Film Review: The Suicide Squad (2021)

Also known as: Suicide Squad 2 (informal title)
Release Date: July 28th, 2021 (France)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Suicide Squad by John Ostrander
Music by: John Murphy
Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Stephen Blackehart, Jennifer Holland, Alice Braga, Taika Waititi, Pom Klementieff (cameo, uncredited), Lloyd Kaufman (cameo, uncredited)

Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, 132 Minutes

Review:

“You know the deal: successfully complete the mission and you get ten years off your sentence. You fail to follow my orders in any way, and I detonate the explosive device in the base of your skull.” – Amanda Waller

Going into this, based off of the trailers, I wasn’t expecting much. Also, even though I like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, I hated the first Suicide Squad and her Birds of Prey movie. That being said, this was pretty damn fantastic and it’s probably my favorite comic book movie since Infinity War, which I can’t believe is already three years old.

I’d also say that this was the best DC Comics film since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy ended in 2012.

The cast was perfect and out of the core characters, I liked all of them. In fact, seeing a few of them die was actually kind of hard and it was in those moments that I realized how personally attached I had become to them and this story.

James Gunn was the perfect choice for directing this and frankly, I like that he was allowed to go for an R-rating and didn’t have to make it “kid friendly” like his two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. With that, this was able to be closer to Gunn’s pre-Marvel movies where there was great, stylized violence, no punches pulled, colorful language and the sort of balls out awesomeness that you could never tap into while making a movie for Disney.

This film is also a great example of how to properly subvert expectations. The opening sequence completely shakes thing up and throws multiple major curveballs at the audience. The film continues to do this, throughout, and with that, it’s probably the least predictable and paint-by-numbers blockbuster movie to come out in a very long time.

The movie doesn’t just subvert expectations for the hell of it, it does it to make the picture better and more engaging. This is a now rare occasion of a filmmaker having love for the material and his fans, as opposed to what guys like Rian Johnson and Kevin Smith have turned into.

Gunn wants to make great, entertaining movies and he genuinely wants his audience to leave the theater happy. I wish there were more James Gunns than talent drained directors who blame fans’ “toxicity” for holding them accountable when they fail.

Another difference between Gunn’s films and many of the others that exist in the same genre, is that there is a real, genuine passion in Gunn’s work and it is very apparent. He still loves making these movies and it shows in a way that transcends his films and becomes infectious with his audience.

In this movie, he understood these characters and the tone that was needed to make this all work. The movie is badass, violent and over the top. It’s also funny, tells a very human story and also makes you sympathize with the film’s big bad in the end.

Since this just came out, I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot details and wreck the experience for those who haven’t seen this yet. There are a lot of cool twists to the plot that should just be experienced.

In the end, this set out to achieve a certain thing and it greatly exceeded that thing, at least from my point-of-view. It’s a fun and entertaining, action-packed spectacle that has cemented itself as one of the best superhero movies of this era. At this point, I’d also consider it to be my favorite movie of 2021, thus far.

Rating: 8.5/10

 

Documentary Review: Life After Flash (2017)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2017 (London premiere)
Directed by: Lisa Downs
Written by: Lisa Downs
Music by: Toby Dunham
Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Brian Blessed, Topol, Peter Wyngarde, Richard O’Brien, Deep Roy, Brian May, Peter Duncan, Howard Blake, Barry Bostwick, Martha De Laurentiis, Richard Donner, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Fulcher, Sean Gunn, Jon Heder, Stan Lee, Ross Marquand, Josh McDermitt, Jason Mewes, Mark Millar, Robert Rodriguez, Michael Rooker, Alex Ross, Patrick Warburton, various

Strict Machine, Spare Change Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

This documentary has been in my queue for a bit but I wanted to revisit Flash Gordon first before checking this out. Luckily, I recently found my DVD of the original film and was able to watch it and review it a week or so ago.

Now that the 1980 film was fresh in my mind again, as I hadn’t seen it in years, I felt like I could go into this with more familiarity, context and creative reference.

Overall, this was pretty good and it was intriguing listening to Sam J. Jones’ story about how his career sort of fizzled out and the reasons behind that. Luckily, this is a Hollywood story with a positive outcome, as the guy is now doing well and on the right track, personally and career-wise.

This spends a lot of time talking about Jones but it also delves into the film’s production, history and features interviews with many of the people who were involved in it. I especially liked seeing Brian Blessed in this, as I’ve always loved that guy.

Life After Flash also explores the fandom a bit, as it interviews super fans and collectors but also allows them to show off their cool shit and talk about their love for the film.

I dug this documentary quite a bit, as I feel like the 1980 Flash Gordon doesn’t get enough love and has sort of been forgotten by modern audiences. 

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about filmmaking and specific fandoms.

Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Release Date: April 10th, 2017 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, David Hasselhoff, Ving Rhames, Michelle Yeoh, Michael Rosenbaum, Seth Green, Miley Cyrus (uncredited)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 136 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been greatly anticipating this since the first one came out three years ago. I’ve wanted to see this more than any other Marvel movie.

Unexpectedly, the first Guardians of the Galaxy gave me the experience I had hoped to get with The Phantom Menace in 1999 but found myself gravely disappointed. Guardians truly felt like the real spiritual successor to the original Star Wars trilogy.

With the sequel, a lot of critics and fans seem to be knocking it already. Some have said its “more of the same”. Well, when the first one came out it was really unique. Should the sequel not follow the same formula and style? Was the formula and style only good for one picture? Of course it is going to be similar in style and tone. All the other Marvel movies are a lot more similar to each other than the Guardians films are to the rest of them.

I’ve seen people say that this one isn’t as good as the first. Well, the first film took everyone off guard and surprised audiences. That leaves any film to follow at a disadvantage. One, you can’t surprise them in the same way twice. Two, because of lacking the ability to surprise twice, audiences won’t leave the theater feeling the same sort of awe they did the first time.

To be honest, I like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 more than its predecessor. No, it didn’t leave me in awe in the same way but I didn’t expect it to. It just enriched the mythos and built on the characters that I loved in the first movie. It gave me more meat to sink my teeth into. It also greatly expands Marvel’s cosmic universe, introducing new aliens, new threats, new worlds, new characters and new ideas.

Comic book movies are supposed to be fun, at the end of the day. Even the dark and brooding characters need to put a smile on your face. Got that DC?

Point being, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 puts a big smile on your face. I feel it does this better than the first. The first was the introduction to the universe of Guardians. This gives us something familiar and lived in but the camaraderie of the characters, their family dynamic, their comedic timing, it all just works and flows better in this movie. Plus, the group expands and everyone that comes into the fold is a pretty great and unique character, one of them new, two of them already being in the first picture.

James Gunn’s work on this feels a lot more refined. Marvel probably gave him a lot more freedom this time and he was obviously a lot more comfortable, already having one of these films under his belt.

As good as the art direction and cinematography were in the first film, in Vol. 2 they really up the ante. Visually, this thing is stunning and beautiful. While the first film is amazing to look at, everything in this one is more pristine.

The cast additions, mainly Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, were brilliant.

Russell was perfect as Quill’s father Ego, the Celestial being that is literally a living planet. When I saw that Russell was cast as Ego, I wondered if he would be Ego, The Living Planet from the comics but I was not disappointed.

Stallone plays Stakar, who is Starhawk in the comics. His role is more of a slightly extended cameo but it is to set up something bigger in the future, as Marvel and James Gunn have big plans for the cosmic side of the Marvel universe.

Another cast addition was Pom Klementieff as Mantis. She was great in the role and is a welcomed new character. There seems to be a link (possibly romantic) between her and Dave Bautista’s Drax, which will probably develop into something more in the third film.

Speaking of which, Drax was just on point in this film from beginning to end. I’d love to see Bautista get more work, as he is the only professional wrestler, other than The Rock, to enter into the acting world and be successful at it.

The relationship between sisters Gamora and Nebula evolves in this chapter and we get to see some closure to their rivalry and a reminder of their hatred for their father Thanos.

Rocket and Groot are even more fantastic in this. Rocket gets more lines and gets to be a lot more bad ass. I thought the Baby Groot thing would become tiresome but Gunn doesn’t hit the audience over the head with it too much. This version of the character was well-balanced between cute and still being cool. Let Baby Groot forever be the template for characters studios think they need to appeal to kids without driving adults friggin’ bonkers.

Star-Lord’s story is focused on his relationship with Ego, his biological father, and Yondu, the man who actually raised him. There’s some serious emotional stuff here, especially in how Yondu has an interesting story arc and he feels the need to save his surrogate son from his real father. In fact, Yondu is the best thing about the movie and he actually gets an amazing sequence that sees him take on his entire mutinous gang of thugs.

The Sovereign, a major threat that is introduced in this film but meant to carry over into the next, were well designed and looked gorgeous on screen. Their world was cool, their style and personalities were quite unique and they end their story in this chapter, on the verge of unleashing a really famous and powerful Marvel cosmic character on the Guardians. We’ll have to wait till part three for that.

We also get a look at another famous cosmic race in the part where Stan Lee has his cameo. If you were a fan of the What If…? comics, you’ll probably be smiling from ear-to-ear.

In regards to characters, I did miss Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz of the Nova Corps. I also missed Lee Pace, even though Ronan died in the first. But that just adds to the ongoing Marvel villain problem, where they are just all one-shot throwaway baddies. I also would have liked to have seen Benecio del Toro’s The Collector. But hey, we do get a Howard the Duck cameo again. And Pac-Man is in the film… just wait and see.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 takes all the good stuff from the first and improves and builds upon it. I would have liked more space-faring than what we got but the story and the building of relationships and making characters richer, was probably a better use of time. Regardless, there isn’t a moment where the picture isn’t exciting and doesn’t have you on your toes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this strong branch of the Marvel tree meshes with the Avengers when the two groups come together in the third Avengers film next summer. There were several Earth scenes in this film to keep audiences grounded in that reality, reminding them that this isn’t in a galaxy far away and long ago.

Personally, I’d rather just watch Guardians movies all day over the Avengers stuff but that’s because James Gunn keeps pumping out cinematic comic book masterpieces and those Avengers people just aren’t James Gunn.

Rating: 9/10