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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Thor: The Dark World (2013)

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Faced with cleaning up Asgard after Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) treachery in the first Thor film and in The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has a huge task ahead before he can be with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) on Earth. Between Thor and his flame on Midgard (Earth) stands Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and the remnants of the Dark Elves, who want to return the universe to darkness. With Odin (Anthony Hopkins) wanting to step down from the throne and his brother Loki imprisoned, Thor must find the strength to stop the Dark Elf threat and return order to Asgard once and for all.

The tricky thing about making a Thor film is to not make it like a Superman film. Unfortunately, while this wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen….it’s just not unique enough to truly set it apart from other superhero films in the genre and it’s definitely not different enough from Man of Steel to set it apart from DC Comics’ much more popular, titular character.

The comic book version of Thor really is interesting. He’s noble and follows a code of honor but can also be a real misogynistic asshole. I mean, he’s a viking. He’s a demigod. He’s a womanizing tough guy with a heart of gold, somehow. So what we have in the movie version is a lame, good-looking, soft, warrior-archetype Superman clone with a hammer and an accent.

While I love Natalie Portman, her character in this film (and in the first) is mostly superfluous and unnecessary. It’s a way to tie him to Midgard, but the chemistry and connection between Thor and Jane doesn’t really exist on-screen and so when Thor wants to return to Earth to be with her, it’s just not believable. They should have focused more on his relationship with Sif (who is much more interesting than Jane, and a much stronger woman character). Whatever time Sif and Thor share onscreen is more dramatic and poignant than time spent between Jane and Thor. (I also want to note that people think Jane’s character is a sexist trope, but Thor is a demigod. She’s meant to be smitten by him. Guys would be equally as smitten by Sif if she showed up, as long as she didn’t disembowel them.)

Thor: The Dark World had the promise of being a more rich and intensive film experience than the first film, but really….it sort of fell short. Loki was the one saving grace of the film, not only because Hiddleston is a fantastic actor but because Loki’s character is allowed to roam free in the realm of human morality. Thor has that ability, too. He’s not just a jock with a hammer. He’s not just an alien demigod with a penchant for eating mutton and bedding babes. He’s Thor. He’s badass. Too bad he really wasn’t in this film.

It’s worth seeing at least once to complete the Avengers tie-ins (and it IS Thor), and there’s kind of a weird/creepy/unexpected cameo bit after the credits with someone you wouldn’t expect to see in a Marvel film. It just should’ve been better.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: May 3, 2013
Director: Shane Black

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), aka Iron Man, hasn’t been the same since the events in The Avengers. After somehow surviving the wormhole and helping to mop up the invading aliens, he has developed post traumatic stress disorder, unable to sleep and letting his tinkering get in the way of his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). When a terrorist calling himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) starts to attack America with a series of explosive attacks and inadvertantly puts Pepper’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) into a coma, Stark issues a challenge to the terrorist, resulting in a chain of events that will force Tony to confront his issues with himself and with his creation Iron Man, as well.

While not my favorite of the three Iron Man movies, this one was decent and I don’t really have much in the way of complaints, aside from a few sequences that could have been more exciting and the ending being wrapped up too neatly.

The film is much darker in tone than the previous movies, and it also deals much more with Tony Stark than it does with Iron Man. He must decide if it’s Tony that’s in control or if it’s  the armor that dictates who he is. It’s a journey of self-discovery for Stark, and Shane Black seemed to be able to capture the inner struggles that Tony is facing since the insane events taking place in The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. was amazing, as always, and likewise for the rest of the cast. We got to see more of Don Cheadle as Rhodes, and his character was developed a bit more in this film than in previous entries into the franchise. Likewise for Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. She wasn’t just cast to banter back and forth with Tony like in the first and second films. Here we got to see her as more of an independent character with her own motivations and goals.

It was neat to see all the different armors, and the special effects were pretty great as usual.

Don’t go into this film expecting straight-on Marvel canon. The storyline for this film, at least part of it, was taken from the Extremis storyline by Warren Ellis….but it has its own spin, as is usually the case with film versions of comic book properties.

Like The Dark Knight Rises, this film was more about the man than the superhero. Keep that in mind, because some people are bound to be disappointed with the lack of actual Iron Man screen time as compared to Tony Stark screen time. However, the journey is worth it. Go see it. It’s a nice cap to the trilogy and should make things more interesting once Avengers 2 rolls around.

JOE Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Movie Trailer For Iron Man 3

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: April 1, 2012
Stations Airing: Disney X D, Disney Channel
Number Of Episodes In Season: 26

Peter Parker (Drake Bell), was bitten by a radioactive spider which granted him spider-like powers such as the ability to crawl on walls and increased strength and agility, as well as an internal warning system he calls “Spider-Sense” which usually lets him dodge incoming attacks.

At the beginning of Season 1, Peter has been Spider-Man for one year. He’s still learning, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) offers to give him training that will make him into the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Spidey can’t refuse. The catch is that he has to lead a fledgling group of other superheroes including Iron Fist (Greg Cipes), Power Man (Ogie Banks), Nova (Logan Miller) and White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love) and show them what ropes he DOES know, and he reluctantly agrees.

The show is a good mix of silly with the serious. Spider-Man has always been about the humor, and Deadpool has sort of taken that away from him in recent years…but Spidey, in this series, acts a bit more like Deadpool than is normal, with constant breaking of the fourth wall. To me, this is a good thing at least in context of the show because the show itself is kinetic and hyper-stylized, and is definitely aimed at a younger audience.

Older fans, don’t worry. I am a long-time Spidey fan and I actually really like this series. The team-up is a strange but cool concept, and there are constant throwbacks to story threads found in the Ultimate Marvel Verse. Spider-Man also teams up with other heroes in different episodes, like Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man and others.

All the staple Spidey characters are there, including Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson.

The action sequences are really well-done, and the humor is usually spot-on. One thing I didn’t really like is how sometimes-annoying Spidey’s voice is. Otherwise, all the voice acting is good.

If you want more serious Spider-Man viewing pleasure, there are definitely other choices, but at least watch this one through the first season because you’ll get a feel for how the rest of the story’s going to go.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Ultimate Spider-Man