Guardians Of The Galaxy is the big budget Farscape film I’ve always wanted

***SPOILER KLAXON SPOILER KLAXON SPOILER KLAXON SPOILER KLAXON ***

So in keeping with my self-imposed quest to fill this blog with nothing but the latest film reviews I bring you what is no doubt going to be, or at least deserves to be, the biggest blockbuster of the summer.

Right off the bat Guardians of the Galaxy had me on side. Why you ask? From the trailer I’ve seen the movie hasn’t been spoiled. Unlike say the Avengers where the trailer showed the Hulk catching a falling Iron Man the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy gave little to none of the plot away. Instead the trailers focused on introducing the characters and the tone of the film.  Let us hope this begins a new trend for trailers.

If you were unaware then Guardians of the Galaxy follows Peter “Starlord” Quill, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Groot and Rocket (the racoon although I wouldn’t recommend calling him that to his face) as they first fight over an intergalatic orb of world destroying power, then they join forces to escape space prison, try to sell orb to “The Collector” and then complete the transition to heroes/friends by joining forces to stop the genocidal Ronan from committing genocide on a galaxy wide scale.

As you might guess from that brief synopsis the plot isn’t anything fancy. We aren’t talking about Momento here. Things are pretty much just a linear progression from A to B to C to D.

The thing is though this doesn’t matter because, unlike hundreds of other awful films Guardians of the Galaxy goes from A to B to C to D at 10,000 miles per hours in an adventure that is crammed with actions scenes, genuine laugh out loud moments and characters that have there own unique and believable motivations. Plus thanks to the walkman that Starlord carries with him everywhere the film has a jazzy 1970/80s upbeat pop score.

No doubt Guardians of the Galaxy is being compared to the original Star Wars and Firefly but a more accurate comparison for Guardians of the Galaxy is to the late great sci-fi series Farscape. The characters, tone, humour and vision of space are all much closer to Farscape than Star Wars or Firefly and I loved it.

Like Farscape there are great setpieces (although Guardians of the Galaxy has much better effects). Like Farscape there are humourous moments that border on the adult and like Farscape there is believable violence. We actually get to see alien blood something which apparently was cut from the Avengers to stop it receiving an 18 rating. Even the characters kind out fit into the Farscape archetypes.

Witness

Gomara is Aeryn Sun (Kickass love interest) Aeryn Sun

gomara

Rocket Racoon is Rygel (mouthy ass with heart of gold)

rocketDominar Rygel XVI

Drax is D’Argo (angry warrior wanting vengeance)

draxd'argo

Groot is Moya (clever non-verbal being that protects them)

groot moya

Ronan is Scorpios (scary bad guy)

ronan scorpio

and Peter Quill is John Crichton (cocky hero)

quill crichtongun

Aside from the humour, action and Farscapeiness Guardians of the Galaxy does a good job of pulling back and giving a better understanding of the scale of the Marvel universe. In particular it was great to see them begin to set up what a huge and scary villain Thanos is. In many previous Marvel movies the villains have been pretty flat characters (with the exception of Loci) and this always robbed them of being properly menacing.

In the interests of being fair and balanced (although not in a Fox News sort of way) though I must criticise one thing about Guardians of the Galaxy and that is Glenn Close’s character. Glenn Close is a great actor. She was great in The Shield she was great in Damages. In Guardians of the Galaxy though her, thankfully, brief appearances on the screen brought the film to a screeching halt. She didn’t seem to be sure whether she was playing her role for laughs or playing it straight. Furthermore, she did not seem to want to be there. Glenn Close was doing the good old cash grab in a film that everyone else seemed to be really trying in and it annoyed me.

Overall, then Guardians of the Galaxy is a very good to great film. I saw it in 2-D but I kind of think the visuals were so good that it would be worth seeing it in 3D (and that is high praise because 3D is a mostly rubbish Glenn Close style cash grab). For me Guardians of the Galaxy is now the benchmark of success for future Marvel pictures. I had a great time watching it.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Captain America : The Winter Soldier (Obligatory spoiler klaxon)

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier_Teaser_poster_2If somebody asked me how to describe and review Captain America : The Winter Soldier probably the first thing I’d do is pause. The second thing I’d probably do would be to go “um”. In many ways I feel this response says everything you need to know about Captain America : The Winter Soldier.

Since I’m bothering to write up a review though I’ll try (and likely fail) to put things more eloquently. So here we go. Watching Captain America I never felt bored but then I never really felt entertained either.

With blockbusters or franchise films the temptation is to describe them as being like empty calories or fast food. You enjoy it at the time but they aren’t really filling. This isn’t the case with Captain America though.

The film didn’t feel like insubstantial fluff but neither did it seem like a proper meal. It was like a heavy pie or cake that hasn’t risen fully in the oven. It was stodgy.

The problem is that there is little in the film to truly anchor you to the action. Captain America isn’t an especially interesting or cool superhero. He is vanilla. This is fine if either you have a great plot or great villain, ideally both, but Captain America doesn’t really have either.

The plot has events but it never really shocks you. Characters drop in and out. They disappear for a time and then reappear. If you have seen actions films previously or really any films these entrances and exits are not in the least bit surprising.

So if the plot isn’t delivering then you look to the bad guys to hold your attention. To bring a sense of threat and charisma to proceedings. To introduce a little anarchy into the system. The villains completely fail to do this.

Robert Redford is doing a great impression of a man scooping up a really big paycheck. Even when he shoots a poor maid who forgot her phone his heart doesn’t seem to really be in it. Or maybe I just can’t find Redford menacing.

The semi-titular “Winter Soldier” is incipiently threatening with his cool robotic arm but then is neutered by the reveal that he is the long lost (brainwashed) best bud of Steve Rodgers. Whilst the traitorous mercenary is so forgettable that I can’t remember his name.

The most interesting villain is the Nazi scientist AI who not only feels genuinely evil but also has a retro “Wargames” style aesthetic which I enjoyed and the film (credit to it) actually calls out. Sadly though he is only there briefly and basically functions as Basil Exposition.

falcon

I’m guessing this was from the comic

As I said though I wasn’t bored. The actions trucks along at a fast enough click to keep you paying attention. Captain America shield smashes and pancakes more disposable bad guys then you can easily count. Plus there is a cool new sidekick with metal wings and a jetpack.

Added to this are Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff. Two genuinely interesting characters who just steal every scene they are in. Not only are Jackson and Johansson great actors but their characters hint at the more nuanced and darker film that I wished this film was. Johansson in particular was mesmeric (and no I’m not being pervy although she is gorgeous). She acts circles around Chris Evans. I haven’t seen such a mismatch of acting talent since I caught an old episode of King of Queens which had Byran Cranston and Kevin James in the same scene.

This of course is part of the problem though. I was more interested in a side character and a supporting character than I was in the main protagonist or antagonist. This then brings me to the end of the film which is of course a huge battle scene.

Like the film it is by the numbers. I only mention it because, something puzzled me. The Winter Soldier is shooting Captain America who looks to be unable to switch out the targeting microchips. It is check and mate.

Except. Wait a minute. One moment the Winter Soldier is slaying a helpless Captain America. The next Captain America is rallying to switch out the microchips and save the day. We cut back and now the Winter Soldier is prostrate under falling debris. WTF?

It’s possible I missed something but if I did so did the person I went with. At worse (and its unlikely) something was missed. At best the editing was shoddy and writing poor. I mean it is never good if your hero is saved by falling rubble. And it is even worse if said lame ending isn’t shown on screen.

So overall it is fair to say I wasn’t wowed. As a Marvel film it was better than Iron Man 2, 3 and Captain America 1 but worse than Thor and Thor 2. It was very average. I should say though that when Nick Fury is dead but (spoiler) not really dead a young eight year old child was sobbing very audibly in my packed screening.

I mention this because, that audience member was obviously really taken with the film. I reckon 7-12 boys would love this film. I know I would have. As a bonus I think that it is pitched at and suitable for that age group as well. The violence is mild, bloodless and (crucially for 7-12 year old boys) frequent.  For parents there is no swearing and I don’t remember there being any porny Michael Bayesque shots of female cast members.

So there you have it average. It does nothing really well and nothing really badly but, for the most part it holds your attention.

Welcome (some entirely non-essential instructions about reading this blog)

The writer. I'll let you decide whether I'm Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

The writer. I’ll let you decide whether I’m Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

You know writing an interesting welcome page isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do so why don’t you just imagine that this blog is filled with all the things that you find most interesting on the internet (excluding boobs).

Provided that the things you find most interesting are reviews of films, books and the occasional post about sports then this is the place you. If you aren’t interested in any of those things though you should read this blog anyway because, it will make you richer, more intelligent and more attractive*.

If the above doesn’t convince you to read you may wish to consult a doctor about your sanity. If you have done this and the doctor has affirmed you are sane though but are in need of some more specifics about what is actually going to be posted then here it is.

You can expect a steadyish diet of blockbuster movie reviews (these may or may not be mostly superhero related don’t blame me blame Hollywood), the goodreads widget should give you some clue about what books I am going to be reviewing. And finally I am going to be posting up a reread of the Discworld series and a rewatch of the Farscape series in the near future i.e. when I get over my mild Mario Kart 8 addiction or more likely smash my controller in frustration at being beaten by seven year old kids again. Damn you red shell!

This is going to hurt!

This is going to hurt!

*Some parts of the above text may be lies. Not the kind of lies that send you to hell, but lies nonetheless.