How to Watch: “Suicide Squad”

Suicide Squad

Poor Suicide Squad, getting all these bad reviews when it’s really just a big bowl of popcorn fun. Sure, it has issues, maybe more than a few of them, but Suicide Squad still delivers the big, bold characters, lots of action, laughs, jumps and a desire to see these folks again.

Step 1: How to handle the material. Writer/director David Ayer, who is best known for his gritty crime drama End of Watch, handles the action chores with aplomb, with a pretty action-packed final climactic scene. Ayer thankfully doesn’t shake his camera around or zoom in so close you can’t see who is fighting who. But Ayer may have bitten off a little more than he could chew in the story department, trying to pack too many details into a two-hour chunk. This #Squad, the “worst of the worst,” are meta-humans, who – if you can control their wayward, criminal behavior – would be ideal to take down even more dangerous super entities, ready to destroy Earth. Really? Seems like a big flaw in logic that even the shady government agent Amanda Waller (the always-good Viola Davis), who brings together these criminals, doesn’t entirely believe in. Half of Suicide Squad is spent watching the bad guys bucking against the authority who want them to be good guys.

Step 2: Create great characters. Ayer does his best, though, to bring these folks to life, and there are a few characters that truly steal the show. Much has been hyped about Margot Robbie’s performance as hot mess Harley Quinn, and thankfully, it’s justified. Robbie has way too fun playing bubble-headed crazy with a bat, but there are moments of pathos that cross her pasty white face – and it’s those moments you notice. Will Smith also does a nice job as Deadshot, the hitman with pinpoint accuracy who is conflicted by his work because he’s also a dad to a precocious 11-year-old daughter. You definitely wish more than once that you could watch movies just about these characters. In fact, the whole cast really delivers, including Jared Leto as the Joker. His take on the iconic character is definitely more gangsta and a tad over the top, but you can’t take your eyes off him and are left wanting more.

Step 3: Damn Marvel. You might have to also chalk up the lackluster critical response for Suicide Squad to bad timing. For the anti-heroes banding together to fight a common enemy, we have the superb Guardians of the Galaxy. For sarcastic, raunchy, sticking-it-to the man mentality, there’s Deadpool. It’s like those Marvel people have a better movie for everything. I mean, if we are to compare Marvel and DC Comics and why Marvel seems to have a better success rate, it comes down to tone. Marvel has found their rhythm with the characters, combining humor with action, but DC Comics is still trying to figure out which way they want to go. DC’s universe seems like it’s inherently darker, broodier than Marvel, which is the way Christopher Nolan went with his Dark Knight trilogy, but now DC seems to be having trouble owning that. Most critics are at least giving Suicide Squad the benefit of being a better film than Batman v Superman, but one wonders if things will trend upwards for DC with the upcoming Wonder Woman and Justice League movies.

Step 4: Just have fun. If you are fan of the comic or a fan of having fun in the theater, then Suicide Squad should be right up your alley.

How to Watch: “Jason Bourne”

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Step 1: Expect the expected. As the fifth installment in the franchise – and fourth starring Matt Damon – Jason Bourne incorporates all the highly charged action sequences you’ve come to expect, but it seems to lack a bit in the narrative.

Step 2: Feel the retread, to be honest. It starts out with Bourne living off the grid, making cash by street fighting across the globe – and he’s still haunted by his assassin past. He can’t shake it, no matter how many times he fights or tries to disassociate himself from the world. And just when he thinks he’s out, he, of course, gets pulled back in, this time by his former colleague/ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles). She seeks him out to tell him the CIA baddies are still pushing through the same programs (worse even) that turned him into an assassin monster – and they should be stopped. He doesn’t really want to get involved anymore, he’s done his part (as in exposing Treadstone in Bourne Ultimatum) – but Nicky tells him she knows even more about his past, especially about his father, which ties into it all.

Step 3: Move on. Gaining more insight into his past lures him back into the spotlight – and into the cross hairs of CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his lackey, the ambitious Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who may actually be on Bourne’s side (at least it seems that way). Does this sound in any way familiar? That’s the problem. This is territory already covered in the Bourne trilogy, and covered well. The first Bourne Identity still stands as the best of the three because it brilliantly introduces us to Bourne, a man who doesn’t remember he is a trained assassin until he is forced to use his skills to combat those trying to eliminate him. That scene in which he fights and then kills a guy with a pen is just one of the best fight sequences ever. In Jason Bourne, Damon portrays his reluctant anti-hero with the same steely determination and keen street sense as before, now a little older but wiser, but the tortured part is getting tired. It just seems like with the fourth movie, it’s time to move past the issues and explore a new Bourne.

Step 4: Embrace the action, though. That being said, veteran Bourne director Paul Greengrass has outdone himself in the action-chase sequence department. There are three major set pieces in Jason Bourne, with the third one set in Las Vegas being one of the most thrilling, cover-your-eyes car chases we’ve ever seen. This is one of the main reasons to see a Bourne movie, and Jason does not disappoint in any way.

Step 5: Rank the movie. Even with some spectacular action, if we were to rank Jason Bourne in the franchise, we probably put it second to last. The first three – Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum – remain at top, in that order, with the fifth, The Bourne Legacy with Jeremy Renner, at the bottom. Legacy is actually a well-done addition to the franchise, giving us a different perspective of these “programs” and what they do to the men in them, but it doesn’t have Damon – and he’s really the glue in these films. If they do move forward with the franchise (and every indication says they will), it would be cool to see a Renner/Damon hybrid movie. Let’s see if that happens.

How to Trek: 10 Things to Know About ‘Star Trek Beyond’

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The action-packed Star Trek Beyond, the third installment in the new franchise, completely embodies the original series in tone and heart, and stands as the best effort in this reboot series to date.

The 2009 Star Trek introduced those iconic sci-fi characters – Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho) – as young upstarts joining Starfleet Command, and then cleverly skewed the timeline to create an alternate universe from the original. The 2013 follow-up, Star Trek Into Darkness, however, seemed to bite off more than it could chew with an overly convoluted plot and unnecessary throwbacks, particularly in the way they brought back Khan.

Now, with Star Trek Beyond, they’ve worked out the kinks and have delivered a solid film that is, to date, most closely attuned to the beloved 1960s series. Under the guidance of director Justin Lin (who takes over the reins from J.J. Abrams), and armed with a superb script from Simon Pegg (aka Scotty) and Doug Jung, this is an action-adventure in which the crew of the Enterprise have been on their five-year mission to keep peace in the galaxy but find themselves stranded on a remote planet where they have to stop a bad guy (with a twist to the Star Trek past) from wreaking havoc. Simple and effective.

At the recent press conference, the Enterprise crew talked about making Star Trek Beyond, the tragic loss of their comrade Anton Yelchin, and more. Here are 10 things we took away from the press day [Warning: There are some spoilers ahead]: Continue reading How to Trek: 10 Things to Know About ‘Star Trek Beyond’

How to Interview: Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello on “Lights Out”

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If you’re human, then you’ve been afraid of the dark at least one time in your life – and the latest horror film Lights Out plays right into that fear.

Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg, who, along with wife Lotta Losten, first created the Lights Out story two years ago as a short film for a competition. That film went viral on YouTube with over one million views – and naturally, Hollywood came calling.

Sandberg had to flesh out the story a bit to make his first feature film, so he centered it on Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), a young woman who realizes her little half-brother, Martin (Gabriel Bateman), is experiencing the same events that once tested her sanity. Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity who cannot survive in the light and has an unnatural attachment to their mother, Sophie (Maria Bello).

At the recent press day, ScreenPicks sat down with stars Palmer and Bello to talk about the creepy Lights Out. Continue reading How to Interview: Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello on “Lights Out”

How to Interview: Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robbie for “The Legend of Tarzan”

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The great love between Tarzan and his Jane is one of literature’s most enduring romances. The strong ape man falls for the beautiful American girl, living in Africa with her father. Tarzan marries Jane, and the two move to England to live as the Claytons, Lord and Lady Greystoke. Except civilized life isn’t really for them, so they return to Africa to live out the rest of their days.

In the newest version of the classic story The Legend of Tarzan, Alexander Skarsgard and Margot Robbie bring the iconic characters to life and display a real chemistry, making Tarzan and Jane’s love affair very romantic and oh-so-sexy. When they are called back to Africa (under false pretenses they soon discover), it becomes a rescue mission for Tarzan to save his love – even though Jane does a pretty good job fending for herself.

At the recent press day, Skarsgard and Robbie talk about taking on these larger-than-life characters and making them their own. Continue reading How to Interview: Alexander Skarsgard & Margot Robbie for “The Legend of Tarzan”

How to Watch: 9 Things About ‘The BFG’ You Should Know

 

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Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG – about the friendship between an 11-year-old girl and a giant – has been brought to glorious life by really the only man who could do it justice: director Steven Spielberg.

As the tale tells, orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) encounters the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance) who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children. The two then must come up with a plan to stop the ogre-ish giants from stealing children, which includes help from Queen Elizabeth II (Penelope Wilton).

Returning to the fantastical realm, it’s familiar territory for Spielberg, who once again excels at bringing heart and imagination to the big screen, all through Dahl’s keen insights into childhood sensibilities.

ScreenPicks attended the press day with Spielberg and stars Barnhill, Rylance and Wilton and found out these nine essential things you should know about The BFG. Continue reading How to Watch: 9 Things About ‘The BFG’ You Should Know

How to Watch: New ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Trailer for All the Right Fuzzy Feels

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As a re-imagining of the 1977 animated Disney classic, this Pete’s Dragon uses all the great CGI techniques to bring the story of Pete and his friendly, furry dragon, Elliott, to life.

As the official synopsis reads, “For years, old wood carver Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) has delighted local children with his tales of the fierce dragon that resides deep in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. To his daughter, Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), who works as a forest ranger, these stories are little more than tall tales… until she meets Pete (Oakes Fegley). Pete is a mysterious 10-year-old with no family and no home who claims to live in the woods with a giant, green dragon named Elliot. And from Pete’s descriptions, Elliot seems remarkably similar to the dragon from Mr. Meacham’s stories. With the help of Natalie (Oona Laurence), an 11-year-old girl whose father Jack (Wes Bentley) owns the local lumber mill, Grace sets out to determine where Pete came from, where he belongs, and the truth about this dragon.”

Watch the trailer!

At a recent presentation for Pete’s Dragon, ScreenPicks was able to view four clips from the movie, which were each fantastic in showing us just enough of the story to make us want more. Redford’s Mr. Meacham has a twinkle in his eye when he is telling stories about a “dragon” in the forest, while Howard as Grace (who looks a lot like Redford, so good casting) is kind and patient with her father. But when she and Meacham see Elliott for the time, tears will come to your eyes. Continue reading How to Watch: New ‘Pete’s Dragon’ Trailer for All the Right Fuzzy Feels

How to Q&A: ‘Conjuring 2’ Stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson

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The Conjuring 2 stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have been friends for years and their easy and effervescent chemistry is so evident on screen, playing paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Conjuring 2 follows the Warrens, just coming off the Amityville case, in which they are labeled by some as charlatans for believing the house was possessed by a demon. Lorraine wants to pull back on their work because she has visions of something horrible happening to her husband. But a case across the pond in Enfield, north of London, brings them back into the demon fold. They are sent to investigate claims that a malicious spirit is plaguing the home of a single mother, Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor), and her four children living there. Particularly affected is 11-year-old Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe), who seems to be the conduit for the spirit. Let’s just say this… it’s just as scary as the first one!

At the recent press day, Wilson and Farmiga the chemistry continued as they talked about the love between the Warrens, working with director James Wan and their thoughts on Ouija boards. Continue reading How to Q&A: ‘Conjuring 2’ Stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson

How to Watch: ‘Now You See Me 2’

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Step 1: Realize some of the original magic has been lost in Now You See Me 2, but it provides a requisite amount of fun when it needs to.

Step 2: Set up the trick. The story takes place one year after the Four Horseman pulled off their big trick and exposed the big bad businessman, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) for all his greediness, and spread his wealth to the masses. They are now awaiting instructions from the all-powerful Eye so they can come out of hiding and start doing their Robin Hood magic again on stage. Leader Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the one most chomping at the bit and almost ready to just chuck the anonymity and go out on his own. Actually, Henly (Isla Fisher) already did that. She couldn’t wait anymore, and now she’s gone. But hypnotist Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and card-shark Jack (Dave Franco) are still around, and they are joined by quippy newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), who is a breath of fresh air in this quartet. Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is still working both ends, as a FBI agent trying to keep the bureau off the Horsemen’s trail but also keeping the Horsemen in check with The Eye

Step 3: Watch things go off the rails. When the Horsemen are finally allowed to appear again, this time to take down a tech millionaire, whose invented a chip that can spy on any device or computer anyway, but it turns out they are set up by one Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who exposes Dylan and wants them to steal the chip. Lots of other twists and turns happen after that, including Daniel’s supposed nemesis Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur’s return, but to give too much else away would spoil it.

Step 4: Get a crew that works. The camaraderie with the returning cast still works, with the pleasant addition of Caplan, who really takes the “female” role in a whole new, spunky direction. Her Lula is a snarky trickster who has a real knack for cutting off her body parts and for proving she’s actually better than the guys – and she unabashedly has the hots for Jack. Also good is Radcliffe as the smart-ass Walter, who fancies himself a magician but isn’t very good at it. He’s a fun sort of villain for awhile, until his path converges with Arthur; then it falls flat. Oh, and Merritt ends up getting a nemesis as well – his twin brother (also Harrelson), wearing a bad perm wig and big teeth. Not sure why this character is even needed in the scheme of things, and Woody plays him embarrassingly over the top.

Step 5: Wonder what’s missing. The true element of surprise that the original delivered seems to lacking in Now You See Me 2. Watching the Four Horsemen pull off their tricks in the original made it stand out as fun, thrilling adventure tale. The characters zinged, and you couldn’t really see the fascinating twists coming. In the sequel, however, the magic has faded and just not as badass. While the characters still connect in a fun way and there are some great scenes of them doing their stuff, the story falters and the twists aren’t that compelling. Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 doesn’t offer anything really new.

How to Watch: ‘Me Before You’

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Step 1: Fits the bill. As far as weepy summer romantic dramas go, Me Before You may be a tad more predictable and not quite a three-hankie tearjerker, but it still achieves the requisite feels, buoyed by an effervescent performance from Emilia Clarke.

Step 2: Keep the same writer. Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay, Me Before You tells the story of one Louisa Clark, known as just plain Lou, a happy-go-lucky girl who fancies herself a fashion plate (albeit an odd one), has a longtime boyfriend (Matthew Lewis) and generally loves life in the small England town where she lives. When she loses her job at a local cafe, however, Lou has to figure out quickly what to do next so she can keep helping to support her family. That’s how she meets Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a former finance genius who is paralyzed from the neck down after being hit by a motorcycle and has pretty much given up on life. In fact, we find out he’s determined to end his miserable existence.

Lou doesn’t know that, though, and so when she is hired by Will’s mother, Camilla (Janet McTeer), to look after him, it’s Camilla’s hope Lou can change her son’s mind. Lou just sees it as a good job, but as hard as she tries, she can’t get Will to show any interest at first. Or does he? I mean, Lou is a little hard to resist with her amazingly charming ways, so soon Will is won over and the two spend quality time together, eventually falling for one another. Lou does find out what Will’s true intentions are, but is their love enough for Will to hang on? One thing is for certain, their lives are forever changed by the love they find. Okay, now it’s time to grab the tissues.

Step 3: Step out of your comfort zone. How refreshing to see Clarke move away from the badass Mother of Dragons she plays in Game of Thrones to take on the role of a quirky, homespun girl who loves bumblebee tights, bright-colored shoes and boy in a wheelchair. Don’t get us wrong. We love us some Daenerys Targareon, but of course, that’s just Clarke playing a part, and the actress can obviously do more (she even tackled Sarah Connor in last summer’s Terminator Genisys). As Lou, Clarke has so many wonderful facial expression and joie de vivre – and not obnoxious in any way – it’s really hard not fall in love with her. While Me Before You really is Clarke’s film, Claflin’s good-looking charms come shining through. The Hunger Games star has the unenviable job of being stuck in a prone position, but he doesn’t play it one note. He and Clarke stir up the requisite amount of chemistry to make us care. When Will tells Lou at one point how hard it is he can’t do all the love-making thing he wants to do to her, you feel it. And it makes it all that more sad.

Other standouts are veteran British actors McTeer and Charles Dance as Will’s parents. Their combined acting experience elevates the tragedy of the situation, especially McTeer as Camilla, who so desperately wants to hold onto to her son, in whatever condition he is in. Oh, and as an added and delightful bonus, we get to see Harry Potter star Matthew Lewis (that would Neville Longbottom) all grown up and playing Lou’s selfish douche boyfriend who doesn’t understand her in any way.

Step 4: Love the castle. Director Thea Sharrock makes her feature film debut with Me Before You and while she doesn’t weave any magic, she manages to bring you into Lou and Will’s love story quite effectively, while also highlighting the quaint little town they live in – a town with the ruins of a grand castle at its center. If you have to grow up in such a small town, this isn’t all that bad. The only real flaw is Me Before You just doesn’t quite hit the notes with as big a punch as you want it to. Moyes adapts her own work, which probably helps, but the tragic romance doesn’t produce those wracking sobs like The Fault in Our Stars did or have enough off-beat humor like Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

Still, Me Before You has enough laughs and sighs and tears to place it firmly in the must-see romantic drama category.

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