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

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Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

Now we’re working our way to the top. There are several great movies that I have missed in theaters this past year, like Whiplash, Nightcrawler, The Theory of Everything, John Wick, Foxcatcher, and St. Vincent. But I was lucky to catch lots of fantastic movies in theaters. Here is my list of the best movies of 2014.

Honorable Mentions: 22 Jump Street, American Sniper, Belle, Big Eyes, Big Hero 6, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef, Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in our Stars, Fury, Godzilla, How to Train Your Dragon 2Interstellar (even though it was overhyped, there was plenty to like about this movie), Into the Woods, The LEGO Movie, Noah, Wild

Snowpiercer10. Snowpiercer – This is one of the best movies that got snubbed in this year’s Oscars. Korean director Bong Joon-Ho makes a futuristic picture with a George Orwell vibe. Global warming has been reversed, which causes humanity to be killed off. The remaining survivors aboard a train that is separated by three classes. Sitting in the caboose, one of the survivors (Chris Evans) leads a group of low-class citizens to make their way to the front of the train. Featuring an all-star cast, thought-provoking themes involving society, brutal action, and amazing special effects, Snowpiercer is worth the train ride.

hobbit-battle-armies9. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – I personally consider The Hobbit as the most underrated film trilogy. It was great going back to experience the magical world of Middle-Earth while reuniting with characters that I’ve known, loved, or loved to hate; as well as meeting new faces. This trilogy has been a long, unexpected, and downright exciting journey. Even though the trilogy changed the main focus to be on Thorin Oakenshield than Bilbo Baggins, it still stays true to J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. Being the shortest film in the franchise (144 minutes), The Battle of the Five Armies ends the trilogy with a bang. A lot of emotion, breathtaking battle scenes (especially the final battle being the best since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), and an amazing song by Billy Boyd playing during the end credits is enough to become one of the year’s best. Thank you, Peter Jackson, for making two of the best film trilogies in recent years.

THE IMITATION GAME8. The Imitation Game – Benedict Cumberbatch is becoming one of my favorite actors. From playing detective Sherlock Holmes to the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit trilogy, now he plays Alan Turing in an exquisite performance. If you don’t know who he is, he was a leader of the breaking of the Enigma code during World War II. Then, he became convicted for his homosexuality, which was considered illegal in the U.K. in 1952. Despite the problems he went through, he became the inspiration for the computer that I’m typing my blog posts on. I don’t give a damn if this movie is historically inaccurate. A historical piece doesn’t have to be accurate. I loved every bit of this funny, heartbreaking, and moving historical piece.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past7. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer came back to direct the sequel to X-Men: First Class eleven years after X2: X-Men United. Not only is it one of the best movies from the summer, it’s also the best in the X-Men franchise. It’s great to have Brits Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprising their roles of Professor X/Charles Xavier and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr. But the focus is on Logan/Wolverine, as always excellently played by Hugh Jackman, as the team uses his consciousness to send him back to 1973 to prevent robots from taking over the world. Along the way, he encounters the younger versions of Xavier and Lehnsherr (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) to help him to save the past to prevent the future. This movie had just enough action, special effects, character development, and humor. Not to mention the scene involving Quicksilver in the White House kitchen with Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” playing in the background has to be the funniest and the coolest action set piece of the decade. I cannot wait to see how Quicksilver would be portrayed in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I don’t know if Joss Whedon will make him as funny as Bryan Singer did in X-Men: Days of Future Past. We’ll see.

Dawn-POTA6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Three years ago, Rupert Wyatt directed Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a reboot of the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. I couldn’t have asked for a better climax – with similarities of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes – building up to its sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Matt Reeves takes the franchise to a completely different level. Even though it has similarities of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, this throws the sequels out of the water. This movie reminds us why there is motion-capture. I hope Andy Serkis gets a special Academy Award for bringing motion-capture to life. His performance as Caesar is as powerful as in Rise. The scene in which he watches a video on a fully charged camcorder of himself as an infant being taught by Will the scientist is one of the most emotional scenes of the year. I think that’s why I prefer Rise and Dawn over the original Planet of the Apes films. Because they offer more emotion.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxy5. Guardians of the Galaxy – One of the biggest surprises of the summer, indie director James Gunn introduces a group that a lot of people have never heard of. He puts enough wit and charm into these characters to make us connect with them. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy three times in the theater, I had a blast each time I saw it. When Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, in an awesome performance) turns on his Walkman and dances to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” on an abandoned planet, I knew I was in for a treat. Even though it features breathtaking visuals and exhilarating action, the main focus is the memorable characters and the witty dialogue. Not to mention the best soundtrack in recent memory. Cannot wait for the sequel.

Ben Affleck in Gone Girl4. Gone Girl – There are several movies this past year that made me speechless once the credits started rolling. Gone Girl is one of those movies. Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, Ben Affleck delivers the performance of his career as Nick Dunn, who becomes a suspect of his wife’s disappearance. I always like a good mystery. But there was rarely one where it had me on the edge of my seat from the first image. Kudos to a great marketing campaign, David Fincher and his team make an atmospheric thriller that gives a realistic glimpse of the media. With dark humor, many twists and turns, and a haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl has the feeling of a film noir. The gorgeous Rosamund Pike plays the craziest wife I’ve ever seen in a movie. She is an enigma to the characters as well as the audience through narration and flashbacks. I want her to beat Julianne Moore for the Best Actress Oscar.

07GRAND-articleLarge3. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers. I love almost all of his films. Unlike most filmmakers, he has his own unique style. Moonrise Kingdom is the first film that introduced me into his colorfully surreal world of zaniness. After seeing all of his early films, I wasn’t disappointed with The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson has made the funniest film of his career. I couldn’t picture anyone else playing a better performance as Monsieur Gustave H. other than Ralph Fiennes. He has so much wit and charm as the flirtatious concierge who embarks on a journey to clear his name after being accused of murdering his former lover. His timing is spot-on. With a terrific ensemble featuring F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, and newcomer Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely worth the visit. I’m surprised it got nine Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) this year.

Birdman2. Birdman – Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture, Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is the greatest film that Alfred Hitchcock or Alfonso Cuarón never made. Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki make the most technically ambitious film of the year, using various film and editing techniques to make it look like it’s one continuous shot. The scene where washed-up actor Riggan Thomson holds a grudge on a New York Times theatre critic who is going to give his play a negative review before opening day proves that Michael Keaton might win the Oscar. This is a funny, satirical, bizarre, philosophical, and moving picture that reminds us why movies are made.

Boyhood-11. Boyhood – There has never been a film from 2014 that moved me as much as Boyhood did. Richard Linklater started production on this 12-year project in 2002 using the same actors and the same crew. It feels like he didn’t just make a film, but rather a lesson on adolescence. Linklater naturally depicts how kids and teenagers behave. Even though there aren’t any subtitles on what year we’re in, the audience sees the main character Mason (Ellar Coltrane, in a wonderfully convincing performance) grow up right before their eyes when his voice deepens, his hair grows longer, or if there is a conversation about the war in Iraq. This is a film that made me relate the fun times and hard times I had as a child and the responsibilities I’m going to have as an adult.

There are times in the film where Richard Linklater references his early films. There are scenes involving Mason having conversations with his father (amazingly played by Ethan Hawke) about a possible Star Wars sequel, getting advice, and talking about their day. They connect to Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight. Patricia Arquette needs to earn her Oscar as Mason’s mother who is trying to do the best she can for her kids.

To quote Richard Roeper: “There are so many things that could have gone wrong with this project when you really think about it. What if young [Ellar] Coltrane grew up to be a terrible actor in his teens? What if Lorelei [Linklater] decided five years ago she didn’t want to be in her dad’s movie anymore? Fortunately, for Linklater, and for us, it all came together beautifully.”

Boyhood is the most special movie-going experience I’ve ever had at the movie theater. Not only is it the best movie of 2014, it’s also the best movie of the decade so far and one of my favorites of all-time. This is a movie that should be seen by everyone.

I hope you enjoyed reading my choices for the best films of 2014. Feel free to leave a comment on what your favorite films of 2014 are. I cannot wait to see more great films this year. Take care.

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

2014 Summer Movie Preview: August

The summer is almost over. Not only does it mean school (or for me, life) is about to start, but it also means the start of the Oscar season. Although there are some movies that have come out but I’ve yet to see (Boyhood, Begin Again, and Magic in the Moonlight), this summer movie season had a lot of successful hits (compared to last year). It seems like the month of August is going to have more movies that might flop, with the exception of a few movies (including one that is my most anticipated movie of the whole summer). Let’s discuss what has yet to come out this coming month, shall we?

August 1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy – The latest from Marvel is my most anticipated movie for the entire summer. It’s always refreshing to have something new coming from Marvel. Like with Iron Man (2008), my excitement for this movie went through the roof. I believe this is what a great comic book movie should look like: hilarious, touching, action-packed, and entertaining as hell. With an excellent cast (not to mention Bradley Cooper being the voice of a talking raccoon), a soundtrack containing songs from the ’70s, Guardians of the Galaxy looks more like a comic book movie than an homage to some classic adventure movies (i.e. Star Wars and Indiana Jones). Looking forward to seeing it on opening day!

Get On Up

Get On Up – Biopics of Freddie Mercury, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis, and Elton John have yet to be made. Usually, music biopics can be very difficult to make. They need to have an actor/actress who could capture the essence and spirit of the music icon, and bring enough energy to make the movie worthwhile. Get on Up, the biopic of James Brown, looks like what Jersey Boys could have been. I can’t picture a better actor to play James Brown than Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson from 42). Co-starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer under the direction of Tate Taylor (of The Help), I feel good to have a biopic about this legendary artist.

Calvary

Calvary – I haven’t heard anything much about this Irish film until recently. The movie stars Brendan Gleeson (known for his role of Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter) as a kind Catholic priest who is threatened during a confessional by a parishioner saying he’s going to kill him. He must face his forces that are closing in around him. I think this movie looks absolutely terrific. Like with Philomena talking more about becoming a more respectable human being than Irish Catholicism, this movie talks about suffering the sins and forgiving those around you. The scenery of Ireland looks absolutely beautiful.

August 8

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I never seen the original television show from the ’90s, but it doesn’t mean I’ve never heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With Michael Bay being the producer and Johnathan Liebesman (of the appalling Battle: Los Angeles) directing, I rather eat a whole box of pizza than to see this film. Megan Fox and Will Arnett look horrendously miscast! Definitely avoiding this at all costs.

Into the Storm

Into the Storm – *sigh* I feel sorry for Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield of The Hobbit) for being a part of the movie. None of this looks believable at all! Anything else I need to say than that!?

Step Up - All In

Step Up: All In – Looks like the movie has a lot of attractive actors, loud music, and really impressive dance choreography. That’s basically all there is to it. I have never seen the other Step Up movies, and I don’t plan to see any of them (including this one).

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey – Now this is more like it! A movie without any big explosions or special effects. Just a warm/delightful story about a family from India opening an Indian restaurant in France across the street from a celebrated French restaurant. While these two cultures battle each other, they come to appreciate each other.

What If

What If – With his Harry Potter years behind him, Daniel Radcliffe is continuing to showcase his talent as an actor. One of his breakout post-Harry Potter films was 2012’s The Woman in Black, a solid yet atmospheric haunted house picture with old-fashioned scares and a decent mystery scattered about. This year, he’s going to be in two films: Horns and What If. Originally titled The F Word (no, not *that* F word), this looks like a good romance story without being too sentimental and sappy.

August 15

Let's Be Cops

Let’s Be Cops (opens Aug. 13) – I think Let’s Be Idiots Than Cops could have been a much better title. A movie about two friends who try to be cops after attending a costume party sounds royally dumb. After watching the trailer, I felt like I just watched the first half of the movie. I’m definitely skipping it.

The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 – I haven’t seen the predecessors, but I guess it wouldn’t matter much. With a ginormous cast of action stars, these movies feel like they would be fun on their own right. I don’t mind seeing this movie without seeing the others.

The Giver

The Giver – I haven’t read the book since the sixth grade, but I remember it being undeniably strange. The film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s bestseller stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep (unrecognizable in her role), Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift (also unrecognizable). I don’t know what to think about this movie. It might turn out good, or it might turn out bad. Who knows?

August 22

Sin City - A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – I’ve yet to see Sin City. I appreciate the visual style of these movies; almost like a moving comic book. I appreciate the all-star cast: Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, and so on. I guess it’s time to watch the predecessor.

If I Stay

If I Stay – This is like Ghost for a new generation. It has a deep story starring the lovely Chloe Grace Moretz about a teenage girl in critical condition after being in a car accident that leaves her family dead, and she must choose her own fate. I have a feeling this will have teenage audiences bawling their eyes out.

August 29

The November Man

The November Man (opens Aug. 27) -I can tell this is going to flop. Big time! Although having experience of playing a secret agent, Pierce Brosnan seems like he’s returning to his James Bond glory days. This doesn’t look original whatsoever.

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below – Another movie in which I assume is going to flop. There are a lot of horror films that are marketed as scary but come out as unintentionally goofy. I’m skipping this one for sure.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Calvary, Guardians of the Galaxy, Get On Up, The Hundred-Foot Journey

Least Anticipated: As Above, So Below, Into the Storm, Let’s Be Cops, Step Up: All In, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I hope you enjoyed reading on what my thoughts are on the upcoming movies for the month of August. Tell me in the comments on what are your most anticipated movies and least anticipated movies for the month of August. I appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read my thoughts on what had yet to come this summer. I had quite a bit of fun typing about them, and I’m looking forward to doing this next summer. Stay tuned for my list featuring my most anticipated movies for the rest of 2014. Take care.