This is a very strange time for movie mutants. With the Disney/FOX merger nearly complete, the X-franchises, which ushered in the modern age of superhero films with 2000’s X-Men, are in limbo. New Mutants and Dark Phoenix will likely wrap up the FOX-era X-Men films, and you could see Xavier and Co. in the MCU in the next three years. Where does that leave the insanely successful Deadpool franchise? That’s a really good question.
The MCU is traditionally PG-13, something that Deadpool never has been…until this Christmas. The release of Once Upon a Deadpool, essentially a PG-13 recut of Deadpool 2, may be an audition for a more family-friendly Merc With a Mouth…or it could just be a naked cash grab to squeeze just a little more money out of Deadpool 2‘s run.
One thing that is dead is the X-Force spinoff that Deadpool 2 sets up. That is a crying shame because for the problems I did have with the film (and I did like it very much overall), the introduction and execution (literally) of X-Force was the best thing about ‘Pool 2. Deadpool is at his best when he’s just allowed to be the unhinged, manic id of the Marvel Universe. It’s why the character is better off without PG-13 shackles. A huge part of Deadpool’s appeal is the anticipation that he may say or do absolutely anything at any given moment, and you lose that if you bring him down a rating level.
If you were a comic book fan in the 1990s, you could not avoid X-Force. Rob Liefeld’s supergroup of pouty-lipped, barely-footed mutants was a sales juggernaut. They could also be…well, I don’t currently have the mental bandwidth to get into Rob Liefeld, but suffice it to say that there are few things that made me as happy and laugh as hard as watching Shatterstar’s demise. The entire sequence, from Deadpool’s open casting call, to his inspirational plane speech, to the shortest outing in super-team history is sheer brilliance. Special recognition to Brad Pitt for one of the most unexpected cameos in recent memory and to Rob Delaney’s Peter. Oh, Peter. I miss you the most, too.
Ocean’s Twelve is probably the least regarded of the Ocean’s Trilogy, and while it does get a little too self-aware (having Julia Roberts play Julia Roberts who actually ISN’T Julia Roberts…yeah), it’s still more fun than most movies that ever get made. If the ensemble from the first one was star-studded enough, the sequel added Catherine Zeta Jones, Bruce Willis, Jared Harris, Robbie Coltrane, and Vincent Cassel to the cast. The heart of the fun, and the reason why the Ocean’s films are so rewatchable, is the real-life friendship between Clooney, Damon, and Pitt translating so well onscreen. In terms of their characters, the Ocean’s movies are elaborate heists that give Clooney and Pitt a chance to screw with Damon. Linus is trying so hard, and Rusty and Danny appreciate it, but it’s not really a heist if they can’t work him into a panic. One of their best “scare Linus for kicks and giggles moments” is when they meet with Robbie Coltrane’s character in a bar to set up what they need, and all three begin talking in complete nonsense phrases leaving Linus scrambling to try to work out to say…and that just goes very badly.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never really been in a fight?” Brad Pitt asks it of Edward Norton shortly after they meet, and people (particularly men) have been asking each other the question ever since David Fincher’s 1999 anarchic masterpiece was released. Based on the equally (and oddly quite wise) novel by Chuck Palahniuk. Fincher’s film is a unique and insightful look at the societal neutering of the American male. I’m going to write this from the standpoint of one…since that’s what I happen to be. Men are hard-wired for aggression. We want to punch stuff. We like to see things blow up, destroyed, and laid low. We’re hunter-gatherers at our core. Now we spend 40 hours a week in a sea of grey cubicles, and our weekends at Bed, Bath & Beyond. There’s something missing. We’re missing a key part of ourselves and it manifests in bottles of whiskey and Prozac. We don’t know ourselves, because most of us haven’t been in a fight. That’s why Fight Club (which didn’t do well in theaters) became a cult sensation. It touched a nerve with men. It was a revelation. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: Fight Club (1999) “Welcome to Fight Club”→
If you’re not a baseball fan and you’ve never watched Moneyball because of that, here’s a great piece of news: it’s not really a baseball film; it’s a film about economics. Wait. No. That doesn’t make it sound more exciting. Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a book that changed the way baseball is viewed by fans and baseball personnel. It attempted to explain how the Oakland A’s, a team with a payroll a fraction of the size of, say, the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers, is consistently in contention for a spot in the World Series. The answer is: they don’t sign players or people; they sign numbers.
The Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane became the disciple of a formula that looks for players who simply get on base. Getting on base produces runs; runs produce wins. Moneyball is the story of his crusade to change how baseball is run, and only Michael Lewis, who is the best writer on economic matters to people who have no understanding of economics (hi), and Aaron Sorkin, who can make any subject compelling and fun, could have put together a movie version of that crusade that is riveting. It’s one of Brad Pitt’s best performances, as Beane fighting the entirety of the A’s to make his vision work, and one of the film’s best scenes comes before things start to click and he stumbles upon an upbeat locker room after another loss that Beane knows he’s going to have to answer for to everyone.