Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Movie Review: Expendables 3 (PG13 – 126 minutes)

The first Expendables move was a fun novelty throwback to the over-the-top action movies of the 80s and 90s, with the larger-than-life heroes and absurd action sequences where the hero inevitably triumphs over the bad guy.  Sylvester Stallone wrote the movie, directed the movie, and contacted all his old buddies to see if they would want to come hang out and shoot some stuff.   The first one was silly, ridiculous, and entertaining.  The sequel compounded on the novelty of continuing to add action people, with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing the villain named Villain (seriously). There is no subtlety in these movies, everything is on the nose. 

Much was made of the off-screen conflict between Sly and Bruce Willis prior to making Expendables 3.  In Expendables 1 and 2, Willis played the shady CIA agent that gave Barney and his bunch of Expendables their missions.  This allowed him to ride around in a Smart car with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2, shooting things and trading one-liners.  Sly asked him to come to Bulgaria to shoot for four days for this one, and Willis said he would for $4 million; Sly said he’d give him $3 million, and Willis refused.  Sly stated he was “greedy and lazy”, and offered the role to Harrison Ford instead.  Yes, that Harrison Ford.  And, it was a great choice.

The plot for this one – again, does it matter? – is that Barney and crew break out ‘Doc’, one of the original Expendables team members (apparently the crew we have come to know and love in the last two movies is the second set of Expendables), from the prison he’s been in for the last 8 years.  They then immediately head off on a mission that was once again brought to them by shady CIA agent “Church” to stop an arms dealer, which falls apart when Barney and Doc recognize the dealer as another member of the original squad, Stonebanks, who is supposed to be dead.  Barney realizes he and his current team are old and worn out – so he visits another old friend, Bonaparte, to put together a bunch of youngsters to go after the dealer.  They do – they fail – the kids all get captured, so Barney has to take the old guys to go back and rescue the kids and defeat the bad guy.  Simple and straightforward.

Since the plot matters very little, the cast is the key and the reason this movie is such a fun piece of popcorn nonsense.
  • Sylvester Stallone plays Barney Ross and is again grumpy, old, stiff, and difficult to understand.  None of that is a complaint.  He basically is playing himself –and the neck injury he suffered on the first Expendables is still evident, because he has that “wearing a Batman cowl” type head movement.  You know, where you can’t turn your head, so if you want to look around, you have to turn your whole body.  Hey – more power tow him for still making these after having a severe neck injury.  He does a decent job, but I did find myself perplexed by how after three movies of acting like the current squad were his brothers, he would suddenly drop them when he felt the situation was too dangerous. 

  • Jason Statham plays Lee Christmas, and he really has so much less to do in this movie than he did in the first two.  He basically hangs around and says a couple of smart-ass remarks.  He didn’t really get a big fight sequence in this one, which is a shame, but hey – with any luck, we’ll get another Transporter movie.  Maybe we’ll get a third movie with him and Jet Li after The One and War.

  • Harrison Ford plays Drummer, and honestly, I cannot remember the last time I saw him enjoy himself in a role like this.  He looks like he is having the time of his life.  All the jokes in this movie are directly on the nose – there is no subtlety in an Expendables movie.  So, when he first shows up as the contact instead of Willis’s Church character, he tells Barney that Church is “Out of the picture”, get it?  He spends the first half of the movie in a suit grumping orders at Stallone, but for the climax, trades the business suit for a flight suit, and heads to his helicopter (which, as you know, he really can fly), and joins in the action with the same little grin that you’ve missed for the last 30 years.  He steals the last third of the movie.

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Trench again, and he’s still a walking cliché of his old trademarks, but for some reason, that fits on him.  He hangs out in this one, trying to alternately talk Barney in and out of things, and teams up with Drummer and YinYang to assist at the end.  I would love to have overheard some of the conversations he and Ford had on set.  Just imagine the things those two could talk about.

  • Mel Gibson plays Stonebanks – and I really really hate to say this, but he’s fantastic in this movie.  Listen, a few years ago, Mel slipped and finally revealed his inner sexist, racist, asshole self to the whole world.  I completely lost all respect for him (I never really had all that much).  I will acknowledge that while I can’t stand Mel Gibson, his performance in this movie is really great.  He’s a fantastic villain; I’m actually a little surprised he hasn’t done that more.  There is one particular scene where Barney thinks he has Stonebanks captured, and Mel gets to launch into this crazy monologue while Stallone just stares at him, and you remember that once upon a time – this dude was a legitimate movie star.  Also – kudos to Stallone for just letting Gibson go in that scene, and not trying to ‘act’ opposite him.

  • Wesley Snipes plays Doc and I can’t tell you enough how happy I am to see him back on the screen.  Again, Wesley Snipes himself had some issues (spent three years in jail for tax evasion – and has an ego that is almost unrivaled), but I have always loved his action movies.  Drop Zone, Passenger 57, The Art of War, and the Blade movies are all amazing.  To say nothing about the action comedies he did with Woody Harrelson.  He has an incredible action presence, he’s a great fighter, and he owns the front third of this movie.  The sequence from them breaking him out of prison to the mission immediately afterwards is all his, and he does such a great job.  Get on Blade 4 – let’s get that moving, and please work it into the larger Marvel cinematic universe (can you imagine how awesome it would be to see Blade growling at Iron Man?).  Also – there is the very on the nose joke when Couture and Lundgren ask why he was in prison – he says “Tax Evasion”, ha ha – get it?

  • Dolph Lundgren plays Gunnar, the mad Swede – and really is just there to be large and intimidating.  That works just fine in this movie, and he does a great job at it.  He gets less to do in this one, but I am still happy to see him.

  • Randy Couture plays Toll Road, and that ear is still all cauliflower-y.  He also has less to do this time around, but is still large and intimidating.

  • Terry Crews plays Hale Caesar, and must have had a scheduling conflict because he’s only in the front third of this movie.  He is so unbelievably charismatic that I wish he was in more, but I will have to wait until the next movie.  Or until the next Old Spice commercial.

  • Jet Li plays YinYang, and doesn’t get nearly enough hand to hand combat moments (he’s Jet Li for crying out loud!  Let me see him fight!  Never mind, I’ll just watch Hero again).  The movie did make me remember the American introduction of Jet Li in Lethal Weapon 3 (or 4?), which I bet you had forgot about.  He didn’t have any scenes with Gibson in this, and mainly hung out with Schwarzenegger and Ford in the helicopter.

  • Kelsey Grammer plays Bonaparte, and I really enjoyed his brief part in this.  He basically is just the guy who walks Stallone around and introduces all the new guys.  He gets all the exposition and does a great job at it.  He surprisingly fit well with Stallone and I would be interested in seeing them work together again.

  • Glen Powell plays Thorn, I am not familiar with him, but he was very entertaining and charismatic as the ‘tech’ guy/rock climber of the young group. 

  • Antonio Banderas plays Galgo, and while not young, he’s new to the movie.  He absolutely steals the middle third of the movie (first third = Snipes, middle third = Banderas, last third = Ford).  He plays an aging Spanish soldier who is looking for work, and keeps submitting to Bonaparte, and keeps getting passed over.  His scenes where he simply will not shut up while working with Stallone are great, and if you never saw Assassins, or you just don’t remember it, check that out again.

  • Victor Ortiz plays Mars, and is about as good as you expect a pro boxer would be in an action movie.  He’s fine, as long as his dialogue is minimal.

  • Ronda Rousey plays Luna, and likewise to Ortiz, is about as good as you would expect a champion MMA fighter to be.  Similar to Gina Carano in Haywire (watch that if you haven’t) she looks great, has the physicality, and the fight sequences are awesome, but is not great in the dialogue scenes.

  • Kellan Lutz plays Smilee, and is actually pretty good in this.  He gets a pretty big intro, and it seems that he is being set up as the leader as the next group of young Expendables if they go that direction. 

Overall, it’s super entertaining.  I know there were a lot of grumbles about it going to PG13 instead of R like the previous two Expendables.  But honestly, that didn’t bother me at all.  I can do without them shooting bad guys and having the bad guys literally explode in fountains of gushing blood.  The language wasn’t overly terrible in the others, so it’s pretty much the same here.  There’s just a lot less blood.  They don’t shoot any fewer guys – they still seem to be blowing away half an army, but the guys just bleed a lot less when shot.  It’s weak on plot, weak on acting, but big on the inside jokes, the great action, and super fun entertainment.  If we get another one, I will want Carl Weathers, Danny Trejo, and probably Jesse Venture involved.  However, Stallone keeps saying he wants to do a female version – which would be awesome, and I think starts with Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, Pam Grier, Lucy Lawless, Angela Basset, Lynda Carter and Cynthia Rothrock. 

9 out of 10 – I liked it way better than the 2nd one, and almost as much as the first one.  Gained points for Snipes, Banderas, Ford, and Gibson’s performance (but not Gibson himself).  Lost points for Rousey not being a good actress.  I really wanted her to be, but she’s not – not yet anyway.  Gained points for the insane amount of tanks at the end, and setting the climax in an abandoned hotel/casino that they could just blow up.  But – lost points in missing an obvious joke (not sure how they missed, they included a bunch of others) – Snipes was wandering through was used to be a casino, and at no point is there a “always bet on black” line.  Bummer.
Bonus Video 1: Demolition Man – the reason Stallone wanted Snipes in all three Expendables movies, but had to wait until this one, when he was ‘available’. 

Bonus Video 2:  Assassins – the reason Stallone wanted Banderas in this movie.

Bonus Video 3:  It was Lethal Weapon 4.

Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Movie Review: The Hundred-Foot Journey (PG – 122 minutes)

The Hundred-Foot Journey is a novel that was written by Richard C. Morals and was first published in July 2010.  It told a story about two restaurants in Lumiere, France and uses the hundred foot distance between the restaurants to represent the gulf between different cultures.  It’s a story that easily translates to the visual medium, and since people love movies about food (did you see Chef yet?  Rent it as soon as it comes out on DVD on September 30th), it was an inevitable choice to make a movie. 

The director of this movie, Lasse Hallstrom (Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules, Casanova, and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), also did one other super beautiful food-type movie based on a book, Chocolat.  That one was changed slightly from the book – and I have to say, I liked the movie better, it had a happy ending; the book didn’t.  

I do not know how much different this is than the book, but the movie is charming and entertaining.  The story begins as Hassan and family are entering Europe after living in England for some time.  They had left India after losing their family restaurant in a fire.  The fire also took the life of Hassan’s mother, who had taught him how to cook. As they are traveling, the car breaks down just outside of the tiny, picturesque French city of Lumiere (is it the same village from Chocolat?  It looks like it).  Papa (that’s the only name he’s given in the movie) decides to stay and buy an old abandoned restaurant across from a super-fancy elite French restaurant with one Michelin star, run by a stuffy French lady.  From this point on, the movie pretty much proceeds as you expect it to.  The family prepares the restaurant with the intention of bringing traditional Indian cuisine to this rural French town.  They begin with an inevitable friction-filled relationship with Madame Mallory who owns the fancy place across the street.  At first they struggle to get customers, but eventually build a following. 

Hassan inevitably gets sweet on the young woman who works for Madame Mallory, Marguerite.  Hassan wants to learn the classic French cooking styles, and after Marguerite tells him Madame Mallory can tell with one bite whether or not someone will become a great chef, he becomes determined to get the chance to impress her.  After the one inevitable racism scene (Madame Mallory basically suggests war, then gets upset when her head chef acts on it); and the inevitable semi-reconciliation that happens afterwards, Hassan gets the opportunity to cook for Madame Mallory.  Hassan goes over to study in her restaurant, where he inevitably becomes a star, which then gets her another Michelin Star, then he goes on to work in a super fancy Paris restaurant to try to get them another Michelin Star.  Along the way, he inevitably realizes that he is lonely and that his super fancy cooking has no heart.  While he is away, Papa and Madame Mallory strike up an inevitable friendship.  At the end (spoiler alert) he heads back to his family, and settles in to work with Marguerite….Inevitably.

The movie is fun and touching – and predictable, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  I never mind predictable if the execution is still at a high level.  In terms of the food itself, it looked lovely, but this movie didn’t make me nearly as hungry as the movie Chef.  The cast is pretty fantastic.
  • Helen Mirren owns this movie top to bottom and is extraordinary as Madam Mallory.  I wondered if the fake French accent would bother me, but it didn’t.  Her absolute genius shows in the moments when Madame Mallory’s carefully crafted icy exterior begins to thaw and she is forced to show how she really feels.

  • Om Puri plays Papa, and he does a beautiful job.  He creates a character who is stubborn and determined, but also genuinely loving with his family.  I particularly enjoy once he and Madame Mallory find some common ground and grow closer.

  • Manish Dayal plays Hassan, and is basically the star of the film.  He’s young, attractive, and certainly capable of carrying the picture.  More impressively, he can go toe to toe with Helen Mirren.  His emotions show clearly on his face, which works wonderfully in this movie, especially near the end when he realizes he has everything he could have dreamed of, but it’s not really what he wants.

  • Charlotte Le Bon plays Marguerite and she’s really French.  She’s impressive in the movie because Marguerite ends up being very layered.  She’s at first very helpful to Hassan and his family, then as starts working in the same kitchen she works in, she grows jealous that the ascension through the ranks comes so easily for him. 

  • Amit Shah plays Hassan’s older brother Mansur who has to step into the cooking duties after Hassan goes across the street.  He basically serves as comic relief through most of the movie – arguing with both Hassan and their father.

  • Farzana Dua Elahe plays Mahira, Hassan’s sister, she has very little to do – but I did enjoy the one scene where her father encourages her to stand in the street in front of their restaurant and smile to bring in customers, it’s well-done and pretty funny.

  • Clement Sibony plays Jean-Pierre, the head chef in the kitchen of Madame Mallory’s restaurant.  He’s perfectly arrogant and evil, and really never strays from that one-note.

The movie is well-crafted, and certainly fun.  It moves quick, and while it is exceptionally predictable, it is entertaining.  Overall, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.

7 out of 10 – not nearly as good as Chef.  Gained points for the scenery, lost points for Hassan moving on so quickly.  Gained points for when Hassan realizes he should come home.  Lost points in that really, I felt like there was not enough food in this food movie.  Gained points for all the market sequences, those were fun.
Bonus Video 1:  Lasse Halstrom’s Casanova – a great performance from Heath Ledger in a really entertaining movie.

Bonus Video 2:  Chef trailer

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Movie Review: Hercules (PG13 – 98 minutes)

Hercules is a legend from ancient Greek Mythology who was the son of Zeus and the human Alcmane.  Because of this, Zeus’s wife Hera continued to torment Hercules all his life, sending snakes to kill him as a baby, sending him on 12 insanely difficult ‘labors’, and driving him mad enough to kill his own wife and children.  The legend has been told and retold in art, stories and movies.  Good News – this movie is better than you were expecting; bad news – it’s still not that great.  There are some commercials that are claiming it is the “role Dwayne Johnson was born to play”.  I have to disagree with that.  I feel that he is best in action-comedies, and there not really enough comedy in this sword-n-sandals piece.  

This Hercules movie, coming out about 6 months after the Kellan Lutz starring “The Legend of Hercules” from earlier this year, was directed by Brett Ratner.  He is another “director” who started his career by directing music videos.  In case you are not familiar with Brett Ratner, he’s the guy who did X-Men 3 – yes, that guy.  He also did the Rush Hour movies (the first one was fantastic!  But then there were more.) and Tower Heist.

The movie is based on the graphic novel “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” written by Steve Moore.  The story tells of the man Hercules was before he became the legend history would remember.

This movie follows Hercules and his band of merry men (seer Amphiarius, knife-thrower Autolycus, amazon Atalata, mad-dog crazy-guy Tydeus, and Hercules nephew/storyteller Iolaus) in about 1400 BCE as they cruise around ancient Greece, acting as mercenaries, and taking whatever job they can for money.  As they travel, Iolaus acts as hype-man, going ahead of the group, telling the stories of Hercules’s 12 labors, slowly building his legend of the super-strong half-god son of Zeus, and hopefully getting townspeople inspired enough to want to spend more money on hiring Hercules and his crew.  The epic battles you see in all the trailers of Hercules completing his labors (facing the Nemean lion, the boar, the Hydra, etc.) are really all just parts of one flashback as Iolaus spins the tale to build the legend.  Nice work marketing department, you hoodwinked us again.  Meanwhile, Hercules is fighting his own internal demons regarding the death of his wife and children back in Athens – the rumor is that he killed them after being driven insane by the goddess Hera because he was a constant reminder of Zeus’s infidelity.  Whether or not that is true, they are all dead – he’s not – and there were no witnesses.  That  didn’t look too good for him, so the people blamed him and apparently chased him out of Athens.

The band encounters the lady Ergenia who wants to recruit them to come help her father, Lord Cotys,  free Thrace from a ruthless encroaching warlord named Rhesus, who may or may not have a cursed army filled with demons and centaurs.    Once they arrive in the town, they learn that the Cotys’s army is untrained farmers and townspeople.  Hercules and posse agree to help train the army.  Cotys doesn’t heed Hercules’s warning to wait until the army is trained and takes them to face Rhesus, promptly walking into an ambush.  Hercules tells Cotys, “I told you so”, and Cotys agrees to let the crew do more training.  They regroup, try again, and the second time, end up capturing Rhesus, who is not actually running an army of demons and centaurs (that was disappointing).  While being lead into the city to be publicly mocked, Rhesus warns Hercules that things are not as they seem, and that maybe he should take a second look at Cotys and his situation.  Well, Hercules has started to get sweet on Cotys’s daughter, so he digs a little deeper and decides to stay to sort things out, even though Autolycus is all about moving on with the payment.  At this point you get one of those scenes that is in every movie with a hero and group of supporters, where the others proclaim their loyalty, and choose to stay and fight (even die!) by their leader, except Autolycus definitely throws a curve by taking off with the money, because he is the smart one.  Eventually, Cotys reveals his true colors, and his true ally – who just so happens to be the king of Athens.  This guy has some information explaining why Hercules keeps hallucinating Cereberus (the three-headed hound that guards hell) when being haunted by the deaths of his family.  Hercules and the gang get imprisoned, where Hercules finally accepts that he probably is the son of Zeus, just in time to free them all and take on the army they trained.  Oh, and Autolycus pops back up at a crucial moment to help the crew out when they need it.

If you remember the “Legendary Journeys” TV show (which made you want to visit New Zealand long before you had even heard of Peter Jackson), the names Iolaus and Autolycus are familiar to you, but because there were added to that show from legend.  However, where that show was silly and fun, this movie tends to take itself a bit too seriously, with a couple of exceptions.
  • It absolutely is a Dwayne Johnson movie (I am still going to call him the Rock, okay?).  The hair and beard look ridiculous, but he does a great job with the role.  He certainly is a hero, and he’s a great movie star, and once he finds the right movie he’s really going to be amazing, I just don’t think this is it yet.  As I said, I would prefer he be given a comedy because he’s so genuinely charming, but he plays it pretty straight in this.

  • Ian McShane was surprisingly fun as the seer Amphiaraus.  He seems to be constantly high on some strange weeds that he’s carrying around, and he can see when people die, as well as his own death.  He also functions as Hercules’s conscious.

  • John Hurt plays Lord Cotys, who at first comes off as pleasant, old, and desperate to save his people from the ravaging Rhesus.  However, as the story progresses, he reveals more and more layers and becomes more and more of a villain.  Although, no matter how much you are looking for it – nothing bursts from his chest in this movie. 

  • The brightest spot of this movie was Rufus Sewell as Autolycus.  Similar to the way Bruce Campbell’s Autolycus stole every episode of the Hercules TV show, this one steals every scene of the movie he’s in.  I have loved Rufus Sewell since Dark City, and especially in A Knight’s Tale.  He certainly seems to be having more fun in this movie than I have seen him have in a long time.  He and McShane seem to be on the same page of enjoyment.

  • Aksel Hennie plays the crazy guy Tydeus.  He’s got an insane backstory about how he was born in a battle, and basically raised by dogs or more crazy guys.  In any case, Hercules rescued him from something or other, so now while he doesn’t speak, he certainly is loyal.  He has a berserker fighting style that helps train the farmers.

  • Ingrid Bolso Berdal plays the Amazon Atalanta.  She has a similar backstory in that Hercules rescued her from something or other, so now she stays with him and helps him on his adventures.  She helps train the farmers in archery.

  • Reece Ritchie plays the storyteller Iolaus.  He really is the one responsible for building the legend and making Hercules seem larger than life.  He also has a bit of a complex about never being allowed in battle.  Hercules keeps him protected and away from the fighting, because he’s his nephew, and because he’s too young.  So he has this arc during the movie of wanting to become a warrior.

  • Joseph Fiennes does show up as the King of Athens, and he has some iffy relationship with Hercules’s past and the mysterious death of his wife and children.  He’s pretty electric as a bad guy and is just fantastic.  As he got more and more threatening though, I did expect him to threaten to call his big brother Voldemort.

  • Rebecca Ferguson plays Ergenia, who, in addition to being Cotys’s well-meaning daughter who only wants to get her son, the true heir, out from under her father’s thumb, is a self-taught healer – because there is such a need for it.  Seriously – that’s a line in the movie.

  • Tobias Santelmann plays the much maligned Rhesus.  Once we learn he is not a centaur (disappointed!), and after he’s captured, we start to learn that he’s a better person than we were lead to believe.  All his character development comes in the matter of three or four sentences of exposition, but it sort-of works.

Overall the movie is just fine, I suppose it’s better than the Kellan Lutz Hercules movie that was out earlier this year, but not by much.  Sewell, McShane, and Fiennes all seem to be on the same page about what kind of movie they are making, and they each do it with a wink and a giggle.  That made me wish everyone was on the same page as those three, because that movie would have been way more fun.  The tone was uneven, the effects were average – I did really like the idea of building Hercules as a man more than a myth, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of having Iolaus’s stories in the beginning relating how Hercules accomplished all his labors alone and on mythic proportions with the animations over the end credits – showing how the team members were all there and helped Hercules accomplish all his tasks. 

I gave Kellen Lutz’s Legend of Hercules a 6, really that should have gotten a 5  and this gets a 6.  6 out of 10 – lost points for no supernatural things in the movie at all, and the marketing trying to sell the movie on the effects that were really all just part of Iolaus’s stories in the beginning.  Gained points for Sewell’s performance, too awesome.  Lost points for Ergenia teaching herself to be a doctor, and being part of the scam.  Gained points for the teamwork aspect, but lost points for Rock’s beard and hair. Lost points for Ratner allegedly turning down Kevin Sorbo’s offer to cameo in the movie, because it would be too silly and not fit the tone.  Unfortunately, I think a little more silly would have helped – and a Kevin Sorbo cameo would have made me happy.

Bonus Video 1:  A Knight’s Tale – an absolutely fantastic movie with genius performance’s from Sewell and Paul Bettany.

Bonus Video 2:  Dark City – chances are you forgot about this, or you are too young to remember it.  Check it out, it’s amazing.

Bonus Video 3:  Kevin Sorbo – because.

Bonus Video 4:   Cast interviews

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (PG13 – 121 minutes)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on the Universal Studios Hollywood tram tour enough times to almost recite the tour script verbatim.  If you know me, this is not a surprise.  One of the first things you learn is that Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle wanted all his movies to have the ability to make people laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of their seat.  In short – to pull you into the story, and to give you one of those emotional roller-coaster deals.  To be honest, not many movies can pull that off.  I will tell you that Guardians of the Galaxy absolutely does. 

The original team of Guardians of the Galaxy were first published in 1969 by Marvel comics.  They buzzed around the 31st century, saving all different aspects of the galaxy.  The original team members were Martinex T’Naga, a crystalline being from Pluto, Captain Charlie-27, a soldier from Jupiter, Yondu Udonta, a blue-skinned warrior from Centauri-IV, and Major Vance Astro – a human astronaut from the 20th century who spends a thousand years in cryo-sleep to travel to Alpha Centauri. 

The publication bounced around a bit, but was reimagined and re-launched in 2008.  This time the team included Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Quasar, Adam Warlock, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Groot.  Captain Marvel, Moondragon, Adam Warlock, and Iron Man have also been members.

The Guardians have made brief appearances in the recent animated Marvel shows as they are ready made for cartoon action.  Here they are in the brilliant Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes series (this is streaming on Netflix - watch both seasons now).

Since the Marvel Phase 1 movies were so successful, and the conclusion of Phase 1 – The Avengers – saw the heroes teaming up to deal with an extraterrestrial threat, it made sense to start looking to some of Marvel’s more cosmic titles for one of the Phase 2 hits.  Guardians of the Galaxy was relatively unknown, and the Marvel Cinematic heads knew they could turn it into something rare and special if they assembled (pun intended) the right group of actors and crew.  Director Peter Gunn had previously done the terribly entertaining Slither, and the sort-of superhero movie Super.  He was well-known for having a quirky sense of humor, and entertaining personality.  He was the perfect person to put together the Guardians.

The story begins as a young Peter Quill is an 8 year old on earth in 1988.  He is listening to his beloved Sony Walkman and the cassette tape “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” that his mother made for him so that he has an appreciation of some of the music she loved.  His mother is dying of cancer (let’s assume cancer, but we’re never really told).  She gives Peter a gift, tells him he is just like his father, who was “pure light”, and then passes away with her family surrounding her hospital bed (bring tissues, this scene really brought me to tears because it is so well done).  Peter, overwhelmed with grief, runs out of the hospital and collapses in the grass, where he is promptly abducted by aliens. 

Fast forward 26 years later, and we encounter a fully grown Peter Quill who has established himself as “Star-Lord”, and is cruising around the galaxy as a ‘ravager’ (or thief).  He still has his Walkman, and many of the gadgets on board his space ship (named the Milano for his childhood crush – Alyssa) are from the 80s.  Incidentally – the opening credits roll as he dances through an alien planet landscape – brilliant and hilarious.  The tone is set right there.  He steals an orb, with the intention of collecting the bounty before his ravager mentor Yondu can do it, but almost gets captured by Korath – who mentions that Ronan wants it.  

We get an introduction to Ronan, who states that he is a Kree fanatic, and is out to eliminate the Xandar empire, for some ancient slights.  The Kree empire has signed a peace treaty, but will not help the Xandarians and the Nova Corps stop Ronan.  We learn that Ronan is trying to get the orb to give to Thanos (that dude at the end of the Avengers – who ‘courts death’) in exchange for Thanos destroying Xandar.  One of Thanos’s two ‘daughters’ who is currently on work-loan to Ronan, Gamora, agrees to track down the orb.  Meanwhile, Quill tries to sell it, but is denied once the buyer learns Ronan is after it.  Gamora is there as Quill gets booted from the buyer’s office, steals the orb and fights off Peter.  Rocket and Groot, two bounty hunters are also there attempting to capture and cash in on the reward posted by Yondu for Peter.  After a lengthy but awesome brawl in downtown Nova, All four are captured by the Nova Corps and dumped in the Kiln.   

There, 75 % of the inmates want to kill Gamora for her association with Ronan, even though she is trying to betray him and get away from him.  They meet Drax, who is on a revenge quest since Ronan killed his wife and daughter.  To break out of prison, and sell the orb, and defeat Ronan, and save the Xandarian empire, these five random lunatics have to work together.  Hijinks ensue – but some of the best crafted and entertaining hijinks I have seen in a long time.

A comic-book movie will be a big draw if people are familiar with the characters – especially a Marvel movie.  But the Marvel cinematic universe has also taken the steps of casting really great actors and finding really great directors.  This franchise has unfamiliar characters – so how to you pull in the audience?  With an amazing director, a phenomenal cast, and superb humor and storytelling.

  • Chris Pratt has been stealing every episode of Parks and Rec he has been in since it first began airing.  It has been my favorite comedy on TV for the last couple of years, and if you haven’t seen it – rent it now.  He’s exception on that show as the sidekick, but who knew he could pull of leading man?  He is fantastic as Star-Lord, and excels in this movie.  He has just the right blend of relatable every-day guy-ness, but still has the action ability to buy him as a superhero – or, maybe just hero.  He is hilarious when he needs to be, but also genuinely touching when it’s called for as well.  And yes, the abs…

  • Zoe Saldana has played her fair share of aliens at this point, and between this, Avatar, and Star Trek, she currently owns space.  Gamora is what she has been made to be, and that is a ruthless assassin.  She varies from Saldana’s other space-chicks in that she is a little less sure of herself, and a little more reckless.  She’s closest to the character from Columbiana – you should rent that if you haven’t seen it.

  • For me, the best of the live action starts was Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer.  This is easily a character that could have been written off as the ‘big, dumb guy’, but Dave gives him a lovable soul, and a real personality.  If you only know Dave from the WWE, bear in mind, this is a man who auditioned over and over for this role and broke down and cried when he finally got it. He worked really hard, and it pays off, because Drax is something really special.  I especially love that he takes everything literally.  That really plays into the humor.  He could certainly become a genuine action star, those muscles are no lie, and the fights he gets are great.  He was wonderful in the small scenes he got in Riddick and Man With The Iron Fists (rent that if you haven’t seen it).  My favorite scenes are the scenes where Drax gets to talk to the others – and mention that metaphors will not go over his head, because his reflexes are too fast so he would catch them.  Also – the moment between he and Rocket just after the final battle sequence made me tear up.
  • For the two team members that are CGI, this is the first movie (and bear in mind, I haven’t seen either of the two newer Planet of the Apes movies – I think Serkis is a genius, but I have this fear of chimpanzees…) where I truly did not notice the CGI, and the characters were truly just characters. 
  • Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper, doing a bit of a Goodfellas Joe Pesci-type vibe.  He’s loud, he’s arrogant, he’s angry, and when he’s drunk – he’s sad and lonely, and that also made me tear up.  He’s beautifully acted, and beautifully rendered – and you will understand why James Gunn feels that Rocket is the heart of the team. 

  • My absolute favorite team member is Groot.  Yes, he’s an 8 foot tree voiced by Vin Diesel who only says “I am Groot” in various ways as his communication method, but he’s stunning and fun and when he lets loose in the fight sequence, amazing.  Because he can only repeat the three words over and over again, a lot of his personality is shown through his facial expressions and Vin Diesel’s varying emphasizes on the phrase.  He does occasionally growl and whimper, which also help to get his point across.  Yes, you’ve seen the bit in the trailer where he lights up a dark hallway by releasing little light particles, but it’s so beautiful when you see it in the movie there are almost no words for it.  He is just stunning the entire way through.

  • Of course, no great superhero movie would be nearly as good as it is without an amazing villain, and in this case, it’s Lee Pace as Ronan.  Ronan is a fanatic to start with, but as he gets more powerful and more out of control as the story continues, he just becomes more and more fascinating.

  • Michael Rooker plays Michael Rooker painted blue as Yondu Udonta.  He is the ravager who abducted Quill when he was a boy – and pay attention, you do learn why at the end (that dude standing next to Yondu at that point is played by Sean Gunn, the director’s brother, who also did the mo-cap for Rocket).  Rooker is the same as you’ve seen him be lately (blue Merle?), but honestly, that works pretty well in this movie.  He’s got a pretty awesome arrow weapon (as a nod to the original comic 1969 Yondu, who was an archer) and the payoff with that weapon is awesome.

  • Karen Gillan plays the ‘daughter’ of Thanos, Nebula.  She is wicked and cybernetic, and blue.  And her battle with Gamora is pretty fantastic.  Also – she makes it through this movie, so I’m sure we will see her again.

  • Djimon Hounsou plays Korath, who is trying to hunt down Quill for Ronan.  He has very little to do, but his costume is great, and I loved the fight scenes with him.

  • John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz play Nova Corpsman – and while that beloved lineup scene from the trailers isn’t quite in the movie, both of them get more scenes than I was expecting, and they are some pretty great scenes.  John C. Reilly in particular helped to bring some heart to the final scenes, and Serafinowicz got some action while leading the awesome-looking Nova Corps ships.

  • Glenn Close expands her already wide range as the Nova Prime, leader of the Nova Corps.  She gets to be bossy and leader-y and have some really great hair.

  • Benicio Del Toro plays the Collector, for just a bit longer than he played him in the post credits of Thor 2.   He’s supremely weird and delightfully bizarre.  Also – see this movie more than once just so you can spend the time looking in all the cases in his collection – there are some pretty awesome things in there!  Including a dark elf from Thor 2 – a Chitari soldier from the Avengers – an Warlock-looking cocoon that is emptied at the end  – and one well known Marvel character (but not well-liked, voiced by Seth Green – stay through the credits).

The music is very important to the movie, as much of the soundtrack is based on what Peter had on the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 homemade mix tape.  It fit wonderfully, and made me nostalgic for my own mix tapes. 

I cannot say enough about how much I loved this movie.  I will say that if you read my Winter Soldier review, you know that I wanted a post credit sequence that would have led into a Black Panther movie (once again, I would cast Aldis Hodge).  For this movie, I wanted a post-credit sequence with Mar-Vel, the Kree warrior who eventually helps turn Carol Danvers into Captain Marvel – because then we could get a Captain Marvel movie (I would cast Katee Sackoff).  That being said, Marvel has once again nailed it.  They simply were able to take a bunch of not-well-known characters and make a movie that will eventually connect to the other movies in their cinematic universe and also, make it funny, sweet, charming, action-packed, touching and hilarious.  Go see it now – and see it in 3D.  Then go see it again not in 3D.  Then go see it again in 3D.  Repeat.

11 out of 10 – the first movie to get an 11 since the Avengers.  Tough call – because I really loved the Winter Soldier (I only gave that 10 out of 10) –but this is just so much unexpected wonderful I had no choice!  Gained points for everything Drax said, gained points for Yondu’s arrow when he finally uses it.  Gained points for the sequence at the beginning (how dare you start this movie off by making me cry!).  Gained points for the epic space battles.  Gained points for the very Brolin-y Thanos, that just made me want more of him.  Gained points for the naked blue Lee Pace rising from his…bed, or ceremonial oil bath?  Gained points for Rocket – gained more points for Groot – and Gained all the points for the little potted dancing Groot at the end, which is now the greatest source of joy in the galaxy – Dear Marvel, make that a thing we can buy, please!

Bonus Video 1:  The Man With The Iron Fists – two hours of RZA-directed, Eli Roth-produced, enjoyable, violent, kung-fu nonsense.

Bonus Video 2:  Look Around You.  In case you weren’t aware of how awesome Peter Serafinowicz is (he was the Episode 1 voice of Darth Maul – a job Sam Witwer has now), there is this gem of a show.

Bonus Video 3:  The SDCC Guardians Panel from 2013

Bonus Video 4:  More Cast Interviews