Guardians of the Galaxy (Movie Review)

 

Am I alone in thinking that Ronan’s face paint makes him look kind of adorable?

Sooo……Better late than never!?!?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Franchise: Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tenth installment)

Genres: Superhero, Science fiction

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael  Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro

Music by: Tyler Bates

 

 

Plot: Twenty-six years after he was abducted and adopted by a group of intergalactic space pirates led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), now a fully-fledged outlaw, has gone rogue, trying to steal a mystical orb of sorts and hopefully make some money off of it. However, his plan hits a snag when he is sent to…Uh, space prison, I guess, by the famed Nova Corps of Planet Xandar. While in the clink, he meets several interesting characters, namely a notorious assassin named Gamora (Zoe Saldana), a hyper-violent, vengeful badass named Drax (Dave Bautista), a tough-talking, trigger-happy genetically altered racoon bounty hunter named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and finally, Rocket’s sweet-natured sidekick, a giant talking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel).

Yes, Marvel greenlit this movie instead of, say, a Black Panther or Captain Marvel movie. Two years ago, that line of reasoning was kind of confusing to everybody, wasn’t it?

Anyways, this motley group of intergalactic rejects discovers that this orb has a little bit more to it than being a shiny thing they can sell for cash, and they must travel across the galaxy in order to keep it from falling into the hands of a genocidal maniac and terrorist, Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) and his henchmen, Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou).

This month, Marvel and Disney proved that not only can they adapt pretty much any D-list product from the annals of Marvel’s archive into a movie, they will also make a shit-ton of money off of it, and get every critic to cream themselves over it. The movie is a soli 92% over on Rotten Tomatoes and is on pace to become the highest grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and Canada, although it’s still expected to fall short of the billion dollars that Transformers: Age of Extinction made internationally.

Thanks for that, China. Fucking assholes.

So, once again, the question must be asked: Do I think that this movie as good as the critics say? Or is it just a overrated, overblown corporate CGI turd that somehow brainwashed critics into liking it?

Of course I loved it. I’m not made of stone. There are a couple big flaws though, so let’s get them out of the way first.

The first time I saw this film, I was kinda thrown off in the first act or so, as the pacing is kinda, well, sloppy. I just felt that there was too much crap being thrown at the audience to the point where the first thirty minutes or so feel busy or cluttered. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from then on, though. I guess the key is to just watch the movie multiple times until you get to the point where it doesn’t bother you any more.

One recurring fault that seems to, unfortunately, be becoming a trend in Marvel movies, is a lack of a really compelling villain (Loki, Winter Soldier and Red Skull notwithstanding). Unfortunately, Guardians doesn’t really do much to distinguish itself from the herd in this sense. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Ronan, per se. Lee Pace’s performance is great, and he feels threatening enough (If you discount the emo makeup, I mean), but his backstory doesn’t extend much beyond him being a crazy extremist. He’s good for some fine scenery chewing, but not much else. Especially when us Marvel nerds know that Ultron and Thanos are just around the corner. However, for all my carrying on about the villain, I honestly think it’s a minor problem at best. Why? Because it’s incredibly obvious that he was never ever meant to be the focus of this movie. He’s only ever onscreen when the audience is in need of some exposition, or when he’s interacting with one or more of the Guardians.

Which brings me to the main characters. As much as the special effects are fantastic, the score is phenomenal and the movie, in general, is hilarious when it wants to be and pretty heavy when it wanted to be, the best part of the entire movie is anything to do with the Guardians of the Galaxy themselves. I already kinda liked the characters, thanks to my prior knowledge of the comic book series (Albeit, not the classic ’08 series. Just the recent series.), but I downright fell in love with them in this movie. Hell, I’m already planning my Star-Lord costume for Halloween! I haven’t gotten this excited about that silly holiday since I was, like, eight and dressed up like Harry Potter!

Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord is great, and while I admit that I had my doubts about him, those opening credits absolutely killed, and extinguished any worries I may have had about him. Think Han Solo crossed with Peter Venkman, and you’ll probably end up with a good idea of this character. Also, there’s a pretty cool backstory connecting him to the awesome, 80’s infused soundtrack of this movie, so listen up for that.

I liked Zoe Saldana as Gamora, in her millionth role as an alien, and her thousandth role as somebody with an unusual skin pigment, and her character had some pretty great backstory, although when listening to her dialogue, I kind of got the impression that they weren’t sure whether to make her a more modern, witty heroine (Like Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, for example) or a more stoic, eloquent badass, like her teammate, Drax. Ah well, that’s just me nitpicking, I suppose. It worked fine, and I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of Drax, I was kind of worried that Dave Bautista would be the only weak link among the fantastic cast, considering that he doesn’t come from an acting background, and is better known as the wrestler and MMA fighter Batista, and wrestlers don’t exactly have a long and storied connection with non-wrestling visual media.

Case in point.

However, Bautista blew away my expectations. It’s not like he’s Oscar-worthy or anything, but he was irreplaceable in the part of a character who, surprislingly, isn’t merely there to kick ass and take names (Although don’t worry, there’s plenty of that too). He has some of the best lines in the movie, in terms of both comedy and drama, and he displays some pretty impressive comic timing.

And I’m not just saying that because he could mangle my puny ass, although it does play a part.

My two favourite characters though, are the consensus picks, though, being Rocket and Groot. Oscar-nominated Bradley Cooper was an odd choice to voice a tough talking CGI raccoon bounty hunter and, I’ve gotta admit, it kinda smelt liked casting a celebrity for the sake of casting a celebrity. However, not once during the movie did his voice ever take me out of the movie (As even he best celebrity voices are wont to do), and he really disappears into this character.

I really love Vin Diesel as adorable Groot too. Weirdly enough, a lot of the criticism of the movie has to do with Vin Diesel voicing a character who only says a handful of different words. Could another actor have voiced Groot? Eh, maybe, but I think that Riddick did a fantastic job conveying emotion and conversation in such limited dialogue.

And besides, who doesn’t love Vin Diesel?

Overall: I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Avengers, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic sci-fi adventure that, while not faultless, is still probably the best movie of the summer.

Face it, you could do worse.

Rating: 9/10

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Movie Review)

Guess which one of these characters gets the most screen time! Go on, guess!

I am, for the most part, completely bereft of 80’s nostalgia. Set aside Nintendo games, the Dead Kennedys,  and The Empire Strikes Back and there aren’t much things from the Reagan era that I really attach myself to. That’s not all that surprising, considering I was born in 1996.

Weirdly enough, the 90’s are my jam.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  is one of the things from that decade that kind of falls by the wayside in my mind. I’ve never seen a full episode of the 80’s cartoon show, read an issue of the comic book, or even seen an episode of the most recent Nickelodeon series (Although I did enjoy the 2003 show, even if it never hooked me) and there are so, so many movies I’d rather watch than the goddamn Turtles movies.

Except for this one, apparently.

Having literally nothing better to do, I decided to grace the South Edmonton Common Cineplex Odeon with my illustrious presence to catch a matinee showing of the Michael Bay-produced critical failure (Albeit, resounding box office success), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had pretty low expectations for this movie (Michael Bay notwithstanding) but I thought that maybe some of the negative feedback had more to do with nostalgia than anything else. I didn’t think the movie would be great, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was hoping for a good time, at the very least. Hell, maybe it could have surprised me! Maybe it could have gone down as one of the most underrated movies of the summer of 2014!

But nah, the fanboys are right. This movie kinda blows.

 

   Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman

Produced by: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Galen Walker, Scott Mednick, Ian Bryce

Screenplay by: Josh Applebaum, André Nemec, Evan Daugherty

Based on: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman

Genres: Superhero, Action, Comedy

Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete     Ploszek, Danny Woodburn, Tohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg, Minae Noji

Voices of: Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Music by: Brian Tyler

Plot: In New York City, crime is on the rise as the Foot Clan, a group of people that are apparently ninjas, but act more like the bad guys from Die Hard, are running rampant. April O’Neil (Megan Fox) researches the Foot Clan in depth, but is discouraged from doing so by her partner (Will Arnett) and her boss (Whoopi Goldberg), who want her to stick to her stupid puff pieces. One night, she happens upon a Foot Clan heist, which is stopped by a group of vigilantes, barely visible in the shadows. After doing some more digging, she discovers that these vigilantes are not human, but are, in fact, a quartet of adolescent, genetically modified turtles (Moody Raphael (Alan Ritchson), leader-y Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), carefree Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and nerdy Donatello (Jeremy Howard)) who are trained in the art of ninjitsu by their sensei/father figure, an elderly genetically modified rat known as Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who live in the New York City sewer system, and are secretly fighting against the Foot Clan, unbeknownst to the general public.

If you had absolutely no prior knowledge of the existence of this franchise, that last sentence would seem pretty damn stupid, wouldn’t it? Until it rakes in millions of dollars, I guess.

One of the few positive points of this movie has to do with the supposed protagonists of the movie, the Turtles themselves. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, when the Turtles are on screen, the movie becomes ten times better than it is when the human characters (More on them later) are. The motion-capture was done very well (Although there were moments when it seemed distractingly CGI’d), they’re surprisingly well-written (Albeit very occasionally stupidly immature) and the voice acting didn’t take me out of it either. I never once thought “Oh, that’s obviously a voice actor doing the voice, merely, “Oh, that’s a turtle talking” (As insane as that seems out of context). Even having a bona-fide star (Sorta) like Johnny Knoxville voice a character didn’t distract me, as he did a pretty fine job. That said, it might also be because Leonardo has the least screen time out of any of the characters. Weird, right?

As for their appearance, I’m a little iffier on that, just because their faces look kinda hideous. True, it’s hard to make giant, genetically altered reptiles look appealing, but they could’ve done better than the combination of Shrek and the Abomination from The Incredible Hulk that they ended up with.

Also, as much good as I have to say about the turtles, Master Splinter looks like complete shit. I think he’s more likely to inspire nightmares in children than Mr. Miyagi style wisdom. Also, and there may be unimportant spoilers coming up here, they alter the backstories of the turtles and Master Splinter quite a bit in this movie, making Splinter not Japanese at all. He is not Hamato Yoshi, he is not Hamato Yoshi’s pet, he is just an ordinary lab rat who happened to learn ninjutsu from a book, which seems incredibly improbable, by the way, but I don’t think anybody int the movie theatre gave a shit by the time this was revealed.

Godammit, teach me as you taught the Tony Shalhoub-rat!!!

 Anyways, if he was never in Japan, how the fuck did he get a Japanese accent? This is a relatively minor point, but would it really be terrible if he had an American accent, considering that Tony Shalhoub, An American actor (A damn good American actor) is voicing him? Did he really have to use such a cartoonish Japanese accent when the only real connections to Japan that this movie has are Shredder, Karai and William Fichtner’s collection of Japanese art or some such bullshit?

Actually, to hell with my “not a minor point” remark. This is actually a pretty big freaking deal. I may not know much about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but I do know about Wikipedia, and something smelt kinda fishy about sensei’s origin story, specifically his relationship with the film’s supposed antagonist, the Shredder. In the comics, Splinter was the pet rat of a ninja master, Hamato Yoshi, who was exiled to New York for some reason or another. Splinter learned ninjutsu from copying Yoshi’s moves, which is pretty fucking silly, but y’know, so is this whole franchise. Anyways, Shredder tracks down Yoshi and murders him, leaving Splinter to wander the streets of New York, where he is eventually mutated along with the turtles.

In the original show, they toned it down a bit to make it more kid-friendly, so in this case, Splinter was Hamato Yoshi, and he was framed by Shredder for attempted murder, so he went to the Big Apple and lived as a transient until he was mutated, along with the turtles. Anyways, both origin stories work, because they connected Splinter to the main antagonist of the franchise, the Shredder, which makes for a pretty cool rivalry between Splinter and Shredder.

However, when that backstory is eliminated from the movie, not only does it eliminate the need for Tony Shalhoub’s strange accent, it also deflates any and all of the potential dramatic tension in the fight scene between Splinter and Shredder, as the potentially great scene has become a run-of-the mill fight between two cartoon characters, one of whom is a weak villain  that might as well have been a robot (Shredder in general was a total Bay-gasm), and one of whom is an abusive, disgusting giant rat who we’d only be cheering for because the plot told us to, I guess. The only emotional investment in the scene I had came in the form of the Turtles’ reactions to the fight, as I actually kinda liked them, whereas Splinter was just an old, creepy weirdo. It’s kinda sad when the only somewhat real emotional response comes from the supporting characters isn’t it?

By the way, you didn’t misread that last sentence. In a movie named Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the title characters take a backseat to April O’Neil and her pet driver.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I have an anti-Megan Fox agenda…

Shit, how could I?

..But do the filmmakers really expect me to believe that she was the best actress to play a character such as April O’Neil? Granted, she isn’t exactly a damsel in distress in this movie, and at least they tried to give her some sort of backstory and importance to the plot rather than just an object for the teenage boys in the audience to drool at until their overactive hormones balance out.

However, she’s SUCH a boring character, and I was already tired of her five minutes into the movie. I don’t wanna see Megan Fox interview a fucking dockworker, I want to see bipedal reptiles beat up ninjas!!! IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK!?!?!?!?

And I love Will Arnett, but to really let an actor as funny and charming as him to excel, he needs to be given funny lines, and I think Michael Bay got too much input into dialogue for the human characters because  Arnett just comes across as dull, awkward, and an unnecessary character. I really feel like a dick saying it, because it looks like he and Megan Fox are doing their very best to make something out of their boring-as-shit characters, but no dice.

On the plus side, William Fichtner is having a blast His character sucks, and his lines are cheesy crap (“Drain all of their blood! Even if it kills them!”) but he just doesn’t give a damn. Man did I love him.

One moderately common complaint I’ve hear about the movie is that it could have used more input from Michael Bay, or would have been better as a Bay-directed film. First of all, the action scenes are already pretty damn enjoyable and solidly directed (At the expense of the rest of the movie), and second of all, have you SEEN Revenge of the Fallen??? I’d be up for not letting him come near a movie ever again.

Overall: The turtles are pretty damn cool, the action is great and that one elevator scene is fantastic, but overall, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is purely a way for Michael Bay to finance his cocaine habit by becoming even more rich (Some would say “stupid rich”). You’re better off seeing Guardians of the Galaxy for the tenth time.

Rating: 5/10

As improbable as it is, Megan Fox is actually less impossibly curvy than the original April O’Neil. Go figure, huh?

Robin Williams: In Memoriam (1951-2014)

“I heard a joke once. Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels alone in a threatening world. Doctor says ‘Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor… I am Pagliacci.’ Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains.”   -Rorschach (Watchmen)

I swear, I’m not gonna cry while typing this. Here goes.

At 1:02 PM on Tuesday, American Academy award-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams  was pronounced dead at his house in Tiburon California. Pending investigation, the Coroner Division of Marin County suspects the death to be a suicide via asphyxiation, as he was battling severe depression in the time leading up to the incident.

To be completely frank, I think I might’ve grown up a little bit past Robin William’s heyday. It’s not like he was inept in the 21st century or anything, he still gave great performances, for the most part, but in recent years, for every World’s Greatest Dad , there were at least a couple RV or Old Dogs thrown in there. There might’ve been a TV show somewhere in there, but it got lukewarm reviews and got promptly cancelled.

Thankfully, my parents are Robin Williams fans and introduced me to some of his stuff from the glory days, like Good Morning VietnamDead Poets SocietyGood Will Hunting and so on. I fell in love with the guy immediately, although one kids movie in particular really sealed the deal for elementary school me.

Popeye.

Nah, just kidding, it was Aladdin.

Personally, my favourite Robin Williams movie is Good Will Hunting, while his best performance was in Good Morning Vietnam, but that’s a topic for another day.

The tragedy of Robin Williams got me thinking though: What was it about him that made such a large group of people spanning multiple countries lose their collective minds (Myself included)? Well, in my humble opinion,  think it was because Robin Williams represented the uncle we all had, or all wish we had. A funny, irreverent guy who always emitted a very friendly, approachable aura.  It helps that he was a nerd too, and was especially a big Legend of Zelda fan (Even going so far as to name his daughter Zelda, which, admittedly, isn’t that outlandish of a name). Check out this commercial that he did for the 3DS Ocarina of Time revamp.

It makes me so sad that someone who brought so much joy to so much people suffered with enough internal demons, enough to make him take his own life in what I imagine to be a rather gruesome and painful manner. I would go on a rant about the people who would scoff at Robin Williams for his unfortunately successful suicide attempt, but this is neither the time nor the place.

In conclusion, I’d like to offer as much condolences as possible to his family and friends, and thank Mr. Williams for making so many people around the planet laugh themselves silly and for making this world just a little bit more awesome through both his charitable work and his all-around decency as a human being. He truly was one of a kind, and Planet Earth is worth off without him.

Fuck, I swore I wasn’t gonna cry.

Top 5 Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains- Part 1of 4

It took me a few minutes to make completely sure this wasn’t just photoshopped Tea Party propaganda.

A couple of days ago, I had the immense pleasure to watch the newest installment in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t want to get too much into it, as I plan on writing a formal review after I watch it once more, because holy crap was that movie awesome, but I will say that one of the very few shortcomings of the movie was the unspectacular villain, Ronan the Accuser. The so-so baddie ended up working well with the movie, and I’ll get into why some other time, but it got me thinking about the different villains in the MCU, and I realized that aside from Loki, there aren’t many that get a ton of love. It’s not usually through any fault of their own…

Though there are exceptions.

… I just find that maybe the moviegoing public doesn’t find them quite as interesting as, say, Heath Ledger’s Joker, Jack Nicholson’s Joker or Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. Hell, even Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin is remembered for all the  more than, say, Obadiah Stane from Iron Man, albeit for all the wrong reasons. So, in order to both celebrate the new movie, and to throw Marvel Studios a bone (To go along with billions of dollars in worldwide gross), I decided to count down my top 5 favourite MCU villains.

First of all though, I limited myself to only villains who were the main antagonist in one of their film appearances. Therefor, villains like the Abomination, the Mandarin and Nebula, who were being created or controlled by a “puppet master” for lack of a better term, are not included. All clear? Good. Let’s start with 5 and 4 on our list.

Also, I may possibly go into spoiler territory, so be aware of that.

5. Aldrich Killian

Winner of “Most Punchable Face” at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Appearance: Iron Man 3

Portrayed by: Guy Pearce

The founder of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics), Aldrich Killian had the misfortune to be diagnosed with a debilitating disability. To overcome his handicap, he injects himself with a virus of his own creation, Extremis, which not only cures his disability, but ends up giving him heat-based superpowers. Instead of doing something awesome with that power…

Seen here: Doing something awesome with that power.

…Killian uses his high intellect to manipulate the Vice-president into doing… Well, something. I don’t remember shit about the whole conspiracy, and all I really remember from the movie was that there was  less to the Mandarin than you thought, Pepper Potts still sucks, and Shane Black has still got it.

Also, Robert Downey, Jr. called a young boy a pussy, so you know, that’s pretty awesome.

In all honesty, it was kind of a crapshoot for the number five spot between Thunderbolt Ross and Aldrich Killian for the fifth spot, but I finally went with Killian because of the reveal of just exactly how diabolical and complicated his power-grab was (I Google’d it between paragraphs). The problem is that he didn’t really do much to distinguish himself, even with his badass skill set, and, for fucks sake, he let Pepper Potts kill him. So, yeah, he barely gets on this list ahead of Thunderbolt Ross (Whom I barely remember) and Ronan (Who I’ll get into later).

To be continued…