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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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