Guardians of the Galaxy: An Awesome Mix of a Movie

I’m sure that no one needs me to tell them that Guardians of the Galaxy is really good.  Really, really good.  Well worth seeing.  And all that stuff.  Every critic that I’ve heard of has said the same thing.  And it really is that good.  So go see it already!

But if you want a little more than that, Marvel has hit it out of the park again.  At some point they’ll mess it up (Ant Man isn’t looking too good right now, but they may yet salvage that one), but until then Marvel will continue to widen the gap between themselves and DC.

The movie itself sound kind of silly at first.  A human, an assassin, a walking revenge film, a genetically enhanced raccoon, and a talking tree all going up against one very angry alien with a massive chip on his shoulder who has one of the extremely powerful Infinity Stones to help him get his revenge on the planet Xandar.  There is a nice mix of action, pathos and comedy going on here.  The characters are engaging (Rocket and Groot are real stand-outs, but the whole cast works really well.), the pacing is well done, and (of course) the soundtrack is, in the words of the movie, Awesome.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, or were wondering if it really is that good; yes it is, and you should quit stalling and go see it.

Netflix Picks: Manliest. Space Pirate. Ever.

I have a pretty casual interest in anime on the whole. I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about it as I would like, but goodness knows that never stopped anyone from giving their opinion on the internet. Today’s pick is based on one of the most popular and influential animes of the 70’s, in Japan at least. It’s never really caught on here the states. And that’s really a shame, because it’s a pretty solid franchise on the whole; and this particular movie is a pretty good introduction to it. It also has the manliest character in the history of anime. More manly than a whole barrel full of Kaminas. More manly than Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris arm wrestling Grizzly Bears in the middle of the Super Bowl. I speak, of course, of Space Pirate Captain Harlock.

The story itself is relatively simple, or at least as simple as a Leiji Matsumoto plot ever gets. In the far distant future, or possibly the past (that part’s a little hazy), humanity has spread throughout the cosmos. Eventually there was a call to return to Earth. But the planet couldn’t support the sheer amount of people who wanted to come back. Thus began the Homecoming War. Out of the ashes of that war two opposing forces rose to put their stamp on the galaxy. On the one side was the Gaia Coalition, the authoritarian central government. And on the other side stands Captain Harlock, Space Pirate. Harlock is on a mission to exorcise the demons of his past, and save humanity in the process. Maybe. It’s kind of hard to tell with Harlock.

Without giving away a lot of spoilers, this is a pretty damn good movie. The animation is spectacular, with detailed backgrounds and character models. Even if the characters do look a little plastic-y from time to time. Now, there’s a fair amount of techno babble being thrown about during the course of the movie, but I don’t think that it hurts the movie too much. There’s also the story to consider. Without giving too much away, there’s a really big twist about halfway through the movie that could change your perceptions of the characters dramatically. But that’s the whole point of plot twists, and this one didn’t bother me much at all. But as we all know, you don’t go to an action movie expecting a cerebral drama. And that’s where this movie really shines. The action scenes are jaw dropping. There are multiple moments where you just might find yourself jumping up and cheering, even if you’re wearing headphones.

Overall this is one of those “sit back and enjoy the ride” movies. And what a ride it is. It should really say something that after I finished watching it the first time, I immediately put it in my Netflix queue and had to restrain myself from watching it again right away. So, yeah. I think I liked it.

Overall rating: 8/10

Netflix Picks: Mummies, Pterosaurs, and Girl Reporters! Oh, My!

This week’s pick is something that I’ve wanted to see for a long time, just because it seemed so “right up my alley”.  The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film about an intrepid female reporter in the tradition of Nellie Bly in early twentieth century Paris.  Adèle is on a quest to cure her twin sister Agathe who fell victim to an unfortunate accident involving a high velocity tennis ball and a hat pin.  But before she can save her sister, Adèle is going to have to bust a professor who has discovered how to bring the dead back to life out of prison and solve the problem of the pterosaur that the professor accidentally revived.  Also thrown into the mix are a bunch of bumbling policemen, a spectacularly inept big game hunter, the President of France and his dog, and a whole mess of ancient Egyptian mummies taking a sightseeing stroll around Paris at night.  Needless to say, this is a very unique movie.

Most people would file this movie under “Steampunk”, but all it shares with that genre is the sensibility.  It’s really more of an action comedy with some supernatural elements in the vein of the Mummy franchise (before it really started to suck) and the Hellboy movies.  Oh, and one more thing it shares with Steampunk, a seriously awesome heroine. Adèle is smart, resourceful, and takes no crap from anyone; especially the male characters. She’s a reporter only in the sense that she writes books about her adventures, and most of her adventures are centered on curing her sister. And there’s nary a love interest to be seen. Oh there’s a character who’s in love with her, but Adèle has precisely zero interest in him. One thing to point out here is that while the cast is mostly made up of men, they aren’t exactly portrayed in the most flattering light. In fact, most of them are either stupid, or have very little effect on the plot, Andrej being the sole exception to that. Andrej is the guy who’s in love with Adèle, and he helps her find the pterosaur that’s running (or rather, flying) rampant through Paris. But he isn’t really fleshed out as a character aside from his infatuation with Adèle. But the rest are there pretty much as comic side characters, and to provide a foil for Adèle to work off of.

Speaking of comedy, there’s quite a bit of it in this movie. But if you’re not at least a little familiar with the way Europeans do it, you might find yourself a bit lost. There are certain scenes that wouldn’t really land well with an American audience. A few of the bits with the big game hunter and the professor come to mind, as well as the use of heavy make-up on some characters. But a good portion of the comedy works really well, in any language. I particularly liked Adèle’s increasingly desperate use of disguises to get the professor out of the prison. Funny and it showcased Adele’s never say die attitude. There are also some really good bits with the mummies, especially Adèle’s interactions with Rameses. The CG in this movie isn’t particularly good, but then again this is a foreign film being done by people who aren’t Industrial Light and Magic. But it’s still pretty passable.

Overall, this is a really fun movie with a great female lead. And we really don’t get to see many of those. So if you’re looking for a decent action movie with a lot of wit, you really can’t go wrong with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec.