Tag Archives: Julian Dennison

Dead Again

Deadpool 2

by Hope Madden

Machine gun fire gags, self-referential comments, foul language, meta laughs, gore for the sake of comedy and fourth-wall bursting—it appears the sequel to 2016’s surprise blockbuster Deadpool cometh.

Since we left Wade/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), the avocado-faced super-anti-hero spends his days dispatching international criminals and his nights snuggling tight with his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When tragedy strikes, Wade spirals into suicidal depression and finds himself in the titanium arms of X-Man Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), by the side of troubled adolescent mutant Russell (Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), and then in the path of time-traveling mercenary Cable (Josh Brolin, having a good year).

In the midst of all this, Reynolds never stops cracking wise on every comic book or pop cultural reference that can be squeezed into two hours. Bursts of laughter pepper the film’s landscape like mines. It’s fun. Hollow, but fun.

Origin stories are tough, but following a fresh, irreverent surprise of an origin story might be even tougher. Deadpool’s laughs came often at the expense of the gold-hearted, furrow-browed, money-soaked superhero franchises that came before it. Now a cash machine of a franchise itself, riffing on that same bit is a difficult sell. Deadpool 2 has essentially become the butt of that very joke.

Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return, sharing the pen with Reynolds this go-round. Atomic Blonde director David Leitch takes the helm, promising the inspired action that made his Charlize Theron spy thriller so very thrilling.

But Leitch’s action feels saddled and uninspired, and Reese and Wernick’s screenplay is basically a reimagining of a truly excellent time-travel flick from a few years back (that will remain nameless to avoid spoilers).

Deadpool 2 is very funny, often quite clever, and sometimes wrong-minded in the best way. An Act 2 parachuting adventure feels magical, and the new blood brings fresh instinct to the mix. Dennison straddles humor and angst amazingly well, and Zazie Beetz brings a fun energy to the film as the heroically lucky Domino.

Brolin, for the second time in a month, commands the screen with a performance that has no right to be as nuanced and effecting as it is.

Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds, but he’s just so good at it.

The film’s cynical, hard-candy shell makes way for a super-gooey inside that Reynolds doesn’t have the capacity to carry off. Worse still, it undermines the biting sensibility that made the first Deadpool such an antidote for the summer blockbuster.

But I guess that’s what happens when you become the thing you mock.

The Wild Life

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

by Hope Madden

Sandwiched between his adorable vampire flick What We Do in the Shadows and his upcoming journey into the Marvel universe, Thor: Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi gets lost in the New Zealand bush.

The Kiwi filmmaker, whose career up to now has been marked with silly wit and gentle humor, offers a buddy comedy along the lines of Pixar’s Up.

Rotund Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) finds himself deep in New Zealand nowhere with his newly appointed foster parents Bella (Ti Waita, wonderful) and Hec (Sam Neill). Bella offers and endless amount of genuine care, while Hec is quick with a grunt or a grimace. But one mishap after another projects the wrong image, and soon the lonesome boy and grumpy old man are off on an exotic adventure.

The manhunt that follows Ricky and Hec into the woods offers plenty of opportunity for sight gags, and Waititi (who adapted Barry Crump’s novel) gives the comedy an equal dose of absurdity and sweetness.

A mash note to outsiders, family and masculinity, Wilderpeople also showcases Neill’s gravelly talent in a way no film has done in years. Truth be told, were it not for the strong performances from the two leads, the film could easily have become stiflingly quirky. But Neill’s work offers more layers and authenticity than your usual grizzled coot routine, and Dennison’s confidence and timing ensure his is not the same old adorable kid looking for a dad.

No, both characters are equal parts frustrating and charming, which is why the adventure works as well as it does. There’s no wink and nod “let’s learn a lesson” backbone to their quest, just an admirably naive sense of freedom.

The supporting cast in its entirety delivers wry laughs, but the real showstoppers are Waita (who was equally enjoyable in Housebound), and Rachel House as Paula, the alarmingly tenacious social worker.

The script veers toward sentimentality once or twice too often. Like Waititi’s previous features, Wilderpeople, in the end, lacks bite. But the filmmaker possesses such an extraordinary talent for good natured, quirky comedy that it will be really something to see what he can do with a super hero, and whether his sincerely individual vision can remain intact.