*NEW* GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 REVIEW *NEW*

They’re back BUT bigger and better?

The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage.

Mad fun BUT it falls short of its predecessor.

The silly opening was entertaining enough as the adorable Baby Groot danced around to the beat of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky while a violent battle ensued in the background.

I felt the banter and chemistry between the dysfunctional team was all over the place. Writer/director James Gunn tried too hard with the laughs that it hampered the piece in places with the cast just shouting flat insults at each other.

I know a good portion of the story was about the team having teething problems after the events of the first film. BUT the squabbling and yelling really grated against me.

A gag involving the name of a villain drew a laugh BUT it soon overstayed its welcome as the name kept getting brought up.

I felt Vol 1 had the right balance. Each dysfunctional member bringing something to the fold.

This time around, it felt a lot sillier with Rocket and Groot spending too much time in the background.

No one expected anything from Vol 1. It was one of my favourite films of the year. I think I even went to the cinema twice to see it and I never do that for a movie.

Such a strong first movie that it was going to take something special to top it.

Henry Braham’s incredibly colourful palette and visual effects were a feast for the eyes. The set pieces were exhilarating and fun to watch.

Kurt Russell was brilliant as Ego. He worked well with Pratt and made their relationship an interesting angle BUT the only problem was that the pace tragically lagged as Quill discovered his true origins.

Even if Laura Haddock’s talents (Transformers: The Last Knight) were wasted yet again. I wondered when she got the role as Star-Lord’s mother if there was going to be more of her BUT what we got was unnecessary and offered new.

Bradley Cooper’s Rocket (Easy now) stole the show with his insults and crazy antics (“Don’t call me a raccoon! Trash panda? *PAUSE* Is that worse?”).

Vin Diesel had the easiest job going yet again delivering his helium induced phrases to the tiny tree root. You couldn’t resist the little rebel.

Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager) was completely wasted in her role as Ayesha.

However, there was one character that stole the show for me and that was Yondu. Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) was fantastic. I loved how we actually got a little depth to the space pirate and explored his past. An unexpected surprise.

Pom Klementieff (Oldboy) was a memorable addition to the mad (and increasingly top heavy) squad as Mantis. Her emotion sensing abilities was a party trick that helped create all sorts of cringe inducing laughs.

Especially on “the thing that nobody’s talking about” between Gamora and Quill (Yawwnnnn . . . ).

The only problem was that Gunn expanded on story lines that were already explored in Vol 1. It made things a little repetitive and predictable.

Gamora and Nebula’s sibling sparring got on my nerves. Especially when the pair kept kicking off. It was almost as ridiculous as Peter Griffin fighting the Giant Chicken! We had all that in the first one!

Don’t get me wrong, there was still fun to be had and I enjoyed the majority of the madness with another fantastic soundtrack that I will no doubt purchase.

Not every wrestling star can make the jump to the big screen BUT Dave Bautista was still on scene stealing form as the deluded Drax with his random outlook and bizarre stories.

The final act redeemed a lot of the problems with an action packed closer that threw in a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

So despite its shortcomings, it was still crazy fun and fans won’t be disappointed.

3.5/5

P.S. I’m sure you’re bored of me saying this BUT don’t walk out on the credits. There are several different teasers that pop up. Definitely worth waiting for.

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*NEW* THE HATEFUL EIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Well, I didn’t hate it. QT is back and bigger than ever. But better?

In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

From the beautifully shot opening, I was entranced. The 70mm film format capturing the picturesque cinematography of QT stalwart Robert Richardson perfectly. The credit sequence accompanied by an original Ennio Morricone score (The first in 30 years) brought back that old school nostalgia of the classic Westerns.

However that nostalgia soon dissipated when Russell’s John Ruth crossed paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Major Warren sitting on a cushion of dead bodies. After an initially tense and intriguing introduction with QT’s chapters popping up left, right and centre, the first hour soon churned along at an agonizing snail’s pace.

There wasn’t enough tidbits, stylish dialogue or suspense to keep me going. It was almost mind numbing. I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. Russell, Leigh and Jackson were doing their best BUT it wasn’t entertaining enough. A running joke about Jackson receiving a letter from Lincoln did the job BUT I found the first act lacking. That was until they reached Minnie’s Haberdashery.

A grotty shack with even grittier lodgers. It really was a case of the waiting game. BUT was it going to be worth it? Trapped for the next few days during a blizzard, the tension bubbled away. Each shady individual casually interrogated.

Russell and Jackson were superb. They had a real rapport and ran the show for me. Leigh was brilliant. A real rough looking menace with an acid tongue. It was great to see a good portion of the QT regulars popping up in this. What a supporting cast. However, some characters didn’t quite deliver as much as I had expected.

I have been a big fan of Walton Goggins for some time after some cracking turns in The Shield and Justified. QT finally gave him the platform he deserved as the gullible dim wit Sheriff Chris Mannix. He was perfect. His dumb theorizing and poor deducting skills delivered the laughs.

Tim Roth was great as the delightfully flamboyant Oswaldo Mobray. If anything, I wanted more of him in this. Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Michael Madsen weren’t quite as interesting as I’d hoped. Once Jackson delved into Dern’s past a little more, things got going BUT Madsen was a highly unmemorable red herring. Mumbling and grimacing away to no avail this time. I was entertained more by James Parks (Kill Bill)  as the unlucky stage coach driver O.B. and Demian Birchir’s (The Heat) Senor Bob.

At first, it had my curiousity. BUT once Jackson’s Major began to suspect foul play and connect the dots, it finally got my attention. It was funny how convenient everyone’s back stories were. Ruth conveniently bumps into the town’s new sheriff and hangman at the same time that he’s bringing in a huge bounty? Hmm . . .

After that insufferable and completely unnecessary intermission*, the second act redeemed itself. A tense little nail biter with a few twists here, some grandiose Jackson monologues there and all the demented mayhem you could expect from a QT flick. It was bloody, violent and ridiculous. Typical of the man and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You really couldn’t take your eyes off it. Lulled into a false sense of security. The finale was every bit as outrageous and brilliant as I could hope for. I was ashamed to doubt QT. It was always going to be tough to top Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction BUT this certainly wasn’t QT’s weakest effort. That honour goes to Jackie Brown or Death Proof.

Overlong and a little patchy in parts BUT once it going, it was everything you could want from a Tarantino penned Western.

3.5/5

*The intermission was a joke. I don’t know whether in the States QT did something special in those 15 minutes BUT over here, it did nothing. Probably didn’t help that the cinema had already closed the food and drink stand. Logic? None, apparently.

*NEW* FAST AND FURIOUS 7 REVIEW *NEW*

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The action may have been fast and the plot may have made me furious BUT somehow I was still entertained with the SEVENTH offering of the Fast franchise.

Maybe they should just . . . STOP! BUT the first billion dollar grossing film for Universal Studios means one thing! More indecipherable grumblings from Vin Diesel, more stunning cars and more ludicrous set piece that defy the laws of physics.

So what’s this one about? Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family for his comatose brother (Luke Evans).

It’s strange watching this monstrous franchise continue to evolve. To think the original was about an undercover cop infiltrating a bootlegging ring. Even funnier when you realise the items they were stealing were TV/VCR combos.

BUT now? Well . . .

James Wan didn’t mess about. We open to a trail of carnage at a hospital ward as the Stath visits his little bro. He chewed up every scene and pumped up each naff line with a bit of machismo. Dark, brutal and utterly bonkers. A teaser of things to come.

I think it’s safe to say that the Fast films are guilty pleasures. One of those “leave your brain at the door” popcorn movies. The first half hour was zippy and quite watchable.

Until the Tank, I mean, the Rock flew out of a building and used his body as a human shield to protect his partner. Okay, the ol’ WWF fan in me had a moment of nostalgia when the Brahma Bull “rock bottomed” The Stath into a coffee table. BUT it was ridiculous! And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Jordana Brewster had the easiest job going. She was very much pushed to the background. After an explosive opener, The Rock didn’t really pop back up until the finale. BUT that didn’t stop Wan adding more characters to the ever-expanding cast.

Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) made a memorable impression as the alluring but geeky computer hacker Ramsey. Kurt Russell was superb as the appropriately titled Mr Nobody. He was having fun and made the implausible waffle almost believable. Plus he delivered the best spot of advertising for Corona I’ve ever seen.

The gang are recruited to retrieve a super computer program that can hack into any social network, CCTV and phone. A technology so powerful that Bin Laden could have been found in two hours not a decade. If they obtain it, they can find the Stath. Before he finds them :O

Two hours, too long. The pace dipped in and out. Reprieved by frantic action sequences. Letty’s amnesia subplot was far too corny and soapy for my liking. I cringed every time Michelle Rodriguez and Diesel were on screen together.

I could actually understand Iggy Azealia in the 15 second blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo. And it wasn’t as corny as Rita Ora’s. Tyrese Gibson delivered the laughs where he could BUT he did test my patience. His banter with Ludacris wasn’t that good either. Even he looked fed up with the exchanges.

Ronda Rousey’s acting left little to be desired. I know she was supposed to be a bodyguard BUT if she’s going to appear in more movies, she needs to up her game. The feisty punch up with Rodriguez was pretty decent though. Tony Jaa was relentless. Dispatching his trade mark free running fighting style. Shame that he was reduced to dispatching such terrible one liners.

BUT nothing compared to Diesel and Stath’s street fight. Both going at it (Steady now) with wrenches and car bumpers (You read that right).

The last 30 minutes really took the biscuit. It was laughable. The Rock shooting up half of LA with a machine gun. Driving super cars through both of the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. Driving out of planes with parachutes! Paul Walker running up the back of a bus as it falls off a cliff. Come on!

I can’t believe I’m saying this but it might help to have a little knowledge of the other movies. I have to commend Wan and writer Chris Morgan for wrapping up something that had been niggling at me ever since Tokyo Drift. No spoilers here.

However, for it’s all silliness, it did deliver a fitting farewell to Walker that left a little lump in the throat. A talented actor that left us far too soon. The CGI on Paul Walker was impressive. You really couldn’t tell which scenes were altered. There were quite a few references through out the film that hit home. A racer yells to Toretto, “Ride or die, right?”. Toretto puts his head down and simply says, “Let’s just ride this time”.

They really should quit while they’re ahead. A surprisingly watchable, if incredibly overlong, OTT blockbuster of stupendous proportions.

3(Just)/5