Tag Archives: James Gunn

“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.

“The Belko Experiment”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Oh, what a great movie this could have been.

In what’s been described with mild accuracy as “Office Space” meets “Battle Royale,” “The Belko Experiment” is a bloody, gruesome and hyper violent exercise in indie cinema with an abundance of missed potential. Instead of striving for a masterpiece of comedy or a clever critique on workplace hierarchy and office politics, director Greg McLean and writer James Gunn instead opt for a disappointing, unimaginative bloodbath. It’s a cruelly savage tale of massacre and slaughter with no heft or meaning, just lots of blood.

What a letdown.

The plot is straightforward and unoriginal, and the film relies on its white collar world setting as the only mark of creativity. In a sick and twisted social experiment, an office full of 80 American employees are trapped inside their corporate high rise headquarters in Bogotá, Colombia. They must commit a certain number of murders per hour at the behest of an unknown voice broadcasting over the loudspeaker in the building. An all-out war soon ensues as the office becomes a splatter-filled playground of carnage in a contest for the survival of the fittest.

Movie like this are always a bit fun to watch (“The Hunger Games,” “The Condemned,” “The Running Man”) and I understand that nonstop violence can sometimes be a fun escape, but this movie misses the mark in a big way. For films like this to be truly compelling, the characters have to be sympathetic, driven and relatable in their will to survive and their eagerness to become murderers. It’s not the fault of the actors either, as there are some decent performances from John Gallagher Jr., Melonie Diaz and Adria Arjona, with Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley adding the best turns as two bosses gone rogue. Here we just get to watch as shallow, thinly scripted office workers are shot, stabbed, impaled, torn apart by hatchets, kicked to death, burned alive, and have their necks broken, all in a frantic assembly line fashion.

There are a couple of inspired ways that some of the associates meet the demise, including one guy who has his brains bashed in by a tape dispenser and several others getting the ultimate surprise of having their heads explode all over the break room. This is more of a straight up horror gore fest rather than a thoughtful or fun movie, and I left extremely disappointed in this colossal waste of potential.

“The Belko Experiment” is little more than dumbed down carnage that’s being marketed to educated genre fans and as a result, the project fails.