Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Review)

The soundtrack to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are probably the reason I’ll end up buying a Vinyl player.

Guardians of the Galaxy was definitely one of the better movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2 series of films.  It was unique, it was funny, the characters were instantly likable and even if the plot served more to add context to the MCU’s overarching story and it suffered from the MCU’s patented boring villain, it was still engaging enough to be memorable.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on the comedy.  It’s the same characters that we’ve come to know and love doing what they do best: save the galaxy while having to deal with each other.  This time around, there’s a bigger emphasis on them actually working together as a team.  With this comes the realization that this time around, the focus is on the relationships between the characters than them saving the galaxy.

Peter Quill finally meets his father, Gamora and her sister Nebula have to deal with each other after their plot line was left up in the air in the last movie, Rocket and Groot wind up with Yondu after a series of events, even Drax has moments with Mantis.  Every character has a clearly defined arc and development to the point where I realized that this was what I was supposed to be focusing on, not the overarching plot.

Sure, there’s a galactic threat that needs to be stopped by the Guardians but at the same time, you’re not watching it for that.  In fact, for the most part, I wasn’t waiting to see what happened next, I was sitting there waiting for the turn of events that kicks off the climax.  There’s no sense of rising action, for the most part; of the stakes getting higher and higher.

Having said that, I liked this movie more than the first one because of it’s emphasis on the character’s emotions and their relationships.  In the first movie, they had to learn how to work as a team to finish the mission.  In this movie, they actually have to learn how to live as a family together.  There is actual growth going on and it’s a pleasure to actually see them grow closer through all the trials and tribulations.  Though certain story beats are predictable, some are not and actually took me off guard.  The more we learn about the characters, the more we realize that those moments shouldn’t have surprised you because they were absolutely in character.

It’s a rarity in the MCU where the sequel is just as good and better than the first one.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is just as charming, just as heartfelt and just as funny as its predecessor.  It’s focus on the characters emotions and their relationships is a wonderful way to spice up the series and to make sure it doesn’t grow stale.  As it stands, it is currently one of the best movies of Phase 3, if not the best.

The Belko Experiment (Review)

The Belko Experiment (Review)

For a film touted as being “Office Space meets Battle Royale,” I had trouble finding any amount of humor in this movie.

The Belko Experiment offers an interesting premise: 80 office workers are trapped in a building and told to kill each other or else the bombs implanted in their heads will explode.  It’s a twist on the Battle Royale-type horror genre that’s found a niche within the market, probably made more famous to American audiences with The Hunger Games series.  To it’s credit, the genre lends itself to interesting characterization.  How would normal people react when put into this situation?  Would they try to work together to survive or would they try to kill everyone?  The philosophical questioning alone makes for interesting scenes where people try to discuss whether or not it’s moral to kill people so you can survive.

The setting also lends itself to interesting comedy.  The typical office setting means people having to get creative with how they kill people.  Lamps, scissors or even tape dispensers are used as potential weapons, with the humor coming from the creativity of the weapons.  Unfortunately, the potential humor is never used.  Instead, guns are introduced early on and with that, it becomes a fight between people with guns and people without.

There’s a lot to be said about hype and expectations.  The trailers for the movie made it out to be a black comedy movie in the vein of The Cabin in the Woods.  It was probably billed that way because of James Gunn’s success with Guardians of the Galaxy.  Watching the movie, however, told a different story.  While there are humorous moments, there aren’t enough of them and the moments aren’t funny enough that I would call this a horror-comedy at all.

I shouldn’t make this a point against the film, however.  A film should be judged on it’s own merits and not on how it was sold to me through trailers.  Drive taught me that much, a film billed as a The Fast and the Furious-style action film but was actually a character study of a getaway driver trying to be a good person.  So, The Belko Experiment is not a comedy.  What it is is a horror movie without thrills.

The downside of a Battle Royale style horror movie is that in the back of the audience’s mind, you know that eventually, people are going to start killing each other.  No matter how much people try to work to save each other, when it comes down to the wire, they’re going to start killing each other.  There’s a sense of inevitability when watching a movie like this and when watching a movie with a built-in expectation, nothing really surprises you.  Instead, you spend the entire movie simply watching things happen.

The Belko Experiment is a movie where I watched things happen.  People died and I sat there, a little tense and on edge, but never really shocked when people died.  Only one death shocked me but instead of thrilling me, it angered me because of built up expectations that were dashed with an unfulfilling payoff.  This is definitely a point in the movie’s favor, though, that I was actually invested in the characters.

Within the first ten-minutes of the film, we are introduced to a wide-variety of characters and instantly, we identify with them.  We understand them and we like them.  In fact, I’m not sure if there was one character that I didn’t like.  It’s saddening then that I didn’t feel like any character had any sort of fulfilling character arc, except maybe John Gallagher Jr.’s character.

The Belko Experiment was a film of expectations that just aren’t met.  I was expecting a comedy but I didn’t laugh.  I was expecting a horror movie, but I wasn’t that thrilled by it.  There wasn’t even a moment that I could call my favorite.  I was simply sitting in the theater and things were happening before my eyes.  When the movie was over, I went to a taco restaurant, sure that I had wasted my time.