Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don't Breathe!

Don’t Breathe

When a trio of teens decide to target a blind Gulf War veteran, they get much more than they bargained for when the man wakes up and subjects the burglars to a savage funhouse of horrors. Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead remake) sits at the helm and uses every trick you come to expect while pushing the envelope a few steps beyond for some truly twisted bits of terror. Our three burglars are struggling kids who are trying to break free from their poverty-stricken Ohio slums. A “hot tip” leads them to the home of our Blind Vet, whose name we never learn. He is played by genre vet, Stephen Lang (Avatar). Having lost his daughter to a car accident some time previous, the man is living off a settlement with the driver’s family. The teens quickly find themselves trapped within the house and discover more locked doors than they’re expecting. Jane Levy (Evil Dead remake) and Dylan Minnette are cast in the lead roles of Rocky and Alex- Levy all but unrecognizable from her role in Alvarez’s previous film. Both are fairly standard character actors who really don’t stand out too much.

So I was sitting in a pretty loud theater with a bunch of teenage boys who were trying to make themselves feel tough by scaring their girlfriends with inopportune “jumps” every few moments- all of which came to a head when one teen sitting in front of me declared “Wait… he’s blind?!?!!” after over an hour into the film and several moments where they specifically state the character was blind. Despite this interesting audience, I still found the film tense and that it worked well where it intended to work. Still, most of the film seemed to be a fairly “paint-by-numbers” affair with the traditional beats getting struck here and there.
And then the third act began.

And the film went from tense to downright terrifying, disgusting, and horrifying in a way that I didn’t expect from a wide release film. I felt my dinner gurgle up and threaten to leak out my throat, a little bit of that bile burn deep down in the back of the tonsils. The film ups the ante and our nerves get raked across an acre of broken glass. Our Blind Vet goes from tough as nails hardcore to sadistic monster in a steady progression that suddenly dips into the deep end of crazy town. The violence, both physical and mental, really ramps up in the final moments of the film.

7.5 and a strong recommendation.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad

Task Force X is a highly secretive government program that allows DC Meta-Human criminals to work years off their sentences. Masterminded by Amanda Waller, the Task Force is led by an Elite Forces soldier named “Flagg” and each of the criminals are implanted with a tracking chip in their skull. Either Waller or Flagg are fully capable of arming the chips to explode. That’s the basic premise of the comic book and that’s the basic premise for the film in a nutshell.

As the third film offering in the latest DC cinematic universe, Suicide Squad is “okay”- a somewhat interesting offering to a series of films that haven’t yet had a chance to establish the heroes or the World in which the universe takes place. We are introduced to a number of characters and given brief origins that include appearances from both Batman and The Flash. The Squad is assembled and a mission is given—so we’re set for a nice little roller coaster ride with some interesting performances. And the film is “okay”.


Here is the thing- I want to be excited about the upcoming films. I wanted to be excited by this film. I wanted to be thrilled and amazed and incredibly impressed with everything surrounding this huge film that would focus on some of DC’s colorful villain elite. I sincerely want to enjoy the DC universe in much the same way that I enjoy Marvel- truth be told, I want to enjoy them MORE than Marvel. The truth is that I prefer the DC comics to those of Marvel- at least the DC comics I grew up with. My favorite superhero is The Flash- I love Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, and Green Lantern. I enjoy the colorful Villains that include Captain Cold, Joker, and Lex Luthor. When all is said and done, I’m looking forward to Aquaman coming face to face with Black Mantis… but when I felt a certain degree of relief that this film didn’t suck it made me check myself.

I was relieved that the movie didn’t suck.

I didn’t think it was “good”, not really- just that it didn’t “suck”. Why am I giving this film such an easy pass?

It was fun and frivolous and there were some good performances in it- The Enchantress creeps and crawls about as an early member to the team while Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn tries to instill some decent bits into what is, essentially, awful writing. Will Smith lends some power to Deadshot, even if he winds up quipping his way through a majority of the film. Joel Kinamen hits some very impressive pathos as the teams’ leader, Flagg. And Jay Hernandez is a powerhouse as El Diablo.  Throw in a humorous turn from Aussie lay-about “Captain Boomerang”, glorified appearances from both Killer Croc and Slipknot, plus the special addition of Flagg’s bodyguard, Katana. The film acts as a veritiable “Who are any of these people and why should I care?”. It literally relies on its audience to be more than passing familiar with the source material and then abandons that same source material whenever it becomes convenient for the story.

And the story is bad. It’s not just poorly conceived, the story is just flat out “bad”- it doesn’t really make much sense, there isn’t a whole lot to inform the danger, and every contrivance is a sign of really lazy writing. The team has to face a villain who is already a member of the team before anyone else is a member of the team. And then we also fight in order to close the big shining door up in the middle of the sky- for the umpteenth time in a comic book film.

Now, before I get to my final rating let me address the Elephant in the Room- he’s an icon, he’s a standard, he’s probably the single MOST recognizable villain in the history of comics. He’s had several incarnations and he has been brought to life through several actors- and in this film, the role of the Joker belongs to Jared Leto. And he makes very little impression in the role. Sorry, but I didn’t buy him in the role- he didn’t impress me, he didn’t disgust me, he didn’t terrorize me in the least. All I could think was that he looked really stupid with the tattoos and the shaved eyebrows and his laugh was more annoying than it was horrifying. He was certainly “acting crazy” and he maybe thought he was being crazy- but he was just sort of annoying. It was weird because there were all these rumors about the “pranks” Leto would often play on other cast members- and he was just really dull as the Joker.

6.5 out of 10 and I recommend it if you have nothing to do one afternoon.