Film Review: The Suicide Squad (2021)

Also known as: Suicide Squad 2 (informal title)
Release Date: July 28th, 2021 (France)
Directed by: James Gunn
Written by: James Gunn
Based on: Suicide Squad by John Ostrander
Music by: John Murphy
Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Stephen Blackehart, Jennifer Holland, Alice Braga, Taika Waititi, Pom Klementieff (cameo, uncredited), Lloyd Kaufman (cameo, uncredited)

Atlas Entertainment, DC Comics, DC Entertainment, 132 Minutes

Review:

“You know the deal: successfully complete the mission and you get ten years off your sentence. You fail to follow my orders in any way, and I detonate the explosive device in the base of your skull.” – Amanda Waller

Going into this, based off of the trailers, I wasn’t expecting much. Also, even though I like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, I hated the first Suicide Squad and her Birds of Prey movie. That being said, this was pretty damn fantastic and it’s probably my favorite comic book movie since Infinity War, which I can’t believe is already three years old.

I’d also say that this was the best DC Comics film since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy ended in 2012.

The cast was perfect and out of the core characters, I liked all of them. In fact, seeing a few of them die was actually kind of hard and it was in those moments that I realized how personally attached I had become to them and this story.

James Gunn was the perfect choice for directing this and frankly, I like that he was allowed to go for an R-rating and didn’t have to make it “kid friendly” like his two Guardians of the Galaxy movies. With that, this was able to be closer to Gunn’s pre-Marvel movies where there was great, stylized violence, no punches pulled, colorful language and the sort of balls out awesomeness that you could never tap into while making a movie for Disney.

This film is also a great example of how to properly subvert expectations. The opening sequence completely shakes thing up and throws multiple major curveballs at the audience. The film continues to do this, throughout, and with that, it’s probably the least predictable and paint-by-numbers blockbuster movie to come out in a very long time.

The movie doesn’t just subvert expectations for the hell of it, it does it to make the picture better and more engaging. This is a now rare occasion of a filmmaker having love for the material and his fans, as opposed to what guys like Rian Johnson and Kevin Smith have turned into.

Gunn wants to make great, entertaining movies and he genuinely wants his audience to leave the theater happy. I wish there were more James Gunns than talent drained directors who blame fans’ “toxicity” for holding them accountable when they fail.

Another difference between Gunn’s films and many of the others that exist in the same genre, is that there is a real, genuine passion in Gunn’s work and it is very apparent. He still loves making these movies and it shows in a way that transcends his films and becomes infectious with his audience.

In this movie, he understood these characters and the tone that was needed to make this all work. The movie is badass, violent and over the top. It’s also funny, tells a very human story and also makes you sympathize with the film’s big bad in the end.

Since this just came out, I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot details and wreck the experience for those who haven’t seen this yet. There are a lot of cool twists to the plot that should just be experienced.

In the end, this set out to achieve a certain thing and it greatly exceeded that thing, at least from my point-of-view. It’s a fun and entertaining, action-packed spectacle that has cemented itself as one of the best superhero movies of this era. At this point, I’d also consider it to be my favorite movie of 2021, thus far.

Rating: 8.5/10

 

Documentary Review: In Search of Darkness: Part II (2020)

Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Directed by: David A. Weiner
Written by: David A. Weiner
Music by: Weary Pines
Cast: Nancy Allen, Tom Atkins, Joe Bob Briggs, Doug Bradley, Clancy Brown, Lori Cardille, John Carpenter, Nick Castle, Larry Cohen, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Keith David, Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, Andre Gower, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Chris Jericho, Jackie Kong, Heather Langenkamp, Don Mancini, Harry Manfredini, Kelli Maroney, Bill Moseley, Greg Nicotero, Cassandra Peterson, Diana Prince, Linnea Quigley, James Rolfe, Robert Rusler, Tom Savini, Corey Taylor, Gedde Watanabe, Caroline Williams, Alex Winter, Tom Woodruff Jr., Brian Yuzna

CreatorVC, 263 Minutes

Review:

Everything I said in my review of the first film in this series still holds true for this one. Reason being, they’re exactly the same in what they are. It’s just that each one features different films.

I think that I like this one a wee bit better for two reasons.

The first, is that I already know what I’m getting into now. I know that this will just fly through dozens of films and not give them the proper amount of time they deserve. As I said in the previous film’s review, I’d love to see each section spread out into a full episode and have these films actually be a streaming series.

The second reason, is that I like that the films are getting more obscure, as there were a few here I hadn’t heard of. With that, I walked away from this with a list of shit I need to watch and review.

Apart from that, this was more of the same. That’s not a bad thing, at all. I just wish that these documentaries didn’t fly through films and other topics so quickly.

I still like these, though. I know there’s a third one coming, which I look forward to, and there’s also one coming out on ’80s sci-fi flicks.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other documentaries in the In Search of… series, as well as other documentaries on ’80s horror.

Documentary Review: The Last Blockbuster (2020)

Release Date: December 15th, 2020
Directed by: Taylor Morden
Written by: Zeke Kamm
Cast: Lauren Lapkus (narrator), Kevin Smith, Doug Benson, Ron Funches, Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Paul Scheer, Brian Posehn, Jamie Kennedy, Ione Skye, Lloyd Kaufman, various

September Club, Popmotion Pictures, 1091 Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

I stumbled across this on Netflix and I was definitely interested in checking it out but it had Kevin Smith’s mug all over it and in the 2020s, that’s a big turnoff for me. That dude’s usually crying and drooling these days and it’s creepy and f’n weird. But luckily, he wasn’t a weeping, insufferable asshole in this and he’s also not in it too much. He’s just one of about a dozen celebrities who popped up to tell their personal stories about Blockbuster Video.

So this is a film about the last Blockbuster store in existence, which runs independently now, and it’s also about the history of video stores in the US from the original mom and pop shops to the mega chains like Blockbuster. In just under 90 minutes, this surprisingly covers a lot.

As I stated in the first paragraph, this also features about a dozen celebrities who talk about what Blockbuster meant to them and a few of them worked in one or simply spent a lot of time in the store.

Overall, this was a solid, fun and positive experience. You come to know the woman who runs the last store, her family, her employees and what the store means to its community and the community’s history.

You also see what it takes to run the store in an era where it’s not as easy to acquire DVDs and Blu-rays because we now live in an age of streaming. We also learn that to use the Blockbuster name, the store has to get permission, annually, from the large corporation that still holds the trademark on the brand.

I think the real highlight for me was hearing the stories from the dozen or so people that were interviewed. For those who visited the last Blockbuster, it was great seeing them overcome with joy, stepping into a legitimate time capsule.

Whether you were a big fan of Blockbuster or just video stores in general, this will definitely give you a hearty helping of warm nostalgia.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other recent documentaries about retro pop culture things.

Documentary Review: In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror (2019)

Release Date: October 6th, 2019 (Beyond Fest premiere)
Directed by: David A. Weiner
Written by: David A. Weiner
Music by: Weary Pines
Cast: Tom Atkins, Doug Bradley, Joe Bob Briggs, Diana Prince, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Sean S. Cunningham, Joe Dante, Keith David, Stuart Gordon, Kane Hodder, Tom Holland, Lloyd Kaufman, Heather Langenkamp, Kelli Maroney, Bill Moseley, Greg Nicotero, Cassandra Peterson, Caroline Williams, Alex Winter, Brian Yuzna, various

CreatorVC, 264 Minutes

Review:

I was anticipating this documentary for a long time. So once it ended up on Shudder, I had to check it out. But holy shit!… I wasn’t expecting this thing to be four and a half f’n hours! Not that I’m complaining but I had to make an entire night out of this thing.

Realistically, this probably would’ve worked better as a documentary television series with an episode focused on each year in the decade. They could’ve expanded even further in that format but then this was crowdfunded and not a traditional production.

Still, this was a cool documentary and while it does jump from film-to-film too fast, it covers a lot of ground. Obviously, it can’t feature every horror film from the ’80s, as there were hundreds (if not thousands) but it does hit on most of the important ones.

This goes through the films in order of their release but it also has a few breaks between each year that focuses on other aspects of ’80s horror.

This is mostly talking head interviews with a few dozen different people, spliced together with footage from all the films they’re talking about. It kind of plays like one of those VH1 I Love the ’80s shows but it is a lot less smarmy. Well, for the most part. There is one guy that kept popping up that I wanted to punch because he was oozing with failed comedian smarm.

Overall, though, this was worth the wait. As I’ve said, I wish it could’ve given more on each film but even four and a half hours isn’t enough time to do more than just scratch the surface with the rich history of ’80s horror.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about ’80s horror and horror franchises.

Film Review: Troma’s War (1988)

Also known as: 1,000 Ways to Die (alternative title), Club War (Germany)
Release Date: October, 1988 (Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Samuel Weil
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen, Michael Ryder, Patrick Weathers, Jessica Dublin, Ara Romanoff

Troma Entertainment, 87 Minutes, 104 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“You try chopping Siamese twins apart with a machete and not change.” – Nancy

I love everything Troma stands for, always have. However, I don’t enjoy a lot of their movies because even if they’re intentionally bad, it is often times too much and despite a few funny moments, here and there, their films get buried too deeply in their own schtick.

However, there are some films that they’ve made that are really damn good for what they are. While Troma War isn’t their best offering, it is definitely one of their better ones and I probably rank it in my top five.

This movie is absolutely insane but that should be expected considering this came from the mind of Lloyd Kaufman during his peak. Plus, it was directed by Michael Herz, who has been behind the camera for three of the Troma films I’d rank above this one: The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High and Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

The story here is bizarre but basically this picks up after a plane has crashed on an island. The survivors then have to fight a war against the madmen that occupy the island. But this is a Troma film, so things can’t be that simple and cookie cutter.

Troma’s War is a movie that gets more and more bonkers as it plays on. The two craziest bits being the stuff surrounding the Siamese twin character and the stuff surrounding the guy with AIDS. But the over the top, violent and gory action is also insane.

Honestly, it’s a hard movie to describe and it sort of has to be seen to be believed.

Like all things Troma, one should expect terrible acting, questionable direction and the cheapest practical effects imaginable. However, this is just as much imaginative as it is offensive and that makes it much better than the standard Troma schlock.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Troma’s other ’80s and ’90s movies.

Film Review: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (1986)

Release Date: December 12th, 1986
Directed by: Richard W. Haines, Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Richard W. Haines, Mark Rudnitsky, Stuart Strutin
Music by: Ethan Hurt
Cast: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton, Robert Prichard, Pat Ryan

Troma Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2014.

“But what about the Fellini festival?” – Warren, “Warren – fuck the Fellini festival!” – Chrissy

Class of Nuke ‘Em High is a diamond in the rough from the massive catalog of films made or distributed by Troma Entertainment. Being that Troma’s modus operandi is making really awesome shitty films, this one can be expected to follow suit. Well, it follows suit and then exceeds the distinction that is its birthright.

The Toxic Avenger is considered to be Troma’s masterpiece and the foundation of their bad filmmaking empire. By many of the Troma faithful, Toxie’s first flick is like their bible. In my opinion, Class of Nuke ‘Em High exceeds it.

Here you have a school, next to a nuclear power plant, which leads to 80 minutes or so of insanity. The Honor Society has evolved into a ruthless gang of cretins, called the Cretins, that buy weed from a guy who grows it on the nuclear power plant’s property. This “atomic weed” becomes the catalyst for all the crazy things that happen in this film – leading up to climax where the Cretins take over the school on their motorcycles and a beastly toxic creature brings terror to those still left in the building.

If you want over the top, and I mean severely over the top 80s camp, gore and something so ridiculous it’s just fun, this is a great film to throw on.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

Release Date: 1990
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Andrew Osborne, Jeffery W. Sass
Music by: Bill Mithoff
Cast: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden

Troma Entertainment, 105 Minutes

Review:

“I was depressed, I was confused and I was turning Japanese.” – Sgt. Kabukiman

Having recently watched and reviewed several old Troma films (some of those to be posted soon), I figured I’d also revisit the single film of one of my favorite Troma characters, Sgt. Kabukiman.

This is probably my third favorite Troma movie, after The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s violent, it’s graphic and it gives a person everything that Troma has become known for. It doesn’t stray from the pack, it just reignites the formula and brings something different to the table.

Yes, this film is bizarre as hell and it is extremely low budget but like The Toxic Avenger those challenges produced great results. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz proved once again that they can be masters of no-budget film and that they are inventive and ingenious when it comes to the right sort of project.

I kind of wish that this had spawned a franchise ala The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High but it never really did. Maybe Troma will make a proper follow-up at some point or maybe we’ll get another team-up movie with Toxie like what they did with the Citizen Toxie film.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is Troma at its best and if those films are your cup of tea, this movie will probably be your thing.

Rating: 5.75/10

Documentary Review: VHS Massacre: Cult Films and the Decline of Physical Media (2016)

Release Date: June 20th, 2016
Directed by: Kenneth Powell, Thomas Edward Seymour
Music by: Tim Kulig

New York Cine Productions, 72 Minutes

Review:

Any documentary that features an interview with Joe Bob Briggs is obviously a film made by people that know what the hell they are doing. This thing also gets some insight from Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment), Greg Sestero (The Room), Debbie Rochon (Return to Nuke ‘Em High), Deborah Reed (Troll 2), Mark Frazer (Samurai Cop), James Nguyen (Birdemic) and many others. Needless to say, this documentary has a friggin’ all-star cast.

The movie itself analyzes the history and appreciation for the VHS format. It also goes on to talk about cult films and how they were helped by VHS and mom and pop video stores. It looks at modern times, where physical media is dying and how that will effect the art of independent filmmaking.

VHS Massacre is a cool documentary, especially for those of us who were really into spending hours walking the aisles of every mom and pop video store, looking for diamonds in the rough and then just settling on every piece of cinematic schlock we could watch within the 24-to-48 hour rental window.

If you want to remember what it was like, back in the day, before Blockbuster killed everything and then Netflix killed Blockbuster, then this is a documentary that is worth your time.

In the end, I just miss walking the aisles and staring at video cassette box art for hours on end while my mum was getting her nails done by the Koreans next door.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: ‘The Toxic Avenger’ Film Series (1984-2000)

Few films are as bizarre and gore-filled as those within The Toxic Avenger series. Other than other pictures made by Troma, I can’t really think of anything else that compares. And since I’m starting to rewatch the films in my Troma collection, I figured I’d start with those movies starring Toxie, their company’s mascot and first big star.

The Toxic Avenger (1984):

Release Date: May 1984 (New York City theatrical release)
Directed by: Michael Herz, Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Joe Ritter
Music by: Mark Hoffman, Dean Summers, Christopher Burke
Cast: Mitch Cohen, Mark Torgl, Andree Maranda, Pat Ryan Jr.

Troma Entertainment, 79 Minutes

Review:

“And you can tell all your scum friends that things are gonna change in this town. I’m not just another pretty face.” – The Toxic Avenger

The first film is the best by far. Now I am in no way calling this a Kubrickian masterpiece but for what the filmmakers (Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz) were able to create with the extremely limited resources they had, this was pretty amazing.

The film was violent, silly, comedic, bad ass and charming: a weird combination that was sewn together like some fucked up Frankenstein tapestry.

Retrospectively, the formula worked beautifully and gives the film a respectable level of ingenuity, originality and even intelligence. Yes, intelligence. And what I mean by that, is that Troma was like South Park before South Park, in that it was offensive, over the top, ridiculous and out for shock value. But underneath all of that, Troma films, at their best, carried a brilliant political or social message. Troma paved the way for others like them in this regard and The Toxic Avenger is their magnum opus, still to this day.

Rating: 8.5/10

The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989):

Release Date: February 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gay Partington Terry
Music by: Barrie Guard
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Rikiya Yasuoka, Tsutomu Sekine, Mayako Katsuragi

Troma Entertainment, Lorimar, 96 Minutes, 103 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“…worst of all… if Tromaville was destroyed, there’d be no Toxic Avenger 3!” – The Toxic Avenger

This film was the immediate start of the decline of The Toxic Avenger franchise. It was nowhere near as good as the original and overall, it was a huge step down.

I know it is hard to step down from the bottom of the barrel, but even though the filmmakers joke about their films being shit, the first one in this series was awesome, as I stated above.

This film, was not awesome. It had some awesome bits but all in all, it took the acceptable ridiculousness of the first movie and magnified it even further. It didn’t need to be magnified.

The new girl playing Toxie’s girlfriend was insanely annoying but luckily she had minimal screen time due to this film taking Toxie to Japan for the majority of the story. In fact, the Japanese trip is actually what made this film somewhat unique and fun. Some of the fights were greatly done but other than the action parts, this was hard to watch.

Rating: 4/10

The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989):

Release Date: November 24th, 1989
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Music by: Christopher De Marco
Cast: Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, John Altamura, Rick Collins, Lisa Gaye, Jessica Dublin, Michael Kaplan

Troma Entertainment, 102 Minutes

Review:

“It’s an old sumo trick. They use it whenever they’re on a runaway school bus that plunges into deadly, murky, muddy water.” – The Toxic Avenger

And then… it got even worse.

The Last Temptation of Toxie sees our hero basically fighting the Devil. It is horrible.

Where the first film is fantastic and the second film had some endearing moments, this film loses all of that and gives us a noisy and stomach-churning mess that was hard to sit through.

The awfulness of the film was enhanced by the constant screaming of Toxie’s girlfriend. Never have I hated a character more, which sucks because the actress that played her in the first film did a great job of making her lovable and cute. This actress made her the worst human being I have ever seen on or off the screen.

I’ve really tried to like this film but I just can’t. All the magic that worked in the original is gone. Maybe it’s because the second film and this film were shot back-to-back and the filmmakers ran out of juice. I don’t know.

You know how some films are so bad that they become great? Well, this isn’t one of those films. There’s nothing redeeming about it and it is kind of depressing considering the high note that was the start of this series.

Rating: 2/10

Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV: (2000):

Release Date: October 8th, 2000 (Sitges premiere)
Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Gabriel Friedman
Written by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz, Patrick Cassidy, Trent Haaga, Gabriel Friedman
Music by: Wes Nagy
Cast: David Mattey, Clyde Lewis, Heidi Sjursen, Paul Kyrmse, Joe Fleishaker, Debbie Rochon, Ron Jeremy

Troma Entertainment, 109 Minutes

Review:

“I had a bad feeling about that crack dealer from day one! I guess you can’t trust school kids these days!” – Evil Kabukiman

Then there is the final film. After an 11 year break, the filmmakers had sufficient time to charge their creative batteries and return to the series with something great and compelling, ending the series on a high note: redeeming itself from the previous two outings. Did they succeed?

Yes and no.

This film was the best since the original but it still wasn’t on that level.

The inclusion of Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD was kind of awesome but that was really the biggest high point.

The plot was interesting, as it put Toxie in an alternate universe and an evil doppelgänger in his universe. Granted, it is a formula that has been used to death but it still gave this series something different.

There were cameos galore but nothing incredibly noteworthy. The fight scenes were decent, the gore was probably at its highest level in the series and at least Toxie’s girl was less annoying. Granted, she was still annoying. And while there is nothing respectable about these films from a high society standpoint, the constant retard jokes and use of people shitting themselves was way overdone and pretty senseless, even for a film that at its core is senseless.

I don’t dislike the movie, I just don’t have much urge to ever watch it again. As for the original film in The Toxic Avenger series, I could watch that again and again.

By the way, it is worth mentioning that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn got his start with Troma and he worked on this film. As a thank you, he gave Lloyd Kaufman a cameo in the first Guardians movie.

Rating: 5/10