Suicide Squad


Markus Rating: 1half star

This wanted to be “Guardians of the Galaxy” so bad!

As the most teased and advertised movie of the year, even with a tsunami of negative early reviews, the “Suicide Squad” hype train was not to be derailed; which meant: No matter what the reviews said, I was still going to see this movie. That said, does this film live up to the hype?

Synopsis: Telling the story of a group of incarcerated supervillains who are rounded up (for reasons unknown) by the government (instead for recruiting actual soldiers; again, “for reasons unknown”) and made to battle a villainous witch (who wasn’t even a threat until after said villains were “rounded up”). Now if that sounds like a movie you want to see, then read on and let’s see if I can’t break your spirit.

Director David Ayer’s style (Training Day, End of Watch) is completely lost in a movie that looks like it was edited by producers into a mishmash of nonsensical cuts, flashbacks and one on-the-nose song after another.  This outcome results in a lackluster plot jumble in conjunction with nonsensical character motivations, in equal amounts. I get why a supervillain would be forced to help the government, but (spoiler alert) there comes a point when they don’t have to, BUT DO IT ANYWAY! (insert head-scratching emoji here).

While Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) do work as entertaining leads, the Joker (played by Jared Leto in an absolutely forgettable performance) is made to look like a Juggalo electronic-dance DJ inspired pimp, whose motivations include wearing purple fur coats and running around the city with no shirt on, showing off his abs. The Joker I KNOW was all about chaos. That’s what makes him scary; the fact that he isn’t much for “feelings” and doesn’t wear a frightening amount of bling-bling. But I guess it’s 2016 and this is what we get; a Joker feat. Skrillex. As for all of the other B-side villains, they are complete throwaways.

Final Thought: As much as I enjoyed “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (I know I’m in the minority here) “Suicide Squad” may be looked back upon as the beginning of the end for this particular cinematic DC universe. So, let me be the first to say it: RIP DC.

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The Conjuring 2


Markus Rating: 2 stars

James Wan is back to direct a second tale depicting paranormal researchers/ghost hunters Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren. But is it as scary as “The Conjuring”?

Synopsis: In the 1970’s Ed and Lorraine travel to England to investigate a haunting which locals refer to as London’s Amityville.

The Good: For the first hour, “The Conjuring 2” does almost everything right. Even though director James Wan essentially uses the same horror buildup’s, which lead to the same jump-scares and thus the same cranked up to 11 horror musical cues, that he always does; he does it all so well many may argue that Wan has created his own official horror style; a style which holds the highest rate of effectiveness in the genre. It’s as though with every movie he’s teaching a master-class in cookie-cutter horror direction, but does it better and more effectively than anyone working today.

The Bad: Little by little, there emerges this love story aspect between Ed and Lorraine. This love story is pushed along by some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard outside of a Harlequin romance. As this aspect moves to the forefront of the story, it becomes more cringe-inducing, reaching the point where every time Ed and Lorraine pause, turn and tell each other something unbearably lovey dovey, I couldn’t help but imagine that the latter half of “The Conjuring 2” would essentially be the movie Nicholas Sparks would make if he tried his hand at the horror film genre.

Along with said love story, there also emerged another questionable aspect which stops this film dead in its tracks time and time again. “The Conjuring 2” becomes a religious film; or at least contains a very religious undertone. I understand that movies dealing with hauntings and exorcisms go hand in hand with priest and bible verses, but this is different. I would almost liken the religious undertones this film takes on to movies like “Do You Believe?”, “Fireproof” or “Courageous”; films which seem like dramatic genre pieces, but end up morphing into Sunday School lessons. This aspect isn’t a bad thing, on face value. But much like the love story aspect, wholesome religious rhetoric seems way out of place in a film of this nature.

That said, there will be many who will be able to look past the sappiness and the Sunday School level preaching. But even if that’s the case, screenwriter Carey Hayes has one more surprise in store for those who reach the 2 hour mark; an ending which in its own right is idiotically simplistic, but whose explanation is so convoluted that as it begins, I looked down at the time and recoiled in horror at how long I’d been sitting there.

Final Thought: Do you remember “Insidious: Chapter 2”? I don’t and (looking back on my article) I gave it a positive review. That’s what “The Conjuring 2” is. Even if you enjoy this overlong British version of its predecessor (just with more religious asides and a painfully sappy Hallmark inspired love story crowbarred in) at the end of the day it’ll still be a forgettable film.

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Markus Rating: 1half star

Maybe after watching “Snowpiercer” and the Terry Gilliam canon, director Ben Wheatley decided to make a movie about people in a confined location, broken down into class systems, until all hell breaks loose (adapted from a novel by J.G. Ballard).

Synopsis: In a future where dogs are consumed and drowned, a bunch of people live in a high-rise and act peculiar. There are meant to be five buildings with a grand lake in the middle, acting as a palm of sorts (and the buildings are the fingers). This particular high-rise is the first one to be completed and seems to be all encompassing; there is a supermarket on the 15th floor, an entire floor dedicated to playing squash on, etc; with the wealthy living on the upper floors and the working-class on the lower. A doctor (played by Tom Hiddleston) moves in, but seems like a fish out of water within the upper class. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to know his business before he opens his mouth and that he begins to be put into very awkward Gilliam-esque social situations, time and time again.

With the best cinematography I’ve seen in any film all year, at many times “High-Rise” displays storytelling that can only be described as “incoherent”; except for every establishing shot, which shows Wheatley’s eye for spatial recognition (you are always aware of how high in up in the building you are at all times). But if you’re looking for a coherent storyline, then look elsewhere.  And if you make it to the second hour, you will only become more frustrated and more visually put-off by the nonsensical plot developments.

Final Thought: “High-Rise” seems to have a point about class systems being evil, but I don’t know what it is saying that hasn’t been said before, with much less “abstract meaning within the meaningless” sequences. Thus, the overall issue comes down to the fact that without a doubt 90% of audiences either  won’t grasp onto the odd little eccentricities that moves this story forward or won’t care enough to do so; basically giving up on this beautiful looking train-wreck, eventually.

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I Saw the Light

i saw the light

Markus Rating: 2 stars

There are all sorts of ways to tell someone’s story. But by far, a by-the-numbers type biopic is the most boring. Far too plain to pay homage in any kind of impactful way, “I Saw the Light” is deserving of little more than a spot on the Lifetime Channel.

Synopsis: The life and times of country-western singer, Hank Williams Sr.

Problem is (aside from the vanilla handling of the live fast, die young material) for the most part this movie flies though certain aspects of the story without explanation or exposition. I really never got to know who Hank Williams Sr. truly was. And it is my opinion that no matter how famous the subject, if one has to be a diehard fan or have read a book to grasp onto what they are watching, the director and/or screenwriter(s) (in this case, Marc Abraham) have failed their audience.

The performances from Tom Hiddleston (Hank Williams Sr.) and Elizabeth Olsen (Audrey Williams, Hank’s first wife) are more than serviceable, as these are two emerging powerhouses in their field. And at the end of the day, no matter how much I believe Abraham mishandled this story, “I Saw the Light” was always going to live and die on Hiddleston’s singing abilities (as Hiddleston’s actual singing voice is used in this film); an aspect which Abraham wasn’t afraid to put into the forefront of his feature. And the results are…well, he’s no Joaquin Phoenix.

Final Thought: It is impossible not to draw comparisons to James Mangold’s “Walk the Line”, as the both are bios of legendary country-western singers set within a decade of one another. But when you realize that “I Saw the Light” shows its hand within the first 20 minutes (meaning: this film was all it was ever going to be within the first 20 minutes) you may find yourself sinking in your seat, as the comparison will become so distractingly overwhelming, that it should find a majority to perceive “I Saw the Light” as instantly forgettable.

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Captain America: Civil War


Markus Rating:3-and-a-Half-Stars-Wht

With a first half that is little more than an overlong political drama and a second half filled with huge action, Whedon-esque quips from a multitude of super-cameos; capped off with a single (masterful) revelation sequence, the main reason “Captain America: Civil War” only garners 3 ½ stars has to do with a finale where…How do I say this without spoiling things?…“Captain America: Civil War”, a movie which contains the epic Iron Man vs. Captain America confrontation; a confrontation which has been at least four films in the making, settles on a resolution that can only be described as “civil”.

Synopsis: Do the Avengers do more harm than good?  NATO thinks so, as they petition to garner control of this super-group, after global outcry from citizens who were a part of the collateral damage seen in the last two Avengers films, request governmental restraint on the independently run team. This diplomatic plot device divides the group; with unresolved results.

Is it me or did that plot seem way too CNN for a superhero movie? Well, that’s because it was. And the deeper into the political well the extremely talkie “Civil War” fell into, the harder it became for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I potentially could be stuck watching an entire superhero film consisting of a series of repetitive moral and ethical round table discussions for 2 ½ hours.

Mid-Second Act, with the emergence of cameos from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)and the new Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who was shockingly the best part of the film, “Civil War” becomes the action packed superhero movie I’d been promised. During these moments (and only during these moments) do directors Anthony and Joe Russo shine. It just took so long to get there, as the plot did not warrant the pacing displayed within the first hour or so.

And it all seemed to be going well. I was now entertained. During the final Act I had become immersed in a Greek tragedy plot twist which had me leaning forward in my seat (essentially in a bloodlust). And then… Bottom line, the conclusion to this film was surprisingly tame. So much so, that in the end “Civil War” comes off as a set-up 3 ½ star film for an upcoming 5 Star film, rather than the 5 Star film all of its predecessors had been leading up to.

Final Thought: Not only was “Captain America: Winter Soldier” a better movie, but so was “Batman v. Superman”.

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My 10 favorite Twilight Zone episodes

Just finished watching the Twilight Zone marathon on the Syfy Channel and you know me, I had to make a list.

Here are my 10 favorites (in order):

 10. The Chaser:


A man buys a love potion at a discount in order to win the heart of a woman who is out of his league. Life is good, until the woman falls in love with him too much.

9. Probe 7, Over and Out:

probe 7

An interesting take on the story of Adam and Eve.

8. The Silence:


A very rich man makes a bet with a young and rather chatty member of the country club, that he cannot remain silent for a full year. The young man takes the bet. All I’ll say about this one is: A lot can happen in a year.

7. The Obsolete Man:


In the future obsolete people are executed. And now it’s the librarian’s turn.

6. To Serve Man:


An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and technological advancements. Meanwhile, A linguist and his team attempt to translate the alien’s language, using a discovered alien text, whose title roughly translates to: “To Serve Man”.

5. I Shot an Arrow into the Air:


A crew of astronauts fear that they’ve crashed landed on an asteroid and are now running out of water. Things are getting tense. But jokes on them. They may be closer to Earth than they think.

4. The Midnight Sun:


The sun is getting closer to Earth and the end is near. Or is the Sun moving away from the earth?

3. Time Enough at Last:


A bifocal wearing bookworm inadvertently survives a nuclear war. On the upside, he now has time to read.

2. It’s a Good Life:

its a good life

A kid with powers, sends the members of a small town to an unseen corn field if they don’t think happy thoughts.

1. Twenty Two:


“Room for one more, honey.” A woman recovering from exhaustion in a hospital keeps having the same dream over and over again. In the dream, every night she ventures down to the hospital morgue.

Just missed my list:
Night Call, Living Doll, What You Need


Top 10 Movies of 2015


Time to start my year anew; a new website for a new year. And what better way to start off the New Year than with a top ten list…a top ten list of last year’s movies, but you get what I’m trying to say.

Narrowly missing my list (in order):
16. Chappie
15. Creed
14. The Martian
13. Brooklyn
12. Predestination
11. Secret in Their Eyes

And now, for the 10 best films of 2015:

10. Jurassic World:Jurassic-World-Chris-Pratt-850x560

The first of two on my list that successfully rebooted an entire franchise in spectacular fashion. Telling this story on a new and much larger theme park, built around Jurassic Park, this much anticipated film gave audiences the “more factor” (more CGI, more dinosaurs, more actual “park”) but for a 4th installment, director Colin Trevorrow more importantly gave fans a fresh story with likeable characters (starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) all while not diluting the original product; as is the problem with many sequels.

9. The Big Short:the big short

Directed by Adam McKay (who injects some welcome levity, cutting the countless scenes of “make me feel bad” Michael Moore-esque finger wagging) and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, who collectively attempt to make the housing bubble collapse of nearly 10 years ago somewhat understandable. “The Big Short” gets an “A” for effort, while also standing as the most important movie of the year (and undoubtedly the one the most pretentious among us will claim to fully understand in order to save face). The problem is, much like 2009’s “Up in the Air” (my favorite movie of that year) “The Big Short” will be almost entirely forgotten in a couple of years. Nevertheless, it still deserves a spot on my list because (say it with me) it is the most important movie of this year.

8. The Hateful Eight:hateful-eight-jennifer-jason-leigh

Taking an appropriate spot on my list, “The Hateful Eight” is the newest Quentin Tarantino film that only a Tarantino fan could love. Meaning, you have to look past the aggressive violence (in this case) aggressive abuse towards women and the aggressively defiant use of the “N” word (and the fact that this movie is over 2 ½ hours long) in order to see how well plotted, beautifully filmed (especially the 70mm showings) and exploding with unabashed entertainment value it is. Or, if you’re a Tarantino fan (like I am) you won’t have to look past any of that. Depicting a post Civil War Wyoming blizzard, where a collection of lively characters of feuding races are held up in a cabin for the duration of a storm. Thing is, someone isn’t who they say they are, which leads to arguments, which leads to killing. Oh yes, does it lead to killing. No, “The Hateful Eight” isn’t Tarantino’s best work. But, even an above average Tarantino whodunit is wildly entertaining and superbly unique. In short, it’s still better than watching high octane, zero-substance cinema, like “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

7. Room:room

Not perfect and quite predictable, yet pulls every heartstring in reach. “Room” tells the story of a five year old boy and his mom, who are held prisoner in a shed. The shed is a prison for the mother, but is the only “world” the little boy has ever known. What gets this film on my list is Lenny Abrahamson’s direction (which is absolutely perfect) as she tells this story mostly through the eyes of the child. I dare you to watch this movie and not cry. It’s simply impossible.

6. The Visit:the visit

The first movie on my list which I enjoyed from start to finish and also a surprise entry, as I may be the only critic in America (if not, the world) who enjoyed “The Visit” enough to give it a place on a top ten list, “The Visit” concerns two children who visit their estranged grandparents; and soon enough the grandparents begin to act strange…and violent. I understand that many were more frightened by the fact that this was a film from the much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan. But I am here to tell you, that “The Visit” is a return to Twilight Zone form for M. Night. And yes, the twist was worth it this time.

5. It Follows:it follows

As more and more people got the chance to see “It Follows”, there have been are more and more who claim “It Follows” is more so flawed and dreadfully slow than it is scary and suspenseful. But I (a critic who has championed this film since its release) still stand by my initial praise that this is one of the scariest movies of recent years, not only because the feeling of suspense is palpable throughout the entire film (without rest) not only because the admittedly blunt allegory of a woman who has sex and then is relentlessly chased by an unseen monster is quite inventive (given the rules of this world) but mostly because “It Follows” will stay with you long after your viewing has ended. It will haunt you. It will follow you. And what more could you want out of a horror flick?

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: star wars

  Ripe with thirst quenching nostalgia; thanks to director J.J. Abrams, there may not even be a need for explanation as to why “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gets a spot here. I mean, chances are, out of all the movies on my list, this is the one you’ve seen. But OK, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second. Maybe this is a film that didn’t deserve a spot in a top ten list of “best films” of the year (let alone, a place so high on my list). I mean, the acting wasn’t anything spectacular, the visuals don’t rival a “space film” like “The Martian”, and the story is basically “A New Hope” warmed-over for a generation who had never seen “A New Hope”. But it’s my list. And I’m not lying when I say that watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the most fun I had in a theater all year.

3. Sicario:sicario

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, I suspect audiences who disliked “Sicario”, disliked it because it wasn’t a shoot-em-up, U.S vs. Mexico, Robert Rodriguez romp. “Sicario” is a calculated film that stands as the most accurate cinematic depiction of a war that’s going on in our very backyard. Concerning Mexican drug cartels and corrupt FBI agents, for me this film was as much eye opening as it was brutally alarming, as I viewed “realistic” U.S./Mexico relations which shook me to my core.

2. Beasts of No Nation:beasts of no nation

Brutal, violent, heartbreaking, unflinching, grotesque, realistic, tragic, “Beasts of No Nation” (not “Beasts of the Southern Wild) a film from the great Cary Fukunaga, stands as the hardest, yet the most beautifully compelling film to watch on my list; one which deserves a second, third and fourth viewing, because of its truthful depiction of a fictional war fought using child soldiers (a savage practice that still occurs today). Wait. You haven’t heard of this movie, you say? A movie that has taken the #2 spot on my list?! Well that might be because the big chain theaters refused to show it, since it was bought by Netflix, with plans of simultaneous release on the big and small screen. I truly believe that because it was released primarily on Netflix, many don’t even know this film exists. What a travesty!

1.Inside Out:Inside-Out-keyboard-642x396

Over the years only one Pixar film has ever reached my #1 spot; “Inside Out” will be the second. I previously stated that “The Big Short” was the most important film of the year, but in that same breath (and I truly believe this) “Inside Out”, an animated film about human emotions, may be the most important children’s film not only of this generation, but ever made. Yes, the animation is high caliber, but it is truly the adult themes made palatable for children and (though fabricated) a creative look at how memories are stored, what happens to our childhood imaginary friends, how a pre-teen sees the world vs. how a child going through puberty sees the world vs. how a grown-up sees the world, which makes “Inside Out” a watershed film in children’s entertainment.

Bonus: The Worst Films of 2015:

age of adaline

I didn’t see a whole lot of bad movies this year, but I did see 7! And here they are (in order):

7. The Lazarus Effect
6. The Loft
5: Taken 3
4. Sinister 2
3. The Green Inferno
2. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
1. The Age of Adaline: (the only one on my list that actually garners a small explanation, seeing how there were people who actually liked it) The story of a woman who gets electrocuted and now can live forever, actually sounds like (in the right hands) it could’ve lead to an interesting narrative. While this isn’t technically the most inept film I saw all year, it was the most boring and lifeless. This is one of those movies where you could leave to use the restroom, go get some popcorn, go out to your car, drive to the nearest Red Robin, have yourself a burger, eat the burger, tip big, drive back to the theater, find your seat and not have missed a damn thing. With the most annoying voice-over narration throughout as the cherry on top; a narration which rocked me into a cinematic coma, “The Age of Adaline” stands as the worst film of 2015.

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Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

Markus Rating:

Rated R for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence, and drug use

If you’re interested, then this movie will be interesting; at least for a while (more or less the first 90 minutes of this 2 ½ hour bio-“epic”. “Straight Outta Compton” tells the story of revolutionary rap group, N.W.A. (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dj Yella). Kicking off on the streets of Compton, California 1986 and documenting the groups rise as the pioneers of “gangsta rap”, their tumultuous break up, allegedly due to underhanded management from Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and introducing branches of rap legends which expanded from the N.W.A. tree, e.g. Snoop Dogg, Tu-Pac, etc. Problem is (much like that last sentence) the movie is just too damn long! And once Eazy-E starts coughing, the whole thing turns into an after school special, primarily due to an overarching repetitive atmosphere which director F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off) seems to choose over subtlety more often than not.

There were a few sequences that made me lean forward in my seat (The live performance of “F— the Police”, for one) and the script itself from Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) does its job; even going above and beyond at times, inserting a few “audience winks” throughout (I mean, there’s even a “bye Felicia” joke thrown into the mix). But it was the acting which was undoubtedly the stand-out aspect of this movie, highlighted by a performance from Ice Cube’s own son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., who, in his first ever acting gig, hits it out of the park playing his father.

Here’s the problem: The difference between “Straight Outta Compton” and an actual N.W.A. album is one carries a gritty, raw authenticity, and the other stars Paul Giamatti.

Not to say that there aren’t guns in this movie (or drugs or police brutality for that matter) but the fact that “Straight Outta Compton” looks so cinematic is an issue.

When comparing this to a movie like “Boyz n the Hood”, which while “fiction”, portrays an honest and personal look into the streets of Los Angeles during a similar time frame, I can safely say that I remember finding myself absolutely immersed in John Singleton’s depiction of said setting; to the point where by the end I felt as if I knew the neighborhood without even setting foot in the neighborhood. In retrospect this form of direction aided in my bond with other aspects of the film, acting as the connective tissue between me and the characters on screen.

“Straight Outta Compton” portrays true to life characters, all who actually grew up in Compton, but Gray’s glossy (and viciously repetitive) direction really gives viewers more of a distracting “XD” version of a story that deserved a grittier presentation.

Final Thought: It is obvious that Gray has a talent for music video direction and the cinematography here is technically perfect; just not for this movie, and thus curbing my viewing experience and creating a disconnect which resulted in me getting bored after the 90 minute mark.

By the way: Everyone who isn’t dead, in prison or white gets out of this film scot-free. And while I am not an expert on the breakup of N.W.A. (I was around 5 when it actually happened) the fact that this film took 10 years (as stated by Ice Cube himself) to make, leads me to believe a multitude of financial parties had to come to an agreement as to what could be shown and what past actions could do damage in the court of public opinion, and thus would need to be left on the cutting room floor. So, just a heads up: this is not a scathing expose detailing Dr. Dre’s abuse towards women, or anything like that. That said, this fact should not be held against the film itself, as it really has no bearing on ones viewing experience. Still, I believe that audiences have the right to know before entering the theater.

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Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland