Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)

Title: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Release Date: May 5, 2023
Director: James Gunn
Production Company: Marvel Studios

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have always stood out from the MCU because they are largely untethered from Earth settings allowing them to full embrace the imaginative and weird.  The third (and final?) entry in the series is no exception.  This movie explores the backstory of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and how he was genetically engineered by the mad scientist the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji).  When Rocket is injured his friends can’t heal him because of a kill switch implanted by the High Evolutionary’s corporation Orgocorp.  Rocket’s friends go on a quest to find the code to override the kill switch and in the process uncover the full enormity of the High Evolutionary’s eugenic plots.

The movie does a great job of balancing action/adventure, weird and wild settings (especially Orgocorp’s biological headquarters), and a central message of love and friendship among found family.  All the main characters get some good moments and story arcs while newer characters in the Guardians universe are blended in (I particularly like Cosmo the Spacedog as voiced by Maria Bakalova).  And Drax (Dave Bautista) gets to be a dad again.  Like the other Guardians’ movies, popular music is significant and this movie features a lot of great needle drops expanding the playlist into the 1990s and 2000s.

Rating: ***1/2




Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Title: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Release Date: February 17, 2023
Director: Peyton Reed
Production Company: Marvel Studios

In the third (and final?) Ant-Man movie, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) along with Scott’s teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) and Hope’s parents Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank (Michael Douglas) are transported to the Quantum Realm.  They find that the life forms in the Quantum Realm suffer under the tyranny of an exiled variant of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors, playing a character introduced in Loki) and his enforcer M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll). The fivesome find themselves caught between trying to escape and find a way home and aiding a rebellion against Kang and prevent his ability to conquer other universes.

This movie introduces a wonderful visual feast of landscapes and alien characters reminiscent of classic Sci-Fi movies from the 1950s to 1980s.  It moves quickly, has a lot of action, and typical of the Ant-Man series, is also humorous.  The one thing I didn’t like is the storytelling convention of a character refusing to share their knowledge simply for dramatic effect, in this case Janet withholding what she knows from her experience of spending 30 years in the Quantum Realm.  I’m surprised that this movie has been excoriated by critics and fans.  It may not be among the best of the MCU movies, but it is still very entertaining and fun.

Rating: ***1/2





Book Review: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Author: Kevin Hearne
TitleHeir to the Jedi 
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio, 2015.

This Star Wars novel is set in between the original film and The Empire Strikes Back when the Rebel Alliance is looking for a new base of operations.  Luke Skywalker is dealing with the comedown after his initial success of destroying the Death Star and having no one to train him to use the Force.  Luke is assigned a mission to recover the brilliant cryptographer Drusil Bephorin (from a species who talk about math for fun) who is being forced to work for the Empire.  Accompanying him on his journey is the sharpshooter Nakari Kelen, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who supports the rebel cause.  They fly on her souped-up yacht, the Desert Jewel.

The narrative overall is episodic adventures of Luke, Nakari, and Drusil using their strengths to avoid entanglements with Imperials and bounty hunters.  Uniquely, the story is narrated from the first person point of view of Luke Skywalker, and does a good job of capturing his uncertainty and impulsiveness.  Luke’s relationship with Nakari helps him realize things about himself in his effort to learn more about becoming a Jedi.  They also have an amusing, quippy relationship that leads to romance.  The idea introduced in the prequels that Jedi were like Catholic priests who could have no romantic attachments always bothered me so it’s nice to see it subverted here.

While this novel is ultimately a light and frivolous thing, I did enjoy it.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Boom! by Mark Haddon

Author: Mark Haddon 
Title: Boom!
Narrator: Julian Rhind-Tutt
Publication Info: Listening Library (2010)
Other Books Read by the Same Author:


Recommended books:


50 Years, 50 Movies (1978): The Cat From Outer Space (1978)

I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.



Top Grossing Movies of 1978:

  1. Grease
  2. Superman
  3. National Lampoon’s Animal House
  4. Every Which Way But Loose
  5. Heaven Can Wait

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 1978:

  • The Deer Hunter
  • Coming Home
  • Heaven Can Wait
  • Midnight Express
  • An Unmarried Woman

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1978:

Title: The Cat from Outer Space
Release Date: June 30, 1978
Director: Norman Tokar
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions

The whole 50 Years, 50 Movies project is in a sense autobiographical, so let’s go back to one of the earliest movies I remember seeing in the movie theater.  Star Wars may be the first movie I saw since it was released in 1977 but in my memory it came later (was it re-released in summer 1978?).  In 1978, I remember seeing Heaven Can Wait, Superman, and the Radio City Music Hall premiere of The Magic of Lassie.  I also remembered not being able to see Grease because I was grounded (I didn’t miss much).  But even though I only saw it once as a 4-year-old, I’ve always held a fondness for The Cat from Outer Space.

Well, it’s as cheezy as you might expect from a 1970s Disney movie and stylistically hasn’t changed much since Blackbeard’s Ghost.  Released shortly after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the special effects are lacking, but they’re not really trying to be a special-effects spectacular.  See, there’s this alien cat, nicknamed Jake (played by Rumpler and Amber and voiced by Ronnie Schell), who makes an emergency landing on Earth.  He reveals himself to scientist Frank Wilson (Ken Berry) for assistance in repairing his spacecraft.  In turn, Frank brings in two other scientists, the inveterate gambler Norman Link (McLean Stevenson) and his romantic interest Liz Bartlett (Sandy Duncan).  Meanwhile they are being pursued by the military under General Stilton (Harry Morgan) and an industrial spy named Stallwood (Roddy McDowall).

The movie holds up better than expected and I love Jake the space cat, and Duncan and Stevenson’s performances are charming.  I’m also amused that Stevenson and Morgan are both M*A*S*H veterans playing characters similar to the tv show.  The movie runs a little long and a whole section in which Jake uses his powers to help the win money gambling could be pared down significantly.  But I feel that in the right hands, and with a more charismatic lead actor, The Cat From Outer Space could be remade today as an excellent family film.

Rating: ***



#FridayFictioneers – Best Man’s Toast

PHOTO PROMPT © Jennifer Pendergast

Is this thing on?


Well, Omari and I go back to college. Feels like centuries ago, not just one. Omari inspired us all with his study of neurology and AI.  But he always had time for his friends. Even after he won the Nobel Prize he came to hang out with the gang at homecoming.

When I eulogized him, I said the one thing he never had time for was love.  Today, we see that he’s found a kindred soul in Felicity.

I’d ask everyone to raise a toast, but since we don’t have hands, just say “hurrah!”


When I saw this week’s prompt I thought I saw floating brains and a nervous system at a formal dinner and my mind (firmly encased in my living body) just ran with it from there.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt flash fiction challenge on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple blog.  See additional stories by other writers here!

Book Review: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray

Author: Claudia Gray
Title: Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star
Narrator: Marc Thompson
Publication Info:  Random House Audio (2022)

The third novel in The High Republic series sees the Nihil, a band of pirates lead by the opportunistic Marchion Ro, carry out their boldest attack yet to destabilize the Republic and injure the Jedi Order.  Starlight Beacon, a space station built in the galaxy’s Outer Rim as a symbol the Republic’s culture and unity, is bombed by saboteurs who leave few options for escape and rescue.  The station splits in half, and the better part of the novel involves the actions of the Jedi and others aboard the lower half (including the saboteurs and Nihil prisoners who were on board) to save themselves and others before it crashes on the planet below.  To make matters worse, Ro has placed creatures known as the Nameless aboard the space station who have the power to dampen the connections the Jedi have with the force, effectively making them fight blind.

The novel reads like a disaster movie, like The Poseidon Adventure or maybe even Apollo 13, as the protagonists work to find solutions to cascading failures. I feel like I’m getting a better sense of the main characters than I have before, although there are several new characters introduced who make the proceedings confusing.  Claudia Gray has the advantage of having the backstory established for her, but I also feel she’s the most engaging writer among the three books.  My two favorite characters, Jedi padawans Bell Zettifar and Burryaga Agaburry, get to team up in this book, and assuming the unclear fate of one of these characters is cleared up, I hope they get to be partners again in future novels.

This novel ends the trilogy on kind of a down note, with the biggest victory being that the people of the Republic come together to aid in the rescue and are unified by the disaster.  But it’s still a major defeat for the Republic and the Jedi.  I haven’t been able to figure out if the story is supposed to continue or how it fits in The High Republic extended universe which includes middle grade and early reader novels as well as comics (including one that has the story of what happens on the upper half of Starlight Beacon).  Not sure I have the time or interest in reading them all to see if I’m missing any of the story but I will look for additional novels in the adult line if and when they’re published.

Rating: ***1/2

#FridayFictioneers – The Fair Pole

It was the bottom of the 5th in an otherwise uneventful game between the Tigers and the Royals when fans in the right field bleachers noticed something out of the ordinary. A viral TikTok post summed it up: “Holy crap! The foul pole’s become sentient!”

In an interviews with KSHB News, the pole noted “When a fly ball hits me it’s a homerun so I’m actually a fair pole.”

Seeking greater fulfillment in life than watching baseball games and with a keen sense of right and wrong, the fair pole was later appointed a judge at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt flash fiction challenge on Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ Addicted to Purple blog.  See additional stories by other writers here!

90 Movies in 90 Days: Strange World (2022)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Strange World
Release Date: November 23, 2022
Director: Don Hall and Qui Nguyen
Production Company:Walt Disney Pictures | Walt Disney Animation Studios

I’d wanted to see this movie in the theaters but was very busy in November and December, and then suddenly it was streaming.  I finally figured that I won’t be seeing it on the big screen so I gave it a watch.  The latest animated Disney feature explores familiar themes in a, um, strange world.  In a land called Avalonia, Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is an explorer intent on discovering what lies beyond the mountains surrounding their country.  His son Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal) is content to live the life of a farmer and discovers Pando, a plant that provides a power source for Avalonia.  Searcher’s teenage son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) has more of his grandfather’s eagerness to explore.

So we have two fathers who want their son to follow in their footsteps, and two sons who a resentful that their fathers won’t see them as who they really are.  The three come together, along with Ethan’s mother/Searcher’s wife Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union), in an adventure beneath the surface of Avalonia as they seek to learn why the root of the Pando plants appears to be dying.  There’s a twist to the story that felt easy to anticipate, although it’s still makes the “strange world” an interesting concept.  The visual design would’ve been worth seeing on a big screen, for sure.

Strange World is a perfectly cromulent movie, which while it doesn’t stand on par with other Disney animated movies of the past decade, it also didn’t deserve to be a box office bomb.  I guess it could stand to be even stranger than it is and the father-son relationship story didn’t need to be pat.  There’s something about Disney when the reach out into higher concept stories like The Black Cauldron, Dinosaur, or Atlantis: The Lost Empire where they just miss the mark of something that could’ve been great.  Who knows, maybe Strange World can be the source of fantastic attraction at Epcot one day.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Release Date:November 11, 2013
Director: Francis Lawrence
Production Company: Color Force | Lionsgate
Summary/Review: I hadn’t intended on watching this movie for my 90 Days project, but my younger child has got into reading The Hunger Games book series and we ended up watching the first two movie adaptations. I’d already reviewed the first film ten years ago (!) but had never gotten around to watching the rest of the series.

The movie shares some problems it has with the book in that it squeezes two stories into one narrative.  The first half deals with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) dealing with the trauma of surviving the Hunger Games while on their victory tour, as well as somewhat forced love triangle involving Gale (Liam Hemsworth).  In the second half of the movie, Katniss and Peeta are returned to the Hunger Games after trickery by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) having all the tributes drawn from surviving victors.  Throughout the story there is burbling of rebellion but as it’s told from Katniss’ point of view we don’t see the planning of that rebellion.  This makes sense from a dramatic point of view although it does seem unfair to Katniss’ character.

All that being said, this movie is well-done and balanced in its approach which could easily drift to far in the directions of exploitation and inspiration.  It’s also packed with stars in supporting roles such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, and Amanda Plummer.  Sam Clafflin and Jena Malone appea as Katniss’ allies Finnick and Johanna and are both good in their roles.

Rating: ***1/2