Movie Review: “Suicide Squad”

Starring
Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Director
David Ayer

With the exception of “Star Wars: Rogue One,” David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” has been my most anticipated movie of 2016 since the first footage was released at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Though there was certainly reason to be concerned following the disaster of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and rumors of production troubles, the consistently excellent trailers – which promised a fun, irreverent comic book film in the same vein as “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” – helped quell those fears. Unfortunately, you can’t judge a movie based solely on its trailer, and that could not be any truer as far as “Suicide Squad” is concerned. Although it’s not as problematic as Zack Snyder’s superhero face-off, it’s just as disappointing, if only because it had the potential to be better.

Following the death of Superman, A.R.G.U.S. director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has created a contingency plan to deal with future metahuman threats in his absence: a covert team comprised of the world’s most dangerous criminals to carry out black ops missions for the government in exchange for reduced prison sentences. Led by no-nonsense soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and implanted with explosive devices in their necks to keep them in line, the codenamed Task Force X – which includes sharpshooter assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), Joker’s deranged sidekick Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), pyrokinetic gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Australian jewel thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and reptilian-skinned cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – is sent to rescue a high-value target who’s stranded in Midway City after it’s turned into a warzone by a powerful witch called Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Throwing a wrench in Waller’s plans is the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker (Jared Leto), who sets out to save his beloved Harley amid the ensuing chaos.

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Movie Review: “The Legend of Tarzan”

Starring
Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent
Director
David Yates

It’s been over 100 years since author Edgar Rice Burroughs published his first Tarzan novel and nearly half that long since the character was last relevant in pop culture, so it’s understandable why Warner Bros. may have thought it was a good idea to resurrect the franchise as a big summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, there’s a reason Tarzan hasn’t succeeded in recent times, and that’s because it’s a largely hokey premise that is firmly rooted in the sensibilities of a bygone era. Though director David Yates’ reboot is admirably old-fashioned in execution, a gorgeously filmed adventure movie shot with classic Hollywood grandeur, “The Legend of Tarzan®” is as soulless as the registered trademark symbol that appears on the opening title card.

Set in 1890, the film begins several years after the man formerly known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa to assume his rightful position as British aristocrat John Clayton III alongside his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). But when he receives an invitation from King Leopold II of Belgium to return to the Congo as a trade emissary for the House of Commons, American statesman George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) convinces him to go in order to investigate rumors that Leopold is using slave labor to colonize the country. Upon arriving in the Congo, however, John discovers that the whole trip is a ruse devised by Leopold’s trusted advisor, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), who has agreed to hand John over to a vengeful chieftain (Djimon Honsou) in exchange for diamonds needed to pay off Leopold’s mounting debt. John manages to evade capture, but Jane is kidnapped in the process, prompting him to unleash the beast he’s kept contained for so long in order to rescue her.

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Movie Review: “Z for Zachariah”

Starring
Margot Robbie, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director
Craig Zobel

Director Craig Zobel’s last feature film, 2012’s “Compliance,” was more than a little divisive. Nobody dismissed the quality of the filmmaking or the convincing performances, but the focus was on the story itself, which left audiences asking, “Why would someone do this?” But that was the point. What pushes people to make questionable decisions, ones that they didn’t think they were capable of making? Zobel’s newest movie, “Z for Zachariah,” poses a similar question, amongst many others in this deceptively simple post-apocalyptic tale.

The film is set in a near-future dystopia where most of humanity is gone. One of the survivors, Ann (Margot Robbie), lives on her father’s farm, managing to get by. She lives a fairly simple, lonely life, but that all changes when she meets Dr. John Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Though the man of science’s views clash with her religious beliefs, they soon develop a deep bond – one that’s interrupted by the arrival of another survivor named Caleb (Chris Pine). As they spend time together, Ann becomes torn between the two men, but this story is about much more than a love triangle.

As a love triangle, though, it’s quite challenging and brutal. There’s a scene where Dr. Loomis catches Caleb and Ann in a small moment of intimacy, and the way Ejiofor silently reacts in this scene is painful to watch. “Z for Zachariah” is a film that often plays its cards close to its chest. The biblical subtext is clear – Caleb is the snake that enters the Garden of Eden and temps Ann to sin – but it never calls too much attention to itself. A conversation about science vs. religion is secondary to the lead characters’ struggles.

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Movie Review: “Focus”

Starring
Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney
Directors
Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Movies about con artists are almost as difficult to pull off as an actual con. They need to be clever enough to outsmart and entertain the audience without being overly complex or resorting to narrative cheats. “Focus” is definitely entertaining at times, a flashy crime drama highlighted by a pair of movie star performances from Will Smith and Margot Robbie, but it also commits the aforementioned offenses in order to get to its twist ending… by way of several other twists, naturally. That’s not its biggest problem, however, because most con films break those rules at some point. Instead, it’s the fact that “Focus” is basically two movies stitched together by the same connective tissue, and only one of the halves is any good.

The film begins with a gorgeous woman named Jess (Robbie) picking up the charismatic Nicky (Smith) at a hotel bar, eventually taking their soiree upstairs to her room where her angry boyfriend kicks down the door and threatens to shoot Nicky unless he hands over his wallet. It’s a classic con, and one that Nicky knows all too well as a seasoned grifter himself. But Jess shows promise, so Nicky invites her to join his large-scale operation, hitting big events like the Super Bowl that are packed with crowds of easy marks (read: drunks and cheating husbands) for them to rob, swindle and shake down on the streets. After Jess gets burned by Nicky at the end of the job, the two go their separate ways until they cross paths again three years later when Nicky is hired by the wealthy owner (Rodrigo Santoro) of a Formula One racing team to help ruin a fellow competitor using his powers of persuasion. Everything is going according to plan when Nicky discovers that Jess is dating his new employer, and though he wants to make amends after the way he left things, Jess is unable to trust him, convinced that Nicky must to be working some kind of angle. The real question is whether Jess is too.

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Margot Robbie and Emma Stone shine in gold at The Oscars

The Oscars got plenty of buzz as usual last night with “Birdman” taking top honors. Of course the red carpet got just as much attention, which isn’t surprising when you see photos like this of the stunning Margot Robbie and the elegant and beautiful Emma Stone.

Both were wearing some impressive gold jewelry, with presenter Margot Robbie looking amazing in vintage gold Van Cleef & Arpels “Zip Antique Colombine” necklace featuring diamonds and sapphires set in 18K yellow gold.

Margot Robbie

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