Monday Morning Critic – 10 Thoughts … On James Gunn’s Guardians Of The Galaxy (Heavy Spoilers) – Manhunter on DVD

MMC

There isn’t much going on this week to write about, of course, and the whole “no one cares about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because of Michael Bay producing” is lame too. The big to do this weekend was Guardians of the Galaxy absolutely destroying it at the box office despite it having everything working against it.

Thus, with nothing to write about of note, I’m going with the Inside Pulse spoiler heavy format of 10 Thoughts.

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10. – Nearly hitting $100 million domestically is extraordinary.

It’s fairly substantive in that Marvel the brand just did what a lot of studios have tried (and failed) to do: Make a franchise when everything shouldn’t work that way. We can be fair in that anything above $50 million domestic should be considered a success, as that’s usually a good start for a summer franchise film, and nearly crossing the nine figure line is incredible for a film that doesn’t have the sort of place in the American Pop Culture Lexicon as the one GotG occupies.

You can talk about the power of marketing, etc, but this is purely the power of the Marvel Brand right now. They took relatively unknown heroes outside the comic book fandom and made a film that’s going to make a whole lot of money out of it. The Marvel Universe is something special now, folks. The film’s also really good too, which doesn’t hurt. The next big test will be Ant-Man, which has already had substantive production issues.


Guardians of the Galaxy Rocket Raccoon logo icon

9. The leg theft, and the aftermath, is probably the best gag of the year

I laughed harder than I have all year from that single gag. For those who haven’t seen the film, and those who want to relive it, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) has Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) steal a prosthetic leg as part of their prison break plan. It turns out of course that Rocket was just screwing with him, of course, but the payoff was so ridiculously hilarious that it worked. Plus they stitched back to it when he asked for a guy’s artificial eye before the big action sequence at the end and couldn’t stifle the laughter as he tried to talk his walk into it, as well.

It was a nice play off the usual “We need to get this, this and this” as part of some master plan in an escape. Pratt sold it beautifully, as well. More on him in a minute but this scene was everything right with what this franchise should be. Sometimes a good gag to poke fun at the formulaic “all these tools are required to break out” plot point in a prison escape can make all the difference.


8. Chris Pratt isn’t going to be someone who’ll make a great action movie star … but he’ll be a great Peter Quill

I’ve liked Chris Pratt for a while and he was arguably the best part of 10 Years, more noteworthy for being a film where Channing Tatum has to do Channing Tatum things at a high school reunion. He’s got great comic timing and he reminds me much more of a guy who could be a great comedic leading man rather than action hero. He got into great shape for the film, no doubt, and I have no worry he couldn’t stay in reasonably decent shape for a while if he wanted to be an action movie star.

I just don’t see Pratt in the same way as someone like Dwayne “The Rock’ Johnson, for example. He doesn’t have that superhero presence; he has the smarky sidekick at best kind of air to him and Quill is a great part for him. Plenty of actors can be superheroes and not action stars; Pratt has the feeling of one of them, like Chris Evans. There’s nothing wrong with having one signature role in an action film and staying away from the genre entirely, either. Pratt is a comedy actor, and a terrific one at that, and I doubt with the Marvel commitment he’ll have time to commit to another action franchise either.

His comic timing was insanely more impressive than his physique and his action sequences were. He looked in amazing shape, I do have to say. He worked his tail off to get that look and he should be commended for it. Pratt looked like how a comic book action hero should look like but he doesn’t have that sort of action hero presence. He has a great comedy presence, and a great comic book presence … but Pratt feels more like Tom Arnold than Arnold proper in an action film.


Howard the Duck Guardians of the Galaxy movie post credit scene

7. Guardians of the Galaxy > The Avengers

I had no great love for The Avengers and don’t see how people liked it as much as they did. They overrate the big action sequence in New York at the expense of some insanely slow moments, among other things. I’ve always thought of Whedon’s film as being fan proof because no one wants to criticize what we all thought was impossible: the biggest film in the world with the biggest opening in modern movie history being about comic book superheroes.

It was the achievement boner of the nerd kingdom on such a substantial level that no one will actually admit that the film is very profoundly flawed.GotG is the sort of experience I wished The Avengers would’ve been in retrospect. Funnier film and a flat out better one, to boot.


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6. Vin Diesel with only five lines might be the new hotness

Let’s be fair; Vin Diesel is only relevant as long as he does Fast & Furious films. And with Paul Walker’s death trying to continue on will be a bit more difficult, as well, and Diesel’s inability to find sustained success outside of F&F is a curious thing. I never thought I’d tolerate his monotone, charisma free delivery of lines as much as I did when it’s just “I AM GROOT.”

Diesel is kind of the musclehead Blake Lively in that regard. But that’s a future column.


October 2014 DC Comics New 52 Solicitations Wonder Woman #36

5. Warner Bros. and DC can’t get a Wonder Woman anything done for decades that isn’t a cartoon. Marvel gave us a Raccoon armed to the teeth killing people while holding onto the back of a living, gigantic tree … in space.

Wonder Woman has been a big to do for DC Comics for some time. But there neither has been a film nor a television show that has been able to get made since Lynda Carter did it all sexy like. Now they’re shoehorning her into a Justice League film that has morphed out of what was once just a Superman sequel that had Bat-Man in it. It’s a ton of machinations to bring out one of the most known characters in comic book history to the big screen for any number of reasons.

In an era where women are starting to get strong characters and their own films a Wonder Woman film or TV show should be beyond a no brainer at this point. But it’s not … and the character who should be the one being held up as this paragon for young girls as a hero in this country is probably going to be a near afterthought in her introduction. She’ll figure into the Justice League film but for a character of such profound influence to have this sort of innocuous introduction is sad in this modern era of filmmaking.

Marvel? Marvel just said “We have a Raccoon who shoots guns with his partner, a tree that speaks three words. Plus a bunch of criminals, too. Plus it’s in space. Let’s do something with this” and it happens. What a world we live in, no?


Guardians of the Galaxy movie poster

4. James Gunn worked well in the Marvel Studio system … but didn’t make a cookie cutter film, either

James Gunn took his Troma honed style to the genre and we got some great moments. The big walking scene has Zoe Saldana yawning and an animated raccoon adjusting his crotch; there are other, subversive moments as well and the one thing about Gunn I can say is that he did something different. The one thing about Marvel Studios is that a large chunk of their films have been homogenized. There aren’t many differences between them as there’s a distinct Marvel style that the entire universe follows. You can tell which Marvel films are from the Studio and what aren’t because they have a distinct visual style that’s tough to duplicate.

Gunn took this sort of visual style and made it grow up a bit, adding in some of his more trademark irreverence into the picture. It felt different, despite the fact that it hit all the usual points a Marvel Studios film is supposed to hit.


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3. Dave Batista was note perfect as Drax

“Nothing goes over my head! I have fast reflexes and would catch it…”

I thought Batista would be a huge eyesore on the film as you never know what’ll happen when you get former pro athletes/pro wrestlers in films. Rick Fox has been an awful actor after having a fairly solid NBA career. Batista has been hit and miss in films so far; the high point was The Man With the Iron Fists in terms of acting ability before this.

He was about as pleasant surprise as it gets, playing everything so straight that it became a gag that worked on a profound level. Gunn used him perfectly as he camouflaged his weakness by letting others carry heavier burdens on the dramatic end. It’s hard to ask a pro wrestler who doesn’t have a substantive resume to carry big burdens on he doesn’t.

Drax is oddly compelling as a character because of this and that’s a huge win for Gunn as a story-teller. I thought he’d be a weak point in an otherwise solid film and turned out to be far from it. I don’t need a Drax film, nor do most people, but he’s not replaceable fairly easy either at this point. You can’t just find some other musclehead to replace him right now; that spot is HIS and he doesn’t deserve to get the Terrence Howard treatment for GotG 2.


Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy movie

2. Thanos is setting the table for the franchise crossover that will mark the high point of the comic book genre

By the time Avengers 3 begins to be thought of we’ll have had some substantial movement in terms of sequels to every Marvel film franchise. With Thanos teased at the end of Avengers and having a part of this franchise he’s going to be the big bad for A3 because that franchise requires a more substantial villain to justify the whole gang. Throw him in GotG and you’ve got the ability to crossover both into a substantive film.

And it’ll also be the high water mark of the genre, and for Marvel Studios. It can’t get any bigger than the two biggest franchises Marvel has combining for one mega film. And it won’t thereafter, either. I’m calling it now: A3 will be the cinematic equivalent of UFC 100 or Mayweather vs. Alvarez. It’s all downhill from thereafter.


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1. This is the Star Wars sequel we deserve … but won’t get because I have this sinking feeling this is going to be all sorts of terrible.

Next summer Star Wars: Episode 7 is going to make all of the money. ALL OF IT. But I have this sneaking feeling based on what’s been happening so far that this is going to turn into a nightmare. I just can’t shake this feeling we’re looking at a terrible, terrible film because sometimes art can’t prosper through adversity. It’s the same one I have with Ant-Man as well.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

A Most Wanted Man will probably be one of my top films of the year when all is said and done. Check my review here.

Mike Noyes watched the Russian Saving Private Ryan here.

Travis knocked out a review of Guardians of the Galaxy in theatres here.

Brendan Campbell took down House of Cards season 2.

And now on MMC … some shenanigans.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Manhunter

Before Hannibal Lektor was comically creepy in Silence of the Lambs he was just an evil prick in Michael Mann’s Manhunter.

Simple premise. Graham (William Peterson, all around Chicago guy) is brought back in by the FBI to track down a serial killer called the “Tooth Fairy.” After bringing down Lektor (Brian Cox) and having a breakdown because of it, Graham is back on the case and the film follows the case as they track him down.

It’s interesting to see this film because between this and Thief we get to see the beginnings of the Mann, story based style of crime thriller. I enjoyed the film but it wasn’t a brilliant one. You can see how his style evolved from this film, especially considering I watched HEAT a week ago, in the same way watching Thief and then Miami Vice gives you an insight into his growth as an artist.

Mild recommendation

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The Hundred Foot Journey – Helen Mirren gets into a street battle with a rival restaurant across the way

See it – This reminds me a lot of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which was about as perfect of counter programming as it got in 2011 in retrospect. Plus Helen Mirren is fairly reliable in terms of picking good projects, as well.

Into the Storm – A bunch of crazy people chase storms. SHENANIGANS, AHHHHHHH!

Skip it – I remember when Twister did the whole tornado bit in the 90s and that film was pretty awful. This looks like that, but with more tornadoes and more awful.

Step Up All In – It’s an all-star suck fest as the best from the previous films come back to win the ultimate dance off in Las Vegas.

Skip it – I didn’t even realize they were still making these films, honestly. Apparently they are.

Ninja Turtles – The live action reboot of the franchise. With Megan Fox as a journalist and Will Arnett slumming it up in some capacity … plus apparently they chose to not use nu-metal Vanilla Ice for a song about ninjas.

Skip it – There’s a nostalgia about the cartoon series that makes everyone want to keep trying to make this into a workable franchise again. It’s just I think the concept is now silly enough that it just doesn’t work in a contemporary setting.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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