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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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Note: I’ll be using a few abbreviations in this review. They can be found above the movie poster in parentheses.
Another note: This is going to be a long review. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle.
Last note: This review is not particularly refined, but I wanted to have thoughts up here while the movie was still fresh in my mind.


Remember how excited I was to see the second Avengers movie last year? How I had been waiting since the release of the first film with such eager anticipation… What I didn’t mention was how predictably disappointed I was, I think. Even after the original Avengers, I knew the second one wouldn’t live up to the hype. Still, I was super duper hyped, maybe the most hyped I’ve been for a movie in a long time.

UNTIL Disney/Marvel announced Phase Three. And then I knew that I was just mega-super-ultra excited for Captain America: Civil War (CACW) for a couple of primary reasons (to simplify my excitement for you all):

  1. Captain America is my favorite Avenger (not least because I love Chris Evans) and I’ve loved his movies.
  2. Captain America: Winter Soldier (CAWS) was intensely good, and I was really glad to see that the Russo Brothers, who gifted us with that great movie, were returning for this movie because-
  3. I was so tired of Joss Whedon for Age of Ultron (AOU) and trust the Russo Brothers to do better than Whedon did with his second chance.
  4. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was first established, one of the most prominent comic book storylines that I heard about was the Civil War storyline, so I was thrilled that they were going to bring it to the MCU.

TL;DR This was definitely better than Age of Ultron and was a lot of fun to watch. Me being me, of course, this movie was not perfect, and I’ll talk about that. As per usual, this review will have spoilers below the trailer; before the trailer, there may be information from previous Marvel films and promotional materials.

I have a lot of complaints, but I want to talk about what I really loved about this movie!

Spider-Man was great. I’ll admit that I was one of the people who was upset when Andrew Garfield was replaced. I love him as an actor, and I liked his portrayal of Peter Parker. (I liked Tobey McGuire’s, too, until that last movie… which wasn’t his fault, but I mean…) However, I thought it made a lot of sense to cast an actual teenager to play teenage Peter Parker. I will admit, also, that I was pretty biased against Tom Holland being cast, I think because the photos that I saw of him were of a really young Holland, young teens for sure. I thought that Marvel had gone a bit far on the younger casting, and was not sure how I felt about essentially a middle school child being Spider-Man. But Holland was great! You really get this sense of Peter being a high schooler, nervous around the other Avengers, nervous about his Aunt May finding out he’s Spider-Man, just… nails that teenage nervousness. He’s still pretty charismatic but in that Peter Parker way. One of my big issues with Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker was that I was not convinced that an “awkward geek” would be as charming as Andrew Garfield was.

As John Boyega said, saying “Hey everyone” can be really addicting.

I also liked that the suit we see in the trailer is provided by Tony Stark, because honestly, I never bought the story that Peter Parker made his suit on his own.

Black Panther was great. Oh man, I think that T’challa’s first (hero) appearance was almost more anticipated than Spider-Man’s, at least by the people at my screening, judging by the applause and cheers for each character. While I do wish there was a little more depth to his character in this movie, I know he is getting his own stand-alone film really soon, so I was happy for the characterization that we got in CACW. Black Panther is such a great character, and I think really needed in the MCU. As a prince, he brings this dignity to the Avengers that Thor doesn’t quite bring because T’challa took his mantle more seriously than Thor did initially, and that’s because being the Black Panther is not a superpower that was thrust upon him. It is a royal duty that he had to earn.

Chadwick Boseman is fantastic~

It was funny! I laughed a lot watching this, and I didn’t feel burdened by an obligation to laugh like I did with AOU. (Looking at those one-line zingers, Joss…) Marvel movies are always really funny, especially because they cast some great comedians to play our heroes, and sometimes I take that for granted, so I wanted to be sure to let you guys know that I got lots of giggles and chuckles in while watching.

Obviously, seeing so many Avengers on screen, at once, interacting with each other was amazing. There’s a lot of great banter because, again, half our characters are pretty snarky. Sam (Falcon) and Bucky (Winter Soldier) bickering as the two of Steve’s (Captain America’s) best friends. “I hate you,” Sam says pretty directly to Bucky. “We’re still friends, right?” “Depends on how hard you hit me.” Natasha (Black Widow) and Clint (Hawkeye), who are no longer romantically-linked (maybe) are questioning if they are still BSF – best spies forever – given that they stand on opposite sides of the Civil War.

Before this review gets too long, though, I do need to talk about some of my beef with this movie…Read More »

Deadpool (2016)

Although I have not read the comics, I was so thrilled when Ryan Reynolds was cast as Wade Wilson for X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’m familiar with Deadpool as a character and I really believed Ryan Reynolds was perfect for the role. (He was also my number one celebrity crush, so you know how it is.)

As you may know, it was a bit disappointing, as far as Deadpool portrayals go. So I was pleasantly surprised when that first announcement of a Deadpool movie was made soon after the release of the first Wolverine movie.

But then the project was shelved… and Green Lantern happened…

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting a Deadpool movie to happen for a few years.

THEN that leaked test footage appeared. And I had to try very hard not to let myself get too excited, because test footage isn’t a sure sign of anything.

But here we are, after several years and a killer Valentine’s-President’s Day box office weekend, and Deadpool has done pretty spectacularly, breaking the record for this holiday weekend set by Fifty Shades of Grey last year and the record for an R-rated opening set by The Matrix: Reloaded.

https://i0.wp.com/s3.foxfilm.com/foxmovies/production/films/103/images/posters/464-film-page-large.jpgRead More »

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Here it is. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since seeing the first Avengers, and I’ve been hoping for access to an early screening to the sequel ever since, well, I’ve been going to early screenings.

Here it is. I was able to catch Avengers: Age of Ultron in theaters yesterday at an early press screening. (Thank you, YelpDC!) I got there 2 hours early and I was SO excited in my lazy Scarlet Witch-bound.

I am of the firm belief that I photograph so much better when the top of my face is excluded.
I am of the firm belief that I photograph much better when the top of my face is excluded.

MANY spoilers will be following the trailer, so please be aware of this! I’m not sure how much you all know about the movie already (some things have been revealed over the past few months) so I’ll try to keep it as vague as possible with regards to actual plot points.
Note: I wasn’t sure where in the MCU timeline the events of AOU were meant to take place. Right after Winter Soldier? How does Agents of SHIELD factor in, especially since I don’t watch AoS so… I had to do a little bit of research afterwards since AoS does have tie-ins with AOU.

(Abbreviations I will be using in this review: AOU = Age of Ultron, aka this movie; AoS = Agents of SHIELD; MCU = Marvel Cinematic Universe)

You know what, I’m likely going to watch this in theaters again at a later time. The problem with seeing it with zealous fans this early on is… they’re very excited. Someone kept clapping during the screening, a girl fangirl-screamed at one point. Full-on squeal/shriek/scream with delight. (Maybe it was horror, who really knows.) Sometimes you miss dialogue because the audience is laughing too hard at a joke or because there is applause throughout the theater. It makes for a fun experience, but you miss things in the movie as a result.

Of course, the movie was spectacular. It was fun and exciting to watch, and it delivered on many of the things that we have come to expect from Marvel films. This review will sound nitpicky, and that’s likely because I have just been anticipating this for so long and it’s easy to nitpick at a sequel, you know? But I loved this movie, I did. It isn’t perfect and no movie is.

It kept with the tone of the first Avengers film, which was easy since director Joss Whedon returned for this one. However, when the Russo brothers were announced to be coming onboard for the 3rd film, I remember being really confused by the response from some parts of the MCU fandom that went “Good riddance!” Wasn’t everyone so excited that Whedon directed the first one? Wasn’t a really good portion of the MCU fandom also Whedonites? I didn’t really understand when people became so anti-Whedon and/or pro-Russo brothers?

Here’s Joss on the set of the first Avengers film. Hey, it’s good that he makes work so fun.

But by the time AOU was over, I kind of understood the decision to go with a different directing style for the next Avengers film. I felt a bit burdened by Whedon’s one-liners and quips by the end of the movie. It felt like when the class clown — who everyone knows is funny — makes just a few too many jokes during a class presentation. It’s not that the jokes don’t land but it feels like he is trying a bit too hard to make you laugh when you’re not there to laugh your butt off. Did I find Whedon’s jokes funny? Sure. But did I want to be laughing at these quips every 5 minutes? Not really. I was pretty tired of them, to be really honest with you all. Still, the quality of Whedon jokes is good; it just felt like the quantity was a bit excessive. And I think it is strange with regards to the tone of the MCU as a whole. Iron Man movies are pretty snarky, because Tony Stark is Tony Snark. Every Avenger movie has its share of jokes and quips. But this one seemed to try much harder than the others, and to me, it seemed to slightly disrupt the overall tone of the MCU. Is that a strange thing to say?

STILL a fan of a Whedon, just to be clear. And I did like the jokes, I did! It was just more than I expected.

AOU starts off in the middle of action, and it was a little disorienting for me for the first 15 minutes or so. I would later find out that watching AoS would probably have helped me out a bit. We begin immediately with the Avengers kicking butt and taking names to find Loki’s staff (yep, the same one from the last Avengers movie). Like I said, I was a bit disoriented about what was going on and who this Strucker fella was since I didn’t remember him from any of the other Marvel movies. We definitely weren’t picking up after Cap 2, and I knew that Agents of SHIELD had handled a lot of the Hydra fall-out, etc.

So for folks who also don’t watch AoS and/or need a refresher on previous events: Baron von Strucker is a doctor who has been experimenting with human enhancement. SO, when we first meet the twins — who moviegoers last saw at the end of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and who are the only surviving subjects — they are referred to as “enhanced”. As in like “there’s an enhanced here”. (This is Marvel Studios’ way of avoiding the word mutants because 20th Century Fox owns the rights to the X-Men and all mention of mutants.) This is how we enter the “Age of Miracles” and step into real superpowers within the MCU, which until now only had Asgardian pseudo-godliness and some superserum-induced abilities in addition to highly trained operatives and whatever you would classify Tony Stark as.

From their post-credits scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier — the twins.

ANYWAY. Thanks to the Scarlet Witch, we are able to explore some of the things that haunt the Avengers. It’s a nice way to see what motivates Tony, Natasha, Steve, Bruce, and Thor a bit. One of my favorite things about the Avengers movies is that you don’t lose sight of each individual character, their individual nuances, their individual motivations. As we move forward in the Marvel timeline, it’s important for us to see the very crucial differences in their worldviews and how those differences affect their actions.

Of course, it isn’t really an Avengers movie until they fight each other a bit. Their harmony as a team is only rivaled by their dissonance in conflict. The dynamics between the Avengers is really nice. Tony and Bruce science-bro-ing it up. (SCIENCE!) Tony and Cap’s ideological differences. Steve and Thor’s excellent chemistry in battle (Chris Squared forever!). (And okay, there’s one dynamic that I really didn’t like how they executed in this movie, I’ll talk about that in my spoilers.)

Clint isn’t in this shot because, well, you’ll see.

Avengers movies excel in bringing together these heroes and showing us how they play off each other. Half of them have their own film franchises now, and each one has their own style and ego. My favorite thing about the Avengers is the relationships between the characters. It’s especially fun because we see characters from individual franchises that get introduced to the mix, like Rhodey (War Machine from the Iron Man franchise) and Sam (Falcon from Captain American: Winter Soldier).

Also thank goodness there are some PoCs in this one. Don Cheadle and Anthony Mackie and Claudia Kim (I’ll talk about her character in the spoilers section) added some much-needed diversity to the cast.
Even though they’re barely hardly in the movie at all. It’s a start, Marvel. It’s a start. But you can do better and you know that.

With regards to our new characters, the twins, I liked their dynamic a lot. They don’t really look anything alike, but it was a pretty convincing sibling relationship. I am always very wary when brother-sister duos get announced, because sometimes the actors play off each other with far too much sexual tension for sibling relations. Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen did nicely in this regard.
HOWEVER (no one is safe), their accents were a bit wonky. Elizabeth’s sounded decent, but she wouldn’t consistently speak with it. You could hear a very distinct American accent slip out pretty often. Aaron’s seemed like a bit much; I got a bit of a Borat vibe from his accent. Luckily for us, the two of them didn’t have that many lines, but I do wish they worked with their dialect coaches a little bit more.

Not sure how much I liked Ultron as a villain. He seemed a bit shallow for a Marvel villain, so it was disappointing. It just seemed like we don’t really delve very deep into his motivations and his thought process as a villain. He jumps so suddenly to villainous intent, and we don’t really explore how he got there or get a glimpse of how he’s doing the right thing from his perspective.  It’s hard to sympathize with him as a villain, which makes him a weak villain. Marvel is better than this, so it was disappointing. I guess the true villain(s) of the movie are their inner demons blah blah whatever. Andy Serkis has just the tiniest presence in the movie and that was disappointing, too, although I am guessing we’ll see more of him in the future?

I can’t really complain too much about the action sequences. Marvel delivers wonderfully on action movies, but with Avengers movies, you often have so many important characters on screen and there were so many cuts within any given fight scene that it was easy to just get lost. I kind of tuned out a lot of the action sequences because it was easier than trying to watch a flurry of arms and legs and guns and robots in IMAX 3D.

I was confused about Natasha’s TRON-esque catsuit. Why were there lights running through it? It was pretty cool but I didn’t understand the tactical reason for this. And she didn’t seem to have a set weapon or anything. I mean, her skillset is her weapon, I suppose, but she had guns, she had cool electric… dagger… things? No signature weapon and, seemingly, no assigned weapon? I loved that Clint (Hawkeye) got a lot more screentime compared to his brainwashed self in the first movie, although his personality is still not really fleshed out at this point. He was on screen and even got lines, but he was still not really an active character in the movie. (Do you see how small he is on the poster?)

It’s getting a bit dicey for me to talk about this movie without any spoilers, so let’s just jump into the spoiler section below the trailer!
Warning: It’s a lot of critiquing in this section. My big issue was that a lot of things happened in this movie that I thought there wasn’t enough of a build-up for: new characters, new situations, new relationships, etc.

Are you planning on watching Avengers: Age of Ultron?
Do you like watching MCU films? What did you think of the last Avengers movie?

LOTS OF SPOILERS COMING UP. DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU! I MEAN IT.


Here’s the latest trailer, and spoilers below the jump.

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Friday Favorites (6)

Haven’t done a Friday Favorites in a while, so let’s just jump right in:

Hot Noodle Soups

We had a sudden drop in temperatures, from mid-60s to mid-30s, here in the DC area. And really, what satisfies you like a hot noodle soup? Specifically, I start to get very consistent cravings for pho, ramen, and jjampong.

Some of the pho and jjambbong I’ve had this past month

I also love going home to my parents’ house and eating bone soup with some rice noodles in them. (You know those big pork bones that you can just slurp the marrow out of? Yah, those are the ones.) There are so many comforting feelings that come with hot noodle soups: the smell coming up with steam, the first sensation as you take your first slurp of hot soup, the feeling as the hot soup goes down into your belly.

If you eat with me in the colder months and ask me what we should eat, there is a good chance I will suggest some form of hot noodle soup. I haven’t been able to have too many this week, but with another brutal winter up ahead, you can be sure I’ll have plenty.

Cooking Videos

Some of you may remember that I had a brief obsession with makeup tutorials a few years back. I never used any of them, but I felt like I was theoretically armed with the ability to create these stunning makeup looks. (I’m not.)

These days, I spend a lot more time watching cooking videos. Again, I’m not actually applying the stuff I’m watching, really, but I feel like I can apply this theory later on. This has been a lot more productive for me, as I do cook but I don’t wear makeup. Usually, I’ll end up watching Sorted Food or Gordon Ramsay. (I guess I just like watching British guys cook food? The accent makes it more compelling.)

Here’s one of my favorites by Sorted:

Warning: This chocolate cake looks sinfully good. You probably will drool watching.

And here’s the iconic video from Gordon Ramsay:

If you aren’t making eggs like this, apparently we’re wrong. Very wrong.

Big Hero 6 Easter Egg

I won’t spoil it for you, but, this is a Marvel film. And if you know Marvel movies, then you know Stan Lee shows up in [nearly] all of them in some way or another. (Since he didn’t have a hand in the Guardians of the Galaxy, he is not in that movie and likely will not be in any future GotG movies.)

So, with Marvel’s first animated feature, we do have a Stan Lee cameo! You might miss it for just a moment in the middle of the movie, but if you stick around after the credits, it’s a confirmed Generalissimo appearance.

Jasmine Tea

I don’t know why, but I put off buying new jasmine tea for a while. Partially because  I already have tea, partially because I could’ve sworn I had some at my parents’ house, partially because I’m lazy.

Finally got myself one of those yellow tins of looseleaf tea and I am so glad I finally did. Jasmine is maybe my favorite variety of tea because of the fragrance. (I love the smell of jasmine.) Drank maybe too many cups today but that’s all right, I have a bathroom, it’s all good.

National Museum of Natural History

After 8 years of living in Maryland, I haven’t been to a Smithsonian museum since the 3rd grade, when I lived in New Jersey. So, for Veteran’s Day/our anniversary, Ben and I went to the natural history museum. It was SO nice! Even though the dinosaur exhibit was closed for renovations, which really disappointed Ben. BUT BUT BUT the live butterfly room is free entry on Tuesdays and I got to just be enchanted by all these fluttering little butterflies. It’s so great, I love museums and the Smithsonians are cream of the crop. AND THEY’RE FREE.

Spending Time with Ben

This week had both our anniversary and Ben’s birthday, so I got to spend a lot of time with him and give him gifts! I feel like we got to spend some really quality time together and I am just really grateful to have him in my life. Spending time with my better half always makes me happy!


What have you been liking lately?
What do you crave in the cold months?
Any fun weekend plans?