Stuber (2019)

or “A less-comedic version of Collateral”

Director: Michael Dowse

Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan

Screenplay: Tripper Clancy

93 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout, some sexual references and brief graphic nudity.

 

Yeah, I finally caught Stuber. I was invited to numerous press screenings for this film for months and something always came up. Then, I was available to go to one, and for some reason, I just didn’t. After having seen it, I understand Past Kyle’s decision.

LAPD detective Vic Manning (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Escape Plan: The Extractors) has just learned that drug lord Oka Tedjo (Iko Uwais, The Raid 2, Mile 22) is planning on doing a drop, but he’s just finished with laser eye surgery and cannot drive. He enlists Uber driver Stu (Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick, Men in Black: International) to drive him around the city as he hunts for clues as to Tedjo’s whereabouts. The two quickly learn that they are nothing alike, and Stu desperately wants out of this situation, something that Manning is not willing to do. Shenanigans ensue.

There’s some suspension of disbelief in the action of Stuber, and in comedy, that’s something that can actually work, but the comedy needs to be there to heighten the surreal world, and that’s unfortunately something that Stuber is painfully low on. The only good laughable moments come from Nanjiani, and many of them are featured in the trailer, so you can save yourself about 90 minutes by just watching that. Nanjiani has great comedic timing, and he’s doing his best, but there’s a lot of time in Stuber wasted on funny scenes that aren’t funny and action scenes that aren’t enthralling.

Bautista is trying his best with the screenplay as well, but he doesn’t have the comedic training of Nanjiani nor does he have the acting chops to play ball here. At least not yet. I’ve been very impressed with Dave Bautista’s work in the MCU and Blade Runner 2049 and Spectre, but he’s just not working with a director that can pull that performance from him and he’s holding a lot of this film on his shoulders. They’re big shoulders, but he’s just not ready to do that yet. He’ll get there, but it isn’t in this film.

Stuber has an interesting premise, one that seems topical and could be mined for some great comedy and action, almost like a Lethal Weapon-type buddy-cop film. That’s what I was hoping for, but it just didn’t work. The writing isn’t clever, and the story was very simple (most of the “twists and turns” were easy to see coming or nonsensical), and there’s no flare to the film. It’s very one-note.

Stuber is, sadly, not good enough for its premise and doesn’t make good use of its leads. It’s a film that fundamentally doesn’t work very well and every funny moment was in the three-minute trailers. I really wanted to like it, and it just didn’t follow-through on its premise. This is one to skip.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwich Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt

Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

149 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, language and some crude references.

IMDb Top 250: #37 (as of 9/1/2018)

 

Well, it happened. I almost cannot believe it, but it happened. After 10 years and numerous storylines, everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has culminated in this.

Let me say that word again: culminated. I like that word.

So a lot has happened. I’ll try to sum it up as quick as I can.

Thanos (Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men, Sicario: Day of the Soldado) has one goal driving his very being: to collect all six Infinity Stones. He already has one, but to get the others, he will have to go through the Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, 12 Strong) are quickly dispatched, Thanos sends his minions, The Black Order, to Earth to search for the remaining Earthbound stones while he finds himself facing off with his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, My Little Pony: The Movie). Now, it’s a fight to protect the stones from the increasingly more dangerous Thanos as the Avengers team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, The Child in Time), Spider-Man (Tom Holland, The Impossible, Pilgrimage), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman, 42, Marshall), and others, but do they even stand a chance?

Avengers: Infinity War almost needs to be looked at differently than other films. My goal here and in all my reviews is to look at each within the context that it exists. When I watch a horror film, I look to be scared, thrilled, or shocked. When I watch a comedy, I look to laugh or smile. When I watch a Uwe Boll film, I look to hate myself at the end. Context.

So Avengers: Infinity War needs to be looked at on its own terms as well as how the film changes and shapes the characters in this universe. It’s a season finale of sorts, and it does an incredible job of juggling so many character arcs and stories that have existed within the confines of ten years of storytelling.

Let’s start with the most important arc in the film: Thanos’s. Josh Brolin does the performance capture justice in his work as the Mad Titan. We spend more time with Brolin’s character than anyone else in the film, and for that reason, this is very much Thanos’s film. He’s the protagonist. He is the one with the goal who initiates the action, and our heroes are only trying to stop that mission. He is a believably insane tyrant who moves from planet to planet wiping half of the population out in order to restore order. It’s a crazy idea but he believes it wholeheartedly which makes him all the more frightening. He’s well-written, thoughtful and menacing. There are of course a few similarities to Kurtz from Apocalypse Now or its source novel Heart of Darkness. It’s mostly surface level but it also works pretty well and helped me to understand how his mental faculties would lead him to such a sinister mission.

The rest of the cast get mixed amounts of time, most of them only about 10 minutes onscreen with the biggest characters getting closer to 30 minutes. Thor has one of the better arcs, especially following the opening of the film. He has vengeance in his heart and a plan to stop Thanos. He joins up with Rocket Racoon and Groot to accomplish his mission and it’s an enjoyable and important set of sequences. I would have liked to see a bit more emotion from Hemsworth as the film goes on but he kind of falls back to comedy as a backup.

Mark Ruffalo also gets a lot of time with his journey, especially considering that he spends a lot of the film not being the Hulk. We see a side of both of them that I’m not sure we’ve seen before, and it’s the first time in a while that we see Banner having to deal with not turning into the Hulk.

It’s also nice to give some more time to Gamora, who has gotten some development in the Guardians of the Galaxy films but always as a companion to the others. Now, she has a really interesting relationship with father Thanos. I just wish more time would have been given to further develop the two.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me, and Dupree, Welcome to Collinwood) and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Pain & Gain) developed what was later termed as strange alchemy, the forcing together of characters that don’t usually spend any time together. This idea works really well and is a large portion of what makes The Avengers films so fun and so anticipated. It’s what I’m looking forward to more than anything else for next year’s Avengers: Endgame.

The Russos did a tremendous job of weaving all of these story threads together while never once sacrificing the flavor that comes with each film. I love that they devoted time to ensure their film would not be ruined for viewers who were not there on opening night. Each of the separated groups further the problem that this team works best together but now they are caught up in different parts just trying to plug a leak, essentially, and these directors and screenwriters never let the story dry up or get stale.

Avengers: Infinity War is not a perfect movie. The ending, upon a second viewing, doesn’t really feel like it has stakes (though that may change next year), and some more character development would be much appreciated, but overall it accomplishes its goals and in context of what the film is trying to be, it succeeds in almost every way. This is an event film if there ever was one, and it is endlessly re-watchable. If you haven’t seen the film yet (and don’t kid yourself, yes you have), then what are you doing? Go. Now. Watch it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russos’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017)

Director: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Sylvester Stallone

Screenplay: James Gunn

136 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.

 

Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is now available on home video and streaming platforms, and this film was universally liked but not universally loved. I took another look at it to see how I really felt.

Set a few months after the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Jurassic World, Passengers) and the team find themselves on the run from the Sovereigns when they come across a being known as Ego (Kurt Russell, The Hateful Eight, Deepwater Horizon) who announces that he is Peter’s father and has been looking for him. Peter takes off with Ego and brings along Drax (Dave Bautista, Spectre, Enter the Warriors Gate) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, Live by Night), leaving Rocket (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, Furious 7, Riddick)  to fix the ship and keep an eye on their prisoner, Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, Oculus, The Circle) who is very much alive. While Peter learns much of his heritage from Ego, there is something strangely perfect looming over their time on the living planet while Rocket and Groot are hunted down by the Ravagers led by Yondu (Michael Rooker, Cliffhanger, The Belko Experiment). With the team split up, they soon learn that they are at their strongest when they stick together in this sequel helmed by James Gunn (Movie 43, Super).

Is Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 an improvement over the original? No, but does it have to be? No. I’m tired of these comparisons that say that a sequel or follow-up is not successful unless it surpasses the original. It doesn’t have to. But there are some things that are better. First off, I think the film’s coverage of its secondary characters is better. We get a much better look at Yondu that’s more than the somewhat one-dimensional character we had in the original. Michael Rooker is a masterful and often forgotten character actor and he absolutely shines here.

I also think the obligatory Stan Lee cameo is the best one in his entire filmography, which, at this point, is a pretty impressive feat. James Gunn’s choice to overload the end credits with five mid and post-credit scenes is brilliant and it adds to the insanity. I think overall, Gunn’s choice to embrace the flavor of what he brought to the screen is the winning element of the Guardians of the Galaxy series. You probably saw the music video for Inferno, the Guardians theme, recently, and I love that this kind of marketing and viral social meeting presence is available to fans.

I also felt that the relationship between Star-Lord and Ego is an interesting and complex one. Chris Pratt said in an interview that this film helped him to get over the death of his own father. Theirs is the driving force of the film and everything feeds off it. In fact, this is a film about fathers and the families we create, whether by blood or not (oh, and the de-aging of the devilishly handsome Kurt Russell is pretty impressive).

Things that altogether weren’t as good as they should have been? Really, it’s a small list, but I wish Mantis (Pom Klementieff, Oldboy, Hacker’s Game) could’ve done more. I think we will see more of Mantis later, but I felt like she was underused. I also was never a big fan of the Nebula/Gamora dynamic and I hope more relevance comes to this when Infinity War hits. Then there’s the loss of Nathan Fillion’s terrific cameo. I wish there had been a place to squeeze him in, but the film is rather bloated. Maybe that’s it. There’s so much going on that the film feels a little bloated. Yeah, that’s it.

“I am Groot.” -Groot

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 is a fine film and a fine addition to the MCU. I love these characters and treasure further adventures with all of them. The soundtrack is subtle and important and stays with you long after the film ends (I’m still humming it). Yeah, it’s just a damn fun time at the movies and in that respect, it’s a beautiful experience.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.
  • For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.
  • For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.
  • For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.
  • For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.
  • For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

 

 

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Incredible Blade Runner 2049 Trailer Likely to Capture Fans and Newcomers

So we have our official Blade Runner 2049 trailer. After the interesting for short teaser a few months back, the first theatrical trailer is here and it is glorious.

The trailer gives us our first look at Jared Leto as replicant manufacturer Wallace in a conversation with Ryan Gosling’s Officer K. There are also a few moments showing off Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Ana de Armas, but the trailer focuses heavily on the world of 2049 as well as revealing a bit more of the meeting of K and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

And what a world this is. Set three decades from the original film, the trailer shows not so much a different world but one that has advanced even more since Ridley Scott’s film, and Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t look to disappoint in the awe factor.

So what do you think? Will you be seeing Blade Runner 2049? What’s your favorite Denis Villeneuve-directed film? Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

 

Yes, we survived 2016. We made it! And as painful as 2016 was, there was a lot of great films released.

There were also a lot of stinkers. Here, today, I’ve compiled my list for the Top Ten Worst Films released in 2016. Keep in mind:

  • This list could and should be longer. There was a lot of crap to wade through in 2016, and…
  • I didn’t see every bad movie in 2016. This is a list of the worst films I saw. I didn’t see Gods of Egypt, so you won’t see it here.

Alright, let’s not wait any longer. Here we go:

 

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  1. Race

Race is a movie that shouldn’t be on this list. But it is. Why? It’s boring, it’s cliché, it’s predictable, and worst of all, it shows signs that it could’ve been terrific. What do I mean? The scenes depicting the actual sport of track and field were great, and they pulled me in. Then, the rest of it pulled me right back out. The performances were disappointing because the script was all over the place, and it just didn’t work.

 

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  1. Zoolander No. 2

Zoolander isn’t a great movie as it is, but it was still leagues ahead of this bloated sluggish sequel which pits Derek Zoolander and Hansel against a strange and sinister conspiracy to kill the most beautiful people. There was one scene that made me chuckle involving Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the stuff with Kiefer Sutherland and Sting was great, but there are all these moving parts that just stunk, worst of all is a stupid side-plot involving Derek’s son played by Cyrus Arnold. Zoolander No. 2 is a sequel that proves that maybe we should just let things lie and stop requesting sequels to comedies that are past their prime.

 

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  1. Batman: The Killing Joke

How do you mess this one up? To this point? The Killing Joke is a great graphic novel, and the adaptation for it is not so much. First of all, I found the prologue featuring Batgirl to be filler. I agree that in adapting the novel to the screen, you can do extra scenes that pump up the story, but nothing in that first twenty minutes or so really mattered. It was awful. Once the film started, things improved, but not by much as it squandered its production of a poorly paced film that kind of just falls apart. I wanted more from this, and I thought we’d get it. Sadly, The Killing Joke is not what it should be.

 

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  1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Martin Freeman is great in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The rest of the movie is sloggish and unwaveringly disappointing. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, I didn’t care about their journeys. I didn’t really find investment anywhere, and that just ruined any chance of enjoying the film which runs on far too long without finding a purpose for its existence. Extremely disappointing.

 

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  1. The Huntsman: Winter’s War

I didn’t love Snow White and the Huntsman, but I saw potential in it. When I heard a pre/sequel of sorts was being crafted with Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption fame, I was overjoyed and curious. Then, he left the project, and the screenplay was “retouched” and some random director was found to fill the shoes, and the movie…sucked! It was so terrible. I tried several times to force myself into it, but there is nothing of value in this film. It adds nothing to the mythos and instead comes off as terribly assembled. Heck, it wastes Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. There is nothing of merit here.

 

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  1. Criminal

I should’ve known Criminal was going to be bad. It’s poster and trailers did nothing to excite me. Kevin Costner isn’t really trying anymore.  But there is such an interesting cast put to this film that I gave it a try anyway. That was a poor decision. Criminal is convoluted and contrived, but none of that matters as much as how absolutely boring it is. I couldn’t wait for the runtime to end so I could get up and run from my seat.

 

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  1. Marauders

Marauders, like Criminal, is just flat-out boring. Even Bruce Willis looks bored (granted, he usually does). Marauders plays itself for its twist, and the twist isn’t even good. Beyond Christopher Meloni, who I usually enjoy, the best performance comes from Dave Bautista (no rudeness to Bautista, but he seems the only performer committed to trying here). Marauders had a limited release and for a good reason. It is truly…awful.

 

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  1. The Boss

After Tammy, someone should tell Melissa McCarthy that we’re kind of done now. The Boss, directed by McCarthy’s husband, is boring, bland, stupid, and unlikable. McCarthy again plays the same character we’ve come to know and disdain, but somehow finds a way to make us truly hate her. The Boss is by and far the worst comedy of 2016.

 

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  1. Miracles from Heaven

Don’t tell me that I don’t like religious movies. I don’t like garbage movies. Miracles from Heaven is a garbage movie, pandering to the worst of film. Films can inspire and give hope, but not from excessively depressing plots and horrible writing. Miracles from Heaven is just lucky that it will fade into obscurity and end up the last feature on a 10-movie set you’ll find in the bargain bins of your local Wal-Mart.

 

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  1. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, delivers some dread in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, but it becomes very apparent within minutes, the film doesn’t have a story or a compelling character to walk us through it. There is nothing truly frightening about this film, and the worst part of it all…it is so unrelentingly boring. I shudder only at the thought of this film being suggested to me on Netflix for the rest of my life. That’s the real horror here.

 

So there you have it. The worst of the worst of 2016. Thank God that’s over with.

Is there something missing? Let me know. What did you think was the worst film of 2016?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Dave Bautista Finds the Future, Joining Blade Runner 2?

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Some interesting news this morning, as professional wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista, who has already left his mark on 2 major franchises with Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre, joining the upcoming Blade Runner sequel.

Bautista announced his addition in a very cool way, taking to Instagram to reveal a very interesting picture from one of the film’s most iconic moments. It definitely appears like he’s very excited to be making his mark again, and from what I’ve seen, this is a performer that gets genuinely excited to be taking part in his roles, so good for him. He isn’t going to win Oscars anytime soon, but his abilities are getting better in each role.

Details are still scarce about the plot and Bautista’s role in it, but the film is currently building steam with each new announcement.

Are you excited to see Blade Runner 2? And what long-gestating sequels have you been a fan of? Let me know!

Blade Runner 2 holds strong to a January opening when it lands in theaters January 12, 2018.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2016oscardeathrace] Spectre (2015)

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

148 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”)

 

Well, let me assure you by saying that Spectre is the third best Bond film…featuring Daniel Craig (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin). Okay, I’m playing now.

Spectre opens with one of the single most impressive shots and sequences of the entire Bond franchise, due in large part to the masterful directing of Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Away We Go). Sadly, it is the film’s best moment, and while the rest of Bond 24 is exciting, it is missing something.

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James Bond has lost someone very close to him. In her place, he now has M (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman), who has bigger fish to fry when MI6 comes under political scrutiny. While M and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later…, Southpaw) try to protect the organization, Bond is off to discover the mysterious plans of the criminal syndicate known as SPECTRE, and his connection to its apparent leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Big Eyes). There are a lot of spoilers to stay away from, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Sam Mendes described Bond’s dedication to uncovering SPECTRE as a more focused passion, and if that is the intention, I did not see it. Daniel Craig feels bored in this entry.

Christoph Waltz brings a healthy dose of fear to the villainous Oberhauser, and his henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) feels nicely reminiscent of Oddjob from the glory days of Goldfinger, a much better version of homage than the way Die Another Day beats you over the head with it.

Fiennes, Harris, and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, In the Heart of the Sea) as Q do their collective day’s work nicely, but the film rests far too much on a personal story for James, and Craig’s best work is when he is being tortured.

Director Mendes gives us a gorgeous Bond film, even after losing the incredible Roger Deakins to other projects. In his place, we get Hoyte van Hoytema, who does some better than expected work but fails to properly convey his visual medium to the story correctly. It isn’t easy, and he certainly tries.

In Bond girls, we get some of the most well-crafted Bond girling from Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and some of the most underutilized work from Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Revolutions, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

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Maybe that’s the problem with Spectre. It’s just so uneven. There are some truly incredible sequences, and there are some snoozy moments. It just didn’t keep me the way previous entries have. Not a bad Bond film, but a step down for the franchise, its director, and Craig (who gave us better work this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; oh, you didn’t know that?).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Spectre? What’s your favorite James Bond movie? Let me know!

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Director: James Gunn

Cast: 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

Screenplay: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman

121 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe just keeps on getting bigger. Each film just seems to open up the world a bit more, and with Guardians of the Galaxy, director James Gunn just blew the lid off the whole thing. This movie is huge, epic in scale, absolutely opening doors to further adventures both for these heroes and a whole lot more.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt, Her, Jurassic World) aka Star Lord, an Earthling kidnapped from his home many years previously by aliens. Peter steals a mysterious orb from Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2). Ronan wants it back, badly. Peter joins up with several other degenerate thugs to protect it. Among them is daughter of Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar, Out of the Furnace), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista, Riddick, The Man With the Iron Fists), a walking and talking tree named Groot (Vin Diesel, Fast & Furious 6, Babylon A.D.), and a talking genetic raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, American Sniper). Together, they form the loosely fitting title of the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

First of all, I just want to point out that Chris Pratt takes a commanding lead of this colorful cast of characters. He controls the film and doesn’t falter under any pressure carrying us along. I’ve been saying for a while that Pratt is going somewhere. This film proves it.

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Zoe Saldana is such a beauty; I will never understand why every damn movie has her suiting up in CG of makeup, but the performance here doesn’t suffer, mostly because Saldana requested to wear light makeup so as not to mess with her ability to act. Gamora is a tough character to knock down. Through her relationship with father Thanos (last seen in 2012’s The Avengers in a cameo appearance) and sister Nebula (Karen Gillan, Oculus), she probably has the most connections to tie us into the MCU.

I was actually fairly shocked by Dave Bautista as Drax. I see a former wrestler-turned-actor in a lineup and assume the worst, but that is because more often than not, I am right, but Bautista doesn’t hold us down. He serves the tough guy purpose nicely, and he has a heart in there; the glimpses are just enough to connect to the audience.

Vin Diesel’s Groot is the breakout performance of this film. With three words and seemingly endless permutations, Groot is the source for a lot of the heart and soul of the picture, and his relationship with Rocket is a beautiful thing.

The Collector (Benicio del Toro, Snatch, Inherent Vice) was introduced to us in the post-credits sequence for last year’s Thor: The Dark World, and he serves the purpose of really expanding the Marvel universe. Apart from having the subtle nuances to complete with the other major players, The Collector delivers a lot of big game info in his small role, like the Infinity Stones, certainly something to learn about for future features all over the verse (wait, was that the cube?), as well as giving us some nice cameos of perhaps some future Marvel players (not all, but dammit, enjoy the post-credits scene for what it is).

Now, I did have criticisms for the film. For example, Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser is a somewhat generic villain, very much alike to previous Marvel fare. We as the audience wanted more of Thanos that we didn’t really get. At least the film served a purpose of reminding us that he isn’t really an endgame. Not to mention the fact that the ending builds to a less-than-stellar face-off that could have been used earlier for better effect.

The nicest thing we could be given for this film is that we didn’t have a lot of it ruined by the trailer. More films should take a page from Guardians of the Galaxy and understand that a trailer can be made up of non-feature material.

Before I end this off, I want to point out how impressed I was by Gunn’s choice of soundtrack and how much it actually, surprisingly works. Give it a listen and let it pump you up.

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Guardians of the Galaxy was a Marvel Studios test, and it works. Producer Kevin Feige wanted to see it fans would turn out for some of the more cosmic, out-there characters that Marvel has to offer. And we did. And we loved it. I think you will too.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy? Did this ship take you places or crash land on a strange and disappointing planet? Tell me!

 

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