Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

You’d think I’d been frozen in Carbonite with the length of time that we’ve been away, right? Or maybe frozen beneath the permafrost awaiting someone to unearth us?? Although we apologise for our recent lack of activity at Film Phage, there’s much more to those opening two sentences than mere hypotheses: Star Wars and Captain America. What happens when you try and blend the intergalactic space drama that is Star Wars with that Marvel-bent that is becoming the hallmark of the comic book movie? Well, you get a film about a tree, a raccoon, a human and some aliens. My friends, you get Guardians of the Galaxy… perhaps the finest post-Avengers movie in Marvel’s stable.

Now, when this was announced over 2 years ago at the San Diego Comic-Con, it raised a lot of eyebrows, including my own (yes, a Phage has eyebrows). Marvel were seemingly trying to transition from the grounded approach of Iron Man and Captain America to a film about the aforementioned talking trees and raccoon combo of Groot and Rocket. This didn’t make sense and genuinely appeared to be a case of jumping the shark in our eyes. But much has happened in the intervening two years. Marvel have brought in Gods, fire breathing Extremis people and aliens, along with a mere glimpse of the “mad Titan” Thanos at the end of Avengers… a reference that was lost on the vast majority of viewers, but pervaded nevertheless.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Skip forward to 2014 and on the eve of this year’s SDCC, we got our preview screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. Could Marvel make it pay off? Of course they could. They’ve delivered what is possibly the finest “Phase 2” film of the bunch. Yes, whilst in our hibernation, we saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier… but we didn’t think it merited all that praise. Mainly because we find ol’ Cap to be quite the dull hero in his one dimensional “must do good” attitude. If we’d written it up, we’d have slapped a solid 3 Phages on it… in case you were curious. Briefly, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the tale of Peter Quill / Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and the highs and lows he goes through after scavenging a mysterious orb. Through various bounties placed on his head, he’s thrown together with an oddball group including an assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), bounty hunter raccoon Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his tree companion Groot (Vin Diesel) and warrior Drax (Dave Bautista) as the villainous Ronan The Accuser (Lee Pace) quests after the orb, which he plans to use to commit mass genocide. All of this is set against a very colourful backdrop of planets and characters, plus that famous Marvel humour.

Where do I start? Let’s start with the nerdy paragraph shall we? The one where we talk about it tying into the Marvel universe and linking to the source material? Briefly, this film, despite being set away from the Iron Man / Thor / Captain America trinity fits perfects providing you’ve been paying attention since Avengers. Die hard fans will see certain plot elements coming together and can see where Avengers 3 or Avengers 4 will be heading… *cough* Infinity Gauntlet *cough* (we can’t wait for the SDCC reveals on Saturday!). Plus, we FINALLY get our first real views of the arch-bad Thanos (Josh Brolin). A HUGE grin came over our Phagey face when we saw him on-screen finally. We cannot wait for more of him in the future! As for how it links to the source material? There are liberties taken, but they all work, and should just be kicked to the back of your mind for now.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

What works so well in this ensemble piece, as it does in The Avengers, is the strength of the cast. Whilst The Avengers had several films to set up the characters and their origins, James Gunn does a fantastic job of doing all that within the film’s 2 hour run time and taking them on an adventure too. Chris Pratt is enormously charismatic and really is the “every man” that people can relate to. In fact, despite being a guy romping through space, he’s the most grounded lead character in all of Marvel’s endeavours. I could actually go through each of the cast members in turn and sing their praises (God knows I love doing this with Bradley Cooper all the time anyway), but that’d take far too long. Suffice to say, that there are no weak links in this story. Even Lee Pace, as Ronan The Accuser comes off very well here. I only mention this, as typically villains are fairly one dimensional (spare Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) in their aims… such as Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith in Thor: The Dark World, or Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash in Iron Man 2. Here it’s nice to see a villain that genuinely looks menacing and works well.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

No Marvel movie would be a Marvel movie without a dose of humour. Well, unless the title is prefaced with Captain America. Guardians of the Galaxy brings humour by the bucketload and genuinely made me laugh on several occasions. As dedicated reader will know, I’m not one to laugh at everything like some deranged drunkard (although many audience members are), but this had some good belly laughs thrown in there. Plus, they reference Kevin Bacon a lot… no joke…

So, what are the shortcomings? Honestly, I can’t isolate any. Some may say this is simply “The Avengers in Space” or feel that it’s becoming formulaic for a team up movie to play out this way. Some might even brandish this as Marvel’s Return of the Jedi owing to some “toy-friendly” characters like Rocket and Groot, but I disagree. The pace is frenetic, the acting is sharp and the humour is on point. This is Marvel firing on all cylinders… bring on next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Simply put, if you’re a fan of any of Marvel’s past adventures, then this will have you riveted. I’d also argue that if you haven’t been dedicating masses of time to these films in the past years, you’ll pretty much be ok too. There are threads of continuing plots running through it that may make little sense if you haven’t seen The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World (particularly the after credits scene), but the film can stand alone on its merits too.

And this marks our thawing from the Carbonite! We have returned from our long hibernation, and for that we apologise. We still saw films… we just… well, went off for a while! You’ve heard about the Ebola outbreak in Africa right? Well, a Phage gets distracted! Ha. And maybe this is actually just OUR Return of the Jedi? Maybe I’ll start wearing black, become a real Jedi, cut off my father’s hand and throw an old man down a well? Well, as I write this, it IS a Friday night… so anything is possible…

Phage Factor:

4.5 Stars

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The 2012 Phagee Awards

Phagee Awards 2012

The years… they come and go faster than Lindsay Lohan‘s court appearances. But 2012 was special. It was the year that Film Phage entered the universe, kicking and squealing at the bright lights… once again, just like Lindsay Lohan. And as is traditional at this time of year, I think it’s apt to take a retrospective look at the year that was and hand out the coveted Phagees [pronounced fay-jeez]. In this, the First Annual Phagee Awards, there are a number of categories and prizes up for grabs – none of which are worth the paper they’re printed on, or indeed, the pixels they’re displayed on.

Loyal readers who’ve been with us from the start will know that our birth was only in the middle of the summer, so the films released in the first half of the year were in the months BP (Before Phage) and as such, have no reviews. We’ve been thinking long and hard whether it’s right to include these “unreviewed” films in our awards, and we came to the conclusion that yes… yes it is right. If you disagree, then please write to the Awards Committee at thisaddress@doesntexist.com and make your voice heard!

In each category, we have up to 5 nominees from all the films released this year. But there can be only one winner in each! Also, we’re running with the UK release schedule – we got some 2011 films in 2012 and won’t sadly be getting the likes of Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln and Django Unchained until 2013! Regardless, let’s get this show on the road!

Best Animated Film

FrankenweenieParaNormanBraveIce Age: Continental DriftRise of the Guardians

Winner:

Phagee Frankenweenie

Yes, like you, we also don’t think Tim Burton is the Messiah, nor do we rate many of his newer movies, but we really felt Frankenweenie was a cut above the rest of this year’s nominations. It looked gorgeous and had a deliciously macabre sense of kooky humour to it. Its innumerable nods to horror films of yesteryear was also really nice to see and easily merits repeat viewings. Plus, it’s Burton… you never know how he’ll end a film. He’s not afraid embrace the darkness. All this being said… had Disney decided 2012 was an appropriate year to release Wreck-It Ralph in the UK, the winner’s podium may not look exactly like this…

Best Male Actor:

Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe) / Tom Hardy (Lawless) / Pierce Gagnon (Looper) / Ben Affleck (Argo) / Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Winner:

Phagee Tom Hardy

Now, as my loyal Phagelings know all too well, I’d be more than happy if they cast Tom Hardy in every movie until the end of time and 2012 really has marked his arrival with the mainstream audiences courtesy of his roles in The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless. I think the guy is a sheer force of nature, which is why we’ve awarded him the 2012 Best Male Actor Award. Not just for his subdued and stunning performance in Lawless, but also for his sheer presence and abilities as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. I do however have to give much credit to the young Pierce Gagnon. I’d be very tempted to give him the prize owing to his skills in Looper, but I think there’s more to come from this little guy. I want to see what his next move is.

Best Female Actor:

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) / Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man) / Juno Temple (Killer Joe) / Kate Winslet (Carnage)

Winner:

Phagee Jennifer Lawrence

Having looked through all the releases that have dropped in the UK this year, I’ve got to say that it’s something of a paltry selection for Best Female Actor this year. In the US, you have Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln and Les Miserables already released. But here? No such luck. That being said, Jennifer Lawrence has really come into her own thanks to that performance in Silver Linings Playbook and is totally deserving of the Phagee here. I really enjoyed her performance here and the chemistry and back-and-forths between Bradley Cooper and Lawrence made for a sleeper hit for the year. Glad to see she’s being recognised in the “real” Awards Ceremonies in the world too.

Best Comic Book Adaptation:

The Amazing Spider-Man / Dredd / Avengers Assemble / The Dark Knight Rises

Winner:

Phagee Avengers

What a year for the comic book fan! Ultimately though, this came down to a two horse race between Marvel’s Avengers Assemble / The Avengers and DC’s The Dark Knight Rises. Although I found the dark tone and Tom Hardy‘s portrayal of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to both be particularly appealing, you’ve got to hand it to Marvel Studios for pulling off the film that many thought would be too big and too grandiose in scope. But Joss Whedon scripted and directed one hell of a film. I must confess, I’m a Marvel fan boy, but who didn’t laugh at Hulk’s squabbles with Thor and Loki? Or feel the “ooo, this is awesome” sensation upon seeing the trailer for the first time. Be honest! And with the quick glimpse of Thanos in the closing credits… well… I can’t wait for Joss‘ next script and instalment in 2015.

Best Comedy Film:

21 Jump Street / American Reunion / Seven Psychopaths / Silver Linings Playbook / Goon

Winner:

Phagee 21 Jump Street

2012 was a great year for comedy and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the selections in this category, especially the underrated Goon, with Sean William Scott acting his chops off in a role that wasn’t Stifler. Having said that, the runaway hit of the year for me was 21 Jump Street. Who’d have thought that Channing Tatum, the dancing fiend, would have such comedic timing? It was also great to see Jonah Hill in a funny comedy once again. We all know that he was great in Moneyball, but it’s good to see him back at home getting some laughs. And who doesn’t love it when Ice Cube shouts at people? Roll on the sequel…

Most Searched For Term on Film Phage:

Is Kevin Dillon (Johnny Drama) in Sinister? / Sofia Vergara’s boobs / Ron Perlman as an ape / Pierce Gagnon / Merida in Brave

Winner:

Phagee Pierce Gagnon

We’ve had some truly bizarre search terms bringing people to Film Phage this year. Some of you are rather odd. Let’s just say there’s been some extremely peculiar terms entered into Google! Whilst lots of people were searching for a glimpse of Sofia Vergara‘s cleavage, courtesy of The Three Stooges, she didn’t bring us the most traffic. No, that honour went to the young Pierce Gagnon thanks to his sterling turn in Looper. However, it was nice to see that some of my odd comparisons this year also brought in the traffic. Hundreds of people still want to know if Kevin Dillon aka Johnny Drama from HBO’s Entourage is in Sinister. I’ll again answer this… no, it’s just Ethan Hawke doing his best Drama impression. Similarly, no, Ron Perlman does not voice Gutt the pirate-ape in Ice Age: Continental Drift – that honour goes to Peter Dinklage. So many of you also were trying to hunt down pictures of Ron Perlman shirtless / in his younger years / grinning. You crazy bunch.

Worst Film of the Year:

Piranha 3DD / The Three Stooges / Keith Lemon: The Film / Snow White and the Huntman / The Muppets

Winner:

Phagee Keith Lemon

Wow, there really were some stinkers this year – even before Film Phage launched. And no, I didn’t think The Muppets was fun either. I fell asleep for the first time in a movie since I was about 4 years old. But the dubious honour of “Worst Film of the Year” goes to Keith Lemon: The Film. Never have I been so bored and unentertained in a comedy movie. Even the teenage target audience were walking out of the screening before the 1 hour mark was up. Maybe Kelly Brook should have opted to somehow appear in Piranha 3DD after her turn in the original Piranha 3D, instead of opting to guest in this. Not “bang tidy”.

The 2012 Film of the Year:

Argo / Looper / Avengers Assemble / The Dark Knight Rises / Killer Joe

Winner:

Phagee Looper

And so we arrive at our biggest Phagee: The Film of the Year. It was tough. Real tough. Although Killer Joe was the first film reviewed here on Film Phage, it still remains one of the year’s best for me thanks to McConaughey‘s performance. However, my film of the year rests with Looper. I know… a controversial choice. Although I loved Avengers Assemble and really think it achieved so much, it had a rather basic plot. I understand that this was probably needed as it was essentially an “Avengers Origins” movie, but it still lacked a riveting story. Looper cannot be accused of the same. Yes, it has its plot holes, but it also has Pierce Gagnon. And Bruce Willis back at his best. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt pretending to be Bruce Willis back at his best. We enjoyed every moment of the film and brand it with our Phagee for Film of the Year.

What were your most enjoyed films this year? I’m sure many of you have opinions and your own favourites. I’m also sure many of you disagree with me on my big Phagee winner of the year: Looper. I’ve yet to see it figure anywhere else in any other poll of the year. Controversial? Probably. But I bloody enjoyed it… and that’s what matters.