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In Theaters Now: 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2,' 'Risk'


And it is time to talk movies with our intrepid film critic Kenneth Turan. And, Kenny, I think one of the great things about being based at NPR West now is I get to do these conversations with you in person, which is awesome.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Yes, face to face.

GREENE: Face to face. So we're asking you to do something that almost seems impossible. I want to talk through a new comic book blockbuster and move right to a new documentary about Julian Assange (laughter). Is that a transition we can make?

TURAN: We're tough. We can do it.

GREENE: We're tough. We can do it. So the blockbuster is the sequel to "Guardians Of The Galaxy," a movie I loved - Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper is a raccoon and, of course, Vin Diesel playing a tree, who just said this.


VIN DIESEL: (As Groot) I am Groot.

GREENE: So it was an unlikely hit...


GREENE: ...But good.

TURAN: Yeah, no, I enjoyed the first film enormously. I mean, it was, as you say, a film that no one saw coming. In fact, it was so off the wall for Marvel that at the bottom of the poster they said from the studio that brought you "The Avengers." They wanted people to know that they could really trust this film.

GREENE: Yeah, well, how's the sequel?

TURAN: The sequel, you know, it's got some charming things. Chris Pratt is back. Kurt Russell plays his father...

GREENE: Oh, cool.

TURAN: ...Which is a major new character. And Kurt Russell just gets things just right. The music, the soundtrack, as you know, is very important to these films.


TURAN: The soundtrack is excellent. But overall, you know, I was dissatisfied. The magic isn't there. Kind of things that were refreshing and off the wall have become dogma, have become carved in stone. It's like they doubled down on everything that was good so much that you, as the audience, want to pull back and say not so much.

GREENE: Doubling down, so what really bothered you here?

TURAN: Well, in the first film, everyone bickers. They don't like each other. And in this film, they bicker so much it gets tiresome. You just want to send them to a family counselor.

GREENE: (Laughter) You end up not liking the fact that they don't like each other.

TURAN: Exactly.

GREENE: I'll set expectations low. I'm still going to go see it.

TURAN: (Laughter) I wouldn't discourage it.

GREENE: OK, well, let me move to the documentary about Julian Assange. It's called "Risk." It's from Laura Poitras, the director who did that big documentary about Edward Snowden, right?

TURAN: Yeah, she won an Oscar for "Citizenfour." And, you know, this film is almost a sequel to itself, an earlier version of it played almost exactly a year ago at Cannes. And she has gone back into it. She's made major changes, and it feels like a different film.

GREENE: Were the changes good? I mean, did she improve on it?

TURAN: Yeah, it does improve on it because the first film was a little worshipful of Julian Assange. And this one is much more - she's more questioning. She brings up things that have happened since the first film was finished. And she has such amazing access to him that even though the film was a bit of a mess, it goes all over the place, that you see and hear things that are just amazing. And for me, it was worth seeing just to get that access.

GREENE: Is that weird for a version of a film to play at one of the festivals and then for it to be totally different when it's released?

TURAN: It's really unusual. I mean, it's more with documentaries and other films. They did a documentary on the situation in Egypt that was re-done that way after events change. But it's highly unusual and never been as different as this one seems to be.

GREENE: OK, my favorite question to ask you always - what's a movie on your mind that I should definitely see this summer?

TURAN: Oh, my God, this summer it's "Dunkirk." Christopher Nolan, who's one of my favorite directors, did that great Batman trilogy, did "Inception," and he's doing a World War II movie about the Battle of Dunkirk. You know, a war movie from Christopher Nolan - I can barely imagine it, and I'm really looking forward to it.

GREENE: All right, then so will I. That is our film critic Kenneth Turan, who reviews movies for both us at MORNING EDITION and also the LA Times. Thanks, Kenny.

TURAN: Oh, great to be here, David.