FlixChatter Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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Not every year we get not one but two highly-anticipated DC superhero films where the hype is simply overwhelming. I personally have not been anticipating either movies, and I tried with all my might to avoid watching every damn clip/trailer/featurette, etc the studio releases practically every single week. Well, you already know how I feel about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now we’ve got the DC ensemble cast about supervillains instead of superheroes.

Now, it certainly helps if you have seen BVS, as this film starts out in the aftermath of that film. “What if the next Superman is a terrorist?” intelligence operative Amanda Waller (the always solid Viola Davis) asks a team of officers and general. She argues that mere mortals won’t stand a chance against such formidable foe, so she assembles a team of incarcerated supervillains and send them off on a deadly black ops mission in exchange for clemency.

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The first act of the movie pretty much consist of character introduction: hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), deranged former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic former gangster Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and monstrous cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re to be placed under the command of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), whose girlfriend June Moore (Cara Delevingne) is actually possessed by a witch known as “Enchantress.” If you think that’s already impossible to keep track, we’ve also got Flag’s bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and of course, one of the most [over]-hyped character of the year, The Joker, played by recent Oscar winner Jared Leto. Now, as tedious as the intros may be, it does help someone like me who isn’t familiar with the comics to figure out just who the heck everybody is.

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Though billed as an ensemble cast, the two leads of the film are actually Will Smith and Margot Robbie. The rest are pretty much relegated to supporting roles, with the Joker’s role ends up being nothing more than a glorified cameo. Even as I’m watching the movie, I could just feel the wrath of the Joker’s (or Leto’s) fans seeing how little his screentime is. Now Batman is barely shown here but that’s understandable as this is a movie about the villains. It seems a ton of Leto’s scenes has ended up in the cutting room floor.

Now I wonder if the filmmaker thought that the Joker is such an an overpowering figure that he easily steals the spotlight from everyone else. The longer he’s on screen, the film might no longer be about the Squad, but more about the iconic DC villain. Even the scarce number of scenes between him and his lover Harley (a case of doctor/patient relationship gone terribly wrong) is no doubt one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. I think from those deleted scenes they could probably create a Harley & Joker movie that would likely be a massive hit.

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For a movie built on ‘it’s good to be bad’ principle, I expect a lot of fun with the characters. Well, there were some amusing scenes and some that made me laugh, but overall it’s not that joyful of a ride after all. First of all, none of these supervillains are really that bad in this movie. Heck even one of them didn’t want to perform his abilities because he’s developed um, a conscience. Then there’s the drab and dour look of the movie popularized by DC’s purported *savior* Zack Snyder. Director David Ayer pretty much adopts a similar style, with occasional garish, candy-colored color-scheme in some scenes. Oh and there’s sheer lack of originality in the music department too, pretty much copying Guardians of the Galaxy in its overuse of pop music. Heck they even used the exact same song Spirit in the Sky! At least in Guardians, the music is actually part of the plot involving the lead character, but here it’s just used haphazardly seemingly just to fill up dead space.

That said, I was actually surprised that I wasn’t bored watching the movie despite its 123-minute running time. I guess that would be the one pleasant surprise about this, oh and the fact that there weren’t as many cringe-inducing scenes as BVS. Unfortunately, the more I think about this movie, the less positive I feel about it.

As for the performances, I was quite surprised that I didn’t mind Smith here despite my growing apathy towards him (interestingly enough I also quite like him in Concussion). Courtney didn’t irritate me as he usually did in other roles, and Kinnaman is pretty good despite being a rather vanilla character. It should be no surprise to anyone that the scene-stealer here is Robbie. The Aussie actress is on the brink of overexposure these days as she seems to be everywhere. But she does have talent and personality that matches her beauty.

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Her Harley Quinn is fun to watch when she’s bad, but she also has a certain vulnerability that she lets out when there’s no one around. Now, Leto’s Joker didn’t really wow me. He’s nowhere as phenomenal as Heath Ledger in the role, but I think that’s unfair to expect him to be, simply because the two Joker characters are quite different. Ledger’s more of a sadistic psychopath who in Nolan’s version ‘just wants to see the world burns.’ Leto’s version is a deranged maniac, more of a warped prankster than merciless criminal mastermind. For one, I can’t imagine Ledger’s Joker to ever be in a relationship with any human being, romantic or otherwise.

The third act of the movie is the most problematic. It’s ironic that in a movie about bad guys, the actual villain is irritatingly absurd. Whilst the enchantress starts out rather intriguing, it seems to have gotten more ridiculous as the movie goes on. Nary of a compelling backstory, this diminutive witch spews out an army of blob-headed creatures that are so gross to look at. The finale looks as if Warner Bros and Sony are sharing the same SFX department to create the effects as it looks so similar to the one in Ghostbusters! Just like Man of Steel and BVS, once again the final battle is nothing more than a mind-numbingly loud and bombastic CGI fest.

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Plagued by multiple reshoots, perhaps the movie was doomed from the start. As the writer and director of the movie, it was risky for WB to hire David Ayer, known for modest-budgeted, gritty crime dramas who has never done a blockbuster film. Now, hiring filmmakers with indie-cred can pay off (as in the case of the Russo Brothers for Marvel), but I don’t think it pays off as well here. I wouldn’t call Suicide Squad a huge mess, and it truly IS better than BVS, but really that’s not saying much.

But I think the most disappointing part is that for a movie that strives so hard to be different, the result is pretty much more of the same as the previous DC movies. Though I’m glad I did see it so I can judge it for myself, it’s not something I’m keen on watching again anytime soon. This one makes me dread the other DC ensemble movie Justice League even more, once again promoted in the post-credit scene featuring Bruce Wayne. I have said in the past that I’m more of a DC than Marvel fan, but sadly DC still has SO much catching up to do to match its arch rival.

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So what do YOU think of Suicide Squad?

FlixChatter Review: Terminator Genisys (2015)

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I initially had no desire to see this new Terminator flick; from the trailers that I saw I thought it lacked creativity and originality. But then a couple of weeks ago, James Cameron gave his blessings and said fans of the franchise will enjoy it. Being that I’m a fan of Cameron and love his two Terminator flicks, I decided to give this new sequel a chance.

Ignoring the events of the previous two films, things kick off in the future where John Connor (Jason Clarke), his best pal Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a bunch of soldiers are battling the evil Skynet’s cyborgs. Connor has found a way to defeat the cyborgs and shut down Skynet permanently. But Skynet has a plan in place to win the war, they have created a time machine and sent one of their terminator cyborgs back in time to 1984 to kill Connor’s mom. In order to stop the cyborg and help Conner’s mom, Reese volunteered to go back in time.

Basically this opening scene was meant as a prologue to the first film. Then the film jumps to 1984 where they recreated the opening scene of the first film, we see the Terminator (young Arnold Schwarzenegger) just arrived in L.A. and was just about to kill the three punks but an older Terminator (old Arnold) came to their aid. A fight between the two Terminators ensues and then the younger cyborg was put down.

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We then see Reese arrived at another location in Los Angeles; he’s also met with another Terminator, the T-1000 (Byung-Hun Lee). When he’s about to get killed by the T-1000, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and the old Terminator came to his rescue. If you’ve seen the trailers then you pretty much knows how the rest of the movie will play out, our heroes gets chased by the evil cyborg and they have to destroy Skynet. The only difference here is that Sarah already knows what’s going to happen and she’s already prepared for Judgment Day. This is one of those films that think it’s smarter than it actually is. The writers came up with alternate timeline and time travel and just assume that the audiences have seen the previous movies. Sadly none of it made any sense and frankly I just didn’t care. The point of a reboot is to come up with something new and refreshing, here they just rehash elements of the first two films and threw in some “new” ideas. None of it worked and I was bored halfway through the movie.

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Even though he gets top billing, Arnold was just there to be the action hero and comic relief. The main leads are Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke. We’re supposed to care about these two characters like the first film but the two actors have zero chemistry. Jai might be the blandest actor since Hayden Christensen; he’s one of the current young actors that Hollywood is trying to make into the next big action hero. Clarke is no better, she’s trying to channel the brave and tough version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah from the second film, but sadly she couldn’t convince me that she’s badass. As for the main villain, well if you’ve seen the trailers then you’ve already know that John Connor is the antagonist in this one and he’s also quite bland. If there were a great example of miscasting actors in prominent roles in a big film, this would be it. None of the actors fit into their respective roles. The only person belongs in the movie is Arnold and he’s great.

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On the technical side, the movie is flawless. Director Alan Taylor and his cinematographer did a great job of capturing look and feel of Cameron’s previous Terminator pictures. The 3D effects were very effective; the action scenes were well staged and best of all, no hand held shaking cam action sequences. Speaking of action, the franchise is known for its long action sequences but Taylor somehow decided to edit down the length of each action scenes, with the exception a helicopter chase, many of the action scenes were short and not really creative at all. Again here they tried to rehash elements of Cameron’s films and nothing else.

I guess the trend of this summer’s big films are reboots/sequels and Terminator Genisys is no different. While I thought the concept worked for Mad Max: Fury Road, it didn’t work for this movie. If you’re fan of the franchise then you might enjoy it, for newcomers you might get confused by all the references to the previous events in the past films. My two-and-a-half stars are only for the movie’s excellent Dolby Atmos surround sound and very cool 3D effects. I think it’s time for this franchise to get terminated.

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So have you seen Terminator Genisys? Well, what did you think?

New Releases Reviews: A Good Day to Die Hard and Beautiful Creatures

Happy President’s Day! I’m blessed that I get a day off today, woo hoo. Nobody likes Mondays so it’s always nice to get Monday off 😀

I’ll reserve my weekend roundup until tomorrow, but instead I’ve got a couple of new release movies for you. Perhaps those of you who get today off are considering to see either one of these. Are they worth a watch? Well, read on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

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Well, where do I start? If only the studio and everyone involved take the film’s title to heart and put a bullet right in its head and kill this franchise once and for all!

I’m actually a big fan of the Die Hard franchise mind you, Bruce Willis is always fun to watch as the reluctant action hero. The first three Die Hard are fun to watch, and I even like the fourth one (despite the silly Justin Long casting) and the internet-terrorism theme was quite timely. Now this time, our wisecrackin’ John McClane travels to Russia on a mission to save his estranged son. John hasn’t even made it to his hotel yet from the airport and he soon gets caught in a building explosion and shoot out. It turns out the rebellious Jack McClane is a CIA operative who’s on a mission to prevent a nuclear-weapon heist from happening. The plot involving a high-ranking Russian politician Viktor and a government whistle-blower Yuri (I’m surprised neither one is named Ivan!) is really stretched thin, as the movie is far more concerned with explosions and shoot-em-ups.

You know how young boys like to crash their match cars and destroy things? Well I feel like watching an 8-year-old boy playing with his toys here, except that the boy here (director John Moore) was given close to $100 mil worth of playthings to smash as he pleased. Within the first twenty minutes there’s a huge explosion, guns blazing like there’s no tomorrow, followed by a relentless car chase that never seem to end. I haven’t seen sooo many cars being smashed, crushed, mangled so much so quickly. At first I was laughing at its inherent preposterous-ness but the amusement doesn’t last long. All the deafening clanging and bullets wheezing grow more and more tedious by the minute and I’m afraid not even Bruce Willis self-satisfied smirk can’t save this movie.

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It certainly doesn’t help that Jai Courtney has zero charisma and the father/son dynamic between him and Willis are ridiculously lame. Forget ‘under developed,’ as the screenwriter never even bothered to make any effort to imbue any sense of wit or fun in their dialog. Willis’ usually amusing wisecracks are frustratingly repetitive as he keeps saying over and over again that he’s on vacation. It’s just so stupid as John wasn’t really on vacation as the reason he went to Moscow was to get his son back. Even his famous ‘yippikayay’ line was so uninspired and was delivered kind of under his breath that some people around me didn’t even realize he even said it. Poor Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely wasted as McClane’s daughter, but did she even read the script??

Now, I have to give it to Willis that at the age of 57 he still looks good enough to run around, jump, leap from tall buildings and blazing semi-automatic weapons at bad guys. But it’s getting to be a bore to see him playing himself over and over again. I can’t even tell the difference between his role here and in RED, yet another action franchise that’s fun initially but will likely overstay its welcome.

I get it that a certain ‘suspension of disbelief’ and escapism is to be expected from a Die Hard movie, but I think this one fly waaay past my tolerable threshold. Seriously, the McClane duo are apparently made of rubber as no matter how far down they fall or how hard they smash into things, they both manage to come out unscathed with not even a twisted ankle!!

Director John Moore hasn’t directed anything since 2008, which was the equally dreadful Max Payne (funny that they both got 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). I sure hope he takes a much, much longer directing hiatus after this one for all our sakes. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this tired franchise as it once again tops box office! 😦

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Beautiful Creatures

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When I first saw the trailer of this film, the first thing that came to my mind is ‘oh not another Twilight!!’ Here’s another supernatural teen romance based on a popular young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and of course they’re trying to capitalize on the Valentine’s Day weekend to suck lure young audiences in.

Instead of a rainy small town on the West Coast, this time we’re taken to a small town in South Carolina called Gatlin where there are “twelve churches, one library and no Starbucks.” That’s what narrator Ethan Wate tells us as the film opens. Ethan is a 16-year-old cool kid who likes to read ‘banned books’ and he’s been having a recurring dream that torments him. Suddenly there’s a new schoolgirl in town, a gloomy 15-year-old Lena Duchannes, known as the niece of the reclusive Macon Ravenwood whose family line been living in that town for centuries. Ethan immediately takes a shine to the new girl who reminds her of the girl in his dreams, and soon learns that she’s a witch, or ‘Caster’ as her family prefers to call it. Well everyone in school finds out who she was the day she uses magic to shatter the glass window of their classroom when she was bullied. It turns out that the reason for Lena’s angst (beyond the typical teen angst that is), is that on her sixteenth birthday, she will be claimed for either Light or Dark. The whole film largely focuses on how Ethan could save Lena from going Dark and also figure out how he is connected to her.

Good thing I read Wikipedia before I went to the screening, so at least I know just who the heck are Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson playing in this movie, as those two are the main draw for me in seeing this. Well, Irons plays the debonair-looking Macon whilst Thompson was in scenery-chewing mood the entire time — complete with her amusing Southern accent — as Serafine, Lena’s mother who’s an all-powerful Caster but takes the form of Mrs. Lincoln, the mother of Ethan’s BFF. Viola Davis also has a small but important part as Ethan’s governess of sort who’s a seer who can communicate with the dead. Emmy Rossum on the other hand, seemed to have too much fun with her role as the rebellious Ridley, Lena’s cousin who’s turned Dark for some time, that she overacted in most of her scenes.

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Now, I find the whole black magic stuff quite repulsive, not to mention baffling as so many things just don’t add up. Not having read the books, I’m willing to wager that there are perhaps more depth in them than what’s depicted on film. But that’s just speculation, I’m not that interested in this story to ever find that out. Thankfully, the movie is not devoid of some wit and humor, albeit some of them are quite campy. Director Richard LaGravenese (who also co-wrote the script) infuse some comical aspects into the characters and there are some references to some famous works like To Kill A Mockingbird that I find quite amusing. Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan is actually quite likable and nowhere near as morose or vapid as any of the Twilight boys, though he also likes to stare creepily at the girl he fancies quite a bit (is that what teenagers do these days?? I wouldn’t know). Australian Alice Englert (apparently she’s director Jane Campion’s daughter) could’ve been more captivating as Lena, but at least she doesn’t annoy the heck out of me.

Though I enjoy some of the performances and the beautiful Gothic set pieces and cinematography (the snow scene is quite lovely), I feel that the word I use to describe this movie is laborious. The long drawn-out exposition threatens to grind the movie to a halt by over-explaining things instead of focusing on crafting a love story worth caring for. The young actors have decent chemistry, but their relationship descend too much into melodrama and insipid melancholy. I think the more mature actors are having more fun in this, especially Emma and Emmy, relishing on the chance of being oh so evil.

Overall, I don’t find this adaptation would appeal much to those outside of the young adult demographic. There is a good message of sacrificial love at the end of the film, which I thought is quite refreshing to see. But unfortunately it was soon dampened by an eye-roll inducing cliffhanger finale set up for an inevitable sequel. Heh, I guess it’s too much to ask these days to just have one good movie, but no, the studio seems set to give us (I’m going to use the dreadful words again) sequels that overstay its welcome [sigh]

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Have you seen either one of these films? Well, what did YOU think?