Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Refines the Original

I am going to be one of the few critics to say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 improves upon it’s predecessor Guardians of the Galaxy. I did like the first one but not as much as most people did so my standards were a little bit lower but still, I like it when I feel a sequel improves upon the original.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 feels like a refined version of Guardians of the Galaxy. The basic concepts are the same. They are still the five superheroes working as a team working towards defeating an enemy who aims to overcome a villain. What made me smile was how clever I thought Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 executed it.

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I’m glad they used Groot in the story he was funny and was a contributing factor in the story. I was worried that the only reason he was in the movie was to sell toys.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has two small changes from the original that enhanced my experience of it dramatically. Both of them involved making logical, important character developments in the narrative. Add in a bit of restraint of humor in the script and that’s it.

A Better Script helps make a Better Movie

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A well-written script is a delight to see and great to hear

One of my main complaints in the original Guardians of the Galaxy was that they used humor in climatic battles to patronize their villains which lost a dramatic edge in a fight sequence that I felt was needed. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind Peter Quell (Chris Pratt) or Rocky (Bradley Cooper) telling jokes (like telling a guard to change his self-proclaimed name from “Taserface” into something like “Scrotumhead”) but I don’t like it all the time. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. there was joke-restraint in climatic scenes and I believed in moments which they suggested the Guardians or the villain were going to lose (or win) a fight. I invested a lot more in the climatic battles simply because the movie aimed to be more serious about it.

The Supporting Actors that made this Movie Great

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Kurt Russel and Michael Hooker are Gods half-metaphorically speaking 😉

There are two little (but significant) character developments in the movie. One of which is about Ego (Kurt Russel) and the other which was about Yondu (Michael Rooker). What you get to know about these two characters is a major part of the story’s development and I didn’t expect it to have been executed any better. When the movie fully fleshes out those two characters, it hightened my interest even more and brought the movie up several notches.

Other mish mash (The Movie Review’s B-Sides)

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The Taserface of the review: Worth mentioning but not worth devoting entire paragraphs to.

 

Despite the fact I think Guardians of the Galexy Vol.2 was better than the original, there were a couple of minor misteps and observations that I feel are worthy of note that I will give three of them out in bullet form.

1. The soundtrack was more on-the-nose with their songtitles which was a bit eyerolling. At least they fit the movie’s tone more than the original

2. The movie does a complete character change to Drax (Dave Bautista) from being somewhat menicing and having austistic tendancies to just being completly goofy. It was weird.

3. I felt the resolution was a little overdone and I’ll just kept it at that.

Beyond that, this is more-or-less the same movie as the original Guardians of the Galaxy so if you liked the original I think you will like this. It probably won’t convert people who already didn’t like the original though.

Thank God Marvel exists. They are not perfect (cough X-Men Apocalypse cough) but they have a good track record of making big blockbuster movies that work. They don’t make me think their movies are mearly technical excercises that end up feeling like a monetary landfill. This was fun and appealing to watch. ****1/4

Guardians of the Galaxy- The First One

The five Guardians, sporting various weapons, arrayed in front of a backdrop of a planet in space with the film's title, credits and slogan.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those movies where positive reception from fans and critics alike was a near-certainty. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of those films people will look back on because it was an innovator especially for 2014. Guardians of the Galaxy mostly works because of the humor, drama, and likability of characters which is what drew me into liking this film.

The plot: Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) steals an orb that has the power to destroy life in order to sell for cash (not knowing the powerful nature of the orb at the time). This gets him in a tangle with bounty hunters Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) who have to work with each other to defeat a bigger enemy called Ronan

The plot summarized: I am Groot

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I want this to be on my drivers licence

I liked Guardians of the Galaxy. Did I love it? I’m not so sure. What I credit Guardians of the Galaxy in doing is getting a film containing a multi-star cast over with critics and audiences and myself as that is a tough task to accomplish. I also appreciate it for being innovative by being a superhero movie that wins the audience through humor while mixing in a tinge of drama. In most superhero movies pre- Guardians of the Galaxy that was the other way round.

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The power of dance knows no bounds. If only this was used on Doomsday in Batman vs. Superman, it might have made more sense. Shots have been fired.

The problem is, I am watching Guardians of the Galaxy for the first time in 2017 is that I have seen many superhero movies doing exactly the same thing: Using wacky jokes in order to be liked. Power Rangers, Suicide Squad, The Lego Batman Movie, and Deadpool have also tried to succeed by using lots of in-jokes and meta humor to varying degrees of success. Still, I would rank Guardians of the Galaxy second behind Deadpool out of the movies that I mentioned. That’s a good ranking considering the other movies could have refined what Guardians of the Galaxy paved.

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Peter explans to Drax the meaning behind slitting a person’s throat by putting his finger on his throat. This goes for nearly thirty seconds. It’s a rare movie where a lot of the humour comes from explaining jokes or gestures.

I liked the meta humor to a point. That point was reached when the would be a dramatic point in a conflict in which one of the main characters (mainly Peter) would interject by saying jokes when I thought it was unnecessary as it patronized the main villain Ronan. It watered down the payoff of key fight scenes in the movie. It made me believe that the heroes were not taking the main antagonist Ronan seriously. If the Guardians of the Galaxy treat the villain like a joke, I see no reason to take the threat seriously and therefore I don’t care for the Guardian’s fates. It felt like the movie was selling itself short.

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I say that this secne where the guardians unite is a good scene however Rocket the raccoon believes they look like “A bunch of jackasses” You be the judge.

What wasn’t sold short was everything else in the movie from the character development of all four Guardians of the Galaxy as a cohesive unit from bounty hunters who are all in for themselves to the bonding through grief in order to work together and destroy the villain. The emotional payoffs of the four characters worked and made me want to see them fight and win.

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The special efferects are great. It’s not exclusivly purple like Battlefield Earth. There are a variety of colours and textures that are pleasing to the eye in this movie.

The special effects were wild and beautiful to look at most of the time. Marvel have this thing nailed down where they show a lot of colors and shades in their special effects and you never feel like you are drenched in it. Doctor Strange, in my opinion, is still the best superhero movie for the GCI that it had, but Guardians is yet again a close second. It adds a lot of life to the movie and it’s always got me in wanting to see it.

So, Guardians of the Galaxy is not as perfect as what people made me believe, but I am still happy with the final product. Like a lot of three-star movies I give, all they need is some refining and it would have gone a long way with my enjoyment of it. Still, like any three-star movie, I cannot deny I enjoyed it ***3/4

Land of Mine- A Suspenseful War flick

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Land of Mine is a Danish film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and after watching it I completely understand why. Rich in suspense, satisfying payoffs, and both story and character development leads to something that is both simultaneously harrowing and life affirming. This might make my top 10 films of 2017 list.

Set immediately after the Norwegian reoccupation of their country after World War 2, Land of Mine follows the story between a division of German teenage boys and their new Danish Sargent Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller) as they clear more than two million mines on the shores of Norway.

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The first time one of the many inexperienced Germans are defusing their first mine. You can only imagine how suspenseful this was watching his fate unfold.

What shines through in Land of Mine is how empathy and understanding inside humanity break the banners of both national pride and near demonic hatred that try to consume it. We get that in the first scene of the movie in which Sargent Rasmussen spots one of the surrendered Germans holding a Danish flag and he beats him bloody while screaming “You don’t own this flag!” as he has internalized resentment from the years of German occupation. The division he gains are the teenage boys, who are barely trained in mine defusion. However, slowly but surely the sergeant begins to care for their suffering in an environment where they were seen as a commodity for defusing mines and a liability when they make one fatal mistake.

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Rolland Moller has such a great balance for this character. He is imposing, sympathetic, and even when he is vulnerable he plays it with confidence.

Beyond the valley of great storytelling and humanity, Land of Mine works as a suspenseful thriller. Great war and horror movies will suck you in by evoking suspense instead of showing the slash scene because the chase is better than the catch in life. In addition to that, Land of Mine has several scenes in which mines detonate. Only one of them I expected. There are several tropes in movies for which I expected Lane of Mine to fall under in terms when a mine would detonate. Only once was I not caught off guard. This movie was just so engrossing on the suspense level.
When the great acting and character development on both the sergeant and the various German boys coupled with the suspense of it all, Land of Mine turns into something special. It’s crazy that war movies, on the whole, are so creative in my opinion that Land of Mine is barely visible of the top tiers of war movies. That’s is fantastic for the war genre. Lane of Mine is a great film and yet I can count several war movies that are better on the top of my head. That is not a negative criticism but an observation. Land of Mine was just an absorbing suspenseful experience. This is the first great film I have seen in over a month and movies like Land Of Mine keep me motivated as I find diamonds in the rough once more ****1/2

The Fate of The Furious: Still chugging along

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They say you cannot judge a book by it’s cover. They never said you can’t judge a movie by promotional picture!

The Fate of The Furious is one-upping itself by having bigger action set pieces than ever before. There are cars that topple over a multi-story parking lot like tears in the rain, five cars trying to hog tie another car, there is a car race were one of those cars was on fire and a goddamn submarie break thes ice of the Russain freaking ocean chasing our heroes. None of which is a spoiler because either 1. They happen early on or 2. They revealed them in the trailer.

The reason I describe the movie like that is simply for this one notion:

What more did you expect from this franchise?

Despite the enthusastic tone, let’s not be mistaken, The Fate of the Furious is an unsurprising, middle of the road film. To continue this car analogy, this installment of the franchise is the pitstop. A 1 billion dollar pitstop, but a pitstop nonetheless. At least it was not the car crash of the franchise. The pitstop isn’t a bad place to be but it isn’t running the laps. That’s because this movie was a hit and miss: some action scenes worked, others were too ridiculous. There is a story in it that darting around, but at least there is a story to this movie. If you are a fan of the franchise, you will like this because The Fate of the Furious keeps chugging along rain, hail or shine.

The Positives: The story and the Script

The plot: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) goes rogue because the antagonist Cipher (Charlize Theron) has something on him and uses that to her advantage and Toretto helps her against his will to implement her own plans (and to the horror of his “family”).

There is a reason I mention the plot and that’s because it’s somewhat important. Yes, in movies as a whole, that’s a given but in action movies not so much. A prime example of bad storytelling being xXx The Return of Xander Cage in which the story was so aimless, scattershot and boring that it became laughable. The Fate of the Furious actually has some restraint in what it shows in terms of keeping the plot together as it kept me focused on the story which is a relief.

The other thing that was restrained was the script. It wasn’t cringeworthy like I have heard in most action movies. They only mention the word “family” thirteen times (I predicted twice the amount and it being more explicit than subtle). Therefore I consider it a success. The script isn’t Shakespeare but it doesn’t have to be. The funniest lines occur when Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) has a hang up that he didn’t make it to the ten most wanted list whereas the other friends did (conveniently, he was number 11). So the movie was salvageable in the script department as well.

Furiously Burning the Budget: The Action Sequences

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The picture totally doesn’t make me the think of the song “America, Fuck Yeah” from Team America World Police

What was not restrained was the action sequences. That was exactly what I expected. They normally started off by being cool and/or clever but then change gears and amp up the ridiculousness. A prime example is an opening scene where Dominic races a Cuban with a poorly run car that he soups up at the last minute. During the race, the engine catches on fire while he is neck and neck.

That was fun. I have seen it before, but it was still fun.

Then the engine combusts and the flames obscure Dominic’s vision so he decided to finish (and win the race) by driving backwards while the crowd is cheering that a flaming car is racing toward them.

That was dumb.

To be honest, Fate of the Furious was mildly interesting throughout. It is certainly not the best in the franchise (that was Fast Five for me) but it is certainly not the worst (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift). It aimed to be the biggest action film of the year in terms of sheer scale and yet I didn’t feel that way. In terms of money at the box office, that is a real possibility. **3/4

Smurfs: The Lost Village – Not Terrible

The Smurfs: The Lost Village is not terrible. Why is The Smurfs: The Lost Village not terrible? Just take out all the things that made The Smurfs 2 terrible. Take out the live action and the overuse of the word “Smurf” have gotten rid of what mostly made The Smurf movies annoying. By that virtue alone, this installment of The Smurfs is the best of the three as it’s not painful to watch.

Smurfs: The Lost Village is mildly surprising because it half-works. It has a somewhat cohesive story about a female Smurf called Smurfette (Demi Lovato) who travels to new places in an attempt to find herself (which sounds like a lot of young adults today) and overcomes adversity along the way. There was even a bit (but not a ton of) character development in Smurfette as well.

The animation wasn’t terrible either. The animation is bright and colorful without being oversaturated and garish. I was actually surprised how little my eyes hurt and how my mind wasn’t offended by any bad CGI. It was almost as if The Smurf : The Lost Village was trying to be good. It was surprising that I found redeeming qualities about this movie that are important to the story.

However the Smurfs : The Lost Village has its fair share of bad. Mainly the predictability of the plot and the cliches were mildly annoying. This story is a standard cliff notes/ mad libs book of a Disney narrative. Smurfs: The Lost Village pulls out all the tired tropes of kids movies (loud music, bad jokes, Disney-action plot points etc) and does so unabashedly. At least the movie doesn’t botch the execution. However, it was so predictable that at one point I decided to close my eyes for 5 minutes to see if I missed anything. I missed nothing.

Overall my reaction to Smurfs: The Lost Village is one of indifference. There is no passionate hate or love of the movie. Despite that, If I said I was indifferent to Smurfs: The Lost village, it tells you that this is the best Smurfs movie by default. It definitly exceeded expectations but that dosen’t mean it was spectactular in the slightest **3/4

 

 

The Lego Batman Movie: Deadpool for Kids… Sort of.

 

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The Lego Batman Movie is a unique entry in the superhero genre, not only because it’s a Lego animation but also sees the story in a kid-friendly, light-hearted manner. It’s such departure from other DC movies of Batman in that it’s hard to make a comparison of this movie to other Batman films. Instead, I will be comparing The Lego Batman Movie to Deadpool.

Both The Lego Batman Movie and Deadpool are inherently well written as the characters are witty, both movies wink at the audience with the breaking of the fourth wall and all the inside jokes and finally, both aim to give the audience a feeling of joy and fun while the superheros do their superhero stuff.

Lego filmakers Love Joy

Michael Cera as Robin and Zack Galifinakis as The Joker. The casting director is a genius

The plot: Batman is the poster boy for saving Gotham that all the children love him and sing his praises. Batman (Will Arnett) just laps it up and is arrogent (He brags to have a 9-pack. Yes, a 9-pack) . What we find out early on is the reason Batman is self-centered is because he is afraid of committing to a quiet, family life. Batman is on the mission to save Gotham once again from The Joker (Zack Galifianakis), only he cannot save Gotham on his own this time. He inadvertedly adopts a child (Michael Cera) who turns out to become Robin and they both try to save Gotham.

The bottom line is that The Lego Batman Movie succeeds in what it attempts to achieve. That is because it is so committed to a tone that aims to be lively, child-like and fun that it’s hard to not buy what The Lego Batman Movie is trying to sell. I was buying it for the majority of the movie. Like Deadpool, The Lego Batman Movie does this through fourth wall breaking, witty and funny characters and an arrogant, ego-driven yet charming main character.

The jokes: Faster than a Speeding Bullet

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Tylor Goodwin holds the world record of the number of jokes told in an hour with 571. The Lego Batman Movie might have beaten that record. That is not a good thing if you are trying to keep up

The Lego Batman Movie succeeds to a lesser extent than Deadpool due to the inability for the movie to control the barrage of jokes and the narrative pacing. The main problem with The Lego Batman movie is it either scattershot with jokes that move so fast that you couldn’t keep up or the momentum of the movie would slow down to a near halt.

The scriptwriters also decided that Batman should break the fourth wall five times per minute, which I grew tired of by the end as I was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie and therefore made it hard to suspend my disbelief. Deadpool had the perfect balance of breaking the fourth wall by dropping the intensity of fourth wall breaking considerably after the first act. In The Lego Batman Movie, the filmmakers didn’t get that memo.

The uneven narrative pacing and the overuse of jokes are the two main things The Lego Batman Movie could have improved upon and it did hurt my overall enjoyment of it.

The Running Gag: A Killing Joke

Barman: The guy that doesn’t so “ships” as in “relation-ships”. He is the Dan Bilzerian of life. Just swap women for fighting and they are a mirror image 🙂

Aside from that, there is not much else that is bad that I can think of. The story between The Joker and Batman in this movie are unique, especially the character motivations of The Joker. It somehow manages to work even if it shouldn’t on pen and paper. As always, The Joker wants Batman to hate him as much as the Joker hates Batman, only they make their own twist. It’s a romanticized story in a oddly comedic way where destroying Gotham is like courting Batman to take part in a hate relationship. I loved the angle The Lego Batman Movie takes with that and It was my favourite part of the film.

With all this in mind, I believe it’s the best movie DC has put their name on since The Dark Knight Rises. I still don’t believe it’s as good as a lot of Marvel movies, but it’s a positive step in the right direction in my opinion ***1/4