Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 [review]

You’re not friends.
No. We’re family.

(And suddenly, I wondered if I was watching another Fast & Furious movie!)

For your pleasure, feel free to listen to “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” while you read.

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Being a “Vol. 2”, everyone is comparing the latest GotG movie to the first one, the one that was a gamble, that was a show of Marvel Studios’ power over their audiences and their market share.

I really enjoyed watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It was super fun, even if the story and jokes were a bit alllllll over the place. But the humor at the core of the movie really held it all together. I dare you to not have fun watching. Vol. 2 knew what people liked from the first movie and brought a lot of it back, like:

  • Adorable baby Groot (so cute I cried a little bit and I am not ashamed)
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  • Awesome throwback soundtrack
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  • Drax being a weird alien who doesn’t understand things like societal norms
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  • Yondu and his bada** arrow
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Bonus: We get a Stan Lee cameo in this one!

I did really enjoy Guardians 2. There were so many different levels of jokes in this movie, and just the amount of humor packed into the movie made for a really entertaining ride. One minute, you’d be laughing really hard at a visual gag that even your kids could enjoy and crack up at. The next, you’re drying your eyes because this movie decided to touch on some pretty heavy themes of family.

(Also, Baby Groot is legitimately just SO cute and has such a cute little voice — that Vin Diesel does himself with very little processing! — and I cried on the inside during a scene where people are being really mean to him. That being said, his cuteness is what kept him alive to see that scene out, and I’m happy for that.)

The second scene, where we see the Guardians fighting a giant alien together, is a pretty good tone-setter for the rest of the film. We have the Guardians working together(ish) to fight a monster. We have a dancing Baby Groot. We see some great dynamics between the Guardians. We have a lot of action going on.

It’s worth mentioning as well that Kurt Russell was pretty great as Ego, and apparently his de-aging for the scenes in the 80s was mostly makeup and very minimal CG! What the heck!!

There are 5 sting scenes before, during, and after the credits, so stick around if you want to see them. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and be a little confused maybe, sure. More spoiler-y type comments after the trailer.

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The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can you believe we have 8 Fast and Furious movies now?
Can you believe there will be [at least] 2 more?

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What amazes me the most about the ridiculous franchise isn’t just that it keeps going and going and going, but that… people really love these movies! There isn’t much street racing in them anymore, but you get a few things pretty reliably:

  1. Hot cars
  2. Hot girls
  3. FAMILY

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I’ve seen every Fast and Furious movie since the 4th (Fast & Furious, the worst-named one) in theaters, movies 4 through 8. But you know what, I have a hard time recalling the first 3 movies. I definitely understand that Tokyo Drift happened, but I don’t know much about the first movie or 2 Fast 2 Furious, although I think I may have caught bits and pieces of the first 3 movies when they aired on TV.

With that being said, I love this franchise. It’s so absurd but pretty pure entertainment. It follows the above formula and always delivers. The plots have become less about street racing and more about elaborate heists that involve highly trained people who also love cars and are skilled drivers. (At least since the fourth movie, but my impressions from the first three are that there was a heavier emphasis on street races.)

I’ll talk more about my relationship with this franchise after the cut, but Fast 8 (“F8” of the Furious, as it were!) (really grateful that someone exercised the restraint to not stylize the title this way) raises the stakes. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who spends so many of these movies growling about family and strengthening his team…

… goes rogue, betrays his team and his loved ones. Dom is the core of the team and of these movies (aside from Paul Walker’s character, Brian), so seeing the family try to figure out not only how to maneuver without him but maneuver to catch him is interesting.

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With antagonist “Cipher”, played by Charlize Theron. She has these gross locks-esque things on her head that make sense when we first meet her character in Havana (she seems like a harmless hippie tourist) but I don’t know why she has to have them throughout the entire film. Like sure, you can have beautiful female hackers, but if she’s the bad guy, then she can’t be too together, let’s give her this hair??

At the risk of spoiling too much, I’ll just leave it at that, but I enjoyed the movie. I thought that the reason for Dom going rogue was… not entirely convincing. And some of the action sequences were definitely straight up ridiculous. (Remember the absuuuuurd car leap in the last movie?) But they’re still fun and entertaining!

I mean, at the end of the day, the Fast and Furious franchise doesn’t try to make sense. It aims to entertain, with an emotional core of family, padded out with hot cars, hot bodies, and hot locations. (Although F8’s climax happens in Russia, so… hot cars on cold ice!)

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Rest in peace Paul Walker, whose character is mentioned in the movie, but again, it’s not quite satisfying how they explain why Brian doesn’t get involved when Dom goes rogue. (Because they promised to leave Brian and Mia alone to raise their family and live in peace… which is a good reason but I feel like Dom threatening the safety of the world is a pretty good reason to call them up?)

I am a bit conflicted that as they have characters leave the franchise, they just kind of tack on new ones? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is fantastic in these movies, and the addition of Scott Eastwood in this movie was pretty fun, but how big does this family need to be? It just feels strange given that I’m not done mourning Han and Gisele and Brian and now I have to just welcome all these new characters to the roster? I like Nathalie Emmanuel but I didn’t think she would be back for this movie, to be honest. (Ultimately, I’m glad she was.)

ALSO, lemme just say that I love the soundtracks of these movies. They always serve as great dance music for whatever summer they are released. So good.

Spoilers and more ranting about this franchise after the trailer.

The Fate of the Furious is out in theaters today. Let me know what you think if you see it!


Lemme talk about The Rock some more, okay, he is just a machine?!

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Also, I liked the bromance between him and Deckard (Jason Statham) that develops over the movie. They have a good moment where he realizes that Deckard has a similar background – they’re both in prison despite serving their countries so well and with high honors. And Deckard becoming a part of the team is pretty natural, as everything he did in the 7th movie was to avenge his brother. (Who makes an appearance in this movie!)

Helen Mirren plays the Shaw brothers’ mother, and it’s fantastic, she has this great accent and it’s beautiful and Helen Mirren is wonderful, thank you for all your gifts.

One of my FAVORITE PARTS of this movie was when The Rock led his daughter’s soccer team in performing a haka. I’ll just leave this here for you to watch if you’re not that familiar with it and/or want to see what kind of care they did/didn’t take to do it. (Also, The Rock as a father figure is still debatable but he seems to try a bit harder in this one!)

I know that before he voiced Maui in Moana, a lot of people didn’t know The Rock was of Samoan descent, and I’m glad he doesn’t seem to want people to let that factoid go unknown anymore. The Rock is awesome, full stop.

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I was unsurprised to see that Dom went rogue because he is a father. This is foreshadowed a few times, and he and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) even discuss the topic. But I assumed that Letty had lied to him about not being pregnant but Cipher had the proof and used that against Dom. Imagine my surprise when we find Elena (Elsa Pataky) and her son by Dom are captive. I have no idea how long Dom was with Elena during the time that Letty was “dead” but not really, because they got together at the very end of Fast Five. (Elena has always gotten the short end of the stick in these storylines.) (It doesn’t help her that she gets killed in this movie. She doesn’t really have any agency through any of the films she’s in….)

The baby is so cute though!!! Such a cute fat baby!!!

And the scene where Jason Statham takes out the plane full of henchmen while carrying the baby carrier is really fun and very cute, although needless for the sake of entertainment, as he could have easily neutralized everyone on the plane BEFORE picking up the baby carrier?

Another ridiculous scene? Everything with the submarine. Nothing made sense, and at that point, nothing really needed to I guess.

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I did think it was interesting that there was a scene where cars are hacked to basically storm a target in the streets of New York. I have always been concerned about car hacking with them becoming Internet-connected, and this movie kind of illustrated the worst of those fears. JEEZ.

These movies are still not great to women and how they treat them… but you can’t care about these things TOO much when the rest of the movie also is just ludicrous. (Shout-out to Ludacris, who plays a nerd hacker and who I have always loved.) (Please start an organization soon to get kids interested in coding instead of helping sell Xfinity packages.)

Anyway, I was still so happy coming out of that movie, and you bet I’ll see the next 2 in theaters. Whatever, I don’t care! Go see it and let me know what you think!

Gifted (2017)

I’ll be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Gifted, I was sold by one thing: Chris Evans. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of his, not only as a known beefcake (is this a term that people use? I don’t know how else to describe the pop culture status his physical attractiveness has garnered him without using “beefcake” or “Dorito” so…) but also as an actor and a person.

Basically, Chris Evans is bae. I don’t like the term bae, but that’s what he is.

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I was also drawn by the premise: A young math prodigy whose mother passed away is being raised by her uncle, who is desperately trying to allow her to live a normal kid’s life rather than the accelerated genius path that he saw his sister experience.

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And then my friend Annie gave me this testimony after seeing an earlier screening:

OMG STARR! The Gifted screening was sooooooooo goood!!! You’ll cry like a baby and Chris Evans was so hot. Chris Evans was distractingly hot.

I mean, if I merely was interested in the movie before, I super wanted to see it after that glowing, personal review from Annie. So, off I went with 4 tickets to see the movie alone, because I did not want to work too hard to find people to sit next to me while I sobbed over the movie-induced and Chris Evans-induced feels.

TL;DR This movie really was good. It was heartfelt, the story was well-told and well-paced, and the actors were excellent at conveying subtle and complex emotions. Chris Evans, McKenna Grace, and Lindsay Duncan shine. Chris Evans is, indeed, distractingly hot.

I really loved watching this movie. It tugged at my heartstrings without it feeling gratuitous. It wasn’t as predictable as I thought it’d be, and I really enjoyed exploring the different character dynamics within the film. I don’t have a lot to say, actually, but I just thought this movie was very simply well-done. I’m sorry I can’t say more about it, but I just…

… walked out of the theater feeling really good. Satisfied. Content. And wiping tears from my eyes.

Gifted is in theaters April 7th.

Thanks to The City Vault and Fox Searchlight Screenings!

T2 Trainspotting (2017) // review + Q&A w/ Danny Boyle

Choose life…

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If you mention the first Trainspotting movie, based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Walsh, you’ll hear people tell you things like it is their favorite movie of all time, that they had the “Choose Life” poster in their adolescent bedrooms, that the movie soundtrack turned them onto their favorite artists. It’s a pivotal, cultural icon.

I’ve never seen it. In 1996, when Trainspotting was released, I was a toddler and not particularly interested in a film about Scottish heroine addicts and their trials and tribulations. But I was interested in seeing what the sequel would be like, 20 years later, with the original cast. I know Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly MacDonald from their more recent work in film and television, so it’s fun to revisit this film that helped put them on the map so long ago.

TL;DR Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you’ll enjoy T2 Trainspotting for its character development and dynamics, great storytelling and pacing, and fun soundtrack.

Before I talk more about the movie, however, I’d really like to share some tidbits I learned in the awesome Q&A we were able to sit through with director Danny Boyle. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may just not know the breadth of his work. He is best known for films like Slumdog Millionaire (yep, the one and only!), 28 Days Later, Steve Jobs, and 127 Hours, among others.

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Danny Boyle was incredibly kind and thoughtful with all of his answers, and I honestly have a greater deal of respect for him as a result of being able to hear him talk about the film. Some insights and stories he gave us included:

  • The first scene they shot was the one where Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) are yelling and beating their chests in a basement. The cast and crew were a bit apprehensive about what it would be like to have everyone working together again after 20 years, and Jonny and Robert quieted all those fears by just bringing it for the first take on the first scene and really set the tone for the rest of the shoot.
  • He shared a great anecdote about how he was really taken by the thriller Don’t Breathe, and how even though British people are accurately known for being quite reserved, including at the cinema, his theater for that film was yelling and shouting. It was nice to hear how much he appreciated the pacing and storytelling of this film (he brought it up again twice during the Q&A) and be able to poke fun at British-ness.
  • While the US release of the first movie had re-recorded dialogue because the original accents were too difficult to understand for American audiences, T2 made use of some fun typography to help fill in gaps in understanding for the 2 speaking characters who start the film who happen to have the heaviest Scottish accents in the film.
    • This was actually an answer to a question I asked! I wanted to ask about if American audiences take away something different because we don’t have the same cultural context for the film, and I tried to contextualize it in terms of the accents and the dialogue, but he only answered about the dialogue. That’s what I get for asking a 2-part question!
  • The change in narrator and voiceover for this film was very intentional, as the first film focused on Mark (Ewan McGregor), who is essentially silent for T2 even though he is the catalyst and center of the events 20 years later. Instead, Spud (Ewen Bremner), who is kind of a tragic character, is the voice telling us the story of what happened then and what is happening now.
  • Danny Boyle actually said that he hopes people in the future will watch T2 first and then watch the original, because of how referential it is and how it changes the relationship with the first movie. Glad I could oblige by watching T2 first!

Basically, Danny Boyle was a complete sweetheart, introducing himself “Hi, I’m Danny” when I asked to get a photo with him. He was just so considerate with his time and his answers, we didn’t feel rushed at any point and he really gave full thought and consideration for each question that he got. It was fantastic.

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BACK TO THE FILM.

It was a lot of fun to watch. It’s very nostalgic, so if you loved the first film, I think you’ll appreciate that this one picks up 20 years after the events of Trainspotting. It’s about consequences. And it knows it’s nostalgic; there’s a meta scene where Simon is yelling about how nostalgic Mark is being, living in the past when it’s nothing to be glorified and, instead, something to be left behind and forgotten.

But it’s fun to be nostalgic about Trainspotting. We see clips of the first film sprinkled throughout, and there’s a great moment where, when Mark returns to his parents’ home at the beginning of the film, and he begins playing the Iggy Pop record and “Lust for Life” starts, he isn’t quite able to bring himself to listen. But by the end, he is. And juxtaposed with a clip of young Ewan McGregor from the first film and… it’s really great.

Plus, the entire film is framed by Spud telling the stories that make up the first Trainspotting, with him turning to writing to beat heroin addiction and those written stories later comprising… the original Trainspotting novel.

Thanks to BrightestYoungThings for hosting this screening and Q&A!
More thoughts and spoilers after the trailer. T2 Trainspotting sees its US wide release on March 31.

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Table 19 (2017)

Thanks to Fox Searchlight Screenings, I was able to attend an early viewing of the latest comedy feature from the Duplass brothers, Table 19.

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The premise of the movie is the Eloise (played by always-lovable Anna Kendrick) was the maid of honor for her friend’s wedding until her boyfriend, Teddy, who is the bride’s brother and the best man, dumps her via text. She drops out of the bridal party 2 months before the wedding and is relegated to Table 19, the rejects table where the obligatory invites who weren’t gracious enough to RSVP no are sitting. Her tablemates are Bina and Jerry Kepp (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), a married couple that owns a diner, Nanny Jo (June Squibb), the bride’s (and Eloise’s ex’s) elderly childhood nanny, Walter (Stephen Merchant), the cousin of the bride who got leave from his prison sentence to attend the wedding, and Renzo (Tony Revolori), the teenage boy skipping his junior prom in the hopes of having better luck with getting lucky at a wedding.

It’s a table of weirdos, yes.

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TL;DR I found the movie mildly charming and fairly funny, but ultimately I found it a little too indie-comedy in that the pacing and storytelling were strange and off. The audience is left scratching its head at a lot of what is happening, strange personalities aside, because not enough time is spent developing motivations and plot points and, instead, spent on quirkier sequences that don’t add as much to the story. I can’t highly recommend the movie, but it’s not a bad way to pass the time at the movies.

Table 19 is in theaters this weekend. (Discussion with spoilers after the trailer.)

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