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

 

 

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

After enduring two whole years being depressed and uncertain about Star Wars movies due to Rian Johnson’s arrogant deformation of the franchise with his abomination The Last Jedi, I am happy to say that I’m happy again after watching Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

This is my review of The Rise of Skywalker directed by J.J. Abrams and co-written by Abrams, Chris Terrio, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly.

Early story

The movie begins with the First Order’s supreme leader Kylo Ren on an unrelenting quest that leads him deep into the galaxy where he finds the uncharted destination of Exegol. There he meets a living Palpatine who turns out to be the creator of the late Snoke, the previous supreme leader of the First Order.

Palpatine knows that Rey is still training as a Jedi and he tells Kylo to eliminate her. Palpatine also has a brand new fleet composed of advanced star destroyers armed with powerful weapons capable of destroying planets.

Meanwhile, Finn, Poe and Chewbacca travel in the Millennium Falcon to obtain crucial information from a spy about the location of Palpatine.

Quality

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Chewbacca, Poe, C3PO (hidden), Rey and Finn.

Let me start with the fact that The Rise of Skywalker is, unsurprisingly, a flawed movie that happens to have more good stuff than bad ones. To put things into perspective, J.J. Abrams and their creative team had to make a new movie following the abomination The Last Jedi which, literally, dug a large hole and let the Star Wars film franchise fall deep into it. Not only did Abrams and team work to lift the franchise up and move it forward by having a story that not only made sense but resonated with Star Wars fans while delivering long bouts of cinematic fun. If you want to focus on the fun factor, The Rise of Skywalker is a joy ride while Rian John’s The Last Jedi was sluggish and frustrating to watch.

Storytelling? This movie has been bashed for having a video game-inspired approach of narrative: the band of protagonists go to a new location where they meet people as they move to fulfill a goal only to be hounded by opposition from the antagonists, then they go to a new location where they meet people and similar events repeat.

In some ways, The Rise of Skywalker reminded me about the video game Grandia, Final Fantasy IX and other role-playing games (RPGs) I personally played. While the use of video game-inspired narrative is not the perfect tool to use for a movie, this approach actually works in The Rise of Skywalker! For one thing, the sense of excitement and adventuring I enjoyed from the original Star Wars trilogy returned and I enjoyed every moment of it. This translates into fun while remaining focus on the story objectives and characters. I do confirm that there were lots of spectacles (lots of lightsaber action, shooting, running and spaceship battles) throughout the movie that kept me entertained most of the time. There was no boring moment, not even in the slowest scenes.

The use of video game-inspired narrative also worked in building up the tension leading into the series of events that lead into the final conflict. The result? It paid off nicely! The final conflict and the way the story ended were all worth the wait and build-up! Considering how terrible events happened and ended in The Last Jedi, what was achieved in The Rise of Skywalker was a tremendous achievement!

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Spaceship battles in this movie were plenty and fun to watch!

On the aspect of emphasizing the Force and the Jedi themselves, this movie, in my honest opinion, took inspiration from the non-canon Star Wars Legends (previously referred to as Star Wars Expanded Universe), specifically with elements from the Dark Empire comic book mini-series of 1991-1992. When a key visual in the film was shown to explain Palpatine’s survival, I was not surprised at all.

When it comes to performances, Daisy Ridley really defined herself as an actor and she really defined Rey as a Jedi (with assistance from Abrams and the screenwriters) who carries a huge burden related to her heritage (you’ll find out in the film). After watching Rey in the first two films struggling to learn and move on, she is a more developed character in this movie. That’s not all. Poe and Finn have been more refined and it is through adventuring that they really became lively and believable characters. Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren consistently delivered the symbolism of the dark side of the Force (specifically consuming the younger generation) with the exception of a key twist that took place much later (you just have to watch the movie). Ian McDiarmind’s return as Palpatine is undeniably great and a welcome return to form. The actor really showed he is great in portraying cinematic evil.

When it comes to classic Star Wars characters, the filmmakers cleverly used existing footage of the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia and by means of editing and scene set-ups, they succeeded in inserting the character into the narrative complete with recorded dialogue that relate to the events that happened. Billy Dee Williams, meanwhile, made a great return as Lando Calrissian. While I wish his screen time was longer and his character was more involved with the remaining Resistance, it was still nice to see Williams literally disappear letting Lando come to life on-screen once again.

Conclusion

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The Millennium Falcon is better used in this movie than in The Last Jedi.

As mentioned earlier, The Rise of Skywalker is a flawed film. For one thing, there are several plot holes here and there (responded to via visual dictionary). There were also new Force powers that were not fully explained in detail. Those weaknesses, however, did not really drag the film that much. The bad stuff here is NOTHING compared to all the creative garbage Rian Johnson (plus the trash from the Political Left in Hollywood) filled in The Last Jedi since that director was too obsessed with subverting people’s expectations all throughout.

What I admire in it is the effort done by Abrams to connect it with 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The shots of the remains of the 2nd Death Star in the previews only literally show the tip of the iceberg.

As a follow-up to The Last Jedi, this movie moved in two ways: correcting what was set in Rian Johnson’s abomination while also somewhat building up on what was also established in that same abomination. Ultimately, the course-correction done by Abrams and team made The Rise of Skywalker not only fun and engaging, but also recaptured the elements that defined Star Wars as a cinematic experience. There were also key scenes that, in my view, allowed this movie to punch back at the deformation done in The Last Jedi. I smiled a lot when those creative moments took place.

When compared to The Force Awakens, this movie is actually more fun and more engaging. In fact, it is indeed the best of the current Star Wars trilogy (2015-2019).

With this current Star Wars trilogy concluded, I do regret that the classic characters of Han, Luke and Leia ended up as supporting players and the trio of Rey-Finn-Poe (who are welcome additions to the Star Wars family of characters) as protagonists still pale in comparison to them. To simplify things, Luke-Han-Leia are iconic while Rey-Finn-Poe are serviceable protagonists at best.

Ultimately, The Rise of Skywalker is a solidly good Star Wars film and is itself a major recovery from the debacle of The Last Jedi. As the ninth chapter of the entire Star Wars main movies franchise (which first started in 1977), it is a flawed yet worthy addition (and also worthy as the new conclusion) into the saga that involved the Force and the Skywalkers. It is nowhere as great as The Empire Strikes Back (the best Star Wars movie ever) but it is, in my opinion, better and more engaging than The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith respectively.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is recommended.


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

A Look Back at Superman #100 (1995)

While this old comic book may not be the best-selling Superman story of the 1990s, it is for me the most significant one as well as creator Dan Jurgens’ best work ever on the Man of Steel. I’m talking about Superman #100.

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The cover.

Released in 1995 by DC Comics, Superman #100 came out with a special cover that highlighted the title “The Death of Clark Kent”. It was released with a hefty cover price of $3.95 for the United States and was pretty thick. It was written and illustrated by Dan Jurgens, the same man who worked on the best-selling Superman #75 (The Death of Superman climax).

Early story

The story begins with Clark Kent carrying a deformed Superman object (with makeshift glasses and a knife “stabbing” the letter S) and just feet behind him was his officemate Jimmy Olsen. Hidden mostly from Olsen’s view, the object signifies that someone knows that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same person. Carefully, Clark hides it away and starts chatting with Jimmy who is very concerned of him.

Clark recently has been struggling over the fact that someone knows his secret identity. After carefully dismissing Jimmy, he moves out as Superman to take of business before the madman (who knows his identity) makes his next move.

Superman visits his parents Jonathan and Martha Kent at their home in Smallville. He expresses to Jonathan that he believes that the madman is someone he knew from his past: Kenny Braverman (Conduit).

Quality

If there is anything that defines this comic book, it is the in-depth storytelling done by Dan Jurgens complete with intense character development as well as exploration of people from his past (all connected to Smallville).

The plot structure is quite simple. Conduit knows Superman/Clark Kent personally and is always at least a step ahead of the superhero complete with strategies mess with him personally. Superman, who came back from the dead and has been struggling to fit in with the times, finds himself at his most vulnerable state not as a super-powered guy but as a human being. To analyze things here, Superman is about to get suffer and lose a lot again but not with the temporary death he got from fighting Doomsday, but rather the demise of his personality as Clark Kent.

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Truly one of the best Superman dialogue and characterizations ever thanks to Dan Jurgens.

Think about it. As Clark, Superman has a career, a social life, grew up the American way, intends to spend his life with Lois Lane and has ambitions of simple living that mean more to him than being with the Justice League America (note: writing the next great American novel).

The great thing here is that writer-artist Dan Jurgens humanized Superman a whole lot in this comic book and his work is excellent. Superman #100 opens up the discussion about what life would be like for the Man of Steel once his identity as Clark Kent gets ruined. The story also connects with Superman’s past (within the post-Crisis universe of DC Comics) and sheds light on his relationships with not only his parents but also with Pete Ross and Lana Lang (Clark’s ex-GF). When it comes to putting Superman in danger, Conduit’s approach is more convincing than Doomsday’s unstoppable power of destruction.

By the time I got immersed with Dan Jurgen’s storytelling and character development, the action scenes involving Superman felt justified. More importantly, this comic book shows the famous superhero being pushed to the limits in terms of personality tolerance and determination.

Conclusion

We live in an age in which established entertainment franchises get ruined by sequels or spin-offs or reboots which were mishandled by creators who tried to reinvent stuff only to fail and disappoint the fans.

Look at Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson had complete creative control on telling an engaging and fun Star Wars tale but ended up deforming it (disregarding Star Wars’ most defining elements), focused mainly on subverting people’s expectations and left many long-time fans disappointed and angry.

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Superman going after Conduit.

Going back to Superman #100, Dan Jurgens succeeded in redefining the American icon while maintaining respect of the established past of the character and kept the elements that defined Superman. His story about the demise of Superman’s secret identity was a very fresh concept and, for a time, it paved the way for opportunities to take the Man of Steel into new creative directions without disappointing fans.

Personally, I would love to see Warner Bros. produce a new standalone Superman movie with Henry Cavill as the superhero and adapt the core elements of Jurgens’ work in Superman #100 into the screenplay. Cavill already proved he could portray Superman/Clark very humanly in Man of Steel.

Overall, Superman #100 is highly recommended.


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