Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review | Suicide Squad

Picture the scene: David Ayer is pitching his idea for Suicide Squad at the Warner Bros headquarters, frantically throwing ideas together from a badly drawn together notebook. He triumphantly points to a line in the script, one that is uttered after a male character punches a female in the face, that reads "she had a mouth." "HILARIOUS RIGHT?!" Ayer shrieks unable to control his laughter as the members of Warner Bros look at each other nervously. This whole analogy basically sums up the sheer disappointment of Suicide Squad and makes me question the future of DC's planned extended universe.

The plot, a term I'm using VERY VERY loosely, follows bad-ass Amanda Waller (played flawlessly by Viola Davis) recruiting a team of well known super-villains such as Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others (literally they're not even worth mentioning because of how little screen time they have) to save the world from an ancient sorceress known only as Enchantress (Cara Delevigne). And that's it. Oh and Joker pops up near the end. The plot is so incredibly wafer thin you never really get a sense of what the hell is going on, you feel about as clueless as the characters walking into Midtown.

Now, I'm aware of how savagely critics have been tearing into the film and I honestly did walk into the cinema with an incredibly open mind, and as much as I didn't think the film was horrendously bad, it was a very very poorly made one. The pacing and tonal shifts are so frustratingly jarring and quick, you never feel like you're watching scenes, rather than video-game cut-scenes or trailers. The opening half hour should have been essential in giving the characters enough time to establish themselves and their back story, to which I would have happily enjoyed a film of origin stories for each member to set up something bigger. At least then we would have got decent character development. Harley and Joker's story speeds along with such fury in flashback form you never really know what's happening. Plus, if you weren't familiar with the comics, you wouldn't have had a CLUE on how Harley becomes the way she is as the flashbacks are so inconsistent in tone and lack any explanation. It's just so messy and confusing. Even the soundtrack feels horribly out of place, jumping from one song to the next, it became more intrusive than anything else.

Furthermore, considering the film is about a 'Squad', only Harley and Deadshot are given most of the screen time, heck, even Harley isn't allowed to steal the show with Margot Robbie's excellent performance. Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo and Katana are given next to no lines or any form of a back story except to stand around and look a little moody. Which makes it questionable when El Diablo proudly states "I've lost one family, I'm not going to lose another", YOU'VE NOT SAID A WORD TO EACH OTHER AND YET YOU'RE FAMILY?! It's just lazy writing, affirming the theory that the script was written in under six weeks. Dialogue is cheap, lazy or just downright ridiculous at times. Like would an ancient sorceress really say "You don't have the balls"?
   Something that really bothered me throughout the film though, and I don't think I can actually forgive Ayer for this, is how riddled the film is with misogyny. Batman (Ben Affleck, I KNOW right?) gives weirdly sexual mouth-to-mouth with Harley then punches her in the face once she is conscious, Harley is just a walking sex object with no other purpose than to depend on the Joker, and is even given a dream-sequence where is she is married, with children and even has rollers in her hair. Oh and she's in a kitchen. All she needs is to be making a sandwich and we'd be back in the 1950s, right Mr Ayer? It just devalues everything Harley's character is supposed to be and left a very horrible impression.

You'd think I hated the film, but there were moments I did enjoy. There were some, SOME, funny moments which earned a chuckle but nothing that warranted a belting laugh out loud. As much as Cara Delevine's acting is choppy to say the least, I did enjoy her characterization as primitive Enchantress. The standout, was undoubtedly, Viola Davis's Amanda Waller. Her icy demeanour and cruelty was pitch perfect and was the perfect antithesis to the objectified women in the rest of the film. Also any scene with Robbie's Harley and Jared Leto's Joker was such a treat. Robbie nails the character, with every line, her physicality, her laugh. She gripped my attention every time she was on screen and I wanted more, it's just shame I never got it. It's just such a shame that these moments were too far few and between, as over half an hour's worth of scenes were supposedly cut in the final film. Leto's performance of Joker was impressive, considering he's following Heath Ledger, but due to his lack of screen-time I wasn't fully able to see what he could do with the character or how far he could go, to which I'm hoping he can show in a future instalment.  The brief snippets of other characters in the DC universe and the mid-credits scene were mildly entertaining, but one feels that DC is just rushing to create this whole extended universe rather than think carefully about the films it's releasing. I'm not pitting DC against Marvel in any way, but Marvel have had a ten year gap ahead of DC, and more time to make a well crafted film. Warner Bros should just have a nice sit down and re-evaluate their upcoming schedule.

While lighter in tone than the dreadful Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad is just a convoluted mess of ideas and underdeveloped characters that suffer from a lazy script and poor editing. It's a shame that performances from Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are so severely undercut by Ayer's direction and unacceptable use of misogyny, for that, HE'S the real bad guy in this.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Lunch with Rylan

Wearing an all-black ensemble, Rylan greets us with a friendly hello and handshake, bearing that infamous grin on his face that so many know him for. He's in Waterstones' Reading today doing a signing for his new book, 'The Life of Rylan', which comes at a time where he is becoming a household name. Recently announced as the new co-host of The X Factor, he also presents Big Brother's Bit on the Side and has a segment on This Morning, which he recently co-hosted with his partner Dan. With everything going on, we ask why now to write a book, when he could have done years ago?

   "I was offered to a book months after X Factor finished (being a former contestant) but I felt it was embarrassing, because I don't do products, but then last year I was asked again and they really wanted to know my story before X Factor, before anything really, so I agreed to do it but if I was going to do it I wanted to do it myself."

  While on the topic we bring up The X Factor, as Rylan tells us he had just finished filming his first day at Wembley Arena. "It's so weird being on the other side of the barrier" he laughs. "But it's so nice knowing that I can turn up and start work straight away rather than wake up at six o'clock in the morning and wait around for seven hours!" There is a certain amount of empathy Rylan emits when talking about his role as presenter for two reality shows he himself has been a part of, which makes the experience a whole lot more enjoyable and genuine, which he concurs with. "When the housemates come out in Big Brother, I can talk to them and relate, because I've been there y'know? It's the same with X Factor, and it's much more enjoyable that way, being able to impart some wise words of wisdom!"

"I've bumped into so many people on this book tour, it was like long lost families!"


   Reading is the penultimate stop of Rylan's book tour that has been incredibly successful, so much so that he arrives into store with very good news. "The book came out two days before the start of the tour, so I had no idea on sales, whether people were buying it or not and now I'm here today and it's number one!" he beams, flashing a smile, clearly very grateful and humbled by this news. I elaborate on the figures, by explaining how in my local branch in Coventry we had sold out within a day which is meant by a gasp, then a chuckle.
  "That's amazing, I'm really, really grateful. It just means a lot more that I've written the book myself, so I can say I'm not just a Sunday Times Bestseller, but a Sunday Times bestselling author." 
Rylan was approached by a ghostwriter in the early stages of the book process, but he ultimately turned it down, "I don't judge people at all for using ghostwriters, I actually met up with one and she was lovely, but I just knew that I had to do it and I wanted to do it. It means so much more when it's my number one and no-one elses."

"I'm literally on a forty six day stretch, I don't get a chance to relax or unwind!"

  Considering he's on a mammoth book tour, simultaneously hosting three television shows, and planning two more for ITV, I note how well he is looking which is met with another laugh. "It's a LOT of make up and fake tan! 2016 has turned out to be the year...I don't actually have a life, but y'know I'm prepared to do it and I'm really lucky to be doing it. Though having a three hour gap between shows can be strange at times."

  I then ask Rylan about hosting a segment on This Morning with his partner Dan, as it was certainly a big event not just for This Morning, but for ITV and TV in general, having the first same-sex couple present a morning prime-time show. "It was really surreal, the opportunity came up, but I wasn't sure, though Dan really wanted to do it, so we did, and it went down really really well. I'm so grateful for the reaction, and even though it is a moment of history, I don't really look at it that way, I'm just glad me and Dan got to it!" I throw the term role model into the conversation, saying how potentially young people may look up to him and Dan and use that moment to help them come to terms with their identity or overcome any issues they may be facing. "The word role model scares me" Rylan laughs softly "but I get what you're saying. People on this tour come up to me and say 'My dad really likes you, he thinks you're really funny which made it easier to tell him I'm gay or bi, or whatever it may be', and if I've helped anyone in any kind of way, then I'll be completely over the moon."

   What everyone loves about Rylan, and myself included after being in his company for just over ten minutes, is how genuine and lovely he is, which was clear in the segment with Dan, they were both so genuine and warming. "I don't act and I never mean to act" he explains, "there is a lot of people in this industry that do act but I am always myself. You see it on TV, read it in the book, backstage, onstage, I am the same person all the time. I didn't do this book to sell books at the end of the day, I did this for myself, to prove I could do it and meet amazing people on the way." A pivotal question is asked next, as to which emoji Rylan feels like he most resonates with, and he bares his teeth, showing them in full, resembling the said emoji gritting its teeth. "I wanna get my own emoji!" he declares, eyes sparking with excitement. With that, we say our thank you and goodbyes and Rylan heads down to begin his signing. 

   In a time where reality television seems to be on the verge of an all-important comeback, it is so refreshing to see people like Rylan emulating a natural kindness and sense of humour that is, not only needed to carry such shows, but so crucial in real life. What you see with Rylan, is truly what you get, and I couldn't have asked for more polite, engaging gentleman to interview. I was even fortunate to stay with Rylan and his wonderful team for lunch before they headed on to Basingstoke, as we all just had a natter over some sandwiches; true as his word, Rylan remained as engaging, polite and as humorous as ever. Hasn't he done well?

The Life of Rylan