Rewind Review: Kick-Ass

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass had been touted by some who had seen it prior to its release as the next generation of comic book movies which is a lofty moniker to live up to and some have fallen woefully short of this expectation. Kick-Ass not only reaches this lofty praise but fair exceeds it on many levels. It is a film that takes the subgenre in a new direction bravely and boldly.
One of the biggest contributing factors to this film’s overwhelming success is the outstanding performance of its lead cast. Aaron Johnson, as the title character, delivers what is likely to a be a star-making performance. While that ability has always been apparent he has yet to have such a showcase as this. His American dialect is not only unique but completely bulletproof such that many who have recently seen him interviewed were completely unaware that he is, in fact, British.
Probably the second biggest contributing factor of the film’s success, in terms of casting, is Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit Girl. While she too recently proved herself in a smaller role in the film Diary of a Wimpy Kid she absolutely breaks out here with a film that was released later but clearly shot first. In one of the better plot devices the film employs the title character/protagonist/narrator is the least skilled of the would-be real life superheroes and it is Moretz as Hit Girl and Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy who give us the audience the jolt of the graceful, intelligent, funny and nearly infallible heroes we expect. Yet as seeing this film will prove as the events are taking place in the real New York City and not Gotham there can be grave consequences for these vigilantes.

kick_ass25
Nicolas Cage delivers a performance in this film that once again is making me eat my words to an extent. Last year in the marginally bad film Knowing I lambasted Cage. It seems he took that film, and many in the action genre (Many of which are Bruckheimer-produced) off. It’s not an excuse for his line-ready badness at times but just a fact because in this film he was, dare I say it? Glorious. And this coming on the heels of The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He had something here to sink his teeth into and went at it full boar and created a superhero alter ego who seemed to be the bastard child of Adam West and William Shatner and was so funny he challenged my ability to control my Coca-Cola filled bladder.
Last but certainly not least in deserving a mention is Christopher Mintz-Plasse. While he will never be able to shake being McLovin’, nor does he really want to, he was starting to run the risk of being pidgeon-holed in a very small subset of roles with this he is still in the nerd vein but he did get to stretch a little bit and does play a character with dimensions, a struggle, an arc and ambition. In another fantastic twist, which shouldn’t be that hard to do, Kick-Ass gives us the origin story first as opposed to other comic franchises who insist on backtracking towards them in spinoffs, sequels and/or reboots.
Another major element this film benefits from is the implementation of verisimilitude. By constantly giving you reminders that this film is different from others in its ilk in as much as these are real people and not aliens beings or billionaires with fancy toys the stakes are raised greatly and almost anything can happen.
It is this very verisimilitude that allows the film to hit many different notes of emotion throughout the film and also play with tone going from comedy to drama to suspense with ease and in the blink of an eye.

Kick-Ass-set-christopher-mintz-plasse-21540308-1024-683
The facile nature of bouncing from tone to tone also allows the pace to stay steady such that when the pedal hits the metal and the film is driving towards the finish you are hooked and literally at the edge of your seat.
Another aspect in which this film separates itself and makes it somewhat different is that it also seeks to please by having our heroes have good kills. Generally this is a notion of the horror film genre when you know that the body count will be high so it’s a matter of creatively disposing of victims not so much the fact that they do die. The same applies here in this film where there are many henchman to work through before getting to the ultimate villain and the film really thought about how to fluidly and creatively have these obstacles eliminated.
One sequence towards the end where Hit Girl is in the enemy’s lair is not far off the finesse and prowess of the massive fight scenes in Kill Bill but like with that film to reduce this film to a massive bloodbath would be an injustice.

1ebeda0c-05ca-11e3-b4fe-005056b70bb8
As I frequently say, and will write on shortly, I am not one for hyperbole so take the following statement as an apt comparison, due to the fact that Kick-Ass ends with Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) reciting a line from the following film: I, not being a comic book film completist by any means, have been waiting for something like this since Batman and it is good to know that it can happen and that the exalted feeling I had leaving the movie theatre is not reserved for childhood.
10/10

Advertisements

Rewind Review – Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

This is quite an unusual Werner Herzog film. Of course, one must realize that the statement is quite nearly oxymoronic in as much as there is no standard or quintessential Herzog film. It just never really seems to have his stamp on it until we start seeing Terence’s hallucinations through our eyes rather than his; or rather in perspective rather than POV.

It is interesting to note Herzog insisted he wasn’t doing a remake but producers added the insinuation with the title, for marketing purposes and in crediting the original writer, for fear of law suit. What is most intriguing and at the same time most vexing about this film is that it is a tale which has a lot of circles, and they all close such that the film is nearly a Spirograph and the beauty of such a thing is in the eye of the beholder. The only reason it is vexing is because all these separate subplots are fine except a majority of them resolve themselves within two minutes of each other to very comedic effect, whether intentional or not.

Nicolas Cage is getting very good reviews for this film and they are deserved, the only minor caveat I will add is that saying this is him at his best may be a little inaccurate. Perhaps this is him in his type. As I scan his filmography I see where I have liked him previously and he was depressed, frantic or addicted to something. Where he’s been most effective has been in The Weather Man, Adaptation and Matchstick Men to mention more previous work, where he usually gets hammered, looks uncomfortable and falters greatly is in action parts like Knowing. No speculation as to why that is but the Nicolas Cage seen in this film is scarcely the same man as he was in Knowing and thank goodness for that because he has to carry the film.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009,  First Look Studios)

In the end it is definitely an interesting film and not your usual fare. It leaves you torn between the comedy and the sad absurdity of the situation. At some point it does almost become a bit too much but all that is alleviated by a brilliantly directed and acted closing scene. A scene which frames the starting point of the troubles in the tale and while substance abuse seems to be over you’re left to wonder about the rest.

What Herzog does in this film can be best described as flirting with film noir. Flirting is as far as it ever goes because Herzog will never tie himself down to the conventions of genre but the seedy underworld elements are there as well as the lack of a moral compass, yet with so many frames thrown into the mix and some of the camera-work it could never be considered as such – barring the obvious fact that it is in color. It also resembles the progeny of those who loved noir, the New Wave, with some standard technique thrown in for good measure.

Herzog really works brilliantly with this cast which is part of what brings such a strange story home in the end. So well does he work with them that two actors in particular were nearly unrecognizable because of how they acted in their roles: one being Xzibit as Big Fate, the drug dealer who is the target of an investigation McDonagh (Cage) is heading the other being Fairuza Balk as a Highway Patrol Officer.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009, First Look Studios)

What is also interesting is that the story followed in the film for a significant portion of it is the execution of an immigrant family in the slums of New Orleans. That investigation vanishes after a while like a red herring but then works its way back in very interestingly.

What Herzog creates here is as always an interesting cinematic experience but also a transparent and approachable story line that perhaps will get people interested in his work. This may be about as close to convention as he ever is but you do get a taste for his style.

7/10

Best Films of 2014: 15-11

This list began in two installments 25-21 and 20-16. It will conclude in one more part.

15. Oculus

Oculus (2013, Relativity Media)

I have often mentioned how merely starting a dialogue after having viewed a film is a boon in and of itself. Aside from that it is also my belief that horror cannot be safe, and in that vein this film is one that does tweak with things inasmuch as its not interested in motivating the malevolent entity at the center of the film. Furthermore, it is a film that plays in two time periods and features four tremendous performances (Brenton Thwaites, Karen Gillan, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan). It also offers its protagonists no safety whatsoever. You may not like it as much as I do, but it is most definitely looking out for.

14. The Drop

The Drop (2014, Fox Searchlight)

Even if you only know Dennis Lehane (Mystic River and Shutter Island specifically to this example) from the filmic adaptations of his written work you know there’s usually a huge reversal or fortune or what you thought you knew was true in the third act. In many prior instances this fact has lead to a downgrade of the overall quality of the film to varying degrees. Here quite the opposite happens and The Drop grows tremendously. Also, this film features an excellent turn by Noomi Rapace, one two absolutely stellar performances by Tom hardy this past year that earned him a BAM Award nomination, and one of the last films for James Gandolfini.

13. Joe

Joe (2013, Roadside Attractions)

“That dog is a asshole!” Perhaps one of the dividing lines between people who need black-and-white characterizations and those who can embrace grays are films like Joe. Joe (Nicolas Cage) likes dogs just fine, he loves his dog, but seeks to deal with one he dislikes with fatal finality. Similarly, he may not be what is commonly thought of as a good man but when he sees wrong he has to rectify it and he has to deal with it in his way whether society or people like it or not. His chance encounter with, employment of, and befriending of Gary (Tye Sheridan) brings another set of challenges to his life. There are bad things that happen in Joe, there is some redemption to be found, and closure too. It’s about some decent people in hard situations and how they respond. Joe is a tense film that is buoyed by accomplished direction and wonderful performances by Cage and Sheridan.

12. The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie (2014, Warner Bros.)

“Everything is awesome!” Or so Emmet and other people in the world of this story like to believe. In seeking out more is where the adventure begins and the commentary sets in. The Lego Movie is insanely meta, creative and funny. It also gets touching with its reveal. The song will get stuck in your head, the score will have you tapping your toes and those who ever felt confined by sets will find their liberation here. It was the first revisited film in 2014 and it will likely earn many other revisits by other people.

11. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013, Strand Releasing)

This is a film I didn’t re-watch yet but has lived off-and-on in my mind since I saw it. The initial ambivalence about it overall are fading away. Yes, I was floored by the sound mix, edit, the visuals and oneiric flow, but I think now that I’ve chewed on it enough that it’s the giallo elevation I wished Amer was, and whether or not I get it intellectually is almost secondary to its overall gut-punch impact. It’s a film you should allow to ravish you. I cannot guarantee that it will be as rewarding for the uninitiated as it is for someone who knows Giallo, well but if you stick with it and start to reconstruct the jigsaw you may well find you like it as well.

This list will conclude shortly.

Review- Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Columbia/Marvel)

Last year saw a rash of superhero films and I believe the consensus was that we as a moviegoing public were pleasantly surprised with how they turned out. While each of us may have had a different favorite overall, as a class, the superhero films of 2011 faired rather well. Now the number of films in 2012 I believe is less but the expectations are greater, which makes it a little strange that it kicks off with Ghost Rider. Now as is the case with any of these films I do preface it with my personal history with the character as I feel it does matter.

So far as Ghost Rider is concerned, though I have returned to the comics fold in the past few years, I know nothing about him coming into this film, which I think is likely the ideal for any of these films but it was a strange experience. Strange in as much as I can’t say I disliked this movie but only barely. I certainly found it very flawed and wanted many things to be better but I didn’t hate it. Not a ringing endorsement but a true and modest one.

Part of the reason I decided to watch this film was that it was reported in trades and elsewhere that it’d be a reboot and it kind of was but bearing that in mind it really skimmed over the pretty decent backstory this character has. Of course, owing to my ignorance of the character maybe the origin is even better than indicated here but it’s rushed through in a voice over. Granted we’re all weary of origins at this point but if you commit to something touted as a reboot you’re committing to re-sketching the character for dopes like me who know next to nothing about him.

The other issue is that much of the story hinges on two rites one religious and one irreligious that are really rather simplistic and anticlimactic considering how high the stakes are and how huge the tasks. Such large accomplishments with obstacles so small are rather silly.

This contributes to a certain inoffensive flatness in this film. It’s never really un-enjoyable but in this sequel that should’ve been the fix it seems the risk-taking is non-existent and the peaks and valleys of emotion are kept at a bare minimum.

In a similar vein to the above rite issue there’s also the problem that our hero gets a temporary reprieve from his gift/curse and that too is granted and reversed a bit simply. This dichotomy should be allowed to build and perhaps shouldn’t even be tackled in the “first” film of a storyline but the saving grace is that it is corrected cleverly.

I’ve written quite a few times on the conundrum of Nicolas Cage. A Nicolas Cage who is locked in can be a great thing. A Nicolas Cage just going through the motions can be very hard to watch. This turn is much closer to the former than the latter, which is good because aside from Ciarán Hinds, as his nemesis, and relative newcomer Fegus Riordan who is caught in the middle of the battle, he gets little help from the supporting cast.

The special effects in the film are pretty good but the 3D is not as good as one might expect a native 3D film to be.

In summation, I did like the story both of the character and that the character is in. Clearly, the way in which it is rendered leaves something to be desired. Essentially, it’s sin is not quite enough ambition as opposed to The Green Lantern but I do find it to be an adequate, enjoyable and not dissatisfying film.

6/10