Mike at the Movies

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (PG-13) *****

If sci fi is not your thing, try this film. Yes, it’s sci fi but it’s also very, very funny and actually ends up being a spoof of the genre in many ways. Chris Pratt is marvelous, reprising his role as Peter Quill (aka “Star-Lord”) and his love interest, though green, is the radiant Zoe Saldana as Gamora. Getting more than their share of laughs from the audience are Vin Diesel, voicing “Baby Groot,” a member of the Guardians team though only a sprout, and Bradley Cooper, voicing Rocket, the randy raccoon who almost steals the movie.

Actually, nobody can steal a film that is so spectacularly made. The special effects team takes a long time to make it through the crawl at the end of the film, and they earn their money with explosive effects as well as scenic moments that are mesmerizing. A newcomer to the series is Pom Klementieff as Mantis, a charming member of the opposition who defects to the Guardians. She is truly beautiful, though Drax, the hulking Guardian (Dave Bautista), says she’s beautiful only “on the inside.”

The plot is simple in its complexity: Ego (Kurt Russell) is looking for his son (Peter) to share the universe with him. The Guardians sense something is not right, and they end up fighting Ego and his minions.

The battle scenes are hysterically over-done and seemingly endless, but humor gets in the way of smooth plot development and nobody minds. Lines are often thrown away and they are often the funniest. A nightclub scene has this non sequitur: “You’re out of luck if you don’t do duck,” said by a drunken duck to his female companion. A lot of fun is had at the expense of one of the ugliest members of the cast, Taserface, and Drax’s odd romance with Mantis has moments of both low and high humor.

The mix tape that runs through the film and is eventually destroyed by an angry enemy is mostly from the ‘80s and is music much valued by Peter.

Oddly enough, the film turns out to be mostly about love and family: Ego’s search for his son, Drax’s family on Earth versus his growing affection for Mantis, Peter and Gamora, and a family attitude among the Guardians that blossoms with the death of Yondu (Michael Rooker). There were more laughs in this film than there are in a lot of comedies these days and, except for some rough language now and then, the kids will eat up the action while probably not getting all the humor. Good fun for the family, however, and spectacular film-making.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (PG-13) ***

Good stuff surrounded by silly and redundant CGI that ultimately is confusing as well as irritating. Early on, the battle between Modred (aka Vortigern—Jude Law) and the forces of Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is muddled by the appearance of out-sized monster elephants who can do anything they wish against the bows and arrows of Arthur. As the film progresses (in intriguing and effective fits and starts chronologically), Arthur gets more confidence helped by the encouragement of The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a mysterious and wispy presence without whom Arthur cannot claim his crown. He does that, as we all know, by extracting the sword Excalibur from stone. Then his troubles really begin.

Vortigern is a staunch foe and does his best to head off the rebellion he caused by mistreating his subjects, but it takes a long time to get there. CGI figures in Arthur’s ultimate triumph as he is assigned to the Darklands by The Mage in order to prove worthy of the challenge of being king. There, Arthur meets assorted monsters and conquers them all, aided by the trusty Excalibur, which he has had trouble taming.

Everything heads toward a showdown with Vortigern but when it arrives, CGI comes galloping in, muddying the waters and making the outcome less clear than it should have been. I guess director Guy Ritchie, figured, you’ve got weapons in the closet, why not use them?

Most of the film is elegantly shot and tightly scripted with the aforementioned jumps in time effective as well as frequently funny. Hunnam is glorious as Arthur and he even gets to reveal his masterpiece, the Round Table, as things wind to an end. Pretty gruesome for the kiddies and perhaps confusing to those who thought they knew the legend, but watchable and frequently spectacular.

Snatched (R) **

Unfortunately, both stars of this mistake are better comediennes in roles that emphasize dialogue, not physical shtick. Neither can shine in the frantic, over-acted nonsense that passes for a script in this “action comedy.” Amy Schumer as Emily Middleton and Goldie Hawn as her mother, Linda, are forced to take a trip to Ecuador after Michael (Randall Park) dumps Emily and cancels out of the trip. That happens in the opening scene and gives promise with its sad-funny nature, but the movie goes downhill from there.

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket, Emily forces her mother to go with her. Linda is not the adventurous sort, as she points out: “Since your dad left, I thought I would never have sex again. I was right.” She prefers to stay in her home with her cats. Emily’s brother, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), is even worse: he’s a certified agoraphobic.

The two women get to Ecuador. Emily almost hooks up with the male-model-ish James (Tim Bateman) and runs into a couple of former “secret agents,” played deliciously by Wanda Sykes and an unrecognizable Joan Cusack. Cusack has no lines since she cut out her tongue upon retirement in order to be sure not to reveal any secrets!

The pair gets kidnapped (hence the title) and ends up in a cell, escapes, kills one of their pursuers by shovel as they escape in a truck and another later, in another escape, by accident. That does not deter the desire for revenge that gets sillier and sillier as the bad guys mount. It is surprising to Latin observers that anyone would snatch Schumer: “Your poofy face will protect you.”

With the help of a relentless brother (Jeffrey) and the State Department (eventually), the girls are rescued and congratulations ensue. Not from this viewer who felt deeply that Schumer and Hawn are much funnier doing dialogue with other people rather than dialogues with themselves. Having enjoyed the work of both Schumer and Hawn in previous films, this one left me deeply disappointed. The R rating is deserved; leave the kids at home.