James Gunn

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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Guardians of the Galaxy Kiss

Over a century old, superheroes are inextricably rooted in nostalgia. We usually meet them first when we’re kids, growing up with them and building memories – which character we first rooted for, which villain we first hated, who we first dressed up as for Halloween (or any given Tuesday). While it’s exhilarating to see characters from the page brought to life in a modern faddish flurry, something almost always gets lost in translation when some of them are “updated” for our modern world. Acknowledging that these are beings of another time, even ever so slightly, helps make these films feel like an experience instead of just another blockbuster. A prime example? The Guardians of the Galaxy, which figured out a way not only to combine action, drama, humor and heart, but also figured out a way to infuse a great sense of nostalgia thanks to a soundtrack full of funky beats from the 1970s.

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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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Spaceballs Barf and Lone Star

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie where we could go on and on with relevant recommended titles. Its main hero, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is a guy who spent his first 10 years on Earth enjoying a lot of movies and music. He’s a good representation of many people his age who are still Earthbound, because he’s focally nostalgic for ’80s pop culture and is always ready to make a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some other property that existed prior to his abduction in 1988 by the space pirates known as the Ravages. In addition to the direct allusions spoken or spotted on screen (it’s cool that Star-Lord is familiar with a classic like The Maltese Falcon and apparently had an ALF sticker in his backpack when taken), the movie is highly influenced by past movies, with some big antecedents such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark being too popular to bother including. And of course Guardians of the Galaxy is also reminiscent of the many followers of those two George Lucas productions. As John Gholson notes in his spot-on comic-strip review, the new Marvel movie “has more in common with Star Wars wannabes,” as he features posters for four examples: Ice Pirates, Battle Beyond the Stars, Serenity and The Last Starfighter. On top of all the movies we could urge the fans go back and watch, this release had me wanting to also do a whole list of TV series to watch after you’ve seen it. […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Obscene Gesture

At the start of Guardians of the Galaxy, “A Film By James Gunn” flashes on the screen, and that’s exactly what we get. For a big Marvel movie under the Disney banner, this isn’t the kind of story we expect to see from them, so when the end credits roll, Gunn’s name seems to shine brighter than the audience-magnet brand and the internationally beloved corporate entity above them both. His style survived the blockbuster process. Of course, once you know the director behind Super and Slither made Marvel’s latest, it’s not much of a surprise. The drama is unexpectedly sincere, while the jokes are wonderfully dirty — a tonal blend he can’t get enough of — while staying strangely innocent in the face of serving a story about lovable misfits finding a higher purpose. There’s no mean-spirited marrow in the movie’s funny bone. Gunn has managed to top the comedy done by the likes of Joss Whedon, Shane Black and Jon Favreau in past Marvel movies, so when we spoke with him recently, we asked him how he’d pulled it off.

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Walt Disney Studios

Earth, 1988, and a young boy named Peter is watching his mother die. As her final breath passes her lips he runs out of the hospital and collapses on the fog-shrouded lawn… at which point a spaceship appears, sucks him in and streaks off to who knows where. 26 years later we’re introduced to the now adult Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) who prefers people call him by his much cooler moniker — Star Lord. Quill is a roguish adventurer — think a half-assed Indiana Jones or an insecure Han Solo — who makes a living acquiring things for people willing to pay for said things, but his latest attempted theft lands him in prison alongside a quartet of equally morally-suspect individuals including a fierce female warrior, an even fiercer male warrior, a verbally-challenged tree and a genetically-modified raccoon. The group soon realizes that the item holds a highly destructive power and that they may be the only ones capable of stopping it from falling into the hands of an intergalactic madman bent on doing the kinds of crazy shit madmen typically do. If Serenity and Ice Pirates spent a drunken night of debauchery together without using protection, the result would be something like Marvel’s latest (and least Marvel-like) feature, Guardians of the Galaxy. To be clear, that’s a good thing. Hell, that’s a great thing as the resulting film is a vibrantly exciting, immensely entertaining and frequently hilarious sci-fi adventure.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Groot

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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The Guardians of the Galaxy

Within the past few minutes, Marvel Studios wrapped up their presentation at Comic-Con in San Diego. According to media in attendance, there was quite a bit of footage for Avengers: Age of Ultron shown to go along with the Ant-Man casting news that preceded it. And while there were not any major announcements about future films like Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel or anything into what could be considered Phase 3 of their Marvel Cinematic Universe, they did confirm one project’s release date: Guardians of the Galaxy 2. In a pre-recorded video announcement from London, director James Gunn and actor Chris Pratt confirmed that Guardians 2 would hit theaters on July 28, 2017. This confirms the rumors from earlier in the week that James Gunn would be back to write and direct the sequel. Even though the first movie hasn’t hit theaters, Marvel and Disney appear to have more than enough confidence to greenlight a sequel. Based on early reviews, Guardians will more than likely have no problem delighting fans as the Marvel train rolls on. In the mean time, the rumor mill continues to churn for other Marvel projects…

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Marvel Studios

One of the many highlights of Guardians of the Galaxy (out next week) is when the gang pays a visit to The Collector. James Gunn‘s film already had shades of strange, but Benicio del Toro kicked it up a few notches. Once you visit his black market, you don’t want to leave it. Maybe the film’s biggest problem is del Toro: he’s not in it enough. They’ll likely incorporate him more in future Marvel movies, but he’s a character you want to see more of. Take one look at that guy and it’s pretty obvious he lives an interesting life. Him wheeling and dealing with that funky outfit on could be as exciting as any huge set piece. The fact of the matter is, we need a movie about The Collector. It wouldn’t have to be a super expensive tentpole movie. The Collector is the kind of character we don’t need to see in action. He’s engaging enough on his own. In the past there’s been talk of Marvel movies making smaller scale pictures. They recently announced their release date schedule for the next five years. It’s doubtful any of those summer and fall releases aren’t huge blockbusters. That’s fine, of course, but wouldn’t fandom turn up for a smaller Marvel movie? A little slice of life kind of story in the life of a hero or villain?  Will we ever see those movies from Marvel in the future? “Well, someday,” Marvel’s Kevin Feige tells us at the press day for Guardians of the Galaxy.

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The Guardians of the Galaxy

What’s the best movie trailer you’ve seen so far this year? More specifically, of all the summer movies coming out in 2014, which of them has had the best trailer? Other than the first full length trailer for Luc Besson’s mind-bending actioner Lucy, I can’t think of any trailer more striking than whatever latest preview Marvel has released for Guardians of the Galaxy. And we all thought this one would be Marvel’s toughest sell to date, as it explores areas of the cosmos yet unexplored in the path in and out of The Avengers. How it all plays out with general audiences remains to be seen, but one thing remains abundantly true as this latest extended trailer hits the Internet: this movie is like nerd Fruity Pebbles. Colorful, delicious, sugar-filled, a little strange and when it’s over we’re going to need a nap.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Groot

Ever since it was announced, the prevailing wisdom was that Marvel was taking a huge gamble on Guardians of the Galaxy. That prevailing wisdom has always been wrong. At least this property — which isn’t all that popular even among comic book readers — isn’t a gamble in the same way that Iron Man was. That was the case of a third rate hero getting the big budget, cinematic treatment. This is the case of a third rate group of heroes getting the big budget, cinematic treatment from one of the most trusted blockbuster companies in the world. People will be going for the Marvel name, regardless of what the heroes call themselves. This new Guardians of the Galaxy trailer is proof. Or at least it’s proof that Marvel doesn’t see this as the same gamble everyone else does. They’ve turned wacky all the way up to 11 here. If they were trying to fool people into going to see The Same Old Marvel Movie they know and love, they could do it easily with flashes of action and an empty, bombastic score highlighting the dutch angles. Instead, they’ve gone with Norman Greenbaum jams and a tree giving a little girl a flower. Check it out for yourself:

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Thanos-The-Avengers

Captain America has come and gone. Now, it’s time for the great hordes of Marvel fans to shift their attention to the next film in Marvel’s two decades of future comic book films: Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a film we really don’t know that much about. Sure, we have a trailer, but it’s a single trailer from a month and a half ago, and since then we’ve gotten so precious little. Just a “new clip,” if two seconds of new footage sewn onto half a stale trailer counts as a clip these days. And Nathan Fillion, hinting that he might have a line or two. “Check the credits,” he says, coyly. I’d check the credits if I could, Mr. Fillion. But I can’t, so instead I will languish away into a husk of my former self. But Entertainment Weekly has a big expose on Guardians of the Galaxy, and like any big print media story, it’s been savaged by digital media and stripped of all the juicy parts, long before it ever hits newsstands. So without further ado, thanks to MTV News, here’s every juicy part (suck it, print media):

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Chris Pratt in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

It was inevitable I guess. We used to get full trailers and artistic posters for upcoming movies, but those days are gone and have been replaced by teasers and amateur Photoshop retreads. And now the next target of over-zealous studio marketers appears to be the “clip.” Typically a clip is an uninterrupted thirty to sixty seconds from a scene in the movie — an action beat, a setup and punchline or a big character moment — something to offer a taste of the film beyond a trailer edited to hit the sweet spots. Marvel’s upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy is the studio’s biggest risk since the first Thor film in that its characters are a bit outside the typical superhero realm readily accepted by audiences. So yes, any marketing that reaches eyeballs is a good thing. But calling something a clip when it’s actually nothing more than a new teaser featuring a few seconds of new footage and a whole lot of what we’ve already seen? That’s just rude. Keep reading to check out a brief new look at Guardians of the Galaxy that debuted on MTV last night.

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NCP0010_B_comp_v018.1418

So what have you all been up to today? It’s raining something fierce here in Portland, so today was a three movie day for me. First up was Jason Bateman’s directorial debut, Bad Words, and happily it was pretty fantastic. Few actors play malicious, foul-mouthed pricks as well as Bateman. After that I watched the new Criterion Blu-ray of Michael Mann’s debut, Thief. I’d never seen it before, but it should surprise no one when I say I loved it. The visual stylings, themes, and preferred pacing that would go on to mark his career are all present in his first film. Amazing stuff. Finally, I watched one from way back in Brian De Palma’s career with Arrow’s new Blu-ray of Phantom of the Paradise. It’s an interesting and somewhat fun watch, but it’s easy to see why it hasn’t caught on as anything more than a cult classic. Anyway. Here’s that trailer for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy that you’ve all been waiting for.

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Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy

Following the success of The Avengers, Marvel has a lot to live up to in terms of rolling out their new phases of entertainment. Their latest superhero ensemble venture, Guardians of the Galaxy, is the next chance for the company to prove that they’re “more than these five franchises.” At this point, though, there’s only a brief, 15 second teaser trailer to analyze, giving us just the smallest glimpse of the film. But it does hit some of the more important notes — like Vin Diesel as a sentient tree man or Bradley Cooper contributing as the littlest hero of all, a genetically engineered alien named Rocket Raccoon. The teaser aims to answer the question asked during the first seconds of the trailer: “Who are you?” Well, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Diesel and Cooper have offered up a few bullet points that consist of chaos and destruction, firepower, genetic engineering, some masterful weaponry and teamwork.

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monsters unleashed 01

Two news items from the past week have me recalling a movie from nearly a decade ago: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. There was the announcement by Warner Bros. of a new animated feature based on the classic cartoon franchise, which is the obvious source of my considering Raja Gosnell’s live-action adaptations. Then there was the continued coverage of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly the voice casting for its CG characters. That comic book movie is being helmed by James Gunn, who scripted both 2002’s Scooby-Doo and the 2004 sequel. I remember enjoying the latter a lot when it hit theaters, surprised that it was so much better than the misguided original and even more surprised that it was actually received worse by critics. But could I defend Monsters Unleashed today? I revisited the movie this week in the hopes of doing so, but I don’t think I can. And this isn’t some case of where my love for something as a kid turns out to be terrible after all. That’s reserved for Howard the Duck (which I still love anyway). I saw Scooby-Doo 2 in my mid-20s. No, I wasn’t high. Perhaps I was simply relieved the movie was so tied back to the initial series, Scooby Doo: Where Are You?, with its call-back of ghosts and villains, and that it was an improvement over the first movie, which had had the balls to turn Scrappy Doo into a bad guy (and featured Sugar Ray — blech). Somehow that […]

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Rocket Raccoon

We reported last week that Bradley Cooper had entered into negotiations for the part of Rocket Raccoon in James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy. But for anyone waiting on the results with baited breath, hoping and praying that Cooper would sign on for the part, here’s some good news (or, if you’re not a Cooper fan, horrific news)- Marvel has just offered official confirmation that Cooper will be playing the walking, talking rodent in next summer’s superheroes-in-space epic. Count me among the cautiously optimistic. Before Silver Linings Playbook, I’d be among those clamoring for a quick recast, arguing that the only thing worse than Cooper as Rocket would be having the guy from Phantoms play Batman (and we all know that’ll never happen in a million years). But then Silver Linings happened, and Cooper knocked it out of the park as a man struggling with mental illness. Kevin Feige has described Rocket as a “genetically and mechanically altered… experiment,” while Gunn called him “the heart of the movie.” If Cooper can pull off something even remotely close to what he did with Silver Linings, then Guardians might be something truly special. Although it’s also got Vin Diesel as a walking, talking tree. So I guess it was already special. Guardians of the Galaxy will be in theaters August 1, 2014.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

We’re still a year away from James Gunn‘s Guardians of the Galaxy, but anticipation grows ever higher. Comic book readers are quivering in excitement over a more obscure group of heroes getting the big budget, big screen treatment. Non-comic book readers are scratching their heads, wondering what the hell is up with that raccoon. Well, in an upcoming Empire Magazine interview (scooped in advance by Comic Book Movie), Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has begun doling out all the details on Marvel’s weirdest upcoming movie. Those who don’t know the characters can now be quickly and easily filled in. Those who already know the characters will notice Feige making a few interesting changes. First, Feige introduces the five motley space-farers who make up the core team: “Rocket has been genetically and mechanically altered, he’s an experiment from one part of the galaxy. Groot is a species that happens to look like trees look, and is quite communicative if you can understand the different inflections in the way he says ‘I am Groot.’ Peter Quill left Earth in the mid’80s, but when we meet back up with him he’s very much a citizen of the universe. Drax has one goal and one goal only, which is to kill Ronan because of a past tragedy. When we meet Gamora, she’s a bad guy working with Ronan and Nebula and Korath, and by extension for Thanos. Gamora doesn’t necessarily like doing that anymore, and tries to find a new path for herself. […]

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Groot Guardiand of the Galaxy

Actor Vin Diesel has been playing coy about his possibly playing a role in a Marvel Studios film. You will recall back in late June he dropped a note on his Facebook page about being called in for a meeting and not knowing what for. We all speculated that he could be cast as Namor or Ant-Man or Vision or Thanos. When asked during Comic-Con for an update, all he would say is that we would get “some very big news coming at the end of this month.” Well, the end of that month (July) came and went and we got nothing. Then yesterday’s D23 presentation on upcoming Marvel movies came and went and we again heard nothing more on Diesel’s role in the Avengers franchise. So, when the heck are we going to get an announcement? The answer to that question is still unknown, but we did get yet another tease today from Diesel himself, once again via his Facebook page. And it’s the sort of hint that is either a total red herring or it’s a direct yet unstated revelation. Diesel posted a picture of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy, implying that he’ll be voicing the non-human character. That’s really exciting for anyone who prefers their Diesel roles heard but not seen — a la the title robot in The Iron Giant. We’ll not only have to wait to hear official confirmation on this from the people at Disney, but we’re now also curious if the giant […]

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published: 11.26.2014
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