Better Late Reviews – Bridge of Spies

Tales of the unsung-hero seem to be the best reason to make true-story films, and Spielberg’s latest film definitely fuels that argument.  “Bridge of Spies” is tense, smart, and very human.  Taking place during the early Cold War (1957, specifically), the tale makes some stark commentaries about surveillance and public perception.  It may not be a traditional slow-burn Cold War spy thriller, but it does make the argument that the style (a lot of dim lighting and heavy shadows) should be as much of a staple as the authentic clothing, cars, and mannerisms.


Tom Hanks stars as James Donovan, a sharp-as-a-tack insurance attorney with experience in criminal law.  After being approached by his boss (Alan Alda) to defend an accused Russian spy, Rudolph Abel (Oscar-winner Mark Rylance) in court, James reluctantly agrees.  After losing the case, the attorney goes beyond what was asked of him and publically claims he’s going to file an appeal.  After a backlash from strangers and even his family, James takes another case, in Berlin.  His mission: negotiating the exchange of a captured American U2 –pilot (Austin Stowell), and a captured American student studying Economy in Berlin (Will Rogers), for the return of Rudolph to Russia.  James has everything to lose in taking the hefty task.

True to Spielberg’s style, small moments of levity bring some light to an otherwise desperate and dark tale.  One of this film geek’s dreams has come true: the Coen brothers, and Matt Charman, have co-written a Spielberg film.  The dialogue is often sharp and clever and the film never drags in its hefty two-and-a-half-hours run time.  That alone is quite the task in a movie where the bulk of time is spent on the details of a negotiation. Characters such as James’ wife (Amy Ryan), who could have been easily overlooked, have moments to shine and bring to light exactly how dangerous the job is.

bridge of spies bridge

The performances are spot on.  Hanks sells the gravitas and desperate-perseverance (the actor can sweat on command, for Pete’s sake!) and Abel is a delight as the stoic and mysterious Rudolph.  There are no villains in the film and the impressive ensemble shows both professional and personal sides of their characters in believable ways.

True-tales of people going against all-odds to try to obtain the unobtainable are something movie-goers are quite familiar with.  Yet there’s something original in the telling of James Donovan’s tale, a detailed perspective that may be otherwise seen as dry and yet is presented with the intensity of a spy-thriller.  “Bridge of Spies” not only tells us a lesser-known part of our history, but also what can come from unbiased determination.


My Grade: A


“Bridge of Spies” stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, and Amy Ryan, and is Directed by Stephen Spielberg.  It is rated PG-13 for: some violence and brief strong language, and is released by Touchstone Pictures.


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Better Late Review: Deadpool

Better Late Movie Review: Deadpool


Superhero movies that focus more on the absurd, than the grounded-seriousness of reality, are rare these days.  Along successful R-rated film adaptations of Alan Moore’s grittier “V for Vendetta” and “Watchmen” graphic novels, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movies also embrace gritty realism over comic-book antics.  Marvel Studios has embraced both the gritty and the absurd, sometimes in the same movies.  Along the lines of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man”, Twentieth Century Fox’s “Deadpool” embraces its absurdity and delivers a movie even the smallest of fans (yours truly included) deserves.

Being a slap-happy, action packed, raunchy, very R-rated romp, Ryan Reynolds fits naturally as the title character.  Reynolds (Deadpool/ Wade Wilson), is at his best as the infamous Merc-with-a-mouth.  His delivery of quips and physical gags impress, but he also embraces the character’s more serious and, subtly, legitimately crazy side.  Reynolds makes the title hero the rightful star of the show.

Plot-wise, the movie is unapologetically standard origin-story/ revenge-tale.  There’s a hooker with a heart of gold turned love interest, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), sketchy best friend, Weasel (T.J. Miller), and British-accented villain, Ajax/ Francis (Ed Skrein).  Where the film excels is in its conservative fourth-wall breaking self-awareness and Deadpool’s overall absurdity.  It actually embraces it’s basic ‘80’s – ‘90’s formula by referencing such things as “Wham!”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, and holding a boom-box over your head outside of a window (while listening to Wham!).

Wade Wilson is a once-upon-a-time military elite killing machine, dishonorably discharged and turned mercenary.  He hangs out at a bar with other mercenaries and is ran by his friend, Weasel.  The bar is also where he gets his assignments.  One night Vanessa bumps into his life and Wade’s life seems to be vastly improving.  Then he gets cancer.  A very shady character (Jed Reese) shows up and offers Wade not only a chance to cure his cancer, but to become a hero, which Wade doesn’t particularly want to become.  It ends up the cancer curing place is not what it seems and Ajax tortures Wade Wilson causing him to become very deformed, but turning him into a mutant.  It is set in the X-Men universe after all.

From the opening credits, it’s very obvious the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There are references to such things as the movie’s budget, and to Ryan Reynolds in general.  Be warned, though: if you’re not a fan of Reynolds, or Deadpool, this movie won’t change your mind.  This also isn’t a movie for kids: there is both male and female full-frontal nudity, sex-jokes, drug-jokes, overall silliness, gore, slapstick, flying decapitated heads, gore, f-bombs, old woman jokes, masturbation jokes, gore, and f-bombs.

X-Men and comic fans have a lot to chew on with this movie.  Colossus (CGI character, voiced by Stefan Kapicic) has a small part as a moral compass of sorts, as does lesser-known Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand).  There are many Easter eggs to find, speculate about, and be excited about the future of superhero flicks.

The movie’s strongest asset of focusing on Deadpool may also be its weakest.  Weasel is a character that could use a fleshed out story, as is the bad-guy, Ajax/ Francis, who just comes off as a super-powered asshole.  Performance wise, everyone knocks it out of the park.  Even smaller roles, such as Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Wade’s blind crack-addicted (and Ikea furniture assembling) room-mate, are likable and believable in the context of Wade Wilson’s world.

A huge factor is that Deadpool looks like Deadpool.  This is the most authentic a superhero has looked like their comic book counterpart since Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies.  Even the many pants and vest pouches and the little flip-top to Deadpool’s mask are there.  CGI is subtly used to white out Deadpool’s eyes when he’s wearing the mask and to make it more emotive.  Brilliant!  Keep in mind of what you’re getting into with this movie – the full Deadpool experience – and what that implies.


My Grade: B


Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, and Ed Skrein, is directed by Tim Miller, and, is released by Twentieth Century Fox.  It is rated R for: strong violence and language throughout, sexual content and graphic nudity.

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