Tag Archives: James Gunn

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): The Greatness of These Characters

 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is on par with the first film, being it is once again comedic, dramatic and character greatness executed beautifully by James Gunn once again. For my non-spoiler thoughts…this film goes deeper into developing the characters, the action is solid and for once Marvel has a great villain in one of these films! I highly recommend this film and won’t be surprised if it ends up being in my Top 5 Films of 2017.

    The film was written and directed by James Gunn, while being produced by Kevin Feige.

  The story picks up a few months after the first film, with the Guardians protecting the Sovereign’s batteries, which are being targeted by a giant space creature. After the battle they receive Nebula as payment but soon find themselves being pursued by the Sovereign after Rocket steals their batteries after insulting them. After the battle the team is separated as Rocket and Baby Groot deal with the Ravagers, Gamora and Nebula face off and Peter meets his Father.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is wonderful and fascinating once again! We get to see the Ravager homeworld where they take up contracts and have fun, we meet the high strung Sovereign driven by genetic perfection and Ego, a being who is a living planet who wants to consume the Universe and cares about his son Quill. Each of these groups gets exploration that shows part of the reason why this is the best part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Soundtrack – Tyler Bates did the soundtrack and we once again get some amazing hits that are masterfully woven into the fights, the character interactions and the tone and feeling of different scenes. I think the first film used the songs and feel slightly better, but this was still a blast.

The Action – The action is amazing! In this we see  smaller fights to clever traps laid by Rocket, to a giant faceoff with the Guardians facing Ego and the Sovereign. It is a lot of fun and the action serves a purpose as any time we get it it is advancing the plot.

The Characters and Their Arcs – James Gunn is a great writer and it is fully on display in this film as it is the character and their arcs and relationships that drive the action and story of the film. He is dealing with a lot of different character groups this time, but each of them has a huge emotional payoff in the end.

Drax and Mantis – Drax meets Mantis, who is Ego’s assistant who helps him sleep. She senses emotion and it is in their relationship we see her learn about the complexity of feelings as well as Drax finally opening up as we see his jokes hide how much he misses his wife and daughter. Their friendship is wonderful and platonic and has some of the best jokes.

Nebula and Gamora – Nebula and Gamora’s arc involves them opening up about the trauma Thanos put them through (we learn Nebula was torn apart and had her body replaced by machine parts every time she lost a fight to Gamora). In the end they forgive each other and realize they aren’t the enemy, Thanos is and from that they truly become sisters rather than weapons of Thanos.

Rocket and Yondu – Rocket and Yondu were outcasts who grew up with no one. Yondu was a Kree Slave who was rescued by a Ravager captain and in turn became one as well (until he loses it all over the course of the film) and Rocket is pushing everyone away until Yondu calls him out, letting him know it isn’t worth it and that he gets it too (what he only realizes after he’s lost everything). This arc was powerful as we see how rich their friendship is because of all they’ve lost and their devil may care attitude towards life. These two are my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films and possibly the MCU as a whole.

Peter and Ego – Peter really wants a father and learning Ego is his father is what he always wanted…until he realizes that Ego only cares about him as a means to an end. This leads to their fight as Peter gets beyond his need to be loved and accepts the love that he already has from the Guardians and Yondu an rejects the absolute power at that Ego is offering.

Ego – Ego is a Celestial and because of this is eternal and immortal. It is from this mindset that he came to the realization that he matters the most so all should become him. You can see where he comes from as he has outlived countless lives and species, but also how he misses the point that all life matters. He clearly cares for Peter but that is because Peter is a part of him. Like his name Ego never sees beyond his Ego and that is what leads to his destruction. If he valued others he would have lived and most likely become an ally or a powerful neutral force, instead he wanted it all and that was what lead to his destruction. Kurt Russell does an amazing performance, putting Ego as one of the best villains in the MCU.

Yondu and the Ravagers – Yondu’s main arc begins when the other Ravagers reject him for the child trafficking he was doing for Ego. His exile leads to him being taken out by Nebula who helps a rival among Yondu’s crew named Ravager take control of the ship and leads to the capture of Baby Groot and Rocket. In the end Yondu takes responsibility and we see him take the fight to the monster that is Ego and that he stopped trafficking once he realized that Ego was killing them (this is when he takes on Quill). In the end he realizes that he can’t atone for what he’s done and stands with the Guardians Ego, sacrificing himself to save Peter, his son, which leads to the Ravagers giving him a Ravager funeral and accepting him back in and honoring him in his death. Rooker really is fantastic.

Family is Greater Than Blood – Family being greater than blood is the main theme of the film besides letting go of the ego. We see this in how Yondu is the father that Peter’s actual father never was and that the Guardians are family with one another…they fight with each other but in the end they always have each other’s backs.

The Killing of the Ego – This idea functions as both a metaphor (Peter letting go of his need to please his Dad and his forgiving of Yondu) and Yondu losing everything but finding what matters moist…Quill and the Guardians…he finds family after his old family…the Ravager Captains exile him…Though he gets them in the end too as they find him redeemed in his fight where he helped defeat Ego and saved the Guardians. Ego is the antagonist and wants the Universe to be him and for a while this appeals to Quill when he sees eternity, until he realizes that it was Ego’s selfishness that lead to Ego killing his Mother which sets off the fight against him and saving the Universe again.

Okay: Some Actions Sequences Go Too Long – The final fight against Ego could have been cut in half and still had the same power behind it. I didn’t care about the Sovereign arriving and felt that they were unnecessary. The best parts of the fight were the times that Ego was trying to sway Peter, when that wasn’t happening it looked cool, but the action stretched on too long for me to call it a pro.

Slow Down Shots – There a few times in the film where the action slows down to near standstill. I found this super distracting from the flow of the action that blended seamlessly with the music, with the exception of these sequences.

Motivation of the Sovereign – I get that these guys are easily insulted, but I was surprised they didn’t call up the Guardians first and attack only after Rocket would have most likely insulted them again. In this way they were way too reactive. They still worked as secondary antagonists but they weren’t as compelling as the Ravagers because of their motivation.

  This is a film that I highly recommend. This is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains fun and for once we get a story that has nothing to do with Infinity Stones, which in turn leads to us getting time to get to know the characters better. We also have a villain with motivations and a connection to our heroes that matters, and he feels like an actual threat as well as loss and character payoff that comes with a rocking soundtrack. As a side note, my friend was in one of the scenes at the end as one of the Ravager Captains bodyguards/lieutenants! I hope they do more with those Captains and their crew in Volume 3! I really enjoyed this film and it is definitely on par with the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Which is rare in Marvel Movies as often their sequels aren’t as strong as the originals. So if you haven’t watched this film yet, I highly recommend that you do.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

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Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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     Now that I have watched “Ant-Man” it is time for the Top 5 Films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far! I originally was going to rate them from least to greatest and include all of them but that struck me a bit as overkill, better to focus on the truly great ones so that those ones will recieve more attention, since Marvel doesn’t exactly need help for getting people to talk about these films.

     For what I look for in a film is mostly bittersweet. I am drawn to loss and joy and how they relate as well as having a narrative that makes sense and doesn’t have too many climaxes. I value story structure unless it is suberveted or done in a unique way the way the Coens or Tarantino does it…given that there aren’t really any directors with that level of uniqueness in what they do in these films, I’ll be ignoring that. Disney is conservative and cautious and that is something pretty universal in these films, even the ones that take risks like “Avengers,” “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

  So without further ado, here are my Top 5 from least to greatest.:

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5. Iron Man (2008)

     It was a tough toss up between “Iron Man” and “Ant-Man” but in the end I decided on “Iron Man” because Tony Stark is just the more compelling character. Ant-Man’s universe is fascinating but Scott Lang is kind of boring and bland while Tony is in conflict with everyone. He is always changing, growing and adapting and it makes his origin story compelling. His story also shows us the Military Industrial Complex as it is his weapons that are used to capture him when he is in Afghanistan and it’s decision to stop making and selling weapons that leads to the conflict with his mentor. Robert Downey Jr. completely owns this role as well and Jeff Bridges isn’t half bad as Stain he just isn’t given much to do, which is a problem for a lot of Marvel villains actually and why I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the first.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/iron-man-2008-changing-the-merchant-of-war/

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4. Iron Man 3 (2013)

   I rate “Iron Man 3” higher than the original because it isn’t as much about Iron Man the hero as it is about Tony Stark and him facing the consequences of his ego and selfish actions. We see countless people die from a man he cared nothing about and we see his ego put Pepper at risk when the Mandarin attacks his home. The film also subverts comic book tropes too as the Mandarin is not who you suspect and the baddie is one of the more memorable villains to come out of these films. Definitely would recommend it as it completes Tony’s arc and sets up the next phase of the Marvel Universe really well.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/iron-man-3-consequences-from-the-past/

The Avengers

3. The Avengers (2012)

   Joss Whedon pulled off magic when he made this film. “The Avengers” is a film that should not work. How does a man out of time (Captain America) 2 secret agents (Widow and Hawkeye) a God (Thor) a sci. fi. industrialist (Iron Man) and a mutant (Hulk/Bruce Banner) work in a film? On paper it shouldn’t but it does because of how well Disney and Marvel built their universe and it is a lot of fun! Loki is the best villain the films (Kingpin is probably best overall if we count the Netflix show) and seeing the witty banter and fantastic action in a very tight story is really wonderful. “Age of Ultron” could not capture this magic, and I’ll be surprised if any Avengers film does post this. This is something rare and wonderful and in many ways was the perfect storm.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/the-avengers-2012-bringing-the-team-together/

Guardians of the Galaxy

2.  Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

     “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a masterpiece. If you are looking for a fun adventure with great comedy that has no real heroes, this is the film for you. I didn’t know who these guys were until the film but I care far more about Groot, Starlord, Gamora and Rocket than I do about the Avengers. All of them are flawed and like Tony Stark they end up causing a lot of their own problems in the course of getting by. The weakest part of this film is the problem that Marvel has overall where Rhonin is boring and Thanos does nothing. Besides that, this adventure is awesome and there are so many great and colorful characters. I highly recommend it. This film made Chris Pratt the most wanted action star for a reason.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

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  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

First place goes to “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This was the film that got me to care about Captain America and is easily one of the best political thrillers to be made. There are consequences, the world changes and there is loss throughout the film. This is Marvel and Disney at their best as the villain is even made compelling and given reasons for the things he does and the choices he makes. Every character deals with their past or lack of past and the difficulty of those situations force them to grow. The action is of course really great too and Anthony Mackie as Falcon is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This film has yet to be beat by MCU and still easily holds it’s place at Number 1 on my list.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

Now that you’ve seen my list I’d be curious to hear about yours. It is pretty cool that we live in an era where comics are the new medium to tell great stories on the screen.

Top 5 Films of 2014

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This is the first time that I’m doing a Top 5 list for the year, but there shall be many more to come as the blog continues to exist. This was a great year for films and there are a lot of films I’m going to mention that didn’t make the list that I still think you should watch, again this was a great year for films. The films that made the list are ones that stand out to me though and are ones that I plan to own and would watch multiple times…these are the movies that stand on their own as a film and are the best of the best for this year. So, before I get into the list, here are the honorary mentions.

“Big Hero 6” Disney Studios did it again, it’s rich and deep and worth seeing. “X-Men Days of Future Past,” Bryan Singer is back and the X-Men series is great again. “Gone Girl” and “Interstellar” almost made the list but after re-reading my reviews I realized that the problems they have don’t elevate them to best of the best. Still worth seeing, “The Book of Life,” excellent animation and story, which “How to Train Your Dragon 2” also did and had loss, in a kids film just like “Big Hero 6.” This was a good year for animated stories. None of these are in the top 5 though, but you should still check them out. Also, “Mockingjay Part 1” is the best of that Franchise so far too.

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5) Guardians of the Galaxy

Director James Gunn

This script is hilarious, the characters are rich and you know what…you will care about what happens to a talking Racoon and a Tree Alien that can only say, “I am Groot.” That is the magic of this story as it shows just how expansive the marvel universe really is.  James Gunn is clearly the right guy to be put in charge of this franchise and I can’t wait to see how he expands the universe. These characters are broken and flawed and we love them because of it. They are forced to grow from the mistakes they make and they learn to care about each other. It also has a rocking soundtrack full of that 70’s rock n’ roll that adds humor to scenes and provides an epic feel in many scenes. My issue with why it isn’t higher on the list are two reasons…Thanos is just kind of hanging around, and Gamora’s development doesn’t really happen. The guys have great character arcs, but Gamora doesn’t get enough screen time for her character and and her character’s motivations to be developed. Still made the top 5 for a reason though. Definitely worth checking out and multiple watches. It truly is a masterpiece.

Score: 9.8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/guardians-of-the-galaxy-2014-a-masterpiece-of-sci-fi-action-and-comedy-gold/

Captain America Winter Soldier

4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Director Anthony and Joe Russo

I didn’t care about Captain America in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” after “Winter Soldier” he is my favorite member of the Avengers. This is a movie with consequences which “Guardians of the Galaxy” lacked in regards to the Marvel Continuity. One of the major parts of the world is destroyed and we learn that one of the enemies that was a nobody enemy before is like a virus in the world of Marvel. This is powerful as we finally have an enemy that feels like a threat, Captain America has to wrestle with being a moral hero in questionable situations where there isn’t a clear good or bad. Hell, the bad guy is sympathetic even though he only appears in this movie. We also realize just how complicated Black Widow is, it was this movie that made me want the Black Widow film…her story is rich and we get glimpses of this in this film. We are also introduced to Falcon who is one of my favorite characters now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He may someday be Captain America’s replacement too when Chris Evans leaves, at least the new comics leave that option open which makes me happy. Again, this is a movie with consequences in the world of Marvel as a whole and has so many rich characters who all receive development. The scenes at the end also set up “Age of Ultron” really well in regards to two characters who will be appearing in it. Only issue with the film is that the Winter Soldier doesn’t get enough of development. He is a force of nature more than anything else. Still worth checking out though. It’s my favorite of the Disney Marvel films so far and stands strong on it’s own as a part of the greater whole. Not only that the issue of freedom and security is addressed in an awesome matter. It answers the “So what?” in regards to it’s own existence better than any Marvel film prior.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/captain-america-the-winter-soldier-an-amazing-spy-thriller-that-changes-the-marvel-universe/

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3) Birdman

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro truly created a masterpiece here. This movie critiques the culture of New York City, reveals the nature of lies (acting in a way is a lie, playing pretend and people want the lie for the story) and dealing with Ego and pride as Michael Keaton plays his greatest character so far in his best performance of all time. Not only does the film deal with issue that actually matter and how to grow beyond the ego and have an all star cast but it also has beautiful cinematography and the music which as a constant drum throughout is great at adding tension. This film was also filmed to look like a continuous shot so you feel like you are in a lived in world. The characters are all flawed and all of them are forced to grow from circumstances and situations. My only issue with this film is the ambiguous ending. So much of the film is about breaking out of ambiguity which is embraced at the end which sadly takes away from what could have been a perfect film. I put it above “Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” even though it has a lower score since it is an original film and not part of a franchise. In the era of franchises I greatly value the self-contained story.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10.

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/birdman-2014-a-surreal-exploration-of-meaning-and-ego/

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2) Noah

Director Darren Aronofsky

“Noah” is the best of Darren Aronofsky’s work in my opinion. It has a much better reason for it’s existence than “Black Swan” which is another favorite film and tackles if humanity is truly worth saving. It also has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in any movie. What elevates this film above “Birdman” it isn’t ambiguous. “Noah” is mad clearly and God is an abstract. It’s such a beautiful take on a mythological tale that I can’t help but appreciate it simply for existing. It gives fallen angels the look of giant rock golems and we see just how dark humanity can become and just how flawed Noah and his family are. There are no heroes in this film which gives the dilemma of humanity being worth saving truly an issue. It’s dark which is what Aronofsky’s specializes in, though as far as the ending goes it is more bittersweet than some of his other films… which is saying something,  given the premise of Noah is mass genocide of the human race. Great performances from Connelly, Watson and Crowe as well. Some of the best work I’ve seen from all of them. Definitely check it out if you like dark films with a point.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/noah-2014-the-meaning-of-humanity/

The Grand Budapest Hotel

1) The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director Wes Anderson

The greatest film of 2014 goes to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” This film tackles the very nature of story in that it is presented to us as the author talking about the book, which before is lead into with a child reading the book, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” at his monument. From here the richness only goes deeper as we see a country torn apart by war and corruption that our heroes live in. From the refugee Zero finding love with Agatha as they are both poor people with nothing except each other and Gustave H. who lives only for them and The Grand Budapest Hotel which is his legacy and what he puts his lifeblood into. The film explores the nature of humanity and we see cowards, heroes, villains and people of all types living in a harsh world where the people who have the ability to push forth their will use it to supress others…from the outcast immigrants like Zero, to Gustave H. because he doesn’t come from money and was loved by an old woman who was old money. This film shows us that family is more than blood and that sorrow can be around any corner, just like the good moments and adventures we have will always be with us. This is the best Wes Anderson film and one of my favorite film of all times. If you are looking for a timeless film and the best film of 2014, check this one out. It is worth every bit of praise it has received and is one of the greatest films of all time.

Score: 10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/edthe-grand-budapest-hotel-2014-of-story-the-nostalgia-from-loss-and-a-life-lived/

Super (2010): A Critique of Vigilantism

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James Gunn is great. After watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the celebration of super heroes and vigilantes it is great to see such an excellent critique of vigilantes…not quite “Watchmen” level critique, but still a pretty amazing deconstruction.

“Super” is directed by James Gunn as well as written by James Gunn. The film was produced by Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey.

The story is about Frank (Rainn Wilson) who is a character with mental issues who becomes a vigilante calling himself the Crimson Bolt after his wife gets involved with a drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he becomes a vigilante after a vision of the Finger of God touching him and the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) telling him he is chosen to be the hero, along the way he picks up Libby (Ellen Page) who works at the comic book store and becomes his sidekick Boltie. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – James Gunn knows how to capture a scene. There are beautiful visuals in this. From the comic sans words of POW during certain violent fight scenes, to the picturesque image at the end…the film is beautiful to look at.

Music – Much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Super” has an amazing soundtrack. The songs and music are catchy and bring a raw energy to the film. Tyler Bates did an amazing job with it.

Abe – Michael Rooker is one of the guys that Gunn uses in a lot of his films. He was Star-Lord’s adopted mercenary Father in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and here he is Abe, Jacques head bodyguard. He’s always eating sweets and even though he’s a thug he has some tender moments, you wonder why he’s doing the job in the end as he appears conflicted in quite a few scenes.

Sarah – Liv Tyler plays the wife of Frank and she is the one who the movie is really about. She is the “Chosen One” that Frank believes God called as she starts a family and moves on after all the events of being pimped out by Jacques, she moves on fully…both from her relationship with Frank and how tied down she was by the past. Her story is beautiful. Her family gives Frank meaning beyond the vigilantism that he grows past.

Jacques – Kevin Bacon makes a great bad guy. I’d like to see him play more villains after this. He’s a drug dealer and pimp who emotionally manipulates Sarah and tries out new drugs on her. He is also presented as smooth, suave and comes off as one of the normal characters. He is the one who calls out Frank on his Crimson Bolt persona and how he’s crazy…which he’s right. Frank took the black and white world to the extreme, which I’ll go into later.

Libby / Boltie – Ellen Page is nuts. When she is killing or beating up people she laughs maniacally. She is also the one who critiques Frank as she beats up someone who may have keyed someone’s car. Her death by Jacques’s thugs shows Frank the cost of what he is doing and how there could have been another way, as Libby would still be alive. She also has one of the darker scenes in this as as rapes Frank as the Crimson Bolt…

Frank / The Crimson Bolt – The protagonist isn’t all there. He watches tentacle porn and that is how God touches his brain making him believe he was the Chosen One to enforce the rules when The Holy Avenger speaks to him. He sees people as literal demons and acts on it. This leads to him taking out some bad people, but also a lot of innocents as people who but in line are also targets to be abused. He does eventually grow past his identity, largely because Libby shows him how he’s taken it too far. The Super Hero persona consumes her identity to the point where she thinks Frank will consent to sex if she makes him the Crimson Bolt, much like he thinks what he does is right if it is in the form of the Crimson Bolt. In the end he find his reasons to live and you get that he may have fully registered the amount of damage that was done to psyche when he went on the rampage to save Sarah, as well as the actions he’d done prior as the Crimson Bolt. For him it was worth it because Sarah was able to move on finally though, that was what helped him grow beyond his own reasons for taking the identity in the first place.

Deconstruction of Super Heroes – This movie does a great job deconstructing vigilantes and the super hero genre. Frank is really violent, even though he doesn’t kill, and he never seeks outside help which leads to his kid sidekick Libby getting killed. It can do good, which is recognized but to do it in the first place you have to have some mental issues for the world to be in such clear good and evil terms. Frank does…from his visions of the Holy Avenger and people as demons, to his targeting all people who are jerks or disobey the rules. For him everything is so stark and it has taken a tole on his psyche.

The Ending – Sarah’s kids send him pictures and he buys the bunny he’d been thinking about at the beginning of the film. What we see at the end is a man trying to move on who is grateful that he was able to help another move on and may be able to finally let himself move on too in the process. One of the best visuals in the film.

Cons: The Rape of Frank – This didn’t need to happen for Frank to wake up. It isn’t shown as positive thankfully, but there could have been another way for Frank to realize what he’d become. That his violence on others was similar to what had been done to him and how his identity allowed him to mask himself from responsibility.

Libby’s motivation – I wish we’d gotten more of Libby’s backstory. The reasons why she is the way she is and super violent are never explored…which I wish we could have got. She’s a fascinating character and Ellen Page does a great job in this role.

Would I recommend this movie? For sure, it is a great deconstruction and all the actors do an amazing job. James Gunn also shows why he was chosen to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t wait to see more of his work that he does later and has made it big…I also can’t wait to look back at more of his work.

Final Score is 9 / 10. Another favorite.