‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ Review: James Gunn Delivers Yet Again With A Good Sequel

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While not as fresh as the original, Vol. 2 surprises yet again with great banter and new characters

The first Guardians of the Galaxy surprised almost everybody watching. With a bunch of new characters, it shouldn’t have been that great but it was. Marvel found a way to make the viewers embark on a journey they had no idea where the destination would be. Let me tell you, they found gold. I fell in love with the ragtag team made up of a talking raccoon and a big tree that only knew three words. They didn’t pave an easy way for Vol. 2. Despite it not being as good as the original, the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still loads of fun, packed with laughs and over abundantly cute.

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‘Passengers’ Review: Morton Tyldum Doesn’t Tell The Interesting Story Everyone Wants

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Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in a ‘Titanic’ meets ‘The Shining’ in space

In space, no one can hear you scream but everyone can see cheap scripts. Morton Tyldum (The Imitation Game) picks up a famous black list script which should have stayed in its place. Add in two of the most popular actors working today mixed with a love story and what could possibly go wrong? Well, almost everything.

Aboard the Starship Avalon, 5,000 passengers are hibernating in pods. The travel is still 90 years until they arrive at a new planet, Homestead II, where the passengers are to colonize it. However, one of the pod malfunctions and opens waking up Jim (Chris Pratt) too early. He soon realizes that he is the only one awake and that there is absolutely nothing he can do to go back to hibernation.

Loneliness turns him mad, and he is left with a tough decision, does he wake up someone else ultimately committing murder. Jim quickly gets obsessed with a beautiful writer named Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence). Eventually, he decides to wake her up, and they fall in love. Jim is left with the dilemma to tell her or not that he is the one who has awoken her.

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Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt can’t save this self-defeating sci-fi romance

Wrestling with interesting and dark moral questions, Passengers fails to explore any of the issues it conjures up. It starts off as a story about a lonely man turning mad in a Shining kind of way. It brings up fascinating questions about loneliness and humans’ need to interaction. As Jim becomes a little too lonely, the film never seems to answer these issues. Instead, it turns its ship around, and it ultimately becomes a mediocre Titanic love story in space.

Not without potential, the movie’s own script does not call for a love story. Aurora being awoken by Jim is in itself an act of murder. The script builds Pratt’s character has a selfish man in need of someone. The love story doesn’t quite fit, and it seems rather force. Passenger ignores a more interesting story for a cheap love story. How better would have been Passengers if Pratt was a Jack Torrance type character?

The set designs around the characters are magnificent, and the CG is phenomenal. Passengers explore its surrounding in great details. From the pool to floating in space, the movie nails its aesthetic. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Wolf Of Wall Street) creates beautiful wide shots. The futuristic style of the Avalon from his sleek design to its beautiful interior gives the movie both a sense of realism and otherworldly.

Ultimately, Passengers‘ script has built such a strong wall that the rest of the film is constantly trying to take it down. Beautiful futuristic surroundings can’t overcome it either. They take the long boring route instead of the easier thrilling one. For a movie to have so many Shining references, it’s surprising that Tyldum never thought to tell that story instead.

GRADE: C-

‘The Magnificient Seven’ revives the western genre to a whole new generation – REVIEW

Antoine Fuqua delivers a new modern feel to an old and dying genre

Fuqua’s latest movie streak has been terribly dull. With films like The Equalizer and Southpaw, he just delivers mediocre movies that should have been great blockbusters. This time around, Fuqua tries to save a genre that has not been healthy as of late – westerns. The Magnificient Seven looked to make that very genre relevant and modern enough for a current generation. With the help of Chris Pratt, Denzel Washington, and Ethan Hawke, The Magnificient Seven has achieved just that.

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Starting out in a small western-like village, we see Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and her husband (Matt Bomer) trying to find ways to stop the bad guy, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) from taking their village and killing their folks. Her husband is soon killed by Bogue and the audience soon knows that this is going to be a hybrid action-western movie instead of your typical old-school western. Bogue tells the people in the village that he will be back, so Emma hires Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) and he assembles a group of diverse men, Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), to save the people and their village.

Modernizing a genre is always risky business. However, Fuqua did a great job with this. He uses some talented actors to his advantage and creates a rather straightforward and mainstream plot. The journey to assemble these men is a fun one. Getting to know each of them just enough to care and root for them, in the end, is the balance this movie needs. Some funny dialogue is presented, and it makes for some fun moments. The second act is when things get a little slow. The pace changes and the movie dial back to let character development take center stage. The problem is that there’s no development at all. When the action picks back up, the character development has no change in the final ending.

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That certainly does not take away from what The Magnificient Seven ultimately becomes – an action-packed, emotional ride. Unexpected things happen, which makes it less of the cliché ending we were expecting. At the same time, it doesn’t completely forget its simplicity either. The build to this excited ending will surely be loved by many people and will even prompt some to forgive the useless slow second act that it produces. The third act is what this film is based upon and for it to be thrilling is a huge pay-off. Without it, the movie stands on nothing and would, therefore, fail.

What ultimately seems like another simple remake is the voice for so many tiring old genres. Antoine Fuqua knows exactly what the modern generation demands while still not forgetting to create a good movie. This could very be the Captain America: Civil War of the western genre and the start of much more.

REVIEW: A-