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In what started as a slow news week, ended with a big, fan-favorite, news items that fans were waiting for.

Mini-Reviews: Mechanic: Resurrection, Pete’s Dragon, & Kubo and the Two Strings

Hey everybody!

So this has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now. You know that I do sometimes multiple reviews over the weekend, but I fall behind on my movie watching and I feel like reviewing a week old or sometimes two week old film would be a little late or not worth it since many have already either seen it, or takes away from reviewing the newer films. So instead of doing big reviews, I’ll do these mini-reviews and get right to the nit-and-gritty.

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Mechanic: Resurrection

Director: Dennis Gansel

Writers: Philip Shelby & Tony Mosher

Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Michelle Yeoh, Sam Hazeldine, and Tommy Lee Jones

Synopsis: Arthur Bishop thought he had to put his murderous past behind him when his most formidable foe kidnaps the love of his life. Now he forced to travel the globe to complete three impossible assassinations, and do what he does best, make them look like accidents.

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A sequel to the 2011 remake The Mechanic, Jason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop who is living a new life by himself, until an old friend, and now enemy, Crain (Hazeldine) finds him and wants him to do what Bishop does best: make his assassinations look like accidents. However, Bishop has extra incentive as Crain has Gina (Alba), a woman that has her own story for getting involved between these two, and threatens to kill Gina if Bishop doesn’t complete three different and difficult assassinations.

I don’t think anyone was really up for a sequel to The Mechanic, although it was one of the better string of Statham films for a while. When it comes to Mechanic: Resurrection, I think it was better left off without a sequel. Resurrection wasn’t a bad film, but it certainly wasn’t a worthy sequel that it should have been. In fact, Resurrection doesn’t even feel like a sequel at times, there is only one, maybe two, references to the first film.

Jason Statham does his thing, and is still great at it, but it’s the rest of the cast that falls a little short. Jessica Alba never stands out as much as she probably should have while Michelle Yeoh is wasted here and seemed like they just wanted a big name. Sam Hazeldine does okay as the villain, but we don’t get a ton of screen time with him and his arch with Bishop is really underdeveloped, and I think a flashback or two could have helped to really push the rivalry between Crain and Bishop. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones has maybe ten minutes of screen time, but it looked like he was enjoying his time playing an arms dealer.

All in all, Mechanic: Resurrection has some descent action in the film, but it did feel like a forced sequel. If you enjoy Jason Statham beating the crap out of people than this is the movie for you.

Mechanic: Resurrection

3 out of 5

 

 

Pete’s Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Writers: David Lowery & Toby Halbrooks

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Oona Laurence, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Robert Redford

Synopsis: The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend, who just so happens to be a dragon.

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I don’t remember watching the original Pete’s Dragon, but I knew about it. So walking into this remake, I went in with fresh eyes and it was completely worth it. The film follows Pete (Fegley), who has lived in the forest since a small boy after an accident. However, Pete isn’t alone as he has lived with Elliot, a mythical dragon in the small town away from the woods. One day, Pete is discovered by Natalie (Laurence), her father Jack (Bentley), and her soon-to-be stepmother Grace (Howard), who is a park ranger for those woods. When they find him, however, it’s Jack’s brother Gavin (Urban) who thinks something is out in the woods, and soon discovers that he’s right: the problem? It’s Elliot.

Pete’s Dragon surprisingly adds more dramatic and personal stories than you would think from a Disney film and a summer movie season film, but it all completely works so I applaud director David Lowery and his co-writer Toby Halbrooks for doing so. But it is those themes that make the film so great. Pete’s Dragon is all about family and loss but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, instead it lets its cast do it organically.

The cast is also great, Oakes Fegley is extremely likable as Pete, Bryce Dallas Howard brings the sense of wonderment to the film that it needed and Oona Laurence has her moments in the film and continues to show that she has a great career ahead of her. Karl Urban is the “villain” of the film, but Lowery and Urban do the right thing and don’t make Gavin too extreme of one. Robert Redford as Grace’s father Meacham, plays the only person in town that still believe Elliot is actually real and the dragon of the woods is out there. Finally, Elliot the dragon is so awesome to see. I’m sure if more people watched this, we’d be seeing little kids with Elliot’s plush dolls all around us.

All in all, Pete’s Dragon is a fantastic film that should be seen by everyone. It has a great message and flows beautifully.

Pete’s Dragon

5 out of 5

 

 

Kubo and the Two Strings

Director: Travis Knight

Writers: Marc Halmes & Chris Butler

Voice Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Brenda Vaccaro, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei, and Ralph Fiennes

Synopsis: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

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It’s hard to believe that Kubo and the Two Strings is only Laika Entertainment fourth film, but considering their films are so complex and intricate it makes sense. That is what makes their films so different and fun to watch because you know the years of hard work that goes into them.

The film follows Kubo (Parkinson), a one-eyed boy who lives with his sickly mother in a small town. Along with his magical guitar that allows him to control his origami creations tells stories about his legendary father Hanzo to the townspeople before the sun goes down due to his mother’s rules. However, Kubo doesn’t make it back in time one day and is attacked by The Sisters (Mara), who have been sent by The Moon King (Fiennes) for Kubo’s other eye. When his mother realizes what is happening she uses the last bit of her power to send Kubo away and bring a totem of his to life in Monkey (Theron) to protect him on his journey to find his father’s armor to defeat The Moon King. Along the way, they meet Beetle (McConaughey), a cursed soldier who used to work with Kubo’s father. He takes it upon himself to help Monkey and Kubo on their journey.

I absolutely loved this film in every way possible. There’s a lot more to the story I’m telling you because I want you to experience the story yourself first. I will say the production design is perfect and the score fits perfectly with the film that makes the experience so much better to watch. Kubo also continues Laika’s tradition of handling some darker themes of storytelling – The Sisters are a bit terrifying – but in a way that younger audiences can still enjoy and not feel too scared. However, the film also has a ton of humor to offset it if you’re worried about that.

All in all, I will say that you should go watch Kubo and the Two Strings. It has everything you can ask for and it’s a beautiful film to look at and experience. There is a character moment, and even story moment, late in the film that misses the mark just a bit but I enjoyed everything else about the film so much I could forgive the film for it. Lastly, there is an awesome and beautiful cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor that plays during the end credits that I highly recommend you check out.

Kubo and the Two Strings

5 out of 5

‘Here Alone’ Review

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Director: Rod Blackhurst

Writer: David Ebeltoft

Cast: Lucy Walters, Gina Piersanti, Adam David Thompson, and Shane West

Synopsis: A woman struggles to survive on her own in the wake of a mysterious epidemic that has decimated society and forced her deep into the unforgiving wilderness.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The final film I’ll be reviewing from the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival last weekend is Here Alone. Before last weekend, I didn’t even know anything about Here Alone, hell I didn’t even know it was a film, but I’m glad the programmers got this to play this film because it really hit me surprisingly hard.

Here Alone follows Ann (Walters), who is living off in the woods by herself after a widespread epidemic has killed most if not all of society making them into mindless monsters. However, during a supply run she encounters two survivors in Chris (Thompson) and his stepdaughter Olivia (Piersanti) and reluctantly takes them in while Chris gets over an injury. What follows is Ann’s journey to rediscovering what it’s like to be around other people, and the three trying to survive.

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Yes, you read that right, Here Alone is a zombie/infected film, well, it is more of a character piece and focuses more on the human side of things opposed to constantly trying to avoid hordes of the undead film. The film doesn’t even refer to them as the infected since Ann, Chris and Olivia avoid them at all costs. We do see the infected in the film, but they literally have about five minutes of screen time near the end of the film. This is something that I really appreciated about the film, because even when the infected are introduced, the focus is still on the human characters, more specifically Ann.

Here Alone will definitely test you. One, it’s a slow pace that feels like an art house film at times. The whole first act of the film is Ann doing her daily regimen with little to no dialogue, but seeing Lucy Walters go through the motions with the great cinematography by Adam McDaid it really keeps you engaged. Of course, some will probably find it boring, which is fine, but personally I liked the change of pace. Second, Ann’s full story takes a while to really develop, even though we can assume and deduct what happened to her since her flashbacks include her and her husband played by Shane West. Despite that, I loved the editing when everything came full circle on Ann’s story.

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When it comes to the main actors Walters does everything she can to be engaging as possible, and for the most part she succeeds. The only reason I bring it up is because the cast is so limited you can see the limits the characters and the performances. Adam David Thompson’s Chris has his moments, and Gina Piersanti’s Olivia has an interesting arc in the film and the payoff is a little mishandled in my opinion, but overall the performances are good.

All in all, Here Alone doesn’t necessary bring anything really new to the genre and these types of films, but it doesn’t mean it’s worth the watch. The film did crush me after watching it, and stuck with me way after.

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Here Alone

5 out of 5

‘Don’t Breathe’ Review

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Director: Fede Alvarez

Writers: Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues

Cast: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, Emma Bercovici, and Stephen Lang

Synopsis: A group of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I had the pleasure of watching Don’t Breathe early at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival last week with director Fede Alvarez and Stephen Lang himself doing a Q&A afterwards. So I’ve been sitting on this review since then, and while you think the trailer gives too much away, believe me, it doesn’t. Don’t Breathe is much more than a basic home invasion gone wrong film, and is filled with great moments and a great performance by Stephen Lang.

Don’t Breathe follows three thieves in Rocky (Levy), Alex (Minnette), and Money (Zovatto) who are all looking for the “big one” so they can get out of Detroit for better lives. So when Money gets a big scoop that a house has a big payday, they jump at the opportunity. They soon find out that the house belongs to a blind man, played by Stephen Lang, they have their doubts, but their desire to leave – and Money’s pressure – gets them to agree. However, once inside they find out that The Blind Man, never given a real name, is a lot more dangerous than they thought.

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Like I mentioned, the film is a lot more than a simple home invasion gone wrong. The film is all about survival, and not just the characters, but us the audience too. The sound design in this film, is fantastic and really puts you in the house and situations that Alex and Rocky find themselves in (we already know that Money dies from the trailers so it’s not a spoiler). Silence in horror films usually means something is going to pop out at you, and while there are some jump scares in Don’t Breathe, they are effective here because it suits the film, and more importantly, they work strongly. Also, the production design really set the movie apart too. The film looks like a horror house, but again, sets the mood. But it feels like a horror house because The Blind Man moves throughout it so smoothly, you feel like he’s going to jump out of any room at any moment.

When it comes to the cast, they really played it off well. Jane Levy completely sells us that she’s scared as hell every time the camera is on her. This is also her second time working with director Fede Alvarez – the first being the Evil Dead remake – and you’ll feel sorry for her, character and personally, for sure. She also has a nice arch in the film, as she doesn’t just want to leave Detroit, she wants to leave her crappy mother and take her little sister with her. Dylan Minnette, who has impressed me lately with the roles he’s done, is pretty good here too as Alex. Alex plays a big role in the group, and clearly has a thing for Rocky, but since she’s with Money, things are little complicated.

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Minnette and Levy have great chemistry together, but their individual stories are never fully fleshed out which leaves a bit of a void in the film, but once the film gets into the house and things go crazy, you kind of forget about all that.

However the highlight here is Stephen Lang as The Blind Man. Lang is seriously frightening here. He’s in great shape and the way he moves through the house hunting down his intruders is worth watching alone. The real cool thing is that Lang does most of his acting through body language, as he hardly has any lines until the last act of the film. Lang mentioned during the Q&A, the house is his domain and he’s going to defend his home from anyone, and that is exactly what he does. Lang’s performance is also helped by the great cinematography by Pedro Luque and direction by Alvarez.

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A great little scene, which is in all the ads, is the total darkness scene. Alvarez said he wasn’t sure if the scene would even work, but the finish scene was great to see play out in full. There’s also a nice continuous one take scene that flows perfectly. Then there’s the scene. Believe me, if you watch the movie you will automatically know what I’m talking about, and if you already watched it, then you know what that scene was, so don’t spoil it for anyone.

All in all, Don’t Breathe has a lot more going on than the trailers and ads have you believe. The film works because of the cast, especially Stephen Lang, and the production design. Don’t Breathe is an intense and suspense-filled thriller that never lets you go once they enter the house. Also, don’t mess with blind people, because you never know if they will jack you up.

Don’t Breathe

4 out of 5

‘I Am Not a Serial Killer’ Review

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Director: Billy O’Brien

Writers: Billy O’Brien and Christopher Hyde

Cast: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Lucy Lawton, Dee Noah and Karl Geary

Synopsis: In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

This is the second review of the films I saw at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival. This one is the adaptation of Dan Wells’ novel of the same name, and in my opinion was one of the three best films playing that weekend. I had the opportunity to read the book years back and really enjoyed it, and I didn’t even know a film was in the works until it premiered at some film festivals. Thankfully, it was playing at this particularly film festival and I got the chance to see it, because it is truly one of the best films of the year.

I Am Not a Serial Killer follows teenager John Wayne Cleaver (Records), who is not like his peers, because John has been diagnosed as a sociopath by his therapist Dr. Neblin (Geary). In order to keep his tendencies from getting the best of him, he makes rules for himself. What keeps some of that at bay is his job of helping his mother down at the morgue. However, the small town he lives in suddenly encounters mysterious and deadly murders that are labeled animals attacks. John being curious starts to investigates and eventually finds out what is causing the vicious attacks, and it’s something that he never anticipated.

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While the novel is classified as a Young Adult Novel, the novel and the film don’t feel that way. The film feels like an indie, off-beat comedy with thriller elements and even a little horror thrown in there. It also helps that director Billy O’Brien choose to shoot the movie on actual film because it gives it a nice grainy look that completely fits the film’s tone and overall feeling. It also gives the film a great look when the setting of the film changes from fall to winter.

One of the big reasons I Am Not a Serial Killer works is because of the cast, mainly lead actor Max Records as John Wayne Cleaver. The film is built on his shoulders and he carries it gracefully. You completely buy his character, and while he is supposed to have sociopathic thoughts, you still root for and care about him. Christopher Lloyd plays John’s neighbor Mr. Crowley is also great to watch especially once he gets more screen time.

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It will help those who watch it that the cast is great and has great and well-timed comedic beats at the beginning because the film is a slow-burn. The film never feels boring, although it briefly lingers around the middle, but it made sense why it did, and Records makes those moments still work. But, when all the pieces fall into place you’ll appreciate the grand scheme of it all.

Since I read the book, I knew the last act of the film comes from out of nowhere, and I think some people will be thrown off by it. The one thing I will say about the novel and the book ending – of course without spoiling it – is the film handles the last bit a little better than the source material. Mostly because the film adds more to the ending than the novel did with the main person involved. The other thing the novel does different from the book is establish some characters more. Especially the relationship between John and Mr. Crowley that was something I was really missing – and is missed – from the film.

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All in all, I Am Not a Serial Killer is definitely worth the watch, and is for sure one the best films of the year. While the slow burn and ending will leave some viewers feeling antsy, Max Records and the off-beat comedy moments will leave you hooked right up until the very ending.

 

I Am Not a Serial Killer

5 out of 5

‘Found Footage 3D’ Review

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Director: Steven DeGennaro

Writer: Steven DeGennaro

Cast: Carter Roy, Alena von Stroheim, Chris O’Brien, Tom Saporito, Jessica Perrin, Scott Allen Perry and Scott Weinberg

Synopsis: A group of filmmakers sets out to make the first 3D found footage horror movie, but find themselves IN a found footage horror movie when the evil entity from their film escapes into their behind-the-scenes footage.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

This will be the first review of films I had the pleasure of watching recently at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival here in Chicago. First up is Found Footage 3D, the winner of the Jury Award. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “a found footage movie in 3D?” Yes, I had the same question and doubt you had hearing the idea. However, what director and writer Steven DeGennaro was able to do with his feature-length directorial debut was highly impressive, and worthy of your time.

The film follows a group of filmmakers in director Andrew (Saporito), writer and male lead Derek (Roy), female lead Amy (von Stroheim) who also happens to be Derek’s estranged wife, sound technician Carl (Perry), assistant Lily (Perrin) and behind-the-scenes camera man Mark (O’Brien), who is Derek’s brother. They are working on their found footage horror film called Spectre of Death, but Derek has the master idea to set their movie apart from other found footage movies out there by, wait for it, making it in 3D. Derek drives the group out to the middle of nowhere to a creepy looking house that may or may not be haunted, and as the shoot goes on things start to grow eerie around the house and finally leads to a grand finale.

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Found Footage 3D isn’t your typical found footage movie, and I’m not just talking about 3D element. The film is a completely super-meta comedy film that slowly turns into a horror film in the best way possible. A term that I saw thrown around by a couple people, and something I completely agree with, is Found Footage 3D is the Scream for found footage movies. The characters know all the tropes and clichés that these movies do, and talk about them openly even making fun of them at times. But instead of it sounding like they are bashing found footage movies – in a way they are – they are bringing up things we all ask while watching these movies like “WHY ARE YOU STILL RECORDING DUMBASSES?”

Another big thing the film takes a shot at is the easy cash-grab studios try to trick people into thinking their film is much better because it’s 3D. But, Found Footage 3D does make the 3D work for the film instead of against it. The 3D works here, and as director Steven DeGennaro pointed out during the Q&A afterwards, they filmed it in 3D which helped, and they cameras they used added layers to the every shot in the film, so it actually feels like you’re there and not just looking at a single flat image with something or just a few things sticking out at you.

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However, the big reason the film works is because of the cast. Each of the characters have their moments to shine, and you really get to know them so you feel a sense of dread for them when things start to go crazy. I don’t even want to say too much about their performance because experiencing everything for the first time is a good way to go into the film. I do want to note Scott Allen Perry as Carl, who is by far the best character in the film and is probably the most “fan-like” character in the film. And yes, Scott Weinberg – a writer on multiple websites – is in the film playing “himself,” that’s all I’ll say.

All in all, Found Footage 3D is one of those rare films that come along that every fan should watch. The cast is great, it’s funny, scary and is an all around smart and good found footage movie that yes, is in 3D. Also, if you’re thinking the 3D would be disorienting with the found footage element – something the film does briefly make fun of – it surprisingly doesn’t. Seriously, give Found Footage 3D the chance it deserves when it comes out.

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Found Footage 3D

4.5 out of 5

‘Sausage Party’ Review

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Director: Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon

Writers: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg

Voice Cast: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz, Nick Kroll, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Paul Rudd, and James Franco

Synopsis: A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’m just going to start off by saying; this is one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, and it probably has to do with the fact that it’s an R-rated animated film from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. However, there is surprisingly a lot more to Sausage Party than the ads will have you believe. While the selling hook is “food finds out what happens when they really go home with humans,” the film takes a rather strong approach to something that is controversial to talk about: religion.

Sausage Party follows the food at a Shopwell supermarket, who every morning, sing – yes – sing about their hopes of being picked by the gods (humans) so they can go to the “Great Beyond” (outside the supermarket). The main focus is Frank (Rogen), a hot dog, who believes that he’ll finally be chosen on Red, White and Blue Day, and that his girlfriend Brenda (Wiig), hotdog bun) will go with him. Not being able to wait too long, they stick their hands out and “touch tips.” However, when they do get picked, they get into a shopping cart accident that leaves them and Douche (Kroll) – yes a Douche – falling back into the aisle, and getting left behind and unable to see The Great Beyond.

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What follows is Frank figuring out what really happens to food when they go to the Great Beyond, which questions everything he, Brenda, Douche and everyone else thinks about the “gods.” Meanwhile, Frank’s friend Barry (Cera), who stayed in the cart, gets a firsthand experience of what happens when you really go come to the gods, and has his own adventure.

Like I mentioned, this is one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, and you guys know I watch a lot of movies. I really didn’t even know how I was going to review this without spoiling something or just ruining the experience for you guys. I will say the death scenes (?) are somewhat disturbing to watch, but in a good and funny way. They do come off like a horror movie, but you can’t help but laugh along with them because they are so creative, and you never get old which is a huge plus. There are moments in the film that will leave you questioning where the film is going, but then they hit with another big joke that makes you seem to forget that.

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Also, like I mentioned, the film tackles a surprising subject in religion. I don’t get to into how they approach it, but it was surprising that Rogen, Goldberg, Shaffir, and Hunter went in that direction. They could have easily went the easy route of food freaking the hell out about finding out they actually get eaten when the go to the “Great Beyond” by their “Gods.” But just because we know Rogen and Goldberg for doing stoner comedies, it doesn’t mean the film is an atheist film. It actually brings up a worthy conversation, and doesn’t just dismiss it. It does to some extent, but it loops it back around in the end to give you the two points. Of course, all that only matters if you are either a religious person or at least know and understand some aspects of it.

So Sausage Party gets points in my book for doing something comes out of left field that I’m pretty sure no one saw coming. It also has some comedic political jokes that got a good laugh out of my showing. That isn’t to say the film isn’t funny, there are some great jokes throughout the whole film, and is one of the funniest films of the year so far. Is it for everyone? Hell no! One reason is definitely a scene at the end of the film that I won’t even tease, but if you saw the film you know what I’m talking about, and if you watch the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s uncomfortably long, but in a way that makes sense for the film.

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Brenda (Kristen Wiig), Sammy (Edward Norton), Lavash (David Krumholtz), and Teresa (Salma Hayek)

All in all, Sausage Party is not for everyone, but you should know what you are expecting considering Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are involved. The film is something else that I’m sure most people watching will find odd, but it somewhat works for the film. The voice cast is spot on, and Sausage Party will definitely have you thinking twice about the food you eat later that day. Did I mention it was ridiculous?

Sausage Party

4 out of 5

New Podcast: Vin Diesel & Dwayne Johnson Problems, Man of Steel 2, Young Han Solo Film & Ton More

The Movie Pit Podcast is up!

I want to say say I’m sorry for posting and uploading this later than I usually do. This week was a bit crazy with movie news, and I went a little longer than I thought.

Spoiler-Filled ‘Suicide Squad’ Overlook

Let’s talk about Suicide Squad shall we? I already wrote my spoiler-free review (go check that out first), so let’s get down to the juicy bits: spoilers. I’m just going to jump into it to save you some of the fluff. Let’s start out with what I liked.
PROS
Most of the Cast
WILL SMITH’S DEADSHOT
I had my doubts about Will Smith playing Deadshot, and not because I don’t like Will Smith, it’s just because I didn’t see Deadshot as a Will Smith character, but he did prove me wrong. Of course, it’s a Will Smith Deadshot, but it still worked. I did like that they did a little bit of an origin story for him too. I know some people want to see a solo Deadshot movie, but I personally don’t know how that would work. I think having Deadshot in the Suicide Squad potential franchise is better. Maybe have him pop up in other films – like that solo Batman film? I mean we did see him with Batman in the film, so it makes sense. Even his dream that Enchantress gives him near the end of the film is killing Batman. Nonetheless, I don’t mind seeing more Smith as Deadshot.
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MARGOT ROBBIE’S HARLEY QUINN
Arguably, one of the (many) reasons people will go watch Suicide Squad is the first big-screen appearance of Harley Quinn, played by the lovely and great Margot Robbie. Harley has a good chunk of great moments in the film, even having that solo fight sequences in the elevator, but I liked that they actually gave her space away from The Joker (which I’ll get to later). Of course, we see flashbacks, although not all of them since scenes were cut from the film but that’s fine. Robbie does really channel Harley from beginning to end, but there were times where I thought they may have taken it just a little over. Some have already said the film is over sexualizing her, which you can’t really disagree with, but at the same time, it’s who the character is. That’s not a valid answer, but it is what it is.
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VIOLA DAVIS’ AMANDA WALLER
I think this was one of the most perfect casting the film made. Davis has a demanding presence onscreen that you believe she’s this cut-throat, no nonsense government agent that is willing – as she does – to kill her own people to serve her own purpose. Although, the mid-credit scene sort of strips that away somewhat, as she makes a bargain with Bruce Wayne to protect her from the fallout of Midway City – also knowing that Wayne is Batman is a nice touch. It’s in that scene that she’s actually seems scared, something we don’t see from with the exception when her chopper goes down and is taken, of course not before killing some of Enchantress’ monsters. Waller isn’t someone who scares easy, hell she calls Enchantress a bitch before Enchantress taps into her mind to take defensive weapons. That might be a bit nitpicky, but it should be noted, either way Davis was great as Waller.
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JAY HERNANDEZ’S DIABLO
I know many will probably be talking about Harley Quinn and The Joker, but for me, one of the character standouts was Jay Hernandez as Diablo. Probably the biggest wildcard of the group since we didn’t really know what to expect from him, but did he deliver. Also, he’s the only member of the Squad that wasn’t captured, he turned himself in after accidently killing his family. The scene where he talks about that, I wish they bought it up sooner because just that scene alone makes him, arguably, one of the most well-rounded characters in the film. He actually feels remorse, not like everyone else, especially Deadshot who tells Harley you can’t feel love and do what we do. Diablo is also, really, the only meta-human on the team, but doesn’t see his powers as a blessing, but a curse. Ultimately, Diablo makes the sacrifice for the team taking Incubus – Enchantress brother and other villain of the film – to the bomb site taking both of them out.
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The Action
Once the action starts in the film it hardly lets up. While it would have been nice to see the Suicide Squad go at it with each other a little, having them come together as a group right away to fight off Enchantress’ literally faceless monsters was pretty cool to see. Especially in the first attack on the streets, where Deadshot literally takes over the situation, and mows all of them down with his weapons with a pretty great score behind it. The last act, while sloppy, does have that pretty cool sequence of the Suicide Squad coming together and taking on Enchantress head-on. Speaking of that final act Diablo vs. Incubus? That came out of nowhere.
Some of the Humor
The humor of Suicide Squad was something that was going to make or break the film, okay, maybe not the only thing, but one of them for sure. Thankfully, some of the humor is spot on and works. Captain Boomerang is essentially the comic relief with his light moment with Diablo, his random pink unicorn doll rightfully called Pinky, and his “exit” from bar after getting his freedom from Flag. Then of course there’s Killer Croc’s “I’m beautiful” line.
CONS
The Editing & Thin Story
Suicide Squad unfortunately suffers from Dawn of Justice problems in editing. The film literally has two different openings with one being the introductions to Deadshot and Harley, and Waller walking into the restaurant to meet with the government officials to pitch Task Force X – again in the film’s timeline – and reintroduces Deadshot and Harley, along with Killer Croc, Diablo, Captain Boomerang and June Moone/Enchantress. Sure it works for fans that don’t know these characters, but reintroducing characters is always a bit dumb, and sometimes it’s good to see characters introduced the old fashion way, by their actions. Also, the random Joker flashback with throwing Harley in the vat of chemicals kills the pacing the film had going for it. I didn’t mind the flashback, since it’s important to Harley’s story and transformation, but it’s really out of place. Then there’s the sloppy third act, although that has to do more with the underdeveloped villains and “story.”
Speaking of story, that third act really felt like Warner Bros. told Ayer, we want to up the stakes for the hell of it. I don’t think the film needed the Squad to stop Enchantress from releasing her “weapon,” it could have been about them forcefully being put together and learning to work together, or having the rug pulled from them after realizing that their plan all along was to save Waller and getting thrown back into prison.
The “Villains”
Let’s go back to the villains in Enchantress and her brother Incubus. Their plan is kind of dumb. Enchantress says the humans worship machines now, so her plan is to build a machine and destroy them. Not only that, we don’t get enough time with Enchantress to really view her as a big threat. Sure she can pop in and out of anywhere she pleases – which she doesn’t use when she’s weakened at the end – and can make anyone her faceless monster slave by kissing them, but that isn’t really enough to warrant a good villain. She’s also not that threatening. Her design in off with too much CG, and again, we don’t get too much screen time with her. Neither is Incubus, whose design was terrible. I don’t like comparing designs, but Incubus looks like a knock-off Destroyer from Thor, but not even a good knock-off. Also, Incubus really doesn’t do anything worthwhile throughout the movie. He just stands there shooting tentacles out of his hands, and his only highlight moment is fighting Diablo.
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Waller’s Plan
Part one of her plan is to have meta-humans on Task Force X aka the Suicide Squad, but she only gets two – three if you count Killer Croc – meta-humans on the team: Diablo and Enchantress. That kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it?
Second, and this one really hit me afterwards. Waller’s plan for the Suicide Squad is to send them into Midway City to secure an unknown person. Not you know, THE GIANT PORTAL IN THE SKY. I’ve already mentioned that Waller is hardcore and ruthless. Again, she kills her own people because they weren’t cleared for the situation. But her plan is to put the team together to go save her in the middle of a warzone, with two gigantic threats in the same city? What the hell was the point? And why was she even in the city to being with? What if the Squad failed? She’s stuck in the city, and probably would have been caught by Enchantress anyway – who she undoubtedly mishandles and lets loose – I mean, did she really think she could handle an ancient witch? Or worse, when her plan goes down she could have got killed by The Joker. Speaking of which…
Jared Leto’s The Joker
Probably the other reason why many fans were looking forward to Suicide Squad was Jared Leto as The Joker. One of the problems with this was that no matter what, and no matter what anyone said, it was going to be compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker only because that was the last Joker on the big-screen. Which is unfair, but Leto knew that. Then came that picture that showed Joker radically different with him being all tatted up and with a grill. That wasn’t a good start for me. But, I did the right thing and put all that aside. Then I watched the film and… I didn’t like this performance. I wanted to –and I’m not a huge fan of Leto’s like others – but his performance of the Joker left a lot to be desired , much like the movie itself, and his nuances and ticks didn’t fit and it felt like he was going over-the-top when he didn’t need to.
The scene with him and Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) – the security guard – was what lost me. Joker literally purrs, at least what I assume was a purr, at him. I don’t know about you, but Joker doesn’t purr. At all. I literally thought it was the guy that was snoring before the trailers started, and fell asleep again. I know a lot of scenes where cut from the film – some are in the trailers – and some were even altered. One example was originally Joker pushes Harley off the chopper – after he saves her – to kill her, and in the film, they reworked it so he pushes her to save her.
I know Leto went all in to nail The Joker, and I applaud him for it I really do. I also appreciate that they went with the fact that Joker may actually care about Harley, which is why he goes through everything he does to get her back, but it just wasn’t enough for me.
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MISC.
Harley and Joker Painting Comes to Life
In what was a nice surprise, we see Harley in her jester outfit briefly in what can only be described as a fan service moment. The famous painting by Alex Ross was brought to life showing Harley in the outfit and Joker wearing the black suit. Nice little moment, but somewhat out of place too.
Batman and The Flash Cameos
Let’s start off with the quick one, The Flash. The scene was actually shot by Zack Snyder as Ezra Miller was already in his Flash outfit since they are currently filming Justice League, and Snyder just sent the scene over to Ayer to put it in the film.
When it comes to Batman, we already knew that Batman was going to show up, and he actually pops in more than once. His first appearance is when he takes down Deadshot. Of course, he doesn’t do it in the typical Batman way, because he doesn’t want to hurt Deadshot in front of his daughter. Then he appears when he takes down Joker and Harley. The plus here is that Ben Affleck actually plays Batman, and it’s not some guy Ayer tried to pass off as Batman – well, probably expect when Batman was on top of Joker’s car.
Common and Scott Eastwood
Everyone thought they figured out who Scott Eastwood was playing in the film. People said he was playing Nightwing, a descendant of Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine in Wonder Woman), I think even Deathstroke was a possibility. NOPE. He plays a random soldier in Flag’s company, and his most memorable moment is when he sacrifices himself by detonating the bomb that kills Incubus and Diablo.
Then there’s Common. Common was already assumed to be playing a small role, and he does as he plays Monster T – a variation of the character Tattoo Man – who has literally about two minutes of screen time and then DIES when Joker shoots him after rejected Harley as “his gift.”
Enchantress’ “Dancing”
What the hell was that? It didn’t come off as creepy or part of the character, it came out off as she was having some sort of seizure or had to really use the bathroom in her skin tight dress. I actually somewhat cringed when I saw it.
Killer Croc and Katana On the Backburner
It was actually kind of a shame that Killer Croc and Katana didn’t get to do more. You can arguably put Captain Boomerang on the list too, but he acts the comedic relief for the film, next to Harley. Sure Killer Croc and Katana have their moments, especially Killer Croc who literally man handles, or Croc handles, Enchantress by slamming her into some pillars. But it would have been nice to see them do a little more. Kudos go to Katana actress Karen Fukuhara since this is her first movie and she does a pretty great job in the limited capacity she had.
Slipknot
*Sigh* someone needed to die right? Also, I literally felt how uncomfortable people when he was introduced and hit the woman then saying “she had a mouth.”
June Moone Lives
This is one that I mauled over. We didn’t get any screen time with Rick Flag and June Moone as a couple, so we have no real connection to them as a couple. We’re just told they are a couple that was brought together by Waller so June has something to hold on to and come back. But with Enchantress about to die, after having her heart literally ripped out, Flag pleads with her to return June. When she doesn’t, Flag does what he promised June, kill them both. Then, somehow, June peels away Enchantress’ skin and embraces Flag. That would have been a greater emotional moment if we saw them as a couple. Instead it’s just a moment that happens. And since June herself isn’t in the film enough we don’t really care.
The Post-Credit Scene
I briefly mentioned the post-credit scene earlier, but another thing about the scene was the Bruce asks Waller for the folder of meta-humans, and shows Barry Allen and Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. This leads directly to what we saw in the Comic Con Justice League trailer, where Bruce goes to them. The only reason I bring it up, is because Bruce already has this information! He got it from Lex’s computer. Why would he need Waller to give him a file if he already had their names, and probably where to find them? Nitpicky I know, but it does need to be mentioned. Moreover, we can assume that Waller thinks anyone with powers is probably dangerous, but why does she files on people like The Flash and Aquaman? They haven’t done anything wrong?
I don’t want to bash on the whole scene though. It was cool to see Waller and Wayne have a bit of a war of words. Waller knows Bruce is Batman, and Wayne tells her to shut down the Suicide Squad or his “new friends will.”
Relies on a Bit Too Much on Fan Service/Knowledge
Like other comic book movies, if you know a bit about the characters before hand it helps. It’s true on two occasions: Joker and Harley’s relationship and Katana. With Katana, it’s mentioned in passing that her sword holds the souls of people she kills with it, but there’s a lot more to her character that the film doesn’t touch upon. It’s kind of a shame considering this is also Katana’s first big-onscreen appearance, and she’s a great character.
With Joker and Harley, it helps if you know a little from the comics and a little from the animated TV show. Their scenes are okay together, but again, with the scenes that were cut it could have been established their on screen relationship even better.
FINAL THOUGHTS
Okay, I know I probably missed something that I wanted to talk about, but these are the big ones that come to mind. Suicide Squad wasn’t a bad movie, but it wasn’t a great movie either. I think some of the hate is a bit harsh, but not without merit. Suicide Squad won’t kill you, it will just hurt you really, really bad. However, I do say you go watch it to make your own opinion.

‘Suicide Squad’ Review

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Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Common, Jim Parrack, Ike Barinholtz, David Harbour, Viola Davis, and Ben Affleck

Synopsis: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a mid-credit scene.*

 

Here we go again. Warner Bros. released their newest film set within their DC Extended Universe, but this time it follows villains instead of heroes, and it has been making fans and critics butt heads. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say some of it is just crazy. However, Suicide Squad isn’t just free and clear since some of the negativity is warranted, but not all of it. The film itself isn’t all that great, but isn’t terrible either. So let’s get to reviewing the worst heroes ever.

Suicide Squad is set after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and sees government agent Amanda Waller (Davis) who has an idea to bring together the, as she puts it, “worst of the worst.” The plan is to make a task force called Task Force X, filled with villains like The Man that Never Misses, Deadshot (Smith), Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Robbie), the monstrous Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian diamond thief Captain Boomerang (Courtney), pyro-kinetic Diablo (Hernandez), master rope man Slipknot (Beach) and June Moone (Delevingne) who is possessed by the witch Enchantress. The idea is that Waller wants a task force to fight off any other meta-humans – a term many comic books fans will know – threat that come their way.

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The government, not so sure about Waller’s plan, is suddenly left to go through with it when a supernatural event occurs in Midway City. Considering the task force is filled with villains, Waller and the government have their easy out if things go wrong. To make sure things go smoothly, Waller makes solider Rick Flag (Kinnaman) her man on the ground, with his bodyguard and right-hand woman Katana (Fukuhara) to protect him in case the team gets any ideas – there’s also an explosive implant in the neck. However, when the team finally arrives to Midway City, they soon realize things are way worse than they thought.

Suicide Squad has been highly anticipated since the first teaser that came out last year after Comic Con. But again, with all the craziness that came out before the film’s release like competing cuts and all the early negative reviews, the film went even more under the microscope. I personally wasn’t sold on Suicide Squad for awhile, but as it got closer to the release, I was looking forward to it and hoping it was good. Then I saw the film, and I have to say, it isn’t what I thought it would be. Even with the early negative reception from critics, Suicide Squad was always going to be a risk for the DC Extended Universe. It’s following villains that maybe some casual fans don’t know, it’s expecting you to root for them from the get-go, and it’s following Batman v Superman. Also, no matter what you thought the film was about, we had no idea what to expect.

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I did want to like Suicide Squad, and for the most part I liked it more than I thought I would. However, there is no denying the film does have a good chunk of issues. One of them is, unfortunately, an issue that Dawn of Justice had in editing. Thankfully, the film’s editing is better, but not by a lot. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are introduced at the beginning of the film, and then are reintroduced when Waller is making the rundown of who she wants on Task Force X. The introductions to the characters are a bit wonky, as it quickly rundowns what makes them so bad and then either jumps to how they were captured, or gives each other them – expect Slipknot, but come on, that’s not a spoiler – a vignette. I don’t mind the way they did it, but there were probably better ways of introducing the characters.

The pacing for the film is fine as it drives forward with action, expect there’s a random flashback that Harley has that derails the pacing the film had going. The other thing that pretty much kills the thin story, is Waller’s plan for the Suicide Squad, makes no sense. I won’t obviously spoil what her plan is, but once you see the whole scheme of things, you are left wondering what the hell was the point? Combine that with some of the other issues the film has, you start to see that there was some behind-the-scenes juggling going on. It also doesn’t help that film moves from set-piece to set-piece.

Once the Suicide Squad makes it to Midway City, the action kicks in. The action is great to watch, and besides the cast, is one of the best parts of the film. Seeing all these villains comes together and essentially be the good guys, or at least anti-heroes, to take down literally faceless monsters is a sight to watch. I would have liked to see the group go at it themselves, but they just kind of agree to be grouped together. The only ones that really go at it is Deadshot and Flag. Also, it would have been nice to see some of the action scenes that were cut, well any of the scenes really, from the film.

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Speaking of the cast, the majority of the cast really works. I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Will Smith playing Deadshot. Not because I don’t like Smith, but because I don’t see Deadshot as a Will Smith character, but boy did he prove me wrong. Of course, Deadshot is played by Will Smith, so you just see Smith, but he’s still great in the role. Margot Robbie is one of the highlights of the film. Although it really is hard to judge considering this is Harley Quinn’s first time on the big screen, but Robbie is really great at Quinn. There were moments where I thought they took it just a notch over, but overall Robbie has set the bare high for any future Harley Quinn actresses.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is, arguably, one of the most frightening characters in the whole film. That’s saying something considering what the film is filled with, but you believe Davis as Waller as this cut-throat, no nonsense agent who wants things done her way. The other highlight of the film for me is Jay Hernandez as Diablo. The character doesn’t do too much, but when you find out why it makes sense and makes him probably one of the most well-rounded characters in the film. The problem is that it takes time see what makes him tick and why he is the way he is, and it’s really disappointing.

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The other characters really don’t do much. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is okay, but it’s hard to see him taking command of a bunch of supervillains. Killer Croc, although looks great in the practical make-up, all he does is grunt and snarl at his team. He does speak in the film and it’s pretty humorous when he does, but still. Captain Boomerang is essentially the comedic relief of the film, and while I’m not a fan of Jai Courtney he does a pretty decent job here. Kudos does go to Karen Fukuhara as Katana, because this is Fukuhara’s first film and her Katana has some cool scenes in the film, but her character doesn’t do much in the film either. Cara Delevingne as June Moone/Enchantress is meh We don’t spend any time with June Moone, so we don’t really have any sort of connection to her. When it comes to Enchantress, the best scene is her first scene when she is formally introduced in a room full of government officials. That is saying a lot since she plays a very vital role in the film.

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Finally, Jared Leto’s The Joker. I know a lot of people were looking forward to Leto’s Joker from the first photo that was revealed. It also goes without saying that Leto’s Joker was always – no matter what anyone says – going to be judged against other Joker’s that came before him. It’s also unfair that he’s the first Joker after Heath Ledger’s great performance as The Clown Prince. I had my doubts about Leto’s Joker, and I hoped that he’d pull it off, but sadly he didn’t for me. Leto tried to do his own thing, while looking to pay some little homage to the Joker’s before, but it didn’t click for me. His little ticks and nuances came off as a little over-the-top, and ultimately doesn’t really do anything worthwhile in the film. We know now that Leto filmed more scenes as The Joker for the film that were cut – some even appear in the trailers, but not the film – but that isn’t a justification for shoehorning him into the film.

All in all, Suicide Squad isn’t a bad film like some critics are saying, but it isn’t a great film either, and you can see that Warner Bros. did have a hard time deciding what this film was going to be. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Davis are the highlights of the huge cast that could have gone wrong. There are some nice surprises in the film as well, but overall, Suicide Squad is really going to be one of those movies you either like or dislike. Personally, I’m indifferent to the film. I liked most of the film, but the issues of the film make the film bit disappointing as a whole because there was potential.

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Suicide Squad

3 out of 5