IR Film Review: BIRDS OF PREY (& The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) [Warner Brothers]

The trajectory of “Birds Of Prey (& The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn”) is visualizing the identity of Harley Quinn and her journey to become that whom she truly is. The movie tries in earnest to portray this road of discovery in Quinn’s own special way which is undeniably entertaining and edgy in its own bizarro progression. The iteration at least for the for the first 2/3rds of the film is day glow brilliance and breakneck. While creative flourishes and structure is dynamic and interesting, sometimes the style of the film intrinsically does not keep up with the pace. Robbie knows her character in and out and doesn’t shy away from the character’s faults. Quinn still loves Mr. J but he unceremoniously throws her away for undisclosed reasons. She starts acting out logically (and at times illogically) which is where most of the fun comes from. Quinn (and Robbie) knows she is a clinically trained psychiatrist who has gone bonkers and boy crazy for Mr. J so it is an interesting paradox. While her journey to find her crew is important, it is not the goal. There is peeks of tenderness and at times hurt underneath Quinn’s brilliant smile. Robbie shows peeks of it but there is not so much dramatic tendency as there could be.

When the plot takes over about 3/4s of the way through, the film veers into more standard territory where it might have been interesting to see it in a nihilistic way or a trip that only happens in Quin’s head. It is a fun ride, more dynamic and entertaining than “Suicide Squad” but still is not fully exceptional. The only issues is that at times it feels, in a weird way, like a TV movie and not a film, which is not an insult since alot of TV is cinematic but it is missing a certain kernel that would make it jump more. The other Birds Of Prey per se are very apt with Mary Elizabeth Winstead making the most impact as Huntress. Her O-Ren stylings are great but Winstead plays her less cool and more odd in a way which is a creative choice but one which could have been amped. The reality is that none of the other Birds per se can shine a candle to Harley. There is a Moulin Rouge/Madonna ode of sorts at one point which is cool considering Ewan in the scene is a direct reference to that seminal movie of 20 years ago. Ewan has a bit of fun playing the flamboyancy of his baddie character who ultimately is the Black Mask. But despite the flourishes the character is inherently one dimensional with the weight of the villain having as much structure as Sam Rockwell’s captain in “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”…fun to watch without much motivation beyond simple carnage. Even Tyler Durden had an ethos.

Ultimately “Birds Of Prey” wraps around to the true nature of Harley Quinn which a loner with a soft spot who likes to get in trouble. At one point, she steals a gas filled truck drunk and runs it into Axis Chemicals. It is a multi tiered point both freeing, tragic, nihilistic and wonderfully lurid which is all the aspects that Harley Quinn should be. Even though it runs at throttle those at this and other points, the film reaches its zenith only rarely but not as a full fledged blow out.

B-

By Tim Wassber

IR Film Review: AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON [Marvel/Disney]

ultronThe Marvel Universe has finally comes to its “Thunderbird” point. The great thing with a franchise now this size is that with all the mythology you can go into something really comic specific and people will likely go with you. There is a lot of that here. There are still a lot of battles and the roof raising finale works its best. However it becomes too disjointed to really to create a caring requisite for the rest of the team. Like the second part of “The Hobbit”, it is the romantic subplot that best fuels the tension and plot direction. In “The Hobbit”, the relationship between a female Elf and a male dwarf really brought the story together. The only thing that could light a candle to them literally was Smaug. Here the same thing is true of Black Widow and Hulk. Though some might perceive Widow’ strengths as an assassin and thereby recognize shortcomings in other parts of her life, she does seem to have the most dynamic range of all the Avengers. Hawkeye is the most grounded but not as engaging. Banner versus Hulk seems so bi-polar but that might point to the problem in trying to base a whole movie around him. It is hard for an audience to give him complete empathy. Even Tony Stark has more to speak of here in terms of that connection.

Some of resolutions and even the new characters have their highlight. Casting Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor Johnson as brother and sister (Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver) is an interesting progression after they played husband and wife recently in “Godzilla”. Ultron, as manipulated in motion capture by James Spader, gives an undeniable sophistication though the stakes never truly lock in. Paul Bettany is interesting as The Vision especially in his philosophical perspective of the human race in relating to Ultron. And finally watching Andy Serkis is his brief cameo as “Claw” shows his chameleon-like status in live action. He is fantastic doing motion capture and was a consultant here but people should give him more live action possibilities because he can disappear just as easily. “Age Of Ultron” completes its dues adequately but seems to be setting up future story lines instead of focusing on the ones right in front of them. As long as it keeps audiences engaged it shouldn’t affect the bottom line but this kind of disjointed storytelling sometimes overwhelms the attention. It hasn’t quite yet but it is on the cusp.

B