John Lui Film Correspondent & Boon Chan Media Correspondent recommend

Film picks: Deadpool (M18)

Ryan Reynolds (right, with Morena Baccarin).
Ryan Reynolds (right, with Morena Baccarin).PHOTOS: WALT DISNEY COMPANY

DEADPOOL (M18)

108 minutes/ 3.5/5 stars

Whether you find this superhero origin story a worthwhile watch depends on how you feel about Ryan Reynolds (with Morena Baccarin) at maximum snarkiness. It can be hard to take. He has little of the goofiness or self-deprecation of other good-looking actors with a comedic bent.

Special forces soldier Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is diagnosed with incurable cancer.

A shadowy group, headed by Ajax (Ed Skrein), offers a cure, but it comes with a catch.

When you are a "Merc with a mouth", as the mercenary Deadpool is supposed to be, you need comic foils. Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Wilson riff in a passable Judd Apatow-like fashion when Deadpool is not spouting pop-culture references to the camera, mid-battle. Even the sex scenes with Vanessa (Baccarin) become fodder for laughs. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick wrote the very funny, genre-stretching Zombieland (2009), so they know a thing or two about finding absurdity in blood and gore. Deadpool has some of the wit and satirical bite of the 2009 movie - just enough to make up for the snark.

John Lui


PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

BROOKLYN (NC16)

112 minutes/ 4/5 stars

This precisely observed and frequently funny film proves that there are no sappy stories, only sappy writing and directing. The protagonist in this drama set in the 1950s is a woman torn between two men - one in her homeland, Ireland, and another in America, her adopted country.

This adaptation of Colm Toibin's novel of the same name could have played it safe by making the movie a romance piece. But screenwriter Nick Hornby, author of novels About A Boy and High Fidelity, finds in the journey of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan, above right with Emory Cohen) a larger story about what it means to belong. With this role, Ronan drops a leading-lady slump, after starring in Byzantium (2012), The Host (2013) and How I Live Now (2013), all dull affairs which attempted to place her in mainstream pigeonholes. She belongs to that category of actress who are at their best with directors confident enough to let them underplay, to speak as much with face and body as with dialogue.

John Lui

SPOTLIGHT (NC16)

129 minutes/ 5/5 stars

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe articles uncovering the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, this thrillingly ambitious movie lays out how dozens of paedophile priests in Boston not only escaped arrest, but were also shuffled to parishes where they preyed on more children. The Globe's reportage would show how, at all levels, the city had failed its young.

Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery (all playing journalists) and Stanley Tucci (as lawyer Mitch Garabedian) perform flawlessly, but the triumph of this work, nominated in the Best Picture category at the Oscars, lies in what it avoids.

Nobody makes a speech about the nobility of news reporting or complains about the sacrifices journalists make.

The movie avoids making villains of people, instead going after the harder target: Complacency.

John Lui


PHOTO: SHAW

THE MONKEY KING 2 (PG13)

119 minutes/ 3.5/5

In this sequel to the 2014 hit, Journey To The West finally gets under way. Released by Tang Sanzang (Feng Shaofeng) from imprisonment, the monkey king Sun Wukong (Aaron Kwok) is tasked to escort the monk on his pilgrimage to collect scriptures. Along the way, Sun has to protect his master from the soul-sucking White Bone Demon (Gong Li, above) even as she pits teacher against disciple with her cunning manoeuvres. This is an improvement of leaps and bounds over the first instalment. In just two years, the CGI has advanced to the point where the depictions of a ferocious tiger, a horse- eating dragon and the White Bone Demon as a billowing surge of smoke are remarkably realistic. Kwok, who played the Bull Demon King in the first outing, takes over from Donnie Yen and is persuasive as the proud simian deity, while Gong is resplendent as the silky villain.

Boon Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline '(No headline) - JOPICKS19'. Print Edition | Subscribe