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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 Favorite Movies of 2013

In 2012, I feel like I spent most of my summer at the movies, watching nearly every big release between May and July. Well, at least the ones I felt like seeing.

This year, not so much.

Last year, I saw a total of nine new releases. That means I’m leaving off a total of three movies. One of them because I’m horribly biased towards it, the other because it was an awful, horrible misogynistic piece of crap, and the last one being just okay.

So out of the nine films I saw last year, which ones did I actually enjoy?

Warm_Bodies_Theatrical_Poster6.) Warm Bodies

Well, I never thought I’d say this, but who knew that a zombie movie could make me coo so much? Especially one based on Romeo and Juliet!

Warm Bodies was an interesting turn on the zombie movie. Told from the inner monologue of a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), the film turns from one creature’s acceptance of his de-evolution into a ravenous monster into finding something worth fighting for all thanks to THE POWER OF LOVE.

Which does sound pretty cheesy when I type it out, but it’s a really sweet film that’s extremely funny too. I don’t think I’ve stopped laughing over Rob Corddry as M since last February. If you haven’t seen Warm Bodies yet, add it your watch list for Valentine’s Day this year.

5.) Thor: The Dark WorldTHURS_003B_G_ENG-GB_70x100.indd

I still haven’t made up my mind over if I liked this movie more than the first Thor film, but there was still a lot of fun to be had along the way. Marvel continued into Phase 2 of the Cinematic Universe by showing us more of Asgard and throwing in the fact that other dimensions do exist within the MCU. Which makes me want some hilarious MCU/616 crossovers.

The film wasn’t perfect. Some characters felt pushed to the side and Christopher Eccleston sure as hell wasn’t used to his full potential as Malekith, but the humor was spot on and it was fun to watch Thor and Loki banter, argue, and annoy the ever loving crap out of each other. My favorite past-time while watching the film was utter “Loki, you little shit” over and over again until I screamed it by the end.

Of course, if you really wanted to see me dork out over this film, it was for Idris Elba as Heimdall and the post credits scene that sets up for Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. If you want my more complete thoughts on the film, scroll down to the end of Therese’s review at Nerdophiles, but prepare for spoilers!

MV5BNzA1MTk1MzY0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjkzNTUwMDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_4.) The World’s End

Well, the Cornetto Trilogy came to an end this year, but man, did it go out with a bang.

Once again, director and co-writer Edgar Wright was there to turn genres on their heads, this time with the friendship comedy-drama with an secret alien invasion movie ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The action was amazing and the comedic timing was so spot on that I could barely keep up to the next joke sometimes. However, the most astounding part of the film were the more dramatic moments. The Cornetto trilogy has had them in the past, but never as tragic as the ones in The World’s End. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carry the film beautifully as Gary King and Andy Knightly, but the supporting cast is just as amazing too.

With an unexpected ending that made me stop and think for a bit after the movie was over, The World’s End took the unofficial trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead almost ten years before out on a high note. Plus, the action scenes that made me notice that Wright learned a thing or two from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World made me super excited to see what he has in store for us in Ant-Man.

3.) Iron Man 3She's a damsel. She's in distress. She can handle it.

So nice I saw it twice in opening weekend. I’ve already talked about the aspects of the film relating to Tony’s anxiety, but this is exactly the kind of film Marvel needed to kick off Phase 2. Complain about the ending all you want, but it’s not going to take away the fact that we needed a film that explored what being Iron Man means to Tony and how it affects his life after what happened to him in The Avengers. Shane Black delivered that film in spades, and probably better than what Jon Favreau could have done.

Also, if you don’t like Rhodey being the best in this movie, I don’t like you.

2.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

This is another film I’ve probably said all I need to say about it, but it was just so damn good that I saw it twice in the same day! No, really.

As a fan of this franchise, I was super proud of this adaptation of my favorite book in the series. It was so spot on to what was happening in the book and all the changes made for the movie adaptation made sense and actually made the story better. That’s rare and beautiful. I just hope the Mockingjay movies will be just as good, but they’re already ahead with Natalie Dormer.

1.) Pacific Rim

I LOVE THIS MOVIE SO HARD. So much so to the point my friends automatically associate the film with me. My review of this movie even got me my job at Nerdophiles, so that’s another reason I have to thank Guillermo Del Toro for making this film. It was prettiest, most fun summer blockbuster I’ve seen in a long time and it was well worth the three times I paid to see it. Including IMAX 3D.

Striker Eureka reporting in!

Next up will be my favorite TV of the year. Heads up, it’s going to be a little more intensive than this one.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Film

 

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Tony Stark’s Super Powered Anxiety

Before I start this blog about the latest superhero movie, I just wanted to start with a sincere thank you. I am blown away by the positive response my last blog received. Thank you to my friends for your love and support, and to all the strangers that my story might have resonated with. An extra thank you to Anytime Yoga for sharing the post on r/BodyAcceptance and to everyone who was linked to here from there. It’s currently one of the top posts on that particular subreddit and because of that, this little blog bypassed 70,000 views today! So again, thank you to everyone who read it!

Also, I updated my About page and added a Friends of the Diary page to help promote some of my colleagues. If you have something that you would like included, let me know!

Now, I’m going to start talking about Iron Man 3 now. It’s been out for a week and I’m sure many of you have seen it at this point. However, if you haven’t, there are some serious SPOILERS ahead. Read ahead at your own risk!

"But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep."

When I saw Iron Man 3 the first time, I had a lot of thoughts I was trying to process at once. About Tony Stark as the audience grounding in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the relationship between him and Pepper, how Pepper used the weapon Killian tried to use against her and Tony to destroy Killian, the full circle aspects between this film and the first Iron Man movie, how it is impossible to really separate Tony and Iron Man, and how the Science Bros. can never truly die (seriously, stay for the credits).

However, it was on my second watch and noticing only one article from NPR touching upon it that I really focused on Tony’s anxiety and how it directs everything he does in the film.

When I was very young, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. For a while, I had almost daily panic attacks. Sometimes multiple ones in a day. As I’ve gotten older, the attacks happen less frequently, but they’re still something I have to live and deal with. When a panic attack occurs, you feel like your brain has betrayed you and sent you into a nosedive. I once compared it to being stalked by a bear. You know the bear is there and you do everything you can to protect yourself from the bear on a day to day basis. But then there are days you let your guard down and the bear attacks. You then spend time fighting it and trying to get it to go back into the shadows, and people who don’t have bears stalking them on a daily basis look at you strangely and treat the fight you’re having like an overreaction.

And I saw a lot of that in Iron Man 3. And I want to give Robert Downey Jr. all of the awards for the way he portrayed it.

The man and his can.Tony makes it very clear that things have not been the same for him since the events of The Avengers. He doesn’t get a lot of sleep and he’s haunted by the wormhole that nearly swallowed him up. Because of this, he’s made 35 new suits since he returned from New York and he’s begun to have panic attacks.

Maybe this is a result of some sort of undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe this is something that has already existed for Tony and became exacerbated after his near death experience. That is rather unclear. Either way, Tony has put his defenses up to compensate for those moments he feels like his brain has betrayed him.

When I saw Tony having his panic attacks, I suddenly felt more connected to Tony than I had in the past. Even though I didn’t have my heart stop in an alien wormhole, I know what it’s like to break down at inopportune times and suddenly not be able to see clearly. The moment where Harley reminded Tony that he’s a mechanic in the middle of one of his panic attacks took me back to so many moments of clarity during those extreme moments of anxiety.

For those moments of panic, it was just a further reminder to me that Tony is the focal point for which the audience views the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He was the first person we met in the MCU. Despite his genius, riches, and high powered toys, he really is the most human of all the heroes. He doesn’t have gamma radiation poisoning, super soldier serum, mystical powers, or years of tactical training. It’s all him. He’s snarky and self-centered, but tries his best to use his genius to save the world and protect those around him. He compensates for those moments of self-perceived weakness behind bravado and new toys to save the day. There will be moments where that veneer cracks though, and you feel like a vulnerable and exposed nerve without an Other Guy to save you.

This also makes where the relationship between him and Pepper has gone more She's a damsel. She's in distress. She can handle it.believable. Well, at least to me.

I’m not sure how true it is for others with similar issues, but I know that when I’m coming down from an attack or a near attack, I need human contact to ground me back in reality. Especially from those who either know me well enough to know how to talk to me during an attack or those with a kind of energy that makes me feel calmer just from being around them.

Pepper is that kind of grounding for Tony in this case. She has always been there to drag him back to Earth while he’s off being the Playboy Tony Stark, but her ability to stay down-to-Earth makes her even more important to Tony while he feels likes he is falling apart. After New York, Tony realizes how truly important Pepper is to him and then tries his best to protect her. Or at least in his own brand of it. Something that Pepper labels as a distraction.

So are all the suits a distraction? Is the ending justified?

Tony admits that the suits served as a cocoon. They were protection for him during a point of high vulnerability. A protection that didn’t always work out the way he planned, but protection all the same. The anxiety and the shielding shaped Tony’s experience up until that point. He’s still Iron Man at the end of the day with or without his suits, but sometimes, it is essential to take a step back and reshape your world to keep yourself from falling into the patterns that caused the reoccurring panic. The anxiety is always there, but maybe stepping outside of the suit for a bit keeps the bear further back in the shadows for a while.

Besides, if Tony wanted to stop being all about the tech, why would he bother to save Dum-E and You?

No matter how Tony returns, I know he won’t be gone from the suit for long.

Legacies like this never really go away...

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Film, Personal

 

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The Avengers, The Cabin in The Woods, and the next wave of Joss Whedon

Good Tuesday, readers! Today is the day I FINALLY review the year’s biggest superhero movie! A film I’ve seen almost as much as The Hunger Games and probably enjoyed more than most summer movies in the past five years. Yes, I’m talking about The Avengers! Though, I am physically unable to mention The Avengers without mentioning the other Joss Whedon-written film that most people ignored when it finally came out around the same time. I’m talking, of course, of The Cabin In The Woods. Yes, this is a review two-fer. What do the films have in common besides having the same co-writer and the same star? Well, it might be that these two films are a signifier of a new age of Joss Whedon that’s coming our way.

Spoilers for both films follow the picture.

The other night when I was logging back into my iChat account, I went through some old statuses I had put on my account over the years. Some were quotes from movies, songs, and TV shows. Many were inside jokes between me and friends. One status from 2010 stood out in particular though, and that was “Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers? Existence of God no longer in doubt.”

Any theological debates aside, that’s honestly what Joss Whedon directing and co-writing The Avengers felt like at the time when it was announced a little more than two years ago. A God-proving miracle. At the time, The Cabin In The Woods had been delayed for the second time (and would be delayed again two months after The Avengers announcement), and Dollhouse had been cancelled by Fox only months before. All Joss really had going for him at the time was the less-than-well-received Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic and a few ideas for projects that hadn’t been realized. So for Marvel to turn over the tent pole picture that had been in the making since the first Iron Man to the constantly spurned nerd icon that had only directed one movie before this was pretty much an honest-to-God miracle.

And Joss certainly did not waste it. The Avengers isn’t just Marvel’s dream fully realized. It’s a fully realized comic book movie. Something that I only thought Edgar Wright had managed to do when he directed the kinetic comic book known as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Here, it shows that Joss is a fan as much as us and that he wants this to be as epic as we’re all hoping it will be.

It’s not just that the acting was top-notch, the one-liners side-splitting in true Joss Whedon fashion, and the action wonderfully exciting and over-the-top like a comic book movie should be, it’s that everything here is fantastically developed. The Avengers could have easily been “Iron Man and friends,” but it’s truly a film about a group of people coming together for a common cause. As many people have commented on, this film really made The Hulk shine in ways that he has never before, and it proved that the Black Widow is not just there for the sex appeal. She’s a well-developed character who manages to be the one who saves the day. While it doesn’t have as many ladies as other Joss Whedon films, the ones that are there still manage to be really quite awesome. Pepper is brilliant, and Maria Hill manages to be a badass right hand to Fury. I’m looking forward to the deleted scenes on the Blu-Ray where Maria opens and closes the movie because of Cobie Smulders’ performance.

Basically, it’s the Superhero Team movie we all knew we wanted, and Joss made sure that we got it. His success is a gift to all of us, and payday for Marvel and Disney. I’m sure someone at Fox is kicking themselves for canceling him twice.

But what of the other movie by Joss that came out this year? The weird little horror film that no one knew anything about going into it only known as The Cabin In The Woods? Well, that Mutant Enemy production from Whedon and Drew Goddard is another sort of brilliant. And really, if you haven’t seen it and are wary of spoilers, STOP READING NOW. Another frustration that Joss Whedon has provided me along with killing Wash, Book, Tara, Anya, Jenny Calendar, Fred Burkle, and Phil Coulson, is the complete inability to talk about The Cabin In The Woods without spoiling it for everyone.

When I finally saw The Cabin In The Woods, I went in blind. That was kind of hard to do since I didn’t see it until a month after it released, but all I knew going into it was:

  1. I had been waiting for this movie since 2009.
  2. It was directed by Drew Goddard and written by Drew and Joss.
  3. Chris Hemsworth did this movie after Star Trek, but before Thor.
  4. That it is very tongue in cheek about horror movie stereotypes, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

And oh, did going in blind after waiting for three years pay off in spades. Centered around a group of college students who become the inadvertent sacrifices to ancient Gods when they travel out to a cabin in the woods, the film makes fun of the horror movie stereotypes that have existed since the days of The Evil Dead while explaining why they exist. It’s darkly funny, and oh-so-clever. From the opening scene where you see the secret compound that’s carrying out the horrors in that cabin to the absolutely chaotic third act where every horror movie nightmare is unleashed, the movie is an absolute thrill ride that manages to pay homage to the films that gave us those stereotypes while making fun of the movies that have reduced those stereotypes down. The characters manage to be normal people while this is all happening (unless they’re being controlled by pheromones) and the twists are just completely unexpected. Like Sigourney Weaver being the one giving everyone the orders. The main five consists of five great performances, but Fran Kranz as Marty managed to become one of my favorite Joss Whedon characters throughout the process of the film.

(And I might have been convinced that Jesse Williams needs to be Finnick Odair. Please Lionsgate?)

So what do these two unrelated films have to do with the future of Joss Whedon’s career? Well, how about the fact that he’s no longer just a nerd cult icon? He’s just directed the biggest comic book movie in the history of comic book movies. Maybe The Cabin In The Woods will be a cult movie, but it just shows that Joss is ready to take over film the way he took over TV. Serenity was just the preview. Here’s the opening night. And when Much Ado About Nothing andDr. Horrible 2 come out, I hope that traction will continue. Because this really is Joss Whedon’s time and we’re only just now seeing the beginning of his career in movies. He’s not just a nerd icon anymore. He’s about to take everyone else for the ride of our lives.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Film

 

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