Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 8/1/23;
Disney/Marvel;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $358.95 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive/drug references and thematic elements.
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoë Saldaña, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Sean Gunn, Chukwudi Iwuji, Will Poulter, Maria Bakalova, Linda Cardellini, Nathan Fillion, Sylvester Stallone.

The release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 represents the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With writer-director James Gunn jumping ship to lead rival DC’s production slate, the MCU loses one of its strongest creative voices, and the results are becoming evident.

As the MCU flounders trying to regain the narrative momentum it had prior to Avengers: Endgame, Gunn’s concluding chapter to his “Guardians” trilogy caps off what is probably Marvel’s last reliable sub-franchise in terms of consistent quality. (Losing a key player off the bench should make Disney all-the-more desperate to secure a deal with Sony for more Tom Holland “Spider-Man” movies, but time will tell).

Picking up after last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Gunn’s latest tale of the ragtag group of offbeat interstellar adventurers delves into the backstory of the wisecracking talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper). Rocket turns out to be the result of the cruel experiments of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a megalomaniacal geneticist cursed with delusions of godhood who dreams of creating perfect societies. As Rocket was his only creation to ever develop the gift of technological inventiveness, the Evolutionary wants to study him to learn how to use that spark of insight to create the perfect life form.

However, when Rocket is critically injured by the efforts of the Evolutionary’s minions to capture him, the Guardians’ only hope to save him is to steal the Evolutionary’s proprietary technology, setting up a cataclysmic final battle that could destroy the entire team.

The premise provides not only for some emotional character dynamics, but allows Gunn to indulge his penchants for inventive but unconventional visual designs. The film is equal parts bright and colorful and gooey and grotesque, providing for a splendid 4K experience. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for laughs despite the heavy subject matter.

The “Guardians” movies are also known for their iconic needle-drop soundtracks of classic 1970s rock, and while the third film isn’t as memorable in that regard, it still offers a great array of tunes, this time expanding the selection into the 2000s.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Gunn in the bonus materials delves into how each film in the trilogy relates to the theme of family. With Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord’s mother and father weighing heavily on the events of the first two films as the Guardians come together to form their own ersatz family unit, the third film deals with each coming to terms with their own sense of self — particularly Rocket, whose story is told in flashbacks as he lies dying on a medical bed.

The highlight of the extras is the full-length commentary with Gunn, who provides a lot of insight into the story and characters, and how much it meant for him to be able to close out a franchise that has defined his life for a decade.

Fans will also be interested in checking out the deleted scenes. There are eight included on the Blu-ray, each running about a minute. They include a number of interesting character interactions, including what might be Kraglin’s funniest line (as delivered by James’ brother Sean Gunn) in the series. Also included is the cameo appearance by Pete Davidson that was ultimately cut for stalling the momentum of the final act (the commentary details how Davidson ended up being given a CGI alien head after his dialogue was cut).

There’s also a fun five-minute gag reel, and two behind-the-scenes featurettes that contextualize the making of the film within the trilogy as a whole. The nine-and-a-half-minute “Creating Rocket Raccoon” looks at the process of bringing the character to life, while the 11-minute “The Imperfect, Perfect Family” focuses on the legacy of all the characters.

All told, the behind-the-scenes footage is a bit sparse considering what was being released online during the film’s theatrical run. And it would have been nice if the studio found a way to include the Holiday Special as part of the package, given how much it sets up this film. But maybe it will find its way onto disc eventually as part of a “Guardians” boxed set, since keeping it relegated to a Disney+ exclusive just accentuates the hole that exists in fans’ physical media collections.

This Week’s MPN Podcast: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’ Review; ‘The Peripheral’ and ‘1899’, Overhyped or Worth it?

On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley run through a lightning round of reviews for shows they’ve been watching. First up is The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which John Latchem reviewed for MPN. Charles shares his thoughts about it, as well as a quick recap of the Marvel Phase 4 set of movies and shows, as this special concludes that series. He also gives his predictions for what to expect in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, James Gunn’s final Marvel-directed movie before committing fully to leading the DC franchise at Warner Bros.

Afterward, Charlie updates listeners on his progress through the Amazon Prime series “The Peripheral” as well as the new cerebral Netflix drama “1899.” The former has proven to be a solid new sci-fi series, but, as for the latter, according to Charlie, it’s off to a rocky start.

At the box office, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever unsurprisingly still took the No. 1 spot over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery debuted on a limited number of screens but didn’t make a big splash. The hosts, who are both huge fans of the original, expect it to do extremely well on Netflix when it makes its streaming debut in late December. But looming on the box office horizon is the juggernaut Avatar: The Way of Water. It’s no question as to whether it will dominate ticket sales when it finally drops; the question is, exactly how much.

Lastly, the hosts cover an article announcing that Amazon has ordered a miniseries to cover the recent collapse of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, to be produced by the Russo brothers. Charlie follows that particular tech sector closely and gives some context for the collapse, and the trend of studios to produce miniseries about similarly spectacular implosions of tech companies like Uber, WeWork and Theranos.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Not rated.
Stars Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Karen Gillan, Sean Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Maria Bakalova, Michael Rooker, The Old 97’s.

Checking in on the Guardians of the Galaxy’s adventures within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is usually a fun time, and their new Disney+ holiday special is no exception.

Written and directed by the Guardians guru himself, James Gunn, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special avoids the cheesy pitfalls of most Christmastime larks, while still managing to inject a dose of sweet sentimentality thanks to Gunn’s offbeat sense of humor and a story that stays true to the characters.

It also serves as a bit of a preview for next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as it was made as a side project during production of the film. It quickly gets the audience up to speed on what the Guardians have been up to since their last appearance in Thor: Love and Thunder, as well as introduces Maria Bakalova as the voice of Cosmo the Spacedog, heretofore a background character but sure to be an audience favorite.

Just because the Guardians are the stars doesn’t mean the special isn’t packed with Christmas cheer. The focus is primarily on Mantis and Drax (Pom Klementieff and Dave Bautista), who decide that their leader, Peter “Star-Lord” Quill (Chris Pratt) needs some cheering up, as he is overwhelmed with work since the Guardians took over administration of Knowhere, the space colony inside a giant alien head as seen in the first “GOTG” film. Their plan is to travel to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon, one of Quill’s childhood idols, whom they believe is a true hero and not just a movie actor. Drax and Mantis are a good pairing within the group, and their misadventures on Earth as they search for Kevin Bacon (who plays himself) are hysterical.

Gunn has delivered one of the MCU’s better forays into television, complete with a hilarious new Christmas song (imagine the holiday as interpreted by weird aliens), and a soundtrack infused with solid holiday tunes.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Propels Marvel Movies Up Digital Retail Charts

The $1.2 billion global theatrical opening for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame has unsurprisingly proved to be a boon for previous entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

On the Apple iTunes store movie sales chart on April 29, all 22 MCU movies were among the top 60 selling titles, with No. 1 being preorders for Endgame.

Including Endgame, Marvel movies comprised six of the top 10, with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War at No. 3, 2012’s The Avengers at No. 4, 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger at No. 6, 2008’s Iron Man at No. 7, and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron at No. 8.

The MCU movies, which collectively have grossed nearly $20 billion worldwide, typically creep back up the charts when a new installment hits theaters, particularly when it’s a sequel to one of the specific character movies (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.). Endgame, however, was positioned as a sequel to virtually every MCU movie that came before it, and the uptick in sales of previous movies was reflected in the anticipation to the latest chapter, which closes out several prominent storylines from the first 11 years of the MCU, which began in 2008 with the first Iron Man.

The effect is even apparent at the box office, where Captain Marvel, which was released in theaters in March, rose to No. 2 at the domestic box office behind Endgame

On iTunes, the weekend after Endgame hit theaters also saw 2016’s Captain America: Civil War at No. 14, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier at No. 16, 2011’s Thor at No. 22, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy at No. 23, 2016’s Doctor Strange at No. 27, 2010’s Iron Man 2 at No. 30, 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming at No. 31, 2013’s Iron Man 3 at No. 33, preorders for Captain Marvel at No. 35, 2015’s Ant-Man at No. 38, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk at No. 39, 2013’s Thor: The Dark World at No. 40, 2018’s Ant-Man at the Wasp at No. 47, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at No. 50, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok at No. 51, and 2018’s Black Panther at No. 59.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The websites of other digital retailers showed a similar effect.

The Microsoft Movies & TV store also had preorders for Endgame as its No. 1 seller on April 29. Infinity War was No. 7, the original Avengers was No. 9, Iron Man was No. 10, Age of Ultron was No. 11, Civil War was No. 12, Captain America: The First Avengers was No. 13, Winter Soldier was No. 14 and a “Captain America” trilogy collection was No. 18.

The Microsoft Top 50 also included 13 other MCU movies, plus preorders for an “Avengers” four-movie collection at No. 41.

Walmart’s Vudu had Infinity War listed first on its “Most Watched” page on April 29, while Age of Ultron and the original Avengers were listed as ninth and tenth, respectively.

On the Amazon.com Amazon Video on demand (rental) list for April 29, MCU movies comprised five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 25, led by Spider-Man: Homecoming at No. 1, Guardians of the Galaxy at No. 2 and Ant-Man at No. 3. The further titles include Captain America: The First Avenger at No. 5, Iron Man 3 at No. 6, Avengers: Age of Ultron at No. 12, Thor at No. 16, Civil War at No. 17, Winter Soldier at No. 24 and Infinity War at No. 25. (Note that Amazon’s website lists high-definition and standar-defintion sales for the same title separately).