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.

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‘Borat 2’ Co-Star in New Netflix Comedy From Judd Apatow

These are heady days for Maria Bakalova, the Bulgarian actress who jumped from anonymity to a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy playing Sasha Baron Cohen’s underage daughter in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. The 24-year-old Bakalova is now set to co-star in Judd Apatow’s upcoming movie The Bubble for Netflix.

The comedy is about a group of actors and actresses stuck inside a pandemic bubble at a hotel attempting to complete a film. The ensemble cast includes Karen Gillan, Iris Apatow, Fred Armisen, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key,  Leslie Mann, Pedro Pascal and Peter Serafinowicz.

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Judd Apatow

Apatow, whose credits include Emmy-winning The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, movies The King of Staten Island, TrainwreckFunny People, This Is 40Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, will serve as director, co-writer and producer via his Apatow Productions.

Barry Mendel, Donald Sabourin and Pam Brady will serve as Executive Producer. Together, Apatow’s and Mendel’s producing credits include the Academy Award nominated films The Big Sick and Bridesmaids.

 

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

STREAMING REVIEW:

Amazon Prime Video;
Comedy;
Rated ‘R’ for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.
Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Maria Bakalova, Dani Popescu.

The hilarious sequel to one of 2006’s most-surprising hits sees the return of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, the wildly inappropriate journalist from Kazakhstan who constantly challenges America’s cultural taboos.

In this long-awaited follow-up, we learn Borat was thrown into prison as punishment for the worldwide humiliation Kazakhstan endured from the first film. However, hoping to get in the good graces of President Donald Trump, Kazakhstan’s prime minister frees Borat and sends him on a mission to deliver a bribe to a U.S. government official.

The gift in question? Borat’s own daughter, Tutar (newcomer Maria Bakalova), who wants to become the next Melania.

Borat’s first objective is to deliver her to Vice President Michael Pence, which he attempts to do by crashing a conservative conference dressed as Trump. When that doesn’t work, he sets his sights on delivering her to Rudy Guiliani, leading to the much hyped and overblown scene of her interviewing him in a hotel room.

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Cohen is up to his usual on-camera shtick of acting the fool to elicit awkward responses from people he’s not too fond of politically. With the Borat character now widely known as a result of the previous film, he has taken to wearing a series of disguises to hide his identity.

From this setup, a couple of subplots emerge. The first finds Borat growing closer to his daughter as she becomes wowed by the wonders of America. The second is Borat dealing with the growing coronavirus pandemic, which serves as the primary backdrop for the film and provides some surprising cameos and plot twists.

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Bakalova gives a spirited performance as what amounts to a younger, female version of Borat, and the father-daughter relationship turns out to be kind of sweet, despite all the inappropriate things they say and do in public. As with the first movie, the filmmakers’ willingness to do anything to upend polite society leads to a lot of laughs, but nothing touches the uproarious levels of the naked hotel fight from the first movie (which led me to literally fall out of my chair in the theater from laughter).

The arrival of the sequel also serves as a reminder that an American Blu-ray release of the original film is long overdue.