Suicide Squad: First Thoughts

On paper Suicide Squad sounds a dream. Talented cast? Tick. Capable director? Check. Tried and tested Box Office formula? Should be. It was meant to be really good. Since its release last Thursday we’ve quickly come to learn that it’s actually not as good as we had hoped. It is fun though; the type of fun that Tim Burton’s Batman achieved, the so-bad-it’s-good type that we like to loathe. Suicide Squad is far from loathsome but it’s even further from the cinematic perfection that its audience were promised.

In hindsight the film’s woes began with its overwrought marketing campaign. Too many trailers, too much teasing – it made us look forward to a feature we weren’t delivered. We were promised bad guys forced to do good and we expected Christopher Nolan style grit, but grittier.  David Ayer seemed a good choice as director, too. He wrote Training Day, directed Fury, and now was his opportunity to turn comic book antiheroes into cinema’s favourite foes, and he scratches the surface but never attains the greatness he strives for.

The film is driven by an almost constant soundtrack made up of everything from Eminem to Queen and if you are wondering whether the pair should be put together in the same movie, the answer would be no. At times the score is completely effective in setting a particular tone, but more often than not it’s misjudged and poorly timed. Dialogue is written with any lack of realism and the comic book cliches are clear and present. Ayer directs and writes with such force in other instances, even if they aren’t as appreciated as they should be, but as a director o

the cast of suicide squad

the cast of suicide squad

f the DC universe he seems to become a filmmaker without a clear vision.

Thus far the main criticism has been aimed at the clunky nature of the narrative, and the whole run time is a series of episodic scenes that don’t fit together as seamlessly as they could. Predominately set over just one night, there’s potential for a flowing plot-line but it gives way to scene after scene of badly-shot action that doesn’t hold our focus. The finale isn’t easy on the eyes and the main villain (who is only really given real screen time at this point) looks a lot like he belongs in The Cabin in the Woods – only it worked there and it doesn’t here.

It’s not all bad though. The ensemble cast works well together and Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Jai Courtney are fantastic. Viola Davis is on form, as always, as the sinister government official who is keen to let the bad-guys do her bidding. Leto isn’t featured as much as he should be, but he’s electric as a mob-style Joker who seems to be running a successful criminal empire. For the first time we see the cult foe in love, and it’s a sub-plot that is both intriguing and rather concerning as we see him plunge into an acid bath with his partner-in-crime Harley Quinn. He’s her Puddin’. Robbie is sensational as his female counterpart; she’s cheeky and alluring, yet vulnerable as she quietly portrays emotion, successfully sparking a reaction. There’s a whole Joker/Harley backstory that is captivating in itself and with a little more development it could have been a stellar addition to the narrative. It’s the same for any of the Squad’s stories, the timeline of their imprisonments and abilities are mentioned but never fully acknowledged which would do to lift the story tenfold if time were taken to get to grips with our meta-humans.

Despite its flaws, of which there are too many to state here, Suicide Squad still holds its audience. We rant about how disappointed we are, yet most of us want to run back to the cinema to see it again. There’s a definite style to the antihero flick, David Ayer just isn’t sure what he wants that style to be. Some moments are unintentionally funny, and others are cool as hell, but as one flowing piece of cinema it just doesn’t work. Yet, I want for more.

One thing is for certain: Suicide Squad is entirely captivating, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.

 

 

1001 Movies: Requiem for a Dream

Before we get started, a few little things to fill you in on:

I won’t be doing this series of reviews and articles in any kind of chronology, mainly due to the fact that the majority of the older movies I will need to buy and watch for the first time. Instead, I will kick off with a few from various decades that are all considered greats of cinema. These titles come from a book published in 2007, which is revised every year so I will, of course, be taking a gander at the revised versions to see which contemporary movies made the grade. And finally, every article will have a ‘Two Best Scenes’ section at the end to inspire you to give it a watch if you haven’t already.

I begin with a controversial film, one that I don’t actually particularly enjoy. It’s deep and dark, it portrays drug addiction in a brutal and uncomfortable way, but it’s a necessary watch for any film aficionado. Requiem for a Dream is directed by the eclectic film maker Darren Aronofsky and features a small ensemble of four: Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn. There are, of course, other characters, but they are minimally featured and not so important to the story. It is mother Sara, son Harry, girlfriend Marion and friend Tyrone who dominate this story with their downward spiral into recreational drug use to full-time junkie-dom. It was voted Empire magazines number one depressing movie of all time and it’s not surprising. But it’s pivotal and poignant (especially in a generation where drug addiction is so prevalent within the media).

connelly and leto in requiem for a dream

connelly and leto in requiem for a dream

Released in 2000, Aranofksy adapted the movie from the cult novel of the same name penned by Hubert Selby, Jr. With an 18 rating and painfully long run-time of 101 minutes of noir-ish visuals and hallucinogenic scenes, Requiem for a Dream is not a film you can enjoy. It is a film you can appreciate for its cinematic value and its promise to stay with you long after the final moments. Those final moments, in which we see four characters in the fetal position following imprisonment, limb amputation, and prostitution – all of which are the after effect of consistent drug use – are haunting. Played out alongside the spine-tingling instrumentals of Clint Mansell’s Summer Overture (which has been used many times since but doesn’t have the effect in which it does here), as a viewer you are left exhausted; emotionally and mentally. What have we just seen? Are these people going to be OK? They are characters in a fictional story, yet the tragic effect of drug abuse is so real and Aronofsky drums that into us during the feature.

While addiction is the focus theme there are myriad topics covered. From how Harry and co’ measure their lives based on the material objects they attain, to what success truly is and how it differs from one person to the next. Old women sit and commentate on the world that they see from their curb, Sara idolises her son and won’t let these observers forget it. We witness four relatively stable people go from the early stages of their want for drugs to the height of their need as it destroys them each in individual ways. Each character seeks a contentment, a true happiness, for they all have a demon and a void to contend with; whether that’s a dangerous issue with self-esteem or a woeful disposition towards love, director Aronofsky explores this through a scene-by-scene exploration of human behaviour. The fulfillment they each seek is attained through their high and lost through their sobriety.

Requiem for a Dream is fascinating in its unhinged exploration of what addiction truly is, and that lends to an uncomfortable watch. But, it’s naive to think this would be a rough ride finished with a rainbows and butterflies ‘they all got clean’ finale; this is Aronofksy and Selby, Jr’s outlook on life through the eyes of unstable, vulnerable people who have been sucked in and spat out by the consumerist world they live in. Get past that, and you’ll relish the film.

This is a must-see for any film fan, sixteen years old but as relevant now as it was upon release. Many believed, back in ol’ 2000, it should be screened in schools to warn young people of the effect of drug use, and if there’s any feature to do it, it would be this. Hard-hitting, undeniably moving and sickeningly real, Requiem for a Dream is one of a kind.

Two Best Scenes:

Ellen Burstyn as amphetamine-dependent widow Sara Goldfarb hallucinates as her fridge attacks her. Jumpy and canted camera work and an Oscar-worthy performance from Burstyn makes this scene emotional and distressing as the relentless fridge torments a lonely and addicted woman.

Jared Leto as the sweet but naive Harry gets doped-up in a green-lit den with pal Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The camera sits unmoved in the corner of the room in a high-angle shot suggesting these two characters as lost young men during their journey to a drug-induce haze. Accompanied by Party, the scene explores the false happiness both Harry and Tyrone experience in this moment.

Let me know your take on this film in the comments box below!

Dallas Buyers Club, review

Released late 2013 and winner of three Academy Awards Jean-Marc Vallee’s critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club is a biopic of sorts, charting the real-life story of Ron Woodroof (portrayed wonderfully by Matthew McConaughey) wh0, when diagnosed with AIDS, takes treatment for not only him but other sufferers into his own hands. The film, at 116 minutes, is tough at times – prepare for real emotion and some mixed feelings when it comes to Woodroof. This is such an important story to tell and despite potential difficulties is essential viewing. Lifting the lid on AIDS Vallee takes the stance of a non-judgmental director, its up to you how you feel about Woodroof and his controversial lifestyle, but one thing is for certain – you care, and you feel sympathy for what people with this illness had to go through before helpful treatments became accessible (a light is also shined on the prejudice they unjustly received).

Set in 1985 when these real-life events took place we are positioned with Ron, a man who leads a lifestyle of hard drug use, gambling and precarious sexual endeavors. Having suffered from several blackouts and then an accident at work Woodroof is told he has AIDS and is given thirty days to get his affairs in order before his illness will kill him. Refusing to accept this horrible diagnoses he takes part in a drug test for AZT (which at that time was one of the only drugs approved to treat AIDS in America). Shortly after Woodroof meets various other sufferers including the charismatic and rather beautiful Rayon, a transgender male. Rayon, played by Jared Leto (unbelievably good in this role) is a juxtaposition to Woodroof, and is due credit to the change in Ron’s attitude to life, and a change in his morals which is highlighted throughout the course of the film. The majority of Buyers Club focuses on Ron’s illegal drug trade (he smuggles in ddc and peptide T, both of which improved his health) which helped to prolong the lives of many AIDS patients as well as his own (Ron lived for seven years after his diagnosis was originally given to him). Interestingly, it is the medical system in America that seems to be under attack rather than Woodroof’s initial lifestyle choices.

The most intriguing element to this riveting true story is the relationship between Ron and Rayon. Leto plays the latter with a sterling heart and love for life; unafraid to be different. Leto’s performance lends to some heartrending moments, and one of the best performances (if not THE best of 2013) which deservedly led to him winning Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. McConaughey’s onscreen chemistry with Leto is wonderful at times, these two are a pair that couldn’t be further apart but during the course of the film they help each other in an array of ways which leads to a strong friendship. Rayon in particular changes Woodroof’s opinions on homosexuality for the better which is best exemplified in a scene in a supermarket; A man Ron knows verbally insults Rayon which leads to a fight because of Woodroofs refusal to accept what he has just heard. It is at this moment that you know there is a heart somewhere in Ron, but perhaps he has just been too afraid to show it.

promotional still for dallas buyers club

promotional still for dallas buyers club

McConaughey is a treasure as the protagonist of the film in a physically and emotionally demanding role (he lost three stone in weight to portray Ron at his most frail), never overplaying as someone who has a tremendous change of perspective (going from a man who is not particularly likeable to someone who cares for others more then he does himself). He also plays Ron with a charismatic charm about him – even in his darkest moments he still cracks a smart comment or some kind of joke. McConaughey and Vallee are never judging Woodroof, who certainly behaved in ways which could be looked down upon, its up to those watching what viewpoint they end on. Supporting the two main actors is Jennifer Garner, an actress who is often overshadowed or perhaps forgotten for the roles she plays but steals the scenes she is in because of her fragility and kindness. Those two things are adopted as she embodies Dr. Eve Saks, a woman who refused to quietly ignore the wrongdoings of the American medical system at that time.

The whole film is full of tender moments which are often challenged by ones of the harsh reality of what these people were dealing with. Humanity and friendship are of great significance in Dallas Buyers Club and the relationships played out are touching to watch and heartbreaking to see end. A particular scene in a restaurant between McConaughey and Garner shines with personality and aura and it feels as though you could be placed there with them. Another wonderful trait to the piece is its non-intrusive stance; for a film focused on people dealing with a terminal illness scenes relating to this never feel overwrought or uncomfortably gruesome but Vallee is still able to make you aware of the limited time Rayon, Ron and their friends were left with.

Intelligent, wickedly humorous at times and just damn brilliant Dallas Buyers Club is a stellar example of cinema at its best and most powerful.