Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Full Review)

No film in Disney/Marvel’s massive gallery was as much of a surprise success as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film about a ragtag group of space anti-heroes transcended its lesser known source material to become a fun summer blockbuster full of exhilarating action and humor. But it’s hard to follow up a breakout hit with something better or even just as good. Iron Man 2 and Avengers: Age of Ultron showed us, that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe always keeps things entertaining, sometimes their sequels can’t quite live up to the hype.

GotG_Vol2_posterGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the adventures of a group of intergalactic heroes for hire. Returning are Drax (Dave Bautista), a slow witted mustle man who lacks subtlety; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a rude and violent talking raccoon; Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a naive tree monster reduced to baby form following the first film’s climax; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) skiled assassin and daughter to a space tyrant, and Peter “Star Lord” Quill, (Chris Pratt), an Earthling with a human mother and an alien father he’s never met. After the crew makes enemies out of a society of genetic purists (led by Elizabeth Debicki), the Guardians encounter Ego (Kurt Russell), an antient, powerful being claiming to be Quill’s father, and his socially awkward aprentice, named Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Michael Rooker also returns as Quill’s former mentor Yondu, and Karen Gillan reprises her role as Gamora’s sister/hated rival, Nebula.

As it turns out, Guardians Vol. 2 has many of the same problems as Iron Man 2 and Age of Ultron in that it seems more concerned with making the audience laugh and giving them shiny new CGI to gawk at than with forming a coherent narrative. As such, the plot to this film is all over the place for the majority of its seemingly lengthy runtime. There are far too many threads that are overly emphasized such as a subplot about Yondu’s connection to a former mentor (played by Sylvester Stallone) and his dismissal from the bounty hunting Ravagers. It isn’t until the admittedly exciting climax that things seem to actually come together, but the means hardly justifies the ends.

There’s still a great bit of humor throughout. Dave Bautista (who has greatly improved since his acting debut) is hilarious in every scene and most of the banter between the team is fun. But even here, things don’t feel as consistently organic as they did the first go round. Too much of the jokes are awkwardly raunchy (get ready for penis jokes… yes, penis jokes), and the cartoony slapstick is so abundant that it often undermines scenes that should probably be taken more seriously.

The film manages to add some weighty emotional moments to make the story feel grounded and a bit more necessary. A few scenes between Saldana’s Gamora and Gillan’s Nebula do a fantastic job of adding depth to both characters. In fact, most of the cast deserves credit for injecting likability into each of their characters. But with the story, much of the humor, and even the soundtrack all feeling like a step down, its hard to make a case that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is memorable. Not every follow up is going to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, but I can’t help but feel like characters this fun deserve an adventure that isn’t predominantly a throw away.

FINAL GRADE: C

A = Must See/Top 10 Nominee

B = Good film. Flawed, but still very entertaining

C = Not Bad, but highly flawed/Probably better off waiting for Redbox

D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities

F = I wanted to walk out/Don’t waste time or money

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End of Summer Quick Reviews

While you eagerly anticipate my Straight Outta Compton Review, here are a couple of Summer films that might’ve fallen under the radar that you might want to check out (or avoid).

Vacation_posterVACATION A reboot/sequel of National Lampoon’s popular 1980’s ‘R’ rated comedies about family vacations gone wrong. Ed Helms takes over the lead role as Rusty Griswold, a pushover air pilot in a floundering marriage to his former sorority girl wife (Christina Applegate) and the father to a sensitive nerd (Skyler Gisondo) who is bullied by his foul mouthed younger brother. To bring the family closer, Rusty decides to take all of them on the same cross-country road trip his father (Chevy Chase) once took his family on.

Beware of comparing this movie to Chevy Chase’s classics. Tonally this film is a bit raunchier and the family members themselves aren’t remotely as likable. The story is also uneven and lacks any real surprises. But as a stand alone comedy, this movie has plenty of laughs to outweigh the few moments when the slapstick falls flat. Cameos from Chris Hemsworth and Charlie Day add some hysterical moments that overall make this Vacation film feel like time well spent, even if it isn’t too memorable. FINAL GRADE: B-

Temple_Hill_Entertainment_-_Paper_TownsPAPER TOWNS Based on a novel written by the same author of The Fault in Our Stars, this story follows a high school senior named ‘Q’ (Nat Wolff) who pines after his wild child next door neighbor, Margo (Cara Delevingne). After a night of elaborate pranks on her cheating ex-boyfriend, Margo disappears. With the help of his two quirky best friends (Austin Abrams and Justice Smith) and Margo’s best friend (Halston Sage), Q connects clues to try and find Margo so that he can profess his love for her.

The film doubles as a mystery and a coming of age teen dramedy. It’s only interesting when it focuses on the latter. The mystery aspect is long and drawn out and hardly believable and things only get intriguing when Q finds her supposed whereabouts and goes on a road trip with his friends to find her. That’s when we get to discover some great chemistry between the cast. The story isn’t nearly as grounded as The Fault in Our Stars, but like it, the film does provide some solid insight on its subject matter that’ll at least leave the audience with some knowledge if they haven’t been confused or bored to death by the plot and execution. FINAL GRADE: C

Shaun_the_Sheep_MoviePosterSHAUN THE SHEEP The makers of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run bring another stop motion story to life in the form of their TV show about a rambunctious sheep. In this film, after getting fed up with his farmer owner’s routine, Shaun and his sheep brethren hatch a plan to escape from the farmer and his dog and explore the big city. But they soon find out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

An important disclaimer should come with this film: THERE IS NO DIALOGUE. ZERO. NONE. WHATSOEVER. With that, it takes a strong attention span to keep from dozing off once or twice even if you feel interested going in. Children used to the manic pacing of Spongebob and Minions will probably not enjoy this, but young children who don’t understand words anyway, should love it. The lessons should also hit home and adults, who can stomach a film void of dialogue will also find several moments in the film to chuckle at, making Shaun the Sheep a solid niche family film. FINAL GRADE: B

The_Man_from_U.N.C.L.E._posterTHE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. A British actor plays an American spy and an American actor plays a Russian spy? If they can pull it off… sure, why not? Based on an old 1960’s television series, this film unites the two Cold War rival countries on a mission to stop a socialite/megalomaniac (Elizabeth Debicki) from selling a nuclear bomb. The Americans have suave former thief, Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and the Russians have tough, temperamental KGB agent Illya Kuryikan (Armie Hammer). Together, they must put aside their obvious disdain for one another to protect a former Nazi scientist’s daughter (Alicia Vikander) and use her to find their nemesis.

Part classic James Bond, but more historical buddy cop movie, Man from U.N.C.L.E. manages to deliver with action, style, a smooth soundtrack and some charismatic comedy. The camaraderie of its lead actors is overwhelmingly enjoyable from start to finish. The plot is a bit feeble, but who cares when you’ve got magnetic characters who have great chemistry. You probably ended up watching Straight Outta Compton this weekend, but if you feel like one last dose of summer fun before the season ends, Man from U.N.C.L.E. is definitely worth a look. FINAL GRADE: A-