Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Birds of Prey

As I mentioned before, I never read a single comic book about Birds of Prey. Apart from previously knowing Harley Quinn, Black Canary (from the 1980s specifically) and Huntress (from the 1990s), I had minimal knowledge of the DC Comics’ title as well as modest expectations entering the cinema yesterday to watch Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn which is the latest superhero production from Warner Bros.

Right now, I’m happy to share to you that the R-rated movie proved to be a fun-filled watch and is proof that the DC Comics Cinematic Universe is still moving forward (in terms of engagement, enjoyment and creativity) towards greatness.

Here is my movie review of Birds of Prey.

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Early Story

The story begins with a look into the past of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) moving forward until her breakup with the supervillain Joker (don’t expect to see Jared Leto’s image). Through narration and clever visuals, Harley is now living a new life. Along the way, there is a club within Gotham City bustling with life which Harley haves fun at and eventually she encounters the club owner Roman/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who is not what he seems. After getting drunk and becoming vulnerable to men with sinister intentions, Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who sings at the club, comes to her rescue. After recovering, Harley moves on to destroy a huge facility of Ace Chemicals which further sets events off…

Quality

While the screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) lacked storytelling depth and character development, director Cathy Yan and her team still managed to craft a superhero film that was fun, action-packed and, surprisingly, not too reliant on computer-generated visual effects.

To make up for the lack of story depth, the movie relied mainly on the performances of the actors to bring their characters to life. Margot Robbie really excelled in playing Harley Quinn inside and out. While this latest cinematic portrayal does not have Harley insane, she’s still crazier than in Suicide Squad. Robbie’s act this time is more creative, more adulterated (which is the way the go), more daring with action and also more comedic. From this point on, I should say that Warner Bros. should rehire Robbie to play Harley Quinn in even more DC Comics movies.

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Here come the ladies: Renee Montoya, Huntress, Harley Quinn, Cassandra Cain and Black Canary.

Rosie Perez as Gotham City police officer Renee Montoya delivered a strong presence as the law enforcement element in the film and through her, we get to see the culture of the local police. Don’t expect her to have any links with police commissioner Gordon or Batman, though. Jurnee Smollet-Bell as the cinematic Black Canary is one of the stronger performers even though her version of the character is radically different from the one I read in the comic books long ago. Ella Jay Basco, an actress of Filipino and Korean heritage, as the orphan Cassandra Cain is clearly the movie’s representative (and attraction to) of the youth. Performance-wise, Basco delivered a nice performance even though her character (who in the comics is one of many who became Batgirl) lacks depth. Fortunately for us moviegoers, she is not the whiny teenager who annoy viewers and, more importantly, she delivered nicely in her part of the film’s plot. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good as the cinematic Huntress. It’s too bad her on-screen presence is not long enough to be enjoyed, nor were moviegoers given better opportunities to know the Huntress better.

The most outstanding performance in the movie was delivered by Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. McGregor, who is a naturally artistic actor, is very colorful with his portrayal of a supervillain who, unlike many other such antagonists in other superhero movies, is charismatic, suave and yet cruel to the core. This cinematic Black Mask is not your generic action movie villain and, as such, hiring McGregor was one of the best moves made by Warner Bros. I honestly find McGregor a worthy adversary versus Margot Robbie when it comes to cinematic artistry.

When it comes to spectacle, Birds of Prey is heavily loaded with hard-hitting action plus some bloody shots that make it standout among the many superhero movies released in this current century. For one thing, the actresses themselves took an active part in doing action and the stunts they could pull of on their own (the harder stuff were understandably done by stunt doubles). Watching Harley Quinn beat up the bad guys with that large hammer, the baseball bat and other stuff were not only hard-hitting but also creative without ever looking choreographed. Black Canary’s high kicks were notable. Renee Montoya’s reliance on guns and hard action were symbolic throwbacks to the police movies of the past. Huntress meanwhile showed how deadly her small but powerful crossbow can be on-screen.

Late in the film is a certain long-take action sequence filled with the characters struggling with the bad guys simultaneously (without using computer-generated imagery) which was cleverly filmed with nice timing as the camera moved on very steadily. That sequence, even though short, is worth watching again and again. Oh yes, there are no shaky camera sequences shot!

The action scenes, in my opinion, came into play at the right time whenever I felt enough dialogue and exposition were made. This shows that the filmmakers pulled off the right moves with the pacing to ensure that people are kept entertained while still maintaining some storytelling sense which is quite an achievement since the film’s plot lacked depth. The stunts, meanwhile, are really nice to watch.

As for the brewing arguments and anticipation that Birds of Prey is a leftist and feminist piece of propaganda, I should say that such influences are more on the visual side than on the dialogue. Even though Ewan McGregor publicly said the movie is feminist, it’s not too strong. The feminism is more visible in images of the ladies fighting the bad guys who are varied with their looks – muscular, tall, big, beards, etc. The feminism is obvious with the ladies teaming up together and that is not surprising at all. Even though it has feminism elements, Birds of Prey is still pretty much a superhero movie on its own. You want a movie with stronger and more blatant feminism? Watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi instead. Maybe you want to try Elizabeth Banks’ failure Charlie’s Angels.

Conclusion

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With strong and creative performances plus loads of fun stuff that more than made up for the lack of story depth and character development, Birds of Prey is an enjoyable superhero movie that is worthy of being part of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. Without relying on fan service, this movie expands the current cinematic universe’ presentation of Gotham City and shows the other parts of it away from Batman.

Even if you have not read any Birds of Prey comics, this movie will still prove to be entertaining. Just don’t expect to see the more iconic DC Comics characters and don’t expect to see heavy amounts of computer-generated images on-screen. Birds of Prey is more grounded and for a production of roughly $100 million, the production values still look high.

Overall, Birds of Prey is highly recommended and I encourage you to watch it in the cinemas as soon as possible. And if you have the extra money, watch it on an IMAX screen as the film was optimized for the format.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

Birds of Prey Coming to Cinemas

As far as superhero movies go, 2020 is looking interesting as there is no new Avengers movie coming out this year. After the climax of last year’s Avengers: Endgame, Marvel Studios is gradually building up new anticipation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Black Widow. Sony Pictures has Bloodshot which is the first live-action film adaptation of any of Valiant’s comic book properties. Warner Bros. has the highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 set for June.

Before Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. will start their 2020 superhero movie journey with Birds of Prey which will open in cinemas on February 5-6-7 in varied parts of the world. For your viewing pleasure, below are the movie poster and the first movie trailer.

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The movie poster.

Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is the next entry of the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe (which started in 2013 with Man of Steel) starring Margot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn (started in 2016’s Suicide Squad), Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollet-Bell as Dinah/Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. It is directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs).

According to the movie’s page at IMDB.com and the above movie trailer, the movie is set some time after the events of Suicide Squad as Harley Quinn left Joker..…looking for a fresh start. This leads her to encountering Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya and they band together to save a young lady who has been targeted by Black Mask. This leads to a conflict between the ladies and Black Mask’s gang.

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The gang with Harley Quinn.

In the United States, the review and classification board MPAA rated Birds of Prey with an R (restricted) for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material. If the movie trailers are any indication, this movie is looking like it will have some really intense action scenes and harder acts of violence.

In my honest opinion, crafting a superhero movie that is more intense, more adulterated and more expressive than the usual Hollywood superhero movie can work wonders for as long as the film’s presentation is nicely done and makes the best out of its fantasy concept.

In the case of Birds of Prey, the trailers suggest that Harley Quinn is more insane (than being crazy in the Suicide Squad movie) not only with her personality but also with the way she fights others. I’m expecting to hear Harley and Black Mask say F-words in the movie. While so far nothing has been shown in the previews, I’m anticipating that there will be scenes showing Huntress fire her arrows and kill gang members violently.

While it is R-rated, Birds of Prey is predicted to open with over $50 million in the American box office for the reasons that it is the only wide release for its opening weekend, all the exhibitors anticipated it and the movie has a strong anticipation with moviegoers below the age of 25.

Some of you may be wondering…what exactly are the Birds of Prey? Is that a popular comic book franchise? When did it start?

Historically, Birds of Prey started in the mid-1990s with the one-shot comic book Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1 written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Gary Frank. That comic book featured mainly Black Canary (specifically Dinah Lance) and Barbara Gordon. For your viewing pleasure, posted below are the front cover and two pages.

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The cover.
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This is Dinah/Black Canary.
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Hard-hitting action!

I never read any Birds of Prey comic book before. I’m not exactly a fan of Harley Quinn and her performer Margot Robbie. Still, because Birds of Prey is the latest DC Comics Cinematic Universe entry, I plan to watch it and review it here. Also it has been a long time since the highly talented Ewan McGregor had a memorable cinematic performance. I really find its concept intriguing. Warner Bros. and the filmmakers (Walter Hamada and Suicide Squad director credited as Executive Producers, plus Margot Robbie is a producer) are taking a huge risk to sell this $100 million production with an R-rating.

In closing this, here is the 2nd trailer.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

To Warner Bros. and the Filmmakers, Please Have Superman (Henry Cavill) and Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson) Clash Together on the Big Screen!

With the unexpected, massive success of the Joker movie (my review here), the DC Comics brand in the field of movies got strong even though the said film was not related at all with the current DC Comics Cinematic Universe. The R-rated, Joaquin Phoenix-led movie grossed over $1,000,000,000 worldwide (without even a release in China) and already it is one of the most profitable movies this year given the fact it was made for well below $100 million. Also, please take note that less than 100% of each ticket sold gets collected by the movie producer.

The future meanwhile looks very promising for fans of DC Comics movies. 2020 will see the respective theatrical releases of Birds of Prey (February) and Wonder Woman 1984 (June) care of Warner Bros. and its creative teams of filmmakers. The Batman (starring Robert Pattinson and directed by Matt Reeves) meanwhile spearheads the cinematic superhero excitement for 2021.

And then there is the other DC Comics superhero movie slated for a December 2021 release….. Black Adam which was recently confirmed through social media by none other than Dwayne Johnson himself.

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Official Black Adam movie image. Note Jim Lee’s name on the lower-left corner.

“I’m honored to join the iconic #DCUniverse and it’s a true pleasure to become, BLACK ADAM. BLACK ADAM is blessed by magic with the powers equal to SUPERMAN, but the difference is he doesn’t toe the mark or walk the line. He’s a rebellious, one of a kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people – but he does it his way,” Johnson wrote in his Facebook page’s November 15, 2019 post.

Recently, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Justice League) confirmed through Men’s Health that he is not yet done with playing Superman.

“I’ve not given up the role. There’s a lot I have to give for Superman yet. A lot of storytelling to do. A lot of real, true depths to the honesty of the character I want to get into. I want to reflect the comic books. That’s important to me. There’s a lot of justice to be done for Superman. The status is: You’ll see,” Cavill said.

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Henry Cavill is NOT yet done with playing the cinematic Superman!

While there is no clear sign that there will be a new Superman movie coming, I want to express that Warner Bros. and its creative teams should grab the opportunity of bringing Dwayne Johnson and Henry Cavill together on the big screen as Black Adam and Superman respectively.

I’m not saying that Superman should be in the Black Adam movie because I believe that the 2021 movie has its own concept already. Rather they can have the two DC Comics characters together in a future Superman movie with Black Adam as the main antagonist, and have the two fight each other hard.

In the comic books, there have been past battles between the Man of Steel and the Shazam villain. The first was in the 1982 comic book DC Comics Presents #49. Check out the images posted below.

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And then there was the other encounter in 2005’s Action Comics #831.

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Previously I expressed that the next Superman movie should have Lex Luthor and Brainiac together as the main antagonists. With the recent statements made by Johnson and Cavill, there is now hope for them to appear together in a future DC Comics movie. I believe that having Black Adam as the main antagonist the Man of Steel in a new Superman movie is a great concept.

Let’s not forget the fact that Dwayne Johnson is a great attraction when it comes to hard battles on the big screen.

I believe that having Johnson as Black Adam fighting Cavill’s Superman will be a great cinematic attraction. With the right director and the right fight choreographer, such a movie battle will be a lot of fun and make people forget about the disappointing battle of the DC Comics icons in Batman v. Superman (which started strongly but lost energy and its pace worsened). In terms of storytelling, there are enough comic book references to help screenwriters come up with a sensible and believable way to establish a conflict between Black Adam and Superman. Again, there is Batman v. Superman as a cinematic storytelling disappointment to avoid repeating.

Let’s not forget that the movie Shazam was a critical and commercial hit for Warner Bros. and it’s safe to say that we will see more of Zachary Levi reprise the title role in future movies. At the same time, we have yet to see Shazam (formerly called Captain Marvel) face off with Black Adam and have a true, lengthy encounter with Superman.

If you are a dedicated DC Comics fan who wants to see Superman and Black Adam clash together on the big screen, express your support to the filmmakers, to Warner Bros. and also to Henry Cavill and Dwayne Johnson online.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Why I am excited for Wonder Woman 1984

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What is my favorite superhero movie of all time? It is none other than 2017’s Wonder Woman movie that starred Gal Gadot and was directed by Patty Jenkins. That film is truly a spectacular spectacular!

Naturally I am heavily anticipating the next movie Wonder Woman 1984 which is set for a June 2020 worldwide release in cinemas. It was originally set for a November 2019 release but Warner Bros. had to push it back.

Why am I excited for the movie?

1) Gal Gadot as the Queen of Superheroes – Israeli actress Gal Gadot is a lot more than a talented actress. She has proven in the 2017 that she IS Wonder Woman as she captured the core values of the icon and convincingly dramatized those values and character elements on the big screen. With Wonder Woman 1984 coming, I am excited to see how Gadot will flesh out Diana/WW as she spends time in Man’s World in the year 1984. When it comes to spectacle, Gadot is a proven action performer and knows how to please viewers with WW in action. Of course, the stunt and fight coordinators as well as the physical trainer all contributed to the spectacle in the first movie and for sure they are working hard to fill WW84 with new spectacle.

2) Patty Jenkins’ direction – To make things clear, Patty Jenkins is a storyteller first and foremost. Her work in the 2017 WW movie was very good and there was a nice balance between spectacle, character development and plot development. The strong focus on the development of Diana from the world of Themyscira to Man’s World really reminded me of what I read in the comic books long ago (particularly George Perez’s WW in the post-Crisis DC Comics universe that started in 1986). Not only that, the sequence from the early part of the moving with the narrative drifting from the present day into Diana’s past as a child in Themyscira was easily the most immersive narrative transition I’ve ever seen in any superhero movie! Don’t forget the now iconic No Man’s Land scene which heavily emphasized Wonder Woman’s presence in Man’s World. Before I forget, the implementation of humor in the film was clever as supporting cast members performed it leaving Gal Gadot free to play Wonder Woman straight.

Considering what was achieved in the 2017 movie, I am confident that Jenkins has new concepts to realize on the big screen in WW84. We just have to wait until June 2020 to find out.

3. Kristen Wiig as Cheetah – This one is more intriguing. Kristen Wiig is often identified with comedy and this alone made her look like an unlikely candidate to play one of the classic Wonder Woman villains…Cheetah. In the comics, specifically during the George Perez era, Cheetah was tough and rough against WW. I believe that with the strong support from the film crew and director Jenkins, Kristen Wiig can prove herself to not only be serious but also gritty as Cheetah. So far there are no images showing Cheetah in her anticipated beastly look which is fine with me because I prefer that Warner Bros. should keep such images secret until the film’s opening.

4. The 1980s setting – While it is a fact that nostalgia for the 1980s has waned in reality, having Wonder Woman in the said decade could create something new and memorable for all moviegoers. As far as we know, Wonder Woman is into a conflict with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and Cheetah lurks somewhere. Will the sequel adapt key story elements from George Perez’s 1980s Wonder Woman? Will there be references to the Iran-Contra connection of the decade that saw the murder of many men, women and children? The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan perhaps? We won’t find out until June 2020. The 1980s setting, by the way, could be an opportunity to add zest to the ongoing superhero movie craze that Hollywood as a whole has been benefiting from and, story-wise.

5) Gradual build-up for the DC Comics cinematic universe – I have no doubt that Wonder Woman 1984 will gradually help build-up the DC Comics cinematic universe in terms of storytelling and world-building under the watch of Walter Hamada. The recent mega-blockbuster Aquaman was a finely crafted movie that portrayed the origin of Aquaman while at the same time tell an epic story in the present day set after the events of Justice League no less! In my view, there is a clean slate for universe-building as far as DC Comics superheroes in cinema is concerned. While the future of the cinematic Batman and Superman remains unclear, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are here to stay and then there is also the upcoming films of Birds of Prey and the Suicide Squad sequel that will add to the cinematic universe build-up. Personally I prefer the cinematic universe build-up to be gradual and not rushed and heavy loaded (as seen during the watch of Zack Snyder). Building up the current cinematic universe piece-by-piece by releasing standalone movies of DC’s superheroes (and teams of intriguing characters) from time to time is preferable. Under the watch of Walter Hamada, I am confident he is executing plans on not only improving the DC Comics cinematic universe but also defining it. Going back to Wonder Woman 1984, I really look forward as to what its plot will add to the cinematic universe as a whole.

June 2020 is still far away but it will come and already I am looking forward to watching Wonder Woman 1984 on opening day on an IMAX screen.

For your enjoyment, here are some YouTube videos I embedded. Also included is a short clip of Kristen Wiig’s act.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com