Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cafe Squad/Suicide Society

After watching “Suicide Squad” and “Cafe Society” back to back, I think I want to see both movies switch casts.  Admit it, wouldn’t the idea of Kristen Stewart as Harley Quinn and Steve Carell as the Joker be way more fascinating than Robbie and Leto?  Plus you can cast Jesse Eisenberg as Deadshot to….oh wait, never mind, that would break the iron-clad “never ever cast Eisenberg in a comic book movie ever again” rule, instituted about two minutes after the initial screening of Batman vs. Superman.

Anyway, Suicide Squad was better than the generally scathing reviews indicated, though in the sense that a D-minus is better than an F.  The word best describes this film is sloppy, and there’s really no excuse for this to be the case.  This is a big studio picture with a $150 million budget, yet it looks like something a first-year film student would be embarrassed to submit if they hastily threw it together on their Macbook video editor.  It’s an absolute mess editing-wise…there’s already been a lot of talk about how much stuff (mostly Joker footage) was left on the cutting room floor, and even if this is a case where editors are working hard to salvage a crappy movie, it’s still just so incoherent.  For instance, why doesn’t Adam Beach’s character get a little flashback intro or “bio card” like the rest of the Squad?  There’s a surprise concerning his character, though I’d argue that to better preserve the surprise, it would make more sense to treat him like everyone else rather than have him hastily tossed in after the initial introductions. 

Like BvS, the entire narrative is just rushed and non-sensical rather than an actual plot.  Why does Amanda Waller pitch this team as a meta-human counter to “the next Superman” when only a few of them are actual metahumans?  Someone with Superman’s power level would literally not break a sweat (well, ok, he maybe literally would thanks to El Diablo) in wiping the floor with the entire Suicide Squad in five seconds or less.  Also, it makes Waller look much less shrewd when she only really has to leverage one of the team (Deadshot), and the rest she just recruits with “hey, I can detonate explosives in your skull now, do as I say.”  And hey, another little Waller miscue — why recruit Harley Quinn on your team when a) she has no superpowers, and b) her involvement will inevitably get the Joker on your radar, which nobody wants?  Did Waller watch too much It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia and feel her team needed a Charlie-esque wild card in the mix?

Viola Davis, as everything other actor in this movie, was basically wasted.  As you might expect from a movie where the entire premise is villains teaming up to face other villains, it’s hard to find much sympathy for any of the characters.  I guess there was Kitana (who’s not an actual villain), and poor ol’ June Moone trapped by the Enchantress.  The rest of them….meh.  Will Smith plays Deadshot like a poor man’s version of every other Will Smith character, except with the murderous twist.  Jay “El Diablo” Hernandez actually gets a good scene to establish himself (unlike the rest of the clear supporting cast Squad members) but it’s hard to have much sympathy for a guy that, y’know, killed his family.  Robbie is getting a lot of hype for her role but I dunno, it was very much the broad strokes version of Harley Quinn.  Leto’s Joker was such a step down from Ledger and Nicholson and I heave a deep sigh just thinking about it.

Basically, it’s not much more than another DC movies mess, and I reiterate my old point that it’s hard to believe anyone could watch these films and get fired up for the next installment.  I cannot get excited for Wonder Woman (cool trailer aside) since the DC franchise is just letdown after letdown.  If the filmmakers don’t even care enough to edit or score the movies properly, why should I care about watching them? 


As for Cafe Society, I actually liked it quite a bit, even accounting for the cringe-anvils that are inherent in any Woody Allen movie when it comes to plots about an older man and a much younger woman.  (This film actually had a double layer of meta to it considering Stewart’s own romantic history.)  It was a good choice to watch it directly after a barrage of nonsense like Suicide Squad, since it refreshing to just characters actually, y’know, talk.  And say things with more depth than “we’re the bad guys” as both a punchline and mission statement over and over again.

I’m only half-kidding about Carell playing the Joker since I think he’d absolutely nail the role.  Carell might be one of those actors who is so well-known for comedy and so gifted at it, yet his biggest strength may actually be turning those skills on their head and playing villains.  Consider him in The Way Way Back or Foxcatcher, or even the lower-level amiable not-actually-villainous twinge he gives Phil Stern in a couple of scenes here.  When Vonnie is delivering her rambling Errol Flynn story, Phil’s look to Bobby is so perfectly smug and such an F-you power move.

You wouldn’t have thought that Stewart and Eisenberg may be the best movie couple of this generation, and yet here we are.  Three movies together (this one, Adventureland, American Ultra) and these two have chemistry for days.  They’re both kind of specialized actors who can only really blossom in certain roles, and these parts aren’t really even those kind of roles — Eisenberg is one of the better “Woody Allen avatars” for the lead roles that are so clearly written in Allen’s voice*, yet these parts inevitably suffer a bit because they’re less actual characters than simply his avatars.  Despite Bobby and Vonnie not really being in their wheelhouse, Eisenberg and Stewart succeed since the two of them are so naturally good together.  I mean, if these two can kinda pull off a stoner action movie couple, the sky’s the limit.  I say we keep casting them in more and more head-scratching roles to see if they can make it work through sheer chemistry.  Maybe Eisenberg’s Luthor would’ve actually not been a disaster if Stewart had been cast as Superman.

* = quick Woody Allen avatar power ranking.  The trick is to deliver the dialogue and make it sound natural without simply falling into the classic Woody Allen mannerisms.  I like Eisenberg, Owen Wilson (who succeeded in Midnight In Paris by successfully combining ‘the Woody voice’ with ‘the Owen Wilson voice’ to create an original character) and Larry David in recent years, though David is almost a cheat since his entire life seems like a Woody Allen character.  The bottom three are, in descending order of awfulness, Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall and Kenneth Branagh.

Oh!  Wait!  If we’re talking Cafe Society/DC crossover casting, forget Stewart as Harley Quinn, make it Parker Posey.  We, as a culture, failed in never making Posey Quinn happen at some point over the years. 

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