Cinepub


2011 in Film: Number 1: Season of the Witch by Jamie

Spoilers ahead.

Starting a new little project on this blog and going to try and watch every film released in 2011 (at least as listed on Wikipedia) and as luck would have it, I must begin with a Nicolas Cage film. Now normally I like to do a video review of Cage’s films but I’m having some technical issues in that department so I have to resort to something barbaric like typing out the words with my fingers rather than speaking them with my mouth parts. Enough of my problems, on to the review!

The film opens during the crusades which were apparently fought by quipping Americans who may or may not be trying to do English-esque accents. I honestly can’t tell if Nicolas Cage is trying speak with an English accent and just failing or if it’s just the way his voice goes when he’s trying to speak in somewhat faux Olde English. Ron Perlman, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to bother and honestly, his performance is more enjoyable because of it. Anyway, the two Crusadery chums are hacking their way through battles, killing for God and drinking with wenches and just generally having as good a time as two knights can. After a while though, they come to the realisation that they aren’t just killing deserving infidel warriors but also women and children too. They decide that enough is enough and leave the Crusades and go on the run as deserters.

So they find themselves wandering around medieval Europe. What are they doing? Well, that’s never really explained. Probably going from village to village and righting wrongs where they can. That’s the ind of shit that righteous outlaws are always doing from Robin Hood to The A-Team. Anyway, they come across a kingdom blighted by the plague where they are recognised and arrested. However they are given a holy quest by a plague-ridden Christopher Lee (in one of the more bizarre cameo appearances in film history). The quest is to deliver an alleged witch to a monastery where a rite will be performed that will remove the curse of the plague. Cage is reticent to sign up and work for the church again but ultimately relents in exchange for a guarantee that the accused witch will receive a fair trial and that he and Perlman are given full pardons.

They are accompanied on their quest by a priest, the unfortunately named Debelzaq, a swindler/merchant named Hagamar, another knight whose own land has been ravaged by the plague, causing him to lose his daughter, named Ulrich and a young aspiring knight Kay. They set off and, honestly, not much actually happens on the way. There’s a few deaths and few things which are possibly meant to make you wonder if the girl actually has supernatural powers or not whilst actually makes it pretty fucking obvious that she has supernatural powers. What happens could best be described as dude gets stabbed, there’s a rickety bridge on which no one dies, some demon wolves and then bam. They’re at the monastery.

There are bad things afoot at the monastery however! Apparently the plague has struck there too and it’s down to Debelzaq to try and perform the rite to sort out the witch. But bad things are afoot inside the girls body! It turns out that she’s not a witch at all but she is, in fact, possessed by bad CGI Satan! So any chance of this being in anyway interesting is almost immediately lost, any hint that maybe the girl wasn’t supernatural and was perhaps just crazy is instantly gone (though they would have had to explain a shit lot of the stuff that happened earlier if they had gone that route). What we’re left with is a final battle between our main cast and some poor special effects. Ugh.

So where exactly did this film go wrong? Well, there’s the cheap look which renders everything just a little unbelievable, the poor writing and somewhat stilted acting but the biggest problem is the constant shift in tone. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a buddy action comedy? A psychological thriller? A straight up supernatural horror? Don’t get me wrong, tonal shifts in movies can work but not when they seem to be happening every time there’s a scene change. It’s just comes off as jarring.

Was there anything good about the film? Well, this isn’t the worse that Cage has been and he isn’t exactly bad at playing the repentant, world-weary warrior but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed that Cage isn’t playing it a little crazier given the setting. Also Perlman’s entertaining but he’s taken being entertaining in cheesy bullshit and turned it into an art form.

At the end of the day those two points aren’t really enough to recommend the movie to anyone really. I will say that there are entertaining moments but they are very few and far between and most of them are quite near the beginning of the film. Overall I can’t in good conscience give this more than one pint out of five. Laterz.

Advertisements


Review: Kick Ass by Jamie

Every once in a while a film comes along that defines where we are as a shared culture in the Western world. ‘Kick Ass’ is not that film. ‘The Dark Knight’ possibly is. A grim, pessimistic comic book film about a terrorist loose in a major city and the heroes who seem almost powerless to stop him. Though ‘Kick Ass’ is not that film, it is still fucking awesome.

There, I’ve pretty much shot my load already and revealed exactly what I thought about this film. Go see it and thanks for stopping by… No, I suppose we should get further into it. Ok, so ‘Kick Ass’ is about a guy who thinks the same thing that I’m sure most superhero fans have thought throughout their lives, why is it that no one has decided to dress up and just be a superhero? Unfortunately the sad fact is that people have already decided to do that and I’ll let you judge just how ‘super’ they are from this news clip:

Despite that the premise is still solid. Dave Lipetsk (Aaron Johnson) is the character who has this thought and, one wetsuit purchase from eBay later, becomes the titular superhero Kick Ass. He doesn’t have any superpowers to speak of, just his disguise, a couple of clubs and an ambition to help those in need. Naturally things don’t go well and, on his first attempt at stopping crime, he is stabbed and hit by a car landing him with six weeks in hospital, metal reinforcements to his skeleton and damaged nerve endings which allow him to take beatings a little better. He also makes the medics who take him in to promise not to tell anyone about his costume leading to people believing he was found naked which then leads to a rumour being spread around his high school that he is gay. Sounds bad but it actually allows him to get closer to the girl he’s always had a crush on, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), who has always wanted a gay friend.

As the film goes on Kick Ass really becomes more of a secondary character and the plot focuses more on Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year old daughter Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) who take on the personas of costumed vigilantes Big Daddy and Hit-Girl in order to take violent revenge on Mafia Boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). And by violent revenge I do mean violent. Limbs fly, shotguns are fired directly into heads at point blank range and all manner of other marvellously over the top deaths are portrayed on screen. Make no mistake, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl make this fucking film.

I’m not gonna go much further into plot for fear of spoiling the film for those who haven’t seen it. So let’s just focus on a few of the details, performances and even the controversies surrounding this film. Let’s begin with that man I’ve certainly had my fair share of problems with in the past, Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage is really doing annoyingly well these days and fair play to him. It’s annoying because it makes continuing on with my video series ‘Cage Rage’ talking about how terrible Cage is really difficult. That’s two films now that Cage has been awesome in lately, this and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Seriously Nic, what the fuck? You’re the only actor I know who does better films when he’s desperate for money.

So what of his actual performance, I hear you ask. Well, let’s just say that he manages to make you believe that he is a character who is clearly abusing his child through the way he is bringing her up in order to be a lethal, tiny assassin and yet he really, truly loves her. It’s just that his world view has been so warped by the events that have occurred that the only way he really knows how to express his love is by raising his daughter in this fashion. Also when in costume he does a brilliant Adam West-esque voice that is a joy to sit back and watch. Also I can see myself quoting the line ‘Oh Child, you always knock me for a loop!’ for some time.

Now to the most controversial character in the film, Hit-Girl as played by Chloë Grace Moretz. Yes she’s an eleven year old, yes she slices and dices villains with incredible ease and yes she utters the word ‘Cunt.’ Now a certain film reviewer in a certain British newspaper (Christopher Tookey of The Daily Mail) has also made certain claims that the film sexualises this 11 year old. Frankly I can help but be somewhat concerned about Mr Tookey if he was in anyway sexually aroused by this little girl in the least sexual superhero costume I’ve ever seen on a female character from comics. He also mentions that the girl also appears dressed in a school girl outfit with pig-tails. Dear God! Someone of a school going age wearing a school girl outfit! Someone alert the people who deal with this sort of thing!

He also mentions the mental abuse that Hit Girl goes through at the hands of her father. Well, Mr. Tookey, might I point out some examples of Superhero’s doing this sort of thing to younger sidekicks throughout the entire history of comics. Green Arrow and Speedy, Captain America and Bucky and perhaps the most popular superhero duo who have been gracing the comics since 1940, Batman and Robin. You’re really going to tell me that Bruce Wayne taking the freshly traumatised Dick Grayson under his leather wing and putting him in harms way on a regular basis isn’t tantamount to some kind of child abuse. Kick Ass is just as much a commentary on that stalwart of the genre as it is an entertaining action flick.

It manages to pastiche and reference the world of comics throughout it’s running time which makes sense given the nature of the film. When Kick Ass first begins training for his new role as a crime fighter there are several direct references to the first ‘Spider-man’ film where Peter Parker is first experimenting with his powers. One scene in particular stands out. Remember that scene where Tobey Maguire becomes a weird computer game character and begins leaping from roof-top from roof-top? Well, Kick Ass is about to do the same thing, running right up to the edge of the roof before stopping and deciding not to go through with it. There’s even references to ‘Scarface’ and the original Tim Burton ‘Batman’ film. It’s a geeks dream.

It is most important to remember though that the characters in ‘Kick Ass’ aren’t just carbon copies of characters we’ve seen in other comic book films. This isn’t ‘Superhero Movie 2’. The characters are actually well-rounded, well written and each have genuinely engaging and believable motivations for the actions they take. It’s kind of a spoof of the comic book genre in the same way that ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ was a spoof of the zombie genre. Yes it’s taking a few pot-shots at the genre but it’s lovingly done and with an actual story and actual characters. And that’s why you should go an see it. Four and A Half Pints out of Five. Laterz.




%d bloggers like this: