Monday, August 04, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

It's been awhile since I've seen an enjoyable space opera in the theaters. It's sad, really. To me, that's the kind of epic, sweeping story that movies are made for. Of course when I heard that James "Slither" Gunn was directing an adaptation of one of my favorite space comics from recent years, I was ecstatic. Finally, I would get the space opera that I was clamoring for.

And I did.

The movie is more of a comedy than an action film, perhaps in the vein of Ice Pirates. That's not a problem. I always enjoy some levity in a film and GotG is rife with it. It helps smooth out any bumps in the road and helps make the dire situations seem that much more so. When the characters you've been watching crack wise for two hours get serious, you know that the stakes are high.

For those unfamiliar with the comic book, the current Guardians of the Galaxy is about a rag-tag team of heroes who have been drawn together for various reasons and find themselves in the unenviable position of trying to save the universe. Originally, the team was comprised of heroes sent on a suicide mission of sorts in Annihilation: Conquest. Seeing that they worked together well, Peter Quill aka Star Lord took it upon himself to keep the team together and they added a few more wayward souls and became the Guardians that we know and love. They operate out of a giant severed head of a celestial being and have a friend that is a telepathic Russian dog. Needless to say, things can get a little strange.

What's great about the movie is that it embraces that strangeness. I think a lot of people were wondering if Marvel would have them whitewash the world that the Guardians work in and make it fit in with the rest of the Marvel Universe. Take a look at Thor, where they turned gods into aliens and made all of their magic into technology. Fortunately for us, James Gunn had a distinct vision that included all of the quirks that the comic gave us and he brought it to a brilliant and colorful life on the big screen.

Chris Pratt is great as Star Lord. Not being familiar with his other work outside of his voice acting for The LEGO Movie, I wasn't sure how he would be in the role. He brings an easy charm to the role and his comic timing is great and easily scores some of the biggest laughs in the movie but is equally adept at bringing pathos to the character as well. The rest of the cast performs equally as well, with Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as the voices of Rocket Raccoon and Groot, respectively. If you told me years ago that we'd have a movie with a talking raccoon and tree in the theaters and people would be flocking to see it I would have thought you some sort of crazy prophet. They work well as a team, even though they're not actually on the screen. I could see a spinoff with just the two of them coming about in the future, easily. The cast is rounded out by Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the most dangerous woman in the galaxy who doesn't get much time to shine but does well with what she has and Dave Bautista, a giant of a man who glowers his way through the film yet brings a tenderness to the role I wasn't expecting.

It looks like other people are responding well to the movie too as it garnered quite a take at the box office for its opening weekend. That's no surprise as it is a genuinely fun and interesting movie that appeals to people of all ages. I took my parents with me and they loved it, which is surprising in part because my mom doesn't really like sci-fi.

Guardians of the Galaxy is easily the best film I've seen after Godzilla this year and I can't wait to see it again. It also boasts the best soundtrack I've heard in a long time, with songs that actually make sense in the context of the movie and not just thrown in there to sell records to kids after the fact.

If you like space operas, you'll like this movie.

Check it out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Godzilla 2014

It's been awhile since the last release of a Godzilla movie. Maybe the average person doesn't take these things into consideration, but I do. Godzilla: Final Wars was the last adventure to be released featuring our favorite giant monster. I've been jonesing for a new one since then. You don't realize how fast the time goes. It feels like it was only a year ago but it was over ten. Naturally, when I heard that there was a new installment coming to the series and it was from an American studio, I was excited and a little nervous.

You see, the last American made Godzilla movie didn't go over to well. It was a fine enough giant monster movie, but it wasn't Godzilla. GINO (Godzilla In Name Only) or Zilla, as he was called by fans, lacked the majesty and the sheer power of the Japanese version. The film might have been fine as a reboot/remake of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, but as a Godzilla movie, it failed quite miserably. And now we were going to be subjected to a new one and it was going to be directed by someone that I hadn't even heard of.

So I found the movie that got him the gig, Monsters, and watched it. Suddenly, I wasn't as nervous as before. Here was a man who got the genre, mixing human drama with the monster action in a balanced and fantastic way. And he did it all doing the effects, which were very good, on his computer at home. Imagine if Gareth Edwards, the director behind said film, had a real budget behind him.

We don't have to imagine any longer.

Godzilla (2014) is a worthy addition to the venerable series of Japanese films, far eclipsing the original American remake and earning its spot as a fine film in its own right. Right from the credits, you get a glimpse of Godzilla, as the stylized entry to the film is a montage of newsreels and articles on a giant monster (Godzilla) that they were conducting nuclear tests to try and destroy. That's the last glimpse you'll have of him for awhile, as we delve into the human drama, starting in the Philippines, where a mining operation has uncovered an odd discovery--a giant skeleton and two eggs, one of which has hatched and the contents of which have fled the area. It's destination? A nuclear power plant in Japan, which it destroys, traumatizing Joe Brody, played by Bryan Cranston and sending him on a mission to find out what exactly caused that disaster.

We jump to fifteen  years later, where Joe is still searching for answers, leading him to try and get into the quarantine zone that was set up around the lost power plant. His son has to bail him out of jail when he gets caught and now Ford Brody and his father find themselves on the trail of a cover up that is hiding something that may end up destroying the world--monsters!

After this build up and introduction to the cast that we'll be sticking with for the rest of the film, including Ford the younger's wife and child, the movie sets us up for a roller coaster of action sequences that find the monsters from the eggs hatching and terrorizing the Pacific as wreak havoc on anything nuclear in their path, as that is what they feed on. Fortunately, there's an ace in the hole for the Earth and its name is Godzilla and he doesn't seem to like these upstarts trying to take over his world.

The monster designs are well done, with the MUTOs (Godzilla's opponents) bringing to mind Gigan mated with some odd insect. Their alien look sets them apart and helps us know that they are the ones who do not belong on this planet. Godzilla is majestic and powerful looking, updated for a modern age but still retaining the form and figure that we've become used to over the past 60 years. His role is of a force of nature, a balance setter who has little regard for anything other than his mission. And he's damn expressive. While in the past, the suits have given us some personality to Godzilla with sneers and the like, here in CGI he expresses more character than some of the human in the cast as he tries to destroy his enemies. When we first see him, it's a a grand moment, but we are made to wait until we can really see him cut loose against his foes. When that happens, it's well worth the wait and almost transcendent in its awesome brutality.

I liked this less is more approach that they used in the movie, teasing us with the battle they know we want to see until the end. It works well and when you get that final release, the wait has been worth it. Plus it's not like you're sitting there watching paint dry. There is monster action, even if it isn't battles, giving us some wonderful creature shots like Godzilla swimming through the ocean, flanked by aircraft carries as they all head to the final battle.

All in all, it's a great movie and moreover, it's a great Godzilla movie. Judging by the box office from the weekend, other people are feeling the same way and they've already greenlighted a sequel. Edwards says he would like to do a Destroy All Monsters style movie for the next one. I'm very OK with that.

Check it out and go, go Godzilla!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Godzilla - Official Main Trailer [HD]

I'd be remiss if I didn't share this as well. I'm pretty damn excited for this. I love Godzilla.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Happy 2014!

I can't believe I slacked off for the last few months of the year with only the occasional post. I try to be good about it but always seem to drop the ball. It doesn't help when I have something like Nanowrimo occupying my time in November where almost all the writing I do goes into that and then we have the holiday where my schedule is usually messed up.

In this new year, I will try to be better about it. Which of course is why I waited until the 8th day of January to make a post about it. Promptness, I tell  ya.

On the book front, I'm almost finished with Friday Night Frights: School Sucks. I've started one of the final chapters and it's pretty much a short run to the end from there. I'm hoping to finish it by the end of the week. Then I can work on the sequel, which I'm about halfway done with and it shaping up nicely. Of course there's also The Count and The Reluctant Muse waiting in the wings with their innards spilled out and waiting to be sewed up and loved so I might have to give them some effort as well. So I'll be busy.

Hopefully I'll have a new book out by summer though I might just self publish again if no publishers are taking the bait on The Secret Life of Astrogirl.

See ya soon.