Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3: A Stomach-turning Farewell?

For many moviegoers, Marvel is as good as it gets. The very hushed rumor of a new Marvel release pulls at the corners of the their mouths, forcing an uncontrollably insane Joker-like smile onto their faces. Despite the feeling being largely lost on me — and avowed comic-book film hater — there is one franchise within the Marvel universe that will still plant my ass in a movie theater seat: Guardians of the Galaxy.

The first Guardians film was ground-breakingly fun. The second, while filled with dazzling eye candy, was abysmal. So, what would franchise fans get for the third, and final (the film is reported to be the last in the franchise) film?

Settling into my seat, I witnessed an overly excited young boy and his father hurry up the stairs carrying pizza, popcorn, and sodas as they searched for their seats in the row behind me. Watching the young lad skip, I lowered my guard and remembered that Marvel movies weren’t made me. No, they were made for excitable whipper snappers like this.

Anyway, the movie. “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume Three” (see trailer) picks up with our ramshackle gang eeking out an existence on the roving planet Knowhere, that is until an invincible golden stranger attacks and attempts to kidnap the foul-mouthed raccoon, Rocket. Though he fails, Rocket is seriously wounded and the gang must spend the next two hours of screen time attempting to save his life.

What follows is the misfit band traipsing around the galaxy to acquire the key that could save their friend — interspersed with corny, yet quasi-interesting flashbacks of Rocket’s origin story. Turns out, some dude called the High Evolutionary has spent decades attempting to create the perfect beings and society, and Rocket was a vital part of that quest. Now, the weirdo needs his furry test subject back in order to take the next step in his dastardly-ish plan. Yeah, a bit underwhelming, I know.

As always, director James Gunn fills the screen with brilliant splashes of color and oodles of fast-paced action sequences. Nary a scene is wasted, either having been filled with laser blasts, drop-kicks, and well-placed (if occasionally overdone) comic relief or serving as an outlet for yet another radio hit from the 80’s or 90’s. Unfortunately, the latter feels far more forced in “Volume 3” than it did in the first two films, with nearly every major scene change starting with Quill and friends literally pressing play on a new song before marching into battle. [Unsolicited Note: Kudos to Gunn for using “I Will Dare” by The Replacements for the the closing credits.]

Unfortunately, as referenced above, “Volume 3” is a little light on plot, though not all Marvel films can be expected to be about the threat to all known existence. It also has one of the least interesting and least intimidating villains at the helm since Whiplash in “Iron Man 2.” Chukwudi Iwuji plays the High Evolutionary as if he went to the Leonardo Dicaprio School of Acting. When in doubt, yell your lines at top volume. For fuck’s sake.

Villain and plot issues aside, the film does a nice job of moving viewers through the story arc effectively, the 2.5-hour film feeling much shorter than it really is. Additionally, the cast remains the jewel of all Marvel properties, with Chris Pratt (Peter Quill), Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), Karen Gillan (Nebula), and Pom Klementieff (Mantis) all stealing their scenes and eliciting laughs. It’s a shame this group of characters and actors may never be together on the big screen again, but all things must come to an end, right?

As the film approached the closing credits, I was waiting for the emotional — perhaps heart-achingly so — end to the Guardians’ legacy. While it closed a few loops and assuredly watered a few die-hard fans’ eyes, it left me wanting a more impactful bon voyage. If this truly was the end of the “Guardians” franchise, it felt more like a rushed whimper than a passionate goodbye.

But like I said, this movie was not meant for me. It was meant for that excited young moviegoer I’d witnessed enter the theater hours earlier. Or at least it would’ve been had he not decided that, with just 15 minutes left in the film, it was time to vomit* a good portion of the pizza and popcorn he had consumed before being rushed out of the theater by his father. A fair review of “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3”? Of course not, but who am I to judge. Puke away, young man. Puke away.

Grade B

*It should be noted that this reviewer, at the ripe old age of 8, vomited in a middle of a theater viewing of the 1982 film “Savannah Smiles” starring precocious newcomer Drew Barrymore. I apologize for nothing.

SISU: Gold Mine, Meet Land Mine

A knife jammed completely through your skull from ear to ear. An land mine expertly lobbed onto your face. Your arm helplessly strapped to a bomb, followed by the rest of you exiting a bomb bay door towards the welcoming ground below.

These are just a few of the inventive ways in which an unsuspecting Nazi may meet his demise, should he run afoul of the ominously silent Finnish gold prospector Aatami Korpi. Yes, the best advice a goose-stepping, Hitler-adoring Aryan could receive in this fictional Tarantino-wannabe of a film would be to run in the other fucking direction…and quickly.

This is the situation in “Sisu” (watch trailer), a sparsely written, yet robust-feeling excuse for humorously graphic violence and occasionally banal escapism. Jorma Tommila plays the film’s protagonist, a physically and emotionally scarred Finnish World War II veteran who has lost everything, only to find some semblance of meaning when he discovers a rich deposit of gold in the middle of nowhere. On his way to the nearest town to cash in his windfall, he crosses paths with several swaths of retreating Nazi forces, the beady-eyes meanies going scorched earth on every village and soul they encounter as global defeat rapidly approaches.

What happens next is a humorously implausible combination of dancing land mines, nail-biting escapes, flesh-tearing bullet wounds, imaginatively dismembered bodies, and a nose-first plane crash, all of which barely register as minor inconveniences for our hero.

It’s not that Korpi can’t be killed, but rather that, as one character says, “he refuses to die.” Enjoy that reality or don’t (admittedly, it wore a little thin for this reviewer at times), but understand it as fact and surrender to the carnage that accompanies it.

At an efficient 90 minutes in length, “Sisu” wastes no time in diving right into the guts of the story — unfortunate pun intended. Within minutes, staccato machine gun fire fills the air, impossible amounts of blood spews to and fro, and body parts are flying through the air as if Cirque du Soleil was in town. The pace isn’t as frenetic as one might expect from watching the delightfully bombastic trailer, but there is a smooth sense of order to the chaos that unfolds during Korpi’s odyssey.

There is little doubt that Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” inspired the tone and sheer outrageousness of “Sisu,” though the latter lacks the depth, cleverness, and cohesion of the former. Thankfully, director and writer Jalmari Helander avoids Tarantino’s unfortunate penchant for inserting tedious blocks of pointless dialogue that bog down the fun. In fact, if there are more than 500 words in total uttered from opening to closing credits, I’d be blown away.

All in all, “Sisu” is an enjoyable, psychotically violent romp through the barren Finnish countryside. It may leave you wanting a little something more, but of what exactly you may not know. Here’s to hoping it’s not the Nazis coming out on top.

Grade: B+

How’s the Despair?: The Year of Film in Review


“How’s the despair?” It’s a simple question asked by a village priest to Brendan Gleeson’s morose character in “Banshees of Inisherin.” Might as well be the slogan for 2022.

In the nearly three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has changed. People have cast aside life-long friends due to their opinions on cloth masks, Donald Trump, or student loan forgiveness. The Ukraine has repeatedly repelled its crazy uncle to the east at the cost of countless lives. The cost of gas, eggs, and Hot Pockets remain as volatile as…well…the insides of a Hot Pocket. And Kanye West decided that life is more interesting when you profess your love for Hitler whilst wearing a gimp mask.

Yes, it’s been a long haul these past few years. But despite all of the gloom, doom, and pure lunacy of our recent history, at least Hollywood decided it was time to start bringing life back to your friendly neighborhood theater (even if in much smaller doses than most of us film dorks would prefer). That’s right, there was a glimmer of big-screen (and small-screen) hope in 2022. Blockbusters returned, stock prices for fake butter popcorn flavoring rose, and a few brave directors even decided that the craft of filmmaking doesn’t always have to take a back seat to comic-book franchise nonsense.

Perhaps best of all, after a long hibernation, Stink Whispers has returned with our list of the best and worst films of the year, as well as the reintroduction of the awards nobody ever asked for, the Whispy Awards.

With that, I leave you with a quote from the always brilliant Taylor Swift that has nothing to do with movies: “The lesson I’ve learned the most often in life is that you’re always going to know more in the future than you know now.”

That shit is deep.

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The Life of a Rabbit: A Decade in Film

Diamonds and Turds

Ten years. One tenth of a century. The average life expectancy of a rabbit. Well, it’s all over. The decade is over. That rabbit is dead.

Yes, the 2010s are in the rear view mirror, and as such, every jackass who’s ever listened to music, watched TV, or paid way too much for movie theater popcorn must ponder one important question: Do I act like a healthy, balanced, otherwise dignified human being who spends his free time with friends and loved ones? Or do I hunker down in my house like a pit-stained hermit and create a “Best of” list that four, possibly five, people will partially read on the toilet?

Don’t answer that. It matters not. I’ve already done the work.
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Feel Good About Feeling Bad: The Year of Film in Review


During my sophomore year of college, I attended a house party where I consumed a few too many beers and lost my senses. As a result, I ended up making out with a nice young lady whose eyes were so crossed that she could read a street sign directly behind her without the use of a mirror. What does this have to do with the past year in film you ask? Well, not much, I guess. It’s just that the image of those wonderfully crisscrossed eyes staring back at me between drunken kisses always seems to bring a smile to my face. And after another so-so year in film, maybe we all need a few more smiles in our lives.

All that to say, you can be forgiven if 2018 did little to inspire you to visit the theaters for $11 Twizzlers, seat neighbors who only shower on a monthly basis, and two hours of sub-par Hollywood self-indulgence. However, despite the downer tone here, there were some moments of note on the big screen this year. That’s where Stink Whispers comes to your rescue. We’ve got you covered with our fifth-annual list of the best and worst films of the year, as well as more of our self-critically acclaimed Whispy Awards.

And, no, folks. It’s not opinion. It’s pure, unadulterated fact.

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Nobody Puts 2017 In A Corner: The Year of Film in Review


As a new year beckons us—like a bored toddler slapping a sleeping parent in the face at 6 a.m. to get them to rise from bed and retrieve a bag of fruit snacks—it is our duty as human beings to take a look back at the year trailing sadly behind us and ask ourselves “How did I spend the precious hours, days, weeks and months of my life this past year?”

For many, the answer to this powerful question may contain joyous moments spent with family and friends, the exploration of new cultures through travel abroad, or the advancement of a burgeoning career through hard work, innovative thinking, and achievement born from years of singular focus.  For others, the answer may revolve around drug-induced memories of morally suspect sex acts performed in the back alleys with out-of-state strangers met on Craigslist. Wherever you fall in that mix, we hope you were able to find a little time to take in a movie or two, complete with popcorn and a large ICEE. Yummee!

If big screen escapism was not in the cards for you and yours in 2017, though, no need to worry. Stink Whispers has you covered with our fourth-annual list of the best and worst films of the year (and the return of the Whispy Awards).

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Stink Review: The Great Wall

What is it with white A-listers hijacking films about revered Japanese or Chinese warriors engaged in epic battles to save their way of life?

First, Tom Cruise (playing a drunk Army Captain who ruthlessly slaughters indigenous people in his spare time) decided it was his duty to hop a charter to Japan to learn the way of the samurai in four easy lessons, then lead the very samurai who trained him to defeat ninjas and gun-toting soldiers in The Last Samurai.

Next, Keanu Reeves saddled himself with the selfless responsibility of leading 47 disgraced ronin warriors against ghosts, witches and really shitty 3-D animation in 47 Ronin.

Now, with The Great Wall, Matt Damon has thrown his hat in the ring as a lily white dude with a fake beard and destined to lead tens of thousands of Chinese warriors in a battle against giant, man-eating salamanders (called Tao Tei) at the foot of, you guessed it, the Great Wall of China.

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Gods and Turds: The Best and Worst of the Big Screen in 2016


When the world gives you lemons, you make lemonade. When the world gives you brown bananas, you make banana bread. When the world gives you fermented lactose, you make yogurt. These are phrases you’ve most likely heard ad nauseam.

But what about when the world gives you a horrendous year of film? What then? Well, you make a list of the best and worst of them and share with a world that could care less that you even exist, let alone spend inordinate amounts of time sitting in a dark move theater like a creepy pale-skinned loser.

So, here it is. The annual Stink Whispers list of best* and worst films of the year (mixed in with the first-ever Whispy Awards).

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Top Big Screen Flicks of 2015: It’s a Fact, Jack!

2015 Flicks

The year 2015 was a mixed bag. Donald Trump was Donald Trump (ugh). The New England Patriots won another Super Bowl (yawn). Employment rates went up (yay!). Adele remained the most overrated thing since the Sleep Number bed (just stop!).

Equally mixed was the year in film. Filled with some stunning highs and some diarrhea-inducing lows, it was difficult to define it as an up or down year in the ol’ cinema.

As always, I’m tempted to dismantle the shit storm of terrible films that passed through our sacred cinemas in 2015 (“Furious 7,” “Aloha,” “Hitman: Agent 47,” “Inherent Vice,” Taken 3,”  “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” for example). Alas, this is the sole exercise for which I try to look at the brighter side of what is put in front of my eyes.

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Rinse, Repeat, Rip Off…Oh, and Hooray!

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterThere may be a spoiler or two here, folks. Read at your own risk.

Like so many, I grew up infatuated with anything and everything even remotely attached to the Star Wars universe. It’s hardly a unique badge to wear, but I wear it proudly.

The original “Star Wars” was, without a doubt, the movie that got me hooked on the movie-going experience. The opening battle on Hoth in “Empire Strikes Back” remains, to this day, one of my favorite movie sequences ever. And when “Return of the Jedi” came to the Isle Theatre in Cumberland, WI in 1983, I attended the 7 p.m. showing every evening during its two-week run, going as far as picking up yard work around town each day to earn the $1.75 ticket cost each night.

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