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.

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Star Trek Beyond: Movie Man Jackson

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Everything becomes old at some point. Even space. It has been about three years into a five-year exploration trek for Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew on the USS Enterprise. To be honest, Kirk doesn’t know if captaincy is right for him anymore, and he starts to think about what else may be out there beyond the vast reaches of space. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is in the same mindset as well, as his efforts may be needed back on his home world.

But in the present, their full attention is needed as the Enterprise is bombarded and ransacked by the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and his “swarm,” looking for a piece of technology that is vital for his ultimate mission. The destruction caused by the swarm has left the crew stranded and separated from each other on an unknown planet, with no working communication. Escape from this planet appears impossible, but there’s always hope in the impossible.

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50 years is a long time for anything to be around and and active, be it a man, woman, automobile, whatever. In 2016, Star Trek Beyond arrives to punctuate the 50th anniversary of Gene Rodenberry’s original series. Kind of a big deal? Absolutely. Adding to the pressure is the simple fact that the blockbuster season of 2016 has been terribly lean on action thrills since Captain America: Civil War hit cinemas two and a half months ago, or technically, before summer truly began. May have come a little late, but Star Trek Beyond honors what came before it, while bringing the big budget summer fun.

With an obligation to direct another popular space opera franchise, J.J. Abrams couldn’t make the return to the captain’s seat (more of a co-pilot as a producer). This time, that honor falls to Justin Lin, Fast & Furious franchise savior. After seeing what he did with the latter half of the Fast franchise, there was never any doubt in my eyes as to whether his skills could translate to a different universe. Do scenes get a little cut-happy sometimes? Sure, but at least there’s not as much lens flare, right? His destruction scenes are every bit what Independence Day: Resurgence by all accounts should have been and then some, with awesome cinematography and the sounds of Michael Giacchino accompanying them. Rest assured, this isn’t Dom Torreto and Brian O’Conner in space; this is very much Star Trek.

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And not just Star Trek—revisiting cool but well-worn species, foes, and locales—but Star Trek—introducing new species, foes, and locales. Video gamers may notice some similarities to Mass Effect 2 in a few places (the bee swarm looks a lot like the Collectors), and the object in question that pushes the adequate plot is more or less an MacGuffin, but still, kudos goes to Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung for including a few touching callbacks to the original series but also choosing to go forth into new terrain. Specifically, the two new characters are welcome additions.

Idris Elba is unrecognizable, but even under a bevvy of makeup and costume, he’s got presence. He carries a level of menace that hasn’t been seen in the new reboots by any previous baddies. While he isn’t as mysterious or developed as, say John Harrison, was, he does have a thread that gives him some depth in the final act. The real star of the feature, though, is undoubtedly Jaylah, played by Sofia Boutella. She’s unique visually and can hold her own with intellect or in battle. The thing is, there is much to be uncovered into her backstory. But this is a great introduction, and let’s hope that future installments continue with more Boutella in this role.

As for the returning cast, there’s not much more to be said for them except for that they are strong in their roles. Better yet, none look to be tired with what they are doing. Some, like Saldana’s Uhura and Cho’s Sulu are pushed to the backburner this time, but others like Pegg’s Scotty, Urban’s Bones, and the late Yelchin’s Chekov have many pivotal scenes and more importance to the plot than before. Pine and Quinto are still the stars, but Beyond truly feels like an ensemble effort this go-around, and that isn’t a bad thing.

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Star Trek Beyond was not sabotaged by its first trailer, or by its latest director. With three quality films into the reboot, yours truly is very excited and even eager to see where the next journey takes Captain Kirk and company.

B+

Photo credits go to comingsoon.net, uproxx.com, and moviepilot.com.

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Star Trek Into Darkness: Movie Man Jackson

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To get to the dawn of the day, one has to make it through the darkness of the night. On an exploratory mission to preserve new life undetected, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of the U.S.S Enterprise violates the undetected part to save a friend. For his actions, he is stripped of the ship and his status as captain.

But, he’s brought back to power when a mysterious threat declares war on StarFleet by wiping out many of its senior officers in one fell swoop. It’s up to Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest of the crew to find the threat, hiding in dangerous deep Klingon space, and eliminate it.

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Like most sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness works with a bigger budget than before. Unlike many sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness actually holds the line more or less, when compared to its predecessor. Better than the first? Debatable, but the fact that it is a legitimate question to ask means Into Darkness is pretty darn entertaining.

JJ Abrams returns to the directorial seat of the Enterprise to direct the adventure of Kirk, Spock, Bones, and crew again. He sure likes lens flares maybe a tad too much but this is Star Trek and one expects things to carry some light and look bright. Isn’t that big of an issue in the opinion of yours truly. Action-wise, there are a few really good scenes, more than the first film for sure, but aside from the climatic set piece which is awesome, the extra 35 million in budget doesn’t completely improve upon the action from the initial Star Trek reboot.

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For diehard Trekkie fans, Into Darkness is probably looked at as Abrams and his team of writers in Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof peeing and desecrating on everything sacred that Star Trek possesses. Its story apparently takes some sizable inspiration from The Wrath of Khan and other old episodes/seasons, but adding little twists and additions. For casual fans such as myself whose first real exposure to Star Trek was 2009, I could never get all of the Easter eggs or changes, and as such, the story is simple yet satisfying, not disrespectful to what came before it. While it would have been interesting to see this movie explore some deeper themes like the old Star Treks were famous for doing, this 21st century reboot seems focused on being light, which is fine.

However, the 21st century reboot has been focused on character just as much, if not more than, action, and relies on the cast to deliver those character moments. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise there roles and further the challenging yet unbreakable bond that defines Captain Kirk and Spock. Honestly, the best moments of Into Darkness are between the two leads rationalizing what friendship means to each of them, and it sounds corny, but is executed wonderfully. A returning Zoe Saldana steps back into the Uhura role, with this time given more to work with. Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin (R.I.P) do well in supporting roles adding humor at times, and Bruce Greenwood is a steady hand that adds emotion.

Newcomers to the cast include Alice Eve, Peter Weller, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Eve is the only person who feels out of place in the film, sort of bland in her performance and existing to only serve as eye candy in what is now the infamous lingerie scene that serves no purpose. Weller, while having a very minimal role in terms of screen time, is very pivotal, and there is something cool about seeing the Robocop star as a part of the cast in one of the biggest media franchises there is. Lastly, Cumberbatch’s character is a great mystery. He’s a presence, both emotionally, physically, and audibly.

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Make it so. Star Trek Into Darkness makes the JJ Abrams directed reboots 2 for 2. Diehards will be be none too pleased, but everyone else? Resistance to enjoying STID is futile.

B+

Photo credits go to dvdizzy.com, ew.com, and Collider.com.

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Star Trek (2009): Movie Man Jackson

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The future begins in the remnants of the past. In space, a Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana) is seeking vengeance across the galaxy. His home world has been destroyed seemingly by the Federation, an organization that seeks to keep the peace between worlds.

Nero is from the future, which obviously complicates matters in ways no one is sure of. Receiving a distress signal from the Vulcan planet, the Federation deploys the USS Enterprise to investigate. On the ship, James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) find difficulty in working together due to their conflicting personalities and worldviews. But, the two must come to respect each other in order to save lives.

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Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek don’t just have casual fans, they have diehards of worldwide fans who know every detail and minutiae of franchise lore. Diehards who don’t take kindly to even the slightest bit of change or a reimaging. You can’t please everyone, and the 2009 reboot of Star Trek might not cater itself to the hardcore Trekkie. But, it does pay respect to the iterations before it, while being highly accessible and most importantly, fun.

The director in the captain’s seat of the USS Enterprise is JJ Abrams, who earned his stripes writing and directing the beloved Lost and Fringe TV shows, and blockbusters Mission Impossible III and Cloverfield. Star Trek, like most reboots, is an origins story, and really, it is an origins story of two characters: Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. JJ Abrams does a ton right in his version, but one of the strongest aspects of his storytelling in this movie is that nothing feels wasted, or elongated for no particular reason. While juggling two stories in about 20 minutes, Abrams tells the audience exactly who these two iconic characters are, and why the audience should care about them.

One could argue, though, that some aspects of the story are a wee bit fuzzy, or a little underdeveloped. Time travel, for whatever reason, always seems to give yours truly a tough time to wrap his head around. The villain Nero is as generic as they come. And Trekkies may not like the lack of meaty themes, something that the original series often included. Even the effective humor could be much for some (this is a very light movie). But, origin stories need not to be complex, just entertaining.

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Additionally, Abrams uses his CGI to stage pretty special action sequences, one in particular being a space jump followed by hand-to-hand and ending with a space free-fall that is one of the best blockbuster action sequences of the last 10 years. It’s not just the action, though, its the fully realized environment of space, but also, the fully realized interior of the Enterprise. The ship is a marvel to look at, feels “alive,” and, even if just aesthetically, as important to Star Trek as its characters.

Even with all of the previously mentioned good things, the reintroduction to Starfleet wouldn’t be as well-received if the casting wasn’t up to snuff. Not considering the foil, I do not believe there is a weak link in the crew. Karl Urban is consistently entertaining playing Bones, Zoe Saldana a presence as one of the only females Uhura, John Cho showing he can do more besides being Harold as Sulu, Anton Yelchin being memorable as Chekov, and Simon Pegg as funny as ever portraying Scotty.

But of course, the lynchpins are Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, respectively. Pine put himself on the map playing the captain, showing off his character’s brashness yet steeliness in the face of peril. It’s a really fun role to watch, even if it can be a little too amped up once or twice. It is made better by Quinto’s precise performance. The two play off of each other well, and are both likable in their own ways, and seeing both characters coming full circle and accepting one another is a feel-good moment.

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Abrams’ initial foray into the Star Trek pays tribute to what came before it, but not to the point where it is too foreign to the uninitiated. All aboard the Enterprise, because this Star Trek prospers in more ways than one.

A-

Photo credits go to startrek.com, movieposter.com, http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org, and hautemacabre.com

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Movie Man Jackson

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.