‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2’ (2017) Review – Galactic Family Reunions

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Believe it or not, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is not only the 15th Marvel movie to date, but the first of three Marvel movies in 2017. If this particular sequel is the standard for this year’s Marvel features, then it set a high bar for Spider-Man and Thor to live up to.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 reunites the titular group of misfits for yet another cosmic adventure. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Baby Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) team up once more to deal with multiple problems, including but not limited to: the vengeful Ravegers under Yondu’s (Michael Rooker) command, the spiteful Sovereign People, and Star-Lord’s father, Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russel).

Given how I’m not the biggest fan of the original Guardians movie, I was hesitant about Vol. 2 because the trailers promised more of the same. Thankfully, the sequel delivered a Marvel movie at its best, despite awkwardly tripping along the way to its lofty heights and expectations.

Galaxy Questing on Factory Settings

As a sequel to one of the most popular entries into the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Vol. 2 had the obligation of giving audiences exactly what they wanted before doing anything else. This leads to the movie’s clunky first half, where it prioritized repeating itself over doing something else.

Because the first movie had a sense of humor, Vol. 2 ramps up the jokes and one-liners. Since its predecessor had lots of action scenes, Vol. 2 crams in as many ludicrous fights as possible, such as the skirmishes between the Guardians’ lone ship against an entire fucking armada of golden arcade players. The first Guardians was littered with references to ‘80s pop culture, and you can bet your ass that the sequel nearly drowns itself in this self-indulgent nostalgia trip, bordering on the pettiness of an entitled hipster who was totes born in the wrong generation.

For the first hour or so, Vol. 2 felt as if it were going through the motions. The once-organic banter between characters now feels rehearsed, with the shoe-horned romance between Star-Lord and Gamora being the worst. Their “romance” was already forced to begin with, but Marvel tries and fails to play matchmaker for a love-team that has as much chemistry as a pair of chairs trying to fuck. The Guardians work as a dysfunctional family because of their clashing personalities, not because of a shitload of characters who are burdened by backstories and a romantic subplot that only adds to a growing mess.

Granted, director James Gunn brings order to this chaos. But when Gunn and the Guardians finally get past the contractually obligated explosions, clichés, formula, and set-ups for future cosmic Marvel movies, Vol. 2 comes alive and delivers what almost every other Marvel sequel failed to bring onscreen.

Emotional Seconds

If the first half of Vol. 2 felt like every cookie-cutter Marvel sequel at its most generic, what this predictable fare builds up to is the exact opposite.

Despite being set in a galaxy filled with special effects and computerized aliens, Vol. 2 is actually a lot smaller than its predecessor, but only because the stakes are much more personal this time around. Sure, the galaxy needs to be saved again, but the fate of the nameless billions only comes second to the main characters’ struggle with emotional baggage and old wounds – which they deal with while trying to save the galaxy at the same fucking time. Though the moral dilemmas that could have been played with are never fully delved into, Vol. 2 manages to hit its emotional beats, giving everyone in the cast equal time to grow and earn the audiences’ emotional investment.

Where sequels like Civil War quickly reverted to the status quo despite the implied stakes or where Iron Man 3 proudly shat on audiences’ faces and said “Fuck You” for expecting a better movie, Vol. 2 emphasizes the human tolls of loss, loneliness and betrayal by showing how fucking painful these are for the characters at hand. As far as Marvel sequels go, Vol. 2 is almost on par with Capt. America: The Winter Solider (aka the best Marvel sequel so far) in terms of properly building-up previously established characters not by giving them bigger toys to play with, but with bigger personal problems to overcome.

This dramatic second half was unexpected, resulting in the film’s major tonal issues. The transition from campy to emotional was jarring to say the least, because Vol. 2 has a problem with balancing Gunn’s intent to bring the Guardians to more serious territory and the annoyingly comical audience-friendly Marvel formula that demands stupid quips every five minutes. Thankfully, this problem wanes by the time the second act kicks into full-throttle.

Guardians In Imperfection

On a technical standpoint, Vol. 2 isn’t as well-balanced as the first movie, but it’s more creative, daring and visually batshit insane than the previous Guardians. While certainly not a bad movie, the first Guardians of the Galaxy was a corny, by-the-numbers, live-action Saturday Morning Cartoon that I couldn’t care about because I simply wasn’t a part of the movie’s intended age group. Its sequel, on the other hand, thankfully grew up and showed that a superhero movie can bring outlandish characters and stories to a mature level while never losing any of the entertainment value.

Not only does it stand out among the repetitive Marvel sequels thanks to its calculated but mostly effective emotional punches, but Vol. 2 convinced me to give a shit about what the Guardians will be up to in Vol. 3.  It may be flawed, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is an improvement of the first part and a satisfying ride with surprising depth.

And like its titular heroes, the chinks in its armor only add to the sequel’s personality. At least you know the movie took the risk and tried something new, instead of retreading a tired story or revealing the overall antagonist to be a stupid fucking junkie who probably reeks of alcohol, wasted character development, and disappointment. 


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‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (2016) – Close Encounters Of The Boring Kind

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In 1996, Independence Day took the world by storm to the tune of upwards $800 million at the box office while also becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Being the lazy fucks they are, the movie’s producers shelled out Independence Day: Resurgence almost two decades later, in the hopes of repeating a success story from the ’90s.

20 years after failing to exterminate humanity, the aliens from Independence Day return with a deadly vengeance. More powerful and angrier than before, the aliens face a united and now technologically advanced humanity that won’t go down without a fight.

Resurgence is the kind of movie that’s inoffensive yet so fucking boring that watching it only begs questions regarding its existence, not a sense of escapist fun or even jaded anger. In time where the cynical business side of filmmaking is more obvious than ever, Resurgence is a slight relief – but that’s like saying a fart is better than the unfiltered stench of feces.

Lazy Space Invaders

Resurgence deserves credit for showing a post-alien invasion Earth, where humanity not only achieved interplanetary travel, but attained world peace as well. You know Resurgence proudly embraces its Science-Fiction trappings because it depicts a united humanity – not one on the eve of destruction thanks to a bunch of immature motherfuckers in public office.

But Resurgence can’t work on world-building alone, and applauding it because of a nice backdrop is as shallow as praising an atrocity like Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers because the director had the courtesy to take the cover off the camera’s lens. Resurgence simply fails to do what makes a movie good and entertaining. It’s hard to worry for humanity’s fate in the movie, making it more difficult to care about what’s happening onscreen.

This is because the new characters are a bloated collection of tired action movie stereotypes; including and not limited to: a Hotshot Pilot, his Brooding Foil, an obvious Love Interest, the Hot Foreigner, and too many obnoxious Comic Reliefs who fuck the tone up with ill-timed quips made during scenes of destruction. What little creative energy Resurgence has is used to justify the return of old characters like everyman turned unlikely hero David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) or former American President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who make extended cameos while phoning in predictable one-liners and call-backs to the much superior first installment.

The worst thing about Resurgence is not how its most interesting part is a promotional website detailing its alternate history, but how little effort was exerted in the actual film. Even with the original creators on board, Resurgence has a strikingly poor understanding of what made the first Independence Day a hit, resulting in a forgettable follow-up to an unmistakable cornerstone of the 90’s.

Days Of Aliens Past

Independence Day is no thought-provoking classic, but it set a standard for big-scale movies at the time, and it was one hell of an entertaining ride. Independence Day knew it was a cheesy melodrama that took place during an alien invasion, and it gave no fucks. This resulted in one of the best examples of cinematic junk food ever put to film that people can still enjoy today.

Its sequel has no interest in making a name for itself, instead, content to retrace the footsteps of its predecessor. Resurgence is a pale imitation of the first movie, but with none of the energy and excitement. Where Independence Day could be seen as an underdog story in a war between worlds, Resurgence is the very same fight but only with the cheat codes on. The fights may be faster and flashier, but they lack the tension that made the previous conflict worth watching in the first place.

Resurgence had the chance to be different by focusing on a world in the aftermath of a thwarted alien invasion. There’s a lot of lore that’s glanced at in the opening minutes of Resurgence (such as the decades long ground war in Africa, a generation of the first invasion’s survivors, and how humans reverse-engineered alien technology), and these would have been far more interesting than what the sequel actually settled for. Instead, Resurgence falls back to the formula of 90’s action movies, never realizing how dated and petty shitty quips and love triangles are – especially when these are put at the forefront of a global cataclysm where millions of lives are lost every second.

It took two decades to make Resurgence, and this shows in the worst ways possible. If the goal of Resurgence was to feel like it was 20 years too late, then it did a stellar job at being outdated. Where the campiness of Independence Day has a nostalgic charm to it, Resurgence only annoys viewers by rehashing material that lost its luster way before the sequel even began production.

No Will, No Thrill

While Resurgence isn’t the worst delayed sequel ever made, it’s still insignificant and wholly pointless. Independence Day stands on its own thanks to its charisma that’s best represented by its star, Will Smith – whose absence in the sequel leaves a lot to be desired. Resurgence merely exists, being yet another orgy of special effects that means nothing despite the excess of explosions that leave viewers indifferent.

Resurgence even ends with one of the most blatant set-ups for a sequel since DC’s sad attempts to create a shared universe. This, despite the fact that Independence Day never earned the right to bear a franchise in the first place. Independence Day succeeded as a stand-alone movie back in 1996, and it still does now. All Resurgence does is shit on this legacy by turning a cinematic alien invasion into a tedious chore instead of the spectacle it should be.

Make no mistake, the first movie is fucking corny, but it gets a pass for being a product of its time that provides fun, nostalgic memories. Independence Day: Resurgence is the equivalent of the first movie reliving its glory days while refusing to acknowledge the changing times, and the final product is as pathetic as it sounds.


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‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ (2017) Review – Guess Who’s Back

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After roughly a decade of silence, Keanu Reeves made an explosive comeback with the surprise hit John Wick. The movie proved that Keanu is a 52-year old badass, and the demand for more Keanu branded cans of whoop ass has been satisfied thanks to John Wick: Chapter 2. 

Taking place a few hours after the first movie, John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the titular hitman played by Keanu Reeves dragged back into the life he desperately wants to escape. Bound by a strict blood compact, Wick is forced to take a high-ranking assassination that threatens to wreck havoc in the criminal underworld and in his own life.

John Wick was an unapologetic love-letter to action movies, and Chapter 2 continues this honorable tradition. For those who know of the pain of bad sequels, let it be said that Chapter 2 delivers what’s expected – for better and slightly worse.

Murder Party

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Let’s be real: The main reason why anyone would watch Chapter 2 is to see a seemingly ageless Neo from The Matrix murder as many henchmen as possible. If all you wanted in a movie was merciless action and the high that only well-choreographed gunfights can give, then Chapter 2 does not disappoint.

Once again, Keanu and returning director Chad Stahelski show how action movies should be done. Everything that has made modern action movies intolerable such as epileptic shaky-cam, quick cuts, slow motion montages, and orgies of special effects are thankfully missing. Chapter 2 boasts practical, carefully staged stunts and set-pieces that allow audiences to savor every bit of merciless bodily harm John Wick inflicts on others. 

The best part of the sequel’s action scenes are that they drive the story forward instead of serving as empty filler. Chapter 2 effortlessly melds story with violence, making each bullet and punch mean something outside of maiming people. The action scenes are so seamless with the story that cutting even just one would screw the narrative up. Even if John Wick’s aimbot-level perfect aim may seem ridiculous, he never veers into invulnerable superhuman territory like John McClane (Bruce Willis) did in the abysmal A Good Day To Die Hard. This helps make John Wick relatable, since his expertise in shooting people’s brains out can do little to numb the pain of a bullet graze or a knife to the leg. 

At worst, the action in Chapter 2 may feel somewhat familiar because the John Wick movies lost the element of surprise. The sequel also has comparatively fewer action scenes, prioritizing longer and more methodical assaults over the blitz of confrontations from the first chapter. The new fights lack some of the creativity from the previous film, but this small step down does not change the fact that Chapter 2 still succeeded in elevating brutal street brawls and ballads of bullets into a legitimate cinematic art form. 

Action Figures With Depths

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When John Wick hit cinemas, no one expected a heartfelt story about a retired hitman and a well-developed underworld of criminal syndicates and assassins. Just like how easy it was for the titular character to wield a gun after years of retirement, the John Wick sequel easily returns to these plot threads and delves even deeper into them. Despite the carnage, Chapter 2 never forgets that it’s the second part of John Wick’s overlong bad weekend.

In order to show more of the criminal society of the setting, Chapter 2 sacrifices some action scenes for more exposition and world building. The trade-off may sound negative at first, but this allows audiences to become invested in the world John Wick finds himself fighting. Though the high-rankers of this mysterious shadow society are never shown, their near-omniscient presence is more than enough to make viewers worry for John Wick’s well-being.

Chapter 2 falls short in the character of its lead badass. Keanu still pulls off the emotional hitman perfectly, but his new motivations are not as compelling as those in the first film. Where the first movie gave a lot of depth to what could have been the stupidest plot ever written (i.e. unstoppable assassin avenges a dead dog), Chapter 2 is just a straightforward showcase of the underworld’s laws and enforcers. Chapter 2 has a plethora of interesting new characters, but the major players who drive the story through their decisions oftentimes let their stupidity get the better of them.

This, however, is not a glaring issue since their frustrating stupidity actually helps show how human they are. The cast of Chapter 2 are more than just two-dimensional cartoon villains or nameless bloodbags waiting for Keanu to burst them – they’re people who know they fucked with the most badass dude on the planet. It’s just a question if they’ll apologize or do something stupid – like mock the guy who is said to have killed three people with a pencil.

The Art Of War

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There’s no denying that Chapter 2 is basically a badass comic book come to life and nothing more, but dismissing it because of its relative simplicity would be unfair to the sequel’s efforts and its overall entertainment value. Chapter 2 knows what it is and gives audiences what they want by being one of the best action movies of the decade – second only to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

For some, Chapter 2 is the perfect time killer. But for nostalgic action movie veterans, the sequel to Keanu Reeve’s gun porno means a lot to the entire action genre. In an age of superheroes and child-friendly action “movies” that were most probably filmed by strapping a camera to a dog that’s high off its ass on crack, truly great action movies have become a rarity. John Wick: Chapter 2 brings the genre back to its roots and shows naysayers how the genre can tell compelling stories, even if the constant staccato of gunfire becomes a soundtrack of its own.

Because of the movie’s success, John Wick will definitely spawn too many shoddy imitators, with the totally necessary Robin Hood: Origins being the first. When that inevitability comes to pass, the legend of the Baba Yaga will be known to all.


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Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough (2016) Review – A Satirical Deja Vu

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Translation: “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank” means “The Woman In The Septic Tank” in English.

One of the biggest criticisms of the movie industry is its constant need to make a sequel for EVERYTHING. Ironically, a movie that’s hellbent on giving the middle finger to this addiction to sequels is in itself, a needless sequel.

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough is the sequel to Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank (2011). Now a critically acclaimed director, Rainier (Kean Ciprano) and his trusted line producer Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) try to convince the popular actress Eugene Domingo (as herself) to star in their upcoming film, The Itinerary.  A satirical, ideological battle between artistic filmmaking and filmmaking for the masses then ensues.

Given how the mainstream Filipino scene is responsible for churning out 10 god-awful Enteng Kabisote movies, it is more than deserving of a satirical anal rampage than indie cinema. #ForeverIsNotEnough is thankfully, that much needed and timely “Fuck You” despite some major mishaps.

Return Of The Satire: The Comback

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#ForeverIsNotEnough follows the original movie’s humor and doesn’t let up for a single second. As its characters bitch about how to make the “perfect” movie for Filipino audiences, #ForeverIsNotEnough shows just how mentally handicapped the established filmmaking formula is through means of well-written dialogue delivered by effective comedians.

Every time Rainier expresses his artistic, cinematic vision, Eugene Domingo (playing an exaggerated version of herself) fucks it all up by shoehorning the same cliches and stereotypes that have plagued local Filipino movies for too long. And she does this in the name of “The Little Guy” (i.e. The Masses), in an all too familiar pandering and condescending tone.

From parlor gay best friends to contrived happy endings to sexy love interests played by questionably young stars, every known trope responsible for killing the last shreds of dignity in Filipino films is mercilessly skewered to emphasize how fucking stupid something like a forced theme song is.

#ForeverIsNotEnough also hits both sides, shaming the indie side of the debate once again for being the pretentious counterpart of the brain-dead mainstream movies. When it comes to the satire, #ForeverIsNotEnough pulls no punches in an all-out offensive aimed at filmmakers who are too caught up in the beautiful smell of their own shit-stained rectums.

The Pains Of Sequels

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If the previous description sounds familiar, that’s because #ForeverIsNotEnough is a glorified rehash of the original movie. The sequel follows the exact same flow of events in the first Septic Tank, beginning with a road trip to meet Eugene Domingo right down to an ending that glorifies sewage waste.

As funny as the comedic exchanges were, they were merely recycled from the first movie. The characters make their cases for and against mainstream cinema in the same way they did in Septic Tank when they were attacking and/or defending independent films. The rehash is best seen when Eugene Domingo launched into a spiel of overacting by showing off her so-called “Three Levels Of Heartbreak:”  a nearly word-for-word repeat of her “Three Levels Of Drama” from the first installment.

But #ForeverIsNotEnough’s most blatant showcase of repetition is the entire movie itself. The first Septic Tank was basically an existential road-trip that ended with shattered dreams when the main cast discovered how shallow and vapid the supposedly artistic Eugene Domingo really was. It was a funny climax that perfectly summed up the movie’s satire – which is why the sequel stretched this 20 minute finale into a fucking two hour film. In doing so, the jokes repeated themselves, the sketches dragged on too long, and the sequel chose to play it safe by treading familiar ground instead of doing anything else.

The only new addition #ForeverIsNotENough brings is a debate between Rainier and Eugene, when their polarizing thoughts on what Filipino moviegoers deserve finally comes to a head. This short but thought-provoking climax was both self-deprecating yet somehow, lacking self-awareness. Given the movie’s overall slapstick tone, it was jarring to see the characters suddenly take their plight so seriously before getting back to the mandatory sexual innuendos and shit jokes. Where the first movie was a satire with dashes of slapstick, the sequel is a marathon of sex jokes with a single moment of clarity near the end.

Back To The Shitter

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While not bad from a technical standpoint, the new installment of Septic Tank feels more like a rerun than a brand new story that follows familiar characters. One may cite the movie’s parody of franchise sequels as a defense, but if a repeat of the first movie’s best moments is all audiences wanted, then all they have to do is buy the fucking DVD of it.

Despite the credible points that #ForeverIsNotEnough makes, it falls for the same traps that define shitty Filipino filmmaking. Granted, it’s leagues beyond Vic Sotto’s overpriced masturbation tools like Enteng Kabisote 10 And The Abangers (2016), but it’s disappointing to see a satire make the same mistakes its primary target commits. It’s one thing to point out something wrong, but it’s another to imitate it in such a straight-faced manner.

But even with all of these mistakes, it’s a testament to the talents of the filmmakers and cast when they still managed to deliver an entertaining movie with a relevant message. Not once did the movie feel lazy or forced, and it was a goddamned blast to laugh with. If #ForeverIsNotEnough was a stand-alone comedy movie, it would have rocked the Filipino movie scene. But as a follow-up to the original Septic Tank, it only serves as a pale reminder of what made the first movie so great and begs the question of a sequel’s necessity because it’s just more of the same.

Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank worked wonders because it was lightning caught in a bottle. Meanwhile, its sequel failed to recognize the one-off accomplishments of its predecessor and tried to revive the glory days instead of attempting to surpass them – even if it had the chance and capability to do so. In an ironic twist of fate, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough became a slave to the very formula it loathes.


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