Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Review

The unprecedented triumph of Marvel Studios’ 2014 summer hit Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 is perhaps the comic-book giant’s biggest cinematic success story to date.

Sitting a not-too-shabby fifth place in the all-time highest grossing Marvel flicks list, much was expected of director James Gunn’s follow-up to the merry band of misfits that saw plenty of cinema goers fawning over a humanoid tree and laughing at the numerous laughs from one of the best assembled film casts in recent times.

The 2017 sequel to Guardians¬† Vol. 1, then, had much to live up to. Those who fear it wouldn’t need not worry – it does so, and more.

gotg3Building upon its predecessor, the second installment in the Guardians’ franchise picks up shortly after the events of volume 1’s story arc, and finds our intrepid heroes battling an interdimensional abilisk as the backdrop to an opening credits sequence that sees baby Groot take centre stage.

It’s a humorous – and aww-inspiring – reminder of how Gunn’s vision and flair towards the franchise, and shows him to be one of the finer comedy-oriented film makers of the current era.

From there, the plot jumps and careens its way through a plethora of visually-stunning set pieces, complete with plenty of CGI planets, space-hopping and action sequences that will leave viewers in awe of the sheer scale of what they’re witnessing.

gotg2The core cast – Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) – bounce off each other with an ease and hilarity that lends just as much credit to Gunn’s script as it does to their comedic timing, and helps to build the evident rapport – and quarrelsome nature – of the team of outsiders.

With the foundations set in the first film, the story allows the quintet’s characters to be fleshed out and developed further, which adds further emotional depth to each of their disjointed personas and allows the audience to really feel for these individuals.

Backing the Milano crew up are returning favourites Michael Rooker and Karen Gillan as Yondu and Nebula respectively, while newcomers in the form of Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, Elizabeth Debicki’s Ayesha and Kurt Russell’s Ego naturally add to the weird and wonderful world that Gunn has created.

gotg4Speaking of things Gunn has created, the director and composer Tyler Bates have yet again crafted a superb and distinctive soundtrack to accompany Guardians Vol. 2 and, much like its predecessor, the musical numbers hit all the right notes.

From Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ to George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’¬†and everything inbetween, each carefully selected track lends a certain gravitas to the scene it’s playing out with, and helps give additional impact and resonance to each point in the film’s arc.

The original score helps to evoke certain emotions within the audience too, but it’s the licensed soundtrack that gives Guardians a distinctive flavour over other Marvel properties, and seeing how well each melody and the lyrics tie into certain scenes – especially those on the heartwrenching side of things – marry well with the performances of the cast.

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Some critics will, rightly or wrongly, point towards issues surrounding a lack of originality behind the over-arcing story, or cry foul over supposedly seen-and-heard-before jokes which, given the slowly growing negativity over some people becoming tired over the amount of comic-book films being mass produced right now, is perhaps a worthy criticism to have.

In contrast to point, however, if the formula isn’t broken, why try and fix it? Marvel – and Gunn, in particular – know their audience, and to make unnecessary changes to create something authentically akin to Vol. 1 may have left some audiences wondering why they’ve just sat through a replica of Vol. 2‘s earlier cousin.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an almost perfect blend of action-packed set-pieces, amusing scenes and heartstring-tugging moments that ensure the two hour run-time feels like no time at all.

gotg6The manner with which each scene, act and Easter Egg – including those five mid- and post-credit scenes – have been intricately developed has helped ensure that Marvel will certainly have another surefire winner on their hands.

With Gunn at the helm of the third installment in this delightful franchise – following the events of the next two star studded Avengers flicks – the future is bright for both Marvel Studios and the Guardians themselves.

Only one team will be able to save the galaxy on three seperate occasions, and it sure as hell isn’t the Avengers. It’s a family of misfits who go by the name ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’.

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The Ones Who Dream: Why La La Land Resonates So Deeply With the Human Condition

“Here’s to the ones who dream, crazy as they may seem. Here’s to the hearts that break, here’s to the mess we make.”

As Emma Stone belts out the final verses of La La Land‘s penultimate song, Audition (The Ones Who Dream), it’s difficult not to internalise them and ponder what they mean individually to each of us.

Simple words constructed in such an easy sentence, yes, but never have truer words been spoken – or, rather, sung – about the frailties of human endeavour to overcome obstacles in life and achieve greatness against all the odds.

It is, for this very reason, why La La Land deserves every plaudit and accolade that is bestowed upon it.

lalaland3A movie full of charm and emotion, music and comedy, joy and sorrow, and that is stirring and heartbreaking, inspiring and moving, at its heart, La La Land is a straightforward story about two lost souls trying to passionately pursue their dreams in one of the most soul crushing cities on the planet.

And, yet, La La Land resonates deeply within cinemagoers, who have had the pleasure of sitting down and watching two hours pass by, as they marvel at the abstract nature of a story that echoes within the very core of humanity as a whole.

It is a microcosm of every individual’s dream of becoming someone greater than who they are, thanks in part to realising those dreams and accomplishing goals. Regardless of whether any person still holds onto their dream, has realised or has seen it fall away and felt diminished because of it, it is human nature to have aspired, and continue to aspire, to be more than what we are.

lalaland1In La La Land, both Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) portray the trials, tribulations and struggles of people doing their best to realise their lifelong ambition to make it as an actress in Hollywood and successful jazz club owner respectively – a battle that is relatable to each and every viewer, if not by profession then certainly be their desire to become successful at what they’re most passionate about.

The beauty of the film’s narrative, and the manner in which it is so intimately portrayed, meant that it wouldn’t have mattered what dream each character was pursuing – the duo could have been attempting to make it as a lawyer or football player, or a journalist and politican – and that is down to the core values at the heart of the film.

Feelings of hopelessness, dejection, hurt and acceptance of defeat make way for triumph, elation, healing and refusal to surrender before returning again, as if to offer up a glimpse into how our own lives bear resemblance to rollercoasters – the dips and falls to-ing and fro-ing with the highs and crescendos.

lalaland4That the flick is filled with other striking symbolism, such as its soundtrack detailing each character’s arcs or the changes in colour and tonal feel of Stone’s costumes throughout the film’s length, only add to the simplicity of the human nature on display in La La Land, and help to convoy the overall tone of the motion picture to the audience.

It is also helps to have such a marvellous cast carry out the roles to a tee. Both Stone and Gosling shine as the will-they-won’t-they couple, with each bringing their own gravitas and comedic timing to events, while the supporting cast – including Golden Globe winner J.K. Simmons and singer-songwriter John Legend – help to drive the story forward whether it be through the film’s musical numbers or screen time in other capacities.

And what of the film’s original score itself? If there’s a catchier, more triumphant display of award-winning direction than that concocted by Justin Hurwitz this year, it’ll be some soundtrack to dethrone La La Land‘s ability to worm its way into your head and stay there for days on end. From the bright and breezy opening number of Another Day of Sun – a fine musical number that sets out the scene for the two protagonists with their backstories – to the duet’s performance of City of Stars, La La Land‘s musical score is as good as they come.

lalaland2Director Damien Chazelle has assembled an all-star cast, sensational musical score and jaw-dropping backdrop to a deserved Oscar-winning contender of a film. Yet, without its humanistic values on display across its 128-minute runtime, La La Land could be viewed by many as just another musical comedy for those of a certain disposition to enjoy.

As it is, the fundamentals that make La La Land such a triumph is its ability to resonate with even the hardest of hearts, and what it means to be a person striving to become their best self.

If that’s not something to reflect on and to be inspired by, especially with the way the world is at the present time, it’s hard to say what is.

Deadpool Review

“With great power comes great irresponsibility.”

If ever a tagline gave an indication of what audiences could expect upon seeing Deadpool, the parody of the infamous Spiderman quote summed it up in a microcosm.

Hilarious, crass, violent, lewd and, at times, heartfelt, Deadpool has taken everything from the typical superhero film rulebook – and scribbled all over it.

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Right from the opening credits, the film’s self-deprecating humour is brought to the fore, with director Tim Miller described as “An Overpaid Tool” and star Ryan Reynolds depicted as “God’s Perfect Idiot” over the culmination of a no-doubt riotous car chase scene.

And that’s just were the fun starts for the pair who fought long and hard for such a film to be given the green light.

It’s no secret that the leaked test footage provided the fulcrum for the gigantic wave of support from the internet to see Deadpool made, and Miller and Reynolds repaid that faith by producing a flick that encapsulates the character perfectly.

Charming, witty and outrageously crude, the self-styled Merc with a Mouth bulldozes his way through all manner of jokes, one-liners and retorts that will have any fan creased up with laughter.

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The subtle digs and sly references to other superhero films – though, as Deadpool points out, “I didn’t ask to be super, and I’m not a hero” – only add to the humorous nature that the film prides itself on too, and even Liam Neeson bears the brunt of one particularly funny moment.

At the heart of the story, however, is something that movie goers have become used to in recent years: a man just trying to save his girl from the bad guys.

Reynolds and Morena Baccarin, who plays Vanessa, Wade Wilson’s/Deadpool’s significant other, sparkle on camera as the pair ooze chemistry in every scene they feature in together.

And it is their relationship that is pulled apart when Wilson, diagnosed with terminal cancer, leaves his fiance in the middle of the night to take up the offer from a shady organisation who claim they can cure his cancer.

Instead, said ‘cure’ ends up disfiguring Wilson permanently, despite giving him superhuman abilities, and he sets up about taking revenge on those who physically maimed him.

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The villains of the piece, Ajax and Angel Dust, played by Ed Skrein and Gina Carano, play their roles down to a tee, but merely act as cannon fodder towards the climax of the film as Deadpool, along with X-Men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, attempt to rescue Vanessa from harm near to what appears to be a crashed S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier – an amusing nod to another of Marvel’s major franchises.

Stefan Kapicic and Brianna Hillebrand as the X-Men duo, as well as Weasel (T.J. Miller) provide their own positives as supporting cast members but, much like Skrein and Carano, are not given enough screen time to give too much character depth – a result most likely down to funding for the movie as a whole.

But there is more than enough for Deadpool fanatics, and normal cinema goers alike, to enjoy from another comic book adaptation that offers up a more adult romp than its Marvel predecessors.

A post-credits scene reveals a snippet of information of what we can expect from a Deadpool sequel in typically funny fashion, and caps off another runaway success for Marvel who, even eight years on from Iron Man, can do no wrong.

Verdict: A highly enjoyable, obscene, graphic and hysterical comic book movie, Deadpool hits all the right spots and leaves much more to be uncovered in future sequels. 8/10.