2017 Summer Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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The Guardians are back to save the galaxy in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Source: IMDb)

Oh—it’s great to see these band of misfits back together!

2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy became a surprise hit among general audiences. It featured the most unusual groups of heroes. Ranging from a man from Earth raised by aliens, a green-skinned alien assassin, a superhuman warrior, a humanoid tree whose vocabulary is limited to “I am Groot”, to a trash-talking raccoon. Seeing it three times in theaters, I had an awesome time seeing these characters interact with one another while saving the galaxy and the planet Xandar from Ronan the Accuser. The movie had a lot of laughs, thrills, sharp character development, and visual wonder. So far, I think it’s my favorite in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s already a contemporary classic.

Three years later, writer/director James Gunn returns with the same main cast to do the sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. With Vol. 3 now in development, I’m actually looking forward to see more adventures of the Guardians rather than the Avengers. As far as sequels go, Vol. 2 is easily one of the better ones.

With a new kick-ass mixtape given to by his mother, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his team of Guardians—Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel); now reincarnated to a size of a tree bark, and Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper)—travel through the galaxy, in search of something good and bad. They are assigned to protect the Sovereign, a gold-skinned alien race led by Heiress Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), and their precious batteries from various enemies. When Rocket is accused of stealing the batteries, their spacecraft crash lands on a deserted planet until being saved by a man known as Ego (Kurt Russell), who happens to be Peter’s father (no surprise there). He, along with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), brings them to his colorful planet while a lot of stuff happens.

If I go on about the plot, it would lead to many spoilers.

With the first movie, Gunn introduces the characters getting together to form as a family. Here—they are an assembled group of outlaws. He also brings forth the father-son dynamic into the MCU. While Pratt is the ideal choice to play Star-Lord, there would not have been a better choice for Kurt Russell to play his dad. Or, in this case, a celestial who falls in love with a human on Earth and eventually creates his own beautiful world. For years, Quill always wants to know his true heritage. With the characters we have come to know and love, we get to know more about them, particularly Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gilan) with scenes with Rocket and Yondu (Michael Rooker) bonding with each other. And also, Drax gives more of an emotional weight, who explains more about getting revenge on Thanos after witnessing the death of his family. He begins to ponder more about his simple past on his home planet. He may be tough on the outside, but he is also soft on the inside. Oh—and his laugh is just legendary!

Speaking of laughter, Vol. 2 is a nonstop laugh riot! One of the reasons why Vol. 1 is not just the splendid visuals and action set pieces, but the irreverent sense of humor. Vol. 2 is no exception. Drax, Rocket, and Groot steal the show here. As I described him before in my review for Vol. 1, Rocket is the Joe Pesci of the MCU. He has a filthy mouth (but not too filthy) and he is unpredictably crazy. “They told me you people were conceded douchebags,” he says to the Sovereign (who make pretty bland villains, despite Debicki’s massive stature–standing at a whopping 6’3″). “But that isn’t true at all.” The wink he gives to Quill cracks me up so much. Almost just as much as him making fun of Taserface (Chris Sullivan), which had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Vol. 2 cannot be complete without an awesome soundtrack—cleverly titled Awesome Mix Vol. 2. What the predecessor did with Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love”, you know you are in for a treat if the movie opens up with ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”. It’s nearly impossible not to grin while watching it. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” serves as an appropriate theme for the Guardians. This line sums it up right here, “If you don’t love me now / You will never love me again / I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.” Bring on, Vol. 3!

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: Jurassic World

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) starts up his motorcycle in "Jurassic World"

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) starts up his motorcycle in “Jurassic World”

In 1993, Steven Spielberg made two of the greatest movies of all-time: Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Particularly, Jurassic Park became a milestone in special effects. With its careful use of CGI animation and animatronics, every shot made every genetically engineered dinosaurs look real. The special effects hold up to this day. Featuring the wonder and suspense, John Williams’ masterful score, awesome characters, and an effective theme involving nature being controlled by humans. After two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, Spielberg returns as the executive producer of the long-awaited reboot Jurassic World.

Is it a masterpiece compared to Jurassic Park? Absolutely not!

Is it a good movie? You damn right it is!

Isla Nublar is home to the newly renovated Jurassic World, the dinosaur theme park that is open to the public. As the brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), leave, their mother Karen (Judy Greer) gives a word of advice to them: “If something chases you, run.” They discover the countless attractions Jurassic World has to offer, including a Mosasaurus, a giant crocodile-like creature who will jump out of her pool to snatch sharks, and cause humongous splash on spectators (Shamu on steroids, to say the least). Meanwhile, the park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) creates a new attraction to increase the number of visitors. The Indominus Rex, bigger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex, is the most intelligent of the dinosaurs. However, she is a mean, not-so-green, killing machine. As she escapes, this leads ex-Navy man and Velociraptor whisperer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to save the day.

Seeing this movie made me reminisce about learning dinosaurs in the first grade, and hearing those catchy dinosaur songs every day during a cold winter. Kids loves dinosaurs. Seeing Jurassic World on the big screen made me feel like a kid. And making me believe that the dinosaurs looked real despite the obvious CGI. I totally regret missing out on watching Jurassic Park as a kid.

What director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guranteed) does with Jurassic World is paying tribute to the original film. For instance, there is a slow-build-up leading towards the suspenseful second act. There are several Easter eggs that put a smile on my face. It’s refreshing to hear John Williams’ stunning theme music while walking out of the theater. With the original glorifying the way we look at CGI, this movie never fails to look visually dazzling. There is an amusing cameo that you have to see for yourselves (revealing it would ruin the surprise).

What’s not to like about Chris Pratt? After his breakout role in last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he has proved that he can be an exceptional action hero. He’s charismatic, strong, and funny as hell. This movie is no exception. He has some solid chemistry with co-star Bryce Dallas Howard. However, the stale writing and supporting characters (notably the first half) prevent Jurassic World from being terrific. The movie hits full throttle during the second half. You are in for a ride!

3/4

2014 Summer Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

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Chris Pratt and his group of A-holes team up to save the galaxy in “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Finally! A comic book movie with a new group of heroes!

Guardians of the Galaxy has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year. After spending six years of releasing movies featuring the members of “The Avengers”, it’s about time for MARVEL to give fans something they haven’t seen before. A group of outlaws featuring a talking tree and a talking raccoon…it couldn’t get any more awesome than that. Sure, it might seem an unlikely group, but indie director James Gunn brings enough wit and charm into these memorable characters to make us become emotionally connected to them. He makes our inner child burst with satisfaction.

After the death of his mother, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) gets on a spaceship to leave Earth. Years later, he’s adopted by an alien race called the Ravagers, and grows up to be a bounty hunter taking the alias of Star-Lord. While discovering his home on the planet Morag, Quill finds an orb in an abandoned building (cleverly paying homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark). He steals the orb, brings to the planet Xandar to sell it for a good amount of units, and gets arrested for stealing it from Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

After hearing the news of Ronan using the orb to destroy the entire galaxy, Quill teams up with four other companions. They are:

  • Gamora (Zoe Saldana, using green makeup rather than motion capture), an alien assassin trained by Ronan.
  • Drax the Destoryer (Dave Bautista), a maniacal warrior with tattoos seeking vengeance after his family tragically died.
  • Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree humanoid with very limited vocabulary. The only words he says are “I am Groot.”
  • Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a foul-mouthed, genetically engineered raccoon who is a bounty hunter invested with weapons.

Together, they come up with a plan to save the galaxy.

There have been several movies this year in which I would have a blast seeing them in the theater. However, there isn’t a movie quite like Guardians of the Galaxy. It made me feel like a kid watching perhaps the best movie in the world. Gunn provides some of the year’s most stunning visuals and exhilarating action sequences. What makes the movie fun, however, is the characters and their interactions with each other. When Pratt’s Quill puts a mix tape containing popular songs from the ’70s (including Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”) in his Walkman and starts dancing to the beat, it gives a reminder that the audience is in for a treat.

Peter Quill is like the brother Han Solo never had; he’s handsome, witty, charismatic, and bit of a wiseass. It’s impossible not to get a kick out of him when he uses his charm as the only way to get out of a certain situation. Whenever he interacts with the computer-generated characters, I feel as if he is actually interacting with them. Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon is like the Joe Pesci from Goodfellas. Not only is he funny, he’s also insane. The supporting cast including John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro couldn’t get any better. With an ending leading up to a sequel, I think it’s safe to that Guardians of the Galaxy is the best MARVEL movie since The Avengers.

4/4