Tag Archives: Zoe Saldana

Avengers: Endgame (2019) Blu Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers: Endgame Review

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Tilda Swindon, Dave Bautista, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong

The major downside to catching Avengers: Endgame in theatres was the risk of subjecting my bladder to irreparable damage. In my younger days, simply holding-it for three hours was no big challenge. Back in college, I even once participated in a drinking challenge where we’d see who could go the longest without relieving ourselves. I didn’t win, but did manage to make it almost four hours.

Those were different times and Endgame is a different type of epic. We’ve all sat through three-hour films before, but thanks to the Infinity War’s open-ended resolution and plethora of unanswered questions – not-to-mention a year’s worth of fan theories and speculation – taking a bathroom break would risk missing a key scene, plot twist or revelation. I’ll give the Russo Brothers credit for one thing: Every scene in Endgame feels vital at the time, making it a tough movie to walk away from, even for a moment.

At the showing my family and I attended, not a single theatregoer got up to leave once the film started. Afterwards, the continuous sound of flushing toilets echoed throughout the lobby for five straight minutes. I, for one, made the mistake of buying a soda before the movie, which I began the regret around the 90 minute mark. By the third act, my screaming bladder made it a challenge to fully immerse myself the film’s numerous emotional payoffs.

So despite being a fitting, larger-than-life capper to Marvel’s 22-film story arc, Endgame ultimately plays better at home, at least for those of us not endowed with iron bladders. In addition to reacquainting myself with the story thus-far by revisiting Infinity War beforehand, seeing Endgame a second time – able to hit pause when nature called – was far more enjoyable.

While I still loathe the practice of stretching a single story across multiple movies, Endgame justifies its existence – and length – due to the sheer number of characters, story threads and loose ends to tie in a manner that meets expectations of legions of MCU fans. A taunting task, to be sure, which Endgame manages to pull off. The film remembers its past while acknowledging the future, and is well-aware of the finality its title suggests (for the story arc and some major characters). In that respect, Endgame pushes all the right emotional buttons.

But unlike the original Star Wars trilogy’s most iconic moments, Endgame meets expectations without really ever exceeding them. As viewers, we already have a laundry list of plot points awaiting explanation, questions to be answered and characters’ odds of living or dying. All those boxes are checked-off – often magnificently, sometimes poignantly – but there aren’t any revelations as jaw-dropping as learning who Luke’s father is. And even at three hours, there are simply too many characters for everyone to get adequate screen time (some don’t even appear until the climax). Fans of certain characters will inevitably be disappointed by what amounts to a cameo.

However, those are minor quips. Endgame is ultimately a slam-bang crescendo to this massive franchise, the likes of which we won’t likely see again for a long time. While sweeping and epic in scope, it’s still filled with the smaller, character-driven moments that have always made the MCU engaging (something DC is just now figuring out). I’ve personally never met anyone disappointed by the outcome. I’m sure they’re out there, but maybe their bladders were simply too full to enjoy it the first time.

Missing Link (2019) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

 

Missing Link Review

Director: Chris Butler
Writer: Chris Butler
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Zach Galifianakis, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, Emma Thompson, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia

One thing is certain: Laika Studios – located right in my backyard, by the way – has never made it easy on themselves. In an era when virtually all animated features are CG, they adhere to the painstaking process of stop-motion animation (probably why they’re produced only five films in 10 years). When even Pixar has succumbed to franchise fever, Laika continues to take enormous creative and financial risks with concepts that aren’t easily marketable nor conducive to franchising. Laika makes family films without ever dumbing them down or blatantly catering to kids with “cute” characters.

They are films made by artists, not technicians or accountants, so it must have really stung when Missing Link didn’t find an audience while another studio can vomit-out The Emoji Movie and audiences vomit-back $200 million. That’s like a talent show where a classical pianist comes in second place to a kid who can squirt milk out his nose.

In a way, I can understand Missing Link being a hard sell. It’s populated with unconventionally-rendered, wildly-exaggerated characters that wouldn’t look good on a cereal box. In fact, the title creature, Mr. Link (aka “Susan”), is initially off-putting, with a snout like a botched nosejob. The humor is often very dry and a lot of the best gags aren’t visual ones.

But like Laika’s other films – The Boxtrolls, in particular – Missing Link develops an infectious, easy-going charm that can sneak-up on the viewer, perhaps without them realising it. Though seldom laugh-out-loud funny, there are frequent bits of throw-away dialogue that are often uproarious (“You’re utopia sucks!”). The voices provided by an impressive cast are merely adequate (Hugh Jackson seems kind-of underused), but their characters are what matter and they tend to grow on you as the story unfolds.

Of course, it’s the unappreciated stop-motion animation that ultimately steals the show. The attention to detail is amazing, the characters’ expressions & movements so fluid that one could almost mistake it for computer animation. Even if one isn’t enamoured by its aesthetic, characters or story, the technical merits alone make Missing Link worth seeing. Another visually impressive achievement from Laika Studios, it’s a shame their hard work was largely ignored in theatres. On the other hand, since this Blu-ray comes with some fascinating making-of featurettes, maybe it’ll be easier to appreciate at home.

I Kill Giants (2017) Movie Review By Steven Wilkins

I Kill Giants Review

Director: Anders Walter
Writers: Joe Kelly (screenplay by), Joe Kelly (based on the Man of Action graphic novel “I Kill Giants” created by)
Stars: Madison Wolfe, Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots

From the start just given the title alone, you’re drawn in to the why’s of the main character Barbara, a young girl who has set out to destroy giants that have invaded her small town. Through her personal journey we find that not everything is as it seems and as the underlying nature of the story unfolds, you’re taken on a somber yet heartwarming journey relatable to many across the world.  A drama story with a sprinkle of action, I Kill Giants is a great view for the family to sit and enjoy.

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. 

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

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.