Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): The Greatness of These Characters

 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is on par with the first film, being it is once again comedic, dramatic and character greatness executed beautifully by James Gunn once again. For my non-spoiler thoughts…this film goes deeper into developing the characters, the action is solid and for once Marvel has a great villain in one of these films! I highly recommend this film and won’t be surprised if it ends up being in my Top 5 Films of 2017.

    The film was written and directed by James Gunn, while being produced by Kevin Feige.

  The story picks up a few months after the first film, with the Guardians protecting the Sovereign’s batteries, which are being targeted by a giant space creature. After the battle they receive Nebula as payment but soon find themselves being pursued by the Sovereign after Rocket steals their batteries after insulting them. After the battle the team is separated as Rocket and Baby Groot deal with the Ravagers, Gamora and Nebula face off and Peter meets his Father.


The Pros: The World – The world is wonderful and fascinating once again! We get to see the Ravager homeworld where they take up contracts and have fun, we meet the high strung Sovereign driven by genetic perfection and Ego, a being who is a living planet who wants to consume the Universe and cares about his son Quill. Each of these groups gets exploration that shows part of the reason why this is the best part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Soundtrack – Tyler Bates did the soundtrack and we once again get some amazing hits that are masterfully woven into the fights, the character interactions and the tone and feeling of different scenes. I think the first film used the songs and feel slightly better, but this was still a blast.

The Action – The action is amazing! In this we see  smaller fights to clever traps laid by Rocket, to a giant faceoff with the Guardians facing Ego and the Sovereign. It is a lot of fun and the action serves a purpose as any time we get it it is advancing the plot.

The Characters and Their Arcs – James Gunn is a great writer and it is fully on display in this film as it is the character and their arcs and relationships that drive the action and story of the film. He is dealing with a lot of different character groups this time, but each of them has a huge emotional payoff in the end.

Drax and Mantis – Drax meets Mantis, who is Ego’s assistant who helps him sleep. She senses emotion and it is in their relationship we see her learn about the complexity of feelings as well as Drax finally opening up as we see his jokes hide how much he misses his wife and daughter. Their friendship is wonderful and platonic and has some of the best jokes.

Nebula and Gamora – Nebula and Gamora’s arc involves them opening up about the trauma Thanos put them through (we learn Nebula was torn apart and had her body replaced by machine parts every time she lost a fight to Gamora). In the end they forgive each other and realize they aren’t the enemy, Thanos is and from that they truly become sisters rather than weapons of Thanos.

Rocket and Yondu – Rocket and Yondu were outcasts who grew up with no one. Yondu was a Kree Slave who was rescued by a Ravager captain and in turn became one as well (until he loses it all over the course of the film) and Rocket is pushing everyone away until Yondu calls him out, letting him know it isn’t worth it and that he gets it too (what he only realizes after he’s lost everything). This arc was powerful as we see how rich their friendship is because of all they’ve lost and their devil may care attitude towards life. These two are my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films and possibly the MCU as a whole.

Peter and Ego – Peter really wants a father and learning Ego is his father is what he always wanted…until he realizes that Ego only cares about him as a means to an end. This leads to their fight as Peter gets beyond his need to be loved and accepts the love that he already has from the Guardians and Yondu an rejects the absolute power at that Ego is offering.

Ego – Ego is a Celestial and because of this is eternal and immortal. It is from this mindset that he came to the realization that he matters the most so all should become him. You can see where he comes from as he has outlived countless lives and species, but also how he misses the point that all life matters. He clearly cares for Peter but that is because Peter is a part of him. Like his name Ego never sees beyond his Ego and that is what leads to his destruction. If he valued others he would have lived and most likely become an ally or a powerful neutral force, instead he wanted it all and that was what lead to his destruction. Kurt Russell does an amazing performance, putting Ego as one of the best villains in the MCU.

Yondu and the Ravagers – Yondu’s main arc begins when the other Ravagers reject him for the child trafficking he was doing for Ego. His exile leads to him being taken out by Nebula who helps a rival among Yondu’s crew named Ravager take control of the ship and leads to the capture of Baby Groot and Rocket. In the end Yondu takes responsibility and we see him take the fight to the monster that is Ego and that he stopped trafficking once he realized that Ego was killing them (this is when he takes on Quill). In the end he realizes that he can’t atone for what he’s done and stands with the Guardians Ego, sacrificing himself to save Peter, his son, which leads to the Ravagers giving him a Ravager funeral and accepting him back in and honoring him in his death. Rooker really is fantastic.

Family is Greater Than Blood – Family being greater than blood is the main theme of the film besides letting go of the ego. We see this in how Yondu is the father that Peter’s actual father never was and that the Guardians are family with one another…they fight with each other but in the end they always have each other’s backs.

The Killing of the Ego – This idea functions as both a metaphor (Peter letting go of his need to please his Dad and his forgiving of Yondu) and Yondu losing everything but finding what matters moist…Quill and the Guardians…he finds family after his old family…the Ravager Captains exile him…Though he gets them in the end too as they find him redeemed in his fight where he helped defeat Ego and saved the Guardians. Ego is the antagonist and wants the Universe to be him and for a while this appeals to Quill when he sees eternity, until he realizes that it was Ego’s selfishness that lead to Ego killing his Mother which sets off the fight against him and saving the Universe again.

Okay: Some Actions Sequences Go Too Long – The final fight against Ego could have been cut in half and still had the same power behind it. I didn’t care about the Sovereign arriving and felt that they were unnecessary. The best parts of the fight were the times that Ego was trying to sway Peter, when that wasn’t happening it looked cool, but the action stretched on too long for me to call it a pro.

Slow Down Shots – There a few times in the film where the action slows down to near standstill. I found this super distracting from the flow of the action that blended seamlessly with the music, with the exception of these sequences.

Motivation of the Sovereign – I get that these guys are easily insulted, but I was surprised they didn’t call up the Guardians first and attack only after Rocket would have most likely insulted them again. In this way they were way too reactive. They still worked as secondary antagonists but they weren’t as compelling as the Ravagers because of their motivation.

  This is a film that I highly recommend. This is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains fun and for once we get a story that has nothing to do with Infinity Stones, which in turn leads to us getting time to get to know the characters better. We also have a villain with motivations and a connection to our heroes that matters, and he feels like an actual threat as well as loss and character payoff that comes with a rocking soundtrack. As a side note, my friend was in one of the scenes at the end as one of the Ravager Captains bodyguards/lieutenants! I hope they do more with those Captains and their crew in Volume 3! I really enjoyed this film and it is definitely on par with the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Which is rare in Marvel Movies as often their sequels aren’t as strong as the originals. So if you haven’t watched this film yet, I highly recommend that you do.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

John Wick (2014): An Amazing Action Flick That Shows Just How Great Keanu Reeves Can Be


     “John Wick” is one of the best action movies I have ever watched. This is a movie that has an intriguing world, fascinating characters, amazing action and a narrative that flows. If you like action films. These are my brief spoiler free thoughts before I get into the main narrative and the details of the film, but truly, this film is worth your time.

    The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, written by Derek Kolstad and produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria, Michael Witherill and James McTeigue.

    The story involves retired assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) being pulled back into the world of assassins after the son Losef (Alfie Allen) of the Russian Crime Syndicate steals his car and kills his dog leading him to go on a killing spree against the Syndicate as he finds himself pulled into the world he left.

The Pros: The idea – The idea of an assassin pulled out of retirement to go against people he used to work for is intriguing. It gives the personal touch and motivation that can easily be lost in a studio made version of this.

The World – The world is amazing! You’ve got an assassin run neutral zone that is a hotel, through which all the different organizations have a way to interact without murder…and Wick is the best of this group as of what we learn from this film.

The Soundtrack – The music is by Tyler Bates and Joel Richard and it is good at getting under your skin. You feel Wick’s conflict as well as how amazing some themes are as they are good at showing the dulled senses of a club combined with the hyper focus of an assassin on a particularity memorable sequence.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is dark but uses colors to illustrate mood and tension. Red is used a lot in the club scene and we see light used when he is with his wife and has peace living with his dog. It is truly wonderful.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest parts of this world and the fact that they chose great actors shows as much.

Aurelio – John Leguizamo plays the car repairmen for the different gangs and is friends with John Wick. He’s a great character as he is the first to show Losef he is in over his head and that he barked up the wrong tree and even confronts Viggo without breaking a sweat. It is a minor but fantastic role. Also I’ve always been a fan of Leguizamo.

Viggo – Viggo is in charge of the Russian Crime Syndicate and is a great overall villain as we see his respect for Wick but also his ego come into play. Wick lets him go free once and he lets it all go because he wants revenge for his bastard of a son. His death means something because of it because he tries to live honorably but gives it up for personal revenge.

 Winston – Ian McShane plays the owner of “The Hotel” and is a fascinating character as he gives protections to those who live in death and promotes it as a neutral zone. When it all goes to hell he honors that too and lets Wick know Viggo’s location and kills Ms. Perkins for killing the staff and targeting Vick. I want to learn more about this place.

Marcus – Willem Dafoe is Wick’s friend and protector in this as he joins Viggo to protect Wick and he saves Wick multiple times. IT is a great relationship and I wish we’d gotten more history as Marcus like Wick is an assassin capable of empathy.

John Wick – This is the best Keanu Reeves performance I have seen since “The Matrix” and I love that we get to see him emote and have anger, passion and the everything else this underrated star is capable of. The movie would be worth it just for Reeves. His arc involves losing everything but finding peace after revenge, which you rarely find in movies of this type where the broken person is the theme. Wick healed and we get his prime motivation in the end is justice.

The Ending – John Wick is at a Vet and rescues a dog and uses some of the medicine to heal his wounds fighting the Russian Crime Syndicate. He picks a Pit Bull and we see that even if that world of killers pulled him back in, he will always be outside of it. The dog that his wife gave him was his peace and it is once again at the end.

The Cons: Ms. Perkins – She wants to kill for money and knows John Wick? I didn’t know if they wanted to go ex-relationship route but she is a character is purely a plot device. We don’t learn about her relationship to Wick or much else, which is a shame and makes her a con.

Losef – Losef is a 2-D villain, he never grows up, shows complexity or regret…and just brings the film down. Alfie Allen is good but his character is awful. He deserved to have someone more than a plot device to up the anti for Viggo against Wick.

    The only things that really keep this film from being perfect are Losef being a nothing character who is just a coward and bully and Ms. Perkins having no motivation for wanting to take out Wick beyond money. This brings down what could have enriched the story further as she is the secondary main villain and we never learn why. Besides these two characters this film has tight writing and was beautifully filmed with some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in any film. This film is a beautiful work of art that is well worth checking out. Suffice to say, I can’t wait to watch “John Wick: Chapter Two.”

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Super (2010): A Critique of Vigilantism



James Gunn is great. After watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the celebration of super heroes and vigilantes it is great to see such an excellent critique of vigilantes…not quite “Watchmen” level critique, but still a pretty amazing deconstruction.

“Super” is directed by James Gunn as well as written by James Gunn. The film was produced by Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey.

The story is about Frank (Rainn Wilson) who is a character with mental issues who becomes a vigilante calling himself the Crimson Bolt after his wife gets involved with a drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he becomes a vigilante after a vision of the Finger of God touching him and the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) telling him he is chosen to be the hero, along the way he picks up Libby (Ellen Page) who works at the comic book store and becomes his sidekick Boltie. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – James Gunn knows how to capture a scene. There are beautiful visuals in this. From the comic sans words of POW during certain violent fight scenes, to the picturesque image at the end…the film is beautiful to look at.

Music – Much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Super” has an amazing soundtrack. The songs and music are catchy and bring a raw energy to the film. Tyler Bates did an amazing job with it.

Abe – Michael Rooker is one of the guys that Gunn uses in a lot of his films. He was Star-Lord’s adopted mercenary Father in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and here he is Abe, Jacques head bodyguard. He’s always eating sweets and even though he’s a thug he has some tender moments, you wonder why he’s doing the job in the end as he appears conflicted in quite a few scenes.

Sarah – Liv Tyler plays the wife of Frank and she is the one who the movie is really about. She is the “Chosen One” that Frank believes God called as she starts a family and moves on after all the events of being pimped out by Jacques, she moves on fully…both from her relationship with Frank and how tied down she was by the past. Her story is beautiful. Her family gives Frank meaning beyond the vigilantism that he grows past.

Jacques – Kevin Bacon makes a great bad guy. I’d like to see him play more villains after this. He’s a drug dealer and pimp who emotionally manipulates Sarah and tries out new drugs on her. He is also presented as smooth, suave and comes off as one of the normal characters. He is the one who calls out Frank on his Crimson Bolt persona and how he’s crazy…which he’s right. Frank took the black and white world to the extreme, which I’ll go into later.

Libby / Boltie – Ellen Page is nuts. When she is killing or beating up people she laughs maniacally. She is also the one who critiques Frank as she beats up someone who may have keyed someone’s car. Her death by Jacques’s thugs shows Frank the cost of what he is doing and how there could have been another way, as Libby would still be alive. She also has one of the darker scenes in this as as rapes Frank as the Crimson Bolt…

Frank / The Crimson Bolt – The protagonist isn’t all there. He watches tentacle porn and that is how God touches his brain making him believe he was the Chosen One to enforce the rules when The Holy Avenger speaks to him. He sees people as literal demons and acts on it. This leads to him taking out some bad people, but also a lot of innocents as people who but in line are also targets to be abused. He does eventually grow past his identity, largely because Libby shows him how he’s taken it too far. The Super Hero persona consumes her identity to the point where she thinks Frank will consent to sex if she makes him the Crimson Bolt, much like he thinks what he does is right if it is in the form of the Crimson Bolt. In the end he find his reasons to live and you get that he may have fully registered the amount of damage that was done to psyche when he went on the rampage to save Sarah, as well as the actions he’d done prior as the Crimson Bolt. For him it was worth it because Sarah was able to move on finally though, that was what helped him grow beyond his own reasons for taking the identity in the first place.

Deconstruction of Super Heroes – This movie does a great job deconstructing vigilantes and the super hero genre. Frank is really violent, even though he doesn’t kill, and he never seeks outside help which leads to his kid sidekick Libby getting killed. It can do good, which is recognized but to do it in the first place you have to have some mental issues for the world to be in such clear good and evil terms. Frank does…from his visions of the Holy Avenger and people as demons, to his targeting all people who are jerks or disobey the rules. For him everything is so stark and it has taken a tole on his psyche.

The Ending – Sarah’s kids send him pictures and he buys the bunny he’d been thinking about at the beginning of the film. What we see at the end is a man trying to move on who is grateful that he was able to help another move on and may be able to finally let himself move on too in the process. One of the best visuals in the film.

Cons: The Rape of Frank – This didn’t need to happen for Frank to wake up. It isn’t shown as positive thankfully, but there could have been another way for Frank to realize what he’d become. That his violence on others was similar to what had been done to him and how his identity allowed him to mask himself from responsibility.

Libby’s motivation – I wish we’d gotten more of Libby’s backstory. The reasons why she is the way she is and super violent are never explored…which I wish we could have got. She’s a fascinating character and Ellen Page does a great job in this role.

Would I recommend this movie? For sure, it is a great deconstruction and all the actors do an amazing job. James Gunn also shows why he was chosen to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t wait to see more of his work that he does later and has made it big…I also can’t wait to look back at more of his work.

Final Score is 9 / 10. Another favorite.