Suicide Squad – Review

Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot

The events of “Suicide Squad” come in the aftermath of the finale of the previous film in the DC movie universe, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” As it opens, we find various villains from the DC comics wasting away time in prison. They won’t remain their long, however. Amanda Waller, one of the higher-ups in the U.S. government program A.R.G.U.S., has designs to put together a group of expendable metahumans and super criminals. This group would theoretically be designed to fight back if the next Superman turns out to be a bad guy (and do the dirty work of the government in the meantime).

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Waller finds a great deal of resistance to the idea, but the task force is fast tracked when Midway City suddenly finds itself under threat.

Can these killers and misfits work together under duress to defeat the threat? Can they actually ever be controlled? What aren’t they being told? What will happen when they find out?

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

The film is very much a comic book film, with kooky characters, powers, abilities, and raucous action. It is aimed at people who enjoyed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” while also trying to widen the net to a larger audience by including more humor and “edginess.” DC fans generally will enjoy seeing characters they know from the comics and animated series on the big screen. What awaits to be seen is if they will enjoy the way the characters are portrayed, and the story that they have been placed in.

The film is designed to be more humorous and fun than “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and it is made to be a summer blockbuster. People who are looking for more in-depth character studies, or interesting themes, should probably look elsewhere.

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

There are some people who will absolutely hate this movie. They have some good reasons for their hatred. “Suicide Squad” has many flaws. It has choppy editing and storytelling, with poor flow between scenes. It has an inconsistent tone that flits between humorous, lighthearted action and over the top drama. It has occasional characterization missteps, and often underutilizes characters, like Jared Leto’s Joker, and there is some wasted potential from the core concept.

All of those flaws pale in comparison to the poorly conceived plot and unfortunately chosen villain. The nature of the villain, the evil plan, and the story’s very basic and stereotypical plot all undermine the film and its promise. This film could have crafted a distinct identity for itself, and the trailers made it seem like it was going to do that, but in the end it is just another typical superhero film, with the exception that the “heroes” are bad guys.

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Still, there are things to like in the film. While there are design missteps, I mostly looks terrific with well-made costumes, and an interesting and distinct visual flare. The soundtrack is terrific, and while the tracks do not always pair well with what is happening on screen, when they do it just feels right. The cast is great, and each actor is well selected to play their part. The performances are spot-on from all of them, but especially Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.

There is a lot of crap to sift through to get to the good bits. I would never say that this is a great film, but did I have a good time at the theater? Yes, I did. It may not be a film to go gaga over as I had hoped, but it is worth a rental. It is an enjoyable enough movie to watch. More than anything, however, it is fun to see these characters on screen. I enjoyed “Suicide Squad,” despite the myriad valid reasons why it is an objectively weak movie, so in the end it is really just a…

Guilty Pleasure

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

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Independence Day: Resurgence – Review

Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot

Twenty years after the events of the previous film, in which humanity defeated an alien invasion against enormous odds, people have begun to work together across the globe. Earth prepares itself to fend off any more attacks. They have rebuilt – stronger and more unified than ever before.

Everyone is mostly at peace, and involved in their regular lives. Old and new characters alike are going about their days, either continuing to study the aliens, like David Levinson, piloting a fighter jet and captaining a squad like Dylan Dubrow-Hiller, or working as a space tug boat pilot like Jake Morrison, etc.  

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

On the moon, a new defense emplacement is being deployed, and humanity prepares to celebrate the anniversary of their victory over the aliens on July 4.

That peace and confidence is shattered with the arrival of an alien ship over the moon. As it turns out, humanity was not ready enough. Can the people of earth come through against incredible odds to once again defeat an imperial alien power that far surpasses their own?

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

“Independence Day: Resurgence” is a popcorn-munching sci-fi blockbuster, full of spectacle, destruction, action, and very basic characters. People expecting more from their film going experience than an exciting and visuals-heavy bit of summer fun should look elsewhere.

This is a Roland Emmerich film. It carries all of the hallmarks of his films, and however you feel about those tropes will define your ability to enjoy this film. He loves destruction and big epic action sequences. He loves plots stuffed with characters that are thin and melodramatic. He loves spectacle, and will throw logic and realism right out of the window if it doesn’t serve his vision. This film is a very Roland Emmerich film.

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I don’t believe it is absolutely necessary to have seen the first film to get into this one. “Independence Day,” as a franchise, has never been particularly lore heavy. The aliens are enigmatic and the characters from the first movie were never very deep to begin with, however fun they might have been. Some of the most memorable characters are dead, such as Will-Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller, and I think only one character from the previous film has more screen time in this follow up than their original appearance. Because of all that, while it would be beneficial to see the first film(as is true of almost all sequels), it is not necessary.

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

“Independence Day” is not a great film. The plot is basic and has flaws. The aliens’ motivations make no sense. The characters are thin and archetypal at best, cliched at worst. Forget logic or realism. There is no greater message or theme. There is nothing about this movie that would elevate it to the status of a great film.

However, this film never pretends to do anything else. It was always meant to be a “B” movie with a big budget. It follows in its predecessor’s footprints, which was also all about spectacle and action over depth and logic. This is the franchise where a 90s era Mac computer virus took down an alien mother ship, after all.  

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While it doesn’t live up to the first film, as the script lacks its charismatic one-liners and rah-rah speeches, this movie is still a rollicking good time. It’s got classic disaster pic tropes. It has wacky characters, cheesy moments, melodramatic characters. It has a top-notch visual effects team that makes for a visually interesting, if very familiar world, with wonderful action set pieces. It’s flashy, and most importantly, it’s fun.

If you go into the theater expecting something artistically powerful… then I don’t know why you’re going to this movie, really. It’s not for you. Did you even see the first one? But if, like me, you went in knowing what you were in for, and craving a little bit of light-hearted brainless entertainment, then I think you’ll leave with a smile on your face. I may not be able to call this movie “Great,” but for me there is no doubt about it, “Independence Day: Resurgence” is a…

Guilty Pleasure

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

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Warcraft – Review

 

Review Format 1 - The Plot Spot

The film begins with the orcish horde, a military collection of tribal clans. Within the horde we find Durotan, a young orc chieftain, who is accompanied by his wife and their unborn child. The horde, under the command of the warlock Gul’dan, makes preparations and sacrifices needed to cross through a dark portal to escape the imminent destruction of their home world, Draenor. This portal takes them into the world of the seven kingdoms, where live humans, elves, dwarves and other races, and where peace has reigned for many years.

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The orcs bring war with them. Upon their crossing, upon the orders of Gul’dan, the orcs begin to wage a guerilla campaign against the humans. As they pillage, they capture villagers for sacrifice in order to open the dark portal again and bring the full extent of the clans into Azeroth and claim the world as their own. Durotan, meanwhile, begins to have reservations about the methods and goals of Gul’dan.

All of the forces of Azeroth, the country the orcs first invade, are put to the test to figure out what is happening and how to stop it. In Ironforge, a dwarfish city, commander Lothar is summoned to Stormwind to discuss the strange attacks and plan how to thwart them. A young mage named Khadgar has found signs of “fell” magic, demon magic, in these attacks. Khadgar recommends they seek out the guardian Medivh.

Will they figure out the truth in time? Even if they do, will they have the strength to fight the might of the horde? These two factions, orcs and humans, collide in “Warcraft.”

Review Format 2 - Target Audience

When you have a film filled with orcs and humans wielding weapons in a medieval setting, it’s obvious that anyone who doesn’t enjoy fantasy will be turned off immediately. However, there is an in-genre distinction to make. Even with a serious tone, the colorful and cartoonishly-proportioned characters and armor, as well as the generous use of magic, means this film will only appeal to people who not only like fantasy but can also accept the more outlandish elements of this film’s design and storytelling. As much as it might like to be Lord of the Rings, it’s not. I mean, we are talking about magical floating cities, portals the size of skyscrapers, and orange and green orc warriors – each built like the Hulk – after all.

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Beyond this distinction, fans of Warcraft, especially fans since the original real time strategy title “Warcraft: Orcs and Humans,” will find the most to latch onto here. The film doesn’t shy away from its lore, and it drops names of people and places so fast that many die-hard fans might have a hard time keeping up.

That isn’t to say that people unfamiliar with Warcraft lore can’t enjoy the film. The film takes place near the beginning of the game lore of the Warcraft series, meaning this is as good a jumping on point for someone unfamiliar to Warcraft as any. The question is, how well do the filmmakers accomplish providing a good and clear movie narrative?

Review Format 3 - The Short Take

I’m not going to beat around the bush. This film has a lot of flaws. Pacing issues drag it down, especially near the beginning. While there are maybe two good performances, the rest of the acting varies from just fine to very bad. Some plot elements are vague to a fault. The CGI occasionally looks iffy, and the world doesn’t feel particularly lived-in.

Despite these flaws, there are many good things about the film as well. While the pacing is way off, the plot itself is fairly straightforward and understandable, though there are a few points that could have used some more set-up or payoff. Tragedy can and does strike the characters of the film. Sometimes this happens in unexpected ways, and the story doesn’t shy away from violence and consequences.

Durotan is a great character, and we spend a lot of time with him. While the other characters aren’t as engaging as Durotan, many are at least likeable or interesting in their own ways. Lothar in particular nears Durotan in terms of engagement. Also, Gul’dan makes for an effectively vicious villain.

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The action is generally strong. The fights feel real, in the sense that the sound direction makes every impact feel weighty and painful.The CGI is obvious, but once you get used to it, it’s actually pretty good, and it only ever interferes with immersion once or twice. Even if you’re never emotionally touched, this is a perfectly good popcorn spectacle.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit – more than it deserves, even. While I might personally buy it as soon as it comes out, I can’t deny that “Warcraft” won’t be worthwhile for most people. In the end, it’s just a…

Guilty Pleasure

If you want to know more about my rating systems, check out what each rating means HERE.

If you enjoyed this review, keep on reading for “The Long Take” and “Spoiler Talk,” and don’t forget to support me on Patreon!

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Kung Fu Panda 3 – Review

Kung fu Panda 3

The Premise:

Following the events of the first two movies, Po and his friends live a largely peaceful life protecting the Valley of Peace. The greatest challenge that faces Po is the sudden call to become the master of their dojo training his fellow warriors in the arts of Kung Fu, which he is lousy at.

However, before this line can be followed too far, he is surprised by the sudden return of his biological father. He doesn’t have too long to digest this turn of events, however, before the real trouble reveals itself. For unbeknownst to them, a figure from long ago, formerly trapped in the spirit world, seeks revenge on Master Oogway by destroying everything he had built, and that means them, and the life they have been leading in their valley.

The Short of It:

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is a fun, lighthearted conclusion to the Kung Fu Panda trilogy. The movie benefits from exciting action, great design and music, and a well characterized villain. All the same, some of the sheen has worn thin, and the heart of the first two films has faded somewhat. Furthermore, structural problems hurt the dramatic satisfaction of the end of the story, and Po doesn’t seem to gain any real character growth aside from a serious power level-up. None of these things will hurt most kids’ experience, but for adults in the audience the silliness won’t have the deeper level to cover for it and it will be all the more grating. Despite that, they will probably have a decent time anyway. It’s a good film that, while shallow, will provide a fun time for families and fans.

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Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void (Single-Player) – Review

 

Starcraft II

What it is:

“Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” is a real-time strategy game, and a follow up expansion that builds from “Wings of Liberty” and “Heart of the Swarm,” which, as a whole, serves as a sequel to the original “Starcraft” and its expansion “Brood War.” Legacy of the Void picks up after the end of “Heart of the Swarm,” but for much of the story it only focuses on the Protoss until the Epilogue Missions which bring the three races, Zerg, Protoss, and Terran together. The main storyline follows Artanis, the leader of the Templar Protoss in his quest to defeat Amon, a Cthuluan dark god, a fallen Xel’Naga, and then switches to follow Artanis, Kerrigan, and Jim Raynor as a trio in the Epilogue.

 

The Short of It:

“Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void” is a good game. Blizzard’s games are always polished, and LotV follows that tradition. The gameplay is smooth and polished, and likely the best in the RTS genre, but it has been that good since “Wings of Liberty,” so nothing new there. However, the design of the levels wasn’t very strong in places, and the story feels thin and a bit bland despite its epic scope, which disappointed me considering Blizzard’s pedigree. Despite my qualms with the game, it is still fun and well made, generally speaking. I recommend it to fans of the series and the genre, with the caveat that the story and ending will likely disappoint. I don’t recommend it to people new to the franchise, who should really go back and start from at least “Wings of Liberty” if not the original Starcraft.

 

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