Saturday, September 10, 2016


Year 8, Day 254 - 9/10/16 - Movie #2,448    

BEFORE: Back on the original track with my UK/European-themed films, and both Julie Walters AND Jim Broadbent carry over from "Brooklyn".  Even though I'm sort of bouncing around between comedy, drama, and children's film with animation, thematically I'm totally on point - "Calendar Girls" was about British ladies becoming famous and visiting the U.S., "Brooklyn" was about an Irish girl immigrating to New York, and "Paddington" is about a bear who leaves Peru and goes to London to find a family.  (For that matter, "Woman in Gold" is about a woman who escapes Austria and heads to America, and even "The Croods" is about a family that leaves their cave and treks to a new part of Pangea - so it looks like immigration is my theme for the whole week.)  

THE PLOT: A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven.

AFTER: It's a beloved children's classic book, all over the U.K. and perhaps in part of the U.S. as well, but I just don't think it worked as a movie.  Maybe for the really young kids, it gives them something to stare at for an hour and a half, but for kids who are older and have partially-formed brains, I just don't see it.  But then, I'm not an expert on kids and what they find entertaining.  Didn't that "Angry Birds" film make a ton of money?  And it looks incessantly stupid - as did "Paddington" when I was first forced to watch a trailer for it.  

The first problem seemed to be - which of Paddington's adventures should the film cover?  There are like 20 books going back to 1958 to draw from - and some poor screenwriter had to stitch together bits of the origin story, along with "A Bear in Hot Water" (taking a bath), "Paddington Goes Underground" (lost on the subway), and "Paddington and the Old Master" (meeting Mr. Gruber) - with each now being part of a coherent whole, instead of self-contained stories.  So that's a logistical nightmare right there, but I can see the inherent problem, there's no villain, no threat, just a bunch of cutesy mishaps. 

Next step, create a villain, and they clearly based one off of Cruella de Vil from "101 Dalmatians", by making Millicent, someone who not only has a connection to Paddington's past but believes he belongs in a museum display.  (And they didn't even do a joke where she offers to "stuff" him, and he thinks he's about to be fed really well...)   Look, I don't think that much of taxidermists, it's a gruesome science, but I'm pretty sure there has to be a taxidermy code or something, which states that you can't kill an animal just to stuff it, it has to be dead already.    

Now, if I were a studio head, and this was pitched to me, some writer would have said, "And the bear talks..." and I would have said, "I'm going to stop you right there."  Because you have to believe that a bear can talk to enjoy this, and that's not possible, so it calls the whole reality into question.  Sure, animals talk in a lot of movies, but that's for the sake of storytelling, or a convention of animation, and unfortunately, it's all bunk.  It's a storytelling crutch, right?  I mean, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton made films for years without talking, and they got their points across, why are kids films filled with silly talking animals?  Aren't they then disappointed with the real ones, that don't talk at all?  How does this help society as a whole?  

Plus, isn't this going to create problems among kids, by making them think that a bear cub would be an appropriate pet?  Is there going to be a rush on kids asking for bears at the pet store, like they did with clownfish after "Finding Nemo" and guinea pigs after "G-Force"?  Like, kids today are so impressionable that they think turtles really have ninja-like skills.  What's to keep them from going outside after spotting a bear in their backyard pool, and offering that bear a marmalade sandwich?  

Then we've got the animation problem, combining an animated bear with scenes of live-action actors.  Now, they can't make him look too much like a cartoon, because then what's a cartoon doing interacting with people?  And they can't make him look too much like a real bear, because then the audience's brains would be thinking, "Oh my GOD, that bear is totally going to eat those people!"  So they had to compromise somewhere in the middle, and it ended up just looking off, in a way.  

So, I'm sorry, but start to finish this one just didn't work for me.  It's poorly-intentioned, poorly thought out, and poorly-put together.  Plus the effects on kids are potentially disastrous. This is the first of two "talking bear" films scheduled for this year, I should be able to get to "Ted 2" sometime in November. But it looks like the remake of "The Jungle Book" will have to wait. 

Also starring Hugh Bonneville (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Sally Hawkins (last seen in "Blue Jasmine"), Nicole Kidman (last seen in "Moulin Rouge!"), Peter Capaldi (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, Matt Lucas (last seen in "Shaun of the Dead"), Tim Downie (last seen in "Les Miserables"), Geoffrey Palmer (last seen in "Lost Christmas"), Matt King, Alice Lowe, with the voices of Ben Whishaw (last seen in "Cloud Atlas"), Imelda Staunton (last seen in "Sense and Sensibility"), Michael Gambon.

RATING: 4 out of 10 hungry pigeons

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Year 8, Day 252 - 9/8/16 - Movie #2,447

BEFORE: This is a last-minute addition to the list, premium cable started running it a couple weeks ago, but it wasn't really a high priority for me to add it - until I realized that Julie Walters appears in it, and she could carry over easily from "Calendar Girls", and she'll be here tomorrow night as well.  Once I saw that this could slip in between two other films with Julie Walters, and another actor from this film will link tomorrow too - that made it a must-see.  Of course, I had the rest of 2016 blocked out, so that means if I add something on the fly, I'll have to drop something later, without disrupting the chain.  Probably that would be "Sausage Party", which I was going to watch between two other Seth Rogen films - I'll keep it in mind in case something else falls through, but with a cast that large, I can probably link to "Sausage Party" quite easily next year, keeping "Brooklyn" for next year and finding a way to link to it would probably have been a tougher challenge. 

THE PLOT: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

AFTER: This still fits with the European/U.K. theme, since part of the film is set in Ireland (the beginning part, and then another part near the end).  I was afraid that it would all be set in Brooklyn, and might seem out of place, but it's all good.  

Eilis (pronounced a bit like Alice, only with a long "A" sound) is a young Irish girl who gets sponsorship to come to America, leaving her mother and sister behind.  Her experiences living in a Brooklyn boarding-house eventually lead her to attend community dances, where she starts dating an Italian plumber.  Meanwhile she works at a posh department store and takes courses at Brooklyn College in the hopes of becoming a bookkeeper or an accountant.  

However, when circumstances compel her to return to Ireland, she finds she is treated much differently, like a big-shot, and soon she's got a bookkeeping job lined up, and also a potential romance with a man she has much more in common with - eventually she's forced to choose between the new life she established in New York and the old life in Ireland.  

I get that America is the "land of opportunity" and all that, but I couldn't help but feel sort of manipulated by what I felt was a pro-U.S. agenda.  There didn't seem to be any downsides to living in Brooklyn, and having once lived there for 13 years myself, I can tell you that it just can't be all wine and roses.  I mean, there's good and bad everywhere, right?  But this film would have you believe that life in Ireland completely sucked and everything in 1950's Brooklyn was fantastic.  

Even when Eilis returns to Ireland and things seem really great at first, she soon finds that all the pettiness and harsh treatment she had hoped to escape are still there, just hidden under the surface.  Again, I feel this did something of a disservice to Ireland - surely there must be some good people in that country.  

But what evidence is given to support this notion, that the U.S. is so much better than Ireland?  Is it our educational facilities, our cultural institutions, our influence on pop culture?  Nope, according to this film, it's baseball and our innovative way of wearing our bathing suits under our clothes when we go to the beach.  I'm not kidding, this is mentioned twice in the film, once to show that Eilis is not truly American because she has to change clothes AT the beach at Coney Island, and then when she goes to the beach in Ireland, suddenly she's a super-smart American because she knows enough to plan this.  

That's it, that's the thing that sets Americans apart and makes them great?  Not our democracy or the electoral college, or our fully-funded postal system?  Not even chili dogs or cotton candy, it's the way we wear our swimsuits (at that time, called "bathing costumes") under our clothes.  Which, if you think about it, isn't really that great - I mean, if you wear your swimsuit you can't also wear underwear, and you're essentially turning your bathing suit into underwear if you wear it all day, and that's gross, especially after you've been swimming and it's still all soggy and stuff.  I could give you over a hundred reasons why America is great, and to me, this would not be one of them.  

And while I understand that Eilis had a difficult decision to make, whether to return to her new life in Brooklyn or her older one in Ireland, and there may have been pros and cons of each, I think it's a shame that the decision ultimately was taken out of her hands.  In my opinion, it would have been much more interesting to see what she would have chosen, if she were allowed to make that choice.  

They didn't shoot the film in Brooklyn (except for the Coney Island scene), they shot in Montreal - apparently there was trouble in getting modern-day Brooklyn to look like 1950's Brooklyn.  Which is surprising to me, because I think there are parts like Red Hook (industrial) and Brooklyn Heights (lots of brownstones) that I don't feel have changed that much in appearance.  

Also starring Saoirse Ronan (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Around the World in 80 Days"), Domhnall Gleeson (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Emory Cohen (last seen in "New York, I Love You"), Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Maeve McGrath, Eileen O'Higgins, Jessica Paré (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine"), Emily Bett Rickards, Eve Macklin, Nora-Jane Noone, Samantha Munro, Mary O'Driscoll, Alain Goulem, Jenn Murray, Paulino Nunes, Ellen David, Michael Zegen (last seen in "Adventureland"), James DiGiacomo.

RATING: 5 out of 10 plates of spaghetti

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Calendar Girls

Year 8, Day 251 - 9/7/16 - Movie #2,446

BEFORE: Helen Mirren carries over from "Woman in Gold" and I'm starting a bit of a U.K. chain (OK, maybe European is more correct), which should take me almost all the way to the start of October's Halloween chain. 

THE PLOT: A Women's Institute chapter's fundraising effort for a local hospital by posing nude for a calendar becomes a media sensation.

AFTER: It took me a little while to figure out what "W.I." was, they kept mentioning it at the beginning of the film, but they didn't say the full name until about 30 minutes in - it stands for "Women's Institute", which is a thing in the U.K.  It's a bunch of community-based organizations that were formed during World War I, to teach and encourage women how to grow their own food during wartime.  I guess in the 1990's they were still around, and formed a sort of a lecture circuit, where people could go from town to town and give gardening tips and such to the local chapters. 

And as you might imagine, the participants were mostly a bunch of stuffy old English-women who bake cakes for competitions (I didn't know what a "Victoria sponge" was either - a little help for the non-Brits, please?) and make their own jams and jellies - so it seems the women in one chapter got the idea to raise money for some new furniture at the hospital, so visitors could be a little more comfortable - and being inspired by pin-up calendars (and their son's porno mags, apparently...) decided to do a little cheesecake modeling for a calendar, instead of photos of the usual local churches and bridges.  

Obviously there's a personal connection, one woman's husband, who seemed to be well-liked by all the ladies, came down with cancer, so they rallied around the idea, forming a sort of female version of "The Full Monty", although a bit more tasteful.  Well, sure, who doesn't want to see a bunch of grannies without their knickers on?  (Umm, I'm being sarcastic here, let me make that clear.)  

The thing took off like crazy, these polite, prim British ladies became something of a worldwide sensation, and went to L.A. to appear on talk shows.  But I worry about the message that their success gives off (and the movie as well) which is, basically - the quickest way to raise some money and gain fame is to take your clothes off.  I'm not saying that's not true, it probably is, but it's not really the message that these women would probably want to send out to their kids, right?  And posing nude is probably like driving a car, in that at some point, there's got to be an age limit, one would hope.  Because it's a slippery slope to GILF porn, and nobody wants that.

This brings up a few points about what is sexy, and what isn't.  A woman too eager to show you her body?  Not sexy, ironically enough.  A shy woman?  That's sexy.  (I realize this varies from person to person according to taste...)  Women with glasses?  Sexy.  Woman who have heathy appetites, or at least look like they do, they're sexy too.  Women who look too fake, too made-up, too packaged?  Sorry, not for me.  

I work for an animation studio, and our office used to be the headquarters of a few porno mags, and we still get mail addressed to the editors of Leg Tease and other mags I can't type the names of.  Mostly from incarcerated people, who are probably reading magazines that are over a decade old, and it breaks my heart to have to mail back their subscription orders or their letters addressed to various models.  Don't they know those girls aren't real?  I guess if all you have access to is a really old porno mag, or a calendar for power tools, you work with what you have. 

There wasn't really time here to focus on all 10 (11?) of the women who posed for the calendar, so most of them just got reduced to simple stereotypes, except for the two or three that the film could really focus on.  They got subplots, but the other women felt like they weren't worth the screenwriter's time, unfortunately. 

Also starring Julie Walters (last heard in "Brave"), John Alderton, Ciaran Hinds (last seen in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"), Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie (last seen in "Into the Woods"), Penelope Wilton (last seen in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"), Celia Imrie (ditto), Geraldine James (last seen in "Gandhi"), Philip Glenister (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), George Costigan (last seen in "Hereafter"), Graham Crowden, Georgie Glen, Angela Curran, Rosalind March, Lesley Staples, Janet Howd, John Fortune, John-Paul Macleod, Marc Pickering, Harriet Thorpe, with cameos from Matt Malloy (last seen in "Hitch"), Patton Oswalt (last heard in "Nerdland"), Jay Leno and the band Anthrax (!!). 

RATING: 6 out of 10 paparazzi 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Woman in Gold

Year 8, Day 250 - 9/6/16 - Movie #2,445 

BEFORE: Ryan Reynolds carries over again from "The Croods", and I'm back on the art scene.  And the junction of where art meets World War II, kind of like in "The Monuments Men", only this takes place years later, showing what happened to some of the art that the Nazis stole.

THE PLOT:  Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.

AFTER: There's no real suspense here, and not just because I usually catch a glimpse at the main plot points as I'm dubbing a film to DVD.  (I try not to look, but I have to make sure that the dub worked properly, and wasn't glitchy or had tracking problems...)  Does anyone really believe that the nice old Jewish woman isn't going to get her family painting back from the selfish Austrian museum?  Does anyone really think that the scrappy underdog lawyer, who quits his job to keep working on this case, who takes it all the way to the Supreme Court, isn't going to triumph in the end?  We've all just seen too many films like this, where people fight incredible odds for a cause which they think is right.  (Let's face it, if the case failed, would it be at all worth making a movie about?)   

History is written by the winners, and for a long time in Europe, that was the Germans.  Hitler's Nazis invaded so many countries - France, Austria, Poland - and took whatever they wanted, especially art and sculpture, and imprisoned or killed anyone who they didn't like or understand.  Why did it take so long for the museums that suddenly ended up with all of these treasures after WWII to admit that they didn't obtain them exactly legally?  The answer is quite simple: because it did not benefit them to do so. The museums probably figured that the rightful owners of these paintings and sculptures probably died in the war, so who cares if a few documents were fudged, it's not like anyone's going to come back and claim them...

Enter the sprightly Mrs. Altmann, who suddenly gets it in her head one day to chase after the Gustav Klimt paintings that used to hang in her family's apartment in Vienna.  Especially the painting that used to be titled "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer", but which the Nazis renamed "Woman in Gold" - you know, so it wouldn't sound so Jewish.  The film doesn't really make clear why she suddenly decides to try and get the painting back, there's some reference to the papers she found among her dead sister's belongings - I'm sure the fact that the paintings were worth a few hundred million had nothing to do with it. 

At first it seems a little too coincidental that the lawyer, Randy Schoenberg, is the grandson of the famous composer, Arnold Schoenberg, and that said composer was also from Vienna, also Jewish, and used to attend parties at the home of the Altmanns.  But since this is based on a true story, and that connection is a true one, it must be allowed.  I guess it makes sense that Maria Altmann wouldn't go too far out of her friends circle to find a lawyer she could trust.  

But my issue is really with the excessive use of flashbacks, so that the World War II story unfolds, interwoven with the more modern one of the court case to try and reclaim the painting.  They toggled back and forth between the two timelines quite literally, and while the court case unspooled chronologically, the flashback scenes did not.  They jumped around in time to show whatever seemed most relevant at the moment, leaving the audience to try and assemble everything into some semblance of proper order, and that's just too much work.  It also leads me to think that they didn't necessarily tell the whole story, and that leads me to wonder what might be missing.  

I've also got a quibble with the subtitles, not the fact that they exist, but the fact that they used a font that was very hard to read.  OK, maybe that made them a little less distracting, but they should have chosen a thicker, less artistic font to help out the people in the audience with bad vision.  I'm probably overdue for some new glasses, so I should get an eye test real soon.  In the meantime, I had problems with the thinness of the font.  

Also starring Helen Mirren (last seen in "RED 2"), Daniel Brühl (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Katie Holmes (last seen in "Muppets From Space"), Max Irons, Tatiana Maslany, Charles Dance (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), Allan Corduner (last seen in "Yentl"), Nina Kunzendorf, Henry Goodman (last seen in "Avengers: Age of Ultron"), Tom Schilling, Moritz Bleibtreu (last seen in "The Fifth Estate"), Antje Traue, Frances Fisher (last seen in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), Elizabeth McGovern (last seen in "Twice Upon a Yesterday"), Jonathan Pryce (last seen in "Evita"), Ben Miles.

RATING: 5 out of 10 apple strudels

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Croods

Year 8, Day 249 - 9/5/16 - Movie #2,444

BEFORE: A note about scheduling, because I had this one on the list for a while, with Ryan Reynolds carrying over from "Deadpool", but then I took it off, because I had too many films for the slots left in 2016.  I figured I could watch it next year, either with "The Good Dinosaur", or by connecting to Emma Stone in "Irrational Man".  But now it's back.  The reason?  I got my link between the end of one chain ("The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") and the start of the next ("Spectre"), and that link was "The Danish Girl".  But then along came "Layer Cake", which also links to those films, and nothing on next year's list.  So, I found a place in late November where I was using three films to make a connection, where only one was needed.  Those three films ("Hot Pursuit", "Wild" and "Age of Adaline") are now gone, replaced by "Lone Survivor" and there was room for "Layer Cake" - but then I was one film short, so "The Croods" is back in, sandwiched between two Ryan Reynolds films.  

And I didn't even really see any connection to Labor Day, until I caught up with enough TV this weekend so I could watch some episodes of "BBQ Crawl", since Travel Channel finally cooperated and ran the episodes of Season 3 I was missing.  (For some reason, even though they were scheduled last summer, they ran episodes of "Man vs. Food" in their place - and I wanted to watch them all in the proper order, since they represent a woman BBQ competitor's very specific journey across the country.)  And we went out for BBQ ourselves today, as we did last Labor Day, and then it hit me.  Labor Day = BBQ, and BBQ = cavemen.   So there you go, I've got my "in" for this film.

THE PLOT:  After their cave is destroyed, a caveman family must trek through an unfamiliar fantastical world with the help of an inventive boy.

AFTER: You know, this film wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  Oh, sure, there were plenty of inconsistencies that kids wouldn't care about, but which bother me as an adult, like cavemen in ancient times speaking modern English, or inventing things that they couldn't possibly know about, or making references to modern things like "snapshots" or "belts" - but most of these were done in a cheeky way, putting little twists on them, like the Flintstones show used to do.  

I wish I could just turn the critical part of my brain off, just relax and float downstream and not notice little nitpicky things, but I think we both know I'm way past that point.  I have to notice, I have to comment. Did the same cavemen who discovered fire also invent cave paintings, shoes, puppetry, sunglasses, not to mention a crude flying machine?  Of course not, these things took thousands of years.
But it's funny (sort of) to think that they might have these things.  

I'm more concerned with inconsistencies in the storyline, so let's put the inventing thing on hold for a minute.  At the start of the film, our prehistoric family is seen obtaining a bird's egg for breakfast, in an overly complicated battle against the adult bird, and other jungle animals as well.  During this, they seem to display above average, nearly superhuman running techniques.  Yet, later in the film, when they have to walk across a long distance to reach a mountain, they walk very slowly and also complain about it.  Well, why don't they all just run there?  If they could run as fast as they did in the opening scenes, they'd be there in 5 minutes?   

Next we've got the family motto at the start of the film: "Never not be afraid."  In other words, this family has learned to survive by being afraid of everything - strange foods, unfamiliar animals, any sort of change.  We know that's not really a great way to live, by modern standards, so we assume that it will change, and by the end of the film, of course, it's become "Never be afraid."  But what, exactly, changed their minds?  Being forced to make this journey across the land to safer ground certainly put them in touch with new things, but many of those new things were dangerous, so I don't really see what changed their minds - if anything, it seems like their experiences would have reinforced the original motto.  

And yes, they eventually learn to expand their horizons, and think outside the cave.  But is cave-dwelling really so bad, for humankind in general?  Isn't that the thing that set humans apart from most other animals, that is, when caves eventually became houses, and people learned to farm and build cities and such?  Living indoors is what allowed our species to be the most successful, so why use the rejection of all that as a basis for the film's moral?  

I think the fact that the film's story went through a number of revisions is the key to understanding how disjointed it all feels.  There's a story credit given to John Cleese of Monty Python fame, and it seems at one point he was developing a film based on Roald Dahl's "The Twits", and DreamWorks sort of adapted that script into a basic story about two cavemen, one of which was an inventor, and then that project became the more family-oriented story seen here, with an inventor thrown in as the daughter's potential boyfriend.  

Altogether this seemed like a lot of "Ice Age" (prehistoric creatures trekking across a great distance to safety) combined with some of the inventiveness of "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" (animal mash-ups like the Macawnivore and the Pirahnakeets) but it fell a little short by over-simplifying the whole history of human survival down to just this one family.  Are we supposed to believe that the Croods are the last Neanderthals and Guy is the first Cro-Magnon?  

Also starring the voices of Nicolas Cage (last seen in "Joe"), Catherine Keener (last seen in "About Last Night..."), Emma Stone (last seen in "Aloha"), Clark Duke (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine 2"), Cloris Leachman, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 Punch Monkeys

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Year 8, Day 248 - 9/4/16 - Movie #2,443 - viewed on 3/21/16

BEFORE: It may seem like I'm taking Labor Day off, because I wrote most of this posting (and yesterday's) earlier in the year - but I am watching movies this weekend.  I'm just watching ones that will help me finish my chain on time in December.  I'll explain the reasons for this then...

Flashbacks are what comic-book movies do, so I can do it too, right?  As I write this it's March 21, but I'm guessing that my date of posting will be in mid-July, just before San Diego Comic-Con.  (Whoops, WRONG again...)  This worked out well for me last year, or maybe it was 2 years ago, (Yep, it was 2014, I just checked) when I watched "X-Men: Days of Future Past", "Thor: the Dark World", "Amazing Spider-Man 2" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" in different months - because that's when they were released - and posted all the reviews right in a row.  More than likely, I'm going to do that again, and I'm counting on cameos from Stan Lee in every film to help me out with the linking.  

Comic-book movies are big business, and I love them, and we're living in the Golden Age of them (Golden Age of comic books, not so much...) so right now, as I write this, I've got "Ant-Man" and the new "Fantastic Four" on the watchlist, but I know that "Captain America: Civil War" is coming out soon, as well as "X-Men: Apocalypse" a few weeks after that.   Jeez, it's enough to make my head spin.  

But I had good luck going out to the theaters to see "London Has Fallen" a few weeks back, and I made my plans to start going to the movies more often, preferably on Monday nights so I don't have to fight the crowds.  So while my chain is counting down the days until "Batman v. Superman" (though I'll probably review that about two weeks after release) tonight I'm sneaking out to see "Deadpool".  Flip back to March 21, and you'll see that I skipped that day, no review was posted.  I went from "Aloha" to "Mission: Impossible", this was viewed in-between.  I know, I know, it's a violation of my rule about each film needing to share an actor with the films before it and after it.  And had I known that "Deadpool" shared an actor with the film "Spy", things might have been different.  

But here's the thing - I build my chains based on what's ON the list.  And a film that just came out in theaters isn't on my list yet, because I don't have a copy.  It's a hard enough job to build these chains with the films I have, if I have to include films I don't have copies of yet, that's really hard, you've got to give me, like, a few months notice.  So therefore I'm watching "Deadpool" tonight and saving the review for later.  

EDIT: Stan Lee carries over from "Captain America: Civil War").

THE PLOT:  A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool.

AFTER: The X-Men movies pulled a fast one with "Days of Future Past", with Wolverine traveling through time, creating a new timeline, all mistakes are corrected, and everything is forgiven (mostly).  It's OK, they do this all the time with comic-books, once continuity gets too complicated, and there are too many stories for writers to keep track of - because, like, remembering things is so HARD, you guys! - they just scrap the whole damn universe and start over with a new origin story.  The DC universe did this about 4 years ago (Flash traveled through time and changed something, same result) and the Marvel Universe did this last year with "Secret Wars".  The multiverse ended, Dr. Doom saved little pieces of different realities, and then Mr. Fantastic got hold of the power and put reality back the way he remembered it (mostly).  Then he died, only he didn't.  Or something, it's pretty fuzzy.  

In the movies, Wolverine's travel back to the 1970's somehow gave Deadpool a new origin, a chance to reboot the character and make him better than the one that was seen in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", where he was also played by the same actor, but for some reason had his mouth sewn shut.  Or removed, or something, it's pretty fuzzy.  But Deadpool is called "The Merc with the Mouth"!  If you take away the clever dialogue, what have you got?  A shitty character, that's what.  So now, here's another chance, let's get it right.  

And boy howdy, I think they did.  So much witty dialogue, so many inside jokes and self-reflexive comments.  That's exactly the character seen in the comic books - Deadpool is the only Marvel comic book character who's aware that he's in a comic book.  Or perhaps he's just crazy, that's a bit fuzzy.  If you don't like your comic book character so self-aware, then you can just think of him as insane.  He breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience - oh, yeah, he's aware that there's an audience watching.  

Now, they do that thing that a lot of comic books and a lot of movies do, which drives me crazy.  They start the story in the most action-packed way possible, then there's a slow-motion sequence or a freeze-frame, and they say, "Now, let's go back to where all this started."  And then they either go back to the start of the hero's day, or in this case, back to tell the origin of Deadpool, and do it right this time.  Wade Wilson was a guy, a professional mercenary, who got cancer, and volunteered for experimental treatments that cured the cancer, but gave him super-human healing powers, and also messed up his skin.  The great fighting abilities come from his special-ops training, he's not super-strong or super-smart and can't fly, he just heals really well, like Wolverine.  But where Wolverine's so serious all the time, Wade is a jokester, a prankster.  He's like Batman AND the Joker in the same package.  

So we toggle between the two timelines, the one where Deadpool is killing a bunch of bad guys, and the one where Wade Wilson gets superpowers, until eventually we get to the end of one, and it's where the other timeline started, and we can then proceed with the final showdown.  But just because comic books do this, hook you in with the "splash page" of action, it doesn't mean that movies have to do it too - it's so common now, it's become a cliché.  But here's the difference, since Deadpool is AWARE that he's in a movie, and he talks to the audience, he's also aware of all the clichés, including flashbacks.  That ALMOST makes it OK, but not entirely.  I still say, find a better way to tell the story in regular order, and still keep it interesting.  Sure, the origin story may be a little boring, so make it better, or speed through it faster.  

Now, some more positives.  Using Colossus as a foil character for Deadpool is a great idea, because he's so righteous, so virtuous, so sure that he's always correct, that helps to highlight the fact that Deadpool works in the grayer areas, where the bad guys are SO bad, it's OK to kill them.  And Colossus is the team player, always touting the benefits of being part of the group of X-Men, it's another sharp contrast to Deadpool's "lone wolf" mentality.  

Also, they went back to the basics by using the villain Ajax.  I don't think he's been around in the comic books for years, but he's another great foil for Deadpool - because he feels no pain.  You can stab him, shoot him, cut off a limb, and he won't feel it.  While Deadpool on the other (severed) hand, feels pain all the time, but always heals from it.  How extensive is his healing power?  Well, in the comics there's an alternate-reality version of Deadpool who's just a zombie-like head, called Headpool.  And there's also a villain who was composed of Deadpool's severed limbs, somehow a few of them found each other and grew a new brain and nervous system.  (I think, though I admit that's a bit fuzzy)

The supporting cast is also straight from the first few years of Deadpool comics - Wade's friend/business contact Weasel, his old lady roommate Blind Al, and even Bob, the villain's flunky that he was occasionally friendly with.  There's also Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a young X-Men trainee who I barely remember from the comic books, I think she was fairly underused during the "New X-Men" era.  (EDIT: Nope, I stand corrected, she was a minor villain character during the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely run.  I got the book right, but the character's affiliation wrong...)  This Angel Dust character is a new one, I think - I don't quite understand why they didn't just use Frenzy or another strong female villain.  (EDIT: Nope, I'm wrong again. Angel Dust was a character in the "Morlocks" series from 2002, which I didn't read.) 

NITPICK POINT: Now, I'm going to get very critical of the direction and editing for a second.  Back in film school, very early on we learned the dangers of "crossing the axis".  This refers to any time that there is action between two people, and you have to imagine there is a line that runs between them, this is the axis.  When you cut to a new camera angle, you need to stay on the same side of the axis, or else the characters will appear to have changed places.  In order to take the reverse shot, you need to position a shot ON the axis before crossing it, so that the audience will not get confused.  Again, this is really basic stuff, Film School 101, and once you learn it, you'll be able to see this technique used everywhere.  

Now, when two people are in a car, one on the driver's side and the other in the passenger's seat, that imaginary axis runs right between them, and any good director knows that you cannot cut from a shot taken from the left side of the car to a shot taken from the right side of the car, unless you first cut to a shot ON the axis, like a shot through the front windshield.  If you don't include this shot, then the entire car will appear to be going left-to-right (or east-to-west) and then in the next shot, right-to-left (or west-to-east).  In the conversation between Deadpool and his taxi driver, they cross the axis repeatedly - so which way is the car going?  I didn't know, it kept changing!  The axis got crossed so many times in this film, but the taxi scenes were the absolute worst of it. 

Starring Ryan Reynolds (last heard in "Turbo"), Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin (last seen in "Serenity"), T.J. Miller (last heard in "Big Hero 6"), Leslie Uggams, Brianna Hildebrand, Gina Carano, Jed Rees, the voice of Stefan Kapicic.

RATING: 8 out of 10 skee-ball tickets