Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Suicide Squad

Of course, Spoilers follow

So I’ve seen Suicide Squad, the latest DC offering, and I was thinking about just what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. I thought there was a fair bit to like about Suicide Squad; not to damn it with faint praise, but I didn’t come out of the film with my mind blown. Having said that, neither did I regret the cost of admission. I have to say that this is the default state with me at the moment, I’m much more picky or demanding than I used to be about films, and it takes a lot more for me to be wowed. I guess that’s what happens, the more films you see, and it isn’t necessarily a reflection on the film itself.
One thing which deserves mentioning: DC are under a lot of pressure right now, and it’s having the effect that, if their movies aren’t instant classics, they’re immediately trashed by many fans and critics alike. To me, this is unfair, but I understand that they feel the need to ‘catch up’ to Marvel, and the resonance this has with many when watching the films; still, I’d say that if DC could forget this need and just focus purely on film-making, they’d probably do a better job.
In any case, here are a few thoughts I had. I’ve tried to but the dislikes first, generally speaking, and the likes after that, but sometimes these things get mixed up.
The Rating: Suicide Squad is about some nasty characters, so why not go all out and make it an 18 film? The answer, as it is for so many things, is probably money, i.e. more people can see it if it’s PG-13, but for me, if we’d had a Joker carving people up, a Killer Croc who we see actually killing someone (not just dragging them into the water), or some of the more crazy things Harley has done, it’d feel truer to the characters. Not gore for the sake of gore, but if you’re going dark Joker, then don’t go in half-assed.
Trailer Fatigue: I actively avoided watching too many trailers for the film, and still felt like I’d seen too much before I went in. Again, it’s probably a money thing (trailers must get bums in seats; once the bums are there, the money has already been spent), and it’s not a problem unique to this movie, but it is annoying.
Similarly, but distinctly, I hate it when things appear in the trailer which aren’t in the film. There was a fair bit of that for Suicide Squad, especially Joker moments.
The Villain: Having a villain who’s intertwined with a human is a nice idea, and Cara Delevingne does a good job with the script she’s given, but the whole ‘I’m going to kill all the humans’ idea is a little done. I’m also not a fan of magic in comic book films, because it doesn’t feel like it fits, and too often is just lazy writing. In a movie where villains are the good guys, their enemy needs to be some kind of evil that you really hate, and I just didn’t feel much either way about the Enchantress. Not a compelling character.
I did like the idea that Waller’s attempt to control the Enchantress bites her in the ass (a theme also seen with the first Harley Quinn escape). Side note: I’d have had Doctor Moon stay dead, too, but it’s not a big issue.
Too Much Sugar: Having the Squad bond and all become like family by the end of one mission seemed a little too sickly sweet for me. I understand these people are supposed to be anti-heroes, bad but likeable, united by their common bond of a shared shitty situation, but in the end it’s all a bit too sweet. Diablo’s noble sacrifice also felt tacky to me.
Ensemble Cast: the large cast worked for some, and for others it just didn’t feel like we got much of them at all. It’s hard to pull off balance in a movie like this, but less Flag would have been good, in favour of more for Katana, Croc, Diablo, and even Boomerang. I don’t feel like I know them all that well, so it’s hard to care about them. Oh, and it was obvious when Slipknot was brought in that his purpose would be to die to show the bombs are real. He didn’t even get a backstory.
Bats! I loved seeing Batman in this film, and the cameo for The Flash was cool too. It looks like Batman has moved on from his murdering phase in BvS, and is back to being the non-killing hero we know and love. This is great, and I think a nice development for him. The movie isn’t about him, but you know me: the more Batman, the better.
The Action: I found the action to be solid enough. Having former-human-now-weird-slave-things for the Squad to kill removed a bit of the moral trouble that having them kill ‘real’ people would have (although the movie never even addresses whether the former people could be saved, in favour of smashing them to pieces), and the action in fighting them is solid. Not amazing, but there are some good parts. I did like the weird black mess left by Enchantress’ brother and his go-go-gadget arms.
Deadshot: I was a bit surprised when they cast Will Smith, mostly because he doesn’t usually play stone-cold killers, but I thought he did well with the character. He gets a lot of screen time, and despite not being a favourite DC character of mine, I found his actions throughout the movie made sense and worked within the story. The Deadshot from the Arrow TV show is a lot harder to like, and I can see why they didn’t go that way with him.
Harley Quinn: Really very pleased with Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn. She captured the playfulness of the character well, as well as, of course, the unhinged-ness. Harley is funny, and brings levity to otherwise heavy situations. The jokes went down well, but you also saw that she hides intelligence beneath the crazy exterior, and people will often underestimate her. A really good first live-action performance.
The Joker: Well, following Ledger was always going to be difficult, and Leto certainly put his own mark on the character, which is exactly what was needed. I read that a lot of his scenes were cut, which disappointed me; even though it’s not a Joker film, he was a big selling point. So, I’d be very interested to see more of him. I liked what he did, getting that unpredictable, freaky, ruthless Joker down pat. Different again to Ledger, and I wouldn’t say better, but a really good job.
The Plot: Having the Squad rescue Waller from a problem of her own making, as I touched on above, was good. I think that the team just needed a common enemy, a way to get them started. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next, if they do another film, but I thought the plot was ok, fairly standard. In a film with so many characters, too much complication in the plot would not have helped.
So, overall I thought it wasn’t bad. Not up there with the Dark Knight, but then what is? For the sake of Harley and the Joker alone, it’s worth rewatching, and I’d like to see an extended version with the missing footage. It’s clear that Suicide Squad will not go down as a classic, due to the issues I’ve mentioned, but it was nice to see new characters and a new style of hero, and I was impressed by many of the performances I saw.
Final rating: 6.5 out of 10

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

True Bible Stories

I
And Jesus spake unto them, saying: ‘yea, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed.’
And Peter was like: ‘really? Cool. How so?’
And Jesus said: ‘… oh, ah… you guys normally just accept things like this without question. It’s kind of why I like keeping you around.’
And Peter looked at his watch.
And Jesus said: ‘uh… well, it’s small… but a whole lot bigger on the inside.’
And verily someone cried: ‘that’s from Doctor Who.’
And Jesus went: ‘um… I mean, it’s good in casseroles…’ and he pulled out his wand and said ZAP! (for he liked to do his own sound effects), and all the people gathered present were transformed unto pigs, but not in a cool way like in Transformers. And verily, all the pigs that had been gathered there were transformed unto men, and Jesus frowned at his wand and spake unto it, saying ‘huh. Well that wasn’t supposed to happen. Better get this thing checked out.’

II
And Jesus spake unto the crowd, saying: ‘do unto others, as you would have done unto you.’
And a voice from the back cried: ‘what about if I am a total masochist?’
And Jesus saith unto the voice: ‘God dammit Larry, why do you always gotta interrupt my big speeches. All the gravitas has been lost now.’
To this Larry replied: ‘then how come we’re not all floating off into space?’
And thus Jesus was miffed, and he pointed a finger at Larry. ‘One more crack outta you, and I’ll boop you straight to hell.’
So Larry held up his hands in that way Neil DeGrasse Tyson does when he encounters a badass. But when Jesus turned away to resume his pontification, Larry didst whisper to the guy next to him, ‘you know, I was the guy who came up with that whole Jeebus thing.’
And the guy saith: ‘No. Way.’
And Larry saith back: ‘Way. But I don’t get no credit for it at all.’
And Jeebus Jesus, who, being a superhero, had super hearing, was all ‘I knew it’, and booped Larry to hell, accompanied by one of those flashes that Q made on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which made for an odd audio-visual combination. It also made Larry wonder if Q could beat Jesus in a fight.
Before he had time to articulate this thought, Larry appeared in hell and was all: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’, in a brilliant piece of dramatic foreshadowing.
And Jesus didst Q-flash/boop into hell and turned his brow heavy upon Larry, and spake, saying: ‘what the hell, man? First you mess with my name, which is blasphemous bee-tee-dubya, and then you steal my lines?’
And Larry replied unto the Lord: ‘Dude, what’s up with this whole hell thing? Seems a bit excessive, no? Eternal suffering for a few wise cracks?’
And Jesus said: ‘Hey, I didn’t build this place.’ And he drew a breath and cried, ‘Daaaaaaaddd!’
And God, who also utilised the flashboop method of transportation, appeared unto them in the very midst of hell. And he spake: ‘What? I’m right in the middle of dinner.’
And thus Larry came to wonder why God would need to make dinner, but he decided to stick with one major theological question for the time being. And when Jesus shrugged and pointed at Larry, saying, my friend has a question about hell, Larry didst flash Jesus the stink eye, and then he began, thus: ‘I mean, I was just wondering, sir… that is… doesn’t the whole concept of hell seem a bit excessive to you?’
And God was like, ‘what do you mean?’
And Larry says: ‘well, for starters all I did was crack a few jokes, and now I have a demon ready to insert a hot poker into various parts of me for all eternity. At worst I deserve a good talking to, maybe a night in jail. But let’s say I’d done something really bad, the worst person ever, and I’d enslaved the entire human race in perpetuity, condemning it to generations of suffering and torment until our sun explodes and kills us all. Suppose all that was done, even then, all the pain I created will fade; All sin is finite, since human life is finite. Thus, an eternal punishment lacks all proportion, even for the most grievous of crimes.’
And God saith: ‘sins are also sins against the creator, unmoved and eternal.’
And Larry said: ‘would it help if I told you to chillax? There’s no need to be angry all the time.’
And Jesus looked at Larry nervously, and shook his head. So Larry changed tack: ‘Look, this place clearly violates the Eighth Amendment.’
And God boomed: ‘YOU DARE TO QUESTION ME AND MY CREATION?’
And Larry quavered; but then, realising he was already in hell, decided to press on, saying: ‘Yes, that’s about the size of it.’
And God said: ‘Ok, good. Just wanted to be sure. Sometimes I’m a little hard of hearing.’
And Larry replied thus: ‘Oh…’
And Jesus said: ‘Dad, he’s the one who came up with that whole Jeebus thing.’
And God was all: ‘Hahahahahahaha! That was hilario! Here is your reward, my child.’ And he booped Larry out of hell and sent him to Detroit instead. Then, turning to his son/self, he spake once more, saying: ‘Dude, you can’t just send people to hell like that, even if they do really annoy you.’
And Jesus gazed upon the glory of his father/self, and said: ‘Whaaaaat? Isn’t that the total point of this place? You do it all the time.’
And God replied: ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’
And Jesus, remembering that he was due to be crucified in about two weeks’ time, said: ‘I guess you’ll want to ground me for a couple weeks.’
And God saith unto Jesus: ‘Nice try, wise guy… let’s try a month.’
Thus Jesus was all: ‘Oh, no…’ and promptly flashbooped off to his room to play Arkham Asylum for a month, and develop a serious case of gamer’s thumb. And, seeing the future, he realised two things: the first was that he had just prevented Christianity (and the other religion that everyone’s too scared to make jokes about) from ever occurring, thus saving the world (and himself) more pain and suffering than it could imagine - and so the prophecy was fulfilled. And the second thing was that by thus avoiding the Dark Ages, he’d sped up the invention of cool things like Playstation and the iPod by at least 500 years.

III
And Moses said unto Pharaoh: ‘Let my people goooooooo!’
And Pharaoh was like: ‘Nah. I need them to build all my cool shit. Otherwise I’ll have to pay Polish guys to do it, and while they’re cheap, they aint cheaper than free.’
As Moses was all: ‘Ah, come oooooooooonnn. I’ll let you have my stick that turns into a snake.’
And Pharaoh spake thus: ‘What happened to your beautiful sing-song voice? This one’s all whiny and annoying.’
And Moses replied unto Pharaoh, shrugging: ‘I’ve been hanging out with Gilbert Gottfried a lot.’
And Pharaoh spake: ‘Well, quit hassling me, or I’ll have you crucified. And that really hurts.’
To which Moses replieth: ‘Wait, what? They don’t do that in Egypt. Do they?’
And Pharaoh was like: ‘I’m Pharaoh, bitch, I do what I want.’
And Moses didst mumble: ‘More like Pharaoh Fawcett.’ But fortunately for him Pharaoh had lost interest, and was busy playing an early version of Tetris with real bricks, and slaves to move them around.
And so Moses left the palace and his people remained where they were. But the people had really good lawyers, and so they unionised and negotiated much better rates (better being anything more than zero per hour), i.e. two carrots and a small bag of wheat per day (which doesn’t sound like much, but in those days it was enough to buy your whole weekly shop, and have money left over for a day at the races and a bag of penny sweets). And they also claused it thus: that in any movies made about the time, all the main characters must be played by popular white actors rather than ‘ethnics’, as this increases ‘audience engagement’ and is good for the brand.
And thus, due to spiralling labour costs, Pharaoh was forced to reduce to scope of his building plans and lay off several thousand local workers, causing much damage to the economy and the local tourism industry, not to mention a lot of resentment between the Jews and Gentiles ever since. And indeed many Jews have since moved that the word Gentile be changed, since the way they have been treated has been far from gentile, on many occasions.

IV
Verily God didst flashboop Larry back into hell, saying unto him: ‘were you serious when you said all that stuff about hell?’
And Larry looked around him and thought unto himself, well, at least I aint in Detroit any more. And he replied unto God: ‘Totes.’
And God was like: ‘Ok, well, what do you think I should do?’
And Larry spake unto the Lord, saying: ‘man, how the fuck I know? Aint you s’posed to be omnipotent and stuff?’
And God saith: ‘It goes in and out. Besides, I don’t pay as much attention to you humans as people seem to think. I have other things going on in my life, you know.’
And, sensing that what God really wanted was a little rant, Larry said: ‘Tell me about it.’
And God was all: ‘I know right. You know I didn’t even create most of you myself? That’s right, I outsourced it. That turned out to be a mistake. Why do you think there’s so much substandard work?’
And Larry wondered if he himself was one of the substandard ones, but said nothing.
Thus God continued: ‘Honestly, you little bastards are so demanding. So much of what you ask for is the most petty crap.’ And verily God spake in a whiny voice. ‘”Save my cat, Lord. Help me win this football game.” Jesus. You wonder why I tune it out most of the time.’
And Larry was like: ‘I hear ya. But still, you want my opinion about hell, it’s still a bit much, no? A bit OTT? Why don’t you maybe have like a room, boring and dark, where all people get to do is sit and listen to Enya for a thousand years.’
And God saith unto Larry: ‘We already have that in heaven. It’s where I go when I’m super wired. Man, I fucking love a bit of Enya from time to time. Really glad I created her myself.’
And Larry spake, saying: ‘Oh…’
And God went on, as was his wont and his privilege: ‘I will consider some changes. Thanks for listening, Larry. Now I will send you home to Detroit.’
And Larry said: ‘I’m not actually from Detroit.’
And God said: ‘Oh, sorry… like I said, not always paying attention.’
Thus Larry thought, and he replieth unto the Lord: ‘I’m from an island that was destroyed in the Great Flood, known as Katrina. It was beautiful, tropical, full of booze and weed and beautiful women who wanted nothing more than to satisfy my every whim.’ And he sighed. ‘Alas alack. My home is no more.’
And God took pity unto Larry, saying: ‘My bad.’ And he snapped his fingers dramatically, saying: ‘It is remade.’
And Larry was all: ‘Really? Sweet! Thanks dude, you’re the best.’
And God was like: ‘I know.’
And Larry replied unto God: ‘Stop by any time for a chat,’ even though he meant it not.
And God said: ‘I might just do that.’
And verily he flashbooped Larry away to his new home.