Kick-Ass

August 20, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (Matt’s Take)

Kick-Ass 2 – Subversive

SUBVERSIVE


*Caution, there might be some naughty language in this review*

Before I start this review, I’d like to begin with a story;  Normally, I don’t like hearing kids in movies, and as a personal preference, kids shouldn’t be attending films meant for adults in a movie theater setting.  I have nothing against kids watching R-rated films, just make sure they shut up and don’t talk while I’m trying to enjoy the film.  Anyway, while watching “Kick-Ass 2” this past weekend, the film I’ll start reviewing in a minute, there was a scene where, spoiler alert, a box is dropped to reveal a stash of S&M gear, including a set of anal beads.  Now, imagine being the parent(s) of the child that you brought into “Kick-Ass 2” only to be asked in the middle of film “What are those?”  That kid is a winner in my book, whereas the parents as losers and got exactly what they deserved.

Anyways, “Kick-Ass 2,” the follow-up to the 2010 cult hit, has some hits and misses, and decides that it wants to be as subversive as possible, which somewhat robs it from whatever charm that it could have had.  I agree with numerous other reviews that I’ve come across and yes, it’s not as good as the first film, but how many sequels are, just watch the sequel conversation from “Scream 2” and you’ll get your answer.

Once again we follow Dave and Mindy, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, respectively, still fighting crime in New York.  Now living with her murdered father’s friend, Marcus, Mindy is being forced into living a quiet life free of Hit-Girl.  Dave, on the other hand, is still fighting the good fight with a new group of super-heroes calling themselves “Justice Forever,” including Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison).  Meanwhile, still sore about his father’s death, Chris D’Amico takes up the mantle of the city’s first supervillain “The Mother Fucker,” and begins recruiting a team of super-villains, aptly calling themselves, “The Toxic Mega-Cunts,” to destroy Kick-Ass.

Now, if you thought the first “Kick-Ass” was subversive, and off the wall, “Kick-Ass 2” has it beat.  What I couldn’t help noticing is all the talk about pedophiles and an extreme undercurrent of sexual tension between Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, which gives their relationship a certain element of creepiness.  I understand the idea behind their relationship; Dave’s mother is dead and Mindy’s father died in front of her, so each character is seeking that additional parental figure, and not being a reader of the comic, perhaps this is expounded upon more in the books.  The film also features attempted rape, multiple cop killings, and plenty of jail-bait “mean girls.”  The film goes for an extra squirm factor this time around, and it makes “Kick-Ass 2” come off as cheap more often than not.

What made “Kick-Ass” work was the way it made superheroes seem real.  They bled, had their bones broken, shoot, Kick-Ass was banging his girlfriend on a motorcycle at one point.  Would Batman do that; probably not, but would a super-hero without much discipline do that; hell yes they would!  “Kick-Ass 2” expands on the idea that anyone can be a hero, even two parents that are just looking for their lost son.  The other element that worked for the first film was it’s inclusion of the social media.  With social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, expanding exponentially since 2010, the use of social media for the sequel is more gimmicky and doesn’t add as much to the progression of the plot.  It almost seems like a cash-in for the sequel where Facebook or Twitter adds another zero to the bottom line every time a character mentions “The Mother Fucker just posted this on his Twitter account!”

Could Matthew Vaughn have done a better job as the helmer of “Kick-Ass 2” as opposed to Jeff Wadlow, who’s claim to fame was the underwhelming “Scream” knock-off “Cry_Wolf?”  I’d go out on a limb and say yes.  A director with a pedigree like Vaughn could have reigned in the insanity and given the film a more polished look.  Not that I’m knocking Wadlow, he did an admirable job in the director chair, but the film’s reliance on CG and some shaky camera work during some of the fight scenes, made me realize that he’s no Matthew Vaughn.  “Kick-Ass 2” gets the job done if you want to see how far a superhero film will go as far as violence and gore, but when a film tries so hard to go as far as it can, shock just to shock, gross out just to gross out, the magic of the film gets lost and you’re left with kids in the theater asking what anal beads are.

Fun Fact:  Colonel Stars and Stripes from the film is actually a combination of two characters from the “Kick-Ass” comics.  Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes, both ex-Mafia enforcers.

August 19, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (DJ’s Take)

CLUMSY

Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 film Kick-Ass is one of my favorite superhero movies ever.  It really breaks down the archetypes, underlying messages, and mythos of superheroes just as well as M. Knight Whats-his-face’s Unbreakable did.  It pulled no punches and entertained from start to finish.  Even the low ticket sales for Kick-Ass didn’t stop it from becoming a cult hit.  It is the pure definition of lightning in a bottle.  Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.  Kick-Ass 2 lends some credence to that old saying.  Whoa!  Whoa!  Whoa!  Easy fanboys.  I’m not saying Kick-Ass 2 is a bad film.  It’s fun.  It’s mostly entertaining.  Compared to it’s predecessor though, the movie comes off as just a little too CLUMSY.

Not to sound presumptuous, but I kind of knew this was coming.  New writer/director?  Check.  Concept lacking initial luster and shock factor?  Check.  Actors who seem to have grown out of their characters age-wise and talent-wise?  Double check.  The writing was on the wall, but I hoped to be proven wrong.  Sadly, the magic of the first film is never fully recaptured in this sequel.  A very common occurrence with sequels as a whole.  The frustrating thing is that there are moments in Kick-Ass 2 that you start to feel the same joy of the original.  Then the movie quickly stumbles and squanders those moments.  It’s like watching a newborn doe trying to walk or a child learning to ride a bike without the training wheels.  Just when you think they got it, they fall flat on their face.

Kick-Ass 2 is a victim of it’s own genius.  The first Kick-Ass, in my opinion, should have been left as a stand-alone.  Yes, I know this film is based on creator Mark Millar’s follow up comic book series aptly named Kick-Ass 2.  However, Hollywood is so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a sequel that they don’t stop to think if they should.  Yes, I’m indirectly quoting Dr. Ian Malcolm.  But it is to make a valid point.  For every Jaws, there is a Jaws 2.  For every Men In Black, there is a Men In Black 2.  Speed, The Sting, The Fly, The Matrix.  I could go one.  Some films hit the mark so perfectly the first time, it is best to just leave well enough alone.  I personally wish that thinking was used for Kick-Ass, because it pains me to see the sequel not live up to the expectations.

There are some interesting concepts attempted in the film that I was very enthusiastic to see.  Hit Girl trying to deal with high school sounds great on paper.  But even with the…how should I put this…messy end result, I felt a little shortchanged.  With all the emphasis of this movie obviously switching over to Hit Girl, you’d think the film would spend a little more time filling out that arc.  Chris D’Amico becoming the first ever supervillain sounds great on paper.  However, you don’t get a fully fleshed out arc of him going to the darkside either.  It is done through quick disjointed scenes and a humorous but also rushed montage.  Even Kick-Ass himself joining a team of real world heroes is passed over so fast you don’t get a chance to really enjoy it.  This is due to one of the main flaws I think this film has.  The running time.  With a film with so much more going on in it, you’d think it would be much longer than the original.  Not fifteen minutes shorter.  I know the impatient filmgoers/youth of today scoff at anything longer than two hours.  However, I can’t help but think that this film needed a much longer running time to properly tell this story.  I mean, I haven’t even mentioned that they try and pack in a storyline with Kick-Ass and his father, Hit Girl her surrogate father, a break up, a romance, an unrequited romance and a friends growing apart angle all in a film that is a smidge over an hour and a half.

The performances thankfully are one of the few things that don’t decline in this sequel.  Aaron Johnson still delivers the comical awkwardness of Dave Lizewski.  You still pull for him and still believe in him.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse hams it up a lot, but you never get annoyed by it because it totally fits his character.  Jim Carrey, is not as delightfully quirky as Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy, but has a fun and surprisingly restrained performance.  Chloë Grace Moretz’s return to the character that put her on the map was the one thing I was initially worried about.  I’ve stated how much of a fan of her I am.  And she herself has proven to be a fine actress since.  However, time has erased much of the novelty of her age matched with her attitude in this role.  Thankfully, the strength, wit, and charm of Hit Girl are still brought to bear by Moretz and still makes her a great character.  Though maybe not a fresh one.  The story takes Hit Girl out of her element, as I mentioned before.  A take no prisoners superhero forced to deal with the hierarchies and cliques of high school?  Awesome!  And Moretz does a great job with what she is given.  It just feels hurried.  Thankfully Moretz will get a similar crack at this subject matter in her upcoming take on Carrie.

Moretz and all her fellow performers, however, suffer from a script that has too much expositing and too little clever dialogue.  A ratio that was clearly flipped in the original.  Speeches are given by these characters almost at nauseum.  And where it felt natural in Kick-Ass, it feels out of place here.  Don’t believe me?  Drinking game then.  Take a shot whenever someone gives a overly wordy, long winded, score driven speech that completely stops the story’s momentum.  I’m not talking about Dave’s narration either.  It literally happens with Hit Girl in back to back scenes.  A character who is supposed to be the true definition of short and sweet.  She is supposed to show, not tell.  Writer/Director Jeff Wadlow navigates his way around these characters like a CLUMSY late night watchmen.  Matthew Vaughn would have guided them better on the page and behind the camera.

Kick-Ass 2 again is not a horrible film.  In a summer of disappointments, it ranks as just fine.  But for a film that is supposed to be the celebrated follow up to one of the most original superhero films ever made, it under-delivers.  It won’t scar you like Green Lantern or upset you like The Amazing Spider-Man, but it certainly won’t kick your ass.  Don your costume…stay away from sick sticks…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

March 26, 2013

The Simplistic Reviews March Madness Bracket of Good and Evil Round One Results: FILM GOOD

JAMES BOND (1) WINNER
TOXIC AVENGER (16)

One is a mutated, tutu-wearing, former gym janitor, the other is a secret agent that probably has had sex with a lot of girls who wear a tutu for a living.  New Jersey’s own, Toxic Avenger, may have the moves with the mop, but it all comes down to James Bond’s Golden Gun, and he wasn’t firing blanks this time.  Bond delivers “From Russia, With Love” a victory for jolly ole’ England.

INDIANA JONES (2) WINNER
TONY STARK (15) 

Tony may be a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.  However, Indy is an archeologist, professor, pilot, equestrian adventurer, WWII secret agent, playboy, oh…and survived the Ark Of The Convenant and drank water from THE HOLY F%*KING GRAIL.  Even Stark would have to give it up for that one.

JOHN McCLANE (3) WINNER
FOXY BROWN (14)

John McClane has always had tough luck with women.  He either divorces them or kills them.  This one he kills.

ELLEN RIPLEY (4)
CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW (13) WINNER

This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway; Jack Sparrow knows how to charm a lady.  Even if that lady has faced Xenomorphs, androids, and criminal rapists in an intergalactic penal colony.  Savvy?  Ellen Ripley appears so.  However, before she can unload her pulse cannon, the crafty captain boards her ship, shivers her timbers, and hoists his main sail (innuendo).  I’m sure Ripley would welcome a facehugger after a night with Captain Jack Sparrow, who upsets one of the heavy hitters in this bracket.

HAN SOLO (5) WINNER
HIT-GIRL (12)

Han shot first…nuff said. 

CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK (6) WINNER
BEATRIX KIDDO (11)
Beatrix Kiddo may be a world class assassin , but she has always been a sucker for charismatic older men.  And they don’t get any more charismatic than James T. Kirk.  Suffice to say Kirk gives The Bride the night of her life before setting his phaser to kill.

MAXIMUS DECIMUS MERIDIUS (7)
SARAH CONNOR (10) WINNER

It was that time of the month…You know what I mean guys…you know.

BATMAN (8) WINNER
JASON BOURNE (9)

Batman has dealt with his share of criminals, killers, and psychotics.  But I can’t say he’s dealt with an ex-CIA agent with a bad case of amnesia, a chip on his shoulder, and the ability to kill someone with a pencil or a book.  The Dark Knight had to pull out all of the tricks from his utility belt to deal with Jason Bourne, who got in a few early shots.  However, he was ultimately dealt a mortal wound courtesy of a Batarang.  He might not be Deadshot, but Bourne was merely a shot away from dispatching Gotham’s protector in this hotly contested battle.
October 5, 2012

31 Nights Of Halloween, Let Me In

CRAFTY

Okay, listen.  I mean the following statement in the most uncreepy way possible.  And that statement is….I absolutely adore Chloe Grace Moretz.  If someone asked me who I think will be the next great female actress, I’d quickly and easily point to Moretz.  Most know her as Hit-Girl from the amazing film Kick-Ass.  And though it is her signature role, Moretz has proven in all her roles to have the one thing child actors rarely have. The same thing Natalie Portman possessed at 13 when I first saw her in Leon The Professional.  That thing is range.  The distinct ability to perform an array of human traits and emotions convincingly.  Most people thought that Dakota Fanning was an amazing child star because she was a little girl talking like an adult.  However, that is pretty much all she could do.  She didn’t have anywhere near the range of Moretz or even her younger sister Elle.  Moretz can play a believable (BRITISH!) girly girl as she did in Hugo.  She can play a dry witted, mature for her age tomboy as she did in 500 Days Of Summer.  She can play a manipulative con artist as she did on 30 Rock.  And as we watch her…we believe every moment.  What makes her performance as Hit-Girl so great is that we can see the little girl in there.  She knows you can see it and uses that to her advantage.  But she can also switch on a dime to a badass and we believe that too.  She recognizes the different subtleties of human behavior.  And she’s recognized it before one note actors twice her age.  Legally I’m not allowed to gush over her anymore, but suffice to say Chloe Grace Moretz is the sh*t. (I’m sooo getting served a restraining order)  So allow me to talk about one of the few films I hadn’t seen her in.  The 2010 film Let Me In.

Let Me In is a remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In.  Writer/Director Matt Reeves follows the blueprint in making a classic horror film perfectly while still presenting something new and fresh.  Blood?  Yes.  Gore?  Yes.  But Reeves doesn’t throw it in your face like most horror films do now a days.  He hides and obscures the gore in some instances and lets the viewers imagination fill in the blanks.  But I don’t see this as just a basic horror film.  And that is where its CRAFTY.  Let Me In is a touching…truly touching…adolescent love story that just so happens to be between a boy and a vampire.  Chloe’s character Abby could have been an alien or an angel or a ghost and the story between them could have played out pretty much the same.  A relationship solely based on trust.  Reeves takes his time and lets you see their relationship grow.  For the climax of the film to seem believable, you really have to feel and see that happen.  It is something that modern slasher/horror films would have quickly rushed through.

Chloe is, once again, marvelous.  However, the performance of Kodi Smit-Mcphee should be applauded.  His chemistry with Chloe feels entirely genuine and the range he shows…there goes that magic word again…throughout the film is great.  The expression on his face while examining an old photo strip in Abby’s apartment stands out to me.  We can see him realize he’s staring at his possible future.  A small but solid performance is also given by the always interesting Richard Jenkins.

If Chloe Grace Moretz is my favorite actress of the future, Michael Giacchino is probably my favorite composer of the present.  The man has done a litany of iconic scores in his career that differ wildly, yet still are all reminiscent of each other.  He should be mentioned with Elfman and Zimmer and Williams. His score in Let Me In not only sets the mood of the piece, but tells so much of the story as well.   Giacchino turns a very gruesome scene on a hospital balcony into probably the most moving moment in the film.  You learn everything about the relationship of those two people on that balcony, and only four words are spoken.  Giacchino did a lot of that.

Of the three of us here at Simplistic Reviews, I’m probably the least big a fan of the horror genre. Possibly because I’m a gigantic fraidy cat.  Possibly because the majority of horror films tend to be the most clichéd and stereotypical of any other genre.  So when I find a film that is smart and different and well crafted while still containing the elements of horror, I go out of my way to praise and recommend it.  Let Me In is worthy of that distinction.  Turn the lights out…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

September 3, 2012

Snow White And The Huntsman

YAWN

More like SLOW White And The Huntsman…am I right? (Cheap Rimshot)  Sorry.  I’m sorry.  God I really don’t want to lay into this movie.  I really don’t.  The concept, the idea, the attempt to try and make something different inside the cookie cutter constant cliched world of Hollywood should be applauded.  Its hard to find films that have balls anymore.  Films that strive to be unflinchingly different no matter what the studio execs say.  When done right, when left alone, those cojones carrying films shine like a beacon through the forest of monotony.  The reason different, interesting concept films aren’t a plenty in Hollywood is because for every Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, there is a Frank Miller’s The Spirit.  For every Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted there is a Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  Slow…I mean…Snow White And The Huntsman has cojones but just doesn’t know what to do with them.

So what do we got on paper?  Lets take the tale of Snow White and make it a dark and edgy (Sigh…Thanks Nolan) action filled visual masterpiece circa The Lord Of The Rings.  Awesome!  I want to see that.  Lets make it PG-13. Ummm…kinda goes against your desire to make it edgy but…fine.  Lets cast Charlize Theron And Chris Hemsworth in it.  Terrific!  Lets only use them for a tenth of the runtime.  What?  That seems stupid.  You usually want to have your best actors in your movies MORE not less.  Unless you’ve got a really good actress to play Snow White.  Who do you got?  We got Kristen–Bell?  That could be cool.  Veronica Mars.  I like her.  No.  KristenWiig?  She’s a little old for the role.  But at least she’s funny.  No.  Kristen Stewart.  What?  Kristen Stewart.  The Twilight chic?  Yep!  The lip biting Twilight chic?  Yep!  Pumped yet?

I knew all of this going in but still anticipated watching the edgy action filled movie that I was sold on.  And the problem is…the action takes FOREVER to come.  Oh its there, in spurts.  But man, if there weren’t several 25 minutes segments where NOTHING HAPPENS.  A large majority of this film is scenes of Theron gazing into space or Stewart walking through the woods.  If you’re going to promote your film to be this action slash adventure re-imagining, you have to give me some action SLASH adventure.  All that seems to have been accomplished by this re-imagining is making a fairy tale look as dreary as possible.  Its like someone poured black mud over the entire film.  The dreariness seems to bash you over the head to the point where you don’t even recognize ANYTHING that is supposed to be action, adventure, or Snow White.  If that was the point, then the point is stupid.

I only pepped up from my head nodding drowsiness while watching this movie twice. First is when Hemsworth appears.  And that takes a good thirty minutes.  Second was when the dwarves arrive.  Hemsworth and the dwarves are the only source of levity, fun, or entertainment in this entire film.  And as I’ve mentioned before…THEY ARE HARDLY IN IT.  You have the great Ian McShane and Ray Winstone,  the hilarious Nick Frost, the always interesting Toby Jones and the legendary but sadly retired Bob Hoskins and you barely use them?  Instead, you force-feed us Stewart’s STILL NOT CUTE blandness and wooden delivery for two hours.  Stewart’s YAWN inducing acting might have been correctable if the director of the film wasn’t so busy sleeping with her on the set.  Hmmm….Perhaps I’ve gone too far.

Snow White And The Huntsman does have some amazing effects.  The performances from the supporting cast are really good…probably due to the better actors being forced into supporting roles.  Theron does a good wicked queen, which could have been a great wicked queen if the “preoccupied” director asked her to reel it in a little bit.  But at the end of the day, its just boring.  An action film that makes you sleepy IS NOT A GOOD THING.  Snow White And The Huntsman is a swing and a miss that only gives unimaginative Hollywood execs ammunition against films that go against the grain.  And for that, I can not forgive it.  Take a handfull of NoDoze…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.

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