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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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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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