Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 3

Posted on May 3, 2023 at 11:56 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Extended sci-fi/action/comic book-style peril and violence
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 5, 2023
Date Released to DVD: July 31, 2023

Copyright Disney 2023
I guess it makes sense. Not the movie. Not even close. But the form = content notion that “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” the third in the series, is, like its characters a mess but a lovable and entertaining mess. By now it feels like it’s our mess. So, even though I couldn’t help imagining what Honest Trailers and Pitch Meeting are going to have so say about the very convoluted to the point of you’ve-got-to-be-kidding last 40 minutes or so and it’s well over two hours run time, I enjoyed it.

We already know something about the history of some of the characters. Peter Quill/Star Lord (Chris Pratt) had an earth mother and an alien father and was taken from earth at age 8 by an intergalactic group of rogues and thieves called The Ravagers. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) were stolen from their families when their planets were annihilated by Thanos and then tortured and mutilated to turn them into assassins. But we don’t know much about Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the tree-guy voiced by Vin Diesel.

In this chapter, we go back to Rocket’s origin story. Like Thanos’ adopted daughters and Wolverine and I’m sure lots of other fictional characters, he was operated on by a megalomaniacal villain trying to “perfect” the world. He is The High Evolutionary, played by Chukwudi Iwuji. He has already created worlds and destroyed them for not living up to his exacting standards of perfection. One of his worlds we saw briefly in the last GothG movie, with Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha, leader of a world of spectacularly beautiful golden-hued creatures. In this film, he threatens to destroy that world unless Ayesha’s son, Warlock (Will Poulter), brings him Rocket. While the High Evolutionary is obsessed with the “improvements” he inflicts, somehow Rocket has gifts of intellect that the High Evolutionary did not create for him and he wants to understand and either copy that or destroy it.

The High Evolutionary’s experiments on Rocket and other animals were mechanical, replacing body parts with metal, so that they look Like the mutilated toys in Syd’s room in the first “Toy Story.” But it is in the adjoining cages that he finds his first family, led by the warm-hearted otter named Lylla. Rocket, using that exceptional capacity for engineering we have observed in the earlier films, manages to escape (including piloting a ship even though he has never even seen one before, much less been exposed to outer space or really anything outside of his prison).

This time, then, the Guardians are not saving the galaxy. At the beginning of the film they seem happily settled in Knowwhere with Cosmo the Soviet wonder dog, Mantis, the anntena-ed empath (Pom Klementieff), and former Ravager Kraglin (Sean Gunn). They have opened a bar. But the one doing all the drinking is Peter, who is still trying to drown his grief over the loss of Gamora. Nothing can get him to stop until Rocket is attacked. He is gravely injured and in order to save him the Guardians will need to retrieve a code to unlock a mechanism that prevents the necessary surgery and just 48 hours to do it. The Ravagers also get involved, and they now include a different version of Gamora brought back from the past who has no memory of her relationship with Peter.

There’s a hint of “Mission Impossible.” They’re even told that if they are caught, they will not be acknowledged as acting on behalf of the ruling body. And there’s a Zune vintage music player retrieved at the end of Vol 2 to follow the mix-tapes from the first two movies with some new songs for the soundtrack.

As noted, it does get messy. The group of misfit toys go off in different directions and it is hard to keep track of who is doing what where. A increasing problem with the Marvel movies is the way they keep using the stakes The High Evolutionary and Warlock have powers of near god-like magnitude. What can the Guardians do? It gets muddled. The High Evolutionary can do just about anything including creating and destroying worlds, but somehow cannot fight back from an attack with claws. There is a significant element to the story about the essential value of living beings who might not be considered “higher” life forms….until that is undermined later on. I said it was messy. As Peter said in the first one, “Something good, something bad? Bit of both.”

NOTE: Stay through the credits for two extra scenes

Parents should know that this film has extended peril and comic book/action-style violence with sometimes graphic and disturbing images. Characters are injured and killed. The film includes strong language, drinking and drunkenness.

Family discussion: Why is having a name so important? What does the name High Evolutionary mean and what does he think it means to be “perfect?” Why was the distinction about “higher forms” significant?

If you like this, try: the other “Guardians” movies

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Posted on December 23, 2022 at 5:41 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Preschool
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some disturbing images, strong language, and thematic content
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkeness
Violence/ Scariness: A murder mystery with peril, homicide, and fighting, some disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 23, 2022

Copyright Netflix 2022
I have very conflicting ideas about this review. Part of me wants to tell you all about “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” but a bigger part of me wants you to find out all of its secrets and surprises on your own. So bear with me if I lean too far in that direction. I’m doing it for your own good. “Glass Onion” is an enormously entertaining delight and I want you to enjoy it fully. In fact, go ahead and watch it and then come back here if you want to see what I think about it.

Like its predecessor, “Knives Out,” it is a deliciously twisty remix of the classic British-style murder mystery, with a fabulous location and a group of suspects who all have motive and opportunity. Also like its predecessor, it has an all-star cast clearly enjoying themselves enormously.

The very large cast is efficiently and wittily introduced as each of them receives an elaborate invitation to a party at a fabulous glass mansion on a remote island, the home of a billionaire named Miles Bron (Edward Norton). In a brilliantly edited sequence, we see each of the characters trying to open the box, telling us a lot about who they are and how they think. Jackie Hoffman, as one character’s mother, is hilariously bored and sharp at the same time.

Receiving the astonishingly crafted puzzle box with the invitation:

Kate Hudson as Birdie Jay, a flamboyant, selfish, famous-for-being-famous celebrity whose outspoken remarks are often offensive.

Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, the governor of Connecticut.

Dave Bautista as Duke, an obnoxious, gun-toting social media star. He brings his girlfriend, Whiskey (Madeline Cline).

Leslie Odem as Lionel, a scientist working with Miles on a secret project.

Janelle Monae as Andi, formerly Miles’ girlfriend and partner.

These people were all friends before Miles became wealthy and they get together once a year. This year, Miles has something special planned, a murder mystery game.

Also arriving on the island — the one carry-over character from the earlier film, the brilliant detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

We learn about the connections that tie this group together, with some hilarious cameo appearances (two very touching from huge stars we recently lost) and celebrity references. Miles’ glass palace is filled with the kind of gauche art displays you would see in the home of an ultra-rich guy who wants bragging rights. (Genuine art lovers will notice that the “Rothko” is hanging upside down.) Amidst the twists and turns of the story are some clever digs at those we consider “influencers” and “disrupters.”

The performances are all spectacular. Hudson nails the selfish, superficial fading star desperate for attention, pretending that she does not know the difference between being outspoken and having something to say. Norton is just right with the false geniality of of a man who has given up everything to think of himself as a winner. Craig is a hoot (one of the movie’s best surprises is the reveal of his romantic partner). Monae masters a role that requires a lot of subtlety as the estranged member of the group and looks like a billion bucks as she does so.

What song will Johnson pick for the next one? Which superstars will appear? I can’t wait to find out.

Parents should know that this is a murder mystery with homicides and betrayal. There are some graphic images, characters use strong language and drink and get drunk. The movie also includes sexual references and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: What was the biggest surprise in the movie? How does the Beatles song “Glass Onion” relate to the film? Who should star in the next chapter?

If you like this, try: “Knives Out” and “See How They Run” as well as some of the stories that inspired them: “And Then There Were None,” “The Thin Man,” and the original “Murder on the Orient Express”

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My Spy

Posted on June 25, 2020 at 5:42 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action/violence and language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Mayhem and spy-related action violence, many characters injured and killed, off-screen death of parent
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: June 26, 2020

Copyright 2020 Amazon Studios
“My Spy” does not try to conceal the sources it relies on for its storyline — other movies. This is a movie about a CIA agent who refers to “Notting Hill” twice, once in the first five minutes. It is also a movie that thinks it is okay to copy one of the best sequences from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because it makes a weak joke about doing so. There is even a reference to the wedding scene in “Shrek.” The whole movie is propelled by pieces from other movies, from Melissa McCarthy’s “Spy” to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Kindergarten Cop” to Richard Dreyfuss and Madeleine Stowe in “Stakeout,” director Peter Segal’s own “Get Smart” and star Dave Bautista’s “Stuber.” The best I can say is that it does not lift any of its storyline from lesser films along the same lines like “Mr. Nanny” or “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot.”

So, no surprises here but that does not mean it’s not mildly entertaining along the way. Unfortunately, it is too violent for the elementary school audience most likely to enjoy it.

Bautista plays J.J., a special forces veteran now working as a field agent for the CIA. He is still better at shooting people than at spycraft. When he kills a bunch of bad guys instead of obtaining the information he was supposed to bring back to Langley his new assignment is designed to keep him out of trouble. He and Bobbi (Kristen Schaal), a tech specialist, will be on a stakeout, watching Kate, a single mom (Parisa Fitz-Henley), and Sophie, her 9 year old daughter (Chloe Coleman of “Big Little Lies”), from the apartment down the hall. They are new in town and Sophie is having trouble making new friends at school. The CIA thinks that Sophie’s uncle, who has the information they need about a possible nuclear weapon, may show up there.

But they are almost immediately busted by Sophie, who threatens to expose them unless J.J. helps her out, first by taking her to the skating rink, then by coming to school for “parents and special friends day.” He agrees, but he warns her that “This ain’t gonna end up like some movie with you and me sitting in little chairs having a tea party with dolls.” But what Sophie wants is to learn important spy stuff like lying and walking away from an explosion without looking back. And what J.J. needs is to learn how to develop actual relationships with anyone other than his fish, Blueberry and his affection for “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”

Both the action scenes and the “J.J. learns how to be vulnerable and talk to people” scene are generic and there is a lot of carnage for a movie about an endearing child. But Coleman is a gifted performer who knows how to deliver lines that are too grown-up for her age without sounding overly precocious, and her scenes with Bautista have some real warmth. The understated diversity of the cast is a plus. Ultimately, the reason we see this kind of set-up so often is that we are programmed to enjoy it.

Parents should know that this movie has a lot of violence for a PG-13 with shoot-outs, chases, and explosions, and a child in peril. There is a reference to a sad off-screen death of a parent and the issue of learning upsetting news about what he may have done. A crotch hit is portrayed as comic. There are some school mean girls and brief cyber-bullying. Lying is portrayed as an enviable skill. Strong language includes the b-word, the s-word, and more.

Family discussion: What does J.J. learn from Sophie? Why doesn’t Sophie tell her mother about J.J.? What facial cues are you good at reading?

If you like this, try: “The Game Plan,” (PG) and the PG-13 rated “Kindergarten Cop” and “Spy”

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Stuber

Posted on July 11, 2019 at 5:30 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing
Violence/ Scariness: Extended and intense peril and violence with many graphic and disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, extended mayhem and destruction
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: July 12, 2019
Date Released to DVD: October 14, 2019

Copyright 2019 20th Century Fox
At least once every summer we have to get a dumb action comedy about a mismatched pair, so this summer it is “Stuber,” about an Uber driver named Stu. If you find that portmanteau witty — or don’t care whether it’s witty or not because it’s summer and you like to see chases and explosions — then this movie is for you. If you want to see this premise at it’s best, try “Midnight Run” with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin. If you want to see an entertaining recent example, try “Central Intelligence” with Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. But if you just want some mindless summer movie mayhem, then “Stuber” will fill the bill.

Kumail Nanjiani (“The Big Sick,” “Silicon Valley”) plays Stu, who is struggling with not one but two jobs where he is constantly trying to handle people who disrespect and abuse him. He works at a big box sporting goods store under a bully who is also the son of the owner. He makes extra money driving for Uber and he tries hard for the five-star rating, providing phone chargers and water and selecting just the right music for the ride. He is saving money to start a spin class business with his long-time friend and wished-for crush, Becca (“GLOW’s” Betty Gilpin). Stu is a gentle soul who drives an electric car and cannot find the courage to tell Becca how he feels. He pretty much wants a five star rating from everyone; it’s even on his license plate.

And so we have to find someone who is Stu’s opposite, then, so we can have the fun of seeing them not get along and then prove themselves to each other and become BFFs while they’re chasing and shooting and exchanging banter, right? And so there’s Vic (Dave Bautista of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the WWE), a hard-as-nails cop who has been chasing a drug dealer named Teijo (Iko Uwais) for years. And it’s personal, because Teijo killed Vic’s partner and because this movie needs to ramp everything up repeatedly to keep us from noticing that it is pretty dumb. Some more ramping up: Vic is a walking, punching personification of toxic masculinity with an adult daughter he neglects and who is having a big show of her sculpture the same night when Teijo may be within reach and the same night he has a significant temporary impairment — he cannot see due to Lasik surgery. (I trust that neither Lasik nor Uber paid for their product placement in this film.)

And so he calls Uber to take him to the various places he needs to go to interrogate people and track down Teijo. As is typical in R-rated action comedies, this includes a strip club, but in this case it’s male strippers, where Stu unexpectedly has something of a bonding moment with one of the performers. Stu also gets some frantic phone calls from Becca, who may for the first time be willing to see him as a romantic possibility — if he comes over RIGHT NOW. Plus, Vic keeps pulling him into increasingly perilous situations. But Vic won’t let him go, threatening a rating so bad Stu will lose his job.

These team-ups are always based on an id/superego mash-up, and Nanjiani’s trademark understated delivery plays off well with Bautista’s brawn. But the mayhem and senseless destruction overwhelms even the ramped-up stakes, with more death and destruction than an action comedy can support and a twist so obvious it doesn’t even work as parody.

Parents should know that this film includes constant action-style peril and violence with many characters injured and killed and graphic and disturbing images, very strong and crude language, and sexual references and brief frontal male nudity.

Family discussion: Why couldn’t Stu tell Becca how he felt? Why couldn’t Vic tell his daughter how he felt?

If you like this, try: “Central Intelligence” and “Midnight Run”

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Trailer: Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 9:10 am

One of the most anticipated releases of the year is Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” starring Chris Pratt (“The LEGO Movie”), Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Lee Pace.  The trailer looks amazing. I love the use of the Blue Suede version of the Jonathan King “ooga chaka” version of the B.J. Thomas song, “Hooked on a Feeling.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTZ2Tp9yXyM

And for hard-core fanboys and fangirls, here are the detailed analyses from Entertainment Weekly and director James Gunn himself.

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