Diana Vacc sees “Suicide Squad”

suicide squad

by Diana Vaccarelli

 *If you haven’t viewed this film yet be warned this review may contain spoilers!*

The villains of the comic book age have now become the heroes in Suicide Squad.  The U.S Government gives a team of supervillains the chance to do some good in the world.  Lead by Deadshot (Will Smith), the villains are tasked to save the world from an evil, ancient power.

THE GOOD:

  • The performances and characters are very well done. Will Smith as Deadshot brings a humanity to the character through the tenderness of Smith’s interaction with Deadshot’s young daughter. We see what he fights for and why he chose to accept the government’s offer. I also absolutely loved Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.  She brings humor and honesty to the crazy and made me wish I had a bit more Harley in me. Way to go, Margot!
  • The characterization in general is so well written and directed by David Ayer that I found myself relating to all of them on some level.
  • Similarly, the chemistry between the actors is fantastic.  You feel as though they are becoming a real family.
  • The visual effects are top notch.  One scene with Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and his transformation into a fire demon is truly chilling to see. (Sort of pun sort of intended.)

THE BAD:

  • In case you are wondering why I haven’t said much about the plot, it’s because that’s the one place the writing lets us down. I have no idea what the plot really was, or why the aforementioned “evil, ancient power” is doing what it does.
  • Jared Leto as the Joker.  Sadly, instead of coming up with a new take on the character, Leto essentially mimics Heath Ledger’s performance from The Dark Knight. I found this quite disconcerting. It seems to me that if you are going to mimic a performance you should also have the same look. But Leto is a clean cut Joker who doesn’t have the scarred appearance and sense of horrific insanity that Ledger had.

If you’re a comic book and superhero film fan, who can forgive a couple of unfortunate lapses, Suicide Squad should be right up your alley (especially since the Joker is barely in it, and let’s face it, we all know just about every comic book-based plot anyway.

HAPPY SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER SEASON!


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “Bad Moms”

by Diana Vaccarelli

 *If you haven’t viewed this film yet be warned this review may contain spoilers!*

From the keyboards of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, writers of The Hangover, among other gems, comes a story of three overworked Moms who have had enough.  Bad Moms follows these three moms as, led by Mila Kunas, they decide to get as drunk as they can and live a life full of debauchery. What could possibly go wrong? 

hbtTHE GOOD:

  • Mila Kunis as Amy brings humor and reliability to the film as the main bad mom.  Watching her go through the day-to-day tribulations of her life you feel for her and definitely agree that she does need a break.
  • The chemistry between Kunis, and the other bad moms, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell, comes sweeping out as us from the screen.  Watching the way they play off each other is almost as much fun as actually being them seems to be. I was absolutely convinced that they are truly lifelong friends. (And if they aren’t, I think they should be!)

THE BAD:

  • Sorry, but we have to start with the writing. I consider The Hangover to be a classic comedy film and when I learned that Lucas and Moore were writing Bad Moms I had high hopes that they would be able to write women who were as funny as The Hangover‘s men. This film has its funny moments, to be sure, but overall the humor misses. The laughs are generic and unoriginal, as though they were working with a director who told them, “It isn’t a joke unless I’ve heard it before,” which is especially strange since they’re the credited directors themselves! This certainly does not live up to The Hangover.

If you’re a mom who needs a break then this film may bring you laughs. A more likely result, however, is that it will send you to the nearest bar.

Happy Summer Blockbuster Season!


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

John Ostrander Reviews the Suicide Squad

Suicide-Squad-Times-Square

by John Ostrander

Warning! Danger! Spoilers! I saw the movie, I’m going to talk about the movie, there may be some plot spillage. Yadda yadda yadda.

As we start, I think you should know my biases. I think you should know any critics’ bias. Myself, I use them mostly as consumer reporters. If I find a critic whose tastes largely coincide with mine, I tend to trust them more. The late great Roger Ebert was one. Knowing who is giving you their opinion is important; what does their opinion matter if you don’t trust them?

Regarding the Suicide Squad movie, well, I’m biased. I’m prejudiced. I have a vested interest in its success. I want it to succeed. However, if I didn’t like it, I’d be more likely just to keep my trap shut.

My trap is open.

I really liked the film. Not perfect by a long shot, but a really good time in the movie theater. And for me a lot of it was just amazing. The look, the detail, the feel of the film is not something I’ve seen in superhero movies before.

Chief for me were the performances, starting with Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. All the other characters in the Squad, both the comic and the movie, were created by others. In the comic especially I would re-define and expand on them but they were established characters. Amanda Waller was my creation and Viola Davis embodied her to perfection. I was happy when she was cast, I was delighted when I saw her in the trailers, and I was ecstatic when I saw her in the film. Davis has Amanda’s voice, her look, and her attitude. I was delighted at the after-party when I got a chance to see her face-to-face and tell her how much I enjoyed her performance.

Next up is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. She is sexy, innocent, funny, lethal, crazy and dangerous. And she’s a thief – she steals just about every scene she’s in.

Let’s look at Will Smith as Deadshot. Some folks have objected that he’s not my Deadshot. No, he isn’t and that’s just fine by me. My Deadshot was not the character as he had been created or portrayed prior to my appropriating him for the Squad. Gail Simone’s version was not exactly my version either. You don’t expect two actors who play the same character in different versions to be identical so why expect those versions in different stories to be identical? Smith did a great job – intense, cynical, with a weak spot for his daughter (although I thought their last scene together had a disturbing element). Smith is a fine actor and one of the world’s biggest stars; he sure as hell wasn’t slumming here and he made Deadshot his own – which is exactly what he was supposed to do.

Last paragraph. I talked about you wouldn’t expect two actors playing the same character in different stories to give identical performances. That really applies to Jared Leto as the Joker. He crafted an entirely new version of the character from the late Heath Ledger’s portrayal in The Dark Knight. That’s absolutely necessary and it’s a different look. Like Pygmalion, he creates a woman that he can love; in this case, it’s Harley Quinn. If we accept his love for her (and her love for him) as genuine, does that make him less of a sociopath? Ledger’s Joker loved no one except, perhaps, Batman. He’s no less strange or deadly but his entire plotline revolves around being re-united with Harley.

Jay Hernandez has a significant role as Diablo and I would have liked to see more of the character. He has a terrific and horrifying back-story but this is a character who is trying to do good even as (I think) he believes he is beyond redemption.

Likewise, I would have liked to see more of Jai Courtney as Boomerang. As Christopher Walken says of cowbell, you can never have too much Boomerang. He’s very much as I wrote him in the Squad – he knows what he is and he likes it. In that respect, Boomerang is very well adjusted. Which is scary.

There’s a surprising theme running through the movie; there is a lot about love. Joker and Harley’s love, yes; Deadshot’s love for his daughter; Diablo’s love (and guilt and remorse) for his family; Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman)’s love for June Moone (Cara Delevingne) while June’s alter ego, the Enchantress, appears to love her brother. Katana (Karen Fukuhara) loves her dead husband and carries his soul in her blade (OK, a lot of the relationships are not the healthiest in this film). Even with Amanda there’s a brief phone call and there’s tenderness and love for whoever she’s speaking with. Love shapes and forms a lot of the characters and they, in turn, mold the story.

Are their problems with the film? Sure. The antagonist(s) are not well defined and, to my mind, you need a good antagonist to help define the protagonist(s). It’s the antagonist who usually sets the plot in motion and it is defined by what they want. The story is a little more generic “we have to save the world” than I usually did; I always liked having one foot squarely in reality.

I also liked having a political and/or social edge in my Squad stories. That would also give a greater feel of reality and I don’t see that here.

That said, my artistic DNA is all over the place. This is The Dirty Dozen with supervillains and that’s my concept. They did that and did it well.

I know some of the critics, both in print and online, do not like the movie. That’s okay; everyone has a right to their own opinion even when it’s wrong. My problem is that, at least with some of the media reviews, is that the critic is also tired of superhero and “tentpole” films and, overtly or covertly, would like to see their end. Look, I get it – they have to see all the films out there and they must be tired of all the blockbusters.

If every superhero film is not The Dark Knight, they’ll bitch. I think that’s going on here to a certain degree. Just as I came prepared to love the movie, they came prepared to hate it.

My late wife, Kim Yale, was a movie critic for a while for a small suburban newspaper in the Chicago area and I went with her to some of the movie screenings. Don’t tell me that some of the critics didn’t come with pre-conceived attitudes to some films. I know better. I saw and heard it.

As for some of the online haters – if a film doesn’t fit their pre-conceived notion, it is wrong. Female Ghostbusters, a black Deadshot, Ben Affleck as Batman (Affleck, by the way, does cameos as both Batman and Bruce Wayne in Suicide Squad and is terrific) – these are all sins and must be decried.

Give me a fucking break.

Look, you can be the most important critic on Suicide Squad. In this case, your voice is your money. You decide if you want to see the movie and then go. If you like it, tell others. I guess you could also tell them if you didn’t like it but you don’t have to. I won’t mind.

If the film is financially successful (and, from what I’ve seen as this review is being written, it’s on track for a pretty good opening weekend), then Warners will be encouraged to do a sequel. And I hope they do. They made a good film this time and I believe they’ll do it even better next time around.

It’s your call.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. In addition to writing a zillion great Suicide Squad comic book stories, he also is the creator of Amanda Waller. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Diana Vacc sees “Jason Bourne”

Hmm, looks a little off...
Hmm, somebody’s aim looks a little off…

by Diana Vaccarelli

*If you haven’t viewed this film yet be warned this review may contain spoilers!*

He’s back! our favorite spy since James Bond – Jason Bourne.  This fourth installment of the Bourne series has Jason Bourne living off the grid and in hiding until an old colleague comes back into his life with new information about the agency and his past.

THE GOOD:

  • The fight sequences choreographed by Roger Yuan.  These fights are gritty, down and dirty.  There is such realism to these fights you feel a part of them.
  • Matt Damon is transformative as Jason Bourne.  He brings this favorite literature character to life.
  • Based on the series of novels created by Robert Ludlum, screenwriters Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse bring a disturbing story to life.  Mainly the influence of technology and its reach.  In one scene, CIA Agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is able to turn off the power in Iceland to stop Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) from finding crucial information about the CIA. This image makes you wonder what Big Brother really can do. I loved how real this could be – and was terrified at the same time..
  • Paul Greengrass’ directing and camera choices are brilliant and bring the viewer into the story about political corruption.  Greengrass uses long shot sequences during a technology convention to show the space and how many people are going to be affected by what might happen there.

THE BAD:

  • Tommy Lee Jones as CIA Director Robert Dewey delivers a weak performance at best.  There is no command on the screen as this character would need or possess.

If you like government conspiracies and are a fan of the Bourne series then this film is for you. If, well, enjoy yourself staying at home. (I recommend you hide under the bed.)

Happy Summer Blockbuster Season!


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc sees “The Legend of Tarzan”

Tarzan is so cool!
Tarzan is so cool!

by Diana Vaccarelli

*If you haven’t viewed this episode yet be warned this review may contain spoilers!*

For years Hollywood has been telling the story of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ immortal (literally, thanks to a shaman’s magic potion) Tarzan, and The Legend of Tarzan continues the tradition. Part sequel and part reboot, this version tells the story of a John Clayton aka Tarzan who has left the jungle and now is called back to investigate enslavement of the natives in the mines of the Congo.

THE GOOD:

  • Alexander Skarsgard is brilliant as Tarzan.  He is the legend himself. He looks right, moves right, sounds right, and, possibly most importantly, feels right. Skarsgard brings richness and care to the events that happen in the film.  One instance is when his wife Jane (Margot Robbie) has been taken, we don’t just see Tarzan’s determination to save her from the clutches of the villain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), we feel it.
  • The writing by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer gives us a very un-Edgar Rice Burroughs story of imperialism and slavery that makes me wish the Master had had the wherewithal to tackle bigger issues in the books than finding jungle treasure. (I know the stories weren’t all about treasure and lost civilizations, but sometimes it surely feels that way.)

THE BAD:

  • The visual effects are horrible.  The animals in this film are clearly CGI, and even the most naive member of the contemporary audience can see that. There are times when the visual effects rip you right out of the film. Considering the current state of the art, this is, to me, unforgivable.
  • The performance of Samuel L. Jackson as George Washington Williams is laughable from start to finish. There is no need for his character in the script, and Jackson seems to be acknowledging that by just throwing his performance away.

IN CONCLUSION:

If you’re looking for fun and adventure then this film could still be for you. But be warned: You might be better served by just re-watching the Disney version. At the very least, you should wait for the DVD release and save yourself some dollars.

Happy Summer Blockbuster Season!


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large and, in case you haven’t noticed, a HUGE Outlander fan. Learn more about her HERE