Suicide Squad Hits and Misses

At last, I give you a review of one of this summer’s most anticipated blockbusters: Suicide Squad. I was a little apprehensive before watching because it seems that everyone who has seen this movie has a definite opinion it. Either people love it or loathe it. An element that can explain this is all the hype that surrounds the film and of course its sacred universe, DC.

Suicide Squad tells the reluctant band together of the world’s most dangerous villains and criminals including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Dead Shot (Will Smith), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). One of the main reason of their imprisonment is their unique and inhuman abilities such as Deadshot’s perfect aim and Diablo’s power to yield fire.

Before they actually become an ensemble, each character is broken down with their abilities, facts and backstories by a visual file.I found it advantageous to viewers- like myself- that aren’t that familiar with the comics.

This gang of not so merry fellow is called upon by a secret government agency lead by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis)to prevent the impending apocalypse. Indeed, under mysterious circumstances, the Enchantress (Cara Delavigne) takes over anthropologist  June Moone’s body to exact revenge on all human kind. This witch brings back to life her more imposing brother and creates and army of guards thanks to her power.

All in all, it’s worth watching if you don’t have many expectations. Because of the iconic stature of characters like the Joker and Harley Quinn and the fact that the members of the Suicide Squad have lived through (and have inflicted) a lot of pain, their mental state should be deranged. Although in the movie, the portrayal of delusion and craziness especially from the Joker was subdued and disappointing to me. The psychological torture is explored especially when Harley Quinn’s backstory is presented but the backlash on her emotional state felt understated as well.

I would rate Suicide Squad 3 out of 5 stars. It has all the ingredients of a superhero movie, albeit in this case the protagonists are villains. Knowing that there were pressures to release the film early August and that scenes were re-shot to please the studios, in the end it shows. The DVD release will probably include more pieces that could of made this film more cohesive and frankly more badass. It is also undeniable that sequels will come as it is hinted by a brief scene after the credits.

You’ve Got “Nerve”

 

I saw “Nerve” with no expectations. Meaning I hadn’t heard anything about the movie prior to seeing it in theaters. Needless to say, this is a rare occasion since I always am a well-documented watcher; checking reviews, the cast, hell even trivia… IMDB is my go-to on a regular basis. But for some reason I didn’t come across any of the publicity promoting the film except for the trailer, a few moments before watching it on the big screen.

In this movie, Emma Roberts plays the titular character Vee, an ordinary high school student who could be perceived as a cookie-cutter with a cautious perspective on life. She has a close-knit group of friends and a good relationship with her mother played by Juliette Lewis.

After being confronted for her lack of risk taking by her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) following a humiliating incident, Vee decides to join Nerve as a player. She rapidly gets caught up in this secret online game where completing dares in real time equals cash rewards.

The game is explained in the movie as “truth or dare without the truth”. Which at first may seem as contradictory but the statement actually might reveal the darkness lying beneath the surface.  If innocent at the beginning, the dares build to a suspenseful ending. Vee’s first dare “kiss a stranger” leads her to meet Ian (Dave Franco), a fellow player of the game in a diner. With their increasing popularity online, they decide to become partners.

In the beginning, when Vee creates her Nerve profile, it collected all of her digital footprint from her Facebook profile to her shared bank account with her mother. While she and Ian team up and accomplish dares (created by their followers), her gains are directly deposited in her account, and when she wants to back out, every penny is withdrawn…

Rather than an other brainless teen flick, “Nerve” offers a crucial message about Internet privacy, security and virtual identity. It depicts the contemporary reality of mass social media usage as well as trolling and cyberbullying and the effects of peer pressure. A depiction that rings true to the world 2.0 of today showcasing a lesser known side of the web (notably Big Data). It raises important questions about Internet usage without adopting a preachy attitude. These interrogations include: How is personal information stored? Who has access to that information? When I say “I agree”, what I’m I signing up to?

This movie criticizes the strive to becoming insta famous and seeking glory at all costs. This mainstream idea of success proves to be unideal, even dangerous. “Nerve” effectively demonstrates the downfall of the quest to become viral. It shows that the notions of privacy and security can easily be skewed.

The film also pokes at the concept of anonymity online where users feel free to express anything on social media without any second thought. Anonymity makes some feel empowered to call to hate and violence; they do not think that another person is actually at the end of the screen.

The exposé is done whilst including traditional landmarks of the teen movie such as the crush, the romance, the friendships and the catfight which serve the intrigue. In the midst of the Pokemon Go craze, where accidents as well as lack of judgement happen when entrenched in the game, “Nerve” couldn’t come out at a better time.

All in all, I was surprisingly pleased by Emma Roberts portrayal of Vee, a character that strays from the frequent “Queen B” roles she had in the past. She transposed onto the screen a teenager that has a strong sense of justice and is still figuring out who she wants to be. Even if she makes mistakes she isn’t afraid to get back at the game and denounce it as morally corrupt.

In Your Eyes (2014)

Still of Zoe Kazan in In Your Eyes from TFF

A woman and a man in different parts of the United States; New Hampshire and New Mexico respectively, are telepathically linked. An unlikely bond forms between an ex-convict and a young married woman. They are able to feel, see, smell and communicate through their minds. That is the premise of In Your Eyes, a Joss Whedon-written and produced independent film*, which was selected at the Tribeca film festival in 2014.

Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) is a housewife married to a doctor (Mark Feuerstein) who under glossy exteriors holds a certain power over her.  In New Mexico, Dylan  (Michael Stahl-David) an ex-con on probation is living  in a mobile home and struggles to better himself. Upon discovering their new found ability, intimate conversations ensue between Rebecca and Dylan. They learn to know each other and try to understand how their telepathic bond came to be. They learn that their first connection happened as children, when Rebecca hit a tree when sliding on a snowy mountain. At the time, both felt the pain and were briefly unconscious. This shows the physicality of their mental link. They also come to discover that they were present throughout the others’ life during good and more difficult times. Indeed, they watched over each other during critical moments of their lives without knowing it as they felt an another presence.

Self consciousness, solidarity and comfort are gradually felt and shared by both. Deep conversations, trade of knowledge and know-how are also exchanged, thanks to their mystical connection. It provides quirky and fun moments especially when socializing. Kazan and Stahl-David aptly portray their character’s anxieties, insecurities as well as their long for closeness. A secret and uplifting relationship enfolds between Becky and Dylan with playfulness, chemistry and trust.

Philip, Becky’s husband, eventually comes to suspect something is up with her. He consult one of his colleagues, a psychotherapist who suggest she is suffering from a psychopathic behaviour. This calls for trouble for Kazan’s character becomes committed to a mental hospital by the hands of her husband. Comedy, drama and hints of sci-f i (only by their telepathic connection) subtlety evolves into action, notably a car chase and bar fights realistically.  Rebecca and Dylan bring confidence in one another and become stronger. In the end it is a not-so-impossible love story which enables both Dylan and Rebecca to break free from trouble and unhealthy relationships.

*Streaming on Netflix

The True Cost Gives An Inside Look Beyond The Rack

The fashion industry is no stranger to controversy. Slogans, models, photographs and images are not all that is scrutinized in the media and our society. The True Cost  (2015) brings us to rethink how we consume fashion via clothing. Clothes are in a sense statements of who we are as well as who we want to be.They are a part of self-expression and how we present ourselves to the world around us. I sometimes feel the compulsion to buy clothes when there are sales and clearances.  At times, it may seem harder to resist, when we are bombarded by countless newsletters and ads daily. The desire to buy becomes increasingly tempting, when the retail prices are ridiculously cheap.  However, a few months later, I might find that I never wear those items that I hastily purchased. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not quick to make purchases; I always try to carefully foresee the most usage for everything I buy. I am of the school of research before you purch’ and need before want. Never do I make a purchase without giving it a thought beforehand, but sometimes the prices may become blinding. Online shopping is a breeze and frequently has sales.This is where I occasionally falter. More than ever ‘cheap fashion’ or ‘fast fashion’ as named in this documentary has become the norm. It is easily accessible while creating struggle and high-stake rivalry for clothing manufacturing companies which are widely relocated to developing countries. There are most often relegated to Bangladesh and India. The True Cost essentially takes us behind the scenes of the fashion industry, guided by the voices of many key players speaking about its obstacles. These concerns are explored in depth by a discussion with some of the fashion industry’s lead actors. They range from designers, journalists, activists, company CEOs and factory workers. Together they give an insight into the struggles and actions to be taken to better conditions and healthier relations in the fashion industry. We are literally thrust into the making-of of cheap fashion. Director Andrew Morgan answers this rather straight-forward and simple question: Who is behind the clothes we wear?

The fashion world is illusive although it might have seemed like it was reserved to an elite, the people who work in the industry, it is no longer the case. Today, it has become more accessible and affordable, all in a very short period of time. Online shopping is at its peak which means that in a matter of seconds we can be connected to discounted merchandise half way around the world. Morgan investigates how prices are drastically reduced and the man power required to meet tight deadlines and the consequences of this highly competitive market.This documentary also sheds light on the issues and conditions workers face on a daily basis.

The True Cost puts a face to manufacturing employees who work to the bone in order to merely provide for their families. It does not shy away from showing darker truths and heart-wrenching realities, notably in regards to the lack of action that occurred after the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which claimed over a thousand lives. There are touching testimonies, notably by the mother of a young girl who sacrifices time spent with her in the hopes of giving her daughter a better life.

This documentary is not a simple call for empathy and compassion for the way companies treat their workers. It opens the door to action and rethinking our relation to clothing. On a broader scale, it invites us to eliminate superfluous purchases and be more mindful about what we wear. Quality over quantity is an important lesson to learn. Consciousness and awareness is what The True Cost brings as well as a strong basis that enables the viewer to become a more savvy consumer. For this reason alone, it is a must-see. It will with no doubt make you question your spending and how it affects the people who made them without preaching values or forcing facts down your throat. In the end, this documentary is a reminder of the power of the consumer and how we can make sizable changes with simple reflection. It is a thought-provoking piece that gives valuable knowledge.

I give The True Cost  4/5; it is streaming on Netflix.

The True Cost Photo Credit

Men, Women & Children (2014): Internet under surveillance

Men, Women & Children is a film that had caught my attention when I first saw the trailer but that I never had gotten around to watch when it was in theaters. I got a second chance to view it when I came across the title on Netflix. The film is directed by Jason Reitman, renown for Up In The Air starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick released in 2009 which was successful.

Simply put, Men, Women & Children is a drama focusing on Internet usage. Specifically, it gives an insight on how teenagers and their parents get involved on social media and the web. Each character leads a double life in contrasting ways by having a secret online persona. They have a  sort of dark passenger-Yes, this is a Dexter reference- that lives in cyberspace and are not necessarily meant to be seen by others.

We are first introduced to Don Truby (Adam Sandler) whom the narrator confesses, right off the bat, has frequent escapades to his son’s room to watch porn on his computer. Emma Thompson narrates the movie in a documentary-style, in the sense where she reveals some of the characters histories and thoughts which I thought was well done. Sandler’s character and his ‘practice’ is his secret, stemming from his relationship with his wife played by Rosemarie DeWitt which is silently falling apart. Mr. Truby’s lust becomes only fueled by images on screens and escorts. In his real life, this poses a problem  which translates into an inability to connect on a  more intimate level with his wife. This struggle is also felt by his own son Chris, a high school student and star player on the football team. Chris who has been watching porn since he was twelve years old finds himself unable to form a deeper connection with his love interest, the popular-girl Hannah. She is shadowed by her mother and personal photographer Donna (Judy Greer) who manages her website that showcases her figure in various attire and poses with the purpose of promoting her acting. Sexualization of youths and sexuality are both clear themes that are brought up by showing the sometimes sinuous ways it is depicted on the Internet. The movie also evokes the feelings of uncertainty and lack of knowledge that people might have when trying to define the contours or rather the limits of the web.

Then there is Brandy, a responsible and down to earth teenager whose Internet activity is highly monitored by her mother. Jennifer Garner plays this conservative and overprotective parent who only sees the web’s darkest corners. Brandy’s mother represents the voice of fearful parents who have an extreme need to protect their children and do so by controlling their devices. Indeed, Garner’s character exhibits an extreme behaviour; she is an overbearing parent, as she oversees and keeps track of Brandy’s every single online interaction. She acts this way because the fear that her teenage daughter is targeted and will be the prey to predators consumes her. Her constant worrying over her daughter’s safety on the Internet causes resentment and brings an unpreventable confrontation. On the other hand, Tim (Ansel Elgort) is a former football player that developed a passion for an RPG game, to the dismay of his teammates and father. He becomes isolated and has difficulty finding people he can actually talk to about his real life struggles, as his online friends aren’t seriously interested.

One of the things that make the film remarkable is the attention to detail in the aesthetic, especially in regards to the networking sites which are recognizable and the actors actually use these interfaces. There is also the fact that these four distinct families’ struggles are convincingly woven. Their stories overlap in a realistic manner as the teenagers go to the same school and evolve in relatively similar circles; some relationships are built while others fall apart. Against all odds, what is a source of pain or conflict is what brings them together. Internet appears to be both something that can be dangerous but also freeing. By peeking through the lives of these different characters we may realize that we navigate the web in certain ways without always grasping: it’s vastness, it’s permanent nature and people’s underlying motives.

My rating: 3.7/5

‘Inside Out’ : A Relatable And Modern Tale

A snippet of a short titled Riley’s First Date was released today. The full-length short will be included in the bluray version of the box-office hit ‘Inside Out’ next October. It gives us a glimpse of Riley’s life after turning twelve and her parents emotions when a boy comes by their house to see their daughter. This release seems like a great occasion to share a couple of thoughts on the movie from which the characters have originated .

‘Inside Out’ is the latest feature film from heart-warming and thoughtful studios Pixar. They knock it out of the park with this simple premise: getting a look into the mind of an eleven year old girl. Riley is loving, family-oriented and playful with a passion for hockey. I applaud the choice of having the emotions be in a girl’s mind. This is a refreshing take, since most previous movies of the Studios have male protagonists. Riley’s head is controlled by five emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Anger (Lewis Black). These sometimes eccentric characters are voiced by a stellar comedic ensemble, most of them having worked together or appeared on The Office (2006). Even though these characters are colorful and deliver some hilarious mannerism, reactions and one-liners, they have a degree of  innocence and naivety. For the viewer this is both enjoyable and innovative. They are all, without a doubt lovable. Emotions in ‘Inside Out’ are important characters that live in Riley’s head. As creator Pete Docter  discussed during the press tour for this movie, it was really interesting for him to see emotions as characters and Riley’s head as the setting. The inspiration for the movie actually came from seeing his own daughter growing up which eases the personal response we have to Riley as a character.

The emotions are in charge of Riley’s memories, her personnality and of course the manner in which she feels through the highs and lows of her pre-pubecent life. Their intervention proves particularly crucial, when the Andersens move from Minnessota to San Francisco. When the family arrives to their new house, they don’t find it as they had pictured it, especially Riley and her emotions which are bewildered. Needless to say, their new home needs a lot of ajustements and getting used to. This life-changing event leads the usually joyful and happy girl to find herself feeling lonely and sad. Amongst other pivotal moments, she loses touch with her childhood friend and her hockey team which she has difficulty dealing with.

‘Inside Out’ keeps a poignant sensitivity to issues we go through in life. In a similar manner of the Studios’ previous work ‘Up’ (2009), you will find yourself revisiting your childhood. You get to be reminded of the freedom and the happiness  you felt as well as more challenging events and memories that occured. There is also a more global message around the way we might perceive our emotions during critical times. Where as at first each emotion is shown as an independent  way to cope or experience life; what they learn is that they can actually be intertwined. When Joy and Sadness -who have clearly contrasting views of the world in the beginning of the film -are lost in the maze that is long-term memory, they form a surprising bond. Indeed, they realize that in order to get Riley back on the right track, they must work together to return to Headquarters, where the other emotions have things poorly under control. Anger, Disgust and Fear unvoluntarily bring Riley to harbour feelings of resentment towards her parents for making the family move as well as embarassement at school. This leads to devastating actions.

‘Inside Out’ is a relatable tale of a modern girl making a mends with an unexpected change occuring in her previously rather quaint life. The movie explores on a larger scale, how people react and feel through moments of darkness as well as joyous ones. It touches on the importance of expressing how we feel even when it might be painful to do so. Emotions are complex and are often mixed with other feelings. ‘Inside Out’ serves as a heartfelt reminder to grown-ups and a great journey with a lesson for children that emotions are there through the good and the bad. It also makes us acknowledge that there are moments where Sadness is the only one to lead us to Joy.

‘Trainwreck’ rises and avoids cliché

Amy Schumer stars alongside Bill Hader in this modern romantic comedy. Schumer plays ‘Amy’, a non apologetic and heavy-drinking journalist at a men’s magazine. Her workplace is headed by a snob, egocentric and apathic woman portrayed by Tilda Swinton. Amy’s boss gives her the assignment of writing a portrait of Dr. Connors who is about to perform a surgery on a famous athlete. She is obligated to write that paper if she wants to increase her chances of getting a promotion.  Bill Hader plays ‘Aaron’, Amy’s main love interest. His character is a reknown surgeon, notably for pro athletes that also works with Doctors without borders. His best friend is famous basketball player LeBron James who gives a decent performance.

After seeing the trailer, it appears to be yet another raunchy comedy, in the likes of Bridesmaids or The Hangover, but as a romantic comedy. The titles forementionned come to mind having been box office smashes in the last few years in the R-rated comedy department. These movies share similarities, such as the crude humor and some allusion to sexual content. Although seeing the trailer doesn’t give light of the more dramatic or rather emotional undertone of the movie. Thus making the viewing of certain scenes positively surprising, when comparing them to Schumer’s sketches on Comedy Central which even though they sometimes tackle more serious themes such as double standards (Last F***able day), Amy is rarely (if ever) seen saddened or heartbroken. Indeed, knowing Amy Schumer’s work on Inside Amy Schumer and that she wrote Trainwreck upon watching it, I reckon her sarcastic and partly cynical tone does come through, albeit in an evolving manner that is not overbearing.

Amy finally grows up of her destructive ways and realizes that marriage or stable relationships aren’t necessarily synonyous with ball and chain. This growth makes Amy’s character a relatable person who is trying to navigate a newfound stable romantic relationship with Aaron following many years of not-so-great conquests. After a tumulteous relationship with her father, she learns that she is worthy of love and happiness.

I found the film to be a refreshing take on a romantic comedy. It turns the archetype of “the ladies’ man and bad boy that the perfect female lead changes” on its head. Bill Hader as Amy’s new boyfriend is endearing and stands out. His character Aaron is patient, caring, funny and especially down-to-earth. He meshes well with Amy’s dark humor and childish ways.  They clearly balance each other out. What I feel is the strong suit of Trainwreck is how Schumer and Hader are believable as a couple and have great chemistry. Contrarily to most of romantic comedies out there which draw superficial characters together by non-sensical circumstances and romances, this movie presents ordinary people with authentic interactions. Amy and Aaron grow fond of each other gradually; their connection has highs and lows ranging from work troubles to relationship and personal woes. They have a blossoming relationship coupled with lots of laughs and more serious matters.