2006’s “Pirates Ahoy!” is one of the more clever animated sequels to come from the aughts when the “Scooby Doo” movie series was pretty much stale. By this time they’d given up fighting real monsters, and reverted back to criminals and goons with fancy costumes and illusions. It’s surprising how much talent these direct to DVD movies always attract, and the cast compliments what is a pretty nifty mystery, altogether.
Much like a classic mix tape, “Vol. 2” of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a movie that’s similar in theme to its predecessor but feels fresh and original. Director James Gunn delivered a truly remarkable adaptation in 2014, and now he offers up a sequel that’s just as good, with a hefty narrative that thankfully has so much going on, but never loses sight of its central themes of family, love, and how music is the soundtrack of our lives. With “Guardians” the group of Starlord, Gamorra, Groot, Rocket, and Drax are back committing to a difficult job for a race of aliens called the Sovereign. They’re tasked with killing a vicious monster called the Abilisk and protecting priceless batteries. In exchange, they give Gamorra her sister Nebula back, who has been held prisoner.
Another in a line of 2015 films I really wanted to love, “Pan” left me bored, and asking did we really need a prequel? Did we really need to end the movie on Peter and Captain Hook giving one another uncomfortable glances knowing soon they’d become deadly nemeses? Why is Captain Hook called Hook if he doesn’t even have a Hook? Why is Tiger Lily played by a Lily White Actress? Hey, at least Hollywood keeps giving consistently flat Rooney Mara jobs, and turns Tiger Lily in to the heroine of a movie that’s supposed to be about Peter Pan. Or is he Peter who is a Pan? Or is he a Pan Warrior Named Peter?
For a movie with so much story and set up, it’s shocking how well “Deep Rising” comes together. Stephen Sommers is really committed to delivering a squared jawed hero with a lot of his action movies, and “Deep Rising” gives us Treat Williams in rare form. Director Sommers’ B monster movie action flick is still a lot of fun, despite the aged special effects and slew of sub-plots, some of which are left unresolved. That said, “Deep Rising” has all the ingredients for a fun and raucous action horror film.
It takes a real out of the box thinker like director James Gunn to really approach “Guardians of the Galaxy” with a fresh sense of vision that doesn’t make it feel like a stock space epic. Truly, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is the most complete Marvel movie since “The Avengers.” It adopts the quirks and flash of the Marvel universe, while also introducing us to a group of complex and truly interesting rejects that become saviors of the universe thanks to colliding fates and unusual circumstances. Suffice it to say “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a near masterpiece, and one with an amazing soundtrack. Rather than sidestepping everything from the comic, director James Gunn embraces the fun of the diverse alien bunch, while also injecting his own demented dark comedy.
After the very entertaining “Power Rangers” tribute “Super Task Force One,” I like where director Steve Rudzinski’s head is. He seems interested in delivering audiences good old fashioned genre entertainment, and he has the talent to back up the ambition. Even with the obvious rock bottom budgets, he can churn out some amusing and charming indie films. If he’s ever given a huge budget, I think he could blow audiences out of the water.
1995’s “Magic Island” from Moonbeam Entertainment is one of the few Charles Band backed kids films I’ve never actually seen. Which is odd, considering I loved Full Moon as a kid, and Zachary Ty Bryan was on one of my favorite TV show of the nineties “Home Improvement.” Like many of the Moonbeam films, “Magic Island” is not a perfect film by any stretch, but you have to appreciate its ambition, flaws and all. A good mixture of “The Neverending Story” and “The Princess Bride,” Sam Irvin’s adventure film is a goofy kids film with enough innocence to warrant good B grade family fare.
To pretend “The Curse of the Black Pearl” possessed an elaborate, epic story rich in characterization and subtle dialogue, would be to set up all sorts of pretensions. “Dead Man’s Chest” is in the same vein as the former, only slightly more intent on showing its blatant grab for big bucks. Disney ran out of ideas, turned to make their rides into movies and got lucky. Big whoop. “Dead Man’s Chest” is fun, though, and I can’t sweat them for that. Verbinski’s direction is on par as usual, and “Dead Man’s Chest” is a gorgeous epic, with some of the better action scenes that trump the original’s.