The Suicide Squad

STREAMING REVIEW:

Warner/HBO Max;
Action;
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.

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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 presentation on HBO Max also includes several behind-the-scenes promotional featurettes.

Blu-ray Disc, DVD Releases Spur Viewership of ‘Birds of Prey’, ‘Call of the Wild’, ‘Fantasy Island’

Home viewership for Warner Bros.’ Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, 20th Century Fox’s The Call of the Wild, and Sony Pictures’ Fantasy Island soared after the three films were released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on May 12.

Birds of Prey, a superhero sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, shot to No. 1 on the “Watched at Home” chart for the week ended May 16, up from No. 8 the prior week.

The Call of the Wild, an adventure film starring Harrison Ford and based on the classic Jack London novel, soared to No. 4 from No. 13 on the chart, which tracks transactional video activity compiled from studio and retailer data through DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

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And Fantasy Island, a Blumhouse Productions horror film starring Michael Peña and scream queen Lucy Hale, debuted at No. 6 in the wake of its May 12 release on disc.

Also new to the weekly chart is Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man, which debuted at No. 14 after it became available for digital purchase through retailers such as Redbox on Demand, FandangoNow, Amazon Prime Video and Google Play.

The film, about a woman stalked by her “invisible,” and supposedly dead, boyfriend, had initially been released to home audiences in mid-March, when movie theaters went dark due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, at a premium VOD price of $19.99. Consumers can now buy it for $14.99.

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Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot, a superhero film based on the Valiant Comics character of the same name, slipped to No. 2 on the “Watched at Home” chart from No. 1 the prior week.

Another Sony Pictures film, Bad Boys for Life, dropped a notch to No. 3 from No. 2, with Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog rounding out the top five after finishing at No. 3 the prior week.

  1. Birds of Prey (Warner)
  2. Bloodshot (Sony)
  3. Bad Boys for Life (Sony)
  4. The Call of the Wild (Fox, 2020)
  5. Sonic the Hedgehog (Paramount)
  6. Fantasy Island (Sony)
  7. I Still Believe (Lionsgate)
  8. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
  9. The Gentlemen (STX/Universal, 2019)
  10. 1917 (Universal)
  11. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney)
  12. Dolittle (Universal)
  13. Little Women (Sony, 2019)
  14. The Invisible Man (Universal, 2020)
  15. Knives Out (Lionsgate)
  16. Rick and Morty Season 4 (Warner)
  17. Gretel & Hansel (Warner)
  18. Underwater (Fox)
  19. Ford v Ferrari (Fox)
  20. Yellowstone Season 2 (Paramount)

 

Source: DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group
Includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals, and DVD, Blu-ray Disc and 4K Ultra HD sales for the week ended May 16

 

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 4/10/18;
Warner;
Animated Action;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence throughout, sexual content, brief graphic nudity, and some drug material.
Voices of Christian Slater, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Gideon Emery, Tara Strong, Vanessa Williams, C. Thomas Howell, Dania Ramirez, James Urbaniak, Julie Nathanson, Jim Pirri, Greg Grunberg.

This ain’t the “Super Friends.”

There have been ‘R’-rated movies from the DC Universe brand before, but Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay pushes the limits of its rating more than those previous installments, and not just by increasing the level of violence. The film also has a lot of fun turning the dial up on sexual material and nudity in a way viewers might not have expected from a comic book movie.

Then again, this is a “Suicide Squad” movie, and that’s probably going to bring a harder edge by default. As comic book fans would have known even before the live-action movie version came out in 2016, the Suicide Squad is a team of supervillains assembled by a shady government operative named Amanda Waller to undertake dangerous missions for which they can take the blame if anything goes wrong. And they follow orders because Waller installs explosives in their head that she can detonate if they betray her.

For this mission, Waller wants the team to retrieve a mystical artifact that can guarantee the soul of whomever is holding it will go straight to heaven. But it will only work once, which makes for some great plot dynamics since anyone who wants it can’t get it from someone who has it by killing them.

Waller’s not the only one seeking the “Get Out of Hell Free” card, providing plenty of opportunities for action as several teams of bad guys confront each other to take control of it. The plot also allows for a nice connection to the previous DC movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which paved the way for this string of 10 movies that share a continuity.

The lineup includes a few characters familiar to those who have seen the live-action version, including the assassin Deadshot (excellently voiced by Christian Slater), the snarky Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) and, of course, Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), whose primary contribution to the team seems to be her immense popularity.

This is a much more satisfying treatment of the material than the live-action attempt. The ‘R’ rating has lifted the constraints from the creative team, and everyone seems to be having a lot of fun pushing the material as far as they can. And with bad guys versus bad guys, there’s a lot of ways to push, and no reason to expect that any of them can’t be killed off at any time (except for Harley, maybe).

And that brings us to the commentary track by producer James Tucker and writer Alan Burnett, who wrote the script as one of his last projects before retiring. They can’t help but talk about Burnett’s long career in superhero animation, dating all the way back to the squeaky clean “Super Friends” cartoons of the 1970s and ’80s. So it’s only natural that they would joke about how any 10 seconds of this movie would make the network standards-and-practices suits responsible for “Super Friends” blush.

Comic book fans will enjoy seeing appearances from some of the more obscure characters in the canon, including Tobias Whale, who can also currently be seen in live-action as one of the main villains on the new “Black Lightning” TV series. And another member of the team is Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), a version of whom is part one of the heroes on the current “The Flash” TV show. Frost was also part of the team in another great Suicide Squad adventure, the 2014 standalone animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, the success of which supposedly helped get approval to make the live-action movie.

The Blu-ray also includes short featurettes about the histories of the Deadshot and Boomerang characters, as well as a 10-minute pontification about the power of the “MacGuffin” — a good plot device to set the story in motion.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a sneak preview of the next DC Universe movie, The Death of Superman, which will be the first of two films to adapt the legendary comic book storyline that was the basis (in a much abridged form) for the first DC Universe animated movie, Superman: Doomseday, back in 2007.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Ups 2017 Movie Revenue 6%

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Feb. 1 reported fiscal 2017 revenue of $1.56 billion from physical and digital sales of movies, which was 5.8% more than revenue of $1.48 billion in 2016. Sales of TV content on disc and digital declined 11% to $418 million from $470 million in the previous-year period.

Wonder Woman was the studio’s top-selling title, generating more than $88.4 million on sales of nearly 3.5 million combined Blu-ray Disc/DVD units, according to The-Numbers.com. The tally does not include 4K UHD Blu-ray or digital.

For the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2017, sales of movie discs and digital transactions fell almost 25% to $432 million from $571 million in the previous-year period.

The studio attributed the decline to year-over-year sales comparisons with Suicide Squad, which generated nearly $64 million on sales of 2.5 million discs in 2016. The title generated another $30 million in disc revenue in 2017.

By comparison, Annabelle: Creation generated just $3.7 million in disc sales, followed by Will Ferrell/Amy Poehler comedy, The House, with $1.6 million.

Sales of TV content dipped less than 2% to $155 million from $157 million.

Overall, studio income increased 12% ($199 million) to $1.9 billion on revenue of $13.9 billion – up 6% ($829 million) from $13.07 billion in 2016.

At the global box office, Warner movies grossed more than $5 billion. Five movies (Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Justice League, Kong: Skull Island and It) each grossed more than $500 million and eight films ranked #1 in their opening weekends in the U.S.

For the 2017-2018 television season, Warner Bros. Television is producing 70 series, including 37 primetime series on broadcast networks — a studio record.