The Suicide Squad

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/26/21;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $55.8 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Taika Waititi, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Jennifer Holland, Sylvester Stallone, Dee Bradley Baker.

Writer-director James Gunn’s subversive follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad resets the franchise by embracing the absurdity inherent in comic book movies.

Like its predecessor, The Suicide Squad is based on the DC Comics series about a team of supervillains who are blackmailed into conducting black ops for the American government through the threat of an explosive chip in their head. The 2016 edition, while a financial success, was panned by critics and audiences after it was infamously re-edited by a trailer company into essentially a series of vignettes set to popular music, trying to capture some of the magic that made Guardians of the Galaxy work so well.

So, for the sequel, DC just brought in Gunn, writer-director of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. The hire came shortly after Gunn was fired by Marvel over some questionable tweets in his past, only to be re-hired for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which he’s working on now.

The Suicide Squad is just another example of why he’s such a good fit for these kinds of movies: a keen understanding of the source material, and a willingness to poke fun at it without undermining the credibility of the story. Here, Gunn assembles a team of some of the silliest comic book concepts ever created, gives their characters emotional depth, and makes it all work.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

This is one of the bloodiest comic book movies ever made, but also one of the funniest, with Gunn expertly finding the balance between the two extremes, beginning with an absolutely insane opening sequence that will leave audiences without a clue of what to expect from this movie.

The story involves the team heading to a tropical island to dispose of a top secret project before the new military dictatorship can expose U.S. involvement in its development. Idris Elba grounds the mission as Bloodsport, a weapons expert. He has a bit of a rivalry with the team’s other weapons expert, Peacemaker (John Cena), as they try to outdo each other running up the movie’s body count. With his earnest penchant for killing anything that stands in his way to achieve “peace,” Peacemaker would seem to be Gunn’s metaphor for American foreign policy (though Gunn found the character appealing enough to write an eight-episode TV spinoff about him, set to debut on HBO Max in 2022).

Other standouts on the team include King Shark, literally a walking, talking man-eating shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone; Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), who uses her deceased father’s technology to control the minds of rats; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), who was experimented on by his mother with an interdimensional virus that gives him the power to expel dots of deadly energy; and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), one of the few holdovers from the first movie, along with team commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government agent who will detonate their heads if they disobey her.

Like the first movie, the sequel has plenty of songs, but thanks to Gunn, they are well integrated into the structure of the film, rather than seemingly played at random.

The Suicide Squad is fun, vibrant and visually distinctive like a graphic novel come to life, though its hard-‘R’ sensibilities may not appeal to everybody.

The Blu-ray edition of The Suicide Squad comes loaded with hours of insightful bonus material about the making of the film, including a good solo commentary with Gunn.

There are also about 17 minutes of deleted scenes that don’t amount to much, so it’s easy to see why they were cut.

Also included are three fun retro trailers done in the style of 1960s war movies, 1970s horror movies and 1980s buddy cop movies.

The regular Blu-ray Disc of the film contains all the extras. The 4K disc includes just the commentary and one featurette, a seven-minute breakdown of Harley Quinn’s violent escape sequence.

Originally published as a streaming review Aug. 9, 2021.

Christopher Robin

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/6/18;
Disney;
Family;
Box Office $98.87 million;
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG’ for some action.
Stars Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss.
Voices of Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones.

Disney’s live-action version of “Winnie the Pooh” takes a cue from Hook in a child revisiting a fantasy realm after he’s grown up and discovering it’s important to never let go of that childhood sense of whimsy.

The film picks up as Christopher Robin preparing to go off to boarding school and saying goodbye to Pooh and his other pals of the Hundred-Acre Wood (depicted at the conclusion of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). Then the film gives us a taste of Christopher Robin’s life as he was growing up by cleverly presenting moments of his young adult life as new chapters in a book of his continuing adventures. He eventually marries, has a daughter and begins to forget all about Pooh.

The adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor, who’d be making an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie by now if the stubborn bosses at Lucasfilm figured out how to decipher their audience) becomes absorbed in his work as an efficiency expert at a luggage manufacturer and becomes isolated from his family. When tasked with spending a weekend finding a way to cut costs to keep the company open, he is forced to stay behind as his family goes on vacation to the family cottage of his childhood. But his daughter (Bronte Carmichael) has discovered his childhood drawings of Pooh and friends, and the old memories seem to stir Pooh from a long slumber.

Not finding any of his friends, Pooh journeys into the real world to ask Christopher Robin for help.

The live-action designs of Pooh are somewhat of a cross between how they looked in the Disney cartoons and the vintage stuffed animals that originally inspired the stories. Thanks to some terrific visual effects, they are textured and unmistakably doll-like in their appearance, but just as lifelike as they ever were in animated form.

The storyline veers into some darker tones as it establishes Christopher Robin’s grown-up troubles and how sad it makes Pooh and the others that their old friend seems to have drifted away from them. But then they find his daughter, and she whisks them off to help Christopher Robin solve his problems at work (even if the ultimate solution turns out to be rather simplistic and a bit bizarre).

There are chases and mischief and the usual laughs to be expected from transplanting these magical living dolls into a real-world setting. Really, though, the film is at its best when it’s focused on the fun times to be had in the Hundred-Acre Wood and is basically just the live-action version of the old animated shorts.

The Blu-ray is rather light on extras, including just four behind-the-scenes featurettes that run about 15 minutes in total.