Stuber (2019)

or “A less-comedic version of Collateral”

Director: Michael Dowse

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Screenplay: Tripper Clancy

93 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity.

 

Yeah, I finally caught Stuber. I was invited to numerous press screenings for this film for months and something always came up. Then, I was available to go to one, and for some reason, I just didn’t. After having seen it, I understand Past Kyle’s decision.

LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Escape Plan: The Extractors) has just learned that drug lord Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais, The Raid 2, Mile 22) is planning on doing a drop, but he’s just finished with laser eye surgery and cannot drive. He enlists Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick, Men in Black: International) to drive him around the city as he hunts for clues as to Tedjo’s whereabouts. The two quickly learn that they are nothing alike, and Stu desperately wants out of this situation, something that Manning is not willing to do. Shenanigans ensue.

There’s some suspension of disbelief in the action of Stuber, and in comedy, that’s something that can actually work, but the comedy needs to be there to heighten the surreal world, and that’s unfortunately something that Stuber is painfully low on. The only good laughable moments come from Nanjiani, and many of them are featured in the trailer, so you can save yourself about 90 minutes by just watching that. Nanjiani has great comedic timing, and he’s doing his best, but there’s a lot of time in Stuber wasted on funny scenes that aren’t funny and action scenes that aren’t enthralling.

Bautista is trying his best with the screenplay as well, but he doesn’t have the comedic training of Nanjiani nor does he have the acting chops to play ball here. At least not yet. I’ve been very impressed with Dave Bautista’s work in the MCU and Blade Runner 2049 and Spectre, but he’s just not working with a director that can pull that performance from him and he’s holding a lot of this film on his shoulders. They’re big shoulders, but he’s just not ready to do that yet. He’ll get there, but it isn’t in this film.

Stuber has an interesting premise, one that seems topical and could be mined for some great comedy and action, almost like a Lethal Weapon-type buddy-cop film. That’s what I was hoping for, but it just didn’t work. The writing isn’t clever, and the story was very simple (most of the “twists and turns” were easy to see coming or nonsensical), and there’s no flare to the film. It’s very one-note.

Stuber is, sadly, not good enough for its premise and doesn’t make good use of its leads. It’s a film that fundamentally doesn’t work very well and every funny moment was in the three-minute trailers. I really wanted to like it, and it just didn’t follow-through on its premise. This is one to skip.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Suicide Squad Casting Benicio Del Toro?

Mark this one up as a rumor for now, because there’s been so strong evidence to really support it, but information coming from Forbes indicate that Benicio del Toro, recently featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Big Top Pee-Wee (look it up), may be joining the upcoming The Suicide Squad from director James Gunn. It would make sense if you look at the layers. He did appear in the MCU for Guardians of the Galaxy’s The Collector, directed by Gunn. Given that we still don’t know the status of The Collector, who appeared in Avengers: Infinity War but as a vision or fabrication, his time in the MCU may be done, but his addition to The Suicide Squad would further the argument that these two comic book giants are not enemies but coexist together.

As of now, The Suicide Squad will feature the returns of Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, and Jai Courtney. Idris Elba has also recently joined the project as a new character, with many speculating him to be Bronze Tiger. All that is known for Elba is that he will not be playing Deadshot as was recently rumored. Del Toro is rumored for The General, who will be one of the film’s villains. David Dastmalchian seemingly confirmed his involvement in a recent interview, praising Polka-Dot Man, and more rumors have circulated of John Cena’s involvement and frequent Gunn collaborator Michael Rooker (though he has since denied his addition), so this installment of the DCEU is shaping up quite nicely.

To this writer, Benicio del Toro only adds an air of quality to the upcoming installment, and I certainly hope the rumors are true. Adding talent like his can only help a movie. I’ve been randomly seeing him pop up in a lot of films from the past recently, and revisiting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Sin City have affirmed that he is one of the more interesting personalities currently working in the filmscape.

As far as the character of The General goes, I know very little. I read some of the Suicide Squad books a few years back, but I don’t think he was ever in any of the ones I read.

I will chock this up as good news, because in James Gunn I trust. Every film he’s directed has been solid (if you’re a horror fan and you haven’t seen Slither, you’re doing yourself a disservice), and every bit of casting news surrounding The Suicide Squad has been exciting me, so count me in.

But what do you think? Are you excited for Benicio del Toro in the DCEU? What’s your favorite performance of his? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

The Suicide Squad will be unleashed again on August 6, 2021.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Director: Mike Mitchell

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Screenplay: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

106 mins. Rated PG for some rude humor.

 

Do you remember when Everything was Awesome back in 2014 when The Lego Movie surprised everyone by actually being great? Remember how it got completely snubbed at the Oscars causing complete and utter outcry and sadness? Remember Pepperidge Farm? I remember.

It’s been five years since Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) saved everyone by defeating the evil Lord Business on Taco Tuesday. Unfortunately for Emmet, Lucy (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, The Happytime Murders), and the others, that victory only made way for the invasion of the Duplos, frightening beings from the Systar System. Now, Everything is Not Awesome, and Bricksburg has become the bleak and dark and brooding Apocalypseburg. Emmet has tried to make the best of it by staying positive, but his happiness is tested when the sinister General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz, Short Term 12, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) kidnaps Lucy and the others and takes to them to the Systar System to meet with Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi (Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip, Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History) for a royal wedding. Emmet has to join up with the dangerous and strong Rex Dangervest (also Pratt in a dual-role) in order to have a chance at saving them and avoiding “Our-Mom-Ageddon” in the process.

The Lego Movie 2 sets itself up nicely as a direct sequel to the original film and even a follow-up to The Lego Batman Movie, but it’s clear that this sequel is missing the boat a bit in terms of its ability to ignite fire in its story. It comes right out and states that this is set 5 years after the events of The Lego Movie, but it doesn’t feel like anything fresh has been conjured in those five years. While the events, scenarios, and overall message of this sequel, there’s just something in the film that doesn’t work as well, as though director Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After, Trolls) is struggling to be Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directors of the previous film.

Lord and Miller have crafted the screenplay here, and that’s why the overall arc of the film works, including some of the third-act twists and turns. I was surprised at myself for not getting where the film was going as it went, and I think that upped my overall enjoyment of the film. I found the screenplay’s meta-humor broadened even more so with the original film’s revelation that the Lego world is a representation of what is happening in the real world. Lord and Miller are able to use that to craft a lot of interesting humor between the real world and the Lego world that works nicely to bridge the two films.

The voice-work is pretty solid here, especially from newcomers Haddish and Beatriz. Haddish takes a lot of the heavy lifting as Wa’Nabi, and she holds her own in several musical numbers. With their inclusion, though, I felt the loss of Benny (Charlie Day, Hotel Artemis, TV’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), MetalBeard (Nick Offerman, Bad Times at the El Royale, TV’s Parks and Recreation), and Unikitty (Alison Brie, The Post, TV’s Community), who are all relegated to tertiary-level characters in the sequel.

I think it was a bad call for Warner Bros to move the release date of this sequel to accommodate The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. It separates this sequel from its predecessor in a way that kind of hurts it for people that haven’t watched the original recently. The Lego Movie 2 is perfectly fine and, at times, brilliant, but it mostly stands in the shadow of The Lego Movie, always being fun but never rising up to the level of its predecessor. I still found myself enjoying it, but it’s a step down.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Phil Lord & Chris Miller’s The Lego Movie, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Well, 2018 is done. What do we do now? Talk about 2019.

Just a couple of quick notes again this year:

  • This list is most anticipated, not what I think will be the best by any stretch. These are the films I’m most looking forward to as of right now, so there will be more blockbusters than indies because that’s just how it plays out. With that being said…

NOTE: I’M GOING TO TRY THE COUNTDOWN THIS YEAR RATHER THAN JUST A LIST.

 

10. Captain Marvel

-What excites me so much about Captain Marvel is its timing. This will be Marvel’s second true prequel in setting the film in the 1990s. I like the idea that this film could tie into Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Brie Larson and I think her addition to this story is very exciting. This just feels like a great space adventure that we are less likely to get for some time now that the third Guardians film has kind of disappeared. This one is a blockbuster want for me.

 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

-I’m happy that Guillermo del Toro has a Best Picture under his belt so he can do what he wants. One of the exciting projects from him in 2019 is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular horror story collections for youths. I grew up reading these stories and they gave me chills and have kept me awake at night. I chose this over Nickelodeon’s big-screen version of Are You Afraid of the Dark? because I think del Toro will push the horror whereas I worry that Nick will not take the horror seriously. We are seeing a small possibility of scary children films due to The House with a Clock in its Walls in 2018. This one excites me.

 

8. Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

-This is the batshit crazy film of 2018. Until I saw the trailer, I was not looking forward to it. Why would you choose to make the first live-action Pokemon about Detective Pikachu instead of a traditional Pokemon story? Why would you select Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu? Why? Well, the trailer seemed like a lot of fun. I’m still not sure about the film as a whole, but I want to support a Pokemon film universe, and if that starts with Detective Pikachu, so be it.

 

7. Pet Sematary

-This new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel (it’s my wife’s favorite King novel) is getting me very excited. As much as I enjoy the original adaptation, I have to admit that it didn’t follow the masterful source material as much as it could. This new film features the incredible Jason Clarke and John Lithgow, and the first trailer got me going. I love the look of Church the cat, and I love the visual look of the film overall.

 

6. Glass

-Where the hell did Glass come from? How did this happen? When Split came out, nobody expected the [SPOILER ALERT] twist that Split was connected to Unbreakable. Nobody expected that this would further in a third film called Glass which would bring together Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, and Anya Taylor-Joy for a final confrontation. Glass is one of the most unexpected films of the last few years, and I’m overjoyed to see what it brings.

 

5. It: Chapter 2

It was a film that surprised everyone. I enjoyed the trailer even though the first images were lacking that bite. Director Andy Muschietti brought a much more emotional experience to the film than I expected, and while it doesn’t contain literal translations of some of King’s massive tome, it does translate the feeling and tone of the book quite nicely. Breaking It into 2 films is strange because a bulk of the film is set during the childhood, so I’m curious where it could go with that. The second half of the 1990 miniseries is where it loses me, so Muschietti has a lot on his plate for this follow-up.

 

4. Avengers: Endgame

-Okay, this had to be on here somewhere, right. It’s a testament to the great plate of films we have before us in 2019 that Avengers 4 is below three other films. Yes, we have to find out how this thing finishes. We knew a lot of where Avengers: Infinity War was going to travel, but I have no idea where we go from here. Yes, I feel like we will have a lot of the third film reversed, but I cannot deny the palpable excitement for this one.

 

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

-When Quentin Tarantino makes a film, I get excited. When he sets it in the 1960s, I get more excited. When he compares it to Pulp Fiction, I lose my freaking mind. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie star in this new film from the master which also features Al Pacino in his first collaboration with Tarantino. Not much is known still but I cannot wait.

 

2. Us

-In about 3 minutes, Us became one of my most-anticipated films of 2019. That trailer. That trailer! Oh! I was already looking forward to this follow-up from the director of Get Out, and then I saw that trailer. His usage of popular music in a horror setting with some oozingly creepy imagery is what made me most excited for this film, and it comes out on my birthday too. So much win.

 

1. Star Wars: Episode IX

-C’mon, you had to know this. It’s been called the culmination of the Skywalker saga, and it brings back J.J. Abrams who killed it with The Force Awakens. After The Last Jedi (my favorite of the new films), I simply cannot wait to see where this new film goes, and it just has so much riding on it. It has to be Star Wars. It’s my most anticipated film of 2019.

 

So there you have it. What are you most excited to see in 2019? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

-Kyle A. Goethe

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

I think a lot of people would say, when Jurassic World came out back in 2015, that it was the best film in the series since the original. That may be true. What’s also true is that it was the safest choice to make by following very closely the trajectory of the original film. That’s not really the case with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom picks up some time after the events of Jurassic World. The park is closed and deserted. Dinosaurs roam free. But people haven’t forgotten about Isla Nublar. There are groups of dinosaur rights activists, one of which is led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, Gold) who are trying to protect these precious species. When Claire is given the opportunity to work with a team on the island to save these creatures from certain destruction at the hands of the island’s no-longer-dormant volcano, which is set to erupt, she goes to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie) for help. With a team assembled, they head back to the island in hopes of saving these creatures, but there’s a much more nefarious reason for this expedition.

Fallen Kingdom got a lot of hate this year for a film that performed so well at the box office. I got married the week it was released so I didn’t actually catch it until it hit home video. This means I was able to temper my expectations, which were high considering that it was directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls), a highly-skilled director with a particularly good eye for horror.

What’s great about the choice of Bayona as director is what he brings to the second half of the film. I won’t delve into spoilery territories but there are elements to the back half that are reminiscent of a horror film. And this is really a film of two halves.

The first half of Fallen Kingdom boils down to a standard sequel to Jurassic World. In fact, it’s a plot point hinted at since the original Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton that a dormant volcano lies at the center of the island. The second half of the film is ballsy and ambitious. Does the second half work? Some of it did for me. I’ve heard criticisms about the final moments of the film and yes, I agree, they are infuriating for how they play out, but I get it given the character development we’ve seen from these people over the course of two films.

The biggest issue that rises up from me is some of the timing inconsistencies in the film. The opening literally has characters talking about a dinosaur that should be dead by now that are not, and then there are moments brought up later on that do not confirm this timeline. Even co-screenwriter Colin Trevorrow’s answer to the mystery of how much time has passed makes it seem like he really didn’t put much thought or care into the decision of setting the film at a specific distance from Jurassic World.

I think that Fallen Kingdom puts the characters from Jurassic World to better use in a more interesting narrative. Claire is more accessible and, in a lot of ways, this is more her movie whereas the previous film is more Owen-centric.

Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a really ambitious installment of the franchise, and while I don’t think it really works as well as it should, I found myself engaged with the plot of both halves of the film, and I’m shocked that it was allowed to be made at all. If you haven’t seen this one yet, don’t listen to the naysayers and give it a go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and it makes me very excited for where the series will go next.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Script is a Tearjerker

So the big craziness about James Gunn’s ousting from Marvel is still a little fresh on my wounds, but his script for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 has circled around a bit and, reportedly, it’s making people cry.

As of right now, Gunn’s script is still a part of the plan. Even though he will no longer direct the highly anticipated follow-up, his screenplay has been praised by the cast and those who have read it. The news of actual crying while reading is interesting, though.

I would assume that Kevin Feige, who was seemingly against the firing of Gunn, will be very stuck to keeping this screenplay as part of his overall plan for the future of the MCU, but there is still so much in the air and without a replacement director nailed down, the actual possibility exists that we may not see another Guardians of the Galaxy soon if ever.

Now, it’s important to take this in its context because it’s really non-news. Just about any story or any movie has the ability to make someone cry. It could literally mean anything. And crying does not equate to good.

That being said, especially following what happened in Avengers: Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a pretty exciting movie, even if we don’t get the director we deserve. This non-news still excites me a lot more for the film.

So what do you think? Are you bringing Kleenex to the premiere of GotG3? Or do you even think the movie will happen at this point? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwich Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

149 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

IMDb Top 250: #37 (as of 9/1/2018)

 

Well, it happened. I almost cannot believe it, but it happened. After 10 years and numerous storylines, everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has culminated in this.

Let me say that word again: culminated. I like that word.

So a lot has happened. I’ll try to sum it up as quick as I can.

Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Sicario: Day of the Soldado) has one goal driving his very being: to collect all six Infinity Stones. He already has one, but to get the others, he will have to go through the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, 12 Strong) are quickly dispatched, Thanos sends his minions, The Black Order, to Earth to search for the remaining Earthbound stones while he finds himself facing off with his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, My Little Pony: The Movie). Now, it’s a fight to protect the stones from the increasingly more dangerous Thanos as the Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, The Child in Time), Spider-Man (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Marshall), and others, but do they even stand a chance?

Avengers: Infinity War almost needs to be looked at differently than other films. My goal here and in all my reviews is to look at each within the context that it exists. When I watch a horror film, I look to be scared, thrilled, or shocked. When I watch a comedy, I look to laugh or smile. When I watch a Uwe Boll film, I look to hate myself at the end. Context.

So Avengers: Infinity War needs to be looked at on its own terms as well as how the film changes and shapes the characters in this universe. It’s a season finale of sorts, and it does an incredible job of juggling so many character arcs and stories that have existed within the confines of ten years of storytelling.

Let’s start with the most important arc in the film: Thanos’s. Josh Brolin does the performance capture justice in his work as the Mad Titan. We spend more time with Brolin’s character than anyone else in the film, and for that reason, this is very much Thanos’s film. He’s the protagonist. He is the one with the goal who initiates the action, and our heroes are only trying to stop that mission. He is a believably insane tyrant who moves from planet to planet wiping half of the population out in order to restore order. It’s a crazy idea but he believes it wholeheartedly which makes him all the more frightening. He’s well-written, thoughtful and menacing. There are of course a few similarities to Kurtz from Apocalypse Now or its source novel Heart of Darkness. It’s mostly surface level but it also works pretty well and helped me to understand how his mental faculties would lead him to such a sinister mission.

The rest of the cast get mixed amounts of time, most of them only about 10 minutes onscreen with the biggest characters getting closer to 30 minutes. Thor has one of the better arcs, especially following the opening of the film. He has vengeance in his heart and a plan to stop Thanos. He joins up with Rocket Racoon and Groot to accomplish his mission and it’s an enjoyable and important set of sequences. I would have liked to see a bit more emotion from Hemsworth as the film goes on but he kind of falls back to comedy as a backup.

Mark Ruffalo also gets a lot of time with his journey, especially considering that he spends a lot of the film not being the Hulk. We see a side of both of them that I’m not sure we’ve seen before, and it’s the first time in a while that we see Banner having to deal with not turning into the Hulk.

It’s also nice to give some more time to Gamora, who has gotten some development in the Guardians of the Galaxy films but always as a companion to the others. Now, she has a really interesting relationship with father Thanos. I just wish more time would have been given to further develop the two.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Welcome to Collinwood) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pain & Gain) developed what was later termed as strange alchemy, the forcing together of characters that don’t usually spend any time together. This idea works really well and is a large portion of what makes The Avengers films so fun and so anticipated. It’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything else for next year’s Avengers: Endgame.

The Russos did a tremendous job of weaving all of these story threads together while never once sacrificing the flavor that comes with each film. I love that they devoted time to ensure their film would not be ruined for viewers who were not there on opening night. Each of the separated groups further the problem that this team works best together but now they are caught up in different parts just trying to plug a leak, essentially, and these directors and screenwriters never let the story dry up or get stale.

Avengers: Infinity War is not a perfect movie. The ending, upon a second viewing, doesn’t really feel like it has stakes (though that may change next year), and some more character development would be much appreciated, but overall it accomplishes its goals and in context of what the film is trying to be, it succeeds in almost every way. This is an event film if there ever was one, and it is endlessly re-watchable. If you haven’t seen the film yet (and don’t kid yourself, yes you have), then what are you doing? Go. Now. Watch it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russos’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

Screenplay: James Gunn

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

 

Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is now available on home video and streaming platforms, and this film was universally liked but not universally loved. I took another look at it to see how I really felt.

Set a few months after the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World, Passengers) and the team find themselves on the run from the Sovereigns when they come across a being known as Ego (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) who announces that he is Peter’s father and has been looking for him. Peter takes off with Ego and brings along Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre, Enter the Warriors Gate) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, Live by Night), leaving Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, Furious 7, Riddick)  to fix the ship and keep an eye on their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, Oculus, The Circle) who is very much alive. While Peter learns much of his heritage from Ego, there is something strangely perfect looming over their time on the living planet while Rocket and Groot are hunted down by the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger, The Belko Experiment). With the team split up, they soon learn that they are at their strongest when they stick together in this sequel helmed by James Gunn (Movie 43, Super).

Is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 an improvement over the original? No, but does it have to be? No. I’m tired of these comparisons that say that a sequel or follow-up is not successful unless it surpasses the original. It doesn’t have to. But there are some things that are better. First off, I think the film’s coverage of its secondary characters is better. We get a much better look at Yondu that’s more than the somewhat one-dimensional character we had in the original. Michael Rooker is a masterful and often forgotten character actor and he absolutely shines here.

I also think the obligatory Stan Lee cameo is the best one in his entire filmography, which, at this point, is a pretty impressive feat. James Gunn’s choice to overload the end credits with five mid and post-credit scenes is brilliant and it adds to the insanity. I think overall, Gunn’s choice to embrace the flavor of what he brought to the screen is the winning element of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. You probably saw the music video for Inferno, the Guardians theme, recently, and I love that this kind of marketing and viral social meeting presence is available to fans.

I also felt that the relationship between Star-Lord and Ego is an interesting and complex one. Chris Pratt said in an interview that this film helped him to get over the death of his own father. Theirs is the driving force of the film and everything feeds off it. In fact, this is a film about fathers and the families we create, whether by blood or not (oh, and the de-aging of the devilishly handsome Kurt Russell is pretty impressive).

Things that altogether weren’t as good as they should have been? Really, it’s a small list, but I wish Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Oldboy, Hacker’s Game) could’ve done more. I think we will see more of Mantis later, but I felt like she was underused. I also was never a big fan of the Nebula/Gamora dynamic and I hope more relevance comes to this when Infinity War hits. Then there’s the loss of Nathan Fillion’s terrific cameo. I wish there had been a place to squeeze him in, but the film is rather bloated. Maybe that’s it. There’s so much going on that the film feels a little bloated. Yeah, that’s it.

“I am Groot.” -Groot

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is a fine film and a fine addition to the MCU. I love these characters and treasure further adventures with all of them. The soundtrack is subtle and important and stays with you long after the film ends (I’m still humming it). Yeah, it’s just a damn fun time at the movies and in that respect, it’s a beautiful experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.
  • For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.
  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.
  • For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.
  • For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

 

 

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[Early Review] The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren

Screenplay: Chris Morgan

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggested content, and language.

 

Trust me, you need to understand what kind of film you are about to see.

Dom (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage) and new wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Avatar, The Assignment) are enjoying their honeymoon in Cuba when a mysterious woman shows up and tells Dom that he is going to work for her. When Dom is on a mission with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, Moana, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) and the rest of the crew, he turns on them, showing allegiance to the mystery woman called Cipher (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Kubo and the Two Strings) and in the process, shattering his familial bonds. Now, Hobbs, aided by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) and forced to join up with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, The Transporter, Spy), must track Dom and Cipher in an effort to save their fallen brother or take him out.

As I’ve stated before, the important thing to remember about this franchise is that it is very unique. Action spectacles are no new thing in Hollywood, The Fast and the Furious, as a franchise, is a B-Movie franchise with an ever-expanding budget. That sort of thing just doesn’t really happen. What sets it apart from others is the focus on a recurring theme (family) and the set pieces that aren’t focused on realism in the slightest but instead, these action beats are asking the question: How can we make this more ridiculous? And that’s what works here.

The cast does admirable work here as the likable family members while newcomers Scott Eastwood (Gran Torino, Snowden) as Mr. Nobody’s new recruit and Charlize Theron as Cipher. There is a notable exclusion made by the absence of Brian O’Connor (played by the late Paul Walker) but I completely understand what happened and I still feel like his character is honored here in a pretty touching albeit predictable way.

Incoming director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Straight Outta Compton), fresh off his recent success with the NWA biopic, teams up with previous collaborators in Diesel, Johnson, Theron, and Statham creates a kinetic energy that runs rampant through this film, creating some of the darkest plot threads of the series while also some of the most hilarious action scenes too. Gray’s direction results in a unique experience without pushing too far.

Through it all, though, there are times when The Fate of the Furious feels unusually restrained (hear me out), as if the film itself is trying to top the craziness from the superior Fast Five and Furious 7 but just can’t quite get there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something felt off at times throughout, and perhaps that’s due to Diesel’s character being tied up with Cipher rather than the crew we all find him more enjoyable with. I was very happy to discover that the unusual plot line of betrayal actually kind of makes sense within the larger scope of The Fast and the Furious franchise (I had been very worried when I saw the initial trailer).

I was very impressed with The Fate of the Furious. This entry in the series isn’t the best one to come along, but it definitely rest higher on the ranking. This is a franchise that isn’t trying to win over new fans (though it doesn’t seem to need that), and this newest installment only proves that this is a franchise for the fans. I enjoyed it and the numerous surprises that this film has in store. I highly suggest an opening weekend viewing.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, click here.

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

For my review of F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton, click here.

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