Guardians Of The Galaxy – (2014)

guardians-of-the-galaxy-movie-wallpaper-25

Original Theatrical Release: August 01, 2014
Director: James Gunn

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is an intergalactic outlaw and treasure hunter who calls himself Star-Lord. When he nabs a mysterious artifact in the form of a powerful orb, he discovers that it is being sought after by a powerful individual known as Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace), who will stop at nothing to get it. The orb, as well as Peter’s outlaw status, puts him in contact with other misfits like Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) – all of whom must band together to survive Ronan’s crusade.

Guardians of the Galaxy was always a fringe title. It never really registered with me. I was pretty familiar with most of the characters, especially Rocket, Gamora, and Groot – but Spider-Man was usually the title I gravitated toward with mainstream comics. Maybe some Avengers or X-Men stuff. But not Guardians of the Galaxy. And if they are lesser-known to me and I’ve been reading comics since I was a wee lad, I can only imagine the reactions of some folks to these characters who are new to comics or who have no idea about the franchise. A musclebound killer? A green-skinned femme fatale? A walking tree in desperate need of a dictionary? An angry, anthropomorphic raccoon who fires guns? A sarcastic, egotistical human male flying around space like he’s a badass? Who knew it’d be so good and work so well as a film?

The key to the whole film’s success is the fact that the above characters sure ARE cool – but also the film’s resonance with our pop culture psyches via Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix-Tape that he plays on his Sony Walkman. (He was abducted by aliens in the late 1980’s – long story, and I don’t want to give anything away – so go see the film and see for yourself). The soundtrack had people swaying and bopping their heads in their seats during the showing I went to. It also makes Peter Quill accessibly human. Music is an access point that knows no language boundaries to be enjoyed.

Aside from the interesting characters and the amazing soundtrack, the casting was well done. The only complaints that I really had about the film were actually the villains. The heroes were well-established and had screen time together so that we really felt like they bonded, but Ronan’s motivation was flat and predictable. Ditto with Nebula (Karen Gillan). I would have liked to see more established backstory and/or screen time for those characters. As it is, they are very generic “we want ALL the power” villains. That is a really small gripe, though, because the main focus was really supposed to be on the Guardians themselves –  and Gunn (as well as the cast) not only excelled at that but as of right now, this is my favorite Marvel film to date.

Go see it, and make sure to stay for the end credits for a surprise cameo!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Guardians Of The Galaxy

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Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens #1 (September 2013)

Rat Queens is a monthly comic book published by Image Comics, with writing by Kurtis J. Wiebe (PANZERFAUST) and art by Roc Upchurch.

Hannah (the “rockabilly” Elven Mage), Dee (the “atheist” Human Cleric), Violet (the “hipster” Dwarven Fighter) and Betty (the “hippie” Halfling Thief) – AKA The Rat Queens – have earned the ire of the Town Council of Palisade. As a result, they are assigned to clear out a “nest” of goblins as punishment. When they are attacked by an ultra-skilled assassin during their goblin cleansing, however, they find themselves embroiled in an adventure both more exciting and more life-endangering than before.

I love fantasy books so when I saw this at my local comic book store, I had to at least pick up a couple of issues. I was not disappointed.

If you’re expecting something Tolkien in scope and feel – don’t tread here. Rat Queens is a more League of Legends/World of Warcraft take on medieval fantasy…where fantasy tropes meet real-world sensibilities. However, that’s not to say that the book is all flash and no content. Kurtis J. Wiebe’s writing had me laughing out loud in spots, especially when the assignments were being given to various other themed adventuring groups like the Rat Queens (A sort of emo-styled group of Elves had to go clean toilets).

The art was great, but the real draw of the book for some people will no doubt be the character designs, which are diverse and varied and represent many body types and skin colors – a change from some comic books where you notice the cookie-cutter, ultra-athletic bodies you can only tell apart by the costumes. Roc Upchurch definitely has my respect and attention here because of this.

People looking for a good laugh will get a kick out of the style of humor, while action and fantasy lovers will still get their fair share of fantasy battles and magic. The book was thoroughly enjoyable and I will definitely be following it to see where it goes. It’s off to a promising start, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2004
Director: Jonathan Hensleigh

Frank Castle (Thomas Jane) is an FBI agent who foils a drug deal in which Howard Saint’s (John Travolta) son is killed. Saint is a crime lord of the highest caliber and sets out to punish everyone involved. He discovers that Castle and his family are getting together for a reunion and decides to kill them all. With his wife, son and entire family dead, Castle re-groups and goes on a vengeance-fueled murder rampage against the Saint family in an all out war as the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher.

I was never really sold on Thomas Jane as Frank Castle. I don’t fully know why, but I just wasn’t. I thought Dolph Lundgren looked the part back in The Punisher (1989) but that movie had about as much to do with the actual Punisher franchise as Mickey Mouse. Ray Stevenson, from Punisher: War Zone (2008) was a perfect casting for Castle, in my opinion, but that movie also suffered from severe story problems.

What I wish could have happened was that they took Ray and put him in this movie and then amped up the story and it could have been amazing. Really, it could have!

As it is, we get a glimpse of emotion when Frank’s wife and kid are running from the mobsters but then, after they kill Frank about 80 different ways (beating him senseless, shooting him point blank multiple times and then blowing him up) he is transformed to The Punisher but we don’t really transform with him. He is living in an apartment building with some wacky-yet-lovable neighbors (and also Rebecca Romijn Stamos, because she’s TOTALLY believable as the ‘girl next door’) who are constantly wondering about him.

My favorite parts about this movie were his fight with The Russian and the encounter with the singing assassin, Harry Heck, who sounds and looks a lot like Johnny Cash. Those guys were both taken from story runs that Garth Ennis did in the comic books, so I guess you could say I like the books more than the movie.

Jane’s Punisher is just never quite badass enough, which kind of ruined it for me. Travolta wasn’t too bad, but that’s the problem. We needed more time with Castle’s family so that we cared about them and THEN they should have killed them all off so we wanted to see them avenged. As it was, I just thought they all did incredibly idiotic things while they were being fired at by the mob.

In any case, it’s not the worst Punisher movie I’ve seen and certainly not one of the worst movies I’ve seen in general, but I felt kind of let down. I hope they re-boot this series someday, but I hope they stick with the emotional side of his loss because that’s what’s most effective in the comics and why he’s an enduring character. STORY FIRST, PEOPLE!

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For The Punisher

Wanted (2008)

Wanted (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: June 27, 2008
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

A frustrated office worker named Wesley (James McAvoy) is contacted by a secret organization of assassins who tell him his father, a master assassin, was killed. They want Wesley to join up with them because he, they tell him, has the same superhuman abilities his father possessed.

First off, I’d like to say I don’t hate the film. I’m pretty good at separating a film property, in my mind, from anything it’s derived from so that I can still enjoy both. Books tend to be much better than movies because we can imagine everything ourselves with no budget or anyone else directing the action. I’m a huge fan of comic books so when I first heard about this movie, I was super-excited. I’d read the comics it was based on and it’s great material to draw on for a movie. However, the movie version was only VERY LOOSELY based on the comics.

What happened here, though, is that the movie lost its voice. The first half was great. It was reminiscent of Fight Club, with a strong narrative voice coming from Wesley as he experienced a slew of unfortunate life events. With the second half the focus changed and was lost and it also lost its sarcastic whimsy and became a straight-up different movie. It went from Fight Club to Commando, essentially switching up the momentum at the wrong time.

The character of Fox (Angelina Jolie) was cool enough in the movie, but Angelina was pretty much just channeling Lara Croft. Her character is much better, MUCH better in the comics.

The visuals were the movie’s strongest points, with some amazing Gun-Fu and car chases. Timur Bekmambetov has proved that visuals are his main strength as a director, most notably with Night Watch and Day Watch, and this film is no exception. He has a keen eye for what will prove most exciting to see on screen, with dynamic camera work and cinematography.

It’s just right for a movie you want to pop in and munch on popcorn to for a couple hours.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Wanted