Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

10 Stars

Don’t be fooled by my review.

Guardians of the Galaxy won’t help you achieve enlightenment, fall in love or lose weight.

Especially if you’re the chick who sits beside me, crushing a popcorn tub singlehanded.

But if you’re looking for a great movie this weekend, you won’t find anything better on the big screen. Guardians delivers what it promises, and more.

That being said.

As is always the case with Marvel Studios productions, some won’t enjoy it. Guardians isn’t part of the superhero genre, however.

It’s science fiction. None of the characters are ‘superheroes.’

Technically thus comprises the ragtag band: one human, two aliens (one genetically enhanced), one anthropomorphic raccoon and one humanoid plant.

It belongs in the intergalactic genre; the same barrel as Star Wars and Star Trek.

If that sounds displeasing, you may be in the same boat as the douchey dude two seats down from me.

The opening scene’s a tearjerker, and I’m ‘swept up,’ so to speak.

It takes place on Earth and involves nothing extraterrestrial. At the emotional climax he speaks.

“Is this when the raccoon shows up?” Douchey Dude asks the Popcorn Vacuum.

Not only is it unfunny and in bad taste, it’s illustrative of his mindset. He’s completely unwilling to buy in.

His wrap-up comment post-viewing is, “It was all corny.”

If he’s so above it, why go in the first place?

I try to avoid personal yarns but am endlessly astounded by the behavior of other adults. If you can’t let yourself enjoy the movie, then don’t go see it.

James Gunn, the writer/director is just a great guy. He’s been on the Adam Carolla Show twice recently. He’s enthusiastic, intelligent and wants to do the sequel if the first is received with public favor.

In his latest appearance on Carolla’s podcast, Gunn claims they cast Chris Pratt as the lead when the actor was out of shape. But it’s clear Pratt got physically fit by the time shooting rolled around.

Zoe Saldana is the queen of science fiction. She plays a major role in both of the more recent Star Treks and wears similar makeup in Avatar. Saldana’s phenomenal as Gamora, and you can tell she does a lot of her own stunts.

Plus she’s enchanting. It’s odd how lovable she can be with all that makeup on.

Bradley Cooper is almost unrecognizable as the voice of Rocket, the raccoon everybody’s been talking about. As per the usual, Cooper’s great.

This is Vin Diesel’s second voiceover role as a humanoid being. Not only is he the voice of Groot in Guardians, he’s also the robot in The Iron Giant (1999).

Karen Gillan’s performance is particularly noteworthy. She’s a Scottish actress who’s quite prevalent in Doctor Who, and played a role in last year’s Oculus.

Gillan’s terrifically menacing as the bionic woman. She’s creepy and evil and fits the tone of the movie perfectly. Hopefully we see more of her in the future.

It’s overall a balanced, vastly diverse cast of characters. The sum total of which makes for a well-acted movie.

Guardians does a lot of things right. The writing constantly defies convention and satirizes common sci-fi themes.

For example, when the heroic outlaws ask for help from the authorities, it’s a relief to see their call’s considered, rather than immediately dismissed.

Much like the humorous discussions of plan creation, Guardians masterfully navigates clichés.

Location and contextual details are presented in a cool and efficient fashion. Digital readouts accompany interstellar approach shots of planetary environments as the perspective transitions between settings.

The shooting, editing, cinematography, music and score are all impressive. I think it’s time we retire “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” from all future soundtracks, though. That song belongs to Remember the Titans.

Despite some overcompensating laughter in the theater, the humor is strong and consistent.

Although the end credits leave much to be desired, the opening credits are informative and wildly entertaining.

There is a lot of action, both hand-to-hand and aerial combat. It’s well choreographed and thrilling.

I wonder what percentage of the on-screen material is CGI. It must be upwards of fifty, but it all looks realistic.

My only criticism regards the scene after the credits.

It’s a major disappointment if you don’t understand the reference. I’m almost twenty-five and despite my vague familiarity, I’m still outside the joke.

If the reference is slated toward an audience older than me, why can’t this movie be rated R?

I know all the answers to my question; they’re just infinitely dissatisfying.

And I was hoping for something that gets us looking forward to the sequel.

Regardless. It’s a tiny failure in an otherwise remarkable film.

Guardians of the Galaxy is cute, thrilling and fun.

It’s everything we can ask from PG-13.

Fast & Furious 6 (PG-13)

5 Stars

Perhaps I’ve no right reviewing the sixth movie in a series when I’m only acquainted with One through Three. I am literally so lost at the beginning of this film I can’t even tell you.

I want to give it a shot. I’ve heard from several reliable sources that it’s “not as bad as you’d think.”

I’m a sucker for liking movies of this sort. The X-Men films are the best examples coming to mind.

However Fast & Furious 6 is just as bad as I’d think.

There are a few good shots, a couple cinematic moments. But I was hoping for even more eye candy in exchange for 130 minutes of my time.

I support these efforts. You can tell they’re trying to craft intriguing and believable plot lines.

But try as I might, I simply can’t buy into the story. I think my ineptitude in the automotive universe is what gets me. There’s not enough of the “Wow” feeling when certain cars are revealed.

Paul Walker and Ludacris turn in some of the best acting performances in this film. Sung Kang and Gal Gadot, my favorite characters, are also really great. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson turns in a solid performance for the writing he’s given.

He’s a cop who tears apart an interrogation room while beating up a witness at the very beginning of the film. (It’s at this point I realize that it’s going to be one of those types of movies.)

That Dwayne is turning into quite the acting talent. I appreciate his commitment to the craft. He never mails it in. Good on ya, Mr. Johnson!

Speaking of mailing it in, Tyrese is not up to his usual par. I usually like him, and I know he’s playing a certain character (which might not be written all that well) but his performance detracts from Fast 6. And I’m sorry to say that.

All in all, there are a lot of hokey scenes, and personally I will never revisit the sixth installation. But if you can stomach irksome acting and weak plot structure in exchange for flashy car chases and decent action, more power to you.

Fast 6 clocks in at 2.5 stars for me, positing it in the ‘just barely unwatchable’ category.

So car fanatics; have at it!

Just don’t come crying to me when the acting and storyline aren’t up to snuff.

Beware the spoilers lurking below.

I admire what they’re doing with the Fast & Furious series. They’re trying to keep an elite cast of characters (well-liked by a certain audience) and retell different stories throughout the franchise’s lifetime.

Perhaps it’s time for a prequel. A shorter, more focused tale, that doesn’t take place on such a grand scale.

Enough speculating, because according to the scene during the credit sequence (that’s right, I waited!) one of my favorite characters gets killed at the beginning of the next film. By none other than Jason Statham.

Which is awesome in it’s own way.

But it’s also super lame. For this reason:

I pick up two favorite characters (both relative unknowns) and they both die by the end of the rolling credits.

Why? Because it creates the illusion of plot depth.

There are twists and turns that slightly justify the unbelievable moments (such as Michelle Rodriguez joining the evil squad because of memory loss, or her character asking Vin Diesel if he knew there’d be a car to cushion their fall). In this way, the writers are trying to lessen the effort the audience must put forth in suspending their disbelief.

So during the climactic sequence, a character must die, because how could they possibly succeed otherwise? And in order to tease the next movie, they must kill another character to create tension and suspense.

But in doing so, they’re only willing to let go of the two most disposable characters in the cast.

To me, this illustrates sloppy writing.

My basic, overall reaction to Fast 6 is, “Fine. But can’t this be done better?”