Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: BIRDS OF PREY: HARLEY QUINN or HARLEY QUINN: BIRDS OF PREY or whatever the fuck it’s now called. (no spoilers)

The fact that the marketing of BIRDS OF PREY: AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN (the real damn title) has to cater to some people because of low box office returns and the fact that some of them even said they had no idea that Harley Quinn was in the film is just plain stupid. If you had no idea Harley Quinn was in this movie, you are stupid. Period. There I said it. No take backsies. I for one, like the long and unique title, but agree that it probably should’ve been called something like Harley Quinn Meets The Birds of Prey in the first place. But the fact that the marketing and title has to change after the film has already released for some dumb asses that don’t know their ass from a chair is frustratingly idiotic. The film itself? In my opinion, pretty damn great. I enjoyed the entirety of it, from the time shifts, to Harley Quinn’s narration, to the small scale story in the big DC universe, to the performances, to the action, to the best villain in the DCEU yet, all of it. Is it a perfect film? Absolutely not, but its a helluva fun ride that I would like to visit a few more times during my lifetime.

The plot of Birds Of Prey changes course several times throughout the film, due to non linear storytelling, but suffice to say, it’s about Harley Quinn’s breakup with the Joker. She then has a target on her back since she’s not being protected by him anymore, and then it eventually gets into how she makes herself someone to fear and then her team up with a couple of bad ass women, all with their own little stories of revenge and emancipation. There they all become mixed up with a psychotic, possibly homosexual, gangster with his right hand man/possible lover, needing this unique diamond that may or may not be more than what it seems. Phew, that is a lot stuffed into an hour and 49 minute movie. But it all works. The film takes it time and doesn’t try to stuff all these characters down our throats immediately and then doesn’t try to put them together in minute 5. It’s a slow burn little small scale story that pays off in spades in its third act with some steady cam action and fantastic humor. Now I don’t read comics (anymore) so I can’t really compare these film characters to their page counterparts, but I do know there are a lot of complaints from comic/DC fans out there that none of the characters (especially the Birds of Prey and Cassandra Cain) are comic book accurate and I for one say…so? My enjoyment of the film is based solely on the fact that the characters worked with the story being told/script that was written and it never crossed the line of being too cheesy/comic book-ey, with a dash here and there of some actual realism. Fake fanboys out there need to stop fucking complaining.

The movie also gives us the best DCEU villain to date with Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. Ewan looks like he’s having a hell of a time hamming it up, and it is something we haven’t ever seen from him before. My real only complaint about the film is that it doesn’t commit fully to whether or not his character was homosexual and if he was a lover to his right hand man Victor Zsasz. I mean, did the filmmakers not want any gay panic retaliation from movie goers? Who the fuck cares, I think they should’ve went all in with it and it would’ve made their relationship more dynamic and relateable. Instead it just tip toes around that fact. This isn’t Disney, this is an R rated comic book feature adaptation. People in real life are gay, getting married, and living their lives, why the fuck are we still hiding this shit in movies? When Hollywood tip toes around this issue, they are just supporting the dumb motherfuckers who can’t stand homosexuals for no good reason at all. It’s sickening and stupid. LET CHARACTERS BE GAY AND PROUD IN MOVIES!!! Rant over. Anyway, other than that, loved the villains in this. The rest of the DCEU needs to take note that this is how you get villainy right, not with a giant CGI monster creation looking just for world domination, but a realistic asshole of a human being bent on smaller scale gang rule warfare. It was quite refreshing to say the least.

And let’s give a round of applause to Margot Robbie, now my favorite actress. Being one of the few brights spots with the frustrating Suicide Squad, she completely shines in this movie, making Harley Quinn her own. She’s just the right amount of psychotic, funny, charming, and dangerous bad ass female character. This is her movie, and I hope that the box office picks up so we can get another small scale story like this one with her in it. And while I would’ve liked to see a little more of Huntress and Black Canary in the movie (especially Huntress, who I feel really got the short end of the stick), their stories were told almost to perfection and the acting from Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was solid, funny, and enjoyable. Hell, I’m not even a Rose Perez fan and I think she did great as Renee Montoya and Ella Jay Basco, who played Cassandra Cain, was good in her supporting role as well. And the (apparently reshot with the director of the John Wick movies) action sequences? All very well done. When Harley Quinn got some cocaine in her, using her bat and glitter gun, kicking ass and taking names whether it was the water fight jail sequences or in a back storage room, all very well choreographed. And the third act, when all of them get together to kick ass, loved the steady cam and action mixed in with some humor, all fantastic. And the set design with the abandoned fun house park look gorgeous. I’ve heard that some fake fan boys are boycotting this film because of its “feminist agenda/girl power” things in the movies. All those fake fan boys needs to just kill themselves in mommy and daddy’s basements. In Birds of Prey, it is a wonderful cool female LED film, and it doesn’t try to shove feminism down your throat at all. It works with established female characters to make a fun film. It isn’t man hating. Get over it losers.

Another complaint is that I think the movie would’ve worked better if you had Jared Leto in a cameo capacity as The Joker again. I know, I know his gangster Joker wasn’t very well received (even by me) but after re visiting Suicide Squad, I think the writing was the problem in that, and Leto’s take on the Joker wasn’t really that half bad. Him as an extended cameo in this could’ve bulked up Harley Quinn’s emancipation story more, but let me stress that this is a minor complaint, her story still works very well. This is director Cathy Yan’s first mainstream film, I hadn’t seen Dead Pigs or any of her other theatrical shorts but, I admire her talent and eye for the camera here, and feel like she’s going to make a masterpiece one day, keeping hiring her Hollywood! Screenwriter Christina Hodson, whose previous writing credits made me worry (she wrote the abysmal Bumblebee, Unforgettable, and Shut In), did pretty great here, and shows she has some untapped talent. Just please don’t go back to writing that unimaginable filth, especially shit like Unforgettable. It’s just a small scale story set within the grander DC Universe, and it all felt very refreshing. This was 100% better than Suicide Squad, and probably my third favorite DCEU film in general. Would love smaller scale stories like this and not more headache inducing CGI madness like the giant Frankenstein monster that was Justice League. Please God let the DCEU keeping making these steps in the right direction and never ever ever ever ever have a film made like Justice League ever again. Ever. Let me reiterate, you can make another Justice League film to redeem the last one…just don’t make the same stupid mistakes. Or just Release The Snyder Cut and make that canon. Ball is in your court Warner Bros.

My ranking of DCEU films (remember that Joker isn’t part of it!):

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Shazam!
  3. Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
  4. Man of Steel
  5. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition
  6. Aquaman
  7. Suicide Squad
  8. Justice League

Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: JOKER (some minor spoilers)

The real joke is on us, the audience. For weeks now, ever since the Venice Film Festival, where it won the top prize or whatever the fuck, JOKER has been all over the news. People saying it is controversial, people saying it glorifies violence, people afraid of going to the movies in fear of another mass shooting a la Dark Knight Rises, people saying that Joaquin Phoenix is going to win the Best Actor Oscar and that it is the best interpretation of the villain yet. Overall they’ve been saying it is a great movie and might even have a chance at winning best picture. After reading all of what it won at that festival, after reading all of the initial reactions, and then after actually sitting down last night to watch this movie, I’m laughing my ass off. Not because all those people were right, but because they are dead wrong. Joker is absolutely NONE of those things. It’s all unwarranted hype. In actuality, Joker is bland, unoriginal, has nothing to say, is not the best interpretation of the Joker let alone not being Joaquin Phoenix’s best performance, in fact, I think Jared Leto was better.

I’ll get shit for those last six words but I really don’t care, as I thought that Joaquin Phoenix borrowed from his Oscar nominated performance from The Master, at times almost verbatim. Here’s the rub, if you’ve seen American Psycho, Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy, basically any movie with a mentally ill outcast that turns into a villain and starts committing heinous crimes, you’ve seen Joker. This movie adds absolutely NOTHING to the table with the issues that are brought up in the movie. Nothing new. In fact, it almost rips off THAT scene off right out of Taxi Driver. And that fact that the movie is a slow burn makes it even worse. I was completely bored throughout the whole film save for the last 15-20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I usually LOVE slow burn movies, in fact, those are some of the best out there, but if you are a slow burn that includes cooking up ingredients used one too many times in other and better films, you end up with an under-cooked meal. And the last 15-20 minutes are only watchable because of the instant adrenaline pumped into your system once the only great scene in the film comes along, yet if you look closely you realized the adrenaline wasn’t anything new as well.

The only truly great scene in the film doesn’t even involve Robert DeNiro, in fact, that scene has already been done in the comics. The only shining greatness bright spot in this film is when two of Arthur Fleck’s former associates goes to his apartment to see how it is holding up. Even though everything is dialed the fuck up after that, that scene had wonderful acting, and an aura of a truly sick sense of dark violence that felt like it had something to say. The rest of the movie is shallow, empty, and has nothing new to say. And all of the blame can be put on writer/director Todd Phillips. I know he doesn’t want to do crude dark comedies anymore, but the thing is, that is the only thing he is good at. He has no peripheral vision as a screenwriter or director. Sure, the movie is nice to look at at times, but you can credit the cinematographer on that. Todd Phillips two best films are The Hangover and War Dogs. His future projects should maybe fall within that spectrum, especially if he isn’t going to bring anything new to any genre.

Look, I’m not saying that Joker is terrible, it is not even close to being one of my top ten worst films of the year. To me, it was just meh. And I’m not saying Joaquin Phoenix was bad either. On the contrary, he actually look like he tried really hard and had a couple of moments where he felt like he was bringing a new and exciting interpretation of the character. But those moments were very fleeting (mostly contained in that one great scene I was talking about) and this isn’t close to his best theatrical performance. If you haven’t seen The Master, you are going to think I’m crazy and wonder what the fuck I am talking about. But if you have, I’m sure on some level you’ll agree with me that a lot of his performance of Arthur Fleck was borrowed from his performance of Freddie Quell. We’ve seen the mentally ill outsider with parental issues one too many times before, and we’ve seen the climax of all those feelings coming to a similar final outcome before. In essence, you could probably say that the reason I wasn’t impressed by Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is basically I wasn’t impressed by the overall screenplay. It’s not good when the Joker’s laugh starts to get really annoying. Too much here.

As for the other actors? None of them have that much screen time to really warrant any kind of conversation. Well, that’s not true, but in a negative way. Let me back up a bit. Robert DeNiro is fine in the few scenes he is in, but I didn’t really buy him as a Talk Show Host. Maybe I could’ve gotten into the movie more with more scenes of Frances Conroy’s delusional mother character, and the ultimate “trickery” story with her feels like a pretty big letdown. It is like they were going to be controversial with a controversial revelation, but then that rug is pulled out from under you, and then the film just caters to those fan boys that would’ve been mad with that choice in the first place. But the real problem with the film is Zazie Beetz’s character (she played Domino in Deadpool 2, she was fantastic in that). Not a problem with Beetz but with her character. I don’t want to get into heavy spoilers, but let’s just say things aren’t what they seem, and the ultimate revelation to me has been done before and is a giant big no-no/red flag in my opinion when they do it in movies today. The first rule of that red flag is that YOU STOP doing that red flag.

And then there is another big scene that is kind of expected toward the end, that again, we as DC Comic fans, have seen one too many times to really care. And that dancing stairwell scene that is shown in the trailers and tv spots too much? It uses an overused sports song that felt extremely out of place in the film. This movie was completely all just over-hyped and turned out to be extremely OVERRATED. This movie shouldn’t have people worried to actually go out and see it. It isn’t controversial in the slightest, it’s all just been massively built up to get you out of the house and spend your hard earned box office cash. I encourage you to wait for a rental, is that is all that it is really good for. The worst thing that people will do is compare it to Heath Ledger’s performance. Don’t do that. Keep them as separate pieces of work, and just know that Ledger’s will never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever be beaten. Now that I think about it, I think I am having the last laugh with this movie. I just realized that since it isn’t part of the DCEU, and is its own entity, that I don’t ever have to own it. That definitely puts a smile on my face.