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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Blade (1998)

Blade (1998)

Original Theatrical Release: August 21, 1998
Director: Stephen Norrington

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a Vampire/Human hybrid that has all of the vampires’ strengths and none of their weaknesses, and he has vowed to destroy every last one of the bloodsuckers that he comes across with his crazy arsenal of weapons and martial arts training. A vampire named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has other plans for humanity and is tired of vampires having to stay below the surface of civilization, so Blade must put a stop to his machinations with the help of his mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) or else mankind will be enslaved, or wiped out, by Frost and his vampire army.

People often forget about this Marvel movie that came out before the X-Men brought Marvel flicks into the spotlight. It, unfortunately, was left in the dust despite it being a halfway-decent comic-to-movie translation from that era. Based on the comic book title published by Marvel of the same name, Blade does a great job capturing the essence of the original character.

The special effects in this film look a little dated, but other than that, the action dominates in this short-of-story movie that has Wesley Snipes doing what he does best: kicking ass and talking in a deep voice.

The film is flashy and fun, but forgettable. It seems to have regained some popularity as of late with an animated Blade show, so who knows…maybe this will also get a reboot like the original Spider-Man  (My review for that movie linked here) movie did? I think with today’s special effects capabilities and Marvel’s rising ability to make big-budget films, this one could be given a great overhaul.

As it is, most of the actors do their jobs well. Kris Kristofferson is a real badass sidekick for Blade and Stephen Dorff is a really great villain. As said above, Wesley Snipes killed it in this film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Blade

The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors (1979)

Original Theatrical Release: February 9, 1979
Director: Walter Hill

Cyrus (Roger Hill), the charismatic head of the gang known as the Gramercy Riffs, calls a summit for all the gangs to send nine unarmed representatives to. He feels that they shouldn’t be fighting amongst themselves but should team up and take on the police, who would be vastly outnumbered. However, during the summit, Cyrus is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), the chaotic and cowardly leader of the Rogues, who blames it on the Warriors instead. Now with a hundred other gangs out for their blood, the Warriors must bop their way home to Coney Island until they can clear their name.

This movie is based on the novel by Sol Yurick. I have never read the book so I can’t state any differences between the film and the writing. (It’s definitely on my to-read list, though)

What I DO know is that I loved the movie. The gritty atmosphere was very predominant. From the opening scene, you know what sort of world you’re about to inhabit. Graffiti-covered subways, tough-looking gang members strolling down the streets, and the dark but high-energy music heightening the anticipation of seeing what Cyrus is all about as you take the subway with the delegates from The Warriors to the opening scene after the montage/credits at the summit.

The gangs are all really cool and distinctive, from the iconic Warriors and Baseball Furies (Baseball Furies…..picture Marilyn Manson wearing a New York Yankees outfit and swinging a bat at you) to the denim-wearing Rogues, to the dirty, 1950’s gang-looking Orphans.

There is definitely some noir/pulp flash going on in the film as well, and I can really dig that. Also, the fight scenes are really great with lots of slo-mo shots that I thought seemed unusual for the time, but which lent itself to the pacing  of the fights. The main characters died, got dirty and got hurt and you really start to root for them to get home.

This is just one of those movies that sticks with you after you see it (especially Luther’s call to the Warriors to come out of hiding). Once you do, you will see constant references to it by other shows, music artists, video games and even other films. Give it a watch.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Warriors

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick Ass (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: April 16, 2010
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school kid with lots of problems; Girls, unpopularity and no real talents to call his own. One day, after being robbed by some street thugs, Dave decides he’s had enough and creates the superhero persona of Kick Ass. Despite not having any powers or training, he becomes involved in a web of crime and punishment, teaming up with other ACTUAL vigilante heroes like Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and his daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to take down evil crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his loyal son, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Kick Ass is, of course, based on the Marvel/Icon comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. of the same name. The comic book differs a lot with major plot points but generally has the same feel, and both can be enjoyed as separate entities. I loved Kick Ass when it first came out, and I hadn’t read the comic before seeing the movie so I didn’t have trouble separating them from each other.

I have been getting a little bit of Nicholas Cage fatigue with all the films he’s been in lately, but this is one of his better roles. He totally nails Big Daddy, and it’s fun to see him on the screen as a cross between The Punisher and Batman. Chloe Grace-Moretz is one of the best characters in the movie as Hit Girl, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse both do a great job as nerdy guys trying to be heroes.

There is lots of action, very gratuitous violence and some great scenes. Kick Ass’ character is very reminiscent of Spider-Man’s early years, so it was fun seeing a “more” realistic take on a boy just buying a costume and putting it on to fight crime.

See this film, read the comic book. Enjoy both. The sequel is coming out soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Kick-Ass

Django Unchained (2012)

Django Unchained (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 25, 2012
Director: Quentin Tarantino

Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave. When a German man named Dr. King Shultz (Christopher Waltz) shows up and sets him free, he does it on one condition: Django must become his deputy in the bounty-hunting biz. Django just wants to find his wife, the lovely Broomhilda Von Schaft (Kerry Washington) but she is being held as a house slave on a plantation owned by the ruthless cotton king, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Django must match wits and guns with Candie in order to come out alive, much less rescue his wife.

I’d been waiting for this movie for a long time. I kept seeing trailer after trailer and then it was finally in theaters. Right now, It’s my current favorite movie that Quentin Tarantino has ever done. (Replacing Death Proof)

There was a lot of controversy over this film. Spike Lee and Kat Williams and others said it was racist, but the problem is that 1.) They never watched the film and 2.) It was NOT racist, aside from the fact that the 1800’s were racist. Tarantino is not a history scholar, he is a filmmaker, and what he did was create a very badass historical revenge fantasy.

Django is far from being helpless and stereotypical. All the white characters in the film are evil and/or stupid and/or dirty, and they all eventually get what’s coming to them. The only white character who helps Django is Schultz, but he is European and not American. (A very good choice for the purposes of this film…brilliant). The use of the “N-Word” IS gratuitous, but is probably used less than in real life in the 1800’s. I don’t think Tarantino uses it casually, or for humor, but needed to give a sense of how low people thought you were if you were African American.

The performances were all top-notch. Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Waltz and Kerry Washington went all out. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances, and I sometimes don’t even like Leo. I think he’s getting better with age. The music is great also (I want the soundtrack) and the story is very intriguing.

The violence is so exaggerated that during one of the gunfight scenes, I was clapping loudly and laughing as buckets worth of blood was splashed against the walls and floors, small pistols firing with the force of mini cannons and just destroying man and construct in great shows of gunplay.

It was great. Go see it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Django Unchained

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