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Oh look, a trainwreck.

Let’s just get this out of the way really quick: Suicide Squad is mostly dogshit but there are a few moments where it firmly enters genuine “so bad it’s good” territory and other moments where it’s trying so goddamn hard to manipulate you into feeling something that you just wanna say “good job, little guy” and give it a pat on the head. There’s even a few moments that feel earned, where the glimmer of a better movie is almost visible. But mostly it’s dogshit.

Why? God, where do I even start. It’s a music video of loosely connected moments, an insultingly hackneyed plot, and poorly constructed characterizations which are usually good for a laugh or an incredulous “what the fuck?” but rarely more. There’s also that it’s the most smugly, overtly misogynistic mainstream movie I’ve seen in a long time. May our inner fourteen year olds cheer. I mean, there’s definitely an audience for this. The anti-PC crowd will eat up every utterance of “bitch” or “ho”, every sexed up costume and variation on “women be crazy“. I already know from the audience I saw it with that women getting punched in the face at the drop of a dime is just delightful. Your faith in humanity will not be well served by Suicide Squad audiences, but that’s nothing unusual. More than the overall quality of the movie, I was surprised by the misogyny. I like David Ayer. FuryEnd of Watch, and Training Day are all fantastic films. But his aesthetic is “street” and here it is the kind of street evoked by youtube gangsta rappers who are trying too hard. Likely, this is where the unaddressed misogyny comes from: it’s part of the assumed iconography of “street” culture where there’s men and there’s bitches or hos or bitch-hos. I think the script of Suicide Squad says a lot about what he and the other creatives for the DC movieverse think about the fans of these stories and characters, though. I think instead of whining to critics (or threatening them) or trying to sue because Joker isn’t in the movie enough, these fanboys ought to vote with their dollars (and their attention) and give WB a reason to stop hiring people who think so little of them. Of all of us, really.

Anyway, yeah, Suicide Squad is really bad. Is it worse than Batman vs. Superman? I don’t know. Do you compare dogshit to catshit very often? They’re two of the worst superhero movies in recent memory, I can tell you that much. And yet. And yet, Suicide Squad is also a fascinating watch. I was never bored. Very much like the first viewing of a Michael Bay Transformers movie, I was kind of transfixed (and yes, entertained) by what I was seeing and hearing. Sometimes I could not believe the movie and other times I was almost on the hook for a heroic moment or a badass line. I think it’s fair to say I was never “with” this movie, and my enjoyment was almost always at its expense. This movie might have had something, but it’s like watching Jared Leto play hot potato with himself for almost two hours. Or like an episode of The Venture Brothers that wasn’t trying to be a parody. Read the rest of this entry »

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Has there been any other modern tank movies?

Fury, good as it is anyway, will be the tank movie for a long time to come. There are plenty of war movies featuring and emphasizing aspects of specific battles, specific war material, or specific ideas. Fury is for tanks what Saving Private Ryan was for Normandy. It is also one of the only war movies I can remember that is both about war and also avoids condescending instruction in war movie tropes like camaraderie, wickedness, and costs inherent to war. In other words, Fury treats you like you’ve seen a fucking war movie before.

It’s hard to imagine how awesome that is until you realize just how common movies pat you on the head and spend way too much time rehashing the same “band of brothers” or “war is hell” cliches as if it’s your first time. It’s not like Fury isn’t about those things, it’s just presented the ideas to you in a more honest, more raw and visceral way. In a sense, it’s left to you to pick up those threads in the duality of the characters (who are fittingly both good and bad men) and the horrific things they see and do.

David Ayer (writing and directing) has made many films about the collision between virtue and corruption in men. His films walk a fine line in portraying a familiar, heroic masculinity that is often a double-edged sword. His characters in Fury are treated as both heroes and scoundrels during the course of the film, but above all else they’re always human. The confident storytelling and rousing score (one of the best of the year) go together with the novelty (don’t underestimate this) of the focus on tank battles and tactics to create a great, great film. Read the rest of this entry »

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Everybody a badass.

I waited forever for this movie to come out. It looked like a lean, mean action movie with a cast so unlikely that it just had to be great. Finally, the wait was over and I got to sit down and watch Sabotage and see not only if its weird cast panned out, but if it deserved the mixed and generally underwhelmed reviews that it received.

Whether or not you’re going to go for this movie or just find it kind of bland and familiar depends a lot on what kind of audience you are. Being that I prize a commitment toward objectivity (as close as I can get anyway) when writing criticism, it may seem strange for me to say that. But the truth is that, from the kinds of objective criteria by which I’d judge a film, Sabotage is maybe a notch above solid and I’ll tell you all about that in a bit. On the other hand, though, your mileage with this movie is going to depend a lot more on subjective stuff like how realistic you like your bullet wounds or how easily you buy these actors, their roles, and their antics.

For me, it’s all pretty easy and fun to get into. There’s a nice mixture of throwback and new hotness in Sabotage. There’s a wetness and realism to the violence that some may not appreciate. I definitely did. Sabotage is about as solid an R action movie as it gets these days. But it also has some social commentary and a lot of wit in a script that could have been leaner and less considerate. It’s not quite a “smart” movie, but Sabotage‘s dialogue and unpredictability may surprise you. Then again, this is a David Ayer film (End of Watch, Training Day) so maybe it won’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Both of these guys are at the top of their game here.

End of Watch is a movie that probably shouldn’t work. Functioning as a piece of pro-Cop quasi-propaganda, it is a counter to the myriad corrupt cop movies, shows, etc that get made every year. Especially about the LAPD. More than this, it’s the style of the film that is a risk. Shot as a pseudo-found footage movie, not dissimilar from Chronicle but with even less internal justification, there’s tons of handheld and “shaky cam” in End of Watch which tends to get knee-jerk backlash from filmgoers. Finally, End of Watch has an unusual structure that overturns its action-movie feel and replaces it with the makings of a character-focused drama, one that spends a lot of time “between” the plotting. This seems like an approach that would strain the patience of people used to convention but turns out to be the film’s greatest strength aside from the charismatic central performances of Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena.

Somehow, End of Watch eclipses its own building blocks and snuck up on me. It’s one of the big surprises of 2012, almost entirely due to its candor and ability to kick expectations in the ass to deliver something heartfelt, gritty, and redefining for a genre as familiar as any. Read the rest of this entry »

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