‘The Suicide Squad’ Review – Over-the-Top Comic Book Mayhem

We all know of James Gunn’s ignominious fall from grace. He went from shock-jock provocateur in his Troma days, which curiously led to him scripting the live-action Scooby Doo, followed by the Dawn of the Dead remake; he directed his own horror genre mash-up in Slither, proceeded to indict vigilantes and superheroes with his twisted indie Super, and then was handed the reins of an obscure Marvel franchise to call his own. Gunn’s career read like the unlikeliest of success stories.

Studio gigs are a dream come true for upcoming filmmakers because there’s an assurance to the work that doesn’t exist in independent filmmaking. If a director can meet all of the studio’s requirements for bringing in bankable stars, appealing to a PG-13 audience, merchandising and marketing, etc., then the studio will bankroll your “vision” and stand by you in both success and failure, supposedly. It’s the very assurance that Steven Spielberg had when Universal Studios secured him as a young talent through a multi-picture contract.

It seemed like Disney had Gunn’s back when Guardians 3 was announced months before Vol. 2 came out. And then they dumped him. I mention this because it’s the first time since entering the studio system that Gunn might have felt expendable—and perhaps why he was drawn to this expendable group of heroes.

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‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ Review – A Straightforward Survival Thriller

There used to be a time when the thriller genre reigned supreme to the point of spawning a myriad of subgenres. The “mystery” thriller, the “action” thriller, the “survival” thriller. Such was the trend that Hollywood relied on in the ‘90s through the early 2000s, one that liberated directors from the constraints of traditional studio moviemaking, AND one that actors both upcoming and veteran flocked to for mainstream success. Take Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Se7en, or Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State, or a forgotten 1997 wilderness thriller The Edge starring Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins. Studios banked on thrillers before capes and comic books took over, a modern trend that has all but eviscerated the middle-budget movie.

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Okay, I’m Hyped for ‘The Batman’

After Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and certainly after Zack Snyder’s brief trial run, I felt like the Caped Crusader could benefit from an overdue sabbatical, and frankly so could we. There’s been a Batman film (or films featuring the Batman) roughly every 3 years since 2005. Even for a lifelong Batman fan that’s excessive.

When Matt Reeves was tapped to write and direct another reboot with Robert Pattinson queued as the next Bruce Wayne, I did my best to feign exasperation despite some excellent sneak peeks. “Darker” and “grittier” they said it would be, or “raw & unsanitized.” Up until DC’s FanDome event, I was all for Warner Bros. hanging up the cape and cowl. But after this weekend’s trailer, I am formally withdrawing my objections. Gimme raw and unsanitized Batman movies for as long as I live. Continue reading

We Need to Talk About Justice League

There’s a pivotal moment in Justice League where a weary Bruce Wayne champions Diana to lead the team, not him. The film wants to prove otherwise (THE LEAGUE NEEDS BATMAN). Thing is, the idea isn’t half bad. Wonder Woman is a far more efficient warrior; her steadfastness not only gets the job done, it saves Batman’s life. The film wants its team and its hierarchy, the same way Warner Bros. wants an Avengers-level success (so much so they brought in Joss Whedon). But there is no need for either aside from the machine-churning mentality of the studio blockbuster and a larger, interconnected universe – the new norm in franchise filmmaking. 2017 pushed the superhero into its golden age with stellar entries in the genre, making Justice League the sole casualty of the bunch.  Continue reading

DC Films – Too Big to Fail?

For better or worse, 2016 will go down as the year DC finally kicked off their cinematic universe. Despite being critical whimpers, both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were bona fide box-office bangs, opening to the tune of $166 million and $135 million, respectively. Critics be damned; Warner Bros. is the only franchise studio to see their films open above the $100 million mark. That includes Man of Steel. But success, of course, is measured in the long run. It remains to be seen what kind of legs Suicide Squad will have going into its second and third weekend. That, and the critical decline in DC films so far have put enormous pressure on the next film to be an even bigger hit. Seeing as how WB has been reactively and aggressively tinkering with its own films, perhaps the only thing that can stop the studio is the studio itself, which begs the question: is DC at risk of imploding?  Continue reading