Suicide Squad *** ½
Dir: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Jared Leto, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevigne, Karen Fukuhara
In the wake of the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice US government top spook, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) puts together a team of super-villains to take on other-worldly and meta-human threats, Task Force X aka The Suicide Squad. The villainous team consists of a deadly hitman, Deadshot (Will Smith), the Joker’s amorous other, the zany but murderous Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the pyro-kinetic gangbanger, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a killer with cannibalistic tendencies and appearance akin to a human crocodile, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an Aussie sociopathic thief whose weapon of choice is the same as his moniker, Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) a centuries-old demon occupying the body of meek archeologist, June Moon. Riding herd is Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), straight-talking, straight-shooting soldier who is also in love with June Moon. Loyal to Flagg is Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a Japanese ninja with a sword that absorbs the souls of its victims. But the baddest-ass of them all is Waller herself as she demonstrates quite a few times as the plot unfolds.
The movie does a good job of introducing us to so many characters and keeping things comprehensible. The threat facing the world is fairly standard by now (as are the action sequences) though there is also the feeling that the impending apocalypse would not have begun if Waller had left well enough alone. The said apocalypse is a kind of a mcguffin also but it does allow the squad to spring into action and show off their skills. Reflective of their star status Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis have the most lines and get the most to do (and do so entertainingly) but Jay Hernandez also makes an impact (by contrast, Jai Courtney’s Boomerang is superfluous to proceedings) as does Karen Fukuhara. Jared Leto’s Joker is appropriately creepy but does not haunt as did Heath Ledger’s dark, damaged turn as Batman’s arch nemesis.
Given the success of Deadpool and the less-than-universal acclaim for the sombre BvS, there is more humour here than in the more recent DC superhero movie fare (most of it comes courtesy of Harley Quinn) but this is still a darker take on superheroes and supervillains than you would get from the Marvel cinematic universe. There are also a couple of cameos from the rest of the DC movie universe (one of them is blink and miss). I’ll leave you to find out who and what.
Cut to chase: Fairly entertaining comic-book action.
Love & Friendship *** ½
Dir: Whit Stillman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Chlöe Sevigny, Tom Bennett, Stephen Fry, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell
Adapted from an early Jane Austen novella (but published well after her death), “Lady Susan”, Love & Friendship tells the tale of a still young and beautiful widow, the hardly-virtuous Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who is intent on securing a future for herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark) in late-eighteenth century England. Assisting Lady Susan in her machinations is her expatriate American friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny) – as Susan puts it “she has none of the uncouthness one expects of Americans but all of the candour” – who is married to an older gentleman (Stephen Fry) who is “too old to be governable, too young to die.”
Breezily directed by indie stalwart, Whit Stillman, the witty observer of manners and youthful ennui in movies like Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days Of Disco (which also starred Beckinsale and Sevigny) Love & Friendship (an odd naming – I would have much preferred the title of the source novella) also boasts marvelous acting by the whole cast. Beckinsale, appropriately, holds centre-stage but don’t miss Emma Greenwell’s unobtrusive but very funny turn as Susan’s quietly flustered sister-in-law and the scene-stealing Tom Bennett’s very rich but very dim-witted older suitor of Frederica, Sir James Martin.
The movie is bitingly funny and in the unrepentant Lady Susan, it features one of Jane Austen’s most memorable characters, but it doesn’t quite stir in us the attachment for the characters and the emotional depth that you find in the author’s best works. Still, very much worth your while.
Cut to chase: Bitingly funny though without the emotional core of the best Austen.
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Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection