Release Date: August 1, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Comic Book
Run Time: 121 min.
Director: James Gunn
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro

In terms of pure popcorn entertainment, summer 2014 has been a decidedly mixed bag. And in the wrong hands, Guardians of the Galaxy, like Transformers: Age of Extinction, could've been destined for a trophy case full of Razzies, too. Despite everything working against it, including a motley crew of characters not as well known as, say, Spider-Man or Iron Man, and the usually undesirable August release date, this tale from the outer fringes of the Marvel universe actually winds up being one of the year's biggest surprises.

Superhero movies are usually oh-so-serious business, but what makes Guardian of the Galaxy work so well is a funny, fast-and-loose style. While The Avengers may have the brawn, Guardians of the Galaxy is memorable in an entirely unexpected way. In an odd twist, what helps the cause most is that the casting department seems to have everyone starring in the wrong roles; opting for the less-than-obvious Chris Pratt (Delivery Man) as the leading man and Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) as the voice of a scene-stealing raccoon rather than the requisite eye-candy is nothing short of inspired. Even Vin Diesel (Riddick) seems to be having the time of his life, and he doesn't have a fast car or his muscles to fall back on.

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Since this isn't your average superhero fare, it wouldn’t work without a truly atypical hero, and Pratt more than fits the bill. With a compelling mix of clumsiness, charm and underlying decency despite his bravado, Pratt is the perfect match to play Peter Quill, a 'hero' whose journey begins as a young boy abducted from Earth on the night his mother died back in 1988.

After Peter's mom passes, he deals with his pain by not really dealing with it. While he is something of the ultimate loner destined for a quiet, less-than-memorable life, his peers are dead-set on it being anything but. Having grown up amongst a pack of total weirdos, gypsies and thieves, Quill thrives in very strange surroundings and becomes something of an ace pilot.

It's during one of his many adventures when Quill's life takes another unexpected turn. After discovering a very valuable and powerful orb that's wanted by everyone, particularly the despicable Ronan (Lee Pace, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), Quill becomes the most wanted man in the galaxy. With an army hot on his heels and a massive price on his head, Quill could definitely use a few good allies.