Thursday, May 4, 2023

Raucous 'Guardians' get to go out warmly; 'Discontinued' lives in AI

Despite some overkill and all that the word entails down the lengthy stretch, "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3" relies on its trusty assemblage of unique characters to get their jobs done for what looks like one last memorable ride.

For starters, a sinister force with ray-gun-like hands invades the space-happy gang's new headquarters in a place called Knowhere. The clever location name probably has nothing to do with "GotG" trilogy director/writer James Gunn leaving the Marvel Universe to co-head the rival DC Studios responsible for Justice League action heroics, but it certainly might fit.

Regardless, the real plot here quickly turns toward key member Rocket (voiced again by Bradley Cooper), with all his loyal comrades -- Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Groot (Vin Diesel), Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Nebula (Karen Gillan), Kraglin (Sean Gunn) and comic rock Drax (Dave Bautista) chiefly among them -- sharing nifty moments in trying to save the life of the gritty, smart-aleck raccoon.

Naturally, the little fellow in jeopardy finally offers up a tender back story to boot, complete with some cuddly former animal friends hounded by a power-hungry High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji from Gunn's "Peacemaker"). 

More highlights include another matching oldies soundtrack, the return of other familiar faces to the ever-crowded "Galaxy," and contributions of humor from Cosmo the Russian Space Dog, as vocally personified by Maria Bakalova. 

As always, franchise loyalists should remember to stick around for the affectionate mid-credits salute to all the departing players, not to mention a giant clue at the very end about future endeavors for "Star-Lord" Quill.

"Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3" officially opens Friday in theaters all over the Planet Earth.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: intense sequences of violence and action, strong language, suggestive drug references and thematic elements; 2:30; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

In a much smaller sci-fi movie realm, "Discontinued" mostly manages to go around in order to come around to some possible AI-induced solutions for a life "buried by anxiety and depression 24 hours a day."

That is how young and sadly suicidal Sarah (the terrific Ashley Hutchinson) eventually describes what she's going through in her daily circumstances, which include unemployment, a best friend (Michelle Yazvac) she can't really relate to, and odd-couple parents (Risa Benson and Bill Sorice) mostly questioning every move she makes.

Oh, yeah, there's also a shrink who never really helps her, either, as portrayed by the only name actor in the tiny-budget cast keenly assembled by first-time feature director Trevor Peckham. It belongs to Robert Picardo (Dr. Zimmerman from "Star Trek: Voyager"), who gets to chew up the scenery in a couple of somewhat zany appearances. Just about after the first one, an artificial intelligence guide (Langston Fishburne, eldest son of Laurence) enters Sarah's troubled life, perhaps during an ill-fated attempt to end it. Or not.

Hey, maybe this AI stuff that so many people are seriously worrying about will not turn out so horrendously bad after all. Hmmm.

("Discontinued" is now available on Apple, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Vudu, and various other Video-on-Demand outlets.)

Not rated by MPAA (but definitely would be an "R" for language); 1:31; $ $ $ out of $5

Also slated Friday for opening theatrical runs: "Johnny & Clyde" and "Love Again."

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