Suicide Squad (2016)

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Director: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevigne

Screenplay: David Ayer

123 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.

 

I’m not the first person to say that the DCEU has had a rough time of it trying to build a shared universe of films. After Green Lantern failed to ignite the franchise, Man of Steel hit with mixed reviews, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got destroyed by fans and critics alike. Then, Suicide Squad was released to…drumroll, please…negative reviews. It hasn’t been easy for DC. Now, it took me some time to get to Suicide Squad just out of pure frustration with the film but I had some interesting views on it.

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After the death of Superman, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, TV’s How to Get Away With Murder, The Help), an intelligence operative, puts forth a plan to assemble a team, Task Force X, led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing, Child 44). When Flag’s girlfriend June Moone (Cara Delevigne, Paper Towns, Pan) is overtaken by a supernatural evil entity called The Enchantress who wishes to unleash a hellish future upon the Earth, Task Force X is called to action to stop her. The team, consisting of Deadshot (Will Smith, Men in Black, Concussion), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Legend of Tarzan), and other criminals imprisoned at Belle Reve Prison, assemble to save the day…and plan their escape.

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I was extremely hesitant to the idea that Will Smith was the central focus of all the members of the Suicide Squad. I didn’t like the idea of the entire movie forming around Smith, who hasn’t been able to carry an action film in some time. After seeing the performance, I take it back. Will Smith’s Deadshot is the most accessible character, a man doing bad things for the best intentions. His arc is one of the more interesting and successfully engaging in the film.

As for Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie owns the scenes that feature her. Robbie’s was one of the more anticipated for the film and another extremely workable and engaging performance. As for her relationship with The Joker (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), it isn’t one that people should pine for. Everyone seems to think that Harley Quinn is a strong empowered woman when really, she is the furthest from, at least in this film. Harley Quinn is broken, insisting that she belongs to The Joker, her Puddin’, and that she would do anything for him. The Joker’s master manipulation is what turned her into what she is: an obedient, sexually exploited, pet. Now, an interesting character indeed, but nothing that women should look to for empowerment.

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Let’s talk about The Joker while we are here, and one of the major problems of the film. Now, I must say that Jared Leto is absolutely amazing in the film, and for the time we see him, I left wanting more, and there’s a reason for that. Leto’s performance takes mere hints from Heath Ledger’s The Dark Knight portrayal and Jack Nicholson’s Batman incarnation, as well as Cesar Romero’s Batman: The Movie from the 1960s. But Leto took a step further, going full method. Stories from the set of dead pigs being shipped as gifts are only scraping the surface of where he takes the character. So what’s not to like? The major problem with The Joker in the movie? He isn’t in it. He barely appears, which would be fine, but the fact that he was cut mostly from the film is a slap in the face to the great work Leto provides. Jared Leto created enemies on set with his batshit work, and there’s nothing to show for it. And it isn’t just him. The entire film suffers in the same way that Batman v Superman does. It feels like a collection of great scenes that don’t fit together. You get the sense that Suicide Squad was gutted even before hearing it confirmed.

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The rest of Task Force X? There is some pretty solid work from Jai Courtney (Divergent, Terminator Genisys) as Captain Boomerang and Adelwale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Trumbo) as Killer Croc (another horribly slashed character who just isn’t given enough to do). Jay Hernandez (Hostel, Bad Moms) does the best he can, but his character just isn’t that well written.

Lastly, we touch on The Enchantress. Cara Delevigne does the best she can, but her villain has no motivation. I spent half the movie just trying to figure out what damn machine she is building, what she is trying to accomplish, and exactly what her minions were. They kind of looked like poop demons covered in hot tar and became mindless drones.

Something very fascinating that the DCEU is attempting to do with this shared universe is how connected it is. Batman v Superman is a direct sequel to Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad inciting incident revolves around a key moment from BvS. I enjoy that each film heavily influences the others.

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The tone of Suicide Squad isn’t perfect, but the film is a lot of fun to watch, which makes up for a lot of the shortcomings around it. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I cannot deny the glaring issues in pacing, editing, and writing that stared me in the face the entire time. For me, however, at least the DCEU is going in the right direction. I found myself liking BvS more than Man of Steel, and Suicide Squad was an increase in quality as well. Issues, yes, there are plenty, but Wonder Woman looks poised to take the quality a further notch up the scale, so overall, at least Suicide Squad was fun. Right?

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

#SpoilerAlert: did anyone else see Harley Quinn’s rap sheet at the beginning says she assisted in the death of Robin? What was that all about?

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton

Screenplay: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

120 mins. Rated R for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.

iMDB Top 250: #68 (as of 7/10/2015)

 

How often does a film get a good sequel 36 years after its initial release? Not often. That’s the answer, and it was my worry when I heard that Mad Max would be continuing the franchise with a fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road featuring a new Max in Tom Hardy (Inception, Child 44). In this new chapter, Max Rockatansky is captured and used as a blood bag by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, Moby Dick, Sleeping Beauty) and his War Boys. When the War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies, X-Men: Days of Future Past) takes Max along on his hunt for Joe’s missing wives, stolen from him by his Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron, Prometheus, Dark Places), Max gets caught in a war on Fury Road and his alliances to only himself must be put into question.

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Director George Miller (Happy Feet, Babe: Pig in the City) proves that age is only a number as he controls the most high-octane action spectacle that I can recall in recent memory. His unique blend of story with nonstop action gives audiences a personal tale of freedom, redemption, and the ability to survive in a world without laws.

Tom Hardy is a great new Max. He doesn’t need to speak often to convey the complex emotions and depression that Max struggles from after the loss of his wife and child. His leadership struggle with new ally Furiosa, played excellently by Theron. Just like the previous films, this film isn’t entirely about Max. It’s a Furiosa movie all the way. Many have complained that the focus should be on Max, but what they should realize is that this series is rarely ever focused on Max. Each adventure is usually told as a legend from another’s perspective and in Fury Road, that perspective is Furiosa’s.

Hugh Keays-Byrne and Joe’s brides, including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) and Zoe Kravitz (Divergent, Dope), all do great work as well, with a standout crazy performance from Nicholas Hoult as Nux.

The usage of 80% practical effects over computer-generated images helps create an astoundingly realistic yet overwhelmingly fantastical view of the apocalyptic landscape. The screenplay, a combination of sequences storyboarded and story written to format it, works so well. And then there is Miller’s reliance on trying new things, like hiring wife Margaret Sixel to edit the film. Sixel has no experience editing, but he entrusted her to use her novice skills to create something new and interesting, coupled beautifully with the furious score from Junkie XL.

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Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best times you will have at the theater this summer and contains some of the best action sequences ever put to the screen. Miller’s creative decision to devise something new rather than fall back on remakes and rehashes helps to bring in fans of the original while attracting new attention from non-fans.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of George Miller’s Mad Max, click here.

 

March 2015 Preview

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Academy Awards. Now we are deep into 2015 and away we go!

As I say every month, these are my predictions based on buzz, trailers, and my abilities at reading into these things.

Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.

 

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Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp, fresh off the news that he will next be helming a new Alien film with Sigourney Weaver, returns to creating culturally significant science fiction with Chappie. Chappie is an artificially intelligent robot created help mankind. Chappie must defend himself from enemies of robot life. I love Blomkamp’s work from District 9 and from the early trailers, I am absolutely stoked for Chappie. Definite good buzz.

 

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Faults

Faults is a cult that has taken Claire into its commune. Claire’s parents hire an expert on mind control to successfully free her from the cult’s clutches. Faults comes from the producers of You’re Next and The Guest, and I certainly enjoyed those films, so I am leaning towards the better side of Faults.

 

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Unfinished Business

Vince Vaughn plays a small-business owner who has traveled to Europe with his associates to close a major deal. On the way, their trip becomes unrailed by sex fetish event and a global summit. Vince Vaughn’s recent work has been a major disappointment but he does have the added abilities of Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco, who could pull this film in the right direction. Still up in the air.

 

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Cinderella

Director Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella reimage follows the standard story of a young girl and her abusive stepmother. When the prince throws a ball inviting every unmarried young woman, Cinderella desperately wants to go, and with the help of a Fairy Godmother, may just get it. I like Branagh’s directing style but I was disappointed by Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. I also don’t like the recent attempts by Disney to make remakes of their classic animated films. Maleficent was one of the better ones (for its alternate take) but I’m still not feeling this one.

 

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Run All Night

Liam Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, The Gravedigger, a high-profile hitman working for the mob, until his son, Michael, has a hit put on him. Now Jimmy and Michael has to survive the night filled with mob bosses, gunfire, and lots of explosions. I have found that Neeson’s low-budget action flicks are pretty hit and miss. I’m inclined to enjoy his engagements with Ed Harris. The higher part of the bubble here.

 

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Do You Believe?

This is essentially Valentine’s Day with religious intersections. Not going to be good. And don’t get me that whole thing about religion. I’ll point out, I’m a fairly religious guy, but these kinds of movies mostly fall flat by bad production and poor abilities from the crew. Skip.

 

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The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Insurgent follows the further adventures of Beatrice Prior after she escapes from the city with Four and the other lawbreakers. I was a tremendous hater of Divergent. I thought it was boring and unoriginal and riddled with plotholes. I’m willing to give Insurgent the benefit of the doubt but I’m still not recommending it yet.

 

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The Gunman

Equal parts Taken and an attempt to make American Sniper, The Gunman stars Sean Penn as a Special Forces member with PTSD who must save the woman he loves. Sorry, but I’ve seen Taken already.

 

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Get Hard

Will Ferrell returns to raunchy comedy with Get Hard, where he plays James King, a millionaire who is going to prison for fraud. He enlists Darnell Lewis to train him for jail. I think it looks kind of funny but Kevin Hart, while hilarious, is usually a movie-killer. I’m thinking better, though.

 

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Home

Home is essentially an animated version of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and while I love Jim Parsons, I do not love Rihanna, and I’m not feeling this one.

 

And here we are at the end. Final tally:

Best Bets: Chappie

On the Bubble: Faults, Unfinished Business, Run All Night, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, Get Hard

Likely Misses: Cinderella, Do You Believe?, The Gunman, Home

 

Enjoy yourself at the movies this month. See Chappie, and maybe take a bit to catch up on the Oscar films as it is pretty sparse this month. See you in April.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent Goes Ape-shit!

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So, for those of you that are closely invested in every freaking young adult franchise currently giving us high hopes, here we go again.

The trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent popped up today (or maybe yesterday…don’t know, don’t care) and I have to say, it looks really crazy. The first trailer here is more of a teaser than anything. It doesn’t really give us any word on the plot and instead goes for some dream-like action sequence involving our Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) and a burning box of death floated and undulating in the sky. Again, some of you read the books, I just haven’t had the time.

There are some things to note here for moviegoers. First of all, I should point out, I was not a fan of Divergent. Click for my review if you want to know more on that.

I’d like to point out as well that apparently, Tris has become much more hardcore parkour in this installment as she runs around leaping into burning floating buildings, I feel like the natural progression of action powers is leaping here.

I also want to mention that characters we thought were gone are here again, and that both excites and leads me to believe we are looking at a more dreamlike film in which case her new Milla Jovovich powers make more sense.

Anywho, I have a link to the trailer below so check it out. Let me know what you think and are you excited for The Divergent Series: Insurgent? Did you enjoy Divergent? Do you like the direction this series is going?

The Divergent Series: Insurgent parkours onto screens March 20, 2015.

Divergent (2014)

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Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet

Screenplay: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor

139 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

 

I wanted to like Divergent. I’ll repeat myself, I wanted to like Divergent, but the movie gave me nothing with which to like. I’m going to start my review today with a quick analysis of the plot, and then list all of the reasons why it isn’t the film I wanted it to be.

Divergent is the story of Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendents, The Fault in Our Stars) a teenage girl who exists in a dystopian landscape of the near future. In this interpretation of the future, there are five factions each defined by literally one trait. There is Abnegation, a group of those who practice selflessness (of which Tris is born into). There is Amity, those who choose peace over all else. There is Candor, the truth-tellers. Let me repeat that, there is a group of people that tell the truth, and that is it. There is Erudite, those of intelligence. There is finally Dauntless, the strong and brave (of which Tris envies). The Dauntless are presented as apparently a mixture of parkour and West Side Story. There are also the factionless, who have been sent away from their group from disobeying or failure. Then, there is Divergent, someone who embodies multiple factions over one. The people of future Chicago do not care for Divergents as they are unpredictable. Tris is, at the start of the film, about to perform in a test that will determine where she should be placed. It is basically a big sorting hat, with one major exception: the test doesn’t really matter because you can just choose whichever faction you would like to join permanently. Tris takes the test and discovers she may be a Divergent, so she chooses Dauntless just because. There she meets Four (Theo James, TV’s Golden Boy, Underworld: Awakening), a Dauntless leader who may just have a few secrets of his own. As she becomes more accustomed to Dauntless life, she also becomes more susceptible to being discovered as a Divergent, and the entire story is about the testing she will do to prove herself a worthy Dauntless.

So anyway, that is the movie.

My first problem with this movie was the whole test thing having virtually no effect on the story in the way that anyone can choose any faction. I just found it an extra-convoluted way of fashioning a plot point.

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Then, there is this faction breakdown, how can there be only five traits worthy of having a group of people and why would you want to keep these groups separate? I just don’t get the gravity of the situation and how this helps whatsoever.

Four’s character is kind of stupid. So if you haven’t seen the posters, avert your eyes, because [SPOILER ALERT] Four has a giant tattoo on his back of the five factions, which essentially tells us that he is a Divergent as well. Perhaps he would’ve been better off with a tattoo of a big bulls-eye, since that is pretty much what he announces to the world with it.

This isn’t really a complaint, but I did find it odd that this film is like a whos-who of people who have gotten it with Shailene Woodley in other movies, with Miles Teller (from The Spectacular Now) as an adversary, and Ansel Elgort (from The Fault in Our Stars) as her brother. Blech.

I want to point out the pacing as well, this movie drags on like a son of a bitch. By the time revelations start coming on, I had completely stopped caring and I just didn’t want to hear any more about these factions.

The performances are good (or merely as good as this poorly written script would allow) but none in particular stand out because the characters are too flat and one-dimensional. Now, I haven’t read the book series, but I should hope we get to flesh these characters out in another installment.

The look of this film is pretty much the unused sets and costumes from The Hunger Games movies. I could go on and on about the superiority of that franchise at this point, but you probably can already tell that.

Now, I did enjoy the Lord of the Flies vibe I got from the Dauntless faction, if they would just spend less time bickering and trying to kill each other and more time fleshing out these nameless bodies before bickering and trying to kill them.

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All in all, Divergent is a disappointing and underwhelming beginning to this franchise, which has already set markers for a remaining three films (the final book will be split into two films, because fuck, why not?). Perhaps all of these confusing and convoluted plot points make more sense in the book, so I won’t trash the novel because, as I said before, I haven’t read it yet, but as far as films go, this is a very boring and lazy fantasy.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Neil Burger’s Divergent? Did you pass the test or choose to be factionless to get out of the theater? Let me know!

June 2014 Preview

Just putting this out there again, I have not seen the following films. I have prided myself on being pretty good at guessing a movie’s place on the awesome-meter (shut up, it’s a thing!), so I have compiled a list of the film releases in June of this year for you to make the best possible choice when heading to the theater this month.

 

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars premiered last week at the Seattle International Film Festival, and will have its wide release on June 6th. Based on the popular novel by John Green, Fault tells the story of Hazel (Shailene Woodley, TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Divergent), a terminally-ill girl who meets Augustus Waters at a support group meeting. Their relationship changes everything for Hazel. Now, this film irked me a little with its bad marketing earlier this year. I trust Shailene Woodley, who has proven herself in the past. I feel like this will be the teen release of the year, so if you read the book, I’m feeling good about this release.

 

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22 Jump Street

I was actually surprised and happy to discover that 21 Jump Street, the 2012 action-comedy based on 1987’s television star vehicle for actor Johnny Depp, was pretty damn funny. It looked to me like the kind of film with all the best moments in the trailer. I admit I was wrong. As far as a sequel goes, under any other directors I would be nervous, but returning director team Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, this year’s hit The Lego Movie) alongside writer-star Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum flexing his funny bone again, I have to say I am excited. Here’s hoping it won’t be another Hangover sequel fiasco.

 

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

This was another film with a quality that shocked me. I initially thought How to Train Your Dragon was going to be likable but not loveable with either two much focus on cuteness or too much focus on goofiness. Again, happily surprised.  I’m going to say go for this sequel, which sees Hiccup and Toothless as they find themselves in the middle of a bigger conflict between humans and dragons. As much as I would’ve liked to see the film take the direction of the book series a little more (the second book was entitled How to Be a Pirate and, understandably so, would’ve caused a pretty sizeable risk for the filmmakers in terms of its overall plot), I like the idea of turning this into a film trilogy and being so adult while still being a family film. Kudos.

 

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Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood is back! It has been three years since J. Edgar’s release, a film that labeled Eastwood as tamer than hoped, but I have always been impressed with the actor-turned-director’s time behind the camera. There hasn’t been a film of his that I was disappointed in. This is a new risk for Clint as well, a musical. I love seeing musicals from directors not usually tapped for such projects. I am stoked to see his take on the four men who grouped together to become The Four Seasons.

 

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Think Like a Man Too

Wow, another sequel to a 2012 film, and I have to say, the first film didn’t interest me enough to actually sit through it. I will say this, if you truly liked the first film, you may enjoy this installment, but it seems like a gimmick sequel (a film that takes implausible measures to bring the characters into wacky situations) and I don’t think it has the chops to seem less stupid. A Vegas bachelor/bachelorette party? I think it will sink, and I wouldn’t want to be in the theater watching it sink.

 

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

If you had asked me back in early 2007 if I would be here in 2014 discussing a fourth Transformers film, I would have responded with awe at the specifics of your question. After I got over it, however, I would be shocked to say yes. Don’t get me wrong; the first Transformers was a long-shot hit and I personally had fun with the sequels, though I accept their collective non-greatness. Transformers: Age of Extinction picks up a few years after the finale of Dark of the Moon, following Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg, Boogie Nights, 2 Guns) and his daughter (Nicola Peltz, The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls) who come across Optimus Prime and get involved in a plot involving, shockingly, Dinobots. Never thought we would see them, but I guess it is time. This will be the first Transformers film without the involvement of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). I’m personally excited about a possible new direction for the series. I was getting a little tired of LaBeouf’s constant freaking out and screaming. Wahlberg has the potential to carry this franchise to success.

 

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Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

I seriously had to look this movie up. I have no freaking clue what this is. I guess it is based on a sitcom. I’ll make this pretty simple. If you have heard of the show and liked it, you may want to see. Otherwise, stay the hell away because it sounds like a turd. There, I said it. A turd.

 

 

 

There you have it, June 2014 in Preview. Final tally:

Best Bets: 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys

On the Bubble: The Fault in Our Stars, Transformers: Age of Extinction

Likely Misses: Think Like a Man Too, Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie

 

As before, I gave you the tools. It all depends on you to use them. What do you think? How do you feel about this month’s upcoming releases? What are you most looking forward to? Comment below.

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