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March 25, 2019

King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (2017) Documentary Review

I got the screener for this documentary last year, but being a lazy asshole, I never got around to it. With the recent passing of Mr. Cohen, I thought it was high time I STOP being a lazy asshole and view it. Now that I’ve watched it, I feel like even more of an asshole, and am sorry I took so long to experience it.

As someone who never really paid that close attention to the people behind the scenes of a movie (writer, director, cinematographer, etc.) I didn’t even know Larry Cohen’s name. I have, however, seen a few of his films, and they certainly have made a lasting impression.

This documentary doesn’t delve too deeply into his childhood and upbringing, but instills in us his early proclivity toward creativity and imagination. Though his career as a stand-up comedian didn’t pan out, the art behind performing and writing a good show definitely translated into his television and movie career.

It seemed natural, too, that his career evolved from writer, to director, and eventually producer. From what he (and everyone who knew him) said, he didn’t like other people screwing up his work, so why not just do it himself? That didn’t stop him from getting fired off a few jobs (when there was a separate production company involved.) But even so, by that point, he’d have gotten what he wanted from the show, and was then able to move on to other projects.

According to his second wife, he was a prolific idea man, and could write up to twenty-five pages every day!



I’m not going to discuss every film brought up in the documentary, or cover every detail explored. The one thing I really took away from this was a shared consensus on Larry’s genius. His films were powerful and raw; his creative eye allowed him to make a location as much a character as any actor in the film; his guerrilla warfare tactics on filming kept his movies more budget friendly, and it’s part of what makes his films so “Larry.”

On a more personal level, everyone interviewed for this documentary remembered Larry as a generous, kind, funny, sweet, kinda wacky, fearless man, and one of the most brilliant filmmakers to ever come around the scene. His style could never be reproduced today, which is a little sad, but also makes his legacy that much more enduring. For me, his movie, The Stuff, has always been, and continues to be, a favorite – even though, when I first saw it, I never understood its “wink wink” statement on consumerism and unethical business practices that were rampant in the eighties.



For anyone who wants to learn more about Larry Cohen, or would like a deeper look to his writing/directing life, this documentary is a must. Then go seek out his shows and movies. I know I will, and I’ll be able appreciate them from a perspective I didn’t have this morning.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Cohen.

5 Hatchets (out of 5)





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March 20, 2019

Movie Review: "Family Honor" (1973, Cinerama Releasing/Code Red)




…this reviewer?? Always been a highly devoted and respectably knowledgeable top-40 pop music lover…a progressive and well-versed fan of the more familiar, more popular, and often played music hits of countless high profile artists, stretching as far back as the golden age of ‘50’s pop and rock ‘n’ roll (…wasn’t even yet a twinkle in my parent’s eyes, back then…but nonetheless, God bless them for instilling a love of that era of music, into my appreciative listening repertoire). Hardly unusual...that scuffed, scratched and worn plastic dial on the car radio, or on the shoulder-straining portable ‘boom box’, was evermore ‘super-glued’ to the lower-band AM dial. Indeed, an almost religious disciple of the Sunday morning Casey Kasem top-100 countdown, back in the day when he reigned supreme over the radio airwaves. And those old-school TV advertised top-40 music collections from the ‘70’s, periodically released by Ronco and K-Tel (…yes, folks…only $5.99, per album or cassette tape…20 original hits, 20 original stars, like…)?? Yeah, (I) had ‘em all…

…now, y’all may roll your eyes at the mind-numbing, umpteenth time that the Lipps, Inc. version of “Funkytown” is toted out on the airwaves. For myself…hey, my toes, they’ll still be a-tappin’…again, and again, and again (...as I talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it…doo-doo doo doo doo, doo doo dah dee-doo…)…

…at home, the myriad collection of artists’ greatest hits albums, cassettes, compact discs…yeah, there might even be a dozen and a half or so of 8-track tapes, still buried in a box somewhere, too…far outnumbering the singularly themed releases, containing maybe one or two hits, and the rest of the lot…eh, likable, but for the most part, negligible and rarely heard. Even the hundreds…nay, even thousands of Frisbee-sized, black vinyl .45 RPM records…hey, a mere $1.99 each, at the long defunct Tower Records…with a top-40 hit on one side, and a notable, though slighted ‘other’ song…the lauded ‘B’ side, on the other…each carefully preserved in their own individual sleeves, and occasionally…the dust blown off those scratchy singles, and piled up on a turntable spindle, for successive, drop-sequential aural appreciation (…i.e., ‘hey Buddy!! Wanna come over and play some records??)…

…that been said…eh, every once in a blue moon…well, change-of-pace curiosity would momentarily take the driver’s seat, and invariably suggest that…hey, why not flip those dang .45’s over, like thin ebony-shaded flapjacks, and ‘cook up’ those lesser appreciated ‘B’ side puppies?? And the result of that revelation?? Well, more than often enough, you retain the artist’s intended heartfelt mood and fervor, but on a much more personal, ambitious, and meaningful level, though considerably less commercial and less prolific. The ‘A’ side…well, that’s for the dance-floor, arena rockin' general masses…but the ‘B’ side?? Perhaps advocated by the more ardent and appreciative of the artist’s following…something more personal, meaningful and diminutive, than the ‘preferred’ commercial piece…but no less reflective of the artist’s favored musical form or genre…

…from a cult film enthusiast’s point of view, this comparative observation might well seem not unlike…yeah, not unlike those well-paired old-school drive-in double features, of decades past…you know, where the first movie is a very commercial, higher-profile and higher budgeted film, within a specific genre…followed by, providing you stick around for it, the co-feature…usually within the same genre, to keep that momentum of flavor going, but on a much lesser, though no less ambitious scale & intent, budget and production–wise…

...(…sigh…OK, so I’ve had better lead-in’s…hey, doing the best I can, with what I’ve got, focusing on this ‘lil’ film that could’...gimme a break, will ya'?? But, then again...sheesh!! Talk about a shortcut, by way of Albuquerque…LOL!!!)…

…Scruffy and shaggy New York police officer and Army veteran Joey Fortunato is in the throes of dilemma and conflict. You see, some seven years previous, his father…a well-respected and seasoned cop, himself…was reportedly set up, ambushed and brutally killed in the streets, in cold blood by the local mafia. Since his father’s well-mourned passing, Joey’s mother and his uncle…both devoted Catholics, and both direct descendants of Italian immigrants…have relentlessly scolded, ranted at, and pressured him, insisting that he seek out ‘eye for an eye’ justice, and outright kill his father’s murderers, if at the very least, for the sake of the family’s honor (…uh, roll credits). Unfortunately, given a police officer’s morality and limitations, Joey finds himself hard pressed to act according to his mother’s wishes, as although everyone on the streets seems to know who killed Joey’s father, there appears to be no definitive proof that Carlo Regatti, the local mobster high-lord, was responsible for the contracted hit…
…in hopes of appeasing his mother and uncle to some degree, Joey reluctantly instigates his own covert investigation of his father’s murder; unfortunately, in the midst of having heavily roughed up and hammered one of Carlo’s loyal cronies for information, Joey is suspended, and forced to surrender his badge and gun, in response to his unorthodox and unauthorized actions. And to make matters worse, in pursuing and stalking Carlo from the shadows…seen just enough to let a progressively angered and enraged Carlo know that he is being pursued and stalked…not to mention, rousting and scaring one of Carlo’s business gatherings, with the blast of a sawed-off shotgun…Joey finds himself propelled to the number one spot, on Carlo’s hit list…
…keeping himself covert and in the shadows, Joey finds momentary solace, and a sense of personal progress in taking in and helping out a destitute, young and sickly waif of a drug addict, whom he is surprised to find out, he once went to school with. However, the well-intentioned headway efforts in getting the girl clean are short lived, when Joey returns home from his continued investigation, and finds that the girl has died…or rather, has been killed via overdose, by the ordered hit-man sent to his apartment to kill him. And to make matters even worse, the mob boss Carlo is also inexplicably found brutally killed, with the murder having been set up to suggested that Joey had perpetrated the killing. Despite all of this, as well as the fatal possibility of now getting killed by either his misdirected fellow police officers, or the now-vengeful quite mobsters…Joey nonetheless carries forward with his 'investigation'...sawed off shotgun in hand...realizing all too well at this point, that there is clearly more than meets the eye, with regards to his father’s death, and any involvement with or by the mob…
…thinking back and recalling those bygone classic times of drive-in cinema…say, back in the late ‘60’s to early seventies (…at the time, as a snot-nosed kid, seated on the backseat car window ledge, folded over the car roof, and getting a slight crick in the neck…my view, nonetheless unswervingly transfixed on the towering movie screen before me, reflecting back onto the car windshield), there was no mistaking those great, high-profile, big studio crime dramas, released at the time. Coppola’s “The Godfather” & “The Godfather, Part II”…Sidney Lumet’s “Serpico”…Scorsese’s “Mean Streets”…among countless others. The unnerving, albeit transfixing viciousness and grit of inner city intrigue and crime…a grim, grating and chilling city street borough ‘brrr’ to the mind, like being ‘forced’ to bite the concrete curb. The ruthless & ambitious criminal agendas and attitudes portrayed…outwardly, one can’t help but entrust that these ‘goodfellas’ would invariably be squelched by the local John Q. Law; however, in the alternate interim, one cannot help but feel an underlining measure of precarious glee and satisfaction, in seeing the bad guys do their thing…
…and after having let loose an exasperating breath of relief, once the final credits begin rolling on the screen…unclenching from a mentally, even a bit physically exhausting cinematic experience…hey folks, it’s intermission time. Time to get that last little walk and stretch, before the next movie…not to mention, gotta drain the ol’ lizard…maybe get one of those greasy ratburgers, or some of that cardboard crusted pizza…and quickly saunter back to the car, with hopes that the next feature film will continue the engaging momentum, having been instilled by the first movie…
…more than often enough, that second feature…given an ideal exhibitor’s pairing…does that very thing, albeit on a lesser budget, lesser profile and lesser production fervor. Trouble is…although they may well perform in that intent…well, who actually remembers by name, those ideally paired, lower-tiered, under-the-radar flicks, which often play for the mere moment, then disappear into obscurity, leaving perhaps a faint whiff of ‘…say, I remember seeing this great little movie, way back when, when it played with (fill in the blank)…but I be damned if I don’t remember the title”??...

…”Family Honor”…coined herein on this reviewed blu-ray release as merely “Honor”…much like one of those quirky character actors, whom one recognizes by sight, despite being unable to place an immediate name with the face…is definitely one of those films…
…interestingly enough…and most likely, the resourceful, well-scribed credit to the writer & director team of Clark Worswick and Louis Pastore (…who would tag-team their well-matched efforts again, some 13 years later, for the equally under-appreciated, extreme balls-to-the-wall espionage crime thriller, “Agent on Ice”)…’Family Honor’s sometimes claustrophobically photographed (…uh, you can’t tell me that ol’ Quentin Tarantino wasn’t influenced by this film, to some degree…that closed-in, circling 'round-the-table dialogue scene between gangster goons and mob accountants, or that DIY 'shooting up the junk' snippet, is a dead giveaway), wonderfully thick and atmospheric, albeit economical 17-grit grating (…hey, don’t knock the ol’ 17-grit sandpaper, now; it’ll deftly put a deep, slivered texture in the wood grain…as well as un-obstructively take off the top six layers of skin, with one swipe…Yikes!!), hard-nosed city street attitude is rendered in not so much the rough and deteriorated locales and visuals, but in the damn realistic exposition of the film’s no-holds-barred characters…
…really…the film’s main ‘setting’ is outwardly and liberally flavored the cold and ruthless inner-city asphalt streets of New York, as one might suggest...the outskirts city structures, the ratty and decrepit suburban slums, apartments, et al…and indeed, that may well be where they filmed the movie’s various scene proceedings. However, with the clearly economical, minimally budgeted photography and production values herein…hey, “Family Honor” might have been generically, albeit suitably filmed in just about any big-city Anywhere, USA…and rather, it’s the emotionally driven, hard-nosed, slightly over-the-top characterizations, which convincingly sell the film as a born & bred New Yorker, in as far as to say that when one watches the film, one doesn’t so much see actors playing the characters on the screen, than more so one might genuinely believe that these were real people we are seeing. Even the setting’s early ‘70’s wardrobe attire is picture perfect timely, in that respect, if you consider the clunky-bulky police uniforms, as well as the swag rock star-like gangster suits and hairstyles (...hey, them thugs gotta be hip wit' da' times, right??). Uh, yeah…it’s that thickly, deliciously realistic, and New York-style gritty…
…with stand-out performances from, for the most part, a surprisingly untried cast, heavily mustachioed actor Anthony Page…who would go on to portray further gritty, inner-city characters, including a powerhouse performance in 1981’s “Prince in the City”) leads the proceedings, as the staunchly charismatic Joey Fortunato…our disgraced, though no less determined police detective…torn between the law-abiding values of justice, and the insistent demands of family honor (…uh, roll credits), which would see justice swiftly stricken, no matter the cost (…I can’t help but quote Sean Connery, in his role as Malone, from 1987’s “The Untouchables”, who poignantly said, “…what are you prepared to do??”). Despite being virtually the only films to their credit…Vera Visconti, William Paxton and James Reyes nonetheless make their film roles herein, unique unto themselves, as…respectively…Joey’s mother, his uncle Tony, and the enraged & vengeful mafia boss, Carlo Regatti. And kicking her early acting chops into gear…a young and spunky Toni Calem, playing Carlo’s overly sheltered school-age daughter; she would continue taking on roles in gritty urban settings, with her television and cable work on shows like “Baretta”, “Kojak”, “Starsky & Hutch”, and much later, a prominent role in the acclaimed HBO series, “The Sopranos”…
…the spotty, synthesizer score ideally accents the rough, tough and grimy events that unfold…but of a much more ironic note, music-wise…why, we have famed rock guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Leslie West, of the ‘70’s hard rock group, Mountain (…oh, c’mon folks!! Surely, you remember the hard-geared, heavy rock smash, “Mississippi Queen”…hey, ‘more cowbell’, right??), strangely cast (…yet not so strangely, considering the rockin’ big hair of the mafia goons, in this flick) as a ‘blink, and you’ll miss ‘em’ walk-on part, as a background mob gangster…
…Code Red’s salvaged print of “Family Honor” is as deliciously gritty, grimy and bottom -of-the-barrel scuzzy as the film itself; but then, to clean up and remaster this particular film, might well instill some wrongful injustice in the overall drive-in flavor and experience of the film. Surprisingly enough, the promotion and distribution of this film (…by famed independent Cinerama Releasing, who that year, was also representing classic cult hits like “The Harrad Experiment”, “Walking Tall”, “The Mack”, and the equally obscure, under-appreciated & almost forgotten  horror/comedy, “Arnold”) was measurably faltered, commercially…which might well explain the film having been slipped through the cracks, discarded and unjustly buried…

…nonetheless, “Family Honor” is that rare-occasioned second tiered flick…that forlorn, negligible and seemingly disowned .45 ‘B’ side, at it were…which in it’s own right, proudly and shamelessly stands out, even in the spotlight snatching light of higher-showcased, bloated budgeted films of it’s like…

…a cool, late summer evening’s bumper-to-bumper drive-in double feature of Scorsese’s “Mean Streets”, followed by Clark Worswick’s “Family Honor”?? Oh hell, yes…I’d buy that for a dollar…or maybe even $5.50, a carload.....


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March 9, 2019

Movie Review: "Guardians" (2017; Big Cinema House/Enjoy Movies/Renovatio Entertainment/Shout Factory)


…sigh!! Every year…or perhaps these days, it’s better to say, every few weeks…’it’s the same old story’…

…huh-boy!! Here we go again, folks!! The dust hardly settles from the dynamic, albeit overrated impact of the last great big blow-hard superhero movie, and before you know it, along comes another one…with a heavy sigh, followed by a deftly hand-gestured ‘yank, yank, yank’. Ah, me…alright, good or bad, whether we like it or not, lay it on us. What do we got, this time?? Another dark and brooding hero type, dedicated to a ruthless combat of the criminal types who left him without family?? Even more genetically mutated wonders, endowed with powers to defeat the evils of a world that superficially sees the heroes as mere freaks of nature?? Can there possibly be one more deal with the devil, with the person who made the deal, afforded dark powers to be used in the devil’s servitude, to which that person then reneges on said deal, and instead uses the powers for goodness, rather than badness. Is this world big enough for yet one more super powered alien…the last of his race, sent to this world, in an effort to preserve his heritage, and at the same time, lay roots in a new home, with a new people, which he swears to defend against fiendish perpetrators of evil and crime, both earthly and other-worldly??

…yeah, sing it again, and again, and again, Bonnie…”…isn’t there a white knight, upon a fiery steed??”…huh-boy…sigh, with a bowed head shake and eyeball roll (…nope!! Not suffering from superhero movie fatigue here, folks…nope, not at all…sigh…)…

…ah yes, the stories are varied…the characters, countless…the attitudes, like someone with bipolar affliction, ever- changing on a dime. Of course, there’s also the assumed set and/or adjusted expectations of the masses, especially from the viewpoint of those geek-savvy with the popular arts, who might be familiar with it all, via the hallowed pages of those four-colored, multi-paneled comic rags. Really, at some point, one cannot help but feel that all these stories, characters and situations invariably blend into each other, to the point where we, the paying audience, pretty much rolls our eyes, let out a sigh, take in the next superhero movie…driven with an almost commercially manufactured ‘do whatever the crowd does’ anticipation…then, just short of tossing that movie aside, followed by the sigh-instilling after-thought of ‘harrumph…OK, next?’, here comes another generic, assembly-line, cookie cutter episode of super powered daring do, with about damn near the same goals, intermingled with the same conflicts and the same personal problems…

…really, it’s totally understandable, when…after so many of these ‘same-old, same-old’ superhero movies gone by, and still to come…well, we just can’t help but jump the fence, and start rooting for the villains, rather than the heroes. Hey...no secret that the bad guys are insurmountably much more interesting, alluring and fun, than the good guys anyways, right??...

…and yet, despite all this yah-dah-dah, yah-dah-dah, wah-fucking-wahhing, what do we do?? Why, we just saunter our butts right back up to that thar’ ticket booth, and once again fork over our hard-earned simolians, for yet another jaw-dropping, eye-poping, head-droning, rock ‘em/sock ‘em, CGI-oversaturated super-powered epic. It’s kinda like that old George Carlin ‘ice cream’ gag…you know, you eat the ice cream, you get that painful brain freeze, you rub away that excruciatingly cold spot in your throat, and afterwards, what do you do?? Eat more ice cream!! Gotta quote ol’ George in saying, “…what, are we fucking stupid??”…

…truth be known…yeah, yeah sure…admittedly, amidst the polished and clean-cut assembly-line standard and stereotype, as far as the seemingly never-ending superhero movie genre…every few films or so, our fine tinsel-town filmmakers, writers and directors do manage to invoke an unconventional twist, a skewed change in tone, a rebellious attitude, a more jovially flavoring, which genuinely manages to breathe at least some measure of fresh new life into the stale, by-the-numbers proceedings. A generous whiff of ‘hey, what if’ into the mix-master…maybe something a bit original to liven things up, perhaps beyond that of what might have already been done or written. Something like…well, like
…come, as we shift the locale, and the time circuits to…oh say, Russia…during the Cold War, some 40 odd years previous…when, under the cloak of absolute government secrecy, two renowned scientists devise a lucrative and ambitious project, code named ‘Patriot’…the sole purpose of which is directed towards experimental human genetic manipulation, in an effort towards creating super-powered soldiers. Well, now…it seems that one of the scientists…Professor Kuratov…having something more than a difference of opinion with his scientist partner, as far as the speed and direction of the project’s science and application, goes rogue, steals the project’s research data, and begins initiating his own experiments on chosen ‘volunteers’; the military, hard and fast on the hunt for Kuratov, catches up with him…though the professor’s capture is thwarted when he blows up his own laboratories, and presumably himself, in the process…
…four decades later, Kuratov inexplicably returns; however, he has since become quite scarred and mentally screwed, assuming crazed delusions of grandeur, and having harnessed a cache of artificially endowed psychic powers over all electronics and mechanical devices. Stealing military weaponry and prototypes, Kuratov instigates a path of destruction, with the ultimate intent upon assuming worldwide control over all man-made mechanics and technology…
…with a good measure of caution and reluctance, the Russian military re-initiates the ages-old ‘Patriot’ program, and launches a countrywide search for any of the numerous, now-super-powered, and hopefully still living human ‘guinea pigs’, who were invariably discarded and scattered across the continent, soon after Kuratov explosively eighty-sixed his work…all now rumored to be living out their lives in conflicting, bittersweet peace and secrecy. The covert military search manages to find four of them: Ursus (Anton Pampushnyy), a young and rugged-looking scientist, living in isolation deep in the sheltering Siberian forests, and possessing the ability to willfully transform himself partially or completely into a hulking and powerful beast of a bear. Khan (Sanjar Madi), discovered in white sand desert wastelands…there, applying his martial arts skills as a darkly clad mercenary…is armed with large, crescent-shaped, scythe-like swords, and has the ability to move at lightning speed. A weathered and elderly, monk-like farmer named Ler (Sebastien Sisak), has staked claim in the war-scarred battlements of a castle’s ruins…his power, the ability to move and manipulate the very earth and surrounding rock formations, beneath his feet. And found applying her unique abilities of underwater invisibility to the awed delight of an appreciative audience…applauding witnesses to a lavishly staged magic show, Xenia (Alina Lanina) completes the sought team of reluctant super-powered dissidents…
…bitter, reluctant and bewildered, considering a tortured past which they’d rather forget, or have outright forgotten altogether…the genetically altered foursome, despite inner conflict and reservations, find a common purpose with which to bond with…the capture and persecution of the one that created them…an old adversary who is as powerfully altered as they are. But will their combined might, as difficult as that proves to be to assemble, be enough to see them through the impending battle…a battle, which although their first, might well be their last??...
…now, right out the gate…the most intriguing ‘cะปoh’ (…read: 'elephant') in the room, is the front & center fact that…hey, we’re like, talking Russian superheroes here, folks. OK, yeah…we’ve sorta been here before, given that, despite a certain beloved, Slavic-accented, metal-skinned member of the X-Men…not to mention, the imaginatively alternative reality ‘what if’ published exploits of a certain legendary interstellar ‘man of steel’, told from the perspective of having landed, as an infant, in a Ukrainian Farm commune, vice a vast, albeit random Kansas grain field, the idea of super-powered heroes, originating from Russia…yeah, this sort of thing nonetheless remains a rather unique and novel one. And as far as the fictional superhero realm, as a whole, the mere suggestion ideally mirrors a juxapositioned measure of creative literary arrogance, that presumptuously dictates…for the most part…that the crust of the superhero populous would exclusively and stereotypically originate from these 'might makes right', wholesome ‘apple pie and stars ‘n’ stripes’ domestic shores…
…indeed, in retrospect of having seen “Guardians”, and genuinely walking away with a respectable amount of appreciation for the notably flawed, though moderately engaging drama, dynamic action and rousing adventure, featuring a new, albeit clearly inspired rag-tag band of cross-continental, super-powered rogues…yes, inspired, but a wholly original-enough written crew, as opposed to the already set-forth ‘comic page panel to silver screen’ translations from the renowned minds, over at Marvel and DC…this reviewer is of the subsequent opinion that…yeah, there might well be room enough for this special brand of ultra-powered misfit daring doers, in the hallowed and honored annuls of the superhero film genre…
…and a rather unconventional, albeit relatable and tragic crew of regionally diversified misfits, this motley bunch most assured are. Ursus, the burly and seclusive were-bear scientist…later armed with a gargantuan-sized, psychically directional version of the ol’ Painless Gatling gun, from ‘Predator’…harbors inner torture, conflict and insecurity, in the sense that every time a desperate situation necessarily calls for him to initiate his monstrous and beastly transformation, he fears losing control one day, in finding the inability to become human again. The weathered and burnt-out loner Ler, who’s powers are supplemented by the military, enabling him to string and weld conjoined pieces of rock into an electro-plasma-charged whip, is the most defiant of the quartet, as far his reluctantly gifted abilities…preferring to remain in solitude, but nonetheless finds vengeful purpose in being recruited into the team. Xenia invariably, though later willingly joins up in an effort to shed light upon her past…a clouded past, which she has absolutely no memory of; she is later provided with a specialized suit that enables her to control her invisibility at will, as well as being able to focus those powers on anything she touches. And then, there’s the zen-spirited, ninja-like Khan…for the impending battle, retrofitted with an impenetrable armor…though preferring to further his solo fervor as a hired soldier-of-fortune, nonetheless brings his extraordinary talents to the table, if only to do what is right, in thwarting a world threatening megalomaniac, welding a formidably disastrous and destructive power…
…for the most part, the able-bodied cast is adequate to the varied and diversified characters they portray; however, much like the film’s reluctant superhero components needing to cooperate with each other…work with each other, to exude that classic ‘sum of the whole is far greater than the individual parts’ ideology, “Guardians” shines best when this misfit ensemble share their screen time, as opposed to individual focus. In fact, the more notably singular standout characters, though affecting, are not even directly associated with the team itself. Actress Valeriya Shkirando proves a more dynamic presence on the screen, than even our hapless superhero entities…channeling an alluring and feminine ‘Nick Fury’ like presence in the proceedings, in playing the military’s Major Larina. And as an equally dynamic adversary type, Stanislav Shirin deliciously plays up the over-the-top, ‘crazy but not stupid’ card, as the super-mega-charged megalomaniac Kuratov…so much so, in fact, one might genuinely believe this totally formidable, mad and insane character could potentially give any number of the Marvel or DC goodie-goodies, a run for their money. Crossover, anyone??...
……to the film’s credit…eh, definitely better than some, but falling short of greatness…the overall production values and visual dynamics seem to fall with the range of…oh say, just short of your basic big-bucks Marvel ensemble entry, and one of the more ambitiously reaching fantasy films, culled from the budget-driven knock-off/mockbuster folks, over at The Asylum. Yet surprisingly enough, and going into “Guardians” with an open mind, the imperfections…as far as the level of, the unpolished quality of, and the interchanging chemistry between the CGI, optical and practical special effects…are pretty much acceptable, forgivable, and really not all that distracting (…as opposed to the demanding expectations, versus the resulting imperfect visuals of Marvel’s recent ‘Captain Marvel’ domestic release…though fleeting, but very distracting…but that’s a whole other story). Also to the film’s credit…the outstanding, though economic set designs, the nice integration of outer locales with the special effects (…the city-rampaging ‘bug robots’ were pretty cool, reminding me of a more up-scaled and ‘lifelike’ version of the ‘animated’ grid bugs, in 1982’s “Tron”), and the slick, varied & extraordinarily detailed prop and costume work…overall and clearly, a matter of resourcefully making so little, look like a helluva lot…a higher level of the ‘silk purse, out of a sow’s ear’ type of economic production, so to speak…
…storywise, the approach to this material has it wearing a distinctly dark and stone-cold cloak of air, with sort of forced moments of levity, and a mostly haunting soundtrack (…the ‘Guardians’ theme, is particularly and memorably mesmerizing), which anyone on these shores might stereotypically expect, considering this is a Russian production; however, that’s also what makes these dynamic proceedings surprising…that Russian filmmakers herein, vied for the stereotype, or what might have been expected, versus something wholly unconventional and unexpected (…this, among other reasons, might possibly explain why the film was unanimously lambasted by Russian and European audiences, upon initial theatrical release). Oh, without a doubt, the basic superhero crust is there…with clearly notable and inspired nods towards the Avengers (…and the team’s singular components), the X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy…but the core of the premise itself…from the characters, to the story components and set-up… seems not unlike that of classic paper dolls, with their interchangeable variety of ‘fold-the-tab-over’ clothing, and the clearly mad clothier was left to the whims of his wild imagination, in doing the clothing…adding layer upon layer…until you have something totally absurd and outrageous, yet still oddly appealing…
…short and sweet (…as usual with me, far too late for that), for a superhero film best watched in the original Russian language, with subtitles (...the domestic dubbing is a little on the silly side), “Guardians” is not a particularly great entry into the mass super-powered hero relay…but it is a respectably good and worthwhile one...original, in an inspired way (...i.e., not based upon any direct literary source, but taking it's cues from other, higher-profile sources), which cries out in curiosity, towards being further explored (…a reportedly financial flop in Russia, the lead production company went bankrupt…though, a proposed sequel , co-produced and co-financed with filmmakers in China, has not been ruled out; take my money now, guys...I'm in); in culinary terms, the film is like half-baked chocolate chip cookie dough, in that it’s not quite all the way done yet, but it’s still pretty damn tasty and eatable. Can you imagine what they'd have, and we’d subsequently have, if they’d just let that puppy cook to it’s full potential??

...uh, should the folks over at Marvel and DC be concerned, or worried??



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