Blade Runner 2049 (First Viewing)

Blade Runner 2049 is a 2017 neo-noir science fiction film starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto. A sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic Blade Runner, 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Francher and Michael Green. Francher is one of the two people who wrote the screenplay for the original film. 2049 takes place 30 years after the original film and follows K, a Blade Runner employed by the LAPD to hunt down rouge and dangerous Replicants, bio-engineered humans. K uncovers a vast conspiracy which leads him to retired Blade Runner Rick Deckard.

I left the theater an hour ago and am still processing what I just saw. I am struggling to come up with words. Villeneuve, director of one of my all-time favorite films, 2015’s Sicario, as well as 2013’s brilliant Prisoners, will be credited with creating a piece of film history. It will not be immediately apparent, as some, like Forbes, seem to be ripping into this movie unfairly. I don’t understand their criticisms. 2049 is a slow burn, but so was the original, and, as I recently discussed, that is not at all a bad thing. I won’t go so far as to label it or put it in league with the greatest films of all time, the authority to make that distinction belongs only to history itself. I will, however, say that it most certainly lives up to, and may even surpass, the original masterpiece.

I don’t even know where to begin. Villeneuve and his director of photography Roger Deakins, who is the best cinematographer working in the business today, have managed to create a futuristic world that is a perfect continuation of what the future would look like in 2049, through the lens of the original’s version of 2019. It feels very natural, and it has, as I expected, the best cinematography I’ve seen all year. I would expect nothing less from Deakins, who has been the man behind the camera for all of Villeneuve’s English-language directorial efforts. The world of 2049 is nothing short of beautiful.

2049 is a completely organic continuation of the original in terms of story and characters, as well. Every character, new or old, feels like a part of this world. Absolutely nothing about this sequel felt forced or unoriginal; quite the opposite, actually. The best sequels are ones that can stand on their own as being good movies, without having to be compared to or unnecessarily reference the original film. 2049 comes to us 35 years after the original hit theaters, but there’s no forced nostalgia here. 2049 stands on its own, and it stands very, very tall.

Ryan Gosling is brilliant here. The new characters introduced in this film have more emotional and psychological depth than anyone in the original, including Deckard himself, and this is coming from someone who loves the original. K, explicitly a Nexus Class 8 Replicant, is a deeply conflicted and confused character, and Gosling portrays that confusion and K’s anger and rage perfectly. With 2011’s Drive and last year’s La La Land, I have grown to respect Ryan Gosling as more than just a pretty boy with less range than a wet piece of plywood, which is what I used to think of him. With K, my growing respect has now solidified, and I can now stand by him as one of Hollywood’s major players. Everyone else gives a flawless performance, as well. I was especially impressed with Ana de Armas’ performance as Joi. Harrison Ford gives his best performance in recent years, maybe since the original Blade Runner.

Like the original film, 2049 is a very philosophical and existential tale. It is one of the most weighty and complex films I have ever seen, in terms of narrative and the many layers found when digging deeper in. K faces prejudice in his life from nearly everyone he meets, even his empathetic boss. He is looked at differently for his unnatural origins, even though, like Roy Batty, he is essentially human in every other way. He has his own emotions, feelings, and ideas, and yet, he is seen as less just because he was not born, but created. He seems to have internalized these feelings, expressing that, since he was not born, he lacks a soul, an idea which his boss callously reinforces. This question of what defines a human was explored in-depth in the original, and Francher uses this opportunity to keep going, right where he left off in 1982. I spent two full college class periods analyzing Blade Runner, and the only reason we stopped is because we, regrettably, had to move on to another film. You could fill an entire semester of an upper-level philosophy course with questions from 2049 alone.

The original film asked a lot of questions and provided few answers. A large portion, if not a majority of the film, is left entirely up to interpretation, which added to the film’s legacy and reputation over time. 2049 could have easily been ruined by answering any questions. Answering questions definitively in a narrative such as this will confuse and anger people, because that would invalidate their thoughts and beliefs as to what the open-ended stuff means. Thankfully, 2049 answers nothing, and leaves audiences a fresh new pile of questions to ponder. I left the theater with nothing but more ambiguity and questions, and it was awesome.

2049, like its predecessor, is not for everyone. Not everyone is going to like it. Not everyone liked the original. 2049, although a big-budget sequel to possibly the most influential science-fiction film ever, is not what I would consider a mainstream film. In fact, I would say that some sequences and elements of this film have a more art house/experimental feel to them. The original did, as well. They are both, as I have discussed, slow burns that focus more on theme than plot. 2049 is not a blockbuster action film. There are invigorating scenes of action in here on par with Sicario’s traffic jam scene, but they are few and far in-between. Seriously, if you haven’t seen Sicario, go watch it now.

2049 is a think piece. I think mainstream moviegoers might take a cursory look at Blade Runner’s legacy, completely misunderstand how and why it is so influential and why it has a legacy, and think it must have been a fast-paced, slick, awesome flick, because that’s what all good movies are, right? Wrong. It is not, and 2049 isn’t either. If you go into 2049 expecting anything like Baby Driver or John Wick, you will be woefully bored and disappointed. Both are low-concept, philosophical think pieces that use science-fiction as a vehicle; both are so uniquely their own I can’t think of appropriate comparisons.

With that caveat out of the way, 2049 is quite possibly the perfect sequel. I remember a lot of people were concerned that Scott was handing over the reigns to a different director, but French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has succeeded at the task of creating a sequel that not only stands up to, but in many ways surpasses the original, and considering how firmly entrenched in film history the original is, that should have been a near-impossible feat. Villeneuve has succeeded in a way no one else could, creating not only the perfect sequel, but also a film that may also end up with its own personal legacy 30 years from now. With excellent set design, excellent cinematography, excellent acting, excellent effects, and an extraordinary script, Denis Villeneuve is the director of not one, but two of my Top 10 Favorite Films, which is a first. I get if you don’t like it. Honestly, you very well might not. I, however, most definitely did. The parenthetical means I might go more in-depth on this someday, by the way. I should probably learn how to say Denis Villeneuve out loud, right? I can barely spell it.

 

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In Defense of the Slow Burn & Blade Runner

So I am a big fan of Blade Runner and am very excited to see 2049 sometime this weekend. I begged my friends Mary and Kyle to watch it. Now, in hindsight, Mary doesn’t go in for that kind of stuff. She is much more partial to Baby Driver and faster-paced movies because, you know, attention span. She found it boring and couldn’t get past the scene where Deckard meets Rachel. Kyle, on the other hand, is the biggest nerd I know aside from his roommate Alec. I thought they would both be totally down for Blade Runner, and was disappointed when they said they didn’t really dig it. Mary, I get, though. Anyway, she sent me the Honest Trailer for Blade Runner.

I actually agree with the Honest Trailer for Blade Runner. It is slow but that isn’t a bad thing. Baby Driver was very fast in every regard, from the editing to the action. Baby Driver, though, never explored anything thematic. I can’t really tell you what the broader themes of Baby Driver are, but that’s OK. Baby Driver did not ask questions of the audience. Baby Driver was meant to be fun. It was not a character study; actually most of the characters were very thinly written. That’s not a criticism, they don’t need to be complex. It’s not that type of movie. The more complex the themes and characters in the film are, the more analysis needs to be done. The more analysis needs to be done, the slower the film needs to be. Slow does not necessarily mean bad, although being slow can often leave general audiences bored and distracted. I’m not saying Joe Public is wrong for not appreciating slower movies, but Joe Public, if watching a film, may need to be prepared to invest himself. My parents didn’t really enjoy Hell Or High Water because it ended up being a deliberately paced, slow burning character study rather than a high-octane bank robbery thriller. My parents aren’t one for slow. Some of the movies I enjoy a whole lot are ones they really don’t. I, knowing what type of film it was going in, found it rather enjoyable.

Of course, there’s rare films like Heat that can do both high-octane and deep at the same time. Those are very rare, though. Heat might actually be the only film I know to pull off that tightrope act successfully.

The Godfather, a film Mary and I both enjoy very much, is slow as balls. I tried to watch it at various points throughout my life. I hated it. I could not stand it. Because, on the surface, nothing ever happens. No crazy gunfights, no action, no flash, no style. I hated it. That is until I was forced to watch it in class for Sociology. By the time Kay closed the door, 17-year-old me was like “That was brilliant.” The Godfather isn’t Heat. It’s not a crime film. It is a family drama with crime as a backdrop. It is a complex, slow, methodical character study of a good man slowly and subtly driven to evil. You need it to be long, and drawn out for that reason. Films like that are an investment that some people, like my friend Lauren, my parents, sometimes Mary, and sometimes Kyle aren’t willing to make. And that’s OK. The thing is, people are then very confused at how anyone could enjoy this, mainly because they don’t understand the concept I am attempting to explain. I encountered this with my aunt. She didn’t like The Godfather, or at least, she didn’t enjoy it as much as I do. I was surprised, because she indirectly introduced me to The Wire, which, though different, follows the same logic I am trying to explain. Due to the fact that The Wire asks weighty questions about society, socioeconomics, institutional corruption, basically all the things, it has to be methodical. Exploration of those themes cannot be done quickly.

In the 1940s and 1950s, a popular genre of film was noir. Noir were films inspired by pulp fiction popular at the time. Noir movies, like the hardboiled detective novels which they draw inspiration from, focused on the seedy underbelly of society and featured characters of dubious morals and were chock full of violence and sex. The Maltese Falcon and Sunset Boulevard were two you’ve probably heard of. Noir films were often told through the lens of a detective or PI who must navigate and deal with these shady people in order to find and discover the truth. Stylistically speaking, noir films made use of low-light and exaggerated shadows to create a feel of mystery and bewilderment. A character’s face will be obscured by shadow until the lighting of a cigarette reveals his face, for example. I can’t find a good video of a scene that properly demonstrates this but you get it.

With the advent of color, the neo-noir was created. My favorite film, The Usual Suspectsis a neo-noir. Chinatown is another great example.

The core concepts of what we now deem science-fiction were created by a guy named Isaac Asimov. Interesting dude; I would recommend further reading. He pioneered the genre and used it to ask complicated questions concerning humanity and the meaning of humanity using robots as a proxy. I have read some of his work in grade school. I haven’t read anything by him since seventh grade, and I was too young to fully grasp the thematic approach to his work. Surface level, they were still excellent and captivating to young me and got me to appreciate the genre more. Seriously, he’s good. Back to Blade Runner.

Ridley Scott said from the get-go that he wanted to make a combination of neo-noir and science-fiction. At the time in 1982, a genre-bender like that had never been attempted. It was very ambitious and, although it underwhelmed upon its theatrical release (mainly because that cut sucked, but you can reread my review for further explanation), it found success after several other cuts surfaced over a period of several years showing Scott’s true vision.

Blade Runner asks a bunch of very complex Asimovian questions: What constitutes a human, the philosophical questions surrounding slavery, rebellion, emotions, personal experiences, the list could go on endlessly. My Film Studies class took two whole class periods analyzing the film’s philosophical implications. In order to sufficiently cover all these complex ideas, it has to slow down and pull a Godfather. And it does this very well. Not to mention the score is amazing and the special effects still hold up because of the Final Cut rerelease. It is slow, and I realize that, I think everyone does, but people appreciate that.

There are a lot of “slow burn” movies out there that mainstream audiences may not appreciate. Heck, there are a lot of truly great movies that I didn’t appreciate at first. Slow burners may very well require a passage of time, a change in perspective, multiple viewings, or a combination of all three to really get to a point of appreciation, as Chris Stuckmann explains in this video.

I’m fine with Mary, Kyle, and Alec not digging Blade Runner, although I do hope they give it another shot someday. Maybe they’ll never like it, and that’s OK. I really just felt like talking about Blade Runner again.

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a 2017 action thriller spy film directed by David Leitch and written by Kurt Johnstad. Based upon the graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Jonson and Sam Hart, the film follows MI-6 officer Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, as she is sent into Berlin in November 1989, directly preceding the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the civil unrest that followed, to recover a list containing the names of every Allied and Soviet operative currently active. Lorraine meets up with David Percival, played by James McAvoy, MI-6’s top man in Berlin. Lorraine must learn to navigate the city and work with some shady individuals in order to recover this list.

If the plot of Atomic Blonde sounds disappointingly generic to you, that’s because it is. This film suffers a lot from a presumably low-effort script from Johnstad, the man behind such high-minded brilliance as both 300 films and Act Of Valor. Those are his only screenplay credits. Why anyone would hire this guy to make a memorable screenplay is beyond me and I was disappointed they didn’t find anyone that would try harder. The really infuriating thing about that is there are some would-be decent twists in this film, but the plot surrounding these twists is so meh I didn’t really care. This movie would be so much more interesting if there was a reason to really give a crap, but Johnstad instead uses a plot we’ve seen a dozen times before and does nothing interesting with it. Johnstad instead decided to rip off two of the most entertaining spy films in recent years. 1996’s Mission: Impossible and the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall both had the “spy list” plot, but both were able to turn it on it’s head and make it unique, which is, I think, part of the reason why those two films were so good and why they are still established and well-recieved franchises to this day. Skyfall actually said “screw the stupid list” at the halfway point and jettisoned the generic Macguffin for something better. Johnstad, in contrast, copy-pasted “spy story” from the internet and put it on a piece of paper.

I should mention that Atomic Blonde uses the cliche “in the interrogation room after everything went down with the main plot presented as a flashback.” These scenes feature veteran actors Toby Jones and John Goodman asking Broughton questions about events that happened throughout the film, interrupting the main Berlin narrative. These scenes accomplish nothing and bring the film to a screeching halt. Literally nothing is said or done in these scenes that it would be considered important to leave them in, and I’m not exactly sure why they did at all.

The acting from both Charlize Theron and James McAvoy is top notch, with McAvoy’s performance being something unrelated to the action that I really enjoyed. Sofia Boutella’s performance as a naive French Intelligence officer, though, left something to be desired. That’s another problem I had with the film, and of course, it’s related to the script. Spy films are, by their nature, full of twists, lies, and betrayal. There are usually several key players in the fold of the story to keep things interesting. There’s not a lot of room to manuver with twists when you just have three extremely underwritten, generic, and boring characters to work with. That’s all this dude thought was necessary and he was very wrong. I wish to reiterate that the screenwriter is a giant and near-fatal detriment to what could have been a extremely interesting and engrossing stylized spy film.

This is not to say the movie isn’t without its merits. Far from it, in fact; Atomic Blonde benefits from masterful directing from David Leitch, co-director of John Wick, which I found to be very entertaining. Make no mistake, he and Chapter 2 director Chad Stahelski are masters of Hollywood action and are quickly rising on my list of favorite modern directors. This film does not change that at all, because despite not being absorbed by the plot at all, Leitch was still able to present an extremely stylish Berlin, complete with a competent and catchy soundtrack of classic tunes that you would be remiss not to find on the radio at the time. The former stuntman’s signature balls-to-the-wall action continues to be present in full force here. Not to spoil anything, but there is a sequence approximately 3/4ths of the way through the film that I believe puts even the director’s previous works on notice. Atomic Blonde is efficient from a technical standpoint on nearly every level. David Leitch’s directing is this film’s saving grace, taking it from utterly forgettable to somewhat memorable and fun despite itself.

Atomic Blonde was a film that I was actually very much looking forward to, due to it being directed by Leitch. In some very critical ways, I was disappointed. In other ways, I was very impressed. I came in wanting brilliant action sequences. If I got that, I was going to be satisfied. Thankfully, I was. Sadly, I was secretly hoping to be more than satisfied. Due to the production hiring a lazy bum to write a script, Atomic Blonde was nothing more than “pretty darn good.” The visuals, action, and music were top notch, but the script is so heartwrenchingly lazy that the film gets tied down by it. I really feel that anyone could’ve done a better job. Even so, I was entertained. Atomic Blonde is a kind of movie where it really depends on what you came for, so I leave it up to you. I enjoyed it. You may very well not, and that is understandable.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver is a 2017 American crime comedy thriller film with musical elements written and directed by Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright and starring Ansel Elgort, Lilly James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx. The film follows Baby, a young man and extremely skillful driver who unfortunately became indebted to criminal mastermind “Doc” at a young age. Baby is forced to work off his debt as a getaway driver for various jobs organized by Doc. Baby meets an attractive diner waitress named Deborah and falls for her, hoping to have a normal life after reluctantly working off his debt. Baby is coerced into a series of increasingly high-risk jobs and must balance the criminal part of his life with the life he wants to have with Deborah.

I’m just going to tell you right off the bat, Baby Driver is an amazing movie. Edgar Wright has, quite simply, outdone himself in every imaginable way with this film. This is certainly the very talented writer and director’s magnum opus. I cannot think of a single thing I didn’t like. It’s hard to review this movie because, in my opinion, everything was so good.

Ansel Elgort was an amazing lead, every line he spoke was almost dripping with charm. Kevin Spacey only had about ten minutes of screen time, but he was excellent, as is to be expected. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm were the perfect mixture of crazy and unstable that made portions of the film wrought with tension and fear, but in a good way. Lilly James was also excellent as Deborah.

I feel now is a good point to mention something I found excellent about the script; there is no dialogue in the film that doesn’t need to be there. Baby as a character is very laconic and Doc is a man of all business, so when they talk, you need to listen. Every word spoken in this film is very important. In fiction, no matter what the medium, everything that is in a scene should be there for a reason. Wright takes this idea to heart. There is not a single breath nor frame of film that is wasted. In so many films, there is a lot of dialogue that doesn’t need to be in there; this is not the case for Baby Driver and it is all that much better for it. Whether dialogue is meant to be sly and comedic or deadly serious, it all serves a purpose. Make no mistake, although this is Wright’s most serious movie so far, there are portions of it that had my friend and I cackling out loud. Such is the true genius of a filmmaker like Edgar Wright.

The best aspect of this film by far is its use of music to inform, and sometimes even propel, the plot. Baby was stricken with a case of tinnitus following a car crash, so he listens to music constantly in order to drown out “the hum in the drum.” As such, the majority of the scenes in this film are given a score of their own. During the opening scene for example, Baby is rocking out to Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosions in the midst of a bank robbery. This musical motif runs throughout the entire film. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this could be a horrible decision. Thankfully, Wright is as good a DJ as he is a director, turning what could have been the most annoying parts of an otherwise good film, into the most memorable part of an amazing film. It is almost reminiscent of an actual musical without cheesy showtunes or dance numbers. My musichead friend is considering getting this soundtrack on vinyl, and I’ll just say that if there was ever a soundtrack to get on vinyl, it would be this one. It is just great.

The action in this film is also nothing short of a grand achievement. At about the halfway point of the film there is a shootout set to Tequila by Button Down Brass that may very well be my favorite scene of the entire movie, although the opening car chase presents a fierce competition. The car chases are extremely well-done and well-shot, like everything else in this film. I have not seen Bullitt but I can say with certainty that the opening car chase alone outpaces The French Connection. The car chases might not be the best put to film, but they are some of the best that I personally have seen.

Even scenes without action or bare-knuckled chase sequences are masterfully filmed. There are a number of brilliant long takes and deftly edited sequences. There is a three-minute long coffee run set to Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl, and thanks to Ansel Elgort’s acting and Edgar Wright’s filmmaking and never-ending supply of style, it is captivating.

To put it simply, Baby Driver will certainly end up being one of my favorite films of the year. It is full of awesome music, amazing acting from all involved, unique and inventive chase sequences, and a well-written script, all masterminded by one of the most underrated directors of my generation. Everything about it is well-done. Even if you are not an action movie fan, there is enough different stuff there, whether it be romance, comedy, or music, to draw you in. It puts every other movie Wright has done to shame, and he has already made some films that might as well define my generation. Baby Driver, especially its soundtrack, will stay with me for a very long time, and I will be telling people to see it as long as I live. It has broken both mine and my friend’s personal Top 10, possibly even Top 5. You should go see it.

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superheroine action film, based upon the DC Comics character of the same name, directed by Patty Jenkins. It is the fourth film in the DC Extended Universe following Man Of SteelBatman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad., and features a script and story by Allan Heinberg, a comic book writer who spent some time as the lead writer on several DC Comics properties. The film stars former Israeli soldier turned fashion model and actor Gal Gadot as the hero, Diana, Princess of Themyscira, a member of the Amazon people, a society of powerful female warriors, of which she is the only child.

Diana is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and was given life by Zeus. Diana dreams of one day becoming a warrior like so many other Amazons, but her mother forbids it. She is instead secretly trained by her Aunt Antiope, general of the Amazon Army. It is discovered she possesses impressive powers. In 1918, British intelligence officer and pilot Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, is pursued by German forces, crashes on the shores of Themyscira, and is rescued by the Amazons, which results in Antiope’s death. Trevor, the first man Diana has ever seen in person, is understandably fascinated. Suspecting the mastermind behind the war may be Ares, The God of War, who has long been predicted to return after his defeat by Zeus, Diana decides to accompany Trevor to London to assist in the war effort.

The DC Extended Universe, Warner Brothers’ answer to Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe, has been off to a pretty horrible start, I’m not going to lie. Although I got some enjoyment out of Man Of Steel, it certainly wasn’t anything above passable; the following effort, Batman v. Superman, was a complete mess. To be honest, I was going to review Suicide Squad after it was released on video, but I couldn’t even get through the first twenty minutes. I was beginning to wonder if the DCEU would ever produce a legitimately good feature.

Thankfully, Wonder Woman wins the prize of being the only good DCEU feature worth anyone’s time. Patty Jenkins, director of 2003’s Monster, is, in my opinion, the only director DC has hired worth her paycheck; I have long-maintained that Zack Snyder is an overrated director and a huge problem for DC properties in both the long and short run of things, mainly due to his overwhelming focus on style over substance, which I find to be the downfall of the majority of his films. Thankfully, Snyder stayed away from this property and now we have finally been given a film with a cohesive narrative, likable characters, and well-planned action sequences. Though I felt the 2 hour and 21 minute film was slightly overly long, it is ultimately solid entertainment.

I feel the film owes a lot to Heinberg’s script, which finally injects levity into the brooding wormhole that has so far been the DC Extended Universe. There are finally some solid laughs. A veteran of the comics industry, Heinberg is a writer who finally understood Batman should be the only one allowed to brood and mope like a heartless cynic. Indeed, Diana is, dare I say refreshingly, naive and idealistic. I believe I enjoyed this film because it is the only DCEU film I didn’t come out of confused and/or sad, usually both. Wonder Woman, for once, was actually hopeful.

For me, the standout of Wonder Woman was Star Trek’s Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. He has a lot of charisma and hits a lot of the film’s comedic and more lighthearted notes, as well as the more serious, important moments. Gal Gadot is pretty good as Wonder Woman,  but I felt she faltered at points when trying to adequately express emotion, though not so much so that I would count her performance as negative in any way.

There were some confusing plot holes in this film, mainly Aries’ plan to cause the end of humanity with the Armistice, which he pushes for throughout the film. It is never explained why he does this. Also, the film’s climax, the final fight between Diana and Ares, falls into cliche and is uninspired. It could have easily been remedied by Heinberg.

I found it interesting (and good) that the DCEU finally made a mainly self-contained narrative without mentioning Superman, The Justice League, or anything else. The narrative does start out in present day with a picture of Diana and Trevor circa 1918 being delivered to her by Wayne Enterprises on behalf of the man himself, but as it is a larger universe, I can see how that very minor plot point would be a necessity.

Ultimately, Wonder Woman is finally a solid film from the DCEU. With a solid script from someone who actually knows what they’re doing, a good director who also knows what they are doing, and good actors, I am very happy to see an actual good DC film, although the fact that it took four tries to actually make a good film is still very worrying to me, maybe the franchise has finally found it’s footing.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a 2010 comedy film with action and romance elements produced, co-written, and directed by Edgar Wright with screenplay assistance by Michael Bacall. The film features an ensemble cast of Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkan, Ellen Wong, The Newsroom’s Allison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, future Captain Marvel Brie Larson, and current Legion and Parks and Rec actress Aubrey Plaza, featuring Captain America Chris Evans, former Superman Brandon Routh, and Jason Schwartzman.

Based upon the comic book of the same name, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World tells the story of 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim. The bass player for Sex Bob-omb, Scott draws ire from nearly everyone for dating 17-year-old Chinese Catholic schoolgirl Knives Chau. Scott likes his relationship with Knives because it is simple; they play video games, eat pizza, and talk. They haven’t even held hands. That all changes when he meets Amazon delivery girl Ramona Flowers. Scott becomes instantly infatuated with Ramona, believing her to be the girl of his dreams. He learns that she has Seven Evil Exes. He must fight through each of the seven in order to date Ramona.

Both in the film and the comic series, for reasons that are never explained within the plot, the world of Scott Pilgrim is hyperstylized and very video game inspired. In most films, this would be explained by Scott having an overactive imagination, but the thing about Scott Pilgrim (and what I think makes it so much fun) is that it’s all happening, and nothing about that is ever explained, because it doesn’t need to be. It just adds to the fun.

The special effects are pretty good, in my opinion. They aren’t amazing, but that isn’t really the point. Scott Pilgrim shines in the fact that the script by Shaun of the Dead’s Edgar Wright is hilarious. This film, as well as his previous works, show that he has a truly keen eye for genuinely hilarious comedy. His direction is also on point as well, as I found this film to be well-paced and quick-moving. I feel like I never stopped laughing (I guess exhaling out of my nose).

There is a lot to be said for the acting in this film, as well. Arrested Development’s Michael Cera was the perfect choice to play Scott Pilgrim. The awkward likability he is known for is in full effect here. I felt he had chemistry with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and it made the film work better as a whole. That being said, I feel like all of the cast did a fine job.

The soundtrack to the film is actually pretty great, as well. A lot of Sex Bob-omb’s songs are empty and meaningless for comedic effect, but they are catchy as well as being entirely stupid. It’s hard to explain, but take my word for it when I say it’s pretty good.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a hilarious comedy film with a fair bit of action thrown in for good measure (I should briefly mention that the fight scenes are actually entertaining). The film excels due to talented directing, writing, acting… pretty much everything, really. It is a hilarious and lighthearted film that I think everyone should check out,

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a 2017 science-fiction action-adventure comedy film written and directed by James Gunn. It is the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The film features the return of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradly Cooper, Vin Disel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillian, and Sean Gunn, and introduces new characters played by The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell.

Picking up some time shortly after the end of the first film, our protagonists are now renowned across the galaxy for their actions. They are hired by Ayesha, leader of The Sovereign race to protect some valuable batteries from an interdimensional monster. After the crew defeat the monster, Rocket impulsively steals some of the batteries, leading to the “easily offended” Sovereign to want them dead. As a reward for protecting the batteries, the Guardians are given a captive Nebula, Gamora’s amoral and double-crossing sister. After a crash landing, The Guardians meet Star-Lord’s father, a celestial being known as Ego. Wishing to catch up with his son after 34 years, Quill, Gamora, and Drax are invited to his home planet. Meanwhile, The Sovereign hire the disgraced Yondu and his crew to track down the Guardians and deliver them.

Let me start out by saying I feel as though Vol. 2 fails as a sequel. That is not to say the film is bad, as I found it to be quite good. Sequels, though, are meant to be an improvement upon the original film, much like John Wick: Chapter 2 improved upon the original. Vol. 2, in my opinion, failed to meet that requirement. Instead of improving upon the original and presenting a plotline more expansive than the original film, much of Vol. 2 remains exactly the same in terms of scale, and I was hoping it would be more enterprising than it was. However, as I had stated previously, I did find Vol. 2 to be a satisfying and entertaining film.

Vol. 2 treats us with expanded roles for returning cast members Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, and Karen Gillian. Yondu and Nebula’s roles in the first film were as supporting characters who were rather one-dimensional, as supporting characters often are. Here, the underrated former The Walking Dead actor is able to stretch his acting muscles more and evolve into a three-dimensional character you end up caring about. Same goes for former Doctor Who star Karen Gillian as Nebula. Sean Gunn, brother of director James Gunn, had an extremely minor role as a Yondu’s right-hand man Kraglin. In Vol. 2, Kraglin is given an expanded role and acts as one of the film’s many comic reliefs while also being an empathetic character.

As is to be expected, the rest of the main cast gives great performances. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Bradley Cooper all continue to be awesome, while Vin Disel’s Baby Groot is as cute as ever. The legendary Kurt Russell’s performance as Ego is very good, and one of the better performances from an MCU villain so far. The special effects are all very good, as to be expected in a Marvel Studios film. I must also tip my hat to whomever is in charge of the makeup department, because Karen Gillian and Elizabeth Debicki are unrecognizable in their roles, in a very good way.

As with the first film, the soundtrack fused with 1970’s pop and rock ballads is as catchy as ever, and captures the character of Star-Lord, as well as the feel of the characters and the film, rather perfectly.

To conclude, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, though it fails to improve upon the original film, is still a fun movie with hilarious moments, great acting, great effects, great characters, a brilliant soundtrack, and a decent plot.

The Guardians are to return in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, fighting alongside The Avengers and Doctor Strange against Thanos, as well as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 sometime in the future.