Roku Greenlights John Cena Talk Series About Cars and Conversation

Roku Nov. 16 announced that it has greenlit the celebrity talk series “What Drives You,” hosted by John Cena.

The show — Cena’s first-ever talk series — expands Roku Originals’ existing relationship with the former WWE star-turned-actor/pitchman, which includes his prior role in the comedy series “Die Hart 2: Die Harter” and the upcoming docuseries “WWE Superstars of Tomorrow,” which is produced by Cena.

In the talk show, Cena will hit the road with his celebrity friends in their favorite vehicles that hold a special meaning to them. In each episode, he’ll hitch a ride with a new guest for an in-depth interview and excursion, as they discuss a wide variety of both funny and deeply personal topics, all the while reminiscing about some of the guest’s favorite memories associated with their prized ride.

“The car you drive and where you drive it can say a lot about who you are, from your personality type to what you value and prioritize the most,” Cena said in a statement.

Brian Tannenbaum, head of originals, Roku Media, said Cena’s gift of gab, quick wit and charm make for a compelling show.

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“John infuses extraordinary energy into every conversation he has, giving viewers an under-the-hood look into the lives of each guest,” Tannenbaum said.

The series is produced by ITV America’s Leftfield Pictures. David George, Shawn Witt, Sean Moran, Jay Bienstock, Cena and Dan Baime are the series’ executive producers. Sean Boyle oversees the series on behalf of Roku Originals.

Fast X

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/8/23;
Universal;
Action;
Box Office $145.96 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $34.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Rita Moreno, Leo Abelo Perry, Jason Statham, Jason Momoa, Charlize Theron.

As over the top as Fast X may be, at least they don’t go into space this time. New franchise director Louis Leterrier brings the action back down to Earth a bit while finding new ways to push the audiences’ suspension of disbelief to its limits.

As shown in the bonus material, Leterrier seems excited for the chance to put his stamp on a franchise that has had a tenuous relationship with verisimilitude for a number of films, if only for the excuse to bring to life action concepts ruminating in his head since he was a child.

The story stems from the events of Fast 5, which set the stage for the series’ outlandish change of course with its ridiculous heist climax featuring two muscle cars dragging a multi-ton vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The villain of Fast 5 was killed during that final chase, and 10 years later his son, Dante (Jason Momoa), wants revenge.

Setting out with the flamboyancy of a 1960s Batman villain, Dante must first level-up his resources in order to go toe-to-toe with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, who since that film have morphed from simple street racing hustlers to global secret agents. To demonstrate how dangerous he is, the film has him take over the high-tech operations of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the villain of the last couple of “Fast” films, and arranges to split Team Toretto apart on different missions. From there Dom and his family are subjected to an elaborate series of death traps around the world designed to make them suffer until he can maneuver them into one final improbable battle.

Almost lost among the spectacle is that the massive cast has managed to bring together two actors who have played Aquaman — in addition to Momoa, there’s Alan Ritchson, who portrayed the master of the sea on “Smallville,” on hand here as an Agency supercop whose skepticism of Team Toretto’s loyalties provides another wrinkle to the plot.

This film was touted is the beginning of the end for the franchise, as the first part of a grand finale for the characters, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film ends with a series of cliffhangers and teases for more movies to come.

Still, as exhausting as Fast X can be at times, it can at least be admired for the sheer audacity of the stunts we are expected to believe are happening within the realm of a real physical world. The mayhem looks great in 4K, though the vivid explosions and the exploits of Dom’s seemingly indestructible super-car tend to verge on the cartoonish side.

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In addition to a solo commentary from an enthusiastic Leterrier, the Blu-ray also includes a five-minute gag reel, two forgettable music videos, and nearly 75 minutes of informative (but repetitive) behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The general making of the film is covered in the 35-minute “This Is Family.” Additional featurettes include the 13-minute “Xtreme Rides of Fast X” that profiles the vehicles in the film (which are actually described as the superhero suits to the films’ characters); the seven-minute “Belles of the Brawl” that looks at how the women of the film prepared for their action scenes; the five-minute “Tuned Into Rio” looks at the film’s connections to Fast 5; The two-minute “Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome” focuses on the actor’s role in the franchise, his stunts and a key sequence set in Rome; the three-minute “Little B Takes the Wheel” takes a look at Leo Abelo Perry joining the franchise as Dom’s son; and the minute-and-a-half “A Friend in the End” looks at the film’s post-credits sequence.

Finally, there’s a nearly eight-minute segment of Leterrier breaking down specific action scenes.

Roku Greenlights Original WWE Docuseries Executive Produced by John Cena

Roku April 6 announced it has greenlighted the production of original docuseries “WWE: Recruits” (working title), which follows a group of young men and women competing to earn one the distinction of being a WWE Superstar.

The eight-part series, which is executive produced by John Cena, enables viewers to experience the training, personal triumphs, and life-changing moments of thousands of pro wrestling hopefuls who will be narrowed down to an elite group of candidates going for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Cena will also appear in the docuseries, along with other WWE legends and current stars, including Paul “Triple H” Levesque, Shawn Michaels, Ettore “Big E” Ewan, Bianca Belaire and Ric Flair, among others.

Filming is currently underway with locations including WrestleMania 39, which took place April 1 to 2 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

“[The series] not only unpacks how the WWE transforms unknown athletes into world-renowned stars, but also invites audiences into the lives of a group of young people chasing their ultimate dream,” Sean Boyle, head of adventure and exploration programming for Roku Originals, said in a statement.

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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

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 10/26/21;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $55.8 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence and gore, language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity.
Stars Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Alice Braga, Peter Capaldi, Taika Waititi, Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, Jennifer Holland, Sylvester Stallone, Dee Bradley Baker.

Writer-director James Gunn’s subversive follow-up to 2016’s Suicide Squad resets the franchise by embracing the absurdity inherent in comic book movies.

Like its predecessor, The Suicide Squad is based on the DC Comics series about a team of supervillains who are blackmailed into conducting black ops for the American government through the threat of an explosive chip in their head. The 2016 edition, while a financial success, was panned by critics and audiences after it was infamously re-edited by a trailer company into essentially a series of vignettes set to popular music, trying to capture some of the magic that made Guardians of the Galaxy work so well.

So, for the sequel, DC just brought in Gunn, writer-director of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. The hire came shortly after Gunn was fired by Marvel over some questionable tweets in his past, only to be re-hired for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which he’s working on now.

The Suicide Squad is just another example of why he’s such a good fit for these kinds of movies: a keen understanding of the source material, and a willingness to poke fun at it without undermining the credibility of the story. Here, Gunn assembles a team of some of the silliest comic book concepts ever created, gives their characters emotional depth, and makes it all work.

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This is one of the bloodiest comic book movies ever made, but also one of the funniest, with Gunn expertly finding the balance between the two extremes, beginning with an absolutely insane opening sequence that will leave audiences without a clue of what to expect from this movie.

The story involves the team heading to a tropical island to dispose of a top secret project before the new military dictatorship can expose U.S. involvement in its development. Idris Elba grounds the mission as Bloodsport, a weapons expert. He has a bit of a rivalry with the team’s other weapons expert, Peacemaker (John Cena), as they try to outdo each other running up the movie’s body count. With his earnest penchant for killing anything that stands in his way to achieve “peace,” Peacemaker would seem to be Gunn’s metaphor for American foreign policy (though Gunn found the character appealing enough to write an eight-episode TV spinoff about him, set to debut on HBO Max in 2022).

Other standouts on the team include King Shark, literally a walking, talking man-eating shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone; Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), who uses her deceased father’s technology to control the minds of rats; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), who was experimented on by his mother with an interdimensional virus that gives him the power to expel dots of deadly energy; and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), one of the few holdovers from the first movie, along with team commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government agent who will detonate their heads if they disobey her.

Like the first movie, the sequel has plenty of songs, but thanks to Gunn, they are well integrated into the structure of the film, rather than seemingly played at random.

The Suicide Squad is fun, vibrant and visually distinctive like a graphic novel come to life, though its hard-‘R’ sensibilities may not appeal to everybody.

The Blu-ray edition of The Suicide Squad comes loaded with hours of insightful bonus material about the making of the film, including a good solo commentary with Gunn.

There are also about 17 minutes of deleted scenes that don’t amount to much, so it’s easy to see why they were cut.

Also included are three fun retro trailers done in the style of 1960s war movies, 1970s horror movies and 1980s buddy cop movies.

The regular Blu-ray Disc of the film contains all the extras. The 4K disc includes just the commentary and one featurette, a seven-minute breakdown of Harley Quinn’s violent escape sequence.

Originally published as a streaming review Aug. 9, 2021.

F9: The Fast Saga

Universal;
Action;
Box Office $173.01 million;
$34.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray, $49.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, and language.
Stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron.

By continuing the trend of its predecessors, the latest entry in the “Fast & Furious” franchise is a contender for one of the most absurd movies of all time. In addition to the franchise’s repeated assaults on the laws of physics, F9 adds long-lost family members and yet another character’s return from the dead.

Marking the 20th anniversary of The Fast and the Furious, F9 is the 10th film in the franchise, but the ninth in the main storyline, with 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw being a spinoff. It also features the return to the director’s chair of Justin Lin, who previously directed the third through sixth entries. Lin had previously directed the 2002 crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow, which could be considered the unofficial 11th film in the franchise as it introduced the character of Han (Sung Kang), who went on to appear in all of Lin’s “FF” movies and makes his return here, bringing the franchise’s main arc full circle as it prepares for its finale.

The story finds Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) living in seclusion with his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and son, but he’s called back into action when it turns out his brother, Jakob (John Cena) is the leader of a clandestine group trying to steal a device that can hack into every computer on the planet. So the usual “FF” gang reunites for another round of car chases, explosions and quips from Tyrese.

The screenplay injects some pathos into the mix by exploring the sibling relationship between Dom and Jakob, in the form of flashbacks to when they were teenagers and their father was killed in a race, for which Dom blames Jakob. The flashbacks account for the “saga” aspect of the title as the film tries to connect nearly every character and plot thread from all the earlier films.

Once upon a time, these were movies about thieves in a street racing gang before it became about international missions to save the world. Now the characters are basically acknowledging they’re in a movie, joking about how they always survive against impossible odds, and pointing out the structure of the plot as a reason to switch sides for a third-act swerve.

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The film’s home video editions include a director’s cut that runs about six minutes more and improves the movie with important character moments, as well as another scene in Cardi B’s cameo.

Lin provides a good commentary track in which he discusses his return to the franchise, his desire to provide some weight to whatever drama exists in the franchise’s margins, and hints at future revelations.

The Blu-ray also includes a three-and-a-half-minute gag reel and more than 70 minutes of comprehensive behind-the-scenes featurettes.

There’s also a three-and-a-half minute featurette on the “Justice for Han” movement that influenced the film, and the fun four-and-a-half-minute “John Cena: Supercar Superfan,” in which the wrestler-turned-actor shows off several high-performance cars, including some used in the film.

The 4K disc contains the same bonus content as the regular Blu-ray.

 

 

‘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.

‘F9: The Fast Saga’ Racing to Digital Sept. 7, Disc Sept. 21

F9: The Fast Saga, the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, will come out with a new director’s cut on digital Sept. 7 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD Sept. 21 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The film has generated more than $600 million worldwide.

The release features the original theatrical version, the director’s cut and more than an hour of exclusive bonus content, including a behind-the-scenes look at the stunts and cars and a gag reel.

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In the film, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) thought he’d left his outlaw life in the rear-view mirror, but not even he can outrun the past. When his forsaken brother Jakob (John Cena, Bumblebee) unexpectedly resurfaces as an elite assassin, the crew comes back together to help Dom confront the sins of his own past and stop a world-shattering plot.

Franchise veteran Justin Lin, who helmed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth installments of the series, returns to the director’s seat for F9.

F9 also stars returning franchise cast members Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang, with Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron.

HBO Max Greenlights ‘Suicide Squad’ Spinoff Series ‘Peacemaker’ Starring John Cena

HBO Max ordered the production of eight episodes for new action-comedy series “Peacemaker,” starring actor and WWE superstar John Cena, reprising his character from the upcoming Warner Bros. movie, The Suicide Squad.

The movie’s writer-director, James Gunn, will write all eight episodes of “Peacemaker” and will direct multiple episodes, including the first. Gunn and The Suicide Squad producer Peter Safran will serve as executive producers of the series, with Cena as co-executive producer.

John Cena

Based on characters from DC Comics, “Peacemaker” is scheduled to begin production in early 2021, prior to Gunn beginning work on the next Disney/Marvel Studios Guardians of the Galaxy film.

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While details about “Peacemaker” are being kept under wraps, the series will explore the origins of the character that Cena will play in the upcoming film, a man who believes in peace at any cost — no matter how many people he has to kill to get it. The series will extend the world that Gunn is creating for The Suicide Squad movie, which is scheduled to be released in theaters by Warner Bros. Pictures on Aug. 6, 2021.

“‘Peacemaker’ is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” Gunn said in a statement.

Casey Bloys, chief content officer for HBO and HBO Max, said Gunn has the unique ability to create an expansive universe while also bringing to life the soul and wit of each character.

“We look forward to a deep dive into the world of ‘Peacemaker,'” Bloys said.