Hooked On A Feeling {Guardians Of The Galaxy Movie Review}

Alternative Post Title: The Time My 8-Year Learned How To Use Inappropriate Words, Appropriately

Last week I was invited to see a preview screening of Guardians of the Galaxy.

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© Marvel 2014

This movie has been on my radar for a while because B is SUPER into comics and he was given a GOTG Comic last year at the screening of Iron Man. He read that thing until it fell apart and it has been SO excited about seeing it play out in the theater. We watched all of the trailers together and he gave me the back story to every single one of the characters.

Let it be said that my expectations going into this thing were low. I mean, a talking raccoon and a tree? Really? I do love Chris Pratt, but… A TALKING RACCOON AND A TREE?

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© Marvel 2014

I’m going to get a little ahead of myself here and say that I was 100% WRONG about the talking raccoon and tree — and in the meantime, I fell in love with this little ($175 million dollar) movie.

I found the set up a little more complex than other Marvel movies — and since a large part of movie is about how the Guardians get together I won’t go into it. All you really need to know is that it’s about a band of misfits, in space, who are on a mission – of sorts. Sound like a few other movies you know?? While I’ve seen it compared to Star Wars (and Avengers), I feel like there’s more of a Firefly/Serenity vibe. Also, while it’s Marvel and it DOES tie to The Avengers storyline, this is free-standing movie that has nothing to do with any of the other Marvel movies out there.

So, let’s get to that whole talking animal tree thing… Is it just me, or did the commercials/trailers make them seem lame and like a distraction?? Maybe they didn’t want to ruin it, but I actually thought Rocket and Groot (and their relationship) got some of the best laughs and emotional moments. No, really. I completely attribute this to Bradley Cooper doing some stellar voice work, as well as being easily amused by a tree that only says three words.

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As for the others — I thought Zoe Saldana did a fantastic job as Gamora. She doesn’t put up with any BS (yay – more strong female characters) and her fight scenes are legit. Dave Bautista surprised me as Drax. I mean, he’s a WWE wrestler and he pulled off a performance I didn’t expect. Lee Pace (the main dude from Pushing Daisies) plays Ronan (aka – the big bad) and I have to say I didn’t even REALIZE it was Lee Pace until after I got home – mostly because he’s in blue makeup, but also because he is so sinister.

© Marvel 2014

© Marvel 2014

Why so blue?

The real star of this show though is without a doubt Chris Pratt as Star Lord/Peter Quill.

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 Hello ladies…

I might have had a soft spot for Chris since his days on Everwood (watch it… cry…laugh….fall in love with Bright Abbott) and of course he’s one of my favorite parts about Parks and Rec — but this movie is his show and he is FANTASTIC to watch. I’m actually a little mad that now I’m going to have to share him with the WORLD (and I suppose galaxy).

Another aspect of the movie that I loved (and don’t typically pay attention to) was the soundtrack. A big plot point in the movie is Peter’s 1980’s Walkman and mixed tape from his mom – and they did a great job of streamlining it in. Ever thought you’d watch a prison-break scene to the tune of the Piña Colada Song? Yeah, me either.

As far as B’s review… Yeah, he loved it. Was it a little violent? Sure. But no more violent than Star Wars or the Avengers. Were there several jokes that went over his head? Yep. I will warn you that he learned a few new choice words that were not previously in his vocabulary.

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And that’s not the worst of it…

This movie had more profanity in it than the last four Marvel movies combined (I defend my parenting choices here by saying that we did talk about how their is a time and a place for profanity — and at this age, it’s never). There was also a scene in the beginning of the movie that made him (and me) a little sad – regarding Peter’s mom. So parents, be prepared for a few questions.

I did think there are a few weird quirky parts that I just couldn’t get into (I found all of the “Collector” scenes bizarre – perhaps I am not a big enough Marvel fangirl?), but overall it was a highly enjoyable 2-hour summer movie.

So bottom line — Get really to cheer on a bunch of oddballs for movies to come. And Chris Pratt? Welcome to “Top 5 List.”

Five Reasons You Should Go See Iron Man 3

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of taking B to a press screening of Iron Man 3.

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I questioned my sanity on taking an almost 7-year to see the movie without screening it first, but then realized that a) I would probably let him go see it anyway (he’s seen all of the other Marvel movies) and b) it would be really nice to spend some quality time with him. Plus, I’m trying to score some last minute points for Mother’s Day (ahem, which is May 12th).

I was a little tentative going into this movie. I loved Avengers and the first Iron Man movie, but I was kinda “eh” on the second one. I don’t really remember many details from it, except that it involve race cars and Mickey Rourke. I’ve seen it more than once and that’s still my recollection of the plot. So basically, I went in with low expectations. HOWEVER, I was pleasantly surprised — and here’s why.

1. It’s fun and it’s funny.

We all know that Robert Downey Jr. is great at playing Iron Man. He definitely brings a special kind of wit and charm to the movies, but I felt like this movie was just plain fun and there was a lot of humor. Truthfully, I don’t see Marvel movies for the plot or the because I am a super fan. I go for the fun and stay for the hot guys (and girls). This movie brought the fun. It was also funnier than any of the previous movies. It was like all of the all characters also discovered their sense of humor.

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2. The bad guys keep things interesting.

I know absolutely nothing about comic books, but I do know there a little bit of a twist to the whole “Mandarin/Extremis” storyline that people may not expect. Since I am not a die-hard, I loved it – but if you are a stickler for the how the movie matches up with the comics you may not be crazy about the change. One thing you can’t deny though is that Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, and Rebecca Hall (among others) each bring a little something interesting to the “typical” bad guy role.

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Ben Kingsley, in particular, is a standout — he pretty much steals every scene he’s in — and rightfully so.

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3. RDJ + a little kid = pure magic

A good chunk of the movie involves RDJ interacting with a little boy, Harley (play by Ty Simpkins), with STELLAR comedic timing.

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He’s adorable and they have great chemistry together. I think it works because Tony doesn’t treat the kid like a kid (why would he?). I will warn you, from a parental point-of-view, that at one point he calls the kid a “pussy” — which, I’m pretty sure is as vulgar at the movie gets. B has no idea what that means, it didn’t really phase him, but it did kind of surprise me!

4. RDJ = Don Cheadle = Buddy Cop Throwback

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After watching the comradery and banter play out between between RDJ and Don Cheadle throughout this movie it shouldn’t be surprising that the writer/director, Shane Black (who might be a little bit obsessed with Christmas), also wrote the first Lethal Weapon movie. Tony Stark and James Rhodes (War Machine/Iron Patriot) get to build on their relationship together in this movie and it definitely feels a lot like watching Murtaugh and Riggs do their thing — and a that’s a good thing. I wasn’t sold on Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2 (he replaced Terrence Howard), but he is given a lot of good material here and runs with it.

5. There’s A LOT of action

This is NOT a slow movie, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise. We start with Tony and Pepper’s house in Malibu being blown up — and that’s just the beginning. I did see this in 3-D, but I can’t really tell you what was so 3-D about it (so save your $$). The “Extremis” special effects are very cool and the whole “Air Force One” being blown up scene (which is featured in a few of the trailers) could have been SUPER cheesy, but instead I found it cheerworthy.

Not to spoil it, but if any of you are really looking to seeing Gwyneth Paltrow hurt, on fire, and/or with her sports bra on (or if you REALLY hate her) – you will be very happy.

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If you are like me and actually like GP – you will also be happy because she continues her great chemistry with RDJ and takes on a lot more here than in the past movies. It’s reported that RDJ pushed for her to have a bigger role in the film, so all of you haters (and lovers!) can thank him.

There are a few things that I didn’t LOVE about the movie (mainly, I’m not 100% sure what happened to Guy Pearce’s character) but I do recommend going to see it. It doesn’t necessarily build on the Avengers plot line (there is zero S.H.I.E.L.D. presence) – but “the other guys” and “New York” are mentioned and Iron Man has some definite PSTD related to what happened in New York throughout the movie.

And of course, you MUST stay through the end credits to see the final clip. It’s short and sweet, but definitely made everyone smile.

So do you go see it? Do I really have to answer that question? Of course you do.

Disclosure: While my guest and I were given free admission to this movie, I did have to pay for my own popcorn… and the review and opinions in it are my own. 

Four Score and Seven Years Ago… {Lincoln Movie Review}

When I think of Abraham Lincoln three things come to mind 1) honest 2) abolishing slavery and 3) Gettysburg Address. I actually love history (we’ve discussed how I am a nerd, right?), but going into this movie I had a very simple view of Abraham Lincoln. I have now been enlightened.

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What I discovered and loved about Lincoln is that while he was a great orator and story teller, Lincoln was also a politician…just like the rest of them.

The focus of this movie is the last four months of Lincoln’s life or rather what happens during the last four months of his life (to say the movie is solely about him would be a lie). It’s the end of the Civil War – the North has the upper hand and really, Lincoln could have ended it whenever he wanted. But, there’s that whole 13th Amendment thing. Lincoln needs it to pass it through the House of Representatives before he’s willing to to talk peace. He feels (and sadly, probably rightly so) that if he doesn’t end slavery now, he’s not going to end it after the war is over. {Just think about that for a minute.} Everyone thinks he’s nuts. In order for this to happen he needs at least 20 votes/abstentions from the Democrats (remember when Republicans were the liberal party?) and Lincoln needs to do anything and everything he can to get those votes. ANYTHING.

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This is where the (amazing) supporting cast comes into play. A large chunk of this movie consists of a bunch of white men, with crazy facial hair, screaming at each other in a small room. I’m sure you’re thinking “Michelle, I would rather watch cheese mold”, and it really could have downhill quickly, but I assure you, it’s captivating. Tony Kushner’s screenplay is fast paced and witty (I was surprised at how much I laughed) and in the end I waited with baited breath to hear the final vote from these men… even though I knew the end game.

Woven into the passing of the 13th Amendment is Lincoln’s story. You see both sides of Lincoln — the great orator and storyteller (who, does happen to tell some great stories throughout the movie), as well as Lincoln at home – with his children, with his wife, and with his closest confidants – where you see the drive, the passion, the focus, and the sadness of his life. This story could not be told without Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln — his portrayal is just that amazing.

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That is NOT a drawing.

There are also some great supporting actors. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddus Stevens is a huge standout as a hardcore Republican abolitionist who spars with Lincoln at times because of his passion. He completely steals every scene that he’s in and even made me cry near the end of the movie (spoiler: I cried a lot).

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James Spader is also a scene stealer (playing W. N. Bilbo – one of Secretary of the State Seward’s henchmen) — who almost made me cry tears of laughter. I mean, just look at that mustache…

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And while Joseph Gordon Levitt had a very small part as Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, he had one of the most disturbing and emotional scenes with Daniel Day-Lewis and completely held his own. It was through their scenes where you saw that Lincoln was, indeed, a vulnerable man.

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I watched this movie the day after election day, so I might have in a slightly emotional state and mindset, but it was definitely a reminder. A reminder of where our country came from, how far we’ve risen, and how far we still have to go – especially when it comes to equality. But, it also made me think about how far one person’s determine can go and how much progress can be made when there is compromise.

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My verdict? Go see this movie (I know, I say this a lot, but I REALLY REALLY mean it). Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis make it big-screen worthy. Be prepared for some lengthy speeches and a lot of talking, but also a lot amazing history. Oh, and don’t forget to bring tissues. Even if your date makes fun of you.

While I did receive free admission to this movie for myself and a guest – all opinions and recommendations are my own.

Three Things Thursday

1. I feel like the school year just started – but report cards for the first quarter came home yesterday. How is that possible? The good news is that I feel like less of a failure of a parent this year. B’s teacher had nothing but nice things to say about him – including how great he is in class and how well he’s doing academically. Whew. This might be because we’ve threatened his free time if he makes us look bad (not really, but we will put his toys in a long extended time out) or because his teacher has been teaching for more than a year.  There are always areas to work on – but he’s 6, not 15 with an attitude problem. I’m very thankful!

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One thing we didn’t know about (and thank goodness for this parent/teacher meetings) is that he has a hard time seeing the board – and he sits in the front of the classroom. So guess who has an appointment at Target Optical this weekend? I’m not surprised really. I’ve worn glasses since I was 9-10 (and now contacts) and I think Dan was even younger. It’s hereditary kid.

2. I went to another advanced screening of a movie last night  (I feel very spoiled lately!). This time it was for Lincoln – directed by Steven Spielberg starting Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and just about every male character actor from any TV show that you’ve watched in the last 5 years (seriously, the cast was amazing).

I’ll do a full review soon (it’s in Limited Release starting tomorrow and full release next Friday), but I will say I was surprised at how I enjoyed it and how much it made me reflect. I’m not surprised at how amazing Daniel Day-Lewis is in it. He full embodies Lincoln and his method acting is impeccable. He’s much prettier than Lincoln really was (especially in the eyes), but he looks SO much like him it’s truly eerie.

3.  I’m officially in the 2nd trimester now (there’s some “debate” on if the 1st trimester of pregnancy ends the 12th, 13th, or 14th week) and as if it’s right one schedule the cravings have started! As of right now, I am seriously craving lemons (especially lemon water) and salmon (which is REALLY weird because I normally don’t like salmon at all).

Fulfilling a serious craving.

Also exciting — it took three pregnancies, but I FINALLY found maternity jeans (and black pants!) that are long enough to wear without having to suffer from “low crotch syndrome.” The best part is that these pants (these from Motherhood Maternity) cost $35-40. I have several pants from the Gap (bought during previous pregnancies) that I can wear – but I have always had a hard time finding black dress pants and jeans. Why are they so hard to find??? Aren’t they a necessity? Plus, pants at Gap cost $70-80. Umm, no thanks!

Three Random Questions: If you were glasses – at what age did you start wearing them? Who’s your favorite all-time, never miss actor/actress? How much would pay for pants? 

“I’m Gonna Wreck It!” {Wreck-It Ralph Review}

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to see an advanced screening of Disney’s newest animated film: Wreck-It Ralph. We’ve actually been talking about this movie in our house for months – it’s right up the boys alley – so almost everyone was excited to go.

So, how can I explain this movie? Well, for one Wreck-It Ralph is to video games what Toy Story is to toys. Now, I’m not saying it’s as GOOD as Toy Story – but the concept and the video games worlds are pretty creative.  And – like Toy Story – it has a great story at the heart of it.

You see, like toys, video games characters live in their own world. Once the doors to arcades close, the video game characters lead their own lives. They take trains through power cords — and all meet up in Game Central Station.  They go to Bad-Anon meetings at Pac-Man’s place. They visit Tappers for some drinks.

Wreck-It Ralph is about Ralph. He’s the bad guy in an 8-bit Donkey Kong-like video game “Fix-It Felix.” Like many people when they turn 30, he starts to question the life he is leading: Who he’s friends with, where he lives, and if he’s achieved his goals. Bottom line: Ralph is not happy merely being the bad guy. He begrudges Fix-It Felix for the charmed life he lives and thinks that if, he too, could earn a medal the other characters in his game (the Nicelanders) will respect him. So he takes action into his own hands, which of course leads to loads of trouble.

I really don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. Part of the fun is discovering the characters and the worlds they live in. The three video games that consume the majority of the movie could not be any different from one another, which makes for very diverse animation styles. This includes the 8-bit world of “Fix-It Felix” (the quirky movement of the Nicelanders and Felix are a nice touch!), a first person shooter, game hilariously called “Hero’s Duty”, and a Mario-Cart like race world (with a touch of anime) called “Sugar Rush.”

I’ve seen a lot of family movies this year and I’m willing to say that was definitely one of the best (if not the best). What makes it so good?  For one – the characters and the actors. John C. Reilly (Ralph), Jay McBrayer (Felix) , Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz), and Jane Lynch (Sargent Calhoun) ARE these characters (and to Disney’s credit they look like them too). The humor is also really well done. There’s a good amount of adult/over-the-kids head humor (and video game throw back) to entertain all — and enough glitz and glam to keep my never-interested-in-anything-on-the-TV 3-year old completely enthralled for 90 minutes.

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Ultimately, what I really enjoyed about this movie is that it has a lot of heart, but it’s not done in a cheesy way. It’s about friendship, standing up for what you believe in, and being yourself even if you’re different. Yes, it’s a Disney movie, BUT it’s the kind of Disney movie we haven’t seen a long time. Welcome back Disney! I knew you still had it.

I’m bad and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.

Are you planning on seeing Wreck-It Ralph?

While I was provided free admission for myself and three guests to this movie, I did not get free popcorn and all opinions and recommendations are my own!