Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Top Ten Favorite Jonathan Young Covers

     Who is Jonathan Young, you ask?  Well, he is a musician on YouTube who is most notoriously known for making rock and metal covers of Disney songs.  I discovered his channel a little while back and have been trying to soak up as much of his material as I can fit into my schedule because the guy is just that damn good.  Seriously.  Originally this post was going to be Top Ten Best Jonathan Young Covers but that would imply that I've gone through his entire library of material when in truth I haven't so these are my personal favorites as of this very moment.  Enough lollygagging, let's get right to it!

     10 - Hotline Bling (Punk Goes Pop Style ft. Travis Carte)
     Given my musical tastes, it probably is no shocker when I say that I really did not care for Drake's "Hotline Bling."  Even if I was still in my multi-genre days and more open minded to the hip-pop genre, I doubt I'd like it simply because I really don't like Drake's vocal style and I need my music to be energetic and containing life force, something the original severely lacks.  Here, Jonathan and guest Travis Carte takes the lifeless song and turns it into a genuinely amusing song (not ironically amusing in that "funny that this song is so popular" way I see it) and music video featuring some of the funniest "white guy" dancing and Drake's lyrics being performed through Travis' roar that would make Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch proud.  This one might be at the bottom of the list because topping Drake isn't a tough bar to clear for me (no offense if you're a fan, music = art = subjective) but man this one makes me feel good.

     09 - Danger Zone (Power Metal Cover from Top Gun ft. FamilyJules7X & RichaadEB)
     I've always been a fan of the original Kenny Loggins version of this song (it's as crunchy as he ever got), even though I've never bothered to watch the movie that made it popular start to finish (didn't hold my attention, sorry).  I've always liked how the verses slowed down before kicking up again with the chorus and solo.  Here, Jonathan and his roommates have added a continuous upbeat tempo to the song and it is fun in its own right.  Even though I may find myself leaning more towards the original, this one is still well worth checking out.

     08 - Hellfire (Symphonic Metal Cover from Disney's Hunchback Of Notre Dame)
     Confession time: I've one seen Hunchback maybe thrice and that was years ago so forgive me if I have forgotten how damned dark the villain is and this song is a great reminder of that.  While I do really like this version, there is something about the original that is much more damaged and unsettling with the Gothic aesthetics and those red robed fuckers towering over Judge Claude Frolo, staring down at him in judgement.  Calm down, Frolo!  Seriously, nobody's blaming you, this is totally normal.

     07 - Poor Unfortunate Souls (Metal Cover from Disney's The Little Mermaid)
     Hey, look!  Another immensely unsettling Disney villain song.  Given Jonathan's deep voice during the second verse, it is quite creepy here too just with more power chords and pounding drumming.  This one is closer to the original than Hellfire but as much as Jonathan sells the twisted sales pitch that is this song, Ursula's tone and expressions do eek ahead in terms of disturbing.

     06 - In The Dark Of The Night (Metal Cover from Anastasia)
     I honestly don't remember if I've ever seen Anastasia start to finish but I heard this one on a list of villain songs and it really stood out to me (Jim Cummings singing as Christopher Lloyd will usually do that).  The original does have that discomforting feeling like the previous two entries but unlike those ones, Jonathan is able to bring a similar scale of fright while turning up the crunch and in all honesty, I would consider this a tie between cover and original.
     05 - Eye To Eye (Pop Punk cover from Disney's A Goofy Movie)
     This one I have seen, theatrically in fact.  Much like In The Dark Of The Night, this was another tie between original and cover for me.  The original sounds to me like a Michael Jackson song if Sammy Hagar provided guitar work and I can honestly see either version being on the radio but I do think that Jonathan brings a certain energy to this song that the original doesn't have, especially in the chorus.  Both are still damn good.

     04 - Kiss The Girl (Pop Punk cover from Disney's The Little Mermaid)
     I don't think I brought it up in Poor Unfortunate Souls but I think I've only seen The Little Mermaid like, once.  Maybe.  I know that within the context of the story, the song is playing in a slow momentum romantic moment so obviously a pop punk version would seem out of place.  However, as far as Disney songs go, the original Kiss The Girl felt pretty...meh to me.  Enter Jonathan Young, who adds a pulse to this song that is quite uplifting and makes me bob my head and tap my feet along every time I hear it.  Literally.  Also, I do like how his version acknowledges some of the flaws to The Little Mermaid and the story of the video of him and Savannah Stuckmayer reminds me of Scholar and I before we started dating so this one has sentimental value for me, despite not being attached to The Little Mermaid.

     03 - Stayin' Alive (Power Metal cover of The Bee Gees ft. RichaadEB)
     Okay, everyone knows the original Stayin' Alive, either in actual song form or in parody form.  If you haven't, you're probably under the age of, say, 20 or you've just emerged from that rock you've been living beneath all your life.  I jest, of course, but while I don't hate the original exactly, it could safely be said that I've heard it enough times to last me the rest of my life and I never thought it would as a metal song.  That is until I heard this version and I was surprised at two things, like actually being able to understand the lyrics in the chorus for the first time in my life (I'm 30, for the record) the fact that I want to headbang to Stayin' Alive.  Disco might be dead but this version has plenty of life left in it.

     02 - Bells Of Notre Dame (Metal Cover from Disney's Hunchback Of Notre Dame ft. Caleb Hyles)
     This was the song that made me subscribe to Jonathan's YouTube channel, not that I have any particular attachment to the film but just that this is a really good song in its own right, source material not withstanding.  I know the original version plays at the beginning of the movie so you don't want to pummel the audience too early but for a song that tells the story of a Judge murdering a gypsy and nearly committing infanticide, its pretty...fluffy in comparison.  Jonathan and guest Caleb make the listener feel like they are at the cathedral being stared at by the name dropped "Eyes Of Notre Dame" with how foreboding the tone is.  And that breakdown with the Latin chants and galloping guitar?  Nnnnggg, that's the good shit right there and I'm so happy to see that it has passed one million views.

     01 - The Phantom Of The Opera (Metal Cover from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom Of The Opera ft. Malinda Kathleen Reese)
     Allow me to put this into perspective: I know the basic story of Phantom but I haven't seen any of the movies or musicals (I'm an uncultured swine, I know).  After listening to this song, they are on my "To Watch" list.  In the meantime, I looked up different versions of this song, the most prominent being the 1986 Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford original (near as I can tell, please correct me if I'm mistaken), the 2004 Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler version from the Joel Schumacher film and, sadly my least favorite, the Nightwish version.  I like Nightwish but Phantom is not one of their better songs.  In my research for this one, I found that none, NONE, of those versions came close to the greatness of this collaboration.  Malinda starts off singing softly, slowly building up to that amazing ending while Jonathan brings this wounded snarl to the Phantom that makes me believe he's truly a lonely figure living beneath the theatre falling for Christine (Malinda) and her voice.  A good way to gauge if I like a song is how often I sing it to myself at work and I find myself singing this every shift.  While writing the words you are reading right now, I have listened to this song eight times and it makes my hairs stand on end every time and were I to play it another eight, the same thing would happen.  I didn't think it was possible to out-opera metal Nightwish but Jonathan and Malinda have not so much wiped the floor with the others, Nightwish's especially, but more sent them crashing through the floor beneath them.

Not unlike this scene.

     Well, guys and gals, there's my take on my favorite material from Jonathan Young.  If you want to check out more of his stuff, check out his YouTube channel.  If you've liked what you've heard on this list and wish to support him, here are the links to his iTunes, Spotify, Patreon and his website.  Also, while you're at it, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button here and subscribe to me on YouTube and I'll leave you with one of Jonathan's original songs, Restless Heart.

     Stay cynical!

     -The Cynic

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

     Look, I know I said this was going to be a video review but I'm gonna be honest with you guys: I've been having a really rough go of it at work lately.  Not reviewing, I mean my actual job.  I won't bore you with the specifics because a) that's not why you're here and b) the facility's confidentiality policies would probably result in my termination if I were to violate them but long and short of it is that I haven't felt terribly great about things for the last couple of months while I've been on the clock and found myself in dire need of a good laugh.  I don't have very many comedies on my "Movies I've Seen This Year" list and decided that even if work hadn't been the way it has, I needed to see more comedies so I took a stab at the xBox Video rental selection and wound up with Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates.
     Our story, inspired by a true one, puts us at the side of Mike and Dave Stangle (Adam DeVine and Zac Efron), two brothers who are known to get overly riled up and out of control at family get-togethers.  Their parents have had enough of their shit and don't want them to ruin their sister's (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding in Hawaii so their father demands that the boys bring respectable dates to the event to keep themselves in check.  Unsure of how to go about this, they run an ad on Craigslist advertising a free trip to Hawaii and are answered by Alice and Tatiana (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza), two wild girls fresh off of being fired from their jobs who see the ad as a means for a free vacation.  They put on the facade of being "nice girls" and convince the brothers to take them and, as you can imagine, as soon as they reach the island, shit flies south fast.

     Not a bad setup, right?  Too bad the same can't be said about the rest of the movie.  There's no really nice way to put this so I'll be blunt: Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates is a fucking terrible movie.  I went into this film hoping for some hearty guffaws to lift my spirits and forget my troubles and was greeted by an obnoxious chore of a film that dragged along like a zombie with a broken leg.  If this film was hyped up as a milestone event film the same way movies like Star Wars: Rogue One are, I would consider Mike & Dave a fucking blight to the genre.
     Where to start?  If this movie is supposed to be a comedy (you know, those movies that are supposed to make you laugh), why wasn't there anything remotely amusing until almost 15 minutes in?  The kind of humor that the movie shoots for isn't the clever, witty writing kind but more crude and loud moments where the characters either goof off or shout for long periods of time at something disgusting, sexual or both.  Sometimes these moments would go on for so long that you feel that the particular dead horse that the characters are beating was already a fine paste before they began throwing their fists at it.  Sadly, this is something that I've noticed in a lot of comedies: apparently loud noises and exposed skin counts as a goddamn joke nowadays and the longer it goes on, the funnier the movie thinks it is.  Spoiler alert: it ISN'T.
     As far as the characters themselves go, they can go piss up a rope.  I was not invested in any of these characters to want me to root for them to get back into the swing of things, to grow as individuals and let go of their own insecurities or anything like that.  Many of them came off as so astoundingly douchey that I couldn't believe that we were actually supposed to give a damn about their personal problems which play out so predictably that you can call the outcome of the film mere minutes into the runtime.

They never explain why Mike and Cousin Terry (Alice Wetterlund) have such animosity towards each other and it keeps popping up in the plot like a floater that won't flush.

     There are two more things that I would like to address about this movie.  First, the movie takes place on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, the same island where some of Jurassic Park was filmed.  Of course, the movie brings this up when Tatiana suggests that they go on this ATV Movie Tour where they ride quads around where Jurassic Park was shot (namely the Gallimimus paddock).  At this point, I had come to the conclusion that I hated this movie and my reaction was, "HEY, FUCK YOU!  LEAVE JURASSIC PARK OUT OF THIS!"  However, it did give me the idea to look up whether or not this is an actual thing you can do and if that's the case, I'd totally get in on that.
     Second, there are three moments in the movie where the characters try to do the right thing and actually show some growth to an extent for a sincere moment.  Yet when you feel like you like you just might consider the idea of actually liking these guys and gals, the script comes along and does something ridiculous that not so much pulls you out of the moment but more like stomps on you like you were a bag of flaming dog shit and laughs at your expense.

     Final Verdict: I gave this one a fair shot, ladies and gentlemen.  I really did.  I went in with an open mind and walked away with my skin crawling.  20 minutes in, I came to the conclusion that this wasn't a movie for me with the official "I fucking hate this thing" coming 15 minutes later while I still had another hour to go.  Tatiana has a phrase in this movie that she uses a couple of times, "Man, fuck it in the dick."  Surprisingly enough, that's how I feel about this movie.  Fuck this movie in the dick!  Fuck it in the dick so hard that said dick splits down the middle like chopped firewood.  While I am having a hard time deciphering whether or not this was worse than Gods Of Egypt, Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates is right up there as contender for "Worst Of 2016" and I hope that anyone who has not seen this movie yet chooses to keep it that way.  I am giving Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates the rating of a Kwik-E-Dog Special.

"Put down the Kwik-E-Dog!"
*continuing arguing and screaming* 

     Well folks, there's my thoughts on this particular dumpster fire.  Did this one fare better with you and what is your favorite comedy movie in the last ten years?  As always, thank you for your time and if you like what you see here, you be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay Cynical!
     -The Cynic

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

     Good evening, everyone and welcome to another entry of Coffee With The Cynic's movie reviews!  Tonight we are taking a look at 2016's The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) and starring Neel Sethi.  Based on the book published in 1894, we follow Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy raised by wolves in the jungle and mentored by a panther named Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley).  During a drought, a truce is called between all species of the jungle but the tyrannical tiger, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba), claims that having a "man-cub" is forbidden and vows to kill Mowgli once the rains return.  Mowgli decides to leave his wolf family for their safety and begins his trek to the a human village while bumping into creatures of all walks of life along the way.

     Am I familiar with this story?  Sort of.  Who hasn't seen the 1967 Disney classic?  However, it has been a really long time since I've seen that film (so much that I don't really remember much) so going into this new version of The Jungle Book felt like going into a fresh, original film and I wouldn't find myself being distracted by drawing comparisons to the 1967 animated movie.  How is it?  Pretty damned good.

     To say that this movie is visually incredible would be an understatement.  The film was shot in a Los Angeles studio on a blue-screen sound stage using a few rough puppets and actors in mo-cap suits to represent the various animal characters and give Neel Sethi something to act off of and I could count on one hand how many shots of this movie actually let that on.  The rest of the movie looked and felt like you were in the jungle with this young boy interacting with wolves, panthers, bears and the lot of them even though everything around him was brought to life with CGI (I swear, there are more than a few shots that I thought I was looking at real animals).
     Speaking of Neel's acting, this boy has one acting credit prior to this film and for the most part, he carried himself very well through this movie.  There were only one or two deliveries that made me cringe a bit but I don't think it was so much the actor but the dialogue as these lines didn't feel natural to hear a child say them but a child living in the jungle being raised by wolves isn't natural either so you could probably chalk this up as a nitpick.
When scenes like this hits you in the feels despite being a kid acting against pixels, you know you're doing something right.

     So Neel Sethi does well but what about the celebrity voice actors?  They also do well.  Again, for the most part.  My personal favorite was Bill Murray as Baloo because his wit and snark he brought to Baloo reminded me of the Bill Murray we've been missing for all these years (think less Lost In Translation and more 1984 Ghostbusters) and I found myself having a good laugh at a lot of his lines.  Idris Elba as Shere Kahn was a close second for me because the voice that Idris gives to this tiger made me absolutely terrified of him yet you couldn't look away whenever he was on screen.  Scarlett Johannson was fine as the python Kaa for the one cameo scene she was in and Christopher Walken as King Louie (who is interestingly a Gigangopithecus instead of a run-of-the-mill orangutan) was delightfully odd and being summoned via cowbell was a humorous nod.  The only one I found myself feeling ho-hum about was Sir Ben Kingsley as Bagheera as it felt like he just wasn't as into his role as everyone else was in the film.  It's not terrible but not up to par with the rest of the cast.

"He's an ugly little spud, isn't he?"
"I think he can hear you, Mowgli..."
     So is there anything outright bad about this movie?  Not much, really.  As mentioned before, there are couple of shots where it is a little more obvious that the movie was filmed with blue-screen and the odd slip-up from Neel Sethi or Sir Ben Kingsley's performances but the only other thing I can think of that stood out was the way the end credits played out featuring the same book that opened the 1967 classic flipping back and forth between pages while Walken's King Louie sings "I Wanna Be Like You" as it felt pretty out of place as far as tone goes but by this point, its the end credits so who cares, right?  Still felt more in place than the end credits to White Noise.
     Final Verdict: Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is pretty damn good.  Is it Best of 2016 material?  My list-in-progress would tell you no but I would not fault anyone in the slightest for giving it that particular title.  The movie is absolutely breath-taking with the animation and jungle recreations, is entertaining with its characters and is quite thrilling with its climactic finale between Mowgli and Kahn.  Am I kicking myself for not seeing this one in theatres?  Yeah, a bit but hey, that's life.  Any negatives that I listed here are not crippling hindrances and I would suggest that you folks check it out if you haven't already now that it is on Blu-Ray.  The Jungle Book is most definitely Excellent.
 *guitar peel*
     So what did you think of 2016's The Jungle Book?  Is this your favorite version?  Let me know in the comments and as per usual, if you like what you see on this page, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!
     -The Cynic

     P.S. I am doing a Give Away on the YouTube channel with some Dinosaurs Attack merchandise up for grabs.  Click here for details!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

High Rise Review

     High-Rise is a seriously fucked up movie.  I know that I usually have the usual "Good (insert part of day this review was written)" intro but I just want to cut straight to the chase so let me say it again: High-Rise is a seriously fucked up movie and I'm not saying that this is in a particularly good way either.  Let's delve into this thing.

     High-Rise was originally a novel by J.G. Ballard published back in 1975.  I had never heard of it so naturally, I've never read it but it is about a luxury high-rise building where the divided-by-class residents eventually fall into chaos.  I got wind of this movie reading a article showing the trailer for the movie adaptation, starring one Tom Hiddleston.  I've liked Tom Hiddleston's work in the Marvel movies and he was the best thing about Crimson Peak and the premise of this movie sounded interesting.  It premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival but never heard anything more about it until I went to rent The Killing Joke on xBox TV & Movies and saw that High-Rise was available to rent.  Looking into it, the film supposedly had a wide release in the UK in March 2016 and a limited release in the US in May 2016 so despite it premiering at TIFF last year, I'm qualifying this one as a 2016 release.

     So the plot?  Tom Hiddleston is a doctor in a dystopian 1970s who has just moved into the 25th floor of a high-rise building, complete with its own supermarket, gym, pool, etc so residents have little reason to leave the building except to go to work.  He begins to mingle with the other residents of the building, including having a relationship with a single mother (Sienna Miller), partying with a married couple (Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss) and playing squash with the architect (Jeremy Irons) of the building.  While hanging out with the architect, he gets stuck in an elevator during a power outage.  While this is a minor annoyance to the wealthier residents in the higher levels, it is far more problematic to the lesser residents on the lower levels.  As these interruptions in utilities continue and escalate, it leads to class warfare between the rich and the poor.

     Sounds pretty cool, right?  I don't want to sell this movie short so let me go over what was good about this.
     First and foremost, the acting is top notch.  Everyone involved puts in a high-caliber performance that doesn't make you think of other characters they have played in previous films and at least would've kept you in this film were it not for other elements (more on those later).
     The other thing that I really applaud High-Rise for is its cinematography and its set pieces.  When these two are put together, if nothing else this movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at in that regard.  It didn't matter if the scene was set in the swimming pool, a tenant's balcony or the architect's meadow on the top of the building, the scenery was beautiful even when the shit hit the fan (although there were a few parts where it would cut to an inanimate object that had nothing to do with whatever was happening and then cut back to the scene).
     There was one little thing I noticed during a scene where Hiddleston is invited to a party being thrown by the architect's wife (Keeley Hawes) and he shows up in a tuxedo with a bottle of wine, only to find the party is actually an 18th Century themed event and he is mocked by the higher ups.  Disgusted by the events, he takes a cigarette out of the pack and proceeds to light it up.  I don't know if it was intentional but the cigarette was bent slightly, the end dipping towards the ground slightly.  I couldn't help but wonder if that was supposed to be a symbol of his esteem after the exchange he had with the hosts but if this was intentional, good job, High-Rise.

Oh, and this happens too, if this is your thing.

     For those positive points I mentioned, they were rendered moot for two very crucial things.
     The first being the pacing.  High-Rise certainly takes its sweet time to get the ball rolling and while I'm not usually one to knock a movie with a slow buildup and a good payoff (Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, for example), there needs to be something happening within the story to keep me invested in these characters.  It wasn't until for reasons that are never explained, a character commits suicide (not a major character, don't worry) 45 minutes in that I really got something resembling progression of the plot but by then, the movie was already starting to lose me.  When the residents of the high-rise start becoming more hostile towards one another, it didn't really do anything to pull me back in and in my notes, I even wrote, "20 mins left, I want the movie to be over."
     The second is the script.  There are things that happen in this movie that seem to just come out of the blue with little rhyme and reason and the movie just expects us to go with it.  It is one thing to have characters do things but when we don't understand their motivations as to why they're doing things, it just comes off as bloated and confusing.  Say what you will about the characters in Jurassic World but at least you got a basic cookie-cutter motivation behind them.  After the minor character commits suicide, the movie seriously falls the fuck apart.  I get that the lower classes are pushing back against the higher classes but it becomes so muddled and cloudy, it felt like nothing was really happening.  I actually stopped taking notes as to what was happening on screen because I could no longer follow the story.  Here are the last few notes I wrote (left a couple out to avoid spoilers):

     -1hr 07min in, I seriously don't know what's going on.  I feel like nothing's happening.
     -Really feeling like I should've read the book...
     -I am so fucking lost.  Orgies in the top floor penthouse, Tom banging Wilder's pregnant wife, no indication of what the dystopia of the outside world is...

     I suppose one could make the argument that our feelings of confusion by the events onscreen not making sense is supposed to reflect the emotions of the characters effected by said events but it came off as resoundingly pretentious and it felt like the movie was so far up its own ass that I was just left in the dust.  Don't go where I can't follow you, High-Rise.  It doesn't end well for anyone.

Save your enthusiasm, Luke Evans.

     Final Verdict: Perhaps I've been spoiled by the summer blockbuster scene (after all, my top 3 favorite movies fall in that category) or perhaps I'm not intelligent enough to wrap my head around what High-Rise was trying to accomplish but I gotta call it like I see it: High-Rise is a fucking mess.  For all of the stellar performances and great looking set pieces, those two elements don't amount to much when the movie moves like molasses in January and the script leaves you more confused and frustrated than enlightened and entertained.  I don't want to jump the gun and say that there is a reason why I don't watch movies that have more of an artsy feel than the blockbuster, popcorn entertainment because High-Rise had an interesting premise to it.  It's just the delivery of said premise really didn't work for me and you shouldn't be surprised if this ends up on my "Worst Of 2016" list.  I wanted to like this one but High-Rise is a Throwaway.

 Get the fuck outta here.

     So guys, have you seen High-Rise?  Was it easier to follow for you?  Let me know in the comments and as always, if you like what you see, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical.
     -The Cynic

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Suicide Squad Review

     Good evening, everyone and welcome to another entry in Coffee With The Cynic's movie reviews!  Alright, here we are with another entry into the DCEU (Detective Comics Extended Universe) in Suicide Squad.  My exact feelings on this one seemed to be all over the place leading up to its release.  When the original trailer from Comic-Con 2015 was uploaded last year, I thought to myself, "Oh...this might be worth checking out."  The darker, bleaker tone that the DCEU was shooting for (if Man Of Steel was any indication) could really work with these characters considering it is a team of villains and all.  I mean, sure, I wasn't sold on the new look of The Joker (Jared Leto) or Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) but I was still curious to see how it played out.  However, with each subsequent trailer and promotional image, it seemed as if the movie had taken a radical change of tone, moving away from that dark, gritty tone like The Dark Knight and opting for something more colorful and wacky like Guardians Of The Galaxy and I actually found myself less and less enthusiastic towards the film and stopped watching the promotional material for it because I didn't want anything to push me over and make me say, "You know what?  I don't want to see this.  I'll just do something else on my vacation day I took for this movie."

Good thing, too.  I literally just watched the SDCC 2016 trailer and that would've pushed me over.  I can't quite put my finger on why, though.

        In case you aren't overly familiar with the Suicide Squad (I'm right there with you), there have been a few different incarnations of it but this film is using the modern take on the term for its story: a team of incarcerated supervillains that is being used by the US Government as a covert deniable strike-team for black-op missions that is under the supervision of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis).  In this case, being led into Midway City to stop Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) from unleashing ancient mystic arts to mold the Earth into something a little more preferable to her needs.

     First, the good.  The casting is really good for the most part and quite entertaining.  I really liked Will Smith as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot, giving both that dramatic flair that he's been doing lately in the scenes involving his daughter and being that classic charming but smart-ass Will Smith from Independence Day that we've been wanting back for so long and even though there isn't really a main character in this movie, I totally get why Will Smith has top billing.
     Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is just about perfect and probably the best casting the DCEU has done to date.  I'm mostly familiar with Waller through the Justice League cartoon that was on during the early 2000s and the film Superman/Batman: Public Enemies and the live-action Waller is pretty much exactly how I remember her from those properties and I loved every second of it.  I would even go so far as to say she's probably the best thing about this movie.
     As for the rest of the Squad, they did what they needed to do and that was fine.  Joel Kinnaman was serviceable as Rick Flag, the Squad's direct commander and Waller's errand boy, Jay Hernandez added some emotional humanity as the team's pyrotechnic pacifist Chato Santana/El Diablo, Karen Fukuhara was pretty badass as the masked Katana, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje under pounds of prosthetic makeup delivered the big screen's first interpretation of Waylon Jones/Killer Croc and Jai Courtney was pretty likeable as Captain Boomerang.

Sure, this was the first movie I've seen the guy in but I haven't heard anything good about him in other projects.

     The action sequences were also a lot of fun and kept me entertained (hey, there's that word again).  The fights between the Squad and Enchantress' zombie-like army were pretty clear and easy to follow even if there were a few really quick cuts throughout and I really enjoyed the confrontation between El Diablo and Enchantress' brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine) closer to the end of the film with that particular scene getting an exclaim of, "Holy shit," from me.  There's also a couple of cameos from other DCEU films (stay for the mid-credits stinger, FYI) that felt far more organic than they did in BvS and playfully acknowledged that Suicide Squad is indeed part of that universe instead of shoving it down our throats with no regard for subtlety or creativity.

     I can hear you guys, "You haven't talked about Joker or Harley Quinn yet!  How dare ye!"  I'm saving them for their own sections.  Relax.

     First, Harley.  Harley Quinn is sort of a middle ground for me in this movie.  While I did enjoy Margot Robbie's portrayal of the character, even going so far as to say that she almost nailed the original Harley from Batman: The Animated Series' personality perfectly, I still hate her costume in this movie.  This was Harley Quinn's big-screen debut and there is a quick shot of Robbie in the classic harlequin-style jumpsuit with the pom poms and everything but instead they went with the white t-shirt and minuscule booty shorts.  I always found that Harley Quinn was a nice balance of looking hot and intimidating and sadly I never got the latter from her look.  While her performance helped soften that blow, all I'm saying is that you can have Harley Quinn look hot and alluring while she's still in pants.  If not the original jumpsuit, how about a variation thereof, like what she wore in the game Batman: Arkham City?

For Suicide Squad 2?  Please?

      Alright, I just want to address a couple of things that bugged me before I get to the big tamale.  At the beginning of the film, we're given these little exposition scenes introducing each member of the Squad.  While it was neat that each member was given their own song during this scene, the cartoony stat cards that came up on the screen were a bit off-putting, making me feel like I was watching an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man instead of a multi-million dollar feature film.  While the licensed songs worked in this bit, the film keeps throwing more at every given opportunity which made me wonder if composer Steven Price called Warner Bros. and said, "I just don't feel like composing today, guys.  What do you have in your licensed catalogue?"  Much like how the soundtrack in BvS was jarring, it eventually got to that point here and felt like it was trying too hard to be the soundtrack to Guardians Of The Galaxy.
     Another thing I noticed here was that there was that feeling, again, like BvS, that I wasn't seeing the full picture here.  Not that things were going over my head or I just wasn't "getting it" but I felt that there was a lot cut from the movie.  I'm wondering if that was due to the reshoots the film underwent earlier this year but it just feels like I'm being double-dipped to get the full film experience and it does hurt the movie a bit.
     I also felt that the addition of the character Slipknot (Adam Beach) was completely pointless.  I don't want to spoil anything but all I'm going to say is that he's basically here the same way KGBeast was in the animated Batman: Assault On Arkham (which follows a similar plot to this).  Of course, when he was introduced as Slipknot, I couldn't help but think, "Hey, he's not nine masked guys in coveralls from Des Moines, Iowa!  What are you trying to pull here?"
     Alright, you want to know what I felt was the worst thing about this movie?

Yup.  This guy.  Right here.

     I really did not like Jared Leto's take on The Joker and I don't just mean his appearance.  Sure, I still think the tattoos and the pimp jacket were an ill-fit with Joker but Leto's performance just did not do it for me.  He never came off as particularly threatening or amusing, just eccentric and weird and his laugh is just weak compared to literally every other incarnation of this character.   He really doesn't have much presence in this movie but I've heard that a lot of his scenes were cut for whatever reason.  I am honestly not terribly heartbroken over that as it gave us more of the characters we actually gave a crap about.  Leto's Joker is remarkably forgettable and I honestly can't remember any lines of dialogue he had in this movie.

     Final Verdict: Well, I guess the third time was the charm for the DCEU because Suicide Squad was actually entertaining!  Absent are the abundance of mopey bring-downs of Man Of Steel or the overcrowded pretensions of BvS and instead we have the kind of movie that you can just sit down and have fun with.  Yeah, remember when we were allowed to go to the movies to do that?  This will remind you of those times.  Suicide Squad is far from perfect, especially since I'm left feeling I didn't see the full film but the positives truly outweigh the negatives on this one.  While I cannot bring myself to say I'm gonna rush out and buy the Blu-Ray, I would be down for a viewing of a Director's Cut and I don't think we wasted a 90 minute drive to the theatre and then the two hour run time.  I was never outright bored with Suicide Squad and I did have an entertained smile for a good chunk of it so with that, I'm going to give Suicide Squad the rating of a Fun Ride.


     So folks, I leave the floor open to you.  Have you seen Suicide Squad and what is your favorite anti-hero?  Let me know down in the comments and, as per usual, if you like what you see on this blog, you be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!
     -The Cynic

Friday, August 5, 2016

Double Review: BvS: Ultimate Edition & Batman: The Killing Joke

                Hello, everyone and welcome to another entry of Coffee With The Cynic’s movie reviews!  Originally this was going to be a video but Windows 8.1 isn’t cooperating and won’t let me open Movie Maker to edit the raw footage so I will provide you with a transcript here.  Sadly, this will probably be the case until we get upgraded to Windows 10 but we hope to get that done as soon as humanly possible.  Now, on with the show…article…whatever.

                Tonight we’re going to be doing a double bill review, starting off with the Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition, or as I like to call it, Batman vs Superman: Bat-Ass Edition as well as the animated film Batman: The Killing Joke.

                Batman vs Superman: Bat-Ass Edition

                Okay, so if you’ve been watching my videos, you’ll know that I really did not care for the theatrical cut of BvS and up until I watched Gods Of Egypt, BvS was actually the worst movie I had seen all year (so far).  When I heard that the Blu-Ray was going to feature an extended, “R” rated cut, I figured, “Alright, we never got to see the complete picture.  I’ll give the director’s cut a chance, maybe those extra thirty minutes will add something and who knows, maybe even knock it down a few spots on my ‘Worst Of 2016’ list.”  So I got around to watching it and I gotta say, “My eyes!  Ze thirty minutes, they do nothing!”
                The only thing I really noticed that the director’s cut “improved” the theatrical version was how it made it more coherent, dare say obvious, that someone was framing Superman.  Sadly, that was about it.  What was good about was still really good (Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons) and what was bad about the movie was still really bad (still way too many plots that would’ve been better as their own films, Jessie Eisenberg, the title fight comes in too late and ends too quickly).
                As for the “R” rating?  This movie didn’t need it.  Oh, you drop two “fucks” throughout the film?  Fuck-a-doodle-doo.  Extra CGI blood thrown in?  Wasn’t that intense, even when the thug’s head leaves a streak of blood on the way down after getting smacked by a crate.  This was a waste of an “R” rating.
                I was hoping that the extra thirty minutes would clear a few things up, that it would make the movie better and I would sit there like, “Okay, yeah, that’s a step in the right direction, guys!”  Sadly, my opinion of BvS still has not changed.  How can a movie add so much to the runtime without adding anything to the story?  It’s still a jumbled clusterfuck of a mess, focusing too much on catching up with other and more successful competitors rather than on being a good movie in its own right.  It’s still the second worst movie I’ve seen this year and it’s still a Throwaway.

Get the fuck outta here!

GOD, this is disappointing.  Like I said, I liked things about this movie but the things I didn’t like did so much damage that this just leaves me frustrated and hurt!  This hurts!  These characters deserved better.

Batman: The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke is the long-awaited animated adaptation of the famous comic written by Watchmen scribe, Alan Moore.  Prior to watching this film, I had only read the comic once and thought, “Yeah, it was alright.”  I didn’t get really attached to it or fall in love with it the way that it seems almost everyone else did but I was up for reading it again.
What got me interested in this one was the casting with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning to reprise their roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively.  In our household, Kevin Conroy is Batman and Mark Hamill is the best Joker.  Period.  I gotta say that these guys still got it as they are both amazing in their roles, be it Conroy’s powerful yet stoic voice or Hamill’s ability to sound both amusing and chilling at the same time (a couple of parts actually did make me shudder a little).  It never fails to amaze me how these two have been playing these roles for over twenty years and they still truly love being in these characters’ shoes.
A lot of people seem to have issue with the first half an hour of this movie involving Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (voiced by Tara Strong), whether it be they found her annoying or just because it wasn’t in the original Killing Joke comic.  I can understand why they feel this way but it didn’t bother me so much because, like I said before, I’m not strongly attached to the original comic and the film did need to flesh her out before the events of The Killing Joke so that she can be a full-fledged character instead of just a plot device.  That being said, I would be outright lying if I said I didn’t think it went on a little too long or if I didn’t say it felt like another movie added to the beginning of The Killing Joke but good things come to those who wait.
As far as adapting the comic goes, once it actually starts into The Killing Joke, it is pretty much the comic word for word and somewhat frame for frame.  It was like the executives were wondering, “Okay, how do we adapt this comic to animation,” and one of them flipped open the book, showed it to them and said, “Do this.”  Granted, the color scheme of the film is closer to the rerelease of the comic where the color palette was more modern as opposed to the flashy, carnival color palette of the original comic.
As for the rating?  This is DC’s first animated “R” rated feature so that was exciting in its own right and I will say this: this film earned its “R” rating more than BvS: Bat-Ass Edition did.  That being said, it isn’t a hard “R” like Heavy Metal or anything like that.  Probably closer to a 14A, if we’re being entirely honest.
I really like the DC Animated Universe and the movies and series released therein so I was interested to see how the animation in this one fared against the animation from previous entries.  The animation by no means is terrible but I did find it a bit stiff in some areas when a character would turn their head or one shot in particular when the CGI animation blended poorly with the 2D stuff.  It’s not a deal breaker but don’t expect animation as smooth as Batman: The Animated Series here.

Final Verdict: Basically, if you like the comic, you’ll probably like the movie or at least once the movie gets to the comic’s story.  I personally didn’t mind the extra stuff at the beginning but I can get why others might.  My feelings for the movie mirror my feelings for its source material: I liked it, I’m not head-over-heels in love with it the way many others are but after watching this movie, I read the comic again and watched the movie again, putting them both at two views and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the idea of revisiting either in the future.  I love watching Conroy and Hamill reprise these roles and I had fun and felt good watching The Killing Joke (which is kind of morbid, I know) and in the end, I will say that Batman: The Killing Joke is A Fun Ride and I would recommend checking it out.


So folks, let me know in the comments: what did you think of either of these movies, for better or worse?  Also, keep your ears to the ground on this blog as we are seeing Suicide Squad tomorrow and will be doing a review of that, as well as a review of a film I never got to see as a kid, Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm.

Thanks for your time and if you like what you see on this blog, you be sure to nudge that “Follow” button and stay cynical!

-The Cynic
-The Cynic