Review: “Deadpool & Wolverine,’ starring Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Emma Corrin and Matthew Macfadyen

July 23, 2024

by Carla Hay

Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman in “Deadpool & Wolverine” (Photo by Jay Maidment/20th Century Studios/Marvel Studios)

“Deadpool & Wolverine”

Directed by Shawn Levy

Culture Representation: Taking place in various universes, the sci-fi/fantasy/action film “Deadpool & Wolverine” (which is first “Deadpool” and “X-Men”-related movie that is of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) features a predominantly cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asias) portraying superheroes, supervillains, powers and regular human beings.

Culture Clash: Bickering superheroes Deadpool and Wolverine team up to stop certain villains who want to make Deadpool’s universe disappear.  

Culture Audience: “Deadpool & Wolverine” will appeal primarily to people are fans of the movies headliners, superhero movies and action films that have some bawdy comedy with self-referencing jokes.

Emma Corrin in “Deadpool & Wolverine” (Photo by Jay Maidment/20th Century Studios/Marvel Studios)

“Deadpool & Wolverine” takes a joke-filled grenade and throws it at previous perceptions of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This hyperactive superhero sequel goes all-in with meta references, surprise appearances, and male homoerotic flirting. There are so many references to previous MCU movies, Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, executive decisions for superhero movies, and some of the cast members’ personal lives in the real world, it would be easy for anyone not familiar with any of these references be confused or not understand at last half of the jokes in the movie. “Deadpool & Wolverine” is still an adrenaline-packed, crowd-pleaser for anyone inclined to like superhero movies, even if the movie is overstuffed with “surprises” to pad out what is essentially a very thin plot.

Directed by Shawn Levy, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is the first MCU movie starring Marvel characters from 20th Century Fox Studios, which was acquired by Disney (also owner of Marvel Studios) in 2019, about two years before the acquisition was announced. As a result, Marvel characters such as Deadpool, Wolverine (who is part of “The X-Men” universe), the Fantastic Four, Blade, Daredevil and Elektra, are among the characters who can now be part of the MCU. “Deadpool & Wolverine” was written by Levy, Ryan Reynolds, Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Zeb Wells.

“Deadpool & Wolverine” is also the first MCU movie to have a movie rating that is recommended viewing for people at or close to adult ages. The movie gets this rating because of the bloody violence and cursing. “Deadpool & Wolverine” also has some sexual comments and innuendos that are intended for mature/adult audiences. Do people need to see any of Fox’s previous superhero movies to better understand “Deadpool & Wolverine”? Yes. The best ones to see before “Deadpool & Wolverine” are 2016’s “Deadpool,” 2018’s “Deadpool 2” and 2017’s “Logan.”

In the very beginning of “Deadpool & Wolverine” wisecracking superhero Deadpool (played by Reynolds) is seen digging up a grave in a snowy wooded area as he tries to find and resurrect surly superhero Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), a human-wolf mutant also known as Logan, who died in the “Logan” movie. Wolverine is one of the main characters in the “X-Men” series of movies and comic books. Deadpool, whose real name is Wade Wilson, is a Canadian mercenary who was disfigured by fire burns in an accident, and he has superhuman regenerative healing abilities. Wade’s main weapons are his guns and swords, while Wolverine’s main weapons his retractable hand claws that are very large blades.

The meta references in “Deadpool & Wolverine” start from the very first scene. Deadpool can be heard saying in a voiceover about resurrecting Wolverine/Logan: “Marvel is so stupid. How are we going to do this without dishonoring Logan’s memory? We’re not.” There’s an amusing fight scene that Deadpool has with some soldiers in a snowy wooded area where Deadpool dances to *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.” And then, there’s a flashback to Deadpool’s life in 2018 and in 2024, before he ended up in this fight.

The flashbacks show that Wade has retired his Deadpool superhero persona and is working as a salesperson for a company called Drive Max, which is a lot like the real-life automobile sales company CarMax. Wade is close to a middle-aged co-worker named Peter (played by Rob Delaney), who is also a salesperson at Drive Max. A flashback to 2018 shows that Wade is unhappy being in this dead-end job, so he interviews with Happy Hogan (played by Jon Favreau), Iron Man’s former chauffeur, to see if he can get back in the superhero business. Deadpool says he needs to join the Avengers (Marvel’s most famous group of superheroes), but Happy tells Wade that people aren’t Avengers because they need to be but because people need the Avengers.

In 2024, Wade is living with elderly roommate Blind Al (played by Leslie Uggams), who mentions several times that she’s a cocaine dealer. (It’s played for laughs.) On his birthday, Wade goes home and gets a surprise birthday party, whose guests are Blind Al; Wade’s ex-girlfriend Vanessa Carlysle (played by Morena Baccarin); and various superhero friends who were introduced in 2018’s “Deadpool 2”: Dopinder (played by Karan Soni); Negasonic Teenage Warhead (played by Brianna Hildebrand); Yukio (played by Shioli Kutsuna); Colussus (played by Stefan Kapicic); and Buck (played by Randal Reeder). At this party, Vanessa tells Wade that she new boyfriend. Wade (who’s still in love with Vanessa) is visibly disappointed that she has moved on to someone else.

After this birthday party, Wade suddenly finds himself transported to the headquarters of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), which is responsible for various timelines in the multiverse. Wade meets a pompous TVA official named Mr. Paradox (played by Matthew Macfadyen), who informs Wade that when an anchor being dies in a universe, the universe and its timeline will eventually fade from existence. Mr. Paradox tells Wade/Deadpool that universe of Wade/Deadpool and all of Wade’s loved ones will eventually cease to exist. Mr. Paradox has been tasked with overseeing this extinction.

Wade/Deadpool finds out that the “anchor being” for this universe is Wolverine/Logan. And so begins a race against time to find Wolverine/Logan (there are several in the multiverse) who is alive and team up with Wolverine to save Deadpool’s universe. “Deadpool & Wolverine” has a flurry of alternate Wolverines/Logans who make quick appearance in this search, including one played by an actor who is famous for starring as a DC Comics superhero.

The Wolverine/Logan who ends up teaming up with Deadpool/Wade is dealing with massve guilt over the death of millions of beings in his universe. The movie’s chief villain is Cassandra Nova (played by Emma Corrin), the twin sister of “X-Men” character Charles Xavier. Cassandra has extremely powerful telekinesis abilities. She can also take her hands to go inside bodies and grab onto people’s organs. When she takes a hold of someone’s brain, she can read their mind and enter their thoughts.

The movie’s visual effects are above-average but they’re not groundbreaking. “Deadpool & Wolverine’s” soundtrack songs lean heavily into nostalgia. In addition to *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” other songs featured prominently in the movie are Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and Huey Lewis & the News’ “The Power of Love” and “If This Is It.” This isn’t a soundtrack that will have an award-winning hit with an original song written for the soundtrack.

“Deadpool & Wolverine” also mines nostalgia in other ways, such as plenty of surprise superhero appearances—some that are more predictable than others. Some of these superhero appearances are played by the same cast members who were these superheroes in other movies, while other superhero appearances are from cast members playing these superheroes for the first time in a movie. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the appearance of someone who seems to be one superhero but then is revealed to be another superhero.

Reynolds and Jackman play up the “opposites attract and clash” personalities of Deadpool and Wolverine to the hilt. They get into some epic battles with villains and with each other. Reynolds has said in interviews that he thinks Deadpool is probably bisexual or sexually fluid, and so he portrays the character in this way. “Deadpool & Wolverine” doesn’t come right out and declare Deadpool’s sexuality, but the movie doesn’t really play coy about Deadpool’s sexuality either. There are numerous scenes that show Deadpool/Wade is still in love with Vanessa but he is sexually attracted to Wolverine/Logan.

Corrin is quite good in the role of ice-cold Cassandra, but this villain won’t go be remembered as the most fearsome or entertaining MCU villain. Macfadyen (the Emmy-winning former co-star of “Succession”) also has a role as an icy Brit villain, although prissy Mr. Paradox doesn’t have any superpowers and is a lot less menacing than Cassandra. There’s also a Deadpool dog named Dogpool who is in the movie for offbeat cuteness and comic relief. Cassandra’s minions are generic and forgettable, except for an underdeveloped character named Pyro (played by Aaron Stanford), who can make flames come out of his hands.

The movie has some snarky references to a few of the cast members’ personal lives. For example, Deadpool says that Wolverine has let his toned physique go because of the divorce, which is in reference to Jackman’s own real-life divorce that Jackman going through while filming “Deadpool & Wolverine.” There’s also a joke about two former spouses who co-starred as superheroes in a superhero movie from the early 2000s.

“Deadpool & Wolverine” has an overload of references to past superhero movies, pop culture and celebrity gossip. Viewers who are unfamiliar with any of the above will just feel lost but can still enjoy the action and the characters. The movie’s end-credit scene is not a preview for a sequel but is an amusing reference to a previous scene in “Deadpool & Wolverine.” As far as MCU movies go, “Deadpool & Wolverine” is a wacky and entertaining ride that doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Deadpool & Wolverine” revels in poking fun itself as much as it pokes fun at the movie industry.

Marvel Studios and 20th Century Studios will release “Deadpool & Wolverine” in U.S. cinemas on July 26, 2024.

Review: ‘Fast Charlie,’ starring Pierce Brosnan, Morena Baccarin, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Toby Huss, Jacob Grodnik, Sharon Gless and James Caan

December 30, 2023

by Carla Hay

Morena Baccarin and Pierce Brosnan in “Fast Charlie” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Fast Charlie”

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Culture Representation: Taking place in Biloxi, Mississippi, and in New Orelans, the action film “Fast Charlie” (based on the novel “Gun Monkeys” features a predominantly white cast of characters portraying the working-class, middle-class and criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An assassin goes on a mission to get revenge on the crime boss who masacred many of the assassin’s colleagues.

Culture Audience: “Fast Charlie” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Pierce Brosnan and action films about feuding criminals that have an amusing edge.

Gbenga Akinnagbe (pictured in front) in “Fast Charlie” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

The dark comedy in “Fast Charlie” can get a little dicey and off-kilter, but this crime caper has a winning performance from Pierce Brosnan as a world-weary assassin. It’s a violent movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has some funny surprises. When the outlandish jokes work well in “Fast Charlie,” they’re the best things in the movie.

Directed by Phillip Noyce and written by Richard Wenk, “Fast Charlie” is based on Victor Gischler’s 2001 novel “Gun Monkeys.” The movie is a mostly skillful blend of grisly action and crime noir with a somewhat satirical tone. “Fast Charlie” features some voiceover narration from protagonist Charlie Swift (played by Pierce Brosnan), an assassin who is the type of killer who maintains a gentlemany air about him, even when he’s committing ruthless acts of violence.

The opening scene begins in New Orleans, where Charlie has been cornered by in a junkyard by an enemy who is not yet seen on camera Charlie is ordered by this nemesis to take off his trousers. Charlie then says in a voiceover that reveals his inner thoughts at that moment: “I always thought my life would end like this in some godforsaken place, from a bullet I didn’t see coming. I just thought I’d never care.” Much later the movie, “Fast Charlie” circles back to these scene, with viewers knowing that that point how Charlie ended up there.

Most of “Fast Charlie” takes place in Biloxi, Mississippi, where Charlie lives. (“Fast Charlie” was actually filmed in Louisiana.) He works for a crime lord named Stan Mullen (played by James Caan, in one of his last on-screen performances), who has been Charlie’s friend for the past 33 years. Charlie is a bachelor who lives alone and has no children. Stan treats the people who work for him like his family, including having cookouts at his house.

While he’s in Biloxi, Charlie gets ready to go on a job to kill someone by putting on a casual business suit. Charlie says in a voicever: “One thing you don’t want to see is me in a suit this early in the morning, which means I’m working, which means someone is about to depart this life unexpectedly.” A running joke in the movie is that Charlie talks more like a college professor than an ignorant thug

The target of this murder is a man named Rollo, who is a low-level criminal based in New Orleans. Rollo has apparently stolen some money and done some other things that have put a hit on him. Charlie is joined by a goofy assistant named Blade (played by Brennan Keel Cook), who is fairly new to Stan’s crew.

Blade, who got this nickname because he’s known using knives as murder weapons, has chosen a different tactic to kill Rollo. Blade proudly tells Charlie that he knows Rollo loves donuts, so Blade is going to pretend to be a donut delivery person giving a surprise gift to Rollo at the house where Rollo is.

Blade shows off the T-shirt he made for the occasion. The T-shirt says “Crispy Cream,” not “Krispy Kreme.” Charlie points out the error, but Blade cheerfully doesn’t care. Blade delivers the box of donuts, which contained a bomb planted in one of the donuts.

When Charlie and Blade go inside the house after the explosion, they see that Rollo’s head has been blown off and is completely destroyed. And now, Charlie and Blade have to figure out a way for to prove that the headless body really is Rollo. (Yes, it’s that kind of movie.)

Charlie happens to know the name of Charlie’s ex-wife Marcie (played by Morena Baccarin), so he quickly tracks her down and tells her about Rollo’s death. Marcie, who is a taxidermist who works at home, tells Charlie she isn’t surprised that Rollo was murdered, based on all the shady things she knew he was doing. Marcie is also smart enough to figure out that Charlie is a hit man who was involved in Charlie’s death, especially when he offers her $5,000 if he can identify the body. There’s an immediate and obvious spark between Charlie and Marcie the first time that they meet each other.

Marcie declines the offer and says she’ll do it for free. It just so happens she knows exactly how to identify Rollo. She tells Charlie that shortly after Marcie and Rollo were married, they got matching tattoos on their butt cheeks. This matching tattoo is used for a few sight gags in “Fast Charlie.” If this type of comedy doesn’t interest you, then “Fast Charlie” is not for you.

Stan and Charlie, who have a father/son type of relationship, are very loyal and protective of each other. Stan, who uses a wheelchair, is showing signs of dementia. Other people who work for Stan include Benny Moran (played by Toby Huss), who runs Stan’s “gentlemen’s clubs”; Paulie (played by Jacob Grodnik), Stan’s chauffeur; and Tony D (played by Don Yesso), who runs Stan’s gambling operations.

A massacre happens that kills several of Charlie’s co-workers, who were like family to him. Charlie immediately suspects that a crime boss named Beggar (played by Gbenga Akinnagbe) is responsible for this murder spree, because Stan had rejected Beggar’s invitation to meet with Beggar to discuss a possible business alliance. The rest of “Fast Charlie” involves Charlie on a mission to find out who was responsible for the massacre and to get revenge.

Along the way, Charlie begins courting Marcie, who is understandably reluctant to get romantically involved again with someone living a life of crime. However, they have an undeniable attraction to each other. Charlie (who says he’s fascinated with Italian culture) has dropped hints that he’s ready to retire and could possibly move to Italy.

During their first date, Charlie takes Marcie to an Italian restaurant and asks her why she wanted to become a taxidermist. She replies, “I like giving everlasting life to something that didn’t have a chance at one. I restore their dignity. When I give a hunter back his trophy, I want the animal to haunt his dreams.”

In other words, Marcie is not a mindless pushover. She’s got grit but a lot of heart. The snappy dialogue between Charlie and Marcie is one of the more entertaining aspects of “Fast Charlie,” which manages to make this romance both believable amid all the over-the-top violence. Brosnan and Baccarin give consistently engaging performances that will have viewers rooting for Charlie and Marcie.

The comedy is what makes “Fast Charlie” sizzle in what would be an otherwise mediocre murder mystery. The movie has some off-the-wall moments, such as a cameo from Sharon Gless, who portrays Rollo’s foul-mouthed mother Mavis, who despises Marcie. Mavis has only scene in the movie, but it’s absolutely hilarious. “Fast Charlie” isn’t a classic crime thriller, but it’s entertaining to watch for viewers who can tolerate some offbeat jokes with bloody violence.

Vertical released “Fast Charlie” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on December 8, 2023.

Review: ‘The Good House,’ starring Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline

December 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver in “The Good House” (Photo by Michael Tompkins/Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“The Good House”

Directed by Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional town of Wendover, Massachusetts, the comedy/drama film “The Good House” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians and African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A real-estate agent, who is an alcoholic with big financial problems, tries to salvage her business around the same time that she rekindles a romance with a former high-school classmate who is almost her complete opposite. 

Culture Audience: “The Good House” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Sigourney Weaver and movies about middle-aged people trying to improve their lives but sometimes stumble in the process.

Morena Baccarin and Sigourney Weaver in “The Good House” (Photo by Michael Tompkins/Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

“The Good House” is neither terrible nor outstanding but might be appealing to viewers who are interested in seeing emotionally authentic movies about middle-aged people dealing with personal problems. Sigourney Weaver’s feisty performance as an alcoholic real-estate agent is the main reason to watch this uneven dramedy. The movie’s storyline about seeking a redemptive comeback is handled better than the movie’s storyline about finding love.

Husband-and-wife filmmakers Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky directed “The Good House” and co-wrote the adapted screenplay with Thomas Bezucha. “The Good House” is based on Ann Leary’s 2013 book of the same name. After having its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, “The Good House” screened at the 2022 Provincetown International Film Festival in Massachusetts and the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

“The Good House” is of those movies where the protagonist not only does voiceover narration but also looks at the camera to talk directly to viewers. If you have tolerance for this type of presentation in a movie that plays it safe overall with a talented group of cast members, then “The Good House” is worth watching. The dialogue is often sharp and witty, even though some of the plot developments are stale and predictable.

The protagonist of “The Good House” is outspoken and sassy Hildy Good (played by Weaver), who has lived in the fictional town of Wendover, Massachusetts, her entire life. As Hildy says proudly in a voiceover near the beginning of the movie: “My family has lived in Wendover for almost 300 years.” (“The Good House” was actually filmed in Nova Scotia, Canada.)

Hildy, who is divorced with two adult daughters, comes from a working-class background (her father was a butcher), but she became a successful real-estate agent. She is currently an independent realtor with her own small business called Good Realty, where she has one employee: a ditzy assistant named Kendall, who is taking a gap year before she goes to college. Hildy lives with two beloved female dogs: a Papillon and a Border Collie, which are her constant companions.

Most of Hildy’s clients are wealthy residents of Massachusetts’ North Shore. During a showing of a house to married potential buyers Lisa Sanderson (played by Holly Chou) and Rob Sanderson (played by Anthony Estrella), Hildy comments, “We will find you the right house. Buying a house that is out of reach is a recipe for misery.”

Hildy then turns to the camera and says, “I should know. I bought a house I could almost afford. And if everything had gone according to plan, I’d be fine.” Hildy also describes herself as a self-made woman who “worked her way through UMass [the University of Massachusetts], and I’m the top broker on the North Shore. Or at least I was until …”

Lately, Hildy has been dealing with some major setbacks that have negatively affected her business. For starters, she’s an alcoholic who is in deep denial about needing treatment for this disease. Secondly, she’s getting stiff competition from realtor Wendy Heatherton (played by Kathryn Erbe), who used to work for Hildy, “before raiding my Rolodex and stealing all of my clients,” according to Hildy. Third, Hildy has increasing debts, due to not being to make as much money as she used to make, in addition to helping out her adult daughters financially and paying alimony to her ex-husband.

Hildy’s elder daughter Tess (played by Rebecca Henderson) lives In Beverly, Massachusetts, with her husband Michael (played by Sebastien Labelle) and their toddler daughter Lottie. Hildy’s younger daughter Emily (played by Molly Brown) is a bachelorette and an artist who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has a roommate, but Emily gets help from Hildy to pay the rent and other bills. Hildy is hiding her money problems and thinks this is what can put her back on the right financial track: “I need a good year.”

Hildy believes that she’s found some of this financial windfall in a potential sale of a waterfront property owned by Frank Getchell (played by Kevin Kline), who has had the property in his family for years, but he doesn’t want to sell it. He owns a successful maintenance company called Frank Getchell Contracting. Frank, who is a never-married bachelor with no children, has more than enough money to lead a flashy lifestyle, but he lives modestly and is somewhat of a misfit loner in the community.

When Hildy tells Frank that a lawyer from Boston is interested in buying Frank’s waterfront property, Frank rejects the idea of selling it. Hildy tries to get Frank to change his mind by saying: “You’re a businessman, Frank. Don’t you want to make money?” Frank replies, “Not as much as you do. The butcher’s daughter has gone fancy pants.”

Frank and Hildy have a past together: Frank was Hildy’s first love, and they had a short-lived romance during the summer before she went away to college. The relationship didn’t last because their lives went in two different directions: Frank joined the U.S. Army, while Hildy went to the University of Massachusetts. Hildy ended up marrying an affluent college classmate named Scott Good (the father of Tess and Emily), “who introduced me to high thread-count linens and fine wine. I do miss sailing,” Hildy says.

After 20 years of marriage, Scott left Hildy for another man, which is why they got divorced. Hildy is still bitter about this rejection, but it’s later revealed that her divorce isn’t the real reason why she became an alcoholic. Scott (played by David Rasche) is on cordial terms with Hildy, and they sometimes socialize with each other at mutual friends’ events.

Unfortunately, the trailer for “The Good House” already reveals about 70% of the movie’s plot, including Frank and Hildy rekindling their romance. What the trailer doesn’t reveal is a soap opera-type subplot involving two married couples who know Hildy, who finds out a scandalous secret that could affect these couples’ marriages. (The secret is the most obvious one possible.)

The first couple at the center of a potential scandal are Rebecca McAllister (played by Morena Baccarin) and Brian McCallister (played by Kelly AuCoin), who is a workaholic businessman. The other spouses are psychiatrist Peter Newbold (played by Rob Delaney) and Elise Newbold (played by Laurie Hanley), who live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hildy has known Peter since he was a child. Hildy and her close friend Mamie Lang (played by Beverly D’Angelo) used to babysit Peter when Peter was about 8 years old.

Rebecca is a homemaker who is friendly but has some emotional issues. In an early scene in the movie, when Hildy is showing the Sandersons a house near Rebecca’s home, Hildy is somewhat horrified to see Rebecca gardening in the front yard while wearing a white nightgown and construction shoes. Hildy discreetly says to Hildy, “It’s chilly outside, dear. Do me a favor. Put on a sweater and a hat and some leggings.” Rebecca laughs and replies, “Yes. Sometimes, I get carried away, and I don’t think things through.”

Rebecca’s husband Brian is away from home a lot because of work. And so, a lonely Rebecca befriends Hildy. They end up confiding in each other about a lot of things about their personal lives. Hildy also becomes acquainted with a married couple named Cassie Dwight (played by Georgia Lyman) and Patch Dwight (played by Jimmy LeBlanc), whose 5-year-old son Jake (played by Silas Pereira-Olson) is living with autism.

Even though Hildy lives alone, she has a fairly active social life, which usually includes going to dinner parties. At one of these parties, Hildy divulges that she’s the descendant of Sarah Good, one of the first accused witches of Salem, Massachusetts. And then, Hildy does a psychic reading at the party while the movie’s soundtrack plays Donavan’s “Season of the Witch.”

“The Good House” has scenes that sometimes awkwardly balance the comedy and the drama. This clumsiness is demonstrated the most in how the movie presents Hildy’s alcoholism, which is sometimes reduced to soundbites where she talks to the camera about it with glib jokes. The movie then uses cheap gimmicks such as hallucinations or Hildy stopping in the middle of a conversation to tell “The Good House” viewers what she’s really thinking by saying it out loud.

In one such scene, Hildy is drinking alcohol when she’s alone in her house. She quips, “I never drank alone—before rehab. Scott always said I should stop after my third drink.” Hildy then hallucinates her ex-husband Scott appearing before her to add, “That’s when you start to get out of control.” Hildy says in response, “What are you talking about? That’s when I start to feel in control.”

The trailer for “The Good House” already revealed that Hildy’s loved ones stage an intervention, in an attempt to get her to go to rehab. It’s just another scene where Hildy comes up with one-liners to continue being in denial about how serious her alcoholism is. It’s hinted at but never told in detail that Hildy’s alcoholism has alienated many of her former clients and has given Hildy a reputation for being erratic. Hildy eventually opens up to someone about some painful things from her childhood, but that’s as far as the movie goes in exploring Hildy’s psychology.

Mostly, Hildy is presented as someone who is trying to fool people into thinking that she has her whole life together when her life is actually falling apart. She doesn’t fool Frank though. It’s one of the reasons why their relationship is easy to root for, because he sees her for who she really is and loves her despite her flaws. It’s a case of “opposites attract” because Hildy likes to put on airs to impress people, while Frank is completely down-to-earth.

One of the shortcomings of “The Good House” is that instead of focusing more on the relationship between Hildy and Frank, the movie tends to get distracted by the messy and melodramatic subplot involving Rebecca, Brian, Peter and Elise. Throughout the movie, Hildy has some drunken antics, with a few of these shenanigans having consequences that might serve as a wake-up call for Hildy to get professional help for her problems.

Weaver doesn’t disappoint in giving a very watchable performance of this emotionally damaged character. The supporting cast members are also up to the task in playing their roles. However, Hildy’s often-prickly personality is written in the movie as overshadowing all the other characters. Sometimes this character dominance is a benefit to “The Good House,” and sometimes it’s a detriment. “The Good House” doesn’t always succeed in having a consistent tone, but the story has enough realistic portrayals of adult relationships to make it an appealing story to viewers who are inclined to watch these types of movies.

Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions released “The Good House” in select U.S. cinemas on September 30, 2022. The movie was released on digital and VOD on October 18, 2022. “The Good House” was released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 22, 2022.

Review: ‘Greenland,’ starring Gerard Butler

December 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd and Gerard Butler in “Greenland” (Photo courtesy of STX)

“Greenland”

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

Culture Representation: Taking place in various parts of North America, the sci-fi action flick “Greenland” features a predominantly white cast (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A structural engineer, his wife and their 7-year-old son are selected by the U.S. government to be part of an elite evacuation program during a comet disaster, and this privileged status causes problems for them when they are separated during the chaos.

Culture Audience: “Greenland” will appeal primarily to people who like suspenseful apocalyptic movies that have underlying commentary about society’s conflicts over social classes and privilege.

Gerard Butler in “Greenland” (Photo courtesy of STX)

Out of all the types of apocalyptic disaster stories that can be told, perhaps the most terrifying is some variation of “the sky is falling,” whether it’s from meteors, comets or another deadly force from outer space. In the above-average sci-fi thriller “Greenland” (directed by Ric Roman Waugh and written by Chris Sparling), the threat from outer space is a highly unusual comet that scientists at first think is a natural wonder to behold. But the comet turns out to be the worst kind, because it ends up causing worldwide damage and has the power to wipe out most of Earth’s population. 

It’s a concept that’s been done in movies before, but “Greenland” ramps up the suspense level in realistic ways because it’s not too caught up in trying to scare people with visual effects, which are actually done very well in this film. Instead, “Greenland” focuses on the terror experienced by a family of three who get separated from each other in the chaos of an evacuation. There are added layers of stress because the child in this family is diabetic, and the family is targeted by desperate and envious people who want what this family has: privileged U.S. government clearance to be taken to a secret shelter that was built to withstand the worst disasters and attacks.

Like a lot of disaster movies, “Greenland” starts out with people being blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that’s coming their way. In Florida, structural engineer John Garrity (played by Gerard Butler), who is originally from Scotland, is on the job at a construction site, but he wants to get home as soon as possible because his 7-year-old son Nathan (played by Roger Dale Floyd) is having a party where several people in the neighborhood have been invited. John and his American wife Allison (played by Morena Baccarin), who were separated in the past and are now trying to work on their marriage, are organizing the party.

The big news around the world is that there’s an interstellar comet that is passing by Earth, and it’s expected to be the closest fly-by of a comet in Earth’s history. This highly anticipated sighting is such a big deal that people are having watch parties, and the news has been reporting the latest updates on the comet’s trajectory. The comet is considered so safe that it’s been named Clarke.

However, as soon as John gets home, something strange happens: He gets phone messages by text and by robocalls from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These messages order John, Allison and Nathan to report to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, because they have been selected for emergency relocation. The messages demand that no one else can accompany this family of three to the Air Force base.

John doesn’t know if these messages are real or some kind of prank. He tells people at the party about the messages, and they’re not sure if the messages are real either. A few of the adults at the party wonder why they didn’t get these messages too. John doesn’t know why he and his family were selected for this special evacuation.

However, it soon becomes obvious that the messages really are from the U.S. government. While the Garrity family and their party guests are in the living room watching the latest comet news on TV, the first sign that the comet is going to be disastrous comes when it’s reported that a fragment of the comet that was supposed to crash in the ocean near Brazil instead landed in Tampa. The shockwaves caused Tampa to burn, and the inferno blast spread all the way to Orlando.

John and Allison decide to quickly pack up some family belongings and go with Nathan by car to Robins Air Force Base, as instructed. There are some moments of high anxiety when a few of the neighbors beg to go with the Garrity family, but John refuses because he correctly assumes that anyone who doesn’t have government clearance will be turned away. However, he promises that he will contact the neighbors after he finds out more details about what’s going on with the evacuation.

Meanwhile, the Garrity family hears on the car radio that more of the comet’s fragments are wiping out entire parts of the world, including Bogotá, Colombia. Scientists are frantically trying to predict where the fragments might land next, in order to evacuate people from those areas. Anxiety then turns to sheer panic.

Word has gotten out that Robins Air Force Base is one of the designated meeting areas for the evacuees who were selected by the U.S. government. And so, when the Garritys arrive at the Air Force base, they see a terrified and angry mob of people who demand to be let in, even though most of them are not supposed to be there. It’s a foreshadowing of the “haves” and “have nots” conflicts that happen during several scenes in the movie.

Several military personnel are on duty to only allow access to people who are on the government clearance list. And those pre-approved people get yellow wristbands to identify them. There are several Air Force planes waiting to take thousands of people to the same shelter, which is in a classified location that is later revealed to be in Greenland.

The Garrity family makes it safely through the checkpoint, but things take a turn for the worse when they find out that Nathan, who is diabetic, accidentally dropped his insulin in the car when he was looking for a blanket. John finds out that he has only about 15 to 20 minutes before the family’s assigned evacuee plane leaves. He also finds out that all the planes are headed to the same place, so that if he can’t be on the same plane as his wife and son, he’ll hopefully be able to reunite with them at the shelter.

John and Allison hastily make a decision that John will go back to the car to get Nathan’s medicine, while Allison will stay with Nathan and board the plane. However, more complications ensue when Allison speaks to a military guard and tells him about their situation and how they can’t leave without John. And that’s when the guard tells her that because Nathan is diabetic, it’s a health liability, and the Garrity family shouldn’t have been approved for the emergency shelter.

The guard and a colleague then tell Allison and Nathan that they can’t get on the plane after all. Allison and Nathan are then forced to go with the guards to another area, where Allison pleads with another military person to let them on the plane because they don’t want to be separated from John. What happens next are several twists and turns to the story, some of which are unpredictable, while other plot developments are a tad cliché.

All of the cast members give very good performances, even though this movie is not on the type of prestige level where it’s going to get any major awards. The filmmakers avoided the stereotype that a lot of American-made disaster movies have: making the male protagonist/hero someone who was born and raised in the United States. Butler, who is Scottish in real life, keep his native accent in the movie. (Butler is one of the producers of “Greenland,” so that probably had a lot to do with the decision to make John Garrity a Scot too.)

Another non-cliché aspect to “Greenland” is that it doesn’t follow the disaster movie formula of having the hero’s love interest be a passive “damsel in distress.” Allison is no ditz who waits around to be rescued. There are moments where Allison steps up in a big way to help save her family. Baccarin’s portrayal shows a lot of authenticity in how real women would act in the same situation, with all the bravery and vulnerability that comes with it.

John and Allison’s son Nathan is thankfully not written as “too precocious to be true” or a “disease of the week” kid. Floyd capably portrays Nathan’s intelligent sensitivity as a kid who just happens to have diabetes. The movie also makes a point of showing how Nathan’s medical condition quickly changed the status of the Garrity family from “desirable” to “undesirable” candidates for evacuation. It speaks to the prejudice that people could encounter in a similar situation where governments decide who in the population will get preferential treatment in a mass evacuation. 

One of the other memorable characters in “Greenland” is Allison’s widower father Dale (played by Scott Glenn), who somewhat mistrusts John because of the problems in John and Allison’s marriage. And there’s a married couple in the story named Judy Vento (played by Hope Davis) and Ralph Vento (played by David Denman), who play a key role in one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the movie.

Throughout the film, director Waugh never lets up on the frantic pace after the comet disaster strikes. (Waugh and Butler previously worked together on the 2019 action film “Angel Has Fallen.”) And when it comes to characters, “Greenland” wisely takes a “less is more” approach, since the story is focused on this family of three and their perspective for the entire film. It’s a departure from the typical disaster movie that has different storylines for a group of strangers. Simply put: “Greenland” is an apocalyptic movie that isn’t going to change the world, but it largely succeeds in being suspenseful, escapist entertainment.

STX released “Greenland” on VOD on December 18, 2020. The movie will be released on digital on January 26, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on February 9, 2021.

2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘Framing John DeLorean’

April 30, 2019

by Carla Hay

Framing John DeLorean
Alec Baldwin in “Framing John DeLorean” (Photo courtesy of Sundance Selects)

“Framing John DeLorean”

Directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 30, 2019.

The title of “Framing John DeLorean” has more than one meaning: It could mean the notorious 1984 trial where disgraced automobile mogul John DeLorean was accused of cocaine trafficking (he claimed that he was the target of a government set-up), or it could mean how DeLorean’s life story is framed in the context of this movie. The way that directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce tell the story combines the elements of a traditional documentary and a docudrama, with Alec Baldwin playing DeLorean.

Early on in the movie, it’s mentioned that there have been several failed attempts over the years to make the DeLorean story into a narrative feature film. “Framing John DeLorean” almost looks like another attempt to make that narrative feature film, but within this documentary. Not only does the movie use a lot of re-enactment footage with Baldwin and other actors, but “Framing John DeLorean” also shows the behind-the-scenes making of that re-enactment footage, such as Baldwin getting his prosthetics and makeup done, the crew preparing sets for filming, and the actors getting direction. In on-camera interviews, Baldwin also shares a lot of his thoughts about what he thinks of DeLorean, and even reveals that DeLorean (who died in 2005 at the age of 80) once personally called him to ask Baldwin to play him in one of the DeLorean biopics that ended up not getting made. In fact, Baldwin has so much screen time in this movie that it could have been subtitled “Featuring Alec Baldwin Giving His Take on DeLorean.”

Re-enactment footage is tricky to navigate in a documentary. It’s also a choice that has been divisive among documentarians; some don’t have a problem with re-enactment footage, while others think that using actors and scripted dialogue in a documentary undermines the integrity of the project. In the case of “Framing John DeLorean,” people will either love or hate the re-enactment footage, which can be distracting or can enhance the storytelling. How you personally feel about Baldwin will also affect how you feel about his prominent presence in the film.

As for the investigative journalism in the documentary, the filmmakers do a pretty good job of gathering archival footage that documents DeLorean’s rise to the top of the automotive industry to his fall from grace. He became a powerful executive at General Motors (GM)—where he helped develop the Pontiac GTO, among other famous cars—but his flamboyant, playboy lifestyle and public criticism of GM management led to his ouster from the company. In 1973, he founded the ill-fated DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) that lost millions in investment money through bad decisions and what the U.S. government later revealed was a Ponzi scheme cooked up by DeLorean. The disgraced mogul had legal issues for years over fraud investigations, and his finances never recovered. When DeLorean died in his modest New Jersey apartment, he was essentially broke.

“Framing John DeLorean” also has new interviews with past DeLorean associates, including William T. Collins, a former Pontiac engineer whom DeLorean recruited to be DMC’s chief engineer. (Josh Charles plays Collins in the re-enactment footage.) Collins, who quit DMC after he started to suspect that DeLorean was mishandling funds, is the person credited with designing the famous DeLorean sports car that was immortalized as a time machine in the “Back to the Future” films. (“Back to the Future” co-writer Bob Gale is interviewed in this documentary.) Former supermodel Cristina Ferrare, DeLorean’s third ex-wife, who was married to him from 1973 to 1985, is not interviewed in the movie, and has declined to publicly talk about DeLorean for years. Morena Baccarin of “Gotham” and “Deadpool” fame plays Ferrare in the re-enactment footage.

However, the film has revealing interviews with DeLorean’s adopted son Zack and daughter Kathryn (whose mother is Ferrare), who were pre-teen children at the time of their father’s scandal. The kids are a stark reminder of the collateral damage that DeLorean’s actions left on his family. The scruffy and sarcastic Zack (who looks like he’s down on his luck, based on his small, run-down apartment) is full of foul-mouthed bitterness and has mixed feelings about his legacy as a DeLorean. He says he loved his father but hates how his father’s greed ruined his family’s life. Zack talks about how people are surprised that he’s living barely above poverty level, and when he sees the famous DeLorean sports car, he doesn’t know how to describe how he feels, but it’s clear that it’s a mixture of pride and shame.

Kathryn seems to be coping better (emotionally and financially) with the aftermath of the scandal than her brother is. She says a lot of her healing came from getting therapy. Just like her brother, Kathryn went through some trauma. She recalls being bullied and ostracized for many years of her life simply because of who her father was. While Zack has lingering resentment over his family name, Kathryn seems to have come to terms with embracing her family name and forgiving her father. She talks about becoming involved in the DeLorean fan community, and she shares fond memories of bringing her father to a DeLorean fan convention that displayed DMC cars, and how the adulation he got at the show boosted his confidence. Kathryn also confirms that her mother doesn’t like to talk about DeLorean, even to her own kids, because she’s “moved on with her life.” (Ferrare went on to have a successful career as a TV host. In 1985, she married her current husband, TV executive Anthony Thomopoulos, and they have two daughters together.)

Although some people might complain that “Framing John DeLorean” doesn’t know whether it wants to be a documentary or a docudrama, in the end, the overall storytelling works in this movie, and it could serve as a useful resource if a biopic is ever made about DeLorean’s life.

IFC Films/Sundance Selects will release “Framing John DeLorean” in select U.S. theaters on June 7, 2019.

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