Archive for Zoe Saldana

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be the sleeper hit of Marvel Studios’ prolific output from the last 12 years because it came completely out of left field, with no huge stars (on-screen at least) and about characters very few had ever heard of. However, the mix of a hilarious script, irreverent soundtrack and the chemistry of the cast came together to blow audiences and critics away.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 doesn’t have that same luxury, people know what to expect from it. So, how does Vol. 2 go about replicating, if not building of the success of Vol. 1? As with so many sequels – especially in the comic-book genre – Vol. 2 goes bigger right from the jump.

The opening five to 10 minutes looks like it cost more money than any opening scene ever. But what the film does is focus on a very small, cute detail rather than the massive action set-piece happening in the background. And, in a way, that’s kind of the point of this particular franchise: the first film was about finding family, this film is about being a family – while also being a team that saves the galaxy.

Almost all the characters in Vol. 2 have been fleshed out and given more depth, rather than sticking with the templates that were sketched out in the fist film. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Yondu (Michael Drucker) have been given deeper issues to work through, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is more playful, the relationship between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) has been deepened with Nebula giving the real reason for her hatred of her stronger sister. Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to be a scene stealer with all the best lines, but his character has even been given more depth. Instead of being a character that takes things completely literally, he is now trying to use sarcasm, though he still doesn’t understand it.

The only character that doesn’t seem to have been given more is Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), despite the fact he has become the leader of the group and is the lead human character that we’re supposed to empathise with. He’s found his biological father in Ego (Kurt Russell), a god of sorts that offers Quill the chance to become a god too. For some reason though, this his character doesn’t seem to have the spark or charisma that he did in the first film.

There are some decent, if not well-telegrahed, plot twists along the way and some great visuals. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end of the film, can be a little hard to focus on because of the quick cutting and the fact that there is so much going on.

There are some interesting cameos including Sylvester Stallone (who is difficult to understand), Ving Rhames (fleetingly), the Hulk (possibly), Jeff Goldblum (buried in the credits) and David Hasselhoff (bizarrely)! But my personal favourite was Stan Lee’s double cameo that goes some way to addressing a fan theory about his cameos. In it he is communing with the Watchers, a race of aliens who oversee the Marvel universe, telling them about his various entanglements with superheros on Earth. It would have been truly mind-blowing had he referenced a cameo in one of the Fox or Sony films… but that’s me getting super-geeky about things. Is he a Watcher in human form, or just a human go-between, keeping them abreast of goings on they may have missed?

If anything, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a funnier film than it’s predecessor and has been given more substance. The few criticisms levelled at it are the abundance of characters muddying things, the lack of development of the central character and the fact that a lot of what happens in the film relies on your knowledge of the previous film, even more so than most of the other films Marvel puts out. But if you’re seeing a film with Vol. 2 in the title before seeing the first, you’re doing something wrong.

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

guardian-of-the-galaxy

Review is not quite the word for this article. Advertisement might be a better description of what will follow. Because, simply, you have to see Guardians of the Galaxy.

Marvel Studios’ latest offering is as far removed from anything put out from their universe so far. Even though Avengers Assemble had alien invasion and Thor is from another part of the universe that watches over the rest, Guardians of the Galaxy is the first film set in Deep Space, far away from Earth.

Instead of being a superhero team movie the beings that make up GOTG are aliens from all across the universe who, through circumstance, are forced to work together against an almighty enemy. Each of the characters have their own personal problems and distinctive traits, let alone looks; they band together for the good of the universe.

Chris Pratt plays the human among them, Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana plays Zamora, the ‘daughter’ of Thanos (the big evil guy who is bent of galactic domination – Josh Brolin), Dave Bautista is Drax the Destroyer, and the voice talents of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel bring to like Rocket, a cybernetically modified racoon with a penchant for explosives and Groot, a living tree who only knows the words “I am Groot”.

The premise and character descriptions sound ridiculous enough, so I’m not even going to get into the plot, which would take too long to describe to make it sound good. Suffice to say the film is visually stunning with jaw-dropping special effects and action set-pieces.

Marvel took a real punt on making a film about a group of characters virtually no one in the mainstream cinema audience had heard of and putting it out there among the more established comic book movies. But they are so happy with what the director, James Gunn, has served up that they have already green lit a second film… before the release of this one!

The unknown element of this property is what really makes the film, with the bonding process and the excellently written and acted characters who are grounded and truly likeable enough to make you give a damn about such a ridiculous story. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously; in fact, it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a very long time.

Gunn (or Marvel) haven’t tied it at all closely to the going on of The Avengers films on Earth which is another plus point, because it works completely on its own and that’s another reason it works so well – it stands out in a sea of sequels and re-boots being churned out by Hollywood at the moment and audience make-up and box office figures point towards this film bringing in a massive and, most importantly, mixed audience across all age ranges and sexes. Marvel have bucked a trend. Let’s see what other minor properties get their own feature film now. I’m secretly hoping for a spin-off from the last post-credits scene!

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

star-trek-into-darkness

Wow. Just wow! Go and see this film if you were even slightly entertained by J.J. Abrams’ first installment of the Star Trek reboot.

Star Trek Into Darkness takes the characters we got to know from the first film and thrusts them straight into some pretty intense action. The start of the film sees Kirk (Chris Pine) and Bones (Karl Urban) fleeing from a village on a red-foliaged planet being chased by the indigenous population while Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are working to stop a volcano from erupting and destroying the planet.

This sets the tone for the rest of the film. From here there is barely a pause for breath for the remainder of the running time. You have not seen a film that rattles along as fast as this in quite some time, and it looks amazing! The colours are bright and primary the design of the worlds, starships, weapons and sets are brilliant and even the 3D wasn’t a problem for me. In fact this is probably the best use of 3D in a film that I’ve seen in a very long time. The best bits are whenever the Enterprise goes into warp where the engines stretch out into your eye sockets before disappearing leaving behind a trail of blue atoms. There’s also a good use of 3D at the beginning where the people chasing Kirk and Bones are throwing spears straight into the audience. And the signature Abrams lens flare, oh, the lens flare!

The only problem with all this action banging and crashing all around you for the entire film is that there are moments where the dialogue is lost. I feel that some of this film would be best watched with subtitles, or at least watched a few times over.

I really can’t say too much about the plot in case I give too much away (I have, however hidden a spoiler in the tags of this post, so if you don’t want to know DO NOT look down there!). Needless to say the direction is brilliant, the action scenes are slick and the comedy is more than funny enough. One of my favourite moments is where Scotty (Simon Pegg) see’s something that shocks him and he starts to exclaim “Oh shh…” cut to Kirk walking through one of the doors on the Enterprise which, when opening, continue the “shhh” sound. (An audio joke on a blog, what a good example to choose!)

In fact, I was afraid Scotty wouldn’t get as big a part as he deserves after a falling out with Kirk at the beginning of the film, but he actually becomes a more integral character towards the end of the film while also providing quite a bit of comic relief from the action going on elsewhere in the film. There is a great balance between comedy and drama in this film a lot going on simultaneously in the same scene. The drama is truly dramatic and the most dramatic actor in this film is Benedict Cumberbatch, he really plays the most malevolent, brooding, hateful character, but he also shows vulnerability and really makes you care about his history, which is the mark of a great actor.

From the moment you first hear his voice, in the opening scene with Noel Clarke, you know he’s up to no good and this turns out to be the case pretty soon. But, later in the film when Kirk confronts him, Cumberbatch gives a monologue where he spans the gamut of emotions which manipulates your emotions just as he does Kirk’s. The strange thing about his performance is that all of his acting is done with his mouth. The top two-thirds of his face doesn’t move, even when he sheds a tear (there’s a small wobble of the eyebrows and a blink, but that’s it). There is a scene where Spock is chasing him on foot through San Fransisco which is uncanny. As the camera alternates between the two Quinto has a very loose sprinting style, even his hair moves, (which could piss off the fan-boys!) whereas Cumberbatch’s body and head are completely rigid. Only his arms and legs are moving and the move like pistons on a steam locomotive,  but that visual really captured my attention and gives this insight into the character’s motivation; there is nothing else on his mind but escaping.

Zachary Quinto plays Spock brilliantly as well, he was born to play this role. He becomes a more rounded character this time round, his relationship with Uhura is a little rock and his Vulcan logic has to really grapple with his human emotions. His relationship with Kirk is intensified this time round with a couple of homoerotic moments thrown in for good measure. Plus he gets to deliver the most famous of all the lines of dialogue from Star Trek history that are peppered through this movie. And boy, does he deliver it!

Truly this is a ridiculously fun, frothy, action-packed Summer blockbuster that you need to go and see and will enjoy whether or not you are a Trek fan. Look out for some bits that hint towards Star Wars too, this film shows that J. J. Abrams is ready to take on that franchise too.

Oh, and as for crash scenes; I didn’t think Abrams could have spun out a vehicle crash longer than that train in Super 8, but there is a ‘crash’ in this that takes the biscuit…it literally lasts about 15-20 minutes. I would say ‘look out for it’, but you won’t be able not to see it!