Friday, 19 September 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Purge: Anarchy

Directed by: James DeMonaco

Produced by: James Blum
Andrew Form
Bradley Fuller
Sebastien Lemercier
Michael Bay

Screenplay by: James DeMonaco

Starring: Frank Grillo
Carmen Ejogo
Zach Gilford
Kiele Sanchez
Michael K. Williams
Zoe Soul

Music by: Nathan Whitehead

Cinematography by: Jacques Jouffret

Editing by: Todd E. Miller

Studio(s): Blumhouse Productions
Platinum Dunes

Distributed by: Universal Pictures

Release date(s): July 18, 2014 (United States)
July 25, 2014 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 103 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $9 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $106, 624, 724

Excursions, excursions, excursions, that's all there seems to be, alongside the many excuses piling up as regards to my slow rate of productivity for this year on the blog. Truthfully, as I've said before, I've had a wild busy few months over the summer at work which has continued on into September when I'm not on holiday. Speaking of which, I spent last weekend three nights in the wonderful town of Carcassone in the South of France. It's not exactly one of these places like Paris or Nice with the hustle and bustle of a booming nightlife, however, if you want a pleasant, relaxing time to enjoy a vacation (a well-needed one in my case, to paraphrase Arnie), by all means I'd thoroughly recommend it. It's not costly, the scenery, architecture and landscape is gorgeous and it has a serene atmosphere. Now, on movie matters, along with this, I've guaranteed reviews for Hector And The Search For Happiness, The Expendables 3 and Lucy on the back-burner, and no doubt I'll see more before the month closes, so, for all the latest and greatest regarding the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is The Purge: Anarchy, the sequel to last year's The Purge, which despite being highly profitable was met negatively by critics. I myself had mixed feelings about the picture, but thought it a decent horror flick that had a terrific central concept going for it, which does bring up some interesting moral quandaries, was well-shot by cinematographer Jacques Jouffret (who, along with writer-director James DeMonaco, returns for this instalment) and boasted a great lead performance from Ethan Hawke. Unlike the first film, which was essentially a home-invasion movie, this time the premise has been changed up a bit: it is March 21, 2023, hours before the annual Purge, where for twelve hours (19.00-to-07.00) all crime is declared legal and emergency services cease to operate, an event which been declared responsible for the reduction of crime due it's cathartic impact on citizens, but instead it rather is a form of human population control, with certain weapons (explosives and destructive devices) declared exempt, as are government officials holding rank 10 or higher. Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo), a waitress, rushes home to her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and father Papa Rico (John Beasley) to lockdown for The Purge. However, Rico slips out, leaving a note that reads how he sold himself to a rich family for $100,000 to kill, to be transferred to Eve and Cali's bank accounts following Purge night. A couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) are driving to his sister's house to wait out The Purge. When their car runs out of gas, the are forced to fend for themselves on the streets. At the same time, police Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grill) kits up to participate in The Purge and get revenge on the man who killed his son while driving under the influence. Early into the film, during paramilitary storming on Eve's apartment, when they attempt to kidnap her and her daughter, Leo drives by and ambushes them. Taking them to his armoured car for safety the three make a getaway with Shane and Liz, who have stowed away in the back seat during the shooting, and so all three points have converged and we have a party to try and survive the night, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah...

So, overly-convoluted and wordy plot synopsis out of the way, let's get down to business! Starting with the good here, what they do in terms of moving the Purge concept on as a base idea is good. I've always been of the opinion that even though there have been mixed results, the concept itself is a terrific  starting point and premise for a horror film. There's so much that can be done with this idea, and I think that this is half the battle in terms of getting people initially interested to see where your picture goes. Also, to take it from the home-invasion genre and cast the net out into the streets is the natural progression for your film to go, so instead of repeating the same old story there's automatically something fresh being done here. Much of the same crew of the first Purge film is brought over into the sequel, and I think that it aesthetically benefits from their familiarity with the material. Cinematographer Jacques Jouffret, in a completely different setting to the first film, shows once again that he knows just how to light the picture in terms of creating the tone and the atmosphere. From a visual standpoint, this presents a wholly different challenge to the cinematographer, and he was more than up to the task. Finally, certain things that writer-director brings to the table in terms of the script and his direction were noteworthy in the positive sense. For instance, the Papa Rico subplot emphasises the class-war politics that the film is attempting to get across, as does a bidding war bordering on farce and satire over which rich Purgers gets to kill which kidnapped party within the safe confines of a warehouse. Also, there are a couple of standout action sequences, such as the warehouse shootout and a car chase in an underground tunnel, which are well-executed and clearly wouldn't have been possible within the confines of the house which was the setting of the previous film. The Purge: Anarchy, faults and all, does his some praiseworthy attributes.

However, as I perhaps indicated with that last sentence there, the film does have faults, and a good few of them at that. The first being that while the central premise is ingenious, DeMonaco and co don't have a storyline to hold up the film beyond that base point. Even though there are actors such as Frank Grillo and Michael K. Williams (who, me and my mate over Danland Movies, reminded us a lot Spike Lee, and not in a good way!) who try their earnest, I saw no reason to care about any of these characters as they were not so much as underwritten as just bog-standard stock types that we have seen in any number of movies beforehand. So, not caring about characters, that's number one. Number two, the journey they take these characters on is wholly unconvincing. When the different 'characters' converge and meet together, after their car dies, they all head on foot to the apartment of a colleague of Eva's to get a car: someone tell me how in the midst of all this wanton destruction, where people can get away with rape, murder, arson and all manner of crimes, why can't they steal a friggin' car instead of traipsing on foot to the other side of town? Also, someone who has seen this movie tell me they didn't see a big payoff involving the Revolutionaries, who are hinted at throughout the movie (which, let's not forget, has the subtitle 'Anarchy!'), roughly about a thousand miles away, who themselves are cardboard cutout beret-wearing peons, a shoddy attempt at politicising what is full all intents and purposes an exploitation horror film. Other aspects of the production were also troublesome. I mentioned about series returnees, and composer Nathan Whitehead, whose work on the first film was loathsome, brings more or less the same score, even though it sounds slightly different, to this sequel. I don't what it is, but why do people deem it necessary to inform us how we should feeling at any given stage during a movie? We are meant to be guided on an aural journey through a composer's work, not pushed and shoved in one direction and then jostled back into another. It's an outrageously generic horror movie score that has no place tainted the slowly decaying frequencies that my ears register. Finally, I felt that Todd E. Miller's editing required a combination of different things to be rectified; he needs to show a bit more tact when it comes to editing faster-paced scenes and not be like Michael Myers with a kitchen knife in an editing suite, and to not compose his montages in such an editorially cliched manner i.e. Pin drops, cut to all characters looking taken aback, smoke comes in, cut back to characters, back to smoke, in comes Revolutionaries, blah blah blah, blah, blah, blah...

If I sound like I'm bored at rattling on, well, that's because I am. There are things good about The Purge: Anarchy, such as the casting of the net outside of the confines of the film's original home-invasion set location, the cinematography by Jacques Jouffet, which is again atmospherically appropriate to the film, and some of the sequences and ideas conveyed by James DeMonaco through the central concept hint at what everyone involved is trying to get at. However, like the original, the execution suggests at unfulfilled possibilities, the fact that this could have been a way more thought-provoking and intelligent piece of horror cinema. None of the characters are engaging, and numerous parts of the exposition are nigh-on impossible to buy as plausible. Nathan Whitehead's score is outrageously generic (EMO, hello?) and Todd E. Miller's flawed editing don't help matters either. While I can't say that The Purge: Anarchy is a bad movie, it is deeply problematic and contrary to most of the critical notice going round, I found it to marginally worse than the original, which at least was halfway-decent. 

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Pensive (I've listened to Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here about three or four times over the past week or so: I think that's my subconscious trying to tell me something!)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Thin White Dude's Twelve Most Personally Influential Films

Thanks to Daniel Kelly for nominating me on this one!

It's meant to be a list of the Ten films which had an impact at me at some point in my life and have went to influence me aesthetically from an artistic standpoint, but me being me I had to settle for a dirty dozen. I need to seriously do a Top 100 at some point, and by no means are these films ranked in terms of quality, but they deserve their spot, so, without further ado, I give to you:

The Thin White Dude's Twelve Most Personally Influential Films!

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) - I saw this in my early teens, and was blown away by the use of montage and master storytelling. A couple of years ago, I went to an accompanied screening of this in the Ulster Hall by Martin Baker and a family went to see it, undoubtedly parents wanting to involve their children in something cultural: they all left after the Odessa Steps sequence, because the little ones were in tears. The film still has the power to shock!

The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) - At fifteen, this was my personal introduction to an artist who I consider to be one of my masters, the late great Ingmar Bergman. The Seventh Seal is an encapsulation of everything Bergman is about: intelligent, thought-provoking cinema of enrichment, with dense thematic content in sound and vision, all the while attaining profundity at cost-efficient, modest budgets.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966) - At three hours long, the lengthiest film on this list, but with such immaculate pacing, the time flies in! Everything is done with panache, style and a sense of humour, the interplay between the three leads (Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach) wisely played. The cinematography, screenplay, editing, the wonderful score by Ennio Morricone, and of course Leone, this is one of those jigsaw puzzles where it all fits in snugly together.

Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968) - A full year before Easy Rider put independent filmmaking on the map and five years before it's immediate descendent, Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, George A. Romero heralded in a new dawn of horror filmmaking with his debut feature in 1968. What made Night of the Living Dead so influential, on both me and others, was two things: firstly, the realism, necessitated by the low-budget, was and is still shocking to behold, and secondly, that the zombie film genre, which exploded soon after, could be used to display horror filmmaking as a viable means for social commentary.

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) - Seeing this as a teenager was a revelation. It brought to mind so many questions: how did Malcolm McDowell make Alex, surely one of cinema's most morally corrupt and contemptible protagonists, so damn likeable? What sociological, psychological, political and philosophical implications does the work have? And how did Stanley Kubrick make such a hypnotically powerful and watchable film? It borders on postmodern just how compulsively watchable this violent film, which itself is a commentary on the nature of violence, truly is.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972) - Another one of my endeavours into the abyss as a fledgling cineaste, this film by Werner Herzog, another of my masters, continues to have a profound effect on me. It's very existence, the true definition of 'guerilla filmmaking,' is a triumph, as we trudge through the jungle with Spanish conquistadores into the dark, haunted soul of humanity. Through the mastery of film, we experience their delusions and hallucinations through Popol Vuh's score and Thomas Mauch's imagery, as they descend into barbarism and madness, fronted by a monolithic lead performance from Klaus Kinski. Spellbinding.

The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984) - Granted, I'm biased because it is in my not-so-humble opinion the greatest film of all time, but The Terminator to me represents the ultimate mastery of the medium of cinema. An extraordinary neon-lit nightmare, I saw this and it's superb sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day at way too young an age (the latter of which, at age three or four, remains my first memory of the movies) and to this day, I still find myself blown away. For years, I though A Clockwork Orange was my favourite film, but as I got into my twenties, I realised that this movie, which has stayed with me through the years, was the one all along. I wouldn't be surprised if it's in the triple figures the amount of times I've seen it, and it just never gets old.

Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987) - And the second of my eighties science-fiction films featuring cyborgs (maybe there's a recurring theme here, no?)... In all seriousness though, I saw this as a kid, and was always taken aback yet thrilled by the action and outrageously OTT violence, but now, as an adult, I see that my younger self would be in tune to my later aesthetic tastes. Robocop is classic genre fiction, using science-fiction as metaphor, touching upon the likes of capitalism, consumerism, identity, religion (Robocop's widely seen as a Christ-like Messianic figure), all making up what I feel is the best movie about America in the 1980s.

Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987) - One of the reasons I love Withnail & I (notwithstanding the many other reasons!) is because growing up I really identified with the titular characters: I have known people like that, I have been on the odd venture or two not unlike but nowhere near as wild as their trip to the country is. However, underneath all the hilarity and drunken debauchery, there is most importantly a pulse, a heartbeat that tunes in to the kindred spirit of all of those dreamers who have wanted to escape their confines and make something themselves. A farcical, yet poignant tour-de-force.

AKIRA (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988) - Despite murmurings of live-action remakes for many years, I frankly see it as an impossibility to make something as breathtaking as Katushiro Otomo's 1988 adaptation of his own manga. Before AKIRA, my experience with animation had been through Disney, Pixar and the works, all children's animation, so not only was introduced to the world of anime (and subsequently manga) but also truly adult animation. It's an oft-repeated inside joke that you have to AKIRA seven or eight times in order to start to get it, and while I think that's a slight exaggeration, it gets the point across, because the ways you can look at this film are near infinitesimal. I don't anyone who comes out of it will describe it the same way as their fellow filmgoers.

Elephant (Alan Clarke, 1989) - Biased pick again, yes, but hey, it's my list. Alan Clarke's film about the Troubles is the single most important film about Northern Ireland, hands down. I saw this during a Film Studies seminar and frankly, although it was followed by Gus Van Sant's film of the same name (a tough double-bill if ever there was one), the overall experience was clouded by the atmosphere of Clarke's film, which is utterly shocking and extremely upset. It's the truthful honesty with which the subject is addressed that got to me, and Clarke's aesthetics in his overall filmography have since become a big influence on my own work.

Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003) - The final and most recent film on this informal list is Park Chan-wook's masterful thriller. The set-up is simple, a man is kidnapped, imprisoned for fifteen years, released and given five days to discover who kidnapped him... or so it seems. This rich and complex spiders-web is unveiled with such elegance and style that it's any wonder I feel head over heels for it as a teenager. Furthermore, it has something to say about morality and the psychological impact the movie has will stay with you, as it has with me, for many years to come.

Well, there you have it. While this is an informal list that does not necessarily represent my favourite movies of all time or is ranked in any specific order shape or form, they are all, in my opinion, great films that I feel worthy enough of your time to watch. Give me your thoughts and opinions regarding the list, and what you films you feel are a big personal influence for yourselves.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Guardians Of The Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Produced by: Kevin Feige

Screenplay by: James Gunn
Nicole Perlman

Based on: Guardians Of The Galaxy by Dan Abnett
Andy Lanning

Starring: Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn
Lee Pace
Michael Rooker
Karen Gillan
Djimon Hounsou
John C. Reilly
Glenn Close
Benicio del Toro

Music by: Tyler Bates

Cinematography by: Ben Davis

Editing by: Craig Wood
Fred Raskin
Hughes Winborne

Studio: Marvel Studios

Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Release date(s): July 31, 2014 (United Kingdom)
August 1, 2014 (United States)

Running time: 122 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $170 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $586, 365, 199

What a shock, things didn't go according to plan, eh? Basically, I had a work schedule all sorted out, but then, through a bit of fault of my own in light of hitherto un-forseen circumstances, I ended up adding more work onto my already substantial load, and all in all, I did a total of one hundred and eleven hours over ten days. The only day I had off during that period was travelling to Stradbally to work Electric Picnic, so believe me when I tell you I had no time to watch any movies. However, no that I'm back and I've already got started again, I've decided to compile both August and September together and address the monthly review at the end of September with the both of them. I've a lot more time on my hands to devote myself to my film reviewing and various artistic endeavours (and hey, maybe I'll actually go and get myself a social life again at some point!), so, for all the latest and greatest on the movies, keep your eyes posted!

Today's film up for review is the much-anticipated latest release from Marvel Studios, Guardians Of The Galaxy. It's intelligent marketing campaign, which offered itself up as something wholly different to what we have seen come out of the Marvel brand, which has since 2008's Iron Man been primarily focused on the characters that comprise The Avengers. As such, with the Guardians being a lesser-known property outside of the comic world and James Gunn at the helm, a director who, while bringing a unique quality and offbeat humour with him, had no box-office successes to his name in that capacity (he wrote Tromeo & Juliet, the live-action Scooby Doo features and Zack Snyder's Dawn Of The Dead, but his two directorial productions, 2006's wholly underrated and outrageous Slither, and 2010's Super, were for all intents and purposes flops), this was a bit of a gamble for Marvel to see if there was any interest in their universe outside of the Iron Man's, Thor's and the Captain America's. Okay, so, plot synopsis goes that in 1988, after his mother's death, Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker). Twenty-six years later, Quill (Chris Pratt) steals an orb and after being intercepted by Korath (Djimon Hounsou), he escapes with it. On the hunt for the orb though is Ronan (Lee Pace), who is attempting to capture the orb for Thanos, and sends the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after the orb. However, two bounty hunters, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) are drawn into the fight, and the four are arrested by the Nova Corps and imprisoned in the Kyln. While in the Kyln, a powerful inmate by the name of Drax (Dave Bautista) attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Ronan, who murdered his family. Drax is dissuaded by Quill, who offers the incentive that Gamora can take him to Ronan, and after escaping the Kyln, the five form an uneasy alliance to help each other succeed in their various goals. Capiche? Good!

To start off with the good, the central ensemble that comprise the Guardians are terrific. Chris Pratt, who underwent an intense dieting and workout regimen to lose weight for the film, anchors the movie in the part of Peter Quill. His comedic talents and awareness of the character's fallibilities mean that Quill has an interesting arc: at the beginning, the Star-Lord figures himself a bit of a Han Solo character, but really is a brilliant yet arrogant buffoon, and Pratt subtly manages to make the smooth transition into what Quill is later to become. The combination of the physicality he brings to the film and the his well-worked comedic persona, which lends him a strong sense of timing when it comes to the dialogue, make this a fine lead performance. Also good are Zoe Saldana, who brings real strength to the part of Gamora, and Vin Diesel as Groot, providing the film a sympathetic and humorous motion-capture performance with his innumerable variations of the line "I am Groot." I'm not trying to skimp on those two, but I want to focus on other performances specifically. In his debut lead role as Drax the Destroyer, Dave Bautista, who has always been a strong physical presence since his WWE days, finds himself an acquired knack for deadpan comedy. Bautista's ultra-serious physical specimen, who is so single-minded on his quest for vengeance, is juxtaposed with some great dialogue regarding his lack of awareness on his being the butt of many jokes. Lines like "nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast, I would catch it" ensure that, thanks to Bautista delivery, Drax, though not being the 'funny guy,' gets some of the best gags in the film. Bradley Cooper too delivers a fine performance in the part of Rocket. Although Sean Gunn (who stood in for Cooper on-set during filming) deserves credit, I think the vocal performance from Cooper is of a consistently high standard. Vocally, there's something of the fast-talking New York/Jersey gangsters from Martin Scorsese's movies and The Sopranos about Rocket. Also, what's interesting about this is how smoothly Cooper is able to transition from playing it funny to being really very serious and surprisingly poignant depending on the tonal direction the film is moving towards. Finally, outside of the central Guardians, there are two strong performances from the supporting cast. Admittedly I'm biased here, because I've made my admiration for him known in the past, but I thought Michael Rooker was great Yondu. Always a dedicated actor, the case is the same here, for he fully throws himself into this part, bringing to the part a manic energy and a palpable tension, not just in his lines but in the wild-eyed, predatory smiles, that Yondu could snap into violence at the drop of a hat. Also, in his short scene, Benicio del Toro (who looks an awful lot like Jim Jarmusch here) is highly entertaining as The Collector. So, cast done, lets get to the other parts that were good about Guardians Of The Galaxy. Excusing the horrible pun, but from a technical standpoint the film is indeed a marvel. Ben Davis' cinematography has a distinctively clean look, which is a pleasure to behold amidst the glut of summer blockbusters whose work on digital has a ruddy, murky textural palette. Here, the film is lit and shot in a manner not unlike that of a prismatic effect, the gorgeous visuals the product of the light refracted through the viewfinder. Speaking of visuals, the visual effects are also of a consistently high standard. Not only does it enhance the performances of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn, but outside of the performance capture it helps to realise in splendour the various worlds which the characters inhabit. The combination of digital/visual effects and practical/physical effects in Guardians Of The Galaxy are not dissimilar to the standard of mise-en-scene set by the original Star Wars films. As much as the film's cast, the list of names contributing to the overall design of the picture reads like a who's who, with Alexandra Byrne and David White, both of whom got their starts working under Kenneth Branagh, on costumes and special effects makeup design respectively, master sculptor Brian Muir, whose work includes Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark and the Space Jockey from Alien, so this a film whose production is stacked with talented individuals plying their craft. Incidentally, the film has three editors (Craig Wood, Fred Raskin and Hughes Winborne), but despite this, the film is surprisingly consistent and doesn't pull in all different directions. Another aspect of the film which I found to be aesthetically interesting was the choice of music in the film's soundtrack. Intelligently, a plot point is made out of this (the tracks are all on a cassette in Quill's Walkman, which he aptly labels "Awesome Mix Vol. 1"), and as such we get songs from David Bowie, The Runaways, The Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye woven into scenes throughout the film. Of course, the highlight is the use Blue Swede's Hooked On A Feeling, heavily used in the marketing, which becomes the film's equivalent of an anthem in terms what they're trying to get at tonally: it's a funky, slightly mad but most importantly fun track indicative of the film's ribaldry. A lot of that is down to (in my final point of positivity) writer-director James Gunn. As I mentioned in the preamble to my synopsis, to have a director like James Gunn, who although having a solid track record as an artist and unique filmmaker hasn't always went hand-in-hand with the box-office, was a gamble, but one I think Marvel wisely realised would pay off. Arguably, the thing that sets Guardians out from the rest of the Marvel cinematic canon is what Gunn brings to the table, in his genre film sensibilities, offbeat humour and an empathy for the outsider. The former welds a b-movie feel to the general atmosphere, the latter two ensure that while his characters are always funny, with Gunn's ear for sharp dialogue and witty banter coming to the fore here, they are also sympathetic, each with their own faults and defects making them who they are. As someone who has followed Gunn for many years, seeing his various ups and downs, it gives me no greater pleasure than to see how well Guardians has done at the box-office. After opening weekend, Gunn wrote a letter of thanks on Facebook, from which I'll take this extract: 

"Thanks to all of you who saw (and are seeing) 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' this weekend, from the bottom of my heart. The Guardians are a group of oddballs, outcasts, and geeks. The movie is for anyone who ever felt cast aside, left out, or different. It's for all of us who don't belong. This movie belongs to you. And, today, I think we're doing okay."

Those are not only the worlds of a grateful and humble man, but those of a filmmaker who completely gets what the material is about. In many ways, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a real triumph of creativity and a collective working together to do something special.

However (the big, damnable 'however...'), much as I liked Guardians Of The Galaxy and think that it is a highly watchable, highly admirable work, it doesn't quite etch itself out as a great film, and that is for a number of reasons. First and foremost, while I thought the dialogue and characters were terrific, the same cannot be said for the film's plot. I think these problems emerge not necessarily from Gunn or original screenwriter Nicole Perlman's work but rather from the recurrent problem that most films never escape as the first instalment of a potential franchise. Almost by default, they have to obey the same basic formulaic structures, so as to lay the groundwork and get down to the real business in future instalments. Guardians, sadly, is no different. Although the leads do the job well, the Guardians all go on the same journey of self-discovery we have seen many many times before in origin stories. The same can also be said for the plot, which is a simple case of point-A to point-B to point-C, connect the dots. It can kind of get away with it because it's done well, but not entirely! There are only three movies over the past ten years which have truly successfully done it: 2005's Batman Begins, 2006's Casino Royale and 2012's Dredd (the last being a sort of 'anti'-origin story. Not a franchise either, I know... yet!) Also, none of the primary villainous characters (Ronan, Nebula and Korath) convincingly written in as credible threats to the protagonists (especially with the shadow of Thanos looming over everything!). Also, when you have almost an assembly line of fine actors such as Glenn Close and John C. Reilly coming on board, surely even with their scant screen-time more could have been done to flesh them out. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for Tyler Bates' original score. While his work here has it's moments, it too follows the same basic principles of film scoring and doesn't really do all to much with them. Much as I liked Guardians, I consider it a necessary part of critiquing it to be down to fair judging and being able to look at it for how I see it, defects and all.

Well, despite my reservations regarding certain aspects of the script, which result in a formulaic and base murder-by-numbers point-A to point-B plot structure, the fact that while the Guardians are well-crafted, the antagonists and numerous supporting characters are not fleshed out enough to justify the quality of actors playing them, and to a lesser extent Tyler Bates' score, Guardians Of The Galaxy is still a very good, highly enjoyable film. The performance of the central cast playing the protagonists, most specifically Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista and Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn, and a manic supporting part from Michael Rooker, are uniformly great, and this quality is also consistent with the film's technical aspects. Ben Davis' clean cinematography distinguishes itself from the drab visuals of many contemporary blockbusters, and the visual effects do much to bring the world(s) these characters inhabit to life. Also, from a design standpoint this movie has as much love and care going into it's craft as that of the original Star Wars pictures. The soundtrack too, interwoven into the picture, is used intelligently to indicate a certain tonal mood and feel to the the picture. Finally, James Gunn's major studio debut as a director is largely a triumph. He truly seems to understand the essence of what this project is all about so that, faults and all, we can still derive much enjoyment from Guardians Of The Galaxy.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Chilling (by way of enjoying some much needed time off work!)