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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:

ssquad2

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.

ssquad3

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

FILM RATING

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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Comic Book Movies

The Batman | Official Theme By Michael Giacchino Is Here

In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.

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Genre:

Action, Crime, Drama

Release Date:

March 4, 2022

Director:

Matt Reeves

Cast:

Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, Jeffrey Wright

Plot Summary:

The Batman is an upcoming American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film is being produced by DC Films and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is a reboot of the Batman film franchise. The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay with Mattson Tomlin.

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Disney +

Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight | Official Trailer | Disney +

A former U.S. marine, struggling with dissociative identity disorder, is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Drama

Release Date:

March 30, 2022 (Disney +)

Creator:

Doug Moench

Cast:

Starring Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, Gaspard Ulliel

Plot Summary:

A former U.S. marine, struggling with dissociative identity disorder, is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.

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MCU

Opinion | No Way Home Can’t Actually Be Nominated For Best Picture, Can It?

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Yes, I realize that my previous opinion column was also all about superhero movies, but given that we are heading into awards season, the idea of a Best Picture push for Spider-Man: No Way Home seems asinine. I cannot be the only one that feels this way, but after seeing tweets in support of Sony’s For Your Consideration campaign, it sure feels like it.

Let me preface by saying that I loved No Way Home. Not the 1996 Tim Roth movie, which was filmed in my neighborhood in Staten Island, but the latest MCU flick. I should also say that it has felt as if Marvel has tried to lose me as a consumer; Black Widow was horrendous, Shang-Chi fumbled the ball in the third act, and Eternals was hot trash trying to disguise as something it wasn’t: artistic. Had my sister not gone with me to see it, I would have walked out. And the MCU shows have yet to grasp me, I saw WandaVision and was on board until the last episode, got about 10 minutes into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, saw the first episode of Loki, and skipped any of the other shows that came and went.

But who doesn’t love Spider-Man? I even gave No Way Home a B+ in my review, which is higher than I expected going in. Was it the nostalgia? Probably; I can’t act like No Way Home had the smartest plot or anything like that, but it brought back a child-like joy that has been missing in other MCU movies. At the end of the day, there’s a reason Sony can reboot the character every five years, and that’s because Peter Parker is a universally-relatable character. Tom Holland’s iteration has been good, but I’ve always been critical of the young actor outside of his MCU work. I’m sorry, but Cherry is anything but sweet and I don’t even want to try and guess what Chaos Walking was. The Devil All The Time was a promising start to his post-MCU career, but projects like the aforementioned Cherry and Chaos Walking leave such a bad taste in your mouth but I digress. Maybe Uncharted can be his franchise outside of the MCU, but that is yet to be seen.

What Holland was missing in his Spider-Man movies was some growth. The “Iron Boy” conversation has been talked about ad nauseam, but the criticism was fair. What happened to the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” that stuck to street-level crime? Thankfully, No Way Home seemingly opens the door for that to come to fruition in the inevitable next trilogy. To his credit, Holland showed his ability to actually act emotionally for the first time outside of The Devil All The Time in No Way Home. Not that Holland’s acting in a scene with a major loss and the subsequent scene should get him Oscar gold, but it was a great step in the right direction. This is where the conversation about No Way Home and Oscars gets messy. Yes, Holland was great in the scene, but are those two scenes really good enough to bump Andrew Garfield, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Nicolas Cage (who should be nominated for Pig) out of the Best Actor race? I guess the campaign isn’t pushing Holland too heavily, but it felt needed to touch on.

But with all of that being said, does No Way Home even belong in the Best Picture conversation? Look, it was probably one of the best movie-going experiences of my life, even the press screening was eating it up, but favorite films and the best films need to have some separation. No Way Home is great, but it shouldn’t take away the shine from films that feel on the brink like tick, tick… BOOM!, CODA, or Drive My Car for goodness’ sake. All three of those pack just as, if not more emotion than No Way Home did with its one major death.

And on the subject of the emotional beats of No Way Home, do you really care if that character dies if you haven’t seen the previous two movies? Let alone all of the nostalgic gimmicks the film pulls out of its web. Do we really expect that Oscar voters are going to sit through the Raimi trilogy and the two Amazing Spider-Man movies just so they can understand why Alfred Molina is hilariously de-aged in No Way Home? Or why (seemingly) every other joke is a wink directly at the camera? That’s a laughable proposition.

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

We can all agree that Holland is great in No Way Home, but the whole movie is full of good performances. Marisa Tomei and Willem Dafoe are both great, especially the latter, but why can’t we just nominate Dafoe for the right movies such as The Lighthouse or Nightmare Alley? It’s the Pacino situation all over again, and it would be even worse given that Dafoe never gives an “I’m too fucking old” monologue as Pacino did in his Oscar-winning performance in Scent of a Woman. Jokes aside, Dafoe deserves an Oscar sooner than later, but No Way Home feels like the wrong movie at the right time.

“But what about the box office?” Well, it feels like a no-brainer that No Way Home did gangbusters at the box office. Is the ascent to the top six all-time domestically and top ten worldwide impressive given its time in theaters? Absolutely. That accomplishment cannot be taken away from it. But are we just going to act like Far From Home didn’t gross a billion dollars? Add in the leaks and levels of speculation going into No Way Home. Yes, the likely journey to the top five in terms of highest-grossing movies worldwide is impressive, but this isn’t the “little indie that could.”

I’m not an Oscar voter, but at the end of the day, there are more than ten films that feel more worthy of one of the ten Best Picture slots. Oscar-darlings like Belfast and King Richard may be divisive among critics, but it could be argued that both films told important stories that outweigh that of No Way Home. The Power of the Dog may seem like a “pretentious critic” movie, with the pacing of a snail, but it’s another film that handles heavy themes like toxic masculinity in a poetic way. If I had a ballot, as of now, the ten films that would fill my Best Picture category would be (in alphabetical order): Belfast, Bergman Island, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, The Power of the Dog, and The Worst Person in the World.

THE POWER OF THE DOG BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

None of this is to take away from No Way Home‘s accomplishments or what it has done for theaters. When I was at Scream last night people were still flooding into the IMAX theater to see No Way Home. It’s a wonderful thing, but I also think that we are getting ahead of ourselves to think it should be worthy of Best Picture contention because, at the end of the day, it’s taking away attention from smaller, intimate movies that tell stories with equal emotion and are not contingent on knowledge of eight other movies. Don’t these tentpole movies already take enough attention away from the mid-to-small budget movies at theaters?

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