REVIEW: THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

suicide squad 2

bars

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

Sequel/reboot finds Task Force X being sent to the small South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy the ominous Project Starfish. Col. Flag (Joel Kinnamen) leads the charge, with the returning Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a host of other freakish, reluctant heroes. They take heavy loses and some are captured, as we soon find out they were a distraction for the real squad, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone). Now this new squad must make a few rescues along the way to accomplishing their mission.

Flick is written and directed by James Gunn and is basically a very simple plot dragged out over 132 minutes. It’s over two hours of juvenile humor, excessive gore—simply for the sake of being gory—and random action sequences, till we get to our last act confrontation with a giant alien starfish. It gets tedious quick as the colorful cast of characters meanders around for two hours before finally reaching their objective. There is a lot of blood and bullets along the way and that would be fine if it didn’t feel so made up as it goes along and rambles more than tells a story. A lot of the humor falls flat, the overblown CGI gore gets tiresome and the only thing that holds our interest somewhat is that Gunn has at least given some fairly ridiculous characters a little weight and depth. Even the climactic battle with the giant, alien starfish Starro feels like it could have used a bit more of the WOW factor. Iffy CGI blood aside, this foul-mouthed super hero flick—which wouldn’t be a bad thing if there was more wit to the vulgarity—has some top notch SPFX, some decent action scenes and a cast that is far better than the disappointing material. And speaking of that cast…

Once again Margot Robbie is the perfectly cast Harley Quinn in a sadly underwhelming movie. Harley is sidelined for a portion of the film in a silly and thankfully brief romance with a South American dictator sub-plot and once she does rejoin the squad, she is more of a second banana and seems to be written more dim-witted than her usual sarcastic cleverness. When will this actress get the flick she and her portrayal deserve? Elba is good as Bloodsport, who is basically a re-written Deadshot, as Will Smith wisely had had enough. Jai Courtney is fun as Boomerang, in a far too small part. John Cena is fun as the patriotic to the point of insane Peacemaker and one wishes he had some better dialogue and moments. KInnamen is fine as Flag and Davis is solid as a returning Amanda Waller. Real standouts amongst the new cast members are Stallone hilariously voicing the simpleton brute that is King Shark, David Dastmalchian is fun as the dour and sympathetic Polka-Dot Man and Daniela Melchior gives some nice heart to Ratcatcher 2. There are also a host of familiar faces in small supporting roles, such as Michael Rooker as Savant, Nathan Fillion as TDK and Alice Braga as rebel leader Sol Soria. A really good cast in a sadly underwhelming movie.

Overall, James Gunn writes and directs this flick like a giddy 13 year-old and, for the most part, not in a good way. He chooses vulgarity over wit, crudeness instead of cleverness and wastes a really good cast with a meandering mess of a superhero flick. As the Deadpool movies prove, R-rated superhero flicks can be a blast, but this one takes a real simple, basic story and stretches it out over two and a quarter hours. It’s tedious and rambles most of the time, with only a few standout sequences, such as Harley Quinn’s acrobatic and violent escape from captivity and Polka-Dot Man’s brief but triumphant moment in the last act. It’s a slight improvement over David Ayer’s awful original, but not by much and Gunn has shown he certainly can do better with his witty and fun Guardians of the Galaxy flicks and his gory, nostalgic Slither. Very disappointing.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 (out of 4) underused Harley Quinns

birds of prey rating

**************************************************

bars

REVIEW: BLACK WIDOW (2021)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

black Widow NEW

bars

BLACK WIDOW (2021)

Not only was Black Widow a long time coming in terms of Natasha Romanoff getting her own solo feature, but it is another highly anticipated flick postponed for over a year by COVID 19 shutdowns. Now it has arrived and we finally get some of the answers we were looking for, and a bit of closure.

Film opens with a sequence from 1995 detailing Natasha’s (Ever Anderson) fleeing from America with her Russian sleeper cell family and being taken with her sister Yelena (Violet McGraw) to be part of the Black Widow training program. Film then resumes between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run after helping Cap and Bucky escape. Nat is about to go off the grid, when her long lost sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) pulls her into a mission to stop the Black Widow assassins training program, still being conducted in the Red Room, by a man she thought she killed, Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Determined to stop the Red Room and Dreykov once and for all, reunites her not only with Yelena, but with her sleeper cell mother and father, Alexei “Red Guardian” Shostakov (David Harbour), a super soldier and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), a Black Widow herself.

Flick is directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Eric Pearson and story by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson. It has some nice emotional resonance and gives us a glimpse into how Natalia came to be the hero we know her as from the previous MCU films. The first act is strong and features a lot of action, as Nat reconnects with Yelena and are on the run from a metal-clad master assassin known only as Taskmaster, who perfectly mimics the fighting styles of his enemies. The pace here is quick, though not too fast and the action can surprisingly be a bit brutal, pushing the limits of the PG-13 rating. It’s the second act where the film loses some momentum, as Nat and Yelena break Alexei out of a Russian prison and then travel to a pig farm in St. Petersburg to reconnect with Melina, who has vital information as to the Red Room’s whereabouts. It’s here the story grinds to almost a halt, as the “family” catches up, voices their issues and awkwardly tries to bond again. Despite some nicely placed humor in the first third, here a few of the attempts at laughs fall a bit flat amidst the melodrama. The film thankfully picks up again as a betrayal brings the foursome’s enemies to their door and we head into the climactic last act in the flying Red Room complex, where Natasha comes face to face with her past, Dreykov and Taskmaster. There is a lot of action and the FX are spectacular, though there are a few weak CGI fire effects that stand out a bit. As a whole, Black Widow plays more like a Daniel Craig Bond film than a superhero movie, until the more FX heavy climax. It has a nice emotional center giving the character of Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, some closure and us some answers and details, that have been left out of her story thus far.

The cast all shine here. Scarlett Johansson gives one of her best performances as Nat and imbues her with some emotional depth that she wasn’t always afforded as a second banana in the other flicks. It’s too bad her story arc is at an end, as it would be nice to see her in solo action again. That being said, if this is a passing of the torch, Florence Pugh does a great job as her “sister” Yelena Belova, who takes up the mantel in the comics. Pugh is funny, tough and handles the action quite well. She has star quality and hopefully Yelena returns in future projects. Harbour is good as Red Guardian, though the character’s dialogue tends to ramble a bit and it stands out, especially in the slow middle. Weisz is good as the matronly Melina and gets to have a few action moments herself. Winstone is efficiently villainous as Dreykov, a far more grounded villain than we are used to in these films, but the veteran actor makes him lethal. William Hurt is briefly seen as Ross, O-T Fagbenie is a Natasha ally named Mason and Olga Kurylenko appears in a role that won’t be spoiled here. A good cast and it was nice to see Johansson get to say goodbye (?) to Romanoff with a really good performance and her own flick.

Overall this was a solid entry in the MCU. It’s a more down to earth action/adventure than the previous films, at least unit the last act, and gives us some of the details we’ve been waiting for. It has a good cast, with hints at the future, as well as, finally filling us in on Nat’s past. If anything holds this flick back, it’s that the middle act slows down momentum considerably and a few of the character interactions, during these sequences, come across as more awkward than effective. It recovers for it’s last third, with an action packed finale and some nice closure for the Romanoff character. Maybe not quite living up to the large expectations set by the long wait, but far from a disappointment. Stay through the credits for an especially shocking post credits scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Black Widows

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: THE GREEN HORNET (2011)

 

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

THE GREEN HORNET (2011)

Seth Rogen tried to go the superhero route with this 2011 updating of the classic Green Hornet character. The playboy/hero first appeared on radio and then in a short-lived TV show, that starred Bruce Lee as his karate kicking sidekick, Kato. Update finds rich playboy brat Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) inheriting his father’s newspaper and his mechanic/assistant, Kato (Jay Chou). Through a series of events, Britt decides he and Kato should become superheroes, but who go under the ruse of being criminals. Their first target is Russian gangster Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), the bringing down of whom isn’t as easy as the rookie superheroes first think.

Flick is written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry. As such, it is a very mixed bag. The good points are, the action scenes really move, are very exciting and fun and Seth Rogen and Jay Chou have good chemistry, with some of their camaraderie being amusing to watch. The bad points are, the scenes between the action often drag, too much time is spent with Rogen and Chou bickering, when it is far more fun to watch them working as a team, and a very uneven script which can’t decide between comedy and being a serious hero flick. Our heroes occasionally kill bad guys, which doesn’t fit the more wholesome character the movie’s based on and also adds to the uneven tone. Green Hornet showed potential for a franchise and Rogen is surprisingly fine as a hero, but mediocre box office put a stop to that. Maybe a less artsy director would have better suited the material, someone who can pace things better and who can give the dialog scenes more snap. Gondry makes the action move and things are photographed nice and colorfully, but that’s about it. A tighter script with a more consistent tone would have helped, too. A decent enough rental for a lazy Sunday, but could have been so much more. Also stars Cameron Diaz as love interest Lenore Case and Stranger Things’ David Harbour as a dirty D.A.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1 

bars

BARE BONES: FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

fantastic four

FANTASTIC FOUR (2015)

Finally caught up to this much maligned reboot and have to say that I don’t quite understand all the hate it gets. Maybe it’s because I didn’t follow the comic and am not familiar with the lore, or that I just went in with such low expectations that I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t altogether awful.

The story follows the creation of a teleportation device by nerds Sue Storm, Reed Richards and Victor Von Doom (Kate Mara, Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell) along with Reed’s friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and Sue’s hotshot brother Johnny (Michael B. Jordan). The device opens a portal to another world and when an unsanctioned trip to that world goes awry, all five are graced with drastic changes that give them unique powers. While the four returning try to cope with their new ‘gifts’ and the government tries to decide what to do with them, Victor is stranded on the alien world gaining frightening power and a heinous agenda.

Josh Trank’s interpretation is, by far, not a misunderstood classic, but it is a unique take on the superhero genre, much like his Chronicle, focusing more on how one might react to gaining unwanted abilities and how they would be viewed by paranoid and power-hungry government agencies. The fact that two of the four become outright government agents to use their powers for ‘good’ is amusing and we know that eventually some kind of threat, here Victor Von Doom, will unite them as heroes. It’s actually an interesting and non-traditional viewpoint of the superhero epic and there is little or no action till the end…which is where it really stumbles. The conflict with Doom is basically in the last 20 minutes and his reasons for wanting to literally destroy the Earth are quite convoluted. We also never get a real grasp as to what it is about the forces on this planet that imbue superpowers upon it’s visitors. The battle between the newly formed superhero group and “Dr. Doom” ends rather quickly and with little effort, leaving the film with a very anti-climactic feel by the time the credits roll. It all seems more like a 100 minute origin story than a complete movie, though had it not bombed, it might have been interesting to see these four on a complete adventure. Oh, well. Cast were all fine though some of the CGI FX range from excellent to mediocre. Underwhelming…yes…completely awful…not really.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars