Tag Archives: Jared Leto

Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth 


“Isn’t it funny? You hear a phone ring and it could be anybody. But a ringing phone has to be answered, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?”

So snarls Kiefer Sutherland’s mysterious telephone terrorist to a petrified Colin Farrell in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth,

a taut, entertaining and oh so slightly heavy handed single location thriller that brings home the bacon, albeit messily spilling some grease along the way. Farrell is a hotshot businessman who steps into a phone booth (remember those?) one day, which serendipitously happens to also be the favourite haunt for sniper slinging whackjob Sutherland, who plays sadistic mind games, extorts the poor guy and digs up his darkest secrets, all while keeping him firmly in the crosshairs of his high powered rifle. The cops, led by a stoic Forest Whitaker, are perplexed at first and eventually drawn into this monster’s web too, as Farrell’s life begins to unravel at the whims of this unseen harasser, and the audience gets to see just how far either will go to resolve or escalate the situation. In this day and age there’d never be a scenario like this, the obvious reason being the extinction of phone-booths, but in the era of social media tech giants there’s just too much information and reaction time available for a situation this intimate to play out to the end. These days this nightmare would take the form of account hacking, an equally terrifying prospect, but a far less lucrative idea for a film. Now, we never really see Sutherland but for a few bleary frames, and he probably just recorded his dialogue from a cushy studio in jammies plastered with the 24 logo, but none of that takes away any of the lupine, icy calm malevolence from his vocal work here, and we believe in the ability of this man to freeze someone in their tracks, not only with a gun but with the power of verbal intonation as well. Farrell uses atypical caged animal intensity to ramp up the tension, and the other players, including Rhada Mitchell as his wife, Jared Leto and a very young looking Katie Holmes do fine by their roles. It’s a little glossy, a little too Hollywood if you know what I mean, but it’s a well oiled thriller nonetheless, with Sutherland’s shrouded, edgy persona being the highlight. 

-Nate Hill

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MY SO-CALLED LIFE – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

CLAIRE DANES, JASON LETO

When My So-Called Life debuted on television in 1994, it was seen as a smart alternative to mindless teen pap like Beverly Hills 90210. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know anyone like the “teens” (just how old were the actors anyway?) on that show. In comparison, the kids on My So-Called Life were awkward, vulnerable and, most importantly, real. All of the characters on this show acted like actual people. Sure, the writing, at times, was a little too touchy-feely and bleeding heart liberal for its own good – the influence of Thirtysomething’s Mitchell Herskovitz and Ed Zwick – but its observations about teenage life (and life in general) and the many melodramas that make it so difficult were right on the money.

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) is a nice girl still figuring out who she is as she pines after the dreamy Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) who, initially, barely knows that she exists. Angela is friends with party girl Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer), the openly gay Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz), Sharon Cherski (Devon Odessa), who used to be Angela’s best friend but has since been replaced by Rayanne, and the awkward Brian Krakow (Devon Gummersall) who secretly has a crush on Angela. In the first episode, Angela dyes her hair crimson as an act of rebellion against her mother (Bess Armstrong) who tries so hard to understand her daughter but doesn’t have a clue what she’s going through. Her father (Tom Irwin) is a nice enough guy but also equally clueless about his daughter’s day-to-day trials and tribulations. Angela’s parents are both liberal-minded people who were probably Hippies in the 1960s, grew up and bought into the system while still retaining their liberal sensibilities.

One of the great things about the show is how the writers flesh out the characters and the relationships between them. The conflicts that Angela has with her mother are spot-on and have a real ring of honesty to them. Rayanne’s self-destructive, partying ways are addressed in one episode. In another, Rickie comes out to his relatives and is kicked out of the house by his abusive uncle. The seemingly perfect Jordan turns out to be flawed as we find out in one episode that he can’t read or write.

There are so many stand-out episodes (let’s face it, they are all good), like the one with Angela’s substitute teacher (played to perfection by Roger Rees) who inspires her to think outside the box. However, she becomes blind to his flaws by his dynamic charisma. Arguably, the best episode is the Christmas one where singer/songwriter Juliana Hatfield plays a homeless person that Angela tries to help. It’s a truly moving episode as materialism and the commercial aspects of Christmas are rejected in favor of family, friendship, and selfless acts of kindness.

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Looking back at it now, My So-Called Life is a wonderful snapshot of the mid-1990s with the hairstyles and the clothes (you can even spot an REM poster in Angela’s bedroom) distinctive of that decade prominently on display. One can now look back at this decade through nostalgic glasses via this show. Despite its brief run, My So-Called Life not only helped launch the careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto, but without it there would be no Freaks and Geeks or Joan of Arcadia or Gilmore Girls, which also presented smart and sensitive teens in a realistic way. Both of these shows also had brief runs which seem to suggest that American viewers favor escapist fare like The OC and not heartfelt shows like My So-Called Life.

Suicide Squad: A Review by Nate Hill 

Suicide Squad has left me so torn. On the one hand I just want to belligerantly profess my love for certain key aspects which I have salivated for for a long time now, to blindly just say ‘nope. Fuck it, it’s great’, like that one stupid kid in class who just won’t back down from an argument he is clearly losing. On the other hand I do have to come to terms with the very real, very problematic aspects to the whole thing, weigh it out rationally (not something I’m great at) and make heavy mention of what didn’t work (not something I enjoy doing). I also have a massive bias towards DC as well, particularly all things Batman and foes, so that needed to be taken into account too. 
  Let’s get what didn’t work out of the way: everyone is hearing that the film is a mess, and I can indeed say that yes, it’s one huge jumbled mess, like twenty unmade beds tossed into a washing machine together. It’s heavily edited in places that could have used fluidity, and flatlines in other spots where a bit of frenzy would have worked better. It’s scant on character, frankly because there are too many, packed with a soundtrack that has it bursting at the hastily sewn seams, drastically and obviously cut in specific places that are noticeable holes in which you could drive the Batmobile through, and burdened with a lazily assembled antagonist who doesn’t deserve the heroes they rumble with. That’s just off the top of my head. 
  Now, what worked: There’s a silver lining to the inane madness of the film, because in it’s confusing symphony of random candy coated antics it almost finds a trace of a beat, a rhythm that’s almost decimated by the chorus. I’m not excusing the hackjob of editing or cuts, merely saying that with all taken into account, it kind of takes on a life of it’s own that while completely tone deaf, is never boring. Let’s talk about Harley Quinn and The Joker. When the Blu Ray comes out with all them deleted scenes, I’m going to make a personal fan edit that sheds the spotlight on all the nastier stuff we missed in the theatrical version. The stuff we do get to see with Harley is pure magic, and Robbie owns the film. Maddeningly sexy, sketchy, dangerous, cute, and gloriously insane, she nails it to the wall in terms of what makes the character so special. Jared Leto as The Joker is…. different. While I didn’t like the laugh (he sounded like a geriatric hyena), I really took a shine to the direction they went with the clown this time around. A pasty ghoul who is sick with weirdo ‘love’ for Harley, this is a Joker who is way more in tune with the comics version than Ledger was. There were a few off key mannerisms and questionable little things, but for the most part I’d say he rocked it, and I’m stoked to see him square off with Batman in a standalone flick. 
  So, the rest of the squad. They’re a random bunch of nut bars who are hastily and over enthusiastically hurrah-ed onto stage by stone cold suit Amanda Waller (a terrifying Viola Davis), who is far more villainous than any of them. Davis is the consummate amoral politician, fuelled by gnawing xenophobia and given the power to push her unholy agenda to scary heights. Will Smith is a hoot as Deadshot, he just needed a little less mirth and a tad more menace in the mix. A joke or three sits well with me, but I don’t like wading through quip stew with thoughts of serious threat on the other side, only to find a backbone replaced by pining for his young daughter. Nothing wrong with pathos, but remember guys, Deadshot is a villain, and too much mush takes away from the street cred. Killer Croc is great when he’s around, which isn’t much until the climax where he gets a nice action bit, but still overall underused. I’ve been an avid non fan of Jai Courtney thus far, he’s just reeked of blandness. Well crikey, the guy does a nice job here of being the rambunctious bad boy of the pack, even if the reason for his inclusion in the squad doesn’t extend much farther than ‘he robbed every bank in australia’. Like… what? Joel Kinnaman holds his own as special ops asset Rick Flagg, and Cara Delevingne much less so as the gyrating, Grudge inspired Enchantress. She’s just not a powerful villain in any way, but damn if she didn’t turn heads in that little outfit. Cara actually fared way better as Dr. June Moon in what little time we spent with her, of which I would have loved to see more. Jay Hernandez is on fire (sorry) as Diablo, a flammable ex gang banger who grew a conscience to go with his pyrotechnic prowess. As far as Slipknot  (Adam Beach) goes, there was literally no reason, no reason at all for him to be in the film. Introduced as ‘the man who can climb anything’, he climbs like… one wall that anyone with his tools could scale….and then dies. Poor Adam. Karen Fukuhara is cool as Katana, but we’ve seen the hot Asian samurai shtick done to death, so it’s nothing altogether new. 
  No, the film rests on Joker, Harley and to a lesser extant, Batman. Old Bats is in it for two crucial scenes, one of which had me give out a roaring cheer, as it’s the type of thing I signed up for when I shelled out 22 goddamn dollars to see this in VIP mode. I kept wishing the whole time that I could make my own edit with all of David Ayer’s footage, because there’s so much gold found onscreen, and I know there’s more to be mined on the floors of his editing room, left there by the prudish anxieties of studio heads that just don’t. Ever. Learn. I want to see Batman and his villains thunder out in this blooming DC franchise, and while the rest of the more obscure faces in the squad are fun, I was in it for the core villains. All the stuff with Joker and Harley is inspired, and the car chase where the Batmobile tears after Joker’s purple Hotwheels Lamborghini is pretty much the best part of the whole film. I want more Batman and Co., for shit sake. In any case, there’s a lot of fun to be had, an endless grab bag of stylistic tricks, fonts, gimmicks, colors, sounds and chaotic hullabaloo running around. Some of it works. Some of it doesn’t. Tough shit. It’s certainly not a terrible movie, and I feel many critics resorted to the oft employed ‘knee jerk’ reaction instead of internalizing it all before brandishing pen and keyboard. Critics are a spastic lot of baboons who have have a tendancy, especially these days, to jump the gun and hurl verbal feces at stuff before it’s had a chance to sink in. I’ll concede that there are huge issues, but huge amounts of fun can be found too. Or not. It’s up to you. I certainly had some fraction of a blast watching it, and the only way I can describe the thing as an whole is the Looney Toons having a food fight with a bunch of fluorescent Lucky Charms. If that abstract picture chimes with you, chances are you’ll at least get some kind of kick from the this baby, and probably be just as perplexed by certain areas as I was. Good luck.

SUICIDE SQUAD – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

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“Will you live for me?”

SUICIDE SQUAD is a complete mess, yet it is a total glory. I know, relax. Hear me out. Since the resurrection of Christopher Nolan’s Batman, there has been a forceful push to ground a superhero film in reality. Sometimes it works, other times is does not. SUICIDE SQUAD removes itself from that universe and takes place within movie world.

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There’s a lot that is blatantly strange and oddly incoherent about the film. Whether it was from studio tinkering (panic) or that everyone was on acid while making the film. None of that matters. The film has a great soundtrack and devilishly fun performances from the entire cast.

The film isn’t bright and glossy with a drumbeat joke every five minutes, it’s sloppy and dirty with perverse humor that will curl even the most uptight hipster’s mustache, while he’s passive aggressively using the Oxford comma to demean this film.

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Will Smith’s overly stereotypical ghetto jive, the over objectifying of Margot Robbie’s butt, the uppity bitch mode of Viola Davis, and Jared Leto’s insane transformation into a Joker that’s feverishly in love, are a step away from the safe mediocrity we’ve seen in recent tent-pole films.

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Director David Ayer has received so much critical flack for this film, it isn’t even funny. This wasn’t a film made for critics, nor was it seeking the approval of top ten lists. It’s loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s gratuitous, and it’s everything that the new DC Universe should aim for going forward. Let other studios play it safe with their glossy sheen, DC; keep forming a lewd and egregious world for the rest of us.

A Suicide Squad review by Josh Hains

Don’t worry, the following review is a spoiler free zone.

Appalling. Bad. Very, very bad. Trash. Garbage. Stupid. Incoherent. Incomprehensible. Dumb. Boring. Awful. Mediocre. Disaster. Rotten. I don’t agree with words such as these being used in reviews for Suicide Squad to describe the movie as whole. I’m not being blindly dismissive like some social media users out there who are mad that this highly anticipated movie isn’t getting a great critical reception. I just don’t agree, I had a different experience, and this review will reflect that experience.

Suicide Squad has a pretty straightforward plot: government spook Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles Task Force X, a motley crue of super-villains plucked from prison, and let loose in a city under attack by a malevolent meta-human. Kill the bad guy, save the city, and get some time off your prison sentences, that’s honestly as deep as it goes. But that’s not a detrimental aspect of the movie. In many comic book movies, the plot takes a back-seat to the action, humour, and character development, and Suicide Squad embraces that trope with wide open arms. With these team oriented comic book movies, it’s kind of expected that the story takes a back-seat to the character interactions and action, and if you need proof of that look no further than The Avengers movies. You don’t need an over complicated plot with far too many sub-plots for this kind of movie (I’m looking at you Batman V Superman). Simplicity is key, so by the time the plot gets thrown out of the window late in the second act you really won’t mind because director David Ayer makes up for it with great character moments, irreverent Deadpool style humour, and a wallop of fun action. Think of this movie as the DC equivalent of The Expendables, with way more humour but no gore, and you’ll be fine.

Speaking of character moments, many of the best belong to Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), all of whom are given just enough screen time (or more than enough) to make us care about the characters as they contend with their dire mission. I was initially worrisome about the casting of Smith as Deadshot, I thought he might end up becoming overbearing and even over the top, but he proved me wrong with a subtle and believable performance, his best since the Pursuit Of Happyness. Joel Kinnaman matches Smith’s performance, bringing a naturalistic touch to what could have been a stereotypical stubborn leader role. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is exactly like the Harley I grew up watching in the animated series that her creator Paul Dini wrote (minus the jester costume), and a total scene stealer. More on her later. El Diablo, the “fire guy” as Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) tauntingly dubs him, has the biggest emotional journey of any of the Squad members, though not as much screen time as the trio of aforementioned characters.

Captain Boomerang gets a solid amount of time to do his thing, which is make plenty of jokes and jabs, and kick a few asses along the way, but he isn’t given quite enough to do, which is a shame because he’s quite a lot of fun. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Cara Delevigne as June Moon & Enchantress, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, don’t get much to do, and neither does the sacrificial lamb Slipknot (Adam Beach), who follows in the footsteps of other villains in Suicide Squad comic and cartoons whose sole purpose is to prove that the bad guys aren’t playing around. Davis, a blank slate lacking charisma and passion behind her delivery of lines, doesn’t do much more than manipulate a few minds and give orders, and Delevigne’s characters aren’t fleshed out enough for us to care all that much about her. Killer Croc and Katana have minor moments of asskicking, and Croc gets a couple of funny lines, but neither of them are all that relevant to the plot, and easily could have been removed from the movie altogether without hurting the final product. However brief they may be, the two much hyped cameos, which includes Batman himself (Ben Affleck), fit naturally into the movie, and lack the feeling of being shoehorned into the movie for the sake of having them there.

Now back to Harley. Margot Robbie, equipped with a believable Bronx accent, and a fresh take on the New 52 Suicide Squad comic iteration of Harley, brings life and a lot of love for the character to a performance many were worried would fall flat. She looks, sounds, and behaves exactly like the Harley Quinn fans know and fondly love, and it’s a joy to see her steal scene after scene. She’s also fortunate enough to have some of the funniest lines in the movie, which Robbie delivers with a glint of pure enjoyment in her eyes.

In my eyes, the performance I was most drawn to belongs to Jared Leto as the Clown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker. Seemingly drawing from previous Jokers such as Caesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger, as well as the vast number of animated incarnations, Leto gives us a fresh take on the iconic villain that doesn’t feel like any Joker that came before it. I’d equate the performance to that of taking all the best elements of the aforementioned Jokers, and building from the ground up a composite of what that may look like. He’s not better, or worse than Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning turn as The Joker, he’s just different in his own unique fashion. I do think he’s better than the Jokers pre-Ledger though. Leto is gleefully over the top, cackling and growling like a tiger waiting to tear the face off his next unsuspecting victim, but not too over the top. This Joker’s as unpredictable, crafty, and brutal as ever before, but not overbearingly so. Sadly, Joker’s vastly underused, with much of his screen time left on the cutting room floor. I’d love to see more of this new Joker. The relationship between he and Harley, while volatile and unhealthy, is perfectly reflective of the one seen in the pages and frames of various DC comics and cartoons, and seeing it come to life was also a rather joyous experience.

Throughout the second and third acts of the movie, the editing seems to be a bit on the choppy side, more predominantly in the third act than the second act by a mile. It became pretty clear to me that the push for a two hour crowd pleasing comic book movie got in the way of giving the sidelined characters more depth and more impactful screen presences. Somehow, despite the clunky nature of the editing (which isn’t very distracting, thankfully), these scenes that are affected by it still work fairly well until the editing seems to get back on track and working just fine.

Beyond the quibbles I have with the editing, the story, the character development, and the casting of Amanda Waller, I still enjoyed this movie a lot, in some ways more than I thought I would, and in a couple of ways, less. I do not feel that this is a bad movie by any means, I think it’s actually damn good, but it’s not quite as great as it could have been, though I wasn’t always wanting or expecting it to be great anyways. If anything, all I ever wanted was yet another fun comic book movie I could lose myself in while watching these badass villains kick all kinds of ass six ways to Sunday. David Ayer gave me that in spades.

Now where’s the sequel?

 

 

 

 

 

Girl, Interrupted: A Review by Nate Hill

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James Mangold is a director who takes nothing but top shelf scripts and spins them into gold, and Girl Interrupted is a shining example of this. It’s based on a book by Susannah Kayson in which she outlines an 18 month stay at a mental ward sometime during the 60’s. Mangold adapts her book for the screen, gathers an excellent cast of talented gals and a couple guys, and makes a film that holds up today like it was still it’s release week in 1999. Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a reckless girl who is labeled wayward and unstable by her parents, committed to a facility by her stern psychiatrist (Red Forman himself, Kurtwood Smith). She’s a little rough around the edges, but one senses the innate sensibility to her that perhaps has been buried under turbulent behaviour not by anything within her, but by the constricting nature of the time period she has been born into. In any case, she finds herself thrown into an environment she didn’t expect, with many other girls, some of which she clashes with, some of which she ends up befriending, and one that.. well, defies classification, really. The girl in question is Lisa, played by a fantastically fired up Angelina Jolie who nearly combusts upon herself in her furious performance. Lisa has been dubbed nearly unable to treat, yet simply has the kind of soul that doesn’t fit into a box, let alone lend itself to scholarly dissection. Ice cool one moment, a raging typhoon the next, and holding a dense riot shield over any trace of her true emotions every second, she’s an enigmatic, elemental wild card. It’s the best work I’ve ever seen from Jolie, getting her a well earned oscar nod. She teaches Susanna some lessons that only people on that side of the glass can comprehend, confounding the facility’s head doctor (Vanessa Redgrave) and puzzling a kind orderly (Whoopi Goldberg), two rational people who simply can’t understand the kind resolution and companionship that often comes out of irrational, unconventional interaction that almost always is seen as ‘unstable’. Ryder is pitch perfect and carries her share of the load, but despite being the protagonist, it’s Jolie’s show all the way. She’s unbelievably good and will break the heart of both first time viewers and veterans who put the dvd in every so often for a tearful revisit. The late Brittany Murphy is great as Daisy, another complicated girl, and Clea Duvall scores points as Georgina, the shy and reserved one. There’s also work from Jared Leto Elizabeth Moss, Angela Bettis, Bruce Altman, Mary Kay Place, Kadee Strickland, Misha Collins and Jeffrey Tambor. Tender, patient and non judgmental are qualities which are essential in films of this subject matter, as well as empathy from both viewer and filmmaker, to take a look at these girls and even though we may not understand what is going on with them or their beaviour, to simply bear witness, and be there for them. Mangold knows this and acts accordingly, leading to a beautiful film of the highest order. Viewers are sure to do the same, completing the artistic ring full circle.