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 Book Club (PG-13)

A longtime group of friends pick Fifty Shades of Grey as their monthly read in Book Club, a marketing pitch that somebody forgot to write a real story for.
I buy that book clubs read Fifty Shades. I buy that these Boomer-aged ladies, one of whom actually dumped her husband because he wasn’t intellectual enough for her taste, may read Fifty Shades. I don’t know that I can buy all of that and believe they haven’t read it until now and that it’s the first book they’ve read since the 1970s with any hot sex in it.  
Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a judge who hasn’t dated since she dumped her intellectually unstimulating husband nearly two decades ago. Luxury hotel owner Vivian (Jane Fonda) dates constantly, but wants only physical, never emotional, connections. Diane’s (Diane Keaton) husband died a year ago and she’s trying to resist her daughters’ request that she move from southern California to Arizona where she can live in one of their basements. Chef/restaurant-owner Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is still happily married to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson), though their passionate relationship has become a little quieter in the months since he retired. 
The book gets the women reconsidering their relationships or lack thereof. Or, actually, only Sharon really reconsiders anything and takes an active step: She joins a dating site and starts going out on dates. Her scenes are the most real-feeling bits of this movie. Vivian and Diane stumble into relationships through happenstance meetings: Vivian with old flame Arthur (Don Johnson) and Diane with pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia). Carol, meanwhile, exists entirely in the movie-world of “wackiness” where, instead of talking to her husband, she does things like lace his drink with Viagra. 
With its copious amounts of real estate porn and magazine-ishly unreal food spreads, Book Club felt like all packaging, no actual product. The movie throws cartoonish obstacles in the way of the women finding happiness (which could be often overcome with a pretty simple conversation) but has very little real conflict. The situations crafted here could involve some real complexity of emotion (which could lead to some smart comedy and more meaningful emotional beats) but the movie seems to go to lengths to smooth away anything that could lead to any kind of actual struggle. 
Late in the film, Diane’s tells Mitchell that her relationship with her late husband had, on an emotional level, ended years before his death. And, though she cites some kind of vague sense of needing to “be there” for her daughters, nothing really stands between her and a relationship with Mitchell. How much more interesting their relationship could have been if she was wrestling with her feelings for her late husband or was helping take care of her grandkids and therefore actually facing some hard choices about what to do with her life. Instead, she and Mitchell are just sort of together until the movie needs them to be apart and then apart until the movie needs them to be together.
Book Club isn’t even the sort of mild junk-food treat that the actual Fifty Shades of Grey movie was, with its hilarious contract negotiation scene and just-this-side-of-winking from lead Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don). With a few exceptions, the movie doesn’t even make great use of its four strong leads to create a pleasant tale of friendship. Book Club is at best an idea, which assembled a decent cast but never really figured out how to do anything interesting with it all. C-
Rated PG-13 for sex-related material throughout and for language, according to the MPAA. Directed by Bill Holderman and written by BIll Holderman and Erin Simms, Book Club is an hour and 44 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures Corporation.  




Deadpool 2 (R)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz

05/24/18



 Ryan Reynolds and his meta gallows humor suit up for another round in Deadpool 2, the R-rated sequel to that most R-rated of superhero movies.

Wherever bad guys lurk, Wade Wilson (Reynolds), a.k.a. Deadpool, shows up to kill and quip, both with a kind of giddiness. Perhaps the extra spring in his step comes from his happy home life with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who celebrates their anniversary by telling him she’s stopped her birth control and is ready to have children. Wade is delighted but, well, a happy couple about to start a family might as well be a cop on his last day before retirement or a girl in a horror movie just going to check that noise in the basement. 
After an unfinished mission comes back to hit Wade where it hurts the most, he finds himself bereft and ready to end it all. Except, as you may remember, one of the few things this supercharged human with the skin of a worn out basketball can’t do is die. Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic), an X-Men buddy, tries to pick Deadpool up by getting him to join the team. But white-hat heroism is not so much Deadpool’s thing and when that goes wrong he winds up in the ice box, a supermax prison for mutants where collars dampen their superpowers. One of Wilson’s superpowers, as he reminds us, is not dying of the cancer attacking his body at multiple points. Imminent death is actually fine with him, but Russell (Julian Dennison), the young mutant teenager (his power is fire-related) taken to prison with Deadpool, has taken a shine to him. When time-traveling super soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) shows up hunting the teen, Wilson eventually decides to try to save Russell.
There’s a fair amount of plot in this nearly two-hour movie: Cable and his back story, Russell and his whole deal, Deadpool’s very obvious character arc, some X-Men-universe business (such as the introduction of the X-Force, about which the only thing I really knew was that it was a thing). Because this movie has a good amount of general pop culture Easter eggs (Goonies! Batman v. Superman! James Bond!) in addition to the X-Men comic book material, you don’t need to get all the references to enjoy the movie overall. And I think I did enjoy this movie; I’ll give the edge to “enjoyment” over “tired out by” even if the race between those two things was neck-and-neck. 
Much of what made the first Deadpool fun was how tonally and stylistically unique it was. It was unlike previous superhero movies in the way it mixed colorful action, some self-consciously goofy superhero conventions and the meta commentary on same, hard-core potty mouth and extravagant violence. Deadpool 2 is still unlike the other superhero movies — unlike fellow “unique among the genre” movies such as Black Panther or Wonder Woman, for example. But those two movies in particular — and the recent very solid Avengers: Infinity War — have, I think, found new things to do in the genre, new kinds of stories to tell. Deadpool 2 tells a familiar story: about a hero (of a sort) trying to find a way to move on after loss and, especially toward the end, about a ragtag group of supers creating a found family. (Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead returns and we meet the awesome Domino, Zazie Beetz, whose power is indeed extraordinary luck.)
That’s a pretty oft-told tale told in a now-familiar style, the Deadpool style, full of looks at the camera and jokes about the X-Men franchise and quips about the writing. At times, all of this feels like the kid who just won’t stop telling you potty jokes or repeating the new swear word he just learned — yes, yes, you’re very edgy. But there is actually some emotion behind it all. There are even some interesting stakes. Not the most interesting stakes ever or rich and complex emotion, but enough of both to keep the movie from being completely superficial. Deadpool 2 might delight in its self-consciously naughty style but there is actually some substance there.
I don’t know that this particular trick will work a third time; this movie doesn’t have quite the punch of the first one. (And if the first one wasn’t for you, I doubt this one will change your mind at all.) But, if you were any kind of fan of the first Deadpool, you will probably have more fun than not at this second outing. B-
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material, according to the MPAA. Directed by David Leitch and written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick & Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool 2 is an hour and 59 minutes long and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
 





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