Steve Stebbing

Breaking down all things pop culture

Deadpool 2 – Sequels always have such a large bar to clear when it comes to expectations and recapturing that lightning in a bottle. It gets double hard when your first film slayed all expectations and kicked the door down at the box office for R-rated comic book movies. Amazingly enough, Ryan Reynolds’ “merc with a mouth” returns in a movie that is every bit as good as the original without that pesky origin stuff getting in the way. It is rude, crude, violent and totally self-referential in the way that Deadpool comic fans were wanting and expecting it to be. This movie may well be one of my favorites this year and I will definitely be checking it out more than once. Ryan Reynolds continues to make his city of Vancouver proud and his pride in his hometown is a big driving force of the success of these films.

RBG – There were two biographical documentaries released this past week, both with very different narrative structures. The first, a film about Pope Francis, relies on the “stark room with a talking head” approach to their subject matter which I finding a bit too dry. I want a bit of liveliness to keep me engaged and RBG definitely came through on this. Following the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States appointed by the Clinton administration, the film depicts her as a warrior in the courts fighting for women’s rights and human rights which, sometimes, looks like an entirely uphill battle. Lovingly nicknamed the Notorious RBG, Ginsberg is idolized, cosplayed and has risen to be an American icon and, from everything I learned in this documentary, it’s all very deserving. In a sea of toxic masculinity and male indifference that fact that h voice is still so loud is insanely inspiring and empowering for all those who feel snubbed and silenced.

Disobedience – Already on a high this year with his film A Fantastic Woman, Sebastián Lelio is back, this time making his first English language feature. A deep drama with guarded emotions, the story follows a shunned Jewish woman named Ronit, played by Rachel Weisz, who returns to the strict Orthodox Jewish community she was sent away from after the death of her father, a prominent Rabbi in London. The reason for her imposed exile was the forbidden relationship she had with a childhood friend Esti, played by Rachel McAdams in a soul-stirring performance. Upon her return, it is evident that the time and distance hasn’t lessened the yearning between these two women. The blend of passion and restraint is played so beautifully between these two actresses in possibly the most understated performances I’ve seen this year. If you’re in the mood for a drama filled with human complexities, this is a can’t miss.

Wonderstruck – I got to check this one out on one of the final days of last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival and was, many times, nearly brought to tears. Director Todd Haynes follows up his masterpiece Carol with this children’s book adaptation that, loosely speaking, follows two deaf kids from different eras who’s stories run in parallel to each other, sometimes crossing over. Hayne’s visual command that we know him for gives way for a new flourish for his growing bouquet of skills in the form of incredible sound design used for storytelling. As the audience, we feel the full embodiment of what it is to be deaf. With the first kid Rose, who lives in the year 1927, she has been deaf all her life and navigates her world more easily but the other timeline in 1977, our main character is newly deaf and struggles with the isolation. This is how we feel watching, pulled out of our depths into a realm devoid of the things that make us comfortable in cinema. To be truly out of our element is made so refreshing by a master filmmaker and, as the film never got anywhere near a wide release, you can now see it for yourself on demand and DVD.

The Party – Simple, slight and with a run time of only just over an hour, it’s hard to believe a film like this would have sticking power. With an all-star cast featuring Kristin Scott Thomas, Timothy Spall, Cillian Murphy, Bruno Ganz and Patricia Clarkson, the banter flies so quickly that sometimes a moment to digest what you’ve just heard is not there. The story has Thomas as a politician who has just been appointed to a position in the shadow cabinet and has organized a dinner party to celebrate. What she doesn’t know is that all of her guests she has coming each has a loaded bag of problems to unleash as well as her depressed husband who’s revelations might take the cake. Everyone is so phenomenal in this film but, for me, it’s all about Patricia Clarkson who delivers each of her biting lines with such a vinegar-filled venom that even the audience recoils in pain. A quick home watching of this film will have you in stitches of shocked laughter and I have to praise writer-director Sally Potter for shooting this one in black and white. It makes it that much more interesting.

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