Review – Daddy Issues (“Guardians of the Galaxy-Vol. 2”)

The surprise hit of 2014, this lesser-known Marvel comic book exploded on the screen with it’s over-the-top comedic story of human Peter Quill, abducted from Earth as a child, who now leads a rag-tag bunch of miscreants around the galaxy saving it from God knows what. And all this with a rockin’ 80’s musical score! Ya gotta love it! But will this  sequel live up to the original?
Apparently saving the galaxy from complete annihilation tends to get you noticed, and if saw the first film, you’re familiar with Peter Quill (aka Star Lord), played with perfection by Chris Pratt and his band of crazy colorful cohorts: the super-muscular, but rather dim Drax (Dave Bautista), lethal green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a genetically-enhanced and hair-triggered raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a playful little wooden twig.

News of their exploits has reached the golden-skinned ears of Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the high priestess of The Sovereign, who have a task for Quill and his gang: defend a cache of valuable batteries from a giant inter-dimensional monster called the Abilisk. Their reward? Nebula, (Karen Gillian) the deadly and estranged sister of Gamora who was taken prisoner. But no sooner than their task is done, trouble starts when that rascal Rocket rips-off some of them batteries for a joke. Apparently, the Sovereign don’t take too kindly to jokes and unleash a fleet of killer drones after them.

Crashing on a planet, the gang meet Ego, (Kurt Russell) a celestial being in human form who’s also a living planet. . .and he’s also Peter’s real father! Peter, skeptical at this, decides to accompany dear ol’ dad, with Gamora and Drax, to his planet while Rocket repairs the ship. Peter also meets Ego’s “pet”; her name is Mantis (Pom Klementieff), an emphatic girl with antennae. Meanwhile, we find out that vengeful Ayesha has hired the Ravenger named Yondu (Michael Rooker), who was Peter’s space dad, to find Peter and those batteries. Yondu hopes this will bring him out of exile for being a “softy”, placed there by Stakar (Sylvester Stallone), the head of the Ravenger’s.

While Yondu is having problems with his own crew mutineering on him after capturing Rocket and Nebula, Peter is having the time of his life catching up with his new pops and finding out he’s half-god! But on both sides of the galaxy, things are starting to unravel. Rocket and Yondu plan an impossible escape from the tyrannical Taserface (Chris Sullivan) while Mantis is hiding a dark secret from Drax and Gamora. Oh, and did I mention that Nebula and Gamora are going though some serious sibling rivalry issues?

The third act has that dark secret revealed (no spoilers here) and a whirlwind of action exploding on screen with everyone just trying to stay alive long enough to have Peter fulfill his destiny. One thing is for sure, this sequel has double the action, comedy, and emotional punch than the original. Yes, Stan Lee makes his cameo, as usual, although this time it’s a dumb one. You’ll want to stay for all the post-credits extras too, they’re great!

Written and directed by James Gunn, who penned and directed part one, the man definitely knows his target audience. The characters have grown since we last saw them and aren’t just one-dimensional cartoon cut-outs like others. The guardians are a family now, albeit a dysfunctional one, adding real emotional weight to the story. Plus the ‘Peter and Ego’ dynamic, which is a great plot by itself, really fleshes-out the movie. There’s moments of great LOL comedy here mixed in with heart-breaking sadness. Looks like Gunn went with the Pixar axiom: “Make ’em laugh, then make ’em cry”.

The rest is all fun stuff with the Ravengers, Rocket, Mantis, and that adorable little Groot (can you say “marketing”?). Also, all those little Easter eggs thrown in for us fanboys just adds to the overall flavor (yes, that was Howard the Duck in one scene!). Gunn has also promised not only a Volume 3, but his Guardians will be added to the Marvel Universe, alongside the likes of Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, et al, when they join together to fight Thanos in Avengers: Infinity Wars. Remember, Thanos is Nebula and Gamora’s dad, so it all ties together.

Max Dugan Returns (1983)
Dads… isn’t that just like ’em? Either they’re surprising us with something wild or they’re popping up decades later as an entire planet! Sheesh! In the world of playwright Neil Simon, this original screenplay didn’t quite have the zing that his stage plays did, but it did have his then-wife Marsha Mason and a very young Matthew Broderick.
It’s a tough life for widowed schoolteacher Nora McPhee (Mason) and her teenage son, Mike (Broderick). Their house is a wreck, their appliances don’t work, their car barely runs, Mike’s baseball skills are lousy, and Nora’s English Lit class is a joke. Things change after Nora’s car gets stolen and nice police detective, Brian Costello (Donald Sutherland) is not only on the case, but suddenly gets the hots for Nora. But things get even stranger when, after 28 years, Nora’s estranged jailbird dad shows up with two satchels filled with $638,000!
Max Dugan (Jason Robards), a devious rascal and con man, tell his daughter that he’s got less than 6 months to live and all that embezzled money he’s stolen is for her and Mike. She refuses to have anything to do with stolen money, naturally, so Max just buys her everything she needs: a new 1982 Mercedes convertible, new furniture, appliances, and a ton more! Max even hires Chicago White Sox baseball coach Steve Lau to coach Mike, which come in handy in the final act.
But all this newly flaunted wealth doesn’t go unnoticed by the eagle-eye of Brian, who is trying to put two and two together, despite all the lies that Nora is spinning to keep her daddy from getting arrested. . . again. Not to mention the fact that SHE would be taken away as an accessory if he were to be caught! Flip-flopping on her love to Max, Nora agrees to leave with him to Brazil, but Max decides to take off by himself instead, to spare her any further harm, thus giving a truly dumb ending that makes no sense whatsoever.
No doubt Simon has written some of the great movies/plays ever made. The Odd Couple, The Goodbye Girl, The Sunshine Boys, Seems Like Old Times, to name a few, but this one (which was never originally a stage play first) didn’t quite live up to his previous works. Yes, you have some of the classic ‘Simon’ witty banter here and there, but the story is just plain ordinary and boring. Worse yet, there’s zero chemistry between Mason and Sutherland as the love interests. Not a good thing, especially for director Herbert Ross, whose extraordinary career in Hollywood is well known.

Then there’s Matthew Broderick making his film debut here; something that would hit major pay-dirt for him the next year with WarGames, Ladyhawke, and his signature role, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Even though this movie tanked at the box office, Broderick did two more Neil Simon projects: Brighton Beach Memoirs (the stage play) and Biloxi Blues (the movie). Tasty Trivia: Check out Bill, the teenager; he’s played by young Kiefer Sutherland (Don’s son); it’s his film debut as well. 

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