Guardians of the Galaxy (2014 film)

Not sure if I'd go with knives as my weapon of choice in future warfare.

Not so sure I’d go with knives and swords as my weapon of choice in future warfare.

Guardians of the Galaxy was directed by James Gunn. This is the same James Gunn who I was first introduced to as a coach for aspiring horror actresses on VH1s “Scream Queens” back in 2008. This is the same James Gunn who came into the biz in the shadow of the mighty Toxic Avenger at Troma Entertainment. The most impressive notch on his resume before this massive Marvel Studios endeavor was a screenplay writing credit for the 2004 Dawn of the Dead reboot. Marvel obviously took a chance on Mr. Gunn – and it paid off.

This film has a totally different tone to it than any of its big budget superhero genre predecessors. Using a soundtrack of late 1970s and early 80s hits as a backdrop for a futuristic intergalactic space war movie is precisely the kind of off-kilter balancing act that Gunn has successfully pulled off. Yes, this film does propel the clichéd tradition of superheroes who are initially societal outcasts(why aren’t they ever star quarterbacks?). It does stand apart however, in that the Guardians are still quite the misfits, even after their makeovers.

Pretty sure I saw "peyote" scroll by in the writing credits for GotG

Pretty sure I saw “peyote” scroll by in the writing credits.

Having seen most of the other Marvel releases over the past few years (Thor, Avengers, Iron Man, etc) I initially incorrectly assumed GotG would not be a part of that other universe of characters and storylines. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this movie was actually a huge reveal that tied a lot together from the other films. It was exciting to find out we are headed straight for the Thanos/Infinity Gauntlet plotline – which seems quite intriguing. Marvel did this mass character arc/storyline convergence the first time with Avengers, and I’m excited to see how everything will come together in these next chapters to come.

Once you jerk off with the Infinity Gauntlet, astroglide will seem like sand.

Once you jerk off with the Infinity Gauntlet, astroglide will seem like sand.

Chris Pratt plays the Peter Quill / Star-Lord character in a way that is well-suited for the tone of the movie. He’s the sad clown, and his character has an inner dichotomy that echoes this theme of undulating waves of wackiness crashing into walls of punishing sadness/violence. It’s hard to get the ratio just right, but Pratt got it close enough. Marvel has woven lots of tension-breaking moments of levity into their films before(“Hulk Smash”), but this movie is almost more comedy than action. Spoiler alert : Let’s keep in mind the final battle between our hero and villain(Ronan the Accuser) features a mini attempted dance-off at one point.

I left the film feeling happy. Even though it was over 2 hours in running time, it went by quickly. This signifies success in holding my attention, and a lil’ bit of icing for leaving me satisfied with the end result. Was this the best of the Marvel movies? No. That would be the first Iron Man. But, this was somewhere in the top 5. You should probably try to catch this in the theater, because the tablet experience in a few months will probably lack a little of the punch.

Overall rating :   7.7/10

– JA

The Book of Mormon (Play)

Repressed Sexuality = Extreme Acts of Violence & Comedy Hijinks !

I saw “Book of Mormon” over the weekend at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. My wife surprised me with tickets out of nowhere(Thank you again baby!) I heard so many good things about the play, but didn’t really know much about the plot/content. So, I wasn’t quite sure of what I was walking into. But, based upon sweeping the Tonys and the massive hype surrounding this show, my expectations were soaring. Trey Parker and Matt Stone previously produced other musicals I’d seen before with : “Cannibal! The Musical” and “South Park : Bigger, Longer, and Uncut”. Even though these were movies and not live theater, I was familiar with their general approach to comedy. No topic is off-limits, and being gross = big yucks. Sometimes, I think they get caught up in the shock humor a bit too much. And this is why I enjoyed both of their musical endeavors more than their TV show South Park – fewer poop jokes, more wit and content. Also, being that I detest organized religions and standard Broadway musicals, the prospect that BOM might take a stab at both at once had me salivating with anticipation.

The backdrop when we walked in was the only preview I got.

So, what usually happens when the bar is set so high? Well, you get a “War of The Worlds”(2005) scenario where I walk away severely disappointed with what could have been. But, these guys just hit it right out of the fucking park. From start to finish, I was captivated, entertained, and just generally laughing and happy. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, because a great deal of the comedy was further enhanced by the element of surprise, due to my lack of prior knowledge to its content.

The big laughs started when the elders landed in Uganda, and discovered how far life in Africa was from a version of “The Lion King”. Some other random highlights included : the quote “I’m wet with salvation” and the musical number “Turn it off”. Really fantastic stuff. They delivered on all fronts. They poked fun at cheesy, over the top Broadway numbers while simultaneously, completely eviscerating Mormonism in the process.

He’s about to do what we all wish we could do.

It was quite an achievement. As for the actors, they did an outstanding job. Great timing and delivery for all the jokes served to really make the writing come to life. The two leads, Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner had a nice rhythm together as Elders Price and Cunningham. But, Grey Henson stole the show with his portrayal of not-so-closet homosexual character Elder McKinley. One thing I couldn’t figure out though, was how the Latter-day “saints” actually advertised in the playbill for BOM. Or furthermore, how they didn’t protest the balls out of this production. Seriously, wtf am I missing here? If this isn’t a total dismantling of how ridiculous their faith is, I must have been watching some other musical. Maybe Mormons are just too naive and obtuse understand what they are watching. Come to think of it, that’s probably the answer right there.

This show totally ruled. Trey and Matt finally put it all together. Where South Park falls short for me, this came through.

You guys finally grew up. You are real men now.

Although, I can’t quite give this a perfect rating, due to going a little bit too far with some sophomoric references to blood in your stool that didn’t seem entirely necessary. Maybe I’m being a bit too sensitive in my old age. But, I have two kids now, so I have a license to be more crotchety, god damn it! Bottom line; I’d love to see this again someday – particularly with some religious people in my immediate vicinity. There’s no better method to get people to realize what fucktards they are for buying into organized religion, than with some crafty, well-written, relatable humor. And BOM is some potently funny stuff. So, “Bravo!” Matt and Trey. “Encore!” and… “Hasa Diga Eebowai!!!!”

Overall Rating : 9.9/10

– JA