Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Film Review) – A Worthy Sequel

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a superhero film directed by James Gunn and stars an ensemble cast featuring Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperMichael RookerKaren GillanPom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. This is the fifteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and takes place right after the events of Guardians of the Galaxy. In Vol. 2, we focus on how the team are coping with their status as Guardians while also delving deeper into the parentage of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).

My Knowledge and Expectation of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

My expectations for this film were extremely high…until last week. I should set this review up by stating that, while I have enjoyed most of the films that I have seen in the MCU, they are disposable. The reason for this is down to the fact that I did not grow up with the characters in the MCU. I never read the comics or watched the animated shows. As a result, I do not have an emotional connection to the characters in the MCU and, consequently, no emotional connection to the films.

However, my favourite film in the MCU is Guardians of the Galaxy. I loved the humour and the fact that the film was completely separate from the rest of the films in the MCU. It worked as a standalone superhero film and I was eagerly anticipating Vol. 2 as I would be reunited with the characters I love such as Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) who is now in baby form.

Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Yet, early reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 tempered my expectations slightly. While the majority were good, I interpreted a consensus that Vol. 2 was not as good as Guardians of the Galaxy. As a result, I was expecting a good, entertaining experience rather than a near-flawless film.

My Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Overall, I found Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to be a tremendously enjoyable and a worthy sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy. While not as good as the original, there was a lot to love about Vol. 2. For instance, I found the humour in this film to be brilliant. Drax was the character who provided most of the film’s funniest moments but the chemistry between the entire ensemble cast was a big factor in how funny this film was. You can tell that the cast had a great time making this film and it benefited the quality of it in the process.

The use of music was another element of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 that worked very well. For me, the highlights were the use of Mr. Blue Sky’ in the opening scene and I liked the re-occurrence of The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac throughout the film. I was a bit disappointed that ‘Fox on the Run’ was not in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after its use for the films’ trailer. However, that is a very small nit-pick and it did not worsen my experience.

I also thought that the visuals in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were vibrant and they really added to the fantastic viewing experience I had. In terms of character development, while I found Peter Quill’s arc to be good and at times quite poignant, it was surprisingly Yondu (Michael Rooker) who was developed as a character to the best extent. That was one of the nicest surprises in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Still, it is a film which could not recapture the freshness of the original.

Yondu and Rocket in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But, in hindsight, it was a difficult task for James Gunn to recapture the originality and freshness that Guardians of the Galaxy had. Vol 2. also has a story which is more incoherent than its predecessor and the second act is a bit slow. I also thought that Karen Gillan gave a performance as Nebula which was a bit over-the-top.

Yet, as I have said, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a worthy sequel and a worthy entry in the MCU. I cannot wait to see the Guardians show up in future Marvel films. Additionally, I am really pleased that James Gunn is returning for a third Guardians of the Galaxy film which will hopefully provide the same amount of enjoyment I had with Vol. 2.

13 Reasons Why Season 1 (Television Review) – Important, Powerful Television

13 Reasons Why is a television series developed by Brian Yorkey for Netflix and executive produced by Tom McCarthy and Selena Gomez. Gomez was originally going to play the lead character in what would have been a film adaptation of 13 Reasons Why. However, that did not transpire; it was created as a TV show instead and it is based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher. The story focuses on Hannah (Katherine Langford), a high-school student who kills herself after an accumulation of traumatic failures, brought on by select individuals within their school, including Clay (Dylan Minnette), a shy, introverted classmate of Hannah.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why

I did not know anything about 13 Reasons Why until a couple of weeks ago when it became a phenomenon. Everyone was talking about it whether it was on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube; it was being praised across the board and it made me want to watch it as soon as possible. From reading the synopsis, I knew that this was going to be a show which dealt with very serious, deep issues such as suicide, mental health, bullying and cyber-bullying. I was interested to see how well 13 Reasons Why would handle them.

Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why

My Thoughts on Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why

This is one of the best seasons of television that I have watched in a long time. One of the many things that impressed me about 13 Reasons Why was the performances of the young, diverse cast. Certainly, Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette are brilliant as Hannah and Clay. They show immense range in their acting and they had great chemistry together which makes their relationship believable. You really connect with these two characters and deeply care about them as the show progresses. I really liked Christian Navarro’s portrayal of Tony who was one of my favourite characters along with Clay and Jeff (Brandon Larracuente). Brandon Flynn also gave a layered performance as Justin.

In fact, every character in 13 Reasons Why is layered. No one in this show is a superficial stereotype. It may seem that way at the beginning. But, as all great shows do, the characters are fleshed out and developed to a point where you are invested in every person in the show, even the ones you don’t like (*cough* Courtney *cough*). They feel like real people. As a collective, the young cast achieved the difficult feat of outshining the adult actors in the show who themselves were very good, especially Kate Walsh who played Hannah’s mother.

Dylan Minnette and Christian Navarro in 13 Reasons Why

Mature and Respectful

13 Reasons Why brilliantly deals with its heavy themes with a remarkable deal of maturity, grace and respect. It could have been very easy for the show to have an overbearing message or have an abundance of clichés. Instead, 13 Reasons Why is sensitive and authentic in portraying themes such as suicide, mental health and the struggle of adolescence in an extremely powerful way. There are many times where this show is difficult to watch, especially in the later episodes, but it is never offensive or exploitative.

A lot of this is down to brilliant storytelling. Each episode focuses on one side of the tapes that Clay listens to and, through this, each episode tells us something new about Hannah, Clay and/or the other characters/relationships in the show. The story grips you from the beginning, it never lets go and it will stick with you well after it is over.

Hannah and Clay in 13 Reasons Why

I also appreciated how, after Hannah’s death, Clay’s life is shot with a blue lens whereas, in the flashbacks where Hannah is alive, Clay’s memories are shot in lens’ of bright, warm colours. I appreciated that subtle cinematography. Additionally, the use of music in 13 Reasons Why is fantastic. The music ranges in songs from the 80s to obscure indie bands and it really added to a lot of the emotional moments in the show.

Overall, I am extremely confident that 13 Reasons Why will help millions of people dealing with hardships in their life, especially millennials who can relate to a lot of what the show deals with. I also think it can be informative for older generations of people. There is something for everyone in this show and it has a lot of great qualities which helps it rank amongst shows such as Freaks and Geeks as one of the best high-school dramas ever made. Moreover, unlike Freaks and Geeks, I feel like 13 Reasons Why will be given the chance to continue its story in a second season as a lot of things are left unresolved and I am eager for more.

Fate of the Furious (Film Review) – Ridiculous Fun

The Fate of the Furious is an action film directed by F. Gary Gray and stars Vin DieselDwayne ‘The Rock’ JohnsonJason StathamMichelle RodriguezTyrese GibsonChris ‘Ludacris’ BridgesScott EastwoodNathalie EmmanuelKurt Russell and Charlize Theron. This is the eighth instalment in The Fast and the Furious franchise and the first since the tragic death of Paul Walker. The story of this film focuses on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) who has left his old life behind and settled down in Havana, Cuba. However, cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces him into working for her and turns him against his team and, more importantly, his family.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Fate of the Furious

Without a doubt, The Fast and the Furious franchise is my ultimate guilty pleasure. I know that these films are not exactly masterpieces in film-making, especially the first four entries in the franchise. They make no sense and I do not care. They are fun, action-packed and highly entertaining. I expected the same from Fate of the Furious and was very much looking forward to the next family adventure and seeing how this film would cope without Paul Walker.

Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious

My Thoughts on The Fate of the Furious

I had an absolute blast with this film. Is it the best in the franchise? No, but it is a great ride nonetheless. What I have appreciated in the most recent instalments in this franchise is the fact that these films know what they are; dumb fun. There is plenty of that in this film. There were many times where what I was seeing on screen left me laughing to the point of tears. Some of the action in Fate of the Furious is ridiculous but it has worked before and it works now.

The humour in this franchise is a key element to its success and the comedic moments in Fate of the Furious were excellent. A lot of the comedy came from Roman (Tyrese Gibson) but the chemistry between Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) provided some brilliant lines in the film. I hope they collaborate in future films in this franchise.

Jason Statham and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

A Stronger Story Than I Was Expecting

Surprisingly, I felt that the story in Fate of the Furious was one of the better ones in this franchise. Usually, the plots in these films are secondary to the action but the story from beginning to end felt like an actual story, not a device to serve the action. The reason why I felt this way was down to Dom’s reason why he betrayed the family. Once we found out why this happened, it is very understandable why Dom went rogue due to his loyalty to family.

The only major critique that I would have about Fate of the Furious is that it is a bit too long for a film like this. However, if you are a fan of this franchise and appreciate these films for what they are, then the length is not going to be a big deal for you. More importantly, the film manages to set up a new chapter in this franchise while staying true to what makes the films so popular with its great humour and over-the-top action. If you do not take Fate of the Furious too seriously, then you will enjoy it.

Rick and Morty Season 1 + 2 (Television Review) – Crazy But Fun

Rick and Morty is an adult animated series created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. The show premiered in December 2013 and there are two full seasons which you can watch right now with a third soon on the way. The story of the show focuses on Rick Sanchez, a pessimistic mad scientist who enlists the help of his fretful, easily influenced grandson Morty in his inter-dimensional adventures while, at the same time, dealing with his domestic family life.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Season 1 + 2 of Rick and Morty

I did see a few episodes of Rick and Morty at University before I binged the full two seasons on Netflix and I enjoyed those episodes. Rick was the standout character from what I saw but I never had the time to watch the show from start to finish. However, I recently found some time to watch this TV show which has a fanatic fan-base and I was interested to see if Rick and Morty would be as funny on a consistent basis.

Rick Sanchez in Rick and Morty

My Thoughts on Season 1 + 2 of Rick and Morty

No doubt about it, Rick and Morty is one of the weirdest shows I have ever watched, but it works for the most part. I really enjoyed bingeing Season 1 and 2 and a big part of that was down to Rick. He was my favourite character and provided some brilliant moments in the show. I also thought that the animation in Rick and Morty was fantastic. You notice a real difference in the quality of the animation between the first and second episode of Season 1 and it just gets better as the series progresses. It is very striking and it certainly helps Rick and Morty set itself apart from other animated shows.

Indeed, the whole show is very original. While Rick and Morty is obviously inspired by Back to the Future, The Simpsons and Futurama, it is not afraid to take risks and try new things with its storytelling. While it does not always pay off, the effort and intention must be commended. This is especially true with the existentialist themes that are interwoven into the show’s wacky story-lines which, at times, gives Rick and Morty some poignant moments.

Rick Sanchez and Morty in Rick and Morty

As I said, Rick and Morty does not always execute well on its ambitious storytelling and some of the comedy does not always hit. But when it does, it hits hard and I can confidently say that you should give this show a chance. While it is not for everyone, there are many things to admire about the show whether it is the animation, the originality and/or Rick. Moreover, after watching the Season 3 premiere, which was recently available for a limited time, I cannot wait to watch the next full season of Rick and Morty.

Big Little Lies Season 1 (Television Review) – A Predictable but Stylish, Well-Acted Miniseries

Big Little Lies is an HBO drama miniseries created and written by David E. Kelley, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott and Laura Dern. The show is based on the novel of the same name which was written by Liane Moriarty and the story is set in Monterey, California. The show focuses on Madeline (Witherspoon), Celeste (Kidman) and Jane (Woodley) who live seemingly perfect lives which, under the surface, are far from perfect. We gain insight into their lives while also having a murder mystery interwoven throughout this miniseries.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Big Little Lies

This was a show that came on my radar through, weirdly enough, Reese Witherspoon’s Snapchat and Instagram accounts. While filming Big Little Lies, she would post behind-the-scenes videos on the set of the show and it got me interested. Moreover, with a cast this good and with HBO behind the show, I would be foolish to not give Big Little Lies a try and see if it lived up to the hype.

Alexander Skarsgård and Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

My Thoughts on Big Little Lies

Overall, Big Little Lies is a good miniseries. I don’t think it’s as spectacular as a lot of people do but I was entertained and engaged through its 7-episode run. A big reason why this was the case was due to the calibre of the acting. I thought all of the cast were great, especially Reese Witherspoon who, in real life, comes across as a very likeable and genuine person. To me, this shows how great her performance was in Big Little Lies because her character in this show was a complete b***h. Funny at times, but a complete b***h.

Nicole Kidman probably gave the performance with the most depth as her arc in the show is pretty tragic, disturbing and quite difficult to watch at times. Yet, the themes that her arc dealt with such as abuse did make for some compelling television. Shailene Woodley was another whose arc was somewhat alarming yet she also added to Big Little Lies.

Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies

Another aspect of Big Little Lies which impressed me was the cinematography. This is a beautifully shot show with the use of lighting being a big factor in how stunning Big Little Lies looks. I give credit to Jean-Marc Vallée and Yves Bélanger, the cinematographer, in giving this show a very stylish look.

A Predictable Story

There are a lot of great qualities in this TV show but, in the end, I also found the story to be quite predictable. As each episode went by, it was getting clearer and clearer where this story was heading which meant that I was not shocked by anything that happened in the finale of Big Little Lies. I knew who would be killed in the murder, I heavily suspected that the person who was killed had a “connection” with another character and none of it surprised me.

Maybe I have been conditioned through television shows such as Game of Thrones to expect shocking twists and events to happen in everything I watch! Still, despite the predictability, Big Little Lies is worth your time due to the calibre of acting, its stunning cinematography and a story which does deal with some important issues.

Free Fire (Film Review) – An Enjoyable Surprise

Free Fire is an action-comedy directed by Ben Wheatley and stars stars Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor. Free Fire is set in the 1970s and the story of the film focuses on a group of criminals who meet up in a warehouse for an arms deal. However, tensions run high and a disagreement quickly sparks a full-scale shootout between the two parties who were making the transaction.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Free Fire

I knew very little about Free Fire before I watched it at my local cinema. Nowadays, it is very hard to go into a film and not know anything about it due to an abundance of trailers, reviews and, unfortunately, spoilers. Apart from one trailer and a few reviews of the film coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year, Free Fire was an unknown quantity and, because of this, I did not know what to expect from this film.

Brie Larson in Free Fire

My Thoughts on Free Fire

On the whole, I really enjoyed Free Fire for what it was. It was a nice surprise. There are funny moments throughout the film thanks to the fantastic script that has some really witty, snappy dialogue. Still, any film can have a great script but you need a good cast of actors to bring the words to life.

Thankfully, Free Fire succeeds on this level. On an individual basis, each actor in the film is good and particular standouts, for me, were Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer as they were involved in the most humorous moments in the film. Yet, it is the actors’ interactions with each other, as an ensemble, where Free Fire shines. The cast had great chemistry and I found it to be the films’ strongest element.

Armie Hammer in Free Fire

The Flaws of Free Fire

This is why I felt that the third act of Free Fire was the weakest and the film did fall off during that period. At that stage, let’s just say there were not as many people in the film than there were at the start. As a consequence, there were fewer moments where the cast could interact with each other and provide consistently funny moments. The third act relied more on action than comedy and, while the two were intrinsically linked throughout the film, the comedy was stronger than the action in Free Fire.

Despite this, I still enjoyed the film. Moreover, I preferred it much more than Ben Wheatley’s previous work in High-Rise and I feel that Free Fire is a great foundation for Ben Wheatley to build upon and become more of a mainstream name. In the end, if you are interested in watching Free Fire, I do not feel like you will be let down.