Posts Tagged ‘James Gunn’

For two months, Guardians of the Galaxy has completely dominated the box office. Without question, this is the best movie of the 2014 summer blockbuster season. If you haven’t already seen this movie, there’s nothing I can possibly write to convince you to get off your ass and go watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

While summer has come and gone, Guardians of the Galaxy has remained the constant.

For the record, I could not care less about the vast majority of the Marvel superhero movie stream. Iron Man was a very good, interesting movie, but the sequel sucked despite Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell attempting to save the franchise from itself. Thor was a bore, and I ignored the sequel. Captain America is not captivating even when channel surfing for something to watch on television.

And I still have not watched The Avengers. It does not interest me.

However, I was immediately on board when I heard James Gunn was directing Guardians of the Galaxy. Walking tree and talking raccoon be damned. This was my most anticipated movie of the summer, and James Gunn didn’t fail to deliver. Despite my absolute non-interest in most of the Marvel movie world, Guardians of the Galaxy serves as a fantastic film capable of standing alone on its own merit. In terms of sci-fi fantasy, this movie is right there with Star Wars—and even better in my mind.

James Gunn deserves so much credit. Throughout the two hour runtime, this movie remained entertaining and it transcended the typical trite comic book bullshit. Guardians of the Galaxy could have easily turned absurd, and I imagine this would have been a steaming pile of shit if not for Gunn’s deft guiding hand.

In 2008, there was a ridiculous Vh1 reality show called Scream Queens where mostly shitty actresses compete for a role in Saw VI—back when that was a thing. While I was already familiar with the Dawn of the Dead remake and Slither, I didn’t know James Gunn, but I soon would because he was the best thing about Scream Queens. That’s actually a lie, Gunn was the second-best (or third) thing—next to Lindsay Felton’s boobs. But seeing the incredibly genuine, professional way Gunn interacted with these mostly mediocre actresses was shocking. Despite an utter lack of talent, Gunn could coax an interesting performance out of someone—even if it was only for a scene with over-the-top campy material.

In a world where Michael Bay is wildly popular while making shitty action movies, I immensely appreciate the work James Gunn has given me to enjoy. As a director, Gunn has definitely blossomed the past few years with Super (considerably better than its counterpart, Kick-Ass) and now Guardians of the Galaxy.


James Gunn simply has an eye for creating an entertaining product.

I could go through all the enjoyable moments peppered throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, but people really need to see this movie for themselves. This isn’t even a kids movie, but rather a movie for adults (in a stage of arrested development) masquerading as a kids movie. In terms of summer blockbusters and the comic book genre in general, Guardians of the Galaxy is the best of the best.

You could certainly argue for The Dark Knight, but that’s probably a bit unfair considering the phenomenal, career-defining performance from Heath Ledger as The Joker. If you remove Ledger from that role, then The Dark Knight would fail to have the same lasting impact. Most people forget about those long, boring scenes like the completely unnecessary Hong Kong kidnapping sequence.

If there’s a fault to find with Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie does not have a very memorable villain. Ronan and Thanos fill the villain roles opposite our ragtag group of miscast heroes. A singular villain would be ideal, but Thanos needed to be introduced since this movie will eventually intertwine with The Avengers.

The best compliment to James Gunn is that Guardians of the Galaxy rates astronomically high on the re-watchability scale. In a manner of two months, I have already watched this movie 3 times—3D, regular, and at a drive-in. Every time, I have been thoroughly entertained. I know the punchlines to the jokes, but the comedic timing is so fantastic that it’s still as funny through multiple viewings.


Bradley Cooper was downright superb in his instrumental voiceover role bringing Rocket to life. Despite not being asked to do much, Vin Diesel’s array of “I am Groot” deliveries are spot-on each time. Zoe Saldana isn’t remarkable, but she hits her lines and serves her purpose while this is a breakout role for Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord—which should springboard him into stardom. But the most surprising performance came from Dave Bautista—a lumbering, muscle-bound former wrestler. Transforming into Drax the Destroyer, Bautista is perfect in this role and he owns the some of the best lines of the movie. I’ve seen Dave Bautista in other movies (notably Riddick, with Vin Diesel) so either he’s becoming a true actor or James Gunn deserves more praise for putting Bautista in the best position to succeed.

As a longtime fan of James Gunn, I cannot wait to see the direction of where he’s now allowed to travel thanks to the success of this movie. As evidenced with Slither, Super, and now Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn puts part of himself in his movies. This movie’s soundtrack that everyone loves comes from Gunn’s childhood memories. This movie’s infusion of comedy comes from Gunn’s uniquely twisted humor.

With movies becoming increasingly repetitive and watered down, everyone should appreciate what a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy gave us during a completely mundane summer slate. This is the rare epic blockbuster with a beating heart. We need more James Gunn in this world.


5 out of 5 stars


The common thread? These movies listed below are all absurdly dark, violent, independent comedies with elements of satire, which probably says something about me and my taste in movies. None of these films were really commercially viable in a mainstream sense (I mark that as a good thing) so you may not have even heard of them, but chances are you’ve at least glossed over them searching for movies on Netflix.

While these five films are utterly ridiculous and over-the-top in many instances, they’re all grounded in reality with a little bit of soul and/or a point of view to express. And there’s a lot of variety as well with the movies ranging from a pipe wrench-wielding wannabe superhero to exposé on a culture of teen suicide. Each of these movies warrants their own review, but that’s not the point of this post.

This is meant to be a service to improve your life. If you haven’t seen these movies, I highly recommend you place all of them in your queue immediately. If you’re on the fence, then look at the blurbs mentioned below and laugh at the expense of the morons who posted their reviews in the comments section of Netflix.

Super (2011) 1hr 36min

SuperIf you haven’t heard of writer-director James Gunn, you should. Gunn wrote the screenplay for the remake of Dawn of the Dead and also wrote and directed Slither, but Super is by far his best work in my opinion. Sadly, I believe my first exposure to Gunn happened in 2008 when he was a judge on the Vh1 reality TV show Scream Queens where the winner earned the distinction of being murdered in the next turd of the Saw franchise. But I have been a fan ever since, and he’s been a very pleasant guest on The Nerdist podcast several times.

In fact, if you have listened to Gunn on The Nerdist, then you’ve heard the great stories Gunn has told about Super and the difficulty of getting it made. Rainn Wilson is largely responsible for helping get this movie made, and he is fucking fantastic as Frank D’Arbo—an average schlub trying to exact revenge and rescue his wife (played by Liv Tyler) from a drug dealer (played by Kevin Bacon).

Oh, and Michael Rooker is also in Super and Rob Zombie voices God. You don’t need any more reasons to watch this movie. Go. Now.

Hey, look at this idiot:
Super (review)

I’ve heard the comparison to Kick-Ass too much. And morons such as the one above mistake Super as inspired by (or ripping off) Kick-Ass even though Super is substantially darker and grittier. Gunn wrote the screenplay to Super in 2002, and it was originally written as a short film before Gunn suddenly had 57 pages penned in one day. In 2004, there was even a producer attached with John C. Reilly set as the lead, but he wasn’t considered a big enough actor at the time…and they didn’t have enough fabric to make a full mask to cover John C. Reilly’s gigantic melon—alright, I made that part up.

Slither written as something to sell while Gunn made Super, but Super fell through and then fell through again in 2008. James Gunn had trouble getting financing because of the movie’s dark nature and his insistence on creating the movie how he wanted to make it. In this case, perseverance pays off.

Super was a labor of love: the budget was only a few million dollars and Gunn admittedly was unsure about making it because he didn’t stand to make a profit even with bare bones financial backing.

Although Super was about 10 years in the making, I have to think Gunn walked away extremely satisfied with damn near every decision made in the process. The cast really came together to carry out the story and deliver Gunn’s vision. I normally don’t enjoy Ellen Page, but she serves perfectly as comic relief and as a sidekick to The Crimson Bolt (Rainn Wilson).

The visual effects of Super are absolutely amazing with a certain realism not captured in most movies. You won’t know what happens scene-to-scene, and you will likely be shocked several times throughout if you’re expecting something along the lines of Kick-Ass. I enjoyed Super significantly more than Kick-Ass, and if you are like me, then you’ll repeatedly enjoy the scene in Super where Rainn Wilson confronts someone cutting in line and then delivers his comeuppance.

“You know, we’re living in a society! We’re supposed to act in a civilized way.” – George Costanza

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) 1hr 28min

Tucker & Dale

In terms of re-watchability, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil would top the list as it’s the most pure comedy and it has the shortest runtime. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) head out to their newly purchased vacation cabin—which has to be the same location as Cabin Fever. As a satire of the cabin in the woods genre (not to be mistaken for Cabin in the Woods), the evil that Tucker and Dale face is a group of idiotic college kids who think that Tucker and Dale are psychotic killers.

And comedy ensues. There are so many laugh out loud scenes and great use of physical comedy and limited effects.  Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine carry this movie and their chemistry is noticeable. The story isn’t intended to be the primary focus, but it properly serves as a vehicle for all the comedy.

Hey, look at this idiot:
Tucker & Dale (review)

I wish Netflix gave more information on each reviewer in the comments. I have to assume this is a guy. Aside from that, it’s hard to tell if they’re from the South, but that is my guess since this person doesn’t have a sense of humor. The death scenes in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil are terrific and the effects totally work with it. I don’t know what movie this person saw or what they expected to see going into it, but I don’t think we were seeing the same film as it is obviously intended to be absurd and not taken seriously.

“Oh, hidy ho officer, we’ve had a doozy of a day. There we were minding our own business, just doing chores around the house, when kids started killing themselves all over my property.” – Tucker

God Bless America (2011) 1hr 44min

God Bless AmericaGod Bless America is Bobcat Goldthwait’s most recent work. And holy shit, is it good. I could have done without 10 or so minutes to make it a bit tighter as there are several slow scenes—though they still serve their purpose to build up to action.

Make no mistake, this movie definitely ventures into preachy territory. But in my case, Bobcat is preaching to the choir. Our culture is populated by morons (not you, other people). The lowest common denominator is often shockingly awful—see Idol, American. And things aren’t getting better. It will continue to get worse, much worse.

If you share any of those sentiments or at least can find humor in observations in the same vein, then God Bless America should be a movie you’ll enjoy. I sure as fuck wish I could have watched the person talking on a phone in the movie theater scene while actually in a movie theater—even if the whole James Holmes/Dark Knight Rises shooting would make it weird in retrospect. Bobcat’s movies are not for everyone, but each warrants consideration and some form of respect for having the balls to go in a unique place that mainstream movies will never approach.

Hey, look at this idiot:
God Bless America (review)

Don’t be this guy. Because this guy is a blowhard, brainwashed fuckbag. There is nothing left-wing about God Bless America. This is not intended to be a guide for someone to become a mass murderer. I can understand why the violence—which has been reflected by real-life events—may make some people uncomfortable. But God Bless America is not glorifying mass murderers. Frank (Joel Murray) and Roxy (Tara Lynn Barr) are characters that commit horrible acts and several people die in this movie. But it is a fucking comedy about ridding society of its ills.

Early on, you’ll be able to tell if this is a movie for you. It opens with a dream sequence of Frank fantasizing about shooting his neighbors (your typical energy drink chugging bro played by the dork from Euro Trip) and their constantly screaming infant—in skeet shooting fashion. His character doesn’t actually follow through as the fantasy is interrupted by the baby whining next door.

Once Frank learns he has an inoperable brain tumor, he turns from Walter White into Heisenberg and breaks bad on everyone’s ass.

God Bless America is offensive and violent. This is not a mainstream movie so why would you think it is supposed to appeal to a widespread audience? God Bless America is dark and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But enjoy the ride.

“My name is Frank. That’s not important. The important question is: who are you? America has become a cruel and vicious place. We reward the shallowest, the dumbest, the meanest and the loudest. We no longer have any common sense of decency. No sense of shame. There is no right and wrong. The worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated. Lying and spreading fear is fine as long as you make money doing it. We’ve become a nation of slogan-saying, bile-spewing hatemongers. We’ve lost our kindness. We’ve lost our soul. What have we become? We take the weakest in our society, we hold them up to be ridiculed, laughed at for our sport and entertainment. Laughed at to the point, where they would literally rather kill themselves than live with us anymore.” – Frank

Archie’s Final Project (2009) 1hr 50min

Archie's Final ProjectArchie’s Final Project is a movie that strikes a very raw emotional chord, and it plays heavy on that chord throughout. If you have never heard of this movie, then I am happy to be the first to expose you to Archie’s Final Project. This movie definitely deserves a more in-depth review, but the less you know going in, the better the experience will be. I just happened to come across this movie on Netflix during a late night when my wife and I couldn’t sleep, and you might feel that same confused feeling of “what the fuck am I watching?” when Archie’s Final project starts.

The opening scene is a half-animated parody of the Russian Roulette game in The Deer Hunter with Archie (played by Gabriel Sunday) delivering a monologue with his Christopher Walken impersonation. Archie’s Final Project does a tremendous job of presenting the movie as if it really is a student film from the mind of a fucked up teenager. The use of animation and even overlaying it on top of the actor’s movements is well-crafted and well-designed as it brings another dimension to the movie parody scenes while also breaking up the monotony of such a heavy subject as teen suicide.

Archie’s Final Project is angst-ridden and shockingly real as it shows a teenager who announces in class that he’s going to kill himself on film for a school project. This may not seem like the most fertile ground for comedy, and it is the least comedic of the movies listed. But in a strange, sick kind of way, Archie’s Final Project does provide its share of humorous scenes with clever filmmaking, clueless parents, and the complete lack of anyone around Archie to understand him. This really isn’t a movie for light-hearted fun so it’s understandable if some people don’t want to consider the magnitude of Archie’s Final Project.

Hey, look at this idiot:
Archie's Final Project (review)

Again, don’t be this guy. If any movie has real balls, then it is Archie’s Final Project. This isn’t a preachy “just say no” approach with a D.A.R.E.-esque aura of fear-mongering. Archie’s Final Project is an intense, often uncomfortably close portrayal of what it is like to consider ending your own life. The pacing slows and the direction gets slightly listless heading into the third act, but I found many more positives to outweigh any problems I had with this movie.

For example, I can’t find any flaws with Gabriel Sunday’s performance as Archie, and he goes through a gamut of emotions showing impressive range for a kid who just had cameos on TV shows like Criminal Minds and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Admittedly, the appearance of David Carradine as Vargas in this movie is freaky and quite surreal as he’s a philosopher and source of inspiration for Archie—and Carradine killed himself the same year this movie was released.

Ultimately, you should find this film enjoyable and surprisingly satisfying considering the heavy subject matter that is explored. Archie’s Final Project is an experience, and it may be one that you prefer to watch alone than with someone else. But you should definitely follow him down the rabbit hole.


“If you want to kill yourself, kill what you don’t like.” – Vargas

Four Lions (2010) 1hr 41min

Four Lions

Four Lions is an outrageous film that focuses on a British group of Islamic extremists. As an absurd black comedy, Four Lions is perfect. Absolutely fucking perfect. This movie does contain a plot to bomb a fun run so I imagine it will turn off a lot of Americans, but this was quite a while before the Boston Marathon Bombing and it’s a fucking movie so remove that giant stick up your ass.

The British accents can make understanding the dialogue a bit difficult, but I believe you can tune into that appropriate frequency early on in the movie. If not, then you should be able to enjoy a second viewing even more and the physical comedy still works after several repeated viewings. Rest assured, the terrorists in this movie are bumbling idiots that would still fail to be believable if they were in a cartoon. Still, the caricatures presented provide an overwhelming amount of comedy throughout the film with several scenes that should stick with you.

Hey, look at this idiot:
Four Lions (review)

Okay, if you’re going to argue that there are probably more constructive things to be done by the human race than watch a movie, I’m going to have a tough time coming up with a counter-argument. Then again, there are probably more constructive things to do than post your shitty comments about a movie on Netflix. By the way, go fuck yourself, you pretentious prick.

Yes, this movie would be offensive to Islamic terrorists. Do you know what is also offensive? Islamic terrorism. Four Lions should not be offensive to anyone who is Islamic as they are not the subjects of satire in this movie. Everyone should be able to see this movie for the obvious farce that was its intention.

As far as memorable scenes, the introduction of Hassan—who is in the audience at a guest speaker panel in a university classroom—is one of the funniest character introductions I’ve ever seen. There are many hilarious scenes involving Waj, who plays such a lovable idiot laughably incapable of thinking for himself.

Making a comedy is an impossibly difficult task. The fact that Christopher Morris can accomplish that feat while utilizing unforgiving subject matter is so utterly impressive. I have watched Four Lions a handful of times already, and I will definitely be watching it again in the future.

“I’m not confused, brother! I just took picture of my face, and it’s deffo not my confused face.” – Waj