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Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers Infinity War

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by) 
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Wong

The dust has settled, the hype has died down, the fanboys have scrutinised every frame and Avengers: Infinity War has already raked in $2 billion worldwide. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, look beyond the spectacle and obligatory fan-service to assess what is still essentially half a movie (though it’s still a lot better than Age of Ultron). 

I’ve always been pretty dubious over the practice of dividing a single story into two or more separate films. I understood Quentin Tarantino’s motives behind Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 because they were stylistically different. But two Breaking Dawns, two Mockingjays and three freaking Hobbits were just greedy, cynical cash-grabs calculated to prey on fans whose commitment to their beloved franchises gave them no choice but to open their wallets one more time than necessary.

But after seeing Infinity War twice now (once in theatres with everyone else, the second time for this Blu-ray review), I have to grudgingly concede that the decision to make it two movies might be justified (I’ll reserve a final verdict until next year). As it stands, this film has an unenviable task: Include nearly every major MCU character, work them into the film without regulating anyone to a gratuitous cameo while still moving the new story forward (“new” is relative, though…longtime fans have been aware of this coming war for years). 

For the most part, the film is successful, mainly because Marvel has done a pretty masterful job of laying the groundwork during the past decade of MCU movies. So when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) engages in verbal chest-thumping with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the story doesn’t need to spend time establishing their personalities the way a stand-alone film must. Speaking of which, the film’s best moments are when these iconic characters are meeting each other for the first time. Those involving one-or-more of the Guardians of the Galaxy are predictably the funniest, and sometimes surprisingly moving.

The downside, of course, is that anyone not fully up-to-speed with the doings in the MCU will be completely lost. Sure, they could (mostly) follow the story, maybe even a few of the subplots, but will have absolutely no emotional stake in any of these characters. And there’s no other film in the MCU that depends more on the audience’s investment in its characters than Infinity War (especially during the final act).

Even without the burden of character exposition, bringing them all together convincingly takes a considerable amount of time (which Infinity War does by presenting three concurrent subplots). Could the rising action leading to its epic climax have been trimmed-up a bit? Absolutely. Infinity War is occasionally meandering and apocalyptic battles are so standard in this franchise that simply making them longer doesn’t necessarily make them grander. However, the story doesn’t feel gratuitously padded just to squeeze-out two movies. Casual viewers may be impatiently checking their watches after ninety minutes, but it goes without saying that anyone who loves these characters won’t want it to end. 

But end it does, with whopper of a cliffhanger that’s more Empire Strikes Back than An Unexpected Journey. In other words, the story may be incomplete, but not the experience. And if all 18 of the previous entries in the MCU can be considered converging roads leading up to this moment, then perhaps two movies is justified. I guess we’ll all know for sure next year.

Until then, because of its size, scope, references to past events and plethora of Easter eggs, Infinity War makes better repeated viewing at home than the usual superhero film. Nobody but the most dedicated fanboys would be capable of catching everything the first time. On a related note, I’m sort-of surprised at how light this Blu-ray is on supplemental material. The featurettes are entertaining, but mostly promotional and pretty short compared to those included on many other Disney/Marvel releases. 

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn, Dan Abnett (based on the Marvel comics by)
Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista

Plot: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.
Running Time: 2 hours 16 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 83% Audience 88%

Why I Watched It: I really enjoyed the first one, and for Marvel they took a risk, this was a cult comic and lesser known heroes but Marvel did what they do so well, the perfect cast a director they trusted and it was great. I will say this one is more bloated and much bigger and you can tell they’ve traded off from the goodwill of the first film, I was excited to see what they came up with this time and of course Kurt Russell is always welcome in any movie I watch.

What I Liked: Say what you want about Marvel but they really don’t make bad movies and they don’t make boring movies. You can call it a formula but it’s more of a style and something they nail every time. Marvel is smart enough to know what works and what they’re fan base wants to see. The other big thing Marvel does is they spend money and a lot of it is on the screen. This film looks great, all the tech stuff, the sound, the editing, the score is top notch.

Guardians is a different comic book movie, sure it’s set in space but it’s really about this ragtag group of outsiders who have formed more than friendship but a family and what makes these films different is it’s really about their relationship and their dynamic that make the films work. The cast is tight and you consider two of the characters are CGI it works seamlessly. The standout for me is Dave Bautista here’s very good here and oddly gives the best performance. Kurt Russell is good here, he’s always good but he doesn’t have much to do but he fits in well.

I said it earlier but this is a much bigger film, lots of characters and lots of balls in the air, lots of things going on, the one thing they hit on is they have five main characters and all have issues so there’s lots of things to play off of and this movie they decide to focus on family and for the most part it works, it’s nice to have a story this epic in scope come down to not being alone.

The thing I was glad they kept was the humor cause that’s what makes Guardians different, it’s heavy at times but they keep that light tone and the humor works and of course you have baby Groot here who is beyond cute.

What I Didn’t Like: The film is bloated, and at times it’s all over the place, clearly director James Gunn had a lot on his mind and blew his wad here. The biggest flaw for me was splitting up the team, I don’t think that worked as well as they thought, the group dynamic isn’t as strong here. Also they added a lot of characters and a ton of sub-plots. The film feels overly busy and man it’s too long, it drags at times and really they need to trim this down, losing at least 15 minutes would have been this film better.

The first film had a soundtrack so of course we needed a mix tape Vol. 2, the music cues felt like that and the songs were a little too on the nose and really anything big that is happening gets this famous golden oldie as well, I would it a bit distracting.

The cast if fine but I will say rocket does come off a little too harsh and at times annoying, also they didn’t need Stallone here, he gets nothing to do and really anyone could have done that part. Also they didn’t need all the story they threw in here, the should have just dealt with Star Lord finding out who his father is and the team dealing with it.

Final Thoughts: It’s a fun but flawed film not as enjoyable as the first but an entertaining Summer film just the same.

Rating: 7/10

Bushwick (2017) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

BUSHWICK

Directors: Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Writers: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
Stars: Brittany Snow, Dave Bautista, Arturo Castro

Plot:  When a Texas military force invades their Brooklyn neighborhood, 20-year-old Lucy and war veteran Stupe must depend on each other to survive.
Running Time: 94 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 49%    Audience  29%

Why I Watched it: I like Bautista and the plot was interesting.

Random Thoughts: So this film has a gimmick, it’s done in long tracking shots and they try to make it look like just one long tracking shot.  Here’s a thing I thought Bautista’s name was Stew and when I see the credits it says Stupe, honestly I heard Stew the whole film.

What I liked: The only reason to watch this film is for Dave Bautista, he’s basically been a secondary guy in his films and this one gives him center stage.  I like him as a presence, of a man his size he’s a quiet actor and he acts small.  Bautista is also a producer on the film, and it makes sense cause he gets an arc and he gets to be a complex character, he’s not just the muscle in the film. The tracking shot gimmick was fine, it got old fast but I give them credit for doing something different and it was nice for a film not to have a million jump cuts.  This does help with the tension and it gives the film a raw feel to it.

What I didn’t like: I’ll stop short of calling this film a mess but man it has a few fatal flaws.  Sure the beginning is jaw dropping but once we get into the main plot it’s confusing and really we have no clue of what’s going on and that’s frustrating to no end.  We don’t know the stakes, we don’t know what kind of movie this is and we don’t get to know the characters much at all. Here’s the other thing this movie is basically a two hander, Bautista and Snow.  Brittany Snow is badly miscast here, she doesn’t have the weight to pull off this role, now I will say her character is not well written but you needed a gritter and harder actress.

The flaw that kills the film is the script and main plot, it’s dumb, sorry but wrapping your head around this plot and also during the third act there’s so many dumb things that people do that it becomes laughable.

Here’s the part that sealed the deal for me, so we follow the two leads trying to get to her grandmother’s house and then to a drop zone so they go to this place and are captured by this gang run by one of the gang member’s mother and they force them to go to this church so they can tell the priest there to meet them at this neighborhood laundry mat so they can meet and join forces.  Now I won’t go through the whole scene in the church which also makes little sense, so they tell people and only the two of them get to the laundry mat and literally no one is there, no one then we get the backstory scene of the one character.  The whole thing was ham fisted and badly written you just shock your head.  Also they get Brittany Snow’s “sister” and man it’s a combo of a bad performance and terrible writing.

Also get your head around a Texas military force invading and trying to take over most of America, just think about it.  There’s a scene where they catch a solider and he tells them and us the plan, and how shocked they were that the people were fighting back, these “soliders” were going house to house and killing everyone in them and they were shocked that people fought back.

Final Thoughts: This was a clear case of a gimmick film that had not much else going for it.  The acting was sub par, the narrative was down right badly down, the action was nothing special and the film has a very downbeat ending that they did not earn at all.

Rating: 3/10

Marauders (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

MARAUDERS

Director: Steven C. Miller
Writers: Michael Cody, Chris Sivertson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Christopher Meloni, Dave Bautista

Plot:  When a bank is hit by a brutal heist, all evidence points to the owner and his high-powered clients. But as a group of FBI agents dig deeper into the case – and the deadly heists continue – it becomes clear that a larger conspiracy is at play.

Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 22%     Audience 31%

Why I watched It: It’s a pretty good cast for a direct to DVD action movie and the trailer actually showed some promise.

Random Thoughts: Bruce Willis seems to be in the “If they money is there I do not care” part of his career, he’s still a name and he also will attract other actors who respect him or just plain what to work with him to be in his movie, the thing his he doesn’t have that spark he once had and he seems to be playing bad guys who have little screen time but the part gets him top billing.  I will say this about this cast it lets some of the other actors do things they don’t do that often, Meloni is the lead here, Grenier gets to play an FBI agent and not play off his looks and Bautista plays a character that’s not solely based on his size he’s not playing a killing machine he’s just an FBI agent.

What I liked: I’ll give Marauders this the plot and the story is more layered than I was suspecting.  We get some decent fleshed out characters and some decent back story.  I really like Christopher Meloni, I like when a good character actor gets to play a lead, I know he’s done it on TV but he’s very good here, he has that rare gift to play tough, smart and vulnerable all at the same time.  This turns out to be more of a mystery, who’s robbing the banks and why it’s not so much a straight up action film, there’s some shot outs but there’s more drama than fights and gun play here.  The one thing I enjoyed is that almost every character is carrying around guilt, haunted it’s a cliche but it’s nice to see this kind of movie at least try.  This film goes deep on it’s roster as even Johnathon Schaech’s character has a sub-plot and it has a payoff.  Director Steven C Miller does a decent balancing act here as you can tell he’s trying to do a different kind of action film one with a little more soul and consequences.

What I didn’t like: I watch a lot of B-Movies and genre stuff and one of my big beefs is how cliched these movies are that it doesn’t seem that the people involved are even trying to do something different in the case of Marauders they might have tried to do too much, there’s twists and there’s so much backstory that it kind of bogs the film down.

I was really into the first third of the film, the bank heist scenes worked and it set up the tension and I liked some of the characters but it started to get itself up it’s own rear end, they went a little too deep and too really lost the story, by the end it seemed like a mess, some of it worked but it didn’t hang together, they tired too much in terms of story and it paid the price, it ended up different but it didn’t work and by the time we get to the finish he seemed way too forced.

Also it didn’t help that Willis doesn’t do much and really just phones it in, Grenier does try and it kind of worked but at the end he was miscast, he didn’t have the weight or the age for the role.

Final Thoughts: Not a great film but it was different and there was some things to like, I do think if you’re a genre fan or a fan of any of the leads it’s worth a watch.

Rating: 5/10

Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

KICKBOXER VENGEANCE

Director: John Stockwell
Writers: Dimitri Logothetis (screenplay),  Jim McGrath (screenplay) (as James McGrath)
Stars: Dave Bautista,  Alain Moussi,  Gina Carano

Plot: A kick boxer is out to avenge his brother.
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes
IMDB Score: 4.9

Why I watched it: It’s my wheelhouse for sure, action B-Movie, of course I saw the original and look at that cast.

Random thoughts; Just go back and check out that plot description if that doesn’t scream action movie I don’t know what does.  This actually had some buzz cause the cast was good and it looked like from the trailers this good be a good action movie.

What I liked: Van Damme is the best thing about this movie, he has really settled into a nice little character actor niche with these action films, he’s older but can still fight but he uses his charm and presence a lot more than he used to.

The film moves pretty well, it’s a standard revenge set up and it works, the bad guys are bad and the good guy is an under dog what else do you want.  The fighting scenes are a mixed bag John Stockwell is a good journeyman director, he’s done tons of genre but I would say he’s just alright with the actually fights here.  No doubt Alain Moussi is a really good fighter and he looks the part and he moves well and at times he pulls it off. Bautista is a beast, he’s scary as all get out.  He’s a tough guy to fight that’s for sure.  Nice casting all way round here.

What I didn’t like: Something just doesn’t click for me, something’s missing, the pieces are here but it doesn’t come to together.  Moussi is not a great actor but you can forgive that but the main problem is with the exception of Van Damme no one has a fleshed out character, no one stands out, Moussi comes off as bland.  Gina Carano is wasted here, she doesn’t fight and really doesn’t have that much to do.

Bautista is imposing but he’s not a memorable bad guy.  The end fight is really by the book and really doesn’t have as much energy as it should.  If I had to pinpoint what was missing I would say it doesn’t have the right feel or pacing for this kind of movie, it feels like it’s a step slow just not hitting on all the cylinders.

Final thoughts: Not a bad movie, a little disappointing, you should be able to make a better film with the source material and that cast.

Rating: 4/10

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Movie Review by John Walsh

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Review

Director: James Gunn
Writers: James Gunn,  Dan Abnett (based on the Marvel comics by)
Stars: Chris Pratt,  Zoe Saldana,  Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell

The first Guardians of the Galaxy film was and still is my favourite comic book movie to ever be released. Gunn weaved magic, rolling out a fresh concept in a fairly bloated genre and ultimately rewarding Disney for the enormous risk they took. It possessed everything; humour in spades, emotion, action, amazing visuals and arguably the best soundtrack out there. It also had a quintet of characters that really anchored the film, transcending the story and forging an instant connection with the overwhelming majority of viewers.

It really was an impossible task then to better that piece of cinematic magnificence in the sequel and whilst James Gunn didn’t quite achieve the impossible, he still got mighty damn close. All the favourites are back and the same hilarious banter that made the first film is back with them. I’ve heard more than a few suggest that the humour was forced, that it didn’t quite pay off or hit the heights of the first. I can only go with my experience and Drax (Dave Bautista) alone had me in stitches at several points. He definitely served as the main comedy provider in the film this time, subsequently being robbed of a more beefier role in the action sequences, which was a minor disappointment. Whilst Chris Pratt as Quill, the other provider of near as many laughs, is a match made in heaven to the point where, like Jackman and Downey Jnr as Wolverine and Iron Man respectively, I honestly can’t envisage anybody else playing that role now.

The film excels in the first and middle act when it strangely lacks a notable plot or villain, instead choosing to primarily focus on the quintet (prominent side characters not withstanding) and the unique, almost dysfunctional, relationship they share with one another. I can relate more than most to this in many ways, as I have a similar relationship with my family, banter flying around and more than a few profanities flung in for good measure. Disney, caught on the hop originally, realised just how popular Baby Groot was going to be and capitalised fully in a brilliant, incredibly cute opener that also lets the viewer know that the music in the second instalment is going to be every bit as varied and good this time round. When Kurt Russell does finally return to the screen again as Quill’s estranged father (there’s a much younger CG version at the beginning which I actually loved), it becomes almost immediately apparent that something isn’t ringing quite true with him.

For one, his name is Ego, which is so glaringly not a name for a benevolent Demi-God. He attempts to reconnect with his prodigal son, explaining that he too has god-like powers, though slyly withholding his real motive until later. Meanwhile, Yondu (Michael Rooker), the man who actually raised Quill steps in to provide some much needed action and a change of pace as the former settles into the transcendental, zen like, environment of Ego’s very own planet. (How fitting was My Sweet Lord by George Harrison during their arrival?) Rooker was absolutely fantastic in this film and the real standout performer. Just about everyone seemed to have a family issue at some stage; Quill with Ego, Gamora with Nebula, Drax and his daughter. Which made Yondu’s arc in particular all the more meaningful, providing some real emotional resonance to the film as his dealings with both Rocket and Quill further fed into the family dominant thematics at play.

If I was to have any criticisms then it would be the underuse of Gamora, those annoying gold gits and the way they continually made a nuisance of themselves at pivotal points, the climatic battle between Ego and the Guardians, and the latter’s suitability/choice as a villain in general. Kurt Russell was amazing don’t get me wrong, I’ve said it before, I love that man and his mere presence was felt here, believe me. It just felt to me like Gunn looked upon the plot and Ego as an afterthought though. His motivations and need for Quill were a little iffy and what was that bizarre jelly plant turning into a weird, city consuming, landslide thing all about? The gold aliens (I hate them that much, I refuse to even google their name) boiled my blood, they were that stupid and irrelevant to the story. As for the climatic battle; it just felt a little rushed, predictable and CG heavy. It wasn’t offensively bad or anything like that, but it was a small gripe nonetheless.

Ultimately though, much like in the first film, it’s all about the characters. They epitomise Guardians of the Galaxy for me and it was them I came back to see. The story didn’t have to be an epic, riveting tale, full of complicated twists, and quite frankly, it wasn’t. It was more inward looking, focusing on emotion and only really exploded into a Galaxy saving experience in the final act. I’m pleased to say that Gunn delivers and some in fleshing out the characters. He continued to develop the backstory of Gamora, her idiosyncratic relationship with Nebula and even the self-titled Starlord himself, delving a little further into his childhood and the relationship between him and Yondu in particular. He also delivered with an absolute belter of a soundtrack and visuals that were borderline eye porn at times. I loved just about every minute of this film and although it’s not quite as good as the first one, there’s not much in it.

If by some bizarre reason you haven’t yet watched this fantastic film, then I would absolutely recommend giving it a blast. Some things need to be experienced in a cinema and this is definitely one of them.