By Robin E. Simmons

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Suicide SquadSUICIDE SQUAD

I was hoping that the colorful, fluorescent font used in the opening credits heralded a more cartoony, comic book look for the movie to come. But being true to its source material, and the writer-director David Ayer’s penchant for a gritty and visceral emphasis to the world of the meta-humans and the intense action. The talented cast works hard to deliver what little humor can be found in the interaction and the spare dialogue. Perhaps this is more a result of competing with the successful tone of Disney’s Marvel movies. Ayer knows how to write and direct action – he’s guided “Fury” and “End of Watch,” two movies I greatly admire. I was a little disappointed with what seemed to me an unnecessarily murky plot and a vaguely defined evil the squad was fighting. The carefully selected ensemble cast is a nice fit. Especially noteworthy is Jared Leto’s truly disturbing Joker and Margot Robbie’s sassy trashy Harley Quinn. Both actors steal the scenes they are in.

suicide squad groupI love the premise of hiring bad guys to do good. But the bigger question of whether or not they can work together or will succumb to the temptation of only working for their own individual good is a point of tension throughout their mission. Will the motley Squad resolve to collectively die trying, or decide it’s every man/woman for him or her self? I was entertained by this rowdy and witty action adventure that was immensely helped by a terrific sound track. Now playing at the refurbished Mary Pickford Theater in Cathedral city operated by D’Place Entertainment.


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Maggies PlanMAGGIE’S PLAN

In writer-director Rebecca Miller’s modern romantic comedy is a sweet sophisticated and witty exploration of modern romance, Greta Gerwig (“No Strings Attached”) Ethan Hawke “Boyhood”), Bill Hader (“Trainwreck”), Maya Rudolph (“Bridesmaids”) and Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) star in this story about Maggie (Gerwig) whose plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with a married man (Hawke), destroying his volatile marriage to the brilliant Georgette (Moore). “Maggie’s Plan” was a selection at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film festival. I am a fan of Gerwig. It was fun meeting and talking with her at a screening of “Francis Ha” at the late and lamented Cinemas Palme d’Or. Her on-screen characters seems (to me anyway), to be an extension of her quirky and beguiling real-life self.

Bonus materials on the Blu-ray include outtakes, commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette “Controling Fate: The Making of Maggie’s Plan,” and a Q & A at the Sundance Film Festival where Greta Gerwig introduces Writer/Director Miller for a lively discussion of the provocative and heartfelt film. Sony. Blu-ray.


Batman Killing-JokeBATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE

Delve into the demented history of the Dark Knight’s arch nemesis – The Joker – as he sets out to prove insanity is only a horrifying moment away for anyone in the latest DC Universe Original Movie. Based on one of the best-selling graphic novels of all time, the R-rated, feature length animated film brings together some of the key creative team behind Batman: The Animated Series with Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill returning to their seminal roles as Batman and The Joker, respectively.

The movie follows closely the acclaimed eponymous graphic novel. Take a journey into the dark psyche of the Clown Prince of Crime – from his humble beginnings as a struggling comedian to his fateful encounter with Batman that radically changes both of their lives forever. Years later, and now escaped from Arkham Asylum, The Joker devises a plan to prove that one bad day can make anyone as insane as he is – setting his sights on Commissioner Gordon. It’s up to the Dark Knight to put a stop to The Joker’s latest scheme and save one of Gotham’s City’s finest. Following a gripping prologue introducing Barbara Gordon’s heroic adventures alongside Batman as Batgirl, the movie stays true to the authentic tale that has held fans’ imaginations for nearly three decades – spotlighting the birth of a Super-Villain, the fortitude of a Super Hero and the iconic punch line that will leave you speechless. The intense and disturbing story follows the evolution of The Joker from normalcy to full-blown criminal insanity. A welcome featurette “Many Shades of Joker: The Tale of The Killing Joke” showcases Brian Holland’s signature artwork. This mini-documentary shows how artists and writers excelled at conveying story and human emotion one panel at a time, mesmerizing readers with unforgettable tales and humanized descriptions of heroes and villains. It’s why after nearly thirty years this particular story is more thought provoking than ever with socio-economic themes as relevant as ever from generation to generation. Warner Bros. Blu-ray.

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