Four Letter Nerd

Category - Movies

4LN Movie Review – Suicide Squad

It seems the ever-growing divide between audiences and film critics is hitting it’s apex in 2016. I mean, never before have so many films been stamped worthy or unworthy before they even released, but this year it seems like almost every movie was prejudged before audiences could even vote with their dollars. No one has felt the pain of this divide more than DC/Warner Bros, as evident by the controversy that Suicide Squad has become. Earlier this week the review embargo dropped and the internet was flooded with negative opinions of the film. I literally only read one positive review before I saw the film myself. So, was it really *that* bad? Is it the worst movie of the year? Is it more of a cinematic abomination than last years Fantastic Four, as Vanity Fair suggested? The answer, confidently, is NO, it’s no where near that bad. Nothing is. (And the Vanity Fair reviewer must’ve had a serious bout of constipation when he saw the film because his article is unnecessarily cruel and could only have been written by someone so painfully full of shit.)

Suicide Squad broke the August record for a Thursday night opening of a film, by a lot. Based on the reviews, a lot of people are surprised by this. I am not. DC and WB stacked it with an eclectic cast, and spent a lot of time hyping it to the Hot Topic demographic and it paid off. Their character designs are perfect for marketing, as you can see with the deluge of t-shirts and other swag for sale everywhere. Even the soundtrack takes a rifle shot right at the mainstream. I mean, with the likes of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne you lock down the hip-hop crowd, and then add Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At the Disco, both whom are selling out concerts this summer, and I think you can start to see my point. They knew just what they were doing when they planned out the marketing strategy. They did however, forget to structure a cohesive film for which all of this marketing would hinge on…

“But Stephen, I thought you said it wasn’t that bad?” You’re right, I did say that, and it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little-to-medium bad. The first hour is especially confusing and hard to follow. The film opens with backstories on Deadshot and Harley that are nice but feel like they’re a little hurried so as to get them over with. Once the team is put together they’re sent off on a mission that just so conveniently turns out to have been caused by someone who was supposed to be one of them. The majority of the film is just the team on this one mission. I was a little surprised that it went that direction, but it makes sense when you consider David Ayer’s film style. See, what he does best are linear action movies with intimate drama and lots of gunfire. He typically has a couple main characters and then maybe three crucial supporting characters. Here, there’s like five main characters and 87 supporting ones. All the “David Ayer” elements are here, but they’re in a movie with a much bigger scope than he’s shot within in the past and it feels like the whole thing gets away from him a little bit. For that reason, I don’t think you could really call this a “David Ayer’s film”, but that’s sort of what you sacrifice when you take on a franchise I guess. Hey, in his defense, he’s at least not as empty as Zack Snyder. That dude cannot make a movie with substance, or emotions that feel natural. Ayer can do that. He has a good cast and he gets good performances out of them, with some decent emotion, even though it’s stretched thin across so many characters.

Despite the confusing plot lines and mostly mediocre story, the cast is actually phenomenal. I think the sense of camaraderie that Ayer strongly attempts to instill in his actors shows through. Everyone seems to have a genuine connection and performs very well. Rather than trying to talk about everyone, though, I’ll just focus on some of the standouts.

Viola Davis is fantastic as Amanda Waller, the woman responsible for creating the team in the first place. She completely embodies the nature of the character and might possibly give the best, most natural performance in the whole film. I’m a fan of Joel Kinnaman and I felt like he did a great job as Rick Flagg, who is in charge of keeping the team together. Flagg is a military man and Kinnaman gives a solid performance. One of the standouts I felt was Jai Courtney as Digger Harkness / Captain Boomerang. He brings an off-beat sense of humor to the film that’s not the same as the other funny moments. It’s different than when Harley says something bizarrely crazy or when Deadshot makes a funny quip. Without him, the film could’ve been a lot more boring. Bringing to the table what is definitely the darkest personal drama of the team is Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana / El Diablo, the man who makes and controls fire. Hernandez portrays Diablo’s inner conflict well. He wants to stay out of the fight for personal reasons, but he clearly knows how easily his ability could decimate the enemy they face.

I thoroughly enjoyed Jared Leto’s Joker and actually wished their has been more of him. He wasn’t quite as much like the “Death of the Family” Joker that I was hoping for, but I see that potential in him. Margot Robbie is a good Harley Quinn, but after Amanda Conner’s and Jimmy Palmiotti’s incredible run on the character in her self-titled comic series, it’s hard to see her as emotionally out-of-control as she comes across in the film. I mean, yes, she’s crazy. Yes, she’s clever. But she’s also deceptively intelligent, and… I… I just struggled with this version of Harley a little. I didn’t hate it, I just feel like Conner and Palmiotti have written Harley in a manner that depicts her in control of herself and her own sexuality and I’m not entirely sure I can say that this Harley is. However, this is an earlier moment in the timeline of that character whereas that comic series takes place much later in her life so I hope that as we see more of her in films she starts to evolve into that strong, more mentally and emotionally in control woman she’s become in the comics.

In a perfect world, this movie would’ve cut the cast by about 5 people, one of those being The Enchantress who’s involvement just takes away from the greatness it could’ve been, and been shortened to about an hour and a half. To it’s credit, it’s nowhere near as boring as Batman V Superman. It may be messy and confusing, but at least it has enough going on to keep you interested. I would say the difference is… BvS was disappointing, but Suicide Squad just never fully achieves its potential. There are some really great moments too. Leto’s Joker is petty creepy, and many of the action sequences are really exciting. It’s worth watching for sure. I even hope that they can make a sequel because there’s so many more great characters that you can use in the Suicide Squad (*cough* Deathstroke and King Shark *cough*). I just think that the next one needs to be a little more focused and less shotgun-like. Much like the team itself, this film tries to hit multiple targets at once but just falls a tad short.

4LN Movie Review – Ghostbusters (2016)

Look, I could attempt to be all professional and s**t and write this review with class and proper articulation, but, at the time I’m writing this, the truth is… I’ve had a few (several) beers and I’m listening to the new album from Death Metal veterans Blood Red Throne, “Union of Flesh and Machine”, and I just don’t have the energy to feign appropriate journalism conduct. (Real talk, It’s entirely possible that I’m probably also doing the exact same thing as you read this.) So let’s just get into it, shall we? (I used the word “shall” and that’s kind of classy so suck it.)

Ghost-f**king-Busters. You guys, this movie is so great. I know that when it was announced (and while they were filming, and during the post-production press tour, and the current release weekend) all the neckbeards and Ghostbuster purists and neckbearded Ghostbuster purists were pissing and moaning about their childhoods being betrayed because women (gasp!) were taking over the franchise, but f**k those whiny b***hes. I could be more poetic about it I guess, but why bother. It’s not like they’d be able to read any of the big words I would use to ridicule them anyway.

Ok, so… where were we? Oh yeah, Ghostbusters. This film is not a continuation of the original series, rather it’s a reboot, if you will. I was sort of hoping that it would just pick up 30 years or so after number 2 but that isn’t the case. It makes sense though because a big part of the plot is that no one really takes them seriously (not because they’re women, but) because nobody believes in ghosts. I mean, if they made this flick in a cinematic universe where people had already experienced and accepted that as a norm, it wouldn’t make any sense for this plot. “But… but… they could’ve tried harder and wrote the story more unique!” Well, they didn’t and it’s still good so… deal with it?

This film starts the concept of busting ghosts right at the very beginning, and even opens with a pretty intense, and very funny, scene of a haunting in a historical mansion. I mean, ghosts and mansions pretty much go hand-in-hand, but what’s most clever about this one is that the core plot of the film actually kicks off right here and it’s easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

The cast is fantastic. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig have brilliant chemistry. They play former colleagues/BFF’s who drifted their separate ways after Wiig’s Dr. Erin Gilbert prioritizes her academic career over their shared interest in the science of apparitions, and McCarthy’s Dr. Abby Yates chooses to continue with the research. Leslie Jones is just as outrageous as she is on SNL playing Patty Tolan, a NY MTA empolyee, who has a first hand encounter with a ghost and ends up joining the team due to her deep knowledge of the city. Truth be told, Kate McKinnon is the real stand-out of the four. There’s just something about her character, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, that gets you every time. She damn near steals the show with her eccentricities and outright kookiness. Except… and I know that it’s ironic considering all the sexist-bashing I did previously, but… when Chris Hemsworth is on screen. I knew the guy could be funny, I just had no idea that he could be SO godd**n funny. He’s practically the only cast member who isn’t a comedian of some kind and he is without question the funniest part of the whole movie. His character is essentially a bimbo secretary, named Kevin, and I don’t believe that there’s another actor alive who could’ve played it as perfectly. (Maybe Ryan Reynolds…?)

The CGI and SpecialFX are solid. There were some complaints about that early on as well I think, but, you know, still f**k those whiny b***hes. Ok, so it’s not the Jim Henson style puppet ghosts and ghouls anymore. You wanna know why we don’t have to do that in movies anymore? Because we have computers now that do it for us. “But… but… those look fake.” You look fake. Shut up and eat your Doritos, crybaby.

Director Paul Feig is the man behind The Heat, Spy, and Bridesmaids (which garnered an Oscar nomination), so he has a great handle on comedy/action and proves himself here with a perfect blending of both.

The film overall is shot very well, and each ghost-y scene throughout looks great, but the finale of the film, the ultimate climax, looks absolutely fantastic. The SFX are clean and clear. Nothing blurs together or gets too fuzzy to make out what’s going on. There’s a lot of great definition to the battles the ladies have against the ghosts, and considering how easy it could be for something like that to get away from you, the production team did a wonderful job of keeping all the chaos in order.

All the original Ghostbusters cast, with the sad exception of Rick Moranis, make cameos. Yes, even Harold Ramis. It’s abstract but it’s there, trust me. Ernie Hudson’s is almost right in front of you for half the film but doesn’t really manifest until the end. Bill Murry’s is probably the most substantial, but Dan Aykroyd’s is by far the funniest.

There’s also a ton of other small roles and cameos, from Ozzy Osbourne as himself to Andy García as the NYC Mayor, but the one that made me laugh the most was Steve Higgins (Announcer for The Tonight Show) as the Dean of the poorly reputable college that Melissa McCarthy’s Yates and Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann do their research studies at. He’s rude and crass, and it is side-splittingly hilarious.

Apparently the soundtrack has been another point of contention for some people as well. I mean, you have to respect the blind commitment to hatred I guess. If you’re gonna slam something you might as well complete the set and just slam it all. Boo Hoo, Fall Out Boy did a sort-of-cover of the Ghostbusters theme. If you’re the type of person who holds the original song in such high esteem that a band you don’t even listen to doing a cover of it ruins your life then you don’t just have your priorities out of whack, you just don’t have priorities. Like, at all. After some brief research on the soundtracks for the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, I could only find a handful of performers who were nominated for any music awards between them. On the new soundtrack alone I found just as many. If you haven’t listened to WALK THE MOON’s version of the Ghostbuster song, you should.

So, in closing: the new Ghostbusters movie is funny, exciting, and very enjoyable to watch on the big screen, and if you refuse to watch it just because “the gostbusturs is gurls now!” then you are neanderthal and should probably just… I’m not gonna say it. The thing I was gonna say is very mean, and, frankly, an overused way to insult someone these days so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead. (Am I ahead?) Also, I promise to try and make this the last time I drink and jam death metal while writing an article. It more than likely won’t be, but the lip service is good enough right? I figured. Now, get the hell out there and catch some Pokemon! S**t. I mean, get out to your local theater and see the hilarious new Ghostbusters!

Donald Glover joins cast of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

This is really exciting news for any and all Spider-Man fans. There has been an online petition, rumors, and tweets to get Donald Glover to play Miles Morales, Spider-Man from the 1610 universe, also known as the Ultimate Universe and there is a chance that all the praying will pay off.


Tom Holland from Civil War will be returning as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Michael Keaton starring as a  villain, Marisa Tomei as the beautiful Aunt May (Never thought I would say that..), and Zendaya as the female lead. What role will Donald Glover be playing? Well, at the moment we don’t particularly know for sure, but there is a fantastic chance that he will be the fan favorite web slinger Miles. But, typically, Miles is portrayed as a younger character, which makes him so unique and relatable for all readers that were not white.


If you aren’t familiar with Donald Glover’s work, he was in The Martian, Community, 30 Rock, and Magic Mike XXL. He’s also extremely successful as the rapper Childish Gambino.

I for one am hoping ad banking that Donald will be on the silver screen as Miles Morales. Donald Glover has already worked as this character before, on The Ultimate Spider-Man TV show. What do you guys think? Will he play Miles or some other character? Sound off in the comments!

4LN Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

I’ll admit that I went into X-Men: Apocalypse with mixed emotions. Early reports on the film were… pretty vicious, but recent reviews have been a tad more kind. The end result, for me, I felt to be… somewhere in the middle?

The Official Film Synopsis is as follows:

“Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshiped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel’s X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) with the help of Professor X (James McAvoy) must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.”

I’m not gonna say that I expected the movie to be 100% bad, but I can’t say I had very high hopes either. The first half of the film had me feeling like maybe the negative side of me was gonna end up being correct. It wasn’t quite as much of an unbearable chore to sit through as last years “cinematic abomination which shall not be named”, but it wasn’t all that enticing either. The character and plot set-up just take more time than is needed, and it forces you to sit through story-points that aren’t consequential, or believable, in any way. At around the half way point though, Quicksilver shows up and, almost like some cruel joke, things begin to… speed up. I know. It’s sounds cheesy to me too but it’s the truth. Even Peters’ return as the sarcastic speedster is the absolute best part of the entire movie. He’s given more emotional depth this time around, and he’s given a lot more to do in general. He makes the whole thing more fun, and he starts making it fun just when you’re ready to give up on it.


Another new (returning?) character I really enjoyed was Nightcrawler, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Alan Cumming’s portrayal of Kurt Wagner in X2: X-Men United was one of the many unappreciated highlights of that flick, and I genuinely hope that people take notice of how fantastic young Nightcrawler is. He’s actually a more crucial member of the team than you expect him to be. Sure, he looks a little 80’s emo, but if there’s any character that I’d buy as a Joy Division jamming 80’s kid, it’s him.


Many of the other newcomers are great as well. Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, and Alexandra Shipp as Storm, to name a few, all do a great job and for the most part feel like fair representations of their comic origins. (Yes, Jubilee is in the movie too. No, she doesn’t do anything. Yes, it’s disappointing.) Archangel is also great, played by big screen newcomer Ben Hardy. The scene where Apocalypse comes to recruit him to be one of his Horsemen is his best moment in the film by far. Olivia Munn as Psylocke absolutely looks and acts the part perfectly, but she feels a tad underused, which surprised me considering how vocal she was about it being an important role for her to take. Nonetheless, she does still kick ass.


The main returning X-Men actors (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult) are in peak form. Especially Fassbender. There are some aspects of Magneto’s character development that, as a long-time comics fan, I didn’t emotionally, or even casually, connect with much. It just felt very inconsistent with what he’s been building toward. Regardless of that though, Michael Fassbender still acted the hell out of what he was given to work with and I commend him for that. McAvoy and Hoult have always been great on-screen together and here they have a few more fantastic interactions that will please fans.

Now for the man of the hour… Apocalypse. He was my favorite comic book villain when I was a kid. He’s larger than life and a relentless force to be reckoned with. Well, he was. While Oscar Isaac is a terrific actor, this version of the character is somewhat, for lack of a better term, castrated. His origin is altered to a much less compelling beginning, and many of the great things that make him Apocalypse are either missing or downplayed. One particularly common ability he has is only seen taking place inside of a sequence that isn’t a part of reality (yes, I know it’s all fictional characters who are not real). I don’t mind character alterations as long as they enhance the nature of said character but nothing about this depiction of Apocalypse is enhanced.


In our collective 4LN review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, I mentioned that I’m not a fan of Bryan Singer, and nothing has changed that yet, but I do still maintain my opinion that he “can shoot the hell out of a movie.” There are some uses of camera technique that are just f—ing genius. Seriously. He’s extremely creative and I was very impressed with his ability to go with what looks right and not just what looks best (if that makes sense). I believe that Singer made exactly the movie he set out to make. Which is admirable because we live in a culture where filmmakers are constantly bemoaning the meddlesome ways of studio executives, so it’s nice to feel like, for better or for worse, there are still some directors out there making blockbuster movies based on their complete vision.

You have, essentially, two new choices at the theater box office this weekend. X-Men: Apocalypse or Alice Through the Looking Glass. I haven’t seen the latter so I can’t say whether or not it’s more worth your time and money (though, I suspect it isn’t) but I can confidently say that great acting performances, the most perfect cameo EVER from Wolverine, and a climactic second half of X-Men: Apocalypse make the whole thing worth seeing. (For comic fans, there are some very satisfying Easter Eggs as well, and a post-credits scene that will have you fan-person-ing all over the place.) If you’re considering taking your kids, I’d suggest buying extra snacks to get through that first hour or so, but, like I said, once Quicksilver shows up they’ll be hooked. My 8yo actually said, “They should put Quicksilver in every bad movie to make it better.” From the mouth of babes, folks.

Look, I know that this review hasn’t been as “silver lining” as I normally try to be. I really didn’t *hate* the movie. I just didn’t like it as much as the one before it, X-Men: Days of Future Past. Which, honestly, I don’t like as much as X-Men: First Class (that one is easily, without a doubt, my favorite X-Men film). That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some redeeming factors though. The end of the movie will leave you excited and hopeful for the future of the series, and eager to see the newer X-Men in action more.

4LN Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

Official Film Synopsis:

Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

You’re going to hear, if you haven’t already, a lot of things about this film that are… exaggerations. You’re also going to hear things that sound like exaggerations but are 100% correct, or at least 12% correct. (I suppose an argument could be made for 15…) You’re going to hear people say that this is what Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been, that it’s good in spite of Captain America himself, that Spider-Man steals the show, and various other assessments and critiques. Without spoiling anything specific, allow me to clear up some of the questions and concerns you might have rattling around in your head.

First off, Spider-Man. Those of you concerned about Marvel revealing too much of him in trailers, stop worrying. That was only the tip of the web-slinging iceberg. There’s so much more to love from him in the final product, and you will not be disappointed. Does he steal the show? Not entirely. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s great. Maybe the best on-screen Spider-Man of all-time (or potentially at least). I wouldn’t say that he steals the entire show, however, but he does have a surprisingly commanding presence on screen. Tom Holland was clearly the perfect actor for the part because his Peter Parker and Spider-Man aren’t different. With Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, they both played Parker and Spidey with different personalities. As if putting on the mask made them someone completely different. Though it’s only brief in the grander scheme, what we see Holland do is just play them the same. A more unified Parker/Spider-Man, if you will. It’s very refreshing and after the credits finished rolling I found myself way more excited for the future of Spidey.


Another thing I’ve heard is that this movie achieves what Avengers: AoU failed to. To be honest, I’m not sure what that even means. Like, I clearly didn’t watch the same movie as the people who feel this way because AoU was enjoyable for me and I understood it. (Also, it banked over a billion dollars so…) I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time defending it, but I do feel like it’s a disservice to the journey that lead us here to treat any aspect of it as superfluous. There are themes that have been consistent through every MCU film since Iron Man that come into play in Civil War and without any one of them this film wouldn’t be able to complete in the way that is does. I know, I’m being vague. I don’t want to give away anything, I just want you to take this into consideration when you’re watching the movie and trying to compare it to others.

Then out of that attitude, emerges the idea that it’s not really a Captain America movie, it’s an Avengers movie, and Cap isn’t all that crucial. These people… should not be allowed to watch movies. At all. Ever again. I am one to rarely “can’t even”, but this makes me not be able to even. I’ve never been eating a cheeseburger and thought, “You know what this doesn’t even need? Meat.” A shit ton of condiments between two buns isn’t a meal, it’s sad. Why would you think that the ingredient that pulls everything together is the one thing you can do without? Cap’s reluctant but brave resistance of the newly implemented status quo is what moves the entire plot. He may not necessarily be the engine, but he’s definitely the fuel.

So what is the engine? Well, that would be the brilliant Daniel Brühl as Zemo. His role has been mostly downplayed from the very beginning, but he’s what puts just about everything happening here into motion, and once the third act concludes you understand his motivation and significance. Brühl brings a human depth to the Zemo character that he lacks in the comics. It’s one of those things where you could argue that they really didn’t have to name him Zemo at all, but the nod to the source material is nice gesture.

I also want to acknowledge how great Paul Rudd is as Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He proves himself a perfect team member and does more than his fair share of fighting. I feel like his contribution to the film could get overlooked by all the other great performances and moments, but he doesn’t miss one beat picking up right where he left off in Ant-Man, and helping Spider-Man with lightening the mood. The first act of the film is pretty serious and rocks back and forth between action sequences to story heavy scenes with mostly dialogue. Once those two show up though, you’re laughing uncontrollably.

Another performance that really stood out for me was Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross. It’s such a unique and impressive performance from Freeman, who usually plays more shy, timid, and/or awkward characters. He turns in a very strong, very confident portrayal. I don’t want to say that I didn’t know he had it in him, but he seems like such a passive, good-natured guy that I really didn’t.


Even though I’ve only addressed a few, every single performance was perfect. There’s not one weak link in the entire cast. Plus, the story is compelling and will have you guessing all the way through to the end. Even the parts that seemed predictable were only partially so. When you think you’ve figured something out, just know that there’s more to it that you haven’t even considered. I think the Russo Bros. have crafted a damn-near flawless blockbuster superhero film. It may not have the same type of suspense and depth that CA:WS has, but it’s a different type of film also, so it’s tough for me to superficially analyze the differences.

I’ve always sided with Cap in the Civil War debate. Part of that may be that I just don’t like Tony Stark in the comics, but RDJ is great as Tony and, while I still don’t find myself swayed to his point of view, I feel like this film did a great job of expressing why he feels the way he feels and that his actions are propelled by emotion because of his personal experiences. Cap is emotional is some ways too, but there are never moments that he seems out of control. Tony is emotionally unstable and therefore you wonder how much control he’s able to maintain over himself. I don’t worry about Cap taking things too far, and I feel like Tony has to stop himself from taking things too far. In some cases he fails and almost everyone suffers for it. It’s a cycle with this guy.

Final word: Captain America: Civil War is one of the best comic book movies ever made. It’s packed full of action, mystery, humor, and raw emotion. It collects every feeling you could possibly feel and condenses it into a two-and-half-hour roller coaster ride that leaves you excited and eagerly anticipating the future of the MCU, rather than lethargic and confused. You’ll be smiling ear to ear as you exit the theater and you’ll almost certainly seriously consider just walking back up to the box office to buy a ticket to the next showing. Save yourself the trouble and just go ahead and buy them at once so that you can keep your seat. You can thank me later.

4LN Movie Review – Keanu

Film Synopsis: “Recently dumped by his girlfriend, slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep. After a heartless thief steals the cat, Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to help him retrieve it. They soon learn that a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has the animal, and he’ll only give it back if the two men agree to work for him. Armed with guns and a gangster attitude, it doesn’t take long for the hapless duo to land in big trouble.”

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are brilliant comedians. If for any reason you haven’t seen even one episode of their breakout hit sketch show “Key & Peele” then you should head over to and watch whatever they have available because it’s incredible.

Keanu essentially plays like a really long “Key & Peele” skit, and that’s not a bad thing. Granted, sometimes when you’re watching a comedy sketch and it drags on too long it can stop being funny and grow stale. Keanu doesn’t suffer from this problem. A big part of why that is though, is that it’s not entirely a “comedy” in the way you think it is. Sure, everything about this screams “Key & Peele: The Movie”, right down to the fact that Peter Atencio, the director, and Alex Rubens, a co-writer of the film, both worked on the entire “Key & Peele” series.  That’s enough to cause you to expect this to be a continuation of the show, but there’s way more to it.

In press interviews, the guys have said that Keanu, while definitely a comedy, is also an homage to all the action films they loved growing up, like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 hrs. That love is evident from the very beginning. From Rell’s posters of Heat and New Jack City, to the uncanny similarities between Hi-C, a female gang member played by Tiffany Haddish, and Jada Pinket Smith’s character “Stoney” from the film Set It Off. All the best action movie tropes, everything you love about films like Lethal Weapon or Die Hard, are present. Shoot-outs, car chases, villains who won’t stay dead… It’s a cinemagasm for action movie nerds.

With the resurgence of action-comedy films, like the Jump Street movies or comic-based action/comedy movies like Kingsman and Deadpool, the question on our minds becomes, “Well is this like those movies?” Honestly… Not Really? It’s not like Deadpool at all, but I would say that it’s similar to 21 Jump Street in that they’re both paying tribute to something nostalgic. Then again, it could also be fairly compared to Kingsman as that film is very much an homage to the classic James Bond style spy movies. Still though, it’s very different. The big difference I think is that our main characters Rell and Clarence start the movie as regular dudes, and essentially end it still as regular dudes. Sure, the adventure they go through to get back Keanu changes them some, but it’s not like they end it as bad ass spy’s or anything. One of the best things about Keanu is that it lampoons those 80’s and 90’s action movie tropes. They acknowledge the ridiculousness of all the typical situations and play out the reality of what would actually happen in hilarious ways. That’s not to say Keanu doesn’t also have it’s own ridiculous situations, just that’s self-aware and makes sure the audience knows it.

This talk about the nature of the film is all well and good, but let’s get down to what really steals it… That adorable kitten! For real though, I don’t even like cats and I was constantly “Awww”ing  this little guy. He completely steals the show. Whether it’s propped up in a little do-rag and gold chain, or running scared amidst a blaze of gunfire, when he’s in a scene, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Now in reality, they used several different kittens to play the role, because kittens grow, and it takes movies a while to film. They do a fantastic job of making sure, however, that it never feels that way. There were no moments that I thought to myself, “Hey that looks like a different cat.” That’s Hollywood magic for you I guess?

I don’t feel like you have to already like Key & Peele, and what they do, to enjoy the film, but it does help if you appreciate their style of humor going into it. This film marks the first time that anyone in this creative team (Key and Peele, as well as Atencio and Rubens) have worked on bringing a major motion picture to life and they’ve done a fantastic job considering. I look forward to more from these guys in the future.

Overall, Keanu is a fun film. Lots of laughs, great action, and tons of references to classic action movies you know and love. If you love all that, plus cuddly kittens, then I highly recommend that you check it out the next chance you get.

UPDATE! Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories Teaser + VoB Blu-ray Release News!

UPDATE (4/29/16)

Volumes of Blood is officially out to buy! You can get it at or at Amazon. It’ll be available at Family Video across the US and Canada starting in June. They’ve also created a brand new trailer for it too! Check it out, and make sure to get your hands on the best anthology horror films in years!


(Original story below)


The production of Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories recently got under way, and we already have our first look! Check out the first teaser trailer below!


In other VoB news, the first film has just been picked up for distribution by Legless Corpse Films and will be released on Blu-ray in late April! You can place your pre-order here!



There’s still time to make a contribution to the films funding, so if you haven’t yet, please consider doing to today!

4LN Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

There’s a term in law practice, “Tainting the jury pool”, that first came to my mind when I saw the BvS reviews from film critics. They’re pretty much all negative, and what happens when people see that is: half of the audience (the fanboys) gets defensive, and the other half goes into the movie with low expectations and looking for flaws. The critics taint the jury pool by shitting all over a movie that 99% of people haven’t seen yet. But… does that mean they’re wrong? I mean, after all, the overwhelming majority of them do not seem to think that it’s a quality movie, and “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Right? Well, it’s not really as simple as that when it comes to movies (or the entertainment industry as a whole, really, but that’s a lengthy conversation for another day). It’s extremely common nowadays for critics to hate a film, but for audiences to still flock to it. For example, The 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. On Rotten Tomatoes, that movie has a critic score of 21%, which isn’t good. However, it made almost $500 million at the box office on a budget of about $125 million, which was enough of a showing to earn it sequel that drops this year. I’ve never liked film critics, ironically, and I’ve never believed that “film critic” should be an actual occupation. It seems like as time goes on, the masses more and more disregard the “advice” of critics and choose to find out for themselves, which is exactly how it should be. However… that doesn’t necessarily mean the critics are always wrong.

OK, first off, the cruelty that the critics have been spewing is an overreaction. Things like, “Batman v Superman will make you hate Batman, Superman, and the Justice League”, that it’s a “total train wreck” and a “crime against comic fans”. That’s a bit much, fellas. Did I think it was a great movie? Honestly, no, I didn’t. But I think it’s a decent movie. It didn’t make me hate any if the characters and I didn’t feel like my fandom was betrayed. I do understand where the critics hostility comes from though. If these weren’t characters with established legacy and were just some made up heroes for a movie, we’d all notice the flaws more clearly. Being fans makes it hard for us to recognize the messiness of the plot and how jumbled the story is. Things do happen in a bit of a confusing timeline, but it’s really not enough to make you mad I don’t think. Besides, it’s Batman and Superman coming to blows. How cool is that? I can overlook some plot holes and character inconsistencies for that.

Focusing on the positive, Affleck really is great as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He’s older and more hardened than we’ve ever seen him on screen and it works. Affleck very sincerely captures the torment and callousness of Bruce, and how that affects all aspects of his life. He’s been clinging to his righteous indignation for Superman, at how he was a part of the destruction of Metropolis but is heralded as a hero, a savior, and even a god. Batman wants to see Superman answer for his role in all of it, but the only justice he knows how to exact is vigilante justice. One of the things that director Zack Snyder has been defending is Batman’s apparent killing of bad guys in the movie. Yes, he does seem to kill, but I personally don’t care about that because Batman has been indirectly, and directly, responsible for many deaths in comics and movies, and I think in some instances he should kill so… that’s where I stand on that.

The real gem of the movie, as some have fairly pointed out, is Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman; She’s simply Diana Prince for the first two-thirds of the movie. We first meet her at a party where her path crosses with Bruce’s and then we see her a few more times until the end when she suits up and unleashes. She was one of things I was most looking forward to and she did not disappoint. When she showed up alongside Batman & Superman and just jumped right in to the action at the end I got so excited. Unlike the two of them, she’s a trained, proven and battle-worn soldier. She doesn’t just throw punches and hope for the best. She’s a strategist and she thinks very quickly on her feet. Yes, I know Batman is very strong and practically a ninja. Thanks for pointing that out. However, Batman isn’t faced-off-against-entire-armies-with-nothing-but-a-sword-and-a-rope strong (sorry, LASSO) so go back to your basement nerds.

The other character I was most looking forward to was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. I knew it was going to be an unconventional take on the character, and I’m not really a purist when it comes to stuff like that so I’ve been eager to see what he did with it. The critics response seems to be that he was “over-the-top” and “bad”. Wow guys. Really digging deep in the thesaurus for those adjectives huh. His performance was “over-the-top”, but it was supposed to be. He’s playing a maniacal and emotionally unstable genius billionaire with a bit of a god-complex; As opposed to just a smart billionaire with a lot of a god-complex. Gene Hackman was a great Lex Luthor, and Kevin Spacey even did a solid turn, but their performances weren’t really that close to how Lex has always been written in the comics either so let’s drop the bullshit about the characters not resembling their comic book counterparts.

There’s a scene where he’s talking to Holly Hunter’s Senator Finch, and then there’s a scene later where they’re in a senate committee hearing and those two scenes compliment one another in a way that has you kind of chuckling at first but then by the end of the second scene you fully understand the lengths that Lex is willing to go to in order to get what he wants and it’s kind of terrifying.

The film’s visuals and cinematography are phenomenal. If there’s one thing Zack Snyder knows, it’s how to make a movie that at least looks amazing. There are some very captivating action sequences and exhilarating shots that few directors have the vision to capture. The final battle between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman against Doomsday (it’s not a spoiler, that was in the trailers so don’t act like you didn’t know) is very exciting. The dream sequence with Batman in the desert up against an army of Superman soldiers is pretty fantastic also.

One thing I do want to address is the Justice League cameos. Yes, there are 3 other JLers who briefly appear but what kind of frustrated me was how they made Jason Momoa’s Aquaman such a big deal in the marketing, even giving him his own action figures, and he’s only in the movie for like 30 seconds. Really, one of the others has a more significant cameo scene than he does and I’d heard nothing about it. It was just irritating to expect a bigger role from him and have it be so inconsequential.

Parents: This movie is very dark and gritty and LONG, so just keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to take your kids. My 8yo handled it fine, and even ended up liking it when he he was initially disinterested, but there was a little boy in front of us who’s grandpa brought him and he was probably about 5. He did not do so well. I’d suggest 7 or 8 is probably your target age for just old enough to handle what they’re watching and not get bored.

Look, I don’t have to convince you to see Batman v Superman. You’re going to. I know it, you know it, and WB and DC know it. It’s not an abomination. It’s no Dark Knight, which Batman films will be trying to live up to forever, but it’s worth watching. Hell, I’ll even watch it again just for Wonder Woman. (She really was fantastic you guys.) Besides, what else are you gonna do this weekend. Wait, have you finished season 2 of Daredevil? Ok, do that first and then go see Batman v Superman (#priorities).

Blood and Metal: An Interview with Rocky Gray

Many moons ago, before 4 Letter Nerd was even a twinkle in our eye, I wrote music reviews for a distribution company’s monthly catalog. My job was basically to convince stores to order more “underground” albums than they were used to ordering by convincing them that younger people would buy them. I was pretty damn good at. One month, would’ve been back in 2008, I decided to review the new Soul Embraced album, Dead Alive. I loved the band, and it had been about 5 years since they’d put out their last album, Immune, so I felt like it was my duty as a fan to spread the Gospel of Soul Embraced. Well, in spite of my good intentions, that turned out to be a fatal blow for me, as one women, from one store, wrote the company a letter complaining about the review and the nature of the album. I suppose she wasn’t a fan of metal and the cover offended her. The president of the company gave implicit orders that my column be removed immediately and permanently. And that’s the story of how Soul Embraced got me fired from a job. But you know what, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change a damn thing. I was proud of that article, I loved that record, and I’m not sorry one bit for telling people to buy it.

Fast forward almost a decade and I find myself getting to talk with Rocky Gray, who founded Soul Embraced. In addition to that, he’s also in one of my other all-time favorite bands, Living Sacrifice, and was a member of Grammy Award winning, multi-platinum selling band Evanescence. Rocky and chatted about his career, his work doing film scoring, and who makes the best cheeseburger. Check it out!

4LN – For those that don’t know, you actually started playing in bands (most notably, Shredded Corpse) back when you were roughly 15 years old, if I have that right. What was your introduction into metal, and what bands or musicians influenced you to want to be a musician yourself?

Rocky Gray – Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., early 80’s bands, that was the start of my metal education. Before that I was really into Kiss. Kiss is what enticed me to become a musician. Metallica is what kept the dream alive.


4LN – Your musical versatility is quite impressive, what with you having the ability to play pretty much any instrument you put your hands on. Have you found that any one came more naturally than others, or is it a fair balance of “practice makes perfect” with all of them?

RG – Drums came to me very naturally. Guitar took some work. Still working on the keyboard.


4LN – Of all the amazing albums you’ve been a part of crafting and creating throughout the years, is there any one that stands out as being especially memorable?

RG – The Evanescence record Fallen changed my life. You grow up hoping to accomplish all of these things in the music world and to be able to see a lot of those dreams come true is amazing and something I don’t take for granted. Its a blessing.

4LN – Now that we’ve talked a little about your past I’d like to move on to what projects you have going on now. Specifically, it was recently announced that you’ll be doing some scoring work on Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. How did did this opportunity come about?

RG – I had followed the original Volumes of Blood and the progress of that film and the success they had with it so when I saw that they were doing a sequel I wrote the producer, P.J. Starks, and told him if he needed a composer to get in touch with me. He got back to me and we started discussing what we could make happen. So far I’ve done the Theme song and am scheduled to score director Justin Seaman’s segment of the film. Not sure if I’ll be doing any more than that but were still pretty early in production.



4LN – Is film scoring something you’d ever considered before now, or was it just more “Sure, I’ll give this a try”?

RG – I had wanted to work in movies for quite a long time now. I had always been too busy with the different bands to take the time to figure out what I had to do to get into that world. After We Are The Fallen took a break I got a call from a producer in California and he asked if I would score his film and without hesitation I said yes. It was a great learning experience for me and from doing that one I knew I wanted to keep scoring movies. Since then I’ve scored 2 more movies, 2 video games, a commercial, and the theme to Volumes of Blood:Horror Stories.


4LN – Can you tell us about any other projects you’ve got right now, or might have on the horizon?

RG – The Barn original motion picture soundtrack is out on vinyl and cassette right now from Lunaris Records. I recently did the score for Eric Stanze’s new film In Memory Of that is in post production.

The Barn - Original Motion Picture Score LP


4LN – This next section is our lightning round questions. Just answer with the first thing that comes to mind. Since you’re scoring a horror film, my first question has to be, what’s your personal favorite horror film?
RG – It’s a tie between Halloween (original) and the Exorcist.

4LN – If you could only listen to one band for the rest of your life, who would it be?
RG – Metallica

4LN – You’ve spent a lot of time out on the road, touring and eating food from all over the world, but what place has the best burger you’ve ever eaten?
RG – The Cheeseburger from Buffalo Wild Wings in the good ‘ol USA!

4LN – What up-and-coming band, or bands, that we might not have heard of yet should we be listening to?
RG – I’m so out of the loop on new bands. If you haven’t heard Born of Osiris or Thy Art Is Murder maybe check them out.

4LN – Which tour van’s always smelled worse, Living Sacrifice or Soul Embraced?
RG – Living Sacrifice!

4LN – For my last question, I want to bring together both horror and metal to ask… If you we’re putting together a Death Metal Super-Group with slasher movie villains, which slashers would you choose to slaughter the ears of the world alongside you, and what instruments would you put them on?
RG – Ghostface on vocals, Jason Voorhees on drums, Cropsy on guitar, Michael Myers on bass. Ill run front of house for them.


I want to thank Rocky for speaking with me. Make sure to check out his website to stay up-to-date with his projects. You can also contribute to helping Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories get made by checking out their Indigogo campaign.

4LN Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

I’m not going to attempt an entirely non-spoiler review of this film. I could do it but it wouldn’t be very long, and it would be nothing but vague generalizations. I still don’t want to give everything away though, so we’ll call this a MINOR SPOILERS review. If you want to know as little as possible about it before you see it, then stop reading now. If you need a little more convincing then read on at your own risk…

I love the original Cloverfield. I remember seeing it multiple times in the theater when it was out. I’m a big fan of the found-footage film style and that movie owned it like few others have since. However, this movie is very different from that one. You may have heard the filmmakers quoted as saying that 10 Cloverfield Lane is a “blood-relative” of Cloverfield. What that means is, they share the Cloverfield name, but that’s really it. Most people are gonna compare it to something like The Twilight Zone, stories that are linked only by the umbrella of branding, which seems fairly accurate, but if you say that then you could say it’s like The Outer Limits, or Tales from the Crypt, or American Horror Story, or Goosebumps, or Are You Afraid of the Dark?, etc. It could be compared to any number of horror/sci-fi anthology shows, but I suppose what makes it unique is that the experiment hasn’t been tried much in the major motion picture world, and when it has been tried it hasn’t always done so well (see Halloween III: Season of the Witch).


The basic premise of 10 Cloverfield Lane is as follows,

After surviving a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up to find herself in an underground bunker with two men named Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr). Howard tells her that a massive chemical attack has rendered the air unbreathable and their only hope of survival is to remain inside. Despite the comforts of home, Howard’s menacing demeanor causes the young woman to plan her escape. After taking matters into her own hands, Michelle’s desire to learn the truth about the outside world comes to fruition.

I’ve noticed that the biggest thing everyone is talking about is how fantastic John Goodman is in his role, and all of that talk is 100% correct. He completely commands the screen with his sinister innocence, which I understand sounds like a contradiction but that’s the best way I can explain it. He’s awkward, but you go back and forth with believing if he’s a true threat or not until the end. I would liken the quality and execution of his performance to that of Rebecca de Mornay’s in The Hand the Rocks the Cradle. There’s something always lurking beneath the surface and it could boil over at any moment.


Then there’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who’s really in the lead role here, no matter what Goodman’s A-lister status coerces you to think. The biggest thing I noticed about her role is that at the very beginning of the film, for the first 15 minutes or so, they give you the impression that Michelle’s going to be some “damsel in distress”, an impulsive girl, ruled by emotion and needing to be saved. I assure you she is none of that. Almost as soon as you think she is, she turns on her resourcefulness and ingenuity and completely obliterates any preconceptions you have of her aptitude.


John Gallagher Jr is, by comparison to his co-stars, somewhat of a newcomer. He’s been in a few things here and there over the last decade and a half, most notably HBO’s The Newsroom series, but this is definitely his most significant amount of movie screen-time to date, and he absolutely earns it. His character, Emmett, clearly serves the “comedic relief” purpose, but he does it brilliantly, and he’s much more than that. Emmett is a kind, simple character. He’s not simple in terms of lacking intelligence, I just mean that he doesn’t really have a complex depth, which is a perfect balance to how complex Michelle and Howard turn out to be. He isn’t a defeatist, but he isn’t hellbent on survival the same way the other two are. Meaning, he won’t do just anything to protect his own skin, like arbitrarily screw someone else over. His morals are genuine and unambiguous. Honestly, he was probably my favorite part because he’s the most relatable thing in the entire movie.


This is the first major film for director Dan Tractenberg. He was previously attached to a big screen adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s Vertigo published comic series “Y: The Last Man”, but that project was canceled. I hope that the critical and financial success of 10 Cloverfield Lane will be an incentive for that to come back around because it’s a brilliant story and after seeing this I feel like Dan could nail the tone. He’s clearly got a great ability for pulling quality performances out of his cast while maintaining a grip on the intricacy of the plot and the magnitude of the mystery within.

This is also a first for the story-writers, Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken, who have worked in the film industry for many years, racking up credits on films like Blade II, Van Helsing, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but this is the first major film writing credit for either of them. I’m not sure what took these guys so long to finally get noticed for their writing talent but I’m glad they did because they’ve crafted a really intense and exciting story that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the entire time. Part of that intensity may also be due to the addition of Damien Chazelle, who worked with the Campbell and Stuecken on the actual screenplay for the film. Chazelle is the writer/director of 2014’s Whiplash, which earned him numerous award nominations and wins, including an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. If you’re not familiar with Whiplash then please at least watch the trailer so that you can understand how uncomfortably tense it is. Chazelle is obviously a master at injecting films with uneasiness and foreboding anxiety, and his contribution is felt here in just about every single scene.


J.J. Abrams is the biggest force behind the Cloverfield films, there’s no denying that. The man has a sense for mystery that, love it or hate it, is felt all over everything he comes within close creative proximity to. My absolute favorite TED Talk of all-time is his talk on creating mystery, and where that was rooted in him. This film is no exception. There is a thick, unyielding air of mystery the surrounds this entire story, and an overarching concept of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. So many brilliant and talented minds helped create it, but it would never have existed if it wasn’t for Abrams’ deep commitment to the craft. Even though he may be seen as some Hollywood big shot at this point, he evades the stigma of being labeled as such due to his continued involvement with smaller, more intimate projects like this one.


10 Cloverfield Lane is an amazing film. It fires on all cylinders straight out of the gate and never once sinks below perfect. The cast, small as it may be, all deliver incredible performances, with John Goodman’s being the indisputable best. The story is fantastic and executed just right, giving us a little closure while still leaving some thing in the mystery box to decide for ourselves what may have happened and what the motivation was. I would definitely recommend seeing it in a theater because it’s a very satisfying experience to witness the unpredictability and claustrophobia of this story in a dark theater on a big screen. Movies should entertain us, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also have a message that goes beyond the superfluous ideals they’re known for peddling. While you may still leave 10 Cloverfield Lane with questions burning on your mind, I guarantee that, if you allow yourself, you’ll also leave a better understanding of what it means to confront the monsters in your own life.