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Suicide Squad – Review

9 Aug

This is a review I’ve been looking forward to writing for a long time since Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated movies of 2016. A lot of my hopes for a really good modern DC live action movie was almost completely destroyed after seeing Batman v. Superman earlier this year. It was a muddled mess of a movie that was far too long and didn’t have enough in the ways of story or entertainment. Based on the large majority of reviews I’ve seen about Suicide Squad, I was ready to accept that this was going to be another stinker. Fortunately, and despite what seems to be the popular opinion, I had a really good time with this movie even with all of its glaring, painfully obvious flaws.

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With supernatural beings and metahumans becoming more known, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) creates a special ops unit called Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, to complete missions that are to sensitive and controversial for official branches to handle. This squad is made up of expert assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), the beautifully dangerous psychopath Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the mutated Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), former gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and loyal soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen). While hosting a plethora of differences in opinion, technique, and beliefs, this unlikely crew must band together to stop the overwhelmingly powerful abilities of the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), whose main goal is to once again have the human race fear her, while also keeping the anarchic doings of the Joker (Jared Leto) in check.

I want to get the obvious problems with this movie out of the way, because while I liked this movie overall, there are some pretty large mistakes that were made. For one thing, some of the dialogue is beyond stupid. We all understand that the Suicide Squad is made up of villains. The characters didn’t have to refer to themselves as “the bad guys” multiple times throughout the movie. If they did it once, that would’ve been fine, but they said it over and over again. That’s just one example of the writing. A lot of the characters are also extremely underutilized. The little bits we got of Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana were all really cool, but they never actually end up doing much of anything in the movie, which is very disappointing. How can you make a movie about an entire squad of characters and not give every member their time to shine? Enchantress also doesn’t work too great as a villain, and my main reasoning for this is that she doesn’t really interact with any of the members of the Suicide Squad until the very end. I like a villain that has a very known and active presence, and Enchantress just didn’t command the screen like she should have.

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Now that all that gross stuff is out of the way, I can talk about what made Suicide Squad as fun as it was. The characters that do get attention all knock it out of the park. Viola Davis is menacing as Amanda Waller, and was easily one of the most interesting characters in the entire movie. Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Joel Kinnamen also are spot on with their roles, and I was surprised that these characters actually develop very well individually and also in their relationships with one another. Character development was something Batman v Superman really lacked, so luckily this movie picked up the attention to detail a little bit. Jay Hernandez was surprisingly a really great character and might actually be the most fulfilling character, rivaled only by Smith’s story arc. Finally, everyone was curious what Leto was going to do with the Joker, and I’m relieved to say that he has taken the character and really made it his own. This is a Joker that’s taken lessons from cartel members, while also making Arkham Asylum his getaway of choice. He stole every scene he was in and I can’t wait to see more of him.

One of the most important things a movie can be to me is entertaining. It’s great if a movie looks beautiful, has deep themes and strong characters, but if it fails to draw me into it what’ the point of even watching? More than any of the flaws Suicide Squad had, it had me entertained for most of the run time. There was plenty of action, more humor than the DCEU has yet to see, and an overabundance of energy that kept me into the story and the action. I hate to keep referring back to Batman v Superman, but indulge me. That movie had action and energy at moments, but there was so much muddy stuff to get through that by the time things were starting to pick up that were relevant to the story, I was already tired of it. Suicide Squad was a much more compact movie and every scene had a place and significance. While the middle of the movie got a little slow and drawn out, it soon found its way again and the flow of the plot resumed normally. If a movie can hook me, it’s already done a very important job.

I can see why a lot of people may not like this movie considering it has a lot of obvious problems with the writing and some of the characters. That being said, I can’t really understand all of the hate that being thrown at it. Suicide Squad isn’t a perfect movie, but, to me, it was a whole lot of fun. There’s plenty of action, good humor, and a strong sense of style. Comparing it to Man of Steel and Batman v SupermanSuicide Squad might be my favorite entry in the DCEU to date. If the characters were written better and the story was tweaked a little bit, this movie could have been something great. As it stands, it’s an entertaining summer movie that I’d love to see again.

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I Am Legend – Review

16 Oct

In 1954, author Richard Matheson released a novel by the name of I Am Legend, which was a surprising hit and played a big part in developing the zombie genre, which now seems to be infecting all sorts of entertainment mediums. This novel also inspired many different movie remakes being 1964′ s The Last Man on Earth, 1971’s The Omega Man, and finally, in 2007, I Am Legend, the first film to directly reference the original source’s title.

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In 2009, it was believed that a new strand of the measles virus could be used to cure cancer. In 2012, virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) is the only person left alive in New York City, and possibly the world, because of this “cure.” There rest of humanity has been turned into carnivorous mutants called hemocytes, or “darkseekers.” With his trusty canine companion, Sam, Robert scours the ruins of Manhattan for food, more importantly, a potential cure for humanity, so the world could hopefully return to something similar to what it used to be.

There are a lot of positive and only a few negative points to I Am Legend. I guess the first thing I should mention is Will Smith’s performance, which truly is the backbone to this film. Much like Tom Hanks in Cast Away and Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Will Smith is the only human on screen for most of the film. There are a few characters in flashbacks and at certain other points in the movie, but everything really rests on Smith. Let’s just say he’s come along way from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His performance can often times be funny, but also incredibly human and tragic. His inner anger and loneliness that is vented throughout the movie actually becomes the most interesting part. Of course, I can’t forget to mention that Sam may be the best animal character since the animals in Homeward Bound.

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The biggest flaw that this movie has, in my opinion, are some god awful CGI scenes. The effects and composites in the evacuation of Manhattan look great and the desolate New York City looks great too, but for some reason or another, the darkseekers look absolutely horrible, especially in closer shots. The designers had a lot of material to work with in making these creatures look cool, and they get a really nice introduction, but everything else they do looks like something out of an early Xbox 360 game. I don’t understand how the scenery can look so great using CGI, but the motion capture creatures look terrible. It makes me think that the less of them that was seen, the better the movie would be.

Even with the terrible looking creatures, the real force of the movie is the idea of possibly being the last person on the planet. There are great scenes where Smith’s character talks to mannequins that he has set up in a video store. These scenes are anything but funny, and it really shows the mental decline that can happen with the situation in a very unique way. The entertainment of this movie doesn’t come from the scenes of horror, but from the human emotions that are the foundation for the entire story.

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The problems with I Am Legend, are mostly in technical failures with the mutants. They looks sloppy, to say the least, but they mostly just look like unfinished products of the something that is cool. Every other aspect succeeds in surprising ways. The hopelessness that you feel watching this and the isolation of Smith’s character all feel very real and powerful. I’ve heard complaints that there are a lot of differences between this movie and Matheson’s novel, but I can’t really complain about that since I never read the book. Still, to those who haven’t had the chance yet, check out I Am Legend.

Bad Boys & Bad Boys 2 – Review

13 Sep

When people hear the name Michael Bay, it is usually greeted with eye rolls, hearty laughs, or jokes about explosions. That being said he has almost become a cartoon of the Hollywood lifestyle. But before all the jokes he was a music video producer, which definitely accounts for aspects of his style. Then, in 1995 he entered the movie scene via Jerry Bruckheimer and and Don Simpson with Bad Boys.

Mike Lowry (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) are two tough guy, trash talking cops operating out of Miami. When their biggest bust is stolen from the police station and a witness (Téa Leone) is threatened in a connected incident, Mike and Marcus make it their personal mission to protect her, reclaim their bust, and stop the foreign drug lord (Tchéky Karyo) that is responsible from making the biggest deal of his career.

I will say that Bad Boys was a good starting point for a hit-or-miss action director like Michael Bay, unfortunately, this film lacked in so many areas that I can’t recommend it. The whole thing felt hollow from the jokes to the action to the characters. I enjoy brainless action films, especially when they make me laugh, but they have to have worthwhile action to make up for everything else. Bad Boys had a few nice action set pieces, but not enough to carry it.

The chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is really great, and usual their banter is funny but it gets old really fast sometimes. In the middle of an otherwise good action sequence, we are forced to listen to them argue. They argue enough in the downtime to be funny. Don’t ruin these action scenes with too much talking! Also, these fun scenes are too few and far between for them to be spoiled, but the film makers managed to.

Michael Bay has talent. I firmly believe that he does, and there are moments where I see it glimmering through the mess. Some camera angles are interesting and well thought out, but when the rest of the movie is unappealing, than what’s the point? He really shines in the final action sequence when the movie finally begins to pick up, then lo and behold it’s over.

 

I guess that bottom line for Bad Boys is that it had potential, but it was wasted. I went in not expecting too much, but got a lot less in return. With that in mind I hoped that Bad Boys 2 would make up for its sloppy predecessor. With a run time of two and a half hours, it better be pretty damn entertaining.

 

Mike and Marcus are still the same trash talking cops even after all the years of being on the force. When the largest import of ecstasy is being brought into the country via a Cuban drug kingpin Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà), Mike and Marcus are tasked with not only stopping the shipment, but also with protecting Marcus’ sister (Gabrielle Union) who is also a DEA agent.

Bad Boys 2 is bigger, louder, crazier, and all around better than the original. This is exactly what I wanted the original one to be. Sure, it has its fair share of problems, but it is still a very entertaining action film that made me laugh and also provided some excellent action set pieces.

 

The first thing I thought of was the late, great Tony Scott sitting Michael Bay down and giving him advice on how to make Bad Boys 2 a better film. I’m pretty positive that never happened, but there are many stylistic similarities to this film and Tony Scott’s. There are crazy yellow and orange filters mixed with over the the top kinetic camera work. I have a soft spot for this style, so automatically I was enjoying myself.

The jokes are ten times better this time around, and the chemistry between Will and Martin has stayed strong. Unfortunately, the movie does suffer from a main problem that the first one had. When there’s a crazy action sequence going on, it keeps getting broken up by the two main characters bickering. Again, it’s funny to a point, then it just gets annoying.

While the action may be more entertaining and the story more intriguing, it is still way too long, and some of the acting is horrible. Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Jordi Mollà, and Joe Pantaliano knock it out of the park. Gabrielle Union on the other hand is pretty terrible.  It seems Bay just needed a beautiful woman, kind of like Téa Leone in the first film.

 

Michael Bay’s first attempt at a feature film was flawed beyond repair, but by the time its sequel showed up, he already matured as an action film maker. The Bad Boys films are a mixed bag, but one half of the package is very entertaining. I always think that you need to watch the first of a series to appreciate the second or third, but if you don’t share this logic then skip the first Bad Boys all together and move on to the second.