GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – Vol. 2

After the disappointment of the most recent “Alien” installment, I almost sent this back unwatched, figuring I’d be wasting another 2+ hours feeling “Been there, done that.” So glad I didn’t. What a delightful romp. Check your brain at the door and let it happen. I couldn’t help flashing on Chris Morgan’s revamp of the “Fast & Furious” films with their emphasis on family (a theme that has carried the franchise into its 8th episode) because Vol. 2 here is all about family in its many varied forms. It is by turns funny, touching, cute, and relentlessly entertaining. Hardly a scene in its 135-min running time is wasted. (The opening credits were the weakest sequence.) Kurt Russell has a major role but Michael Rooker steals the movie. You can quibble about this and quibble about that, but from the git-go the film promises eye-catching sci-fi fun and that’s what it delivers. 

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GIFTED

An intriguing film about how to treat the truly gifted among us. Little McKenna Grace does a star turn as the 7-year-old math genius. Her grandmother wants her to realize her full potential via tutors and the uncle who’s raising her doesn’t want her to grow up isolated like her mother (who committed suicide). A great cast but you will fall for McKenna Grace like you fell for little Dakota Fanning. FF=0

MOANA

I’m blown away by the beauty of the rendering and the in-your-face theme of self realization. This is not something you expect out of the statist-collectivist pits of Hollywood. According to the collectivists, the individual is worthless (“You didn’t build that”) yet here we have this gutsy, free-thinking gal ignoring her culture’s be-happy-with-what-you’ve-got ethic and striking out on her own to improve her lot, and thus saving everyone else in the process. This is right up there with “Tomorrowland.” Must be some closet libertarians at Disney beside Brad Bird.
FF=0

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

Longtime Ditko fan though I may be, I never got into this comic book. Strange was a total-Ditko creation. Stan Lee came on later. I loved the art but found the stories hokey. Did like this film, though. Some of the effects are mindbending. Cumberbatch brings the right amounts of suavity and arrogance to the character and the pacing kept my finger off the FF button (well, except for the fight scenes). Ditko should have got credit for some of the art direction as well.
FF=1

The Accountant

I’m not sure what to say or even think about this. It’s a little bit “Rain Man” and a little bit “John Wick” (though paced more like the former). It employs most of the thriller tropes but in a somewhat different way. Do you see my problem? I can’t say this is a must-see thriller but I was engaged enough to keep my finger off the FF button.
FF=0

SULLY

I thought, How can you make a feature film out of a 208-second flight? Turns out a lot of behind-the-scenes drama was cooking after that amazing landing. Turns out the NTSB was trying to hang Sully out to dry for not turning back to LaGuardia or heading to Teterboro in NJ. Turns out this film is worth seeing.
FF=0

ATTACK ON TITAN 1 & 2

Maybe I’m too old or have the wrong ethnic makeup (or a combo of both) to appreciate live-action anime. Visually this packs a wallop, truly audacious, but that wears thin after a while and there’s not enough of a coherent story to carry it. I understand the anime version ran in the neighborhood of 25 hours, so the narrative naturally gets chopped up. Satomi Ishihara managed to stand out in a cast of stock characters.
FF=3.5