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Guardians of The Galaxy is the Quirky Box Office Hit You’ve Been Waiting For

Every couple of years or so, I end up falling in love with a completely brilliant film that almost no one ends up seeing. It started back with Serenity in 2005, but the tradition continued with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Cabin in the Woods, and Pacific Rim. I know the staying power of movies isn’t all based on box office sales, but it can be kind of frustrating when you know people should be seeing a particular film and they’re just… not.

I had a similar worry for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. When Phase 2 was announced at San Diego Comic Con a few years back, I was curious about the property, but I remember most of the reaction being somewhere between derision and confusion. It’s a risky property for sure since not a lot of people really know about Cosmic Marvel as a whole, let alone the Guardians. Hell, I’d probably be ignoring Cosmic Marvel too if it wasn’t for the fact my favorite superhero is half-Kree by way of a scientific wishing machine.

Still, the more the film ramped up, with Slither writer and director James Gunn being brought on board and Chris Pratt being announced as Star-Lord as season 5 of Parks and Recreation was coming to a close, the more I was looking forward to the film. I think the phrase ‘frothing at the mouth’ is appropriate. I couldn’t help but wonder though if it was going to go the way of Pacific Rim though. After Edgar Wright walked from Ant-Man over creative differences allegedly over Marvel not wanting to take another risk so soon, I couldn’t help but wonder if Marvel even had faith in either film in the first place.

Well, that media machine worked because Guardians of the Galaxy has brought the summer box office out with a bang with a $94 million opening weekend. Which is $20 million ahead of the original projection.

LOOK AT THIS MOTLEY CREW OF SPACE ASSHOLES (credit for that line to Film School Rejects)

LOOK AT THIS MOTLEY CREW OF SPACE ASSHOLES (credit for that line to Film School Rejects)

Is the film any good though?

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy three times already. It’s Monday, August 4th. It opened on August 1st. I’m already planning on seeing it again at some point(s) before it leaves theaters and I bought the soundtrack off of iTunes after I watched it the first time. I think that tells you a lot about my own personal enjoyment of the film. (And if you want to berate me for spending money on one film three times: 1.) I only paid out of my own pocket once, and 2.) It’s my life and money, jackass.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a lot like those cheesy 70s and 80s adventure movies we all love so much mixed with a few beloved sci-fi TV shows. I don’t know how a film can be the spiritual successor to both Star Wars AND Firefly, but dammit, it some how does it. This is definitely in part to the sharp writing from Gunn and Nicole Perlman, who is the first woman to be credited with writing a Marvel film (Maurissa Tancharoen did some re-writes to The Avengers script along with Jed Whedon, but neither were credited). I can’t tell you how many lines I missed on my first view because I was laughing so hard at the line before it. Well, me and the rest of the theater. It’s instantly quotable and moves with a great pace that never drags, but never feels too rushed either. Not to mention when it gets sad, it gets sad.

Of course, any good script isn’t much if you don’t have a great cast to act it out. And oh boy, does Guardians have it in spades. Chris Pratt is charming, goofy and surprisingly emotional at some points as Peter Quill aka Star-Lord. I knew he had charming and goofy down pat thanks to Parks and Recreation, but he evolves from dumb sweet puppy dog to lovable rogue right in front of my eyes. It’s astounding and even though I had faith in Pratt the entire time, he still managed to exceed my high expectations.

You're so handsome and it's terrible. [moviepilot.com]

You’re so handsome and it’s terrible. [moviepilot.com]

The most surprising performance for me though was Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Wrestlers can be hit or miss in films sometimes, but Bautista was a definite hit as the extremely literal alien searching for vengeance for his wife and daughter. I really didn’t expect to become so emotionally connected with him by the end of the film, but yet there I was, cooing over a man who could easily rip my spine out. I also became rather fond of Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta. I really don’t know why, but maybe it’s because I could see where Star-Lord got his roguish charm from.

I think it goes without saying that the two runaway characters of the film were Rocket and Groot. Part performance capture, part CG, and part voice acting, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel (with a lot of help from Sean Gunn on set for Rocket) managed to create characters with a lot of heart and a significant amount of attitude. Don’t believe you’ll be crying over a sentient tree who can only say “I am Groot” and a fast-talking raccoon who loves guns and alcohol? You will be. Oh, you will be.

The only complaint I really have about this film is the treatment a lot of the female characters receive. Gamora is probably one of the most interesting and most competent characters in the film, but so much of her story gets pushed aside for Peter’s and I don’t really understand why Drax had to call her a “green whore” after he established they were friends (though he calls Groot “dumb tree” as well, so I don’t know what his deal is there). The same goes for Nebula and every freaking conversation she and Gamora had boiled down to either Thanos or Ronan. We also could have used WAY more Nova Prime Rael than we got. You have Glenn freakin’ Close. USE HER. Hopefully for the sequel, this will improve. Maybe we can even get a Phyla-Vell by then? Oh, who am I kidding? We can’t even get a Carol Danvers or a Black Widow movie because Kevin Feige won’t move his ass on a female led superhero movie.

Do better, Marvel. DO IT FOR HER. [liveforfilms.com]

Do better, Marvel. DO IT FOR HER. [liveforfilms.com]

Still, even with that gripe, I still love this film way too much. It’s smart, fun, and completely uncynical. It may be the spiritual successor to Star Wars and Firefly, but it’s totally spiritual bros with Pacific Rim as well and maybe a bit of a spiritual rival for how colorful they are. They’re the movies our inner kids need and deserve. I’m glad that Guardians of the Galaxy is getting the success it deserves because we need more films like it in the world. Ones that spark the imagination, can bring a smile to our faces, and an extra pep to our steps because we can’t get ‘Come and Get Your Love’ out of our heads.

Oh yeah, you might want to get the soundtrack too. It’s all 70s pop and it just works in that very perfect Tarentino-esque way. I’ve pretty much had it on repeat all week, especially the middle part of the soundtrack that starts with ‘I Want You Back.’ You’ll know why.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Comics, Film

 

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Ashley’s Six Favorite Comics of 2013

Well, they’re finally here! Nearly a month into 2014 is a perfect time for me to share my favorite things of 2013. Everyone is done talking about it. It’s the perfect time to strike!

(Or I’m just trying to compensate for the fact I got busy with work, Nerdophiles, and starting Fashionably Animated.)

Anyway, I’m going to start with the most basic list. This year was the year I really got into comics. Maybe it was because I was going to my LCS every month for Killjoys or because I had friends trying their hardest to get me reading the series they loved, but I fell in love with Image and Marvel pretty hard. Here are my absolute favorite comics of 2013.

prettydeadly02-cover6.) Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios (Image)

This comic has a bit of notoriety already with a story floating around that the owner of a Los Angeles comic book store ripped up a copy of the book. However, that wasn’t what got me to read the book. It was all the good things said about the comic in the aftermath.

I’m a lover of weird west comics and this is about as weird as they come. The comic has a Sandman-esque vibe, but the Death seen here is far from Gaiman’s perky Death. Death is ruthless, and his daughter Deathface Ginny might be even more so. It’s only three issues in as of right now, but those three issues have me entranced with the brutal, beautiful universe of Pretty Deadly.

Must Read Issue: #2, where Deathface Ginny and Big Alice face off.

5.) Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Image)

This series is the current crown jewel of the Image Comics line and for good reason. This space epic may have saga14-coverthe backdrop of two warring planets, but it’s not about anyone with a destiny to end the war or star-crossed lovers doomed to die at the hands of their terrible warring families. It’s about a family trying to find their way in the universe, despite all odds.

Granted, those odds include bounty hunters, a Robot Prince, and journalists looking for the truth behind the story, but hey, new parents deal with a lot worse, I’m sure.

Not to mention the art is gorgeous. Vaughn’s writing may be poignant and sarcastic, but they wouldn’t have as much life as they do without Staples’ art. It almost makes up for the rage inducing cliffhangers at the end of each issue. Almost.

Must Read Issue: #14, where we finally meet the illustrious Oswald Heist and Gwendolyn and The Will discuss the future.

portrait_incredible4.) Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Annie Wu, and Matt Hollingsworth (Marvel)

I know, I’m a bit of a Johanna Come Lately to this series, but I couldn’t exactly read it until I could afford it on Comixology. It was definitely worth the wait though because the series is easily one of the best things Marvel has going for it right now. The art manages to be gorgeous without fail with every issue and the writing manages to be dramatic without being overly so. I love the humorous moments of self-deprication or pure ridiculousness. I expect nothing less from Clint Barton’s life and I’m so happy it delivers. If we ever get a Hawkeye movie, I really hope it’s based on this series.

Must Read Issue: #11, where we get Pizza Dog’s side of the story on the death of Grills and the opening moments of the Hawkeye Annual.

3.) Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, and CAPMARV2012009_COVFilipe Andrade (Marvel)

The statement I’m about to say is not one that should be taken lightly.

When I read Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel series, I felt a feeling inside that I haven’t felt since I read Greg Rucka and JH Williams III’s work on Batwoman: Elegy in 2009. Here was a superhero I truly wanted to be. One that inspires me to be more than I am. Like Batwoman, Captain Marvel’s story inspires me to soldier on and not take anyone’s bullshit.

Unlike Batwoman, it all comes from a very sarcastic character who named her cat after Chewbacca.

Granted, the art isn’t at Elegy caliber, but it’s a comic where the story matters more to me than the art.

Must Read Issue: #9, where Carol has a full day that goes completely wrong. Includes a gorgeous cover from Jamie McKelvie and Captain Marvel punching a dinosaur.

167082.) The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan (Dark Horse)

This series emotionally compromised me in the best possible way.

I’ve talked at length about the series and my connection to it already and I’m sure to talk about it even more once the big hardcover trade comes out in May, but this series defied my expectations and gave me the closure I needed on the end of an era. It was a story about survival, cutting your own path, outgrowing the shadows cast over you, and love. Most of all though, it was about finding hope again when it’s been lost. It was subtle, yet dangerous and beautiful all the way.

Killjoys never really die, and this series proved it.

Must Read Issue: #4, where everything hits the fan and Way punches me in the gut with feelings.

1.) Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky (Image)sexcriminals3-cover

I honestly did not expect a series about two people that could stop time whenever they had sex and use that power to rob banks to steal my heart the way it has, but it did and I’m totally okay with that. This series is deathly funny and extremely smart. It’s not just a sex comedy, but a honest look at sex, the effect it has on us, and how we work around the lack of education about it given to us at a young age. I’ve already written at length about this series, and I’m sure I’ll have more to say as the series goes into the future.

And you want to know how much I love this series? I had a letter published in issue #4 and I went to Applebee’s to take pictures with my comics all in the same week. THAT’S how much I love Sex Criminals.

Must read issue: #3, where Suzie sings ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ and the plan to rob banks is hatched.

Next post will be about the six movies I actually saw last year! …Yeah, I didn’t get to the theater much, unfortunately.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Comics

 

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I Resolve

tumblr_mbw49lMP0z1qb0qmuo1_r1_400

Art by Jamie McKelvie

This year has been the very definition of “growing pains.”

When it was good, it was good. I have the most amazing friends and I did the coolest things. There was a lot of new fiction and music that filled my life and it feels nice to say I’m employed and volunteering my time and writing to an online publication I love.

However, when it was rough, I could feel it. I can pretty much pinpoint exactly where my feelings about myself began to turn from “majestic women worthy of praise and love” to “world’s biggest loser.” It didn’t help that I was still working out stuff with my mother and trying my best to get off the couch I was sleeping on to not a whole lot of success for a few months. Feeling like I wasn’t spectacular and special dug that hole further.

In 2014, I say that’s no more.

I expect there to be growing pains. I’m 23 years old. I nearly kicked out my car radio every time I heard ’22’ by Taylor Swift because it sounded like what a sixteen-year-old thinks being 22 is like. I seriously can’t believe I bought into the high school lie that I would have it figured out by now because I really, really don’t. I expect some serious desk-flipping frustration.

However, I’m going to face them head on. Because that’s what Cindi and Carol would do.

Last year, I resolved to bring more color into my wardrobe and my life and it has worked out spectacularly so far. I’m not turning back now.

This year though, I had two things that inspired me to go to another level: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel.

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Art by Sam Spratt

The Electric Lady is my favorite album of this year along with Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy. Continuing the story of Electric Lady #1 Cindi Mayweather, The Electric Lady is an album about growing pains, but also putting on the brave face and transcending beyond that. It’s standing up for your beliefs and being electric and unreal in the face of people that are determined to knock you down. And nothing drove that home further than seeing Janelle Monae perform a sold out show to the Tabernacle in her hometown of Atlanta. I had seen her perform three songs live before, but not on the level of that show. She was everything I expected Cindi to be and more, blurring that line between fiction and reality and electrifying everyone into a frenzy. I wanted to be that. I want to be an Electric Lady. I want everything that comes with it and everything that means, even if it’s just a fraction of it.

Captain Marvel was late in the game. I had only read In Pursuit of Flight earlier this month, but I unexpectedly fell for Carol Danvers in a way I hadn’t with any female superhero since Kate Kane when I read the first issue of Batwoman: Elegy in 2009. Much like Greg Rucka’s writing for the tenacious Kate, so much of my feelings for Carol come from Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing of the character. Carol is not the one to lay down and die. She doesn’t give in, and she goes out fighting. I mean, she stubbornly refuses to stop fighting even in the face of her brain exploding. (Though, I haven’t read The Enemy Within yet. I’m getting it in the mail today. No spoilers!) She strives for more and encourages others to do the same. I’ve found myself multiple times in the past few weeks muttering “higher, faster, futher, more” to myself and vowing to punch holes in the sky and dinosaurs in the face. Matt Fraction’s Kate Bishop and Suzie may speak to my sarcastic sides, but Deconnick’s Captain Marvel has given me something to strive for. Flying high and not backing down.

So this is what I resolve for 2014.

I resolve to be electric and unreal. To catch eyes and ears and make people not forget me. To make them wonder if I actually exist.

I resolve to not give in. That even in the face of sadness and adversity, I’ll keep going instead of laying down arms. I will love where it is appropriate, and punch it in the face when it isn’t.

I resolve to raise antennas and fly high and soldier on.

I resolve to do this concurrently with being magic, and to remember that loving and punching goes well with being a magical girl too.

I resolve to remember that it’s okay to be sad and angry, but that it can always be worked out somehow.

I resolve to punch holes in the sky and dance until the end.

But above all things, I resolve not to forget how wonderful and worthy I am. I will always remember that I am electric, magic, unreal, and spectacular, even if no one else does.

I’ll post my year ends this week. Happy New Year to you all and hope that you all have a fantastic and safe night.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Comics, Music, Personal

 

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You Keep Eternity: What The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys means to me

Today, I want to talk about the Killjoys.

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes, expecting this to be another blog post about My Chemical Romance breaking up.

No, it’s not just that. The Killjoys were never just My Chemical Romance to me. They were so much more than that.

When Danger Days was announced in 2010, I had fallen out with pop punk a bit. I still listened to my old standbys, but I was so bored with it. I hadn’t even listened to My Chemical Romance in ages at that point. Not out of not being a fan anymore. The darkness of their previous records just wasn’t appealing to me at the time.

And then, Art is the Weapon came out.

This was unlike anything I had seen from MCR before. It was bright and colorful. It was a punk rock apocalypse inspired by cheesy 80s movies and cartoons. It was a future where the primary weapon was a modified NES light gun.

It was also the quickest I’ve ever started planning for a Dragon*Con costume.

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For a year, Envy Green was my baby. It was more than a costume to me. It was creating a character in a universe where creativity was the ultimate form of rebellion. It was the reason I started learning how to sew. It resulted in hot glue burns, needle stabs, and a constant feeling that it wasn’t really done until the night before the convention.

Y’know… like an actual costumer.

I poured my soul into creating Envy. If the costume hadn’t been so freaking hot, I would have slipped into her more, but Georgia humidity doesn’t lend itself to creative costumes with lots of heaviness. Still, it kills me that the jacket has been MIA for about a year. I have an idea of where it is, but that’s truly where her soul resides.

The Girl in question...But for nearly three years, the story wasn’t complete. We had Danger Days, there was the Mad Gear and the Missile Kid EP, and there were the videos. But the knowledge of the comic of a similar name had been around since summer of 2009. Meaning that it was all a part of a greater universe. So the fandom waited… and waited… and waited…

Finally, at New York Comic Con 2012, Gerard gave us the information that we were waiting for. That four years after the initial announcement and nearly three after Danger Days had released, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic was coming out. The idea had changed since its original inception, with the story becoming more about The Girl than anything else.

Then, five months later, MCR announced their break up.

Suddenly, that comic wasn’t just closure for Danger Days. It was going to be closure for fans as well.

And really, it has been that so far.

Only two issues have been released at the time of this blog, but the theme of the two issues has definitely been learning to live without. The Girl from the videos is 18 years old now. She’s been living and running by herself in the desert after her protectors died trying to save her. Now she’s learning how to adapt now that she’s been thrown back into the world that she ran from.

I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

It’s very much Way’s letter to his daughter Bandit. A lot of Danger Days was. There are so many themes of survival and fighting back between the two that it does feel like he’s telling her that she’s strong enough to live without him.

And to some extent, it seems like that’s what he’s telling the fans too. A lot of MCR fans are young women. I was either 14 or 15 when I heard ‘I’m Not Okay’ for the first time. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was one of the soundtracks of my early teenage angst along with a bunch of Green Day albums and Bleed Like Me by Garbage. I later switched them out for Letters by Butch Walker, but it doesn’t mean that they stopped being important to me. I was sad when MCR broke up. I was sad for my friends who were devastated by it.

But The Girl’s story is a story that could be ours as well. Way has stated that before. The Girl, 12 years later.She’s special, she’s smart, and she’s stronger than she knows. It’s a great message for the fans who cite MCR as life savers, but also for girls in general. Young women are rarely allowed comic book heroes written for them. The only other one I can think of that is currently running is Princeless by Jeremy Whitley (which is an amazing series and Jeremy and his wife Alicia are super nice). (Also, if there are more comics that are female centric that actually feel female centric, feel free to let me know.) While the Girl is currently nameless, there’s a story building there that looks like it could be an amazing story of a girl finding her own strength.

It’s also worth mentioning the character of Blue. Blue’s a porno droid, which is Battery City’s fancy phrase for “robot prostitute.” Much of the time, sex worker characters are shunted to the side for jokes or cautionary tales, but Blue is given a lot of sympathy. She’s working twice as hard to try and help her fellow droid (sister? lover? bff?) Red and even went through of ton of bureaucracy to do so. And it looks like as of issue #3, she’s going to be fighting back as well.

YEAH BLUE!I’m cosplaying Blue at Dragon Con this year. While it has been nowhere near as much work as Envy, this is the most excited I’ve been about a costume since Envy. I guess that’s appropriate to how the Killjoys initially made me feel. It was about art, creativity, and radical self-expression. Where I am in my life now makes me feel empowered to dress as her and I look forward to doing so, whether anyone else is or not. I’m powerful, and no one else will be allowed to tell me otherwise as soon as I put on those boots and slide my new ray gun into my stocking.

I mean, wasn’t that what being a Killjoy was all about?

When all six issues are out in November, I’m going to have a more coherent review of the story. I just wanted my readers to better understand my connection to the world of the Killjoys.

Why I nearly cried when I received the FCBD story “Dead Satellites” though? Well, maybe that’s a story worth keeping a secret from the internet at large for the time being. Maybe some other time, Dust Angels…

Okay, I laughed at this when I read issue 2...

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Comics, Music, Personal

 

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