The last Hollywood blockbuster of the summer may be the most fun, and is certainly the wildest.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" is director James Gunn’s wigged-out adaptation of a previously obscure Marvel Comics title, about ragtag space travelers banding together to save the universe. Led by the human rogue Peter Quill, a k a "Star-Lord" (Chris Pratt), and the battle-ready green-skinned Gamora (Zoe Saldana) — and including musclebound Drax (former WWE champ Dave Bautista), wise-cracking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) — the Guardians team up when the zealot Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) threatens to lay waste to an entire planet. Gunn throws plenty of offbeat humor onto the screen, as well as some furious action. It’s a hoot, and certainly the weirdest offshoot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Yes, this movie links back to "The Avengers," et al.)
The other big studio movie this weekend is "Get On Up," a biopic on the life of Soul Brother No. 1, James Brown (played by "42" star Chadwick Boseman). It’s being well-received by critics elsewhere around the country, but the studio unfortunately didn’t screen it for critics in Utah.
This week’s art-house line-up is freakishly good. Topping the list is "Boyhood," director Richard Linklater’s bold experiment in time-lapse drama, in which he traces the growth of a boy (played by Ellar Coltrane) over 12 years. Shooting a few days every year, Linklater chronicles the boy’s life from age 5 to age 18, capturing the small moments of maturity as well as the family dynamics of his divorced parents (played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke). The results are touching and beautiful. (Read The Cricket’s interview with Linklater.)
"I Origins" is a dreamy exploration of the line between science and spirituality. Director Mike Cahill ("Another Earth") tells the story of a molecular biologist (Michael Pitt), whose fascination with the human eye leads to meeting a supernatural-minded young woman (Astrid Bergés-Frisbey). Romance happens, but is tragically cut short. Then, the scientist makes a discovery that upends everything we know about life on Earth. The themes are played out thoughtfully, and the images are gorgeous.
Lastly, there’s director Joe Swanberg’s semi-improvised comedy "Happy Christmas," which has a married Chicago couple, Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and Jeff (played by Swanberg), with a new baby welcoming Jeff’s irresponsible sister Jenny (Anna Kendrick) for a Yuletide visit. The movie has some sharply observed moments, particularly when Kelly and Jenny, along with Jenny’s best friend Carson ("Girls" creator Lena Dunham), sit around talking about stuff. The dialogue is loose-limbed, funny and thought-provoking.
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