Movie Review: The Shape of Water

A woman falls in love with a fish. Yes, that is the main idea of this film. On paper, it sounds dumb and should be garbage. Everyone is saying how it is so beautiful, one of the best romantic stories in years, and that it deserves to win Oscars. Is anything of this true? Absolutely!

I have had a lot of respect for Guillermo Del Toro but never seen much of his movies. The only film I have seen from him was Pacific Rim, which I hated. So my experience in his films is low, but from what I have seen in clips and screenshots from his other movies, he always has a great style that makes for some pretty film. I did not like Pacific Rim, but I loved it visually. He nails it again with The Shape of Water. From the characters, story, cinematography, makeup, wardrobe, and everything else in this movie are beautiful.

The Shape of Water takes place in the 1960s following a young mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works at a research facility. She continues her duties cleaning up the building and keeping company with her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). One day a mysterious aquatic creature (Doug Jones) is brought into the facility. Elisa sees the creature to look human with the shape of his body, but to look like a fish. The amphibious man is being tortured. He forms a bond with Elisa who develops a plan to help the amphibious man escape. She teams up with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) to support the creature. Her relationship with the amphibious man grows as they start to fall in love.

Most of the time in the story is spent developing characters and relationships. All of the characters are interesting and brought to life wonderfully by the actors and actresses. The way Elisa develops her relationship and later explains how she feels about the amphibious man is well developed and unusually beautiful. She manages to be enthusiastic, charming, funny, dramatic, and so much more without uttering a single word. Sally Hawkins does a phenomenal job and is Oscar worthy. Her supporting friends Zelda and Giles are fantastic, with Giles being my favorite of the two. His quirky and supportive personality is enjoyable. The bond between Elisa and her friends feels genuine and lifelike. Zelda is a true friend. She is supportive of Elisa throughout. Since Elisa is such a great listener, Zelda often talks about her home life and whatever is on her mind throughout the day. Her character’s attitude and dynamic with Elisa makes her an enjoyable, supportive role in the movie. The main threat and real monster of the story are Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) the director of this whole operation for the “asset” and tries to keep control of the situation. His weird characteristics and intimidating demeanor will steal every scene that he is in. He is a relentless force that is hovering over people’s shoulders. This true monster is shown to be a white, Christian, conservative, man. The stereotypical type of character for the era, but with some quirky behavior that makes him unique. Especially with the excellent performance by Michael Shannon. We have all seen this type of character being the antagonist in so many movies. The writing and performance make him different from all those other characters we have seen before. Any story needs a good protagonist like Elisa, but you always need that great antagonist that we get here.

It is more than just the romantic story and fantastic characters that make this movie beautiful, it is the cinematography and editing. Everything is perfectly done and with some unique moments. The opening shots are beautiful. The tone is set right from the beginning with the mix of the music and the camera shots around Elisa’s apartment building. The whole movie is filled with such fantastic camera shots that set the mood for the scenes or can just make the audience enjoy the scenery that is set with the 1960s look.

Most of the effects are practical which makes everything look real as can be and absolutely beautiful. Guillermo is known for loving his practical effects which shine most with the aquatic creature. The costume is almost entirely practical with some CGI mixed in for final touches to make the creature come to life. You could practically reach out and touch him. Along with Doug Jones who’s performance was the last piece to bring the creature to life as he interacts with other characters and the world around him.

The Shape of Water is a cinematic masterpiece. Blending genres from romance, some comedy, horror, drama, and thriller all into the mix to make a truly unique movie. The cast is perfect who were able to take such great characters and bring them all to life. Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor came together to write one of the most compelling stories from something that could have easily been the biggest trash of the year. No matter how you feel by the end of this review, you should check it out for yourself.

Score: 10/10

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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Two years we have been waiting, but it is finally here. The new episode in the new Star Wars trilogy is here. This is by far one of the most controversial and polarizing movies in the series. I will say it right now, I love this movie. There are perfectly solid reasons to hate it, but I will go into what felt right to me. No matter what, if you are a fan of Star Wars then you must see it. Have your expectations low and go in knowing as little as possible. That is the best bet to gain your full enjoyment out of it.

Just to say before going forward that I will not have any spoilers here. Somethings need to be said but will be kept vague as possible. If you are a fan, then go see it no matter what.

Ever since Rian Johnson was announced to direct and write this movie, I was so exciting. Looper is a really solid sci-fi movie and one of Bruce Willis’s best in a long time. Also, Rian is from my hometown, so it is hard to not be proud and excited. No matter how people feel about this movie, his vision was clear and he made the movie that he wanted. There needs to be respected whether you hated or loved it. He has been able to make some of the best choices in any Star Wars movie ever. Some decisions did not pan out, but for a two and a half hour movie, this is not a huge surprise. I loved Force Awakens for the same reason that J.J. Abrams accomplished with his own vision, despite some flaws.

The story is somewhat typical and a continuation of the last movie. Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her power from Luke (Mark Hamill). Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and a new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) find a hacker who can help them on their mission to escape from the First Order who are hunting them down. Meanwhile, the Resistance is preparing for battle against the First Order. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) continue their mission for Snoke (Andy Serkis) to destroy the Resistance.

The pacing of the story is quite slow. A lot is going on and is packed into the timeline. There is enough action, humor, and big moments that take that weight off. No matter how you go about it, the length will still feel long no matter how much you love it. Most of which felt necessary, but somethings could have been done differently for the sake of time. There are enough side stories to keep everything afloat. Rey’s story goes a little slower, but some others go faster to keep the audience interest.

As it has been teased before the movie’s release, there is the biggest twist in any Star Wars movie and by the trailers, some big moments were going to happen. Without spoilers, just know that these are not what you think. Go to open-minded and clear-headed, you will be fine with what the movie throws at you. Personally, the twists and turns felt great to character arc, story, and the lore of this universe. Some questionable moves were made that I had to google and do some research afterward. Some elements from the extended universe are in this movie. Since it has never been seen in the big picture, some audience members like myself might be confused.  Out of my research, everything is canon and has happened in some capacity in the extended universe or hinted in the original trilogy. Everything stays true to how people in the universe are and how everything works in terms of the force and technology.

Some plot points are not huge. They fall flat, but that does not mean in a bad way. Yes, some do fall flat in negative ways. That is mostly with characters, but we will get to that shortly. Big reveals, twists, and plot points are usually made to be giant, but this movie makes something small. I like it because that is a bit of a risk. Takes expectations people have and downsize it. This works with how certain characters are and their overall arc.

Characters both new and old are all here. Kylo is expanded and a lot more likable as a villain. Still an emotional character, but Rian Johnson made this feel a lot more right. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan who wrote episode seven had a particular vision that did not sit well with a lot of people, myself included. Kylo felt too whiny and weak. This builds him with a lot better development that makes more sense. Adding more complexity to him and other characters. I love Rey more than before. Her growth is just as immense as expected. There is more added to the legendary Luke Skywalker. I felt Rose was a good addition, but she might need another movie to fully develop her into someone more likable. Plenty of new alien animals were shown like the popular porgs were great. I can’t remember a Star Wars movie having so many cute animals than this one. Several others are shown that are cute and have a great design for them. I was not excited about the porgs like everyone else, but they are really funny and cute. Those little creatures won me over big time!

Not every character felt right. There was a lot of hype for a new character known as DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who could have been a lot better. I am trying to be vague, but I was not a fan of what they did. It felt a lot less important than what I was hoping for. Still, Benicio did a good job like he always does. I can never be too mad at him in a role because he is just that good. More happens with Snoke who is not what I was hoping for. Personally, he did not bring what I had hoped for to the story. His scenes were great, but with how things play out, I was not a fan.

Visually this is one of the best out of any of the movies. Of course, it will be beautiful since almost all of the Star Wars movies are beautiful, except the prequels and their awful CGI. In the trailer, there is a planet in some substance on the ground that is white, but right under it is some red dust. This salty and dusty world makes for some simple, but beautiful shots. Some other interesting and pretty planets are shown, but I just wish we had more. I love being in space but seeing beautiful and unique worlds are always the best to experience.

The tone of the movie is typical, a bit darker as we move forward in this new trilogy with some humor in place. Just like The Force Awakens, a lot of humor is put in that does not always sit well. Some unexpected comedy is thrown in but honestly work. Some of the funniest moments in the whole franchise happen in this movie. I wished things were kept even darker and placement for humor was distributed differently. A funny scene occurs early on, which is great but gives a weird tone and expectation for the rest of the movie. Starting lighthearted is great, but you need some space between drama and comedy or it can bring either one down if placed too close. Something funny can happen, but right away there is something dramatic.

As everyone is saying, this movie takes some big risks. To defend it, people were made at episode seven for playing it safe, but mad at eight for playing it too risky. You are not going to make everyone happy. Most of these big risks I liked. One or two do not sit well with me, but overall, I am quite happy that Rian Johnson took his vision and ran with it. There is a clear vision that mostly works throughout the film. Despite some flat characters and plot points that do not go down like I had hoped, it is still one of the best Star Wars movies. Big franchises need to take bigger risks. Better to have people loving or hating it than having people being neutral. Having these big reactions has caused interesting discussion and has riled up the fan base. New territories for characters, the force, and the entire universe are explored here. Risky, but works out so well to give a unique Star Wars experience that we needed. I am beyond excited that Rian Johnson gets his own trilogy that will certainly continue being risky and exploring what has not been touched in one of the movies.

Score: 9/10

Image via Lucas Film and Disney

Movie Review: Lazer Team 2

Over the years Rooster Teeth has grown exponentially, especially in just the last two to three years. Shows have gotten more ambitious and bigger in scope. In 2015 the company crowdfunded their first movie, Lazer Team. Despite mixed reviews from fans and negative reviews from critics, the success was good enough for Rooster Teeth to create a sequel. The first was directed by their CEO Matt Hullum and written by  Burnie Burns, Chris Demarais, Josh Flanagan. and Matt Hullum. This latest film is directed by Matt and Daniel Fabelo while being written by them and Burnie. The first had its flaws, but it was enjoyable. Many of these flaws are fixed in the latest movie.

The story takes place a few years after the events of the first movie. The team has disbanded and gone their separate ways. Woody (Gavin Free) becomes a part of a research team for the government in which they discover a way to create a wormhole to another dimension. The team is recruited by Maggie (Nichole Bloom), a scientist who was working with Woody.  Fighting off aliens and the obstacles that are created from Kilborne (Victoria Pratt) who is given the power to dismantle this government-funded project.

Burnie Burns, who plays as Hagan, described the movie as a focus on the comedy because the first movie was able to establish the characters and the world. This rings quite true. The story is strong overall, but the main focus is to make the audience laugh. The comedic element is more of a consistent focus throughout the movie. Plenty of jokes that anyone can get, but plenty of jokes that are meant for Rooster Teeth fans. This blend of focus on story and making jokes is a great blend that works better than the first movie. What might throw fans off, just like the first Lazer Team, the humor is not quite the style that Rooster Teeth is known for. Their adult style of humor is not really present, but it is more so in Lazer Team 2. As a long time fan who appreciates their adult side more, I wish they went all out with an R rating to make something that feels like more of their style. I am sure we will be getting that in future movies such as the next movie, Blood Fest.

Characters are generally quite great. If you liked the characters from the first movie then you get to enjoy them even more here. Besides the return of the main team, two more characters return from the first movie. Officer Vandenbloom (Kirk Johnson) makes a wonderful return. Just as funny as ever, and given a more significant role. Joel Heyman’s small cameo as a reporter returns in multiple scenes. The range of cameos from Rooster Teeth personnel and other related people are throughout the entirety of the movie. Some scenes you may have to pause to catch all of the different people in it. The weakest character who plays a big role in the story is Kilborne. Her motivations on various levels feel off and confusing at times. I feel that movies tend to have a great time with heroes and side characters, but so many times it is common to have a failed villain. Overall, characters are well done with excellent casting choices which have always been a staple in Rooster Teeth content.

Being a smaller budget movie the special effects are just as poor as the first movie. Despite the style, it still bothered me to look at spaceships and lasers. The practical effects are quite well made and even better than the first movie. The use of sets instead of locations worked in their favor to create interesting places that the team would have to navigate through. I understand they want to make sci-fi movies as their start in making movies, but should have waited to get the right budget as they develop their movie side of the company.

If you liked the first Lazer Team, then you will like the sequel even more. People who hated the first movie will absolutely not like this one either. Overall it is stronger than the last. As the company makes more movies, the quality will increase. They are used to making excellent shows, but not at this level of length and production size. It has poor special effects, given that it is so low budget that it makes sense. A villain that has odd choices and a motivation that is hard to understand hurts major plot points. These problems are few but major. What holds it up is the comedy that is spread consistently and is able to land well most of the time. Colorful characters that have an excellent chemistry feels genuine. This universe they made is interesting with some great ideas that flesh it all out. If you are not a fan of the company, you may still enjoy this movie. There are plenty of references that will not change how you feel about the movie. If you are a fan then you may enjoy it more than the typical moviegoer with great cameos and jokes that only the most hardened of fans will understand. The company made a great effort and will only continue to grow better as they move forward.

Score: 7/10

Image via Rooster Teeth


Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok

When the next big Marvel movie releases a brand new trailer, everyone seems to go nuts for it. I have not gotten onto the Marvel hype train yet. I love some of the movies such as Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and from the Fox-owned films, Deadpool. Despite there being great movies in the superhero genre, I still have not been able to get into it because of some less favorable movies. I heard a lot of people who were excited about Thor Ragnarok. When I saw the trailer, I groaned and thought it looked terrible. Just cheesy as a cheese quesadilla and looked like other movies to me. I have never seen any of the Thor movies before, and I hear not great things about the first two films. That left me with a feeling that this will be a more comedic Thor movie that will fall flat like the other two.

The movie finally came out, and everyone is raving about it. When my friends, my favorite internet personalities from Rooster Teeth, and all the reviewers are saying how great this movie is, then I had to try it for myself. I went to the theater with the most comfortable seats just in case I was bored. I would rather be comfortable and bored rather than bored and uncomfortable. After the first few minutes, I was already in love. My reaction became the exact same as the first Guardians of the Galaxy. That is a movie I thought would be terrible, but after my best friend dragged me to see Guardians, I fell in love with everything about it.

Thor Ragnarok is about Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find out about a sister named Hela (Cate Blanchett) who is the goddess of death. In a fight with between the two brothers and their sister, she destroys Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer and they must retreat back to Asgard. After their attempt has failed, they find themselves on the planet Sakaar. He is imprisoned by a man named Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) in which he is forced into a battle arena to earn his freedom. He discovers that the champion he must defeat is his old friend from the Avengers, the Hulk. Thor must team up with the Hulk, Scrapper 142, and his brother to attempt to save Asgard.

The story goes back and forth between Hela’s quest to take over then destroy Asgard and Thor’s mission to escape Sakaar to save his home. Thor’s side of the story is the stronger side of the story. There is a lot more humor that brings the audience along and more interesting character interactions. Hela as a character felt like a lot of the other MCU villains that have been defeated before. Absolutely powerful and evil, but falls flat in many areas. Cate Blanchett did a job well done regarding acting but was not given the best role to be playing.  See her arc did not feel that unique overall.

Of the vast array of characters that hold the movie up, one of my personal favorites is the Grandmaster. Jeff Goldblum does a fantastic job as always as this goofy and theatrical character. The interaction between Thor and other characters such as Hulk, Bruce Banner, and Loki are all enjoyable throughout the entire film. If you saw Doctor Strange and stayed for the ending credit scene, then you would know him, and Thor meet. Their brief interaction was funny and transitioned Thor onto this adventure worked so well. I was hoping to see more of Doctor Strange, partially because Benedict Cumberbatch is great, but I just expected that he would be providing more to the story. Seeing how their chemistry works is an excellent insight to see how things will play out in Avengers: Infinity War which comes out spring of 2018.

For a while, the Marvel Cinematic Universe got complaints about the lack of color. Visually these movies may not have been the best to look at. With films such as Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy, the visuals got better both from practical effects to the special effects. Thor Ragnarok might be the most beautiful movie out of every film that has been released so far in the MCU. It vomits out colors in almost every scene and is beautifully crafted in every detail. Each movie is getting prettier and prettier, and Thor is excellently showing this progression.

Most of the film is centered around the comedy, which is one of the standard complaints. I can do with or without a lot of comedy in a Marvel movie, it depends on how it is done. Out of this side of the Marvel movies, I have loved the most comedic side such as ThorGuardians, and Spider-Man.  The more serious of the MCU movies I have seen, I did not like. I thought Captain America: Civil War was average at best. I have loved the other side of Marvel that is owned by Fox when it comes to Logan, a depressing side of the superhero movie genre. It all depends on how it is done, and to me, Thor nailed it comedy on all levels.

Besides the dull character arc with Hela, I have no real complaints about this film. If there was a great villain and I felt that the stakes were higher, then maybe this would be a perfect movie for me. There are far more positives that lift this film up so high. Beautifully crafted visuals from both costumes to the worlds that we see that satisfy anyone looking for a pretty movie. Clever writing to create funny moments and excellent chemistry between characters. Action scenes that are well choreographed and are well spread out throughout the entire film. It is difficult to say anything negative about this one. As someone who is not a fan of most of the MCU, Thor Ragnarok did an excellent job of selling me on going see more of the future movies coming in the years to come. If you love Guardians of the Galaxy, then you will love this film. Refreshing, but familiar with all the best ways for any fan of the Marvel movies.

Score: 9/10

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Movie Review: Jigsaw

The Saw franchise has taken a long break. Seven years since the last movie and many rumors later, we have been delivered Jigsaw. Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig and written by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg. None of them have a ton of experience with some of the most notable movie being from Pete and Josh such as Piranha 3D. That lack of experience is concerning, but it is always great to see that people are getting the opportunity to work on a bigger franchise like Saw. For me, I am a huge fan of the Saw franchise, which will make anyone reading this cringe or cheer. I love the first four movies despite their flaws. The last few became monotonous and got trapped in a cycle that generates money but decreases quality. When Jigsaw got an official trailer, it got me excited. My expectations were kept low, but when I got into the theater, my excitement level maintained. Did this long break save this sinking franchise? Not at all.

The story starts ten years after John Kramer’s death, introducing us to a group of people in one of Jigsaw’s traps. As usual, they must complete the game to survive. The four people—Anna (Laura Vandervoot), Ryan (Paul Braunstein), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), and Carly (Brittany Allen). None of them were perfect as actors or had good characters to play. The worst was Ryan, the most generic and annoying of the group who I was hoping would have a creative death. The other side of the story shows two detectives, Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Keith Hunt (Cle Bennet). Both are generic detectives, especially Halloran who is painful to see this cheesy, crooked, and utterly bizarre detective. They are working together with Logan Nelson and Eleanor Bonneville who are two medical examiners. These two are the closest to interesting characters but are still relatively bland. On this search for the people in Jigsaw’s trap, there is the question whether John Kramer aka Jigsaw is alive or not. Of course, just like every movie, Tobin Bell reprises his role as John, despite being dead in several films now. The usual twist ending gives somewhat of a satisfying end. The main problem is that this has been done so many times before in the Saw series. Nothing new is done to the story or characters.

The traps and brutal deaths help keep this franchise afloat. Despite the last couple of movies declining in quality, at least they had some good death scenes. There may have been only one or two deaths in the entire movie that was rememberable. Most of which felt less creative, which is expected after making so many movies. You would have thought that such a long break could have given the writers some time to come up with a more creative story and traps, but just like many horror movie franchises, they burn themselves out. If only we were given creative enough deaths and traps then that could have potentially helped lift this movie up even in the slightest.

There is not a whole lot to say about this movie. It blends in with the past couple of Saw movies and goes to show that the franchise is dead, sadly. I wish this could have been a revival of the series. I was rooting for this movie to be good.  Sadly with bland characters, poor creativity, and a generic story made this into another Saw movie meant to get money and keep a sinking franchise afloat. There were different things done early on to make the audience interested and captured by the tone of the film. Keeping a low budget and smaller stories to tell worked best. If the studio wants this series to be alive and make them money, they need to go back to their roots. If you love Saw, you may not like this. If you can be easily entertained by a violent horror movie, then you might have some level of fun. On the bright side of everything about this movie, we still have that great soundtrack that will live forever and give a redeeming quality to any Saw movie.

Score: 3/10

Image via Lionsgate

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the 1982 cult classic “Blade Runner” is finally here. Fans of the original are excited about the release. “Blade Runner 2049” is getting a lot of praise all over the internet. Me, however, I was not so much. I came in hoping to love it like everyone else, but sadly, I felt disappointed and bored.

The world is a future in which synthetic humans called replicants are bioengineered by the Tyrell Corporation who have escaped onto Earth. The Blade Runner is a police officer whose job is to hunt down these replicants. This story takes place in the year 2049, decades after the first movie. Ryan Gosling plays as Officer K, who discovers something that can cause a lot of chaos in an already damaged world. His hunt leads him to try to find Harrison Ford who plays as the protagonist of the first movie, Officer Deckard.

Just like the first movie, there is a painful slow burn with a lot of mystery. The world is fleshed out, but most of it still remains a mystery to the audience. I usually like slow burn movies with a lot of ambiguity, but it did not pan out for me. Just like the original, clocking in at nearly 3 hours drags the audience down a tedious road. Teasing you with potential answers that feel like they may never go anywhere. The balance of questions and answers felt wrong. I felt more frustrated about not knowing enough which left me confused. This is not because I have not seen the first movie. Just about everyone who has seen 2049, says that there is no need to see the original to understand everything. This might be true, but it does not excuse the fact that it does leave the audience confused. As it proved by the annoying lady in front of me, who kept asking questions to her husband.

Well, what about characters? Officer K is not human, so he is just like any other movie with a robotic main character, which means he is lifeless. Going through the entire film with just him is painful. I love Ryan Gosling, but this role felt like it could have been played by anyone. The rest are relatively interesting. Lieutenant Joshi, played by Robin Wright, is Officer K’s boss. She is a human who holds a lot of power over everything. For the most part, it is just her pushing down on Officer K, but her performance is compelling. The best character is hands down Joi, played by Ana De Armas, who is a holographic woman in K’s life. She is there as his only real companion. She brings out so much out of K, as he brings out so much out of her. Their chemistry is probably the best part of the movie. The main antagonist is Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks. She is sent by Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, who is the CEO of his own corporation that creates replicants. Luv is a replicant trying to seek out the mystery that Officer K is trying to solve. She is tough and relentless. Just like the other female characters, she is one of the best parts of the movie. She steals every scene that she is in. Niander felt like he was going to be a big part, but the character fell so flat. Jared did an excellent job on his performance, but the character itself brought not a whole lot to me. The characters that are good, still are not enough to truly save the movie.

The world around is beautifully crafted. Much of the colors are typically grey throughout the movie, with an orange-brown to the desert that looks pretty. Holograms are throughout the city for advertisements. A Japanese theme is in both the original and sequel. For some reason, America thinks our future will be full of flying cars and a Japanese aesthetic. Despite this being something in a lot of American sci-fi, it still looks great in “Blade Runner 2049”. I felt like they could have utilized looks a lot more. Just like many of the elements of the film, it felt underutilized. People said this was one of the best looking movies in recent years. It is beautiful, but I was hoping for more.

Beautiful and well made are accurate words to use for this artsy sci-fi flick, but it does not do it for me. The horrible pacing, tedious and almost manipulative storytelling, lack of interesting characters, and elements feeling underutilized killed this movie for me. I wanted to like it, but I could not see exactly why people love it so much. Just like the original, “Blade Runner 2049” will be a cult classic that fails at the box office, but will live in the hearts of its fans. If you love the first movie, this is for you. If you have not seen the first, then be prepared mentally to be possibly bored. If you go in with low expectations, that may help you fall in love.

Score: 6/10

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures