Chris Pratt, newly anointed comic book action movie star thanks to “Guardians of the Galaxy,” plays Peter Quill, aka Star Lord. Abducted by aliens while listening to his Walkman cassette player as a boy in the 1980s, Peter was taken to the other side of the galaxy, where he learned how to be a thief. Apparently, no matter how far you travel in the universe, villainy and treachery are everywhere.
Present day, Peter works solo. He manages to steal a mysterious orb from a desolate planet. Bad news for him, as this is one of the orbs that uber-baddie Thanos (Josh Brolin) needs in order to take over the galaxy. Thanos then tasks his minion Ronan (Lee Pace) to retrieve it. In order to keep it out of the hands of evil, Star Lord recruits the help of fellow misfits Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (voice of Vin Diesel), and Rocket, a raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper.
The success of “Guardians” comes with how well it separates itself from the other comics-based films out there—and how well it falls in line with a certain other Marvel property. Namely, the movie smartly combines action and humor—and does them both well. The only two movies to be this successful with that combination are the first “Iron Man” and “The Avengers.” All other comic-based movies, from both Marvel and DC, tend to be more straightforward action movies. “Guardians of the Galaxy” plants its tongue firmly in its cheek and wants you to just have fun. And that is exactly what it is: Fun – a lot of it. Buy It.
Watching Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of high school football coach Bob Ladouceur in “When the Game Stands Tall,” I was quickly reminded of a personal favorite line from Adrien Cronauer (Robin Williams) in “Good Morning Vietnam: “This guy’s as boring as whale shit.” Granted, this no doubt came from Caviezel hanging around the real coach Ladouceur and he is mimicking the coach’s true personae, but in a movie it makes for an undynamic character. I was shocked when Ladouceur had a heart attack and his face contorted to something other than bland neutrality. Harsh, yes—but true. Don’t worry kids. He recovers.
On the other hand, such a calm demeanor is a refreshing change of pace. Football coaches—especially in the movies, but undeniably sometimes in real life—tend to be ill-tempered loudmouths whose only method of motivating their players is to yell at them. A lot of them also tend to be “win at all costs” types. Ladouceur is none of these things. He realizes that this is just high school football. The education and health of his players are what are most important. The whole community gets behind the football program at De La Salle High because they are on a 151 game winning streak. This streak means very little to him—it’s just a sport, not life and death. He teaches his players to set personal goals and to love each other. This may be the key to their success, especially since they walk on to the field holding hands, which freaks the other team out. Much to his credit, Ladouceur has a level-headed perspective on who he is, where he is, and what he and his team are doing.
While Ladouceur may be a breath of fresh air, the plot of “When the Game Stands Tall” is not. I am not sure how much of this “based on a true story” movie is actually true, but if it is all true, then real life did an amazing job at pulling the football clichés off of the shelf, not limited to but including: father/son strife between the coach and his player/son Danny (Matthew Daddario), a tragedy where a promising young player is killed, a father living vicariously through his son to fulfill his own lost dreams of glory, and—straight out of “Rudy”—the runty kid with a lot of heart. Put these all in a blender with a lot of game play footage, which fills up a good third of the movie’s two hour run time, and what you get is…okay. This is a good film if you like sports and/or sports movies. Others can possibly get into the fact that the coach is different than any other coach in a sports movie. Rent It.
Here are some great films being released this week in special “diamond edition” Blu-ray to celebrate their anniversaries: “The Green Mile,” fifteen years; “Natural Born Killers and Forrest Gump,” twenty years; “Batman,” the Tim Burton original, twenty-five years; “Gremlins,” thirty years; and “Ben Hur,” fifty-five years.
Also out the week: “Dolphin Tale 2,” the search to find Winter a companion so she can stay at the aquarium; “Inherit the Wind,” astounding courtroom drama based on the famous Scopes trial of 1925, starring Spencer Tracy; and “The Fortune,” the late Mike Nichols directed this 1975 caper starring Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Stockard Channing, about two hustlers in the 1920s who try to swindle and heiress out of her fortune.
Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.