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Comic Book Movies

SUICIDE SQUAD (2016)

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joker-scolds-harley-uncropped-196377Dear Suicide Squad marketing team: What was with all the neon splattered, eye-popping publicity? The bells, the whistles and the jokey trailers and bubblegum sizzle reels?

Because once the ‘Worst. Heroes. Ever.’ were finally unleashed upon the planet, it was clear that Suicide Squad was no raucous super-villain caper. Instead, it shared the same murky tone as Warner Bros’ previous DC laughfest, Batman v Superman.

And it shared something else with BvS – the critics hated it.

It’s as if every hack raced out of a screening to try and outdo each other with their witty take on how soul-crushingly awful it was.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been so bored by summer sequels and reboots, but I enjoyed Suicide Squad’s messy two hours. The standout for me? Actress-of-the-moment Margot Robbie’s acrobatic, demented performance as Harley Quinn:

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Robbie’s Harley is one of a crew of criminals handpicked by brutal government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to fight future non-human threats.

Recruited from the same maximum security hellhole are Will Smith as lethal assassin/caring father Deadshot; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who has a fiery Aztec god inside him; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); and Aussie Tom Hardy lookalike Jai Courtney, whose thing is to throw boomerangs. If they step out of line – boom! A mini-explosive has been injected near their brain stems.

Trying to command the squad is soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), who is in love with squad member and archaeologist Dr June Moone (Cara Delevingne). She is possessed by a powerful entity named Enchantress, who goes rogue and becomes the metahuman threat Waller feared. Along with her magical brother Incubus, Enchantress starts turning people into zombies that look like walking blobs of caviar.

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Out of the talented cast, only Delevingne has received near-unanimous criticism. But it’s not her fault she gets stuck in a bikini and made to gyrate around in front of a CGI light show, or that her naturally deep, smoky voice is manipulated to sound, as one reviewer put it: ‘like Vanessa Redgrave on rhinoceros tranquilizer.’

Will Smith brings high-wattage star power, while Davis gives a masterclass on what an actor can do with a really thinly drawn character. As for Robbie – she may be in the squad, but she’s in a league of her own. Robbie’s superpower is almost to be super-engaging, to the point that articles have again and again tried to analyze her appeal.

Meanwhile, Jared Leto’s Joker doesn’t want to watch the world burn so much as rule the world with his ‘queen’ Harley by his side.

While some people felt cheated that Leto only gets about 15 minutes of screentime, others – perhaps already repulsed by the fortysomething alleged method actor’s reported on-set antics – will argue that 15 minutes of Leto goes a long way.

But it certainly means the Joker’s relationship with Harley is under-served.


Fans may be familiar with reports of the profound difficulties the production faced, and the movie does have plenty of problems with plot, structure, etc.

But as Brandon wrote about BvS, audiences don’t turn to comic books movies for intricate stories or well-developed romantic sub-plots.

The dominant genre in our time, comic book movies are about seeing characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker come to life, seeing how they are portrayed and how they interact with each other.

The Verdict

Suicide Squad’s greatest strength is its charismatic and gifted actors. They are all deeply committed to genuinely intriguing characters – both iconic and more obscure. It’s a shame the rushed script doesn’t give them room to breathe.

3/5

I live by the sea near my original hometown Portsmouth – the UK’s only island city! (That makes it sound way better than it really is.) When I say I’m ‘near Portsmouth’, I’m actually over the water on the Isle of Wight. My parents moved here when I was three. They took me with them. I loved books and wanted to be a writer or an actress. When I was ten my dad told my mother to stop buying me books because he didn’t want me to get “big-headed”. I left school at 13 (I have something in common with Jennifer Lawrence!) and then shortly after I went back to The Mainland. Amazingly, I went to university, where I acted in plays. I wanted to be an actress but stage fright nixed that. I’m currently stranded back on the Isle of Wight. After university, I went to live with my dad again. I was his caretaker through his depression, cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. He died October 2018. Slow to the Party was born the following year. I’d blogged on and off for a bit, but it helped me after his death to dedicate myself to it, while I rebuild (hopefully) my new life. I’m always a little slow to the party. Stuff just gets in the way.

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Marvel / Disney + Release – WandaVision | Official Trailer 2

TV-Series Spinoff from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Containing the characters Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff and The Vision. Plot is unknown at the time.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Drama

Release Date:

2020

Director:

Marvel | Disney

Cast:

Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Kat Dennings, Kathryn Hahn, Randall Park, Teyonah Parris, Shane Berengue

Plot Summary:

TV-Series Spinoff from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Containing the characters Scarlet Witch/Wanda Maximoff and The Vision. Plot is unknown at the time.

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Comic Book Movies

Was ‘Avengers: Endgame’ The MCU Conclusion We Wanted Or The One We Needed…

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‘Avengers: Endgame,’ has moments where I had to pinch and remind myself that this is a film about comic book superhero characters. There were times, however, when I was punching the air in sheer delight, moved to the edge of the sofa through wracked nerves and sobbed uncontrollably when it all got a bit too much, and all this in a film that I have seen 3 or 4 times now.

I mentioned in my recent review of Infinity War that I was a relatively late convert to the MCU. I always thought they were entertaining enough but ultimately a little silly and just full of smug cos-playing wisecrackers. Infinity War changed all of that, after watching it with Marvel devotees in a packed cinema, I suddenly understood that these films mean a hell of a lot to people and I was being drawn into it all, so much so that I started buying the blu-rays and rewatching them all and I finally understood the devotion. 

Watching Endgame for the first time at a packed screening with my son, (who never had any doubt about the MCU) it was once again a piece of event cinema, things that truly are rare. It was a special day.

Yes, the film is long, but not really that you would notice. I remember thinking that the first meeting with Hulk was at the start of the movie, but it’s actually 35 mins in, the film keeps up a cracking pace. Besides, there are a lot of loose ends to tie up here. I will try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but as if this is the last hurrah for many of the characters, the original 6 Avengers (Iron Man, Cap, Thor, Black Widow, Hulk and Hawkeye) are put front and centre in this one, it is their film. The exception is Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man who was absent from Infinity War but here offers the majority of the comic relief.

The beauty of this film is that by and large, it is a conclusion, unlike some franchises that have ambiguous endings that allow for further development, here the story for the majority is satisfyingly ended. The loose ends are neatly tied, and the potential for other characters is firmly in place. 

I’m not bothered too much about the science, it’s not why I watch these films. I am here for the spectacle and there is absolutely bucket loads here. From a storming revisit to 2012 New York, too a heartbreaking trip to Vormir. There is so much going on but it is brilliantly put together and is excellent storytelling that is immensely engaging.

The MCU films, especially those of the last 5 years or so have demonstrated social awareness, whether that be ‘Black Panther,’ or ‘Captain Marvel’  breaking down barriers for diverse casting and superheroes, with Endgame being no different. The depiction of mental health issues that Thor goes through, is played partly for laughs granted, but are also an interesting change of direction for the most other-worldly Marvel character. Hemsworth himself seems to enjoy the challenge of showing a completely different side to the God of Thunder.

There is also the brief girl-power moment of the final battle that has received some criticism of it clumsy handling, but better to have a brief moment like that than not at all, and once again shows that the female characters of the MCU are equal to all their male counterparts.

Now onto the final battle. If I’m honest it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Battle of Wakanda from Infinity War but it is still enthralling and contains one of the greatest punch the air moments of quite frankly, any film. 

The Portals scene warrants a new paragraph, it is simply majestic and for me, it is right up there with “I’m Spartacus”, George punching Biff and Lando flying the Falcon out of the 2nd Death Star, whilst engulfed in flames at the end of Return of the Jedi. Perfectly accompanied by Alan Silvestri’s rousing score, it is a moment that feels the MCU was building too. Even more touching that Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther is first out, especially when you consider that he led the charge alongside Cap in the Battle of Wakanda.

At this point the Cinema was literally bouncing, don’t think I’ve experienced anything like that in a UK cinema before. It was simply stunning. 

I won’t say any more about the battle, most people have seen it now and know the outcomes but I will leave it there. The final 30 minutes of the film is like one long epilogue, but it’s beautifully done and like I said at the start ties up many of the loose ends.

If I am nitpicking there are a couple of moments that didn’t land. I’m never a fan of jokes that in time will age a film. Of course, it is always great to see Korg but the Fortnite gag won’t mean much in 10 years, likewise Hulk doing the dab with his young fans, but these are minor quibbles.

This is Cinema at it’s most communal, at it’s most epic. It is packed full of perfectly choreographed action, a plot that isn’t too full of itself. There are moments of unexpected humour, emotional deaths of favourite characters (some you may have expected beforehand, one definitely not) and all in all it’s a film that makes you feel good. It does also make me feel quite emotional, as the end credit roll call (which is a bit like a theatrical curtain call) is one final reminder of the effort that has been put in over the years simply to thrill and entertain, but also a reminder that this will be the last time this phenomenal cast will all be together in one place.

What started as a Cinematic experiment concludes with flying colours. The MCU will continue after Endgame for that there is no doubt, if it can just reach half the level of thrills and excitement then there is lots to look forward to.

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‘Black Panther’ Director Ryan Coogler Releases Official Statement Following Chadwick Boseman’s Passing

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Director Ryan Coogler took to Marvel.com to share a heartfelt tribute to the now late ‘Black Panther‘ star, Chadwick Boseman. The world was recently shocked by the news of Boseman’s passing. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer nearly 4 years ago. In Coogler’s message, he mentions that Boseman truly valued his privacy and that he too was unaware of the hardships Boseman was going through behind closed doors. Chadwick Boseman was 43.

Before sharing my thoughts on the passing of the great Chadwick Boseman, I first offer my condolences to his family who meant so very much to him. To his wife, Simone, especially.
 
I inherited Marvel and the Russo Brothers’ casting choice of T’Challa. It is something that I will forever be grateful for. The first time I saw Chad’s performance as T’Challa, it was in an unfinished cut of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I was deciding whether or not directing BLACK PANTHER was the right choice for me. I’ll never forget, sitting in an editorial suite on the Disney Lot and watching his scenes. His first with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, then, with the South African cinema titan, John Kani as T’Challa’s father, King T’Chaka. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to make this movie. After Scarlett’s character leaves them, Chad and John began conversing in a language I had never heard before. It sounded familiar, full of the same clicks and smacks that young black children would make in the States. The same clicks that we would often be chided for being disrespectful or improper. But, it had a musicality to it that felt ancient, powerful, and African. 
 
In my meeting after watching the film, I asked Nate Moore, one of the producers of the film, about the language. “Did you guys make it up?” Nate replied, “that’s Xhosa, John Kani’s native language. He and Chad decided to do the scene like that on set, and we rolled with it.” I thought to myself. “He just learned lines in another language, that day?” I couldn’t conceive how difficult that must have been, and even though I hadn’t met Chad, I was already in awe of his capacity as actor. 

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Director (Ryan Coogler) and Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther)..Photo: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

I learned later that there was much conversation over how T’Challa would sound in the film. The decision to have Xhosa be the official language of Wakanda was solidified by Chad, a native of South Carolina, because he was able to learn his lines in Xhosa, there on the spot. He also advocated for his character to speak with an African accent, so that he could present T’Challa to audiences as an African king, whose dialect had not been conquered by the West. 
 
I finally met Chad in person in early 2016, once I signed onto the film. He snuck past journalists that were congregated for a press junket I was doing for CREED, and met with me in the green room. We talked about our lives, my time playing football in college, and his time at Howard studying to be a director, about our collective vision for T’Challa and Wakanda. We spoke about the irony of how his former Howard classmate Ta-Nehisi Coates was writing T’Challa’s current arc with Marvel Comics. And how Chad knew Howard student Prince Jones, who’s murder by a police officer inspired Coates’ memoir Between The World and Me.
 
I noticed then that Chad was an anomaly. He was calm. Assured. Constantly studying. But also kind, comforting, had the warmest laugh in the world, and eyes that seen much beyond his years, but could still sparkle like a child seeing something for the first time.    
 
That was the first of many conversations. He was a special person. We would often speak

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Costume Designer Ruth Carter and Director Ryan Coogler on set with Winston Duke (M’Baku)..Ph: Matt Kennedy..©Marvel Studios 2018

about heritage and what it means to be African. When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. “They not ready for this, what we are doing…” “This is Star Wars, this is Lord of the Rings, but for us… and bigger!” He would say this to me while we were struggling to finish a dramatic scene, stretching into double overtime. Or while he was covered in body paint, doing his own stunts. Or crashing into frigid water, and foam landing pads. I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game.  All while putting in the work. And work he did. 
 
He would come to auditions for supporting roles, which is not common for lead actors in big budget movies. He was there for several M’Baku auditions. In Winston Duke’s, he turned a chemistry read into a wrestling match. Winston broke his bracelet. In Letitia Wright’s audition for Shuri, she pierced his royal poise with her signature humor, and would bring about a smile to T’Challa’s face that was 100% Chad. 
 
While filming the movie, we would meet at the office or at my rental home in Atlanta, to discuss lines and different ways to add depth to each scene. We talked costumes, military practices. He said to me “Wakandans have to dance during the coronations. If they just stand there with spears, what separates them from Romans?” In early drafts of the script. Eric Killmonger’s character would ask T’Challa to be buried in Wakanda. Chad challenged that and asked, what if Killmonger asked to be buried somewhere else?


 
Chad deeply valued his privacy, and I wasn’t privy to the details of his illness. After his family released their statement, I realized that he was living with his illness the entire time I knew him. Because he was a caretaker, a leader, and a man of faith, dignity and pride, he shielded his collaborators from his suffering. He lived a beautiful life. And he made great art. Day after day, year after year. That was who he was. He was an epic firework display. I will tell stories about being there for some of the brilliant sparks till the end of my days. What an incredible mark he’s left for us.
 
I haven’t grieved a loss this acute before. I spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take. 
 
It hurts more to know that we can’t have another conversation, or facetime, or text message exchange. He would send vegetarian recipes and eating regimens for my family and me to follow during the pandemic.  He would check in on me and my loved ones, even as he dealt with the scourge of cancer. 
 
In African cultures we often refer to loved ones that have passed on as ancestors. Sometimes you are genetically related. Sometimes you are not. I had the privilege of directing scenes of Chad’s character, T’Challa, communicating with the ancestors of Wakanda. We were in Atlanta, in an abandoned warehouse, with bluescreens, and massive movie lights, but Chad’s performance made it feel real. I think it was because from the time that I met him, the ancestors spoke through him. It’s no secret to me now how he was able to skillfully portray some of our most notable ones. I had no doubt that he would live on and continue to bless us with more. But it is with a heavy heart and a sense of deep gratitude to have ever been in his presence, that I have to reckon with the fact that Chad is an ancestor now. And I know that he will watch over us, until we meet again. 

– Ryan Coogler

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