The Snyder Cut

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is what you get when fans scream loud enough. Although I was disappointed by Joss Whedon’s Justice League, I frankly thought it was a failure from the beginning. A problem that steamed from how poorly Warner Bros. handled the DCEU. As big of a DC fan as I am, I never really understood people begging the studio to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut. The same people who were disappointed by Zack Snyder’s grim take on Batman v Superman. Although Zack Snyder and writer Chris Terrio had an even darker Justice League in mind, the response to Dawn of Justice did inspire a more hopeful tone. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. continued to push for more jokes and a shorter runtime. When Joss Whedon eventually came on board for rewrites, they practically seized the opportunity to have him direct after Snyder left.

The less than glowing response to the movie led to a complete reworking of the DCEU. One so drastic that the DC Extended Universe slowly became less interconnected. Similar to Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, fans felt the “Snyder Cut” would be way better than the movie we ended up with. Both movies had a last minute director switch that drastically altered the tone of each film. I tried to ignore the “Snyder Cut” movement, but I was constantly bombarded by crazed fans yelling as loud as they could. All that yelling finally led to a completed movie in 2021 that officially restored the original footage seen in the trailers. Released on HBO Max, the first teaser looked good, but the aspect ratio change was a bizarre creative choice. The R rating felt unnecessary and the 4 hour runtime seemed extremely excessive. Zack Snyder’s Justice League turned out a lot better than anyone was expecting, but that tends to happen when a movie is roughly the length of a miniseries…

Zack Snyder's Justice League

The Justice League stand together

SPOILER ALERT! The difference between the “Snyder Cut” and the theatrical cut is made explicitly clear right off the bat. The darker tone is reestablished by showing the death of Superman in slow motion. When Doomsday impaled the Man of Steel, he screamed so loud that it could be heard across the world. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Lois Lane witness this first hand. A sullen Cyborg, fearful Atlanteans, and battle ready Amazons all witness their respective Mother Boxes activating. Lex Luthor is still in the genesis chamber learning about Steppenwolf when he hears the Kryptonian cry. The scene of a bearded Bruce Wayne traveling to a fishing community makes a lot more sense after an opening like that. What follows is a series of parts meant to make the 4 hour experience more bearable.

Part 1: “Don’t Count on it, Batman” – Bruce Wayne meeting Arthur Curry is a lot less joke heavy with more focus on his mission to build an alliance of warriors. Aquaman is a lot more no-nonsense when speaking the Icelandic language and turning down Wayne’s money. The main difference is a group of creepily aroused Icelandic women singing a folk song when Arthur rips his sweater off and dives into the sea. It’s nothing compared to Whedon’s version, but that doesn’t mean Snyder isn’t prone to WTF moments. Bruce & Alfred have a far more straightforward conversation afterwards when Aquaman says no. Scenes of Metropolis mourning Superman are cut out with more focus on Ma Kent foreclosing the farm and Lois visiting his monument. Former Jimmy Olsen actor Marc McClure plays the friendly police officer that she brings coffee to. Wonder Woman’s introduction is still at the London bank, but everytime Diana or the Amazons appear, Junkie XL plays an operitic siren call. Every… single… time!

We still hear her epic Dawn of Justice theme during a more action-packed slow motion fight, but the other theme is just excessive. The Black Clad gentlemen terrorists are a bit more sinister with one of them dropping the first of only 3 F bombs in the entire movie. There’s no question that Wonder Woman kills the lead terrorist when she strikes her bracelets. Immediately after killing someone, Diana has time to inspire a girl who wants to be just like her. When Steppenwolf arrives to face the Amazons, he has a far better alien design with spikes, bulging muscles, and a more threatening voice still provided by Ciarán Hinds. The Amazons declare their lack of fear to Steppenwolf when his Parademons attack. Violence is really the main reason for the R rating as CGI blood splatters during every action scene. Steppenwolf is ruthless in his pursuit of the Mother Box. He tosses horses and flexes arrows out of his body. Connie Nielsen is a bit more physical as Queen Hippolyta puts up an even more desperate fight that ends exactly the same way.

Part 2: The Age of Heroes – The next section bridges the gap between the old and new age of heroes. Bruce & Alfred only discuss searching for Barry Allen while on their plane. Ben Affleck was determined to soften up Batman regardless of director, so he’s still on a path of redemption. Gal Gadot hasn’t changed much between versions either. The main difference is having Diana slowly discover the history of the New Gods in an underground cavern after her mother lights the beacon. Jason Momoa is a lot more serious with Arthur’s link to the ocean. He has another obligatory shirtless scene as water consumes him to the tune of “Icky Thump.” Willem Dafoe is fully restored with Nuidis Vulko scolding Arthur over taking up Queen Atlanna’s trident. Since Aquaman’s mentor was first seen in Aquaman, you can tell even more that Atlantis wasn’t fully developed beforehand. Especially since Vulko also does the stupid air bubble thing. Joe Morton is immediately shown to have a bigger role as Silas Stone working at S.T.A.R. Labs when a janitor is kidnapped by a Parademon.

Ryan Zheng is also restored as Ryan Choi aka the second incarnation of Atom. He speaks with a Chinese accent and works with nanotechnology by the end. Silas returns to an even more angry Victor who watches over their Mother Box. The other better change made to Steppenwolf is having his motivation be redemption for his betrayal of Darkseid. He’s forced to conquer 150,000 worlds in order to return to Apocalypse. He speaks with master torturer DeSaad voiced by Peter Guinness, but the true big bad of the DC Universe will always be Darkseid. Turns out the “Snyder Cut” was finally enough to bring the ultimate world conqueror to live-action voiced by Ray Porter. His CGI design mostly resembles the comics with his imposing grey appearance and blue helmet. The centuries old battle between man, Amazons, Atlanteans, Old Gods, and a Green Lantern is even better and bloodier with Darkseid leading the charge. Robin Wright even makes an appearance as Antiope. The battle is far more epic as the Greek gods tear into Darkseid and ununite the Mother Boxes. Diana tells Bruce about Darkseid’s defeat as he continues to work on that Flying Fox plane.

Part 3: Beloved Mother, Beloved Son – Turns out Barry Allen was supposed to make his first appearance applying to a pet shop. Although Ezra Miller had his moments before, I have no doubt now that he is the strongest comic relief in the move. Even without Whedon’s B material, Snyder manages to keep the Flash lighthearted. Iris West is fully restored with Kiersey Clemons becoming the second black actress to play Barry’s love interest. Their romantic relationship is only hinted at with loving glances. Barry’s superspeed is really taken advantage of in a beautiful sequence of him saving Iris to the tune of “Song to the Siren.” As long as you ignore the cringy moment of Barry grabbing a wiener mid Speed Force. Barry visiting his father in prison isn’t changed much, but Billy Crudup is given more to work with.

The scene of Bruce & Diana discussing recruits is shown in full as the latter mentions a war between Amazons & Atlanteans. Bruce recruits Barry roughly the same way, but thankfully there’s no mention of brunch. Declaring himself to be rich was apparently a Snyder quip all along. Jeremy Irons has a lot less cringy lighthearted moments as Alfred, but I’m not sure we needed tea time with Diana. Creating a blast resistant bat-gauntlet is a better use of his time. Steppenwolf only finds Atlantis when he brutally interrogates an Atlantean. His fight with Mera is about the same except for her violently sucking out his blood. Aquaman shows up to the fight, but the outcome with the Mother Box is the same. One thing I definitely didn’t notice before is a British accent that Amber Heard inexplicably gives Mera.

Arthur & Mera’s bubble conversation is a bit more connected to his solo film than it was before, but the biggest change is everything involving Cyborg. Ray Fisher was the most vocal critic of Joss Whedon’s behavior while filming Justice League. It got to a point where he was practically whining over and over again. I wasn’t surprised when Fisher was fired, but his characterization is more memorable than it was before. Victor’s entire origin as a noble football star, the death of his mother Elinore played by Karen Bryson, and the resentment he feels for his father is all fully restored. Cyborg is practically turned into a tech god that can literally control the entire world. He learns to fly and gives a struggling family money. Although he is still grim while dropping a second F bomb in his encounter with Diana. Everything changes when Silas is captured and Victor buries the final Mother Box.

Part 4: “Change Machine” – J. K. Simmons’ role as Commissioner Gordon is almost exactly the same as it was before. Even the rooftop scene wasn’t changed. The team arrives at Gotham Harbor where they engage in a better first fight that isn’t undermined by jokes. Steppenwolf now interrogates people using a Starro type device that sees into their mind. Victor shows that he still cares for his father when he’s threatened. Cyborg displays further abilities that include an arm cannon, talking to Bruce’s plane, and growing a third arm. He mostly helps S.T.A.R. Labs employees to safety. The Flash isn’t a wimp who uses his superspeed to fight a Parademon and quickly help civilians. Batman puts up a good fight using Alfred’s power absorbing wrist blades and commanding the Knightcrawler before Cyborg steps in. Wonder Woman is still the best fighter in both versions when she engages in an even more intense duel with Steppenwolf.

Aquaman swims in the same way, but the team coming together in the Batcave is entirely different. I have no doubt that Cyborg was meant to be the main character after he explains the origin of the last Mother Box when it was taken by Nazis, then used by Silas to fix his son. The team much more calmly decides to use the Box to revive Superman. Diane Lane and Amy Addams have a much more heartfelt scene of Martha & Lois grieving at the latter’s house. Although the nice moment is kind of undercut by the revelation that Lois was talking to Martian Manhunter the entire time. His CGI could use some work, but apparently Harry Lennix was always meant to be the shapeshifting martian. Not exactly the cinematic debut I pictured for him. Meanwhile, Darkseid finally speaks when Steppenwolf discovers the all important Anti-Life Equation that can control all life in the Multiverse. Only after “The Unity” will Steppenwolf earn his freedom.

Part 5: All the King’s Horses – The grave robbing scene is completely different with Barry & Victor discussing Superman & Wonder Woman. Diana & Arthur are also nearby discussing the significance of an Atlantean teaming up with an Amazon. Alfred has another nice moment with Bruce continuing to make breakthroughs with his trust of Superman. Silas is more directly involved when the Justice League enter the S.T.A.R. Labs Kryptonian scout ship. He allows Victor to pass without interference. The Flash charging the Mother Box to revive Superman isn’t that different apart from Aquaman objecting to the idea more. Cyborg also sees a post-apocalyptic future when connected to the ship. It shows Darkseid successfully invading Earth and controlling an evil Superman.

Diana is buried by the Amazons, Arthur is killed underwater by Darkseid’s Omega Beams, and Superman holds the cowl of Batman over the body of Kilowog. Clark coming back to life and fighting the Justice League obviously hasn’t changed depending on the scenes without his CGI lip. Except for Cyborg helping a cop and the Flash running into Aquaman. Everything Wonder Woman does is the same including her infamous “Kal-El no!” line. The main difference is Clark’s encounter with Batman where he silently uses his heat vision on the Dark Knight. This time Lois was already in the area. We see her with a pregnancy test and walking away from the monument beforehand. Steppenwolf actually arrives to take the final Mother Box this time. It’s more tragic when Silas heroically sacrifices himself trying to destroy the Box in front of his son. DC borrows a line from Marvel when Cyborg tells the team to go get the son of b*tch.

Part 6: “Something Darker” – Although I planned to go all the way, it was at this point that I needed a bathroom break. Clark taking Lois to the Kent farm is far less childish without Whedon’s dialogue. Talking to Lois about his engagement ring and embracing his mother is better when Henry Cavill looks more optimistic. Unfortunately, I’m not crazy about his choice of wardrobe. I know black suit Superman is synonymous with his resurrection, but that’s just another problem with setting Dawn of Justice before Justice League. Superman really should have his classic red & blue suit when with the team. Otherwise both him and Batman are wearing black. Despite being more hopeful, Clark chooses the black suit as the conflicting words of his human and Kryptonian father fill his head. Superman flies into the heavens to join the fight. Meanwhile, the Justice League have a calmer discussion about how to find Steppenwolf after meeting Alfred.

Cyborg intends to disconnect the Mother Boxes while the Flash builds up a powerful electric charge. Arthur opens up a bit to Barry, but he doesn’t need a Lasso to do it. Bruce also brings up the Knightmare to Diana before they head out to Moscow. Thankfully there’s no pointless Russian family to save. The power of “The Unity” can be felt from Themyscira to Atlantis. Alfred meets Master Kent for the first time when he comes searching for the others. The final battle is rightfully restored to its original nighttime color palette. Batman still destroys the barrier, but using the Batmobile is given more weight. Most of the time Batman stays away from Steppenwolf in order to take out Parademon sharpshooters. After the team have another group shot, Cyborg, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman face Steppenwolf directly. He tries to get under Diana’s skin by reminding her of the Amazons and attempts to keep Victor from the Boxes.

Steppenwolf swings his axe on Cyborg, but an unimpressed Superman arrives just in time to use his arctic breath on it. Superman’s powerful display is rougher, but not much different from the theatrical edition. Aside from removing cheesy one-liners, the suit was actually colored black in post-production. When a Parademon somehow manages to hit the Flash, it becomes too late to stop “The Unity.” Darkseid appears in a portal alongside DeSaad and a presumably digital version of Granny Goodness on Apocalypse. As the world crumbles, the Flash really shows his immense power by turning back time in a breathtaking Speed Force run. No doubt that the Justice League are in fact gods among us. Cyborg views his family when revived, but sees past the deception in order to break the Boxes. Steppenwolf won’t go down without a fight this time. Until he’s impaled by Aquaman, punched by Superman, and actually beheaded by Wonder Woman. Darkseid knows enough to retreat, but still plan an old fashion invasion later on. The Justice League standing together is about the same apart from the distracting black suit.

Epilogue: “A Father Twice Over” – Rather than have Lois close out the movie with a Daily Planet article, Victor listens to the recording left by his father that he destroyed earlier. Silas Stone gives similar words of encouragement as the heroes go their separate ways. Victor embraces his role as Cyborg, Arthur talks to Vulko & Mera before leaving to see his father, Barry similarly tells his father about his forensics job, and Diana returns to her Amazonian monastery. The Hall of Justice scene is the same and so is Bruce buying the bank for Clark. The only difference with Clark is him opening up his shirt to reveal a silver ‘S’ underneath. The after-credits scene is now part of the movie with Lex escaping Arkham, but having a different conversation with Deathstroke. Jesse Eisenberg and Joe Manganiello are about as serious as they were before. Except that now their conversation foreshadows the original The Batman solo movie with Lex revealing Batman’s secret identity.

Although that’s a natural place to stop, there’s still an entire Knightmare to get through. The post-apocalypse is shown in more detail with trench coat Batman, weaponized Cyborg, British Mera carrying Aquaman’s trident, the Flash wearing an armored costume, Deathstroke as an ally, and even the Joker. Since all of this was brand new, Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, Amber Heard, Ezra Miller, Joe Manganiello, and Jared Leto never look like they filmed together. After his terrible portrayal in Suicide Squad, Leto makes up for it with a more subtle tattooless Clown Prince of Crime. Not that his dialogue isn’t a little cringy and drawn out. Batman & the Joker discuss Robin, Harley Quinn, and the Caped Crusader actually drops the final F bomb. Which is followed by the evil Superman attacking. By this point I was done, but even that’s not the end when Martian Manhunter finally shows up to tell Bruce he’ll fight with them in a future we’ll never see.

In conclusion, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is better than the theatrical cut, but it’s not the masterpiece some fans call it. If you need 4 hours just to tell a story properly, than I wouldn’t exactly call that genius. Despite the larger runtime, Snyder still couldn’t use every idea he had. Like using Wayne T. Carr as John Stewart Green Lantern instead of Martian Manhunter at the end. Although Snyder did get even more self indulgent by making a black & white version of the movie. The Leonard Cohen version of “Hallelujah” is only heard during the credits. Fans continue to press Warner Bros. for an “Ayer Cut” of the similarly botched Suicide Squad. Along with the full restoration of the Snyderverse featuring a Justice League trilogy. Although this was a good effort, I’m still not a fan of his radical vision for famous DC characters. The solo approach to the DCEU isn’t a perfect one, but I’m fine with it as long as the movies are good. In the end, Zack Snyder completed Justice League for his daughter, so I guess I can’t fault him for that.

Justice League

The Justice League unite

Theatrical film: Justice League (2017)

What Day is Today?

Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is more “Bah, Humbug” than it should’ve been. Merry Christmas everyone! The most recent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novella is sadly the second worst one I’ve seen. It’s a computer animated Netflix movie that looks more like one of those annual Christmas commercials. Scrooge: A Christmas Carol seemed unremarkable until I learned it was a reimagining of the 1970 musical with the same screenwriter. Except that those familiar songs are nothing compared to how they were in the original and a lot of them are replaced by less memorable songs. The biggest problem is just how off script the movie is. So many iconic lines are left out or butchered for no good reason. Though it takes place in the 1800’s, the cast is diverse and characters talk like it’s modern day.

Ebenezer Scrooge is far too soft and they once again make the 1997 mistake of giving the old miser a kindhearted dog named Prudence to care for. Fred is renamed Harry like the 1970 version, but he’s much more jovial. Scrooge rebuffs him, denies idiosyncratic charity collects, and keeps Tom Jenkins in debt. Yet Scrooge feels too remorseful of his actions. Luke Evans uses an elderly voice, but he sounds too youthful while singing. Jonathan Pryce is a more goulsih Jacob Marley with coins over his eyes. I didn’t like how cosmic and otherworldly the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come were depicted. Olivia Colman is too mocking and annoying as a literal living wax candle. Past actually rips off the line from The Lion King about how the past can hurt. Scrooge’s past is more like the 2004 musical where his father is in prison for debt. Fan is renamed Jen for some reason and Isabel is made the daughter of old Fezziwig voiced by Jessie Buckley.

Another change is making Scrooge responsible for Bob Cratchit’s poverty when he was a child. Present is traditional, but he rips off Aladdin by saying his slumber has been disturbed. He’s also accompanied by fairy type creatures. Harry’s party and the Cratchit family dinner play out like the 70’s movie. Except that Tiny Tim’s sister is less eager to sing with him. At least “God bless us, everyone” is unaffected. Present transforms into Yet to Come in a blaze of fire that turns the fairies into demons. The future is almost exactly like the 70’s musical, but Scrooge’s dog undermines the impact of his death. Christmas morning is also too different with Scrooge talking to an older man from his window and getting street urchins to set up a party in his house. Rather than go to the people, the people come to Scrooge. Scrooge: A Christmas Carol is not the best way for children to be introduced to the classic story.

Scrooge A Christmas Carol

Ebenezer Scrooge watches the clock

Do a Little Good

Spirited is an overstuffed Christmas extravaganza. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been modernized before in Scrooged and other lesser known adaptations, but nothing like this. Spirited is a modern day musical comedy that treats haunting like a business. The Ghost of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come are all part of an annual Christmas operation where they haunt anyone in need of redemption. I wasn’t sure I’d accept something so different, but I found myself laughing early on. Spirited has the combined comedy of Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds.

It’s Ferrell’s best Christmas performance since Elf as the unfulfilled Ghost of Christmas Present. Most of the time he’s dressed in a green suit, but he does go full Dickens later on. Sunita Mani is a horny Ghost of Christmas Past who swoons over their next perp. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a standard silent reaper with the unexpected voice of Tracy Morgan when he’s off duty. Since Patrick Page is Marley, I knew Ebenezer Scrooge had to play a part in a not too surprising way. Present is determined to redeem the unredeemable Clint Briggs. As much as I like Reynolds, he is easy to dislike as a media consultant who uses cancel culture to get ahead.

Spirited is a little too modern, but a reimaged Tiny Tim being the victim of cyberbullying does make sense. Present spends a lot of his time with Clint who refuses to change no matter what. Clint’s past relationship with his late sister touches him, but he’s also trying to change Present at the same time. They become bros and Present ends up falling for his Bob Cratchit type assistant Kimberly played by Octavia Spencer. The ending was the only natural way the story could turn out. In terms of songs, it’s a little annoying that everyone knows they’re in a musical, but “Good Afternoon,” “Do a Little Good,” and “Ripple” stood out. Spirited is a fresh take with more good than “Bah, Humbug.”

Spirited

The Ghost of Christmas Present haunts Clint Briggs

After Happily Ever After

Disenchanted is a sequel 15 years too late. The 2007 Enchanted was a surprise hit that deserves way more recognition. It subverted the traditional Disney formula long before Frozen. I wouldn’t exactly call it forgotten, but it is strange that it took this long to get a sequel. Regardless of quality I’m still mad that Disney continues to dump films like this on Disney+. Despite the dominance of computer animation, Andalasia is still traditionally animated in a familiar way to the first movie. There’s also a lot more Andalasia than the trailer let on. Disenchanted is all about after happily ever after. Giselle has been happily married to Robert for 10 years in New York, but she longs for a more fairy tale life in a small town called Monroeville. Amy Adams has become a more seasoned actress since Enchanted, but she manages to recapture the pleasantly positive honorary Disney Princess.

Though mostly sticking to TV, Patrick Dempsey returns with a less significant role. Disenchanted is primarily centered around Giselle trying to be a good stepmother to an older Morgan. Original actress Rachel Covey is replaced by Gabriella Baldacchino since they wanted Morgan to be a sarcastic teenager. King Edward and Queen Nancy visit from Andalasia to give Giselle and Robert’s baby daughter Sophia a magic wand. When their new life isn’t as magical as they hoped it would be, Giselle wishes for a fairy tale life. Disenchanted is a mostly clever reverse of Enchanted where this time the modern world is brought into the fairy tale world. Which means everything has a face, everyone sings, and magic exists. Robert’s only role is to find adventure as a brave Prince. Despite his steady work in kids movies, James Marsden is similarly shortchanged as Edward.

Maya Rudolph assumes the role of an overbearing town councilwoman turned eccentric evil Queen Malvina. Yvette Nicole Brown and Jayma Mays play her henchwomen, while Oscar Nunez plays a nervous magic mirror. Alan Tudyk continues to serve Disney as the voice of a magic scroll. Though there are plenty of villains in the movie, Adams is equally good as a wicked stepmother that Giselle slowly transforms into. Pip the chipmunk returns as the narrator and ends up transforming into Giselle’s evil cat. Morgan attempts to reverse the spell with Nancy’s help. Since Idina Menzel’s popularity has skyrocketed since the first movie, she’s given at least 2 songs. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz return to compose, but there’s a few too many songs in the sequel. The biggest standout is obviously Menzel’s power ballad “Love Power.” Morgan uses Giselle’s memories to save her and the town with it. Disenchanted respects the original, but the magic isn’t what it used to be.

Disenchanted

Giselle competes with Malvina

Preceded by: Enchanted

Must Have Toy

8-Bit Christmas is A Christmas Story for the modern age. It’s way more 80’s than the 1983 Christmas classic. Though I wouldn’t call it an instant classic, it is refreshing to see a genuinely good newer Christmas movie. 8-Bit Christmas is currently the only HBO Max original film I’ve seen. Though it was released on Thanksgiving day, my brother and I decided to watch it on Christmas day. Since 80’s nostalgia is still a thing, Jake Doyle desperately wants a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas.

A straight for pay Neil Patrick Harris plays an older Jake who tells the story to his cell phone obsessed daughter. Child star Winslow Fegley is a likable kid with an equally likeable circle of friends. There’s his best friend, bickering twins, the kid with allergies, a kid who lies a lot, the weird kid, and one of those big dumb bullies. They all want a Nintendo, but the local rich kid is the only one who has one. Jake’s parents are June Diane Raphael as his multitasking mom and Steve Zahn as another excitable hard working dad.

Meanwhile, his little sister desperately wants a Cabbage Patch Kid. David Cross is the only other well known actor who drops in as a black market toy dealer. Much like A Christmas Story, Jake goes to great lengths trying to get a Nintendo. From outright asking his parents to trying to win it as a prize to creating an elaborate scheme with his friends. While at the same time dealing with other relatable problems. 8-Bit Christmas is hilarious and surprisingly emotional with a sweet last minute message about family.

8-Bit Christmas

Jake loses his Nintendo

They Made it Personal

Without Remorse is not without some merit. Tom Clancy may have passed away, but Jack Ryan continues to live on in the Amazon Prime series starring John Krasinski. Without Remorse was always an origin story for Ryan’s darker half John Clark. The role was previously portrayed by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. A movie adaptation didn’t get off the ground for over 20 years. Several high profile actors were considered before Michael B. Jordan was cast as the younger Navy SEAL John Kelly.

Aside from race, the biggest change was removing Kelly’s status as a Vietnam veteran. The story mostly works even if the war is different. It’s just the Cold War element that feels the same in every movie. This time seperate conflicts in America and Russia are meant to fuel a conflict. Without Remorse feels generic, but Jordan is very dedicated to the role. He’s joined by Jodie Turner-Smith as James Greer’s niece Karen and Guy Pearce as one of his superiors. There’s also a Fant4stic reunion between Jordan and Jamie Bell that nobody wanted. When Kelly’s wife and unborn child are murdered, he vows revenge without remorse.

The book sounds a lot more graphic, but Without Remorse is the second adaptation after Patriot Games to have an R rating. Of course Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is TV-MA. There’s a lot more action that centers around Kelly’s mission. As a trained Navy SEAL, Kelly has shooting skills and can hold his breath underwater for extended periods of time. Kelly gets his revenge and the name “John Clark” near the end, but it was all to set up the more interesting sounding sequel Rainbow Six. Without Remorse is only worth it for the leading star.

6. Without Remorse

John Kelly strangles Robert Ritter

Rusty Gears

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is yet another confusing edition to the perpetually sloppy franchise. At this point, all the movies are barely canon to the original 1978 classic. Texas Chainsaw Massacre once again ignores sequels just to blatantly rip-off Halloween (2018). Original final girl Sally Hardesty is now an elderly gun-toting Texas Ranger who spent her whole life hunting Leatherface. Unlike the equally terrible Texas Chainsaw 3D, Gunnar Hansen and Marilyn Burns couldn’t return since they both past away. Making the entire subplot feel forced.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is mostly focused on a fresh batch of annoying millennial victims. The most cringe-worthy moment is a bus full of millennials trying to get Leatherface cancelled. They want to gentrify an abandoned Texas town in a subplot that I couldn’t care less about. After finishing Eighth Grade, Elsie Fisher became the newest final girl Lila. She’s a school shooting survivor who came with her sister Melody. Texas Chainsaw Massacre isn’t equipped to handle a storyline like that since it’s so focused on killing.

Leatherface was never my favorite slasher, but his increasingly bizarre families were a major part of his character. Texas Chainsaw Massacre abandons the family element after Leatherface loses a woman who ran his orphanage. Leatherface now has a sad new face, but his original chainsaw. The actual massacre is so gory and disgusting, I had to look away. Leatherface kills so many people that I was counting the moments before he killed his final “surprise” victim. Despite the very short runtime and easy Netflix access, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is torture to get through.

9. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Leatherface pulls out the chainsaw

Preceded by: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

If it Bleeds, We Can Kill it

Prey is the only Predator movie that measures up to the original. Predator 2, Predators, and The Predator all failed to keep the franchise going. Turns out a prequel depicting the first hunt in 1719 was the right direction to take. Like Alien vs. Predator, the idea came from a Predator comic. Unlike Prometheus, Prey makes a lot more sense with a Native American fighting the first Predator on Earth. It was mostly the all-Comanche cast that earned the movie so much unprecedented acclaim. Do I think Prey is overrated, yes. Do I think it deserves the admiration, also yes.

After the equally surprising success of 10 Cloverfield Lane, director Dan Trachtenberg proved he was good at minimalism. Native American actress Amber Midthunder is a worthy unlikely hunter named Naru who tries to prove herself to the tribe. She doesn’t have the muscles of Dutch, but she does have a faithful dog companion and a throwing tomahawk. The cloaked Predator is still advanced, but has more primitive technology like darts in place of the usual shoulder cannon. A skull helmet reveals one ugly motherf***er underneath.

Although Prey was the first Predator (and/or Alien) movie owned by Disney, an exclusive Hulu release ensured an R rating. The Predator’s wristblades skin a snake, wolf, and bear before he finally discovers man. Prey isn’t really trying to make a statement until the invading French get caught in the crossfire. The only iconic quote is uttered by Naru’s brother who says, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Naru uses the Predator’s florescent blood and her wits to take down the massive hunter. Prey finally brings back the tension of the hunt.

7. Prey

Naru hides from the Yautja

Followed by: Predator

Nobody Wants a Reboot!

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers isn’t the reboot I was expecting. Chip ‘n’ Dale are a classic Disney chipmunk duo who have been around since 1943. I’ve seen many of their shorts, but I never really watched the Disney Afternoon show Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Like most 80’s cartoons, the show was formulaic, but fun. Although intended to be an Alvin and the Chipmunks style CGI reboot of the Rescue Rangers, the movie ended up going a very different route. The usually raunchy creative team behind The Lonely Island decided to make Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers the closest thing to a Who Framed Roger Rabbit sequel we’re ever gonna get. The opening is like a mockumentary with Chip ‘n Dale as actors who starred in Rescue Rangers before it got cancelled. Leading to Chip becoming a boring insurance agent and Dale trying to shed his comic relief image. I didn’t quite understand John Mulaney and Andy Samberg voicing Chip ‘n Dale, but their original squeaky voices are used as a joke.

The movie is very meta with a live-action world populated by more than just traditionally animated characters. Now there’s computer animation, claymation, puppetry, motion capture, and so many other unexpected forms of animation. When they grow apart, Dale receives “CGI surgery” and Chip stays the same. It’s bizarre seeing two different animation styles at the same time, but it gets weirder. Like Roger Rabbit, the movie includes more than just Disney characters in the background. Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, My Little Pony, and even DreamWorks characters are shown respect. Though it does feel wrong to see South Park and Beavis and Butt-Head characters acknowledged in a kids movie. Though not at the same level as Roger Rabbit, the movie does have a bit of an edge. The most hilariously unexpected inclusion is Ugly Sonic. Which is literally the ugly original version of Sonic trying desperately to make a comeback. Of course other non-animated facets of pop culture are acknowledged.

Chip ‘n Dale are brought back together when their old friend Monterey Jack has trouble with his cheese addiction. Tress MacNeille returns to voice Gadget, but Monty has Eric Bana as a convincing soundalike. Turns out Gadget ended up with Zipper and they’re left out of most of the movie. Instead Kiki Layne plays a human police officer named Steckler who helps the duo in investigating Monty’s disappearance. J. K. Simmons voices the claymation Captain Putty who doubts their abilities. After a trip to the Uncanny Valley, a Swedish Chef inspired muppet takes Chip ‘n Dale to meet the villain of the movie. It feels wrong, but the villain is actually a very bitter grown up Peter Pan voiced by Will Arnett named Sweet Pete. He intends to kidnapped animated characters, alter their appearance, and place them in low rent bootleg movies. Sweet Pete is joined by a Coca-Cola polar bear and Seth Rogen as a motion capture dwarf with lifeless eyes. Though the climax does bring back series antagonist Fat Cat in a very unusual way. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers could’ve been another IP crazy mess, but it does have heart thanks to the duo mending their friendship.

Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers

Chip ‘n’ Dale work together

What it Means to Be a Man

The Power of the Dog is an old fashioned western with a new fashioned twist. After her previous nomination with The Piano, Jane Campion became the second consecutive woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards. Although I’m certain that’s a big reason for its acclaim, The Power of the Dog is an engaging character study. It was nominated for 12 Oscars, but only won 1 for Best Director. The last movie to do that was The Graduate back in 1967. The last movie to win 1 while losing 11 was Becket back in 1964. Though The Power of the Dog seemed like a shoo-in to win Best Picture, CODA was the true underdog.

Ironically it became a competition between Netflix and Apple TV+. The scenic western production value earned it several technical nominations for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, and Sound. Every single award was lost to Dune. The original 1967 book by Thomas Savage works surprisingly well in the 2020’s. It’s actually another gay cowboy movie nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Although it’s a bit more subtle with metaphors and symbolism. Campion’s style can be seen through character relationships, male nudity, and there’s even a piano. The entire cast deserved their respective nominations.

It’s an unexpectedly good ensemble that includes Doctor Strange, Nightcrawler, Mary Jane Watson, and her husband. Thomasin McKenzie is the only New Zealand native in the cast. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a surly rancher with a convincing southern drawl. Phil belittles his brother George and his eventual wife Rose. Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst are a convincing married couple since they are one in real life. Although they were nominated in the same year, neither of them won. Dunst plays Rose as a miserable alcoholic who takes abuse from her brother in-law. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays her unmanly son Peter who gets roped up in Phil’s world. Though it seems like an attraction, Peter is more devious than he lets on. The Power of the Dog is slow, but powerful.

The Power of the Dog

Peter rides with Phil