Guardians of the Galaxy — a spoiler-free review

Immediate thoughts upon leaving the cinema:

“Holy shit, that was fucking awesome! Can’t wait to see it again.”

Premise:

Earthling Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord teams up with a bunch of interstellar jerkoffs comprising a talking raccoon, a walking tree, a green female assassin and a big, greenish tough guy with anger management issues (no, not THAT guy) to save the galaxy from giant alien asshole Ronan the Accuser who wants to destroy it because evuhl.

Quick review:

I loved the crap out of this movie. It was immensely fun, utterly hilarious and so full of heart that nearly every single scene filled me with the kind of childlike joy and wonder I hadn’t experienced at the movies in years. The acting was top notch, the CGI and mo-cap mind blowing, and the writing impeccable. It also featured the greatest oldies-centric soundtrack since Watchmen; plus, a brilliant script by director James Gunn and Nicole Perlman that made no apologies for what the movie really was: a delightfully cheesy, over-the-top romp.

What worked:

Pretty much everything really, but if I had to choose one aspect of the movie that really cemented its place as my favourite this summer, it would have to be the casting. Christ Pratt was perfect as Star-Lord. The Parks and Recreations star did a fantastic job of channeling the swashbuckling adventurers and space cowboys of the old days while making the character his own, bringing to it his unique brand of humour that’s equal parts cocky and endearing. A Han Solo/Indiana Jones for the 21st century. Do keep an eye out for this guy; he’s going places.

 

Obligatory

Zoe Saldana was unsurprisingly great as daddy-issue riddled green-skinned assassin Gamora. Because this is Hollywood and gratuitous ass-shots are still a thing, the camera did linger a tiny bit longer than necessary on her [IMO nonexistent] curves, but Saldana proved her character was far more than mere eye candy and was a badass in her own right. Dave Bautista was a revelation as angst-ridden warrior Drax the Destroyer, seeking vengeance for the murder of his family while comically failing to get with the programme. Probably the best wrestler-turned-actor since the Rock, he had such flawless comedic-timing and was a treat to watch.

 

But this movie belonged to Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, as Rocket the trigger-happy raccoon and Groot the talking humanoid tree, respectively. Boy, did they nail it. Vin Diesel had proved himself before with his voice work on Iron Giant, but I had some concerns about Cooper being the right choice for a character as inherently weird as Rocket. Never have I been more glad to be proven wrong about an actor. Together, the duo were the heart and soul of the movie and will no doubt sell the most number of toys in this new franchise for Disney. (I am now counting the days for the inevitable Rocket+Groot spinoff).

 

Better make it happen, Marvel, or else…

One of the things that really stood out about Guardians of the Galaxy for a lot of people was its kick-ass soundtrack, straight off Peter Quill’s childhood mix tape consisting mostly of classic rock hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s. It really complimented the overall lightheartedness of the movie as well as its ever present sad undertone, with its nostalgic vibrations tugging at your heartstrings in just the right places. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the music was a character of its own, working together with the rest of the cast to take the audience on an unforgettable ride that is incomparable to anything recently seen on the big screen. (The Lego Movie being perhaps the only exception).

The action and special effects were exceptionally good; and the CGI and creature effects were maybe the best since The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At no point did I feel like I was looking at computer-animated beings; as far as my senses were concerned, Rocket was a real, talking raccoon. Also, for once, the 3D didn’t feel like a tacky add-on. Director James Gunn had used it effectively and it looked really good without being distracting — especially in the big, eye-popping space sequences. I suggest you see it in 3D if possible. Well worth the extra dough spent on the ticket.

What didn’t work:

For the sake of objectivity, if I really must mention a flaw, I’d say the villain (Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser) was kind of one dimensional and just evil for for the sake of being evil; but honestly, I didn’t have a huge problem with this. It didn’t take anything away from the story and actually kind of made sense in the overall scheme of things. In any case, the back story with evil mastermind Thanos (played to perfection by Josh Brolin) is the real deal, but we don’t have to worry too much about him till the next Avengers. The whole thing with the Infinity Stone McGuffin that some people might find stale was not a problem for me either. Everything else was just so damn good that these shortcomings hardly mattered in the end.

Final thoughts:

Given its ridiculously goofy premise and the average popcorn Joe’s boner for “grim and gritty” storytelling ever since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy made it okay for big-budget Hollywood to suck the joy out of everything, this movie should NOT have worked. At all. Marvel/Disney took a gamble with this one, and no one would’ve gone in to cardiac arrest if it had out-bombed Green Lantern at the box office. But thanks to Marvel’s terrific track record and the relentless hype machine that is the interwebs, at the time of writing, Guardians of the Galaxy is well on its way to raking in 500 million dollars worldwide and, as a huge fan of all things MCU, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

But personal fanboyism aside, this movie is everything a summer blockbuster ought to be and so much more. To say that it succeeds in the as-of-late impossible task of striking a balance between hilarity and emotional depth would be an understatement. It’s funny without being stupid; emotional without being corny; and serious without being Man of Steel. It’s really as good as everyone says it is. Believe the hype. Even if comic book movies aren’t your thing, if you enjoyed Star Wars or Indiana Jones or Back to the Future as a kid, you are guaranteed to have a blast rooting for these unbelievably well-crafted characters. In short, Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute riot. Go see it now!

What’s your favourite movie?

Or actor, or TV show, or book, or whatever.

I never seem to have an answer to this question. I’ve read a ton of books, seen countless movies, sat through centuries of television and masturbated to too many actresses [and “actresses”]; but, for the life of me, I couldn’t ever name a favourite. Not one.

They say your likes and dislikes say a lot about you. Your tastes are like a window to your soul. And apparently, everybody has a favourite something.

Everybody but me. (Yes, special snowflake here).

What does that say about me?

Batman: Hush – a quick review

Can somebody tell me why this book is so popular? Because I’m really not seeing the appeal.

Maybe I read it too fast? Honestly, I could see the supposedly surprise-ending coming from a mile away. Jeph Loeb’s writing is good (as expected), but just falls short of being great. Which is a shame, because this particular story has a lot of potential, what with its intriguing premise of a mysterious killer with a personal vendetta against Bats and the always-interesting (if somewhat tired) inner demons of Bruce Wayne.

Hush was originally published as an ongoing series; so, I guess the copious amounts of exposition would’ve made sense, at the time; but when collected as a standalone graphic novel, it makes for some really dull reading. (I didn’t understand why we needed to see Batman’s entire rogues gallery, either).

The art is gorgeous — though, not very subtle. It’s got a very ‘90s, in-your-face feel to it, with luscious colours and fantastic pencils by Jim Lee. Of special significance is the very flattering curves given to Selina, Poison Ivy and Talia. If you’re into that kinda thing (I am), this book is worth its rather exuberant price — for the eye-popping art alone.

It’s not the best Batman story. It’s certainly not the worst. It’s a quick, fun-ish read with lots of unapologetic eye-candy. I just wish Jeph had put a little bit more effort into the writing — something he is more than capable of. Ah, well.

3 out of 5.

Untitled

One look at his surroundings, and Jack Summers knew he was at the right place. Where else could he be? Everything was the way he was told it would be. Everything. Down to the last crack on the dusty tiled floor.

He didn’t have to walk to the door to realise it was locked from the outside. The windows were barred, as promised; and the ceiling looked like it hadn’t seen a broom in years. There were cobwebs everywhere; although, there was no sign of a spider anywhere. Every breath that Jack took, he reminded himself, was centuries old, and the near-darkness that engulfed him was otherworldly in its coldness – of a kind he was not familiar with. The only light in the room came from a tall candle that, Jack knew, was lit just moments before his arrival. It was standing on an ancient-looking bookshelf that looked as though it could barely support the weight of the candle, let alone carry the rows and rows of thick, old volumes inside. Jack looked at the candle. The flame was strong, but not very steady. Eerie shadows were dancing on the walls. There was a sense of frightful urgency in the air. It smelt of steel and leather, he thought. It was time.

“All right. Let’s get this over with,” Jack muttered under his breath, and walked over to the shelf.

He hesitated for a second, stretched out his hand, as instructed, and touched the third book to the left on the second row from the top. Before he could blink, the candle went out with a bang, and everything disappeared into nothingness. It no longer smelt like steel or leather. He had done it.

Five thousand miles away, and 2000 feet above the ground, Selina Carter deployed her ‘chute. As she watched the plane she was on just minutes earlier disappear into a ball of fire, she whispered,

“Good work, Jack.”

———-

Wrote the whole thing in under five minutes, based on a quick idea I had. This obviously needs a lot of work. Just wanted to get it going. Should I continue?

Begging for dignity

The following is something I wrote in December, last year:

The occupational hazards of begging for a living are many, one would imagine; but none could be more depressing than the humiliation that comes with it, gift-wrapped in pity. Every two-rupee coin tossed into your cupped palms is an acknowledgement of how the world has failed you, over the years; a testament to how you are but a burden to the very air you breathe – loved by none; neglected by all – a waste of oxygen.

The future

But maybe that’s not how a real beggar would feel, at all. How would we know? How could you or I possibly know what it is like to sacrifice one’s pride, just to get by? With our daily internet flame-wars and our weekly trips to the mall, we cannot even begin to imagine what having to beg must feel like. Or if it really warrants any kind of emotional response to begin with. Or if it simply destroys your desire to be happy and doom you to eternal indifference. That was the impression Anton* left on me, last Sunday, when I went in search for him and his ilk in Nugegoda, a busy city centre bustling with activity and commercialised decay.

“Who gives a damn?” he demands, coldly, his face free of expression, as I stand there, respectably flabbergasted.

Anton is the quintessential beggar. He is homeless, old, has no one to call his own, and cannot even hope to fend for himself. He is also suffering from some form of tuberculosis.

“They give money only to the disabled folk,” he mutters, to a ghost two feet to my left that apparently only he can see.

I ask him why they do that, carefully voicing my disgust at this blatant discrimination.

“Who knows? They think we can look after ourselves; that we can find another way to earn a living,” he says, still not looking at me.

Anton is sitting inside the fence of an old, unused building at the Nugegoda junction, looking at the people and traffic passing by. Just outside the fence, sitting on the pavement, is his friend and fellow beggar Siril*, who is somewhat more accommodating and, dare I say, a little cheerful.

I turn my attention to Siril and go “what’s up?” He begins his story.

Siril is originally from Matara. He is 70, but doesn’t look a day younger than 80. He has two kids who have made a career out of fishing; and – no surprise here – he is no longer in touch with either of them. Siril doesn’t have tuberculosis, but he’s got two very cool looking tattoos on both of his forearms; and unfortunately for him, in traditional Lankan-Victorian culture, this translates to Hooligan. But like Anton, Siril doesn’t care.

“I left Matara many years ago, and I haven’t looked back since,” he says, with a hint of pride, while Anton continues to be fascinated by the ghost next to me.

I ask Siril what he does with the money he makes, imagining he must be saving it for later use.

“Oh, I smoke with that money,” he says, casually.

I look at him, in silence, letting this sink in. A few seconds later, I find my voice again.

“Do you, now? How many cigarettes a day?”

“At least four. I can’t help it. I need my cigarettes.”

Fair enough, I suppose. The man has a grand total of two teeth in his mouth; so, beetle-chewing is out of the question.

Anton coughs what I assume to be his disapproval, and gets back to his story about how the passers-by ignore him and Siril and most of the other beggars in the area.

“What do they know? Just because they have the means to make a living, how could they expect the same from people like me?”

It is at this point that Anton takes his shirt off and shows me his rib cage.

And what a rib cage it is. I can literally count them to the last bone.

And then, just like that, he gets up and walks away, muttering to himself.

I don’t know what to say; so, I look at Siril. He’s looking bored.

I awkwardly mumble something about how awful it is of society to treat them like that, and feeling this inexplicable guilt, I pull out my wallet and give a 100 rupee note to Siril, asking him to share it with his friend. He pockets it with a grin.

I curse myself for not having two separate 50-rupee notes on me.

And then I leave the place, hoping to catch the 7pm screening of Tintin at Liberty and call my friends on my expensive smartphone to let them know I’m coming.

It’s a sick world we live in.

And I’m quite indifferent to it.

*names changed

Random musings

I’m listening to the above, on loop. Always been a sucker for this kinda sound. I was never really sure why. Maybe it’s the feeling of being transported to another place, another time, another plane of existence. Maybe it’s that indescribable physical sensation you experience in your chest, the same feeling you get when you’re falling in love. Or maybe it’s just my being the freak-of-nature that I am. I don’t know. I just know I like it. If this is what Nirvana feels like, I wouldn’t mind trying some of that stuff myself.

But Nirvana is not for me. Heaven won’t open its gates for me. For I am what they call a non-believer – a label I hate more and more each day. I am not a non-believer. I believe in a lot of things. Just not the same things you believe in. Even so, there is no place for the faithless in the afterlife. Folks like us, when we die, we disappear into nothingness. There is no great beyond. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no “darkness.” There is nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I’m not sure I’ve come to terms with that. Yet.

My mother is watching TV. I don’t know what she’s watching. I want to ask; but I’m too lazy to get up from this seat. I don’t know where my dad is. Probably out with a friend, cracking and laughing at old-people jokes no one but people their age will find funny. Yes, my parents are at that age where – no, I shall not think about how old they’re getting. Not now.

My laziness has cost me a lot of things – none of which I want to get into now. This blog is way too public for that kinda intrapersonal gore. (Yes, Halik, that’s a word). Just one piece of advice, though: be lazy if you must; but never be lazy with your relationships. You don’t want to end up like me: a stranger among friends.

Right now, you’re probably thinking I’m trying to come off as a deep-thinking “writer” with this pretentious, possibly-emo, quasi-philosophical non-rant. Or maybe that’s my insecurity showing. Or maybe I’m on a fishing expedition.Who knows? I know I don’t.

But I do know one thing for sure: I miss blogging. I miss writing. I miss 2009/10, when I could write pages and pages of whatever-the-fuck, without giving a damn who thought what of it. I miss that.

And just like that, I’ve lost my thread.

Such is life.

The dilemma that is discovery

The first man that realised that the life-giving, all-powerful sun god up in the sky was not a god at all, but was really just a big, fiery ball of gas far, far away… I want to know what that felt like to him. It must’ve been so exhilarating and terribly depressing at the same time. When a belief that you held so strongly for so long is shattered like that in the face of undeniable evidence, how exactly do you come to terms with it? And how do you deal with the new… revelation? Do you say ‘fuck it’ and embrace it all, or do you just cling to your own personal, more familiar dogma? I’m not sure I know which is better. Are you?

Traffic trouble

I’m outside the Sumanadisi Bakers, at the Kohuwala junction. The time is 14:06. There are at least five cops directing the traffic here; and, needless to say, the congestion is very bad.

It’s a Saturday. Usually, there is zero congestion here on Saturdays. And usually, there are zero traffic cops here on Saturdays.

Do the math.

This is just one example. I’m not even gonna mention just how bad the situation is on weekdays. It’s time Sri Lanka came up with a new traffic-control plan. Seriously.

Freeloading

I’m at the Bamba Barista, the one on Duplication Road. They have a sort of porch out here, with cheap but relatively comfy armchairs and a couple of ancient-looking coffee tables. It’s pouring outside; so, here I am, killing time, hogging their WiFi and not even thinking of purchasing so much as a Maalupaang. I guess that makes me something of a freeloader. But I don’t seem to give a shit.

Do I feel bad that I don’t give a shit?

Nope. Not one bit. Does this mean I’m a bad person, though?

Probably. I dunno.

But I have never stolen anything in my life. Not even a pencil. So, why am I here, doing what I’m doing, with a disgustingly clean conscience to boot, KNOWING that it’s (maybe) wrong?

Why don’t I care?

Does poverty necessity really justify a complete disregard for morality and basic decency, however trivial it may seem?

Where do you draw the line?

And on a not-completely-unrelated note, is internet piracy a one way ticket to digital hell?

Pecha Kucha Night – Volume 2

is happening this Sunday, at the Warehouse Project, Colombo.

Pecha what?

Simply put, it’s a kind of slideshow – with a twist. Pecha Kucha is a Japanese word that literally means ‘chit-chat.’ A speaker presents a total of 20 slides, at 20 seconds per slide. That’s seven minutes in total. This takes the suck out of it. Nobody wants to sit through a long and tedious PPT presentation.

The topic can be anything from books to movies to music to underwear. Basically, anything under the sun. Different people from different backgrounds talking about different things. It can’t not be interesting.

Take a look at their Facebook page. Lots of helpful info.

Shamelessly stole this from there:
“Pecha Kucha nights are an informal and fun gathering of creative people showcasing their work, in the Pecha Kucha format 20×20. It’s a format that makes presentations concise and keeps things simple.
PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide.”

So, yeah. Warehouse. 5-ish. Sunday. A ticket is just 100 rupees, the price of a regular buth packet. It’s for a good cause. You might even enjoy it. (You will).

Come.🙂

ETA: There will be a live Twitter feed going up, at the event. That should be fun.

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