Tag Archives: will smith

‘Suicide Squad’ Wastes Cast in Bland CGI Romp

Suicide_Squad_(film)_PosterIf nothing else it’s nice to see Will Smith having fun in a big budget blockbuster again.

“Suicide Squad” is the third entry into the DC Extended Universe and takes place after the events of this year’s “Batman v Superman.” David Ayer writes and directs as Will Smith and Margot Robbie star as members of a group of villains hired by the government to take out a threat in exchange for reduced jail sentences. Jared Leto and Viola Davis also star.


Like everyone else who has access to the internet, I enjoyed the series of trailers for this film (usually set to Queen songs) and the idea of antiheroes being the focal point of a film seemed fun. Plus I love David Ayer’s “End of Watch” and “Fury,” so I really thought this would be the first official good film of the DC Universe. I thought…


“Suicide Squad” is a frustrating film to say the least. Much like the first two installments of the DC series, “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman,” there are nuggets of greatness in this. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are having a ball playing psychotic killers (one much less sane than the other) and Jared Leto ‘s Joker makes me excited for where he could take the role in future Batman films (even though he’s a glorified cameo here). However these fun characters are lost in a muddled cloud of CGI action and an unfocused narrative.


Like I said, Smith and Robbie and really the whole cast do fine work. Some performances are better than others (or more audible, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc mumbles everything) but overall these are all interesting characters that even if we aren’t quite emotionally attached to, still root for.


It would have been so much more rewarding if we had gotten some of these characters in previous films before they had to team up, but because DC is in overdrive to catch up with Marvel we don’t get that luxury. Instead we get forced (and sometimes awkward) exposition-by-file reading, and it’s just a rushed intro.


The film has a very simple plot, it’s essentially a rescue mission with a doomsday clock, and yet I had no idea what the actual hell was going on half the time. The villain of this film is a witch and her ancient demon brother and they want to create a portal to do…something (?) I really couldn’t tell you, the film actually never discloses her plan besides “rule humans” and “create a zombie army.”


Oh, and I’ll just congratulate Cara Delevingne on her Razzie win now because her performance as the witch is so laughably atrocious that every time she opens her mouth it detracts from the film and makes the scene and any dramatic heft that had been building impossible to take seriously.


I wanted to like “Suicide Squad,” I really did. But it is so inconsistent and so frustratingly bland that I cannot recommend it be viewed for $10. If you catch it on TV in six months then sure, give it a view for Robbie and Will, but it is a huge letdown and yet another stumble for the DC Universe and Warner Bros.


Critics Rating: 5/10


Warner Bros.

‘Concussion,’ Smith Let Down By Script

Concussion_posterWell…it’s going to be awkward watching my next NFL game…

Based on a true story, “Concussion” stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought against the National Football League from suppressing his research on the brain damage suffered by football players. Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin co-star as Peter Landesman writes and directs.

Will Smith doesn’t do too much acting nowadays, but when he does the film ranges from average (“Focus”) to dumpster fire (“After Earth”); it can be argued his last good movie was “I Am Legend” in 2007. “Concussion” falls into the former category, as it is a film that has an important message and a strong central performance, but falls flat in most every other category.

Movie accents are a fickle business. They can sometimes propel a performance, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond,” but all too often they come off as cheesy and derail a film before it can even get going. Luckily, Will Smith’s African accent isn’t distracting and actually adds to his performance.

Smith’s Omalu is a kind, sympathetic man who growing up in Nigeria wanted nothing more than to be an American. So he continuously does things to try and fit in and help his fellow countrymen; which makes it all the more painful and confusing to him when they reject his discovery of what football hits do to the brain. Smith does a lot with his eyes, and even though he is at the center of the plot and in most every scene, it is a nuanced performance.

Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks both give entertaining and dedicated performances as two of Omalu’s associates, continuing to back him even when the NFL and even FBI threaten him.

Much like “Spotlight” angered us by what the church did to hide the priest sexual abuses, “Concussion” does not paint the NFL in a good light. Not only did they reject Omalu and his research, but they had known about what multiple concussions does to the human brain for years and had said nothing. It is a problem that has come into the mainstream in the past several years, but it isn’t going away anytime soon. I love football and played it for eight years, but this film isn’t going to make me (or likely anyone) stop watching, and that may make you feel guilty when you see what men go through, essentially risking their minds and lives for our entertainment.

Impactful story and performances aside, there is really nothing else done here worth mentioning. The script acts like a cliffnotes of what happened with Omalu, flowing more like scene-scene-scene than an actual fluid film. The film doesn’t even build to any real head, but instead jumps ahead a few years to show the aftermath of everything. The editing is also at times awkward and off-putting, with various cuts to different angles mid-monologue, with the dialogue is almost lagging behind. And this was shocking to me because it is spliced together by William Goldenberg, who won an Oscar for the brilliantly edited “Argo.”

Combining the confused script and the editing, several sequences simply make no sense. There is one scene when Omalu’s wife believes she is being followed by a car, and then in the next scene she is shown having a miscarriage. The correlation? The purpose? Not a clue.

“Concussion” is the very definition of a rainy Saturday afternoon cable movie. You can have it on in the background and if you miss a scene here or there it won’t affect your understanding of what’s going on. Smith’s efforts are to be commended (he earned a Golden Globe nomination) and the film’s intentions are pure, but really I was never moved by the film itself, and by the time it really starts to become anything resembling interesting, it is almost over.

Critics Rating: 5/10



Some Charm, Little Brain in ‘Focus’

2015_Focus_film_posterThere used to be a time when Will Smith was the most bankable movie star in Hollywood. Nicolas Cage also used to compete for Oscars instead of Razzies, so as Bob Dylan once wrote: the times they are a-changing.

Smith stars in “Focus”, a movie all about small-time criminals pulling cons—until it’s not. Margot Robbie, best known from “Wolf of Wall Street”, co-stars as a young and enthusiastic rookie who Smith takes under his wing and teaches the tools of the trade. “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa write and direct here.

“Focus” really is a tale of two movies. The first half features some clever banter, and is all about pulling cons in New Orleans, all leading up to a somewhat well executed, tension-filled climax at the Super Bowl. (Quick side note: the game is never called the Super Bowl because the NFL is lame; it’s just “the game”. Also, a team from Miami is playing, which even for a fictional football universe seems pretty hard to buy.) Once Will Smith and Margot Robbie leave New Orleans and go their separate ways, all the fun seems to go with them.

The second half of film takes place three years later in Buenos Aires (because, sure?), and it just doesn’t have the same shine as the first 50 minutes. There are no real cons, but instead it is replaced with Will Smith trying his best to charm the pants off of Robbie (figuratively and literally).

Smith is still as charismatic and likable as ever, but in “Focus” that can only carry the film so far. We don’t learn much about his character other than people generally don’t like him, he has daddy issues, and for one scene he apparently has a gambling addiction.

Smith does have some chemistry with Robbie, but at other times their interactions feel forced and unnatural. Robbie shows that she is an actress that we’ll be seeing more of, and I’m fine with that, but there really isn’t much development to her character. When we meet her she is just a small-timer stealing watches, and by the end of the film it isn’t really clear if she is truly anything different (but hey, the movie made sure that we get that background story that she “always had to look out for herself”, so it makes up for it, right?).

There are some fun twists, then there are some completely unbelievable ones, and there are some small plot holes, then there are ones big enough to drive an 18-wheeler through. The best thing I can compare it to is “Now You See Me” (if you can remember that thing): if when the dust settles you can buy all the twists, then you’ll enjoy the final payoff. If you need some sense and plausibility with your films, then maybe “Focus” isn’t for you.

Two likable leads and some colorful locations do not make a great movie, but they certainly help to elevate an otherwise average one. “Focus” isn’t Smith’s most tedious movie, and it’s nowhere near the worst film of 2015 (“50 Shades” will likely hold that title for a while), but it just isn’t as much fun as it should be.

Critics Rating: 5/10