“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

If your Playstation isn’t enough to keep you entertained this weekend, you can go to the theater to see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” a 2 hour and 16 minute video game of real people shooting at CGI garbage. It’s another superhero movie that strives to be funny and loved simply by being different when in reality, it’s just the same as every other raucous, overstuffed Marvel exercise.

In this unbalanced sequel, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) is searching for his lost father (Kurt Russell). All the Guardians gang is back, including love interest Gamora (Zoe Saldana), superstrong Drax (Dave Bautista), the loyal friend-yet-jerk Rocket raccoon (Bradley Cooper), and the baby version of Groot (Vin Diesel).

Audiences are treated to yet another annoying performance from abrasive jackass Pratt (remind me why this guy is a movie star again?), and the movie milks the cuteness of baby Groot to the max (the character is visibly meant to appeal to the smallest of children; take note as the doe-eyed Groot shimmies and shakes his way through the opening credits). Jokes are repeated from the first film, including referring to Rocket as a rat. It feels old and stale.

Director James Gunn is relentless in his insistence on using obscure 70s ballads to score the film that the music choices sticks out like a sore thumb, being used so much that the movie at times feels like an overly long music video. Half of the scenes don’t mesh with the (supposedly) tongue-in-cheek accompanying songs, and the soundtrack is as irritating as it is distracting. I lost count of the number of times a character is seen walking in slow-motion to a crappy retro tune.

The movie also tries to steal the core message of the meaning of family from the popular “Fast and Furious” franchise, taking their earnest, heartfelt sincerity and pushing it to the point where it comes off as awkward, phony, and forced. The irreverent humor flops as often as it succeeds, and the film at times resorts to lazy reference jokes (yeah, yeah, we get it, but just name dropping 80s-era icons like Pac-Man and David Hasselhoff doesn’t a genuine laugh make).

Thankfully it’s not all bad. The action-packed storyline kept me engaged with characters that I find hugely unlikable, the special effects (read: cartoon drawings) are colorful and cool, and the ending is absolutely fantastic — but none of these things can completely excuse what comes before.

This movie is really nothing more than a flashy and boisterous Saturday morning cartoon on steroids, something by design that’s made to appeal to adults and kids alike. You can take your whole family and everyone will probably agree that it’s the best movie they’ve ever seen because it’s the last movie they’ve seen. There’s not much craft nor artistry to “Guardians Vol. 2”, but it’s as good as the first movie and it’s still fun enough to not become a total disaster.

Sundance Review: “Bushwick”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Some of the best truly independent films start out with the simple question of “what if?” In “Bushwick,” Texas militia forces invade a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York as the state attempts to secede from the United States and a civil war is breaking out across the country.

It’s a fun premise and is done extremely well, especially on a shoestring budget. There’s not a lot of new ground covered here and the film is far from original, but co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion have a good eye for staging exciting action and chase sequences (the final shootout in a park is incredibly well done, staged with long, fluid takes). In fact, I loved that the entire movie was filled with smooth, almost elegant shots instead of the obnoxious and annoying shaky-cam that dominates so many big studio action films.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of predictable running and hiding, blood and gunshots, yelling and CGI explosions, but the gimmick of having a camera follow the action from behind like a participant rather an observer, works. While making sure the audience feels like part of the action, it also serves as a distraction from the realization that there’s not much plot to the story.

Lucy (Brittany Snow) is a college student who steps out of the subway and into a war zone. While running to seek shelter, she ducks into a bunker of burly and tough ex-Marine Stupe (Dave Bautista). The two play well enough off each other, and they are saddled with plenty of simplistic and lame dialogue. The amateurism acting is reminiscent of a high school drama production (at one point you can visibly see an actor who’s supposed to be playing dead breathing), but it really doesn’t matter.

There’s just the right amount of action and humor peppered throughout, making “Bushwick” a worthy companion to similar films like “Attack the Block” and “Cloverfield.”

This film was screened and reviewed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.