Will Smith

Suicide Squad

It’s become trendy on social media, and on Twitter especially, to refer to any and everything as “trash” if you dislike it. When word spread online that Suicide Squad was “trash,” I was disappointed that the highly anticipated DC Comics film hadn’t lived up to expectations – but I needed to see for myself. And I’m glad that I didn’t heed the naysayers. Although the movie was not without its flaws, it was far from the disaster everyone described.

The movie is built on an intriguing premise: What if Superman were bad? Who would stop him? This essential question is what drives Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, Lila & Eve), a high-level national security advisor who ascribes to the old adage that you fight fire with fire. She assembles a team of badass miscreants to keep on standby for any kamikaze mission, should the need arise. If things go south, this band of ragtag criminals and “meta-humans” will be easy to disavow. The Suicide Squad is comprised of Deadshot (Will Smith, Concussion), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Legend of Tarzan), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Concussion), Boomerang (Jai Courtney, Insurgent), Diablo (Jay Hernandez, Bad Moms), and Slipknot (Adam Beach, Diablo).

Dr. Harley Quinn was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, where she treated The Joker (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club). She fell in love with the charming psychopath, and the pair unleashed a reign of terror across Gotham until Batman (Ben Affleck, Batman v. Superman) nabbed her, splitting the demented couple apart. Batman also reeled in Deadshot, an assassin whose pinpoint accuracy netted top dollar amongst underworld figures. Harley, Deadshot, Croc and Diablo share a prison, while Boomerang and Slipshot are apprehended later, rounding out the Squad.

Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamon, Run All Night) is Amanda Waller’s second in command, tasked with corralling the Squad as they did her bidding. He is in love with Dr. June Moon, an archaeologist whose body and spirit have become inhabited by a witch dubbed Enchantress (Cara Delevingne, Pan). Moon’s altar ego unleashes a sinister force, spurring Waller to call the Suicide Squad into action. I’ll end the plot summation here, as the storyline is perhaps the weakest aspect of the movie. The details of the Squad’s mission were muddled, and writer/director David Ayer (Fury) seemed to take an ad hoc approach to the storyline’s structure. The movie’s strength lies in the chemistry of its titular ensemble cast, namely Harley Quinn and Deadshot.

Robbie and Smith have undeniable chemistry, evidenced by their previous work in last year’s Focus, and again here. Robbie clearly relished the role, embodying the beautifully batty Harley with an endearing air of likability. I watched the Batman cartoon as a kid, and I remember Harley as an adoring nuisance to the Joker, a smitten pest. Here, she was every bit his equal and true love interest. Regarding Joker, there will be inevitable comparisons to Heath Ledger’s portrayal, but I encourage you to let each interpretation stand on its own. Leto did a fine job with the role, putting his own spin on it while maintaining the evil eccentricity we’ve come to expect.

The entire cast was excellent, but Smith and Robbie were the standouts. To put it simply, Deadshot is a bad ass MF. Smith is charismatic enough to carry his own Deadshot movie, and I hope DC is at least considering the notion. Viola Davis couldn’t turn in a bad performance if she tried, and she shone brightly in what could have been an average role. She was formidable in her own right, which was befitting of a character charged with keeping such a group in line. Was this the best comic book movie ever? No. In fact, I can understand why someone wouldn’t love it. But the disdain is totally overblown. Bolstered by the chemistry of its cast and the sheer amount of fun they seemed to be having at every moment, Suicide Squad made for a good time at the movies. Grade: B


Will Smith (After Earth) is becoming uniquely polarizing. In the beginning of his career, I would’ve wagered that almost everyone loved his affable personality and charming one-liners. Now, it’s hit or miss. Some think he tends to overact or rely on a certain “schtick” in his movies; but I’m still a fan. I appreciate his charismatic humor, and I knew what to expect from his latest movie Focus, a slick caper co-starring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street).

The movie begins with a happenstance meeting between Robbie’s character Jess and Smith’s Nicky. Jess is a budding hustler, but quickly meets her match in the seasoned Nicky. After her amateurish attempt to con him, Nicky agrees to show her a few tricks of the trade. From grifter to pickpocket, Nicky has the hustler’s full repertoire and takes Jess under his wing, bringing her in on his latest hustle in New Orleans. Equal parts gambler, swindler, and magician – the silver-tongued Nicky approaches his craft with keen precision.

The second act of the film finds Nicky and Jess honing in separately on the same mark, but for very different reasons. They’re used to playing dangerous games, but the easiest way to get yourself killed is to steal from the wrong person – and one wrong move could make this con their last. Neither is willing to back down from a potential score, but for once is Nicky out of his league? His scheme goes awry when Jess is added to the mix, and their feelings for each other compromise their judgment. Sometimes you have to know when to just walk away.

While Focus was largely entertaining, I can’t say it was completely original. Of course Nicky and Jess have smoldering chemistry from the start. Just look at them. While their sexy banter made sense, it was almost too obvious. The two became an item nearly immediately, which didn’t leave much room for the characters to develop romantically. Admittedly I was surprised when Nicky abruptly ended their brief criminal courtship early on, but it was only a matter of time before they crossed paths again.

I enjoyed Focus, but it’s largely a forgettable movie. It was entertaining, and the plot twist caught me off guard, so I’d say it surpassed my meager expectations. It ranks solidly in the middle of Smith’s catalogue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Robbie and Smith have undeniable chemistry, and the pair is rumored to reunite in the upcoming Suicide Squad. That film should reinforce Smith as the action hero we’ve come to love, and propel Robbie’s ascending star even further. In the meantime we have Focus, which won’t set the world on fire but was definitely worth watching. Grade: B

Men in Black III

Will Smith (Seven Pounds) is a proven commodity, his movies having grossed over 5 billion dollars worldwide.  Marketing one of his movies during a post-Avengers lull shouldn’t be difficult, and since Hollywood is fond of beating dead horses, it was only logical that Columbia Pictures decided to make the Men In Black franchise a trilogy.  I’ll admit that I imagined Men In Black III to be a blatant money grab, but despite my reservations, it managed to add a new dimension to the series and was arguably the best installment yet.

Smith returns as Agent J, brash covert government agent and understudy to Tommy Lee Jones’ (Captain America: The First Avenger) Agent K.  Agent J is still a cocky loudmouth, but now he has the experience to back it up.  Agent K was his mentor and although J complained about him, none of his subsequent partners measured up to the grisly vet after his brief retirement.  Only a unique individual would find comfort in the anonymity of the Men In Black, a secret police force charged with protecting Earth from alien life forms.  In addition to policing aliens, the MIBs are an immigration and safety agency, helping the aliens co-exist with humanity, unbeknownst to the masses.

The Agency is really tested when an infamous alien criminal named Boris the Animal escapes from the lunar prison he’s inhabited for the past 40 years.  He’s hell-bent on punishing the man who put him there, none other than Agent K, who apprehended Boris back in 1969 at Cape Canaveral.  Boris’ arm was shot off in the process, and he’d love nothing more than to go back in time and wipe out Agent K before he maims him.  However, if Agent K’s life is cut short in 1969, he will not go on to create the Arcnet, a global defense system that includes a force field that shields the planet from alien invaders.  This is important because if Boris is allowed to alter history, his alien race of Boglodite brethren will not be rendered extinct and will ultimately invade and destroy the Earth.  Needless to say, it is critical that Boris be stopped.  Agent J travels back in time to 1969 to save K’s life, thereby saving humanity.  He tries to stay as far away as possible from K, focusing instead on Boris.  Eventually J and K’s paths cross, and J tries to convince a 29-year-old K to help him nab Boris, declining to mention that K’s own life is in danger.  J has a small window in which to operate, and Boris seems to be one step ahead of him.  There are infinite permutations of destiny that can fatefully occur, and the odds are against J.

In the first two Men in Black movies, Tommy Lee Jones had top billing over Will Smith.  This time it is Smith who clearly deserves top billing, whether because his career has blossomed tremendously since the last sequel or because Jones isn’t featured much in this third installment.  Instead, it is Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men) who steals the show as the younger Agent K.  His southern deadpan is spot-on, and he sounds and looks just like Agent K, albeit a much younger and more handsome version.  Smith was fine in his role, but I don’t think much was required of him.  I actually thought his first few lines fell flat in their delivery.  Eventually he found his groove and was his usual charismatic self, but I remained more impressed with Josh Brolin.

I was skeptical about this movie, but it didn’t feel like a total re-tread, and the special effects advanced the storyline nicely.  The depiction of a 1960’s Manhattan was interesting, though not entirely original.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld presented a straightforward plot, but managed to have some fun with the time period, and of course – the aliens.  One of the funnier scenes involved Agent J at a party at Andy Warhol’s “factory,”  where it is revealed that Warhol is an alien.  Given his talent and eccentricity, this real-life addition to the plot was clever.  The Men In Black have always been a seemingly futuristic organization, and it was interesting to see that anachronistic concept play out in the past of 1969.  With enough cool tricks to please young and old viewers alike, Men In Black III made for a pretty good day at the movies.

Grade: B+

This article first appeared at http://poptimal.com/2012/05/men-in-black-iii-review-adds-new-life-to-this-old-franchise/#.T8j5gHgijww and was reprinted with permission.