James Gunn has always been a delightfully rambunctious, perennially irreverent filmmaker whether he’s exploring the realm of sentient alien slugs, sad-sack superhero wannabes or comic book property, which he gets to do once again in The Suicide Squad, one of his very best films yet. He feels more at home in the world of DC than he does in Marvel and it’s not just the larger playground that a hard-R rating gifts him, although that is a *huge* factor given his stylistic tendencies as an artist and his roots in horror, which are on gooey display here as well. The DC stable, particularly villains, just has this dark, perverse edge to it that Marvel can’t match and in creating a maniacal palooza of second tier baddies in a subversive, heavily violent extravaganza he has found a groove and achieved an aesthetic that for the entire two plus hour runtime I wasn’t bored by once. Some of our familiar favourites from the other Suicide Squad naturally return including Harley (Margot Robbie, resplendent in the role of her career), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) as well as welcome new additions like Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior), Savant (Gunn totem Michael Rooker looking like he walked in from a Rob Zombie flick) the scene stealing Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), impossibly adorable King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and of course Viola Davis as their game warden Amanda Waller, the cunt to end all cunts. Their missions here include the overthrow of a South American country, constant bickering, shocking team casualties, betrayals, clever skewering of American patriotism, a giant alien starfish, bountiful loads of gratuitous and blessedly gory violence and a clever balancing act between lighthearted, frothy banter and a darker undercurrent of thematic heft that sneaks in the back door and lands with an effective, grounded touch. Obvious comparisons will be made to the 2016 Suicide Squad and I’d like to sideswipe that other than to say I love both films, they’re both very different and the 2016 is what it is, it has its reputation. I do believe this to be the stronger film but I think they both have their place on my shelf, they are M&M’s and Skittles, Pepsi and Coke, or Warheads and Airheads to reference a junk food as obscure as the characters on display here. Gunn has made a rollicking, badass, bizarre yet strangely accessible piece of pop art nutso comic book madness here with many standout moments including an emotional monologue by Ratcatcher (she’s the soul of the film), some stunning technicolor gore effects that call to mind Lovecraft and Carpenter, an Easter egg hunt of many hidden film and literary references, a ballsy, nihilism laced opening sequence wherein some of the characters brutally live up to the title of the film, one instance of Waller *finally* getting a modicum of what she deserves, some painfully on the nose political satire and, in my favourite sequence the film has to offer, a brilliantly placed and paced opportunity for Robbie’s ever awesome Harley to work through the trauma of her past and absolutely TAKE DOWN toxic relationships like the badass boss bitch we all know she is. A wonderful, weird, wild and fantastic film.
It can be jarring when horror sequels do something almost entirely different with their concept but still use that same franchise name as the first one, it either means bravely pioneering new ground or gravely deviating from an already solid blueprint into a morass of sideshow muck. In the case of White Noise 2: The Light I couldn’t tell you which of those two categories it fits into because it was such a confounding, nonsensical story I really didn’t make too much sense of any of it, so I suppose the second one if I had to say. Following the exploits of the excellent first film in which we saw Michael Keaton communicate with the dead, including his wife, via spooky VHS tape static, this one goes in a drastically different direction. Nathan Fillion plays a guy whose wife and child are murdered in the opening scene of the film by a disturbed, gun wielding maniac (perennial UK tough guy Craig Fairbrass) before the man blows his own head off. Lost in a pit of despair, Fillion attempts suicide himself and has a brief trip to the afterlife (cue the XBox 360 cutscene effects) before returning to make it a near death experience and discovering he has certain… abilities. Premonition, foresight, the power to sense impending catastrophes and save those in their path and the clairvoyance to know when certain seemingly benign people are going to perpetrate horrible acts of their own, kinda like the guy… well you can see where this going. He meets a friendly nurse played by the wonderful Katee Sackhoff and I must admit that their pairing is pretty much a casting match made in Heaven and the best thing the film has going for it, even if the script doesn’t do all that much with them together. The cast beyond them aren’t people I recognized except for a hilarious early career cameo from Jared Keeso, who Letterkenny fans will be just tickled to see here and may even do a double take. The film is set in Vancouver again and as always it adds a lot of atmosphere, but you can only do so much for a story that’s told as loosely and unconvincingly as this. There’s no real reference to the first film or it’s premise, this for sure didn’t even need to be called White Noise at all, it’s more a sequel to that Sandra Bullock flick Premonition than anything resembling a tie-in to the Keaton one, and it’s just not gripping, interesting, scary or affecting enough to recommend whatsoever. If you must give it a look to see Fillion and Sackhoff gently flirting for a few scenes then go for it, I don’t blame you, but just don’t expect anything close to an involving thriller here.
Blast From The Past is an apt title indeed, since not a lot of folks seem to remember this brilliant, high concept farce from the late 90’s that should be basking in notoriety to this day. It’s so forgotten these days it could almost be considered a cult classic, but either way it’s pure cinema bliss. In the early 60’s,
an eccentric scientist (Christopher Walken, because who else) builds himself a swanky underground bomb shelter for himself and his pregnant wife (Sissy Spacey) to hide in, should the missile crisis become a reality. They head down there during a false alarm, a plane crashes into their property confirming his fears and they pretty much stay hunkered in for over 30 years, raising their baby into a full grown man (Brendan Fraser, the life of the party). Then they head back up, or at least Fraser does anyway, to a bustling San Fernando valley in the midst of the late 90’s, which is a culture shock and a half for his sunny 50’s mindset and impossibly naive outlook. It’s a terrific concept that’s milked for a full on laugh riot as he makes his way around the city with not a clue how to interact or carry himself. Falling in love with a classic valley girl (Alicia Silverstone, excellent) in a sweet romantic subplot that soon becomes the backbone of the story, seeing the ocean for the first time, and a few hilarious cultural misunderstandings (“A negro!” He exclaims, having never seen variety in colour beyond his two parents) are just a few of the well written, thought out jokes and set pieces he rambles to and fro in. Fraser makes it a performance of physical comedy, deadpan cheekiness and puts genuine sweetness into an arc that some actors may have interpreted just slick shtick. Walken is his kooky self, while there’s work from Dave Foley, Bruce Slotnick and a jarring cameo from young Nathan Fillion. Filled to the brim with laughs, heart and the kind of humour birthed organically from story, it’s a gem.
Slimy, icky, yucky and gooey don’t even begin to cover James Gunn’s Slither, a corrosively funny low budget schlock-fest that took the genre by storm a decade ago, charmed horror fans all over and put him squarely on the map. A throwback to many mindless low budget creature features of yore, but still with enough brains in its head (and some splattering the wall) to have decently written characters and a monster that doesn’t feel lame or copied and pasted. When a strange asteroid lands in the forests outside small town USA, it’s only a matter of time before someone stumbles across whatever it contains and becomes infected. That someone happens to be Michael Rooker, here playing the deftly named Grant Grant, local bigwig and proud husband to trophy wife Elizabeth Banks. There’s a deadly parasite with the rock, one that takes him over, turns him into a giant disgusting inbred octopus, and has apocalyptic plans for our planet. Nathan Fillion, who is in literally every Gunn film, does a sly and charming turn as the local Sheriff, never losing his cool long enough to let up with the attitude, and backed up by his trusty deputy (the lovely Jennifer Copping). Gregg Henry, another Gunn veteran, steals the show as the town’s sleazy, foul mouthed mayor who laments “I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I watch Animal Planet all the fuckin time!!!”. Rooker is a champ for sitting through all the makeup, as most of his scenes are him whipping around tentacles that chop people up and covered in a deluge of slimy deformations. There’s slug like parasites that’ll make you suirm (careful getting in that bathtub), morbid obesity to hilarious lengths, gore galore and a tongue in cheek attitude that’s irresistible. What more do you need from a horror comedy?
Wes Craven’s Dracula 2000 is one of those horror flicks that proudly slaps his name over the title like he runs the show, when in fact he’s only participating under a vague executive producer credit. Now that we’ve got that little detail out of the way we can talk about what a thoroughly awesome movie it is, and how the haters can go suck it. It’s a high concept slice of bloody fun and has easily one of the best pairings of an actor with the Dracula mythos ever: Gerard Butler. He’s young and lean here, before he turned into a tank later in his career, and he makes one hell of a kick ass Dracula. The story is too good to be true: a team of arch criminals, led by Omar Epps and also including Hyde from That 70’s Show (lol) break into the European mansion of Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Christopher Plummer) and steal the heavy duty coffin which he has stashed in his basement and used to contain Vladdy for over a hundred years. Helsing has always used a compound derived from his blood to keep himself alive all that time and ensure that he never gets loose. The burglars have no idea what they’re on for, and pretty soon Butler is loose and ready to get freaky, tearing apart their getaway plane and running off into the chaotic streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. He’s searching for a girl (Justine Waddell) to have sex with her and fulfill some horrific prophecy (nice little nod to End Of Days there). Dracula, Mardi Gras, Gerard Butler, Christopher Plummer; four ingredients to pretty much ensure your movie is gonna rock. Plummer makes one of the best onscreen Van Helsings in my books, rivaled only perhaps by Anthony Hopkins. Butler is a sleek, hip and sensual Dracula, playing the role to the bloody hilt and sedimenting a really cool rendition of the character, with a surprising twist ending that adds some depth to the guy. Watch for work from Jennifer Esposito, Sean Patrick Thomas, Shane West, Lochlyn Munro and Nathan Fillion as well.
Great retelling, or rather addition to the legend, held up by Butler.