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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Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious

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Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) go rogue in the eighth installment in The Fast and Furious franchise. (Source: The Playlist)

It has been over fifteen years since the release of The Fast and the Furious. Ranging from street races to pulling off heists, the series has been taken to new heights. No matter how ridiculous the movies might be, they know what to offer for fans; over-the-top, gravity-defying stunts, beautiful cars, and seeing our heroes saving the world from something dangerous. As much as I enjoy these movies (except for Tokyo Drift), I don’t mind two more films. Furious 7 (my second favorite behind Fast Five) was an insane thrill-ride while providing an emotionally satisfying conclusion that would make the late Paul Walker proud. Yes, I cried at the end of last movie. Like everyone else, I thought the series would end right there. But—nope…

The Fate of the Furious (I know, terrible title) picks up after the events of the previous film. Brian and Mia have retired from the crew. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) are having their honeymoon in Cuba. After an exhilarating drag race, Dom encounters a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Trying to leave the world of crime behind (like in every movie after the original), he is forced to go rogue with the cyberterrorist. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) assigns Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) to save their friend and stop Cipher once and for all.

After rumors have surrounded about James Wan returning to direct another Fast and Furious movie (of course, he declined due to having to deal with the production hell of the last film), F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) steps in for Wan to provide just as much fun as the three previous installments. While the previous films are about getting together as a family, this movie is about being betrayed by one’s family. Case in point, Dom has been traumatized by his father’s death for years. He feels comfortable with his friends, especially reuniting with Letty. But—he is about to throw it all away.

Every fan always go into these movies for the wall-to-wall action (trust me, there is a lot of it to please the eye) and seeing these characters driving beautiful cars. There is also a lot of big laughs—from Hobbs’ introductory scene where he coaches his daughter’s soccer team to the interactions between Roman and Tej, as well as them flirting with Ramsey. Not to mention a lot of badassery.

How can anyone not love Dwayne Johnson? He is tough yet has a heart of gold. His one-liners are also impossible not to get a kick out of. As Cipher, Theron kills it with her punk look—from the dreadlocks and the Metallica shirt to her cyber powers (in one particular scene, she targets NYC by hacking people’s car and having control of them, causing chaos in the big city). She is up there with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw (who reprises his role here providing laughs and his usual toughness) as one of the franchise’s better villains.

Despite the obvious narrative issues and Scott Eastwood’s bland performance, The Fate of the Furious provides enough for fans with the car chases, fist fights, gun shootings, and characters just having a blast. Bring on the last two films!

3.5/4

Movie Review: Furious 7

The cast of "Furious 7" and director James Wan

The cast of “Furious 7” and director James Wan (between Paul Walker and Vin Diesel)

After the successes of Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6, the popular franchise has gone into another direction. Something fast? Yes; but something more furious. The title, Furious 7 is inspired by Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven. The production for the movie delayed after Paul Walker’s death on November 30, 2013. Even though he was halfway through filming, Universal needed a plan to continue production. They decided to rewrite the script and provide body doubles and [hardly recognizable] CGI to capture Paul Walker. Director James Wan (Insidious, The Conjuring) goes full throttle with Furious 7 by giving the best in pure entertainment.

After defeating Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) from the previous film, his older brother Deckerd (Jason Statham) plans to kill Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew one by one for revenge. Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) notifies Dom about Shaw after encountering him one night at the Diplomatic Security Service office. A government official named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) assigned him and his crew – Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris) – to take down Shaw as well as Mose Jakande (Djimon Honsou), a terrorist who created a program called “God’s Eye” in which every electronic device into a dangerous weapon. Along with a computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel), they spring into action together one last time.

Wan gives us the over-the-top fun we expected from these movies. The franchise is the prime example of pure Hollywood. Some of the stunts seem physically impossible, but that’s what makes those movies fun. It avoids the laws of physics. They are not to be taken seriously. In fact, most of the stunts are done practically, especially the car skydiving and the car jumping through three buildings. It gives the audience the sense of realism. My eyes have been fixed to the screen with jaw dropped to the floor. The movie features the best showdown in the series – between Vin Diesel and Jason Statham (who plays the best villain). It’s just as awesome as Vin Diesel and The Rock’s showdown in Fast Five.

Furious 7 gives a surprising emotional punch. I usually never cry during movies. But this is one of those rare occasions in which I cried my eyes out. After walking out of the theater, I realized the series is more than just street racing and pulling off these heists. It’s about being a part of a family and sticking together right until the very end. Dom Toretto is a convincing character because he and Mia have lost their family a long time ago. If he didn’t start his crew, he wouldn’t have a family. Dom and Brian are the heart and soul of the franchise. Brian is like the brother he never had. They have stayed on each other’s side for a long time. When it’s about that time, they go off their separate ways. It’s such a shame that Paul Walker had died in that car crash. But this movie is a great send-off for him.

Thank you, Paul Walker, for what you’ve done.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Fast and Furious 6

Dom's team spring into action in "Fast and Furious 6"

Dom’s team spring into action in “Fast and Furious 6”

Bringing back more fun!

Following their heist in Rio de Janeiro, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) have a child. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is enjoying his time off as a criminal. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) assigns Dom and Brian to go on yet another mission to track down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who has Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) under his boot. The team go to London to find the mastermind. Featuring more breathtaking action, characters we know and love, Fast and Furious 6 is just as fun as Fast Five. We get a taste of Furious 7 in the middle of the credits where Han dies in Tokyo and see Jason Statham for the first time. The audience realizes that Tokyo Drift takes place after the events of this movie. Even though it makes more sense, it still doesn’t change my opinion on Tokyo Drift.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Fast Five

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in "Fast Five"

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) faces up against federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast Five”

Now onto the good stuff!

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) saves Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) from custody. Along with Mia (Jordana Brewster), who has exciting news, they flee to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to pull off a heist worth millions of dollars. In order to do so, they build a team consisting of Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Han Seuol-Oh (Sung Kang), Leo (Teo Calderon), and Santos (Don Omar). Meanwhile, federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his team track down Brian and Dom. Fast Five was the first Fast and Furious movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it in a packed theater with my cousin in 2011. Without seeing the predecessors back then, I enjoyed every bit of it. Seeing it again after watching the others, this takes the franchise into a whole new level. With some of the best stunts, action, laughs (especially from Roman and Tej), this is the best of the Fast and Furious franchise. Not to mention that awesome showdown between Vin Diesel and The Rock.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Fast and Furious (2009)

Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is back in "Fast and Furious"

Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is back in “Fast and Furious”

Fast and Furious, or “The Return of Dom Toretto and His Clan”

After the atrocity known as Tokyo Drift, it seemed like the franchise would go downhill from there. Thankfully, the original cast returns to give us what the franchise wanted. Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is working for the FBI in Los Angeles. He reunites with fugitive Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) along with his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). They are informed that Dom’s lover Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) has been assassinated. They embark on another mission to take down a drug lord who was under Ortiz’s supervision. Even though it’s far from perfect, this movie brings back the heart of the franchise while featuring one of the best bromances ever.

3/4

Movie Review: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) learns how to drift in "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"

Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) learns how to drift in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”

What happens when you leave two of the best characters, Brian O’Connor and Dom Toretto, out of a Fast and Furious movie? You don’t get any good results.

Not only is The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift the worst movie in the franchise, it’s also one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. After getting into a car accident during an illegal street racing, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black, who cannot act for crap) has two choices: go to prison or start a new life in Tokyo to live with his dad. He obviously chooses the latter. Boswell meets new people, and learns how to drift in the undergrounds of the biggest Japanese city. This movie throws away what made the first two a fun ride and gives us a slow, long ride into atrocity with a flat story, acting, dialogue. If Vin Diesel didn’t make a cameo appearance in the end of the movie, there wouldn’t be any redeemable qualities whatsoever.

0.5/4