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“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2” bigger, better and emotional

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THE FOLLOWING IS SPOILER FREE! YOU’RE WELCOME!

Some say lightening rarely strikes twice when it comes to sequels. But even with a concept like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” you would think there wouldn’t be that big of a fanbase. Considering how much love there was towards the first one, especially making it, another adventure with the ragtag of anti-heroes was inevitable and I couldn’t be happier to say it comes close to being better than the original.

So what quest lies for our heroes? Well, without giving too much away, each member finally comes to terms with the term family and the meaning behind it. If the first film was about how they met and why they relate to each other, this one goes deeper. The characters and even us understand just crucial they are to one another.

Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) has to deal with the realization of who is father truly is. An entity named Ego (Kurt Russell) finally meets up and we get a sense these two have a bonding father and son relationship. I like how we get an idea of how Peter’s father means to him, but there is a sense of something questionable here. Peter  has lived a long time without a father figure, so how would he take to heart someone whose never been there for him? The basic thought of emotions play until Ego’s true persona that is shocking and unique at the same time. While they both share similar qualities, they are far different from each other in many ways.

Also on the sideline, Yondu (Michael Rooker) is having a hard time coming to terms with where he stands. His crew of scavengers feel he’s not gritty as he once was while the Captain himself wonders if he can change his ways. A crucial highlight is when the blue skinned blighter has to reluctantly team up with the “equally heartless” Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradly Cooper) as the two come to terms with themselves.  Both of them can’t stand each other, but find they are the same person from the inside out and have to know what matters to them the most.

Elsewhere, Drax (Dave Bautista) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) have their own troubles. The green warrior has sibling rivalry issues to handle while the big muscle head himself is still trying to find a way to belong. While Gamora has to come to terms with her broken sisterhood, Drax finds companionship in the strangest way in understanding his poor ways in socialization even when he tires. And of course, I can’t forget Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) who is a new reincarnation of everyone’s favorite walking tree. This time around, he starts life anew and has to understand its harness along with it. Thankfully, this toddler variation doesn’t outstay its welcome and knows when to chime in at the right spots.

A big surprise to the table is the addition of a new character named Mantis (French actress Pom Klementieff). This bug-like creature has the ability to feel and manipulate emotions while also trying to understand how complex human beings really are. There is a level of comedy and drama to this character which make her a nice addition and clear scene sealer. Then again, her scenes with the misunderstood Drax make for the best moments in this sequel.

I’d go into deeper details of the story, but I feel its best for you to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” yourself. James Gunn returns in the writing and director’s chair giving us a world that is unlike ours and yet similar in many ways. From hot topics like creation to lost fatherhood, Gunn really channels how complex the human race can be with these characters. And for someone to take on such a difficult issue and tell it through these anti-heroes we love so dearly, I congratulate him for doing so. There’s much humor, action and plenty of color to behold. Dare I’d say, its literally more colorful than the first film when we see the multitude of planets and how their different races run. All I have left to say is that “Vol. 2” will certainly give a run for its money how much it tops not just the first, but other classics like “Wrath of Khan” and “Empire Strikes Back.” I maybe overdoing it, but I personally feel it deserves to be up there with those sequel classics.

“Deadpool”vulgar, violent and nasty fun

There are few movies today that rarely make an impact or hit the mark. In fact, last year’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” rocked theater seats for the wrong reasons. The hyped killed the movie along with its boring script and unsexy scenes of foreplay. Why do I bring this clunker up? Because it was released during Valentine’s Day. Jump to a year later and finally we get a movie around the holiday that is unapologetic, offensive, sexy, loaded with harsh language and very ultra violent in spots. And I loved every minute of it.

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Best movie to take your girl out on a date to…ever

“Deadpool” is another Marvel adaption done right as the red-suited, breaking the fourth wall superhero has languished in development hell for 10 years. Now, he finally gets his due with Ryan Reynolds donning the suit he was born to play in. The character as a whole is fun to watch. Armed with two katanas and limited gun ammo, this baddie spends most of his time chasing down folks that damaged his life and poking jabs of his own movie to the audience. Not only is he immune to bullets, his body can regenerate new limbs while also cracking one comedic catchphrase after another. Reynolds clearly is having a ball playing the ultimate satire of brooding superheroes here.

Without spoiling too much, Deadpool’s true face is Wade Wilson, a mercenary whose fun life is turned upside down when he’s diagnosed with cancer. I always find it odd when a movie like this goes from ultra-fun to a serious tone shift. But the way it gets executed works. It provides there is more dimension to this pun-spewing maniac and even some tragedy like other superheroes.

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Best movie to take your girl out on a date to…ever

At his reluctant aid are two X-Men members, the metallic Colossus (motion capture by Andre Tricoteux, voice by Stefan Kapičić) and the cynical Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). While most of the comic relief is played up from their interactions with the hammy ego, they both have a unique yin and yang personality with Colossus believing in the moral ways of a superhero while NTW just wants to see stuff blow up. Seeing these two mutants makes me wonder why they weren’t used as much (with the exception of Colossus who was performed originally by Daniel Cudmore in previous X-Men installments. He declined when he found out his voice was to be dubbed), but it opens the door for more under used Marvel characters to be seen.

Also enjoyable are Deadpool’s adversaries in the form of a blind roommate (Leslie Uggams donning a foul mouth) and a social bartender (T. J. Miler) that assist the loony ranging from weaponry to advice. Even if they don’t make a big difference, you can appreciate the fun personalities when it comes to taking bets on who is going to die or stashing a supply of drugs for fun.

As fun of a thrill ride “Deadpool” is, there are only two minor problems. On paper, the story is not that interesting. If you took away the comedy and the incredibly, graphic action scenes, you get a run of the mill origin and revenge story. Guy goes through chemically imbalanced transformation, seeks to avenge those who wronged him and so forth. I feel without the comedic moments or the over-the-top environement, this would have been a generic “Darkman.” Thankfully, this is not that kind of movie. This is almost like if “Darkman” mated with “Wayne’s World” and gave birth to an R-rated “Freakazoid.” And that’s the G-rated description.

The only other fault I can think of is the villain Ajax (Ed Skrein). There really is nothing that memorable I can think of outside of giving Wade a reason to go after him. They don’t him much of a motive outside of using people to test a mutagen on for study. But when you consider the amount of harm he caused, it does give Wade reasons to get back at him. I just wish they made this Brit baddie a little more interesting outside of being a mutant that has great strength and can’t feel pain.

deadpool-tickets-166826But I can ignore those flaws because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I can hold my head up high and be glad we got another Marvel movie done right. Like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man,” we are giving a movie that is straight to the source and all out fun. Heck, I would actually like to see what direction they would take this insane character for at the next movie. Overall, “Deadpool” is the first movie I have seen in theaters this 2016 and can say its going to be hard trying to top this one. Now of course, a little minor caution that this movie has tons of bloody action and bare nudity to the fourth base. But hey, would you rather see this with your girlfriend or sit home and watch Jamie Dornan seduce Dakota Johnson by eating a piece of toast shirtless? I think the answer is very obvious.

And like with all Marvel movies (well some), this one has a post-credit scene. Please do stick around because it is worth it. To quote a wise man, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it.”

P.S. Best Stan Lee cameo to date…ever

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Slither (2006)

Horror-wood

 

Before the Galaxy, James had slugs

Before the Galaxy, James had slugs

James Gunn seems to be making a name for himself. This summer, he gave us Guardians of the Galaxy which I still feel is by far the best movie of the year so far for its well-developed characters and science fiction fun. However, this would not be the first time he would helm a project like this with such tongue-in-cheek fashion. In the beginning there was Slither. A very unique horror comedy that felt like a throwback to the campy B-movies of the 1980s while also being an homage to the 1950 science fiction classics like The Blob.

Right from the opening, you can tell what kind of movie you are in for as two local cops chat about birds and yet they fail to notice a meteorite crash right behind them. The meteorite is actually carrying an alien parasite that infects everyday simpleton Grant Grant who starts having strange cravings for meat  and developing strange boils on his body. Micheal Rooker is a delight to watch seeing he plays two characters in one. A man with a trouble marriage while also being controlled by the parasite’s mind. What I find interesting is how creepy yet humorous of Grant’s awkward behavior. When he speaks like a normal human, it almost sounds strange just by how he cooks up an excuse that is harebrained like saying his odd welts came from a bee sting.

Its not long till police chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) starts to catch up on strange things happening in the town like the disappearance of various pets and a missing girl. Nathan’s character can be best described as a very relaxed personality that knows trouble when he can sense despite how sickening it can get. He’s the average hero that knows what is going on (somewhat) but yet everyone has a hard time believing him. In a way, its a nice twist to see a member of the police is not believed as opposed to a teenager getting the shaft which is a good chance of pace.

Grant (Michael Rooker) surrounded by tons and tons of meat after he gets infected

Grant (Michael Rooker) surrounded by tons and tons of meat after he gets infected

Sure enough, they find Grant is behind the strange events and worse of all is mutating into a bizarre monster with tentacles that feels like a cross between the Blairmonster from John Carpenter’s The Thing and the hideous Pretorius creature in From Beyond.  Its a horrific design that is grotesque yet humorous seeing how one small infection can turn a man into a gelatinous blob with mounds of tentacles. He is however not the only victim as Brenda, a childhood crush of Grant’s, gets used to birth tons of baby alien slugs in one of the film’s most memorable and disgusting scenes. Its gross but hilarious seeing a woman blown up to the size of a beach whale and complain about giving birth to tons of alien slugs that instead tear her to shreds.

The rest of the movie becomes a mix between a George A. Romero and John Carpenter picture as the whole town gets possessed by the slugs and share a psychic link with the hive leader Grant who grows to be more revolting than before. I like the idea of an entire town possessed by alien slugs giving a unique zombie feel to it. And having the folks share the same thoughts as Grant gives the feel of people being turned into nothing mindless drones collecting goods for the hive.

The infamous Brenda scene which shows how well practical effects can be amazing when done right

The infamous Brenda scene which shows how well practical effects can be amazing when done right

The biggest highlights of Slither include the humor and the special effects. As said, the whole movie has a tongue-in-cheek feel that foreshadows later events and feels self-aware but not the point it takes us out of the movie. Its subtle and knows when to swing between delivering scares and being comedic. I especially enjoyed Gregg Henry’s character of the Mayor who doesn’t hide his crude personality and flips out when the slugs attack to the point that he knows it hits the fan when no one packs his favorite soda. On a technical lever, Slither succeeds in blending CGI and practical effects very well. The animation on the slugs is so good that it almost feels like watching stop-motion when we see them slide about the walls or sneaking around houses for a new victim. There’s times when the CGI is a bit too obvious for things like the final form of Grant’s hideous transformation but you can’t help but admire the design and craft.

"There on the walls!!!!"

“There on the walls!!!!”

Thought I shouldn’t say Slither is for everyone. There are times when it might get a tad intense with moments of dead animal bodies and a sequence when a whole family including two kids become victim to the brainwashing slugs. I do feel the less gore, the more effective it will be. But I can’t say its gets too much to the point where it gets distracting but sensitive viewers might want to watch with caution. Its a shame this didn’t do well at the box office as its producer cited that it was “the first comedy-horror in a long time, and maybe the marketplace just isn’t ready for comedy-horror yet.” True, but I would go as far to say it came on the wave of many zombie movies that would either redefine the genre or just fall into the crowd of corpses. Slither is unique seeing how it takes the absurd concept and does a humorous take to it. And for a budget of only $15 million, you will be surprised to see how well you get your money’s worth here. Overall, a solid recommendation for James’ first outing.

“Guardians” saves summer!

On August 1, 1986, Universal Pictures released Howard the Duck, one of the first Marvel Comic adaptations  to ever hit the big screen. In my opinion, its a campy, goofy B-movie that has flaws but doesn’t take itself seriously with the idea of an anthropomorphic alien duck stuck on Earth. Unfortunately, audiences were split over to take this movie seriously or not at all while critics were far harsh with the film.  Why do I bring this movie up you ask? Again, this was released on AUGUST 1ST and was the first Marvel Comic “comedy” of its time. For a good bulk of the 1990s, we mostly got DC Comic adaptations while Marvel stayed in the shadows till Blade and X-Men showed how comic adaptations can be fun but realistic at the same time with thought provoking messages of finding acceptance and good amounts of action.

"We are the Guardians of the freakin' Galaxy"

“We are the Guardians of the freakin’ Galaxy”

Skip to August 1, 2014 to the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy and it happens to the second attempt Marvel takes a crazy idea like Howard the Duck and make it work. When you think about it, Marvel has given us a long line of films that are dark yet have this uplifting vibe to them from Iron Man to Captain America. While comic book in tone, these movies were serious with its material while taking basic concepts and making them fun and engaging. Guardians is so absurd, so out of this world and strange on paper that it feels like it might turn one off. Yet, everything about it works well. Surprisingly, this is by far the most uplifting, funniest and by far the best one of the batch.

Chirs Pratt plays Star Lord (or Peter Quinn if you want his real name), who was a  human abducted as a kid by aliens and now grows into a bandit of the galaxy that has a bounty so big, it makes Bobba Fett look shallow in comparison. Chris’s take on the character is close to the heroic whim of the Rocketeer meets the space hero serials of the 1950’s but if he was a playboy and a lovable jerk. What keeps Star Lord from being unlikable is his child-like quality with roaming about the universe while still having a smug attitude. He even has a Walkman from the 1980’s and it still works interestingly. But yet, he is just the basic every man trying to make a quick buck with a strange relic that he doesn’t even know if its dangerous or mostly harmless. If he walked into the Cantina bar from Star Wars, I’m sure him and Han Solo would hit it off big.

Also in the ragtag group is Bradley Cooper’s stealing the show as a genetically modified raccoon named Rocket. He may have a mouth that matches the personality of Joe Pesci but carries weapons so huge that complement his furious attitude more than his size. This critter is less about wisecracks and more about blowing stuff up and keeping his personal needs in play. This is a really funny character and I’m sure there will be a growing fan base out there quoting his cynical but humorous quips as well as wishing there was a spin-off made. It also helps that he is more smart when it comes to fabricating things from weapons to even hijacking security systems. In short, Rocket is one creature you don’t want to mess with.

Aiding the fierce Rocket is Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a giant tree like humanoid that grow to any size and even grown back a limb. The humor from this character shines a lot from his visual actions and the fact his vocabulary is only limited to saying “I am Groot” which acts as a form of language that only Rocket can understand. While technically the Zoidberg of the group, Groot gets a lot of memorable moments being a giant that can be destructive but also innocent and kind at the same time.

Dave Batista shines as Drax the Destroyer who looks and talks like a major brute but yet takes things way too literally for granite. Dave manages to make the character his and even go as far to take his own wrestling moves into the action scenes. Again, the quirk that shines the most from Drax is how his species don’t understand metaphors well and even have a poor understanding of knowing when to joke around or even know how to describe sympathetic feelings. His personality matches Strax the Sontaron from Doctor Who so well that it makes me wonder what a barfight between the two would be like.

Lastly is Zoe Saldana donning the green skinned Gamora who is one sleek assassin that questions the amount of brains in the leader of the group and everyone else. With a bad attitude and sometimes one step ahead, she can have a heart too when it comes to trying to being righteous and is not cold hearten as you think. She can be fun to watch when the sleek killer plays off of Star Lord’s devilish personality but even she knows when to show she has a heart.

The reason these guys are all together is because they are after an object Star Lord obtains early on that again could either destroy the universe or maybe be a cheap antique. One or another is after each other because of prejudice or one has a higher bounty quality and it honestly works. The first half of Guardians feels a bit slow but what holds it together is the way these people work off each other. They are schemers and pull heists but yet somehow you can see them working together for something like trying to save the world while other characters feel this is the last thing they would expect from them. I’m saying little about the villains as well as the other characters as it would ruin a lot of expectations. I admit, I was confused as to who the real antagonist was but when they got to reveal the true nature of the orb, it all made sense to who was in it to make a profit and who wanted to harness it to rule the universe. By midpoint, everything clicks and we know our good guys from our bad guys.

For me, I never read the comics themselves or see any cartoons with their appearance in them. But this movie is really a solid introduction. Again, it drags in the first half but I feel its because viewers have no idea who or what this universe is like. So that is understandable and by midway, we begin to relax and enjoy the bickering between Drax and Rocket while knowing how this alien universe works. I must highly complement director James Gunn’s decision to use practical sets, effects and make up while knowing when to use CGI for characters like Groot or Rocket. This gives the environment of Guardians a more realistic feel and not video gamey like Avatar or the new Star Trek films where CGI sets are the norm. Its a breath of fresh air to see a movie use more practical work for things like blue skinned aliens and even studios sets to look like a desert planet. I had a great time looking at these places and even feel robbed wishing these existed despite some feeling desolate and in ruins.

But even looking pass the special effects and story, what holds this move together are the Guardians themselves. These are average joe’s from their own worlds who you don’t expect to see form a team but yet they all have something in common. As Star Lord puts it, “I see losers…folks who have lost stuff. Our homes, our families.” And is with this, they have a reason to save the galaxy from this huge threat. They have had a hard time and this is their chance to at least do good for someone even if they had the worst of it. Even during the climax, I noticed none of them backed down when it came to a point they knew an action they would do would have little chance of survival.  They put their own life on the line just to save a world full of people and I find that is a rare trait in today’s film characters who would go far to take risks like this.

And unlike films that have multiple endings, when you think its going to end and it doesn’t, you are glad to see it keeps going. Not once did I feel Guardians dragged on for too long or even wish it to end sooner. It knew when to expand and conclude at the right spots. Its a very uplifting and humorous movie that I do hope many get the chance to see. It has something for everyone from great special effects to really great writing. August is normally the dead spot for summer blockbusters but I feel its appropriate for Guardians to end this dead and desolate summer season with a bang so big you feel satisfied. And…remember what I said about Howard being the first Marvel comedy. Want to really know why I bring it up? Stick around after the end credits of Guardians and you’ll see why. Because I do feel some things can come full circle. Regardless, Guardians is the best fun I’ve had at the summer blockbusters season and I’m sure to pre-order my ticket for its squeal way in advanced.