BOX OFFICE ROUNDUP: SUICIDE RUN

THERE WAS NEVER ANY DOUBT SUICIDE SQUAD WAS GOING TO OWN THE BOX OFFICE THIS WEEKEND DESPITE POOR REVIEWS. NOW THE QUESTION IS HOW FAR WILL THIS GRAVY TRAIN RUN?

There was never any doubt that DC/Warner Bros. Suicide Squad was going to open huge. After weeks of tracking and speculative monitoring, there was no question it was going to open number one this weekend, laying waste to every record in its path and forcing every other movie on the planet to scramble in it’s colossal wake. So Suicide Squad’s record-breaking success came as absolutely no surprise to anyone anywhere.

Now is when it gets interesting.

Read More . . . 

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SUICIDE WATCH

EVEN A STRONG PERFORMNCE BY WILL SMITH CAN’T SAVE THE UNINSPIRING MESS THAT IS SUICIDE SQUAD

Director: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, David Harbour, Jai Courtney, Adam Beach, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevigne Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman

Rated: PG

Studio: Warner Bros.

Running Time: 2 Hrs, 3 Mins.

To say that DC and Warner Bros. have a lot riding on Suicide Squad would be a gross understatement. Not only do they need the villain mash-up to bring in a king’s ransom at the box office, but they also need it to repair the damage done to their brand by the poor fan and critical response to last March’s Batman Vs. Superman. And while Suicide Squad will probably make a lot of money (during its first weekend, at least), it will most likely be a mixed bag as far as restoring the faith of a disillusioned and disappointed fan base.

Under the manipulative eye of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the United States government has assembled a covert team of incarcerated super criminals to face meta-human threats above the pay grade of the conventional military. Lead by Waller’s hand picked special forces operative Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), criminals Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtenay), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and others are recruited with one simple understanding; success is rewarded with reduced sentences while failure or disobedience results in death.

The team is thrown into action after one of its potential members (the Enchantress, played by Cara Delevigne) escapes Waller’s clutches and takes an entire city hostage. Enchantress has grander designs and the entire planet soon finds itself in her vengeful crosshairs. Just to complicate things for the newly formed Suicide Squad further, the Joker is coming for his beloved Harley Quinn. And not even an extra-dimensional sorceress and her army of demons will stand in his way.

I wanted to enjoy this movie. I really, really did. I needed it to cleanse the sour taste BvS left on my pallet months ago. But this was easily one of the most boring action movies I’ve ever seen.

While most of the promotion for the film focused on Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot as an anti-hero in villain’s clothing was the strongest performance in the film (giving Smith his own stand alone movie might not be the worst idea in the world). Ben Affleck makes a few cameos as Batman that are effectively used to set up origin stories and seeing Smith and Affleck’s Dark Knight share a scene will give you geek shivers. Viola Davis does severe justice to Waller, a no-nonsense, ball-busting force of authority that never backs down. Leto’s Joker is entertaining but isn’t the acting tour de force that we’ve been sold and lacks the depth that Ledger brought to the character years ago.

But for every strong performance, there’s a turn that misses the mark. While Robbie has her moments as Harley Quinn, she has just as many moments where she seems lost or the film doesn’t know what to do with her. Squad goes out of its way to identify her as its comedic conscience early, and while a fair chunk of her jokes land, just as many don’t. Kinnaman is tragically miscast as Flagg because as hard as he tries, he just can’t match Smith’s screen presence or natural charisma. His inability to hold his own against Smith undermines the tension the movie tries so hard to establish between the two characters.

Suicide Squad’s pacing is as chaotic as it is inconsistent, a result of extensive reshoots and unprecedented editing (half the scenes and zippy one liners from the first trailer didn’t even make it into the final film). The plot synopsis at the top of this review is pretty much the entire story and the movie almost trips over itself trying to get the plot out of the way as soon (and as simple) as possible. Like everything else, the movie invests little effort in developing or establishing the villain. Technically Enchantress and her plan threaten the entire world, yet the stakes don’t feel that high. Despite the global threat, Suicide Squad unfolds on a much smaller scale than Avengers or Captain America: Winter Soldier. Squad would have worked far better if the threat had been smaller or more contained.

Perhaps its biggest flaw is the action. Or more accurately, the lack of action. For a super hero action movie, there isn’t a lot of it. Most of what it does have is predictable, stale and boring. There are a few beats during the climax that are almost captivating, but otherwise nothing in this movie is going to push your pulse any faster. There are a few chuckles but no moments of genuine humour, despite a number of serious attempts. Suicide Squad is a joyless exercise in how not to make a successful super hero movie and it lacks anything resembling intensity. When its at its very best its still only mediocre and never memorable.

How much of this is director David Ayer’s fault and how much is the result of reshoots ordered and shoehorned in following the embarrassing reaction to BvS earlier in the year remains to be seen. We may not know until the DVD release, but there were two very different visions of this movie; Ayers’ darker tone and the studio’s lighter one. Having the two of them forced together obscures the best part of both while letting their worst parts shine through.

It looks like the task of salvaging DC’s movie universe falls on the shoulders of Wonder Woman, which is already generating serious buzz a year before its release. Can the Amazon Princess succeed where Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman and now Suicide Squad have failed? After this summer Warner Bros better have its fingers-and everything else-crossed that she can.

Shayne Kempton

MOVIE SEASON MADNESS

MY TOP TEN LIST FOR THIS SUMMER MOVIE SEASON

Take a deep breath. Do you smell that? It’s summer movie season, Christmas time for movie fans and buffs. Four months of tent-pole releases, franchise films and blockbusters from every genre. We’re already a few weeks into this year’s summer buffet of movie goodness, and one of the titles on this list has already broken the box office, but these are the ten films I’m looking forward to the most this summer. I spoke about a few of them with Dr. Ted on his podcast a few weeks ago (check it out here) but we ran out of time to touch on all of them. So without further adieu . . .

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  1. Suicide Squad (August 5): Of all the movies on this list, this is the one that makes me the most nervous. I wasn’t a fan of the Suicide Squad comics (never read a single one, in fact) and after the sour taste that Batman Vs. Superman left in my mouth, my confidence in Warner Bros./DC is more then a little shaken. The fact that after the success of Deadpool (or more importantly the comedy in Deadpool), Warner Bros. ordered extensive reshoots for Suicide Squad to make it “lighter” isn’t exactly reassuring (when a movie is doing significant re-shoots six months before its release date, that’s a rarely a good sign). And honestly, is a movie about a team of super villains carrying out near impossible black ops missions in return for having their death sentences commuted the kind of film where you want a laugh a minute? But DC continues to build hype around Squad, there’s buzz that they plan to spin off Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn into her own movie and there’s no shortage of audience anticipation to see Jared Leto’s Joker. Could this be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy: an obscure property that hits big in the steamy days of August? After the critical and box office disappointment of Batman Vs. Superman, they need it to be.

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  1. Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27): When Alice in Wonderland hit theatres back in 2010, my niece had just graduated to being a toddler and I was becoming a little desperate looking for strong female role models in current media. I found one in Alice. Returning a teenage Alice to a broken and bleak Neverland as she’s essentially being pimped out to some high society husband so she can spend her days as an obedient, doting wife and mother was a brilliant stroke of storytelling. Making it so she had to overcome her self-doubt as well as her amnesia about the fantastic Wonderland before she could face the evil threatening it was even better. By the end of the movie, Alice was no princess needing rescuing or a damsel in distress; she was a sword-wielding warrior saving an entire world by slaying the ancient and dreaded Jabberwocky in battle. Toss in Johnny Depp’s performance as the Mad Hatter and Tim Burton’s signature visuals and Alice in Wonderland was a solid hit. Here’s hoping the sequel, with Burton producing instead of directing, lives up to the original.

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  1. Warcraft (June 10): Based on the uber popular online game, this Universal release has a reported 160 million dollar production budget. And by the looks of it, it was all invested in the special and visual effects department. Make no mistake, I’m not expecting any brilliant storytelling (the trailers seem to have already given away the plot), but I fully expect this movie to be sold on the basis of its breath taking visuals and the scope of its world design. What other movie are you going to see this year that includes knights, sorcerers, orcs, griffins, monsters and maybe a dragon or two? What it all boils down to is this is the perfect movie to satisfy my inner geek. It should also be interesting to see how Warcaft is received by moviegoers in general; while the game is still popular it’s not the global phenomenon it once was and video game movies have a pretty bad track record in Hollywood (let alone ones that have a 160 million dollar price tag). One thing’s for sure though, the producers of next December’s Assassins Creed will be paying very close attention to Warcraft’s box office performance.

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  1. Jason Bourne (July 29): I was never really a Jason Bourne fan-never read Robert Ludlum’s books and I still haven’t seen the last two movies-and besides, how often does the fifth film in a franchise rise above mediocre on the quality scale? But Jason Bourne looks like a smart, inventive action flick, reminiscent of last summer’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (my favourite action movie of 2015) and the fact that Matt Damon was lured back to the property by the script is a pretty good sign as well. It may very well be a dud, but it looks smarter and sharper then the rest of the action fare Hollywood is churning out these days.

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  1. Finding Dory (June 17): I was never really that pumped to see Finding Nemo. As much as I love Pixar, a movie about a talking fish searching for his lost son didn’t exactly captivate my imagination (I had the same feelings about Cars and Ratatouille). But when I finally sat down and watched Nemo the whole way through, I spent the entire time smiling like I was in the fifth grade again (and yes, I had similar reactions to Cars and Ratatouille when I took the time to watch and appreciate them). To this day, the mantra of the seagulls (Mine! Mine!) is one of my more favoured catch phrases (it just never gets old). So while the idea of Dory may not excite my imagination the way The Incredibles or Wall-E did, Pixar’s bar of excellence remains the highest in the animated film industry and I’ll walk into the theatre with an open mind and an inner child jumping up and down for joy.

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  1. Independence Day Resurgence (June 24): Hitting theatres almost 20 years to the day that the original Independence Day enthralled movie audiences, Independence Day Resurgence is following the same formula Star Wars: The Force Awakens did with its characters; it mixes some of the golden oldies from the original with a handful of new faces (although hardcore fans are already disappointed with Will Smith’s absence). The original Independence Day broke tonnes of new ground with its mind-blowing special effects and it looks as though the long awaited sequel is following in those same award-winning footsteps. And while I fully expect Warcraft to appeal to my inner fantasy geek, I expect the story of the human race fighting for its collective survival against a second, more pissed off wave of world conquering aliens to do the same for my inner sci-fi nerd. And while I doubt that a Mac power book will save human civilization this time around, I’m kind of hoping we’ll get to see the White House atomized again. Because let’s be honest, twenty years later that’s still everyone’s favourite scene.

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4.  X-Men Apocalypse (May 27): There are plenty of reasons to look forward to the next installment in the X-Men film franchise. When Fox made the prudent decision to erase the reviled X-3 (and possibly the two Wolverine solo films) from continuity with 2014’s Days of Future Past, they made a lot of fans-both of the X-Men comics and movies-very, very happy. After Wolverine’s time hopping in DoFP, many of the original X-Men are back, and we get to see them during their formative teenage years during the 80’s, aka the Decade of Absurd Excess. Storytelling wise, it was a time in the character’s lives when most fans fell in love with them (the ultimate teenage outsiders fighting off one world threatening menace after another) and in real world time, the 80’s were when the X-Men exploded in popularity and became Marvel’s comic cash cow juggernaut. My anticipation for this is also equaled by my curiosity-how do they plan on weaving in that curious Wolverine cameo they’ve been teasing us with? Freed from the cumbersome storytelling baggage of the previous X-Men movies, the special effects in Age of Apocalypse look amazing, you just know Jennifer Lawrence is going to kill it in what could be her final turn as Mystique (whose run the gamut between reluctant hero to villainous sidekick and back to reluctant hero again, with a stop as a world saver in between) and Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Magneto, skating the tragic line between salvation and villainy, is always worth the price of admission. And Olivia Munn’s Psylocke looks like she could be this movie’s Black Panther or Wonder Woman, a breakout character that steals every scene she’s in.CVvJUtwWoAAO2Z5.jpg-large

  1. Star Trek Beyond (July 22): Hey, did you know that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise? Did you know there’s a new movie coming out this summer to celebrate it? No? Don’t sweat it, because few people outside outside of Trek’s hardcore fan base or TV aficionados seem to. Up until last weekend, Paramount barely promoted it, dropping a handful of stills and a single trailer before this month’s fan event. You’d think that a summer tent pole release during Trek’s big 5-0 would have the studio bringing out and then breaking all the proverbial stops, but Paramount’s campaign has been the exact opposite so far. I love Star Trek. I don’t speak Klingon or own a classic Trek uniform but I’ve always enjoyed the various versions of Gene Roddenberry’s classic science fiction vision. But there are plenty of red flags about this movie already-Simon Pegg, who co-wrote it in addition to playing everyone’s favourite Scottish starship engineer, reportedly quit a number of times and had to be talked into returning by J.J. Abrahams (who remains with the franchise as a producer). Combine a possibly disgruntled Pegg with persistent rumours that the budget was slashed just before filming began and a head scratching lack of promotion and it could all add up to disaster for one of Hollywood’s greatest entertainment properties. I really hope I’m wrong, or at the very least my affection for Trek can blind me to any warts, no matter how big. Besides, Idris Elba as the big bad? That promises to make everything better.

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  1. Captain America: Civil War (May 6): This one has already dropped (you can read my review here) and it was everything I hoped it would be (which was primarily a much needed palate cleanser after the bleak, steaming mess that was Batman Vs. Superman). The third and final Captain America standalone film was everything BvS wasn’t; fun, bright, exciting, funny and it only needed two weeks to bury DC’s much maligned movie at the box office, beating both it’s domestic and international gross on its third weekend of release. It has also provided plenty of fuel for the online hate wars that have been raging over BvS since it was released last Easter. Seriously, the people who loved watching Batman and Superman beat the snot out of each other for five minutes in a two and a half hour movie need to find lives, get out of the house more and work on their blood pressure.

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  1. Ghostbusters (July 15): This movie started receiving record amounts of hate the second it was announced, most of it due to the fact that it has an all female cast. The haters don’t want to admit it but that’s what all the fuss boils down to. I love the original Ghostbusters and even the (admittedly inferior) sequel too-watch them every Halloween in fact-but unlike the Internet, I was thrilled to hear there was more on the way, female cast or no. It’s been both amusing and saddening watching the logical knots the haters have gone to trying to disguise their woman bashing. “Women can’t be Ghostbusters because the proton packs are too heavy and we all know how much realism we need in our movie about busting ghosts!” Or one of my favourites, “why can’t they leave such a classic alone?!?” Like I said guys, I love me some Ghostbusters, but this is a movie where New York was almost destroyed by a fifty story Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. This ain’t the Godfather, so calm down. Hopefully Ghostbusters is a box office success despite all the venom from the men’s rights idiots, #Gamersgaters and closet misogynists, who can then stick all those dollar bills in their collective pipes and smoke them until they run out of hate tears.