Category Archives: D

Review: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Director(s)Cathy Yan
Principal CastMargot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis/Black Mask
Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah/Black Canary
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena/Huntress
Rosie Perez as Renee
Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra
Release Date2020
Language(s)English
Running Time109 minutes

They should’ve just called this movie Harley Quinn (and the slight inclusion of the Birds of Prey) because that’s what this movie felt like. Despite great production value, neat action sequences, and some fairly good performances from Robbie and McGregor, Birds of Prey feels like a sloppy amalgamation of story ideas and plots hamfisted into a movie that feels empty at its core. If you enjoy Robbie’s performance of Harley Quinn in the current DCEU, this movie should hit some of the right notes, but for anyone hoping for more you’re sure to be left feeling a bit disappointed.

The story picks up some time after Suicide Squad, with the Joker and Harley breaking up. The story is narrated by Harley (to interesting effect) and chronicles her tale of trying to survive in a world without her beau or the protection his sphere of influence granted her. The plot is fairly simple and there are no big twists or turns. There are some fun action sequences here and there and Robbie narrates the movie in an Deadpool – esque way, breaking the fourth wall whenever she feels the need. It gives the movie some much needed character and helps cover up a lot of the more obvious narrative flaws.

The movie is really pretty and the color palettes used are vibrant and pop off the screen. Harley has a scene early on that’s bursting with color. I had a blast watching it and feel like it would be a ton of fun to watch in IMAX or 4k. Action sequences are over the top and make full use of the comic nature of the universe. For example in one scene , Harley bounces a bat off a wall like a boomerang to hit an unsuspecting foe. Moments like these showcase the potential at play and I wish the movie had more of this.

Each of the other “Birds of Prey” are incorporated into the story with varying degrees of success. Because the movie takes place from Harley’s point of view, it’s hard to understand how and why certain sequences are even known to her but that’s besides the point. As Harley introduces each member of the titular squad, you can tell there’s something off. Their inclusions in the story feel weak at best and awkward at worst, as they magically just keep finding themselves all closer to the heart of Black Mask’s scheme. Huntress gets shafted the most and her inclusion into the larger narrative feels like an afterthought. Furthermore, no other character has a genuine change of arc besides Harley, so it makes caring about their eventual team up hard to do.

McGregor is great as the main villain and brings his full energy to the role. Black Mask is narcissistic and fueled with over confidence. Watching him react to fickle circumstances demonstrates how fractured and on the edge he is. Unfortunately, like most of the Birds of Prey, McGregor is rarely given a chance to shine, so his cruelty and manic personality only feel comical and not threatening. I wish we really got to see him fully embrace his dark side and be more present. If you’re going to have this level of talent might as well make use of it.

The main issue with the movie is it doesn’t know what it wants to be or do. The movie wants to be feminist and tries to channel in some faux female energy by having “bad ass” female characters, but the characters never work because their powers and personalities never feel justified or developed enough to persuade you to care about them. The movie shows us sexist microaggressions and a comically hyper masculine bad guy almost as if to show us that it’s woke and against the masculine world order, but it doesn’t ever justify that take or develop it.

The movie is rated R, but I rarely felt like the rating was justified. There’s not a lot of violence , and most of it feels overly comical when it does happen. There’s a serious tonal imbalance between the tension and comedy. The movie wants to make you nervous or scared that something will happen, but constantly makes wisecracks or goes to over the top too ever let that feeling set in. The way that the more serious moments are edited also makes them funny, and I laughed more than once at the way certain bits of dialogue played out. I wish the movie either pulled a full Deadpool and ramped up the comedic violence and played more things for jokes, or toned back the comedy and tried to inject a real sense of high stakes pressure.

Report Card

TLDRBirds of Prey feels like a re skin of your typical superhero team-up movie, this time featuring Harley Quinn with some small moments from the other members of the titular gang. The production value is nice and the action scenes are enough fun to watch, but the story, tone, and theme all feel underdeveloped and all over the place. I’d only reccomend watching if you’re a hardcore DC fan or love Margot Robbie’s interpretation of Harley Quinn. Hopefully, she gets a movie that really demonstrates what she can do with the character. One can dream.
Rating6.2/10
Grade D

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: The Babysitter

Director(s)McG
Principal CastSamara Weaving as Bee
Judah Lewis as Cole
Emily Alyn Lind as Melanie
Robbe Amell as Max
Release Date2017
Language(s)English
Running Time 85 minutes

The Babysitter is a mixed experience to say the least. The story follows Cole, your typical bullied nerdy kid and his babysitter, Bee, who acts as his friend, guardian, and confidante. Late one night, he finds out that his beloved Bee is actually the head of a satanic cult and has to find a way to get out of her cult’s clutches.

The setup for the plot isn’t awful . A kid with confidence issues finds out his babysitter, one of the few people he genuinely cares about, is head of a demonic cult and must find a way to survive. It leaves a lot of avenues to be explored. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t make use of any of them. The nature of the satanic cult is never really messed around with. No cool ritual stuff or fun gimmicks. Interactions between cult members hint at a history between them (potentially funny) , but that’s never explored. Characters get no time to breathe or give us a reason to root for or against them.None of the cult members outside of Bee and Max (the crazy jock of the group) feels fleshed out so they come off as annoying caricatures. This second problem spills outside of the cult as well. A lot of the supporting cast feels useless or tacked on. Outside of Melanie, Cole’s best friend, no one is utilized properly.

Direction ranges from strange to slightly better than expected. The score is typical for the type of movie this is, so while it doesn’t distract, it doesn’t lend itself to leaving a big impression. The movie makes use of floating words and pauses to create a strange comic-book feeling. It didn’t really work for me and I thought it was kind of strange. It didn’t add anything thematically and if it was an attempt at satire, it came off strange.

Speaking of satire, the movie is pretty hit-or-miss with its attempts at being funny with the genre. It doesn’t fully embrace the absurdity of camp like Dude Bro Party Massacre III and isn’t as clever as The Cabin in the Woods. It’s pretty on the nose about things, so if you’re looking for subtlety look elsewhere. I thought some of the moments worked, but others felt tacked on. The satire also isn’t properly integrated with the theme at the heart of the story- facing your fears and growing up. If it was, I think a lot of the movie could have been elevated. In fact, the reason I liked Max, is precisely because his absurdity and depiction with Cole directly ties in to the latter’s growth.

You see, despite my criticisms, I do enjoy the story’s exploration with growing up. Cole’s coming-of-age journey is just a more extreme version of things a lot of us have gone through, and I think the movie really nailed it. The relationship between Bee and Cole is actually pretty sweet and well-established so watching him deal with the revelation feels meaningful. Weaving’s performance certainly helps sell the emotional undercurrent of the story . It’s easy to see why Cole would be devastated at the revelation of Bee’s true nature, but on the flip side easy to see how good she was at manipulating him.

Report Card

TLDRThe Babsitter has some interesting ideas but rarely manages to be anything more than average. If you like Samara Weaving or are in the mood for a cheesy teen black comedy , then this movie might hit the spot.
Rating6.3/10
GradeD

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: The Cheetah Girls 2

Promotional Poster
Director(s)Kenny Ortega
Principal CastRaven-Symone as Galleria
Adrienne Bailon as Chanel
Kiely Williams as Aqua
Sabrina Bryan as Do
Belinda as Marisol
Release Date2006
LanguageEnglish
Running Time 97 minutes

When you watch one you gotta watch em all- once my sister and I had watched the original movie, I knew we had opened Pandora’s Box. Within a few days we were back at again with the sequel. Thankfully, Kenny Ortega takes all the elements that were enjoyable from the first movie and amps them up to the next level. The musical moments are shot better, each of the “Cheetahs” is given more to do, and there’s a more coherent plot which gives the movie more of a punch.

The plot follows the Cheetah Girls 3 years after the events of the first movie. The girls crash Chanel mothers romantic getaway to Barcelona in an attempt to win a music festival competition. After promising to do their best, the girls embark on their new journey. Each of the characters feels more defined- everyone from Galleria to Aquagets their own storyline – no matter how on the wayside it feels. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the overall character arc the group goes through. The “Cheetahs” feel fairly similar to their previous incarnation in the last movie except Galleria is less bossy. I wish I saw some growth between the girls proper but everything related to the same feels tacked on or hammy.

Like the last movie- the songs are the best part. Thankfully, they’re shot well and aren’t jumbled and messy like the last movie. I could feel myself actually singing along (as corny as the lyrics were), but this time I could actually look at the screen without being forced to dart my eyes around needlessly.

While the plot makes far more sense than the last movie – it’s still Disney TV movie which means there’s more than one moment that will make you scratch your head. This problem becomes even more prevalent in the 3rd act when everyone acts a lot less intelligent than they really are. There are also some rushed moments and I feel like a more developed 3rd act could’ve given the last musical number more depth.

Report Card

TLDRThe Cheetah Girls 2 is fun and filled with bops to nod your head along to. The plot and characterization leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a jam packed adventure the whole way through. It brings in all the stuff you loved from the last movie with a more cohesive story and better shot musical moments. If you didn’t like the first one, chances are good you won’t find anything here either.
Rating6.0/10
GradeD