Suicide Squad: Grading the Cast

Suicide Squad is Warner Bros.’ latest attempt at breathing life into its DC Comics cinematic universe. The movie has been getting a lot of attention, and most of it isn’t the kind the studio wants. Several friends and colleagues that I respect hated the movie. I didn’t think it was that bad. It certainly wasn’t a great superhero movie, but I’d watch it again on cable. Compared to this year’s superhero movies, I found it much better than Batman v Superman (aka Murderous Batman vs. Mopey-Ass Superman), but not nearly as good as Deadpool or Captain America: Civil War.

Having said that, I don’t feel like writing a proper movie review. Instead, I’m going to rate the Suicide Squad team members (as well as the puppet master and villains) individually. Let’s do this!

[Activate your spoiler shields, please.]

Suicide Squad Deadshot Harley Quinn
Suicide Squad: Deadshot and Harley Quinn

Deadshot (Will Smith) F: For me, Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot was the worst part of Suicide Squad. I’m a big fan of the character — both from the Suicide Squad and the Secret Six books. Smith’s performance was incredibly lazy and uninspired. He acted like Will Smith instead of Floyd Lawton. The guy that played Deadshot on Arrow did a much better job with the character. It’s amazing that a huge Hollywood star was considerably outperformed by a television actor on a CW show — a frickin’ CW show!

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) B+: Robbie is unbelievably sexy and gets an extra half-grade for that. Heterosexual male bias aside, she was one of the best parts of Suicide Squad. She did a fine job at portraying Harley as equal parts keenly intelligent and mentally unstable. While the accent was similar to the one she used in The Wolf of Wall Street, it totally worked for the character. I appreciated how she turned the severity of the accent up and down situationally throughout the movie. The biggest problem I had with her character had nothing to do with the actress, but how she was written and directed. Super Harley — the one that deftly dispatched supernatural beings with her fists and a baseball bat — threw me for a loop. When the hell did Harley become psychotic Wonder Woman?!?

Suicide Squad Amanda Waller
Suicide Squad Amanda Waller

Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) A: Suicide Squad’s government puppet master was outstanding. Davis completely owned this role, serving up a Waller that was razor sharp, manipulative, and terrifying. She left you with a feeling of, “You do not want to f*ck with this woman.” From the comfort of the other side of the screen, it was fun enjoying her cold and calculating portrayal. Waller is one of my favorite characters in the DCU and I was thrilled that David brought her to life so perfectly.

The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) B-: Again, my heterosexual maleness requires me to give an extra half-grade boost to Miss Delevingne for being astonishingly beautiful. She also gets another half-grade for coming from a wealthy family. In my dreams, Cara Delevingne makes me a kept man. In Suicide Squad, she was a little bit silly. She played the victim, June Moon, well enough. As the Enchantress, the director had her doing some ridiculous things. While I was mostly enjoying watching her gyrate like a stripper as she was casting spells, there was a point where I thought, “Come on man. You’re just exploiting her hotness.” Still, she’s gorgeous, she’s rich, and she has incredible eyebrows; it’s tough for me to criticize anything she does. #truth

Suicide Squad Joker
Suicide Squad Joker

The Joker (Jared Leto) B+: Several of my friends have bashed Leto’s performance as the Joker, but I loved it. He gave the Clown Prince of Crime a modern and edgy feel. I found Leto’s Joker much scarier and more realistic than Ledger’s Joker. I’d love to see more of him in a proper Batman movie.

Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) C: I’m actually not sure what to do with this grade. I am of the opinion that Jai Courtney sucks and has the best management team in Hollywood. I’m baffled that he gets so many big roles with such little talent. My friend Solomon pointed out that Captain Boomerang sucks in the comics (many writers have portrayed Boomer as a joke among DC villains). From that perspective, hiring an actor that sucks to play a villain that sucks could be considered inspired casting. However, I’m certain that the studio didn’t think that deeply. Courtney was surprisingly acceptable in this limited role, which is probably his best “acting” to date.

Suicide Squad Rick Flag
Suicide Squad Rick Flag

Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) B: I’ve never seen this actor before, but left the movie impressed by his performance. He did a good job of playing the straight-laced protagonist surrounded by insane people. His role might of been the trickiest of all, because Suicide Squad is all about letting the villains shine. He had his moments when appropriate, but otherwise let the baddies do their thing.

On a side note, Kinnaman kind of looks like WWE Edge. Whenever Flag popped up onscreen I thought, “You think you know me.”

Katana (Karen Fukuhara) D+: As a Katana fan, this performance was disappointing. She added nothing to Suicide Squad. Take out all of her scenes and the movie is pretty much the same. You’re not given a reason to care about Katana, so when she had her big crying scene, it felt empty. She added nothing of consequence to the movie, which is a shame because Tatsu is a cool character. Similar to movie Deadshot, movie Katana is inferior to CW Arrow Katana.

Diablo (Jay Hernandez) C+: I liked this character up until the end of the movie. He was fun as the super-powerful but reluctant villain enlisted to do good. I’m not sure how, but hours (in movie time) of doing nothing and whining caused him to think of the other Suicide Squad members as family. Uh…okay. Expectedly, he got all sentimental and sacrificial, but his face turn lacked weight.

Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) C-: The character looked really cool, so he gets an extra half-grade on behalf of the makeup team. However, he was almost as useless as Katana. He was instrumental in a scene that required swimming…and that’s about it.

Slipknot (Adam Beach) Incomplete: I love that the movie played on Slipknot’s mishap with the implants from the comics (but in a much deadlier way), with Captain Boomerang as the impetus. In the immortal words of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, “Bwahahahahahaha!!!”

Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale: 11 Observations

The Game of Thrones season 6 finale was mostly incredible. There were big revelations. There was an awesome green explosion. There was lots of character development. And there was some of the best acting and music the series has ever known. After two viewings, I’m still trying to digest it all. Naturally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s finale. For my part, here are 11 observations to get things started.

[Raise your spoiler shields, please!]

1) The Music Was Brilliant: The first sequence of the Game of Thrones season 6 finale felt different from any other scene in the series, simply because of the music. Game of Thrones music is normally string-heavy, but this composition featured piano and cello. The score helped make the sequence feel unique and more powerful.

2) Pycelle’s Death Will Haunt Senior Citizens: I’m pretty sure most people over 65 have this nightmare — a gang of children pummeling you and stabbing you to death. Or maybe this is what makes Santa Claus wake up in a cold sweat in the North Pole.

Game of Thrones finale Tommen
Tommen Lannister or Jeff Hardy?

3) Tommen Would’ve Been a Great Pro-Wrestler: What did you think of Tommen Lannister’s Game of Thrones season 6 finale exit? Some are saying that he fell out of the castle. Others are saying that he dove out of the castle (in which case, he lost points for not sticking the landing). I’m saying that he went for a swanton bomb. His “suicide dive” totally reminded me of Jeff Hardy’s swanton.

4) Cersei Has Gone Full Sith: Cersei Lannister borrowed one of Maleficent’s gowns and fully embraced the dark side in the Game of Thrones season 6 finale. Her one redeeming quality (aside from her cheekbones) was how much she loved her children. With all of her kids pushing up daisies she probably thought, “F*ck it. I’m going to rule everything!!!” In previous seasons, her plans were never as clever as she thought they were. At the end of this season, she was completely victorious.

Game of Thrones Finale Cersei
Cersei raided Maleficent’s wardrobe.

5) Ned Stark’s Character is Still Being Developed: My heart melted during the Tower of Joy scene, where it was finally revealed that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark’s bastard and is really Lyanna Stark’s son. As fantastic as that reveal was, it really made me think about what an honorable man Ned was. He honored his sister’s last request, keeping an enormous secret from his wife and best friend. He (lightly) sullied his own name and let the world think that he disrespected his wife, all for Lyanna and her son.

Go back and watch the scenes from season 1 where someone bring’s up Jon’s parentage to Ned; you could tell the topic made him uncomfortable and those scenes feel even heavier with the official reveal.

Game of Thrones Finale Davos
Davos yells, “I said hold the mayo!!!”

6) Liam Cunningham, Actor: The scene with Davos Seaworth dressing down Melisandre was short, but boy was it heavy. Cunningham did the most with his time. You could feel Davos’ anger, anguish, and sorrow coming through. While it was “only” my second-favorite scene in the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, it was definitely the most skillfully acted one.

7) Samwell Tarly Has an Orgasm in the Library: Sam walking into the Citadel library reminded me of the scene in Beauty in the Beast where Belle sees Beast’s library…but taken to the next level. I’m certain Sam had a walking wet dream upon seeing the thousands of books at his disposal. Hopefully he does some research on white walkers and doesn’t get lost in trashy romance novels written by lonely maesters.

8) Lord Wyman Manderly Should’ve Been Fatter: Yes, the showrunners got a large man to play Manderly, but he wasn’t large enough. In the books, he’s derided as “Lord Too Fat to Sit a Horse.” Television Manderly could easily ride on a (sturdy) horse. This was my biggest disappointment with the Game of Thrones season 6 finale.

Game of Thrones Finale Lyanna
Lyanna Mormont completely own.

9) Lyanna Mormont Should Rule Westeros: With a thrashing speech, the 10-year old ruler of Bear Island united the squabbling northerners and got Jon Snow declared as the new KingInDaNorf King in the North. This was my favorite Game of Thrones season 6 finale scene on several levels. First, Lady Mormont owns and should be ruling Westeros. Secondly, Jon Snow’s KingInDaNorf King in the North moment mirrored Robb Stark’s nicely. Lastly, I loved the bit of uncertainty thrown in at the end when Sansa stops smiling as she exchanges looks with Littlefinger. Was Sansa happy to throw a wrench into his plans? Or does she want power of her own? I’m curious to see what games, if any, she’ll play next season. She shouldn’t get too ambitious though, because Lyanna Mormont will annihilate her with a glance.

10) Jaime’s Having Bad Flashbacks: The Kingslayer’s return to King’s Landing must’ve been quite a shock. (Let’s assume someone clued him into recent events on the way to the throne room.) He comes home to find that the last of his children died and his sisterlover went all Mad King Aerys. Remember, he’s ridiculed as the Kingslayer, but few people in Westeros know about Aerys’ vile wildfire plans. With his children gone and his sisterlover doing the exact thing he committed regicide for, this is a huge turning point for Jaime Lannister. I’m looking forward to his redemption angle next season. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended becoming a Queenslayer as well. That would arguably fit into Maggy the Frog’s prophecy for Cersei.

Game of Thrones Finale Team Targaryen
Team Targaryen has diverse #SquadGoals.

11) Team Targaryen is Ready to Rock Westeros: Daenerys and Varys are fantastic recruiters. Just look at that fleet at the end of the show. You’ve got the Unsullied, Dothraki, and three dragons flying under the Targaryen banner. They’re joined by boats and troops from House Tyrell, House Martell, and House Greyjoy. While Cersei Lannister is sitting pretty in King’s Landing at the end of the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, a formidable force is coming for her from the east. I can’t wait for next season’s battles!

Random Thoughts on Game of Thrones S6E9

The penultimate episodes of Game of Thrones are almost always the best ones in a given season. With that in mind, “Battle of the Bastards” delivered. By most accounts season six has been a strong outing for Game of Thrones and last night’s episode was the best of the bunch. It was a marvelous blend of emotional moments, brutal choreography, and some of the best cinematography the series has ever seen. Here are some random thoughts on “Battle of the Bastards,” using the RPadTV binary system. Time to don your spoiler shields, please.

Good: This episode must have cost a fortune. Between the dragon CGI and all the people involved in the titular Battle of the Bastards, I don’t know that I’ve seen an hour of TV that looked so expensive to produce. (Leave a comment if you can think of any, please). Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s tackle the episode in a (somewhat) chronological fashion.

Good: The action kicks off in Mereen, which has been a dull destination this season…but not today! After a mildly amusing conversation between Tyrion and Daenerys, Dany’s crew has a completely amusing encounter with the wise masters (who are apparently masters of guyliner). After some clever banter, Dany goes into full Khaleesi mode with her three dragons and it’s absolutely glorious. Watching them burn down slaver ships instantly transforms you into a gleeful teenager. Dracarys motherf*ckers!!! On the ground, Daario and the Dothraki slice up the Sons of the Harpy. Back at the top of the pyramid, Grey Worm makes the slavers’ guards wet themselves with a few choice words. The head of the Unsullied then slices two of the slavers’ throats with one shot and (awesomely) takes a few seconds to adjust his vest. The opening is completely exhilarating, mostly because of the dragons, but I got a kick out of Grey Worm too.

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards Dany
Dracarys m@therf*ckers!!!

Good: Outside of Winterfell, the bastards parley. Jon thinks he’s cleverly manipulating Ramsay, but he’s back in “You Know Nothing Jon Snow” mode. As expected, Ramsay is in psychotic dick mode and accentuates the word “bastard” while talking to Jon. Snow asks for a one-on-one battle, but Ramsay refuses. The Battle of the Bastards is on.

Good: Jon’s Battle of the Bastards war council devises a plan. It’s quite clear that Davos is the smartest person in the room (militarily speaking). They come up with a desperate strategy that hinges on them being patient and letting Ramsay’s forces charge. Sansa chides Jon for not valuing her knowledge of Ramsay. She tells him that Ramsay plays and doesn’t get played. Jon responds with, “Oh yeah? I fought white walkers!” Sansa is cold, dismissing her brother Rickon’s chances at survival. She’s also secretive, not telling Jon about her messages to the Vale and the forces that are coming. Some people dismiss this as idiocy, but I see it as her being manipulative. If the Arryn soldiers were already with Jon’s crew, Ramsay would have happily holed up in Winterfell and outlasted a siege. Showing up with a relatively small army gave Ramsay the confidence to come out and play. Sansa’s desire to see Ramsay dead is equal to her desire to reclaim her family’s home. That’s my theory, anyway.

Good: Davos and Tormund have a fun conversation before the former goes off to be alone with his thoughts. Jon visits the (still) despondent Melisandre. He asks her not to bring him back if he dies again. They wonder why the Lord of Light brought him back in the first place. Their exchange is meant to give Jon a sense of vulnerability in the Battle of the Bastards, but any reasonable fan knows that he’s going to survive. The scene shifts back to insomniac Davos, who comes across some snow-covered ashes and finds the stag toy he gave to Princess Shireen. He realizes that the little girl that taught him how to read was burned to death and it’s a powerful scene. The shot of him standing over the pyre, with the sun coming up and his cape blowing in the wind is just beautiful. It’s the Game of Thrones equivalent of Luke Skywalker staring at the twin-sun skies of Tatooine. Before Davos can dwell on this morbid revelation, the battle horns sound.

Game of Thrones Battle of the Bastards Davos
Davos wonders how Shireen’s toy got on this pile of ashes and child bones.

Good: Back to Mereen for a quick bit, Asha Yara and Theon have come to parley with Dany. They offer her 100 ships and their support, in exchange for granting the Iron Islands independence. Dany agrees on the condition that the Iron Islanders cease their rape-and-pillage lifestyle. There are several interesting things here. It’s nice to see both Tyrion and Theon comfortably slip into the role of valued advisor. The bigger thing is the connection between Dany and Asha Yara. They identify with each other — women in a male-dominated world, insane fathers, usurpers that killed their insane fathers, etc. They both admire what the other is doing and there’s an instant bond. Naturally, most immature male viewers want them to be a lesbian couple. This immature male viewer would rather see them form a Taylor Swift squad of kick-ass Westerosi women. Naturally, leadership would eventually go to Lyanna Mormont.

Good: The combatants in the Battle of the Bastards are lined up! Ramsay starts the skirmish in an expectedly sadistic way — releasing Rickon while firing arrows at him. Apparently Rickon never played tag as a kid, because moron runs to Jon’s side in a straight line. His chances of survival would have went up exponentially if he zigged and zagged. Serpentine, Rickon, serpentine! After a few playful misses, Ramsay shoots Rickon straight through the chest. More importantly, Ramsay played Jon as Sansa predicted. He idiotically leaves himself open in the middle of the battlefield. Inexplicably, Jon opts for a 1-on-6,000 battle and continues to rush the enemy. Thankfully, Davos is smart enough to realize that they have no choice but to cancel their plans and charge into battle, in order to defend their leader.

Good: From here, the Battle of the Bastards gets completely nuts. It appears as if Ramsay’s forces are going to slice up Jon, but Snow’s team rushes into the fray. The melee combat is chaotic and intentionally disconcerting. On the fringes of the battle, there’s a nice contrast between the teams’ ranged strategy. Davos opts to hold fire, since they’d end up killing some of their own men. Ramsay lets the shots fly, oblivious to any collateral damage. It’s also interesting that Jon chooses to fight with his men, while Ramsay calls the shots from a safe distance.

Five minutes into the battle, Jon is a bloody and dirty mess. He goes into beast mode, dealing death at a rapid pace while miraculously avoiding volleys of arrows (some call it plot armor, but I’m chalking it up to R’hlorr). The combat is visceral and frenzied (totally admired the choreography, filming, and editing). Ten minutes into the Battle of the Bastards, there are piles of dead bodies fertilizing the plains of Winterfell. It gets to the point where fighting is taking place on top of small hills of corpses.

The Battle of the Bastards escalates as Davos’ unit charges the field and Smalljon Umber’s does the same for Ramsay’s side. Unfortunately for the good guys, they’re encircled by Ramsay’s soldiers in a phalanx-like formation. The baddies keep closing in, stabbing Snow’s army with pikes while forcing them into a tighter space. Within the circle of death, Wun Wun gets to show off his giant-ness. More chaotic melee combat ensues. You see spilling guts and severed limbs. It’s all hypnotically awful.

The Free Folk try to retreat from the phalanx and attempt to charge over the hill of corpses. Jon gets caught in the charge in an amazing sequence. He’s drowned by bodies and the sensation of helplessness is palpable. He’s trying to make it through the dead bodies surrounding him and the live ones running him over. I actually felt claustrophobic as I was watching the scene.

It looks like a total victory for Ramsay…when suddenly the knights of the Vale arrive. Borrowing a page from the Rohirrim, they break through the phalanx. After getting his ass handed to him by Smalljon, Tormund bites out his jugular and stabs him with a tooth. Wun Wun starts smacking around Ramsay’s soldiers with a shield. The tide has turned, as Littlefinger and Sansa watch from afar, satisfied by their machinations.

Battle of the Bastards Littlefinger Sansa
Littlefinger’s thinking, “I’m gonna get some tonight!”

Good: Ramsay retreats to Winterfell Castle, pursued by Jon, Tormund, and Wun Wun. The Bolton Bastard thinks he’s safe inside the castle walls, but a barricaded door is no match for a giant. Wun Wun breaks through the door, but takes a ton of arrows. He ends up looking liking a giant-sized version of dead Boromir. He’s moments away from death and has a nice unspoken scene with Jon…that’s ruined from a Ramsay arrow to the eye.

Jon and Ramsay go one-on-one. For some reason it’s bow-and-arrow vs. shield. Uh…okay. It ends with Jon punching Ramsay into a bloody pulp. He’s about to beat him to death, but spares him for his half-sister. After all that she’s been through, it’s Sansa’s right to deal with Ramsay.

And she does so in a satisfying though predictable way. With his predilection for feeding people to his dogs, I thought Ramsay would die by getting eaten by his own dogs or getting eaten by Ghost. Ramsay wakes up in the kennels, tied to a chair. Sansa says that the world will forget him and his house. She watches as Ramsay’s own dogs eat him, before walking away with a feint smile. It’s a remarkable turn for Sansa. She left Winterfell as an idealistic and foolish girl that dreamed of marrying the prince. She returned as a hardened and manipulative woman that didn’t think twice about her brother being a casualty of war or feeding an enemy to dogs. That’s quite the 180, don’t you agree?

Lastly, I totally marked out when the direwolf banners replaced the flayed man banners at Winterfell. I hope the change is made in the opening credits too.

Battle of the Bastards Tormund Jon Wun Wun
Team Snow about to slay some Bolton ass.

Bottom Line: This was an amazing episode of Game of Thrones. The battle in Mereen and the Battle of the Bastards were fantastic. The action was incredibly well executed, while there was enough entertaining dialogue. There are some viewers that are saying the episode was predictable and derivative of The Lord of the Rings movies, but those are the kind of people that eat fun and crap misery. This is up there with the other huge battle episodes like “Hardhome” and “Blackwater.” It’s the best episode of a very strong of Game of Thrones.

Random Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is the best Avengers movie Marvel Studios has made. That was an easy conclusion to arrive to. It’s quite possibly the best or, at the very least, one of the three best movies from the studio. After seeing the movie last night, that seemed like a reasonable opinion, but I wanted to sleep on it in order to give my movierection (a medical term) a chance to settle down. After reflecting a bit on Captain America: Civil War, I can totally understand the argument that it’s the best Marvel Studios film to date and also accept the opinion that it’s not. Let’s keep the examination going, with the RPadTV binary not-a-review of Captain America: Civil War.

[Turn on your spoiler shields!]

It’s An Avengers Movie, Not a Cap Movie (Good): Although he’s the titular character in Captain America: Civil War, this is very much an ensemble movie. Sure, Cap and Iron Man are at the forefront, but many characters get a chance to shine. Some help drive the plot forward (The Winter Soldier, Black Panther), while others are comedic scene stealers (Ant-Man, Spider-Man). Whatever the case may be, this is definitely an Avengers film…and the best one ever, at that.

Scarlet Witch Still Sucks (Bad): I’ve been high on Elizabeth Olsen for years, but was puzzled by her portrayal of the Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Once you get past her hotness, I’m not sure what she does for the movie. Speaking with a bad accent and doing funny things with her fingers doesn’t add much to the film. That said, these are very minor criticisms of Captain America: Civil War. That’s how good the movie is — you have to actively look for flaws and it’s difficult to find anything significant.

Tony Stark is a Dick (Good): Similar to his heel turn in the Civil War comics, Iron Man is pretty much a dick in the movie. His emotions are manipulated (perhaps too easily), leading to irrational thoughts and actions. I suppose your political leanings come into play on whether you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan, but to me, Tony is clearly the villain in Captain America: Civil War.

Captain America Civil War
Avengers, Disassemble!

Wonderfully Diverse Comedy (Good): I loved the humor in this movie. It’s frequent and diverse, without getting in the way of a serious conflict. Ant-Man’s bits were wonderful. Spider-Man will win the hearts of millions. I even enjoyed the deadpan rapport between Falcon and Winter Soldier. For me, this is what separates Captain America: Civil War from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Many cite the latter as Marvel Studios’ best, but I prefer Civil War. I won’t argue with anyone that thinks The Winter Soldier is Better, because that’s an understandable opinion, but I’ll watch Civil War exponentially more in the future, simply because the comedy balances the drama. Also, the jokes about Marisa Tomei’s age and beauty were excellent…though I’m still not sure the world is ready for Hot Aunt May.

Lack of Anger Management (Bad): While I understand that they needed to be Cap’s antagonists, it was somewhat disappointing to see Iron Man and Black Panther suffer from ridiculous mad-ons. The former is supposed to be one of the smartest people in the world, while the latter is supposed to be one of the noblest Avengers. For most of the movie, both gave into their anger and went full Sith. Much of the conflict would have been avoided if everyone — those two in particular — calmed down and applied some rational thought to the situation. Of course, the movie would have been much shorter….

The New Guys (Good): Although he was irrationally angry for much of the film, Black Panther was pretty frickin’ cool. His fight scenes were dynamic and his costume looked great. Ant-Man (new in The Avengers movie sense) was pretty awesome on several levels. I mentioned his comedic bits before, but I love the way the movies portray his shrinking powers and it was brilliant to see him as Giant Man for a bit. Spider-Man lived up to his comic-book adjectives — amazing and spectacular. Spidey’s CG was fantastic and it was fun having an innocent character around for a heavy conflict.

You're either #TeamCap or a communist traitor
You’re either #TeamCap or a communist traitor

Second Comings (Good): Winter Soldier and Falcon have grown into their characters nicely. I’m a huge mark for the comics version of Winter Soldier and Bucky Cap. Sebastian Stan was very good in that role. Falcon, who’s pretty lame in the comics, was great in the movie. Anthony Mackie did an admirable job as the Avenger’s birdman. His new tech made him look cool and he brought a confidence to the role that makes him much more than Captain America’s token African-American friend. That said, I will always see him as Papa Doc from 8-Mile. It would have been awesome if the Civil War conflict came down to a freestyle rap battle between Falcon and Vision.

Wanton Violence (Good): In previous Avengers movies, the good guys spent most of their time beating up aliens and robots. You never really felt the weight of the violence. Seeing Captain America and Iron Man bloodied, bruised, and battered hit much closer to home. The violence was borderline shocking, especially because former friends and allies were truly taking it to each other.

Best Action Ever (Good): Marvel Studios has really upped the ante on its action sequences. Whether it’s visceral melee combat, thrilling chase scenes, or fanboy-squeal inducing super-power sequences, Captain America: Civil War has raised the bar for Marvel action. I enjoyed every bit of action in the movie and will certainly pay to see it again.

Masterful Pacing (Good): I was shocked to see that the runtime of Captain America: Civil War is 146 minutes. The directors and writers did an incredible job of weaving action and comedy into a dramatic conflict, allowing the film to move at a zippy pace. While I loved Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that movie feels like it’s 136 minutes.

Captain America Civil War Spider-Man
Spidey-Cap?

Bottom Line: As I was leaving the movie, I said to my excellent friend Paul, “It’s hard to think of anything wrong with that movie.” While I understand that abandoning logic was necessary for the hero vs. hero conflict, the worst thing I can say about Captain America: Civil War is that Scarlet Witch’s accent and finger motions were silly. For me, it’s definitely in my top three Marvel Studios films, along with Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There’s a good chance that it’ll end up being my favorite (I need to see it a few more times). Its combination of amazing action, excellent comedy, and a weighty conflict completely worked for me.

For another take on Captain America: Civil War, check out this PaulSemel.com review.

Random Thoughts on Deadpool (Movie Review)

Deadpool’s journey from pulp to cinema took many twists and turns. People were worried that a big movie studio wouldn’t let Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth” be true to the comics. Some were worried that the Deadpool movie couldn’t possibly live up to the outstanding marketing campaign that preceded it. I’m incredibly happy to tell you that the movie is all that and then some. The movie is true to one of Marvel’s most unique characters and Fox’s best comic-book movie to date.

Now let’s break it down using the hallowed RPadTV binary system. Naturally, turn on your spoiler shields!

Ryan Reynolds Redeemed (Good): It’s no secret that I hated the Green Lantern movie — like physically, palpably hated that piece of sh*t. I was a Ryan Reynolds fan going into Green Lantern and wanted to kick the crap out of him after watching that craptastic failure of a film. He ruined one of my favorite characters in comics and I was deathly afraid that he was going to do it again, but…

Deadpool was so enjoyable that after the movie was over, I thought to myself, “You’re forgiven, Ryan Reynolds. It’s all good.” It took a remarkable effort (maximum effort!) and a great performance to redeem him, but Reynolds did it (to my delightful amazement).

Best. Opening. Credits. Ever. (Good): I can’t even spoil this one for you. It was too good. It even had little Easter eggs, like Rob L’s cup of coffee.

Deadpool Movie Review 2

Perfect Tone (Good): As expected, there were some changes from the source material, but the tone of the movie and the character were spot on. The combination of Reynolds’ performance, sharp writing, crude language, and ridiculous action made the movie feel like the real Deadpool. Of course it wasn’t as literal as The Watchmen, but Deadpool is still among the most faithful movie adaptations of a comic book.

Daario Nawhatshisface (Bad): One of the movie’s few weaknesses was Ajax. The movie version of the villain was totally “generic British baddie.” Actor Ed Skrein had a few fun moments, but his performance was otherwise flat. Also, I couldn’t stop seeing him as Daario Naharis v1 from Game of Thrones. I’m pretty sure all Game of Thrones fans that see Deadpool will recognize him. Those summer teeth are unforgettable.

Angel Dust (Bad): While Gina Carano made for a menacing villainess, I was bummed that this role was a budgetary amalgam. Originally, the cast of baddies was larger. For monetary reasons, the characters of Garrison Kane, Sluggo, and Wyre were mashed into Angel Dust. I’m particularly fond of the Kane character, so it was a bummer that he didn’t make the cut. While Carano had some nice fight scenes, her acting is…pretty much what you’d expect from an ex-MMA fighter.

Fourth Wall Follies (Good): One of the most entertaining aspects of Deadpool (the comics character) is his penchant for breaking down the fourth wall. Deadpool (the movie character) does this too and he does it well. It would have been easy to lean too heavily on this device, but I think the writers kept it on the right side of the line between entertaining and overzealous. The fourth-wall humor and constant pop-culture references are two of the reasons the Deadpool character is unique and they had to be part of the movie. Witty words delivered sharply by Reynolds made it work.

Deadpool Negasonic Teenage Warhead

Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Good): Okay, the movie version of the character is nothing like the comics version, but it totally worked. Brianna Hildebrand had a small role in the film, but she maximized her screen time. She was great as an angsty teen mutant with energy-based powers. Plus, it’s just fun to say and type Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Negasonic Teenage Warhead — see?!?

Surprisingly Heartfelt (Good): One aspect of the movie that I wasn’t expecting was effective romance. Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin had great onscreen chemistry, making the romance between Deadpool and Vanessa believable. The movie had a shocking amount of romantic charm, making it one of the few comic-book movies that works for a Valentine’s Day date (provided you’re dating or married to a cool chick).

Ultra Violence (Good): Like the comics, the Deadpool movie has a zany type of violence. Fierce gunplay, acrobatic swordsmanship, and physical comedy were blended together marvelously. There was a nice contrast between Deadpool’s dynamic fight scenes and Colossus’ power moves. The brief “fight” between Deadpool and Colossus was frickin’ hilarious.

Music Sweet Music (Good): You have to give it up for a movie that effectively uses Juice Newton, Salt-N-Pepa, Neil Sedaka, Chicago, and Wham! in the same soundtrack.

Bring On the Director’s Cut (Good): I’m looking forward to watching a longer edit of the movie. As it is, the pace of the theatrical release is just about perfect for a mainstream audience. As a lifelong comics nerd, I want more — especially more scenes with Weasel and Blind Al. I love both of those characters and the talent playing them in movie is fantastic.

Bottom Line: Deadpool exceeded my expectations. I was expecting a movie packed with raucous action and lewd humor. While the movie did have those elements, it also had deeper characterization than I was expecting, as well as smarter writing. Deadpool has been one of my favorite Marvel characters for decades and I’m thrilled that Fox did him justice on the big screen. Again, I’m comfortable saying that this is Fox’s best comic-book movie to date. More importantly, I’m happy to say that Deadpool makes up for the travesty that was Green Lantern. Thank you, Ryan Reynolds, for championing this movie and delivering a fantastic performance.

Random Thoughts on Lucifer S1E1

As a huge fan of The Sandman: Season of Mists, I was curious about the Lucifer television series. In the comics, Lucifer Morningstar is the lord of hell and has grown tired of ruling the damned for 10,000,000,000 years. He absconds his throne, throwing the world of gods in disarray. His adventures continue in his own comic, which blends supernatural adventures with a core theme — predestination vs. free will. The first episode of the Lucifer television series touches on this theme, but adds a new dimension that could be possibly doom the series.

Here are some random thoughts on Lucifer season one episode one, brought to you in battle-tested RPadTV binary system.

Lucifer s1e1

Charming Cast (Good): Tom Ellis is absolutely delightful as Lucifer Morningstar. He’s charming, witty, and hilarious. As you’d expected from a devilish character, he’s dashingly obnoxious. He’s kind of a dick, but you can’t help but like him.

The rapport between Ellis and Lauren German (playing LAPD detective Chloe Decker) is excellent. They play off of each other well, in a way that you’d expect established characters in a third season of a TV show to work with each other. Their vibe is so strong in the pilot and I’m looking forward to seeing it burgeon.

LAPD What?!? (Bad): From what I’ve read, the former lord of hell will be spending a bulk of the season…assisting LAPD investigations. This seems idiotic and takes away from the character’s central theme. What made the books so enjoyable is the dichotomy of Lucifer’s life; running a club in Los Angeles and dealing with gods from different pantheons is a stark contrast.

My fear is that the LAPD angle will make the show seem too much like NYPD: Satan or CSI: Fallen Angel. If the show winds up being a procedural then that would be a big fail. At its best, the comics examine how much free will beings (human and otherwise) really have vs. everything being part of God’s plan. That’s what I want the focus of the show to be (set in the ridiculous backdrop of the ridiculous city of Los Angeles).

Lucifer s1e1

Great Cinematography (Good, duh): The visuals of Lucifer surprised me. My expectations for a Fox television show are low and I was impressed by Lucifer’s feel. The show favors an oversaturated color palette, giving Los Angeles a dreamy look. In some ways, the gratuitous portrayal of Los Angeles reminded me of how the city was used in Entourage, but in a more artful and less heavy-handed fashion.

Angel (Good): The angel Amenadiel was introduced early in the show, trying to get Lucifer back to his station in hell. I want more of this and less of the LAPD nonsense. Amenadiel is a proud angel and clearly hates Lucifer. He also seems annoyed with being tasked with getting a guy to do his damn job. Hell not having a ruler has enormous repercussions for the universe and God isn’t too happy about it. Since the protagonist of the show is supernatural, I want to see him in supernatural adventures dealing with angels, God, and gods. Hopefully Amenadiel play a bigger role in future episodes.

Angels (Bad): The downer is that Amenadiel looks like he’ll be an amalgam of the various angels used in The Sandman and Lucifer comics. Instead of having multiple angels, the Lucifer television show seems to have one serving all of their roles. I’d rather see Amenadiel, Michael, Gabriel, Duma, and Remiel on the show separately than one Swiss Army Knife angel. Though I suppose the angel mash was necessary in order for Lucifer to romp around with an LAPD detective. *sigh*

Lucifer Amenadiel

Mazikeen (Bad): In the comics, Mazikeen first appears as a frail and deformed demon that’s completely devoted to Lucifer. She develops into a strong and powerful character with enough moxie to call Lucifer out on his crap. In the television show, Mazikeen already has the attitude and is tired of Lucifer simply being a nightclub owner. I’m bummed that the show won’t show this character’s interesting development.

Bottom Line: I went into Lucifer episode one with a lot of apprehension. The LAPD angle is infuriatingly stupid and I don’t see any way that it will work out. Despite that, I enjoyed the pilot. Tom Ellis and Lauren German were great. The imagery was surprisingly strong. While I don’t have high hopes for the series in the long run, I’m going to give it a few more episodes.

Random Thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There’s so much that I want to say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Thankfully, this website lets me share my (silly) stream of consciousness with the world. Today’s “not a review” uses the tried and true RPadTV binary system for lots of random thoughts on the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Here’s the short version — I loved it and will happily pay money to see it again in theaters…several times.

Like most nerds, I love the original Star Wars trilogy. That said, I probably enjoyed the prequels more than most (don’t get me wrong, Jar Jar and Ani suck). I also greatly enjoyed director JJ Abrams’ two Star Trek movies. Going into The Force Awakens, I had high but reasonably tempered expectations. I’m happy to say that my expectations were exceeded. The Force Awakens is a phenomenally fun movie. Now kindly turn on your spoiler shields and lock your S-foils in attack position for some random thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Force Awakens Review b

Mark Out Moments (Good): The Force Awakens had four moments that overwhelmed my heart and had me holding back tears of joy.

  • The first time the Millennium Falcon is shown
  • Seeing the new X-wing fighters
  • The first time R2D2 is shown
  • Rey using the force to grab a lightsaber

 

These scenes dazzled me and had me believing in movie magic again. In the immortal words of Sergio from Get Him to the Greek, they left me feeling “like an eight-year old who just discovered his first boner.” While I’ve marked out at the movies before, I don’t recall ever feeling so high from a film. It almost makes you feel bad for younger people that didn’t grow up with the original Star Wars movies, since they won’t have those nostalgia-fueled mark-out moments.

A New Scoundrel (Good): Resistance pilot Poe Dameron stole the show early on. He’s one of the best pilots in the galaxy and has a roguish charm. When he’s captured by The First Order and brought face to face with baddie Kylo Ren, Poe quips in the face of danger. He’s supposed to be terrified, but playfully says, “Are you talking first? Or am I? Who’s supposed to talk first?” It’s a nice eff you to Kylo Ren and peril in general. For the rest of the movie, Poe is pretty much the good guy male moviegoers want to be.

The Force Awakens Review c

Finn Grow on You (Good): Initially, Finn comes off as flat and uninteresting. Part of the problem is that he was paired with Poe in the earliest portion of the movie (Poe will always be “the cool one”). Over the course of The Force Awakens, Finn grows on you and then you realize that he’s a fantastic perspective character. Yes, he does heroic things, but he also has moments of freak-out cowardice, lies about his identity, and overstates his importance. He behaves in a wonderfully realistic way that’s layered, nuanced, and easy to relate to. While he starts off flat (perhaps intentionally), John Boyega’s multifaceted importance and comic timing were impressive.

Rey Kicks Ass (Good): When protagonist Rey first appeared I said, “Look, it’s less-attractive Keira Knightley.” (Partially because of her bone structure, but more for her accent) As The Force Awakens went on, she became more-talented Keira Knightley, which ultimately made her more-attractive Keira Knightley.

Rey is one of the coolest and most kick-ass female characters in sci-fi. She’s capable on several levels, equally adept at scavenging for valuable goods, jury rigging the Millennium Falcon, and fighting with a lightsaber. While there are more and more powerful female characters in mainstream movies all the time, Rey might be the most important, simply because Star Wars is huge. Daisy Ridley did a wonderful job bringing a new heroine to life. Her progression from desert scavenger to force heroine was enjoyable and mysterious. I kind of wish that I had a daughter that idolized her.

The Force Awakens Review d

No Jar Jars (Good): The Force Awakens didn’t have any annoying aliens that got way too much screen time, annoying kids that somehow grow up to be menacing villains, and wooden young adults that (also) grow up to be menacing villains. The Jar Jar factor was probably my biggest fear going into the movie. I’m grateful that The Force Awakens didn’t have any Jar Jars or Anis.

Too Much Imitation (Possibly Bad): The biggest potential issue with The Force Awakens is that it, perhaps, is too beholden to the original trilogy. It contains many similarities and hits many of the same beats as A New Hope. Here are some examples — droid with important info gets stuck on crappy desert planet, protagonist in bland clothing finds said droid, good guys look for help at an intergalactic dive bar, bad guys build enormous spherical weapon, good guys attempt to blow up said weapon by attacking minuscule design flaw, main baddy wears a mask that gives him a menacing voice, baddy’s boss is fond of video chat, one of the X-wing pilots is overweight, mentor character dies, etc.

Some fans will feel that these instances are flattering imitation and a respectful homage to the first Star Wars film. Others will feel that they’re unoriginal and prevent The Force Awakens from being truly fresh. Personally, I enjoyed all of these moments. History has a tendency to repeat itself, even in a galaxy far away. That said, I understand if some moviegoers feel that The Force Awakens has too many similarities to A New Hope. (I will also classify those people as heartless killjoys.)

Greg Grunberg is the New Jek Porkins: I love that Greg Grunberg is in this film. I need a bestie like JJ Abrams, so that I can get roles in all of his work. More importantly, I love that Grunberg’s Snap Wexley is an overweight X-wing pilot. I am positive that Wexley’s real last name is Porkins and that he changed it to escape the sizable shadow of his heroic father.

Spoilers (Good): Disney was pretty tight with advanced screenings and did an amazing job containing press leaks. With the way today’s Internet and social media work, it’s shocking that the company was able to control information as well as it did. I was genuinely surprised about Kylo Ren’s parentage. While it was telegraphed in the movie, I’m amazed that Han Solo’s death wasn’t plastered all over the Internet weeks before the release of The Force Awakens.

Kylo Ren Temper Tantrums (Good): There were two scenes where Kylo Ren threw fits and lightsaber-ed the crap out of everything around him. Compared to how cool and controlled previous Star Wars villains were, it was fun watching him lose his sh*t. I loved it when Kylo Ren was throwing a tantrum offscreen and two stormtroopers were shown turning around. I bet their conversation went something like this:

Stormtrooper 1: “Oh crap. Wannabe sith is having another one of his bitch fits.”
Stormtrooper 2: “Yeah, let’s head to the canteen while the IT department cleans up his mess.”
Stormtropper 1: “I hope they have the penne with peas again.” (Eddie Izzard reference ftw!)

Lightsaber Duels (Good): The fight between Rey and Kylo Ren might be my favorite lightsaber fight to date. The ones from the original trilogy were fairly basic. The ones from the prequels had moments of brilliant choreography, but were overdone and had too many instances of people swinging at lightsabers instead of bodies. (Watch me execute this dynamic CG flip and swing my lightsaber ever so fiercely at your lightsaber!) The lightsaber showdown in The Force Awakens was more interesting than the original duels and more realistic than the prequel fights.

Harrison Ford Has Fun (Good): I wasn’t expecting so much Han Solo in the movie, but am grateful for all of his scenes. Old Han Solo is damaged and brittle, but still the scoundrel that everyone loved from the original movies. I couldn’t help thinking about the last time Harrison Ford reprised an old role. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull felt laborious, as if playing the character was a burden for Ford. In The Force Awakens, he appears to be genuinely enjoying himself and having fun with the Han Solo character. While his sarcasm is toned down, he awesomely busts out a few old-school Solo-isms every now and then.

C-3PO’s Entrance (Good): This was just about perfect. Han and Leia are having an emotional moment when 3PO interrupts and kills it. Bwahahahahahahaha!!!

General Hux (Good): While he wasn’t quite the new Tarkin, Hux was a nice addition to The Force Awakens. He’s a manipulative and competitive sociopath. His dynamic with Kylo Ren was fun. Domhnall Gleeson did a great job at making this character such an unlikable dick. You can’t wait to see him eventually get blown up or sliced with a lightsaber. As a sci-fi/fantasy nerd, I love that an actor from the Harry Potter franchise is playing a part in the new Star Wars movies.

Bottom Line: Anyway, those are some assorted thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I have many more floating around in my head, but I want to hear what you thought of the film. Please leave a comment below with your opinions and observations on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hope we have an awesomely nerdy discussion!

Addendum (Updated Dec-18 2:11PM)

Kylo Samberg (Bad?): Adam Driver is funny looking. With his big nose and poofy hair, he had me thinking about another funny-looking actor — Andy Samberg. Whenever Kylo Ren was onscreen, 11 percent of my brain thought about him unmasking to reveal Andy Samberg’s dopey face.

More Keira (Good): My buddy Paul brought up an interesting point about Daisy Ridley’s resemblance to Keira Knightley. Perhaps it was intentional. Knightley did play one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens/decoys/pieces of cannon fodder in The Phantom Menace. The resemblance between Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley even confused their respective mothers during the filming of the prequels. Having a young actress with similar looks would make sense if Rey turns out to be part of the Skywalker bloodline.