THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY REVIEW

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Well done Mr Gunn! Marvel have done it again.

I would have thought after numerous Marvel entries and the fear of milking this rich cow dry, this may have pushed the mark.

I mean, another origin story to introduce another group of characters BUT with this cast and these characters, I’d be happy to see more entries like this again very soon.

Now, the plot is hardly original, the inevitable union of these intergalactic criminals was always going to happen, as well as those pesky sequel teasers propping up all through the film.

BUT what makes this sci-fi blockbuster hit tick all the boxes for the me is the pace, the humour and the fantastic soundtrack.

After a strong and emotional opening with 1occ’s I’m Not In Love playing, I knew I was in for a treat. It helps that the cast are perfectly chosen for their roles.

What’s it all about? Now keeping it vague as I don’t want to spoil this as I want you guys to see this . . .

Light years (in a galaxy far far away. No. Stop it) from Earth, 26 years after being abducted, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the prime target of a manhunt after discovering an orb wanted by Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

The charismatic Chris Pratt, already on a roll after the mega blockbuster hit that is the Lego Movie, applies his laidback, fast talking schtick to the film’s protagonist Peter Quill to perfection.

You knew what to expect from the moment he breaks into a song and dance around a space cave using a mutated lizard thing for a mike.

Zoe Saldana just proves she looks incredibly hot as any alien or anything for that matter (What?) but is also fantastic as Gamora.

The surprise turn for me was Dave Bautista as Drax. Now let’s be honest, I know he’s had acting experience in WWE but this is a whole different playing field and I wasn’t convinced with his jughead performance in Riddick.

It helps to have great lines at his disposal but Bautista’s delivery is brilliant as the eloquently spoken if utterly stupid henchman. He takes everything literally which makes for some funny one liners and memorable moments.

Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel provide their voicing talents to two new animated cult characters. Scratch that, Bradley Cooper provides his voicing talents. Vin Diesel must have been laughing when he read the script and got his paycheck as the tree humanoid Groot.

The animation and detail on Groot is impeccable. I mean don’t get me wrong, Diesel’s conviction on saying “I AM GROOT” numerous times is good and no doubt an iconic one liner but come on?! Cooper is fantastic as the talking volatile raccoon hybrid Rocket.

Now while the animation is impeccable, 3D . . .  Not so much. It’s certainly more prominent BUT not a must.

Lee Pace and Karen Gillan were almost unrecognizable both by their incredible make up and by their accents as the villains in this space opera.

Michael Rooker (Gunn regular) was great as Yondu Udonta, the interstellar smuggler. The only problem with so many characters and such a big cast, some characters or actors (more specifically) get cast aside.

Glenn Close, sporting a funky haircut, as Nova Prime was wasted in this installment.

John C. Reilly, the comedy legend that he is, only really got to get a bit of meat to chomp on in the closing minutes.

Inevitably, Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious Collector pops his ugly white head again.

Djimon Hounsou was only memorable due to a humorous encounter with Quill in which he attempts to enforce his self titled nickname, Starlord.

Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead)’s straight faced pallor had potential . . . BUT didn’t really get used. BUT that’s minor quibbles.

Now it’s hardly an origin story. It briefly provides a minor back story to answer the questions (as and when they pop up) to give a little dimension to our lively crew.

As it drew to its exhilarating finale, I found myself wanting more. There were unanswered questions which left it all open for more mischief.

Little teasers and “if there’s a sequel” hints . . . BUT with the wide array of characters in this universe and great music and great dialogue, I’m happy to strap in and go for another ride across the galaxy again.

Of course, they will return. One of the better ones.

4/5 for me

P.S. There is a little teaser at the end of the credits but I don’t think it was worth waiting around for. Nothing to quack home about. I mean, shout.

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EARTH TO ECHO REVIEW

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From the opening shot with our gang of loveable rogues mucking about with a handheld camera, I was dreading what lied in store. However, it’s not all bad. A decent, if virtually unknown, cast help bring some likeable characters to life in a sci-fi rollercoaster ride of a movie. The only problem with the shaky camera work, you feel like you’ve been on one when you come out of the cinema.

To be honest, the found footage or recorded true events movies have died a death for me after the Paranormal Activity franchise managed to resurrect it and exorcise it within a few films. The camera work, at times, is too shaky. I know that it sounds like I’m being picky but as much as I respect realism and the fact kids are supposed to be handling their mobile phone cameras, camcorders (etc), it can get incredibly irritating that you want to yell at them to keep the camera still.

It was a fresh take to have an unknown cast but also a bit of a gamble. However, they play the parts well and make a memorable impression, particularly Reese Hartwig as the eccentric Munch.

What’s it about? After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Now that premise may remind you of a similar 1982 sci-fi classic featuring a little alien that needed to phone home and inevitably comparisons are made from the get go. And that’s a bit of the problem, despite updating the special effects and providing a fresh angle with the handheld concept; you can’t help but feel that Earth to Echo is re-treading old ground from classics that done it much better and still surpass any film that tries to copy it. At it’s core, it’s ET meets the Goonies. A group of kids are spending their last night together before their homes are pulled down for a freeway. And what a last night as it’s a race against time to help a robotic Wall-E-esque alien get home.

The special effects are brilliant. The detail on Echo is fantastic. Even if his little adorable orb-esque (Yeah, I say esque a lot) eyes remind you of it’s Pixar counterpart. The quest in which the gang must find pieces to repair Echo like The Iron Giant is suspenseful, funny and entertaining. The handheld is used to its strengths, especially when they have to break into someone’s home. There is also a fantastic sequence in which an oncoming lorry looks like it’s set to collide into our heroes, only for it to be dissected piece by piece with the driver still hovering around in his seat.

Apart from the camera work (although the Go Pro sequence on the bikes was a nice touch), the pace zips along and keeps it all watchable as it reaches it’s exhilarating frenetic finale. The cast are good, the effects are great. It just falls short of becoming a classic but in terms of keeping the little uns entertained, it’s worth a shot. But if I haven’t sold it for you then I recommend How To Train Your Dragon 2.

3/5 for me.

HERCULES REVIEW

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Can you smeeeellll what Hollywood is cooking? A mediocre action epic of a blockbuster that regurgitates the same old cheesy guff and desperately craves to be so much more but alas it was not to be. Still not a bad way to kill 90-odd minutes, jabroni!

Bless my soul, Herc is on the . . . No, enough of that. Wrong Hercules. If there was ever a man to play the ultra-strong demi-God Hercules, it is Dwayne “The Man that is becoming a Rock” Johnson. The man is a machine with enough machismo to inject the wrinklies for more Expendables movies. An absolute tank. Plenty for the ladies and even the fellas . . . if only to sigh at their feeble mortal body flab. On a serious note, Dwayne Johnson is not a bad actor (Hello? He was a wrestler) and always has a charismatic presence on the screen. He has proven to be a reliable lead and it’s great to see him given the platform yet again.

However, there are only so many poor lines that The Rock can make sound good. His stone cold stare and asking his foes if he looks afraid, brilliant. His longwinded chivalrous speeches about becoming the legends you were born to be, meh not so much. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) has never been one for story and drama. His strengths have always been action and bringing the laughs. Now when the action does kick in, it’s pretty decent. The CGI actually helps make the scenes. The 3D was actually very impressive, if gimmicky. I mean a flaming arrow flying at you out of the screen is always going to be gimmicky but cool. (I know. Lame so sue me).

The animated adversaries that Hercules must fight are brilliant visual sequences as well as the battle scenes. That along with Hercules’ rag tag team of misfits makes this an easy going, silly but watchable movie like the movies of old. However, it is when the team disperse and Ratner has to tell a story to piece all the wonderful animation and good action together that it drags the film down and puts you into a lull. I know? Even at 98 minutes. Even with a decent cast, you can’t help but laugh or tut at the predictable and lazy guff.

It’s so corny and dull, you find it hard to keep an interest. I mean after all the promise of the opening with Hercules’ team fighting while delivering cheesy banter, I actually wanted more of that during the “serious getting to know the characters and trying to add dimensions to them” segments. Joseph Fiennes plays a restricted if perfectly type cast role as the sleazy King Eurystheus. John Hurt does his best to try and apply some acting gravitas to his frail malicious Lord Cotys (no, not Coitus! Stop it!). Peter Mullan is to be expected as the shady Sitacles. It’s great to see him getting in bigger movies. A great actor. Rufus Sewell and Ian McShane were certainly the most memorable out of the misfits.

Sewell is an underrated actor and it’s nice to see him play a good guy for once. He manages to come out with some of the better one liners. Ian McShane is pretty much playing himself but as a wizard who can see his own death. However, the rest of the cast are either flat or really irritating. Reece Ritchie and Rebecca Ferguson (no, not the X Factor singer!) I’m looking at you. Ritchie’s OTT narrator was awful. Sorry, only Paul Bettany got away with that in A Knight’s Tale.

To be honest, it has fun moments but it gets dragged down by its own lazy attempts to try and be serious. It’s big and dumb. Don’t try and be clever. While I was watching the Rock dispense enemies with a fist here and a mighty swipe with his club there, I really wanted more. I mean, not even a Rock Bottom or an Elbow of his people? Apart from punching a guy off his horse and one 50 yards across the field, there isn’t much else.

The idea of playing down Hercules as a demi-God and that he is a fraud, exaggerating stories to bring fear to his captives for his bounty is a good concept. But when you see him punch guys across the battlefield and fight giant lions, you’re not fooling anyone. I mean, look at him? It also made me want to watch The Scorpion King again. A film that by comparison knew it was being big and dumb and was better for it.

It’s okay. At it’s best, action packed and cheesy. At it’s worst, dull, boring and cheesy. Worth a watch if you want a no-nonsense punch up blockbuster but otherwise, invest in Gladiator or The Scorpion King!

2.5/5 for me. Next time, Mr. Ratner better banter, better baddy and a bit more fun. Screw the story. Do I look afraid?

Please find my Hercules related videos just to make a change.

1) The first one my reaction when I first saw the trailer for the new Hercules movie with The Rock

2) My reaction after watching said film using TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo

3) Just for fun