After a brief prelude set in 1980 Missouri, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 flash-forwards 34 years, catching up with our motley crew of space travelers not long after we last saw them. This may be the film’s single most-unexpected aspect, because with the action unfurling over the course of only a few days, it’s the first time since 2011’s Captain America: Winter Soldier that a Marvel Studios movie is also a period piece. Granted, three-years-ago may not scream “period.” But in this case, it definitely is, given that writer/director James Gunn’s continuation feels so 2014 that it’s almost as if its audience has been in hyper-sleep for the past 33 months, and is awakening just in time for a new Guardians to start. I really wish I meant that as a compliment.

Movies are endlessly surprising. Take How to Be a Latin Lover. In a sane world, I’d follow that with the Catskills-comedian punchline “Please” – although on the day I attended, others were clearly looking forward to it more than I was. The friendly ticket-counter employee told me how much she loved what I thought were pretty noxious previews for the comedy, and directed me to the auditorium with “Try not to laugh too hard!” (“No problem,” I silently replied.) The incessantly chatty patrons sitting behind me expressed excitement about the impending “pool scene,” which, again, looked astoundingly unamusing in the trailers. Then I saw the film. And damn it if this latest vehicle for Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez wasn’t a sweet, moderately clever outing boasting a peppy spirit, a bunch of inspired performers, and a fistful of truly riotous moments. I swear: Sometimes, this job makes no sense at all.

As an actor in the college’s theatre department, Augustana senior Debo Balogun has triumphed with a number of demanding assignments: the title role in last fall’s Othello; the stylized performance technique required for Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal; the famed “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

But the Chicago native’s weightiest challenge to date might lie in the drama Balogun is currently directing for New Ground Theatre – because by “weighty,” we’re talking several figurative tons.

Friday, April 21, 10 a.m.-ish: It’s another movie morning with my favorite two-year-old (and her dad), but truth be told she doesn’t seem much into Disneynature’s Born in China. Maybe this is due to the relatively sophisticated dialogue, as our charming narrator John Krasinski employs words such as “interlopers” and says things such as “The duality of opposing figures exists everywhere in nature.” But I prefer to think that my young friend is just mighty sophisticated herself, and realizes that if director Chuan Lu’s edu-doc was going to be this cartoonish, it probably should’ve just been animated from the start.

Not to be grossly insensitive, but films such as The Promise – writer/director Terry George’s historical epic set amidst the (still-contested) Armenian genocide of World War I – make me wish there were even more comic-book movies. X-Men: Apocalypse, after all, gave us Oscar Isaac as a world-destroyer, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies gave us Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, and both actors were infinitely more entertaining in those outings than they are in this turgid love-triangle melodrama – a ceaselessly phony piece of “prestige” moviemaking that feels like it’s unsuccessfully aiming for Best Picture of 1985. (The dull movie that did win that prize, Out of Africa, feels like Pulp Fiction in comparison.)

The eighth entry in the Fast & the Furious franchise opens with Vin Diesel’s sensitive bruiser Dominic Toretto winning a drag race in Havana by driving a souped-up beater car ... that’s on fire ... moving backwards. The movie climaxes with Dom and his crew evading heat-seeking missiles in Russia while simultaneously outrunning a nuclear submarine that’s barreling through the breached surface of frozen waters. I can only guess that this series’ ninth outing will begin with Dom and a sneering adversary playing chicken atop an airborne Goodyear Blimp with a bomb on its fin, and conclude with our hero plugging a hole in the International Space Station using only his wits and a half-empty Corona.

On April 22, Rascals Live will host a special acoustic concert with power-rock stalwarts Damon Johnson and Ricky Warwick, whose third album as members of Black Star Riders recently hit number six on the UK charts. Given that they’ve collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Sheryl Crow, and Ted Nugent, you may wonder, after their area performance, how we were lucky enough to find them in Moline. But considering their individual backgrounds, the bigger question is: How were they lucky enough to find each other?

When St. Ambrose University senior Sam Jones arrives for our March 30 interview, he enters carrying what he calls his “rehearsal bag” – a backpack emblazoned with the Green Lantern insignia. “I bring it everywhere,” he says, eventually pulling out a stack of reading material currently aiding him in his title role as William Shakespeare’s Richard III. There isn’t a DC Comic in sight.

Friday, April 7, 10:05 a.m.-ish: To misquote Dickens, 10:05 proves the best of time and the worst of time. The best because I’m currently seated next to my favorite movie-going companion under the age of three. The worst because the movie we’re seeing is the animated Smurfs: The Lost Village, which turns out to be like the live-action Smurfs from 2011 and 2013 if you surgically removed Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jayma Mays. In other words: awful.

Alec Baldwin is currently playing an entitled, petulant, suit-wearing infant – but you’ve seen the SNL sketches, so you knew that already. He’s also playing one in the animated comedy The Boss Baby, and damned if I can determine which of Baldwin’s preening man-children I adore more. Depending on the writing, his satiric pokes at President Trump can land anywhere between one-dimensionally boorish and madly inspired. Baldwin’s titular, Heaven-sent newborn, though, is a consistent vocal riot, even if we’re inevitably deprived of the actor’s physical wit and hysterical deadpan. Director Tom McGrath’s family outing is clever and very funny, but for fellow fans, it’s also a bit like a lost episode of 30 Rock, with Jack Donaghy’s soul magically transferred into the body of his rarely seen child.

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