Directed by James Gunn Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and David Hasselhoff
As always, the following review will not be spoiler free.
After an introduction set in 1980, introducing us to Peter’s mother and father (Russell) in happier times, celebrating their love and introducing alien species to an unprepared ecosystem, we flash forward to the Guardians doing a job for the Sovereign, a gold-skinned race of genetically engineered superbeings, in return for Gamora’s (Saldana) sister Nebula (Gillan). When Rocket (Cooper) angers the Sovereign, however, their High Priestess (Debicki) first sends ships after the Guardians, then hires Yondu (Rooker) and his Ravagers to pursue them.
As before, a handsome prince is cursed for being a world-class jerk and transformed into a Beast (Stevens) until and unless he can find and share true love, while his staff are turned into furniture. The time frame is unspecific, but the curse also removes the castle and its inhabitants from the memory of the outside world, in particular of the little town that supports it, to which years later a girl named Belle (Watson) and her father Maurice (Kline) move after the loss of her mother.
Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise Starring Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Rex Everhart, Jesse Corti, Jerry Orbach, Jo Anne Worley, Bradley Michael Pierce, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury
A spoiled prince disrespects a beggar woman, who reveals herself as a beautiful enchantress pulling shenanigans and turns him into a Beast, so to remain unless he can find and share true love before his twenty-first year. Ten years later, in a nearby provincial town that is entirely ignorant of the existence of said prince, his family and his castle, we meet Belle (O’Hara), a high-minded, intellectual dreamer who isn’t like all the other girls. She is pursued by local bravo Gaston (White), but uninterested in a life in the village, remaining largely to protect her ageing and eccentric father, Maurice (Everhart).
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly
1933’s King Kong was a black and white movie about a movie crew looking for a lost island, finding a giant ape which is in no way a grotesque caricature of a black man. The ape, Kong, falls in love with the starlet – on some level or other – and the crew catch him, then bring him back to New York, where he escapes and is shot from the top of the Empire State Building by biplanes. It was remade in a contemporary setting in 1976, and again in its original era in 2005 by Peter Jackson. In 1962 Kong was added to the Toho studios kaiju universe in Godzilla vs. King Kong.
The Latest Remake
During WWII, American and Japanese pilots crash land on an island where their attempts to kill one another are interrupted by the appearance of a giant gorilla. In 1974 the island is picked up on satellite imagery. Bill Randa (Goodman), biologist San Lin (Jing) and geologist Houston Brooks (Hawkins) of Monarch tag along with a Landsat survey team to look for monsters. They recruit a helicopter platoon on the way back from Vietnam, lead by Colonel Packard (Jackson) and professional tracker and ex-SAS badass Conrad (Hiddleston), while anti-war photographer Mason Wheeler (Larson) gets herself attached to the survey.
This may seem like a lot of characters, but wait; there’s more. Captain Chapman (Kebbell), a major heading home to his family; Landsat official, Nieves (Ortiz); and members of the platoon including Mills (Mitchell), Cole (Whigham), Slivko (Mann) and Reles (Eugene Cordero).
Directed by Damien Chazelle Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
In LA, a series of chance encounters bring struggling actress Mia (Stone) and struggling Jazz pianist Seb (Gosling) into a relationship of towering love and passion. He introduces her to jazz and drives her to follow her dreams. She tries to convince him that his dream is in reach, if he can only let of of its trappings, and inadvertently drives him to compromise his artistic integrity by joining a band led by the non-specifically shady Keith (Legend).
Directed by Gareth Edwards Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker
As is traditional on the BMM, this review will contain spoilers.
Calculating Imperial scumbag and master of cloak fu Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn) forcibly conscripts engineer Galen Erso (Mikkelsen) to a stalled project, killing his wife while their daughter Jyn flees into the care of Saw Gerrera (Whitaker). Years later, Jyn (Jones) is in Imperial chokey until ruthless Rebel Intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Luna) and his sassy droid K-2SO (Tudyk) rescue her. Gerrera’s extremism has broken his ties to the Rebel Alliance, but he has custody of defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), who may have a vital message from Galen.
“Open your mind. Change your reality” or “Question reality. Change your destiny” or “The impossibilities are endless.”
Directed by Scott Derrickson Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton and Mads Mikkelson
Dr Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is a brilliant, but arrogant, neurosurgeon, pioneering new techniques while telling War Machine (or… wait? Was he actually talking about Diamondback from Luke Cage?) to take his entirely pedestrian spino-cranial injuries elsewhere. Then he gets into a car crash because he’s using his phone while driving at high speed in the rain – we get it already, he’s reckless – and loses most of the use of his hands.
Directed by Matteo Garrone Starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones and John C. Reilly
Once upon a time, there was a Queen (Hayek) who could not bear a child. At the advice of a necromancer, the Queen’s husband (Reilly) slays a sea monster. The King is also killed, but the Queen eats the heart of the monster and is instantly pregnant. She and the virgin kitchen maid who cooks the heart give birth to identical boys even before the King’s funeral, attended by two other monarchs: a King (Cassel) whose appetites know no restraint, and another King (Jones) with a beloved daughter.
Directed by Bryan Singer Starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Jame McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Nicholas Hoult and Peter Dinklage
Almost a decade before the Marvel Cinematic Universe struck gold, the company’s go-to allegory for prejudice hit the big screen with X-Men (2000). The property had gained considerable traction thanks to an acclaimed 1990s animated series, and in the hands of The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer, mutants took the world by storm (almost literally, as the release coincided with co-star Halle Berry’s Oscar, resulting in a much larger, if somewhat inconsistent, role in the sequel.) A direct sequel – X2 (2003) – was widely held to be even better, but 2006’s disappointing X-Men: The Last Stand squandered the goodwill – save perhaps for the little bit that was then pissed away by X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – and threatened to kill the series dead.
The Reboot/Late Sequel
The actual reboot of the series came with 2011’s X-Men: First Class, a 1960s set Cold War adventure, with McAvoy and Fassbender as the younger versions of feuding leaders Charles Xavier and Magneto, previously portrayed in their more patrician years by Stewart and McKellan. First Class did a lot to win back fans with its portrayal of the early years of the X-Men and the break between the two men, and hopefully I’ll get to reviewing that, but then Days of Future Past appeared in 2014 as a late sequel to the original trilogy, as well as a reasonably timed sequel to First Class and so converted the straight reboot into a Star Trek-syle in-universe soft reset of the series as a whole through time travel shenanigans.
Directed by Justin Lin Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba
Technically, Star Trek Beyond is not itself a reboot and follows only three years behind the last entry in the ongoing series, but until I get around to reviewing 2009’s Star Trek, this will be the placeholder for the ‘alternate timeline’ series. The new Trek continuity pretty much typifies the in-universe, soft reset school of franchise reboot also used by the X-Men series. Faced with the leviathan that is Trek fandom and its understanding of the original series timeline, JJ Abrams sent a Romulan dreadnought back in time to knock down that sandcastle so he could start over. The result was well-received; 2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness less so, with its white Khan and murky, grey Federation. Star Trek Beyond is, however, the film that takes the Enterprise back to its original five year mission, so in that way it is its own sort of reset.
For the handful of readers recovering this from the unearthed servers of the Wayback Machine in 2263, Star Trek began life as a three season TV series about the crew of a starship, exploring the unknown frontiers of the galaxy on behalf of the United Federation of Planets. After its cancellation there was an animated series, then four movies, and then a second series set about a century after the first, with two more movies produced concurrently with that series. Then a third series spun off from the second, and after The Next Generation ended that crew headlined four more movies while two more series – the last set a century before the original were made. Small wonder that Abrams, charged with reviving the now flagging franchise by replacing the beloved but rapidly dwindling original series cast, chose to nuke the timeline.
The Enterprise and her crew are three years into their five year mission, and beginning to get a little stir crazy as they approach the advanced outpost Yorktown, a space station with an artificial sky and a stardock inside its graceful, curving boulevards and canals. Here, as Captain Kirk (Pine) and his first officer Spock (Quinto) consider their futures, one faced with the anniversary of his birth and the death of his father, the other with the news of the death of his Prime Universe counterpart, they are mustered for a mission to rescue a science team stranded on a planet within an unstable nebula.