Friday, May 18, 2018

4 for May 18: 'Dead' on arrival, old 'Book' sex', good bad Rachels, and Pope

Where would you ever see the Pope and "Deadpool"  mentioned in the same sentence? Why, right here, of course, since Wim Wenders' divinely enhanced documentary about the current Pope Francis, as well as the smarmy sequel to what had been a terrific "Deadpool" original are among four films opening on northeast Ohio screens this week.

Beetz's Domino joins "Deadpool," too.
In fact, let's start with the latter, "Deadpool 2," which, unless you include its huge doses of cynicism, certainly offers the least among this week's debuting quartet.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the moody superhero who can't die, yet tries continuously but is only successful at killing his own movie. (Reynolds also now earns a co-writing credit after he and the first mega successful "Deadpool" go-round even received Critics' Choice Awards as 2016's Best Comic Actor and Best Comedy, respectively.)

However, as is often the case in the business of follow-ups, the new effort pales in comparison to the funny, smart, sassy and, it says here, less outrageously violent original. And, sure, some will be bound to laugh at moments that might target Dubstep, "Yentl," and a soundtrack that includes the likes of Air Supply and Dolly Parton, among others.

Still, those are the meager highlights left sticking to the big wall the screenplay must have been thrown against to explore if anything remains. Otherwise, it's as over the top as it gets, including Reynolds/Wade Wilson/Deadpool actually breaking down the proverbial fourth wall by talking to the audience while poking fun at his studio and other members of the Marvel (mostly Wolverine) and DC universes.

Meanwhile, a plot-pivotal mutant/fat kid (Julian Dennison), besides being continuously skewered by our ever-smirking alleged hero, obviously has been more seriously abused, if not downright victimized, at a school controlled by pedophiles. How charming!

Best in the rest of the cast is Deadpool's returning, then departing love interest (Morina Baccarin) and a new potential sidekick (Zazie Beetz, from FX's "Atlanta"). Everyone else becomes almost instantly disposable, even Josh Brolin, now portraying his second super sized villain in less than a month. Here's hoping his back-to-normal visage will return to legitimate distinction late next month in the "Sicario" sequel.

Rated "R": graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity 2:01; $ $ out of $5 

Speaking of casts with questionable bite, let's consider "Book Club," the distaff version of most of the old fogey male comedies that have been thrust upon us in the last decade or so.

Keaton (left), Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen by the "Book."
This one stars 80-year-old Jane Fonda, admittedly appearing like "the new 50," Diane Keaton (72), Candice Bergen (72) and youngster Mary Steenburgen (65), as a quartet of BFFs talking sex and thinking about all the possibilities after being introduced to a very hot best seller.

Naturally, that would be "Fifty Shades of Grey," brought to the club by successful career woman and lifelong man killer Fonda to share some various enhanced joys of the bedroom with her gal-pals and, perhaps, help cure a few relationship ills along the way.

Obviously that offers room for the men in their lives, including Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss and Craig T. Nelson. (He's the one who gets to deal with an embarrassing Viagra moment.) Ha, ha, ha!

Seriously, folks, there are a couple of nice touches here, and Bergen, as a brilliantly self-deprecating Federal Court judge, steals the film on the comedic end. Regardless, it's nothing we haven't seen before, that is, unless we realize that we've likely never seen someone look so radiant as Fonda at her advanced age.

Just be sure to ignore the soft lighting all-around, which occasionally puts a couple of scenes more out of focus than its predictable, room-for-everyone story often does.

Rated "PG-13": sex-related material throughout and some language; 1:44; $ $ 1/2 out of $5

Weisz, McAdams and Nuvolo consider "Disobedience."
Perhaps Friday's finest new offering arrives in the form of "Disobedience," featuring sparkling performances from Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, both splendid as a pair of former good friends and young lovers reuniting after years of separation.

They're together again when professional photographer Ronit (Weisz) is called back from New York to London upon the death of her rabbi father. Once there, she realizes that Esti (McAdams) remains as gorgeous as ever and, apparently, happily and strictly married to a third part of a looming triangle (the equally adept Alessandro Nivolo).

The really big reveal here, though. is that the latter is himself a rabbi on the verge of succeeding Ronit's dad as the head of a large and extremely conservative Hasidic congregation. If looks could kill, Ronit would be long gone. Then again, many special looks -- of longing, hatred, suspicion, true love, all of the above and more -- become a major part of writer/director Sebastian Lelio's first English-language film, as based on a Naomi Alderman novel.

It's simply a beautiful telling by the same filmmaker who gave us last year's brassy Best Foreign Language Oscar-winner ("A Fantastic Woman"), only with quiet degrees of shading and softness that manage to speak volumes.

Rated "R": some strong sexuality; 1:54; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Producer/writer/director Wenders props up Pope Francis
Last but definitely not least, particularly for any woman or man sincerely caring about the world in which we live, is the aforementioned "Pope Francis A Man of His Word," the absorbing doc from near-legendary producer, writer and director Wim Wenders. (He also performs the voiceovers.)

Though his work never comes close to becoming a full-fledged bio of the people-oriented pontiff, Wenders easily lets viewers of all denominations know that they're spending 90 minutes in the presence of supreme grace and humble eminence. Certainly, after hearing his Catholic holy man comment on a number of important topics and watching his mere presence light up the faces on a plethora of unfortunates around the globe, no one could possibly believe anything less.

Even some slight Wenders' stumbles -- which present awkward black-and-white segments about Francis of Assisi, the Pope's handpicked namesake and patron saint of animals and ecology -- don't intrude too mightily on this inspirational excursion.

Unrated; 1:36; $ $ $ and 1/2 out $5

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