Category: Movies (Page 1 of 38)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 Review

‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2’ Review

Let me be up front. This Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 review is not going to be as glowing as the pages and pages of reviews out there. So, if you want to find out why I’m all “meh,” keep reading.

The Basics

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 begins not long after the gang defeated Ronan. They have clearly gelled into a routine, although they’re still working out some minor irritations with each other. They wouldn’t be the Guardians if they weren’t bickering.

The sequel focuses on what it means to be a family even more than the original. In this case, family for Peter Quill could be Gamora, Drax, Rocket Raccoon and Groot, or it could be Ego the Living Planet, or even that blue rascal, Yondu.

What Worked

Spoilers ahead. Beware!

Peter Quill and Ego the Living Planet

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..L to R: Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Ego (Kurt Russell)..Ph: Chuck Zlotnick..©Marvel Studios 2017

Marvel has a successful formula for blockbuster superhero films. Although director James Gunn has described Guardians of the Galaxy as a space opera, akin to Star Wars, rather than a superhero film, the same formula that made Avengers work has been applied to Guardians of the Galaxy, both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. All the ups and downs come at the right time, all the beats work rhythmically, and every single character gets their shining moment.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 covers a lot of ground in just two hours. The beauty of Marvel is that the media company knows how to serve up complicated stories and mind-blowing explanations in digestible bites. When Ego the Living Planet describes the timeline of meeting Peter’s mom, for instance, we get some easy-to-follow visuals that match an easy-to-follow monologue.

All movies set in some kind of outlandish world where people have powers require a great deal of suspension of disbelief. Guardians of the Galaxy movies require even more than usual. So many space things make little sense in these movies, if you think about them too hard. To keep audiences from falling into the “that would never happen” trap, the pace of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is super-fast, like, blink and you’ll miss something.

All the actors are spot on, as usual. Each of them gets their starring moments to shine. Kurt Russell, who plays Ego the Living Planet, does a tremendous job of playing a character who is sometimes sympathetic and sometimes terrifying.

Groot in the Captain's Chair

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

What Didn’t Work

The things that didn’t work in the movie are fairly minor.

Like I mentioned above, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 covered a lot of story at a quick pace, all the while giving each character their own special moment. The result, however, was that I walked out of the theater with my head spinning a bit. I had trouble remembering anything specific from the movie, because I had a general blur running through my brain. I can seize on plenty of moments, and the more I think about it, I can tease out moments that I enjoyed. Overall, I wish there had been less.

When you have too many characters in a movie, which Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 does, the audience doesn’t get to spend enough time with the right people. What do I mean? Chris Pratt is the star of the Guardians, far and away. His off-the-wall line delivery, combined with his mischievous smirk, was what made Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 different from other superhero movies. He was the glue that held together the disparate parts of the story and the cast. There’s not nearly enough of him in Vol. 2. He has a few great scenes, but the Chris Pratt concentration is far too diluted by having to cover everyone else. Not enough Star-Lord.

Which characters could have been jettisoned? Mantis, for sure. Yeah, she plays a great straight man to Drax’s shenanigans (actually, it’s hard to say who’s the straight man in that comedy duo), but she was completely unnecessary. That whole scene where she revealed what everyone already knew, that Peter was hot for Gamora, was entirely unnecessary. One could argue she was instrumental in moving the story about Ego along, but I’m confident the writers could have come up with other plot devices that wouldn’t have wasted time introducing a new character. Plus, a little Drax goes a long, long way.

Drax and Mantis

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..L to R: Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

The Ravagers got way too much screen time, as well. Again, I understand that their mutiny played a big part in Yondu’s evolution, but he was already well on the way to becoming a better man (alien?). Gunn could have cut down on a lot of their comedic scenes and just gotten on with it. The whole “taser face” running gag was just indulgent.

Let’s take a moment to talk about special effects. Now, my husband will be the first to tell you that I am dazzled by special effects. Usually, the more the better, I say. I love spectacle, so big explosions and highly choreographed action scenes make me bug out. However, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is so saturated with special effects, even I disconnected from the movie. At times, when the only organic things on the screen were actors, I could actually see them standing in a cavernous, green soundstage. The special effects were terribly well-executed, and gorgeous, but I could have used more practical effects and sets, and less green-screen.

Gamora on Ego

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Gamora (Zoe Saldana)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Finally, my last complaint about Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is that it was too serious. I know, I know. You’re like, what? Look, if I want get all weepy and covered in snot, I’ll watch Logan; I knew I’d be crying in my Coke in that movie. Guardians, however, shouldn’t have been reducing me to a blubber. And it did. A lot. Sure, I tend to shed tears like Beyoncé sheds costumes at the MTV Awards, but about two-thirds through the movie, I was thinking, enough already! There’s way too much soul-searching going on in a movie that’s supposed to just entertain me. Every frickin’ character had some kind of breakdown moment. Even Rocket, who usually couldn’t care less about matters of the heart, was all up in the feels. Here’s hoping Vol. 3 kills off more characters, and does it in the most hilarious way possible. (Dance-off?)

Bottom Line

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is a fun movie. It’s even “Certified Fresh” by Rotten Tomatoes. But it’s more like a theme park ride than a story, with too many characters, too many special effects, and too little Star-Lord.


Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk Caption: (L-r) DAN FOGLER as Jacob, EDDIE REDMAYNE as Newt and KATHERINE WATERSTON as Tina in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

6 ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Themes Found in Harry Potter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has several things in common with J.K. Rowling’s other wizarding world movies. And I don’t mean wands and Grindewald.

J.K. Rowling wrote Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as an original screenplay, whereas the Harry Potter movies were adapted from her novels. Fantastic Beasts marks her first time writing something original in a completely new format.

The story is about Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who arrived in New York City, sometime in the 1920s or ’30s, to capture a rogue magical creature. While he’s there, the other magical creatures inside his case escaped and caused a good deal of mayhem. He spent the rest of the movie trying to capture them.

Even though this story took place in America, and in a different time period, it had similarities to the Harry Potter story.

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

Like other J.K. Rowling stories, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them started out as a fun and frivolous adventure, but turned dark and deadly before the end. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, her first book, had some danger and death in the story. But the series didn’t delve into truly dark territory until Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book, when Sirius and the Dementors came on the scene.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was pretty grim all-round. To start with, the production design involved almost no color. The sets, costumes and landscape were gray gray gray. That may have been to make the world inside Newt’s case look even livelier, but man, I just wanted someone to turn up the lights!

 Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk Caption: (L-r) COLIN FARRELL as Graves and EZRA MILLER as Credence in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

COLIN FARRELL as Graves and EZRA MILLER as Credence

The scenes between Graves (Colin Farrell) and Credence (Ezra Miller) were pretty darn creepy. And yes, those were sexual undertones you sensed in those scenes. I interpreted them as Graves being a predator to Credence’s prey. Credence was attracted to more than just getting a pat on the head for a job well done. Remember, Graves turned out to be Grindewald, who was gay. (I’m not saying everyone who is gay is a predator!) I believe there was a intimacy forming between them that made Credence’s pain all the worse when he was betrayed. Dark stuff, indeed.

Can’t Keep a Good Muggle Down

Another common theme in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the Harry Potter books is the unfairness of a class system. Throughout the seven Harry Potter books, Muggles were looked down on by a group of wizards. Then we learned that Pure Bloods looked down on Half-Bloods and Mudbloods, as well. Other magical species, like giants, elves and centaurs, were also oppressed. Although Harry’s story was front and center, the story about Voldemort rising to power and eradicating entire races of beings became the overarching story.

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, wizards weren’t allowed to be with Muggles. Muggles were considered separate, and possibly lesser. Plus, a hierarchy existed in the American wizarding world, with the Ministry of Magic ranking at the top, like royalty.

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner

Along with the examination of different races and how they treat each other, mixed marriages are also a hot topic in J.K. Rowling’s books. In the Harry Potter books, particularly Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, several characters expressed disgust at the idea of wizards “mating” with Muggles. Voldemort detested his father for being a Muggle. Even poor Dean was on the run because one of his parents was a Muggle. 

 Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk Caption: (L-r) ALISON SUDOL as Queenie and DAN FOGLER as Jacob in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

ALISON SUDOL as Queenie and DAN FOGLER as Jacob Kowalski

The wizards and witches in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were very clearly prohibited from consorting with Muggles. Of course, that didn’t stop Queenie (Alison Sudol) from falling for Kowalski (Dan Fogler), but they sure had to keep it secret.

Day By Day

I don’t know J.K. Rowling’s personal religious beliefs, but from her books and Fantastic Beasts, I’d wager she’s not crazy about organized religion. Now, I don’t have any evidence from the seven Harry Potter books to point to and say, “See how she hates church?” The only evidence I can submit is that there is a complete lack of religion of any kind. The only kind of worship that’s mentioned was of Voldemort, as well as the Deathly Hallows. Sort of.

Religion wasn’t depicted nicely at all in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) used Christianity like a weapon. She claimed to be a God-fearing woman, but she abused the orphans in her care in more ways than one. She lacked compassion completely, for strangers and “loved” ones alike. She wore her self-righteousness like a badge, like armor.

Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk Caption: SAMANTHA MORTON as Mary Lou Barebone in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

SAMANTHA MORTON as Mary Lou Barebone

Orphans

Speaking of orphans, the loss of parents is a big, big theme for J.K. Rowling. The most obvious reference is Harry Potter, himself. He was orphaned when his parents died at the hands of Voldemort, who was also an orphan. Neville Longbottom may as well have been an orphan, because his parents were locked away in Saint Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Later, after Hermione had to Obliviate her parents before she went on the run, she talked to Harry about how her parents wouldn’t remember her, essentially becoming an orphan.

There’s a whole house full of orphans in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Their care wsn’t top-notch. No doubt this depiction was informed by J.K. Rowling’s own mission to make orphanages better, in countries like Hungary and Romania. She started out using her own money and fame to do something about the cages and malnutrition she found in orphanages she toured. Then she started her own charity, Lumos.

Heil

Another theme in J.K. Rowling’s work is that ol’ chestnut “with great power comes great responsibility.” She depicts people with power going out of control. In the Harry Potter books, Minister Fudge was very reluctant to give up his position. His delay in acting against Voldemort was one of the reasons the Dark Lord was able to gain a foothold in the wizarding world. Plus, Voldemort was the ultimate in out-of-control power.

 Copyright: © 2016 WARNER BROS ENTERTAINMENT INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Caption: CARMEN EJOGO as Seraphina Picquery in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

CARMEN EJOGO as Seraphina Picquery

Graves, in Fantastic Beasts, was out of control too. He worked independently from the very Ministry of which he’s part. He abused his power in his attempt to get even more power. And while Minister Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) wasn’t a dictator, she was quick to jump to unfair conclusions about Newt and his friends.

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88th Academy Awards for Oscar Bingo Cards

Oscar Bingo Cards for Every Year

Oscar bingo cards are a must-have item for any Academy Awards party.

I had an Academy Awards party years before they were a thing. As a theater student, I loved going to Oscar parties with my friends. Living in Los Angeles, I couldn’t escape Academy Awards fever. It’s a bigger day than Christmas and Rosh Hashanah put together. So, when I invited several friends to dress up in their finery and attend my Oscar party, I was surprised to be met with confused looks. They came anyway. Now, I’m sure, thanks to me, they see themselves as trend setters.

Back when I threw my Oscar party, there were no baubles to buy at the party store, no “scene stealers” or fake trophies or pretend red carpets. My party was very DIY, with a red, plastic tablecloth standing in for the red carpet, and disposable cameras (yeah, remember those?) handed out for paparazzi moments. For decorations, I used generic gold and black stuff from the party store, and did my best to make our rec room look, well, less like a rec room. I also gave the guests ballots to fill out, to guess who would win the big categories.

Nowadays, all of above is de rigeur for the awards season. Stores put out their awards party stuff starting in January. Pinterest is packed with ideas for awards parties. And, everyone knows what you’re talking about when you mention an Oscar party.

Oscar Bingo Cards

To help other movie fans (and anyone who’s just looking for an excuse to party), I’ve created these Oscar bingo cards. The beauty of these Oscar bingo cards is that they can be used EVERY YEAR. That’s right. You won’t find a name or title on these cards. You can use them over and over again.

How, you may be asking, can you use Oscar bingo cards every year? Because these cards have mark-off items that are awards show staples. The Academy Awards has moments that are the same every year, no matter which actor, actress, director, writer, or producer is part of it. There will always be a winner who cries, or thanks God, or thanks their parents, or tells their kids to go to bed. There will always be camera shots of the audience, like someone with their mother, or someone who’s not happy with a joke. And there will always be times when the host’s mic cuts out, or they make a joke about how the show is running too long.

These are the timeless chestnuts we see every year during the Academy Awards. These Oscar bingo cards have them all. Just click a thumbnail to open it in a new browser window, then print it. There are four different cards.

If you like these cards, please share this page! Just use one of the handy social media buttons.

Oscar Bingo Cards 1 Oscar Bingo Cards 2

Oscar Bingo Cards 3 Oscar Bingo Cards 4

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