Thursday, April 27, 2017

Suicidal Heroes?

It is such an interesting day in American culture when very, very nasty villains suddenly become the saviors and heroes of the day. The main character (whether or not he is the antagonist or protagonist is something I still don't understand) is a professional assassin that kills without peer or regard. The next main character is a psychotic killer that has so many psychiatric problems in reality she would never leave a psychiatric institution. And then the other tow main characters are a cross between a corrupt government official that believes that the ends justify the means, and a man who struggles between duty and decency (he's probably the only really likable and good character in the film). Not really an inspiring message to start with. I was not a fan of Suicide Squad before or after watching the film. The story follows a group of villains who are rounded up and forced to work for the US Government to kill far worse bad guys. Such bad guys occur in the form of an ancient evil enchantress and her equally powerful brother who want to destroy humanity and rule what's left, or something like that. So, yeah not a very interesting story. And the characters are interesting, but I think they focused on the wrong ones. Will Smith as Deadshot was dreadful; let me say that I have never been a fan of his at all. Independence Day, Men in Black, and Wild Wild West are his only work that I actually like and enjoy and that is mostly in spite of his presence on-screen which I could have lived without on any of those films. He just isn't that talented of an actor; he just plays the same character over and over again (which he did in all 3 films I mentioned above). So having him be the main character in this film I knew it was already heading in the wrong direction. Fortunately Margot Robbie saved the day with her portrayal of Harley Quinn. Forget Will Smith as Deadshot, people are going to remember Harley Quinn portrayed by Margot Robbie and the Joker played by Jared Leto. She was funny, sympathetic, and had a fascinating backstory, but was also quite evil as well. Jared Leto as the Joker unfairly had a small role (because Will Smith probably demanded a huge role if he was going to be in the film) which was a shame; I would have loved to have seen more of him and Harley Quinn together. These two will most likely be remembered as the best part of the film. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller (the person in charge) was perfect; it was like she was playing the same character as she does in How to Get Away with Murder. Joel Kinnaman played Rick Flagg, pretty much the only really good guy with any amount of screen time, and he did a good job, although it would have been a better story arc to follow him more closely than Deadshot. The rest of the villains: Killer Croc, Diablo, Captain Boomerang (really?), and Slipknot (even worse) were rather boring and just kind of there just to be there really, which is typically indicative of bad writing. As for the villain, the Enchantress played by Cara Delevingne, was pretty uninteresting although her backstory was quite fascinating.
David Ayer wrote and directed Suicide Squad and honestly, I have to say with as much source material as they had to work with, that the end product isn't really that impressive, good or even interesting. I suppose it's an okay action film, but when it comes down to it there's just a lot of shooting, running and physical fighting which is something every action film has in spades; what's difficult is to breathe new ideas and fresh life into action, and this film falls so short. The story writing was atrocious, and the dialog was alright. Steven Price did the music, and I don't even know who that is; I can't even recall the score of the film. The cinematography was okay, and the costume design wasn't too bad. The technical elements of the film weren't really all that impressive. On an interesting note, one of the Executive Producers of the film was Steven Mnuchin, President Trump's current Secretary of the Treasury. I am concerned that Americans are (just like in the 1970's) turning to darker films and darker heroes due to the malcontent and discouraging social and cultural environment currently in the United States of America. Honestly, what the world and this country needs are good, wholesome, and sacrificial heroes like Captain America, not like Deadshot. I would only recommend this film to watch for Harley Quinn and the Joker, other than that it's boring and not worth the time. Hopefully DC films become a whole lot better, even though this film did make a lot of money. Well apparently one of my favorite James Bond villains of all time (Elliot Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies) was correct..."There's no news, like bad news." And the media and world is full of it. You know, a lot of good news would be great right about now.

Harley Quinn and the Joker in Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie being Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (should be interesting)

Alien: Covenant prologue (now this is what I am talking about! Looks great!)

Friday, April 7, 2017

13 Reasons & Number 26.

So I was mindlessly perusing Netflix recently when I came across a show 13 Reasons Why that had just been posted. The premise looked interesting, and given the rating I knew it was going to have a more adult theme to the drama than annoying teenage angst depicted in most shows directed at that age group. I have to say that I got pulled into that show like a moth to a flame. I don't think I've ever binge watched anything in my entire life as I did that show. Regardless whether or not it is critiqued in a positive or negative light, you have to admit that by the end of each episode you wanted to see what would happen next, and where the story narrative was going. The show is about a young woman, junior in high school, that killed herself due to many factors and the title of the show is connected to those factors. She recorded the reasons why she killed herself on 13 audio cassettes, and each side of the tape revolved around a specific person that in her mind participated in her psychological and emotional deterioration. The 13 audio tapes are each passed on by the people about who they are about until they get to the main character of this show, Clay Jensen (played excellently by Dylan Minnette), who struggles greatly listening to the emotional angst that his friend experienced. All thirteen episodes of the show are about him systematically listening to the audio tapes and dealing with the people that they are about, there are also frequent flashbacks as the reasons for why she killed herself are all pieced together by Clay. The performances were pretty good I have to say, although there were some moments that were a little ridiculous. I didn't care either that it seemed on more than one occasion the girl who killed herself, Hannah (played very well by Katherine Langford), was blaming other people for why she killed herself rather than taking responsibility for her actions which led to her demise. There are a lot of highly emotionally charged scenes, as well as some disturbing scenes depicting rape, and then there was the scene where she killed herself. This show has brevity yes, but for the most part it is dark, painful and tortuous drama that can unfold (and I'm sure does) in a young person's life. I for one didn't experience anything like that as I was homeschooled for most of my life and then went to small private Christian schools, of which I am very thankful after watching this show. If this is really what high school is like these days, then God be with every young woman and man. But regarding the show, I'd re-watch it, but if you prefer non-serious, lighthearted fare it would be best to avoid.
Not too long ago I decided that I was going to read a biography on every American president before I die. So far I read George W. Bush's memoirs, and I just finished reading a biography on Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America. I didn't know too much about the man before I read the 800 plus page volume, but I think I have a firm grasp of him now. I believe I would say he has become one of my favorite presidents. He pushed himself throughout his entire life against all odds. He was very sickly as a child, he had asthma, but he pushed himself physically to be tough, and was very much a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of man. He experienced great tragedy in his life though. His father died when he was about 19 years old. His mother and first wife died essentially on the same day when he was about 21 right after his first child was born. And then later on during WWI when all of his sons (5 I think) were in the war, one of them died in a plane crash. He believed in doing something because there was a moral necessity to do so, particularly when it came to foreign affairs and domestic progressive policy against business. He constantly bucked his own party, Republican, which was very pro-business and he began the process of breaking of the great trusts of his time: Rockefeller, Carnegie and JP Morgan as well as other large companies. He was progressive in favoring workers over businesses, he decided to build the Panama canal, he balanced relations between the German, Japanese and Russian Empires and while he was president there were no major world wars or conflicts that boiled out of control. Now I'm going to make a parallel here, and even though I haven't read many presidential biographies, so far President Trump is very similar to President Teddy Roosevelt in personality style, leadership style, governing style, and both came from wealth and were not very well liked in their own political party. He was a bombastic man, but what I like about him was his belief in the simple, ordinary, every day American who he believed made this country great and those were the people he enjoyed being around and championing. He wasn't afraid to take anyone on who he believed threatened the security and well being of this country; from his friends to his own political party. He made a decision and he would follow through on it. I think he balanced Federalism and the rights of states very well, and although he made some strategic mistakes as every president does, nothing he did irreparably damaged the US and only magnified the greatness in which he imbued on the office of President of the United States. Here is a quote from some his final writings before he died:
"Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are parts of the same Great Adventure..."
I definitely recommend that each person reads at least a few biographies of these great men who ran/run the greatest experiment in democracy of all time; there are 45 to choose from, so where will you begin?

13 Reasons Why cast interviews

 The History Channel on President Theodore Roosevelt