Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is an American superhero film released by Marvel as part of its Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s directed by James Gunn and written by Gunn and Nicole PerlmanGuardians of the Galaxy takes place in a different galaxy altogether than the rest of the MCU films, introducing a more fantastical side of Marvel comic books and featuring an exciting and fresh new team of superheroes.

Guardians stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord, the rebellious bad-boy space pirate. He’s the only character in the film from Terra, who has a homey and charming quality we can all relate to — many times embodied by the 1970s and 80s music he listens to on his Walkman. It both reminds Quill of Earth and his roots as well as reminds the audience of Earth in a galaxy filled with unfamiliar worlds and peoples. Pratt has made quite the ascension to stardom. He consistently knocks it out of the park on NBC’s Parks and Recreation as the lovable but oftentimes clueless Andy Dwyer, yet he’s also been in a couple Oscar-nominated films like Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Spike Jonze’s Her. He’s an incredible actor, who has yet to be adequately recognized, in my opinion, for his flawless performance in Parks and Rec, but his charisma and finesse is finally getting acclaim in Guardians. He plays the rugged, rule-breaking smuggler that we can’t help but love. He mixes up a delightful cocktail of humor and badassery into his performance as he stumbles his way throughout the galaxy. He kicks ass and dances with proportionate ease. He’s stated that Han Solo and Marty McFly were inspirations for his portrayal, but there is a lot of Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion in Firefly, in Peter Quill, too — evidenced by his affinity towards guns and brown coats.

Zoë Saldana plays Gamora, the lethal adopted daughter of super villain Thanos (an uncredited performance by James Brolin). Saldana is firmly established in the science-fiction film genre, with roles in James Cameron’s Avatar and the rebooted Star Trek films. She champions strong female roles in a genre that’s very male-centric. She is a raised and trained assassin, but she also has a strong sense of righteousness. Saldana’s performance weaves together the hard and cold nature of a killer with the shy receptivity for goodness, which blossoms along with her friendship with Quill.

The rest of the Guardians are an eclectic and dynamic mix: Drax (Dave Bautista) the insanely ripped and heavily tattooed prisoner who takes things absolutely literally; Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper and acting contributed by Gunn’s brother Sean Gunn) the genetically engineered and talking raccoon bounty hunter; and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) the nurturing yet lethal tree-like humanoid (AKA the Ent) who can only say “I am Groot”. There characters are absolutely amazing and bring such spirit to the film. The combination of all these characters make for an unusual fellowship, but out of it burgeons friendship and many, many laughs.

The universe of Guardians is colorful — both in its visuals as well as with its characterizations. It’s a marvel (no pun intended) to experience a world bursting with color — from nebulae-backdropped space battles to the Infinity Stone erupting in amethyst power, and from brightly tinted skin to effervescent worlds saturated in color. It’s beautiful to watch, comparable to the visually striking Pandora in Cameron’s Avatar. One of my favorite scenes is when Groot produces the fireflies to light up the darkness. The music and visuals intertwine so seamlessly to produce a tender moment in a mostly active and funny film.

Groot, while not “vocabulistically” gifted, is the heart of Guardians. While the rest of the team has baggage and motives, he’s mostly innocent and tags along with Rocket. He also contributes to a visual motif throughout the film. The Infinity Stone resides in the orb throughout the entire film. While ornately forged, the orb houses a tool of great power, a fossil of great creation but a threat of total destruction. The sphere shape in the film begins to signify that ominous doom, destruction in a pretty package. After Quill has seemingly killed Ronan (Lee Pace), the great monolith of a ship is tumbling out of the sky. Groot envelops the Guardians in a sphere of branches and leaves. He becomes an orb of warm natural beauty and heart, in an age of rigid technology and industry. While crudely made, his orb encircles friendship and righteousness, an inspiring icon in the face of death.

Guardians of the Galaxy provides an exciting and refreshing introduction to a new world of superheroes. Bringing together an incredibly talented cast, sharp and amusing writing, striking visuals, and engaging characters, Guardians is a completely entertaining experience. Can anyone really turn down an intergalactic ride with the lovable and hunky Chris Pratt?

 

They Came Together


They Came Together (2014) is a spoof on the romantic comedy genre, directed by David Wain and co-written with Michael Showalter. Although constantly spoofing, the film is made with a deep-down love for the romantic comedy genre; it’s 83 minutes of laugh-after-laugh all in the spirit of good ‘ole fun.

They Came Together tells the story of Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) as they are sharing the story of how they met to their friends one night at dinner, Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper). Joel and Molly preface their love story as a really corny romantic comedy, and, boy, does it live up to that. It begins with a You’ve Got Mail foundation, with Rudd being the charming and charismatic leading man, oozing handsome smiles all over the place, who works in the evil candy empire that is threatening to bankrupt Molly’s small and community-friendly neighborhood candy shop (Poehler and Rudd working in candy companies screamed Leslie Knope, Bobby Newport, and Sweetum’s from Parks and Recreation). Molly is the classic strong and in-your-face type who’s clumsiness and compulsive qualities are endearing. Almost every romantic comedy trope and stereotype could be found in this film: overhead shots of Ney York City, holiday gatherings to introduce single friends to each other, incredibly passionate and rambunctious nights of love-making, meeting the parents, breaking up and getting back together over and over again, a mad dash to stop a wedding, getting back with an ex, montages of couples falling in love in the city, marriage proposals, hate-at-first-sight — they even managed to fit in a montage of the leading lady trying on various outfits to impress her man. Because the film is so fast-paced, all this and more is able to fit into a film that’s a little under 90 minutes long. Each trope and stereotype has Wain’s unique and hysterical twist on it, making for constant laughs.

The film hardly has a story — but it doesn’t need one; the point isn’t to have a story. The film is perpetuated by laughs and jokes. The pacing is very quick, joke after joke after joke, and while there are a few misses, most land perfectly. Laying out tons of the jokes, the leads — Rudd with his myriad of close-up smiles and Poehler with her clumsy yet likeable antics — are supported by an incredible cast. Jason Mantzoukas is the goofy and loyal best friend to the leading man; Cobie Smulders is the unfaithful and vapid ex-girlfriend of and constant temptress to Joel; Max Greenfield is the leading man’s little brother who offers up “jewels” of wisdom (with whom Joel has a tangential family crisis which is yet another romantic comedy antic); Teyonah Parris is the sassy co-worker (and possibly only other employee) at Molly’s small business; Ed Helms is the nice guy who is clearly wrong for Molly yet still manages to procure an unenthusiastic “yes” to his marriage proposal; Christopher Meloni is Joel’s boss, the token idiot turned up a few notches; and perhaps the most important supporting character: New York City.

This movie takes inspiration from great spoof and parody films such as Airplane! and Blazing Saddles. It’s 83 minutes of fun and laughs, if you’re open to not taking anything seriously. They Came Together has a solid and hysterical screenplay by Wain and Showalter and it’s brought to life by a crazy-strong comedic cast. Even though they’re making fun, you can’t help but root for Molly and Joel to get together. And even though Rudd is flashing a ton of fake, laugh-inducing smiles, you get a little weak in the knees each time.

I was fortunate enough to see They Came Together at the Music Box Theatre as part of the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival. David Wain was the special guest and introduced the film and let a Q&A afterwards, which was as hysterical as it was fascinating. They Came Together comes out to select theatres on June 27, 2014. It will be at the Music Box Theatre, so please check your local theatres and check out this film if it’s in your area!