Suicide Squad Review

After the mixed received film Man of Steel and the critically panned Batman v. Superman: Dawn of JusticeSuicide Squad seems to have the same negative outcome. However, though the film may have a big plot hole in its third act and an unnecessary side story, it is still an entertaining film, with an equal set of interesting characters.

From the moment the movie starts you are enraptured by the beautiful visuals and wonderful soundtrack, which is one of the best parts of the movie. The sound mixing and the audiovisuals of the film capture the tone of each scene perfectly, as well as conveying the emotions some of the characters were experiencing. To make things even better, the visuals of the film are probably the best of any superhero film out there. With it being big, bold, and colorful, the way they introduce each squad member is unlike any other film, that is just ripped out of the comics.

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With each introduction of the squad members, you get a sense of what each members stand for. Or for at least the core three, which are Deadshot (Floyd Lawton), Harley Quinn, and Col. Rick Flagg. Deadshot, played brilliantly by Will Smith, plays an assassin with a heart of gold toward his daughter. Taken into custody by Batman, his character had the development to prove that he’s more than just a killer. He’s a person, who can be so much more for his daughter and himself. He’s funny, deadly, and is a simple joy to watch.

Fan favorite Harley Quinn was a simple delight to watch. Her character is what fans expected. She was funny, unhinged, and is still infatuated with her ‘puddin’ (more on that later.) Col. Rick Flagg was a character that surprised me the most. They gave him a story and his mission was more personal than any other, as he tries to save his love June Moon, from the Enchantress control. Other characters such as Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc were also good. They had great one liners, but they had no story and were just part of the squad. There were some questions I had, like what was the significance of the pink unicorn Boomerang had? It was a bit odd and i guess it could be his fetish, but I would’ve liked an explanation of it or something.

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The character of El Diablo was a a good, but sad one. Living a life of tragedy, he tries his best to refrain himself, knowing he can cause more harm than good. He is a very interesting character with an amazing set of powers. His whole story was that of redemption and he was able to accomplish that with a satisfying sacrifice to save the rest of the squad. Now the last member, who I don’t even know was in the movie if she was just there and offered nothing, is Katana. She was just there. She had maybe four lines of dialogue and is unclear as to why she’s even there in the first place. A shame for such an interesting comic character.

One things fans were excited to see was how actor Jared Leto would portray the Joker. I enjoyed what I saw, but what I saw wasn’t enough. I give props to Leto for giving us a new take on the character, but the Joker did not need to be in the film. He was in the film for about seven minutes and it was to further Harley Quinn’s story, but by the very end, his whole journey for Harley was useless. Every time they cut to the Joker, it felt choppy, very sudden, and unnecessary for the film.

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Aside from some mild choppy cut scenes, the main issue with the film is the third act. For me, everything was working fine until they face the antagonist, The Enchantress, who isn’t much of a compelling villain. She is a very overpowered character who can teleport anywhere in seconds to get whatever she needs and no one would see disappear. She has several powers and towards the end when the bomb is underneath her, one where she knows is placed there, and she doesn’t take it. Another thing is when the squad is together at the end, the Enchantress decides to fight them in hand to hand combat, for some reason, when she could easily kill them. I hate to say it, but the “big swirly thing in the sky” and an overpowering villain fighting our heroes hand to hand, seems very reminiscent to the previous Fantastic Four film. Now the film is NO WHERE near as bad as that film, it’s just that those scenes reminded me of it.

Suicide Squad is fun, entertaining film. I enjoyed it even through its flaws, which I’m sure people can get passed. Suicide Squad is a good time in the theaters and I think it does a fare job at adding to the DC mythos in their cinematic universe. I recommend going in and just have a good time as you can.

Rating: 6.5

Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debt – Book Review

Aftermath: Life Debt is the sequel to the controversial novel, Aftermath. With a different writing prose, compared to other Star Wars novels, as well as story that may have been lackluster. Author Chuck Wendig had a large hurdle to overcome after the backlash of the first novel, but he certainly overcame it. Delivering a story that is suspenseful, action-packed, and explores deep into the mythos of Star Wars.

What the novel excels in is describing to us the state of the galaxy after Return of the Jedi. As much as it’s a story about a band of New Republic soldier, it’s the fragile state of the Empire that makes this a fascinating story. The story doesn’t shy away from starting with a bang, as our band of New Republic Soldiers.The team is led by ace pilot Norra Wexley, alongside is her son, Tommen, as well as Jam the Special Ops soldier; Jas, a bounty hunter, and Sinjir, a former Imperial Officer.. Together they are a band of misfits with a primary operation of picking up (kidnapping) Imperial Officers. Basically a legally assigned group of bounty hunters.

In the first novel, we are introduced to these characters, but we never get enough development of them and personally, I didn’t care for them as much. However, now that I’ve spent some time with them and know more about each character, each page is a delight as we learn more and more about them. I can honestly say that I now care about these characters. Eventually they go on a mission to find Han Solo who is lost and tried to liberate Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyyk. What leads is a story of guerrilla warfare in the deep jungle of the planet with an Imperial officer who considers himself a warlord. Intense and brutal action, as well as heartwarming scenes. I actually cared for what was going on in the story and it’s characters, which made it carry more wait to what was happening, with a much bigger stake.

The newly appointed Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is on a mission to change and persuade the public of how order and stability of the Empire is what the galaxy needs. Introduced in a previous novel, Sloane has become a fan favorite, with her devout love for the Empire she would do anything for it, even change it. if it is required. She is also on a personal mission to find out who and where her head advisor came from. At the end of the first novel we are introduced to a new mysterious and sinister character in the name of Galius Rax. A character who shares a striking resemblance to character Grand Admiral Thrawn (without the blue skin.) Cold, calculating, and has a new vision for the Empire. Little is known about him, as to how he came to be, what he has done prior, and what is his endgame?

Although Rae Sloane is in charge of the Empire, it is Rax who controls her and she tries her best to escape him. While she maybe 10 steps ahead, he is 50 steps ahead, with a clear vision and endgame for the Empire, unlike Sloane. The dialogue between the two is fascinating and is what made the novel most interesting for me. The novel is filled with several twists and surprises,that lead to even MORE twists and surprises.

Although, I do like the character Rax, I have to admit he is very similar to old character Grand Admiral Thrawne, as previously mentioned. Some may even say it is a carbon copy of it and although I don’t see it, I can certainly see where people may think that. Also, the prologue was slow, but it had a secret that was interesting, but as you read the novel that secret is easily revealed, making the epilogue anticlimactic.

The novel does a great job at telling us where the universe is and giving subtle hints in the direction that leads to The Force Awakens. Although there were moments where I thought the pacing was a bit off and things were rushed, it doesn’t take away how amazingly fun and different it is from other Star Wars stories.

Rating: 8/10

Café Society Review

Established and talented screenwriter/director Woody Allen graces our movie screens every year with his whimsical, but honest stories. In what some may call a small period of flops for Woody Allen in the last two years with  Magic in the Moonlight Irrational Man, Allen transports us back to his classic, but not much memorable, style of stories in Café Society. 

Set during the Golden Age of Hollywood, amidst glam glitter. An entire city that runs solely on “ego” one character does not fall into temptation, Bobby Dorfman. A young Jewish boy, moves to Hollywood in hopes to find a new and exciting career. He works for his uncle Phil(Steve Carrel) and meets Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) where he is immediately enamored by her. Sadly she is in a relationship, with Phil. Eventually a love triangle is formed and Vonnie must choose either Phil or Bobby and chooses the latter. Making Bobby move back to NY because he’s bored of the Hollywood lifestyle and  runs a nightclub with his brother and falls for another girl, but is still hung up on Vonnie; it just becomes a bit of a mess towards the 2nd act.

The script is rather meandering, as the story begins to move all over the place in the middle of the 2nd act; and the pacing did feel off at times. There were also side stories that didn’t bring anything to the overall story. They put such a large emphasis on Bobby’s older brother Ben (Corey Stoll) being a gangster and is convicted and put to be executed. That small thread of a story ultimately does nothing to further the plot and Bobby, although saddened, is left unchanged by this.

However, one bright positive is its visuals. Allen is able to capture the beauty of the Hollywood era, but just as well shows us how fake and artificial the city and the people are. Allen is known for his distaste in Hollywood and although so many things in the film are gorgeous and appear to amount to something great, it’s all hollow and really amounts to nothing. As a period piece, Allen does an excellent job in setting the mood and style of both New York and LA.

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The performances across the board were great. Steve Carrel continues to do drama very well, while having a sprinkle of comedy to work with. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Woody Allen trope, that is very reminiscent in Annie Hall. The real star is Kristen Stewart who gives one of the best performances I’ve seen from her. Her character of Vonnie has the largest arc; when we first meet her, she’s someone who doesn’t like the fame and expensive things in life, but when it is given to her, she can’t get enough of it. It is in the very end when she realizes that everything she has ultimately means nothing and contemplates whether she made the right decision to be with Phil.

The rest of the supporting cast were fine, although some may not even be memorable like Veronica (Blake Lively) or Rad (Parker Posey.) However, there were still a few that were able stand out, in large part due to the comedy. Despite, some of the negatives, this film might be Allen’s funniest film since Midnight in Paris, with many one liners and situational comedy that can make you burst out laughing.

Certainly not his greatest, it would probably be like many of his other films such as Sweet and Lowdown or Stardust Memories. Good films, but just not as memorable as his other films. That’s where Café Society falls short, something that could’ve been great, but just becomes a decent film, unable to join the ranks some of his best modern works such as Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine.

Rating: 6.5/10

Batman: The Killing Joke (Spoiler) Review

One of Batman’s most loved and well recognized graphic novel, The Killing Joke, is put to the ultimate test with a feature length animated movie. As a massive Batman fan, I have read The Killing Joke numerous times; it is one of my favorite Batman/Joker stories. So imagine my surprise when I realized the film ultimately falls short.

To start with the positives, by far one of the best parts of the film are Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker. The scenes they are in are great as always and a lot of the dialogue between the two are straight from the comic. The story group and the animation do a fantastic job at recreating certain panels and transitioning them to a scene, that builds the same tension and suspense as the original graphic novel. Whenever a film is adapting something from another form of media, there will always be changes, but those changes should improve on the overall story. There were some minor scenes that were new to the story that fit well, but again, those were the minor scenes.

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Where the film falls short were the major scenes that added the story of Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl. They give her a backstory, which is fine, it was something I was open to the idea of, but they executed her story very poorly. In fact, I found myself bored and uninterested in her story. She’s practically a sex object, with a mob boss who is infatuated with her, Batman who is overly protective of her, so much so that he tells her to back off a case, which leads them to have sex on a rooftop… And Batman never even bothers to call back… So many things were wrong with that scene, Batman is basically treating her like a child and the two of them having sex was just so bizarre.  It feels out of character and was unnecessarily melodramatic. I can understand that the filmmaker wanted to add more scenes of Barbara to give us a bigger emotional impact, when she did get shot by the Joker, but it was executed poorly.

The narrative is another issue, because the 1st act is about building this character, by creating her own separate story, that has NOTHING to do with the overall story. The Killing Joke is a story about Joker trying to prove to Batman that the average person is just like him. It just takes one bad day, one moment to make you snap, to make you fall into an abyss that is madness. While Batman is trying to prove that his way, the right way, works and that no one can fall into insanity so easily.  The relationship between the two characters is iconic and as previously mentioned, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill do a great job and bring these characters to life. When the film is actually adapting the graphic novel, that’s where things really took off.

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The film accomplishes bringing the original story to life; the scenes that were exactly from the graphic novel were great! The story probably would’ve been much more suited if it were a short 40-45 minute film, focusing mainly on Batman and Joker. Even with a meandering narrative and an unnecessary 1st act, once you get to the main story, you get a good adaptation.

Rating: 6/10

Ghostbusters Review

There is no doubt that this film was facing an uphill battle, with the majority of people hating the film without seeing it, but those people don’t know what they’re missing. Ghostbusters is a fun, entertaining film, with memorable characters, hilarious moments, and amazing effects that might actually make you afraid of ghosts.

I never understood why there was such a big hate towards this film. In an era where reboots, remakes, and sequels are the norm, it didn’t bother me that they would remake this film. Paul Feig is a well established comedic director, creating hits like Bridesmaids (a romantic comedy), The Heat (a buddy cop comedy), and Spy (a action-comedy). It would make sense for Feig to dabble in the realm of Sci-Fi/comedy with Ghostbusters and the result is a fun film.

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The cast were good; each character were different from each other and you can imagine them roaming the streets of NY and have these weird, wacky adventures. My new favorite Ghostbusters is hands down, Jillian Holtzmann, played by the hilarious Kate McKinnon. The character’s personality is so bizarre, but charming and her facial expressions make the entire film for me. Whenever something happens in the film, just look at her face and you won’t help but smile. Leslie Jones character of Patty was one I was very hesitant about, because she’s a hit or miss for me on SNL, but she ended up surprising me the most.  Kristin Wiig and Melissa McCarthy were fine, there relationship seemed genuine, but they honestly made me laugh the least. Now Chris Hemsworth came out of nowhere and played the incredible, dim-witted, but hilarious, Kevin.

When looking at a film like Ghostbusters, you have to see what it has to do to the audience. The genre is comedy/sci-fi and the number one rule for every comedy is that has to make you laugh and Ghostbusters did that. Granted some of the jokes were a hit or miss and when it was a miss, the actors would stare at each other in silence, making the audience feel awkward. Thankfully there were more hits and even through the awkwardness, I still found myself having a good time.

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One of the many things that I enjoyed, in fact probably my favorite thing about this film were the ghosts themselves. The effects were probably the best part of the film; they were visually stunning to look at and they’re ghosts. Many of the action scenes I thought were very well done, but the problem was that they were far too short. Probably the biggest problem of the film is the 3rd act itself and  its climax. The pacing felt off and too quick and it ended very anticlimactic. There’s a giant ghost and in a minute they found a way to stop it. The action I thought was fine, (there’s one scene with Holtzmann that is actually bad-ass) but when they started fighting ghost, I just couldn’t get behind it. Also, as awesome as it was to see the cameos from the original movie, so many of them felt forced and misplaced, which took you out of the film.

The best way to describe Ghostbusters is fun. You’ll have a good time watching it. It’s smart, funny, and pays a good homage to the original. It’s not the best film this summer and certainly not the funniest, but in a summer of movies that end up being disappointments, Ghostbusters stands as one of the few successes this summer.

Rating: 7/10

Star Wars: Bloodline – Book Review

I have traveled from a galaxy far, far, away to give you my review on one of the most interesting political thriller novels, that isn’t Game of Thrones or House of Cards. But rather about two factions of politics at war with each other and Senator Leia is stuck in the middle of this amazingly told story, written masterfully by Claudia Gray.

Set six years prior to The Force Awakens, the New Republic is fractured by two opposing political factions. The Populist, who believe that individual planets should be able to govern themselves, while the opposing Centrist believe in a strong central government with an equally strong military. Leia is now a senator as has grown weary from her time, with all the endless debate and shouting that goes nowhere, but she can’t retire just yet, because she’s sent on a mission to uncover this criminal empire that threaten to undo everything the New Republic has worked so hard to achieve. On this mission however she isn’t accompanied alone…

Ransolm Casterfo is a new character introduced in this novel and he is a shining star. Casterfo is young, ambitious man who is a  rising star in the Centrist and in the Senate. When you first see him, you see him dressed very elegantly, his demeanor is very arrogant and when he and Leia first meet, things get heated. (Mild Spoiler) Casterfo collects old Imperial memorabilia and this drives Leia insane, but you come to realize that Casterfo isn’t like many of the centrist who want the Empire to return, but rather a politician who puts principle over allegiance. He gets a great arc throughout the novel and you completely understand where he comes from in terms of his ideology.

The chemistry between Casterfo and Leia is rich and plays around our very own politics. The Galactic Senate are in endless debates, which get nothing done and they practically hate each other. What’s great about the two characters are where you see that although, they have opposing views in politics, they both see the flaws and advantages in each others factions, which not only form an alliance, but a friendship. But the book is about Leia and her struggle; how she’s never really been free and has mostly put duty in front of herself and you get to see that take a toll on her, she just wants to fly away with Han and have quality time with her son Ben, and just be at peace, but she can never have it. There’s a scandal that happens and although you know it happens, it still affects you when you read it as you just see tragedy befall onto Leia. I would also like to add that Leia has never been written better and reading her is just like watching her in the original trilogy.

What I find amazing about the story is how well and easily accessible it is to read. There have been several Star Wars books in the past that at times may seem daunting to read, but Claudia Gray manages to make it approachable to read and be sucked into the world of Star Wars. The novel sets up what the galaxy is like in the Force Awakens era. You get to find out how the First Order came to power and how the Resistance started. Many questions you may have had from the film can be answered in this film. You get to know what the criminal underbelly is like and how they operate. This novel certainly helps tie the 30 year gap between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens and actually adds some needed flavor to the film itself.

If I really needed to put anything negative about the novel, it was that I thought the other supporting characters like Joph or Greer, but that’s only a few of other great characters like Rinnrivin Di, a criminal mobster and Carise Sindian, a power hungry Centrist, with strong ties towards a looming evil.

In short, Claudia Gray creates a suspenseful, yet touching political thriller, with a twist of Star Wars and a heavy dose of Leia leading the charge and being the natural born leader she’s always been. For any Star Wars fan, I implore you to read this book to not only read a great story in general, but to also enhance your experience with the Star Wars saga.

Rating: 9/10

Mr. Robot S1 Review

Mr. Robot is

one of the year’s most talked about television series and with good reason. There’s a reason why it won the Golden Globe for best Drama Series. It is simply one of the most compelling shows with its unique narrative and gorgeous visuals, with credit to the amazing cinematography. Mr Robot stands on its own, as being a great conspiracy-drama, with a rich protagonist.

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The protagonist, Elliot Anderson, is a socially inept and schizophrenic young man, who works at a cybersecurity firm by day, but is a hacker vigilante by night. He eventually joins a hacktivist group known as fsociety where he and the group plan on erasing everyone’s money; everyone debt free. What makes Elliot so engaging is that he breaks the fourth wall and interacts with us, the audience. To him we are his imaginary friend and we are whisked away on his adventures, making us feel sympathetic to the tortured soul that he is. Even though he displays unethical behavior, by invading people’s private lives, he is reprehensible for his immoral actions. However, we don’t care because Elliot takes us on a psychological journey where we, the audience are just as clueless as he is and that’s thanks to the wonderful acting of Rami Malek.

There were two other characters worth noting, Christian Slater’s Mr. Robot and Martin Wallstrom’s Tyrell Wellick. The character of Mr. Robot is one that is interesting and offers some great dialogue between him and Elliot, but the twist towards the end of the season makes you realize how much you don’t know, which is what we need as an audience, to not be able to guess what happens. Won’t say it, but there is a great twist with his character towards the end of the first season. Now Tyrell Wellick is a very intriguing character. A Senior Vice President at Evil Corp, a giant conglomerate, he WILL do anything to reach to the top. The character reminds me very much of Christian Bale’s American Psycho, but with a better twist. His motive behind everything is for his wife, Joanna. In reality, she’s the one in control of him and their relationship mirrors that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, which add for some very intriguing moments.

Another character that has her own arc is Angela Moss, who is a childhood friend of Elliot. She starts off in the series as just a normal side character and was never really engaged in her story, until the final episodes. The character practically does a 180 on her careers and joins the very thing she hates, but even though she is conflicted she does it anyways, because what choice, if we have any, does she have? I believe the writers didn’t really know what to do with her, because through the majority of the first season, she’s just Elliot’s friend. Eventually she does become more fleshed out as her story seems to become more intriguing to watch.

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You also have Elliot’s girlfriend, Shayla and his sister Darlene, who are basically the same characters. Here is where I get to the major gripe I felt with the series; the way they wrote the women and the other supporting characters. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. They were lacking in motivation and often times I confused the characters Shayla and Darlene because of how similar they were. Also, the other members of the hacktivist group fsociety, aren’t fleshed out enough. Truth be told, I can’t even remember their names and have no knowledge as to why it is they’re doing, what they’re doing. Hopefully, that can be fixed in the future season.

Although we don’t get to spend enough time with the supporting characters, there were still moments of character development, specifically towards Elliot. What may be considered ‘filler episodes’ are actually some of the most emotional episodes, as they further Elliot’s pain. I would also like to acknowledge the shows score and various soundtrack that really grasp the ambiance. There are moments of claustrophobia and a sense of discomfort, allowing for feelings of angst when it needs us to be. It is also fair to point out and appreciate the pitch perfect sound mixing.

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Now I don’t know much about the hacking world, but I feel that this is the closest thing we have on television that dives into that world. The season finale leaves on a cliffhanger that may feel cheap, but with such a splendid first season, it can be forgiven. Even the Epilogue gives us a very ominous presence that everything that happened, was meant to happen, and leaves you asking more questions.

In terms of its narrative, the series has been compared to David Lynch films, as well as Fight Club and although there are certain similarities with its psychological elements, Mr. Robot is able to be its own thing, with its own identity that has a rich story, making it one of the best television series, out right now.