Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is the 15th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the third film in the third phase of the same.  The first installment of Guardians takes the viewers on a journey far beyond earth and sets the larger stage for what is to come in the MCU.  Before the first film debuted there was much doubt to the success of the movie due to its use of lesser known characters in the MCU.  However, the hilarious use of witty banter among the protagonists and the well-executed trope of the “ragtag group of misfits” somehow thrown into extraordinary circumstances with extraordinary expectations played well for audiences worldwide.  The first Guardians film set the bar high for future installments and created much anticipation for the second film.

A few words about Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2:

  1. Tries too hard to be funny at times – Right out of the gate Guardians 2 seemed intent on doubling down on the humor that endears itself to the audience in the first installment.  However in this installment, while funny on its own, there was a noticeable shift in a number of jokes per scene.  While the first installment felt very natural with jokes flowing at the pace of the film, Guardians 2 seemed at times to stop the action or story to tell jokes that at many times felt as if they went on a bit too long.
  2. Lots of character development – In this movie each of the Guardians gets a deeper look into why they are the person (or tree, or raccoon, or other species) that they are.  For the most part, this was done pretty well with explaining the motivations behind each of the characters.  However, this made the movie;
  3. Extremely emotional – There were times in this film where it felt as if the audience was being forced into an emotional cheese grater.  There were several instances in which again the film felt like it stopped to make a very specific emotional point about one of the characters.  This was at the very least a bit heavy handed and at most emotionally manipulative.
  4. Fun and engaging action – The action sequences were very well executed.  Specifically, there is one involving Rocket that was very entertaining to watch and another involving Yondu (Michael Rooker with a functional mohawk) that was mesmerizing as well.  The larger action set pieces were also done very well, watching this film in 3D was very rewarding as the editing made full use of the medium.  (this coming from a critic who despises 3D and feels its use is mostly gimmicky)
  5. Felt very disconnected from the MCU – There is a total of five end credit and mid-credits scenes and only two of them did any work to tie this film to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Other than those scenes this film felt almost entirely self-contained and outside of the MCU.  There are still about four films between this one and Avengers:  Infinity War and while we know who the main villain of that film will be (Thanos) it still remains to be seen how the Guardians will mesh with the heroes of the other films.  This didn’t hurt the film itself however it did make this seem a little more like a lot of side plot rather than an important part of the main story.  (also there is a point in the film where the main villain is destroying earth and it seemed at the bare minimum a little odd that there would be no Avengers interested in helping to stop this)
  6. Terrible main plot reveal – When the main villain reveals their ultimate plot to destroy much of the galaxy it is done in kind of a crass way.  Revealing any more than that would be a spoiler but suffice it to say it felt at the very least a bit “Maury” -esque.  (I welcome anyone who wants to unpack this further to contact me on twitter or fb)

Overall the film was not bad.  I would say another solid entry in the MCU (whilst not necessary being a strongly connected unit of the MCU) with great action sequences and still remained funny (at times to a fault)  The audience loved Baby Groot (albeit it seemed there was more of him than was needed) and there is much visually to enjoy while watching this film.  You can bring your kids, but it is a bit long as I sat next to a kid who got very antsy during the second hour.  3 of 5 stars.

 

Star Trek Beyond

 

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With the onset of the movie franchise, Marvel has led the way in terms of creating symphonies, after allowing individual instruments to shine on their own.  Not to be outdone Paramount has followed suit, not only cranking out several Mission Impossible movies in recent years but also with the Star Trek reboot series.  Star Trek Beyond is the third installment in this franchise however this movie spends far less time establishing characters or backstory assuming that you have watched the others.  This leaves plenty of time and room for a good story to be told.  If by any indication of the quality of this film, viewers can expect to see a few more installments of this particular franchise.

A few thoughts about Star Trek Beyond:

  1. Deliberate Beginning – For most Trekkies, the beginning of this movie will feel very familiar.  With a voice over from the captain the slow start of this film leads the viewer to feel as if there is something to anticipate that is just out of reach.  While it may strike some as boring, seasoned fans will recognize this familiar setup as a means to an end.
  2. Good homage to the original show/films – This being the first film that spent a significant amount of time on a planet rather than in space, many of the beats paid homage to the familiar off world episode.  Much of the magic of the new films come in the form of a new spin on familiar ideas, this felt very much as if the stakes had been raised.  Being outside of the ship felt like a natural progression for this series.
  3. Great ensemble acting – As Marvel has their avengers, Star Trek has its crew.  The characters felt very much as a team with their dialogue complimenting one another’s.  For Trekkies they will recognize and appreciate the rapport that this cast has gained working with one another.  The character development is also working well, as if you have seen the first two movies the place of the characters felt natural,
  4. Good pacing – Like the first film in the franchise this movie unfolded at a steady pace.  From a slow beginning, the action accelerated at a steady pace from beginning to end.
  5.  Corny at times (but in a good way) – The dialogue at times was a little corny.  However no audible groans or gasps.  This again felt like the corniness a Trekkie could come to expect from a Star Trek property.  Even the corniest lines did not necessarily feel forced.
  6. Very well directed. – Justin Lin did a solid job with this film.  Some may know him from his work with the Fast and the Furious franchise however while elements of that can be seen here, this has proven that with better source material he definitely rises to the occasions.  Beautiful wide shots of the ship, the space station, the planet, as well as great choices in terms of action shots and space combat.  This was a beautiful film in terms of just watching.
  7. Well written. – Simon Pegg wrote the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” which consisted of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End.  While those movies garnered plenty of fans this was Pegg’s first foray into a non comedy property.  If pacing and plot are any witness, many more writing opportunities will come Pegg’s way.
  8. Villain was a little lackluster – That is not to say that there wasn’t an element of danger or cool factor with the villain’s actual weapons of choice.  However the villain’s motivation was not entirely executed well.  In the end this did not matter, as he still had the desired effect of being the obstacle the crew had to join together to overcome.

Overall a solid summer movie, and a good Star Trek movie.  This is one your entire family will enjoy, go ahead and bring the kids.  4 of 5 stars.