Suicide Squad Review

People seem to think I hate superhero films, I know, what fools. I don’t hate superhero films, I just hate bad movies, and lately it’s been less of a Venn diagram and more two circles trying to angrily mate. But okay, this time they have a good director. David Ayer, the man behind the excellent End Of Watch is at the helm, so let’s hope this one isn’t as bad as Batman Vs. Superman.

Suicide Squad stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinneman with Jai Courtney and Jared Leto and is written and directed by David Ayer. The film follows the titular squad of bad guys, furloughed from prison in an attempt to save the world from a cosmic threat.

The acting made Suicide Squad one of the most boring films this year. There was all this big talk of Will Smith being a bad guy this time around, but his version of Deadshot is just like EVERY OTHER WILL SMITH CHARACTER. Margot Robbie is doing a hyper version of her role in Wolf Of Wall Street, this time in smudged make up. And that’s it. I know there are more members of the Squad, but they are almost cardboard cut-outs in comparison to Smith and Robbie.

Cara Delevingne does nothing but wiggle her arms and gyrate her hips as Enchantress, and poor Karen Fukuhara (who I was really looking forward to seeing) has about two lines and is constantly wearing a mask. Deadshot and Harley Quinn get multiple flashbacks to establish their characters, the rest of the crew are given one-line back-stories by Captain Whitey-McStubbly, it’s poor character development. Now let’s turn to Jared Leto. Yes, I know you’re trying to impress everyone with your method acting and your CRAZY antics, but when you are doing nothing interesting on screen, it just looks pathetic. He’s jumping from Heath Ledger to Jack Nicholson and not doing anything to make himself stand out. And despite being all over the marketing, he’s only in around ten minutes of a two hour film.

Let’s talk editing. The films is a choppy mess, flipping from laughter and giggles to child murder with nothing in between. The film is known for having multiple reshoots, and these scenes are so easy to spot, they look completely different to the rest of the film. Whoever did the editing in the final action scene was obviously having a laugh with the audience. The screen goes from barely visible to blinding white. You will get a migraine from the abrupt shifts, guaranteed.

The CGI applied for the big bad guy, it makes Gods Of Egypt look competent. The contrast of the characters is so out of sync with background, it’s like it’s not even trying. That could very much be the tagline for the film, “We know it’s terrible, so we’re not going to try.”

If anyone can actually tell me the plot details of Suicide Squad then congratulations, you’re a liar. Stuff just happens in Suicide Squad, none of it making any sense. There is a blue bolt of lightning shooting up into the air above New York City (apparently in the film it’s been there for three days, but everyone must have ignored it until now) and we never have an explanation for why it’s there. Just like BvS, the film is too edited and overlong at the same time. Anything that would have given context has been stripped out and filled in with lame attempts to ape the Deadpool “rude-words-are-funny” style of humour.

One thing I will say though, the music is great. Not the score, that’s pretty generic, but the use of licensed music is well done. Grace’s “You Don’t Own Me”, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun” all fit the film and are a joy to hear in a cinema sound system.

It’s obvious that everyone at DC doesn’t want to make films. They just feel they have to because The Avengers happened. DC, not everyone gets to be Marvel, and oh honey, you can’t compete with that, you don’t have what it takes.

Score: 2/10 A waste of a good concept and cast.

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X-Men Apocalypse Review

Finally, a superhero series I’m actually interested in, the X-Men. Coming out two years before Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (thought by many to be the pivotal films for the superhero genre) X-Men showed how good superhero movies could be. And after watching Days Of Future Past literally 24 hours ago to be caught up with the entire franchise, now it’s time for the Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Oscsar Isaac and is directed by Bryan Singer. The film follows the young X-Men as Apocalypse (Isaac) the first ever mutant comes back to wreak havoc on the world.

The great cast we all know and love are back. In addition to the old regulars we have newcomers such as Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan and my favourite, Kodi-Smitt McPhee, recast to bring back younger versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler respectively. But even with the frankly amazing cast, there are too many characters. The first X-Men film gave us maybe around seven main mutants to remember. Here we have way too many; Apocalypse and his Horsemen, the older group of X-Men and the younger mutants as well. Lots of critics and fans have been hating on Oscar Isaac for his portrayal as Apocalypse. Sure, he was a bit flat, like if Ultron hadn’t had the brilliant voice of James Spader and we never understood what his powers were, but overall he was fine in the role.

The over-crowding of the mutants brings the other problem of the film to the front, the script. With all these characters are their different sub-plots and character re-introductions; it’ll get to the point where it’s been well over half an hour before you get back to certain characters. Mystique and Nightcrawler’s introduction especially, there are massive gaps in their parts of the story. And due to the odd editing, it seems like the duo are stuck walking around East Berlin for a couple of days instead of going where they need to immediately. To continue with the script, the film isn’t as witty as the ones before, with only a few jokes coming from the naivety of Nightcrawler. Character development, which Days Of Future Past managed to have a lot of, seems to happen here in an instant, with characters changing allegiances in mere seconds, rather than over the 2 AND A HALF HOUR running time.

It’s weird; all I seem to do with superhero films is rant when I come down to writing the review. Even with a franchise that I like, it’s just that saying anything I did like would essentially be repeating myself over and over again. The cast is good, the action is good, the effects are good, but we all know this already from past films. That’s not to say that there aren’t new, interesting side-plots. Quicksilver copies his set-piece run from Days Of Future Past in Xavier’s school, set to Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams and it is honestly the best scene of the film. A scene with Apocalypse, which uses a Beethoven remix (if I’m correct) is also fun for the choice and use of classical music in that scene. It’s just I can’t really remember anything from the rest of the film clearly.

The last thing I want to talk about is the scale of the film. In Days Of Future Past, the final climactic battle takes place on the lawn of the White House. All of the energy of the film was focussed on that space. In Apocalypse, it’s major battle encompasses nearly the entire world. When it’s spaced out it loses something. To make a nerdy analogy; in Doctor Who when the Doctor first faced the Daleks, it was a big deal. Now they appear so frequently it’s lost all sense of emergency. It’s the same here. It feels too big, too dramatic, too weighed down. It just needed to back up a small amount.

In looking back and writing this review, Apocalypse wasn’t as good as I remembered it being. I enjoyed myself while I was in the theatre, but it’s not a great X-Men or superhero film, just good enough.

Score: 6/10 Days Of Future Past was better.

Captain America: Civil War Review

Another month, another bloody superhero film. But after the trainwreck of a film that was Batman Vs. Superman (I know some of you like it but you are wrong) fielded by DC, it falls back to Marvel to show us how superhero films are done? Is it another classic, or was BvS a signal of the beginning of the end for comic book films?

Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan and introduces Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland and is directed by the Russo Brothers. The film follows on after Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the team clashes over whether to be regulated and registered after the destruction they have caused.

The Civil War storyline was the story that got me into Marvel. Heroes fighting heroes was interesting idea and I didn’t think a film could manage to get the whole story onto screen. The film deviates from the comic book a lot and sets up an overarching theme of revenge with a B story, but for me it didn’t work. I understand they needed to move away from the established storyline but their replacement felt a bit flat. It would have been better to just have friend vs. friend instead of linking it to a background character whose been following the Avengers for a while.

While the film is billed as a Captain America film, it feels more like an Avengers film. We have all of the side characters, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision and introduce new characters as well. Black Panther (my personal favourite superhero), played by Chadwick Boseman and the new Spiderman, played by Tom Holland are superb additions and honestly the best parts of the film. Holland get’s the character’s trademark quips and chatterbox attitude down which is fun to listen to, while Boseman nails being a brooding badass and handles himself well in the fight scenes. The film isn’t interested in keeping Cap as its main character, instead jumping to several different characters all over the world.

The action scenes are done mostly well, although a few devolve into close-in combat. We get some beautiful scenes, Black Panther’s entrance/first fight, which shows some lovely fight choreography, or the Pro and Anti-Registration teams showdown is another excellent action sequence, especially when team members powers get utilised. After that though, it all feels a bit worn. We’ve seen Iron Man blast people, we’ve seen Cap throw his shield, give us something new.

The film tries to juggle several things; the main story, a B side, new villains and a romance between two Avengers, but none of them are great, just good enough. It’s the old, great at nothing, good at everything idea. The romance in particular; Marvel have never really been able to pull it off (with Age of Ultron making a half-hearted attempt at something between two teammates). It would be nice to see some improvement.

And just like all the other superhero films recently, it doesn’t have a conclusive ending. Sure, we have a fitting final showdown, but the villains comeuppance feels rather anticlimactic and most of the character development that could have changed up the direction for the series for the better get’s washed aside. The ending that doesn’t fit in with the story that Civil War was trying to tell and feels like the Russo’s were told by Marvel to not rock the boat too much just in case the fifty billion sequels to Civil War wanted to play with some of the more side superheroes.

Reading my review back, it sounds rather bitter. I’m trying not to be, I rather enjoyed Captain America: Civil War, but every time I look back at it, I keep finding more and more flaws. We’ve had thirteen of these films now and apart from The Avengers (mainly due to how it brought all the characters together) we haven’t had anything really excellent. If you like Marvel, Civil War will do you fine, but I wish there was something more.

Score: 7/10 It’s another Marvel film, make of it what you will.

Deadpool Review

The first superhero film of a year saturated with superhero films. We’ve got Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Captain America: Civil War also coming out this year. But first, we must start with this week’s Marvel property, Deadpool.

Deadpool, stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein and TJ Miller and is directed by Tim Miller. The film follows mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) as he acquires mutant abilities, transforming him into Deadpool. He then goes after the men who ruined his life and tries to save his ex-girlfriend.

Deadpool as a comic book character is known for being very post-modernist. He regularly breaks the forth wall, or referencing the comic book writers or other characters, he even uses the comic book panel layout to fight his enemies. It’s his signature style, and thankfully, the script writers, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have got it down perfectly.

The jokes start from the very start, where instead of a credit sequence, vaguely insulting descriptions pop up e.g. “A Shameless Cameo” (Stan Lee) or “An Overpaid Idiot”, (the director, Tim Miller). It’s the first time a Marvel film has gone into full-blown comedy mode, and nearly every joke hits it’s mark. Near the middle of the film, once the spark of the opening has worn off, a fair few of the jokes become very hit-and-miss, sometimes just being profane for the sake of it. It does turn just far enough back around for the ending, but it never really recaptures the excellent comedy of the first half an hour. There are even a few “jokes” to try and win over fanboys (involving the last two superhero characters Reynolds infamously played) that repeat so often it feels a bit tiring.

While many people were angry about Ryan Reynolds being Deadpool (my Twitter feed was full of comic fans spitting in 140 characters), he brings a huge amount of energy to the role. TJ Miller (who was in Disney’s kids Marvel film, Big Hero 6) as his friend Weasel is good in the nerdy sidekick role, with some great lines. There is a small role for famous singer Leslie Uggams as Deadpool’s elderly blind roommate, whose arguments with Deadpool over furniture are hilariously absurd. My favourite character though is Colossus, played by both Stefan Kapičić and Andre Tricoteux. He should be a massive bruiser, but Kapičić’s (excellent Russian) voice, mixed with Tricoteux’s motion-capture create a character who does everything to not hurt his enemies. There is even a bit during a fight where he helps an enemy back to their feet before engaging them again.

The licensed soundtrack is magnificently overdone and entertaining. Keeping with the post-modernist flourishes, the soundtrack is all 80s to early 90s, featuring Juice Newton’s “Angel In The Morning” (which accompanies the opening credit sequence), Salt-n-Pepa, several instances of George Michael and Wham! and DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” (which is the background to a brilliantly over-the-top slow-motion walk). They’re all toe-tapping songs, and fit perfectly into the messed-up mind of Deadpool’s character.

The story flips back and forth through time, which personally got rather annoying for me. We start the film with Deadpool on the tail of the man who ruined his life, before jumping back to before he acquired his superpowers, and then back to the present. The film does this several times and by the third or fourth time it became tiresome. The starting story was the most interesting and it took a long time to come back to this plot thread, instead just adding baggage to his earlier life. Once he gets his powers though, the story picks back up again and we get some gory and blood-soaked fights.

In the end, Deadpool is a better than anything that came out under the Marvel banner last year. I don’t know if it stands up with the best of them (which I think everyone collectively agrees is the first Iron Man) but it will find an audience who want their superheroes to be more foul-mouthed and puerile. Watch at your own discretion, but you’ll definitely laugh with and at Deadpool.

Score: 7/10 Funny, gory and gloriously dumb.

Sin City Double Film Review

Preface

Noir films have always been a genre that I’ve loved. From movies like The Third Man to Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep, I can’t get enough of the hard-nosed detectives, femme fatales and beautiful black and white contrasts. While there have been several films of recent time to try and capitalise on the noir form, I think there has only been a few to properly do it justice, harkening back to the classical days. Two of those films are, Sin City and it’s sequel A Dame To Kill For.

Review

Sin City

Sin City stars Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson and Clive Owen and is directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, with Quentin Tarantino guest directing. The film follows several characters from different stories of Frank Miller’s Sin City series.

The cast list is one of the film’s strongest points. Playing along with the previously mentioned are stars such as Benicio Del Toro, Powers Boothe, Michael Clark Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood and Josh Hartnett. Every actor and actress is giving everything they’ve got on-screen, obviously reveling in the noir feel of the film.

I managed to read a few of the Sin City books before this review, and from what I’ve seen, there are several panels that have been directly lifted from Miller’s books and put in the film, giving the sense of the comics coming alive. The film hardly had any built sets, instead using large expanses of green screen to fill in the background of Basin City. Filmed in colour and retrofitted into high contrast black and white, it’s a marvel of cinematic engineering and wizardry and the film looks so much better for it. There are small inflections of colour, such as character’s irises, police sirens and lipstick, making the sometimes juvenile storytelling a lot classier than it should be.

Sin City takes an anthology approach to storytelling, similar to Miller’s original books. The film takes several stories such as The Big Fat Kill, The Hard Goodbye and That Yellow Bastard and juggles between them, each one linked with the other through characters and their actions. All stories are filled with sex, nudity, bloody violence and gore and a healthy amount of swearing, marking out Sin City as not one for the faint of heart. Some stories are better than others (I’m in the minority that doesn’t like That Yellow Bastard) but all give us fun characters and action-packed sequences.

In summary, a beautiful tour into debauchery and deceit, even if some characters are reprehensible. Why can’t all comic book films look this good?

Score: 8/10 This is cinema as art.

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For

A Dame To Kill For stars many of the same cast, with new additions of Eva Green, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Josh Brolin, Christopher Lloyd, Stacy Keach, Ray Liotta and Lady Gaga with Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller returning as directors.

Just like the original film, A Dame To Kill For takes several of Miller’s stories such as A Dame To Kill For and smaller sections of Booze, Broads And Bullets. Two new stories, The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance were created exclusively for the film, both written by Miller. This marks a problem for the film, as the stories here take place during, before and after the stories in the first film, and even ret-conning a few of them. It’s sometimes confusing, but if you just go with it then you’ll still find enjoyment.

Eva Green absolutely nails it as the title character, Ava Lord. Green plays the femme fatale perfectly, capturing the style of iconic ladies such as Rita Heyworth or Lauren Bacall. Her and Josh Brolin’s chemistry pays dividends, as you totally buy that Brolin’s character Dwight would throw his entire life into jeopardy for one more night of passion with her. Joseph Gordon Levitt also does a good job as Johnny, an original character for the film as a kid gambler who gets in over his head when he cons the powerful members of Basin City out of their money. His story, The Long Bad Night, feels a lot more like a classical noir story, as it doesn’t feature any of Miller’s monster-men or scantily-dressed strippers.

My main problem with A Dame To Kill For though is that it spreads itself too thin. After the first segment of The Long Bad Night and the standout story of A Dame To Kill For, the film seems to lose a lot of its pace with the second part of The Long Bad Night and Nancy’s Last Dance. The last two stories feel very repetitive as we see Johnny playing cards against the same characters and Marv helping someone storm a mansion for the second time during the run time. There are also many subplots during the bigger stories and many side-characters who don’t add much to the film apart from another big name to the list of great actors.

In summary, A Dame To Kill For isn’t as good as its predecessor, but still has some new stories and characters to pull you back into the world of Sin City.

Score: 7/10 Watch for Eva Green’s standout performance.

Dick Tracy Review

Preface

I was looking through a long forgotten drawer in my room and came across a selection of videos and DVDs that I didn’t even remember owning. Filled with mostly forgettable films like The Tuxedo (a Jackie Chan/James Bond knock-off) and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, one film stood out; Dick Tracy. I picked the film out of the drawer and decided to watch it.

Review

Dick Tracy stars Warren Beatty, Madonna, Charlie Korsmo and Al Pacino and is directed by Warren Beatty. Based on the classic 1930s comic strip of the same name, the film follows police detective Dick Tracy (Beatty) as he takes on a colourful array of gangsters led by “Big Boy” Caprice (Pacino).

I did a bit of research on the original comic strip before I started this review, and I can say that the film sticks closely to the characters from the comic in look and design. In the comic, each character is over-designed with a specific feature and colour, making them instantly recognisible. It means with get characters with names like Lips, Little Face, Flattop and The Brow, each one grotesquely different and easily identifiable, with their name being their general description. Praise should be given to the make-up department (who won an Oscar for Best Makeup) who create these fantastic prosthetics that look very similar to the comic strip origins, giving many of the secondary characters memorable looks.

The connection with the original comic strip can also be seen in the overall design of the film. As director, Warren Beatty chose to try and make the film with a palette of only seven colours. This, along with the matte paintings of the skyline of“ The City” (no really, that’s it’s name) makes the film feel just like a moving comic strip, almost fifteen years before Sin City made waves in the film industry for doing the same thing.

Dick Tracy is apparently set in the 1930s, but the film plays mostly as a pastiche of the old Hollywood films from the era of hard-boiled detectives and private eyes. Warren Beatty plays Dick Tracy as the same hard-nosed, soft hearted cop that you’ve seen a thousand times, and Madonna plays the role of the femme fatale Breathless like one of Hitchcock’s infamous blonde beauties, meaning she can’t act but looks great on screen. The film continues it’s pastiche style when Al Pacino (known for his violent gangster roles such as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone from Scarface and The Godfather respectively) turns up as head gangster Big Boy Caprice, chewing scenery and quoting historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington in a bid to look cleverer than he actually is.

But for all the amazing visual design and the large ensemble cast made of great actors, (the previously mentioned Beatty and Pacino, but also Dustin Hoffman, Paul Sorvino, Mandy Patinkin and Dick Van Dyke) the film feels really plastic and fake. The sets look like they could be knocked down by a gust of wind, and the seven palette colour tone, while striking at the beginning, makes the some of the sets interchangeable.

The acting is of two halves, with some actors being monotone and wooden and some overacting their little hearts out. Beatty and Madonna fall into the former category, coming off as boring and disinterested in everything that happens around them. The rest of the cast, mainly the gangsters, police officers and the journalists are just rolling with the daftness of the film and playing it up to eleven, meaning there is this strange dissonance when the two styles of acting meet. But the main problem with Dick Tracy for me is that it just drags. The film is 105 minutes, but it feels a lot more than that. The final act, while thoroughly entertaining, just keeps going and going until you stop caring about the machine gun fire and explosions that litter the final twenty minutes.

In summary, Dick Tracy is fun in the beginning, but begins to slow down past the halfway point. If you’re a fan of the Hollywood films of the 30s, or looking for a comic book adaptation that isn’t about superheroes, then I would recommend it.

Score: 6/10 Looks good, but is a bit forgettable.

Big Hero 6 Review

Despite being part of The Walt Disney Company for just about half a decade, this is the first time (that I can recall at least) Disney has set about creating a feature film using Marvel characters in Disney’s visual style. And, as usual Disney has knocked it right out of the park.

Big Hero 6 is based on the Marvel comic of the same name, but after doing some research it seems that the adaptation is as loose as….well, other superhero films (although those will be getting closer to original source material now that Disney has the rights to the major characters.). The story in BH6 is about a young boy called Hiro, voiced by Ryan Potter, who at age fourteen is already constructing small robots that would rival the stuff being built by scientists who spend their entire lives dedicated to the craft. After a terrible accident (no spoilers in here) Hiro finds himself in possession of a robot called Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit, a machine designed specifically for nursing. But when Hiro finds clues that connect both the aforementioned accident to a science project that he was previously working on which is now being used by a super-villain, Hiro sets of with a War Machine-esque Baymax and a collection of diverse nerds-turned-superhero friends to stop the bad guy.

But even with a set up as basic as it gets (Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne anyone?) Disney gets to give us one of what will be a year of great films. The big action set pieces are given their part to play in the film (brilliant as they are) but it’s the dialogue-heavy parts of the story that give the story some weight, with a confused Baymax trying to help an emotionally distraught Hiro because it’s in his programming to not stop until the patient in his care is back to their usual self. The film doesn’t shy away from the two big M’s in storytelling either, morality and mortality, with the former being an integral part of the end of the first major action set piece.

The supporting cast are characterised well, even if they do not have as much screen time as our two leads. Comedians Damon Wayans Jr. and TJ Miller fill out supporting roles Of Wasabi and Fred respectively, with the latter being a superhero geek with a room full of superhero memorabilia. Disney once again nails the balance of humorous and annoyance (see Olaf from Frozen) with these two, without either dropping into Jar Jar Binks levels of irritation. These two characters, along with Genesis Rodriquez’s manic science girl Honey Lemon, offer the films consistent laughs, however as with many jokes in Disney films, a fair few will be going over the younger viewer’s heads and straight for the adults accompanying them, with an extended “drunk” sequence involving Baymax being a highlight of the film.

Even with these well defined characters, the stand out secondary of the film is Jamie Chung’s GoGo, a woman of few words apart from the occasional cry of “Woman Up!” is essentially a Disney-fied version of Chung’s Miho in Sin City 2. The real meat of the film though is Hiro and Baymax, whose conversations and interactions feel like a blossoming friendship, with conversations taking place in the latter part of the film nearly reducing me to tears.

My only complaint with the film is its length. Unlike the slow-moving Baymax, the film hurtles towards the conclusion of the story like a freight train, leaving me, while thoroughly entertained, feeling like I had missed out on what could have been some brilliant additional scenes. I wanted to see the cast use their superpowers more, I wanted to see the gang working at school, as well as more of the city called San Fransokyo, a depiction of San Francisco by way of Japan. Hopefully Disney will add these in two the definitive sequel, but it would have been nice to see them here.

As with all Disney films, this one comes with its own short film, titled Feast, which is about a human romance from the view of a pet dog, who is obsessed with food. This little film joins other gems such as Paper Man and The Blue Umbrella in being a sweet story that you’ll want to watch again. And as with all Marvel films, this one comes with a cameo of Stan Lee himself, which veteran Marvel viewers will get a kick out of.

In conclusion, Big Hero 6 is well worth your time. Whether you are a child, teenager or accompanying adult, there is a range of jokes and story points that will resonate with people on every level.

Score: 9/10, A solid Disney superhero film, who’s only fault is not lasting long enough.