Max Von Sydow Opens The Seventh Seal By Order of Judge Dredd – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 99

On March 8th 2020, the world lost the iconic actor Max Von Sydow. With an acting career that spans over 70 years, Double Edged Double Bill has no choice but to stan via devoting a whole episode to him. First up is Thomas’ good pick The Seventh Seal, a true classic of cinema that’s as intimidating as the spectre of Death itself. Then, there’s Adam’s bad pick of Judge Dredd which over shadows Sydow in favor of Sylvester Stallone one liners. Together, our duo answers the vital questions. Would Criterion Channel ever sponsor us? How much scenery can Armand Assante eat? Which two films will be given redemption for next week’s milestone episode? Well take a break from your chess game with The Grim Reaper and listen in to find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod or Facebook. Send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com, including your suggestions for future episode topics! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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Kurt Russell Opens a Stargate to Bone Tomahawk – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 98

Kurt Russell is celebrating his day of birth today and so is Double Edged Double Bill! Adam Thomas and Thomas Mariani are here to Russell up some thoughts on two films from this iconic actor’s career. First up is the bad pick Stargate, which has a few good ideas except for giving Kurt little to chew on. Then there’s the good pick Bone Tomahawk, where Kurt gets a lot to chew on in gory detail! Together, our duo answers all the vital questions. What happened to Matthew Fox? Is Stargate pro-interdimensional colonialism? Which two films will they choose for next week’s episode on the late great Max Von Sydow? Well, wash your hands and mutton chops as you listen to find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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A24 Tells Us a Swiss Army Ghost Story – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 97

Nothing says prestige like farting corpses and spooky ghost sheets! In honor of their upcoming film First Cow, Thomas Mariani and returning guest host Ryan Corderman talk about A24 productions this week on Double Edged Double Bill! The “bad” pick is Swiss Army Man, a tale of one young man’s journey to acceptance via his flatulent corpse buddy. Then the good pick A Ghost Story, which confronts existential dread via the easiest Halloween costume of your childhood. Together, our duo answers the important questions. Are there actually any bad A24 movies? Can a corpse be adorable? What two films will they choose for next week’s episode on Kurt Russell? Well pop some popcorn and put in your pencil eraser headphones to listen in and find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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Onward (2020): Quest for an Upper Torso

The conceit of “what if it’s our modern world but _______ genre thing is there too” premise is rough to pull off. It has to be recognizable as similar to the world we live in, but with enough fantastical differences to make this version feels distinctive. All while building an actual story and not just relying on pun-after-pun that seems like shallow world building. Sometimes you get a highly developed world like Harry Potter. Other times you get a disastrously lazy effort like Bright. Regardless of the potential pitfalls, Pixar has decided to put their hat in that ring with Onward. Given the Disney subsidiary has had their hands in both fantasy ladened conceits and suburban subversion throughout their history, they seem more qualified than other animation studios to accomplish a daunting task like this.

As per usual Pixar, this fantasy world of elves, centaurs and manticours living in modern magicless suburbia centers around a buddy team. Specifically elf brothers neurotic younger brother Ian (Tom Holland) and overzealous yet directionless Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt). Their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gifts them a wizard staff from the boys’ father before his passing shortly before Ian’s birth. They find out there’s a prepackaged spell built in to bring the boys’ father back to life for a 24 hours. Only trouble is, the spell’s initial attempt only brings back the bottom half of their father. Now, the boys must race to find a magic gem that can complete the spell before it’s too late.

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The greatest asset Onward has is its total lack of scale in its stakes. Despite the temptation one may have to make a grand fantasy epic, director/co-writer Dan Scanlon gives the scope of this story a refreshing smallness. Our brothers have grown up in a very suburban small town that’s almost midwestern. Strip malls and interstate highways cover the boundless mountain ranges hobbits would trek in a more traditional fantasy film, but it only sells that convenience has obfuscated the magic that made these creatures so special. The only hindrance to this is the limited character designs. Pixar’s grasp on traditional human characters has been hit or miss in their last few films and simply adding elf ears or blue skin doesn’t quite make our central elf characters stand out that well. Weirdly, the most engaging design is technically half of one. The simple elegance of the legs of Ian & Bradley’s father have quite a charm to it, particularly when a comical facade of his upper body is placed on his waist.

This general contrast allows for the basic comedic juxtaposition of fantasy creatures going to a high school or working at a TGI Fridays-eque kitschy restaurant, which gets a solid amount of mileage. Yet, it also sets the table for our characters’ lack of confidence and direction in their lives that’s filled by this quest. Ian’s social awkwardness isn’t groundbreaking, yet the facial animation and Holland’s reliable squeaky awkwardness breathes such life into him. There’s a true sense of longing and earnest desire to find what he feels is missing. This contrasts perfectly with Barley’s boundless resolve with lacking ambition that Pratt’s boisterous voice and the laid back charm of his character animation. Pixar’s key to overcoming whatever shortcomings in the design of the protagonists has always been their animation that gives them life and momentum, which comes in spades in moments like Barley positioning Ian perfectly to perform a spell or Ian frantically trying to keep his dad’s legs from falling into danger.

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Though the main quest is much more paternal, the sibling back & forth is at the heart of Onward. Ian and Barley do truly feel like brothers, opposites on every level and full of mixed emotions for each other. Desiring to push – either away or apart – while still ultimately caring for each other. They help to complete the other’s potential. While Ian learns to harness his latent magic powers, Barley’s course charting for their quest based on his historically accurate Dungeons & Dragons-eque role playing game gives him an outlet for his passion. There is no antagonists in Onward for these two to face. They search for a macguffin and obstacles come along the way, but all the conflict comes from within the two of them. All of this builds beautifully in a climax that shows how much these two truly love each other and know just what the other needs. This laser focus on the sibling relationship does give less room for supporting characters to flourish, particularly mother Laurel despite technically having a subplot. Yet, vocal performances and hilarious character animation make folks like unleashed manticore Corey (Octavia Spencer) and square yet well meaning centaur cop Colt (Mel Rodriguez) stand out. If anyone was hoping more from the cyclops Office Spector (Lena Waithe) to witness the heavily advertised first openly gay character in a Disney film though… adjust your expectations. 

Given Pixar is cutting back on sequels to their more prominent franchises, Onward feels like a step in the right direction in terms of original films with a new perspective. It’s the first film since original Pixar head honcho John Lassetter was rightly ousted from the company due to his lascivious actions and it feels like a clean attempt to carry on the legacy of this production company in a new direction. While it never gives us a massive look into the suburban fantasy world it creates, it also never feels like a cheap exercise in copy/replace for our own world with an eye roll worthy pun about magic. Instead, it’s a familiar world with magic slowly creeping underneath the surface waiting to unleash itself. The conduit is our sibling relationship and a desire to use such magic to give them one last chance at gaining back something they lost. While Onward never quite reaches the upper echelon of Pixar magic, it casts enough of a spell to produce consistent chuckles and earned tears.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 Wizard Staffs

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Cannon Films Gives Invasion U.S.A. A Death Wish 3 – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 96

Double Edged Double Bill is ready to fire a rocket launcher from the hip! Adam and Thomas are taking a look at two films from the infamous schlock machine production company Cannon Films! Cannon Films made all of your favorite films so-bad-they’re-good films of the 1980s and our duo has two fantastic examples this week. First up is Invasion U.S.A., in which Chuck Norris and his two uzis stop communists by any means necessary. Then we have Death Wish 3, in which Charles Bronson massacres street thugs with all the strength a nonplussed 64 year old man can muster. Together, our duo answers all the crucial questions. Does facial hair shield you from explosion blow back? How many dummies can fall from high buildings? Which two films will be discussed on next week’s A24 episode? Well download this episode via bazooka shot to the ear to find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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The Invisible Man (2020): Should Be Seen Clear as Day

In 1931, Universal Studios head of production Carl Laemmle Jr wanted to make monster movies. His father had run the studio a decade prior, making Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame iconic horror films of the silent era. Jr loved the design, aesthetics and tragedy of both characters that made them as human as they were horrific. He took those key traits and adapted them to classic horror literature like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man. The success of these monster movies later gave way to the Universal Monster series, which culminated in multiple crossover films. Whenever the studio has attempted to give new life to these monsters, they’ve either been too religiously tied to what came before (The Wolfman remaking with Benicio del Toro) or far too concerned with fitting them into an existing brand (Dark Universe version of The Mummy)That is, until prolific horror producer Jason Blum and rising director/writer Leigh Whannell decided to give a horror icon a fitting update.

Enter the latest version of The Invisible Man, wherein focus is shifted from the titular disappearing scientist Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) isn’t our tragic villain protagonist as much as a looming spectre. Our lead instead is his former girlfriend Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who has spent several years under his controlling abusive thumb, having all free will to speak, move or think controlled by Adrian. Even after escaping Adrian’s clutches at the film’s opening, Cecilia is still too shell shocked and nervous to go outside despite the support of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer), her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). News comes of Adrian’s apparent suicide and money she has inherited from him. Yet, Cecilia still feels the presence of Adrian lurking around her. We definitely know that is the case… though such a threat may be hard to see with the naked eye.

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There are some who may accuse this modern take of being a betrayal of this Universal Monster. Turning Griffin from a mad scientist with good intentions into a vile abuser may seem like too much of a leap for diehard fans. It’s pretty clear from the outset that Leigh Whannell isn’t really trying to take Griffin in the same direction that James Whale did nearly 90 years ago and it’s refreshing to see. As much as I love the mad ravings of a Claude Rains, that type was clearly limited to one movie from a specific time and would need to be scaled back for any modern interpretation. The Invisible Man no longer needs to be the campy exercise it once was and adapting the premise to our modern times means shifting focus and intent, which the new film does in a completely respectable fashion. This is mainly accomplished by giving us a new point of view to see the story through.

Cecilia is given such empathy from both Elisabeth Moss and Whannell, giving this tragic perspective the weight and lack of exploitation it deserves. Moss’ authentic performance of a woman trapped by an abuser even long after she’s escaped his clutches feels honest and truly haunted. Every facial tick from trying just too hard to smile to snapping at those who try to protect her out of a concern her abuser may harm them shows a nuance to such a plight that’s rarely displayed in modern mainstream cinema. Progressively trying to improve herself, but being susceptible to human triggers that slide back her ability to trust both the people around her and herself. She has little trust for the outside world yet so desperately wants to exist in it. I did wish that the screenplay did a better job of giving more depth to some of the supporting characters around Cecilia. While Aldis Hodge and Storm Reid are capable actors, their relationship to Moss in the story functions as little more than supportive roommates despite being treated as far more crucial as the plot moves forward.

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Given we’re dealing with The Invisible Man, one of the five senses is left behind for both Cecilia and the audience. Whannell keeps us firmly tied to her perspective by amplifying the sound and limiting our visual purview. The film’s sound design immerses us in Cecilia’s mental state, as something as simple as a walk to the mailbox is amplified to being a life-or-death situation by how loud every step sounds. This only increases as the danger becomes more imminent, with every creak in the floorboards echoing like a lion roar as our villain moves forward. Even from a visual level, we’re always aware of Cecilia’s surroundings. The few settings in the film we get are small yet the full layout is given massive detail. There isn’t a nook or cranny of Adrian’s sleek cold beach villa or James’ warm suburban fixer upper home that we aren’t aware of. Thus as Cecilia walks around we the audience catch glimpses in the corners of our eyes of what may be happening, Whannell leaves enough things obfuscated to let us fret over if our transparent monster is in the corner or not. Then, the film rewards our fretting with some of the most insane visual trickery of seeing our titular monster wreck havoc and it’s unsettling while being muted.

That muted terror is exactly what these Universal Monsters need and The Invisible Man mostly delivers on that potential that makes this monster relevant again. There’s a few characters feeling a bit limp on the page and a very satisfying conclusion via a clunky third act twist that morphs into a weird epilogue/fourth act structurally, but the necessary elements of this story are executed so well. For the first time in ages, the fear of looking behind us and seeing nothing despite our other senses screaming otherwise is back. All thanks to updating that perspective to nest the terror in something real. The fear of being merely excused as a delusional victim when you’re trying to gain control of your life. Of being dismissed or falsely accused making things up only for a monstrous man to ruin your chances at a normal life. Thanks to a masterful lead performance and careful direction in a Blumhouse level smaller sandbox, we finally have a new direction for these iconic monsters in crowded cinematic playing field. Maybe now we can do the Dracula indie drama I’ve always wanted?

Rating: 4 out of 5 Floating Kitchen Knives

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Bride of Frankenstein Meets The Mummy in a World of Gods and Universal Monsters – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 95

With a new version of The Invisible Man nearly here, Double Edged Double Bill is taking a look back at the Universal Monsters! In true spooky fashion, Adam has mysteriously vanished, leaving the mysterious Ryan Corderman to sub in as the Ygor to Thomas’ Dr. Frankenstein! First up is Thomas’ good pick Bride of Frankenstein, the classic sequel that outdoes its original. Then Adam’s lingering bad pick of The Mummy, the 2017 reboot that start-and-stops a new take on these monsters. Together, our duo answers all the important questions. Where could the Dark Universe have gone? How influential has Bride of Frankenstein been these past 85 years? What two films will be chosen for our next episode on films from the Cannon Film Group? Well, strap yourself on the slab and get a lightning bolt straight to your ears to find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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John Travolta Can’t Teach Old Dogs To Get Shorty – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 94

Double Edged Double Bill is getting so weird as Thomas has chosen a topic that makes Adam’s blood boil. In honor of his birthday, John Travolta – Adam’s least favorite actor – is the subject dujour for the week. First up is the good pick Get Shorty, which even Adam can admit shows off the potential charm of Travolta & his co-stars. Then Thomas’ bad pick Old Dogs brings nothing but maddening confusion to the table for both our hosts. Together, our duo finds the answer to vital questions. What makes the rare great John Travolta performance work? Why did Disney pay to produce the most mean spirited children’s film of all time? Which two films will be chosen for next week’s episode on the Universal Monsters? Well listen to this episode as you fly via John Travolta’s private jet to find out!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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The Glitter Apartment Romantic Comedy – Double Edged Double Bill Episode 93

Love is in the air and Double Edged Double Bill is in a romantic mood! Given Valentine’s Day is near, Adam & Thomas are doing a romantic comedy episode! First is the good pick The Apartment, the multi-Oscar winning story of love, loss and Jack Lemmon faces. Then the bad pick is Glitter, a cursed film that’s trying to be a romance but not necessarily a comedy. Together, Adam & Thomas answer the important questions. Which classic film is Glitter a secret remake of? Is Jack Lemmon the best actor to portray stuffiness? Are we really doing an episode about Adam’s nemesis John Travolta next week? Well find that key under the mat and unlock the download for this week’s episode now!

To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter @DEDBpod, on Facebook or send feedback to doubleedgeddoublebill@gmail.com! If you like the show, please subscribe or rate us on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Stitcher or The ESO Network!

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020): Villains of a Feather [No Spoilers]

It’s that time again! Time to play “DC Comics Movie Adaptation Roulette!” As with every recent adaptation as of late from the Warner Bros franchise, things can go any which way! Will it be an ensemble action picture? Maybe a semi-spin off that takes something from the failed DC Extended Universe & reinvents it for the better? Or perhaps a grimey character study that examines the emotions of a silly clown villain? Weirdly, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) doesn’t play by the rules of roulette and instead chooses to do all three at once like the true rebel it is. The crown jewel of this mismash is Harley Quinn, a role Margot Robbie reprises after first appearing in the previous DCEU film Suicide Squad. In the middle of that disaster, Robbie’s manic energy and off kilter charm did much of the heavy lifting.

So naturally, Warner Bros saw fit to give her a spin off which eventually mutated into Birds of Prey. Here, Harley tries to make a new life for herself after being kicked out of the home of her boyfriend Joker. While trying the keep herself afloat word gets out about her break up from the Clown Prince of Crime, thus drawing a whole mess of Gotham’s criminal underbelly after Harley now that Joker isn’t protecting her. One such criminal is Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), a major mob boss of the city’s East side who nearly kills Harley before she volunteers to go on a mission for him that involves pulling a rare diamond off quick witted young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). This causes a lot of folks to come into Harley’s cross hairs, including undervalued cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), elusive singer/ball buster Dinah Lace (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) & a mysterious cold blooded killer with a crossbow Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

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From that synopsis, one may be inclined to ask a few questions. Is Jared Leto’s Joker around at all in his tattooed glory? Why isn’t Ben Affleck’s Batman patrolling the city? Where are Harley Quinn’s booty shorts? Well, the simple answer that Birds of Prey writer Christina Hodson offers in a giant pelvic thrust of a toss away to much of any connection to the previous DC Extended Universe films. And thank God she does. Aside from extremely fleeting lines or flashback inserts, none of that stupidity matters. We’re here to see a Looney Toon of a woman pick herself up and start blowing up things all over again. This story isn’t just a fresh start for Robbie’s Harley. It’s a brand restructuring of the shambles that DC had been left in. Right from her early decision to blow up Ace Chemicals in a glittery blaze of glory, Quinn takes the universe left behind and makes a home out of the rubble.

This reenergizing has a slapdash energy that reverberates throughout Birds of Prey feels fitting for Harley Quinn. Harley made her first appearance in Batman The Animated Series nearly 30 years ago, a creation of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm that came completely by accident. Initially created as a mere henchwoman for the Joker with a unique outfit, Quinn evolved into a dimensional tragic figure. An incredibly bright psychiatrist trapped under the influence of a toxic criminal boyfriend. Yet, aside from a few fun diversion episodes that examined her potential, Harley was always kept under the status quo beneath Joker’s thumb at the end of the day. Not able to develop from a seeming fear of having two clown themed villains in the Batman rogues gallery. Luckily, Margot Robbie is allowed to severe those forehead tattooed ties right from the start and makes this scrappy situation for Harley as a stream of consciousness madcap adventure that’s so incredibly refreshing.

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An early chase sequence in Birds of Prey involves Quinn running for dear life from several different parties out to seek vengeance while she’s preoccupied with preserving an egg sandwich she’s craving. It’s perfect table setting for where our dysfunctional anti-hero is in here life. Harley is a total mess of a person without much long term planning who still keeps her head cool and confident even in the face of dire threats. Thinking on her feet with only one shoe on either foot. Robbie marries the desperation of a young lady fighting to stay alive in the big city with the stretchy resilience of a Warner Bros cartoon seamlessly. Allowing Harley to live in the moment even if it means a few others will get maimed during said moment. This gives Harley far more humanity than her initial origin, while keeping the core of the character’s personality alive and losing much the overly sexualized object schtick from her last live action appearance. One fight sequence involving a broken sprinkler during a prison break could easily have been fetishistic in its approach, but instead comes off as a serendipitous helpful hand in her escape. All of this allows us to respect Harley’s drive and enjoy her rubber band style spring in her step even while she commits heinous crimes left and right.

While Hodson’s script bursts with character fueled energy for Harley, the ground does initially come off shaky. Like a deer rising to its feet after being hit by a car, Birds of Prey starts on wobbly feet to sweep the DC Extended Universe elements under the rug. There’s an animated segment prologue, some hasty narration and several sloppy expositional elements to get us in step with the film’s wave length. Even a narrative device to juggle the various characters via inconsistent linear/non-linear presentation is attempted, mainly framed as Harley’s inability to properly tell the story in a cohesive fashion. While all of this feels kind of wonky, director Cathy Yan puts genuine effort into the proceedings is lively and boisterous enough to stitch together the fabric of the structure. Yan embraces the patchwork design and translates it into a stream of consciousness kinetic drive that feels like a John Wick action beat covered in animation logic sprinkles. She keeps as much of the grey tone of the previous DC Comics films as she contractually has to and counteracts it with a neon display of urban grime and loud color as she can. Resulting in a trashy yet exuberant look at Gotham’s lower tier underground.

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The lack of too many superpowered beings fleshes out the titular fowl of Birds of Prey and the villains around Harley wonderfully. Ewan McGregor’s mob boss anger is genuinely intimidating, but with a consistent giddy excitement that makes him as gleeful as he is unpredictable. Chris Messina evokes a creepy intensity that keeps a steady hand to McGregor’s malice as his henchman Victor Zsasz. Ella Jay Basco’s chill dry wit contrasts with Harley’s boisterousness in a consistently endearing back & forth. Rosie Perez’s usual spry tough demeanor is still intact all these years later while having the mileage to show even less suffrage of fools. Jurnee Smollett-Bell piercing eyes and calculated punches makes her the most efficient moral compass of the group. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s tough exterior hides comedic bursts of insecurity that steals many a scene. Those latter three in particular have such an engaging chemistry that it’s a bit disappointing that they don’t come together as a mismatched ensemble with Harley until the third act. Still, Quinn’s chemistry with any of them individually is consistently thrilling.

While not a loud as Aquaman or as heartwarming as Shazam, Birds of Prey keeps their desire to forge a new path for their individual characters even with DCEU window dressing. Harley and her compatriots strike the right middle ground between confident and unprepared in a far cry from the godly Justice League of the comics and with far more personality than the Justice League of the titular film. There’s some struggle to get things started storywise yet the energy kicks off from the start and never manages to falter once thanks to a game cast and kinetic direction. Hopefully we continue to emphasize on this type of storytelling with characters from these comics. While Marvel keeps a pretty strict continuity, DC can improvise its connectivity while respecting a story that’s appropriate for the characters. The contrast between the irreverent R rated tone of this and the self serious malaze of last year’s Joker only shows just how diverse these folks can really be if given the appropriate chance. Still, I’d like to see these ladies have gory fun over a toothpick in clown makeup dance any day.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Dynamite Sticks Thrown Out Car Windows

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