Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MGuardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Director: James Gunn

Producer: Kevin Feige

Executive Producers: Victoria Alonso and Louis D’Esposito

Written by: James Gunn

Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Debicki

If you enjoyed the original Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the chances are you will also enjoy this joyful follow-up, imaginatively titled ‘Vol. 2’. A fast paced, playfully psychedelic scene early on re-introduces the five main characters from the first film in what appears to be an entertaining yet largely irrelevant action sequence that serves no real purpose other than to dazzle.

This sequence does end up having some plot relevance later, but more than that, it helps re-familiarise viewers with the main characters or introduce them to those people who might not have seen the previous outing. Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill (Chris Pratt), part human/part something else and his gang of frenemies have lent themselves out for hire as mercenaries in the months since the events of the previous film ended.

Peter’s encounter with someone claiming to be his father helps drive the central storyline but there are plenty of sub-plots to keep the action zinging along.

Twiglet Groot has grown into an adorable toddler version (huge merchandising opportunities abound!) who loves music. The cuteness quotient threatens to overtake the film’s edgier moments but luckily, baby Groot hasn’t lost its ruthless killer instinct which helps balance things out.

Where the first film focussed on introducing the characters of this offshoot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how they came to be a kind of connected group, the second film takes time to explore themes of family, growing up, belonging and searching for something that sometimes turns out to be much closer than originally thought. Family dynamics, parent-child and sibling relationships are all explored or experienced by the main characters, and there is more ‘quiet’ time for revealing most of their histories, which helps explain a lot of their behaviour or motivations.

Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) still gets most of the best lines, delivered in his deadpan way, where his honest desire to be helpful often comes across as hurtful. Rocket (voiced with gravelly menace by Bradley Cooper) demonstrates his deadly fighting skills while confronting his own ghosts, assisted by blue Ravager Yondu Udonto (Michael Rooker) whose lethal arrow causes entertaining carnage and mayhem in one memorable sequence.

As with the first movie, music is important in establishing mood. Whether it’s ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ in an early, super-playful scene, or travelling with the Guardians to a paradise accompanied by George Harrison’s classic, ‘My Sweet Lord’, or getting reflective with Cat Stevens’ ‘Father and Son’, the choice of songs overall work incredibly well.

The costumes range from gorgeous, especially those of the Sovereign Queen (Elizabeth Debnicki) and her people, to highly unusual, and many of the sets, planets and ship interiors are so incredibly imaginative and beautifully realised that it’s like being inside an enormous kaleidoscopic theme park ride.

The novelty factor of the first film is obviously no longer there, but the situations, humour, character development and multiple plots of this second outing coalesce by the end into a joyful explosion of colour, movement and resolution (of sorts). Under no circumstances should you leave before the very last credit has finished because there are some additional scenes that hint at the promise of continuing adventures. Bring them on!

Going In Style

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MGoing In Style

** Spoiler Alert

Director: Zack Braff

Producers: Marc Bienstock

Written By: Theodore Melfi

Based on the 1979 story by: Edward Cannon

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin

Going in Style is a happy-ending remake of an earlier 1979 film of the same name with an Oscar winner cast where three lifelong friends Willie, Joe and Al decide to rob the bank that has taken over their pensions.

Films are made for the same reason that stories are told, to tackle themes that the audience has absolutely no control over in their daily lives. The pension-cut theme in the US and the timing of this release may be purely coincidental but it sent a chill down my spine to discover that to this day, in 2017, it is still an ongoing issue as it was in the late 70s.

If you are happy to watch a funny, entertaining film with great actors, please do so and please stop reading because spoilers are coming your way.

Stephen King, one of my favourite authors once said that ‘fiction is the truth inside the lie’. But as I left this theatre I felt as if I had been spoon-fed a bunch of lies. There, I said it. It’s out in the open now.

I am afraid that the screenwriter’s attempt to change the original ending to something ‘more upbeat’ to keep up with the times provides the audience with an impossible tale that plants a troubling seed in this day and age: that robbing a bank can be done successfully without any consequences whatsoever.

My favourite quote by Joe (Michael Caine) in the film sums up the story and, ironically enough, provides a hint of what could have been. These banks practically destroyed this country. They crushed a lot of people’s dreams, and nothing ever happened to them. We three old guys, we hit a bank. We get away with it, we retire in dignity. Worst comes to the worst, we get caught, we get a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than we got now.’

Going in Style is a feel-good film with laughs all the way through that warms the cockles of your heart but could have been so much more than that.

Products from Amazon.com

The LEGO Batman Movie

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGThe LEGO Batman Movie

Director: Chris McKay

Producers: Will Allegra, Matthew Ashton

Written By: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), Chris McKenna (screenplay)

Starring: Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson

As a writer, I have learnt to provide feedback with a soft-spoken, gentle delivery. But, as a Spanish national, I have been born with blood that boils easily when, what little patience I have, runs out. My face goes red, steam comes out of my ears and my filters disappear in the process.

I had one such a meltdown watching The LEGO Batman Movie.

And I knew what I was getting myself into because the scars left by The Lego Movie were still tender.

The main qualities of this spin off, following its predecessor steps, are obvious: a great trailer that raises your expectations up to the sky, a great animation team and an incredible soundtrack. Period. But, as the movie went on, one wondered… why would the same creative team make the same mistakes twice? Have they stopped caring about their audience?

I love animation, I really do, because animation delivers full-on entertainment for all audiences and comedy that is flawlessly delivered. It is the sacred place where adults enjoy themselves as their children scream with excitement. But sadly, the creative team at The Lego Movies missed that memo. The comedy walked the fine line between annoying and funny and even the youngest members of the audience could see the story coming. There was no guessing, no reason to care.

As a nerd and Batman fan, I enjoyed the references to the Batman TV series from the 1960s, the pew-pew noises every time a gun fired and how great songs, such as Motley Crue’s ‘Kickstart My Heart’ or Cutting Crew’s ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight’, blasted in the theatre speakers for my ears delight.

I would lie if I tell you that I recommend this movie whole-heartedly. But I am not a parent, so if your dream afternoon involves to sit two hours in a dark room full of children and to pay for the pleasure of their squeaking company. Please be my guest and knock yourself out!

As for me, I have made a conscious decision, for my mental health sake and the safety of those around me, to put future Lego movies in the too-hard basket. Until the next movie review, over and out!

CHiPS

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard

Producers: Ravi D. Mehta, Dax Shepard, Andrew Panay, Rick Rosner

Written by: Dax Shepard

Based on: CHiPs TV series created by Rick Rosner

Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Rosa Salazar, Adam Brody, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, with Jane Kaczmarek, Maya Rudolph, Ed Begley Jr, and Josh Duhamel

The original television series of CHiPs (1977-1983), was an action ‘dramedy’ dealing with the daily crime fighting of the California Highway Patrol officers on their motor cycles. Two of its main characters were played by Erik Estrada (macho, trouble-pronue probationary Officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello), and Larry Wilcox (strait-laced field training Officer Jonathan “Jon” Andrew Baker).

My memories of this TV show are vague as I only ever saw a few episodes, so I had little idea of how this updated cinema version would compare to its predecessor.

I will happily admit that I found the film to be a guilty pleasure. It was rude, profanity-laden, sexist and with an over-reliance on visual gags and nudity, and it will never win any awards for subtlety. But it was also quite funny and engaging, and in some strange way had its heart in the right place, especially with the depiction of the relationship between its lead characters.

In a reversal of the original TV premise, Officer Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) is now the probationer. A beaten-up former pro motor biker, he is trying to put his life and marriage (to Kristen Bell’s character) back together. Baker is touchingly loyal to his ex-wife and desperately keen to make something of himself. His honesty and odd personality quirks, as well as a running gag based on his unusual reaction to household smells, makes him very appealing. He reminded me of Zach Braff’s character in the TV comedy Scrubs, with both actors sharing a goofy, endearingly naïve charm.

Castillo (Michael Peña) is now a cocky undercover Federal agent masquerading as Officer Francis “Frank” Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, assigned to investigate a multi-million dollar heist that may be an inside job, inside the California Highway Patrol. Ponch is a bit sleazy yet still has some of the boyish charm on show in his earlier comic roles in Ant Man and The Martian.

It doesn’t give the plot away, such as it is, to know that Ponch doesn’t always obey the rules, and has little patience with his naïve rookie partner as he tries to uncover the criminal element within the CHiPs organisation. The plot of this film is not particularly strong or original, and the audience is kept entertained enjoying the visual and verbal humour on display between the two leads.

There were many opportunities to showcase a range of stunts, and by enlisting renowned stunt performer Steve De Castro, plus pros and the best stunt riders for the trickiest and most spectacular manoeuvres, director Shepard ensured these aspects of the film were executed effectively. When Shepard’s character speeds along Californian highways and we get his point of view, the scenes are breathtaking, visceral and convincing, almost making me wish I could ride at all.

Cinematographer Mitchell Amundsen (The Bourne Legacy, Mission Impossible 3 and Transformers 1 and 2) made every action sequence zing, while Los Angeles was impressively utilised in the location scenes.

There were some humorous cameos from comic actors including Jane Kaczmarek and Maya Rudolph as senior police officers, and a brief stint from Josh Duhamel, but the movie belongs to Ponch and Jon and their budding bro-mance.

Products from Amazon.com

Beauty and the Beast

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: PGBeauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman

Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos

Based on: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Music: Alan Menken (composer), Howard Ashman (lyricist), new material by Tim Rice

Starring: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (Lefou), with Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Stanley Tucci (Cadenza), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette)

Watching the live action re-make of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which has been successfully updated without losing the original’s charm, the first thought that occurred to me was why has it taken so long to make this film?

The new version is vibrant, entertaining, full of catchy songs, impressively realistic sets and gorgeous costumes plus energetic choreography, making the transition from animation to live action most effectively.

I watched the original version again after seeing the new film, and aside from a few lines of dialogue or moments of visual humour not being retained, the live action version works better because it provides the opportunity to create beautiful costumes and sets, and enlarge the number of performers in crowd scenes.

There are also new songs, which have transformed some characters from stereotypes to convincing individuals.

I particularly loved the Beast’s new song “Evermore” (sung with throbbing undertones by Beast Dan Stevens during the film and less heroically by Josh Groban over the end credits).

The townspeople clearly indicate their opinion of Belle as being odd in the rousing song “Belle”, which is how it was originally, but apparently the actress Emma Watson wanted Belle to be more in keeping with modern feminist portrayals so her independent streak seems stronger and she has added talents beyond being just a supportive daughter.

Although Emma Watson is not a strong singer, her solemnity and occasional hints of humour allow her to carry off her role with conviction, as she shows bravery and selflessness and is more than a match for the moody yet fascinating Beast.

A few scenes have been added or extended which help make Belle and the Beast’s burgeoning love seem more convincing as they go from being “barely even friends” to something more.

The updated screenplay has fixed a few plot-holes, including how long the curse has been in place. There is also an underlying urgency to end the curse because of the long-term effect it may have on the Beast’s servants, who have been animated beautifully, making me long to buy some of the merchandise.

The servants’ rendition of “Be our guest” is an absolute showstopper, this time with the added benefit of wonderful special effects and a fuller-bodied orchestra and chorus.

The villain Gaston is played with relish by Luke Evans, who is fêted during the boisterous tavern scene by faithful sidekick Lefou (a delightful Josh Gad). Gaston’s penchant for antler décor and his skill at “expectorating” are still laugh-inducing but he doesn’t appear as two-dimensional now, despite still being vain and self-centred. Ironically his inflated ego marks him as more “monstrous”, making him a far greater beast than the titular one.

A lot has been said about Gaston’s sidekick LeFou, who was an under-developed bumbling fool before, but who is now given depth, partly through his implied sexual orientation.

It’s pleasing to see Disney is trying to reflect modern-day sensibilities, while the racial diversity amongst the townspeople and servants at the castle is also refreshing.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and could barely resist humming along.

This version has refreshed and updated the original film without losing any of its enduring appeal, and no one should be “gloomy or complaining” about the result.

A visual and aural delight for young and old.