Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey posterDirected by: Cathy Yan. Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Runtime: 1h 49 min. Released: February 7, 2020.

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) intends to make a name for herself in the crime world after breaking up with the Joker. Instead, everyone wants to kill her because she’s no longer under his protection, which makes for some fun scenes. Eventually, Harley teams up with Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and police officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save a girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) from crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).

I’ll start with Roman, a.k.a. Black Mask. McGregor plays the character with some solid humour. He’s also scary, especially when flexing powers in misogynistic scenes played for intimidation. He’s a more imposing and interesting villain than Cara Delevigne’s Enchantress in 2016’s Suicide Squad, and McGregor has fun in this role. He fits the shoes well, though it seems like a role tailored for Sam Rockwell’s quirks, as far the humour side of the role goes. McGregor is a fine choice and he’s great when he finally puts on the Black Mask.

Margot Robbie is of course the highlight as Harley Quinn. She makes the character and has a lot of funny lines, and I like the bit about finding the perfect breakfast sandwich. Her action scenes are simply fun, and as far as the R-rated violence goes, a scene in a police station has some of the film’s strongest fight choreography.

The humour and action fits Harley as a character, as does the way the story that bounces around according to her train of thought and when she thinks it’s important to tell you something for the story. Screenwriter Christina Hodson understands Harley, and it’s a strong screenplay. This is two good screenplays in a row for Hodson after Bumblebee, and I mention that because she started off with two bad films, Unforgettable and Shut In, both of which I consider among the worst films of their release years. Hodson does well with this property.

Birds of Prey
Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey (IMDb).

This is more of a Harley film than a Birds of Prey film, they have both in the title but Birds of Prey is front and centre. The members of BOP show up throughout, but Dinah/Black Canary has the most to do throughout as an employee of Roman’s at his club. As a regular person, she’s the most interesting one here besides Harley.

 

Rosie Perez is solid as Montoya and I like the bit that she talks like a cop from a bad TV show. I like how all the characters come together through Cassandra Cain, a street-smart pickpocket who has a decent chemistry with Robbie. All of the core characters have solid chemistry with each other in the way they’re brought together but don’t really like each other.

I liked the humour for her Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress and she has a couple moments to shine, even if she doesn’t do that much. One of my favourite parts of this is as she goes down a slide and uses a henchman as a sled as she stabs him to death. It’s a cool shot. Also when Black Canary is allowed to be super, her battle cry is worth the wait.

It’s the ending here when all the women band together to fight for a common interest in protecting the girl that the film really shines. It’s when the action is most memorable, too, and it’s a finale fit for a solid comic book film like this one. There is great comic violence throughout the film as the characters take care of business separately, but it’s just a different level of fun when they kick ass together. I wish they could have done that together for longer, but it’s a blast while it lasts. In general, too, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a good time at the movies.

Score: 70/100

Unforgettable (2017)

Unforgettable (2017)

 

Unforgettable poster
Source

Released: April 21, 2017. Directed by: Denise Di Novi. Starring: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults. Runtime: 1h 40 min.

Unforgettable is a formulaic stalker story that is a forgettable affair. If they didn’t want critics taking jabs, they wouldn’t name it something so inviting!

Rosario Dawson is Julia Banks, an online editor who never does any work. She moves to a SoCal town with boyfriend David Connover (Geoff Stults) and his adorable daughter Lily (Isabella Kai Rice). The happy couple are also planning to get married. However, when there’s a daughter, there’s often a crazy ex-wife: The insanely jealous Tessa Connover (Katherine Heigl). She annoyingly can’t move on from David after two years of being separated, and she’ll stop at nothing to try to ruin their relationship.

The most frustrating thing about Unforgettable is its writing. It opens in the middle of its story as we see Julia being interrogated and then it jumps back to six months earlier (the timeline feels like two weeks at most, by the way). It’s an awful choice because they give us so much information, they even tell us someone’s dead, and it takes away element of surprise.

The thrills are weak regardless because it’s a predictable story, but I can’t remember a film that spoiled its own secrets so early. Between its interesting thoughts, this goes through the motions of every erotic thriller and goes out with a silly ending. This is Christina Hodson’s sophomore screenplay after the god-awful Shut In and it’s a bit better, but not by much. Though, these characters are more interesting.

Julia’s past with an abusive ex has been done before, but her insecurities are honest. She needed to get a restraining order for her last relationship (conveniently, it’s expiring for some unknown reason) and now she’s a victim trying to move on. She’s usually empowered, and Rosario Dawson is impressive because she doesn’t phone in a performance. She’s a lone bright spot.

Tessa is a total control freak and the film offers motivations for her insanities, but she’s simply a psycho Barbie, as Julia’s wise-cracking bestie (Whitney Cummings) aptly puts it. Tessa’s also the poster girl for helicopter parents. She’s shaping Lily into a mini Barbie through horseback riding and French lessons. These are some of the funniest moments, as Julia lets the little Barbie off a horse much to Tessa’s objections, and the French lessons are basically characters singing “Alouette, gentille Alouette.” There’s a lot of hair brushing as Tessa tries to get her daughter’s tangles out, and only villains brush hair that menacingly and that often.

Unforgettable horsey
Katherine Heigl, Rosario Dawson and Isabella Kai Rice in one of the thriller’s funniest scenes. (Source)

There are countless icy stares in Katherine Heigl’s performance. She’s one-note crazy and cold, but convincingly plays the controlling part. The character’s supposed to go crazy after she finds out they’re getting married, but it’s not convincing because Tessa looks bonkers the first time we see her. She plays uptight and crazy in the same range. This is at least until the end when she enters over-the-top campiness, but at least it looks like Heigl’s having fun.

There are a lot of silly scenes. At one point Tessa cries and watches a video of her wedding with David. She’s so perfect, even her tears fall in flawless lines. It’s funny, and Unforgettable toes a “so bad it’s good” line in these moments, but it never fully embraces it.

I don’t usually pay attention to prop design, but I must bring this up: At one point, Julia and David have a conversation in their living room. Meanwhile, there are about 25 crystal salt and pepper shakers on the coffee table. It leaves so many questions: Why is it there? Are they seasoning a feast? Who needs that much salt and pepper?

The closest I came to an answer: It’s there to spice up David’s personality. He’s so bland that it’s hard to see why these girls are fighting over him. It’s also baffling that even though this tries to empower women and is directed and written by women, it’s all about them fighting over a guy.

Any actor can play the role because he’s just the one-note, clueless husband and he’s just there to be fought over as the female leads duke it out. Geoff Stults gets the call, and I’ve only seen him in She’s Out of My League when he played an ex trying to win back an old girlfriend. That one has Jay Baruchel who’s dating his old love, but they’re fighting over Alice Eve. At least that’s believable.

Veteran producer Denise Di Novi (Edward Scisccorhands) makes her directorial debut and handles thrills with little style. She makes one scene feel pointless as Julia wants sex in a bathroom with David. Meanwhile, Tessa pleasures herself during a Facebook chat. The editing makes it unsexy and one of the most cringe-worthy scenes. If you can find any meaning in it, it’s that sex is a means of control. There’s zero passion in this scene, or this erotic thriller. David looks absolutely perplexed after it transpires. He gets the satisfaction, but with Unforgettable, we’re the ones who get screwed.

Score: 38/100