Monday, August 04, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) James Gunn

In the midst of all the action/adventure/mayhem/stuff-blowing-up/comedy and cosmic sf craziness of Guardians of the Galaxy, what sticks with me most are at least three scenes of glorious humanity. One of these scenes opens the film, so you’ll know it immediately. The others occur in the second half of the film. When those scenes happened, the audience sat in complete - and maybe awed - silence. 

You don’t go to a film like Guardians of the Galaxy for those serious moments, but they’re there nonetheless. No one laughed during them, no one snickered, no one giggled. Those scenes didn’t have to be there, but they are and they help elevate the film from just a fun time at the movies to something way beyond what I’d anticipated. 

Know that the Guardians of the Galaxy - as a comic book series - has been around for a long time and that you really don’t need to know much (or anything) about it to enjoy the film. Here’s the plot in brief: Peter Quill - an adventurer/space scavenger - finds a strange orb and decides to sell it. A bounty hunter comes after Quill, knowing that Ronan the Accuser seeks the orb to use it to control the universe. Quill gets connected with a group of strange space creatures: a submachine gun-carrying raccoon, a tree-like creature, a green-skinned assassin, and a muscle-bound dude called Drax the Destroyer. 

Sounds goofy, right? Well, it is. And it’s the most fun you’re likely to have at the movies this summer. Maybe even this year. Guardians of the Galaxy is a wonder of wonders - a movie that knows how to strike just the right balance between high-octane action, science fiction wonder, incredible special effects, fight scenes you can actually follow, incredibly colorful and well-written characters, two hours worth of laughs, and maybe the best, most fitting soundtrack I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Back to those three (and maybe more, depending on what moves you) scenes for a moment. Although one of them could be mistaken for an “Aw, isn’t that sweet?” scene, they’re really not. Again, when these scenes happened, no one in the theater laughed. These moments of humanity tell us that somebody thought enough about these characters to let us see some of their pain and suffering, which makes them more real. (Yes, even a gun-toting raccoon can experience pain and suffering.) It’s the same type of experience we get at least a couple of times between Dr. Henry Jones and Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s another fun, entertaining movie, but it has those scenes you just never forget. 

But there’s fun here, too - lots of it, so much that you’ll want to see it again. Several days ago I thought it was premature for Marvel to announce that the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie would be released in 2016 before this current one even opened, but rest assured: this movie is worthy of a sequel. 

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Movies Watched in July 2014

You'll see a lot of old stuff on this list, mostly because I'm working my way through my DVD and Blu-ray collections, trying to downsize a bit. Just for fun I think I'll add a "Keep It" or "Let It Go" designation after each movie I own. 

They Made Me a Criminal (1939) Busby Berkeley 

Previously discussed here as a part of a boxed set called simply Film Noir Collection
This film alone is certainly not cause enough to keep the collection. 

2/5 Let It Go

All the President's Men (1976) Alan J. Pakula (3x)

Pakula was the perfect choice to direct this film, since he frequently dabbled in paranoia and conspiracy theory-laced themes. All the President's Men is a smart, engrossing film for those of you who don't have to see somebody getting shot or something exploding every five minutes. I think the pacing is ultimately what makes the film work and what makes it still hold up today. 

5/5 Keep It

Ripley's Game (2002) Liliana Cavani

A film I certainly enjoyed and discussed here. As much as I liked it, however, I won't be keeping it. 

4/5 Let It Go

Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg (Multiple x)

We showed this one at the library last month right after the Fourth of July, an appropriate time, don't you think? The audience thought so, too.

5/5 Keep It

A Hard Day's Night (1964) Richard Lester (3x)

Criterion's new Blu-ray edition of A Hard Day's Night is absolutely glorious and features a wealth of extras. 

5/5 Keep It

The Lost Reunions (NF 2012) Danny Diaz (2x)

I initially watched this documentary of the men who served on PT boats during WWII during the Annapolis Film Festival a couple of years ago and reported on it then. Upon a second viewing, I noticed that it doesn't flow that well in several places, mostly due to editing. You can't really blame director Danny Diaz that much: I'm not sure how much footage he had access to, but I know he had a very limited number of interview subjects. Still, even with its flaws, this is a film I'm proud to own. As far as I know, the only way to see the film is to order it from Diaz's website for a donation, which I did.

3.5/5 Keep It

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Doug Liman 

I actually saw this one at the Star Theater in Berkeley Springs, WV, the only theatrical movie I saw in July. Although this time travel/war movie is about 20 minutes too long, it was far better than what I was expecting and a bit of a departure (at least for the first hour or so) for Tom Cruise. 


The Hustler (1961) Robert Rossen (2x)

Although he was rewarded for them embarrassingly late, Paul Newman gave a whole parade of great performances throughout his career, and this one as Fast Eddie is certainly a standout. The pool scenes with Jackie Gleason are absolutely gripping and George C. Scott is fabulous. The only part of the film that doesn't work for me is the love story between Eddie and Sarah (Piper Laurie). It's too forced and analytical, almost like spending time in a psychiatrist's office. Overall, good stuff, but I won't keep it. 

4/5 Let It Go

So, tell me what you saw in July...