The Suicide Squad and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros
Directed by James Gunn
I was more positive than not about the first Suicide Squad movie, but there was absolutely a ceiling to how much I could appreciate it and frankly, I don’t think David Ayers getting his own AYERS CUT would end up improving things. It was a lot of good ideas and solid performances wrapped up in a script that felt half-baked at best and an editing job that struggled mightily to wrangle it all into something coherent. Fortunately, Warner Bros and the DCEU are in a much better position now as they’ve toned down the excessive budgets and improved the overall quality and tone of the films. Best of all, they got James Gunn to direct it who’s made some of the best movies in the genre with his Guardians of the Galaxy films! Sounds like the makings of a darn good movie to me, but are we looking at a perfect storm of awesomeness or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment? Let’s find out!!
Task Force X is a secret government program that is the brainchild of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and uses dangerous criminals to take on missions that are too dangerous for anyone else. When there’s a regime change in a South American country to a government that is not so US friendly, Waller needs a crack team of weirdos to go in there and destroy a secret project known only as Starfish that is hidden below a research facility in the center of the country’s capital, and while some of them like Bloodsport Peacemaker, and arguably even Harley Quinn (Idris Elba, John Cena, and Margot Robbie), some of the others just seem to be there to either be cannon fodder or to just get them out of the prison system’s hair. I mean seriously what are you supposed to do with a guy like King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and some dude named THE POLKA-DOT MAN (Davis Dastmalchian)? There are several others assigned to this mission such as Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and the always dependable Rick Flag as the leader (Joel Kinnaman), but it doesn’t take long for things to go sideways and for the team to have to more or less wing it as they try to find a way into the city undetected so they can kidnap the country’s super-scientist known as The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) to get them inside the research base and just figure it out from there. Can this rag-tag group of super-losers save America from whatever this Project Starfish is and secure their freedom in the process? What isn’t Amanda Waller telling them about the mission and just how much is at stake if they end up failing? I mean whatever happens it can’t be as bad as having one of your own team members take over a city and turn everyone into her zombie servants. Sure it’s a low bar to clear, but you’ve got to start somewhere!
Rambo Last Blood is such a b movie that the writer of the original book David Morrell has called it degrading embarrassment, and if you’ve read my review you’ll know that I share the same sentiment. Still, the movie may have done one thing right which is make me reflect on the other Rambo films and wonder if this latest movie is truly as much of a departure from them as my rose tinted nostalgia believes them to be. For this reason I’ve decided to rewatch the other four Rambo films and approach them from as much of a fresh perspective as I can manage and see if the good ones still hold up and if the bad ones are even worse than I remember. This is probably gonna be a rough one. Let’s get started!!
First Blood (1982)
Yeah, this one still holds up. Right off the bat, the movie does a great job of setting up the world in which Rambo lives which frankly I kind of have a hard time believing was really the case. I mean considering where we are NOW I might be a bit naïve saying that, but the fact that a cop is profiling a white dude with an American flag on his jacket, well that just seems really odd to me as someone for whom adulation and thanks are the bare requirement when interacting with a veteran. That said, patriotism and worship of the troops has ALWAYS had a two-faced nature to it where the same people screaming about respecting the troops and waving flags are the usually the first ones to trample human rights and backstab veterans who are in desperate need of help, so a small town sheriff using his outsized sense of power to quietly shuffle this guy along isn’t the MOST unrealistic thing, and like I said the movie does a great job of setting up the world in such a quick amount of time. Stallone has a quiet intensity to his performance that belies the rage burning just beneath the surface, and after only three minutes with Brian Dennehy you’d want to torch the town too. This movie excels at the way it escalates tension and how the situation just snowballs as one slight leads to a definite act leads to another sleight and so on. And sure, it does have its cheesy moments. Every time he flashes back to Vietnam it’s only a notch below the ridiculous flashbacks in Meet the Feebles (made even more so by his AMAZING mustache) and some of Stallone’s shouty faces come off as comical, but all those extremes really add to the utter desperation of this character and how despite all his muscles, his movie star good looks, and his unmatched skills at whooping ass, he’s still a complete mess as a person; exemplified by the speech at the end which is both heart breaking to listen to and a little bit funny to watch. What was really solidified for me on this latest watch is that while Rambo himself is an interesting character, he’s more of a symbolic force of nature whom the drama and political commentary revolve around. Heck, I’d wager that in overall screen time we get more of Brian Dennehy than we do of Rambo as it’s his movie first and foremost even if Rambo does eventually take center stage once we get to the aforementioned finale and the rather blunt coda of the movie. First Blood is ultimately a movie more about the time it takes place in than about the characters within it; the man pushed too far by an uncaring system and the ghosts of his past, the cops who abuse their authority under the guise of keeping law and order, even the dipshit gun toting National Guardsmen which may or may not be an accurate or fair portrayal (weekend warriors versus the REAL soldiers), but is definitely there to make a point. With the latest movie, it felt like the incoherent ramblings of a perpetually terrified racist who couldn’t even see the humanity of those who are perceived to be the enemy. To a certain extent, I can see where that sort of extreme flailing of emotions originated in this film with how much of its heart is on its sleeve, but where Last Blood wants to fuel the fires of discord, this movie is trying to draw out some kind of understanding from all of its characters and from the audience who watches it. It’s a bit tone oblivious at points and has some drastic tonal shifts throughout (the comic relief National Guardsmen REALLY stood out for me), but it has genuine heart behind it which is why it holds up so well. Now the only thing I know about the book this is based on is how it ends which greatly diverges from the movie. At the end of the book, Trautman ends up killing Rambo at the police station, and while the filmmakers did shoot a version of this for the movie they ultimately decided to go with the happier one where Rambo lives and goes quietly with the faint hope that maybe he’ll get the help he needs and that the country can do better by others like him. Well that, or they’ll just make a series of increasingly ludicrous and jingoistic movies, but what are the odds of THAT happening!?
Rambo: Last Blood and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Not sure if this counts as a hot take, but I’ve always felt that of the two major Stallone franchises (the other being Rocky), Rambo was the lesser of the two. First Blood wasn’t quite as good as the first Rocky, Rocky had better sequels, and even when it came to deconstructing the franchise I thought that Rocky Balboa was better than Rambo 2008. Now that we’ve gotten to the post-deconstruction continuation for Rocky which did a phenomenal job with both Creed movies, I guess it’s time for Stallone to give good ol’ John one last adventure on the silver screen. Does this latest and possibly last Rambo adventure measure up to the better films of the series, or will this be the movie that finally makes us all realize that Rambo 3 wasn’t ALL bad? Let’s find out!!
Not long after the events of Rambo 2008, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) moved back to his family ranch and is living with what little family he has left; his niece Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal) and her grandmother Maria (Adriana Barraza). It’s now the present and young Gabrielle has grown up while John has started to settle down and has diverted a lot of his negative energy towards building a complex series of tunnels underneath his ranch which if nothing else is better than getting into fist fights in Thailand. As great as this peaceful existence has been, something terrible is about to happen that will change their lives forever!! Gabrielle… is going on a trip! TO MEXICO!! Yes, apparently a friend of hers who lives there (Fenessa Pineda) has found Gabrielle’s estranged father and is inviting her down there to meet him. Rambo however knows that… I don’t know, Mexico is full of bad guys or something, and is about as skeptical of her going to Mexico as Liam Neeson was of his daughter going to Europe. Sure enough, the exact same thing more or less happens as Gabrielle gets taken by bad guys the same day she gets there and Rambo has to save her; presumably without rubbing her nose in it TOO much that he was right to not trust THE ENTIRE COUNTRY OF MEXICO. Can Rambo make it in time to save Gabrielle from whatever horrific fate awaits her on the other side of the border? Will Rambo unleash the beast that has been brewing inside of him for all these years, and is it enough to get him out of one last battle? Can someone please tell me why I’m watching a Rambo movie that’s absolutely NOTHING like a Rambo movie? Can someone point me to who’s responsible for whatever this is!?
Creed II and all the images you see in this review are owned by MGM Pictures
Directed by Steven Caple Jr
Back when I reviewed the first movie, I made a note that my conception of Rocky for the longest time was just the first three films, so the whole Ivan Drago thing always felt like an afterthought despite it being so iconic for many fans of the franchise. That said, when the first one came out and was about the son of Apollo, yeah there was NO WAY that a sequel could exist without bringing Dolph Lundgren back into the mix which thankfully they managed to do here with what is probably the last necessary sequel to Rocky we’ll ever need (unless we want to bring back Clubber Lang) and they can either continue the franchise without the baggage of the original films or let this series finally lay to rest. Do they manage to do justice to the story of Ivan Drago and Apollo Creed in this tale about their sons settling a decade’s long rivalry, or should the franchise have stopped while it was ahead? Admittedly if they HAD stopped while they were ahead we probably wouldn’t have gotten the first Creed, but in any case LET’S FIND OUT!!
The movie picks up a few years after the first film where Adonis Creed () has risen in the ranks of the boxing world with the help of his wise mentor Rocky Balboa () and the loving support of his girlfriend () (). After winning the WBC World Heavyweight Championship, he has FINALLY reached his dream of reclaiming the belt that his father lost those many years ago! Well that’s great! So now what? He decides to marry Bianca for one, but even with a loving wife and a sterling career, something feels… missing. Despite being the best of the best, he can’t seem to find the joy in it and pretty much immediately starts looking for a new challenge. Fortunately a very helpful fight promoter (Russell Hornsby) saw this coming a mile away and knew that once Adonis became champ that there was only one challenge left for him to face, and by challenge I mean one BIG spectacle of a fight to rake in millions of dollars! We are of course referring to, a rematch with Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren); the man who killed his father. Or at the very least, Ivan Drago’s SON (Florian Munteanu) who as far as I know hasn’t killed anyone, but that might change if Adonis takes the bait and faces him again in the ring. If you’ve seen a Rocky movie, you know the basics of what happens next (i.e. Adonis loses the fight at the halfway point), but what does it mean for him to have his first taste of true defeat, and will he be able to face him once again, as well as all his fears and insecurities that have held him back from reaching his true potential? What will the strain of this lose put on his marriage to Bianca, and will she be able to live the life of a boxer’s wife; something that she’s never had to face since Adonis has never truly lost a fight on his own terms? Perhaps most importantly, DOES ADONIS COME OUT TO LIVING IN AMERICA!?
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by James Gunn
Sequels are not an easy thing to pull off in the world of Hollywood tent poles, at least critically. Financially they’re almost certain to get as much if not more money than the film that came before it just off of buzz and familiarity alone, but rarely do we get sequels that areas critically beloved as the original film, provided of course the original was great to begin with. For every Dark Knight we get, there’s a Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Genisys, Batman v Superman, and The Dark Knight Rises. As great as Marvel is at churning out success after success from their cinematic universe, they aren’t immune to this either with Iron Man 2 and Thor 2, while both very watchable films, being low points for the company… at least until Iron Fist, but I’m ready to forget that ever happened if everyone else is too. Can they manage to avoid those pitfalls with the sequel to the riskiest movie the studio has made date, or was the goofy and offbeat success of the first one truly a case of catching lightening in a bottle? Let’s find out!!
After the events of the first movie where these five misfits managed to save the Galaxy through the power of Friendship (I hear it’s magic!), the newly formed Guardians of the Galaxy began taking odd jobs around said galaxy in order to cash in on their reputation. The job that movie starts out on is a bit different though as the payment they are after is not money but Gamora’s sister Nebula (Zoe Saldana as the former and Karen Gillian as the latter) who was left for dead after the Xander incident, and Gamora plans on taking her to the Nova Corp to face justice. Of course with five screw ups in the team, one of them is bound to do SOMETHING wrong and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) inexplicably robs their employers who are quick to find out and start hunting the Guardians down. Fortunately, The Most Interesting Man in the Universe, though you can call him Ego (Kurt Russell), manages to save them all and reveals that he is in fact the long lost father of Star-Lord (Chirs Pratt)! Well isn’t THAT convenient!? He offers to take them to his home planet while the ship is being repaired, so Star-Lord, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) go with dear old dad while Rocket and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) stay behind to fix the ship and watch over Nebula. Of course, things are never as simple as they seem, what with Ego’s assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who appears to be hiding something or the fact that the planet the Guardians burned go ahead and hire Yondu (Michael Rooker) to hunt them down. Can the Guardians escape their own demise once again and somehow find a way to smooth all this over? Will Star-Lord accept the father who was never there for him his entire life, and how will that affect the life he’s built without him? How awesome is it that this is the SECOND movie this year that Kurt Russell is in, alongside a wrestler, which will CLEARLY make a billion dollars!?
Ratchet & Clank and all the images you see in this review are owned by Gramercy Pictures and Focus Features
Directed by Jericca Cleland and Kevin Munroe
Well THIS certainly is a unique specimen! I mean… it IS for another two weeks until Angry Birds comes out (ugh). What we have here is the first CG animated film that has gotten a wide release in US theaters! You’d think SOMEONE would have thought to do this by now considering how many of the pre-generation seven game heroes were aimed at children and some variation of a loveable animal character. While Uwe Bowl was fucking around with Alone in the Dark and Postal, no one was willing to give Sonic the Hedgehog or Megaman a shot? Well that all ends HERE with this movie based on the iconic video game series AND the added bonus of Insomniac games being a part of the production to make sure it’s done justice! Do they succeed in making the first CG animated video game movie, or is this one big glorified cut scene that wouldn’t have passed muster in 2002? Let’s find out!!
The movie is all about Ratchet (James Arnold Taylor); a cat like creature who lives a Tatooine knock off and spends his time poorly repairing hovercrafts by adding (presumably illegal) modifications that no one asked for and no one would find useful. Oh well, at least he has heart, and dreams, and… probably other stuff too that the movie doesn’t really get into. He’s THE HERO’S JOURNEY writ large and he’s got a call to action lined up for him! Apparently some bad guys are blowing up planets for reasons (probably because their dicks) and so the team that defends the WHOLE galaxy has decided to increase their ranks from four… to FIVE!! Okay… well the group, known as the Galactic Rangers, are holding tryouts to find this fifth member (there isn’t already a training program or an academy or something?) which Ratchet participates in, but fails miserably; probably due to his extensive arrest record. Things may look grim for Ratchet who’s still stuck on this dirt planet, but salvation arrives in the form of a little robot who crash lands near the garage Ratchet works at, and he rushes to save him! The little robot seems to know something about the villain’s evil plan and must get to the Galactic Rangers to warn them. Ratchet agrees to help, gives the little guy the name Clank (David Kaye), and they’re off to save the Rangers and the Galaxy as they know it! Can they manage to stop the bad guys from blowing up the rest of the galaxy? Will the Galactic Rangers accept them as one of their own? Did… did anyone actually sit down to watch this before shoving it into theaters?
Creed and all the images you see in this review are owned by MGM Pictures
Directed by Ryan Coogler
I have this DVD boxset with the first three Rocky films in it that I think my dad got one Christmas. He didn’t watch them all that often so I ended up holding onto the boxset and I would watch those three ALL the damn time. A lot of people like the fourth film, but for me, Rocky has always been the first three movies which creates a perfect arc as Rocky starts out as a bum, eventually beats the champ, and they become friends afterwards. Hell, it even ends right where Rocky begins (inside a crappy little gym) only now with Apollo Creed there as a reminder of how much has changed in such a short amount of time. I didn’t catch Rocky Balboa until its home release, but it felt a perfect swansong for the series and Stallone proved once again that he really is a talented guy and deserved winning that Oscar. Now we’re back with yet another film in that universe, but the dynamics have changed. Not only is not really a Rocky film anymore, it’s not even a Stallone film considering that the writing and directing was handled by Ryan Coogler who himself is to proving to be an immense talent very early in his career. Will this be an inspired continuation of series that still manages to be its own film, or will this be a disappointing cash grab on the level of Rocky 5 considering they pretty much have the same premise? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about Adonis “Donnie” Johnson who is the son of Apollo Creed; the child of one of his mistress and born several months after Apollo’s death which should STILL put him at about 29, but whatever. Continuity in the Rocky series is pretty wonky as it is. Anyway, the kid is eventually found in a youth detention center by Apollo Creed’s widow (Mary Anne Creed played by Phylicia Rashad who FINALLY managed to be a movie that’s NOT directed by Tyler Perry) and she adopts the boy. We cut to when he’s an adult and despite having money and having a good life, he still can’t seem to resist the urge to fight, so between shifts at his day job he fights in low level boxing matches under the name Donnie Johnson. It’s not enough for him though, so he decides to quit his job, move to Philly, and get his father’s best friend to train him to be a professional boxer. Will Rocky be willing to step back into that life after leaving it behind him? Will Donnie finally find what is he’s looking for if he can convince Rocky to train him and put him in fights? How many times will YOU cry watching this?
Starring Jason “fist with an accent” Statham, written by Sylvester “I wrote Rocky a long time ago” Stallone, and has James “I’m James Franco” Franco as an evil redneck. This sounds like the recipe for a down and dirty southern classic right? Well there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to keep reading!