Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


Box office champions tend to have the last laugh.

(2017) Science Fiction (Disney/Marvel) Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Bradley Cooper (voice), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Rob Zombie, Rhoda Griffis, Seth Green (voice), David Hasselhoff, Gregg Henry, Michelle Yeoh, Ving Rhames, Chris Sullivan, Elizabeth Debicki. Directed by James Gunn

 

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, Da Queen loves everything Guardians, particularly Rocket Raccoon. If I were to say anything negative about either the franchise or the characters, I am likely to get the cold shoulder for weeks on end at best or a heavy object upside my head at worst. Thus, I waited for her to go out of town on business before publishing my review for this massive hit.

Taking place only four months after the first Guardians (making this 2014), the nascent team continues to bicker like, well, family. They are getting set to take on a CGI alien tentacle thing that is kind of a cross between a squid and the machine ships of the Matrix trilogy. Incongruously, Baby Groot (Diesel) sets up a boombox and dances along to the strains of ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” while all around him is chaos. That kind of sets things up and sums things up at the same time.

Rocket (Cooper) being a raccoon has a distinctly kleptomaniac kind of attitude and before long their former employers, the genetically perfect (but not too bright) Sovereign are after them and they are saved by a mysterious figure but are forced to crash land on a primitive planet to make repairs. There the mysterious figure reveals himself; his name is Ego (Russell) but more to the point, he’s also Star Lord’s (Pratt) dad and he invites his boy over to his planet for a bit of father-son bonding time. Rocket and Groot stay behind to repair the Merano and guard their prisoner Nebula (Gillan) while Gamora (Saldana) – sister to Nebula – and Drax (Bautista) go along for the ride, joining the ultra-empathetic Mantis (Klementieff) who works as a kind of valet for Ego.

Things being what they are for the Guardians, Ego turns out to be a God-like Celestial and as the saying goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely and Ego’s power is as absolute as it gets. The Guardians are once again called into battle but can they overcome the power of a god?

This is everything fans of the first film hoped it would be; there’s a lot of Easter eggs in it for Marvel fans in general (like a cameo appearance of Howard the Duck) and Guardians fans in particular like the appearance of the original Guardians team of Yondu (Rooker), Starhawk (Stallone), Charlie-27 (Rhames) and Aleta Ogord (Yeoh).

The downside of that is that it feels at times like Gunn is trying to cram a bit too much into the movie; not only is he setting up future Guardians movies as well as, indirectly, the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War but he’s also trying to throw in a whole lot of Guardians lore while trying to tell a coherent story of his own. There is also a whole lot of carnage and some impressive battle scenes – a ton of them in fact – and for some it might end up being geek overload.

Gunn also wisely spreads the wealth among his talented cast; we get to learn a whole lot of backstory for all of the characters and while Peter Quill is the ostensible focus, Drax ends up getting almost all of the laughs while Nebula and Yondu are given some scenes of tremendous pathos. And yes, the sci-fi spectacle is all there from the art deco splendor of the Sovereign to Ego’s planet which the most ambitious computer effect is ever created to date with something over a trillion polygons of computer graphics.

The chemistry between the cast continues to be strong and while the story sometimes might be a little hard to follow, there is still some investment and I’m sure that Marvel’s lords and masters over at Disney were smiling at the theme of family which is one of their sweet spots. This year’s summer blockbuster slate has been inconsistent in quality but certainly it has had its share of smart and entertaining successes and this is one of the biggest so far.

REASONS TO GO: One of Kurt Russell’s best performances in years. The song selection is masterful. The special effects are truly special. Baby Groot nearly steals the show.
REASONS TO STAY: Gunn tries to pack in a little bit too much into the film.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of violence (of the sci-fi nature), some mild profanity and a little suggestive content.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Glenn Close filmed scenes as Nova Prime but they ended up on the cutting room floor.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/29/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 67/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Ice Pirates
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT: Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale

Advertisements

New Releases for the Week of May 5, 2017


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel (voice), Bradley Cooper (voice), Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker. Directed by James Gunn

The summer blockbuster season is here and it kicks off with a bang as the ragtag bunch of outsiders who saved the galaxy in 2014 return to save it again and boy, does it need saving!  As the Guardians try to fathom the mystery of who Peter Quill’s father is, a new threat looms that will challenge this somewhat argumentative team and lead into next summer’s Avengers: Infinity War. Stay after the closing credits roll for no less than five post-credits scenes.

See the trailer, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive content)

Colossal

(Neon) Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake-Nelson. Gloria has to pick her life up and start all over again after her boyfriend, tiring of her constant partying and her alcohol issues, throws her out. She heads to her old hometown to live in the house her mom left her when she passed away. Gloria runs into an old school chum who gives her a job at his bar, but the two watch in horror as a giant monster terrorizes Seoul, South Korea. When it turns out Gloria has a strange connection with the creature, things get really weird. This Florida Film Festival favorite is the first movie to play the Enzian post-festival.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater

Rating: PG-13 (for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity)

The Dinner

(The Orchard) Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall. Two brothers – one a popular congressman running for governor, the younger a troubled man estranged from his golden boy older brother since childhood, get together for dinner at one of the most fashionable restaurants in town. Their teenage boys, despite the hostility between their dads, are the closest of friends – and together have committed a horrible crime. While their guilt hasn’t been discovered and may never be, their parents have to face their consciences and decide how far they are willing to go to protect the ones they love.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex, Regal Oviedo Mall, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for disturbing violent content, and language throughout)

Norman

(Sony Classics) Richard Gere, Dan Stevens, Steve Buscemi, Michael Sheen. Norman, a man living on the fringes of New York City’s powerful manages to give an Israeli politician a gift of expensive shoes when the latter is visiting the Big Apple at a low point in his career. Cut to several years later when that politician is now Prime Minister and Norman uses the cache of his legitimate connection to put together a complex financial deal that threatens to blow apart and cause an international scandal. Norman, finally where he wants to be, could lose everything if he doesn’t make things right.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for some language)

Pick of the Litter – May 2017


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell. The misfits who saved the Galaxy are on yet another quest to save it again. They’ll be picking up some new members in Moondragon as well as old foes Nebula and Yondu. This time they’ll be setting up the next Avengers film as they meet up with Star Lord’s dad – Ego, the Living Planet – and try to foil the ambitions of Thanos who seeks the Infinity Gems for a gantlet that will allow him to rule the Galaxy. May 5

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Last Men in Aleppo

(Grasshopper) Khalid, Subhi, Mahmoud. Three men who founded the White Helmets of Aleppo live day to day in a city under siege. An organization created to save lives and bring hope to a city where there is little of that, the men fight their own worst fears and heartaches to give meaning to their struggle and create examples for their children. This won Best Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. May 3

Mr. Chibbs

(Abramorama) Kenny Anderson, Deidre “Spindarella” Roper, Bobby Hurley, Nate Archibald. Ten years after retiring from a stellar pro basketball career, Anderson has made life a party of drugs, alcohol and sex. Still reeling from the death of his mother, he loses a cherished coaching position and finds that in order to move forward he’s going to have to face his own demons for the first time in his life. May 3

Like Crazy

(Strand) Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Micaela Ramazzotti, Valentina Carnelutti, Sergio Albelli. Donatella and Beatrice both reside in a psychiatric facility in Tuscany for mentally disturbed women. They are both there for entirely different reasons but still they become fast friends. During an educational outing, they are presented an opportunity to escape custody and they take it, beginning an adventure that will take them on a road trip that will disclose their past and realize the beauty in imperfection which could potentially change their lives forever. May 5

Manifesto

(FilmRise) Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett. A manifesto is a declaration of intent to change the status quo. The Oscar-winning actress takes on a variety of roles; in each she reads a manifesto against a striking background; some modern, some psychedelic, some futuristic. This is not just art, it’s Art. It also played as a Spotlight Selection at this year’s Florida Film Festival. May 10

The Wall

(Roadside Attractions/Amazon) Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli, Spencer Thomas. A sniper pins two American soldiers with a crumbling wall between them. As they soon discover, it’s not just war…to the sniper, it is a deadly game. Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) has concocted an edge of the seat thriller in a wartime setting. May 12

Wakefield

(IFC) Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garson, Jason O’Mara, Beverly D’Angelo. Howard Wakefield was a responsible husband, loving father and successful lawyer living in a beautiful house in the suburbs. He’s everything he’s supposed to be – until he suffers a nervous breakdown and decides to see what would happen to his family if he removed himself from their lives. He lives in his attic, observing his family and as the days stretch out into months it becomes harder and harder for him to return to the life he once knew, even though he may want to.  May 19

The Commune

(Magnolia) Trine Dyrhholm, Fares Fares, Ulrich Thomsen, Julie Agnete Vang. In the 1970s a group of Danish young people gather in a commune to explore free love and communal living. At first, it’s a gas and the vibe is perfect but as time goes on they begin to clash and the solidarity that existed between them evaporates. This is a new film from Thomas Vinterberg who helmed The Hunt (one of my all-time favorite Florida Film Festival entries) and like that film played at the Florida Film Festival only this year other than a few years back. May 19

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan

(Abramorama) Wendy Whelan, Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Bryan Brooks. Wendy Whelan is one of the most celebrated ballerinas in the history of American ballet. No single artist has had more ballets written specifically for them than her. However at age 47, she must fight an entirely new battle – against the perceptions of her age and her own injured body. May 24

Long Strange Trip

(Amazon Studios) Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann. Although there have been many concert films of the Grateful Dead, there really hasn’t been a comprehensive documentary about the band – until now. Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, the film will get a brief theatrical run before debuting on the Amazon Prime service on June 2. May 26