Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

Unfortunately, great movies don’t always earn great box office returns. Because Birds of Prey had the lowest opening weekend of any DC movie, Warner Brothers has decided that re-titling the film to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is the only way to up ticket sales. This reviewer personally doesn’t see the point in the title change, but I will tell you this: If you spent your hard-earned money on Suicide Squad or Justice League, it’s time to spend money on a movie you’ll have a chance of enjoying. 

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie: Bombshell) doesn’t take it well when the Joker dumps her. She manages to annoy just about every baddie in the city of Gotham during her resulting bender. When the underworld of Gotham realizes she is no longer under the Joker’s protection, it’s open season on Harley Quinn. 

The first person to nab her is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor: Doctor Sleep), a gangster with a penchant for ungodly violence. He’s grown weary of Harley’s shenanigans in his clubs and wants to make an example of her. Harley makes a deal with him – if she finds a missing diamond, Roman will let her keep her face.

The catch? The diamond is currently in the stomach of a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco in her feature film debut). Harley may be a psycho but she’s not heartless. She decides to take the kid in – at least until Harley can pump her full of enough laxatives to retrieve the diamond.

But Harley isn’t the only person on the hunt for Cassandra. Disgruntled cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez: The Dead Don’t Die) wants to protect Cassandra from the Gotham underworld. Deadly assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Gemini Man) is putting arrows in the throats of all those who come near the diamond. Chanteuse Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell: Sofia the First) just wants to save a kid from the rough streets that killed her mother. 

Who is the hero Cassandra needs? Could it be all of them? 

A violent, colorful action film with a radical feminist twist, Birds of Prey is a breath of fresh air in a world of cookie cutter superhero films. Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) this is an action movie that celebrates women without losing its humor or brutality. Harley, Renee, Huntress and Dinah are all fierce, focused women with complex interior lives. They’re also sick of the male-run Gotham and constantly being dismissed as just “the girl” whenever things get rough. 

And things do get rough. Yan offers exciting, vibrant fight scenes shot with long takes, staged on gloriously colorful and detailed set pieces. You can see all the intricacies of the stunt choreography including some bone-crunching moves, especially from Robbie who really throws herself into the fights. It’s a wonderful break from the typical CGI nightmare fights found in standard Marvel and DC films. 

 Yan avoids the traditional gloomy look of DC films, too. Her Birds of Prey is a candy-colored version of Gotham that feels fresh and interesting. She shows us a town that isn’t owned by Batman and the Joker. It’s a great look at just how diverse and fascinating the place can be if we just look beyond the status quo. 

Margot Robbie’s fantastic performance is at the center of the film. Her Harley Quinn is unstable, unpredictable and wholly charming. She has such a zany zest for life it’s hard not to root for her. She’s the perfect bubbly foil to the extremely serious Renee and Huntress. 

Bombastic and fun, Birds of Prey is a little violent and vulgar for younger viewers which is a shame because this film features some interesting and complex characters. Think of this flick as Deadpool meets Widows—a superhero movie with real teeth. If you’re in the market for a great time and wonderful performances, flock to see Birds of Prey

Great Action * R * 109 mins. 




The Assistant 

Fresh out of college, Jane (Julia Garner) gets her dream job as an assistant to one of the most powerful film executives in Hollywood. If she plays her cards right, she’ll be able to become a film producer in a few years. 

But the longer she works for the executive, the more disturbing things she sees. Soon, Jane starts to wonder who exactly she’s working for. 

Clearly based on the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations that shook Hollywood and sparked the #MeToo movement, The Assistant should have some insightful things to say on why those in the film industry stayed when working with an abuser. Technically not a thriller, The Assistant still offers a chilling look at the rampant crimes that men with power can commit. 

Prospects: Bright * R * 87 mins. 



Billie and Pete (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell) are hoping to reconnect with each other and their family during a ski vacation. But when Pete seemingly tries to abandon the family when an avalanche threatens, those are put on hold. 

Billie has to decide if she can forgive her husband for what she views as a cowardly act. Pete must reevaluate his own self-image. Can their marriage survive this snowy disaster? 

If this plotline sounds familiar, it’s because Downhill is based on a brilliant Swedish film, Force Majeure. While the original was a biting satire about the roles we play due to gender stereotypes and societal pressures, Downhill is basically a series of wacky hijinks in the snow. If you want to watch Ferrell scream and Louis-Dreyfus sneer, this movie might be worth the ticket. If, however, you’re interested in a truly wonderful film, check out Force Majeure on Hulu—cheaper than the theater and a better experience. 

Prospects: Dim * R * 86 mins. 


The Photograph

Mae Morton (Issa Rae) feels adrift when her mother, a famous photographer, dies. She’s furious that they never had a real relationship and also worried that she has inherited her mother’s distant nature.

After finding a hidden photo, Mae learns there might be more to her mother’s past than she knew. As she tries to piece together the real story of her mother’s life, Mae must also navigate her first real relationship.

A romantic drama just in time for Valentine’s Day, The Photograph should be a wonderful, timely treat. Both Rae and costar LaKeith Stanfield are excellent actors with tons of charisma. It should be wonderful to watch them fall in love. 

Prospects: Bright * PG-13 * 106 mins.