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Review: Man of Steel by Jamie

Superman. There was a time that when someone said the word superhero, the big blue boy scout was the image that would pop into your head. That might not be so true nowadays what with the proliferation of superheroes as a whole in the pop culture milieu nowadays. Sure, there were some who’d think Batman but those people would be wrong. Batman isn’t a superhero, he’s just an awesome detective in a bat costume. Would you call Sherlock Holmes a superhero? Probably not, not even if you dressed him as a small flying mammal.

Anyway, my point is that Superman is THE Superhero. He was the one that kicked of an entire genre of comic books and set the standard on which later heroes would be based. The cape, the spandex, the secret identity? All a result of Superman. Still, Superman himself has had a rather spotty record when it comes to his cinematic outings. Sure, the first two Superman films starring Christopher Reeve were great if perhaps a little too campy when looked back upon now. Then came the third which inexplicably starred Richard Pryor as someone who’s good at computers for some reason. The less said about Superman IV the better.

Supes finally returned nineteen years later in well, Superman Returns. It was not considered a success. It’s been a while since I’ve watched it myself but I don’t think I hated it. It was just a thing that kind of happened and that was that. And it’s not surprising that it was a failure to be honest. The cinematic superhero genre had come a long way since the first series of film. This was film was released not long after the first two X-Men films and the first two Spider-Man films had come out and kind of redefined what a comic book movie was. People wanted deep characters with deep motivations. Superman was not these things.

Let’s be honest for a moment. Superman is a boring character. Yes, I’ll admit that he deserves a little respect for being the first but an indestructible, flying man with lasers for eyes who only has one weakness is just not interesting. Throw in the fact that his motivation never really developed much further beyond “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. That kinda shit just doesn’t fly anymore.

So DC recently relaunched their entire universe (sort of) in 2011 and I bought each of the new number ones. I liked the stuff that they did with Superman. He was no longer specifically on the idea of the law but rather a Superman of the people, doing what was right not necessarily what the government wanted. He was a Superman for the Occupy generation. Also his powers had been toned down somewhat since he was a younger character still developing his them. It was an interesting concept and one that I enjoyed even though I didn’t stick with buying any more of them.

So could Zack Snyder, David Goyer and Christopher Nolan bring the world’s first superhero into the 21st century on the big screen? Well…

Look, I didn’t hate this movie. I want to get that out of the way right up front. It’s just that I can’t say that I really liked it either. So let’s get into what I did like first. One of my biggest problems with Superman has always been that Lois Lane is supposed to be one of the bet journalists on the planet and yet she can’t tell that someone is the same person when they remove a pair of glasses. I’ll suspend disbelief that Supes is from an alien planet where evolution has resulted in a dominant species identical to ours and that being from said planet grants him abilities such as invulnerability, flight and laser eyes. Fine. But that Lois Lane thing is a step too far and this movie solves that problem brilliantly in a way that resonates with the character.

I also really enjoyed the opening scenes on Krypton though they were somewhat rushed and involved characters yelling exposition at each other but you know what? I can live with that. It’s a movie and, as important as Krypton is to the Superman mythos, it’s not the main focus of the character. Still it might have been nice to flesh out the character of Zod a little better during these scenes. Despite this, like I said, I enjoyed the sequence though it did feature one of the oddest design choices I have ever seen in a film. Zod and his followers are sealed in stasis pods. Here, I done a rough art of what these pods look like:

Kneel Before Zod’s Giant Bronze Space Penis!

I’m not kidding either. Zod and his followers are literally locked away in giant, bronze dongs. They even have the beginnings of little scrotal sacks at the bottom. I get it. You want something that will fit a human being standing to attention inside it. You have to account for the feel and the rest can be a long pole-looking structure. Fine, that would have resembled a somewhat cartoonish penis, I would have giggled and we all could have gotten on with the movie but to actually put a bulbous head at the top of the shaft… I mean, seriously? Did nobody notice this during production? They had to have, right? So does that mean that this was entirely done on purpose? It’s just… Wow.

Anyway, where was I? Oh right, giant bronze penises. I mean Man of Steel. Ok. Another thing I enjoyed was the action. You know what, it was big, it was loud and it was awesome. I’ll admit that by this point I’d completely lost interest in the story. The villains motivations were inexplicable which is kinda becoming a theme in blockbuster movies lately but the action scenes got me through it. It was the first time I got a sense of just how powerful the Kryptonians on Earth. Obviously this is a little unfair to the previous films since didn’t have the kind of effects that this film does but it really is cool to see Superman creating sonic booms as he flies or to see one the villains leaping and crashing into things. There’s weight behind it all, it feels physical and there is mass devastation as a result. It’s pretty sweet.

I’ve also gotta say that I can’t really single any actor out as being bad. Everyone was pretty much bringing their A game with Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner playing Jor-El and Jonathan Kent respectively. Also Christopher Meloni is in it and I always have respect for a man whose IMDB bio begins with “With his piercing, blue-eyed glint, brawny looks, cocky “tough guy” stance and effortless charisma, TV’s Christopher Meloni drew on his sexy Italian heritage to grab audiences attention, male and female alike, finding breakthrough stardom playing on both sides of the law.” Well played Meloni’s IMDB bio. Well played.

So what about the bad, though I’ll admit that there’s a fairly decent amount of bad listed in the stuff that I supposedly liked about the film. Well, the story is a major concern and it also has a lot to do with the way the film is put together. After we see Kal-El’s pod crash land on Earth there is a cut to Clark working on a fishing boat. It is one of the worst cuts I have ever seen in my life. It was so jarring and unnatural looking that I actually thought that there might have been a problem with the projector and the film had skipped ahead. The middle of the story then is mostly made up of flashbacks as Clark tries to find out exactly what his role in human society is. The young man is torn and conflicted due to his pa telling him that he must hide who he really is until the world is ready to accept him.

He’s a tortured soul you see, someone with amazing and incredible gifts who must hide who he is because revealing himself would terrify the people he wants to protect. He’s an X-Man, you see. Ok, that’s a little unfair. In actuality this is gritty Superman. This is tortured Superman. This is Batmanified Superman. And it doesn’t work. The problem is that I think it could work. I think that the basic core idea is a solid one. I just think they went about it in totally the wrong way. The flashbacks suck any sense of development out of the story. Showing me an adult Clark getting in a situation and then flashing back to a scene of young Clark explaining why he reacts to this situation in the way that he does is one hundred percent less effective than having the story and my understanding of the character develop naturally and organically.

Then there’s the “romance” between Superman and Lois. It just sort of happens because, you know , that’s what happens in superhero movies, right? The hero needs a damsel in distress to save and so they are forced together and are making out in a devastated city on top of what must be the corpses of literally thousands after only really meeting each other a couple of times. It’s another symptom of the fact that there just isn’t any real development going on in the characters or story taking place in the present. All of the character development is shown a having taken place in the past in flashbacks relevant to the current situation and, again, that’s a really shitty way of doing things.

Overall it’s really a shame. To have such great acting, such great action and little flashes of brilliance here and there just to have it fall down on the single most important aspect of a movie, in my mind at least, the story is the biggest disappointment of all. Still, I left the cinema feeling somewhat hopeful. This could provide the background for a really nice sequel. It almost feels as though that’s exactly what they were thinking too. Rush through this film to retell the one superhero origin story that literally every human being knows, because at this point he’s been around since before many of our grandparents were born, and we can really focus on making the next film a great one. It is Batmanified Superman after all so why not just completely follow the formula of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films? Batman Begins had the advantage of having a vastly more interesting central character than Man of Steel but it still has to be admitted that The Dark Knight is when people sat up and paid attention and so I can see it being the same way with this.

Will they be able to pull a truly epic sequel off? Only time will tell and I hope that I’m proven right. It’d be nice to see Superman reinvented properly for a new age. Of course The Dark Knight had the advantage of having the Joker as the villain. A Man of Steel sequel will have to settle for Lex Luthor and it will be Lex Luthor.

And that's terrible...

And that’s terrible…

So I come to the end of this review a little disappointed. If indeed it was their plan to get through an origin movie just to provide the backdrop for a better sequel, did they need to waste Zod on it? It’s a shame but as I said, despite this disappointment I do remain hopeful and I feel it’s right to feel that way. After all hope is what the on Superman’s chest stands for.

Oh one last thing. Zod has one line, Snyder, Nolan and Goyer. One line that he is famous for. I know you’re trying to be all gritty and serious but c’mon, you couldn’t have thrown it in?

Two pints out of five. Laterz! Giant bronze penises to you all!

(In case you’re worried, that “And it will be Lex Luthor” line isn’t a spoiler for some post credits scene. There isn’t a post credits scene. It just will be Lex Luthor in the sequel obviously.)

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Review: Iron Man 3 by Jamie

In 2008, Marvel began an experiment in cinema. Could a cinematic series work in the same way as a comic book continuity? Could you have a hero regularly appearing in his own series but also bring that hero together with others for a team flick? It was a grand experiment that culminated in ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and I think we can all agree that it was pretty sweet. Marvel and Disney had somehow managed to pull it off and create a consistent cinematic universe where everything just worked. Now the question is, where do things go from here? How would ‘Phase 2’ as it’s called work in a post-Avengers world?

Well, our first taste of Phase 2 came in the form of Iron Man 3, a continuation of the story of the hero that started it all, Tony Stark. So can Marvel continue to ride high on the wave of success that The Avengers brought or has that wave crashed on the rocky shore of failure? Well, I’m rather pleased to say that I fucking loved this movie.

The biggest problem that any of these movies faces is returning to the single character format after the ensemble movie. This is a little easier to do in comics because a) The team books aren’t always necessarily taking place within the same time frame or even continuity that the single character books are and b) Fuck it, if you want to put a character or team from another book in then you can just write and draw them in. Iron Man 3 manages to craft a believable story that both acknowledges the events of The Avengers whilst still very much being a story about Tony. True, there are some moments where you find yourself thinking “Well, if this is going on why has no one called in at least Captain America or something?” but for the most part it works.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises that I can talk about here without being spoilers are that the film takes place at Christmas (which I believe can be attributed to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black who wrote and directed this film) which is a nice little touch, though it annoyed me a little because it made me break my arbitrary rule about only watching Christmas films at Christmas, and that this film is funny. I mean really funny and it’s tone is consistent the whole way through. With most action films that try their hand at comedy they suddenly become deadly serious in the third act in a tonal shift that can be quite jarring. Iron Man 3 keeps it’s humorous, playful mood all the way through and it works. It works really well for both the character and the story. Perhaps an even bigger surprise is just where the humour is derived from. Iron Man 3 is not a parody but it is certainly a film that plays with expectations. It knows what you expect from certain situations in action movies and superhero movies and it flips them on their head and I for one thought it was brilliant. There’s one moment in particular that’s going to really piss of a select group of this movie’s audience but I loved it. LOVED IT.

What else can I say that wouldn’t be spoilery? Well, it’s great to see a little less reliance on CGI than we’ve had in the past. Things actually blow all the shit up in this movie and there’s a sequence involving people falling out of a plane that was at least partially shot using a team of skydivers. Sure CGI has come a long way since even the first Iron Man but it’s still more impressive to see things done for real every now and then.

As for the acting, well, the main cast you know. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark at this point and he’s just as good as he’s ever been. Gwyneth Paltrow get’s play a larger part here which frankly I like. Sure, she may not be everyone’s favourite person but within this series of movies I think she’s great especially working with the handicap of playing a character called Pepper Potts. Freed from the directing duties, Jon Favreau also has a slightly expanded role which is a nice touch and plays on the friendship between Tony and Happy Hogan. Hell, now that I think about it even JARVIS (Paul Bettany) has more to do here. It makes sense really. This film is very much about Tony Stark and what better way to do that than with more interaction with the people he cares about. In fact, the only person who might have less screen time that in Iron Man 2 is Don Cheadle as Rhodey. He still has an integral role to play and he’s very good but I guess the biggest interaction and confrontation we really need between Tony and Rhodey was in Iron Man 2.

As for the new people, Guy Pearce is great as Killian Aldritch, founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics who has had a rather unpleasant experience with Tony Stark in the past. There‘s the worry early on that he’s just going to be a retread of Sam Rockwell’s character from 2 but as the film progresses it’s clear that he isn’t. Rebecca Hall is decent enough as Dr. Maya Hensen, a botanist who helped to create a virus with regenerative qualities who once had a fling with a young Mr Stark. The main problem I have, I guess, is not so much the actress but some aspects of the character just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course the person that everyone is wondering about is Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. Well, he’s great. Fucking brilliant. He’s part Osama Bin Laden, part history teacher with maybe just a dash of Fred Phelps thrown in but he’s also so much more. So, so much more.

So Phase 2, and 2013’s Summer Blockbuster Season, kicks of not with a whimper but with a bang. An awesome bang. So yeah, go and see Iron Man 3. I mean, you were probably going to anyway. Oh, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but stick around for after the credits. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Iron Man 3

If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the after credit sequence letting you know that there’s a full on, spoilerific video discussion coming some time in the near future once everyone’s had a chance to see it. Stay tuned.



2011 in Film: Number 4: Green Hornet by Jamie

(This is a repost of a review from 17, February, 2011)

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Green Lantern by Jamie

In the interest of keeping this thing spoiler-free, this will be a short review. However, if you‘ve seen the film or don‘t care about spoilers then I recommend this site for a pretty damn funny summary which concisely lists every criticism I have as well.

I’ve come pretty late to the whole Green Lantern thing. In general I find Marvel’s Universe far more interesting and the only DC character I’ve had a really strong interest in has been Batman because he’s fucking Batman. Green Lantern always seemed, well, kinda lame to me. Didn’t really understand a great deal about the character except that he had a magical ring and he didn’t like the colour yellow. Still I decided it was time to rectify that situation and so I read the Sinestro Corps Wars and the war between all the colours that followed as well as a little bit of Blackest Night and I was quite surprised by the whole thing. I liked the concept of the whole ‘space cops’ thing and the emotional spectrum (although willpower is absolutely in no way an emotion).

So I had a little bit of background and some understanding of the Green Lantern universe when I went in to see the film starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond and Mark Strong as Sinestro, the most subtlely named character in the history of fiction until the Decepticons came along. And let me tell you right now, I am glad I had that slight bit of background because I honestly don’t know how you’d have a fucking clue as to what’s going on in this film if you didn’t. The films opens with a short bit about how and why the Lantern Corps were formed and after that things are just pretty much shown or stated to be a certain way and you just kinda have to accept it. I’m not saying the film should stop and explain in excruciating detail why things are the way they are in the Green Lantern universe but not just being thrown into the deep end would probably be nice.

Now, when I first saw the movie, I didn’t think it was really deserved the critical nut shot it seemed to be getting. Sure, the film was flawed but not nearly as flawed as people said and I originally chalked this up to people perhaps not having the little bit of background that I had gone into the film with but since that time I’ve kind of rethought a few things and, whilst I still don’t think it’s as terrible as has been reported, I do think it’s a more flawed film than I originally did.

For one, the best part of the film was probably the stuff on Oa and I was certainly pissed off with how little of that stuff there was. Hal’s training seems to consist of three lessons which I suppose is all it takes to understand how to responsibly use a weapon with practically limitless destructive power. Compare the way that “Thor” balanced the scenes of Earth and Asgard to the way this film did things and you’ll see why Thor is a much more highly regarded film.

Also, considering this film is supposed to be about a superhero, Hal isn’t particularly heroic. There are scenes where he does nothing to help anyone until the girl he wants to fuck’s life is in danger, scenes where he’s hanging around waiting to stop the villain whilst the villain tortures and kills people and in the scene where he first discovers his power, he isn’t trying to save a baby from traffic or an elderly woman from a terrible fall, no he’s fighting outside a bar with men who he got fired earlier that day due to his own reckless actions. Sure the guys started on him and the first giant emerald fist he generated was accidental but still, to continue beating up these guys with your magical space ring considering you ruined their lives is the height of douchiness.

Ok, I can already feel myself wanting to get into spoilers. In fact, I‘ll give one here but in white text so it will be unreadable if you don‘t highlight it. Why does Sinestro take the yellow ring at the end of the film? I understand that it’s to set up the sequel but at no point during the film did he ever seem anything but an honourable, upstanding member of the Green Lantern Corps. Maybe a hint that something else was going on with Sinestro would have been good but no. Instead we just get a completely 180 degree character turn for no reason other than the need to set up a sequel. Terrible. At the end of the day, Green Lantern is an interesting concept that should have been handled far, far better than it was. I was expecting a film about a group of space cops, defending the universe with as little time spent on Earth as was necessary. Instead what I got felt a kind of crappy, bog standard superhero film. The scenes on Oa almost felt like they were an afterthought, something that the filmmakers felt they had to put in to appease fans and in order to set up their sequel. In the end, Green Lantern gets 2.5 pints out of 5

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Review: The Green Hornet by Jamie

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



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.



Something I Finally Saw: Hancock by Jamie
08/12/2008, 6:51 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Imagine a superhero movie within which the hero is an alcoholic cock who is hated by the masses. This is the basic premise of Hancock, a film which I finally got around to seeing. This concept is fairly original to films, not so much to comic books, and it is nice to see a superhero without any prior knowledge of his origin or back-story whatsoever.

Will Smith (of Fresh Prince fame) plays John Hancock, a homeless superhero who reluctantly saves a city that hates him with no real regard for the city itself. He flies whilst drunker than an aging prostitute trying to forget her existence and lands in a way which fucks the street up to shit. He throws cars around, smashing buildings and street signs and just generally does more harm than good. The city tries to prosecute him but how do you stop someone who can’t be stopped? You can’t. See, the answer was in the question. It’s whilst fucking up another rescue, resulting in a few trashed cars and one major fucked up train that Hancock saves Ray, a PR dude played by Jason Bateman, who sees an opportunity to turn Hancock’s public perception around and make him the hero that Ray knows he can be.

Under Ray’s advice, Hancock hands himself over to the police willingly and stays in prison in an effort to get himself off of the booze and let the people of Los Angeles see just how god-awful the city would be without him. The plan works and the chief of police calls Hancock for help when a small group of bandits take hostages and try to rob a bank. Hancock shows up and saves the day. Hooray! The end. Except it isn’t. There then comes a twist which brings the movie to a darker, grittier conclusion than the tone of the rest of the movie seems to imply. I imagine if the film had come out after “The Dark Knight” this theme would have been pervasive right the way through the film.

Now, a lot has been written about the films sudden tonal shift within the last third, mostly about how people didn’t really like it. They felt it didn’t particularly fit in with the rest of the film and to some extent I agree. It didn’t really fit in with the humorous nature of the rest of the film. This didn’t, however, affect my enjoyment of the film. I actually felt that it kind of improved it a little, making it something more than the superhero comedy it would have otherwise been. Need I remind you of My Super Ex-Girlfriend? I know some people liked it but fuck I thought that was shit. Honestly, Hancock was always gonna be better than that so the comparison isn’t particularly apt but I’m writing this not you so fuck off.

Another thing that I really loved about this movie is that Hancock’s origin is never really explained. Whilst they are necessary for the uninitiated, I am pretty fucking sick of fucking origin movies. The worst thing about Iron Man was that most of the damn film was him building different upgraded version of the suit. Well, that and the final battle was pretty lame. Anyway in Hancock, his origin is hinted at, implied but never explained outright. Awesome. The only potential problem is that a sequel has pretty much been confirmed and, now that Hancock has cleaned up his act, the only direction I can see them going in is him trying to discover his mysterious past! Ominous!

The first part of the film is honestly pretty damn funny. Hancock flying through the sky, bottle of whisky in hand with no disregard for public property is a fun sight to be sure and the interactions between Hancock, Ray, his wife (played by Charlize Theron) and Ray’s son are pretty great, especially the scene where Hancock is invited to their spaghetti madness dinner. Charlize Theron in particular is very good at showing her dislike for the drunken hero with the slightest of looks.

For me though, it really is the last part of the film which brings it all together, even though I know others will disagree. There are some heart-warming scenes between Hancock and the son and Will Smith does a great job of portraying a character who is clearly depressed because he’s the only one of his kind, compounded by the fact that he doesn’t know where the hell he came from.

There are some flaws, of course. There is a scene we’ve become all to familiar with in superhero movies wherein the hero takes on a character of equal or slightly heightened power to themselves but it doesn’t really go in the standard direction so it’s forgivable. Also a certain character’s (saying who would give to much away) unwillingness to help Hancock try and understand his past seems really strange considering they want him to leave them alone and he won’t until they try and help him. Confusing!

Overall though, Hancock is a pretty good film and definitely a nice addition to the current crop of recent superhero flicks.




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