Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians Poster

I watched this film during its first week of release, and have since watched it again.  For lack of a better term, the film is just flat out awesome. It is a very well executed piece of entertainment with solid storytelling, creating characters that we care about, and seamlessly integrating them into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is action-packed, funny, and, most importantly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.  When the film opened with Chris Pratt’s character dancing to “Come and Get Your Love” in an otherwise eerie setting, it establishes itself to appeal towards a wide array of audiences: the young and the old, the hipster and the nerd were on board. The casting was also perfect as the chemistry between Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper (Rocket), and Groot (Vin Diesel) lit up the screen.  The banter between them never felt forced. I had my doubts about how successful the film would be considering the Guardians of the Galaxy is much less well known than Marvel’s other comic book heroes such as Iron Man or Captain America.  But when this film became the biggest office success this year, surpassing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” Marvel has proven that it can bring its secondary franchises to the forefront. Barring a tiny bit of dialogue inadequacies, this was the not only the best Marvel film, but one of the best action films in recent years.  This film was a blast; I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to have a good time at the movies.

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Movie Review: Out of the Furnace

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Boasting a truly star-studded cast that includes Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson, Willem Dafoe, and Forrest Whitaker, “Out of the Furnace” nearly overwhelms the audience with its sheer amount of good acting performances.  The film is also proof that intriguing premises or mind-blowing concepts aren’t always prerequisite for good entertainment.

The film is a drama set in the shadow of the latest Iraq War, in working class, suburban America.  It follows the life of Russell Baze (Bale), a hard working mill worker and his brother Rodney (Affleck), who struggles to transition back into civilian life after four tours in Iraq.  The drama that unfolds is gripping, and we care about what happens to these characters every step of the way.  We feel their pains, and their reliefs.  We experience the fear together with the main characters as the endeavor into the lawless and barbaric countryside.

“Out of the Furnace” doesn’t break new grounds, but it is two hours of solid entertainment, and it deserves more viewing and recognition than it has so far.

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise return in the second instalment of the J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise, an action-packed sci-fi adventure that leans more in the direction of “Die Hard” than “Blade Runner.”

Clocking at over two hours, the movie features non-stop action sequences, gorgeous visuals, and borderline sappy dialogue.  It felt like this film was the very best they could offer without serving up anything new or ground breaking.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘the very best they could offer’ in this case was an excellent action film.  Amidst of all the explosions, ships crashing into each other, and people literally flying through space, the film by in large retains the chemistry of the ensemble cast that made the 2009 film shine.

The villain of this film is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, whom I’ve only seen previously in a support role in “Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy.”  The film did not do his character justice, but in an under-utilized position, Cumberbatch was still able to portray Harrison as an evil, enigmatic, and worthy opponent of Kirk’s team.

The status of the Spock and Uhura characters are also elevated in “Into Darkness,” although I’m not entirely sure of the writers’ intentions regarding their progress.  Both characters have grown from rookies in the first film to experienced battle veterans who are the best in the business, but they engage in dialogue that are reminiscent of the awkwardness and over-sentimentality displayed in the Star Wars prequels (Episodes I-III for those who aren’t familiar).  Although it might be illogical for long-time Trek fans, “Into Darkness” does set up possible sequels starring Spock and / or Uhura without Kirk.

“Into Darkness” is well made, but it lacks the freshness of the 2009 “Star Trek,” as well as the ‘wow’ factor.  I’d recommend it because it’s a solid film, but I believe there are better alternatives out there that are either more entertaining (“Iron Man 3”) or a breath of fresh air (“Oblivion”).