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Movie Review: “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Starring
Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki
Director
James Gunn

It’s hard to believe that most people had never even heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy prior to 2014, because in the three years since the release of the first movie, they’ve become some of the most popular characters in the entire MCU. While there was certainly an immense amount of pressure on returning director James Gunn to create a worthy follow-up, you wouldn’t know it from the self-assured confidence that the film exudes. Admittedly, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” isn’t as fresh as its predecessor, but it’s almost as much as fun, and that’s to the credit of Gunn and his excellent cast, who have once again delivered an offbeat, action-packed space opera (with yet another killer soundtrack) that doesn’t skimp on humor or heart.

After saving the universe from Kree fanatic Ronan the Accuser, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the rest of the Guardians have parlayed their newfound fame into a lucrative career as mercenaries. But when they’re hired by a race of pretentious, gold-skinned beings called the Sovereign to kill an interdimensional beast in exchange for Gamora’s captured half-sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), the Guardians manage to piss off their employers by stealing some of the valuable batteries they were charged with protecting. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Guardians are rescued at the last minute by an ancient celestial entity called Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell), who claims to be Peter’s long-lost father. Though Peter is thrilled to finally meet his dad and learn more about his secret heritage, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is suspicious of Ego’s true motives. Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker) is recruited by the Sovereign’s High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) to track down and apprehend the Guardians for punishment, leading to a mutiny among his crew when he refuses to turn them over.

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Movie Review: “Deepwater Horizon”

Starring
Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Dylan O’Brien, Ethan Suplee
Director
Peter Berg

Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010 – the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig engulfed in flames, the rivers of black crude oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico – but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates it in stunningly authentic detail for his latest film. But while “Deepwater Horizon” is a pretty effective disaster movie with some decent thrills and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose. It works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.

There were a lot of heroes aboard the Deepwater Horizon on that fateful day, but Berg centers on a quartet of Transocean contractors – including chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and floorhand Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) – to tell the harrowing tale. When Mike, Jimmy and Andrea arrive on the offshore drilling rig for a three-week shift, they discover that an important safety procedure has been ignored due to the project falling behind schedule. Adamant about the safety of his crew, Jimmy insists that they run some additional tests before anyone begins drilling, much to the annoyance of BP executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). After the tests prove inconclusive, Vidrine pressures the workers into starting the job anyway, leading to the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 11 men and caused irreparable damage to the surrounding waters.

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Movie Review: “The Hateful Eight”

Starring
Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Jeff Parks
Director
Quentin Tarantino

It’s crazy to think that “The Hateful Eight” almost never happened, but after Quentin Tarantino furiously shelved the project following the leak of his unfinished script, cooler heads eventually prevailed. Though the writer/director’s first crack at making a Western resulted in the slightly disappointing “Django Unchained,” Tarantino’s second attempt is a much-improved genre piece that represents his most accomplished work behind the camera to date. “The Hateful Eight” is filled with the same self-indulgent tendencies that fans have come to expect from his movies, but while it doesn’t exactly earn its three-hour runtime, this Agatha Christie-styled whodunit is a lot of fun thanks to a smartly crafted script and riotous performances from its ensemble cast.

Set in post-Civil War Wyoming, the film stars Kurt Russell as John “The Hangman” Ruth, a well-known bounty hunter who earned his nickname as the only one in his trade who actually bothers bringing fugitives in alive to be hanged for their crimes. John is in the process of transporting wanted murderer Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock to collect the $10,000 bounty on her head when a blizzard forces them to take shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery in the mountains, where he finds himself trapped in a room with six other strangers he doesn’t trust. In fact, John is confident that at least one of them is in cahoots with Daisy, and he’s determined to figure out who it is before they make their move.

In addition to the two stranded men he comes across on his way to Minnie’s – Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a Union soldier turned fellow bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a Southern rebel who claims that he’s the new sheriff of Red Rock – John’s list of suspects includes local hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), mysterious cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern) and a Mexican named Bob (Demian Bichir) who’s looking after the trading post while its owners are away. Confined to the cabin until the storm passes, paranoia begins to set in among the eight strangers as identities and motivations are questioned, secrets are revealed and blood is spilled.

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