There’s no saving ‘Suicide Squad’

“Suicide Squad” was doomed to begin with.

This squad, assembled by director and writer David Ayer, are tasked with the impossible, made even more so by the elevated expectations of comic book fans.

This was D.C’s team going head to head with Marvel’s successful “Avengers” franchise.

But the squad — made up of Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Croc Killer (Adewale Akinneuoye-Agbaje) — were set up to fail.

They’re the “The Dirty Dozen” of supervillains — the bad guys assigned to save the world. Not only are they tasked with battling badder guys, but these guys are fighting their instinctually human urges of serving their own self interest.

“Suicide Squad” has many problems, but the first is its ridiculous premise: that a group of supervillains could actually be the next Superman or Batman — and that they’d want to be heroes to begin with.

The film overcompensates for these villains inherent natures by giving them sympathetic backstories and editing out scenes showing truly evil stuff. By omitting this material, the filmmakers are also editing out important context clues crucial to our understanding of these characters.

These guys are bad guys for a reason yet those reasons aren’t explained. Instead, we’re given reasons we should sympathize with these protagonists. El Diablo accidentally killed his wife in a fire and Croc Killer was born looking like a monster — so he became one.

Casting directors Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu also cast one of the most likable and charismatic human beings alive to play Deadshot, a jaded paid assassin for hire. You don’t have a problem believing Will Smith’s a hero after seeing him in previous roles such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Men in Black,” “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “I am Legend,” so its hard to believe that Smith’s Deadshot is actually a villain.

“Suicide Squad” focuses on Deadshot’s role as a loving father to his daughter Zoe (Shailyn Pierre-Dixon), but while that’s enough material to make a two hour film with, that’s only a fraction of what “Suicide Squad” is supposed to contain. Remember the other villains? We don’t remember most of them either.

That’s quite a letdown since the film features one of the most interesting and iconic cinematic characters of all time. Yet “Suicide Squad” treats Jared Leto’s Joker as a gloried sidekick, using him to play to Prince Charming to Harley Quinn’s mad acid party.

“Suicide Squad” might have worked better if each of these villains were built up prior to the film, living in their own separate franchise films until this movie brought them together. (We certainly wish Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Leto’s Joker got their own movie.) Or perhaps “Suicide Squad” would have worked better if we were presented real anti-heros instead of “Suicide Squad’s” poor excuses.

Whatever the case, perhapses won’t alleviate the feeling of being cheated.

“Suicide Squad” was written and directed by David Ayer, based on John Ostrander’s comic books. 


Ritchie reanimates the ‘Man from U.N.C.L.E.’

Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” isn’t your uncle’s “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Ritchie’s rendition is jazzier — a slick, superhero-worthy origin story full of choreographed car chases, political capture-the-flag, beautiful clothing (designed by Joanna Johnston) and humorous showmanship.

A scene from

A scene from “Mad Men.” Sally Draper (Kiernan Shipka) watches Robert Vaughn and David McCallum star in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

Ritchie’s revival is a prequel to Sam Rolfe’s 1960s hit television series, which starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as dashing international spies. The acronym U.N.C.L.E. stands for United Network Command for Law Enforcement. As of 1963, when the film takes place, it did not exist.

Ritchie along with “Sherlock Holmes” writer Lionel Wigrim invent the organization’s back story, taking the spy firm’s two principle characters and uniting them through international strife.

Brit Henry Cavill plays the suave American CIA operative, Napolean Solo, and American Armie Hammer plays his smart KGB counterpart, Illya Kuryakin. goofus-gallant-highlights-classicNext to each other, they look like a Gallant and Goofus cartoon, providing an instructive guide to counter-terrorism.

Cavill is as charming as Don Draper — a gentlemen who sparkles when he smiles. (Like “Mad Men’s” Draper, Cavill also reports to actor Jared Harris; Harris played Lane Pryce in “Mad Men.”) Hammer is stiffer, with his strong Russian-accented English and quick temper. Their staged testosterone-ridden, cat-and-mouse, spy vs. spy pig-tail pulling is the pulse of the movie. Solo trails Kuryakin on his motorcycle. Kuryakin bugs Solo’s hotel room. They trade fists and insults. But before things get too out of hand, Ritchie reins them in and lets us laugh about it.

The result is harmless fun and the boys play with great sportsmanship. Underneath the umbrella of the Cold War, they’re competing for the same nuclear missile: German mechanic Gaby Teller (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander).

Teller’s the bridge between their respective agencies and blueprints to nuclear weapons. Her estranged father is highly accomplished former-Nazi weapons specialist Udo (Christian Berkel). Udo, however, has been kidnapped by a dangerous third party — wealthy Italian widow Victoria Vinciguerra (Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki) — and Gaby’s their only ticket to find him.

Compared to the television show, Ritchie’s film is certainly more colorful (the show was originally released in black and white in 1964 before it was switched to color for its second to fourth seasons) — from its wardrobe (which includes vintage clothing) to its music. Daniel Pemberton’s fun and rhythmic soundtrack is full of mysterious, jazzy and driving numbers as well as Latin-influenced tracks laced with Western twangs. Peppino Gagliardi’s Italian ballad “Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera” (Who Wants This Music Tonight?) underscores a boat chase. Meanwhile, Vikander and Hammer do some dirty dancing in the bedroom to Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me.”

Although “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” revival isn’t the most memorable or thought-provoking spy caper (Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” seems to have more substance, and I’m sure you have your own personal favorites), it’s a smooth and entertaining addition to your summer blockbuster diet: superfluous, but satisfying.

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” was directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman and David Campbell Wilson based on Sam Rolfe’s 1964 television series. 

‘Jurassic World’s’ not going extinct

We’ve seen them before — a 10-year-old boy brimming with wonder and enthusiasm (Ty Simpkins); and his older brother, a sullen, girl-obsessed teenager (Nick Robinson). They play stereotypes in the perfect nuclear family — the kind of family that seems to exist in sitcomland. But while there isn’t a laugh track to “Jurassic World,” the movie’s every bit as manufactured as “Leave It To Beaver.”

Directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Derek Connolly, “Jurassic World” is a fitting and modern sequel to Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park.”

Trevorrow’s film picks up 22 years after the events of “Jurassic Park” — to a time when Dr. John Parker Hammond’s (Richard Attenboroug) dream of a theme park filled with dinosaurs is a reality.

Operated by Masrani CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and his Senior Assets Manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jurassic World has been open to the public since June 2005 (that was Universal Studio’s originally scheduled release date).

Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong) and his team of genetic engineers at InGen Technologies have filled the island of Isla Nublar with Apatosauruses, Ankylosauruses, Stegosauruses and Triceratops. But dinosaurs aren’t enough anymore, says Dearing: “Consumers want bigger, louder — more teeth.”

And Trevorrow and his team of special effects artists and animators deliver.

Sixty-five million years ago velociraptors and mosasaurs were smaller and pterosaurs couldn’t carry human-sized objects. But those aren’t Jurassic World’s only creative liberties. Dr. Wu and his scientists have manufactured a new and scarier breed: the Indominus Rex. And we, the consumer, get to see him in all his IMAX 3D glory without the fear of being eaten ourselves.

For the most part, “Jurassic World” follows the same prehistoric storyline as its predecessor while giving us new characters to chew on. Simpkins and Robinson play Dearing’s nephews, Gray and Zach, who visit Jurassic World to spend time with their long-lost aunt. Chris Pratt (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) is Owen, a velociraptor trainer who’s the human alpha to a band of four velociraptors. Howard’s Aunt Claire, the no-nonsense park manager who’s more concerned about Jurassic World’s profit margins than practicality (as evidenced by her high heels). And Vincent D’Onofrio’s a scheming businessman who wants to sell velociraptors to the military as new weapons of mass destruction.

Are they enough to chow down on? Not alone. But “Jurassic World” is manufactured from two decades worth of wonder, fear and nostalgia. It’s marketing strategy’s already earned Universal Studios $524.1 million worldwide during the film’s opening weekend —proving that the franchise is far from extinct.

If anything, “Jurassic World’s” familiarity is as welcoming as going to Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios or SeaWorld. It’s main attractions are the stories and animals we know and love. And whether we’re 10 or 100, we’ll visit this park again and again and again.

“Jurassic World” was directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Derek Connolly — loosely based on Michael Crichton’s novels. The film was supervised by producer Steven Spielberg. 

Deus ex machina drives ‘Furious 7’

“This time it ain’t just about being fast,” says Vin Diesel while reprising his role as Dominic Turetto in “Furious 7.” This film — directed by James Wan and written by Chris Morgan (based on Gary Scott Thompson’s characters) — is about delivering the most unbelievable and manliest action while paying its respect to its deceased franchise star Paul Walker.

Unlike Walker, who ironically died during a joy ride on a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT before finishing the film, “Furious 7’s” characters are protected by the deus ex machina (with an emphasis on “machina”) of screenwriter Morgan. Walker’s character, Brian O’Connor, survives running up a bus that’s falling off a cliff. As he leaps off the bus, Letty’s (Michele Rodriguez) car shows up just in time for O’Connor to grab on.

“Can’t believe we pulled it off,” someone says.

But Wan and Morgan land this ludicrous stunt and much more. Their “machina” are as invincible as their drivers — doubling as guns, shields, hiding places and cushions. O’Connor zigzags under a truck as a plane shoots at him. A car cushions Luke Hobbs’ (Dwayne “the rock” Johnson) landing as he jumps off an exploding building. Tej Parker’s (Ludacris) bulletproof Jeep Wrangler Unlimited shields his crew from bullets. Hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) hides her all-seeing tracking device (the “God’s Eye”) in a Lykan HyperSport.

The expensive vehicles and the death-defying stunts are part of Wan’s dizzying 137-minute non-stop roller-coaster ride without breaks. One minute we’re parachuting off planes from cars. The next, we’re driving off cliffs and crashing through buildings.

Like the actors speeding from one adrenaline-ridden situation to another, we’re trying to mourn Walker’s death. But tough guys don’t cry. Tough guys smile while they spin donuts off the side of cliffs.

Paul Walker

Filmed by Marc Spicer and Stephen F. Windon and edited by Leigh Folsom Boyd, Dylan Highsmith, Kirk M. Morri and Christian Wagner, “Furious 7” has the velocity of an amusement park ride. The camera spins and pans as if we’re on a nauseating tilt-a-whirl. Just as we pause at the top, Wan launches the next action sequence — a pipe wrench fight, a high-speed police chase, a game of keep-away, a game of chicken, a turf war or an explosion.

In the opposing bumper car (a yellow Aston Martin DB9) is Jason Statham, who emerges as shadowy ex-special forces assassin Deckard Shaw — Owen Shaw’s (Luke Evans) older brother. The elder Shaw seeks revenge on Turetto and his “family” for crippling his brother. He goes after Hobbs, Han (Sung Kang), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and other members of Turetto’s family and friends. But family protect their own.

As both defense and revenge, Turetto, O’Connor and the rest of their crew team up with covert special operation leader Frank Petty (Kurt Russell). In exchange for keeping the “God’s Eye” from terrorist Jakande’s (Djimon Hounsou) hands, Petty’s agreed to help them take down Shaw.

Likewise Walker’s family help him finish what he’s started. Walker’s younger brothers, Caleb and Cody, fill in as convincing body doubles. Morgan rewrites the script. Wan directs them. Together (with the help of computer-generated imagery and other machinery), they achieve the work of gods — reviving a dead man and immortalizing him on the silver screen.

“Furious 7” was written by Chris Morgan and directed by James Wan.