Reel Critics: A wild ride with 'Guardians'

Imagine revisiting the classic intergalactic bar scene from "Star Wars." Bizarre humanoids from many planets share their mutual suspicion of each other while sipping strange drinks. Now throw a flash-bang grenade into the bar. The chaos that follows could provide the basic ingredients for Marvel's rip-roaring sci-fi adventure "Guardians of the Galaxy."

The improbable heroes include a talking raccoon with a bad attitude voiced by Bradley Cooper. A walking, talking tree creature named Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel. They join soldiers of fortune played by Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt and Dave Bautista on a mission to save a galaxy from total destruction.

Together, they embark on a "Raiders of the Lost Ark"-type search to control a mysterious orb that has the power to annihilate entire star systems. This whole premise is wacky and clearly beyond belief. But the sharp screenplay delivers oodles of quick wit, satire and zany action.

There's enough snappy dialogue and sarcastic comments to keep an audience laughing out loud through the wild ride. "Guardians" delivers tons of fun that's a cut above most comic book blockbusters.

—John Depko


A new bag for Boseman

Last year in the much-overlooked "42," Chadwick Boseman gave a beautifully controlled performance as baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Now, in "Get On Up," Boseman again hits it out of the park playing the iconic Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

The film gives Brown's electrifying R&B sound its due, no doubt as a sign of respect from producer Mick Jagger, one of many musicians who owe a serious debt to Brown's scorching vocals and incredible dance ability.

Boseman does a great job recreating some of the signature moves and grooves, as well as Brown's sandpapery voice.

The film only gently alludes to the pronounced racism of the times and Brown's checkered life: arrests for assault, domestic violence, problems with substance abuse and the IRS. He was a womanizer, a perfectionist; he lived large and in charge with no apology.

A self-made man, James Brown was savvy about taking care of James Brown. He demanded respect, and onstage, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business more than proved he was worthy. Yet his ego led to many broken relationships, including with longtime friend Bobby Byrd (an outstanding Nelsan Ellis).

Viola Davis, as Brown's estranged mother, is an emotional high point in her wrenching scene with Boseman. Will someone please give this woman an Oscar?

"Get On Up" jumps around in time, and not every dramatic scene is necessary or works (the opener, for one). But the live performances — particularly a Paris concert — are so electrifying, so primal with all that brass, bass and percussion, that I defy anyone not to want to get on up and shake their money maker.

—Susanne Perez

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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