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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
3D Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro
Director: James Gunn
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Disney/Marvel
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: December 9, 2014

ďIím gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy.Ē

Film ****

Who could have guessed that the best feature to date from Marvel Studios was an adaptation of one of their lesser known properties? Thatís right, Iím here stating that Guardians of the Galaxy is the absolute best feature to surface from the same folks responsible for The Avengers. I guess youíre just gonna have to deal with it.

Itís not every day a madcap bonanza of this sort ends up being at the level of a masterwork, but thatís exactly what director James Gunn has accomplished here. This is a most original and triumphant balance of humor, space western, zaniness and Star Wars-esque action play, with even some truly heart-tugging moments thrown in for good measure. Itís also incredibly character driven, and given the ones in this movie thatís a pretty superb aspect.

After being abducted from his home planet by an alien race at a young age, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) grows up to be quite a slick thief and con artist. His latest grab, an orb of mysterious origin, results in him coming across other nefarious sorts in the galaxy. They either want their hands on the orb or want to cash in on the bounty currently offered for his capture.

To start with, thereís the green-skinned beauty Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has promised to retrieve the orb for her evil family, but has plans of her own. Then thereís Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a raccoon with a most destructive nature, as well as a giant tree-like accomplice named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). Rocket is looking to score a big payday as there is a huge bounty out for Quill, who prefers to go by his outlaw alias, ďStar LordĒ.

They are all soon captured and thrown into a galactic prison. It is there they meet an unexpected ally in Drax (Dave Bautista), who is seeking revenge on the evil Ronan (Lee Pace), who was responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. Ronan is also tied in with Gamora, which also puts them at odds. Following a complicated jailbreak, and discovering the powers that the orb turns out to posses, the five outlaws band together to destroy Ronan and his army.

In addition to the amazing balance I mentioned earlier, Guardians of the Galaxy is also a mind blowing visual spectacle. Itís easy these days for any big budget movie to showcase impressive visual effects, but this movie has phenomenal visual feasts in nearly every frame, in addition to the great effects work, giving each major set piece a life of its own. It is also easily one of the best 3D offerings of the year (more on that later).

The cast is also one of the most terrifically assembled ones of the year, as well. Chris Pratt, known mostly for his comedic work on Parks and Recreations and voicing the lead role in The Lego Movie, gives a breakthrough leading man type of performance as the wise-cracking Star Lord. The alluring Zoe Saldana (who I must say, looks even more so in her green skinned appearance...as shocking as that may seem) delivers perhaps her best work to date as a true butt-kicking female bad-ass role that is always appreciated. And wrestler Dave Bautista is most memorable in his role of Drax, who starts out as sort of the butt of every joke but grows into a surprisingly strong character.

But in terms of stealing the movie, that honor goes to the two vocal performances of the movie provided by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. Cooper is insanely brilliant in the role of my favorite character of the group, establishing a wise-guy type sound to his voice to the point where you at times forget itís actually him. And as for Diesel, heís only given a limited amount of dialogue and will steal your heart by the movieís end, bringing back fond memories of The Iron Giant.

Guardians of the Galaxy is that rare movie that can be enjoyed by the Marvel fans, as well as those not familiar with the universe. We have sequels to look forward to, as well as the possibility of them crossing paths with The Avengers in the future. Both of which have made me an extremely happy camper!

Video ****

As I mentioned earlier, the movie is one of the biggest and best visual spectacles of the year. This has resulted in one of the all around best Blu-ray presentations of the year, both in 3D and 2D. With the 3D version, you get an added bonus in the aspect ratio shifting to better showcase the effects heavy shots made for the IMAX release. The effects are extremely eye-catching, most colorful, and the 3D presentation doesnít show an ounce of ghosting. For 3D Blu-ray enthusiasts, this is without question a must own release, as it contains one of the best 3D presentations youíll ever see!

Audio ****

The same remarks can be said for the audio performance, as the 7.1 DTS HD mix makes tremendous use of both the many action set pieces and the terrific 70s pop music infused soundtrack, all coming courtesy of the lead characterís beloved mix tape of classic tracks from the era. Dialogue delivery is top notch and balanced out amazingly well with the music and action, making for a tremendously memorable sounding experience, in addition to being a visual one as well!

Features ***1/2

All of the extras are located on the 2D Blu-ray disc, and to start with we get a terrific and informative commentary with director James Gunn. Thereís a terrific featurette titled ďGuardians of the Galaxy with James GunnĒ, in which a lot of production detail is revealed in addition to cast and crew interviews, but it also features a nifty intro featuring an 8-bit Nintendo environment. Also included is two other featurettes, ďThe Intergalactic Effects of Guardians of the GalaxyĒ and a special exclusive look at the upcoming movie Avengers: Age of Ultron. Rounding out the extras is a Gag Reel and Deleted Scenes with optional Director Commentary.

Summary:

With Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marvel movie universe has expanded to greater heights. This is a one of a kind mixture of action and humor that makes it stand out from the rest of the bunch, with characters you wonít soon forget (especially that special crazy Raccoon!). In addition to being one of the best movies of the year, itís hands down one of the best Blu-ray presentations of the year too, particularly in 3D!

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