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Guardians of the Galaxy Review, A Space Opera though the eyes of Marvel

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Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Starring: Chris PrattZoe SaldanaDave BautistaVin DieselBradley CooperLee PaceMichael RookerKaren GillanDjimon HounsouJohn C. ReillyGlenn CloseBenicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin

Recently Marvel’s track record has been less than enjoyable for me. Ever since Iron Man they’ve turned into a production company that reuses the same format that worked the first time but not so much with their other movies. Since The Avengers, Marvel has become the leading studio for successful movies. Even if it is considered to be a risk for the studio it is anything short of a risk. Marvel is such a hot property right now that it is unlikely that they will fail. Guardians of the Galaxy is technically a risk since they are stepping away from the main four heroes and focused on a group of renegades in space. The tropes that do follow their movies are there but it is so vastly different from anything else that they have done. Weirdly enough I enjoyed the studio stepping away from what they are used to and making something truly entertaining and unique.

The movie starts us off at Earth and Peter Quill is witnessing the death of his mother. Not long after he encounters a space ship outside of the hospital that eventually takes him aboard. Since then he become partners in crime with the ship’s captain Yondu (Michael Rooker). Flash forward 20 years, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is now an outlaw going by the name of Star Lord and he is on a mission to acquire an orb that holds great power. Soon he learns that he isn’t the only on looking for it. After failing to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world Xandar, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), adopted daughter of Thanos the Mad Titan (Josh Brolin), attacks Star Lord in an attempt to steal the orb for her self. Also at the same time Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), receive a bounty on Quill. After a street brawl between the four, they are captured and imprisoned in the Kyln.

Meanwhile Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) is plotting to destroy Xandar, with the help of Thanos. To do so he needs to get a hold of the orb that Star Lord possesses. In prison, Star Lord and his would be assassins decide to team up and escape the prison with the help of Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a maniac with a vendetta against Ronan and Thanos. After escaping prison the five unlikely heroes team up to stop Ronan from getting his hands on the orb and stopping his plans to destroy the galaxy.

To say that this movie is completely different than any Marvel movie is an understatement. Instead this movie feels like a standalone movie, only with slight hints at the other movies. The characters are interesting and play well off of one another. It’s completely odd to see the star of a movie be a raccoon who talks like a gangster and is tough for his size. The best character is by far Groot. He speaks very little and when he does it’s all just “I am Groot” but it seems Rocket can understand everything he is trying to say. These two characters have an interesting chemistry and it is weird to find sympathy with characters that are trees and raccoons. That’s where the risk really comes from. You don’t ever have characters as such as these nor having them headline a big blockbuster. The rest of the characters are also fascinating and really work well with the story. Driven by rage, Drax will stop at nothing to take vengeance on Ronan even if it screws the others over. These characters are much different than what other Marvel characters because they are superheroes but rather renegades just trying to make it by.

The acting is pretty great all around. Chris Pratt makes for a great leading man and really uses his comedic timing to provide laughs just as much as Robert Downey Jr. did in the first Iron Man. Zoe Saldana is great as the assassin who starts coming around to working as a group. She has really become the go to actress for science fiction space operas and she has excelled at playing the tough yet fragile female lead. Dave Bautista does a good job with his character but he is the weakest lead by far. He provides a lot of laughs with his characters inept understanding of metaphors but he always feels wooden.

Lee Pace does a good job as Ronan but considering that the villain is the weakest part of any Marvel movie. All of Marvels movies fail to even make an interesting villain and they always have the same motivations, they wanna destroy some kind of planet but they are never convincing in their motivations. They take more time focusing inaction than making a good villain and that’s the movies biggest downfall. He could have been an interesting character if he stayed true to his intentions in the first place. He is essentially Nero (Eric Bana) from 2009s Star Trek. Nebula (Karen Gillian) is interesting only in the fact that she had a little more character development and a backstory that makes her intentions a little bit more plausible.

I found the movie extremely entertaining and well done. The special effects are well done and so is the action. I found the comedy to hit the mark each time and really made it more enjoyable. I also like that the final fight didn’t involve to super powered people beating the hell out of each other.

Though it had some problems it ended up being one of the most enjoyable film of the summer and it comes high recommended.

Grade: A

 

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Lucy Review, A Dumb Movie that Attempts to be Smart

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Lucy

Directed by: Luc Beeson

Starring: Scarlett JohanssonMorgan FreemanAmr Waked, and Choi Min-sik

Luc Besson is a man of interesting taste. He likes to include stylish action while also trying to make his different and interesting. Lucy follows this model perfectly. At its core it simply is a dumb action movie that attempts to be smart as well. It succeeds as a dumb action movie but completely fails to be anywhere smart. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is being claimed as the smartest movie of the summer, while it isn’t the smartest movie ever, but Lucy makes it look like Citizen Kane. Now I like the concept of someone getting incredible powers from an experimental drug but including the plot line of the capacity of the brain and what we could do with access to your entire brain.

After agreeing to bringing a mysterious package to a crime load, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced into a life of crime. The crime lord Jang (Choi Min-sik) implants a package of illegal drugs into her lower intestine and sends her on her way. She is then taken captive by Jang’s men and locked away in a cellar. After one tries to rape her, she fights back and then is repeatedly kicked in the stomach, bursting the bag of drugs. The drugs then leak into her blood stream causing her to have a strange reaction.

The drugs causes her brain to expand the typical 10% that we use. She begins to exhibit strange powers that begin to take over her whole body. She gets in contact with Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), the leading expert in the brains capacity and how it works. She begins to work with him to solves her crisis and take vengeance on the ones who started it all.

Lets get this out-of-the-way first, the plot is  completely illogical and doesn’t really make sense when you think about it. The movie tries to take this scientific approach to the story that really doesn’t need to be done. I like the idea of less is more and having an explanation for what the drug is meant to do really bogs down the story that is trying to be told. To say that Besson’s filmography takes interesting concepts and never fully realizes them. The Fifth Element is another offender of this but it pulls it off perfectly. Lucy takes a philosophical approach to what we can do with unlimited access to our brain but never fully convinces me that it would even be possible to achieve. There was some points in the movie where he uses stock footage to show off the metaphors going on. It makes it more interesting to see how her powers would affect the real world and the theories of what is achievable when our brain reaches full capacity. There isn’t a dull moment and Besson at least makes the venture fun and never really takes his focus off of Lucy and her powers.

The performance from Scarlett Johansson is incredible but emotionless. At one point during the movie Lucy is talking to Professor Norman about how opening her mind has removed all emotions and feelings from her. So Scarlett’s robotic and lifeless performance actually makes sense in the context of the movie. She is good at coming off wooden and it makes her character more interesting and brings life to the movie. She embraces this and makes the character her own. Morgan Freeman is completely wasted though. He is only used as exposition and nothing else. To me it seems that he was written into the story just to tell the audience what is going on. His talents are wasted and his character is useless. If he was removed from the movie entirely I think the movie would actually be better. Instead of telling us what is going on just show us, Besson achieves that well with the stock footage but the explanation just kills the movie.

The movie excels when she is seeking vengeance towards her kidnappers. It would have been interesting to see a super powered female take on her captors in the typical revenge film format it would have been at least different. Instead it brings the idea of technological singularity into the picture. I like the idea and the end really fits with what they were going for but when the two are mixed together it feels off. In one hand you have a science fiction along the lines of Transcendence, in which artificial intelligence  takes center stage, and the other is closer to Leon: The Professional. The major problem faced here is that it can’t decide which it wants to embrace.

Even though I enjoyed the movie I never felt that it was fully realized and could have been better if they didn’t attempt to be smarter than it was.

Grade: C+

Under the Skin Review, A Mesmerizing Look at Human Existence

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Under the Skin

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Starring: Scarlett Johansson

When you look at science fiction you always end up with two different kinds of executions. On the one hand you have the ones that rely on action and on the other hand you have the slow burning think pieces. Under the Skin is the perfect example of the second one. The movie is vague and purposely so. The director made it this way so that the audience can think and figure out the purpose of the film on their own instead of being explicitly told what the movie means. It works to the movie advantage because it leaves this sense of mystery. The actions of the main character are never spelled out for you, it’s left to you to figure it out. A TV trailer compared the director to Stanley Kubrick. I wouldn’t agree with that entirely. I feel like the movie feels like a Kubrick movie. Kubrick’s films have the same level of mystery to them. He liked to challenge his viewer and make them think. He has made films that no one else can duplicate but Under the Skin accomplishes the mystery that Stanley Kubrick’s movies were able to portray.

In Scotland, an unnamed motorcyclist (Jeremy McWilliams) retrieves the body of a dead woman on the side of the road. At an undisclosed location, a naked woman (Scarlett Johansson) strips the dead body of it’s clothes and taking up the position that she held. She rebrands herself and starts on her quest to lure men into a trap and harvest their skin for her alien race. Along the way she begins to feel the emotions that plague the human race. She abandons her quest and makes her way into the foothills of Scotland.

This movie says a lot about how fragile we are the human race. The men in this movie want to feel affection from a more attractive individual. It makes us feel special when someone notices us and finds something interesting about us. Our lives depend on the affection of other, especially the opposite gender. The male characters in this movie all essentially let themselves go for woman. The main female is played by Scarlett Johansson and I don’t think anyone else could have played her. She is cold and beautiful yet at the same time very vulnerable and curious. In the beginning, she is the killing machine, on the prowl, for lonely men and does’t care about them only for their skin, a necessity for the alien race to blend in. As time goes by she begins to evolve and learn about the emotional state of human kind. Due to encounter with a young man, who suffers from the disease neurofibromatosis, and after their encounter she begins to see the beauty in the world and the curiosity about the live of humans. You see life through the eyes of another being. She is like a newborn baby, always discovering new things and learning about the world around them. You get an interesting look at a character that has fresh eyes towards the human race. The development of her character is done so well without to much exposition or dialogue, they are given the ability to develop along with the story.

Like The Rover, Under the Skin is minimalism at its best. Unlike other movies this year, Under the Skin uses the idea of less is more. Nothing is spelled out in this movie and it adds to the mystery of the film. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is by far the best work she has done and it shows that she is much more than a pretty face. Many people know this movie as “the movie in which Scarlett Johansson gets naked”. For whoever plans on seeing it for that fact alone than you should probably watch a different movie. She is never overtly sexualized but it is used for the character and he curiosity with human life.

The production values of the movie are spectacular. For such a low budget you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was so cheap. The cinematography is something of note. It uses long takes to linger on the world around her. The shots linger a little longer than most but I feel that is a strength of the movie. The look of the film is bleak and beautiful. The soundtrack is also breathtaking. It gives it a haunting and foreign feel to it.

Mind you the movie is a lot more fun to think about that it is to watch but I feel the need to watch this movie. It is simply amazing and that’s what I can take away from it. I loved every minute of it and I know that I will be returning to it in the future.

Grade: A+

Marvel Will Not Move ‘Captain America 3’ for ‘Batman V. Superman’

This could either be a good thing or a bad thing. Snagging release dates this early is somewhat important now and the first weekend of May is probably the most important one to snag early on. It now looks like the first weekend in May 2016 is going to be the most crowded day of the year. Captain America 3 seems like a sure thing to gross over a 100 million that weekend but at the same time Batman V. Superman comes out the same day and that might cause some problems. Superhero movies are the cornerstone of box office revenue now a days and when you have to competing on the same weekend and appealing to the same audience than one is going to make and the other will fail or both with fail. I don’t see it happening any other way. The both would do big business but not if they are competing on the same weekend with the same crowd. This is the problem with the marketplace today, you either go big or go home and with two big studio unwilling to change the release date they both are going to lose a load of potential business.