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Guardians of the Galaxy

Marvel’s latest mega-movie is big, noisy, and fun to watch. Although the comic-book source isn’t familiar to most moviegoers, the template of this elaborate space adventure certainly is: a band of misfits finds strength by joining forces to battle some ruthless interstellar bad guys. The motley group includes a genetically modified raccoon with a wiseguy attitude (voiced by Bradley Cooper), an anthropomorphic tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), a feisty and athletic woman (Zoë Saldana) who may or may not be loyal to her evil father, a hulk of a man bent on revenge (wrestler Dave Bautista), and a cocky, shoot-from-the-hip Earth orphan who becomes their de facto leader. Chris Pratt hits just the right note in this role and establishes the movie’s irreverent tone and sense of humor from the very start.

It isn’t easy to follow all the exposition the movie throws at us, but before long it becomes clear who’s worth rooting for. That’s all we really need to know to invest in the fast-paced adventures that follow.

Photo By Film Frame - Courtesy Of Marvel

Photo By Film Frame – Courtesy Of Marvel

Director James Gunn, who wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman (based on the Marvel comic by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) plays out his story on a broad canvas, and continually finds chinks and challenges in the interrelationship of his key characters. Time and again they test each other to see if their trust is misplaced. (No spoiler here: it isn’t.)

Guardians is laden with visual effects, but it’s the relationships and the sharp dialogue inspired by them that makes the movie enjoyable. This Marvel production doesn’t take the “less is more” approach, and it’s too bad Gunn and company couldn’t decide on a definitive conclusion: the movie now has several endings, any one of which would have sufficed. A climactic piece of dialogue leaves the door open for another chapter and a closing title promises another gathering of the clan. I’m happy to say I won’t mind going along for that ride.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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