Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

May 7, 2017 at 9:55 am | Posted in 2017 | Leave a comment
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Vol. 2 is the right signifier for this film, not only because it cleverly hearkens back to 80s mixed tapes but also because this really is just a retread of the first film. It is exactly as entertaining as that one but not an ounce more. James Gunn is the right director/writer for these films. His sense of timing, humor and pacing are well-fitted for this series. But he has found his formula and doesn’t seem the least bit interested in breaking out of it. Given the films’ success, I can’t really blame him. He has gathered the same crew of actors (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan) and essentially put them through 2 ½ hours of more of the same. It is a fast-paced fun ride, full of good laughs, but it isn’t anything different from the last one. We are treated to a dazzling special effects overload (I was particularly impressed by the CGI used to make Kurt Russell look younger– it’s the best I’ve ever seen) and an over burdened plot that is equal parts silly and irrelevant. Marvel has dug deep to introduce us to some pretty obscure characters here (most of whom had a brief moment of notoriety in the 70s), including Ego, Mantis, the Watchers, Howard the Duck, the Grandmaster, and what appears to be a reference to Adam Warlock. In addition to obscure comic book characters, we are treated to a variety of random actors playing them (sometimes just as voice overs), including Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, Seth Greene, Ving Rhames, Rob Zombie, David Hasselhoff, Miley Cyrus, Jeff Goldblum, Stan Lee of course, and the entirety of James Gunn’s family. And, like all Marvel movies, this one has post-credit scenes. In fact, it has 5 of them. So, if you are interested in that sort of thing (some of them are very funny), you will want to stay until lights up in the theater. It may all seem like a bit much, but that is part of the fun. The absurdity of it all just adds to the experience. The first film was a great, fun way to spend a couple of hours and this one is also. It isn’t anything new but, then, I guess it doesn’t really have to be. Especially when what it is works so well.


Guardians of the Galaxy

August 9, 2014 at 11:10 am | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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With this summer romp, Marvel has thrown their hat into the sci-fi ring, bringing to this genre the same tongue-in-cheek and referential humor that has helped them make superheroes accessible to more than just adolescent males (of all ages). Science fiction can often struggle under its own weighty self-importance and where “Guardians” is at its best is when it is upending that formula. The film takes its audience through the typical high-paced, effects-ladened thrill ride with enough acumen to appease the standard sci-fi junkie but there is nothing particularly new or interesting there. The visuals are great (all the aliens, ships, cities look cool) but not impressive. There were no “wow” moments on screen (in fact, there rarely are these days). And the plot itself has nothing to recommend it; it’s ridiculously convoluted and ultimately unimportant (other than to set up a baddie for future movies in the Marvel pantheon). Yet, despite all of that, the film is anything but mediocre. It is, in fact, a hell of a lot of fun. Credit goes first to the whip-sharp script by director James Gunn and screenwriter Nicole Perlman (not only is this Perlman’s first Hollywood script but she is the first female scriptwriter that Marvel has ever employed). They manage to create line after line of clever, charming or bitingly funny dialogue. Lead actor Chris Pratt (“Parks & Recreation”) is especially effective at delivering the lines with a world-weary/naive goofiness that is a sheer pleasure to watch. In fact, he is the other key piece to the film’s success. The other actors are solid but their performances do not particularly stand out (though the fantastic Lee Pace– “Pushing Daisies,” “Halt and Catch Fire” — makes a fun and cartoonishly ominous villain). It is Pratt who seems to inherently understand the pacing of the film’s humor; he delivers every line without overselling it. The movie got unfortunately bogged down toward the end with some unnecessary sentiment that felt like it was written more for the audience than for the characters. We didn’t need that and I, for one, didn’t want it. That aside, I enjoyed this film from start to finish. This is what a blockbuster is supposed to be: Fun. And I haven’t had this much pure fun at a summer movie in a while.

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