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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Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Original Theatrical Release: May 16, 2013
Director: J. J. Abrams

It seems that Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) of the USS Starship Enterprise has a hard time reeling in his rule-breaking habits. When he breaks the Prime Directive to save the life of his friend and crew member, Spock (Zachary Quinto) the ship is handed back to Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood), the ship’s original captain. When it seems that Kirk still has a lot of learning left to do, he pulls together when a Starfleet secret emerges to unravel the entire government in a play for revenge in the form of a one-man army, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) – but all might not be as it seems.

This movie is essentially a remake of Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan but there are enough differences that it’s really only the same due to some characters and plot themes. If you’ve seen the original, you may prefer it to this newer incarnation but who knows.

The movie opens with a scene you’d probably find in a Star Wars movie, so I think JJ Abrams has his Star Wars cap on right now in anticipation of the 2015 films. With that being said, I think the same holds true for this second installment as held true for the previous Star Trek film from 2009 – some Trekkies may take issue with the fact that it feels more like Wars than Trek. However,  Into Darkness still has a lot to offer, especially for people like me who didn’t get into the original Star Trek films as much.

My major issues with the film were mostly some spots where terrible acting and some bad sound effects detracted from the action and story. Peter Weller had a terrible scene where I was just laughing because of how ridiculous he sounded during a rant. Also, one fight sequence on a ship made it seem like Abrams was using sound effects left over from Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules television series.

Other than that, some of the character interactions seemed a bit forced and tired, such as the Uhura/Spock dynamic, which I know they threw in because they needed a solid love story (because Kirk’s weird, borderline-bestiality womanizing isn’t enough)…but the dynamic isn’t exactly working because Uhura seems to just let her emotions overtake her while Spock, of all people, does the same – illogical. I was giving it a chance to work after Star Trek from 2009, but it just doesn’t feel right.

Alice Eve as Carol was very appealing to the eye, but her character is really just a plot device. I’m not going to complain about an underwear scene featuring her, other than that it seemed just thrown in there for sexuality’s sake and nothing else. Aside from her role as a plot device and as eye candy, she was pretty useless as a character.

All in all, this was a fun movie. Very good visually (aside from an entire scene with JJ Abrams’ signature lens flare blocking out the characters talking to one another) and I think Benedict Cumberbatch’s acting was the best part of the film. He made a damn good villain, for sure. (Also much less goofy-looking than his predecessor from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan – though they should have used an Indian actor for the role in this one, as much as I like Cumberbatch)

Star Trek: Into Darkness is not the worst Star Trek film I’ve seen, by any means, but it could have performed a little better. Still, it’s fun for a night out at the movies and I don’t regret seeing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Star Trek: Into Darkness

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 08, 2009
Director: J. J. Abrams

James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is a hot-headed young man with a lot of potential. Under the tutelage of Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), he is expected to rise in rank although he sometimes goes against the grain and earns the ire of instructors such as Spock (Zachary Quinto). When the planet of Vulcan becomes endangered, the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise and her crew must come together to stop an evil Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana).

Let me start out by saying that I was never a massive Star Trek fan, so I’m not sure how my review would hold up against a true fan of the original series. I did watch a lot of the original, with Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Spock and Kirk, but it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember a lot of it. I am more familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even then, I’m a little fuzzy on the Star Trek mythos.

With that said, I do have to say that I enjoyed this entry into the Star Trek franchise. Say what you will about JJ Abrams, but the man knows how to direct action. There were plenty of fight scenes to wet the palate, and there is even a Beastie Boys cameo (in the form of music – lest we forget, the Beastie Boys are huge Star Trek nerds) during a cool action scene.

In this first film, the characters (I think) were a little more true to their television counterparts than in the second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I actually liked the casting choices of Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Zachary Quinto as Spock. (And, of course we get to see Leonard Nimoy back as Spock as well. Shhhhh!) I think Chris Pine plays a great Kirk. He is arrogant, a womanizer and indeed looks “corn-fed”. You want to hate him but his charm wins out.

Bana was lackluster as Nero – screaming and full of rage.  The Romulan ship was pretty neat. Not sure I was sold on the Uhura/Spock love entanglement, however.

All in all, this film might frustrate some hardcore Trekkies I know, but people must remember that it’s supposed to be an alternate timeline. Whether or not that helps, I’m not sure. As a non-Trekkie, I found this an easy introduction to the Star Trek characters, and I enjoyed the ride. It didn’t get too involved in the normal political mess (boring) of the television program and instead focused on the action and drama.

(Oh, and the weird thing is that you get to see Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s dad. Yup.)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Star Trek