Peacemaker: Season 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

HBO Max;
Action;
Not rated.
Stars John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Chukwudi Iwuji, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, Robert Patrick, Annie Chang, Lochlyn Munro.

Writer-director James Gunn’s talent for blending obscure comic book references with subversive humor and strong character dynamics is on full display in “Peacemaker,” a fantastic series that pulls no punches when it comes to deconstructing its source material.  

Spinning off from the end credits scene of The Suicide Squad, “Peacemaker” focuses on the title character played by John Cena, an expert marksman who promises to kill anyone who stands in the way of peace. However, his recovery from the events of The Suicide Squad have led him to re-evaluate his vow just as he’s recruited for a new mission that will put it to the test.

For his new assignment, Peacemaker joins a team tasked with assassinating a U.S. senator who may be under the control of aliens known as Butterflies. He also finds his confidence shaken by the lack of approval of his father (Robert Patrick), a massive racist who blames him for the death of his brother when they were just kids.

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The eight-episode series mixes characters established in The Suicide Squad with some memorable new additions, most notably Vigilante (Freddie Stroma), a cold-blooded killer who idolizes Peacemaker, and Eagly, Peacemaker’s pet bald eagle.

“Peacemaker” is filled with Gunn trademarks, such as dialogue that steers into mundane yet hilarious topics, and a soundtrack of killer tunes, including the iconic opening credits dance sequence set to Wig Wam’s “Do You Wanna Taste It.”

The show’s harsh language and graphic violence make it strictly for adult viewers, with a tone akin to “The Boys” in that it steers fully into exploring the psychological flaws of its protagonists, who are not exactly paragons of society.

The central plot even steers into questions about justice and free will that make it ripe for philosophical and political analysis as it heads into a second season.

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HBO Max Renews ‘Peacemaker’ for Second Season

HBO Max has renewed “Peacemaker” — written and directed by James Gunn and starring John Cena — for a second season.

The eight-episode first season of the DC spinoff series premiered on Jan. 13 and will have its finale on Feb. 17. 

Gunn will direct and write all episodes for season two.

“Peacemaker” debuted as the No. 1 new original streaming series for social engagement on Twitter across all of television and remains the No. 1 social show year to date across Max Originals on multiple social platforms, according to HBO Max.

The series follows the explosive escapades of the character that Cena reprises in the aftermath of Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad — a compellingly vainglorious man who believes in peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it.

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“The brilliance of James Gunn once again shines with ‘Peacemaker.’ He took this character, brought to life by the inimitable John Cena, and created an exceptional series that’s simultaneously thrilling, hilarious and heartfelt, showcasing the humanity beneath this team of misfits living in a superhuman world,” Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max, said in a statement. “As the first original DC show to have its series premiere on HBO Max, we are thrilled that the viewers agreed to give peace a f***ing chance.”

“Creating ‘Peacemaker’ has been one of the true highlights of my life, both professionally and otherwise, with John Cena and the incredible creative team around me, as well as our partners at HBO Max,” Gunn said in a statement. “To have something we all love so much be loved by the audience in turn has been a wonderful experience. I can’t wait for folks to see where Team Peacemaker goes in season two!”

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by the response to ‘Peacemaker’ and the experience of playing this character,” Cena said in a statement. “Thank you to James Gunn, Peter Safran, HBO Max, the crew, and my castmates who worked tirelessly to make this unforgettable series.”

In addition to Cena, the season one cast includes Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Chukwudi Iwuji, Steve Agee and Robert Patrick. Gunn wrote all eight season one episodes and directed five, including the first. Gunn, Peter Safran and Matt Miller serve as executive producers on the series, with Cena as co-executive producer and Stacy Littlejohn as consulting producer.

Based on characters from DC, “Peacemaker” is produced by Gunn’s Troll Court Entertainment and The Safran Company in association with Warner Bros. Television.

‘The Suicide Squad’ Easily Tops Disc Sales Charts

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s The Suicide Squad debuted at No. 1 on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sales charts by a wide margin the week ended Oct. 30.

The superhero sequel from director James Gunn is based on the DC Comics team of supervillains who are extorted into performing dangerous covert missions for the U.S. government. A sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, it is the 10th movie in the DC Extended Universe, and earned $55.8 million at the domestic box office. A spinoff focused on John Cena’s Peacemaker character from the film is set to debut on the HBO Max streaming service in 2022.

The top title the previous two weeks, Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ Free Guy, dropped to No. 2 on both the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc sales chart. In its third week, Free Guy sold about one-third as many copies as the newly released The Suicide Squad.

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Two other newcomers also cracked the top 10.

No. 4 on both charts was Sony Pictures’ horror film Don’t Breathe 2. The sequel to the 2016 original features the return of Stephen Lang as Norman, whose attempts at a quiet life in an isolated cabin is shattered when criminals kidnap his adopted daughter. It earned $32.6 million at the domestic box office.

No. 9 on the overall disc sales chart and No. 11 on the Blu-ray chart was Universal Pictures’ Stillwater, a drama starring Matt Damon as an Oklahoma oil worker who moves to France while searching for evidence to exonerate his daughter, who is serving time in prison for murder. It earned $14.5 million at U.S. theaters.

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No. 3 on both charts, down a spot from the previous week, was Paramount’s Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins. The No. 5 overall title (No. 17 on the Blu-ray chart) was Disney’s 1993 spooky family comedy Hocus Pocus, for which a Disney+ sequel is now in production.

The No. 5 Blu-ray (8 on the overall chart), was Warner’s direct-to-video animated superhero movie Injustice.

Blu-ray Disc formats for The Suicide Squad comprised 69% of its total unit sales (18% from 4K disc and 51% from regular Blu-ray). Don’t Breathe 2 had 56% of its sales come from Blu-ray (16% 4K and 40% BD). Stillwater had 45% of its sales come from Blu-ray ; it wasn’t released on 4K disc.

The Media Play News rental chart the week ended Oct. 31 had Don’t Breathe 2 at No. 1 and The Suicide Squad at No. 2.

Free Guy grabbed the No. 3 spot after a couple weeks of delayed availability at Redbox rental kiosks, while Stillwater debuted at No. 4.

The previous week’s top rental, Unviersal’s M. Night Shyamalan thriller Old, slipped to No. 5.

Top 20 Sellers for Week Ended 10-30-21
Top 20 Rentals for Week Ended 10-31-21
Top 20 Selling Blu-ray Discs for Week Ended 10-30-21
Top 20 Blu-ray Market Share for Week Ended 10-30-21
Sales Report for Week Ended 10-30-21
Digital Transactions Snapshot for Week Ended 11-01-21

‘The Suicide Squad’ Available for Premium Digital Ownership Sept. 17, on Disc Oct. 26

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will make director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad available for premium digital ownership starting Sept. 17, followed by a Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release Oct. 26.

Written and directed by Gunn, the film is based on the DC Comics series about imprisoned supervillains who are recruited by the U.S. government for covert operations, and have a bomb implanted in their heads that will explode if they don’t comply.

A sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad and the 10th film in the DC Extended Universe franchise, the film finds government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sending the team to infiltrate the island nation of Corto Maltese to eliminate a potentially dangerous weapon.

Among the recruits this time around are Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the sharpshooter Bloodsport (Idris Elba), the jingoistic Peacemaker (John Cena), team leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone).

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The cast also includes Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney and Pete Davidson.

The Suicide Squad earned $54.7 million during a domestic box office run in which it was simultaneously available for streaming on HBO Max for a month.

The Blu-ray, DVD and 4K editions will include the featurette “The Way of The Gunn.”

The Blu-ray and 4K combo packs will also include a digital copy of the film and additional extras such as a commentary with Gunn; deleted and extended scenes; a gag reel; “War Movie,” “Horror Movie” and “Buddy Cop” retro trailers; “It’s a Suicide Mission,” “My Guns Bigger Than Yours,” “Harley’s Great Escape” and “The Fall of Jotunheim” scene breakdowns; and the featurettes “Gotta Love the Squad,” “The Way of the Gunn,” “Starro: It’s a Freakin Kaiju!” and “Bringing King Shark to Life.”

A spinoff series about Cena’s Peacemaker character is set to debut on HBO Max in January.

Warner’s ‘The Suicide Squad’ Falls Below Weekend Box Office Projections

Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Suicide Squad generated around $26.5 million across 4,000 screens through the Aug. 8 weekend — tops at the domestic box office for an ‘R’-rated title, but below industry expectations.

Observers believe the film’s performance was impacted by both the spread of the Delta variant and the fact that the movie is simultaneously screening on HBO Max.

The standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, directed by Marvel Cinematic Universe veteran James Gunn, had been expected to top $30 million in North American ticket sales. It is the latest DC Extended Universe theatrical release since Wonder Woman 1984 opened on Christmas Day 2020.

The benchmark is based in part on opening weekend box office results for Warner’s other pandemic/HBO Max releases such as Godzilla vs. Kong, which earned $31.6 million its opening weekend at theaters while released concurrently to Max subscribers for 31 days. Suicide Squad spinoff Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey opened with $33 million in February 2020 just before the pandemic.

In its third week of release, Disney’s Jungle Cruise generated $15.7 million in North American ticket sales, bringing its domestic total to $65.3 million ($121.8 million worldwide).

M. Night Shyamalan’s horror/thriller Old, distributed by Universal Pictures, brought in an estimated $4.1 million after three weeks, bringing its total to $38.5 million domestically ($68.1 million worldwide).

Disney/Marvel Studios’ Black Widow topped $4 million in its fifth week of release to become the top-grossing domestic release so far this year, passing Universal Pictures’ F9: The Fast Saga. Sister company Focus Features’ Stillwater generated $2.8 million, followed A24’s The Green Knight with $2.6 million and Warner’s Space Jam: A New Legacy with $2.4 million. The LeBron James-starrer has generated $65.6 million in U.S. theaters while concurrently streaming on Max.

Weekend Box Office Takes on ‘The Suicide Squad’ and Delta Variant

This weekend’s release of The Suicide Squad comes five years and one pandemic since Warner Bros. Pictures released the original Suicide Squad movie.

The standalone sequel also is the latest DC Extended Universe theatrical release since Wonder Woman 84 opened on Christmas Day 2020.

The Suicide Squad, which opens Aug. 6 in theaters and on HBO Max, features a mostly new ensemble cast of anti-superheroes; a new director, James Gunn; and scant holdovers (Margot Robbie as anti-villainess  Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag) from the original.

Gunn enjoyed commercial and critical success with Disney/Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise; thus, social media buzz for The Suicide Squad bow has been high. But August brings with it rising concerns about the Delta variant, which has seen surges in COVID infections and hospitalizations in parts of the country — especially among unvaccinated populations.

Suicide Squad in 2016 debuted to a record August opening box office of $134 million, and ultimately generated global ticket sales of $746.8 million.

But with moviegoers still apprehensive about the pandemic, and The Suicide Squad streaming for free to Max subs, this opening weekend’s box office numbers could generate a fraction ($30 million) of the original, according to industry projections.

An Aug. 1 consumer survey from the National Research Group found 11% fewer respondents than in July (81%) willing to frequent movie theaters due to Delta concerns. Last month, several key counties in the major box office market of California — including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento — reinstituted mandatory masks for indoor activities.

As a result, the domestic weekend box office is expected to generate nearly 20% fewer ticket sales than last weekend’s $75 million, which was driven by Disney’s Jungle Cruise. The Walt Disney Studios release is projected to generate less than $15 million in its second weekend of release, followed by Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow ($3.9 million), Universal Pictures’ Old ($3.8 million), Warner’s Space Jam: A New Legacy ($2.6 million), A24’s The Green Knight ($2.5 million), Focus Features’ Stillwater ($2.4 million), Paramount Pictures’ Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins ($1.8 million), Sony Pictures’ Escape Room: Tournament of Champions ($1.3 million) and Universal’s F9: The Fast Saga with $1.2 million.

F9 is also available in consumer homes on PVOD for $19.99, while Black Widow can be purchased for $29.99 until Oct. 6.

Brightburn

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Sony Pictures;
Horror;
Box Office $17.3 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $38.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for horror violence/bloody images, and language.
Stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Gregory Alan Williams, Annie Humphrey.

The common description of Brightburn paints the film as something of a dark superhero tale, a speculation about what would have happened had Superman turned out to be evil.

Such a summary is a bit of an oversimplification, both in terms of what the movie is trying to achieve and in the implication of what Superman is.

For the most part, though, the film is an effective thriller with a killer hook — what if Superman was the slasher in his own horror film?

The superpowered alien central to Brightburn is not Superman, of course, but a close enough stand-in given the circumstances involved. A childless couple wishes for a baby only to have one fall out of the sky in a spaceship. They adopt the child and raise him as their own, only for him to discover that he possesses wondrous powers.

After living a relatively normal childhood, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) quickly develops the powers of super strength, flight, superspeed and heat vision. Unlike Superman, he can also emit EM pulses to interfere with electronics.

Brandon’s alien nature has begun to assert itself, and his instincts tell him he was sent to Earth to take it over.

So he slowly embarks on his campaign of terror, first tormenting a young classmate he has a crush on. As the locals begin to shun him for his oddness, he grows more willing to kill in order to conceal his true nature. Even his adoptive father (David Denman) begins to distrust him, though his mother (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to give up on him.

The key difference with Superman, of course, is that Clark Kent was never driven by a preordained alien instinct for dominance. He was simply raised as a child with superpowers, and developed the moral lessons imparted upon him by his adoptive parents into his desire to pursue truth, justice and the American way.

But that’s neither here nor there as far as Brightburn is concerned. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and written by his brother and cousin, the film relishes its chance to demonstrate how terrifying the prospect of a superpowered child can be once he realizes he is subject to no mortal constraints. Brightburn is creepy, disturbing appropriately gory in the best traditions of practical horror effects (with a modern assist from CGI).

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The idea at the heart of Brandon’s sudden turn toward bloodlust gives rise to the five-minute “Nature vs. Nurture” featurette included with the Blu-ray, which explores the film’s family dynamic and suggests the film is something of a parable for parenting a difficult child.

The sentiment is echoed by director David Yarovesky in a short “social vignette” and the film’s commentary track, in which he recalls his own troubled upbringing and calls the film a tribute of sorts to his mother for putting up with him.

Yarovesky shares the commentary with his wife, Autumn, who serves as the costume designer, and cinematographer Michael Dallatorre. Their lighthearted and often crude discussion comes across like a group of friends making fun of each other and reminiscing on their shared experiences in relating the story of the making of the film. There are some pretty good insights offered for fans interested in knowing more about the film, as well as a fair share of poop jokes.

The five-minute “Hero-Horror!” featurette takes a look at how the film puts a dark twist on the telling of the usual superhero origin story. It’s mostly a standard-issue behind-the-scenes video of the cast and filmmakers discussing the movie, but it doesn’t go much deeper into really analyzing the influences on the film from among the greater pantheon of superhero mythology.

Rounding out the Blu-ray are the aforementioned social vignettes. Labled “Quick Burns Social Vignettes,” they consist of three videos running a total of two–and-a-half minutes. One video features Elizabeth Banks plugging the movie’s virtues, another offers James Gunn singing the praises of director Yarovesky, and the third is the interview with Yarovesky in which he discusses how his background influenced his vision for the film.