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'Guardians': 'We are Groot'

Published August 13. 2014 04:00PM

With "Guardians Of The Galaxy," it's as if those comic-book "Bam!-Pow!-Zoom!" panels are right up there on the big screen.

"Guardians Of The Galaxy" director James Gunn is making his big-screen directorial debut. Gunn was screenwriter for "Super," 2010; "Dawn Of The Dead," 2004; "Scooby-Doo," 2002; "The Specials," 2000; and "Tromeo And Juliet," 1996.

As you can see from his film credits, Gunn has a cheesy sensibility. Gunn doesn't take the Marvel Comics universe too seriously.

Gunn co-wrote the "Guardians" screenplay with Nicole Perlman, in her big-screen screenplay debut. Many of the characters were introduced in a 1969 Marvel Comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

Gunn and Perlman give the "Guardians" interesting back stories. They also give each the attitude of a stand-up comedian. The quips are fast and furious in "Guardians."

"Guardians" is spectacular-looking cinema, with eye-popping spaceships, armaments, depictions of other universes and intriguing pseudo-scientific explanations for the bizarre characters and cosmology.

The characters make "Guardians" so much fun.

Chris Pratt (TV's "Parks And Recreation") as Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, is the only nearly completely human among the Guardians' motley crew. He dons exoskeleton armor that includes jet-propelled shoes, among other superpower devices. Pratt gives a likable, sometimes powerful, often humorous performance.

Zoe Saldana (Neytiri, the blue computer-enhanced creature in "Avatar") is Gamora, a self-described "human weapon" with green skin. Saldana is great, whatever her skin shade.

David Bautista ("The Animal," World Wrestling Entertainment) as Drax has the body of a, well, WWE star and the sensitivity of a poet. His character's dialogue is Shakespearean, adding dimensionality and humor. "Do not call me a walking thesaurus," he implores.

While you don't see Bradley Cooper, his presence is felt in his voicing of Rocket, a raccoon with the intelligence of a NASA engineer.

You also don't see Vin Diesel, whose trademark basso profundo powers Groot, a tree with humanlike attributes.

"I am Groot" and, alternatively, "We are Groot" are the take-away movie sayings of the 2014 summer blockbuster season.

In supporting roles are Lee Pace (Ronan), Michael Rooker (Yondu Udonta), Karen Gillen (Nebula), Djimon Hounsou (Korath), John C. Reilly (Corpsman Dey), Glenn Close (Nova Prime) and Benicio Del Toro (The Collector).

"Guardians" draws similarities to "Star Wars" (1977) for its space camaraderie and "Blade Runner" (1982) for its dark atmospherics.

The plot for "Guardians Of The Galaxy" is tissue-paper thin: something about an orb that can harness the powers of the universe.

The "Guardians" are the semi-good guys who meet ugly, and must overcome their differences to bond, save themselves, and the galaxy. Ronan is the bad guy who's trying to get the orb and harness its powers.

There's lots of snarky banter, including two Kevin Bacon references (shades of "Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon").

Mixed martial arts style fight scenes, several spaceship chases and explosion after explosion get tiresome. The film makers padded out the action scenes to achieve a two-hour length, which feels overly long.

The "Guardians" soundtrack of 1970s pop hits (including "I'm Not In Love," 10cc, 1975; "Come And Get Your Love," Redbone, 1974; "Hooked On A Feeling," Blue Suede, 1974; and "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," Rupert Holmes, 1979), gives the movie added emotional punch. The songs tie into Peter Quill's back story, which you should discover on your own if you plan to see "Guardians."

Call it "That '70s film."

"Guardians" was seen in the 2D format. The 3D glasses over regular glasses are distracting. At least they're in sealed plastic bags. The 3D Imax glasses are not in sealed bags. The 3D Imax glasses are often smudgy. Who knows who wore them before you did.

The 3D Imax glasses should be sanitized after each use and distributed in sealed plastic wrappers, or recycled as are the 3D glasses, or 3D Imax glasses should be available for sale.

"Guardians Of The Galaxy" is silly fun and an exciting take on the comic book to big screen genre, for which there seem to be more and more films, including "Guardians Of The Galaxy 2," now in pre-production.

"Guardians Of The Galaxy," MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.) for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language; Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction; Run Time: 2 hrs., 1 min.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Marvel Comics co-founder Stan Lee has a cameo early in "Guardians Of The Galaxy" as: Xandarina Ladies Man. Among the credits: "No raccoons or treelike creatures were harmed in the making of this film." Stay to the very end for a scene with Benicio Del Toro (The Collector) and Howard The Duck, a 1973 Marvel Comics character created by Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik that became the title character in a much-maligned movie box office bomb (1986). Of the credits' bonus scene, a boy sitting nearby (one of fewer than six who stayed to the very end) said, "I don't know why everyone left. I feel that was very worth the wait."

Box Office, Aug. 8: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" proved they are not an endangered species, opening at No. 1, with $65 million, knocking "Guardians Of The Galaxy" to No. 2, with $41.5 million, $175.9 million, two weeks, keeping "Into The Storm," opening at No. 3, with $18 million, and "The Hundred-Foot Journey," opening at No. 4, with $11.1 million;

5. "Lucy," $9.3 million, $97.3 million, three weeks; 6. "Step Up All In," $6.5 million, opening; 7. "Hercules," $5.7 million, $63.4 million, three weeks; 8. "Get On Up," $5 million, $22.9 million, two weeks, 9. "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes," $4.4 million, $197.8 million, five weeks; 10. "Planes: Fire & Rescue," $2.4 million, $52.9 million, four weeks

Unreel, Aug. 15:

"The Expendables 3," PG-13: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stratham, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in the action-adventure sequel.

"Let's Be Cops," R: Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johson star in the action comedy who mistakenly become men in blue.

"The Giver," PG-13: Phillip Noyce directs Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift and Brenton Thwaites in the science-fiction drama about a boy chosen to learn about real life.

"Frank," R: Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the drama-comedy about an eccentric pop band.

"The Trip To Italy," No MPAA rating: Steve Coogan stars in the Italian road trip comedy.

"Life After Beth," R: Anna Kendrick, Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon and Paul Reiser star in the horror comedy film about a girlfriend who returns from the dead.

"The One I Love," R: Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss star in the romantic comedy about a couple who goes on a weekend retreat.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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