Posts Tagged ‘Evan Peters

22
Jun
18

“Bored? Let’s Have an Art Heist!” Movie Review: American Animals

american_animals.jpg

Starring Ann Dowd, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, and Udo Kier. Directed by Bart Layton

Not your usual heist.

Our story begins with four men dressed to be much older. Waiting. For what we know from the trailers – they’re committing an art heist. Why? That’s the question the movie answers whether you’re satisfied with the explanations or not.

Following the titles we get into the characters: Spencer Reinhard, (Barry Keoghan), a sensitive art student who excels at illustration (painting, drawing). Lost in the mire of classes he’s lost purpose in his life to the point of asking himself why he bothers with fraternity hazing. Stepping in to fill that void is Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), a guy whose credo is “fly by the seat of your pants.” Both are students at Transylvania University in the fall/winter of 2003. One day while visiting the University’s Library he enters their rare book collection and finds books of value which sparks a question: what would it be like to steal the book, sell it for money, and live off the cash? The purported value of said rare books is somewhere over $17 million…

So begins the plot, or rather journey, the characters take to commit an art heist that no one saw coming. Warren brings in other friends: the smart loner Erik Borsuk (Abrahamson) and Alpha-personality Chas Allen (Blake Jenner). Erik is there to help with the planning, Chas because he has money and winds in being their getaway driver (in a minivan, nonetheless). Cautiously and meticulously they observe the times to get into the Library, exit strategies, and etc. while teaching themselves how to commit a heist (including a scene from one of my favorites, “The Killing”)

If you know anything of the story you know that they pulled it off, were found out by the FBI, and sentenced to 7 years in Federal Prison. What you don’t know is how and why, which is where director Bart Layton steps in. Interspersed with the scenes of the actors going through the steps are “retrospective” shots featuring the REAL Warren, Barry, Erik, and Chas along each major beat of the story offering their perspective explanation as to what was going on (sometimes conflicting). It reminded me a lot of “When Harry Met Sally” or more importantly, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” whereby others, including the librarian who was subdued during the heist, offer their recollections and opinions. Structurally you can run parallels to “I, Tonya.”

Does it work? It the very least it’s an interesting take on how to do a heist film. Instead of a fictionally-plotted occurrence everything that happened DID actually happen in the way portrayed. The reactions from the real participants is REAL as opposed to conjured up for movie’s sake. Just like in the movies the heist was based on people make stupid mistakes. And, like so many heist films, they’re found out in the end (although there is only speculation as to how they were found as opposed to FBI agents commenting on what happened).

Overall, I enjoyed the film. Then again, I always enjoy a good heist movie. While watching the film I looked at the films they rented just to make notes on how to do a heist and realized I owned most of them (including “Rififi”). This isn’t “Inside Man,” “Heat,” “The Bank Job,” or the “Killing” – this, while very much like them, is something different.

Is it worth your time? Sure. At the very least check it out matinee or even wait for it at Redbox. In a pseudo-documentary sort-of way it’s a sobering look at boredom and “crossing the line.” As one of the characters states you don’t know UNTIL you cross that line and, maybe, that’s less the moral but more the point of the film. While you’re at it check out the director’s previous film, “The Impostor.” It’s true and somewhat unsettling.

My Grade: B

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08
Jul
10

“Kick-Ass” and Take Names

Or was that ass-kicked?

Starring Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Lyndsy Fonseca, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloe Moretz, and Nicolas Cage. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

I will say it over and over again: I’m not a huge fan of the superhero genre. For every good superhero movie (“Superman,” “Batman,” “Spider-Man”) there are the less-than-stellar attempts at bringing others to the silver screen (“Daredevil,” “Hulk”) as well as attempts to resurrect a franchise (“Superman Returns,” “The Incredible Hulk”). And let’s not forget the made-up/not so renown ones (“Blankman,” “Steele”). I’m writing this on the eve of “Iron Man 2,” which I suspect will be the popcorn blockbuster that the first entirely was and that’s fine with me.

“Kick-Ass” is based on a darker graphic novel and follows Dave Lizewski, your Peter Parker-ish high school quintessential 98+ pound weakling. He’s in love with the beautiful but impossible to have Katie Deauxma (Fonseca). His two best friends Marty (Duke) and Todd (Peters) hang out with him each day at Atomic Comics. Dave’s life is the epitome of boring and mundane: he goes to school, his dad goes to work, they eat the same brand knock-off cereal, etc. In short, blah.

Out of this stagnation comes a twisted idea: what if he became a superhero, like in the comic books? His friends dismiss it saying that it would be crazy. Unless a person happened to be like Batman or whoever else why would anyone want to do it? Again, crazy idea. But not for Dave…

Hopping on the Net he orders a green with yellow trim wetsuit and some batons. He adopts the name Kick-Ass and in the beginning he’s more the reverse: his ass gets kicked. He has no fighting skills or training or cache of money to rely on. This doesn’t deter him because he has the one thing that superheroes need: a heart. After an attempt to thwart carjackers leaves him bleeding from a stab wound, as well as getting hit by a car, he emerges from the hospital with enough metal inside him to rival Wolverine. This clinches his idea of becoming a superhero.

Enter the main bad guy, lumber supplier and drug kingpin Frank D’Amico (Strong). After a deal goes bad Kick-Ass is to blame and becomes his personal center of revenge. The kingpin’s son, Chris (Mintz-Plasse), concocts a plan to get close to Kick-Ass by becoming a superhero himself.

Kick-Ass finds allies in Hit Girl (Moretz) and Big Daddy (Cage). Big Daddy had been a cop who refused to bend to D’Amico and became framed. Sent to prison for five years his then wife OD’d on drugs but lived long enough to give birth to their daughter, Mindy. Mindy and father become reunited after he’s released whereby she becomes Hit Girl and he Big Daddy. Their mission: bring down D’Amico.

I’ll leave the story description there because let’s face it: you’ve seen the plot points before. What makes this movie differ from the rest is that it knows the source material that came before it and plays to the audience. Dave narrates the film with that “I’m telling you but you should probably already figure it out” sense of sarcasm. He knows that he doesn’t have the Batman story of revenge, or the Spider-Man story of being bitten by a radioactive spider. He knows and comes to terms with the fact that superheroes grace comic books for a reason: they are in an alternate reality. By finding his own humanity he does manage to become a superhero which is just as good.

My thoughts? I enjoyed the hell out of this movie. When Nicholson in “Batman,” exclaimed, “What this town needs is an enema,” he may as well have been talking about the superhero genre. After knowing the backstories to every-other Marvel or DC character and knowing the story arcs, we’ve become so accustomed to how the story is supposed to play out that all we can do is venture whether or not this set of characters did it well.

And these do. Kick-Ass goes from being the high school dork to superhero sensation. He befriends others trying to help the cause. He fights the bad guy and wins. And, there’s the offspring of a future nemesis.

Aside from this, “Kick-Ass” is a film I would suggest to young filmmaker wannabes/gonnabes because there are so many styles put into this film. Director Matthew Vaughn’s debut movie was “Layer Cake,” but this plays closer to “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” and “Snatch,” both movies he produced with Guy Ritchie. For those who miss the sense of humor those movies had in Ritchie’s current work check this one out; you’ll find the person it came from. Whether the movie plays like Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” or like “A Scanner Darkly,” or even like a video game, it keeps you on your toes for what to expect. It may not be the greatest achievement in film but I can liken it to “Kill Bill Vol. 1” in terms of mashing together various styles.

Aaron Johnson does a great job at being the high school dork-come-superhero with heart and I expect that he’ll get a lot more work because of it. I’m not going to guess what his range is but he played the part perfectly. Nic Cage does an interesting turn as Big Daddy, a Batman wannabe down to his lookalike custom and Adam West-pregnant pausing sentences.

The real thing about this movie is Mindy/Hit Girl. She’s twelve, cusses worse than a sailor, and could out-John Woo any situation. A lethal killing machine that hasn’t even gotten to high school yet. I’ve heard friends say that this is controversial in other cities and maybe they’re talking about it here. But hey guys: it’s just a movie. Sit back, relax, and try to have fun watching it.

I wish I could recommend this to everybody but I know that tastes vary and that there will be a lot of people offended by this one. So I’ll recommend this one to those who love superhero movies, those who like them, and those who are all about satire.

My grade: B+

Chas Andrews is a freelance writer, blogger, movie critic, what-have-you. Check out his hardboiled crime tale, The Big Adios, at http://aidencobb.blogspot.com