Opening this week:
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) I'll be honest: I've never understood what the big deal is about Harley Quinn. As a character, I found her an entertaining foil in one episode of a half-hour cartoon series. And that's about it. Her backstory as a psychologist who fell in love with her most dangerous patient has always struck me as an insult to professional women within an entertainment culture that never seems to tire of hurling them. And as regards her abusive on-again-off-again relationship with her boss, the Joker ... well, let's just say I pine for the days of molldom when the edgiest it got was wondering how the Clown Prince of Crime managed to concentrate on shooting the curl out at Gotham Point while his surf bunny, Undine, was running around in that obscene little silver number. (The things we didn't know about Cesar Romero back then could have filled a book.) So anyway, a lot of people disagree with me. Because Harley is the fourth most popular character in the DC pantheon, right behind the holy trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. She's so popular, in fact, that she's gotten her own spin-off from 2016's Suicide Squad, which is widely regarded as the putrid Everest in the DC Extended Universe's mountain range of suck. This time, Harley has called it quits with Mistah J (mirroring developments in some iterations of the comic), throwing in her lot instead with the Black Canary, the Huntress and Gotham cop Renee Montoya. At least, that's who I'm told those characters are supposed to be: In the trailers, they just look like a bunch of sullen gamer girls to me. (More collateral damage in the ongoing delusion that these pictures have to "make sense in the real world.") The most I can say in the project's favor is that it's been helmed by a female director, Cathy Yan. "First Asian woman to ever direct a comic-book movie," says the PR. That's a marked Improvement from the days when Warner's wouldn't even greenlight a Wonder Woman feature if Joss Whedon were attached to it. But you know when I'll really be happy? When women get to make movies about Green Lantern and Deadpool, not just Harley Quinn and the Black Widow. Until then, the message the studios are sending is "You gals sure know your way around a geek property. You can handle all our bitches!" I guess I've just never been much of an incrementalist. (R)
Les Misérables What a sneaky way to put butts in seats! France's official entry in the 2020 Oscars isn't in any way based on the classic tale by Victor Hugo; instead, it's an unrelated modern-day story about compromised cops working the slums of Paris. But you don't need to know that before you pony up for your ticket, do you, American peeg? Right now, Sam Mendes is kicking himself for not releasing 1917 as War and Peace. (R; playing at Regal Winter Park Village & RPX)
– This story appears in the Feb. 5, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.