Guardians Of The Galaxy

May 17, 2017

‘Guardians Vol.2’ Lacks the Magic, but That’s Not All Bad

It would be putting it mildly that the expectations were out of this world for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” James Gunn’s oddball superhero action comedy introduced fans of the MCU to a brand new type of hero and extended the storytelling into outer space. Sure, both “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World” took us into the mythical world of Asgard, but the colorful landscape of deep space was something to behold.

Also, the fact that Marvel/Disney was willing to take a chance on a Troma-alum like Gunn who seems to have an affinity for tentacle Hentai porn and graphic violence, was a breathe of fresh air. You had the prefect blend of heart, family-friendliness and of course sexual innuendo, hence the first “Guardians” was a smash hit.

Take us three years to 2017 and Gunn is back at it again with “Vol. 2,” a flawed, but fun, sequel that is essentially a companion piece to the MCU as opposed to any type of film that progresses the overall story arc in the MCU. More importantly, it seems like the shackles were completely off of Gunn to create a film in the way that he sees fit, and that is where the film both shines, and trips over itself at times.

We meet our heroes back in 2014, fresh off the heels of their big victory against Ronan the Accuser and turning over the Power Stone to the Nova Corps on Xandar. This time they are helping the Sovereign protect some batteries from a giant tentacle monster. With their job complete, the Guardians receive their reward; the captured Nebula.

Of course, things go south quick and our heroes crash land on a lone planet and are greeted by a man names Ego, who tells Star Lord that he’s his father and wants to show him his birth rite. At this point our heroes part ways and the film gets the plot moving.

It’s difficult to put into words what’s wrong with this film without sounding like a cranky old man that doesn’t like cutesy Disney-like characters, the use, or overuse, of music, and a couple of jokes and scenes that are a little too self-indulgent. But I guess that’s what you get when you let an inmate run the asylum.

The biggest criticism from most people is that the sequel isn’t as good as the first one. Wow, what a criticism to make…the sequel isn’t as good. Hard hitting stuff. However, I have been pounding the drum in my perceived notion that there has been a recent dip in the quality of Marvel product. But this could also be my perception since the quality has been high for nearly decade, that is was inevitable that a few leaks would start to spring from the hull of the Titanic that is Marvel Studios.

I have to admit, during the title sequence of “Vol. 2” nearly took me out of the film. Unlike Chris Pratt’s trounce through Morag dancing and singing to “Come and Get Your Love,” the Baby Groot dance to “Mr. Blue Sky,” while the rest of the team is fighting a massive alien set the tone that I was going to be annoyed with cute antics. Pratt’s dance set the tone for fun and personally I rather see a REAL HUMAN character on screen than a computer generated creature pimped put to sell Pop! Vinyl figurines.

However, the film rebounded from that and turned into a pretty fun, stand-alone Marvel film. There is meditation on family and abandonment and the idea that the heart should drive you as opposed to your brain, and those themes were handled quite well considering all the boombastic action going on for about 80% of the film.

This brings me to one of the things I really liked, and that was Gunn’s freedom to pay homage to his friends on screen, namely Michael Rooker and his brother, Sean Gunn. The additional screen time and plot progression of Rooker’s Yondu, and Gunn’s Kraglin is something unexpected and a breathe of fresh air. Being close to the director is certainly a perk, but the way both Yondu and Kraglin are treated in “Vol. 2” is something a lot of studios with millions of dollars invested in a film wouldn’t allow to happen; make them a central part of the film. But low and behold, they are given much more screen time and are allowed to play pivotal roles, especially at the film’s climax.

At the end of the day, these films are bulletproof. No matter the reviews or criticism, “Vol. 2” will make close to a billion dollars worldwide, and the Marvel juggernaut just keeps chugging along. In all fairness, however, it’s fair to openly criticize this film, because it’s not perfect, and has it’s flaws, but don’t criticize it just to criticize because overall, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” is a harmless Summer blockbuster that is just another piece of the Marvel machine heading towards the inevitable “Infinity War,” and if anything, at least this film is proving that you don’t need to shoehorn things into a universe that is so bloated that at times it seems to be collapsing in on itself.

“Vol. 2” is the closest thing we’ve had to a stand-alone Marvel movie, thus far. No need for cute cameos or a character just passing by. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t mind just seeing a “Guardians of the Galaxy” film universe. It’s ripe for the picking and there are plenty of things to cherry pick and create some fun films. Hell, a talking racoon and a tree are some of the most talked about characters in the MCU; who’d of thought they would be more beloved at this point than Iron Man or Captain America. People are looking for their heroes to be against the grain, and that is why “Black Panther,” for my money is going to blow people away, but tread carefully when giving the masses what they want, the disappointment could also be monumental and remember; with great power, comes great responsibility.

September 29, 2014

Simply TV: Star Wars Rebels…And Inexplicably Star Wars: The Clone Wars

POSSIBILITIES

I am one of the few people who stuck with Cartoon Network’s Clone Wars series.  All the way from its lackluster backdoor film pilot to its neatly completed Netflix series ender.  If you did as well, you got to see the series actually grow and change for the better.  You got to see a character who you thought would be nothing more than a sidekick that called Anakin Skywalker annoying nicknames like “Sky Guy”, turn into probably the most compelling character of them all.  You got to see Darth Maul fleshed out…somewhat.   You got to see Obi-Wan and Anakin’s much alluded to friendship.  You got to see a good villainous become an even better anti-hero.  And yes, you unfortunately got to see more Jar-Jar.  However, The Clone Wars is easily the best thing to come out of the George Lucas prequels.  And yet, it was still missing something.  It was missing that Star Wars feel.  What is the Star Wars feel you ask?  It’s that excitement, tension and enjoyment you get from watching a rag tag group of unlikely heroes realizing their greater potential and taking on something much bigger than themselves.  That, to me, is Star Wars in  a nutshell.  David versus Goliath.  The Colonists versus The British.  The US versus the Nazis.  Pepsi versus Coke.  It’s a feeling that Guardians Of The Galaxy had.  It’s a feeling that even 2009’s Star Trek had.  But regrettably, it’s a feeling that Clone Wars and the Prequels never had.

RAG TAG EXPLORERS
RAG TAG BAD ASSES

I appreciate that both were trying to tell the story of the fall of the Republic.  However, the enjoyment and tension I had watching Han, Luke and Leia just trying to escape the Death Star or Jabba’s palace was infinitely more enjoyable and tension filled than any prequel film or Clone Wars episode where dozens of nearly invincible Jedi Knights leap into battle with the support of millions of stormtroopers behind them.   It didn’t feel like Star Wars to me.  Then thankfully the takeover happened.  Disney, on it’s eerily unpublicized quest for world domination, bought out Star Wars from Lucas.  This opened the door for a new film trilogy and a new animated series to fill in the gaps toward Episode IV.  And this animated series, Star Wars Rebels, appears to at least be trying to get that Star Wars feel back.

Taking place only a few short years after Order 66 and the new Galactic Empire wiped out the Jedi and  consumed the Galaxy, Star Wars Rebels follows a street tough kid strong in the force named Ezra Bridger.  Ezra winds up stumbling upon a group of rag tag mercenaries who appear to be mounting a rebellion to fight back against the Empire.  This set up and story is better suited for episodic Star Wars tales than Clone Wars was, I believe.  Clone Wars fell prey to the “Lesson Of The Week” motif and really didn’t have a strong overall story.  Mainly, because it was hamstrung as to where it could go since it had to tie in to the events of Revenge Of The Sith. (Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. had this same problem earlier in its run.)  The creation of the Rebel Alliance has never really been something fleshed out, and its growth is pretty much unrelated to Luke and Han’s meeting and journey in A New Hope.  This gives Rebels a lot more freedom in my opinion.  The other thing that gives it freedom are its characters.

I’m sorry for the continuous comparison to Clone Wars, but I think that it is an inescapable comparison which really illustrates the POSSIBILITIES Rebels has by explaining what it does differently.  With that said, Clone Wars’ main characters Obi-Wan and Anakin and possibly Padme were the weakest characters on the show in my opinion.  Where Clone Wars really thrived was its introduction of new or previously unexplored characters from Star Wars lore.  Characters like…

 Cad Bane

 and Rex

 and The Nightsisters

and Asajj Ventress(Yes, I know Genndy Tartakovski created her first, but she really grew on Clone Wars)

and the character with the strongest and most enjoyable character arc, Ahsoka Tano.

These new characters were free from expectations and restraints to where they could go, making them much more enjoyable than mainstays like Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padme, Palpatine, and Dooku.  Rebels gets to start from scratch as well with a slew of  new and interesting characters.  There is the female Mandalorian explosive expert/graffiti artist named Sabine. (My personal favorite)  There is the muscle and hot head of the group, Zeb, who also has the distinction of being famed artist Ralph Mcquarrie’s original visual concept for Chewbacca.  There is the Twi’lek pilot and moral center of the team named Hera.  There is the meaner R2-D2-esque droid named Chopper.  The co-lead is the aforementioned Ezra, who serves as the show’s adolescent Anakin redo.  However, the wayward Jedi Kanan Jarrus will be the main reason the team and the series makes it or breaks it.  And that’s primarily because he’s voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.

From Left To Right: Chopper, Hera, Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, and Sabine

Wait a second!!!  Just hold on!  I know Prinze Jr. isn’t a particularly popular actor or celebrity for that matter.  I mean, the guy romantically reigned in Buffy Summers.  How can you not hate him just a little?  Although, I do see what creators Simon Kinberg, Carrie Beck, and David Filoni might have been going for when they cast him as Kanan Jarrus.  Kanan has the smugness and temperament of a Kyle Katarn with the tragic history of a Quinlan Vos.  For the basic Star Wars observer who has no idea of whom I’m speaking of…let’s just say Kanan is Han Solo mashed together with a seasoned Luke Skywalker.  Playing a mouthy space scoundrel is not a hard thing for Prinze Jr. to do.  However, when he has to deliver the familiar Jedi platitudes, you can’t help but cringe a bit.  Admittedly, it is hard to make Jedi philosophies sound natural. (Unless you’re Sir Alec Guinness or Frank Oz)  I just hope Prinze Jr. can get the hang of it, as he’ll be the one advising Ezra in the ways of the Force throughout the series.

The pilot episode only gives us a taste of the two main villains, but the talent behind their voices is top notch.  David Oyelowo plays the relentless Agent Kallus.  Oyelowo, who has starred in everything from Jack Reacher to the Butler, gives the typically effeminate Galactic officers a much meaner edge.   Playing the big heavy in the series, The Inquisitor, will be the excellently evil Jason Isaacs.  The Inquisitor’s story might possibly be as interesting as Kanan’s, seeing as he is an instrument of Darth Vader himself but not necessarily a Sith Lord. 

Aesthetically, the animation is a little more humanized than the blockier Clone Wars.  That visual change is good in some places but not so good in others.  You are always walking that uncanny valley tightrope with digital animation.  Though, I have no doubt that they’ll lean more toward the cartoonish side as things go along.  The action scenes were some of the best things Clone Wars got right.  The fights and battles were well choreographed, with no punches pulled.  Rebels continues this aspect with three terrific action set pieces in the pilot, and some fights previewed for later on that you’ll be dying to see.  An unfortunate hindrance to Clone Wars was its inability to use the musical score and familiar musical stingers of the legendary John Williams until the end of the series.  Rebels gets to fully use and play with those great themes now, which goes a long way to giving the series that Star Wars feel I keep harping on.

Star Wars Rebels is a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe and a series that seems to understand and want to explore its numerous POSSIBILITIES.  How did the Rebel Alliance grow?  How did Leia get caught up with them?  How did Mara Jade become the Emperor’s Hand?  What was Obi-Wan doing all that time on Tatooine?  Why is Lando now the only black guy in space?  Sorry, that one’s just for me.  Open up your holocrons…fasten your lightsabers…put on your Mandalorian helmet…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

August 27, 2014

The 10 Best Superhero Films of All Time Blog Relay

We here at Simplistic Reviews are honored and happy to be apart of the Top 10 Superhero Films Blog Relay…mainly because we have this same conversation amongst ourselves nearly twice a day.  The rules are simple….well actually they aren’t.  They’re a bit more complicated and elaborate than our feeble minds are use to.  However it is all in an effort to make a rock solid, no doubt about it, objective/subjective list.  Here are the rules:

1. The list of movies will be passed to another blogger who will post their list within a week.
2. The blogger will take their list, remove 3 movies – with explanations, and replace with 3 new movies – with explanations.

3. If a movie lasts five rounds without being removed, it is locked into place.
4. If a movie is removed three different times, it is locked out and can no longer be chosen by someone else. 
5. Once four movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 2 movies. 
6. Once eight movies are locked into place, bloggers will replace 1 movie. 
7. Once all ten movies are locked into place, the relay will be complete.

Confused yet?  Good.  Let me explain…no…there is too much.  Let me sum up.

Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights & Movie Nights began with a list of The Avengers, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight, Hellboy 2, The Incredibles, Iron Man, Spider-Man 2, Superman, X-Men,Unbreakable, Batman: Under the Red Hood & Blade 2.

Andrew from A Fistful of Films rearranged things by removing Batman: Under the Red Hood, X-Men and Hellboy 2 and adding Chronicle, Mystery Men and The Rocketeer.

Ruth from FlixChatter yanked Blade 2, Chronicle and Mystery Men, and replaced them with Batman Begins, X-Men 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Terrence from The Focused Filmographer pulled out The Incredibles, Batman Returns and X-Men 2, before adding Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, V For Vendetta and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Jay from Life Vs Film dropped Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Superman, and Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm then put back in Incredibles and X-Men 2 and finally handed the ball over to us. Whew!!!

Our criteria was based primarily on overall quality, difficulty of concept, impact on the genre, and a 10-point must system.  That last one was probably a mistake.  Lets get started with a few thoughts on the films sticking around this round.

1. The Avengers (Locked)

The Avengers because…well…duh…it’s the f%*king Avengers!  This film…hell…that moment above was thought to be just a geek fever dream that was impossible to make, let alone, work as a film.  Whedon and company made the impossible…jaw droppingly possible.  The Avengers is a manifested representation of our childhood imaginations.  What?  Too much?

2. The Dark Knight (Locked)

Chris Nolan took the skeleton of the great crime drama Heat and put Batman and The Joker in it.  Are you freakin’ kidding me?!  As a result, came one of the finest performances we have ever, and maybe, will ever see.

3. Spider-Man 2 (Locked)

Still holds up in our opinion and nails Spidey’s world, look, motivations, and characters…which is more than we can say for its two bastard stepchildren The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2.

4. Iron Man (Locked)

The unquestionable birth of a cinematic superhero icon.  Close your eyes and try to come up with an actor who could play Tony Stark better than RDJ did in this…NOPE…you’re wrong.

5. Unbreakable (Locked)

Hey, remember when Shyamalan was good?  Hey, remember when Bruce Willis tried?  This film explores and breaks down the mythos and archetypes of superheroes and supervillains in a way we’ve probably never even thought about. IE: It’s literally superheroes for dummies.

6. The Incredibles  

Not only is this a terrific superhero film, it is one of the best family films centered on family that Pixar has probably done.  And it is the closest we are going to get to a good Fantastic Four movie for the foreseeable future.

7. The Guardians Of The Galaxy
A movie that went from low or no expectations to exceedingly high expectations in a matter of one trailer…and it still delivered Marvel’s riskiest success yet.  It felt more like Star Wars than the last 3 Star Wars films.  That has to count for something.

8. Watchmen
Matt’s Zack Snyder hate is high, but even he cannot deny the awesomeness that is Watchmen.  Watchmen was thought to be an unfilmable masterpiece.  However, Snyder’s efforts here are the closest and truest interpretation of Alan Moore’s material we’ll ever get to see on the big screen.  Don’t think so.  Read up on what Fox wanted to do with Watchmen when they owned the property.  It’s scarier than a visit from Rorschach himself.
9. V For Vendetta
Any other time we wouldn’t consider V For Vendetta as a top film in the superhero genre, but after the events in Ferguson, MO and how Anonymous and other hacker groups have taken the mask of Guy Fawkes that or our “hero” V wears, and turned it into a symbol, this film carries even more meaning in this turbulent time. V is also another great adaptation of the works of Alan Moore and offered us a look at the future that we actually might not be that far away from.  Plus, there’s nothing wrong with seeing Natalie Portman in a baby doll dress.
10. The Rocketeer
Usually when there is no pressure and expectations are low, you get something great, case in point The Rocketeer.  Before Joe Johnston was able to bring justice back to Captain America: The First Avenger, he brought us another hero that kicked some Nazi ass.  Before we had The Shadow and The Phantom, The Rocketeer was the first big stab at creating a superhero from the days of radio serials.  From the iconic score of James Horner to the slimy turn of former James Bond, Timothy Dalton, everything works for this film.  It still captures the imagination of kids and adults because a guy flying around with a jetpack punching Nazis in the face is absolutely awesome.

Now, the superhero films we decided to substitute in are as follows.
 

11. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

We know this movie has only been out since April, but after watching it multiple times since then, we can’t possibly leave it off this list.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is arguably the second best Marvel film ever made.  It has a hero whose righteous indignation actually feels real and earned, a black comic relief character that manages to bring charm, dignity and usefulness to a role no one expected anything from, an enjoyable and self-reliant female lead who doesn’t fall into any stereotypical or lazy love interest scenario, an actual scary villain that, which has been poetically said before, may be better at killing people than the hero is at protecting them, and has probably some of the best and grittiest action scenes of any film on this list. (Cap’ and Winter Soldier street fight fo’ life!) It’s one of the few Marvel films and superhero films that feel genuinely important to the grand scheme of its own universe while still overcoming the obstacles of an early release date, a jumping of genres, and being directed by people primarily known for comedy.

12. Batman ’89

Say what you will about Tim Burton, but there hasn’t been a better marketed movie in the past 30 years than 1989’s Batman.  It was the birth of the “Dark Knight” and made many people forget about the Bill Dozier “Batman” series from the 1960s.  Everything is iconic about this film; from the sets by Anton Furst, the score of Danny Elfman, and of course Jack Nicholson’s Joker.  Batman ’89, despite some shortcomings, created something that hadn’t been seen before in cinema and gave us a Batman we could all be proud of.

 Now, the superhero films we decided to give the chop.

Batman Begins

It’s never easy to cut a film that not only made up for the mistakes of the past but put us on course for one of the most iconic film trilogies of all time. It’s not that Batman Begins is a bad film.  Quite the contrary.  However, there is still something uneven in it tone-wise that Nolan got a better handle on in The Dark Knight.  Um…and it’s hard for us to get past the fact that the weapon created by Wayne Enterprises in Begins (Essentially a dehydration machine) is eerily similar to a weapon used in 1966’s Batman film.

X2: X-Men United

Again, another tough one to remove from the list since X2 was able to fix all of the problems with the first film and add to the X-Men mythology.  Even with Hugh Jackman giving his best turn of Wolverine and Brian Cox proving to be one of the X-Men’s greatest foes, one film had to go, and X2 is unfortunately the casualty.

In historic Olympic fashion, we are going to hand the baton over to our friends over at Insession Film to make their choices.  You have one week.  Although, we’d like to think our list is pretty close to perfection so there is no need to change absolutely anything…YOU HEAR THAT JD, BLAKE, and BRENDAN?!?  NOT A FINGER!!!!

August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (Matt’s Take)

ANTI

Guardians of the Galaxy – Anti

Usually once a year, there is that one movie that you know is a foregone conclusion. I won’t dance around it, it’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” this year. But before I get into the meat of this review, a brief story; the night before I was all set to watch “Guardians” the next morning, a sense of dread washed over me. I thought, “what if this movie isn’t as good as I thought it would be?” “What if I walk out feeling slighted?” “What if everyone else is walking out happy and I’m walking out disappointed?” I would have to really take a look into my soul and see what was wrong with ME? Alas, that wasn’t the case, “Guardians” was wonderful, it was great, it was down-right groovy. For me, “Guardians” is the anti-Marvel movie. It plays by it’s own rules, and for the first time in Marvel’s Phase Two films I wanted more, got more, and wasn’t letdown, and before you attack, I also loved “Captain America 2” but “Guardians” has taken that big step forward that Marvel was lacking; it’s expanding the universe to places you wouldn’t believe.

“Guardians” tells the tale of Peter Quill, aka, Star-Lord, a space pirate working with Yondu, leader of the Ravangers. While exploring the desolate planet of Morag, Quill stumbles upon a mysterious orb and is attacked by Korath the Pursuer, but escapes. Needless to stay an adventure plays out that features Quill teaming up with a living tree named Groot, a sexy, green, ass-kicking assassin with a past, Gamora, a gun-toting, wise-cracking raccoon called Rocket, and Drax, a tattooed convict with nothing left to lose. Together the “Guardians of the Galaxy” have to save the planet of Xander from Kree extremist, Ronan the Accuser. It’s typical comic book storytelling with a rebellious and anti-Marvel bite that we haven’t seen since “Iron Man.”

Since day one, it just seemed that “Guardians” would succeed, but only with those that were willing to give it a chance, and after it’s first weekend $160 Million international haul, plenty were willing to give something new a chance. The cast is one of the best, but one of the oddest that you might ever see. Led by Chris Pratt, who so many know as the former Pawnee City Hall shoe shiner Andy Dwyer in “Parks and Recreation”, makes it known he’s ready for Hollywood in a “star” making performance, and the cast only gets better. From Zoe Saldana, Michael Rooker, and even Glenn Close, the cast is the perfect mix for a film this eccentric.
While the parts played by humans are great, it’s the CG characters that really steal things and create an unexplainable emotional connection with the audience. Who would think that a raccoon and a humanoid tree creature would create some of the most emotional scenes in film this year. It’s a testament to direction, which I’ll get into shortly, script, and performance. You believe that Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is real, and his implied tragic back-story brings the feels in a major way, and this leads me to his relationship with Groot, his bodyguard/whipping tree, if you will. At heart, their relationship is simple; Rocket is a raccoon, who lives in a tree. The beauty is in the simplicity. The most human emotions out of the entire film are from the film’s two non-human characters.

However, nothing would work in “Guardians” if it wasn’t for one person; director James Gunn. From humble beginnings working with Lloyd Kaufman at Troma Studios to his first directing gig on the ultra-underrated throwback creature feature “Slither,” and now as Marvel’s golden child directing what could be the high-grossing film of the year. It’s been quite a road. What Gunn brings to Marvel is a rebel mentality. He’s never been a guy to conform, but at the same time he knows how to strike the perfect of pleasing the fans, while still creating something that fits his twisted sensibilities. Plus, he cares about the material. While on the media trail, all Gunn would talk about is how everyone is going to love what he called “the raccoon.” Normally, directors will build up their biggest stars and the big action set pieces, but all Gunn went on about is how Rocket is going to steal the show…..a raccoon….was going to steal a nearly $200 million dollar space epic produced by Marvel and Disney in the middle of the Summer movie season? Well, Gunn was right, he….was….right.

So many things could have gone wrong with this film too. One, not many people know about the “Guardians” outside of hardcore comic fans. For the normal reader I’m sure the idea of talking trees and other misfits might be a little “alien.” Two, this was a huge gamble for Marvel/Disney. Taking a chance on Gunn as a director and trusting in Pratt as the lead wasn’t something on anyone’s radar, except for Kevin Feige. Three, creating another comic book team up, but only doing it in two hours as opposed to three movies (I would count “The Incredible Hulk” but for some reason people don’t see that as canon now). Comparing “Guardians” to “The Avengers” is natural; their both team-based films fighting a big bad, oh, and they argue a lot. What sets “Guardians” apart however is the heart it has. I’m not saying that Joss Whedon doesn’t have heart, hell, he’s one of the biggest fanboys working in film today and Marvel wouldn’t be where they are without him, but Gunn not only created something out of what could have been considered nothing, and surpassed “Avengers” in my opinion. And yes, “Guardians” has become a huge comic commodity recently but only if you are a true die-hard comic reader could you say with a straight face that you’ve been a “Guardian” fan from the jump. That, or you’re almost 50 years old at the time of this reading.

This might sound sacrilegious, but “Guardians” is better than the “Avengers.” Yes, it is. On first viewing I still had “Avengers” in the lead by a little bit, but sitting down the second time, this time with the wife, I felt so much more emotion watching it again. First, I could relax a little more and simply enjoy the film this time and not worry about the overall story. I had the chance to focus on the little things that made the film special. Gunn has a habit of including little tid-bits for fans of his older films, including the always entertaining cameo by his mentor Kaufman. The other thing was watching this with my wife. At heart, we’re both nerds; however, we butt heads when it comes to things like Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, but this is one of the films that we were both looking forward to this year. Not only is “Guardians” great fun, but it also brings my wife and I closer together. We cried in the same parts, we cheered when our heroes finally came out victorious, and most importantly when we walked out of the film we both looked at each other said, “let’s see that again!” That’s a win in my book, and something I’m sure a lot of people are doing around the world.

Finally, and this is for the cynics. I understand your stance on comic films. They are campy, fairly vapid, and maybe worst of all, don’t add much to the film landscape in terms of increasing awareness of women’s rights, the plight of those overseas, or contain some sort of message that is supposed to make us better people. Well, maybe it does, at least with the last point. When a person walks out of a film and wants to see it again, or that little kid falls in love with a gun-toting raccoon, maybe that’s their way of changing the world. It’s making it a better place to live when we can all be together in a darkened theater and enjoy what is happening on the screen and feel like we are one community sharing a goal; to have fun. Look, I enjoy art-house film as much as the next person, but in a world that is this shitty, and hard to live in, why not have some fun with a wise-cracking rogue, a walking thesaurus covered in tattoos, a genetically engineered killer looking for redemption, a tree that gives flowers to little girls, and of course the raccoon. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is everything it was meant to be; a fun, balls-to-the-wall space adventure that gives cynics the finger and allows someone who I consider the “anti-Michael Bay” to show the world what he can do on the grandest of all stages, and its worthy of your love, admiration, and at times, tears.

Fun Fact: After you put the kids to bed, make sure you check out James Gunn’s “PG Porn.” It’s arousing.

August 2, 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy (DJ’s Take)

REWARDING

The road to Guardians Of The Galaxy has a been a strange one if you think about it.  When Marvel’s cinematic universe potentate Kevin Feige announced at 2012’s San Diego Comic-Con that the next big film coming down the pipeline was going to be Guardians, many were floored.  It was supposed to be a victory lap for Marvel after The Avengers changed the comic book movie genre forever…but they decided to come out with Guardians Of The Galaxy next?

Most didn’t even know who the hell the Guardians Of The Galaxy were.  I, being a comic book reader since I was seven, knew who they were and still was confused.  The balls on Marvel.  The balls indeed.  This WAS their victory lap.  The Avengers success allowed them to take a chance on a property that no one knew, and have it fly under the radar pressure free.  And it did.  Until that trailer came out.  A trailer that played up the film’s unfamiliarity with audience for a laugh.  A trailer that showed us why Feige was so confident in the property to begin with.  Guardians Of The Galaxy looked like it was going to capitalize greatly on one of the strengths of Marvel.  That strength being their films are fun.  It also looked as though Guardians was going to take advantage of the growing desire for a lighthearted sci-fi space adventure before even their Disney brother Star Wars Episode VII could.  I mean look at this poster

If Only Serenity Came Out Now

Trailer after trailer came out, each looking better than the last.  Excitement grew.  Critics fawned.  DC pouted.  Then about two weeks before release…rumblings of worry began about Guardians Of The Galaxy possibly not living up to the hype.  A film about characters no one knew four years ago was now being thought of as too good to be true.  The whole thing reminds me of another risky venture that Marvel took back in 2008.  And we remember how that turned out don’t we?

THE TANK = COMIC BOOK FANBOYS’ MINDS

Guardians Of The Galaxy is merely another risky venture by Feige and the boys at Marvel.  The verdict?  Not only does it live up to the recent hype you’ve been hearing, it is possibly the most REWARDING experience you’ll have in the theater all year. 

So, what is Guardians about?  It’s about a group of emotionally scarred kindred spirits coming together to become a family.  What?  It is.  The kindred spirits just happen to be raccoon, a tree, an earthling, a deadly alien chic, and a crazed warrior.   Sure there is a plot revolving around the retrieval of a mysterious macguffin (A Favorite Trope For Marvel) and various quests for revenge.  However, this is really about the unity of these characters amidst their differences and obstacles.

You may think that I am crapping on the plot of Guardians, but I’m not.  I merely want to bring attention to the real accomplishment of this film.  That accomplishment is the quality of these characters themselves.  Each one of them are so rich and fleshed out, the story almost feels inconsequential.  You’ll fall in love with them equally and so deeply that you’d be willing to watch them regardless of their journey.  The Guardians are as uniquely lovable as Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2 or Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Wash, River, Book, Kaylee, Simon, and Inara.  And that is just on paper.  You still gotta cast the thing.  Thankfully Gunn and Feige knocked that out of the park as well.

Matthew McConaughey is an actor that has taken a meteoric rise over the past few years.  However, his McConaugh-sance has smoke screened most from the arrival of Chris Pratt.  This guy has been in projects ranging from Parks and Rec, Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, Her, Lego Movie and has crushed his performance each time.  Peter Quill now might very well be Pratt’s Han Solo role, while his part in the new Jurassic Park might be his Indiana Jones.  Pratt is that magnetic and the magnetically charming throughline for this entire film.  Quill could soon become a Marvel favorite after audiences get a glimpse of Star-Lord, even with Robert Downey Jr. still walking the earth as Tony Stark.  It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with this character from his very first frame on screen, much like how we did with Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Zoe Saldana’s Gamora is not as entertainingly devilish as Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.  However, she has the tough task of being the film’s straight man or woman as it were.  Saldana is solid in the role and has undeniable chemistry with Pratt.  Whenever she is given a scene to carry, she delivers.  Dave Bautista was the one character that I was worried about.  He essentially plays the Thor role of the team, which could be bad if done poorly.  However, Gunn plays into any stilt and stiffness that Bautista could of have had and uses it as a character trait.  A decision that makes Drax possibly the most humorous characters in the film.  A stroke of genius if you think about.  Bautista’s acting, which is still quite good in this, is now nearly immune from criticism.

Diesel and Cooper make icons of their two CGI characters.  Cooper especially lends something to Rocket that I never expected.  He is the fan favorite master of wisecracking, of course.  However, there is a very terrific and subtle thread of emotional trauma that Cooper brings to Rocket.  Just one of the many examples of the detail and time that went into creating these characters.  A feat completed through the writing and directing of James Gunn.

I think Gunn might be Marvel’s new golden boy.  I understand why there were rumors of him taking over Avengers after Joss Whedon.  Gunn and Whedon’s thematic voices are different, but they seem to approach the material in a similar way.  They both never forget to service their characters first.  They both embrace fun without letting it get too silly.  And they both seem to love the material they are working with.  (Trust me…that is not always a guarantee…ahem…Marc Webb…ahem…Michael Bay)  Gunn brings so much life to this world, I’m amazed the budget was as low as it was. ($170 million)
With the freedom Marvel seemed to have given Gunn with Guardians and the success that I think it will be, I can only imagine what we will be in store for in the sequel.

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a high risk, but ended up becoming a high REWARD.  We should all go out and claim this REWARD, and by doing so, prove that strange and different is not automatically box office poison.  Hop aboard the Milano…grab a prosthetic leg…never call Drax a thesaurus…Watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.  And if you don’t…Peter Quill has a message for you.

June 20, 2014

Simplistic Sneak Peek Ep. 5

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

Simplistic Sneak Peek is back and better than ever.  In this episode the boys take a look at some animated features and some 80s action stars WITH animated features.  Sinbad, The Ultimate Warrior, Dane Cook and a Holocaust amusement park all come up in this irreverent return of Simplistic Sneak Peek.  You can watch this episode’s trailers below then click video above to hear Matt, DJ and Justin’s thoughts on them in real time.

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Penguins Of Madagascar

The Expendables 3

Bonus Trailer

January 27, 2014

The Simplistic Reviews Podcast: January 2014 Edition

Welcome to 2014!  It might be a new year, but we can guarantee that the boys will still be as juvenile as ever.  In the first full podcast of the year, the gang has some fun with words as Matt takes on “Word Association.”  From Shia LeBouf to the latest Warner Bros/DC calamity. No one is safe.

Neal also regales the gang with his adventures with rednecks at his local Monster Truck Show, and Justin mistakenly believes Shaquille O’Neal starred in “Hanging With Mr. Cooper.”

This is just a taste of what you’re getting into with this month’s Simplistic Review Podcast.

 Show Notes:
Most Anticipated Films of 2014
Hanging With Mr. Cooper
GraveDigger
Son-UVA Digger
Bobby Digital

Music Notes:
Birds & Brass By Sort Of Soul
I Dream Of Jeanie (Remix)
Lawyers, Guns, And Money By Warren Zevon
The Best By Tina Turner 

FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY.
Click HERE to listen to podcast

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