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.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a 2014 science-fiction action comedy film directed and co-written by James Gunn. It is the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is based upon the comic book team of the same name as reintroduced in 2008 by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.  The film stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Disel, Dave Bautista, and Lee Pace, and features Michael Rooker, Glenn Close, Jon C. Riley, and Benicio del Toro.

Guardians of the Galaxy follows Peter Quill. In 1988, immediately following his mother’s death from cancer, Peter is abducted by a group of criminal space aliens known as the Ravagers, led by Yondu, and grows up to be a charismatic and talented thief going by the nickname Star-Lord. After stealing an orb containing one of the Infinity Stones, Thanos, the soon-to-be primary antagonist of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War who was first teased at the end of the first Avengers film, played here and in the future by Josh Brolin, commissions the fanatical Ronan the Accuser to retrieve the orb. Meanwhile, Yondu discovers Quill’s theft. Displeased, he issues a large bounty for Quill’s capture. Two bounty hunters, an anthropomorphic raccoon named Rocket and his partner, a giant walking, talking tree named Groot who can only say variations of “I am Groot,” attempt to capture him and, in doing so, run afoul of Gamora, one of Thanos’ “adopted daughters,” genetically modified to be the perfect killing machine, sent after the orb by Ronan. It is revealed she refuses to let Thanos use the orb and its power to destroy entire planets, and instead plans to sell the orb to the powerful and mysterious Collector.

The four end up in prison and meet Drax, who wishes to kill Gamora due to her association with the Ronan, who previously killed Drax’s entire family. After convincing the ultra-serious Drax to not do such a thing, the band of misfits begrudgingly agree that they are going to have to band together to escape the prison.

After escaping the prison, the group must evade minions of Ronan, Thanos, and Yondu and protect the orb and the stone, such as to prevent the annihilation of the entire galaxy.

First announced in Summer 2011, everyone knew Guardians of the Galaxy was going to be a massive gamble. This was a group of characters nobody outside of the hardcore comic book nerds had ever even heard of, and that includes me. Add on top of that a talking raccoon and an anthropomorphic tree, which admittedly sound ridiculous out loud, and you have a recipe for uncertainty.

James Gunn first came onto the Hollywood scene as a screenwriter for both of the live-action Scooby-Doo films and the Dawn of the Dead remake. Since then he has written and directed the cult horror comedy Slither and the comedy web series James Gunn’s PG Porna spoof of pornographic films with the tagline “For people who love everything about porn… except the sex.” These very well-done comedic projects earned Gunn a cult following. Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be the perfect project for him, further solidifying his status as a fan-favorite director. The film is well-organized and never takes itself too seriously, with a consistently lighthearted tone, excellent special effects, and the one of the catchiest and most effective soundtracks in film, in my opinion.

Full disclosure, I have an unabashed and shameless man crush on Chris Pratt. The former Parks and Rec star (who might I mention is pretty freaking jacked now) oozes charm and charisma, especially here. Of course, his use of the Star-Lord costume to visit hospitals as the character without the express approval of Marvel Studios (meaning it isn’t just a publicity stunt; he also has a kid with CP) may have me a little biased, but still, the combination of the man’s comedic acting and improv abilities, along with James Gunn’s technical prowess, turn Guardians of the Galaxy from an uncertain gamble to a surefire hit. This wonderful melding of minds can be seen throughout the entire film, even in its opening few moments.

Of course, Pratt is not the only one given hilarious comedic moments. Almost the entire cast, with the exception of Thanos, cracks a joke every once in a while. From Gamora not understanding Footloose or music, to Drax taking everything super literally, to almost everything featuring Rocket and Groot, Guardians of the Galaxy may be the funniest, and also the funnest movie Marvel Studios has created so far. (I have yet to see the sequel.)

Guardians of the Galaxy, with the help of a talented director and writer, marvelous stylistic choices, and excellent acting from all involved, turned a weird, little-known franchise from the far reaches of comicbookdom, and turned it into one of their most profitable, well-known, and critically-acclaimed properties. Guardians remains my favorite MCU film behind Captain America: Civil War, and I can’t wait to see where the property goes next.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven is a 2016 Western action film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. It is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which was, in turn, a Westernized version of the 1954 Japanese period epic Seven Samurai. The film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onoforio, Lee Byung-Hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, and Peter Sarsgaard. In post-Civil War America, corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bouge threatens the town of Rose Creek. Bouge needs the small mining town for his industrial operations. The besieged townspeople have three weeks to save their town. After her husband is killed by Bouge, Emma Cullen and her friend Teddy set out to find some heroes to protect their town. After recruiting the resolute and stalwart Sam Chisholm, they happen upon gunslinger, gambler, and drinker Josh Farraday, who joins them. Chisholm, duly sworn warrant officer of Wichita,  Kansas and (insert host of other occupations I can’t remember) finds his old friend, ex-Confederate sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux and his knife-wielding companion Billy Rocks. The group also manages to recruit the eccentric and possibly unstable tracker Jack Horne and Mexican outlaw Vasquez. The group is then completed after happening upon lone Comanche warrior Red Hawk. The group then prepares to defend the town from Bouge.

I am a fan of Westerns. I love Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Dollars Trilogy, and I wrote a paper on Unforgiven last semester. I must admit, I was meaning to see the original 1960 film, but never got around to it. I can only hope that the original was better than this. For your information, I left out nothing important in that summary. Nothing of consequence happens that you, the reader, are left unaware of. The only backstories that are ever mentioned are the fact that Bouge murdered Chisholm’s family in Lincoln, Kansas, which is discussed in the first 1/3 of the movie, and the fact that Goodnight doesn’t kill anymore because violence is wrong. You learn nothing of interest about Farraday, Rocks, Horne, or Red Hawk, beyond the fact that they are good guys. You do not care about the characters at all. The plot, though not what I’d call “thin,” is exceedingly generic and reeks of boredom.

There are some amazing films with generic plots, however. John Wick revolves around revenge for a dead puppy; an excuse to showcase mind-blowing action sequences, great set design, and world building. John Wick was also great at exposition. It didn’t tell you worthless information, and told you just enough to make John Wick a scary, badass guy, even to the viewer, which is why the film works so well. Sadly, this is not the case The Magnificent Seven, in which the action sequences, of which their where only about three or four, and just one big one, are as generic as its plot and characters. The film is also loaded up with needless exposition that desperately tries to make you connect with these characters, and it fails miserably.

The acting also leaves much to be desired. I like Denzel Washington in everything I see him in. I feel he is very charismatic and just feels like an empathetic dude in general. Here, though, Washington sleepwalks through this role. Sam doesn’t seem very impassioned about hunting down the dude who killed his family, even when doing the deed. When confronting Bogue, I did not see anger or frustration. The best way I can describe Denzel in this movie is that he wasn’t playing a character, Denzel was playing “Denzel playing a character in a movie,” like RDJ as a dude playing a dude disguised as another dude in Tropic Thunder, but in real life. Chris Pratt is his normal, likable, charming self, but he doesn’t elevate the movie. Basically, everyone in this film is passable, but no one is excellent. I will say two things, though. D’Onoforio’s character is very eccentric, and for some reason, he literally speaks like this the entire movie. It is very irritating and takes away from his character. Peter Sarsgaard, who is the worst actor in his family, plays Bouge. Bouge only has about fifteen minutes of screen time throughout the entirety of the film, and he does nothing scary or intimidating beyond the generic “shoot my own henchmen because I’m a bad guy” thing. He has no motivation for his actions beyond evilness, and Sarsgaard acts his entire character as a very, very poor imitation of Christoph Waltz, playing the sophisticated psychopath, and doing it badly. Also, I may be wrong, but I am almost positive in both Seven Samurai (which I’ve seen) and the original 1960 film, the villains were bandits, who were by definition, outside the law. In the film, Bouge is an industrialist with a mansion, mercenaries, a corporation, the whole nine yards. What he is doing is obviously wrong. They do explain that he has law enforcement on his payroll to look the other way, but there would be some sort of intervention on the federal level. You can’t just murder/enslave entire towns for your otherwise legitimate mining corporation and not expect someone in the federal government to be like “Hold on.” I know that’s a little nitpicky, but to be honest, it’s a rather huge plot hole that no one explains, ever. Why not just make them bandits? They’re scarier anyway.

I watched this film together, with the family, at the behest of my father. You see, I love my family, but I don’t watch movies with them because my Dad’s a talker. Not in the theater, just at home, which is OK. I just can’t get invested when my Dad interjects with a comment on random things at random points. You see, the last time we had a family viewing, the film was Pacific Rim, the (somehow) cult classic monster vs. mechs Guillermo del Toro film that I and the entirety of my family despise with a passion. I will admit that we were in a townhouse at the time while constructing our new house, so we watched it on a relatively small 52″ (which sounds big, but not really) on normal stereo TV sound. I have read that the film is much better in IMAX with theater sound, but I honestly don’t care. Myself, my mother, my father, and my best friend (thankfully my brother slept over at a friend’s house, so he was spared) all hated everything about it. I will never watch it again. So Dad had to beg me to sit down and watch this with the family. I acquiesced; I wasn’t expecting anything mind-blowing, but I was interested to see this film, figuring, if nothing else it would be flawed yet sufficiently entertaining. For the record, I sat on the couch for this one. I got out of my chair and sat on the couch. I watched the entire thing through, I did not space out or get distracted.

Despite all of my complaints and ripping into this movie, I will admit that The Magnificent Seven is not a bad film. It’s not. There is nothing horrible or glaringly, unconscionably deficient about it. In theory, it is all perfectly acceptable. Everything is decent all around. The problem with that is that with everything perfectly acceptable, there’s nothing notable about it. The Magnificent Seven is not a bad film, but it had both me and my brother both bored out of our minds. I am ashamed to say this, but my brother and I interjected more than Dad. There’s nothing here; at least with a movie as bad as Pacific Rim, there would be stuff to talk about. You can have a conversation about it’s badness, which I have had countless times concerning Pacific Rim, trust me. It’s been a few days since I saw The Magnificent Seven. I didn’t post a review right away because I was struggling to think of things to say. Like I said, it’s a movie. That’s it. It is neither notably bad nor any good. I will say my father enjoyed it much more than I did. It’s not a crisis like Pacific Rim was, but I would avoid this if I were you, unless you’re curious to see if it’s boring for you, too.  If I gave scores The Magnificent Seven would get “null/undefined.” Shoulda picked Keanu instead.