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RRR (2022) – Awfully Good

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RRR (2022) – Awfully Good

We’ve been on a bit of a break, but had no choice to return after watching…

RRR (2022)

Director: S. S. Rajamouli
Stars: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson

IS THERE A PLOT?

In 1920s India, a young girl is kidnapped by an evil British governor, causing her village to send their unstoppable “protector” to get her back at any cost. The ensuing trail of vengeance and destruction catches the attention of an equally relentless police officer and leads to a showdown that may change the fate of the country forever.

WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?

The greatest superhero movie this year won’t be released by Marvel or DC. No, even with several films from those studios still to come in 2022, I’m supremely confident not one of them will come close to touching the glory that is RRR. India’s breakout international hit—the most expensive movie ever made in the country—brought in audiences from all over the world and set records at the box office with its huge spectacle and mass appeal.

I was weary of the hype, but it’s honestly the most crowd-pleasing, four-quadrant movie I’ve seen in a long time, featuring literally everything you could possibly want in a film: stellar action sequences, real character drama, romance AND bromance, and even multiple musical numbers/dance-offs. And RRR delivers it all with such gusto, not afraid to go big and silly, or serious and sincere when needed. It’s a movie where you’ll cheer watching someone throw a snarling leopard at a bad guy in the middle of a fight, and then immediately get misty-eyed as the same man sings an inspirational song about human perseverance.

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It’s not a bad movie in the typical tradition of this column, but the sheer excess and over-the-top ridiculousness is all the excuse I need to recommend it for Awfully Good fans.

RRR tiger fight
RRR tiger fight
How the story of Noah’s Ark should’ve ended.

Bonus! You might actually learn something about the history of India…sort of. The story of RRR is based on real revolutionaries Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju, both of whom led rebellions against British colonizers in the 1920s and 1930s. The characters here are fictitious versions of the actual men, who never met in real life and thus sadly never actually waged a two-man war on invading oppressors using jungle cats. Writer/Director S. S. Rajamouli instead posits the film as a three-hour “what if” that imagines these folk heroes on their own paths of resistance, before coming together to rescue a kidnapped girl and jumpstarting an uprising in the process.

In doing so, it treats the two historical figures like real-life superheroes with inexplicable strength and abilities. (One of the characters even receives his famous outfit/supersuit just in time for the final fight like a traditional origin story.) This all leads to some amazing, often brutal action scenes featuring kung fu fights, gun fights, big stunt pieces, and exciting chases—both motorcycle and horse—all on a massive scale. It’s not a movie to invite realism or nitpicking, sort of in the vein of the later FAST AND FURIOUS movies…but with an actual story and characters.

It’s also all gorgeously shot and competently edited, so much so that I would kill to see what Rajamouli could do with a big Hollywood blockbuster. Even being the most expensive Bollywood movie, RRR only cost $72 million. Can you imagine what this director could do with $200 million?

RRR friendship
RRR friendship
That escalated quickly!

I know this is bad form for a writer on the Internet, but if you have any interest in this movie at all, I implore you to stop reading this article immediately and just experience RRR for yourself. It features some of the craziest stuff you’ll see on celluloid all year and it’s best discovered cold. However, if you need a little more enticing, here are some of my favorite parts:

  • We’re introduced to our hero Raju as he literally fights through a crowd of hundreds just to get to one guy. That is not hyperbole. Hundreds. You know how in movies bad guys crowd around the hero, but attack him one at a time? That doesn’t happen here.
  • Not to be outdone, our other hero Bheem is first seen using himself as literal bait to catch a wolf, only to instead attract the attention of a rampaging tiger and have to personally fight and trap it. Not only is this totally awesome, but the tiger comes to play in the story later, so seeing this guy manhandle a ferocious jungle cat is actually in service of the plot.
  • Raju and Bheem meet in possibly the most insane situation to ever unfold. Following a train accident, a boy is trapped in a river surrounded by fire. The two strangers see each other from a distance and wordlessly use hand signals and pure machismo to concoct a plan that involves getting on a motorcycle and a nearby horse, tying a rope around themselves, and riding their respective vehicles/animals off the side of a tall bridge to form a rather complex system of counterweights to save the child. When they fall in to the river, they share an epic, extended underwater high five as a song about friendship plays. Then, in celebration, hundreds of onlookers form a giant human pyramid, which the two men ascend in victory.
RRR tiger fight
RRR tiger
Zach Snyder’s Calvin and Hobbes movie may have taken some liberties with the source material.
  • Bheem’s subtle, tactful plan to rescue the young girl involves him driving a truck full of wild animals—tigers, leopards, wolves, bears, and some wildly confused deer—in to an elegant party at the governor’s mansion as a distraction. I can’t even describe to you how amazing this entire sequence is. It’s just an orgy of bloody human/animal chaos, fiery explosions, and slow-motion testosterone. At one point Raju punches a tiger in the face with a fiery fist and somehow this is not the coolest part of the scene.
  • Also notable is a prison escape scene where Bheem runs around with an injured Raju sitting on his shoulders as the two-man hybrid monstrosity fights off an army of guards in a sequence I can only describe as “John Wick meets Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman.”
  • And then there’s the final siege, where both men have leveled up to near-superhuman status with Raju achieving full Hawkeye mode with a bow and arrow that shoots live grenades and Bheem just casually kicking an incoming motorcycle to a complete stop and picking it up to use as a weapon. Truly has to be seen to be believed.
RRR guns
RRR jump
DOUBLE JOHN WOO MODE ACTIVATED!

All the action has a turn-off-your-brain mentality to it, but the rest of RRR definitely does not. Shockingly, the dramatic, character-building moments in this really work. Scenes like Bheem’s BRAVEHEART-style torture and Raju’s tragic backstory with his dad are actually quite powerful, something I was not expecting in a movie like this. There are technically female romantic leads for each of the main characters, but the genuine and complicated friendship the two men share is the real relationship at the heart of the movie. Or as their theme song repeatedly says, it’s a “Friendship between an erupting volcano and a wild storm!”

I also enjoyed how unflinchingly hard it goes against the British. The evil governor and his equally villainous wife, played by PUNISHER: WAR ZONE’s Ray Stevenson and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE’s Allison Doody, make convincingly over-the-top bad guys with zero shades of grey or subtlety. (SPOILER: When they eventually kill the governor, his fresh heartblood splatters across a sign of the crown that reads, “The sun never sets on the English Empire.”) There’s just something heartwarming about India’s biggest international hit being a scathing takedown of its colonial oppressors.

The Palpatine prequel tried its best to deal with RISE OF SKYWALKER’s unnecessary disclosure that the Emperor had an active sex life.

Like most Bollywood movies, RRR is long—just over three hours—but trust me when I say it flies by. There’s not a wasted minute, even with some of the song and dance numbers, which is more than I can say with most Hollywood blockbusters these days. It’s currently on Netflix in the U.S., but If you ever have a chance to see it on the big screen, I highly recommend treating your eyeballs and your heart to a memorable time.

“BEST” PARTS

ENJOYABLENESS CONTINUUM

PLAY ALONG AT HOME!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • A new title card is shown
  • A human fights an animal or uses an animal to fight
  • Someone talks about the value of a bullet
  • Bheem gets on a motorcycle and/or Raju gets on a horse
  • Someone takes out a group of bad guys using human bowling
  • Something cool happens in slow motion
  • Someone is surrounded by flames
  • Someone has to blow up their dad

Double shot if:

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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