Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017): Trying Too Hard (Review)

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-2-Main-CastDirected and written by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (which uses a whole slew of characters created by other folks from Marvel) is entertaining but it does seem to be trying a tad too hard to keep up with the first volume in the franchise.  The music from the mix tape is not as catchy as the first film’s and Baby Groot is used far too much when things get slow.

(In the instance of Groot, the character feels like a Marvel version of Lassie, or the kangaroo with a heart from Down Under, Skippy. “I am Groot” is now understood as a language all its own. Sort of like Skippy making kissing noises or Lassie barking. “What’s that Skippy/Lassie? Old Mrs. Wilson has fallen down the well?” Or…in the parlance of this setting, a myriad of meanings is derived from the twig’s single utterances.)

The film does entertain. It was always, however, going to have a hard time living up to the first GotG. In 2014 when the movie about lesser known Marvel  characters opened, one left the cinema in a state of joyous euphoria. In 2017, the film is slower, although somewhat grandiose in plot – Kurt Russell does play a seed implanting planet, after all – but it loses something betwixt the first film’s fun open.

Chris Pratt’s character is less precocious and Zoe Zaldana’s Gamora is less everything. Dave Bautista’s Drax is funnier but less literal and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket comes across much calmer than before. Michael Rooker stays pretty much the same as the blue skinned Yondu and Kurt Russell, as the omnipotent daddy figure has apparently had a lift and a tuck after working on Bone Tomahawk and The Hateful Eight.

The plot, in volume two of Guardians of the Galaxy allows a family reunion between Peter Quill and his daddy; Ego. Rocket annoys the heck out of the Creel (a group of genetically engineered gold skinned people) by stealing some their batteries. This places a death sentence on all the guardians and they must flee/fight their former clients while  dealing with Ego.

While the film does appear to be trying too hard to please, it does still entertain. There were a number of laughs, a few teary moments and a clever bit of plot interweaving going on. Karen Gillan reprises her role as Nebula to fine effect and Elizabeth Debicki is splendid as Ayesha, the leader of the Creel.

Stan Lee appears on a rock talking to some Watchers, Sylvester Stallone has a cameo as does Michelle Yeo and Ving Rhames.  At the start of the film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 utilizes some “Tron-like” CG to rejuvenate Russell into a younger version of himself. This would have been more impressive had Russell not had his wrinkles ironed out to play the immortal Ego.

Essentially, Volume Two of the franchise is a bit of a rehash of the first film.  There is an overwhelming enemy hoard to deal with and a big bad that almost kills everyone. In terms of trying too hard, there are a slew of cameos in this second film.

The first movie had John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz, along with Glenn Close and Benicio Del Toro to fill out the cameos. (Nathan Fillion voiced a character in the prison scenes and this go around Miley Cyrus was the celebrity VO artist.)

Perhaps the only real “sin” committed here was that in terms of originality and freshness, Volume Two was always going to have an uphill struggle after the magical open of “Volume One.” Peter Quill is less funny this time around and Drax laughs far too much.

Still…the film is great fun and while it drags just enough to notice things like how big and beautiful Zaldana’s hands are, compared to Pratt’s, and observing how intricate Gillan’s Nebula make up is, Gunn’s effort is still worthy of the big screen Marvel-verse.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a cracking ride, despite its overall tone of trying too hard the film earns a full 4.5 stars. It is still playing in a cinema near you and even with a few loud people in the audience, it is well worth the price of a ticket and the two hours and 16 minute length is acceptable.

(Note: Stick around for the end credits to completely play out. There are a number of teasers at the end.)

Kindergarten Cop 2 (2016): F for Lack of Effort (Review)

Dolph Lundgren in KC2

“Kindergarten Cop 2” is not a sequel to the first one. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character does not reappear nor does the villain from the original 1990 action comedy. This one gets a F for total lack of effort or attention to detail.  Lundgren’s character is not even a cop, per se, Agent Zack Reed is in the FBI.

There is no cute kid for Dolph to bond with and he romances the other kindergarten teacher (who is roughly 30 years his junior).  Lundgren looks great; lean, mean and not much in terms of drag or sag and very few wrinkles.

Still, things must be pretty tough in Seattle if young 20 something teachers have to date a man their father’s age…

Apart from the unlikely love affairs, the plot deals with a Russian gangster whose mistress Reed infiltrated to bring the kingpin down.  One year later, a pair of brothers hack the FBI Witness Protection database and offer the information to Zogu (Aleks Paunovic), the Russian gangster. The brother who hacked the system and made a copy of the information on a flash drive is dead. The deceased was a kindergarten teacher. 

Reed goes undercover to find the flash drive while Zogu closes in.

“Kindergarten Cop 2,” unlike the Arnold vehicle, has nothing new to offer. There are changes. Gone is the female partner who falls out as the teacher substitute. Reed volunteers up front.   This version features children who are neither overly amusing nor engagingly annoying.

The humor, like the May December romance feels forced and not very funny. (Like the overbearing and bellowing FBI head who screams at Reed every time he interacts with the agent. As pointed out on IMDb, this device has been used before, most notably in Schwarzenegger’s “Last Action Hero.” Perhaps this was a homage?)

There are amusing bits here and there. Reed dropping the peanut panicking child when the teacher tells him to and the taser in the “nuts” scene were both worth a chuckle.  There were too many “gags” that just did not work however The two slow motion strolls by the kids and the Dalai Lama “I’m okay,  you’re okay” liberal school never really felt right.

The overall feel of the film was sloppy and rushed. Even continuity was lacking. In the chocolate  cookie “sugar rush” scene, Reed gets two giant blue hand prints on his shirt. (One of the kids was pouring blue finger paint every where.) By the time Reed gets home one of the blue handprints is a combination of yellow and blue and much smaller, while the other handprint disappears completely.

(Come on chaps, the film was hardly complex surely it would have been easy to get the colours  and size right.)

The film was very much a cartoon version of the original. In the first movie, the children were the backdrop and kept safe throughout, i.e. not part of the actual criminal proceedings. In this iteration, which once again has nothing to do with the first film,  the children are used to save the good guys.

Despite a complete lack of logic, the film does have amusing moments. Sadly these never cross into area of outright hilarity. There are no, “tumah” moments in this movie. There is a clever moment where the kids poem about the class guinea pig turns out to be an acrostic poem and Reed figures it out.

“Kindergarten Cop 2” is rated PG-13 and it seems a bit of overkill as there is not too much violence nor is there any gore or sex.  Presumably violent action against the family jewels is damaging to young minds. Clearly the movie is aimed at the  younger members of the audience, even younger than the first one and it may well be that this targeted demographic enjoy the feature.

The most annoying thing about the film is the clear product placement of the Twixt bars that Reed likes to snack on.  There is no mistake about the brand name as each time the name is clearly seen and even mentioned by the players.  At one point Zack is broiling a steak and it is surprising that the meat company was not promoted alsol.

It is just as well that this can be seen on Netflix.  Paying for cinema tickets would have been annoying and somewhat criminal.  “Kindergarten Cop 2”  is a 2.5 out of 5 stars.  More irritating than funny, watch this only if there is literally nothing else on Netflix. Lundgren fans may enjoy this blasé yawn fest, but not necessarily.

Horrible Bosses 2: Funniest Sequel of 2014 (Review and Trailer)

Horrible Bosses 2: Funniest Sequel of 2014 (Review and Trailer)

After all the excitement of Dumb and Dumber To opening on November 7 to an enthusiastic existing fanbase who waited years for a sequel, it is ironic that Horrible Bosses 2 is the funniest of the two comedic sequels to premiere in 2014. The first Horrible Bosses effort premiered in 2011 to mainly uneven reviews, although the late Roger Ebert gave it three and a half out of four stars. The film performed very well at the box office mainly due to the cast which, according to Rotten Tomatoes, was the black comedy’s saving grace.

22 Jump Street Seriously Funny Follow Up (DVD Review/Trailer)

22 Jump Street Seriously Funny Follow Up (DVD Review/Trailer)

It almost feels like 2014 is the year of the comedic sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, Horrible Bosses 2 and earlier than both these, 22 Jump Street which is now out on Blu Ray and DVD; the film is a seriously funny follow up to the original. While it is not perfection, the second pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube stepping in as the head of Jump Street again, works very well overall. This sequel picks up the pace just a little and Peter Stormare has a brilliant cameo as the nostalgic drug lord The Ghost, who misses the good old days.