Culture Representation: Taking place in 1897, mostly on a ship sailing from the Carpathian mountain range in continental Europe to London, the horror film “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” (based on a chapter in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” novel) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one black person and one Asian person) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: The people on a ship that’s carrying livestock for a sales transaction find out too late that a vampire named Dracula is on the ship.
Culture Audience: “The Last Voyage of Demeter” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stories about Dracula or other vampires, but this violent flick drags on with underdeveloped characters and lot of boring repetition.
Considering the large number of vampire movies that exist, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is as creatively comatose as a vampire victim drained of blood. It takes entirely too long to get to any real action in this story, which is a dull mess of clichés. The movie has a talented cast, but they can’t save this disappointing movie that’s the equivalent of a sinking ship.
Directed by André Øvredal and written by Bragi F. Schut and Zak Olkewicz, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is based on the chapter “Captain’s Log” in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel “Dracula.” Making an entire movie based on only a book chapter can either limit the movie when mishandled or open up a lot of innovative possibilities from filmmakers with enough imagination. Unfortunately, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is hampered by a limp plot that’s essentially just a checklist of people on a ship getting attacked by the evil vampire Dracula on the ship. This vampire (played by Javier Botet) looks more like the alien-like Nosferatu as it was orginally conceived, rather than the elegant Count Dracula.
The movie begins in Whitby, England, on August 7, 1897. On a stormy night, two coast guard men in raincoats find a deserted schooner, with a dead man tied to its wheel. The man has a crucifix in his hand. In his pocket is a bottle, with a rolled-up piece of paper inside. It’s a journal entry log that warns of danger. Suddenly, an unseen force attacks the two coast guard men.
The movie then does a flashback to July 1897. A cargo ship called The Demeter is about to set sail from the Carpathian mountain range (which spans from Bulgaria to the north and Romania to the south), with the final destination to London. The cargo consists of several livestock animals, such as goats, pigs and chickens. Viewers soon find out that the schooner with the dead man originally came from The Demeter.
Right before The Demeter is about to set sail, several men who were hired to be crew members on the ship end up quitting when they hear that the ship will be leaving after the sun sets. The leader of this superstitious group says that the group will only leave if the ship sails before sunset. The ship’s first mate Wojchek (played by David Dastmalchian), a Polish immigrant who grew up as an orphan, tries to convince the men to change their minds, but they stand firm and then leave the harbor.
The Demeter then leaves with a very understaffed crew, which will soon find out how dangerous this voyage will be. The evil vampire Dracula starts attacking people on the ship, one by one. Everything that you think will happen in this movie does happen, because it’s a rote rehash of other vampire flicks, except it takes place on a ship in 1897. And if there’s a lone survivor in the story, you can easily predict who it will be.
In addition to first mate Wojcheck, the other people on this fatal voyage of The Demeter are intelligent British physician Clemons (played by Corey Hawkins), level-headed Captain Eliot (played by Liam Cunningham), Captain Eliot’s curious 8-year-old grandson Toby (played by Woody Norman) and a mysterious stowaway named Anna (played by Aisling Franciosi), who is found in a comatose state with bloody welts and bites all over her body. Clemons has to give her blood transfusions to keep her alive.
Other people on the ship are four crew members: a dependable Romanian named Olgaren (played by Stefan Kapicic); reliable second mate Larsen (played by Martin Furulund); loudmouth Petrofsky (played by Nikolai Nikolaeff); and youngest crew member Abrams (played by Chris Walley), who has a special bond with Larsen. All four of these crew members don’t say much that’s worth remembering after watching the movie. During a meal around a dining table the men talk about going to a brothel, and they have a laugh when Toby tells them that a brothel is where women take off their knickers.
Also on the Demeter is the ship’s ultra-religious cook Joseph (played by Jon Jon Briones), who is originally from the Philippines. Joseph gets very offended when he hears people curse, because he thinks cursing is a serious sin. Someone should’ve told Joseph that he picked the wrong job, working with a bunch of sailors. He is also highly superstitious.
Not much happens for the first 20 minutes of the movie. Viewers find out that Toby is in charge of looking after the animals. This voyage is going to be Captain Eliot’s last voyage before he retires. Soon after The Demeter sets sail, Captain Eliot tells Vojchek that he wants Vojchek to be his successor. Vojchek, who sees Captain Eliot almost like a father figure, is flattered by this decision.
Captain Eliot keeps the ship’s log. His written entries are occasionally read aloud as voiceovers in the movie. These entries start off as very routine, but then the entries become more alarming as more disturbing things happen on the ship. It’s all so formulaic.
It’s explained early on in the movie that Clemons, who is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, is on the ship because he had been hired for a physician job in Eastern Europe. But once the employers saw Clemons in person (he’s black), they withdrew the job offer. Clemons decided to go back to England and needed a ride, which is how he ended up on this ship of strangers. Other than this backstory, Clemons mostly has a blank slate of a personality.
The issue of racism is briefly mentioned, in relation to Clemons getting a job taken away from him because of his race and a few other racist incidents that he’s experienced outside of this ship. No one on the ship treats Clemons with overt racism. However, he sometimes has to remind some of the crew members of his education to convince them that he’s capable of making certain medical decisions.
There could have been so much more done with the Clemons character, in terms of his character and his life experiences, but “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” filmmakers gave Clemons a cardboard cutout type of character: He’s there, and he’s noticeable, but he doesn’t have much depth. By the end of the movie, viewers will literally not know much about Clemons except that he’s a compassionate doctor who experiences racism.
Likewise, the Anna character and her life story also remains largely unknown. When Anna emerges from her coma and warns that Dracula is on the ship, the crew barely asks her any questions about who she is and what she knows about Dracula. Part of this lack of curiosity is because, at first, most of the crew members think that Anna is hallucinating from her medical injuries. “The Last Voyage of Demeter” has a lot of gore, but it avoids the messy and realistic issue of what it means to be a physically vulnerable woman who’s the only female on board a ship with some coarse sailors.
One of the more idiotic scenes in the movie is when Joseph finds out that something on board is killing the crew, he doesn’t leave during the day when he as a chance—in other words, when things on the water will be much easier to see. Instead, Joseph waits to leave by himself on a rowboat on a very foggy night. Although nothing is wrong with the cast members’ acting in “The Last Voyage of Demeter, ” none of it is special either, because the screenwriting makes all the characters fairly hollow.
Visually, “The Last Voyage of Demeter” is just a dump of mediocrity. This movie is bloody, but it’s not very scary. The best Dracula movies show the glimmers of humanity in Dracula. “The Voyage of the Demeter” just makes Dracula a drab monster who’s on the loose, with no concern in telling anything interesting about Dracula. For a movie about a vampire icon, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is bloodless and toothless when it comes to telling a good story.
Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures will release “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” in U.S. cinemas on August 11, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States and in Europe, from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, the dramatic film “Oppenheimer” (based on the non-fiction book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer”) features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer invents the atomic bomb, which is used in Japan toward the end of World War II, but he struggles with the moral consequences of this invention.
Culture Audience: “Oppenheimer” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Christopher Nolan, the star headliners and history-based movies with a top-notch principal cast.
“Oppenheimer” has the words “awards bait” written all over it. This epic drama about atomic bomb inventor J. Robert Oppenheimer is crammed with showy performances from an all-star cast. The last third of the movie is the best and most meaningful section.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, “Oppenheimer” is based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s 2005 non-fiction book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” Oppenheimer was born in 1904 and died in 1967. This three-hour movie has a story that spans from the late 1920s to the late 1960s, with most of the story taking place in the 1940s and 1950s. It’s a very ambitious film that at times seems more interested in showing off how many famous cast members can be stuffed into quick-cutting scenes. The middle part of the movie tends to drag with some repetition, but the movie’s last hour is absolutely riveting.
J. Robert Oppenheimer, also known as Robert (played by Cillian Murphy, giving an award-worthy performance), is an intense and quietly brooding American theoretical physicist who is originally from New York, but he did his most significant work in remote areas of Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was tested. The top-secret research into making the atomic bomb was called the Manhattan Project. The movie shows that Robert had mixed feelings about this invention, even before it was actually built. He also worried about how this bomb could possibly start a competition among other countries (specifically, Russia, then known as the Soviet Union) to make an even more destructive bomb.
The first hour of “Oppenheimer” cuts in and out of scenes so quickly, it does a disservice to the story by preventing viewers from getting to know the main characters better. After a while, the movie’s first hour just becomes a parade of big-name actors portraying scientists and government officials who have various debates about the merits and morality of the atomic bomb. It all becomes a bit long-winded, although the visuals in the movie are often stunning. Also noteworthy is composer Ludwig Göransson’s stirring “Oppenheimer” musical score.
There are repetitive mentions of Robert always feeling like the white Anglos who dominate the U.S. government will never truly accept him because he’s Jewish. There’s some antisemitism depicted in the movie, but the biggest prejudices in “Oppenheimer” have to do with political alliances. The movie’s story is steeped in people’s obsession with finding out who’s a Communist (or Communist ally) and who is not. This “Red Scare” would eventually be the undoing of more than one person in the story.
The other real-life people portrayed in “Oppenheimer” include Leslie Groves Jr. (played by Matt Damon), the politically conservative officer of the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers and director of the Manhattan Project; Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.), the founding commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission); and physicist Ernest Lawrence (played by Josh Hartnett), the extroverted inventor of the cyclotron, who befriends the more introverted Robert. Other real-life historical figures portrayed in “Oppenheimer” include Danish physicist Niels Bohr (played by Kenneth Branagh), a mutual admirer of Robert; hydrogen bomb inventor Edward Teller (played by Benny Safdie), an uneasy subordinate of Robert; and physicist Frank Oppenheimer (played by Dylan Arnold), Robert’s younger brother, who was recruited by Robert to work on the Manhattan Project.
And there’s more: Hans Bethe (played by Gustaf Skarsgård), the leader of the Manhattan Project’s theorist department; physicist/chemist Isidor Rabi (played by David Krumholtz), Robert’s longtime friend/advisor; Vannevar Bush (played by Matthew Modine), the leader of the Office of Scientific Research and Development; William Borden (played by David Dastmalchian), executive director of the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy; and world-renowned scientist Albert Einstein (played by Tom Conti), who has a few contrived-looking scenes where he has private conversations with Robert.
And there’s even more: Jason Clarke as Roger Robb, special counsel to the Atomic Energy Commission; Macon Blair as Lloyd Garrison, Robert’s attorney; Rami Malek as physicist David Hill; Alden Ehrenreich as an unnamed U.S. Senate aide who works with Lewis Strauss; Casey Affleck as U.S. Army military intelligence officer Boris Pash; Dane DeHaan as civil engineer Kenneth Nichols. Also in the “Oppenheimer” cast are Tony Goldwyn as national security/defense government official Gordon Gray; Jack Quaid as physicist Richard Geynman; Josh Peck as physicist Kenneth Bainbridge; Alex Wolff as physicist Luiz Alvarez; and James Remar as U.S. government official Henry Stimson. Even with a cast packed with well-known actors, most of the supporting actors who are in the movie for less than 10 minutes each don’t have much to do but say their lines while sitting or standing in offices.
One of the best scenes in the movie is when Robert has a tension-filled meeting in 1945, with U.S. president Harry Truman (played Gary Oldman), who dismisses Robert’s concerns about the atomic bomb being a trigger for other countries, such as the Soviet Union, to get into an arms race to build an even more destructive bomb. The scene is less than 15 minutes long, but Oldman absolutely stands out as tough-talking President Truman, who has no regrets about deciding to drop the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that year. President Truman scolds Robert by saying: “Do you think Hiroshima and Nagasaki care who invented the bomb? They care about who dropped it. I did!”
The only two women with prominent speaking roles in the movie are mainly there as love interests to the male protagonist, even though these women have their own careers. Florence Pugh plays a commitment-phobic, Stanford-educated psychiatrist named Jean Tatlock, who has a fling with Robert around the same time that he meets his future wife Katherine, nicknamed Kitty (played by Emily Blunt), who is an outspoken botanist/biologist. Robert was Kitty’s fourth husband.
Both women are portrayed as being “difficult” for Robert, who’s depicted as the “long-suffering” person who has to deal with these strong-willed and opinionated women. Robert is portrayed as a “romantic” who just can’t help falling for women who might be wrong for him. “Oppenheimer” absolutely excuses his affairs with married women, including Kitty, whom he got pregnant when she was married to her third husband. Robert’s responsibility in this homewrecking infidelity is glossed over in the movie with a “wink, wink, nudge nudge/boys will be boys” attitude, while Kitty gets the most of the shaming.
As was the case with many wives in the 1940s and 1950s, Kitty (who came from an affluent family) had to make her career take a back seat to her husband’s career while she was the primary caretaker of their two children: son Peter and daughter Toni. Kitty is very unhappy in New Mexico. Her mental health starts to deteriorate, and she has some addiction issues.
Despite her personal challenges, Kitty maintains a defiant nature. Kitty encourages Robert to stand up for himself when he becomes the target of a smear campaign by former ally Lewis Strauss, who spreads lies that Robert is a secret Communist who might have been a spy for the Russian government. Blunt gives a compelling performance that has a little more depth than the typical “loyal wife of the main character.” Downey has his moments to shine as the sneaky and duplicitous Lewis, but Downey performs in “Oppenheimer” like he’s trying too hard to win an Oscar.
“Oppenheimer” is a very “male gaze” movie that wallows in showing a lot of men in ego rivalries and power struggles, while all the women react to whatever the men do. Pugh being topless in her sex scene with Murphy is a very “male gaze” decision, since she didn’t need to be shown with her naked breasts exposed in this movie. Meanwhile, her male co-star had absolutely no “private parts” nudity in this sex scene. Directors really need to stop this blatant double standard about nudity in sex scenes, where women have to show some kind of nudity, while men do not have to show any nudity. It’s a very outdated double standard that’s a turnoff to many viewers who aren’t stuck in this type of backwards and sexist mindset.
The lead-up to the making of the atomic bomb isn’t nearly as interesting in “Oppenheimer” as what happens in the aftermath, when Robert struggles with the consequences of his invention. He becomes famous and lauded as a war hero in America, but with that fame come scrutiny and jealousy from some of the people he had trusted as colleagues. People who know what happened in real life to Oppenheimer can debate if what is shown in the movie is entirely accurate. The “Oppenheimer” movie obviously makes him look like a sympathetic person.
One of the ways that “Oppenheimer” depicts Robert’s guilt is when he hallucinates visions of people in front of him dying from the bomb, with their faces melting or their bodies being ripped apart. Curiously, he only envisions white people suffering from this catastrophe, not the thousands of Japanese people who were actually killed by the bomb he invented. It might be a tone-deaf part of the movie, or it might be writer/director Nolan’s way of showing that even “liberal” Robert Oppenheimer couldn’t see past his own insular world that has no racial diversity.
“Oppenheimer” is not the masterpiece that some people might hail it to be. As a history-based drama, it’s got a very narrow point of view. However, the performances by Murphy, Blunt and Oldman elevate this very long movie, even if much of the dialogue is basic and perfunctory. During the course of the story, Robert Oppenheimer goes from being an underdog to a hero to an embattled public figure. It’s this most difficult phase of his life that brings out his true character and the best that “Oppenheimer” has to offer.
Universal Pictures will release “Oppenheimer” in U.S. cinemas on July 21, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in New Orleans, the horror film “The Boogeyman” (based on a short story by Stephen King) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class and working-class.
Culture Clash: A 16-year-old girl and her 10-year-old sister experience an evil creature in their home after their mother dies, but their therapist father doesn’t believe his daughters.
Culture Audience: “The Boogeyman” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Stephen King and unimaginative horror movies filled with a lot of clichés.
Dull, dimwitted, and very derivative, “The Boogeyman” offers minimal scares and has too many scenes of people talking about certain horrors and not enough scenes actually showing those horrors. The movie’s last scene is very weak and underwhelming. The majority of “The Boogeyman” is literally a back-and-forth slog of two underage sisters (separately or together) looking frightened in dark rooms and then trying to convince their skeptical father that they’re being haunted. And when the evil creature they see finally does appears in full view, it’s just more of the same type of showdown that’s been in countless other horror movies.
Directed by Rob Savage, “The Boogeyman” is based on Stephen King’s short story that was first published in the March 1973 issue of Cavalier magazine, and then republished in King’s 1978 short-story collection “Night Shift.” King’s “The Boogeyman” (which had only three characters) had a much better ending than the formulaic dreck that’s in “The Boogeyman” movie, whose screenplay was written by Scott Beck, Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman. “The Boogeyman” movie adds several characters to give the story enough for a feature-length film. But the additions do not bring any creativity to the story. Everything is a rehash of many other horror movies about an evil creature or spirit that’s haunting a household.
In “The Boogeyman” short story, the only characters were a psychotherapist named Will Harper, his client Lester Billings and The Boogeyman. The story took place in one setting: Will’s office, during a therapy session between Will and Lester. Will has a wife and kids, who are mentioned in the short story, but these other Harper family characters do not appear in the story.
In “The Boogeyman” movie (which was filmed on location in New Orleans), Will Harper (played by Chris Messina) is a supporting character, while his two daughters are more of the focus. The main protagonist is 16-year-old Sadie Harper (played by Sophie Thatcher), a moody introvert. The main location in the movie is the Harper house, where Will has his therapist office. Sadie and her inquisitive 10-year-old sister Sawyer Harper (played by Vivien Lyra Blair) live there, but Will is a widower in the movie. It’s mentioned that Will’s wife (the mother of Sadie and Sawyer) died fairly recently in car accident.
Viewers know the death is recent because early on in the movie, Sadie is shown at her high school (in one of several scenes that take place at the school), and many of the students react to her like someone who’s just come back from a brief hiatus. On her first day back at school since her mother’s death, Sadie is wearing one of her mother’s dresses. And (cliché alert) a group of “mean girls” bully Sadie about it near her locker.
The leader of the mean girls is a snooty blonde named Natalie (played by Maddie Nichols), who says the most to make Sadie feel bad about Sadie’s choice in clothing. When Sadie tells Natalie, “You’re being a bitch,” it leads to a tussle, where Sadie gets shoved hard against her locker. The only student at school whom Sadie considers to be a close friend is Bethany (played by Madison Hu), who sticks up for Sadie whenever she can.
Back at home, the Harper family members are dealing with their grief in different ways. Will has become more caught up in his work and more emotionally distant from his daughters. Ironically, even though Will is a therapist who’s trained to help people with things such as grief, he’s avoiding helping his own daughters process their own grief. Instead, Will has hired a therapist named Dr. Weller (played by LisaGay Hamilton) to counsel Sadie and Sawyer.
Sadie would rather talk to Will about how to cope with her mother’s death, but Will tells Sadie to talk to Dr. Weller about it instead. This rejection causes Sadie to feel more alienated and depressed. Sawyer clings to Sadie for emotional support, but Sadie is barely hanging on to feeling like she’s capable of functioning in the way she used to before their mother died. And things are about to get worse when Sadie and Sawyer find out that their house is haunted.
One evening, when Will has seen his last client of the day, a mysterious stranger shows up unannounced at the house. His name is Lester Billings (played by David Dastmalchian), and he asks Will if he could have a therapy session. Will tells Lester that he doesn’t give therapy to a new client without a phone consultation first. However, Lester pleads for Will’s help. Lester looks so sad and desperate that Will agrees to make an exception for Lester.
During the therapy session, Will asks Lester to tell more about himself. Lester says that people think that Lester killed his wife and kids, one at a time, even though Lester says he’s not guilty. Lester says his first child was a baby girl who died of sudden infant death syndrome. Lester and his wife had two other kids.
And then, the conversation gets weirder. Lester says that he glimpsed “it” before one of his children died of a broken neck. Lester shows Will a drawing that Lester made of the creature that Lester says he saw. Lester says to Will: “It cares for your kids when you’re not paying attention.” By this point, Will has gotten freaked out by this conversation, so he excuses himself, goes in another room, and calls the police to report that a potentially dangerous man is in his home.
Meanwhile, Sadie has come home, and Will tells her to go to her room because there’s a stranger in the house that Will needs to have removed. Will goes back in his office, but Lester isn’t there. A frantic Will searches for Lester in the house. Sadie hears noises that sound like two people are fighting in her bedroom. When she looks in her bedroom closet, she sees Will dead, from an apparent suicide by hanging.
None of this is really spoiler information, because the main things that keep happening in “The Boogeyman” movie are typical “shadows and bumps in the night” scenarios, where Sadie and Sawyer are in dark or barely lit rooms (apparently, the Harper family doesn’t know the meaning of having good overhead lighting), where they hear or see something strange, but when they investigate further, it appears to be nothing but their imagination. When Sawyer and Sadie tell Will, he doesn’t believe them.
Sawyer has a glowing orb that’s the size of a bowling ball, which she uses as lighting in a dark room, instead of doing what most kids would do if they’re frightened in a dark room: Turn on a room light. But no, Sawyer doesn’t do that. Instead, she rolls this glowing orb on the floor, like she’s a paranormal bowler, but with no bowling pins.
And predictably, wherever the orb stops on the floor, you know it’s going to be right where something “scary” is. Seriously, this glowing orb is not even remotely believable as a toy that most 10-year-old girls would want to have, let alone use as a way to see in a dark room. It’s one of the many phony-looking things about “The Boogeyman,” which lumbers along at a glacial pace and fills up a lot of time showing scenes of mopey Sadie being a social outsider at her school.
As already revealed in the movie’s trailer, when Dr. Lester does some strobe-light therapy on Sadie and Sawyer, the girls both see The Boogeyman, but Dr. Lester doesn’t see this creature. The strobe-light therapy looks like a very questionable thing for a therapist to do to emotionally fragile children. There are long stretches of the movie where Will is not seen at all in the Harper household, even though he works from home. Will’s absence is never explained. It’s just more of this movie’s phoniness on display.
There’s a subplot in “The Boogeyman” about Sadie being an amateur sleuth to find out more about Lester, which leads to some not-scary-at-all flashbacks/visions involving Lester’s wife Rita Billings (played by Marin Ireland). A better movie would have had the creepy character of Lester in a lot more scenes, instead of killing him off so early in the movie. The performances in “The Boogeyman” aren’t terrible, but they aren’t anything special, and they certainly don’t do much to elevate this very drab and slow-paced movie.
“The Boogeyman” was originally going to be released directly to Hulu (and other Disney-owned streaming services outside the U.S.), but those plans were changed after horror movies such as Paramount Pictures’ “Smile” and 20th Century Pictures’ “Barbarian” became hits in movie theaters in 2022, after these horror flicks were originally planned to be released as direct-to-streaming movies. (20th Century Pictures, the theatrical distributor of “The Boogeyman,” is owned by Disney.) “The Boogeyman” might satisfy viewers who want the most basic, run-of-the-mill horror movie that’s mild on scares. But considering how the movie’s ending is such an inferior (and overly formulaic) departure from the original short story, “The Boogeyman” will just leave a lot of viewers feeling disappointed instead of satisfyingly terrified.
20th Century Pictures will release “The Boogeyman” in U.S. cinemas on June 2, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in an underworld universe called Quantumania, and briefly in San Francisco, the sci-fi/fantasy/action film “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” (based on Marvel Comics characters) features a cast of predominantly white characters (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing superheroes, regular humans and alien creatures.
Culture Clash: Scott Lang (also known as superhero Ant-Man), his formerly estranged daughter Cassie Lang, Scott’s girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (also known as superhero The Wasp) and Hope’s parents get dragged into the Quantum Realm, where they have to battle evil forces, led by Kang the Conqueror.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Marvel movie fans, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and superhero movies that are very predictable, corny and formulaic.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is a quantum mess. It’s bad enough that it recycles tired clichés of Marvel movies. This uneven superhero movie also rips off 1977’s “Star Wars” in many ways. Jonathan Majors’ standout performance can’t save this substandard spectacle. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is supposed to be the start of Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The movie will no doubt make blockbuster money, as all MCU movies have done so far. But in terms of creativity, this disappointing film is a stumble right out of the gate for the MCU’s Phase 5.
One of the biggest problems with “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is how it awkwardly balances comedy with action. The jokes are the most juvenile, tackiest and least funny so far in the “Ant-Man” movie series, which began with 2015’s “Ant-Man” and continued with 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Peyton Reed is the director of all three movies, which makes his creative choices even more baffling for “Quantumania,” which has a drastically different tone (and lower quality as a result) than the first two “Ant-Man” movies.
When writer/director Taika Waititi directed 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” (the third “Thor” movie of the MCU), he radically changed the tone of the “Thor” movie series to make it fit his signature comedic style: goofy and slightly offbeat. Waititi did the same for 2022’s “Thor: Love and Thunder,” to less well-received results. But it doesn’t explain why the third “Ant-Man” movie has gone so far off-course when it’s had the same director for the first three “Ant-Man” movies.
Much of the blame for why “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” has turned into a hodgepodge of bad jokes, sci-fi rehashes and superhero triteness has to with the movie’s screenplay, which is the feature-film debut of Jeff Loveness. Loveness’ previous writing experience is for shows such as the Adult Swim animated series “Rick and Morty,” the ABC variety talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards, the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards and the 2017 Academy Awards, with these particular award shows all hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. All of these TV shows require a different skill set than what’s required to write an entertaining superhero movie. Unfortunately, hiring a TV writer with no experience in writing movies turned out to be a huge mistake for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and Marvel Studios.
In “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” the story begins right after the events of 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd), a former petty criminal also known as Ant-Man (whose superpower is being able to change the height of his body by wearing a special superhero suit), is a happily retired superhero living in his hometown in San Francisco. Scott has cashed in on his superhero fame by writing a memoir titled “Look Out for the Little Guy!,” where he talks about his superhero experiences and what they have taught him about life.
The movie shows Scott reading excerpts from his book at a book signing, but a few people there still mistake him for the more famous Spider-Man. Scott tells the small audience at this book signing, “From now on, the only job I want is to be a dad.” However, the movie unrealistically shows that middle-aged Scott, in his superhero “retirement,” has chosen to take a low-paying job as a customer service employee at a local Baskin-Robbins store. He has been named Employee of the Century because of his celebrity status as Ant-Man.
It’s really the movie’s obvious brand placement for Baskin-Robbins, but viewers are given the weak explanation that Scott took the job because he loves ice cream. It all looks very awkward and fake. The movie’s overload of Baskin-Robbins brand promotion is extremely annoying. There’s even a scene where a Scott Lang look-alike named Jack, who’s a Baskin-Robbins employee, gets in on the fight action. It’s all so crass and stupid.
Get used to seeing a lot of “look-alikes” in this movie, because much of it takes place in an alternate universe where clones of people and clones of creatures can show up randomly. Scott is trying to reconnect with his 18-year-old daughter Cassandra “Cassie” Lang (played by Kathryn Newton), who was raised primarily by Scott’s ex-wife while Scott was off doing other things, such as being a criminal-turned-superhero. Cassie has turned into a social justice warrior who’s involved in civil protests.
In the beginning of the movie, Cassie has landed in the San Francisco County Jail, because she was arrested for shrinking a police car because the police were trying to clear out an illegal homeless camp. Scott and his intelligent and sassy girlfriend Hope Van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly), also known as superhero The Wasp (she can turn into a wasp mutant and can also shrink her body height), have arrived at the jail to retrieve Cassie. It’s how Scott finds out to his dismay that Cassie is also an aspiring scientist who invented her own shrinkage suit. She hasn’t given herself a superhero name though.
Scott thinks Cassie is too young to get involved in superhero antics. Cassie thinks Scott has become too complacent and thinks he should care more about making the world a better place. Hope and Cassie have bonded with each other because Hope is now the leader of the Pym Van Dyne Foundation, which uses Pym Particle (the body morphing invention used by Ant-Man and The Wasp) for humanitarian causes. Of course, it’s already been revealed in the “Quantumania” trailer that Scott will literally be sucked back into superhero activities, whether he likes it or not.
Hope’s parents are scientists Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), who were the original Ant-Man and The Wasp. As the movie over-explains and over-repeats in pedestrian dialogue, Janet was trapped in an alternative universe called the Quantum Realm for 30 years and doesn’t like to talk about what she experienced there. Janet returned to Earth when Hank rescued her from the Quantum Realm, as shown in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
However, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” makes a big misstep by giving away in an opening scene that Janet actually was acquainted with the movie’s chief villain: Kang the Conequeror (played by Majors) while she was in the Quantum Realm, where Janet and Kang are seen escaping an attack from a giant insect-like creature. The movie should have left it a mystery until the right moment to show that Janet already knew this villain. Instead, this part of the plot is revealed too early in the film.
At any rate, Scott finds out that Hank, Janet, Hope and Cassie have been studying ant science. Hope and Cassie in particular want to use this science to explore the Quantum Realm, but Janet has no interest in going back there. Janet won’t say why, but she will eventually make a confession later in the movie.
Janet describes the Quantum Realm as a “place with no time and space. It’s a secret universe beneath ours.” To Janet’s horror, Cassie announces to Janet, Scott, Hank and Hope (while they are all in the scientific lab) that Cassie has been secretly sending signals to the Quantum Realm. Janet frantically tries to turn off the signal machine.
And faster than you can say “inferior Marvel movie sequel,” all five of them are sucked into the Quantum Realm, which looks like a half-baked “Star Wars” universe. For much the first third of the movie, Scott and Cassie are separated from Janet, Hank and Hope. Scott and Cassie spend a lot of time bickering over how much Cassie might or might not be ready to use her superhero suit. (Too late. We already know she will.)
Janet, Hank and Hope spend much of their time talking in vague tones about a mysterious “he” and “him” leader who has wreaked havoc on the Quantum Realm. Anyone can easily figure out that the “he” and “him” is Kang the Conqueror. There’s no reason to make him sound like “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort, also known in the “Harry Potter” series as He Who Shall Not Be Named. It’s yet another way that “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” takes ideas from other sci-fi/fantasy franchises.
Reed says in the production notes for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” where he got some of the visual influences for the movie: “We pulled together a lot of visual inspiration—everything from electron microscope photography to heavy metal magazine images from the ’70s and ’80s. I collected all of these images from old science-fiction paperback book covers—artists like John Harris, Paul Laird, Richard M. Powers. Those paintings were evocative and really moody. We liked that feel and tone for the look of the Quantum Realm.”
Reed curiously didn’t mention “Star Wars,” which is undoubtedly the biggest influence on “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” The Quantum Realm’s terrain looks like a desert in some areas and looks like a crater-filled planet in other areas. The desert scenes look too much like the desert realm of Tatooine in “Star Wars,” while the hooded costumes worn by the Quantum Realm residents look an awful lot like the costumes worn by Tusken Raiders from “Star Wars.”
And if the “Star Wars” similarities for the production design and costume design weren’t enough, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” also imitates the Mos Eisley cantina scene in “Star Wars,” but doesn’t make it nearly as fun and interesting to watch. Hank, Janet and Hope end up in a place called Axia Restaurant, which is basically a “Star Wars” cantina look-alike filled with unusual-looking creatures. There’s no memorable music at the Axia Restaurant, like there was in the Mos Eisley cantina. Christophe Beck’s musical score for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” is serviceable and unremarkable.
It’s at Axia Restaurant where Hope and Hank meet the smirking Lord Kylar (played by Bill Murray) for the first time. Janet already knows Lord Kylar, who says he is neither a human nor a machine. Lord Kylar, who is the governor of the Axia community, hints that he and Janet used to be lovers when she was in the Quantum Realm.
“I had needs,” Janet tells Hank and Hope in a somewhat defensive and uncomfortable tone. Hope then has to hear Hank talk about an ex-girlfriend. And she acts like a prudish teen who doesn’t want to think about her parents having love lives before they met each other. This is the type of time-wasting dialogue that’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in the movie.
Even though Murray shares top billing for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” his role in the movie is just a cameo that lasts for less than 15 minutes. It’s ineffective and misguided casting because he’s not convincing as this fictional character. All viewers will think is that this is Murray in a space-alien costume playing a version of himself.
As for the other inhabitants of the Quantum Realm, it’s a random mix of beings who look like humans and those who are very non-human in appearance, including a lot of jellyfish-like creatures that float around in space. As soon as Scott and Cassie arrive in the Quantum Realm, they are force-fed a red ooze by a creature named Veb (voiced by David Dastmalchian), because this red ooze will help these humans understand the language of the Quantum Realm residents. Dastmalchian had the role of Kurt (a member of Scott’s posse) in the first two “Ant-Man” movies. Veb is an underdeveloped character that is meant to be comedic, but Veb’s jokes fall very flat.
The Quantum Realm residents predictably greet these newcomers from Earth with reactions that range from curiosity to hostility. Jentorra (played by Katy O’Brian) is an anti-Kang freedom fighter who scowls a lot and has to learn to trust these Earth heroes to be her allies. Xolum (played by James Cutler, also known as Jamie Andrew Cutler) is a loyal soldier and totally generic sidekick of Jentorra.
Quaz (played by William Jackson Harper) is a psychic/telepath, whose only purpose in the movie is to make people uncomfortable by reading their thoughts and saying their thoughts out loud. His revelations are supposed to be amusing, but they’re not really all that funny. Randall Park has a small and non-essential role as FBI agent Jimmy Woo.
Corey Stoll returns as “Ant-Man” villain Darren Cross, also known as Yellowjacket, who has now been shrunken by Kang into a subatomic lackey with an oversized head known as M.O.D.O.K., which stands for Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing. M.O.D.O.K. looks like a floating head and delivers some of the few genuinely comedic moments in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Various characters in the movie have horrified reactions to seeing Darren look so drastically different as M.O.D.O.K., but this gag is repeated too much and loses its impact by the middle of the movie.
As for Kang, Majors’ performance is the only one that brings a certain gravitas to the rampant foolishness and smarm that stink up “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Majors brings a combination of menace and melancholy to his role, but it’s wasted in a movie that is hell-bent on trying to be more like Waititi’s “Thor” movies. The rest of the cast members’ performances aren’t bad, but they’re not special either. Kang’s soldiers are Quantumnauts, which are as anonymous and soulless as the mostly CGI creations that they are.
Unfortunately, the big showdown fight scene is lot more montonous and unimaginative than it should have been. It ends abruptly and in a way that has been done already (and done much better) in many other sci-fi/fantasy/action movies. As for the movie’s visual effects, it’s a shame that a movie with this big budget can make visual effects look so cheap and shoddy. There are scenes that make it obvious where the “blue screens” and “green screens” were.
A mid-credits scene and end-credits scene basically show the return of a major character from the movie. The end-credits scene is a nod to the Disney+ series “Loki.” As an example of how “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” has a sitcom tone to it, the movie uses John Sebastian’s 1976 hit “Welcome Back” (the theme from the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”) as bookends to the movie. A big-budget superhero movie should not look like a second-rate sitcom, which is what “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” has turned out to be.
Marvel Studios will release “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” in U.S. cinemas on February 17, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place from the late 1960s to 1985, mostly in California, the comedy film “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Nerdy misfit Al Yankovic becomes world-famous for his parodies of pop music hits, but his fame, an inflated ego and an ill-fated romance with Madonna cause problems in his life.
Culture Audience: “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” will appeal primarily to fans of “Weird Al” Yankovic, star Daniel Radcliffe and movies that spoof celebrity biopics.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” isn’t a straightforward biopic but it’s more like a biopic parody, which is fitting, considering the movie is about music parody king “Weird Al” Yankovic. Daniel Radcliffe fully commits to an off-the-wall performance as Yankovic. Some parts of the movie get distracted by trying to be too bizarre, but this well-cast movie overall can bring plenty of laughs. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by Eric Appel (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Yankovic), “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” even has a parody biopic voiceover, with Diedrich Bader as an unseen and unidentified narrator saying things in a deep voice and overly serious tone. The movie has the expected childhood flashbacks, which are moderately amusing. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” doesn’t really pick up steam until it gets to depicting the adult Yankovic. (For the purposes of this review, the real Yankovic will be referred to by his last name, while the Al Yankovic character in the movie will be referred to as Al.)
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” begins in the mid-1980s, by showing the adult Al in his 20s (played by Radcliffe) being rushed into a hospital emergency room, where he is attended to by a doctor (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda). The voiceover narrator says solemnly: “Life is like a parody of your favorite song. Just when you think you know all the words … surprise! You don’t know anything.” Why is Al in a hospital emergency room? The movie circles back to this scene later, to explain why.
After this scene in the hospital emergency room, the movie flashes back to Al’s childhood with Al (played by Richard Aaron Anderson), at about 9 or 10 years old, who considered himself to be a misfit in his own household. Born in 1959, Al grew up as an only child in the Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood, California. Al’s cranky father Nick (played by Toby Huss) works in a factory, and he expects Al to also become a factory worker when Al is an adult. Al’s loving mother Mary (played by Julianne Nicholson) is somewhat supportive of Al’s artistic interests, but she lives in fear of Nick, who has a nasty temper.
Nick openly mocks Al’s dreams to be a songwriter. One day during a meal at the family’s dining room table, Al’s parents listen to Al change the words of the gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” to “Amazing Grapes.” Nick is infuriated and says that this song parody is “blasphemy.” Mary tells Al that he should stop being himself. Feeling misunderstood, Al takes comfort in listening to his favorite radio shows, including those by his idol Dr. Demento.
Something happens that changes the course of Al’s life: An accordion salesman (played by Thomas Lennon) comes knocking on the Yankovic family’s door. Nick isn’t home at the time, but Al and Mary are there. Al is immediately dazzled by the accordion for sale, which is actually not shiny and new, but rather previously owned and worn-out. Al feels an instant connection to the music that comes out of this unusual instrument.
Al begs his mother to buy the accordion for him. Mary usually goes along with whatever Nick wants. (Nick wants Al to give up any dreams of being a musician.) But this time, Mary goes against what her husband wishes, and she secretly buys the accordion for Al. However, Mary has a condition for buying this accordion: Al must hide the accordion and only play the accordion when Nick isn’t there. Al agrees to this rule and becomes a skilled accordion player.
As a teenager, Al (played by David Bloom) is considered nerdy but likeable. His outlook on life begins to change when he plays the accordion at a house party full of kids from his high school. The response he gets is enthusiastic and full of praise. It’s the first time that Al feels outside validation for his accordion playing, and it gives him the confidence to decide that he will definitely be a musician and songwriter. Things turn sour at home though, when Nick finds out about the accordion and destroys it in a fit of anger.
After graduating from high school, Al moves to Los Angeles, where he lives with three guys who are close to his age: Jim (played by Jack Lancaster), Steve (played by Spencer Treat Clark) and Bermuda (played by Tommy O’Brien), whose interests are mainly dating women and partying. Al’s roommates encourage him to pursue his dreams, even though Al is constantly being rejected when he auditions for rock bands that have no interest in having an accordion player. (The movie has some comedic montages of these rejections.)
Al’s roommates aren’t fully aware of his talent for parodies until Al does an impromptu parody of The Knack’s 1979 hit “My Sharona” and turns it into his parody song “My Balogna” when he looks at some bologna in the kitchen. The roommates are so impressed that they volunteer to be his band members and encourage Al to make a recording demo that he can send to record companies, with the hope that he can get a record deal.
Al’s demo tape finds its way to brothers Tony Scotti (played by the real Yankovic) and Ben Scotti (played by Will Forte), who own Scotti Bros. Records. Tony and younger brother Ben (who are portrayed as shallow and mean-spirited music executives) are very dismissive of Al at first and don’t think a song like “My Balogna” could be a hit. Even though “My Balogna” has been getting some local radio airplay (including be a big hit on Southern California radio’s “The Captain Buffoon Show”), Tony and his “yes man” brother Ben don’t think there’s demand on a national level for albums from an accordion-playing, parody singer/songwriter.
But then, Al meets his idol Doctor Demento (played by Rainn Wilson, in perfect casting), who thinks Al is very talented and offers to become Al’s mentor. Dr. Demento suggests that Al change his stage name to “Weird Al” Yankovic. Al gets live performance gigs, sometimes as the opening act for Dr. Demento in the early 1980s.
Al also does a recording called “I Love Rocky Road” (referring to Rocky Road ice cream), a parody of “I Love Rock’n’Roll,” a song originally recorded by The Arrows in 1976, and was made into a chart-topping hit by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts in 1981. “I Love Rocky Road” gets some airplay on local radio (including Dr. Demento’s show), and it becomes a popular song requested by audiences. Suddenly, the Scotti Brothers are interested in signing Al to their record label.
One of the best scenes in the movie is early in Al’s career, before he was famous, when he’s invited to a house party at Dr. Demento’s place. The party guests are a “who’s who” of eccentric celebrities, including Andy Warhol (played by Conan O’Brien), Alice Cooper (played by Akiva Schaffer), Salvador Dalí (played by Emo Phillips), Divine (played by Nina West), Tiny Tim (played by Demetri Martin), Gallagher (played by Paul F. Tompkins) and Pee Wee Herman (played by Jorma Taccone). Observant viewers will also notice uncredited actors portraying Elvira, Frank Zappa and Grace Jones at the party.
At this party, radio/TV personality Wolfman Jack (played by Jack Black, in a hilarious cameo) is skeptical of Al’s talent, and he tries to humiliate Al, by challenging Al to do an impromptu parody of Queen’s 1980 hit “Another One Bites the Dust.” Queen bassist John Deacon (played by David Dastmalchian), who wrote “Another One Bites the Dust,” is also at the party and wants to see how this aspiring artist will rework one of Queen’s biggest hits. Al rises to the challenge and comes up with the parody “Another One Rides the Bus,” which tells comedic tale about the frustrations of riding a bus. Al the earns the respect of Wolfman Jack, Deacon and other skeptics at the party. Other well-known comedians who make cameos in the movie include Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey, Patton Oswalt as an unnamed heckler, Michael McKean as a nightclub emcee, Arturo Castro as Pablo Escobar and Seth Green as a radio DJ.
The rest of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” is a wild and wacky ride that shows Al’s ascent in the music business, but he succumbs to some of the pitfalls of fame. “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” adds a lot of fiction about Yankovic’s life when the movie starts going into its more unusual tangents. For example, in real life, Yankovic had one of his biggest hits in 1984 with “Eat It,” a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” But the movie puts a cheeky and offbeat twist on this part of Yankovic’s personal history, by making Al as the one to write the song first, and Michael Jackson “copied” the song by recording “Beat It,” without giving Al any songwriting credit.
Al’s dysfunctional romance with Madonna (played by Evan Rachel Wood) is also fabricated for the movie. (In real life, Yankovic says that he and Madonna never knew each other at all.) In the movie, Madonna and Al first meet sometime in 1983, when he’s a bigger star than she is, because she recently signed a deal to release her first album. Madonna is portrayed as an ambitious manipulator who had her sights set on Al after she found out that sales increase significantly for artists whose songs are parodied by Al.
Madonna and Al immediately begin a hot-and-heavy affair based mostly on lust. Madonna encourages Al to start abusing alcohol and acting like a difficult rock star. Al starts to alienate his bandmates/friends when he does things like show up late for rehearsals and act like an insufferable egomaniac. Madonna knows it’s easier to manipulate Al when he’s drunk, so she keeps him supplied with enough alcoholic drinks to keep him intoxicated.
It’s all part of Madonna’s plan to get Al to do a parody of one of her songs, so that her music sales can increase. (ln real life, Yankovic’s 1986 song “Like a Surgeon” was a parody of Madonna’s 1984 hit “Like a Virgin.”) But what Madonna, the Scotti Brothers and many other people didn’t expect was Al deciding that he was going to stop doing parodies and release an album of his own original songs. Al makes this decision after he accidentally takes LSD given to him by Dr. Demento, and Al has an epiphany that he has more to say to the world as a writer of his own original songs.
The movie has several moments that parody how superficial the entertainment industry can be, with the Madonna character being an obvious example of a showbiz leech. The Scotti Brothers characters are the epitome of greedy and fickle music executives who think they always know more than the artists signed to their record label. Al is portrayed as someone who enjoys his fame but also feels overwhelmed by it.
Even when with his fame and fortune, Al still craves the approval of his parents, who don’t really express that they are proud of him. At the height of Al’s success, he remained somewhat estranged from his parents. It’s a bittersweet part of the story that gives some emotional gravitas to this otherwise intentionally zany movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a scene in the movie where Al, who has won Grammys and is a headliner of sold-out arena shows, calls his mother Mary to tell her about some of his accomplishments, but her response is the equivalent of someone saying, “That’s nice, dear,” and not being very interested.
Radcliffe (who is much shorter in height than the real Yankovic) makes up for not having a physical resemblance to Yankovic by bringing his own character interpretation of the real person. It’s not an impersonation but more like a re-imagining of what Yankovic is in this often-fabricated cinematic version of his life. Wood also turns in a memorable performance as Madonna, which might remind people more of Madonna’s chewing-gum-smacking movie character Susan from 1985’s “Desperately Seeking Susan” than the real Madonna.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the music. The movie has some entertaining concert scenes and gives some insight into Yankovic’s songwriting and recording experiences. If the movie has any flaws, it’s the Madonna storyline, which becomes a one-note joke and drags on for a little too long. And because the movie ends in 1985, it doesn’t include Yankovic’s post-1985 forays into starring in movies and TV shows, directing music videos for other artists, and becoming a children’s book author. However, the movie cheats a little in the timeline, because it includes Yankovic’s 1996 song “Amish Paradise,” which is a parody of Coolio’s 1995 hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
The last scene of “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” might be a little too abrupt or off-putting for some viewers. But it’s an example of how this movie doesn’t want to be a conventional biopic. Yankovic’s original song “Now You Know,” which was recorded for the movie and plays during the end credits, makes a lot of meta references to the movie that are an example of this comedy film’s quirky tone. Even with all the oddball antics in the movie, “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” succeeds in its message that good things can happen to people who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
The Roku Channel will premiere “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” on November 4, 2022.
Culture Representation: Taking place in the year 10,191, on the fictional planets of Caladan, Giedi Prime and Arrakis, the sci-fi action film “Dune” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people, Asians and Latinos) representing heroes, villains and people who are in between.
Culture Clash: A territorial war is brewing between two factions—House Atreides from the planet of Caladan and House Harkonnen from the planet of Giedi Prime—who will rule over the planet of Arrakis, which is the only place to find melange, also known as spice, a priceless substance that can enhance and extend human life.
Culture Audience: “Dune” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Dune” novel and to people who like epic sci-fi adventures with stunning visuals and good acting.
By now, you might have heard that filmmaker Denis Villeneuve wants his version of “Dune” to be split into three parts, in order to better serve the movie adaptation of Paul Herbert’s densely packed 1965 novel “Dune.” People who see Villeneuve’s version of “Dune” are also probably familiar with the 1984 movie flop “Dune,” directed by David Lynch. The 1984 version of “Dune” (starring Kyle MacLachlan, Sean Young and Sting) was such a disaster with fans and critics, Lynch wanted to have his name removed from the film credits. That won’t be the case with Villeneuve’s version of “Dune,” which is a sci-fi epic worthy of the novel.
Villeneuve co-wrote his “Dune” screenplay with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts. Part One of Villeneuve’s “Dune” is of much higher quality than the 1984 “Dune” movie, but any “Dune” movie’s cinematic interpretations tend to be a bit clinical in how the characters are written. “Dune” is a gloomy story, with characters who are, for the most part, very solemn and rarely smile. There are no wisecracking rogues, quirky robot sidekicks or cute alien creatures. In other words, “Dune” is no “Star Wars” saga.
As is the case with most epic sci-fi movies, the biggest attraction to “Dune” is to see the spectacle of immersive production designs and outstanding visual effects. When people say that “Dune” should be seen on the biggest screen possible, believe it. However, it’s a 156-minute movie whose pace might be a little too slow in some areas. If you’re not the type of person who’s inclined to watch a two-and-a-half-hour sci-fi movie that’s not based on a comic book or a cartoon, then “Dune” might not be the movie for you.
And this is a fair warning to anyone who likes their sci-fi movies to have light-hearted, fun banter between characters: “Dune” is not that type of story, because everything and everyone in this story is deadly serious. People might have laughed when watching Lynch’s “Dune,” but it was for all the wrong reasons.
And yes, “Dune” is yet another sci-fi /fantasy story about a young hero who leads a war against an evil villain who wants to take over the universe. In the case of “Dune,” the hero is Paul Atreides (played by Timothée Chalamet), the House Atreides heir who is the son of a duke. House Antreides exists on the oceanic planet of Caladan. And like any war story, the war usually starts with feuding over power.
House Antreides has had a rivalry with House Harkonnen from the planet of Giedi Prime. In the beginning of the movie, Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV has ordered Paul’s father Duke Leto Atreides (played by Oscar Isaac) to serve as fief ruler of Arrakis, a desert planet with harsh terrain. Arrakis is the only place to find a priceless treasure: melange, also known as spice, a dusty substance that can enhance and extend human life.
Prolonged exposure to spice can turn humans’ eyes blue in the iris. Gigantic sandworms ferociously guard the spice. And therefore, harvesting spice can be a deadly activity. However, because spice is the most sought-after substance in the universe and can make people wealthy, people will go to extremes to get it and to be in charge of Arrakis. The native people of Arrakis are called Fremen. The movie presents this colonialism of the Fremen people in a matter-of-fact way, with some (but not a lot of) initial insight into how the Fremen people feel about being ruled over by another group of people from a foreign land.
House Harkonnen had previously overseen Arrakis until that responsibility was given to House Antreides. Leto and his troops are under orders to visit Arrakis, but it’s a set-up so that House Harkonnen enemies can ambush the people from House Antreides. Leto suspects that this trap has been set, but he has no choice but to follow orders and see about the territory that has now come under his stewardship.
The chief villain of House Harkonnen is its leader, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (played by Stellan Skarsgård), an obese and ruthless tyrant who has a penchant for spending time in saunas filled with a tar-like substance. In the 1984 “Dune” movie, Baron Vladimir was a cartoonish character who floated through the air like a demented balloon that escaped from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. In the 2021 “Dune” movie, Baron Vladimir is a menacing presence that is undoubtedly pure evil. (This “Dune” movie has shades of “Apocalypse Now” because Baron Vladimir is presented in a way that might remind people of “Apocalypse Now” villain Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando.)
Baron Vladimir’s closest henchmen are his sadistic nephew Glossu Rabban (played by Dave Bautista) and coldly analytical Piter De Vries (played by David Dastmalchian), who is a Mentat: a person that can mimic a computer’s artificial intelligence. At House Antreides, the Mentat is Thufir Hawat (played by Stephen McKinley Henderson), while the loyal mentors who are training Paul for battle are no-nonsense Gurney Halleck (played by Josh Brolin) and adventurous Duncan Idaho (played by Jason Momoa), who is the closest that “Dune” has to having a character with a sense of humor.
Paul confides in certain people that he’s been having premonition-like dreams. In several of these visions, he keeps seeing a young Fremen woman who’s close to his age. Paul won’t meet her until much later in the movie. He will find out that her name is Chani (played by Zendaya), and she becomes a huge part of his life in a subsequent Villeneuve “Dune” movie. Don’t expect there to be any romance in Part One of the movie. When Chani meets Paul for the first time, it’s not exactly love at first sight for Chani. She has this dismissive reaction and says to Paul: “You look like a little boy.”
Paul also keeps envisioning Duncan as living with the Fremen people and being their ally in battle. Paul is also disturbed by a vision of seeing Duncan “lying dead among soldiers after battle.” And speaking of allegiances, Paul’s intuition tells him that there is someone in House Antreides who is a traitor. That person will eventually be revealed. Until then, it’s pretty obvious from Paul’s visions that he has psychic powers. The question then becomes: “How is he going to use those powers?”
Among the other Fremen people who are depicted in the movie is Stilgar (played by Javier Bardem), the leader of the Fremen tribe called Sietch Tabr, whose members include a fighter named Jamis (played by Babs Olusanmokun). Arrakis also as an Imperial judge/ecologist named Dr. Liet-Kynes (played by Sharon Duncan-Brewster), who acts as a go-between/negotiator between the Fremen people and those who come from foreign lands.
There are some poignant father-son moments between Paul and Leto. Their best scene together is after a devastating battle loss when Paul, who is reluctant to be the next ruler of House Antreides, gets reassurance from Leto. The duke says to his son that he didn’t want to be the leader of House Antreides either, because Leto wanted to be a pilot instead. Leto tells Paul that it will ultimately up to Paul to decide whether to be the leader of House Antreides “But if the answer is no,” Leto says, “You’re all I’ll ever needed you to be: my son.”
However, Paul ends up spending more time bonding (and sometimes disagreeing) with his mother Lady Jessica (played by Rebecca Ferguson), a brave warrior who is a member of Bene Gesserit, an all-female group with extraordonary physical and mental abilities. Jessica defied Bene Gesserit’s orders to bear a female child and had Paul instead. Villeneuve’s “Dune” spends a great deal of time showing Paul and Jessica’s quest on Arrakis than Lynch’s “Dune” did. Paul seems to know that he was born as a special child, but at times, it brings him more insecurities than confidence. At one point, Paul yells at his mother Jessica: “You did this to me! You made me a freak!”
One of the influential supporting characters who’s depicted in Villeneuve’s version of “Dune” is Gaius Helen Mohiam (played by Charlotte Rampling), a Bene Gesserit reverend mother and the emperor’s truthsayer. She has one of the most memorable scenes in “Dune” when she gives Paul a pain endurance test that further proves that Paul is no ordinary human being. Dr. Wellington Yueh (played by Chang Chen) is a Suk doctor for House Antreides, and he plays a pivotal role in the story.
Chalamet’s portrayal of Paul is someone who can be introspective yet impulsive. He skillfully portrays a young adult who’s at the stage in his life where he wants to prove his independent identity yet still seeks his parents’ approval. Momoa is also a standout in the film for giving more humanity to a role that could’ve been just a stereotypical warrior type. Ferguson also does well in her performance as the strong-willed Jessica.
But make no mistake: “Dune” is not going to win any major awards for the movie’s acting. Before being released in theaters and on HBO Max, “Dune” made the rounds with premieres at several prestigious film festivals, including the Venice International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. This festival run is in indication that the filmmakers want this version of “Dune” to be a cut above a typical blockbuster sci-fi movie. “Dune” excels more in its technical aspects rather than in the movie’s acting performances or screenplay.
“Dune” has the type of fight scenes and musical score (by Hans Zimmer) that one can expect of an action film of this high caliber. But even with a movie that’s rich with characters who are heroes, villains and everything in between, it’s enough to say that the sandworms really steal scenes and are what people will remember most about this version of “Dune.” The overall visual effects and a reverence for the “Dune” novel as the source material are truly what make this version of “Dune” an iconic sci-fi movie.
Warner Bros. Pictures released “Dune” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on October 21, 2021, a day earlier than the announced U.S. release date of October 22, 2021. The movie was released in various other countries, beginning in September 2021.
Culture Representation: Taking place in Louisiana and a fictional South American country called Corto Maltese, the superhero action flick “The Suicide Squad” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, black, Latino and Asian) representing government officials, superheroes, villains, fantasy creatures and everything in between.
Culture Clash: The Suicide Squad—a ragtag group of prisoners and outlaws with special abilities—is ordered by the U.S. government to go on a secret mission to destroy a nefarious scientific operation that is intended to control the world.
Culture Audience: “The Suicide Squad” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in violent, zany and foul-mouthed superhero movies that skillfully blur the lines between heroes and villains.
“The Suicide Squad” is the bonkers and bloody action spectacle that fans of iconoclastic superhero movies deserve. It’s a worthy and memorable alternative of writer/director David Ayer’s 2016’s much-maligned “Suicide Squad,” which was a confused and muddled film that ultimately played it too safe for these roguish and rude DC Comics characters. “The Suicide Squad” (written and directed by James Gunn) gives a much-needed adult-oriented resuscitation—not just to the original “Suicide Squad” movie but also to the superhero genre in general, which has a tendency to be formulaic and predictable.
“The Suicide Squad” is the superhero movie equivalent of someone who will kiss you and kick you at the same time. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, there are surprises that most superhero movies would never dare to have. Several characters initially look like they’re going to be prominently featured in the story, but they actually get killed off early in the film. And there are more unexpected deaths that defy the usual expectations of who lives and who dies in a typical superhero film.
Because of all these unexpected deaths in “The Suicide Squad,” the only way to describe the movie without giving away spoiler information is to say that the Suicide Squad’s mission in this movie is to go to the fictional South American island nation of Corto Maltese and destroy a top-secret scientific operation called Project Starfish. Just like in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie and in the DC Comics series that inspired this movie franchise, the Suicide Squad (whose official name is Task Force X) consists of dangerous inmates who are held at a federal prison called Belle Reve in Louisiana. The members of the team have special skills or powers that make the Suicide Squad an above-average combat group.
Belle Reve is a recruiting center for a no-nonsense, tough-talking U.S. government official named Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis, reprising her role from 2016’s “Suicide Squad”), who is in charge of monitoring the Suicide Squad members when they go on their black operations (in other words, government-classified missions), under orders from the U.S. government. If the Suicide Squad members complete the mission, then they can get a pre-determined number of years shaved off of their prison sentences. In case any of these Suicide Squad members try to escape or defy orders, an explosive device is implanted in each of their heads, and Amanda has the power to detonate this explosive device.
While Amanda keeps tabs on the Suicide Squad in a control room with elaborate high-tech surveillance, her subordinate Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinnaman, also from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie) is the military commander who accompanies the Suicide Squad on their missions. In other words, he does a lot of dirty work that Amanda doesn’t have to do, and his life is more at risk than hers. Colonel Flag is a loyal government employee. He’s gritty but not as cold-blooded and ruthless as Amanda. And in “The Suicide Squad” movie, viewers will see how he handles an important ethical dilemma.
Who are the members of the Suicide Squad in this movie? They are, in alphabetical order:
Blackguard (played by Pete Davidson), whose real name is Richard Hertz, an American guy in his 20s who’s an immature and nervous jokester.
Bloodsport (played by Idris Elba), whose real name is Robert Dubois, a cynical, grouchy, middle-aged Brit who’s an expert marksman and who is in prison for shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, which landed Superman in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney), whose real name is George “Digger” Harkness, a hot-tempered Australian in his 30s who uses a deadly boomerang as his main weapon.
Javelin (played by Flula Borg), whose real name is Gunter Braun, a cocky German in his 30s who has a javelin as his main weapon.
King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), a talking mutant shark that has the intelligence of a 3-year-old human child and an appetite for eating humans.
Mongal (played by Mayling Ng), an orange alien with superhero strength and agility.
Peacemaker (played by John Cena), whose real name is Christopher Smith, an extremely patriotic middle-aged American who is an expert marksman and immediately has a rivalry with Bloodsport.
Polka-Dot Man (played by David Dastmalchian), whose real name is Abner Krill, an insecure American guy in his 40s who has “mother issues” and the ability to eject deadly flying polka dots from his body as weapons.
Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), a ditsy American maniac whose past heartbreaks (including her former romance with iconic villain The Joker) and personal grudges affect many of her decisions.
Ratcatcher 2 (played by Daniela Melchior), whose real name is Cleo Cazo, a compassionate Portuguese orphan in her 20s who has the ability to command rats to do her bidding.
Savant (played by Michael Rooker), whose real name is Brian Durlin, a jaded, 61-year-old American who is an expert in weapons and hand-to-hand combat.
T.D.K. (played by Nathan Fillion), a stoic American man in his 40s, whose real name is Cory Pitzner and whose T.D.K. nickname initials stand for The Detachable Kid, because he has the power to detach his limbs and use them as weapons.
Weasel (played by Sean Gunn), an easygoing, giant weasel that cannot talk.
Harley and Boomerang were in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie. The other characters are new to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) live-action movies. Of these new characters in “The Suicide Squad,” Bloodsport, Polka-Dot Man and Ratcatcher 2 are the ones with the significant backstories that are described in the movie. Amanda tells a reluctant and anti-social Bloodsport that he will be the leader of this revamped Suicide Squad.
Corto Maltese is a country in a lot of political turmoil. For years, the country was ruled by royals called the Herrera Family, but the entire family was murdered by a public hanging during a miltary coup of the government. The leader of this coup is General Silvio Luna (played by Juan Diego Botto), whose right-hand man is Mayor General Mateo Suarez (played by Joaquín Cosio), who’s old enough to be General Luna’s father. General Luna has appointed himself as the military dictator president of Corto Maltese.
Meanwhile, General Luna and his inner circle know all about Project Starfish. The secrets of Project Starfish will give Corto Maltese the ability to become a world superpower. The geneticist in charge of Project Starfish is a Brit named Gaius Grieves (played by Peter Capaldi), who has the nickname the Thinker. He’s the key to getting access to Jotunheim, the name of the scientific research facility that houses Project Starfish in the Corto Maltese city of Valle del Mar. The Thinker is also easy to spot, because he has electrode-like amps, spark plugs and valves portruding from his head, in order to enhance his intelligence.
The only information that the Suicide Squad has about the Thinker is what he looks like and that he often likes to go to a “gentleman’s club” after work. It’s at this point in the movie that you know that the Suicide Squad will be going to a strip club, and there’s going to be a big fight scene there. The way the scene is filmed is not cliché as it sounds. And it has moments of comedy, such as when the Suicide Squad members get drunk and some of them awkwardly start dancing.
In addition to many surprise twists, what makes “The Suicide Squad” different from most other superhero movies is how it manages to be a nihilistic, graphically violent movie with heart and genuine sentiment. It’s a tricky balance that most movies with these intentions would not be able to achieve. The Suicide Squad members might have reputations for being amoral, but the movie shows (in ways that 2016’s “Suicide Squad did not) a certain depth to their emotional damage.
Bloodsport has a rocky relationship with his 16-year-old daughter Tyla (played by Storm Reid), a rebel who has recently gotten into trouble for stealing a StyleWatch, which is described as a device that’s a lot like an Apple Watch. (Tyla’s mother is dead, by the way.) When Tyla comes to visit Bloodsport in prison, she tells him about how she’s gotten in trouble for this theft. Instead of giving the usual parental lecture, Bloodsport chastises Tyla by saying that she should’ve had a thief partner so she wouldn’t get caught.
They yell “fuck you” to each other, because Tyla has a lot of resentment over having an absentee father who has not been there to give her the guidance that she obviously wants. She shouts at Bloodsport that she’s ashamed that he’s her father. And the hurt expression on Bloodsport’s face shows that he’s not so tough after all, at least when it comes to his daughter. Later, after Bloodsport meets Ratcatcher 2, he shows his vulnerable side again when he tells Ratcatcher 2 that she reminds him of his daughter.
Other characters reveal how their family-related traumas have affected them. Polka-Dot Man had a mother (played by Lynne Ashe), who worked at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories, also known as S.T.A.R. Labs. According to what Polka-Dot Man tells the other Suicide Squad members, his mother was obsessed with making her children superheroes, so she conducted illegal scientific experiments on them.
Polka-Dot Man’s polka dots on his skin are an interdimensional virus that he got from these experiments. His face can balloon into a bloated disfigurement with polka dots unless he expels them. (This transformation is shown in the movie.) Polka-Dot Man says at one point, “I don’t like to kill people, but if I pretend they’re my mom, it’s easy.” And yes, there are some scenes were the Polka-Dot Man hallucinates seeing his mother.
Ratcatcher 2 is the daughter of Ratcatcher (played by Taika Waititi, in a flashback cameo), who taught her how to summon and control rats. The rats kept them company when she and her father lived on the streets of Portugal. During a bus ride with other Suicide Squad members, Ratcatcher 2 talks about how she moved to the U.S. from Portugal, and she’s an orphan because her father died from his “burdens.” (Ratcatcher 2 never talks about what happened to her mother.)
The flashback shows that Ratcatcher’s main burden was a needle-using drug addiction, and he died of a drug overdose. Ratcatcher 2 also says after she moved to the U.S., she was arrested for armed bank robbery, and she can’t believe that her rats were considered a weapon. Ratcatcher 2’s closest companion is a very intelligent rat named Sebastian, which Colonel Flag jokingly calls Ratatouille.
Meanwhile, there’s a running gag in the movie that macho Bloodsport is very afraid of rats. On that bus ride, he reveals why: His mercenary father, who gave him weapons training, would punish Bloodsport as a child for not doing something correctly. One of those punishments was to lock Bloodsport in a crate for 24 hours with hungry rats. Bloodsport’s rat phobia is used for comic relief as well as a very touching moment in the movie.
Harley does not have her signature baseball bat in this movie, but she has a rocket launcher and a javelin that she puts to good use. How she got this javelin is revealed in the movie. In 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” Harley was depicted as a scantily clad sexpot who was lovesick over the Joker. In “The Suicide Squad,” she’s more of an independent badass, just as she was in the 2020 movie “Birds of Prey,” but not like the two-dimensional caricature that she was in “Birds of Prey.”
In one part of the movie, Corto Maltese president Luna summons Harley to his palace for an elaborate lunch date, in order to seduce her and convince her to become his wife. Luna is very anti-American but he’s attracted to Harley because her hellraising antics seem to be anti-American, and he thinks she’s very sexy. Harley is dressed for the occasion in a frilly red gown that she wears for the rest of the movie and during her biggest action scenes. Wearing the red gown while in combat is a symbolic contrast of how Harley sees herself as both girly and gonzo when it comes to fighting.
“The Suicide Squad” has fun with Harley’s image as the Suicide Squad member who’s most likely to make a fashion statement. Early on the movie, Harley wears a red and black leather suit with a jacket emblazoned with the words “Live Fast, Die Clown” on the back. And later in the movie, when she’s wearing the red gown, it’s shown that she has a back tattoo that reads, “Property of No One” next to a jester head that’s mean to signify the Joker. She also has a chest tattoo that reads “Daddy’s Lil Monster,” in a nod to the T-shirt that she famously wore in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”
Harley might come across a flaky and erratic in some ways, but “The Suicide Squad” presents her with a fascinating and complex mindset. She has a monologue in the movie that’s very revealing in how she still has some inner conflict over how much she’s willing to let her head, not her heart, rule over any decisions that she makes. This movie is Robbie’s most compelling portrayal of Harley Quinn, because she’s finally given the dialogue that this character should have.
Visually, “The Suicide Squad” is the best so far of any live-action movie featuring Harley Quinn. There are some whimsical qualities, such as plot developments spelled out in giant words that are part of the scenery. (“The Suicide Squad” was filmed in Atlanta, Panama, Puerto Rico and Portugal.)The most gruesome and bloodiest scenes have an almost cartoonish quality, so that things don’t appear to be completely depressing and grim. And some of the action scenes have a poetic beauty to them, particularly one sequence involving Harley Quinn and a cascade of flowers in bloom, which are very metaphorical to the blossoming of her character.
What will affect viewers the most is not the violence but who dies in the movie. These deaths are examples of why people in this ragtag Suicide Squad are reluctant or afraid to get emotionally attached to others. (However, in the end-credits scene, it’s revealed that the one of the “dead” characters actually survived.) Although the violence in “The Suicide Squad” is brutal, it’s not without consequences. Too often, superhero movies make most of the villains die and all of the heroes live. “The Suicide Squad” is a big middle finger to that idea.
The rivalry between Bloodsport and Peacemaker provides a lot of comedy, as well as tension-filled moments. As an example of the insult jokes between these two alpha males, Bloodsport derides Peacemaker for his shiny chrome helmet, which Bloodsport says looks like a toilet seat on Peacemaker’s head. Later in the movie, Peacemaker snaps back, “It’s not a toilet seat! It’s a beacon of freedom!”
The acting in “The Suicide Squad” is not going to be nominated for any prestigious awards, but all of the cast members get the job done well for their characters. Robbie and Elba stand out for bringing some nuance as emotionally wounded troublemakers Harley Quinn and Bloodsport. Melchior and Dastmalchian also have some standout moments as Ratcatcher 2 and the Polka-Dot Man, who are the kindler, gentler members of the Suicide Squad. King Shark is written as very simple-minded, so there’s not much going on with this character except fighting, eating humans, and a standout scene where King Shark is fascinated by the contents of a giant aquarium.
The Suicide Squad members have two outside allies from Corto Maltese in their mission: Sol Soria (played by Alice Braga) is the leader of a resistance movement against the military coup. She has a very negative first impression of the Suicide Squad because of a colossal mistake that directly affects Sol. Milton (played by Julio Cesar Ruiz) is a hired driver who becomes the butt of a joke about how people don’t pay attention to service employees in movies like this or in real life.
It’s an example of some of the offbeat sensibilities that Gunn (who’s also known for directing “The Guardians of the Galaxy” movies) brings to “The Suicide Squad.” Another example is how Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo” song is used in one of Harley Quinn’s big action scenes. And in Amanda’s surveillance control room, her subordinates take bets on which Suicide Squad members will live or die during a mission.
One of the ways that “The Suicide Squad” doesn’t play it safe is by having some political themes about American patriotism and how Americans are often perceived by people in other countries. These themes in the movie might get divisive reactions from audience members. But considering that so many superhero movies deliberately avoid politics, “The Suicide Squad” should be commended for going outside the norm and taking some bold risks, even if they might alienate some viewers.
In others words, “The Suicide Squad” is not for the type of superhero movie fan who only wants pleasant, lightweight, family-friendly entertainment. The movie shows the good, bad and ugly sides of humanity in a way that will elicit a wide range of emotions in viewers. But one way that “The Suicide Squad” won’t make most viewers feel is bored.
Warner Bros. Pictures will release “The Suicide Squad” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on August 5, 2021, moved up from the original release date of August 6, 2021. The movie was released in cinemas in select countries, including the United Kingdom, on July 30, 2021.