Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

luke cage

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) works as a sweeper in Pop’s Barber Shop in Harlem.  One night after sweeping up, Luke sees his co-worker Chico (Brian Mac) rush out to a car with his friend Shameek.  (Jermel Howard) Chico and Shameek want to take money from Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, (Mahershala Ali)  owner of a club called Harlem’s Paradise, and infamous gangster.  Luke also works at the club, and Cottonmouth offers him a job, but Luke has a quiet life, does he want to get mixed up in saving Chico from gangsters or being Cottonmoth’s bodyguard?

I like this episode of Luke Cage it has the requisite amount of mystery surrounding Luke.  It has some primarily African American references like the iconic if somewhat hackneyed black barbershop.  Luke has some interesting interactions with the ladies, some interesting black cultural references, Luke is reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. For all the good writing and the social consciousness, there’s a lot of the n-word flying around, I found it excessive.  I know the writers are trying to keep it “real” but Harlem is the epicenter of the black renaissance, let’s try to treat the characters with some respect.

The acting is great.   Mike Colter is very good as the laconic Luke Cage.  Mahershala Ali is a simmering cauldron of rage as Cottonmouth, and Alfre Woodard is also good as a corrupt politician who is all sweetness and light in public, but something else entirely when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Episode 2:  The Code of The Streets

Pop (Frankie Faison) asks Luke to find Chico, but Cottonmouth wants to locate Chico too. The police, headed by Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) also want to find Chico.  Who gets to Chico first?

There is so much in this episode.  The viewers get a backstory about Pop.  There’s an interesting subplot between Misty and Luke.  There is real and largely unspoken tension between Luke and Cottonmouth.  There are the cultural touchpoints, Luke is reading Walter Mosely in this episode, and this episode finally provides the impetus for Luke to get off the sidelines.  The acting is superb, especially between Ali, and Colter, who holds his own in the scenes between him and Ali. There’s also some good chemistry between Colter and Simone Missick.

Episode 3:  Who’s Going to Take The Weight

Luke decides not to go after Cottonmouth directly, but let him suffer death by a thousand cuts.  Cottonmouth and his cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) discuss their differing visions of Harlem. Misty sees that Luke is in the middle of what’s going on lately in Harlem, but she can’t put her finger on what he’s doing. Misty’s partner Detective Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) talks to Chico, he’s ready to turn on Cottonmouth.

This is more an action episode, and not an introspective episode, which is too bad, because I liked the quiet, introspective Cage, and not the action oriented Cage, anyone who watches the series will know why. Domingo Colon is introduced as head of a rival Latino gang, but there’s not much character development thee yet.  There’s a plot twist, but it’s badly written.  If I told you why, I’d spoil the plot. Good acting again by the principles, especially Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Mike Colter, and Frank Whaley. The acting saves a somewhat shaky script in this episode.  The episode is named after an old school rap tune.

Episode 4:  Step In The Arena

As Luke tries to extricate himself and his landlady Connie Lin (Jade Wu) from a precarious position, Luke thinks about a turning point in his life.

This is mostly a flashback episode that fleshes out some of the details referred to in the first episode.  It’s interesting, although it has similarities to other Marvel origin stories. The acting is very good, and the script is interesting, as it leaves many things unexplained.  This episode is named after a Gang Starr album.

Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep

As Cottonmouth extorts small businesses in Harlem, Luke tries to clean up the streets of Harlem.  Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) comes back to Harlem, why is she here?  Cottonmouth and Luke both show up to an important event in Harlem.

This episode had some interesting things going on, a new character, Cottonmouth always plotting, an evolving relationship between Misty and Luke, and lots of lectures from Luke about Harlem’s legacy.

Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards

Detective Scarfe is shot and wounded by Cottonmouth, he escapes.  Now everyone is trying to find Scarfe, Misty is looking for her partner, Cottonmouth is looking is looking to finish the job, and Luke is looking for someone to protect.  Where does Scarfe go?

This is similar to the where’s Chico episode, everyone looking for Scarfe, but who finds him first.  Not sure what Claire Temple’s function is, but she’s immediately Luke’s sidekick.  I’m usually not a fan of Rosario Dawson’s acting, but she and Mike Colter have some easygoing banter.

Episode 7:  Manifest

As Cottonmouth plays the keyboard, he reflects on life with Mama Mabel, (Latanya Richardson Jackson) Uncle Pete (Curtis Cook) and little Maraih. (Megan Miller)  He wonders what could have been, but settles into what is.  Cottonmouth thinks he has a surprise for Luke, but Mariah really has a surprise for Cottonmouth.

Most of this episode was backstory on Cottonmouth and his dysfunctional family.  Let me tell you, they put the diss, in dysfunctional.  And boy oh boy  there is more than one twist in this episode, one that I never saw coming.  And this one was well-written, and well camouflaged.  The scenes with Luke and Cottonmouth sizzle with tension  as the actors try to outdo each other. Alfre Woodard is also very good in this episode.

Episode 8:  Blowin’ Up the Spot

Something happens to Cottonmouth, and Mariah blames Luke.  Misty wants to talk to Luke, but Claire is hiding him.  Luke has a new enemy, Willis “Diamondback” Stryker. (Erik Le Ray)  What’s his problem with Luke?

For a show that started out with such high minded ideals, this show has devolved into a show with lots of shooting, killing and violence.  They’ve turned Alfre Woodard into some kind of character from Empire.  Claire doesn’t really have a well-defined role, again, the viewer has to guess what she does and where she fits in.  I’m disappointed because this show had great potential, and it seems to be jumping the shark with five episodes to go in season 1.

Episode 9:  DWYCK

Claire takes Luke to visit an old acquaintance.  Misty gets interrogated by a department psychologist.  Diamondback consolidates Cottonmouth’s empire, with Mariah’s help.

I actually like the Misty interrogation, but the Claire Luke storyline is getting utterly ridiculous, and the intensity and quality of the acting has gone way down.  The writers are featuring Diamondback, Shades and Mariah, now and Luke and Claire, but Luke and Misty have the best chemistry.  The writers should pair Misty and Luke in more episodes, but I fear the series is too far gone.

Episode 10:  Take it Personal

Diamondback and Mariah plan to get a new ammunition to cops.  Luke learns more about Reva’s past.  He also learns more about Diamondback’s past.  Police get rough in their search for Luke, who is framed for killing a cop.  Misty is in danger as she enters Harlem’s Paradise.

I liked  the backstory on Reva and Diamondback, but the actor playing Diamondback is no Maharshela Ali.

Episode 11:  Now You’re Mine

Diamondback takes hostages inside Harlem’s Paradise, including Misty, Claire, and Candace (Deborah Ayoridnde) who may have evidence to clear Luke of one of the crimes he’s accused of.  Does Luke save the day?  Or will police capture him?

This was an interesting episode, for the first time in a long time, I cared about what happened to these characters.  Claire and Misty are developing a rivalry and that is also interesting.

Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos

After Misty survives being shot inside Harlem’s Paradise, police arrest Luke.  He escapes and tries to find Diamondback.  Domingo, (Jacob Vargas) head of the Latin gang, is looking for Diamondback, to take back control of gun running from him.  Shades is bailed out by Diamondback, only to have his life threatened by Diamondback, so he and Mariah contact Luke with an offer to take out Diamondback, but before they can act, Diamondback shows up to Pop’s and challenges Luke mano a mano.

Here is the episode leading up to the climactic finale, I like that it was pretty much a Claire free episode, Misty is a much more interesting character, and I’m glad they’re getting her involved right in the middle of things.  Diamondback is not the villain I preferred, but he’s the villain I was given, so here goes nothing.  Let’s see what happens.

Episode 13:  You Know My Steez

The epic showdown between Luke and Diamondback ensues, but what happens next?

The epic showdown wasn’t so epic, and the other main characters squeeze through enough loopholes to ensure a second season. One of those loopholes is especially badly written, and at times this episode is edited like a Best Of Luke Cage episode.  Disappointing.

 

Overall, I’d say for the first 7 episodes, Luke Cage was a very sharp, well-written, intelligent series.  The acting is vibrant filled with intensity Mahershela Ali is the best actor in this cast and he brought everyone’s skill level up with him.  The scenes with him and Mike Colter crackle with excitement.  The writing was good filled with references about black writers, and lifting Harlem up.

After episode 7, the acting suffered, after an initial good impression, Rosario Dawson became nothing more than a love interest, and good actors like Frank Whaley are limited in their roles.  Even a great actress like Alfre Woodard was hamstrung by writing that turned up the violence, and turned Woodard into an Empire esque character.  I liked Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight, but they de-emphasized her role to bring in Claire Temple, bad move.  Missick and Colter had great chemistry.  And the writers of the comic book gave Misty a lousy power, I can’t even figure out what her power is by watching the show.

The writers also forgot all the cultural touchpoints of Harlem, and Luke Cage just became another conventional show.  Too bad, it had so much potential to be a groundbreaking show and it took the easy way out. The finale was the final chance for this show to redeem itself, and it did not.

Luke Cage:  Boxed itself in.

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kongs kull island

In 1973,Bill Randa (John Goodman) works for a government agency called Monarch, Randa and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convince a Senator not to defund Monarch by showing him a picture of Skull Island, a heretofore undiscovered island.  Brooks says the U.S. must explore the island before the Soviets do, and that convinces the Senator to fund the trip, complete with a military escort. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leads the military escort, and brings along a tracker from the Royal Air Force, James Conrad, (Tom Hiddleston) who is paid handsomely for his duties.  The military escort also carries with it a photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who wants to find out what the secrecy behind Monarch is all about.

The group flies through a storm and find Skull Island, they also find what Randa and Brooks are looking for, Kong, a giant ape who rules the island, and doesn’t care much for helicopters.  Kong slaps down the helicopters like flies, but miraculously, not only do Conrad, Brooks, Randa, Packard, and Weaver survive, they meet a group of natives, and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) another American soldier, who has been stranded on the island since WWII. There are two schools of thought among the Monarch survivors, one led by Packard, wants to hunt and kill Kong for killing his men, the other, led by Marlow, wants to save Kong, because there are worse monsters on Skull Island.  Which side wins the argument?

The viewer has to suspend a lot of belief to find this movie the least bit believable.  First of all, suspend belief that the big hairy ape grounds all the helicopters and all the passengers don’t die instantaneously from impact or the conflagration that follows impact.  All sci-fi asks viewers to suspend reality to some degree, but this movie does so more than most.  The characters have no depth, even the main characters are one dimensional.  The story really adds nothing to the Kong mythology, Kong is still the protector of people, but yet he kills some people.  Kong also still has a soft spot for the ladies, a tired holdover from the Fay Wray era. And the shift in location and time period from Japan to an island off Vietnam, only sets off a faux debate on the merits of the Vietnam war.  This is hardly a topic to be discussed with sound bites in a science fiction movie about a giant ape.

For all the fine, A-list actors in this movie, the acting is only so-so.  Samuel  L. Jackson is clearly having fun playing an alpha-male bad guy, and it shows. Tom Hiddleston plays a mercenary with a heart of gold.  Has anyone ever heard of a nice guy mercenary?  Me neither, therein lies the problem.  Brie Larson won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Room, but why would Larson  go from playing such a weighty role to a do-nothing character like Mason Weaver is mystifying. Larson essentially takes still pictures for the whole movie, like a glorified tourist.  John Goodman is convincing as a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, whose conspiracy turns out to be true. John C. Reilly provides a lot of the comedy relief as an American pilot who takes a decidedly Zen approach to Kong.  If Jackson, Goodman, and Reilly were in this movie alone, Kong Skull Island would have been a lot more fun.  Hiddleston and Larson play their roles a lot more seriously than they should, and that wrecks the campy nature of the film.

In a movie with a weak script, and somewhat lackluster acting, the direction is something that stands out for being quite good. The cinematography is spectacular, and the high altitude shots of Vietnam are spectacular, I’ve seen pictures of those mountains and it was very well represented in the movie.  The CGI, which usually interferes with my enjoyment of a movie, was really well done.  Kong looked very real and moved in a realistic way, some CGI just looks like a bad video game, but this CGI seemed natural for some very unnatural creatures, and the creatures were well integrated with their backgrounds, everything seemed well-matched.  The pacing was good, for a long movie, and  director Jordan Vogt Roberts got mostly good performances from everyone involved, although this cast didn’t need much help. Vogt Roberts is mostly a TV director, so this was an extremely ambitious big screen project to take on.

Kong Skull Island:  Kong doesn’t monkey around, but the film has limited a-peel.

life

A group of six astronauts from the international space station recover an alien species from a Mars probe, and try to bring it back to earth for further study. The single-celled organism, which the crew nicknames Calvin, lies dormant for a while, until one of the astronauts, Hugh Derry (Aryion Bakare) tries to bring the organism back to life, with electric shock.  The treatment works and the organism begins to grow, but will Hugh Derry and the rest of the crew regret their decision to bring this alien life form back to life?

This is a movie that tries to combine The Martian, Gravity, and the Aliens movies into one movie.  But it’s not as smart and funny as The Martian, it’s not as scary as any of the Aliens movies, and it’s very predictable.  The viewer knows what’s going to take place in this movie from the first minute of this movie to the last.  The movie tries to build some relationships early on in the film, but they don’t do enough character development to make the viewer care about any of these characters.  The scenes are also very redundant, the astronauts never seem to learn from their mistakes, while the alien is learning constantly. The science is junk science too, why should an alien creature respond to an electric shock to revive it?  Humans respond to electric shocks to stimulate their hearts but why should alien organisms react in the same way?  Also, later in the movie, the viewer learns that the alien needs oxygen to survive.  There is .1 percent of oxygen on Mars, how could it survive on Mars, if it needs oxygen to survive? The writers try to add a twist ending to the movie, but I had stopped caring long before this movie ended.

The acting is subpar, Jake Gyllenhaal, who is the best actor in the movie seems genuinely disinterested in giving his character any personality whatsoever.  He acts like he’s playing a supporting role through most of the movie, and when the lead role is thrust on him, it’s far too late to care. Ryan Reynolds plays the same fast-talking wise guy that he played in Deadpool.  Unfortunately, the snarkiness of this character does not play well as an astronaut.  Astronauts are serious people who need to know a lot of science or else very bad things happen.  Reynolds lack of seriousness in this role shows bad form, thankfully, it’s a small role.  Rebecca Ferguson is the poor-woman’s Emily Blunt, she also sleepwalks through the role.  Olga Dykhovichnaya  plays a generic Russian role, whose character is also a love interest for Ryan  Reynolds character. Aryon Bakare does his best Chiwetel Ejifor impression, but Bakare’s role is not as well-written as Ejiofor’s in The Martian.

The direction started off visually interesting, but soon devolved into special effects and explosions in typical Hollywood fashion.  The pacing is bad, and the director doesn’t get good performances out of his actors.  The director also did Safe House, which wasn’t that good of a thriller, and Child 44, which I have not seen.

Life:  Life-less.

beauty and the beast live

A headstrong, well-read French village girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is tired of life in her small village and can’t help but think that life has more to offer than her small town gives her.  She is relentlessly pursued by town hunk and resident harasser, Gaston, (Luke Evans) who she cleverly avoids. Belle is very close to her father, Maurice, (Kevin Kline) who raised her after Belle’s mom passed away.  When she visits Maurice, Belle asks her dad for a rose, and he promises to get her one. On a snowy night, Maurice loses his way and gets captured by a Beast (Dan Stevens) who has been cursed  by an Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) for his superficiality.  Belle hears that his father has been captured and rides off to save him.  She switches places with Maurice, and traps herself with the Beast.

Gaston sees an opportunity to be the hero, and rides off to save Belle with Maurice.  But Maurice refuses to let him marry Belle, and Gaston accuses Maurice of being crazy and wants to send him to an asylum.  In the castle, Belle and the Beast are becoming closer.  Lumiere, (Ewan McGregor) the candelabra Cogsworth ( Ian McKellan) the clock, Mrs. Potts, the teapot, and Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) the wardrobe, are doing all they can to make the mood as romantic as possible.  They hope Bellle professes her love for the beast, because that will break the Enchantress’ spell on them too.  Things are going swimmingly until Belle checks on her father in a magic mirror, and sees that he is being taken away.  What does she do?  What happens to the Beast and his enchanted staff?

I was disappointed by Beauty and The Beast.  How could I not like a delightful movie such as this, you ask?  Easy, it was too much like its animated namesake, the live action movie followed the story of the animated movie, line for line shot for shot and scene for scene.  When Disney made a live action Jungle Book movie, they created a whole new story that was in every way better than the animated film.  That made me want to watch The Jungle Book, because I didn’t know what was coming with the next scene.  Since I had seen the animated Beauty before, not only did I know the scenes, I knew the songs, I knew the ending, I knew everything.  The few jokes that were added  for Josh Gad’s character weren’t that funny, and didn’t add much to the film.  Why is almost every actor speaking in a British accent, if the film is set in France?  Why does the Beast have blue eyes, is that important? The writers could have done a flashback and embellished the Beast’s character before the curse, and what made him such a superficial person, in the first place something to make it distinctive, anything.

The acting was good.  Emma Watson does the best she can with quite a limiting role, she is supposed to be an independent woman, headstrong, yet falling in love with a cursed Prince.  There is an inherent  contradiction in the role, but Watson is pleasant enough, and sings well enough to make Belle somewhat interesting.  Dan Stevens is pretty dull as the Beast, he doesn’t really bring much to the role.  Kevin Kline plays his role as comedy relief. Luke Evans is actually very good as Gaston, funny and evil at the same time, he put some real life into his role.  Of the Best’s household staff, only Ewan McGregor s Lumiere stands out, he infuses the role with humor and joy and a little sadness, he is truly a great actor.  Audra McDonald has a great operatic voice, I wish they gave her more songs to sing.

The direction is a mixed bag.  The visuals on some of the exteriors are visually appealing.  One of the opening scenes reminded  me very much of The Sound of Music, it was unintentionally humorous.  While the visuals were intriguing, the pacing is extremely slow, two hours seemed  more like four, and the performances were somewhat mixed.  The songs were great, just like the animated film,  but the CGI was overdone.

Beauty and The Beast:  It didn’t ring my Belle.

wonder woman

Diana, (Lilly Aspell, Emily Carey, Gal Gadot) is princess of the Amazons, a band of fierce female warriors, who live on an island, with no men.  She wants to train to be a warrior, but her mother Queen Hippolyta  (Connie Nielson) forbids it.  So Diana gets training from General Antiope (Robin Wright) behind her mother’s back.  One day, American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes through the barrier that keeps the island from being visible to others and into the ocean.  Diana saves Steve and learns that Steve is an American spy on a mission to end a secret German chemical weapons program, spearheaded by General  Ludendorf (Danny Huston) and Dr. Maru, (Elena Anaya)  and end World War I.  Steve has Dr. Maru’s formula for the mustard gas, and has to deliver the book to British intelligence.  Diana believes that someone on the German side is really the Greek God of War Aries, who is trying to prolong the war and kill as many humans as possible.  Diana’s mission is to find and kill Aries. Does Hippolyta allow Diana to leave the Amazon’s island and travel with Steve to the front?  Does Steve accomplish his mission to stop the chemical weapons from being used?

This could have been a classic movie, but it sends all kinds of mixed messages.  One is a message of a woman imbued with great powers to stop the human race from annihilating itself, which is a wonderful message.  But if Wonder Woman is so powerful, why does she need help from a man?  Then, the writers want to superimpose some kind of messy love story within the superhero genre.  This kind of genre mixing rarely ever works. It’s been tried in Superman with Lois Lane, and Spiderman with Maryjane, with varying degrees of success.  In the context of this movie, the love story actually undercuts the female empowerment story.  There are also silly scenes that overemphasize Diana’s femininity.  Other than the lead character being a woman, this is a pretty generic superhero film, and the ending is pretty generic as well.  And if anyone thinks that being a woman makes Diana a pacifist, you haven’t watched a Hollywood superhero movie lately, this movie is very violent.

There is one redeeming aspect to Wonder Woman, and it is the performance of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince.  Her earnest, sincere, heartfelt, and serious (that’s a compliment) performance make this movie worth watching.  While most superhero actors are looking for a tagline, Gadot conveys the genuine feeling to the audience that Diana only wants to help people.  Her naiveté is refreshing as well.  If this movie stands out, it is because of her.  Chris Pine is not so lucky, he gives the standard hero performance, but he’s supposed to be an American spy who infiltrates the German military not once but twice.  He doesn’t even try a British accent to blend in to British society, and his German accent is weak.  His ham handed performance almost steals the movie from Gadot, Chris Pine, this wasn’t your movie.  He seems to have forgotten that Gadot is the focus of the film.  Robin Wright has a small role as the woman who trains Diana, but the role is too small to make an impression.

A big deal was made that Wonder Woman was directed by a woman.  The fact is Patty Jenkins added very little to this movie that is different from a man directing the same film.  There’s a backstory, an over reliance on special effects, and a long, long running time.  What exactly is the difference between this movie and Captain America’s origin story?  Not much and so why should Patty Jenkins deserve credit for directing a standard issue superhero movie?  She shouldn’t.  The only outstanding performance is by Gadot, and the pacing is slow at times.

Wonder Woman:  Wondering Why It Wasn’t Better.

logan

In the year 2029, the mutant population has shrunken dramatically, and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is finding life difficult now that the X-men have disbanded.  He is working as a chauffeur, and medicating himself by drinking quite a bit.  He realizes after fending off an attack from a group of youths trying to steal his car, that his ability to heal is vastly depleted.  Logan tries to maintain his loyalty to Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) by taking care of him in his older years.  Xavier is suffering from either Alzheimer’s disease or ALS, and if these diseases are not treated with medication, Xavier’s powers go haywire.  Logan is aided by Caliban, (Stephen Merchant) as the three learn to deal with the fragilities of aging bodies.

Adding to the chaos that’s become Logan’s everyday life, a woman named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) is desperate for Logan to help her.  She is a nurse and she is taking care of a pre-teen girl named Laura.(Daphne Keen)  There is a story that Gabriella adamently wants to tell Logan, what is the story?  Who is Gabriella?  Who is Laura?  Why do they need Logan’s help?  Does Logan help them?

Logan is a very interesting story about men who used to have superhuman abilities who is now learning to cope with his mortality.  It’s also part Western (with a telling reference to the movie Shane) part odd mutant nuclear family story, and part road trip, its settings seem like they are post-apocalyptic, and they may be for mutants, but the roads are mostly empty in the small rural towns where the film is focused.  That seems purposeful.   It is far from the traditional superhero movie where the heroes team up to stop some catastrophe, instead it’s a very personal story about being mortal, after living as an immoral.  It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s touching, nothing anyone would expect from a superhero film, but all qualities that abound in this film.  All the more reason to watch it.

The acting in Logan is superb.  Hugh Jackman is an amazing actor who knows this character so intimately, that he knows how to play him in every circumstance, and in this circumstance the role requires different emotions for Jackman to draw upon, and he does so successfully.  I can’t imagine anyone else playing Logan or Wolverine.  I know it will happen, eventually  but I won’t like it. Patrick Stewart also gave a standout performance.  He is no longer the cool, calm, collected mentor of the X-Men he is a man on the verge of losing his mental faculties and watching his powers spiral out of control. Stewart conveys the desperation of that situation well, but manages to maintain the character’s dignity, humor and compassion. Daphne Keen is ok as Laura, but she us silent for much of the movie, then screams for more, she is just not given much to do.

The direction is very effective in conveying that this is not one of those epic end of the world movies. James Mangold wrote and directed this movie, as well as the previous movie Wolverine, so he knows this territory.  He also  directed  3:10 to Yuma so he knows how to direct a Western too. The scenes in the rural countryside give a sense that this is a modern day Western, and also a quieter movie devoid  of the massive amounts of special effects that are so prevalent in movies like this.  This is a long movie because there is a lot of exposition and there needs to be because there are a lot of pieces to put together, but when the pieces come together, it is a very satisfying film.  He gets good performances from the leads, and the ending is satisfying as well.

Logan:  The claws that refresh.

guardians of the galaxy 2

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the Guardians, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) Drax (Dave Bautista) Rocket  (Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are tasked by the Sovereign to protect space age batteries from alien monsters who want to steal them.  The Guardians fend off the monsters, and Gamora is set to collect a bounty on her sister, Nebula, (Karen Gillan) but Rocket steals some of the batteries for himself, and Ayesha (Elizabeth Debecki) leader of the Sovereign orders an attack on the Guardians.  The Guardians barely escape to the nearest inhabitable planet.  A ship follows Peter and lands on the planet, the pilot of the ship is Ego, (Kurt Russell) and he claims to be Peter’s dad. Ego takes Peter to Ego’s planet, Gamora and Drax tag along with Peter, while Groot and Rocket stay behind.

Ayesha,  still angry that her batteries were stolen, hires Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) to find Peter and the rest of the Guardians.  Yondu captures Rocket and Baby Groot and then ends up in jail himself after a mutiny by Taserface. (Chris Sullivan)  Yondu Rocket and Baby Groot manage to escape with Nebula’s help, but Taserface tips off the Sovereign, who chase after the two Guardians, while they try to find Peter on Ego’s planet.  Nebula just wants revenge on Gamora.  Is Peter convinced of his lineage by Ego?  Do Gamora and Nebula bury the hatchet?  Does Ayesha get her revenge?

Guardians of the Galaxy volume 2 works very well as a comedy, but then the script calls for everyone to get in touch with their feelings, and this is where the movie descends into an Oprah stained hell.  Peter has daddy issues, Gamora has sibling rivalry issues with Nebula, and Rocket the snarkiest character if all is made to confront deep seated feelings of inadequacy.  When a summer popcorn film wades into the nature vs nurture debate, it’s gone a bridge too far. The ending is predictable, even the post ending credits are predictable.   The comedy was better than the first movie, the family drama was wholly unnecessary.

The acting varies wildly in this film.  Chris Pratt will never be a leading man, no matter how hard Hollywood tries to foist him on an unsuspecting public.  He is ill-equipped to handle the more emotional scenes in the movie.  Zoe Saldana is a good actress, but she wan’t given enough to do, she is pushed into a romance with Pratt, and she battles her sister literally and figuratively in the movie.  Bradley Cooper is a great actor, but they made him emote as a CGI raccoon, that doesn’t work for me.  I wish he was playing Peter Quill and Pratt was playing the raccoon, I think that would have worked out better.  Dave Bautista is surprisingly funny as Drax, and is just sullen when not laughing insanely. Karen Gillan was also very good as Nebula, her intensity never relents, in a difficult role.  She plays a villain, with sympathetic touches. Kurt Russell hams it up relentlessly as Ego, an aptly named character if ever there was one. The only performance worse than Russell’s  was Sylvester Stallone’s performance as Stakar Ogord.  He is barely intelligible.  He had more trouble with the English language than Korean actress Pom Klementieff.  Her acting was better than Stallone’s but not by much.

Director James Gunn does a pretty good job as a director, the pacing is good, the special effects are good, without being overwhelming, he gets some good performances, but he also gets overwhelmed by subplots and lengeth, and that drags the pacing down to a crawl by the second half of the movie, by the end of the film I was looking at my watch, never a good sign.  Gunn also gets points off as writer for overindulging in melodrama.  I walked into a sci-fi movie, and a Tyler Perry movie broke out.That’s Gunn’s fault, for not keeping the drama to a minimum.

The Star Lord burns out.