While the word is out on what the future holds for the films from Marvel Studios, they are currently in a place of comfort, as the films produced are consistently entertaining, despite fitting into familiar structures. Given that the films all have reasonable budgets and lots of talent both behind and in front of the camera, it is not too much of a surprise that audiences generally really enjoy these movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is both the wildest step yet for Marvel and the biggest risk since 2008's Iron Man, as it is based on an obscure comic property and lacks huge name stars in the lead roles for audiences to be easily sold on the film. With that in mind, Guardians of the Galaxy will be a real test of the Marvel brand. It helps that the film is very good. It may only break some new ground, given the setting and style of the film, but even while fitting into a familiar mold, it is a total blast of space opera-style joy.
In the premise for Lucy, Scarlett Johansson's character is forced to deliver a package implanted inside of her, only to gain unique abilities after the package is ruptured. I am sure some kind of variation of that description is what got writer/director Luc Besson the means to make this film as a big studio movie, as opposed to a smaller release. With that in mind, it is almost as if Besson was able to pull one over on many, as he may have a film built up to be a slick, easy-to-digest, summer sci-fi/action film, but Lucy has more going on than one may expect. It is unfortunate that the film's ambition is masked underneath a wavy sense of actual science and Besson's own penchant for kinetic (and very violent) action beats, but a strong central performance and a very fast pace keep Lucy from ever slowing down in its brief runtime.
One of the more impressive aspects of The Purge: Anarchy is not really the movie itself, but the fact that how it was sold managed to get me excited, despite the first 'Purge' from a year ago finding its way to my 'Worst of 2013' list. Fast-tracked sequel or not, 'Anarchy' seemed set out to resolve the main issue that the first film created, which was to go a more open world route, given the endless possibilities that the ridiculous basic concept set up. Here is a film that exists in a reality where crime and unemployment are at all-time lows in America, because a 12-hour period exists one night a year, where all crime (especially murder) is legal. It is a very dumb premise if you stop to think about it, but there is so much to do with that concept, which is something this higher-budgeted sequel tries to do. With all of that said, even when considering the couple degrees that separate this film from reality, in an effort to add some level of social commentary, I did not take away much from this film that will likely stick with me no further than a week.
Ian: What would you do if something spiritual disproved your scientific beliefs?
A few years back, writer/director Mike Cahill made a film called Another Earth, which managed to find itself on my top ten list. It was a debut feature and had some rough edges, but it hit me in just the right way and at just the right time (going well with its existential-sci-fi-drama counterpart - Melancholia), providing me with enough to let the film get to me more than I was expecting. Now we have Cahill's follow up feature, I Origins, which I cannot say I was as enraptured by, but still found to be interesting. The main curiosity I have outside of this film is whether or not audiences will be happy to go along with what is essentially a character journey that does not really decide to engage in a specific plot until more than halfway through the film. There is a sense looseness here that I think can go either way for people, but I did find myself involved in some key moments that led me to admiring I Origins quite a bit.
I guess there is something to be said for a Disney film like Planes: Fire & Rescue that does not try to go for the modern Disney approach of being a film for everyone, rather than just kids. While there is nothing about this theatrical sequel to a film that was originally supposed to go straight to video that makes it essential viewing or even all that innovative, there is also nothing here that really makes it unwatchable either. I may have some quibbles over the implied lessons that Dusty Crophopper learns at the end of this film, but it really makes no difference, as Planes: Fire & Rescue is kiddy stuff, through and through, which is not a bad thing, just something to take into consideration.