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

gotg-vol-2-cast

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.

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.