Tag Archives: Marvel

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 – Movie Review

C_MR_WhUIAApVo9The “Marvel Cinematic Universe” has become something of a beast, weighed down by continuity, history, and the expectations of big budgets and big fandom. However, a new Guardians of the Galaxy movie comes out to remind us that there are still fun adventures to be had in the MCU. One of the advantages that the Guardians have is that they were relative unknowns in the Marvel Comics world before they burst onto the big screen three summers ago. Even with the runaway success of their first movie, they are still not icons like Captain America, Spider-Man or the X-Men. They could have just as easily been a totally new sci-fi franchise featuring a rag-tag band of space adventurers. In fact, it’s probably no surprise that they remind me a lot of the original Star Wars crew. In this second movie (“volume”), we seem to be catching Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and (now baby) Groot in the middle of a job, hired to protect giant space batteries by a race of golden-gods known as The Sovereign. The opening sequence is full of action, but hilariously baby Groot (the cute little tree person) takes the spotlight as he dances to some grooves while all his fellows fight a giant tentacular, toothy-mouthed monster trying to steal those darn batteries in the background. It perfectly reflects the tone of this movie franchise and its tongue-in-cheek blend of spectacular space-action with mundane, shoulder-shrugging humour.

The other element that completes the Guardians formula (which also happens to be a Star Wars hallmark) is “family issues”. Their payment from The Sovereign for doing this job is to get custody of Gamora’s sister Nebula (in order to hand her over to the authorities) and so the two gals have ample opportunity to work out all their differences over some beat downs and attempts at mutual destruction. Meanwhile, when the crew ends up needing to flee The Sovereign (courtesy of Rocket’s sticky fingers around the priceless space batteries), they get a helping hand from a mysteriously powerful stranger, which leads to some family issues for Quill as well.

This ensemble is very nicely balanced and it’s great how each of the main characters is needed: not only as part of the team, but also to make the movie enjoyable. While Groot and Rocket typically steal the show, this time around Drax was the source of the most humour for me. Dave Bautista is wonderful as the faux straight-man. He’s big, strong and kind of serious, but he’s also full of jokes because he laughs at the “wrong” thing and just doesn’t feel the same sense of impropriety that we might. (This will make me sound like I have a 4-year-old’s sense of humour, but I was rolling with laughter from Drax’s line “I have famously huge turds.” Please don’t judge me.)

The story itself is not too big, even though it involves galaxy-ending possibilities, the focus is still pretty personal. Almost all the aliens we meet are slight variations on humans. When The Sovereign pursue our heroes their fighter ship swarms are remote-controlled, making all their pilots act like a bunch of gamers at an arcade. Similarly, the storyline where Quill’s foster father Yondu struggles with mutiny in the ranks of his own crew of Ravagers, it feels like something inspired by The Sons of Anarchy, or some other human biker gang. Yondu himself has a pretty big role in the resolution of this movie. I actually grew to like him a bit more — not just for his relationship to Quill, but also for his bad-assery and his cool mind-controlled arrow.

The Guardians are a lot of fun to hang out with over the course of a two-hour movie, but there is so much potential for more adventures that I really wish that they were a TV series (I’d probably enjoy it way more than Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD). There is also so much room for sci-fi goodness in their corner of the galaxy that I want to see more before the next sequel movie. I know, there is an animated series that I should probably check out, but from what I saw, it was not nearly the same thing. Anyway, I highly recommend Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 as a great kick off to a summer filled with blockbuster movie sequels and franchises. (4 out of 5)

Summer Movies in the Fall

I know that everyone’s probably seen these movies already (They were, after all, some of the biggest hits of the summer.), but now that some of these blockbusters are coming to iTunes, I have been able to catch up a bit (if you follow my blog, you should know that I’m always catching up with movies). Of course, I like to give my opinion on all things pop culture, so here’s my quick rundown on what I thought of them.

insideoutInside Out

I don’t think I’ll ever not be a fan of Pixar. Everything they create has an extra dab of imagination and polish. However, while this movie was fresh and fun — with its quasi-allegorical take on emotions — it lacked a little something in the overall story department. It was cool to see the characters who represent the five emotions (and the voice actors were well chosen): Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). I know, it’s simplistic to have only five, but it makes for a more straightforward movie. What made less sense to me was that these emotions were able to feel things on their own. What does it mean when Sadness feels joy? or Joy feels sad? Still, I can forgive logical flaws in the interest of a good story. Unfortunately, majority of the screen time is spent with Joy and her misadventures once she gets taken away from the central hub, where the emotions are running the show. I think that the movie should have spent more time in the real world (with Riley’s story). Now, basically all we have is the story of one character making her way back to a central location, with a few obstacles along the way. I concede that’s the premise of a lot of movies (including Pixar’s very-successful Finding Nemo) but it still seems kind of weak here. (4 out of 5)

avengers2Avengers: Age of Ultron

I love the Avengers and director Joss Whedon, plus the movie looks awesome, but I think everything/everyone is wasted on a movie that is kind of a repeat of the first one. Essentially, the Avengers keep squabbling while we wait for a villain to manifest. The action set pieces are so elaborate that it seems like we’re just killing time between them. I liked the introduction of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (though they seemed to really alter her powers in this movie) — I’m not sure they would have kicked so much butt in the comic books as the did here. Beyond that, the idea of computer-AI-turned-super-robot Ultron trying to conquer everything and then release an onslaught of robots is so much like Loki trying to conquer everything by calling up the aliens. It’s like they just want a bunch of bloodless, disposable enemies for the Avengers to toss around. Despite having a lot of dialogue (for an action movie), I don’t think we really know the characters very well — at least not well enough that we should care about the romances between them (Widow and Banner/Hulk? Really?) or about their secret home lives (Why did we spend that time at Hawkeye’s farm?). This movie totally seemed extraneous to me, however, I’m alway a sucker for fun super-action, and bringing super-teams to the big screen. (3.5 out of 5)

pitchperfect2Pitch Perfect 2

I really enjoyed the first movie, and like Avengers, this movie seems like it took the best parts of the first and tried to find a way to do it all again without being too obvious. Anyway, this sequel has the acappella champions, the Barden Bellas, come crashing down at the height of their success, courtesy of a wardrobe malfunction. To keep their sorority/club alive, they need to win the World Championships. My favourite new element is the introduction of their nemesis, the German acappella super-group Das Sound Machine. The actual dramatic story seems incidental, but: there’s a newbie named Emily who joins their group (despite auditions being closed) and Becca (Anna Kendrick) is trying to break into the recording industry as an intern to an egomaniacal music producer. One of the good parts of the movie is the showdown scene (similar to the “riff-off” scene in the empty pool from the first movie, but this time they are at an invitation-only gathering aka the First National A Cappella Laser Ninja Dragon League, at an eccentric billionaire’s place — I know. Plausible, right? Whatever.) They face Das Sound Machine (DSM) there, and it’s pretty funny how they trash-talk each other constantly. The two leads from DSM replace Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) as my favourite characters — their eurotrash-talk is a riot! Finally, of course the world competition is fun, but mostly for the showy numbers. So, if you left the first movie thinking, “I could watch this movie again”, well then you’re kind of in luck. (4 out of 5)

mad_max_fury_road_charlize_theron_as_furiosa_and_tom_hardy_as_mad_maxMad Max: Fury Road

If we’re talking about summer-movie plots, this one has got to be the simplest one: good guys drive away to escape bad guys through a desert wasteland. However, this was probably my favourite summer blockbuster, regardless. It’s not about the plot, but about the gorgeous visuals and cinematography, along with amazingly choreographed action sequences (so you gotta see them. I can’t describe them). I had not watched any of the other Mad Max movies, so I didn’t know anyone’s backstory and it didn’t seem to matter. Max himself (played by Tom Hardy rather than Mel Gibson this time) had a helpful, but secondary role. This movie seemed to be more about Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron) and her quest to free the slaves/wives/harem of desert warlord Immortan Joe and bring them to a paradise that she remembered from her childhood. She takes them all in a big, armoured truck called a War Rig, and Joe’s forces, primarily the War Boys, chase them. There is an overlay of sci-fi, but that’s pretty incidental. The meat of the movie is about survival, escape and freedom from oppression — not to mention stunts. I was more than surprised that I enjoyed the film as much as I did. (5 out of 5)

exmachinaEx Machina

This was probably less of a blockbuster, and I remember it coming out in the spring, but I’m tossing it into this mix as well. However, maybe I shouldn’t, because it’s more of a thinker than an all-out action flic. There are only three main characters: Caleb, an unassuming but very smart programmer (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who works for Nathan, the CEO of a Google-like search engine mega-company (played by Oscar Isaac) and Ava (played by Alicia Vikander), an android built by Nathan. The film feels very much like a play since it’s mostly a series of one-on-one dialogues. When Caleb is invited to Nathan’s isolated mountain home, he soon learns that he’s there to interact with and test Ava for how alive she really is. It may seem cliche that Caleb falls for Ava, but it’s also a bit simplistic. For one thing, Nathan is constantly playing mind games with Caleb (at one point he even questions whether he himself might be an android and not realize it). Similar to the movie Her, where Joaquin Phoenix fell in love with the AI in his operating system, this movie struggles with the definition of humanity. I really found this movie well-made and thought-provoking, however I think that it really took a downturn at the end when things get predictably out of control. Nevertheless, Ex Machina is the kind of intelligent sci-fi that I enjoy and want to see more of. (4 out of 5)

insurgentInsurgent

In contrast, (if it were possible) this movie is even more simplistic and ridiculous than the first Divergent film. Janine (played by Kate Winslet) is continuing her evil schemes, but this time she’s after some mysterious message hidden in an old box/device that can only be unlocked by a divergent (that means someone who doesn’t fit into one of the five factions of this dystopian society because they have qualities of all five). Again (see also Inside Out), we’re simplifying humanity down to five elements. In case you’ve forgotten, they are Erudite, Candor, Dauntless, Abnegation, and Amity. Tris and Four (the rebel heroes from our first movie) have escaped the city and are hiding with the Amity folk in their hippie commune. What doesn’t really make sense is that Janine sends troops out to capture Tris and the others, but Tris ends up wanting to get back to the box herself so she can try to pass the tests and open it. Essentially the hero and villain of the story have the same goal — which would kind of take the thrill out of the conflict. Sophisticated and thought-provoking this movie is not, but its production values are good and it’s not completely un-fun. (3 out of 5)

jurassicworld_14Jurassic World

Chris Pratt really does make an excellent lead actor. He’s charismatic and capable. He’s like Harrison Ford with a bit less snark and a bit more strength (too bad Pratt didn’t pick up the Indiana Jones franchise instead of Shia Leboeuf). In this movie he plays Owen, an ex-navy, dino handler who has a special bond with the four Velociraptors at this Jurassic World theme park. Even though it’s acknowledged right in the movie itself, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since the Jurassic Park phenomenon began on screen. In this movie, 20 years has allowed them to properly set up a theme park using cloned, live dinosaurs as exhibits. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, who runs the park. Her two teenage nephews arrive at the park for a mini-vacation. The plot is not anything spectacularly different from previous films. A new man-made breed of dinosaur (called Indominus Rex) is being put through its last paces weeks before being shown to the public. This new dino is stronger and larger than any other, and made from a mix of all kinds of DNA (whatever the plot seems to require). So, any movie-goer worth his salt knows what happens when humans create such a dangerous monster. When it escapes, Claire and Owen try to rescue Claire’s nephews while saving all the park visitors from the Indominus, along with any other prehistoric menaces. There are plot holes big enough to fit a T.Rex through, but still I had a lot of fun watching this movie. It was interesting that they gave the Velociraptors even more personality than before (including pet names). Even those of us who had felt some dino-fatigue from how much dino content there was out there would enjoy some of the fresher scenes (including the one where Pratt rides along on a velociraptor hunt on his motorcycle). I loved the first film, and I’m amazed that they kept the franchise going through so many sequels. I think they have found success with this new reboot. (4 out of 5)