Avengers: Infinity War

Hotel Artemis

Perspective. The lens through which we view the world. We usually focus on the most dominant storyline when it comes to art, as it pertains to film and literature. The subplots take a natural backseat to the action in the foreground. However, a fresh perspective allows for new and creative storytelling. Hotel Artemis seemed intriguing, not only because of a cast including Jodie Foster and Sterling K. Brown, but because it fleshed out a familiar plot point.

 If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen your fair share of crime dramas over the years. You’ll recall that whenever someone is shot or otherwise injured, it poses a real problem when they need medical attention. Well, what if there was a hospital just for criminals? Welcome to Hotel Artemis, which is not really a hotel at all. In this stylish, dark action drama, writer/director Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3) spins a common trope of the genre into a tale of murder and mayhem.

 The film opens in the not-too-distant future of 2028 Los Angeles, as three men attempt a bank heist. Two of the three are brothers, the older played by Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther) and the younger portrayed by Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta). Gravely wounded, the trio call ahead to book some rooms in the Hotel Artemis, members only. The Artemis deals in anonymity, and each resident is known by the room to which they are assigned. The older brother is assigned to the Waikiki room, and the younger to Honolulu. Jodie Foster (Elysium) stars as The Nurse, gatekeeper and Chief Surgeon, so to speak. She runs a tight ship, adhering to a strict set of rules that only allows treatment for members who have paid the hefty premium.

 The technology in the film is pretty cool, with The Nurse performing complex surgeries in half the normal time. Upon arrival, Waikiki runs into old friend Nice (like the French city), portrayed by Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde). She’s at the Artemis for more than just medical care, and her mysterious intentions put her odds with the other guests. Throughout it all, The Nurse is tasked with keeping her unsavory clientele in line, enforcing a strict set of rules with the help of her sidekick, a juiced up looking orderly appropriately nicknamed Everest (Dave Bautista, Avengers: Infinity War). On this particularly chaotic night, a riot rages outside. The people have taken to the streets to protest the privatization of water, a nasty hallmark of this quasi-dystopian future. As if things weren’t hectic enough, The Nurse has one more problem to consider after receiving word that yet another patient will be arriving, this one a VIP. “The Wolf King,” ruling crime boss of LA’s underworld is en route (Jeff Goldblum, Thor: Ragnarok) and cannot be denied.

 Hotel Artemis was a fun movie to watch, largely due to its premise. In some respects, the setting is the star. This film isn’t character driven, it’s plot driven. The characters must sustain the action and carry the film, but their maneuvering is made easier by the film’s construct. Although the Artemis is the focal point and the film’s only real setting, its occupants ensure there is never a dull moment. Sofia Boutella proves that her turn in last year’s Atomic Blonde wasn’t a fluke, dispatching unwanted guests Oldboy style. Sterling K. Brown is just a pleasure to watch, in any setting. I rooted for Waikiki, the dutiful older sibling, always making sacrifices. And Jodie Foster, well she’s Jodie Foster. In sum, Hotel Artemis was a cut above your average shoot ‘em up, a cool movie that refreshingly expounded upon a common thematic element. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Grade: A-

Deadpool 2

Superhero roles in Hollywood are coveted. Most often the character will have a built-in audience, and comic book movies routinely debut at number one at the box office. Some actors are fortunate enough to get more than one opportunity to don a pair of tights and save the world. Chris Evans is one example, having been both Johnny Blaze of the Fantastic Four and the iconic Captain America. Similarly, Ryan Reynolds (The Hitman’s Bodyguard) got two bites of the apple, having starred in both the regrettable Green Lantern and the wickedly funny Deadpool. In Deadpool 2 Reynolds returns as the quick-witted facially challenged Wade Wilson, to great effect.

We find Wade living happily, still in a relationship with his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, Gotham). Can I take a moment to applaud Vanessa as a great superhero girlfriend? I mean Pepper Potts (Iron Man’s girlfriend) is cool and all, but who else is there? Vanessa’s love has never faltered, despite her man resembling Freddy Krueger on a good day. Recall Wade’s backstory from the first movie: he was diagnosed with Cancer, a nefarious group offered a cure that obliterated the cancer and gave him mutant powers of immortality and invincibility, but he was terribly disfigured in the process. The couple have endured a lot and are excited about starting the next chapter of their lives. That is, until tragedy strikes and sets Wade/Deadpool on a deadly course of revenge.

Deadpool relies on the counsel and encouragement of his roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams, Empire) and pal Weasel (T.J. Miller, Office Christmas Party), as he channels his rage and pain into hunting down his enemies. While Deadpool pursues one foe, a new one emerges in Cable (James Brolin, Avengers: Infinity War), a time-traveling villain from the future. Recall from the first movie that the X-Men made a play to recruit Deadpool into their ranks, with unsuccessful results. That continues in the sequel, with Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead encouraging Deadpool to follow a greater calling, defending the innocent. To that end, Wade intervenes after seeing the breaking news story of Firefist, a mutant teenager whose hands hurl flames. Attempting to corral and mentor the wayward youth, Deadpool must contend with Cable, who has come to eliminate the boy before he grows into the monster he’s destined to be.

Forced to rely on others for the first time, Deadpool’s rag-tag band of misfit heroes includes Domino (Zazie Beetz, Atlanta), a badass whose superpower is simply luck. We see a new surrogate family taking shape for Deadpool, and the movie’s irreverent tone is balanced with intermittent humor and warmth, although this allows the film to get away with questionable plot points at times. Deadpool is likeable because he is relatable and funny as hell. Reynolds has never been on anyone’s Best Actor list, but the guy stays in his lane. He’s funny and charming and can still carry a movie despite the inability to rely on that handsome face.

The Deadpool franchise is hilariously self-aware, breaking the fourth wall and eschewing convention by dismantling the superhero mystique. This self-deprecation is what endears the character to audiences and it’s a recipe for success for Marvel Studios.

Grade: A