'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,' dir. James Gunn

Like many a sequel to a slam-bang, much-liked mega-hit, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" isn't quite as much fun, not quite as clever, not quite as fresh as the original, but it still packs a bright and shiny and sweet punch.

Thus starts an epic final battle in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as the Guardians themselves wage war with an entire planet - which is what Ego actually is (the Kurt Russell version is just his "human" form).

The Dinner (R) 2 hr. Director James Gunn focuses only on the Guardians here, and when the film is over, everything is mostly the same in terms of the group dynamic.

Like its predecessor, the film's best scene is the opening credits, which foreground Baby Groot dancing to Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr". Yondu was a fun character in the first film, and Gunn really allows him to grow and shine this time out, with Rooker clearly having the time of his life doing so. The plot is pleasingly reminiscent sci-fi stories of the mid-20th century, but the humor is all 2017. He has an appreciation for interesting classic rock music and easily blends the songs into the scenes in such an artful way. Kang: "Well, we did build this spaceship, you know". An unwieldy number of storylines run concurrently in the second act, forcing the narrative to sideline Quill's journey in order to track the personal growth of Yondu, Rocket, Gamora, Drax and Nebula (Karen Gillan), a villain from the first movie.

Drax, Gamora and Star Lord do a pretty cool superhero walk set to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain", board Space Russell's ship, and head back to his home planet with Space Russell and his pet/slave Mantis (Old Boy's Pom Klementieff).

It's clear that Gunn and Marvel were attentive to what made Guardians of the Galaxy such a big hit. And of course, in all his absurdly adorableness, there is the fighting, dancing, child-like sweetness, Baby Groot rounding out our misfit heroes. The relationship between Rocket and Groot is flipped from this movie.

And Baby Groot? He's not as consistently amusing as the trailers would suggest.

With the help of CGI effects masters, Gunn creates fantastically rich, colorful worlds that only add to the wonder of the film. "That's as much as anyone could ask of a movie, let alone a sequel". So many in fact, that I felt actual shame in bringing my 5 and 7 year olds along to the screening.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 16 min. Back in 2005, Rooker auditioned for a role in Slither, a genre-mashup from James Gunn, a hungry filmmaker who'd sold a few high-profile scripts to studios but earned his chops working in the ultra-low-budget world of Troma Entertainment (responsible for such vulgar curiosities as Tromeo and Juliet and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV). He plays a role literally any character actor could have played. "Blue Sky" might seem like just a knowing wink to boomer grandparents, by the time the film ends sweetly with Cat Stevens' "Father and Son", the music has taken on an unexpected emotional resonance. It's also a crowded film. It's believed that the third Guardians movie will take one of the pre-announced release dates for "Untitled" Marvel movies - all three of which are in the year 2020.

Pratt said he related to the story a lot. The film is a good 15 minutes longer than the original.

As strong as the dramatic points are, Travolta and the film soar in the scenes on the dance floor, the place where Tony is king of all he surveys. No one who sees "Vol. 2" will have that complaint. It's perhaps a too-obvious choice in a film about the importance of family and finding strength in those around you but it works and, besides, how much subtlety do you want in a movie with a talking raccoon?


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