Before Marvel Studios released Iron Man in 2008 it was considered a risk. Few non-comic book readers knew of the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist before Robert Downey Jr. swaggered his way onto the big screen, and the rest is history. Risk has once again been the watchword in the build-up to Guardians of the Galaxy, the tenth film in Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe. Granted, it’s a lot stranger than a man in a metal suit, but Marvel have since proven how adept they are at realising their characters on the big screen. Guardians is their reward for those previous nine pictures, and as directed by James Gunn it’s a delightfully fun ride.
Kicking off with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008), the past six years have seen Marvel gradually build to become a blockbusting behemoth, the apex of which was ensemble adventure Avengers Assemble (2012). That success has granted Marvel the leeway to bring even more outlandish projects to the big screen, and in that regard Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is easily their riskiest venture yet. Directed by James Gunn, it’s the first and only ‘Phase Two’ instalment that isn’t a direct sequel to what’s already been established. As is the custom for big releases, the past few days have seen the marketing machine ramp up ahead of today’s big reveal, and now we finally have our first good look at our ‘cosmic Avengers’.
Derek Cianfrance made a name for himself with 2010’s acclaimed romantic drama Blue Valentine. For his follow-up, the director has again opted for drama, this time of the familial kind, with his ambitious fourth feature The Place Beyond the Pines (2013), which makes its way to DVD stands this week.
We begin with a visually arresting long take that introduces us to Luke (Ryan Gosling), one part of a bike-riding circus act. He soon discovers that Romina (Eva Mendes) has had his baby after their one night stand the last time he was in town. Despite the fact that Romina is now with Kofi (Mahershala Ali), Luke feels entitled to his family and is desperate to provide for them. That desperation leads him to oddball mechanic Robin (another great supporting turn from Ben Mendelsohn), and soon the pair are robbing banks. This in turn puts Luke on the radar of local cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).
There are some films which simply don’t need sequels, but these days it’s increasingly likely that studios will green-light follow-ups after a successful first outing. Such was the case with The Hangover (2009); the film struck a tone with cinemagoers, but spawned a lacklustre sequel. Director Todd Phillips and co are back for The Hangover Part III (2013), and whilst it’s a slightly better entry than its predecessor, the third (and final?) instalment still lacks the spark of the original.