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!

Live by Night

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA15+Live by Night

Director / Screenwriter / Producer: Ben Affleck

Based on a novel written by: Dennis Lehane

Director of Photography: Robert Richardson

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Matthew Maher, Miguel J. Pimentel, Max Casella.

Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) is a man recently home from WWI.  After seeing so much wasted bloodshed, he refuses to believe in a system that applies no value to the people it governs.

The son of Boston’s Deputy Superintendent, Thomas Coughlin (Brendan Gleeson), a good cop and a cop who loves his son, Joe goes about life without regard for the law.  He robs banks and falls in love with a gangster’s Molly, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller).  Joe wants to be free.  And he is free, until the Italian Mafia decide they want the Irishman on their side. 

Live by Night isn’t one of those gangster revenge films full of sociopaths and relentless shoot-outs.  This is a film shown beautifully through the authentic setting of those 1920s streets of Boston and the vast skies reflected in the snake-like curving rivers of Miami. 

It took a while but I was eventually absorbed by this story based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane (winner of the 2013 Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year).  The screenplay written by Ben Affleck has the benefit of well-thought characters and a ring of truth about the era: Prohibition and the underground rum trade in Tampa, racism, the fight for the American Dream.  But what is The Dream?  Girls, money, power, love?  Freedom?

There was a complexity here.  This is a story about a man who wants to survive.  But not at any price, not while there’s still a piece of heaven here on earth. 

With an adaptation of a novel, it’s not easy to convey all without glossing over moments that would have been given more depth in the text.  Although each character was portrayed so the fierceness, evil and beauty was shown in the dialogue, some extra seconds of those facial expressions would have conveyed more. 

Offsetting the lack of depth was the beautiful camera work by Robert Richardson, giving access to the film through the depiction of setting.

I imagine it must have been difficult for Ben Affleck to act and direct in the same film.  To be the one to portray what you have written, to show the vision of the story must be a hard task.  And it shows.  Ben being the least impressive actor in the film.  I’m not saying his acting was bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t as believable as the performance of say, Sienna Miller or Matthew Maher (as RD Pruitt).  Thankfully, the rest of the cast are phenomenal, given direction by the screenwriter, Ben.  A headful, I know.  And a hint into the space that is Ben Affleck.  What an achievement. 

Overall, Live by Night is one of those quiet movies that creeps up on you, a slow absorption into the point-of-view of Joe that doesn’t smack you in the face because that’s not in his psychological make-up: ‘I don’t want to be a gangster.  I stopped kissing rings a long time ago.’

A sometimes bland film but a cracker of a story.

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Star Trek Beyond

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Justin LinStar Trek Beyond

Story By: Gene Roddenberry

Screenplay: Simon Pegs, Doug Jung.

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba; Sofia Boutella.

There’s always a moral to a Star Trek story, and this time in, Star Trek Beyond, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is having a midlife crisis.

He’s been lost in space for too long and doesn’t know what he wants anymore.  He’s made the memory of his father proud; he’s the captain of the Enterprise.  But where do the steps towards his father end? And where does Kirk begin?

That’s what I like about the Star Trek franchise.  I like the characters and seeing how they deal with their struggles in life.

Interesting that Beyond is the third in the trilogy of the Re-boot series (the 13th Star Trek film) now coming to maturity, just like Capt. Kirk.

As always, there’s the difference in characters’ personality and culture.  I love Scotty the Scotsman and am really getting into the reluctant Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban), the southern doctor.  And not just because he’s handsome, Bones makes me laugh.

And there’s always the running theme of unity, which is mostly what the Star Trek films are about.  The difference of the crew members and the strength of working together.

So yes, there’s a formula in the writing here, in the themes written for Star Trek, but that’s why we dig it, yeah?

What was new is the addition of the character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who looks to be a permanent fixture in future films.

And the visual effects just keep getting better with each Star Trek adventure.  See Ian Failes article for Inverse here: how-star-trek-changed-visual-effects-history.

Director Justin Lin has brought Peter Chiang on board to take a more scientific approach to the visual effects.  The realistic VFX (visual effects created by processes in which imagery is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot) go beyond (ha, ha) all expectation.

There are some amazing perspectives here that on the big screen kicked in my vertigo, so yeah, the visual effects are amazing.

I have to mention the sadness felt when realising I’ll never see Anton Yelchin as Chekov again.  See article about his passing here.  I’ll miss the innocence (although not as innocent with the ladies in, Beyond) and the genius Anton managed to give to the character, Chekov…

A few asides from crusty Bones, tracks to get the blood pumping and the feeling of being on a roller coaster, Star Trek Beyond adds up to a well-packaged, entertaining film.