Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
No movie studio today knows its business better than Marvel.
Dating back to its first film Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios has produced a string of crowd-pleasing hits providing action, humor, adventure and fun, and James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” does nothing to stop that train from rolling.
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Gunn introduced fans to the rag-tag band of misfits, outlaws, and miscreants in the first film in 2014, and all of them return in the character-driven “Vol. 2” that continues to explore the idea that family is where you find it.
While the first movie explained how the space scoundrel Yondu (Michael Rooker) abducted Peter “Starlord” Quill (Chris Pratt) from Earth as a child shortly after the death of his mother from cancer, the question of who Quill’s father was left hanging.
Gunn’s answer to that question is the crux of the movie, and saying too much more would spoil the central thrust of the film. The plot is pleasingly reminiscent sci-fi stories of the mid-20th century, but the humor is all 2017.
Gunn provides the film with a rhythm of humor interweaved with action that plays like a pop-song hook. You know its hook, but its groove is so tight that you don’t mind how familiar the beat is.
While the relationship between Quill, Yondu, and new character Ego (Kurt Russell) is the film’s main course, Gunn serves the audience a pleasing portion of the other Guardians as delightful side dishes.
Sisters Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are at each other’s throats for past offenses that occurred while growing up under the thumb of their father, the galactic warlord Thanos.
Drax The Destroyer (Dave Bautista) doesn’t destroy much after the opening credit sequence that features the Guardians’ battle with a vicious space slug in the background while the too cute Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) tries to get his groove on in the foreground, dancing to the tunes of Quill’s latest mix tape.
However, Drax’ humorous non sequiturs and inappropriate outbursts are on full display, even as he comes in touch with his softer side, thanks to his relationship with the empath Mantis (Pom Klementieff).
Bounty hunter/pilot/engineer Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) drives a second-act action sequence that’s as exciting as it is funny. The nasty little rodent takes down dozens of Ravagers by himself to protect Baby Groot and the team’s spaceship. The relationship between Rocket and Groot is flipped from this movie. This time Rocket is Baby Groot’s protector instead of vice versa.
With the help of CGI effects masters, Gunn creates fantastically rich, colorful worlds that only add to the wonder of the film. The visuals are stunning, but they don’t overwhelm the heart of the story, which is all about each character’s place in the surrogate family.
Like with every sequel, there will be a debate over whether latest movie lives up to or possibly even surpasses the original.
I could see that argument going either way, but what I’m certain of is that Gunn, who directed from his own script, has crafted a group of characters with an oddball but winning family dynamic that I enjoy watching.
If Gunn can keep delivering that every three or four years, I’ll be back to watch.
(PG-13) 2 hr. 16 min.
David Eggers’ novel “The Circle” may be a fantastic, but you would never know it based on the drowsy attempt at a thriller the film adaptation turned out to be.
The movie’s premise sounds compelling. A young women named Mae Holland (Emma Watson) gets a career break by being hired to work in customer relations for a tech giant The Circle. The conglomerate seems benign at first to Mae, but as she’s introduced into the culture of The Circle, she learns there’s something sinister going on.
The Circle rolls Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon all into one cultish corporation that provides convenience and a sense of security for its employees and customers, but robs them of their privacy, liberty and individuality in trade.
That seems like the seed of a good movie, especially considering that actors like Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, John Boyega, Patton Oswalt, Bill Paxton and Glenne Headly are featured in support of Watson.
However, the movie, directed by James Ponsoldt from his script with Eggers, is a misfire from beginning to end. The film is crushingly slow, and Watson flounders in a poorly written role that leaves her literally and figuratively floating in the ocean without a lifejacket.
There is some life in the movie when Hanks is on screen, and a scene where Hanks and Oswalt interrogate and then coerces Watson into wearing a camera that streams her every waking hour on the Internet is good. However, the follow-through falls flat.
(PG-13) 1 hr. 40 min.
The Classic Corner
Saturday Night Fever
If you are interested in the culture, fashion, and music of the 1970s and the disco era in particular, then John Badham’s 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever” is must viewing.
The film not only encapsulated the time period but also influenced it. The working-class story of Tony Manero (John Travolta) and the music of the Bee Gees mix perfectly for a drama that is true to the time period.
Though already a TV heartthrob from his role as Vinnie Barbarino on “Welcome Back Kotter,” Travolta skyrocketed in popularity as the film hit popular culture with a one-two punch seldom seen since.
The gritty story of a young man trapped by his culture, family and friends rings true and is as timeless today as it was in the late 1970s.
The R-rated original version is laced with profanity befitting a Scorsese gangster film and depicts grimy deeds and actions that are at once tough to stomach yet compelling told.
As strong as the dramatic points are, Travolta and the film soar in the scenes on the dance floor, the place where Tony is king of all he surveys.
The Bee Gees’ music perfectly syncs with the tone of the movie. For anyone who has seen the movie, it’s hard not to think of Travolta without the Bee Gees and vice versa.
Disco hit its apex and burned hot following the incredible popularity of the film, but the genre quickly became a cheesy joke within a couple of years of the movie’s release. The backlash to disco seems a bit harsh in retrospect.
In celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary, “Saturday Night Fever” will be back in theaters for a special showing. The Malco Razorback in Fayetteville is screening the film on Wednesday, May 10, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.