Critical Circuit | May 10, 2023 (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Ed Sheeran, Polite Society, Conway the Machine)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Despite having mixed feelings about Marvel, the Guardians franchise has always been a personal favorite within the cinematic universe. It always felt like Marvel gave James Gunn way more creative control than they do with other MCU directors. That feels doubly true now that this is Gunn’s last Marvel project before taking over DC’s cinematic universe. Thankfully, Gunn still feels as invested in this story as ever and wraps the Guardians trilogy up just about as perfectly as he could. The movie takes some shockingly dark turns and delivers more of an emotional punch than the previous Guardians films. Everything involving Rocket is handled brilliantly and really fleshes out on of the crew’s best characters. Chukwudi Iwuji also absolutely nails it as one of the least likable superhero villains to appear on film, chewing on scenery while always being menacing. Gunn’s creative eye and character building is going to be deeply missed at Marvel and this movie really felt like the end of an era for the MCU as a whole. Fortunately, he is leaving the franchise on a high note.

Rating: B+

Ed Sheeran – – (Subtract)

This might kill any of my cool indie cred but it needs to be said. I have never had an issue with Ed Sheeran. Does he have some bland ballads? Yeah. Does he have some awkward pop tracks? Definitely. But at his core, he is just a simple singer-songwriter who produces totally adequate adult contemporary tracks about 70% of the time. My expectations for his final mathematics-themed album were not that high and I can happily say he met them. Sheeran seems to have learned from his mistakes and does not try and incorporate any embarrassing pop or dance tracks on here. Instead, he sticks to the earnest and heartfelt ballads he is best known for. The main issue with this is that a lot of this album can feel pretty repetitive. Even Aaron Dessner’s production does not save this project from feeling overlong and redundant. There are a few standout tracks here like “End of Youth,” or “The Hills of Aberfeldy” but even those do not hit the same highs we have seen on earlier albums. This album will not win over any new fans, and I still would call x his best work, but this also was not nearly as bad as it could have been.

Rating: C+

Polite Society

I went into this movie knowing nearly nothing about it except that it was not going to be in theaters very long. What I did not expect was one of the most refreshing action-comedies of the year. I have no experience with any of the talent in front of or behind the camera but now I feel they all deserve to be stars. Nida Manzoor’s confidence as a writer-director cannot be understated, making a film that borrows from multiple genres and blending it together smoothly. The action scenes are all very well handled, the humor mostly lands, and the characters are fleshed out enough to make it all stick. These types of wholly original genre films are getting increasingly rare and this absolutely deserves any attention it can get. If you’re debating seeing the new Guardians movie for a second time, maybe seek out Polite Society instead.

Rating: B+

Conway the Machine – WON’T HE DO IT

If you are familiar with Griselda Records, you know what you are getting from one of their records. Coming off two incredible releases, expectations were high for the 41-year-old Buffalo rapper to maintain his hot streak. While Conway tries some new, more accessible sounds, I was left wishing he would go back to what had worked so well before. Conway’s verses are all strong, his delivery is always impressive, but there is a level of vulnerability that is missing from this project. Instead, WON’T HE DO IT feels like a soft victory lap after finally seeing success. Griselda fans will get exactly what they want on standouts like “The Chosen” and “Brooklyn Chop House” but those moments are fewer and far between here. I have confidence that Conway will put out plenty of great releases after this, I just wish this had given me a little more.

Rating: C+

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