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Is there a more instantly iconic cast in Hollywood?

I am pleased to report that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (I’ll refer to it simply as Vol. 2) is, as many of you have found out for yourselves over the past week, every bit as good and in some ways much better than even the first one. Vol. 1 was a great surprise and still the boldest movie Marvel has yet made. Vol. 2 doubles down on the world it created and the characters that inhabit it, losing the freshness a little (which is being overstated as a complaint) but managing to improve on those few significant weak spots the first one did have.

One of those is the way certain characters were shorted much of an arc as the plot took over the movie. In Vol. 2 this never happens and no character, and there are so fucking many of them, gets shorted. They all have satisfying arcs, even Kraglin (Sean Gunn), wisely depending on interactions with each other. For people who like Marvel movies and fans of The Fast and the Furious franchise, this will feel familiar. It’s in pairings, parallels and polar opposites, that juggling so many characters and arcs becomes possible. Vol. 2 pulls this off with aplomb and manages to weave through tonal shifts, some of which are pretty shocking and risky. A stronger commitment to the sadness and loss hinted at in Vol. 1 is also demonstrated here, giving this goofy space movie an emotional core that is hard to find even in serious dramas. If I could compare that to something, it’d be a Pixar movie, where they definitely understand that the juxtaposition of light heartedness, humour, and fun against deeper, darker, and unresolved feelings provides a strong base for engaging drama and characterization. Not only this, but James Gunn managed to infuse this one with some pretty heavy existential and philosophical weight, which I’ll get to later on. I didn’t expect that.

All the way back when testing revealed that Vol. 2 was the MCU’s first movie that scored 100s (whatever that means), the hype has been real. There’s already a pretty misguided mini-backlash against this movie, fixated on gags that don’t quite land or the way the second act dismisses the overarching plot in favor of briefly becoming a shaggy hangout movie, but this stuff seems nitpicky to me. At the same time, I totally understand just how hard it is to deal with a movie as anticipated and hyped up as this one was. Your mind always wants to find that one thing wrong with it, so I take these nitpicks as a great sign personally. If the worst someone can say is that the space fruit ripeness joke feels a little forced then this is one helluva movie, right? It so is. Read the rest of this entry »


These guys are only slightly older than the buildings behind them.

The Expendables was a lame movie. It’s earnest attempt to validate its naive, outdated sense of “tough guy” fell completely flat. The people who unironically enjoyed these old men trying to get some hurrah out of a concept they should have exploited 20+ years ago are weird people and I don’t want to know them. Even with irony on your side, the first (in what is probably the most bizarre franchise since theme park rides started becoming movies) one was tough to get through. They tried to make it all emotional. They tried giving Sly a love interest 30 years too young. They had exactly one decent action sequence and it happened an hour after you were already bored with the movie’s gimmick and sole reason for being: to get these big time heroes together.

I don’t know how I feel about it exactly, but I can say that The Expendables 2 rectifies the above. It eschews all but the cheesiest and most simple of emotional arcs. It delivers on the promise of the concept. This is a movie where only Jeff Speakman and Steven Segal are missing. It has literally everyone else it could have short of Billy Blanks. And I am almost exactly the target audience for this. The only thing I lack in that regard is a sense of the redemptive spirit of these old, decrepit fucks trying to recapture their glory days. Aside from that, I grew up on these guys and I have love both genuine and ironic for the kind of movies (and antics) that they buttered their bread on all those years ago.

So while you may be one of the people who forgave the first one its flaws, I was one who wanted it to deliver on its promise. Now Sly, working through Simon West (which is somehow perfect), has done so. If you’re like me, all you really need to know is that Expendables 2 actually gives all its aged action heroes time to shine while also getting downright meta about their respective careers. This all coalesces into an almost unbelievable cartoon and a great cinematic gift for the right kind of tortured, twisted mind. Read the rest of this entry »


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