Tag Archives: Will Smith

Odd Squad

‘Suicide Squad’ is a crazy, colorful, over-stuffed mess

SUICIDE SQUAD

Suicide Squad
Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis & Jared Leto
Directed by David Ayer
PG-13

The superhero summer gets a jolt of anarchy as a group of “metahuman” oddballs and outlaws commandeer the screen.

Based on obscure characters created by DC Comics, the Suicide Squad is a motley crew of death-row supervillains corralled by the government to combat threats too dangerous or deadly for ordinary defenses—like the “next” Superman, who might not be so people-friendly, or the slinky sorceress (Cara Delevingne) now building a doomsday machine to annihilate humanity—in exchange for lightened sentences.

Think The Dirty Dozen meets Guardians of the Galaxy, with a twist of Ghostbusters.

Will Smith

Will Smith

Will Smith is Deadshot, the world’s most lethal assassin. Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn, a psychiatrist turned psycho by her bonkers boyfriend, the Joker (Jared Leto). There’s also Aussie kleptomaniac Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), hulking human reptile Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, buried beneath a ton of rubbery prosthetics) and pyrotechnic homeboy El Diablo (a heavily tattooed Jay Hernandez).

Viola Davis is the iron-fisted black-ops recruiter in charge of the squad. Karen Fukuhara plays Katana, a samurai whose sword contains the souls of everyone its ever slain. Joel Kinnaman is elite soldier Col. Rick Flag, who has a special—though convoluted—tie to the Enchantress, the ancient, newly resurrected witch trying to destroy the world. Even Batman (Ben Affleck) and the Flash (Ezra Miller) drop in for cameos, as if they’ve casually wandered over from another movie.

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie

Everyone has a backstory and a rockin’ theme song. Harley gets a reworked version of the old Leslie Gore hit “You Don’t Own Me,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s swampy “Fortunate Son” plays for Killer Croc, and as Diablo’s flames flicker in the night sky, we hear War’s “Slippin’ Into Darkness.”

Writer-director David Ayer—who also directed the Brad Pitt WWII tank flick Fury and wrote Training Day, for which Denzel Washington won an Oscar—has a lot on his plate. Ultimately, the huge cast, unwieldy story and muddled, sometimes downright cheesy special effects become just too much—for him, and us—and everything crashes, smashes, mashes and finally collapses into a big, boom-y blob.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto

There are some things, however, to like about Suicide Squad. Leto’s cackling Joker is an unhinged kick; you never know what he’s going to do, how far he’ll go or where. It’s good to see Smith in a semi-supporting role where he can lay back in an ensemble but still unload some great quips. Davis is deliciously ambiguous as a high-ranking agent who’ll do whatever it takes to do a dirty job. Robbie seems to be having fun as the wacko Harley, but her hyper-sexy shorty shorts, fishnet stockings, stiletto boots and smeared baby-doll makeup look like they came from a stripper’s closet—or a fanboy’s heated ComicCon dream—instead of a wacko supervillain’s lair.

In the end, the movie is a hot mess—but a loud, star-packed, proudly trashy one. At one point, Harley and the Joker jump into an industrial vat of paint, then make out, rolling around and laughing like the nut jobs they are in the swirls of blue, red, yellow and green. That’s pretty good snapshot of Suicide Squad as a whole: Stuffed full of everything, including itself, it’s mad, mucky and yucky and doesn’t make a lot of sense—but hey, look at all those crazy colors!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Butting Heads

Will Smith tackles the NFL 

1286100 - Concussion

Concussion

Starring Will Smith, Alec Baldwin & Albert Brooks

Directed by Peter Landesman

PG-13

Will Smith has fought zombies, space aliens and killer robots. Now he’s squaring off against an even bigger, completely human foe—and certainly a much more popular one.

In Concussion, he plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, who discovers the link between football and CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy—potentially fatal brain damage from repeated concussions.

The true story (originally told in a 2009 article in GQ magazine) begins as we meet Nigerian-born Omalu in 2002, while he’s working in Pittsburgh as the county coroner’s forensic pathologist. The untimely death, and bizarre final days, of a former Pittsburgh Steeler football Hall of Famer, Mike Webster (David Morse), troubles him: Webster’s autopsy reveals severe brain trauma that caused him to go crazy, freak out and eventually expire of a heart attack. When Omalu learns of other NFL players dying in similar fashion, he investigates further and comes to a conclusion that almost no one wants to hear—especially not the National Football League.

Playing football can kill you.

Unlike some other creatures, such as the woodpecker or the bighorn sheep, Omalu points out, humans have no natural shock absorber in our skulls to cushion the blow when one of our noggins impact with something hard—like another noggin. Nature, or providence, simply did not equip us that way. Therefore, Omalu reasons, “God did not intend for us to play football.”

Smith, a bona fide movie star, is outstanding in a non-flashy role that doesn’t involve car chases, spaceships, shootouts or CGI special effects—just straight-up, strong, dig-in acting and a very plausible, start-to-finish nail-down of Dr. O’s West African accent and mannerisms. He makes you feel Omalu’s passionate sense of commitment—and his dream to be accepted as “American”—as the NFL tries to quash his research and discredit him.

Albert Brooks is Cyril Wecht, the county coroner who helps Omalu while warning him of squaring off against with the NFL. “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week,” he tells him. Alec Baldwin plays Dr. Julian Bailes, the former Steelers team doctor who assists Omalu in getting his message to football players, managers, agents and the commissioner. “You’ve turned on the lights and given their biggest boogeyman a name,” Bailes says.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith star in Columbia Pictures' "Concussion."

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith

British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Prema, the Nigerian student who becomes Omalu’s wife, reminding him that his family name means “He who knows, speaks.”

But the movie belongs to Smith, who tackles what might be his one of his trickiest, juiciest roles—a crusading underdog with a potentially life-saving message that falls on mostly deaf ears. “Tell the truth—tell the truth!” a frustrated Omalu jabs at a NFL team neurosurgeon who refuses to admit there’s any connection between football and brain injury.

As millions of football fans tune into the big game this weekend, it’s a truth that will likely be drowned out by the symphony of cheers all across America.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Slick Willy

Will Smith is supercool scammer in international con caper

_87C6452.dng

Focus

Starring Will Smith & Margot Robbie

Directed by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Rated R

In Hollywood, everyone loves a con man. From The Sting to American Hustle, movies about charismatic con artists, scamp-ish scammers and fun-loving flimflammers have been parting moviegoers from their money for decades.

Will Smith, once one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet, takes on the genre with Focus, a sleek and stylish caper flick that combines the con with comedy and romance. In Hollywood shorthand, they call that a rom-con.

_87C3038.dng

Margot Robbie

Smith plays Nicky, a smooth, charming career criminal in charge of a hipster crew of pickpockets, thieves and other masters at separating unsuspecting schmoes from their credit cards, wallets, watches, jewelry and other valuables. In the opening scene, he turns the tables on the beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie), a small(er)-time hustler who quickly becomes his partner and his protégé—and, soon enough, his lover.

Nicky and Jess swap life stories, hop in and out of the sack and embark on a stealing spree in New Orleans over Super Bowl weekend that nets over $1 million in swiped goods. But the movie doesn’t really catch fire until fully 45 minutes in, when they encounter a high-rolling businessman (B.D. Wong) at the big game who entices Nicky into a round of ridiculously high-stakes gambling. The drama builds to the tune of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” which, we later find out, is something quite more than just a song on the soundtrack.

But in this movie, with everyone on the take and on the make, and some kind of sleight of hand in practically every scene, nothing is quite what it seems—and you can’t really trust anyone…or can you? This is especially true in the second half of the movie, when the story jumps ahead three years and across the globe, and all the characters end up in a completely different scenario, in different “roles.”

FCS209_085.tif

Adrian Martinez

Gerald McCraney comes onto the scene (and possibly onto Nicky); Brazilian movie superstar Rodrigo Santoro plays a suave Formula 1 racing stud; and Adrian Martinez, who’s been in some 80 moves and TV shows as a supporting player, provides a lot of levity—and much of the reason for the movie’s R rating—as Nicky’s loyal sidekick.

Focus keeps you guessing. And it’s gorgeous to look at with two beautiful co-stars, often bathed in sensuous, sexy close-ups. Robbie, who made such a splash in The Wolf of Wall Street, makes a particularly strong impression in this constantly evolving cat-and-mouse game. The on-location shots, especially when the action shifts to Buenos Aires, are golden, sunbaked vistas that will chase away even the deepest winter blues. The director-writer team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Bad Santa; I Love You, Phillip Morris; and Crazy, Stupid Love) know how to keep things lively, luscious and lovely.

The dialogue can be dumb and clunky, the action isn’t quite as crisp as it could be, the danger never quite sharpens to a knife’s edge of worry about anyone, and some of the extremely complicated scheming requires some big, big stretching to swallow. But Focus has so much eye-candy razzle-dazzle, and it all looks so fabulous, it makes you forget about many of those pesky things, lost in its cool, groovy vibes and its long-con gamesmanship, and—hey, just a minute: Where’s my wallet?!!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,