Review: Detroit

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s newest picture, or should I dub it a docudrama, is a hard-hitting take on the events that transpired in the Motor City in 1967. Detroit follows the individuals and actions that lead to the horrible shootout that took place at the Algiers Motel, where the police shot and killed three African-American boys suspected of firing shots at National Guardsman and the aftermath of their actions.

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Image by Annapurna Pictures

Detroit is a culmination of three subplots carried by a security guard named Melvin Dismukes, a Detroit police officer named Krauss and an aspiring Motown lead singer named Larry and his friend Fred. Each of them are eventually drawn to the Algiers where bedlam, fear and senseless violence take place after the police arrive and take drastic and dangerous steps to determine who fired the suspected gun.

Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have worked together to deliver two of the hardest hitting dramas echoing current cultural and societal issues. Detroit is no exception to the standard as it definitely packs an impact upon viewing it, but unlike The Hurt Locker and unlike Zero Dark Thirty, I found Detroit a mess.

I couldn’t get past the constant shaky Steadicam work. The cinematography of Barry Ackroyd was very unsteady to watch; I get that Bigelow wanted to go for authenticity and I respect for that but the camerawork was so over the top, I couldn’t find a way to settle.

I also found flaws in how this was written. Mark Boal is talented but I can’t help but think that he may have overdone it; especially after the film concluded and Bigelow wrote in a statement stating that a lot of the information about the events of this movie was incomplete. I understand how filmmakers can take certain liberties to enhance the appeal of a film, especially if they are based on true events but it just raises the questions how much of this film was influenced by the modern day news stories about black men killed by police for little to no reason at all.

Also I found that the script left some things unresolved by some of their characters like Dismukes, Krauss, Greene and whoever else was involved in this ordeal and managed to survive; this movie, felt incomplete primarily because of how it was written.

Bigelow made her intentions clear in Detroit and I can definitely see why she was drawn to make this movie; the problems relating to race and police violence are just as relevant and important today as they were back then and the system has not made a difference. The problem is that this film has problems and those problems dragged this film down; the writing muddles the impact and the camerawork hinders the editing of William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon, which felt very sloppy transitioning between Dismukes, Krauss, Larry and the guests at the hotel for a while.

What I can’t say is that the cast and the acting were not a problem. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell all do a fine job with their roles.

James Newton Howard’s music was fine, Jeremy Hindle’s production design was bold, the set decoration by Dennis Colvin and Kathy Lucas was sharp, the art direction by Greg Barry and Jim Wallis was good, the make-up and sound effects was top notch and the costume design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck was very precise.

There were times where I tried to force myself to pay attention to this movie and that has never happened to me before with a Kathryn Bigelow movie. Detroit is an impactful film, it is, and it is worth seeing because it has relevance but it also has problems that are difficult to ignore and ultimately, it is disappointing.

Review: Deadpool

Just let me make this clear: Deadpool is no hero, so it stands to reason why he won’t associate himself or his live-action feature film debut with superheroes or the traditional superhero mythos. Wade Wilson would probably associate himself as an anti-hero but he would probably prefer the term “mercenary” and wouldn’t stop talking until the message sunk-in, but his movie shouldn’t be called a superhero movie; the term “comic-book movie” sounds more apt.

Image by 20th Century Fox

Anyway, Marvel’s celebrated Merc with a Mouth finally seized his opportunity to be featured in his own movie and Ryan Reynolds seized his chance to redeem himself from his superhero-outing shortcomings, ala X-Men Origins: Wolverine & Green Lantern, to jump back into the skin of Wade Wilson, a mercenary who is diagnosed with radical strains of cancer and he’s offered the chance to be cured of his terminal illness through a series of torturous experiments designed to induce his mutation. It works.

Wilson is left horridly disfigured but the experiments result in his cells being able to regenerate from practically anything. Betrayed and left for dead, Wilson embarks on a sadistic and gruesome rampage of revenge against the man responsible for his pain: Ajax (or Francis-Deadpool prefers a first name basis).

Deadpool has been a fan-favorite character from the X-Men mythology for years and fans have been clamoring for his own solo-cinematic adventure for as long as anyone can remember and after all these years, the fans finally have what they have always wanted: graphic content and language from start to finish, breaking the fourth wall, shots against the X-Men franchise, everything Deadpool fans have clamored for, I think they get it.

My personal opinion, Deadpool is goofy and stupid in the silliest ways possible. I had a limited understanding of Deadpool’s character going in but I was satisfied what director Tim Miller and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick managed to accomplish.

The thing with superheroes and superhero movies is that if you watch them closely enough and frequently enough as I have, is that they adhere to certain rules and standards that connect with a moral compass. Since Deadpool isn’t classified as a superhero and his own movie follows suit, the film doesn’t even bother to fall in line with that standard it has fun with that and audiences relish in that it doesn’t have to follow those rules.

This movie spared no time nor expense taking shots at the X-Men film franchise, Wolverine, Hugh Jackman, 20th Century Fox, Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds, IKEA; it knows it’s purpose and it has the audacity to go as far as it wants to and in that aspect it’s very playful and fun. Unlike other superhero movies, whether they are under the Marvel of DC Banner, Deadpool isn’t asking for anyone to take it seriously and that is what makes the entire experience worthwhile.

For instance, when Collosus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead attempt to bring Deadpool back to the Xavier Institute they mention Professor X. Deadpool replies, “McAvoy or Stewart?” (cue laughter)

Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

Ryan Reynolds, you couldn’t ask anyone to portray this character any better and he shined. Whether he was in the red-suit, in-or-out of the makeup, cracking jokes, he was ideal for the role of Wade Wilson and Deadpool.

The rest of the cast including Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni, Leslie Uggams, Gina Carano and the voice of Stefan Kapacic did not disappoint in the slightest.

What left me puzzled with Deadpool is the fact that it’s unclear whether this spinoff, if I can call it a spinoff, has a proper place in the X-Men film franchise. It’s tough to tell when this film takes place let alone if it has a direct or indirect association with the X-Men franchise at all; in the final fight sequence it is as though Deadpool and Ajax are fighting atop a helicarrier, so maybe just maybe this takes place in a universe where the X-Men and The Avengers co-exist(?).

Technically Deadpool is adequately assembled. Junkie XL’s score, Ken Seng’s cinematography, Sean Haworth’s production design, Greg Barry and Nigel Evans’ art direction, the makeup department and the visual effects were all solid. Julian Clarke’s editing and Angus Strathie’s costumes were well done.

Can I accurately say with certainty that Deadpool is the first true hit of 2016? That it sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the superhero slate of films to be released later this year? That it is definitely worth seeing in theaters as soon as possible? The answers to all of those questions is a very sturdy “yes.” It’s equal parts, funny, action-packed, graphic/mature, with a touch of heart, there is something for everyone in Deadpool, a film that sets out what it wants to accomplish and it does so in the most unapologetic yet admirable way.

However, I caution that perhaps all audiences won’t jive with Deadpool and it’s certainly not a film to bring children to, but it is a good time at the movies all the same and it will have some staying power.