CGB Review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

A new era of magic has begun, my lovelies, and it starts in the American wizarding world!

This is my review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

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A prequel to the Harry Potter mega-franchise, Fantastic Beasts follows the misadventures of Newt Scamander, a writer who has come to New York with a suitcase full of–well, take a guess–fantastic beasts!  When one of his, let’s call them, “pets” escapes, Newt is taken into wizard custody by Porpentina, or “Tina” for short, Goldstein, an ex-auror with some skeletons in her closet, only for the two of them to end up working together to find the missing mystical beasts.  Along the way, Newt and Tina are assisted by Tina’s sister Queenie and a No-Maj (non-magical human) named Jacob Kowalski.

The Hits
I really love the concept of visiting the American wizarding world.  Having grown up watching the Harry Potter films, I always assumed that the wizarding world only took place in England, so I like that the wizarding world is an international affair.  It brings variety and furthers the intrigue of an already-complex society.
The titular fantastic beasts themselves are not lacking in creativity.  Each creature is uniquely designed and belongs to its own group of species, making them easy to differentiate amidst the fast-paced action sequences.
Eddie Redmayne, it’s always good to see you in a flick.  In fact, I just realized that this is the third Eddie Redmayne movie that I’ve reviewed (see The Theory of Everything and the Danish Girl).  While the role of Newt Scamander is not as demanding or multi-layered as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything) or Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (The Danish Girl), Redmayne does deliver an enjoyable performance as he brings a quirky charm to the character of Newt.  I like his chemistry with Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, who–I gotta say–looks a lot like a grown-up Ofelia from Pan’s Labyrinth.  Alas, that’s where the comparisons end because where Ofelia is innocent and troubled, Tina Goldstein is a grounded and anxious professional.  She clearly wants her Auror job back, but must work within her current boundaries, all while doing what she knows is right even if it goes against the grain.
The real show-stealer is Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler)!  This guy is hilarious!  His well-timed expressions and dim-witted personality make him a delight to watch.   I like how he’s dense, but not a complete buffoon.  He has a good heart and steps up when things that are important are on the line.

The Misses
It may take some time getting used to not seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione running around.  While Newt, Tina, Kowalski and Queenie have their own charm and personalities, the absence of the original HP trio will be noticed.
The rapport between Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) and Credence (Ezra Miller from We Need to Talk about Kevin) is intriguing, but comes out of nowhere.  I like the concept of their toxic relationship, but when we’re first introduced to their camaraderie, we see Graves going into an alleyway and chatting with a tearful Credence without any previous buildup; it’s a shaky and jarring transition that I feel could’ve been polished with some brief, earlier interactions between the two characters.

I am delighted to say that Fantastic Beasts is, indeed, a fantastic introduction to the American wizarding world!  Awesome characters, exciting action and the same phenomenal world-building that made the Harry Potter saga a modern classic helps Fantastic Beasts to both stand alone and be a welcome addition to the Harry Potter franchise.

Saint Colette of Corbie, pray for us.

 

CGB Review of Arrival (2016)

Why are they here?
Well, I won’t give away the answer, but I am here to tell you that one of the best films of 2016 has arrived!

This is my review of Arrival!

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Freaky alien ships have arrived–no pun intended–on Earth with each pod landing in twelve different countries, including the US of A.  Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a renowned linguist who has been selected by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to lead a team of investigators and “interview” the alien species.  Given that language is her passion, Louise is determined to understand their speech patterns in order to get them to understand human language and context.  Diplomacy becomes a tricky road as China and other global superpowers threaten to take action against these beings they do not understand.  Louise and Ian (Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, who by all calculations (again, no pun intended), has his sights set on the fair-minded linguist, must race against the clock to prevent World War III with the aliens.

Guys and gals, I saw this film yesterday and I am still thinking about it.  I have told my classmates, co-workers and my family to go see this intelligent, mind-bending film and I am here to convince you to go see it, as well!

The Hits
The story is expertly crafted from beginning to end.  It is neither overly-complicated nor insultingly dumbed-down; it provides plenty of symbolism and clues, but it also allows you to do the thinking for yourself.  I love how this film is not about lasers or explosions, but keeps its attention set on the very realistic scenarios of international negotiations and relations between worldly (and in this case, otherworldly) powers.  Granted, this movie certainly isn’t going to teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about international politics, but in terms of getting an idea of how it works, this movie serves as a good analogy.  The musical score is the best I’ve heard since the Imitation Game soundtrack and the very first shot of the alien pod ship is rightfully deserving of all the praise as a great achievement in cinematography that it has received.
Amy Adams has come a long way from her start as Princess Giselle from Enchanted.  Adams is mesmerizing as Louise.  Her vulnerable performance brings to life a logical and independent-minded woman who is seeking to understand without guile.  Characters who are essentially pure of heart can be hard to write, but Adams provides Louise with a grounded humanity to balance out the character’s cut-above nature.
Much like Miracles from Heaven, the characters in this film actually act like human beings.  Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber and the other military members are in a difficult situation and their reactions are made understandable to the audience.  This isn’t the “progressive-linguist-fighting-against-big-bad-rigid-establishment” kind of story; all the players involved are presented in a humanistic manner, doing what they know to do in a muddy waters of negotiations with global leaders and inter terrestrials.
Going back to the masterful storytelling, Arrival is a sci-fi psychodrama, being both plot-driven and character-driven.  The sci-fi elements are interwoven with the engaging character study of Louise and her own immersion into the aliens’ language.
One more thing: I’ve only seeing three of Denis Villeneuve films (Prisoners, Sicario and now Arrival) and I am so happy to say that this one is the easiest to watch!  I say that because Prisoners left me reeling for a week and Sicario did not help me get to sleep after I saw it.

The Misses
I’m honestly at a loss in terms of any glaring misses, but I guess if you are looking for lightsaber duels and galactic explosions, just wait until Rogue One comes out or watch the first Independence Day (NOT the crummy sequel that came out and bombed in the middle of this year).  Between this, Prisoners (2013), Enemy (2014) and Sicario (2015), Denis Villeneuve is an artsy-thinkpiece kind of filmmaker.  Look elsewhere for mindless entertainment, my lovely friends.

Very rarely has a film actually had me thinking about time, language, space and how our world works.  Arrival made me really ponder time and language, and how they are linked. Time is a pattern of day and night, while language is a pattern of communication, the structure of words.  As I drove home, I began to think about how God set these things to work in order so that all things can move smoothly forward.  All things must occur in a patterned order to prevent catastrophe.  Dare I say, in the strangest way, Arrival has increased my appreciation for God as the author of life, the linguist, the mathematician, the painter, the architect, the Creator of all things that are and are to come. While the movie itself doesn’t outright mention God, it would not be far-fetched to say that His hand was present within the pages of the screenplay.
When a movie can challenge you to stop and think about the world around you, that is the mark of a great film.
That was my experience with Arrival; it may not end up being yours, but see this wonderfully-acted, well-written film for yourself.  You just might get something out of it.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

CGB Review of Doctor Strange

As the election results have shown us, life can be stranger than fiction.

This is my review of Doctor Strange!

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Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a successful but arrogant surgeon whose career ends after a terrible car accident practically destroys his hands.  After speaking with a formerly-paralyzed man who has since been completely healed, Doctor Strange journeys to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and finds himself getting swooped in to a mystical battle with dark forces led by the sinister Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen).

The Hits
Holy cow, the visuals are INCREDIBLE!  The battle sequences are truly a sight to behold.  I love the idea that these mystic warriors actually bend time and physical space in order to do battle.  The reality-bending is just so COOL!  I like how it’s not all shaky-cam and impossible to see what’s going on.  The spells cast are bright and colorful, the fight choreography is smooth and well-paced, and the battles themselves are brimming with imagination.  This is one of the rare films where the 3D enhances the experience and isn’t just a nauseating gimmick.  You’ll still enjoy it in 2D, but if you are thinking of seeing it in 3D, then DO IT!  Of course, if you are concerned about cyber sickness, then here’s my review of The Walk, where I offer tips and tricks on how to prevent cyber sickness:  https://catholicgirlbloggin.net/2015/10/11/cgb-review-of-the-walk-2015/
Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to disappoint me.  I think it’s been established that you could cast this guy as a lampshade and he would still give a great performance.  While the role of Stephen Strange himself is not entirely compelling, Cumberbatch has the time of his life with this character.  He makes Stephen Strange arrogant but likable; his sense of self-importance doesn’t harm anyone, it only makes it satisfying when the movie allows him to get his humbling comeuppance.  The movie has an awesome moral about humbling yourself for something greater, which is Christianity in a nutshell.
Tilda Swinton is another actor who can do no wrong (in movies, I mean).  She brings a complexity to her character The Ancient One.  Yeah, she’s basically a tall, female Yoda, but Swinton gives a grounded performance that enables her to make the role her own.
I’m sorry, I just can’t get over how much I LOVE the mythology of this world!  There’s a line where one character says (I’m going to paraphrase here), “The Avengers protect the physical world, while we fight off more mystical dangers.”  It made me think of the battles that take place in the spiritual realm where angels and saints fight for us against sinister forces.  In our secular world, it’s refreshing to see any big budget film embrace the idea that there is an invisible reality within our physical world where two opposing forces do battle for our souls.   Also I appreciate how Kaecilius is basically a discount Lucifer (a powerful being who becomes drunk with pride, wants more power and causes division in his wake); yeah, the similarities are there.
I don’t want to go into spoilers, but I’ll just say that how Doctor Strange defeats the main antagonist is quite clever and fun to watch.

The Misses
The relationship between Doctor Strange and his (ex-girlfriend-ish?) Christine Palmer is underdeveloped.  I’m glad that it’s a mostly platonic relationship, but they don’t have enough scenes together where we get to care for them as a couple.
Okay, so the Ancient One runs this whole mystic, inter-dimensional operation with Mordo, Wong and…a handful of other people?  Yeah, even though we do see other sorcerers training, when the actual fighting starts, we only see Ancient One, Mordo and maybe two other unnamed characters doing battle.  I kind of wish both the Ancient One’s group and Kaecilius’ gang had more members.

Overall, I really love Doctor Strange!  Benedict Cumberbatch alone makes it a must-see, but the creative and energetic battle sequences and the clever use of 3D makes even more worthwhile.  Like Kubo and the Two Strings, the story and the visuals enable Doctor Strange to stand tall and proud in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Saint Timothy, pray for us.

CGB Review of Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

“Everyone has a conscience and must follow it.”
–Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

This is my review of Hacksaw Ridge!

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Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of my new favorite American hero, Desmond Doss, a medic during World War II who, influenced by his Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, refused to use and even touch a gun, instead choosing to save as many wounded soldiers as he could.  He would later go on to become the first Conscientious Objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The Hits
Andrew Garfield–wow, man–I have grossly underestimated you.  With a thoughtful performance, Garfield portrays Desmond Doss as, essentially, a real-life Captain America; brave but vulnerable, noble and flawed, and grounded in his convictions.  I’d also like to add that this is a balanced portrayal of a Christian character.  Often times, a mistake that is typically made in Pure Flix films (both the God’s Not Dead flicks and, to an extent, Do You Believe?) is a Christian character is all good simply because they wear the Christian label.  Hacksaw Ridge allows Desmond to be a three-dimensional human being who is a pacifist and a devout Christian.  I really appreciate that this movie doesn’t have him convert anybody because let’s be honest: That’s just not how life works, especially in our cynical, secular society.  Desmond doesn’t convert anyone to his way of thinking, but he does rightfully earn the respect and admiration of his peers simply for staying true to who he is.
Also, kudos to Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington, both of whom actually deliver pretty darn good performances, especially Vaughn, who I’ve only seen in crummy comedies.  Hugo Weaving does a great job too, but then again, of course he would.  I have yet to see a subpar performance from him.
This movie handles subtlety masterfully.  Elements of Desmond’s past are revealed through quick but well-placed flashbacks that are intercut with present day.  There is one particular flashback that explains his no-guns philosophy, but it’s not shoved down your throat; it only shows up three times and it makes everything come full circle once Desmond himself explains it to another character.
In an election year where many people had to wrestle with their conscience at the voting booth, Desmond Doss is living proof that you can obey your conscience and remain loyal to it through thick and thin.  Is it incredibly difficult to do so?  Absolutely.  Is it impossible?  No.  Desmond Doss is a witness to standing your ground and not being shaken when the storm comes.

The Misses
Okay, there’s one elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: There’s a scene in the climax where Desmond actually KICKS a grenade away from a fellow soldier.  Yeah…that’s stretching it a bit thin, don’t you think?  Look, I already know he’s a hero; you don’t need to have him roundhouse-kick a grenade to further prove that.
Admittedly, parts of the story are cliché.  There is a “rogue little guy versus big bad establishment” undertone of the film, but that’s to be expected given the nature of the story.  They try to make a villain out of Luke Bracey’s character Smitty Riker, but from his very first scene you already know what his character arch is going to be; he doesn’t like Desmond, then he really doesn’t like Desmond.  Desmond saves Smitty, Smitty is (emotionally) disarmed and the two become friends.  That’s not a spoiler, by the way; it’s just really predictable.

Guys and gals, I really hope that Hacksaw Ridge gets nominated for something, anything, because this is a powerful movie.  This is one of the few movies where I found myself admiring the main character.  What we have is the portrait of a hero who focused his energy on saving lives, even if it meant getting Hell from his superiors for his stance.  With a respectful performance from Andrew Garfield, excellent direction from Mel Gibson and an emphasis on standing your ground even if it means standing alone, Hacksaw Ridge shows us what a hero looks like.

Saint Martin of Tours, pray for us.

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Rest in Peace and thank you for your service, Desmond Doss (1919-2006)

CGB Review of The Magnificent Seven (2016)/With A Brief Cameo from MsOWrites

(Rides towards a dusty old town on a horse) How ya doin’ back there, Guardian Angel?
(Enter GUARDIAN ANGEL)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: No wonder you humans prefer cars over horses.
ME: Don’t tell that to equestrian enthusiasts.  Also, you do realize that you have wings and can just fly ahead of me, right?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Shrugs) CGB, you know that angels aren’t show-offs.
ME: Are you ever gonna take off your Deadpool mask?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Sure, if you want to be blinded by my light.
(Screaming people are heard from a distance) (ME and GUARDIAN ANGEL see the dusty old town on fire)
ME: Why does this remind me of the first ten minutes of The Magnificent Seven?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Probably because that’s how the movie opens.

This is my review of The Magnificent Seven!

Denzel Washington;Chris Pratt;Ethan Hawke;Manuel Garcia-Rulfo;Vincent D Onofrio;Martin Sensmeier;Byung-hun Lee

After her husband is murdered for standing up to greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, Emma Cullen and the other desperate locals of Rose Creek seek the help of warrant officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who then recruits a gambler named Joshua Faraday (Chris Pratt; just think Emmet from LEGO Movie and Starlord from Guardians of the Galaxy, or Emmet Starlord as I like to call him), a Confederate sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), mountain man Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), the East Asian immigrant Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), an outlaw simply known as Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and the exiled Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) to take on Bogue and save Rose Creek.

The Hits
As a popcorn flick, this movie really works!  Much like Storks, the plot is very self-aware and focuses on being an entertaining shoot-em-up thrill ride.  This is the kind of standard plot that shouldn’t work, but the Magnificent Seven makes it work with a likable and dynamic cast, as well as fun action scenes where you can actually see what’s happening instead of being bombarded with constant shaky-cam.
Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington are just playing, well, Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington…and they are very good at it.  Washington brings his authoritative calm to the role of Sam Chisolm, asserting himself as a warrant officer who seeks the help the helpless and defend the voiceless.  Meanwhile Pratt plays Joshua Faraday with a slightly twisted yet playful charm.   The scene where he uses card tricks to get out of a situation involving two brothers who want to kill him is incredibly fun and even a tad suspenseful to watch.
While the marketing made it seem that this was going to be a Chris Pratt-Denzel-Washington vehicle, the final product makes use of the other cast members.  Ethan Hawke is given a compelling character arch as a Confederate soldier with PTSD, while Vincent D’Onofrio is absolutely fun to watch without overstaying his enthusiastic welcome.  The action sequences where all seven of them fight antagonists serve as showcases for each character’s fighting style, allowing distinction between protagonists so that they don’t all just blend into dull and boring pawns with muscle.  I definitely like the camaraderie that forms between the seven men.   As the movies goes on, a brotherhood develops and you really feel that these guys go from fighting as reluctant teammates to working together as willing allies.
I also appreciate that the female lead played by Haley Bennett doesn’t fall for one of the Magnificent Seven members.  Given that her husband, played by Matt Bomer, dies in the first fifteen minutes, I think it would’ve been out of place for her and even forced to have her fall head-over-heels for Pratt or Washington.

GUARDIAN ANGEL: CGB, get behind me!
ME: Wait, what?  (Grabbed by GUARDIAN ANGEL and thrust behind his large wings) Holy cow, you’re taller than I thought.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: You’re just now realizing that?
ME: Well, gee, I’m sorry I don’t have superior intellect like you angels.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Playful smirk) Stay down, but try to look past my wing.
ME: (Carefully looks up and sees a man in a white suit standing among the flames) Yeeesh, who the heck is that dude?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: That is White Suit.
ME: Is that his real name?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: No, but he comes from the netherworld, so I’d rather not say his real name.
ME: (Swallows) Gotcha.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I know for a fact that he assisted Amanda Waller in capturing you, MsOWrites, Catholic N00B, Rosalie Contrite and Surrender the Brownies.
ME: That explains how Waller and Rick Flag found my house!
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Correct.  (Holds up two katanas)
ME: Wait, I thought you gave me one of your katanas.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I did.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have an unlimited supply.  Listen, go to that conveniently-empty house and focus on the review.  I’ll see if we can cross through this town without catching White Suit’s attention.
ME: You do realize that I can fight, right?  I fought the Joker in the Suicide Squad review.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Only to have Catholic N00b finish him off.  Case in point: You’re not ready to fight off fallen angels.  To be fair, no human is.
ME: That makes sense.  All right, I’ll comply.  (Heads to conveniently-empty house and sits on beat-up couch)  So while I wait for my guardian angel to find a safer way out of this town, I guess I have some time to go over the misses of Magnificent Seven.

The Misses
At times, the action can be hard to see, primarily in the climax.  There’s a complex plan formed to ambush Bartholomew Bogue and his henchmen and, because some of the Magnificent Seven members slightly resemble one another, it gets a bit hard to tell who’s who when they’re all bloodied with dirt-caked faces.
I’ve never been a fan of Westerns (the genre just have never been compelling to me) and this movie certainly didn’t change my mind.  As fun as this movie is, it’s pretty forgettable a few days after you’ve seen it.  Even though the characters have great chemistry, the majority of them are pretty two-dimensional with the exception of Ethan Hawke’s character.  Otherwise, as an afternoon flick, it’s serviceable nonetheless.

(Enter WHITE SUIT, a tall and lean man in a white suit with a white hat covering his face and large ashen wings)
WHITE SUIT: Hello, Catholic Girl Bloggin’.
ME: (Gasps) What the?  How did you find me?
WHITE SUIT: I have your guardian angel surrounded just outside.  It probably isn’t wise for you to hide in a place known as “conveniently-empty house”.
ME: What, is there is neon-colored sign hanging outside?
WHITE SUIT: See for yourself.
ME: (Looks out window and sees neon-lit sign that reads, “CONVENIENTLY-EMPTY HOUSE“)  Well, that does not help me at all.  (Backs away from WHITE SUIT)
WHITE SUIT: Oh, there’s nothing to worry about, my dear.  I actually come to help you.
ME: Yeah, you fallen angels are about as helpful as a brick to the face.
WHITE SUIT: Last time I checked, you currently have 1,666 likes on the blog’s FB page.
ME: And of course it just had to include 666.
WHITE SUIT: I have some tips and tricks to make that number skyrocket.  I can help you to propel your blog to instant fame…
ME: Oh, no, I’m not making any blood pacts!
WHITE SUIT: Don’t worry, I don’t require blood pacts.
ME: (Whips out angelic katana) Uh huh, sure you don’t….(holds it up between my eyes) 
WHITE SUIT: (sinister chuckle) I am simply here to make you an offer you can’t refuse.
ME: Bwahahahaha!
WHITE SUIT: (Gives quizzical look)
ME: Are you seriously trying to intimidate me by quoting the Godfather?  Dude, my family and I watch that at least once a year!  (Goes on a tangent) Some years we watch just the first film and the whole trilogy during other years, including the crummy third film…
WHITE SUIT: (whips out a sword)
ME: (Swallows) You do realize that you fallen angels can’t physically hurt us humans, right?
WHITE SUIT: (Shrugs)  But we can frighten and intimidate.  (Sinister grin) Submit or suffer. What’ll it be, CGB?
ME: (Grips tightly to the katana) A Christian I am and a Christian I shall remain.
WHITE SUIT: (Raises eyebrow) Very well, it’s your torment.  (Charges at me)
ME: (Holds up katana, bracing for impact) (Looks down and sees Mother Teresa medal around my neck) Hey, jerkface!  (Talks deep breath) Mother Teresa!
WHITE SUIT: (Sword flings out of his hand) (collapses to the ground)  Argh!  The one in white!
ME: (Begins to approach) Saint Gemma Galgani!
WHITE SUIT: (Writhes in pain) Ahhhhh!  The one in black!
ME: (Smiles with confidence) Blessed Imelda Lambertini, Blessed Chiara Badano!
WHITE SUIT: (Curls up in fetal position) The holy girls!
ME: (Begins to approach) Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio!
WHITE SUIT: (Rocks back and forth) (Snarls with flaming eyes) How DARE you invoke the boy martyr!
ME: (Raises katana) Pope John Paul II!
WHITE SUIT: (Thrashes wildly on the floor) (Scratches his own face with his claws)  NO!  The one who ruined our plans!
ME: Saint Michael, Saint Monica, Padre Pio, MOTHER MARY!  (Plunges the katana into his chest)
WHITE SUIT: (Tries to grab me with his claws)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: CGB, duck!
ME: (Takes cover by a table)
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (finishes off WHITE SUIT with his own katanas)  (A lone white hat is all that remains)
ME: Is he gone?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: For the time being, yes.  (Pulls katanas in his sheaths) I’m glad you invoked the names of saints instead of taking him on with your own strength.
ME: (Looks at Mother Teresa medal) I don’t remember wearing this earlier.
GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Smirks lovingly) I figured she’d be the best person to give you courage. (Looks around dishelved house) So any closing thoughts on the Magnificent Seven before we take off?
ME: Well…

The Magnificent Seven is a fun and engaging popcorn flick.  Given that the Western genre itself can be a hit or miss (with more misses than hits), the Magnificent Seven is definitely one of the few gems the genre has to offer.  Although it is, sadly, easy to forget about after a few days, for the time you’re watching it you’ll have a pretty good time.  Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt are a selling point, but they allow others to share in the star-studded spotlight, which is a commendable feat.  A cast with believable and likable chemistry, some impressive set pieces and a self-awareness that keeps it from becoming needly dark and grim makes the Magnificent Seven a modern Western worth checking out.

GUARDIAN ANGEL: (Face becomes stern as his wings raise)
ME: What’s wrong?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: I’m going to have to knock you out.
ME: Why?
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Something worse than White Suit is headed this way.  (Wraps his wings around me, enveloping me)
ME: (Startled) What are you–
GUARDIAN ANGEL: Don’t worry, this is like being wrapped in a glow-in-the-dark blanket.
ME: (Begins to feel sleepy) (Goes under as the earth shakes beneath my feet.

(Cut to black)

(Enter MsOWrites)
MsOWrites: CGB?  CGB, can you hear me?
ME: (feels icy water splash on my face) (jumps awake) MsOWrites?!  Hey, where are we? (Looks around to see that we are on a beach)
MsOWrites: Listen, Catholic bloggers are in trouble again, so we’re all seeking refuge at Miss Peregrine’s?
ME: That school for peculiar kids?
MsOWrites: There’s a new world coming, and it’s just around the bend.
ME: Oh, boy…

(Fade to black)

Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio, pray for us.

CGB Collaboration Review of Kubo and the Two Strings With Patheos Blogger Monique Ocampo

If you must blink, do it now, because this is my collaboration review of Kubo and the Two Strings guest-starring Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo/MsOWrites!

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Kubo is a young boy who lives with his sometimes-catatonic mother in a cave by the sea. Every day he walks down to the village and entertains the villagers by telling stories using origami that comes to life when he plays his shamisen (a Japanese three-stringed instrument).  There is a catch to Kubo’s existence: He must never ever stay out after dark. He soon figures out the reason when he stays out past dark and his evil spirit Aunts come to take him to his “grandfather” the Moon King, who intends to take Kubo’s remaining eye.  With the help of a monkey and a beetle, Kubo must find his deceased father’s armor and defeat the Moon King.
This is basically Pan’s Labyrinth for kids…and I LOVE it!  I’m not alone; my good friend Monique Ocampo, who you might know as MsOWrites from the Suicide Squad review. Don’t worry, we’re not gonna get kidnapped by Amanda Waller again.  As in our Batman v. Superman review, my points will be in blue and MsOWrites’ points will be in purple.

CGB Hits
I absolutely adore how imaginative this film is!  Like the titular character, the world we are introduced to is brimming with creativity.  I have always had a soft spot for Asian culture, so I appreciate that the story takes place in ancient Japan.
The first ten minutes has the best use of “show-don’t-tell” that I’ve seen in a long time.  Yes, there is some opening narration from Kubo himself, but his dialogue is not an exposition spiel; rather the visuals are allowed to do all the talking.  Any time the movie does resort to expositional dialogue, it is kept brief.  Speaking of the visuals, the animation is–holy cow–just breathtaking!  I turned to the friend who accompanied me and said, “Dude, that looks like real water!”  There’s an impressive painting-come-to-life feel with the color palatte and the design of the locations that make the film a beauty to behold.
The story itself is truly inspired!  Granted, the “adventures-of-a-half human-half celestial-child” story has been done before, but having him be a gifted storyteller who can bring origami to life with a musical instrument is quite an impressive twist.  The most admirable quality of the film are the morals.  I really like how Monkey tells Kubo, “Your magic is growing stronger.  You need to learn control.  But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous.”  Trust me when I say that her statement holds a lot of truth.
Earlier this year, I reviewed the Jungle Book, in which I pointed out how the film reminded me of something a friend said to me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil.  They know what they’re doing.”  Kubo and the Two Strings also brought those words to mind!   Similarly to how our guardian angels tackle the evil one when he tries to mess with us, any time the hawkish evil spirit aunts come to harrass Kubo, Monkey and Beetle are there to fight them off while Kubo either accomplishes a task or seeks refuge.   It is with their help that Kubo becomes strong enough and fully-equipped to finally take on the Moon King himself.  Also, the climactic confrontation between Kubo and Moon King does come with an Eden-style temptation.  Basically it’s the “join me and you will become like gods” thing, much like how the old serpent told Eve that if she ate the apple, she’d become like God.   Between this and the Jungle Book, I’m pleasantly surprised to see that kids films come with an interest in the mysterious spiritual world.

MsOWrites Hits
It’s so refreshing to find a movie for general audiences that has a completely original premise.  My brother and I were obsessed with Japanese culture since we were kids and we were both looking forward to seeing this movie.  It lived up to the expectations I had and then blew me out of the water.
The animation is stunning, the characters are all enjoyable, and the writing is a breath of fresh air amongst the remakes and reboots out there.  The movie does not play things safe and yet I would totally recommend this movie to basically everyone.
The central themes of this movie are about the importance of family and the power of a good story. Kubo goes on a journey to finish what his father started: to find the armor that will help him defeat the Moon King. Monkey, Beetle, and Little Hanzo all made for excellent travelling companions.
The Sisters were intimidating, frightening villains as well.  I also love all the action sequences because there was a variety of them. The townsfolk play a great role as supporting characters who do more than just act as bystanders.  I love that they accept Kubo’s gift and don’t treat him like an outsider like other movies would.

CGB Misses
The friend who came with me to see this movie had some questions about Kubo’s scary aunts.  “If his grandfather is the Moon King, then are his aunts supposed to be stars or something?”  This is just one of the film’s unanswered questions.
Is it just me or is the danger Kubo faces at the hands of his tyrannical grandfather lacking some weight?  Let me explain: So essentially, if Kubo is caught by the Moon King and the hawk-women, then they will take his remaining eye…and then what?  Are they gonna just leave him blinded on earth?  Is he going to be made into a freaky spirit person like them?   Also, other than being the product of his mother’s disobedience against the Moon King, why is the Moon King threatened by Kubo’s existence?   Does the Moon King believe that Kubo being half-human, half-celestial mean that he [Kubo] will try to overthrow him?  Now, to be fair, in their final confrontation, the Moon King does offer to take Kubo with him and make him an infinite being, but still, I think that if the threat had been written as “the Moon King’s gonna snatch Kubo’s other eye and enslave him,” or something like that, it would’ve helped.
Speaking of the Moon King, here’s my issue: I totally understand why he is a threat to Kubo, but the movie doesn’t make him seem like a threat to anyone else.  The Moon King doesn’t seem to be feared by anyone else in the movie’s universe.  In Harry Potter, Voldemort was a threatening presence regardless of whether or not Harry was around; it just so happened that he had his sights set on The Boy Who Lived and anyone associated with him.  Here, though, it would have helped to see the Moon King burn down a village or require insane sacrifices or something; anything to raise the stakes of his existence.

MsOWrites Misses
While I will say that all the actors did a great job in this movie, I wish that George Takei had more than just a cameo role. I also think that this movie could’ve been even better with Asian actors in the main roles. Matthew McConaughey’s acting is uneven, albeit has its own interesting brand of charm.

Elephant in the Room
Right before we did this collab, one of my Facebook friends sent me an article from a well­regarded Catholic news source that dismissed this movie and said that it promoted “neo­Pagan values.” As somebody who grew up watching Charmed, reads Harry Potter, and still watches Buffy, I think that the themes in this movie are just as Catholic as any Bible­-based movie.  For one thing, the central theme of this movie is the importance of family.  While the main villains are Kubo’s grandfather and aunts, it’s reminiscent of Luke 12:53 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-­in-­law against daughter-­in-­law and daughter-­in-­law against mother-­in-­law.” The Moon King and his daughters are arrogant because they fail to comprehend things such as compassion and selfless love. Without going into spoiler territory, the ending of this movie shows justice and mercy rendered unto the Moon King.
Yes, I did see the article about Kubo promoting the occult and I will tell you that I didn’t see a single ouija board, tarot card, voodoo doll or anything occult-like in this entire movie.  In fact, the villains were reminiscent of demons while Monkey and Beetle were basically Kubo’s guardian angels.  If anything, the story borrows heavily from Greek mythology with hints of Shintoism.  For the record, Shinto is a Japanese religion and given that the story does take place in ancient Japan,  it only makes sense to borrow influence from a Japanese religion.  So fear not, guys and gals, Kubo and the Two Strings is NOT pro-occult propoganda.  Frankly, I don’t think the devil really cares about stop-motion animation and the film’s pro-family message would probably have him tripping over himself as he tries to flee.

Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a gorgeously-animated and highly imaginative story that, much like the live-action Jungle Book film, has a lot to say about the spiritual realm without being overt about it.  It’s one of those films that encourages children to create things and use their imaginations.  Kubo and the Two Strings is a well-crafted film that respects the intelligence of children while giving adults a thing or two to think about.

Venerable Takayama Ukon and Saint Paul Miki, pray for us.

CGB Review of Storks (2016)

So apparently, when a mom and dad love each other very much, they…
…write a letter to the stork company and that letter is put into a literal baby-making machine and viola!  A little bambino is made!

I’d better re-read my embryology book.

This is my review of Storks!

storks_movie_poster-t3

Long ago, Storks used to deliver babies, but after an incident involving one stork who got too attatched to the kid he was supposed to deliver, Storks now deliver mail, phones and what have you.   Junior is the top salesman–er, I mean–salesbird, I guess, who is about to be promoted as the boss.  His first order of business would be to fire Tulip, the young woman who happens to have been the baby whose stork wanted to keep her, resulting in the end of the Stork baby-delivery gig.  Things go awry when Junior and Tulip come across a pink-haired baby (perhaps this is the origin story of my good friend and fellow blogger Pink-Haired Papist; check out her FB page here https://www.facebook.com/Pink-Haired-Papist-1378637942456144/?fref=ts) and must get her to her family before the higher-ups find out and destroy Junior’s chances of becoming boss.

The Hits
So the same guys who gave us the excellent LEGO Movie (yes, I will be reviewing that at some point in the near future) are behind this flick and it shows.  Just like LEGO Movie, Storks is bizarre and unpredictable in all the right ways!   The bright color palatte matches the bouncy fast pace, while the self-awareness of its ridiculous premise keeps the film from taking itself too seriously and allows the wonky humor to flow seamlessly.
Junior is your typical self-centered-jerk-with-a-soft-spot-character, but the way he is written, his self-centeredness never negatively impacts anyone.  Even when he is told to fire Tulip in order to become boss, he resists doing so out of sympathy for her.  His dialogue makes him sound like a jerk, but his actions speak of his good nature, which makes him easy to root for.  Speaking of Tulip, her character is also somewhat by-the-numbers (a dense and quirky outcast with a heart of gold), but like Derek Zoolander in the first Zoolander film, her character is made believable by having her being good at mechanics and thinking on her feet.  She kind of reminds me of Marty McFly; a singular-minded youth who is able to live in the present moment.  Much like Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, the friendship that forms between Junior and Tulip is fun to watch.  It’s a rocky relationship for sure, but by the end, there is a genuine sense that they care for one another and the baby they are trying to “deliver.”  Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes; the pink-haired baby is ADORABLE!  🙂
The subplot of the film involves a young boy named Nate whose parents are always busy calling clients and selling homes.  I really like the film’s subtle commentary on how our overreliance on technology has made a negative impact on family bonding.  It can be a tad on-the-nose, but for the most part, the subplot is handled nicely and the character arch that Nate and his parents go through is charming to watch.

The Misses
This movie does not transition from scene to scene very well.  There are very few establishing shots, so I found myself utterly confused when we would go from watching Junior, Tulip and the baby in a field to suddenly seeing Nate hammering a nail into some planks.  Granted, it’s better than in Batman v. Superman, a movie that didn’t even bother to have a single establishing shot throughout its two-and-a-half-hour run time, but still, smoother transitions from scene to scene would have helped.
Much like the LEGO Movie, the final climactic battle is visually-stunning…to the point where there was so much going on that I had to close my eyes a couple of times.  Yeah, it’s kind of hard to follow a bunch of birds and a gigantic, heavily-designed machine used by the villain all at the same time.

Overall Storks is a witty, fun adventure that would be rewarding for both kids and adults. The tongue-in-cheek humor brings about many laughs, the rapport between Junior, Tulip and the baby is sweet to watch evolve and the bright animation allows the bouncy movement to flow effortlessly.  Despite a few hiccups, Storks is delightfully strange in all the right ways.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us.

CGB Review of Miracles from Heaven

Now I’m not a doctor, but I don’t recommend climbing on trees to receive a miraculous healing.
If you’ve seen this movie’s trailer, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This is my review of Miracles from Heaven!

Miracles-from-Heaven

Christy Beam (Jennifer Garner) lives a nice life in Burleson, Texas with her husband Kevin and three daughters, Abbie, Anna and Adelynn (someone really likes the letter “A”). Things are fine and suburban until Anna starts experiencing serious stomach issues, which keeps getting misdiagnosed as acid reflex or lactose intolerance.  As poor Anna’s stomach swells, it is soon discovered that she has what is called Intestinal Pseudoobstruction; it basically means that she can’t digest food and is quite literally starving to death. Against all odds, the determined Christy will stop at nothing to get the proper treatment Anna needs.

The Hits
The people in this movie ACTUALLY act like real people!   You know how in a lot of Christian films like God’s Not Dead 1 & 2 or Christian Mingle the Movie, where you have the jerk atheist characters and the pure-as-pearls Christian characters?  With the exception of one stubborn intern who tries to brush off Christy’s concerns, all of the characters feel like real human beings in a real-life situation.  Nobody goes on expository spiels or launches into Biblical quotation mode; all of the dialogue and interaction are grounded in reality.  Jennifer Garner brings to the film a fierce and genuine performance as Christy.  This is an ordinary woman thrust into the nightmare of not knowing what is making her beloved daughter suffer greatly.  There’s one scene in particular where she’s tearfully describing Anna’s condition to the front-desk secretary at the children’s hospital and Garner’s quivering voice convey the depths of her broken heart.
Jennifer Garner and Kylie Rogers have believable chemistry as mother and daughter.  Not only do they (somewhat) resemble each other, but they play off of one another very well.
Speaking of which, Anna actually acts like a real kid!   Yeah, unfortunately, Hollywood screenwriters have forgotten how to write child characters.  Often times they either write them as mindlessly innocent or painfully obnoxious.  Between this film and The BFG, I’m finding more reasons to have hope in Hollywood’s ability to write children as people, not as caricatures.  Also, kudos to this film for tackling depression in children with so much tact.  There’s one scene where Anna confronts her mother with the very real possibility of her own impending end and it is heartwrenching to watch.
I appreciate how God’s involvement in the characters’ lives is kept in the background, because essentially that is how God Himself operates; behind the scenes in the silence.  By hinting at His handiwork instead of spelling it out, it reinforces that God is a gentleman, not a show-off.  He works not with roaring voices and clamor, but through gentle whispers, calm inspirations and quiet subtlety.  If you’ve ever wondered how the old adage, “The Lord works in mysterious ways” plays out in real life, I think this movie is a good demonstration of the adage.

The Misses
Like the Theory of Everything, this movie can be very hard to watch, primarily the hospital scenes.  One scene shows the doctors sticking a tube in Anna’s nose and her resistant whimpering had me bawling like a baby.  There are quite a few hospital scenes that are so realistic that it can be tough to stomach.  This is one of those movies where if you have or are currently caring for an ill relative, in particular a child, this might hit too close to home for you.  Granted, you may have a different experience watching this movie than I did, but

The Christian film genre could definitely benefit from more films like Miracles from Heaven.   Once Christian filmmakers focus less on bashing atheists and more on showing God’s subtle workings in the modern world, the genre will have better days ahead. Miracles from Heaven treats its characters with humanity, has a stellar and determined performance from Jennifer Garner, and illustrates that God’s miraculous doings come not as lighting or spectacle, but in the form of kindness from strangers and the bond of family during the darkest of times.

Saint Anne, pray for us.

CGB Review of Hell or High Water

I don’t know about you, but if I was at the bank and Chris Pine came in to rob us, I’d be so focused on those beautiful blue eyes of his that he’d take all my money.

This is my review of Hell or High Water!

hell-or-high-water-trailer

Toby Howard is a divorced father who robs banks with his volitale brother Tanner in order to gather more than enough money to pass on to his [Toby’s] young sons and ex-wife. After the death of their ailing mother, Toby and Tanner  Along the way, the dysfunctional Howard brothers must avoid two Texas rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), who are on their trail.

The Hits
Chris Pine and Ben Foster have incredibly believable chemistry as brothers who both love and hate each other.  Toby’s strong, silent demeanor and Tanner’s violent energy play off one another very well.  I do think the biggest standout has got to be Ben Foster as the loose-cannon Tanner.  A self-serving former inmate with nowhere else to go and no one willing to stand by him, the only unselfish act that Tanner is capable of is helping out his brother and even then, he does so on his own terms and by his own means.
Jeff Bridges is basically playing Jeff Bridges, but by golly, he sure does a good job at it!  Like Pine and Foster, Bridges and Birmingham also have an enjoyable rapport.  Granted, Marcus “bonds” with Alberto via jokes about Native Americans, but they look out for one another and appreciate each other’s company.  In a way, their dynamic resembles Toby and Tanner’s; Marcus is loose and lacks filter, while Alberto is more collected and prudent. I really appreciate how the familial bond between Toby and Tanner and the professional bond between Marcus and Alberto mirror each other.
The script exercises subtley very well.  No one goes on an expositonal spiel, plot points aren’t blatantly spelled out; rather the visuals and the character interactions do the talking.  The writer of last year’s “Sicario” also wrote the script for this film and it’s clear that he knows plenty about rural living, hence he uses that knowledge to great effect here in this movie.  Speaking of which, like “Sicario,” the camerawork here is excellent!  The opening scene is one long tracking shot that builds the suspence perfectly.  One shot I profoundly remember is of Toby and Tanner messing around with each other in the waking hours of dawn; we mostly see their silhouettes against a brightening sky, which illustrates the dark and light aspects of their relationship.

The Misses
If you’ve seen the film’s trailer, they build up the Texas Midland Bank as the main antagonist.  However, in the actual movie, Texas Midland Bank is more of an indirect antagonist than a direct and active one.  We learn that the bank cheated Toby and Tanner’s mother before she died and it’s clear that the Bank is a player in Toby’s financial issues, but these revelations are presented to us after the fact, so the Bank’s presence as an antagonistic force carries little weight.   This would not have been an issue had the trailer focused more on Toby and Tanner’s run from Marcus and Alberto.

Overall, Hell or High Water is an intriguing slow burn, a carefully-crafted character study of both cops and robbers.  Despite that one small hiccup about the fictional bank, Hell or High Water rests on the shoulders of stunning cinematography, nuanced storytelling and the thoughtful performances from its leading men.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.

CGB Mega-Collaboration Review of Suicide Squad (2016) featuring MsOWrites, Rosalie Contrite, Catholic N00b and Surrender the Brownies

You know, for a team called the “Suicide Squad”, only one person in the squad actually kicks the bucket.

This is my review of–

AMANDA WALLER: Hello, Catholic Girl Bloggin’.
ME: (looks up) What the?  How did you get in my house?!
AMANDA WALLER: Flag, get the chloroform.
ME: Hey, why is Rick Flag soaking a cloth with chloroform in my kitchen?  (Sees RICK FLAG approaching) Before I go under, this is my review of Suicide Squad!

(Cuts to black)

suicide-squad-harley-177683 (3)

Based on the fictional organization known as Task Force X in DC Comics, Suicide Squad is  basically what happens when Viola Davis–er, I mean–Amanda Waller decides it would be a good idea to assemble a taskforce of DC comic book baddies should another Superman ever walk the planet again.  Things go horribly awry when a squad member named Dr. June Moore, aka Enchantress goes off the rails and uses her dark magic brouhaha to ruin the city.  Now it’s up to Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo and Katana to save the world from being enslaved by Enchantress all while the threat of the Joker looms large.

(Wakes up in the back of a truck) W-where am I?
MsOWrites: Catholic Girl Bloggin’?
ME: Huh?  MsOWrites, is that you?  You’ve been kidnapped too?
MsOWrites: Yeah, they grabbed me while I was on vacation.  AND they took my new scapular, too!
ME: Those jerks!  Kidnapping bloggers and taking scapulars!
(Enter ROSALIE CONTRITE)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: At least you weren’t snatched up while in the middle of a podcast.
ME: Is that why yesterday’s Contrite podcast ended so abruptly?
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Apparently my latest “interview” was a set-up.
(Enter SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Better that than having your brownies spiked so that you’d end up unconscious.
(Enter CATHOLIC N00b)
CATHOLIC N00b: There are three things in life that I know to be true: There is a God, taxation is theft and Amanda Waller will kidnap you at some point in your life.
ME: It looks like Waller has her sights set on Catholic bloggers.
(The truck stops and the trailer opens up) (Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: Good morning, ladies.  I see that you already know one another.  Let’s cut to the chase: I want to assemble a taskforce of Catholic bloggers to fight off supernatural entities.
ME: But what exactly would we do in the wake of such an event?
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, you wouldn’t do anything…but your Guardian Angels would.  If your Guardian Angel gave you, CGB, a katana in your BFG review, then imagine what he and the other Guardian Angels would do if I held you and your friends hostage.
ME: Wait, what?  You’re gonna try to get other people’s Angels to do your bidding.
MsOWrites: Your logic is not compatible with our Earth logic.
CATHOLIC N00b: That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Oh, the early Church fathers would have a field day rebuking you, Ms. Waller.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Somebody get Bishop Robert Barron over here ASAP!
ME: (Looks in the back of the truck) Hey, you guys do realize that our weapons are in the truck, right?
AMANDA WALLER: (Looks confused) Wait, those aren’t supposed to be there.  (Gets hit in the shoulder with ROSALIE CONTRITE’s arrow)
ME: (Grabs katana) Looks like our Angels are looking out for us!
(CATHOLIC N00b uses the Force to pull her lightsaber towards her, while MsOWrites whips out her crossbow and stake) 
ME: Hey, Surrender the Brownies, what’s your weapon?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Smiles as fire emanates in her hands) You’re about to find out why my brownies are the very best, like no one ever was!
ME: And now the Pokémon theme song is stuck in my head again.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES(Raises arms) I’m gonna need everyone out of the truck in 3…
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Everybody, move!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …2…
(Everyone evacuates the truck)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: …1…(Incinerates the truck with her fire powers)
ME: (Looks around at the destruction of the truck, as well as any buildings in the area)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (Pushes me out of the way of a falling Little Caesar’s sign)
ME: I didn’t know there was a Little Caesar’s nearby.  (Stand up and brushes off the dirt and soot from my clothes) Well, I’ll tell you all one thing: This was an impressive showcase of our super abilities, kind of like the new Suicide Squad movie…

The Hits
The film’s bombastically comedic tone works to its advantage.  It matches the unstable nature of the characters and the aimlessness of the narrative.
This movie is definitely what I call a “character showcase,” in that the script allows the charisma of the cast of villainous characters to shine.  In particular, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, Katana and El Diablo look amazing!  The costume designs don’t look too silly, which make it easier for them to be taken seriously when said characters are on screen.
I feel that Harley Quinn was handled as well as she could have been.  She has her signature sadistic charm, but Margot Robbie doesn’t make her too over-the-top or childish.  The flashbacks of her time with the Joker give us an idea of why she is the way she is.  While I am very aware of the abusive nature of her relationship with the Joker in the comics, I thought that, for the time being, it made sense (at least for this first installment) for her to have glorified flashbacks of her time with him.  She seems to me to be someone who has not yet figured out who the Joker truly is, therefore she is subconsciously allowing herself to remember only “good” times with the Joker.  Going forward, I do hope that we get to see Harley’s eyes opened and for her to begin breaking away from the Joker’s hold on her, but for now, her mentally instability is well established via the flashbacks and her own behavior.
I was somewhat invested in the romance between Rick Flag and June Moore/Enchantress’ relationship.  While their scenes together are short, the performances of both actors involved capture the difficulty of their romance.  In fact, I wish they had their own movie.  How interesting would it have been to see the story of a man coping with his semi-possessed girlfriend?
I really like the rapport between Deadshot and Rick Flag.  There’s a reluctant brotherhood to their argumentative relationship that makes it enjoyable to watch.  Speaking of which, yes, Will Smith is as charismatic as always.  Granted, his “assassin with a heart of gold” trope is pretty overdone, but you know, I actually like that archetype; it has conversion-story potential to it.
Where the last DC film I endured–er, I mean–watched, which was Batman v. Superman, was dreary and convoluted, Suicide Squad is definitely a step up in terms of having fun with its premise and being actually entertaining instead of populating the screen with bruiting men.

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES
: (Raises her arms) Come to me, my chickens!  Mwahahaha!  (An array of chickens teleport onto the scene)
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force is strong with this one.
ME:What, with her or her chickens?
CATHOLIC N00b: (Grins) Why not both?
MsOWrites: Hey, where did Amanda Waller go?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Buttercup, come to me!  (A chicken named BUTTERCUP approaches SURRENDER THE BROWNIES) Find Amanda Waller!
BUTTERCUP: Bawk bawk bawk bawk bawk…(scurries away to find AMANDA WALLER)
ME: Hey, instead of going on a wild goose chase for one of the cast members from “The Help”, shouldn’t we just call the rest of the Avengers?
CATHOLIC N00b: You mean the Marvel superheroes?
ME: No, I mean the Pro-Life Avengers!  I’m talking about Pink-Haired Papist, Aimee Murphy, Albany Rose, Angel Armstead, Kelsey Hazzard, Stargift Tarakasha and, of course, Bryan Kemper!
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: We’ll assemble with them during the next Planned Parenthood protest.
(Enter AMANDA WALLER)
AMANADA WALLER: (holds up BUTTERCUP the chicken by the legs) You guys thought I’d just run off without apprehending you, didn’t you?

SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Lights hands with fire powers) Release Buttercup now, Waller!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: I got this!  (Holds bow and arrow to AMANDA WALLER)
AMANDA WALLER: (sinister smirk) (clutches onto BUTTERCUP’s legs tighter) Go ahead, shoot the arrow and provide me with a nice chicken dinner.
ME: (raises katana) Ready your weapons, gal pals!
AMANDA WALLER: Oh, I’m not the only one you’ll be fighting…

ROSALIE CONTRITE
: Shush!  Do you hear that?
(An eerie, maniacal laugh is heard from a distance)
ME: Uh oh, looks like Trump found us…
MsOWrites: No, no, it sounds more hoarse and chain-smokerish.
ME: Oh, so it’s Hilary whose after us!
(Enter THE JOKER, who pulls up in a white van with henchmen accompanying him)
JOKER: Well, well, well, if it isn’t the League of Catholic Bloggers.
MsOWrites: I didn’t know we were an established League.
ME: (Gasps) Oh my gosh! (Pause) I think I like Heath Ledger’s Joker better.
JOKER: (Eyes narrow in my direction) Oh, talking like that’s gonna get ya hurt, baby doll.  (Whips out semi-automatic) (The henchmen start surrounding us)
MsOWrites: CGB, look out!  (whips out stake and crossbow and shoots a henchman coming towards me) Strong like an AMAZON!  (spins around and slashes enemies with her stake)
CATHOLIC N00b(Smiles as she lifts up her lightsaber) Time for my ultimate battle cry…(flips into the air) Taxation is THEFT! (Slices through henchmen as she lands)
ROSALIE CONTRITE: Hey, Surrender the Brownies…(raises bow and arrows)…think we can use some of that fire power of yours?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (Grins) (Hands light up with flames) I thought you’d never ask.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a shield of fire around herself and ROSALIE CONTRITE, who shoots flaming arrows at oncoming henchmen)
ME
(Holds up katana) When in doubt…(runs into henchmen)…Offer it up!  (takes down henchmen with jumps, kicks and the katana) Whoa, what the?!
JOKER: (Charges at me) I’d like to think that I was pretty good in Suicide Squad!
ME: You want me to lie to ya or tell ya what I really think?
JOKER: Surprise me, sweetheart.
ME: Well…

The Misses
It’s PAINFULLY obvious that many of the Joker’s scenes have been cut down and as a result, he is grossly underdeveloped.  I can tell that Jared Leto did more preparation for the Joker’s character than the screenwriters did.  The thing is that I understand why Harley loves the Joker, but I don’t understand why the Joker even bothers to keep her around.  The mistake made here is that the Joker puts a lot of effort into getting Harley back even though in previous incarnations of Joker and Harley, it’s clear that he doesn’t personally care for her, that he is only using her.  The few times that he does express a desire to get her back feel really forced and out-of-place because we know that the Joker’s true nature is relentless anarchy with no hints of sentimentalism.
Yes, this movie doesn’t have much of a plot.  It does try to attempt a plot by making Enchantress the main villain, but it doesn’t hold much weight because Enchantress herself is pretty much a standard villain.  She is a little intimidating at first, but once she brings back her CGI brother–Incubus, I think is his name, but he had next to no impact on the plot, so I don’t really care–and just stands in the devastated subway station, doing something with a blue beam in the sky, she becomes nothing more than a video game villain from that point on.
I really wish this movie had a main character.  While I always appreciate a multi-character showcase, I went into this movie hoping that either Harley or Deadshot would be the main protagonist whose perspective drives the story.  It is clear that this movie went through many last-minute creative changes.  Except for Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo and (to an extent) Rick Flag, the other Suicide Squad members feel half-baked and underdeveloped.
Going back to this movie not having much of a plot, this film really does play out like a long music video.  If this were a music video, it would be awesome, but alas, there’s a difference between cinematic motion pictures and MTV music videos (yeah, I grew up watching many of those).  The wonky pacing and overabundance of non-diagetic song choices prove my point about this picture being a glorified music video.

(CATHOLIC N00b uses Force lighting on surrounding henchmen.  MsOWrites finds herself in a one-on-one confrontation with AMANDA WALLER,  who wields a pistol.  SURRENDER THE BROWNIES and ROSALIE CONTRITE continue firing flaming arrows at henchmen)
ME: (sees MsOWrites fighting AMANDA WALLER)
JOKER: Hey, CGB, look me in the eye!  (charges at me with a semi-automatic)
ME: How can I?  Your eyes are so unsettling and just freaky-looking.  It lacks the subtley of Ledger’s Joker.
JOKER: If you like Ledger’s Joker so much, why don’t I just quote him?  (Sinister grin) Let’s put a smile on that face!
ME:  Nope!  (Jumps in the air) Angelic katana, activate!  (Blade of katana glows as I land back down and slice JOKER’s semi-automatic)  Catholic N00b, think you can use a Force-push?
CATHOLIC N00b: Oh yeah, girl!  (From afar, she Force-pushes the JOKER away from me)
(MsOWrites stabs AMANDA WALLER’s shoulder with her stake, but AMANDA WALLER  is about to shoot at MsOWrites) (I swing the katana and block the bullet with the katana)
MsOWrites: Thanks!  Is that how bullets work, though?
ME: Hey, my guardian angel gave me this katana.  I didn’t exactly ask him if it abides by the laws of physics.
(SURRENDER THE BROWNIES creates a fire circle around AMANDA WALLER while CATHOLIC N00b paralyzes her with the Force)
(ROSALIE CONTRITE points an arrow at AMANDA WALLER’s forehead while MsOWrites holds up her crossbow)
ME: (Faces AMANDA WALLER)  Hey, wasn’t this whole thing about you getting our Guardian Angels to do your twisted bidding?
AMANDA WALLER: That was the plan.
ME: Well, so far, all that has been accomplished are flashy action sequences, quips and a half-hearted Joker appearance.
AMANDA WALLER: Much like the Suicide Squad film, it was an attempt at a plot.
(Enter JOKER)
JOKER: See, this is what happens when so many of my scenes are either cut down sloppily or just chopped out altogether.  (Holds up a grenade)
AMANDA WALLER: (Clutches cell phone in hand) You have two options, ladies.  Either the Joker can blast you to bits with the grenade or I make one phone call to Lucifer himself and get him up here.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: What the fudge brownies?!
ME: No, no, you don’t wanna do that!
MsOWrites: (Holds up Miraculous Medal and Benedictine Cross) The heck you are!
CATHOLIC N00b: Triggered!
ROSALIE CONTRITE: You do know that all we would have to do to send Lucifer running is just say the Name of Jesus, right?
ME: Oh, yeah, that’s a good point.  Just say the Name of Jesus and the devil will be tripping over himself trying to get away.  Just ask Saint Gemma Galgani.
AMANDA WALLER: Can the Holy Name stop a grenade?
JOKER: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
(Enter THE SPARTAN)
THE SPARTAN: I know I can!  (As a flash of light, THE SPARTAN rushes past the JOKER)
JOKER: What the?  Where’s the gren– (CATHOLIC N00b springs in the air and slices JOKER’s hands off with her lightsaber while MsOWrites finishes him off with her crossbow from a distance)
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: (uses her powers to close the fire circle in on AMANDA WALLER)  I prefer my villains medium-well.
ME: Has Charles Xavier contacted you yet?   You might to consider joining the X-Men.
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: I don’t think he’ll be getting in touch with me after I kinda sort of burned down the school.
CATHOLIC N00b: The Force might be too strong with that one (points at SURRENDER THE BROWNIES)
MsOWrites: Who was that guy?  The one who took the JOKER’s grenade?
CATHOLIC N00b: He calls himself The Spartan.  That’s all I know.
ME: You know this how?
CATHOLIC N00b: I’ve encountered him before, while traveling to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda.
MsOWrites: I think I’ve come across him while slaying vampires.
ROSALIE CONTRITE: So, CGB, what are your final thoughts on Suicide Squad?
SURRENDER THE BROWNIES: Compared to Batman v. Superman, which made you question your will to live, how does this DC film hold up.
ME: Well…

On one hand, Suicide Squad is miles better than BvS thanks to strong performances from Margot Robbie, Will Smith and the rest of the cast.  The rapport between the members of the Squad is fun to watch and has a whacky-dysfunctional-family feel to it.  On the other hand, the choppy pacing, clumsy editing and weak portrayal of the Joker doesn’t do this comic book adaptation any favors.  If you’re curious and/or are a fan of director David Ayers, then you’ll probably have a good time checking it out.  While I’m glad I saw it, I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again in the near future.

Saint Theodore Guerin, pray for us.