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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Thriller > Teleportation > Murder > Crime > Mystery > Drugs > Action > Gangster > Dark Com > Counter Clockwise (2016/Artsploitation DVD)/In Order Of Disappearance (2014/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)/Suicide Squad (2016/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

Counter Clockwise (2016/Artsploitation DVD)/In Order Of Disappearance (2014/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)/Suicide Squad (2016/DC Comics/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: C+/B/B Sound: C+/B/B+ Extras: C+/C/C+ Films: C+/B/C+ (both versions)

These latest genre film releases offer action, suspense and style, so you should know about all of them...

George Moise's Counter Clockwise (2016) is a film that wants to evoke Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) down to music, maybe Ken Russell's Altered States (1980) and even Tom Tykwer's Run Lola Run (1998) as a pair of experimenters try to build a secret teleportation machine using a pet dog, but when the hound disappears, they do not know where the canine went. Thus, the male half of the duo (Michael Kapelow) makes himself the next traveling subject and that is when time gets scrambled. He arrives in the future where his lab is shut down and he may be a murderer, among other things, so they have hit time travel by accident.

The script still jumps back and fourth between too much dark comedy and not enough exposition and deeper thoughts about the dilemma at hand as Moise gets a bit too caught up in past films and other things he is trying to squeeze in here at the detriment of story and building the suspense. Still, he has some good taste and this was definitely worth a look, especially because so many similar sci-fi indie thrillers these days are clueless in what to say and where to go. The acting is good, if not always great and those who like the subject matter will be particularly interested.

Extras include a 27-minutes-long Making Of featurette, no less than THREE feature length audio commentary tracks and Deleted Scenes with optional commentary.

Hans Petter Moland's In Order Of Disappearance (2014) is the big surprise here and lately when it comes to thrillers. Darkly comic at times, the great Stellan Skarsgard is a married man with a son who is now a young man and a wife he worries about. He just received a 'citizen of the year' award (ironic since he is not from the area) heading up the snow clearance at the local airport, but his son turns up dead for no good reason, the police writing it off as a drug death his son brought upon himself. Nils (Skarsgard) knows better and as he sees this slowly ruin his wife's mental health, he immediately takes on things himself, and that means bloody revenge.

However, what could have been a sardonic exploitation film is instead a character study in the midst of an action thriller with real suspense and other surprises, especially since most are not familiar with the Norway and the makers set things up well and the script than knows how to run with it all. Nils investigation leads to a local drug kingpin and that takes the film additionally into Gangster genre territory. This all melds together well and is a film waiting to find a big audience, more than even cult. This is a great gem worth going out of your way for with even more surprises than I want to spoil, so see it!

Bruno Ganz and Goran Navojec also star.

Extras include BD Live interactivity, an Original Theatrical Trailer, plus on camera interviews with Skarsgard and Moland that are not bad.

David Ayer's Suicide Squad (2016) was the surprise late summer 2016 critic-proof hit of what was an awful movie season. Not that it is a great film, but the curio factor obviously propelled fans and interest, especially as Marvel and DC Comics feature films tend to be money machines, even if DC's entries drop off sooner than they should. Just the idea of Will Smith as Deadshot made fans wonder if he could pull it off (save the subplot about his daughter, which has its problems and does not fit the film), he was good here and the makers try to make him the lead baddie, even to the extent that Jared Leto's remarkable turn as The Joker is too minimized at the film's expense (both cuts, and more footage exists according to Leto and I believe him) and then there is the lice action debut of Harley Quinn, The Joker's new female counterpart best known from Batman: The Animated Series (1990, reviewed elsewhere on this site) who has become one of DC Comics most popular new characters of the last quarter century) played here by the terrific Margot Robbie, who steals the show just the same.

Add solid casting of other key characters like Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Monster T (Common), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Carla Delevingue), Frost (Jim Parrack) and Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) among them and you have the one thing the promoters failed to note: the world's first Super Villains film. That shows how out of it the studio and makers (I blame the producers in particular) were in putting this together more as a package deal highly precalculated than the film it should have been.

Thus, the screenplay that Ayer wrote is squandered, has no balance, lacks exposition for most of the characters and led to all kinds of reshoots and a last-minute recut by the featurettes producer Trailer Park to make it more commercial. It did not make it any less dark and now that we see the longer 134-minute cut (vs. 123 for the theatrical version), you can see what we lost and you can still tell more was hacked out. Not good.

Ayer was trusted with this because his earliest writing work (U-571, Training Day and the first Fast & Furious film) set him up not unlike Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) in a way that the studios keep trusting him with projects, even if they are not as good or as commercially successful as what he started out with. In fairness to him, he did not have total control of this enterprise here, being second-guessed at the last minute. I bet there is an even better cut of the film in the vaults, even if excess Joker footage was not leaned upon too much.

After we meet the team all too briefly, this becomes a supernatural action film Ala Ghostbusters minus the jokes (not unlike the unfunny 2016 Ghostbusters retread, oddly released weeks before this was) that makes limited sense, has nothing to do with the genre and becomes a sometimes sloppy mess. Only the actors and some of the better look of the film saves it from being a disaster. I like the longer version, but it is not enough to make it better than what audiences saw theatrically.

Ironically, the original Suicide Squad from the 1960s was a totally different crew and concept, but like X-Men and Teen Titans and more so, this is the latest configuration. Ayer and Robbie will be teaming up for a follow-up new film featuring villainesses from Gotham City, et al. I hope all involved will learn from the many mistakes here, including how the self-amused sense of film we get here backfires. Viola Davis co-stars along with a few sly cameos by other key DC characters.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber (but NOT iTunes) capable devices, while the Blu-ray adds Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes Task Force X: One Team, One Mission, Chasing The Real, Joker & Harley: 'It' Couple of The Underworld, Squad Strength and Speed, Armed to The Teeth, This is Gonna Get Loud: The Epic Battles of Suicide Squad and The Squad Declassified, a Gag Reel and a few other small bits.

All three film releases are here in the 2.35 X 1 scope aspect ratio and I like that all three actually know what to do with that framing. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on Squad is the best performer here, even with its overload of digital visual effects, because it is not afraid to use color (as dark as it gets) and originated on Kodak 35mm negative as is the case with Zack Snyder's two Superman films (Man Of Steel and Batman Vs. Superman) continuing DC/Warner's commitment to deliver a quality look apart from most HD-shot productions. It is definitely trying for something a bit darker and more textured than the great Marvel Studios films, but Squad is the smoothest-looking of the DC Comics movies since Dark Knight Rises, if not that amazing. Snyder likes things a bit dirtier, per his style.

Still, you can enjoy the color range and various degrees of Video Black even more than the decent 1080p digital High Definition image on the regular Blu-ray also included, which still looks good for the format, but cannot totally compete with the 4K version.

The 1080p digital High Definition image transfer on Order is also impressive, one of the best import hD shoots we've seen in the last few years, with some impressive outdoor shots that never look strained or forced, reminding one of Skarsgard in the original Insomnia (reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) in the best way. This also has the best form and editing of any film on the list.

The anamorphically enhanced image on the Counter DVD is not bad, also an HD shoot, but impressively trying to imitate thrillers of the 1970s it is trying to emulate in an attempt to be serious enough to show it takes the viewer seriously. I am curious to see this one in HD eventually.

As for sound, Squad offers a Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) lossless mix in both the 4K and regular Blu-ray editions and though it is not consistently great, it has enough solid moments that it is a professional effort that has enough moments to justify that many tracks. Order is a close second with its fun, smart, Norwegian/Swedish DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that actually propels the narrative, suspense and action better than the other films here.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Counter is also not bad, though I bet this would work better lossless, but it has character (albeit derivative on purpose often) even when some location audio limits (and budget limits) creep in sonically. Otherwise, ambitious and that is welcome in a time when so many 5.1 and even 7.1 mixes are so lazy.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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