A Time For Grief, A Time for Theft (Widows, 2018)

Widows_PosterVeronica, Linda and Alice have lost their husbands in a tragedy. They discover their husbands were professional thieves. To add to their grief, they find their lives under siege, specifically from Jamal Manning.  While he is running for public office, Manning is also a local crime lord…and it so happen’s the women’s husbands died stealing from him.  He wants his money and gives them a month.

When she discovers her husband’s records of all her heists, Veronica brings the other widows together to try and complete the next heist that her husband had planned.

Widows is one of those movies that you don’t really get prepared for from the trailers.  Most Heist films are heavily focused on the planning and the heist. Widows is more interested in setting up its characters.  Everyone feels important.  We walk with them as their lives intersect. This is to the film’s benefit.  We get to really know everyone involved, both the heroes and villains of the tale.

Viola Davis gives a great performance as Veronica.  She is both vulnerable and tough as nails.  Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall play son and father of a political dynasty that are at each other throats.  Daniel Kaluuya is riveting and immensely terrifying as Manning’s right hand man.

Director Steve McQueen makes some bold choices in the film (one sequence takes place within a car, and we only hear the actors as the camera stays outside, as the focuses on the car itself). The end result is a very compelling character film that happens to feature a heist.  Managing some excellent surprises before it ends, I found Widows a very satisfying watch.

Prison Without Prison Bars (Prisoners, 2013)

prisoners-posterIn this compelling, but bleak, tale Hugh Jackman is Keller Dover.  His Daughter and her friend have disappeared and he is working aggressively to find them.  As he feels the police are not working hard enough, he opts to kidnap the lead suspect.  He tortures the young man, Alex, who is mentally about ten.  And the deeper it all goes, he becomes more and more obsessed.

But there becomes question on whether Alex is truly guilty.  The downward spiral of Keller as Detective Loki tries to solve the kidnapping is frightening.  He becomes that thing he is seeking to stop.  The film ends on a truly dark note.

Visually, it is every bit as colorless and gloomy as it’s story.  You hope for a resolution and finding Dover’s daughter and her friend.  And yet, even the resolution of the film has a futility.  This is not to say it is a bad film.  But you don’t walk out with a sense of hope, that is for sure.

Suicidal Tendencies (Suicide Squad, 2016)

suicide_squad_2016_posterAfter the cool reception to Batman V Superman from critics and fans alike (It has it’s supporters) DC and Warner Brother started providing hype for Suicide Squad to divert attention.  Set to classic hard rock music the trailers screamed “This will be fun and exciting!”

Suicide Squad, for the uninitiated was a DC Comic written by John Ostrander (he actually was reviving an earlier comic, but the Suicide Squad as it is known now was Ostrander’s baby).  It was a government task force that forced some of DC’s baddest villains to take high risk jobs for our government in return for reduced sentences.  Of course, nobody was expected to survive long enough to get to take advantage of their reward.  Not a bad idea.

The film always seemed out of place for the DC Cinematic Universe.  We are actually meeting some of the enemies of heroes we have barely met.  Including Suicide Squad?  We have about two minutes of Flash time.  I am including that Justice League trailer from SDCC.  And this is actually one of the big problems with the film.  They are trying to fill in so much information, we are bogged down with tons of background.  The cast is pretty large, causing more than one character to get little to do.  Killer Croc has a few moments, but gets little to do until the very end of the film.

I wondered how the Kitana character would fit in (she is not a villain in the comics).  Here she is pretty much a baby-sitter until the final act.  It feels more like they put her in the film in case they wanted to use her in the future and she would already be established.

The emphasis on the Joker and Harley Quinn relationship is that it…well, polishes up their relationship.  We do get a moment that makes it clear that the Joker tortures Harley Quinn before she takes on the identity.  The film apparently cut a lot of bit that really suggested the relationship was abusive.  It could have been an interesting opportunity to have her standing against the Joker, but instead, she keeps running back to him.  Harley Quinn is also often forced into the position of eye candy.  The character has always had a sense of being…innocent.  Like she just thinks she is being wacky and funny.  Like when little kids insult grown up and are “only teasing”.  One scene has her dressing in public, looking around and realize everyone is staring and then just asking “what?”  Had Robbie not been stuck in outfits putting her on display throughout the film, that might have been more effectively funny.

Jared Leto’s Joker has been the source of much criticism and concern for many fans.  I have run into many fans who were tired of him long before the film saw release.  And I did feel like he was one of the weaker links of the film.  Not because the performance was terrible…but rather the performance was inconsistent.  He has an effective scary laugh which is barely used in the film.  Sometimes he seems bored, but other times he is very menacing.

And yet, in spite of these things?  I enjoyed the film quite a bit.  I felt it worked far better than Man of Steel or Batman V Superman.  Smith’s Deadshot is an interesting character who on the one hand is a deadly sharpshooter and a doting father.  While not a wholly original dichotomy, it works pretty well here.  Harley Quinn’s big focus is as the Joker’s Girlfriend.  In spite of this, Robbie really captures the core of the character.  She seems carefree, but yet dangerous.  Almost sickeningly sweet, all while being thrilled by mayhem.  Robbie is endlessly engaging.  Viola Davis brought Amanda Waller to life in an amazing way.  She was every bit as frightening as she should have been.

The big surprise for me was Diablo.  I went in knowing next to nothing about him other than he was the fire guy.  His character is a pacifist refusing to use his power for fear he will lose control and kill people.

The action is pretty easy to follow as it unfolds on the screen, and aside from the obligatory slow motion shot towards the end, is exciting to watch.  The fact that you really have a bunch of characters that want nothing more to walk away makes a “Let’s Do this” speech entering into the final act really tough.  Yet, somehow, the group choosing to act as a team works.

The rumor is that a lot of the humor was from re-shoots demanded by Warner Brothers.  If that is the case, good call from Warner Brothers.  The film peppers humor through out the film that works effectively at keeping the characters likeable.  I know that there have been some real rough reviews…but I avoided reading them so far because I wanted to see the film without pre-set expectations of terribleness.  And I walked out entertained.  I am not saying it is a great film.  Of the Super-hero films we have had this year?  I still give it to Captain America: Civil War.  But I had fun, and that can be hard to say with DC films as of late.

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