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: BOMBSHELL

BOMBSHELL is like a bomb in itself: messy and all over the place with no centralized focus and is too loud and muddled in its message to really be saying anything at all. It doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It tries to be tongue in cheek, but it tries so hard that it doesn’t ever become tongue in cheek, it becomes a film with way too many tones that don’t mix well. Is it a comedy? I don’t think so, I maybe laughed once. Is it a political bashing film? No…not really as it had a couple of Trump moments but didn’t bash or talk about politics enough to warrant that genre. Is it a drama? It only really gets emotional the last ten minutes, but it isn’t earned as the rest of the film is too light, bright, and fluffy to have that drama totally make sense. Sure, the film is about the female personnel at the Fox News location in Manhattan and the harassment allegations that eventually come to fruition against the founder, Roger Ailes, but it tries too much and too hard to be about a dozen other things and loses its voice very, very fast.

Part of the problem with this film is that instead of just focusing on the three female leads (Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, & Margot Robbie) and then Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) as well, they introduce dozens and dozens of more characters throughout the course of the 1 hr and 50 minute film, and I guess we are supposed to care about them too as each one has an in-scene title text that gives us their real name and how they are associated with the modern world. Seriously, it’s a lot of them, so I’d put the ones just introduced to me in my memory bank in case they came back later. But then just more and more piled on and I started to lose track, so that when some of them did come back later, I had no idea where they were in reference to the story. Way too much information, and what this film needed was a sharp focus it was never near reaching. When the movie focused on Theron, Kidman & Robbie, it was somewhat elevated from its mediocre status, but then the focus is taken away just as quickly. The one that fairs the best out of all of them is definitely Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly. She’s always been an incredible actress, and here it is no different, getting all of Kelly’s mannerisms right, and even having on incredible make up that makes her look exactly like the journalist. If there was one nomination and possible Oscar win I will agree upon, is when this movie will pick up its award for make up & hair styling. Easily the best looking part of the film.

What I don’t get is all the praise for Nicole Kidman & Margot Robbie. They are getting serious supporting actress consideration, but their characters aren’t really all that interesting and it doesn’t seem like a stretch for either of the actresses to play these real life counterparts. Nicole Kidman has had plenty of (and better) supporting roles playing a strong female leader willing to do something to create change and her range here doesn’t really even get close to even meeting the caliber of those other great roles. I would say not even in the parking lot of the same ballpark. Margot Robbie’s character is just sort of a ditz that is in over her head and suddenly smarts up by the end of the movie. She has one break down scene that I guess everybody is giving her Oscar buzz over, but the fact that it doesn’t even come close to touching her great supporting role in The Wolf Of Wall Street, something she didn’t even get (but should’ve) nominated for, is baffling to me. Even her portrayal of Harley Quinn was more interesting than this wannabe journalist who is one of Roger Ailes victims. Charlize Theron is really the only one getting praise where it is due, but even then, I have at least a dozen of other better performances this year from actresses that could easily take her nomination spot and be arguably warranted.

But going back to the film’s main fault: it just doesn’t know what it wants to be, and tries too hard to be tongue in cheek and comes out as a mish-mash of genres that doesn’t really work well. It wasn’t comedy, nor drama, nor was it really all that political, and it just said things that have all been said before. All of the sexual allegation stuff seemed to be only surface level, and not digging deep into the problem and maybe having something to say other than just the usual, “speak up” if something to that nature happens to you or support from other victims. All of this just boils down to: THERE. WAS. NO. FOCUS. AT. ALL. The had the story right there, and it seems like there were 7 different writers on it that all gave the script a go, and the end result is some kind of Frankenstein monster that somehow inhabits all of their ideas. Would it surprise you to know that this was done by only one writer though? It doesn’t if you know who he is like I do, Charles Randolph. Yes, he co wrote the fantastic The Big Short, but he had some major help with how that film turned out, and the rest of his filmography, ranging from The Interpreter to The Live of David Gale to Love and Other Drugs, is just not that impressive.

To be honest, I don’t think this is director Jay Roach’s fault. Jay Roach has, I think, a great eye and brings some flair to what the camera captures and onto the frame (look how colorful and stylistic all three Austin Powers movies look like), and here is no different, but his style is completely trampled by a substance that is just too much and too little at the same time. His film and world within that film is bright, colorful, and imaginative, but the screenplay makes it feel like none of that vision is appropriate for the story being told. It says nothing by trying to say too much. This is just a performance movie without a clear message, and it saddens me to say that because I was really looking forward to Bombshell. I was expecting something to the kin of The Big Short, something with a central message and a pin pointed focus to drive home that message without being too preachy. This film wants to be too preachy but instead of preaching a direct message, preaches about a hundred other different things. It went on and on until the point where I just gave up and nodded off because none of it seemed like it was going to drop any kind of true bombshell any time soon.