Review of reviews: Film
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Directed by James Gunn (PG-13)
A ragtag team of space heroes saves the day. Again.
The latest Marvel sequel “plays like a second ride on a roller coaster,” said Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter. It’s “very been there, done that”— which is a shame for a franchise that emerged from nowhere in 2014 to charm audiences with its irreverent humor and wacky B team of misfit comic book heroes. Some characters— including Rocket the raccoon and Zoe Saldana’s green-skinned Gamora—“have now turned downright ornery.” And even the space battles are “mostly staged in a manically suspense-free manner.” The Guardians begin this installment on the run from a vengeful queen before they split up and thus throw away their group chemistry, said Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill meets up with his long-lost demigod father (Kurt Russell), and the fatherson drama played out by the two likable actors proves “hands down the least interesting part of the film.” Even so, Vol. 2 is smarter and funnier than most comic book adaptations, proving that it’s “possible to be disappointed by a film and still have a good time watching it.” Given that a big Vol. 3 looms, the audience won’t mind that the cast is just vamping here, said Alonso Duralde in TheWrap.com. “At least they’re doing it with some panache.”
Directed by Cristian Mungiu (R)
A devoted father abandons his integrity.
“They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. “But what about the road out of Romania?” Though the latest slow burn of a drama from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu lacks the nerve-fraying tension of his 2007 Cannes prizewinner, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, its story about a father corrupted by his determination to provide his daughter a path out “unfolds with an unsparing plausibility.” Early on, the daughter is assaulted on the eve of an important exam, and when her test performance suffers, her physician dad pulls some strings to keep her in the running for a seat at a British university. Unfortunately, “all that can go wrong does go wrong,” said Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. The doctor, played by Adrian Titieni, considers himself a model of integrity even though he’s been cheating on his wife, and as he’s drawn deeper and deeper into the muck around him, the story of his downfall plays as “mirthless farce.” Graduation “feels at times as claustrophobic and suspenseful as a horror movie,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Even when the characters engage in mundane tasks, they convey “an almost metaphysical sense of dread.”
Directed by Denise Di Novi (R)
A divorced mom targets her ex’s new lover.
“For a bad movie, this one is an awful lot of fun,” said Sara Stewart in the New York Post. It’s been 25 years since erotic thrillers about obsessively jealous women went out of fashion, yet here’s a fresh one, and it’s given Katherine Heigl “the role she was born to play.” Heigl’s Tessa Connover is a single mom who goes a bit psycho when her ex sets up house with his new fiancée, Julia, and it’s no surprise that Unforgettable delivers a murder plus plenty of deliciously venomous girl talk along the way. “See it after a glass or three of wine, and don’t be afraid to yell at the screen. B movies like this don’t come around every day.” Expect a routine Lifetime mystery— “but with a much bigger budget and a little more sex and gore,” said Stephen Whitty in the New York Daily News. Heigl relishes playing the ice-cold villain, and Rosario Dawson gives Julia, a domestic violence survivor, “flashes of complicated emotion.” Sure, Unforgettable is “tawdry,” and “sometimes cheesy,” said Katie Walsh in the Los Angeles Times. But big-screen melodramas made for women are rare, and Heigl gives this one “a uniquely feminine kind of villainy.”
Marvel Studios, Sundance Selects, Karen Ballard ■