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.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange is a 2016 American superhero film directed and co-written by Scott Derrickson. The film was also co-written by C. Robert Cargill and Jon Spaihts. It is the fourteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, taking place around the same time as the preceding entry, Captain America: Civil War, and serves as the introduction of the character of the same name into the MCU. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton.

Dr. Stephen Vincent Strange is a brilliant, supremely talented, intelligent, but arrogant neurosurgeon who looses the use of his hands in a car accident. His former lover and colleague Dr. Christine Palmer attempts to help him move on with his life. Strange instead seeks out experimental surgeries and procedures, which leads him to a paraplegic who mysteriously regained the use of his legs. Strange is further directed to Kamar-Tag, where he is taken in by The Masters of the Mystic Arts, led by a woman known as The Ancient One. Strange is trained in the mystical arts, learning to harness the power of the universe and transport himself along the astral plane, which connects this universe to the infinite number of universes in existence. Strange, after learning remarkably quickly and becoming The Ancient One’s most gifted student, comes into conflict with Kaecilius, a powerful former student of The Ancient One who wishes for eternal life by any means necessary.

Doctor Strange is Marvel Studios’ introduction to the mystical and magical, and it is aided talented direction from Scott Derrickson, known for films such as Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Given the mystical and reality-bending nature of the material, Derrickson was a good choice to lead a project like Doctor Strange, and it works well, thanks in major part to his abilities as a director.

The special effects featured in the film are, in my opinion, extremely well done. Bending the laws of time, physics, and nature, as well as transporting dimensions seem like difficult things to accurately portray on screen, even in 2016, but the visual effects of Doctor Strange netted the film an Academy Award nomination for best visual effects, a nomination that I find well-deserved.

In addition to good directing and very good visual effects, Doctor Strange also includes excellent acting from all involved. Benedict Cumberbatch is, as always, excellent. The character of Stephen Strange is, in fact, very similar, in my eyes, to Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey Jr, the man who arguably paved the way for Doctor Strange all the way back in the infancy of the MCU back in 2008. Strange is arrogant, brash, egotistical, but supremely intelligent, and Cumberbatch has made a career off of playing a very famous character of a similar nature; the character of Stephen Strange plays right into his strengths. My homie Mads Mikkelsen, although his part as Kaecilius is admittedly rather small, is great here. I have loved him as an actor since I first saw him as Le Chiffre in 2006’s Casino Royale and then again in the excellent television adaptation of Hannibal Lecter, Hannibal on NBC. Tilda Swinton is marvelous as The Ancient One, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is very good as Baron Mordo.

Doctor Strange also, as with most movies in the MCU, contains some funny and lighthearted moments. These comedic beats work very well, to the film’s advantage. The center of this comedy focuses on the character of Wong, ironically played by Benedict Wong.

Ultimately, Doctor Strange is an excellent introduction of a little-known character into the MCU in a big way. With excellent acting, directing, and visual effects, the film takes a character who’s parody was probably more well-known than he was, and turned him into what I’m sure will continue to be an essential part of the MCU going forward.

Logan: Official Trailer #1

Logan is an upcoming 2016 American superhero film directed by James Mangold. It is the tenth installment in the X-Men film franchise, and is the final installment set to feature Hugh Jackman as James Howlett/Wolverine/Logan. It is loosely based upon the famous comic book storyline Old Man Logan by Mark Millar. The film also stars Patrick Stewart, returning as Professor X, as well as Narcos star Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce, Dafne Keen as X-23, Stephen Merchant as Caliban. Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, and Elizabeth Rodriguez have been cast in unspecified roles.

The X-Men franchise has had an extremely turbulent history. Rocketing onto the screen in 2001 with director Bryan Singer, the original X-Men film and it’s sequel X2 are credited along with Spider-Man for legitimizing, revitalizing, and revolutionizing the superhero genre. Everything after X2 has been hit-or-miss, however. The Last Stand, directed by Brett Ratner, is somewhat of a gold standard for bad modern superhero movies, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine is legendary for all the wrong reasons. Future Kingsman director Matthew Vaughn was able to put the series back on track with the excellent X-Men: First Class, which among other things, introduced the brilliant actors James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to mainstream audiences, playing young Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, respectively. James Mangold was then brought on to direct The Wolverine, an unimpressive, uninspired Wolverine film that, while not terrible, left much to be desired. It was extremely bland and rather tame.

Bryan Singer’s return with 2014’s Days Of Future Past was, in my opinion, the best X-Men film to date. It was a perfect representation of everything the X-Men should be. Created in the early 1960’s at the hight of the Civil Rights Movement, the X-Men were used to tackle complicated social issues and, frankly, be freaking awesome at the same time. DoFP was a perfect representation of that. Fans of the franchise were overjoyed that the X-Men were good again. Followed up by the hilarious comedy Deadpoolthings continued to look good for the franchise. Sadly, 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse was nothing short of a bland, boring, confusing mess. Many are confused by the franchise’s innate lack of consistency, especially considering making a good superhero film after one of the most iconic and influential superhero teams in history should be relatively easy. This has led many to wonder if the franchise should not just simply be put to rest.

I hope you will forgive my franchise history lesson, I just wish to explain in full why I am extremely apprehensive concerning Logan. I am curious and confused as to why Fox once again gave this movie to James Mangold, considering how blah The Wolverine was. I am concerned that the franchise will, for whatever reason, never be able to find stable footing. Though it is a rather impressive trailer, and I think the use of Johnny Cash’s Hurt is a great way to portray this film as being more emotional than most superhero films, I am worried and skeptical. As with everything involving this franchise, Logan is very much a potential hit or miss ordeal. Boasting an undeniably intriguing and impressive trailer with intriguing aspects and awesome visuals, the film nevertheless has a questionable director behind the camera; part of a franchise that has been rather questionable for the last decade or so. I am neither against this movie, nor am I even close to sold. All I can hope for is a good send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Please… Maybe Logan will be another good movie in the franchise, I don’t know. We’ll see.