Review – And THESE Guys Are Gonna Protect Us? (“Guardians of the Galaxy”)

A smaller entry into the Marvel comic book universe, but nonetheless witty and exciting, is this wrecking crew of misfits. First bowed in 1969, this rag-tag bunch of miscreants were brought together to fight the bad guys and win the day back then, and so it is again in 2014.


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Human Peter Quill, aka Starlord (Chris Pratt), was abducted by aliens when he was ten-years-old from Earth and whisked away to who-knows-where in the galaxy. Now an adult, he’s a cocksure rascal, part Indiana Jones, part mercenary for hire who’s been sent to find a mysterious silver Orb. But what he doesn’t know is that that Orb holds a dangerous secret. It’s coveted (much like The One Ring) by a super bad guy named Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) who wants his villain in charge, Ronan (Lee Pace), to find it and bring it to him. . . or else!

Ronan sends his beautiful green-skinned assassin, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after Peter and the Orb, but there’s a snag. There’s a bounty on Peter’s head and wanting to cash in is a pair of hunters: Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a genetically enhanced raccoon who’s got a serious attitude problem along with a hair trigger, and his trusted companion, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a mighty 8-foot tall tree-ish creature that only says, “I am Groot”. Think “Master Blaster” from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

Anyway, during a street melee on the peaceful planet of Xander, they’re all arrested by Rhomann Dey (John C. Reilly) and shipped off to prison where they meet fellow prisoner Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), a hulking WWE-looking brute that wants revenge on Ronan. They all form an alliance and manage to escape, with Gamora seeking out The Collector (Benicio del Toro) who buys the Orb, but also explains that inside the thing lies the fabled glowing blue Infinity Stone, capable of unimaginable power and destruction if fallen into the wrong hands. Which it does!

Ronan gets a hold of the stone and, in a double-cross, decides to annihilate Xander and then Thanos for good measure. The leader of Xander, Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close) orders that Peter and his band of misfits lead the charge in stopping Ronan. Soon, everyone is after Ronan, the stone, Peter, or all three! It’s an epic battle of space ships and wisecracks as the good guys try and keep Ronan from landing his ship and touching Xander soil and making the planet a smouldering little cinder using the stone. (personal note: They have all this advanced technology and no teleporter? Seriously?)

Directed by James Gunn (who directed the last Scooby-Doo movies), really has a flair for the funny and it works in this obscure little Marvel gem that snuck in the back door while everyone else was looking at The Avengers and all their companion films. The screenplay by Gunn and Nicole Perlman has plenty of pop-culture and sly self-aware references that it keeps the movie humming along at just over 2 hours.

Chris Pratt is carefree and reckless like a young Harrison Ford with just a dash of cynicism and Bradley Cooper’s voiced CGI raccoon Rocket is just hysterical to watch. Zoe Saldana, all green skinned and kick-ass (Captain Kirk would jones for her) is great as is Bautista, who is a wonderfully smart dim-bulb.

The movie works on so many levels and is so watchable that you can forgive the many plot holes and forced romance between Peter and Gamora.P.S. Stay until after the credits for a quick brush-stroke featuring a Marvel character from the 70’s that some despise to this day!


The Dirty Dozen  (1967)


If you’ve got the galaxy to save, you call the Guardians. You got a war to stop, you call the Dirty Dozen. Based on E.M. Nathanson’s novel and inspired by true events, this movie had one helluva cast! Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Webber to name a few.
 
Often duplicated, like The Magnificent Seven plot, the set-up was simple: a suicide mission in WW2 that could mean the turning point in the war, calls for a crazy idea. But to pull it off, the military brass has to enlist the nastiest, craziest, dangerous, most cut-throat killers and lunatics they have in prison and train them. The catch? If they survive, they’ll walk away with a full pardon and can go back to the regular army.
 
The objective: A beautiful German chateau will be hosting a meeting of dozens of high-ranking German officers and guests. The elimination of these guys will presumably stop their ability to respond to D-Day. The prisoners are to be trained to infiltrate and then kill all the officers, but of course, things don’t go exactly as planned. 
 
The 12 men are notoriously undisciplined and follow their own rules, especially A.J. Maggot (Savalas), a loose cannon and psychopath. The men finally get trained by some miracle and arrive at the chateau to do their job, but all hell breaks loose when Maggot decides he wants to knife a woman at the party just to hear her scream! Yeah, this guy’s nuts! A free-for-all of violence ensues as the plan they were trained for goes south quickly. The iconic scene of Robert Jefferson (Brown) tossing grenades into the chateau’s air vents to blow up the house and then sprinting to the moving truck and his freedom, is one of the most exciting moments of the film.
 
Directed by Robert Aldrich, this movie was chastised for its over-the-top violence and crudity (remember, this was 1967). But it went on to make MGM a mint at the box office and spawned four sequels, a short-lived TV series, not to mention the countless rip-offs and homages to the plot. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds had story elements that were similar to The Dirty Dozen in many ways. It also launched a mediocre movie career for former football star, Jim Brown.
 
Here’s a little trivia:  John Wayne turned down one of roles because his character was an adulterer! Wayne played Genghis Khan, a tyrannical slaughterer of thousands, but he wouldn’t play a guy who cheated on his wife. Go figure!
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