“Suicide Squad” – Worst. Heroes. Ever.

The first trailer for this movie came out what, a year ago? I’ve never been a comic book reader but I’ve always been a huge fan of Batman movies, so why wouldn’t I be all jazzed about a film revolving around the villains of the DC universe? After more trailers started to come out, I had my reservations about certain things I thought I’d be seeing. The Joker’s appearance was the biggest point of contention but also how well a movie where Batman takes a backseat could perform under the stress of a super “hero” movie. Lucky me, I snagged a seat last Thursday night for a late night screening.
Here are some words about it.12489243_1674589672821667_4430624289856009994_o

Talk about a stacked cast. With heavy hitters like Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, and Jai Courtney this seemed destined to be excellent. Despite receiving a pretty low rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I was not displeased by any means. And the film is clearly doing alright. I had a few issues with the outcome, but I don’t know if a lot of these can be attributed to the fact that I’m not a comic book lover so take all of this with a grain of salt. I saw it with my roommate and he thought it was amazing, so clearly some opinions differ here.

First, the pros. So many superhero films have started with some sort of origin story taking up a good quarter or more of the film. Thankfully with “Batman v. Superman” that wasn’t the case and it seems that DC is taking the hint. While “Suicide Squad” does have an “origin” story as to the first team being formed, the members of the team are all introduced with backstory less than five minutes long. Thank you. Within minutes we’re off the ground running, getting to know and love these quirky misfits without drudging through long minutes of who they are. Speaking of, here’s a little breakdown in case you have no idea what this movie’s about and are confused about me mixing the word “Suicide” with Batman.

  • So, we’ve got Deadshot (Will Smith). He’s a trained assassin with any kind of firearm, and his claim to fame is that he’s never missed a mark (except Batman, but that’s more from the comics/series). He just wants to get custody of his daughter back.
  • Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Created specifically for the animated series, this is her feature debut as the Joker’s lover. Psychiatrist turned loon, she’s basically a watered down, female version of the Joker. Don’t get me wrong though, Margot Robbie KILLED it as Harley and with talks of a spinoff in the works, I’d gladly sign up to see that. Plus she’s easy on the eyes.
  • What Batman film is complete without the Joker (Jared Leto)? Filling those shoes was a big task, especially following the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger (and even Mark Hamill). Leto’s take on the character was a new one, instead choosing to rock body tattoos and a silver grill in lieu of the purple coat and wide grin. He seemed to be more of a cracked out gangster than the “Clown Prince of Crime” we’re so used to having. More on this later.
  • Someone obviously has to be in charge of these guys, so enter Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Again, having not read any comics, I’m sure she has a much larger role in the DC Universe that I’m just unaware of. But Davis did a great job being overbearing, strict, and no-monkey-business while retaining the professional air of a government official. Solid casting choice.
  • Every squad needs a leader and that fell to Captain Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman). The only non-“villain” character from the squad starts off butting heads with the other members but winds up being a guy we can feel for, and more importantly the squad can listen to.
  • Lastly I want to talk about Boomerang (Jai Courtney). This is another villain I never knew of until seeing the animated “Assault on Arkham”, which is another Suicide Squad film from a few years ago. Boomerang is an Aussie thief who’s calling card is hucking a boomerang at his enemies. Sounds lame except these things wind up being somewhat lethal, but he’s added more for comic relief.

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If you had no preconceived notion of who these guys were, this might seem cool enough to go see anyway.

So there you have it, a decent line up of actors in what turned out to be a pretty entertaining film. It wasn’t exactly what the trailers sold to us but I would definitely see it again and hope for a sequel, or at least cameos in future DC films.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Supervillains seen as Superheroes. A new take on the Joker that didn’t quite sit right. A film that winds up playing like a comic book. If you’re a fan of the comic books or the actors, see it. There isn’t a whole lot you need to know going into the theater and it’s already on track to have a huge 2016 run.

SCENE COLLECTED: It’s actually a really subtle scene but the way it was shot was pretty cool to me. When Dr. June Moon summons Enchantress during a meeting, her hand is lightly touching a table when all of a sudden it looks like someone is grabbing hold of it from below, then the hands spin over and Enchantress is now in the room. This probably doesn’t make any sense to anyone reading this now, but once you see the film you’ll understand what I’m referring to.

FLICKCHART RATING: 451/2376

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“Entourage” – The ride ain’t over.

I can probably count the number of shows I’ve watched from start to finish on one hand, but then again I don’t watch a lot of TV. “Entourage”, however was one of the first I ever completed and just recently watched all the way through a second time. There are a lot of opinions out there about these five guys running around Hollywood but I have to say, it’s probably my favorite show I’ve ever watched. Entourage-5

When “Entourage” ended four years ago it was on a bit of a cliffhanger. Without giving too much away, the characters were headed in different directions (physically and emotionally) and the last scene could’ve served as the actual finale. So when I heard that Doug Ellin (the creator) was going ahead with the movie I was eager to see what else he could cook up. After seeing it this past Friday I have to say, I was quite pleased with the result. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes aren’t the greatest but that’s because critics went in expecting to see a movie, not an extended episode. I never saw the “Sex in the City” movies, nor the show, but I imagine they were roughly the same thing; extended episodes of the show. This doesn’t mean that if you’ve never seen an episode of “Entourage” that you won’t enjoy the film, but you’ll definitely connect with the characters more if you have. But don’t worry, the first few minutes serve as a “In case you’ve never seen the show” by way of Piers Morgan describing the lives of Vince, Turtle, E, Drama, and Ari.

The film picks up right where the show left off. Vince and the gang are “celebrating” Vince’s recent divorce after a marriage that lasted three days. While partying on a yacht Vince takes a call from now studio head Ari telling him that he wants to direct his next feature. Flash forward eight months and the movie is almost complete, however Vince is reluctant to show anyone his cut because he needs more money to finish it the way he wants it. This means Ari needs to get more from the financiers, played by Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment. With that being the underlying plot of the film, there are also plenty of celebrity and athlete cameos with one of them (Ronda Rousey) becoming a love interest for Turtle. Characters from the show come and go throughout and a few are referred to but not actually shown, which makes it difficult for the crowd that hasn’t seen the show.

If you’ve ever seen a movie with me before then you know that I love a packed theater. To me that’s the best way to experience the emotions of the film, whether you’re laughing or on the verge of tears. Lucky for me I got to see “Entourage” opening night to a sold out room and there were very few moments when the entire place wasn’t erupting in laughter. Near the end of the show some of the characters had begun to get a little too serious and it was turning into more of a drama than a comedy/drama mix. The movie took the writing back to the show’s roots and I felt like we had all our old favorites back. So say what you will, Rotten Tomatoes, but this was made for the fans and at the very least, this one loved it.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent follow up to a show that spanned eight seasons. Familiar faces are back and issues that were unresolved on the show finally get some resolution. Doug Ellin has said that if this film does well enough he hopes to make it a trilogy. I’m for it.

SCENE COLLECTED: Last few minutes of the film there’s a shot of all five guys slowly walking across the red carpet waving to cameras. THIS is what the show was about, and it’s amazing to see it on the big screen.

FLICKCHART RATING: 354/2306

“Black Sea” – Brave the deep. Find the gold. Trust no one.

I was doing a little “boredom reading” at work the other day and naturally one article led to another and so on. All of a sudden I wound up at some webpage offering up the “20 Most Underrated Films of 2014”. Enter “Black Sea”. For a movie about a submarine looking for gold starring Jude Law with a thick Scottish accent, it was pretty good.Black Sea

Jude Law has never been a favorite actor of mine, nor has he been one I don’t like, he’s just…there I guess. But lately (as in for several years now) he’s been gaining my attention with his acting chops. The two Sherlock Holmes movies were pretty awesome, I’ve seen about half of “Dom Hemingway” and so far so good, and then this commercial just hammered home the point that he’s great…and that I want some scotch. But I digress!

So this website listed “Black Sea” as one of the movies that was underrated, which I had to agree with as I hadn’t heard of it. I read the short synopsis it gave, checked it out on IMDB and decided that this was something I wanted to watch. The story is actually pretty simple. Robinson (Law) is laid off from a deep sea salvage company after 30 some years and wants to stick it to the man. Thanks to an old friend he is able to get the backing from a rich dude to rent a submarine, crew it with half British and half Russian men (not a weird half Brit, half Ruskie hybrid, that’d be an entirely different movie) and search for an old WWII sub that sunk in the Black Sea supposedly carrying a large sum of gold. The Russian navy along with the Georgian navy have been fighting over who the sub (and the assumed gold) actually belong to so the whole sub operation has to be done discreetly. After the men get on board, Robinson makes one mistake in telling the crew that they will all have an even share of the gold if they find it…which means that the less men there are, the greater the shares for everyone else. Oops.

Obviously this seems like a film that’s been done before, and naturally as I wrote that none came to mind, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this plot device in other films. But “Black Sea” really nails it, and I found myself often holding my own breath as if I was actually outside the sub. The tensions between the two crews really rides high and keeps you guessing what’s going to happen next, and to whom. But the greatest part is that a lot of the chaos arrives without warning, or at least very quickly. The movie doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to think about what “could happen”, more of a “Well that idea isn’t goi-OH MY GOD WHY?!” Plus it’s all underwater, and that’s just one giant nope.

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Why…do you have a gun on a submarine?

Jude Law kicks off this cast as the big name but there are several recognizable faces too, and I imagine that the UK audience probably knows who they all are. We’ve got Scoot McNairy (Argo, 12 Years a Slave), Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises, The Place Beyond the Pines), and Michael Smiley (The World’s End, Black Mirror) to name a few. These guys all did a great job with their roles, starting off hungry for the riches that await them and slowly wanting nothing more than to survive. Really, I can’t stress it enough that this was a great movie. If anything it made me decide that if there’s ever a gold cache at the bottom of the ocean that can be reached only via submarine, I’ll stick to my paycheck.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: If you’re into suspenseful thrillers, check this out. You’ll feel as claustrophobic as the crew. Underrated for sure.

SCENE COLLECTED: This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the overall plot, but near the beginning of the film Robinson and his Russian friend are about to meet their potential benefactor, and they are told by the man’s assistant, “And whatever you do, don’t ask him his name or how much he’s willing to invest.” Robinson walks into the room and immediately does both. I chuckled.

FLICKCHART RATING: 575/2291

“John Wick” – Don’t set him off!

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately mentioning how “John Wick” was a solid Keanu Reeves sleeper hit, and after seeing it I definitely understand why. I feel as if Reeves has gotten a lot of bad press from moviegoers, always linking his acting to either “Point Break” or “The Matrix”, when in fact he’s a great actor and he’s got a long resume to prove it. After a series of samurai-esque films he’s returned to a definite popcorn action flick with “John Wick”, and he definitely delivered. I’m not at all surprised that one of the lines of the film is, “Yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back.”John Wick

I was telling a buddy of mine about the movie because I read here about how he’s been added to Nicolas Winding-Refn’s new film “The Neon Demon”, a director we both loved due to the awesomeness that is “Drive”. He (my friend) seemed interested enough to see it after I told him the plot, so why not tell all of you as well? That is the purpose of this blog, right? Otherwise I’m spending $18 a year for a fancy domain name. Anyway, this movie rocked. It’s exactly what you’d think it is; Keanu Reeves keeping his cool and kicking ass. Oh, and it was directed by two fight choreographers, so the whole movie is a bunch of bullet fodder jumping around like freakin’ ninjas and pulling off epic neck-breaking moves. Honestly if there were an Oscar category for “Best Badassery”, this would absolutely be nominated.

So the film starts out with Keanu Reeves bleeding out next to his car, and his last minutes of consciousness he decides to watch old videos of his wife on his phone. WEIRDO. Then we flashback to “several days earlier” and start figuring out what got him to hemorrhage so much blood. Turns out he was in love with some chick who passed away and mailed him (posthumously) a puppy for him to take care of. While getting used to the cutest, most cuddleriffic pup in the cinema world he’s approached by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), who is essentially Allen’s Russian portrayal of Theon Greyjoy. Wick ticks off Tarasov by not naming a price for his car when Tarasov rudely asks, and this essentially becomes the catalyst for the rest of the film. Tarasov and some other Russian idiots break into Wick’s house and steal the car, among other things. Without going into details here, the first 20 minutes of this film hit me in the feels harder than “Up” did.

From there on the film is just 100 or so minutes of Keanu Reeves tearing things up. It’s done very well and honestly, the character of John Wick could easily go toe-to-toe with Ryan Gosling’s character from “Drive”, mainly because of how calm they are most of the time. The story is almost a perfect mashup of “Road to Perdition” and “Smokin’ Aces”, and here’s why. Iosef Tarasov is the son of the head of the Russian mob, so when John Wick essentially says, “Hey man, I know I used to work for you and all, but your son was a dick to me and stole my car, so…I’m coming for him”, the mobster sends everyone he has after Wick. Cute. What was really cool to watch as the amount of respect John Wick carries in the film. Clearly he’s been around the block a few times as one of the best assassin’s in the game, so his “return” is not taken lightly at all. Everyone is very respectable towards him, not so much because he’s a badass killer, but because while in the game he always stayed within the rules and was courteous to his fellow “players”. I want to command this kind of respect someday, though I’m not sure being a hitman is the route to go.

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Bill and Ted’s Radical Revenge

I don’t want to sound morbid but the blood spatters are great. These are small details that can really take you out of a movie watching experience, but these looked practical which is all the better. When you have amazing choreography and shootouts, only makes sense to have the special effects well past par. Movies these days tend to be reboots, remakes, sequels, or super hero films so I’m glad to see that something like “John Wick” really hit the mark. RottenTomatoes gave it a solid 83% and I sincerely hope will launch Keanu Reeves back into some hits, because he deserves the hitman respect. Though there’s blood and fighting and “intense language” it definitely keeps you interested and entertained. Oh, and it’s got Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, and that guy from “Fringe”.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent. I’d say “popcorn flick” but I’m pretty sure I was eating something much heartier while watching this, and I kept pausing my chewing so I wouldn’t miss the action.

SCENE COLLECTED: The morning after John gets the puppy he doesn’t have any puppy chow for him, so he pours the dog a bowl of cereal and they eat together in silence. Perfect.

FLICKCHART RATING: 604/2272

“Whiplash” – Not my tempo.

If you’ve read any of my posts before then you know that the line after the title “in quotes” is the tagline from the movie. Some movies however, don’t have taglines so I am left to choose a quote from the film itself to fill in the space. I try to find the line most representative of the entire film just to give you a taste of what it is. Therefore, I need to point out that “Not my tempo.” is not how I felt about the movie, but a quote from J.K. Simmons’ character, Fletcher. Needless to say, I love this movie.Whiplash

Being a band kid during my high school years I am no stranger to wrath-incurring band directors who want their students to play the best damn music anyone’s ever heard. Now my director didn’t go so far as to call us derogatory names or hurl cymbals at us, but she certainly made me feel that way at times. That is what this movie is about; the band directors willing to scare you, possibly even hurt you into becoming a player you never thought you could be.

Enter Andrew Niemann, played skillfully by Miles Teller. He’s attending a prestigious music college where he’s honing his skills in order to become “one of the greats” as a drummer. After being noticed by Fletcher, the band director from the top tier ensemble known for making his students cry, things get a little hairy. The whole film is a rollercoaster of emotions for both audience and characters, and I’ve got to say that it’s well worth the ride. Generally I don’t like when new actors are used continually and Miles Teller is one of those actors, but he really shines in “Whiplash”. Maybe it’s because it’s a lesser known film that it’s not as big a deal to me, or the fact that the part required a talented drummer which Miles actually is, but he just seems to really fit the role rather than being shoved in because he’s an “up and coming star”. And J.K. Simmons was the PERFECT choice for Fletcher, and I haven’t seen him in anything for a spell. It’s as if J. Jonah Jameson lost his job at the Daily Bugle and went completely insane, which is great because he’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I haven’t seen all of the Oscar nominees yet, but I can say without a doubt that he deserves this.

While watching the film I had this weird…call it an out-of-body experience. Andrew (Teller) walks into his first jazz rehearsal run by Fletcher, and it starts off as if he should’ve been there the entire time. He’s playing pretty well, Fletcher seems to like what he hears and even compliments him in front of the entire band. Andrew smiles. Then a chair is hurled at him and suddenly he realizes that he’s playing in the big leagues now. This scene reminded me of the first time I was on a film set. I barely knew what I was doing and nobody around wanted to help, they all just wanted to be away from me when I screwed up. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience before, one where you’ve almost been lulled into a false sense of security and then totally destroyed. I feel it’s somewhat rare that a film can totally implement an emotion that you connect to, but in that one scene I felt real fear. In case you haven’t had that moment, imagine a music director saying, “You want to clean the blood off my drum set?” If you think you could walk away from that phrase smiling, then you should probably google “S&M”.

scrshot1This is anything but a friendly chat between director and student.

Finishing this film left me with a few thoughts. Among them were the following:

1. I had never even heard of this movie until I saw the Oscar nominations. It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I even garnered any interest, mainly because as I mentioned earlier I was getting tired of seeing Miles Teller everywhere. So don’t judge a film by its poster, you may be missing something great altogether.

2. I left high school vowing to never touch my saxophone again because of how my band director treated me. Instead of trying to improve on my sound by practicing more I decided to be stubborn and show her that I could fight back too. It’s only now that I think she may have been trying to push me, push us to be a much better band. Had I been more determined I may still be involved in music today, and have her to thank for it. But who knows, she may have just hated me.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent film that sadly will not win “Best Picture” (my prediction), because “art about art” rarely seems to captivate the audience it should. J.K. Simmons should absolutely win the supporting trophy though, even if he is scarier than any horror icon I’ve ever seen.

SCENE COLLECTED: Besides the one I mentioned above, the last scene of the film is truly amazing. I can’t describe it here for obvious reasons but just know that you really will want to fist pump the air once the credits start rolling.

FLICKCHART RATING: 247/2272

“A Long Way Down” – Life is looking up

This movie is about four strangers who try to commit suicide at the same time and instead, decide to sign a pact not to kill themselves until Valentine’s day.

Now that that’s sunken in, let’s move on.A Long Way Down

I loved this movie. Obviously with a premise like the one above you just wouldn’t expect it to be an uplifting tale of togetherness or hope, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I found this gem on Netflix which was surprising seeing how it was released this year. Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB gave it average reviews, but the user reviews are what stood out to me. Phrases like “Don’t trust the critics” and “This blew me away” are always good indicators of an amazing film, so I gave it a shot. The poster and the storyline set you up for this comedic adventure; something where these four people decide not to kill themselves followed by whatever hilarity life decides to throw at them. But that’s what was so intriguing; that’s not what happens.

With an amazing cast of misfits for their roles, such as Pierce Brosnan as non-Bond as possible, Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman’s calmer cousin, Toni Collette in a mind-blowing performance, and Imogen Poots as a rambunctious twenty-something with a political father. Poots and Paul already had amazing chemistry in “Need For Speed” (albeit not the greatest movie ever) so I was happy to see it rekindled in this…a film about suicide. I have to say though, that Brosnan’s performance was so on point that I think that’s what made me happiest about the film. Even when “The Thomas Crown Affair” came out, he was still very suave and sexy, not really hanging up the James Bond coat. But THIS…THIS is where he shines. He’s nothing like the Pierce Brosnan you expect him to be and that is exactly why he was perfect for this role. As if during the casting discussion someone in the back, some intern, just popped up and said, “What about Pierce? He’d be pretty good.” Hopefully that intern’s running a studio somewhere now. Or at least getting coffee for someone super important.

The film is very surprising. As I mentioned earlier, I went into it thinking it was going to be some kind of comedy, that two guys and two girls try to commit suicide but somehow find love and all’s well by the end. Not so. These four wind up creating a bond that to me, goes beyond affectionate love. Maybe it’s just because my favorite stories are the ones where unlikely heroes bond together to slay the dragon, and in this case the press is the dragon. The journey they all embark on after that one New Years Eve is a great one, finding more about one another than I’m sure they ever knew about themselves. Now I understand that critics are definitely not idiots and will rate films the way they see them, so I’m not here to tell you they’re wrong. In fact if you’re reading this, it’s because you want MY opinion on the film. Are you going to watch it after you read this? Who knows. Is this going to impact how you feel about it after watching it? I sure hope so.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-27-at-11.18-bannerThey look like a happy bunch, don’t they?

Watch it. This isn’t necessarily an original story. Hell, it’s based on the book by the author of “About a Boy” so I’m sure you’ll pick up on some of the same “feels”. Watch it because it’s heartwarming and the performances are spectacular. Watch it to spite the critics. Watch it because I told you to.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Watch it for Pierce Brosnan.

FLICKCHART RATING: 260/2214

“Chef” – Starting from scratch never tasted so good.

Have you ever read a book, gazed on a painting, or really listened to a song that made you rethink your priorities in life? I haven’t either, but “Chef” came really close. But not “close” in the way that made me feel like I’m on the wrong path in life, but “close” in the sense that I REALLY want to learn to cook like a boss.Chef

I’ve always liked Jon Favreau, from “The Replacements” (what I consider to be the best sports movie of all time) to what he kicked off with the “Iron Man” films. He’s got a good head for comedy and his direction is pretty spot on. So when I heard about “Chef” a little while back (guilty for looking up what Robert Downey Jr. had in the chamber), I knew I’d have to check it out when it became available. Last night I sat down with my roommates and we set out on what has surely been the most mouth-watering hour and a half I’ve ever been a part of. Here’s the synopsis:

Really talented chef at a prestigious restaurant loses his job but decides money isn’t what’s important, it’s cooking for people. After much urging and pushing from his ex-wife, he decides to start a food truck business, where he can cook whatever he wants.

I feel that’s a little better than what IMDB has to offer, so forgive me for embellishing. Point is, we get to sit through this man’s (Jon Favreau himself) delicious journey through self-discovery, family, and what the most important things in life are.

The film is packed with some great talent, and they all share the spotlight equally well. Rounding out the cast we have Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, and Bobby Cannavale. Take a step back for a moment and realize that this is an epic list. Lequizamo shines as Favreau’s good friend and chef-in-arms and really helps keep the mood up even in the few minutes where the film gets sad. The rest of the cast fits in perfectly and I couldn’t be happier with their performances, however the real heavy hitter here is Favreau. The last few films I’ve seen him in, he was portraying Tony Stark’s driver with a witty line here or there, so it was great to see him step off the sidelines and onto the field. He truly made this film a masterpiece.

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Shout out to Roy Choi who taught Favreau how to make many of the dishes in the film.

Now onto what I was talking about in the beginning: his cooking. As I understand it, Favreau actually learned how to cook the dishes he’s seen making in the film, and just writing about them now is making me hate the chicken salad I packed for dinner. One of the simplest meals he makes in the film is a grilled cheese, and I’m pretty sure his version tasted better than most filet mignon’s I’ve had. After the credits started to roll I turned to my roommates (one of whom was already looking up how much food trucks cost) and suggested that we each pick out a simple recipe, and over the next few weeks experiment with it until we are able to create a masterpiece. They both seemed to agree and I’ve already started looking up ways to beef up the grilled cheese.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: I feel that films like this are a rarity now, where you not only enjoy what it’s about but are left wanting more out of your own life after viewing. Hats off to you, Mr. Favreau.

FLICKCHART RATING: 294/2200