, 2011), for early review as I am officially a part of the promotional campaign leading up to and after its May 2011 release. So this will not be the last posting about this special book.

What I have read so far is classic Thurber: a story about damaged people finding their way, told through his most intimate first-person voice yet, and prose so keen you’ll cut your eyes reading it.  Thurber doesn’t pad his word count like many literary writers do, his prose is very economic. But don’t let this fool you into thinking the writing is bare, it’s quite the contrary. Each sentence feels robust because he makes every word count; he doesn’t overwrite. He simply tells you everything you need to know in the most direct and efficient way. In other words, he’s more storyteller than writer; he gets out of the way to allow the character and story be the star rather than himself. I have always raved about Thurber’s often convincing, true confessional styled storytelling. Well, this time it’s more confessional than ever with its outsourcing of a certain amount of autobiographical events. I will share more non-spoilery details about this exciting new book in my continuous review over the coming weeks.

Paperboy has been called “a brave book, a necessary book”. A “coming of age Noir.” And “disturbing”.

Read an excerpt from Casperian Books.

Read Part 1 of my exclusive interview with Bob Thurber @ Liquid Imagination online.

Pre-order a signed copy of Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel by the author, directly from the author.

Barnes & Noble customers can order here.

Bob Thurber is the recipient of 40 awards and citations for his short fiction, including The Barry Hannah Fiction Prize. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife Colleen.