Tag Archives: James Gunn

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) 2.5/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 73.4
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Duration: 121 mins
Director: James Gunn
Stars: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Benicio Del Toro

Yet another comic book blockbuster from the Marvel stable of sci-fi fantasy. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are the eponymous heroes whose self-interests bring them together against a common foe who, like every other super villain these days, will settle for nothing else but the destruction of the galaxy. What saves this film from the black hole pull of a mind-numbingly familiar genre is the fresh sense of fun James Gunn brings to the script and its direction. The characters are drawn and played out with a care-free irreverence that drives the movie as a whole. There are no erroneously earnest pauses in tone to allow for some heavy handed emotional button pushing – well, none that aren’t cleverly rescued in time. Guardians of the Galaxy is a joke and everyone’s happy to play it that way. It all lays the groundwork for some genuinely side splitting humour, most of which, involves Cooper’s talking and brilliantly mental space rodent.

Though Pratt is a wonderfully unassuming lead with lots of self-deprecating charisma and Bradley is in rich vocal form, most of the credit must still go to Gunn. Making a funny movie doesn’t just require you to write funny but to direct funny and armed with his anthology of vintage pop tracks and a very wry sense of editing, he rocket propels the humour in his script. Okay, so a few of the jokes are taken a step too far but most are delivered with polish. And when we’re not laughing, the simply astounding visual effects ensure that we have something impressive to look at too and, while it never escapes the CGI look, the movie remains an immaculate piece of visual artistry. On this canvas, Gunn (particularly early on) crafts some dazzling action sequences and the ceaselessly fantastic gadgetry and conveyor belt of amazing aliens adds handsomely to their enjoyment.

Where the movie inevitably falls flat however, is in the wearingly repetitive plot that seems no different to that which the likes of Thor, The Avengers, or any number of the endless comic book adaptations (that we’ve been utterly plagued with these last five years) have offered up. Plots that seem to serve no other purpose than to provide a platform for endless battles and flashy explosions. For all the good this movie does with its character construction and comedic dialogue and for all the ingenuity of Gunn’s action, the brain eventually just switches off during these protracted sequences because the premise is too flimsy to support them. It’s part of Hollywood’s magic formula so it won’t soon change but anyone who doesn’t have the hormonal constitution of a 14 year old boy, is liable to find this movie’s visual narrative veering towards 3rd act tedium. Thankfully, Guardians of the Galaxy wraps up at just under two hours and while still perhaps 15-20  minutes too long, it’s a damn sight shorter than most other modern comic adaptations. Alongside its richer character and dialogue base, that saving grace, gives Gunn’s movie a significant edge on  the generic horde of superhero vehicles.

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SUPER (2010) 1.29/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 75.4
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Duration: 96 mins
Director: James Gunn
Stars: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler

One of those rare films which leaves you somewhat speechless, Super begins in the same vein as Mystery Men or the more recent Kick-Ass but ultimately becomes something much darker and much more serious. Rainn Wilson stars as a not very confident nor important working stiff who slips into madness when his wife (played by Liv Tyler) leaves hims for a dastardly drug dealer (Kevin Bacon in delicious form). After a painfully humiliating attempt to get her back, he funnels all his rage into the self-delusional persona of a crime fighting social avenger, “The Crimson Bolt”. Beginning with small time hoods or people who are just plain rude to him, and picking up Ellen Page’s even more eccentric sidekick “Boltie” along the way, he heads for the inevitable showdown with the bad guys who he believes have brainwashed his wife.

Kick-Ass flirted with the darker side of the super hero mythology by showing the violence and perils that come with donning a suit and mask but ultimately it didn’t aspire to be anything more than a satisfying action comedy. Super let’s you think it’s going in the same direction with only hints of what’s to come but then in the third act, it folds back on the genre to fascinating effect. Written and directed by James Gunn (who gave us the excellent Slither), this hugely original and even poignant film quite simply redefines the superhero genre.

Like the film itself, Wilson’s performance starts off in typecast fashion but ends up blossoming into some proper heavyweight acting. Page is annoying at times and genuinely hilarious at other times but that’s very much in line with her character’s personality. Michael Rooker and Tyler also score well but are somewhat underused. However, as usual Kevin Bacon is excellent and it’s fitting that it’s he who delivers the film’s defining line. You may not like where this one goes and the violence can be quite sudden and shocking but if you’re a fan of the genre, SUPER is a must see for its daring and originality. And in a world where action cinema is becoming synonymous with tiresome super-hero vehicles, a slice of cynical meta-analysis is just what the doctor ordered.

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Slither (2006)

 

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Rating: The Good – 69.7
Genre: Horror
Duration: 103 mins
Director: James Gunn
Screenplay: James Gunn
Stars: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker

A thoroughly enjoyable creature- feature with the always likable Nathan Fillion in fine form as the sheriff of a small town that has been invaded by alien parasites that take possession of their human hosts. Sound familiar? Of course, but that’s not the point. This is escapism at its best so just sit back and enjoy the smart script, the many funny moments, the outrageous special effects, and the various nods to great sci-fi classics.

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