My Favorite 30 Movies of 2016

You don’t go to movies almost every week for a year NOT to write up a list like this. With hours before the Oscars begin, here are my 30 favorite films of 2016.

30. Don’t Breathe

dont-breathe

Stephen Lang, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette

What I love about Don’t Breathe is how much it values suspense more than shock (although it will shock you in some ways). From the minute three young thieves break into a blind war veteran’s home, to the end of the film, you do exactly as the title of the film suggests.

29. Pete’s Dragon

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Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford and Karl Urban

I’ll go ahead and say it, when comparing Bryce Dallas Howard films…

Pete’s Dragon > Jurassic World 

Many of us know the trippy live-action/animated film from the 70’s, but this one has more heart and makes you want to believe in a kid’s pet dragon. Robert Redford’s narration is a warm touch as well.

28. Doctor Strange

doctor-strange

Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelson and Tilda Swinton

Just because I have several films ranked ahead of it doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Doctor Strange. It was a very different Marvel film, with influences from both The Matrix and Inception.  The supporting cast was as impressive as any among standalone Marvel films (Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg) and Mikkelson played a villain as memorable as any the MCU has produced.

27. Kubo and the Two Strings

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Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Rooney Mara

The action and animation were incredible. The adventure and the story were even better. Rooney Mara’s voice still haunts my dreams though.

26. Everybody Wants Some

everybody-wants-some

Blake Jenner, Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch 

Like most of Richard Linklater’s films, Everybody Wants Some doesn’t really have much of a story but it’s fun and stays consistent with the theme of “living in the moment”. Good comedies are hard to come by these days, and what makes this movie, about college baseball players in Texas, good is how natural the humor is.

25. Nocturnal Animals

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Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon

Tom Ford’s literal story-within-a-story is actually way better than whatever is going on in the depressing reality of the film’s universe. Michael Shannon certainly earned his nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which is a testament to the excellent year he had on the big screen. Count Jake Gyllenhaal as someone who is well overdue for a Best Actor win as well.

24. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher

The Cloverfield sequel was one of the best kept secrets by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and thankfully NOTHING like the original. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an up-and-coming star, John Goodman is scarier than any monster the franchise has nightmare’d up, and John Gallagher (Mr. Indie film) provides the charm and relief a film this intense desperately needs. So when do we get the 3rd?

23. The Accountant

the-accountant

Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and Jon Bernthal

I didn’t expect this to be Ben Affleck’s best movie this past year (not sorry, BvS), but I’m very glad it was. In terms of one-man-wrecking-crew films, Affleck’s Christian Wolf can definitely give John Wick a run for his money. I also appreciated every reference to Chicago’s west suburbs that get a shoutout throughout the movie.

22. The Nice Guys

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Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer

I’m not sure if I ever stopped laughing when Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were on screen together. Shane Black gave us everything we liked about Lethal Weapon, set it in the 70’s, and did it better (in my opinion).

21. Zootopia

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Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba

On top of great humor, awesome animation, and a very necessary social message…the references to The Godfather, Chinatown, Breaking Bad, LA Confidential and Speed were too good to ignore.

20. Arrival

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Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker

When I left the theater after seeing Arrival, I thought it was one of the best films I had seen in 2016. It did a better job explaining the parallels of time than Interstellar and took a unique approach to the idea of communicating with aliens. It may not have left the impression that the films I ranked after it did,  but it belongs among the nominated Oscar pictures.

19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Dan Fogler

Don’t hurt me but, I had more fun watching Fantastic Beasts than any of the previous Harry Potter films. It helped knowing a few thing and some of the lingo, but I was captivated by Redmayne’s weirdness, Fogler’s “aw shucks” awkwardness, and every magical thing that came out of that suitcase.

18. Loving

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Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton and Nick Kroll

This movie couldn’t have come at a better time and the story is beautifully told. Something I have noticed with Jeff Nichols’ films (and there is another one on the list, a few sports down) is their value of silence. There are few things more powerful than letting a moment overcome an audience without sound, script or music to dictate it.

17. The Jungle Book

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Bill Murray, Idris Elba and Ben Kingsly 

Some of the best CGI work you’ll ever see in a movie. And with a cast full of stars, like the one Jon Favreau assembled, everyone seemed to buy-in for their voice work. Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, even Gus from Breaking Bad (Giancarlo Esposito), all made the experience as intense and fun as it was.

16. Moana

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Auli’i Cravalho, Dwyane Johnson and Jermaine Clement

As someone who loves going to see animated movies in the theater, 2016 was a great year for them. However, the film that moved and impressed me the most was Moana. Amazing music, incredible animation, and a story that keeps you invested all the way through. If someone told you it was “the new Frozen”, it was better than that.

15. Edge of Seventeen

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Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson and Blake Jenner

The ‘Young Adult’ genre has been miraculously on point as of late. One of my favorite films a year ago was Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, and while Edge of Seventeen wasn’t quite as good, it still had an honest perspective and the kind of dialogue that most comedies in recent years wish they had. What Edge of Seventeen does beat Earl and the Dying Girl in a surprisingly cooler student-teacher combo in Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. The start of the film establishes this very quickly.

14. Midnight Special

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver

This is the 3rd Michael Shannon flick to make this list and it’s definitely my favorite of the three. Midnight Special was released before Stranger Things and I think the mysterious sci-fi storytelling of the former made me appreciate the latter even more. The father-son angle and the dilemma of “how far would you go to keep your child safe” made the film especially gripping.

13. Fences 

FENCES

Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Stephen Henderson

The performances that Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give are too great to deny acclaim for this film. They carry a movie, whose story becomes more and more tedious and difficult to find hope in.

12. Don’t Think Twice

dont-think-twice

Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia

It’s a film about an improv troupe and how a group is effected when one of its members is selected to join a ‘Saturday Night Live’ type show. The interaction between the members and the improv scenes are so well-written, that they feel real and spontaneous.

11. When a Monster Calls

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Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones

Prepare for one of the hardest cries of your life when you see this movie. Tear ducts weren’t prepared for how this film develops, as if Inside Out was live-action…with a monstrous giant tree-being that talks like Liam Neeson.

10. Captain America: Civil War

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Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Sebastian Stan

After many of us were disappointed by how Batman v. Superman turned out, Marvel came to the rescue to show geeks how it’s done again. The Russo brothers did such a good job presenting the sides of both Captain America and Iron Man that you didn’t really want to pick a side. And for a film full of so many heroes, including the the introduction of the new Spider-Man, it exceeded all expectations. Can’t wait for what’s next.

9. Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Day 25

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae

If you didn’t know the story already, you sure were interested to learn more about the women who helped send John Glenn and many others into space. Great performances by all involved and it was just as relevant as anything released this past year.

8. Deadpool

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Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin and T.J. Miller

The fact that people considered Deadpool potentially Oscar-worthy should say enough about how good it turned out. It was one of the biggest surprises at the box office and probably the best comedy of the year as well.

7. Lion

lion

Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara

It’s a story that seems too incredible to be real…but it is. Nicole Kidman’s performance also hit very close to home for me personally, and they payoff at the end is as good as any film from the last year.

6. Sing Street

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Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor and Aiden Gillen

For the first half of 2016, Sing Street was my favorite movie. The original music is as good as any from John Carney’s catalog of soundtracks. The analysis of UK 80’s music is fascinating. And I became a big Jack Reynor fan after.

5. Hell or High Water

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Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges

For anyone that was looking for an instant-classic in the modern-western genre, here you go.

4. Moonlight

Moonlight

Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae

When it comes to Moonlight, I won’t forget where I was and when I saw it. I didn’t want to watch ANY election coverage so I went to the Clark Cinema past Wrigleyville. And it turned out to be the perfect film to see that evening. In any other year, especially with its subject matter and storytelling, this film would probably win Best Picture at the Oscars.

3. Rogue One

rogue-one

Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk

After taking a few months to look back and reflect on Rogue One, it’s still my all-time favorite Star Wars story and makes me hopeful for what’s to come in the franchise, with the new generation of innovators and storytellers in film.

2. La La Land

la-la-land

Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and John Legend

The music, the choreography, the story, the performances…It’s almost a perfect film and it should be my favorite of 2016 but…

1. Manchester by the Sea

manchester-by-the-sea

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler

Manchester by the Sea did more than than any film could to my emotions. It was so devastating, but the writing and interaction between Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges gave it the best balance possible.

Where did your favorite movie rank on the list?

Let me know on Twitter

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Deadpool Breaks Another Wall in the ‘Deadpool’ Honest Trailer

Deadpool is well known for breaking the fourth wall, practically taking a seat with the audience or joining the comic book reader to comment on what is going on in his own story. Thanks to this week’s release of the Deadpool on DVD, that means more Ryan Reynolds promotion to sell fans on something we already know is awesome.

Cue the Honest Trailer for Deadpool, featuring commentary from…Deadpool

Screen Junkies have made a good name for themselves from the Honest Trailers. From The Avengers to Game of Thronesthey like to have fun and make fun of all your favorite things. The collaboration seems pretty perfect, as all the ads leading up to Deadpool’s theater release had the same humor. Reynolds even comments on how the film “borrowed” their ‘honest names’ bit. I actually love the “youtube comments” readings at the VERY end. Hang on before you move on, like it’s a Marvel movie or something.

Deadpool on Blu-Ray and DVD hit store shelves May, 10th. The sequel is due out in 2017 and you can imagine they’ll be working with a bigger budget after the R-Rated superhero flick made 13 times more than the $58 million they spent to make it.

For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget to subscribe to The Piffcast either. 

Michael Movies: 10 Favorites of 2016, So Far…

Following the 2015 Oscars season, this year has hit the ground running with big blockbusters, original concepts, a few disappointments (*cough Batman v. Superman cough*) and pleasant surprises.

Rather than wait till the end of the year to put out a “Best of” list, I’d rather break 2016 up into thirds and update my list accordingly. Following the “Best Picture” win of last year’s #1 filmSpotlight, the process has begun. At this point, I’m looking for the Mad Max: Fury Road and the Me and Earl and The Dying Girl of this year…In other words, what blew me away and what did I enjoy the most from start to finish.

10. Elvis & Nixon

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Based on the story behind the famous photo taken in 1970 between Elvis Presley and the President, the single most requested photograph in the National Archives, Elvis & Nixon is like an 86 minute long Saturday Night Live sketch that doesn’t get old. The White House scenes were shot on the West Wing set. Master of impressions, Kevin Spacey nails it with Nixon and you’re reminded of Frank Underwood, a little. Michael Shannon is more himself than an Elvis impersonator, which fits the role perfectly. And the supporting cast of Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks and Evan Peters compliment the stars perfectly.

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Johnny Knoxville and Alex Pettyfer

Director: Liza Johnson

9. Everybody Wants Some!!

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Richard Linklater’s sorta-23-year-followup to Dazed and Confused was much better than I expected. It seems harder than ever these days to write good comedy and the delivery is remarkably natural in this film. It’s a party genre film, no doubt, but it’s far less cliche as the American Pie films and their straight to video spinoffs. I appreciated the “welcome to college” and late 70s-early 80s themes, the real competitiveness between NCAA baseball teammates, and nothing feeling particularly forced. Matthew McConaughey would’ve been a great fit, even now, appearing in Everybody Wants Some.

Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin and Ryan Guzman

Director: Richard Linklater

8. 10 Cloverfield Lane

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The Cloverfield sequel was a pleasant surprise to start the year, and really had almost nothing to do with the first film. Rather than just be a monster movie, it was a genre-bending captive/killer/suspense-thriller flick filled with twists at every turn. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is good, John Goodman makes your skin crawl in the best/creepiest ways, and John Gallagher Jr. continues to be one of my favorite Indie actors on the planet.

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr.

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

7. The Jungle Book

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When the ending credits rolled on The Jungle Book, my first thought was “I hope the people in charge of Jurassic World II were taking notes.” This movie shows you how CGI is supposed to be done and it was nice to see a “live-action” retelling of a Disney story that you grew up with not suck. It solidified Jon Favreau as great big budget film director. You could also tell that older veteran actors like Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley and Christopher Walken were having fun in their roles, and that makes it more fun for the audience.

Starring: Neel Sethi, Idris Elba, Bill Murray and Ben Kingsely

Director: Jon Favreau

6. Zootopia

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.18.11 AM

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a really good year for Disney. They rode the box office success of Force Awakens into 2015, Jungle Book knocked Batman v. Superman out of the top spot pretty quickly, another film further down this list is KILLING it, and they have another Star Wars film on the way. Add Zootopia to the sterling 2016 scoreboard for Disney. It was funny and very will animated, but it also didn’t hold back regarding it’s commentary on equality and relevant social issues in our country today. There were also some excellent hat-tips to The Godfather, LA Confidential, Chinatown, and Breaking Bad.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba

Director: Byron Howard and Rich Moore

5. Eye in the Sky

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Eye in the Sky did not get enough promotion for how good a film it is. It’s similarly suspenseful as Captain Phillips, maybe more so, and coincidentally has Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi (the pirate from Captain Phillips) in a key role. Helen Mirren is as cold and awesome as ever, Aaron Paul pulls your heartstrings, and it’s one of Alan Rickman’s last performances on the big screen. When I left the theater, I instantly believed it was one of the best films of the year…that hardly anyone has heard of.

Starring: Aaron Paul, Helen Mirren and Adam Rickman

Director: Gavin Hood

4. Deadpool

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Deadpool exceeded so many expectations. It broke box office records as a hard-R movie. It made the 13 times more than its $58 million budget. It also put serious pressure on the superhero films to come, that wanted to be darker and dirtier. Ryan Reynolds was perfect in the role, making fun of other superhero franchises, the X-Men, and even his own films in the past. It was very meta and hilarious. The action and comedic timing by the supporting cast was awesome as well. Deadpool’s “fight” scene with Colossus will go down as one of the funniest ever for the genre.

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, TJ Miller and Morena Baccarin

Director: Tim Miller

3. Midnight Special

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It’s Michael Shannon’s 2nd appearance on this list and it is a good one. Midnight Special recalls some of the feelings you had seeing E.T. for the first time, although not nearly as lighthearted and not on Spielberg’s level. The movie does a great job riding on the mysteries of everyone involved and emphasizing the father-son relationship. Joel Edgerton is an awesome badass partner-in-crime and Adam Driver (aka Kylo Ren) provides well-timed relief. It’s a hard film not to appreciate if you’re a fan of mystery and sci-fi.

Starring: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton 

Director: Jeff Nichols

1b. Sing Street

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The reason there’s a “1a and 1b” is because I’ve been so torn on the Top 2 movies on this list as they were both so awesome to me. Sing Street is my Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and even better than that. It’s a love story that hits close to home. The inspiration for the lead character, Cosmo (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), to chase his dreams is similar to my own. The music is fantastic and I fully expect to see it on Broadway as soon as possible. It’s also one of the few movies set in the 80’s that does so un-ironically. It made me respect Jack Reynor much more as an actor. I smiled watching this film from start to finish and that’s why the inner debate I have, on whether it’s my favorite or not, will likely last all year.

Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor and Aidan Gillen

Director: John Carney

1a. Captain America: Civil War

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Captain America: Civil War was a perfect superhero film. It might feel that way because Batman v. Superman was such a letdown in similar circumstances, but Civil War was able to accomplish so much that its DC rival couldn’t. The movie didn’t force you to choose a side between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Every hero showcased why they belong and made you feel like a kid in awe. The comedic timing was right on. The introductions of Black Panther and Spider-Man were seamless and awesome. The heroes were aware and conscientious of the destruction they were causing. Most importantly, the action was everything you hoped for from a film with this much hype. Similar to Force Awakens, Civil War gets bonus points for meeting and even exceeding the fans’ expectations and reminds you that THIS is how you make a superhero movie.

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Sebastian Stan

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Any films too high or too low on the list? Would you recommend some more that are in theaters? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter and be sure to listen to The Piffcast where we discuss topics just like this. 

Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. Fight Over Deadpool

Deadpool is a force right now at the box office. Two weeks in a row, the “Merc with a Mouth” has dominated any and all competition. Deadpool currently ranks 6th all-time in earnings for a Rated-R movie with $235.4 million in the U.S., #1 is The Passion of the Christ with $370.8 million.

Contributing to Deadpool’s box office success, Captain America himself went to see the film and apparently loved it.

As we know, Captain America is recruiting heroes to side in his Civil Warbattle with Iron Man. As a sign of appreciation, Ryan Reynolds gave Evans a hashtag endorsement.

Robert Downey Jr. didn’t take to kindly to the Twitter swing.

Ultron Language

Then Reynolds responded in true Deadpool fashion.

Unfortunately, we won’t see Deadpool teaming up and/or facing off with the Avengers anytime soon. Like The X-Men, Deadpool is a Twentieth Century Fox property while The Avengers are under Disney’s control. There’s no way Disney would allow its stars to drop the kind of “language” that theater goers loved from Deadpool.

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A Deadpool sequel is already in the works though (why not) and Cable is set to be involved too. Captain America: Civil Warhits theaters May 6th, 2016.

Check out the latest Piffcast on how Deadpool could effect Marvel/DC films going forward. Follow along for more on Facebook or Twitter

The Piffcast: The Second One – Second is the Best

 

This week, FanDuel sportswriter Jessica Kleinschmidt joins us to talk about the NFL offseason and where the best places would be for big free agents to land…from a Fantasy perspective. We also preview the upcoming MLB season a little bit as well, because pitchers and catchers are reporting! (Jump ahead to the 11:55 mark to here Jessica right away)

Then People Magazine TV editor and writer Aaron Couch jumps on to discuss Better Call Saul and the “Better Talk Saul” podcast he hosts. We also get into The People vs. OJ Simpson and the effect Deadpool’s success will have on Marvel and DC films going forward. (52:20 mark, if you want to jump ahead)

All that, plus some catching up, an epic Chicago Pizza Party and ANOTHER delicious social media contest. Don’t miss out!

Feel free to react as you listen on Facebook or Twitter

Subscribe on iTunes here.

The New “Soft Side” of Deadpool Clip

Some of you probably have Valentine’s Day weekend plans. Dinner reservations, something cute and romantic, a cab sav picked out for the occasion (I would)…Then there’s the rest of us who are severely single and looking for ways to avoid our Facebook and Instagram feeds for an extended period of time. Maybe a pint of Ben & Jerry’s too.

Thanks to some insanely good marketing, Deadpool has my attention for that weekend. Ever since the early August release of the Red Band trailer, Ryan Reynolds and the movie’s promotional team have hit fans of the “Merc with a Mouth” in all the right places. Even on Australia Day, he got some necessary shots in on Wolverine.

Today, the softer side to Wade Wilson emerged along with some super cute chemistry with Morena Baccarin. The clip is pretty adorable and relatively NSFW (so be sorta discreet at the office, jerks).

 

Go ahead and put me down for 1 ticket to a February 12th screening. If I need to get 2, let me know on Facebook or Twitter

Looking Past ‘Batman v Superman’ Because of ‘Suicide Squad’ Trailer, ‘Wonder Woman’ Footage

The more Batman v. Superman trailers and clips are released, the less enthused many are getting about it.

Even Deadpool and his film’s marketing team are having fun at the Man of Steal and Dark Knight’s expense.

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It’s still an exciting year for superhero fansDeadpool hits theaters February 12th, Batman v. Superman will be out March 25th, Captain America: Civil War May 6th, and X-Men: Apocalypse May 27th.

Warner Brothers and DC seem to already be looking beyond Batman v. Superman by releasing a new Suicide Squad trailer, which is due out August 5th. After seeing it myself, so am I.

Unlike the recent BvS promotions, the Suicide Squad stuff doesn’t give too much away. And more importantly, it’s FUN. The dialog is a little cheesy, but that comes with the Summer blockbuster territory.

Suicide Squad poster

Also looking ahead, Warner Bros. produced a featurette for the upcoming Wonder Woman film (June 23rd, 2017). The intent might’ve been to get you interested in BvS, but I might be more intrigued in her standalone film instead.

Next step would be to incorporate the DC TV universe into their film universe, but that’s a rant for another day.

 

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