*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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STAR TREK BEYOND 3D REVIEW

Star Trek be-yawwwnnneed.

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy (Ol’ Luther – I mean, Idris Elba) who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

I’m NOT the biggest Trekkie BUT I have really enjoyed the Abram reboots. Shaking up the cast, reworking the old story lines and tweaking the dynamic.

A breath of fresh air among the barrage of reboots, remakes and endless (and unnecessary) sequels. BUT it was always going to be a tough act to follow Into Darkness.

A new outing that didn’t rely on past plots. My confidence was restored when I discovered that Beyond was penned by an avid Trekkie (Simon ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Pegg!). A man who relished the dream role of playing Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott made famous by James Doohan.

BUT this time around, I felt this lacklustre sequel only just delivered a watchable actioner. From the director of Fast and Furious, I knew I could expect big explosions AND good set pieces.

BUT it was a case of either being too fast and furious with the action or drawn out and repetitious with barely any exploration of the characters. Even the laughs were few and far between.

The opening act didn’t really give me much hope with the crew acting as intermediaries between some silly CGI dog things. Yikes. It seemed to go through the motions with Pine’s Kirk going through yet another existential crisis as he questioned his purpose on the Enterprise.

Quinto’s Spock received some grave news which made the normally unfeeling extraterrestrial contemplate life and death. I just wished it wasn’t so tedious and uninteresting.

That’s NOT to say there weren’t moments to be had. The special effects were impressive. BUT that was only when you could actually see the set pieces. There were several scenes where I actually struggled to see a majority of the action.

I could see the Phaser rays blasting through the darkness BUT only just gather that it was Kirk and Chekhov sliding down a spaceship hanging off a cliff. Ridiculous.

The 3D was a waste of time. It didn’t bring anything to the experience. When the Enterprise was attacked by Krall’s death ships, it was a sight to behold BUT after 15 minutes of explosions and carnage, I found myself fidgeting.

I liked the dynamic between Spock and Bones as the pair were reluctantly put together. Karl Urban (Dredd) was the main scene stealer and kept things light when the pace drudged along.

Once Big Ears got over his nihilistic sulk, he was back on fine form. The banter between the duo was a much needed tonic; “You gave your girlfriend radioactive jewellery”.

The rest of the crew was a mixed bag. The late Anton Yelchin had quite a big involvement in the mix as he aided Kirk in the battle against Krall’s goons. His presence will be missed. Although rumours suggest that Abrams may try and do what they did with Walker in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Pegg’s muddled Scot accent really grated against me. And I was disappointed that his little green pal Wee Man (“Get down from there!”) was left on the sidelines.

There wasn’t any depth to the characters. Bar Dr Zulu’s sexuality. Hardly a revelation and thrown in without any exploration. Shame.

There might have even been a bad continuity error with the length of their journey to the age of Zulu’s child (For those who watched it – Did you notice this?).

Saldana’s Uhura was reduced to being Krall’s prisoner for the majority of the movie. If anything, her absence wasn’t missed. Disappointing, to say the least.

Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) was the best character in the piece as the feisty Jayla. I wanted to know about her origins and why she was the only alien to evade Krall’s capture.

However it wasn’t long before she was pushed into the background for more mindless exposition. Only to be brought back for the frantic finale.

More could have made out of her. A missed opportunity.

Idris Elba did his best with the creepy Krall. The make up was brilliant. He really looked the part BUT Luther’s lines and delivery made him too comical for my liking. You try listening to him with that silly voice pronouncing Captain Kirk. Good lord.

He couldn’t match Cumberbatch’s tenacity or Bana’s bad-assery and was quite a tame villain by comparison. A twist about Krall could have been so much more BUT by the end, I couldn’t care less.

Captain’s Log; Beyond was a bit of a misfire for me. It tried to deliver a bit of everything and failed on all fronts.

A watchable effort that killed the time BUT I think Scotty better beam up a better script for the next endeavour.

2.5/5

*NEW* LIVE BY NIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

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Alright, alright.

The pace may have been a killer and we might have seen it all before BUT Affleck’s crime caper still packs a punch.

A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

The opening 20 minutes didn’t mess about. It set up Joe’s (Ben Affleck) past and got straight to business as he worked through the ranks from a petty thief to a bootlegger.

Being a noir nut, I was always going to be a little biased. It helps when some of Affleck’s better works; The Town, Gone Baby Gone (and now Live By Night) are heavily influenced by that very genre.

I’ve been impressed with Affleck’s transformation as a director. A maturity from his 90s blockbuster phase. And yes, I do think he will be a good Batman! Enough of these sad Affleck memes.

It was everything I expected from an Affleck penned gangster flick. I was already ticking noir traits off my imaginary checklist; embittered war veteran (check), disillusioned with the law (check), falling for a girl that can only mean trouble (CHECK! CHECK! CHECK!).

I say Affleck penned. He did have a little help from Dennis Lehane’s crime novel (Thank you @TheMarckoguy). A noir author I intend to read up on. A man that has penned such works as: Shutter Island, Mystic River and The Drop.

I was engrossed in Joe’s game. Playing off the Irish against the Italians in their turf war. Just to get a piece of the action and stay out of the cross-hairs. BUT it wasn’t long before the protagonist had to make a choice.

Always felt that Robert Glenister was a very underrated TV actor. Just watch BBC’s Hustle. I didn’t expect to see him feature as Albert White, the Irish kingpin. He was brilliant. I wish he was in this more. A callous adversary if ever there was one. A ticking time bomb.

The fuse? A woman, of course. Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher) wasn’t in the film as much as I thought. Especially after all the interviews and heavy advertising.

She delivered a good performance as the moxy Emma BUT somehow I think if she had more screen time with that strange Irish accent, she might have overstayed her welcome very quickly.

Brendan Gleeson made a much more memorable impression as Joe’s father. A relief after his dire cameo in Assassin’s Creed (The less we say about that, the better). Sheesh.

Another character I would have been happy to see more of. His fractious relationship with Joe was an interesting angle that wasn’t explored enough. A copper desperate to see his criminal son on the right path.

“So you’re threatening me with people that are more powerful than you? So who am I talkin’ to you for?” Affleck was fantastic. Another powerhouse performance. He looked like a tank with that Bat bulk.

The pace did meander in parts with the middle act taking the biscuit BUT thankfully that was relieved by cracking dialogue, great action pieces and fantastic cinematography.

No, really. Robert Richardson’s cinematography was something else. The sweeping shots across Miami were breathtaking alone.

The car chases were brilliantly shot. It felt like you were in the car with the robbers as they evaded capture. And of course, no gangster flick would be complete without bodies being bullet ridden by Tommy guns.

I was a little disappointed with the female roles. Miller didn’t really come across as a strong femme fatale and Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) was completely wasted in her role.

The pair had good chemistry BUT there just wasn’t enough drama. Affleck missed an opportunity for sparks to fly when an old friend from Joe’s past crept out of the woodwork. Shame.

At first, I kept wondering why Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon) was reduced to such an unnecessary cameo as the sheriff’s daughter. However, there was an interesting turning point with her character that took me by surprise and allowed the actress her moment to shine. A good performance.

Despite my niggles, Affleck perfectly captured a gritty criminal underworld full of rich and dark characters. Chris Cooper (American Beauty) played the holistic sheriff with aplomb. Happy to turn a blind eye on Joe’s “business affairs”. Appropriately calling him, “The Mayor of Evil”.

The tense encounters with the KKK saved a labouring middle act. The suspense and heated exchanges soon brought me back into the fold. The only problem with a noir is that the end game is always the same.

The fiery final act was worth the wait. Nail biting, gripping and action packed. Even if Affleck gave us umpteen false endings. Seriously, I kept thinking the film had finished. Only for something else to pop up.

A little predictable, long at the tooth BUT tense, gritty and still a bloody good watch.

3/5

THE BOOK OF LIFE REVIEW

THE-BOOK-OF-LIFE-TEASER-QUAD

There’s life in the animation. Shame there isn’t any in the story.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns but adults may find themselves fidgeting. Fidgeting towards the exit door.

Brought to you by Guillermo Del Toro. Meaning; He has nothing to do with it. Other than having a production credit.

The honours go to animation director Jorge R. Gutierrez.

So what’s it all about? Manolo (Diego Luna) is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart (Awww . . . Yuck). Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

3D is not essential. It certainly would have made the animation more prominent but not a must.

It’s all a little slow to start with. An elongated subplot with a tour guide (Christina Applegate) that introduces the love triangle was all a little unnecessary. The boring spiel of a group of detention kids forced to go on a museum tour just broke up the real story. It felt like a lazy plot device just to explain why the characters are made of wood.

The flicking back and forth may have allowed the detention kids to deliver some funny one liners but the end result could be seen a mile away. Dreadfully corny.

The animated worlds are nearly worth the ticket price alone. Nearly. Especially with the Land of the Remembered. The colours, the detail. Breathtaking.

The love story very much focuses on three friends; Manolo (Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana). The cast at Gutierrez’s disposal is fantastic. Diego Luna doesn’t do a bad job but his singing leaves a little to be desired.

Some of the songs that he covers sound a little flat i.e. Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait but his cover of Radiohead’s Creep was an unexpected surprise. To be honest, Luna seemed to grasp and sing the songs made for the movie better than the covers.

Tatum was brilliant. If anyone can play a deluded chughead, it would be him. Saldana does her best but her character is so bland and unmemorable. Merely the fire to spurn the contender’s passion.

The whole “love wager” between the rulers of the Lands of the Forgotten (Xibalba – Ron Perlman) and Remembered (La Muerte – Kate Del Castillo) was a little corny and didn’t really get as dark or as interesting as it could have been. Betting on which man Maria will fall for was done so lightly that any real conflict or tension is quickly disposed of.

Whoever lost would be forced to rule of the Land of the Forgotten – a desolate dull landscape whether the wandering spirits are left to disparate. You get an indication of what tone to expect by the fact the tour guide describes how Xibalba is made of tar and all “the icky stuff of the world”. Yeah . . . it’s that sort of film.

I understand it’s a children’s film but there was a moment in how Manolo crosses over to the Land of the Remembered that suggested something a little more macabre. I was hoping it might sneak into the Nightmare Before Christmas/Coraline territory but it’s all dealt with a little too cheesily and surprisingly quick.

So pace certainly wasn’t an issue. Something I always complain about. I couldn’t believe how many stars popped up in this. (Well, their voices). Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Placido Domingo, Cheech Marin and . . . Ice Cube.

Ice Cube surprised me the most. The others I knew would be up for a laugh but it made a change to hear a different tone in Cube’s voice. His Candle Maker character looked strangely a lot like Zeus from Disney’s Hercules. Ron Perlman. I should have known he would pop in a Del Toro (produced) pic. He was delightfully OTT as Xibalba. A proper panto villain in this supernatural pantomine.

The gags are little hit and miss. The overenthusiastic singing nuns were incredibly irritating. But where one lot were irritating, another group were . . . really irritating. No, more mildly entertaining. The Mariachi band (led by Marin) brought the odd giggle, especially with their cover of Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

It zips along, brings a few chuckles but despite it’s beautiful animation; the characters are dreadfully cliched and the story is oh so predictable. There’s enough to keep the little ‘uns occupied for 90 minutes but the adults might be caught kicking the seats.

2.5/5

THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY REVIEW

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Well done Mr Gunn! Marvel have done it again.

I would have thought after numerous Marvel entries and the fear of milking this rich cow dry, this may have pushed the mark.

I mean, another origin story to introduce another group of characters BUT with this cast and these characters, I’d be happy to see more entries like this again very soon.

Now, the plot is hardly original, the inevitable union of these intergalactic criminals was always going to happen, as well as those pesky sequel teasers propping up all through the film.

BUT what makes this sci-fi blockbuster hit tick all the boxes for the me is the pace, the humour and the fantastic soundtrack.

After a strong and emotional opening with 1occ’s I’m Not In Love playing, I knew I was in for a treat. It helps that the cast are perfectly chosen for their roles.

What’s it all about? Now keeping it vague as I don’t want to spoil this as I want you guys to see this . . .

Light years (in a galaxy far far away. No. Stop it) from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

The charismatic Chris Pratt, already on a roll after the mega blockbuster hit that is the Lego Movie, applies his laidback, fast talking schtick to the film’s protagonist Peter Quill to perfection.

You knew what to expect from the moment he breaks into a song and dance around a space cave using a mutated lizard thing for a mike.

Zoe Saldana just proves she looks incredibly hot as any alien or anything for that matter (What?) but is also fantastic as Gamora.

The surprise turn for me was Dave Bautista as Drax. Now let’s be honest, I know he’s had acting experience in WWE but this is a whole different playing field and I wasn’t convinced with his jughead performance in Riddick.

It helps to have great lines at his disposal but Bautista’s delivery is brilliant as the eloquently spoken if utterly stupid henchman. He takes everything literally which makes for some funny one liners and memorable moments.

Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide their voicing talents to two new animated cult characters. Scratch that, Bradley Cooper provides his voicing talents. Vin Diesel must have been laughing when he read the script and got his paycheck as the tree humanoid Groot.

The animation and detail on Groot is impeccable. I mean don’t get me wrong, Diesel’s conviction on saying “I AM GROOT” numerous times is good and no doubt an iconic one liner but come on?! Cooper is fantastic as the talking volatile raccoon hybrid Rocket.

Now while the animation is impeccable, 3D . . .  Not so much. It’s certainly more prominent BUT not a must.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan were almost unrecognizable both by their incredible make up and by their accents as the villains in this space opera.

Michael Rooker (Gunn regular) was great as Yondu Udonta, the interstellar smuggler. The only problem with so many characters and such a big cast, some characters or actors (more specifically) get cast aside.

Glenn Close, sporting a funky haircut, as Nova Prime was wasted in this installment.

John C. Reilly, the comedy legend that he is, only really got to get a bit of meat to chomp on in the closing minutes.

Inevitably, Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious Collector pops his ugly white head again.

Djimon Hounsou was only memorable due to a humorous encounter with Quill in which he attempts to enforce his self titled nickname, Starlord.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead)’s straight faced pallor had potential . . . BUT didn’t really get used. BUT that’s minor quibbles.

Now it’s hardly an origin story. It briefly provides a minor back story to answer the questions (as and when they pop up) to give a little dimension to our lively crew.

As it drew to its exhilarating finale, I found myself wanting more. There were unanswered questions which left it all open for more mischief.

Little teasers and “if there’s a sequel” hints . . . BUT with the wide array of characters in this universe and great music and great dialogue, I’m happy to strap in and go for another ride across the galaxy again.

Of course, they will return. One of the better ones.

4/5 for me

P.S. There is a little teaser at the end of the credits but I don’t think it was worth waiting around for. Nothing to quack home about. I mean, shout.