Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy PosterRelease Date: August 1, 2014

Directed by: James Gunn

Written by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning

Starring: Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista

Synopsis:

In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan.

2014review_credits

Picture, if you will, the end credits for our 2014 Year in Review. Credits rolling. Perhaps a little incidental orchestra music from the soundtrack (or if this was a romantic comedy, “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers). We’re past the soundtrack credits, and the special thanks. Here’s the MPAA logo — clearly, we’re at the end here. Then, blackness. Then, a flash of color! We’ve snuck one more end-of-the-year thinkpiece in after the credits. And to think, if you had walked out during them, you might have missed it. The post-credits stinger is changing. As of 2014, they remain ubiquitous (though there’s always a sizable section of the audience in the opening weekend of any Marvel movie that leaves as soon as the lights come up; surely you’ve danced this dance before, people). Studios are keen to throw all kinds of crap in after the movie’s over — gags, teases, bloopers — anything to give you one last bite to end your moviegoing experience on. But they’re not as keen as they used to be.

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2014review_scifi

Thanks to the continued popularity of superhero movies and YA literature adaptations and now the reignited interest in monsters, the joined genres of science fiction and fantasy are giving us what seems to be more releases than ever. It helps that computer effects are cheaper and easier for the benefit of indies and that so many makers of shorts see simple yet impressively visualized stories involving robots, dystopias and alien invasions as the perfect calling card for Hollywood. The plethora of works dealing with the unreal and as yet impossible means that while last year a Hobbit movie made the cut, this year the final chapter did not. It means that a new sci-fi film from Terry Gilliam, my longtime favorite director, also fell below our limit of the top 14. And it also means there was just too much out there for me to get around to. Apologies to Space Station 76, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, The Boxtrolls, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Frame and many others. Some interesting trends to note about the year in sci-fi and fantasy before we get going: at least a few 2014 movies involve doppelgängers or doubles or clones or alternate versions of some sort; another bunch feature a plot similar to Groundhog Day; and a lot were not mere magic and space opera but rather emphasized the science side of sci-fi by at least promoting scientists and innovation (if not also always getting the tech or theories quite right). Also Scarlett Johansson.

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2014review_music

2014 has been an exciting and fun time for movie music with a return to the classically styled soundtrack full of popular music to scores going against convention by adding an unexpected element (vocals) or honing in on a single instrument (percussion). We also got a bunch of catchy new songs to sing along with (and get stuck in our heads) along with scores that moved us, upset us, confused us, or simply made us smile. As films and filmmakers stretch themselves to bring audiences fresh, new stories, those creating the music are starting to push the boundaries as well (or return to more “vintage” means) to mix things up and keep audiences guessing. The movies of 2014 had a very distinct sound that spanned a wide range of genres and musical styles. This year introduced us to some new talent, showed us a new side of familiar names, and had favorites working at the top of their game – read on to listen through the film sound of 2014.

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Marvel Studios

In the coming weeks, there will be a lot of data about what movie moments we loved. Heck, we’ll probably publish some of it. The Most Tweeted About Movie Moment. The Most Commented Upon Scene. The Most Mentioned, Hashtaged and @Replied. Plenty of data to tell us what we love. Yet while we love to see the data and see what we’ve been talking about all year, sometimes we movie lovers must look into our hearts and find those precious movie moments that we can’t get out of our heads. And to follow our hearts in 2014, at least for many of us, will inevitably lead back to one particular movie: James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Initial audiences were blown away, friends who otherwise don’t go to the movies dragged me back to see it again, memes and fan homages littered the Internet of things. It might not get a bunch of hardware during awards season, but Guardians is a movie that captured the geek heart this year. So as we sifted through our favorite scenes to determine our Scene of the Year, this is the movie that wouldn’t go away. Because of all the wonderful things we saw this year, none of them made us happier than Dancing Groot. Presented for your consideration, our choice for Scene of the Year: the many happy dances of Guardians of the Galaxy.

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2014_review_comics

2014 was a banner year for the comic book. Those flimsy paper books have so thickly embedded themselves in Hollywood that a major piece of Marvel or DC news is dropping every week, to the extent that two full entries of this 14-part list burst onto the scene as recently as last week. Not every comic book movie was a masterpiece (one stunk so spectacularly that it may, along with a fair amount of cybercrime, threaten the very fate of Sony’s superhero output). But plenty of them were, and the general fervor around them has risen to a point where giggly anticipation of Avengers: Age of Ultron is practically as much fun as Age of Ultron undoubtedly will be. Because of that, this list isn’t just milestones we saw in comic book movies. It’s the 14 greatest moments — movie scenes, movie news, major studio announcements — from this ever-growing sect of comic book movie culture; a culture that will continue (barring any financial disasters or drastic changes in audience taste) to expand outward for the foreseeable future. When a comic book movie wins Best Picture (I’ll ballpark it and say, perhaps 2047 and Great Lakes Avengers 6: The Rebirth), we’ll know superheroes are here to stay. Next year and Age of Ultron will no doubt render all this obsolete, but for now let’s see what 2014 had to offer.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Kiss

This summer, director James Gunn led Marvel Studios onto a new path with the cinematic gamble Guardians of the Galaxy. That gamble paid off, making the film the highest domestic grosser of 2014 and introducing the world to bizarre characters like a talking tree and an outlaw raccoon. Gunn, who is best known for his work in low-budget filmmaking after getting his start in Troma films, took some time to watch his blockbuster film for the DVD and Blu-ray release of the film. Looking ahead to both The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the 2017 release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Gunn dissects his movie with stories from the set and how things changed from the film’s inception to the final cut.

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CALVARY discs

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Calvary Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a small town priest in rural Ireland who receives an oddly unwelcome confession one morning from someone who calmly promises to murder him by the week’s end. The priest goes on with his business, trying his best to do right, but the next seven days are filled with frustration, eccentricity and an unsettling energy in those around him. Writer/director John Michael McDonagh‘s second feature is a slowburn character piece that weaves black comedy and mystery through a soulful rumination on the power of forgiveness. Gleeson is a quietly rumbling powerhouse and gives an immensely affecting lead performance, and the supporting cast is a stellar mix of aggressively engaging friends, strangers and suspects including Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran, M. Emmet Walsh, Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s son) and Kelly Reilly. The script is filled with wisdom and wit, and it leaves you feeling drained and reflective on those who’ve passed through your own life. It’s my favorite film of the year. It’s the best film of the year. It will stay with you well into next year. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy

James Gunn’s Marvel space opera Guardians of the Galaxy might just now be making it into our homes — via Digital HD this week and Blu-ray/DVD in a few weeks — but it’s long been on our minds. In fact, Gunn’s foray into massively budgeted comic book territory (namely the far reaches of space) still sits at the top of the 2014 box office rankings, having brought in over $330 million to date. This isn’t always a recipe for success during award season. And seeing as this is a column about award season, you might be wondering why we’re even talking about Marvel’s monster hit of the summer. Well, because this is an award season column that focuses on the movie itself and whether it’s deserving of recognition. And big box office or not, Mr. Gunn’s film has plenty to offer those who hand out golden statues at the end of the year. So let’s just go ahead and build our own Guardians of the Galaxy Oscar buzz…

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Edge of Groundhog Day

You can tell how boring a movie year is by the state of new Halloween costume ideas each fall. At least in terms of memorable characters. When I walk into one of those seasonal pop-up shops and see the same superheroes year after year joined still, a decade after, by Napoleon Dynamite-style “nerd” package costumes, I worry that there isn’t enough fresh and popular movie iconography being entered into the history books of late. What is the 2014 film zeitgeist but more Spider-Man, Captain America, X-Men, Transformers and Hunger Games? New costumes are repeats of old, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and even my old unlikely X-Men meet Forrest Gump and Smurfette ideas), or based on already familiar icons, like LEGO people. Frozen is new but familiar. Same with most of the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, to a degree. If you want to go against the grain of the mainstream and easily recognized, though, here’s my 7th annual list of unique Halloween costume ideas based on recent movies. If you don’t mind explaining your outfit to everyone at the party or every homeowner you encounter while trick or treating, many of these are relatively obscure. Some of them may stump even your friends who regularly went to the movies over the past 12 months. Others might just seem unnecessarily different or inappropriate or just plain dumb. That’s why I always label them as being unlikely options.  As always, if you use any of them, you’re obligated to share photos with us. And let […]

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Super Movie

James Gunn made the movie that ruled the summer, which is really fucking weird. Not because he isn’t talented (because he is), but because his rise to prominence doesn’t make mathematical sense. The odds were astronomical. To think about it in the worst way possible, Lloyd Kaufman — the founder of Troma — is still hustling Troma films wherever he can while his Tromatic protege has the #1 movie of the year. He’s a bona fide mainstream success who got his start rewriting Shakespeare so that Juliet becomes a monster with a giant dick. Now, the world has officially gotten his dick message. But to try to nail down Gunn’s style is impossible. Beyond the genre fuckery of Troma which has proven itself to be a borrowed language, Gunn has also written and/or directed stripped-down horror, a surprisingly family friendly series where a talking dog solves mysteries and a hero satire that’s far smarter and more earnest than Kick-Ass. Gunn has a fantastically twisted sense of humor, but instead of toiling in obscurity or b-level experimentalism, he’s making blockbusters that millions of people love. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who learned everything from the Toxic Avenger.

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Stan Lee in The Incredible Hulk

Journalism isn’t what it used to be. That’s what any old hat will tell you. In this 24/7 world of interconnected data tubes and hashtags, it’s easy for a small rumor to become a big story in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. Me personally, I still wait for things to show up in my local newspaper. I’m kidding, what’s a newspaper? Earlier this week, a perfect example presented itself in the form of a story about the year’s highest grossing film, Guardians of the Galaxy. According to reports, a planned cameo for Stan Lee was axed by the overlords at Disney due to its somewhat racy nature.

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Raiders of the Lost Ark Throne Room

Steven Zeitchik recently recognized Guardians of the Galaxy as the most recent in a string of modern blockbusters that are essentially plot-free films. Citing a respect for witty banter over storytelling, he also offered the criticism that several studio movies had motivations that were murky and details that were intentionally blurry. I love Zeitchik’s work, but this assessment is confusing for two reasons. One, his argument is a misunderstanding (or at least a misappropriation) of what “plot” — the cause and effect-based sequence of events — actually is. It would be difficult to make a movie without a plot that isn’t raw abstract experimentation. On the other hand, “post-plot” is a catchy, succinct phrase, so I get it. Two, within his argument, Zeitchik remarks offhandedly that, “[t]here is a strange, perhaps super-meta irony in [Guardians] making frequent reference to cinematic classics like The Maltese Falcon, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars, all movies in which storytelling matters very much,” but Raiders is certainly no more plot-tastic than Guardians. If you’re going to grouse about a talking raccoon and an Infinity Stone, then you’ve got to roll your eyes at a Nazi monkey and a face-melting God Box.

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Back to the Future Biff Pleasure Palace

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Pierce Brosnan in The November Man

It wasn’t until this week that I became aware of The November Man, which opens as early as next Wednesday. Hey, it’s not like I write about movies for a living or anything. But outside of barely paying attention to a commercial for the Pierce Brosnan-led action thriller the other night, I still haven’t given it much thought. I also haven’t heard much buzz or anticipation for the movie, which is directed by Roger Donaldson (reunited with his Dante’s Peak star) and is about an ex-CIA operative who has to take down his former protege while tiptoeing around a compromised agency. Should be interesting to see another evocation of Three Days of the Condor so soon after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yet unfortunately it looks more generic than that, like it’s following instead in the footsteps of another movie with the same number in the title: 3 Days to Kill. Today I’ve been made more curious about The November Man, though, thanks to the announcement of a sequel. According to ComingSoon.net, Relativity Studios has already greenlit the follow-up in advance of the first movie hitting theaters. This isn’t that strange considering the prospective film franchise is based on a series of spy novels by Bill Granger. Just think of that author (who died in 2012) as the latest Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum, especially since the president of production at Relativity is calling this a reinvention of the genre “combining the best elements of James Bond and Jason Bourne while echoing the cool, sleek action movies of the 70s.” […]

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Marvel Studios

2014’s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda. Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too. The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.

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Thanos-The-Avengers

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Guardians of the Galaxy Abduction

One of the burning questions left at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy concerns Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Who is he? What is he? With a sequel already in the works, due in 2017, the apparent certainty is that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will either answer the question or at least address it more in full. But does it have to? Must it? Can it not, please? I’d like to address Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer/director James Gunn here and simply plead that whoever and whatever Star-Lord’s father is to keep him out of the next movie and any installment of the greater MCU franchise. Here’s what we know: Peter Quill was raised by his mother and possibly grandfather, never knowing who his real dad is or was. Around the age of 10, his mother died and he was immediately abducted via spaceship captained by a blue-skinned alien who would become a sort of father figure. About 25 years later, he still hasn’t met his pops, but it’s definite that the guy came from outer space. Quill’s mom said his dad was an angel made out of light. Later we hear that Quill is half-human and half some unknown cosmic entity. It’s a hybridization quality that heroes have had since heroes were first conceived. He’s basically a demigod, not unlike Hercules.* Maybe Quill’s father is some character we haven’t yet met. A notable hero or villain. Or maybe he’s actually just the kid of Yondu (Michael […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix

Just as Marvel’s The Avengers gave shawarma sales a huge boost in the summer of 2012, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has brought forth a newly-rediscovered love for cassette tapes. This is thanks to the “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” that Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt), dying mother made for him in 1988. Quill kept the joy of mix tapes alive while he bounced around the galaxy for 26 years, rocking out to music from Blue Swede, The Jackson 5, David Bowie, and The Runaways. As a child of the 80s, I am intimately familiar with cassettes, Walkmans, old-school 1/8” headphones, and the awesomeness of a mix tape. However, I also remember burning through my fair share of cassettes in my youth (and needing a pencil more than a few times). Of course, the track list for “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” will always be awesome, but seeing all that Quill goes through in Guardians of the Galaxy, it got me thinking. Would that mix tape have lasted for 26 years in space? Would it even still work?

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Infinity Stones

It’s always been possible to watch a Marvel movie – an individual entry in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe,” if you want to be precise – independent of the rest of the franchise, but why would you want to? Especially as the now-ten-film-strong series continues to steadily move towards one blockbuster wrap-up (most likely The Avengers 3), as both characters and plots converge in ways large and small. One thing that keeps running through the MCU in unavoidable ways is the appearance of the powerful Infinity Stones, and the lingering understanding that the artifacts are just a few more movies away from joining up at the hands of some supervillain hellbent on destroying the entire universe as we know it. Now that’s build-up. Spoilers ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy. There are six Infinity Stones – called “Infinity Gems” in comic book lore, and damn if that doesn’t make them all sound a mite more sparkly, but what can you do – lurking around in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just waiting to be found and put together for some major mayhem (we already know that it’s Thanos’ master plan to do just that, but the big purple guy isn’t having much luck lining those damn Stones up, at least not yet). We’ve seen three of the Stones so far, but while we’re waiting for the other half to show up, it might be wise to remember, oh, yeah, that’s where we put them.

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Sharknado 2

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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