Free Guy | The Suicide Squad | Respect
Directed by Shawn Levy
Set in the gaming world, Free Guy might remind you of the many video game adaptations that have found fanbases of their own — but this film is refreshingly bold with an original storyline to appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike.
The film’s solid group of actors use their impeccable comic timing to land every joke. Leading the charge is Ryan Reynolds, who plays the role of a naïve and extremely charming non-playable character Guy in the video game Free City. Guy goes about his everyday life with utmost enthusiasm and is programmed to do the same routine every day. That is, until he runs into playable character Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), who inspires him to make his own choices in a world that doesn’t offer him any free will. In the real world, Molotov Girl is simply the online alter ego of Millie. She plays the game in the hopes of finding evidence that the game is secretly built on a program that she and her partner Keys (Joe Keery) developed. She believes that Antwan (a scene-stealing Taika Waititi), the publisher of the game, illegally stole their code, so she sets out to find evidence with the help of Guy and Keys.
The movie is packed with punchlines that service the characters and the plot; the writers don’t just drop them in to make use of Reynolds’ stellar comic timing. While many films tend to add jokes for the heck of it, Free Guy smartly and sensibly keeps the film neatly packaged and well programmed. There’s never a dull moment in the film, which has enough action and heart to make for a solid summer screening. (Twentieth Century) MARRISKA FERNANDES
The Suicide Squad
Directed by James Gunn
James Gunn’s unique filmmaking style and cinematic vision explodes to life in The Suicide Squad in a fun, R-rated action flick.
The film stars Idris Elba as Robert “Bloodsport” DuBois, a prisoner on a dangerous mission in hopes of reducing his sentence, joined by a team of misfit villains. The tagline “they’re dying to save the world” gets literal as Gunn — whose previous work includes Guardians of the Galaxy — brings violent and gory deaths that are displayed with plenty of flare.
It’s a violent, gory film — but were you expecting anything less? It’s a much, much better entry than its poorly received 2016 predecessor. This new version leaves no stone unturned as Gunn turns all the rules on their head. The performances by the superbly cast group of actors, massive action set pieces, carefully crafted stunts and cheeky dialogue that often hints at a double meaning are what make this a film a success.
The film does slow down when it shines a much-needed spotlight on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. While she was sidelined in the 2016 film, this time she is given a meatier, more self-sufficient role. The action sequence she is given is impressive, and Robbie carries it out with flair, reminding us why she deserved her own solo film. Decked in a ball gown and combat boots, Robbie gives a knockout performance.
It’s funny, unexpected, overthe-top, and takes you on a wild ride. ( Warner Bros.) MARRISKA FERNANDES
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Respect traces Aretha Franklin’s career, beginning as a child performing for her dad’s dinner guests and ending with the live recording of Amazing Grace in 1972. Her early years with Columbia Records, the creation of her most notable hits, her activism, and some key performances are all touched on, as are her alcoholism, abusive marriage and shaky relationship with her father.
Given the real-life Franklin’s strong desire to be in control of her own narrative — she was heavily involved in the development of this biopic up until her passing in 2018, even personally selecting Jennifer Hudson for the lead role — it’s questionable that she would have been happy with how much Respect reveals. However, by making viewers privy to the darker moments of Franklin’s life, the payoff of her iconic performances increases tenfold.
To capture the spirit of the Queen of Soul is a high order, and, unfortunately, Respect doesn’t quite meet the challenge. The film follows the biopic formula to a fault; rather than seeing a cohesive mural, we’re given a collection of snapshots pasted together.
When director Liesl Tommy does choose to slow the film down and take the time to properly explore what made Aretha Franklin the woman she was, Respect is at its most compelling. The generational trauma and PTSD Franklin experienced because of childhood abuse and a violent marriage gives a great deal of insight into her life and work. Unsurprisingly, Hudson nails each and every musical performance in Respect. There’s absolutely no doubt why Franklin chose her. However, when Hudson isn’t singing, there are times her portrayal becomes an obvious impersonation of Franklin, taking viewers out of the world.
The film should renew interest in her career and possibly introduce a whole new generation to her music — and in that way, Respect has done its job. ( Universal)