Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title)
Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams

Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn

This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.

To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.

Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.

When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.

But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.

Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.

On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.

Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.

So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.

The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.

And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.

Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.

For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.

I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?

It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.

Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.

And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.

Film Review: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Release Date: June 24th, 1983
Directed by: John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, George Miller
Written by: John Landis, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Melissa Mathison, Jerome Bixby
Based on: The Twilight Zone by Rod Sterling
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow, Kathleen Quinlan, Burgess Meredith (narrator), Dick Miller, Steven Williams, Al Leong, John Larroquette, Selma Diamond, Priscilla Pointer, Nancy Cartwright, Christina Nigra

Amblin Entertainment, Warner Bros., 101 Minutes

Review:

“Hey… you wanna see something really scary?” – Car Passenger

After recently watching the Creepshow television series, as well as revisiting the movies for the umpteenth time, I got the itch to rewatch Twilight Zone: The Movie, as it has a lot of similarities and I hadn’t seen it in at least a decade.

I like the highpoints of this movie almost as much as the Creepshow films. However, Twilight Zone is pretty inconsistent, as the first two segments are weak while the latter two are really good. And maybe it was put in this order in post-production because Steven Spielberg felt the same way, even though one of his segments was one of the crappier ones.

The prologue and the first segment were both directed by John Landis, coming off of An American Werewolf In London, a true horror classic. The prologue was a pretty good setup and I loved it when I was a kid. Landis’ segment, however, plays more like an episode of Amazing Stories.

Although, two of these segments play like Amazing Stories episodes and maybe this movie is what inspired Spielberg to create that show just two years later.

Anyway, Landis’ segment is actually incomplete due to an accident involving a helicopter on the set of the film. The accident killed two kids and actor Victor Morrow. It was a pretty controversial event back when it happened (see here) and it forever ruined the working relationship between Steven Spielberg and John Landis.

Moving on to the second segment, it’s the one directed by Spielberg himself and it is also the other segment that feels like an Amazing Stories episode. It’s also really boring and slows the movie to a crawl. But thankfully, Joe Dante’s segment gets the movie back on track.

By the time the third segment rolls around, you might find yourself in a comatose state that even the gentle, kind and always fly Scatman Crothers couldn’t pull you out of during the previous story. But once you get to the midpoint of the film, everything picks up, gets better and the movie delivers.

The third and fourth segments feel almost as good as the best segments from the Creepshow franchise and they save this movie from being a total disaster.

Where the first story dealt with an unlikable, old, racist piece of shit and the second dealt with old people getting to feel young again, the third deals with a young boy with special powers and a nice lady that eventually wants to help him, played by Kathleen Quinlan. It has more energy, it’s a more interesting story and the monster effects that Dante had created for this are superb. I love the third segment and it’s actually a story I would revisit if ever there were a followup to it. Plus, it has Dick Miller in it.

Now the fourth segment is directed by George Miller, the man behind the Mad Max franchise, and it is a remake of the most famous Twilight Zone episode.

The story sees an airplane passenger freak out over a monster on the wing of the plane. It may sound like an odd setup but it is a great segment that builds suspense incredibly well and also benefits from the great talent of John Lithgow. I also really liked the young Christina Nigra in this, as she added some good comedic seasoning at just the right moments. She was also really good in Cloak & Dagger, alongside Henry Thomas, a year later.

The final segment features the best (and only real) monster of the movie. The special effects are outstanding and the payoff in the finale makes the rest of the movie worth sitting through.

In the end, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a good example of what I don’t like about anthologies: consistency. The first half is bogged down by dry, slow, boring stories that one has to suffer through in an effort to get to something better. Thankfully, the second half of the picture is good.

In retrospect, though, it feels like this is almost a movie length pilot to Spielberg’s anthology television series Amazing Stories. If you’ve ever seen that show, this feels like an extension of it more than it feels like it fits within the Twilight Zone franchise. However, this would also lead to the Twilight Zone getting resurrected on television. In fact, it relaunched just a few days before Amazing Stories debuted.

Going back to the Spielberg segment with the old people experiencing their youth again, there are a lot of parallels to it and Ron Howard’s Cocoon. I’m not sure if this was an inspiration for that movie and its sequel but it’s very possible.

In fact, Twilight Zone: The Movie seems to have had quite the impact between launching a new TZ television series, influencing Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and its similarities to Cocoon, all of which came out two years later in 1985.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthology films of the time: the Creepshow movies and Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, as well as the television shows Amazing Stories and Tales From the Crypt.

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part III – The Kane Hodder Years (1988-2001)

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood (1988):

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Fred Mollin
Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Larry Cox, Craig Thomas, Diane Almeida, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

Hey, it’s Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s and he’s alive! Well, not for long – it is a Jason movie.

This film also features Jason Voorhees going against Jean Grey from the X-Men. Actually, it is some girl named Tina but she has telekinetic and psychic powers and thus, spends a lot of time confusing Jason with cheap parlor tricks. I have a theory that she has no powers and was a con artist that rigged her house with lots of Hollywood strings. In any event, it gives this film an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen in this series before.

The New Blood is important, in that it is the first film to feature Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. He is the only guy to play the role more than once. In fact, he played him over the course of four films and is the most recognized Jason actor and pretty much the overall fan favorite. I definitely think he had the best presence and mannerisms and brought the role to the next level, even though C.J. Graham did a pretty phenomenal job in Jason Lives (the installment before this one).

Jason also looks the absolute best in this film. He still looked pretty good in the next film but this is definitely my favorite Jason, as far as overall appearance. The fact that you can see his spine and ribs through the back of his tattered jumpsuit is pretty damned cool, as he was fish food in a lake for like ten years leading into being set free at the beginning of this movie.

The problem with this film, is that it was butchered by the censors and the MPAA. There is less gore, not because it was filmed that way but because it was edited down a lot. The fluidity of certain scenes and certain cuts are horrible.

Despite those issues, this is still a better-than-decent Friday the 13th chapter. It is also the best of the four Kane Hodder films.

Rating: 7/10

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Fred Mollin
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, Kelly Hu

Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

Jason Takes Manhattan is a really misleading title. Jason is only in Manhattan for less than a third of the film and he’s pretty much just in the alleyways and the sewer other than a quick chase scene in Times Square. This film should really be called Jason On A Boat because it is primarily Jason on a boat, killing some teens.

There are a few good kills, like a sauna rock through a stomach and a boxer having his head knocked off by a Jason uppercut. That’s about it though. This takes Jason out of his normal element but it isn’t a wanted change and it is executed with absolutely no imagination. This is just a very boring film.

The ending is retarded level bizarre. It makes no sense and I’m not sure why the City of New York flushes their sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight and how hanging out on a ladder above the rampaging toxic river didn’t asphyxiate and cause severe brain damage in our heroes. And somehow, toxic waste melts Jason down to a crying little boy.

The film is also visually inconsistent with previous installments. The child Jason looks nothing like Jason has looked in the past at that age. The tone of the film is just strange and it feels more like an old Sci-Fi Channel slasher knockoff film than a chapter in a storied franchise.

I’ve always liked Jensen Daggett though and this is her first film. That is about the only positive I can give.

This was the last film of the original series to be released by Paramount.

Rating: 5/10

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, Adam Marcus
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steve Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder, Richard Gant

New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

This is the worst film in the entire franchise. It is beyond horrible. Jason is barely in it and the monster is a demonic heart worm.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise and decided to reinvent it in their own way. Kane Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees but he is only in the opening sequence and the final battle, other than appearing in mirrors throughout the film when other people are possessed by his evil spirit.

By the way, that evil spirit travels from host to host via a worm crawling out of one mouth and into another. And Jason’s evil French kiss worm hatched from his heart. So I guess his heart is really some sort of egg. Well, the heart was eaten by a possessed guy in a morgue but that is how he got infected with the Jason worm and how this whole stupid process began.

The film also introduces a horrible concept that was abandoned after this film. Basically, now it is learned that Jason can only be killed with a magic knife wielded by a blood relative. So Jason is hunting down surviving family members because if he kills them, he can’t be killed. And somehow, all these people live around Crystal Lake and yet, he has never tried to hunt them down before, in any of the eight movies that predate this one!

The truth is, I completely ignore this film when it comes to the Friday the 13th mythos. The movie is absolute shit. It doesn’t exist except in some parallel universe. No, it doesn’t exist there either. Avoid it at all costs, unless you really want to torture yourself.

Jason also looks horrible. He looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplaying as Jason. Why does his noggin look like a big mutant brain with a hockey mask that is obviously too tight for his newly enormous head?

The only noteworthy thing about this movie, is that after Jason is dragged to Hell, the glove of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare On Elm Street series) bursts out of the ground, grabs Jason’s hockey mask in the dirt and drags it down to Hell. This set up the eventual Freddy vs. Jason film that was in development hell for a decade.

Rating: 3/10

Jason X (2001):

Release Date: July 24th, 2001 (Germany)
Directed by: James Issac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Melody Johnson, David Cronenberg, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes

Review:

This is the last film in the regular series of movies unless you count Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. It is also the last film to star Kane Hodder as Jason.

So when horror franchises jump the shark, they usually go to space. Where most horror franchises go to space by the fourth film (see Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun), at least Jason didn’t have to leave Earth until the tenth installment of his series.

Jason X is a bad movie. It is a really bad movie. But it is a bad movie that is great in its awfulness. It is fun, it is ridiculous and the film doesn’t, at any time, try to take itself seriously. It knows it is bad but it is doing a damned good job of creating a good time.

After nine films full of killing teens at (or around) a summer camp, the new direction was refreshing. At least the scenery changed and at least it wasn’t a boring ghetto cruise ship on the way to a boring Manhattan sewer.

Jason is cryogenically frozen, wakes up 500 years in the future on a spaceship conducting a high school field trip and goes on a sci-fi killing spree. At one point, he is rebuilt by nanomachines into what fans call Uber Jason. Basically, he looks like a much angrier and deadly version of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain.

If you try to take this film seriously, you will hate it. If you take it for what it is, an intentionally bad but awesome time, you will most likely enjoy it.

Rating: 6/10

*I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake at a later date.