Category Archives: Action-adventure

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 A   If you’re looking for non-stop, edge-of-your-seat action with a twist, then this is your movie. All the original characters from the first film are back, along with a few “new” ones to enhance the experience. The movie opens in Missouri in 1980, as a young Kurt Russell is romancing a pretty young blonde. He turns out to be the father of Peter Quill, who came to be Star-Lord (Chris Pratt). This is a major reveal as we finally get to meet this previously mysterious figure. There are, however, a few wicked twists to this story.

Fast forward to the present, where Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), leader of the Sovereign race, has hired the Guardians to protect some valuable batteries from a trans dimensional monster, agreeing to turn Nebula (Karen Gillan) over to Gamora (Zoe Saldana), her sister. Nebula was apprehended for attempting to steal the batteries herself.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 D The dimensional monster is defeated in a scenario both extremely violent and hilarious. Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper) manages to steal a few of the batteries, which leads to the Sovereign race sending a fleet of drones to stop them. In the fight that ensues, we see that the Sovereign are a highly technical race who handle the drones like so many video games, yet they lose when a mystery ship helps out. The ship belongs to Ego, who is Quill’s real dad.

A subplot plays out the fact that Yondu (Michael Rooker), who initially captured Peter on Earth when he was just a boy, broke the code of the Ravagers by doing that and is confronted by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone), leader of the Ravagers, who exiles Yondu.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 B

The story returns to the Guardians, who crashed on a nearby planet after the drone fight.  Ego takes Quill, Gamora, and Drax (Dave Bautista)  to his world so he can explain everything to Peter. With Ego is the female Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is an empath alien and “pet” to Ego. She explains that she can know people’s feelings and emotions by touching them.

Turns out that Ego has a few interesting skeletons in his closet that become known as he interacts with his “guests”, and Peter is more of a pawn than a “son”, which leads to a final battle between father and son even more intense than what Star Wars had. In the end, one character dies (I won’t tell you which, but several possibilities manifest themselves). Marvel head honcho Stan Lee makes his “required” cameo in a brief scene with characters known as Watchers, one of the few surprises in this film, which introduce some characters from other Marvel stories and some of the original comic book Guardians.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 C

After the closing credits (which are themselves filled with small funny pictures and “I am Groot” logos which chameleon themselves into credits) there are various short vignettes that set up some angles for the upcoming third installment. Be ready for an 80s TV icon to make an appearance near the end (and it’s NOT Stallone).

Overall, “Guardians Vol. 2” doesn’t disappoint and maintains a hectic pace from beginning to end with crisp action and fight scenes and clever banter between the characters. Rocket, Drax, and Gamora are well “fleshed out” as we find out some little-known things about their feelings for each other.

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84 Years Later, Kong is Still King

Kong Skull Island 1

In 1933, Merian C. Cooper astounded the world by bringing a fantastic version of Beauty and the Beast to the silver screen. It was the story of a giant ape revered as a God on a remote island where evolution paused millions of years ago and dinosaurs still roamed. It was hailed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, and was brought to life by master technician Willis O’Brien, with help from Marcel Delgado and a young Ray Harryhausen, that last being uncredited, but he used the experience in 1948 to create Mighty Joe Young. But enough history, let’s dissect this story.

William Randa (John Goodman) and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) wrangle a senator to fund a mission for his Monarch Corporation, a nebulous entity shrouded in secrecy which is hunting for “large, living monsters”. The mission gets piggybacked with a geologic trip to the area, but not before Randa secures a military escort in the person of Samuel L. Jackson as Lt. Col. Preston Packard and his Sky Devils helicopter assault team.

Kong Skull Island 2

It should be noted that this story unfolds shortly after the end of the Vietnam War, and Packard and most of his men are eager for “one more tour of duty” in this adventure, which is laced with 1970s classic rock tunes the audience of a certain age will fondly remember. The target, “Skull Island” is continuously surrounded by violent storms that have kept it hidden for a long time, and has just recently been identified by satellite imagery.

As the helicopters break through the clouds, they disperse and release “helicopter bombs” to assess the geological makeup of the island. This act brings out a titanic gorilla which attacks the helicopters and knocks them all out of the sky. Among the ragtag crew is James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), an aspiring photojournalist and peace activist looking for that one picture that will make her famous. The soldiers and civilians get separated and try to get back together again. As they roam around they encounter a huge mutant water buffalo. Conrad is a former member of the British Special Forces in Vietnam and a jungle expert, so he’s a natural leader for his group, which winds up at some ancient ruins where they encounter fierce-appearing natives and Lieutenant Hank Marlow (John C. Riley), who has been living on the island since crashing there during World War II. Marlow gives them the lowdown on the native life forms on the island, which include giant spiders and ants (although we never see the ants) and a large snakelike animal with front arms and a bony head which he refers to as “skull crawlers”, a word he just made up because it “sounds scary”.

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Also present is a species of large cephalopod, which makes a brief appearance as a giant, active sushi bar for Kong. The skull crawlers are definitely the main threat as they are fast and ferocious, and manage to decimate the troops a bit as they amble around. Just as nasty are “ugly birds” of some mutant variety which are actually some sort of pterosaur that account for a few more deaths. Preston wants Kong dead, but Marlow is against the idea because he points out that Kong is basically the only means of protection against the skull crawlers, especially one “big one”. One of the scientists adds to the argument by pointing out that in nature, when one species is wiped out, another steps up to fill in the void.

Kong_Skull_Island_poster  This is NOT your grandfather’s Kong, and parents should be made aware that the scenes of gore and monster violence are very intense, so you may want to consider leaving the kiddies home for this one. The ending of this film is slightly upbeat, but I must confess I didn’t stick around for all the end credits to see how they were going to tie this one up with the Godzilla legend in 2020, so I may have missed a big point. The lush jungle scenery of Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia give this film a “travelogue” look—at least until the monsters show up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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xXx the Return of Xander Cage

If somebody told me that I’d be going to see a “XXX” movie back in the 70s, it would have meant something completely different. Vin Diesel has already appeared as Xander Cage in a  couple of previous films, but in this one he’s “pressed” into service when he hears about his old boss being killed.

xxx-poster The action starts within seconds of the opening credits and never lets up under the direction of D.J. Caruso. In fact, if you look up the definition of “action movie”, it would probably refer you to the film. In a nutshell: a device called “Pandora’s Box”, which can be used to direct orbiting satellites into becoming weapons crashing down from space is stolen by agents from a government headquarters. When the “brass” decides that this will require equally skilled men to bring them in, a female official says she knows of such a man.

xxx-1 She goes to Santo Domingo to “reactivate” Xander Cage and team him up with some military muscle, but Cage has these men “drop out” and assembles his own crew, which begins a series of deceptions, double crosses, and triple crosses that keeps the audience guessing. Cage and crew travel to the Phillippines to track down the thieves, who turn out to be xXx agents themselves, including UFC Welterweight Champion Michael Bisping in a cool role. Much of this cast were virtual unknowns to me, but they all gelled quite well together.

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, from left: Tony Jaa, Michael Bisping, Donnie Yen, 2017. ph: Michael The device is recovered, but as Xander points out when another satellite is highjacked, this was a “single unit” device, and the real one capable of accessing any satellite, is still out there. The real device is tracked down to Detroit, in a high-rise building, and the two groups of xXx agents work separately to get it, setting up a violent fight along Detroit streets until both teams decide to work together. It turns out the evil mastermind is himself a rogue CIA man with delusions of grandeur (old plot twist here).

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, Ruby Rose, 2017. ph: George Kraychyk / ©Paramount /Courtesy Everett

Just as the villain is “taken out” by sharpshooter Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose), yet another development pops up involving equally crooked government agents (surprise) and even more shootouts and a harrowing plane ride that resolves it all in a neatly wrapped package that brings Xander and Serena (Deepika Padukone) together before the final scene in a church for the funeral of dead chief Augustus Gibbons(Samuel L. Jackson) who was killed all the way back at the film’s beginning.

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE, from left: Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone, 2017. ph: George Kraychyk / Diesel and Padukone, we deduce by the end, will definitely be an item. Diesel himself is listed as one of the producers in this movie, so he definitely has a vested interest in keeping the story going, and the end definitely points that way. “xXx” runs for just under two hours, and there isn’t time to get bored or even catch your breath, so if you crave action, you’ll get a full plate of it here.

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Captain America: Civil War A Hit

Just had to see this one, and I wasn’t disappointed. Civil War was probably the closest rendition of the characters as they are in the Marvel comics. In spite of all the characters having a story to tell, it was done sparingly on that angle, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and Spider Man (Tom Holland) are the only ones to get any extended background checks.

What it boils down to is this: after the big battle in last year’s Age of Ultron caper, the United Nations decides that the Avengers must be controlled and their actions monitored. U.S. Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) is delegated with being in charge, and he uses a lot of S.H.I.E.L.D’s technology to do so. Captain America and Iron Man become at odds over how the Feds want to capture the Cap’s friend Bucky after he’s suspected of bombing a U.N. meeting.  Various heroes align themselves with either side, and the action commences  in earnest.

There are a few surprises in store as some of the characters are recruited as the plot evolves and they are introduced and are faithful to the comics. The story of how the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) enters the fray is well handled.  Peter (Spider-Man) Parker is a revelation. He is introduced just months after going into action and gets a major makeover from Iron Man’s Stark Industries. As in the comics, he’s only a teenager who’s under the impression that this is an audition for an Avengers job, and he revels in it. He, just like in the comics, engages his opponents in a lot of banter and wisecracking comments.

An on-going story within the story involves Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who was responsible for the death of Iron Man’s parents and the corruption of Bucky. Zemo wants to destroy the Avengers, and this is his big chance to do it. He attempts to find the place where Hydra’s Winter Soldiers were created. and this leads to the final battle between Iron Man and the Captain.

The fight scenes are exciting, highly visual, and well-spaced within the story, and the characters reveal a human side that other Marvel movies have omitted. Marvel head guy Stan Lee makes his usual cameo as a mailman, as has become his habit. If you see only one movie this year, try to make it this one. You can thank me later.

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Batman v Superman: Mixed Signals

First off, it should be known that if you haven’t seen 2013’s “Man of Steel” movie, you’ll be somewhat confused because this film, although not really a sequel to it, is a companion piece which draws heavily upon the former to cast a line and reel you in. The first ten minutes or so revisit “Man of Steel” and enbellishes the story of how the world developed mixed signals from Superman’s battle with fellow Kryptonian General Zod and resulted in devastation and death to many people. We also found out that Batman suffered personal loss in that world-rattling fight and holds Superman accountable for that.

The beginning also revisits the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents years before and how the young man was influenced into becoming Batman in a series of confusing vignettes that leaves us wondering WTF? Further adding to the confusion is a hodgepodge of additional scenes that show Lois Lane on assignment in the African desert, getting captured and her photographer getting killed by said captors. We don’t find out until the end credits roll, two and a half hours later, that this photog was Jimmy Olsen. Quick exit for him.

Part of this mish mash also shows Batman in Gotham City fighting criminals who run a sex slave operation, and we find that Bats is a bit deranged himself. Perhaps the two decades of being, as he’s called, a vigilante, have rattled him, but just like the original comic book character was in the early 1940s, he’s not above killing his foes, and even brands the bad guys he captures.

Setting the stage, Batman is played by Ben Affleck, who carries the role much better than when he had a previous hero turn in “Daredevil”. Henry Cavill reprises as Superman and Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Jesse Eisenberg is Lex Luthor, who is world famous as a scientific philanthropist who has managed to fool everybody and hide his warped personality, but this film lets it flourish magnificently. Also featured are Diane Lane as Clark Kent’s adoptive mother and newcomer Gal Gadot is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Laurence Fishburne is Perry White.

Let’s not wander too far from the premise, though. This film serves as the birth pangs for the upcoming Justice League of America series, so we also get to (briefly) see Aquaman and The Flash through Batman and Wonder Woman accessing Luthor’s secret files on super humans, although we see Flash as well during a “dream sequence” involving Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. During the course of the film, the three main heroes wind up finding out about each other’s secret identities, which helps them eventually bond, especially Bruce and Diana. Luthor becomes aware that Batman has stolen his kryptonite stock and uses this knowledge to maneuver him into fighting Superman.

TV watchers have already seen footage from this movie in several commercials about Jeep and Dodge vehicles, as obviously Chrysler supplied most of the rides seen onscreen. The new, nearly indestructible Batmobile is totally awesome and even crashing into Superman can’t destroy it. The Batplane is smaller than the original comic book version but nonetheless impressive.

Let’s not forget Lex Luthor’s importance to the plot here. His manipulation of people finds him getting access to a congressional hearing which leaves people divided about Superman when Luthor blows up the Capitol with Supes inside. Lex has also gained access to a kryptonite meteor, which he plans to use for making weapons capable of harming Superman. eventually, he uses a small piece of Kryptonite to slice off bits of Zod’s fingertips from his corpse and gain access to the dead Kryptonian’s ship and mix his blood with Zod’s DNA to create the monster Doomsday and attack Superman should all else fail.

The cataclysic ending has all thre heroes fighting Doomsday. Even though Wonder Woman has a legendary, mystical sword she recovered in Turkey that is somewhat effective in   fighting Doomsday, it’s Lois Lane who becomes instrumental in defeating Doomsday at a heavy cost as Superman is apparently killed by him. At Clark Kent’s funeral, Bruce tells Diana that they must find others like her to fight for humanity, which launches the series of Justice League movies yet to come.

Confusing? Yes, but the non-stop action and adventure meshes well with the web of bits from the comics, both old and new, to create a story that will leave DC comics fans anxious to seee how the characters (Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Cyborg, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter) will be incorporated.

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