Posts Tagged ‘mark strong

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

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30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Winding his way down on Baker Street…

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is back in the latest adaptation from director Guy Ritchie. The story begins with the illustrious English detective (Robert Downey, Jr.) infiltrating a building’s basement, slowly closing in on a sacred ceremony. Friend and assistant Dr. John Watson (Law) is blocks away and not far behind, bringing with him Scotland Yard’s finest presided over by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). Meanwhile, back at the ceremony, a woman in a white dress lies on a stone slab and convulses as incantations are muttered by guys in black robes surrounding her. Watson quickly joins Holmes and they stop the ceremony, arresting its leader Lord Blackwell (Strong).

Blackwell is tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. For his last request he calls for Holmes. Holmes is in a slump, having no clientele for weeks and spending time with experimentation over socialization. Watson is moving out and planning to wed Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Answering the request Holmes visits Blackwell at prison who tells him that three people will die and he cannot do a thing about it. Also, Holmes will question his sanity and he will rise from the grave. Blackwell is subsequently hanged and Watson confirms that he’s dead.

Or is he? Holmes and Watson are called down to the cemetery because Blackwell has apparently risen from the grave. Preceding that long-lost love and cat burglar Irene Adler (McAdams) re-enters Holmes’ life. She needs him to find out about a guy named Reordan (Oran Gurel). Who she is working for and why is a mystery. Holmes finds Reordan in Blackwell’s coffin and while the whole scene looks like dark magic, to Holmes it smells like something else. Holmes is then abducted by a Secret Society that keeps order in England and who are afraid of Lord Blackwell as well as the black magic he wields.

Caught between a conspiracy, a secret order, and dark magic, Holmes and Company must keep themselves alive long enough to figure it all out. When Irene is nearly cut to pieces Holmes gets away unscathed –until barrels filled with explosives almost take his life, along with Watson and Adler. He’s woken to find that Blackwell, who is now calling the shots over Scotland Yard, wants him brought to his justice. The game is afoot (had to put that somewhere in here) as Holmes uses his wits, strength, and powers of deduction to stop Blackwell and save Parliament.

I liked it. It may not be the best movie of the year (ok, it’s not) but it’s far from the worst and a decent addition to the Sherlock Holmes catalog. I found the movie to be entertaining, witty, funny at times, and decently original.

Let me start off with what worked for the movie. First, it’s difficult to have a character such as Sherlock Holmes and “re-invent” him. The guy has been in movies since 1905 and TV since its inception; Basil Rathbone is the most renown of actors to have played him. Add to that our society’s cynicism (I’m not saying it isn’t undue) about re-inventing characters for franchise (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.) and there are some heavy odds to battle. I’ll give Guy Ritchie the fact that he did a fairly solid movie without relying on too much substance.

Instead of making an “origin” story, or basing the film on a previous book, Ritchie instead opted to craft a creative story that involved dark magic, a difficult subject to tackle in the mystery/suspense genre. “X-Files” pulled it off pretty well, but a late-19th century detective dealing with black magic? Current culture might not be on the boat with that idea, but I found it original enough to keep my interest.

While “Snatch” had amped the style found in “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” Ritchie has kept a good deal of his filmmaking style down (undoubtedly hampered by Madonna). This, his first post-Madonna feature, has him back telling a solid story and taking a few risks (original story). One scene has Holmes in a boxing match. With the folk music playing in the background, it felt like the bare-knuckles boxing match in “Snatch.” Also, there are jump-cuts and fast edits that Ritchie fans will be familiar with. Lastly, the recap on how Holmes “figured it all out” was pretty cool.

One thing I have a problem with is the formula for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Although I will state that as of this writing I have not read any of the books, I know the formula: mystery that leads to a rapid resolution at the end where everything is explained (best used in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) It works for this film because the ending justified the means of getting there, but the “non-motive” formula (where the reason why is really thin and it’s merely an explanation of how things got to where they did) is not conducive to our “CSI” society. Or maybe that’s me.

On the downside, I wanted more –umph- from the movie. I felt like it was too soft, like Ritchie wanted to make something geared more for teenagers and maybe senior citizens instead of adults or kids. I hoped for something great but the return was good/better than mediocre. Plus some of the CG of olde England didn’t feel finished or detailed enough.

As for RDJ as Holmes… interesting. Sherlock Holmes has always been a stoic, staid character. In this movie Ritchie, and Downey, portray him as more of a discombobulated scientist-meets-detective. Law as Watson has more control over emotion and deduction than Holmes. I’m not saying this is bad, just different. McAdams’ Adler is limited, as is Strong’s Blackwell.

For better or worse the movie set itself up for another Sherlock movie, almost shamelessly. We find that Adler worked for someone named Professor Moriarty (longtime arch-nemesis of Holmes) so we’re setup for a face-off between Moriarty and Holmes, should that ever happen. I honestly hate when movies do this and funny enough, most of the time when they do it’s a movie that doesn’t get a sequel (see: “Flash Gordon,” “Daredevil”). Yes, we know the bad guys are out there waiting, but please don’t make it so obvious.

Should you see this movie? I vote that it’s a solid rental/matinee. It’s enjoyable and you’ll laugh a few times. If they work up to a bigger and better “Holmes” movie, more power too them. Otherwise, this one may be forgotten.

My grade: B