Review – Swan Song (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”)

All things must pass. . .maybe. In the case of the hugely popular Guardians of the Galaxy movies, that too must come to an end. At least, according to its writer & director (and new head of the DCEU), James Gunn. *sigh* G’bye, Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Drax, Rocket, et all. We hardly knew ye.

If you’ve been keeping up with the Guardians (and you should have!), they purchased the ginormous floating space head and city, Knowhere, where they’ve made a home for themselves. Noice. Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) have all joined forces to keep the galaxy safe. Yeah. Good luck with that! Remember Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the golden High Priestess and the leader of the Sovereign people back in vol. two? Well, she has sent an all-powerful golden super-being named Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) to destroy Peter and his Guardians. Uh-oh!

After a terrible battle, Adam is sent packing home, but Rocket is badly injured. So badly that he needs a McGuffin. . . sorry, I mean, a thingamabob to save him. Road trip! The Guardians are off to Orgoscope and meet up with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the new leader of the Ravengers who decides to join them on their Holy Grail quest. Meanwhile, there’s a new threat and he goes by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji). This sadistic mad scientist, like Dr. Moreau, has created bizarre human/animal hybrids on placed them on “Counter-Earth”, a new planet just for his creations. He’s gone all psycho-crazy looking for his one creation that escaped his clutches and that’s Rocket, and he’ll stop at nothing to get him back! Now it’s up to the Guardians to not only save their dying comrade but stop this total lunatic from his diabolical plans!

This is perhaps the best (and possibly final) entry in the Guardians franchise by writer/director James Gunn. At a butt-numbing 2hrs and 30mins, it occasionally overstays its welcome and drags at times, but woo-boy! It sure delivers on the action, suspense, space adventure, and heart-breaking drama. This is really Rocket’s movie as you can tell by the numerous flashbacks to see to how young Rocket was made and his time with the cruel and vicious High Evolutionary, which is juxtaposed with the light-hearted comedy thrown about by the rest of the cast, who are so very good. Gunn really knows his stuff, whether he’s directing action sequences that jump off the screen with excitement or writing a classic ‘mission: impossible’ plot that somehow, someway, everything turns out okay despite insurmountable, unbelievable odds.

Pratt leads this great cast with everyone following suit, but it’s Chukwudi Iwuji as the villainous High Evolutionary that steals the picture. Think of Thanos with severe bipolar disorder. Saldana really sinks her teeth into this role as her Gamora is more abrasive and abusive than before and keep an eye out for many cameos like Sly Stallone and Nathan Fillion. And Will Pouter finally gets to use his natural British accent as the golden Adam Warlock.

Yes, there are a ton of plot holes and questionable contrivances that make you wonder what just happened, but this is one of those movies where you ignore all the laws of psychics and common sense and just wrap your arms around that $35 bucket of popcorn and slip deep into a sci-fi fantasy coma. It’s so enjoyable, funny, a true space opera, and will make you go for the tissues a few times. And if those post and mid-credit extra scenes are any indication, we may not be seeing the last of our beloved Guardians after all.  

*Now showing only in theaters

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

There have been many film adaptations of H.G. Wells’ bizarre novel about a mad doctor and his gruesome experiments on man (or is it beast?). But this is the one that everyone talks about for its truly off-the-wall production, casting choices, surreal direction, characters, and plot. Really, you have to see this one!

With a screenplay by Richard Stanley and Ron Hutchinson, this non-nonsensical version pretty much follows the story of Edward Douglas (David Thewlis) who gets marooned on a creepy island somewhere in the middle of the Java Sea after a plane crash. He’s told, once he’s rescued, that he can use Dr. Montgomery’s (Val Kilmer) radio; he’s the island’s resident flunky and former neurosurgeon. Edward is introduced to the island’s head honcho, Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando–wearing white pancake makeup, a bedsheet, and an ice bucket for a hat) plus his very strange daughter, Aissa (Fairuza Balk).

But things are not what they seem on this island as Montgomery and Moreau have done something fantastic. Morose and diabolical, but fantastic. They’ve taken the natives on this island and cross-bred them with animal DNA to form. . . hybrids! Why? Hey, why not!? These living nightmares, like half-lion/half-human or half-leopard/half-human have established their own village with the Sayer of the Law (Ron Perlman) as their hybrid spokesperson. Meanwhile, Dr. Moreau keeps these creatures in check with cranial implants that give them excruciating pain, should they disobey him. Ouch!

But it looks like Montgomery ain’t getting off this nutty island soon and he’s getting worried that his own DNA is changing. What are those funny bumps on his arms? And geez-Louise, that little ‘mini-me’ version of Moreau (Nelson de la Rosa) is really creeping him out! Things go very badly when a hybrid eats a rabbit (they’re not supposed to eat meat) and a smart Hyena/Swine person figures out how to remove the brain-pain inducer. Uh-oh. Free of implants, all the hybrids revolt against their captors, and all hell breaks loose.

Directed by John Frankenheimer, this is one of the weirdest versions ever put on film. It bombed huge at the box office and people LOL at the ridiculous performances of Kilmer and Brando, who looked like they were sleepwalking through the whole picture. Plagued by every conceivable problem from script changes to weather problems to actors making strange requests on the set, this movie is the equivalent of Murphy’s Law: everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong. In fact, do yourself a favor and rent the documentary, Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau and see what I mean. It’s fascinating to see how a movie production could spiral out of control

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