Guardians 3 a fitting conclusion
Though darker than its predecessors, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a more than satisfactory conclusion to the outlier trilogy of the Marvel Films Universe. More than anything, this is Rocket's story (voice by Bradley Cooper) as we finally become privy to just how he came to be. Through flashbacks, we see that he was nothing but another in a long line of experiments undertaken by the High Evolutionary in his quest to create the perfect species for the perfect society. Rocket's creation proves to be far more successful than anticipated, his mind being as great as his creator's. Discovering he and his other misbegotten friends are going to be exterminated, our ursine hero plans to save them all with a daring escape. However, it all goes awry, Rocket being the only survivor.
All of this is related as Rocket is on his deathbed, memories cascading his mind as he tries to recover from an errant attack by the misguided hero Adam Warlock (Will Pouter). While attempting to stabilize him, Nebula (Karen Gillan) discovers he has been, in effect manufactured, and there is a device preventing them from operating on him. Seeking information as to how to override this, she, Quill (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Groot (voice by Vin Diesel) and a Gamora (Zoe Saldana) from a different timeline, sans the memories of her predecessor, set out to infiltrate the lab where Rocket was made, hoping to gather information that might save him.
The plot is paper-thin, the film ostensibly nothing more than a chase movie, the Guardians careening from one locale to the next, continually thwarted in their efforts to get the information they seek. Our engagement throughout is thanks to Gunn and his cast's ability to make us care for this bevy of buffoons. More than any of the Marvel characters, Quill and his crew have always come off as the most human, their faults and foibles the most relatable. This entry revolves around the fact that all of them have been living in denial and they have finally come to an impasse where they each must come to terms with their pasts and who they really are.
Though there are hints that we might encounter some of these characters again, if this happened to be the last appearance of the Guardians, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a more fitting or poignant conclusion than what Gunn provides here. In theaters.
Crater a barren exercise in creativity
I'm not sure what to make of Crater, a misguided sci-fi feature from Disney that the Mouse House is smart enough not to release in theaters. Debuting on Disney+, the film is a mess from beginning to end. The script by John Griffin is an exercise in misdirection, one languid event leading to narrative distraction, the story spinning its wheels at every turn. The plot doesn't develop as much as meander about, turning its simplistic characters around in circles, plunging them into one misadventure after another, none of it amounting to anything.
The setting is the moon, which in 2257 has become a mining colony and a waystation to Omega, an Earth-like planet that requires a 75-year trip in a cryo-sleep to reach. Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) has had worse luck than most of the inhabitants there. The teenager's mother died seven years ago and now his father has passed away as well. As an orphan's benefit, he's to be shipped to Omega.
However, before leaving he wants to visit a distant crater that was his parent's favorite place. Having never been there, he wishes to see it before leaving, something he knows the adults in charge won't allow. With the help of his pals Dylan (Billy Barrett), Borney (Orson Hong) and Marcus (Thomas Boyce), as well as new arrival Addison (McKenna Grace), the group steals a rover and sets out to explore the distant crater.
All the characters are taken from Central Casting, each with an extra dose of irritating. With the exception of Grace, the other young performers are painful to watch. Be that as it may, I doubt the most talented group of young thespians could have salvaged this misguided venture. The conflicts the characters encounter is unnecessary and nonsensical, events that do nothing more than build frustration, rather than suspense, regarding just what will be found at the titular location. Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes features a series of scenes that are well-written, surprising and poignant, things that were sorely missing in all that preceded it. In the end, Crater's lack of credibility and intelligence makes it as empty as the moon itself. Streaming on Disney+.
Still an honest, inspirational profile in courage
While it is being promoted as a documentary, Davis Guggenheim's Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, is really an auto-biopic, a hybrid that combines archival footage, reenactments and current footage of its subject to create a riveting profile in courage. Simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational, the film provides an unvarnished look at Fox's daily struggles as well as the small triumphs that provide an illusionary respite from his trial. More than anything, this is a testament to persistence as well as a tribute to the actor's family, particularly his wife, Tracey Pollan, who have provided the support and inspiration that impels Fox to get out of bed and face another day.
Running a brisk 95 minutes, the title of the movie is the epitome of irony, as Guggenheim barely allows us to catch our breath as we're plunged into Fox's story. Turns out, this is a reflection of the actor as he is seen throughout, as a young man and now as a sexagenarian, a man constantly on the move, eager to see what the future holds. Fox narrates, beginning with his earliest recollections of being small for his age and taking us through his early struggles as an actor, his success on the TV series "Family Ties," and his overnight success as a movie star with "Back to the Future," as well as when the actor was diagnosed with Parkinson's, the seven years of deception he employed to keep it hidden, and its ultimate revelation. Not only does this melding of varying formats prove riveting, it's also surprisingly intimate. There's a sense that we are getting a glimpse inside Fox's mind, privy to his perception of how this all played out.
When asked why now is the time to tell his story, Fox replies, "Because my world is getting smaller." There's no denying this; yet through Guggenheim's prowess and the actor's honesty, here's hoping Still can reach the widest of audiences and that viewers will be reminded never to take their good health for granted. That Fox allows us to see how he copes with his misfortune with humor and grace is the greatest gift and message he could give us.
Streaming on Apple TV.