Guardians of the Galaxy

2014, Marvel Studios

Marvel sure got this one right: a perfect blend of great casting, wildly different, original characters, irreverent humor, non-stop action, and terrific effects, plus a killer soundtrack to tie it all together. I confess the foul-mouthed, ill-tempered Rocket is probably my favorite of the bunch, with the police lineup the best bit. Direction is snappy, and production design is appropriately loud and eye-popping. It's a crazy fun ride you'll want to repeat.

       

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

2017, Marvel Studios

Everyone's back with more of the same—and in this case, the more of same is perfectly fine. Thankfully they didn't tinker with the formula, and maintained the same high production standards. The title sequence is priceless, with Baby Groot dancing to ELO's infectious Mr. Blue Sky while the Guardians do battle with a giant space slug, and the Ravager funeral at the end is genuinely touching. Some critics didn't think it was as "fresh" as the first, but that's probably because we know the main cast now, so the focus wisely shifted to secondary characters such as Yondu Udonta (my fave this time around). I just wish Marvel Studios would stop with the obligatory Stan Lee cameos—they've become annoying; the film comes to a halt as if to announce, OK, folks, here's Stan Lee.

BTW, be sure to watch the gag reel in the extras. I'm a massive fan of outtakes, and this is a marvelous set; Sylvester Stallone delivers the Best. Line. Ever.

       

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