FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666 (2021) – Third Part is the Best Part of the Netflix’ Horror Trilogy



That’s what I felt after watching Netflix’s FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666 (2021), the third and final installment in their FEAR STREET horror movie trilogy. Why? Because this third part is clearly the best part of the three. And I didn’t see this coming because honestly I wasn’t much of a fan of the first two chapters. For me, the weakest part of the first two movies was the wraparound story of the murderous witch which had cursed the town of Shadyside for centuries, sending demented serial killers into the town to slaughter innocent townsfolk every generation. Here in PART THREE, the writers take this wraparound story and turn it on its head, which for me, was a game changer. It made the weakest part of the trilogy the strongest part here in this final chapter.

That’s not easy to do.

So, for me, FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666 is by far the best installment in the series, and well worth your time. Can you skip the first two parts? Er, I wouldn’t. Because another reason this film works so well is the background information delivered in the previous movies. PART THREE uses the first two stories to its advantage. And the first two movies aren’t that bad. They’re just not as good as the third one.

The movie picks up right where PART TWO left off, with characters from the first installment, Deena (Kiana Madeira) and her younger brother Josh (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) reaching out to an adult Ziggy Berman (Gillian Jacobs), the sole survivor from the Camp Nightwing murders from 1978 chronicled in Part 2, asking for her help to save their possessed friend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch). At the end of PART TWO, Deena and Josh were attempting to reunite the witch’s severed hand with the rest of her remains, when a strange phenomenon struck Deena.

As PART THREE begins, we see that the strange phenomenon transports Deena back in time to 1666 into the body Sarah Fier where she will experience all that happened to create the infamous witch’s curse. Lots of familiar faces from PARTS ONE and TWO appear here in PART THREE as their 1666 counterparts, including Solomon Goode (Ashley Zukerman) whose descendant was Sheriff Nick Goode from Part One. In 1666, Sarah once again enters into a relationship with her friend Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch), but in this time and place, a sexual relationship between two women is strictly forbidden, and when they are found out, they are accused of witchcraft.

There is more to the story, but the less said about it the better, other than the plot in PART THREE works a heck of lot better than the plot in PARTS ONE and TWO.

Whereas FEAR STREET: PART ONE – 1994 captured the spirit of Wes Craven’s SCREAM (1996), and FEAR STREET: PART TWO – 1978 paid homage to the FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH movies, FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666 goes for THE WITCH (2015) vibe. And like she did with the first two installments, director Leigh Janiak nails the look and feel of the movie she is paying homage to.

The entire 1666 sequence is relentless. There’s not one ounce of fat on this animal, and the pacing moves with one beat after another. For me, this sequence is by far the most compelling part of the entire series. Now, eventually, to tie up all the loose ends, PART THREE returns to 1994 where it wraps up its story to end the trilogy. This last part, while interesting in that it does bring finality to the trilogy, is nowhere near as compelling as the first two thirds of this movie which take place in 1666. So, in spite of the fact that I like this one, the ending— once the time shifts back to 1994— is the weakest part of the movie.

Another reason I enjoyed PART THREE is I’m not the biggest fan of slasher movies, which Parts One and Two paid homage to. I much preferred the story told here which took place in 1666. The scares work on a much deeper level, and can be summed up by Sarah’s admission to Hannah that she fears Satan less than the people in their village who would hang them for kissing each other. It’s the people who frighten her, not some unseen spirit. And it’s this kind of depth which makes this movie resonate much more effectively than the first two parts.

Kiana Madeira and Olivia Scott Welch return to playing the two leads here in PART THREE, as they had done in PART ONE, and they are even more effective here in PART THREE. Their story has a deeper impact with a society that will execute them for loving each other. Of course, if you think about it, you realize this same fate exists for them in certain places in the here and now, which is another reason their story works so well.

I also really enjoyed Ashley Zukerman as Solomon Goode, as his character is one of the more interesting ones in the movie, and the revelations about his character finally explains the weird behavior of Sheriff Goode in Part One.

Gillian Jacobs makes the most of her brief time as the adult Ziggy Berman in the film’s opening and conclusion, and her take charge character was one of the best parts of the otherwise labored conclusion.

There are some fine scares in PART THREE, like the fate of the children in the church. When the townsfolk are searching for Sarah, these scenes are full of suspense. And the witch hanging sequence is powerful and emotional.

Director Leigh Janiak does a commendable job with all three installments. In fact, her direction was my favorite part of the entire trilogy, as her attention to detail with the camera was a constant throughout the series. All three films looked great, successfully captured the look and spirit of the films they were honoring, and all three were generally entertaining. I enjoyed PART THREE the most, because this was the one film where all the components came together, especially the script by Phil Graziadei, director Janiak, and Kate Trefry.

The plot about the witch in Parts One and Two did not work for me and was the weakest and most unbelievable part of those movies. But the writers turn that plot into a strength in PART THREE, making the witch’s story moving, believable, and extremely compelling. It also changes for the better the feel of the stories in Parts One and Two.

I have to say, I liked that the trilogy unfolded in backwards order, with Part One taking place in 1994, Part Two in 1978, and Part Three in 1666. This creative style of storytelling worked, and it made the events in PART THREE all the more intriguing.

And while I wasn’t nuts about the first two movies in this trilogy, the third part raised the series to a place where it simply wasn’t before. So, taken as a whole, the FEAR STREET trilogy is definitely worth a look.

FEAR STREET: PART THREE – 1666 is both the best movie of the lot and a worthwhile conclusion to the FEAR STREET trilogy.

It earns Black Philips’ hoof—er, stamp— of approval.


FEAR STREET: PART 2 – 1978 (2021) – Not Much Better Than The Films It Pays Homage To


FEAR STREET: PART 2 – 1978 (2021) is, as its title plainly states, the second installment in the FEAR STREET movie trilogy now available on Netflix.

Word of mouth had it that parts two and three were better than part one, but I actually enjoyed the first part well enough which told the story of a group of teens in 1994 fending off a murderous witch who was hell bent on killing them. And that’s because their town, Shadyside, has been cursed since the 1600s by this witch, and the place has been a haven for serial killers throughout the centuries.

I somewhat enjoyed Part One because it paid homage to the 1990s slasher horror movies, in particular Wes Craven’s SCREAM (1996). Part Two takes place in 1978 and pays homage to the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies, a series which decades removed from its heyday still has a huge following. Many well-respected horror folks love these movies. I’ve always hated them. I thought they were stupid back then, and each time I watch one in the here and now my opinion hasn’t changed. So, that might be the reason why I wasn’t so keen on FEAR STREET: PART 2 – 1978.

The film opens right after the events from the end of the first movie, with Deena (Kiana Madiera) and her brother Josh (Benjamin Flores, Jr.) saving their friend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) from the witch. Sort of. Sam isn’t completely saved, as she now seems to be possessed. So, Deena and Josh seek out the one person who survived the witch’s curse, C. Berman (Gillian Jacobs) who was a teenager at a summer camp with her sister in 1978 when a demented killer slaughtered a bunch of campers, the result of the witch’s curse.

Berman doesn’t want to help them at first, but eventually she yields to the teens’ persistence and tells them the story of what happened at Camp Nightwing during that fateful summer of 1978. And this becomes the plot of the movie, as we go back in time to 1978 and follow the two sisters, Ziggy Berman (Sadie Sink) and her older less rebellious sibling Cindy (Emily Rudd) as they deal at first with typical bullying and teen mischief at camp, before having to fight for their lives when the insane killer shows up.

And then the film turns into a FRIDAY THE 13TH clone, complete with over the top gory murder scenes and killers wearing masks and wielding sharp weapons. Sure, the acting is better, as are the production values, but at the end of the day, I didn’t like this one much better than any of the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies. However, if you’re a fan of the series, you most likely will really enjoy this movie.

I did like the cast. Both Sadie Sink and Emily Rudd turn in solid performances as the two Berman sisters. Sadie Sink, who has been so good on the TV series STRANGER THINGS (2017 -2022) as Max Mayfield is just as good here as rebellious teen Ziggy Berman. She’s as tough as nails and gives it right back to the more popular girls who constantly try to bully her.

Emily Rudd is equally as effective as the older and more responsible sister Cindy, who wants to take the high road and do all the right things to assure herself a future where she can eventually get out of Shadyside, and so she takes offense at her younger sister’s actions at camp. If Ziggy gets thrown out, Cindy will as well, and Cindy sees this as a knock against her chances of building a reputation that will enable her to leave her hometown successfully. Of course, Ziggy thinks this is all bullsh*t, and she believes her older sister is being a hypocrite by shunning their roots and pretending she’s someone she’s not.

I also enjoyed Ryan Simpkin’s performance as Emily’s friend Alice, an offbeat character that Simpkin really brings to life. McCabe Slye plays Tommy Slater, Emily’s boyfriend, who’s a decent enough guy until he falls victim to the witch’s curse which turns him into the demented slasher killer. Slye is more interesting as Tommy before he becomes an axe-wielding murderer. Once the transition occurs, he becomes a one-note character.

Ted Sutherland is very good as Nick Goode, a camp counselor who has feelings for Ziggy, and the two begin a relationship with each other. What’s most interesting about Sutherland’s performance as Nick Goode is that Nick is a younger version of a character we saw in Part 1, Sheriff Nick Goode, who was kind of an oddball character. The back story provided here really fleshes out the character and explains a lot of Nick’s weird behavior in Part 1. As such, I really enjoyed Sutherland’s performance.

Leigh Janiak directed all three parts of the FEAR STREET trilogy, and I have no problem with how these films look or how they play out. In fact, here in PART 2, a film I wasn’t overly keen on, Janiak’s direction is probably the best part. She nails the Friday the 13th vibe throughout, and for fans, the elaborate ultra violent murders will not disappoint.

But the script by Zak Olkewicz and director Janiak, based on a story by Phil Graziadei, I was not crazy about. I mean, it pushes all the right buttons and does what it needs to do to pay homage to the 1970s slasher flicks, but for me it simply didn’t add anything new to the mix. It was just another variation of the films it was giving a nod to. And the wrap around story holding the entire trilogy together about the witch and her curse on Shadyside, does little for me, which certainly doesn’t help my enjoyment of this series. I don’t find it all that credible, and it’s certainly not engaging. In fact, it’s my least favorite part of the trilogy so far. Separately, with their own individual stories, FEAR STREET Parts one and two are pretty darn good, but throw in that silly wraparound story of the witch, and everything drops down several notches.

I enjoyed FEAR STREET: PART TWO – 1978 slightly less than PART ONE, mostly because I enjoy 90s slasher flicks more than the FRIDAY THE 13TH series.

It’s not a bad horror movie, but like most movies with “Part Two” in its title, there’s not a whole lot there that makes it proudly stand on its own.


REMINISCENCE (2021) – Science Fiction Love Story Mildly Intriguing


REMINISCENCE (2021), a new science fiction movie by writer/director Lisa Joy, starring Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, has been described by some as INCEPTION (2010) – lite.

Make that very lite.

It doesn’t even come close to the complex mind-bending excitement generated by Christopher Nolan’s ambitious hit. And I’m saying this as someone who’s not even a big fan of INCEPTION.

But it is mildly intriguing. And to be fair, it’s a much different movie than INCEPTION, which was a science fiction action/adventure. REMINISCENCE is a science fiction film noir romance, with the emphasis on the romance.

REMINISCENCE takes place some time in the future when wars and economic disparities have further separated the classes into the haves and have nots. Water levels have risen to the point where only the wealthy can afford to live on the dry lands. Things are so bad that most folks don’t even come out in the daytime anymore as life has shifted towards the nocturnal.

But one way people find joy is by using a new technology which allows them to revisit their memories, sort of a time travel back to their favorite moments in life. But evidently it’s not something people can do alone. Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) and his partner Emily (Thandiwe Newton) have access to this technology, and they run a business where the client pays to re-live their memories. The client is submerged into a tank of water, and as they listen to Nick’s soothing voice they drift into a sort of sleep, and their memories play out as holograms which both Nick and Emily can also see.

Life is good, until one night when a beautiful woman named Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up at Nick’s door— of all the gin joints in the world—, and as Nick watches her memories play out, he finds himself attracted to her. They see each other again, and suddenly they fall in love. But then Mae disappears, just like that, and Nick refuses to believe that she would just leave him without saying anything. He believes something has happened to her. And as he starts searching for answers he learns that Mae isn’t the person he thought she was.

Of course she’s not! I bet she was associating with some rather unsavory people as well. Yup. You bet! Welcome to the movie world of love stories gone wrong, Nick!

Yeah, this is a story I’ve seen a lot lately. Two people fall in love, but then one of them is either killed or disappears, and the person left alone starts looking for answers and learns they didn’t really know the other person as well as they thought they did. We just saw this plot a few weeks back in the action film JOLT (2021) starring Kate Beckinsale.

Director Lisa Joy’s script isn’t really a strength here. The story it tells is interesting enough, but it doesn’t do a good job with the details. For example, the back story of the state of the world is glossed over too quickly. You don’t really get a sense of what happened or why things are so bad now. What kind of a war was it? Why are the water levels so high? Dunno!

Joy’s direction here doesn’t help either. The potential is there to create a memorable futuristic world, but the film barely does this other than shots of cities surrounded by water. Even the photography is bright and cheery, capturing the feel of a love story rather than a film noir.

Speaking of which, Hugh Jackman’s voice over narration is also a detriment. The writing isn’t so hot, and the things Jackman says seem out of place with the feel of the rest of the movie. In fact, the dialogue as a whole is pretty bad.

The love story isn’t so hot either. There’s no real sense of why Nick falls in love with Mae, and the two performers, Jackman and Ferguson, don’t really generate much heat with each other. Their relationship falls rather flat.

There’s also no background on the technology used by Nick. Is he the only one using it? Or are there other memory vendors? The movie has nothing to say on this. And Nick’s business is barely surviving, which makes one wonder why. You would think business would be booming. If people had the chance to relive fond memories you’d think there would be long lines of folks waiting to do this. But then again maybe not.

I like Hugh Jackman well enough, but I can’t say his performance here as Nick Bannister did much for me. He’s motivated at first because his new girlfriend has vanished, but then he pivots when lives are at stake, and so his intentions are admirable, but the character never really came to life for me.

Jackman is reunited with Rebecca Ferguson here, as the two also starred in the enjoyable musical THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017). Ferguson is okay as Mae, but she hardly generates the kind of sexual intensity of the classic femme fatale in these types of movies. Like Jackman, Ferguson is somewhat subdued here. Part of it is the script, which just doesn’t get all that dark and dirty.

I actually enjoyed watching Thandiwe Newton more as Nick’s business partner Emily. She exudes sincerity as Nick’s loyal friend, which is something neither Jackman or Ferguson do in their roles.

The most fun role however belongs to Cliff Curtis as a corrupt cop turned enforcer. He’s sufficiently creepy and nasty, and he gets some of the darker and livelier moments in an otherwise quiet science fiction tale.

Also making an impression in a small role is Angela Sarafyan as a client of Nick’s who uses her sessions to remember a former lover. Sarafyan’s grieving woman seems like a throwaway character until later when it turns out she’s something more.

REMINISCENCE has some twists and turns but none of them mind blowing. The film really plays like a science fiction romance. It’s not really much of a thriller. And with its two leads barely generating any sexual heat or tension, it’s not much of a romance either.

I was mildly entertained, and I was interested enough to want to follow Nick on his quest to find out what really happened to Mae. The answers are okay but again not fantastic. You won’t find yourself watching a spinning coin in the film’s final shot wondering what it all means a la INCEPTION. Nor will you be awed by being transported into a futuristic world a la BLADE RUNNER (1982).

Overall, I found REMINISCENCE to be somewhat diverting. Its story was just creative enough to catch my curiosity, but it didn’t possess enough details to really hammer its points home, nor did it move me in a way where I couldn’t stop watching.

Simply put, I don’t think I will be reminiscing about it any time soon.




It’s just the wind.

How many times have we heard that line before? In this case, it’s true.

Or is it?

I hadn’t heard much about THE WIND (2018), a slow burn horror flick which takes places in the 1800s western frontier, when I stumbled upon it on Netflix, so I had no idea what to expect. Usually when I pick a movie I haven’t heard of, I am disappointed. That wasn’t the case this time around. THE WIND is an exceptional horror movie.

Let me tell you about it.

THE WIND is a thinking person’s horror film, and its persistent low key style is similar to some other recent horror films, flicks like THE BABADOOK (2014), THE WITCH (2015), HEREDITARY (2018), and MIDSOMMAR (2019). Now, THE WIND wasn’t quite as disturbing as these other movies, but that didn’t stop it from getting under my skin, which it did, in the most subtle and effective of ways.

In the late 1800s, married couple Lizzy (Caitlin Gerard) and Isaac Macklin (Ashley Zukerman) live in their modest farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. They have no neighbors until another young couple move into a cabin across the way, Emma (Julia Goldani Telles) and Gideon Harper (Dylan McTee). When Lizzy and Isaac invite them over, they immediately realize there is something off about the couple.

What follows is an intriguing tale which through the use of flashbacks jumps back and forth in time and chronicles the efforts of an unseen demon in the wilderness which primarily seems to affect the women. Lizzy definitely is aware of some force haunting them, but Isaac tells her it is just her imagination. This demon wants to force them off the land and also has a keen interest in their unborn children. This combined with Emma’s eccentric behavior and unusual interest in Isaac creates a wedge between the two women and complicates the couples’ relationships, while seemingly fueling the demon’s actions. And it all leads to violence, bloodshed, and death.

By far, my favorite part of THE WIND was the way it was shot by director Emma Tammi. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and there are some truly hauntingly framed scenes which really resonate. THE WIND may not be scary, but it is so, so haunting, which is exactly the way a slow burn horror movie should be.

The screenplay by Teresa Sutherland is smart and effective. The way it frames its story…is it really a demon? Or is it just inside Emma’s mind?… works well, as it keeps the audience guessing all the way down to the final shot of the movie. The dialogue is lean and efficient. There are lots of spots in the film where no one talks. Where you just hear the wind. The film also uses sound winningly. The wind becomes a character in the movie just by our hearing it.

Caitlin Gerard is excellent in the lead role as Lizzy Macklin. She exudes strength and endurance and is the perfect character to suddenly find herself facing a demon in the wilderness. And later when doubts begin to seep in, when one begins to wonder if it really is just Lizzy’s mind playing tricks on her, Gerard is more than up to the task of capturing the self-doubts the woman endures. It’s a mesmerizing performance by Gerard. She really does bring the audience inside Lizzy’s head, making you feel like you too are alone on the prairie, hearing and seeing strange things in the wind in the middle of the night.

Ashley Zukerman is stoic and strong as Lizzy’s husband Isaac. For the most part, Isaac is there for his wife and supports her, except when he leaves her alone for an extended period of time to conduct some business. While he’s gone, the film really plays up Lizzy’s feelings of isolation.

Julia Goldani Telles is cold and weird as Emma Harper. She is certainly the creepiest human character in the movie. There’s just something about her personality that’s off putting and gets under one’s skin, like the entire movie does.

Dylan McTee plays Emma’s husband Gideon, and he’s also an odd one. And Miles Anderson makes his mark in a small role as a travelling reverend.

All in all, THE WIND is a satisfying low key thriller that takes its time unsettling its audience. It tells a tale of isolation, horror, and maybe even madness, as one woman squares off against haunting forces which seem to everyone but herself to be simply sounds in the wind.


BLOOD RED SKY (2021) – Netflix Action Horror Movie Soars


BLOOD RED SKY (2021), a new Netflix action thriller horror movie which hails from Germany, reminded me a bite…er, a bit of the classic Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino vampire movie FROM DUSK TO DAWN (1996) starring George Clooney, in that the first half is a hard hitting thriller, and then everything changes when the supernatural elements emerge in the film’s second half.

The big difference is that in FROM DUSK TO DAWN the audience found themselves rooting for the violent criminals played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino once they were pitted against a gang of vampires, whereas here in BLOOD RED SKY, the audience roots for the supernatural character.

In BLOOD RED SKY, a mother Nadja (Peri Baumeister) and her young son Elias (Carl Anton Koch) board a transatlantic flight to New York because Nadja is very ill and is seeking out a specialist to help her with a blood disease. But the flight is commandeered by a group of terrorists. To survive and protect her son, Nadja reveals the truth about her condition which is more than just a disease, but rather a supernatural affliction that makes her a force to be reckoned with.

Yup. It’s SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006) meets NOSFERATU (1922).

Actually, that makes the film sound campy, and BLOOD RED SKY isn’t campy at all. It’s deadly serious.

And it works.

I really enjoyed BLOOD RED SKY.

The first half is a riveting action thriller about a plane hijacking as seen through the eyes of a young boy and his mother. Carl Anton Koch is very good as Elias, the bright young boy who is happy to be helping his mother on this trip as they seek out a cure for her condition. His reaction when he believes his mother has been murdered is authentic and moving.

Peri Baumeister in these early scenes makes for a sufficiently sick mother, pale, weak, and struggling to find the strength to even get on the plane. And later when she becomes an undead vigilante, she is horrific and frightening.

Kais Setti plays Farid, a man flying alone who befriends Elias when they strike up a conversation in the airport while Elias is waiting for his mom to return from the restroom. His character is probably the one audiences will identify with most, as he is the everyday person caught up in the middle of the action, the man who is willing to help fight back against the terrorists and also protect Elias as best he can.

Dominic Purcell plays Berg, the menacing leader of the terrorists, but it’s Alexander Scheer who steals the show as the loose cannon terrorist Eightball who likes to shoot first and ask questions later. He’s also the terrorist who is up to the challenge of taking on Nadja in her new condition, and he uses it to his advantage.

Director Peter Thorwarth keeps the first half of the movie intense with scenes of heartless terrorists on the plane, and later turns things up a notch to the point where they become downright insane once the supernatural elements enter the movie. There are a lot of suspenseful scenes throughout as well as plenty of violent bloody ones. And while in general this one isn’t really scary, there are a couple of well-crafted frightening moments, one in particular being in a flashback sequence where Nadja is searching for her missing husband and finds herself exploring an empty farmhouse. There’s a moment in this sequence which shows the origins of her condition that made me recoil. Good stuff!

The screenplay by director Thorwarth and Stefan Holtz is a good one. The dialogue is first-rate throughout. One thing I wasn’t crazy about was the construct of the plot, which begins with the plane landing and then tells the rest of the story via flashback. To me, this ruined any chances for a suspenseful ending, as we know the plane lands from the get-go. A riveting landing scene at the film’s end would have made the conclusion that much more exciting.

But I loved the idea for this story, mixing a hard-hitting terrorist plot with the supernatural, all of it happening on board a plane. I was entertained from start to finish.

I also really enjoyed the vampire make-up, which is reminiscent of Count Orlok in NOSFERATU, and this is most likely on purpose.

The movie is in both English and German, with English subtitles.

If you’re looking for a high concept action horror movie, look no further than BLOOD RED SKY.

It soars.


THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021) – James Gunn’s Sequel Best Superhero Movie of the Year So Far


The burning question behind THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021), the follow-up to SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) is: is it a reboot or is it a sequel?

The promos and folks behind this flick have played coy with this information, my thoughts being that if they committed to calling this one a sequel, it would have had a stigma attached to it before it even played to an audience. It’s also the reason I’m guessing this one wasn’t called SUICIDE SQUAD 2. But I’m here to say without any secrecy that THE SUICIDE SQUAD is definitely a sequel.

And under the guidance of writer/director James Gunn, who was not attached to the first film, THE SUICIDE SQUAD is way way better than the first movie. In fact, THE SUICIDE SQUAD is so good it’s my favorite superhero movie of the year. Which I know isn’t saying a whole heck of a lot because I simply haven’t seen a lot of superhero movies this year, but it’s an exceptional movie, entertaining and fun from start to finish.

The first SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), which hails from the DC Universe, centered around a group of supervillains who were coerced into acting as superheroes, doing the dirtiest of jobs, the type that the authorities wouldn’t even think about approaching the likes of Batman and Superman to carry out. In short, these guys have no respect. They also have no choice, because their “handler”, the icy cold Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) injects implants into these dudes so that if they go off mission, they are killed instantly.

The first film was a mixed bag. Decent characters, pretty lame story, so-so writing, a very good performance by Will Smith, but it was Margot Robbie who stole the movie with her insanely electrifying performance as Harley Quinn.

Robbie returns as Quinn for THE SUICIDE SQUAD, and within the first few minutes of this second movie, the script jumps out at you with superior writing and just like that, you know you’re in for a helluva ride and a far better experience than what you had in the first film.

And that’s because THE SUICIDE SQUAD was written and directed by James Gunn, the man behind Marvel’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies. Those films were highly entertaining, the writing comedic, and the exchanges between the characters laugh inducing. It’s the same here in THE SUICIDE SQUAD, only this flick is rated R, so the violence is bloodier, and the body count— including the “good” guys, is much higher.

The film opens as Amanda Waller sends the suicide squad on another deadly mission, this time infiltrating the island of Corto Maltese. There has just been a deadly coup, and the military generals on the island have executed the ruling family and have taken over. Normally, this wouldn’t interest the United States all that much, but the reason the events on Corto Maltese matter is the previous government had access to a super secret weapon with alien origins, and if it falls into the hands of the new ruling generals, could be used to harm countless innocents. So, the suicide squad’s mission is to infiltrate the island, get past the army, break into the secret lab, and destroy the alien weapon.

Easy-peasy, right? Wrong! They’re not called the suicide squad for nothing!

And they’re not the only suicide squad in town. For this mission, Waller also sends in a second team, led by Bloodsport (Idris Elba). This team also includes Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone).

The less said about the plot of THE SUICIDE SQUAD the better. There are lots of twists and turns, and the less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have with this one. I will say that what I just described takes place in the opening moments of the movie. After that, it’s a roller coaster thrill ride that simply doesn’t stop as these misfit superheroes converge on the island and attempt to thwart both an aggressive military regime and a deadly alien technology.

The script by James Gunn is so good and so well-written, that it is levels above the plot description. It takes a standard story and turns it into something really memorable. The dialogue and banter between the characters is off the charts entertaining.

Gunn’s direction is equally as good. The movie is chock full of cool scenes and moments. THE SUICIDE SQUAD is not afraid to take its time when getting a laugh. There are some moments where the characters are allowed to react to things that will have you laughing out loud. And the action scenes don’t disappoint. Even kaiju fans won’t be disappointed.

Margot Robbie is excellent once again as Harley Quinn. Yet, she doesn’t dominate this movie like she did the first one, and that’s because Gunn has written equally compelling characters. So, Robbie is every bit as effective as she was the first time around, except this time, she’s sharing the screen with characters who are every bit as interesting as she is.

Idris Elba as Bloodsport is probably the central character in this sequel. Elba carries this movie. He makes Bloodsport the noble assassin who says he’s loyal to no one, but inside, he’s a leader who takes care of those who work for him.

His relationship with Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melchior, is one of the best parts of the film. Melchior is excellent as Ratcatcher 2, a young woman who can control rats. She was one of my favorite characters in this movie, and her relationship with Bloodsport is a big reason why. Especially because she reminds Bloodsport of his daughter, and he vows to protect her, and she gives it right back saying she’ll be the one protecting him. Both prove to be true.

Both John Cena as Peacemaker and David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man have their moments and make for a couple of really interesting characters. And in a bit of inspired casting, Sylvester Stallone is hilarious lending his voice to the slow witted and very hungry King Shark.

Joel Kinnaman is also memorable as Colonel Rick Flag, reprising the role he played in the first movie. He’s far better in this movie, as is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. The characterizations are just that clearer, they have more depth, and as a result the audience understands them better.

And like a lot of superhero movies these days, the villains in THE SUICIDE SQUAD are of less consequence, because so much of the focus is on the flawed heroes themselves. That being said, Peter Capaldi enjoys many scene stealing moments as the nefarious Thinker. He’s the closest thing to a main villain the movie has.

There are so many memorable moments in THE SUICIDE SQUAD, especially little ones, which hammer home themes like governments with secrets and the cost of keeping them. Peacemaker’s mantra is he loves peace but he’ll kill anyone to keep it. There’s symbolism with Ratcatcher 2’s rats, described as the lowest and most hated of all creatures, but even rats have value. And not to be a spoiler (so skip the next line if you don’t want to know anything about the film’s conclusion), but the final line of the alien creature was that it was happy floating in space looking at the stars, the implication being that yet again it was humankind who messed things up.

There are notable large moments as well, most of them unexpected, like the result of the romantic evening between the new dictator and Harley Quinn. He proposes to her, wanting to make her his queen, and since as she says he is so freaking hot, she says yes. But then he says the wrong thing, and that doesn’t sit well with Harley. Her brief diatribe after the fact about having bad taste in men, and the suffering men cause when women break up with these jerks, hits a bulls eye.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD is easily the most entertaining movie I’ve seen in 2021. It’s my favorite superhero of the year so far.


GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021) – Stylish, Imaginative Netflix Movie One of the Best Action Flicks of the Year


If you like stylized violence, fight scenes with dazzling choreography, and a plot that features kick-ass women giving it back to an army of bad guys, chances are you will really enjoy GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE (2021), a new action movie starring Karen Gillan and Lena Headey, now available on Netflix.

I know I certainly did.

When she was just eight years-old, Sam (Karen Gillan) was abandoned by her hitman mother Scarlet (Lena Headey), and wanting to be just like her mother, she grows up to be an assassin as well, working for “the Firm,” her contact being the man her mother trusted to watch over her, Nathan (Paul Giamatti). When a man unwisely steals from the Firm, Sam is hired to kill him and retrieve the money. She finds him and puts a bullet in him, but as he is dying, he reveals that the reason he stole the money is his eight year old daughter Emily (Chloe Coleman) is being held for ransom by a group of thugs.

Against her better judgment, Sam brings the man to a doctor to try to save him, while bringing the money to the thugs to rescue his daughter. She rescues Emily, but in the ensuing gun battle, the money is lost in an explosion. When she reveals this to Nathan, he relays to her that he can no longer protect her. He tells her that on her previous assignment she inadvertently killed the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), a powerful mobster, and McAlester now wants her dead. Because the Firm is unhappy with Sam for not returning her money, they will not protect her.

So, Sam finds herself fighting for her own life and protecting Emily’s. She seeks out the help of her mother’s former assassin friends, Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), and Anna May (Angela Bassett), who work in the library as “librarians.” They agree to help Sam, and since Scarlet is being played by Lena Headey, you just know that at some point she is going to return to help her daughter, which she does, setting the stage for an all out shoot-em-up hand-to-hand combat finale that is as explosive as you can get.

There are a lot of reasons I really enjoyed GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE, but chief amongst them is its style. The action scenes here are expertly choreographed by director Navot Papushado, and not only that, but they are insanely creative and humorous. I was laughing out loud for a lot of these intense action sequences.

Take for example, the four thugs who kidnapped Emily. They are all wearing monster masks: Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy. So, it’s a hoot seeing these guys make a mad dash to escape in their getaway car wearing these masks, just as it is in the ensuing shoot out with Sam. Watching Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, the Wolf Man, and the Mummy toting guns and acting like goons in a Quentin Tarantino movie had me laughing out loud. And when Dracula and Sam fight to the death, she grabs a shank and drives it through his chest, and before you can say “Christopher Lee,” blood gushes from his chest and mouth. It’s that type of movie.

Or consider this scene where three hitmen get a second chance to kill Sam when after she beats the living crap out of them, they go to the same doctor who treats her, and he tells them she’s on her way back there. But before this, they had been generously partaking in the doctor’s laughing gas, so now you have three assassins who are preparing to seek vengeance and finish the job, while laughing uncontrollably. The doctor jabs Sam with a drug that makes her arms go limp. So what she does is have Emily tape a knife to one hand and a gun to the other, and she goes out into the hall to battle the three laughing assassins sitting in a swivel chair which she uses to spin around wildly so that her arms can fly horizontally, enabling her to use the knife and the gun. It’s a crazy scene, and it all works so well.

Or the car chase afterwards where Sam still can’t use her arms so Emily has to drive.

The action scenes do not disappoint. The film is R rated, and so there is copious bloodshed and violence, all of it stylized and choreographed. None of it all that believable, but in this case that’s not a detriment.

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE compares favorably to a movie I reviewed last week, JOLT (2021) which starred Kate Beckinsale. They both share similar themes and styles. GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE has the better action scenes and the better script, and simply enjoys a higher level of creativity and oomph that JOLT had.

Karen Gillan is excellent as Sam and easily carries this movie in the lead role. While ultimately the fun over-the-top action sequences aren’t believable, Gillan certainly is as Sam. I easily believed she was a kick-ass assassin. Maybe it’s because she’s had some practice, as she plays Nebula in the Marvel GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and AVENGERS movies.

Lena Headey is also very good as Sam’s mom Scarlet, but she makes less of an impact since she’s not in the movie as much. Headey of course these days is most known for playing Cersei Lannister on GAME OF THRONES (2011-2019).

I also really enjoyed Chloe Coleman as Emily, as she and Gillan share a nice camaraderie together.

It was also fun watching Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, and Angela Bassett as the three “librarians.” All I can say is, I want to visit their library!

Ralph Ineson makes for a dastardly heavy as Jim McAlester. He’s not on screen all that much, but when he is, he says and does all the things that a villain should say and do. Michael Smiley also makes his mark as Dr. Ricky, the weasel of a medical man who turns on Sam and tries to get her killed.

Speaking of that sequence, Ivan Kaye as the leader of the three “laughing” assassins enjoys some precious moments in the insanely wild battle to the death with Sam.

And Paul Giamatti does what he always does as Nathan, which is, turn in a solid performance. Nathan is an interesting character. Sworn to protect Sam, he kinda drops the ball because he doesn’t really have the balls to stand up to the firm, yet behind the scenes he still attempts to help Sam, and as a result, there’s still an odd bit of affection between Sam and Nathan.

The screenplay by director Navot Papushado and Ehud Lavski is a good one. The dialogue is sharp throughout, and the story is imaginative and playful.

I’m sure there are those who will take offense at a plot where the good guys are all women, and the villains are all men, but they should get over it. GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE works well for exactly that reason! And as someone who has been watching movies for decades, I applaud more movies that feature more women characters, especially lead characters. It’s about friggin time!

GUNPOWDER MILKSHAKE is one of the best action movies of the year. The action sequences in this movie are among the most stylized and imaginative I’ve seen in a while, and they belong in the same conversation with sequences from films like ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) and EXTRACTION (2020).

So head on out to your local diner, grab a booth, order a milkshake for two, and enjoy! Just leave your guns at the door. They’re not allowed. Unless of course you order a gunpowder milkshake.