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Hail to the Marvel Kings. Part 2: James Gunn

Hail to the Marvel Kings. Part 2: James Gunn

By September 4, 2014 Pulp Non-Fiction No Comments

Gather around, my friends, today I’m going to tell you about a man called James Gunn.

He is a writer, director, producer, actor, musician and cartoonist whom you might know best for that super low budget film that came out this summer: Guardians of the Galaxy.

James career is quite eclectic: it goes from independent films to horror to dark comedy to a very interesting web series which I will talk about later.

He began his career at Troma Entertainment in the 90s, alongside his mentor Lloyd Kaufman. While working at Troma, James wrote his first film: Tromeo and Juliet, a transgressive comedy adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, very Troma-style (that is: use of shocking imagery, overt sexuality, nudity and gory, graphic violence). It’s one of those movies that made go “what the hell did I just watch?!” but then after processing it all, I thought “ok, it was pretty entertaining”. After all, it was selected to play at the Cannes Film Festival, the Fantasporto Festival, the Mar del Plata Film Festival and the Italian Fantafestival, where it won the award for Best Film of 1997.

Yes, it’s pretty graphic and weird in a very appealing way. I don’t know how to explain it; I’ll just say that it’s not for everyone. Your choice.

Also, Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead is the narrator. And that is awesome.

Tromeo and Juliet moviepostershop.com

He continued contributing to several Troma films, but his first major Hollywood screenplay was Scooby-Doo in 2002. Yes, Scooby-Doo! I remember how excited I was when it came out because I am a huge Scooby Doo fan. Anyway, two years later he wrote the screenplay to the sequel: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. That year he also wrote the remake of Dawn of the Dead. It was with these two films that James became the first screenwriter to have two films top the box office in consecutive weeks.

His directorial debut came in 2006 with the horror-comedy film Slither.
Please, let’s talk about Slither.

If you like horror B movies, you should watch it.
If you like the whole “living dead” theme, you should watch it.
If you like Night of the Creeps and graphic, gross creatures, you should watch it.
If you are a human that enjoys films, you should watch it.

Slither follows the story of the Grant Grant (yeah, I know) and Starla Grant. When an alien parasite takes over Grant’s body, a plague starts to take over a small town turning residents into zombies and mutant monsters. And basically Starla runs for her life and it’s awesome because it stars Michael Rooker, Elizabeth Banks and, please make room for one of my lords: Nathan Fillion.

There was controversy because of the similarities with Dekker’s Night of the Creeps but seriously: Slither is pretty freaking entertaining. I laughed, I shouted at the screen, and it made me reconsider my plan of attack for the zombie apocalypse.

Slither mattmulcahey.wordpress

His second movie was the comedy-drama Super. It’s the story of an ordinary dude who decides to become a superhero in order to save his wife, who left him for a drug dealer.

This movie won a special place in my heart because the ending made me cry and gave me some sort of an epiphany.

It’s with Super where we can see what James’ style is all about: dark humour, blood, neat make-up effects, and Michael Rooker.
Rainn Wilson (The Office) plays Frank Darbo aka Crimson Bolt, Liv Tyler plays Frank’s wife, Kevin Bacon is the bad guy and Ellen Page plays the foul-mouthed sidekick Libby aka Boltie.

The one huge problem here, which I have to say makes me extremely mad because both films are great (and both are on my list of favourites), is that Kick-Ass was released close to the time that Super saw the light. And it was a problem because Super is an original story while Kick-Ass is an adaptation and so many people believed Super was copying Kick-Ass. In reality, James knew Kick-Ass was happening during the production process of Super as he is a friend of Mark Millar (creator of Kick-Ass). Excuse the long explanation but I had to let these feelings out.

Super is worth the chance. Please watch it and let me know how the ending made you feel.

Super filmcrithulk

Between these two productions, James was a judge on VH1’s Scream Queens, made the comedy short-film Humanzee and a short web series for Spike.com titled James Gunn’s PG Porn.

PG Porn is one of those projects that are so great it made me go “why oh why didn’t I think of that before?!”, and know I have to live with that. The tagline is: “For people who love everything about Porn… except the sex”. It consists of eight episodes; all of them pornographic spoofs with something humorous and unexpected happening right before the supposed sexual acts commence.

It’s genius, really. You can find six of these episodes on James’ Youtube channel.

Don’t worry, the name says it all: it’s safe to watch anywhere. Guaranteed that you will laugh.

PG Porn hollywood.com

Last but definitely not least, the film that gathered us all here today: Guardians of the Galaxy. James originally pitched three different ideas to Marvel Studios but he was assigned to the “cosmic” side of the MCU. Thank you, Marvel.

By now I think all of you have already watched Guardians at least once, so there’s nothing I may spoil for you. Guardians may not have big amounts of blood like his previous films, but Gunn-style humour is there and the maximum proof is the Jackson Pollock joke. Let’s take a moment to thank Disney for letting that joke make the final cut.

There’s something about Guardians that still has me amused and that is James’ attention to detail: the film is full of Easter eggs. Probably the biggest example of this is The Collector’s place, where we can find a ton of interesting characters: from Howard the Duck hanging on a cage, to a chitauri and a dark elf, to the Slither creature right behind Taneleer Tivan.

One thing I have to mention is James’ A+ music taste, and “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” may be the biggest example. You are a liar if you say you didn’t dance in your seat or you deny you downloaded the soundtrack when you got home!

And the cameos! Guys, I thought I got them all but then I realised I never found James as the “maskless Sakaaran”. Among the many things I hope will be included in the Blu-ray is a commentary from James so I can know when he appeared as a Sakaaran. And a director’s cut. Because of reasons.

Thank geek heaven, we will have Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in 2017, with James coming back as director and writer. That, I believe, is guarantee of quality, epicness, badassery and big doses of humour.

GOTG geektyrant

What I’m really trying to say here is: thank you. Thank you James for making a film so good it made me escape from my reality for two hours. For making a film that served as a healthy emotional escape and entertained me non-stop. I also have to thank you for the soundtrack: I have a long-time love for ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ but thanks to you ‘I Want You Back’ is my new cheer-up song. The third time I watched it (because I watched it four times. No shame), I cried with the dancing baby Groot scene. It brings huge amounts of happiness to me that I was too overwhelmed and tears happened. Then I learned James was the dance-master behind those moves and that made the scene extra especial.

He is also the one to blame for my underwear dancing to ‘Awesome Mix-tape Vol.1’.

Thank you, James Gunn.

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