Review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2,’ starring James Marsden, Jim Carrey and the voices of Ben Schwartz and Idris Elba

April 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2”

Directed by Jeff Fowler

Culture Representation: Taking place in Green Hills, Montana; Oahu, Hawaii; Seattle and various parts of the universe, the live-action/animated adventure film “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” features a nearly predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) and representing the working-class and middle-class, along with some outer-space creatures.

Culture Clash: Sonic the Hedgehog battles again against the evil Dr. Robotnik, who wants to take over the world and gets help from Knuckles the Echidna, who is searching for the all-powerful Master Emerald.

Culture Audience: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” will appeal primarily to fans of the video-game franchise and people who like high-energy, comedic adventures that combine live action and animation.

Jim Carrey and Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” does almost everything a sequel is supposed to do in being an improvement from its predecessor. While 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie looked like a middling TV special, 2022’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has a much more engaging story and more impressive visuals that are worthy of a movie theater experience. “Sonic the Hedgehog” panders mostly to children, while “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is an adventure story with wider appeal to many generations. To enjoy “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” you don’t have to be a video game player, and you don’t have to be familiar with Sega Genesis’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games on which these movies are based.

Several of the chief filmmakers from the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie (including director Jeff Fowler) have returned for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who wrote the “Sonic the Hedgehog” screenplay, are joined by John Whittington for the “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” screenplay. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has an obvious bigger budget than its predecessor, since the visual effects are far superior to what was in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. What hasn’t changed is that Sonic (voiced skillfully by Ben Schwartz)—a talking blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds—is still a brash and wisecracking character with an unwavering purpose of doing good in the world.

Thankfully, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” avoids the pitfall that a lot of sequels make when they assume that everyone watching a movie sequel has already seen any preceding movie in the series. It’s easy to understand “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” without seeing the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” also picks up where “Sonic the Hedgehog” left off: The evil Dr. Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey), Sonic’s chief nemesis, has been banished to the Mushroom Planet, where he has been isolation for the past 243 days.

The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie showed how Sonic was raised in another dimension by a female guardian owl called Longclaw (voiced by Donna Jay Fulks), a benevolent and wise character. When an apocalyptic disaster struck happened, Longclaw saved Sonic by opening up a portal to Earth and telling him that Earth would be Sonic’s permanent home. Longclaw also gave Sonic a bag of magical gold rings which could open portals and do other magic.

In the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie, Sonic settled in with happily married couple Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (played by Tika Sumpter) in the fictional city of Green Hills, Montana. Tom is the sheriff of Green Hills, while Maddie is a veterinarian. Tom and Maddie also have a (non-talking) Golden Retriever named Ozzy, who is a friend to Sonic.

In the beginning of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” Sonic (who acts and talks like a human teenager) has been “adopted” by Tom and Maddie. Sonic sees himself as a hero who is on a mission to fight crime, just like Tom. However, Sonic’s efforts often lead to a lot of unintended wreckage.

The movie’s opening scene shows Sonic in Seattle, as he interferes in an armored car robbery taking place at night. When Sonic shows up, the car driver, who’s been taken hostage in the back, asks Sonic: “Why don’t you let the police handle it?” Sonic replies confidently, “Because that’s not what heroes do!”

It leads to a high-speed chase and car crashes, but thankfully no fatalities. The robbers are apprehended, but the Seattle Police Department is annoyed that Sonic’s excessive eagerness to stop the robbery and catch the criminals resulted in thousands of dollars in damages. All of this wreckage makes the news, so Tom inevitably finds that Sonic snuck out that night and went all the way to Seattle to be involved in these crime-stopping shenanigans.

Tom takes Sonic on a fishing trip on a small boat, where he lectures Sonic about being too reckless in Sonic’s attempts to be a big hero. Sonic gets defensive and says, “You’re supposed to be my friend, not my dad.” Tom looks a little hurt and miffed, but he and Sonic agree to a compromise that Sonic should be more careful if he ever gets involved in any more crime busting.

Sonic won’t have long to wait before he gets involved in something bigger than stopping an armored car robbery. Back on the Mushroom Planet, Dr. Robotnik has been biding his time by experimenting with mushroom juice. He says out loud to himself, “I’ve been striving to make funghi a functional drink of choice, with limited success.”

Dr. Robotnik has kept one of Sonic’s quills, which he finds out has magical energy, so Dr. Robotnik uses the quill as a conduit that summons up a portal that goes to another dimension. Just as Dr. Robotnik declares that he’s about to leave this “shiitake planet” (pun intended by the filmmakers), Echidna soldiers fly through the portal to the Mushroom Planet. The soldiers are soon followed by their red-colored leader: Knuckles the Echinda, who has superstrength in his fists. Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) is the guardian of the Master Emerald, a gemstone that controls the Chaos Emeralds, but Knuckles has lost the Master Emerald and is searching for it.

When Knuckles tells Dr. Robotnik about his quest, the evil doctor seizes the opportunity to get Knuckles’ help in going back to Earth to get revenge on Sonic and take over Earth. When Knuckles sees that Dr. Robotnik has Sonic’s glowing quill, Knuckles asks Dr. Robotnik where he got the quill. Dr. Robotnik says that he got it from Earth. “I’d be happy to show you the way,” Dr. Robotnik sneers before he and Knuckles enter the portal to go to Earth.

Eventually, Dr. Robotnik and Knuckles decide to team up so that they can both get what they want: Knuckles wants the Master Emerald to restore power to his tribe, while Dr. Robotnik wants revenge on Sonic and to take over Earth. Of course, a double crosser such as Dr. Robotnik can’t completely be trusted, but Knuckles needs Dr. Robotnik’s vast knowledge of Earth, which is a completely unknown and foreign planet to Knuckles.

Meanwhile, Tom and Maddie are leaving Sonic at home to take a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, for the wedding of Maddie’s older sister Rachel (played by Natasha Rothwell), a single mother who clashed with Tom in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. Rachel is marrying a man named Randall (played by Shemar Moore), who is completely devoted to her. Rachel’s daughter Jojo (played by Melody Nosipho Niemann), who’s about 11 or 12 years old, is the wedding’s ring bearer. Maddie is Rachel’s maid of honor.

Because of this trip, Sonic and his human family are not together as often as they were in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. It’s a refreshing departure that frees up Sonic to have some adventures on his own. While Maddie and Tom are in Oahu, Sonic is at home in Green Hills with the family dog Ozzy when Dr. Robotnik shows up at the door.

In “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” Sonic also meets a new ally coming from another universe: Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), an adolescent, two-tailed yellow fox who hero worships Sonic. Tails becomes a major asset in the battle against Knuckles and Dr. Robotnik.

Two supporting characters from the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie return in this sequel and continue their roles as being some of the comic relief: Stone (played by Lee Majdoub), a former government agent, is an obsessively loyal assistant to Dr. Robotnik. Wade Whipple (played by Adam Pally) is the deputy sheriff of Green Hills. Both are essentially buffoon characters. Stone is seen working as a barista at a place called the Mean Bean Coffee Co. when he ecstatically finds out that Dr. Robotnik has returned to Earth.

The “race against time quest” in this movie takes Sonic to various places, ranging from a dive bar filled with Russian-speaking, rough-and-tumble characters; a ski slope for an adrenaline-packed chase on snowboards; and Oahu for the wedding. Because “Sonic the Hedgehog” has a lot of comedy, you can bet that there will be mishaps that this wedding, where Rachel hilariously turns into a “bridezilla” when things go wrong.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” seems to be more mindful than the first “Sonic” movie that much of this movie franchises’ target audience consists of adults who remember when the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games first became popular in the early 1990s. Therefore, this sequel has more pop-culture jokes that adults are more likely than children to understand. The wedding scenes are almost a spoof of wedding scenes in romantic comedies, while Rachel turning into a “bridezilla” will look familiar to anyone who knows about the reality series “Bridezillas.”

At one point in the movie, it’s mentioned that owls and echidnas have been fighting each other for centuries. Sonic then quips, “Like Vin Diesel and the Rock.” In another scene, Dr. Robotnik tells Knuckles of their shaky alliance: “You’re as useful to me now like a backstage pass to Limp Bizkit.” People who know about rock band Limp Bizkit’s peak popularity in the late 1990s/early 2000s are most likely to understand that joke. Carrey’s gleefully over-the-top performance as Dr. Robotnik is reminiscent of his rubber-faced, mugging-for-the-camera roles that made him a star in the 1990s.

Sometimes, sequels can be hindered by introducing too many new characters in the story. However, Knuckles is a welcome addition, since his character is one of the best things about “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” with Elba diving into the role with gusto. Knuckles is a pompous know-it-all who feels out of his element because he doesn’t know much about Earth. Much of the comedy about Knuckles is when his ignorance about Earth is showing, and he tries to hide his embarrassment with more ego posturing.

The character of Tails also brings some more personality to this movie franchise. Tails is the perfect complement to Sonic, who likes feeling as if he can mentor someone. Depending on your perspective, O’Shaughnessey’s voice makes Tails sound androgynous or like a boy whose voice hasn’t reach puberty yet. The movie has a mid-credits scene that shows another well-known character from the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games will be introduced in the third “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie.

The pace of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is very energetic without rushing the plot too much. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is a two-hour movie that could have edited out about 15 minutes, but the two-hour runtime will fly by pretty quickly because the movie doesn’t get too boring. This is not a movie with any big plot twists or major surprises, but it fulfills its purpose of being family-friendly entertainment that might pleasantly surprise viewers who normally don’t care about movies based on video games.

Paramount Pictures released “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in U.S. cinemas on April 8, 2022. The movie will be released on digital, VOD and Paramount+ on May 24, 2022. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is set for release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on August 9, 2022.

Review: ‘The Harder They Fall’ (2021), starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler and Danielle Deadwyler

December 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Danielle Deadwyler, Jonathan Majors and Zazie Beetz in “The Harder They Fall” (Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

“The Harder They Fall” (2021)

Directed by Jeymes Samuel

Culture Representation: Taking place in Texas in the mid-1880s, the Western action drama “The Harder They Fall” has a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people, Latinos and Native Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: When cowboy Nat Love finds out that his arch-enemy Rufus Buck has escaped from prison, Nat assembles a posse that battles against Rufus’ gang.

Culture Audience: “The Harder They Fall” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in well-acted, action-oriented Western dramas about the underrepresented African American cowboy culture of the 1880s, but viewers of the movie should have a high tolerance for over-the-top violence.

Regina King, Idris Elba and LaKeith Stanfield in “The Harder They Fall” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With grisly violence that is almost cartoonish, “The Harder They Fall” puts a well-acted spotlight on real-life African American cowboys of the 1880s. The movie’s excessive violence might be a turnoff to some viewers. But for viewers who can tolerate all the blood and gore, “The Harder They Fall” is a bumpy and thrilling ride with a top-notch cast.

“The Harder They Fall” is the second feature film of director Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote “The Harder They Fall” screenplay with Boaz Yakin. Samuel, also composed the movie’s score, has said in interviews that the title of the movie was inspired by the 1972 movie “The Harder They Come,” starring reggae singer Jimmy Cliffnot the 1956 Humphrey Bogart/Rod Steiger movie “The Harder They Fall.” Samuel is a British filmmaker (he’s the younger brother of pop star Seal) who grew up adoring Western movies. However, Samuel eventually found out that these Westerns often gave inaccurate demographic depictions of what post-Civil War life was like the Old West of the 19th century.

In reality, people of color and women had much more agency and independence in Old West culture than what’s shown in most old-time Western movies, which usually portray only white men as leaders of cowboy posses. “The Harder They Fall” aims to course-correct these historical exclusions by doing a fictional portrayal of real-life African American posse members from the 19th century. In case it wasn’t clear enough, a caption in the movie’s introduction states in big and bold letters: “While the events are fictional, the people are real.” (At least the movie’s main characters are based on real people.)

“The Harder They Fall” also doesn’t sugarcoat the reality that there were good and bad cowboy posses. Black people are no exception. The African Americans in the movie are not portrayed as subservient stereotypes, but they aren’t exactly saintly either. Most are just trying to get by and live good lives, while there are some hardened criminals who create chaos for people who have the misfortune of crossing their paths. “The Harder They Fall” takes place in various parts of Texas, but the movie was actually filmed in New Mexico.

“The Harder They Fall” opens with a 10-year-old boy named Nat Love (played by Chase Dillon) witnessing the brutal murder of his parents—Reverend Love (played by Michael Beach) and wife Eleanor Love (played by DeWanda Wise)—during a home invasion. The gangsters shoot Nat’s parents, but they spare Nat’s life. The leader of this gang uses a knife to carve a cross on Nat’s forehead.

About 20 years later, Nat (played by Jonathan Majors) still has the scar on his forehead. And he’s had a lifelong obsession with getting revenge on the gangsters who killed his parents. Nat knows that Rufus Buck (played by Idris Elba) is the gang leader who is the main culprit for the murders. Rufus has recently been in prison for armed robbery and murder.

However, Nat finds out that Rufus has made a prison escape. Two of Rufus’ loyal cronies—ruthless Trudy Smith (played by Regina King) and smooth-talking Cherokee Bill (played by LaKeith Stanfield)—have hijacked the train where prisoner Rufus was being transported, and they broke Rufus out of the cell where he was being kept.

After Nat discovers that Rufus is now a free man (but still wanted by law enforcement), Nat assembles his own posse to get revenge. The other members of the Nat Love Gang are Mary Fields (played by Zazie Beetz), who is Nat’s feisty love interest; Bill Pickett (played by Edi Gathegi), who is a loyal and logical; Jim Beckwourth (played by RJ Cyler), who is a cocky young cowboy; and Cuffee (played by Danielle Deadwyler), who lives as a transgender man.

Nat makes a living by finding “wanted dead or alive” criminals for reward money. Nat has no qualms about killing these criminals if he thinks they deserve it. That’s what happens in an early scene in the movie when Nat shoots and kills a wanted criminal who shows up at a Catholic church with the intention of robbing the church. Nat’s reward is $5,000.

It turns out that Nat and his gang are outlaws too, because they make money by stealing from robbers. Therefore, one of their least-favorite people is Bass Reeves (played by Delroy Lindo), a U.S. marshal who’s determined to put a stop to all this criminal activity. In addition to seeking revenge on Rufus, the Nat Love Gang also wants to avoid capture by Reeves and his law enforcement team. The posse members on both sides are also mistrustful of Wiley Esco (played by Deon Cole), the Redwood City mayor whose allegiances can be murky.

It should be noted that in real life, Bass Reeves is the inspiration for the Lone Ranger character, which has been played by white actors in movies and television. Reeves was considered a pioneer for African Americans in law enforcement, because he did a lot to change American viewpoints that white people aren’t the only race who can become U.S. marshals. In real life, Reeves worked closely with Native American leaders. It’s an alliance that’s depicted in the movie too.

In many ways, “The Harder They Fall” follows a lot of the traditions of typical Westerns, with gun shootouts and chases on horseback. There’s also some romance, as Mary and Nat have an on-again, off-again relationship. Mary, who works as a saloon singer, has a hard time trusting Nat because he’s cheated on her in the past. Nat is an emotionally wounded rebel who’s trying to win back Mary’s heart, but first he has to learn how to heal his own broken heart.

And there’s inevitable fighting among posse members. Most of the friction in Nat’s gang comes from Jim and Bill having personality clashes with each other. Bill thinks Jim is arrogant and reckless, while Jim thinks that Bill is uptight and too cautious. It’s the classic older cowboy/younger cowboy conflict that’s often seen in Westerns.

There are also some gender issues with Cuffee, who wants to live life as a man, but some people think that Cuffee is a woman just doing a drag act. There are parts of the movie where people aren’t sure whether to call Cuffee a “he” or a “she,” since the word “transgender” did not exist at the time. And when Cuffee has to wear a dress (for reasons what won’t be revealed in this review), it makes Cuffee very uncomfortable. After seeing Cuffee in a dress, Jim blurts out that he now knows why was kind of attracted to Cuffee.

Damon Wayans Jr. has a small role in the movie as Monroe Grimes, someone who is captured by Nat’s posse members to get information about Rufus. As for Rufus, he’s a cold-blooded killer who has enough of a twinkle in his eye and swagger in his walk to indicate why his posse subordinates find him so magnetic. Mary can give Rufus a run for his money, in terms of being fearless in battle. Cherokee Bill is violent too, but he’s more likely to use psychology to try to outwit an opponent.

“The Harder They Fall” isn’t particularly innovative in the story structure and dialogue, but there are some impressive camera shots from cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., and the movie delivers when it comes to adrenaline-filled action scenes. A standout camera shot is in a scene where the camera zooms in with a bullet-like trajectory at a group of posse members to then reveal that there are others standing behind them. Also adding to the striking visuals of “The Harder They Fall” is the first-rate costume design by Antoinette Messam, who brought a practical yet fashionable look to many of these Old West characters.

All of the actors perform well in their roles, with the best scene-stealing moments coming from Majors, King, Elba, Beetz, Stanfield and Deadwyler. Where the movie falters a bit is in how it abandons its mostly gritty realism for some stunts that are so heavily choreographed, it takes you out of the realism and just becomes a reminder that this movie’s fight scenes can sometimes look like ultra-violent parodies of fight scenes in Westerns.

What doesn’t come across as a parody is how credibly the cast members portray their characters. These engaging characters bring real heart and soul to “The Harder They Fall.” (There’s also a poignant plot twist/reveal at the end of the movie that might or might not be surprising to some viewers.) Even though not everyone makes it out alive by the end of the movie, it’s clear by the movie’s last shot that there’s room for a sequel for a spinoff.

Netflix released “The Harder They Fall” in select U.S. cinemas on October 22, 2021. The movie’s Netflix premiere was on November 3, 2021.

Review: ‘The Suicide Squad,’ starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Viola Davis and Daniela Melchior

July 30, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front row, from left to right: Joel Kinnaman, Alice Braga, Daniela Melchior, King Shark, Idris Elba and John Cena in “The Suicide Squad” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“The Suicide Squad”

Directed by James Gunn

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.

Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Margot Robbie, Peter Capaldi and Idris Elba in “The Suicide Squad” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“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.

One World: Together at Home worldwide TV event honoring coronavirus health workers will include appearances by Elton John, Paul McCartney, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Chris Martin, Lizzo and more

April 6, 2020

Updated April 14, 2020

Lady Gaga (Photo by Erik Voake/Coachella)

The following is a press release from ABC:

Building on the success of the digital series “One World: Together at Home,” Global Citizen and the World Health Organization (WHO) are partnering for a special one-night event of the same name to air across NBC, ABC, CBS and other global networks and platforms on  Saturday, April 18, 2020 (8:00-10:00 p.m. PT/ET).

“One World: Together at Home” is not a telethon – but rather a global broad entertainment special to celebrate the heroic efforts of community health workers and support the World Health Organization and the global fight to end COVID-19. The event is curated by Lady Gaga and will feature exclusive appearances by Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder. Friends of Sesame Street will also be on hand to help unify and inspire people around the world.

The two-hour program will be hosted by a trio of network late-night hosts: Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and will include performances from the world’s biggest artists with multimillion-dollar pledges to the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund. Audrey Morrissey (“The Voice,” “Songland”) and Live Animals will produce the special in partnership with Global Citizen.

The show will lift viewer’s spirits with exclusive, special cameos from the worlds of music and arts, sports superstars, and comedic sketches, while always drawing back to its core purpose – to educate and inform on COVID-19 risks, prevention and response. The broadcast will feature interviews with experts from WHO as well as stories of frontline healthcare workers from around the world – their courage and sacrifice a reminder of the urgency of this moment.

The special will connect artists with audiences on a global scale, airing on the following networks and platforms:

· NBCUniversal: NBC, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, MSNBC.com, NBCSN, NBC News, NBCNews.com, NBC News on YouTube, Peacock, SYFY and USA.

· Walt Disney Television: ABC, ABC News, ABC News Live, Freeform and Nat Geo.

· ViacomCBS: CBS, Channel 5 in the UK, Network 10 in Australia, and Telefe in Argentina; BET and MTV globally across 180+ countries; and CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land and VH1 in the U.S.

· Bell Media platforms in Canada, MultiChoice, and RTE.

· BBC One will broadcast an edited version of the event for UK audiences on Sunday, April 19.

“One World: Together At Home” will also be a multi-hour digital broadcast streaming online on multiple global platforms, including Alibaba, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Facebook, Hulu, Instagram, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, TIDAL, TuneIn, Twitch, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube. This digital special will include additional artists and performances from all over the globe as well as unique stories from the world’s healthcare heroes. For information about how to tune in and take action, visit www.globalcitizen.org/togetherathome.

Commitments from supporters and corporate partners will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, powered by the UN Foundation, to support and equip healthcare workers around the world, and to local charities that provide food, shelter, and healthcare to those that need it most. These local groups have been vetted to ensure they are helping communities impacted by COVID-19.

April 14, 2020 UPDATE: International advocacy organization Global Citizen today announced an expanded list of artists that will appear in the “One World: Together at Home” global broadcast special, being held in support of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic being led by the World Health Organization.

The newly announced artists include Alicia Keys, Amy Poehler, Awkwafina, Camila Cabello, Celine Dion, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, LL COOL J, Lupita Nyong’o, Matthew McConaughey, Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, Usher and Victoria Beckham. Curated in collaboration with Lady Gaga, the artists announced today join a lineup of entertainers who were unveiled last week that includes Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder.

“One World: Together at Home” will be hosted by Jimmy Fallon of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Jimmy Kimmel of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and Stephen Colbert of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Friends from Sesame Street will also be on hand to help unify and inspire people around the world to take meaningful actions that increase support for the global COVID-19 response.

Leading up to the global broadcast special, there will be a six-hour streamed event, curated from around the world, to support brave healthcare workers doing life-saving work on the front lines. The “One World: Together at Home” streamed event will reach millions around the world digitally and will include performances and appearances from Adam Lambert, Andra Day, Angèle, Anitta, Annie Lennox, Becky G, Ben Platt, Billy Ray Cyrus, Black Coffee, Bridget Moynahan, Burna Boy, Cassper Nyovest, Charlie Puth, Christine and the Queens, Common, Connie Britton, Danai Gurira, Delta Goodrem, Don Cheadle, Eason Chan, Ellie Goulding, Erin Richards, FINNEAS, Heidi Klum, Hozier, Hussain Al Jasmi, Jack Black, Jacky Cheung, Jack Johnson, Jameela Jamil, James McAvoy, Jason Segel, Jennifer Hudson, Jess Glynne, Jessie J, Jessie Reyez, John Legend, Juanes, Kesha, Lady Antebellum, Lang Lang, Leslie Odom Jr., Lewis Hamilton, Liam Payne, Lili Reinhart, Lilly Singh, Lindsey Vonn, Lisa Mishra, Lola Lennox, Luis Fonsi, Maren Morris, Matt Bomer, Megan Rapinoe, Michael Bublé, Milky Chance, Naomi Osaka, Natti Natasha, Niall Horan, Nomzamo Mbatha, P.K. Subban, Picture This, Rita Ora, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sebastián Yatra, Sheryl Crow, Sho Madjozi, SOFI TUKKER, SuperM, The Killers, Tim Gunn, Vishal Mishra and Zucchero. The digital stream will be available on Alibaba, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, TIDAL, TuneIn, Twitch, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube.

As part of the “One World: Together at Home” campaign, brands including Analog Devices, Cisco, Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, State Farm(R), Target, Teneo, Verizon, Vodafone and WW International, Inc. have supported the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO and regional charities that are working to meet immediate COVID-19-related needs locally.

“We are grateful to the private sector who have listened to the public’s call for action and come together to support the global response to COVID19. This pandemic is too large for governments to tackle alone,” said Hugh Evans, co-founder and CEO of Global Citizen. “We are also incredibly grateful for the continued support from the artist community to make ‘One World: Together at Home’ a moment of global unity. Our hope for the special is that everyone will come away believing that we, as a shared humanity, can emerge from this moment forever grateful for the work of doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers and all those who are the backbone of our communities.”

“One World: Together at Home” will air on Saturday, April 18, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. PDT/8:00 p.m. EDT, appearing on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, The CW, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks and platforms in Canada. Internationally, BBC One will run the program on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Additional international broadcasters include AXS TV, beIN Media Group, MultiChoice Group and RTE. The digital stream will begin at 11:00 a.m. PDT/2:00 p.m. EDT and will inspire unity among all people who are affected by COVID-19.

At this critical moment in history, Global Citizen is also calling on individuals, governments and philanthropists to join and support immediate COVID-19 response efforts. Changemakers, investors and foundation leaders are being urged to actualize their giving and invest quickly in related efforts, like stronger health systems and vaccine development.

Last month in response to the global pandemic, Global Citizen launched an urgent campaign in support of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO. Calling on individuals to take action and asking world leaders and corporations to support the response with sufficient resources, Global Citizens from over 150 countries around the world have taken hundreds of thousands of actions in support of the response fund. For information about how to tune in and take action, visit globalcitizen.org/togetherathome.

For more information about Global Citizen and their campaign to support the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund, please visit globalcitizen.org and follow @GlblCtzn Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #GlobalCitizen.

To learn more about WHO’s response to the pandemic and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, please go to www.who.int/COVID-19 and follow @WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.

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