James Gunn

Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Bradley Cooper
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel

After an initial flashback on Earth, we rejoin the titular guardians of the galaxy mid-mission, three months after their initial assembling. While the assignment is a success, Peter ‘Starlord’ Quill [Pratt] is unable to control the rogue elements of his team and enrages their client, who pursues them fervently. This attack proves almost fatal until the team are saved by a single man seemingly surfing on a spaceship. Crash-landing on an uninhabited planet, the team are introduced to the man who saved them: Ego, Peter Quill’s father, played by Kurt Russell.

The fact that this is the fifteenth Marvel film in nine years it’s frankly a cinematic miracle that this franchise hasn’t outstayed its welcome. And one of the key contributory factors to that are the Guardians Of The Galaxy films. Emulating their comic origins, Marvel haven’t made the mistake of simply rehashing the same cape-origin films over and over. Instead, we now have superheroes, mythological heroes, magical heroes and cosmic heroes, all offering tonally different adventures catering to different tastes. While 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy was a bit of a gamble, there was always the concern that the elements that made it fresh and unique (and a welcome break from Avengers-based tales) would be watered down in following releases to allow it to easily integrate into the fast approaching inevitable all-singing all-dancing mass crossover. If anything, this sequel takes everything people enjoyed about the original and amps it up even further while still feeling genetically linked; no matter how ambitious the antics, I can still see an arrogant Thor or wise-cracking Spider-Man inserted effortlessly into the mix. As a standalone, the Guardians films exist in their own bubble of eclectic absurdity, feeling very much like a rogue production that snuck through while everyone was so devoutly focused on the dour superheroics and politics of the other instalments.. but there are some issues that need to be addressed.

At its core, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is wonderfully and unabashedly vibrant, bombastic and silly; more than that, it has a big dumb beating heart at its centre. As such, you know exactly what you’re getting with this film. I mean, I doubt anyone could accurately predict the narrative in advance but an easy to follow formula became apparent very quickly: 80s references, toe-tapping soundtrack, constant bickering and back-chatting, funny dialogue, begrudging friendships, immaturity and a reluctant soppiness that sucker-punches you in your emotion factory. I’ll openly admit this isn’t for everyone. Certain audience members (and even fans of the source material) will find it too bright and giddy, some will find the constant hijinks and sophomoric humour frankly draining but I wouldn’t say any of that makes this a bad movie.

Even if the energetic, madcap escapades of the leads are exactly what you’re after in a movie, there is the underlying feeling that this film isn’t as good as its predecessor. Not worse, per se, but not nearly as fresh. Bountiful amounts of new and exciting imagery is on display throughout and the film does everything in its power to expand on what came before but in the process fails to really excel. This isn’t at all unusual in sequels and it could easily be because a great deal of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’s runtime is devoted to answering questions and providing closure for open-ended elements in the first film. Admittedly, this a bit of an unorthodox thing to chastise but the nature of how these films have left cliff-hangers and spooling character developments over the last decade means that almost any resolve we are given has the immense potential to be both clinically satisfying and yet surprisingly hollow. Guardians Of The Galaxy ended with so much potential for exploration and swashbuckling adventure and while we are presented an abundance of it, there is a distinct pang of obviousness. Family is the family you make not the family you have, etc. Having said that, I’ll be the first to admit this is a bit of a petty observation but it’s one that could signal an eventuality Marvel fans don’t want to face: what if the only pay-offs we get are just ok? On top of that the second act drags distinctly and while it serves decently enough, it never matches the chaotic and frenetic levels that the film’s opening or closing manages to achieve.

And yet, in a way, all of the technical failings are irrelevant. The CGI is bold and colourful, the music is appropriate and complimentary and the direction is inventive and fun but you fall in love with the characters and that fact supersedes everything. The continuation of this blunt, dysfunctional family is a joy to watch and the cross-pollination of personalities retains its charm and versatility. Pratt, Saldana and the medley of people who play Rocket are on fine form, Groot being presented as a much more innocent and naïve character lends itself to so many adorable and hilarious moments and Drax reveals himself to be funnier through his abrasiveness and outspoken, yet unmalicious, crassness. We also have superb performances from the returning cast and the introduction of some really impressive individuals. I love Kurt Russell, the man is an absolute acting powerhouse that completely commits to any film he’s in and is a complete show-stealer. Casting him as Quill’s father was a frankly wise and brilliant move. The real surprise is how much I enjoyed Pom Klementieff’s role as Mantis; I was very concerned that Mantis’ naiveté and self-deprecating personality would cause her to either fade into the background or feel like a rehash of an element already prevalent in a returning character. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and the empath is a welcome addition to the crew.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is very much an example of more of the same. It takes everything that worked in the first film and replicates it. The only way I imagine you wouldn’t enjoy this film is if you weren’t sold on the first instalment. But in all honesty, if that was the case, why would you show up to this release? For everyone else, Vol. 2 is a solid sequel free from the self-made shackles of the broader franchise and a genuinely enjoyable romp.

Release Date:
28th April 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are plenty of standout moments throughout this entire film. The action sequences are big splashy, the comedic developments are memorable and the emotional sideswipes seemingly come out of nowhere. One genuinely simplistic scene that has a surprising payoff is Peter first harnessing his father’s power. Being a living planet, Ego is able to conjure all manner of things into existence, remarkably Peter shares this ability and forms an orb of light, which he passes to his father. This is then passed back to him. And in slow motion we watch a fatherless child literally playing catch with his dad. Thanks to the earlier setup, this development is more rewarding than it deserves to be.

Notable Characters:
To literally echo my comment above, there are plenty of standout characters throughout this entire film. From the returning characters to the new introductions, to the one-off cameos, it’s really difficult to pick one individual above the others. So instead I will pick one of each. For me, the best returning character is still Rocket Racoon. All the sass and aggression is an obvious defence mechanism but it’s a wonderfully entertaining one and makes the genetically enhanced space rodent even more endearing. Of the new additions, Kurt Russell is a great deceptive character, fatherly and welcoming but unsettling enough that you really can’t gauge his motives or agenda; very much drawing on the antihero roles he’s played in the past – albeit a significantly more matured version. And of the many cameo parts and references to the comic, nothing is as wonderful or satisfying as Stan Lee. For Marvel fans it’s a genius move that brings together every single cameo he’s had over the last seventeen years or so.

Highlighted Quote:
“I have famously huge turds”

In A Few Words:
“A more than capable and competent sequel that brings back everything you know and love from the first”

Total Score:



Never Did They Expect To Get Into A Controversial Relationship

Chan-wook Park

Tae-ri Kim
Min-hee Kim
Jung-woo Ha
Jin-woong Cho

Divided into three parts, the story opens in 1930’s Japanese occupied Korea and introduces us to Sook-hee [T. Kim], a local young girl who is hired to be the personal handmaid for the mysterious and aloof Japanese heiress, Lady Izumi Hideko [M. Kim]. The film cleverly reveals (and this is sort of a spoiler but considering how many events unfold, it’s a minor developmental one but one which is integral to outlining a synopsis) that Sook-hee is in fact a wily thief who is operating with a tightknit group to marry the heiress off to one of their own, a con artist posing as the fictional Count Fujiwara [Ha], before institutionalising her for her eccentricities. One of the key obstacles, however, is Izumi’s uncle Kouzuki [Cho] who has his own nefarious pursuits. Sook-hee’s primary mission is to encourage Lady Hideko to fall for the Count but in doing so, she finds herself helplessly enamoured with the well-born mark.

I make no illusions that my love of Chan-wook Park’s exceedingly impressive body of work skews my impartiality. Obviously, I would like to think my review is solely based on the standalone merit of this feature but I will admit that I was statistically bound to love it no matter what. With that said, The Handmaiden is spectacular, from the immediate obviousness of the masterful direction and captivating cinematography to the more nuanced nature of altering the adaptation of Sarah Water’s novel, Finger Smith, from British Victorian society to that of Korea under Japanese rule. It takes the best elements of subtle intrigue and deception from Hitchcockian releases (Rebecca jumps to the forefront of my mind) and blends it with bold contemporary unabashedness. A filmmaker’s film, everything within is beautifully created and cleverly crafted by the gripping, twisting plot.

At its most base element, The Handmaiden is an erotic thriller and that specific genre has a distinct history of being rife with awful tawdry things; little more than b-movie, grindhouse schlock to titillate and supplicate the audience. This movie is entirely different and anyone going along because they’ve heard there’s some “lesbian action” will admittedly get their fill but to fob it off as a raunchy skin-flick is completely unjust. In truth, sex is hideously overused and poorly handled in most releases – like a visual representation of how teenagers think sex works – but there’s nothing overly shocking in this film, other than the story focusing on the sexual encounters as a part of the narrative rather than just a brief tick-box exercise. Even a simple action can be extremely sexually charged and bursting with intensity without being vile or exploitative, thanks to the sheer honesty of its portrayal. In other words, it feels real and for that reason it’s much more engrossing than something that’s utilised solely as a crude gimmick; like the difference between a cheap stripper and a burlesque dancer at the height of their power. A lot of this comes down to a combination of agonising direction and editing but also the absolutely brilliant acting. This whole film is a set piece of four key players deceiving both the audience and fellow characters flawlessly, often in multiple languages. Attraction, control, deception, manipulation, perception, there are so many strong factors at work in every initial and revisited performance and the reveal of how the story convulses is immensely satisfying.

From a production design point of view, the film is equally sublime, with wonderful sets, prop detail and lavish exteriors. The same could be said for the meticulously produced costumes, hair and make-up, everything about this film evokes a level of luxury, style and opulence fitting for the time but also setting the tone for the deviant nature of what takes place beneath the house. Yeong-wook Jo’s score is equally alluring and refined with its simplicity, charm and ability to rise to soaring heights with exceptional ease and fluidity.

So, yeah, this is a bit of a gushy review but it really is one of the best films of the year displaying all the best qualities of innovative filmmaking that just happens to have rather defiantly steamy content but on a fundamental level, it is a breath-taking expression of love, lust, desire and all the positives and negatives in between.

Release Date:
14th April 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
While being bathed, Lady Hideko notes that a back tooth is scratching the inside of her cheek and causing irritation. As a dutiful maid, Sook-hee runs to fetch a thimble and gently files it down, checking with her finger to see if the abrasiveness has gone. For a film with bells being stuffed inside lady-parts, this is one of the most sexually tantalising things present. The simplicity of the repetitive action, the intimacy and closeness of both the characters and the camera, it’s brilliant and immediately establishes a natural tension that few films ever achieve.

Notable Characters:
While Ha and Cho deliver physically strong but emotionally vapid performances (in a genuinely good way) nothing compares to the almost symbiotic performances of Tae-ri Kim and Min-hee Kim that feed off of one another delightfully. Both characters are strong, compelling and fascinating in their own right and that’s without acknowledging the complexity and layering of the levels of deceit and hidden agendas at play. To bring something like that to life is impressive, to rework and shift it multiple ways is a luscious rarity.

Highlighted Quote:
“You’ll have a week of freedom but always remember the basement”

In A Few Words:
“A truly absorbing and all-consuming release that insidiously works its way into your subconscious “

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #188

[09 April 2017]

Winning Team:
Fantastic Beasts In The Temple Of Prometheus
Genre – Elizabeth, Newt and Indy team up to stop Mola Ram and Weyland crossbreeding Newt’s beasts with the xenomorphs

Runners Up:
The Phantom Penis …With Sexy Results
Genre – Jake Lloyd finds a double ended lightsaber and kills Jar Jar Binks with it
The Phantom Menace To Society
Genre – Two down on their luck Jedi break down in the outer rim. After their lightsabers are stolen they must use their wits to survive
We Want Our 4th Spoon In A Row
Genre – Losing
First Among Prequels
Genre – Drama

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Kenneth Branagh plays which role in 1996’s Hamlet?
2. What colour is Jasmine’s dress in Disney’s Aladdin?
BLUE (admittedly red for Jafar slave outfit)
3. Which actor played the titular role in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice?
4. What is the name of the alien planet in Avatar?
5. King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan and Gigan are adversaries for which cinematic monster?
6. List the five Guardians Of The Galaxy in the film of the same name. (one point per correct answer)
7. Who directed the motion capture animated film, Beowulf?
8. What did Pixar release in between Inside Out and Finding Dory?
9. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne and Maya Rudolph appeared in which Paul Feig film?
10. 2012 was released in which year?

ROUND II: Filming [Prequels Special]
**8000th question asked!**
1. Monsters University is a prequel to which film? Hotel Transylvania? Monster House? Monsters Inc?
2. Who directed Oz The Great And Powerful? Tim Burton? Sam Raimi? Jon Favreau?
3. Butch And Sundance: The Early Days was released in which year? 1971? 1979? 1983?
1979 (ten years after the original)
4. What is the title of the Underworld prequel (and third film in the series)? Rise Of The Lycans? The Bloodthirst? Awakens?
5. Which of the following made the least money at the box office? Dumb And Dumber? Dumb And Dumberer? Dumb And Dumber To?
DUMB AND DUMBERER ($39.3mil, Dumb and Dumber $247mil, Dumb and Dumber To $169.8mil)
6. Zulu Dawn was released how many years after Zulu? 5? 10? 15?
FIFTEEN (1964 / 1979)
7. 2011’s The Thing is set in which year? 1978? 1980? 1982?
8. What is the name of the planet in Prometheus? LV-223? LV-422? LV-102?
9. How many racers take part in the Boonta Eve pod race in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace? 15? 19? 23?
10. In The Scorpion King, the scene in which Dwayne Johnson and Michael Clarke Duncan duel, the prop swords break in a single clash. This was not planned but was kept in. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which film, “But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid”
2. Patrick Stewart and Leonard Nimoy appeared together in which film?
3. What kind of eatery does Nino (played by Ron Perlman) run in Drive?
4. What colour do the natives wear in the opening battle in Gangs Of New York?
5. Who voiced the role of Dr Nefario in Despicable Me?
6. The following is the poster tagline for which Wes Anderson film, “A tormenting and surprising story of children and adults during the stormy days of the summer of 1965”?
7. Where The Wild Things Are was released in which year?
8. What is the name of the character played by Michael York in the Austin Powers films?
9. What is the title of Ron Howard’s film about F1 racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda?
10. What is the title of Star Trek 7?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following does not appear in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion? Mark Wahlberg? Jude Law? Bryan Cranston?
2. The following songs appear on the soundtrack for which film: You Can’t Do That, Burnin’ In The Third Degree, Pictures Of You and Intimacy? Fast & Furious 6? Runaway Bride? The Terminator?
3. Around The World In 80 Days, starring David Niven, was released in which year? 1949? 1956? 1962?
4. Who composed the score for Sicario? Johann Johannsson? Abel Korzeniowski? James Newton Howard?
5. What is the name of the town in Unforgiven? Blackwater? Big Whiskey? Escalera?
6. What was the budget on 2013 drama, The Place Beyond The Pines? $15 million? $50 million? £83 million?
7. Who directed To Kill A Mockingbird? Arthur Penn? Frank Perry? Robert Mulligan?
8. Which of the following Guy Ritchie films was released first? RocknRolla? Swept Away? Revolver?
SWEPT AWAY (SA 2002, Revolver 2005, RocknRolla 2008)
9. What is the name of the novel that Slumdog Millionaire is adapted from? Mumbai Millionaire? Q&A? The Game Show?
10. The scene in Oldboy where Dae-su Oh eats a live octopus was filmed four times, meaning Min-sik Choi had to eat four live octopi. True or False?

Screenshots: Wall Street / Ant-Man / The Game / Traffic
Poster: Romancing The Stone
Actor: Michael Douglas