Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ (They’re Really Sorry About Batman v Superman, Folks)

Is it too late to get writer/director David Ayer to take over Justice League?

In the aftermath of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the world just got a lot more dangerous, and cooperative heroes are in short supply. Shady government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has been working on a solution: repurpose a team of known bad guys to secretly take down worse threats. There’s just three problems with this. First, Waller may not have as much control as she thinks she does; cue the sinister music. Second, her “suicide squad” is looking for opportunities to turn the tables on their overlords, preferring the leadership of villain Deadshot (Will Smith) over a designated military yes-man. Third, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is on the team, and the Joker (Jared Leto) doesn’t like to share.

In a summer season full of box office misses and underperformers, Warner Bros. is still holding out hope they can get their DC Cinematic Murderverse (DCCM) buzzing by showcasing their rogue’s gallery. Based on the comic of the same name, it seemed to be a good idea, but with complaint-heavy Dawn of Justice behind them and Wonder Woman still almost a year away, the pressure is on to not only make money but create a fan base as rabid as Marvel’s to ensure future feature films have a waiting audience. While early reviews may be savaging the movie before most DC and comic movie fans can sample the goods, Suicide Squad succeeds far more than it fails, especially when compared to its 2016 theatrical peers.
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Review: ‘Star Trek Beyond’ (out of the darkness)

An effective job of bringing across the crew dynamic and the values of the original series glosses over plenty of story shortcomings and conveniences.

The USS Enterprise is three years into its five-year mission — exactly where NBC cut the original television series short. The bridge crew is considering some hard choices regarding their Starfleet careers as they arrive at a distant deep space outpost, but everything is put on hold when a refugee arrives to get help. Her crew is trapped on a planet deep within a nebula that obstructs both visual and broadcast communications, and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is tasked with taking his ship into uncharted space to rescue them. In true Star Trek fashion, of course, things aren’t exactly what they seem, and it will take everyone working together to escape the nebula planet, defeat the villain responsible, and save all of Starfleet before the end credits roll.

Besides Star Wars, no other science fiction franchise has a bigger following or is more widely recognized than Star Trek (although “Doctor Who” is nipping at its red shirts). The first J.J. Abrams reimagining of an alternate Jim Kirk and company — simply titled Star Trek — played well to a new film franchise, but future installments were almost derailed due to a derivative and ho-hum sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, rehashing the Khan character made famous by Ricardo Montalban before being marginalized by Benedict Cumberbatch and a convoluted script. Fast and Furious director Justin Lin not only picks up duties from Abrams but manages to infuse an overblown storyline with the humanity and galactic unity Gene Roddenberry envisioned fifty years ago… opening the door for plenty more sequels should the ticket sales continue.
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Review: ‘Ghostbusters’ 2016 (answer the call, Kevin)

Wonderfully reimagined escapism — fun for fans new and old.

On the eve of receiving tenure at a prestigious school, physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) discovers an old book she co-wrote is selling on Amazon; self-published by her former friend and co-author Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), the contents could jeapordize her career. In the time since Erin and her parted ways, Abby and her co-worker Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) have continued work into paranormal investigation — including cooking up a few homemade gadgets — but after an investigative opportunity provides their first actual recorded proof of ghosts, the three scientists are set on a path to work together. Enter Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a city transit worker and NYC history buff who’s also had a recent ghostly encounter, but something else found in the subway tunnels suggests to the team that the sudden appearance of so many ghosts may not be a natural phenomenon.

It’s finally here: the thing that will ruin the happy memories and childhoods of anyone who remembers the 1984 hit Ghostbusters…or so we’ve been told. The truth is far simpler; the Ghostbusters intellectual property is valuable, so a new movie was eventually going to be made. No one wanted a repeat of the lackluster Ghostbusters II (especially Bill Murray), but neither the cast nor a script could be counted upon. With the passing of Harold Ramis, there was no chance of getting the old gang back together, so new directors were tapped to come up with fresh ideas. It wasn’t until director Paul Feig pitched an all-female team rebooting the entire franchise that the project moved forward, paving the way for what may end up being a lucrative summer blockbuster.
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Review: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ (a dog-driven buddy bonding flick)

Zany, manic, and heartwarming.

Max (Louis C.K.) believes he’s the luckiest dog in New York City, as happy as any dog could be with his owner…until she brings home another dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet), an enormous rescue pet who immediately encroaches on Max’s status as top dog. As both try to out-alpha the other for dominance, an opportunity at a dog walk park sets both animals on a collision course with back alley strays, the city animal control, and an human-hating underground led by an angry white bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart). When neighboring dog Gidget (Jenny Slate) discovers Max is missing, she mobilizes her own rescue efforts, but can Max and Duke reconcile their differences to evade capture and get home before their owner returns?

From the filmmakers who brought you Despicable Me and Minions comes a story of pets who are far more sophisticated than they let on to their owners. In a clear separation from the way Disney or another studio might handle a story like this, no punches are pulled concerning the anatomy of these characters; they eat, they pee, and they poop…even on camera. They can get as dirty and gross (within reason) as any actual pet, and the effect ups the realism factor in spite of the fact all the animals are talking to one another in plain English. The movie’s real secret, however, is the expert balancing of humorous, outrageous, and serious moments that entertain throughout the film. Coming in on the heels of box office juggernaut Finding Dory, this was no easy task, but a grand marketing campaign hasn’t hurt the film’s chances, either.
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Review: ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ (the long Congo con)

You can take the man out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the man.

Everyone knows the story of John Clayton, the infant raised by apes to become Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) after his shipwrecked parents died. The story begins long after John has returned to England, residing in his the estate of his parents with the love of his life, Jane Porter (Margot Robbie). John’s quasi-retirement comes to an end when he receives an invitation from Belgian King Leopold to see his accomplishments in Africa; after initially refusing, an American named George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) begs him to reconsider, explaining that the king is broke and his so-called accomplishments are likely due to enslavement of the Congo. With Jane refusing to stay behind, the three meet in Africa only to be attacked Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) in an attempt to fulfill a deadly contract.

The first act of The Legend of Tarzan isn’t particularly exciting, but it does set up important back story as well as establish the characters; once the ball gets rolling, the film never looks back. It’s of worthy note that the mandatory handling of John/Tarzan’s time in the jungle as a human child being raised among apes is done efficiently and mostly with selected flashbacks, keeping this from becoming an origin story and more like a return-to-form. Some of the film’s climatic elements may seem a bit farfetched, but it reveals how the King of the Jungle leverages his heritage to target those who’ve earned his ire.
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Review: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (you still wanted a sequel, right?)

Story matters. Well, maybe not to these guys…

It’s been twenty years since the War of 1996, when locust-like aliens tried to destroy humanity and claim the Earth’s resources for their own. Since defeating the invaders, Earth has reverse-engineered the alien tech and unified the planet into a global defense force…preparing for the day when the invaders might return. Faster than you can say “Happy Fourth of July,” Earth is again tasked to survive, and only the actors they could get back from the last movie can save us…along with a few new folks and some damnably convenient intel exactly when it’s needed. If you thought the first ID4 was crazy-random bringing characters together, you haven’t seen anything yet!

Too many cooks spoil the soup? Semester-long college classes could be held explaining how bad the science is in this movie, but hey, it’s just a summer wannabe blockbuster, right? If all you want are special effects and explosions, that’s all here, along with the mandatory back stories on how your favorite characters have been getting along since the last movie. So…what’s the problem? “Franchisitis.” When the next wave of aliens (with no actual innovation improving upon their existing technology) proceeds to show Earth how pointless twenty years of preparation was, the writers press the deus ex machina button to create the solution of all solutions…if they can just survive long enough to use it! Ugh.
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Review: ‘Therapy for a Vampire’ (this is not normal)

An almost-sweet period vampire horror comedy set in Austria and spoken in German…with English subtitles.

It is September, 1932 in Vienna, Austria. Count Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) seeks out Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer) for help after making a generous donation. He’s a biteless and bored vampire who despises the undead wife he settled for, Countess Elsa (Jeanette Hain). The count pines after the centuries-lost vampire who turned him, Nadila, but his hope is renewed when he notices a painting in Freud’s office. The renowned therapist has been employing the services of Viktor (Dominic Oley) to illustrate the fervent dreams of other patients, but Viktor has also been substituting the woman in such drawings with a fantasy image of his headstrong girlfriend Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan). Lucy knows Viktor would like if she presented herself more femininely, but the Count has his own ideas about making over Lucy when he decides she must be he reincarnation of his precious Nadila…but first, he’ll have to distract both the countess and Lucy’s lover by pairing them up for a promised painting — capturing an image of a vampire that can never be captured. What could possibly go horribly wrong?

Wunderbar! With few exceptions, here’s a vampire films that nails the classic tropes first before allowing the comedy to flow organically from the botched situations. From a nosey neighbor listening in on the young lovers to an abused house servant who tries to muscle in on the count’s action, the film takes its time setting up and executing the plot. The effects are subtle but amazing, from blink-and-you’ll-miss-it movements to flight, wall crawling, fangs, claws, pupils widening at the sight of blood, and missing reflections. While the count becomes a bat to get about and is susceptible to obsessive counting, the countess prefers her wolf form and is distracted by her vanity, giving each vampire a unique presentation. It’s a game of husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, and mortals and vampires; everyone wants something different but no one is willing to compromise. Oh, and there’s lots of blood and people dying…because VAMPIRES.
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