Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Review: A Triumphant End.

The Guardians of the Galaxy are among my favourite heroes in all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
Vol. 1 was a fantastic introduction to these characters, and I believe that Vol. 2 is one of the most underrated MCU films.
So, obviously, I was very excited to watch Vol. 3, especially because I had genuine hope that it would be better than a lot of the more recent MCU installments, which I have felt pretty lukewarm about.
I am happy to say that this hope was well founded because Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a triumphant ending for the characters we have come to know and love ever since Vol. 1, all the way back in 2014.

The ending for each Guardian feels fitting.

Directed once again by James Gunn, the movie follows Peter Quill’s Starlord (Chris Pratt), Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Deisel), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff), who are living at their home base of Knowhere.
After an attack from Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) leaves Rocket clinging to life, the Guardians must band together once more.
Seeking the help of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the group seek to track down Rocket’s creator the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), to find a way to save him.
Each of the Guardians gets their time to shine in this movie, with standout moments for each of them.
In particular it was great to see how much Nebula has changed from the first film, how the friendship between Drax and Mantis has progressed, and how different Gamora is from her future counterpart, along with how this affects her relationship with Quill.   

It would have been easy to go a cliche route with Quill and Gamora’s relationship after Endgame but I am glad they did not.

The biggest standout of all the Guardians, however, is Rocket, with a large part of the film focusing on his backstory, with constant flashbacks.
Given the number of these flashbacks, it would have been easy for the film to feel disjointed so it is a testament to the writing and the directing that it all flows seamlessly.
It felt like Vol. 2 was slowly transitioning the main character among the Guardians from Starlord to Rocket, and Vol. 3 continues this in excellent fashion.
Rocket’s story is so good in this movie that I actually almost teared up at one point, and this was a scene with multiple CGI characters so that is saying something about the quality. 

Prepare for Rocket’s backstory to destroy you emotionally.

Alongside Rocket, the main villain of the High Evolutionary also stands out.
The guy is a fantastic example of how to do a purely evil villain with no redeeming qualities right. 
And, hey, the High Evolutionary being so evil makes it even more satisfying when the Guardians fight his goons in numerous excellent action sequences, including a gripping one-shot corridor fight that is one of the movie’s highlight scenes.

The corridor fight is the MCU’s best fight scene in years.

Another thing to highlight is just how dark this movie can get at times, with a lot of cruelty to animals so there is that to be aware of.
That does not mean the film is devoid of levity; this is a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, after all.
There are plenty of feel goods moments and humor throughout.
Speaking of the humor though, I do have to say that it thankfully does not ruin any potentially emotional scenes, like it did in Quantimania and Love and Thunder.  
Not everything about Vol. 3 is so great though because, if the film has one issue then it is definitely Adam Warlock. 

Adam Warlock’s presence in the movie felt more like an obligation than anything else.

His addition to this film honestly felt entirely unnecessary to me.
Not only could he have been any other character and the plot of the movie would not have changed, but his actions also seemed pretty contradictory at times.
It feels like James Gunn intended for him to have a big role in Vol. 3 but then he got fired and rehired and, in the time in between that, he came up with a different plot for the film but was obligated to keep Warlock in because of the Vol. 2 post credits scene.
Apart from Warlock, though, I would say that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a great film with a triumphant ending for its characters.
It is easily the best MCU film since Spider-Man: No Way Home. 

Jumanji: The Next Level Review. Another Fun Time at the Movies.

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Funny story.
As I was sitting through the first twenty minutes of Jumanji: The Next Level, an audience member in the row in front of me turned to the guy next to him and asked, “hey, this is Jumanji, right?”
He must not have seen the first film and not realised that the teenage characters would become the video game ones so thought he wandered into the wrong movie.
In any case, I’m sure the guy was glad not have walked out because of this mistake because Jumanji: The Next Level is a good time that is about on par with the first film.

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The Next Level is just as good as Welcome to the Jungle.

Directed again by Jack Kasdan, the sequel continues to follow the adventures of Spencer (Alex Wolff), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), Martha (Morgan Turner) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) after Spencer goes into the game willingly and the others mount a rescue.
Unfortunately for them, the busted state they left the game in leads to some unforeseen consequences, most prominent of which is Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, and his estranged friend, Milo, also being sucked into the game.
Taking on the roles of their Avatars, Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), and Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black), the characters set off to rescue Spencer and save Jumanji again.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the film was how it went in new directions to shape the story.
Rather than a retread of the first movie, Jumanji: The Next Level tries different things, resulting in various hilarious scenarios.
The best of these is definitely Johnson and Hart playing elderly men stuck in heroic video game characters’ bodies.
This results both in many fantastic comedic moments and also a lot of growth for the two characters of Eddie and Milo.
These two elements combine with a joke at the end of the film that left me howling with laughter.

his whole left side is shutting down
There are so many great gags with Eddie and Milo being stuck in their Avatars’ bodies.

Another improvement from the first movie is the villain, who this time is Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann).
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the villain was very forgettable to the point that I can’t even remember his name.
Granted, Jurgen is not much better here but the film knows this because, with the exception of the game cut scene that introduces him as the threat, it only places Jurgen in scenes with the characters.
The villain of the first film had entire scenes to himself that did not work, so only placing Jurgen in scenes with our main characters is for the better.
What is not for the better is some of the directions the story takes.
Like I said, I do like a lot of the new routes that are taken in this film but there are a few that just don’t work.
The biggest example of these is a storyline involving a horse that ends with revolving a character’s arc poorly.
I honestly imagined this character’s story ending another way after the movie was over and I thought it was way better.

The horse storyline is definitely the weakest of the film.

But, despite this problem, I still find the film to be a solid sequel that people will have fun with.
Jumanji: The Next Level is an enjoyable film that makes for a fun time at the movies.

Avengers: Endgame, Review. Earns Every Minute of its Three Hour Runtime.

5 stars
When I heard Avengers: Endgame was going to be three hours long I was very concerned.
Not only about how I would sit through the entire thing without a toilet break, but also about how the film could drag due to this runtime.
Well, while watching Endgame I was overjoyed to find that, not only could my bladder hold, but also that the film earns every minute of its three hours.
In all honesty, the movie does not even feel three hours long.
Endgame is so investing that at no point does it drag, despite its long runtime, which is a huge achievement.
Directed by the Russo Brothers, the film picks up after the events of Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped his fingers and wiped out half of all life in the universe.
The Avengers must then unite to find a way to stop Thanos and undo everyone’s deaths.
To say anything more of the plot, would be to spoil so many of Endgame’s amazing twists and turns.

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The story of Avengers: Endgame offers so many explosive moments, especially in its glorious final hour. 

For the most part the trailers only show the first half hour of the film, leaving me completely clueless as what was going to happen next, which made the experience even better.
So many movies spoil their big twists in trailers these days that it was a wonderful change of pace to have absolutely no idea what was coming.
This is made even more wonderful by how brilliant Endgame is with its story, characters, and action sequences.
The story brought out so many emotions in me.
I honestly cried at least five times during this film, both out of joy and sadness.
I think the last time I cried this much when watching a film was Logan, which was my favourite film of 2017.
Well, Endgame is certainly looking primed to take the top spot in 2019 for all its brilliance.
The characters themselves are a part of this brilliance, with many of their arcs being complete perfection.
My favourite characters of the film would have to be Tony Stark’ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers’ Captain America (Chris Evan), Clint Barton’s Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Natasha Romanoff’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and surprisingly Nebula (Karen Gillan).
Tony is by far the standout though, with him providing a lot of the film’s emotional heart.

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Tony Stark is the heart and soul of this film, with Robert Downey Jr. turning in what has to be his best performance as the character.

Then there is the action, which is also stellar.
The final action sequence alone is one of the greatest final hours of any film I have ever seen.
It is absolute brilliance.
Sure, a lot of it is fan service, but it is earned fan service.
Every single part of Endgame is earned, especially that final bombastic hour.
Even the slower moments of the film are great, with so much amazing character development shown as our heroes deal with the aftermath of Thanos’ snap.
Speaking of the big guy, Thanos continues to be the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villain.
He is not the main character of the film, like he is in Infinity War, but his presence it still massively felt.

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Josh Brolin is once again incredibly intimidating as the Mad Titan, who is the MCU’s best villain.

Overall, any problems I do have are relatively minor.
At the end of the film there appears to be a retcon to rules established earlier in the film, but this retcon is more than earned so it does not really matter.
Then there is Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who I actually found myself disliking in this film because she is very stuck up and arrogant.
This would not have been a problem if this had been the start of her character arc, with her growing to learn that she needs the Avengers’ help, but she does not change at all.
Still, Captain Marvel is only a minor part of Endgame so my dislike of her here does not change my feelings about the film.
Avengers: Endgame is the true culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, being its best film with the way it delivers excitement, intensity and emotion.
It is breaking so many records at the box office right now that it has me wondering if it might beat James Cameron’s Avatar, becoming the highest grossing film of all time.
I hope the film does because it has more than earned it.

Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle is an enjoyable comedy… just don’t watch the trailers.

3 and a half stars
Jumaji: Welcome to the Jungle was a film I was looking forward to seeing since I first saw the trailers.
Directed by Jake Kasdan, The film looked funny and inventive and I wanted to see how good it was.
However, because of how busy I have been over the Holidays, I did not go to see it until very recently.
Still, were my expectations meet?
Yes… I just wish I had not watched the trailers.
If you want to watch Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, please, do not watch the trailers because 90% of the jokes from the first half of the movie are in those trailers.
I knew what I was watching was funny but it was certainly much less enjoyable because I knew the jokes were coming.
My viewing experience would have been so much better if I had not watched them.
But, aside from that, the film is pretty enjoyable.
The plot of the film is that, 20 years after the first movie, four teenagers stumble across Jumanji, which has transformed into a video game.
They start playing but are sent into the game into the bodies of the characters they were playing as, Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Shelly Oberon, (Jack Black) Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart) and Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan).
They must then complete the game if they want to escape Jumanji, without losing all three lives or it is game over.
The film definitely has fun with its concept, with so many inside jokes for video gamers, but it the funniest parts of the movie are the characters themselves.
Watching a teenage nerd inside the body of Dwayne Johnson is very funny.

Dwayne Johnson is funny as a teenage boy stuck in a heroic adventurer’s body.

Best of all though is Bethany in the body of Jack Black’s Shelly Oberon.
Watching a beautiful, popular girl in an “overweight middle aged man’s” body led to some very funny scenarios.
The ending of the film, for me, was a highlight because of how the characters had grown through the story and the results of that.
It is not all good though because the film does have its problems.
There were some interesting areas of conflict that the film did not really go in depth with when they could have.
Also, up until the characters are transported into Jumanji, the film was not very funny and the jokes fell flat.
Then there is the villain.
He is one dimensional, boring and, since we know he is just a video game character and not a real person, he does not hold much investment.
This could be an inside joke about how one dimensional a lot of video game villains are but if it is, once again, they do not go all the way with this idea.

Bobby Cannavale as Russel Van Pelt, the villain of the movie.

Honestly, I do not think the film needed a villain.
They could have just had the characters be attacked by random animals and bad guys and it would have played out pretty much the same.
But, even with these problems, the film is still enjoyable.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a fun time that will leave you laughing… if you have not watched the trailers.