Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 provides a fair amount of fun for those who saw the first installment of the franchise (surely you Marvel and non-Marvel fans knew there would be more coming), as well as for those viewing for the first time. This time around Guardians member Rocket (the wise-cracking raccoon bounty hunter voiced by Bradley Cooper) swipes a particularly valuable battery, thus incurring the wrath of the Sovereign race (including an under-used Sylvester Stallone), while Gamora (Zoe Saldana) has some potentially deadly sibling issues with Karen Gillan’s Nebula. Not to be undone, Chris Pratt’s Quill has some serious internal conflicts pertaining both to his adoptive dad Yonda (John Rooker), and his biological father Ego (Kurt Russell). Yonda has become a “Yonda non Grata” for not pursuing Quill; in the meantime, Ego tries to make amends with his abandoned son Quill, by way of some father-son bonding and the promise of an even greater tomorrow.
Written and directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 alternates between the requisite action scenes and the amusing, offbeat moments that made the first film seem so fresh. However, all the family strife leads to prolonged (and not particularly involving) scenes designed to add some depth but only detract from the inherent entertainment quotient. Kurt Russell is always a pleasure to see, but the writing lets him down; while Pratt, Cooper, and Saldana are fine, they too have to grapple with some lightweight attempts at simulated depth. Michael Rooker comes off best, as his Yonda provides some genuine gravitas to his role, while also excelling in his extended banter with Cooper’s Rocket. As fans already know, a third Guardians is already in the works—hope it provides more of the flair that made the first one exceptional for its kind.
Paris Can Wait
Eleanor Coppola’s (as in Francis’ wife) Paris Can Wait stars Diane Lane as the neglected wife of harried producer Alec Baldwin. While in France, Baldwin (who almost literally phones in his performance) finds he must hurry over to Budapest—only Lane is sidelined by a persistent ear ache and advised to skip the Budapest-bound flight. Luckily, Baldwin’s very French friend and partner Arnaud Viard offers to drive Lane to Paris, and so the road trip begins.
Anyone who can’t tell you where this trip is heading has misplaced his cinematic GPS, as a day’s journey leads to an overnight stop since Viard’s guide knows everything French, whether historical or culinary. There are a number of delectable treats along the way, as well as a few historical tidbits, but the trip itself is less than satisfying. Lane is good, as always, providing layers that Coppola’s featherweight script only hints at, while Viard comes off as perhaps more of an overt schemer than a covert charmer. Paris Can Wait has its moments (watch for Lane the mechanic) but for those looking for a real Lane awakening, you would be better off with Under the Tuscan Sun.
Azazel Jacobs’ The Lovers casts Debra Winger and Tracy Letts as a couple going through the motions with each other—while both are involved in affairs with partners engaging in high-pressure tactics in order to get Winger and Letts to bail from the broken marriage. The thing is…a certain malaise has set in for Winger and Letts in their respective illicit liaisons, and when they turn to (gasp) each other, sparks begin to fly, which add a certain frisson to their long-dormant relations. Add to this, the imminent arrival of Winger and Letts’ grown son (with his girlfriend), who’s expecting another dispiriting visit with the folks. The set-up promises more than it delivers in the end, but there are some pleasures along the way as Letts and Winger are convincing both as the deceived and despairing spouses and as the re-energized “lovers.” Try The Lovers for them, as well as the occasional incisive moments along the way.