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With: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Tommy Flanagan, Laura Haddock
Written by: James Gunn
Directed by: James Gunn
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content
Running Time: 136
Date: 05/04/2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Groot Cake

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the fifteenth movie in a Marvel series that began in 2008, and, like most of the others, it's spectacular.

It adroitly balances art and entertainment, character and sensation, laughter and poignancy, and the personal with the packaged.

The writer and director, as on the original Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), is James Gunn, who comes from an exploitation background at Troma Entertainment, and worked his way to the "A" list through subversive horror films (Slither) and subversive superhero films (Super).

Gunn brings all this history to the new sequel. It is infused with the feeling of being an outsider, the elation of being a part of a team, and the ups and downs of both sides.

As the movie begins, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is hurting over never knowing his dad; Rocket (Bradley Cooper) keeps others at arm's length with barbed comments; and Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan) are recovering from a violent, training-filled childhood.

Meanwhile, Drax (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), and even Yondu (Michael Rooker), are just trying to figure it all out.

After irritating a royal council of gold-colored beings, the Guardians meet Ego (Kurt Russell), a man claiming to be Peter's real dad.

Additionally, characters fight, are captured, and escape, though not necessary in that order.

The movie's awesome design deserves high praise, mixing and matching raw material from any number of weird 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s sci-fi movies, comics, groovy pop songs, and TV shows.

Its visuals, largely consisting of beautiful arcs, curves, and circles, completely eschews any kind of stuck, angular, cornered feeling. It flows; it's all smooth, sleek, and swift.

The colors pop and shine like a spring day, and the overall achievement makes Avatar look as if it were made with old sticks and Elmer's glue.

But the bigger question is: what keeps these Marvel movies coming so fast, made by so many hands, yet remaining of such high quality and consistency, and loved unequivocally?

Whereas the DC movies are mired in defeat and disappointment, sludgy gray, and full of gloomy brooding, this epic series is an unprecedented achievement in pop filmmaking.

Could it be the ever-so-simple concept that these Marvel characters are all endearingly human, a little broken, all missing something, and searching for it?

Then, perhaps because of their powers, which are sometimes a curse as well as a blessing, they can do something about it. They can help. They have hope, and that hope is contagious.

Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

Disney has released a spectacular two-disc DVD/Blu-ray set, which also includes a digital copy. Picture is perfect, and sound is exemplary, although there is no Dolby Atmos track on this release; it's only on the 4K version. The plentiful extras include a James Gunn intro and commentary track, several featurettes, a gag reel, trailers, and the very funny music video for "Guardians Inferno" by The Sneepers (Feat. David Hasselhoff), done in the style of an old disco video from the late 1970s.

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