Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Movie Man Jackson

Loud noises! After coming together to save the galaxy the first time, Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) this find themselves assisting an intergalactic species known as the Sovereigns, taking down a dangerous beast in exchange for Gamora’s recently captured sister, the treacherous Nebula (Karen Gillan).

A misguided theft attempt by one of the Guardians (guess who) leads the Soverigns to come after the fivesome, who look to be dead-to-rights until a mysterious figure comes out of nowhere to save them from instadeath. Who is this figure? Only Quill’s/Star-Lord’s long lost and enigmatic father, Ego (Kurt Russell), who whisks away Quill, Gamora, and Drax to his home planet in an effort to ingratiate himself to his son and friends, while leaving Groot and Rocket behind to repair their broken spaceship. Even split up, the Guardians are still wanted, and the Sovereigns send Yondu to collect them all for proper punishment.

At this writing, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 has been covered at length by many a great bloggers and websites. Yours truly can’t add too much to what has already been stated, but I’ll do my best. The first Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t supposed to succeed at the level it did; looking destined to be Marvel’s first true whiff (critically and commercially) in their MCU.

First trailer thoughts: Who in the blue hell are these jabronis? What is with all of this retro music in a comic book movie? To the tune of the almost 774 million worldwide and rave reviews, GoTG is hailed by a noticeable size of Marvel fans as the best the universe has to offer. A significant part of this feeling was simply due to the fact that we had never seen anything like it before in a comic book feature. To an extent, GoTG V2, possibly more than most sequels, was doomed to underwhelm more than most, not from a financial perspective, but from a quality one.

Guardians Vol 2 isn’t a complete rehashing of the movie that came before. James Gunn, returning to both direct and write the sequel, is more interested this time around with delving deeper into what makes the characters who they are. In particular, Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and surprisingly, Yondu are standouts, and respectively, Pratt, Saldana, the voice of Cooper, and Rooker get to deliver some very good character moments, the type of moments that will lead this franchise into the future.

But, it is a little disappointing to see Bautista chained to the comedic role for much of the movie’s runtime. Drax, a standout before, gets the biggest laughs but also the most attempts to do so. Whereas before he was the perfect blend of ass-kicker and humor, the percentage is much more weighted towards comedy this time, neutering the character somewhat. Baby Groot does one note extremely well. Other supporting characters, like Mantis, get lost in the shuffle, while Russell, though a figure with purpose, is reduced to exposition more times than not.

And as a whole, Guardians Vol 2 feels overstuffed from a character standpoint. Or maybe it’s the endless Ravagers, gold-painted, bland Sovereigns, and five post-credits scenes that make me feel as such. Story wise, aimless is the word yours truly would use for the first hour. The script seems content to have the characters spit jokes at one another, or talk a bit about unspoken chemistry. It’s clear where this is going and what the final act is going to consist of, but it takes pretty long in getting there. The importance of family, whether blood or makeshift, is the theme (Guardians of the Furious? The Fate of the Guardians?). And as stated, there are a few good, even poignant, moments, but also a lot of yelling and angst that becomes a little old after a while.

The action still serves as a solid point, and the vibrant, trippy colors make for a good palette. We know that the Guardians and Doctor Strange, along with every major Marvel player, will interact in Infinity War, but consider it a missed opportunity, Marvel, if the Sorcerer and the ultimate ragtag bunch don’t get extended time together in their respective sequels. From a set piece standpoint, not much actually stands out in the way the chase scene, prison breakout, and “Guardians assemble” moment did in the original. Gunn’s direction isn’t bad or mediocre, but just uninteresting.

Uninteresting kind of sums up the overall thoughts that yours truly has of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Doesn’t mean I don’t want want more adventures, just not hooked on this particular one.

C

Photo credits go to hollywoodreporter.com, movieweb.com, and cinemavine.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

The Magnificent Seven (2016): Movie Man Jackson

themagseven

Sometimes it takes an army. Other times, it takes only seven people. Some time in the 1870’s, the town of Rose Creek is under hostile takeover. Industrial businessman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) is interesting in mining the town for gold. He gives the residents two choices: Either accept his payment of $20 per acre, or die trying to defend it.

The townspeople want to defend, but few know how. After losing her husband to Bogue and his henchman, widow Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) looks to hire some assistance, starting with Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), supreme bounty hunter. From there, Chisolm treks the Old Frontier for help, settling on gambler Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Confederate deadeye Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), his partner and assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Native-American warrior drifter Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), and Mexican wanted outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). Together, The Magnificent Seven provides a fighting chance for residents to keep their town.

 sarsgaard

The season of fall officially began Thursday, September 22nd for the northern hemisphere. The season of fall began for Hollywood a couple of weeks ago. However, at least out here in Columbus, Ohio, summer doesn’t feel like it has left yet, weather-wise. And for a little over two hours, The Magnificent Seven makes one feel like we’re still in blockbuster season. In a point almost certain to be made in a lot of positive reviews, The Magnificent Seven is one of the movies summer 2016 needed.

Doesn’t mean it is flawless, but darn entertaining. I didn’t expect anything less from director Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer, Olympus Has Fallen). His movies, sans Training Day, may lack substantial substance but he’s always had a great eye and hand behind the camera. That doesn’t change here. The Western setting is fully realized, from the garb to the firearms to the alcohol. And when the quick draw action and prolonged gunfights goes down, it is thrilling, with the high point being a PG-13 limit-pushing climax where no one is safe. The Magnificent Seven 2016 absolutely benefits with today’s camerawork.

standoff

This isn’t a shot-for-shot remake (thankfully), and even calling it a remake is somewhat misleading. But this is the retelling of a story that will probably always be retold every 40-50 years. That is to say that the story written by True Detective showrunner Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk follows the same beats as the 1960 and 1954 version, with a little more lightness and surprisingly good humor during the quieter moments. Putting it under a modern comparison, Fast Five (especially with the diversity aspect) and The Avengers come to mind, without the lore those movies afforded themselves as franchises.

Don’t go expecting to be blown away by any characters. A few have some interesting backstories that are briefly hit on, but by and large the actors are being seen and not the characters they portray. It’s not a bad thing, if only because everyone is having such a great time. Each member of the seven gets time to shine, some brighter than others. Denzel is a great lead as Chisolm, believable as the one guy who could get this group to work cohesively. He’s got some connection to the film’s main villain, played well by Sarsgaard. I think the finale could have had more emotional punch if their connection and why Chisolm is driven to take down Bogue was revealed earlier, however.

Hawke is good, even if his character’s struggles are only briefly touched upon. Though this is obviously a different movie, there’s something awesome about seeing him in scenes again with Washington 15 years later. D’Onofrio is easily the oddest of the bunch, yet lays a claim for being the most memorable as well. This film could be the vehicle to launch lesser stars like Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, and Byung-hun Lee into more prominent positions in Hollywood. Chris Pratt’s already in a prominent position, and he’s just a engaging personality here.

 chisolm

Is the Western making a comeback? That remains to be seen, but The Magnificent Seven certainly could be an ignition starter. Anyone hankering for a traditional and explosive jaunt into the Old Frontier will find it here.

B+

Photo credits go to pgr.com and filmandtvnow.com

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Jurassic World: Movie Man Jackson

Jworld

“The kids? This will give the parents nightmares.”

If Jurassic Park has taught us anything, it’s that if rich people are able to harness genetic power, they will wield it like a kid that has found his dad’s gun. 22 years later, this time the “kid” is Simon Mastrani (Irrfan Khan), the owner of Jurassic World, the dinosaur theme park built on Isla Nublar that Dr. Hammond envisioned.

It is a success, but since 2005, one that is also beginning to decline in popularity and attendance. To counter this, Simon and park operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) have it in mind to create something that will be unlike any other attractions. That new attraction is the dinosaur Indominus rex, mixed with so many genetic modifications it may not even be a dinosaur. But it is in appearance, which means she’s dangerous, and upon being prepped for release to the public, she gets loose and begins to run rampant on the theme park. The only man who may know how to slow it down is Velociraptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), probably the sanest man on the island.

chased

Comparisons are unfair, and yours truly always tries to look at a movie on its own, independent of what has come before it. If we are being honest though, it is hard to do so when the name Jurassic is in your movie’s title. All that come after the groundbreaking Jurassic Park will be compared to it, fairly or unfairly. So, Jurassic World arrives as the latest entry into biggest dinosaur franchise around, and it is fine, definitely a summer blockbuster through and through. Maybe not much more than that, however.

The new park, and by extension, the CGI, are pretty impressive. Instead of coming back to get a directing credit, executive producer Steven Spielberg gives that responsibility to Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed). Sure, the sheer awe cannot be replicated from the original with that one’s animatronics and CGI, but there is nothing like seeing dinosaurs go postal on anything, everything, and each other. This is best shown in the third act, where simply, all carnivore hell breaks loose.

indomius

While the well-done effects are again impressive, they do not cover other aspects of the film that feel either unhatched in their execution or just lazy in it. In a lot of ways, Jurassic World is a remake of the 1993 spectacle, starting with the characters. More characters exist in this one, but put 1993’s characters on one side and 2015’s on another, and lines could be drawn to match each to one another.

Problem is, they aren’t as compelling as the ones before. Two brothers fill the parts of Dr. Hammond’s grandchildren, serving as the youngsters in distress. Neither, especially the older brother, are all that good at conveying fear, as as a double whammy I wanted to see the older brother die even as the movie tried to turn him into a loving brother; he’s that much of a jerk in the early part. Even Jake Johnson is here as a chief park tech operator, a poor man’s Ray Arnold played by Samuel L. Jackson with less funny lines.

The spirit of Dr. Hammond is seen in Claire as she is the park operator, but perhaps more so in park owner Simon. Unlike the wealthy entrepreneur, Claire (at least for most of the movie) and Simon aren’t so much people as they are constructs of themes/ideas such as negligence, lack of responsibility, corporate greed (also represented in the dinosaur), etc. They actually pale in comparison to the over-the-top character of Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who serves as a conduit for the themes of weaponization and subjugation. It is actually kind of comical how black and white he sees the world.

howard

Chris Pratt is a superstar now, and he is probably the best piece of Jurassic World, cementing his leading man status. As Owen Grady he is a mix of Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Dr. Ian Malcolm, just with more Indiana Jones actioner thrown in for. Likable, charismatic, and relatable to the audience. He ends up being the only character that the audience really cares for, and that is up for debate because there is never the feeling he is in danger.

Possibly the biggest issue yours truly has with this movie is the fact that though the original had great action and graphical excellence, the best scenes were the ones that spotlighted the characters. Who can forget, for example, the awesome lunch scene where Ian and company detail everything wrong with Hammond’s vision? None of those moments are here because most of the characters are pretty stock. As a result, only the action and prehistoric mayhem are to be worth anything.

Still, satisfaction will be found in Jurassic World just from a summer blockbuster sense, as there is a good deal of fun once it gets going to be had. Hold on to your butts again, just not as tightly.

Grade: C+

Photo credits go to digitalspy.com and screenrant.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

Guardians of the Galaxy: Movie Man Jackson

guardiansstub

“You said it yourself, b***h We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

Not many movie studios are as hot as Marvel is at the moment. Since 2008’s Iron Man, their tightly yet expansively crafted cinematic universe has amassed crazy amounts of money on what some would call similarly structured films with established and recognizable heroes. The template is flipped a bit with Marvel’s latest feature Guardians of the Galaxy. In it, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is your average fortune hunter and legendary outlaw known to very few as “Star-Lord,” scouring the vast pockets of space for potential treasure. The potential treasure manifests itself in the way of a mysterious orb, valued by many unknown to Quill.

After others catch word of the galaxy-altering orb being temporarily in Star-Lord’s possession, an assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saladana), and bounty hunters Rocket Racoon/tree-like Groot (Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel), all get into the mad dash for the crown jewel. Unfortunately, they all end up in jail where they come across Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who is after some personal vengeance. With the orb still up for grabs, villainous Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) targets the five for elimination. Despite having no true ties to each other, the individuals soon find that their and the galaxy’s best chance for survival is their cooperation, no matter how reluctant and hard that may be.

starlord

Hyperbolic as it may sound, the general thoughts and feelings in the months leading up to Guardians of the Galaxy appeared to be of the either/or variety: Either it was going to be an impressive success which would build toward the future and further cement Marvel Studios, or it would be a critical and even commercial failure that would knock said studio down a few pegs. With its release, the concerns are alleviated. Guardians of the Galaxy is over-the-top and unconventional fun.

Story-wise, this isn’t much different than past fare, most closely resembling the fight for the Tesseract in The Avengers, the first Captain America, and Thor. But the execution? Nothing is predictable about the way events play out. As a famous wrestling legend once said, “Just when you think you have all of the answers, I change the questions.” This movie revels in doing the opposite, being zany and flat out peculiar. And you buy into it despite the wackiness, because it is highly amusing, yet also carrying more emotional heft than anticipated, giving the sort of familiar “chase” story some weight.

Back to the main aspect that distinguishes this from others: comedy. GoTG is written with a ton of wit that hits consistent laughs, sometimes very hard. In most respects, the dialogue itself between the ragtag group is lightyears better than the action, which is solid if kind of unimpressive. What is great about the humor is that it isn’t limited to just one person. Sure, some characters just lend themselves more to comedy than others, but all have certain styles and specific moments where they shine front and center. Everyone in this played the comic relief at one point, which is a welcome surprise not often seen.

ronan

95 times out of 100, Marvel gets it right with casting, and this film is no different. Chris Pratt is Star-Lord, convincing as the sort of everyman (albeit outfitted with a slick costume and snazzy gun) that is really just trying to survive daily in the harsh galaxy. As seen in Parks and Recreation, Pratt knows how to elicit laughs, but it is his turn as a galvanizing leader here that is most intriguing. Zoe Saldana at this point seems pretty comfortable playing alien-like creatures in movies, but that doesn’t take away her overall effectiveness. Even Vin Diesel voicing three-worded Groot is memorable, though that may be more due to the technical achievement than anything Diesel does.

These three are great and without their contributions Guardians isn’t as impressive, but the two scene-thieves are Drax the Destroyer and Rocket Raccoon. The former, played by Dave Bautista (known to wrestling fans as simply Batista) is in many respects the deepest and most versatile character. Drax slides effortlessly into rage and deadpan humor at the drop of a dime, and Dave never seems stretched when doing so or out of place among his more accomplished stars. Last but not least is the hothead Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper. Cooper is allowed to be unhinged as Rocket, an anarchist wrapped in an animal’s body, akin to Conker from the Nintendo 64 days. You can tell Bradley is enjoying this, and so did I. Even with his diminutive stature, it isn’t hard to imagine Rocket being the face of the Guardians in regards to marketing.

High production is par for the course with Marvel, and this once again applies. It is a visual treat to look at, reminiscent of Mass Effect in many places. The only issue that pops up from time to time is that of the noticeable CGI in hand to hand fight scenes. It is fully realized that this is less rooted in reality than, say, The Winter Soldier, and it isn’t a huge qualm, but it is visible. What is audible is the old-school music vibe from beginning to end throughout this, giving a retro feel to a futuristic backdrop. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

jailcrew

It is a little easier to take risks when you have a deep well of past successes , but the fact that Marvel was willing to do something like this to shake up the template is a small marvel in of itself. Guardians of the Galaxy embraces being offbeat and wears it like a proud badge of honor. Add another money making film galaxy to the comic book universe .

Grade: B+

Photo credits go to hypable.com, and nydailynews.com.

The Lego Movie: Movie Man Jackson

Image

“You must embrace what is special about you.”

A Lego piece really is quite an amazing plastic marvel if you think about it. So simple yet so complex. They really are one-of-a-kind. But the best thing about these construction pieces is just how original you can be with them. Never has one toy been so synonymous with creativity.

The theme of creativity and individualism is at the core of The Lego Movie. At the start, we are introduced to Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who has just acquired the “Kragle” by forceful means. The wizard and protector of it Vitrivius (Morgan Freeman), describes a prophecy that will see the rise of a “Special” take down the evil baddie. Eight and a half years later, we are introduced to Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), a nondescript construction worker who lives his life with instructions and not one creative thought in his thinking cap. One day after work he sees a breathtaking woman and loses all sense of awareness (it happens), and subsequently falls into a hole and hallucinates after touching a weird red piece.

Upon waking and now having “the piece of resistance” attached to him, a good cop/bad cop (Liam Neeson) is there to interrogate Emmet on behalf of Lord Business (Will Ferrell) and end the resistance. Before Brickowoski’s impending end, he is saved by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and learns of his destiny as the special—master builder—to rise against and stop Lord Business’ plans to eradicate creativity and freedom by encasing everything and everyone in Kragle. Yep, superglue. With no creative juices to speak of, is Brickowoski really the special the prophecy described? And if he is not, can he learn to be?

Image

For being primarily a kids movie, The Lego Movie really does have something for all ages. The plot is serviceable, not great, but it does have enough to keep your interest. What it does have is numerous movie references and subtleties. I immediately saw The Matrix elements in this film, but Austin Powers, Jurassic Park, The Dark Knight, The Lord of The Rings, 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Fight Club (just my opinion) all either were indirectly mentioned or featured plot elements.

Some of the cultural aspects present in the film, such as media and corporation give a light satire vibe to the film, but not too heavy for the material. It is a bit amusing and dare I say introspective at the same time. I thought the previously mentioned themes were a nice touch. While there is a root message of creativity, it never feels like you are getting beat over the head with it. The Lego Movie does a noteworthy job of showing both sides of collectivism and individualism. While it is very important to be your own person and come up with your own ideas, at certain times teamwork is needed to recognize the greater good.

Image

This was my first foray into Lego media, as I have never seen a Lego cartoon, straight-to-DVD movie, or played any of the games. For the first five to ten minutes, I was unsure if I liked the animation as it just felt so different from what I am accustomed to seeing in animated films. After those 10 minutes, my concerns were alleviated. The movie looks tremendous, and the stop motion was awesome. While there are some live action set pieces (presumably the fight scenes), most of it is done in stop-motion. To see the water, fire, smoke, etc. all construct and deconstruct with Lego effects is beautiful. I am confident this film would overall not have been as awesome if its effects were realism based. While not a huge advocate of 3D, I feel I have missed a massive opportunity with this film to see it in that way. I’m sure it would have enhanced my viewing experience. The voices for the characters were cast perfectly, and especially high marks go to Will Arnett with the perfect Christian Bale rendition of the Batman voice.

My expectations were somewhat high with this movie after hearing all of its praise. Most did meet them, but a few left me disappointed, namely the plot and the humor. Again, the plot is not terrible, but for the first two-thirds of the film, I just did not find myself engrossed with it for whatever reason. Perhaps it had something to do with me going alone and not with a younger person, as most in my theater were families. I will say that I loved the last third of the movie; I did not see it going that direction but it reminded me of my old man and I when I was a young tyke. As for the humor, while there are some funny moments, a few are hit and miss. I recognize humor is subjective though, so this probably will not apply to most.

Image

Still, this is the first major hit of 2014. All ages should find something to like about it, and it is a pretty safe movie for families during this time of brooding Oscar films and romantic sappiness. Quite a huge coup for Warner Bros. Animation, which hasn’t had a hit since 1996’s Space Jam. The Lego Movie is the film the world deserves, and the one it needs right now.

Grade: B

Follow me @Markjacksonisms

Her: Movie Man Jackson

Image

“Sometimes I think I have felt everything I’m ever gonna feel.”

We’ve seen this central theme before of the relationship of technology to humans, but never quite like this. Spike Jonze’s Her centers around a introverted, soon-to-be divorced man by the name of Theodore Twombly who has become quite lonely and reticent in his separation from his wife. After seeing an ad trumpeting the newest operating system (OS) that can be everywhere at once, Theodore purchases one and boots it up. This OS, self-named Samantha (in two one-hundredths of a second!), and Theo immediately start engaging in conversation, and from here, a friendship, and eventual relationship, is spawned.

hermoviestill4

As Theodore Twombly, Joaquin Phoenix once again shows his acting prowess. He is, quite simply, one of the best actors in Hollywood today. I have not seen all of his acclaimed movies, but from what I have seen he knows just how much is needed for each role he undertakes. For most of this movie, it is only him on the screen, and as a viewing audience, we have to be engaged in his plight. Much of the movie will fail if we are not invested. Within the first few minutes, you will be. At least I was. Make no mistake, Mr. Twombly is the heart of this movie.

Every heart needs a soul, and the soul of this movie belongs to Samantha. What is quite odd is that Samantha possesses no body or even a face. Scarlett Johansson relies on her voice to convey the emotion that Samantha is feeling at any given time. You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? In this film, a voice is worth a thousand images. Never did I wonder what Samantha was feeling, and this is a testament to ScarJo, who was very deserving of an Oscar nomination. Sadly this did not occur, as Her may be her finest work since Lost in Translation. What isn’t lost in translation is the chemistry between the two leads. Easily, this is some of the greatest chemistry I have ever seen on film, period. As for the other “main” characters to the story, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Roomey Mara are all more than capable when given the time in the movie, but they do take a backseat to Scarlett and Joaquin.

herbeach

As stated earlier, we have seen this type of theme before, but never done this way. The main reason I really, really enjoyed this movie was its refusal to be bound by one genre. Sure, at the core, it is a romance. But with that said, it really is genre-bending. One minute I was laughing, another reflective, and another minute introspective. It manages to cross across romance, drama, comedy, and even sci-fi without compromising anything.

The movie itself is beautiful from a technical standpoint. Jonze has crafted a film that isn’t too different from ours if you think about it, and when watching, I could easily see this scenario playing out in the future. There are some really, really stellar shots and edits that effectively portray the mood that certain characters are feeling. Spike Jonze has an extremely deft hand, both script-wise and directing-wise. The soundtrack aids the gorgeous visuals; everything just clicked into place and enhanced each scene. I’m pretty sure I became an Arcade Fire fan after this movie.

There aren’t really many negative things I can say about this film. It is slow, but anyone going into this movie should expect this. At times when watching this movie, suspension of disbelief may be something that some may not be able to overcome. But, don’t most movies require us to suspend our disbelief anyway?

_DSC2097.tif

This film is original, fresh, intelligent, and deserves every nomination and every award it is going to get.

Grade: A-

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson