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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Circle fall flat, How to Be a Latin Lover surprises

A scene from the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Pictures / MGN)

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, VOL. 2 (2017)

Score: C

Rated PG-13 -- 136 minutes

Volume 2 starts off great. Full of excitement. Full of wonderful color and special effects. Full of laugh out loud humor. Best of all, we love seeing all of the loveable characters back together again, led by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, and Bradley Cooper. We are truly having fun. Director James Gunn truly can do just about anything. He’s an accomplished screenwriter, novelist, producer, actor, and musician. He is in his groove. And then, as the film progresses, the great start comes to a screeching halt.

To be honest, GUARDIANS kind of falls apart towards the end. You sense that the film is way too long. The humor goes stale. Worst of all, the pacing in the second hour reveals the weakness of a silly plot.

At the end, the Marvel magic returns, but it is too late. Gunn could have easily cut about 35 minutes off of his finished product. No one wants to be disappointed with this sequel. Perhaps Vol. 3 will be better.

This is considered one of the biggest summer movies. It actually leads off the summer movies. By opening in early May with weak opposition, this film will have strong box office appeal and should bring in millions of dollars. I would be surprised if GUARDIANS receives less than an A on CinemaScore. And as so often is the case, we critics will point out the weaknesses while the public will have a good time.

THE CIRCLE (2017)

Score: C

Rated PG-13 -- 110 minutes

At the end of last week's movie reviews, I indicated that some local Las Vegas film critics were frustrated that there was no press screening scheduled for THE CIRCLE. (And I should note that the press screening for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 was scheduled just a few days before the film opened in Las Vegas.) This usually means that the studios are bypassing critical negative reviews in the hope that the film will generate a strong and positive buzz. Exactly one week ago, I sat in a large theater auditorium during the first public showing of THE CIRCLE in Las Vegas. In addition to myself, there were eight other paying customers. There is no mystery as to why there was no press screening. The film is boring and a disappointment. This is not an easy movie to like. I will never understand why Tom Hanks (in a milk toast performance) signed on to do this project.

About 18 years ago, Jeff Jonas was the founder and chief scientist at Systems Research and Development here in Las Vegas. I remember when he addressed the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce Leadership Las Vegas Class of 1999. He opened his presentation by calling out a set of names of people in the class. And he scared the hell out of us. To one person he said, "These are the books that you are reading." To another, "These are the groceries that you bought last week." He continued sharing personal information that included the model of the new car just purchased by yet another class member. Welcome to the world of "Big Brother" in THE CIRCLE.

Yes, our lives are monitored. When I was leading the Nevada Broadcasters Association during the transition to DTV, the federal government was giving out vouchers for a free television converter box. You would not believe the number of people who refused the voucher because they were positive that the box – once inside their home – would allow the federal government to spy on them. Paranoia? Not according to the plot of THE CIRCLE.

THE CIRCLE is an adaptation of Dave Eggers' 2013 bestselling novel. Privacy vs. Paranoia. The film is directed by James Ponsoldt, who was responsible for the underrated THE END OF THE TOUR. That was a pretty darn good film. I cannot say the same thing for THE CIRCLE. Emma Watson does the best that she can. Ellar Coltrane (from BOYHOOD), Glenne Headley, Bill Paxton, Patton Oswalt, and Paul Boyega (Fin in the new STAR WARS film) are also in the film. Even the musical score from the amazing Danny Elfman cannot generate tension or interest.

And for the people who loved the novel, don't expect the same film ending as the book. The theme should have been riveting. The potential was there. The screenplay just wasn't.

A FEW SURPRISES FOR ‘AT THE MOVIES’ THIS WEEK

The biggest surprise of this past week is an unexpected new wonderful small film: HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER. Over the past week, this film pulled in an estimated $12 million in the U.S. and Canada. According to the Los Angeles Times, "such a performance is history-making for the Latino-focused film market.”

The film stars Eugenio Derbez as a man who falls on hard times after a career based on seducing older women. Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, and Kristen Bell are also in the film. Derbez is one of Mexico's biggest stars. The opening box office is even more impressive because the film opened in only 1,118 targeted locations. The Los Angeles Times also noted that "Critics didn't flock to the picture, giving it a 50-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.” But it received an A CinemaScore. In comparison, THE CIRCLE had an 18-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned a D-plus on CinemaScore.

Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST now has company. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS has achieved $1.1 billion worldwide. That is no surprise.

I discovered something quite remarkable about my favorite movie of 2017 so far. THE PROMISE, starring Oscar Isaac as an Armenian medical student and Christian Bale as an American journalist – was financed by Kirk Kerkorian. Kerkorian is the son of a poor Armenian immigrant. Today, this son is a Hollywood mogul and casino magnate who pledged $100 million toward the film. THE PROMISE is now the biggest budget picture ever about the Armenian genocide. As of today, Turkey still has never acknowledged the massacre.

ROBIN WILLIAMS' FINAL FILM PERFORMANCE

It is hard to believe that Robin Williams has been gone for three years. We have so many lovely memories of this wild and crazy man. Each of us certainly has our own favorite films that he starred in. Who can ever forget the words – "Oh Captain, My Captain" from DEAD POETS SOCIETY. We were never sure when (or if) ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING would be released in the United States. The film was released in the United Kingdom in 2015. Hopefully, Las Vegas will be one of the included cities when it opens this spring. It is important to point out that Williams voices the part of a talkative dog. Yes, that's right – a dog! The film also is a reunion of the original Monty Python stars – John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin. Williams died in August 2014, just three weeks after wrapping his scenes.

THE CROWN JEWEL OF LAS VEGAS

The Smith Center is coming off of a spectacular weekend. Erich Bergen brought the house down with his two performances in the Myron Martin Cabaret Jazz. One of the stars of the film JERSEY BOYS as well as his performance in the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, Bergen begins his fourth season this fall in the hit television drama MADAM SECRETARY. Living legend and Tony winner Chita Rivera was treated like a rock star in her Reynolds Hall debut. Rivera was joined by the voice of Broadway – Seth Rudetsky. In the 90 minute performance, Chita sang her classic Broadway songs and answered questions from Seth. From West Side Story to Chicago and Bye Bye Birdie to Kiss of the Spiderwoman – Chita never missed a beat and was rewarded with one of the longest standing ovations in the history of The Smith Center.

Looking ahead to what's coming this summer? Bob Fisher has the blockbuster box office guide to this summer's movie season!

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