Showing posts with label DCEU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DCEU. Show all posts

Friday, August 18, 2023

Review: "BLUE BEETLE" is a Family Affair

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 of 2023 (No. 1927) by Leroy Douresseaux

Blue Beetle (2023)
Running time:  127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, language, and some suggestive references
DIRECTOR:  Angel Manuel Soto
WRITER:  Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (based on characters from DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Zev Foreman and John Rickard
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Pawel Pogorzelski (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Craig Alpert
COMPOSER:  The Haxan Cloak

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION/FAMILY

Starring:  Xolo Maridueña, Bruna Marquezine, Damien Alcazar, Adriana Barraza, Belissa Escobedo, Elpidia Carrillo, Raoul Max Trujillo, Modesto Lacen, and Harvey Guillén, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez, and  (voice) Becky G

Blue Beetle is a 2023 superhero and action-fantasy film directed by Ángel Manuel Soto.  The film is based on the DC Comics character, Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes, that was created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, and Cully Hamner and first appeared in the comic book, Infinite Crisis #3 (cover dated: February 2006).  Blue Beetle the movie focuses on a young man who finds himself chosen to be the symbiotic host of an alien artifact that gives him a suit of armor.

Blue Beetle introduces recent college graduate, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), who is returning to his hometown of Palmera City.  He receives a warm welcome from his family:  his father, Alberto Reyes (Damian Alcazar); his mother, Rocio Reyes (Elpidia Carrillo); his Nana (Adrian Barraza), his younger sister, Milagro (Belissa Escobedo); and his uncle, Rudy Reyes (George Lopez).  Jaime soon learns that his family will lose their home due to financial difficulties and to Alberto's poor health.  Still, Jaime is optimistic that he will quickly get a job and make enough money for his family.

Some time later, Jaime meets Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), the daughter of Ted Kord, the currently-missing CEO OF Kord Industries.  Jenny is at odds with her aunt, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), the current CEO.  Jenny discovers that Victoria has dark plans for her recent discovery, an alien artifact called “the Scarab.”  Jenny steals the Scarab, and not knowing its true nature, she passes it on to Jaime.
 
As soon as Jaime touches the Scarab, it activates and attaches to him, creating a suit of armor around him.  The suit gives Jaime extraordinary powers, such as flight, super-strength, and invulnerability, but those powers are unpredictable.  Now, Jaime's family calls him a “superhero.”  However, Jaime isn't sure that he wants to be a superhero, and Victoria Kord will do whatever she has to do – including murder – to regain possession of the Scarab.

The Blue Beetle first appeared in Fox Comics' Mystery Men Comics #1 (cover dated: August 1939) and was the secret identity of a young police officer, Dan Garrett.  The second Blue Beetle first appeared in Charlton Comics' Captain Atom #83 (November 1966) and was Ted Kord, an industrialist and owner of KORD Industries.  I mention this because Dan Garrett is referenced in this film.  Also, Ted Kord, with a new origin, is a major subplot in this film, although the story is that he has been missing for years under mysterious circumstances.

However, this is Blue Beetle/Jaime Reyes' film.  He comes across as a normal young man in his early twenties.  Warner Bros. didn't even cast some muscular young android-like actor for the role.  Xolo Mariduena's body is in good shape, but he looks more like a high school kid still in physical development.  Everything about Xolo comes across as boy-next-door, which makes him more relatable to a larger segment of the audience.  After all, Jaime seems so vulnerable that even an alien suit of armor doesn't seem capable of completely protecting him.  If there is a superhero of the people – the champion next door – Xolo makes Jaime Reyes as Blue Beetle fit the role perfectly.

Like Warner Bros.'s 2019 DC Comics film, Shazam, Blue Beetle emphasizes family, and the Reyes are delightful.  George Lopez's Uncle Rudy is a scene stealer, and I'm glad the story reveals that there is so much more to him than meets the eye.  Of course, one can judge how good a family is by placing it in contrast with a problematic family, and that is the Kords.  Susan Sarandon plays the evil aunt, Victoria Kord, with relish, although she doesn't really go over the top.  The film puts Jenny Kord, smoothly played by actress Bruna Marquezine, at the center of the good family (the Reyes)-bad family (Victoria Kord) dynamic.  Which will Jenny ultimately choose?  Like Shazam, Blue Beetle shows how cool an extended or surrogate family can be, especially to someone in need.

I like what director Angel Manuel Soto does with his collaborators, cast, and crew.  Blue Beetle is an easy-going superhero film that is fun for a family audience, even with the sometimes intense action and dark plot elements.  I'm surprised that the film has as its themes, “imperialism in the name of democracy” and “militarized capitalism,” neither of which are ever portrayed as a good thing.  Uncle Rudy even calls Batman a “fascist,” which has caused a stir in some Internet circles.  This film definitely has an anti-authoritarian streak.

That aside, Blue Beetle is hugely and surprisingly entertaining, and it sparkles with humor.  By focusing on Jaime Reyes as much as it does on the Blue Beetle armor, the film gets to center on the most winning aspect of it story, family and friends.  Blue Beetle won't get the attention of bigger superhero film productions, but it has more heart than most of those other films.

[Blue Beetle has two extra scenes during the end credits.]

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, August 18, 2023


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, June 23, 2023

Review: Miller, Keaton Speed "THE FLASH" Forward

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 of 2023 (No. 1915) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Flash (2023)
Running time:  144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity
DIRECTOR:  Andy Muschietti
WRITERS:  Christina Hodson; from a screen story by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Joby Harold (based on the DC Comics characters)
PRODUCERS:  Barbara Muschietti and Michael Disco
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Henry Braham
EDITORS:  Jason Ballantine and Paul Machliss
COMPOSER:  Benjamin Wallfisch

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION

Starring:  Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle, Michael Shannon, Ron Livingston, Maribel Verdu, Kiesey Clemons, Antje Traue Temuera Morrison, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Nicolas Cage, George Clooney, Jason Momoa, and Jeremy Irons

The Flash is a 2023 superhero and action-fantasy film directed by Andy Muschietti.  The film is based on the DC Comics character, The Flash, with the two most famous versions being created by the teams of writer Gardner Fox and artist Harry Lampert and writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino.  The film is the 13th entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  In The Flash, the superhero known as “the fastest man alive” uses his super-speed to change his family's tragic past, but also creates a world without superheroes.

The Flash opens at a very important time in the life of Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller).  His father, Henry Allen (Ron Livingston), has been imprisoned, wrongfully convicted for murdering his wife and Ezra's mother, Nora Allen (Maribel Verdu).  As a police forensic investigator for the Central City Police Department, Barry has been using his knowledge and connections in a bid to free his father, whose next appeal of his conviction is a day away.

However, Barry's superhero life intrudes, so he races to Gotham City where he helps Batman (Ben Affleck) stop a terrorist group.  After that, the Flash visits his childhood home.  Overcome by his emotions, Barry starts running so fast that he does not realize that his power, super-speed, has tapped into the “Speed Force” to such an extent that he has traveled back in time.  Although Batman's alter-ego, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), warns him against doing so, the Flash travels back in time, again.

He returns to the day his mother was murdered and changes events in order to save her life, and the thing about which Bruce warned Barry occurs, the unintended consequences of time travel.  Soon, Barry comes face to face with his younger self, college-age Barry (Ezra Miller).  Not long afterwards, Barry learns that his big change to the past has also created an Earth without superheroes.  As an alien threat looms, the two Barrys seek out the one superhero everyone knows exists – or at least once existed, Batman.  However, this Earth's Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) does not want to be Batman again, even if it dooms the world.

When I first heard of the premise of The Flash, I knew that Warner Bros. Pictures wanted to make its on version of Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios' multiverse adventure, Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).  Unlike this very sharp Spider-Man flick, The Flash is not as crisp and as efficient.  The Flash's action scenes are always at least a minute too long and too overdone.  The drama is a bit too melodramatic, sometimes in danger of being corny.  Still, director Andy Muschietti and his editors offer a film that is often quite engaging, thrilling, and entertaining.

I believe that the persons that really carry The Flash are first, Ezra Miller as The Flash/Barry Allen and as younger Barry Allen and second, Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne.  This time around Ezra offers a superhero and alter-ego that are both far less annoying and forced than they were in Joss Whedon's 2016 superhero film, Justice League.  Miller is so good at portraying two versions of Barry that they seem like distinctly different people and personalities.  Here, Miller's Flash is more like a quirky character than in Justice League, where he seemed like bad character writing and a resulting confused and awkward performance.  Sadly, Miller's legal problems may keep them from portraying the Flash again, which is a shame.  They have finally got a bead on how to play that kind of character in a way that makes him endearing.

To a slightly lesser extent, Michael Keaton also carries this film.  His Batman/Bruce Wayne is one of the most famous iterations of the character, having appeared in director Tim Burton's Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).  Keaton revives the beats of the way he played the character over three decades ago, while adding a lot of new flavors to his character and new engagement in his performance.  After this appearance, I would really like to see more of Keaton's Batman.

Ben Affleck also makes a really nice turn as the “DCEU Batman/Bruce Wayne.”  Sasha Calle as Kara Zor-El/Supergirl gives a performance that makes the character seem shoe-horned into this film.  And there are some delightful cameos from other actors and characters that have appeared in DC Comics-related film and television series.  Plus, there is a surprise appearance from another cinematic Batman.  As I have said, however, Ezra Miller and Michael Keaton put a light-speed jolt into The Flash.  I found The Flash entertaining, but I'm giving it the grade I am because of Miller and Keaton.

[The Flash has one scene at the end of the credits.]

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Friday, June 23, 2023


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Monday, March 20, 2023

Review: SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods" is Fun for the Entire Shazamily

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 of 2023 (No. 1903) by Leroy Douresseaux

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)
Running time:  130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, and language
DIRECTOR:  David F. Sandberg
WRITERS:  Henry Gayden and Chris Morgan (based on the DC Comics characters)
PRODUCER:  Peter Safran
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gyula Pados
EDITOR:  Michel Aller 
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION/COMEDY

Starring:  Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Glazer, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, D.J Cotrona, Grace Caroline Currey, Meagan Good, Rachel Zegler, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, and Djimon Hounsou with Gal Gadot

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a 2023 superhero and fantasy film from director David F. Sandberg.  The film is based on the DC Comics character now called “Shazam.”  Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a direct sequel to the 2019 film, Shazam! and is also the 12th installment in “DC Extended Universe” (DCEU).  Fury of the Gods continues the story of the teenage foster kid who becomes a superhero by uttering one magic word, “SHAZAM!”

Shazam! Fury of the Gods opens in Philadelphia two years after the events depicted in the first film.  Billy Batson (Asher Angel) can still transform into an adult hero, the champion who bears the name “Shazam” (Zachary Levi).  Billy will turn 18-year-old in a few months, which he believes means that he will loose his foster parents, Rosa (Marta Milans) and Victor Vásquez (Cooper Andrews).

Billy shared the power he got from “The Wizard” (Djimon Hounsou) with his five foster siblings.  He calls them the “Shazamily.”  His foster brother, Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Glazer), is an adult superhero who calls himself “Captain Everything” (Adam Brody).  His older foster sister, Mary Bromfield (Grace Caroline Currey) is trying to be an adult while also being a superhero.  The other foster kid/adult hero pairs are Eugene Choi (Ian Chen and Ross Butler), Pedro Peña (Jovan Armand and D.J. Cotrona), Darla Dudley (Faithe Herman and Meagan Good).  Billy/Shazam is desperate to keep his “Shazamily” together, but they are having a rough time being superheroes.  After doing a less than stellar job saving civilians from a collapsing bridge, Shazam and company discover that the local media refers to them as the “Philly Fiascoes.”

Bigger troubles are ahead, however.  “The Daughters of Atlas” have imprisoned The Wizard, and they want to regain the powers he stole from the gods, including their father, the Titan Atlas, and gave to his new champions – Billy and his Shazamily.  Can they survive the attack of the daughters:  Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu), and the reluctant Anthea (Rachel Zegler), and save the world from destruction and from the fury of the gods?

In the first Shazam! film, the drama was driven by Billy Batson's internal conflict.  It was built around the tension between the foster family Bill could have and did not want and the biological family he wanted but could no longer have (if he ever really had it to begin with).  In Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Billy/Shazam fears losing the foster family that he eventually embraced, and with such a theme, he must inevitably learn that one should not hold onto things too tightly – even loved ones.  The Daughters of Atlas must learn the same, concerning the things to which they cling too tightly.  Billy/Shazam's dilemmas don't resonate this time around the way they did in the original film, and, at times, Billy and Shazam's obsession with holding onto the family seems forced.  But at least this film has the requisite drama.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods, like Shazam!, is a very entertaining film that is part energetic superhero movie, part charming comedy, and part heartwarming family film.  The superhero action is not as intense as that found in most superhero films, although Fury of the Gods' action is more intense than in the original.  Some of the villains' murderous intentions seem really murderous.

Except for the increase in intensity, everything about Fury of the Gods is a little down from the first film.  It is not as poignant, not quite as funny, and it seems too long, although it is a littler shorter than the original film.  Still, fans of Shazam! will likely enjoy Shazam! Fury of the Gods.  It even has a nice cameo appearance by another DC Comics superhero, and that cameo makes me wish that we could get more Shazam! Films.  It would be fun to see Billy Batson and Shazam team up with other DC  heroes and pitted against DC villains.  It is likely, however, that Shazam! Fury of the Gods is the final half of a truly unique pair of superhero movies.

6 of 10
B
★★★ out of 4 stars

Monday, March 20, 2023


NOTES:
Shazam! Fury of the Gods has one extra scene in the middle of the credits and one at the end of the credits.

The DC Comics character, Shazam, was the first comic book character to have the name “Captain Marvel.”  A boy named Billy Batson became Captain Marvel by uttering the word, “Shazam!”  Captain Marvel was created by comic book artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker.  He first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated:  February 1940) which was published by Fawcett Comics.  A legal dispute caused Fawcett to stop publishing Captain Marvel comic books in 1953.  DC Comics revived the character in 1972, but by then, Marvel Comics owned the trademark to the name “Captain Marvel.”  Thus, the original Captain Marvel is now called Shazam.


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, October 21, 2022

Review: Uneven, Bombastic "BLACK ADAM" is Strictly for Fans

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 63 of 2022 (No. 1875) by Leroy Douresseaux

Black Adam (2022)
Running time:  124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, intense action and some language.
DIRECTOR:  Jaume Collet-Serra
WRITERS:  Adam Sztykiel, Rory Haines, and Sohrab Noshirvani (based on characters created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck)
PRODUCERS:  Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, and Beau Flynn
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lawrence Sher (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  John Lee and Michael L. Sale
COMPOSER:  Lorne Balfe

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION

Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Pierce Brosnan, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Quintessa Swindell, Marwan Kenzari, Bodhi Sabongui, Mohammed Amer, Jalon Christian, Henry Winkler, and Djimon Hounsou with Viola Davis and Henry Cavill

Black Adam is a 2022 superhero and action-fantasy film from director Jaume Collet-Serra.  The film is based on characters created by writers Bill Parker and Otto Binder and artist C.C. Beck originally for defunct publisher, Fawcett Comics, and now owned by DC Comics.  Black Adam the movie focuses on a legendary hero who returns to life after nearly 5000 years, bringing his unique form of justice to his besieged homeland.

Black Adam opens in 2600 BC.  In the city of Kahndaq, there is a legend that the tyrannical king, Anh-Kot (Marwan Kenzari), intended to create an object of dark magic, the Crown of Sabbac, which is known to give the wearer great power.  He enslaves his own people and forces them to dig in the mountains for “Eternium,” the magical crystal Anh-Kot will use to make the crown.  A legendary hero, Teth-Adam (Dwayne Johnson), arises and kills Anh-Kot before the hero himself is buried somewhere in the ruins of the Anh-Kot's castle – so the legends say.

Present day Kahndaq is oppressed by members of the international crime syndicate known as “Intergang.”  They are searching for university professor and resistance fighter, Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi).  She is trying to locate the Crown of Sabbac, with the help of her brother, Karim (Mohammed Amer), and some of his colleagues.  Ambushed after finding the crown, Adrianna revives Teth-Adam, and although he kills her assailants, the risen hero proves to be something much less than a hero.

Meanwhile, from the United States, the superhero Hawkman/Carter Hall (Aldis Hodge) leads a group of heroes, the Justice SocietyDoctor Fate/Kent Nelson (Pierce Brosnan), Cyclone/Maxine Hunkel (Quintessa Swindell), and newcomer Atom Smasher/Albert “Al” Rothstein (Noah Centineo), into Kahndaq to take Teth-Adam into custody.  While Adrianna and her son, Amon (Bodhi Sabongui), watch, Teth-Adam battles the Justice Society throughout the city.  However, Teth-Adam will be forced to confront the truth about himself and about his past if he and the Justice Society are going to stop a great evil from ruling Kahndaq again.

In case you are wondering, Teth-Adam does not become “Black Adam” until the end of the film.  He is neither hero nor villain.  Black Adam, in the case of this film, is not so much an anti-hero as he is simply Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  The movie only exists because Johnson willed it into existence.  Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films' original plan was apparently to make Black Adam a supporting character/villain in the movie Shazam that was released in 2019.  Johnson wanted more for the character than to be a mere lackey, and truthfully, had he appeared in Shazam as Black Adam, Johnson, as an international movie star with a huge personality, would have dominated the film in ways that probably would have been bad for it.

In the case of Black Adam the movie, it is Johnson's will that holds this film together, otherwise, it would fall apart.  The screenplay is a disaster with a plot that is a patchwork of clumsy sub-plots.  The film's pace is uneven, being a mixture of tedious action sequences and unnecessary fighting.  The characters are either barely likable or are ridiculous.  The kid character, Amon Tomaz, is actually quite nice, but his mother, Adrianna, is really irritating.

Don't get me started on the Justice Society.  As Hawkman, actor Aldis Hodge is so intense that it makes a lot of his performance seem like overacting.  [Actor Michael B. Jordan also has a problem with being too intense.]  Pierce Brosnan is embarrassing as Doctor Fate, but Brosnan's problems could be a poorly written character and crappy dialogue.  The superhero Cyclone is … tragic.  So is Atom Smasher, but actor Noah Centineo delivers Smasher's bad dialogue in a way that sounds funny.

Twice while watching Black Adam, I wanted to walk out of the film, but I was seeing it with a friend.  Black Adam seems much longer than its 124-minute running time.  At one point, I thought the film was over, so I checked my phone and discovered that there was more than a half-hour left.  I can only recommend this films to die hard fans of superhero movies and to fans of Dwayne Johnson.  I could not recommend this film to anyone else.  I'm only giving this film a “C” grade because I am a fan of Johnson and an admirer of what he has built for himself; if not for him, I don't know how much lower I would go.  I am not sure that I could watch Black Adam again, even in bits and pieces when it becomes a cable TV staple.

4 of 10
C
★★ out of 4 stars


Friday, October 21, 2022


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Friday, August 6, 2021

Review: Idris Elba Drives James Gunn's "THE SUICIDE SQUAD"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 of 2021 (No. 1787) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Suicide Squad (2021)
Running time:  132 minutes (2 hours, 12 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity
DIRECTOR:  James Gunn
WRITER:  James Gunn (based on characters appearing in DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven and Peter Safran
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Henry Braham (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner
COMPOSER:  John Murphy

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION and COMEDY/DRAMA

Starring:  Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Storm Reid, Sylvester Stallone (voice), Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Peter Capaldi, Juan Diego Botto, Joaquin Cosio, Lynne Ashe, Taika Waititi, and Viola Davis

[Overview:  Yes, The Suicide Squad 2021 is the entertaining film that Suicide Squad 2016 should have been, but was not.  And that has as much to do with star Idris Elba as it does with writer-director James Gunn.]

The Suicide Squad is a 2021 superhero and action-fantasy film from writer-director James Gunn.  It is a sequel to the 2016 film, Suicide Squad, and is based on the DC Comics team of antiheroes, Suicide Squad.  The Suicide Squad the film focuses on a team of imprisoned super-villains who are forced to invade a South American island where a deadly creature supposedly resides.

As The Suicide Squad opens, intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has activated her “Task Force X,” a team composed of dangerous criminals.  Imprisoned in Louisiana's Belle Reve penitentiary, these individuals either possess super-powers, have special abilities, or are some kind of meta-human, humanoid, animal hybrid, or mutant.  All of them are “super-villains.”  Waller chooses thirteen of these inmates and divides them into two teams (unbeknownst to the inmates) and sends them to the small island nation of Corto Maltese, off the coast of South America.

The first team is led by Army Special Forces Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and is comprised of  former psychiatrist and Joker boy toy, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie); Australian thief and super-boomerang thrower, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); animal hybrid and child killer, Weasel (James Gunn), meta-human, T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion); long-haired computer hacker, Savant (Michael Rooker); overeager mercenary, Blackguard (Pete Davidson); possessor of a special javelin ... Javelin (Flula Borg); and the alien warrior, Mongal (Mayling Ng).

The second more serious team is comprised of five super-villains.  It is lead by a mercenary and hit man with an advanced technological suit and weapons, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and is comprised of the former military officer who kills for peace, Peacemaker (John Cena); a man who can emit polka-dots, Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian); a female thief who controls rats, Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior); and a man-eating, human-shark hybrid, Nanaue a.k.a. “King Shark” (Sylvester Stallone).

Once on Corto Maltese, Task Force X has to reach a structure called “Jötunheim.”  It houses a laboratory built on the island decades ago by exiled Nazi scientists so that they could continue their monstrous experiments.  Now, Jötunheim apparently houses a secret program known as “Project Starfish.”  At the heart of this project is something referred to as “the beast,” and to destroy this project, the members of this squad will show why the nickname for Task Force X is “The Suicide Squad.”

First, I can say that The Suicide Squad is a much better film than its predecessor, Suicide Squad (2016), which was probably made problematic by Warner Bros. Pictures executives making bad decisions about it.  In The Suicide Squad, writer-director James Gunn offer his audience gleeful and extreme violence, insane set pieces, and snappy dialogue.  However, Gunn is also very good at creating engaging character drama that allows even the most troubling characters to have a journey in which he or she experiences a poignant or uplifting heroic arc.  In this case, Bloodsport (kinda) transforms from selfish, killer asshole into an anti-hero who cares … about a few things and people … and a rat.

Other characters more or less have a similar arc, although Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is as crazy, as homicidal, and as sweet as ever.  Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag, a holdover from the first film, is a much more interesting and likable character.  Viola Davis' Amanda Waller is darker, maybe even more … evil than ever, and Storm Reid delivers a surprisingly deft turn in a small role as Tyla, Bloodsport's daughter, who appears in two scenes.  David Dastmalchian steals a few scenes as the surprisingly endearing Polka-Dot Man.  Overall, the characters are both more interesting and much more appealing and fun than the characters in the first film.  I say that although in the new film, the Suicide Squad is much more homicidal.

Gunn makes sure The Suicide Squad feels irreverent and outrageous and pours on the ultra-violence, and most of the time, it works.  Sometimes, however, it feels like Gunn is trying too hard, and the violence is either gross or is so over the top as to come across as lame.  Gunn is known for writing and directing Disney/Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy films.  However, I think Gunn was trying to make The Suicide Squad like 20th Century Fox's Deadpool films, which are gleefully violent and shameless and infused with droll humor.  However, the Deadpool movies have Ryan Reynolds, who has mastered his own brand of (sometimes) endearing comedy that is witty, sarcastic, sardonic, silly, and stupid.  There is no Ryan Reynolds om The Suicide Squad, so the film can seem a little desperate in its bid to be crazy and cool.

However, The Suicide Squad does have Idris Elba, and if not for him, James Gunn would have ended up with a Suicide Squad film that works about as well as David Ayers' Suicide Squad film.  Elba, as the world-weary, but supernaturally skilled killer, Bloodsport, plays the complicated anti-hero turned action hero with his usual understated grace and commanding screen presence.  The Suicide Squad is bonkers, inventive, and imaginative – thanks to James Gunn.  However, it is a superhero fantasy and action thrill machine because of Idris Elba.

7 of 10
A-

Friday, August 6, 2021


The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Review: "WONDER WOMAN 1984" Means Well, But is Stupid

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 37 of 2021 (No. 1775) by Leroy Douresseaux

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Running time:  151 minutes (2 hours, 31 minutes)
MPAA – PG - 13 for sequences of action and violence
DIRECTOR:  Patty Jenkins
WRITERS:  Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callahan; from a story by Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns (based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and created by William Moulton Marston)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, and Stephen Jones
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Jensen (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Richard Pearson
COMPOSER:  Hans Zimmer

SUPERHERO/FANTASY

Starring:  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Lucian Perez, Kristoffer Polaha, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Oliver Cotton, Lilly Aspell, and Lynda Carter

Wonder Woman 1984 is a 2020 superhero fantasy film from director Patty Jenkins.  The film stars the DC Comics superhero, Wonder Woman, who first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (1941) and was created by writer William Moulton Marston (with artist Harry George Peter).  It is a direct sequel to 2017's Wonder Woman and is also the ninth film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film series.  In Wonder Woman 1984, our titular hero must battle a colleague and a businessman whose desire to have everything they ever wanted and much more could destroy the world.

Wonder Woman 1984 opens on the island of Themyscira, the home of the Amazons.  There, young Diana (Lilly Aspell) is trying to be the most accomplished Amazon.  In an athletic event against older Amazons, young Diana must also learn an important lesson about getting what she wants.

The story moves to 1984Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) works cultural anthropology and archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  Secretly, Diana is also the superhero known as “Wonder Woman.”  At work, Diana meets and eventually befriends a new museum employee, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a shy woman whose professions are geology, gemology, and lithology, in addition to being a cryptozoologist.  Barbara is barely seen by her co-workers, and she comes to envy Diana, whose radiance draws people to her.

One day, the FBI asks the museum to identify some stolen antiquities, and among them is a mysterious item, a “citrine” that turns out to be called the “Dreamstone.”  Also interested in this item is a failing businessman, Maxwell “Max” Lord (Pedro Pascal), who believes that the stone has “wish-granting” powers that can both save his failing oil company, “the Black Gold Cooperative,” and make him the powerful man he has always wanted to be.  No one really understands how dangerous the Dreamstone can be, even Diana, who gets her deceased lover, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), back into her life.

I like that Wonder Woman 1984 deals with such themes as immediate gratification, getting things the easy way without working for it, cheating to get what you want, and the desire to have something before you are ready to have it.  However, it is the execution of these themes that is problematic.  For a film that beats viewers over the head with the idea that it is bad to get whatever you wish for, Wonder Woman 1984 is filled with magical thinking.  This film's story is illogical, nonsensical, silly, and full of pretty pictures while being largely empty and devoid of substance.

Having Steve Trevor's spirit possess the body of an actual living man and control it is a horrible idea.  Supposedly, co-writer/director Patty Jenkins says that the Trevor subplot is a reference to the body-switching trope found in films like Freaky Friday: The Movie (1976) and Big (1988).  If true, this explanation is lame.  Having Wonder Woman basically hold a man hostage so that she can use his body to play kissy-face with her dead lover's spirit does not seem like something Wonder Woman would actually do.  I won't go into the non-consensual element of this relationship...

However, that is just one element of the entire nonsense that is having Steve Trevor in this film.  In one sequence, it just happens to be the Fourth of July, which leads to Wonder Woman and Trevor stealing a conveniently located jet and flying through the clouds that are lit up by the holiday fireworks below.  Wonder Woman asks Trevor what makes flying as a pilot so special to him, and the dude says that it is because of the wind and the air...

I'm not even sure why this movie is called Wonder Woman 1984, as very little about that year really permeates this film.  1984 seems like nothing more than an arbitrary date, while calling this film “Wonder Woman: The Year of Schmaltz and Syrupy Sentiment” would seem more accurate.

Nothing epitomizes Wonder Woman 1984's nonsensical, trite, contrived nature than the “lead” villain, Max Lord.  Heaven knows that Pedro Pascal gives it his all in order to fill the vast emptiness that is Max, but even his acting skills can't save this bomb of a character.  Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns' hackneyed script gives Max a child, Alistair (Lucian Perez), a pensive-faced waif who just loves his daddy no matter how much daddy ignores and minimizes him.  The presence of the child only emphasizes how lame Max Lord is.

The better villain is Kristen Wiig's Cheetah (who is not called that in the film), but the script relegates Barbara Minerva/Cheetah to side-piece status.  Minerva and Cheetah had the potential to be an excellent counter to Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, but no, the man-villain must be the center of attention.  Also, I'm pretty sure that Cheetah appears merely for licensing purposes – perhaps, as a hard-to-find, low-run, female action figure.

Just as she was the last time, Gal Gadot is gorgeous in this film, but whereas the Wonder Woman she played in the original film was so strong, independent, and fierce, the Wonder Woman of the sequel is a clueless broad who pines after the ghost of a long dead man.  Everything the heroine of this sequel does is either strange or thoughtless, and she puts herself and others in danger cause she's just gotta have her (dead) man!  Wonder Woman 1984 turns Gadot's Wonder Woman from historical in the first film to hysterical in the sequel.

The only reason that I am not giving Wonder Woman 1984 a grade of “D” or even of “F” is because I was so happy to see Lynda Carter, TV's Wonder Woman of the 1970s, in a mid end credits scene.  Yeah, that's a spoiler that I didn't warn you about, but hey, I am warning you about the rest of Wonder Woman 1984.  Now, dear readers, you can watch it while expecting much less of it than I did.

4 of 10
C

Thursday, April 8, 2021


The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: "JUSTICE LEAGUE" Sucks, Yet the Republic Survives

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 32 of 2021 (No. 1770) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Justice League (2017)
Running time: 120 minutes (2 hours)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action
DIRECTORS:  Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon
WRITERS:  Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon; from a story by Chris Terrio and Zack Snyder (based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven, Jon Berg, Geoff Johns, and Deborah Snyder
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Fabian Wagner (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Martin Walsh, David Brenner, and Richard Pearson
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman

SUPERHERO/FANTASY

Starring:  Ray Fisher, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Anthony Wise, and Ciarán Hinds (voice)

Justice League is a 2017 superhero film officially directed by Zack Snyder, but completed by director Joss Whedon.  The film is based on the DC Comics superhero team, the Justice League of America, that first appeared as a group in the comic book, The Brave and the Bold #28 (cover dated: March 1960).  Justice League is the fourth film in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) film series.  Justice League the film sees a group of allies slowly come together to face a threat to Earth.

Justice League introduces a being named “Steppenwolf” (voice of Ciarán Hinds).  Thousands of years ago, Steppenwolf and his legions of “Parademons” tried to take over the earth using the combined energies of three “Mother Boxes,” but he was defeated.  In the present, it is two years after the death of Superman (as seen in the film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), and his death has apparently triggered the reactivation of the Mother Boxes.

Now, Steppenwolf has returned to Earth, and although he is unaware of Steppenwolf, Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) knows that something is wrong because he has been battling the scattered Parademons that have been appearing in Gotham City and elsewhere.  Batman also knows that what is happening is too big for him to fight alone, so he has begun the difficult task of finding and recruiting other “metahumans” (superheroes) into a team that can take on the biggest threats to Earth.

Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is familiar with Steppenwolf and is ready to unite.  The new young hero, Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), is more than happy to be part of a team.  However, the mysterious undersea metahuman, The Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), brushes off Batman.  Woman Woman approaches the techno-organic metahuman, Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), whose powers and abilities are constantly evolving, but he also brushes off the idea of joining Batman and Wonder Woman's cause.

Even if Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash can convince Aquaman and Cyborg to join, their powers may not be enough to stop Steppenwolf and the Parademons.  They need Superman/Clark Kent (Henry Cavill), but he is dead.  So can this “Justice League” change that?

Zack Snyder's first two films in the DCEU film series, Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), are interesting films.  Man of Steel contains moments of true beauty and is an imaginative and poignant retake on the story of Superman.  Batman v Superman is filled with great moments and has several brilliantly-staged action set pieces.  However, both films are at time foolishly bombastic and bombastically foolish.

Zack Snyder began production on what was to be his third DCEU film, Justice League, in early 2016, but left the film in May 2017 in order to deal with the aftermath of the death of his daughter.  Warner Bros. Pictures brought in Joss Whedon to finish the film.  Whedon is beloved in fandom because he is the creator of the long-running “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television series.  He also wrote and directed two films for Marvel Studios, Marvel's The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), each of which grossed over a billion dollars in worldwide box office.

Whedon apparently changed the story that Zack Snyder's version of Justice League would have told – to some extent.  I have read that as much as seventy-five percent of the Justice League film that reached movie theaters in late 2017 is the result of Whedon's reshoots of the film.

The result is a film that does not move or sound like either Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, nor does it have the genuine sense of superhero team dynamics, conflict, and melodrama that Whedon's Avengers films have.  Whedon's Justice League is neither bombastic nor foolish.  It is a collection of crescendos that fade away.  Justice League seems like a collection of loosely connected subplots and action scenes taken from another movie and stuck together to make a new blasé movie.

In Justice League, the dialogue is mostly awful.  All the emotions (grief, exhalation, anger, etc.) seem forced or outright phony.  The actors struggle with the mediocre character writing; sometimes, it gets so bad that it seems as if they are struggling to act.  Steppenwolf is a scary villain that is played as comically histrionic.  Also, the film treats the obviously dangerous Paramdemons as nothing more than props to be destroyed by the powers of the members of the Justice League.

There are a few good moments in Justice League.  The revival of Superman and the subsequent battle between the League and the Man of Steel is genuinely intense.  Every time I watch it, my attention is glued to the screen.

Justice League is not a bad movie; it doesn't have the gumption to be good or bad.  It is a movie that is without a heart, and it comes across as nothing more than an assembly line product put out to benefit a movie studio financially.  It certainly was not put out to truly entertain the audiences that wanted to be entertained by it.  Zack Snyder's version of Justice League will make its debut as Zack Snyder's Justice League on the HBO Max streaming service soon (as of this writing).  Perhaps, it would have been better that Justice League been delayed than it be released in 2017 as a mostly flavorless misfire.

4 of 10
C

Friday, March 4, 2021


The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Review: "Aquaman" Rides High on the High Seas

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 23 of 2021 (No. 1761) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Aquaman (2018)
Running time:  143 minutes (2 hours, 23 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
DIRECTOR:  James Wan
WRITERS:  David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall; from a story by Geoff Johns, James Wan, Will Beall (based on the character created by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger and appear ing DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Rob Cowan and Peter Safran
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess    
EDITOR:  Kirk Morri
COMPOSER:  Rupert Gregson-Williams

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/SCI-FI/ACTION/ADVENTURE

Starring:  Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Ludi Lin, Temuera Morrison, Randall Park, Michael Beach, and Nicole Kidman

Aquaman is a 2018 superhero science fiction and fantasy film from director James Wan.  It is the sixth film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which is comprised of films based upon DC Comics characters.  Aquaman was created by artist Paul Norris and editor Mort Weisinger and first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 (cover dated: November 1941).  Aquaman the film focuses on a half-breed who is heir to the throne of an underwater kingdom and his quest to prevent an all-out war between the worlds of the land and the seas.

Aquaman opens in 1985.  Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse keeper in Amnesty Bay, Maine, rescues Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), the queen of the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, during a storm.  They fall in love and have a son named Arthur, who has the power to communicate with sea creatures.  Eventually, however, Atlantean soldiers arrive to retrieve Atlanna, who had fled her arranged marriage in Atlantis.

The film movies to the present day, several months after the events depicted in the film, Justice League.  Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), now also known as the “Aquaman,” attempts to live a normal life in Amnesty Bay, but his Atlantean heritage is about to intrude on his life.  Arthur has a half-brother, Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson), who is the current King of Atlantis and who is also the second son of Atlanna.  Orm is attempting to rally the undersea kingdoms to his cause.  He wants to unite and to attack the surface world for polluting the oceans.  Princess Y'Mera Xebella Challa, also known simply as Mera (Amber Heard), is betrothed to Orm, but refuses to aid him or her father, King Nerius of Xebel (Dolph Lundgren), in their plans.

Mera travels to the surface where she meets Arthur and tries to convince him to help her in stopping Orm.  She also wants Arthur to take his rightful place as King of Atlantis.  Before he does that, however, Arthur must recover a magic artifact, the lost “Sacred Trident of Atlan,” which will mark its possessor as the rightful ruler of Atlantis.  The problem is that Arthur does not want to be King of Atlantis nor anywhere else for that matter.

Watching Aquaman, I could not help but notice that many of its story points and plot elements were glaringly similar to that of Marvel Studios' Black Panther, which debuted earlier in the same year that Aquaman hit theaters, 2018.  Whereas Black Panther was edgy, philosophically in tune with Pan-Africanism, and socially relevant, Aquaman is simply a grand, old-fashioned, action-adventure fantasy film, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Aquaman is solidly entertaining.

If Aquaman must be accused of copying other films, in terms of visual concepts and world-building, Aquaman leans heavily on the Star Wars prequel films and on Tron: Legacy.  And once again, there is nothing wrong with that.  Many big-budget, tent-pole films borrow from other movies of similar to its type.  Aquaman dazzles the eyes and blows the mind.  It is such a spectacular visual effects feast for the eyes, senses, and imagination that I am surprised that it did not get any Oscar nominations in the categories of visual effects, art direction-set decoration, and costume design.  That such a visually resplendent film did not get in Oscar nominations says something about the nominating process of the Academy Awards in many areas.

I must admit that I think that this film does have a few sizable problems.  Aquaman's stiff, overly-formal, highfalutin' dialogue hampers the acting, which isn't all that good to begin with.  The character writing is also average, so it is not as if the actors have much to work with in building strong dramatic characters.  Still, I'd have to be feeling generous to say that Jason Momoa was more than average as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, although he does appear to be trying hard.  Patrick Wilson and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II overact and ham-it-up as Orm and Black Manta, respectively.  Willem Dafoe is practically a wooden idol as Vulko, and Amber Heard seems to think that she is playing Mera in a spoof of a superhero movie rather than acting in a “serious” superhero film.

I would normally give a film with such average character drama on the part of the screenplay and such awkward acting a grade of “B.”  The directing by James Wan is strong enough, however, and, once again, the film is such a visual effects orgasm that I will bump up Aquaman's final grade a little.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, November 28, 2020


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Friday, February 5, 2021

#28DaysofBlack Review: "SUICIDE SQUAD" Kills Itself

[It is a testament to Will Smith's status as an international box office star that even after some misfires Warner Bros. looked to him to be the face of their superhero/anti-hero film, Suicide Squad.  The film is actually terrible.  However, five non-white actors play costumed characters in this film, and, at least another five have speaking roles, including the great Viola Davis.  So, no, Suicide Squad is not a “Black film,” but prior to Disney/Marvel Studios' Black Panther, few comic book films were blacker.]

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 of 2021 (No. 1746) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Suicide Squad (2016)
Running time:  123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG - 13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
DIRECTOR:  David Ayer
WRITER:  David Ayer (based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven and Richard Suckle
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Roman Vasyanov (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  John Gilroy
COMPOSER:  Steven Price
Academy Award winner

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION/DRAMA

Starring:  Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Care Delevingne, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon, Ike Barinholtz, Common, Alain Chanoine, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, and Viola Davis with Ben Affleck

Suicide Squad is a 2016 superhero film from writer-director David Ayer.  The film is based on the DC Comics team of antiheroes, Suicide Squad, and also features characters associated with DC Comics' Batman franchise.  Suicide Squad the movie focuses on a team of incarcerated supervillains forced together to save the world from a supernatural apocalypse.

Suicide Squad opens some time after the death of Superman (in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice).  Intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) believes that the United States government must prepare for the day when the next Superman is not so friendly.  She believes that the U.S. government should have its own arsenal of metahumans (beings with extraordinary powers and abilities) to respond to extraordinary threats.  Thus, Waller assembles what she calls “Task Force X,” a team composed of dangerous criminals who also possess super-powers.

She finds that kind of criminal at Belle Reve Prison, a federal penitentiary for metahumans.  The first two recruits are the elite hit man, Deadshot (Will Smith), and former psychiatrist, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who also happens to be the love interest of Batman's archenemy, The Joker (Jared Leto).  The next recruits include the pyrokinetic (fire-starter) and ex-gang banger, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez); the boomerang-wielding thief, Captain Boomerang (Jay Courtney); the genetic mutation, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and the mercenary, Slipknot (Adam Beach).

This group, called “Suicide Squad” by Deadshot, are placed under the command of Army Special Forces Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to be used as disposable assets in high-risk missions for the United States government.  Their first mission takes them to Midway City where an apocalypse is brewing, created by a mystical creature familiar to Colonel Flag.

Suicide Squad is a genuinely terrible movie, and dear readers, I don't think that it is worth going into too much detail about all that is bad.  It is also a genuinely disappointing movie, as there are elements in the story that could have been developed to make this a good movie.  The opening sequences, two vignettes about Deadshot and Harley Quinn are... cool.  They made me think that Suicide Squad was going to surprise me and be a good movie...  The scenes between Deadshot/Floyd Lawton and his daughter, Zoe (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon), are also among the too few nice moments of drama in this film.

I would also be remiss if I did not comment on Jared Leto's depiction/version of The Joker.  Following the late Heath Ledger's stunning portrayal of the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight (for which he posthumously received a best supporting actor Oscar), Leto was in a no-win situation.  Actually, Leto and Suicide Squad writer-director David Ayer do come up with a version of the Joker that is almost a good follow-up to Ledger's legendary turn.  Why do I say “almost?”  Well, it is as if Leto and Ayer got the character right and then, did not have the smarts or had too much ego to stop.  What could have been a truly frightening and terrifyingly creepy Joker often becomes an over-the-top character that causes goosebumps and eye-rolling in equal measure.

Well, I have to give Warner Bros. credit; it has produced three mediocre or bad films based on DC Comics characters, and these movies have all been box office blockbusters.  Suicide Squad was a blockbuster waste of my time.  It is clunky and weird, and does not know if it wants to be a superhero film, a movie about antiheroes, a special forces movie, or a supernatural-fantasy-action movie.  It is like a messy soup with all the wrong ingredients from four or five different recipes.

3 of 10
D+

Saturday, June 10, 2017


NOTES:
2017 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling” (Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini, and Christopher Allen Nelson)


The text is copyright © 2017 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Review: "Birds of Prey" is Crazy, Sexy, Tarantino

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 (of 2020) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Birds of Prey (2020)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
DIRECTOR:  Cathy Yan
WRITER:  Christina Hodson (based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Sue Kroll, Margot Robbie, and Bryan Unkeless
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Libatique (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Jay Cassidy and Evan Schiff
COMPOSER:  Daniel Pemberton

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/CRIME/COMEDY/ACTION

Starring:  Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Dana Lee, and Steven Williams

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), or simply Birds of Prey, is a 2020 superhero fantasy film and crime comedy from director Cathy Yan.  The movie is based on several characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics.  Birds of Prey focuses on a group of women who find common cause in their struggle against a violent crime boss.

Birds of Prey opens after the events depicted in the film, Suicide Squad (2016).  Psychiatrist turned crazed criminal, Dr. Harleen Quinzel a.k.a. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), has returned to Gotham City with her criminal accomplice and boyfriend, The Joker.  However, Joker breaks up with Harley and kicks her out of their house, so she moves into an apartment above a Chinese restaurant owned by a man named Doc (Dana Lee).

In Gotham City, Harley Quinn was virtually untouchable... because she was the Joker's girlfriend... which she isn't anymore.  Now, it's open season on Harley,  The man who most wants her dead is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a sadistic gangster who masquerades as a suave nightclub owner, but Harley earns a reprieve from Sionis.  He covets something called “the Bertinelli diamond,” which is currently in the possession of a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

However, the quest for Cain and the diamond will force Harley to unite with three other women:  Dinah Lance a.k.a. “the Black Canary” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a burlesque singer who works for Roman; Renee Montoya (Rose Perez), a police detective in the GCPD; and Helena Bertinelli a.k.a. “the Huntress” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a vigilante that criminals call the “crossbow killer.”  Now, Harley and these women will show Gotham's underworld that it is the criminal class that should be afraid... of these birds of prey.

Birds of Prey's paper-thin plot:  retrieving a diamond; next, protecting a teen girl; and then, battling Roman Sionis, is not important.  This is a movie about “bad girls” having fun at the expense of really bad men, and Birds of Prey is quite good at that.  Director Cathy Yan makes the best of her ingredients:  a zany mix of actors, fantastic costumes, and eclectic sets and delivers an inspired, madcap movie of brutal, comic violence.  Birds of Prey is the kind of violent comedy that finds the wicked side of comic book stories and characters, the way the Deadpool films did.

Like the best comic books, Birds of Prey is over-the-top.  Why have a pet dog when you can have a pet hyena?  Why wear merely flashy costumes when you can wear the most fantabulous fashions?  Why hit an adversary when you can maim the mutha?  And what is a car chase without a chick on roller skates?  The women of Birds of Prey:  Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ella Jay Basco take their performances seriously without taking their roles too seriously.  Even Ewan McGregor adds just a touch of camp to his gleefully cruel creation, Roman Sionis.

I won't pretend that Birds of Prey is a great film, but it is the kind of inspired, R-rated comic book film that I wish we saw more.  And besides the soundtrack is pretty damn good.  So I am heartily recommending Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) to moviegoers who enjoy comic book films.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, February 8, 2020


The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: "Shazam!" Makes a Joyful Noise

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 (of 2019) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Shazam! (2019)
Running time:  132 minutes (2 hours, 12 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
DIRECTOR:  David F. Sandberg
WRITERS:  Henry Gayden; from a story by Henry Gayden and Darren Lemke (based on the characters created by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck)
PRODUCER:  Peter Safran
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Maxime Alexandre
EDITOR:  Michel Aller
COMPOSER:  Benjamin Wallfisch

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION/COMEDY

Starring:  Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Mark Strong, Jack Dylan Glazer, Marta Milans, Cooper Andrews, Grace Fulton, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand, Meagan Good, Andi Osho, John Glover, and Djimon Hounsou

Shazam! is a 2019 superhero and fantasy film from director David F. Sandberg.  The film is based on the DC Comics character now called “Shazam.”  In the movie Shazam!, a 14-year-old foster kid becomes a superhero merely by uttering one magic word, SHAZAM!

Shazam! introduces a mysterious wizard named, Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), who lives in the cave where rests the “Rock of Eternity,” a place that is the home of all magic.  Shazam is looking for a worthy human, who will utter his name and become a champion who also bears the name, Shazam.  After finding so many humans who failed to live up to his standards, Shazam is running out of time.  Now, he hopes that Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14-year-old foster kid with a history of petty crime and of running away from foster homes, is his champion.

When Billy shouts SHAZAM!, he becomes an adult (Zachary Levi), a grown man wearing a red superhero costume and possessing incredible powers that Billy cannot imagine.  Now, with the help of his foster brother, Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Glazer), Billy will try to learn what powers he has and the extent of those powers.  Meanwhile, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), who failed Shazam's test of worthiness when he was a child over four decades ago, now possesses the dark powers against which the wizard fought.  Sivana is determined to discover the identity of the new champion and then, to steal that champion's powers for himself.

First a note:  the DC Comics character, Shazam, was the first comic book character to have the name “Captain Marvel.”  A boy named Billy Batson became Captain Marvel by uttering the word, “Shazam!”  Captain Marvel was created by comic book artist C. C. Beck and writer Bill Parker.  He first appeared in Whiz Comics #2 (cover-dated:  February 1940) which was published by Fawcett Comics.  A legal dispute caused Fawcett to stop publishing Captain Marvel comic books in 1953.  DC Comics revived the character in 1972, but by then, Marvel Comics owned the trademark to the name “Captain Marvel.”  Thus, the original Captain Marvel is now called Shazam.

Marvel Studios released a film starring Marvel Comics' Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019.  Perhaps, it is a coincidence that in the same year Warner Bros. releases a movie starring Shazam.  And I have to be honest.  I like Marvel's Captain Marvel film, and I like Warner's Shazam just as much.

Shazam is a hugely enjoyable film that is part energetic superhero movie, part charming comedy, and part heartwarming family film.  The superhero action is not as intense as that found in most superhero films.  Much of the superhero action revolves around Zachary Levi's adult hero and Jack Dylan Glazer's Freddie Freeman executing a number of often humorous experiments to learn about Shazam's powers.  The charm comes from the attitude of the film.  Much of Shazam is about teenagers learning not only how to be good people, but also about learning how to be good to the people in their lives.  Shazam probably presents one of the most favorable views of foster parents and of the foster home in recent memory.  And I found that quite heartwarming.  Shazam is at heart an unabashed family film about the joys, comfort, and love of having a family.

One element that makes this film so surprisingly delightful are the performances.  Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana does what he can do so well – be really good at being a really bad guy.  In playing a kid who is suddenly in an adult body, Zachary Levi recalls Tom Hanks' performance in the 1988 film, Big.  Sixteen-year-old Asher Angel shows adult acting chops playing teenage Billy Batson.  Jack Dylan Glazer is uncannily good as Freddie Freeman, and he practically steals every scene in which he is featured.  If there is a children's version of the Oscars, then, Glazer...

Truthfully, every actor who appears in Shazam turns in a good performance or at least tries pretty hard to do so.  So I send a shout out to Faithe Herman in her winning turn as Darley Dudley.

The film is well-written and tightly-directed, both of which is required of comedy films.  I have to give a shout-out to the film editor, Michel Aller, because I think the editing contributed a lot to this film's engaging tone and practically perfect pace.

I think that this review cannot totally convey how surprised – delightfully surprised – I am at how much I like this movie.  I once thought that Shazam! would be a disaster, but I end up having such a good time watching it that I want to see it again.  I even want a sequel.  And I heartily recommend Shazam!, a superhero film for the entire family.

8 of 10
A

Saturday, April 6, 2019


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Review: Wonderful "Wonder Woman" in Less Than Wonderful Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 (of 2017) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review originally posted on Patreon.]

Wonder Woman (2017)
Running time:  141 minutes (2 hours, 21 minutes)
MPAA – PG - 13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content
DIRECTOR:  Patty Jenkins
WRITERS:  Allan Heinberg; from a story by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, and Jason Fuchs (based on characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and created by William Moulton Marston)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven, Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, and Richard Suckle
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Jensen
EDITOR:  Martin Walsh
COMPOSER:  Rupert Gregson-Williams

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/WAR/HISTORICAL

Starring:  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Said Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock, Lucy Davis, Elena Anaya, Lilly Aspell, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Ann Wolfe, Ann Ogbomo, Emily Carey, and James Cosmo

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero fantasy, war, and and historical film from director Patty Jenkins.  The film stars the DC Comics superhero, Wonder Woman, who first appeared in All Star Comics #8 (1941) and was created by writer William Moulton Marston (with artist Harry George Peter).  The movie takes place when Wonder Woman was only known as Diana, princess of the Amazons, a young, trained warrior who goes out into the world to discover her full powers and her true destiny.  Wonder Woman is also the fourth film in the DC (Comics) Extended Universe film series.

Wonder Woman opens in present-day Paris, in the Louvre, where Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) works as an archivist of some type.   Bruce Wayne has sent her a gift, a World War I-era photographic plate that contains an image of Diana and three men.

This image returns Diana's memories to her past, beginning when she was a child (Lily Aspell) on the hidden island of Themyscira, home to the Amazon race of warrior women.  Diana is the daughter of the queen, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who does not want her daughter trained to be a warrior.  Hippolyta's sister and Diana's aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright), believes that Diana should be prepared for the eventual day when she will have to fight.

As a young woman, Diana rescues an American pilot and spy, Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), after his plane crashes off the coast of Themyscira.  The Germans pursing Trevor invade Themyscira, but are repelled by the Amazons.  Diana interprets these events as signs that she must accompany Trevor as he returns to the world of men, where Diana believes she must confront the reason for the world war that rages across Europe (World War I).  Diana believes that Ares, the god of war, is behind the so-called “War to End All Wars,” but Diana does not realize that this journey will reveal the truth about her powers, her destiny, and her identity.

Since its release to theaters in the United States (almost a month ago as of this writing) and around the world (over a month as of this writing), Wonder Woman has received rave reviews.  Women and children, especially girls, have embraced the power of this beloved female superhero who finally stars in her own feature film.

I get it; I understand the appeal and the adoration, but for me, Wonder Woman the movie is, at best, a slightly above-average superhero movie.  Gal Gadot is wonderful as Wonder Woman, which surprised me because I thought she was all wrong when I first heard about her casting.  However, here, Gadot is so good that I had trouble imagining another actress (except maybe Linda Carter) as Wonder Woman.  Gadot embodies the strength and independence of a woman raised in a society in which women do not think of themselves as subordinate or inferior to men.

In the character drama, in the film's quiet moments, in the times when Diana fights for the forgotten and ignored (the “little” people?), director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot deliver on what Wonder Woman has meant, what she means today, and what she can mean in the future.  Jenkins and Gadot depict the ability of women to pursue the best of themselves and to pursue the best for humanity at large – with their endeavors as equal or even superior to those of men.  To nurture and to create; to defend and to take the initiative:  Wonder Woman/Diana and women can do anything men can do.

The problems with Wonder Woman the film are the men who contribute to this film.  Co-producer and co-writer Zack Snyder's handiwork is all over the cheesy, slow-motion camera fight scenes.  The fact that the last act devolves into a ridiculous supernatural battle between Diana and Ares is typical of the previous Warner/DC Comics films.  Those movies reeked with the ludicrous fights that were the climaxes of Snyder's The Man of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, as well as last year's Suicide Squad, which is also part of the DC Extended Universe.

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot deliver some superb movie making with Wonder Woman.  Unfortunately, the perspective of males, one of whom is a hack filmmaker, ruins it.

6 of 10
B

Friday, June 30, 2017


The text is copyright © 2017 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Movie Review: "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice" is an Average Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2017) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was posted on Patreon.]

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Running time:  151 minutes (2 hours, 31 minutes)
MPAA – PG - 13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality
DIRECTOR:  Zack Snyder
WRITERS: Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer; based on characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman) and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman)
PRODUCERS:  Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Larry Fong (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  David Brenner
COMPOSERS:  Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/ACTION/DRAMA

Starring:  Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Scoot McNairy, Tao Okamoto, Harry Lennix, Michael Shannon, Ezra Miller, Joe Morton, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, and Kevin Costner

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a 2016 superhero drama and action-fantasy film from director Zack Snyder.  The film unites DC Comic' two most famous superheroes, Superman and Batman, in an epic conflict.  In the film, Batman battles Superman for fear of what the Man of Steel might do if his actions are left unchecked.  DC Entertainment boss, Geoff Johns, and director of “The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan, are two of the film's executive producers.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens 18 months after the events depicted in the film, The Man of Steel (2013).  The destructive battle between Superman (Henry Cavill) and General Zod (Michael Shannon) left much of the city of Metropolis in ruins and made Superman a controversial figure.  People were also killed and maimed in the battle between Superman and Zod, including employees working for Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).

Wayne has operated in Gotham City as the vigilante, Batman, for nearly two decades, but he sees Superman's activities as a threat to humanity.  Conversely, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) a.k.a. Superman sees Batman as a dangerous vigilante who has taken the law into his own hands, and Kent wants to expose Batman via a series of articles in the newspaper for which he works, the Daily Planet.

Now, it seems that Batman and Superman are destined to clash, but there is a threat to both of them.  LexCorp mogul and wunderkind, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), is formulating a dark plot to destroy both costumed superheroes.  Can Batman and Superman stop fighting each other in time to save the world, the lives of their loved ones, and their own lives?

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has such high-end production values that it could be mistaken for a sumptuous costume drama headed for Oscar glory.  Batman v Superman has gorgeous photography with colors so rich that you might want to dine on them.  The budget-busting visual effects and CGI are mesmerizing.  The spectacular urban vistas will make you want to move to Metropolis, and the action set pieces will make your heart pound.  There is a chase scene with the Batmobile that rivals anything in The Fast and the Furious franchise.

That said:  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice does not quite come together.  It is filled with good scenes, but this film seems like two movies – one about Superman and the other about Batman – that are forced together so that they will be a single movie about both Batman and Superman.  The movie does sell the notion that these two heroes could be adversaries, but when it tries to sell them as allies, that does not quite work.  There was too much versus in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for these two headliners to suddenly turn friendly towards each other.

Jesse Eisenberg is terrible as Lex Luthor.  I don't know if it was his decision or that of the studio to make Luthor Superman's Joker, but it is just wrong.  Gal Gadot is pretty, but her Wonder Woman is not that good, either.  When Wonder Woman first appears in costume in the big battle scene, I was excited to see her, but the fact that Gadot is so stiff in her acting made me lose my joy for Wonder Woman.

Ben Affleck is equally stiff as Bruce Wayne and only a tiny bit better as Batman, but not by much, though Lord knows he tries.  I want to give him credit for that, in spite of myself.  Henry Cavill actually convinced me that he is the right man to play both Clark Kent and Superman.  I think Amy Adams is excellent as Lois Lane, but she needs more screen time.  It is the same with Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet.

Jeremy Irons, who is good as Bruce Wayne's “butler,” Alfred Pennyworth, has said in press interviews that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's biggest problem is that it lacks drama.  Yeah, this film has no dramatic heft.  As good as it looks, it's all visual sound and fury with a narrative that signifies practically nothing.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is watchable, but it should have been something more than the average, loud, big-budget, star-laden, event movie it is.  In a way, I think Warner Bros. wanted it to be nothing more than that.

5 of 10
C+

Sunday, September 11, 2016


The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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