Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2’

To clear the record, I liked “Guardians of the Galaxy” quite a lot. The fact that I didn’t love it as much as some should be noted going into this review of the sequel.

I was way down for the first movie’s irreverence and the pure fun of its space action. I was less down for a busy plot that had the unenviable job of introducing a full team of players. I’ll bet a lot more people remember the fun they had than the actual events of the film.

This leaves “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” less weighed down with introductions, but facing the expectations of its successful predecessor. And, just as I was in the minority on the like/love spectrum for the original, I may be in the minority with this position: I like “Vol. 2” even better.

There’s still plenty of plot, but this time we know most of the players. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still leading the team, battling baddies and his own demons shaped by the space father he never knew.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is dealing with her own family drama in a reunion with her sister Nebula (Karen Gillan), making for a pretty fierce sibling rivalry.

Bringing both humor and some surprising emotional depth are the muscle-y Drax (Dave Bautista) and the rodent-y Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). And, yes, as you’ll recall, we’ve also got Baby Groot (voiced, apparently, by Vin Diesel, though it’s hard to tell). Groots gonna Groot.

There’s also returning baddie Yondu (Michael Rooker) and a new character played by Kurt Russell. Hmm, I wonder who he could be …

Director James Gunn still has a lot of plates to spin in terms of plot and characters, but operating under the assumption that the audience is caught up, things feel more focused than the original. This gives him more room to do what he does best: make audiences in movie theaters have as much fun as possible.

A whimsical action set-piece that runs over the opening credits is a great tone-setter — and also the first in a number of moments that make this one a recommended upgrade to the 3-D experience. The Guardians battling a massive interdimensional creature as Baby Groot boogies to oldies is the perfect way to set the plate.

The cast is still charming, and the effects are a three-dimensional eye orgy. But what made “Guardians” (and then “Deadpool”) such refreshing additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe was the winking and wisecracking humor. That’s on full display here, as “Vol. 2” remixes all the elements into a great popcorn/space-buddy flick.

Don’t Feel Bad For ‘Netflix Spring Bingeing’

Call it Netflix’s spring binge.

At the end of March, Netflix released the critically acclaimed “13 Reasons Why.” April featured new shows “Girl Boss” and “Bill Nye Saves the World,” while May’s lineup includes the second season of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” along with the return of binge favorite “House of Cards,” back for its fifth season.

Many will relish getting lost for hours on end in these shows. But others might feel guilty about their extended screen time, seeing it as sign of laziness. Or maybe they’ve seen an article about one of those studies linking binge watching to depression.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m interested in understanding the ways people use TV, video games and social media to improve their well-being. And I’ve learned that even though watching TV gets a bad rap as the “junk food” of media diets, it can be good for you — as long as you give yourself permission to indulge.

Why TV gets the shaft

My colleagues and I collected some data suggesting that there is, in fact, a double standard for how we think about different media bingeing experiences. We administered a survey that recorded participants’ thoughts about reading or watching TV for certain amounts of time.

Respondents associated more attributes like laziness and impulsivity with people who consume several hours of a television show in one sitting, compared to those who do the same with novels.

This finding probably comes as no surprise.

Although reading a novel for several hours at a time for entertainment can arguably be just as sedentary and addictive as watching TV, no derogatory term like “bingeing” exists for the act of devouring an entire Harry Potter novel in one night. We simply call it “reading.”

Just think about the pejorative term “binge,” which conjures images of excess and abuse (as with binge eating or binge drinking). Contrast this with “marathon viewing,” which connotes accomplishment, and has traditionally been used to describe the experience of consuming multiple installments of film – not TV series – in rapid succession.

Why is it that we “binge” when we watch a lot of TV, but it’s a “marathon” when we watch a bunch of movies?

Perhaps this double standard is rooted in television’s lower status as a source of entertainment. Historically, TV viewing has been considered a mindless activity, capable of dulling the intellect with “a vast wasteland” of shallow, lowbrow content. Watching TV has also been regarded as a lazy activity that displaces time spent on more active, productive pursuits. Avid viewers of the “boob tube” or “idiot box” will get stereotyped as “lazy couch potatoes.”

Meanwhile, headline-grabbing research linking TV viewing to depression and loneliness hasn’t helped binge viewing’s reputation. These correlational studies may give the misleading impression that only depressed or lonely people engage in binge watching —– or worse, that binge viewing can make people depressed and lonely.

In truth, it’s just as likely that people who are depressed or lonely due to unrelated life circumstances (say, unemployment or a break-up) simply choose to spend their time binge watching. There’s no evidence to suggest that binge watching actually makes people depressed or lonely.

The good news about binge watching

But binge viewing TV has become popular for a good reason: Despite its negative reputation, television has never been better. We are in the midst of a golden age of television, with a variety of shows that provide a steady diet of novel premises, long-running, elaborate plots and morally complicated characters. Far from dulling the intellect, these shows create more suspense, interest and opportunities for critical engagement.

According to journalist and media theorist Steven Johnson, watching these shows may even make you smarter. He argues that because television narratives have become increasingly complex, they require viewers to follow more storyline threads and juggle more characters and relationships. All of this makes the audience more cognitively sophisticated.

Gorging on stories is pleasurable, too. When individuals binge watch, they are thought to have what’s called a “flow experience.” Flow is an intrinsically pleasurable feeling of being completely immersed in a show’s storyline. In a flow state of mind, viewers intently focus on following the story and it’s easier for them to lose awareness of other things, including time, while they’re wrapped up in viewing. One study found that viewers will continue viewing additional episodes in order to maintain this positive flow state, so there is an addictive quality to binge viewing. Interruptions like advertising can break the continuous viewing cycle by disrupting the flow state and drawing viewers out of the story. Luckily, for TV bingers, Netflix and Hulu are ad-free.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits binge watching can offer is psychological escape from daily stresses. What better way to decompress than watching four (or seven) straight episodes of “House of Cards”? A 2014 study found that people who were particularly drained after stressful work or school experiences watched TV to recharge and recuperate.

Unfortunately, this study also found that TV watching didn’t help everybody. Individuals who bought into the “lazy couch potato” stereotype enjoyed fewer benefits from watching TV. Instead of feeling revitalized after watching TV, they felt guilty.

The researchers believe that the shame associated with TV watching can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, making it hard for viewers to reap psychological benefits.

For this reason, we need to shake the notion that bingeing on stories we engage with on TV is somehow less worthy leisure pursuit than bingeing on stories that we consume other ways, like novels. Immersing ourselves in narratives on TV can be good for us, even in heavy doses, but only if we truly appreciate it for what it is: a pleasure. Not a guilty pleasure, simply a pleasure.

The 10 Best New Things on Netflix This Month

At first glance, it looks like May is going to be a great month for Netflix subscribers. We’re getting new seasons of both House of Cards and Master of None, some excellent sci-fi and fight movies, some educational documentaries, etc. But when we look at what’s leaving, we can’t help but wince: The Jurassic Park trilogy, Invincible, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Seasons 1-5), Graceland (Seasons 1-3), Bob’s Burgers Season 2, and quite a few others. So it’s going to hurt, but let’s look on the bright side.  May is still offering us far more good than bad. Here are the 10 best things coming to Netflix in May.

Sense8 Season 2

May 5

If you’re into action, drama, and sci-fi, Sense8 is going to be one of those shows that blows your mind. The show revolves around the lives of eight random strangers from all over the world who suddenly become emotionally and psychologically linked. These eight people can lend each other certain skills and powers, and if it sounds like a bit of a mind fuck, it’s because it is. Importantly, the show finds interesting and unique ways of addressing different real-world issues like gender, politics, race, and identity—which we definitely appreciate.

The Mars Generation

May 5

If you’ve paid attention to the news at all over the last few years, you’ve noticed that America—once the world’s largest pioneer of space exploration—has dialed back quite a bit on its plans to live among the stars. Not a great way to honor the legacy of the Moon Landings, but maybe we can make up for it. The Mars Generation is a Netflix Original documentary about a group of kids who are training and studying to ensure that this generation will be the first one to put footprints in Martian soil. Look for interviews by esteemed scientists and space travel pioneers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk, as well as the kids with their hearts and eyes focused on what’s out there (and more).

Mindhorn

May 12

A serial killer is on the loose and the only man that may be able to stop him is… A washed up actor from a forgotten 1980’s detective crime drama? Yup. The film’s writing and humor is distinctly British (as is its cast), and it’s great to see a new way of dealing with the nostalgia people have for the 1980s.  Tint those glasses rose as deeply as you’d like, 80s entertainment was cheesy as hell.

Master of None Season 2

May 12

The second season of the acclaimed Netflix Original series Master of None debuts May 12, and we’d be willing to bet Season 2 is going to be a whole new type of adventure. What makes Master of None so good is that it’s always funny, but adds to that incredible honesty and relatability. It accomplishes something a lot of “funny shows” tend to miss out on—purposeful authenticity. From the trailer, it looks like Alan Yang (Ansari) somehow winds up in Italy/Europe, rides a scooter, meets a ton of new women he probably won’t date, etc. For that and whatever else he gets up to, we can’t wait.

Inglourious Basterds

May 22

We’re gonna be doing one thing and one thing only, and that’s killin’ Nazis! Ugh, we love this WWII action comedy from Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs). The film stars Brad Pitt (in a role eerily similar to the one he’ll be playing in War Machine) as Lieutenant Aldo Raine, a member of the First Special Service Force tasked with putting together a team of Jewish-born American soldiers to go kick Nazi ass. It’s hysterical, crude, and particularly gory. And unless you like Nazis, you’ll likely love this film.

Southpaw

May 24

We love a good fight movie, and when it’s brilliantly written and stars an all-star cast? More please. Southpaw, written by none other than Kurt Sutter and starring Jake Gyllanhaal, Forest Whitaker, and Rachel McAdams, follows the rise, fall, and redemption of Billy “The Great” Hope (Gyllanhaal), a prized boxer whose life is destroyed after his wild antics and hot head result in the murder of his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams). Billy hits rock bottom and loses his fancy house, as well as custody of his daughter. Billy seeks out the help of trainer Titus “Tick” Wills (Whitaker), who eventually reluctantly agrees to train him for a fight against Miguel—the very man responsible for the death of his wife. It’s a tad on the overly dramatic side, but definitely worth the watch.

Bloodline Season 3

May 26

The only real way to describe Bloodline is: “A complete and utterly mind bending cluster fuck.” It truly is one of those shows you watch, gripping your couch the whole time and yelling, “Oh holy shit!” over and over and over again. We could write paragraphs on the show’s twisted and all-over-the-map plot line, but there just isn’t time. Instead, imagine the hands-down worst family you’ve ever seen, complete with psychotic behavior, murder, and all the other fun stuff bad families are made of. Few would argue that Season 2 was anywhere near as good as Season 1, but we’re optimistic that Season 3, which debuts May 26 and will be the show’s final season, will once again bring the heat.

War Machine

May 26

As years-long subscribers, we’ve been blown away by how much of a media giant Netflix has managed to establish itself as over the last couple years. And if anyone was in doubt of that status, try this. You know you’ve made it when Brad Pitt is starring in one of your original movies.

War Machine stars Pitt as four-star General Glen McMahon, a decorated leader tasked with bringing the war in Afghanistan to an end after eight long and trying years. The film is a brilliant satire/parody that explores the relationship between war and politics, and how the media influence the lives of the world’s shot callers. Pitt isn’t the only name to look out for, either. Notable additions include Topher Grace (no, really), John Magaro, Anthony Michael Hall, and the one and only Alan Ruck. We’re betting this one’s going to be a winner.

Doctor Strange

May 30

The Box Office smash (more than $677 million!) Doctor Strange also makes its way to Netflix in May. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Vincent Strange, a disgraced former surgeon-turned powerful sorcerer who must protect the world from Kaecilius, an evil sorcerer hellbent on destroying everything. Critics and comic book nerds alike praised the film, and we have to agree—if you haven’t yet, check this one out.

House of Cards Season 5

May 30

Another “Oh holy shit, what’s even happening right now?” kind of Netflix Original series,  House of Cards debuts its fifth season May 30 and boy, if you thought our actual political sphere was in total chaos, wait until you see this shit. It’s a lot to get into, but the show follows the political career of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), from his time as South Carolina Congressman to his rise to President of the United States. Season 4 ended in tumult with the Islamic Caliphate (yeah, we know), which appears to have led to a full-on world war (yeah, we know). We’re excited to see where Season 5 ends up, especially knowing the show’s history of going everywhere viewers never thought possible.

Here’s Why April 26 Is “Alien Day”

Today is “Alien Day,” an unofficial holiday for fans of the iconic space-horror franchise and a big promotional event for the studio behind the upcoming Alien: Covenant. This year will see the release of a new Alien VR experience, a Q&A session about Covenant, and the return of the original 1979 classic to select theaters. But why April 26 of all days? The answer is a fun little Easter egg — one that hopefully won’t hatch into a Facehugger.

Aliens, the 1986 action sequel to Ridley Scott’s original, takes place on a colonial moon known as Acheron. However, before it was given a proper name the moon was known as LV-426. Hence, Alien Day is on 4/26. The first official Alien Day was only last year to celebrate Aliens’s 30th anniversary, so it made sense.

For 2017’s Alien Day, though, the big event is probably the livestream, which you can catch over at Alien Universe starting at 1 p.m. Eastern. There will be a Q&A with the cast of Covenant along with exclusive footage from the upcoming movie. For more information about some of the minor Alien Day events, including merch revivals and details about Alien screenings, go to the website.

Well, Here We Go… ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Trailer

Hell. Yes. Look, we enjoyed Rogue One as much as the next guy, but we’re ready for some Episode 8 action. Well, here we go. Look, we’re not going to try and sell you on playing the video. You’re probably not even reading this. You’ve already clicked Play and are knee-deep in awesomeness. That said, you get a little Luke, a little Kylo Ren, and a little lightsaber training without too much plot being revealed. In an age of oversharing in trailers, that’s kinda nice. Is it December 15 yet?

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The God of Thunder Embarks On His Biggest Adventure Yet in Thor: Ragnarok

Thor’s latest film looks to be one of his biggest yet as the hammer-wielding Asgardian fights the Incredible Hulk as Jeff Goldblum looks on for what could be the cinematic fight of the century:

“Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.”

Thor: Ragnarok hits screens this November.

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Watch the First Trailer for the ‘I Am Heath Ledger’ Documentary

Heath Ledger would have been 38 years old. In celebration of the late actor’s birthday, Spike TV has unleashed the official trailer for their upcoming documentary, I Am Heath Ledger, centering around the life and career of Ledger.

The moving clip is in turn filled with homemade videos captured by Ledger himself, in addition to emotional interviews with Kate Ledger (Heath’s sister), musician Ben Harper, model Christina Cauchi, filmmaker Matt Amato and Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee.

I Am Heath Ledger premieres on Spike May 17.

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The First Teaser Trailer for “IT”

Plenty of people developed a deep seated and lifelong fear of clowns after their first viewing of IT, in the same way most people born between 1960 and 1970 won’t go in the ocean anymore. And apparently coulrophobia is one of those cultural touchstones, because an IT remake is on its way to theaters this September. We got our first real look at footage from the movie in the form of the teaser trailer and we have to say, yup, stay the fuck away from us, every clown ever. The few glimpses we got of Pennywise are terrifying and the main kids look to have the acting chops necessary to carry this movie. If nothing else, this may signify a return to the suspense genre, with theaters full of frightened couples holding hands so hard their bones fuse.

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Here’s Everything Coming to and Leaving Netflix in April

In just a matter of days, we’ll be ushering in a new month. This of course means that not only will we be saying goodbye to a number of movies, TV shows and documentaries on Netflix, but we’ll also be welcoming a slew of new pictures.

First off, you have until Saturday (and forthcoming dates in April) to take advantage of select favorites that will be leaving, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the Superman films, The Princess Bride, X-Files, and Vanilla Sky, among other titles.

However, you have A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cool Runnings, Schindler’s List, Tropic Thunder, Louis C.K. 2017, The Get Down: Part 2, Kevin Hart: What Now, Bill Nye Saves the World: season one, Casting JonBenet, and Dear White People: season one to look forward to, in addition to other notable newcomers.

For a complete breakdown of everything coming to and leaving Netflix in April, see underneath.

Let us know what you’re most excited for.

Coming to Netflix

April 1:
A Weekend with the Family
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Across the Universe
An American Tail
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster
Boy Bye
Born To Be Free
Cool Runnings
Good Witch: Season 2
Gremlins
Only for One Night
Richord Pryor: Live & Smokin’
Scooby-Doo
Schindler’s List
Something’s Gotta Give
Thunderstruck
Wynonna Earp: Season 1
Trouble with the Curve
Tropic Thunder
The Tenth Man

April 2:
The D Train

April 4:
Chewing Gum: Season 2 – Netflix Original
Louis C.K. 2017 – Netflix Original

April 6:
Disney’s The BFG

April 7:
El Faro De Las Orcas – Netflix Original Film
Dawn of the Croods: Season 3 – Netflix Original
The Get Down: Part 2 – Netflix Original
Win It All – Netflix Original Film

April 8:
Kubo and the Two Strings

April 10:
Documentary Now!: Season 2

April 11:
Kevin Hart: What Now

April 12:
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Season 2

April 14:
Chelsea: Season 2 – Netflix Original
El Elegido
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return – Netflix Original
Sandy Wexler – Netflix Original Film

April 15:
Disney’s Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Slam – Netflix Original Film

April 18:
Lucas Brothers: On Drugs – Netflix Original

April 19:
A Plastic Ocean

April 21:
Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 1 – Netflix Original
Girlboss: Season 1 – Netflix Original
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On: Season 1 – Netflix Original
Sand Castle – Netflix Original Film
Tales by Light: Season 2 – Netflix Original
The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show: Season 4 – Netflix Original
The Prestige
Tramps- Netflix Original Film

April 22:
The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass: Season 1-3
The Secret Life of Pets

April 23:
Liv and Maddie: Season 4
Phantom

April 24:
Long Nights Short Mornings

April 25:
Disney’s Queen of Katwe
The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared – Netflix Original Film
Vir Das: Abroad Understanding – Netflix Original

April 26:
Real Rescues: Season 6-7
Trust

April 27:

Las Chicas del Cable: Season 1 – Netflix Original

April 28:
A Murder in the Park
Casting JonBenet – Netflix Original
Dear White People: Season 1 – Netflix Original
Rodney King – Netflix Original Film
Small Crimes – Netflix Original Film

April 30:
Sofia the First: Season 3

Leaving Netflix

April 1:
Ally McBeal: Seasons 1-2
Angel: Seasons 1-5
Better Off Ted: Season 1
Barbershop 2: Back in Business
Bones: Seasons 1-4
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Seasons 1-7
Chaplin
Dollhouse: Season 1
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Firefly
House, M.D.: Seasons 1-8
Lie to Me: Season 1
Menace II Society
Resident Evil: Extinction
Rosewell: Seasons 1-3
Snow Day
Stomp the Yard
Superman II
Superman III
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
Superman Returns
Superman: The Movie
The Agony and the Ecstasy
The Boys from Brazil
The Escapist
The Princess Bride
The Riches: Seasons 1-2
The Usual Suspects
The X-Files: Seasons 1-9
Vanilla Sky

April 3:
Collateral Damage
The Circle

April 7:
Legit: Season 2
Wilfred: Season 4

April 9:
Hero

April 10:

Legit: Season 1
Flower Girl

April 14:
The Lazarus Effect

April 15:
A Fantastic Fear of Everything

April 17:

American Dad! Season 6

April 26:

The Nutty Professor 2: Facing the Fear

April 30:
Under the Tuscan Sun
The Mirror
Born to Defense
The Defender

Gerard Butler Must Save the World From Climate-Control Satellites in ‘Geostorm’

When a system of climate-control satellites built to regulate the global climate goes haywire, Gerard Butler (Jake) and his brother Max (played by Jim Sturgess) are tasked with solving the satellite program’s malfunction. Originally, the satellites kept everyone safe, but now they have begun to attack the very planet that they once protected. Ultimately, it is a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything.

Writer-producer Dean Devlin makes his directorial debut in Geostorm, which pits Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia alongside Butler and Sturgess.

Geostorm lands in theaters on October 20.

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