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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a 2017 superhero flick based on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s the sequel to 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It brings back writer/director James Gunn and most of the actors from the first film including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, and Michael Rooker and brings in newcomers like Kurt Russel, Sylvester Stallone, Pom Klementieff, and features one hell of cameo from (*spoiler alert*) David Hasselhoff. 

The film tries hard to recreate the magic of the first one and it succeeds for the most part. The humor is there, the character interaction is there, the action is there, but it’s missing the joy of discovery. At this point we know what to expect from Star-Lord and his crew. That’s not a bad thing. You’ll like it if you liked the first one. My girlfriend hadn’t seen the first one so we watched it on demand and then watched Vol. 2 later that night. That’s practically five hours of Guardians of the Galaxy in one sitting and we didn’t get sick of it. That’s impressive because I have a short attention span. I’ll end this review on that note because I hear the ice cream man outside. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is good. Go see it in IMAX 3D if you can, it’s worth the money and not many movies are these days.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness is a 2012 sci-fi film, and the twelfth cinematic installment of the Star Trek series. It’s a sequel to 2009’s Star Trek reboot and it’s once again directed by J.J. Abrams (so get ready for lens flares!). Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and John Cho all reprise their roles, and Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, and Peter Weller join the cast. The film made $467,381,584 at the international box office, which is good enough to make it the highest grossing Star Trek film. Avatar made $2,787,965,087. Basic math tells us that Avatar is 5.965% better than Star Trek Into Darkness.

The basic plot of Star Trek Into Darkness involves Captain Kirk and Commander Spock matching wits with Kahn, a genetically engineered superhuman. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the basic plot of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. It’s more of a rehash/remix than a virtual retelling, but it pays homage to the Star Trek movies/episodes that came before it. There’s even a reference to tribbles.

I enjoyed this movie until someone pointed out that it’s not advancing the plot from 2009’s Star Trek. The entire crew was fully assembled and ready to go on adventures by the end of that movie. J.J. Abrams didn’t know how to proceed, so he chose to dismantle the crew at the beginning of the sequel so that they could reassemble by the end of the flick. It’s almost the same movie, only with new characters and a different villain with a different motive. It’s still entertaining; it’s just not moving the franchise forward. Oh well, I’m more of a Star Wars fan than a Trekkie anyway. Bring on Episode VII!

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Guardians of the Galaxy (film)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a 2014 blockbuster superhero/sci-fi flick from Marvel Studios. It follows the adventures of Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt) as he comes into contact with a mysterious orb that everybody in the galaxy seems to want. Quill forms an alliance with a couple of random aliens as they attempt to prevent the evil Ronan and his forces from obtaining the orb. Guardians of the Galaxy has all the hallmarks of a Marvel movie. It has interesting characters, intense action scenes, spectacular special effects, humor, heart, and a sense of adventure. But it’s a bit of a letdown, especially compared to The Avengers.

The plot is fairly typical of most Marvel films. The main characters find a mysterious object of unimaginable power and must form an unsteady alliance from all the bad guys who want it too. The good guys find it, the bad guys find out they have it, the good guys go on the run, the bad guys go on the chase, the bad guys get the object, the good guys get it back, there’s some inevitable betrayal and the bad guys get it back, all hope seems lost until the good guys come up with a plan, they put their plan into action, there’s a climactic fight scene where everything is at stake, and the good guys get the object back and win, then there’s fifteen minutes of credits rolling, followed by a thirty second long scene that teases the next Marvel movie.

The cast is not to blame for the movie’s failings, but maybe their chemistry is. They don’t have any. Chris Pratt describes his character as a combination of Han Solo and Marty McFly, but he lacks the charisma of Harrison Ford and the charm of Michael J. Fox. He shouldn’t be the centerpiece of a major Hollywood franchise. Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, an alien assassin who first tries to kill Quill and then ends up joining him. Zoe Saldana is best known for playing a blue alien in Avatar, and she gets to showcase her acting chops by playing a green alien in this movie. Dave Bautista plays Drax the Destroyer, an angry brute of minimal intelligence. He doesn’t bring much to the team, but he provides the film with some of its funniest moments. Vin Diesel plays Groot, a CG tree with only one line of dialog that he repeats throughout the movie. Bradley Cooper plays Rocket Raccoon, a furry little alien that resembles a raccoon but isn’t really a raccoon. He had the potential to be the film’s best character and he has his moments, but nothing he does really stands out.

One thing that bugs me is the Walkman motif. Quill has a Walkman with a mix tape that his mom gave him before she died. He listens to the mix tape for over twenty-six years in space. The tape would fucking deteriorate. The sound quality would be terrible. I don’t know why they couldn’t have used a Discman instead of a Walkman. CDs have much better sound quality and are way more durable then cassette tapes. Kids today don’t even know what a Walkman is. They’ve never seen a mix tape. CDs aren’t that popular anymore but kids still know what they are.

Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a bad movie. It’s not a good movie either. It’s just a summer blockbuster, and that’s disappointing because I expect more from Marvel Studios. See it if you were planning on seeing it, but I wouldn’t recommend wasting your money if you’re on the fence about it.

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Avatar

Avatar is your standard story of a white guy who finds a new race of people with their own distinct culture and lifestyle, and he gets accepted into the group and becomes the most awesome one. You’ve seen it in Dances With Wolves, you’ve seen it in The Last Samurai, and now you can see it again in Avatar. The twist in Avatar is that the new race of people are giant 10-foot tall sparkly blue aliens.

Some directors make movies. James Cameron makes blockbusters. He ruled the ‘90s with Terminator 2, True Lies, and Titanic. And then he disappeared for a long time and casual moviegoers forgot about him. Then in 2009, he reappeared with a little flick called Avatar. It broke all kinds of box office records and ultimately made over $2,782,275,172 worldwide. In layman’s terms, that’s a fuckton of money.

It’s 2154 and humans have used up all of the Earth’s resources, so we started going to the stars and using up their resources. That’s how the humans ended up on Pandora, a jungle moon orbiting a gas planet. Pandora is the only known place where the valuable unobtanium mineral can be found. There are only a few setbacks to mining unobatanium: Pandora’s atmosphere is poisonous to humans and the Na’vi, a species of 10-foot-tall sparkly blue cat-like hominids that resent the humans for invading their home.

A greedy corporation has established the Avatar Program to create human/Na’vi hybrids to explore Pandora and set up relations with the Na’vi. Growing an Avatar is a huge investment, each Avatar is genetically matched to its driver and each driver does through years of training. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic marine with a dead twin brother. Jake’s brother was a driver in the Avatar program, and Jake is asked to take his place so they don’t waste the Avatar.

Jake jumps at the chance of a lifetime (not really, because he’s in a wheelchair), and he joins the Avatar Program and heads to Pandora. He meets the head of the program, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), fellow driver Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and a few other characters.

On his first assignment, the crazy Pandora creatures cause Jake to become separated from Grace and Spellman. He’s alone in a dangerous jungle and almost dies a few times before getting rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Neytiri gets a sign to take Jake back to her clan. Her mom is the spiritual leader of the tribe and they decide to initiate Jake Sully into their society.

Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) asks Jake to gain the Na’vi’s trust and find out about Hometree, which stands on a large supply of unobtanium. Jake agrees to help him out. He spends his days as an Avatar, learning about the Na’vi, appreciating nature, exploring his Avatar abilities, and falling in love with Neytiri. He spends his nights recording a video log for Grace and supplying intelligence to Quaritch.

Jake begins to feel conflicted the more time he spends running around the jungle. He’s changed. He’s not the same person and he starts to turn his back on his society. He’s gone native and he’s not coming back.

I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie, so I’m not going to go into all the details, but the Na’vi get attacked, Hometree gets destroyed, they blame Jake, he has to get their trust back, and when he does they have a climatic battle to save the Tree of Souls (the Na’vi have a lot of magic trees). The good guys win and the bad guys go home and Jake goes to live in his Avatar body full time.

This movie has a cliché plot, but you can’t stop watching. There are lots of plot holes (like the sudden emergence of all the other Na’vi tribes), but everything flows and fluidity is key to keeping entertained.

Avatar is unintentionally racist. All the main human characters are white. Most of the Na’vi actors are either black or Native-American, as if James Cameron couldn’t decide which race he wanted to suppress more. All the Pandora animals are slaves too. You just take your ponytail-tentacle thing and make a connection with him and he does everything you want.

James Cameron created an amazing world. Pandora is beautiful, you want to live there. There are pretty plants and majestic trees. Flora is cool, but it’s all about the fauna. The Avatar animals are awesome. There are flying animals and stampeding ones and tree-swinging ones.

This is the highest grossing film of all time. That doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means that a lot of people saw it, liked it, and saw it again. It was a breakout hit in a time when people are supposed to be illegally downloading movies. It meant that if you made a movie worth seeing, people would gladly pay for the experience. It showed that 3D could be more than a gimmick if you do it right. It makes it more immersive, it makes it more magical. Avatar is entertainment. You can’t deny that.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Drumline

If you remember hard enough, you might recall that Nick Cannon was a moderately successful actor before Mariah Carrey ate him. Drumline was his masterpiece. You’ve seen the plot a million times before: a cocky kid with natural talent joins a team, clashes with them for a bit, learns about teamwork and grows up a little bit, and leads the team to victory. Along the way he meets a girl, gets her, loses her and gets her again when he leads the team to victory. The twist in the plot is that the kid with talent is good at drums and the team he joins is a college marching band. It’s not original in the slightest, but the music makes it entertaining.

Nick Cannon plays Devon Miles, a drummer who gets a full scholarship to join the prestigious and fictional Atlanta A&T University marching band. He’s a great drummer, music comes naturally to him. He is really cocky. I mean really cocky. There’s no reason why anyone would like this guy. He’s a dick. He’s selfish. He doesn’t bother learning how to read music, unlike all his fellow band members. He didn’t want to cut his hair as required by the team so he quit. He changes his mind a little later, shows up to a party with clippers and everyone cheers. Yeah right, fuck you man, you just quit the team like a bitch, but whatever, its ok because you’re good at drums. He challenges the student leader and questions authority. He is not a team player, and the film vilifies the few characters that treat Devon like the asshole that he is.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek) plays Laila, the love interest. There is no reason why she would possibly like Devon. First off, he’s a stupid freshman, and she is a sexy upperclassman. She has a car, doesn’t live in a dorm, and can legally drink. The first few times they meet he comes off as being really arrogant, stupid, and acts superior to her. There is no reason she would ever talk to him, let alone fall for him. Zoe Saldana is sexy even when she’s a nine foot tall sparkly blue cat.

The music and the marching sequences are the redeeming aspects of the movie. The band choreography and music selections are exciting and will have you tapping your feet to the beat. A good marching band runs like a machine, each part has to work perfectly or it sucks. You get a glimpse into how marching bands function.

So the plot sucks, but the movie is redeemed by the music. Nick Cannon sucks, but his character sucks even more. The supporting cast is much more interesting and likeable. It’s a very flawed movie, but if it’s on TV I wouldn’t bash you for watching it. I wouldn’t set the DVR for it though.

Critically Rated at 6/17

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