Guardians Of The Galaxy – (2014)

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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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Bronson (2008)

Bronson (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: March 13, 2009
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Michael Petersen (Tom Hardy) aka “Charles Bronson” is the U.K.’s most violent convict. Based on a true story, this biopic delves into the psyche of a truly twisted individual who was sent to prison for seven years after a robbery at a post office and then managed to up his sentence to over thirty years in solitary confinement due to his violent nature and poor life choices.

Nicolas Winding Refn creates a very snappy and stylized account of this man’s life, treating major points in his life as if it were performance art, while Tom Hardy bravely and brilliantly inhabits the role of Bronson completely and most convincingly with his bald head and handlebar mustache. The feel of this film, to me, was essentially Drive mixed with Warrior.

If you’re not into full frontal male nudity, however – beware…because apparently every time Bronson decided to fight someone in prison he had to get naked to do so. This resulted in a lot of fights where Tom Hardy just swings away, in more than one sense of the word. For me, it didn’t detract from the film because it seemed like a logical thing for Bronson to do and melded with the whole “performance art” theme going on.

For the most part, this film seemed like a vehicle to showcase Tom Hardy’s terrific acting, but the other actors involved played their parts well. Though the film wasn’t straight action, Hardy carried himself so kinetically that it’s hard not to keep watching and be invested and see what crazy thing he’ll do next to get himself into trouble.

This is really a beautiful film, let alone an interesting biopic. Go check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Bronson

 

Drive (2011)

Drive (2011)

A stunt driver and wheelman-for-hire (Ryan Gosling) finds himself drawn to his neighbor, the damaged and vulnerable Irene (Carey Mulligan). Though he is a loner by nature, he ends up in the middle of way more contact than he bargained for when Irene’s ex-con husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), returns from behind bars and “Driver” needs to step in to ensure that Irene and her boy are safe from thugs trying to extort money from the newly-freed con. After agreeing to help Standard with a heist, it goes belly-up and Driver finds his own life in danger as he tries to make his way to the source of all the trouble.

First of all, this movie is based on the novel Drive by James Sallis. The film’s plot and the movie’s plot have virtually the same identical plots but many of the book’s characters have been combined to form singular characters in the movie for the sake of film, which for me, works.

Ryan Gosling is hit or miss with me. I have no doubt about his acting chops, but he often seems relegated to the same non-speaking roles aside from a few exceptions. I was looking forward to his role in this film after seeing him in Lars and the Real Girl, which is the complete opposite of his role in this film. The normal charm and boyish innocence were gone in this movie, which was refreshing, and I think he held up great next to the presence of Ron Perlman. It was nice to see Bryan Cranston in something, since he’s so great in Breaking Bad.

The soundtrack was great and the opening scene was intense and made my heart rate go up, which is a nice achievement. The whole film had sort of a 1980’s feel about it, from the movie’s logo writing to the music and dress. It was neat.

The silence of the Driver character played by Gosling worked in the context of this movie but I’d really like him to go for roles with more dialogue so I can get more of a feel for his acting ability, aside from his great use of facial expression. Still, this movie (like the book) was all about the noir feel….and Driver not having much dialogue and being so mysterious obviously works for this.

Aside from a few minor nitpicks, this movie delivered on all levels. Good action reminiscent of driving scenes straight out of The French Connection….good acting….good story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: June 8, 2001
Director: Dominic Sena

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) just wants a normal life with his daughter, but being a convicted computer hacker is putting a damper on those desires and he can’t afford the legal fees to battle for her custody. In comes Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), a cold-as-ice leader of a counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, who wants to hire Jobson for his hacking skills in order to break into the government mainframes to get a $9.5 billion payoff with old DEA money that’s been in an encrypted account for years. Jobson has to choose to stay clean or break the rules one more time for a final payoff that might just get his daughter back.

First off, we need to get one thing straight: Watching people type on screen is not extremely entertaining to watch, even if there is some dramatic music playing in the background. Unfortunately, typing/hacking sequences are what the movie is mostly comprised of. If the director and writers had included many more scenes with typing only, the film would be much worse off.

There are a lot of logic problems in the film, too,  and I almost hate watching computer-hacker movies because inevitably, they are written by people who seem to know nothing about the internet or computers, at all. Not that I’m an expert, either – but if even I can tell that what they’re doing is ridiculous, then that’s a huge disconnect.

The biggest draw to this film is pretty much the star power, besides the sleaze-factor. We have Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Vinnie Jones, Hugh Jackman and John Travolta who make an otherwise run-of-the-mill film sparkle a bit more than it would have, otherwise.  Most of the characters are pretty intriguing, too – so kudos to the writers and actors for that.

The pacing of this film is actually pretty good (despite my reservations about the typing scenes) and there are lots of cool explosions and some legit-tense moments. Overall, it’s your pretty standard action-thriller without a ton of actual action.

Let me know what you think.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Swordfish