FlixChatter Review: STUBER (2019)

When you order an Uber on any random day, you hope to be able to get from point A to point B in the fastest possible way, and the Uber driver hopes to get a high rating on the trip from the passenger. Well, Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), the Uber driver in the movie Stuber, actually demands a five-star rating from all of his passengers. He’s actually quite intent on getting that five-star rating that he will do just about anything to get that rating from his riders. He goes through the fast food drive through for his passengers, even when they seem a little more than intoxicated. Then, he has to deal with the ramifications of a drunken passenger throwing up all over his leased electric car. But Stu never, in his wild dreams, ever expected that his Uber would get called for a job by LAPD detective Victor “Vic” Manning (Dave Bautista) to go chase down criminals involved with a notorious drug lord named Oka Teijo (Iko Uwais) who recently killed his partner in cold blood.

Speaking of, the movie starts out with detectives Victor Manning and Sarah Morris (Karen Gillan) chasing down the ruthless drug trafficker and cop killer Oka Teijo, who escapes in the crowds of basketball fans leaving the Staples Center, but not before Vic is seen having issues seeing his partner and Sarah catching up to Teijo, only to be shot in close range by him in the confusion and mayhem of the fans running up and down the LA Live complex. The next day, Vic decides to get corrective laser eye surgery so he can finally be able to see. The surgeon tells him that he won’t be able to see clearly for at least a few days and gives him special darkening glasses to wear on his way home. He is driven back home by his daughter Nicole Manning (Natalie Morales), who reminds him that her sculpture show is happening that night, to which Vic promises that wouldn’t miss it for the world. She pulls up the Uber app on Vic’s phone and programs the address of her sculpture show, so this way he has no excuse about not knowing the address, or not being able to see where he’s driving.

Cut to later that afternoon, Vic gets a call from on his informants that Teijo is planning a major drug deal, but the phone dies before Vic could get all of the details from the informant. Vic, still not able to see almost anything, decides to rush out in his car and drive it to the informant. He quickly realizes that he can barely drive the car straight down the road, let alone get on the highway or anything; he ends up quickly crashing his car into a construction zone. Left without a car, Vic remembers the Uber app the his daughter Nicole added to his phone and he requests a ride from the nearest driver, who just happens to be Stu’s Uber (if you haven’t figured it out by now, Stuber stands for Stu’s Uber, and is the name Vic starts calling Stu, just so he can remember his name). Vic flashes a badge at Stu’s Uber just as Stu is pulling up, and he demands to be taken to a certain LA neighborhood. This is where Nanjiani shines, as he riffs his comedic lines into existence. “You can’t just shout out random neighborhoods. That’s not now Uber works,” Stu tells Vic as they get into an argument inside the Uber. “Let me guess, you want me to drive you to all the Sarah Connors in the city?” asks Stu of Vic, as she notices his grizzly size and strange-looking sunglasses – the ones he’s still wearing after corrective laser eye surgery.

At this point, the movie goes down an unnecessarily complicated path, as Stuber director Michael Dowse and writer Tripper Clancy take the duo of Stu and Vic down a rabbit hole, taking them from a factory to a drug dealer’s house, to a male strip club, and then to a veterinary clinic where some animals get involved (but don’t get harmed). They finally intercept Teijo and chase him into a Sriracha bottling factory, where Stu has another hilarious moment. He sees a red phone on the factory wall, as Stu and Vic are hiding from Teijo. He picks up the phone next to him; “Hello, operator, we need help. Someone’s trying to murder us,” just then his voice comes up in the factory speaker. Teijo relegalizes the Stu is using the company’s intercom system and laughs at them. Even at a point where you’d think that Stu and Vic have the upper hand against Teijo, they really don’t. When Stu tries to shoot Teijo, the gun doesn’t shoot, and he throws the gun at him, Teijo catches it, punches Vic with it and throws it back in Stu’s face knocking him out. They are given some unexpected assistance, and eventually do overwhelm Teijo.

The problem with Stuber is not how many laughs Nanjiani or Bautista deliver for their audience – there’s plenty of that – and most of it comes in back and forth scenes between the two. The problem is that Stuber forgets about the character development of everyone else – the bad guys, Vic’s daughter, Stu’s love interest, and other Uber drivers – to satisfy their need for quick jokes, once every minute or two. They kind of hint at the fact the being an Uber driver isn’t easy – most Uber drivers have to put up with many different personalities that make sometimes outrageous demands, just so the drivers can earn the much desired five-star rating. They often work ridiculously long hours, sacrificing any free time them may have had, with family, friends or any show at a love life. The director and writer fail to make the connection between what Stu is going through personally, with the similar backstory that Vic is going through with his own daughter.

Overall, Stuber delivers great ad-lib comedy from the two leads, but little substance in the overly-complicated plot. The thrills are about as exciting as an electric Uber blowing up after rolling down a slight embankment. If you want a summer movie that is absent of any major plot or character development, but does make you chuckle every couple of minutes, then give Stuber a try. For me, it was only worth the two-star ride, thanks to the quick comedic hits, primarily from Kumail Nanjiani.


  Review by Vitali Gueron


Have you seen STUBER? Well, what did you think? 

BLADE RUNNER 2049 review

I’ve seen the original Blade Runner countless times, I’ve bought the movie on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Bluray and recently 4K Bluray Disc. So yes, I’m obsessed with it and to say that this sequel is my most anticipated movie of the year is an understatement. Back in the early 90s, Ridley Scott was rumored to have pitched a sequel idea to the studio folks but he couldn’t get it off the ground mostly because he’s been churning out box office duds at the time. Now finally we get to see a sequel to one of the most influential sci-fi films of all time.

Set 30 years after the event of the first film, LA is still a hellhole with constant rain and cloud looming over the city. Many of its citizens are now filled with new breeds of replicants and Blade Runners are still active and hunts down the older models of replicants who are considered illegals. As the movie opens, one of the Blade Runners K (Ryan Gosling) has found his target, a replicant by the name of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton is living outside of the city and wants to be left alone but since he’s illegal, K was forced to retire him. After surveying Morton’s place, K found out about something that could put society into chaos. He informed his boss, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) and she ordered him to find out everything he can and get rid of any evident so no one can know about what he’d found.

Unfortunately for K and his boss, the city’s new replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) knew what K has discovered and he order his right-hand woman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to shadow K’s every move. As K digs deeper, it leads him to an old Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) who’s now living in an isolated location way out of the city. I think that’s all I can say about the story of this film, it’s got some good surprises and fans of the original film will be very pleased with the final results.

Dennis Villeneuve has created a world that’s similar to Scott’s vision but he enhanced it with his own style. Clocking in at around 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it’s a bit too long but Villeneuve did an amazing job of setting the mood and reveal the surprises as the story progresses. Roger Deakins should finally win an Oscar for this film, it’s one of the best-looking films ever made, you need to see it on the biggest screen you can find. His lighting and shot of each sequence is drop dead gorgeous. The script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green is pretty good, they introduced some new ideas and I thought the story is much better than the original film. Although, I’m not exactly sure what kind of “message” they’re trying to say in this film. The score my Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is excellent, they incorporated Vangelis’ score from the first film and then introduced some new one for this film.

I’m not the biggest fan of Gosling and was a bit skeptical when he’s cast as the lead in this film but I thought he’s pretty good here. His character is kind of mystery and we audience follow his quest to find out who he really is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I don’t want to give out any information about his character but Gosling’s one note performance fits this character. Even though he’s only in the film for less than an hour, Ford gave a pretty emotional performance as Deckard, let’s just say he finally got some closure.

Leto didn’t really stand out that much, he’s hardly in the film and whenever he appears, he seems to be doing the typical villain who thinks of himself as some kind of God. Hoeks gave a pretty intense performance as the ruthless killer who’ll do anything to please her boss. Robin Wright who seems to be in a lot big movies these days, kind of gave an over-the-top performance as the tough police boss, again her role’s very small and didn’t make much impression on me. The only person who was on the screen as much as Gosling was Ana de Armas, she’s his “girlfriend” and I thought she did a decent job of playing the worried girlfriend/supporter of the hero.

This is a film that would probably divide some audiences, just like the first one did. It’s not action-packed as it’s advertised, pretty much all of the action scenes were shown in the trailers. I do recommend that you see the original film before going to see this one and if you’ve seen it but don’t remember much about the first film then you might get confused a little bit. My recommendation is to watch the original again before seeing this one.

With jaw dropping visual effects, tight direction and some good performances, this is one of my favorite films I’ve seen this year. I’m not going to call it a masterpiece like some critics did but it’s a great film and I’m planning to see it again a couple of more times. If there’s an IMAX or Dolby Cinema theater near you, go see it there.

TedS_post


So have you seen BLADE RUNNER 2049? Well, what did you think?

Mini Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 & Colossal

Hello there folks! It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote my last review, but it’s actually just a week ago. Well, I saw two Charlie Hunnam films in two weeks… The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I really enjoyed both, the latter is enjoyable though probably not your thing if you don’t like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. I’ve liked the rugged Brit for some time but I’m really quite taken with him now, uh-oh. It’s not like I have time for a new crush now though, ahah, but I sure want to see more of the bloke 😉

So here’s my review of the last two recent movies I saw:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Ok so I have to admit the release of this one sneaked up on me. If it didn’t show up on the weekly press screening list I wouldn’t have known it’s coming out. I was one of the few people who think the first one was just okay, not spectacular. I did rewatch it months later and found it to be entertaining, but nothing that warrant a sequel. But hey it’s Marvel, of course there’ll be a sequel if it hits $100mil.

Well the team is back in full psychedelic color and fun retro 80s music. This time the main plot is basically to unravel the mystery of the protagonist Peter Quill’s true parentage. It might’ve been better to release this in June around Father’s Day, not that there’s anything particularly profound about the father/son bit though. It’s tough to care for their relationship when it’s so thinly written, I didn’t even particularly care for Kurt Russell‘s casting.

Just like the original, the best part of the movie is the team spirit and all the bantering between the supporting characters. I still find Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista) the funniest characters, and I’m glad they seem to beef up their roles a bit more here. I’m getting a bit tired of Baby Groot, there I said it. Yes it’s cute at first but after a while it’s just meh. I also don’t find Chris Pratt all that charming anymore, or maybe I still haven’t recovered from how awful Passengers was). There’s also more focus on the sister rivalry between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) that’s not particularly interesting. The only parts I did find quite moving is the plot involving Yondu (Michael Rooker). Oh, they also added a new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and her banter with Drax is quite amusing.

I feel like the novelty factor of the first movie quickly wears off. What seemed to work in the original just seems recycled this time around. Even the retro music sounds kinda meh to me. Director James Gunn & co. seem to put more effort in having a visual spectacle than an engaging story, but then again that’s kind of what I expected from this sequel. Overall, it was entertaining for two hours but nothing sticks in my mind and definitely not something I’m keen on seeing again.


Colossal (2016)

I saw the trailer on Friday night and immediately decided to see it the next day. I decided I didn’t want to know anything about it other than the trailer, and y’know what, it’s refreshing to go see a movie rather ‘blindly’ like that.

The concept for Colossal is pretty bizarre and it’s definitely ripe for some comedy gold, but I find it to be a pretty engaging drama as well. The story centers on Gloria (Anna Hathaway),  an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NYC when her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicked her out. So she moved back home to her parents’ abandoned house, while at the same time a giant creature came out of nowhere destroying Seoul.

In the trailer it’s made clear that there is Gloria is somehow bizarrely connected to this phenomenon, and when it’s revealed how, it’s really quite hilarious! I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should go into this movie knowing as little as possible, but there’s an interesting message about friendship and taking responsibilities for one’s action.

It’s kind of a coming-of-age moment for Gloria, and her character evolution is quite believable.  I have to admit I’m not Hathaway’s biggest fan but she is quite effective and relatable here, which makes me root for Gloria despite her obvious flaws. I also like Jason Sudekis as Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar, who’s more than just a comic relief in the movie. However I feel like his character is oddly written, it’s as if the revelation to his true self seemed to come out of left field. But at least his character has an arc whilst Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell as Oscar’s friends barely registered.

Overall I enjoyed Colossal immensely. It was amusing with some thoroughly enjoyable moments. I haven’t seen anything by Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo before, but I applaud his originality and wit, even if the execution isn’t perfect. The movie is so absurd at times but therein lies the charm. It reminded me of Safety Not Guaranteed, which I also saw on a whim a few years ago, with a bit of Pacific Rim thrown in.

I highly recommend this one if you’re in the mood for something out of the box.


Well, have you seen either one of these? What did YOU think?

FlixChatter Review: SPECTRE (2015)

SPECTRE_poster

I wonder if the way I feel about the Bond song somehow impacts how I feel about the film itself. Some of my least favorite Bond songs are The Man with the Golden Gun, Die Another Day, and Quantum of Solace, and those are also my least favorite Bond films. I already mentioned in this post how much I abhorred Sam Smith’s latest, Writing’s on the Wall which sounds more like fingernails on a chalk board. Unfortunately for me, during the press screening, I had to endure that song not once but twice as they played Sam Smith’s music video before the movie, so I had to suffer through THAT song once again during the opening title [sigh]

Of course it’s ludicrous to judge a Bond movie from the song, so I was prepared for an awesome Bond film. To be fair, the melody of the song itself is actually not bad, with Thomas Newman back scoring this again after Skyfall. Well, the first 15 minutes is certainly promising. It’s tradition that Bond films open with a bang and this one is no different, starting with a foot chase through a throng of huge crowd during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. It’s followed by a spectacular fight scene aboard a helicopter flying above the main square. If we’re to judge a movie by cinematography alone, Spectre is excellent, thanks to Hoyte van Hoytema whose done amazing work in Her and Interstellar recently.

Spectre_image1

Plot-wise, Spectre has a lot going for it, at least on paper. The parallel conflicts that Bond and M are facing in the film also promises an extra layer of intrigue, in addition to the personal vendetta that runs through the vein of Daniel Craig‘s Bond films. A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization and somehow he ends up going rogue. Meanwhile, his boss M (Ralph Fiennes) is dealing with a crisis of his own as the head of Joint Intelligence Service (which merged MI5 and MI6) threatened to shut down the double-O section. It’s an intriguing set up and as a massive Bond fan, I expect once again to be bowled over.

Spectre_image7

Alas, after that spectacular opening, the film seems to lose momentum and never quite claim it back. All the high-octane action didn’t have quite the adrenaline rush I expected from a Bond movie. Even the car chase through the streets of Rome feels rather stale, it’s like I’ve seen a far more exciting car chase scene in previous Bond movies and recently in its rival franchise, Mission Impossible 5. Then there’s the unintentional humor that makes it hard to take the film seriously. The two times Bond wooed two of the beautiful Bond girls, Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux, the scenes elicit laughter from the audience. It feels so obligatory and cringe-worthy, a far cry from the intriguing AND sexy love affair between Bond and Vesper in Casino Royale. Vesper was a complex character with a compelling story arc, but here the two Bond girls aren’t given the same courtesy. It’s sad to see an actress of Bellucci’s stature be utterly wasted here.
Spectre_image2Spectre_image3

The film also promises a massive super villain, the mother lode of all villains Bond has encountered in his past, “I’m the source of all your pain,” Oberhauser tells him once Bond gets to his lair. So it’s quite a let down that this supposedly fearsome, ultra-powerful mastermind turns out to be not so menacing at all. Remember how sinister Christoph Waltz was in Inglourious Basterds? Well, here he’s nothing more than a clichéd psychopath throwing tantrums at Bond because of… a childhood feud. Huh? No less than FOUR screenwriters credited here, three of whom also worked on Skyfall, and all they could come up with is THIS half-baked story? [spoiler alert] I find it hard to believe that Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chifre, who was effortlessly menacing AND intriguing in Casino Royale, actually worked for this lame, petulant nutjob.

Spectre_image5

Sam Mendes and his team of writers seems to have recycled a lot of what’s been done in previous Bond films with nothing new to add to the franchise. In fact, in terms of the treatment of the Bond girls, it’s a step backward. The film seems to aim for a darker story but the execution feels light and even unintentionally comical. I realize that Bond films aren’t expected to be too deep or poignant, but even the fun, escapism factor seems to be missing in this one as Mendes can’t decide what kind of Bond movie he wants this to be. At times it harkens back to the Roger Moore era, which is a jarring contrast to the more pensive and grittier tone established in Craig’s films.

The returning characters from Skyfall are still good in their roles. I do like Ralph Fiennes as M but yet he still can’t hold a candle to how fantastic Judi Dench was in the role. Moneypenny and Q (Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw) have bit more to do in supporting 007, though not so much that would make any real impact in the movie. Andrew Scott, who’s excellent in the Sherlock series, is just serviceable here, but Dave Bautista certainly lives up to other big, burly but taciturn henchmen of Bond’s past. The fight scene on the train is certainly an homage to From Russia With Love and The Spy Who Loved Me with my favorite henchman, Jaws.

Spectre_image4

As for the titular hero, I still like Craig as Bond, but more often than not he looks bored in this movie. It’s as if he’s weary of the same old types of shenanigans and hollow sexual escapades in various exotic locations. Yes I know Bond’s supposed to have this devil-may-care attitude but I think there’s a sense of fatigue that the actor can’t quite conceal. Perhaps it’s telling when Craig said in an interview recently how he’d rather slash his wrist than play James Bond again. It’s tacky to bite the hand that feeds you, but I can’t say I blame him for feeling that way.

It’s a pity because this could’ve been a truly great swan song for Craig if he were to retire as Bond (though I think he’d be back for at least one more). I like the fact that four of his films are connected in some way, though the constant throwback to his previous films also invites the inevitable comparison. If I were to rank Craig’s Bond films now, Spectre is just slightly more watchable than Quantum of Solace, but falls far short of the greatness of Casino Royale and Skyfall.

Spectre_image6

Spectre might’ve topped the box office, but it’s nowhere near the top of the best Bond films for me. So I guess that awful theme song is sort of a warning about the movie. Bond’s most personal mission barely evoke any emotional response as the protagonist himself didn’t even seem to care. There’s just no compelling human drama here in this largely soulless affair. Overall the payoff just doesn’t live up to all that build-up and frankly, the film is just forgettable. I saw it four days ago yet I barely remember anything about it. It’s such a bummer really, this movie even made this loyal Bond fan think that perhaps I’ve outgrown this franchise a bit.

2halfReels


Well, what did you think of Spectre? Did you like it more or less than I did?

007 Chatter: BOND 24 is now called SPECTRE

Boy it’s been a while since I posted anything about Bond and this morning a press release came to my email that I simply had to do a post! “Welcome back commander!” 

Bond24_SPECTRE

[you can see the motion poster over on 007 Facebook]

LONDON, UK, December 4, 2014 – 007 Soundstage, Pinewood Studios, London. James Bond Producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli today released the title of the 24th James Bond adventure, SPECTRE. The film, from Albert R. Broccoli’s EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, is directed by Sam Mendes and stars Daniel Craig, who returns for his fourth film as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007. SPECTRE begins principal photography on Monday, December 8, and is set for global release on November 6, 2015.

The launch of SPECTRE was streamed live on 007.com and Facebook.com/JamesBond007, and here’s the video if you missed it:

Along with Daniel Craig, Mendes presented the returning cast, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear as well as introducing Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci and Andrew Scott. Mendes also revealed Bond’s sleek new Aston Martin, the DB10, created exclusively for the movie.

BondSPECTRE_FullCast
Click to enlarge

Official synopsis:

A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organisation. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.

Bond’s going back to the classic Aston Martin too, which is by far one of my favorite of all Bond’s fantastic rides. Man, the DB10 is going to be specifically built for the film and it’s absolutely drool-worthy!! Heck, I’d rather take his car home than Bond himself, ahah.

BondSPECTRE_DB10
click to enlarge

The 007 production will be based at Pinewood Studios, and on location in London, Mexico City, Rome and Tangier and Erfoud, in Morocco. Bond will return to the snow once again, this time in Sölden, along with other Austrian locations, Obertilliach, and Lake Altaussee.

Commenting on the announcement, Wilson and Broccoli said, “We’re excited to announce Daniel’s fourth installment in the series and thrilled that Sam has taken on the challenge of following on the success of SKYFALL with SPECTRE.”.

Per EMPIRE, the evil organization has not had a presence in the Bond universe thanks to a long-running copyright battle between MGM and the estate of Kevin McClory, the producer of Thunderball and the unofficial Connery Bond, Never Say Never Again. That, however, was resolved in 2013, paving the way for SPECTRE to return to the Bond movies. People have been speculating that Christoph Waltz will be playing Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but according to the UK mag, his character’s name is Oberhauser [??]

Man, I’m super excited for this!! What a cast, too, woo hoo!!! I LOVE Christophe Waltz, the Austrian thespian really impressed me in Inglourious Basterds and he has been working steadily in Hollywood ever since. He’d be great as the villain, with Bautista as his henchmen I presume. Not sure who Andrew Scott is playing, but he’s playing another baddie named Denbigh. They’re playing it *safe* this time in casting actors who’ve won accolades playing bad guys previously, as Scott won BAFTA for portraying Sherlock‘s nemesis Moriarty in the BBC series.

BondSPECTRE_newBondgirls

I’m loving the female cast, too! I have always been a big fan of Naomie Harris as Money Penny, but now we’ve got gorgeous Italian and French beauties Monica Bellucci & Léa Seydoux. I’m actually surprised they haven’t cast Monica in previous Bond films, but she still looks stunning at 50 so it’s cool to see they don’t just cast young actresses as Bond girls!

SPECTRE is set for a October 23, 2015 release in the UK and a November 6, 2015 release in the US. Can’t friggin’ wait for this!!


So, what do you think of this announcement? Would love to hear your thoughts, folks!

FlixChatter Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

GuardiansOfGalaxyPoster

I have to admit that I wasn’t remotely interested in seeing this one from the moment I first heard about it. For one thing, I was beginning to get bored of yet another Marvel superhero movie, and another reason is I have never even heard of who these characters are. Though it seems that a lot of my fellow bloggers are getting superhero fatigue, clearly the average movie goers are still gung ho about them, as GOTG has proven itself to be another big hit for Marvel. According to Box Office Mojo, by Friday estimates, it already out-earned two of Marvel’s sequels: Captain America 2 and Thor 2 and on its way to make close to $100 mil by the first weekend, wow!

The audience in the packed advanced screening on Tuesday seemed to have a good time with this movie, and I was surprised too how entertaining it was. The protagonist this time isn’t a superhero, he’s a regular boy-next-door human named Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who got abducted by a space ship just minutes after his mother died at a hospital. Fas forward twenty six years later, we see Peter on planet Morag stealing an orb that turns out to be a highly-coveted artifact wanted by the master villain Ronan (Lee Pace). The scene is reminiscent of Raiders Of The Lost Ark opening sequence and you could say Peter has the kind of swagger and cheeky attitude of Indiana Jones. Needless to say, Peter then gets embroiled in a manhunt, not just from Ronan but also from a group of space pirates led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) who apparently the same folks that snatched young Peter from earth years ago.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStills1

I think people who read the comics would appreciate this movie more, as they’d be more familiar with the cosmic universe where everything takes place. A lot of the things happening here baffles me but I went along for the ride anyway. Peter suddenly ends up in planet called Xandar and ends up getting arrested by Nova Corps, the space militia led by Glenn Close, sporting similar hairdo as in 101 Dalmatians. It’s in the Xandar prison that Peter meets his would-be teammates: a wisecrackin’, gun-toting, raccoon called Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a tree-like humanoid named Groot (Vin Diesel), bad-ass assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) who has a personal vendetta against Ronan. It’s an unlikely quartet that constantly bicker and fight, but of course they have no choice but to work together.

Guardians of the Galaxy is more of a space action comedy, akin to Galaxy Quest or The Fifth Element. But the irreverent and at times cheesy humor works here and there’s such a fun spirit throughout that is contagious. The one-liners are packed with goofy 80s pop-culture references (Kevin Bacon, John Stamos) to self-satirical ones like “I’m gonna die, surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.” Director James Gunn and writer Nicole Perlman (first female writer of a Marvel movie, yay!) are certainly aware of the its inherent silliness and the movie definitely works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perhaps this is an antithesis of sort to the standard superhero fare as none of the characters here possess any kind of super powers. But what the characters have in spades is humor, charm and even warmth, as the unlikely group slowly bond together.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStill3

Now for the cast, I have to say that Chris Pratt [now part of the Marvel trifecta of Chris-es w/ Chris Hemsworth & Chris Evans] is a hoot and no doubt this movie will launch him to be a star. There’s a scene where a space henchman calls him Star Lord and Peter quips ‘finally!’ It’s almost art imitating life as Pratt has been in a bunch of major movies in supporting roles, in fact, three of them were nominated for Oscar 3 years in a row: Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, and Her. But now it’s his moment to shine and he’s such a charming, affable dude you can’t help but root for him. The rest of the cast is pretty good in their roles and I have to say Cooper as the fast-talking raccoon with a chip on his shoulder is quite the scene-stealer! I wonder just what the heck Cooper was thinking taking this job after a two Oscar nominations back to back, as he could easily play Peter Quill as well, but y’know what, I think he did a smashing job as Rocket. Diesel too, surprisingly makes the most of his only one line in the movie, ‘I am Groot’ all the way to the end.

It’s always nice when a movie surprises you in a pleasant way when you have such little expectations about it. But still I’m surprised by the stellar reviews that seem to surpass even Captain America: The Winter Soldier which I think is a better movie. Yes of course GOTG is a lot of fun and I was genuinely entertained, but it’s hardly flawless. Some critics call it edgy but the plot is not exactly fresh, we’ve got a space psychopath hellbent on destroying the world and it’s up to these unlikely heroes to save everyone, nothing new there. It doesn’t help matters that the villains are pretty ho-hum and lacking real menace. Poor Lee Pace is rather wasted here as Ronan is as boring as the villain in Thor 2. Same could be said for his female sidekick Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Thanos (uncredited Josh Brolin), which to me makes more impact in The Avengers‘ post-credit scene than here. I do like Rooker as Yandu, his performance reminds me of Michael Wincott who’s no stranger to playing bad guys.

GuardiansOfGalaxyStills2

So the good guys definitely have more fun, even John C. Reilly is a hoot as a Nova Corpsman, especially in the hilarious finale. For sure the heroes were never in any danger in being upstaged by the villains. Visually speaking it’s as good as I expect from a big-budget Marvel movie, the 3D is pretty good but at the same time I honestly can’t think of an action scene that stand out to me. What’s truly awesome is the soundtrack! As a big fan of 80s music, the retro soundtrack is pure nostalgic fun! The gist is that Peter’s mom made an Awesome Mix Vol. 1 tape for him that he constantly plays on his walkman. Most Millennials probably think of it as some ancient artifact ahah, but hey I definitely remember those and making tapes of songs from the radio [oh boy am I dating myself or what?] The song played in the trailer, Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling, will be forever associated with this movie, and there are others I definitely recognize even if I can’t remember them by name.

Amidst all the clutter of all the goofy actions, there’s actually a bit of emotional touches here and there. So overall this movie proves to be a pleasant surprise and one I don’t even mind watching again. Not as spectacular as people led you to believe, but still worth a look if you’re initially skeptical. Everyone of all ages should enjoy this, just don’t expect too much in the way of plot and you’ve got yourself two hours of a rollicking good time.

3.5 reels


So what do YOU think of Guardians of the Galaxy?