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Franchise in Anti-hero's Clothing

Deadpool 2 plays outsider, Book Club is one

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Deadpool 2. We live in a weird, expanding world of sequels. Defined by diminishing returns, they have also become a certainty: Anything that generates revenue on a certain scale will be quickly followed by as many follow-ups as the market will bear. This newly risen reality can be exciting (more of a good thing, and all that) but it can also be just as deflating, dispiriting and exhausting — just like actual reality. As the calendar fills with new tent poles and next installments of old ones, one can start to lose a sense of the horizon, to feel as though there may soon only be franchises ever onward, a soulless, artless binary drumming us all into homogeneity and complacence, like the ad infinitum pattern of suburb/strip-mall/suburb that has become the American Midwest.

As much as I enjoyed Deadpool (2016) and this, its even-better sequel, I can't help but include them as part of the problem. These movies, with their self-awareness and ostensible rule-flouting, are presented as agents of disruption, a force working against the crass commercialism of the modern movie marketplace. And I bought into it at first, seeing Deadpool as I was supposed to: like a good little consumer. The violence, coarse talk and nerd-bait humor worked like a charm, and I celebrated the fact that a movie like it could punch through, succeeding in spite of its obstacles. But there really aren't any obstacles. The notion of disruption is a fallacy, a marketing ploy as much at play in Silicon Valley fun-time think-tanks as it is in Hollywood marketing meetings. It's a device by which vast, many-tendrilled industrial gorgons can recast themselves, or parts thereof, as agents of change or adversaries, thereby infiltrating a part of the market to which they might not have had access. It's not disruption, it's deception.

I still prefer Deadpool movies to almost any of the other self-righteous superhero stuff; I've just come to see them as part of the same entity. And that entity is sucking the life out of a beautiful and important artform, even as it presents these movies as an offsetting influence.

Perhaps more to the point, Deadpool 2 finds our (anti) hero Deadpool/Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) firmly established as a doer of good deeds by way of hideous violence. He has traveled the globe, dispatching his brand of justice by killing big rooms full of bad guys by various, creative means. Of course, his increased profile presents a significant risk and soon enough the violence visits him at home. Lost in the aftermath of tragedy, fruitlessly attempting to end his own life, Deadpool just wallows in it, at least until Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) lovingly shakes him by the lapels and recruits him as a reluctant X-Men trainee. The new day job brings Deadpool into contact with a troubled mutant kid named Russell, who prefers the moniker Firefist (Julian Dennison) and has had just about enough of the abuse he's suffered while confined in an orphanage/conversion center for uniquely abled kids. This in turn brings about a conflict with Cable (Josh Brolin), a semi-robotic super-soldier from the future who harbors a serious beef with young Russell. Deadpool, alive with new purpose, assembles a team to do battle with Cable, spearheaded by the immensely compelling Domino (Zazie Beetz).

Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return as screenwriters, this time sharing credit with Reynolds, and their comfort with this character and the world he inhabits shows through in a script even more self-assured, smarter and funnier than the first. The plot is tighter, the jokes are elevated and the voices of the characters are firmly in place. This story also has a sense of risk, of higher stakes, that was absent in the original. And director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, 2017) strips away some of the airier elements, delivering almost nonstop action as satisfying in the close-up fighting as it is in the over-the-top, comic book, throwing-buses-around sequences. It's all good fun, served with a sense of kindness and excitement (thanks in large part to Reynolds' performance in a role he seems born for) in equal measure to its large-scale mayhem. The vast majority of the audience will see it for that, enjoy it immensely and hopefully not worry too much about the movie's role in the corporatization and commodification of cinema. R. 113m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

BOOK CLUB is of a type of movie that is easily dismissed and that's a problem. (I'm guilty of it too, so let's all remain calm.) At a glance, it seems like an easy cash in, a quasi-vanity project for very prominent actors to draw their similarly-aged audience into the theater. That's not an entirely misplaced notion, except that the movie business is jiggered against these very actors — how many major releases with four female leads over 60 do you remember seeing recently or ever?

By that standard alone we should probably all go buy tickets to Book Club. Fortunately, it's also a well-observed story about women in a stage of life that is no longer as late as it used to be. And, of course, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen are consummate pros; they've been in this game for a minute and their work hasn't suffered for it. Their supporting male counterparts aren't too bad either. PG13. 97m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

—John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.

Previews

GREASE (1978). John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in a musical that is not as OK for the kids as you remember. PG13. 110m. BROADWAY.

THE GUARDIANS. French film about women working a family farm while the men fight in the Great War. Starring Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet and Iris Bry. R. 134M. MINOR.

REVENGE. A woman (Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz) turns the tables on her rapey would-be murderers in a bloody exploitation action horror movie. R. 108m. MINOR.

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY. Prequel with Alden Ehrenreich growing into the vest and Donald Glover serving cape looks as Lando. PG13. 135m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

Continuing

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Seriousness suffocates the best of this parade of characters in seriousness in this massive supermovie. PG13. 149m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

LIFE OF THE PARTY. Melissa McCarthy plays a middle-aged mom going back to college with her daughter in this funny movie that's still too conventional for her talents. PG13. 105m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

OVERBOARD. Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez in a gender-swapped 1980s comedy remake about revenge-conning a wealthy jackass into fake marriage. PG13. 112m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.

A QUIET PLACE. This effective horror about a family surviving amid creatures that hunt by sound achieves emotional authenticity about trauma and isolation. PG13. BROADWAY.

RBG. Documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice in the fly collar. PG. 97m. MINIPLEX.

SHOW DOGS. Ludacris voices a police Rottweiler undercover at a dog show. PG. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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