Highlights from 2016 Wizard World CHICAGO Comic-Con: Netflix’s Daredevil panel + Carrie Fisher Q&A

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Hello hello! I’m back from my mini vacation to Chicago, visiting friends, sight-seeing and topped off with a fun day at Wizard World! As I mentioned in this post, I was only able to make it to Sunday, and they sure saved the best for last. I got to see the Netflix’s Daredevil cast [minus Jon Bernthal which had to cancel due to filming], followed by the eternally entertaining Carrie Fisher right after!

So here’s my recap from Sunday:

12:00-12:45 – Netflix’s Daredevil panel

I waited in line for about an hour and a half before I finally got into the Ballroom, but it was worth the wait! The host was from Honest Trailers, and I think he was pretty good, though some of the fun moments came from questions from the audience. Everyone was understandably mum about season 3, though Charlie Cox mentioned about The Defenders a few times, so I don’t know if Netflix is gonna run that first before season 3 of Daredevil.

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Charlie also talked about the wonderful continuity of the Marvel TV universe, as in one episode, Rosario Dawson‘s Claire showed up on set with a cut above her eyebrow. It turns out she got that injury from a scenario in Jessica Jones involving Luke Cage!

Speaking of Rosario, can I just say I have a massive girl crush on her after seeing her here! I mean, I’m already a huge fan of Claire but Rosario has such an amazing personality to match her beauty, she’s truly a fun person to watch on and off screen.

The host talked about how fun it would be to do a Daredevil/Jessica Jones musical mashup (like what CW’s The Flash/Supergirl). Rosario quipped that perhaps Kilgrave could make everyone sing in the show! Oh how fun would that be!!

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Charlie Cox looks exactly like I’d picture him to be. Gorgeous and adorkable (he turned to Rosario when someone asked them who their favorite cereal mascot is, I suppose they didn’t have that in England, ahah). He also told a story about one of his earlier films he’s not proud of, which I think is this one, where the director didn’t speak much English and he didn’t want anyone to help fix the erroneous dialog. Now he actually made me curious to see it!!

Elden Henson who played Foggy seems very shy (or disinterested I don’t know), but he really didn’t do much during the panel. I thought he’d be as witty as his character, but meh. Despite what happened at the end of season 2, looks like Elektra will be back as Elodie Young is one of the panelists. She seems so petite and delicate, but the host reminded everyone she’s got a black belt in Karate so yeah, she definitely can beat everyone up real easy.

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I really enjoyed Deborah Ann Woll as well, she has a fun, spunky personality but she’s also affable and sweet. The two ladies really livened up the panel, I’m certainly a fan of both of ’em now.


One of my favorite parts is when Charlie talked about the challenges of portraying a blind man on the show. He was quite elaborate describing how Matt Murdoch wouldn’t have to even look at the direction where he’d be grabbing something because of his heightened senses, which is something he’d have to train hard to do.

The panel seemed to go by in a flash, I could totally watch them for another hour!

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1:00–1:45 – Using the force with Carrie Fisher

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I am so glad I went on Sunday as the Q&A session with Carrie Fisher is an absolute blast! Of course she brought her dog Gary. In fact the first ten minutes is pretty much about Gary and the beef jerky, as she (as well as the two hosts) were feeding him the entire time! In fact one time Carrie berated Gary at one point for walking back and forth to get food.

I love how real she was and that she really didn’t give a flying fig about anything or anyone. I also respect that she’s a big advocate for mental illness and she was totally gracious towards fans who ask her about dealing with Bipolar disorder.

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The hosts didn’t just ask her about Star Wars, though of course that was the main entrée, but they also asked about her experience about working with John Belushi in The Blues Brothers and The ‘Burbs with Tom Hanks. When asked about which movie(s) she regretted she turned down, she said that she was never in a position to turn down roles. But she did reveal that she wished she had been in Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven.

Here are just a sampling of her funniest quotes during the panel:

“Harrison is witty. He’s not funny. There’s a big difference. Funny involves a bit of people pleasing and Harrison isn’t a people pleaser, but he people-pleased inadvertently.”

“Look, my son is Hitler!” – referring to Kylo Ren when asked about who she would ship in The Force Awakens

“In that universe it’s issues with their father. So if you have issues with your father and I must say I have, in both universes, so you don’t want to screw with me in either one.” – on why Leia is so fierce.
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She then asked the little girl how her father’s treating her. When she said he treats her well, Carrie said, “Well then you’re not gonna be as fierce. Ask your father to start neglecting you.”
 
“I’d make Trump go away. So I never have to hear about his small hand or small penis ever again.” – on what she’d do if she had the force
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“I knew Luke was my brother, so I tongued him.” – when asked if she had read that Mark Hamill’s Luke was Leia’s brother.
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“John Belushi. What would I say that you’d laugh at. No, it’s Harrison, which would be funny too.” – on who’s the best kisser.
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“Where the hell have you been? Did you go to a small island as you didn’t look it.” – on what she would say to Luke after he came back from his hideout.


I never laughed so much and so hard in a single hour! She had me in stitches so many times my stomach hurt after the panel was done.

Carrie Fisher is a legend, folks, I absolutely loved the Q&A. Plus, at the end she made this young girl’s day when Carrie invited her to the stage. She was the last person to ask a question and she said she’s Bipolar. She also had a service dog with her that she dressed as Leia!

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Favorite Cosplayers

One of the best parts about comic-con is the people cosplayer watching!

The Spidey photographer who I think is a press member (as he wore the same light blue wristband as I did) is both my hubby and my favorite! Not just because of the costume, but he was such a fun, obliging guy. As soon as my hubby asked him for a photo, he immediately dropped to the floor and stroke a pose!
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My second favorite is Kylo Ren as the guy resembles Adam Driver so much in terms of mannerism and tall, lanky figure. I wish he had a red lightsaber that could actually turn on!

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Suicide Squad was a popular one, unsurprisingly, the fact that the film still tops the box office this weekend. There were multiple Jokers and Harley Quinns, and the entire gang were hanging out in the lobby the entire time. I saw one giant Batfleck walking by as I was in Starbucks, but I couldn’t find him again, bummer!

This one is for Margaret😉
Ok he’s no Leto but I think he nailed the Suicide Squad‘s Joker look pretty well!

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Click on each image to see a larger version:

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LOVE this Wonder Woman cosplayer who’s absolutely gorgeous and always ready to pose for the camera! We ran into her a couple of times and she truly embodied the character in her pose, plus it’s a real kick-ass costume + prop. You go girl!

Wonder Woman ready to strike!

Wonder Woman ready to strike!


That was a blast! Wizard World Chicago was definitely bigger than the one in Minneapolis, and there was still a huge crowd on the last day. I really enjoyed the two panels I attended and had a blast roaming the lobby and exhibit hall!

Big shout out to Wizard World PR people Jerry Milani & co. for your hard work organizing this wonderful event!


So that’s my Wizard World Chicago recap, folks. How was YOUR weekend, seen anything good?

Counting down to 2016 Wizard World CHICAGO Comic-Con!

Happy Friday everybody!

The fact that I’ll be flying to Chicago this afternoon certainly adds an extra spring in my step. I’ve attended the Minneapolis Wizard World event before, but this year is the first time I’ll be attending the Comic Con in Chicago! It started yesterday and it’ll go all the way through Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

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The programming is pretty massive for all four days, but I can only attend one day as we’re also visiting friends who live in town. We’ve decided that day’ll be Sunday!

A SAMPLING OF PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Interactive Q&As vith Back to the Future standouts Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson (Saturday, 1 PM); X-Files stars David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis (Saturday, 2 PM), Daredevil’s headliners Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson and Elodie Yung (Sunday, 11:30 AM)
  • Solo Q&A sessions vith Carrie Fisher (Sunday, 12:30 PM); Ash vs Evil Dead’s Bruce Campbell (Saturday, 3 PM); Heroes Milo Ventimiglia (Friday, 3 PM);  Arrow’s Colin Donnell (Saturday, 11 AM); iZombie’s Rose McIver (Saturday, noon); The Karate Kid’s Ralph Macchio (Sunday, noon); Boondock Saints stars Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco (Friday, 6 PM); Clerks’ Jason Mewes (Friday, 6 PM); Bill & Ted’s William Sadler (Friday, 4 PM); The Librarians’ Christian Kane (Sunday, 11 AM); and Power Rangers Megaforce Andrew Gray (Saturday, 2 PM)
  • “In the Ring” vith WWE® Superstars Becky Lynch™ (Friday, 2 PM), Seth Rollins™ (Thursday, 6:30 PM),  Dean Ambrose™ (Friday, 4 PM), Bayley™ (Thursday, 7:30 PM), and The Bella Twins™ (Saturday, 1:30 PM)
  • Celebrate 40 years of the (Wizard World) Chicago Comic Con with Mike Gold, George Hagenauer, Larry Charet, and Maggie Thompson (Friday, 3:30 PM)
  • Sessions featuring superstar creators “Spider-Man’s” Danny Fingeroth, “Gargoyles’” Greg Weisman, “The Red Hook’s” b, and “Dream Thief’s” Jai Nitz (Saturday, 6 PM), SNL’s J.J. Sedelmaier (Friday, 3 PM); and many others

I gotta admit the one panel I am super psyched about is THIS:

DAREDEVIL panel: Saving hell’s kitchen

… with Daredevil’s Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, and Elodie Yung.

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I LOVE the series and I’m excited to see the cast in person. It’s always fun to see the chemistry of the actors off-set, and this is an ensemble that I absolutely love. I mean I like every single one of the actors and what they bring to each of their roles.

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Is Matt & Foggy bromance for real?

Unfortunately The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal isn’t going to be coming to the event due to filming :( I had just seen the season 3 teaser trailer last week and now I’m salivating for it even more!


I was really hoping to see Luke Cage‘s Mike Colter also but he too, had to cancel due to filming. Same with Sebastian Stan who was originally scheduled to appear in Chicago. Ah well, I suppose these things happen and they do have work they’ve committed to.

In any case, the Luke Cage trailer is looking good! I know what I’ll be bingeing in late September🙂

 

Using the force with Carrie Fisher

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Now, I’m not a massive Star Wars fan but Carrie Fisher sounds like a hoot from what I’ve seen in interviews. I wonder if she’ll bring her beloved dog Gary to the panel. It’ll be fun just to see her share some of her experiences as part of such a behemoth franchise. And who knows there might be some tidbits about Star Wars Episode VIII!😉

The truth is still out there

Now, I wish I could make it Saturday as well as I definitely will attend the X-Files panel. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the series but I’m a big fan of both lead actors: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson!

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I enjoyed the Gillian Anderson panel last year at WW Minneapolis, but I bet it’d be even more fun seeing David and Gillian together! They seem to have a great chemistry off-screen, and I know David’s got quite a wicked sense of humor.

There’s also a David Duchovny Book Reading on Sunday, as he recently released his second novel, Bucky F*cking Dent: A Novel, following the success of his debut Holy Cow, which landed on The New York Times’ Bestseller List.

 


Of course half the fun of attending any comic-con is the people cosplayers watching!

My hubby will surely have a field day taking pictures of them on the exhibition floor, surely there will be no shortage of Star Wars cosplayers, which seems to be eternally popular.


Have a great weekend everyone. I’ll be sure to post my recap of my day at Wizard World Chicago!

Ranking the BOURNE villains – from worst to best

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Every hero requires a villain and the Jason Bourne franchise has plenty of villains to root against. I do want to see him go up against other groups of villains though, as opposed to just CIA bigwigs and their hired assassins. Maybe for the next sequel, Bourne could take down some other group of baddies. In the meantime, here’s my list of worst to best villains of the franchise so far. Please note I’m excluding The Bourne Legacy without Matt Damon in the lead because that’s a crappy film and I don’t count it as part of the Bourne franchise.

Naturally this post contains spoilers so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen any of the Bourne films yet.

4. The Bourne Supremacy – Ward Abbot, Gretkov and Kirill

Even though it’s my favorite film of the franchise, I thought the villains were pretty weak. Abbot (Brian Cox) was just a greedy weasel who tried to cover up his mess when the shit hit the storm. Gretkov is a typical powerful businessman whose only goal was to get super rich and killed anyone who got in his way. I like Karl Urban’s assassin character here but he didn’t have much to do. He’s just another hired gun and nothing else. I would’ve loved to see more development of his character and maybe that epic climatic car chase between him and Bourne would’ve been even sweeter.

3. The Bourne Ultimatum – Noah Vosen, Ezra Kramer and Paz

I like David Strathairn as an actor but somehow I thought he’s sort of miscast here as the lead villain in this third Bourne film. Vosen is basically a Yes Man type of character whose main goal was to keep his boss out of trouble. To me he’s not menacing enough to be the lead villain in a spy film. Now the true villain in the film was actually Scott Glenn’s character but we saw so little of him that he became non-existent. Edgar Ramirez’s Paz was just another hired gun whose mission is to kill Bourne.

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2. Jason Bourne – Robert Dewey and Asset

In the newest Boune film, these two villains were given more to do than just trying to take down Bourne. Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) is an old school type of person and he truly believes what he’s doing is to keep the US safe from terror. He’s cunning and very manipulative and of course dangerous if you decide to cross him.

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Vincent Cassel’s assassin character was given some motivation as to why he wanted to kill Bourne and I thought it worked pretty well. He’s not just another hired gun who wants Bourne dead; he got his own agenda and won’t listen to reasons until Bourne is gone. For those who’ve seen the film, you’re probably why I didn’t mention Heather Lee. Well I’m not sure if she’s truly a villainous person or someone who still wants to use Bourne to climb the CIA power ladder. I think of her as the younger version of Pamela Landy.

1. The Bourne Identity – Conklin and The Professor

Chris Cooper’s villainous turn in the first film is still my favorite. He’s got as much screen time as Bourne and also has some juiciest and fun scenes. My favorite scene is when he found out the French police has screwed up and alarmed Bourne and then Bourne was able to get away, again. He’s started screaming in the CIA operation room and everyone was silent and scared shitless. I think most of us have been in that situation when your boss loses his cool and you don’t know what to say. His confrontation scene with Bourne near the end was another one I really enjoy, I thought Cooper totally outshine Damon in that scene.

Clive Owen’s The Professor wasn’t on the screen that much but his mysterious character somehow made more impact than other assassins in the franchise. His scene with Bourne before his death (shown above) is still my favorite; it’s quite and kind of chilling as to what these assassin has to go through in their daily lives.

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Ruth’s Take

I agree with Ted’s list though I probably would switch #3 and #4 because I think Brian Cox and Karl Urban are far more interesting than the David Strathairn/Edgar Ramirez pairing. In fact I barely remember Ramirez whilst all the chase scenes with Urban is extremely memorable.

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“I always work alone.”

I totally agree with Ted’s number 1 pick, and that chilling final scene between Damon and Owen is one of my favorites of the entire franchise. Owen displays such a compelling vulnerability as an assassin that made the character human instead of just another cold killing machine.


So what do you think of this list? How would YOU rank the Bourne villains?

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FlixChatter Review: Anthropoid (2016)

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I love historical-based films that really made you want to read more about the actual events. Anthropoid, based on the true story of Operation Anthropoid to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, is one such film. WWII history buffs would surely know about the ‘Butcher of Prague’ monster that was Heydrich. He’s known as the main architect behind the Final Solution, the Nazi’s plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. “It’s assassination, not murder,” one main character said about Heydrich early in the film, “murder implies he’s got a life worth living.” 

To say this is a dangerous operation is putting it mildly. Now it would be appropriate to call this select group of Czech commandos ‘Suicide Squad’ because none of them have special powers and there’s no rescue mission after they carry out their operation. The film center on Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (Jamie Dornan), a pair of Czech paratroopers who were dropped in Czechoslovakia. Right from the start, this film was suspenseful and intense. As Gabčík’s foot was injured when he landed, they had to find shelter and medication, as well as face traitors who threaten to expose them.

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The two Irish actors gave a compelling and very human portrayal of the two main paratroopers. I can’t say if their Czech accent was spot on, but at least it wasn’t distracting. I was most impressed with Cillian Murphy who always gives an understated but captivating performance. Gabčík is the more experienced of the two, and I learned later that Kubiš actually replaced the original soldier who was injured in training. I’m not as familiar with Jamie Dornan (nope I don’t care to watch that Fifty Shades movie), and at first I thought he’s too much of a pretty boy for the role. But I think he acquits himself well, showing the inner struggle and anxiety of carrying out the mission. Kubiš’ hand tremble as he tried to shoot a traitor, but later on he fought valiantly just like the rest of the resistance group.

Anthropoid is appropriately gripping and intense, but not overly somber. The two men, despite knowing it’s a suicide mission, did fall for two women whom they met during the operation, portrayed by Charlotte Le Bon as Marie and Anna Geislerová as Lenka. I was more drawn to the more restraint relationship of Gabčík and Lenka, but I’m glad the romance never overshadowed the real story or took the focus away from the main mission. Toby Jones and Harry Lloyd particularly stood out from the resistance group. It seems that Jones’ become a top choice for WWII-related roles with accents.

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There are two main parts to the story, the events leading up to the assassination event and the aftermath. Filmmaker Sean Ellis (who co-wrote the film with Anthony Frewin) stayed true to the historical event, which some critics call boring and by-the-numbers. Now, the filmmaker might lack narrative ambition, but I have no problem with the decision to stay close to the real story. I do think there’s enough drama and stylistic elements that separates this from a documentary. I find myself on the edge of my seat practically the entire time, as even the slower moments of just people talking and planning the operation itself is brimming with suspense that they could get caught at any moment. There’s also an apparent conflict within the Czech resistance group, as some fear (reasonably so) that the Nazi would destroy their country in retaliation.
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The actual assassination itself was pretty well-staged. I already knew what happened from reading about it, but seeing it portrayed on screen was still quite thrilling. I guess one lesson from this is they ought to get a proper weapon from America instead of using the British Sten gun that’s apparently prone to jamming. The group originally thought they had failed this mission, it wasn’t until a week later that they found out Heydrich’s fate. Some historians wonder if this covert operation was worth it, considering the huge cost Czechoslovakia paid in its aftermath.

Two Czech villages are leveled to the ground and over 5000 Czech people were brutally killed following Heydrich’s death. But as the famous quote says ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,’ it’s no doubt these men were true heroes. They fought bravely for their country at the cost of their own (as well as their families) lives. Even if that mission made the Nazi top officers (even Heydrich’s bosses Hitler & Himmler) think they’re not so invincible after all, who’s to say it wasn’t worth it? The sheer brutality of Germany’s reprisal also led to the Allies to dissolve the Munich Agreement.

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I wouldn’t say this is an enjoyable film given the harrowing subject matter, but I was engrossed in the story throughout. There’s a particularly brutal torture scene that warrants its R-rating but overall it’s not loaded with violence or gore. The group’s last stand at the crypt of a Czech Orthodox church is especially intense but still grounded, not resorting to typical Hollywood bombast. The sepia-toned film is beautifully-shot on location in Prague and the music adds a haunting atmosphere to the whole operation.  The 1940s costumes and vintage set pieces adds authenticity to the period. I’d say this is a pretty stylish film despite its small budget of $9 million.

I’m glad I saw this film on the big screen. It’s an important subject matter that is worth learning about and it certainly made me want to learn more about the actual events. It may not be flashy or spectacular but Anthropoid is a solid and fascinating film. Apparently Ellis started working on this film in early 2000s after seeing a documentary and his passion on this topic showed on screen. This film also made me itch to go to Prague and I definitely would visit the historical locations featured in this film.

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What are your thoughts on Anthropoid?

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Mr Robot, ‘A Hologram for the King’ & The Wine Show

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How’s your weekend everyone? It’s another glorious weekend weather-wise… Summer is so fleeting here in MN so we’ve got to make the most of our time being outside.

I didn’t go to the cinema this weekend, trying to finish up Mr Robot Season 1 and we’ve got four more episodes to go. I’ll defer my final judgment until I finish all episodes of the first season, but I’m impressed w/ it so far. It keeps me guessing just what the heck is going on and it always ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger.

It’s certainly one of the most diverse cast of a TV series, with the lead Rami Malek himself of Egyptian descent. No shortage of interesting characters in this series, Mr Robot himself (played by Christian Slater) is definitely an enigma, but the Swedish-speaking Tyrell played by Martin Wallström is the one who gives me the creeps. He reminds me of American Psycho‘s Patrick Bateman with his steely gaze and violent tendencies.

Looking forward to finishing Season 1 hopefully next week!


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Saturday night I watched the new Tom Hanks drama set in Saudi Arabia. At first it made me think of Lost In Translation mixed with Learning to Drive, though it’s quite different from either. Cross-cultural stories always appeal to me, though this film is more about a personal journey for the lead character. Alan Clay is a washout American sales rep who’s sent to Riyadh to do a major pitch for his company to a wealthy-yet-elusive monarch.

I have to say I’m not sure what to make of this movie. I was amused one second, discombobulated the next. The novel by Dave Eggers (which Hanks reportedly loved) might have been very interesting, but it feels like it might not have translated as well on screen. Now, it’s not that I wasn’t entertained, there are some amusing moments and Hanks was likable as always, I just felt that the humor felt a bit forced at times. They also hired another White guy (an American) to play an Arab. Alexander Black plays the taxi driver Yousef who predictably becomes friends with Alan. There’s a running joke about him checking the hood of his car for a bomb, not in a terroristic way he said, but from a jealous husband who suspects he’s having an affair with his wife. It was amusing the first time around, but it became repetitive. I feel there’s a lack of genuine rapport between the two actors, but it’s more because of the way they’re written.


There’s a budding romance between Hanks and his female doctor, Dr. Zahra (Sarita Choudhury) who treats him for the cyst on his back. I’m not really feeling the chemistry between them however, just like Alan and the taxi driver. Oh and the scene between the two towards the end is very um, unexpected. Let’s just say I didn’t expect to see a topless underwater scene in this movie, though I don’t think that alone warrants that the R-rating. Interesting that Choudhury was also in Learning To Drive, it seems like she’s got that ambiguous ethnicity where she could play an Arab, an Indian or Italian believably. I like that her character defies the stereotype of what we, in the Western world, think of an Arab woman. There’s another female character, a Danish woman working in the region who came on very strong to Alan, but her storyline seems grossly under-developed.

The pacing of the film seems off, though the story did manage to surprise me a few times. I can’t judge how accurate its portrayal of Arab culture as I’m not from that region, but I feel that the filmmakers did attempt to do it respectfully and not resorting to simple stereotypes. Filmed in Morroco with some exterior shots of Riyadh, it blends the traditional and very modern aspect of the Arab world.  The actual hologram presentation to King Abdullah itself is a non-event, apart from a rather odd cameo from Ben Whishaw playing a Q character of sort.

Once I finished the film, I found out that the film’s director is Tom Twyker. I love his German film Run Lola Run, but his last Hollywood movie is the even more puzzling Cloud Atlas. I did praise it for its valiant effort, though I honestly don’t know if I’m going to like it as much upon rewatch. Now, what I can say for this one is, give it a shot if you’re a huge fan of Hanks (as he’s in virtually every single scene). Overall it’s lacking a certain oomph to make it a memorable movie. But at only 138 minutes, at least it didn’t overstay its welcome.

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WineShow

I saw on Twitter there’s a new reality show called The Wine Show arriving on HULU. It’s got the two gorgeous Matthews, Matthew Goode & Matthew Rhys, who played Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley. The show was originally done for British ITV. Filmed in beautiful locations all over the world, The Wine Show is informative, entertaining, humorous and surprising, with something for everyone who enjoys a glass of wine. I love that the wine expert is called Obi Wine Kenobi, ha!

I love this, definitely will be watching all 13 episodes!

 


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

FlixChatter Review: Pete’s Dragon (2016)

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I always try to keep a neutral expectation going into a film, and it’s a lot easier when I didn’t know much about that particular movie. I had no idea that Pete’s Dragon was a remake of the 1977 movie until days before I saw it, and I didn’t see the original (which is apparently a live-action musical mixed with animated elements). Well, thankfully the constantly-advancing CGI technology enables this live-action version to have a pretty realistic looking dragon.

Now, great CGI alone does not make a movie, but Pete’s Dragon has an engaging story, lovable characters and so much heart. The movie opens with young Pete on a road trip with his parents. I knew somehow things would go wrong and it did. The car crash claimed his parents’ lives, leaving Pete (Oakes Fegley) all alone in the woods… until he found a new friend. I’m surprised how it didn’t take long before we see the creature in the title role, which Pete named Elliot. He’s not a scary, slithery dragon like The Hobbit‘s Smaug nor the ones in Game of Thrones. Elliot is a green fury dragon who can fly and breathe fire, but yet gentle and huggable. In other words, I fell in love with Elliot instantly, the same way I did with Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon.

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Now, the friendship that developed between Pete and Elliot wasn’t shown in the same manner as HTTYD. After that initial meet-up when little Pete climbs into Elliot’s huge paw, we meet them six years later and they’re already BFFs. The scenes of them hanging out in the woods reminds me a lot of Disney’s recent The Jungle Book with Pete as a Mowgli-like character. But of course the story is quite different and none of the animals can talk here, neither does Elliot. Like in Jungle Book, you also can’t overthink about how a child survives in the woods being raised by an animal.

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Elliot’s become kind of a local folklore (kind of like the Lochness monster). Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford) is practically the only one who still talks about it, despite being teased by his skeptical daughter, forest ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). It’s when Grace ends up running into Pete, and taking him back to civilization that the real action begins. Grace bonds immediately with Pete, who shares her wide-eyed wonder of her beloved woods, and so is her step-daughter Natalie (Oona Laurence). For the first time Pete has someone his own age to hang out with. There’s little resistance on his part to live amongst humans, but it’s obvious he misses his fury friend. Elliot too, misses Pete, and the moment he watches Pete hanging out with Grace’s family from the window tugs my heartstrings.

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Pete’s Dragon is set in the 80s, so naturally it conjures up images of Spielberg’s family movies. Interestingly, Spielberg’s latest The BFG left me underwhelmed & quite bored. But what David Lowery did here captured my imagination as well as my heart in equal measure. I cry easily in movies but I’ve never cried so much like I did here. I literally sobbed watching some of the scenes. The story isn’t original and predictable at times, but I was transported into another world and was caught up in the journey of the characters. It’s quite a feat since he hasn’t made a family feature before and his last feature effort was the R-rated crime drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

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Oakes Fegley is wonderful as Pete, and there’s so much believable chemistry between him and the CGI character Elliot. Redford adds gravitas in the role, but also has a memorable scene towards the end that makes up for his rather small screentime. Howard fares so much better here than in the other big Summer movie featuring large creatures Jurassic World. The closest to a film’s antagonist is Karl Urban‘s lumberjack Gavin, who seems rather silly and even childish as he saw Elliot as a threat but then later became very possessive of him. But I like Urban as an actor and he looks really good in his lumberjack outfit (ehm), plus Gavin did redeem himself in the end. It’s Wes Bentley who isn’t given much to do here as Gavin’s brother/Grace’s fiancé.

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The New Zealand scenery is absolutely breathtaking. For a film that utilizes a lot of CGI for the dragon scenes, it looks pretty natural and organic throughout, with seamless mix between the dragon & humans. The music by Daniel Hart helps enhance the emotional factor of the movie, though not quite as memorable as John Powell‘s in HTTYD.

So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed Pete’s Dragon. As Pete and Elliot take flight through the clouds, my heart literally soars along with it. Easily one of my favorite movies this Summer that I certainly won’t mind watching again and again.

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What do you think of ‘Pete’s Dragon?’

Indie Spotlight: I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016) & interview w/ casting director Kirsten Gregerson

I first heard about this project last year when my friend and fellow Twin Cities Film Fest staff member Kirsten Gregerson mentioned it to me. She had worked as a casting director for the independent thriller, director by Irish filmmaker Billy O’Brien, with Christopher Lloyd and Max Records (from Where the Wild Things Are) in the lead roles.

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Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver (Max Records) is not a serial killer—but he has all the makings of one. Keeping his homicidal tendencies and morbid obsessions with death and murder in check is a constant struggle that only gets harder when a real serial killer begins terrorizing his sleepy Midwestern town. Now, in order to track down a psychopath and protect those around him, John must unleash his darkest inner demons. Based on the cult novel by Dan Wells, this twisted, genre-bending thriller co-stars Christopher Lloyd and Breaking Bad’s Laura Fraser.

The early reviews out of SXSW has been pretty good, including this one from Variety: “O’Brien conjures an infectious sense of place on a small budget: dark but never dreary, haunting but oddly cheerful.”

Check out the trailer:

I’m looking forward to seeing this next Monday as part of TCFF Member Screening!

‘I Am Not A Serial Killer’ Screening
Monday, August 15th – 6:30pm

Showplace ICON – St. Louis Park

The screening FREE for TCFF members, it’s one of the great perks for being a member.
So why not sign up for a membership today?


As most of you know, I’ve always been interested in film casting. This week I had the privilege to chat with my friend Kirsten about the casting process of this film.

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1. You have a decade worth of experience as an actor in various TV/film productions, but this is your first job as a casting director. How did this project come about for you?

Yes, it is hard to believe I have been pursuing the acting/production path for almost 10 years now. IANASK is actually my 2nd Casting Director job. I cast the film The Jingle Dress in the late summer/early fall of 2013. Jakk Netland, a friend that also worked on The Jingle Dress with me, recommended me to the producers. Lynn Blumenthal was the first choice but she was out of town during the IANASK shoot.

2. How has your profession as an actor help you in film casting? Any particular challenges that stood out to you?

I do know what it is like to be on the other side of the casting process which is a plus. I have been told I make the actors feel comfortable and supported which I think helps bring out a more authentic and truthful audition. The challenge for me is caring too much and thinking about the actors that don’t end up getting cast, or worrying about the logistics of everyone getting to set that have been cast. I know these things are definitely out of my control, but I can’t help it. I am “Minnesota Neurotic” as I call it.

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3. Was Christopher Llyod already on board on the film when you started working? I’m curious too about the process of casting Max Records and Laura Fraser, did it involve an in-person audition?

Christopher Lloyd and Max Records were already on board when I started working on the film. They were cast through the Gersh Agency, as was Laura Fraser and her actor husband, Karl Geary (although the two of them were cast closer to the time of filming). I helped cast all the Minnesota talent and worked with Moore Creative and the Wehmann Agency. I am thankful for the agents and all the help I had moving forward with the casting process.

A special thank you goes out to Michelle Nagell, my dear friend and Extras Casting Director, Jessica Bergren and Brittany Cusack. All these women helped with the casting in the weeks leading up to the shoot and went up to Virginia to audition talent for featured extra roles in the film. Jessica, a Virginia native, was instrumental in helping us find the person to play the role of Max Bowen, the only friend of John Wayne Cleaver.

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4. What’s your favorite part about this job for you?

My favorite part is calling or emailing the actors and letting them know they have been cast. I know I always feel like I have won the lottery when I am cast, so it such an amazing feeling to be able to spread the good news to other actors. I also look at each actor in the film as a piece of a big puzzle that has so many moving parts. It is so gratifying to see how the finished product comes together on the big screen after months or years of waiting.

5. A general question about casting. What recent casting in either film or tv project that excites you?

I recently had the opportunity to attend Sundance with my dear friend, Stacey Thunder. She had a small role in the film, Tallulah (which is now on Netflix), and I had the chance to see the world premiere thanks to Stacey and the producer of the film, Heather Rae. The casting was spot on for that film. Allison Janney and Ellen Page worked their magic on screen just like they did in the film Juno. All the supporting cast were exactly the right actors for their respective parts. I was especially impressed with the performance of the third lead, Tammy Blanchard.

Special thanks to Kirsten for the insightful interview!


KirstenGKirsten Gregerson has almost a decade of experience in front of the camera as an actor. She has also worked behind the scenes in various capacities.

In 2013 she had the opportunity to cast a feature film called The Jingle Dress, and followed up a couple years later with the casting of the film I’m Not A Serial Killer.

I’m Not A Serial Killer had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. She also can be seen in the upcoming psychological thriller called Blood Stripe starring Kate Nowlin and directed by Remy Auberjonois. Blood Stripe had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June of 2016 where it won the US Fiction award.

 


Hope you enjoy the interview! What are your thoughts on ‘I Am Not A Serial Killer?’

Everybody’s Chattin + TV News Update: HBO’s Westworld & George RR Martin’s Wild Cards

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Happy Wednesday everyone! Are y’all watching the Olympics? I missed the opening ceremony so I only caught up w/ some clips on Flipboard. I did watch the Men’s 100m backstroke as Minnesotan David Plummer, a swim coach who’s perhaps one of the oldest at 30, won Bronze.  Woo hoo!

Well I’m super excited to see Anthropoid tomorrow. I’ve posted the trailer here and yesterday I read this awesome NY Mag article that the film shows how women helped defeat the Nazis.

Ok how about those links!

A couple of Suicide Squad-related posts: Margaret lamented on the lack of Jared Leto’s Joker’s scenes, among others, whilst Jordan actually had some praises for the movie.

Jia posted a Blindspot review on one of my favorite modern noir thrillers, L.A. Confidential

Jay reviewed a movie I missed at the theaters, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can’t wait to rent as soon as it’s available.

I hadn’t reviewed Spielberg’s The BFG yet, but it seems Mark liked the movie more than I did, whilst Zöe pretty much agreed with me in regards to Jason Bourne.

I enjoy reading ranking lists! Keith just ranked the Marvel movies from worst to first ( I LOVE his #1 pick!)

This is a movie which trailer intrigued me… Dan reviewed Indignation

Last but not least, Cindy shared some great book recommendations.


Ok, we’ve still got a couple of months to wait yet for this upcoming series, but man, everything about this upcoming series looks really good!

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A series inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton about a futuristic theme park populated by artificial beings.

Now, I’ve never seen the original series with Yul Brynner, but the idea of a western sci-fi instantly intrigues me. Ok now it doesn’t always work, as in the case of Cowboys & Aliens, but we’ve got quite a pedigree in terms of its creator.

I love that it’s a husband/wife team behind this series remake: Jonathan Nolan and fellow screenwriter Lisa Joy Nolan. Oh, and JJ Abrams also serves as executive producer along with the Nolans. Check out the trailer:

Here’s just a sampling of the impressive ensemble cast:

  • Anthony Hopkins
  • Ed Harris
  • Evan Rachel Wood
  • James Marsden
  • Thandie Newton
  • Jeffrey Wright
  • Tessa Thompson
  • Shannon Woodward
  • Ben Barnes

The 10-episode season 1 will premiere on HBO on Sunday, October 2 at 9 p.m. I can hardly wait!
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As Game of Thrones‘ fans are waiting for season 7 with bated breath, its author George R.R. Martin has long set his sights elsewhere. He just may have another sprawling fantasy world on television, according to Variety.

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Universal Cable (same studio behind Mr. Robot that I’m currently watching) has purchased the rights for Martin’s work. The first volume in the book series was published in 1986, with 22 volumes released to date.

Here’s the premise:

“…the shared world of the Wild Cards diverged from our own on September 15, 1946 when an alien virus was released in the skies over Manhattan, and spread across an unsuspecting Earth. Of those infected, 90% died horribly, drawing the black queen, 9% were twisted and deformed into jokers, while a lucky 1% became blessed with extraordinary and unpredictable powers and became aces. The world was never the same.”

I quite like the sound of this, so I’ll keep an eye on this project. Surely plenty of actors are salivating to be cast in this.

 


What are your thoughts about these TV projects?

FlixChatter Review: Café Society (2016)

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Café Society is director Woody Allen’s latest film about old Hollywood – or sort of. Set during its golden age (30s, 40s), its main protagonist is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), a naïve young New Yorker looking to make his way by moving to Hollywood to work under his uncle Phil (Steve Carell in a wooden performance), a high powered Hollywood agent.

Leaving a loving Jewish family in New York, which includes his mother Rose (an excellent Jeannie Berlin) and a gangster older brother (Corey Stoll), Bobby arrives in LA, and taken under his uncle’s wing. To help him get acclimated to his new surroundings, Phil tasks ‘Vronny’, his secretary (Kristen Stewart) to show him the sights. Before long, a romance ensues and some rather complicated triangles come into play.


Café Society
is watchable at best, with Vittorio Storaro’s gorgeous photography, its glamorous ensemble cast (Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Sheryl Lee) and Allen’s trademark impeccable pacing. However, the cast is mostly sidelined to the rafters.

Aiming seemingly for that classic, light, airy romantic comedy – the likes of Twentieth Century (1934), but without it’s creative punch and slapstick. It’s peppered with cynicism throughout, perhaps to intrigue a moviegoer discussion into the imagined realities of love and romance in the Hollywood jet-set. But it all feels a bit hollow and ultimately, forgettable.

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Perhaps Allen’s point is to stress the emptiness of the rich Hollywood life, but it’s hard to care for any of the main characters who don’t evolve much. It does feel a bit like Allen doing a monologue on Hollywood, love and death to himself. But that in itself, unfortunately, does not make a great, or even a good film.

The one redeeming quality about the film are the scenes with Bobby’s immediate family, which were too few and far in between. The family dynamic offered the most effective comedy throughout and reminded me bits and pieces of 1987’s award winning Moonstruck.

In the end, the Dofmans were the only characters I could sympathize with. And by film’s end, Bobby was most definitely not even a part of them at all.

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So what do you think of Café Society? Let us know what you think!

FlixChatter Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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Not every year we get not one but two highly-anticipated DC superhero films where the hype is simply overwhelming. I personally have not been anticipating either movies, and I tried with all my might to avoid watching every damn clip/trailer/featurette, etc the studio releases practically every single week. Well, you already know how I feel about Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now we’ve got the DC ensemble cast about supervillains instead of superheroes.

Now, it certainly helps if you have seen BVS, as this film starts out in the aftermath of that film. “What if the next Superman is a terrorist?” intelligence operative Amanda Waller (the always solid Viola Davis) asks a team of officers and general. She argues that mere mortals won’t stand a chance against such formidable foe, so she assembles a team of incarcerated supervillains and send them off on a deadly black ops mission in exchange for clemency.

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The first act of the movie pretty much consist of character introduction: hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), deranged former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic former gangster Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and monstrous cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They’re to be placed under the command of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), whose girlfriend June Moore (Cara Delevingne) is actually possessed by a witch known as “Enchantress.” If you think that’s already impossible to keep track, we’ve also got Flag’s bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and of course, one of the most [over]-hyped character of the year, The Joker, played by recent Oscar winner Jared Leto. Now, as tedious as the intros may be, it does help someone like me who isn’t familiar with the comics to figure out just who the heck everybody is.

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Though billed as an ensemble cast, the two leads of the film are actually Will Smith and Margot Robbie. The rest are pretty much relegated to supporting roles, with the Joker’s role ends up being nothing more than a glorified cameo. Even as I’m watching the movie, I could just feel the wrath of the Joker’s (or Leto’s) fans seeing how little his screentime is. Now Batman is barely shown here but that’s understandable as this is a movie about the villains. It seems a ton of Leto’s scenes has ended up in the cutting room floor.

Now I wonder if the filmmaker thought that the Joker is such an an overpowering figure that he easily steals the spotlight from everyone else. The longer he’s on screen, the film might no longer be about the Squad, but more about the iconic DC villain. Even the scarce number of scenes between him and his lover Harley (a case of doctor/patient relationship gone terribly wrong) is no doubt one of the most memorable scenes in the movie. I think from those deleted scenes they could probably create a Harley & Joker movie that would likely be a massive hit.

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For a movie built on ‘it’s good to be bad’ principle, I expect a lot of fun with the characters. Well, there were some amusing scenes and some that made me laugh, but overall it’s not that joyful of a ride after all. First of all, none of these supervillains are really that bad in this movie. Heck even one of them didn’t want to perform his abilities because he’s developed um, a conscience. Then there’s the drab and dour look of the movie popularized by DC’s purported *savior* Zack Snyder. Director David Ayer pretty much adopts a similar style, with occasional garish, candy-colored color-scheme in some scenes. Oh and there’s sheer lack of originality in the music department too, pretty much copying Guardians of the Galaxy in its overuse of pop music. Heck they even used the exact same song Spirit in the Sky! At least in Guardians, the music is actually part of the plot involving the lead character, but here it’s just used haphazardly seemingly just to fill up dead space.

That said, I was actually surprised that I wasn’t bored watching the movie despite its 123-minute running time. I guess that would be the one pleasant surprise about this, oh and the fact that there weren’t as many cringe-inducing scenes as BVS. Unfortunately, the more I think about this movie, the less positive I feel about it.

As for the performances, I was quite surprised that I didn’t mind Smith here despite my growing apathy towards him (interestingly enough I also quite like him in Concussion). Courtney didn’t irritate me as he usually did in other roles, and Kinnaman is pretty good despite being a rather vanilla character. It should be no surprise to anyone that the scene-stealer here is Robbie. The Aussie actress is on the brink of overexposure these days as she seems to be everywhere. But she does have talent and personality that matches her beauty.

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Her Harley Quinn is fun to watch when she’s bad, but she also has a certain vulnerability that she lets out when there’s no one around. Now, Leto’s Joker didn’t really wow me. He’s nowhere as phenomenal as Heath Ledger in the role, but I think that’s unfair to expect him to be, simply because the two Joker characters are quite different. Ledger’s more of a sadistic psychopath who in Nolan’s version ‘just wants to see the world burns.’ Leto’s version is a deranged maniac, more of a warped prankster than merciless criminal mastermind. For one, I can’t imagine Ledger’s Joker to ever be in a relationship with any human being, romantic or otherwise.

The third act of the movie is the most problematic. It’s ironic that in a movie about bad guys, the actual villain is irritatingly absurd. Whilst the enchantress starts out rather intriguing, it seems to have gotten more ridiculous as the movie goes on. Nary of a compelling backstory, this diminutive witch spews out an army of blob-headed creatures that are so gross to look at. The finale looks as if Warner Bros and Sony are sharing the same SFX department to create the effects as it looks so similar to the one in Ghostbusters! Just like Man of Steel and BVS, once again the final battle is nothing more than a mind-numbingly loud and bombastic CGI fest.

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Plagued by multiple reshoots, perhaps the movie was doomed from the start. As the writer and director of the movie, it was risky for WB to hire David Ayer, known for modest-budgeted, gritty crime dramas who has never done a blockbuster film. Now, hiring filmmakers with indie-cred can pay off (as in the case of the Russo Brothers for Marvel), but I don’t think it pays off as well here. I wouldn’t call Suicide Squad a huge mess, and it truly IS better than BVS, but really that’s not saying much.

But I think the most disappointing part is that for a movie that strives so hard to be different, the result is pretty much more of the same as the previous DC movies. Though I’m glad I did see it so I can judge it for myself, it’s not something I’m keen on watching again anytime soon. This one makes me dread the other DC ensemble movie Justice League even more, once again promoted in the post-credit scene featuring Bruce Wayne. I have said in the past that I’m more of a DC than Marvel fan, but sadly DC still has SO much catching up to do to match its arch rival.

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So what do YOU think of Suicide Squad?