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TV Review – Harley Quinn – (2019 – ?)

Grab your baseball bats, 3.5 puddins.

It’s time for a review of Harley Freakin’ Quinn.

At the outset, I have to say this show is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Some thoughts on why that is, in no particular order:

#1 – It’s a Gotham based, DC character infused show, that’s for adults and when I say it’s for adults, I mean, it’s for adults. It’s weird. Watch with the sound down for a minute and you might be lulled into thinking it’s a kids show. I mean, superheroes are for kids, right? But no…there’s swearing and sex and uber violence like very serious graphic violence. You don’t want to let your kids watch this. I know, Batman and Co. are for kids, right? Nope, not this show, which brings us to…

#2 – It’s a parody of the DC Universe and the comic book genre. It focuses on Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and in season one, we see Gotham’s top she-clown break up with The Joker (ala Birds of Prey) and come out from Mr. J’s shadow, fighting to be thought of as a supervillain who stands on her own evil merits and not as the Clown Prince of Crime’s sidekick. Along the way, DC’s long laundry list of main characters (heroes and villains) are trotted out and poked fun of…but the best jokes are reserved for the lesser knowns, the goofy characters you’ve unlikely ever heard of before, or maybe heard of once in passing.

Examples? Harley’s BFF Poison Ivy dates Kite Man, and that’s his power. He has a kite that pops out of the back of his suit so he can fly around. Pretty useless character, right? You’d think so until you meet such lackluster Batman opponents as Calendar Man, Condiment Man, and so on.

Overall, the writers had a fun time pointing out the silliness of the comic book world and yet…

#3 – The plots are well laid out and surprisingly riveting. In season 1, we see Harley recruit a crew of lesser knowns like Dr. Psycho, King Shark and Clayface to take on Gotham’s worst villains and fight her way up to the top of the food chain. In season 2, Gotham lies in ruins and Harley and Friends team up with Commissioner Gordon, Bat Girl and yes, even Batman to prevent the city from meeting its doom. This leads me to…

#4 – It saddens me what DC decided to do with its theatrically released movies. Here, in this cartoon, the writers set out to parody DC and comic book culture and yet, created a more coherent plot than the DC films did. As you watch, bread crumbs are laid out and they lead to something. There’s a laundry list of characters yet they all get their time to shine. Slowly but surely, the writers introduce you to their silly versions of these characters and then build up their silly version of Gotham. Watching actually pays off and you don’t leave feeling like you were jerked around. Ultimately, that’s all the fans wanted from the DC movies.

#5 – At first, I did wonder whether maybe an adult version of the DC universe was something worth making. After all, aren’t these characters for kids? Shouldn’t adults grow up and put away childish things? Drop the F bombs, cut out the uber violence and naughtyness and create something the whole family can enjoy? But then again, that leads me to…

#6 – This is the hands down funniest thing I’ve seen on TV in awhile. Somehow, it walks a fine line between keeping the wokesters happy and delivering jokes that push PC boundaries. For more of what I’m talking about, see Poison Ivy’s takedown of the Condiment King with the help of her sidekick, Frank the Plant (JB Smoove stealing the show as a man eating Venus fly trap). “Change of plans, sauce fucker.”

FINAL THOUGHTS: In the end, all we fans ever wanted is for writers to build a world. Yes, the DC characters reside in a world that we know ad nauseum, so no, we don’t need to see young Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot by a mugger outside the theater for the 1,000 time. We don’t need to see Superman’s baby sized space ship crash in a cornfield behind the Kents’ house for the 1,000th time either. With new TV shows and movies comes new versions of old characters and all we ask is to be introduced to your new versions, get to know them, then let things build. Comedy writers did that here and one day DC might figure out how to make a cinematic universe that the whole family can enjoy.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Bonus points for Kaley Cuoco who I think is great in everything she does and is underutilized by Hollywood. See this show on HBO Max.

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Movie Review – Birds of Prey (2020)

It doesn’t stink, but it could have been better.

BQB here with a review.

I might be the only one who doesn’t think this movie was a total stinker, and the theories as to why this one bombed at the box office are running rampant.

The set-up?  Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) breaks up with her infamous boyfriend, The Joker.  Alas, this means that she is no longer under the protection of the most fearsome criminal in Gotham City, and to the many, many, many people she has wrong through her assholish behavior, it’s open season on her head.

Amidst this chaos, the Black Mask (Ewan McGregor of Obi Wan Kenobi fame) and his henchman Victor Zsaz (Don’t feel like looking the actor’s name up) seek a diamond and a kid, both of whom are important for reasons I’ll let go at this time so as to not spoil everything.  It falls on to Harley to protect the kid, with the assistance of Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), collectively “The Birds of Prey.”

Sounds like a pretty awesome set-up, right?  Well, you’d be wrong.  Sure, the film has its moments.  Margot Robbie gets to ham it up as Harley in this go around whereas she was a bit more subdued in Suicide Squad.  There are some humorous moments as Harley, the last person you’d ever want to take care of a kid, ends up being the world’s worst babysitter.  There’s plenty of action as well.

Ultimately though, the flick fails, so first, let’s talk about why it didn’t.

Feminism run amuck?  Eh, not really.  Sure, this movie is all about girl power, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It’s all in how it is handled.  The recent Charlie’s Angels reboot tanked because the angels openly lectured us about the virtues of third wave feminism.  In essence, you were told that if you have a dick then you are inferior, and then also if you are a dick, you are an asshole if you didn’t like this movie.

There wasn’t much in the way of man bashing in this movie, nor was there any lecturing or claiming that we should all live under vaginal rule.  The best female action flicks just have their heroines kick ass without claims that a snootch causes one to be a better ass kicker, ergo Buffy, Ripley and Wonder Woman will always maintain their claims to fame.

It wasn’t that men rejected this movie either.  If anything, I’d wager men were well represented in the audience because many of us are dorks who will see any comic book movie.

So, why did it bomb?

The unnecessary R rating.  Look, I’m no teetotaler.  My ears won’t burn if I hear the F word.  But let’s face it.  Comic book movies are by and large the domain of the young, whereas adults will go to these things if they’re uber nerds or to bring their kids to them.

As I watched this movie, it dawned on me that what caused this movie to get an R movie wasn’t the sex (there wasn’t any) nor was it the violence (there was a lot but not more than Suicide Squad, which always surprised me with its PG 13 rating.)

What put this movie over the top was the naughty language.  The F word is used gratuitously and while I’m not against a well-placed swear for comedic or dramatic effect, the swears flowed like water here, for no real reason other than the actors were allowed to say it, so say it they did – a lot.

I got the impression maybe the producers thought they were making a female version of Deadpool, which attracted adult fans by the boatload with its dirty jokes.  The big difference though is Ryan Reynolds is a Rembrandt who can paint a hysterical picture with obscenity, whereas the F word was just repeated over and over again here for a sense of faux-grittiness.

Long story short, had they cut out all the unnecessary fucks, this movie could have been PG-13 and its teenage fan base could have been allowed to attend in droves.

My second complaint lies with branding, marketing, or really, how DC has handled itself throughout its recent attempts at comic book flicks.  Love or hate Marvel, but they created a cinematic universe.  Their stories built toward something.

DC, on the other hand, has taken a lot of characters we know nothing about and smashed them together quickly, largely out of the fear that they needed to churn out product quickly before the comic book movie bubble bursts.  It’s a shame because if they’d followed the cinematic universe strategy, the films really could have built up to something.

I’m not saying that Marvel is the gold standard, just if DC had a different idea oh how to do it better, they didn’t break it out.  Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the best flicks DC has put out as of late, and that’s because those movies actually took the time to introduce us to who their characters were and what makes them tick.  And as we saw with Marvel, the beauty of taking the time to make those singular character based movies means we understand those characters a lot more when they get slapped into the broad, ensemble pieces and only get a few minutes of screen time.

In other words, why not a Huntress movie?  Why not a Black Canary movie?  Or, better yet, why not a Harley Quinn movie?  Harley is a star, after all.  Only a handful of nerds know what “Birds of Prey” means.  The rest of the public probably thought this was a movie about killer birds.  It probably should have been marketed as “The Harley Movie: All Harley, All the Time.”

Also, I don’t know why DC seems adverse to bringing Harley and Mr. J together.  True, their rocky relationship is domestic violence times a thousand and in this age of #MeToo, the last thing people want to see is a comic book couple that acts out their differences by shooting at each other, slapping each other with cartoon mallets, attempting to feed each other to hyenas and what have you, but it was funny in the comics, and the right writers could have made it funny here.

Which brings me to the writing.  There were flash forwards and flash backs.  I think there might have been a flash sideways.  There was a flash back that was so long I forgot it was a flash back because it takes up half the movie.  Harley narrates and fills in the blanks with great omnipotence.

Finally, and maybe this is a comic nerd complaint, but there are some great characters that are thrown away.  Victor Zsaz, a psycho serial killer in the Batman universe, is wasted as two-bit henchman here.  At one point, he tells a victim, “I will end your suffering,” i.e. his classic tagline as in the comics, he believes all life is suffering and thus he doesn’t believe he is killing his victims but saving them from pain.

Similarly, Harley has a pet hyena but the hyena never gets to chase anyone or anything fun.  There are many points where it feels like the writers are like “Hey, we read the comics, nerds!  Here’s a brief nod but we aren’t going deeper.”

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  I still think it is worth a comic fan’s time, but like many DC movies as of late, it was only OK when it could have been great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

It’s here…and its awesome.

Forget all those shitty reviews. Losers and malcontents, I say!

BQB here with a review of the movie that nerds the world over have been looking forward to – Suicide Squad.

SPOILERS, SPOILERS AND MORE SPOILERS BELOW.

So back in March, Warner Brothers released the smelly ass stink burger that was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Oh it was so awful. No life having nerds such as myself were infuriated.  What a crap fest.

It led us to believe that the DC Universe was in bad hands.  We started to wonder if Suicide Squad would be just as bad.

The professional reviewers all seem to think so. Personally, I wonder if their still holding onto some of that B v. S. resentment.

I know I am. I cry myself to sleep about it often. “They both have mothers named Martha!  What fabulous writing!”

Boo! It stinks!

I won’t say this movie makes up for Batman vs. Superman, but it was pretty spectacular and one of the best films I’ve seen this summer.

The Setup

In the wake of Batman vs. Superman (which stunk), the government has grown concerned that another all-powerful being might arrive on the scene and not share Superman’s kind demeanor.

Thus, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team of the worst super villains to have ever crossed Batman’s path (all imprisoned at the start of the film.)

The film relies heavily on flashbacks to tell the backstories behind all of the villains.  Flashbacks are always better if used sparingly, though with such a large cast, I can see why it was necessary.

By the end of the film, a dastardly all-powerful being does indeed arrive on the scene and the team of villains, under the control of Col. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnamon) must save the day.

Harley Quinn

Harley has long been one of DC fans’ most favorite yet under utilized villains.  She got her start in Batman: The Animated Series and ever since, we nerds have long wondered if she’d ever get her big moment on screen.

With an accent that’s a cross between bimbo and New Yorker, female clown Harley dotes on her boyfriend, the Joker, referring to him as  “Puddin'” and “Mr. J.”

Ahh.  A nerd’s dream woman…well, if you ignore the psychotic tendencies.

The trailers made it look like the producers were going to scale Margot Robbie’s portrayal back – opting to go with just a sort of a not so bright female character but the trailers did not do the film justice.

Margot nailed. She’s totally Harley.  She’s got the voice, the demeanor, the twisted personality, she’s got it all down.

She really is the best of this movie.

Batman and the Joker as Bit Players?

The Joker (Jared Leto) had a large role for sure and Jared played it well. He went with a crazy clown mobster as opposed to Heath Ledger’s “I just want to laugh while the world burns” character from The Dark Knight.

Batman (Ben Affleck) only appeared in a few scenes and those were only flashbacks.

I’m not used to seeing a movie where Joker and the Bats aren’t the main attraction. It was surreal.

If anything, Will Smith as expert marksman/contract killer Deadshot carried the film as the team’s unofficial leader.

So Many Characters

Too many characters can potentially ruin a film. You’ve got two hours at best, an audience with a limited attention span and you have to somehow juggle it with the need to make every character interesting.

It can be done. Ironically, Batman vs. Superman only had to make Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman interesting and the peeps behind that flick failed and failed miserably. Damn that movie sucked.

In contrast, the squad in this film is large.  Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) are just a few of the many characters I can think of off the top of my head.

Seriously, they’re all great but I don’t have enough time to cover them all. I mean, shit, there’s a guy called Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).  That’s his power. He throws damn boomerangs.

Each character gets his/her moment in the sun and with a film with a scale this grand that’s all one can really hope for.

Humor/Music

I love a film that can lighten the mood with a good joke and the pairing of classic rock and rap with several scenes left me laughing. It’s hard to explain. You just have to watch it.

PG-13 – Seriously?

I’m surprised this film pulled off a PG-13 rating.

I don’t recall any swears, at least no serious ones. There were no F bombs.  No sex (although there are some sexual references).

Yet, the body count is massive and its a blood and guts fest throughout.  Guns, guns and more guns with someone getting shot every two seconds.

Look, I’m an adult and a nerd so I enjoy a movie like this but…I mean do what you want.  Me personally, I wouldn’t take a kid to see it.

It felt R rated to me.  I’m not complaining, but the PG-13 rating leaves me wondering why a film can be filled with people getting shot every two seconds but as long as it doesn’t have boobs or an F bomb its cool to bring the teens.

OK. I’m done being Mr. Old Complaining Man. But seriously, get off my lawn.

Complaint/Observation

A lot of time is spent in the film on keeping the villains under control. Flagg is their babysitter, making sure they don’t escape.  And as the film progresses, they, dare I say it, the villains grow consciences, grow as people/beings, develop actual concern that if they don’t stop the big bad then no one will and perhaps this is their one shot at redemption for their sins.

That’s great and that’s definitely the way to go to create the optimal crowd pleasing movie. I can’t really knock it.

Still, I wonder if it would have been possible to add more of the “how does a villain carry out a noble mission” angle.  Do villains really care about collateral damage? Do they care about doing it right or just getting it done?  And wouldn’t a villain gladly leave everyone else to croak if they could save themselves?

Eh, many of these questions are explored but overall, suffice it to say, if there’s a sequel, I’d like to see more villainy.  Flagg needs to let them off the leash.

Better Times Ahead for DC Based Movies?

For me, this film was a much needed positive sign in the wake of the turd fest that was Batman vs. Superman. Did I mention it sucked?

I wonder if maybe Warner Brothers took on too much at once.  Like the student that enrolls in too many honors classes at the same time, they turned in a F movie with Batman vs. Superman (oh how it stunk) and an A film with Suicide Squad.

One wonders why they didn’t slow production down a bit and work on putting out one A movie a year.

No, I don’t actually have to wonder. They knew that even a shitty stink fest like Batman vs. Superman would have stacked the cheddar and damn it, they were right. As much as I complain, they got my money.

But remember that old chestnut “penny wise, pound foolish.”  I’ll never rent and/or watch Batman vs. Superman (because it stinks) again for the rest of my life, but I’ll totally rent Suicide Squad again.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Worth a trip to the theater. Excuse me while I go think about Harley Quinn while I polish my novelty clown mallet.

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Comic Con 2015 – Suicide Squad Trailer

Hey 3.5 Readers,

BQB here with some thoughts on the Suicide Squad trailer:

The official story is this trailer was only intended for Comic Con but DC decided to release it because nerds had pirated it and distributed it so they figured they might as well put out a quality version.

If you’re a nerd who isn’t in the know, the Suicide Squad is basically DC’s version of Dirty Dozen.

Based on a DC comic series of the same name, the government forces/recruits the DC villains (mostly Batman’s enemies) to use their evil powers for good, sending them on high-risk, practically suicidal missions.

Overall, the footage looks great and Jared Leto, in my opinion, looks like he’s going to be a better Joker than I’d originally given him credit for.

Like most geeks, I’m a big Harley Quinn fan.  If you’re not a nerd, Harley is the Joker’s girlfriend who got her start in the 1990’s Batman: The Animated Series.

Why do we love Harley?  Because she’s so hilariously over the top.  Now, I get that when there’s an attempt to make a serious movie, she can’t be running around in a full harlequin outfit with a massive novelty hammer to bonk people over the head with but come on, at least do the “Harley” voice.

Judging by this footage, they movie’s going with a half-powered Harley.  Harley at 50%.  She’s sort of got the voice a little, she’s a bit out there, but she’s not bouncing off the walls.

All I can say is if she doesn’t say “Hiya Puddin!” or call the Joker “Mr. J,” there’s going to be a nerd revolt.

DC’s definitely trying to pull a Marvel.  Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad both come out next year and assumably it will all lead up to the Justice League giving evildoers what for.

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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