Film Brief: Suicide Squad

suicide-squad-posterSuicide Squad is the most hyped movie of the year by far, so despite the poor reviews I took it as my duty to go see it. Plus, it looked kinda fun.

The funny thing is that although it was terrible, it wasn’t worse than any other latter-era superhero / comic-based movie.  Which is to say critics can’t find the line between good and bad action flicks.  2/10

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For a real female superhero movie, I suggest La Femme Nikita.  And for a real evil-doer movie, Dead Calm.

Film Brief: Deadpool

Deadpool - poster smallI was even more set against seeing Deadpool than I was Hail, Caesar!, but, as with the Coens’ picture, something switched.  Deadpool has legs, and I thought how bad could all the male crotch/ass shots be?  As it turns out, bad, but also not frequent or disturbing enough to ruin the picture.  So we’re left with a fairly original, somewhat fun, somewhat boring, plotless film.  I am really on the fence with this one, but the lack of a compelling story was causing my mind to drift, so a marginal thumbs-down.  5/10

Comparison Notes (Recommended): Guardians of the Galaxy, Natural Born Killers, Fido, John Dies at the End

 

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton on Charlie Rose

The early returns on Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Birdman are in, and it is hitting universal praise.  I’ll be seeing it soon enough and will report on it then; in the meantime, the director and veteran actors Michael Keaton and Edward Norton appeared on Charlie Rose.  And check out the Charlie Rose website for other interviews with luminaries inside entertainment and out — there is no better talk show.  If you bear with an annoying 30-second ad, you will be treated with an alternate trailer at the beginning of the segment.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I

Guardians of the Galaxy poster smallThe year of the blockbuster continues.  Guardians of the Galaxy was reasonably entertaining, but dragged down by the requisite draggy action sequences-in-lieu-of-a-good-plot that plagues most of these big action pictures.  But with fun characters, cool visuals and a good sense of humor it was definitely a kick above most blockbusters released this year.  And the action pieces were, for the most part, above average as well — you could even say exciting.

Guardians was best when sporting its classic tunes — I only wish there had been more.  And something I find ironic is that the period music integrated very naturally with the futuristic sci-fi action on the screen, as contrasted with the complete inability of American Hustle or Dazed and Confused (for example) to achieve the same effect, despite being set in the period belonging to their respective soundtracks.  Classic songs were affixed superficially to those broken movies.

One thing that did bother me about Guardians was the sense the entire movie through that its primary purpose was to generate sequels.  And, sadly, the filmmakers rather gallingly confirmed that inevitability by stating so before the end credits rolled.  Still though, enough fun for me to recommend it; kids and action/superhero fans will eat it up.  And I do love that “Marvel” animation at the beginning — it’s getting better all the time.  6/10

Guardians Galaxy - text block

Film Brief: X-Men: Days of Future Past (3D)

X-Men poster - QuicksilverA couple very cool scenes in the first half are killed off by utter boredom in the second.  Highly rated on Rotten Tomatoes, so maybe I’m missing something — but I doubt it.  And how many times do we need to see someone strapped down to a chair while his “other consciousness” is doing battle in another time and/or place?  We saw that in The Matrix; is it possible for filmmakers to come up with anything original?  4/10

 

 

Notes on Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3D)

It’s pretty simple: if you like these kind of movies, you will like this one.  If you are as bored with the latter-era comic-book superhero genre as I am, you won’t.  It’s not that I don’t like superhero-action movies, but I am finding most of these movies to be re-treads of one another.  And it doesn’t help when you know that no matter how bad things get, your hero and their core entourage will always survive.

Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans

Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans

Nonetheless, I liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier  — for about the first half.  I found it dramatic enough, and entertaining, and I particularly liked the women in it: Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, and Emily VanCamp.  But the second half degenerates into trite, formulaic action movie sequences.  The whole secret organization-within-a-secret organization idea is tired, and why do big action films so often feel that they need to lay forth some supposedly high-minded moralistic message?  Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times:

For what is frustrating about this “Captain America” is that it’s saddled with the defects of its virtues. It’s a product of the highest quality, but at the end of the day that’s what it is: a machine-made, assembly-line product whose strengths tend to feel like items checked off a master list rather than being the result of any kind of individual creative touch. “Captain America” is everything a big budget superhero film should be — except inspired.

Yep.  5/10

Watch Watchmen?

I had mixed feelings about Watchmen (2009).  At 162 mins., it’s draggy here and there and overall not the greatest success.  But it has a number of good sequences and cool visuals, and I dig its vibe.  Especially fun is the intro credit sequence.  As far as the spate of comic-book movies goes, you could do a lot worse: Watchmen was better than last year’s The Avengers, and I think it captures more of the pure essence of the Batman comic books than the recent, overrated Christian Bale triptych itself does.

Time’s Richard Corliss wrote:

Both admirable for and cramped by its fidelity to the Moore vision, this ambitious picture is a thing of bits and pieces.  Yes, the bits are glorious, the pieces magnificent. Still, this Watchmen is more like a swatch-man.

It’s been too long for me to provide a numerical rating, but I give Watchmen a qualified recommendation: watch the preview first.  If it appeals to you and you like the genre, go for it and settle in for a long one.